Ward, Dayton That Which Divides (Star Trek)

ISBN 13: 9781451650686

That Which Divides (Star Trek)

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9781451650686: That Which Divides (Star Trek)
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The Xondaii system-located in an area of non-aligned space near Federation and Romulan territory-is home to a unique stellar phenomenon: a spatial rift which opens every 2.7 Earth years, remains open for a period of approximately twenty-one Earth days, and allows access to a small planetoid that orbits in proximity to the system's fourth planet. During this brief window, the people of Xondaii undertake a massive interplanetary operation: mineral ore is ferried from the mining operation while supplies, crew replacements, and so on are transported from the planet. Also, communications with the mining colony on the planetoid are possible only when the rift is open.

Science vessel U.S.S. Robert Ballardis severely damaged during its mission to the system, and the U.S.S. Enterpriseis dispatched to investigate and render assistance. But Kirk, Spock, and Sulu also collect the data about the rift, and the evidence they've gathered regarding its artificial nature is compelling. How has this not been discovered by anyone from Xondaii, especially when considering the extensive mining operations that have been in place for decades? And what can prevent enemies of the Federation from exploiting this newfound power?

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About the Author:

Dayton Ward served for eleven years in the U.S. Marine Corps before discovering the private sector and the piles of cash to be made as a software engineer. He got his start in professional writing by placing stories in each of the first three Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthologies. He is the author of dozens of Star Trek novels, many written in collaboration with coauthor Kevin Dilmore.

Still reeling from the knowledge that Star Trek was a live-action series before it was a Saturday-morning cartoon, Kevin Dilmore is continually grateful for his professional involvement on the fiction and the nonfiction sides of the Star Trek universe for nearly a decade. Since 1997, he has been a contributing writer to Star Trek Communicator, penning news stories and personality profiles for the bimonthly publication of the Official Star Trek Fan Club.

™, ®, & © 2012 CBS Studios, Inc. Star Trek and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ONE

As a former science officer and now the captain of a science vessel, Ronald Arens had encountered his share of interesting stellar phenomena. There had been the odd black hole or quasar, stars in the midst of going nova, and the occasional nebula here and there. He even had spent two weeks studying a rogue pulsar. Nothing Arens had seen with his own eyes or read about in reports submitted by those observing even stranger examples of spatial oddities compared to the image now displayed on the main viewscreen of the U.S.S. Huang Zhong’s bridge.

“Okay,” Arens said, rising from his command chair and moving closer to the screen, “I think this qualifies as an impressive welcome to the Kondaii system, especially considering how we nearly blew out our engines trying to get here.” Built for speed, the Huang Zhong, an Archer-class scout ship configured to hold an enhanced suite of sensor arrays and other science-related information-gathering equipment, had proceeded here at maximum speed after its abrupt reassignment from patrol duty. Despite his comment, the dependable little craft had handled with ease the exertion of traveling at high warp for nearly a week. As for why they had been dispatched, the captain had been told that the ship originally assigned to be here, the U.S.S. Lexington, had been deployed elsewhere on a task of greater priority. Though his ship’s science equipment would do in a pinch, Arens knew it could not substitute for a Constitution-class vessel. To that end, the Enterprise was being redirected to the Kondaii system to take on the brunt of the survey and research tasks. Until then, it was the Huang Zhong’s show.

Fine by me, Arens mused as he contemplated the anomaly on the viewscreen. To him, it appeared to be something of a cross between a plasma storm and a matter-antimatter explosion. It was an amorphous mass of energy, shifting and undulating in space, all while staying confined within what Arens already had been told was more or less a spherical area less than five hundred kilometers in diameter. Within that region was chaos, in the form of a kaleidoscopic maelstrom of light and color that seemed to fold back on itself, only to surge forth anew moments later. At the center of the field was a dark area, roughly circular in shape, which seemed to beckon to him. It took Arens an extra minute to realize that he had become all but mesmerized by the imagery.

“Captain?” a voice said from behind him, and Arens blinked as he turned to see Lieutenant Samuel Boma, a slightly-built man of African descent wearing a blue uniform tunic and regarding him with an expression that indicated the younger man had been waiting for his commanding officer with both patience and amusement.

Clearing his throat, Arens smiled. “I was daydreaming again, wasn’t I?”

The Huang Zhong’s science officer’s features remained fixed as he shook his head in melodramatic fashion. “I’m not qualified to speculate on that topic, sir. At all.”

“Damned right, you’re not.” Arens’s smile grew wider. Their easy banter, something the captain had missed, was a product of his and Boma’s service together years earlier. Arens at the time was the science officer on the Constellation, while Boma had been a fresh-faced junior-grade lieutenant fresh out of Starfleet Academy’s advanced astrophysics school. The friendship begun during that joint tour of duty continued even after both men went their separate ways to different assignments. Boma had joined the Huang Zhong’s crew less than six months earlier, transferring from a ground posting at Starbase 12 following a less than stellar performance while serving aboard the Enterprise. After Boma had run into trouble stemming from insubordination charges that resulted in a permanent notation in his service record, he had requested a transfer to any ship or station. When Arens found out that his friend was available, he had petitioned Starfleet Command to have Boma join his crew. Starfleet granted the request, allowing Arens to make sure that Boma was afforded a chance to redeem himself.

Gesturing toward the viewscreen, Arens said, “All right, let’s get down to business. What can you tell me about this thing?”

Boma replied, “Not much; at least, not yet. As the initial reports indicated, it’s about eight hundred thousand kilometers from the system’s fourth planet. According to my calculations, it maintains a consistent elliptical orbit with a duration of seventeen point six days.” He paused, pointing to the screen and indicating the dark area at the center of the energy field. “Most of the time, it’s impassable, but the rift we’re seeing appears at intervals that compute out to be approximately two point seven Earth years, give or take as much as two months. The rift stays open for a period of about thirty-eight days, again plus or minus a day or three, though it doesn’t just close; it shrinks over a period of several days before fading altogether. From the reports we’ve received, once the rift’s closed, that’s it until the next time it opens. No way in or out.” He gestured toward the screen. “The locals have a name for it that translates more or less as ‘the Pass.’ Seems appropriate enough for me.”

“Damnedest thing I’ve ever heard of,” Arens said, reaching up to rub the back of his bald head. Since being given the assignment to observe this phenomenon, he had familiarized himself with whatever information he could find on the Kondaii system, or System 965, as it had been catalogued after initial surveys by unmanned Starfleet reconnaissance probes more than a decade earlier. From the reports he had read, such as those provided by Federation first-contact teams that had visited the Kondaii system more than a year earlier as well as the most recent accounts submitted by continuing contact specialists and diplomatic envoys, the people who called the fourth planet, Dolysia, their home had always been aware of the phenomenon. Like their sun or the pair of moons orbiting their planet or even the other seven worlds occupying the Kondaii system, the mysterious anomaly had always been a part of the Dolysian people’s history.

“What about its interior?” Arens asked. “Anything on the moon or planetoid or whatever it is hiding in there?”

The science officer shook his head. “Not much, really. The locals call it ‘Gralafi,’ which in their language translates to something like ‘playful child,’ no doubt owing to the way it plays hide-and-seek from within the anomaly. It has a Class-M environment like the Dolysians’ own planet, so I suppose that’s a huge plus.” He shrugged. “By all accounts, it may be a dwarf planet, but there’s no way to know if it originally was part of this system and became trapped within that region, or if it’s from somewhere else. We won’t know anything until we get a closer look at it, run some scans, and see if it shares any properties with the planets here.”

“Regardless of where it came from,” Arens said, “or where it might belong, the Dolysians have certainly made the best of it.” The revelation that a spatial body had been discovered inside the rift residing within a form of pocket or other compartmentalized region of space had come as a surprise to him. Even more astonishing was learning that the Dolysians had explored and even settled upon it, having found a means of working with the rift’s sporadic if mostly predictable accessibility. A largely self-sufficient mining colony, constructed on the planetoid decades earlier, now played a vital role in meeting the energy production needs of several of Dolysia’s nation-states. “This mineral they extract, erinadium? It’s present on the home planet’s two moons, right?”

Boma replied, “Yes, sir, and it’s also on the planet itself, though in all three cases it’s not found in nearly the same abundance. The Dolysians had made the transition to using the material to meet their energy needs decades before the first probes into the anomaly found the planetoid and discovered its rich erinadium deposits. Once they knew that, there was a focused effort to get a permanent facility up and running. According to their projections, there’s enough erinadium on the planetoid to keep the lights on for a couple of centuries.”

“Wow,” Arens said, impressed at the effort the Dolysians had expended and the rewards they seemed to be enjoying for their work. “Well, that’d certainly justify the risk you’d think would be inherent in a project of this magnitude. On a different note, it suggests the planetoid might be native to this system, after all. It’ll be interesting to see if we can offer them some new insight.”

Boma replied, “That’s going to be easier said than done, though, as our sensor scans are being scattered as they come into contact with the rift’s . . . the anomaly’s outer boundary.”

Noting the other man’s change of word choice, Arens cocked his head as he regarded his friend. “You don’t think it’s an interspatial rift?” The idea that this might be a doorway of sorts—to another part of the universe or to another universe or reality entirely—made the captain’s mind race to consider the possibilities. “It wouldn’t be the first time something like that’s been encountered, after all.” Shrugging, he added, “Though it’d be a first for me.”

“Rifts such as those,” Boma replied, “at least the ones we know about, have usually been found to have some common characteristics. Energy distortion fields, chroniton or verteron particle emissions, time dilation effects, and so on. I’m not picking up anything like that from this thing.”

Arens frowned, crossing his arms before reaching up to stroke his thin, close-cropped beard. “Absence of such characteristics doesn’t automatically rule out this being some kind of interspatial rift or conduit.”

“Which is why I’m going to stick with my story of not having the first clue what it is, sir,” Boma said. “If it is a conduit, then what’s on the other side? Where’s the other end, where does it go, and what—or who—might be there?”

“Those are all interesting questions which we have also asked, Captain, though we have been unable to answer them.”

Arens and Boma turned in response to the new voice to see the Huang Zhong’s first officer, Commander April Hebert, standing near the bridge’s doorway. With her was the guest to whom the ship was playing host, a Dolysian female who earlier had introduced herself as Rzaelir Zihl du Molidin. Though she was humanoid in appearance, at least in a general sense, there still were several exterior differences in her physiology when compared to humans. Her skin was a pale yellow with a hint of green; a Vulcan-like pigmentation, Arens thought. The pupils of her eyes were almost devoid of color, with only the slightest shade of red encircling tiny irises. Rather than cartilage forming a nose, there was only a slight indentation beneath her eyes with a trio of small holes which Arens took to be nostrils. The upper portion of her rounded skull flared outward at a point just above small openings on each side, which seemed to serve as her ears. What little hair she possessed was confined to a single narrow strip that began just above the groove between her eyes and continued up and over her head to the nape of her long, thin neck. From there, the hair hung down below her shoulders, braided and intertwined with a strand of black material. The result resembled a ponytail, which hung down across the front of the Dolysian’s right shoulder so that Arens could see a decorative silver band encircling its end. Her clothing consisted of a single-piece, floor-length gown tailored to her trim, almost petite physique. The garment had been fashioned from a shiny material that reminded Arens of silk, colored a light tan with threads of white and silver woven into the fabric.

Smiling, Arens said, “Advisor Zihl, welcome to the bridge.” When he had all but choked during his first attempt at mimicking her pronunciation, the Dolysian had taken apparent pity on him by explaining that in her society—one of however many that called her planet home—names acted as a means of honoring respected family members. When a member died, others in the family might be inspired to add a portion of that person’s name to their own, a process that continued throughout the lives of those offering such tributes. In the case of Rzaelir Zihl du Molidin, Zihl was her given name, and her title of “advisor” was given to her while operating in her role as one of numerous liaisons between the Federation and the various Dolysian governments.

“Thank you, Captain,” she replied, bowing her head for a brief moment. “It is an honor to be here.”

Arens repeated Zihl’s gesture. “I hope you enjoyed the tour, such as it was.”

“The fastest five minutes you’ll ever spend,” Hebert replied, reaching up to brush a lock of her dark hair away from her eyes. As though attempting to decipher the meaning of the first officer’s words, Zihl’s expression changed to what Arens thought might be a look of confusion.

“What she means is that because our ship is so small, such tours often don’t take that much time,” he said, before offering another smile. Starfleet linguistic experts had done a phenomenal job creating a database from which universal translation protocols assisted in communicating with the Dolysian people, using more than one hundred of their known languages. Despite such an achievement, bridging the gap with respect to odd turns of phrase unfamiliar to one party or the other would always present a challenge.

Boma added, “On the other hand, it’s easy to keep clean.”

Archer-class scouts were designed for speed, their missions entailing getting in and out of places in a hurry and often working in stealth. Their size made them ideal for clandestine surveillance duties, such as monitoring activities along borders separating Federation territory from that of rival powers such as the Klingon and Romulan empires. The Huang Zhong, like her sister vessels of this type, possessed few frills or creature comforts for its fourteen-person crew to enjoy. Commander Hebert, like the ship’s other female crew members, wore the female officer’s version of uniform tunic and trousers rather than the skirt variant. Given the vessel’s lack of turbolifts, the uniform choice made for traversing the ship’s ladders and crawl spaces in a more dignified manner.

Even billet space aboard the Huang Zhong was at a premium, with only the captain and first officer entitled to a private cabin. As for the rest of the ship’s complement, though each of them was formally assigned to one of the four remaining crew compartments, each room only possessed one berth, necessitating the practice of “hot-bunking,” or sharing the beds by virtue of working and sleeping during different duty shifts. Given the often fluctuating nature of life aboard ship, any open bunk was fair game to anyone when their off-duty shift came around. The situation was tolerable, because most of the Huang Zhong’s missions were of limited duration and were interspersed with rotations at the ship’s home station, Starbase 23. That the crew was one of the most tight-knit groups with which Arens had ever served also went a long way toward defusing any problems that might arise from being stuffed into such a compact vessel for lengthy periods of time.

Remember that, Arens warned himself, when Hebert sticks you with the bar tab our first night back in port.

Seemingly satisfied with his explanation, Zihl nodded. “As I said, the commander is an excellent guide. Your technology is wondrous, particularly your engines whic...

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