"The Empire Man"
  Issue Number 60

Writer: John Warner
Artist: Alden McWilliams
Stardate: 2314.6
Issue Date: February 1979
Cover Price: 35 cents


Cover Blurb:
   A Ghostly Presence... Haunts the Enterprise!

   While cruising in Quadrant IV, the Enterprise receives a priority distress call from Terrellian II. “The Terralyns are an ancient race of star-nomads who have inhabited this abandoned world” Kirk explains to the bridge crew in the conference room. “Their experiment in creating a stable civilization is in its third generation! But, they’re now under attack by some sort of marauder, identity unknown! The Terralyns’ previous nomadic existence and their present isolation has left them with no real defenses! That’s why they are under Federation protection!” The Captain orders Spock to assume command of the ship, while he, Dr. McCoy and several security guards beam down to the surface to investigate.

   The landing party is met on the surface by Minister Scorvik, a serious looking man (with a very bad haircut!) who explains that the attacks started a couple of months ago. Scorvik takes the landing party on a tour of the damaged areas. “As you see” he tells them, “the damage sustained in each attack is extensive! They are getting more frequent, and we still have no idea who our attacker is! We received one message, it was quite forthright! ‘Vacate this world at once!’”

    Just then, a ghostlike apparition of a beautiful woman appears above their heads. She seems to be pleading with the men, but she makes no sounds. “We don’t know much about her” Scorvik tells Kirk. “She was here when we first discovered this world! We call her ‘The Ghost’! But, from past experience, I suggest we head for cover!”

   The group ducks down just in time to avoid an energy blast from an angular looking spacecraft. “I don’t understand!” Kirk says. “Lately, every time she’s appeared” Scorvik explains, “the marauder follows soon after. We think she knows it’s coming and is trying to warn us! Unfortunately, she’s mute!”

   Kirk calls the Enterprise on his communicator to inform Spock of the situation. Spock opens a hailing frequency to the alien ship. “This is the Federation starship Enterprise!” the Vulcan says. “Please identify yourself! Unless you cease your attack and agree to talk, we will be forced to take appropriate action!” A humanoid appears on the main viewscreen. “I am Zar-tan and this planet is mine!” he says. “The others must flee, or I will destroy them! Try to stop me, and I will destroy you!” Zar-tan closes the communication channel before Spock can reply. The First Officer orders Chekov to bring tractor beams to bear on the ship. Zar-tan tries to escape the beam, and damages his electrical system in the process. His ship crashes on the surface soon after.

   An additional security team is beamed down to the surface of Terrellian, and they meet the landing party at the crash site. Zar-tan is nowhere to be found. “What kind of ship is it?” asks McCoy. “I don’t know” Kirk replies. “It’s small enough to be a shuttle, but from the design it appears to have full starship capabilities!” Zar-tan leaps from behind a rock and attacks the security force. “He’s stronger than a dilithium miner!” exclaims one guard.

   Kirk and another guard stun Zar-tan, and he falls to the ground unconscious. He is wearing a strange type of blue body armor. The Captain orders Scotty to prepare a maximum security cell for Zar-tan, and the entire group beams back up to the Enterprise.

   After the landing party leaves the surface, the strange ghostlike woman appears again on the planet. She is incredibly angry, and causes an earthquake that rocks a nearby city. The Chancellor of the planet is badly hurt in the earthquake and near death, but the apparition comes to him and heals his wounds with a touch of her hand. “You did that, didn’t you, ghost?” thinks Minister Scorvik to himself as he watches the healing. “But if you did that, are you also responsible for the quake? You are the key to this planet! I know it! You pose a mystery, but do you also pose a threat? I’ll find out, I swear! Because we won’t give up our new home!”

    Back on the Enterprise, McCoy examines the prisoner in sick bay. “He’s fantastic Jim” he tells Kirk, “especially that armor! We’ve found no way to remove it safely! I’m using a tele-syringe to introduce and maintain a powerful sedative! Scotty has gone over the data with me! This armor, hooked into our ship’s system would be capable of powering the whole Enterprise!” “Then he’s dangerous!” Kirk answers. “I can’t take a chance on some immunizing agent in his body overcoming the sedative effect! Move Zar-tan back into a maximum security cell at once!”

   At that moment, Kirk is called back to the bridge for an incoming transmission. “What in blazes is going on, Captain?” asks Minister Scorvik. “I thought you captured Zar-tan and destroyed his ship!” Spock explains that the planet has suddenly been besieged with unnatural seismographic disturbances.

    The Vulcan also discovers an energy ring of some sort surrounding the entire planet, but is unable to determine its source. Kirk informs Scorvik that he will send down a landing party to double-check Zar-tan’s ship. “I promise you we’ll get to the bottom of this!” he tells the Minister

    A security squad materializes at the wreckage of Zor-tan’s ship. As the transporter beam fades away, the ghost-woman appears nearby and is able to merge her essence with it, using it to get on the Enterprise! “It’s acting as if we’re transporting something” says one transporter technician to another, “but there’s nothing there!” The confused crewmen try to find out what happened, while the apparition walks away through the bulkhead and out into the ship. Meanwhile in the detention area, Zar-tan is still unconscious. Concerned, two guards lower the force field in order to examine him. Zar-tan is only faking, however, and grabs a phaser! He takes Doctor McCoy hostage.

   On the bridge, Spock is still examining the planet. “This is the analysis I’ve done so far on that energy that envelops Terrelian II” he tells Kirk, as he shows the Captain the readings. “Impulse waves” Kirk exclaims, “almost like communication signals!” “You might say so” Spock replies. “Actually, it’s most like messages traveling from a brain through a nerve system, almost as if the planet itself were sentient!” Just then the alarm is sounded from the brig. Too late. Zar-tan arrives on the bridge, still holding Doctor McCoy hostage. “You will all drop your weapons” he demands, “and back away to the side of the control room! If you make one move to stop me I will kill this one!”

   Zar-tan begins locking phasers on the planet below. “No!” Kirk shouts. “I can’t let you do that!” The Captain charges Zar-tan, but is knocked away by an incredibly powerful blow. Sulu leaps to the Captain’s aid, but suffers a similar fate. As Zar-tan prepares to fire the phasers, the Ghost Woman appears on the bridge. She reaches toward a terrified Zar-tan, but then drifts over to Spock instead. The apparition enters his body, and begins controlling his mind!

    “Stop Captain Kirk” Says the entity, speaking through Spock’s body, “Your man is safe! I... we... will speak through him! And Zar-tan must listen! Spock grabs Zar-tan and commences a mind meld with him. The alien entity then feeds a string of mental images to Zar-tan, along with the rest of the bridge crew.

    “Ours was a great and powerful civilization about to be destroyed by a single radiation cloud!” the entity sends to everyone. “An inexplicable freak of nature before which we, for all our great science, were helpless!” The Entity tells them that a plan was developed by their scientists to build a “carrier body”, containing one cell from each member of the population, in order to rebuild their civilization when the cloud had passed. “Having thus preserved the ‘race body’”, the Entity continues, “they started implanting the mental patterns of the race into a particular species of planets which could survive the impending radiation bath!

   The work of planting was finished by Zar-tan just before he left Thelema! Zar-tan, you were created to withstand nearly an aeon of traveling the spaceways, time enough for the cloud to envelop our world! Time enough for our cities to fall to dust and all evidence of our civilization to vanish, the time necessary for the dangerous radiation to burn itself out!”

    “Our plan worked beautifully! The race-mind survived the aeon in the plants, our collective bodies survived in you, and you have returned them to us, except for one slight miscalculation! The radiation mutated the plants! We could no longer communicate, to the new settlers, or to you! The best we could do was conjure a ‘thought image’ of partially solidified energies... the ‘Ghost’! But somehow, this alien we have momentarily possessed is different! We can communicate! Somehow you lost your memory but retained your programmed homing instinct! You returned ‘home’ to find it taken by ‘invaders’!”

    “Yes” Zar-tan says uncertainly, “yes, they must be destroyed, they...” “No!” the Entity says. “Don’t you understand? They only need to be TOLD! Your mission was only to return the ‘bodies’ to the race! You are a cyborg!” With that, Spock presses a button on the front of Zar-tan’s armor, and the man falls to the ground. “Your mission is finished!” says the Entity. “Captain Kirk, may we borrow this body long enough to establish communications with the Tarralyns?” Kirk quickly agrees.

   Several days later, Kirk speaks with Minister Scorvik. “We never suspected!” Scorvik tells the Captain. “It was a fertile, yet uninhabited world when we found it! It seemed as if it were created solely for us to find!” “You’ll still have that home” Kirk replies. “The Thelemites are a peaceful people quite happy to share their world with you!” “It’s exciting Spock”, Doctor McCoy tells the First Officer later, “They’ve agreed to share their technology with the Federation!” “Yes, it should prove interesting” replies the Vulcan. “A method for turning humans into plants! It can’t help but be a decided improvement!”

(Summary by Mark Lookabaugh)

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