Crossroad by Barbara Hambly
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
The Crossroad Nebula was a recognised shipping hazard where ships and probes have mysteriously vanished, close by was the Federation protected star system of Tau Lyra whose people were not ready to make the leap into space travel but where showing impressive progress in other areas. The Enterprise while preparing to sow new probes detect a starship leaving the nebula, sensors indicate it is basically a Constitution class but with some minor anomalies in design and energy output. After a brief exchange the Enterprise secures the vessel and the small crew are beamed aboard. The very diverse crew (Vulcan, Klingon, Orion, Human etc) claim to have recently acquired the ship called the "Nautilus" and were attacked within the nebula and are fleeing the "Consilium" but that doesn't explain the existence of the Nautilus or the advanced bio-engineering embedded in the bodies of some of the captured crew.
Crossroad in many ways takes its intent from the mirror universe trope without actually employing that narrative but there are many similarities. We get to see what the Federation and more importantly Starfleet could have been and given the right conditions and how humanity could be far more invasive and corrupt towards the galaxy than any of the current expansionist empires. I enjoyed the technology presented by the Nautilus as it set well outside the expected from Star Trek and this story may have stood alone as a piece of hard scifi dealing with the politics and machinations of a dominant galactic power.
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