As Captain Garth brought the U.S.S. Heisenberg out of warp and prepared to enter standard orbit around Axanar, the ship's helmsman shouted, "There's a Romulan vessel in orbit around the planet!"
On the bridge viewscreen, the winged shape of a Romulan vessel, a raptor hovering over its prey, was now clearly visible against the pale blue orb of Axanar.
Garth stood up from his command chair and said calmly, "Prepare to retreat. Go to maximum warp."
"Retreat?" his first officer asked, watching Garth with a look of apprehension in his dark, almond-shaped eyes.
"Yes, retreat. At once!" There was no doubt in Garth's voice.
The Heisenberg accelerated beyond the orbital velocity toward which it had been slowing, outpaced the pull of the planet's gravitational well in a wide curve, and shot into warp.
"The Romulan is chasing us," the helmsman said softly, "and we can't outrun it."
Garth glanced back at his communications officer, a green-skinned but nonetheless beautiful woman with a cap of short dark hair. "Lieutenant," Garth said, "send a subspace message to Starbase at Tau Ceti, informing them of the Romulan presence."
"Yes, sir," the young woman replied.
As the Heisenberg went to maximum warp, the Romulan vessel kept pace. Ten hours passed while Garth sat at his station, silent and unmoving, an enigma to his officers and crew, all of whom knew that the Romulan battle cruiser could not only pace their ship but also match its firepower.
Was their captain simply trying to avoid a battle? From his navigator's station, James Kirk turned in his seat and looked aft at Garth, but could read nothing in his commanding officer's cold blue eyes and impassive face.
In the tenth hour, the Klingon vessel, straining at the limits of its warp drive, began to overtake the Heisenberg.
"Captain Garth," a voice called out. Kirk raised his eyes to the viewscreen as the face of a Romulan captain appeared, looking very much like Mr. Spock. "I know that you are receiving my message. Drop out of warp and surrender, or we will destroy your ship."
"I hear you," Garth replied. Kirk turned toward the command station for a moment and saw that Captain Garth was smiling.
"Drop out of warp and surrender," the Romulan captain repeated, and then the image on the screen faded out.
"Bridge to engineering," Garth said. "I am ordering a complete and immediate warp shutdown."
"We canna do that, Captain," one of the officers in engineering called out over the intercom. "The engines canna take it. We'll be at their mercy if we --"
"Those are my orders," Garth said. "Shut it down now."
The Heisenberg dropped out of warp, and Kirk realized that they were suddenly behind the Romulan vessel, which had come out of warp well ahead of Garth's ship. The Romulans would be confused now, seeing the Federation starship disappear without any of the usual deceleration signatures on their scan. But very soon the enemy would confirm that the Heisenberg was behind them, and the Romulan commander would open fire.
Garth would not fire upon the Romulans first; Kirk was sure of that. He would honor the book and wait until he was sure that his vessel was about to be attacked.
On the bridge viewscreen, the Romulan starship appeared.
Kirk noted the readings on his console. "Captain," he said, "enemy screen is down."
"Fire!" Garth shouted, knowing that the Romulan commander was about to do the same.
Kirk and the helmsman opened fire.
The Klingon cruiser blossomed into flame --
-- and Kirk awoke from his dream, with the fireball still in his brain...
He lay on his bed in the captain's quarters of the Enterprise, reflecting on the exactitude of his recurring dream and the meaning of past events.
Some years earlier, Captain Garth, the legendary Starfleet officer, had taken his starship to Axanar to stop an extremely bloody civil war between the two colonial settlements on that planet. At the heart of the conflict, Garth had discovered the presence of a Romulan mission. The Romulans had seen an opportunity to seize control of this star system near Tau Ceti, and thereby to encroach upon Federation space; the arrival of their battle cruiser had promised victory to one side, which could then hope to rule Axanar under Romulan patronage.
But inexplicably, Garth had ordered his starship to flee, and the Romulan vessel had given chase, its commander clearly fearful that the Federation vessel would alert Starfleet. The Romulans could not have understood or guessed at what Garth was up to, but could only hope to catch and destroy his vessel before it could send off a subspace alarm to the nearest starbase.
Kirk had studied the entire incident at Starfleet Academy. Garth of Izar had been the kind of officer destined to become a famed and admired figure, one whose military exploits were required reading and whose writings were part of the Academy's curriculum. After a ten-hour pursuit at top warp speed, with the Klingon cruiser gaining on the Federation vessel, Garth had executed what later became famous as the Cochrane deceleration maneuver. Under certain circumstances, although with a risk of some damage to the engines, warp drive could be suddenly shut down. A starship being chased by an enemy vessel would drop back and then abruptly appear behind her pursuers, prepared to fire upon an enemy baffled by the sudden disappearance of its prey. That was another tricky part of this maneuver, firing before the enemy ship could put up its shields. The decisive tactical advantage of reappearing without warning behind the enemy was worth the risk of damage from the sudden shutdown of the drive.
That was all there had ever been to the so-called Battle of Axanar, Kirk thought as he came fully awake. He often dreamed of Captain Garth's maneuver, and his dream was usually as accurate as the account that he had studied at the Academy, except in a few particulars. The Klingon captain of the battle cruiser could not have been Koloth, since he was not yet a captain at the time, and would live to challenge Kirk on the Enterprise on more than one occasion, most notably on Deep Space Station K-7. The first officer on the Heisenberg's bridge would also not have been the stocky, dark-haired man Kirk saw in his dream: Dr. Donald Cory, the governor of the asylum and penal colony on Elba II. And the communications officer with Garth at Axanar, according to records, had not been a green-skinned Orion, as was the woman in Kirk's dream; the officer he had dreamed of looked exactly like the ill-fated Marta, one of the inmates Kirk had encountered during his mission to Elba II a couple of years ago.
He thought of that unfortunate woman for a moment; the serum he had brought to Elba II, that had promised a cure for the few criminally insane inmates of the asylum, might have helped poor Marta control and conquer her murderous impulses and heal her tormented mind.
He pushed his memories of Elba II aside.
Garth's deceleration maneuver, Kirk mused, had possessed great tactical beauty, concealing a completely unexpected action. What a pity that, in all likelihood, it could only be done once. Now no one in command of a starship-class vessel would be taken in by such a ruse, which amounted to nothing more than being fooled into outpacing one's prey.
As he lay in bed, with some minutes left before he had to rise and prepare for return to duty, Kirk wondered again whether there might be some situation in which Garth's inspired move might be made to work again, if only one more time, before that particular circumstance also became so well known that it could never be repeated. It was a game that he played with himself, trying to summon a set of conditions in which the Cochrane Deceleration Maneuver might still succeed. He had once dreamed that he had found the answer, but could not remember what had seemed so clear in his dream.
As a consequence of Captain Garth's action, the warring colonies on Axanar had finally made peace; without the Klingon presence to tip the balance of power in favor of one side, the two antagonists had put aside their differences and signed perpetual accords. Kirk, although still a cadet, had shown enough promise to be chosen as a member of the Federation's peacemaking delegation to the planet, for which he had been honored with the Palm Leaf of the Axanar Peace Mission.
Kirk's time on Axanar had marked the beginning of his career as a Starfleet officer. It had also been the last great accomplishment on record of the supremely gifted Garth. Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad; that was part of Garth's story, too.
As he got up and began to dress, Kirk thought of the legends that had later grown up around the Axanar crisis. Garth's maneuver had been of short duration, but many tales stretched the pursuit of his starship across the whole quadrant, while the resolution of Axanar's civil war was often described as a major Federation victory, with Garth leading the victorious Starfleet forces.
Had Garth known that his destruction of the Klingon vessel would also defuse the civil war on Axanar? Historians liked to debate that one, but the man who might have answered the question directly was beyond questioning -- at least he had been up to now. Kirk suspected that Captain Garth, had he been able, might have answered modestly by saying that he had not planned for any such result, had perhaps only guessed at how the struggle on Axanar might end, and had simply hoped for the best. Things might have turned out differently, with the two factions continuing their struggle even without a Klingon presence.
Kirk let out his breath as he straightened the sleeves of his uniform. He might soon be able to ask any questions he liked of the man he had so admired during his Academy days and had then come to fear during their violent encounter in the asylum on Elba II.
Garth, according to a recent message from Admiral José Mendez, was now in full recovery after his nearly two-year course of treatment. Dr. Cory had released him from the asylum at Elba II; indeed, with the success of the new serum and other innovative therapies, Cory was certain that the few remaining inmates of Elba II would soon be capable of leading normal and constructive lives. The governor would see the time when his asylum for criminally insane humanoids would at last be closed for good. Mendez was certain that Kirk would welcome the news.
Kirk was grateful for the message, but another question had immediately come to him: What kind of life could there now be for Garth of Izar, who had already lived one life as one of Starfleet's most brilliant officers and another as a murderous madman? Had his therapy healed him, or only made him into a man for whom there was no place, who would have to live on the margins of a society that might forever distrust him?
The new yeoman, Lesley Wodehouse, was waiting for Kirk when he came to the bridge of the Enterprise. The young woman had been on duty for only fourteen days, but Kirk had already come to appreciate her efficiency. Before he could ask for one, she had handed him a cup of coffee; by the time he was seated at his station, she had asked Lieutenant Uhura to call up a subspace message from Admiral Mendez, which had come in only a few moments ago.
"Admiral José Mendez to Captain James T. Kirk," the voice said over the comm. "Just a message to let you know that I'm forwarding a petition we received from Captain Garth of Izar to you." Kirk leaned forward, struck by the coincidence of hearing about the man who had so recently been on his mind. "He's fully recovered now, and has been meeting with me and with other officers at Starfleet headquarters. As soon as you've looked over Captain Garth's petition, get back to me -- I want to discuss it with you in more detail. Mendez out."
Garth's petition was marked confidential and attached to the message in text form. Kirk was about to open the file when Yeoman Wodehouse murmured, "Garth of Izar -- I remember reading about his exploits. There doesn't seem to be much on the record about his later life, only the fact that he was relieved from his command after a mission to Antos IV and sent to a medical facility for treatment."
"That is so," Commander Spock said from his computer station. "In fact, the captain and I had an encounter with Captain Garth nearly two years ago, on Elba II."
"Elba II?" The redhaired yeoman frowned. "But isn't that --"
"-- the asylum for the criminally insane," Kirk finished. "Garth of Izar was an inmate there at the time I was ordered to Elba II with a new drug that promised a complete cure, when used with other treatments."
"Obviously the treatment was successful," Ensign Pavel Chekov said from his navigator's station, "since he has been released."
"So that was where he was sent after being relieved from command?" Yeoman Wodehouse asked.
"I'd better start at the beginning," Kirk said. "A few years ago, Captain Garth and his starship crew were sent on a mission to Antos IV. When he got there and beamed down to the surface, he was horribly injured in an accident caused by a transporter malfunction. The Antosians were able to heal Garth, but along with the cure, they taught him the techniques of cellular metamorphosis. Garth left the surface of Antos IV able to take on any shape he wished. He then ordered his crew to destroy the Antosians and their world."
"But why?" the yeoman asked. "We've always assumed that the Antosians are one of the most peaceful races in the galaxy."
"We do not know why Garth acted as he did," Spock replied, "but his officers refused to obey the order. By the time they were able to gain control of their ship, Captain Garth had killed his first and second officers. He called their actions mutiny, but given that his medical officer later claimed that Garth was mentally ill and had to be removed from command, his officers were considered justified in their actions, and the charge of mutiny was posthumously erased from their records."
"He was sent to Elba II," Kirk continued, "and it was expected that he would be confined there for the rest of his life. Fortunately, a new serum was developed that promised to cure even the most seriously ill and dangerous inmates. I was sent on a mission to deliver that drug to the medical staff. What I didn't realize until Spock and I had beamed down to the asylum was that Garth had assumed the appearance of Dr. Cory, the governor, and taken over the place. His objective was to force Spock and me to help him gain command of the Enterprise."
"We were unarmed," Spock said, "and it was not possible for Lieutenant Commander Scott, who was left in command of our ship, to beam us up, since he could not penetrate the force field surrounding the asylum without risking the lives of everyone inside the facility. Captain Garth attempted to bend us to his will through threats, torture, and deception, and even tried to deceive me at one point by taking on the shape of Captain Kirk. His impersonation was most convincing."
"But fortunately not convincing enough," Kirk cut in. "We were able to subdue Garth and restore control of the asylum to Dr. Cory, and when we left, Garth was already beginning to recover thanks to the serum we brought. He had no memory afterward of anything he'd done to us, and perhaps that was a mercy."
There was no need, Kirk thought, to go into all the details of the encounter, the unsuccessful attempts of the beautiful Orion inmate Marta to seduce him into giving her the password that would enable Garth to board the Enterprise, the tortures Garth had inflicted on his captives. Garth, perhaps enraged by Marta's failure to get the information he wanted from Kirk, had finally had the poor woman dragged outside the asylum's dome and left there, gasping for breath in the poisonous atmosphere, before killing her with a powerful explosive he had managed to develop during his imprisonment. That the cruel Marta was herself a serial murderer with several victims to her credit did not excuse Garth's actions; she had been as insane and irrational as he.
"A madman and shape-changer in control of a starship," Yeoman Wodehouse murmured. "It's a good thing you and Mr. Spock were able to prevent that."
Kirk thought of the mystery of what had happened to Garth on Antos IV. Maybe Garth would finally be able to answer questions about Antos IV and explain why he had tried to destroy the people there who had saved his life.
Was it something about the techniques of cellular metamorphosis taught to him by the Antosians, so necessary to mend Garth's broken body, that had driven him insane? What had been the nature of his original mission to Antos IV? Coincidentally, the transporter accident had left him terribly broken but at the same time in the hands of the race most able to help him. Why then, upon his return to his ship, had Garth ordered the destruction of his benefactors' planet?
Donald Cory believed that the morphing abilities taught to Garth in order to save his life had unbalanced his mind in subtle ways. Others thought that Garth might have become extremely suspicious of the Antosians after he saw that they possessed the skill of cellular metamorphosis, because he viewed that talent as too great a temptation to the pursuit of power. Garth's own behavior certainly demonstrated the power of that temptation; fortunately, his officers and crew had refused to obey him. As he descended into mental illness, his original fear of the Antosians went with him, blossoming into a lust for power and glory divorced from all sanity.
Kirk had imagined it often, that scene on the bridge of Garth's starship. Garth would have drawn his phaser and dissolved his second-in-command, and then the second officer. The horror of the scene so impressed Kirk that he regarded it almost as a personal memory. He saw himself in the place of one of the officers on the bridge, watching a respected and legendary officer transformed into a madman and a murderer, and knew how much courage it must have taken for them to stand against their commander.
"Lord Garth," the man had called himself while tormenting Kirk in the asylum, insisting on the title, his mood fluctuating wildly between serenity, even gentleness, and violent mania. There had been little chance of the insane "Lord Garth" escaping from his prison, but he and Spock might well have died preventing it. The hero of Kirk's cadet days might have killed him on Elba II, but he would not have escaped to command the Enterprise; there had been too many safeguards in place to defeat Garth's mad ingenuity and genius, even if stopping him had cost more lives.
Still, the nightmarish possibility, however slight, had existed -- that of a starship taken over by a crew of criminally insane people and commanded by a rogue capable of taking the shape of anyone sent against him, of disguising himself as anyone who might further his dream of conquest. As was the case with his Cochrane deceleration maneuver, this might have been a ruse Garth could have used only once; like the invisible man of H. G. Wells's classic tale, his power would have become useless once others found out about it. But many might have died in the meantime.
Kirk knew that he might have died at his hero's hands, and yet his original admiration for Captain Garth had survived the troubling events on Elba II, and had only grown stronger with the possibility that the great commander might recover. Garth had been insane, unable to control himself, not responsible for his actions; Kirk had always tried to keep that in mind.
He recalled those last moments on Elba II, when Garth, after his first session of therapy with the new serum and free of the memory of his violent aberrations, had looked at Kirk and asked, "Should I know you, sir?" How Kirk had wanted to say "yes" to the hero of his youth, and he had almost said so, for no reason other than that he had admired Garth, once hoping to emulate him, and might be able to help him. And earlier in their encounter, when a raging Garth had heard that his works were still studied at Starfleet Academy and had said, "As well they should be!" Kirk had heard in the man's proud voice something of the heroic, logical mind whose spirit had been as strong as a sun.
By now, the Garth who had killed his officers, who had threatened a world with destruction, who had tortured him and Spock and Cory and had killed the madwoman Marta, was no more. He had died somewhere in the labyrinthine complexities of a powerful, maddened personality.
Copyright © 2003 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
Garth of Izar
GARTH OF IZAR: Brutal injuries sustained on Antos IV forced the native Antosians to heal him by means of giving him their natural shape-changing abilities. But the cure proved worse than the disease, as Garth was driven insane...
GARTH OF IZAR: His madness apparently cured at the rehab colony on Elba II, Captain Garth has returned to service to mediate a crisis on Antos IV, with the aid of Captain Kirk and the Starship Enterprise. But has Garth truly put his insanity behind him, or will he renew his plans for conquest -- starting with the Antosians?
- Pocket Books/Star Trek |
- 288 pages |
- ISBN 9780743466998 |
- March 2003