"The Final Truth"
  Issue Number 31

Writer: Unknown
Artist: Alberto Giolitti
Stardate: 20:10.7
Issue Date: July 1975
Cover Price: 25 cents


Cover Blurb:
   Prisoners of a powerful secret - FOR LIFE!

   Spock leads a landing party down to the surface of Quodar, preparing for ceremonies admitting the planet into the Federation. Besides forming a strong cornerstone against the Klingons, Quodar is rich in Dilithium crystals and Triolium-L - a Dilithium preservative and essential ingredient of warp drive systems. The landing party is greeted by T'oell, the Quodarian Secretary of Affairs. T'oell asks about Kirk's whereabouts. Spock tells him that the Captain has been detained escorting Starfleet Admiral Tailen Kahn from starbase in a shuttlecraft. T'oell leads the landing party away to make them comfortable while they await the Admiral's arrival.

    Meanwhile, Kirk's shuttlecraft runs into a "freak cosmic storm" that knocks out the guidance system. The shuttle makes a crash landing on a planet covered with a layer of moss, that readings show is over 30 miles thick! Sensors indicate the moss feeds from high energy levels from within the planet, but there is not enough data to pinpoint the source. Mr. Chekov observes birds that are tunneling into the moss and living off it like parasites. Admiral Kahn wants to turn on the distress beacon and wait for help to arrive. Kirk stops him from doing so - pointing out that a distress beacon could just as easily summon trouble to their location, as sensors indicate a concentration of living beings close by. Kirk sets off with the rest of the shuttle crew to investigate the life forms.

    Back on Quodar, Spock has become concerned about the shuttlecraft being overdue. He contacts Starfleet Command. Starfleet's tracking information indicates that the Captain's shuttle crashed on Quodar's neighbor planet Tristas. T'oell tells Spock that the shuttle crew may be in serious danger! He explains that Quodar once had good relations with Tristas. The Tristans had a very advanced civilization, and the entire culture of their planet was directed to one goal - discovering the secret of life itself. One day, all Quodarian citizens on Tristas had been made to leave, and communications had been jammed. When the Quodarians sent representatives to contact the Tristans, they had been warned to stay away by the Tristan defense forces. "We have since been informed", T'oell says, "That anyone getting through the defenses are to be made prisoners of the ministry - forever!"

   Meanwhile, on Tristas, Captain Kirk and the crew of the shuttlecraft discover a huge city. Readings show that the entire city is made up of materials synthesized from compounds in the moss. Kirk orders phasers set on stun, and the party approaches the city. They meet a hooded man wearing a robe, and a several hovering robot guards. The man orders the shuttle crew to lay down their weapons, and declares that they are in the custody of the ministry. One of the security guards tries to attack the robots and is killed. Kirk and the others are taken prisoner! On Quodar, Spock asks T'oell to get his reclusive leader Arama to agree to a rescue attempt. Arama refuses - not wanting to spark a war with Tristas.

    Kirk and the others are led into a large, clear-domed chamber. Humanoids very similar to the Quodarians look down on them from above. Tonar, the "Science Lord for the city-state Chantil" tells Kirk that they will be imprisoned for a very long time, and causes disciplinary collars to materialize around their necks. The Admiral tries to attack the Science Lord (he gets to the humanoid by means of a portable rotor blade in his backpack that looks like it could support about one-tenth of his weight), but pain from the collar shoots through his body, temporarily paralyzing him. "I hope no further demonstrations will be necessary!" The Science Lord says. "You are to become tenders of the divine life until such time as we no longer need you!" He and the other humanoids depart, leaving the shuttle craft crew behind, guarded by more robots.

   On Quodar the next evening, the landing party members overcome guards at the palace, in order to reach the Quodar leader. Spock tells the others to return to their rooms, and he sets out to speak with Arama. Just outside her sitting room he knocks out another guard with an open hand to the throat. As Spock enters Arama's chamber, a look of shock comes over his face! "You! It can't be... but it is! We never suspected!"

   Meanwhile, Captain Kirk and the shuttle crew have become virtual slaves on the planet Tristas. The are taken outside to pick moss with other human slaves. Kirk asks a pretty girl why she is a prisoner. "Not prisoners... privileged!" She says. "We serve the life within! It is within us and we are within it!" The Captain demands that she tell him more, but she will only say "If you cannot link with it, then it is not for you to know!". Kirk grabs her arm, and his security collar activates - shocking him, and throwing him to the ground. The robot guards arrive and decide that the humans must be segregated from the rest of the slaves, as they have violated the "alien control dictum". They are taken to a comfortable room, away from the other humanoids and left alone. Kirk speculates that the answers they seek are somehow tied to the source of the energy that feeds the moss.

   On Quodar, Spock is standing in Queen Arama's chamber. She is a Vulcan! Arama tells Spock that she is the daughter of Vulcan's last ambassador to Quodar. She knows why he has come, yet she still refuses to authorize a rescue attempt for the shuttle crew on Tristas. Arama fears that such an attempt would bring war between the two planets, and that Quodar would suffer horribly. Spock accepts her decree, but steals a "starscout" spacecraft the next morning in order to go look for Captain Kirk and the others. Arama calls to the ship as it leaves. "I presume I am speaking to Mr. Spock!" She says. "We have broadcast to Tristas that one of our starscouts has been stolen! Your human half is very predictable. Good luck, Spock!".

   Back on Tristas, Admiral Kahn attacks two robots who are guarding the party, and disables them. He uses the guard's keys to release the discipline collars, and then sets off to find out where the shuttle craft has been taken. Kirk sends Chekov and Manning to shadow the Admiral in case he needs assistance. He and Lt. Chapel go into the city to the Science Ministry. A robot guard sees them, and Lt. Chapel destroys it (with a flying kick to the head!). The two take the robot's weapon, and enter the building. In a computer control room, they come upon Minister Tonar, and Kirk demands that he reveal the secret of the city.

    Tonar tells Kirk that his race had mastered the secrets and sciences of the universe, but did not know their own planet. Beneath the moss there is a layer that defied analysis, until the Tristans were able to penetrate it. They learned that their planet was actually hollow, like a great egg! In the middle were energies that were life "in it's most fundamental form - a link to creation itself!".

   At that moment, beneath the city-state, Admiral Kahn is searching for the shuttle craft. He feels strangely compelled to open a small hatchway, and is drawn inside. He falls down a seemingly bottomless shaft. "I am the universe... I am alone... somebody help me!" Kahn calls. He has fallen into the middle of the planet! He is stunned, and strange voices around him talk to each other. "If Tonar only realized that in small doses, the eye could expand the mind of any thinking creature!", one voice calls. "But that is for them to reconcile. When everyone is ready to accept us, we shall reveal ourselves!" another voice answers. The Admiral vanishes, and materializes in the science lab with Kirk and Tonar.

   Tonar explains to Kirk that the Tristan scientists created an "eye", which is "A shape your mind conjures for identification since the mass of energy has no form - from the unstable forces contained in our planet!". "Mental energy is the required tool!", Tonar says. He tells Kirk that the "eye" is actually made up of the six scientists who were sent to study the energy. They have become pure mental energy, and increased the powers of the planet a hundredfold. "The eye's emanations reach to the furthest reaches of the galaxy, and they can now travel with it!", says Tonar. He explains that if the secret of the eye were revealed, his civilization would have nothing more to strive for - it's goal of ultimate knowledge having been achieved. Kirk tells Tonar that it is short-sighted to believe that the universe is finite, and convinces him to tell his people the truth. He promises the Science-Lord that the Federation will protect him, and allow him to share his knowledge with a "United Scientific Collective".

   Admiral Kahn is a changed person after having seen the "eye". He is pondering a transfer to Tristas, to work on the project. The Enterprise crew is taken back to Quodar for its induction ceremony into the Federation. "The universe seems frustratingly unchanged in view of making what could be humanity's greatest discovery!", Kirk says in his log. "I don't know what Kahn saw in that 'eye', but I envy him for having seen it!".

(Summary by Mark Lookabaugh)

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