"The Devil's Isle of Space"
  Issue Number 2

Writer: Unknown
Artist: Nevio Zaccara
Stardate: 19:03.2
Issue Date: March 1968
Cover Price: 12 cents


Cover Blurb:
   Prisoners on the planet of the condemned sentence Captain Kirk to share their fate!

   Probing the mysteries of outer space, Captain James Kirk and his crew search for new worlds and life forms but often find hidden dangers and sudden death!

      - Inside front cover

   While on the outer fringe of "Galaxy Nabu," the Enterprise comes upon a strange belt of glowing asteroids. "Well worth looking into" says the Captain, "wouldn't you say, Mr. Spock?" "Any unexplainable phenomenomn demands investigation, Captain Kirk!" replies the Vulcan. Kirk orders the ship closer to one of the larger glowing asteroids. "We'll orbit the planet at altitude five thousand feet" Kirk tells the navigator, "for telescopic viewing and photographing before dispatching a landing party!"

   Suddenly, the ship is rocked by powerful turbulence. Kirk orders the "infra-red periscope" raised, in order to take a look around.

   "Howling comets!" Kirk shouts, "We've run smack into a huge electronic field that shields the entire planet! It's trapped us, Mr. Spock!" Spock attempts to free the ship with full engine power, but without success. "It's quite possible the power source of this field is on the planet itself, Captain" he says. "Your logic is unassailable, Spock!" Kirk replies. "We'll investigate down below! Exploration team, stand by for action! I'm going along with you!" The Captain beams down to the surface with several security men, leaving Mr. Spock in command of the Enterprise.

   On the planet, the landing party discovers a group of strange machines that dispense food, water and clothing. "Obviously, we are not alone here, boys" Kirk comments. At that moment, a group of blue-skinned alien humanoids rushes them. "Attack!" shout the aliens, "Attack the intruders! They seek to destroy our supplies! Destroy them!" Kirk orders the landing party to take cover behind the large machines. "Wait!" he calls to the humanoids, "We come as friends, not enemies! Our spaceship orbits your planet at this very moment!" Targu, leader of the aliens, orders his people to cease the attack.

   "You must forgive our assault my friends" Targu tells them, "but our nerves have been on edge ever since we were marooned here! Our freighter spaceship crash-landed here over a year ago! Had it not been for the supplies aboard, we surely would have perished!" Kirk tells Targu that the Enterprise will rescue all of them, if they are able to find the source of the electronic field trapping them. Targu denies knowledge of the field, but wishes them good luck in their search. The landing party leaves them, and sets off across the barren landscape.

   They soon discover the crashed hulk of Targu's ship. Kirk orders a full description of the vessel "radioed" back to Mr. Spock on the Enterprise, so that he can perform an analysis. "Here's the report, Captain" Spock soon calls back. "No matter how different their science and technology may be, one this is sure! That's no cargo ship!" This news is unsettling. "But why is Targu lying to us?" asks one security man. "Right now that's one of the mysteries of this planet!" Kirk answers. "And until we find out, trust no one, and be vigilant!" One of the blue-skinned aliens approaches them. "I am Lara!" he says. "I've come to warn you of Targu! He is a bad man and has told you a great lie!" The humanoid asks for protection, but Kirk refuses until he has heard the whole story.

   "We did not crash land here!" the alien tells them. "We were rocketed here in one-way space craft! You see, we are 'The Condemned'! The government of our home planet has devised a unique punishment for criminals! Once each month they herd all those convicted of crimes to the rocketport where they are placed in missiles. Then we are launched to one of the glowing planets in this asteroid belt. Food, water and other necessities are supplied to us through automatic machines which you have already seen, so we survive until the sentence is carried out." Kirk also learns that the sentence is death, but that the Condemned do not know when it will be carried out! Unknown to the landing party, Targu and his men have sneaked up on the group, and overhear Lara unraveling their lie.

   From behind a rock, Targu throws a club which strikes Lara on the head, knocking him unconscious. "Sorry to startle you!" Targu calls out to Kirk, "But Lara is dangerous! Our long stay here on this barren planet has made a madman of him!" He and his men approach the landing party. As he speaks to Kirk, Targu orders his men to attack! A melee ensues.

Meanwhile on the Enterprise, Spock discovers a way to cut a hole in the force field by flooding the area with "counter energy." The ship is shortly free of the force field, and Mr. Spock calls down to the Captain to let him know that he can come back aboard.

   Just as the landing party is about to be beamed back to the ship, Targu and his men throw a net on them. With aliens all around them, Kirk orders Spock not to transport the landing party back, in order to prevent the aliens from coming up to the ship as well. "Captain, you are our prisoners now!" Targu says. "So if you're going back aboard the ship, you'll have to take us with you!" Kirk refuses to deal, telling Targu that they can't hold them as hostages forever. On the Enterprise, however, Spock makes a horrible discovery. The heart of the prison planet is an "internal volcano" that will blow the planet into a "super nova" within twenty-four hours!

   "So that's how you galaxy killers are executed" Kirk asks Targu, "by exploding asteroids?" "Exactly!" Targu replies. "You see, it has the added beauty of mental torture, for none know when the super nova effect will take place. As Lara, the betrayer, informed you, we criminals are launched to the 'Death Asteroids' by rocket. Each month The Condemned leave the home planet forever in one-way missiles. Not everybody looks at his new life the same way. Some are weak and give up all hope. Others are strong. In time we dismantled the rockets that brought us here and made halfway decent living quarters. I made the people on this planet respect me, fear me, obey me! Targu always makes out! Always survives! When things got rough, I knew what to do. When rockets did land, we pounced on them. I had my own little empire and I could have been happy living out my life here, except that every so often there was a grim reminder..." (as other exploding asteroids lighted up the night sky)

   Targu takes Kirk's communicator, and calls the Enterprise. "Your Captain will be just as dead as we will if you don't teleport my men to your ship with your own!" he tells Spock. "I take my orders from my Captain" Spock replies calmly, "Nor from you, Targu!" Targu allows Kirk to speak with his First Officer. Kirk promptly orders Spock to take command of the Enterprise, and leave the area as fast as he can. After the transmission, the bridge crew is in shock. "You won't do it, Spock!" McCoy shouts. "You can't leave the Captain down there!" "You heard the Captain's order gentlemen" Spock answers, "on the other hand, you also heard the Captain give me command of the ship prior to that! So technically, I am not bound by that order!" McCoy beams. "Spock" he says, "your Vulcan logic wins again!"

   Spock comes up with a plan to rescue the landing party, and quickly orders the crew of the Enterprise into action.

Hours later, Kirk and the others on the asteroid see a strange space craft approaching. "The galaxy authorities must have sent more prisoners for execution!" Targu exclaims. "The poor fools will have little time to live!" He and his men approach the craft as it lands, preparing to attack those inside and steal their supplies. The bandits are quite shocked to find not other convicts, but Scotty leading a raiding party! The Enterprise team quickly overpowers the convicts, and traps them using "fire bombs." As soon as Kirk and the other men are clear, the entire team beams back up to the ship, leaving the convicts behind.

   Once the team is back aboard, Spock orders "all rockets on full," and the Enterprise streaks away from the asteroid. Kirk is fuming mad! "Spock!" he shouts, "you risked this ship and the lives of every man aboard! As a man, I could forget that! But as an officer, I can't forget you disobeyed a direct order!" "Oh, but I didn't, Jim" a very smug Spock answers, "as Dr. McCoy and Mr. Scott will explain! In fact, Jim, I enjoy being captain so much, I may never turn back command to you! But it's all academic if we don't get out of range fast!"

   Shortly afterward, the asteroid explodes. The Enterprise is rocked fiercely by the blast, but is unharmed. "The Devil's Isle of space" Kirk thinks out loud as he watches the explosion from the bridge, "Nothing but a floating cloud of dust now! It seems brutal to have left those people there." "Execution by asteroid explosion is the way of their society" Spock quietly answers. "We had no other choice but to leave them Captain."

(Summary by Mark Lookabaugh)

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