"Operation Con Game"
  Issue Number 61

Writer: George Kashdan
Artist: Alden McWilliams
Stardate: Not Given
Issue Date: March 1979
Cover Price: 35 cents

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Cover Blurb:
   Kirk and Spock invade a Klingon warship in - OPERATION CON GAME


Synopsis
   While the Enterprise is exploring a neutral sector near the Klingon Empire, sensors pick up traces of dilithium on a nearby planetoid. Mr. Spock reports that the planetoid is Class - M, with multiple life-form readings. Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy beam down to the surface in order to confirm the existence of dilithium, and make contact with the inhabitants.

   When they arrive on the planet, the landing party is attacked from behind by a group of Klingons! All three men are knocked unconscious by a stun ray. "What happened?" Kirk asks as they recover. "To invoke an ancient Earth expression" Spock replies, "we have been ambushed, by Klingons!" "Correct!" says the Klingon leader, "and if you try to resist, our phasers are now set to disintegrate!" Kirk warns the Klingons that the attack upon them is in violation of the treaty between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. "We are merely bending the treaty a bit!" says their leader. "You will be released at the proper time!".

   While the Klingons talk among themselves, Kirk discovers that McCoy has been left with his medical pack. "I think I'm wounded," he whispers to the Doctor. "Gotcha, Jim!" McCoy answers. He pulls something out of his medical bag. When the Klingons come to investigate, McCoy sprays one of them in the face, and follows that up with a punch! Spock uses the Vulcan nerve grip on another, and Kirk finishes the last one off with an overhand right. The three men quickly set off in search of other Klingons.

   They arrive at an outdoor pavilion to find another group of Klingons talking with a tall, mysterious hooded being. The native inhabitants of the planet (small, purple child-like beings with large eyes) stare in amazement at the off-worlders. "Ah! Visitors from the federation!" a Klingon says, "You are too late, gentlemen!" "Too late, for what?" asks Kirk. "I assume you have come for the dilithium, Captain!" the Klingon replies, "But this treaty gives exclusive mining rights to the Klingon Empire!". "Treaty with whom?" the Captain asks. The hooded figure speaks. "I, the Grand Qaal of Eulus, have bestowed such rights! This substance which you call dilithium, abounds on our world. But it is of no use to us! The Klingons are welcome to it!".

   Kirk warns the Grand Qaal that the Klingons are a warlike people, and will use the dilithium for conquest and subjugation. "We on Eulus care naught about your petty rivalries" the Grand Qaal says. "Had you of the Federation arrived first, our treaty would have been with you! But now, the deed is done, and cannot be undone!" "I suggest, Captain, that you admit defeat gracefully!" says the Klingon commander, and he and his men beam back up to their ship.

   After the Klingons have gone, Spock tells Kirk that the molecules of the dilithium are in a state of flux. "As if it were synthesized or, worse still, manufactured!" he says. Just then, McCoy tells the Captain that he has discovered another Earth human life reading in the area. "There's an impostor among us!" the Doctor says. "Obviously, he isn't one of these" he continues, pointing at the small, purple natives. "Synthetic Dilithium" Kirk shouts, "An impostor from Earth, the game is over, Mr. Grand Qaal!". He pulls the Grand Qaal's hood away to reveal Harry Mudd - arch thief, liar and con man extraordinary!

   "All right, Mudd, start talking, and fast!" Kirk says. "Mind your tone, Kirk!" Mudd replies, "I haven't committed any crime against the Federation!" Spock tells the Captain that Mudd is legally correct, since he only deceived the Klingons. Mudd tells Kirk that he had met a scientist who perfected synthetic dilithium. The scientist knew it had no value, and so had sold it to him very cheaply.

    "I set up shop here", Mudd says, "because I know Klingon ships patrol this vicinity! And these natives made perfect 'subjects' for the 'Grand Qaal'! Now, I'll just take my gold and be on my way!". As he begins to walk away, Mudd throws a piece of the synthetic dilithium to Kirk. When it his the ground, it explodes - throwing the crewmen back! Spock analyzes the substance, and finds it to be unstable, and readily explosive.

   "What about the Klingons?" Kirk asks, "They took a load of that stuff back to their ship! One hard jolt could blow them to space dust!". "Why, that would make me a hero!" muses Mudd. "Imagine, wiping out a Klingon warship, single-handed!". "And what about full-scale war that would start between the Klingons and the Federation!" retorts Kirk. He orders Mr. Spock to contact the Klingons, and warn them of the danger. The Klingons, being distrustful by nature, believe that Spock's warning is a trick, and ignore it.

   Kirk and Spock beam back up to the Enterprise, leaving McCoy to watch over Harry Mudd. "Maybe we can't arrest you" the Doctor says, "but we can make sure you don't cause any more mischief!".

   Back on the Enterprise, Kirk tells Scotty that he and Spock are beaming aboard the Klingon warship, in order to remove the dangerous synthetic dilithium. "Aye, aye, sir" Scotty says, "But if ye don't mind my sayin' so, it's sheer madness!". The two men beam over to an abandoned storage hold on the Klingon ship, and begin their search. Spock is able to locate the dilithium using his tricorder, and he and the Captain disable several Klingon guards to gain access to the room where it is held.

   On the planet surface, Mudd uses sign language to signal the native people to take McCoy prisoner. "Once my 'subjects' load the gold onto my space-buggy, you and me are taking a little trip, Doctor! Some place where I can lose you, forever! After all, you're the only remaining witness to my little, uh, transaction!". "What about Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock?" asks McCoy. "The Klingons aren't altogether stupid, you know" Mudd replies. "They gave me this transmitter in case trouble should develop!". Mudd uses it to call the Klingon warship. "This is the Grand Qaal!" he tells the Klingons. "The men from the Federation plan to invade your craft! They seek the dilithium!".

   At that moment on the Klingon warship, alarm sirens go off. "Invasion alert!" says Kirk. He and Spock finish collecting the dilithium and are calling the Enterprise to beam them over, when several guards break into the room. "Complete that transmission and you're both dead men!" a guard says, training phasers on them.

   The pair are taken before the Klingon commander, who questions them. "Who would believe it?" the Commander says. "A Federation Captain and his first officer walked right into my hands! This is indeed a glorious day! The truth now, Captain! Why did you invade my craft?". Kirk tells him again that the dilithium is explosive, but the Klingon refuses to believe it.

   He orders them to be taken to the interrogation chamber! Spock tosses a piece of the dilithium on the floor. When it explodes, he and the Captain catch the Klingons off guard and call the Enterprise. Scotty quickly beams the two back on board. They discover that McCoy is missing, and set out to find Mudd.

   The Enterprise quickly locates Harry Mudd's space ship, heading for an uncharted asteroid. Kirk orders the tractor beam to lock on, the small ship is disabled, and the Doctor and Harry Mudd are beamed aboard the Enterprise. Kirk has Mudd's gold transported back to the Klingons. "We thank you for the return of our gold, Captain!" the Klingon commander says. "As for the dilithium, you convinced us of its deadly nature, and we discarded it! In view of the fact that you may have saved our lives, I will overlook this criminal invasion of my ship!". "Why, how generous of you, Commander!" Kirk replies, "As we say on my native planet, you're all heart!". "

   And speaking of criminals" Kirk continues, "I wonder what the courts will do with you, Mudd?". "Har!" says Mudd, "Like I said, Captain, conning a few Klingons is no crime!". "True" Kirk retorts, "but jeopardizing two starship personnel, and kidnapping another, should net you a long, long sentence! Doctor, would you care to escort the prisoner to the brig?". "With extreme pleasure, Captain!" says McCoy.

(Summary by Mark Lookabaugh)

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