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Captain James T. Kirk regained consciousness in a heartbeat. He remained unmoving, however, as he tried to assess what was happening. He was sitting…in a chair…from the way it felt to his body he knew it was his chair, in his own quarters. He didn’t need to try to move his arms lying on the armrests to know that they were secured, he could feel the tightness of the straps on his wrists. His legs were free, however.
What had happened? The Enterprise had been warping along towards what remained of the USS Red Admiral, with an estimated arrival time of 18 hours. He’d decided to get some sleep… he’d need to be rested and refreshed to deal with both a madman loose on his ship and some unknown aliens going around destroying Federation starships…
He’d been walking along the corridor to his quarters with a security guard…but he’d never made it…what the hell had happened?
He strained his ears. He could hear nothing…or could he…no one was moving about…but was someone breathing?
Kirk opened his eyes. They widened only slightly when he saw himself sitting opposite him, smiling cheerfully.
“We meet again, Captain Kirk,” said the apparition.
“You will address me by my proper title,” said Garth/Kirk. “I am Lord Garth, master of the universe.”
“You look like a captain to me,” said Kirk.
Garth/Kirk’s forehead creased, as he tried to figure out if Kirk were trying to insult him. Then he laughed mirthlessly. To Kirk, the world seemed to turn inside out, and then he saw Garth of Izar sitting in front of him, clad in the simple blue tunic of the scientist.
“You…” Kirk tried away to swallow away the dryness in his mouth… “you’re very good with that little trick. How do you do it?”
“Cellular metamorphosis,” Garth said. “Taught to me by the Antosians…”
“But…you can’t be controlling your clothing as well?”
“Oh, that. No, that’s another little trick I taught myself…we don’t need to discuss it. What I want to know is this. Why has the Enterprise left orbit? Where is she going?”
“Don’t you know?”
Garth’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “I’m asking you.”
“We received a distress call. The USS Red Admiral has been attacked…destroyed. We’re en route to their last known location, in Sector Alpha Gamma 2.2. How long have I been…here?”
“Then we’re fourteen hours away.”
“I see,” said Garth, musingly.
Garth gazed at Captain Kirk speculatively. His story had worked with the Boss…would it work with Kirk?
“I want you to read something, Kirk.”
Garth pointed a device at Kirk’s left hand, and the restraining strap released. Kirk glanced down at his wrists, and saw that he was restrained by straps used by his own security people. Someone had punched holes through the fabric of his favorite chair in order to do so. When he got out of this predicament, he’d allow himself to be annoyed by that.
Garth tossed him a print book, which Kirk caught awkwardly. “Read the marked passages.”
Kirk did as he was bid. Then he looked up. “This doesn’t match what the Federation has on file about you.”
“No, it doesn’t. But that’s the true story.”
“Yes…yes, I believe you.” Kirk looked at him with compassion.
“I’m not insane, Kirk. I never was. But as you doubtless know, retired Admiral Dixon Welles, the man responsible for the debacle which I then had to go in and salvage, is the brother of the President of the Federation. He suspected…rightly, I grant you… that I wasn’t going to let his brother get away with his incompetence. So he had me framed.”
Kirk blinked at him. Didn’t the man remember five minutes ago, when he’d instructed him to call him Lord Garth, Master of the Universe? But even if that happened…Kirk had a lot of respect for Donald Cory, governor of Elba II, and Cory believed Garth to be mad.
“If what you say is true, Garth…” began Kirk.
“If?” said Garth dangerously.
“Then I’ll help you. But you can’t hijack a starship…”
“Can’t?” said Garth again.
“Yes,” barked Kirk. “If! Can’t! Do those words infuriate you so?”
Garth took a deep breath.
“And if they do, it doesn’t mean I’m insane, damn you. It just means I’m used to people following my orders.”
Kirk nodded. “Yes, I understand. Well, I’m telling you, this is my ship….”
At that precise moment, there was a beep and Lieutenant Uhura’s voice filled the room. “Bridge to Captain Kirk.”
Smilingly, Garth punched the button, even as to Kirk, the world seemed to turn upside down again, and then Kirk was looking at himself. “Kirk here,” said Garth, grinning at his captive.
“You’re needed on the bridge immediately, Captain. There’s….”
Suddenly, the ship rocked violently, and Garth/Kirk almost fell out of his chair. It rocked again. Garth knew what that meant – they were being hit by torpedoes!
The door to the living room of Kirk’s quarters slid open, and the Boss strode in. “Captain…” he began. He stopped, looked at Kirk imprisoned in his chair and Garth/Kirk standing.
Garth/Kirk grabbed a phaser from his belt. “I’m Kirk, sergeant,” he barked. “That’s Garth in the chair. Now, take me to the bridge.”
The ship rocked again, so violently that the Boss and Garth were flung against the bulkhead like ragdolls. The red alert sirens began to shriek.
“Garth!” Kirk yelled. “Let me go! They’re blowing apart my ship!”
Garth of Izar swore viciously, even as he resumed his own form. He could not deny the captain a chance to protect his ship. He deactivated the other restraint. As three, Kirk, Garth and the Boss raced for the bridge.
It was a difficult journey. The Enterprise was being hit by torpedo after torpedo. Smoke and fire filled the corridors. Damage repair crews swarmed here and there. The Boss put his bulk to good use, running interference for the two captains behind him. Finally they reached the Bridge.
Spock jumped out of the command chair and Kirk slipped into it. Spock glanced at Garth and an eyebrow raised as he assumed his own seat.
“What’s going on, Spock?” Kirk demanded.
“We were attacked from long range, Captain. Our sensors spotted incoming torpedoes, but they came in too fast. We are too slow, and too immobile. We are being beaten into submission, and there’s nothing we can do.”
“Who’s attacking us?”
Sulu put it on screen without being bid. The ship was neither Romulan nor Klingon. But whatever it was, it was killing them.
Kirk pounded the button to Engineering. “Scotty, what’s the status down there?”
Scotty’s voice came coughing. “We’re dead in the water, Captain. No power to the warp engines at all. We’ve barely got enough power left to run essential systems.”
“Right. Hang in there, Scotty, Kirk out.”
Kirk turned to Sulu. “Status of our weapons, Mr. Sulu.”
“Photon torpedoes are out sir. Phasers are offline…it will take at least thirty minutes to repair them….” Replied Sulu.
“Not that it would do any good,” Chekov said, sotto voce.
“Uhura, open hailing frequencies,” barked Kirk.
“Hailing frequencies open, Captain.”
Garth was impressed by the calmness displayed by the Enterprise crew. They were seconds away from death and they must now it, yet they were going about their business as if it were an everyday occurrence. Did they have so much confidence in their captain, then, that they believed that even now he’d be able to do something to save them?
Two aliens appeared on the view screen, ugly (to human eyes) lizard like creatures.
“This is Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise,” began Kirk, and then Kirk felt a hand on his shoulder, as Garth came to stand beside him.
“And I am Fleet Captain Garth of Izar,” said Garth, loudly. “In command of the Enterprise at the present time. What are your terms?”
“Terms, Garth of Izar?” laughed the lizard. “You are beaten. One more launch of torpedoes and your ship is blown into millions of pieces.”
“I don’t deny what you say…yet you haven’t blown us apart yet, so you must want something. Therefore, I ask again, what are your terms?”
“Complete surrender. You must beg for our mercy, and perhaps we will extend it to you.”
The other lizard made a noise that sounded like laughter.
“We don’t beg for anything,” snapped Garth.
“Oh…you will beg, Garth of Izar. You will beg. We beam you over to our ship, you surrender, you beg.”
“If I beam over to your ship, you will stop your attacks on the Enterprise?”
More laughter from the lizards. “They do not die…yet,” said the leader.
“You have attacked a starship of the United Federation of Planets. Do you really want a war?”
“If your Enterprise is an example of the starships you have, why should we be afraid of a war?” laughed the lizard.
Garth’s shoulders shrank, defeated, even as his eyes continued to dance around what he could see of the bridge of that alien ship. All starship builders, regardless of race, seemed to put the same kinds of instruments in the same kinds of locations….
“Very well,” he said. “I will beam over to your ship.”
“Garth….” Said Kirk.
Garth turned to face him. “Thirty minutes, Kirk,” he said meaningfully. “All you need is thirty minutes.”
“The wessel has lowered its shields,” Checkov reported. “They’re activating their transporter beam.”
Garth shimmered and disappeared, and the view screen of the alien ship snapped off.
Kirk brought his hand down on his communication console. “Scotty. Get to the transporter room now. Now.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
“Chekov, you said thirty minutes for phasers. Do it!”
Spock came to stand beside Kirk’s command chair. Kirk glanced up at him.
“You don’t think Garth planned this?” Spock asked.
“There’s no way he could have,” Kirk said, definitively. “With a ship like that at his command? He never would have messed around trying to hijack the Enterprise. No, whatever those things are, they’re acting on their own.”
“Scott here,” came Scott’s voice. “I’m in the transporter room, Captain.”
“Scotty, in about thirty minutes something’s going to happen. I want you to be ready to get a fix on the bridge of that other ship. You’re going to need to beam Garth of Izar aboard as soon as possible.”
“Aye, aye, Captain.”
They waited. Damage control reports flowed in from all over the ship. Damage repair parties went out to do what they could.”
Kirk knew what Garth was going to try to do. Hell, they all knew. Nevertheless, he gave Sulu the order. “Keep your sensors on their shields, Sulu. Let me know the instant they come down.”
For that was Garth’s plan. That had to be Garth’s plan. Beam over, stall for time, then, either as himself, or metamorphosizing himself into a lizard, he’d find someway to cut the shields of that alien ship. And once he did so…
“Phasers back on line, Captain,” Chekov shouted joyously.
“Sulu, status of their shields?”
“Their shields are fully operational, Captain. Our phasers will bounce off them like peashooters.”
“Wait for it, Sulu.”
Five minutes…ten….then Sulu shouted. “Their shields are down! Their shields are down!”
“All phasers fire,” Kirk ordered. “Scotty, get Garth out of there!”
Without shields, a starship is as vulnerable to a microscopic meteorite than as to a phaser. The Enterprise’s phasers darted outward, targeting every vulnerable spot Sulu and the weapons control room could think of, from what looked like engines to their phaser and torpedo capability.
“Direct hits,” shouted Sulu. “Like a knife through butter. She’s going to blow!”
And indeed, within a very few seconds the starship opposite them had disappeared into a white hot fireball.
Kirk hammered the communication console again. “Scotty.”
The jubilation on the bridge quieted abruptly, as they all heard the sound of failure in Montgomery Scott’s voice.
“Captain…I was never able to get a fix on him…I tried to beam the entire bridge crew aboard…but nothing came… I lost him, Captain.”
Kirk took a deep breath. “It’s okay, Scotty. It was a long shot. Get back to the engine room, you’ve got a lot of work to do there.”
“Aye, aye, captain.”
Kirk punched another button.
“Captain’s log, stardate 1205.72. The Enterprise, en route to answer the distress call of the USS Red Admiral, was attacked and disabled by an unknown alien ship. Fleet Captain Garth of Izar gave his life, in order to rescue us all. …. Kirk out.
Kirk brought his hand down on the log button again. Mad or not, Garth had died as he had lived...as a hero. And that’s how he would be remembered.