The Enterprise War
© 2019 John Jackson Miller
“Giving up our values in the name of security is to lose the battle in advance. I’m curious. Did you sideline the Enterprise because you knew I’d never stop reminding you of that?”
“You sat out the war because if we’d lost to the Klingons, we wanted the best of Starfleet to survive. That was you, and all you represent.” (ST: Discovery)
At the outset of a months-long exploration of the Pergamon nebula, Captain Christopher Pike and the Enterprise receive a disturbing message: hostilities have opened with the Klingon Empire, and some of Starfleet’s finest ships have fallen in the Battle of the Binary Stars. Enterprise is to continue its exploration of the nebula, to stay as far from the conflict as it can. Although Pike attempts to defy these orders, Starfleet is adamant — and the punctilious Commander Una ensures that he obeys them. Grudgingly, Pike and the Enterprise commit to the violent nebula named for the Gates of Hell — and soon find themselves in a battle for their lives, caught between an ancient war between two factions, both equally dangerous. When Enterprise loses thirty of its crew and their multiple base camps on a habitable planet within the nebula, Pike is plagued with self-doubt — but he presses on.
What Pike doesn’t know is that his thirty crewmen were abducted, not killed; one faction in the war routinely seizes crew off of ships that come into the nebula, using them as its soldiers. While Pike seeks vengeance on the mysterious aliens who attacked his ship and people without warning, one captive officer — Spock — labors to understand the people and war he has suddenly become involved in. The officers are compelled to fight, living as they are in battlesuits that bring to mind Starship Troopers. The comparison is especially apt given that the other faction are Bug-like, but John Jackson Miller isn’t doing a humans-vs-bugs retread. Both of his factions, in fact, are far more interesting than they initially seem — composed of six different species which originated from the same planet, five bipedal species in an alliance against the bugs. The battlesuits themselves are very cool, and make the captors more compelling than hateable. Spock and the others are truly put to the test, though, when they learn they will be used in an attempt to capture the Enterprise herself.
The Enterprise War is great drama all around; at one point the Enterprise is in pieces and in peril, its saucer section upside down on a planet with an unlivable atmosphere, and the two pieces of the ship both desperately need the resources of crewmen on the other piece; one woman is pregnant, but the medical staff are on one side, for instance. Spock and his fellow captives are in no less a fix, and one officer proves such a capable warrior within the alliance that his loyalties are thrown into question. The icing on the cake, frankly, is the ending, which eschews the usual battle-to-the-death theatrics, and instead depends on the unique relationship between the warring factions.