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The Starfleet Corps of Engineers must help terraform Venus!

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.
ebook (ISBN for MS Reader: B0000DHX9D) $2.99
Click here to purchase ISHTAR RISING 2 for MS Reader at Amazon

Project Ishtar -- the bold endeavor to terraform Venus, the most volatile planet in the solar system -- has reached a critical juncture. The project's first phase has had unexpected consequences that could tear Venus apart -- and mean the deaths of dozens of project workers and the S.C.E.'s computer expert, the un-bonded Bynar now called Soloman.

Now, with time running out, Soloman must move past the prejudice of his fellow Bynars -- who view his "single" status with disdain -- and find a solution before disaster strikes!

SPOILER WARNING • Read an excerpt from the Book 2 ebook below, but only if you want the ending of Book 1 revealed!

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.

click here to go to the webpage for Book 1, including covers and two excerpts!


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 2 of 2

SPOILER WARNING - Do NOT read this unless you want the ending of book 1 revealed!


Chapter 1

Stardate 53798.2 -- First Officer's Log, Commander Sonya Gomez. The da Vinci's mission to aid in Project Ishtar, the Venus Terraforming Project, has taken a turn for the worse. While the initial phase of "blowing off" Venus's turbulent atmosphere with specially designed force fields was successful, an unforeseen consequence has been a series of volcanic upheavals that are threatening the ground stations on the surface -- not to mention the viability of Project Ishtar. For now, our primary concern is evacuating the personnel in Aphrodite Station, which is the ground station in the most immediate danger. I am leading an away team in a shuttlecraft to begin that evac.

* * *

As Domenica Corsi and Fabian Stevens piloted Shuttlecraft Kwolek toward Venus, Commander Sonya Gomez sat just behind the cockpit, studying the readouts on the small display in front of her. This is going to be close, she thought, her entire body knotted with the tension that only an urgent engineering crisis could create.

She swiveled in her chair and looked back at P8 Blue, who was sitting in the specially constructed slope-backed chair near another small bank of instruments.

"How are those numbers holding up, Pattie?"

"It's going to be a rough ride, but we should be able to make it through the force fields with minimal loss of structural integrity," she said.

Seated beside Pattie, Lieutenant Commander Tev lifted his gaze from a tactical display and spoke toward the cockpit. "Commander Corsi, make sure you approach the force-field boundary at exactly the calculated angle. Miss it by the smallest margin and you could bounce us off the field lines and back into space."

"Or it could be even worse," Pattie said, clattering her mandibles for a moment and making a strange sound that Gomez translated as her version of splat! "To coin a phrase, we might be squashed like a bug."

Gomez smiled at the self-deprecating humor, but Corsi only grunted in response, obviously concentrating on her flying. A little humor certainly didn't hurt, given the unrelenting grimness of their current situation.

One of the project's technicians had provided them with the vibrational frequencies of the force fields, so that they could penetrate them and try to get down to Aphrodite Station before the approaching lava flow destroyed it. If that hasn't happened already, Gomez thought. Recent sensor readings had revealed that the lava was moving toward the ground station far more quickly than had originally been apparent. And the Kwolek's passage through the topologically complex, interlacing force-field network was bound to be tricky, even with the vibrational frequency data. And once down, they might have only seconds to effect any sort of rescue, most likely a hastily improvised one.

"Aphrodite Station, this is Shuttlecraft Kwolek. Please respond." Gomez keyed several panels on the touchscreen, modulating back and forth across the gamut of usable frequencies, but all that came through was a crackle of static. There wasn't even an amplitude spike to imply that anyone might be trying to respond. This rescue mission might be completely in vain. But there's no way of knowing that for certain except by making the attempt.

"Sensors still show nothing," P8 said. "But I'm reading some very strong subsurface rumbles, with shear waves, compression waves, and crust motions I've never seen before."

Great, Gomez thought. "What do you make of it?"

"I think the lava inundation could accelerate even further," P8 said. "We're running out of time."

"Doing my best," Corsi said through clenched teeth. The forward windows revealed only noxious yellow and brown gases that confounded any sense of direction. If one tried to measure the Kwolek's motion by the available visual cues, the shuttle might as well have been standing still.

Judging from the feel of the inertial dampers in the deck plating, Gomez knew that Corsi had slowed the shuttle considerably in the last few seconds. Tev checked a panel and announced, "Three hundred meters to outer force-field boundary. Two hundred fifty. One seventy-five. Seventy-five. Fifty. Twenty-five."

The atmosphere outside the forward windows had grown so dense, thanks to Project Ishtar's force fields, that they had the look of a solid wall. Gomez reflexively checked her shoulder harness as Corsi and Stevens flew the Kwolek toward that apparently impregnable barrier at a steeply decelerating rate.

"Make sure our shield frequencies still match Project Ishtar's," Gomez said.

"Checking," Pattie said, tapping at her console with multiple extremities. "We still have a positive match."

"Confirmed," said Tev. "But we still don't know exactly how passing through multiply interleaved force fields will affect the shield-frequency compatibility."

"That's easy for you to say," grumbled Corsi, turning to glance at Tev.

"Eyes on the road, Dom," Stevens said.

"Force-field boundary now ten meters from ventral hull," Pattie said, then continued counting down quickly. "Now!"

For a moment, the Kwolek was suspended in the air, like a fly caught in amber, and then it was pushed downward with tremendous force. Gomez grabbed the edge of her console even as her body slammed upward against the harness. The shuttle's engines and inertial dampers both let out a sharp whine before the ship wobbled, then finally steadied and quieted.

"Now that was a ride," Stevens said with a grin.

"Did the fields close up all right behind us?" Gomez asked.

"Yes," P8 replied. "That jolt we felt was from the superpressurized gases that followed us through the aperture for a nanosecond or so."

The viewscreens were clearer now, though the air was tinted a dingy goldenrod hue, as though saturated with pollen. Gomez tried the communicator again. "Aphrodite Station, this is Shuttlecraft Kwolek. Please respond." As before, nothing issued from the console speakers except a burst of background static. Gomez smacked her palm against her leg in frustration.

"We're getting low enough to see something," Stevens said, pointing forward.

"That doesn't look good," said Corsi, unnecessarily.

As they descended further, the forward windows presented a relatively unobstructed view of Ground Station Aphrodite -- or rather, what was left of it. The roughly disk-shaped, twenty-meter-diameter facility had been built on a small mesa-like bluff. Part of that bluff had crumbled, and had taken a substantial section of the station's external pressure dome with it.

And surrounding the partially shattered mesa was an almost blindingly bright, white-hot magma sea.

"There's no way anything could still be alive down there," said Tev matter-of-factly.

"We don't know that yet," said Gomez. "We have to find out for sure. Take us in closer, Domenica."

"That lava flow is getting closer, too," P8 said. "It's almost reached the facility's main level."

"The sensors are still being confused by the ionized atmosphere," Tev said. "So unless the survivors get outside, a transporter lock's out of the question."

Gomez nodded grimly. "Then we're going to have to get them out some other way."

"They can't go out in this soup without being immolated," Stevens said. "Even the best environmental suit wouldn't last more than a few seconds out there."

Corsi glanced at Gomez. "Even if we could get them outside in EV suits, where am I supposed to land this beast? The roof's too unstable. It's barely able to hold up its own weight, let alone ours."

Gomez studied the partially collapsed roof, which was glowing a dull red in the places where the Venusian atmosphere had begun to melt it. A structure that looked a lot like a water tank sat precariously on the roof's far edge. Was there some way to make use of that?

"I think I know what to do," P8 said, rising from her chair. Gomez noticed that the Nasat also seemed to be examining the station's roof very carefully. "And I'm the only one who can do it."

"What do you have in mind?" Gomez wanted to know.

Pattie's gaze grew intense. "First, I'll need some of our construction tools...."

# # #

Copyright © 2003 by Paramount Pictures

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