When Geordi La-Forge was at the Academy, one of his teachers was Doctor Zorka. Pacing on the fine line between genius and insane, Zorka's inventions and theories were ground-breaking. Zorka's son decides upon his death to auction off his father's inventions, blueprints and notes to the highest bidder, all for the sake of financing himself as an artist.
News of Zorka's death finds Geordi and Worf refitting the engine of a Klingon scout ship. Though Geordi never really liked Zorka and his death wasn't an emotional blow, everyone seemed to care. Apparently, Zorka's son has sent word about the auction far and wide, and everyone's suddenly interested in his work, his research, and how fast they can get to the auction. Everyone is, in fact, any and all of the races of the quadrant, from Cardasians and Romulans to Ferengi and Betazoids, representatives pour in, all in the race for Zorka's parcel of goods.
In a different sector of known space cadet Wesley Crusher is having a hard time with his roommate, Fred Kimbal. Fred is more of a tech genius than he is a Starfleet cadet. And so Fred spends most of his Academy days being late for classes and building bizarre inventions that even he isn't always sure what they do. In fact, he had an annoying tendency to start one up and never finish it before he moved on to the next. This wouldn't have bothered Wesley one bit, except that their room was always messy (at least Fred's side). Fred needed a parents' constant watch over him to make sure he did everything and that he came (or at least tried to come) to classes.
Wesley took one of the "Fred's unfinished works" and had a go at finishing it himself. When he did he was shocked to find out what it did - it turned Chaseum into gold-pressed-latinum. Chaseum, for those unaware, is a very simple metal that can be replicated. However, gold-pressed-latinum is a metal you can not replicate, and that is why it is used as accepted currency throughout the quadrant.
When Fred and Wesley go off-campus for the senior cadets' poker game Fred manages to loose a fortune. In fact, he looses more than he has by borrowing after every loss from the Ferengi who runs the game, Tunk. In the aftermath, Fred convinces Tunk to accept his gold-pressed-latinum forging invention as a substitute for his debt. Wesley, smart enough to know not to hand a Ferengi such a device, tries to steal it back as Tunk and his dad, Munk, pack up into their spaceship to leave Earth. Wesley gets caught and is kidnapped to join heir cruise as they too rush for the auction of Doctor Zorka's inventions.
As you've already suspected, everyone meets everyone on the planet of the auction. The tension rises as Munk and Tunk forge enough latinum to buy almost anything. Picard and the Klingons must prevent the weaponry inventions from falling into the hands of the Cardassians or the Romulnas, the Grand Nagus or Munk.
I really enjoyed this novel because its leading character is Wesley Crusher. This time in Wesley's life, at the Academy, is a novel idea, letting us sneak a peek at young-but-getting-older Wesley. Also adds to the atmosphere is that fact that we meet most of the Next Generation crew, Kurn and Emperor Kahless, and many more. In accordance, this book gets the five pips mark.
Title: Balance of Power