About the Author
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 non-fiction 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. He has written for magazines including Amazing Stories, Star Wars Kids and FLIcK. Kevin’s interviews with some of Star Trek’s most popular authors appear in volumes of the Star Trek Signature Editions, published by Pocket Books. On the fictional side of things, his short stories include "The Road to Edos" in the Star Trek: New Frontier anthology No Limits and "Home on the Strange," the first installment of Reality Cops: The Continuing Adventures of Vale and Mist for Phobos Books. With Dayton Ward, he has written the Star Trek: The Next Generation novels A Time to Sow and A Time to Harvest, a story for the anthology Star Trek: Tales of the Dominion War, eight installments of the continuing e-book series Star Trek: S.C.E. and the short story "Enemy Unknown!" for Rocket League—The Thrilling Roleplaying Game by Playus Maximus. Kevin lives in Kansas City, MO.
New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Christie Golden has written more than forty novels and several short stories in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Among her many projects are over a dozen Star Trek novels and several original fantasy novels. An avid player of World of Warcraft, she has written two manga short stories and several novels in that world (Lord of the Clans, Rise of the Horde, Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, and The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm, Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects, and Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War). She has also written the StarCraft Dark Templar Saga: Firstborn, Shadow Hunters, and Twilight, as well as the most recent hardcover, Devils’ Due. Golden is also the writer of three books in the major nine-book Star Wars series Fate of the Jedi (in collaboration with Aaron Allston and Troy Denning). Golden lives in Tennessee. She welcomes visitors to her website: ChristieGolden.com.
Dayton Ward is a software developer, having become a slave to Corporate America after spending eleven years in the US Marine Corps. In addition to the numerous credits he shares with friend and co-writer Kevin Dilmore, he is the author of several Star Trek novels, the science fiction novels The Last World War, Counterstrike: The Last World War, Book II and The Genesis Protocol as well as short stories which have appeared in more than twenty anthologies. He’s also written for web sites such as Syfy.com, Tor.com, and StarTrek.com. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and daughters, but he’s a Florida native and maintains a torrid long-distance romance with his beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Find him on the web at DaytonWard.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
From The Belly Of The Beast: Chapter One
Space battles never took this long.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard shook his head in amazement as he stared at the main screen of the Enterprise bridge. He couldn't remember how many times he had been in engagements with enemy ships, with the fight usually only taking a few minutes. But not this time. The monster ship floating in front of them had kept them busy for almost two hours, its dark shape and strange configuration seemingly able to take all the Enterprise could throw at it, and then some.
And, so far, the Enterprise had withstood the enemy's weapons as well.
Punch, counterpunch. Each ship had held its ground, wearing the other down one degree at a time. And wearing Picard and his crew down as well. Dr. Crusher had just reported that sickbay was full with the casualties. Luckily, no one had been killed.
Without standing, he glanced around the bridge. Commander Riker paced in front of his chair, sweat staining his shirt. Lieutenant Christine Vale at security just looked angry, and Troi fidgeted in her chair, the strain of the last few hours showing clearly on her face. Only Data, his emotion chip turned off, seemed as unruffled as ever. Picard envied that android calmness at times.
"They're powering weapons again, Captain," Data said.
"Target those weapons and fire before they do!" Picard ordered.
Picard could feel the Enterprise bump slightly as the phasers fired.
A small section of the alien ship's shields flared bright red.
The alien weapons cut through the redness, pounding the Enterprise hard. The inertial dampers fought to stop the rocking and shaking the impact had caused. As he had been doing for hours, Picard held onto his chair with both hands, keeping himself seated.
"Forward shields at thirty-two percent," Lieutenant Vale said. "Holding."
"Slight damage on three decks," Deanna said, glancing at the monitor on her chair. "No injuries."
That fire-return-fire scene had repeated itself at least fifty times over the last two hours.
"We have got to find a way to end this," Picard said, standing and taking a step toward the main screen, staring at the black alien ship facing him.
It was a monster, more than fifty times bigger than the Enterprise, and at least as deadly. It was round, like a small moon, and its surface was covered with what looked to be some type of control housing. Two smooth rings circled the outer hull of the ship, each attached to the surface at only four places. The rings were as thick as the Enterprise saucer section and twice as wide, with one ring circling around the alien ship's equator, while the other ring went around the ship's poles. Picard had no idea what the rings were for.
Or who had built this strange ship.
Or what powered it.
Or even, for that matter, what was the front, back, top, or bottom of it. The sensors could tell when the alien ship was powering weapons, but little else. The alien shields had blocked every attempt they had made to find out more.
He stared at it, studying the black, equipment-covered surface of the alien ball, trying to come up with any way at all to put that ship out of commission. They had been able to punch through its shields in small areas, but the damage they had done to the surface of the ship seemed to make no difference at all.
And the shields reacted like no shields he had seen before. It was almost as if they were alive, healing damaged areas like water flowing back into a depression. Picard would give anything to learn how they worked.
An hour ago, he had even attacked one of the intersections where the two rings met, hoping that would cause the alien ship problems. They had managed to punch through the alien shields twice, hitting the surface of the ship's rings and blowing hunks out of one area of one ring. The alien shields quickly healed. Nothing changed.
The alien ship attacked, they attacked back.
Over two long hours of the same thing.
However, for the residents of Blossom IV, the fourth planet of this system, the Enterprise had to win. The Enterprise had been nearby when the distress call had come in from the agricultural colony. The message said they were under attack from a massive black ball, and taking heavy damage. It had only taken the Enterprise fifteen minutes to be on the scene, but Picard didn't want to think about the damage the alien ship had caused to those farmers in those minutes.
The Enterprise had come in firing, and the alien ship had turned its attention away from the planet. But if the Enterprise was forced to retreat, or was defeated, there was no other help for those colonists. No other Federation ship that could stand up to this monster was nearby.
Picard also couldn't figure out why it had attacked this planet. Blossom IV had no resources, nothing worth taking from the two hundred thousand people farming the rich soil. Yet this unknown ship had suddenly appeared and started to fire on the colony. It made no sense at all.
Nothing about any of this made any sense.
Picard glanced at Data, then turned around to look at Number One. "I'm open to suggestions here, people."
No one said a word.
Picard nodded. None of them had any more idea what to do with this ship than he did. They just didn't have enough information about the alien ship to even try to come up with a plan, and the alien ship's shields were blocking all but the most basic surface scans.
"They are powering weapons again, Captain," Data said.
"Return fire!" Riker ordered.
The blast shook the Enterprise again, sending Picard staggering to grab the armrest of his chair.
"Shields at twenty-six percent," Data said.
"We punched a hole in their shields again," Lieutenant Vale said. "It has now closed."
Picard nodded, looking back at the lieutenant's fresh, sweating face. Vale had blue eyes, blond hair, and a button nose that made her look much younger than her actual age. But she was a good tactical officer. Smart and very quick. And, from what he understood, deadly in a fight.
Suddenly, Lieutenant Vale's statement sunk in.
"Data," Picard said, "how long did that hole in their shields remain open?"
"One-point-three-three seconds," Data said.
"Is that enough time to get a probe through and the information back?"
Data glanced up at Picard, his yellow eyes showing just a touch of interest. "It could be done, sir," Data said. "But we would have to be closer."
"Let's do it," Picard said, dropping down into his chair. "Data, you take the helm and get us in close."
Data's fingers were flying over the panel as Picard turned to Commander Riker. "Will, ready the probe and fire the instant you have a hole in those shields."
Picard punched the comm link for engineering. "Geordi, I need the front shields reinforced."
"Yes, Captain," La Forge's voice came back.
"Lieutenant Vale," Picard said, glancing back at the young officer. "I want you firing constantly until I give you the word to stop. Punch as big ...