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A Star Trek: The Next Generation: Time #3: A Time to Sow Mass Market Paperback – April 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dayton Ward is the New York Times bestselling author of the science fiction novels The Last World War, Counterstrike: The Last World War—Book II, and The Genesis Protocol, and the Star Trek novels Legacies: Purgatory’s Key, Elusive Salvation, Armageddon’s Arrow, The Fall: Peaceable Kingdom, Seekers: Point of Divergence (with Kevin Dilmore), From History’s Shadow, That Which Divides, In the Name of Honor, Open Secrets, and Paths of Disharmony. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri, with his wife and daughters. Visit him on the web at DaytonWard.com.

Kevin Dilmore has teamed with author Dayton Ward for fifteen years on novels, shorter fiction, and other writings within and outside the Star Trek universe. His short stories have appeared in anthologies including Native Lands by Crazy 8 Press. By day, Kevin works as a senior writer for Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, Missouri. In 2014, a short film written by Kevin, “Outside of Town,” was selected for screening in the Short Film Corner of the Cannes Film Festival. A graduate of the University of Kansas, Kevin lives in Overland Park, Kansas.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

Though it was not unusual for him to be called to the bridge at such an irregular hour, Captain Vanik was still surprised at the summons. After all, given their current assignment, what could possibly be so pressing?

Located well within the admittedly small sector of the galaxy that had been mapped and traversed by Vulcan ships, this area of space was one Vanik had traveled numerous times during his fifteen years as commander of the Ti'Mur. Other than its status as the location of a single minor conflict during the protracted war with the Andorians, the region offered little of interest. None of the planets in the area's lone star system were habitable, and they contained nothing of scientific or strategic value. The only quality the area possessed, in Vanik's opinion, was that it had few distractions to delay a vessel's journey to some other, more appealing destination.

Has this somehow changed?

He had only just settled into his evening's meditation when the message came from the officer on duty. Well aware of her captain's routine, Sub-commander T'Lih would not have intruded on his private time unless she believed it was a matter for his attention. Whatever it was that had prompted her call, it must be quite fascinating indeed.

Of course, Vanik reminded himself, further speculation serves no purpose. My questions will be answered in short order.

The turbolift slowed to a halt and the doors parted to reveal the Ti'Mur's bridge. Triangular-shaped, the command center was widest at the rear stations, with rows of control consoles to either side and angling inward until they met the immense viewscreen dominating the forward bulkhead. Unlike other areas of the ship, where lighting was adjusted in order to simulate the daily cycle on Vulcan, Vanik preferred the command center's illumination to remain at normal levels regardless of the time of day.

Each of the bridge's key stations was manned despite the lateness of the hour, just as they would be during prime shift, yet the captain also noted a crew member operating the secondary science console. A visual inspection of the weapons station showed that the defensive systems were not active, meaning that no threats to the ship had been detected. Even from across the room, he could hear the two separate conversations taking place between members of the bridge crew and detected nothing untoward being discussed.

Stepping from the turbolift, Vanik nodded in greeting to T'Lih as the subcommander noticed his arrival.

"Good evening, Captain," she offered as she rose from the command chair at the rear of the bridge. Like every other member of the ship's complement, T'Lih wore the standard gray uniform of the Vulcan Space Service. Impeccably tailored to her physique, the uniform possessed no decorative accessories save for the small rank insignia on the left side of her collar. Like Vanik's own, her features were lean and angular, but while his hair was gray and full-bodied, T'Lih wore her black locks cropped close to her skull in a manner that served to highlight the severe upswing of her pointed ears.

"And to you, Sub-commander," Vanik replied. "So, what is it that has attracted your interest?" Rather than take the proffered seat T'Lih had vacated, he chose instead to pace the room's perimeter, walking a slow circuit with hands clasped behind his back as he waited for the subcommander to make her report.

Moving to join her captain, T'Lih replied, "Fifty-two point six minutes ago, our long-range sensors detected an object traveling at warp one point three. A review of our data banks shows that it is of a type and configuration unknown to us."

"Life signs?" Vanik prompted.

"No, Captain. The object appears to be an unmanned drone. It is transmitting a recorded message that repeats at intervals of four point seven minutes. Translation efforts are already under way, and I have also ordered an attempt to determine the drone's origin point based on its current course heading."

Vanik nodded, pleased with the report and the subcommander's initiative, which also logically explained the presence of additional science personnel on the bridge. "Is it close enough for visual inspection?"

By way of reply, T'Lih summoned the attention of the junior officer working at the main science station. "Lieutenant Serel?"

The object that appeared on the bridge's central viewer in response to the science officer's commands was unlike anything Vanik had seen before. It consisted of a bulky cylindrical module mounted above a trio of squat engine bells. The cylinder's outer shell was composed of metal plating, and Vanik could see the join lines as well as the heads of dozens of fasteners that presumably attached the individual plates to a skeletal frame. Two antenna dishes were affixed to the cylinder's flanks, one of which appeared to have suffered damage. In fact, pockmarks and other blemishes were clearly discernible across the surface of the small craft.

"The damage is consistent with the effects of ion storms we have seen on our vessel's hulls," Serel reported from his station. "According to our scans, exposure to such a storm most likely occurred approximately eleven point six years ago."

"What have you learned about its level of technology?" Vanik asked.

"Though we will have to retrieve the drone in order to complete a thorough investigation," the science officer replied, "its propulsion system looks to be quite rudimentary. I would theorize that the warp drive was of an experimental nature, perhaps the first such test made by whoever constructed the object."

Interesting, Vanik thought. Given that the craft was obviously primitive, in all likelihood a first-generation deep-space vessel, that it had survived such an encounter relatively intact and still able to transmit data was a testament to its designers' craftsmanship.

Could this drone be the initial step toward first contact with a new species? Though he had worn the uniform of the Space Service for seventy-six years, he had participated in only one other introduction to an alien race. Vanik had to confess that the opportunity to do so again presented an intriguing notion.

He heard a telltale tone from Serel's console and turned to see the junior officer rising from his chair. "I have a report on the status of our translation efforts, Captain," Serel said as he crossed the bridge to stand before Vanik and T'Lih. "The object has sustained considerable damage during its journey. Much of the message is garbled beyond our ability to decipher. However, I was able to isolate several passages. The people who constructed the drone call themselves the Dokaalan, and the device itself was not launched from their homeworld as part of an exploration initiative. Rather, it seems that the message is a distress call."

Vanik's right eyebrow rose in response. An entire planet calling for help? What could have prompted such a desperate act? "Did the message include a reason for their plea?"

"Yes, Captain," Serel replied. "Their planet was undergoing global seismic events that threatened to destroy it, and science specialists among their people predicted total obliteration within one of their years. Though they had discovered the ability to travel at light speeds, they possessed no space vessels capable of transporting people to another habitable planet. They therefore sent out a trio of unmanned craft in the hopes of contacting someone who could come to their aid."

Already beginning to surmise the likely outcome of this scenario, Vanik was nevertheless obligated to consider what course of action, if any, he could undertake in response to the distress call. "Are we able to determine where the object originated?"

Turning to the secondary science station, T'Lih said, "Sub-commander Taren?"

"According to our sensor scans of its onboard systems," Taren replied, "it appears to have traveled on a constant course at a consistent speed for thirty-eight point three years. This places its likely origin point in an area of space that according to our databases is presently unexplored."

It took little effort for Vanik to comprehend the futility of the Dokaalan's actions. Even if the drone had been able to travel at a faster speed, had its creators not understood the improbability of making contact with anyone possessing the resources to render assistance on such a scale? Perhaps they had, and yet the dire situation they faced nevertheless compelled them to make the attempt.

"Given what has already been learned," Vanik said, "and presuming the Dokaalan scientists were correct in their original predictions, it would seem the time to provide assistance has long passed." It was an unfortunate determination to reach, he knew, but the facts currently available to them seemed to support no other conclusion.

"Captain," T'Lih said, "we could deploy a reconnaissance probe back along the drone's original course. It will take several months to reach that area of space at the probe's maximum speed, but it will be able to ascertain what ultimately happened to the Dokaalan homeworld."

It was a logical suggestion, and one Vanik at first supported. However, as this matter involved a species never before encountered, it was an issue that would have to be decided upon by the Vulcan Science Directorate. Only that august body possessed the authority to permit any interaction with a new race, a precaution intended to prevent the accidental introduction of technology, science, or even ideas that might prove too advanced for a culture not yet ready to possess such knowledge.

Besides, the Ti'Mur had other priorities. High Command had instructed Vanik to deviate from its current patrol in order to observe the latest activities of Enterprise, the deep-space exploration vessel recently launched by the humans from Earth. Though the humans themselves held little interest for him, Vanik nevertheless had kept abreast of their progress, especially regarding their efforts to perfect warp travel and push farther away from the confines of their own star system.

It had long been the opinion of High Command that the humans bore watching. Though they had proven to be somewhat innovative in their own way, they had also demonstrated that their inexperience in dealing with a larger celestial community, to say nothing of their own arrogance and overconfidence, likely would be their undoing.

Since Enterprise had left Earth, its crew and particularly its captain had managed to make quite a nuisance of themselves. That much was amply demonstrated when the vessel departed Earth on its inaugural voyage, deep into the heart of the Klingon Empire of all places. Only fortunate happenstance had prevented their initial contact with the Klingons from dissolving into an unmitigated disaster, and Vanik believed that the ultimate ramifications of the haphazard encounter were yet to be realized.

Then there was the recent debacle that had unfolded at the monastery on P'Jem. The Enterprise captain, Archer, had revealed the presence of the top-secret observation facility hidden beneath the monastery to Andorian operatives. Now that station and the vital data it provided about ship movements and other activities within Andorian space was gone, and the damage Archer had inflicted on Vulcan's intelligence-gathering operations would take a long time to repair.

Given all of that, Vanik could understand High Command's wishes that the Earth ship be monitored. He simply did not agree with the dispatching of a Surak-class vessel to do it. He hoped that Enterprise would be able to avoid trouble for the few days until the Ti'Mur was relieved by another vessel.

"Sub-commander T'Lih," he said, "prepare all of the information you have for transmission to High Command. In the interim, divert from our present course long enough to retrieve the drone, then adjust our course and speed to make our appointment on schedule."

"Yes, Captain," T'Lih replied, and set about relaying the necessary orders. As Vanik paced back to his command chair, he watched and listened as his bridge crew turned to their various tasks, satisfied that they would carry out their duties with their usual impeccable efficiency.

Settling into his seat, the captain realized he was actually looking forward to what a full examination of the alien object might reveal. If nothing else, the effort would pass the time until the rendezvous with the Earth ship.

It would be up to High Command and the Science Directorate as to whether a vessel was sent to discover the origin of the alien drone and perhaps to learn what had happened to those who had dispatched it, but Vanik for one hoped the attempt was made. Given the calamity they had apparently suffered, it would be unfortunate if the mystery of the Dokaalan were to remain unsolved.

Copyright © 2004 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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Product Details

  • Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation (Book 3)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books/Star Trek; 1st edition (April 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743482999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743482998
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,060,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. Spottiswood on April 7, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This turns into an intriguing mystery story, but takes forever to get going. There seems to be some disease spreading among Trek authors, compelling them to fill the first third of a book with boring and/or long winded material. Prior to arriving in the Dokaalan system, the authors spend time with each major character, going into great detail on their current feelings and situation. The Data-La Forge scene was good and relevant to the story, but only it and one of the others should have actually been in the book. Including them all was just too much. Also, after the dramatic rescue that is the first non-introspective scene, Troi and Picard immediately have to talk it over. The authors also have a bad tendency to put several paragraphs of reflection between single lines of dialogue. During action scenes, they sometimes call a time out and put in two or three pages of historical exposition. It's rather boring since it goes over Trek history that should be common knowledge, it isn't exactly relevant to the story, and it breaks up the flow of the story and reduces the tension level.
Despite all this, this is a good story with a lot of faults rather than the reverse. The characterisations are very good. The long winded scenes are not inaccurate, just long. Not only are the major characters well done, but the relatively minor ones of Kell Perim and Christina Vale are given serious development. Even one-line characters contribute noticeably to the humour or tension of a scene. The action scenes, the exploratory and diplomatic scenes are well described and clear. Most of all, the build up is very well planned. By the end we actually know more or less what the Enterprise's enemies are doing and how, but why and by what group is a mystery. Unlike the first book of this series, I am not only looking forward to the mysteries being revealed, I am actually looking forward to the way it will be written.
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With the first two books in the Time to... series out of the way, would two different authors be able to turn things around? In a way they do, but there is one major strike against it.

Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise are still dealing with the political fallout from the last two books, and are sent on a mission to get them out of the way for a while. It's a bit of a milkrun, really. Many years ago, a probe dispatched from a distant area of the galaxy was found, but Starfleet, still in its infancy, didn't have the time or resources to do anything about it. Now, another probe has been found. Both probes speak of a civilization on a dying planet, and it was figured that getting there would take too long to rescue any survivors (since the probe took years to get to where the Vulcans found it to begin with). The Enterprise is sent to investigate what happened and see if they can find out what happened all those years ago. When they get there, they discover an asteroid field and radiation that wreaks havoc on their systems. They also find the remnants of survivors of the planet Dokaal, scraping out an existence among the asteroids on constructed mining colonies, alone for several hundred years. The survivors hope to terraform a planet further out in the system so that they can one day walk on solid ground again. The Enterprise offers whatever help they can, but dissension is threatening to tear the Dokaalan apart before anything can be done.

A Time to Sow is actually a lot better than I thought it was, once I get past the main fault (so I'll get it out of the way first). It is extremely overwritten.
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First two in this series were quite good but this one was very disappointing. They are in an area of extremely high radiation, that effects the functioning of the Enterprise, but Enterprise personnel merrily visit the colony without any protection! The natives had their genetics altered to survive and somehow wound up dependent upon radiation and are sickened when removed. Geordi tries to flee pursuers but doesn't leave the plane of the ecliptic where he could us his superior speed. There is more but don't want to give away the whole plot.
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The authors capture the characters very well. All of the main characters act, speak and behave in the correct way. However the pacing is incrediby slow. The biggest problem I had however is with the main protagonist. Kalsha appears out of nowhere. By the end of the story we still dont know his/her motives or background.

3 stars for getting the characters right and having the story feel like star trek. Only three stars due to pacing and reading an entire book and not having a clue what the conflict is. Also there is too much effort to tie enterprise into this. TnG works better without shoehorning enterprise references in.
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In actuality I give this one 4 1/2 stars. In the third installment of the A TIME TO... series, A TIME TO SOW, Ward and Dilmore have created an even better book that the first two in the series. Regulated to unglamorous duty, Captain Picard and the Enterprise must answer a centuries old distress call. What they find there is both unexpected and potentially dangerous.
This book is excellent in that it deals with the internal struggles of the main characters. Entire chapters are devoted to the thoughts of the main crew. Couple this insight with the exciting plot, and this novel is a winner. It has elements of mystery and intrigue that move wonderfully. Not to be missed.
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