The Objective

“THE OBJECTIVE” by Walter Chmara

From the personal log of Leonard H. McCoy:
*Too many beings believe that a starship captain is something larger than
life, greater than he really is. To the dismay of many, he is only human. And
because he is only human, he is as suseptable as the rest of us to all of the
weaknesses that plague most men. Only, for some cockeyed reason, he is not
supposed to let on to anyone that he is.
For months now, I’ve been worried that Jim might be starting to swallow
the propaganda that is growing about him. Outwardly, he’d be the first to
dismiss it as unfounded hero-worship. Inwardly, though, I’m not so sure. The
man is driven by success. He needs it, much like an addict needs his drugs.
Often, Jim allows this need to overwhelm all others.
Now, I happen to know the man has quite a healthy libido. Yet, decorum
forces him to keep women at a distance, both socially and sexually. This policy
has made him turn to aliens more than once to fill this gap in his life. Talk
about interfering with another society!
Hopefully, without being too obvious about this state of affairs bothering
me, I’ve managed to channel Jim’s interest to the charms of the feminine
contingent of this crew, namely one of my nurses, Andrea Finelli, who has
expressed some interest in him.
I’ve never claimed to be Cupid, so if this doesn’t work out, at least it
may break the ice a little bit. It should be clear to both captain and crew
that there is nothing wrong with dating a fellow officer when you’re on your
own personal time.*

The two people in question, at the moment McCoy had been recording that,
were in the starboard bow section of deck seven, kissing in the corridor
outside of the beautiful young nurse’s stateroom.
“I don’t recall when I’ve had such a good time as I did with you tonight,
Captain,” she told him.
“I thought we settled this,” he grinned warmly at her. “Off duty, I’m Jim,
and you’re Andrea. Remember that. It’s an order.”
Her eyes widened. When she realized he was pulling her leg, she chuckled
right along with him.
“I’d ask you in…Jim…but I’m afraid my roommate might stop speaking to
me if I brought the captain in to see her as she is now.”
“Why? Is there something wrong?”
“Never you mind! Sir.”

Up on the bridge, Hikaru Sulu was the one to get the first warning of what
was about to begin.
“Mr. Spock, I’m picking something up heading for us at warp ten. At this
range, I can’t make it out.”
Spock was seated at the conn. “Intensify sheilding. Mr. Chekov, sensor
data on object.”
Pavel Chekov sprang from his post at the navigator’s console, and dashed
to the science station. He ordered up a long-range scan, then watched the
results appear on the station’s viewscope.
“Sair! All that sensors can determine is that the object is eminating
simple vhite light!” he reported in an astonished voice.
“Simple white light can hardly attain warp ten, Ensign.”
“I know that, sair! Nevertheless, that is the reading!”
“Very well. Lt. Uhura, have any explanations come in?”
Nyota Uhura had been monitoring all bands at her station. She shook her
head. “None, sir.”
“Transmit a linguacode warning, `Maintain your distance, or we shall be
forced to defend ourselves.’ Lock phasers, Mr. Sulu. On my order, fire a
warning shot, only.”
“Locking phasers ten degrees off on either side, sir,” came the helmsman’s
reply.
Spock looked once more to Uhura. He didn’t need to ask. She was still
shaking her head.
“Fire.”
Two blue beams burned out into space from under the primary hull of the
ship, which passed very closely on both sides of the speeding object, which
rapidy moved into viewer range. Everyone on the bridge could now see that it
resembled some kind of large spark on collision course with them.
“No effect, sir,” reported Sulu.
Perhaps it took the display of phaser light as a welcome, considered
Spock. *On the other hand, an intelligent space traveller does not go charging
at the unknown in such a manner.* But, it was their experience that a beligerant
entity would.
“All engines stop.”
Sulu complied and confirmed, as the sound of the warp engines’ thrum died
down to silence. The stars moving on the viewscreen froze.
“Scatter a torpedo spread in its path.”
The bridge lights dimmed with every launch Sulu fired. The object just
danced around each one, resuming its mad charge at the *Enterprise.*
“It must have done some good,” Chekov turned from the scope to face Spock.
“There is a marked energy reduction.”
Sulu agreed. “It is slowing down, sir. It’s almost as if dodging the
torpedo spread tired it out.”
When a contact could be potentially dangerous, the crew came first. As
long as it was an unknown, it was potentially dangerous. It left Spock no
choice.
“Personification is not needed here, Lieutenant. Bring all weapons to
bear, and destroy the object.”
“It’s too late, sir! It’s…”
The whole ship shuddered as the unknown went right past the intensified
sheilding as though there was none. It penetrated the hull, as well, without
even making a hole.

Kirk did sense the ship dropping out of warp, but it caused no immediate
concern to him. Whatever Spock was doing, there was a logical reason for it.
But when he heard Spock’s voice announcing an intruder alert, he sprinted
toward the nearest intercom panel, and stabbed its button.
“Kirk here. What’s going on up there, Spock?”
“An unknown entity has entered deck seven from outside, Captain,” came the
explanation from the bridge.
Finelli had followed Kirk, instinctively. Her heart began pounding when
she heard Spock’s report.
“*We’re* on deck seven!” she exclaimed.
Before Kirk could say anything more, the unknown quantity stepped out of
the library lounge bulkhead. It had a humanoid form. In fact, it was downright
Klingonoid!
Commander Koloth, of the Klingon Imperial Fleet assumed an inscrutable
stance before Kirk. Or at least it *looked* like Koloth.
“I see it, Spock,” Kirk drew his hand phaser. “Send a security team here
on the double. Andrea, get away from here.”
“Captain, no!” Finelli began to protest.
“Security is on its way. Captain, I must point out that the object
expended tremendous energy to get this far. If you are contemplating attacking
it yourself, it will undoubtedly prove to be a worthless and suicidal
gesture…”
But Kirk wasn’t paying any attention to Finelli or Spock. The Koloth
apparition seemed to be broadcasting a telepathic message directly into his
mind.
*You are Kirk of the Federation,* came the thought.*I have been commanded to
destroy Kirk of the Federation.*
“Why?” asked Kirk, aloud.
*It is the wish of my master. Prepare to die.*
The apparition took a shaky step toward him, reaching out with both arms.
“I will destroy *you* in the attempt!” Kirk aimed his phaser at the
apparition.
Surprisingly, it halted in its tracks.
*It is true. I haven’t the energy reserves to complete my assignment.
Unless…unless I curse you.*
The image of Koloth was growing fainter by the second. At the same time,
Kirk definitely felt it doing *something* to his mind. He fired.
The phaser shot went through thin air, burning a hole in the bulkhead
behind the now-gone apparition. The strange sensation in Kirk’s head was also
gone.
When he turned to face Finelli, she was looking at him in horror!
She screamed and fled.
“Andrea!” he called, following her.
Finelli blundered into the arriving security team, four red-shirted men
armed with pistol phasers.
“There it is!” she shrieked at them, pointing at Kirk. “It just murdered
the captain!”
*What?* thought Kirk.
He didn’t have a chance to think much else. The first man levelled his
phaser directly at him and fired. Kirk’s gut told him to dive and roll before
the trigger was even pressed. Good thing, too. That bolt meant for him had put
another hole in the bulkhead behind him.
Kirk managed to stun one of them, before fleeing into a turbolift.
“Sickbay!” he ordered, his heart pounding. Whatever the intruder meant by
“curse,” he was sure he had just gotten a little taste of it.
Andrea didn’t recognize him. His own crewmen were trying to kill him. And
there was no reason not to suspect that whatever the apparition had done to him
would have the same effect on everyone else on the ship.
Maybe even everyone else in the Universe.
Kirk felt slightly nauseated by the thought. If he could only somehow get
through to McCoy, the doctor might be able to find a cure for… whatever this
was.
The turbolift doors whooshed open. Kirk glanced around, then dashed into
the chief surgeon’s office. But the doctor wasn’t in.
Kirk found a mirror. He took a good long look at himself, and could find
nothing in his physical appearance which could explain Finelli’s nor the
security team’s reactions to him. Maybe he simply jumped to a wrong conclusion.
Suppose *they* had been the ones who were changed, not him. Sure, that was it.
The apparition made it appear to Andrea that it had killed him, then assumed
his form. This crew had dealt with appearance-shifters before. Andrea had
believed her own eyes, then convinced the others.
While he was thinking this through, McCoy had entered from the next room.
“Bones!” began Kirk. “I’ve just had a hell of an experience! First this
creature who looks like…what are you doing with that?”
The doctor had been eyeing him strangely, backing up slowly to his cabinet
to pull a crystal vial from it, which he uncorked.
Kirk knew what the stuff inside it was — Orientine acid, a solvent so
corrosive, it would eat through anything except that vial.
McCoy was clearly preparing to splash some on him. “Go back to wherever
you came from, you hellish monster!” he growled at Kirk.
“Bones! Are you crazy? Put that down before you hurt someone!”
McCoy literally cornered Kirk by an intercom with the stuff.
He hit the button with his free hand. “Spock! This is McCoy!”
“Go ahead, Doctor.”
“I’ve got the intruder trapped in my office!”
There was a slight pause.
“Doctor, if what you have is indeed the intruder, it is highly unlikely
that you have it trapped. Barriers mean nothing to it. I would suggest that you
keep your distance from it; security reports it may have killed the captain.”
“Spock!” shouted Kirk. “I’m alive! Acknowledge if you hear me!”
“It looks as though it’s in a weakened state,” reported the doctor, slowly
allowing what Spock had just said to sink in. “It has substance now, all right.
It’s afraid of the acid in my hand.”
“Interesting. I shall redirect the security team there. I, myself, am
interested in it as a new lifeform. If at all possible, try not to injure it
before my arrival. Spock out.”
“Better hurry. If this thing killed Jim, I don’t know how long I can keep
from dissolving it.” McCoy didn’t care whether Spock heard him or not.
Kirk saw his chance when McCoy switched the intercom off. He kicked the
vial out from the doctor’s grasp, then landed a fist on his jaw.
“You’re gonna hate me for that, later,” Kirk said, gently lowering the
unconcious man to the deck.
Smoke had begun to rise from where the vial landed. Kirk knew he didn’t
have time to worry about that. The security people would be there any minute.
Let them handle it.
He dashed back to the turbolift. Once he was safely inside, he ordered it
to the auxiliary machinery room on deck nine. With his hand phaser ready, he
waited for the doors to reopen. When they did, he stunned the two crewmen who
happened to be working there. In need of a safe place to think, he then went up
the gangway to the deck eight attachment section, where the primary hull was
bolted to the neck of the secondary. Here he slumped to the floor, and thought
back to the events which led up to this moment.
*First, we get a report from Starfleet Command saying that the Klingons
have established a colony on our side of the Organian Treaty Zone. Scout
vessels skimming by have recorded visual evidence of Klingons unearthing
ancient devices left behind by a missing civilization. So, we divert our
course. Is it a coincidence that something which looks like Koloth tries to
assassinate me? No. There is some connection.
If what the Klingons have found could do that to me, they could do it to
starship captains throughout the fleet, not to mention V.I.P.’s of the entire
Federation! But what can I do about it, now? I’ve become public enemy
number one on my own ship! Eventually my crew will find me and…*
“Crew,” he mentioned, aloud. “Maybe only the crew is affected. What about
machines?”
He rose to his feet and located an intercom.
“Computer,” he said.
“Working,” it replied.
“Identify my voice.”
“Voice is that of James Tiberius Kirk, captain of U.S.S. *Enterprise*.”
Kirk broke the connection. *I still have working knowledge of the ship!
Maybe that’s enough. I’ll need to get to auxiliary control…*

When the security team arrived in McCoy’s office, followed by Spock, they
found the doctor on his knees treating a wound on the deck, of all places.
“Where is the intruder, Doctor?” asked Spock.
“It jumped me. The fact that I’m still alive proves it’s not all that
dangerous. Right now, though, we’ve got another problem. This whole bottle of
Orientine has been emptied on this spot. I’ve neutralized as much as I could,
but a lot of it has eaten through, and will probably start dripping through the
ceiling of the next deck down. It could maime somebody fatally to be caught in
that kind of shower. And if its progress isn’t stopped, it’s potent enough to
put a hole between us and space.”
“Lt. Dickerson, Lt Brent,” Spock chose from the team. “Take the
neutralizing agent below and stop the acid’s progress.”

Dickerson and Brent had to travel all the way to deck eleven, because Gym
One had been expanded to three decks in thickness in order to accomodate
null-gravity combat exercises. They could see a green cloud starting to form
way above them. It would be difficult to judge where the drips would start to
fall. And the results of judging wrongly would be unpleasant.

“Sue, I just can’t believe that the captain is really dead. That I was the
last one to see him alive. And that monster! It was horrible! Like a
nightmare!”
Lt. Susan Miller, Finelli’s roommate, was seated on the next bunk over,
half listening and half fiddling with her hair. “We live in strange times,
Bunky. People can be erased from existance with the pull of a trigger. At
least he died fighting. I don’t think James Kirk would’ve picked any other way
to go. I mean, I just never could picture him fading away from old age in bed,
could you?”
“Why not?”
“To men like him, old age is a curse.”
*Curse.*
Something about that word struck Andrea as being odd.
“What’s the matter?” interrupted Miller.
“I’m not sure,” annswered Finelli. “It’s that word. I’ve got a feeling as
though it reminds me of something.”
“What word? Curse? Well, I just hope you didn’t have any serious feelings
for the captain. They’re already married, you know.”
“Who?”
“Captains and their chairs.”
Finelli gave her a wry look. “You’ve had the wrong idea about him all
along. He was nothing like the first officer. We had a lot of fun today.”
“Hey! Don’t be putting down Mr. Spock! Now *there’s* a guy I could really go
for. Smart, strong, cute ears…”
“You and the head nurse, both,” grumbled Finelli. “I can’t stand her!
Heard the latest joke about her?”
“The one about the pointy-eared kids?”
“No, the one about the *pon farr* formula.”
“No! Tell me.”
“Okay. Chapel’s in the lab, see, and comes up with three sure-fire
formulas for instant *pon farr.* On the first day, she slips formula one into his
*plomeek* soup. He finishes eating, looks up at her and says, `Interesting.’ So
down the drain goes formula one. She tries formula two the next day. Same
story. `Interesting.’ Down the drain goes formula two. On day three, there’s a
breakthrough. He looks at her and says, `Fascinating!’ So she tries some of it,
herself, and… tell me something, Sue.”
“What?”
“What you said about phasers, earlier.”
“What#about$them?”
“Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be disintegrated?”
“Geez! For a moment I thought you had forgotten about Kirk! Look, you’ve
been through it before! Getting zapped with a phaser is like stepping into the
transporter and not reforming anywhere. It doesn’t hurt a bit.”
“How do you know?” Finelli snapped. “Has it ever happened to you? No! All
you know is weird, exotic hairstyles!”
It was true. Currently, Sue Miller’s hair was a tangle of goops, tapes,
and blinking power supplies. What could she say?
“Just wait! In two hours, when I take this stuff off, I’ll be the envy of
every non-Rigelian woman on this ship! Now, what was the punchline of that
joke?”

“We are in orbit, Mr. Spock,” announced Chekov. “K-type, as predetermined.
There is a single large dome on the surface with a definite Klingon presence..”
“Sir, security team A reports the acid situation in Gym One is under
control. Team B is reporting in now,” added Uhura. “…Sir, team B says all the
entrances to the emergency bridge have been sealed. They are positive the
intruder is inside!”
“Inform Mr. Scott to meet me in Transporter Room One. Mr. Chekov, maintain
sensor scan. Mr. Sulu, you have the conn. Defend us if necessary, but do not
provoke any action,” Spock rose and headed for the turbolift.
“Understood,” Sulu assumed the center seat, while another bridge officer
smoothely took the helm.

Scotty was already in the transporter room, when Spock arrived.
“Here now, Mr. Spock, I hope you’re nae considerin’ beamin’ down into that
nest o’Klingons, while tha’ thing tha’ killed the captain is still runnin’
aroun’ the ship?”
Spock sighed. “Had that been the case, Mr. Kyle would have been
sufficient. I have you in mind for something a great deal more technical.”
“Wha’?”
“I need you to beam me inside the emergency bridge.”
“So tha’s where the beastie is! I’ll do what you ask, but I dinna need to
remind you o’ the danger involved with intraship beaming. But if ye do get
there in one piece, what’s to stop ye from bein’ killed like the captain?”
“Perhaps I shall be more fortunate,” Spock got up on the platform,
checking his phaser on the way.
Scott readied the controls. “If I dinna know ye better, I’d swear ye were
suicidal.”

In the emergency bridge, Kirk could hear the whine of a transporter beam.
“Right on time, Spock,” he smiled, jumping into the turbolift. The doors
sealed themselves as Spock materialized, phaser in hand.
Seeing that he was alone, Spock set to work releasing the locks on the
entrances. The computer told him only Captain Kirk could order that.

Kirk found the Rec Room on deck eight. He had to stun a man in the
corridor, before he could go in. His phaser was now empty. Well, that’s what
you get when you don’t keep it charged.
Kirk began to fiddle with the Rec Room console. When he had finished
making all of his selections, he summoned the main computer, vocally.
“Working,” came the reply.
“In twenty seconds, begin preset imagery. Terminate only on my command.”
“Acknowledged.”

When security team A entered the Rec Room, they were face to face with a
swampy jungle, with animals prowling through it that had no business even being
on the same planet together. Dickerson tried to locate the console to shut the
program down, but it seemed as though it was consciously trying to prevent him
from doing just that.
“Computer! Cease imagery!”
“Imagery is classified under voice index lock,” said the computer. “Only
Captain Kirk may cease imagery.”
“Great,” grumbled Dickerson to Brent. “The objective has placed itself
into a holographic jungle, and we can’t shut it off. That means we go on safari
for it, or get an engineer down here to cut the power.”
“I’m for plan B,” said Brent.”
“Right. Okay, everyone! Back out! We’re going to wait until everything is
shut down here!”
Only Ensign Freeman didn’t hear that order. Kirk had jumped out from
behind an Arianian barrel bush and karate chopped him to the neck. Picking up
the fallen man’s phaser pistol, Kirk reset it to stun and picked off the rest of the team.
He stepped over the fallen bodies, and entered the Emergency Transporter Room.
The emergency transporter was mostly used for evacuations or invasions,
since it was designed to beam twenty-two people at once. Kirk was banking on
this baby to call a lot of attention to itself, soon.
After lining up the X, Y, and Z co-ordinates on the console, he pulled
down the energizing levers. The system slowly hummed to life. Withdrawing his
communicator, he flicked it open, then jammed the antenna grid into one lever’s
slot.
“That should keep you going,” he muttered, hopping up onto one of the
lighted disks. The effect enveloped him, and he was gone.
But even after he was gone, the system continued to run.

Spock and Scotty bounded out of the turbolift onto the main bridge. Sulu
relinquished the command seat to the first officer, just as they both noticed
the sensor alert light on the helm/navigation console blinking. Sulu checked
the environmental monitor.
“Sir, this says the ship is losing volumes of atmosphere,” reported Sulu,
puzzledly.
“Due to an attack, Lieutenant?” asked Spock.
“No, sir! No attack, no hull breech detected. Yet…loss pinpointed at
deck eight, foreward.”
Scotty studied the engineering station readout. “Mr. Spock, that area is
usin’ an abnormal amount o’ power! A malfunction in transporter room seven,
I’ll wager…wait…”
A row of indicators went dark.
Scotty faced Spock. “The power’s been cut from engineering.”
“Deck eight intercom system is out, sir,” added Uhura. “However, I’m
getting a communicator signal from that affected area. No modulation, just a
steady carrier.”
“Main computer is off-line, sair,” reported Chekov. “Shall I svitch to
secondary hull backup?”
“Affirmative, Ensign.”
“I’m getting calls from the gym, now, sir,” reported Uhura. “A number of
injuries sustained by crewmen when the anti-gravity floor failed.”
“Notify Doctor McCoy,” instructed Spock.
Scotty tried the engineering station intercom, but that was down, too. He
cursed. “Permission to go to Engineering, sir. I want to see who authorized the
power cut, and why.”
“Granted.”
After Scotty dived back into the turbolift, Spock made the following
observation to no one in particular: “I believe there is a human expression
which states that when precipitation occurs, it does so in great quantities.”
For a moment, there was silence on the bridge. Then Chekov’s face slowly
brightened in understanding as he looked up from his scanner at Spock.
“Oh, yes! You mean, `When it rains, it pours.’ It was –”
“I know,” interrupted Uhura, resignedly. “It was invented in Russia.”
Chekov gave her a smug look. “I vas going to say that it vas wery visely
said. But now that you mention it…”

Kirk materialized near what appeared to be a military barracks. Klingon
barracks. Looking up, he could tell he was inside a large crater with a
transparent dome fitted onto it in order to hold in a breathable atmosphere, as
well as create a localized greenhouse effect for warmth.
Excavation was being carried on all around. Kirk could hardly fail to
notice all the artifacts that had been piled up in one central location.
Klingons interested in acheology? Not likely.
Yet, he was amazed at how the Klingons, who finally took notice of him,
didn’t behave as he would have expected them to. They waved to him, and
continued about their business — digging.
Very odd. But then this whole day had been an odd one.
The transporter effect which had brought him here was continuing to
sparkle around him, beaming air down from the ship. The minute it would cease
would be the minute Kirk would know someone found his calling card.
A fat Klingon was guarding the entrance to the barracks. As Kirk
cautiously approached him, the Klingon showed him a wide friendly smile. Kirk
aimed his phaser and fired. The stunned Klingon continued to smile, as he fell
back upon the barracks wall and slowly slid to the ground. As far as Kirk was
concerned, there was only one thing worse than a Klingon, and that was a Klingon
with some kind of a problem.
Once inside, he located the commanding officer’s office. A familiar face
was behind the desk. Kirk leveled his phaser on him.
“Well, well, well, my dear Captain Koloth!” cried Kirk, sarcastically.
“Kirk, my old friend!” Koloth greeted him with surprising warmth,
considering a Federation captain was aiming a weapon at him. “This *is* a
surprise! I was about to say I didn’t expect you. But I was. I was expecting
you dead.”
“Now, why would you be expecting a thing like that?”
Koloth behaved as though he didn’t hear the question.
“You know, I should be thinking up some way to kill you right now. And for
some strange reason, I just don’t feel like it. Isn’t that odd? Just being
human should be enough. But *you*…you have given me ample reason to despise
you. You’ve humiliated me before the Empire. Twice. But there is something
about you. As if you are almost radiating extreme likability…”
Kirk comprehended now. Obviously, the curse that was on him had the
opposite effect on those who hated him in the first place.
“Follow me, Kirk,” invited Koloth, rising to his feet. “I think you’ll be
interested in this.”

“There’s been some kind of power failure in the main gym,” McCoy said to
Chapel, in the sickbay. “It happened right in the middle of zero-gee
excercises. I’m going there now, but I’ll need you and at least two more nurses
down there on the double.”
“Finelli and Miller are next on the duty list,” Chapel replied. “I’ll get
them right away.”
McCoy froze. “Finelli? Wait. Are you sure she’ll be up to it?”
“I’ve found that work is the best remedy for any misery. Haven’t you?”
McCoy couldn’t argue with that. It was the reason both he and Chapel were
on the *Enterprise*, and they both knew it.

Chapel went to their stateroom door and buzzed it.
“Come on, you two! Let’s go! We’ve got an emergency in the main gym!”
Chapel could hear two voices whispering inside.
“Oh, no! It’s *her*!”
“Ohhh, any time but now!”
Louder, “Lieutenant, couldn’t you take Andrea and someone else, right now?
Please?”
Chapel got very irritated. “Both of you! Out! Right now!”
The door slid open. Finelli stepped out and stood at attention. Chapel
looked beyond her, into the room. What she saw caused her eyes to widen,
ridiculously. She redirected her attention back to Finelli.
“Get down to the gym. Doctor McCoy needs us.” Looking back into the room,
she said, “And you, get that…whatever… off, and report to the gym in no
more than two minutes. Do you read me?”
“Yes, ma’am!” came Sue’s answer, as Chapel and Finelli went on their way.

“Here it is!” Koloth proudly motioned a hand over a particular artifact.
“What is it?” asked Kirk.
“Would you believe me if I told you that this means the end of your
Federation?”
It was a dull gray color and about half the size of a shuttlecraft. It
looked like a device that was built to last.
“How old is it?” Kirk mused.
“How old is the nearest star?” answered Koloth. “Who cares? Honestly, you
humans ask really stupid questions, sometimes. This is a slave-maker, Kirk!”
“A slave-maker?”
“And fully functional,” added Koloth. “It takes its power from the bowels
of this planet and makes these marvelously obediant toys! I sent one after you,
you know. I didn’t *really* expect it would reach you, though. It didn’t, did
it? I ordered it to kill you, using my likeness?”
“Never saw it,” lied Kirk. “What do you plan to do with this?”
“Why, dismantle it and bring it home. Once we figure out how it works, the
Klingon flag will be flying over your headquarters in no time. Looking forward
to working for us, eh?”

“Most of the injured are in sickbay, now,” McCoy was able to tell Spock,
once the intercoms were working again. “I left M’Benga in charge of observing
them. But there is one unconscious crewman still hanging from a bar on the
ceiling. When I came back here, I found one of my nurses literally climbing the
walls to rescue him. The anti-gravity mat is shot, and there’s no way to turn
off the regular gravity without turning it off all over the deck. I asked
Dickerson and Brent to find a safety net. You’d think somebody’d keep one here,
in case of this happening.”
“It should not happen, Doctor,” came Spock’s reply. “The AG mat was
designed to gradually lose intensity in the event of a power outage, so that
normal gravity would not be instantaneous. Mr. Scott is now looking into that.”
The nurse who had been climbing the walls was Finelli. The walls of the
main gym were peppered with grip knobs, designed for free-floating atheletes to
use during zero-gee excercises. Finelli was relying on them to reach the
unconscious crewman, who looked as if he was going to fall at any moment. He
was draped on that bar like a towel.
McCoy watched her unneasily.
“What’s the word on getting that intruder?” he asked.
“It is doubtful that we will see it again. Transporter seven was found to
be tampered with. A communicator grid was keeping the device in function,
beaming the ship’s oxygen to the Klingon base. Clearly the intent was to call
attention to its escape.”
One of the grip knobs Finelli was standing on gave way. She hung by one
arm while her feet looked for an alternate step.
McCoy gasped, as Chapel and Nichols joined him. Sam Nichols was the ship’s
physical training officer.
“We gotta do something!” urged McCoy.
“There’s nothing we can do until that net gets here,” said Nichols. “Those
grip knobs take a lot of abuse during zero-gee excersizes. They won’t support
weight under normal gravity for long.”
“That bar doesn’t look like it’ll hold out for the net,” observed Chapel.
“I weigh the least. I’m going after them.”
Finelli pulled herself high enough to step onto another grip knob. She was
getting closer to the unconscious crewman, but what could she do once there?
“Are you out of your mind?” demanded Nichols. “You’ll fall and bring them
down with you!”
Chapel ignored him, quickly moving to the wall. She began to climb.
Nichols looked to McCoy. “Leonard, stop her! They’ll all end up with
broken necks!”
“Christine!” called out McCoy.
Already two meters off the ground, she looked down at him.
“Good luck!” was all he said.
She continued up.
“Leonard!” protested Sam.
“Shut up, Sam!” McCoy snapped angrily. “This whole mess is probably your
fault, anyway!”
“*My* fault?”
“Yes! You knew full well about the acid spill, yet despite the possibility
of a malfunction, you still decided to hold those excersizes in here!”
“For your information, I checked that damage. Whatever caused this failure
had nothing to do with that. And people who live in starships shouldn’t throw
acid in the first place!”
McCoy was humbled. “You’re right. There’s no excuse for it. I don’t know
why I did it. I even forgot I had the stuff. I never had the urge to kill
something before for just being different, like I did then. But that’s not the
issue here. That crewman up there needs help. As medical people we have a duty
to render aid whenever we can. I’m not going to order inaction when someone
else is in a better position to help than I am.”
Finelli reached the ceiling. She was going to have to risk propelling
herself from the wall in order to grab onto a bar that was just out of reach.
She tensed and sprang, landing both palms on the bar and gripping. From here,
she would have to arm swing, like a chimpanzee, to reach the crewman.
But one of the bar’s supports gave way when she tried. The bar became
suddenly vertical, and her grip on it was sliding.
“Hang on!” cried Chapel, closing in. “I’m almost there!”
Chapel’s approach was from another angle. If her grip wouldn’t fail her,
she would be able to use four ceiling mounted grip knobs to reach the bar
Finelli had been trying to swing to. She was urged on by Finelli’s precarious
plight.
“I’m trying! I can feel the other end giving way!”
In four quick motions, Chapel reached the bar. This one seemed sturdier.
In order to be able to reach Finelli, she hooked her knees to the bar and hung
upside down, like an acrobat.
“Reach up to me, Andrea. Give me your hand.”
“I can’t! This one won’t hold!”
“Trust me. You can get a better grip as long as you do it carefully. Don’t
be afraid.”
Finelli, tense as a kitten hanging by one claw, struggled up the bar
remnant. It creaked menacingly.
Meanwhile, the unconscious crewman came to full awareness, and was
cheering her on. At the moment Finelli and Chapel grasped hands, the bar she
released went plummeting to the deck. The crewman cheered.
But the bar the two nurses were dangling from was now creaking.
“We’re not out of the fire yet,” noted Chapel.
One of the gym entrances split open with a sharp hiss. Dickerson and Brent
charged in with the net, which was quickly unfurled and stretched out by them,
McCoy, and Nichols.
“Andrea! You first!” called McCoy.
“Here goes,” Finelli let go of Chapel’s hands.
She hit the net squarely in the center, rolling off safely to the deck.
Chapel helped the crewman drop next, then she followed.
McCoy gave her a pat on the back. “Christine, I want to buy you a drink.”
She poked his stomach. “Okay. But starting today you go on a diet. I don’t
want to have to do that a second time.”
“Nothing doing! I’m a doctor, not a Flying Wallenda.” McCoy turned a stern
look to Finelli. “And you! Nice try. But next time remember, you’re to help the
victims, not become one.”
“You can bet on that, sir.”

“Would you mind terribly if I tried one?” asked Kirk, innocently.
“Oh why not?” exclaimed Koloth jovially. “Be my guest!”
Kirk pulled down on what was apparently the activation lever on this
ancient machine. It began to thrum. Something resembling a tornado issued out
from the top of the device, and waited there.
“Go on, Kirk! It’s waiting for your orders!”
A nasty grin formed on Kirk’s face.
“Destroy this device! Now!”
Nothing happened.
Koloth laughed.”Do I look stupid, Kirk? I had a preprogramming instrument
attached to this machine which insures that all slaves are produced with what
you would call a prime directive. Never destroy anything in the Klingon
interest. Try again.”
“Go to the *Enterprise*. Tell Mr. Spock to destroy this device.”
“Then kill Mr. Spock,” added Koloth.
“Cancel all orders,” Kirk countered quickly. “Return where you came from.”
The little twister was sucked back into the device.
“They can achieve warp speed without warp drive,” Koloth mentioned
conversationally. “Imagine! …What in the name of Klorr is *that*?”
Koloth was refering to the form of a man in a robe fading into view,
standing not far from where he and Kirk stood.
Kirk remembered who this was.
“Councilman Ayelborne! You are certainly a long way from Organia.”
“I have been dispatched to collect this plaything, Captain. It was meant
to entertain the kind of children who no longer exist in this Universe.”
“So *this* is an Organian,” observed Koloth. “Not very formidable in
appearance, is he?”
“But *very* formidable,” answered Kirk. “Take my word for it.”
Ayelborne looked strangely at Kirk.
“Something is different about you, Captain. …Ah, yes! I see now. I will
restore it.”
Ayelborne raised his left hand. A pseudopod of light flowed from it to
envelope Kirk’s head. Kirk could feel a strange sensation, somewhat akin to
what he felt when the apparition had cursed him.
The Organian became a blinding light, and then was gone.
Koloth was angered to see the ancient device was gone, too.
“Kirk! I think I should give you fair warning that I feel like killing
something. And since you are handy…”
Koloth drew his sidearm, then yelped, dropping it.
Kirk wet his finger and tapped his own phaser. It sizzled.
“What do you say we make the best of one another’s company while we have
it?” he suggested.

*Captain’s log, supplemental. Thanks to Mr. Chekov pinpointing a human
lifesign in the Klingon settlement, and Mr. Spock’s logical deduction that it
had to be me, I’ve been returned to my rightful place; the bridge of the
Enterprise.*
“Fascinating, Captain,” Spock said. “The so-called slave’s curse tampered
with some component of your being which somehow masked your appearance and
voice to the perceptions of everyone else on this ship, including myself. If it
were not for the many clues you left behind when you escaped; your voice index
lock on the Rec Room programming, your communicator in the transporter console;
I might have been fooled as well. The slave had only one goal, to destroy you.
It believed that by making you an instant enemy of the 429 other crewmembers,
you would not survive against those odds. Its mission would succeed, even
though it ran out of energy and ceased to exist.”
Kirk agreed. “It didn’t bank on my knowledge of the ship. But this entire
episode leaves me with mixed emotions.”
“Indeed? By that I assume you mean conflicting emotions, which would seem
to be a paradox.”
“Not at all, Spock. I’m happy I’m not dead, but somewhat saddened at the
inability of the crew to stop me when I was considered the intruder. The
objective.”
“I would submit that a trained starship crewman, particularly a captain,
would be the biggest danger to any ship. No ordinary intruder would have gotten
as far as you did.”
“I hope you’re right.”
Sulu asked, “Why do you suppose the Organians took the device away, sir?”
“As I understand it,” answered the captain, “they think neither we nor the
Klingons are old enough to play with such a toy.”
“Or it may have been a costly clue,” said Uhura.
“Explain,” said Spock.
“Well, we know that during the Slaver Wars, all intelligent life was wiped
out and had to evolve all over again. What if the Organians are ancient enough
to remember those times? It may explain why they detest violence so much. If
that device was an example of a *child’s* plaything…”
“…Imagine what the grown-ups played with,” Kirk finished for her. “It’s
possible. But we may never know in our lifetime.”
The turbolift doors swished open. McCoy and Finelli stepped out, all
smiles.
“Captain!” she exclaimed. “I had to see you for myself! Your death seemed
so real to me!”
“I gave her permission to leave her post, Jim,” grinned McCoy.
“It almost was,” Kirk answered Finelli. “But since I’m very much alive,
when our off-duty time coincides again, we could…”
“I’m sorry, sir,” she appologized. “I promised to help Nurse Chapel in the
Research Lab. In fact, I’d better get back to duty now, or I’ll be late for
that.”
“Dismissed,” nodded Kirk. He watched her pop back into the turbolift,
thoughtfully.
“Something wrong, Jim?” asked McCoy.
“Nothing. It’s just that I seem to recall her saying she hates labwork
with a passion.”
“I’ll explain later,” said McCoy. He nodded to the viewscreen. “What’s
going to happen to that planet, now?”
“Under the terms of the Organian Peace Treaty, it will go to the side that
develops it best,” explained Kirk. “Since Koloth lost what kept his men there
in the first place, I doubt they will want to waste any more time and effort
there. It is, after all, only of interest to archeologists, not soldiers.”
“Captain, about what Koloth’s slave actually performed on you –” began
Spock.
“Scott to bridge,” spoke up the intercom.
“Kirk here.”
“My report on what happened to the AG mat, sir. It had nothing to do with
the acid hole in the gym floor. The problem was in the hole in the ceiling. The
conduit that feeds the Rec Room got fused to the one that feeds the mat’s power
failure buffer, draining it. When the security team cut the power to the Rec
Room, the mat failed instantly. Everything on deck eight is back on line. You
can switch back to the main computer when ready.”
“Thank you, Scotty. I can promise you there’ll be no more acid mishaps,”
Kirk shot a warning look at McCoy, who chose that moment to look at the
ceiling.
“Aye, sir. But if I may ask a favor, sir…”
“A favor, Scotty?”
“Aye. It’s all that jungle imagery in the Rec Room. It’s still locked
under your –”
“Say no more, Scotty, I’m taking care of that right now.”
Kirk hopped over to the library/computer station to order the computer to
release the hold he put on the Rec Room’s programming. McCoy, meanwhile, turned
his attention to Spock.
“Jim might be going through some mixed emotions right now, Spock, what
with having to outwit his own crew, and losing his date to a laboratory. I know
it might pique your curiosity a tad, but try not to cross examine him too
much, will ya?”
Spock raised an eyebrow. “I question everthing about emotion, Doctor. The
captain is fully aware of this.”
“If you ask me, the Vulcans would appreciate life a whole lot more if
they’d just learn to accept one lousy little emotion.”
“It would be more realistic, though equally improbable, Doctor, to expect
you alone to accept rational behaviour at the expense of one such hypothetical
emotion.”
“Do *you* think I lack rationalism, Jim?” McCoy asked Kirk, who had
returned.
“I’m the wrong one to ask, Bones. In a fit of emotion, you tried to
liquidate me.”
“Well, yes, but –”
“Literally.”
“But –”
“Do you think it’s right to try to make soup out of your captain?”
McCoy didn’t need much time to think that one over.
“Only if he stews too long,” was his grumbled reply.

The *Enterprise* warped out to the stars at factor four.

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.