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Summon the Thunder

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Summon the Thunder

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Author: Dayton Ward
Kevin Dilmore
Publisher: Pocket Books, 2012
Pocket Books, 2006
Series: Star Trek: Vanguard: Book 2
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
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The Taurus Reach: a remote interstellar expanse that holds a very old and potentially cataclysmic secret, the truth of which is feared by the Tholians, coveted by the Klingons, and dubiously guarded by the Federation. At the center of this intrigue is Vanguard, a Federation starbase populated by an eclectic mix of Starfleet officers and civilians, whose lives are forever altered as they explore the layers of mystery surrounding the Reach and steadily peel them after another.

In the aftermath of Harbinger, Commodore Diego Reyes commands Vanguard while waging an intensely personal struggle, tasked to uncover the true significance of the Taurus Reach while simultaneously concealing that mission from his fellow officers -- and even his closest friends. As the Daedalus-class U.S.S. Lovell brings some of Starfleet's keenest technical minds to help, the U.S.S. Endeavour makes a find that could shed further light on the enigmatic meta-genome that has captured the Federation's interest -- if its crew survives the discovery....

Deep within the Taurus Reach, an ancient and powerful alien mind has awakened prematurely from aeons of hibernation, alerted to the upstart civilizations now daring to encroach upon the worlds in her care. With the stakes for all sides escalating rapidly, the alien lashes out with deadly force against the interlopers, propelling the Vanguard crew on a desperate race to understand the nature of the attacker, and to prevent the Taurus Reach from becoming a war zone.


Chapter Ten

"A little groggy there, son? You look all slumped over!"

Ensign Stephen Klisiewicz raised his head from his console at the sciences station and looked across the Endeavour's bridge to the source of the voice. Pointing to where his attention had been focused, he said, "This device is a viewer, sir. It requires the user to hunch down and look into it. I understand how that might be a new concept to an engineer such as yourself, Commander. You're more used to crawling into things rather than just looking into them."

Bersh glov Mog released a laugh that sounded more like a belch -- one that rose over the rest of the bridge's ambient noise -- and that was enough to set Klisiewicz to laughing a bit on his own.

"Well, we all learn by doing," Mog replied, offering the Tellarite equivalent of a smile, which to Klisiewicsz still looked like the fierce rictus of a rabid dog.

The engineer's sentiment underscored the sense that, in its own slow way, the Endeavour was becoming something of a teaching vessel. Mog seemed to run engineering more as a training lab, mixing up duty rosters and making sure his staff became highly proficient at all aspects of operations rather than focusing on a single area of specialization. Khatami seemed to follow his lead by rotating untried personnel into roles of greater responsibility when opportunities arose. Even Captain Zhao seemed to make himself available to officers fresh out of the Academy, such as Klisiewicz, to discuss matters of life and duty aboard a starship.

Okay, so maybe not so much in sickbay, he thought, but every place else is pretty open to a new guy like me.

Two hours into his duty shift, and the chief engineer had started tossing wisecracks across the bridge at his expense. Had the remark come from someone other than Mog, he surely would have held his tongue in reply. While Klisiewicz was becoming fast friends with the Tellarite chief engineer, he noticed in his first scan around the bridge that other than Mog's, there were few familiar faces.

He knew Commander Khatami, of course, who in Captain Zhao's absence now occupied the Endeavour's center seat, but his conversations with her typically did not stray from whatever task was at hand. Specifically, she was the one to pass to him any information he might need in the course of his duties regarding his continual search for class-V forms of life, otherwise known as anything containing the Taurus meta-genome. Those conversations rarely were chatty; it seemed to be a sobering subject for her, he sensed.

The communications officer looked familiar, but his name escaped Klisiewicz at the moment, and the navigator, Lieutenant McCormack, well, he did recognize her, as she was one of his favorite objects of secret unrequited affection on the entire ship.

Turning back to the science console, the ensign noted the white blinking indicator and toggled the controls to transfer the sensor data to an eye-level display. Looking over the readings, he knit his brow before turning to Khatami, who already was regarding him expectantly.

"Commander," he said, "we're registering a new power reading from the surface."

"Location?" Khatami asked, spinning her chair to face him.

Klisiewicz keyed in a few commands, allowing the computer to correlate the sensor data. "It's about five kilometers northwest of the encampment and...about two kilometers beneath the planet's surface."

"Anything else?" Khatami asked.

"The energy signature is weak, but pretty distinctive, Commander," Klisiewicz replied as he entered new commands to the console, self-conscious of getting her more information as quickly as he was able. "It's definitely a geothermal source, and it's slowly building in temperature."

"Keep an eye on it, Ensign," Khatami said, her eyes turning to the main viewer, "Provide regular updates as appropriate, and relay those sensor readings to the survey teams on the surface."

"Aye, Commander," Klisiewicz said as he keyed the required commands to route the data. The swiftness of a starship's response to human command was something for which he was sure he would never lose a sense of marvel.

Then another alert indicator flashed on his console.

"Commander!" he called out to Khatami even as he bent over the hooded viewer once more. Reviewing the new stream of sensor telemetry being fed to his station, he said, "We're picking up a second power reading now."

"And?" Khatami asked.

"It's confirmed, sir. Same energy signature as before," he said, checking his calculations. "Bearing due south of the encampment this time, less than five kilometers out."

"Any ideas, Mr. Mog?" the first officer asked after a moment. "Could they be activating the artifact?"

"Well, we could ask," the engineer replied before turning back to his station.

"Mr. Estrada, hail Lieutenant Xiong at the encampment," Khatami said, "and let's see what's going on down there."

Activate the artifact? Can they do that?

Klisiewicz involuntarily rubbed his arm as he felt goose bumps rise beneath his sleeves. His thoughts turned to Ravanar IV and the destruction dealt to the research facility there by the Tholians, who apparently had taken issue with a Federation presence on that world. According to what he had learned from rumors and other scuttlebutt around the ship, Lieutenant Xiong, who had been there along with a landing party from the U.S.S. Enterprise investigating the aftermath of an earlier Tholian attack, had barely escaped with his life.

And Ravanar didn't even have an intact structure, he thought, but the Tholians still wanted us to leave it the hell alone. Could the same thing happen here -- or something worse? As he turned his attention back to the incoming stream of data from the planet's two newly energized power sources, Klisiewicz could not help thinking that someone, somewhere, would learn what was happening on Erilon -- and not like it one bit.

Xiong jumped from the driver's seat of the encampment's all-terrain vehicle, his face chilled by icy wind as he made his way quickly to a black, manually operated hatch -- the only distinct feature on the snow-encrusted front of a temporary structure at the base of the artifact. He turned and squinted through the bright white of swirling snow to see his five passengers step out of the side hatch of the vehicle, which had been adapted for use on Erilon with rear treads and an assembly of shock-absorbing skis mounted in place of its front axle.

He waved them forward, unable to hear any crunching of their boots on the snowpack from the howling of the arctic wind. Xiong had not been on the planet long enough to get a feel for impending white-out conditions, but as he placed his gloved hands on the hatch's center wheel and strained to turn it, he had to wonder whether this was the start of some weather he did not want to witness firsthand. A form stepped alongside him to grip the wheel as well, and they both attempted to turn it again.

"The automatic locks keep freezing shut!" Xiong yelled over the wind to his helper, whom he now recognized as Captain Zhao. The two tugged to break the wheel loose of the outdoors' frozen grip, and after spinning it freely, Xiong pushed his weight against the door and opened it enough to admit them into the airlock.

Stepping back so the others could pass, Xiong clanged the hatch shut behind the last of them and started to twist the interior mate to the locking mechanism to seal it. Once the wind's whine was shut out, the room filled with the clatter of feet stamping against floor plates and hands slapping against parkas to loosen the ice crystals that had accumulated on their protective clothing just in the short amount of time they had stood outside. Xiong pushed back the fur-lined hood of his parka and moved to the opposite door.

"This one's a bit easier," he said, slipping his hand from a glove and keying a security code into a panel next to the door. As it slid open, a rush of warmer air greeted the new arrivals. They made their way briskly into a darkened, ebony-surfaced corridor, one with a graded slope that led under the planet's surface, with Xiong leading them toward a dim source of light and sound several hundred meters into the structure. Their footsteps rang crisply against the smooth floors and walls of the low-ceilinged corridor, and no one spoke as Zhao stepped up into the point position of the group a few strides before they entered the control room, a move that Xiong dismissed as being more out of habit than arrogance.

"Report," the captain snapped in a voice loud enough to capture the immediate attention of the three researchers in the room. Xiong saw Lieutenant Spencer, the young, blond-haired officer with whom he had worked most closely since his arrival, draw himself up from a crouch next to a power generator and approach the group.

"Uh...yes, sir," Spencer said hesitantly to Zhao before looking at Xiong. "Isn't this information...?"

Nodding as he slipped out of his parka, Xiong said, "Captain Zhao's presence is authorized, Spence. Just tell us what's going on."

Spencer spoke as he turned and walked deeper into the room, prompting Xiong and Zhao to keep up. "When I called you, we'd just picked up a power source activating below the surface a few kilometers from the artifact. We thought that was interesting enough to notify you. But now we have three of them."

Xiong felt his jaw go slack, and it required physical effort to keep his mouth from dropping open in surprise. "Three? Where?"

Spencer turned and pointed to the screen of a portable computer viewer propped up on a pitch-black console top in front of them. "One northwest of us and two others south. They're building in output, and we're detecting some deep melt -- there!" Spencer poked at the screen where a blinking amber dot indicated a fourth budding power level, this one situated northeast of the artifact and apparently equidistant from the others. "They jus...

Copyright © 2006 by Dayton Ward

Copyright © 2006 by Kevin Dilmore


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