Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom.  This story is the property of SterJulie and is copyright (c) 2005 by SterJulie.   Rated PG.


After the Credits: Errand of Mercy



"Spock?" Kirk questioned.  "You didn't give any details on the Klingon Mind Sifter in your report."  Kirk watched as Spock's back stiffened, but he did not hear a reply from the Vulcan.  "Spock?"


Spock closed his eyes.  He tried to answer, but found that the words would not come, not without emotion.  Kirk sensed his friend's dilemma and moved Spock to the turbolift, motioning Sulu to the center seat with a jerk of his head.


Kirk didn't say anything until they reached the briefing room.


"Spock?" he began.


Spock's trembling belied his internal struggle, despite his calm façade.  He sank into a chair and rested his head on his folded arms.  Kirk pulled another chair close to Spock, not quite touching the Vulcan.


"Isn't it enough to say that I was interrogated?" Spock said quietly.  Kirk placed a gentle hand on his friend's shoulder, feeling tightly bunched muscles there.


"You mean tortured, don't you?" Kirk said gently.


Spock lowered his head to the table and covered it with his arms, as if to protect himself.  Kirk thought back to their earlier discussion of the Mind Sifter while still on the planet.


/"That mind-sifter can't be all the terror they think it is," Kirk had said./


/"It should not be under estimated," Spock had replied.  "It reaches directly into the mind.  We Vulcans have certain mental -- certain disciplines which enable me to maintain a shield.  Without those disciplines, there would be no protection."/


Kirk didn't notice Spock's falter in speech before.  It certainly raised red flags now.  The captain slid his hand gently across Spock's back, offering him another layer of protection.


"Tell me what they did to you," Kirk said gently.  "No one can hurt you here."  When Spock still hesitated, Kirk continued.  "Spock, we need to know what those Klingon monsters are capable of, how we can defend ourselves against the…"


Spock's head snapped up as he pulled away from Kirk's embrace.


"Defense?" Spock echoed.  "There can be no defense!"


"You survived it," Kirk pointed out.


"The dial had ten settings," Spock replied.  "I knew at level four that I would break at the next level, despite my best efforts."


Kirk looked quietly at his agitated friend for a long moment.  He had to help Spock past this, but he also needed that report.


"Tell me what they did to you," Kirk asked again.


Spock sat ramrod straight, his eyes closed, his arms wrapped around his middle as if to keep himself from falling apart.


"The guards took me down to a lower level," Spock began, "like a cellar or dungeon."  /How appropriate,/ Kirk thought.  "They stripped me from the waist up and shackled me to the wall.  They wheeled a box-shaped device closer to me.  It was 1.75 meters in height by .5 meters in width.  I could not see it's depth."


Kirk almost smiled at Spock's attention to detail until he realized that his friend was only using his precision as a way of stalling.


"There were few control knobs that I could see.  The main feature was the dial with ten settings.  One of the guards put leads on my chest and another device on my head, securing it to my psi points.  They asked me my name and my business on Organia.  I said, 'My name is Spock.  I am a Vulcanian merchant dealing in kevas and trillium.'"


Spock took a deep breath.  The rest of the tale spewed forth in a gush of words.


"The guard threw the switch.  My skin began to crawl.  I thought, 'If this is level one, how will I ever withstand level ten?'  The guard asked me my name and business again.  My rank and serial number came to mind.  That was when I knew I had to use the disciplines to protect the mission.  I repeated, 'My name is Spock. I am a dealer in kevas and trillium.'


"'Tell me more, Vulcan,' he ordered.  I answered, 'How I will carry out my business under your occupation?'  He raised the device to level two.


"Liquid fire poured through my nerve endings.  I began to recite the Tenets of Surak, poetry, the ABCs to myself, anything to keep from revealing the truth.  'WHO ARE YOU?' he shouted.  'My name is Spock,' I insisted.  'I am a dealer in kevas and trillium.'  'MORE!" he barked.  I answered, 'My business will suffer greatly under you occupation.'  The guard raised it to level three."


Spock paused, taking in great lungfuls of air to stop his trembling.


"'WHO ARE YOU?' he yelled.  I screamed, 'I AM SPOCK!'  'MORE!' he insisted, moving the dial to four.


"I wept.  I said, 'There is nothing more to tell.'"


The only sound in the room was Spock's ragged breathing.  Slowly, his breathing calmed and he opened his eyes.  He was shocked by what he saw.


James T. Kirk was weeping.


"You made me think it wasn't so bad,' Kirk whispered.


"I couldn't show weakness," Spock replied quietly, "not in front of the enemy."  Kirk dragged a hand across his eyes.


"Klingon bastards," he muttered.  After a while Kirk scrubbed at his face again, slapped his thighs, stood and sighed.  "Don't worry about that report, Spock.  I'll take care of it."  Kirk peered closely at his first officer.  "Are you okay now?" he asked.  "Maybe you should stop by Sickbay."


Spock stood up straight and pleaded with Kirk as they left the Briefing Room.


"Please Captain, not Sickbay!" he begged.  "I was already tortured once today."


Kirk guffawed in surprise at Spock's joke, slapping the Vulcan on the back.


Or was it a joke?