Read an excerpt from the Star Trek: Picard tie-in novel The Last Best Hope
The following is an excerpt from Star Trek: Picard: The Last Best Hope, an original novel written by Una McCormack and based on the CBS All Access series that premiered in January. The book is available for purchase now.
In latter days, sitting alone in his manor, pondering the events of the years that preceded this self-imposed exile, trying to understand where and how it had all gone wrong, M. Jean-Luc Picard (formerly of Starfleet) would often come back to one moment. Sitting on the bridge of the Enterprise, in command, listening to the gentle rhythms and pulses of his ship . . .
Playing back the memory, he would slow down time, as if instructing the visuals to move at half speed, at quarter speed, and he would observe himself, sitting in his chair, and he would marvel at the sight of the man he had once been: calm, assured, fully in command of himself and all around him. This, he would think, was the moment before the storm began, the split second before the end of his old life, when he took the first step down the path to here—the house that had never been the home, the land that he had longed to swap for strange and distant lands, the quiet, the immobility. The knowledge that nothing that he did now with his days mattered in the slightest. One more outcast, cast adrift. Prospero, on his island. An old conjurer, his magic spent, nursing old grievances.
Here, now; this was the moment when everything changed. It was nothing that anyone noticed at the time. His ship, the Enterprise, his home, from which he had been banished, was sailing close to the Neutral Zone. The old order. A quiet chime on the comm, and La Forge’s voice coming through.
“Captain, we’re picking up some very strange readings here . . .”
And he had said—Incredible, now he thought of it! How blind can a man be!—he had indeed said, “Anything for us to worry about, Commander?”
Yes, thought Picard, years later, yes, more than you could have ever known. Watch out. Beware. Choose your course wisely now . . .
“Let me get back to you on that one.”
Another chime, this one signifying an incoming message from Starfleet Command. Picard stood up, smoothed imagined imperfections from his uniform, and went into his ready room, where he received a summons back to Earth.
And all that was to follow had followed. He had not, now that he thought about it, seen the Enterprise since.
Clouds flecked across the hillside. The vines hung heavy. The old clock ticked in the hall. Time yawned ahead: empty time. Picard, in limbo, pondered the past, and continued to fail to find answers there. Such were his mornings, his afternoons, his evenings. Such passed the days, for M. Jean-Luc Picard (formerly of Starfleet), the most disillusioned man in two quadrants.
At this point, usually, Picard would sigh, and raise his eyes, and look around his beautiful, too-quiet land, and he would catch sight of either Laris or Zhaban looking back at him, shaking a head, as if to say: He thinks too much, and it does no good.
No, he thought. None of it had ever done any damn good.
San Francisco, Earth
It was a fine morning for the start of the end of everything. San Francisco gleamed in the sunshine, brash and confident, the sleek and rhythmic pulse at the heart of a great power. The kind of morning in spring that makes the world seem full of possibility. A sea breeze freshened the air when Picard stepped out of the transporter and walked with purpose across the plaza to the headquarters building. Waved through at once by a young ensign who purpled at the sight of the great man. Ushered with some ceremony up to the commander-in-chief’s meeting room. Earl Grey tea ready when he took his seat, steam rising in wisps from the cup.
A room that spoke of power, of duty, honor, and responsibility. Seated already: two colleagues, about to change everything, forever.
“What we are about to tell you, Jean-Luc,” said the C-in-C, “is almost unbelievable.”
Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Enterprise, accustomed to believing many impossible things before breakfast, nodded at his commander-in-chief, folded his hands, and made himself more comfortable in his chair.
“I need hardly add that it is highly classified,” said the C-in-C.
Picard, hardly unused to being privy to such information, gave a noncommittal smile. Inwardly, he felt himself tighten, shift onto alert. He gave his C-in-C a more careful look.
Admiral Victor Bordson, several years his junior, was, in Picard’s estimation, a careful man. Picard did not mean this pejoratively; quite the contrary. Rather, he considered Bordson to be a man who took care: measured, disinclined to make rash decisions, somewhat impersonal, and lacking the common touch. Picard had often tried to place him—not German, not Austrian, not Swiss, not Belgian . . . What, then? (He had been amused, at a formal dinner one evening, seated next to the man’s husband, to discover that Bordson was from Luxembourg. He had only just stopped himself from slamming his palm onto the table and exclaiming, “Of course!”) Bordson was not averse to taking action, but considered action; he was decorated, as one would expect of his generation and seniority, multiply so—a veteran of some of the grimmer arenas of the Dominion War. One did not come through repeat engagements with the Jem’Hadar without a mark being left, some bruise, whether visible or not. Typically, in Picard’s observation, such officers were dogged, implacable, and more than a little haunted. Northern courage, he believed it was called in the sagas, the determination to carry on even when all hope was gone.
Yes, Bordson brought to mind the Saxon warrior, shaking his spear at his enemies, sure only of defeat:
“Thought must be the harder, heart be the keener, mind must be the greater, while our strength lessens.”
A careful man; a man of cares. Gently, Picard said, “What’s going on, Victor?”
“Everything,” said Bordson, “is about to change.”
He turned to his second. Captain Kirsten Clancy, sitting at his right hand, nodded. Leaning forward, she whispered, “The Romulan star is about to go supernova.”
Picard took a moment to consider some of the implications of this statement. As these became overwhelming, truly and terrifyingly all-encompassing, he lifted his hand to press his fingertips against the right side of his face. An instinctive action that he had never quite suppressed, to protect where he felt most vulnerable. Where he had been most harmed.
“Quite,” said Bordson.