This story is a sequel to my all-time favorite Star Trek episode, The Corbomite Maneuver, in which the Enterprise is blocked by a mysterious spinning cube. Captain Kirk is forced to destroy the cube, and then the ship encounters the malevolent alien Balok in his gigantic First Federation ship, the Fesarius. Kirk bluffs his way out of destruction by claiming to have corbomite on board, which supposedly can destroy any attacking ship. Then Balok pretends to be crippled, to test Kirk for the peaceful intentions our good captain claims to have. The alien turns out to be a friendly fellow, and looks about two years old.
The sequel here takes place between the first and second seasons of the original series. For commentary, click on the links in the text.
“Has the Enterprise changed course yet?”
“No, Balok,” said Bailey. “They’re still moving straight for us at warp factor six.”
“Your Captain Kirk is a very persistent fellow, (1) Dave,” said Balok. “We must stop here, nevertheless.”
“Engines shutting down, Commander,” said Bailey. “At their current rate of approach, we will be detected in a matter of minutes.”
* * * * *
Pavel Chekov manned the navigator’s station on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, staring at the main view screen in a hypnotic-like trance as the stars passed by, and yawned. His internal clock still hadn’t adjusted to keeping the third watch. A row of twittering lights chirped in a lazy progression below the screen, mesmerizing him.
“I’ll give you a penny for your thoughts.”
The baritone voice of Lieutenant Sulu broke into his consciousness. Chekov bolted upright in his seat. Here he was serving duty with the ship’s chief helmsman for the first time, and he had been caught dozing.
“Sorry, lieutenant,” the young ensign said crisply in his Russian accent, without averting his gaze from the screen. “I was daydreaming. It won’t happen again.”
“Relax,” said Sulu. “This thing will alert us to anything that needs our attention.”
He indicated the red beacon standing dormant on the console between their stations. Chekov looked at Sulu, whose broadly-beaming smile immediately put him at ease.
“I haven’t done the night shift in quite some time,” said the lieutenant. “I had forgotten how peaceful this is.” He waved his hand, indicating the panoramic screen in front of them, and leaned back in his seat. “It’s just us and the stars.”
The turbo-lift doors swished open behind them. Chekov turned around to check out the possible arrival of a pretty yeoman, and stiffened again. The newcomer was his commanding officer. Chekov hadn’t seen James Kirk much during his brief assignment on board, and now the unexpected presence of the captain forced a nervous bead of sweat to form across his brow.
Kirk took a momentary stance at the back of the nearly vacant bridge, surveying the banks of chattering consoles. He gave his uniform a habitual tug around the waist before stepping down next to his swiveled command con.
“Mr. Sulu,” he said, placing a hand on the armrest. “I thought I would find you sitting in my chair. Isn’t it (2) comfortable enough?”
Chekov wondered, too, why Sulu hadn’t taken the commander’s seat, as was his prerogative as Officer of the Deck.
“I’m more comfortable right here, Captain,” said Sulu.
“Perfectly understandable, helmsman,” said Kirk, taking his place in the chair. “There’s nothing like sitting behind the controls of a starship.”
An uncomfortable pause followed, during which Chekov wasn’t sure he should say something, but fortunately Sulu spoke first.
“Trouble sleeping, sir?”
“You could say that,” said Kirk. “I thought I would come up here for a while and gaze at the stars.”
“I was just talking to Chekov here about that,” said Sulu.
Chekov’s heart skipped upon the mention of his name in the captain’s presence.
“Mr. Chekov.” Kirk said the name slowly as he recalled who the ensign was. “You recently came to us from the Academy, didn’t you?”
“Yes, keptin,” said Chekov, stiffening his posture even more than he was already.
“I saw your name mentioned in the report on the (3) Khan affair. Nice work.”
“I was merely performing my duty, sir.”
Any junior navigator worth a credit could have located a habitable planet for the exile of Khan and his people after their unsuccessful attempt to commandeer the ship, but Chekov was gratified the captain took notice.
Kirk rose from the command chair and strode to the front of the bridge.
“Mr. Sulu,” he said after a moment’s pacing before the main viewer. “How long since we passed the spot where we left Bailey with Commander Balok?”
“Six days, twenty-two hours, and thirty-seven minutes,” Sulu answered, without consulting the chronometer.
Kirk paused in his steps. “And we’ve held to the last known course of Balok’s ship that whole time?”
“Where is this First Federation?” said the captain, resuming his walk. “No inhabited planets. No ships. No space stations. There’s nothing out here.”
“Not even a spinning cube,” Sulu mumbled.
The fate of Lieutenant Dave Bailey weighed heavily on Kirk’s mind. For over six months no communication had been received from his former navigator since assigning him as liaison to the powerful alien Balok whom they encountered beyond the edge of known space. If Bailey wasn’t found on this current excursion, Starfleet intended to list him as missing.
The master alarm on the helm console flashed red and beeped. At last, something!
“Sulu, what is it?”
The helmsman was already peering into his pop-up scanner. “Long range sensors are picking up a large object,” he reported. “Same dimensions as the Fesarius, Balok’s ship. It’s just sitting there stationary in space.”
“Yellow alert,” Kirk commanded.
* * * * *
“What are we going to do, Balok?”
“We stall them, Dave. You’re not ready to show yourself yet.”
* * * * *
The officers of the first watch reported to the bridge, including the Vulcan science officer Spock and the communications specialist Uhura. Chekov was glad his own first-string replacement (4) Lieutenant Riley was incapacitated with the Rigellian flu, so he could remain at his post during what promised to be an interesting adventure.
“Uhura,” said Kirk, now pacing by the lovely lieutenant’s station. “Has there been any response to our hails?”
Uhura momentarily pulled the transponder from her ear. “No, sir,” she said in her slightly melodic voice. “There’s still nothing on any channel.”
“Captain,” Sulu called from the helm. “We’re moving into visual range of the Fesarius.”
Kirk moved forward to look, stopping at Spock’s science station. Gradually, although not as quickly as the first encounter six months ago, the massive pulsating sphere of the Fesarius filled the main viewer. According to the captain’s recollection, the First Federation ship measured more than a mile in diameter, but something about the fluctuating green orbs covering its surface had changed.
“Spock,” he said. “It wasn’t spinning last time, was it?”
“Fascinating,” the Vulcan said, arching an eyebrow. “The motion resembles the multi-axis rotation of Balok’s warning buoy from our previous encounter, although at a significantly slower rate.”
Kirk tensed at the mention of the spinning cube, which had bombarded them with deadly radiation before they met the Fesarius that first time. Only a timely phaser blast had saved the Enterprise.
Spock peered into the library computer viewer at his station. “It’s turning approximately one revolution per minute.”
At the helm console, Sulu quipped to Chekov. “Maybe we should go into orbit around it.”
“Mr. Sulu,” Kirk called from the science station, causing the helmsman to snap to attention. “Run a circle around the Fesarius. Let’s have a look at it from every angle.”
While Sulu skillfully piloted the Enterprise in a casual arc about the other, much larger ship, Kirk instructed Spock to scan the First Federation vessel for life signs.
“Not possible,” said the Vulcan. “Our sensors are unable to penetrate Balok’s shields. Remember, the last time when we could scan him, it was because he permitted us to do so.”
Without warning, the deck heaved under Kirk’s feet. The captain had to brace himself against Spock’s shoulder to keep from hurling headlong into the science officer’s console. The violent tremor shaking the Enterprise lasted for several seconds.
“What was that?” said Kirk, after the disturbance passed. “Tractor beam?”
Spock consulted the library computer.
“Negative,” he reported. “We were hit by a wave of sub-elementary particles emanating from the Fesarius, the same type of radiation that was emitted by the buoy.”
Kirk thanked the yellow alert for having the Enterprise shields up, or else they would have been fried.
“An attack?” he inquired.
“I don't think so,” said Spock. “The Fesarius is making no further emissions other than maintaining shields.”
Kirk shot a glance towards Uhura, who merely shook her head. Balok wasn’t transmitting. Perhaps the Fesarius had suffered an accident, and the alien and Bailey were incapacitated. Kirk knew he had to get over there to investigate, but the other ship’s shields precluded using the transporter.
“Uhura, inform Dr. McCoy to join me on the hanger deck.”
“Mr. Chekov,” he called to the navigator’s station. “You’re with me.”
The ensign was too surprised to move. Why did the captain want him to go along? What could he possibly contribute?
“Ensign,” said Kirk, with an impatient tone creeping into his voice. “Are you coming?”
“Go on,” said Sulu, smiling encouragement. “It means he likes you.”
* * * * *
“Balok, the Enterprise is opening shuttle bay doors.”
“As I said, your captain is most persistent. We can no longer ignore the hails. Open a channel, Dave.”
* * * * *
Chekov settled into a seat on board the shuttlecraft Copernicus behind his captain who manned the controls and the Chief Medical Officer of the Enterprise, Dr. McCoy. Fortunately for Chekov, the doctor enjoyed a sufficient enough familiarity with Kirk to ask the same question he was pondering.
“Jim, how do you expect to get on board Balok’s ship through those shields of his?”
“I don’t know, Bones, but we have to try,” said Kirk. “Maybe there’s a chink in the shielding we can slip through. Balok’s not moving and he’s not talking, either by intention or he’s unable to. We have to find out what’s going on, and what happened to Bailey.”
“I know you’re fond of the lieutenant,” said McCoy, giving Kirk a reassuring pat on the shoulder. “He’ll be all right.”
The shrill tone of the intercom interrupted the captain’s reply. He punched the button to answer it.
“Captain,” said Uhura’s voice. “I have Commander Balok.”
“Patch him through.”
The next voice was high-pitched and friendly.
“It’s good to hear from you, Commander,” Kirk spoke to his First Federation counterpart. “Is everything shipshape over there?”
“I apologize for not responding to your message sooner,” said Balok. “Just having some problems with my power grid, but there’s nothing to worry about. I have Bailey working on repairs.”
“Bailey!” Kirk said excitedly. “How’s my officer doing?”
“He’s doing just fine,” Balok’s upbeat voice responded. “No need to worry about him.”
“May I talk to him?”
“I’m afraid he’s quite busy right now. You’ll have to converse with him later when he has more time.”
Kirk frowned and spoke more forcefully into the intercom. “I haven’t heard anything from him since our last meeting and that concerns me. I must to speak to him.”
“You shall, in time,” said Balok. “Better yet, you should come over to see him. The Fesarius is an amazing ship, and I missed the chance to show it to you on our previous meeting.”
“Very well, I’m on my way,” Kirk replied. “The good doctor, whom you already know, and another promising young member of my crew are coming with me.”
“Oh no, you cannot get here by shuttle,” said Balok. “I have no landing area. You must use your transporter. I’ll transmit the coordinates.”
“Send them and I’ll be right over, Kirk out.”
* * * * *
“Dave, your captain’s a shrewd man. He’s already getting suspicious.”
“What are we going to do, Balok? He’s going to discover our secret.”
“Don’t panic, Dave. This simply buys us more time, and we don’t have to wait much longer. Your voice is changing.”
* * * * *
Chekov followed Kirk and McCoy to the transporter room, finding Chief Engineer Scott at the controls. What a duty shift, the ensign told himself. He was getting to see every senior officer the Enterprise had to offer, and the captain had called him a promising young officer. He took his position on the platform and stooped down holding his knees as Kirk motioned for him to do. Apparently, the alien ship had low ceilings.
“No need to bend over, gentlemen,” said Scott. “There’s plenty of room this time. I’m reading a big hollow space over there.”
By the time Chekov straightened his posture, he had rematerialized with his two shipmates. The jaws of all three men gaped in wonder at what they saw; trees, vegetation, ponds, and waterfalls curving away from them in all directions and hanging upside down across what should have been the sky about mile above them. They were, in fact, standing on the inside surface of the sphere that was the Fesarius. This explained the purpose of the ship’s rotation they had observed earlier, Chekov concluded. The spinning produced enough artificial gravity to keep them and all of the water from floating free.
McCoy spoke first. “To quote our first officer, fascinating.”
The doctor opened his tricorder to take readings. Chekov used his tricorder, too. As he gathered data, the ensign wondered how the place could be illuminated as bright as day without a discernable light source.
The captain flipped his communicator open. “Kirk to Enterprise.”
“We’re in, Scotty. It’s quite a handsome scene over here. I’ll fill you in about it later, but for now there’s nothing more to report.”
By the time Kirk snapped the communicator shut, McCoy had completed his preliminary scan. “Jim, this is no illusion,” the doctor said. “This dirt, these trees and plants, and the water are all real.”
“It smells real,” said the captain, sniffing the air. His olfactory detected the fresh scent of flowers.
“This is remarkable,” said McCoy. “Balok has a perfectly balanced ecosystem in here.”
“Speaking of our host,” said Kirk. “Why isn’t he here to greet us?”
They occupied the middle of a grassy clearing. The surrounding trees offered no fewer than five dirt paths to follow, and no sign of the alien.
“Keptin,” said Chekov, pointing above his head. “There’s a structure up there.”
Kirk and McCoy craned their necks to look, and sure enough, a low building was hanging upside down amidst the trees next to one of the ponds.
“Well, that couldn’t be any further away,” McCoy muttered.
“Somehow I get the impression Balok’s not in a particular hurry to see us,” said Kirk. “We’re going to have to find our way around the ponds to get there.”
Chekov tapped his tricorder. “Sir, I’ve mapped the whole interior.”
“Good work, Ensign,” Kirk said with a smile. “Lead the way.”
They had taken only a few steps when a terrible quaking, even worse than the jarring than they had endured on the Enterprise, tossed them to the ground. Fortunately, the turf was spongy soft and the temblor was just as brief as the previous one.
McCoy picked himself up to his feet with the others, brushing blades of grass from his blue uniform. “I hope Balok fixes his power grid soon,” he said. “I’m not looking forward to floating into the middle of this ball if the gravity fails.”
Kirk answered a beeping communicator.
Scott spoke. “Is everything all right over there, Captain?”
Kirk asked him to hold while McCoy took a quick tricorder reading.
“We’re in the eye of the storm, so to speak,” said the doctor. “There’s a small level of sub-particular radiation, but not enough to pose a threat.”
“We’re in no immediate danger,” Kirk told Scott. “What about you? How much more radiation can the Enterprise withstand?”
“That dose was a wee bit stronger, but well within the capability of the shields to handle,” said Scott. “We’ll do just fine unless it gets much worse.”
Kirk pocketed the communicator and motioned for Chekov to resume the hike towards the building over their heads. Tricorder in hand, the ensign chose one of the ways through the woods to follow. The hard-packed dirt path curved steadily upwards, seemingly a steep climb, but Kirk noted how the ground always remained level as he walked behind Chekov. McCoy lagged at the rear of their little column, continuing to monitor his tricorder.
“Jim, the sub-particular radiation seems to be coming from the vegetation,” he said. “Every living thing I’ve scanned so far has it.”
Kirk filed the information in his mind for future reference. Whatever was causing the radiation, it wasn’t a faulty power grid. Balok was hiding something.
* * * * *
“Commander, they’re heading straight towards you.”
“No problem, Dave. Are the charges set?”
“I’m almost done, Balok.”
* * * * *
After walking for an hour, Kirk figured he had enough exercise for the day, and fortunately, no recurring quake had struck them.
“Chekov, are we going to get there soon?” said McCoy.
“Yes, doctor,” said the ensign. “We just need to get to the other side of that pond up there.”
They walked around the water and encountered a stone wall covered with vines, except where a recessed alcove presented a low door.
“What do we do now?” said McCoy, regarding the closed gray slab. It had no handle or any other feature. “Knock?”
Kirk reached to touch the polished surface, but the portal opened on its own volition before he made contact by sliding straight into the ground. A bald four-foot-tall figure dressed in a glimmering turquoise tunic stood just inside the entrance, framed by a brightly illuminated interior.
“Here you are. Welcome.”
The voice was Balok’s, although the aged wrinkle-skinned alien no longer had the appearance of a young child as Kirk remembered him.
“Commander?” he said, uncertainly.
Balok laughed. “Don’t be alarmed, Captain. The change you see in my physical appearance is not unexpected. Please, come in.”
Of course, rapid aging wouldn’t be unexpected from a bombardment of sub-elementary particles, but Kirk kept his suspicions to himself in spite of his renewed alarm for Bailey’s well-being. He stooped through the entrance, followed by McCoy and Chekov. The place had a ceiling just high enough for them to stand erect inside. After a re-acquaintance with Dr. McCoy and an introduction to Chekov, Balok led the way down a nearby set of steps.
McCoy offered conversation. “Commander Balok, you have quite a view out there.”
“Ah, the Fesarius,” said Balok, amiably as ever. “She’s a marvelous ship. There’s no doubt about that. I’m glad you’ve finally been able to see it.”
They sure had, Kirk brooded to himself, having walked from one end of it to the other. He was in no mood for small talk.
“Is Bailey down here?”
“No,” said Balok. “He’s elsewhere, doing something for me.”
Kirk was about to utter a protest, but the commander of the Fesarius continued speaking.
“I know how anxious you are concerning Bailey, Captain. You’ll get to speak to him in a moment, I assure you.”
Kirk willed himself to wait for that moment longer. At the bottom of the stairs, he recognized the same curtained and carpeted chamber where he had first met Balok. They were inside the commander’s personal shuttle that could separate itself from the Fesarius.
Balok tapped a button. “Dave,” he said. “Your captain’s here.”
“Sir, I’m glad to have you back.”
Kirk recognized Bailey’s voice.
“It’s good to hear from you, Bailey,” he said, perhaps louder than necessary for the hidden communications system to transmit his voice. “How’s Commander Balok been treating you?”
“He’s a most hospitable host, sir. Have you seen his Garden of Eden?”
Before Kirk could answer, the surrounding structure reeled under the strongest and most sustained tremor yet. The Fesarius howled with the deafening sound of twisting and moaning metal. Kirk lost his footing and careened across the chamber to a padded impact against one of the curtained walls. Chekov and McCoy collided into each other and landed in a heap with their tricorders on the floor. Only Balok maintained his balance.
As soon as the shaking ceased, Kirk regained his feet and bounded threateningly towards the diminutive alien. “All right, Balok,” he shouted. “You better tell me what the devil’s going on here.”
Balok shrugged in resignation. “I have to level with you, Captain,” he said. “My corbomite’s losing stability.”
Kirk paused upon the mention of the mythical substance corbomite, which had been concocted by his fertile imagination to bluff the First Federation commander into not destroying the Enterprise. His communicator beeped, but he ignored it.
“Corbomite?” he said, exchanging glances with McCoy, who also knew the stuff didn’t exist.
Balok laughed. “That’s what Bailey calls my power source, although it’s not the same thing as your corbomite.”
Kirk knew he was being teased. Whether Balok had always recognized his trick, or figured it out later, didn’t much matter. Balok’s corbomite obviously did exist, and something was going seriously wrong with it. Moreover, something about the alien’s appearance alarmed him. He answered the communicator, ordering Scott to stand by, and then glared at Balok.
“I thought you said there wasn’t anything to worry about.”
As he studied Balok’s face for any telltale expression, he realized what about the alien had changed. The wrinkles around his eyes had deepened, and the skin on his cheeks had sallowed, as if he had instantly aged a number of years.
Balok remained as cheerful as ever. “There isn’t anything to worry about,” he claimed. “All we have to do is get off the Fesarius, which my little vessel here will allow us to do.”
“I’m not leaving without Bailey,” said Kirk.
He wondered whether the lieutenant was undergoing the same rapid aging as Balok.
“Of course not,” said Balok. He tapped the communications button. “Dave, are you ready to transport to the Enterprise?”
“Yes, Balok,” said Bailey’s voice. “I’m back to my old self, more or less.”
“Then transmit your coordinates. I’ll see you there.”
Kirk made no delay calling the Enterprise, and received a report from Scott that the Fesarius had dropped shields.
“Locate Bailey’s signal and beam him aboard,” he told the chief engineer.
Balok was anxious to disengage his small vessel from the main ship, but Kirk held a phaser on him until Scott confirmed Bailey had been transported on board the Enterprise.
“How is he?” Kirk asked his engineer, inquiring about Bailey’s condition. “Does he look any older?”
“No, sir,” said Scott. “He’s the same strapping young lad I remember.”
Kirk lowered his phaser, satisfied Bailey had come to no harm. Apparently, only Balok’s alien physiology was subject to the rapid aging. Of course, McCoy’s examination of both subjects later would provide a more definitive answer.
No longer stopped by the point of a phaser, Balok frantically worked at a bank of controls. “We must hurry,” he said. “Warn your ship to get out of here, now!”
Kirk gave the command into his communicator. “Sulu, go to maximum warp without delay. Set a course for Federation space. We’ll be right behind you.”
Balok’s shuttle separated from the Fesarius with a sharp jolt, and then lurched under a rapid acceleration. A small screen displayed the Enterprise retreating at high warp. The ship’s pair of warp nacelles soared majestically over a posterior view of the hanger deck doors, outfitted with an array of blinking navigational lights. The unchanging size of the starship indicated the pursuit of the shuttle at a matching warp speed.
Another screen showed the rapidly shrinking sphere of the Fesarius. Eventually, the mother ship faded to a speck in the star field and then the view exploded into a blinding flash of white light. A moment later, the shock wave hit the shuttle with a slight shudder.
McCoy offered consolation. “Balok, I’m sorry. The Fesarius was a fine ship.”
“Don’t be sad,” said Balok, still smiling. “It was meant to be.”
Instead of thinking about what had been, Kirk focused his mind on matters to come. “Commander,” he said. “Does this vessel have much range to get anywhere?”
“Not far, I’m afraid.”
“Then let us return you to the First Federation,” said Kirk, seeing an opportunity to establish more substantial relations with a neighboring galactic power if one indeed existed.
Balok burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. “Captain, there is no First Federation,” he said after recovering somewhat. “Not on this side of the galaxy, anyway.”
“I see,” said Kirk. “You truly are alone out here.”
McCoy broke in. “May I ask, Commander Balok, how you came to our side of the galaxy?”
“Wormhole,” said Balok.
Kirk gave a nod, pleased by the potential wealth of knowledge Balok had to offer. The Federation’s knowledge about wormholes was limited at best.
(5) The alien continued speaking. “Unfortunately, the wormhole jumped to a different location after my arrival and left me stranded here. You can imagine how frightened I was as I wandered by myself through unknown and potentially hostile space, hence my need to put on a big show of force the first time I encountered you. However, reading the data banks from your ship’s computer gave me hope I truly had contacted a benign Federation where I could live in peace, although I wasn’t fully convinced until you showed me mercy and allowed me to spend time with your Mr. Bailey.”
Chekov observed his captain’s interaction with the alien, gaining more respect for his commanding officer by the minute. The man knew when to talk and extract information, as well as when to act.
“Balok, consider yourself to have a new home with us,” said Kirk. “I’m sure you’ll be able to settle anywhere in the Federation you wish.”
“I’m forever in your debt, Captain.” For the first time, the smile disappeared from Balok’s face as his eyes swelled with what appeared to be tears of joy. “In return, I offer whatever information I was able to pack into the memory banks of this shuttle, including the recipe for (6) tranya.”
“Hmm, tranya,” said McCoy, smacking his lips.
Chekov didn’t have to wonder about tranya for long, because Balok promptly produced four glasses of a tangerine-colored juice from a food replicator in the wall. The nectar tasted sweetly sour with a touch of fermentation.
After a toast welcoming Balok to the Federation, Kirk ordered the Enterprise to take the alien’s shuttle in tow and then everybody transported to the starship.
* * * * *
Later, Dave Bailey returned with Balok to the shuttle for a private conversation.
The lieutenant ran a hand through his curly brown hair. “I don’t know, Balok,” he said. “Do you think we fooled them?”
“Your captain suspects something,” said Balok. “But he hasn’t pressed the issue. Perhaps he will conclude that not knowing the whole truth is for the best.”
“That I’m not the real Bailey?”
“Dave, you are the real Bailey. Your mind is exactly the same, and your body is a genetic replica of your old one.”
“I suppose you’re right, Balok, but nobody should know how you regenerated me. My only regret is the sacrifice you had to make for it to happen.”
“Dave, you know the Fesarius had to be destroyed to disrupt the matrix. Otherwise, you would have died of old age in a matter of days.”
“But now you’re old, Balok.”
Balok laughed. “I still have a few good years left, Dave,” he said. “It was the least I could do after I failed to realize my corbomite would be lethal to you. Besides, how would I have explained to your captain you were gone? That wouldn’t have been very good for interstellar relations.”
Bailey lifted his glass of tranya for a toast. “Here’s to interstellar relations.”
* * * * *
Kirk didn’t wait for McCoy to summon him to Sickbay. He wanted to get the results of the physical examinations as soon as possible, without waiting for the doctor to write the reports. Not that he was too worried about anybody’s health. Bailey seemed to be more fit than ever since his return. If anything, the lieutenant actually looked younger. Something had happened on the Fesarius and Kirk wanted more information. He found McCoy sitting at his desk, entering data into the computer.
The doctor had a positive report. “The short of it, Jim, is everyone’s in perfect health,” he said. “You, Chekov, and I show no ill effect from being on board the Fesarius during the bursts of radiation. Balok appears to be fine, other than his apparent aging, but that could be normal for him for all I know about his species.”
“What about Bailey?” Kirk asked.
“He’s the most interesting case,” said McCoy, displaying some computer graphics for the captain. “A nasty scar he received from a (7) fencing match against Sulu has disappeared. Granted, it easily could have been removed if he hadn’t been so proud of it and refused to let me treat it, but there are other irregularities that are harder to explain.”
“His wisdom teeth are back, and his body shows no sign of receiving any immunizations.”
“Is he an imposter?” said Kirk, remembering the (8) android replication of his own person by Nurse Chapel’s former love interest Dr. Korby.
McCoy shook his head. “All the tests indicate he’s the real Bailey,” he said. “His (9) retina scan, (10) memory engrams, D.N.A., and even old-fashioned fingerprints are all a perfect match. The only abnormality I could detect was an infinitesimal level of the sub-particular radiation in his tissue, the same as I found in the vegetation on the Fesarius. I wouldn’t have even noticed it if I hadn’t specifically checked for it.”
“What does it mean?” Kirk asked.
“Nothing, necessarily,” said McCoy. “It might be caused by something as simple as him eating the homegrown vegetables on board the Fesarius.”
“Then you’re recommending he’s ready to return to active duty?”
“If he wants, but just to warn you, Jim; I sense he wishes to stay with Balok.”
* * * * *
Kirk returned to his quarters in a subdued mood. He had wanted to think of Bailey as a son and now that he had found him, he feared McCoy was correct and the lieutenant would leave the crew of the Enterprise. At least, he could take consolation that Chekov seemed to be a suitable replacement for his desire to mentor a young officer. He knew he shouldn’t have a favorite, but it was how he dealt with the pain of being excluded from the life of his actual son, David.
His thoughts turned to the boy’s mother, Dr. Carol Marcus, a brilliant woman and the Federation’s leading geneticist. She certainly would be interested in Balok’s data. Spock was already analyzing it and had mentioned finding a theoretical basis for a (11) gene re-sequencing technology. Something that would take years to develop into a practical application, he recalled the Vulcan saying. If anyone could do so, that person was Carol, and he could arrange for her to get access to the information. She might even solve the mystery someday of what really happened to Bailey.
(1) Dave Bailey was the navigator who got a little excited in the original episode, and had to be temporarily relieved of duty. He volunteered to stay with Balok at the end of the episode. Although only referred to by his surname Bailey, the episode credits identified his given name as Dave. Return to the story.
(2) A subtle reference to Worf's statement on Next Generation, "Comfortable chair." Return to the story.
(3) Here I take the liberty to explain how Khan recognized Chekov in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, even though Chekov wasn't on the show in the first season when the Khan episode, Space Seed, aired. This reference also ties into the end of the story. Return to the story.
(4) Kevin Riley was a popular character who appeared in two episodes of the first season, The Naked Time and The Conscience of the King. He's best known for locking himself in Engineering and almost letting the Enterprise burn up in orbit. Return to the story.
(5) The unstability of wormholes was established during Next Generation, although the Deep Space Nine wormhole is a notable exception. Balok's side of the story given here is a logical extrapolation of the original episode, or at least Spock would think so. Return to the story.
(6) And so the stuff appeared at Quark's bar a generation later. Return to the story.
(7) A reference to Sulu's running amuck through the ship in The Naked Time. Return to the story.
(8) During the original series episode, What Are Little Girls Made Of? Return to the story.
(9) A reference from Wrath of Khan. Return to the story.
(10) A reference from the original series episode, The Ultimate Computer, in which Dr. Daystrom imprinted his mentally-deranged memory engrams on the M5 computer. Return to the story.
(11) The Genesis Device from Wrath of Khan, which I always thought was too advanced for the Federation to develop. Here it makes sense that it came from an alien technology. The descriptions of its effects in this story are consistent with that best of all Star Trek movies. Return to the story.
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