- 1 Publisher's description
- 2 Summary
- 3 References
- 4 Timeline
- 5 Appendices
- Teaser summary
- It was the strangest cosmic heist of all time… for the ‘loot’ seemed worthless… yet the robbers risked their very lives for it! Why? To three officers of the starship USS Enterprise, the answer was to remain a mystery until they themselves were ensnared in the criminals’ web of treachery!
Nyota Uhura picked up a distress call from the Federation planet Salvum. As Hikaru Sulu piloted the USS Enterprise towards the planet, a Grotus transport exited the atmospheric shield around the planet through an atmosphere lock. It then pivoted and fired on the shield, creating a hole through which the planet’s controlled atmosphere immediately began to dissipate. The Enterprise was forced to remain in orbit and seal the fissure while the transport fled. Montgomery Scott and three engineers in gravity control suits piloted Galileo (II) to the damaged section of the shield, then exited the shuttlecraft and sprayed a chemical tractor-web sealant to temporarily plug the hole.
Beaming down to the main headquarters of the wildlife preserve, James T. Kirk, Spock and Scott found head zoologist Axel Carruthers waking from a stunned state. He and his staff and been incapacitated by sleeping gas. Carruthers flew Kirk, Spock and Scott aboard a survey plane to inspect the wildlife habitats. Nothing seemed amiss in the sectors for Aridian sandworms and Plutonian snow-beavers, but in the Gharian wedding bird habitat Carruthers spotted only females. During mating season, when not in the presence of females, male birds become hyper-aggressive and grow to four times their normal size. Scott thought that these males might have been stolen for cockfighting, a favored illicit pastime of criminals on the the non-aligned asteroid Grotus. Proposing an undercover mission, Kirk asked if Carruthers could lend the Starfleet officers the oldest ship at his disposal.
Carruthers provided them with a D-1 “Buggy”, which they flew to Grotus. When Kirk, Spock, and Scott disembarked, they were propositioned by several women. When the officers refused to go with them, hoodlums spying from a distance became suspicious. Hoods trailed Scott as he followed squawking sounds to an arena and located one of the missing birds. Scott was then held at gunpoint. Meanwhile, Kirk sneaked into the planetary headquarters building and stunned two security guards with a type-1 phaser, only to be captured by other guards and brought before Zarcun-5. Zarcun said he was Grotus’ duty elected leader, but Kirk believed that he was the asteroid’s criminal mastermind. Zarcun ordered Scott into a cockfighting arena where one of the hyper-aggressive and enormous Gharian wedding birds charged him. As gambling spectators cheered, bookmakers gave 40:1 odds that Scott would be killed quickly. Zarcun threatened Kirk with the same treatment. Thinking quickly, Spock chose to beam a female wedding bird into the arena, which immediately calmed the male bird. Spock and Scott fled with the birds before angered spectators could stone them to death. Kirk grabbed Zarcun in a head lock, forced his guards to back off, and then they were beamed aboard the USS Enterprise. Kirk arrested Zarcun on charges of robbery and attempted murder.
Starships and vehicles
- USS Enterprise (Constitution-class) • Galileo (II) (class F shuttlecraft) • Grotus transport • D-1 transport spacecraft • survey plane
- Salvum (game preserve) • asteroid Grotus
- Referenced only
- Aridia III • Earth (Glasgow, Loch Ness) • Ghar
Races and cultures
States and organizations
Science and technology
- atmosphere • atmosphere lock • chemical • communicator • galaxy • gravity control suit • phaser rifle • radio • sleeping gas • spacesuit • tractor-web • transporter • type-1 phaser • warp
Ranks and titles
- bookmaker • captain • chief zoologist • curator • lieutenant • lieutenant commander • merchantman • scientist • zookeeper
- animal • arena • Aridian sandworm • asteroid • betting pool • bird • century • circus • cockfighting • colony • court • criminal • earthman • gambling • Gharian wedding bird • hunting • murder • museum • outpost • Plutonian snow-beaver • poaching • robbery • sector • sports • trial • uniform • zoo
- The tractor-web was sprayed to form a chemical web-like seal. It was similar in name only to the Tholian web tractor beam-like energy field seen in TOS episode: "The Tholian Web".
- No explanation was given as to why a planet’s atmosphere would dissipate within hours without a container to hold it in. The gravity of a planet pulls its atmosphere toward its surface. It was stated, though, that Salvum’s atmosphere was carefully controlled. Given that various sectors of the planet had wildly different ecologies and conditions, perhaps some sort of atmospheric separation or moderation was provided for or controlled by the shield. Alternatively the planet originally might have had a light gravity and thin atmosphere similar to that of Mars, but had been terraformed with a much denser atmosphere that might escape into space without the shield, balancing back to its previous density and pressure.
- The name of the shuttlecraft with registry NCC-1701/7 was not visible. Canon registry and a setting in 2267 identified the shuttle as the Galileo (II). It was possible that it could be Leonardo (II), a shuttle introduced two issues prior that had the same registry.
- While referred to as an asteroid, Grotus was a dwarf planet, although that classification did not exist when the story was written in 1978. It was spherical, had its own atmosphere, had a significant amount of gravity, and was Class M, none of which were properties of asteroids. The unlogged asteroid from two issues prior, TOS comic: "And a Child Shall Lead Them", similarly was a misidentified dwarf planet.
- Given that the Grotus transport and the D-1 spacecraft appeared to have rocket-propelled engines, Grotus was most likely in the same star system as Salvum.
- Carruthers must have misspoken when describing the environment for the Plutonian snow-beavers as -1043 degrees Fahrenheit, since absolute zero is -459.67 degrees. Leafy wooden trees could not grow in an environment close to absolute zero, nor would there be liquids to form rivers that could be dammed.
- The Aridian sandworms required a temperature above 732 degrees Fahrenheit (389 degrees Celsius). Lead melts at 327 degrees C.
- This story has been reprinted in English, German, and Dutch.
- Despite being called a survey plane, the aircraft would more accurately be described as a helicopter.
- TOS comic: "The Flight of the Buccaneer" — Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scott went undercover as pirates to track a stolen shipment of dilithium.
- TOS comic: "One of Our Captains Is Missing!" — Kirk went undercover as a Kafrian on Mobita, then Sirone disguised him as a Togota.
- TOS comic: "The Trial of Captain Kirk" — To defend himself of charges in a court martial, Kirk went undercover in San Francisco.
- TOS comic: "Furlough to Fury" — Zoologist Barbara McCoy studied zoological specimens, including a vrell and Ryunian octopus, at Urey University on Earth.
- TAS episode: "The Eye of the Beholder" — Kirk, Spock, and McCoy were trapped in a planet-wide zoo on Lactra VII.
#52 What Fools These Mortals Be
|TOS comics (Gold Key)||Next story:|
#54 A World Against Itself
What Fools These Mortals Be
A World Against Itself
|Memory Beta Chronology||Next adventure:|
Klingons: Blood Will Tell
The Order of Things
- August 1978
- First published by Gold Key Comics.
- Printed in hardcover in Star Trek Annual (1980) (World Distributors Limited)
- September 2008
- Included on The Complete Comic Book Collection DVD (Graphic Imaging Technologies)
- 14 February 2019
- Reprinted in Graphic Novel Collection #56 (Eaglemoss)
- Dutch: In Ruimteschip Enterprise Special (De Vrijbuiter)
- German: As "Blutige Spiele" in Raumschiff Enterprise Comic Sonderheft (Special Issue) #1 (Condor)