Planet Hyde

This tale is called “Planet Hyde.” Number One suspects her old
Academy nemesis to be allowing Federation governments to illegally dump
their criminals on a notoriously vicious planet.
Walt

Planet Hyde by Walter
Chmara(wchmara@juno.com)

The Tellarite prison ship descended to the surface of the world
it had been orbiting. As it sank through the cloud cover, the pilot
struggled to keep the vessel steady from the evil that assaulted it from
the outside.
“This run always gives me indigestion,” belched the pig-faced
creature to itself.
The captain, of course, was never interested in those kind of remarks.
“Just do your job.”
The pilot grunted affirmatively. The ship was now hovering over an ocean,
making its steady way toward a land mass. The pilot thought that this
world, given a proper chance, could have been a nice place. If only. The
ship was now five hundred thousand meters above the landing site, and
dead still. The pilot initiated the automated unloading procedure.
Roughly three hundred convicted criminals were beamed onto the landing
site, all at once. The lights on the bridge dimmed during the procedure
and the pilot could almost feel the weight of the ship lessen as the
cargo was disposed of. An indicator on his screen said that the prison
deck was now devoid of life, and the lighting returned to full intensity.
Naturally, it was now all *down there*.
“The prison deck is clear, Captain.”
“Then get us the *greblek* out of here.”
“Immediately, Captain.”
The pilot could have called up an image of what was going on below them.
He made that mistake once on his very first run here — and threw up all
over the controls. This was his twenty-third flight to this world, and
never again did he want to look at anything like that a second time. He
pointed the ship’s nose up and set the engines to full thrust.
Still, those…things…in the clouds were able to scrape the hull so
loudly, the pilot felt as though he would wet his pants if it didn’t stop
soon. Mercifully, it did, as the ship emerged into space once more.
Before they could return to Tellar, they were required to circle the sun
at near-danger proximity in order to sterilize the hull. Despite this,
they could still expect a thorough inspection at the furthestmost fringes
of their own solar system. The Tellarites were extremely frightened of
contaminating their home planet with anything from the planet Hyde. So
they wisely took every precaution to see that that wouldn’t happen.

Christopher Pike called a meeting of his department heads in the briefing
room of the *Enterprise*. Present were: Number One, his female
second-in-command from the planet Ilyria; Lieutenant Spock, his
half-Vulcan science officer; Chief Engineer Caitlin Barry; CMO Philip
Boyce; and Commander Alexei Orloff, security chief.
:I’ve called you all here to discuss our current assignment,” explained
Pike. “In order to bring you up to speed, I’ve asked Number One to
prepare a presentation for you on the planet that is our destination.” He
gave her a look which wordlessly told her to take it from there.
The three-sided viewscreen in the center of the table came to life with
an image of what looked like your run-of-the-mill class-M planet,
complete with wide rolling oceans, continents, and swirls of white clouds
“Planet Hyde, named for one of the fictitious characters in a Robert
Louis Stevenson novel, is the third planet of the star Axanar, which
boasts three planets. Axanar One, you may recall, supports a rather
primitive humanoid culture which allied itself to the Klingon Empire
during the Four Years War of the 2240’s. Efforts by the Klingons to
construct a base there resulted in a blockade of the entire system by
Captain Garth of the USS Republic. Since then, the system has been a
hotbed of political intrigue…until today. Its official status is
neutral, though sympathies still run high among most of the population,
in favor of the Klingons.
“As a result of this neutrality, scientific outcasts from many
neighboring star systems, including ours, have gravitated to Axanar Three
to practice what they call ‘Freedom of Experimentation,’ that is, the
uninhibited pursuit of discovery without regard to any possible
consequences.”
Boyce was nodding his gray head emphatically to that last part. “I’ve
known a few of those so-called scientists. They’re arrogant anarchists.
To them, the concept of something being just absolutely wrong is beyond
their comprehension. They have no patience with, or tolerance for,
anybody who has a conscience and plays by the rules. I was once enticed
to run off to Axanar like it was some kind of intellectual Woodstock, or
some such nonsense. I said no thanks.”
Spock raised an eyebrow. “Woodstock, sir? I do not believe I have ever
come across such a term.”
“That doesn’t surprise me, Lieutenant. Back in Earth’s twentieth century,
a war-weary segment of the population gave in to mass public displays of
absolute insanity in the name of peace and brotherhood. Just one of the
many wild pendulum swings from one extreme to the other with our history
is replete with, unfortunately.It’s not something any human with any
intelligence is likely to brag about.”
“Be that as it may,” continued Number One. “Axanar Three was an
unparalleled success in the science of terraforming. One of the
by-products of this ‘intellectual Woodstock’ is a new substance called
protomatter, which could have far-reaching implications to science. But I
digress. The point is, Axanar Three not only became a class-M planet, it
became *ultra* class-M, for lack of a better term. Apparently, lifeforms
specifically created there have ‘gone crazy,’ evolutionarily speaking.
One can literally watch Darwin’s theories play out by the minute. In
fact, because life keeps changing and adapting there so quickly,
observers have given up on trying to keep up with it. The planet had
become viciously dangerous to humanoids and other visitors. Hence the
name, ‘Planet Hyde’.”
Number One shifted the view to a close-up of the surface. She zoomed in
on a commotion going on in one corner of the picture. Two unfamiliar
creatures were locked in a life and death struggle. The larger sunk its
teeth into the smaller and thrashed it around. An explosion blew away the
larger one’s jaws, causing the smaller one to drop to the ground, missing
a chunk of itself.
Now it was the larger one’s turn to thrash in pain. The little one
attacked its throat. Something swooped down from the air and snatched up
the little one with dozens of lengthy talons. The little one continued to
emit explosions while being carried off, all to no avail. The larger, now
jawless, rolled into a tree. The tree pulled its roots out of the ground,
ensnared the beast with them, and buried it alive beneath itself,
presumably to digest it.
Meanwhile, what looked like a leathery ball rolled onto the scene. It
ripped itself open, emptying a mass of smaller balls which instantly
turned on their mother until there was nothing left of her, then they
rolled off in separate directions.
The crewmates watched in openmouthed horror and fascination as scene
after scene like this presented itself to them. Mercifully, Number One
switched the viewer off once the point was adequately made.
“And we’re *going* to this place?” asked Barry, eyes threatening to pop
out of her head.
“I’m afraid so,” stated Pike, in a tone of voice that was absolutely
no-nonsense. “UESPA has reason to believe that certain Federation members
may be using this world as a dumping ground for undesirables. Criminals,
political prisoners, and the like. Our job is going to be to catch them
at it to get hard evidence.”
“Doesn’t General Order One protect their right to do so, no matter how
personally repulsive we may find it?” Barry wanted to know.
“Correct,” nodded Spock. “However, treaties have been ratified between
most Federation signatories guaranteeing citizens of the Federation
inalienable sentient rights, among them, protection from unusually cruel
punishments. Should a signatory government be found in violation of said
treaty, that planet stands to be expelled.”
“Sir, I’m confused about something,” Orloff said. “As far as I know,
Garth’s blockade of the Axanar system still stands. How does, say, a
Terran ship run that blockade without leaving any tangible evidence of
having done so?”
“A very interesting question, Mister Orloff,” Pike nodded. “I must admit
that it confuses me, too. Wouldn’t it be nice to find that out? Frankly,
I question sending an obvious Federation vessel, like this one, to
investigate. Axanar is already politically hostile to us. Hyde, itself,
is a place I would hesitate to allow anyone under my command to set foot
upon. And if UESPA people patrolling outside the system are corrupt,
they sure as hell aren’t going to make it easy for us to prove anything.”
“Amen,” added Boyce.
“But, we are under orders, so we’ll obey them,” Pike continued. “Before
we get there, I want to hear everyone’s thoughts on how to approach this
situation.”
The discussion in the briefing room went on for hours.

Somewhere outside the fringes of the Axanar system, aboard a Federation
destroyer, the routine of the Axanar patrol was disrupted by a signal for
help.
“What is it?” asked Captain Demos Takuliar.
“Reads as a Federation shuttlecraft, sir,” answered the Centaurian
lieutenant at the Command Intelligence station on the bridge. “Seven
humanoid lifeforms aboard. Minimal life support.”
“I’ve got them on audio, sir!” hooted the communications officer.
“Let’s hear ’em,” ordered Takuliar.
They could hear the sizzle of frying electronics in the background before
they heard a woman’s voice, which made the Centaurian science officer sit
up and take notice.
“…shuttlecraft *Galileo*. We are losing power! There are seven of us
aboard. Is there anyone out there?”
Takuliar switched the gooseneck pickup to extracraft address. “*Galileo*,
this is the USS *Jenghiz*, NCC-501, on blockade patrol of Axanar, Captain
Takuliar speaking. Please explain your presence here.”
“Tak? Is that you? This is Number One, from the *Enterprise*. Our ship
was attacked by an unknown enemy. We’re one of several evacuation
parties. We’ve taken some damage ourselves. Can you help us, Tak?”
“Sit tight, *Galileo*. Help is on the way.” Takuliar muted the mike,
giving his science officer a worried look. “Bekk, you recognize that
woman’s voice?”
“Aye, sir. She sounds exactly like the voice of our computer!”
“That’s no accident,” chuckled Takuliar. “UESPA decided to make her voice
the starship computer standard. The last time I met her, she had an A-6
computer classification. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that
*that’s* improved by now. Bekk, she is probably the most dangerous woman
we could allow on board this ship.”
Bekk swallowed hard. “Shall I ready photon torpedoes?”
Takuliar shook his head. “Much as it is warranted, I think we’d be better
off rescuing them. Contingency Able. We’ve spent months planning
countermeasures against outsiders in our midst. Those measures are gonna
get a real workout with her aboard. If we kill them now, that could come
back to haunt us before we’re ready. But once they’re among us, we can
judge whether or not they’re on to us. If so, no one can blame us if her
curiosity caused her to disobey orders and visit Hyde, eh?”
Everyone on the bridge grinned evilly.

“So, it’s Takuliar’s ship we get,” murmured Number One, looking up at the
ceiling of the shuttlecraft with a smirk.
There was a one in three chance of their “disabled” shuttlecraft being
aided by the *Jenghiz*. The other two ships assigned to patrol Axanar
were the *Alexander* and the *Bridger*. Those would be approached by
other teams of *Enterprise* “survivors”.
“You are familiar with Captain Takuliar?” asked Spock.
“Oh, yes. Very. He was in my graduating class at the Academy. We’ve
crossed paths since then, several times. He’s quite…a character.”
“Sounds like you’re putting it mildly,” grinned Jose Tyler. “Joe” to his
friends, Jose always enjoyed a chance to get away from the navigator’s
console on the bridge to participate in any adventure that came up. Truth
to tell, he wasn’t very mechanically inclined at all. Although a
brilliant mathematician and space theorist, he was convinced that all
machines had something against him.
“I am,” retorted Number One, frowning. “I almost hope that there is a
conspiracy, and that he’s the one behind it. It would be so poetic if I
could be the one to put him in the brig.”
“Why’s that?” persisted Tyler.
“If you must know, it’s because he’s an irritant. He’s an
envelope-pusher, someone who delights in seeing just how far he can get
away with something, and remain legal. I can think of three different
Federation laws that had to be rewritten because of him. He’s slick.”
“Wha’ sorta laws, if ye dinna mind me askin’, Lieutenant?” queried
Montgomery Scott, one of the new engineers of the *Enterpise*. “Scotty”
was assigned to this team to render technical assistance if the need
arose.
Before Number One could answer, Takuliar’s voice once again issued from
the subspace radio set. “*Galileo*, this is *Jenghiz*. As you may know,
this vessel is a destroyer, so consequently, we have no hangar facilities
for craft such as yours. I’m afraid you’re just going to have to abandon
it. Prepare for transport.”
Number One hurriedly set the warning beacon that would be triggered by
proximity, so that anyone boarding the empty shuttlecraft would have to
transmit a disarming code first, or *Galileo* would self-destruct. No
sooner had she done this, the dissolving effect took all seven of them
from their seats.
They re-solidified in sitting positions within one of the *Jenghiz*’s
transporter rooms, flopping down on their backsides when the effect
cleared. Only six of them were here, though, since that was the maximum
amount of personnel a single transporter room could handle at a time.
Number One notice that Mister Scott was the missing man.
Scotty fell painfully on his hind quarters on a platform in a transporter
room across the corridor. He was still rubbing it and cursing in Scottish
when he met with the others out in the corridor. The whole group was
herded to sickbay for the mandatory exam.
“It shouldna be too difficult to modify the bletheren thing to
materialize ye in a standin’ position!” he grumbled to the group in
general. “First chance Ah get, Ah’ll see to *tha’*”
The medical exam was a standard procedure. No one among the team noticed
anything amiss there. The CMO was a likable sort, a woman by the name of
Marris, who proclaimed them all fit, buttock bruises and all.
>From there, they moved into the *Jenghiz* briefing room, where Takuliar
and his science officer awaited them. Gingerly, they sat down along the
opposite side of the table as Takuliar and Bekk stood up.
Spock noted that this table still hadn’t been outfitted with a new style
tabletop triscreen viewer, such as had already been installed on the
*Enterprise*. The old bulkhead screen was still in use here. Spock knew
this was odd, but didn’t mention it aloud, since he knew he wasn’t the
only one to notice. He hoped no one else would call attention to this,
particularly Tyler, who was often given to stating the obvious. The last
thing any of them wanted was to give the *Jenghiz* crew any impression of
themselves other than survivors of an attack on a starship.
What made the lack of a new viewer strange was that this was a fleetwide
modification ordered to be made two years ago. Any competent engineer
could follow the specs transmitted to all ships and make the mod. In
Spock’s mind, there were only three possibilities. One, this ship had not
received the transmission. Two, the captain held off on ordering the mod.
Illogical, but Takuliar was human and that had to be taken into account.
Three, the engineers on this ship hadn’t gotten around to it.
Extraordinary, to say the least, requiring an extraordinary explanation.
“Hey!” said Tyler. “Didn’t you people know you’re supposed to be using
tabletop viewscreens, now?”
If Spock had been fully human, he might not have been able to resist
slapping himself on the forehead.
“Our people are preoccupied with our current assignment, Lieutenant,”
responded Takuliar easily, taking a seat at the table along with Bekk.
“My name is Demos Tekuliar, captain of the good ship *Jenghiz*, and this
is my science officer, Arnolk Bekk. I’m familiar with Lieutenant One, but
I’d like the rest of you to identify yourselves so I won’t have to point
or say ‘Hey, you,’ okay?” Takuliar’s gaze fell over Spock first.
“Spock, Lieutenant. Serial number S 179-276 SP. Science officer, USS
*Enterprise*.”
“Very good, Mister Spock, but your rank and serial number are not
required at this moment. You, sir?”
“Alexei Orloff, security officer, USS *Enterprise*.”
“Doctor Philip Boyce, chief medical officer, *Enterprise*.”
“Caitlin Barry, chief engineer, *Enterprise*.”
“Montgomery Scott, sir, assistant engineer.”
Takuliar nodded his greetings to each, then turned his gaze to Tyler.
“And the observant one?”
“Jose Tyler, sir. Navigator, *Enterprise*. My friends call me ‘Joe,’
sir.”
“Pleased to meet you, Mister Tyler,” Takuliar suppressed a grin at how
quickly Tyler’s stupid grin fell. “Number One, would you kindly relate to
me in your best detail what happened to your ship?”
“It was, as I said, an attack,” she began. “A vessel we’ve never
encountered before. They ignored our hails, opened fire, and damaged our
shield network. Captain Pike ordered all hands to abandon ship. The bulk
of our crew were jettisoned in escape pods, the command crew remained
until the captain ordered us into shuttlecraft. There were seven
launched, including ourselves. We were the last ones out. The captain was
to pilot the next one out, when the shuttle’s sensors picked up a huge
explosion behind us. I’m certain it was the ship.”
“Terrible,” tisk-tisked Takuliar, shaking his head sympathetically. “You
don’t even know if he made it?”
“No, sir.”
“Seems to me that a heavy cruiser blowing up in this sector would have
been picked up by us in some way, don’t you think, Mister Bekk?” Takuliar
looked to his science officer.
“We received no distress calls, and no sensor data of any explosions,
sir,” answered Bekk, in a suspicious tone of voice.
“Our communications system was out, sir,” Number One insisted. “And I’m
telling you our ship was destroyed, regardless of what your sensors
failed to report. Perhaps they are also two years behind in maintenance?”
“Maybe,” chuckled Takuliar. “Mister Spock, you are a Vulcanian?”
“That is correct, sir.”
“I’ve heard that your people consider lying to be an unpardonable
disgrace. Is this true?”
“It is, sir.”
“Is your superior officer lying to me?”
The *Enterprise* personnel hadn’t expected this. They had known Spock
long enough to understand one thing about him; he was no liar. His
honesty was often brutal, and in situations like this, quite dangerous.
Spock reasoned thusly: Takuliar hadn’t specified to *which* superior
officer he was referring. He had quite a few and most of them were not
present. The ratio was hundreds of thousands to one, and since Spock
always strove to base his analyses on probability, his answer could only
be…
“Negative, Captain.”
The crew were silently relieved, but each made a mental note to confront
Spock about it later. They were convinced he must have come up with a
doozy of a logical loophole.
“Then you are saying that you agree that the *Enterprise* has been
destroyed?”
“Without question, sir. Utterly.” Spock would explain later, if asked,
that once again Takuliar did not specify to which *Enterprise* he was
referring. The name was used by a number of previous Earth vessels. The
last ship to bear the name was a starliner with hoop-shaped warp drive,
which was indeed destroyed by terrorists during her final journey.
That seemed good enough for Takuliar. If the Vulcanian said so, it was
pointless to cross-examine the others. He came to a decision, even though
he still had doubts. “I’ll send your story to Starbase One and wait for
their reply. In the meantime, Mister Bekk will show you to our guest
quarters. Until we hear from Starbase One, our mission will proceed
unchanged. Dismissed.”

Barry was paired off with Number One in a stateroom on deck six. Boyce
and Tyler had the one next door. Orloff and Spock had the one past that.
Scotty, once again odd man out, was given quarters on the other side of
the saucer, all to himself, much to his ceaseless muttering.

“Kzinti police vessel to starboard,” announced Bekk on the bridge.
“Hail them,” ordered Takuliar.
The image of the saucerlike vessel which had presented itself on the
screen was replaced by the furry face of one of the Kzin.
“Ah, Shank-Captain!” Takuliar said in recognition. “I was hoping it would
be you.”
“And why would that be, human?” growled the face.
“Because we both know what cargo you carry to Axanar. I’m assuming, of
course, that you need once more to cross the blockade?”
“Just cut the crap and tell me what you what this time,” snarled Shank.
“You carry a telepath among your crew, do you not?”
“You want him?”
“Temporarily. I’ll give him back once he tells me what certain humans
among my crew are thinking.”
Shank bellowed to someone off-screen. “Get Telepath! Prepare him for
transport to the human ship!”
“Much obliged, Shank-Captain,” Takuliar saluted him. “This shouldn’t take
too long.”
Shank only gave him a dirty look and growled.
Soon, a catlike form began to materialize on the bridge. It solidified
into an orange felinoid who looked like death warmed over. His wide eyes
darted all about the strange surroundings, then he whimpered like a
child. That angered Shank , who was still on the screen.
“For M’Vover’s sake, show some backbone! I swear, if you didn’t have your
talent, I’d let them *keep* you whether they want you or not!”
“Take it easy, buddy,” Takuliar rose from the center seat to give the
visitor a pat on the back. “I just need you to verify something for me,
then you’ll be back with your friends.”
The telepath gulped, then followed Takuliar into the turbolift.
Security informed Takuliar that his subjects had moved into the mess
hall. He took the telepath there, cautioning him that if anybody asked,
he was to say he was a Caitian visitor, nothing more.
The *Enterprise* crew were seated around a far table, eating and
discussing something amongst themselves in low tones when the two of them
entered.
“That’s them,” Takuliar whispered. “All I want to know is what each one
is thinking.”
“But one of them is Vulcanian!” the Kzin whined.
“Shush! Keep it down! He is also the most likely to hear you.”
“You don’t understand. Vulcanians are vegetarians. If I probe his mind, I
swear I’ll vomit on your deck!”
:Okay, okay. Try the dark-haired female, instead.”
“Female? We don’t read females! Are you mad?”
“*All right, then pick a male! Geez! Shank was right about you!*”
The telepath concentrated. “The one called Scott is thinking about what a
rotten day he’s been having since he woke up this morning…”
Takuliar shook his head. “Try another. Try Tyler.”
The telepath’s eyes rolled upward and he nearly turned green. “Awrrr, no!
He’s eating a…a…”
Takuliar noticed Tyler was happily munching on a slice of mushroom pizza.
“Oh, Geez! Concentrate on Orloff.”
The telepath seemed to regain his strength. “Orloff is thinking about how
great it would be if they could catch you in the act of allowing a vessel
to pass the blockade, especially to dump prisoners on Hyde. The one
called Boyce wants to personally strangle you if you’ve been allowing
this.”
“Bingo.”
Later, the Kzinti police ship was allowed to pass the *Jenghiz*
unhindered, once the telepath was beamed back on board.

“You were right,” said Number One to Lieutenant Spock, as the two of them
witnessed the breach of orders on a computer screen in her quarters. With
technical assistance from Barry and Scott, they had reprogrammed it to
allow secret tapping of restricted data. “That *was* a Kzin Tak was
speaking with in the messroom. That is definitely a Kzinti police ship
heading for Hyde.”
Tyler had gone to see if he could pump anybody for information — without
seeming to obvious about it, as per Spock’s instructions. Boyce was doing
the same with Doctor Marris.
Orloff had proclaimed the room free of listening devices. He’d informed
everyone that *Jenghiz* security people were keeping a close watch on
their activities. Currently, he was posted outside to make sure nobody
would burst in unannounced on Number One and Spock.
“No doubt with a cargo of ‘undesirables’ to unload upon the surface,”
added Spock.
“So,” she surmised, tightlipped, “Tak *is* the hole in the blockade.”
“This ship may not necessarily be the only one compromised.”
“True. We have to make copies of as much incriminating evidence as we can
find.”
Both she and Barry had been outfitted with special earrings for this
mission. The left one was a homing device which could be activated with a
squeeze. The *Enterprise* would be able to pick up its signal from a
parsec away. The right one was a miniature recording device which could
digitally store up to a day’s worth of audio and video, if run
continuously.
“He may have been too clever to keep those records. His people may, even
as we speak, be deleting this latest transgression from the records.”
“You don’t know Tak the way I do, Spock. He *has* those records
somewhere. He’ll need them when the statute of limitations runs out, so
that he can proudly wave them in UESPA’s collective face. And they won’t
be able to touch him then, because it’ll be against the law. So typical.
I just wish there was something we could do to help those poor devils in
the police ship before they become monster food.”
“We could, but it would put our mission in considerable jeopardy.”
She looked at him knowingly. “You mean tap into weapons control from here
and disable that ship? Spock , that is so tempting, but we’d be
discovered in an instant. Unless…”
“Unless?” prompted Spock.
“Unless the moment is prepared for,” she finished while manually altering
a minute portion of the *Jenghiz* computer’s software. “There. If they
try a trace, they’ll think it came from someplace else.”

Captain! My board indicates that our portside laser cannons have fired!”
cried the helmsman on the bridge.
Takuliar jumped from his seat. “What was the target…as if I already
didn’t know?”
“Shank’s ship, sir. The drive room, direct hit. They’re drifting.”
“Trace the command that did that,” ordered Takuliar through his teeth.
Bekk had the answer almost immediately. “The command came from the
auxiliary bridge, sir.”
“Send an armed security detail down there. And to save time, tell them to
round up our guests and put them in the brig, too.”
:Aye, sir.”
“Sir,” interrupted the comm officer. “Shank-Captain is hailing us.”
“Naturally,” muttered Takuliar. “Put him on.”

All seven of the *Enterprise* people waited behind the forcefield of one
of the cells on the security detention area until Takuliar decided to
show up. By pretending to scratch their earlobes, the women activated
their right earrings.
“Tak!” Number One said. “What’s the meaning of this? What –”
“Stow it, Lieutenant. I know why you’re really here, and you know my
little secret, too. Too bad; I’ve always liked sparring with you. But now
you’ve crossed that line which threatens my future, not to mention the
future of my crew. Until this stunt you pulled, I was actually
entertaining the idea of letting you go, no matter what your suspicions
were. As long as you had no substantial proof against me, you were no
threat to me. But I just had an extremely difficult time with the captain
of that police vessel you disabled, so now I’m forced to tow him to Hyde
so he can unload his cargo. At the same time, my engineers are working to
put his ship back to rights, once again. What do you think you’ve
accomplished? If you wanted to save those poor souls, let me tell you
something. All you’ve done is give them a short-lived reprieve. Not only
are they going to Hyde, but so are all seven of you.”
“You’ll never get away with this!” shouted Tyler.
“And why not? I have the complete loyalty of my crew. We’ve been
accumulating fat payoffs for years. Re-enlistment time is coming up for
most of us, and we plan to just retire early and live big off our bribes.
Some other bunch of dopes will take over this ship and play it by the
rules, and that’s just fine with me. When all this blows over, who knows?
I may re-up for the pension benefits. Maybe take a desk job at some quiet
starbase. Or maybe join the merchant marine service. I hear they take all
kinds, no questions asked. Meanwhile, you good little by-the-book types
will just end up as fertilizer on the surface of Hyde.”
“Oh?” Number One folded her arms. “How do you intend to explain our
disappearance?”
Both she and Barry “scratched” their left ears.
“We’ve been lugging your shuttlecraft behind us ever since we beamed you
aboard. We intend to let her crash somewhere on Hyde, them beam you to
that vicinity. To anyone foolish enough to investigate, it’ll look like
you lost control, crashed, and were devoured by the native lifeforms. We
will deny ever having seen you.” Takuliar grinned. “It must’ve happened
during that little problem we were having with our sensors…”
“How did something like you ever rise to the command of a destroyer-class
ship?” Boyce wondered aloud.
“By knowing what to kiss and when, Doctor.”

“I don’t like it,” muttered Bekk when Takuliar returned to the bridge.
Bekk was referring to what was presently on the main viewer. Hyde filled
the left side of the screen, while a tiny smudge appeared to the right of
it.
“What is that?” asked Takuliar, pointing to it.
“Sensors say a comet.”
“So, what’s not to like?”
“There shouldn’t be one here and now.”
“What makes you say that?”
Bekk made a wry face. “How long have we been patrolling this system?
There’s not much else for a science officer to do on blockade duty, other
than keep track of incidental phenomena. There’s no comet due here for at
least seven months. sir.”
“Could it be a rogue?”
“That’s the only explanation that comes to mind.”
Takuliar made a decision. “Study it later. Keep your eyes peeled for
suspicious space vehicles. If one hails us, Contingency Baker.”
“Aye, sir.”

The *Jenghiz*, the Kzinti ship, and the *Galileo* achieved orbital status
about Hyde. Because of the high concentration of living organisms in the
upper atmosphere, a transporter beam would only reflect off, leaving dead
bodies floating around in space. The covert illegal act could only be
accomplished by a vessel which could dive below that layer, and so far,
the police ship was still under repair. Takuliar didn’t want to dip the
*Jenghiz* into that vicious soup unless it was absolutely necessary. And,
in this case, it wasn’t. As long as the Kzin were dead set on going, they
could just as easily take the *Enterprise* spies with them.
And Shank-Captain wanted them badly for the trouble they caused. Takuliar
beamed them over, once he had Shank’s word that they would not be used as
food by the Kzin.
“I know human flesh is a delicacy among you guys, and the last thing I
need is for you to get sloppy after lunchtime. When you come back out of
the atmosphere, our sensors better not show any human DNA aboard your
ship, or I swear I’ll space you,” Takuliar had warned.
While the *Jenghiz* crew waited, Bekk sent a sensor probe to take a look
at the comet’s far side. It was large enough to hide a vessel and Bekk’s
nerves would not be pacified until he knew for a fact that it didn’t.
Among the elements being spewed out by the comet was the barest hint of
trititanium. Takuliar knew that this was the primary ingredient in
starships, but he still insisted that didn’t mean anything.
Bekk didn’t like the comet’s trajectory, either. It was moving in the
opposite direction in relation to everything else which circled the star,
and it was moving closer by the minute.

“Shank-Captain,” reported Hzar-Lieutenant to his superior aboard the
police craft. “Human prisoners have been secured in the same cell as the
Kzinti trash. The human engineers have been returned to *Jenghiz*. Our
engineer reports worthiness to enter Hyde’s atmosphere.”
“Very well,” answered Shank, wiping a trickle of drool from the side of
his face. *If my crew couldn’t taste human meat, at least the trash that
was about to die could have a surprise last meal.* “Put Takuliar back on
screen.”
When Takuliar’s face reappeared, Shank told him all systems were go for
planet dive, and that he could send the shuttle to its final resting
place at any time. The police vessel would follow it down.
The seven from the *Galileo* were thrown into a cell with seven Kzin, who
looked even meaner and nastier than the ones which ran the ship. Tyler
wouldn’t have thought it possible. Two Kzin prisoners bared their fangs,
snarling at the humans, but a third caused the other two to back down.
“Understand,” he informed them. “These humans are here because of their
efforts on our behalf. If any of you want them, you must go through
*me*!”
“they will die with us anyway,” growled one of the two. “Why should it
matter to you whether they end up in our stomachs or some mutant’s?”
“Yes,” agreed the other. “My grandfather said they taste like chicken.
What would it hurt to just try a leg?”
“I’ve already spoken,” said their defender, thrusting his chin out in
challenge. They all retreated to separate corners.

“Send *Galileo* down,” ordered Takuliar.
Bekk transmitted the control codes. Everyone on the bridge watched the
shuttle pass them on the port side, heading straight for Hyde.
*Galileo’s* path suddenly shifted to starboard, *away* from the planet
and *toward* the comet, much to the gasping astonishment of the bridge
crew.
“What are you doing?” demanded the captain.
“Our control signal has been overridden, sir!” cried Bekk.
“By *whom*?”
As if in answer, the gaseous cloud around the “comet” dissipated to
nothingness, revealing the proud outline of a Federation heavy cruiser.
Takuliar blanched, rising out of his seat.
“*Enterprise*,” was all he said.
The comm officer put a hand to his earpiece, “Sir, Captain Pike is
hailing us.”
Takuliar swallowed hard before he sat back down He’d been in trouble many
times before in his life, but it was always a controlled kind of trouble.
The kind that he was always able to pull his own butt out of when the
time came. This was the first time he actually had to fight a strong urge
to go running off to the head.
How much of his communications with the Kzin had been monitored and
recorded? How was he going to explain diverting *Jenghiz* from the patrol
route to Hyde? Or what he was doing with the empty *Galileo* and with her
crew, who were currently inside a Kzinti police craft? The retirements of
him and his crew were suddenly going down in flames. It was time to do
something desperate.
“Sir?” asked the comm officer.
“Contingency Baker, sir?” asked Bekk.
“Helm,” replied the captain. “Target Kzin vessel with photon torpedoes.
Wait for my mark to fire. Comm, put the good captain on the screen.”
Christopher Pike replaced the tactical view on the main viewer. “Am I
addressing Captain Demos Takuliar?”
“You are, sir.”
“You are under arrest. The charges are conspiracy and willful violation
of interstellar treaty. Surrender and prepare to be boarded.”
“Helm, raise shields and fire!”
*Jenghiz* spat two torpedoes at the police ship, pulverizing it into a
cloud of sparks.
Pike’s eyebrows went up in astonishment. “What the devil do you thi–”
Takuliar cut the connection from his own seat. “Bekk, Contingency
Charlie.”
Bekk nodded gravely. He never thought he’d hear those words from his
captain and friend, but given the deterioration of the situation, it was
the only proper order to give. “Helm, man my post,” he said, standing.
“All other personnel, clear the bridge.”
While everyone went into the turbolift, the helmsman sat down in Bekk’s
chair. As soon as the lift doors closed, Takuliar joined them at Bekk’s
station.
“Computer, this is Captain Demos Takuliar of the USS *Jenghiz*. Destruct
sequence one…”

“What happened?” asked Number One, as she and the *Galileo* party stepped
onto the bridge of the *Enterprise*, each one relieving a counterpart at
his or her regular post. The red alert klaxon was blaring, signifying
battle readiness.
“Good thing I ‘kidnapped’ everyone from that Kzin ship before I attempted
to talk to you friend out there,” Pike answered. “He just blew it to
smithereens. I had a feeling he might, to destroy evidence.”
“Did he now?” she scowled. “Looks like the rat’s finally in a corner…”
She was interrupted by a bright flash from the main viewer. *Jenghiz* was
demolishing herself. What was left of her flaming hulk disappeared under
the cloud cover of Hyde. The bridge crew was stunned into silence.
“Scan for escape pods!” ordered Pike.
“Reading none,” replied Spock, consulting sensors. “She went down with
all hands, sir.”
“May God have mercy on their souls,” prayed Pike in a hushed tone.

Mercifully, most of the *Jenghiz* crew either died from the self-destruct
blasts, or when her remnants splattered across the surface of Hyde. The
three who caused her destruction tried to time their escape pod launch to
coincide with the big explosion, so their getaway to Axanar One would
have remained hidden from the *Enterprise* sensors. And it worked.
Unfortunately for them, the pod took such a heavy pummeling from the
explosion that the guidance computer became unalterably locked into
default mode. That meant the pod was instructed to land on the nearest
class-M planet. They descended, screaming all the way, to a gentle
landing somewhere on Planet Hyde.

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