Why did it take 20 parts until SCE finally picked up speed, to actually get to the heart of it?!? What KRAD began in War Stories, is continued here: the SCE finally gets a living and breathing soul.
The daVinci is called for a rescue mission. The USS Orion launched a testrun of a device called "Wildfire" in the atmosphere of a gas giant which could change the fate of star (like the Genesis device did for planets), but something went wrong, and the Orion no longer replies to calls. At least the Wildfire-device should be salvaged since it could be used for more devious purposes. The team find the Orion derelict in the gas giant's atmosphere, and the Wildfire device primed for detonation - but before it can be disarmed, pretty much everything in the salvage operation goes wrong... and the daVinci itself faces destruction, and the crew certain death.
This was Mack's first solo work in Star Trek - and possibly, this is what he had envisioned for "Starship Down", the episode he wrote for DS9 and that this story is frequently referring to... and even back as a novice TrekLit-writer he knew how to shake up a series (although he went on to greater dimensions in later works). Interestingly, whereas he concentrates on the action later on, here he focuses on the personal stories, relationships, courage & heroism, and duty & self-reflection, which works astonishingly well. And I have to admit that I got a lump in my throat in part 2, quite a few times actually, yet it's strange that Gomez's reaction didn't move me half as much as Stevens's. But maybe that's going to change once I've read the aftermath-stories to come - and there's no doubt, that I'll continue with this series now. I simply can't stop here, hanging on the edge of grief and despair, without any of the emotional gratification of a good "what happens next". Well done, Mack.
I also appreciated the fact that the main character's death in this novel is a final one. We have a body that's been declared dead - so I'll expect consequences in the next stories (that have already been hinted at here).
Just a couple of factual nitpicks (which threw me out of the very emotional last chapter just a tiny bit):
A victim dying of suffocation due to CO2 intoxication without any outward pressure like strangulation etc. won't show any petechial bleedings on the face/sclera - simply because petechia are caused by the venous flow being interrupted while the arterial flow's still pumping blood into the tissue. And if there's no blockage in the venous system, there won't be any petechia.
And modern CPR uses a 30:2 rhythm (compression:breathing) regardless of the cause of the cardiac arrest, not 8:1 like it was described here - though, of course, since this was a case of CPR given pro forma, let's not be too strict about that.