Michael A. Martin
's solo short fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
. He has also coauthored (with Andy Mangels) several Star Trek
comics for Marvel and Wildstorm and numerous Star Trek novels and eBooks, including the USA Today
bestseller Titan: Book One: Taking Wing; Titan: Book Two: The Red King
; the Sy Fy Genre Award-winning Star Trek: Worlds of Deep Space 9 Book Two: Trill -- Unjoined; Star Trek: The Lost Era 2298 -- The Sundered; Star Trek: Deep Space 9 Mission: Gamma: Vol. Three: Cathedral; Star Trek: The Next Generation: Section 31 -- Rogue; Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers
#30 and #31 ("Ishtar Rising" Books 1 and 2); stories in the Prophecy and Change, Tales of the Dominion War
, and Tales from the Captain's Table
anthologies; and three novels based on the Roswell
television series. His most recent novels include Enterprise: The Romulan War
and Star Trek Online: The Needs of the Many.
His work has also been published by Atlas Editions (in their Star Trek Universe
subscription card series), Star Trek Monthly, Dreamwatch
, Grolier Books, Visible Ink Press, The Oregonian
, and Gareth Stevens, Inc., for whom he has penned several World Almanac Library of the States
nonfiction books for young readers. He lives with his wife, Jenny, and their two sons in Portland, Oregon.Andy Mangels
is the USA Today
bestselling author and coauthor of over a dozen novels -- including Star Trek
and Roswell books
-- all cowritten with Michael A. Martin. Flying solo, he is the bestselling author of several nonfiction books, including Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Characters and Animation on DVD: The Ultimate Guide
, as well as a significant number of entries for The Superhero Book: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Comic-Book Icons and Hollywood Heroes
as well as for its companion volume, The Supervillain Book
In addition to cowriting several more upcoming novels and contributing to anthologies, Andy has produced, directed, and scripted a series of sixteen half-hour DVD documentaries for BCI Eclipse, for inclusion in the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
DVD box sets.
Andy has written hundreds of articles for entertainment and lifestyle magazines and newspapers in the United States, England, and Italy. He has also written licensed material based on properties from numerous film studios and Microsoft, and his two decades of comic book work has been published by DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Dark Horse, Image, Innovation, and many others. He was the editor of the award-winning Gay Comics anthology for eight years.
Andy is a national award-winning activist in the Gay community, and has raised thousands of dollars for charities over the years. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his long-term partner, Don Hood, their dog, Bela, and their chosen son, Paul Smalley. Visit his website at www.andymangels.com.
Thursday, May 22, 2155
"Admit it, Jonathan. You're already at least as bored with this mission as I am."
Unable to deny his fellow NX-class starship captain's assertion, Captain Jonathan Archer smoothed his rumpled uniform and leaned back in his chair with a resigned sigh. Porthos, whom Archer had thought was fast asleep behind him at the foot of his bed, released a short but portentous bark, as if voicing agreement with the woman who looked on expectantly from the screen. Archer turned away from the lone desktop terminal in his quarters just long enough to toss a small dog treat to the beagle, who immediately became far too preoccupied with the noisy business of eating to tender any further opinions.
"My feelings really don't matter all that much, Erika," Archer said to the image on the terminal. "And frankly, neither do yours. This was Starfleet's call to make, not ours."
From across the nearly six-parsec-wide gulf of interstellar space that currently separated Enterprise from Columbia, Captain Erika Hernandez punctuated her reply with a withering frown. "All right. Who are you, and what have you done with Jon Archer?"
His lips curled in an inadvertent grin. "I'm just an explorer, Erika. I don't make policy. And I don't like babysitting Earth Cargo Service freighter convoys any more than you do. But you've got to admit that there have been enough attacks on the main civilian shipping lanes over the past few weeks to justify keeping Earth's two fastest and best-armed starships out on continuous patrol, at least for a while."
She shook her head slightly. "Maybe. But not indefinitely. And certainly not if you're interested in treating the underlying disease instead of just the symptoms."
Archer couldn't really disagree with that either. The past six weeks of mostly uneventful patrol duty, spent endlessly covering the same roughly twenty-light-year stretches outbound from Earth, followed by a virtually identical inbound course which intermittently brought Enterprise and Columbia together from opposite directions, put him in mind of the ancient Greek myth about a man whose misdeeds had earned him the divine punishment of rolling a huge boulder up a hill, only to have to repeat the process endlessly after reaching the summit and seeing it roll down again. Archer sometimes half-seriously considered asking Starfleet to send the new NX-class starship Challenger, still under construction in the skies above San Francisco, to relieve him -- after rechristening it Sisyphus, of course.
But he knew better than to think that either he or Captain Hernandez could do much to change the minds of Admirals Gardner, Black, Douglas, Clark, Palmieri, or any of the rest of Starfleet Command's determined brass hats. After all, each of them had shot down essentially the same argument Erika was making today when Archer had first brought the topic before them weeks ago.
"We still don't have any hard proof that the attacks against our freighters are anything other than exactly what they appear to be," Archer said. "The work of rogue pirates and freebooters."
"That's probably only because those alleged 'rogue pirates and freebooters' have been keeping us both so busy waiting and watching, not to mention wearing a triangular groove in the space between Earth and Draylax and Deneva, that we haven't had any time to go hunt down the real culprits."
"The Romulans," Archer said.
She nodded, confirming that he had completed her unvoiced thought. "Or the Klingons. Or maybe even both. The disruptor traces we found on the hull debris are consistent with either of them."
"As nasty as the Klingons can be, my money's on the Romulans," Archer said.
Her eyes widened. "Why? You know something I don't?"
He nodded. "Is this line secure on your end?"
"I trust my mother and God, in that order," she said with a nod of her own. "Everybody and everything else has to go through the most stringent of security protocols. Go ahead."
He paused to gather his thoughts. From the edge of the bed, Porthos released a low growl that almost made Archer wonder if his own dog wasn't spying on him on behalf of Admiral Gardner.
"The attack on Coridan has overshadowed just about everything else that's been going on in a dozen sectors in every direction," Archer said at length.
"That's understandable. Over a billion people have died on Coridan Prime so far, and people are still dying there three months later thanks to all the environmental damage, not to mention the damned civil war they're fighting. Have you found some evidence linking the Romulans to the Coridan attack?"
"No," he said with a glum shake of his head. "The Romulans are way too subtle to leave any fingerprints behind."
She frowned again. "So why bring up Coridan?"
"Because Starfleet has been able to use it as a diversion to keep a lid on something we discovered on Andoria a little bit before the Coridan attack. The admiralty has classified my report on the subject. But in my judgment you have a legitimate need to know what they've been sitting on these past few months."
Hernandez's brow furrowed. "You've found evidence of some sort of Romulan incursion on Andoria?"
"Indirect evidence. But it's as close to a smoking gun as you're going to get with people as slick as the Romulans. You've been briefed about their use of telepaths to pilot remote-controlled attack ships, right?"
"Of course. I know that you and your crew destroyed a telepath-guided Romulan prototype last year."
"Right. But what you haven't been told is that the Romulans have recently been trying to get their hands on more telepaths for similar military applications, using the services of third parties brokered through Adigeon Prime."
A look of understanding crossed her olive features. "The Adigeons. Gotta love those tight-lipped Swiss banker types."
"Believe me, the Adigeons make the old Swiss bankers look like the village gossip. In spite of that, we managed to track down and rescue about three dozen Aenar-Andorian telepaths that a third party had captured on behalf of the Romulans."
Hernandez's face became a study in horror. "Enslaving all those people. Just to launch another remote-control attack against us."
"And they're not going to back off, either. Not when they can just lie in the weeds and wait until they're ready to try again."
The horror on Hernandez's countenance slowly solidified into an almost palpable anger, and her words carried the timbre of blood and fire. "And you're content to let Starfleet just go on reacting instead of actually doing something?"
Archer endured her not-so-subtle criticism with all the stoicism he could muster. "What makes you think I'm not doing anything?"
"Let's see. Maybe it's the fact that you're still out here patrolling the boonies, just like I am."
"Let's just say I'm working on the problem through a back channel and leave it at that."
"I know you have political pull that I don't, since you're the man who saved Earth from the Xindi. But I can't believe you've got a special back channel with Starfleet Command that I don't even know about."
Archer grinned. "What makes you think I was talking about Starfleet Command? Their hands are full at the moment just keeping the Coalition from collapsing into four squabbling pieces, especially since the Coridan attack."
"Unlike either of us," Hernandez said as the door chime sounded.
"Be careful what you wish for, Erika," Archer said, even though he was half hoping for news of another so-called pirate raid, if only to break up the tedium of the past several days of utterly fruitless patrolling. He held up a hand for silence, then turned toward the door.
The door hissed open and Commander T'Pol stepped gingerly over the slightly raised threshold, then paused in the open hatchway. She wore a standard-issue, dark blue Starfleet duty uniform, a sight to which he was still only beginning to become accustomed, though she had adopted it nearly three months ago. To the Vulcan woman's credit, she appeared as comfortable and unself-conscious wearing Earth's service attire as she had in the somewhat more formfitting uniform of the Vulcan military from which she had retired over a year earlier. Despite the lateness of the hour, her clothing looked fresh and neatly pressed.
"I apologize for disturbing you, Captain, but I have received some news that you will wish to hear immediately," she said, still hesitating in the open hatchway. She glanced toward the image of Captain Hernandez, which was clearly visible from her vantage point. "Am I interrupting anything?"
Archer smiled gently at his second-in-command. Long before their respective careers had conspired to draw them literally light-years apart, there had once been a time when anyone "walking in" on him and Erika Hernandez might indeed have interrupted something rather intimate. Had Hernandez, who had never been sanguine about making love in Porthos's presence -- and was allergic to pet dander to boot -- not issued a fateful it's-me-or-the-beagle ultimatum, the lives and careers of both captains might have taken radically different trajectories. Only very rarely, such as that time his canine companion had become fragrantly flatulent after snarfing up an entire wheel of Chef's fancy Gruyère cheese, did the captain have cause to regret his decision. Regardless, fair was fair, and since he'd known Porthos longer than he'd known Hernandez, the dog had ultimately won the contest.
Remaining in his chair, Archer fanned the fingers of his left hand toward himself in a "come in" gesture. "Not at all, Commander. I'm sure you know Captain Hernandez."
T'Pol finished crossing the threshold and allowed the hatch to hiss closed behind her just as Porthos jumped...