DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Cheree Cargill and is copyright (c) 2003 by Cheree Cargill. This story is Rated PG13.



RETURN OF THE ARCHONS: THE GOOD OF THE BODY

Cheree Cargill



Stardate: 3162.8, Personal Log. First Officer Spock recording.

We are in transit once again, this time en route to Starbase 7 where Captain Kirk and I, as well as the other members of the Beta III landing party, will be debriefed. The Captain has much explaining to do, for our actions on Beta III caused a major breach of the Prime Directive. Of course, there was the fact that, had we not destroyed the Landru computer, the Enterprise and all its crew would have been lost under Landru's attack. Nevertheless, I am certain that this will ultimately go before a disciplinary board. Violation of General Order No. 1 is not taken lightly.

Following the events with Khan and his group of refugees, we enjoyed a month of quiet patrol which took us from Ceti Alpha into the C111 area. We are not the first Federation ship to explore this star system. A century ago, as the Romulan Wars were ending and Starfleet was again probing farther into space, the U.S.S. Archon disappeared here with all hands. Many ships went missing in deep space during that time period and the vast majority of them were forgotten, the Archon among them. It is only recently, as we moved into this region, that the name of that ship surfaced once more in hundred-year-old records and Starfleet delegated the Enterprise to attempt to find some trace of the long-forgotten ship.

Beta III is a Class-M world inhabited by humanoids in an early industrial civilization. It is roughly analogous with Earth s 19th century United States and Europe. There is primitive manufacture but heavy industry seems almost non-existent except for that needed to supply the population with clothing and low-level necessities such as shelter and food. Our scanners discovered limited steel production and mining, but again these seem to produce only enough to supply needs. The cities are small, population numbering in the low thousands, the buildings composed of three to four story stone architecture. Trolleys run on steel tracks but are drawn by draft animals; there are no trains or steamships. Likewise, there is no electricity or communications grid, and energy needs seem to be rudimentary fossil fuels, such as natural gas or kerosene for lighting and coal or wood for heating. We can find no evidence of agriculture beyond that needed to sustain the population of the cities and countryside, no evidence that this culture is progressing at more than a snail s pace. It is stagnant, its people contented, as a bovine is contented to stand and vacuously rechew regurgitated fodder. It is quite against the norm of the vast majority of humanoid civilizations, which tend to be vibrant, violent and fiercely entrepreneurial.

The Captain sent down Mr. Sulu and Mr. O Neill to reconnoiter, but they quickly met with disaster. Our information had been wrong on local clothing customs and they were conspicuously out of place. They were overwhelmed and taken into the Body, the controlled mass consciousness ruled by Landru. The Captain elected to send a larger shore party to explore further. It was there that we obtained first hand knowledge of this bizarre world and the fate of the Archon.

Strangest of all, and the first incidence we encountered, was the Red Hour. As I stood at the second-story window of our accommodations, I could not help but watch in consternation and amazement at the chaos below us. It was an orgy in the streets, men and women copulating openly, changing partners and beginning over again. People ran and screamed, lobbed rocks and other missiles through windows, laughing hysterically as if overtaken by some bizarre insanity or intoxication. It made no sense ... but, when on the stroke of the morning clock, the entire population reverted abruptly to their zombie-like state, I began to analyze the growing hypothesis I was now forming.

When we finally "met" Landru, in the form of a hologram, I found myself utterly fascinated, both by the technology and by his words. On its own, the hologram was beautiful. There was no projector, no apparatus. It simply appeared in thin air. Our own science cannot even reproduce this, although the research and development is in its infancy. I have seen demonstrations of chambers in which holograms can be created this convincingly, but it requires an enormous amount of energy and the effects are short-lived and non-interactive.

The technology needed to produce the hologram of Landru is centuries beyond these people or centuries behind them. The light panel that Reger uncovered is compatible with a culture that could produce this hologram, however. How long ago must this civilization have been capable of turning out such marvels? What did he say? On the order of 6,000 years in the past? It would not be the first time an advanced culture crumpled into a more primitive state and had to claw its way back up. But what happened here? What is the answer?

Then the holographic image spoke, soothingly, seductively, what was obviously a recorded message, and the spark of understanding flared in my brain like a nova.

"I am Landru. You have come to a world without hate, without fear, without conflict. No war, no disease, no crime. None of the ancient evils. Tranquility. Peace for all. The universal good. The good must transcend the evil. It shall be done. So it has been since the beginning. You will be absorbed. Your individuality will merge into the unity of good and, in your submergence into the common being of the Body, you will find contentment. Fulfillment. You will experience the absolute good."

And later, when questioned by the Captain, Reger told us, "There was war. Convulsions. The world was destroying itself. Landru was our leader. He saw the truth. He changed the world. He took us back. Back to a simpler time. A time of peace and tranquility."

The words were uncannily familiar to me. It is so logical that I marvel I did not see it immediately. Landru was this planet's Surak, the one who saw the need for peace as his world tore itself apart in war and conflict. But his solution differed from ours. Instead of persuading the populace to adopt a philosophy of emotional control and logic, Landru built a machine powerful and sentient enough to take control of his subjects' minds. There was indeed now order and peace, but it was that of a well-oiled machine. They were self-aware and functional, but controlled utterly.

We have never before encountered a civilization remotely like this one. The subject fascinates me and I find myself experiencing a bit of envy that I am not a part of the anthropology and sociology team left behind. I would like to study the culture here, how the people managed to survive under these conditions and whether they can manage to make the transition to free thinking men and women now that Landru is gone. Have the majority lost the ability to think? Will those like Reger and Marplon, who escaped the mind control, be the ones who will ultimately lead these people?

I suspect that a return to a "dark age" is inevitable. Without Landru, I doubt that there will be the knowledge of how to grow food, repair buildings, or function in a thousand daily situations. In addition, long-buried aggression has already appeared, as reported by our team there. Will they be able to sort themselves out or has the dormant seed of war sprouted again already?

I can only hope that a Surak will arise among them to show them the way. And I understand anew why the Prime Directive has formed the core of Starfleet for so many decades. In saving ourselves, we may have destroyed this world. I fear we will not see it set right in our lifetimes.

THE END