"The Mimicking Menace"
  Issue Number 28

Writer: Unknown
Artist: Unknown
Stardate: 34:21.7
Issue Date: January 1975
Cover Price: 25 cents

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Cover Blurb:
   Dead Planet? Or Deadly?


Synopsis
   The Enterprise intercepts Tactis II, a wandering asteroid, to determine if it poses any threat to the Federation. A visual survey of the asteroid reveals a volcano, but Mr. Spock reports that it is inactive. Sensors show some minor movement on the surface. Mr. Spock suggests the movement might be caused by wind currents or ground tremors. Kirk decides that they must find out for sure whether life exists on the asteroid. He orders a landing party be formed. A lovely blonde female lieutenant suggests that they take a shuttle craft instead of using the transporter, as the shuttle will be able to carry down a larger "bio-detection" unit to the surface to search for life. The Captain agrees, and orders that two crew members from security join himself, Mr. Spock, and the (still unnamed) lieutenant in the hanger deck.

    The shuttlecraft Galileo arrives on the surface at the base of the dormant volcano. Spock reports that scanners indicate life-supporting atmosphere. The exit ramp opens, and Kirk steps out to take a look around. He is surprised to see another shuttlecraft Galileo, sitting only yards away! Sensor scans confirm that the other shuttle craft is an exact duplicate of their own. The two security guards are sent to investigate the other shuttle. (Not the typical Kirk approach to a problem! He almost always goes in before the crew.) As they approach the other shuttle, the "dormant" volcano in the distance suddenly erupts, spewing red-hot lava! Kirk orders the security team to enter the other shuttle in order to avoid the lava flow, which is creeping down the face of the volcano. They enter the shuttle, and are knocked out by strange dancing lights. Two exact duplicates of the security team are waiting inside. The impostors pick up a dropped communicator and report back to Kirk that the shuttle is abandoned, and they are preparing to lift off.

    Back on the "real" Galileo, Spock discovers that the ship is completely without ion power. The ship is unable to move! The lava flow picks up the shuttle craft and carries it for a distance, until the volcano stops erupting, and the lava stops. Kirk and Spock watch the duplicate shuttle fly directly into the crater of the active volcano. Kirk contacts the other shuttle, and asks if they have lost control. "No, Captain!" the impostor answers, "Our scanners show entry into the cone is safe! We are sure reconnaissance there may help explain events here!". The second shuttle lands in the crater, out of view of the Galileo. The imposters remove the unconscious crew members from the craft, and then the shuttle is "absorbed" by the same dancing lights that attacked the security team. The impostors travel down the side of the mountain to meet the crew of the Galileo.

    Meanwhile, Kirk finds that his communicator is dead. Spock tries the shuttlecraft communications system and gets the same result. Spock is left to try and make repairs while Kirk and the Lieutenant go to meet the security team coming down the mountain.

    On the Enterprise, Scotty is puzzled by the lack of communications with the landing party, and the appearance of "two" shuttle craft on the sensors. Scotty orders Dr. McCoy to beam down to the surface with him to check it out, and leaves Lt. Sulu in command of the ship.

    Kirk and the Lieutenant meet up with the imposter security guards. As Kirk is questioning them, the strange glowing lights appear again and knock out himself and the Lieutenant. Duplicates of Kirk and the Lieutenant appear, and the four imposters approach the Galileo. They trick Mr. Spock into coming outside. The lights try to absorb him also, but Mr. Spock is able to overcome the effects long enough to run back to the shuttle. At that moment, Scotty and Dr. McCoy beam down to the surface. They approach the Galileo, but the imposters begin firing phasers at them!

    From the hatchway of the shuttle craft, Spock orders Scotty and McCoy to shoot the imposters. Scotty and McCoy are confused, but draw their phasers and prepare to fire. Just as they are about to shoot, all four of the imposters change into flashing lights, and disappear into the lava field. Scotty and McCoy rush to the shuttle. Spock begins to explain what is happening, but just then the volcano erupts again! Spock rushes out of the Galileo to bring back the (real) unconscious Captain Kirk and the Lieutenant. They barely make it back to the craft in time to avoid being smashed by a huge boulder from the volcano.

    Spock believes that the answer to the strange events lies in the volcano crater. Scotty's communicator is still functional, and he calls the ship to have a "fully-equipped video-camera robot" beamed down. The robot (sent down complete with a large console t.v. remote viewing screen) climbs up the mountain, and into the crater. The crew watches it's progress from outside the shuttle. The robot sends back pictures of ancient spacecraft and skeletons scattered over the crater floor! The robot is surrounded by more dancing lights and destroyed. A duplicate robot is created, and the duplicate moves back down the mountain to attack the landing party.

   When the duplicate robot arrives, the crew is almost overcome again by the dancing lights. Spock calls to the Enterprise and orders them to fire a stream of negative ions into the volcano crater. The ion blast appears to have no effect at first, but then the glowing lights fade and reveal intricate structures hovering in the air. The crew hurries back to the Galileo, and are forced to destroy more crew imposters on the way - including the duplicate robot.

   With the strange energy creature disabled, Spock is able to restore power to the shuttle craft. The crew quickly takes off and heads back to the Enterprise. Spock explains that the energy creature has been disabled temporarily, but not destroyed. He tells Kirk that the creature is a parasite that drains all energy sources to feed. The "central life-core" sent out "smaller molecule chains" to mimic any energy source, so that the duplicate could return the energy to feed the central core. The Lieutenant adds that the creature probably lives in hibernation, and that the surface movement on the planet was designed by the creature to lure energy sources there.

    In accordance with Federation laws, the Enterprise does not harm the energy being. Captain Kirk notifies Star Fleet of the creature, and warns them to keep other ships clear of the area.

(Summary by Mark Lookabaugh)

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