Captain's log, supplemental: On the Communication Age planet Pisb Spock, McCoy and I have discovered the Doctor and Romana investigating an unusually virulent, probably extraplanetarily-induced, plague of tabloid style journalism - of which he and I have, in a way, become the latest victims.
Kirk came to only minutes later. He and the Doctor were in the back seat of the long black automobile. The men in black who'd captured them were in the front, separated by a thick piece of transparent material, and the car was moving. The Doctor had already regained consciousness, or never lost it. Kirk's wrist communicator was gone.
Kirk's eyes were watering and his head hurt. "What did they hit me with?" he asked, rubbing his eyes.
"Photoneuronic stun," said the Doctor. "I've seen the like before. They calmed the mob with it too. Such measures aren't going to work forever, though."
"Where are we going?"
The Doctor grinned. "I asked them to take us to their leader."
Kirk nodded straightfaced. "Spock may beam us out of here though, assuming the others got back to the Enterprise."
"What, from under these fellows' noses?" the Doctor said with mock surprise. "Didn't you get into trouble for doing that on the Roman planet?"
"It depends," glared Kirk, "on whether or not Spock thought I was convinced by your argument that the Prime Directive doesn't apply to this situation."
"I'll wager it depends more," said the Doctor, "on how much personal danger he and McCoy think you're in."
"Oh? And Romana won't be worried about you?"
"Romana thinks the way I do."
"You mustn't rescue them!" Romana said in the Enterprise transporter room. Despite her mannerly upbringing she couldn't keep the astonishment out of her voice. "They're about to find out what's going on!"
"Governmental bodies of this kind of society are extremely paranoid," Spock objected.
"And that's even if those goons aren't moles for whoever's actually behind this plot you've discovered!" McCoy added.
"Mr. Scott," Romana said, turning to the chief engineer to appeal and then becoming distracted, "is that what I think it is?" Romana pointed to the lower regions of Scott's abdomen. Scott turned red, and McCoy made strangled noises of amusement, for no reason apparent to Romana.
"That is a feature of the new Starfleet uniform," Spock explained. Romana had noticed that Scott and the transporter technician, Forrester, were wearing pastel blue instead of the Engineering red and universal black trousers of the past. Spock and McCoy hadn't had any chance to change out of the native clothing they'd worn on the landing party. "It is a device for monitoring the crewmember's location and biometric readings, commonly if inaccurately known as the 'belt buckle'."
"Has Captain Kirk got one under his clothes?" Romana asked.
"Indeed. That is standard landing party procedure since the advent of the belt buckles."
"May I see one?"
"Bother," said the Doctor. "I thought these goons were moles for whoever's actually behind the plot."
Kirk had chosen to beam his landing party down to the capital city of the largest, most populous and technologically advanced nation on the planet. Their automobile was now pulling up to what Kirk recognized as the official residence of the nation's elected head of state.
"We're only going to meet the Executive Minister," finished the Doctor.
"He might be able to help," said Kirk drily. "Or," he added, trying to cheer the Doctor up, "he may be the one behind this after all."
"Obviously," said the Doctor with no conviction. "After all, he's only one of the smear campaign's biggest victims."
The auto pulled up to the main entrance of the mansion, and the men in black were joined by more men in black. Kirk took it all in - he'd thrown off the effects of the stun by now - along with the colorful variety of Pisb skin tones, and reflected that basic black really does go with anything. They all ushered Kirk and the Doctor inside, through the halls and up the stairs, into an office where stood a middle-aged aquamarine-skinned man in a deceptively inexpensive-looking pale green suit.
"Executive Minister Nyar, how fortunate you're here!" said the Doctor, bearing down on the man and pumping his hand. "I think I can help you."
"Who are you?" Nyar asked.
"I'm the Doctor, and this is my friend Captain Kirk of the Federation starship Enterprise," said the Doctor.
"Starship?" said Nyar. "The papers said it was just you."
"We just got here today," said Kirk, and sat down out of the way.
"You've got a serious problem here, Mr. Minister," said the Doctor, putting his arm around Nyar's shoulders and walking him around the room. One of the men in black tried to come between them. Kirk tripped him. "The newspapers on your planet are working the people up into a frenzy."
"They're working me up into a frenzy," grouched Nyar. Kirk marveled again at the Doctor's fantastic if unreliable ability to charm. "They paint me as a womanizing rule-flouter."
"Are you?" Kirk asked.
Nyar looked at Kirk sideways. "Are you?"
Kirk shut up.
"Then why don't you take any action?" the Doctor asked.
"Well, there's a problem with that," said Nyar with a politician's practiced candor.
"Everything they've printed about me, in terms of factual statement, is true."
"Ahhh," said the Doctor. "I thought it might be something like that."
"I've met with the other major victims," said Nyar. "In every case, what's been written has been obscure, impossible for anyone to find out, yet accurate in every detail and presented in an as incredibly damning way as possible."
"That's odd," Kirk said. "Innuendo and inference is how these things work on most planets. Has to be - a Communication Age civilization is mature enough to have some sort of bill of rights to protect people from this kind of thing."
"Yes," said the Doctor. "That's what makes the situation here so precarious: the undeniability of the scandalmongering."
"Makes me wonder what their sources are," said Kirk.
"It used to be that the executive minister was a hero, and a hero was the executive minister," Nyar said, and now he wasn't speechifying. "I'm no worse than most past ministers and better than many. But no one is safe from the modern media. That's why the public are turning more and more to the video screen for heroes - there don't seem to be any real heroes any more, because there isn't anyone who can stand living under a microscope."
"The truth is a powerful weapon," said Kirk.
"But available to everyone," said the Doctor, "if you can only access it."
"An interesting statement," came a voice from the door, "coming from the only inaccessible mind on the planet."
Entering the room was a group of humanoids. Unlike the native Pisbs, they had no variety of skin color, deviating among themselves very little from a pasty potato-brown. With his experience Kirk was able to notice also that their eyes were set a little more closely together than Pisbpeople's. Through the door he saw that all the men in black who'd stationed themselves in the outer office were unconscious on the ground. The ones in here took the point.
"I didn't expect Morniddlans!" said the Doctor. "Usually they're so ethical about their telepathy."
"Telepathy," said Kirk. "That's how you get your stories."
The Doctor nodded. "Like you," he said to Nyar, "what was printed about me was perfectly true but could not possibly have been observed. I was very careful about not giving myself away as a visitor to your planet."
"For a change," murmured Kirk, too softly for anyone but the Doctor to hear.
"So when I made the papers I knew only a telepath could have been the source of the story. Since then I've been keeping myself closed off, knowing it'd flush you out," the Doctor grinned to the invaders. "Come in, have a seat. See your fiendish plans put paid."
"There aren't enough chairs," said one of the Morniddlans. He was elbowed.
"We're from the Morniddlan colony Crastor," said the first Morniddlan to speak. He sat with a polite nod to the Doctor. "Founded by Morniddlans more enlightened about the use of the full range of our abilities."
"And what exactly are you doing here?" Kirk asked.
"Goading an inferior race to turn on itself, eventually to wipe each other out and leave the resource-rich planet to us," said the Crastoran. "It's our new colonization program."
"It won't work," said Kirk.
"Telepathy, remember, Captain?" said the Crastoran, tapping his head. "I can see your determination, and it is formidable, but you haven't the faintest idea how to stop us."
"But you can't see mine," said the Doctor. He wasn't grinning now.
"What can you do?" said the lead Crastoran.
There was a trilling tone. The Crastoran who'd complained about the lack of seating took a personal communication device from a pocket and spoke with it.
"Have done," said the Doctor, "unless I miss my guess."
"What guess?" asked Kirk and Nyar together.
"Sir!" the Crastoran with the 'phone hissed at the leader.
"What is it?" the leader asked urbanely. But the 'phone carrier was already moving to the room's visual broadcast receiver and powering it on.
The screen brightened with a picture of the room they were sitting in. The population of the room as pictured was the present population of the room. On the receiver screen on the receiver screen was the picture on the receiver screen, doing that recursive Escherish thing that comes of pointing a camera at its own monitor. It was a live picture of this room.
"It's on every channel!" whined the 'phone carrier, turning the channel selector to demonstrate. His voice came from his own mouth and that of the receiver set, causing a painful feedback screech which in turn caused the 'phone carrier to turn the volume down.
"Every channel," said the Doctor cheerfully. "All over the world."
The Crastoran leader's composure faltered. "But the planet-wide mood out there -"
"Barely contained mass hysteria," said Kirk. "Of your own creation."
"Ready to turn on the first target that presents itself," said Nyar.
"Such as a self-confessed attempted genocide," said the Doctor.
"Smile for the camera!" said Kirk.
"Do be careful going home," advised the Doctor. "Watch out for all the truth fallout."
The Crastoran leader stared at the Doctor dumfounded for a moment. Then he wordlessly gathered his people and left.
"How did you do that, Doctor?" said Kirk, indicating as he rose from his chair the broadcast, that was now fading back to your regularly scheduled program.
"Well, I knew you had some sort of communication device on you, or at least a tracking beacon -"
"How did you know that?"
"Because you were certain the Enterprise could pick you out of the whole city for beam-out, even though the government men had taken your communicator."
"Yes, my uniform belt buckle. I have it on under these clothes."
"I was rather gambling that it was something more complex than just a tracking beacon, though -"
"It is," Kirk conceded.
"Obviously," said the Doctor. "- something complicated enough for Romana to use its monitors to generate a quantum holistic feedback field, to convert into a visual signal, which your lovely Lt. Uhura would be able to convert into a broadcast signal, which your intrepid Misters Spock and Scott could then power-boost to supersede all the broadcast and direct-feed mass video links on the planet. Rather like what Scotty did to the Roman planet, but reversed." He stopped and stooped and addressed Kirk's midsection. "We'll be ready to beam up in a moment!"
"I was on international video?" said Nyar. He went to the chair behind his desk and sat down with the shakes. "This is the first time I've been on any airwaves without a script since I ran for class president at Yowaxan U."
"You did fine," said the Doctor. "If I'd been watching I'd reelect you."
"A people gets the heroes it deserves, Mr. Minister," Kirk said, patting Nyar on the shoulder. "But I think yours is just a little better off than that."
"I'll have the cult video vote next election, anyway," Nyar said. "I might as well have met Space Captain Bold and Professor Strangeoid as you two. ... Are you sure the - Middlemorns -"
"Morniddlans," said Kirk.
"Crastorans," the Doctor corrected.
"Are you sure they're done in? No more mind hocus-pocus?"
"No more," said the Doctor. "Their powers are purely receptive. They can know what you're thinking and attempt to manipulate it through conventional means, but they can't affect your thoughts directly by mind power. They'd have a better chance of surviving the next several hours if they could ..."
"If their life signs are at all distinguishable from the natives'," Kirk said, "they'll all be in the Enterprise brig by now."
"Goodbye, Mr. Minister," said the Doctor, pumping his hand again.
Nyar extended his hand to Kirk once he had it back. "Did I hear something about a Federation?"
"Your planetary society is a little immature for full membership," Kirk said, "but I can have a diplomatic team sent to discuss a protectorateship."
"I'd like that."
"I hate long goodbyes," said the Doctor. "Two to beam up," he told Kirk's stomach.
"Energize," said Kirk, trying to keep a hand in.
"You couldn't tell me?" Kirk demanded.
"Of course not!" the Doctor snapped. "If the Crastorans had read in your mind that I was preparing to have them walk into the Executive Minister's office and insult the whole planet on international television so that they'd transfer to themselves all the hostility they've generated, how likely would they have been to do it? So I gave you to believe that I fully expected to accomplish nothing while we were there. They were entirely taken in."
Now that they were back on the Enterprise and in uniform, Kirk saw that Romana's caftan was exactly the same color as the new crew uniforms. The Doctor, even more than always, stood out on the bridge like a sore thumb.
"What will happen to the Crastorans, Captain?" Romana asked.
"This bunch we'll take home," Kirk said. "Pisb isn't a Federation protectorate yet, so there's nothing we can do to the Crastorans under our law -"
"Huh," said the Doctor. Kirk waited a decent interval for the Doctor to try to start an argument, but then went on.
"But we can give them a warning, and we can tell the Morniddlans who may or may not take any action. And the Federation is moving into this region of space - now that we've stopped the Crastorans once, we'll know what to look for."
"Good job, Captain," said the Doctor. "Now I wonder whether I could trouble you and Scotty to beam Romana and myself directly into the TARDIS?"
"What, and deprive you of being lionized and heaped with compliments by your adoring Pisb public?" asked Kirk with light sarcasm.
"No thank you, Captain," said the Doctor. "I've had enough truth for today."
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