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Jeff Card



It had been a few months since the Kelvan War. James T. Kirk had stepped down from his role as Task Force Commander and had re-assumed command of the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-A. The ship had been refitted under emergency conditions and he hadn’t yet had the time to completely familiarize himself with the newly-remodeled starship. After his return, it became a common sight for the crew to see their captain prowling the corridors, trying to better know his ship.

The rec deck was filled with off-duty personnel. Most acknowledged Kirk with a nod, or a spoken "Captain." Many were not familiar with him as a starship captain, and were still thinking of him in terms of Starfleet’s hyped-up image of ‘Admiral Kirk’ which Captain Kirk could never escape. The image was even strengthened by Kirk’s latest ‘success’ in saving the Earth from the Kelvan Armada.

The captain found himself drawn to the chess room. Inside, several crewmembers were locked in silent combat over their chess boards. Most games were of a computer-generated, holographic variety. Kirk had tried one, and found its ‘expert’ level mildly challenging at best.

He saw something in one of the sound-proofed computer alcoves which caught his eye. He moved to it and went through the sound-dampening fields. "Captain Spock."

The Vulcan looked up from his chess game and nodded Kirk to the seat opposite him. He tapped a button on the small console built into the side of the gaming table, and the game in progress dissolved and faded.

Kirk had unaffectionately dubbed this particular chess game ‘The Monster.’ The main part was a large, round table. When playing, the three-dimensional playing area was holographically projected and divided into geometrical sections. The playing pieces— mini-holographic knights, rooks, pawns, bishops, kings and queens—would do realistic battle until the game was won. And not always did the superior piece win, which in itself was yet another challenge.

The gaming area was about two meters in perimeter, and one in height. If desired, the computer could chat, gossip, give advice or insult you as you played. Kirk felt the device was largely superfluous, and distracting from the real object of the game.

"Don’t erase it," Kirk said as he sat down.

"It is stored." Spock tapped the control console. "I’ve been extensively reprogramming the chess computer."

Kirk nodded sympathetically. "I know. I have half a mind to have these pretty little toys torn out of here. That’s all they are: toys. Not a challenging game in the lot."

"Would you care to engage in a game, Captain?"

"Captain Spock, are you tired of the computer’s company?" Kirk put on an appropriately incredulous look.

"No, sir. I believe I have become too used to logical, rational chess opponents, and wish to get a better balance for my game."

Kirk sighed. "Well, we wouldn’t want you spoiled, would we?"

The yellow alert claxon blared into Kirk’s ear. He leaned over and tapped the intercom. "Kirk here. What’s the problem?"

Helmsman Ken Reichard’s face appeared on the wallscreen. "Captain? Receiving a distress signal from the F.M.S. Tabbot. The whole Beta Canaris system is under attack by some unknown force."

"I’m on my way." Kirk tapped the intercom and stood to leave.

"Captain," Spock got up to leave, also, "there have been reports of Klingon activities in that sector."

By the look in Jim Kirk’s eyes, Spock knew he was thinking the same thing.


I move into the system of my brother’s death slowly, aware that what ever has killed him may also try to kill me. It is not a fate that will become me. I scan the system, first for any threat, then for what I know must be there.

As I had expected, the remains of my brother are not to be found. I turn my scanners to search HIE-space, and find my brother’s pattern recording, launched when he ceased existing. I pull the recorder out of HIE-space and absorb the neural patterns of the one who had been killed. His tale is an odd one.

He was following up the disappearance of another at us in this galaxy several million cycles ago. That one, my brother found, had been destroyed by space-faring animals. My brother encountered several animal vessels while feeding. The animals attacked him, and by means of sacrificing one of their vessels, destroyed him. His fate clear: animals. Intelligent, space-faring animals destroyed him, as they destroyed another of us millions of cycles ago.

The situation is without precedent: two of us destroyed within one million cycles of each other by the same species of intelligent animals. The idea of an intelligent animal alone is hard enough to believe. But were not the makers-of-all animals?

I put my scanners back to work; I have already encountered and destroyed several animal-worlds and one animal-vessel in this area, but these were not my enemies. I search for my true opponents.


Kirk stepped off the turbolift closely accompanied by Spock.

"Jim, what is all this about a distress signal?" McCoy demanded.

"Bones, you know as much as I do," Kirk admitted, taking the center seat. "Mister Reichard, status report."

"At 0912 hours, we received a distress signal from the F.M.S. Tabbot, stating that the Beta Canaris system was under attack. We responded to their signal but have received no reply."

"Very good. Mister Jaeger, lay in a course to the Beta Canaris system. Helsman, Warp Factor Five. Captain Spock, try to get some readings from the system as soon as we’re in range." Kirk turned grimly to McCoy. "Doctor, let’s hope we won’t need your skills."

McCoy nodded "Amen."


Captain’s Log, Stardate 8582.1

Upon investigation into a distress signal, presumably from the Federated Merchant Ship Tabbot, we have found the first four planets of the system fragmented, and no sign of the Tabbot or survivors. I have presently taken the Enterprise off her appointed star-mapping assignment, and committed her to finding the cause of the calamity.

"No signs of unusual solar activity," Spock said. "All radiation levels appear normal. There are no signs of a war that was waged with the nuclear weapons the system’s inhabitants were known to possess. The rubble in the orbits of the first four planets does not account for the total mass of those planets. There was no indication of a vessel leaving the system when we arrived."

Kirk held up a tired hand. "Captain Spock, if you don’t know what happened here, just say so."

"It would be illogical to base a conclusion on inconclusive facts."

"Ah." Kirk surveyed the bridge with tired eyes, noting all the fervent activity that was getting only one answer: nothing. The situation was oddly familiar to him, but he wasn’t quite sure how. "Uhura, prepare a communique to Starfleet Command, Code Factor Two."

"I’m sorry, sir, but we’re getting heavy interference," the lovely communications officer said. "I doubt a message could make it through."

Kirk turned to Spock. "Could it be Klingons? Could they be blocking our channels?"

"I would say not. We would be able to detect any attempts to do so."

"There’s got to be something!"

Reichard turned. "Captain, sensor contact! It’s coming out of the asteroid rubble!"

"What is? What’s coming out? Mainviewer on!"

The mainviewer leapt into life, showing a chain of asteroids, and behind that, the system’s star. But it was the foreground that was attracting Kirk’s attention. A monstrous, sleek, dagger-shaped object began turning to face the Enterprise. It was huge, as large as an asteroid, with hundreds of weapons arrays on its sides. The tip of its dagger-like form was clearly a energy cannon of some sort.

Reichard stared disbelieving at it. "What in the...?"

A harsh, electronically generated voice yelled out, "Red Alert" and the familiar ‘Red Alert’ pattern played across the screen.

The ship rocked violently, and Kirk was tossed from his chair and onto the deck. The captain cursed himself for not having the restraining arms on his chair in place, but thrust that thought aside. "Reichard, Jaeger! Evasive Action!"

Again, the ship turned and lurched, as the inertial dampening field lagged slightly allowing the G-forces to be felt. Lights dimmed and flickered, but soon shone strongly as the ship levelled off.

Kirk stood and took his seat. "Uhura, damage reports."

"Minor injuries among the crew, no damage to the ship."

Kirk nodded. "All right, Reichard, how far away is that thing?"

Reichard glanced at his board. "Approximately one hundred-fifty hundred thousand kilometers and closing."

The port turbolift opened, and Leonard McCoy stepped onto the bridge. "Tell me that’s not another one."

"Put some distance between us," Kirk said. He turned to Spock. "Is that...a doomsday machine?"

"Although quite a different design, it appears to be based on the same concept. Our scanners cannot penetrate the neutronium hull," the Vulcan replied.

"You can only destroy the universe once!" McCoy exclaimed. "Who would be asinine enough to make another one?"

"It makes perfect sense, Bones. A war needs two sides. Each one makes a doomsday machine," said Kirk. He admired this one’s design. "The manufacturers of this one appear to be more advanced. Note that even as its approaching us, it’s using ram scoops of some sort to gather rubble into those intake vents at the rear of the craft."

"Yeah, you’re sounding like Scotty," said McCoy. "I’ll be down in Sickbay. I have a feeling my talents may be needed very soon." He turned and entered the turbolift.

"Craft is pursuing us at Warp Three," Reichard reported.

"Match speed and back away from this...Berserker."

"Aye, sir."

Kirk tapped the intercom. "Scotty, get ready to feed everything we’ve got into the shields."

"Aye, sir."

"Also, fix me up a one hundred megaton bomb."


Kirk glanced at Spock. The Vulcan was impassive. "I’ll also need an unmanned shuttle ready to go. Kirk out."

"You intend to destroy this device the way you did the other, Captain?"

"If I’m lucky."

Everyone on the bridge suddenly froze as each person seemed to sense a flicker, an impact of some sort in their minds.

The computer didn’t even have time to run a warning when the ship shook much more violently than it had previously.

Kirk was thrown against the restraining arm of his chair, but this time stayed put. A hand computer vaulted off Spock’s console and impacted against the wall, then fell onto the floor.

A surprised Reichard grabbed at his console, quickly making adjustments.

"Shields, full intensity!" Kirk managed to shout, before the ship shook again. There was another jolt, but it was considerably lessened.

"What happened?" the captain demanded.

Reichard was still working his board, his face showing disbelief over something. Jaeger was working her board, mystified, and Chekov, in his weapons alcove, was speaking over the intercom to one of the security stations. Uhura was taking up damage reports from all over the ship. "Well, Spock?" Kirk demanded.

Spock looked at a reading on his console for a few minutes then turned to Kirk. "The Berserker transferred itself from area 716 mark 418 to area 318 mark 900 instantaneously then began attacking us with an anti-proton beam."

"Instantaneously?" Kirk stared in disbelief. Spock nodded. Kirk turned to stare at the screen. On it, the Berserker was turning away from the Enterprise.


An object moves into the system at faster-than-light speeds. I scan it. An animal vessel, definitely. I am concealed temporarily by the rubble of the planets which I have reduced, and have some time. This vessel is not of the type which destroyed my brother, but I cannot take the chance that they will not attack me themselves.

I move out of the cover of the rubble and aim my disproto beam at the vessel. It strikes, but my detectors indicate I have done relatively little harm; the shields protecting the vessel are quite strong. I must be close to inflict damage to the vessel, and it would appear that they are not going to let that happen; they have begun to move away. As I increase my speed, so do they. My space-warp speed is extremely limited, so I gather I will not be able to get closer while in this mode. Immediately, I calculate the amount of energy needed to make a HIE-space jump of the necessary distance. It is considerable; I will only be able to fire my disproto beam three times.

I make the preparations, then deliver the proper energy to the HIE-space drive...

I am suddenly less than 4,000 kilometers from my objective target. I fire my beam three times in rapid succession. The first two I’m certain inflict damage; the third is muted by the vehicle’s shields.

I turn and head toward the nearest planetary mass, an asteroid, to replenish my energy source.

The animals are following.


The bridge of the Enterprise had calmed considerably.

James Kirk watched the Berserker on the screen as it headed toward a close asteroid.

"The Berserker’s energy output is down by over fifty per cent." Spock reported. "I would say it is headed toward that asteroid to refuel."

Kirk nodded. "Then those jumps, whatever they are...must drain it considerably. That’s good news. Mister Reichard, keep within scanning range of it."

"Aye, sir."

"Mister Chekov, I doubt your weaponry is any use in this case!"

"Aye, Captain," the Russian agreed.

The intercom whistled. Kirk tapped a switch. "Kirk here."

"Scotty here, Captain," the engineer’s voice filtered through. "The bomb you wanted has been loaded aboard the shuttlecraft DaVinci."

"Good. Rig a remote control for the shuttle and a proximity fuse on the bomb. I want to be able to control the shuttle from up here," said Kirk.

"Aye, Captain. Scott out."

"Captain," Spock said.

Kirk turned to face his first officer. "Yes, Captain Spock?"

"Captain, sensors indicate some vessels are leaving the asteroid."

"Is that a Federation outpost?"

"No, sir."

"Then whom does it belong to?"

Spock raised an eyebrow. "The Klingons."

The thought made Kirk burst out with laughter. So, that was where the Klingons were stationed! The situation seemed incredibly ironic.

"Put it up on the mainviewer," he said.

The mainviewer gave a panoramic display of the Berserker headed toward the asteroid in the distance. Above the asteroid were two blips, representing the Klingons. Kirk glanced at the profile display at the bottom of the screen. Both of the Klingon ships were k’t’ingas.

"Are they going to try to attack the Berserker?" asked Jaeger, incredulously.

The idea that they would attack the Berserker had never occurred to Kirk. He simply thought they would try to evacuate their base, but it looked as if the Klingons going to attack.

"That’s suicide!" exclaimed Chekov.

Kirk was inclined to agree. "Captain Spock, what are their chances of survival if they attack?"

"Virtually none," replied the Vulcan. Already, the Berserker was changing course to bring it on a plane equal with that of the oncoming Klingons.

"Jaeger, set us on a course that will take us between the Berserker and the Klingons," ordered the Enterprise captain. "Warp Factor...Eight."

"May I ask your intention, sir?" said Spock.

"Yes, you may, Captain Spock. We are going to save the Klingons."

"What?" Scott stepped out of the turbolift clutching a box equipment and a bag of tools.

Kirk grinned. "We’re saving the Klingons. Uhura, contact the Klingon outpost and tell them to evacuate immediately. Captain Scott, if that’s the remote control equipment, I suggest you set it up."

"It’ll have to be set into Mister Chekov’s console," said the Scot.

Kirk nodded.

"Captain, I would like to point out that the only way to distract the Berserker will be if we approach the Berserker in a tighter radius than the Klingons. That will put the Enterprise in danger," said Spock.

"I’m aware of that, Captain Spock. If Captain Scott’s quick about installing that remote control, we will be able to get the bomb into the mouth of that thing before it has the chance to use its antiproton beam on us."

Satisfied, Spock turned back to his console. Kirk studied the Vulcan for a few moments. It had seemed so natural, earlier, when Spock had invited Kirk to play a game of chess, that the captain hadn’t realized that it was the first time since the Kelvan War that Spock had asked him to play. It was a symbol of...renewed friendship?

"Approaching Berserker," said Jaeger.

"Are you finished yet, Captain Scott?"

The chief engineer made an adjustment on the security console. "Aye, sir. That’s it." He took the seat as Chekov stood by to watch.

The screen showed the Klingons less than 15,000 kilometers away from the Berserker. A curved line ran between them; the plotted course of the Enterprise. They would have only a two thousand kilometer margin on either side.

"Any response from the Klingons?" asked Kirk.

"No, sir," replied Uhura .

"Captain, the Berserker is headed toward us!" reported Reichard.

"Captain Scott, launch the shuttle."


I approach the asteroid to replenish my energy supplies, but two vehicles disembark from it on a course to intercept me. Animal vessels, of the same apparent size and shape of my opponent, the real difference being in the distribution of its mass.

I change my course to accommodate this new development. I allocate energy to my disproto beam. Sensors indicate that the shielding on these vessels is inferior to that of the other vessel, and that it should not prove difficult to dispatch them.

As the distance closes, my sensors tell me that the vessel which I have been in combat with has accelerated, and seems to be headed directly in the path of the two approaching vehicles and myself. Why? This tactic makes little sense. It is not at all logical. Do they intend to sacrifice themselves?

I prepare myself. If they do come that close, I will not miss the opportunity presented.


"Twenty-one seconds to intercept point," said Reichard.

On the screen, the Enterprise stood almost directly between the Klingons and the Berserker. A small point of light, the shuttle, moved away from the Enterprise toward the Berserker.

"Fourteen seconds until entry," reported Scott, his fingers dancing over the controls for the shuttle.

The bridge was silent. The Enterprise was seconds away from the interception point. It added no comfort to think that the Klingons were less than eight thousand kilometers in one direction, the Berserker less than eight thousand kilometers in the other. "Eight seconds to entry."

"We’ve reached interception point."

The Klingons and Berserker were pointed straight at the Enterprise. The distance wasn’t very great.

"Three seconds," said Scott. "Two, one..."

The ship suddenly rocked as the Berserker’s antiproton beam lashed out. "Shuttle destroyed," said Scott.

"The Klingons are veering off and retreating," reported Reichard, "at Warp Nine."

"It’s time for us to get out of here. Warp Ten!" ordered Kirk.

The ship tilted, and seemed to jump.

Spock turned from his station. "We’re in a tractor beam."

"Are we headed into the Berserker?"

The Vulcan glanced at a display. "Yes, sir."

Kirk had almost ended up in the mouth of one of these before. He had no desire to do so again. "Captain Spock, do you have any ideas? It didn’t seem to fall for the bomb-in-the-spaceship routine."

"Perhaps," said the science officer. "The Berserker’s total energy output is down over sixty percent. Perhaps if we pull against the tractor beam, we might weaken it enough to allow us to escape."

"Let’s try it, Captain Scott," Kirk said.

"Yes, sir," said the Scot. He moved to the engineering console and tapped out several sequences. "Ready, sir."

"Okay, Mister Reichard, give it a try. Warp Factor Five."

The ship began pulling against the strength of the tractor beam. The deck beneath their feet began to vibrate as the engines strained to release the ship from the Berserker’s grasp.

"We need more power, Captain," said Spock.

"Warp...Seven, Reichard," said Kirk.

The vibrations increased in their intensity. The screen showed no change in distance from the Berserker, its dagger-like form occupying the whole screen.

Scott was looking worriedly at his console. "Captain...It—"

The ship shuddered violently, and the vibrations decreased slightly. "We’ve halted progress into the Berserker," reported the Vulcan over the noise of the engines.

"All right," said Kirk. "It’s time to get out of here. Mister Reichard, increase speed to Warp Eight."

"Captain!" protested Scott. "We’re put in’ a terrible strain on the ship as it is!"

"Increase speed to Warp Eight," repeated Kirk.

"Aye, Captain," responded Reichard. He pushed several buttons, and pushed a lever forward. "Captain, the engines aren’t responding!"

Kirk looked at Scott. "What’s happening?"

"That’s an automatic stressor cutoff. The pylons would be subjected to a stress they couldna handle, and the safety protocols are overriding commands from the helm."

"All right. Disengage! Give me Warp Four," Kirk said. After Reichard’s complied, the captain turned to his science officer. "Are we still stationary, or are we drifting in?"

"We’re maintaining our position," reported Spock.

"Good," Kirk breathed. "Captain Spock, didn’t a survey team study the remains of the other Berserker after we destroyed it?"

"Yes, sir."

"Get all the information on it from the computer you can. Let’s see if we can come up with a weakness."


The animals did attempt to fly between the other two vessels and myself. The reason became clear when I detected a small craft approaching me. A scan indicates fissionables; they are going to attempt to destroy my interior, a trick that has been used many times before, across the universe in our encounters with other animal species.

I destroy the craft with my disproto beam, and lock the animal vessel in my tractor field before they are out of range. The other two animal vehicles have turned and are leaving at high speeds.

The animals make an attempt at pulling away, which is almost successful. My power is down considerably, but I manage to retain them.

I will have to put out a secondary tractor beam to attract some mass into me. I will need more power very soon.


The computer projected a diagram of the doomsday machine onto one of the secondary screens at Spock’s station.

"Apparently," the Vulcan said, "we did not destroy the interior of that doomsday machine. Only the power source and other closely-related functions such as the tractor beam and antiproton beam were destroyed because they were so closely linked.

"Beyond the power source was what was theoretically the ‘brain’ of the berserker, which was pretty much intact as it was shielded off from the explosion. Scientist have been puzzled by this part. There seems to be absolutely no indication of how it works.

"In the very last section was a fusion drive engine, approximately the size of a turbolift."

"A turbolift?" Scott asked, incredulously.

"So where does that leave us?" asked Kirk.

"That leaves us no wiser regarding the doomsday machine," said Spock. He brought up a schematic of their current problem. "But here," he pointed to a place on the Berserker, "is a recessed sensor platform on this Berserker." He tapped a series of buttons, and the image zoomed in on a hatch. "This appears to be an opening that leads to the command and control area."

"How large is that hatch?"


Kirk saw the plan had already unfolded to the Vulcan. "Have a man go in there and destroy the control center?"

Spock nodded. "I’ll go."

"No. If anyone’s going, it will be me," said the captain.

"That is not entirely logical, nor safe, Captain," Spock pointed out. "Your presence is required on the ship." Scott was about to say something, but Spock beat him to it. "Yours is, too. Captain Scott. Gentlemen, we could always call the doctor to the bridge and get his opinion on the subject."

Kirk realized that Spock had had him from the beginning. If McCoy were brought in on it, he would begin spouting regulations and threaten to file a report finding Kirk ‘medically unfit’ or worse, yet another dreaded Section 567. "All right, Captain Spock. You’ve got the mission."

"Thank you, sir. Captain Scott, can the transporter get me over there?"

"That it will, Captain Spock. Yon beastie has nae shields."

"Captain, with your leave, I’ll go down and get my equipment," said Spock.

Kirk nodded, and watched Spock go .


Spock, in full space regalia, shimmered into existence near the hull of the Berserker. "I have arrived with no difficulties."

"Yes, Captain Spock," came C.P.O. Kevin Leslie’s voice. The young man was a recent transfer from one of the surviving starships from the Kelvan War, and Captain Kirk had assigned him to the position of transporter chief.

Spock manipulated the small hand-held propulsion units to get him to the surface of their attacker. It was a short wait, as the modules spurted with life, sending him toward the huge construct. He landed on his feet. "I am on the Berserker," he said.

"Be careful," urged McCoy’s voice.

"Ah, Doctor. It is touching to see your concern for me," the Vulcan remarked. He checked his tricorder, which had been attached to the side of his suit.

"I’m a doctor, damn it. I’m concerned With all life! Even yours."

"Spock," Kirk’s voice broke in, "what’s happening?"

Spock started walking along the hard surface, holding his tricorder out. "It was wise that I had equipped myself with an antigrav rig. The gravity of this construct would be unbearable without it. Presently, I am searching for the hatch. It should be in this area."

The speaker fell silent for a few moments, then Kirk spoke again. "It would seem that the Berserker has a second tractor beam working to draw in some asteroid rubble. We’re going to use our phasers to make sure that nothing gets into it. We’ll have to keep its power down. So, heads up."

"‘Heads up’?" the Vulcan repeated.

"Watch out for falling rocks, you stupid Vulcan!" McCoy’s voice said.

There was a bright flash from somewhere forward of the Berserker. Spock’s visor darkened. He proceeded toward the hatch.

"Captain Spock, are you there?"

"Indeed," Spock replied kneeling. "I have found the opening, but it is not what it appeared to be. Rather than a hatch, it is a gelatinous membrane filled with a fibrous substance." He ran his tricorder over it. "Fascinating. It appears to absorb all energies of the spectrum. Of course! It should have occurred to me sooner!"

"What should have?" McCoy demanded.

"For the very reasons we couldn’t scan the device from the outside, it can’t scan the outside from within! This is the Berserker’s sensory apparatus," he explained. He drew out his phaser. "I should be able to cut through it with my phaser." He aimed his weapon at the bundle of fibers and pulled the trigger. A beam lanced out of the weapon and the fibers disappeared.


Spock finished clearing the first ten feet of fibers. "I’m going into what appears to be a corridor now. Once I’m inside, I won’t be able to communicate with you because the neutronium hull will block the transmission."

He stood poised over the mouth of the opening for a moment, then dropped in. He barely heard McCoy’s muttered, "Be careful."

He landed lightly on the remaining few feet of fibers. He began phasering the last few feet of the way, and cut an opening into the inner portion of the Berserker.

An odd feeling seized his mind, similar to the feeling he had when the Berserker had tried the instantaneous jump, but magnified. He shook it off, and pushed his way through the opening.

The command and control center was large enough to fit a starship the size of the Enterprise, at least. Large as it was, it consisted of very little matter, but was occupied by something that was neither matter nor energy. The fibrous material ran from ceiling to floor, and created hundreds of lattices between. This was clearly no command and control room. This was a brain! And even then, it seemed to Spock that the brain wasn’t really there, but that this was some sort of connecting network.

With one hand, he grasped the few remaining dangling fibers to keep from drifting, and with the other arm, he extracted the tricorder-sized atom bomb that he and Captain Scott had rigged. It was nowhere near the power of one hundred megatons, but it would do the job, as Scott put it.

The fiber Spock was holding suddenly pulsed, sending a signal of some sort into Spock’s arm. He twisted, flinched, released the bomb and grabbed his head...


I have been attempting to drawn in asteroid fragments at intermittent intervals, but the animal ship consistently destroys them. My power is greatly taxed, and I may soon be forced to release the vessel.

What is this? Something has appeared on my hull. It is an animal! What can I do? I have no defenses on my hull. The repair bots used for maintenance are unable to cope with this sort of threat. The animal is approaching my sensor net. What does it intend? My sensor net is being destroyed!

My awareness is quickly being robbed as more of the net is destroyed. I am helpless to stop the animal from destroying it.

It is quickly done. All my outside awareness is gone. I sense for any remaining fibers and find a few. Not many, but enough to regenerate the net. I send an impulse along that line to get reproduction started, but there is something there...


"Captain, the tractor beam is off!"

Kirk looked at the screen. The Berserker looked no different. "Any report from Captain Spock?"

"No, Captain," replied Uhura.

"He’ll probably be examining that thing for the next two hours!" McCoy complained.

"Mister Reichard, has the power output of that thing dropped?"

"No, sir."

"Then why did it let us go?" asked Kirk.

"Two Klingon vessels approaching," said Reichard, suddenly.

"Receiving a message from the Klingons," reported Uhura.

"Put it up on the screen."

The face of a Klingon appeared on the screen, replacing the view of the Berserker. "Enterprise," said the Klingon harshly. "I am Captain Kalth. You are commanded to retreat from this area while we take the hulk of the object which threatened a Klingon outpost into tow."

Kirk shook his head. "I am Captain James Kirk. We have a man inside there at present whom we have to retrieve."

"Programming that machine to attack more innocent Klingon operations, no doubt," Kalth said coldly. "We repeat: you are to leave this area immediately, or we will consider it an act of aggression."

"We’re being aggressive?" McCoy burst out. "If it hadn’t been for us, that thing would have torn your ships apart!"

Kirk motioned McCoy to be silent. The captain of the Enterprise looked at the Klingon and smiled. "We refuse," he said simply. "Enterprise out." The screen faded back into the view of the Berserker.

"The Klingons are taking up a battle formation," said Chekov.

"Deflector shields up; phaser crews stand by," Kirk said.

"The Berserker!" Uhura called out.

On the screen, the Berserker began turning. Kirk stared at it for a moment, then yelled out, "Get ready to..."

The Berserker’s antiproton beam fired right across the lead Klingons’ bow.

The two warships turned and fled.

"Captain," called Uhura. "Captain Spock is coming through!"

"—to Enterprise, Spock to Enterprise."

Kirk tapped the intercom switch. "Spock! How are you?"

"Quite fine, Captain. I trust things are well with you as well."

"Of course," said McCoy dryly. "Did you expect anything else?"

"I am presently in communication with the Berserker. I’ll need some materials beamed over..."

"You’re talking with the Berserker?" asked Kirk, dubiously.

"Yes," answered Spock. "It really is a fascinating construct and not at all related to the device we encountered on Stardate 4202.9. I shall explain the situation thoroughly when I’m back on board the Enterprise. Right now I need certain materials to help repair the Berserker’s sensory net."

Scott looked at Kirk questioningly.

Kirk shrugged. "Go ahead; send him whatever he needs."


Kirk and Spock entered the turbolift from the bridge. "E Deck," said Spock. The doors slid shut, and the elevator began humming. "That was a fascinating machine," the Vulcan remarked.

"Yes," Kirk agreed. "Where is it heading?"

"It is making a HIE-space jump back to its home galaxy."

"I’m not sure I understand what a HIE-space jump is."

Spock frowned. "It is difficult to explain. HIE-space is literally imaginary. Everything going through it is converted into an idea, a concept. Physical laws don’t apply there because it does not exist. Conversely, every idea we have occurs in HIE-space."

"That’s ridiculous," said Kirk. "Our thoughts are taking place in this universe."

"Not at all. Consider the brain a sort of HIE-space radio that generates thoughts. The brain-generated thoughts occur in HIE-space."

"But..." Kirk was confused. "How does the Berserker manage to exist in a universe that does not exist?"

"By saying, in effect, ‘I think I am, therefore I am.’"

"It sounds quite unscientific," Kirk observed.

"It appears to work," Spock pointed out. "I must point out that the term, ‘Berserker,’ however, is not only inaccurate but objectionable to them as well. They actually call themselves ‘Policers.’"

The doors slid open to reveal E Deck. They exited the turbolift.

"So this...Policer isn’t a doomsday machine of some sort after all?"

"Correct," said Spock. "They are a cross between advance explorers and a police force, created millions of years ago by some benevolent species. The reason this Policer attacked us is because we are considered ‘animals’ by them. Their encounters with lifeforms such as ourselves have always been violent confrontations. My actions will actually cause their race to rethink the matter and their opinion on humanoid life."

"It sounds like their disregard for humanoids prompted much of this problem," argued Kirk.

"This whole affair has roots dating back hundreds of millions of years ago to the Preservers. Essentially, the Preservers destroyed a Policer because that Policer had destroyed an uninhabited planet for fuel which the Preservers were planning to seed. From what I gathered, the planet in question was the fifth planet from the star in Sol system itself."

"Jupiter?" Kirk blinked. "Jupiter is still there."

"Not Jupiter," the Vulcan corrected. "What is now the asteroid belt." They entered the rec room. "The Preservers destroyed the Policer in a manner similar to the means that we destroyed the Doomsday Machine."

Kirk was silent for a few moments. "So why is it now that this Policer has just arrived?"

"Policers are patient machines," explained Spock. "Instead of expending the great amount of energy necessary for a HIE-space jump, this Policer chose to travel across the space between galaxies to follow-up the other Policers at Warp Factor One."

Kirk whistled. "That’s a long trip. And it arrived here and began refueling at Beta Canaris."

"Yes, sir," said Spock. "It was reducing Beta Canaris Two, an uninhabited class C planet, when the Talbot arrived and attacked it. The Policer defended itself, destroying the merchant ship in self-defense. Now that it understands that we ‘animals’ are in fact sentient beings such as itself, it exhibited a great deal of remorse. But it has a new purpose in life: it intends to educate its fellow Policers about us ‘animals.’"

Instead of going to one of the computer alcoves as Kirk had expected, Spock sat down at a table. "Would you like to play a game of chess, Captain?"

Kirk nodded. "Sure, but the chess boards are in..."

Spock picked up a box which had been sitting beside the table. Kirk recognized the object he pulled put of it immediately. It was the old three dimensional chess board from the Enterprise, some twenty years earlier.

Spock set each playing piece side by side gently. The board looked as though it had been meticulously taken care of. Spock sat down and moved the box off the table. He looked at his captain with a hint of a smile and asked, "Shall we get started?"

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