"I have to be a what?!" Eyes wide with horror, Jim Kirk stared at his two friends.
"Aw, come on, Jim. It wont be too bad." Leonard McCoy tried, without much success, to keep the corners of his mouth from turning upward. He was equally unsuccessful at keeping the twinkle out of his eyes. "After all, its just for a little while."
"Point two seven hours should be sufficient." Commander Spock managed to avoid the smile and twinkle that gave away the doctors enjoyment of the situation. Spocks remark, however, drew a stern glare from the captain, whose knowledge of his Vulcan friend told him he was being teased as unmercifully from that direction as he was by his chief medical officer.
Suddenly, Kirks own sense of humor reasserted itself, and his lips spread in a sheepish grin. "I guess youre right," he admitted. "Theres no way Im going to just walk out of here as James T. Kirk, Captain of the Federation Starship Enterprise. Emperor Greybol would have my head."
"At least," McCoy agreed as he continued his valiant effort to maintain a straight face. "Since he saw you with his wife, though, Id be more concerned with a different part of your anatomyone a bit lower."
"I didnt do anything, Bones," Kirk protested. "I just asked her for directions and then smiled and thanked her for telling me where I could find the seminar."
"On this planet, Captain, that was sufficient."
"Yeah," McCoy concurred with the Vulcan. "On Deivar Four, a smile is considered an invitation to dalliance." As soon as he said the word, the doctor gave up his attempt to avoid a smile of his own. "And the empress obviously was more than willing to dally with you. She was all over you when her husband spotted you on the far side of the palace garden."
"And like a fool, I ran." Kirk rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "I should have stayed and explained that it was all just a misunderstanding." He began to pace the small garden where he and his friends had taken refuge.
"No," Spock dissented. "That would have been most unwise."
"Yeah," McCoy agreed, speaking to the captains retreating back. "If you hadnt been running, youd never have run into us, so we couldnt have helped you escape."
Kirk reached the far end of the garden and pivoted to face his friends. "Escape from what?" he demanded of the doctor. "I still dont understand whats going on."
"Jim, I know youve been deskbound for some time at the admiralcy, but youre a starship captain, for heavens sake! Didnt you even read the contact report? Deivar has some very peculiar sexual mores," McCoy explained impatiently. "The women have very strong sex drives and are eager to indulge them at any and every opportunity. But, unfortunately, the men arent so free-spiritedor libidinousand they make the rules here. Pre-marital sex is frowned upon, and extra-marital liaisons absolutely forbidden by law."
"Whats the penalty for a violation?" Kirk asked.
Spock began a recitation. "It involves the"
The doctor elbowed him solidly. "You dont want to know," he answered, clasping his hands together in front of his body in an instinctively protective gesture that told Kirk exactly what the punishment was. "Believe me, its enough to keep in line the few Deivarian men tempted to stray."
Kirk shook his head. "I dont understand. If the men wont accommodate them, how do the women"
"The Deivarian men wont," said McCoy. "So the women pick on unsuspecting alien visitorslike you. Next time I bother to send you a report on a planets culture, you damn well better read it."
"Does everyone know about this planet but me?"
McCoy shrugged. "No one will discuss it openly with offworlders, of course, but its obviously no secret among the Deivarians themselves. If youd just beamed down with us, we couldve given you a heads up and you wouldnt be in this mess now."
Kirk sighed. "Unfortunately, I had to wait for that communiqué from Admiral Komack before I could leave the ship. But that still doesnt answer my question. Why do they keep this ridiculous situation such a secret?"
McCoy shrugged his shoulders. "Well, personally," he drawled, " I think its on purpose."
"Yeah, the men know their women are almost always horny, but they cant or wont admit it. So they keep their mouths shut and look the other way until the deed is done. Then, they salve their consciences by punishing the men involved while leaving the women unharmed."
"Rather colloquially expressed, Doctor, but essentially concise."
"This is really bizarre." Kirk sat on a nearby bench, leaning his forearms on his knees. "And the men are completely faithful?"
"Well, sort of." McCoy gestured at the pile of fabric sitting on the bench next to Kirk. "Which explains your disguise."
"It explains nothing." Kirk stood again and resumed pacing. "What the hell has any of this to do with geishas for Gods sake?"
"They are not geishas," Spock said. "They are called temple maidens."
"Temple...maidens?" Kirk stopped his pacing and stared at the Vulcan. "This has some kind of religious significance?"
"Not exactly religious," McCoy attempted to explain. "Its just..." He lifted his hands in a half-gesture, then let them drop back to his side. "Oh, hell, I dont know exactly how to explain it, but geisha is the closest Earth equivalent."
"Only in the modern sensibilities of English. There were several cultures on your planet which" His recitation was stopped by another elbow, this time from Kirk.
"Okay, so theyre not exactly maidens, either," the doctor continued. "Not really prostitutes, though. Its considered a high calling to serve as a temple maiden, and sex actually plays a very minor role for them. Basically, the temples are sort of like a combination of the London gentlemens clubs and the Oriental bathhouses back in Earth history, which explains the geisha reference. The maidens are trained to see to the mens comfort. They bathe and groom them, perform therapeutic massages, serve them food and drink and act as sort of counselorsno, not counselors...listeners."
"And the sex?"
McCoy shrugged. "It happens sometimes; sometimes it doesnt. In fact, its usually just the unmarried men who avail themselves of these services. Whats really importantat least for youis that the temple maidens appear in public only if theyre completely covered from head to toe. And theyre tall, at least by Earth female standards." He paused to grin. "So, in costume, you should pass."
"Pass," Kirk mused, lifting the top layer of fabric with just thumb and forefinger as though it might contaminate him somehow. "I dont think I like the sound of that."
"There are just two points to remember," Spock warned him gravely.
"And those are?" Kirk was liking this plan less and less.
"Do not speak," the Vulcan warned.
"And stay away from the temples," McCoy added.
Kirk moved swiftly but as unobtrusively as possible through the streets of Zewannen City. He walked alone, with his friends following at a discreet distance. It simply wouldnt do for him to be accompanied by two alien males.
"Not far now," he whispered to himself. "All I have to do is get out from under these damned shields, and then Scotty can beam me back to the ship. Just three more blocks. Thats all." Kirk didnt make a habit of talking to himself, but he didnt let that bother him now. He needed all the reassurance he could get, and since his friends couldnt be by his side, hed have to provide it himself. "I always knew Id die alone..."
He glanced around. "Just two more blocks," he murmured, then faltered. Two men were approaching him with intent expressions on their faces. "Uh, oh," he whispered, quickly cutting his eyes from one side to another, seeking escape. Noticing a narrow alleyway to his right, he pivoted and headed down the dark corridor.
"Damn it," McCoy swore under his breath. "Thats the back entrance to the Fifth Temple."
"I am aware of that fact, Doctor," Spock responded. "We had best quicken our paces. The captain is likely to need our assistance."
"Stop!" McCoy yelled midway down the alley when he realized that Kirk would reach the temple in just a few more steps. "Dont go any farther."
As he and Spock hurried to catch up with the captain, the temple door opened and a pair of burly guards stepped out into the alley.
"What is it you want, Offworlder?" one of the Deivarians demanded of Spock and McCoy as his partner reached for Kirks arm, apparently intent on escorting him inside the building.
"I...uh..." McCoy searched his mind for a reasonable excuse for his shout, then began to back away slowly as he realized he didnt have one.
"This," Kirk answered for him, stomping on the foot of the guard who had taken his arm, then following that move with a swift left hook, efficiently decking the bigger man.
Spock reacted instantly, gripping the second Deivarians shoulder and gently easing him to the ground. "We should leave this alley immediately," he suggested.
"Yeah, right now," McCoy agreed as he noticed the back door to the temple beginning to open again. "Run!"
Without waiting to see who next would exit the building, Kirk and Spock joined McCoy in a mad dash down the alley, to the right and the remaining block and a half to the outside perimeter of the citys shielding. As they crossed the imaginary line of safety, Spock tapped his wrist communicator. "Three to beam up, Mister Scott. Now."
Kirk was still unwrapping the layers of fabric that covered his pale blue uniform as the landing party stepped from the turbolift onto the bridge of the Enterprise.
"Captain..." Uhura began, paused briefly, then continued as though the sight of her captain garbed in obviously female garments was a perfectly normal vision. "The emperor is demanding to speak with you."
Kirk hesitated only a second before ordering, "Dont answer him, Lieutenant." Tossing his Deivarian disguise aside with obvious relief, he took his seat and swiveled to face the helm. "Get us out of here, Mister Sulu," he ordered in a tight voice. "Any direction."
"Aye, aye, sir." Sulu eased the starship out of orbit, then shifted into warp drive, leaving the Deivarian system far behind.
"Damn," McCoy said as he took up position to Kirks left. Kirk turned to face him. "I wish we could have just taken a peek inside the temple."
Kirk narrowed his eyes into a glare, while Spock lifted one eyebrow in inquiry.
"Its just," McCoy said solemnly, "that you looked so fetching in that getup that I would have liked to see what a real temple maiden looked like."
Kirk glared at him a moment longer, then finally relaxed in his seat and allowed himself a relieved grin. "Youre welcome to find out any time you want to, Bones," he said. "Just dont invite me to come along."
"Perhaps you could borrow the captains disguise?" Spock suggested blandly.
"I...you" McCoy sputtered, the uneasy truce he had shared with Spock on Deivar obviously over.
Kirk roared with laughter. "Why, Bones, whatever is the matter? Im sure youd be quite...fetching."
Without another word, McCoy stormed from the bridge, glaring outward from the turbolift. Just before the doors closed, however, as Kirk and Spock returned their attention to the main viewing screen, the doctor allowed a tiny smile to play along his lips.
And, as Uhura looked up from her board, he very slowly closed one eye in a deliberate wink.
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