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Contamination is a 1991 Star Trek: The Next Generation novel by author John Vornholt.


The USS Enterprise is stunned when famed scientist Lynn Costa is murdered in one of the ship's science labs. She and her husband Emil were known as science's greatest ongoing collaboration and, together, had received the Federation's highest honors for their achievements in scientific research.
Determined to see the culprit brought to justice, Captain Picard assigns Lt. Worf and Counselor Deanna Troi to the case. Their routine investigation of the ship's science lab soon reveals a dangerous web of deceit, betrayal, and madness. Now, Worf and Troi find themselves struggling against a ruthless assassin set on revenge–for whom murder is only the beginning...


Doctors Emil and Lynn Costa are part of the science team working on the micro-contamination project. Highly celebrated scientists married for nearly 50 years, they were credited with perfecting the transporter biofilter before joining the USS Enterprise to pursue any project of their choice. When Lynn deletes a sizable amount of important research collected over the last four years, she is pressed to undergo counseling with Deanna Troi, revealing a deep depression and a fear that her husband plans to divorce her. Soon after, she is found dead in one of the starship's cleanroom labs. Though it appears that she suffered from an accidental toxic gas leak, Worf's investigation reveals clues that suggest a premeditated murder. He questions the rest of the science team, including the Betazoid project manager Dr. Karn Milu, Vulcan Dr. Saduk, Antarean Dr. Grastow, human intern Shana Russell, and of course, his primary suspect, Emil.

Worf's investigation comes under a deadline when Lynn's death is officially classified as an accident and Emil announces plans to depart the ship at its next port, Kayran Rock. Worf tasks Wesley Crusher with surreptitiously questioning his former tutor. Despite interference run by Grastow, Wes overhears Emil and Karn arguing shortly before Karn is also found dead. Troi discovers an encoded message hidden within Milu's belongings and uses a Betazoid meditation technique to decipher its contents—"Lynn is the queen hag, Emil is a naughty jester, Saduk is the heir apparent, Grastow is a footman, Shana is Jasmine." Troi is poisoned before she can fully understand the message or inform Worf of her discovery.

At Kayran Rock, Emil is subjected to a hearing to determine his involvement in both murders. He reveals that he and Lynn had once discovered a unique sub-microbe undetectable by conventional sensors or biofilters. They studied it in secret for years until Karn learned of its existence and wanted to sell its tremendous weapons potential to the highest bidder. Those are the records that Lynn deleted, but Emil claims innocence in both deaths.

Troi recovers and Worf learns that Shana is actually Jasmine Terry, the daughter of Megan Terry, a former associate of the Costas. Twenty years earlier, Megan had been heavily involved in the biofilter project and was having an affair with Emil. He promised to leave Lynn for Megan if Megan surrendered her research, but he reneged on his offer, dismissing her from the project and his life and leaving her pregnant. Megan died in disgrace and Jasmine jumped on the opportunity for revenge offered to her by Karn Milu. Karn sought her help in securing the sub-microbe files so she left school, changed her name, and joined the micro-contamination project. However, she put her revenge against Emil ahead of Karn's plans and then killed Karn when he threatened to expose her. Now confronted, she threatens to kill Worf but is subdued by Saduk. Jasmine is arrested and remanded to a penal colony treatment facility, Emil is cleared of all charges, and the rest of the team is disbanded. Saduk accepts a posting to restart the sub-microbe research from scratch by securing another sample from its source—Vagra II.



AkreeBaylakCavayEmil CostaLynn CostaBeverly CrusherWesley CrusherDataEfrekGrastowGuinanHamerJaraynGretchen KaelenKranerKwalrakGeordi La ForgeMayraKarn MiluMiles O'BrienJean-Luc PicardWilliam T. RikerShana RussellSadukSingh (Ensign)Deanna TroiUlreeIshe WatanabeWorf
Referenced only
NadelMegan TerryIan Andrew Troi

Starships and vehicles

USS Enterprise-D (Galaxy-class explorer) • shuttlecraft


Kayran Rock

Vagra II, in the Vagra system.

Referenced only
Vagra II

Races and cultures


States and organizations

Microcontamination ProjectStarfleet

Science and technology

biofilterfood replicatorphasersensorstarshipsub-microbetransporterturbolift

Ranks and titles


Other references

engineeringmeditationmurderOrion tapestryPrime Directivesciencetechnologyweaponyear


Related media


  • The book's inspiration came from reading a trade journal on ultra-clean manufacturing, which led to author John Vornholt developing similar types of facilities aboard the Enterprise, laboratories on deck 31 where the crew had to wear special suits to prevent dust from escaping into the air. The Worf-Troi subplot, working through her anger at Worf having suggested she destroy her offspring in TNG episode: "The Child", was suggested by Gene Roddenberry. (The Official Fan Club Magazine Issue 79: "Where No Man...: Contamination")
  • There is an old Klingon proverb: "A terrible secret cannot be kept."
  • Dr. Grastow is an Antarean, described as quite tall, though obviously not the same species as seen in Star Trek: Voyager.
  • One form of Betazoid encryption is to put oneself into a trance and process the message through their subconscious mind. Upon awaking, the message will be indecipherable even to the person who encoded the message, though knowledge of one’s own psyche will ultimately allow the code to be broken.

References and notes

  1. The given stardate in the books is 44261.3, however the Pocket Books Timeline adjusts this 43951.6 to place the book shortly after the TNG episode: "Ménage à Troi".




Published Order
Previous novel:
Fortune's Light
TNG numbered novels Next novel:
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Stories by:
John Vornholt
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Chronological Order
Previous adventure:
What Went Through Data's Mind 0.68 Seconds Before the Satellite Hit
Pocket Books Timeline Next adventure:
Previous adventure:
What Went Through Data's Mind 0.68 Seconds Before the Satellite Hit
Memory Beta Chronology Next adventure:
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DC Comics Timeline Next adventure:
The Lesson
Publication history
March 1991
Original Pocket Books paperback release.
May 1991
First Simon and Schuster Audioworks audiobook cassette release.
Titan Books paperback reprint.
February 1995
Audiobook cassette re-release.
November 1996
Audiobook CD re-release.

External link