(written from a Production point of view)
- From the book jacket
- A surprising tale of doubles, secret pasts, and alternate realities. In our universe, a Cardassian sleeper agent – Iliana Ghemor – was once surgically altered to resemble and replace Bajoran resistance fighter Kira Nerys. That plan never reached fruition, and the fate of the agent remained unknown… until now.
- Robbed of the past sixteen years, and on the brink of madness, Iliana is back with a vengeance. She has already made one attempt on the real Kira's life, and the heroes of Deep Space Nine must now stop the false Kira without derailing the delicate flow of history that must unfold if two universes, and countless others are to survive.
Side One / Kira
2377: Iliana Ghemor of the mirror universe (Iliana 2) is brought to DS9 for questioning; she refuses to speak to anyone but Captain Kira, and even then only shares select intel. She reveals herself to be a former Obsidian Order operative now allied with the Terran Rebellion against the Alliance. Her assignment was to assassinate Intendant Kira, but she abandoned that mission when she learned of her mentally unstable counterpart's (our universe's Iliana 1) plot to take the Intendant's place. She failed to stop Iliana 1 in our universe and her crossover device was destroyed. The investigation of both Ilianas leads Kira to an Orb encounter that restores suppressed memories—she actually was captured and held at the Elemspur Detention Center during the Occupation. Entek planned to replace Kira with sleeper agent Iliana 1, though Dukat scrapped the mission at the last minute. Dukat ordered that Kira's memories be wiped and set her free, keeping Iliana 1 as his personal prisoner. Having been haunted over the loss of her friend, Dakahna Vaas, young Kira overcame her guilt and found the will to fight for the future.
Kira and Ro deal with their emotional turmoil regarding Taran'atar. They had both come to respect – even like – him and fear how his actions will affect his own future, despite his betrayal. Ro singularly focuses on her investigations of the Sidau massacre and Taran'atar's actions, stubbornly ignoring her own physical rehabilitation. She eventually accepts help with both the investigation and her rehab from her former-deputy-turned-nurse, Etana Kol. Major Cenn interrogates Iliana 1's lieutenants captured at Harkoum. He's nearly able to divide the criminals' loyalties before Shing-Kur, Iliana's right hand, murders the others via a remote implant. Shing-Kur delivers a message to Kira and Iliana 2: Trakor's First Prophecy – the ascension of the Emissary will bring about a new age for Bajor. Iliana 1's plan is to fulfill that prophecy in the mirror universe by becoming Emissary herself, and to kill all other versions of Kira, whom she feels stole her life, across the multiverse. Kira and Iliana 2 must trust each other in order to stop her.
During an encounter with the Orb of Souls, Benjamin Sisko is called to a conference of Emissaries within the Celestial Temple. His counterparts in other realities all led different lives but eventually fulfilled their destiny, except for the dead Sisko of the mirror universe. The other Siskos inform Ben that, as the slowest (of the surviving Siskos) to accept his destiny, he was intended to lead his mirror self to that acceptance as well. The interdimensional barriers between our reality and the mirror universe were weakened to facilitate this, and Ben’s failure to act (despite not realizing his mission) has allowed the insane Iliana Ghemor to threaten the futures of multiple realities. The Siskos determine a plan. Opaka later tells Sisko that the Sidau Orb fragment, the Paghvaram, was long considered a myth, though it may have belonged to long-ago Kai Dava Nikende, who foresaw the need to hide the Orb of Phophecy and Change decades before the Occupation. Vaughn is relieved of duty for his conduct during the Taran'atar pursuit and begins to doubt himself. Sisko presents Vaughn with a secret mission that carries a high price personally and professionally – find Sisko's counterpart (whom Ben falsely claims faked his death) and convince him to become the Emissary. Vaughn accepts while Sisko silently regrets the need to deceive his friends.
Nog builds another crossover device and a trans-dimensional communicator, allowing DS9 to contact the rebels on the mirror Terok Nor. The two crews agree to work together, but their conversation is interrupted by Iliana 1's arrival at Terok Nor, leading the Alliance fleet in the guise of the Intendant. Using the Paghvaram stolen from our side, she prepares to become the mirror universe’s Emissary. She creates a scattering field to prevent interference from our reality but Kira and a reinstated Vaughn transport to the mirror Bajor at the last minute.
Side Two / Iliana
Iliana Ghemor (1) is a young woman who dreams of becoming an artist rather than following her parents into civil or military service. Raised in a privileged and sheltered home, she has little use for traditional Cardassian scheming or the politics involving Bajor, despite society's expectations. Entek sees great potential in Iliana – his covert observations enable him to understand her better than she knows herself. He affirms her concerns about Cardassian society and attempts to recruit her into the Obsidian Order, offering her a way to be part of the solution, though she refuses. Tekeny, recently elevated to the Central Command, and Kaleen, a highly placed inquisitor, allow her to attend the fine arts school at Pra Menkar. Iliana reconnects with Ataan Rhukal, a childhood friend who is now a glinn in the military, and the two begin a love affair. In contrast to Iliana's idealism, Ataan is a dutiful citizen, espousing the merits of colonial imperialism. His opinion of the Bajorans as ignorant, violent animals is only reinforced during his posting to Bajor as a member of Gul Pirak's security detail. Their engagement ends when Ataan is killed in a terrorist attack. Numb to grief, Iliana abandons her "naïve and self-indulgent" life and immediately enrolls in the Obsidian Order's training program.
Iliana trains under Entek for two years, progressing far more quickly than expected and setting new records for the institute. She confronts her inner demons, hones her innate skills of observation, and embraces the traditional values of self-sacrifice and service to the state, hoping to make a difference in the chaotic universe. Her final test is a personal combat in which she kills a captured Bajoran terrorist, Dakahna Vaas. Iliana accepts a long-term undercover mission to replace another terrorist, Kira Nerys, infiltrating and undermining the cell responsible for Ataan's murder. She undergoes extreme physical surgery and brain-wave recalibration, including a total memory transfer from the target herself, designed to make Iliana look like – and believe herself to be – Kira. The entire process is a success, but Dukat uses his authority to cancel the actual replacement of Kira at the last minute. The real Kira is returned to the Dakhur wilderness with no memory of her capture, as Dukat honors his promise to protect Kira Meru's family. Entek returns to Cardassia and reports that the mission went as planned, under threat of being exposed for facilitating the bombing that killed Gul Pirak and Ataan (just to spur Iliana to join the Order). Dukat takes Iliana, who now believes herself to be Kira, to a private, hidden section of Letau prison.
Iliana's isolation is broken only by Dukat's visits to drug, rape, and torture her. Her suicide attempts are thwarted and she eventually gives up all hope. In 2369, Dukat nearly kills her in his rage over the withdrawal from Bajor and Starfleet's discovery of the wormhole. She fights back, injuring his pride and his face, and reawakened, she vows to exact her vengeance on Dukat. His final visit, in the guise of Anjol Tennan, reaches new levels of depravity, and he remarks that they are now the perfect pair. Iliana's memory block begins to fail, and she has confusing, fractured dreams of two lives. In the final day of the Dominion War, the Jem'Hadar storm the prison, killing guards and inmates alike. A power failure allows Iliana to escape her cell for the first time since her arrival. Discovering fighting and computer skills that she didn’t know she had and can’t explain, she captures Warden Rokai and forces him to help her and several other inmates (who later become her lieutenants). Rokai leads them to Dukat's hidden bunker, which includes a lavish and well-stocked apartment and Iliana's cell. By interrogating Rokai and studying Dukat's files, Iliana learns the broad strokes of the last fifteen (!) years – Bajor liberated itself from the Cardassians, then welcomed an alien Emissary who oversees a new Federation occupation and who started the Dominion War. The real Kira "assumed" Iliana's would-be life and is a strong supporter of Starfleet, betraying everything she fought for. At first, Iliana believes the real Kira to be a Cardassian agent sent to undermine Bajor, but she horrifically comes to realize that she herself is Iliana, and that everything she endured was for nothing. Iliana's disparate memories snap into focus; she remembers both losing and killing beloved friends Ataan Rhukal and Dakahna Vaas. She suffers a brief emotional breakdown and brutally murders Rokai. Only Shung-Kur witnesses this self-discovery and collapse, but she protects Iliana and her true identity from the other prisoners. The escapees raid Dukat's weapons, supplies, and vast intelligence files and use his stolen Dominion transporter to flee to the abandoned Grennokar prison. Having her past, her future, her dignity, her faith, everything stolen from her, Iliana clings to her identity as Kira Nerys, vowing to kill Dukat and every “usurper” Kira.
- Una McCormack read Fearful Symmetry when writing The Never-Ending Sacrifice for "background on the Ghemor family and the Cardassian setting". 
- In "Second Skin", Kira spoke with Yeln Arvam, who confirmed her imprisonment at Elemspur, though she herself had no memory of it. This man disappeared soon after and is suspected as a Cardassian agent working with Entek. The real Yeln died at Elemspur the same week Kira was held there.
- The mirror Tekeny Ghemor commanded the Obsidian Order. He groomed his daughter as an agent, but his ruthlessness spurred Iliana 2 to ally with the rebels. Her mother was brutally slain in front of her.
- The Terran Empire outlawed the Bajoran religion, a practice that seems to have continued under the Alliance. Now, only small sects practice their faith in secret. Iliana 2's mission included making contact with an underground religious enclave. There, she had an unexpected Orb encounter that alerted her to her insane counterpart's scheme.
- Iliana 1's captured lieutenants include Telal, a male Romulan; Mazagalanthi, a male Lissepian; Fellen Ni-Yaleii, a female Efrosian; and her right hand, Shing-Kur, a female Kressari. Quark helps Major Cenn realize that all four criminals were convicted of crimes by Cardassia and imprisoned at Letau, Cardassia's innermost moon. Cenn and Iliana 2 deduce that only Shing-Kur knew of Iliana 1's true identity and of their termination implants' existence.
- Alternate Siskos include: Ambassador Sisko of the UFP Diplomatic Corps, who lost his wife Jennifer on Cardassia Prime during a suicide attack by Kohn-Ma terrorists while he was trying to negotiate the Cardasssian withdrawal from Bajor; Fleet Captain Sisko, military governor of Bajor under a Terran Empire that never fell, scarred and half-blind from his father's treachery; Dr. Sisko of the Daystrom Institute, whose discovery of the wormhole (years after the terrible accident that killed his sister) led to a new renaissance of art, science, philosophy, and a spreading social revolution. The free exchange of knowledge is catalyzing a gradual dismantling of familiar galactic nation-states in favor of a loose but stable interstellar sprawl; Colonel Sisko of the Celestial Union, from a universe where Bajor was the nucleus of a vast planetary alliance stretching from Cardassia to Earth, who discovered the wormhole during a war with the Tholians that killed both his parents; Admiral Sisko, widower and hero of Wolf 359, whose Federation had long ago absorbed the Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, Tzenkethi, and Breen; Sisko of Borg, where the Collective had assimilated many Alpha Quadrant worlds; civilian Sisko, who lost his marriage, his career, and almost his will to live following the death of his son at Wolf 359.
- The increased permeability between realities centered on Bajor was the Prophets' means of getting our Sisko to guide his counterpart towards accepting the role of Emissary.
- Much of Cardassia's ancient art and culture have been lost, seized and sold off by the military to pay for the current age of armed imperialism, or destroyed for their subversive content.
- Ataan Rhukal is assigned to Gul Morad Pirak's security detail. Pirak's plan is to teach his men Bajoran custom, history, and language in order to facilitate cooperation between the two species. Pirak's slightly radical views may have contributed to Entek's facilitation of the terrorist bombing that killed him and Ataan. ("The Darkness and the Light")
- Cardassian Dr. Mindur Timot discovered a number of recurring morphologies common to many cardassoid species that has revolutionized deep-cover operations. The Order maintains a database of alien individuals possessing close morphologies with those of living Cardassians. Iliana Ghemor and Kira Nerys are one pairing. Gul Danar has matches with humans, Klingons, Romulans, others (based on the fact that Vaughn Armstrong portrayed all those characters).
- Iliana's full-body cosmetic alterations include the removal of her ova to prevent impregnation, subtle manipulation of the genes controlling hair and skin growth, procedures that would maintain Bajoran norms in body temperature, respiration, heart rate, and blood and eye color. Prodigious quantities of DNA-masking compound in the form of slow-decay crystals were implanted throughout her lymphatic system, maintaining the effects for up to five years.
- Dukat was the administrator of Letau prison for nine years before becoming prefect of Bajor. He created a secret bunker, including the apartment and Iliana's cell, as his personal refuge to celebrate his victories and to regroup following his defeats. His deputy, Rokai, succeeded him as warden, maintained the bunker, and fed Iliana.
- During Dukat's time as leader of Cardassia, he undertook a number of secret projects that involved quietly acquiring samples of "misplaced" Dominion technology, in preparation to lead a stronger Cardassia against the Dominion.
- This is the first Star Trek novel by author Olivia Woods.
- The novel was originally scheduled to be released in April 2007, to be written by Leanna Morrow. It was then pushed back to August after a reshuffling of the 2007 release schedule, before being announced as being delayed in May 2007. At the Shore Leave convention in July 2007, the novel was announced as being scheduled for July 2008, with Morrow being replaced as author by Woods.
- The title of the novel comes from a line in William Blake's poem "The Tyger".
- The novel is in a "flip" format – the book has two covers, and the story is separated into two parts, one from the "front" to the middle, the other from the "back" to the middle.
- It was originally announced that this novel would also have formed part of the Star Trek: Mirror Universe series of novels. However, the novel as published does not carry the Mirror Universe title.
- A comment made by Entek in this novel states that Gul Danar has similar morphologies as some Humans, Klingons, and Romulans (i.e. he looks like people of those species). This is in reference to the fact that Vaughn Armstrong (who played Gul Danar) has played characters of those species through Star Trek history. (citation needed • edit)
- Cover art by John Picacio.
- Canon characters listed below are linked to the main article about them. Non-canon characters are not linked, but those that recurred, appearing or being mentioned in more than one story, are defined further in Pocket DS9 characters.
- Kira Nerys
- Captain of Deep Space 9
- Iliana Ghemor (mirror)
- On a mission to stop Iliana Ghemor from our universe
- Elias Vaughn
- First officer of Deep Space 9 and Commander of the USS Defiant
- Benjamin Sisko
- Starfleet captain, returned from the Prophets and currently off-duty
- Ro Laren
- Security chief of Deep Space 9
- Ezri Dax
- First officer of the USS Defiant
- Julian Bashir
- Chief medical officer of Deep Space 9
- Simon Tarses
- A doctor on Julian Bashir's staff
- Chief of operations on Deep Space 9 and chief engineer of the USS Defiant
- Former tailor and agent of the Obsidian Order, now on Cardassia, working on the rebuilding of the Cardassian society
- Prynn Tenmei
- Chief helmsman of the USS Defiant and Commander Vaughn's daughter
- Orion dabo girl employed at Quark's
- Bartender on Deep Space 9 and Ferengi ambassador to Bajor
- Kasidy Yates
- Benjamin Sisko's wife
- Cenn Deska
- Deep Space 9's liaison officer to the Bajoran Militia
- A Founder who sent Taran'atar to the Alpha Quadrant to learn about peace and cooperation
- A Jem'Hadar who seriously injured Captain Kira and Lieutenant Ro
- Iliana Ghemor
- A Cardassian Obsidian Order agent, surgically altered to look like Kira some fifteen years prior
- Skrain Dukat
- Prefect on Terok Nor during the Cardassian Occupation of Bajor
- An agent of the Obsidian Order
- Tekeny Ghemor
- Iliana's father
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