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The Wristwatch Plantation

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(written from a Production point of view)
Wristwatch plantation comic.jpg

Cover image

Writer(s): Sharman DiVono, Larry Niven
Artist(s): Ron Harris
Series: Star Trek #12
Published: 1 March 1982 - 17 July 1982

This summary is of a story arc from the newspaper comic strip Star Trek.

SummaryEdit

The story begins with a captain's log, explaining that medical and psychiatric personnel, as well as a sociology team, are remaining on Iskonia to help Lyra and her people adjust to their new lives. But before the crew can put in for R&R, they receive a priority message to report to Starbase 18 immediately. They do so and take on a delegation of high-ranking Bebebebeque, or "Beeks". The mission: "determine the fate of a Bebebebeque colony established on Mimit approximately fifteen Earth years ago." The Beeks are small, insect-like creatures, about a half-meter long, but are a powerful economic force in the Federation because of their machine miniaturization abilities. Certain areas of the ship are converted to their needs, but Starfleet orders grant them full access to the entire ship. Their constant buzzing about on anti-grav sleds and the sheer number of them have driven many of the crew to distraction, a fatigue syndrome Dr. McCoy labels "Bebebebequephobia." The reverse is also true, as the Beeks have problems themselves working with such large creatures as Humans. The one area of the ship where everyone is getting along is Engineering, where Beeks and the engineering crew alike enjoy the technical give and take. Hadley, having been promoted to lieutenant, and Ensign Mike Carpenter finish up working on the auxiliary phaser controls with Beek assistance. Hadley then attends a meeting (really a party) in Scott's quarters where Beek and Human engineers are enjoying building a useless but interesting structure.

Bebebebeque comic

A Bebebebeque

The rest of the ship is not adapting as well, and Captain Kirk visits the "alienologist" Mernat who came aboard with the Beeks. A Starfleet officer, he is also a Ferreth, a volatile race who fight among themselves (killing for mating privileges, like Vulcans) but deal peacefully with everyone else. Mernat's assignment is actually a cover known only to Kirk and Spock; his real job is to find those who are smuggling an illegal canister of the drug theep, which only affects the Ferreth. It gives them heightened awareness and extra energy, allowing them to "cheat for the highest possible stakes" during mating battles. It is also highly corrosive and will quickly eat through containers – including its own. As Mernat scrutinizes all activity in the cargo bay, Kirk tell him that he doubts he'll find any smugglers or Theep on the Enterprise, though, since "security on a Federation starship is very tight!"

Food fight comic

Riot in the enlisted mess

Kirk is wrong, however. Lucy, an Enterprise crew member and smuggler, visits with Carpenter, who is also involved. She wants him to get the theep out of the cargo bay, as she fears the Beeks will find it soon. Shortly after that, a fight breaks out in the enlisted crew mess hall, and security guard Umeki tells Kirk that he'll have to hurt some people to break it up. Carpenter sees this as his opportunity to move the Theep and goes to the cargo bay. Meanwhile, Kirk gets the fight under control and asks what started the fracas. The crew blames the Beeks, and Kirk calls Mernat to the mess hall in his role as alienologist. The parties involved explain that the fight began because one crewman did not want to sit with "bugs", which insulted another crewman who considered the Bebebebeque his friends. Kirk leaves disciplinary measures to Scott when he is suddenly called to the bridge. A Kzinti warship has just entered sensor range.

While all that is going on, Carpenter and Lucy take the theep and place it behind a transporter control panel in Engineering that he and Hadley had finished working on earlier; no one should be opening it up anytime soon. He takes the other to auxiliary phaser control as "insurance", but is discovered by another crewman named Pete. Mike and Lucy appeal to the crewman to keep quiet and become rich. Pete says he'll think about it, and later agrees to help.

Sensors indicate that the Kzinti warship, named Giant Killer (in the Hero's Tongue), is armed with four each of laser banks and particle beam cannons, all of which are forbidden by the Treaty of Sirius. The Kzinti have "probationary status" in the Federation, but the treaty is supposed to restrict them to only having police vessels. Recalling the events of a "few years ago", (TAS: "The Slaver Weapon") Kirk and Spock discuss whether this is a pirate ship and agree that the Patriarch of Kzin will, regardless, disavow any knowledge of it. In fact, direction from the Patriarch to Starfleet is to destroy any Kzinti ship found with weapons. Kirk contacts Starfleet and requests orders. Meanwhile, the Kzinti telepath attempts to access the thoughts of the crew. It causes pain, and Spock advises everyone to "focus your thoughts on the taste of raw vegetables". Kzinti, being carnivores, consider it beneath them to read the minds of herbivores. Despite this, the Kzinti discover everything about the Enterprise's mission. Everyone on board ship has a massive headache, and Kirk places Spock temporarily in command as no telepath will be able to read his mind. The Kzinti are concerned about the ship's mission, fearing that if the Enterprise reaches Mimit that they will all lose their chance "to win land and names", and possibly suffer worse fates.

Starfleet responds with orders to proceed to Mimit and ignore the Kzinti ship. The Enterprise begins to comply. But a problem has arisen on board the Enterprise: the theep in auxiliary control has begun to leak through its container and is eating through circuits. The problem is noticed and Carpenter tries to figure out how to have Pete move the theep before the junction is again checked. Too late, the crew watches as the acid foams up around the controls. On the bridge, Sulu notes the Kzinti ship is pacing them, and Kirk orders the shields to be raised. The Kzinti have decided that their best hope is to attack and are preparing to do just that. The Enterprise shields are malfunctioning due to the theep leakage, though, and they cannot be raised. At that moment the Kzinti fire a weapon they call the "Hamstringer", an energy weapon built by Bebebebeque slaves and not detected by sensors earlier, which generates an enormous energy field around electrical circuitry. The artificial gravity generators build up a tremendous charge due to the weapon, and with no way to dissipate it they overload, throwing the entire ship into weightlessness – including the Beeks, whose sleds are rendered inoperable.

Without shields or gravity, and with phasers now also off-line, Kirk orders warp 10 toward Mimit, believing they can make repairs there. The Kzinti ship's drive cannot compete, but they use subspace radio to alert their planetary defense squadron on Mimit. On the way, the Enterprise regains some gravitational control, and the search is on for the theep smugglers. As they enter orbit around Mimit, Carpenter goes to check on the Theep in Engineering, and Pete – searching for him to discuss the problem in auxiliary control – finds out about the second container. This container is also leaking, this time over the transporter circuits. Pete is furious at what he sees as Carpenter holding out, and starts to beat Carpenter. Lucy also goes to engineering to find out what is going on, but is followed by Mernat, who has suspected her for some time. When Mernat arrives he smells the leaking theep. Having had no success in getting communication from the surface, the landing party is preparing to beam down when Mernat calls for help. The "killing fever" is upon him from the scent of Theep, but he holds on to rationality long enough to communicate the problem. Spock, sensing trouble due to the theep location, tries to contact the landing party to abort the transport, but communications do not work. He rushes to the transporter room, and narrowly averts the beam-out. However, Pete and Carpenter, fighting next to the damaged transporter relays become caught in a short-circuiting transporter beam and are transported into empty space – which would have been the fate of the landing party had Spock not stopped them in time. McCoy gives Mernat an injection to counteract the theep, and Lucy is arrested.

Transporter malfunction comic

Watching the transporter short-circuit

They still need to find out the status of the Mimit colony, and so the landing party takes a shuttle down. The Enterprise sensors pick up spacecraft launching from the surface under impulse power, and Spock signals Kirk's shuttle to return to the ship until more data on the nature of the spacecraft can be collected. Kirk identifies them visually as Kzinti warships, but the Kzinti are confused at why a lone shuttle would be the vanguard of the Enterprise's attack. While the starship defends itself from this new attack and leaves orbit to draw the Kzinti away from the shuttle, the Kzinti hope the Giant Killer arrives soon with its weapon.

The shuttle is hit, crashes on the planet's surface, and all contact with the landing party is lost. The Kzinti's wish is granted and Giant Killer enters the system, its crew jubilant that they have not missed the battle. Meanwhile, on the planet a large beast is tearing its way into the crashed shuttle, just as Kirk regains consciousness. Sulu and Latham are still knocked out, and Kirk prepares to fire his phaser, but the beast hits it out of his hand. The Bebebebeque, however, work together to raise and fire Lt. Latham's phaser rifle on stun as Kirk battles the beast. Momentarily out of danger, Kirk contacts the Enterprise to both give and obtain status. The Kzinti intercept the transmission in their base of operations and begin to search for the downed shuttle. Beek slaves working in the main Kzinti base overhear all this, and decide that to escape slavery they should risk everything to rescue the shuttle and gain a potential ally. They contact their underground resistance and begin to activate their hidden transporter.

The Beek Councilor on the wreckage of the shuttle examines the area but is confused: there was no record of this type of animal they just stunned, and the ground outside should be covered by a low-lying leafy vegetation (carpet leaf) the Beek had planned to eat and export as a cash crop. Just then, two Bebebebeque beam in. The new arrivals call the beast a "ravager", and explain that they are the slaves of the Kzinti. There was no record of the ravagers because they had not emerged from hibernation when the planet was first surveyed. After they wake they gorge themselves on the carpet leaf, only becoming carnivores when the leaf is totally consumed. The ravagers awoke midway through the first Beek harvest of carpet-leaf, and turned to eat the Beek since fewer leaves were available. The only thing that saved them was the Kzinti. The planet is just outside the old boundaries of the Kzinti patriarchy, and Kzinti hunt the ravagers as a coming-of-age ritual. The Kzinti showed up, rescued the Bebebebeque from certain death, but then enslaved them. Kirk guesses the rest: "With the Beeks's talent for miniaturization, Mimit has been a veritable wristwatch plantation for the Kzinti." Everyone in the shuttle is beamed out to a small Beek stronghold, just before the Kzinti hunting party arrives. The ravager, though, is still inside and waking up.

In space above, the Enterprise has destroyed all the Kzinti ships save one – the Blood Gnat – which refuses to break off its attack. On the planet, Kirk asks whether the Beeks know anything about the Hamstringer weapon. They do; it was made by the enslaved Beeks, and intended to become a means for the Kzinti to wage war on the Federation. Kirk immediately contacts the Enterprise, not yet realizing that the Beek stronghold is underneath the Kzinti base. The Kzinti pick up the transmission from inside their own building and begin a search. The Beeks reveal how to defeat the Hamstringer, and Kirk – knowing his position will be fully revealed upon a second use of his communicator – contacts the Enterprise anyway and transmits the information. The secret is to, essentially, force the Kzinti to overuse the weapon beyond its design parameters while simultaneously powering their shields; this will eventually render them too weak to fire the weapon. The Beeks and landing party then wait with three hand phasers and one phaser rifle to hold off the entire Kzinti base until help can arrive.

The Kzinti hunting party has in the meanwhile returned wounded from fighting the ravager with another problem: the ravager was part of a mass migration, and the hunting party left a trail of blood straight back to the base. Shortly thereafter a large number of ravagers converge on the base and try to force their way in. Kirk and the others try and find a way out, avoiding Kzinti hunters along the way. And in space Spock draws fire from the Hamstringer, awaiting his opportunity. The ravagers break through, and hundreds of them pour into the base. Kirk then finds out that the Hamstringer requires Bebebebeque technicians to keep it operational, meaning that Beeks are on the Giant Killer. He formulates a plan, which is transmitted to the slaves on the ship. At a precise moment the Beeks in the engine room of the Kzinti vessel interrupt power to the shields, allowing the Beeks on the planet to use their transporter to beam several ravagers to the bridge. It works and the Giant Killer veers off course.

The landing party beams up to the Enterprise and the Bebebebeque are transported off the Giant Killer. Kirk negotiates the surrender of the Giant Killer as the Kzinti ship is nearly out of power and unable to fire its weapon. Meanwhile the only other remaining Kzinti ship, the Blood Gnat, returns to the planet to pick up survivors. The captain of the Giant Killer has a problem, though: to surrender would be to assure his own death as a pirate by the Patriarch. After an encrypted transmission from the ground the Giant Killer self-destructs. At the same moment the Blood Gnat takes off, having beamed the survivors from the Giant Killer on board. Vowing to become true pirates and exact vengeance upon Kirk when they next meet, the ship speeds off.

Memorable QuotesEdit

"They're a separate species from us!"

- Kirk, describing engineers to McCoy


"I just hope one of them didn't get himself served up as the crab appetizer!"

- Kirk, being concerned about a Beek incident in the crew mess hall


"Kiznti vessel, this is the Federation starship Enterprise... and those had better be water pistols!"

- Kirk first addressing the Kzinti warship Giant Killer


"If they're caught... they'll have a choice of death by hanging, death by torture, death by fire, or death by orbvcs... personally, I would choose one of the first three methods!"

- Mernat, describing the penalty for theep smuggling, but not what orbvcs is

Background InformationEdit

Like the Kzin, the Bebebebeque are from Larry Niven's own work (although from the Draco Tavern series, rather than the Known Space series the Kzin are from). He also included a reference to the character of Kevin Renner from his book, The Mote in God's Eye, in this story.

With this comic strip story arc (which was the longest of Star Trek), DiVono and Niven managed to do something that Harlan Ellison had tried and failed to do in TOS: "The City on the Edge of Forever": implicate Starfleet officers in drug smuggling. A similar concept was also featured in DC Comics' first Star Trek comic series.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was released in the United States of America in the middle of this arc, on 4 June 1982, but the uniforms were not changed in the comic until after Harris and DiVono stopped contributing. It is a use of designs from Star Trek: The Motion Picture that the bridge crew locks themselves in place with the arms of their chairs when the ship's gravity cuts out, but it is unclear why Harris chose to portray the Enterprise's shuttle as a Surak-style warp shuttle, complete with long-range warp sled. Also, Harris apparently only had one close-up photo of Chekov available to him, or only one he liked, as he is seen in close-up in the same exact position at least three times in this story arc, and the same way in two other arcs.

LinksEdit

Regular CastEdit

Other CharactersEdit

  • Lt. Hadley
  • Security Guard Umeki
  • Mernat
  • Lucy
  • Ensign Mike Carpenter
  • Pete


Previous:
Story Arc #11
Star Trek Comic Strip (US)
Story Arcs
Next:
Story Arc #13

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