"The Devil's Isle of Space"
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.
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.
"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.
"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)
Spock comes up with a plan to rescue the landing party, and quickly orders the crew of the Enterprise into action.
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."