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"The Governor of the colony on Dryad is calling you, sir," Uhura reported.
"On audio, Lieutenant," Kirk ordered.
A worried-looking face appeared on the screen. "Captain Kirk, we request your assistance. The native Dryads are a highly aggressive species, and they're getting very restless. I'm afraid of trouble. We're an agrarian settlement, so we're not in a very good position to defend ourselves. The natives have their own territory - the area we're in was desert, unsettled by them, useless until we irrigated it. Part of the treaty we drew up with them was that we wouldn't try to take over their traditional lands. Nor have we. But I think they'll accuse us of doing so, because they - some of them - are looking enviously at the rich farmlands we've created. They outnumber us quite considerably, and if they attack us, we'll be wiped out."
"I can't remain indefinitely, sir."
"I realise that, and I don't ask you to. But a display of strength on our behalf would help very much. They might not call our bluff."
"I see. All right, I'll send down a security detail. Show off our strength."
"One or two of our men are missing, Captain. Could your party inquire about them?"
"That's easily done. Kirk out."
The Captain glanced round at his First Officer. "You heard that, Mr. Spock. What do you make of it?"
"I believe his fears may well be justified, Captain. As I recall, the original survey on Dryad did indeed describe the natives as extremely belligerent. We might avert trouble for the moment, but a major clash does appear to be inevitable, assuming the Governor is not taking fright at shadows. I would recommend a small military base be assigned here."
Kirk nodded as Spock continued. "How large a party will you send down, Captain?"
"A dozen men should do. I'll command it; I'd like to see these native Dryads for myself before I make any recommendations."
"Captain, would it not be advisable, in view of the Governor's fears, to permit me to accompany this landing party instead of you?"
"No, Mr. Spock. I need to form my own conclusions."
The planet's gravity was fractionally higher than Earth normal, but not sufficient to occasion any great hardship to the members of the landing party. Kirk looked round. They had selected a landing area at random; and they had arrived little more than a mile from a large castle. In appearance, it was very little different from any Terran castle of the middle ages; and it was surrounded by cultivated fields, though the crops were unlike any that would ever have been seen in such a setting on Earth. A few natives, female by their general appearance, were dispiritedly working among the crops.
They headed towards the castle, and were barely half-way there when they were intercepted by a group of men mounted on what looked like horses. The beasts had fairly obviously come from the Human settlement, either traded or stolen.
Kirk moved out in front of his men as the Dryads hauled their mounts roughly to a skidding stop.
"What do you want here?" the leading Dryad asked. "This is outside your territory, Human." His accent was harsh, grating.
"Some men are missing from the Human settlement," Kirk replied. "We are from the Federation Starfleet, come to look for them."
"Soldiers?" The leader laughed harshly. "How many?"
"Enough," Kirk replied evasively.
"A good tale," the Dryad growled. "I have heard of your Starfleet. But I cannot believe such an organisation would bother to send men to search for anyone missing from such a small group of your kind as came to live on our land. I believe you are men from the settlement, dressed to look like soldiers, trying to fool us." He stared insolently at Kirk, then sneered as he let his eyes move over the small group, outnumbered by his men by nearly two to one.
He snapped an order in his own tongue, a guttural cacophony of sound that was too fast for the translators to handle. His followers raised crossbow-like weapons, and Kirk's men fell, riddled with bolts, before they had time to do more than reach for their phasers. Kirk himself remained untouched.
"Now you will come with me," the Dryad purred, "and tell me all the little secrets of the settlement's defence."
Kirk shook his head.
"Search him," the Dryad continued. One of the natives dismounted, to run quick rough hands over Kirk then hand over the communicator and phaser.
"That's all, Lord Zartan."
Zartan handed back the communicator to the man. He seemed familiar with the device. "Get rid of it."
The man battered it with a stone, without success. Eventually he simply scraped a hole and buried it. Meanwhile, Zartan examined the phaser.
From the way he handled it, he was clearly, if not familiar with it, aware that it was a weapon. "See if they also have these weapons," he said at last, indicating the dead men. In a moment, other phasers were offered to him. He turned his attention back to Kirk.
"How do these weapons work?"
"I will tell you nothing." Mentally, Kirk blessed the standing order that phasers be set to stun force under normal landing party assignments. Zartan could do little damage with them.
Zartan smiled unpleasantly. "I think you will, my friend. I think you will."
Kirk was taken to the castle, and left under guard for a short period before being taken along several passages and down some stairs to an extremely well stocked torture chamber. There, he was fastened spreadeagled to an upright wooden frame, the purpose of which was not immediately clear, and left again; to think about what was in store for him? He tried to put the thought out of his mind. Spock would soon become alarmed at his failure to report; his dead crewmen might soon be found; Spock would certainly investigate the castle. But would Spock find him? He had already seen enough of the place to realise that a rabbit's warren would be as a child's toy to the maze of tunnels and levels here. Of course Spock would find him; let Spock once suspect that he was here, and Spock would find him if he had to tear the entire building to the ground, stone by stone, to do it.
Eventually, after a wait that Kirk was sure was actually of less duration than it seemed, Zartan came to him.
The Dryad studied him consideringly. "Well, Human? Will you tell me all I want to know, or must I force the information out of you? How do your weapons work? What are the settlement's defences?"
Kirk shook his head. "You won't win," he said. "My men will come. You cannot defeat us."
"I have already defeated you," Zartan pointed out.
"One skirmish - one surprise - doesn't constitute a victory," Kirk replied. "In the long run, we will win."
"Your people are soft," Zartan said. "Your men till the fields like women. You do not know the ways of war."
"We do," Kirk answered. "We know ways of fighting that would terrify your strongest warriors. We simply prefer peace."
"Peace is for children and weaklings. I did not become the Warlord of the district by being a weakling. And when the other chiefs see my success, they will flock to follow me, and I will become the Chief Warlord."
"What will they do when you fail?" Kirk asked.
"I cannot fail. Now - tell me. The defences?" He held a knife to Kirk' s throat .
The Human closed his mouth, staring defiantly at the Dryad.
"You hope I will kill you quickly if you defy me? No. There is a better way."
He turned and crossed to where an assortment of whips hung from a stand. He selected one, heavy and many-thonged.
It whistled down across Kirk's back, cutting through the material of his shirt, cutting into his skin. Kirk bit his lip against the agony, determined not to give Zartan the satisfaction of hearing him cry out. The whip fell again and again and again. At last Kirk lost consciousness, and hung limp against the frame.
When he regained his senses and raised his head wearily, Zartan was waiting, watching, patient.
"Will you tell me now?"
Kirk remained obstinately silent. Zartan raised the whip again.
Eventually, Zartan seemed to realise that he had failed. He turned away. Two guards came forward in response to his gesture as he hung the whip up again. Kirk had not even realised that they were there.
The Human was barely able to move as they released him; they had to support him for a moment. Then his obstinate will-power came to his rescue; he would show them he was no weakling. He forced himself erect, forced himself to walk at least reasonably firmly towards the door.
Outside, an officer waited. He led the way through tunnels, down stairs, deeper and deeper into the depths of the castle. Despite the drain on his physical condition of the pain, which forced him to concentrate almost completely on where he was putting his feet, Kirk found himself wondering just how many centuries of building and excavating and tunnelling the rock on which the castle stood had gone into its construction.
They passed heavy doors - doors with tiny openings set at eye-level. Behind some, voices were moaning or occasionally screaming or openly sobbing. Few of the voices uttered words that he could comprehend; those few were crying out for mercy.
It seemed that Zartan's rule was at least in part based on the imprisonment of any who opposed him.
At last the officer stopped. For a moment, Kirk wondered why; at that point in the corridor, there was nothing - no door or any other opening. Then one of the two guards moved forward another few steps, and bent to a ring set near the edge of one of the huge stones that paved the floor. He pulled, and it swung upwards, heavy and awkward, on a creaking hinge.
An appalling stench rose from the hole, and Kirk understood why the senior man had remained a little way away. The guards forced him forward, not giving him time to move of his own volition, and made him sit on the edge. Then, without warning, he was pushed. The hole was pitch dark; he could not see how far he had to fall, and the thump as he hit the ground very awkwardly knocked the breath from him and wrenched his torn back.
He gasped, and choked on the foul air, but he knew that his nose would soon become accustomed to the stink. Less easy to bear was the pain in his back. The trapdoor above him thudded shut.
Gradually, he realised that some light was seeping in from somewhere. As his eyes grew accustomed to the dim twilight, he tried to make out details of his prison.
He could neither see nor reach the roof. Well, that was understandable, he thought. The cell was several feet wide; by experiment he discovered that if he lay down with his feet touching one wall, his outstretched hands touched the other. And he could take fully a dozen paces from one end to the other.
He soon discovered the source of the smell. He was sharing the cell with two bodies, one just beginning to decay, the other in an advanced state of putrefaction. He had little doubt that this was intended to be his fate; to be left here to die of starvation, then rot, to add to the torment of some other unfortunate victim. Or perhaps to die of cold and a gangrenous back and blood poisoning. Germs must be rife here, despite the cold, what with the dirt and the bodies decaying so enthusiastically, and the remains of his shirt, still hanging in tatters from his neckband, would be useless to protect his back from the filth of the floor. Spock would search for him; he had no doubt that Spock would find him. But would Spock find him in time?
On board the Enterprise, Spock waited anxiously. Time passed slowly.
"The Captain should have reported in by now," he said at last. "Lt. Uhura, try to contact him."
Uhura obeyed. After a few moments, she turned back to him. "Captain Kirk does not respond, Mr. Spock. Neither do any of the men with him."
"Sensor scan of the landing area," he ordered. There might be a simple explanation, of course, but... He was aware of an unpleasantly familiar feeling of tension. Why did Kirk so often insist on running headlong into a dangerous situation?
"Nothing, sir," Chekov replied, raising his head from the scanner. "The landing area and the ground for a mile around are bare of life. There are one or two scattered life form readings about a mile from the landing area, probably workers in the fields.
"I'm going down to have a word with the Governor," Spock decided.
On the planet's surface, he was shown immediately into the Governor's office. The Governor rose to meet him.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Spock," he said. "I didn't expect this visit. Have you news for us?"
"Our men are missing," Spock told him bluntly. "Twelve men, with Captain Kirk in command. Whatever happened to them must have happened very suddenly, or the Captain would have managed some sort of report. As acting commander of the Enterprise, I am prepared to give you all the assistance you require, for as long as you require it. Since the native Dryads appear to have overcome an armed party, they will be feeling very confident; a major clash, soon, must occur. We'll remain until then; our weapons should settle matters decisively."
"If they have captured your men, they will have taken possession of their weapons," the Governor said quietly but anxiously.
"A dozen hand phasers, and the natives have no knowledge of how they operate," Spock replied. "Against the Enterprise's phasers, those will be useless."
Spock returned to the Enterprise to face the inevitable conflict with McCoy. He must remain in control of himself, he knew, and it would not be easy. Why could Bones never understand that he must act according to what his command training told him was best, and not according to the dictates of his heart? Bones knew almost as well as Jim did how deeply he was affected by emotional considerations when either of them was involved, even although he was successful in hiding his feelings from everyone else. He sighed, for he understood only too well that Bones did realise why he could not mount an immediate rescue operation - too many lives might be lost without the Dryads learning a lasting lesson; their first duty lay in protecting the settlement and leaving it safe from future attack. Bones simply had to express his own frustration, and in typical Human fashion he did it by turning on the friend he would normally have died for rather than hurt. And all Spock could do to help him was permit him to do so without fighting back. But it made it that much harder for Spock to maintain his outward impassivity.
Reluctantly, but knowing he must face McCoy, he left the transporter room and headed for sickbay.
The expected attack did not come for several days. The Enterprise, in synchronous orbit above the settlement, had her phasers trained on the ground between it and the Dryad lands, and security men, armed with phaser rifles, guarded much of the perimeter of the settlement.
The attack itself was short. In the first onslaught, some of the defenders were hurt by crossbow bolts before the Enterprise could fire her phasers, but then the phasers, set on stun force, fired, and the attackers collapsed. Those at the rear, out of range, fled in terror, obviously believing their comrades dead.
"Even when they discover they're only stunned, the psychological effect should be the same," Spock commented. "As far as they're concerned, the Federation has some magic weapon that can strike them down, not one at a time, but all at once. I do not think they will risk attacking again."
The fleeing Dryads led them straight to Zartan's castle. Spock led the pursuit. The settlement was safe now; now he could obey his heart, and search for Kirk.
There was no defence of the castle. Zartan, hatred twisting his face, met them. With obvious difficulty, he humbled himself in what was an obvious ritual of surrender... handing over a phaser as he did so - a traditional surrender of what he clearly considered a valuable weapon. He could not have declared his guilt more clearly.
"Mr. Sulu. Keep him under guard," Spock ordered. He glanced round. "Search the place thoroughly," he instructed. "There are settlement men missing as well."
He joined the search, too anxious to wait for news. The search brought out two or three of the missing colonists, all showing signs of ill-treatment. Then Spock opened a door, and walked into the torture chamber. His lips tightened in distaste.
He returned to the upper hall where Sulu guarded Zartan in time to meet the first of the men reporting back. All the dungeons had been searched. All the surviving prisoners - most of them Zartan's own people - had been released. There was no sign of their missing landing party.
Spock turned to Zartan. "Some of our men are missing. What happened to them?"
"They were killed when I found them trespassing on my land."
"Their leader. He alone wore clothes of a different colour - the colour this man is wearing." He indicated Sulu. "Was he killed too?" Spock's voice was bleak, revealing nothing of his inner turmoil.
Zartan sneered. "He refused to obey me. He was flogged."
"He died." Zartan sounded pleased. For the first time, he smiled - a gloating, unpleasant smile.
"Fed to my hounds."
Spock felt an atavistic surge of rage. He fought it, aware that it was pointless being angry with a man who was obeying the mores of his own culture, knowing that his fury was directed less at the man's cruelty than at his callous gloating. He was glad that he could tell them Kirk was dead, his body fed to a pack of Dryad hounds. Spock tried telling himself that this gloating was also a facet of the culture; but his telepathic mind, sharpened by his emotion, caught a flash of triumph from the native's. This was no cultural reaction! It was the spite of a sadistic egoist seeking revenge for his defeat.
Spock deliberately relaxed his control, let his rage mount.
"Mr. Sulu," he said, and the cold viciousness in his voice made the Oriental look sharply at him. "Take - this - " he indicated Zartan " - to the torture chamber two levels below here. Lash him up for a flogging."
Sulu realised that this was no time to protest, and signed to his men. Spock followed them.
As Zartan was lashed up, Spock stood looking over the whips. Sulu crossed to him. "Mr. Spock," he said. "You can't do this. Captain Kirk wouldn't want it. It won't help - " He broke off, seeing it was hopeless.
"No, Mr. Sulu, it won't help," Spock said, his rage now channelled though still intense. "But it might teach this - " he indicated Zartan again, violently - "not to gloat about it. That's enough, Mr. Sulu," he went on, as Sulu opened his mouth to argue, and the helmsman retreated unhappily. It was not that he cared what happened to Zartan; but he suspected that Spock, once he regained control of his temper, would be bitterly ashamed of his lapse, and he did care for his senior officer.
"Ready, sir," one of the security men reported.
Spock turned, picking up the heaviest whip. It was the one, had he known, that Zartan had used on Kirk.
He raised it, judging his distance. A quiet voice said from the door -
The Vulcan whirled. Kirk stood there, swaying, supported by two of the men who had been searching the castle.
Spock stared at him for a long moment, hardly able to believe his eyes. Then even as he sprang forward, Kirk's legs failed and he collapsed despite the gentle hands steadying him. The Vulcan was just in time to catch him. He lowered Kirk carefully to the ground, supporting him. Kirk, his face twisted with pain, leaned his head against Spock's shoulder.
"I knew you'd come," he whispered, then coughed - a hoarse, racking cough.
Spock reached for his communicator.
"Spock to Enterprise... We've got the Captain. I'm beaming up with him now. Have Dr. McCoy standing by in the transporter room... Mr. Sulu - take over here." Sulu barely had time to acknowledge the order before his senior officers shimmered out of sight. Then he turned to the men who had found Kirk.
"Where was he?" Not in one of the dungeons, that he knew.
"In a hell-hole on the lowest levels," he was told. "It was sheer luck that we found him, too. We were talking about old castles back on Earth, and thinking how alike the design was to them, when we realised that maybe this place would have a pit on the lowest levels. So we went back down to look for one."
"It was lucky you knew something about old castles," Sulu said. He regarded his prisoner. "Let's get him untied. We'll put him where he had the Captain. That should hold him all right."
Kirk was conscious when they reached the Enterprise, but only just. He materialised coughing dreadfully, and McCoy, hearing it, leaped forward. He checked Kirk quickly. "No time to wait for a stretcher," he said. "Help me carry him."
"I'll take him," Spock said firmly. He swung Kirk up into his arms, and followed McCoy. By the time Kirk had been laid on a bed in sickbay, he was unconscious and breathing harshly and with considerable effort, and coughing a great deal. McCoy reached for a hypo, gave Kirk an injection; then a second.
"His back," Spock said.
McCoy glanced at him, helped him to roll Kirk over, and drew in his breath sharply as he saw the mess that was Kirk's back. Raw, suppurating cuts, many oozing blood, many angrily inflamed, gaped up at him.
McCoy gave Kirk yet another injection, smeared ointment gently over the maltreated back, then laid a piece of lint over it.
"He hasn't much chance," he said dully. "He's terribly weak."
"What exactly is wrong?"
"Blood poisoning. Double pneumonia. A touch of pleurisy. Dehydration. Starvation. I doubt he's had any food since he was taken prisoner. While it's only been about a week, the drain on his strength has been considerable, and the over-all effect is much greater than if he'd been physically sound."
They looked at each other, their eyes mirroring their worry.
The slow hours passed. McCoy never left Kirk's side; Spock only to check with Scotty that the Enterprise was all right and with Sulu and the Governor that matters on the surface were satisfactory.
"He's not responding to the drugs," McCoy said at last.
"How the hell do I know?" The spark of temper vanished as quickly as it had appeared. "It's impossible to say for certain. The blood poisoning's clearing up, the pleurisy's not bad... it's the pneumonia. It's always possible that this is a native bug that produces symptoms similar to pneumonia and not the illness we know."
"Can you find out?"
McCoy nodded. He went through to the lab, leaving Spock alone with Kirk. The Vulcan touched Kirk's face gently; shocked at the febrile heat in the Human's skin, he drew his hand away again. McCoy came back gloomily.
"The colony hasn't had any cases of anything like this," he said. "And they say that if it is a native bug, the natives won't have any cure; they have some limited surgical knowledge but no medical knowledge at all. The ill recover - or they die."
During the evening of the second day, the fever seemed to become worse.
"This can't go on," McCoy said unhappily. "Either the fever will break soon or it'll kill him. Trouble is, he doesn't seem to be fighting any more. He fought to remain alive in the dungeon, but when he saw you, and knew he was safe... I don't know if he even remained conscious long enough to recognise me, but he'd know you'd get him to me as quickly as possible. He knew he was safe; and he trusts us completely. So he's stopped fighting to stay alive. Oh, not deliberately - it's a subconscious thing, because he relies on us, trusts us... He's completely relaxed - too completely. Because if he doesn't fight... Spock - could you do anything with a mind meld? Persuade him to struggle?"
Slowly, Spock shook his head. "No," he said.
"You've done it before. Or don't you want him to survive? Do you see yourself as the new Captain of the Enterprise, promoted for your success here?" Even as he spoke he knew how reasonlessly cruel he was being.
The atavistic mood, never wholly dissipated, gripped Spock again. "If he dies," he said with a quietness that was more chilling than anger would have been, "I'll go back down there and take Zartan to pieces with my bare hands."
McCoy looked at him in amazement. He had never heard Spock speak in such a vicious tone. Some instinct - awareness of how unfair his last words had been - kept him from comment.
"Zartan?" he asked quietly.
"The man who held him prisoner. He told me Jim was dead... died under his whip. I had him lashed up for a flogging, but Jim came and stopped me. But if Jim dies after all... no-one will stop me."
There was silence for a moment. Then Spock realised how completely he had betrayed himself. Wooden-faced once more, he said stiffly,
"You will, of course, inform me if there is any change in the Captain's condition, Doctor. I will be on the bridge." He headed for the door.
And then McCoy realised fully just what he had done. He had finally broken Spock's control. Perhaps he had offended Spock beyond forgiveness. But he had to try. With a rush, he reached the door before the Vulcan.
"Spock... I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. Humans... under stress, Humans often hit out at whoever's nearest, it doesn't mean... " He looked at Spock's face, and received no encouragement. Pride stiffened his back. "At least accept my assurance that what was said will go no further, sir." He turned, and walked stiff-legged towards his desk. Behind him he heard the door slide open, then shut again.
He sat at his desk, gazing blindly down at it. "I should never have said that," he told the unresponsive instruments lying there. "I'm well-served if it has cost me Spock's friendship."
A strangely gentle hand came down on his shoulder. He turned.
"I know you didn't mean anything, Doctor," Spock told him quietly. "It just took me a moment... Now you know why Vulcans dare not permit themselves emotional release," he added wryly. "Our emotions - in particular, our tempers - can still be violent."
McCoy nodded. "I didn't think it was possible to make you so angry," he replied. "But what I said was unforgivable; I know you want him to live."
"There is a reason why I cannot meld with him, Doctor. If he was conscious, even raving I could contact him. If he was unconscious but not raving, I could contact him. But unconscious and raving - no. I have not got sufficient telepathic strength to push through the delirium. If I were a full-blooded Vulcan, perhaps then I could manage... but my Human blood weakens my telepathic ability. If I were to try, I could be trapped in his delirium. It is more... sensible to wait. Perhaps as the illness progresses and he becomes weaker his raving will cease, and then I will be able to do something."
McCoy nodded. "Yes, I understand," he said quietly.
They returned to the muttering, sweating figure on the bed, and stood looking down at him helplessly..
"Spock," McCoy said.
"Sometimes... familiar voices will penetrate an unconscious mind. If, instead of watching him in silence, we were to talk... "
"We must try."
So as they maintained their vigil, they talked. They talked themselves hoarse. Afterwards, neither of them was able to remember what they spoke of - it wasn't important. All that mattered was that they kept on talking.
Suddenly, McCoy became aware of silence from the bed. He broke off in mid-sentence, automatically looking up at the diagnostic panel. The readings had levelled off - low, but steady.
"Is he ...?" Spock began.
"He should be all right," McCoy replied. "He's weak, but he's sleeping normally."
Kirk slept for some hours, and as he slept the readings gradually rose to more acceptable levels. After a while, Spock persuaded McCoy to rest too, promising to wake him if the readings began to slip downwards again, and continued to watch alone. He could relax too, now, not quite meditating but allowing his mind to fill with a quiet content that he found strangely restful, although he had never been able to understand why, knowing only that it was a by-product of his friendship with this one Human who lay there so still.
At last Kirk stirred, and tried to raise his head. Spock held him down.
"I'm all right - just tired," Kirk said. He still sounded sleepy. But he made no further attempt to sit up; it seemed to satisfy him that Spock was there.
The Vulcan moved to the next bed, and shook McCoy awake. The surgeon glanced over at Kirk, and sat up at once, studying the panel.
"You'll be all right," he said cheerfully. "Twenty-four hours, and you'll be almost as good as new."
Kirk nodded. "Spock... "
"Don't answer this if you don't want to... but why were you going to flog Zartan?"
Spock hesitated. He and McCoy glanced at each other.
"Even Vulcans get angry sometimes," McCoy said lightly.
"He was gloating about having killed you," Spock said slowly.
"What I don't understand, though," McCoy put in, "is why he didn't tell you the truth when he realised what you were going to do."
"For all he knew, it was the truth," Kirk said. "I was certainly left there to die."
"No," Spock said. "The man was a sadist. We had beaten him. He wanted revenge. When I asked him about you, it gave him a weapon he could use. Mental cruelty, By threatening him, I was actually showing him how successful his cruelty was. Every lash would have been a triumph to him."
McCoy stared at him in horror. "You could be right, Spock... but what a warped way to think. What will happen to him now?"
"According to the customs of the planet, the Governor told me, we - that is, the Federation - have the right to take over his lands; a defeated aggressor has no rights. However, there is the treaty that specified that we would not try to take over the natives' land. He suggested that we make it clear that we hold to the treaty, and give the land back to Zartan's oldest son. Zartan himself... I believe we should simply release Zartan, to live on the charity of his son. Forever shamed because of his defeat, nobody would trust him to lead them again. It would be the most severe punishment we could inflict."
"You mean by humiliating him?" McCoy said. "Because it would show that we don't consider him a serious enough danger to... to execute?"
Kirk nodded. "I think that you're right, Spock; and it would be an object lesson to the others, too; the Federation is so confident of its strength that it can afford to leave potential enemies alive. See to it, will you?"
Kirk yawned, and closed his eyes. His friends looked at each other once more.
"He'll be all right, Spock," McCoy said.
"In that case, I will go and carry out my orders. I will be in my quarters if I am needed."
McCoy watched the Vulcan stride out, and then he too yawned. In spite of his sleep, he was still tired. He returned to the bed he had so recently left, and closed his eyes again. A moment later, a quiet snore disturbed the silence.