Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Bloodletter

Bloodletter
© 1993 K.W. Jeter
276 pages



Constable Odo has noticed something very strange about the Cardassian freighter docked with Deep Space Nine. Despite its identification as an utterly harmless freighter, dangerous only to the subspace version of bugs splattered on the windshield, there are subtle tells that the ship was created for exclusively military purposes. In fact, the Cardassians mean to establish an outpost on the far end of the Wormhole connecting the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants, compromising Bajor's own control of the etheral tunnel. While Commander Sisko has expected this kind of move, he's using it to force Starfleet to ...er, increase funding to Deep Space Nine. A quick mission to establish Starfleet's own permanent outpost on the Gamma side will also get Kira out of his hair, because (1) this is season one and he hasn't adopted the awesome-bald look, and (2) Major Kira is a Major Pain. No sooner did she let a bunch of Bajoran Wahhabis onto the station than did people start mysteriously dying, and she's so stubborn that he's been forced to assume every aspect of station management.

Most of Bloodletter's oddities are the result of being written in the show's infancy, back when writers were still relying on the rough-outline series bible to give them general ideas. ("Kira used to be a terrorist, and now she's an authority figure. Discuss.") Consequently, to use Kira as an example, her relations with Sisko are a lot more rough than they ever were in the show: she actually interupts and argues with him during staff briefings, which is probably why he's willing to send her into the gamma quadrant on her lonesome to establish an official Bajoran presence there. She's not the only one acting not just out of character, but grossly unprofessional: Bashir actually asks Kira out on a date while IN HER QUARTERS. She walks in, ready for a night of listening to fundamentalist Bajoran preachers threatening to purge Bajor of foreigners and red-headed majors, and there's the doc waiting for her and poking through her bookcases. Other aspects of the book are simply weird: Odo catches wind of the Cardies' plan because they've stopped at DS9 to have 'impulse buffers' installed. Starfleet demands that every ship passing through the Wormhole have these buffers installed, because otherwise the ships might kill the beings who live inside the portal. To borrow from Kirk, "Why do the gods need protection from starships?" I'm guessing that was a bit of  series-development speculation that went the way of TNG's 55 mph warp speed limit.

Jeter used plot elements later employed in the show "Past Prologue", in which Bajoran jihadists test Kira's loyalty and their plot involves rudely exploding things near the wormhole. Frankly, I found the odd character-and-plot elements more enjoyable than the actual plot, since obviously Odo would get his man. Bashir receive a bit of odd character background here: he's a 24th century hipster, rebuilding an old audio system because the sound is sooooooo much better than digital, man. Really intense. It's not just a quirk, of course; his experience playing with audio helps him with the plot later on.

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