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A Thousand Deaths

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SummaryEdit

Captain's log. Personal. Tall tales to the contrary, a starship commander's day is all-too-often a sedentary one; his greatest physical effort the signing of reports. Is it any wonder, then, why this commander chooses to spend his rare moments of free time in more active pursuits – or why he bristles when one of those moments is interrupted?

Kirk is jumping on a trampoline when he is paged to contact the bridge. Spock reports that a gigantic object, 20.6 times the size of Earth, has approached the Enterprise at warp 17 and is halted in front of the ship. On the bridge, Spock informs Kirk that the object is a highly complex vessel with millions of extremely faint life-signs aboard. When Uhura attempts a hailing frequency, she receives feedback from the vessel in her console. Probes that look like glowing spheres appear on the bridge and scan each member of the crew, then focus on Kirk and Spock. Surrounded by glowing light, their minds merge for a moment; they are then overcome by pain as they disappear from the bridge. The giant ship traps the Enterprise in a tractor beam.

Kirk and Spock find themselves aboard the alien ship, facing a huge robot which introduces itself as the Sustainer and tells them that they are aboard the world-ship Solopziz. The Sustainer says it means Kirk and Spock no harm. It serves the people of Solopziz, and requires Kirk and Spock's assistance. Soon, it says, one of them will return to the Enterprise, and the other will die.

As the Sustainer walks away, reality shifts around Kirk and Spock. Kirk finds himself the captain of the sailing ship HMS Enterprise, facing a pirate vessel at sea. Disoriented, Kirk is unable to prevent the pirates from boarding and capturing his ship. Spock appears among the pirate crew. He theorizes that the Sustainer created this environment from Kirk's subconscious mind. When Kirk says he and Spock must find a way out, the pirate captain retorts that the only way out is for Kirk to fight Spock to the death, which Kirk assumes would give the Sustainer what it wants. A pirate pulls an anachronistic sub-machine gun on Kirk and Spock, who fight back against the pirates; Spock discovers in the process that their opponents are robots. A mast cracked by a cannon blast during the battle begins to fall. Kirk pushes Spock out of the way, but the mast lands on Kirk... killing him.

Spock cradles his dead t'hy'la in his arms as reality again shifts around them. Spock finds himself facing the Sustainer, who says he may return to the Enterprise. The Sustainer will not tell Spock why Kirk had to die, but says that if Spock chooses to remain it has the ability to "revivify" Kirk. On the Enterprise bridge, McCoy harshly criticizes Scotty for his failure to break the ship out of the tractor beam. Scotty asks him to leave the bridge.

On the world-ship, Kirk awakens with Spock standing over him. Kirk notices that Spock looks shaken and is shocked when Spock tells him that he died. Spock explains that the people of Solopziz have an advanced medical science that can bring anyone back to life who has been dead for less than six hours. Spock pries open a door, beyond which reality shifts again to reveal a network of machinery and narrow struts of metal. Spock can see what appears to be the world-ship's bridge in the distance. Working out the mathematical pattern of the machines, Spock begins to lead Kirk toward the bridge across a narrow metal support. The support cracks, causing Kirk to fall. Spock grabs the stub of the metal bridge with one hand and Kirk's wrist with the other. He tosses Kirk up to safety, causing him to lose his grip and fall to his death. Kirk calls out Spock's name, and then weeps for his friend.

The Sustainer appears and reminds Kirk that Spock can be brought back to life. Kirk realizes that the machine room was taken from Spock's mind just as the sea battle was from his. Kirk finds himself and Spock standing before a giant viewscreen showing the Enterprise, which the Sustainer says will be destroyed. Spock has gained a new insight into the nature of the cosmos by dying. Kirk and Spock's conversation with the Sustainer appears on the viewscreen of the Enterprise bridge. As the Sustainer repeats that it cannot give the reasons for its actions, McCoy apologizes to Scotty, who forgives him and addresses him as "Bones". Kirk angrily asks if the Sustainer intends to bring the Enterprise crew back to life as well, creating "an eternal circus" of living and dying. The Enterprise's hull temperature climbs three thousand degrees and continues rising.

The Sustainer now says that the Enterprise will be destroyed in three minutes unless either Kirk or Spock agrees to die permanently. Spock points out that the Sustainer has not yet lied to them, and is therefore likely telling the truth now. He nerve-pinches Kirk and steps forward to offer his own life for the Enterprise. Kirk fights off the effects of the nerve pinch and pushes Spock aside. The Sustainer gently lifts both men in its hands.

The Enterprise's hull temperature returns to normal, but McCoy is still concerned because the viewscreen has gone blank. The Sustainer brings Kirk and Spock to the Chamber of Sustainment, where the people of Solopziz are in suspended animation. The robot explains that it was created by the Lezze-Eeserk, a technologically advanced but morally bankrupt race. Their incapacity for selflessness caused the warfare that devastated the original planet Solopziz. There were only hundreds of millions of survivors from the population of hundreds of billions. Unusually, the surviving Lezze-Eeserk cooperated to build the world-ship and the Sustainer to run it, and placed themselves in suspended animation aboard the ship. Knowing they could not survive without the concept of selflessness, the Sustainer sought out the best specimens to transmit that concept to them: Kirk and Spock. The sea battle and machine room were tests that proved Kirk and Spock were what the Sustainer thought them to be. At the moment each man tried to sacrifice himself for the Enterprise, the Sustainer reached into their minds and channeled their feelings into the Lezze-Eeserk. The robot could not tell Kirk and Spock what it was doing because their feelings had to be spontaneous. Kirk praises the Sustainer as "truly – wonderfully – human" as it returns them to the Enterprise bridge. When Scotty asks what the whole thing was about, Kirk answers, "It proved that all beings can hope for a better tomorrow – and that the human adventure – is just beginning!"

CharactersEdit

MainEdit

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ReferencedEdit

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VesselsEdit

LocationsEdit

SpeciesEdit

States and OrganizationsEdit

Ranks and titlesEdit

captaincommanderdoctorfirst officerlieutenant

Technology and weaponsEdit

cannoncomputerdeflectorproberobotsensorstarship • sub-machine guntechnologytractor beamtransporteruniversal translatorviewscreenwarp factorworld-ship

Other referencesEdit

alienbloodbridgeBrobdingnagcaptain's logcommunicationscosmosdeathdevilemotionengineflygodhistorylifeformlogicmagicmetalNever-Never Landpirateplanetresurrectionsciencespacespeciesspidersuspended animationt'hy'latrampolineVulcan languageVulcan nerve pinchwarwater

InformationEdit

QuotesEdit

  • Sustainer: "I probed many vessels, many minds – but only on your Enterprise did I find the special link that united your two souls. A union so deep – a friendship so great – that either would unhesitatingly die a thousand deaths for the other... and both would freely give their lives for their ship."

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Previous comic:
#17: "The Long Night's Dawn!"
Star Trek: The Original Series
(Marvel)
Next comic:
Final Issue
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Stories by:
J.M. DeMatteis
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Previous adventure:
"The Long Night's Dawn!"
Memory Beta Chronology Next adventure:
Pawns and Symbols
Chapters 5-7

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