"Trial By Fire"
  Issue Number 62

Writer: John Warner
Artist: Frank Bolle
Stardate: 3708.2
Issue Date: Slated for April 1979
Cover Price: Never published

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Cover Blurb:
    TRIAL BY FIRE - An Unstoppable Fireball Threatens to Crash into a Planet of Nature Worshippers!


Synopsis
Trail By Fire: Part I
    Upon completion of the annual engineering inspection at Hub Station Six, the U.S.S. Enterprise received an urgent communication from Varrik Trine, Operations President of the Orion, one of the largest energy research platforms. Trine requested immediate assistance but can give no details over a "long-distance frequency." the Enterprise heads to the Orion space station at warp six. Upon arrival, the starship's crew beholds the sight of a massive fireball roaring through space away from the large flat-surfaced artificial satellite space station that was known as the Orion. The huge fireball is thousands of feet in diameter and was accidentally created when engineers were testing a new fuel that could chemically reproduce itself faster that it was consumed by fire. Also, the fuel's "oxygenic bond structure" allows it to burn in the vacuum of space. Operations President Trine is beamed aboard and the starship races the fireball towards the inhabited planet of Orgone. Varrik informs the senior staff about the Orgonians, "Just remember, these people are backward... nature worshippers... and they're very suspicious of outsiders!"

    Kirk, McCoy, Varrik and two security men beam down to the planet Orgone. They arrive near a group of people who have gathered to watch the local shaman, Talon. The medicine man is sitting cross-legged out in a field within a circle of stones around him and a small clay pot with clouds of incense rising from it. Some of the gathered villagers notice Kirk and his men and come over looking suspicious. One shouts, looking at Varrik, "Look! Man from sky - and he brings others!" Some Orgonians point spears at the landing party, "They profane the sacred ritual!" Talon stands within his circle of stones, "I am Talon! These are my people -- I am their shaman and protector!" Kirk points to the sky at the fireball which appears as a small glowing ball and replies, "... if you want to protect your people, we must find a way to evacuate them! That fireball is headed straight for this planet!" Talon answers, "You would have us run? You cannot run when the madness is upon the gods!" Talon explains that the fireball heading toward them is sent by the gods - it is a grave spiritual battle which will determine the future of his people. He continues, "It depends on my skill whether the fire burns or merely energizes my people. It is a test of my magical power, my right to be shaman!" Kirk insists that they must at least move from this spot which is the impact zone, but Talon refuses and orders the village men to "take the aliens prisoner" at the point of their spears. Varrik is aghast; the simple Orgonians are usually peaceful. Kirk and his team choose to fight and a brief melee ensues. The Orgonians are exceptionally strong and Kirk and Varrik are knocked out. They are carried and led away, Talon calling after them, "I'm sorry - you will be released when the ritual is completed! We must have no interference!"

    Meanwhile, aboard the Enterprise, Scotty analyzes the constitution of the fireball by studying technical data from the engineers who created it. "It's unbelievable! This is the most dangerous stuff I've ever seen, Mr. Spock! It's unstoppable!" Up on the bridge, Spock agrees, "But after going over these files and documents the Orion engineers sent us, I have a possible plan!" Spock suggests that if the Enterprise fires the ship's anti-matter supply through the vessel's photon tubes at the fireball, the resulting annihilation explosion might snuff it out. Unable to contact Captain Kirk, who is already late in checking in, Spock and Scotty proceed with the plan. Scotty warns, "But if the shot fails, we'll be paralyzed! We won't get a second chance!" Later, all preparations for the anti-matter launch are complete. Chief Engineer Scott ushers everyone out of the engine room and opens up the anti-matter tubes - filling the room with its glow. The tubes are fired and out in space a massive burst of yellow and white energy can be seen coruscating out of the bottom of the Enterprise's saucer section. The whole ship shakes and people on the bridge are thrown from their chairs by the buffeting. Control systems shoot sparks and displays only show zigzags and static. The salvo strikes the heart of the fireball in a massive fireworks display, but the spherical, roiling menace is unchanged - still heading straight for the planet. The starship's controls and systems, which a few moments before were going haywire, now go suddenly and completely dark. Sulu reacts, "What happened?" Spock replies, "It would appear we've lost all power!" The lighting comes back on dimly as Scotty has directed impulse power into vital systems. They all look on the main viewscreen as Sulu announces, "The fireball is still there -- and we're right in its path!"

Trail By Fire: Part II
    At that moment, on Orgone, the landing party is imprisoned in a large wooden cage. Varrik and Kirk discuss how they might get away, while Dr. McCoy treats some of the villagers who have gathered at the cage's entrance. Just then, Talon's face twists in agony as he cries out loudly, "Yaaaahhh!" The villagers begin to run about, confused "We must hurry -- it is time" says one. Kirk and company look at each other and regard the unlocked cell door with surprise and confusion. They hurry out of the cage and rush to the clearing where Talon was engaged in his ritual. They find him seated in his circle of stones, twisting, convulsing in pain. McCoy expresses worry, "Jim, someone's got to do something! That man is in pain!" But Kirk replies, "No, Bones! We have no right to interfere!" Just then, they notice that the fireball in the sky overhead has changed. It has begun to glow very brightly and it spreads across the sky causing a streaking effect in the atmosphere. Then the fireball disappears completely. Varrik exclaims, "It's gone! But that's impossible! How did it happen?" Talon, with a last spasm, falls out of the circle of stones and it is not clear whether he is dead or just comatose.

    Aboard the Enterprise a few minutes earlier, Spock and Scotty are lamenting that they've done all that they could, when Spock notices the latest sensor readings, "Mr. Scott, I'm getting sudden new spectrographic readout on the fireball!" They watch the screen, "Spock! It's blowing!" Out in space, the fireball becomes a white glow at the center and it blows outward with arcs of energy spreading away from the center like a miniature spiral galaxy being formed. Scotty becomes concerned, "Mr. Spock, we're not out of the woods yet! We've got no shields - if one of those whirls of energy the anti-matter reaction created reaches us, we're goners!" Out in space an energy tendril passes at an angle, just missing the Enterprise by a hair. On the bridge, Spock is informed that there is still no response from Captain Kirk and that Orgone is out of range. Spock tells Uhura to radio the Orion to have them relay a message to Starfleet Command to send a rescue ship.

    Back on the planet Orgone, McCoy is trying to convince the villagers that Talon is not in a "holy state" but that he is feverish and ill. Talon's wife, whom McCoy gave medical treatment earlier, intercedes and the reluctant villagers finally allow McCoy to take Talon to his hut to be treated. Kirk convinces some other wary village men to return their communicators, but he is told, "We will hold your weapons until you are ready to leave!" Kirk contacts the Enterprise and speaks to Spock, who says, "... the fireball has been the neutralized -- but the action disabled us severely! We have to wait for a rescue vessel before we can retrieve you." Spock then reports to Kirk that he has found some disturbing information in the documents provided by the Orion. "It seems that Galactic Shares wanted to buy access rights to that portion of Orgone where you are now, and were turned down! Varrik was in charge of the negotiations!" Kirk is puzzled as to why Varrik didn't mention that before. Just then, in the hut where McCoy is tending to Talon, Varrik comes up behind the doctor. McCoy greets him, "Oh, Varrik, it's you! I'm worried about Talon! If this fever doesn't break..." THAKK! Suddenly Varrik knocks McCoy unconscious with a piece of wood saying, "I'm very worried about Talon, too, Doctor -- worried that he'll live!" Across the village, Kirk is talking to Talon's woman, "Excuse me, have you sen the man called Varrik?" Pointing toward a hut, she replies, "Yes! He asked me how to get to Talon's hut! He needed to speak to Mac Coy!" Realizing what might happen, Kirk dashes to the hut, ordering two security guards, "Byrne! Cockrum! Follow me -- quickly!"

    Kirk and his two men rush into Talon's hut and find Varrik poised over him with one of McCoy's medical hypos - about to inject something into the unconscious medicine man. McCoy regains consciousness while Kirk calls, "Varrik, what in blazes do you think you're doing?" Varrik rages, "Stay back, Kirk! If Talon lives, then these people will believe themselves invincible! We'll never get them to move!" Kirk is incredulous, "The access right -- you'd murder for access rights?!" From the look on Varrik's face, he's clearly become psychopathic, "You don't understand! These ignorant savages are preventing the development of a Fuel which could revolutionize Star Travel! No people have the right to stand in the way of essential human progress!" Varrik vows to kill Talon with the contents of the vial he holds and as he is about to plunge it in, Kirk leaps over Talon and SLAMM! sends Varrik against the wall. He fights wildly, "I won't be stopped! Not by anyone" but is subdued with the aid of security men Byrne and Cockrum. Kirk realizes something and grabs Varrik, "You sabotaged that ship testing the fuel, didn't you? You created that fireball!" Varrik responds weakly, "They wouldn't listen... wouldn't... listen..." McCoy reports that Talon's fever has broken and that he'll pull through.

    Later, Kirk records his log, "Captain's log: Stardate 3708.2. The Enterprise has been met by the Federation Starship Exeter! We were beamed up off of Orgone and preparations are being made to tow the Enterprise with the Exeter's Tractor system."

    On the bridge of the U.S.S. Exeter, Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty are standing around the captain of the Exeter. Also present is Py'nath Cyrgeth, a well dressed alien humanoid, who is corporate director for Galactic Shares, Inc. Py'nath states that their organization was surprised with Varrik's behavior and actions since they were not indicated in his "psych-profile." Py'nath points to the image of the Orion on the viewscreen and adds that Varrik will be put under psychiatric confinement there. He adds that the test platforms will be moved "even farther from inhabited spacelanes -- in case of real accidents!" They lament that even though Orgone is one of the richest sources of the new fuel, they might not be able to gain access to it because of how badly Varrik botched the first contact with the Orgonians. Py'neth says that the new fuel, "could revolutionize star drives, making your dilithium systems obsolete."

    Scotty takes umbrage at this and responds, "I beg your pardon! How dare ye imply that my lassie is 'obsolete!'" They smile and the Exeter captain orders his helmsman, "plot a course for Hub Station Six - tell them Scotty's missus needs another rest cure!" They all laugh. The Exeter is seen towing the Enterprise with tractor beams.

(Summary by Curt Danhauser)

Notes:
  • There never was an Issue #62 of the Gold Key STAR TREK comic series. This was a bona-fide lost issue.
  • The script for this comic was finished by John Warner in February 1979 before Western Publishing decided to discontinue the STAR TREK comic title. New York based author John Warner had previously written one other STAR TREK comic, Issue #60 "The Empire Man", which was published in February 1979. He is best known for writing several issues of the Gold Key Flash Gordon series. He also worked for DC, Marvel, and Warren Publications.
  • An Adobe Acrobat file of the script is available by clicking on the image to the right.
  • Two security guards in this story were named Byrne and Cockrum, after two of author John Warner's colleagues, artists John Byrne and Dave Cockrum.
  • The story synopsis seen above was based on the manuscript which recently surfaced.
  • Upon completion, the script was to have been sent to artist Frank Bolle who had been assigned as the issue's artist. This would have been the first STAR TREK comic story illustrated by Frank Bolle, however Mr. Bolle did provide the cover art for issues #60 and 61.

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Email: cdanhauser@yahoo.com