Captain's log, supplemental: With Jo Grant's assistance, the Doctor and I have broken out of the brig. Hopefully we can break the crew free before the Master's completed whatever task he wants the Enterprise for.
"Approaching Pluto orbit," reported Chekov. "Slowing to impulse speed."
"Sol system outpost personnel shall now be receiving automatic notification from sensors of our approach," Spock said. "Starfleet Command shall now be expecting our hail."
"Signal the Republic to go ahead," said the Master, lounging in the Enterprise command chair.
Spock nodded to Uhura, who sent, "Republic, this is Enterprise. Hail Starfleet Command."
On the Enterprise main viewscreen, the approach view of Earth's solar system was replaced by the hail from the Republic, Captain Sitting Bear addressing her pickup: "USS Republic to Starfleet Command. This is Captain Sitting Bear. Come in, please."
The Master eyed her on the Enterprise main screen while the people on both starship bridges waited for the response. She seemed fidgety, drumming her fingers on her chair arm - not at all her manner when she had hailed the Enterprise earlier. Of course she might be expected to appear somewhat nervous under the apparent circumstances, and just be playing up to the part the Master had imposed on her; but it could rather be symptomatic of deterioration of the hypnotic control. He didn't know her well enough to be sure, of course. He would have preferred to have the hail handled from the Enterprise, but then Command would expect the Enterprise's captain and that wasn't an option.
The screen split. Next to Sitting Bear appeared an admiral in a services red tunic - that would be the Admiral Verne of Starfleet Security to whom Kirk had arranged to surrender the Master for disposition. "Republic, this is Verne. Why are you with the Enterprise instead of on your assigned patrol?"
Sitting Bear's reply was slow in coming, as if there were signal delay - which there certainly oughtn't be in a subspace link at this distance. "Have Sulu take over on some pretext," the Master ordered Uhura. She turned back to her board.
"The Enterprise requested escort," Sitting Bear was finally saying. At least she was telling the story she was supposed to be telling. "This is an especially dangerous prisoner, sir."
"That doesn't sound like Kirk," Verne snorted. He didn't sound suspicious, but the Master was certain one didn't rise to the command of Starfleet Security by failing to become suspicious of any anomaly presented to one.
The Master's directive must have reached the Republic's bridge, for the pickup switched from Sitting Bear to Sulu, stationed at the Republic's security subsystems monitor, with Lt. Nored (in case Verne was familiar with either or both starships' security rosters) behind him to lend verisimilitude. "Lt. Sulu, Enterprise, sir," said Sulu. "Captain Kirk asked Captain Sitting Bear to lend us her brig. As you're probably aware, sir, since the Enterprise's five-year mission started, our brig has seen better days."
Verne snorted again. "Very well. We're prepared to receive the prisoner as soon as you arrive. Carry on."
"Yes, sir," said Sulu. "Enterprise convoy out." The bridge screen flipped back to the forward view.
"That could have gone better," the Master opined, not allowing it to bother him now that the hurdle was passed.
"As I warned you," said Spock, "starship command training includes special conditioning against interrogation and mind control."
"Yes, but as I told you," said the Master, some irritation escaping into his tone, "we needed her. Well, we don't any more. Order her killed." The vibration from his belt really was more uncomfortable than he had expected. This plan's contingency tree depended on his wearing it, but no future plans' would.
"Lt. Uhura," said Spock without missing a beat, "Captain Sitting Bear is to be killed." Uhura turned to her board and repeated the order. Having his orders obeyed so promptly and without question - particularly by these weaklings, who would dare to judge him by their standards were they in their own puny "right minds" - gave the Master a thrill of almost physical pleasure.
"If I may," Spock continued, "it is contrary to your purposes to leave Captain Kirk alive. If not logic, then personal experience suggests that it is dangerous even to the point of foolhardiness."
At that the Master sat up a little straighter to regard Spock closely. The Vulcan must be deep under his control indeed to be so sincerely if imposedly concerned for his plans as to risk angering him by questioning him.
"Thank you for your input, Mr. Spock," he answered, "but it is likely too late anyway. By my calculations the captain and the Doctor will have escaped the brig by now, and have set about freeing the rest of the crew."
Spock raised both eyebrows - but again, the Master didn't know him or Vulcans well enough to realize how expressive of incredulity that was. "You expected them to escape, Master? Intended it?"
The Master chuckled. "Tut tut, my dear Spock. Their efforts shall not bear fruit in time to matter to us."
"This is what you live for, isn't it?" the Doctor whispered.
Jo turned from peering down the Enterprise corridor at the security guards posted at the entrance to the shuttle bay, in time to catch Kirk snap a hooded glare at the Doctor.
"I hope you don't think," said Kirk quietly, "that I enjoy having my ship stolen from me by megalomaniacs, or sneaking through her incapacitating my own crewmen in order to get her back."
"No, no, sorry," said the Doctor. Despite their earlier hostility - Jo gathered the captain and the Time Lord had a long history of differences of opinion - the Doctor seemed not to have meant to offend Kirk, this time. "And I promised I'd break the Master's hold on each of them once we've recaptured the ship and have the time. I only meant, this is the kind of challenge that makes a starship captain, isn't it?"
Kirk's expression softened. "Well, there's more to the captaincy to soldiering. I see what you mean, though, and I guess you're right. But now's not the time for analysis, okay?"
"Intelligence is analysis -" the Doctor started, but cut himself off even before Kirk could. "I see what you mean, though, and I guess you're right."
Jo saw something she thought she'd never see - granted, on only an hour's experience; she saw the Doctor and Kirk grin at each other. Then Kirk turned to Jo and nodded toward the guards. Two captured ray guns, phasers, set to "stun" swept across the corridor toward the bay door (Kirk had insisted that the three each take one from the guards, but the Doctor had resolutely failed to make any use of his). In any case these two Master-controlled Enterprise security guards toppled over, a light stun charge being insufficient to set off the alarms against which Kirk had warned Jo in the brig.
"Let's get the crew free," said Kirk, leaping toward the door. It was security coded, with a code Kirk didn't know, but the same sonic screwdriver frequency as had deactivated the brig forcefield worked here.
"Jim!" Apparently McCoy was the senior officer among the captives. He and Chapel led the crowd congregating around their rescuers when Kirk was spotted. "Doctor. Miss Grant! I hoped you'd been overlooked, I figured you'd -"
"You figured right, Bones," said Kirk. "But right now we need a volunteer squad. The security guards we stunned on the way here need to be isolated until the Doctor can break the Master's hold on them. Starting with Stevenson in the brig, and now because he'll be coming around soon."
"I'll go," volunteered an alien crewman, red-skinned and hairless and with three each deerlike arms and legs. His tunic was yellow and had what Jo had learned over the past half hour were lieutenant's stripes.
"Good job, Arex," said Kirk. "Take whoever you need."
"Doyle, Defoe, Rr'San, Hawthorne," Arex selected four crewpeople. The Doctor handed his phaser to Arex as the party left. Jo's went to whom she assumed was Rr'San, the only one of Arex's party besides himself who wasn't bipedal.
Kirk turned to McCoy and the crew. "We need a plan to take back the ship."
"Swordsman," said the Doctor.
Kirk turned to give the Doctor a look.
"How about Raptor?" suggested McCoy. "I like Raptor. Less chance of new business in sickbay with Raptor."
Kirk shook his head. "Too likely that the Master might have sabotaged the equipment. But we have more than half the crew here, so that opens up everything off the Legend branch."
"As I said," said the Doctor, "Swordsman."
Jo realized that they were using code names for existing, prepared plans for retaking the Enterprise from an enemy. She wondered whether these were standard Starfleet operating procedures, or something the officers of the Enterprise had had to develop on their own. She guessed the latter, since the Doctor's familiarity with the codenames suggested he'd been part of the development team.
"Not Swordsman," said Kirk, pacing off, thinking out loud, "because Scotty's too big a part of that one - but he's not here, which means he's on the Master's engineering team." He halted, staring sightlessly at a space shuttle named Pauling. Then he spun back around to face them and said, "Atlantis."
The Doctor and McCoy looked at each other, weighing it.
"Atlantis," said Kirk, "with the Doctor in the engineering party to break the Master's control over Scott. Maybe Gabler, and Scott's other assistants too."
The Doctor grinned. McCoy said, "We can live with that. I hope."
"We'll meet on the bridge," said Kirk to the Doctor, charging back at them.
"Jo, you go with the captain," said the Doctor. When she was about to object he handed the sonic screwdriver back to her, adding, "Just in case."
"Thank you, Doctor," said Kirk. "All right, everyone to the armoury. We'll split up from there."
"Three ... two ... one," said Kirk into his communicator.
The turbolift doors opened on the bridge, and Kirk with Jo and the squad of Enterprise crewmembers shot out, as two more squads burst in through panels from accessways. In an instant those manning bridge stations were outnumbered twenty-two to seven. If only conscious parties were included in the count, however, it would be twenty-two to zero.
"Bones, check them out," said Kirk. He looked the bridge over, muttering, "Spock ... Spock ..." But the Vulcan was the only member of the bridge shift on duty during the Master's takeover who wasn't still there.
"Jim." McCoy waved Kirk over to Sulu at the helm. "Anesthezine gas. But none of these people show the alpha wave anomalies I saw in the security people you and Jo and the Doctor knocked out. I'd say they're not under the Master's control any more."
Kirk thumbed the frequency control on his communicator. "Kirk to Kyle. How're things in engineering?"
"All the engineers are stunned," Kyle responded. "The Doctor has revived Mr. Scott and is deprogramming him; the other engineers have been replaced at their posts and are being confined until they can be deprogrammed."
"When Mr. Scott is fit to take over there, send the Doctor up here. Kirk out." He turned back to McCoy and nodded at Sulu. "Can you wake him?"
"No problem." McCoy blasted Sulu with a hypospray he'd already had out.
Kirk moved in front of the helm-navigation console so that he'd be in Sulu's field of vision. "It's all right, Sulu," Kirk said when he saw Sulu's eyes snap open. "The Master's gone. I need to know what you can tell me."
"Captain!" Sulu took a moment to gather himself. "Sir. Under hypnotic control by the Master, Mr. Spock and a minimal crew including myself have forcefully taken computer control of first the USS Republic, then of all Starfleet installations on patrol, in dock or based on Earth, and finally of the Federation computer net on Earth itself. The Master and Mr. Spock were intending to beam off the Enterprise before the Master deconditioned me and gassed me -" Sulu looked at the chronometer on his console. "That was twenty-six minutes ago."
"He'll have taken over Federation headquarters," Kirk mused. "If the attempt hadn't been successful, we'd've heard from Command by now."
"Sir ..." Sulu's tone pulled Kirk's attention back to him. The helmsman had a haunted look. "We fired on Starfleet vessels. And - Captain Sitting Bear of the Republic is dead. I killed her myself."
"No!" Before Kirk or McCoy could say anything to reassure Sulu another voice cut across the bridge, as Jo joined them from assisting the medics in the rescue party to revive the bridge crew. "It was the Master who did that, Mr. Sulu. It was his will, not yours. It happened to me once, too. I nearly killed the Doctor. But that wasn't me, any more than it was you who killed the other captain. You know that it's true."
Sulu stared at her, overwhelmed, but the haunted look had disappeared. "I guess so."
"Say it yourself," said Jo.
Sulu swallowed. "It wasn't me. It was the Master." Jo smiled so suddenly that Sulu grinned back spontaneously. Kirk smiled himself.
McCoy slapped Sulu on the back. "Good man. But you -" He pointed at Jo in mock approbation. "No more practicing psychology on this ship without a lisence."
"Back on the horse, Sulu," said Kirk, tapping the helm console. By now the whole of the bridge duty staff were awake. "All of you. All stations, ship's status."
Before anyone else could respond Uhura raised her hand to her earpiece. "Signal coming in, Captain. On all Starfleet, military, public and private subspace channels."
"Let's see it."
On the main screen the Master appeared, standing alone in front of the Federation seal in the Council chamber.
"People of Earth, and by extension the entire Federation, hear my words. Your dreams of uniting the galaxy, the universe under one rule for the betterment of all are about to come true. I have assumed control of Earth's computer networks, and the same algorithms shall take control of the nets of all member planets by subspace signals that will arrive several minutes in advance of each planet's receipt of this signal. The Federation is now an extension of my all-encompassing will.
"I am the Master. You will obey me.
"That is all."
As the Master's signal faded the Doctor's voice came from the rear of the bridge. "It's not going to be easy to stop him, you know." Kirk turned and saw him standing in front of the turbolift doors.
"We've taken the Enterprise back, haven't we?" McCoy retorted.
"He knew you would," said the Doctor. "The security men he sent to clear out the ship may not have known that Jo was here somewhere, but the Master knew - he saw her with me when he was still in the brig."
"He left me free on purpose?" asked Jo. "Why?"
"Why did he bother to leave us on the bridge alive, let alone unconditioned?" Chekov asked.
"It's a message," said the Doctor. "A challenge. To me. He's telling us that there's nothing I or my playmates can do to move against him."
The Doctor was looking only at Kirk, as if speaking only to him. One by one everyone on the bridge turned from the Doctor and looked at Kirk at the other end of the bridge. When he had everyone's attention he walked slowly around the helm-navigation console, approached the command chair, and began to sit.
"Everyone," said Kirk, coming home, "makes mistakes."
END OF CHAPTER 3
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