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The boy ran desperately down the dimly-lit street, his lungs straining for air as he went. Behind him came his father, only fractionally less distressed. They slowed for a moment, unable to hear their pursuers any longer, to relieve their distress, but almost at once the dreaded cry of "Havi! Havi!" came from behind them again. The boy sobbed in fear, then they were running again.
"This way!" the father gasped, and they ducked down a narrow alley. For a moment, the boy hoped that his move had shaken off their pursuers, but seconds later they heard the harsh voices. "They went this way!"
They passed a pile of old boxes lying at the side of the alley, jumbled untidily.
"Hide!" the father gasped. He hesitated long enough to be sure the boy was hidden from view, then went on, faster now that he was not held back by the child's lack of speed.
In his nest of boxes, the boy struggled to control his too-fast breathing, sure that the pursuers would hear him panting for breath.
The horrible sound of a mob's footsteps came nearer and nearer. He peered out of a tiny crack. First came the fanatics, the bigots, the ones who were the force behind all mobs. Then came the mass of them; the ones caught up in the mob spirit, the ones easily led, the ones afraid to be different, all as dangerous to him as the leaders. At the rear, the less enthusiastic, who were beginning to feel that they'd done enough, that perhaps the Havi would leave now that they'd had this chase to frighten them, who were feeling the strain of the long chase as much as their terrified prey. Then they were all past, and he remained undetected.
He relaxed for the first time in many hours as he listened to the yells disappearing into the distance. Then, with horrifying suddenness, the yells took on a new note - triumph. He shuddered, knowing what it meant; the mob had caught his father. He closed his eyes, taking a silent farewell of the man he knew he would never see again. He would not even dare try to retrieve his father's body, but must leave it for the dogs and the carrion birds that preyed on the filth in the city streets, for he knew that that would be what his father would want.
He stayed put for some time, until the horrible sounds ceased and he knew the mob had had time to disperse. They would be triumphant at having killed a Hava, but irate that another had escaped them. Some of the fanatics would doubtless prowl the streets all night, hoping to find the Hava cub. He would have to be very careful if he wanted to escape...
Sensors indicated that the planet, though now at a primitive level of development, had once been much more advanced; possibly a war had destroyed the world's culture, but it was certain that some knowledge of the old civilisation must have lasted; the traces of civilisation were not so old as to be more than two or three generations back. And in one area, there were even traces of still-existing technology.
Kirk chose to beam down to this area, taking with him Spock, McCoy and three guards.
They had barely materialised when they found themselves prisoners. The guards reacted more swiftly and automatically than their officers; and on producing their weapons, they were promptly killed.
Kirk, Spock and McCoy were taken to a large building, along poorly-lit passages and up many stairs to a large, comfortable-looking room. A tall man waited there; tall, impressive, well-built, he looked every inch a leader. He regarded them thoughtfully.
"I am Medolla, chief scientist of this city," he said. His voice was deep, quiet; he gave the impression that he never, for any reason, raised his voice - or needed to. "And you are - ?"
"Captain James T. Kirk, commanding the U.S.S. Enterprise. My first officer, Mr. Spock, my chief medical officer, Dr. McCoy." He paused for a moment, then went on. "Mr. Medolla, I would like to know the meaning of this. We came here in peace, and were arrested, three of my men killed, almost before we had time to arrive."
"Peace?" Medolla asked. "What is peace?"
They stared at him in astonishment; he sounded as if he genuinely didn't know the word. He turned to Spock. "You are different from the others."
"That is correct. I am a Vulcan."
"Vulcan... oh, yes. Vulcan. I remember seeing a reference to Vulcans in one of our old books. It is said that Vulcans have a remarkable capacity to endure pain. Now that we have a Vulcan here, it would make an interesting study - to see if the book is correct." He turned back to Kirk. "How did you come here, Captain James T. Kirk? What is the 'Enterprise'?"
"Since you already know about Vulcans, you must be able to work that out for yourself."
"A spaceship, Captain James T. Kirk. Am I right? Yes, of course I am; and very useful it will be, too. I want that ship, Captain."
"You must be joking."
"Joking? Never. We need your ship - and we need it now. Surely you will co-operate with us in this small matter. Or would you rather see your friends suffer?" There was a vicious note in his voice now, and his very quietness intensified it.
"I can't betray my ship, Medolla - whatever you do to us." Kirk's voice was as quiet as Medolla's.
"As you wish, Captain." He turned to the guards who stood behind the prisoners. "Take them to the interrogation room."
Kirk and McCoy were manacled to bars while Spock was dragged to a frame in the centre of the room. A guard busied himself lighting a brazier near it.
Once the fire was lit and catching up well, he put an iron onto it, then left. The three men looked at each other.
"Do not distress yourself, Captain," Spock said. "You cannot betray the ship. We all know that. I can block out the pain."
They were left for nearly an hour, then Medolla came in accompanied by several guards. He pointed to Spock. "Remove his shirt."
They unfastened him to pull off his shirt, then fastened him back again in the frame, this time with his arms held wide apart above his head.
"That will be all," Medolla said, and the guards left. He turned to Kirk. "Well, Captain? Have you changed your mind?"
Kirk shook his head. "I cannot."
"I wonder." He took the iron out of the fire, and studied its red-hot tip for a moment with clinical deliberation. They he applied it firmly to Spock's chest. The horrible smell of burning flesh filled the room. Spock's face did not change, but pain showed clearly on McCoy's face, while Kirk closed his eyes, unable to watch.
Medolla prolonged the torture until the iron was no longer showing red, then he put the iron back in the fire. Spock, who had endured in silence and defiance, collapsed unconscious as soon as the iron was removed.
Medolla glanced at Kirk. "I see that what the books said about Vulcans was true, Captain. He does indeed endure pain to an amazing extent."
Kirk ignored him. Medolla moved over to him. "Yet even he cannot endure for ever. What will you say when he begs you for mercy, Captain?"
"Do you really think he will?"
Medolla looked at Spock consideringly. "Perhaps not... but your other friend. He is not Vulcan. What will you do when I start on him? When he begs for mercy?"
"None of us will beg for mercy," Kirk replied.
"Can you even guarantee that they will remain your friends when you are so inconsiderate of their well-being?"
"It'll take more than you can do to break our loyalty to each other!" McCoy broke in.
"I wonder," Medolla said, almost purring now. Behind him, Spock raised his head again. "It will be interesting to see if you are right." He glanced towards Spock. "Ah, good. You are back with us again. Just in time for the next act."
He moved back to the brazier. "The first time is... comparatively easy to endure. But a second burn - on the same place - that is... not so easy." He lifted the iron again, its tip glowing red. He applied it very carefully.
Spock made no sound, but the others could see the sweat running down his body. Again Medolla kept the iron in place until it lost its colour; this time Spock collapsed before it was removed.
Kirk fought to remain in control of himself. Anything less would betray Spock's endurance. Medolla turned to the others.
"I would not like him to die too soon," he murmured. "Doctor - you have with you a bag, containing, I believe, medications. You will give him a stimulant, to revive him more quickly."
"So you can torture him again?" McCoy snapped. "Like hell I will!"
Medolla smiled unpleasantly. "Would you prefer to take his place?"
"Yes, I would!" McCoy exclaimed. "I'd give you better entertainment, too. I haven't his endurance or his control. You'd get your screams of agony from me - but you still wouldn't break me!"
"You think not? His eyes come next."
Kirk's heart cringed. No, he moaned to himself in agony.
McCoy looked across at Spock, hanging limply in the frame. "I'm still ready to take his place."
Medolla looked at him, his eyebrows raised, then on to Kirk, whose lips were firmly set as he struggled to hide his torment. "I see what you mean, Captain. You are all very stubborn. However, it is easy to make such a decision on the spur of the moment; I will give you an hour to think about it. It will be interesting to see if you are still willing to take his place after you have had time to think, Doctor."
He moved to the door. The guards were there; as Medolla left, they entered and unfastened the prisoners. Kirk and McCoy were made to lift Spock - not that they needed any forcing - and carry him to a small, bare room.
There was nowhere to put Spock but on the floor. McCoy wasn't even given his medical kit, despite Medolla's earlier order. He looked at the burn, his mouth setting in renewed pain at the severity of it, then turned to Kirk. "Jim, do you really think Medolla would let me take Spock's place? Or was it just another way of torturing us? I think he wants to blind Spock anyway, to see if the renowned Vulcan endurance can bear even that..."
"Would you really do that for him, Bones? But even if you did, it wouldn't help me..."
"He's got - oh, a century of life to go yet. I've got - with luck - a quarter of that. Which of us is the more logical to blind?" He caught at Kirk's arms. "Jim, you can't let them blind Spock!"
"Do you really think Medolla would listen? 'Please, Medolla, blind McCoy instead of Spock'. He'd just go ahead and blind Spock anyway, because that would make him think Spock means more to me than you do."
"Can you stand by while - "
"While they burn out his eyes? I don't know, Bones. But I must try. I can't betray the ship for one man, no matter how much he means to me personally."
"You are correct, Captain. You have no choice."
They whirled. Spock was lying looking at them.
"How long have you been awake, Spock?" McCoy asked suspiciously.
"I have been awake for some minutes, Doctor." Was that a gleam of amusement in his eyes?
McCoy turned away, biting his lip, certain now that Spock had heard his offer and was on the point of saying 'Totally illogical, Doctor'. Then he swung back.
"Spock, how do you think we can watch you like that? It was bad enough... How do you think Jim can stand it?"
"He is the Captain of the Enterprise. He must do his duty. As I would do were I in his place; as you would do, were it forced on you. Suppose Medolla were to offer you my eyes - and Jim's - as the price of betraying the Enterprise. What would you do?"
McCoy buried his face in his hands. Kirk came to him, put a hand. on his shoulder, anguish on his face. "Don't, Spock." His voice broke. "Don't waste the few minutes left to us in useless arguing. We will endure whatever he does to us, together."
Spock was silent for some minutes, then said, "Jim... Doctor... I have a favour to ask of you...both of you. Please, do not watch. Shut your eyes, turn your heads away."
"We'll endure together," Kirk said, with an effort.
Spock shook his head. "Please, Jim. It will... make it easier for me if I know you are not watching."
Reluctantly, Kirk said, "O.K., Spock; I won't watch."
"I... I promise, Spock."
"We won't have to endure for long, anyway," Spock added, "Medolla dare not let us live - especially after he blinds me. He obviously knows a fair amount about the galaxy; he must know that if he lets us go after... afterwards, reprisals are likely to be taken against his planet."
They sat close together now, enjoying each other's company while they could. They were not left for much longer. The guards came, back soon - too soon.
They were taken back to the interrogation room. A new frame stood near the brazier, a more complicated-looking one than had been employed earlier. It was obviously designed to hold a man's head steady while his eyes...
Kirk and McCoy were forced to the bars at the side, and manacled in place. They were placed so that they could not see what was done to Spock except from the side. Spock was dragged - although he did not resist - to the frame, and fastened to it. Bars were fastened across his body so that there was no chance of his moving.
They were given no further respite. Medolla came in at once.
"Medolla!" McCoy called. "I'm still ready."
Medolla looked at him. "Interesting, Doctor. But I really believe it will be more instructive to blind your Vulcan friend." He reached for the iron as the guards went out again.
As Medolla approached Spock, Kirk looked at McCoy. "Bones." McCoy looked at him. "We promised."
Their faces turned towards each other, they closed their eyes, but they could not close their ears or their noses. They heard the iron as it burned, and smelt the burning flesh again. Kirk choked on a whimper of agony, forcing himself to remain silent so as not to make it harder for Spock. The sizzling sound ceased; there was the sound of the iron being replaced in the fire, then Medolla's voice...
"One. You can still save the other eye, Captain."
Kirk was unable to speak in his need to remain defiant and his even greater need not to disgrace Spock's endurance.
"No? Very well, then." He moved back towards the brazier. Their eyes shut, they heard the iron removed from the fire; the horrible sound of burning flesh as the smell intensified. There was still no sound from Spock.
The iron clattered back onto the brazier. Medolla returned to them. "Still defiant, Captain?"
Kirk forced himself to stare at the man, his disgust at the scientist's smile showing clearly in his face.
"You will get your wish tomorrow, Doctor. Tomorrow, if your Captain is still obstinate, it will be your turn."
He moved to the door. The guards came back and forced Kirk and McCoy out. They were taken back to the bare little room, and locked in.
Alone at last, Kirk broke down. McCoy held him, trying to comfort him, hiding how much he also needed comfort. At last Kirk pulled himself together.
"Why haven't they put Spock back with us?" he asked, anguish in his voice.
"Spock was right," McCoy said, his voice quivering. "They won't let us live. They've probably killed Spock now, because he's no more use to them."
"I hope so," Kirk whispered. "Because it would mean he wouldn't have to suffer any more." He was silent for a moment, then - "Bones. I've got this far. I can't surrender now. So that tomorrow... "
"It's all right, Jim. I don't blame you, any more than Spock did."
Kirk was silent for a long time. At last, he said, "Bones - how could any race become so cruel...?"
There was a sound at the door. Both men tensed, forcing control on themselves.
Medolla stood there.
"Well?" Kirk asked, no hint of surrender in his manner.
"You have one last chance to save your Vulcan's life, Captain."
"I cannot betray my ship. Besides, you would carry your cruelty to every part of the galaxy. It is my duty to prevent that."
"Isn't cruelty the way of life everywhere?"
"No!" Kirk snapped, revolted at the thought. "Only among uncivilised races. You call yourself a scientist, but you represent the most uncivilised race I've ever encountered!"
Medolla looked at him; then left without another word.
It became colder; they huddled together, deriving both warmth and comfort from the contact. Neither could sleep; after a while, they gave up even trying, and spoke softly together, trying to recall happy memories, and with every word tormented by Spock's absence. At last they heard a sound outside the door, and slid apart as it opened. The guards entered, forcing them to their feet, and took them out, along the corridor - but not to the interrogation room. They went past it, and on, past other doors, up many stairs, until at last they were stopped in front of a final door. One guard opened it; they were pushed in. The door shut behind them. They heard the sound of a key being turned in the lock as they looked round their new prison.
It was small but comfortably furnished. The window was barred. It was still a prison - why the comfort? Screens stood round the head of a bed. They went over to it, and found themselves staring at Spock.
The Vulcan was sleeping. His chest had been tended; they could see the white of bandages showing above the sheets. His face was unmarked.
Kirk touched Spock's face. Gentle though he was, the touch roused the Vulcan. He opened his eyes and stared up at them.
"Spock..." Kirk whispered.
"How...?" McCoy gasped.
"It was a complicated bluff," Spock said. "Captain, Medolla and I had quite a long talk last night - but I was unable to persuade him to let you know the truth until today, though he would not say why... I have a certain amount of sympathy with his... wishes, even though I deplore the... the method he felt he had to employ."
"You do?" McCoy said. "Spock, I know Vulcans never bear grudges, but this is ridiculous."
"On this planet, scientists are hated. This area is a sort of... reservation... of them. Any who are caught outside the area are killed, mercilessly, by a lynch mob. It is doubtful if the people of the planet remember why, now, but the cry of 'Havi!' is enough to rouse them - that is their name for the scientists, who are, of need, a hereditary group now. The scientists think the hatred is because they are blamed for the destruction caused by the war that destroyed the world's technology.
"Medolla, as chief scientist - he knows nothing about science, I may add, although this area has retained some of the lost technology - is simply looking for somewhere where his people can live, free from persecution. But because his people have been subjected to so much cruelty, he believed that the only way to get what he wanted was by cruelty."
"I see," Kirk said. "And something made him change his mind?"
"He now surmises that he used the wrong methods. But what made him realise it, I cannot surmise."
"I put you in a cell where I could listen to your conversation when you thought yourselves unwatched," Medolla said from behind them. "Even when you thought Spock had been blinded, you never spoke of seeking revenge. I was particularly impressed by your willingness to suffer in Spock's place, Doctor. It reminded me of an occasion, many years ago... My father and I were chased by a mob. He found me a hiding place, and went on, drawing the pursuit after him. He was caught, and killed; and he could so easily have escaped by sacrificing me. You reminded me of him...
"Captain. I apologise for my treatment of you and your friends. All I ask is the chance for my people to leave here - to find a world where we can live free from fear and hatred. Is that so much to ask?"
Kirk shook his head.
"I hated what I felt I had to do," Medolla went on. "Do you know why none of the guards stayed? None of them could bear to watch... I think I suffered quite as much as you did..."
"Forget it," Kirk said. "I can't take your people, Medolla, my ship isn't big enough, but I can take a representative to the Federation to plead your case. If he is successful, and I don't see why he shouldn't be, the Federation will find you someplace to settle, and take you there."
Medolla stared at him, tears in his eyes. "Thank you, Captain. I... I thank you."
Medolla himself went with them to plead his case with the Federation.. Kirk showed him his quarters, then went off to sickbay, where McCoy had taken Spock despite the Vulcan's protests.
He walked in on an argument, and grinned to himself. It was perhaps as well that Medolla wasn't around to hear this. He broke it up easily by asking, "Spock - how did Medolla manage that bluff about your eyes? We heard the burning - and smelt it too."
"There was a piece of meat fastened to the frame beside my head. He burned it. There was a gag across my mouth so that I couldn't speak and so betray the trick."
"As simple as that," McCoy said disgustedly.
"When did you realise it was a trick?" Kirk asked curiously.
Spock hesitated. "When he burned the meat," he said at last, very quietly. And in the hesitation, they read what he had gone through, waiting for the iron. "Captain," Spock went on. "Would you please tell Dr. McCoy there is no necessity to keep me here? I am not seriously damaged - "
"No, Spock, I won't. You'll stay here until he says you can go."
Spock sighed openly. "Captain, that is a worse torture than anything Medolla thought up."
"That's gratitude for you!" McCoy said. "I'm giving him a few days off - and he calls it torture!"
Spock looked at him - but there was gratitude in his eyes. McCoy smiled down at him. "So if it's torture, Spock, kindly suffer it in silence!" he finished.
Kirk laughed. "You can't win, Spock." He put his hand on Spock's shoulder for a moment. "I'd better get back to the bridge," he added.
As he walked out he heard the argument behind him start again. He smiled to himself. Nothing would ever stop them, he thought; but as long as he knew - and they knew - how much they were prepared to do for each other, it didn't matter.
He was still smiling when he walked onto the bridge.