The Enterprise is summoned to a Vedala asteroid. Four other spaceships are in orbit, and the ancient Vedala spacefaring race say that something dangerous to the safety of the galaxy is developing. They have requested several specialists, including Kirk and Spock.
The two men beam down and find themselves in a clearing with the Vedala representative as well as four aliens: Em/3/Green, Lara, Tchar, and Sord. Tchar is an avian heredity prince of the Skorr; Sord is a giant lizard humanoid; Em, an insectoid thief; and Lara a huntress with a flawless directional sense. Spock was chosen for his analytical mind and scientific expertise, and Kirk for his leadership abilities.
Tchar explains that two centuries past, the Skorr were great warriors who could breed rapidly. Alar, a religious leader, brought them peace and died and they made him immortal. His brain patterns were recorded in a piece of indurite sculpture, and the Soul of the Skorr was stolen. The theft triggered a racial fury, and the Skorr will go to war against the galaxy. Within two years, they could breed two billion warriors. The Skorr government have concealed the theft, but when the Skorr discover they will launch a galactic jihad.
The Vedala shows them the image of a "mad planet", geologically unstable. The temperature varies from 20 Kelvin to 204 above, and the Soul is hidden somewhere there. Three expeditions have tried to recover it and have died, and the Vedala could not survive on the planet. Everyone agrees and the Vedala teleports them to the planet.
The six specialists find themselves standing next to a compact land vehicle. Tchar cannot feel the soul, but Spock points out that the planet shifts constantly. The vehicle has directional equipment keying on indurate, and Em can handle the equipment. The tracker picks up a trace but then explodes as the surface shifts. Lara is able to get the direction and points them on the way. Tchar flies up to scout ahead, and Spock acquaints himself with the supplies. Lara immediately hits on Kirk, finding him attractive, and he says that she's fascinating but they're not on a pleasure trip. Spock reports that the supplies are adequate... and there are weapons.
The team travels on and the weather changes from rain to desert heat. Tchar sees something ahead and tells them that the Soul is there. A volcano explodes and lava flows toward them. Kirk suggests that they divert the lava with a barricade, and that they use all of the vehicle's energy for one high-speed run. Spock concedes that it is possible, and Em says that he can do it if Spock diagrams the schematic.
Tchar spots a ravine, and Sord and Kirk create an avalanche. Spock and Em hook up the energy packs and everyone gets back. The lava overflows the barricade and Lara directs them out of the flow path. Em pilots the vehicle away just in time and they outrun the lava flow. When it hits a rock, Spock is knocked out. Kirk goes back to get him and they reboard and continue. The vehicle reaches a slope and the packs run out, and everyone continues on foot. Spock chastises Kirk for risking the mission for him, and Kirk says that his responsibility includes not losing Spock.
A blizzard starts on and the team continues on, carrying their equipment. Tchar spots a building up ahead, just as a crevasse opens beneath Em. Kirk and Spock hold him long enough for Tchar to lift Em to safety, and the alien says that he can't go on. Kirk has Sord carry him, and Tchar flies on ahead. The snow stops and they come to a forest. Sord thinks that he sees something, but Spock points out that the Vedala said that there is no life on the planet.
Tchar senses the Soul and Kirk warns him to be careful. Kirk scouts ahead and Lara insists on going with him. Meanwhile, Spock asks Sord what he saw. Sord says that he saw a shape but couldn't make things out, and Spock insists that the Vedala would know if there was any life on the planet. Sord and Em aren't convinced.
Kirk and Lara find the structure and Lara suggests that they have a quick assignation and create some green memories. He says that he already has plenty but maybe some other time. The others join them and Spock points out that the structure is shaped like a Skorr primitive temple. There is a sealed door and Em picks the lock. He warns that it's booby-trapped on a timed trigger. Flyers swoop down and attack them, and sword covers Em while the others open fire. When they use their weapons on a flyer, it explodes in a burst of mechanical parts. Tchar wrestles in the air with one, and it grabs him and carries him to the structure roof.
Em opens the door and the remaining team members enter. The Soul is hovering several stories above the ground, and the walls aren't climbable. The door closes behind them and there's no lock to open. Kirk figures that someone sabotaged the missions of the last expeditions, He spots a ledge spiraling upwards, and they climb up onto the lowest level except for Sord, who is too large.
Kirk, Lara, Spock, and Em edge up along the level. Spock notes that the structure is flexible enough to withstand earthquakes. They reach the Soul hovering in space, but it is locked in a force field and Lara's rope would bounce off of it. Before they can come up with another plan, an energy beam destroys the ledge behind them. Kirk says that he knows who the traitor is: Tchar.
Tchar flies down and boards that he stole the Soul to restore his people to the warriors that they once were. Now Tchar will lead his people into glory to avenge their history. They will die but win a great dream. Tchar grants them his respect and an honorable death... and turns on a gravity neutralizer. The team drifts into the air, and Kirk figures that since Tchar controls the fortress phaser bank, they have to fight on Tchar's turns.
Kirk and Spock attack Tchar, using their freefall training. They manage to grab him and Kirk hooks his foot on the Soul. Lara calls for retrieval, and the Vedala teleport them back to the asteroid. The Vedala thanks them for their help and sends the Soul to the Skorr. Tchar will be healed of his madness , and the Vedala teleports him away. She says that they can't acknowledge the theft, and assures them that there will be no questions. Eventually even they will forget the mission. Lara says goodbye to Kirk as they teleport away.
Back on the Enterprise, Sulu tells Kirk and Spock that they beamed over and came right back. They were only gone two minutes. Kirk says that the Vedala changed their minds and the danger has passed, and they depart.
Written by Gadfly on Jun 12, 2017