"I'm worth 21,384,011,572 credits," said Captain Kirk, beaming at his companion over the top of his computer terminal. "If anyone wants to buy me, that is," he added, smirking.
Spock blinked, the glass of Vulcan ke'val juice stopping halfway between the desk and his lips. "How do you know this?"
"A site on Galaxynet; you fill in a few details about yourself - height, weight, eye colour, profession, medical background, that sort of thing - and they send you a report with your value in credits."
The Vulcan eyebrows arched. "That is illogical. A human, or any other sentient being, is not a commodity to be bought and sold. A person cannot be valued in monetary terms."
Kirk sighed. "That's not quite true, my friend. The slave trade still holds pretty strong ground in some places - buying and selling people for a pittance. Until the societies that still maintain those practices agree to join the Federation and abide by its laws, there will always be money spent and earned by peddling flesh."
"Then, to offer a service as this site does, even in jest, is in poor taste, perhaps even unethical."
"Perhaps," said Kirk, turning the terminal off and reaching for his glass of brandy. "Anyway, I think it's more of an ego boost than a joke; they tell everyone they're worth a fortune and they feel good for, oh, about half a day." He smiled weakly.
Spock's lips pressed into a straight line, a kind of Vulcan hrmph.
"Hey, do you feel like a trip to the observation lounge - commune with the stars for a bit?"
The Vulcan stood up, placing his empty glass on the desk. "I 'feel' nothing; however, I will accompany you."
Kirk grinned and preceded his friend out of the room.
For a time, they did commune, each man silently contemplating the vastness of the universe and his own small place in it. The dimly lit viewport offered a oneness, a more personal contact with the stars than was available on the main bridge viewscreen.
It was Spock who broke the silence, his thoughts turning once more to matters of value. "There are better ways to judge a man than by the colour of his eyes or his hair, and better units of measurement than Federation credits."
Kirk glanced fondly at Spock, examining the sharp features that were displayed to him now in profile. His friend was a man with a highly evolved sense of rightness and honour, a man who could judge himself so harshly, yet judge others with a complete lack of bias on the merits of their actions. He had a scientist's mind and a philosopher's heart - to his captain, a man of unimaginable worth.
The human turned to face the stars. "You're saying, I think, that it would mean more to me if I judged people by standards that were important to me, using a value system I created, that means something to me."
"In part," said Spock.
The starlight reflected an impish gleam in Kirk's eyes. "So, if I decided, hypothetically speaking, that the system that made the most sense to me was based on, say, chocolate sundaes, you could accept that as a workable system - because it works for me?"
The corners of Spock's mouth curled a fraction. "I do not see how you could make such a system work but, yes, if it did, I would accept that as a workable system. For you."
"Well, then. Because you are my best officer, obviously you would be worth at least ten chocolate sundaes; Scotty would be worth nine, and Bones would be a nine--"
"Doctor McCoy would not approve of any reference you might make to chocolate confections."
"You're right. Better make him a two until he lightens up on the dessert-free diet."
Spock's lips curled a fraction more.
"What about you, Spock? You could tell me that I'm worth a dozen scientific articles. What would you say to that?"
The Vulcan looked at his captain, his face suddenly a study in seriousness. "I would say it is illogical. You are worth at least fifteen."
The human laughed softly, genuinely pleased to see his alien friend playing along.
"What was the other part?" Kirk asked after a few moments of silence.
"To what do you refer, Jim?"
"You said that judging people by what's important to me was only part of what you were saying."
Spock nodded. "The wishes and needs of the person being judged are also important. It would mean much to them if they were assessed in a manner that was of value to them." He turned to face the viewport again. "For instance, it has always meant much to me that you have not judged me by the shape of my ears or the colour of my blood. I perceive that I am not 'just a Vulcan' to you, but judged instead by the contributions I make to you and this ship as your first and science officer."
"And as my friend, Spock. I value that most of all. And that can't be measured in credits. It can't even be measured by all of those stars out there."
"Agreed," said Spock, softly. "Our friendship has filled a part of me I did not even know was empty."
The human lifted a hand to Spock's arm and smiled. "That's got to be worth at least a hundred chocolate sundaes."
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