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/home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 557 Notice: Undefined index: isbn in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 557 Notice: Use of undefined constant date - assumed 'date' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 350 Notice: Use of undefined constant ppin - assumed 'ppin' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 351 Notice: Use of undefined constant type - assumed 'type' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 352 Notice: Use of undefined constant series - assumed 'series' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 353 Notice: Use of undefined constant length - assumed 'length' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 354 Notice: Use of undefined constant ppin - assumed 'ppin' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 355 Notice: Undefined variable: noimg in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 270 Notice: Undefined variable: noimg in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 287 Notice: Use of undefined constant ppin - assumed 'ppin' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 361 Notice: Use of undefined constant ppin - assumed 'ppin' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 394 Notice: Use of undefined constant pragma - assumed 'pragma' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 394 Psi Phi: Notice: Use of undefined constant title - assumed 'title' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 400 #49: Small World [Star Trek Books Database]

Psi Phi's Star Trek Books Database



Notice: Use of undefined constant title - assumed 'title' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 444 #49: Small World


Previous: #48: Creative Couplings, Book Two
Next: #50: Malefictorum
Star Trek: S.C.E.
eBook / March, 2005
XSCE000049

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Written by David Mack

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Excerpt:

The turbolift thrummed along, quickly traversing the length of the da Vinci--but not quickly enough for Bart Faulwell.

"So what I'm thinking," Carol Abramowitz said, continuing a monologue that already had persisted all through their shared lunch, "is that his birthday is next week and I want to get him something nice. You know, something he wouldn't get for himself, but that he can use, or that he and I can use together."

Faulwell wanted to tell her to shut up, to stop talking, to keep her newfound romantic euphoria to herself, to stop being so damned happy when he was anything but. Instead, the middle-aged cryptography-and-linguistics expert smiled through his salt-and-pepper beard and nodded and made vague noises of acknowledgment.

He really didn't resent Abramowitz for her recently ignited romance with Vance Hawkins. When he'd first heard the news, he'd been elated for her. Ever since she had revealed to him during the Galvan VI disaster that she had never truly been in love, he had been worried about her. Emotional openness had never been her strong suit, in Faulwell's opinion; sarcasm impelled by a mordant wit had always been the petite cultural specialist's forté. That lack had almost led to her death on Vrinda, and he was glad that she was coming out of that particular shell.

The turbolift stopped and the doors parted to reveal the starboard corridor of deck five. Faulwell followed Abramowitz as they stepped briskly toward the science lab. She was still talking, staging a one-woman debate over what she ought to give Hawkins. Tuning her out, Faulwell reflected on the real reason for his black-dog mood. Only about a week had passed since the wedding of Captain Gold's granddaughter, Esther. During a lighthearted aside, Faulwell's longtime partner, Anthony Mark, had made a good-natured remark to him, suggesting that maybe the two of them ought to get married. It had been so casual, so off-the-cuff, that Faulwell had simply brushed it aside with a bon mot and forgotten about it.

But now the moment--and the suggestion--weighed on his mind.

He snapped out of his reverie as they reached the lab door.

"Anyway," Abramowitz finished, "we can finish this later."

Faulwell stifled a derisive snort. Yes, I'm sure "we" will.

He followed her into the lab, which was abuzz with excited voices that concealed the humming of its walls of computers. Gathered around a large work table were Gomez and Tev; tactical systems specialist Fabian Stevens, who was engaged in a spirited but hushed debate with the chief engineer, Lieutenant Nancy Conlon; and Haznedl, who was showing her tricorder's display to Tev and Gomez while talking a rapid string jargon that meant little or nothing to Faulwell.

It wasn't difficult to understand what the excitement was about. On the table, hovering above a small metallic square whose four triangular side pieces all were open and folded flat, was a planet that had been compressed to the size of a large melon and cocooned in a flickering, golden stasis field. Turning toward Abramowitz, Faulwell muttered, "There's something you don't see every day."

Gomez stuck her thumb and forefinger between her teeth and let loose a shrill, piercing whistle. The room fell quiet. "All right," she said. "We're all here, let's get started." Tilting her head toward the miniature planet, she said, "Our mission is to figure out how to get this box to release this planet, and to determine where and when we need to do so."

Tev keyed a command sequence into his padd. A holographic starmap appeared above the work table. "The planet's guardian has indicated that its destination is Mu Arae. A yellow-orange dwarf, spectral and luminosity type G3. Its high metallicity has deposited an abundance of exploitable mineral resources in its asteroid belt. Because of the erratic orbit of one of its gaseous supergiants, no Class-M planets are known to exist in this system's habitable zone."

Before the deactivated holographic starmap faded away, Conlon spoke up. "Multiple scans of the pyramid have proved inconclusive. Its metal--or whatever it is--is impervious to physical damage, so we've been unable to take samples or run tests. I can't tell you much about the device itself except that its plates appear to be exactly three centimeters thick at their widest points, beveled on their edges, and covered on their exterior surface with raised markings."

Gomez nodded to Faulwell and Abramowitz. "That's where you two come in. While we tinker with the hardware, we need you two to try and make heads or tails of those symbols." She handed her tricorder to Faulwell. On its screen was a visual recording of the device in its closed configuration. Pointing to a marking near the object's base, she said, "Araneus pressed this symbol to open the pyramid. We don't know if the same one closes it. In fact, we don't know what any of them do, and we can't risk touching them until we know what they mean."

Faulwell frowned. "Do we have any records of Araneus's language, either spoken or written?"

Haznedl shook her head. "His ship exploded shortly after he was rescued by the crew of Varkala Station," she said. "The universal translator only picked up a smattering of his language so far--he spent most of his time on Varkala repeating himself."

Leaning in for a close-up look, Stevens all but pressed his nose to one of the pyramid's open sides. "No hinges or seams," he said. "Probably some kind of mnemonic polymer."

Conlon nodded. "Remarkable, isn't it? Better than ours, that's for--"

"Let's move on," Gomez interrupted. "What about this stasis field? How's it holding this planet in suspended animation? And how the hell do you compress an entire planet, anwyay?"

"The shrinking part I can guess at," Stevens said. "The Defiant ran into something like this a couple years ago--a subspace compression anomaly. Shrank a runabout down to the size of my finger."

"I read about that," Haznedl said. "But that was a natural phenomenon--this was done artificially."

"Yeah," Stevens said, dragging his fingers through his dark hair. "Gotta say, I've never seen anything like this--any of it."

Strolling around the table, Conlon said, "As for the stasis field, Commander, the question isn't so much 'How did the Koas get their planet in there?' It's 'How do they plan to get it out?' There are so many values that would have to be restored: orbital distance and velocity, rotation and angular momentum, not to mention the quantum states of every living thing on the planet itself."

"And all with no moving parts," Stevens quipped.

An arrogant harrumph preceded Tev's retort. "Are you certain, Specialist? Can your eyes penetrate the box's shell and confirm that its workings are entirely nonmoving? Or are you merely wasting our time with glib remarks?"

Before Faulwell could point out that Tev's unnecessary rebuke was four times longer than Stevens's remark--certainly a more egregious waste of time by any measure--Gomez said sharply, "That's enough, Tev." Glancing at Stevens, she added, in a gentler tone of voice, "Fabian, try to stay focused." Faulwell suspected that Gomez had chided Stevens merely for the sake of preserving the dignity of her fellow officer.

Within minutes, the conversation devolved into a verbal maelstrom of technical jargon. All of it was far outside Faulwell's area of expertise. Standing mutely beside him, Abramowitz seemed equally nonplussed by the engineers' technobabble. He tapped her shoulder. "Want to get out of here?"

She rolled her eyes. "Please."

Faulwell stepped beside Commander Gomez. "Commander, with your permission, Carol and I would like to continue our research elsewhere."

Gomez nodded her approval. "Let me know the moment you find something." He assured her that he would, then led Abramowitz back out into the corridor. For a few blissful moments, the only sound in the corridor was their footsteps.

As they reached the turbolift, Abramowitz spoke.

"Maybe I should give Vance something homemade," she said as the doors swished open.

Stepping into the turbolift, Faulwell valiantly resisted the urge to suggest that she give her lover the gift of silence.

Copyright © 2005 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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