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While Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock made their way to the bridge, Lt. Parker activated the com-link to the surface and requested that the force field be lowered.
In Dr. Cory’s command center, Dr. Evangeline bit her lip. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Garth…or Dr. Cory!…he was the only one who should be requesting that the force field be lowered…and that only so that he could have her beamed up to the Enterprise!
Should she refuse? No, that would only create suspicion. If Garth had been captured…but he couldn’t have been…but…but…if he had been captured….then she had to insure that she appeared innocent…so she’d be free to provide help if needed in future…no one on the planet suspected her, or even knew what was going on, for that matter…she had nothing to fear if she just kept calm.
“Lowering the force field now,” she said, and pressed the appropriate buttons.
The six red-shirted security guards shimmered into life in front of her. One of them, a woman wearing more hash marks on her sleeves than the others, stepped forward. “I’m Lt. Agatha Parker,” she said. “May I ask who you are?”
“Dr. Evangeline,” she replied. “What’s the matter? What’s happening?” she didn’t try to keep the anxiety out of her voice.
“We have reason to believe that the inmates have taken over the asylum,” said Lt. Parker. Behind her she heard a snigger. She coughed. “I mean to say, we need to inspect the facility. Do you know where the inmate Garth of Izar is being kept?”
Evangeline’s heart sank. So, something had gone wrong.
“I can show you, certainly. But you’re quite wrong. Look, I can show you from here.”
She indicated a rack of monitor screens, and pressed button after button. “Here are all our patients.” She stressed the word, patients. “As you can see they’re all…they’re all…”
“What’s the matter?” demanded Parker sharply.
“That man in Garth of Izar’s cubicle…” Evangeline said… “that’s not…that’s Dr. Cory.”
Parker peered at the screen. There was indeed a man in the cubicle, who matched the photo her Captain had shown her. Of Asian descent, in his sixties, he stood with arms folded, gazing out into the corridor.
“There’s a man on the bed, too,” commented Parker.
Evangeline squinted. “Yes, I see him. That’s one of our security guards. That’s Al.”
“What about the rest of the in..I mean…the patients?”
Evangeline made a show of looking carefully at each monitor. “The rest are where they should be. And you can see from these buttons,” she indicated, “they’re locked in. It’s only…but I don’t understand. I saw Dr. Cory just a few minutes ago! He beamed up to the Enterprise with the Captain and a … a Mr. Spock I think his name was.”
“Everything will be made clear in due time,” said the lieutenant. “Captain Kirk would like to have a little chat with you in a few minutes. For now…Tyler, Logan, you remain here with Dr. Evangeline. The rest of us will go get Dr. Cory and bring him here. And Al.”
She turned to Evangeline. “Can you give me a key to the cell?”
“The cubicle,” Evangeline corrected automatically. “I, yes, here.” She handed over a little black device, about the size of a communicator. “It opens everything. Just point and press.”
In a very few moments, she and the rest of her team had returned to the control center with Dr. Cory and the security guard. Parker opened her communicator.
“Parker to Captain Kirk.”
“ The facility is secure, sir. Only Garth of Izar is missing. Dr. Cory and Dr. Evangeline are with me now.”
“Donald,” came Kirk’s voice. “Are you alright?”
“Yes, Jim,” Cory said, though his voice was tired. “I must speak with your urgently.”
“Right. Prepare to beam up.”
“But what about the force field?” demanded Evangeline…. “what about…”
“Lieutenant Parker, choose someone to remain behind with you. You’ll have to get in touch with the medical staff there shortly, in any event,” Kirk spoke briskly. “The rest of you beam up. Then, Parker, activate that force field again.”
She flipped closed her communicator. “Wade, you’re with me. The rest of you, prepare to beam up.” She flipped open her communicator again, this time for the transporter room. “Beam ‘em up, O’Dell,” she said.
And within seconds, she and ensign Ben Wade were alone in the command center.
Every starship captain has a ready room just off the bridge, where he or she can meet with his officers and crew in a more private atmosphere than the bridge itself, while still remaining close to that heart of the starship.
Kirk, Spock and Dr. Cory were in the ready room. They had already interviewed the security guard, Al, who had explained that he’d been making his rounds as usual when he saw Dr. Cory in the cubicle of Garth of Izar, looking beaten and bloody. He’d rushed in, and that Dr. Cory had risen up and struck him. And that’s all he knew.
Cory had then given his story. He’d been in the command center, the door had slid open, and he came face to face with himself. And then he, too, remembered nothing more. Garth must have equipped himself with Al’s phaser. The next thing he remembered, he had waked in the cubicle, with Al lying unconscious on the bed.
Dr. Evangeline gave her story next. Dr. Cory had approached her, and told her that the starship Enterprise was nearly there. He was going to give her in charge of the medicine she was inspecting. That Cory had acted completely normal, completely sane…she had no reason to suspect…
Al and Evangeline had then both taken their leave, escorted by security guards. Al to sickbay, to have a thorough check-up to ensure there were no lingering after-effects from being knocked unconscious, and Dr. Evangeline to guest quarters where she would remain until they found Garth of Izar.
When they were alone, Kirk looked at Cory.
“Tell me abut Garth, Donald. How can he change his form at will?”
“You know what happened to him, don’t you?”
“Pretend I don’t,” said Kirk. “Tell me the whole story.”
Cory shrugged. “He was taking his ship to Vomisa IV for a refit, when he received a distress call from a mining colony. His was the only ship in range, so of course he went to their rescue. It was a rogue mining colony. People had come across an asteroid full of …” Cory gestured… “some valuable metal….I forget now what and it’s not the point. They’d settled there and began mining, and it was an unstable asteroid. It started to disintegrate, and the lives of a hundred people were at stake.”
Kirk nodded, grimly.
“The metal was such that it was impenetrable to the transporter. The only way to rescue those miners was to go in physically and drag them out…the asteroid disintegrating around them all the time. Garth would never ask a crewman to do what he himself would not do…” Kirk nodded, approvingly…. “and so he led the rescue party, along with a group of volunteers.”
Cory spread his hands. “The rest you know. Garth and his men saved most of the miners. Garth was still in one of the tunnels, trying to get out the last of them, when it collapsed, crushing him. The men he’d been trying to save abandoned him, rushing to the surface and safety. A few of his own people went back into the tunnel and dragged him out, but he was near death.
Garth’s crew loved him, as I’m sure you can appreciate. They knew the only way to save him was to break protocol, to take him to the forbidden planet, Antos VII, where the Antosians could save his life. And they did so, by teaching him cellular metamorphosis…. which enabled him to restore the destroyed parts of his body..including his face.”
“Yes….I saw his face…”
Cory nodded. “From there….it must have been a natural progression for him to realize that he use that knowledge to recreate himself as anyone he wanted to be.”
“Re-create himself,” murmured Kirk.
Cory nodded. “They saved his life, but they drove him mad.”
“Perhaps,” said Spock, “that is part of the cause of his insanity. Anyone who can change themselves to look like anyone else they please…it would be difficult not to become a megalomaniac.”
“And that’s the form Garth’s madness takes, eh?” asked Kirk.
Cory steepled his fingers. “It’s true. Garth’s goal is to take over the entire universe. He styles himself, “Lord Garth” now.”
Kirk blinked at him. “The entire universe?”
“It could be done,” said Spock judiciously. “If he could have taken the Enterprise to Earth, sought out the President of the Federation, and replaced him….he would effectively be in control of much of the known universe.”
Cory smiled wanly. “That’s your Vulcan logic coming to the fore, Mr. Spock. But unfortunately you are wrong. Garth doesn’t want to assume control of the universe, he wants to take control of it. By violence. He wishes to assemble a fleet of starships and destroy everyone who stands in his way. Conquest by war…that’s what he intends.”
“Destruction for the sake of it,” murmured Kirk.
“Exactly. Some burgeoning hatred…something…is driving him to destroy …I could never get him to speak to me of anything…personal…it was only his goals of conquest he would freely discuss. Drugs, medication, nothing could break the block into his unconscious mind…I failed him…”
“Only up until now, Donald,” said Kirk. “We’ll find him, we’ll give him that new drug, and he’ll be on the way to being himself again.”
“I hope so, Jim. But that doesn’t change the fact that right now, you’ve got a megalomaniacal madman running around the Enterprise, with only one goal in mind. Destruction. No one on board this ship is safe.”
Kirk nodded, face grim. “I know, Donald. I know.”
Garth of Izar walked into the Observation Room, stopped just inside the door, and assessed possibilities.
There were a handful of people in the room. A man and woman were sharing drinks at a corner table, another couple were gazing into each other’s eyes in a different corner table…. And a woman sat alone at the observation portals in the rear of the room, gazing out into infinite space.
Garth walked over to the drinks dispenser and checked the choices. A variety of soft drinks…no alcohol. Did Kirk run a dry ship, then? Or did he just not allow it in the Observation rooms?
Garth chose two Pepsis… a favorite tipple of his since his Academy days, and then carried the small cups back toward the rear of the room, which was one vast expanse of glass and darkness beyond.
He stopped beside the woman. “May I join you?” he asked.
She looked up at him, and smiled sweetly. “Sure.”
Garth sat down next to her, and held up a glass to her. “I hope you like Pepsi.”
She smiled again, and took it. “Thank you.”
Garth leaned back into the softness of the chair and stared out into the darkness…and at his face, reflected in the glass…it seemed as if his entire face were spread out over the universe…like that of a god.