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Life Sentence

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Scene 1: The doorway of what seems at first glance to be a simple mud hut, but which has sophisticated features, including keycode entry. Spock, McCoy, Uhura and Scotty are grouped under a palm tree; Kirk is astride a frisky mule.

 

Kirk [in an undertone]: Alright, guys, keep your wits about you. I know the Muruvians are being nice at the moment, but they'll turn on you in an instant if you put a foot out of line. Please be careful when I'm away. We can't afford any more diplomatic incidents with these people. They're our only dilithium source this side of Elron III.

 

McCoy: Jim, you're the only one liable to starting diplomatic incidents. [Spock and Uhura murmur a barely audible assent.] Are you sure you'll be OK with Her Ladyship over there?

 

[The whole group casts a subtle glance into the wings.]

 

Kirk: I'll be alright. I seem to be on Madam Nermo's good side at the moment. I'll be as complimentary about the mines as possible, and I should be back before sundown. But I'm serious - the reason I chose you was that you're my most reliable officers. Do not retaliate if any of the Muruvians offend you with their - shall we say - eccentricities.

 

A regal, elderly female voice in the wings: Are you ready, Captain Kirk?

 

Kirk: Coming now. [He trots off on the mule; there are sounds of distant neighing, followed by the retreating hoofbeats of a small pack of mules on gravel.]

 

McCoy: Well we'd best start "admiring the local amenities" like we were told - before we're accused of loitering and carted off to jail. I wouldn't put it past these people!

 

Uhura [consulting a small map]: I've been asked specifically to visit the xenolinguistics tower, so I'd better head off quickly. It's half a mile away. [She exits stage right.]

 

Spock: I think I will investigate the neurobiology laboratory. [He gives a peculiarly intense, lengthy look at the doctor, who bristles visibly. Receiving no response, the Vulcan turns on his heel and disappears into the mud hut behind him.]

 

McCoy [in an undertone]: What, was he afraid I'd butt in on his territory? Huh! As if! I know when I'm not wanted. [more loudly] I guess I'll check out those buildings over there. [He waves his hand vaguely to his right.]

 

Scott [checking his PADD]: And I'll take a look at the underground GNDN network. It sounded pretty interesting. See you later, laddie! [He pats McCoy's shoulder and exits stage left.]

 

[McCoy shoots a huffy glance at the door through which Spock had left, then readjusts his tricorder and exits stage right.]

 

 

Scene 2: An indoor scene lit by a skylight. The walls have the texture of clay, but they are dusky pink. There is a ladder leading up to the skylight. Beneath it, a woman is stretched on the floor, face down. She is wearing a distinctive multicoloured shirt, and there is a toolbelt around her waist. Her head and arms are partly concealed by a large toolbag.

 

Enter McCoy.

 

McCoy [sheepishly, rubbing his hands together]: Oh! Hiya there, Ms Lara! I took a wrong turn somewhere and I guess I must've retraced my footsteps. This building is a maze! Sorry to bother you again, but could you just tell me one more time how to get to the immunology department? Oh! Is this yours?

 

[He picks up a knife, which was in the shadows beside his foot. Suddenly, he stiffens all over, staring with frozen horror at the knife, which is covered with blood. He rushes to Lara's side and kicks the toolbag aside. He swears. Kneeling down, he takes her pulse at the neck, but he has already spotted the stab wound in her back.]

 

McCoy [automatically, slightly dazed]: Dead!

 

Suddenly, three Muruvians enter from another door, and they gasp theatrically. McCoy is kneeling by the dead body, still holding up the dripping knife. He is lit dramatically by the skylight. He gapes at the three people, then looks down at the dead woman. He says nothing.

 

 

Scene 3: A small room, crowded with people. At the back, McCoy stands handcuffed between two particularly tall Muruvian guards, who are almost seven feet tall. In the foreground, Uhura and Scotty are pacing up and down. Uhura is biting her lip and wringing her hands. Scotty is running his fingers through his hair distractedly, completely out of his depth.

 

Enter Spock, at an inelegant run, clutching his tricorder to stop it bouncing. Uhura rushes to him and grabs his arm while his eyes take in the whole scene.

 

Uhura [distraught]: Oh, Commander Spock, please tell them they've made a mistake! I keep telling them, but they just won't listen to me!

 

A Muruvian official strides forward.

 

Muruvian official [haughty and extremely angry]: I repeat, there has not been a single murder in Muruvia in the last 93 years. The Muruvian code against killing is the most sacred of all our precepts. The Muruvian people know that the killing of a person brings eternal damnation to the evildoer. There is no-one among my people who would commit such a deed. This is what comes of bringing aliens to this planet. [He says the word alien as though it is a disgusting insult.] You people have been on this planet for less than four hours and already - already! - there is violence and death. It is disgusting. I knew we could not trust you outworlders.

 

Spock: There has been a mistake -

 

Muruvian official [louder]: I tell you - we found him bending over the body with the knife still in his accursed hand!!!

 

[McCoy is staring at the floor with wild eyes, looking very small between his two captors. All eyes are on him. There is a pause.]

 

[Spock adjusts the hem of his shirt deliberately, draws himself up to his full height, and looks into the official's eyes.]

 

Spock: I assure you, you have made a mistake. It was I who killed the woman.

 

[There is a gasp from everyone in the room. Scotty and Uhura take a startled step backwards, totally astonished. McCoy blanches and jerks up his head.]

 

[Another pause.]

 

Muruvian offical [who has gone beyond anger and is now menacingly stony-faced]: Seize him.

 

[Two other guards bind Spock's hands behind his back. The Vulcan shows no emotion whatsoever. The guards pull him towards the door.]

 

McCoy [roughly, nearly spitting]: STOP!

 

[Everyone turns back to the doctor. McCoy sticks out his chin. His face is white and his eyes wild; in fact, he looks possessed.]

 

McCoy: It was me! I did it! I killed her. It was me. Don't listen to him.

 

[The whole assembly is nonplussed and silent. Spock and McCoy look daggers at each other.]

 

 

Scene 4: A prison corridor, with two barred doors through which are seen two jail cells. Spock and McCoy, respectively, are behind these doors. Everyone else is gathered in the corridor, muttering in undertones.

 

Kirk bursts in from stage right and takes centre stage, hands on hips.

 

Kirk [grimly]: Now what's all this about?

 

Enter Madam Nermo. Her lilac hair is piled up on top of her head. She confers with the Muruvian officals in an undertone before turning and addressing Kirk.

 

Madam Nermo:  Captain Kirk, I am assured that both of your officers are adamant in their admission to the crime in question. Perhaps they are accomplices; perhaps they think that by covering for each other, they will both escape punishment. If that is the case, they are highly mistaken. No-one escapes justice on Muruvia.

 

Kirk [through gritted teeth]: Justice! I have already told you what I think of your custom of imprisonment without trial, and -

 

Madam Nermo [implacably]: Captain, you were fully informed of our traditions when you beamed down, and you all agreed to uphold our laws and customs while on this planet. You have no cause for grievance. I do not hold you responsible for this terrible incident. Indeed, [she makes a benevolent sweeping gesture with her arms] if you can prove to me that either of these men was innocent of the crime, I will free him at once. However, as for the one who is guilty - [she folds her arms] no power in your Federation can save him. Of course, we will not kill him. We are a merciful and upright people. The sentence is life imprisonment.

 

[Kirk affects a gracious smile and inclines his head submissively.]

 

Kirk: May I enquire - who found Dr McCoy with the body of the deceased?

 

McCoy (coming up to the bars of the cell door): It was them -

 

Madam Nermo: Silence! Condemned prisoners must not speak!

 

Scotty: It was these three people over here, captain.

 

[The three Muruvians in question are gathered on stage left: a dark-skinned woman in a yellow dress, an extremely tall man in a navy cloak, and an androgynous individual with bright lilac hair. All three have stern expressions.]

 

Kirk makes a spasmodic gesture with his hands, without drawing attention to himself. Uhura notices this and interprets the sign language: "tricorder now". She slips over to Spock's cell door and, under the watchful eye of the guards, she gets him to pass her his tricorder through the bars of the cell door.

 

Kirk: This must have been a great shock to you.

 

Yellow-Dress: Shocked doesn't even begin to cover it!

 

Navy-Cloak: It's disgraceful.

 

Lilac-Hair: It's appalling! We couldn't believe our eyes!

 

Kirk (evenly): I suppose this Lara was a great friend of yours.

 

Yellow-Dress: Oh, I didn't really know her. Makus used to go out with her. [She indicates the navy-cloaked man beside her.]

 

Makus: No. I did not.

 

Yellow-Dress: Oh, sorry. I thought you asked her out, though?

 

Makus: You are mistaken, Sheesa.

 

Lilac-Hair [excitedly]: But we see her around all the time, like! It's crazy that someone killed her! That just...doesn't happen here. You outworlders wouldn't understand. I know people murder each other all the time on your planet. But Muruvians are the most lawful people in the galaxy.

 

[Meanwhile, Uhura gradually sidles up to Kirk and casually hands him the tricorder.]

 

Uhura: It must have been awful to come upon a scene like that so suddenly -

 

Makus: The sight will never leave us. May the ancestors shield us from this evil. [He makes a sign to the ceiling, and his action is echoed by Sheesa and several other Muruvians.]

 

Kirk has been fiddling with the tricorder without seeming to pay it close attention. Now, he reads the screen and suddenly he laughs. He swings around to face Madam Nermo, still laughing. Under the circumstances, the laughter is eerie and unsettling, but Kirk's face shows intense relief.

 

Kirk: Are you aware, my lady, that this man HAS THREE HEARTS?

 

[All the Muruvians display shock. Kirk whips out a phaser and pins it to Makus's chest, standing on tiptoes and getting right into his personal space.]

 

Kirk: You, Makus, are an Ertherian spy! Now, I don't know what your business is here on this planet, and frankly I don't much care. But you murdered that woman - and you tried to frame my friend! Well, I'm no Muruvian [he dramatically adjusts his phaser to "Kill"], and if you don't confess what you did, I'll kill you right here and now.

 

Makus [uncertainly, to Madam Nermo]: My lady, please -

 

[Kirk bring the phaser up to Makus's face. The Ertherian's nerve breaks and he sinks to his knees.]

 

Makus: Stop! No! I'm sorry! [sobbing] Lara deserved it. She was a heartless bitch.

 

[Two guards handcuff the murderer. Kirk rushes over to the cell doors and reaches his hands through the bars to clutch the hands of Spock and McCoy, respectively. He bows his head, finally allowing his emotions to show. McCoy makes a clumsy attempt to hug him through the bars. Spock is staring into the middle distance. He looks perplexed.]

 

 

Scene 5: A transporter room.

 

Spock is doing something with his tricorder. He seems totally composed. McCoy, Scotty and Uhura are grouped together.

 

Scotty: You're still shaking, man, are you OK?

 

McCoy [nervous chuckle]: I have to say, I thought I was a goner. But I guess I shoulda known Kirk can always pull a rescue out of nowhere! [He smiles, and bounces on his heels.]

 

[Uhura looks quizzically from the doctor to the science officer, but neither man seems to notice.]

 

[Kirk appears, waving farewell to somebody off stage. He turns on his heel and his smile vanishes abruptly. He shoots thunderous looks at McCoy and Spock.]

 

Kirk: Get on the transporter pad NOW. [He gets on himself.]

 

[Everyone silently stands in position on the pad. Spock and McCoy stand farthest away from each other. They both look sheepish.]

 

Uhura: That was amazing detective work, captain! However did you know he was an alien?

 

Kirk: I didn't. I just hoped that something would show up on the tricorder. I was lucky. [meaningfully] Things could have gone very differently.

 

Scotty: And he really killed her just because she wouldn't go out with him?

 

Kirk: Apparently so. It turns out he'd been pestering her for years, and finally saw his chance to get his own back without arousing suspicion.

 

[Scotty gravely shakes his head. They all dematerialise.]

 

 

Scene 6: A room that resembles a classroom. There is a single large desk at one end of the room; in front of the desk are several rows of chairs, arranged in semi-circles. There is a schematic diagram of the Enterprise on the wall. There is nobody here.

 

The sound of a transporter beam is heard offstage.

 

Kirk, offstage: Nyota, Scotty - thanks for all your help today. [sternly] Now, you two - I want a little word with you.

 

Enter Spock, McCoy and Kirk, in that order. Spock and McCoy sit in the front row of chairs - as far away from each other as possible.

 

Kirk slams the door behind him.

 

Kirk: NEVER do that again. Do you hear me?

 

Kirk perches on the edge of the desk, and folds his arms.

 

A pause.

 

Kirk: Well?

 

Spock: Captain?

 

Kirk: What the hell were you thinking? You're each as bad as the other. What do you mean by confessing to a crime you didn't commit? I nearly lost both of you out there today because of this nonsense. I won't have it.

 

McCoy is fidgeting and shuffling his feet.

 

Spock [innocently]: Captain, I acted perfectly reasonably. Given the overwhelming evidence against the doctor, I assumed that he had killed the engineer, Lara. Our briefing had informed us that any major infraction of Muruvian rule results in a sentence of life imprisonment; I knew that Dr McCoy has neither the physical or mental capacity to endure such a punishment. Therefore, I offered myself in his place. As a Vulcan, I would not suffer from solitary confinement or material deprivations. It was the logical decision.

 

McCoy shoots a sideways glance at Spock, crosses his legs and starts biting his nails.

 

Kirk: You though that Bones had committed murder?

 

Spock: No, of course not. I assumed that some sort of accident had occurred, or that the doctor had perhaps committed manslaughter to save somebody else. I knew the Muruvians would not listen to reason. They have no formal legal system.

 

Kirk: You didn't think to check the facts before placing your neck on the line?

 

Spock: In hindsight, I was perhaps somewhat...precipitous in my actions.

 

Kirk pinches the bridge of his nose to conceal an involuntary smile.

 

Kirk: You acted out of duty, then.

 

Spock [relieved]: Indeed, captain.

 

Kirk: In other words, you would have done the same to save any member of the crew.

 

Spock [cautiously]: Not...not necessarily, captain...

 

Kirk [quietly]: For me?

 

Spock [embarrassed, but earnest]: Yes, sir.

 

Kirk: And for Bones. Anyone else?

 

A pause.

 

Spock: No.

 

A pregnant silence.

 

McCoy unfolds his arms.

 

McCoy: But look here, I don't understand. We're not even friends. We don't even hang out together. I don't get it.

 

Spock [not making eye contact]: The fact that we do not socialise, doctor, is not due to any choice on my part - at least, not of late. I would welcome the opportunity to share more time with you outside of working hours.

 

McCoy: But - but - I mean, you never ask me to go anywhere...it's not like I avoid you..?

 

Spock [quietly]: You did not even wish to visit the neurobiology lab with me this morning.

 

McCoy: But I thought you wanted me out of the way!

 

Spock: Doctor -

 

Kirk sees that he has lost control of the situation, and tries to regain it.

 

Kirk: Gentlemen, gentlemen, please. I am trying to get to the bottom of today's fiasco. Bones, what have you to say for yourself?

 

The doctor seems to shrink into himself suddenly.

 

McCoy: Well, hell. What was I supposed to think? He never lies. He doesn't do that. If he says he killed her, then he killed her. What was I supposed to think?

 

Spock [reprovingly]: Doctor, if I had committed the crime, you should not have interfered with the course of justice.

 

Kirk raises his eyebrows at this blatant hypocrisy, but Spock is staring at McCoy and McCoy is staring at his own feet.

 

A pause.

 

Kirk: Bones...

 

McCoy stands up abruptly, almost kicking aside his chair. He paces the length of the room and stands with his back to the others, arms folded. He is visibly upset.

 

Kirk [patiently, kindly]: Bones, why did you sacrifice yourself to save Spock?

 

McCoy goes to turn around to face Spock, then changes his mind and turns back again.

 

McCoy: Because I love him, alright?

 

Another pause.

 

McCoy [chokily]: I love him and I couldn't - I couldn't let that happen to him. I knew if he'd somehow killed this woman then it wasn't his fault. And he has a life here on the Enterprise. He finally has everything he wanted in life. Whereas I'm a stupid fool who always wants what they can't have. I wouldn't have minded being stuck on that planet, if it meant Spock could go free. At least these stupid feelings of mine would have gone to some use.

 

Spock stands up and attempts to speak, but his first word doesn't come out; he clears his throat and starts again.

 

Spock: Doctor -

 

Spock: Leonard, I -

 

McCoy turns around. He and Spock make eye contact for a few seconds. McCoy swallows awkwardly, then walks slowly back to the ring of chairs until he is standing beside the Vulcan. Spock grabs his forearm gently.

 

Spock: Doctor - I love you.

 

He lets go of McCoy's arm, and holds his hand instead.

 

Spock [more firmly]: I love you. And you must not run off on fool's errands and get yourself hurt. You are too valuable.

 

McCoy looks down at their joined hands, then back up at Spock's face, and he starts smiling. Kirk is struggling to suppress a grin.

 

Kirk [authoritatively]: Now hold on just one moment.

 

The others remember his presence, and raise their eyebrows in sync.

 

Kirk: I haven't given you your punishment yet.

 

Spock: Punishment, captain?

 

Kirk: Well let's see... you put yourselves in excessive danger, nearly caused a diplomatic incident with one of the Federation's most important trading partners, jumped to conclusions without taking appropriate stock of the situation, perjured yourselves and nearly gave me a heart attack to boot. Now, let me see what the appropriate penalty is...

 

He strokes his chin in a slightly exaggerated way.

 

Kirk: Well, I think the Muruvians had it right. The only suitable punishment is a life sentence. Since you insist on sacrificing yourselves for each other, I hereby sentence you to watch out for each other, mind each other and protect each other for the rest of your lives.

 

The captain finally lets himself smile.

 

Spock: Captain, that seems an appropriate sentence, and I submit to it willingly.

 

McCoy beams.

 

Kirk: Well, Bones? Do you agree with Mr Spock's estimation?

 

McCoy [softly, squeezing Spock's hand]: I do.