After picking up an old distress call, the crew of the Enterprise-D searches for possible survivors, which leads them to a Jovian planet with an orbital elevator and an adventure for Geordi La Forge among the clouds.
Following my two appearances in the Strange New Worlds anthologies, editor Marco Palmieiri invited me to pitch for this twentieth-anniversary anthology for The Next Generation. My original pitch featured Riker, but Marco already had a Riker pitch and asked if my story could center on La Forge instead. He barely got the entire question out of his mouth before I was wholeheartedly saying yes; it was immediately obvious to me that it made more sense as a La Forge story and would be improved by the POV switch. Years later I was able to give a signed copy to LeVar Burton, and then to Marina Sirtis and Michael Dorn as well, since Troi and Worf were on the away mission with La Forge—at least to begin with. The excerpt below is the opening of the story.
Among the Clouds
Geordi, behind you! Worfs urgent shout seemed to echo inside the helmet of La Forges environmental suit. It was not something you expected to hear while aboard an orbital elevator stopped in the lower stratosphere of a Jovian planet. La Forge adjusted his precarious position atop the elevators drive unit, several pairs of powered rollers on both sides of the support tether. The relatively thin ribbon stretched hundreds of kilometers up into space and down into Askarias mostly hydrogen atmosphere. Extending from the drive unit on one side of the tether was an oval passenger platform with twenty seats, while an aerodynamic stabilizer and counterweight extended from the other side. Billowing ammonia ice clouds, red with sulfur compounds, prevailed at this altitude, but La Forge had no trouble seeing the danger. Just a dozen meters away, a swarm of hundreds of scarflike creatures, some more than three meters long, undulated toward the away team. Railings around the platform and lap belts on the seats were the lifts only safety features. Worf and Deanna Troi remained belted in, but La Forge, placing a communication relay, was perched a few meters above the railings, his safety line bonded to the tether by phased molecular adhesion. If they had not had a couple hundred kilometers of bone-crushingly dense atmosphere below them, La Forge would have found it difficult to be concerned about the approaching life-forms. . . .
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