- As the last year of their original mission begins, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise will have to use all of the skills they've acquired along the way as they prepare to face the biggest challenge of their lives – a dark threat that doesn't just threaten their existence, but the existence of the entire Federation as well...
- After receiving a distress call from an unexplored planet, Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise discover a Tholian settlement that has been completely destroyed. Kirk beams the lone survivor of the massacre- a Tholian child- aboard the Enterprise, but before they can figure out who's responsible for the carnage, they're confronted by a Tholian Destroyer!
The Tholian captain is as blunt as ever in listing the crimes of USS Enterprise but if the Federation ship returns the child and wipes their sensor data, then they will be allowed to leave. While Spock is eager to seize this opportunity, Kirk attempts diplomacy one last time and is rewarded by the Tholians powering up a weapon. From the Destroyer streaks an orange beam that cuts through the shields like Tellarite butter and vaporizes several crew-members on decks 7 through 10 while knocking out the main computer. With no choice, the Enterprise turns tail and flees, though limited to Warp 1 without computer assistance. Leaving Scott in charge, Kirk calls McCoy and Spock to the observation lounge.
In the meeting room, Spock is as blunt as the Tholians in saying Kirk is acting out of emotion and passion rather than any reason or logic and atypically, McCoy agrees. Even discounting the fact that he's not sure if he can treat the child, this is an internal Tholian affair, they have no place to but in. Kirk reveals his belief that Lloyd Zeta-9 was attacked, not by a splinter faction, but by the Tholian Assembly itself but neither officer is convinced. While McCoy matches Kirk's passion, Spock logically points out that everything about the Tholians, from their language to their societal structure, is unknown and their technology has proven itself lethally effective against Starfleet. And yet, based on a single attack, whose circumstances are unknown, Kirk has chosen to project human values on morals onto the crystalline aliens, specifically the surviving youth, a youth whose own motivations and wants remain unknown. All they can do now is hope Kirk's logic wins out over his passion.
On the bridge, Scotty dourly compares their current situation to the Kobayashi Maru scenario. With a stroke of inspiration, Uhura mentions that Kirk hacked the scenario and suggests Scott do the same using the collective brain power of the bridge. Inspired, the bridge crew list off what they know to come up with a plan. The beam cut through the shields and the people in a manner not unlike a neutron bomb but the particle shields of Starfleet ships, shields that intercept and convert radioactive signals, mean it can't actually be a nuclear weapon. Sulu remembers how the Tholian webs slowed down everything aboard the Enterprise allowing the group to realize they're dealing with a stasis beam (or a freeze ray) that slows the energy bonding molecules together to virtually nothing. And while the hull of a starship, designed for extreme cold, would be totally unaffected by such a weapon, everything inside would be completely disrupted, the people disintegrated, or, in the case of Tholians, shattered. With the mystery solved, Scotty orders Chekov to begin reverse engineering the weapon while calling Kirk to the bridge.
Before coming however, Kirk makes a stop in sickbay to greet the child. Speaking to them alone, Kirk introduces himself and recounts his childhood. Though Kirk was born on Earth, he lived on Tarsus IV for a part of his childhood, a world whose harshness was a stark contrast to Earth but better somehow. And Tarsus also taught Kirk what it's like to be betrayed by those who are supposed to protect you. Placing his hand on the forcefield, Kirk swears he won't allow the child to live through that experience, the child leaning their head against Kirk's hand.
On the bridge Kirk, while impressed by his crew's ingenuity, overrules firing back. They're not here to start a war and turning a weapon so savage on the Tholians is not who Starfleet is. Spock has another idea but it would require full usage of the navigational computer, or a pilot of those same capabilities.
Soon enough, the Enterprise drops out of warp at the Lloyd Zeta hypergiant, the Tholian vessel emerging a second later. Kirk hails the destroyer again and tells them that the child has sought asylum in the Federation and that pursuit around the star is ill-advised. No sooner are channels closed do the Tholians start after them but their angle... is bad, the gravity ripping their ship apart.
Reflecting on these events, Kirk thinks of Odysseus, a man who was never said to have doubts, but who Kirk cannot help but compare himself too. In reaching, and keeping, the captain's chair, Kirk has lost so much but he swears to never lose his hope for the future. Even his hope that Spock was wrong to label rescuing the child as the worst mistake of his career. Because while human history began with wars, Kirk will not see it end with one.
- Bright Eyes • Christine Chapel • Pavel Chekov • James T. Kirk • Leonard McCoy • Montgomery Scott • Spock • Hikaru Sulu • Nyota Uhura
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- TOS episode: "The Tholian Web": Spock refers to their last encounter with the Tholians.
- TOS episode: "The Conscience of the King": Kirk recounts to the Tholian child his time on Tarsus IV and how the colonists were betrayed by Kodos.
- TOS movie: The Wrath of Khan: Mention is made of Kirk cheating on the Kobayashi Maru test. Kirk refers to losing Carol and David to his career.
- TOS episode: "Operation -- Annihilate!": In the same breath as Carol and David, Kirk mentions losing Sam.
Year Five, Issue 1
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Year Five, Issue 3