(written from a Production point of view)
Far from the centre of Galaxy M-674, the dying sun grew colder, its planets slowly being pulled in...
The starship Enterprise observes the slow death of a star system. Captain Kirk feels a bit of sadness. Though he knows that stars are formed and destroyed constantly, seeing the end of something so majestic was thought-provoking. He considers the inevitable end of the Sol system in the distant future, and how, by that time, man would have long since left Earth for other worlds. he thinks how part of his job is to seek out new worlds for colonization, and to make peaceful contact with other species.
Scanning the fourth planet, Spock picks up a lifesign. A landing party assembles, and Kirk, Spock, Shafer and Hurst beam down in environmental suits to withstand the freezing atmosphere. Traversing the landscape and passing a mountain range, they come upon two blinking, flashing columns. Between them, an ancient robed figure appears. He identifies himself telepathically as the "Guardian of the Future" and says that he has long awaited their arrival. Explaining that his time left is short, the Guardian says that he must show them the future before he departs.
The Guardian asks Kirk what he would like to see. His appearance reminds Kirk of pictures of Father Time he'd seen as a boy, so he decides to trust him. Kirk replies that he'd like to see what happens on Earth after they return from their voyages, and the Guardian says that they only need call him telepathically and they will be returned to the present. Telling Spock to accompany him, Kirk tells the others to stay behind in case anything should happen.
Kirk and Spock step between the pillars and find themselves in Los Angeles. They saw sleek RADAR-guided cars move over the freeway, some bound for Mexico and others headed for the Canada and the Alaskan oilfields. Though thinking at first that nothing had changed, they caught sight of a military installation with a massive weapon aimed at the downtown heart of the city. Rockets flew over the city, responding to ground-based weapons-fire. Taken aback, the two were suddenly surrounded by a group of unkempt young people, armed with phasers.
Identifying himself as "Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise", one of the young men laughed, saying that the Enterprise was destroyed last week. The youths identified themselves as "Arrowists", and Kirk recalled them as a group of hippies that formed sometime before his mission. They took on their name as a reminder of the pre-Columbian American Indians and how they had hunted in peace with their bows and arrows. Though the Arrowists didn't believe in using phasers, they'd changed their minds when the military tried to wipe them out.
Horrified by the thought of a military dictatorship seizing power on Earth, Kirk asked for more information. The Arrowists were puzzled that anyone from the Enterprise could have survived and they didn't know what was happening, but went on to explain anyway. A year ago, the military decreed that all Arrowists should live in restricted areas, give up their bows and arrows, and live on whatever food the military allotted to them. They Arrowists rebelled, and over nine thousand had died. The military had construced a massive weapon that could devastate Los Angeles, but it could only be fired once.
Spock asked if anyone minded if he contacted the Enterprise, and the lead Arrowist pleaded with him not to. With that, Spock drew a phaser and stunned all of the Arrowists. Kirk warned Spock that he'd better have a good reason for his actions. Spock reached into the pocket of an Arrowist and pulled out a slip of paper that read "Long live the Arrowists! Anybody else is an enemy!" Glaring at the military installation across the freeway, Kirk asked Spock its meaning. Spock replied that he could tell him once they captured it. He reminded his captain that they had traveled into the future, but they did not know how far, or whether it was actually Earth that they had arrived upon.
Inside the installation, Kirk recognized that the soldiers were all aliens, Nobians. He had encountered them before; they had long faces and were impervious to phasers. They had fingers that were capable of an electrical discharge equivalent to a thunderbolt. Kirk and Spock defeated one Nobian after another in hand-to-hand combat. Seizing control of the massive blaster weapon, Kirk swung it around and fired it at the barren hillside behind the Hollywood Bowl, rendering the one-shot weapon useless.
Spock congratulated the captain amid piles of unconscious Nobians, explaining that this was not the original Earth, and that Sol had long since burnt out. The Enterprise they'd heard about was probably another starship sent out centuries in their future. He admitted that he didn't know what planet they were actually on, but that it would someday be saved from its alien captors.
Thinking about their native time, Kirk and Spock were returned to their present. Kirk thanked the Guardian and said that he would make a record of their visit. The Guardian expressed relief that future generations would be warned of the Nobian threat.
- - An Arrowist youth, perhaps reasoning that reports of Kirk's death were greatly exaggerated
"He could see Spock chopping - rabbit-punching man after man - sometimes pausing to land an uppercut to an alien jaw as he charged through the emplacement."
- - Narration depicting decidedly un-Vulcanlike behavior
- A copyright notice at the beginning of the story reads "Published by arrangement with Western Publishing Company, Inc. Racine, Wisconsin, U.S.A." This may indicate that this story was published previously elsewhere.
- This was a prose story, although there were three spot illustrations.
- The Guardian is very similar to the Portals of the Tkon Empire. They both had telepathy, manifested as an ancient humanoid representative of a long-dead civilization, wore large cloaks, and carried staffs. His gateway functions not unlike the Guardian of Forever. The Guardian apparently does not hold to a temporal prime directive.
- Kirk and Spock both wear red uniforms.
- Spock is said to be able to "send and receive telepathic messages" because his father was a "Vulcanite". Although it is explained that he is incapable of Human emotions, he is described as grinning, smiling, and laughing several times throughout the story.
- The Guardian says that Kirk's record will be a warning to another Captain Kirk of another USS Enterprise, implying that one of Kirk's descendants will eventually command another Enterprise. The only grown child we known of that Kirk has was David Marcus. David did not carry his father's name and apparently died before having children, so this future Kirk could be Peter Kirk or one of his descendants.
Setting and technology
- The narration says that space junk is a hazard and is an additional reason for using transporters.
- The Guardian's columns remind Kirk of the temples in Athens, Greece.
- Kirk and Spock show little concern for altering the timeline and time travel is portrayed as a novelty. That along with the the uniform design indicate that this story occurs between "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (2265) and "Tomorrow is Yesterday" (2267).
- The area of Los Angeles Kirk and Spock knew was apparently unaffected by the Hermosa Earthquake.
- The Arrowist plight is similar to that of the Sanctuary District residents.
- Since poverty was eliminated on Earth by 2113, and protein resequencers were in use since at least the 2150s, it is difficult to see why the Arrowists had a problem obtaining food from the military. If the story was indeed set in the distant future, then they should have had replicators available.
- This may be the first story to suggest that future starships would be named Enterprise, carrying on the legacy.
- The earliest the future portion of the story could be set is the window from 2293 to the 2340s, when the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-B) was active. We do not know how this ship was destroyed, so it could have been the vessel referred to by the Arrowists as having been destroyed at Mars. This time frame would go a long way toward explaining how Los Angeles looked unchanged and how another Earth could also have another Mars.
- Guardian of the Future
- Hurst, 3rd appearance
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