“I’ve never deactivated a superior officer before.” — Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Star Trek: The Next Generation – Takedown
When renegade starships wreak destruction across the quadrant, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise are shocked to discover the mastermind behind this sudden threat: none other than Picard’s protégé and friend, Admiral William T. Riker…
Star Trek: The Next Generation – Takedown was my first full-length Star Trek novel, and much of its writing took place overlapping the production of the novel that became Star Wars: A New Dawn. As both novels are firsts in a sense for me — New Dawn being the first of the new era of Star Wars novels — a lot of my memories of their production are intertwined.
While I conceived of the general idea behind Takedown in 2013, part of the inspiration came years before. Long before I was involved with Trek fiction — or any kind of professional fiction — I had always hoped for my first Trek novel to feature Moriarty, the Holmes villain turned artifical intelligence. But when I began discussions with Pocket Books about possible ideas for my first novella, I was told that character was out of play because of another upcoming book — which turned out to be Jeffrey Lang‘s Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Light Fantastic, published in the summer of 2014. I went onto other ideas at that point, but the notion of a naval pursuit involving one ship under foreign control continuted to intrigue me.
Fast forward to a weekend in October, 2013. I had heard of the possibility of doing a Star Wars: Rebels prequel novel with Del Rey a week earlier, but it wasn’t yet something I was developing ideas for — and in the meantime, Takedown arrived as a brainstorm one evening. I had written the novella Star Trek: Titan – Absent Enemies earlier in the summer, and editor Margaret Clark had invited me to share any novel ideas I came up with — and so I worked up some notes and sent her the general idea.
In the very earliest concept, it wasn’t Jean-Luc Picard chasing Will Riker, but the other way around; part of the drama came from the fact that Riker wanted to protect Picard from career damage. I had also suggested that we could go the other direction, with Picard chasing Riker. Margaret correctly pointed out we had already seen the Riker-Picard chase play out in “The Best of Both Worlds” — one of my inspirations — and given Riker’s new role as an admiral, putting the shoe on the other foot could be fascinating. Riker could be compromised by a foreign intelligence yet might be able to use the cover of command to hide his actions.
She had also suggested using Aventine rather than Titan, which made immediate sense: Aventine was the faster vessel, and I wanted Riker’s ship crewed by people who didn’t know him that well. Without strong bonds of friendship already present, they might be more easily moved to suspect him. The fact that Ezri Dax had just been imprisoned in “The Fall” was also very helpful to the plot: Dax would take being mixed up in another mess very personally.
That left the selection of the power controlling Riker. Fairly early in the conversations I came up with the idea of using the Cytherians, the race from the Next Generation episode “The Nth Degree”; while another species might have sufficed, they fit the bill perfectly, and viewers were already familiar with what they could do. The notion of a single individual taking over a large Starfleet vessel couldn’t be seen as farfetched when we’d already witnessed Lieutenant Barclay doing it. Those conversations led to a deal — and while I continued thinking on the story, Star Wars: A New Dawn took center stage on my work schedule for the next several months, leading well into 2014.
After the first draft of New Dawn was turned in, I worked up a plot for Takedown. It was approved by CBS, accompanied by the excellent suggestion by John Van Citters that the story show some repercussions to Riker’s alien possession. Certainly, there had been many stories on the TV shows where characters were possessed and then shown operating with no ill effects a week later; there had to have been some kind of mechanism in Starfleet to check these people out and put them back on the line. I took that idea and turned it into the framing sequence we see in the novel: the Mira Romaine Center for Rehabilitation and Reintegration.
Of course, I had no intention of telling the reader that’s where we were at the book’s start; Takedown is a science fiction thriller, but it’s also a mystery. The reader would learn just as Picard did. (In fact, Riker himself doesn’t remember what’s happened.) It felt like a device we’d see in the TV show. We didn’t know who had possessed Barclay until late in the episode, either.
I decided early on that Barclay was the one character I didn’t want in the story; his presence might well have tipped what was going on sooner. The same went for Troi, who would have known the symptoms. Again, it all fit: Riker would have been able to transfer ships at will, no questions asked.
I knew right away my adversary would be a Romulan, and that I wanted to play against type with him. Bretorius is the Romulan Barclay in the sense that the Cytherians transformed someone who, at the time, wasn’t very formidable. With Bretorius, we’d really notice the change in his competence level and confidence — and yet he would come up short against Riker, who had a lot more on the ball to begin with.
Work on the manuscript was delayed by a sizable round of changes on New Dawn — a redrafting transforming some characters and eliminating others, discussed here. This had significant knock-on effects on my schedule, as it not only delayed the start date of the Takedown manuscript, but it also meant that more of the New Dawn proofreading would be taking place while I was writing the Trek book. As a result, I wrote Takedown in the late spring and early summer of 2014 rather than early spring, as I’d intended.
I copied the fold-out map pages from my copy of Star Trek: Star Charts and mounted them on a map that showed the entire region at once. This was critical, as I was managing the movements of many different vessels, and I wanted to keep everything in the same Beta Quadrant neighborhood to the extent that I could. I had my old Trek Micro Machines out on the desk for inspiration. (I had no Aventine, so Reliant had to stand in.)
I completed Takedown in early summer, in personal-record speed but enough off the original plan that proofreading passes that were projected to take place before my summer and fall convention slate instead landed in the middle of travel days during a book tour. Takedown’s final pass reached me when I was parked at a highway rest stop in South Carolina; my corrections I made from a motel with Earth’s worst wi-fi, contributing to several of the more embarrassing continuity hiccups that reached the page. After that, I started bringing my reference books with me on extended trips! Most we were able to get fixed in the later printings, but I’ve noted a few in the trivia section below.
The novel released in late January 2015, receiving some of the better reviews I’ve gotten. I’m gratified to the fans for welcoming me. And there was another fun moment, later in 2015: at Shore Leave in Baltimore I met Daniel Davis, the actor who portrayed Moriarty. I wasn’t ultimately able to write a Moriarty novel, but I gave him a copy of the book and thanked him for the inspiration. He couldn’t have been more charming.
The cover, by Mark Rademaker, is one of my favorites, both suggesting speed and violence, something static images don’t always do. And the title appearing in the midsection was a neat touch.
I also got my first foreign-language Star Trek edition in 2016 when Cross Cult announced Star Trek: Jagd for Feb, 17, 2017. Jagd might be the shortest subtitle on a book ever from me. Prey is just four letters, but each one of those books has a further subtitle. I’d always read about jagdpanzer tanks, so I can see the linguistic connection there.
“Xxxxxxx.” — Xxxxx
The back cover copy mentions the Alpha Quadrant; I don’t remember where that came from, exactly, but almost all the action takes place in the Beta Quadrant.
The novel is dedicated to Don and Maggie Thompson, editors of Comics Buyer’s Guide, whose magazine I loved and who I moved to Wisconsin to work with when I was in my mid-20s. Don passed on several months later, but I had worked with Maggie for years after that, and she had encouraged me to write science fiction. I was delighted to be able to dedicate my first Star Trek novel to them.
The section titles – Meltdown, Showdown, Shutdown, Lockdown – may not rhyme when translated into other languages, but they were fun to include, and apt, too. I included more section-title wordplay in Prey.
The quotes leading off each section all came from either members of the de Medici family, or from Machiavelli, who wrote The Prince with the intention of becoming a de Medici advisor. It’s rare when you find quotes that fit the action so well, and which all have some kind of additional connection.
The two-chapter prologue is something I would later do on the second and third Prey books. I don’t like to launch with the longest chapter of the book – but there was a nice dividing line between the halves of this intro section.
You might think Armstrong is named for the astronaut, but it’s actually named for Louie. Titan’s shuttles are named for musicians.
One of the feelings I was going for in the opening was that from the TNG episode “Future Imperfect,” as Riker comes to suspect that he might be in a hologram. And like in that episode, there’s really something else going on.
I had gotten a rank insignia wrong in Absent Enemies, so it was fun to include that as one of the clues Riker had spotted that he was being deceived. (No, it doesn’t mean that other story was part of Simus’s illusion!)
The U.S.S. Laplace is named for the scientist Pierre-Simon Laplace.
I chose the name Corvus Beacon for the Corvus array so as not to cause confusion – or to prematurely tip our hand about – the Argus Array.
There was originally a transposition in the registry number of Aventine in this chapter; it was corrected in print editions in the third printing.
There’s a callback to the Catherine de Medici quote later in the book.
Now that we’re out of the section where I wanted to avoid giving away our location, locator captions begin. Some Trek books have them and some don’t; both here and in Prey I used them because, particularly in space battles, there is action going on in multiple places at once.
I took this opportunity to underline something not evidently clear in “Absent Enemies” – that despite the shots fired, the Breen vessels were only disabled.
I loved torturing poor Bretorius, and Nerla was the perfect foil for him. She knows she’s working with a loser.
No coincidence that Riker thinks of an arena right after seeing the Gorn! A little callback to the “Arena” original series episode.
Note that starting now, we’re no longer inside Riker’s POV – and won’t be again (outside the framing sequence) until the game is revealed. We are allowed inside Bretorius’s mind, however, to see his plotting.
The trip to the Genovous Pulsar, mentioned earlier, was a necessary device: Titan needed to be out of the way for Riker’s plan to advance without Troi realizing what was going on.
Ezri Dax had been imprisoned by the Federation back in The Fall storyline.
Riordan first appeared in the Destiny novel Gods of Night, with some of his personality already established. Englehorn had also appeared in Destiny. Riordan would next appear in the Voyager novel, Atonement, which was actually set several years earlier in 2382.
The Tuonetar encounter was back during The Fall.
Kirk’s theft of Enterprise had literally happened an exact century before the reference to it here. I’d think a lot more about that coincidence while writing Prey.
Zellman’s Find was a reference to the events of “Absent Enemies.”
Mentioning a trumpet case in the original release was one of the bigger blunders I’ve made, a head-slapper moment once I caught a Riker episode soon after the book went to bed. I’d like to pretend it was Riker’s subconscious tipping the others that something was amiss — but… no. I can honestly say I got a C in my last music class in middle school, and I can’t tell a bass guitar from a… well, whatever other kinds of guitars there are. “I’m an author, not a musician!” It’s a good cautionary tale for writers to double-check everything. It was fixed in the third printing.
Bringing your office with you in a holodeck program seems like such a natural idea that I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of it.
The task force refers to Moriarty, of course, from “Ship in a Bottle.” It seemed natural there would be such a group.
I’d been unable to find much in the way of internal schematics for Romulan warbirds, so I made that a plot point.
I was later surprised when one online indexer characterized the Takedown virus — as described here by Riker — as an actual thing. It was never more than a phantom threat, an excuse concocted by Riker to get Aventine to do the Cytherians’ bidding.
Right from the start it was important to sow seeds of disagreement between Riker and Aventine’s crew, and this chapter was key to that. They naturally would have questioned the actions he asked of them, and we made sure they did.
A proofreader asked whether “let’s you and him fight” was a familiar enough expression. It certainly is around the gaming table: provoking your opponents into battling one another is a time-honored strategy.
There had been a change of government among the Kinshaya back in a previous novella, but I suspected any real reforms would have been slow to take. So Riker had no trouble suggesting the Kinshaya were behind Takedown.
And now we get our first moment with Picard. I was aware of at least one comment later on by a reader who wondered whether this should have been a TNG book, but I’m not sure what else it could have been. Titan’s not in the story much, and Aventine wasn’t a known brand, at least not at the time of the novel. And it is as much an Enterprise adventure as it is an Aventine one.
Outpost 11 – coincidental that it’s in this chapter – appeared in Star Trek Star Charts.
If I were writing this as a comic book I would put every conference in stellar cartography. You can’t beat having something to look at during the exposition scenes!
There’s a reference here to a “manned” space station; I first confirmed that the term was still being used in the 24th Century. I think “crewed” could be misheard as “crude,” and “attended” doesn’t sound right.
Note how Riker is gradually cutting Aventine off from communication with the galaxy, even as the strikes by the Summit of Eight participants destroy the communications stations. The Cythereans expected this exact timing of events.
We had already just seen two raids in previous chapters, so we recapped this one over dinner.
Benjamin Maxwell was introduced in the TNG episode “The Wounded.”
This is the pivotal scene where the burned-twice Aventine crew had to reject doing anything else for Riker; it was critical to make sure this moment happened before (and indeed, just right before) they lost complete control of the ship. The crew had to be shown as faultless and acting responsibly.
Glinn Dygan’s covert mission, mentioned here, had taken place during The Fall. I thought it was important that he rather than Security Chief Šmrhová be Picard’s point-person on the investigation; it needed to be someone who could take an outsider’s view on Starfleet, who could easily suspect Aventine or Riker of wrongdoing.
Timing is key to stories where a lot is going on. It was critical to the antagonists’ master plan, for example, that the cascading communications failures limited the amount of information the ships in the field had about what was going on; it’s only due to La Forge that we get the conversation with Akaar we see here. And that itself was key, as it was timed to alert Picard to Riker but not long enough for him to learn of the Summit of Eight.
The original release listed an erroneous year for the Khitomer Accords, which got into the manuscript somewhere along the line. It’s corrected in the most recent printings.
There was some discussion as to what to call the Ferengi station; we had so many arrays mentioned at this point that we decided to keep it simple.
Note that as of now in the story, Riker is joined with Aventine’s computers; the one Dax is communicating with is the holographic one, so we are not seeing the all-caps godlike dialogue from him.
I thought of Riker as “Nth-Riker” at this point, given the name of the TV episode, but that name didn’t appear in the book.
Now we see why Titan was sent away by Riker; it’s got the keys to the mystery. But neither will it be away forever, which, again, is according to Nth-Riker’s plans.
Brightman-Laird isn’t named for anyone I know, although Brightman was the last name of the main character in 1990’s delightful short-lived show The Marshall Chronicles.
I was having to keep the Bretorius sections brief in this part of the book, as being inside his head too much would tip the Cytherians’ involvement.
Now we move into the Aventine crew’s part of Chapter 2’s flashback; it should match up word for word. Again it was a little tricky, because nothing could be said in this exchange that would tip the future Riker of Chapter 2 into knowing exactly what had happened. Fortunately there was only time for a short conversation so it wasn’t that hard to limit what was said.
And we’re back out in the framing sequence. I suppose the holographic first officer could have sat in the chair Simus was in without Simus getting up, but it probably would have been weird to describe.
Writing Aneta Šmrhová required me to dig into the special characters’ menu on my computer’s font package. Eventually I just saved it as a spellcheck word and just automated the spelling.
“Wrong strategy” should have been “incorrect strategy,” as the text later suggests.
Seemed appropriate that jazz fan Nth-Riker would use the ship’s systems to regale his listeners with some tunes while all hell was breaking loose!
Bowers raises an interesting question: if users of the holodeck could create replica versions of great scientists to help them work on theories, why wouldn’t it be possible – once the safety protocols were down — to create your own all-star bridge crew, with the computer using what it understood of those people’s skills to “crew” the duplicate “bridge”? It wasn’t necessary, of course, but it’s an interesting idea. (Years later, a holographic crew would later appear aboard La Sirena in Picard.)
I don’t indulge much at all in in-jokes, but I slipped in a fun one here for classic TV fans like myself: “Honeysuckle Jump” is not actually a song by Artie Shaw, but rather an imaginary tune guessed by Elaine Benes on “The Mom and Pop Store” episode of Seinfeld. Someone did record a song by that name after the TV show came out, but the Shaw reference suggests that Bowers, who admits he may be totally wrong about his guess, might have been a fan of classic television! (If it had been “Next Stop, Pottersville,” that would have given it away!)
Boatswain’s whistles show up in one of the Star Trek movies. They seemed out of place there, but as long as they were on the ship, I figured we’d use them!
The No’Var Outpost, mentioned here, is an important setting in the Prey trilogy. We don’t say it, but this system near the frontier is adminstered by the House of Kruge.
Working simultaneously on Star Wars: A New Dawn‘s later draft bit me here, as having just added the isotope baradium-357 to the manuscript in multiple places, I had a brain-spasm and referred to the Battle of Wolf 357 rather than 359. Having watched the battle when it first aired — and known of the star forever — my 20th-Century self shakes his head at his modern counterpart. Fixed in later editions.
Kersh, daughter of Dakh, is introduced here; she would go on to be a major player in Prey.
The exact moment Riker refers to regarding his meeting with Picard is in “Encounter at Farpoint.” It was something I knew that only Picard and Riker would be privy to.
It occurred to me that Riker could make selective use of artificial gravity: he wouldn’t want the shuttles floating around bashing into things in the shuttlebay, but he could keep anyone else from easily approaching.
Meuse was introduced for this book. And destroyed in it. Pack out what you bring in…
This might be the first time a shuttlecraft has ever fought a battle with its own landing bay. The fact that Riker was able to participate in this at the same time the raid was going on should have been ample evidence that he’d been transformed.
Adelphous, devastated back in Destiny: Mere Mortals, had previously been mentioned in the TV show.
This seemed like the perfect sort of mission to get the ship’s counselor involved in; no wonder they’re on the bridge!
The Detapa Council stunt — using the tractor beam in combat— occured in the Deep Space Nine episode “The Way of the Warrior.” It was important here to establish that the strategem here was only possible because of Aventine’s malfuctioning tractor beam systems; that made sure that it couldn’t be used as a tactic elsewhere.
The Argus Array, of course, we first saw in “The Nth Degree.”
I had to ask to make sure MREs still existed. They do. You can’t take a replicator everywhere!
One of the interesting challenges was figuring out what things on Aventine were and weren’t networked with the ship’s computer. I determined that night-vision goggles wouldn’t be.
I don’t think you’d want to be in a Jefferies tube when all the lights went out!
This book gave me a chance to delve into something common in Star Trek: the exterior hull lighting, which seems to serve very little purpose in a world with powerful sensors. (Or not: when was the last time you saw a space shuttle’s running lights?) It occurred to me that registry mark lighting in particular would serve one audience, mainly: those working in spacedock, who need to know what ship they’re fiddling with!
Free-space optical communication is indeed a thing.
We’re dealing with Nth-Bretorius now, so he’s communicating by video. It was always presumed that the Cytherian-touched ambassadors would eventually have to meld with their ships, as Barclay did, in order to maintain control.
Kataan is a reference to the marvelous Next Generation episode “The Inner Light.”
SIMS beacon is, of course, Trek for “flashlight.”
This chapter is, in fact, the first one I imagined for the story: the Aventine crew communicating with Enterprise even as a pursuit was taking place.
While the -E carries quantum torpedoes, I envisioned them too destructive for use in this situation; I assumed Enterprise would have carried photon torpedoes for use when lower yields were needed. That happens again in a particular situation in Prey.
We went with all-caps lettering to handle Nth-Riker’s dialogue. In the TV episode script, the dialogue is labeled as “Barclay’s Voice,” because the actor himself is not speaking in the scene. It’s his voice-over.
I was always having to check my spelling on Cytherians. “Cytherean” means “of or relating to the planet Venus.” Venus is a good deal closer!
I was sort of hedging about the Great Barrier; we were told in “Nth Degree” that the Cytherians lived at the galactic core but no mention was made of the barrier. So I said “near the galactic core.”
Something had happened in “Nth Degree” that I’d never fully understood: the probe kept coming after Enterprise even after Barclay had been transformed. I speculated that could have been Proctor’s doing.
Clearly the TV episode winks at Barclay having retained some of the abilities he’d been granted; that was great fodder for the Romaine Center’s interest in Riker.
The reason I opened an earlier secton of the book with Riker despairing of exercising is because I knew I was going to hit him with the thought here that he might never get to leave the seated position again.
No animals were made extinct in this production. The California grizzly is already gone. At least until a ship full of bears arrives in the solar system wanting to talk with some!
Note how Riker has been constantly gaming the rules his Cytherian overlords have given him. They didn’t know Aventine existed, so Riker finished his tasks in plenty of time to work with Picard on a solution.
I was somewhat concerned about giving Nth-Riker a lot of lines, given that big blocks of all-caps would be difficult to read — but there was no way around it, and it also puts the reader in Picard’s shoes, dealing with a Riker made more verbose by his connection to every fact in the ship’s computer.
If I’d wanted to make the book longer — which I didn’t — this section was one place where I might have, by having someone attempt to mind-meld with Riker. It probably wouldn’t have ended well for the person involved, so it’s just as well it didn’t happen.
At the top of my wish list for the Star Trek books: maps. Dygan shows the others the strategic situation with cups and mugs, which may be a first. I had sketched out the same thing on scratch paper for my own reference; maybe I’ll transfer it to a map one day.
There had never been a name given to the Cytherian from the TV show, so this is the first appearance of Caster’s name.
I wanted to give Riker a moment with Riordan, because the ensign was very much our stand-in for the awkward Barclay (who could never have been allowed near this story, for obvious reasons). Unlike Barclay at the time of the TV episode, Riker is older, better adjusted, and has strong leadership skills; I wanted to show him continuing to act as a leader and mentor despite his situation.
Again, I relied here on the specific events of the TV show: destroying the probe did nothing to reverse Barclay’s situation. Destroying the Far Embassy wouldn’t reverse Riker’s, either; rather, destroying it makes it less likely that the Cytherians can take back their powers. Which is why it becomes a tempting piece of bait for the other seven elevated leaders.
The Taibak Indoctrinator had not previously been named as such, but it was shown being used by Taibak in “The Mind’s Eye,” so I thought it was a good enough name. There’s a creepy picture of it at the link. It wasn’t clear what the Romulans had in the way of holodecks, so the device was a nice alternative for Bretorius.
While Bretorius has been elevated, I presumed that the Taibak Indoctrinator did not give him a godlike “voice” like Riker’s — it would have been too hard on readers if his dialogue were in all caps.
Likewise, the entire conversation in this chapter takes place in a virtual theater of the joined minds, and no italics or all caps were necessary.
The communications here have to be over short-distance comms in the same system, because they’ve wrecked so much of the subspace network.
I love that Igel uses his powers to advance a real estate scheme!
Originally in my manuscript, Worf had declared that he, Picard, and Dygan represented “the next generation.” “You are not getting away with that,” my editor wrote. Hey, it was worth a try!
I can imagine it was hard for Picard to get Worf to play-act as Nth-Worf. But effective.
A little namecheck at the end here to the wonderful old movie A Face in the Crowd, which featured another small timer elevated to great power and undone by a broadcast!
The mobile emitter, to the Nth-elevated, would have been incredibly useful; the Fabian Stevens work referred to here happened in the S.C.E. ebook Malefictorum.
The Geordi and Nth-Riker technical collaboration here is one of my favorite moments of the book.
It had been important to establish early on that the entry systems at the Far Embassy only allowed one person to enter each airlock at a time, meaning that Bretorius would have expected only a small party inside for Nerla to defeat. Had it been possible to beam multiple people inside, he would have needed more than one minion for his plan in this chapter.
One of the critical elements regarding the Cytherians was that their knowledge of the local species had to be circa the events of The Nth Degree, when we can assume that Enterprise probably gave them a lot of information. Hence the duplicated airlocks and tractor beam systems would have been from several years earlier — and thus hackable in the way seen later.
“I’ve never deactivated a superior officer before,” Picard says. But I’m sure certain ones have inspired that desire in the past!
We see here that the reason Riker has the success that he does in this episode is because he’s a good leader that others are willing to follow, even after they know his predicament. Bretorius, by contrast, is fighting with his own crew right down to the wire. Even Nerla has to be blackmailed.
Check the original TV episode and you’ll find the giant floating head’s dialogue was extremely spare and somewhat stilted; I tried to go for that here. The tarot-card comparison was an intentional one; the first tarot-card reading guides I ever saw included just two- and three-word sentences. Perhaps the Cytherian Five of Wands equates to “Rejection of assignments. Failure.”
Remember that Riker only has the all-caps god-like voice while you’re in the holodeck with him; hence his dialogue here over Aventine’s PA system is just in italics.
Caster, our Cytherian from the TV episode, finally makes his appearance here. He was portrayed by Kay E. Kuter, who also appeared in a DS9 episode. Memorably, he also played the Latvian Orthodox priest in Seinfeld. He died in 2003.
Bretorius is constantly having to play games with his programming in order to attempt harm. Nerla pointing the disruptor at him earlier becomes a precondition for threatening her now — and clearly he reasoned correctly, because he’s allowed to carry out his threat. Likewise, he can’t destroy the Far Embassy because he knows Picard is inside, but he knows the other Nth-raised ambassadors don’t know that, meaning that they can act freely. Nth-Bretorius would make a fine lawyer.
It was important not to come up with a simple characterization for Proctor’s relationship with Caster; these advanced beings needed to be beyond easy marks of status, beyond familiar familial relationships. So they’re depicted, in a sense, as everything at once. Spouses, siblings, parents/children, teacher and student, ruler and ruled. It also left the door wide open to anyone wanting to do a deeper dive into their society later on.
One reader wondered whether Picard would know of Catherine de’ Medici. I think he absolutely would have: he’s very well read, and she was one of the most important sixteenth-century figures in France, the place of his birth. You expect a Renaissance man like Picard to know his Renaissance history! (Not much explanation needed for why Nth-Riker would know of her, of course. If it’s in the data banks, he knows it.)
From here on out, I was smiling whenever I was writing Bretorius. His come-uppance, starting with being stuck in the indoctrination chair, was delicious.
Riker, on the other hand, I knew had to feel a lot of regret — which is why the framing sequence was so necessary. He has to be absolved by the Federation — and himself. Justice and punishment, as we see here, are big themes for this book — and it turns out to be a warmup for Prey, which deals even more heavily with them.
We figured with all the people in Star Trek who get possessed by alien intelligences there had to be a facility like the Romaine Center out there, and as it turns out, it’s a pretty nice place. I’ll be interested to see if it turns up again in the fiction.
Both the Steinman analysis and hyperencephelograms both came from “The Lights of Zetar”, the episode where Mira Romaine was possessed.
We didn’t see Picard going to Betazed after “The Best of Both Worlds,” of course, so we described his visit here as coming much later, off-camera.
“Barratry” — piracy by an officer — is a term we all learned from the novel version of The Hunt for Red October, to which I have myself sometimes likened this book. “Red October with Picard chasing Riker” is as close to a pure Hollywood logline as I can imagine for Takedown.
Originally, the Bretorius bit was going to be the last section of the novel — but on a proofreader’s suggestion we reversed his and Riker’s endings, so the book could close as it began, with Riker. I still love Bretorius’s last moments here.
Takedown is the shortest of any of my novels through 2020, but a story is only as long as needs to be.