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"Captain." Uhura swung round in her chair. "I'm getting a distress call from Fomalhaut 3."
"None as yet. Just a standard subspace call."
"Fomalhaut 3." Kirk mused. "Anyone know anything about it?"
Spock turned from the library computer. "It is a colonised planet, Captain, inhabited solely by an old Earth sect called the Amish. They have a doctrine of non-resistance and a culture based on German nineteenth century customs. They emigrated to Old America to escape persecution and later, with the coming of the warp drive, to Fomalhaut 3, which they call Mennon. They speak a language based on Palatine German and English which was commonly known as Pennsylvanian Dutch."
Although Kirk had not yet known his First Officer for long, he had already learned not to show surprise at the Vulcan's formidable talent for providing instant information - lectures, McCoy called them. He nodded his thanks.
"Plot a course for Fomalhaut 3. Mr. Bailley; we'll go and see what they want," he said.
As they came within normal radio range, Uhura picked up the signal once more.
"Put him on the screen, Lieutenant."
"I can't, Captain, he refuses further contact. His message reads, 'Unknown fever outbreak, medical assistance required immediately. Landing co-ordinates 268 325 976.' That's all, sir."
Kirk looked across at the library computer. We'll beam down with Dr. McCoy. Mr. Bailley, you have the con."
* * * * * * * *
They found themselves outside a crude log hut among gently rolling hills. Sheep cropped the short grass; a peaceful, idyllic scene. The hut door swung open; Kirk lost interest in the scenery. The man wore the dark grey knee breeches and wideawake hat of a seventeenth century Puritan, but his most noticeable feature was the full flowing, gleaming red beard that curled riotously down his chest
"I thank you for coming to our aid," he told them. "I am Ahab. I fear our leader will not be pleased when he hears what I have done, for I am breaking our laws in seeking your help, but my wife is growing feebler and my sister risks her life among the sick and dying. And while the Klingons maintain control we can do little for them."
"Klingons," Kirk said explosively
Spock and McCoy ranged themselves back to back behind him, phasers in hand, eyes alert for danger
"Mister, your explanation had better be good. Why were we not warned of the presence of Klingons? We haven't encountered one of their ships."
Ahab shook his head wearily. "There are but seven of them, Captain. Their ship is small and hidden somewhere on the planet. They came a month or so ago; we tried to show them that we simply want to be left in peace. We have no interest in fighting for any cause, but their commander made life intolerable. Then they took some of the women for their pleasure..." His voice broke. "My wife among them." He turned his head aside, fighting for calm. "I could not endure it. Our leader will do nothing; he bids us remember our faith and our submission to suffering. But to watch those you love in agony..." He broke off, covering his face.
Kirk muttered his sympathy; he didn't need to imagine the Klingons' methods of ensuring compliance - he'd seen them too often.
McCoy relaxed his watchfulness a little, and said, over his shoulder, "When did the fever start?"
"Two weeks after they took Rebecca they cast her out, bidding us find a younger, stronger woman to serve their needs." He paused, grim-mouthed. "She would not speak of what she had suffered, but now, the fever rages within her and she raves of such bestiality that all who hear her grow sick." He stopped once more. "We no longer hear of what goes on within our meeting house. Those that grow sick are slaughtered and thrown out for us to bury. Even in that they display their cruelty; they do not use their phasers to give them a clean death." He shook his head, shuddering at the recollection. "Now others have taken the sickness from Rebecca and there are many ill. The older ones die swiftly; my wife still lives but grows feebler every day."
"What are the symptoms?" McCoy asked.
"One feels tremendous burning in the limbs and open sores appear between the toes and fingers, which slowly rot away while the body still lives. Death is too slow in coming for those who watch their loved ones suffer."
"Capellan fever," McCoy said. "One of the Klingons must be a carrier. We can deal with it, Jim. but we cannot save the limbs if they are already affected. We'll need to work fast and vaccinate everyone on the planet if it is not to spread. One carrier can infect millions in time."
"Can we get the doctor to the sick without the Klingons' knowledge?"
Ahab nodded. "They are all in the fever-house; we separated them from their families. It is about a mile to the north-east, well beyond the village. We shall not be seen; the Klingons know they have nothing to fear from us and keep no watch. Their contempt is worst of all." His voice expressed the deep-welling rage within him.
They skirted the sprawling village, the focal point a high-roofed house with a small belfry set at one end.
"Our Meeting House, where we should meet to honour our God," Ahab told them bitterly. "Now it is made unclean by those devils."
Kirk made sure they were not silhouetted against the skyline. There was no point in risking recognition. Since the Klingons always fought first and asked questions afterwards - if there was anyone left to ask - he was keen to avoid direct confrontation for the time being.
They were greeted at the door of the fever house by a grey-clad, red-haired woman whose attempted air of serenity was belied by the mutinous set of her mouth.
"Ahab, you have sought help?" Her eyes swiftly took in the strangers' appearance. "But Micah forbade..."
"I know," Ahab said fiercely. "Micah has told me what I should do, but I cannot suffer the pain of so many others as well as I could mine own agony. I must do something; I cannot sit looking on. Susannah, one of these men is a doctor and can cure our sick. Please take him to them. I will take these others to plead with Micah."
* * * * * * * *
The local leader was a tall, powerful man, with a greying beard as full as all Mennonite males. His speech was slow and gentle... but he remained adamant against Kirk's persuasiveness.
"Captain Kirk, you have been brought here without my knowledge or permission; I would never have given my consent. I shall deal severely with Ahab; the Lord's Will must be obeyed though we suffer here below. I cannot condone any form of violence."
"Even though your women are abused and your men killed?" Kirk asked bluntly.
"Heaven will reward them. My people know that and welcome whatever God holds out for them."
"But surely one has the right to defend oneself against aggression," Spock said quietly. "My people do not take life unnecessarily, but we admit the right to defend one's family and one's planet if they are threatened."
Micah sighed. "We left Earth, Mr. Spock, to avoid just such reasoning as this. The devil can always find an advocate."
"Will you at least give us as much information as you can about these Klingons?" Kirk asked. "How did they get here. and where are they now?"
"I will tell you nothing to further your ungodly ends."
Kirk lost his temper - it didn't show to either peaceful Mennonite or Vulcan. "If we can deal with the Klingons without your having to lift a finger, will that satisfy you?"
"Captain," Spock interrupted, "there are seven Klingons and only two of us. Do you intend to beam down an armed party? If so, we run the risk of war with the Klingon Empire."
"I'm aware of that, Mr. Spock. I think you and I should be able to manage seven of them if we put our minds to it. That is, if it will not offend the Amish if we take unilateral action?"
A slight gleam of hope seemed to appear in Micah's eyes, but he merely professed himself quite ready to ignore them. Their salvation, he implied, was in their own hands; he would not interfere in devil's work.
Outside, Kirk let out a long breath of exasperation. "I don't think I've been considered an emissary of the devil before, have you, Mr. Spock?"
The Vulcan clearly considered the question purely rhetorical.
* * * * * * * *
Back at the fever house they found McCoy ordering supplies of drugs to be beamed down.
"All under control, Bones?"
"Yes. It's not a severe fever if you've got the right drugs to deal with it. Susannah has been a great help; she's a good nurse."
"I'm afraid our news is less cheerful. Micah refuses to help us; we haven't even found out how the Klingons got here. Lt. Uhura reports no sign of any Klingon ship in the vicinity and no unidentifiable radio activity."
"I can tell you a little," Susannah said quietly. "The men will tell you nothing - even my brother would not have sent out the distress call if it had not been for his wife's illness. They are all within the Meeting House, but although that is a considered sacrilege, the men will not lift a finger against them."
"But how did they get here?" Kirk asked. "How long since they arrived?"
"We saw them first a month ago," Susannah said. "There was a roaring and a flame in the sky two nights before we first saw them. There are those who say it was a sign of God's wrath, but it seems to me more probable that it was a scout ship."
"A scout ship." Kirk frowned.
"It could be," said Spock, "but if it is so, one would expect them to be using their radio, at least to report back. The Klingon fleet is not generally encouraged to think and act for itself without orders from their High Command."
"We must find it and have a look at it if possible," said Kirk. "It may answer a few questions." He took out his communicator.
"Bridge. Uhura here."
"Lieutenant, sensor scan for a Klingon scout ship on the planet surface and give us an exact location."
It had come down deep in wooded country and was well hidden by trees. "No life readings," Spock reported. "We should be able to get inside."
"Unless they've set a trap."
"Unlikely, Captain. From their subsequent actions it appears that they knew what to expect from the Amish, and they would believe they had no need to protect themselves."
They worked with caution all the same, but the Vulcan proved to be right and they got inside with no trouble.
"Let's check it out, Mr. Spock."
Half an hour's search produced little of interest, which they had expected. Spock, however, did note something usual.
"The identity call in the computer has been altered," he reported. "This ship is now declaring itself a Vegan merchant."
"Vegan? To delude the Federation?"
"We would challenge a Vegan as we would a Klingon vessel. It must be to delude their own ships - which is illogical."
Kirk pondered, but couldn't come up with any answers. "Well, Mr. Spock, if we can't achieve anything else, at least we can scuttle this ship and cut off their retreat."
"A logical precaution. Do you wish to destroy it or render it useless to them?"
"You can do that without their knowing it has been tampered with?"
"Yes. I have only to reprogramme the computer."
"Very well, Mr. Spock." If he had had any other First officer of his acquaintance with him, Kirk would have blown the Klingon ship to smithereens to make sure, but he was beginning to have great faith in Spock. He had never yet known him to speak anything other than the literal truth about his abilities and that was more than any Captain could reasonably expect.
Spock's hands moved deftly about the computer circuits and, in a surprisingly short time, he turned and said, "It is done. To the Klingons it will appear that their circuitry is defective, but they will be unable to locate any faults. In this way we do not give away our presence and may maintain the element of surprise."
"Thank you, Mr. Spock. Beam us up, Scotty."
* * * * * * * *
McCoy was peacefully engaged in making up individual doses of the drugs for Susannah to administer when she came hurrying into the small temporary office. "Doctor, one of the Klingons is coming. You must hide."
"What is he coming here for? Me?"
"No. They can't know you are here. I know what he wants. Quick, in here." She pushed him into a cupboard holding brooms and other cleaning equipment. "Stay quiet and you will be all right. He mustn't see that uniform."
She shut the wooden door; he set his eye to a crack and watched the Klingon enter the room.
"Susannah, I told you to come to the Meeting House today."
"I shall not come, Kirn," she said steadily. "I told you so."
"I thought you Mennonites always did as you were told," he sneered. "Your sisters, or cousins, or whatever they are, are very co-operative. Why aren't you? I can make you."
"Please leave me alone. I have work to do here. The sick ones need me." He laughed jeeringly and grabbed her to him; she struggled and he hit her brutally.
McCoy was out of the cupboard. "Let her go."
The Klingon was incredibly swift. In one movement he thrust the girl from him and drew his phaser. It was lucky for McCoy it was only set on stun, because Kirn had no intention of pausing to check the setting.
He looked down at the unconscious body. "Well, well, a Federation uniform. I think we'll take you both along and ask a few questions."
* * * * * * * *
Spock looked round the small office. "There appears to have been a struggle, Captain, therefore we can assume the Doctor has met the Klingons. It seems likely he has been taken to the Meeting House."
"Then we must get him out again."
"Affirmative, Captain. Have you a plan in mind?"
"Yes, Mr. Spock. We want to get as close as we can without being recognised. We'll go back aboard and see what they can provide for us in the way of clothing and whiskers."
Half an hour later. Kirk was regretting he did not have time to appreciate to the full the awesome spectacle his First officer presented as he joined him in the transporter room. Night had fallen over the Amish village below, and it was only important that their silhouettes should appear convincing. Kirk did not think the feeble rush-lights the Amish used would be sufficient to betray Spock, but in the brighter light of the transporter room the combination of faintly green skin with a full black beard was almost too much for the gravity of the two technicians present. Spock, however, was quite unconscious of the sensation he caused and his demeanour was customarily calm as he took his station.
A few seconds later they were standing outside the Meeting House.
Kirk looked about him, pondering the best way to get in. He could see no sign of any guard, but that did not mean their arrival had been unobserved. Spock drew him hastily into the shadows as the door opened and a woman came out carrying a stone pitcher. She passed their hiding place and went through the trees to what Kirk realised must be a well. He slipped after her, motioning Spock to follow, and spoke softly.
"Sister. Don't be afraid, we mean you no harm."
She stiffened a little, but relaxed again immediately. "The only evil in this place is back in there. What do you want? Is it possible that some of our menfolk have taken pity on us at last?"
"We intend to help you, yes, but we are not of your people. We are from the U.S.S. Enterprise. Isn't there a watch being kept for us?"
"They have ordered our menfolk to keep a watch for strangers, but they do not understand either our weakness or our strength. Because we remain passive and do not repay violence with violence they believe that we are sufficiently cowed to obey their commands blindly. The men will not take sides in any quarrel, not even for our sakes."
"It will soon be over," Kirk told her gently. "The Klingons have captured one of my crew. Is he in there?"
"The doctor. Yes, he is there. They tortured him but he would say nothing but his name. Now they are going to beat Susannah to make him talk."
Kirk looked at the Vulcan. "Bones won't talk even if they hurt the girl, but we've got to save him from making that decision."
"Certainly, Captain, but it would be as well if we can reduce their numbers a little first."
Kirk nodded. "Can you help us, sister?"
"We are desperate," she said evenly. "Our men have abandoned us to such horrors... " She caught her breath and looked away from him. "Tell me what you want."
"Entice at least one Klingon out here. The more the better."
"Easily. I will be back with one in a moment. Wait here, by the well." They waited only a short while before they heard voices coming closer.
"So this time it is to be a willing surrender. I shall enjoy that."
"My own man does not care to fight for me, so I may as well belong to you." The two figures merged in the darkness; Spock slipped silently from Kirk's side and the next instant the Klingon crumpled without a sound and was dragged into the undergrowth.
Kirk looked from Spock to the limp figure and back again. "That was remarkably quiet, Mr. Spock. What did you do?"
Spock raised his eyebrows infinitesimally. "The nervous systems of both Klingons and Humans are extraordinarily vulnerable," he said. "I merely pinched him on the neck."
The woman joined them. "I have arranged with Dorothea that she will bring two Klingons out to look for him. Be ready."
Again they did not have long to wait before they heard voices. "Karstan has not come back, you say? Did he come out alone?"
"No, Sarah was with him - the woman you wanted for your own, Kaan. I think they may have gone amongst the trees somewhere."
"The others can deal with the Federation spy," Kaan growled.
"Karstan will find more among the trees than he bargained for. Follow me, Katar."
Once more a dark figure slipped from the shadow and one Klingon fell heavily to the ground. Kirk was on the other a split second later. They bound the pair tightly with rope from the well.
"Pity we daren't risk phasers inside the house," Kirk said regretfully. "Still, only four to go now."
"Most satisfactory," Spock agreed.
Inside, the House was dim with smoke from the cooking fire. Around it was a general movement and murmur among the women as they prepared the evening meal; at the far end of the long room there was stillness.
McCoy was tied fast to one of the wooden pillars supporting the roof, his uniform torn and bloody, his body marked with gashes. His breathing was uneven and his eyes dull; blood trickled slowly from one corner of his mouth.
"Will you talk yet, or must I order some new entertainment for us all?"
McCoy shook his head wearily; the Klingon looked at him with disgust. "You'd like us to make a martyr of you, wouldn't you," the Klingon sneered. "Well, we'll see what treating the woman who hid you will do. Bring her here."
Two other Klingons dragged Susannah forward. She shook off their hands and stood defiantly. McCoy raised his eyes to hers and shook his head, his face grey with the knowledge of what she must suffer.
Kirk touched Spock on the arm and pointed. "You go round that side, I'll go this. Attack when I do."
Unobtrusively they made their way up the room. As the Klingon raised his arm Kirk sprang, kicking his wrist, simultaneously chopping at another Klingon's throat. Spock cut the ropes that bound McCoy and felled a third with a gentle neck pinch. The Amish men stood silently and watched, but several of the women hampered the Klingons by holding their arms, oblivious of bruises.
McCoy looked from Kirk to Spock and closed his eyes. "It's a nightmare," he said faintly. "That matting doesn't do a thing for either of you two beauties."
Kirk grinned. and took out his communicator. "Kirk to Enterprise. Stand by, we have seven prisoners to beam up."
"I'm glad to hear you, Captain," Uhura replied. "We have a Klingon police ship in our sights, but they're starting to get impatient with us."
Kirk interviewed the Klingon Police Chief in the briefing room. "I'm sorry you have been kept waiting," he said politely, "but I was detained by a little matter of business. May I enquire what you are doing in this sector? This is not Klingon space."
"We know, Captain, and we have shown our authorisation from your Federation. Your ship locked a tractor beam on us and is preventing us from carrying out our duties. Please command your crew to let us beam down to Mennon at once."
"We believe that a scout ship of ours has landed there. We want the men on board."
"Who are they?"
"Escaped convicts. They stole a ship to make their getaway, and we have traced their destination to this planet. The Federation told us that your colony there will not defend itself, and we think these men may try to become masters of the whole planet. They are dangerous men, Captain Kirk. If left alone they would be a danger to the Klingons as well as to the Federation. They were awaiting execution for the attempted murder of our Emperor."
"I see." Kirk cut in the viewscreen to the brig. When the Klingon saw the seven men he smiled a cold, hard smile
"Was this your little matter of business, Captain? If so, you have my gratitude."
Gratitude was the last think Kirk had ever expected to receive from a Klingon.
* * * * * * * *
"Well, Mr. Spock," said Kirk when he had put his First Officer in the picture, "that explains why the scout ship was using a Vegan call sign."
Spock frowned. "Constant association with the illogicality of Human thinking must be affecting me adversely."
"Oh, surely not," said Kirk, straight-faced. "Ah, Bones, is everything under control down there?"
"The patients are," said McCoy with a glint in his eyes, "but I'm not so sure about the nurses. I think there are slight signs of revolt among the women."
"Yes," Kirk agreed. "I had a feeling that some of them would find it difficult to forgive their menfolk. But apart from that, everything's done?"
"Yes. We've beamed down a medical team to carry on. There's nothing else to keep us here."
"Very well, Bones. Now you are to go below and get some sleep. That's an order."
As the doors hissed shut, he turned to Spock. "Thank you, Mr. Spock, you have been invaluable."
Spock raised his eyebrows. "There is no need to thank me, Captain, I was merely carrying out my duties."
"I am afraid, Mr. Spock, that gratitude is an earth weakness of mine, which you will have to learn to live with. Carry on."
As Spock left the room, Kirk wondered whether his retreating back looked more relaxed than usual, but decided he was probably mistaken.
Copyright Meg Wright