(written from a Production point of view)
With Spock and McCoy missing, Kirk must stop a plot that threatens the entire Federation.
- From the book jacket
- For nearly a hundred years, the planet Chyrellkan IV has enjoyed a peaceful relationship with the colony on the third planet of its star system. However, relations between the two worlds take a deadly turn as rebel colonists take over Chrellkan III and turn against their mother world.
- To prevent the conflict from escalating into full-scale war, Starfleet orders Captain Kirk and the Enterprise to moderate the dispute. On arrival, Kirk sends Spock and McCoy to investigate the rebel's claims. But seconds after beaming down, the two officers are taken hostage and then – according to sensors – killed. Devastated by his loss, Kirk must try to learn the truth behind the mysterious rebellion that has claimed the lives of his two closest friends.
- Kirk's investigation leads him to uncover a dangerous plot against the Federation – a plot driven by revenge that may make the Federation's highest law, the Prime Directive, an instrument of violence and destruction.
The Enterprise enters the Chyrellka system, where her crew has been sent to mediate an increasingly violent dispute between Chyrellka IV and its colony world, Vancadia. The Chyrellkan leader, Premier Kaulidren, insists on coming aboard in a shuttlecraft rather than use the ship's transporter. Once he is aboard, he relates to James T. Kirk how the Vancadians began agitating for their independence several years ago, and met the Chyrellkans' moderate refusals with acts of terrorism. From Kaulidren's agitated discourse, Kirk discerns that the Premier is less interested in mediation than he is in getting the Federation's aid in strong-arming the rebels into submission. Kirk insists on opening a dialogue with the rebel leadership, and orders the Enterprise to Vancadia.
Kirk is outraged when an unmanned ship rises from Vancadia's atmosphere to relay a message from the rebels, but is shot down by a cordon of automated "sentry ships", which Kaulidren says was placed there for the Chyrellkans' protection. Recently, he says, the Vancadians have developed a new drive system that is far more advanced than Chyrellka's technology, that would enable the rebel ships to attack Chyrellka, if the sentry ships were not there.
At Kirk's order, a channel is opened to the rebel leadership, led by "President" Delkondros, who is belligerent at first, but appears willing to talk. Delkondros insists that Spock and McCoy form the away team, claiming to find a Vulcan and a medical doctor more trustworthy. But within moments of Spock and McCoy beaming down, their communicator signals are lost, and an energy shield is erected over the rebel headquarters – a technological development at least fifty years in either planet's future. Delkondros regretfully admits that he will hold Spock and McCoy hostage until the rebels' demands are met. Before Kirk can argue, there are the sounds of a struggle on the planet, and the science officer reports weapons fire, and the sudden disappearance of Spock and McCoy's life signs. Kirk is devastated.
Part Two Edit
The action shifts to Spock and McCoy's perspective, as they depart the Enterprise and beam down to Vancadia. As soon as they arrive, Spock scans the room with his tricorder, and attempts to contact Kirk with his communicator. There is no reply, and Delkondros informs him that their signal is being jammed, before transmitting his hostage demands to the Enterprise.
One of the rebel council members, Tylmaurek, objects that this extreme action was never discussed or approved by the rest of them, and can only hurt their cause in the long run. They urge Delkondros to lower the shield and resume peaceful negotiations with the Federation. Delkondros appears to agree, but then an armed stranger bursts through the door and attacks the council. Spock knocks him down, and McCoy's medical tricorder reveals, to his stupefaction, that the man is a disguised Klingon. Then Delkondros attacks Spock with crushing strength, and McCoy realizes the rebel "President" is a Klingon as well. Spock manages to subdue Delkondros with the Vulcan nerve pinch, and, detecting the approach of several more armed Klingons, urges the council members to flee with them. Only Tylmaurek trusts them enough to follow, while the others flee in a different direction.
Once they gain the outside of the building, they hear weapons fire, and Spock regretfully reports that there are no human life signs remaining in the room. He asks Tylmaurek to master his grief and guide them to a transmitter outside the range of the jamming. Knowing that any of the safe houses the rebel leadership has prepared are compromised, Tylmaurek leads them to the home of a former councilor, an academic named Roghan. While en route, they see a news broadcast in which Delkondros claims to have "turned himself in" to the Vancadian government in order to ensure that his message is received: the Federation has dispatched an "assassination team" – Spock and McCoy – to destroy the rebel leadership, with the ultimate aim of conquering both Vancadia and Chyrelka.
But when they reach Roghan's home, the professor makes quite clear that he doesn't believe the report, and welcomes them in. He explains that there is no transmitter capable of reaching the Enterprise from the planet's surface, but he and a group of others, who favor leaving Vancadia rather than face the increasingly violent confrontations with Chyrelka, have managed to construct a small ship, equipped with the new drive technology, that can make orbit. It is scheduled to lift off that very night and, most importantly, they believe Delkondros knows nothing about it.
On their way to the landing pad, Tylmaurek and Roghan ask why the Klingons would possibly be interested in Vancadia; the planet has no technology of interest, and is so sparsely populated that the Klingons could plunder any resources without the Vancadians even knowing, much less being able to stop them. McCoy remarks that Klingons seem to enjoy fomenting conflict between peaceful peoples just for its own sake, but Spock speculates that there is some deeper scheme at work. McCoy also speculates about whether the Chyrelkan government is likewise infiltrated. Spock says that is perfectly possible, but it is unlikely that Premier Kaulidren is a Klingon, since the Enterprise scanners would have unmasked him the moment he stepped aboard.
Part Three Edit
Aboard the Enterprise, Kaulidren is urging Kirk to provide the Chyrelkans with Federation technology, arguing that if some outside power, such as the Klingons, has given the Vancadians something as advanced as the shield and the new drive, they are more than likely to also have phasers and Photon torpedos. This would make them powerful enough to wipe out Chyrelka, and the deaths of Spock and McCoy should be enough to convince Kirk that they are vicious enough to do just that. Through his pain, Kirk adamantly refuses, nor will he agree to turn the Enterprise's weaponry on the planet. In a huff, Kaulidren returns to Chyrelka.
Unknown to the Enterprise crew, a small ship is tethered to it by a tractor beam, and aboard, a man named Hargemon is monitoring the larger ship's computers. Noticing a small glitch on his board, Hargemon's first thought is that his "bumbler" of a Klingon assistant, Kelgar, has messed something up, but when he looks closer, he finds that Kelgar has made careful and deliberate changes to the program. When Hargemon realizes what those changes are meant to do, he panics, and tries to send a reset code to the Enterprise, but Kelgar has blocked him off. Realizing he is about to be assassinated, Hargemon acts fast, retrieving a crucial part of the computer code he was viewing and allowing him to open the door to his chamber and escape the ship in a small shuttle. Kelgar pursues, and one of his weapons' near-misses critically damages Hargemon's shuttle.
Part Four Edit
By coincidence, the shuttle crash-lands on Vancadia close to the route to the landing pad, and Spock, McCoy, Tylmaurek and Roghan divert their ground car to the crash site. Inside the shuttle, McCoy is surprised to find a man wearing a Starfleet ensign's uniform, and pulls him free. Spock recognizes "Hargemon" as former Lieutenant Commander Benjamin Finney, discharged from Starfleet after his failed attempt to frame Kirk for murder. They take him aboard the ship, along with several other families seeking to flee the violence on Vancadia. But as soon as it lifts off, some remote source takes control of its piloting. At first, the ship's engineer accuses the Enterprise of taking control, but then a voice cuts in on the intercom: Premier Kaulidren, who introduces himself to Spock by his real name: Jason Carmody, formerly a Lt. Commander of Starfleet.
Spock grimly remembers that Carmody was captain of the Chafee, a small scout ship that went missing near the frontier with the Klingon Empire before the establishment of the Neutral Zone. According to its last reports before it disappeared, the Chafee's crew became embroiled in a tribal dispute fomented on a primitive planet by the Klingons (much as the Enterprise crew did on Neural), and Carmody, instead of beaming himself and his away team out, drew his phaser and began firing on the natives, killing or wounding dozens of them before his crew managed to overpower him.
Carmody wryly explains that the Chafee was captured by the Klingons, but the fact that he was already in the ship's brig intrigued them, and "we reached a meeting of minds." He informs them that soon the ship will be destroyed with them aboard, and there is nothing they can do about it, before cutting off the transmission.
As Kaulidren, Carmody transmits an urgent message to Kirk, informing him that a ship has left Vancadia's surface, heavily armed enough to destroy the picket ships, and Kirk must destroy it before it reaches Chyrelka.
Part Five Edit
Finney regains consciousness aboard the ship, and is instantly confronted by Spock and McCoy. He demands the use of Spock's communicator, attempting to manually send the reset code to the Enterprise, but it fails, and Finney realizes that Kelgar has changed it. With dread, he admits to Spock, McCoy, and the horrified crowd that in the next hour or so, the Enterprise will destroy the ship; its computers have been infected with a complex virus that allows a remote user to control the data reaching its crew from the ship's sensors. Kirk will not see a small, unarmed ship filled with refugees, he will be shown a large, menacing ship bristling with weapons and destroying the Chyrelkan picket ships with ease.
Finney explains that he sneaked aboard the Enterprise on Carmody's shuttle to insert the virus, and since then has been monitoring the Enterprise from his ship (which is likewise concealed from the crew). While the ship's computer is showing Kirk and the crew one version of events, the sensors will be recording everything that is actually happening, and later, after the Enterprise is destroyed by the Klingons, its records will make it obvious to "anyone with half a brain" that Kirk was so unhinged by the loss of his two closest friends that he intervened in the Chyrelkan conflict with guns blazing and destroyed an unarmed ship full of civilians.
Spock and McCoy were manipulated into leaving the Enterprise because the Klingons reasoned that if anyone could figure out what was actually going on, it would be Spock (as he exposed Finney before). He adds that even if Kirk or someone else figures it out, the program is too complex to be defeated quickly enough to make any difference.
McCoy cuts through Finney's technical explanation and demands to know what the point of all this scheming was supposed to be. Before he can answer, Finney is temporarily silenced by a sudden hallucination of his daughter, Jamie, among the refugees, which brings reality crashing down on his head: he has been a willing, eager accomplice in the plot to murder these innocent people, strung along by his blind hatred of Kirk and (as he now sees them) Carmody's painfully transparent lies.
Swallowing hard, Finney explains that the plan (as it was originally explained to him) was to give the Klingons an "edge" – that Kirk's purported actions in the Chyrellkan system would make Starfleet so fearful of violating the Prime Directive in the future that it would be that much easier for the Klingons to annex contested territories, and possibly even cause a crucial delay in the Federation's response to a full-scale invasion. But now, he realizes, Kelgar and Carmody have altered the program so that it will infect the computers of the starship sent to the Chyrellkan system to examine the wreck of the Enterprise, and the next computer after that, and so on. In a few years, every computer in Starfleet will be infected... at which point, Spock finishes grimly, the Klingons may invade at will, slipping undetected past Federation ships or destroying them with the touch of a button.
Spock, however, has a plan: Finney viewed the lines of computer code detailing Kelgar's changes to the program, meaning he must have seen data that will allow them to retrieve the new reset code. When Finney protests that his memory is good, but not that good, Spock says a mind meld should be able to do it. Finney is aghast at the idea, but several very large refugees step forward and say that if Finney has information that will save their lives, he had better cooperate.
For Spock and Finney alike, the meld is a harrowing experience: Spock is unnerved by the pain and bitterness coursing through Finney's mind, while Finney experiences enough of Spock's memories to finally understand that Kirk is not the self-righteous tyrant that Finney always believed him to be. With difficulty, Spock extracts Finney's visual memory of the code they need.
Part Six Edit
Aboard the Enterprise, Kirk is baffled, as is Spock's temporary replacement as science officer, Lt. Pritchard, when long-range scans of the Vancadian ship show it to be small and unarmed, but at closer range it appears large and menacing. While Kaulidren is shrieking over the channel that the ship must be destroyed before it reaches Chyrelka, Kirk orders the Enterprise to interpose its shields between the planet and the ship. As soon as he does so, the shields fail without explanation.
His thoughts tumbling, Kirk reviews the series of improbable circumstances – the disappearances of Spock and McCoy, the appearance of the Vancadians' shield, the uncanny range and effectiveness of the jamming, the sensor anomalies, and now the shield failure – and reflects that it is all just as impossible as when he viewed the video evidence during his own trial, showing that he ejected Ben Finney's pod prematurely. Just like that, Kirk realizes what is really going on.
When Kaulidren calls again, Kirk assures him that the Enterprise shields will come online in time to protect Chyrelka. His hysteria disappears and "Kaulidren" laughs, revealing his true identity to Kirk and congratulating him for figuring out the truth, even if he can't stop it. The virus doesn't just manipulate the data flow from the Enterprise sensors, it allows Carmody to take full control, and Kirk will be unable to stop the ship from opening fire as soon as the Vancadian ship comes into range. He further gloats that the whole affair in the Chyrelkan system has been a successful "trial run" for Finney's program, and once it has been introduced to all of Starfleet, the Federation will be conquered "like shooting fish in a barrel."
But Kirk gives an order, and Scotty and a half-dozen technicians act, severing connections around the ship and shutting down the computer.
Once outside the Enterprise, Sulu swiftly notes the presence of the control ship tethered by the tractor beam, and also manages to make contact with Spock and McCoy aboard the Vancadian ship. Spock relays the reset code, but warns Sulu that it must be manually entered; if Sulu tries to transmit it, he will be intercepted and destroyed, and the code simply changed again.
A Klingon beams aboard the Enterprise from the control ship, overpowers one of Scotty's technicians, and re-connects the computer line. The ship's phasers come back on-line and begin targeting the Vancadian ship again.
At breakneck speed, Sulu pilots his shuttle back inside the Enterprise, manually wrenches the emergency doors open, and rushes to the nearest ship's intercom to relay the code to the bridge. Lt. Pritchard enters it, and finally the computer is back in their control. Aboard the control ship, Carmody cuts the tractor beam and tries to make a run for it. Kirk orders a pursuit, but Pritchard reports that the newly-restored sensors have detected another Klingon vessel at the edge of the system. The ship transmits a self-destruct code to Carmody's ship, destroying it, before escaping into warp. Kirk remarks that, although he was the nominal commander of the operation, Carmody failed in his task and the Klingons had no further use for him.
Spock and McCoy's return to the Enterprise is delayed for a few more hours, while the ship's computer is scoured to make sure there is no trace of Finney's program left. For the first time, Kirk is able to confer with the real Admiral Brady (all his previous communications having been simulations generated by the program), and reports that, not only has the conflict between Chyrellka and Vancadia simmered down, but both planets are now eager to apply for Federation membership.
When Brady asks how likely it is that the Klingons retained a copy of Finney's program, Kirk responds that it is almost certain, but he doubts they will try to use it again; their scheme has been exposed, and Starfleet will now be ready for them, especially since Finney will be cooperating fully to develop countermeasures for it.
After Brady signs off, Kirk welcomes Spock and McCoy back. McCoy remarks that the scariest part of the whole affair is that the Klingons' plan was a damn good one, and probably would have succeeded if its principals had just trusted each other in carrying it out. To which Spock replies that the doctor's logic is (as usual) flawed: people who trust each other do not develop such schemes in the first place. As the two commence yet another argument, Kirk smiles and welcomes the return to normalcy aboard his ship.
- According to author Gene DeWeese's foreword, the novel takes place during the final year of the Enterprise's original five-year mission.
Captain's Log Entries Edit
- Captain's Log, Supplemental: We are en route to the planet Chyrellka to do--as Dr. McCoy might put it--a little fire-fighting.
- We first made contact with the Chyrellkans ten years ago. They declined membership in the Federation, but at the time of that initial encounter, Captain Brittany Mendez of the Exeter noted that the Chyrellkans and their colony on Vancadia provided a textbook example of how to peacefully establish and administer a colony.
- Unlike most emerging technological civilizations, the Chyrellkans had established a working world government before leaving their own atmosphere. And once their probes showed them that Vancadia's biosphere was almost identical to their own–except for the absence of any lifeforms higher than tree-dwelling primates–they went about establishing a colony with Vulcan-like logic and determination.
- Without impulse drive technology, all early trips to Vancadia were one-way. Shuttles lifted them into orbit around Chyrellka, where they transferred to orbital-built interplanetary ships. At Vancadia then, they descended from orbit in one-way landers. It was nearly forty years before the colonials reached the stage at which they could manufacture the boosters that allowed them to return to orbit.
- From the beginning, the Chyrellkans had planned for the Vancadian colonists to be given their independence once they'd achieved total self-sufficiency. A decade ago, Captain Mendez noted that with Vancadia's population close to eight million, the goal of self-sufficiency seemed only a few years away. And yet now the Federation has received an urgent request for help in mediating what the Chyrellkan message describes as "an increasingly vicious dispute between Chyrellka and her rebelling colony."
"Do you believe that fraud?"
"If you mean, Doctor, did I believe Premier Kaulidren's statements to be completely truthful, no I did not."
- - McCoy and Spock
"Ah, the Federation assassination squad, and one of their traitorous collaborators. Do come in quickly, before some loyal citizen sees you."
- - Professor Roghan to Spock and McCoy, making clear that he doesn't believe the government's propaganda
"But why, Finney? What the blazes were you trying to accomplish, for God's sake!"
"It seemed like a good idea at the time..."
- - McCoy and Ben Finney (thinking to himself)
"But you want to know what's really scary, Jim? That bunch had a good chance of pulling their little stunt off. They probably would have if they'd just trusted each other instead of stabbing each other in the back every chance they got."
"That is most unlikely, Doctor."
"Oh, and what crystal ball tells you that, Spock?"
"It is merely that if people are inclined to trust other people, they generally have neither the desire nor the reason to develop such schemes in the first place."
- - McCoy and Spock
- James T. Kirk
- Dr. Leonard McCoy
- Lt. Nyota Uhura
- Lt. Hikaru Sulu
- Montgomery Scott
- Lt. Pritchard
- Spock's temporary replacement as science officer
- Premier Kaulidren
- President Delkondros
- Councilman Tylmaurek
- Professor Roghan
- Benjamin Finney/"Hargemon"
- "Court Martial"
- Benjamin Finney reappears after his appearance in that episode, still nursing a grudge against Kirk and having been recruited by the Klingons after demonstrating his expertise at manipulating the Enterprise computers.
- "A Private Little War"
- Repeated references are made to the Enterprise's visit to Neural:
- Spock refers to Neural as soon as he and McCoy beam down to Vancadia, trying to warn McCoy that his tricorder has unmasked several humans in the room as disguised Klingons;
- While Councilman Tylmaurek is puzzling over the Klingons' likely motive for interfering with the Chrellkan conflict, McCoy remarks that the Klingons on Neural seemed to have no better motive for fomenting war between the tribes there than because they found it amusing;
- Kirk recalls having to "descend to the same level" as the Klingons on Neural and provide Tyree's Hill People with weapons to combat their enemies, grimly resolving to do nothing of the kind with Chyrellka, which would mean providing its people with phasers, photon torpedoes, shield technology and impulse drives.
- "The Trouble with Tribbles"
- McCoy realizes that several of their Human captors are disguised Klingons by noting the drastic differences in their heart rates and body temperatures from humans, similar to how he unmasked Arne Darvin in this episode.
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