The woman – she was a Lieutenant, Garth noted – sipped her Pepsi. Then she held out her hand to him. “I’m Katya. Katya Landau.”
He smiled. “I’m G…us. Keller. Gus Keller.”
“Hullo, Gus,” she said, and then turned her attention back to the stars.
Garth noted that she looked rather sad. Was she one of those people who liked to look at the stars because it made them feel in their place, with regards to the universe? Small and infinitesimal?
“What are you thinking?” he asked her, gently.
She grinned. “I was thinking of a poem.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”
Garth stared at her, shocked.
She looked at him curiously. “What’s the matter? Don’t you like poetry?”
“Yes,” he said quickly. “It’s just…I had been thinking of something similar, only a few seconds ago.” But he knew that she had not been thinking what he was thinking…that he’d like her to be touching his face. So odd, that she had been thinking of that…
“The stars make you think of god,” he said, carefully.
She grinned. “Oh, no. Not at all. It’s just that I’ve become addicted to jet aerobatics. Every time we’re in orbit around a planet, a group of us put on our spacesuits and jetpacks and go out and just soar among the stars. There is nothing quite like it. But we’re not allowed to do that here, and it’s just so disappointing.”
Garth threw back his head and laughed.
“What’s so funny?” she asked, prepared to enjoy the joke.
“I was amused, because I had completely misinterpreted your expression, that’s all. As I said, some people look at the stars and think they are god, some look at them and think of how small they are…and you look at them and wish you could go out and play among them.”
Katya laughed, but inwardly she felt a bit puzzled. Why would looking at stars ever make someone think they were God? She didn’t bother to ask, though. This man was fascinating her. Handsome, self-confident…but something curiously vulnerable about him…
She nodded at the stars outside the glass. “Do they inspire you to poetry?” she asked.
Garth turned to look out at the stars once more. He’d long been an aficionado of the Earth poet, Shakespeare…. Very slowly he said, “I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.”
Katya’s face sobered, and here eyes looked at his face searchingly. “Yes,” she said, quietly. “You don’t sleep very well, do you?”
Garth stared at her again. One hand went to his face. How could she know that?
“I’m sorry,” she said quickly. “I just… are you okay?”
Garth brought his hand away and smiled a brilliant smile. “I’m bored with the subject,” he said. “Let’s talk about something else.”
Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and Security Chief Clay Barker were in Kirk’s ready room, and Kirk had just finished laying out the situation to them.
“We’ve got a man on board who can assume any form he wishes. Me, Spock, one of you…presumably even a woman. He could be anyone. Now, how do we find him? Bearing in mind that I want as few people as possible to know this. If the crew thought that I or Spock could be an impostor at any time… morale aboard this ship would break down in a heart beat.”
Barker nodded. “What steps have you taken so far?
“Since Garth escaped the transporter room, neither Spock nor I have been out of each other’s sight. So I know that we two are who we say we are. I want you to assign a security guard to each of us. We will go nowhere alone. If we are ever found alone, we get clapped in irons, no exceptions.”
Barker nodded again. “You think he’ll come after you or Mr. Spock?”
“Yes. Either me, Spock, or any of the command crew. I’ll want a security guard assigned to each of them as well. No exceptions.”
“Would it do any good to distribute a photo of him as he looks now?” asked Barker. “I mean, as he normally looked, when he was in custody here?”
Cory shook his head. “I doubt it, Chief Barker. For example…” he punched up, on screen, the same photo that the false Doctor Cory had shown Kirk and Spock on their initial visit to the command center. “That, for example, isn’t Garth of Izar at all – his bodily shape, let alone his face…and yet that is the only photo in our databanks now. Garth must have substituted it when he took over my office. As for the face he had before the accident…he looked nothing like that when he came to us, so that won’t help, either.”
“Pity,” said Kirk. “All the more reason why none of the command crew is to be left alone. Ever. He may come after any of us and there’s no way of knowing what shape he’ll assume. Even if he uses his…let’s just call it his “real face”, for the sake of argument, there’s no way to recognize him.”
“There is one thing,” mused Donald Cory. “Garth…has a temper… which he is quite unable to control. Any slight, real or imagined, anyone who does not pay due deference to him as lord of the universe…and he is quite likely to go berserk.”
Kirk leaned forward with a concerned expression on his face, as his heart sank. He didn’t like the thought of a madman running loose on the Enterprise, but he had believed that however mad he was, he would not make the mistake of attacking the general crew…that only the command crew would be his target.
“Do you think that’s likely, Donald? That he’d attack and harm an anonymous crewmember? When he must know how important it is for him to stay…well…invisible?”
“There is that,” Cory nodded. “He is able to control his mania for periods of time. If he is pretending to be a …well, an anonymous crewmember…he likely will not become offended if someone treats as an anonymous crewmember.”
Kirk breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s what I’d thought.”
“Why does this madman have to go after anyone at all?” asked Scotty. “All he has to do is pretend to be a crewman. The next planet we reach that has passenger freighters, he jumps ship and away he goes.”
Kirk shook his head. “No one is getting off this ship until we find Garth, Scotty. And he must know that. He’s trapped on board the Enterprise as surely as he was trapped on Elba II.”
“Unless he finds a way…initiates a way…for it to be necessary to evacuate the ship,” mused Spock.
“Thank you for that cheerful thought, Spock,” commented Kirk.
Spock gave one of his patented shrugs. “We are dealing with Garth of Izar, one of the most…if not the most, brilliant starship officers the Federation has ever had. We must be prepared for anything.”
Barker cleared his throat. “How about this?” he said. “We beam every crewmember down to the planet. You said yourself that his disguise can’t withstand the transporter. Once they’ve beamed down successfully, they’re paired with another, real crew member. Eventually, everyone has beamed down. Sooner or later, one of them will be Garth, and I’ll have a security team on the surface, waiting for him.”
“There are over a thousand people on board this starship,” Spock commented. “The buildings in the colony below can house….perhaps….three hundred. No more.”
“As we clear the crewmembers, we beam them back on board using one of the auxiliary transporters,” Barker said. “Then we quarantine them, in pairs, in their quarters. Easy.”
Kirk grinned wryly. “Easy,” he said. He got to his feet. “Barker…it’s a good plan. Time consuming, and with so many steps involved that errors can creep in. But I think, if implemented properly, it is the most proactive thing we can do.”
Barker smiled. “Thank you, sir.”
“Opinions, Mr. Spock?”
Spock steepled his fingers. “As you say, Captain, it will be time consuming, and with so many steps…it is indeed prone to error. Between the transporter room here, and the transporter room on the planet, and the auxiliary transporter rooms…and think of this…it may not work. What occurred earlier, when Garth was revealed to us. It may just have been that he had not realized that the transporter would rearrange his molecules as it did… but what if, now that he knows that, he can counteract it in future?”
Kirk grimaced. “Another cheerful thought, Spock. Thank you.”
“My pleasure, Captain.”
“Let’s take a break for one hour,” Kirk said. “When we reassemble, I want solutions that will actually work. Barker, call in a couple of guards for Spock and myself, please. We are in an urgent situation, but we can spare an hour to do some thinking. In that period of time, Garth isn’t going to be harming anyone. He has no reason to, and every reason not to.”
“Unless he feels himself trapped already,” pointed out Spock, “and begins to assemble hostages immediately. Collecting bargaining chips to be used later, if the need arises.”
Kirk gritted his teeth. The thought of his crew in danger…. And them not knowing they were in danger…
“The situation just keeps getting better and better,” he said grimly.