A woman opens a door to a room, and shows in a young man. He enters, stiff and just a little afraid.
“Paul,” she says, “This is the Reverend Mother. She’s going to observe you.” The woman looks at the nun-like figure in the chair. “Please…” she pleads.
“Jessica, you know it must be done,” replies the nun. The young man’s mother leaves, and he looks at the nun.
“Come here,” she says. He comes forward and kneels beside her. She gestures to the box beside her.
“Put your hand in the box.”
“What’s in it?” he said, putting his hand in.
“Pain. More specifically, pain that serves. In this box, is your baby’s bottle. It’s filled with formula, made with boiling hot water. The hot water is necessary to allow the power to properly dissolve, but the water is too hot for your child to drink. So you must hold on to the bottle while you carry your sleeping child up to bed. No!” she cried, as he tried to pull his hand out, and he froze.
“I hold at your neck the Gom Jabbar, the consequences of your actions. Move, and your child wakes. Move, and you drop the milk. Instead, you must balance your child, the milk and your pain all at the same time, and ensure that all three functions are retained and balanced. A son of humanity knows of many consequences. This one punishes animals.”
“Are you suggesting a son of humanity is an animal?”
“Let’s just say, I am here to see if you may be human. You may be powerful enough to control your instincts. Your instinct will be to drop the boiling hot bottle. If you do so, you wake the baby, ruin the formula, and all will be lost. Let us begin.”
She closed her eyes, and says quietly, “You will feel an inching… and the itching will become a burning…There! Silence! Or you will wake the baby!”
The young man’s eyes widen with the sensation of pain.
“You can’t drop it, because that would wake the baby,” she whispers, as the pain floods though his hand. “But you must hold on to it, as your baby needs it. Keep holding! Keep holding on! You’re nearly at the top of the stairs, and safe, but you’re not there yet. Not yet! Not yet!,…Now!”
The pain abruptly stops.
“Good. Well done. Take your hand out of the box, and look at it, young human.”
He takes it out of the box, and finds the skin smooth and untouched.
“Pain by nerve induction. Humans can resist any pain, our test is crisis and observation.” She looks at him, and smiles. “You can go now.”
Stiffly, he stands, then goes to the door. Confused, he looks back.
“In my mind, that test would be different.”
“Really? Did you imagine a fancy implement, one that conveys importance along with its threat? Did you believe that you would be tested in ways that ensured your dignity, as well as your status?”
He nods, still confused.
“Human you are, but this is still an uncaring world. We are taught our lessons not during great battles and epic tales, or by witches by a fireside, but instead in every day affairs, when what we must do meets and clashes with what must be. You, human, overcame the facts of reality to do what must be done. You are a human of heroic proportions, certainly, but so are your parents, and their parents before them. And so are those around you.”
She shifts in her chair, as she dismisses him. “Remember this, if you call yourself grand hero or leader of man. So, frankly, is everyone else.”