"What Fools These Mortals Be"
  Issue Number 53

Writer: George Kashdan
Artist: Alden McWilliams
Stardate: 2901.1
Issue Date: July 1978
Cover Price: 35 cents

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Cover Blurb:
   Ancient Greek deities force Kirk and Spock on an odyssey of peril!


Synopsis
   The Enterprise diverts to the border of the Perseus Arm, in response to an S.O.S. from the Starship Pathfinder. When they arrive, they discover the Pathfinder under attack by three Klingon cruisers. "Captain to photon torpedo crew chiefs" Kirk says, "fire when ready!" The Enterprise scores direct hits on the Klingon ships, and they disperse. After making sure the Pathfinder does not require any more assistance, Kirk orders Mr. Chekov to return the ship to their normal mission sector. "Not yet Captain" says Chekov, "We're caught in the orbit of that unidentified planetoid!" "What do you mean 'not yet'?" replies the Captain, "Fire us out of orbit!" "Awww, but it's such a nice looking place!" says Chekov. "Yeah! Can't we enjoy the scenery awhile?" chimes in another crew member. Kirk and Spock are stunned by this defiance of orders.

   Doctor McCoy and Mr. Scott call the bridge, and report similar problems among their personnel. "It's not exactly a mutiny" says Scotty, "they're just refusin' to work!" Kirk orders all unit commanders to the conference room for a meeting. "According to your reports, gentlemen" Kirk says, "This strange laziness has afflicted all non-command personnel, and it began when we drifted into orbit around that planetoid!" Mr. Spock reports that the world contains life form readings, and that its atmosphere can support human life. Kirk orders Scotty to take command, while he, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy beam down to the surface to investigate.

   On the planet, Kirk and McCoy are awed. "I've never seen such a beautiful place" says the Doctor. "The fragrance from the vegetation, it's numbing!" Kirk agrees. "Gentlemen" Spock interrupts, " May I remind you that we are not here on a pleasure trip!" At that moment, the Science Officer is nearly struck in the head by a flying boomerang! The landing party is then attacked by a group of primitive men, all carrying boomerangs. Kirk orders phasers set on stun, and their attackers are quickly rendered unconscious. McCoy examines one of the primitives. "Low-level, primitive brain activity, Jim" he reports. "They're meat-eaters, probably anything they can get their hands on, including us!"

   The three men begin to feel the ground rumbling beneath their feet. A massive one-eyed man walks into the clearing, and scoops them up into his hand! McCoy and Spock fire their phasers, but they have no effect - even at disintegration setting. Kirk tells the Doctor to get out his "protoplaser." "What for?" asks McCoy, "this instrument is made for healing wounds!"

   "Just do as I say" Kirk replies. "Set the intensity force light at full power! Now aim upward, toward his eye!" The beam fires directly in the giant's eye, disabling him. He drops the landing party to the ground and holds his eye in pain. "Move!" Kirk yells to the others, "while he's still dazzled! We've got to find a hiding place!" The men seek cover under a huge mushroom nearby.

   Spock tells the others that he believes the events happening to them follow a pattern. "I am recalling one of your ancient Earth legends" he says, "about a general returning from battle. He had similar problems with his crew, when they came to a place called 'The Land of the Lotus Eaters'. He, too, met up with cannibals, and battled a one-eyed giant called Cyclops, I believe! It happened after an encounter known as The Trojan War!" "Of course!" Kirk says. "Homer's Odyssey, The Voyage of Ulysses!" adds the Doctor. "The gods were testing Ulysses, toying with him by filling his journey with deadly terrors!" "Yes" replies the Captain, "It took Ulysses ten years to arrive home!"

   Suddenly, the face of an old man appears in the clouds above them. "Exactly!" he says, "Perhaps if you are resourceful, it will take you a few years less time!" The large cloud expands, and they see other beings in the clouds as well. "Jim" says McCoy, "Am I flipping out, or are we looking at...." "We are bones" Kirk replies. "Mount Olympus!" "But that was on Earth, thousands of years ago" McCoy continues, "and many light years away from here!" "A mere formality" says one of the godlike beings. "We Olympians are gods, remember?"

   "Earthlings grew too wise, too serious for us! They became such bores that we departed in order to seek our fun elsewhere! This world, with all its peoples and pitfalls, proved ideal! You'll find out for yourselves!" "Or are you afraid?" asks another god. "Ulysses wasn't!" adds a third. The gods disappear, laughing hysterically.

   The landing party is suddenly blown backward by a powerful gust of wind. They look ahead of them and see Aeolus, god of the winds! "You're just in time to see me exercise my lungs" the god says, and begins blowing at them again. The party desperately tries to hang on to nearby trees in order to avoid being blown away. "Those air-blasts have the force of a hundred protons!" says the Captain. Spock suggests setting phasers for disrupt, wide radius.

   The tactic works! The winds are disrupted and blown back at Aeolus, who falls over backward. Kirk, Spock and McCoy quickly run away and board a nearby ship to escape. As they sail away from shore, a god's face appears above them. "I planted that vessel there" he says, "and you, like all inferior mortals, played into my hands!" The god then disappears.

   The three men soon hear a sweet song drifting over the water. "The sirens!" Kirk says. "Their singing was said to lure seamen to their graves!" "I can see why" McCoy says, "It's growing hypnotic!" "The human part of me has a similar reaction" adds Spock. "We'll do as Ulysses did" the Captain continues, "Bones, you and Spock will stuff your ears with gauze from your medical pouch! You'll lash me to the mast, without impeding my hearing. I wouldn't miss that music for the world!" As the music grows louder, Kirk becomes entranced, and orders Mr. Spock to untie him so that he can go to the sirens. Spock and the Doctor cannot hear him, however, and the music fades away when they pass beyond the sirens. "What was it like, Jim?" asks McCoy. "How can I describe it?" replies Kirk, "The siren's singing is so enchanting, you simply can't resist!"

   Next, the ship is attacked by the sea monsters Scylla and Charybdis. Charybdis creates a whirlpool, that begins to suck the ship in. While McCoy steers the ship clear of the whirlpool, Kirk and Spock kill the beasts with their phasers. The ship arrives at a dock, alongside a Greek-style city. The citizens of the city gather around the Enterprise crew. "Congratulations!" says a man. "You did what no men have done since Ulysses!" "Yes" says another, "You survived the odyssey! But you must keep your success a secret, lest others learn how to survive!" "Aye, it would no longer be fun, knowing that whoever tries will succeed!" says the first man.

   The gods appear again, in a cloud above the crowds. "And so they will remain in this land that I built for them" Zeus says, "like us on Olympus, they worship only pleasure!"

   Kirk and Spock confront Zeus, telling him he has no right to keep them trapped on the planet. "What do I care for the laws of puny mortals!" Zeus says. "I am a god, all powerful and immortal!" Zeus then fires lightning bolts from his fingers, which strike the ground near them. "I think these 'gods' need to be taught a lesson, Mr. Spock!" says Kirk. He orders the Enterprise to route the deflector shield to the tractor beam, and the ship focuses the beam on Zeus. The god is knocked from his chair in the clouds, onto his face. "Ha Ha, look at Zeus!" shout the people. Humiliated, Zeus and the other gods disappear. "It is time for us to depart, Olympians" he says as they vanish, "forever!"

   The landing party tells the people of the planet that they are now free to evolve on their own, with their own leaders guiding them. Kirk calls the Enterprise and has the landing party beamed back aboard. Later, he recommends in his log that the planetoid be issued a nomenclature, and be declared a non-self governing region, under Chapter XI of the Articles of the Federation. "It's not every day that a god discovers time passing him by!" he tells Spock. "In a way, I feel sorry for old Zeus!" "'Old Zeus'?" Spock says, "That's a quaint way to describe a legend!" "Sorry, old friend!" Kirk replies.

(Summary by Mark Lookabaugh)

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