The Starship Rhea has discovered a cluster of carbon planets that seems to be the source of the quantum energies rippling through a section of space. A landing party finds unusual life-forms inhabiting one of the planets. One officer, Lieutenant T'Ryssa Chen -- a half-Vulcan -- makes a tenuous connection with them. But before any progress can be made, the Rhea comes under attack from the Einstein -- a Starfleet vessel now controlled by the Borg. The landing party can only listen in horror as their comrades are assimilated. The Borg descend to the planet, and just as Chen accepts that she will be assimilated, the lieutenant is whisked two thousand light-years away.
A quantum slipstream -- instantaneous transportation -- is controlled by these beings in the cluster, and in the heart of the cluster there is now a Borg ship. Cut off from the rest of the Borg collective, the Einstein cannot be allowed to rejoin it. For the sake of humanity, the Borg cannot gain access to quantum slipstream technology.
Starfleet Command gives Captain Picard carte blanche: do whatever he must to help the beings in the cluster, and stop the Einstein no matter the cost.
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Pocket Books/Star Trek
July 28, 2008
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Excerpt from Star Trek: The Next Generation: Greater than the Sum by Christopher L. Bennett
Star cluster NGC 6281
"Are we there yet?"
Lieutenant Commander Dawn Blair rolled her eyes at the question. "Are you going to ask that question every morning, Trys?"
"At least until we get there," T'Ryssa Chen replied, brushing her shaggy bangs out of her eyes. The gesture briefly revealed one of the elegantly pointed ears that she usually kept hidden under her shoulder-length black hair.
"You're just hoping to annoy me into letting you go on the away team," Blair said.
"Is it working?"
"Aw, come on, Dawn!" T'Ryssa moaned. "A whole cluster full of carbon planets, and you expect me to sit up here manning a boring old console?"
"Well, it might help if you remembered to call me 'Commander' when we're on duty, Lieutenant."
T'Ryssa's slanted eyebrows twisted in a way that Blair still sometimes found incongruous. She knew the younger woman had been raised by her human mother and had barely known her Vulcan father, but it was hard to shake off one's expectations of Vulcans. Which was probably why T'Ryssa defied those expectations so aggressively. "Right, I keep forgetting."
"On purpose. You always have to be such a nonconformist, Trys. That's why you're still a jg at twenty-six."
"I don't have to be," T'Ryssa countered. "I'm just very good at it. Gotta play to your strengths, you know."
She grew serious, or as close as she ever came. "And I'm not very good at sitting still in a cubbyhole, which is why you've gotta let me go down there and do some science! When we get there," she added. "Come on, Daw -- Commander Dawn, sir, ma'am -- " At the science officer's glare, she started over. "I mean, this is a Luna-class ship, right? All about crew diversity and cross-cultural synergies and exploring new approaches? Which means, in short, we're a ship full of nonconformists, and proud of it. Nonconforming -- ity -- ism -- is how we get the job done around here, right?" T'Ryssa bent her knees and clasped her hands in supplication. "So how about it, O Dawn, commander of my heart? Pleeeeeze?" She actually batted her eyelids.
Blair sighed, knowing T'Ryssa would keep this up until she relented. "Okay! Okay. Janyl can man the console, you can go on the away team and out of my hair."
"Oh, thank you, thank you! And such lovely hair it is, my commandress."
"Don't push it," Blair said. She was self-conscious about her hair, an unruly mass of cinnamon-brown waves that she usually kept confined within a bun or French braid while on duty, though Derek from environmental engineering insisted it was the most gorgeous thing he'd ever seen. Still, she couldn't help smirking at T'Ryssa's antics. Blair was too soft a touch to be any good at keeping her in line, which was probably to T'Ryssa's detriment in the long run. But giving her this away mission could help improve her career prospects. The half-Vulcan woman may not have been very good at practicing Starfleet discipline or respecting the chain of command, but she was a good scientist with a knack for understanding alien behaviors, sentient and otherwise. If the anomalous biosigns coming from the carbon planets of the NGC 6281 star cluster were correct and there was complex life there, she could be genuinely useful.
"Anyway," Blair went on, "we have to get there first."
T'Ryssa sagged. "I am so sick of this. We hit a zone of altered subspace, we get knocked out of warp, we spend five hours recalibrating the warp engines, we make it four hours before the structure of subspace changes, and we drop out of warp again. I swear I'm getting motion sick. Are we getting any closer to figuring out a pattern behind these distortions?"
Blair shook her head. "Only that they seem connected to the energy emissions from the carbon planets. And that those emissions seem to be coming from beneath the planets' surfaces, not localized around any of the biosigns."
"What about the cosmozoans?"
"We can't confirm that the energy readings from them are connected. It could be interference from the subspace distortions."
T'Ryssa sighed, and Blair shared in her disappointment. As their sister ship Titan had confirmed half a year back, spacegoing life-forms were prone to inhabit star-formation regions. The open clusters Rhea was currently surveying were located be-tween the Orion and Carina Arms, removed from the star-formation zones that defined the arms of the galaxy, but they were still fairly young (as all open clusters were, for eventually their components were scattered by gravitational interactions with other stars and nebulae). NGC 6281 itself, a clump of a hundred or so young stars sharing a volume of space barely fifteen light-years in diameter, was less than a quarter billion years old and still retained a faint remnant of the nebula from which it had formed, so finding spacegoing organisms here was not a complete surprise.