||One of the well written stories that slipped several "below decks" characters in, characters that would reappear throughout Dillard's stories. A Vulcan survey team finds an ancient artifact that unleashes bloodthirsty creatures composed of mental energy, capable of taking over the bodies of any creature that can make eye contact with an infected being. Luckily, Starfleet had been forewarned of this danger, and included a secret agent aboard the Enterprise, capable of dealing with the monsters. Taken from a distance, this story is a fairly standard "mass murderer aboard the Enterprise" storyline. Added to it is the normal number of miraculous disaster aversions due to Spock's direct attention, not to mention an ability to pull in just about every other established character stereotype possible. And, as if to make matters worse, the creatures have been also unleashed upon Vulcan, bringing out coldly methodical killing machines that can hide their activities behind unemotional masks. The true strength of this book lies in the character development and interactions of the characters unique to Dillard's work. The known characters are flat and almost derisive, but the secondary characters are well rounded and fully descriptive, virtually rating their own storyline, not merely being added in to a known grouping. Dillard has created several notable characters, almost all within the Security Division (to bypass the noted Red Shirt Rule), as well as a practical trickster of a secret agent. The settings of the story are well described, but use firmly established environments from both the live action and the animated series. (Combat scenes could have been taken from "Day Of The Dove", and a storyline taking place on Vulcan seem to be a complete retelling of D.C. Fontana's work from the animated series.) If you are looking for a stand alone story, this is fairly standard, unimaginative fare. However, if you are interested in reading excellent examples of character development, I'd recommend this as part of a series. Simply read all of the TOS books by J.M. Dillard, concentrating on the background characters. A definite must for anyone interested in role playing in the Star Trek universe.