Captain Kirk is attempting to compose a eulogy for Ensign Thomas Lee, a security officer who died saving Kirk's life. McCoy visits Kirk, who is troubled by the fact that he knows nothing about Lee. Kirk speaks to Chekov, who also did not get to know Lee well but remembers him as enthusiastic.
In flashback, Chekov assembles a security team consisting of Hunter, Jackson and Lee for beam-down to the planet Dinar IV. They meet in Conference Room A with Kirk and Spock, who brief them on the situation: the freighter Arcade was en route to Sandar Colony IX with supplies when it reported being pursued by hostile forces. The sponsors of the colony, the Sandar, are in a dispute with the Haigy. The freighter disappeared near Dinar IV, and life signs have been detected on the planet's surface, but there is no answer to the USS Enterprise's hails. Lee asks whether the mission is a Stage One or Stage Two security procedure, i.e. whether phasers should be drawn or not. Kirk suggests going in with "holstered phasers and open eyes", and Lee is abashed. On the way to the transporter room, Chekov chastises Lee for his question -- much to his own later guilt.
Still seeking information for his eulogy, Kirk speaks to Hunter and Jackson. Jackson says Lee made no effort to speak to them. When Kirk suggests that Lee might have been too self-conscious or nervous to look for a friend, Hunter asks for permission to speak freely. He says that security men "don't dwell on each other's feelings", and that he will not weep for Lee; he will drink to his memory but not indulge in "girlish whining, like some officers might". Kirk retorts that he did not give Hunter permission to speak freely, and that perhaps he should put him in the brig for insubordination. Jackson quickly smooths over the situation, telling Kirk that Hunter always runs off at the mouth and that Lee was a good security officer who "might have become a great one".
In flashback, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Chekov and the three security officers descend a hillside towards the Arcade, which is surrounded by a force field. The Starfleet officers are greeted by Ventura, the leader of the men inside the force field, who claims to be in command of the Arcade. Spock points out that records indicate that Captain Rogers commanded the Arcade, and Ventura says Rogers died during the landing. Kirk asks Ventura to lower the energy field, but a man named Kapek urges him not to do so. Ventura explains that they believe their attackers were of the Naigy, and Kapek says Kirk and the others might not be who they say they are. To prove their identity, Kirk asks Sulu, in command of the Enterprise, to use the ship's phasers to destroy the force field, pointing out that a Naigy ship would not have the power to do so. Ventura agrees to lower the force field.
Inside the encampment, Ventura claims the Naigy destroyed the Arcade's starboard engine, and Kirk asks Scotty to beam down and inspect it, although Ventura says this is not necessary. As Scotty beams down, Lee tells Jackson he feels uneasy about the situation, but Jackson is dismissive of this. A man in the encampment refuses to let McCoy examine him, and McCoy tells Kirk the men seem "overly paranoid". When Scotty examines the starboard engines and fails to find any damage, Kapek attacks him from behind with a metal rod; Scotty senses the movement and grabs the rod before it hits him. As Scotty calls out, Kirk runs to assist him, not seeing Ventura pull out a disruptor. Lee sees the danger, calling out "Captain, it's a trap!" as other men appear with weapons. He jumps in front of Kirk and fires his phaser at Ventura, but is hit by a blast from Ventura's disruptor. Kirk, in turn, stuns Ventura. McCoy calls for emergency transport of himself and Lee to the Enterprise, but the transporter operator tells him that the force field is operating again and she cannot beam them up. Spock attempts to ease Lee's pain with a mind-meld, but feels Lee "pass through" him as he dies. Scotty, still fighting Kapek, is knocked down but rescued by Chekov; they rejoin Kirk and the others but find Lee dead.
Kirk speaks to Spock in preparing the eulogy. Spock gained no personal knowledge of Lee from their brief mind-meld; Lee did not know he was about to die, but knew Kirk was safe and wanted the pain to stop. His final thought was, "I can't wait to go swimming again." Kirk then confronts Ventura and his men in the Enterprise brig. They are Haigy raiders who captured the Arcade and transferred its crew to their mother ship. The Arcade's captain had "boobytrapped" its guidance system, which brought the raiders down on Dinar IV. Ventura expresses defiance of the Federation, noting that it has no death penalty and that they will be out of a rehabilitation center in less than a year. Kirk, however, announces his intention to turn them over to the Sandar, since the Arcade, although a Federation ship, was on a mission for them. The Sandar punish murderers by peeling their skin back and pouring an acid-like substance over them. Kirk walks stonily away from the brig as Ventura shouts after him.
In the ship's chapel, Kirk gives his eulogy for Lee in front of assembled crew members, including Jackson, Hunter and the senior staff. He begins by quoting the standard Starfleet eulogy, which he has delivered far too many times. He has learned that no one knew Lee or spoke to him. Kirk regrets that he will now never know a man who saved his life, telling his crew that "the death of even one of us... diminishes us all."
- James T. Kirk • Spock • Leonard McCoy • Montgomery Scott • Uhura • Hikaru Sulu • Pavel Chekov • Thomas Lee • Hunter • Jackson • Ventura (Captain) • Kapek • Sara Tuchinsky • unnamed USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-A) personnel
Starships and vehiclesEdit
- USS Enterprise-A
- bridge • brig • chapel • conference room (A) • corridor • engineering (referenced only) • lounge • quarters (Chekov's, Kirk's, Spock's) • transporter room
- Dinar IV
- Arcade crash site
Colonies and outpostsEdit
Planets and planetoidsEdit
- Referenced only
Stars and systemsEdit
Races and culturesEdit
States and organizationsEdit
Technology and weaponsEdit
- communicator • computer • disruptor • disruptor rifle • force field • guidance system • impulse engine • phaser • starship • tricorder • type-2 phaser • type-2 phaser (2287) • viewscreen • warp drive
Ranks and titlesEdit
- captain • chief engineer • chief medical officer • commander • commanding officer • communications officer • enlisted • ensign • first officer • helmsman • officer • president • science officer • security officer • security chief • security guard • tactical officer
- communications • coffee • death • drink • eulogy • Federation Starfleet ranks (2270s-2350s) • flag • food • funeral • humanoid • insignia • landing party • mind-meld • orbit • planet • races and cultures • rank • rank insignia • service record • space • standard orbit • star • star system • starbase • stardate • Starfleet security procedures • Starfleet uniform • Starfleet uniform (2278-2350s) • technology • title • uniform • Vulcan lyrette • weapon
- The distress transmission from the Arcade is from Captain Harras, but Spock later says Captain Rogers was in command of the Arcade.
- The title on the cover of this issue is "Once a Hero..." The title on the first page of the story is "Once a Hero!"
- Chekov's quarters have a wall decoration of the standard flag of the president of the Russian Federation. The flag in question had been adopted by the fledgling Russian government the same year the comic was published.
- Lee wears the gray uniform patches of a tactical officer on his uniform jacket, possibly denoting his specialty in the ship's security force. Hunter and Jackson wear the red color tunics and uniform patches typically worn by trainees. A few personnel at Lee's funeral wear the royal blue patches of a strike team contingent.
#18: Partners?, The Startling Conclusion!
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#20: God's Gauntlet