"This Tree Bears Bitter Fruit"
  Issue Number 47

Writer: George Kashdan
Story Consultant: Doug Drexler
Artist: Alden McWilliams
Stardate: 67:32.4
Issue Date: September 1977
Cover Price: 30 cents

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Cover Blurb:
    THE IMMORTAL... There was no place for humans in his scheme of life!


Synopsis
   While en route to New Paris Colony, the Enterprise encounters three strange, green, plant-like pods. Mr. Spock reports life signs from inside the pods, in the form of pure energy, and his instruments also indicate a "super intelligence" emanating from within. Captain Kirk orders hailing frequencies and attempts to communicate with the pods, but they ignore the signals. Lt. Sulu brings the Enterprise in for a closer look. All of a sudden, the ship is knocked about by a violent energy discharge from the pods, and all power is lost. Scotty reports that circuits are burning out all over the ship!

   Power is quickly restored, and Spock tells Kirk that the pods themselves returned the ship's power, once they had moved a sufficient distance away. Mr. Sulu notes that the pods are changing course to Beta Niobe III, a highly advanced planet with a technological civilization. Kirk orders the ship to follow. Once they reach Beta Niobe, the pods land on the surface. Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to take a closer look at them.

   As the landing party watches, the pods release three humanoid beings, made of pure energy. The energy beings begin moving about, disintegrating everything in their path! "Definitely some kind of osmotic process basic to their existence" says the Doctor. Kirk attempts to stun one of the beings, and it causes his phaser to dematerialize. "It was thoughtful enough to destroy only your weapon" McCoy says, "and not you, too!" They notice that the energy beings are going out of their way to avoid harming any living creature on the planet - and simply "digesting" the inanimate matter around them.

   Their appetites sated, the energy beings head back into space and move away at extreme speed. The landing party quickly beam back up to the ship, and the Enterprise pursues them. Kirk calls a meeting in the briefing room with the command staff. "All right, Mr. Spock so we're right behind them!" the Captain says. "The question is where are they leading us?" Spock tells the Captain that he is unsure of their destination, but that he has determined that the energy beings are ahead of human kind on the evolutionary scale by two million years. "In many ways they're very much like the Lights of Zetar we encountered at Memory Alpha!" Kirk says. "Fundamentally correct as far as we know!" replies Spock. "Pure energy is the ultimate form of life. It needs no special atmosphere nor any particular food or drink! Energy-beings are in fact, quite 'at home' in virtually any environment!"

   Mr. Sulu interrupts the meeting to tell the Captain that the energy beings have arrived at a class 'M' planetoid, and are heading for the surface. Kirk orders the ship to assume standard orbit.

   Back on the bridge, the crew is shocked to see a tree, hundreds of miles high, rising from the surface of the planet! The huge tree is covered with more of the pod-like growths that spawned the alien beings. Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to the surface of the planet, at the base of the massive growth. There, they find the three energy creatures, along with a very old man. "I am Zhyopha!" he says. "Lone inhabitant of this, the first world in the first galaxy of the first universe! Neither born nor fated to die, my existence is eternal! It was I who seeded this - the true tree of life! Multiply every grain of sand in the galaxy by every particle of dust by every drop of water, and you still will not have calculated how long the tree has grown! Now, at last, it begins to ripen!"

   McCoy takes a tricorder reading of Zhyopha, and discovers that he is completely human. "Wherever there's life, your creations would destroy it!" Kirk yells. (This is an inconsistency in the story line, as the energy beings specifically went out of their way to avoid harming any living creatures on Beta Niobe III.) "Life, as so aptly defined by one of your own is no more or less than the survival of the strong!" Zhyopha says. "The weak, Captain, shall merely fall by the wayside."

   The energy creatures descend on the landing party, and begin draining their life force away. Desperately, Kirk challenges Zhyopha to a contest. He proposes that an uninhabited planet be located, and there he will compete against one of the energy beings for survival. "You speak nonsense, Captain!" Zhyopha says, but he agrees to the contest.

   Back on the Enterprise, Spock locates a suitable class 'M' planet, and Zhyopha agrees to the location. Kirk beams down to the planet, and is promptly attacked by large, purple squid-like creatures that live there. He is able to quickly kill them with his phaser. At that moment his opponent, one of the energy beings, arrives on the surface. The creature quickly absorbs the bodies of the purple squids that Kirk killed, and then begins absorbing all energy sources in sight. The Captain is able to hide himself and watch from afar. "The more the alien consumes, the greater his need!" thinks Kirk to himself. He calls the Enterprise and asks Zhyopha to dispatch the remaining energy creatures to the planetoid surface. "Your Captain is a fool!" Zhyopha says.

   The other energy creatures soon reach the planet. They consume every energy source available. When there is nothing left on the surface but rock, they begin to starve. "They're frantic!" Kirk calls back up to the ship. "Do you hear, Zhyopha? You've played your last card and lost! There's nothing left here but rock. They're starving to death, Zhyopha, starving!" (No reason is given why they don't simply fly through space to get to another energy source like they did at Beta Niobe III.) The deprived energy beings collide with one another, destroying themselves completely! Later on the Enterprise, a defeated Zhyopha is taken to the brig, and Kirk orders the ship out of orbit at warp factor 2.

(Summary by Mark Lookabaugh)

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