The second book in the Starfleet Corps
of Engineers series contains three stories, all of which are highly
enjoyable from a character point of view. Stylistically, the first story
is not quite as well written, and the format of the third story, written
in the first person in the form of personal and duty logs, is not to my
The first story is Interphase, Part II, the conclusion to the story
started in Have Tech, Will Travel. Right from the start, I found that
the back-story was given in too much of an obvious way, merely restating
the events that had occurred in the previous story. Instead, the author
could have given that same back-story in the form of dialog or thoughts
from the crew, without simply regurgitating up the facts. That is my
largest gripe about most books, especially after reading the incredibly
subtle backgrounds in Anne McCaffrey's
There is more background given in this story, while nothing is
happening plot wise, in the form of stuff that we haven't been witness
to, either. It's good to know that the da Vinci has missions that we are
not part of (or perhaps in comic form?), which we can still hear about
in these tales. I just wish they were not given out as a bunch of facts,
too. There was Duffy thinking of his father's advice, and the in-joke
from the Pakled mission, both of which just seemed to be taking up space
for the sake of it.
However, there was a lot of good interaction between the crew, as
before. I am starting to see trends in the characters. Stevens and Duffy
seem to be good friends and coworkers. Corsi truly believes in safety
above all else -perhaps she got tired of lax security killing so many
people during the Dominion War. Gomez is very easy going, and very
capable. She is the one who can pull the magic on this team. The
cultural specialist Abramowicz, Doctor Lense and P8 Blue are more
generic at this point.
As for the plot, there isn't much of one. Duffy, in charge of the da
Vinci, tries to reopen the rift that resealed the Defiant in nowhereland.
Meanwhile, a small fleet of Tholian ships approaches towing a gigantic
web with which to ensnare or destroy the da Vinci. Inside the rift,
Abramowicz and Patty get back inside the Defiant easily, and Gomez and
Patty then rig some generators to give them a small warp pulse to reopen
the rift. Really, all of these solutions were given in one of the TV
series or another. A warp pulse of some sort was used in The Tholian
Web, while the brief momentum burst was inspired by Wesley Crusher's
stunt back in a war games episode of TNG.
From the Tholian point of view, I thought back in the first part of
the story that Nostrene was premature in trying to destroy the Defiant
before it had left the rift completely. I suppose he would have been
better off letting the ship get free, transporting the web generator out
of the cargo bay, and then firing on them. That would have given him a
better advantage, without the risk of sending the Defiant back into the
rift. I did like the fact that the Tholians ignored the Defiant as it
reemerged, because it was less of a threat. For some unknown reason, so
many authors (and especially in the movies) allow their characters to be
distracted by the "newer" threat, without doing a threat assessment. In
this case, however, ignoring the Defiant resulted in their defeat, because Gomez
had been able to reactivate a phaser bank. Miracle workers, indeed!
I guess the Defiant can be in two places at once- the alternate
mirror universe in Enterprise, and back on Earth in this universe. I
rather liked both versions. The last chapters, with the Defiant
into spacedock, were really well written, and seemed very emotional. The
author seemed to give a real heartfelt sendoff for the ship, with McCoy
(how old is he now?) present, and Scotty, too. I liked Scotty's
reassurances to Duffy a lot.
As expected, I liked the Deep Space Nine story a lot. Cold Fusion takes
place between Avatar Part II and
Abyss, that is, after the fusion core
of DS9 was ejected, when Nog and the SCE team tried to gather spare
parts from Empok Nor.
The main plot of this story involves another SCE back-story, in which the
da Vinci crew tangled with Biron of the Androssi a while back, and beat
the guy. He is out for revenge, and he tries to take it out on them at
Empok Nor. The Androssi have advanced dimension-shifting technology,
which they have adapted to Empok Nor, and which they hide in another
dimension when the SCE team beats them again. I expect to see Biron
again at some point, either on SCE or DS9.
The plot was not my primary interest, however, as the character work
was superb, especially when dealing with the only DS9 character in this
story: Nog. Nog was treated as an outsider from the moment he arrived,
patronized by Duffy and Stevens (who used to work on DS9 at one point),
and generally ignored. Nog stands by incredulous as the SCE team bounces
ideas back and forth on how to regain control of their communication
badges for transport through the Androssi disruptors, knowing that the
simple solution is to send Nog back to the da Vinci for some new ones.
Nog is definitely the clearest thinker of the bunch, probably because he
was not bred as an engineer, and the da Vinci crew tends to over-think
so many issues!
They over think the solution to get the fusion core to DS9, as well,
although Nog out-does them all by suggesting that they tow Empok Nor to
Bajoran space as a spare-parts depot. He gets to talk with Scotty, as
well, congratulating him for his audacious plan, and laughing when Nog
tells him that nine ships will be enough, even though he requested
twelve! Nog plays by Scotty's rules.
Of course, I knew the outcome of the story before it started, as the
first chapter of Abyss gives us the surprise on Kira's face when
presented with this unusual gift. From the da Vinci's point of view,
they take off knowing that Empok Nor is in good hands, after receiving a
distress call from Sonya Gomez, who is on a mission in a distant sector
Gomez is on a Nalori planet trying to fix a behind-schedule mass
accelerator in Invincible, parts 1 and 2. The first part of this story
was very interesting in a technical way. It contained a true engineering
nightmare, in that the people had no idea what they were doing. They
weren't even running the diagnostics on their load lifters properly, and
so couldn't keep anything working. The people wouldn't work on projects
that they didn't like, and feared a monster that was supposed to be
lurking around killing anyone who landed on the planet.
The planet itself was crystaline, with silicone-based life that was
quite tame, except for the monster. Phasers and tricorders didn't work
properly because of all the scattering due to the crystals, which I
gather were the commodity being mined and accelerated into orbit.
Gomez did a great job at getting the project back on schedule (or
nearly so), and I quite enjoyed the first part of the story. The second
part turned into a hunt, and the effect of finding two of the monsters
had on the Nalori at the project base camp. This was interesting in a
different way, especially given the first person perspective. The
technical and personal logs of Gomez, combined with the letters home of
a couple of other main characters, allowed their emotions to show
through, from frustration, elation, joy, fear and sadness. The first
person perspective was also my main complaint, although at times it
sounded more like a third person narrative, which begs the question of
what the difference was. The letters of the native Nalori were a good
idea, as they broke up the monologues that Gomez gave.
The two creatures that attacked the camp were mechanical companions
from some alien explorers, who survived by eating cranial matter, which
explains why the creatures' caves were so full of skulls. I wouldn't
want to come across these aliens anytime, as they don't seem to
discriminate between animals and intelligent beings. I can't explain why
they didn't show up until Gomez had been there for a while, when the
project had been going for some time. Suddenly the creatures are
attacking, and the attacks become more frequent.
Still, the point of the story was how Gomez handled it all, and she
did a good job, and it was very to watch her go through those problems.
She became a saviour to the people there when she killed the first
creature with her sonic rifle, though she berates herself for allowing
it to be killed before talking to it. She tries to reason with the
second creature, but is forced to kill it when it refuses to listen. She
and the only remaining member of the construction project use the
completed accelerator to send the creature into space. The rest of the
project members were either killed by the creatures or managed to
activate the marooned starship and leave while Gomez was away from camp.
Of course, days later, the da Vinci arrives, too late to be of any
This was the first story from the point of view of a single member of
the da Vinci crew, isolated, and it worked quite well. Combine that with
a great DS9 story, and the adequate conclusion to the Interphase story,
and this was a good collection. I think I would like more two-part
stories, as they therefore become longer, meaning that fewer stories
appear in a single collection. It then becomes more coherent, and closer
to the novel form that I prefer. I will definitely continue to read this
series of stories.