One - qo'Hegh
“You must abandon me Rok’ta,” Tykar intoned raggedly through his wrist communicator. “As the eldest brother, and heir of the House of Co’Mas, I command you to return to the house of our father and report my disgrace,” the bloodied Klingon warrior demanded through his pain. He sat down wearily, straddling a fallen tree, thankful his first officer, in his misbegotten haste to save his captain (an unthinkable thing to do - warriors were supposed to die in battle - not abandon their ship!), hadn’t transported him into the tall outcropping of solid rock near where he now sat.
But Rok’ta was the youngest of his five brothers, and in many ways untested in the exacting disciplines which rule a true warrior’s heart. Despite his reputation among his peers as a fierce rival with a quick knife and ferocious temper, Tykar knew Rok’ta was his mother’s favorite and she had lavished much affection on this smallest warrior of their clan. And, although ardently protective of the family’s honor, Rok’ta had taken to spending his own affection on the oldest of his brothers by emulating Tykar from a very early age. Rok’ta would not abandon his icon so easily.
“I hear you, brother,” Rok’ta began, with a hint of amusement “but I will not be the one to tell our father that I discarded his most favored son as one would throw out the body of a dead enemy. I might not live through the first telling of such a tale!” Rok’ta’s tone became the voice of reason, “You have been on the surface for no more than twenty minutes and have had no contact with anyone else. You cannot possibly have been infected in so short a time.”
“I will hear no more of this blasphemy!” Tykar raged. “This planet has been quarantined for five generations. I will not bring further disgrace to my family and to my people by becoming the bearer of a plague. You must tell our father my ship was sabotaged. He will exact his vengeance for my disgrace by finding the cowards responsible for the deaths of my crew. Go now and speak to me no more. Your duty is to our House and to our people. You must support Der’Al as your oldest brother now.” He paused, deliberately softening his tone to reach out to his youngest brother, silently urging him to do what he knew must be done. “The law is clear.”
That’s when he heard the crack of a tree limb above him. A body fell on him, knocking him to the ground in his weakened state. He grappled with the body, exhausted from his efforts of fighting the flames that had engulfed his ship. Finally, rolling to his left, Tykar thrust the body from him, surprised at the lack of weight. Raising to his haunches, he bared his teeth and readied himself for an attack.
A young Klingon boy lay on his back, unmoving, on the hardened ground. As a moan escaped from his lips, he opened his eyes to see the warrior crouched not far from him, looking ready to tear him apart at the slightest provocation. The youth lifted his head and shoulders, propping himself unsteadily on his elbows. He felt dizzy from the fall and ached all over from the impact with the visitor, and then the unforgiving ground. He was about to speak when suddenly he heard the whine of a transporter effect.
“You must not!” Tykar bellowed, as he tried to free himself from the paralyzing grip of the energy beam. But he knew it was too late, for even as he vented his frustration, he could feel himself beginning to dissolve.
As Tykar’s molecules reassembled themselves on the transporter pad aboard Rok’ta’s vessel, two more heads popped up from the undergrowth surrounding the spot Tykar had just vacated. Their eyes wide with wonder for having seen the first visitor to their planet who was not a doctor or scientist, they quietly assembled themselves into a loose knot.
"We must tell Doctor Motar what happened,” the young female stated, adjusting the hooded cowl around her face.
“You know we’re not supposed to be this far away from the compound,” the other newcomer reminded her impatiently. “If we tell Motar, he’ll never let us out here again. Do you want to be stuck inside for the rest of your life?” He hated weaknesses in others, especially those weaknesses which prevented him from having his own way. He was beginning to wonder why he bothered bringing her out here in the first place. Even the fact that she thought she had to hide her facial disfigurement from him was annoying.
“But, Jak’tar, the virus...” the boy who had fallen on Tykar began, clearly torn between what he felt was right and wanting to please the older boy.
“That was a warrior.” Jak’tar spat. “A Klingon warrior. I’ve read the histories of our so-called Home World. Warriors are supposed to be the smartest and bravest among our people. He should never have come here. If he has the disease now, it’s his own fault,” Jak’tar stated with finality. “If you and Colna tell Doctor Motar we were out of the compound and saw that warrior here, we’ll never get to do anything but be poked and prodded by those alien friends of his!” Jak’tar exclaimed in exasperation, fanning his purple-scarred hands in the air.
“That’s fine for you, Jarton,” Jak’tar’s tone became mocking, “because you’re getting too sick to do much of anything anymore anyway. But I wouldn’t want to get stuck inside because of you!” Jak’tar snarled, poking a finger in Jarton’s direction.
Jarton knew he would give in, because he always deferred to the older boy’s demands, but he silently hoped Colna would have the courage to talk to Dr. Motar. She was still strong enough not to feel the weight of the disease that had imprisoned them here for the duration of their short lives. Her face and arms were scarred as a result of the disease, and she often walked with a limp when she was tired, but she had a strength of character that Jarton knew he lacked. If they would only find a cure for this terrible disease, maybe he would find the energy to be more like her, instead of always doing the bidding of bullies like Jak’tar who preyed upon his weaker brethren.
Colna, like Jarton, said nothing. Unlike Jarton, she didn’t murmur her assent and bow her head. She glared directly into Jak’tar’s eyes with something akin to defiance. Honor demanded truth. She, too, had read the histories of Qo’noS, and had found a culture she could embrace and feel proud to be a part of. In her blossoming warrior’s heart, she understood that the Empire and its people must be spared from the atrocities visited upon those few who had contracted this disfiguring and deadly disease. She had spent more hours than any other displaced Klingon with the doctors and scientists, subjecting herself to rigorous and sometimes painful examinations in the hopes of helping to find a cure. Her dream was to join the ranks of her peers on the Home World and live her life for the greater glory of the Empire. To die a warrior’s death, not to die in disgrace because she was born to a mother who carried a deadly virus. Hers was not a will so easily bent to serving Jak’tar and his fellow cowards.
In a life where death was a frequent and lingering visitor, she had found that little could truly frighten her. But she feared now - because of this lone warrior who had happened onto their world. If he had been a Human or Vulcan or even a thrice-cursed Romulan, she would not have felt the icy grip of fear solidifying in her gut. Klingons were the only race who had proven to be subject to the disease. The visiting warrior, Tykar, had come perilously close to the three of them when he arrived. As he had stumbled about, surveying his new surroundings, he had, much to her dismay, ventured into their place of concealment. Jarton had looked pained as he held himself still and tried to hold his very breath. If the warrior hadn’t been so badly burned, perhaps he would have taken better notice of his surroundings. If he hadn’t been so strident in his conversations with his brother aboard the orbiting starship, he might have seen Jarton perched directly above him. As it was, Tykar had never known he had been in close proximity to any other living being. In their forays to the forest surrounding the compound in which they all lived, the three of them had perfected their stealth. That skill was something she had been proud of until now.
Now, because of their expertise, Rok’ta had thought Tykar was alone. Tykar would take the disease into the very heart of the Empire itself. For she was certain the warrior had become infected, especially since he had open wounds. Colna could not allow that to happen. She would find a way to tell Dr. Motar without alerting Jak’tar to her plan. Jak’tar may be a bully and a coward, but his vengeance was well known. More than one of his rivals had died much sooner than the doctor had predicted. She would be very careful with this information about their visitor, but the health and the glory of the Empire must be preserved!
Two - Verda
“Doctor Selar has returned to the Vulcan Academy of Sciences only to gather additional equipment and personnel. She will be returning to the planet qo’Hegh within two standard days,” T’Tala humbly explained to the image on the screen in front of her. Her hands were tightly clasped in front of her on the console. She was always aware of the possibility of being discovered by the authorities using this transmitter in her parents’ home on a coded channel. The Vulcans may not have the need for an overt security force, but their technology was sufficiently advanced that T’Tala knew it was only a matter of time before these transmissions would be detected.
“There will not be sufficient time to gather the results of her preliminary studies of the diseased Klingons prior to her departure.” It was not logical to feel distressed. She could not alter the number of days Dr. Selar would be on the planet.
“Then I suggest you determine a way to accompany the doctor on her return trip, Verda!” Romulan Subcommander Tentak sneered menacingly. “It is imperative we obtain the necessary sequencing of the virus so we will be able to infect the entire population of the Klingon Home World. We will rid ourselves of these temporary, inferior “allies” thrust upon us by the deceitful Dominion and inferior Federation. You must complete your mission!” Eyes narrowing, the Romulan paused meaningfully, “Unless, of course,” he purred, “you are prepared to return to the Empire now to face punishment for your crimes.”
Despite her demanding upbringing on Romulas at the hands of her military father, two years being trained for her present mission, and her six years among Vulcans perfecting her emotional control, T’Tala sucked in a minute breath of air. There it was, as she always knew it would be. Despite all she had accomplished to get to this point, the threat would always be real. The past never paid in full.
She had accepted the fate of her banishment from her true home among her people and had learned the ways of her ancient Vulcan cousins. During her two years of training on a planet whose name and location she would never know, she had been immersed in Kohlinar, the ancient Vulcan techniques of mind control and logic. She had been surgically altered to appear more like her “new” people and given an elaborate new identity to include a family whose home she now shared. They, too, continued to pay for their transgressions to the Romulan Empire by posing as Vulcans. Her new “parents” had been paying that price for over 15 years. She had even taken a Vulcan husband as directed. T’Tala speculated he must also be part of a Romulan deception, as the ritual mind meld they shared during their joining ceremony was shallow. Their bond a very fleeting one, at best. As if he, too, had much he wished to hide.
Verda had obeyed every order given to her since that fateful day, when she had been introduced to her mother. Her father had always told Verda her mother had died during childbirth. The only reminder of her, a small holographic projection tucked away in a drawer. He had raised her to respect the military and the Romulan belief that they were superior to all beings, and destined to rule all lesser races. She, in her youthful arrogance, had enjoyed freedoms few others had possessed, due to her father’s military influence. In her zeal to please her father, she was meticulous in her studies. She often talked with him at length about his duties and the thrill of being a commander aboard a War Bird of the Romulan Star Empire. He was delighted to have so captive a student and enthusiastically shared his experience with her. Occasionally, so caught up in his narrative, he innocently spoke about matters which were classified. He cherished her youthful insight and yearned for her to follow in his foot steps. He drilled her unmercifully in military dogma and expected nothing short of perfection in her discipline. She excelled where weaker men and women had failed. They were content in their lives together.
Her perfect world came crashing down around her during an unplanned meeting with the Proconsul. She had finished her studies early one day and decided to surprise her father with a visit to his office near the center of the city. She bound through the door, full of enthusiasm, only to come face-to-face with a very angry Proconsul. He recovered quickly enough, full of pleasant platitudes and took his leave. But her father’s face was ashen and he was shaking. The Proconsul had learned, through unnamed sources, that Verda was a spy. She had been overheard talking with classmates about classified material. She was guilty and to be sentenced within the hour. Verda was stunned.
Then the truth in all its ugliness had come spilling out from this stranger she had known and loved as her father. Sitting slumped in his chair, surrounded by nothing but the empty walls of his office, he related to his overwhelmed daughter how her mother had been imprisoned shortly after Verda’s birth for espionage. She had been intercepted passing classified weapons technology to known Federation operatives by the Tal Shiar, the Romulan Imperial Intelligence. He had been sloppy and too trusting. His wife had used her closeness to the War Bird’s Commander to gain access to the kind of information which, in enemy hands, could cripple the Empire’s fleet. Verda’s father had been devastated, but he’d had a newborn daughter to raise. He was only able to escape punishment himself because of his close association with the Sub-Praetor and the fact that he was able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he had not provided the necessary codes to his wife. Before the Tal Shiar had dragged her away, he had promised his wife to raise their daughter with love and compassion. And he had failed. Failed utterly. His precious daughter was to be executed, he was sure, for his own crime of sharing his passions with those he loved.
But execution was not what the Proconsul had in mind for Verda. Death would have been too simple. She was taken to a far away planet where her mother had been existing for all of Verda’s 17 years.
She had obviously been tortured for years and was little more than a lump of pale flesh. She had little hair and fewer rags to cover her wasted frame, and could barely string enough words together to utter a single, coherent sentence. Verda wanted to deny this creature could be her mother. When she insisted her mother had died 17 years ago, the Tal Shiar increased their cruelty. They had preserved images of her mother’s decline throughout the years. As she watched the years unfold before her unbelieving eyes, she knew there could be no denying that this frail, shriveled creature who slumped unseeing, in the chair next to her had, indeed, been her mother. She wept bitterly for hours on end. For weeks on end. For all the lies. For what they had done to her mother. For what her mother had done to her. And for what her father had done to them both. Then her tears stopped. And the training began. And now, all these years later, the threat of repeating her mother’s horrific sentence in the same dreary cell came back to haunt her.
“I will do as you command, Subcommander Tentak,” T’Tala lowered her lashes in submission. “I suspect Doctor Selar has already decided I am the most logical choice to accompany her on her next visit to the Klingon’s planet of outcasts, due to the direction of the work she has recently assigned to me.” T’Tala took a steadying breath, counting her heartbeats as she had been taught, and continued, “But I am certain to be out of communication with you for several weeks.”
“You will report back to me immediately once you have returned to Vulcan,” the subcommander snapped. “And, Verda,” Tentak continued with barely concealed gloating, “Remember, your father’s continued good health depends on your complete obedience.” The screen went blank before T’Tala could form a reply. She did not, however, think she could have done more than nod abjectly around the lump in her throat.
Three - Enterprise
It was morning, or what served as morning, aboard the Federation’s flagship the U.S.S. Enterprise. Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Beverly Crusher, were enjoying one of their all-too-infrequent breakfasts together in the captain’s quarters. They each looked forward to the days when their respective duties allowed them to share this time in companionable conversation and catching-up on news which they might otherwise not have had the time to share with each other during their normal duty rotations.
“Jean-Luc, you really should try this new marmalade Deanna brought back with her from Betazed,” Dr. Crusher said, spreading the pale blue preserves on her half-eaten croissant. “It’s actually made from an orange-colored berry of some sort that only grows deep in the jungle for three months of the year,” she continued, licking her fingers lightly where some of the jelly had fallen off her knife.
“Thank you, Beverly, but no,” Captain Picard’s warm baritone replied around the lip of his slightly-steaming tea cup. “In the name of galactic peace, I have graciously consumed far too many “delicacies” from an abundance of cultures,” he stated, setting down his half-finished Earl Grey. “When I am safely within my own quarters and not in danger of any breach of protocol,” he continued, reaching for a second pastry, “I prefer a simple croissant and fresh fruit,” he said, placing the bread in his mouth.
“Galactic peace,” Crusher sighed wistfully, leaning back in her chair. “Too bad finding it wouldn’t be as simple as everyone sitting down together for dinner and finding something we could all agree on to eat,” she said, tucking a long strand of red hair behind her ear and crossing her arms in front of her. “And it’s really a shame we can’t find a cure for everything that ails us simply by eating an apple a day,” Crusher furrowed her brow, concentrating on the middle of the table.
“What is it Beverly?” the captain’s brown eyes narrowed. He knew from experience when his chief medical officer had something important, and puzzling, on her mind.
Crusher sighed, settling her hands into her lap. “I’ve received an invitation. A request, really, from Doctor Selar that I would really like to take advantage of, but I don’t know if the timing is right.”
“Ah yes, how is Doctor Selar these days?” the captain dabbed his lips with his napkin and placed it on his plate, leaning back in his chair. “I had heard she recently resigned her commission on the U.S.S. Excalibur in favor of joining the Vulcan Academy of Sciences, but I hadn’t heard the reasoning behind her decision.”
“That’s what makes this invitation so interesting,” Crusher leaned forward, warming to the subject. “Selar has been working with a Doctor Motar of the Klingon planet qo’Hegh. The entire planet has been quarantined for over eighty years. A virus first appeared on the Klingon Home World about a hundred years ago in the southern hemisphere,” Crusher explained, tucking a long, slim leg under her torso. “At first, only a few Klingons from that region became infected. But, as I understand it, the virus can sometimes take years to incubate and produce enough recognizable antibodies to be properly diagnosed, so nobody really understood that they were seeing a new virus. They just assumed that this was a new strain of an old virus, and treated it with standard medical procedures.”
“None of which worked, apparently,” Picard surmised with a grimace. He knew Beverly often had to start with little, or no, information in her own work. She had made it a practice to study alien medicine at every turn and had become an expert researcher of xenobiology through her efforts over the years.
“Unfortunately,” Crusher agreed, taking a sip of her lukewarm tea. “Then people started dying. Long, slow, agonizing deaths. One of the first signs of the virus is the massive scaring that covers most of the body. Then, as time goes by, their systems just shut down, one-by-one and the patient eventually dies.”
“It’s difficult to believe that, with the technology available to us, we are unable to detect something so seemingly benign as a simple virus and irradicate it before people actually have to die.” Picard’s tone carried his frustration. Despite his travels throughout his career and facing all the unknown worlds, with their own particular brands of danger, the captain felt there was just something sinister about being quietly attacked by a virus one didn’t even know they had contracted until the disease had presented itself through a variety of symptoms lethal enough to shut one’s body down permanently. You could often negotiate peaceful terms with previously unknown races of people. But you simply could not reason with a virus.
Crusher uncurled her leg from beneath her and sat back in her chair. “True, but much of the anguish suffered by the people who contract the virus comes from the Klingon culture itself. As you know, there are very few Klingon physicians who are willing to share any information pertaining to the their physiological make-up with outside doctors or scientists” She paused, waving a futile hand in the air before her, “Something about it being dishonorable to let outsiders know anything about any potential weaknesses.”
Picard grunted in agreement. He knew how protective Klingons were about any perceived weaknesses, and could easily conceive of how their entire culture might view physicians who collaborated with outsiders. That thought didn’t ease his discontent at how the people who had contracted the disease must have felt. The United Federation of Planets had been founded on the mutual sharing of information and beliefs, along with the acceptance and respect of each races’ differences. It was difficult to understand how the Klingons could have so easily spurned the help of others, denying their own people a release from the ravishes of the deadly disease.
“Then, about eighty years ago, “ Crusher continued with the history of the virus, “the Klingon High Council rounded up everyone on the planet with the virus, all their family members, and anyone even suspected of having the virus, and shipped them off to a planet at the very fringes of their sector of space. They were stranded and left to fend for themselves on qo’Hegh,” the doctor’s eyes flashed with the indignation she felt at such a prospect. “The planet was quarantined and the only visitors allowed there were permanent.”
“I take it Qo’noS was eventually found to be free of the virus?” Picard asked.
“From what Selar provided, there appear to have been scattered reports for the first ten years or so. But, since the Klingons kept the virus such a secret for so long, it’s hard to credit where the truth lies. Rumor has it that 45 years ago, Doctor Motor’s wife had a sister quarantined to qo'Hegh, but she secretly went to visit her. Even the doctor didn’t know about the visit until several years later when his wife gave birth to a daughter who had the virus. His wife died two years later, of the resulting disease. After that, he moved himself and his daughter to qo'Hegh, where he has dedicated his life to finding a cure for the disease.”
“How is it Doctor Motar has been able to work among these infected people without succumbing to the disease himself?” Picard’s eyebrows raised in inquiry.
“That’s a good question, Jean-Luc, and I wish I knew. The information available for study is very sketchy. They still don’t know how the virus works, leaving some people untouched and others dying a very slow death,” Crusher intoned, her last words drawn out like a death-sentence. “Some of the original inhabitants weren’t infected at all, and went on to produce other offspring. Some of the next generation were born with the disease and others developed it later in life. Some never contract the disease, but can never leave the planet for fear of taking the virus back into the Empire as carriers. Besides, there are no transportation facilities on the entire surface,” the doctor’s eyes lost their focus, her mind obviously trying to envision such an existence.
“And now Doctor Selar is assisting this Doctor Motar?” Picard prompted.
“Yes, she just started,” the doctor shrugged off her melancholy. “About three years ago, Doctor Motar started discreetly inviting doctors and scientists of other races to qo'Hegh in the hopes of finding an answer he hadn’t found in his own research. About the only thing that has become apparent so far is that Klingons are the only ones affected by this disease,” Crusher sighed, leaning her elbows on the table and clasping her hands in front of her. “I suppose the one good thing that has come out of all this isolation is that some of the Klingons on the Home World are so embarrassed or ashamed of what had happened, that they have quietly donated enough funds over the years to establish a research facility and build a compound where all of the inhabitants live.” Crusher shuddered, “I’m surprised any of the original evacuees survived long enough to establish any kind of a survival plan, let alone prosper and establish a normal existence.”
“Yes, well, “ the captain squared his shoulders, “Klingons are renown for their adaptation to difficult surroundings. Evidently, this cultural trait served them well in the predicament in which they found themselves.”
Crusher nodded, silently contemplating their conversation. After a moment, she continued. “You know, Jean-Luc, this just might be a good opportunity for the Federation to further cement our relationship with the new regime, now that Martok has been installed as Chancellor.”
Picard frowned, his brow creasing, “I don’t follow you, Beverly. We can’t expect to just go barging in there, and expose something they’ve kept a secret for generations. That could cause more complications than it would solve.”
“And,” Crusher continued, “therefore, we will need to be extremely discreet in rendering our assistance. Do you know what qo’Hegh means Jean-Luc?” she asked, raising an accusatory eyebrow. Not pausing for his reply, Crusher plunged ahead. “It means “planet of death.””
As Picard shifted his eyes downward, Crusher continued with her plea. “We’ve been invited to help, Jean-Luc. We can’t just turn our backs on all those people. Not without at least trying.”
Picard sighed, “Doctor, you have been invited to help. Not this ship, and not the Federation. And not by a recognized member of the current government. I cannot simply disregard decades of a culture’s tradition, in order to correct something I find personally offensive.”
“But just think, Jean-Luc,” Crusher pressed, “there are, perhaps, thousands of able-bodied Klingons on that planet. Their empire has suffered devastating losses in the war with the Dominion. If Selar and I can find the cause of this disease, then Martok will have that many more warriors for his bloody ships!” Crusher finished, tossing her head with sarcasm.
Picard placed his jaw in his hand, rubbing his chin. “Beverly, it’s possible that Chancellor Martok doesn’t even know this situation exists. And you said yourself, you have no idea what you’re dealing with yet. This could turn into a full-time project.”
Sensing a compromise in her commanding officer, Crusher Leaned across the table. “Why don’t you contact Worf, as our new Federation Ambassador to Qo’noS, and see if you can make the arrangements? I really think I can help.”
“I’ll tell you what, Beverly,” Picard tried to softened his tone as a peace offering. “If I can convince Starfleet and arrange for the proper clearance through Worf, perhaps you can help Doctor Motar for a short time, and then we’ll discuss any results your involvement has produced. We’ll worry about any possible future you may have in continuing your assistance to these people at that time,” his voice rose while he spoke, making his recommendation sound more like a thinly-veiled order than suggestion.
Beverly had folded her arms across her chest and was staring at her long-time friend and superior officer, gauging what she knew of the man with the manner in which he spoke. In the end, she decided the captain was doing his best to maintain the directives imposed by Starfleet, while expressing his desire to help. She dropped her hands to her sides and stood. “I’ll contact Doctor Selar to make arrangements.”
The captain searched for the words to tell Beverly that he was grateful for her dedication and her understanding of the restrictions imposed on him by decades of regulations and protocol. He felt this was a considerable opportunity both for the people of qo'Hegh and for the Federation. He had great confidence in her skill as a physician and felt that if anyone could find the answer to this puzzle, it would be Beverly Crusher. Instead, he simply stood, tugged his uniform into place, and nodded.
She turned to leave, but stopped just short of the door. She turned back towards Picard and said “Thank you for a lovely breakfast, as always, Jean-Luc. I’ll be in sickbay if you need me.” Then she left.
Jean-Luc Picard was grateful for the friendship they shared, and for Beverly’s attempt to ease the tension that had crept into their conversation. With people such as this, he felt confident the Federation could offer some hope to those on qo'Hegh.
Four - Colna
“You must believe me Doctor Motar,” Colna insisted, folding her thin arms across her chest and frowning. “The health of the entire Empire is at stake if you do not!” She had always thought of Dr. Motar as soft. He was tall and statuesque, but his demeanor was so yielding as to be un-Klingon-like.
The doctor sighed heavily, turning his chair away from the screen imbedded in the sterling white walls of his private laboratory. It held the results of the latest of the tests he had been running on the virus. “Colna, we have had this conversation at least six times in the past ten months.” He placed his large hands on his knees, adopting his patient-father posture.
“Yes!” Colna snapped. “And in all that time, you have refused to communicate with the Home World in an attempt to find Tykar and his brother Rok’ta!” she glared at the man whom she had considered an uncle and substitute Head-of-House figure since her own father had died twelve years ago.
“Colna, there could be twenty Tykar’s on Qo’noS and twice as many Rok’ta’s,” the doctor explained in an attempt to appease his young protégé. “You don’t even know that these two were, in fact brothers, let alone if they were blood brothers or brothers by birth. Tracking down these so-called visitors is much more difficult than you could possibly imagine,” he concluded with an air of finality, half-turning his chair back towards his work station.
“You don’t believe me,” Colna’s flat voice was a whisper of disbelief, her hands curling into useless fists.
“Try to understand, Colna,” Dr. Motar adjusted his weight in the chair and leaned forward. “Jarton is near death now, and too sick to collaborate your story, and Jak’tar dismisses your account as a fable.” The doctor looked deep into Colna’s hard brown eyes, trying to impress upon her the weight of his message. “Whether I believe you or not is not the issue right now. We have had as many outside doctors and scientists with us over the past three years as their schedules allowed. The High Council on Qo’noS has neither acknowledged nor denied this unusual activity,” Motar stroked his heavy gray beard while he spoke. Colna had come to recognize this gesture as a certain sign of nervousness.
“But I fear that if we begin to poke around, asking for certain names, this inaction on the part of the High Council will cease. Who knows what kind of retaliation might ensue!” the doctor thrust his hands into the air in frustration. “And, Colna,” the doctor’s frustration grew, although his tone soften, “You have often complained yourself that if we just had more help or more funding, we would be able to find a cure for the virus all that much quicker. We cannot possibly fund the research necessary to find these warriors. For all we know, if they exist at all, they could be from a renegade House,” Motar’s eyes rolled at the thought of the cost of such an unlikely undertaking.
“But if you would just...” Colna protested.
“No. Not now Colna,” Motar argued emphatically. “We simply cannot. The government has changed hands once again, and we cannot risk it. The new chancellor is a former general in the Defense Force. Everything will be in a state of turmoil on the Home World. Chances are he will not even know anything about us, and now is not the time to provide him with a distraction. We continue to exist only because we cannot leave, so do not present a danger to the rest of the population. We do not want to invoke his anger.”
Colna remained stoic in the face of such facts, saying nothing of the urgency she felt the situation demanded. Instead, she continued to glare at the weakling she saw before her, clenching and unclenching her jaw.
“Besides,” Motor continued, “we will be receiving a very special visitor here in just a few days. It is more important than ever that we do not upset the way things are. Doctor Crusher is the first to come from Starfleet. She has had the unique opportunity of working with Klingon physiology first-hand. We must have her analysis,” the doctor pleaded with his some-time student, wiping his ridged brow with his ever-present handkerchief. “We are so close to solving the riddle of this virus. I can feel it!” Motar emphasized, thrusting his outstretched hands into the air in exclamation.
“The best I can hope for then is that this magical wizard of yours is as good as you claim,” Colna’s tone brooked no argument. “So you will have the remedy ready once the disease breaks out again on the Home World.” With that, she turned and quickly strode out of the room, leaving the doctor sitting by himself.
Once she was alone in the hallway, she let out a long breath and leaned against the wall. She had come to the doctor’s private laboratory, knowing it was the only place she would be able to talk to him without others overhearing their conversation. She was determined that this time she would make him contact Qo’noS in her presence. And she had failed. While his reasoning sounded impressive enough to give her pause, she still felt honor demanded an accounting to the Home World. But she had no means to make the contact herself. Dr. Motar would never let her into the planet’s lone communications room. Still, she must find a way to convince someone to warn the people of what she considered to be her true home. Dr. Motar was getting old, and mysterious in his ways. He would never have been a proper warrior. Working with so many sick and dying people must have affected his mind set. He could not be trusted to take the honorable path.
With this thought in mind, she began to concoct a plan. She would volunteer to help the new alien doctors. Perhaps their thinking in the matter wouldn’t be so muddled. Perhaps this Starfleet doctor would understand the threat. If she had treated Klingons before, maybe she would understand that the Code of Honor must be obeyed. Colna would observe this Dr. Crusher and decide whether she would be suited to take the message to the High Council. Whatever it took, Colna would see that the Empire was warned.
Five - Virus
The plague quietly made its entrance before the birth of the historical Kahless, but in time, grew deadly in its various mutations, eventually outstripping even his vainglorious savagery in the vast number of Klingons it laid to waste. The origins of the virus, like so many things wrapped in the mists of ancient times, remain unknown. News of events, great and small, spread, not instantaneously through planet-wide viewscreens, but at a plodding rate, by foot and word-of-mouth, and through face-to-face contact. And the plague-inducing virus traveled along.
Perhaps a herd of minn’hor beasts, their horned heads drooping from the heat, quenching their afternoon thirst at the shores of the Chu’paq Sea, ingested the first strain of that microbe. As the microscopic pathogen made contact with the minn’normey, it may have been roused from its inert state, blossoming into it’s viral form, multiplying by using the machinery of its hosts’ cells. In response, the beasts’ bodies may have begun to produce antibodies in response to the invader, in an effort to eliminate the internal attack. If the invasion had come in the form of bacteria, the beasts may have had the chance to allow their natural defenses to counterattack. Such would not have been the fate of the heard of beasts in questions, however.
The virus, really a kind of sub-life form itself, would have replicated itself once inside the beats’ bodies, in an attempt to survive and reproduce. Since killing off your food source is not an efficient way to live, the most successful viral organisms are the ones that cause the minimum amount of damage to the host. That way, they can continue to breed almost indefinitely while taking what they need. The worst case is when the invader kills the host. It’s not merely bad for the host, it’s also bad for the infiltrator. Unfortunately for this particular herd, and for many generations of Klingons to come, this specific virus was unaware of this survival edict.
Regardless of how or where the plague originated, its presence began to make itself known. Livestock began dropping dead for no apparent reason during the long, drawn-out border wars when the Klingon who would become Kahless the Unforgettable was but a youth. Many thought this was just an effect of the drought which had begun to vex their lands, as the fields of grain were quickly becoming scarce. So the population began to ration their grain and larder, no longer using the minn’hor dung for fertilizer. They also began putting more effort into water conservation, and better care for their animals. A hard task, to be sure, as the Emperor, Molor, had taken the strongest and healthiest men from among their people to fight in his wars. Still, their efforts were to no end, as the disease was not only virulent, but contagious as well.
As the drought hardened its grasp, they could no longer feed the livestock, and the fields were all but bare; famine began to set in. By now Kahless, through his quick sword, skillful tactics, and persistent loyalty, had been elevated to chief of Molor’s warlords. As a show of trust, Molor charged Kahless with collecting the tribute he demanded of every village within his realm. While riding from each far-flung, surviving village to the next, he often came upon the carcass of a fallen minn’hor beast. The black kraw’zamey birds were often seen plucking at the beast’s shaggy hides for a morsel of food.
Klingons, themselves, began to fall victim to the plague, as the virus mutated once again. So the villagers began to abandon their homes in the hope of leaving the poisoned livestock and the hideously disfiguring illness behind them. The extent of the sickness was unknown until these homeless wanderers began running into each other in places far from their own abandoned villages. They were distressed to hear the same tales everywhere they went, and began to despair. It was useless to return to their old homes, as there was nothing to eat, or with which they might pay Molor’s warriors who came to collect the grain or livestock they were obligated to set aside for the tyrant. Nor was there much food to be found away from the villages. The plague, it seemed, was everywhere.
Even as Kahless, with his jinaq amulet dangling from a silver chain, took leave of Lord Vathraq’s manor and Kellein, his betrothed, the disease continued to claim a growing number of Klingons. Along with Morath, Porus, and the one-eyed Shruin, Kahless had been declared an outlaw for having refused to uphold Molor’s brutal policies. Killing Molor’s son, Starad, in the process had only fueled Molor’s fury.
By the time Kahless had met and slain Molor’s other son, Yatron, on the field of battle, it was said that one in a thousand Klingons had been infected with the rampant disease. Yet, the plague did not cease nor slow its deadly march. The physicians and healers of the time were more adept at saving the lives of those who had suffered severed limbs, and cauterizing knife wounds. So violent were the times, that there was precious little time for food and rest. Research would have to wait for another era.
Even the mighty Emperor Molor - so certain of his bloody cause, so self-righteous in his demands of homage - did not escape the insidious grip of the plague. Before Kahless, in the blind, choking fury of revenge for the deaths of his beloved Kellein and friend Morath, slew and beheaded Molor, the tyrant had wasted away to a mere husk of a man. Emancipated almost beyond recognition, he was weak, palsied, and covered with ugly purple scars and festering, open wounds. Molor was no match for Kahless the Unforgettable.
And yet the plague raged on.