Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the property of and is copyright (c) 1977 by Juanita Salicrup. Originally published in Warped Space #30, Lori Chapek-Carleton, editor. Rated PG.
A Dealer in Kivas and Trillium
The hawk-faced lieutenant prodded Spock along the corridor to the open doorway of the far chamber, where they paused.
"Kurith, we have a subject for your little magic box!"
His scorn, both for Spock and his fellow officer, was evident.
A stocky Klingon, his swarthy face containing perhaps a bit more intelligence than Spock's companion, looked up from his work. At sight of the tall Vulcan held firmly in tow, his interest quickened. Kas shoved Spock into the room.
Said the other, smugly, "You may ridicule all you like, Kas, but the fact remains that my 'little magic box' has turned out to be quite helpful to the Empire." Then he dismissed the argument in favor of a closer look at his prospective "subject". "What's he done?"
"Perhaps nothing, but Commander Kor requires an interrogation. He claims to be a trader, a dealer in something or other."
"Kivas and trillium," supplied Spock, patiently. Kas glared at him. Spock ignored the glare.
"Hmmmm -- well, we shall see. My little box has never failed. It will not fail now," said Kurith confidently. "You know the. routine, Kas. Strip him."
The other bridled. "I am not your underling, Kurith! Strip him yourself."
The two squared off and then Kurith moved toward Spock, who had listened to the exchange with an unrevealed sense of dismay. He held up his hand toward the advancing Klingon. "Your assistance will not be necessary."
He turned away and in a few minutes had stripped to the skin, folding his borrowed Organian clothing onto a low bench. He suspected this was a ploy designed to intimidate the subject of interrogation, since to be naked in the hostile company of others still dressed gave a certain ugly dimension of threat to the entire business.
When he turned back and stood facing Kurith, he was uncomfortably aware of the Citadel's cold stone floor beneath his bare feet. Stoic, calm as usual, he revealed neither his physical discomfort nor the slight trepidation in his belly toward what lay ahead.
Kurith and Kas both eyed his lithe, sinewy body -- the width of shoulder, hard muscled belly, slim hips and long, corded legs. In Kurith's eyes, there was an ugly anticipatory gleam. In Kas' -- suspicion. He stepped toward Spock, frowning, his hand reaching out toward the Vulcan. Just as he came within proximity of Spock's flat muscled chest, the First Officer fixed him with a cold stare.
Nonplussed, Kas retreated -- and then angrily wondered at the air of dignity that had caused his withdrawal. In spite of the clear physical disadvantage, Spock controlled the encounter with a proud lift of head and uncompromising dark eyes. It annoyed the Klingon, but he did not repeat his gesture.
Instead, he snarled at Kurith, "Look at him! A trader, indeed! That's the body of an athlete, not a common merchant! You had better do your work well. He will have much to tell us."
Kurith, who was already busy with his machine, looked up. "You cannot be certain of that, Kas. Vulcans are known to be a physically superior humanoid species, and they're addicted to exercise and self-discipline the way we are to tapir."
"Be careful of your terms, Kurith. The Empire's citizens do not take kindly to being compared unfavorably with such as this!"
Kurith flashed him a look of disgust and directed Spock to sit down in a high, carved wooden arm chair. Spock obeyed, quietly, showing no reaction to the cold feel of the wood against his bare skin.
"Lieutenant Kas, if you please -- would you be so kind as to bind the subject in the prescribed manner?" Kurith asked with exaggerated deference. Kas scowled, but took the leather straps offered and bound the Vulcan to the chair at wrist and bicep, thigh and shin.
Spock, meanwhile, had fixed his feline curious attention on the mechanism over which Kurith was clucking, looking for all the world like some sort of obscene mother hen. The Mind Sifter was a grey metalled oblong box with a small screen, a twist dial, and eight colored crystalline stud switches. On the table next to it lay a metal band with a large disc affixed to either side and another disc attached by a long metal cable to the circular band.
Kurith switched on the machine. The small screen came alive, a glowing emerald field, and the row of studs lit. A faint hum came from the box. Kurith picked up the metal band and, turning, put it around Spock's head. Each disc was attached to one of the Vulcan's temples. The disc at the end of the dangling cable was attached to his breast. Then Kurith turned up the dial and began his questioning, adjusting as he went along.
"What is your name?"
"Spock of Vulcan."
"What is your profession?"
"Interplanetary trader, a dealer in kivas and trillium."
"What is your business on Organia?"
"I am here to conclude a trade arrangement with the Organian Council."
As the questioning went on, Spock had the sensation of cold metal fingers probing rather delicately at the folds of his brain, fingering the lobes with a disinterested, analytical touch. In his chest, a cold probing emanated from the disc affixed to his breast. The barrier between his false identity and his true one stood firm.
Kas, who had drawn to one side as the interrogation began, shifted impatiently. Without moving his eyes from his dial and screen, Kurith soothed, "Patience, Kas. Patience. We begin slowly. But we escalate."
On the last word, he turned up the grey dial knob another two notches and depressed two of the crystalline studs. The fingers in Spock's brain and breast began to glow with heat. Soon they were unpleasantly hot, as they entwined themselves around his vitals, small seeking ferrets.
Kurith turned to look at him. "Vulcan, if you are what you say, this unpleasantness is regrettable. If not -- it is only the beginning. The discomfort you now feel, the pain that will grow, is as nothing to that which will be yours should you lie. My little invention here will reveal your guilt -- and you will suffer. Now -- tell me again: who are you?"
"Spock -- of Vulcan." The fingers sifted impersonally, painful, though the pain remained bearable.
"I am -- a dealer in kivas -- and trillium." The words came as a surprising effort, though still well within Spock's control.
He watched Kurith turn up the dial and touch two more buttons. The probes in his brain and body went flame hot, tearing at the strength of will he'd erected as a wall of protection inside himself. The pain spread down his neck and back to the base of his spine, every vertebra beginning to throb individually. The lance in his breast uncoiled and probed inward, entering lungs and stomach with swords of fire. The fire coursed downward through intestines and kidneys, a white hot flood that seemed to be burning out his vital organs from within.
He was aware that the pain in his head was causing a faint roaring in his ears. His vision seemed slightly blurred. Words jerked helplessly from his throat.
"...came to Organia ... trade arrangement ... nearly secured ... Klingons' arrival -- disrupted..."
Kas fixed burning eyes on the Vulcan, leaning forward slightly, Kurith reached over and adjusted his dial upwards again. Two more switches were thrown.
The victim bound to the chair moved restlessly, painfully in his bonds. His eyes were shut, face drawn with the effort of fighting the agony that tore through him. A fine sweat dewed his brow, upper lip and the mat of dark hair on his chest. Rivulets ran down his flanks.
"Come --- Spock -- the truth," coaxed Kurith in honeyed tones. "Just the truth -- and the pain will stop. I want to help you, you know. Just tell me who and what you are and it will all be over."
"I -- am -- Spock -- of Vulcan -- dealer -- in kivas -- and trillium!" gasped the tortured man in the chair. His entire body and brain were flaming with an agony beyond even that he'd endured on Deneva with the cell creatures. A green haze had suffesed his viston, and he was vaguely aware that the muscles of his arms and legs were jumping in involuntary spasms. He clung to one thought: They shall not know! They shall NOT KNOW!
The force of his will registered on the emerald hued screen as a blip in the continuing line of his thought patterns.
"Hah!" Kas pounced instantly. "Look! He lies!"
"Perhaps -- perhaps! We shall see. Wait -- and we'll know in a moment!"
Dimly, Spock heard, and felt it when Kurith touched two more studs and the dial swung upward. Excruciating pain exploded in his head and body; sweat gushed from his pores. Half conscious, he murmured deliriously: "...the Klingons ... they'll prevent ... agreement so .... important ... honor of . .. the family..."
Kas muttered with inarticulate dissatisfaction. "I tell you he's hiding something, Kurith! Kor will put you under your own Mind Sifter if you fail to find out what it is!"
"Spock! Spock!" Kurith snapped a toggle to jolt the Vulcan out of his semi-delirium. Spock looked blindly toward his interrogator, sweat running into his eyes. "Tell us again, Spock. Why are you here?"
"Trade agreement ... family ... must succeed ... agreement vital ... trillium so necessary ... to Vulcan cannot be prevented! ... No!" The words were torn from Spock's tense throat.
Satisfied, Kurith nodded. The infuriated Kas snarled, "I tell you he lies!"
Kurith pursed his lips and a muscle jumped in his cheek. "And I tell you that at this point he in incapable of lying! I ought to know! I am the inventor of the Mind Sifter, am I not?"
Spock was moaning softly now, murmuring of credits and kivas as he writhed against his bonds. Impatiently, Kas reached past Kurith toward the dial. "Set it on maximun!" Kurith moved to block him. "And if we kill him?"
"What of it? If he is a trader ... no one will miss him. What is one trader's death? But if he is more--?"
Kurith was incensed. "I remind you, Lieutenant, I am the expert here. And I say the Vulcan is what he says he is! Not even a Vulcan could withstand this -- the pain, the pressure -- and still lie!"
In his bonds, Spock twisted and turned, fighting the torment with a slowly shredding will. The words were mumbled, disjointed: "T'Lia, I need ... should I die ... T'Lia! Help me! ... I commit to thee ... honor and name ... Help me!"
"Who is this T'Lia he speaks of?!" Kas snapped, suspicious. His hand reached for the dial eagerly. Kurith slapped it away, eyes burning.
"No doubt his wife -- stone brain! He expects to die and he calls to her. Now do you see?!" He reached over and shut down the machine, interposing his body between his brain-child and Kas. In the chair, ignored by the two Klingons, Spock slumped in a shallow faint, hanging by his bonds.
"No point in wasting the Empire's most sophisticated interrogation device on one Vulcan trader. The trouble with you, Kas, is you're ambitious and stupid -- a dangerous combination." He unsnapped the discs from Spock's temples and breast and removed the headband. "You see enemies behind every rock -- enemies you can use to become Fleet Commander in Kor's place!"
Kas snarled inarticulately, hands working the air as if tearing at Kurith's throat. "One day, Kurith -- one day you will push me too far! And then we will see how the master of the Mind Sifter likes the taste of his own invention!" he rumbled thickly.
Kurith tossed him a contemptuous look and went back to his machine. "Growl away, Kas. Meanwhile, get him--" He chinned toward Spock, who was beginning to stir. "--out of here! Kor is awaiting your report!"
Kas tore furiously at the straps binding the still limp victim to the chair. He hauled the Vulcan to his feet savagely. "All right, Vulcan! Get dressed! You can go back to your trading as soon as we see Kor." He sneered as the First Officer staggered toward the bench where he'd left his clothing.
His back to the two Klingons, Spock forced control over his trembling body, gathering in the remnants of agony, containing them fiercely. By the time he fastened the trader's cloak about his shoulders, he'd regained his equilibrium. Assuming a pose of subservience, and mastering the retreating shudders of pain inside himself, he allowed Kas to drag him back down the corridor.
In the chamber Kor had commandeered as his headquarters, Kirk waited tensely beside the Klingon commander, trying not to show his anxiety over one "simple Vulcan trader". //Two hours! What are they doing to him?//
Abruptly, Kas walked in, shoving Spock ahead of him. Kirk's eyes ran carefully over his First Officer.
"Are you all right?" he asked tightly.
Spock nodded, his eyes cool. "Perfectly, Baroner."
Kirk relaxed. Time to return to the play-acting.