"Sport of Knaves"
  Issue Number 54

Writer: George Kashdan
Artist: Alden McWilliams
Stardate: Not Given
Issue Date: August 1978
Cover Price: 35 cents

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Cover Blurb:
   His killer birds - make deadly sport with Scotty!


Synopsis
   While performing a routine patrol of outpost colonies, the Enterprise receives an urgent signal coming from the planet Salvum, a Federation game preserve. The message says that an unidentified craft is forcing entry through the planet's "atmosphere lock", a huge bubble surrounding the planet to keep its conditioned atmosphere inside. "Curious" Spock comments, "There is nothing of value on Salvum, except to scientists!" "And also to poachers, Mr. Spock!" replies the Captain. "I know of a few unscrupulous circus owners, zoo keepers, even museum curators, who'd give their eyeteeth for some of the rare beasts on that world!" The ship sets course for Salvum at warp 3.

   When the Enterprise arrives at Salvum (a green and brown planet, with what appears to be a glass shell around it), they discover a large transport ship leaving through a portal in the atmosphere lock. Kirk orders a hailing frequency opened, and tries to contact the ship.

   The transport ignores them, and fires an energy ray at the protective shield surrounding the planet, opening up a huge hole. "If that leak isn't repaired" Scotty exclaims, "every livin' thing on Salvum will be dead within hours!" The Engineer quickly takes a shuttle craft to the damaged shield, along with several assistants. Using "tractor-web" devices previously captured from a Tholian ship, the team is able to create a temporary patch for the shield. "Mr. Scott may not be a schooled scientist" Spock tells Kirk as they watch the progress, "but he is gifted with an exceptionally logical mind!"

   As soon as work is completed, Scotty returns to the Enterprise, and beams down with Kirk and Spock to the main headquarters on the planet surface. The landing party finds people lying about on the ground, unconscious. One man wakes up, and introduces himself as Axel Carruthers. "Did you capture the raiders?" he asks Kirk. "No" Kirk answers. "They managed a successful diversion!" "Too bad" Carruthers replies. "As you can see, they overcame my staff and me with sleeping gas!" Carruthers invites the landing party to join him in his survey plane, in order to take an inventory of the animals on the planet. He quickly discovers that all the male "Gharian wedding birds" are missing. They are particularly mean animals during their mating season, which has just arrived! "This is awful!" Carruthers says. "The males grow to four times their normal size and turn into vicious beasts!"

   Scotty suggest that the search for the missing animals should begin on the asteroid Grotus. "Durin' my youth as a merchantman grease-monkey" he says, "there was an old sayin', 'Anything goes on Grotus!'. It's a haven for dregs and misfits! Take it from this old salt, animal fights are their favorite form of gamblin'! But it would have to be undercover! They have clever ways of hidin' evidence, especially if they sense fleet craft in the vicinity!" Kirk asks Carruthers for some worn clothing, and then the three proceed to Grotus in a borrowed green shuttle craft. As soon as they land, they are approached by a group of women, who promptly begin hugging and kissing them! "Welcome to Grotus, boys!" says a beautiful brunette.

   Kirk and the others beat a hasty retreat, only to run into a group of three rough-looking men. "What's wrong, mates?" the leader says accusingly, "aren't our women good enough for you?"

   Words are exchanged, and a fist fight soon breaks out. The Enterprise men thump their opponents soundly, and then set off in separate directions to find the birds. Unknown to them all, the three rogues that they fought watch them from a distance. "They're breaking up!" says the pirate leader. "We'll each stay with one of them! The first suspicious move, report it to Zarcun 5!"

   While Spock sets off to explore a building with squawking noises coming from it, Kirk goes to the Planetary Headquarters (which is heavily guarded) to try and learn more about who was responsible for the stolen birds. Meanwhile, Scotty begins poking around a large stadium in a different part of town, that has "Battle of the Century" written on a large banner above the entrance. "Battle of the Century, eh?" he says. "Let's just see who's plannin' to battle who!" The Engineer sneaks down a passageway, and discovers a corral filled with some of the most vicious beasts in the galaxy! The male Wedding Birds are also among them. "Aye" he exclaims, "this business is beginnin' to make sense!" Just then, two of the brigands that he fought with earlier step out of the shadows, and point guns at him. "Don't budge" the leader whispers to Scotty, "or I'll turn your brains to atoms!"

   In another part of town, Kirk uses his phaser on the guards at the Planetary Headquarters to get into the building. The man trailing him sends an alert, and soon Kirk is held captive before Zarcun 5, a portly man with a large, bald head. "Captain James Kirk, Starship Commander!" Zarcun exclaims, "This is indeed an honor! I am Zarcun 5, the, ah.. duly elected leader of Grotus!" "And also, I'm sure, head of all criminal operations!" Kirk fires back. "Tut, tut" Zarcun says, amused. "We don't allow such talk. And since Grotus does not belong to your Federation, you are here illegally!" "Unless I find that you've committed a crime against a Federation world!" Kirk replies. "You are in no position to 'find' anything!" Zarcun says.

   "I have already been informed of the capture of a Lieut. Commander Montgomery Scott, who is about to demonstrate the fate in store for you!" Zarcun shows Kirk a large video screen, where he can see the same arena that Scotty was investigating earlier. The Engineer is running for his life in the center area, trying to avoid the talons of a Wedding Bird! "The bookmakers are offering 40-to-1 odds that your friend will not survive for ten minutes!" Zarcun laughs.

   Meanwhile, Spock rushes to the arena, after hearing locals talking about the battle taking place there between an Earthman and a bird. When he looks from the seats above the arena floor, Scotty is lying on his back and is about to be killed! Spock quickly calls to the Enterprise, and orders them to beam down a female Wedding Bird to the arena. As soon as the female arrives, it begins taming the male bird back down to his normal size and temperament. Enraged at the loss of their entertainment, the arena audience begins throwing stones at Scotty and the birds. "Come on, birdies" Scotty shouts, leading them away into a nearby tunnel, "before we're caught in a riot!" Mr. Spock meets him outside the arena, and the two men go looking for the Captain, who they find at Planetary Headquarters a short time later.

   Kirk, however, has the situation well under control, having gotten Zarcun 5 in a headlock. "Tell your men to drop their guns" Kirk orders him, "or I'll snap off your head!" Zarcun surrenders, and the landing party beams back aboard the Enterprise, along with all the stolen Wedding Birds. "As long as the female is present, the others will remain calm" notes Spock. Zarcun 5 is also brought aboard. "In addition to robbery, he'll be charged with attempted murder" Kirk tells Scotty. "A few extra minutes, and he would have succeeded" the Engineer replies, petting a big, blue female Wedding Bird. "And to think I owe my life to you, you gooney bird!"

(Summary by Mark Lookabaugh)

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