Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Reread — Typhon Pact: Rough Beasts of Empire

Typhon Pact: Rough Beasts of Empire
David R. George III
Publication Date: January 2011
Timeline: 2362; February 2381 – February 2382

Progress: Though this is the third in the Typhon Pact novel miniseries, and the second volume we’re covering as part of our DS9 relaunch re-read, it takes place before the last book we looked at. Chapters alternate between three main storylines…

(1) Spock — Things kick off in grisly fashion. In a cave deep beneath Ki Baratan, the capital of Romulus, Spock, who has been continuing to promote reunification efforts between Vulcans and Romulans—their government now split between Federation-friendly Empress Donatra and Typhon Pact-leaning Praetor Tal’aura—is knifed in the midsection by a Reman assailant. Spock manages to incapacitate him, but passes out from his wound a short while later. Fortunately, he’s found in the tunnels and rescued by fellow Reunification friends Corthin and Shalban. Surgery is performed on his heart.

His Reman assailant is also found and saved; however, he remains stubbornly silent about his employer and mission. Spock proposes to give him up to the Romulan authorities in an effort to “open a dialogue with Praetor Tal’Aura.” Indeed, Spock attempts to convey the Reman to the Romulan authorities, but in the exchange the Reman dies—it’s unclear whether by attack or suicide—and Spock himself is taken into custody. Some time later Spock is able to meet with Tal’Aura and makes his case for the decriminalization of the Reunification Movement, arguing that it will help to positively focus the Romulan people during a time of clearly deteriorating public opinion. She sees the validity of his argument, and after this measure of protection is granted, Spock holds a public rally, kicking off a new phase of the Reunification movement.

A Romulan named T’Solon, part of the Movement, suggests that Donatra may have employed the Reman to kill Spock, and then hired another man named R’Jul to kill the Reman. Spock concedes the possibility but isn’t convinced. Sure, Donatra may have been behind his attempted assassination, but it’s also possible that Tal’Aura’s forces are making it look like Donatra is guilty, since this would hurt her cause among the Romulan people. Spock then meets with a Gorn named Slask and asks him to relay his recommendation to UFP President Nanietta Bacco that she send someone to meet with Empress Donatra.

After his meeting with Slask, Spock learns of numerous protests, possibly staged, aimed at both Romulan leaders, but focused more heavily on Donatra. Concerned by the growing unrest, he decides to convene his Movement’s leadership in secret. During this gathering, Spock expresses his concerns that the protesters calling for unity may signal dangerous times ahead for the Reunification Movement, which might well be re-criminalized in the wake of a Romulan reintegration. He asks for the Movement to go back underground and to cease its public comnet activities.

(2) Sisko — Captain Sisko and Lieutenant Cavanagh are in action on the New York, helping to fight the Borg. Captain Elias Vaughn is in command of the James T. Kirk and he senses that something is bothering Sisko beyond the obvious present circumstances. The Cutlass is also involved in this particular battle. During the confrontation several Borg cubes are destroyed, but the Cutlass is lost, and the Kirk ends up making a kamikaze run against a cube, putting Vaughn in the life-support situation in which we encountered him in David Mack’s novel.

After successfully repelling the Borg threat, Starfleet wants Sisko to help with reconstruction efforts—defeating the Borg has cost Starfleet 40% of its resources, and 63 billion lives. Sisko is conflicted. Jake contacts him and tells him that Joseph Sisko has fallen ill, and has been transferred to the Orleans Parish Hospital. Sisko sets off to New Orleans to visit his ailing dad at once, but alas, arrives too late—the old man is dead. Next, Sisko travels to Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco, and requests to be re-enlisted in Starfleet, though he doesn’t disclose his full reasons when asked by Admiral Akaar about his change of heart. Akaar wants to make sure that Sisko won’t change his mind again in the near future, because Starfleet has enough instability to contend with as it is. Sisko turns down an admiralty, opting instead for starship command as a Captain.

Then, in a heart-rending turn, he finally returns home to Bajor, and tells Kasidy of his new posting to the Robinson. She understands that he is deliberately creating distance from her in his life, and tells him he doesn’t need to wait for his Starfleet assignment if what he wants to do is leave—and so they part ways. At a Bajoran monastery, Sisko consults an Orb, but has no Prophet experience. He catches up with now Vedek Kira. He reveals that he feels that the Prophets have abandoned him and that he must walk his path alone to prevent bringing sorrow to those dearest to him. After seventh months of captaincy on the Robinson, mostly spent patrolling the two Romulan borders, Commander Rogeiro expresses his concern about Sisko’s isolation—Sisko is visibly keeping himself aloof from his crew. A short time later they pick up Tzenkethi marauders. An extended flashback sequence follows, depicting Lieutenant Commander Sisko’s participation in the Tzenkethi War.

(3) Typhon Pact PoliticsTomalak announces to assembled Romulans, including a member of the influential Hundred named Durjik, that Praetor Tal’Aura wants to reconstitute the Romulan Senate. Gell Kamemor is nominated to be a representative senator for the Ortikant clan. As speaker for Romulus, Tomalak shares with an assembled group of Typhon Pact representatives that if Romulus formally joins the Pact, the Praetor has authorized the sharing of Romulan cloaking technology. This gets all sorts of folks excited, most notably the Tzenkethi.

Thereafter, Durjik, Tomalak, a young man named Xarian Dor, and others in the Romulan Senate Chamber discuss voting for or against the ratifying of the Typhon Pact Treaty. Tal’Aura confers with the head of the Tal Shiar—and then contacts a most special operative, one Sela. In parallel, Alizome Tor Fel-A, a special Tzenkethi agent, is summoned by the autarch of his people for a mission on Romulus that involves the manipulation of forces and players to promote peaceful Romulan re-integration in a way that will make Romulan participation in the Typhon Pact more likely. The Tzenkethi Representative Alizome then meets with Romulan Senator Xarian Dor and they make a deal.

Back on Earth, President Bacco confers with her Trill Security Advisor Jas Abrik, the Rigellian Secretary of Exterior Safranski, her Secretary of Defense Raisa Shostakova and Chief of Staff Esperanza Piñiero, about Spock’s message. After some discussion, it is agreed that the UFP will send an envoy to continue the Federation’s dialogue with Donatra. Bacco decides to contact Admiral Akaar to get a recommendation on who should go.

Storylines (3) and (2) intersect when Bacco and Akaar contact Sisko with a mission to travel to Achernar Prime to talk to Donatra. This he does, and hears Donatra state in no uncertain terms that she was not behind the assassination attempt on Spock, nor the kill order on Spock’s would-be assassin. Feeling somewhat desperate in the wake of Sisko’s statement that the Federation will not provide her with unilateral military support and take sides in a Romulan civil conflict, Donatra publicly invites Tal’Aura to Archenar Prime for a summit.

During a gathering at the Senate Chamber, Xarian Dor dies mid-sentence. Dor’s death is investigated and determined to have been the result of natural causes; Gell Kamemor succeeds him. Tal’Aura meets with Tal Shiar Chairman Rehaek; she informs him that she has accepted Donatra’s proposal, but that the summit will be held on Romulus. Rehaek claims he has proof of Donatra’s complicity in the assassinations, which will be made public when she arrives on Romulus, leading to her arrest. After the meeting, following Tal’Aura’s instructions, Sela takes them out, and looks forward to becoming the new head of the Tal Shiar.

(3) and (1) become further enmeshed when Spock gets wind of Donatra’s arrest, and requests to visit her, an ask that is initially denied. While Donatra is incarcerated, Tal’Aura announces the rejoining of the splintered Romulan factions; the Imperial Romulan Senate is no more, and the Romulan Star Empire has formally joined the Typhon Pact. Donatra watches Tal’Aura’s speech with bitterness and regret, knowing she’s innocent of the crimes of which she’s been accused. By the time Spock is granted permission to visit Donatra, it’s too late: he discovers her dead in her cell. It’s not the novel’s last corpse, either, as Proconsul Tomalak soon discovers Praetor Tal’Aura dead as well. This also appears to have been the result of natural causes.

Roughly a year later, Spock is granted an audience with the new Praetor, Gell Kamemor, to once again discuss the Reunification Movement. She thinks it is extremely unlikely to succeed, and that it is unnecessary, but assures Spock she will not criminalize it.

Sisko officially dissolves his marriage with Kasidy, leaving her as a single mom to look after Rebecca, and then takes the first step towards forging a more human connection with Commander Rogeiro and the rest of his crew.

We then learn that Alizome was the operative responsible for the deaths of both Xarian Dor and Tal’Aura, using genetic manipulation to infect them with a disease that would leave her unaffected.

Behind the lines: The bookmark I’ve been using for this DS9 relaunch reread is not a bookmark per se, but rather card 451 from the mid-‘90s SkyBox-issued set of TNG cards. I picked this card more or less randomly when I started tackling these DS9 books, never expecting that the picture it depicts would be directly relevant to any of the books I’d be writing about. But card 451, as it happens, covers “Unification, Part II,” and its image of Spock performing the Vulcan salute while on his Reunification mission proved delightfully apt.

If I had to rank the three main narrative threads in Rough Beasts of Empire, I’d say that Spock’s is my second favorite, closely behind the broader Typhon Pact arc. I found the Romulan-heavy politicking initially challenging to get into, but very rewarding once I’d warmed to it. George’s generosity with historical, sociological, and logistical details made all of these developments—both in public forums and behind closed doors—feel plausible, and charged with a certain gravitas.

I also enjoyed how the author dovetailed the idea of the Romulan people coming together as a whole with the notion of Romulans and Vulcans setting aside their differences in more profound ways. I’d always been curious about what happened to Spock’s efforts along these lines, and the developments chronicled in this novel feel completely realistic, as well as thoughtfully extrapolated from the events involving Shinzon in Star Trek: Nemesis. There’s a rewarding, almost stately, John le Carré quality to this part of the plot, with machinations-within-machinations developing steadily and inevitably leading to perilous ends for a fair share of their key architects.

The Sisko storyline, I’m afraid, doesn’t fare nearly as well. To start with something small but emblematic of my mounting sense of disbelief, I had a hard time buying the change in Sisko’s physical appearance, despite its explicit in-text justification. I couldn’t help but think of it as a regression and little more. More offputtingly, the Sisko we see here is steeped in melancholy and self-doubt, weirdly avoidant of the truth, and unprepared, it seems, for almost any kind of emotional conflict.

I understand that he’s suffered a great deal recently, because George repeatedly enumerates the losses—his neighbors died, his daughter was kidnapped, he loses his father, and so on—but I didn’t feel the reality of these events, most of which were being filled in after the fact. And despite the great personal hardships, where was Sisko’s perseverance? His determination? His exercise of that one vital skill he’s displayed over and over, which is to settle down and build a home and community? Instead, he’s constantly on the move here, and pretty mopey throughout.

At times this almost felt like an alternate version of Sisko from some other reality. And while the flashbacks to the Tzenkethi War helped to contextualize the alien race, and to flesh out Sisko’s history, in a sense it was emotionally distancing from present events, and therefore counterproductive. Also, of all characters, Sisko is one who hardly needs to be weighted down by more previous trauma. It was jarring to observe how different he was back then, in that he couldn’t wait to share his experiences with Jennifer, from the present version in which he couldn’t even write Kasidy a letter. Rebecca’s alluded-to kidnapping, while consistent with the idea of walls closing in for Sisko, felt gimmicky, for the simple reason that we’ve barely spent any time with the character.

Most questionable of all was Sisko’s handling of his relationship with Kasidy. Specifically, Sisko’s comment to Kira that he couldn’t tell Kas what was really going on because if he told her the truth “she wouldn’t let me leave” was awful—a trite and feeble self-justification that robbed Kasidy of agency and respect, while undoing years of character growth for Sisko himself. That said, I did think that the scene between Sisko and Kira was a standout, because of its emotional candor, and because Kira’s development felt true to form. The evocative setting helped make Sisko’s plight as a broken man poignant. Even here, though, Sisko telling Kira,“I have to admit that I was concerned when you decided to leave Deep Space Nine and Starfleet. I was worried that you might be running away,” is rich, considering that this is the man who a few chapters earlier “knew in his heart that if he didn’t run, there would be no stopping it [the great sorrow].” Sisko’s interaction with Donatra was a welcome change of pace, and well-crafted, partly because it showcases Sisko’s leadership and diplomatic abilities, as well as his innate strength of character, of which there was a dearth in previous scenes.

Stylistically, George displays a tendency to occasionally repeat himself, here. For example, early on we learn that: “In a Starfleet career that had spanned more than eight decades and comprised hundreds of assignments, Vaughn’s time aboard Kirk had ended up the most satisfying of all.” A few pages later we’re told: “His [Vaughn’s] three years aboard DS9 and, to an even greater extent, his two years leading the crew of James T. Kirk had been the best of his career—of his life.” And so on.

Dialogue scenes in general are not enthralling, with lines all too often sounding stilted and interchangeable from one character to another. Some of Spock’s dialogue, for example, is bogged down by platitudes, such as: “We need to know what has happened and what is happening, so that we may determine what likely will happen—and if necessary, change what will happen.”

This brings me to the issue of pacing, which I think remains too relaxed. George makes the unfortunate choice to have key events happen off-page in order to heighten a sense of mystery, but it ends up undercutting our investment in the characters’ fates. However, the author’s prose is well-suited to descriptions of locales (e.g. Kendra province, Achernar Prime, or the Alavhet Library) and aliens (I really enjoyed the insights into Tzenkethi culture). What feels like distracting leisureliness during action sequences enhances these other moments of pure worldbuilding, particularly when characters travel to new destinations and experience them for the first time.

On the whole, I was gratified to discover that the prose here shows definite improvements from the verboseness of Mission: Gamma – Twilight, and to some degree also the unrelenting portentousness of Worlds of Deep Space Nine – The Dominion: Olympus Descending. This book appeared almost a decade after the Mission: Gamma volume, and George wrote the TOS-era Crucible trilogy during that time, which clearly helped to sharpen his craft.

Going into this novel, we already know that Romulus will indeed join the Typhon Pact and that their cloaking technology will be used. Further, because two major players here (Tal’Aura and Donatra) end up dead, there’s a sense that some of these events don’t matter much in the grand scheme of things, or had foregone outcomes. Lastly, if you’re going to bring back Sela, please give her more than a few incidental pages…

Memorable beats: An old Romulan maxim: “Misdirection is the key to survival.”

Another: “If knowledge is power, then to be unknown is to be unconquerable.”

Kira to Sisko: “Your pagh is…wounded.”

Orb factor: Compelling espionage, but a sorry turn for Sisko; 6 orbs.

In our next installment: We’ll be back in this space on Wednesday, July 22nd with David R. George III’s Typhon Pact: Plagues of Night!

Alvaro is a Hugo- and Locus-award finalist who has published some forty stories in professional magazines and anthologies, as well as over a hundred essays, reviews, and interviews. Nag him @AZinosAmaro.

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