ST Section 31: Control
© 2017 David Mack
“…if I’m correct, going to war with Section Thirty-one can only end badly for you. Either you will lose, and you and all your friends will suffer gruesome fates I’d rather not imagine; or you will win—and in so doing, end up inflicting more harm than good upon your beloved Federation.”
For four years, Julian Bashir has yearned to destroy the malicious intelligence-and-covert ops organization known as Section 31 from the inside. A rendezvous with a desperate journalist in the frozen wastes of Andor, however, makes him realize more than ever that he is over his head. Running in the background of the entire Alpha Quadrant’s technical infrastructure, from replicators to warp cores and shuttle transports is a common code, creating a massively distributed superintelligence which is monitoring and reporting — but reporting to whom? This AI no doubt has some connection to Section 31, which always seems several steps ahead of its opponents, but how can they be defeated when the very substance of Federation civilization is reporting for it? The truth, as ever, is even more frightening…
Many Trek books are great adventure stories, and some are beautiful bits of drama; the true talents of modern Trek literature are equally able to provide horror and comedy. Control distinguishes itself, however, by its timeliness. The world of Control is not a fantasy, but rather one we are building day by day. Something very much like Control in the real world was already explored by Daemon, Daniel Suarez’s cyberthriller, and those who remember its plot may steal a march on the main characters here. Although Bashir and his fellow fugitive, his lover and fellow S31 double agent Sarina, seek refuge and help from trusted sources, no place within the Alpha Quadrant is safe for long, because no matter what they do, Bashir and his friends always seem to be playing right into Section 31’s hands. Mack excels in torturing characters emotionally, and that’s supplied here with one prominent death and another character psychologically crushed. The ending was…surprising at first, but carries its twist.
For those who have been fascinated by Section 31 since their introduction in “Inquisition”, Control explores their past and delivers the final reckoning with them. While it seems a little rushed, the twist ending also indicates that another game is still afoot.
- A brief clip from “Inquisition“, the episode of Deep Space Nine in which Section 31 was introduced, and another clip from “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges”, when Bashir learns that someone he admires and respects. Episodes like these are why I believe Deep Space Nine is far and away the best Trek series, not only for its deep bench of complex characters, but the serious moral issues it explored. This wasn’t something that slowly developed, either, but was present from the start — just see the first-season episode “Duet“, in which a Cardassian who was a lowly clerk during the occupation assumes the identity of his murderous boss, Gul Darheel, just so that he can be exposed and put on trial — thereby allowing Cardassia to face its guilt and redeem itself for its past injustices.
- Daemon, Daniel Suarez