"The Youth Trap"
  Issue Number 8

Writer: Unknown
Artist: Alberto Giolitti
Stardate: 31:09.4
Issue Date: September 1970
Cover Price: 15 cents


Cover Blurb:
   They stand helpless before an alien who dooms them... to infancy!

   The Enterprise is under full power in “Galaxy Zekbran” to investigate the sighting of an uncharted planet. “Well, Mr. Spock” asks the Captain, “What does our scanner have to tell us - any signs of life on that mysterious sphere?”. “Negative, Captain!” Spock replies, “However, I have not completed the scan! There is still the telescopic viewing stage I must perform!”. At that moment a shrieking noise fills the air, and a strange group of lights attacks the Enterprise, nearly destroying one of her engine nacelles. “Cut number two engine!” shouts Kirk. “She’s taking a battering, may explode!”.

    The mysterious attack ends abruptly, and Scotty (who has blonde hair!) dons a space suit to examine the damage first hand. “Trouble, Captain!” the Engineer reports when he returns. “We can repair the engine, but whatever hit us burned out every filament part!”. “We’ve got an ample supply of filaments in storage” Kirk says. “Break them out”. “But that’s just it, Sir” Scotty replies. “I went to storage and found every last one of them disintegrated!”. Spock suggests that the ship must find a deposit of the rare Zutotanium metal from which the components are made, in order to replace them. Kirk orders space-ore experts Burns and Lane to beam down to the uncharted planet and search for the rare metal. “Well, there go our engineers” he tells Spock as the landing party beams away. “This is one whale of a long shot, Spock”. “And one that had better pay off, Captain” the Vulcan replies, “or we may be stranded here forever!”.

    On the planet surface, Burns and Lane chip away at different sections of rock for an hour. They discover that the rocks are full of Zutotanium! They report this to the Enterprise, and begin preparing to beam up the samples. Suddenly, strange rays engulf the two men, and their communications are cut off! Kirk desperately tries to contact them, but without success. Finally, the communications channel is re-opened, and the bridge crew listens intently. “Golly gee!” a young voice says, “That’s fun, let me play too, Andy!”. “No!” another young voice answers. “These are my rocks! You get your own rocks to play with!”. At first Kirk thinks that the two men are joking, but Spock explains that they could not possibly change the register of their voices, and that something must have affected their bodies! Kirk, Spock and McCoy quickly beam down to the surface to assist. They discover Burns and Lane changed into young children! “Hi, daddy Kirk and uncle Spock!” says Burns. “Are you going to play rock pile with us?” adds Lane.

    Spock comments that the men seem to have retained their memories, but in a child-like fashion. Just then, energy beams strike near the group! Kirk is nearly hit, but Spock manages to knock him out of the way in time. “There are our enemies” Spock says, pointing to several alien beings concealed behind a nearby rock, “two of them, firing rays from a machine mounted on a tripod!”. The group runs for cover in a nearby cave, but McCoy is hit before he can reach safety. The Doctor is immediately turned into a teen-ager! “How do you feel, Dr. McCoy?” asks Kirk. “Do you have possession of your mental faculties?”. “I’m fit as a fiddle and ready to rocket, Jimsy!” replies McCoy. Kirk calls the Enterprise and has Burns, Lane and McCoy beamed back up to the ship. Then he and Spock move back up the mountain side, searching for their attackers.

   As the pair races from rock to rock, Kirk is hit with an energy beam! The Captain becomes light headed, but does not experience any age reversal. The men find the two aliens fighting each other on a cliff high above them. One alien tosses the other from the cliff, and the unfortunate being slides down the mountain to Kirk and Spock’s location. As the other alien begins firing the energy cannon at them again, the two men drag the unconscious alien to the safety of a nearby cave to question him. The alien (a very human-like being with a bald head, wearing a purple jumpsuit) tells them that he is a scientist named Laiko from the Galaxy Trann.

    “We were on an exploration mission to this galaxy when engine trouble forced us to crash land” Laiko tells them. While trying to build a machine that would restore power to their damaged engines, Laiko accidentally invented a device that would reverse the aging process. He hoped to use it to “freeze” their bodies in an ageless state until the ship was repaired or they were rescued, but had no way to test the device. “Things are beginning to add up” Kirk says. “When you spotted our spaceship you crippled it with the idea of using us as guinea pigs for your age-ray machine”. “Our engineers Burns and Lane were hit with an over-charge” adds Spock, “which reduced them to children. A lesser charge hit McCoy transforming him into a teen-ager. But you wanted your machine to freeze you in the exact age you were in!”. Laiko confirms this, but offers no apology for his actions. The Captain asks Laiko why his companion attacked him on the mountain. “I cannot say” Laiko replies, “but he is moving in the direction of our encampment”. Kirk, Spock and Laiko follow the other alien back to his space ship, to find out what is going on.

    When the alien arrives at the crashed ship, he tries to take control of the other aliens by force. “The Scientist Laiko is no more!” he says. “And I now place myself in absolute command of this expedition! You will do my bidding or else!”. “I challenge your right to such a claim, Kooba!” says another alien. Kooba turns the age ray on the humanoid, and reduces him to a small child as an example. “And that will be the fate of all of you if you do not heed my demands!” he says. As they watch from high above, the ledge that Kirk, Spock and Laiko are standing on gives way, and slides down the mountain into the middle of the alien encampment. Fearing the Enterprise men more than their newly appointed dictator, the aliens capture them and bring them before Kooba for sentencing.

    Kooba decides that the three will be put to death. “Come to your senses, Kooba!” Laiko says. “What do you hope to gain by holding that machine over the heads of our colony here?”. Kooba explains that he is planning to return to their homeworld and use the machine to reduce the government officials to children. With them out of the way, he will assume power over the entire world! “But you forget Kooba, our spaceship is crippled” Laiko says. “We may never be able to repair it for the journey home!”. “It will not be necessary, Laiko!” Kooba replies, pointing up at the Enterprise cruising far overhead, “for I intend to assume command of the spaceship they call Enterprise for the journey!”. Kirk is not amused. “Now I know your mind’s twisted, Kooba” the Captain retorts, “for my crew will never surrender the ship to you!”. “That remains to be seen” says Kooba. “You see, I have a plan, Captain Kirk!”.

    Kooba orders Kirk and Laiko thrown into the spaceship brig, and he takes Mr. Spock and one of his guards to the landing party’s beam up point. Spock makes contact with the ship, and the three are beamed up. “Mr. Spock” Scotty asks, “who are your two companions?”. “I can assure you they are not friends!” Spock replies, “But do not make any hostile moves, it will cost the life of Captain Kirk! He is being held hostage by this criminal alien! We must do just as he demands!”. (Why Spock would immediately surrender the Enterprise, after Kirk had just made it clear that he should not, is not explained) Kooba orders the entire crew to stand in front of viewing screens, and then triggers the age-ray machine, blasting the entire ship! The crew becomes younger, but not very much so.

“Your little experiment worked to a degree, Kooba” Spock says, “but you hardly transformed us into helpless babies!”. “The original blast de-aged you all some five or so years” Kooba replies. “Now you will all slowly grow younger. In a matter of hours you will all be babies, unable to comprehend your dire situation!”. Having set his plans in motion, Kooba has his guard beam him back down to the surface so that he can prepare to move his crew aboard the Enterprise, and also “take care” of Captain Kirk.

    Kooba enters the brig and begins firing the age-ray at Kirk, trying to reduce him to a child. The Captain manages to rip a reflective plate from the wall, and bounce the beam back - hitting Kooba! The alien is immediately reduced to a young, bald child. Kirk then frees Laiko as well. Kirk dresses up in Kooba’s clothing, and the two men trick Kooba’s guard aboard the Enterprise into beaming them up to the ship. Once aboard, Kirk quickly takes out the guard with a gut punch, followed by a right cross. He and Laiko go to the “control room” to find the entire crew has begun de-aging!

    Laiko changes the settings on the age-ray, and blasts the entire ship again through the viewing screens. The crew members are reverted to their normal ages. Kirk beams back down to the planet with Laiko and also restores the alien that Kooba had de-aged. “What of Kooba?” Laiko asks, “will you return him to normal also?”. “No” Kirk replies. “I think it’s only just he remains as he is, a fitting fate for such an evil being!”. Kirk then shatters the machine on a rock. “It is better for you all if this age-ray machine didn’t exist” he says. “And I’m sure that after Laiko’s experience with it he’d hardly construct another!”. “No truer words have been spoken, Captain!” Laiko says.

    Returning to the ship, filaments are manufactured and the Enterprises’ engines are repaired. The ship sets off into space on another mission. (No mention is made whether or not the aliens were taken aboard to be returned home or not.) Later, Kirk discusses the mission with Spock. “When Star Fleet Command received our report they thought we’d all gone a little space happy, Mr. Spock!”. “Naturally Captain” the Vulcan replies. “One would have to be a victim of the age-ray machine to believe its existence!”.

(Summary by Mark Lookabaugh)

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