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Captain's Log Stardate 4892.6:

Responding to Ambassador Simon Hislaid's distress signal, the Enterprise is oribiting the planet Sagiton. As no answer has been made to our constant trasmissions, a landing party consisting of 5 others and myself will beam down. (Commander Spock, Dr. McCoy, Lt. Jean McRow, Ensign William Allen, and Security Guard LouaAnn Repart).

Ambassador Simon's signal came from Kytel, Sagiton's largest city. It is there we will beam down. Strange as it may see, Hislaid distinctly addressed himself to the Enterprise. Why, we have not been able to discover. But the fear in his voice, and the urgency of his manner, only add to my apprehension. Simon Hislaid would not have sent a distress call of any sort, much less directed at the Enterprise, unless something was seriously wrong. My only hope is that we are not too late for whatever has befallen.

Switching off the log recorder, Kirk grimaced, remembering all too well the circumstances of his last meeting with Ambarrassdaor Hislaid.

An arrogant man, Simon Hislaid was elected to a temporary government over the Sagitons when a civil war between them was ripping them apart. Hislaid was on the side of the dissenters, a group of strong anti- military anti-Star Fleet, anti-anything that could be thought of. His group, known as the "chicken," to the embarrassment of belonging to it, especially Hislaid, from whom its name was derived, depended upon guerilla warfare and black marketeering. Any number of guns, food, and equipment was smuggled from loyal starship to the "chickens" through bribes, threats, or anything else that could be thought of.

Kirk was called in as impartial to decide difference between the two parties. He was greeted by a 22 gun salute, fired directly at the Enterprise, causing damage to leave Cheif Engineer Scott to agonize over for weeks to come.

The meeting was planned to begin at 10 a.m. planet standard time, but streets were blocked for miles around the Sagiton Peace Center, and all delegates were forced to use a transporter instead of the intended demonstration of unity--all delegates riding a shuttlecraft through Kytel's streets.

After two weeks of hopeless "talks," which consisted mostly of loud arguments and counterarguments, sabotage to the Peace Center had destroyed most of the delegates' confidence of safety and talks were postponed indefinitely. Kirk was ordered by Star Fleet to single handedly stop the sabotage--or else. Unconventional situations demanded unconventional solutions, as Kirk had discovered many times before.

Kirk simply invited all the delegates to the Enterprise, separately, of course, and dispatched each calmly to the brid where they were left with an ever logical Mr. Spock to presde over difference--outside the cell block, of course. Within a day of the negotations beginning, they wnded. A couple minor cruelties also helped, no artififical night, for example. The Sagtons were fed Cherrios every meal, a dish unknown til now, and heartily disliked by all who tasted it.

Needless to say, SImon Hislaid was not a very happy man the next day. Nor was he very inclined to thank Kirk for his help. As a matter of fact, Kirk got such a distinct impression of dislike form him that he wondered how Hislaid could regrain from writing a person "I told you so," when the chickens overthrew the government Star Fleet had appointed SImon HIslaid as Ambassador to from Star Fleet.

No, Captain Jame T. Kirk thought, he was definitely not looking forward to meeting Ambassador Hislaid for a second time. And where was Scotty? He was supposed to be reporting to take the con while Kirk went to a briefing.

Beep! How was it that Engineer Scott constantly seemed to be able to read minds, especially when it came to that of his Captain? Kirk released the communicator.

"Yes, Scotty."

"Cap'n, it's bad news I have to tell you. Your nae gonna like it."

"What is it, Scott?"

"The Transporter, Sair."

"And just what is wrong with the Transporter?"

"I dinna ken, Sair. If I did, that would be 'alf the problem solved, eh, Cap'n."

"Hmm, I see your point. And when do you expect repairs of our delicate instrument to be finished?"

"We need to be down on Jytel as soon as possible."

"Aye, I know that, sir."

"Why is it, Mr. Scott, that every time we really need the transporter, it seems to break down?"

"I don't know, Cap'n. I suppose it has to do with the original design. Personally, I believe a three year-old could have designed a better one. First of all, there's the . . ."

"Yes, I agree. Well, I guess there's nothing we can do about it now, is there?"

"No, sir. I am working on a revision of the Transport system, but it won't be finished for some time. Is there anything else, sir?"

"No, I guess not not, Scotty. Prepare the shuttlecraft. I am not looking forward to going back down to Jytel. As I recall, the last itme I was down there, nothing short of a Transporter could get us anywhere."

"Yes, I remember, Captain."

"Any idea why Mr. Hislaid would ask specifically for us, Scott?"

"None, sir. . . Unless . . ."

"Unless what?"

"Unless he has a problem which is similar to the one we solved before."

"Heaven forbid. First time around was bad enough. Besides, I hardly think it in his character to call on us."

"No, perhaps not, sir. If that's all?"

"Mmmm. Oh yes, thank you, Mr. Scott," Kirk mused. Why had Hislaid asked specifically for the Enterprise? Well, the only way to find out was to get down to the surface as soon as possible. "Uhura, you have the con."

Kirk moved ot the lift and Uhurs efficiently slid into his chair. As the lift descended, Kirk had no trouble keeping his mind on the problems before him. Why had Ambassador Hislaid asked specifically for Enterprise? He couldn't know the Enterprise was the closest ship to the system. Star Fleet didn't exactly give out that kind of information. It must be a trap of some sort. Would Hislaid go this far to avenge his ego? And why, if he would, had he waited until now. There wereplenty of other times less opportune for Kirk to have come. Only the mysterious circumstances? Was HIslaid for some reason unable to give further information. Scans of the system and surgace had shown no signs of Klingon or Romulan influence. If Hislaid was really in trouble, who could possibly be the antagonizer? The only way to find a solution to the questions, was, of course, to go down to Sagiton and have a look around. It would be so much easier to use the transporter, but that's how the ballc rumbles-- or whatever that old phrase was. Maybe after they got this job done, the crew could get to a starbase for some rest. Scotty could certainly use some times to advance his new Transporter device. If it worked, it would be better than the present one.

The doors opened, and Kirk pulled his mind back to Sagiton and the upcoming briefing.

"Commander Spock," droned the computer.

"Present."

"Dr. McCoy."

"Yo."

"Lt. Sean McRow."

"Present."

"Ensign William Allen."

"Present,"

"Secutiry Personnel--Guard LouAnn Repart."

"Present."

"Captain Kirk.

"Present."

"All present and accounted for."

"Thank you, computer," Kirk replied.

"You're welcome, sir."

Who put in that little addendum, Kirk wondered, but said aloud, "You all know why we're here, so let's get down to business. McCoy, the plant's surface."

"Sagiton is a typical class M planet with a slightly above average gravity. I've arranged for an anti-reactive to be administered before beam down and very 24 hours thereadter. Without it, we'd all be 15 or 20 pounds heavier, no great disaster, but for top performance, an anti-reactive should be taken. It will be put into each person's survival pack in case of separation. Since Sagiton has only one continent, climate and weather will change very little during out stay."

"If the computer will show us a map, thank you. The flashing red dot is Kytel. Kytel is the Paris of Sagiton. Everything coming or going must go through it. Transportation must be done on one of Kytel's main beam routes, or on foot. I hope everyone has good shoes. We may need them."

"Starfleet has always provided its personnel with shoe wear sufficient for any climate. In fact, statistics show that the Starfleet boot uniform is the most long-lasting all purpose shoe manufactured--" Spock bantered.

"If I'd have wanted an ad, I would have looked in the Stars and Flights," scathed McCoy.

"Gentlemen," Kirk interrupted. "I'm sorry to have ot be the one to announce this, but I'm sure the doctor for one, will be pleased. The Transporter is out of order again. We will be landing in the Galileo."

"Hallelujah," answered McCoy.

"I fail to see the link between a crippling transport malfunction and the use of a nineteenth century religious exclamation. You will have a perfectly illogical explanation for it, no doubt," countered Spock.

"Yes, well," Kirk interrupted again. "Lt. McRow. You are our Cicil war psychiatry specialist. Will you tell us what you know about Sagitor?"

"Yes, sir," replied Lt. JKean McRow, a beautiful redhead, just assigned to the Enterprise. And smart, many thought too smart for her, and their, own good. "We are all acquainted with the facts surrounding the civil war of Sagiton 6 years ago. Ig I may recount the bare essentials, I will try to fill in simplest psychiatric terms.

"Sagiton had been under the dictatorship, however benevolent, of Isaac Renton, for over 50 years, when he died mysteriously at the relatively young age of 130. Two men scrambled for pwoer. One, Riktor Balltor, had the experience the people could depend on, and was next in command to the late Isaac Renton. He thought himself the obvious choice for new dictator. A young man by the name of Simon Hislaid did not see why the choice was so obvious. He called the people's attention to the details surround Renton's death and took advantage of them. The facts Hislaid put forth were these: Isaac Renton had been an amazingly healthy man. He took no medicine, had no personal physician, and often refused invitations out in favor of his daily run. When he died, no one had been in his room except Balltor, who claimed Renton had doubled over and simply collapse. Hislaid never accused Balltor of murder, but the people got the message and refused to elect Balltor to a lifetime dictatorship. When Balltor found this out, he elected himself and called upon Star Fleet to support him against Hislaid. Meanwhile, Hislaid had banded together a group of supporters, nicknamed "the chickens" by Balltor and began to sabotage anything the government controlled. Star Fleet property was destroyed and Star Fleet sent in the Enterprise to stop the war. Captain Kirk successfully stopped the raids, but the war was not over. Hislaid was broken out a correcitonary house and began to give public lectures, peaceful, against the dictatorship. Sagiton needed a republic, he said, and by pointing at another to be its leader, Hislaid nominated himself. Balltor was ousted, and Hislaid became his successor, officially Ambassador. Hislaid is a very cunning man, but he is growin old and by his own laws will have to give up his Ambbassadorship in favor of the people's choice three weeks from tomorrow. My opinion is that Hislaid has decided he likes his job too much to give it up and has determinedc to keep it. He called for the Enterprise as a safety precaution against any objections being raised. Transmission silence is to arouse our curiosity and keep us here."

Kirk spoke first. "But why the Enterprise? We can hardly be his favorite people. I'd think he'd rather get someone else to aid him. He knows how we feel about him. What makes him think Star Fleet will be on his side, anyway?"

"The Enterprise is the most renowned of all Star Fleet ships. You, sir, are a legend in your own time. If he can win you over to his cause, whatever the method, your testimony would lift his cause more than anything."

Spock took the floor. "A very interesting theory, Lieutenant, very interesting. You are not, however, taking into account Ambassador Hislaid's, mm. . shall we say, stubborn as McCoy personality."

"Humans can change, sir."

"Yes. They can."

Kirk wondered whether Spock and Lt. McRow were going to be opponents on this mission. Why did Lt. McRow seem to so openly oppose Spock? First solution to come to mind would be racism. But Jean McRow had spent countless years on Vulcan. Spock was a halfbreed, of course, fi that had anything to do with it. Oh, well. Lt. McRow was a sensible enough woman to not let personal prejudices stand before getting the job done.

He said aloud,"Thank you, Lt. McROw. Ensign Allen, if you will begin."

"Yes, sir." Ensign Allen was tall, dark, and handsome. Also new on the Enterprise, this wa shis first mission. Captain material, Kirk had first thought when he saw him, and was glad to include him on this operation. His hobby was robots. And the same way McCoy would pick a fight at any chance, William Allen would discuss robots at length. From their origin to their potential danger, he and Scott got along perfectly, discussing them for hours. "Sagiton is the only known planet whose evolution caused the metal Katan to appear. Katan is the essential metal used in giving any robotic mechanims personality. Since Sagiton is the only place Star Fleet can get Katan, it is very important for us to make sure everything, especially internal affairs, run smoothly. Without katan, all personalized computers, which includes the Enterprise's will be useless within three months. Although katan is needed only in small quantities, it has to be replaced every 5 weeks. Any longer than that and even if your replace the katan the machine may have gone "crazy." Lack of katan to a machine such as ours is the equivalent of lack of oxygen to a human brain. Ever since we received the distress call, all work has stopped on plants refining katan and work has virtually stopped on transporting it. Sagiton has stopped beaming katan to carriers waiting. We have less than 5 weeks to resolve whatever conflict is going on here, sir."

"I think we all understand the situation, do we not?" asked Captain Kirk. "Any questions? Good. Then be at Departing Bay 3 in 2 hours. Dismissed."

Everyone but McCoy left. When they had, the doctor took Kirk by the arm and said, "Come on, Jim. I want to talk to you in my office."

"Can't it wait? I've got other more-- Never mind. I can see the answer written all over your face."

"I fail to see the connetion between a primitive earth recording instrument and the expression of my face. Perhaps you would like to go into it in depth if we have the time later."

They both broke out laughing before McCoy could finish.

"That point-eared devil is going to drive me crazy if he doesn't stop acting so innocent."

"He drive you crazy--what about me? With my two next in commands always fighting, how am I ever going to get an admiraldry?"

"As if you wanted one. Let's get serious now. I wante to talk to you about Spock and Jean McRow. Come on, I've got something to show you in my office."

Kirk and McCoy walked to the lift together, Kirk's mouth deepening into a frown.

"You've noticed McRow's barely disguised detestation of Spock, I suppose," continued McCoy.

"How could I help it?"

"The problem is that I've found nothing to answer why. She was born on earth, her father was an admiral of good reputation until he died a couple of years ago. her mother still lives on earth, probably knits and rocks the days away. Complaining about the cost of transportation and new fangled things. Jean visits her when she's on leave and I've never heard of a happier mother-daughter relationship."

"What's the problem, then?"

"She hates Spock."

"Lots of people do."

"But why?"

"Just plain prejudice."

"Lt/ MCRow is a psychiatrist, a highly trained one, one of the best in her field. She analyzes prejudices. She spent years on Vulcan. If she had one, surely she would have disposed of it by now."

"Maybe she doesn't want to."

"Yes, but why?"

Silence held for 30 seconds.

"You see what I mean?"

"Yes. I was thinking abou tit earlier. Maybe she had a bad experience with a Vulcan, fell in love and was deserted."

"With a Vulcan? What respectable Vulcan would allow that?"

"Good point. Maybe she's fallen in love with Spock himself and hates him for not loving her back."

"A distinct possibility."

"Oh, come on, Bones. I was just kidding. Lt. McRow and Spock?"

"I'll ahve you know Mr. Spock would make a good catch for any young woman. He's house trained, quiet, handsome as the devil, and has what Christine refers to as 'those adorable ears.'"

"Oh, well, poor Spock. First Christine Chapel, now Jean McRow," Kirk lamented.

"Poor Spock? How'd you like to dream of coming home to a green blooded husband every night?"

"Well, she's sensible enough to keep her personal feelings out of the mission. At least, I hope so."

"What did you have to show me, Bones, anyway?" Kirk asked as they reached McCoy's door.

"Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you," quoted McCoy.

"What?"

"Go on, knock."

Kirk knocked and indeed the door opened. Inside the lights flipped on and a shout of "Happy Birthday" rang into the corridor.

Kirk gave McCoy his "you knot I don't like Birthday parties" look.

McCoy winked and said, "exactly why you need them, sir."

Kirk reluctantly followed McCoy in. He had to admit admiration. The whole room was decorated exactly as it would have been in 20th century American. Balloons of very color hung from streamers and banners declaring the good tidings. Someone had managed to get a couple of 20th century lamps and a couch. Who knows how? It must have taken months to plan this thing in advance. Not every starship carried data on living in 20th century America. Few had commanders who indulged in collecting 20th century antiques and literature. Even less had crew who would go to the trouble of researching and planning a birthday party for an unwilling recipient. You ha to be touched, even if there were only five candles on the cake.

Uhura escorted Captain Kirk to his seat of honor, in the middle of a group of presents. Kirk almost wished the trouble hadn't been gone to when Uhura picked up a large present, held it over his head, and recited:
Heavy, heavy hang over they poor head
What do you wish with a bump on the head?

"You've got a strong arm there, Uhura." Kirk said, rubbing his head.

"Thank you, sir," she answered, and laughed. "That one is from Pavel."

"Mm," Kirk replied, eying skeptically the newspaper dated Jan 7, 1969 and labeled "Pravda." "I hope you're going to translate this, Ensign."

"No thank you, Captain."

Kirk laughed heartily and all joined in.

"All right, who's go the next one?"

"I do," confessed Sulu. "Custom dictates you wish a pleasantry on me, Captain, but I suggest you wait until the present is opened."

"I'll do that," replied Kirk. Inside an enormous bokx tied with a bright ribbon was a nother box, also wrapped colorfully, and inside that, another, and so on, until a box the size of a tranposrter was left. Inside was a white tunic with the words, "I know Karate" wirtten on one side, and "And 11 other Japanese words" on the other. "Very, uh . . ." Kirk scrutinized it, trying to decide exactly what very it was.

"Appropriate, sir?" Sulu asked.

"Exactly what I was thinking of. I shall treasure it in my bottom drawer forever. If you ever know of an occasion where a starship captain would be appropriately dressed in this, you'll let me know?" queried Kirk.

"Certainly, Captain."

"I'm next," announced McCoy. He came forward, holding a computer tape. It was labeled, "One hundred and one ways to beat a vulcan at 3-dimonesional chess."

"Just what I need, Bones."

"And if that doesn't work, Jim, give it up!"

"Is that an order?"

Uhura handed Kirk a small, delicately wrapped package, which, opened, revealed another computer tape simply labeled, "20th century Rock n Roll."

"A nice change from Mr. Spock and myself, sir."

"Much appreciated, though I haven't quite tired of you yet."

"There's a song on there I'll think you'll especially like, Captain. It's called 'Reach for the Stars.'"

"I'll listen to it first."

"Lt. McRow shyly came forward, almost last. "I didn't know what you'd like, sir, so I got you this." She held out two tickets to a Terran Philharmonic. "They're for anytime you can make it."

"I don't know what to say, Lieutenant. Thank you," stated Kirk.

"You're welcome, sir."

Allen stepped forward and put a coin into Kirk's hand.

"This is a 1976 memorial United States quarter, Ensign. There are only 4 of these in the universe. I can't take this." Kirk looked into Allen's eyes and saw a look he knew well, one of admiration, almost to the point of worship. A burnt offering, in form. He had to accept it, but how in the universe did Allen get hold of one of those? Kirk could profess his thanks, however, a familiar beeping called him and he made his excuses and hurried to the bridge.

"What is it, Scotty?"

"I dinna ken, Cap'n. It's a might difficult to decide. The sensors detect a ship heaidng towards us at full speed. If it continues at this speed, it'll crash right about in the middle of the recreation deck. I've sent out warnings, but nobody's responding. The sensors also say that there's no life form in the vessel," Scott returned promptly, after relinquishing the command chair.

"What in the world is steering it, then, Mr. Scott?"

"Apparently a highly sophisticated computer--in the form of a human being, Captain."

Chapter Two

Kirk froze. The last time the Enterprise had had an encounter with humanoid robots was with a certain Harry Mudd-- an experience not recalled wiht relish. Mudd's robots had all been dismantled, and as far as anyone knew, Harcourt Fenton Mudd himself was still serving time in a correcitonary facility. In any case, Harry Mudd would have been no match for Ambassador Hislaid, let alone all of Sagiton.

But apparently this robot did have something to do with what was going on. If nothing else, it could update Kirk's knowledge of what was going on. <.p>

"Use the tractor beam on her, Scotty."

"Can't, Cap'n. That beastie out there wouldn't stand more than a couple seconds under our tractor beam without breaking up."

"I see, Mr. Scott. The ship won't hold up against the tractor beam. We can't beam whatever it is aboard because the transporter has chosen this week to be temperamental. The ship won't respond, but there is definitely intelligence on board. We have no idea what is going on down on Sagiton, whether friend or foe is anyone's guess, and we badly need information on why no communication has been made with us. So we can't risk destroying her. Does that about cover the situation, Mr. Scott?"

"Just about, sir. We also have 1 minute 30 seconds to decide on what to do."

Things certainly warmed up here quickly. Ah, never a dull moment in a starship captain's life. Just the way I like it, which is one of the reasons I'm not looking forward to an Admiralship, though Kirk. On the other hand, if I can refuse to let go of my command here and continue up the ladder of success, I'm bogging down the whole system. I'm leaving kids like Ensign Allen with one less vacancy to fill. Someday, the time will come when I have to let go. But not now. Now a decision must be made. Kirk turned to the communications officer taking Uhura's place, at present.

"Addison, continue to warn the ship of its collision course."

"Yes, sit.

Kirk turned to Walker and Smith, who were taking over for Chekov and Sulu."

"Fire on target if she comes too close, but not until the last possible minute."

"Yes, Captain," they sounded together.

Kirk watched, perspriing, the ship's approach on the scren. It showed no signs of slowing. Scott counted down. 50 second. 30. 20. 15. 10. 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. The Enterprise fired. After a millisecond, not even debris revealed a ship had ever been there. Scott looked apprehensively at Kirk. "Ther'es someone beaming on board, sir."

"What? But how? No ship of that size could hold its own transporter and the planet is too far away," Kirk argued. M/p>

"I know, sir, but all the same, someone's beaming aboard and 'taint our transporters."

Scott followed Kirk down to the transporter. Spock and McCoy met them there. A ship of that size, with its own transporter was incredible. Scotty was looking forward to speaking in depth about the subject with its user.

"The "user" was, for all use and purposes, a human being. A handsome one at that. His name, if ineeded you could call it a "he", was JOhn Smith. No title, no number, the simplest most common name in the universe had been give to this--phenomenon.

Kirk answered cautiously. "Yes, and you are--"

"John smith, Captain."

"This is my first in command."

"Yes, I know. Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Chief Engineer Scott. How do you do, gentlemen?"

"Well, sinc eyou obviously know all about us, perhaps you'd be so king as to tell us about yourself," snapped Kirk.

"Certainly, Captain Kirk. What would you like to know?"

"Let's start wit how you came to be here, Mr. Smith."

"John, please, Captain. Obviously I beamed aboard."

"So I see," mused Kirk agitatedly. "If you'd follow me, Mr.--John. We'll finish this conversation in private."

"Of course, as you wish, Captain."

"Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, if you'd acompany us. Mr. Scott, return to the bridge and apprise me of any new developments."

"Yes, sir," Scott lingered a moment.

"John will still be here here when you're off duty. I'm sure he'll be glad to talk to you, Mr. Scott," Kirk prompted.

"I'd be delighted, Mr. Scott. Until then . . ."

Scott gave a low grunt and hurried back to the bridge.

"This way, John." Kirk led the way to the recreation deck and opened the door to a private room labeled "Captain."

"Well, Capain, what would you like to talka bout?" John began.

"Did you receive our warnings while in the vessel that brought you here?"

"Certainly, Captain."

"And you kept coming."

"Yes."

"But weren't you aware of the danger you were in?"

"I was in no danger, Captain."

"But we could have killed you."

"Hardly, Captain Kirk. My system had already been locked into action long before I reached your line of fire."

"Will you please explain that remark, John?"

"If you wish. My controls had already been set to beam me aboard at the last moment."

"You knew what we were going to do, then?"

"Yes, Captain."

"how?"

John sighed and looked at Kirk pityingly. "You had no other course of action, considering your status. Your tractor beam was too strong to pull me in, your transporter was malfunctioning, and given your morals andbackgroun, you could not fire until the last possible moment. Do I make myself understood, gentlemen?"

"Too well, John, too weel," Kirk stared into blank space and appeared to be emergedin deep though.

McCoy sat on his hands, looking remarkably like a fish, with his mouth wide open in amazement.

Spock cleared his throat. "Captain, if I may--?"

Kirk didn't look up. He merely mumbled assent.

"Mr. Smith, our sensors detected no human life forms in that vessel. Was this a correct detection or were you shielded from the sensors?"

"Your sensors were correct, Mr. Spock."

"Then, if I may ask, what are you?"

"A simton, Mr. Spock."

"Which is?"

"A highsly technalized computer in the form of a human body."

"I see. And you were--born with a knowledge of this craft and the people inside it, correct?"

"If born is a correct usage of words, yes, Mr. Spock."

"And where were you born, Mr. Smith?"

"I do not know."

"What is your earliest recollection of being alive?"

"I believe I first realized this 'alive' sensation whenyour first warning beacon sounded."

"I see. Thank you, Mr. Smith."

"You're welcome, Mr. Spock."

McCoy turned to Kirk. "But that means he's only 20 minutes old, Jim," he exclaimed.

"20.245 to be exact. But, quite correct, Doctor," Spock interjected.

"So," Kirk finally spoke. "We have a 23 minute old highly technologized robot who knows everything about us, nothing about the planet he came from, nothing about his creator, and we are losing precious time to the people below trying to figure him out."

"I think that about covers it, Captain."

"Postpone shuttle craft lift off for another hour, Mr. Spock, and make arrangements for another passenger."

Spock raised an eyebrow towards John.

"Quite, Mr. Spock."

Before anything else could be said, Spock was on his way.

"That boy is getting too smart for his britches, Jim."

"Hmm. And I suppose you would like to cut him down to size. Well right at the moment, I want you to take our guest to the medical lab and give him the full treatment. Anything unusual, anything missing, I want to know."

"You're asking for it, Jim. Come on, Mr. Simton, let's go."

Kirk watched closely as they left, sat and mused for a while, and then turned on the Captain's Log.

Captain's Log 4896.4
I have postopned the departure of the landing party for a period of four hours. We have a guest, who will be coming with us. His name, if ndeed he can be classified as a "him," is John Smith. He claims to be a simton,, a high technologized computer, installed in the form of a human body. His fract was on a collision course with the Enterprise when he became conscious for the first time--with a knowledg eof myself, Spock, McCoy, and our lack of a transporter. His craft, if the course it mad was not erratic, came from Sagiton. "John," as he insists upon my calling him, however, has no knowledge of the planet or its reason for asking help. Or if he does, he will not reveal it. What a name for this "robot" to be called. The most common name in the universe, for a phenomenon unparalleled in anything we have encountered so far. Think of a whole race of these robots! If John is any indication of the typical one, only a sensor of satrship quality could detect his unhamnness. He is almost a perfect example of humanity. His name suggests this, and somehow I suspect his creator of having a keen sense of humor and a deep knowledge of human beings, if he is not one himself. A physical description of John may help you understand what I mean. He is not more than 2 meters tall, but not less than 190 centimeters. He weighs in between 79 and 80 kgs, is blonde, blue-eyed, and has no distinguishing features. He leaves one with a distinct feeling of indistinctness. There is nothing about him that would make me look twice, a face in the crowd, so indistinuishable as to make him almost the opposite. No real human could ever look so unassuming. The whole business leaves a bad taste in my mouth. However, he is our only lead to whatever is going on, so I have no choice but to take him with us despite a knowing in the back of my mind about him. Wasn't there another John Smith somewhere in American history? I wish I had the time to look it up. Captain out.

A knock at the door brought Kirk's grim face to attention. "Come."

Jean McRow peeked her small but beautiful head around the door. "If I'm disturbing you, sir, I can . . ."

"No, no, Lieutenant, come in and sit down. What can I do for you?"

"I hate to bother you about a personal matter just before we embark upon such an important mission, but I deliberated quite some time and have come to the conclusion that now is the best time to tell you," she began with an almost sarcastic and haughty tone.

"Sit down, Lieutenant," Kirk commanded in his "Captain's" voice, then softened when the Lieutenant had. "I'm not quite I quite follow you, but go on."

"I'm going to apply for a transfer--"

"What?" exclaimed Kirk. "Are you going to back out on us now, when we could really put your specialty to use?"

"--after the mission has been completed sir?"

"Sorry, Lieutenant."

"Understood, sir. If you would give your approval to it sir, I'd be much obliged." Again the unpleasant note.

Somehow Kirk doubted if this cold woman would ever be obliged to anyone, anytime, anywhere. "May I ask you why?"

"I'd rather you did not, sir."

"As your Captain, I have the right to refuse to give my approval if I don't think the grounds merit. You know that, Lieutenant?"

"With all due respect, sir, with or without your approval, I will get off this ship."

And she looked like she would, too, he thought grimly. "Then why did you come to me, Lieutenant?"

"First, you can make it much easier. Second, I respect you, Captain."

"Why, thank you, Lieutenant." Kirk was infuriated to find his color rise after all these years.

"May I have the approval, Captain?"

"On one condition, Lieutenant," Kirk continued after a slight pause.

"Which is?"

"After this mission I want you to be prepared to tell me why, and if not, I'm going to tell you a story."

"A story, sir?" She looked skeptical.

"A story, Lieutenant. I'm known as quite a storyteller, you know."

"As you say, Captain. I'll be here."

"Yes, you will. Dismissed, Lieutenant."

Leaving the room, Jean McRow looked obviously determined to get her transfer. Kirk wondered if McCoy had been seriously discussing Lieutenant McRow on the way over to the surprise party or if he'd simply been passing the time. It was a shame. McRow and Spock would get along wonderfully in other circumstances. With their cold personalities, and denucniation of weakness showing emotions, they'd be quite a match. In fact, if anything, Spock was the more human of the two. Well, right now more important things needed to be taken care of. A whole planet depended upon them.

Kirk pressed the communications button to sick bay. When it was acknowledged, he began to speak rapidly and concisely. "Kirk here, McCOy. Are you finished with the examination yet?"

"As far as I'll ever get on this ship, Jim. This boy could take years of examination to figure out, if even then. He is incomprehensible," McCoy exclaimed.

"Have you found anything out, Bones?"

"Well, according to our machines, everything he says is true. Also according to our machines, he is an impossibility. For all we could figure out, he could be a Charlemagne, Attila the Hun, or Abraham Lincoln. If he's as advanced as the analysis seems to indicate, he's probably holding something back."

"Which we'll never find out unless we get down to that planet. And the sooner, the better. Bring him with you down to the shuttlecraft bay. Let's get this show on the road. Kirk out."

Kirk didn't hesitate a moment to start down, but the ideas he was turning over inside his mind were more accelerated than ever. Simon Hilaid's distress call, John and his transporter all were connected somehow. But how? Perhaps the answer would come sooner than he wanted."

Not at all surprisingly, Spock was already on board the shuttle "Soliloquy" when Kirk boarded. Soon after came McCoy and John. And within a few minutes, the entire landing party was there and ready for take-off.

"Five, four, three, two, one. Embarking, Captain," droned Spock.

Kirk's mind crowded all other thoughts expected the beauty of space. He wondered about the first man ever to see space while entering into it. Innumerable stars backgrounded by a velvety black sea of nothingness. Of course, there was more to the beauty than that. That was why Kirk had become a starship captain. The intrigue of the unknown, the mystique of the unattaintable was irresistible. Yet even those places he knew were fascinating. History was Kirk's hobby, but the future was his life. And places he'd already been to were history now. They had also changed and were still the future. An eternal round. Space was not the final frontier, time was. He'd been through many experiences in time, and it was a frotnier. To travel in time was bliss, as much as space, or more. He wondered when, and if, man would ever become masters of time, if maybe someone around him right now was a member of a future race, travelling through their last frontier. Time was the ultimate frontier because through it all other frontiers could be relived.

McCoy broke the reverie with a slight nudging. "Look at John's face, Jim."

He did. John was entranced, looking at the sphere below them. No, more than looking, devouring it with his eyes.

"It's beautiful, isn't it, John?" Kirk asked.

John appeared not to have heard him. "I think I understand now, yes. It is worth it," he mumbled.

"What's worth it, John?" McCoy asked softly.

"Don't you see it?"

"I see it."

"It's more beautiful than anything I've ever seen."

"It's very nice, John."

"Sagiton is worth anything. It must continue."

"What's going on, John? What's going to happen?"

"You will see, Dr. McCoy. You will understand that it's worth it. It's worth everything."

Johh lapsed into silence, saything nothing more the whole trip.

Ensign Allen shivered involuntarily. Here he was with a crazy computer in a human body giong who knows where? What was he doing here, anyway? He remembered Susan, as he always did, dressed as he had last seen her. Her beautiful golden hair bound up in abun, a sleek golden evening gown on her slim figure. Every detail about that night was engrained upon his mind, the shoes she wore, her makeup, the necklace, the perfume. The most beautiful creature he'd ever seen before or since. But she was gone, gone forever now. It had been a special night. Allen was going ot propose to her when he'd walked her home, but there was never time. He remembered her special laugh, its tinkling quality. If he just hadn't taken that last drink, if he'd just gone to another disco, if he'd stayed home, she'd still be alive. Too many ifs. It was unfair. Reliving the whole scene in slow motion for the thousandth time, he asked Susan to dance with him. The band was playing "Adon you rface with love." 1, 2, 3. 1, 2, 3. "Susan, you're the best dancer I've ever known." She smiled, only, and was about to reply when the lights suddenly went off and the room was penetrated with a sleeping gas. 3 men entered the room, masked, and looked around. Their eyes centered on Susan's sleeping form. Unhesitatingly, they raised their blasters and aimed. AS if in a dream, Allen stared at them, watching their every move, seeing the light coming out of the blaster and streaking to Susan's breast. When he turned to look at her, she was no longer there, and he turned towards teh three men who were leaving stealthily and shouted a long, painful, "Noooo!"

Allen started. "Are you OK, Bill?" asked Louann Repart.

"Mmm, sure. Fine. Just a little jumpy. First trip, you know."

"Sure, I understand. If you ever need antying, I've been know to listen for hours, OK?"

"Yeah. Thanks, LouAnn. If I ever need you, I'll ask."

LouAnne Repart wondered aobut Engisn Allen. He was so different. He'd always kept his distance. She knew he had no close friends and though he'd been on the Enterprise for over a month, sh'ed never seen him socialize. He was always alone. LouAnn had known his type before. A tragic past, unable to let go of it, so they either join starfleet or kill themselves by drinking. Most of the ones who joined StarFleet made it, but there was a certain look in William Allen's eyes that worried her. An eligible, attractive, bachelor shouldn't have that look. He shouldn't have had that pain. The look was all too famiiliar to her. After working on rehabiliation planets for eight years, she'd seen the look many times. And then the hum of the Sololiquy's engine enveloped her, too, in dreams of the past.

She dreamed of Exodus III, her first rehabilitation planet assignment. She saw Michael again, her good friend now, and remembered the arguments about the patients they'd had. Sally--a seemingly harmless old woman, but a known murderess. Rittel--the silent one. He never spoke a word, nor communicated any idea all the eighteen months LouAnn was there. He'd been a silent killer, no pity was evoked in LouAnn's heart for him. Quinton Reese, Ak'puton, Liesl, Christopher . . .yes it was Christopher that Bill Allen reminded her of. Only in eye expression were they similar, but in LouAnn's opinion, the eye was the mind. Christopher, the Andoran, no wonder he had that love-lost expression. He never complained, he never yelled, he never showed the "evil eye" as did all the others. No, he was different. A very fascinating specimen. He'd been offered a space term instead of the rehab planet, but he'd never been able to adjust to his loss. He never came out of his self-imposed shell, and though try as the workers did to make the planet pleasant, Christopher never had gun. It was as though he was punishing himself, and LouAnn knew that self-punishment was the harshest. Christopher came up for parole, but he asked to saty on the planet instead, and he was still there, as far as LouAnn knew, still punishing himself, still keeping a shell around his emotions that no one could break, still stagnated. LouAnn did not intend to let Bill Allen suffer the same, self-imposed prison. Bill would come out of it, if she had to force him. But how?

Silence was audible aboard The Soliloquy, and as incongruent as it may have seemed nonetheless, Jean McRow felt the silence around her as real as any noise she'd ever felt. Spock sat in the navigator's chair, silently maneuvering the vehicle towards what could well be all their deaths, but none were disturbed. Star Fleet trained their men well, she thought. She looked at William Allen, in his own world of regret and remorse--one only a boy could conceive, and LouAnn Repart all too obviously showing her concern for him. McCoy was ever the country bumpkin of a doctor, nodding in his chair (though how he could get comfortable in a standrard shuttle seat was beyond the lieutenant). Kirk was staring into psace. Psychologist as she was, she could not help wondering what was going through the handsome Captain's mind. The stars were his life, space Adventure his food, the Enterprise his home. A man cultures are built on and destroyed for. And then there was Spock. Spock, the commander, the scientist, and the Vulcan. And, McRow thought, the human. No psychologist would ever fully understand a Vulcan, and so, part of Spock was elusive. But as a careful observer, McRow often saw his human half shine through. The light banter with McCoy, the intense brothership of Kirk, concern for Chapel, things Jean had never heard a Vulcan doing. She wondered if life had treated her differently if she and the Vulcan could not have colleagues. He was quite intelligent, and though too concise for her tastes, an involving companion. Or he could be, she amended, if one could stand to be around Vulcans.

What had happened to her, she wondered. I'm too young to be the cynical old witch that I am. Age is relative, however. Experiences ages one, and Jean had had enough to make her 100 years old! Oh, well. The past was gone now. If all she could to further the progress at mankind was to risk her life who knows where, she could try. But not with a Vulcan, never with a Vulcan.

"Landing in two point eight three minutes," Spock droned.

Kirk tore himself from his reverie, and strapped himself in the emergency landing seat belts. Then he took one last look around at the landing party he'd chosen and had last minute misgicings. Ensign Allen looked far too young and vulnerable to be here. LouAnn Repart motherly, and Jean McRow just plain sulky. No going back now, though. Stress tends to make people less careful. It also tended to make them forget personal problems.

McCoy grumbled loudly as the shuttlecraft broke through the exosphere and descended upon the spehere below. Even Spock, the best of pilots, could not obliterate some of the turbulence. A mischevious gleam came into McCoy's eye as he wondered how well Spock would have been able to pour coffee in these bumps. He oculd jsut see the Vulcan dressed in white, spilling coffee all over someone and using some of his Vulcan philosophy on that someone. McCoy, he said to himself, you're getting old when you start daydreaming Spock as a stewardess, or would it be just a steward? Anyway, whatever, something is seriously wrong. Why haven't I got out of Star Fleet yet? He answered his own question. With what he knew very well was mostly incorrect. After all, who else would make sure Hortaio Hornblower, Jr and his sidekick the green devil didn't blow the galaxy to pieces? With a couple more bumps and a quick breaked skid, the Soliloquy landed. Everyone undid their seatbelts, but John was at the door before anyone else stood up.

McCoy saw too late the strange light that had fired the robot's eyes, and John started to speak as if under the control of an unseen force.

"You will follow me to the place to which we are going. No resistance, please. It would be unfortunate if I had to harm any of you."

Not a soul moved, not a sound was made.

"Captain, if you will be the first out, the rest will follow with myself in the rear."

Kirk's mind went full speed ahead, calculating, weighing his choices. John had no weapon, the Enterprise's sensors had made\ sure of that. Yet he had probably been built stronger than even Spock. But together everyone could overpower him. On the other hand, why shouldn't John lead? Kirk probably would have asked him to lead, anyway, and he would be taking them to someone who could give answered, hopefully. His mind was made up. If at any time, the circusmtances changed, they could still retake charge. "As you say, John." He nodded to the others, motioning them to follow him out.

The air was beautiful! A breat of it could amost sutain life, if eating air were possible, only this air would suffice. Kirk remembered the last time he'd been on Sagiton. The air was a cruel deception, for the planet was practically devoid of anything else. What little plant life there was, practically did have to survive on the air. The planet had always been strangely reminiscent of Vulcan. The landing site was on a huge plateau, and as usual, a strong wind was blowing sand particles around, stinging the uncovered eyes of LouAnn Repart, who was covering them with her hand. John was unaffected, however, so Kirk had to ask if he might return to the shuttle for a moment to get goggles for those that needed them.

As though uncertain and startled by a request unprogrammed in his circuits, John looked westward, seeking an answer. He received one, apparently, as he turned back once more to face Kirk, this itme the epitome of self-confidence, and said, "I will get them." True to his word, he got a pair of goggles for each of the landing party excepting himself. After waiting a moment to ensure everyone was secure and ready to go, John pointed west and said, we will go this way.

Kirk walked slowly and let his position in the line deteriorate until he was side by side with Spock. "Toward Kytel, Spock?"

"Correct, Captain," Spock answered, looking back toward the Soliloquy. He obviously was thinking of the tricorder he'd been forced to leave on the shuttlecraft. It certainly would make its loss felt, he knew.

"I wonder who he's going to take us to? What do you think?'

"Either to the cetner of our problemt or--" Spock was still precoccupied and analyzing the planet which had just blow across'his face, and trying to find some sort of landmark by which he could find the way back.

"or where, Spock?"

"Or to the fatherest away we can go, probably not under our own will."

"Always the optimist, aren't you?"

"Vulcans are neither optimistic nor pesssimistic, either state of mind is emotional, Captain. I was only--"

"Yes, stating facts. But it would be nice if you could find a spoonful of sugar to sweetne the medicine."

"A spoonful of sugar? Ah yes, you mean some good news."

"You're getting to be very good with human figures of speech."

"Only logical, Captain. However, I do have a minmial spoonful of sugar."

"Yes? Well, what is it?"

"Logically, any problems would tend to center toward the highest population density, which in this case is Kytel."

"Yes, well, I hope we can get wherever we're going to get before dark. I'd hate to be caught in this godforsaken place at dark. What kind of animal lives here anyway?"

"Mostly carnivorous. The plant life is not plentiful enough to sustain a great amount of the herbivorous animals. However, few live far from water, and Kystel was built as far from water as possible. The inhabitants of Kytel pump water from underground springs into their houses. Originally, the city was built away from water because of the dangerous animal life and man-made pipes covered the unverground, carrying water from as far as 103.684 kilometers."

"Is there anything you don't know, my second-in-command? No never mind, I don't want you to answer that."

"As you say, Captain."

The rest of the hike was spent in silence between the two, Spock appraising the situation, Kirk concentrating his whole energies on the hike, which had become quite strenuous with steep climbs added to the slightly heavier gravity.

Chapter Three

Back on the ship, Scotty had his hands full trying to fix the transporter when a yellow alert sounded. He hurried to the bridge to find out what was going on.

Sulu relinquished the command chair and stood next to it until Scott spoke.

"What's going on, laddie?" he asked with none of his usual Scotch light-heartedness.

"We're being scanned by an undefinable object."

Scott turned to Uhura. "Where's the scan comin' from?"

"The planet."

"The planet's a big place. Nyota, where exactly?"

"I can't tell exactly, Mr. Scott. It's as though the power source was the planet, the whole thing." Uhura waited until she was certain Scott was through, then turned her full attention to the communications console.

Scott sat in the command chair was an expression of what any but a Vulcan would define as meditation, rubbing his hand over an increasing grwoth of stubble. They'd received no communication from the Captain, which could mean either good or bad news. If everything was going well, the landing party was not due to check in for another 15 standard time minutes. If the Enterprise were not being scanned, he wouldn't have given it more than a fleeting though, but as it was, Scott couldn't help wondering if the same force scanning the Enterprise had not taken a more substantial hold on Kirk and the rest of the landing party. Scott certainly didn't trust that too-human-looking robot with a Vulcan temperament. It was obvious when Kirk had added shuttlecraft accomodations for him that hte Captain expected the robot to lead them to the core of the problem. It would be the simplest of tasks to lead them all to someplace where the could be kept until whatever was going on was over, or worse, somewhere that humans could not survive. But Scott had enough problems on the hsip, and he knew that Kirk would never forgive him if he didn't put it first in his consideration. As though in reply to his thoughts, a buzzing sound focused in on the bridge. Scott looked at Uhura for confirmation.

"Crew of the Enterprise, there is no cause for alarm. I wish only to come to understand you, which is why I am scanning you. My name is Al'lhamotundi. Translated into your standard, it means betrayed. I am of a race unknown to you as yet. We call ourselves Straeberss. To explain to you why I am here would be impossible in this limited time experience. You need only know I am here to help. Ambassador Hislaid sent a distress signalto you. I knew of it and came to Sagiton in an eddort to solve its problems. A great disease had spread over the planet but I have discontinued it. The planet which you orbit is now devoid of disease of any kind as you know it. There is no death, no pain, and no worries. As a speaker for all Saigitians, we ask you to join us in a "Garden of Eden," to become one with us in all things. Your Captain and friends have already joined us. You need only beam down (yes, I have fixed your transporter) and enjoy the fruits of everlasting happiness. To convince you that I speak the truth, I will show you your Captain and comrades in the paradise they have entered."

A picture appeared on the bridge's sceen. On it was, indeed, Kirk and the remaining landing party. They were in a place one could only name paradise. It was spring and a smile of ecstasy was on every face. Kirk sat lazily by a spring of gurgling water, laughing at no one, talking to himself. McCoy had fallen asleep under a southern cotton tree in the shade of a hot afternoon. Allen was climbing a large apple tree, shaking the apples down to a blissful Repart. McRow was cooling her feet and spalshing about in Kirk's stream. Only Spock was missing from the scene. After a slight flicker of light on the picture, he, too appeared. An uncharacteristic smile on his face, he was strolling along an orchard path, humming some strange Vulcan melody. Then the screen went blank and Al'lhamotundi's voice filled the air again.

"We wait your convenience. COme soon, my friends. Every moment you waste, you lose a moment of paradise." The voice seemed to remain a moment longer, then deceased, and the buzzing gradually faded away into silence.

All eyes were on Scotty. He was far too involved in his own thoughts to answer them. The Enterprise had happened on a paradise once before, and if this one was at all like it, the crew must be restrained from going anywhere on the planet. On the other hand, Kirk had looked so utterly satisfied how could he refuse the crew when he himself would love to go down there? Besides, Kirk looked free to return to the hsip at any time. But there were several things tugging at the end of SCott's mind. Mr. Spock looked too unnatural for one thing. This straeberss was a bit too slick, a bit too persuasive. And his name meant Betrayed, not a good sign. Not to mention the fact that Kirk would never let his ship be abandoned, even for paradise. So, now all Scott had to do was convince the rest of the rew of one of two things. Either Kirk had gone mad, or was in "eden" against his will. Nothing a miracle couldn't cure. Scott turned to Uhura. "Give me the Transporter room."

"Yes, sir," she answered, giving him a look of childish bewilderment, seeking adult guidance.

"Is that you, Willis?" Scotty called into the intership communicator.

"It sure is, sir," replied the voice on the other side.

"No one is going ot beam down unless I give my personal say-so. Do you understand that, me boy?"

"But, sir. It's paradise down there, just waiting for us."

"Aye, laddie, but what is it waiting for? Just follow my orders."

"I'll try, sir, but some of the crew is getting pretty desperate for shore leave and I don't know if I can hold them off."

"If you have to destroy the whole transporter system, no one is getting down to that planet. Understood?"

"Yes, sir."

Scott sighed and ran a roughened hand across his perspiring forehead. This job was going to be toughy. He hated working against the crew, even in their own best interests. Kirk was known as the highest morale-sustaining commander in the galaxy, but even his crew had its downs. What he wouldn't give for a little of that paradise Kirk seemed to be enjoying right now. It wasn't until just then that Scott noticed that eyes were still on him. "Well, what are ye all staring at? Get back to work, Mr. Sulu, Mr. Chekov, Ms. Uhura. Have we have transmissions from the Captain?"

She looked at him quizzically, as though asking if she had if she wouldn't have relayed them to him, as acting commander. But nonetheless she answered with a short, "No, sir."

"Then I would like to send a message back to command."

Uhur nodded and said, "transcribing, sir."

"USS. Enterprise Stardate 4903.2 Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott as acting commander. Captain Kirk and the landing party arrived on Sagiton in the shuttlecraft Soliloquy over four hours ago. We have no communications with them since they leftthe mothership. We have had a transmission, if one might call it that, from a --Uhur, what was that name again?

"Al'lhamotundi, Betrayed One."

"Yes, Al-lhamotundi who claims he was privvy to the distress call sent to the Enterprise and answered it himself by going down to the planet and curing the disease that had been ravaging them, and all other disease on the planet. Al'lhamotundi, Betrayed One in standard, has now created a paradise on Sagiton and invites all aboard the Enterprise to enjoy an atmospehere of no pain, worry, or disease. We were shown an image of the captain and the others on the planet, enjoying the "Eden." They seemed perfectly well and able to do as they wished, but as looks are often deceiving, I have taken the liberty of closing all passage from ship to planet. This Betrayed One claims to be of a race unknwon to the Federation, but by the name Straeberss, apparenty highly advanced. Why only one is on Sagiton was not explained. It is my opinion that a small group should beam down to the planet (Al'lhamotundi fixed the transporter as a sign of "goodwill") and investigate. If they , too, don't communicate after a set time, the Enterprise should either leave the sector or receive reinforcement. Awaiting your instructions. You know the rest, Uhura."

"Uh-huh," she answered, more than slightly bemused at Scotty's style of speech. He had extensively curtailed it, using none of his well known Scotch dialect, into almost sounding written by Kirk himself.

One young man on the bridge was not amused with Mr. Scott's professionalism. In fact, Kier Richards was much perturbed. He knew, of course that Mr. Scott was only doing what Kirk would have done, but that hardly mattered. Richards dind't approve of either Kirk or Scott's methos of morale-sustaining, and he planned to do something about them. While Kirk was a legend in his own time, and known for running a tight ship, nothing could be done as far as High Command was concerned. But since Kirk was the best in the galaxy, Richards knew the place to start Star Fleet Reform was here. If he could just show how fragile the balance of command was held, all was possible. It had taken him 6 years to contrive to get himself placed on the Enterprise. Of course he had done it very carefully and very methodically. No one would have ever known he'd been waiting anxiously for a chance to get on this ship. But oh, how he'd planned, spent hours at night plotting step by step how he could get close to Kirk, close enough to watch his methods, get to know them, and attack them when the time was right. And now was the time. Richards looked around the bridge disdainfully. Mr. Chekov, Sulu, Uhura, Ransin, Ak'tor, all loyal, devoted followers of Kirk. No, he would find no sympathy for his cause here. First he must get off the bridge, somewhere close to the crew, close to as much of the crew gathered together as possible. And he must enlist the help of some higher-ups, either voluntarily or not. Willis at Transporting would be a welcome, but not mandatory addition. Perhaps Mullen or Carsie, they seemed born trouble makers. And someone from the medical sections. Chapel would have to come, and one other. Whoever she chose. Someone from Science--a portable science like Physics or biology, something he could use if called to defend the cause with arms. They'd have to make home base near the "mess" hall and maybe recreation area, which would give them a little something to bargain with. While as those who did not join the cause would hardly starve or be in any real dire straits from lack of exercise or fresh food, it could wear on their nerves. But first on the list was to get out of here. And the quickest way to do that was simply to faint. So he did.

Chekov wasn't even looking in the direction of Kier Richards, but he heard a strong thump on the ground and turned to see Sulu running towards the young radical. Richards was given the nickname "Huey" when he first came on the Enterprise. But it was rarely used now as Richards had since curbed his verbal abuse of what he called "the system."

Chekov rushed over to help Sulu. But he was of no help. Richards was a little gray, but nothing a quick hypo and rest wouldn't help. Scott had already called for Nurse Chapel, who was there a couple minutes later, and Richards was carried off the bridge on a stretcher.

After all the excitement was over, Chekov started to get worried. Why had Kier Richards suddenly dropped like that? He was hardly prone to fainting and nothing had affected the others on the bridge. Either some outside force had singled him out, or--Chekov couln't think of an "or." So Al'lah wasn't as peaceful as he claimed to be. What was going on on the planet? Obviously, the landing party was not safe. Something had to be done about it, and fast.

He looked at Scotty, whose mind was going through the same thoughts, but was at a loss as to a decision. According to regulation 98A article 4, he was not authorized to send out a rescue party without orders from Fleet Command. Mr. Spock had been known to do so, but officially received a reprimand, even though his operation was a success. A failure could result in more unpleasant results. not that Scott was too worried aobut disciplary actions. He'd give his life to save Kirk's, but how could he know if he could even help? It might be a waste of time, money, and lives. Scotty couldn't take the lives of the rest of the crew for granted. Besides, Kirk would never allow him to jeopardize any one of his crew or his ship. Not that he could stop him now, anyway. He oculd ask for a volunteer party, send them down with a responsible person in command, and gie them a time limit for the rescue attempt, while he stayed on the ship and waited for definitive orders from Command, or news from Kirk. It seemed a cowardly way out, and if anyone had told Scott so to his face, he probably would have ended up going, but his understanding that Kirk would want him here, on the ship, prevented it.

He flipped the all ship communicator on the arm of the command chair and composed a short, to the point, speech to the crew. "A rescue party of volunteers only will be asked to assemble at the briefing room at 1600 hours. I repeat, only volunteers are going on this mission. Do not feel obligated to come. A group of only 4 will be selected. You will be given a limited amount of time to find and rescue the landing party. If you have not found them by that time, you will beam up. If you do not, we will assume you are either dead or have been captured. No other rescue party will be sent out. Thank you." <.p>

Scott looked at his chronometer. He had 15 minutes before 1600 hours. 4 people for a rescue party was almost absurd. If Spock were there, he undoubtedly could have quoted the odds of their success. They were gri, but any more people would have been impossible to coordinate in the limited time he planned to allot. He could only pray for the luck of the Irish and the skill of the Scotch.

Richards, on the other hands, had the odds in his favor. Once in the air lift, he swiftly got out of the stretcher and explained his position to Chapel. As might have been expected, she declined his offer, and would have touched the emergency alert if he hadn't have grabbed her and held his hand over her mouth.

"Listen very carefully, Christine. Now, you think I'm a madman, don't you? No, don't try to treat me like a child. You do think I'm crazy, don't you?" He pulled her arms tighter behind her back and Chapel held back tears of pain and nodded. "Yes, I thought so. But I'm not, you know. No madman would have gone to the trouble I have. No madman could have waited patiently while his name was passed over for placement time and itme again. What madman could have stood by and bided his time until the exact moment came to prove Kirk the bungler that he is? No madman could have. But I could. Kier Richards could. And I will be remembered for it. The greatest reformer of all time. Can't you see the textbooks about me, Christine? Can't you, I asked." Richards pulled still tighter until she yelped in pain and nodded again. "Yes, I will be famous, but first I need your help. You understand, don't you?" Chapel needed no prompting to nod this time. "Now, when I take my hand off your mouth, you're not going to scream, are you?" Christine shook her head in the negative. "Good, because I have a phaser in my hand set on kill, and I'm not afraid to use it for the cause. Now here I go, I'm taking my hand off. There, that was very good Christine. Now I want you to wipe those tears form your eyes and put a smile on your face. I don't suppose you would have any powder on you, would you?"

Christine shook her head.

"Oh, too bad. Well, smile now and I'll link arms with you. We're almost to my level. When we get out, you won't try anything, will you? Well, say something. Are you mute?

"no, Kier. No, I'll do just as you say, just calm down. If you'd just let me take you to the medilevel, we could sit down and have a nice talk and--"

"And end up in the brig for all my troubles. No, I'll thank you to stay out of my affairs. I think I liked you better mute. That bad you've got has emergency med-supplies in it, doesn't it?"

Chapel nodded. "Good. If we need anything else, I'm sure we can just ask for them. After all, Star Fleet is too soft to let a mutineer like me die of wounds, aren't they? Besides, it would mae bad publicity. We want good publicity, don't we, Christine? That's why I chose you. You have a beautiful smile, when you care to use it on any but that Vulcan of yours, and your legs are fantastic. Now give me one of those smiles you're famous for giving to Mr. Spock."

Chapel tried to, but the result was unconvincing. It looked indeed exactly like it was, a woman being kidnapped and ordered to smile. It seemed to satisfy Kier Richards, though.

"There, you see, it's not going to be that bad. You and I could get along very well. After all, I'm hardly a monster. Some have even called me handsome." Something in Richard's face flickered. "But there will be time for all that later. You're still saving yourself for that Vulcan. Don't you know he'll never come around. After you get to know me, maybe you'll feel differently. Well, here we are. Step out, my sweet." The lift doorsopened and holding Chapel's arm, Richards carefully led her through the halls of the recreation deck.

They stopped at a door labeled "Gym" and entered. The area was practically deserted, not uncommon for this time of day, Chapel thought. Of course he had planned it that way. The most dangerous madmen were the smart ones. Well, this is what I get for staying aboard a staship and not settling down and getting married with some nice, rich merchant.

Richards carefully manipulated the controls as to allow his voice only to be heard in one room at a time. First he called his cabinmates. They began arriving within a few minutes. Then, selectively they singled out others to join their cause. Within an hour, the gym was quite full of a group slowly growing into a mob. The noise level began to accelerate, as Richards watched on with approval, and Chapel wth horror.

She wondered desperately how anyone was going to get down to the planet and help Kirk with a mutiny in progress. There must have been at least 200 people gathered. Half the crew! Richards had certainly gotten around! He must have been quite convincing, but it was said that madmen always are. She recognized most of the people. They were hardly what one would call the mutinous type. She'd known many to profess profound admiration and deep loyalty to the Captain. Well, Richards hadn't been nicknamed "Huey" for nothing. And all the while, he'd been quietly adding to his forces, she'd though he was getting conservative. An actor, too, he was, on top of everything else. What was Scotty going to do?

Mr. Scott was heading towards the briefing room after 15 minutes of tense and agonizing boredom. 5 minutes before he relinquished the con, he'd noticed all three of his command personnel, doing the same thing. The coincidence did not escape his mind. He'd already decided which of them could go and which could not.

Passing through corridors, he saw them strangely sparesely populated. If he was back on Earth, he'd have said it was the night shift. More important things displaced farther deliberation thereon, however, and he assertained his proximity to the briefing room by the noise level. However many times they remake the decibel level absorption of walls on starships, humans seemed to have a knack for raising their voices high enough to be heard outside a room. When he entered, it became quiet and all stood. Scott was surprised at the lack of volunteers. Originally, he'd debated on holding the selection in the gym, but it was hardly waht one might call crowded, and Scott realized his worries had been unnecessary. Not a compliment to Kirk's abilities, however, he observed wryly. Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov, were all there, as he had expected, along with Lt. Riley from Engineering, Yeoman Mai, Retired Admiral Ashley, and Nurse Jenike, who reminded him of CHapel. He wondered why she hadn't come. Of course with McCoy already on the planetand Chapel the senior medical officer, she probably thought it was best foor her to stay on board. And indeed, Scott thought, had she been there, he would most certainly have not allowed her to come, but still, considering Spock was on the planet, you'd think she'd at least make an appearance. Maybe she'd given upon the Vulcan, finally. It would only be for her own good. Spock was never too fond of the situation anyway. Why were his thoughts always wandering, he wondered. Age does strange things to one's mind. This life was not for him much longer. Star Fleet never actually retired its people, it just gave them more "respectable" jobs--like research. When Montgomery Scott got the foot, there was no way he was going to stay at some desk job. He'd buy a ship of his own and go from there--wherever "from there" took him. Back to the present, laddie, he reminded himself, and bade all to sit down again as he took his place at the head of the table and turned on the computer.

As usual, the ocmputer went round and took down the names of all present, including their ranks and merits. Then it waited for Scott to officially begin. He did, after a few moments of waiting, just to keep everyone on their toes. "I want each of you to explain to me why you should be selected to go on this mission, and then I wil tell you who is going. Understood? Good. Let's begin with you, Nurse Jenike."

Renate Jenike cleared her throat and looked up at Scott shyly. She began to speak very self-consciously. Obviously a new recruit, he thought.

"Well, sir, I'm a nurse. I think you will need a nurse down there because if you don't have one, chances of coming back alive are slim. I've had extensive survival training courses, and grew up on a number of alien planets, which should enable me to better adjust to the conditions of Sagiton."

Scott waited a little longer, usually these explanations went into great detail. Not that i mattered. He'd always preferred the short and sweet idea.

Jenike cleared her throat again. "That's all, sir."

Scott gave her a pleasantly surprised look and turned his eyes to Chekov.

"I'm strong, young, and know Captain Kirk and most of the landing party quite well. You know the rest of my qualifications.'

Scott nodded and looked at ex-Admiral Ashley.

"I have held the highest rank and the leadership of a sapient person will obviously be needed if we are only to have a short amount of time. Besides my self-evident amount of superior experience, I have received the silver cluster 3 times, the award of extraorindary merit twice, the acheivement of physical fitness each year, the act of courage in the face of death twice . . ."

Scott was beginning to nod. Awards put him to sleep, as did speakers who openly flaunted theirs. Admiral AShely was 90 years old, hadn't been on active duty for 10 years and was a pompous old fire-breathing drgaon of a fool. He was only on the ship to return to his home planet to retire anyway. And he would be included in the mission because he had the rank, experience, and most of all, connections to demand it. And Ashley knew it, too. Why he was making a speech was beyond Scott's comprehension. He was just one of those people who enjoyed tooting his own horn. And Scott could do nothing to put an end to it except bide his time. In that facet, at least, he did not envy those who were accompanying the Admiral.

Ashely gave Scott a quick look to determine whether or not he was listening. He wasn't. And just to make sure, Ashley added in his own little award.

"The most gracious award of royal pomoposity. . ."

Scott didn't even look up.

"The achievement of declining senility . . ."

Nurse Jenike beside him suppressed a chuckle.

"The deed of blunt imbecility.:

Jenike was not doing very well at suppressing her giggles.

"Mr. Scott are you listening?" asked AShely.

Scott looked over at him drowsily. "Certainly, sir," he said.

"Can you repeat what I just said?"

Scott was more that infuriated. As acting commander, none had the right to treat him this way. "Computer, rewind and repeat Admiral Ashley's last three statements."

The computer did. Scott kept a placid face on, and said, "Anything wrong?"

Ashley gave Scott a knowing wink and said, "No, sir." He was definitely going to liek this young man. Just like himself, he was. A little more hot-tempered, but that would come with time. "I think that's it, Lt. Commander Scott."

Scott nodded at Riley.

"My only qualification for this mission is that I have none. Therefore Star Fleet will not be losing a vital asset if they lose me," Riley defended himself with a fierce pride.

Scott motioned toward Mai.

"Ditto," she said sullenly.

Scott looked around the table. Deliberately omitting Uhura, Sulu and Chekov, he turned sharply to the computer and asked it, "What is your suggestion, computer?"

The computer hestiated and made a noise strangely similar to a human throat clearing. "Nurse Jenike, Lt. Riley, Yeoman Mai, and Lt. Chekov."

Scott looked at Ashely, catching his eye and announcing that Ashely, Chekov, Jenike, and Mai were to be the rescue party. With no further ado, he stood up and said, "You have 5 minutes to report to the transporter room with survival kits, supplies, and uniforms,. Dismissed." Scott then left. He had extremem misgivings about sending the 90 year-old ex-Admiral down, but he didn't have a choice, as the ocmputer did. He'd made it very clear to the Admiral that it was--to coin a very old and well-used phrase--illogical for him to go. But in the same look Ashley had simply communicated-- we both know I'm going, though, don't we? It was out of his hands now. Back in his seat at the bridge, he'd barely had a chance to get comfortable, when another voice enveloped the ship for a minute. Scott thought it was Al'lhamotundi again. His relief after learning it was not was short-lived.

Strong, confident, and unmistakably jubilant, Kier Richards' voice began yet another crisis. "My dear friends and countrymen, lend me your ears. I come not to praise Kirk, but to bury him. And I shall. Mr Scott, sir. I have half the crew assmebled in the gym ready to mutiny on my command. Either you give up, or else. . ." Richards luahged quite maniacally. "Or else my dear acting commander, we will make you give up. You have one hour. I'm awaiting your formal resignation of command to me quite eagerly."

Richards' vboice had become cold as steel again and Scott wondered why in the world this happened to him--always.

Chapter Four

John led a very begrimed and exhausted landing party through the streets of Kyetl with ears sharper than a Vulcan's he'd listened to the sparse conversation of the humans. Strange, he thought, but he felt sympathetic towards them. Why they had to be part of Al'lhamotundi's plan was sad. But a servant does not question his master. Suddenly, John was horrified. He had just allowed his thoughts to stray from the cause. It was most definitely the influence of the humans. Unmistakably, they were dangerous. He chanted slowly, Allhamotundi is good. He knows all. There his mind had chekced the individual thoughts that had momentarily controlled it. He was nearing the place where he would no longer need to come in contact with the humans. He was relieved. He gestured expansively with his arms to a large building on the left. Taking the humans to the door, he left to go to other tasks.

Jean McRow had been observing their humanoid guide for quite some time since their arrival. With all her psychologist's experience, he was still a challenge. After all, her specialty was in civial war, not robopsychology. But from what his facial expressions, too finely tuned to a real humans's to give none, she learned that he was far from the contented slave. In fact, he was becoming increasingly confused. His mind told him to obey only the logical, slave-like reactions of his kind, but as a humanoid, his "heart" or whatever his creator had put in its place, was leaning more towards the emotions of the humans who surrounded him. If perhaps she could accentuate that side of her personality, John could become, to say the least, a very valuable ally. First, she must observe more. It had been some time since her classes on robopsychologoy in the Academy. Psychologists were required to take mini-classes in a certain amount of fields other than their major, and robotics seemed quite intriguing. It was new ground for advanced robots hadn't existed very long in the Federation, and the science of robopsychology was more of a reasearch than a field-work job. One of the most important points her professor had stressed was the need for robots to stay in the field of manual labor, out of human contact. For in human contact, most of the problems occurred with them. Too many robots had simpy shut themselves irretreivably off because of the conflicitng emotiona nd logical struggling for power in their minds. More often thatn not, neither power was stronger than the other, and the robots simply could not solve their own inconsistencies and committed suicide--or roboticide as it was now being called, given a name to distinguish it from the self-destruction of life. There were, of course, robots whoe logical impulses wonout over their emotional ones. But robots with that experience generally ended up useless piles of scrap metal. Complaints by owners were "too sel-centered," "ruthless," "disregard for human or any other life." No cases of emotionality winning out over logic had been recorded to date, as far as McRow knew. The Federation's androids were of no comparison to John, however. He was an exquisite piece of workmanship theoretically. She remembered her professor remarking, a robot who is created with the sole intent of being human will convince itself that it is such. For where can the line be drawn? If a being is intelligent enough to want to be human, how can it be denied the rights of a human> McRow had the funny feeling that here was the robot to go where no robot had gone before--humanity. First, she would observe. Surely there must be others somewhere in the city. As the landing party had hiked through town, not one human eye had met their curious gazes. Not even a robot, such as John was seen. She knew that Spock, with his more direct line of thinking, would ponder that ifrst. And probably find it fascinating, she though wryly..

Jean McRow was not wholly correct. Spock did indeed scrutinize the shortage of inhabitants, but true to form, paid due attention to their robot guide. He concluded that John was capable of independent thought and therefore the consideration of an intelligent being. As the android also seemed to be under someones control, John must also be classified as a slave, in need of liberation. As to the lack of people on the streets, Spock hadn't enough information to understand. He suspected that quite soon his information would undertake a large growth. He was correct.

After John, Kirk was the first to enter the old-style Kytel city hall. His eyes were met with quite a shock. Inside the building was pitch black. The only source of light came from a room that was also emitting a pulsating vibration. By the time Kirk's eyes had adjusted to the absence of light, John was nowhere to be seen. Conceivably there was no reason for Kirk to go further. No reason except that he was Kirk, a starship captain, and curiouser than his first in command. He felt the group behind him, none uttering a sound, all waiting for his command. He said nothing, but just moved towards the room. He was unprepared for the reception he received, and jumped loudly enough only for Spock's ears to catch.

"I am Al'lahmotundi, your savior. Kneel and submit your minds."

Kirk only noticed his surroundings. He did not need to be told where he was. The name of "the savior" was hanged, admittedly, but he could not be mistaken as to their whereabouts. It was almost as if Kirk could have looked up and seen written in the sky, "Garden of Eden." The planet life was exorbitant. He doubted if even the ship's bontanist could have named each piece. A large tinkling of water gave away the presence of the smallest of streams overhead. Kirk noticed what he knew must be an illusion, a cloudless blue sky. Animal life was not to be easily seen. But as Kirk walked slowly through a growth of trees into a meadow, he caught sight of two animals he was almost expecting--a lamb and a lion lying down together. Then Kirk remembered with a start that probably no one else in the landing party would understand the significance of what he had seen and heard. Ancient Earth religion was not something that everyone was expected to keep up on. Kirk turned around to explain. His mouth opened and clsoed again. There was no one there to talk to. They'd followed him to the dense wood, he was quite sure of that. That left one of two solutions. Either they had been removed, or he had. Kirk reflected a moment. No, there was one other possibility. If neither or all had been transported here, perhaps they just couldn't see each other, or maybe only Kirk could not see them. In any case, it was obviously the doing of the Al'lahmotundi whose voice they'd heard. A command decision was in order. EIther he should stay where he was and wait or he could try to find Mr. Al'lahmotundi. Both were equally distasteful. But if Kirk remembered correclty, Adam supposely walked and talked with his God. If Al'lahmotundi were playing true to the Bible, Kirk could just wait until he made his appearance. What in the world was he supposed to do until then? He could build a shelter, but it would be gorssly unneeded as, none of the wildlife was harmless. Food was everywhere he looked. No need to gather it. Kirk desperately wished he had a book with him. He recalled briefly that in the Bible, Adam was naked and was not ashamed. With a quick look at himself, he ascertained that he was still fully clothed in Star Fleet uniform. Obviously Mr. Al'lahmotundi was not as exacting as he would like to appear. He was still in an impossible situation. How does one get out of Eden? Kirk suppressed a boysih grin as he remembered the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If he could just find that tree, he could at least get away from this hum-drum existence. He couldn't recall any particular identifying mark mentioned anywhere, and he could hardly expect a "Beware" sign! In the book, Eve had found the tree. Kirk hadn't seen Eve around anywhere, either. Perhaps Mr. Al'lahmotundi had made another slight error.

As if in answer to Kirk's doubts, Kirk heard a voice signing its--her--heart out.

Haven't I read this somewhere, he thought wryly. He looked up at the sky and said, "OK, you win!" and walked towards the sound. It led him to a stream. Of course, he thought. Before he even saw her, he knew she would be bathing in the nude. This is so old and stale, he said to himself. Couldnt' Mt. Al'lahmtonudi be a little more original? Kirk wondered for a moment if his "Eve" would speak standard. Usually they didn't but occasionally they had a command of the language similar to a five year-old Terrna's, and continually asked, "why." Kirk was not disappointed when Eve looked up, saw him, and continued with her bathing.

"Hello," he said.

No answer.

"Hello." A little louder this time.

Still no reaction.

"Guten Tag," he tried. "Comment allez vous?" Still no answer. Kirk shrugged his shoulders resignedly and sat down on a nearby rock. A good a place as any to wait for Mr. Al'lahmotunid's appearance. He was throwing pebbles into the water, trying to make them skim gracefully. There was a certain knack to it, one he'd lost since the last time he'd sat by the side of a stream--about 40 years ago about now.

Then she spoke after a long, heavy sigh. "Oh, dear. I'm afraid you'll never get it, Adam."

Kirk stared hard at her. She got up out of the water and just as he was about to obligingly avert his eyes, he noticed she was anything but nude. In fact, she was wearing the most unrevealing, heavy, ugly swimsuit Kirk had ever seen in his entire life. It was a pity, he thought. She did have a rather nice figure. And even that bathing suit couldn't hide it. Then Kirk frowned as he remembered her wrods. She'd called him Adam. He hoped fervently it was only because she knew as much about ancient Terran religion as he did and not because they knew each other.

Eve jumped lightly out of the water and slipped over to Kirk's side. Looking around for a suitable pebble, she got behind Kirk. She put the pebble in his hand, pulled it back horizontally, and threw it. The pebble skimmed across the surface of the water beautifully. Even gave a quick burst of joy and said, "There, you see? That's how you do it. Now try it by yourself."

Kirk shrugged inwardly, determined not to argue with a five year-old mentality and haphazardly picked up a rock.

Eve looked disapprovingly at him. "No, no, that's not it at all. You must find a good, round pebble. There, like that one." She pointed down and before Kirk had time to look at it, she'd picked it up and sent it skimming perfectly across the stream to land on the other side. She repeated her little giggle of joy. "I've never done that before. You must be good luck for me."

This was hardly the most interesting way of occupying his time, so Kirk got up and decided to explore the rest of the "Garden." He wondered how big it was.

A pouting Eve following him, keeping up a steady stream of useless conversation. She pointed out each plant they passed, expressing her love for it and explaining its advantages and disadvantages. After 5 minutes of ceaseless chirping, Kirk turned around, annoyed, and said, "Look here, Eve. Either you're being a typical woman or you don't know the story very well. Adam is supposed to name the plants."

Eve smiled and replied condescendingly, "Yes, dead. I know. But you weren't doing it, and they had to be named, you know. So I took the job on myself."

Kirk grunted.

Eve looked a little hurt at her generosity being so sparsely appreciated, but managed to mumble, "Well, you can name all the rest."

Kirk grimaced and wondered if he could stand to see her cry. It was just so unoriginal. Well, he was not going to be so. He looked her straight in the eye and said, "OK, I will." He then proceeded to do exactly that. To make it a little more interesting, he made up the names as he went along.

Pointing to the clover growing beneath their feet, he said, "This is odiadiamanga." Even stifled a giggle when Kirk glared at her. Pointing to the lilies, he said, "These are aliajas." The oak trees were nunnus, the maples siters, and so forth and so on until Kirk's mind was so mixed up, he collapsed on the grass and started spouting a multitude of nonsensical words.

Eve looked worried, then changed her mind, collapse right next to Kirk and laughed so hard she cried. He couldn't help but join in. After half an hour had passed, the two just about had their laughter under control when Eve cracked the first joke in the world. "I knew a man with a wooden leg named Smith."

Kirk asked dutifully, "What was the name of his other leg?" ANd despite the fact that the joke was probably the first joke ever cracked in the world, and twice as stale, he found himself laughing himself hoarse for another half hour.

Suddenly, he broke off and looked about worriedly.

Eve asked what was wrong.

"All right," he answered. "You've had your turn. Now I want to know just waht you put in the air to make me laugh, where I am, and where my friends are."

Eve gave a fair imitation of being puzzled.

Again, Kirk jerked her off her feet and practically shouted at her, "And who are you, anyway? What's your name--your real name?"

Indecision took hold of Eve and she opened her mouth a couple of times, closing it without speaking, and looking about herself wildly. Brokenly she said, "The air--fine. Friends==? Eden we are. I--Eve. You--Adam. We--I--Al'lahmotundi. Help--" And with that she fell to the ground, eyes glazed over and as limp as noodle.

Chapter Tive

Spock glared curiously at Kirk, wondering where exactly he was leading them, and what exactly he saw that apparently none of the rest of the group could. But before he could put his question into words, Kirk was gone. He'd walked slightly ahead of the rest of them and simply disappeared. McCoy ran up to the empty place where Kirk had been just seconds ago. Flinging his hands throught he air and reacting typically emotionally by swearing. Spock stored the word absent-mindedly in his brain. He had never heard it before and wondered if he ever would again. But knowing McCoy--

Now, however, was not the time to ask McCoy what it meant, so Spocj turned around to make sure Kirk was the only one missing. Fortunately, he was.

Spock rummaged around in his pockets until finding what he was looking for, he took out a small pensize flashlight and turned it on. Flicking it briefly towards the direction in which Kirk had last been seen, he ascertained that Kirk was, as he presumed, nowhere even his Vulcan eyes could perceive. McCoy's mouth was drooping down, staring at Spock as though he were some sort of superman.

Spock replied with raised eyebrows and "You have a youth organization, I believe, Doctor."

"The BSF. 'Always be prepared.'" McCoy recalled, still staring, open-mouthed, almost unbelievingly.

"Quite," answered Spock curtly. "It is also the unwritten motto of the VYA, Vulcan Youth Association. Now if we are ready, I suggest we divide into groups and have a look around thie building. Did anyone see where John went?" Spock paused. No one spoke up. "OK, then. Allen, Repart, and Dr. McCoy, if you will go that way--" Spock pointed to the left. "And McRow and I will go right." Spock handed McCoy his flashlight and retrieved another from the confines of his uniform.

Jean McRow looked up, only a little surprised to find that Mr. Spock had arranged the groups so that she and he would be together. She was fiercely annoyed, but using the Vulcan Kaidth technique she'd mastered on her short stay there, noone, not even Spock himself, could have read her feelings.

McCoy appeared a little glum, gingerly flashing light on both sides of the wall and walking a step being Allen, who was obviously excited by this turn of events, and eager for a chance to get "a piece of the action."

Spock stared after the trio for a few minutes and turned his gaze momentarily on McRow. She calmly answered his inviting eyes with, "After you, sir."

Being a Vulcan, no one could accuse Spock of shrugging, but McRow had a feeling that if his human side had been a little stronger, that was exactly what he'd have done. Instead, he kept a steady pace through the corridors, alighting every part of either wall. There was nothing there. Not a person, not a speaker, not even a missing speck of paint. On and on they walked, seemingly for hours, always in a straight line, for they had no choice. There were no adjoining halls, no forks in their path, only an unending forward path.

McRow halted, not caring if Spock was a superior officer. This was a useless expense of energy.

Spock raised an eyebrow, but McRow could not have seen it in the dark even if she'd been looking for it. Before McRow could say anything, he read her mind. "A fruitless search, Miss McRow, wouldn't you say?"

Miss McRow returned to her "inferior office" pose. "As you say, sir."

"However, we hardly have a choice. The creator of this hallway obviously intended something similar to this to happen." Spock spoke without depression.

McRow remained silent.

"There must be a way out if there was a way in. If you will move to the side, Lieutenant, please." Spock shone his light to the left. "Perhaps I can make a way out."

McRow did as she was told, seriously doubting whether even brute Vulcan strength could break through these walls. She secretly wished John were there. Even if he couldn't, or wouldn't help them, at least he would make an interesting study. She watched as Spock braced his shoulder against the wall of waht may as well have been their prison, and push. Or did he push? She wondered. Noting moved, and Spock was not showing any signs of exertion. After 3 full minutes, Spock released the wall with a quick gasp and managed to say through his covered-up heavy breathing, "It's no use."

Then both were immediately quiet. Footsteps were coming towards them, from the direction they had just come. McRow knew it was John before she saw his face. He looked much the same as when he'd left. A human bleakness exusing from it.

He stopped a couple of feet before them. Illuminating the area with a small light, much more powerful than Spock's tiny penlight. He stood as a soldier at attention and stiffly ordered the two to follow him. Touching him as she passed, McRow felt him wince. There was hope for him, after all.

John followed them, keeping silent and the light ahead. After another couple hours of marching, John stopped and pointed to a door which Spock moved too wuickly to open and bumped McRow. He whispered a quick caution in her ear, "This is where the captain disappeared. Stay with me," and entered. Inside were McCoy, Allen, Repart, and Kirk, unconscious, suspended above the ground by some sort of device which was hovering above them. But they were not the only ones. As far as the eye could see, the room extended, and each couple feet, another levitator hovered, suspending 4 humans, all very unconscious. And for each 4 levitators, a robot attended, carefully making notations on a pad of paper also suspended. Spock noted that whatever language the robots were using to record, it did not belong to any known species. He wondered if he could get close enough to study it.

McRow stood amazed at the organization of it all. She glanced over at Spock long enough to catch the expression of fascination, not surprise, which extended across his geatures. Typical, she thought for the 100th time. She nudged Spock a little, too. "Well, are we going to get them out of here?" she hissed.

"Any suggestions how, Lt. McRow?" he replied.

To which she said not a word, simply walking over to the levitator, holding Kirk and the others and throwing Spock's penlight at it. She got instant, if not entirely desirable results. The levitator fell with a crash, releasing its hold on the landing party none too gently and letting them fall 2 meters directly onto the cement floor. While in the air, McRow noticed McCoy opening a very upset eye, but closing it again by the time he hit the ground.

None of the robots even blinked an eyelash, so Spock ran over to help. He and McRow quickly had all 4 lying on their backs, being examined for broken bones.

"They'll be a little sore, but no permanent damage." McRow showed no signs of gloating over her word.

"Indeed," answered Spock, who was looking around for his penlight. Finding it, he shone it directly into Kirk's face, slapping it simultaneously. Kirk was conscious in no time.

He jumped up and after a groan looked like he rather wished he hadn't. Seeing Spock on his right, he began explaining what had happened. "I saw a light when we first came to the door and followed it. Then a voice came out of nowehere saying it was my savior, Al'lahmotundi and that I had to kneel before him. Then I saw I was in the Garden of Eden. And everything was just as it was in the old-earth Bible, with a couple exceptions. I kept my clothes on, and when I met Eve, she had her clothes on, too. And then I got mad at her and started asking question after question and she fell down and there was no pulse. And then you were slapping me. You know, I think she really believed that she was Eve and that I was Adam and that we were in the Garden of Eden." Kirk suddenly broke out of his reverie. "But you didn't see any light or hear any voice, so where have you--and I--been?"

Spock kept an eye on the robots, who still showed no signes of discovering 5 of their prisoners were free, and told Kirk what little had happened to htem, and added that he was quite sure Al'lahmotundi--whatever else he was--was behind it all.

"So, Mr. Spock, I have three questions for you. 1, why is he here? 2, where are the Sagitons? and 3, how did he do what he did?"

"The only answer I have for that, Captain, is to find Al'lahmotundi and ask him yourself."

Kirk seemed to notice the robot guards for the first time and giving Spock a quesitoning glance, which he returned with raised eyebrow, Kirk walked over to the nearest one, a woman, and tapped on her shoulder. Spock, in the meantime, was getting the other 3 up.

Kirk's eyes opened wide with amazement when he saw the face of the robot. It was Eve. She, however, gave no sign of recognition, so Kirk was forced to act as though they'd never seen each other before.

"Excuse me," he began politely. "But I was wondering if you could tell me where Al'lahmotundi is?"

Eve smiled as if to a child, and took no notice of Kirk ever having spoken. "Oh, Captain Kirk, you are up. How good to see you. Al'lahmotundi wants to speak with you and your friends. So if you'll just follow me . . ."

Kirk had to suppress a slight grin at her tone of voice, not totally without irritation. He looked back at Spock and shrugged with an "I can handle this, don't you worry" look.

As they followed Eve, McCoy filled in what had happened to his group. Unlike Spock and McRow, their hall had not been unending. In fact, it was distressingly the oppsoite. They had come shortly to a flat dead end and turning around to retrace their steps, had found themselves facing another deadend. In this predicament, they frantically searched for a concealed opening. Repart found one--of a sort. It had led them out into the middle of nowhere. A wind could be felt, so they knew they were outside, but as pitchblack as it was, no one could tell where. McCoy rather mistrusted his sight, but reluctantly followed Allen. Allen claimed just to have been coming to some light when he felt a slug on the side of his head. The next thing he remembered was looking into Spock's face. McCoy argued that there had been no light and it was his shoulder that had been hit, with Repart siding with Allen in the presence of light and head being clouted.

By the time the tale was told, Eve had led them all to a huge door and knocking on it, Kirk once again heard the voice from the garden answer omnipotently, "Enter."

Eve disappeared, as John had before her, and the party was left to open tthe door on their own. Spock's height was required to reach the handle, so he was the first to enter the room. And what a room! Nothing in his experiences had prepared him for this. It was not just the size of the room, which was astronomical, it was more the decor. An exact miniature replica of every known planet, and quite a number of unknwon ones, in the galazy, hung from the ceiling, the size of each star, and even the tiniest satellite was exact, as far as Spock could tell. On the ground was a multitude of computers, the most complicated, and some a little more complicated, ever assembled. And in the center of it all was . . . John.

,P> With the frace only a living being could have, he noticed the group, walked toward them, and held his hand out to shake Kirk's hand. Kirk was not pleased. He had assumed that after all the pomposity they'd gone though, at least Mr. Al'lahmotundi would have the decency to appear for himself. Kirk was surprised, for when John shook his hand, he introduced himself--by his real name, if it really was.

"Al'lahmotundi, at your service, Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, Lt. McRow, Allen, Repart, ah, you're all here finally. I've been waiting ever so long for you." And with the annoyingly patronizing smile Eve had used, he gestured toward the ceiling, or sky as it would be more properly named. "This is your Earth, Terra," He pointed to a tiny speck of blue and green. "This is your Federation." He indicated a space colored in yellow. "This is the Romulan Empire." Red. "This is the Klingon Empire." Black. "And of course, you know the Organians." White. "This--" he referred to the remaining spaces which were rather larger than the psaces already occupied. "Is Starebula, the home of the Straeberss race. I--" he indicated himself majestically. "Am a Straeberss. We, the Straeberss, that is, are going to help you by allowing you to join our Empire. A simple yes or no will do, Captain."

Kirk just stared and decline to answer for the moment.

"Mr. Spock, our ever-sensible Vulcan?" John-Al'lahmotundi asked.

"If I may as you a few questions?"

He nodded.

"The first is why do you ask us, as we are simply tools in the hands of the Federation and any treaty we make with you regarding Federation territory would be invalid to any others, and second, where are the people of Sagiton?"

John stared at Spock. "You always were a sharp one. I'll give you that, but so complicated. You can't take anything for granted, can you?" As Spock was about to answere, he waved his hand and said, "No, don't reply. That was a rhetorical question, my dear Vulcan. You are a Vulcan, I know, that's probably whey you must know everything isn't it? Well, well, your ancestors were much the same. They declined joining us, too, even at the risk of forever being altered as we moved their planet one degree closer to the sun."

Spock raised an eyebrow skeptically--or fascinated?

John laughed. "You don't know whether to believe me or not, do you? Well, perhaps I've told too much as it is. On to your so aptly put questions, Mr. Spock. I ask you because you are the Federation." At Kirk's head shaking, he hastened to correct himself. "Oh, not the Federation in that sense, of course. I mean you are the heart of the Federation. Anything you do or say is bound to be seen by millions as correct. I'm sure you get tired of people telling you how legendary you are, but even we Straeberss, in our far off corner of the universe have heard of you and your adventures. Your scrupulousness goes unquestioned by most of the citizens of the Federation planets. Where Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock go, so goes the heart, the sympathy of the Federation." Kirk opened his mouth to argue. John cut him off with a curt wave of the hand.

"No, don't argue with me. As for the validity of any treaty, as you so tactfully put it, Mr. Spock, I simply don't care. Bureaucracy and politics don't concern me in the least. If the people of the Federation follow you, as I'm sure they will, they will do so without the help of kings, presidents, rulers and hte like. Question number two requires a bit more detail . . ."

Spock stared speculatively at him. "If I may suggest. Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start."

John looked puzzles for a minute, then laughed. "My goodness, you certainly do get around for a Vulcan your age, don't you? Let's start at the beginning indeed." And for the next four hours, John attempted to explain the beginning to an increasingly impatient audience. Only Spock was entranced by his incredibly beautiful mode of storytelling. With a faraway voice, he began, lifted out of the room in which he stood, into the very history he stpoke of.

"A long, long time ago, on a planet far far away, this one here. There lived a people known to themselves as the Straeberss. They had come to the period of time wherein every civilized race shows its vagaries--space travel. When the first space probe had been sent up, the people of the planet began to grow together, and then apart. The two factions which divided Straeberius were the Shatstal'i, meaning star-seekers, and the Washl, the earthkeepers. Their names describe their platforms perfectly. The starseekers wanted to push space travel. They were, in fact, willing to give it everything in their power to acccomplish it. The Washl were content to stay at home. They worried that the Shastal'i would destroy the delicate balance of life on Straeberius with their passion for space. The groups were evenly matched. Physical fighting would have been folly. Then, withint the two structures came two men, Sah'st and Kas'h. They were each determined to rule the planet, but both knew that destroying the other would mean war. A council between the two was held, and they came to a compromise. The planet would be divided in half, each group maintaining his half, neither invading the other. And to seal the bargain, Kas'h Wash leader, demanded Asmahn, literally blood trade. ASmahn was an old tradition of the Straeberss, dating back to early tribes and nations of their culture, who had exchanged their sons as tokens of goodwill. Reluctantly Sah'st complied, sending his son Motundi in exchange for Kas'h's son, Al'lah. All went well, or so it seemed to the Shastl'i, who were quickly becoming technologically advanced. They ignored Straeberius's other half and continued on their own. Famine struck the Washl, as their rich minerals ran out. Wash died by the thousands. And Kas'h was convinced it was the word of the Shatl'i. Desperately he weighed the odds, but more and more of his people were dying daily, so he went to war. He murdered Motundi as he slept, fully expecting Sah'st to do the same. War broke out briefly, but the Washl were in no condition to fight and after their leader courageously died on the battlefield, they surrendered. It was then that Sah'st had to decide what to do with Al'lah. Honour and his own fierce pride required death,b ut he had come to love the boy as a son, even giving him the name of his lost son. He chose the best of bad choices and used the boy in an experiment Shastl'i scientists were working on. Deep freeze. Not knowing whether or not the boy would ever come out of the freeze, Sah'st dugt a very large grave for the boy. Inside he put the most advanced computers available, with programming to awake the boy in a thousand years. He also programmed them with the information of what currently happened on Straeberius. The Straeberss went on to become a race very similar to your Organians. Only they made one error. They forgot about the boy deeply frozen inside their planet. And a thousand years later when he awoke, they were so much farhter advanced that he was regarded as an inferior. When he made the last error, that of killing a being for meat, he was exiled. The Straeberss proved especially effective when they chose where he would be exiled. They placed him here, among people of his own level. But the Straeberss didn't count on something. Al'lahmotundi was a fast learner and was not content with his place in life. Intent upon revenge, he did the only thing he could do. He made use of the inhabitants of Sagiton. And that's where they are now. I've made use of them."

"You have not answered the question yet," Spock insisted.

"How very astute of you, Mr. Spock. No, I haven't. Nor do I intend to, until you give me my answer. Will you let us help you or not?"

McCoy decided it was about time he had his say. He was not as quiet as Spock would have been, but the message was the same. "Listen, you son of a --- excuse me, LouAnn, Jean-- Klingon Khattar, either you tell us where you've put the inhabitants of Sagiton or we'll make you wish you did."

John let out a hearty laugh. "Oh, my good Dr. McCoy, you sound so fierce. And if I don't, are you going to turn your phasers on me? I'm so afraid."

McCoy reached down to his phaser--or where it should have been. All hands but Spock's did the same. The phasers were gone.

"Oh, yes, I've taken precautions. Believe me, nothing is going to happen to me, don't you worry about it. When you tell me the answer, your weapons will be returned." Their aptor let out one mjore hideous, humorless laugh, but it was enough.

Allen rushed towards him, flinging away the restraining arm of Repart. His eyes flashed insanely, his hands reached out to strangle the neck of John. He never reached it. With a flash of light two centimeters beofre he would have reached the thin but handsome Straeberian neck, he disappeared, Ever after he was gone, through the heartbroken screaming of Repart, a smoky form remained, a sort of gruesome statue, Allen's arm reaching out in desperation and gradually fading away as sht esmoke distributed itself throughout the room.

When Repart got a hold of herself again, she found herself pounding the chest of Spock, whispering NO over and over again. Eventually she stopped her angry pounding and clung to Spock, sobbing.

McCoy wathced in amazement as Spock not only allowed Repart to touch him, an unpleasant experience for any Vulcan, but actually put his arms around her showing genuine concern in his eyes. In a moment, she wondered if her eyes had deceived her. Spock put his mask back on and set Repart on her own two feet. She stopped her crying and simply stared at the now-empty space.

They all became aware of ohn again. What was there to be said now? Silence reigned for a minute. At the end of that time, Kirk was ready to give his answer. Determindely, he said, "No."

John released a horrible screech. A sound as none had ever heard. At last, he stared at them in white fury and whispered, "What?"

Repart matched his fury with her own and answered, "You heard us, you bastard."

Without a second of hesitation, John turned on her and stared. As he stared, his eyes changed their color. First green, blue, and when hit florescent orange, Repart's did the same. She rose above the floor and simply hung there, suspended.

"Your friend will stay where she is until you change your answer. You have three hours. She is next!' He pointed to McRow and disappeared, his words still ringing hollowly through the air.

But they were no longer in the huge astroroom of John. Nor could they see Repart. At least they weren't still in the black nothingness of--wherever it was they had been, thought Kirk. He looked around him, trying to get his bearings and assess the situation. They were far away from any form of civilization, that much he could tell. They might have been back at the shuttle if it weren't for that. Trying ot go anywhere would probably prove suicidal, but they couldn't just sit here and do nothing. "Odds of getting back to the city, Mr. Spock?"

"Sixty eight thousand four hunderd twenty three to one, Captain."

"And the odds of saving Repart if we stare here?"

"Noncomputable."

"So we go, Mr. Spock."

"We go."

"Any suggestions as to which direction we head into?"

McCoy replied for Spock sarcastically. "Eenie, meenie, minie, moe. Catch a tiger by the toe. If he roars, you let him go. Eenie, meenie, minie, moe." McCoy pointed to the right. "There."

Spock raised an eyebrow. "I fail to see what a child's nursery rhyme has to do with our present situation."

"Well, could that green-blooded computer behind your eyes have come up with any better solution?"

"If I were to choose between a logical solution and a nursery rhme, I would be most certain to choose the logial solution."

"But that wouldn't make it any better, now would it?"

Kirk motioned McRow over to him and whispered conpiratorially in her ear. "This is the way they let off steam. Everyone knows they really like each other. Only don't tell them that."

McRow raised a Spockian eyebrow and questioned Kirk's tenet. "Vulcans do not build up steam, Captain."

"No?" Kirk looked at her speculatively and was cut off by the sound of an approaching shuttlecraft.

"The Exodus."

We've been rescued, thought McCoy, good old Scotty. I wonder who . . .

McCoy's silent question was answered as Uhura, Ashely, and Mai stepped out. Uhura caught a quick breath and gasped, "Captain, but how? We thought--where is--are you?"

Ashely broke in with a hearty grin. "Hold it Nyota. Let James explain before you jump on him. Well, Captain--EXPLAIN!"

"What in the hell did Scotty think he was doing, sending you down here, Admiral Ashley?"

Ashely swept back a white wave of hair, only to have it fall again, before answering. "Well, I was avaialble and expendable, wasn't I? Besides, did you think I'd have let you go off on an adventure without me? I'm not retired yet, Jamesy boy. And besides I outrank him."

"Admiral Ashley, you get back on that shuttle and return to the ship right now or else!"

"Can't. Just after we left Lieutenant Richards decided it was the time to rouse a mutiny. He's taken over communications, the transporter, and the shuttleport and who knows what else. We're all stuck here together until Scotty get his half under control again. So suppose in the meantime you tell us how you got here and where Repart and Allen are."

He did.

"Oh, so you've got a taste of Al'lahmotundi, too. While you were down here without us, he let the whole ship in on what a good time you were having. How in the world did he manage to show us the picture of you in paradise? It would have taken more than a pretty piece of photogrpahing to display the expression on faces he produced."

"Obviously we are dealing with a being more advanced than we are, the total capabilities of which we are probably not yet aware," put in Spock.

McCoy muttered something under his breatha bout damn Vulcan understatements, but no one paid any attention to him, in any case.

"So what do we do now, Captain?" asked Uhura.

"we go back to Kytel and find Repart. What were your landing coordinates, Admiral Ashley?"

"Our coordinates were the same as yours. The city should be right there." He pointed exactly where McCoy had with his rhyme.

"If your brain patterns correspond with mine, Captain," led Spock.

"Exactly. Let's go." For the second time in 24 hours, they began the trek to Kytel. Only this time there was no John-- or Kytel itself even--to guide them. Spock, however, was quite as accurate. In shorter time than earlier, or so Spock said, for no one else had chronometers built in their brains, they arrived at where the city hall used to be.

What in the world are we supposed to do now? questioned McCoy. Pound on the air and say, :let us in, let us in, or we'll blow your house down?"

But Spock was unable to reply to McCoy's unintentionally spoken question, because John mysteriously appeared to do it for him.

"I'm not sure Al'lahmotundi would be at all pleased to know you are comparing him to a pig, doctor, and you yourselves have very few similarities to wolves. But you'll have questions, won't you? You needn't ask them aloud. I think I can imagine them. You see, I am Al'lahmotundi and he is me. When he created me, he used the only pattern he had--himself. So we look, sound, and think exactly alike. In fact, you might ask what the difference is. Al'lahmotundi does have sentimental value for the original body and a brain, of course, can never be cloned, however carefully reproduced. He sent me with a congratulations. It was clever of you to figure out that your eyes were deceiving you. Because of that, Al'lahmotundi has decided to lend you my services in the search for your missing member. We are both looking forward to a game with such an interesting group as you humans are proving to be. Captain, you are in charge.

Chapter Six

" . . . In charge. We are in charge," repeated Kier Richards calmly. "Surrender the bridge, Mr. Scott, or we'll destroy it and you. You have 10 minutes. Try to escape, if you can."

In the background, Scotty heard the mutineers pick up Richards' last words and shout them. "If you can, if you can, if you can." Scotty turned off the intership communicator and thought. On the bridge were five, including himself. At any other time, the mutineers wouldn't have needed the bridge for anything but a psychological advantage. As it was, something had warned Scotty to turn over ship steering power to manual bridge control. It was the only thing the mutineers did not have control of. If they could they would avoid destroying the bridge, for it would take 2 days to restore power. But if no other opportuniy presented itself, they would blow it up. In 10 minutes, though . . .scotty was a little skeptical. If he could stall, then what? 5 against 200, the remainining 200 odd locked on inaccessible parts of the ship. And the captain, admiral, and landing party all on the planet with Al'lahmotundi. Scotty reviewed his mental blueprint og the ship, closing in on the bridge, and then the rec room. There was a possibility. From inside the lift, one could travel half a story up, get out inside the life support tubes, crawl to the technicians' outer lock, pull on the usually left out space life support clothes, freefall down to floor 7, climb back into the ship at the shower waste chute, slip into the engine room, across the hall, and isolate the rec room. Scotty wondered what odds Mr. Spock would quote for him, not tha tit mattered. There was no choice. It must however be timed. The most dangerous part was reentering the ship. The ship was still in orbit around the planet, so whoever attempted it oculd easily free fall into nowhere. And then, there would be no guarantee that the waste chute would not be in use, in which case the attempter could try to climb anyway, but it would have to be done very quickly. The oxygen pack in the space life support suit could become blocked without knowledge of the wearer until it was too late. So who must attempt it? Chekov? In an emergency his age would be an advantage because he would live longer without oxygen, but his inexperience was a disadvantage. If he got caught, he might panic and all be lost. Sulu? Medium age, medium experience. His body was in great ship and fantastically limber and he was use to space life support systems. Walter of communications? He knew the ship as well as Mr. Scott did. If for some reason anything went wrong, he could easily reroute himself. Jeeves of science? She was the smallest and would find it easiest to crawl among the lifesupport tubes and the shower waste chutes. Or himself? He was the most experienced, knew the ship better than anyone and was not easily given to panic. But he was the highest ranking, which in this case was a disadvantage. If he got caught, what would the others do? And Star Fleet did not take kindly to senior officers endangering themselves needleslsly. Not that it didn't make any difference. He thought wryly of Admiral Ashley, not to mention Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Scott ran the advantages and disadvantages of each person once more, and finding nothing new, settled on Jeeves. The best of bad choices. Not too flattering--- to any of them. Scott glanced at his watch. He'd spent 1 minute 17 seconds already. He summoned Jeeves toward him, speaking directly into her ear. Whether or not the mutineers could or could not monitor conversations on the bridge was not available data, but precaution could save them all. Quickly but carefully he explained what she was to do. Pausing only barely long enough for her to signficy understanding, then continuing. Each deatil was vital, timing must be precise. He stressed that to her, knowing full well that she knew it as well as he did. And then he sent her off. Under his breath he whispered, "And the luck o'the Irish with ye, me girl." The Scotch were not renowned for their luck, he mused rebelliously. All eyes followed Jeeves to the lift, knowing and not knowing exactly what she was going to attempt. The lift door closed on her soft, expressionless face. And she was gone. But only from the bridge.

As she commanded the lift to carry her upwards, Jeeves remembered her old Academy teacher, Mrs. Stophy drilling into her mind the simplest technique of tranquility. Count back from 100. Even primitive Terran doctors of the twentieth century used this emthos on patients. Take deep breaths, after each number. 99 inhale. 98, exhale. 97 . . . Thank the Organians she'd attended that class. She needed every particle of her intelligence on this mission. Full well she knew what was depending on her success. The bridge crew, the Enterprise, possibly even the Captain. The lift stopped. 96, she exhaled. This is it, she thought, and let her mind do automatically what had to be done. On her hands and knees, she crawled into the life support tubes. They were too narrow to continue in that position. On her stomach, she slid along, an inch a second perhaps. She refused to let her mind drift to how long she had left before the mtuineers alotted time table was up. She only let herself focus on moving as quickly and efficiently as she could. She did not let herself think of the fear of cramped places she had strove to overcome as a child, only each movement she made did she dare acknowledge. Suddenly her muscles were burning, burning with exertion. Her conscious mind kept telling her that she could not go on, that one more step and she would die. But her mind was no longer controlling her movements. Her bare will propelled her forward, until she thought she would burst of pain. And then she climbed out the technicians' outer lock. There was one space life support suit. She dropped into it. It was enormous compared to her small, 45 kilo grame, but it would do. It would have to! She noticed matter-of-factly that only 1/4 of the oxygen was left in the pack. It would not carry her all the way down to deck 7 and up the waste chute. She would have to economize. One breth every 25 seconds would carry her to deck 7. The waste chute would have to be done without oxygen. She opened the door. The change of force nauseated her, even as it tore her apart. It got better after a while. The timing, she remembered. Slowly allowing herself to glide uninhibited in space, she counted to 5, then fought her way down. At least she hoped it was down. On the outside, the Enterprise looked much different, but it seemed to her that down was the way she went. Every 35 seconds she allowed herself a small breath of air. 11 breaths she took, fighting to progress downward. Then she counted to 3 and grabbed. Her eyes had been closed. She opened them cautiously, barely realizing that she was holding something solid. It was the ship. A number stared back at her. It was 7. She wanted to jump and cry at the same time, but she didn't. She had no oxygen left. She edged her way left. One, two, three . . . There it was, the chute opening. She tugged on it. It would not budge. Again, she pulled, but it was no use. No one, nothing was getting inside. She would have to wait until something came out. Panic seized her mind momentarily. Reason controlled it. You have two minutes at least, to live. But her lungs were telling her otherwise. THey were screaming for air. She moved to try once more, and it opened, but not alone. She was almost swept off her feet by the force of object pushed out at her. It was over in a second, one hour long second, and then she was pulled in again, suction closing the door. Frantically, she pulled off her suit. It was smelly air, but Jeeves could not remember when any air had tasted so sweet. She lingered to drink more of it, but duty interrupted her, her conscience objecting loudly to each breath. With a sigh, she discarded the suit and got out of the chute. The corridors were deserted. The luck of the Irish was with her indeed. She was directly across from the main engineering room. There was sure to be someone in there. LIkely more than one someone. Mr. Scott had given her no ideas on how to actually get in and get control. She'd have to use her own imagination for that.

She sprinted, high on her toes, soundlessly, to the door and put her ear against it. There were at least 3 people inside, all male. Even the judo Sulu had been teaching her the past two months was no match for that. A diversion was needed. What? She let her eyes wander around the corridor. an intership communicator, an airvent, a lift door, the chute. Great! A lot of help any of that stuff would be. Wait a minute. . . She walked over to the communiator, took off the front plate and glanced at the wires. If she remembered her physics class correclty, the green was negative and the yellow was positive. All she had to do was tie them together, get some fuel, and turn the communicator on. The fuel? She smiled deliciously. Surrounded by it two minutes ago, how could she forget? She slipped back to the chute, picked up the fastest and most easily ignitable items and was about to hurry back when a malicious thought came upon her. A fire might not attract the attention of all of them, but if it was a smelly fire, and the smell accidentally trailed into engineering .. . Well, it would not be her fault. Now what really reeked? She had it! What was that stuff Mr. Spock had eaten last week? She oculdn't remember the name, but after lunch, the whole mess room had had to be fumigated. If it had smelled bad then, think what it would smell like rotten and burnt! Chekov would have asked her if she had any Klingon ancestry. If she did, they would be proud of her now. It took longer than she anticipated to find Mr. Spock's leftover gobble-de-goop, but the smell was worth it. She carefully collected some small items and distributed them among the wires. Around the green and yellow tie, she put a small ball of paper. Then she turned on the communicator. With a click and a spark, the paper caught fire and spread to the rest of the communicator. Carefully she fed the fire. Slowly it grew bigger and bigger. Then, protecting her hands with banana peels, she picked up the whole thing and moved it to the airvent, adding the mass of smell.

She went back to the chute, only half closing the door, and waited to see what would happen. Results were not long in appearing in the form of 3 young and loudly yelling red-clothed men. Jeeves snook into the engine room, locked the door behind her, and turned around to look for manual control of the doors. She reached out for it and met something solid. It was not metal. It was human.

"One down, four to go," it said.

Jeeves found herself staring into the eyes of Markus Kristinaer. And if he hadn't done what he'd just done, she'd have called him her best friend. "Markus," she gasped. "You and . . ." she couldn't finish.

"If I had time to explain, I would. Yes, I'm a mutineer. And you, unfortunately, are on the other side."

"What are you going to do with me?" Jeeves asked glumly. Her heart was beating slower than normal, but her face no longer showed emotion. She was too shocked to feel any at the moment.

"Probably much less than we're going to do to your friends on the bridge. at the moment, you'll just join Nurse Chapel on the brig. Unless you want to swear allegiance to us and help us make Mr. Scott give up the bridge?" Kristianer pled with his eyes.

Jeeves didn't even notice. She just shook her head vehemently.

Kristianer shrugged his shoulders, took out his phaser, and set it on stun. He pointed toward the door with it. Jeeves retreated through it obediently. Kristianer followed her closely, keeping the phaser within an inch of her back. They marched this way to the lift. The doors opeend and closed, Jeeves moving only slightly to get out of their range. She could have been a statue.

"Bridge," said Kristianer.

"Bridge," said Jeeves quietly, calmly, and firmly.

The lift began to move up, towards the bridge. Kristianer held the phaser put, his arms strained. His fingers itched to pull the trigger. Sweating, he moved his forefinger onto the trigger. He looked Jeeves straight in the eye for a minute, trying to read expressions which weren't there. Slowly, he let his eyes down, until they stared into the floor as if they would burrow into it. And then he pulled the trigger. There was no flash of light. There was no lingering silhouetted figure. There was simply Jeeves, standing there, looking sadly into his eyes, screaming out a question at him that he couldn't answer, even to himself. He did not try to answer her question, nor did he ask her the one he must have been asking himself. She answered it anyway.

"While you were answering my question. With my mechanical training and session siwht Mr. Sulu, who is, along with being a martial arts expert, also happens to be a superb pickpocket. I asked him to teach me. You never know when you might need to use it."

' "You learned very well. Give my compliments to your instructor."

"Give them yourself."

Kristianer's shrug acknowledge her point.

The rest of the ride was spent in silence, each occupant sizing up the other, neither finding what they looked for, or wanted. The doors reopened in front of the wrong end of a phaser. Scott held the right end. Only some of the hostility abated when he saw Jeeves. He motioned them out, making sure that his phaser was leveled at them all the time.

"Sulu," he said. Sulu came up behind him and took the phaser. Scott sat down in the command chair and began interrogating Jeeves. "Well?"

"I got caught," she said dully.

"And ?"

"Kristianer took me to the lift and ordered it to go to the brig. I ordered it to come here."

"Of course it followed your orders beacuse you have a higher rank. But how did you know he wouldn't shoot you?"

"He did."

"Excuse me?"

"Or rather, he tried. I'd dismantled his phaser without his knowledge earlier."

"I see. And what do we do with you?" Scott addressed himself to Kristianer.

No answer.

"We can't send you back. I doubt if your comrades would be willing to trade anything for you. The brig is not ours to send you to. We can't let an enemy remain on the bridge unguarded, free to sabotage our every move, and we can't spare the hands to put a guard on you. That leaves two alternatives. Either you join us or . . "

"I die," finished Kristianer.

"Right. It's your choice. You've got 60 seconds to decide."

"I don't need the time. Kill me." Kristianer's voice held a trace of uncalm.

Scott nodded his head in acknowledgement and motioned Sulu to give the phaser to Jeeves.

Jeeves looked first at it, then in wonderment at Scott. Then her eyes flickered in understanding. But not in agreement. She bowed her head and shook it. "I can't," she whispered. "Not to him. Not to Markus."

Scott nodded gravely. A command decision was necessary. He'd given Jeeves the chance to prove herself loyal to the bridge crew and she'd blown it. Of course, the phaser he'd given her wasn't in working condition, but she couldn't have known that. What she'd proven by her action was that she was loyal first to her own emotions and then to orders. In any other situation, Scott would have admired her. But as a subordinate, especially in this situation, it was just too chancy. What he had to do now was put her in a position where she could do no harm, but where she could also help more than was in anyone else's power to do. For a brief moment, Scott wished he knew Jeeves better. How well did Kristianer know her anyway? Did he realized what she'd just done to her career? To her mind? Well, one only hopes for the best and prepares for the worst. "I'm sorry, Jeeves," he said aloud.

She knew what to do. Kristianer followed her back into the lift. The doors closed on 4 grimly sad and silently farewelling faces. Jeeves turned away.

Chapter Seven

"OK, John. Where is Repart?" Kirk asked. "My dear Captain Kirk, it wouldn't be any fun at all if I told you right off. So the rules are I can only say yes or not to your questions. I'm so sorry about that."

What the hell did Al'lahmotundi think he was doing? Kirk wondered. First he kills Allen, then kidnpas Repart, sends hte rest of the landing party back to the shuttle landing, hoping for who knows why. And when they managed to find their way back, he congratulates them and gives them the appearance that he's going to help and then says it's a game and he can only answer yes or no. It was obviously not just a game. People don't get killed in games. Bate? But for what? What did he want out of them? This was no way to get anyone to join the Straeberss. If that was really John's object. For the moment all he could do is play along and try to get John to give himself away. The first question, "Is she still alive?"

"Oh, certainly. We don't want to hurt anyone."

Yeah, we believe you, muttered McCoy under his breath. Why shouldn't we? Just because you disintegrated one of our party and are keeping the other captive is no reason for us to doubt you. Jim, of course, was taking the ever sensible course. Hopefully it would get results. Because if it didn't, McCoy wasn't going to be responsible for his own actions. Straeberss--humph. Where were the rest of them? And more importantly, where were the Sagitonians?

"Is she still on this planet?" Kirk continued.

"Yes, you could say that."

Spock raised an inward eyebrow. What did John mean by that? What was he trying to get at? Obviously he was giving more than affirom and negative answers. But why was he doing it so subtly? And why, if he wanted them to know, didn't he tell them straight out? Neighter JOhn nor Al'lahmotundi or either since both supposedly had the same mind, seemed to be game playing beings. Either Spock was wrong. Or they were playing simpy for the humans', and Spock's benefit.

"Is she in danger?"

"Not immediate."

Not immediate? What kind of an answer was that? fumed Uhura. Poor LouAnn. Proor Allen! She and LouAnn had been childhood friends. When they went into different directions at the Academy, they'd only been able to see each other once a term. But what reunions those had been! And when they'd found out they were both assigned to the Enterprise, they'd been so excited. And now would she ever see LouAnn again? NO, she won't think of that. Somehow, Captain Kirk would find her. He had to!

"Can we get to her through normal means?"

"Please qualify that, Captain. What are normal means?"

Good point, thought Mai. Normal means for humans, Vulcans, robots, and Straeberss were undoubtedly different. Not to mention his own people, the Organians. He was only half Organian, of course, so that restricted some of his abilities, but he did have certain advantages over humans. Not the least of which was not letting them see his advantages over them. They thought he was a otally normal human. He knew very well that John was not a clone of Al'lhamotundi's, nor did htey have the same minds, as John claimed. How different they were, Mai could not tell. One of the half Organian restrictions was the inability to read minds fully. He could read emotions in human minds, and occasionally strong ones in Vulcans, but so far he could only feel a basic good feeling emanating from John--the opposite of Al'lahmotundi.

"By foot, by ship, or by thought waves," Kirk answered, glancing at Spock. He rather wished he'd been able to draw John out a little more in his questions, but to coin a phrase, what is, is.

John looked at Spock, too, before answering. "By these means, no."

Much as she wanted to, McRow did not "humph." What John meant was that Spock could not detect Repart's thought waves. Spock was only half Vulcan to be sure, but a full blooded Vulcan would undoubtedly have caused the same reply. For personal reason, McRow did not appreciate the Vulcan ability to communicate, however slightly, telepathically. She had even been one of the supporters of the law against minmedling. But now was not a good time to think about it. Whenever the question of Vulcan telephathic abilities came up, she shuddered. Just as she had just now. Spock's raised eyebrow may or may not have been a question directed at her. He couldn't know, though, no one could. She'd told no one. She never would!

"Can you get to her?" Kirk had been leading up to this one for the past 2 minutes. If John could get to her . . well, they'd just make John get to her.

John did not answer vocally. He shook his head, looked directly at Mai as if speaking to him, and disappeared. Everyone's eyes followed John's, as if his gaze were magnetic.

"I guess I have a confession to make, Captain. I tried to keep it a secret because of the Klingon peace treaty. But in view of the circumstanecfs, I guess it's about time the Federation knew they have an Organian serving on their ship."

McCoy suddenly understood what the extra body part 2 inches wide that he'd seen on a quick scan of Mai's goot. He'd never been there in the regular checkups. An Organinan was the only being who could hide that. But why was he serving on a starship? Surely Organians had better things to do.

"I'm only half-Organian. My mother was a Vulcan. I think you know her. T'Pau is what she goes by."

Kirk whistled.

"My father was a radical. He believed that Organians should join the Federation. In view of those hopes, he married T'Pau in secret and conceived me. They hoped that I would prove to both the Federation and to the Organians that such a joining was possible. Unfortunately, my father died, and then the remaining Organians got into a sticky situation acting as peacekeeper between the Kliongons and you. They couldn't join the Federation and keep the peace. T'Pau saw that, so she returned to Vulcan. I hear she's done well. I was left with my Uncle. It wasn't long before I realized how impossible it would be for me to remain with the Organians. They refused to admit it, even to themelves, that I was inferior and was treated as such. Where could I go? Believe me, no one better than I knows that old saying: Geniuses are only special misfits. I wanted to help the Federation my father and mother both loved so much, so I signed up. With T'Pau's help, I got myself stationed on the Enterprise. Without anyone knowing who I really was. As to JOhn's look at me, I can only tell you a little of what he let me know. He'll let you know himself later. Right now all you need to know is that Repart is back in time. And we've got to get her back where she's supposed to be or we can forget ever seeing the Sagitonsians or anyone else we know again.

"And how are we to get her back where she is, not to speak of returning to our present time?" Ashley's gray eyes were twinkling, not with laughter, but with excitement.

"My sentiments exactly, Admiral," added Kirk.

"Through me," said Mai.

"We knew the Organians were advanced, but not that advanced!" exclaimed Uhura.

"We're not advanced enough to send you back in time ourselves, no. But I can send a couple of you to somsone who can. The Guardians of Forever is near enough for me to transport 2 people there. Spock and McRow are the best choices." It was not a suggestion. Mai spoke with the authority of his race.

Spock bowed his head in ackowledgement, but McRow's eyes burned with fire and her mouth threatened to do the same. They were gone before she opened it.

Mai shrugged. "Time was of the essence."

Chapter Eight

Spock and McRow blinked their eyes open again 2 feet in front of the Guardian of Forever.

"Fascinating. That at such a distance this accuracy is possible," said Spock.

"Quite," said McRow bitterly. "And what do we do now?"

Spock turned to the guardian and spoke, "You know the planet Sagiton." Spock opened his mind and focused on a map of the stars in the area, closing in on Sagiton.

"Yes." The Guardian's soft, deep voice was a music of its own.

"And LouAnn Repart?"

"Yes."

"Can you take us to her?"

In answer, the Guardian flashed through Sagiton's history. Spock's eyes were quicker than McRow's, so he caught sight of Repart in the blur of people and places.

"I see her," said Spock. "Once more, please." The Guardian complied, and despite McRow's repulsion, Spock's steely grip held her arm as they jumped through the portal. The sentation of jumping was fantastic. There was no feeling of falling, but they must have been. Swirls of mist swirled above and beyond them. As if in slow motion, Spock let McRow's hand free. Once on flat ground again, it was a little disappointing. As disconcerting as the jump through time and space had been, it was not something one was eager to ahve end. Which was exactly why Spock and McRow said nothing, but stood opposite one another staring, each recognizing the other's thought as their own.

No words were needed when Spock broke the contact, either, by moving away, and on. Towards shouts of laughter.

Chapter Nine

Much as her heart willed her to, Jeeves' mind did not let her cry. Tears gather in her eyes, but none fell.

Kristianer stood at attention after odering the lift to the brig. Jeeves didn't try to stop him. What was there left to say? If she'd only pulled the trigger, as he had done, they could have been alled loyal to their sides. Were either now? It all went back to that afternoon on Alkon IV. He'd heard screams coming from an alley nearby. Running towards them, he appeared just in time to save young Morgan Jeeves. The attacker ran off, but not before Kristianer had gotten a few good whacks in. He turned around to help the girl get herself together. Yes, he had noticed the blue-gray eyes staring up at him, admiration just behind her fear. He should have known what it meant. He should have remembered. It was hardly the first time a female half his age had gotten a crush on him. Not to mention the knight-in-shining armor complex she now had due to his heroics. He didn't regret saving her, only not going on his way right after he did. No, like a good egg, he walked her home, patted her head, and delivered her to "mom," all the while still ignoring her puppy-dog look. It might have been totally his insensitivity, but he rather suspected it had something to do with Mrs. Martha Jeeves. Blonde with fiery green eyes, Morgan definitely got her looks from her late great father, Vice Admiral Jeeves. Kristianer had to own up to the fact that he'd fallen head over heels. Martha thanked him for saving her daughter. How could she be old enough to have a daughter? She scoled her for straying into dark streets, smiled at him, calling him "Mr. Kristianer" after he said "Markus," and invited him to dinner. He didn't refuse. The next two weeks passed in a whirl of laughter and enjoyment. Markus remembered very little of what happened. Mostly Martha's smiles and later, her kisses. There was no Morgan. What she did during those 2 weeks Kristianer had no idea. Martha kept her out of the way somehow. But one day she didn't keep her out of the way, and she and her big shining eyes met him before thedoor and told him everything. Martha was a killer. She proved it without a doubt. Her mother had left a trail of stabbed lovers throughout the galaxy since Vice Admiral Jeeves' death. The attacker he had chased off had been hired for the express purpose of luring Kristianer to Martha Jeeves. He didn't want to believe her. But he did, because her eyes told the truth. And he ran, he ran far away from Alton IV and pretended not to follow the news strips on the Jeeves. A month later, Marth was caught and sent to a penal colony for life. And Morgan? Morgan followed her father into the stars. And the two met again.

The doors opened on two armed, dangerous-looking mutineer guards.

"I caught her trying to sabotage the engine room," explained Kristianer.

The taller of the guards eyed him suspiciously.

"What's your name, sir?" he asked.

"Markus Kristianer. Morale Psychology."

The guard recognized the name and put his phaser down. "I'm Brown. This is Molsry. Adjoining or separate cells from our other guest?"

"Adjoining." May was well keep them occupied.

Molsry showed Jeeves to her cell. An open space united her with Christine Chapel. Chapel looked up at the newcomer and then let her head drop into her hands again, as if not bothering with Jeeves.

Molsry glanced at the one and then the other, but deciding there was nothing wrong with them ignoring each other, he went back to Brown, who was now in discussion with Kristianer.

"So, how many are left on the bridge?" Brown was asking.

"Four. Chekov, Sulu, Walter, and Scott. They'll have to try something else, though. They know they're living on borrowed time."

"Where do you think they'll try to hit?"

Kristianer lowered his voice to a whisper, after glimpsing Jeeves intent features. She heard no more after that, but noticed both guards were involved in the conversation, so she slid over to Chapel.

"What happened to you?" she asked through her teeth.

"Richards was faking. He tried to recruit me, but when I refused, he got unpleasant." Chapel rubbed her wrists as though trying to rid them of bruises. "He dragged me along to the rec deck until he could collect enough force, then sent me down here. He's mad, really mad. He wants to take over the Federation and then make peace with the Klingons and Romulans. What's Mr. Scott doing?"

"Trying to stay alive at the moment. They gave him 10 minutes to give himself up before they raid the brifge. He sent me down to cut the mutineers off at their highest populated deck, but I got caught." No point in telling her what happened on the bridge just now. If they were to work together, CHapel needed to trust her.

Chapel somehow managed not to ask after Kirk at all. Spock was who she was really worried about. Though heaven knows why, thought Jeeves. If anyone can take care of himself, it's a Vulcan.

Actually Chapel was thinking the same thing. And for once, she wondered who was in a worse position, Spock or herself. She no longer consciously entertained dreams of Spock softening to her human touch, but in the back reaches of her mind they were still there. Besides, at the moment, the vision of Spock resucing and carrying her off into the horizon was a good deal cheerier, however impractical, than sitting in the brig.

Jeeves wouldn't let Chapel's mind lift her out of reality. If there was the slightest chance of getting out of here, both would have to work at it. Not that she didn't sympathize with the nurse, only too well Jeeves remembered what had happened with Kristianer. That was all gone now, she attempted to convince herself she couldn't have shot anyone on the bridge. Killing Kristianer at that moment wouldn't have been justifiable.

"How many of the crew are really mutineers?" Jeeves asked.

"Oh, about 70 or 75 are gung-ho. Another 150 or so would drop out if the leaders were caught and the rest are either in it because they have no choice, or are being held prisoner of some type or other, like us."

"And Brown? Molsry?"

"Our guards? They're the gung-ho type. Do you think they'd set someone to guard us who wasn't?"

"One always hopes."

Chapel snorted derisively. "Kristianer's one of the top ten. Lucky you to have met him."

"Yeah." Jeeves winced.

Chapel looked at her for a moment. An apology was in her eyes, but she didn't vocalize it. No need, both understood.

Kristianer was leaving. Brown and Molsry were still talking, but winding down. Jeeves moved back to her part of the cell. Perhaps the guards would get lax if they didn't see Jeeves and Chapel communicate. Even if they did, the changes of her being able to do anything about it were very slim.

In the meantime, Mr. Scottw as finding yet another use of his intimate knowledge of the Enterprise. Years ago, he'd bet an old drinking buddy that he could build a starship from the ground up, without any instructions, just his brain and the parts. He lost the bet, nut not because he couldn't have done it. He'd just finished the first level when Captain Kirk appointed him to be Chief Engineer of the Enterprise. In 15 years, Scott still hadn't had enough time to finish the ship. One thing he had learned was that there were millions of interchangeable parts on board. There was no way in Klah he could do what he was going to try, but there wasn't any alternative. Even if he did manage to get a transporter built from bridge parts, there was no guarantee it would be accurate enough to send anyone anywhere on the ship. But the slim chance he could finish it wasn't the only reason he was building it. The transporter just happened to require a number of important direcitonary devices without which the Enterprise would remain in orbit around Sagiton forever. And for some reason or other, Mr. Scott doubted that any of the mutineers would ever be able to make heads or tails of the contraption.

So while Chekov and Sulu had the joy of searching far and dismantling the needed parts, Walter and Scott were slowly creating their monster. It was as tall as the whole bridge and its innards were strewn all the way across, but bit by bit it was coming together.

I feel like a nurse, though Sulu. Mr. Scott is the doctor, the transporter out patient. Only instead of asking for scalpels and hypos, Mr. Scott wantes wrenches and body parts. And waht body parts! At the moment, Sulu was looking for a copper antimatter connection. It was half the size of his fingernail, or so measure Mr. Scott, and it was not anywhere near the science console.

"A little to the left, laddie." Sulu turned around. A shame. Scott was speaking to Walter. Not a little bit of remorse for studying ancient martial arts instead of starship models was hitting him. If only I knew a little bit more, Walter over there would be trying to find the copper antimatter connection and I would be doing whatever Walter was doing a little more to the left. Ahh! These'd the little thingamagig. "Found it, Mr. Scott."

"Good. Now remove the blue and red wires on the right. Make sure the blue is off first . . ." Mr. scott heard a yelp of pain. " . . .or you'll get a shock."

"Thanks a bunch," muttered Sulu with his left pinky in his mouth. "Now what?"

"Take off the yellow and then white. Leave them hanging onto it and bring it over here. Now I need a diamong blue chip. It should be right over where Chekov is looking for the silicon padding."

"Yeah! I got it!" yelled Chekov. He'd been trying to extricate the silicon padding from the communication panel control switches for at least the past 15 minutes. And Sulu got all the easy ones. If I didn't know Mr. Scott like I know Mr. Scott, I'd say he was giving preference to Sulu because he ranks higher. One more siwtch to pry it out form under. "Not a rip!" Chekov announced proudly a minute later.

"Not a one," agreed Sulu. "Unless you count the little over there on the left--about 2 centimeters wide."

Sulus found his side knuckling over. Ow, that boy is getting a little too cocky. Now with a little of my judo . ..

Mr. Scott was staring at him. "Mr. Sulu, Mr. Chekov, we do not have time nor should we the energy to fight amongst the ranks. You're going to have to work together to get the next piece. It's up in the ceiling of the lfit. It's about yea big and yea long. I trust you'll find it."

Chekov grunted and ordered his feet over to the lift. Sulu beat him to it. So what, thought Chekov. Younger people need more sleep, anyway.

Walter wiped his forehead for the umpteenth time. It was so hot in here. He wondered if the mutineers were purposely doing that just to drive them all slowly insane or if it was just him.

It was just Walter, but it would have been quite a good idea if Richards had thought of it. Right then Richards was trying to come up with something to get control of the bridge. He was holding a staff meeting in the briefing room. All his top men, including Kristianer, were there trying to brainstorm up an idea.

"I say we go in there fully armed and blow em to the Black Fleet. In a week we can rebuild the bridge and go on. Giving them time is just letting them try more schemes," cried one. A shout rose up to support the idea. Only two were against it, Richards himself, who wasn't willing to spend even a week repairing the bridge, and Kristianer, who when asked what he thought said he thought they'd proved their point. It was time to give Scott the Enterprise and control of her again. The Federation couldn't possibly punish the whole crew and if they stuck together they could all get off. The object of the mutiny was to show that the Federation was not only wrong in using force, but that it could be overthrown, and by a nonviolent group.

Secretly a few in teh room agreed, at least in theory. But they were all afraid to speak up, lest the others do to them exactly what they were doing to Kristianer. "Coward!" they screamed. "Traitor! Klingon Snake! Send him to the bridge with his own kind! Throw him to the brig!" That last was decided as the best solution and Richards ordered a guard to take him there.

But Richards still wasn't ready to attack the bridge. He sent them another message via intership com. They had now 2 hours to surrender or he'd storm the bridge--and they wouldn't take prisoners.

"Phew," breathed Scott. "A two hour extension on life."

"Can we get it finished by then?" asked Chekov.

"Not if you don't find that disk on the ship's layout," growled the Engineer.

"Yes, sir," grinned Chekov and let out an ecstatic whoop. "We're going to do it!"

"Yes, but what are we going to do?" questioned Sulu grumpily.

"Humph!" replied Chekov.

Chapter Ten

"They'll be here before you know it," said Mai. "Right now John needs our help with Al'lahmotundi himself."

"Why doesn't he come ask us himself?" McCoy was not in the best of moods. It always bothered him when his opinion wasn't asked, even more so when it really should have been. All I know, he seethed, is taht McRow should not have gone with Spock to the Guardian. She's been physically and emotionally frained enough in the past two days, what with Al'lahmotundi and Spock, too. And now Mai sends her on this crazy mission with Spock. I can't guarantee her survival or Spock's. But no one ever asks the doctor in emergency situations. Health is not a factor. Try telling that to Star Fleet and they'll swear up and down they hold to the opposite, but they teach all their officers to do exactly that. Someday I'm going to quite this Fleet and settle down with a pretty girl on a planet where no one has to work and I can drink mint juleps all day. Then I won't have to hear Spock say fascinating ever again, nor will I ever have to forcibly give Jim an examination. But right now, Jim needs me, so I'll stay. Will he, or for that matter, Mr. Ears ever stop needing me? Sometimes I wish that Guardian would go forward as well as back.

"Wiat just a minute, Mister." Kirk's voice was a pitch above normal. "Since when did you become leader? We're not going anywhere until I say so." Hell, that sounded so damned pompous! But there was no way he was leading his crew into a wild goose chase on the words of some half Organian and a robot of dubious loyalty.

"Captain, haven't you learned yet that you're not going to be shown positive proof in every step of life? Don't you understand?" Mai was getting impatient with this human.

"No, we don't. Perhaps you'll do us the favor of explaining," jumped in Ashley, used to the role of peacekeeper.

Mai began with a sigh. "What Al'lahmotundi told you was essentially correct. After the blood exchange and Motundi's death, Al'lah remained alive to be the first and last experiment with deep freeze. As he was frozen, the Straeberss united themselves and instead of using their strengths to develop space travel, they developed their own bodies. They came up with 2 perfect models, male and female. Therefore, all Straeberians look alike. When Al'lahmotduni awoke, he was given the same body as the other Straeberians--in hopes that he would fit in better. But the differences between early and advanced Straeberian cultures were too great, and Al'lah chose to leave and try life on his own. The Straeberians were afraid he was far from harmless, and sent one of their people to follow him without Al'lah's knowledge. That Straeberian was John. Al'lah has no idea he is here. That is the great advantage we have--the element of surprise. For the past 2 months Al'lah has been using the skills he acquired from the Straeberss to wreak his revenge on them. He has been sending selected Sagitonians back in time to destroy certain elements of important Straberian history. So far he has managed ot eliminate by virtue of their never being born, all John's fellowmen except Al'lah and himself. Those Sagitonians who were not willing to help either found themselves in a history of their own creation, such as your Captain Kirk, or they were placed in times and places where all they could do is destroy, which is where Miss Repart is now."

"Well, why doesn't John simply take Al'lah's equipment away and fix it himself? Why did he got to all this trouble to lure us down here with his robot guise if he has the technology himself?" asked Kirk.

"But you see, he doesn't have the technology himself. Each day, as Al'lah schemes further, John loses a bit of himself. The first part to go was his knowledge of higher technology, then little by little, the whole history of his people is being erased from his mind. That's why he needed us. He relayed all he remembered to me before he disapppeared. He's fading fast, so he's going to face Al'lah before he forgets who he and Al'lah both are. We've got to help him destroy Al'lah while Spock and McRow pick the people from the past out and return them here."

The only thing Kirk could do was comply. If what Mai said was true, and Al'lah was fiddling around with the past, then even if he only bothered with the Straerbss, a chain reaction would be started. One that would reach the whole universe. "I presume that both are inside this building that we can't see."

"You cannot see it, Captain, nor any of the rest of the crew, but I see it as clearly as I see you. Al'lah placed a block on all our minds so we would not see it. The block wasn't deep enough to reach me, so I see anything I want. You are going to have to destroy the block in your minds by yourself. I can't help you. All I can tell you is that the building is there, whether you see it or not."

Kirk focused in on the empty space where Mai said a building was. He imagined the outline of the building. Using the mind meld technique as far as Spock had been able to teach him, he concentrated on just the skyline. Nothing but the picture of what he saw and what he'd seen was left in his consciousness. Concentration, Spock had said. All you need is concentration. Clear you mind og everything.

Kirk felt his mind become light. He was no longer standing on the ground. He was simply somewhere it didn't matter where. Gradually, he became alone. McCoy, Mai, Ashley, Uhura--all were gone. And then the ship drfited out of his memory and he was free. Free! There was no reality any longer. What he imagined was, was. There was the building, as it had stood before. Of course, it had always been there. Slowly, as Spock had warned, Kirk let himself fall bacl into reality. The ship was there again, he was surrounded by objects who eaked back into people ever so slowly. Then his feet floated down to the ground, inch by inch, allowing more pressure on them. Kirk was back--and he could see the building.

"It's there all right," Kirk said. Mai had been right. If he was correct about everything else, too, they didn't have much time. But even with Mai, Kirk doubted the chanced they would have against Al'lah. They would need the combined powers of everyone on the planet.

"McCoy," he said sharply. "You remember that technique Spock tried to show you when you asked about mindmelding?"

McCoy nodded.

"That's what you have to do. Just picture the building in your mind and let go of everything else. It works! Ashley, Uhura, you try it, too. Just close your eyes and let go. Come on, try!"

Ashely and Uhura joined McCoy in closing his eyes. McCoy attempted to use a hypnotic trick he'd once seen done. He found himself floating above his consciousness, just as Kirk had done. But when he reached for the mind picture of the building, he found nothing. There was nothing to concentrate on. As far as McCoyu's memory was concerned, there never had been a building. And if memory was the only way a building could be, there was none. McCoy let himself down with a jerk, forgetting, as always, Spock's advice. When he opened his eyes, he found himself on the ground with a pounding headache.

"Damn!" he yelled.

Ashley and Uhura hadn't done even half as well. Never having mind-melded before, Mai was not surprised. But Kirk was disappointed.

"Damn," he repeated after McCoy, then resignedly," I guess that leave just you and me, Mai."

Mai shook his head. "That leaves just you, Captain. If I divert my full concentration from Mr. Spock and Miss McRow for one minute, their bodies will automatically attempt to return to this time and place. Without my help, that would mean a painful but certain death for both. Their bodies being strewn across the univberse in different times and places, their minds floating in space without bodies for eternity."

You don't have to be so graphic about it, thought McCoy, shuddering.

Kirk was grim. He turned to Uhura. "If I'm not back within an hour, I want you to return to the shuttle and do whatever it takes to get a message to Star Fleet about what's happening. And then get the hell out of here, understood?"

Uhura nodded. Ashely stared at Kirk as if he were insane. Not only was he going to certain death, but he was leaving a communications lieutenant in charge of warning Star Fleet when he had an Admiral and a Commander with him. There was no way Ashley was taking orders from a female subordinate--no matter how beautiful she was. Ang grily, Ashley watched as Kirk turned his back on them and walked into nothingness, disappearing behind an imaginary door.

It looked different thatn before. No longer was there a light before him, but from somewhere Kirk heard noises, distant and faint. He could not make out whether or not they were voices. Through the darkness Kirk walked, making his way towards the sound. As he got closer, he realized they were voices, murmuring quietly. As he got even nearer, he began to differentiate between the speakers. One was quietly demanding, certain, the other voice was grating and angry, almost hysterical. John was the former, Al'lah the latter.

"You know this cannot go on, Al'lahmotundi. One of us must be destroyed. I cannot allow you to continue to disrupt the past. It is not just the Straeberss you are taking your revenge on, but the whole universe. A chain reaction has been set off, and the pasts of every civilization in every universe will be altered." John stopped, letting Al'lah answer for his actions.

"Don't you think I know that? Don't you think I have weighed every possibility you have allowed me to hoose from? I chose this one particularly because it would hurt you the most. Straeberss with your pretended air of superiority! Well, you cast me out and now you shall pay!" Al'lah's voice rose to a high pitch, Kirk's hands reached instinctively to cover his ears.

With each step he was coming closer to the voices, or was he? They were no louder than before. Kirk turned around and tried walking the other direction. He had presumed correctly. The sound was no louder or softer in either direction. Where wa sit coming from?

"I have given you a chance, Al'lahmotundi. Now I challenge you to 'minstan' Winner take all."

What the hell is minstan, wondered Kirk silently.

A tone of fear crept into Al'lah's voice. "I don't believe you! I don't believe you are willing to risk minstan."

"What you mean is you are afraid of minstan. You know the old legend--equally matched, both dispatched. Surely you aren't afraid I have equal powers to yours, do you?" John taunted.

Kirk still could not find a way into the voices. What did John have up his sleeve?

Al'lah exploded into a rage of cursing. A few Kirk caught, but the most were out of his realm of acquaintance. But both he and John got the message.

A cold hardness slipped into Al'lah's voice. "I accept your challenge, Jsahn's Mik. Choose your time and beware!"

"I choose 1.7 miliyears--in the future."

Silence Al'lah was taken aback. Then he giggled--and laughed. "Agreed. And I choose Terrna, your beloved Federations' home."

Kirk was beginning to put the pieces of this puzzle together. Of course, Al'lah had stolen the ability to travel in time from the Straeberss, both in the past and in the future. And minstan was a contest of some sort played in time--winner and loser bothing living, but in a tie, both dead. Kirk had to give it to John--he had guts. He only hoped John wasn't bluffing and realized the high stakes with which he was playing. But where were the last two Straeberss?

Kirk stopped his aimless pacing and put his hands against the walsl on either side of them. They were vibrating! He began once again to erase all extraneous thoughts from his mind. Desperately trying to reach John, he concentrated only on the voice he knew was JOhn's, trying to touch the mind.

No, it had not been spoken. Kirk heard it with his inner ears. He'd asked John what he should do, and John had simply, but firmly reclaimed his own mind and said, No Then the presence of John's mind was gone, and there were no more voices. Minstan had begun, a game only for two.

Kirk wandered outside again, wearily facing the expectation mien of Mai. "He challenged Al'lah to minstan." Kirk sighed.

Mai's face sand almost perceptibly into his skull. "Then there is nothing we can do."

"Nothing?" Kirk asked, defeatedly.

"Nothing but wait."

Kirk acknowledge what he knew to be true already. Sometimes waiting was the only, the best thing to do. It was always the hardest. He had no ship to return to. Hell, when had that stopped him before? The old familiar light returned to his glazed eyes. "Uhura, Ashely, McCoy, we're going to crash a party."

Chapter Eleven

The laughter was that of children. Spock recognized the game as a form of random chance, indulged in by many Vulcan children as the only acceptable form of play.

The children, however, were not Vulcan. Humanoid, but not Terran. They could be on any number of planets. How did he know they were Straeberian? Briefly Spock wonderef if there was such a thing as Vulcan intution, then pushed the thought aside as illogical.

McRow also knew themselves to be on Straerberius. But seeing the children, watching, hearing, drinking them in, she was enchanted with them. When was the last time she'd seen children, real children, not miniature Vulcans? 10 years? 12? She couldn't even remember. Something in her cold heart melted and called out to the children.

She noticed Spock staring at her. She froze again. "Sir" she questioned.

"I believe we are on Straeberius, Dr. McRow."

She nodded.

"I suggest we get some native clothing."

McRow looked up at him cooly, regarding his ears.

"--and a hat. I wonder if they have rice harvesting machines here?" That last under his breath.

"Excuse me?" McRow said, ignoring Spock's raised eyebrow. One thing McRow knew for sure--Vulcans didn't joke. But if she knew anything about the original use of the Guardian, No, she shook her head. "Nothing, Mr. Spock. So, where is she?"

"May I suggest we acquaint ourselves with our surroundings and how do you put it?"

"Mingle," provided McRow stiffly.

"Correct."

Steering themselves clear of the children, Spock and McRow followed the stream of people apparently entering the center of town. Spock slouched down inconspicuously, trying to hide his pointed ears. There was nothing to be done about the uniforms, except to ignore them. After walking for a few blocks, the crowd of people began to thin. No shops were in sight. Spock turned around and headed back. McRow followed obediently.

Spock carefully examined what seemed to be the traffic high point. There were no shops to outward appearance.

McRow's eyes followed a man to a door. A few moments later, he came out again, this itme in different clothes. She tugged on Spock's sleeve and pointed as another man walked in and came out the same way.

Spock's reaction? An eyebrow, raised.

McRow began to walk towards the door herself, Spock close behind her. She turned and spoke to him in Vulcan. "Logic dictates my services. Alone. Two need not be risked where one suffices."

Spock's eyebrows knitted themselves together closely. "In your place and in your honor," he returned in Vulcan, also.

McRow staredintensely, trying to read Spock's thoughts. The phrase Spock had used seemed out of place when directed at her. She was not only Spock's junior and subordinate, she was a non-Vulcan. From anyone else it would have been an insult. In fact, it most probably was, but McRow frankly didn't care and returned with a sharp, "My honor is logic." She turned her back on him and continued.

This time Spock let her go.

The door was heavier than she imagined, but taking into account that she hadn't opened a hinged door since a short stint on Citroen III three years ago, and that gravity on Straeberius was a point higher than a starship's norm, she pulled hard and grunted. It came, eventually. McRow attempted to walk in casually.

She was not ready for what met her eyes and gave a rather faint start.

The walls inside were covered with computers, lights turning on and off, motors humming, buttons clicking. The walls themselves were not of hard stone as the outer seemed to imply. Instead, they were of a synthetic white, which when McRow touched it, was warm and chained colors in the area effected/

McRow was no computer expert, but it seemed to her that this was no home owner's computer, even if the Straeberss were advanced. It was a main computer, then. But what it superintended was not as elementary to deduce. As far as McRow could tell, it could have any number of functions--from running the entire city to arranging dates (if Straeberians did that sort of thing).

McRow was do absorbed in her reflections that she didn't hear the footsteps outside the door until they were almost upon her. She quickly sought for a place to hide in which she could also look out unobserved. It was not the most obscure of places, but it would serve, unless a search party was set upon her. Behind the largest of the computers.

Entering the room was not only one set of footprints, but two. And if McRow put her biology and psychology together, they were both female feet.

They weren't close enough for her to look for certain, and they did not speak, but flipped a switch and created an even louder humming. It stopped in a second, and the footsteps exited, almming the door behind them.

McRow still didn't dare reveal herself. They might return at any moment. A clock seemed to tick away the seconds, minutes, hours. It can't have been very long, McRow told her body. But her muscles ached rebelliously from the cramped position. She shifted an inch to shift the weight of her body to her backside. Damn, she thought. With the movement, she'd revealed herself. Someone was approaching.

The discoverer was a man, a young one. He carried a crude firing weapon, similar to the 20th century Earth Magnum 38. Tall, blonde, and blue-eyed, the man seemed to personify his people, all of whom were to some degree of another of fair coloring. He wore a uniform with markings indicating nothing to McRow except that their designer had no taste. His face was puzzled.

HE said something.

For the first time, McRow didn't understand a foreign language. Her translator was at a loss to explain the words and would be until it got more exposure, or so the instructions said. McRow hadn't experienced first hand before. Until then, she would just have to be confused.

"Ca mon til eekvone," he said, or so it would be written in standard, McRow amended to herself.

She shrugged, trying ot express incomprehnesion. The message did not get across.

He reiterated himself, shaking her shoulders sharply.

McRow held up her hands in an attempt to show that she was no threat to him.

The guard took hold of her hands and wrenched them behind her.

Through the pain, McRow thought, Well, I guess sign language isn't universal, after all.

He held her hands in place with one hand. With the other he retrieved a metal apparatus from somewhere inside his uniform. He enclosed a cold metal band about both wrists and McRow found that she could only move with pain.

Effective, if primitive, she thought between clenched teeth.

The guard pushed his weapon into her back. She moved gingerly ahead of him out the door through which she'd entered. A question she'd silently formed was answered as she saw Spock still in the approximate area she had left him, trying to remain normal. She glanced at him for just a second, as the guard pushed her by. His epxression was one of total calm and unrecognition.

With a note of bitterness, she thought, well, at least he's not been discovered. But a part of her rational mind would not be quieted as it pointed out that with Spock on the outside she had a better chance of survival. For the first time in a long time, that little voice would not be quieted, and as angrily as she objected, McRow was secretly glad that Spock was with her on this mission.

The streets were not quite as deserted as before. McRow noticed a few suspicious expressions--she lacked the knowledge to be absolutely sure, but they certainly appeared so as the guard pushed her on. It wasn't a very long walk. McRow noted with peasure that she'd automatically memorized the various turns from her departure. She shouldn't have any trouble returning to Spock, if he stayed put and she could get out, that is.

The guard walked in front of her to open a door, then holding it with his foot, threateningly motioned her in. She ocmplied readily. A certain part of her was curious. Study of cultures was a prerequisite in her field of psychology and she attacked it with relish. The similarities in this culture and earth's were frankly amazing. From the humanoid appearance to the architecture to the firearms, McRow marveled at how comparable to 19th century earth Straeberius was.

The brig--or gaol--as perhaps it would more closely resemble, was cold and damp. She was set upong a chair, the guard carefully assuring that between her back and hands was the wood of the chair. Unpleasant as hell was the mildest term she could think of. She restrained telling the guard where he could go and was left in the darkness, wishing she had.

The first few minutes were pure torture, the next worse. She tried to keep her mind elsewhere, even reverting to a long forgotten goal of memorizing Mark Antony's famous speech. "Friends, Romans, Countrymen," she said with feeling. There was an itch right under her left shoulder. "Lend me your ears." Now the left shoulder blade was starting to itch, too. "I come not to praise Caesar." I refuse to tich, her mind told her muscles. I do not itch, she went on determindely. "But to bury him." Why is it that doctors can never take their own prescriptions, she wondered aimlessly. Her shoulder blades itched more than ever and it was continuing to spread down her back down to her buttocks. She attempted to move around in her chair to ease herself. Ahh, now where, was I?

McRow's mind went blank. Everyone knew that much fo Mark Antony's speech. She let her mind wander inside her skull, trying to find the words. Instead her shoulders began itching again. "Damn!" she shouted, practically jumping out of her seat, seeing the door open. In came her guard again with a friend. The companion was short and plump, but of similar coloring. His face was kind beside the younger man's, his eyes seemed to burn out of their sockets in curiosity--another presumption.

He motioned to the metral cuffs, annoyed apparently. The guard jumped ot remove them. He approached McRow and stared into her face studiously. Slowly he repated McRow's previous words in halting English. Then pointing to the guard, he said "Tash-thal," and to himself, "Shandu."

McRow caught on and pointed first to herself, saying "McRow" then repeating the other two's names. The one calling himself Shandu smiled excitedly. Then looking at McRow, he asked "Friends?"

McRow nodded. "Friends," she said. "I am your friend. One plays with friends--or talks with them.:

Shandu continued. "Romans. Countrymen?"

"Romans used to be a people. They are all dead now. Countrymen are you and Tash'thal," McRow answered.

Shandu pointed to her. "McRow friend. Tash'thal countrymen. I am Shandu."

McRow had to admit she was impressed. His learning of English was phenomenal. Apparently the more she spoke, the more Shandu learned. She got off her chair, moving to the floor, slowing so as not to alarm Tash'thal. Then she invited Shandu and Tash'thal to join her. She hoped her sign language would be understood this time.

It was.

A quick lesson in elementary English began. Pronouns, then objects in the room, moving at last to actions. In an hour, Shandu spoke English better than most diplomats. He forgot not one object or word spoken. Tash'thal tried to ignore both of them, but was inadvertently caught up in the explanations. And although he refused to speak, McRow could tell he understood almost as much as Shandu did.

Slowly, subtly, McRow and Shandu told each other about their individual characters and cultures. Compared to the Straeberians, the Federations was by no means a socialistic government. Somewhere in the course of history, the Straeberians had grown into a closely knit society. Closer than even most Federation families. There was little individuality. Where seen, it was discouraged. All McRow's beliefs before were that in this situation all a mind could do was stagnate and suffocate. Yet Shandu was the epitome of courtesty, intelligence, kindness, and whatever else made up the ideal human. McRow had always been of the opinion that the Federation was too socially oriented, that individuality was underdeveloped. Her mind stood at first to rebel against all Shandu was, then it melted away into starry-eyed delightedness.

Questions were answered as soon as she put voice to them. The computer where she'd been caught was indeed a central computer. It controlled sleeping areas. The man she'd seen go in and come out was in fact, two men, identical in feature. Their clothes differed according to job, and htey exchanged sleeping areas for two weeks on a rotating schedule extending throughout all of civilized Straeberius.

Instead of a growing curiosity, McRow experienced a dull acceptance of all said to her. As if in a daze, she awoke to silence and found herself alone and restrained with the cuffs to the cair again. She felt drained, listless. All she wanted to do was to sleep. Sleep and dream.

Chapter Twelve

Kristianer had just realized what kind of a man he'd allied himself with. Sure, Richards was a reformer--he wanted to reform everything so he could take over himself.

How could I have been so blind? He thought painfully. If I'd stayed on the bridge, I would have been more loyal to my cause! Instead now I'm on my way to the brig, ready to be shot on sight by my former friends.

The thought of Morgan Jeeves made him cringe. And to have in such proximity for who knows how long, knowing he was the cause of their both being there was really too much. He sized up the two guards. Perhaps he wouldn't have to be locked up with Morgan, after all.

"Birdge," he said, using Jeeves' own trick. He would need a bit of time to put them out of commission. Hopefully Richards kept to his usual norm of informing no one of anything. In that case it would be a little easier to first get Jeeves and Chapel to the bridge safely, and then start sabotaging Richards' plan. At the moment, he saw too large, ominous phasers staring at him from the wrong end.

With his newly acquired karate, he quickly jumped and with his left foot knocked the right phaser out, and turned 180 degrees at the same time, knocked the left phaser out with his right foot. A little bashing together of heads, 2 stomach punches, and 1 kick in the groin (after the second guard saw the first go down in pain, he fainted).

As if to wash his hands of their dirt, Kristianer rubbed them grimly, wiped his sweaty forehead with his sleeve, and ordered the lift back down to the brig. He wouldn't have been mistaken to hear a very human-like grunmble emitting form it. Before stepping out, he retrieved a phaser.

"I'm to allow the prisoners to return to quarters under guard," Kristianer said to Brown. "Richards' orders," he added to hasten the process.

"Richards gives the orders around here, I just follow them. What about you?" My mother always told me the best defense was a good offense. Or was it Dad? Kristianer wondered. Oh, well. It worked. Molsry released the force field.

Kristianer kept his phaser covering the bewildered women as he marched them back into the lift. Saluting to Brown and Molsry as the doors closed, he ordered the lift to the bridge once more.

Both Chapel and Jeeves looked at him in wonder.

"I've defected," he answered curtly.

"And you expect us to believe that?" asked Chapel. "You're one of Richards' big whigs. How do we know you're not part of another plan to get control of the ship?"

"There was a time when I wished that Kier Richards was intelligent enough to think up a plan like this. Now I'm glad he didn't. The man's a maniac, a power hungry, mutineer and I won't be part of it anymore." Kristianer noted that Jeeves hadn't said a word either in his favour or against him.

It was Chapel who broke the short silence. "You know, you're right. Kier Richards never could ahve thought up a scheme like this. But you could have. Maybe you're doing this on your own and hope to get all the glory and power for yourself. It's not too convincing, your standing there with a phaser steadied on us."

He'd forgotten about the phaser. Duly he handed it over. "Even if I am part of the plan, what can an unarmored man do to you?"

Chapel wanted to believe that someone had finally come to their senses, but she couldn't take any chances. "Stop," she said to the lift. "Search him, Morgan. If he's got a phaser or a bomb of any sort, he's going to die right here."

She searched him. "Nothing on him."

:But if he swallowed a microbomb," said Chapel . . .

"Kaimkaze, eh? I'd have done it, too, you know. I almost did, as Jeeves there will tell you. But I'm not a mutineer, not anymore. Look at me, Morgan! No, straight in the eyes. I'm on your side. Do you believe me?" Kristianer seemed to plead.

Tears filled Jeeves' eyes. "How can I believe you? How can I now? I just don't know aout you anymore. If I said yes, not only would I be lying, but I would be endangering the lives of 5 other innocent people." Beginning at a whisper, her voice had grown slowly stronger until she reached full strength.

Kristianer looked at Chapel and then at Jeeves. "I see. Level 4," he told the lift. "If you can't believe me, you'll just have to return to the bridge yourselves. Tell Mr. Scott I'll have the ship returned to his control in half an hour. Not that he'll believe me, that is. I'm sorry, Morgan, really sorry." And with those last words, he slipped out the doors.

As they closed again, perhaps for the last time between us alive, Jeeves thought, she burst into tears.

Chapel held her as she would a child. Before the doors opened again, Chapel commanded her to pull herself together. Jeeves complied with the order as abruptly as it had been given. A little red-eyed, they stepped triumphantly onto the bridge.

Phasers were put away on sight of the nurse, and hugs given her all around while she told their adventure in broken bits, not forgetting to add Kristianer's promise which even Scott was wont to count on. Just as the giver had predicted.

Jobs were reassigned, even to Jeeves, whose loyalty CHapel insisted on vouching for, and work went even faster than before.

I can't blame her. I brought in myself, Kristianer told himself miserably. It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. I am a man without a country.

Kristianer's hobby was that of memorizing useful quotes. He used them often, sometimes to more of a con than a pro.

Now all I have to do is get to the engineering control and return all power to the bridge. Piece of cake!

Chapter Thirteen

Uhura had never beenone to question the Captain, but at the moment, she was coming close to it. Where he was leading them, no one knew. She looked down at her shoes and uniform. WHoever designed them definitely had not followed Kirk around in a burning hot desert for was it 4 hours now? Felt like 40! Her feet ached, blisters had begun to form long ago and were now bursting from contasnt contact with the synthetic leather uppers. Her back ached while her neck burned form the sun's rayus. Both legs and neck would be indistinguishable by the time she was back on the ship. Why didn't they include sunscreen in emergency packs? Blankets abounded in number, but no relief from the sun's rays could be found. That was the next thing she was going to write in "Crew Quarterly," a magazine she was editing for the Enterprise crew. The headline stood out, "Sunscreen for survival," and for a moment her thoughts cancelled the pain, but not for long. Well at least it will be an interesting change in skin color--black to red.

McCoy was not half as cheerful, which meant his usual grumbling had been replaced with sullen glances at Kirk every second step, worried glances at Ashley in between.

Commander Ashley appeared to be enjoying himself, at least as much as circumstances would allow. He felt like an Ensign again. He hadn't had a good sun tan since then, anyway. He never burned, but until now he hadn't had the time to turn his skin this delightfully brown color. They sold artificial coloring to simulate the effect, but it just wasn't the same.

Kirk had just one goal in mind--that of returning to the Exodus. Even with the mutineers under control of the shuttle port and communications, it might be just possible to navigate a shuttle landing near the bridge. Then, the 2 minute air pack and pressure belt each had in the survival kits might be used to enter the ship from the recording capsule ejection one at a time. It would all depend on Scotty. Without communications, he would have to read Kirk's mind and eject the capsule first. It was probably illegal, but so was landing anywhere but in shuttle port, as was mutiny. If Scott didn't understand, Kirk would, as first to attempt reentering, suffocate.

That left McCoy, Ashley, and Uhura one alternative. They would have to ram the shuttleport. It had never been done before, so Kirk had no idea of how the Exodus' shields would react, but someone might live through it. Not good odds, but neither were the ones on returning to the planet with no fuel, or staying on the shuttle with limited oxygen.

At the moment, he tried to keep his feet moving in the burning sand. Uphill back to the Exodus might take up to twice as long as down, in which case, not even half the journey was done.

And mother used to say that no physical pain could effect you, if one shielded oneself against it sufficently. Ha! thought Mai. For the first time, he began to wish that he'd inherited his father's non-body rather than his mother's physical one. He kept telling his legs that they were far stronger than this, but they didn't seem to want to listen. All his knowledge couldn't end pain.

On and on the group walked, with nothing in view but the city they had left and the endless stretch of sand they aimed for. The heat began to let up as it got late.

Kirk stopped and listened carefully. There it was again! That buzz. It almost sounded human. Could it be? There was nothing to be seen left, right, in front or back. Wait a second. To his right and a little ahead, the sand was blurred. The blur continue 6 feet up into the blue-orange sunset and possilby as far across. If it was Al'lah and John, what were they doing here? And when were they? The blus turned into shadowy forms and slowly into personages. In a second the process reversed itself and Kirk was left wondering if his imagination was working overtime. Not even the blur remained and none of the rest of the party had noticed anything.

Kirk moved on. What did minstan entail?

Even as he wondered, JOhn and Al'lah were playing the deadly game. Originally, minstan had been a form of dueling. A time and place were chosen, as now, but as technological abilities developed and increased, and emotions remaining very much the same, places chosen tended to be far away. John had added the element of time changing to his challenge. Minstan hadn't been used since the Straberss learned to between times. It was no longer a simple physical struggle, either. The mind was what had to be destroyed, through questions. But Al'lah kept jumping from time and place to another time and place, hoping to wear John out following him before John could answer Al'lah's amateurish mathematical question, 6 billion squared. John had had the answer 3 seconds after it was given. He was just trying to stop Al'lah long enough to tell him and set his own. Kirk watched them, 2 minutes ahead of his own time. John resorted to physical means and caught Al'lah by the shoulders, answering Al'lah's question and giving him one to chew on himself before Al'lah took off again.

No date was looked for. The question was "when did time begin?" John did have an answer in mind, but if Al'lah had a different one that could be argued successfully, he won the round. The danger, the one John had spoken of to anger Al'lah into playing, was that the game would go on and on until one asked a question neither knew the answer to

Al'lah had blipped onto Romulus about the itme Vulcans settled it and was waiting to give John his answer.

John appeared a second later. "And?" he asked.

"Time began when intelligence realized that there was such a thing. In other words, when the idea of a tomorrow and yesterday was thought of. When will time end?" Al'lah finished and vanished again.

Instead of following him instantly, John remained for a moment to decide his answer. For the time being, both minds were thinking on the same lines. Al'lah's answe was exactly what John's would have bene. If this continued, the game could go on forever, and John didn't have forever. even if Al'lah did. Something other than the normal answer took longer to figure out.

John had to jump from Vega IV in the vague future to Samson XI near present time to catch up with Al'lah.

"Time ends when we are able to travel within it," he replied.

Al'lah smiled. "Very clever. Well argued. Congratulations. My answer was to have been when we no longer can measure time. But yours and mine are one and the same. I never realized until now that time had ended. I'm obliged to you for bringing the fact to my attention. To show you my appreciation, I'll stay here until I win. At least your demise will be more comfortable on a planet than in dead space. Even on this planet. And now, for your question, Jsahns. You don't mind if I make myself more comfortable, do you? Al'lah sta down. "Thank you. Go right ahead." He motioned to the ground.

John sat down gingerly. His question was one of a delicate nature. Not directly aimed at angering Al'lah, althought it might not hurt to do so, it was plain and simply difficult. "What is evil?"

Al'lah reflected on the question for some hours. John was becoming weaker and weaker. At times he wondered if he would live to hear Al'lah's answer. Minstan was getting serious now. The questions now were real, the answers long.

Al'lah went from playing with the pebbles to walking about the cooling planet. It could have been a moon. These extreme temperatures were only livable. And still Al'lah thought, what is evil?

The sun had begun to rise on John's back when Al'lah finally replied, long and thoughtfully.

"Evil is easiet describe by example. I am evil. You are not. The differences between us are many, but so are the similarities. We both wish to kill the other, we both are Straeberians, we are of approximately the same cosmic age. The differences ar emore subtle. Your goal of my death is to let others live. While mine is to make still more die. I wish for power. You wish for peace. You love, I hate. You are happy. I am not.

"Evil must be then, hate of life, happiness, and peace. But most of all, evil is love of evil. And that's why evil and I will never change." Al'lah did not raise his voice in his usual rhetoric tones. He spoke in a dead monotone. Al'lah knew himself for what he was, yet would not change.

And John did not understand why.

Al'lah changed the subject with his next question. "Which is the greater force, nature or man?"

One of the oldest questions of the legal profession. If one oman owned the land west of a river and another the eart portion and the river changed course, would the man whose land had grown be allowed to keep it or must the land be divided? Strange how man has been known to triumph again and again over nature and yet he has lost the battle silently in times without number. Nature declares man must be pulled down by gravity, yet he flies. Nature also demands a balance of things and when man upsets that balance, he must pay for it. Man may use nature for his own purposes, but man came from Nature. Nature has always had to be handled with rules. These rules gradually become smaller and smaller. If there came a time when Man need not work within Nature, need follow no rules, then he would be the greater force. And when Man was no longer able to triumph Nature, Nature would be stronger. But as neither were, nor ever had been the case, neither force outweighs the other. Nature and Man are two forces working together towards . . .? Towards what?

Al'lah had just answered that.

Towards the creation of life. John worked the problem out in his mind and kept silent. His mouth would not open on command. His lips were cracked and dry, his tongue sandpaper. Movement of any kind was impossible. John knew then that Al'lah's plan had finished. He was dead, had never lived, in fact. It would not be long before he ceased to realize that he was dead. Soon, no tought would cross his mind at all. And Al'lah would have won minstan through disqualifiaction of the other player. The galazy, no the universe, would be under his rule. He could not be stopped now. John had filaed.

Slowly he let himself slip into death. From his toes and fingertips he began to lose all feeling. Death was an interesting feeling, he thought. His mind laughed. Yes, was. I was.

"Neither force is greater." His mouth was speaking. Something--someone had brought him back. I am alive! He felt his body. Every piece was there. John met Al'lah's amazed--no, frightened gaze.

"There is a greater force," murmured John. "Where is God?"

Al'lah stared into space with deep, torture-filled eyes. His right hand half-lifted itself towards his breast. Then Al'lahmotundi collapsed. Death had come to him at last. Bittersweet death.

John lifted his hand to his heart, as if to reassure himself that it, or something was there. Then he knelt and began to dig. Al'lahd's grace was moistened by a slaty drop.

There was nothing left on the planet to show that either had been there. Nothing, except perhaps the fact that it was still there.

Chapter Fourteen

LouAnn Repart knew she was in Hell. She'd died and gone there. Where else would no one speak to, notice, or stop her? No food for 2 days. Only a quick drink of muddy stream water not fit for a Klingon to drink. And as she wandered, people passed without a word, without even recognition that she was there. So when she saw Mr. Spock, she didn't have the energy to restrain herself from running up and hugging him--to the later embarrassment of both.

Spock explained to her what had happened and where, when and with whom they were. He had followed McRow to the'prison and stood outside waiting, watching for a chance to get her out. The time Shandu and Tash'tal had spent inside puzzles and worried him--though not a word of it you'd ever hear first hand.

Now that he'd found Repart, or vice versa, his logic demanded he return to the Guardian with her and then come back for McRow. Unfortunately, he happened to have no way of telling the Guardian to return them. The Guardian was well known for making its own decision as to when a mission was accomplished. Spock had long ago decided the builders of the Guardian could not have been the most logical race, else a device would have been made for the user to return of his own volition. Instead, the Guardian seemed to have a very human sense of humour. Cases had been reported in which the Guardian had returned the use only just before a very unpleasant death would have been their end. And once, just once, it had returned a greedy treasure hunter with one piece of fool's gold and tales of mounds upon mounds of it.

Indeed, there was no use in waiting. When they were returned, they were returned. In the meantime, he might as well try to help McRow.



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Copyright Mette Ivie Harrison 2014 all rights reserved.
Last revised October 1, 2014.