The da Vinci goes on a dangerous salvage mission: to rescue the U.S.S. Orion from a gas giant. As if the turbulent atmosphere of the planet wasn't enough, the Orion is carrying the prototype of the deadly Wildfire device -- a protomatter warhead that can ignite gas giants into stars.
But the operation may be more than even Capt. David Gold's crack team of engineers can handle, as they have to fight against the liquid atmosphere of the planet, the volatility of the Wildfire warhead -- and a strange alien life-form that may be responsible for the attack on the Orion!
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Pocket Books/Star Trek
November 30, 2002
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Adobe DRM EPUB
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Excerpt from Wildfire Book 1 by David Mack
Captain Lian T'su tightened her grip on the armrests of her seat. The Orion main viewer showed another huge web of lightning bolts tear through the roiling, red-orange clouds of the gas giant's atmosphere. The electrical discharges rendered the clouds visible for little more than a second and were followed immediately by a bone-rattling boom of thunder that reverberated through the decks of the Steamrunner-class starship.
"Do you have a lock on that signal yet " T'su said to her tactical officer, raising her voice slightly to be heard over the din of the ship's groaning outer bulkheads.
"Negative, Captain," said Lieutenant Ryan. "Atmospheric interference is still too heavy. Switching to a delta-channel isolation frequency."
The hull of the Orion had begun shrieking in protest soon after they had descended ten thousand kilometers into the gas giant's turbulent lower atmosphere. Now that the ship had dived below twenty-five thousand kilometers, one-fifth of the way to the planet's core, the eerie sounds of fatiguing metal were becoming almost constant, and the vibrations through the hull were growing more severe by the minute.
Twelve years ago, when T'su had been an ensign, she had been at ops aboard the Enterprise-D as it skimmed the upper atmosphere of Minos while under fire by an automated attack drone. At the time, she'd thought that was a rough ride. Compared to this, that was nothing, she thought, wiping the sweat from her palms.
T'su turned back toward the main viewer, which now showed only a dim outline of the thermal disturbance they were speeding toward. The test of the Wildfire prototype had been about to commence when Lieutenant Sunkulo, her operations officer, had detected an unknown energy signal that mysteriously vanished the moment sensors had been trained on it. If there was another ship in the atmosphere, following the Orion, the mission's security was at risk. T'su had orders to keep the prototype out of the wrong hands at all costs, and she was well aware of the potential for disaster if she failed.
Right now, however, she was more concerned about the threat to her ship posed by the planet itself. "Current hull temperature and pressure " she asked, trying to keep her voice steady. Always project confidence, she reminded herself.
Sunkulo tapped a few keys and answered calmly. "Temperature is eleven thousand four hundred degrees Celsius. Pressure is twenty-two million G.S.C." Anticipating his captain's next request, he added, "Structural integrity field still holding."
T'su nodded. Around her, the rest of the bridge crew was quiet, intensely focused on their work. Lieutenant Fryar was making constant, minor adjustments at the helm to keep the ship steady while Ensign Yarrow relayed his data from the science station to Ryan at tactical. They were using active tachyon scans to map the atmosphere's thermodynamic layers and currents in order to plot the course the Wildfire device would take to the planet's core. The data was being constantly uploaded to Lieutenant ch'Kelavar, the ship's Andorian second officer, who was in the forward torpedo room with the Wildfire development team.