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Kirk was laughing delightedly as Spock entered. "Come and see!" he grinned at his First Officer. "Bet you couldn't do that if you tried!"
"Indeed?" The Vulcan's expression was noncommittal, but his tone was quizzical. It was enough that the signals from this planet had been something of an enigma, but the Captain seemed to be actually enjoying the situation. "Captain, I fail to understand why I should become involved - "
Kirk grinned again. He hadn't had so much fun in a long while, and sharing that joy with his friend would double the pleasure. "Because I want you to be involved," he tried to explain. "Because it would please me."
Spock sighed. If it had been anyone but James Kirk he would have dismissed the whole thing as pointless. But for this man, his Captain - he knew he would do as he asked, no matter how illogical it seemed.
"Captain, I am not sure that Starfleet would approve of our... " He attempted one last feeble protest.
"Spock." Kirk spoke patiently. "Will you just stop worrying about who will or will not approve and at least come and see this?"
The Vulcan nodded. He knew he had lost. As he approached the Captain's side, his only thought was one of relief that at least McCoy was not here.
Kirk's attention was once more riveted to the viewscreen which was showing the television transmission that they were picking up from the Prime Directive planet below; the planet they had been ordered to survey from extreme distance. In order to receive this picture, they must be much closer than necessary, Spock knew. With another faint sigh, the First Officer turned his attention to the screen.
An expression of faint distaste crossed Spock's face as he regarded the image being transmitted. A sizeable crowd was seated around a central area, avidly watching a man whose body was twisted into an unbelievable knot. The last man Spock had seen writhing like that had been dying, killed by an unknown poison. Spock completely failed to understand Kirk's obvious enjoyment of the spectacle.
And yet... he trusted Kirk; even although he knew that almost every civilised race had known a period when torture, bloodshed and mass slaughter had been regarded as normal spectator sports, and it appeared that this race was at that level of development. He knew that there must be more to this than was immediately obvious to him; Kirk's nature was not sadistic and if he was enjoying it, there must be some harmless point to the whole affair. Spock concentrated on discovering what it was.
The television cameras moved to the spectators, who were cheering enthusiastically. There were a lot of children among them, Spock noted - not that that was any indication of how innocuous the occasion might be. Some cultures exposed their children to the most unsuitable of spectacles, he knew.
The picture returned to the central arena. The scene had changed.
Spock watched with horror the three men who were engaged in attacking a fourth man, whose only fault appeared to lie in the old, ragged clothes he was wearing. It took the Vulcan some minutes to realise that neither the petty cruelties being inflicted nor the heartless laughter of the spectators was occasioned by malicious, vindictive sadism, and a further minute to appreciate the ludicrousness of the situation. Almost unwillingly, a gleam of amusement dawned deep in his eyes.
Kirk, watching him out of the corner of his eye even while his attention appeared to be fixed on the screen, relaxed slightly. He had been right; the spectacle did appeal to Spock's usually unadmitted sense of humour. It was just a pity he couldn't take Spock down to the planet here, to let the Vulcan experience at first hand the atmosphere of the entertainment.
However, he promised himself as Spock finally pulled a chair over to sit beside him, the next time they were within reach of a Human Federation planet, he would definitely take Spock down to visit a circus.