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The Starfleet Corps of Engineers must help terraform Venus!

STAR TREK: S.C.E. #30 : ISHTAR RISING — Book 1 of 2
Published by Pocket Books
Written by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels

available for download August 2003.
ebook (ISBN for MS Reader: B0000BYQQX) $2.99
ebook (ISBN for Adobe Reader: B0000BVW5O) $2.99
Click here to purchase ISHTAR RISING 1 for MS Reader at Amazon
Click here to purchase ISHTAR RISING 1 for Adobe Reader at Amazon

Project Ishtar -- a bold endeavor to terraform Venus, the most volatile planet in the solar system, and the grandest achievement in the spectacular career of famed terraformer Dr. Pascal Saadya. But when Saadya hits a snag in the project, he calls upon his old friend, Captain David Gold of the U.S.S. da Vinci.

Part of Saadya's team is a Bynar pair, 1011 and 1110, who are using their species' natural affinity for computers to increase efficiency. Saadya's hope is that they can join forces with the da Vinci's Bynar pair. But half of the Bynar pair assigned to the S.C.E. team on the da Vinci was killed months ago, leaving only Soloman -- a non-bonded Bynar who is now a pariah in their culture. Saadya finds himself confronted not only with a failing project, but with Bynar prejudice, as 1011 and 1110 treat Soloman with nothing but contempt...

Read two excerpts from the ebook below!

STAR TREK: S.C.E. #31 : ISHTAR RISING — Book 2 of 2
Published by Pocket Books
Written by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels
available for download September 2003.

click here to go to the webpage for Book 2, including covers and an excerpt!


Trade Paperback anthology planned to include both parts of ISHTAR RISING, as written by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels, as well as "Aftermath" by Christopher L. Bennett and "Buying Time" by Robert Greenberger, plus stories by Randall N. Bills, Loren L. Coleman, and Aaron Rosenberg.
release date November 2007.

EXCERPT FROM: Ishtar Rising, Book 1 of 2

Chapter 1

Thirty-nine Days Ago

This place is the closest I've ever come to hell.

Dr. Pascal Saadya gazed through the viewport at the heat-distorted vista that lay before him. The terrain was typical of Venus: Fractured rock surfaces flattened by the ninety-bar atmosphere stretched toward the walls of a steep canyon whose details grew indistinct with distance in the smoglike haze. He knew the lethal heat of the planet couldn't penetrate Hesperus Ground Station's reinforced duranium hull -- at least not so long as the shields remained operational. Nevertheless, tiny beads of sweat formed on his upper lip.

Venus was a terraforming challenge unlike any other. She was a deadly foe, and his body refused to be convinced otherwise.

"After spending six years overseeing Project Ishtar," said Adrienne Paulos as she inspected the instrument panel beside Saadya's, "it's hard to believe you've never been all the way down to the surface before."

Still looking out through the viewport, Saadya imagined he could feel the atmosphere of Aphrodite Terra pressing down on the ground station's structure, like the hand of some merciless god inexorably closing into a fist.

He forced the image from his mind.

"The big-picture theoretical work requires a global perspective, Adrienne," Saadya said, "and that's rather difficult to achieve down here beneath the clouds. Like trying to forecast Earth's weather from the bottom of the ocean. How are the force-field generators holding up?"

"Everything in the ground network is still looking nominal," Paulos said, then turned toward the pair of Bynars who ran the computer console to her immediate left. "How do the atmospheric numbers and the probe network data look?"

1011 and 1110 -- known to the predominantly human crew members of Project Ishtar as Ten-Eleven and Eleven-Ten -- spoke in their customary smooth, collaborative manner, each finishing the other's utterances.

"According to the probe data--"

"-- and our last round of chaotic atmospheric motion simulations--"

"-- the force-field generator network should succeed in lifting the bulk of the atmosphere from this valley--"

"-- all the way to the superrotational region of the cloudtops--"

"-- and safely disperse it there."

The first step to setting this place to rights is to blow all the excess atmosphere off this Gehenna of a world. Saadya felt awed by the powers now at his command. Using only directed force fields, they were preparing to displace a mass comparable to that of the Indian Ocean, moving it about as though it were furniture.

Saadya smiled. "Let's do it, then."

Paulos, the Bynars, and the rest of the crew -- both in the ground station and up in the orbital facility -- continued their work with resolve and professionalism. Within eight minutes, the force fields had pushed an immense swath of superheated, compressed carbon dioxide gas to an altitude of about sixty-nine-point-two kilometers above the canyon floor, where it came into contact with the fast-moving layers of the atmosphere, a torrent of noxious Venusian air that circled the entire slow-turning globe in a mere four Earth days.

The theory had been worked out superlatively. The numbers were right, as confirmed by the network of orbital satellites and the millions of tiny, interconnected probes that floated through the atmosphere. The force-field generators, the bulk of whose hardware was distributed among several hundred staffed and automated ground stations, were working to perfection.

Perfection. He smiled.

Then Saadya was momentarily struck speechless when the force-field generator network's computers became confused by the chaotic motions of the upper atmosphere and began feeding an ocean of ionized carbon dioxide -- air displaced by the mass that Hesperus Station's energy fields had moved -- straight back at the station dome with nearly the force of an asteroid impact.

"Abort!" shouted Paulos. The Bynar duo struggled to bring the forces the team had unleashed back under control, with no immediately apparent success.

From somewhere behind Saadya's instrument panel, one of the dome's support trusses groaned ominously.

Paulos evidently heard it, too. She cursed, then began speaking rapidly into a comm panel. "Ishtar Station, initiate backup force fields across the entire ground network."

Damn! Saadya thought. This cock-up will take us weeks to set right.

A moment later, the local force field collapsed and inrushing atmosphere rang Hesperus as though it were a colossal church bell. The impact rocked the station, throwing Saadya to his knees. The Bynars fell like dominoes, though Paulos somehow managed to remain at her console.

The atmosphere must have breached the outer hull, Saadya thought, swallowing panic.

Braces and beams shrieked in protest, responding to the irresistible heat and pressure bearing down on them from just outside the inner hull. The exterior viewport shattered as though the angry god's fist had abruptly closed. Saadya's ears popped from the sudden change in pressure. Something hot seared his cheek.

Clinging to her console, Paulos shouted to be heard over the surrounding din and chaos. "Beam everyone on Hesperus the hell out now!"

Saadya's concerns about work setbacks now struck him as trivial. This planet wants to kill us all, he thought. His flesh began to crawl as though inundated by soldier ants, and he wondered if this is what flash incineration felt like.

Then a faint, semimusical tone reverberated in his ears, faded briefly, then returned to build into a labored crescendo.

To Saadya, the overstrained transporter's keening wail had never sounded so lovely.

# # #

Copyright © 2003 by Paramount Pictures

SECOND EXCERPT FROM: Ishtar Rising, Book 1 of 2

"Computer, run program Saadya Ishtar Endgame One."

From within the small holodeck, Dr. Pascal Saadya carefully opened an interior hatch and stepped out onto the rugged northern plains of Ishtar Terra. Black, gravel-strewn soil, so far able to support only intermittent patches of scrub vegetation, crunched beneath his boots.

As he always did whenever he ran this scenario, the terraformer reflected anxiously on the six years of his life he had already devoted to Project Ishtar, immersed in its monstrously complex theoretical and preparatory work.

I've survived the wait for six years. Surely I can wait a little longer to finish turning this world into the garden it is destined to become. Once the team finishes replacing the equipment that Aphrodite Terra devoured.

The air, already pleasantly warm, caressed Saadya's face, running its insubstantial fingers through his close-cropped, black-and-gray hair. The scent of wild strawberries wafted on the gentle breeze. He breathed the sweetness deeply into his lungs.

Saadya looked into the brightening sky and smiled. The moon--or rather iron-gray Mercury, Venus's new surrogate natural satellite--presented a wide, gibbous disk as she descended slowly near the eastern horizon. Right where I want her to be, he thought. Just where she will need to be if I am ever to take Ishtar all the way to completion.

Turning toward the west, Saadya watched as the morning sun climbed over the steeply sloping prominence of snow-capped Maxwell Montes. The golden sun looked bloated, noticeably larger than it appeared when seen from the small village of his birth near Madras, India.

That was, of course, because Venus lay over forty million kilometers closer to the Sun than did Earth.

The grin on Saadya's dusky face intensified as he contemplated the enormity--and the sheer rightness--of this project. He gazed into an azure sky, now forever free of its crushing blanket of carbon dioxide. The clouds gathering on the southern horizon promised gentle, life-giving rains. This, he reflected, was how Venus should have been. How she will be, by the time Project Ishtar is finished.

Saadya wasn't the least bit startled by the sonorous voice that suddenly began speaking directly behind him. "I certainly must give you credit for ambition, Dr. Saadya."

He turned toward the sound, allowing the rising sun to warm his neck and shoulders. Before him stood three hologrammatic representations of men whose faces were especially familiar to scientists in Saadya's line of work.

"Good morning, Dr. Seyetik," Saadya said, bowing slightly toward the distinguished, gray-bearded man who had just spoken. "Please call me Pascal." This Saadya added despite the fact that the late flesh-and-blood version of Dr. Gideon Seyetik had always addressed him with the utmost formality, a forced politeness which Saadya attributed as much to contempt as to envy. Saadya knew well that the real Seyetik's ego had been colossal, restless, and fragile in the extreme. During his long life, Seyetik had produced a seemingly endless stream of papers, books, paintings--and refurbished worlds. Blue Horizon, New Halana, and the scores of other planets Seyetik had terraformed would stand for ages as monuments to that ego--masterworks painted on planetary-scale canvases, displayed in galleries of cosmic proportion.

True, Saadya had not tamed quite so many harsh worlds as had Seyetik. But then even the great Seyetik had never set his sights on that mother of all terraforming conundrums: Venus. Which of us then, Saadya wondered, has the greater ego?

One of the other two men who stood beside Seyetik spoke up. "Ambition is a fine thing, Gideon," said Dr. Kurt Mandl, the second member of the trio, his Federation Standard colored with a thick Teutonic accent. The rising sun gleamed against Mandl's bald pate. "For instance, reigniting the fires of Epsilon 119 must have required ambition in no small measure."

Seyetik cast a wry look at Mandl. "There's ambition, Doctor, and then there are pipe dreams. Starfleet has been trying to terraform Venus for how long now? Twenty-five years, on and off? Trying to make this hellbeast of a planet habitable would put even my talents to the test."

"You make a fine argument for a new approach to the problem," Mandl replied, offering Saadya a fatherly smile. "Perhaps the problem with some of the previous Venusian terraforming notions was that they weren't sufficiently ambitious." To the third man, who had not yet spoken, Mandl added, "No offense intended, Carl."

The man Mandl addressed appeared to have scarcely heard his colleague's comments, so enthralled was he by his surroundings. He breathed deeply of the air. Then, speaking to no one in particular, he said, "This really is Venus. As it will appear after the terraforming process is finished."

Saadya enjoyed the awed look on the dark-haired man's face. This is how Surak might have looked had he lived long enough to witness peace finally breaking out on Vulcan. Or Einstein watching Cochrane accelerate the Phoenix past warp one.

"That's correct, Dr. Sagan," Saadya said.

The twentieth-century planetologist squinted at the horizon, examining the brightening sky the way a jeweler might inspect an intricately cut gemstone. "I can't see any trace of the parasol you must have used to cool the atmosphere down. And you appear to have greatly increased the Venusian rotation rate. I can see that you're pretty far along in the process. It must have taken millennia to--"

"You'd do best to think of our surroundings as a mere thought experiment rather than a true picture of the final result, Dr. Sagan," Seyetik said. "Our young host hasn't pulled off his prospective miracle just yet."

Carl Sagan trained his curious gaze upon Saadya. "So what we're experiencing is actually some kind of. . . simulation?"

Saadya felt his face flush with embarrassment, but he recovered swiftly. "Yes, sir. But it is an extremely accurate one. My staff and I will make it a reality very soon. The key to that reality is dealing with its complexity."

"Ah," Sagan said. "Number crunching."

Saadya nodded, trying to imagine the primitive state of computing during Sagan's heyday. "To that end, the Bynars on my research team have increased our computational resources by orders of magnitude."

Sagan looked puzzled. "Bynars?"

"Bynars or no Bynars," Seyetik said to Saadya, apparently relishing the mellifluous sound of his own voice, "there are some extremely delicate calculations at play here. Needless to say, the state of the terraformer's art has evolved far beyond the use of giant beach umbrellas and atmospheric bombardments of blue-green algae." Seyetik's eyes met Sagan's as he made this last comment.

Dr. Sagan reddened, but was far too gentlemanly to rise to Seyetik's bait. Saadya knew well that Sagan had been among the first twentieth-century planetary scientists to seriously advance the notion that Sol's second planet might be made habitable. Back then, however, the mechanisms available for inducing such large-scale climate change were necessarily both primitive and prohibitively expensive. Sagan's suggestions that Venus's superhot atmosphere might be cooled down using giant spaceborne parasols and through the introduction of high-altitude microbes had eventually proved far too slow and difficult to work in actual practice.

Looking abashed by Seyetik's boorishness, Mandl broke the ensuing silence. "Whatever we have accomplished in the field of terraforming during this century, Dr. Sagan, we owe in large part to you, sir. We stand humbly upon the shoulders of giants."

Dr. Sagan smiled back at the older man, seemingly mollified. But he also appeared to be working very hard to ignore Seyetik.

Seyetik looked oblivious to this as he turned back toward Saadya. "Dr. Sagan might be interested in hearing how close your terraforming project came to utter destruction only--how long ago was it? A few weeks?"

Thirty-nine days, Saadya thought, gritting his teeth. He was beginning to regret having programmed the station's holographic Seyetik simulacrum to be so faithful to the original.

Saadya noticed a moment later that both Sagan and Mandl were looking expectantly in his direction. "I will admit that Project Ishtar has suffered its share of setbacks recently," he said at length. "What worthwhile scientific enterprise hasn't?"

Sagan nodded, then resumed scanning the horizon and the distant, snow-bedecked steepness of Mount Maxwell. "The amount of energy you'll need just to cool down the atmosphere is incredible. The number of megajoules required must be--"

"Billions and billions," Seyetik said with a smirk.

Sagan sighed. "I never, ever said that. Why does everyone feel obliged to make that same pathetic joke every time they talk to me?"

Saadya felt obliged to steer the conversation back toward matters scientific and technical. "Actually, I'm taking the opposite approach, Dr. Sagan. I've chosen to thin the Venusian atmosphere by heating it up, rather than by cooling it down."

"So you must be planning to thin the atmosphere by blowing most of it off into space," Sagan said, looking intrigued. "But how?"

"Shaped force fields," Saadya said.

Sagan seemed disappointed. "Oh. Magic, then."

"Clarke's Law," said Mandl, shaking his head but maintaining a good-natured smile. "'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.'"

"But only if that technology actually works," Seyetik said. "Terraforming Sol Two is no mere feat of legerdemain. It is an act of creation worthy of the gods themselves."

No pressure, Saadya thought, suppressing a nervous laugh.

Seyetik wasn't finished. To Dr. Mandl, he said, "But at least there are no hidden indigenous life-forms here on Venus that might compromise the project. Such things put quite a crimp into your terraforming efforts on Velara III, did they not?"

Dr. Sagan looked horrified. A storm cloud crossed Mandl's face. "There was no way to foresee that," Mandl said before lapsing into a moody silence not unlike Sagan's. Saadya had read the papers Dr. Mandl had written nearly a dozen years ago, after the partially terraformed planet Velara III had turned out to be the home of a subterranean species of sentient crystalline life.

Saadya knew all too well that such discoveries were the stuff of a terraformer's worst nightmares.

Seyetik raised a hand in a gesture of truce. "Forgive me, Dr. Mandl. I know that the scanning technology your team had available then did not permit the detection of the native fauna until it was nearly too late."

Mandl appeared content to forgive Seyetik's behavior. "Such are the limits of technology."

"Technology can be a finicky thing, indeed," Seyetik said, nodding. "But failures of vision on the part of The Powers That Be have scuttled more good science than all of technology's glitches and gremlins combined."

"The Federation Council," Saadya said, realizing too late that he had been thinking aloud.

"Exactly," Seyetik said. He seemed to be warming up into full lecture-hall mode. "Governance is about resource allocation every bit as much as terraforming is. Unfortunately, the Federation has other resource priorities."

Saadya swallowed hard. "The Council will resume giving the project its full support," he said. "Once the war damage on Betazed is put to rights."

"Let us all hope so," Mandl said, nodding sympathetically.

Seyetik mirrored Mandl's expression, but somehow made it look mocking. "Indeed. Let's hope they don't make you wait in line behind all the other places that need rebuilding after the war. Don't forget the beating that Benzar took. Or Durala V. Or Sybaron. Or Ajilon Prime. Hell, they're even sending aid to Cardassia. I hope with all that going on the Council can still afford to throw you a few scraps."

Saadya grinned. "As long as I have the assistance of the Bynars, you'd be surprised at how little else I need."

As if cued, two high-pitched voices issued from Saadya's wristcom, disrupting his train of thought. "Dr. Saadya?" said 1011 and 1110, uttering their words in alternation.

"Speak of the devil," said Seyetik, a look of mock surprise blossoming across his face.

Saadya raised his wristcom. "Saadya here. Go ahead."

"We are receiving an incoming communication."

"It is from the Central Processor Pair--"

"--on Bynaus. They wish to confer--"

"--with you--"


The uncharacteristically jangled cadence in the Bynars' tandem speech told Saadya at once that the news couldn't good. "I'm on my way," he said, already walking toward the holodeck door.

"I'll keep my fingers crossed for you, Dr. Saadya," Seyetik called out as the hatch opened.

"Computer, delete--" Saadya paused in the threshold. He had been about to instruct the holodeck to delete the insufferably egomaniacal scientist. Then he smiled grimly as he realized that that description might just as easily be applied to Saadya himself. He was, after all, trying to accomplish the impossible.

"Computer, end program," he said finally. Mandl, Sagan, Seyetik, and the transmogrified Venus all vanished like morning mist as Saadya strode quickly into the corridor.

# # #

Copyright © 2003 by Paramount Pictures

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