Chasing the Intruder

CHASING THE INTRUDER
by Anna Perotti (aperotti@insinet.it)
English text revised by Marketa J. Zvelebil

SUMMARY: A short story about Spock teaching at Starfleet Academy, a cat and a computer bug.
DISCLAIMER: Star Trek is the property of Paramount Studios, the following a non-profit work of fan
fiction. No resemblance to any individual, living or dead, is intended.
ITALIANO

CHASING THE INTRUDER

Spock was busy checking last year cadets’ works. Figures, drawings and diagrams, sometimes
accompanied by a few words of explanation, ran on the screen; it was an unending replay – almost a
circling motion – of the same solution flatly applied to the same problem. Just now and then, a cleverer
step, a finer calculating process or a brighter reasoning might call for interest and prod reflection.
Otherwise, what broke the monotony were some weird, gross mistakes, amazing by their absurdity. Yet
fascinating because of his curiosity to retrace the path of reasoning and guess were it had forked toward
the wrong solution – misled by what? – even though the explanation had plenty of elements which should
lead it the the correct answer. To tell the truth, it was mostly because of plain ignorance, but non
always. It might be the sudent’s fancy for a discovery, a whim to try a solution never tried before, the
boredom of using a mundane solution.
Spock stopped the tape and stretched on his chair, allowing himself a break. As for boredom, that job
was nothing less than developing the natural number series from one to a hundred thousand, but the
result of that exam was too much of an importance to leave it to his assistants. It was, in fact, the last
of a number of trials, intended to evaluate cadets’ general skills and ascertain who, among them, was
ready for the next step of training: apprenticeship on board the Enterprise. For some weeks the ship
would be manned by four hundred young cadets, many of whom had never been out to deep space.

“?”… A slight, barely audible – yet familiar – sound caught his attention.

“Izzy?” Spock called, getting up.
Izzy was a big tabby female cat owned by a quartermaster – or that was what Chief Sowalsky believed;
Spock was mostly inclined to think the sub officer was owned by the cat; on her part, Izzy appeared to
regard the whole service block and most of the officers’ quarters – inhabitants included – as if they were
her own exclusive property and she acted accordingly. It seemed she was doing one of her usual
inspecting rounds.

Normally Spock wouldn’t mind. On the contrary, he usually enjoyed that Earth’s quiet small animal’s
company. Nevertheless, at present, she was pregnant and clearly close to her time; a circumstance
which didn’t fail to alert him, since when, some time ago, Izzy had shown she thought one of his
suitcases the best place to deposit her offspring into the world.

The sound had come from the sleeping alcove, he went there, firmly determined to defend his ground.
As soon as he entered, Izzy came to meet him, as if she had been waiting just for him and began to rub
herself against his legs, purring like an overloaded phaser.

An eyebrow raised, Spock looked at that masterly performance of innocence under feline appearance.
He even might have bought it, if not for the very light thud, which – just before entering – his highly
sensitive hearing had caught and the tiny dent in the blanket on the bed, which showed to his watchful
eyes where his guest had comfortably lain, till she had heard him coming.

Gently, Spock took the cat up and brought her out of his quarters, leaving her in the corridor; then he
closed the door, taking care to have it blocked. Izzy had an amazing skill in opening doors, windows
and drawers.
He was about to resume his work, when the comm whistle stopped him.
“Mr. Spock, mae ye come soon to the simulator hall? It’s quite urgent, sir!” Scott’s voice had the tone
reserved for great catastrophes.

As soon as he saw him coming, Scott came toward him in great agitation. “It’s unheard-of, sir. They did
it again! Come and take a look …” Spock followed him to a computer terminal, while an idea of what
might have caused such an agitation to the Chief Engineer began to take shape in his mind.
“I was checking through the energy panel … we had some troubles, during the last drill, d’ye
remember?”
Spock nodded stoically. “I remember it quite well. The abridged version, Mr. Scott, please.”
“Well … obviously I had to check layouts … Computer, 3D diagram, section F/12, part 4B … Now, look
at what happens.”
The screen showed first the requested drafts, while the computer’s metallic voice explained them. Then,
suddenly, lines began to run together, till they took a wholly different shape – a little girl’s smiling face,
full of freckles and framed by funny upturned small braids. In the meanwhile the voice had raised in tone,
reaching a childish sound and now was singing a cheerful nursery rhyme.”
“Interesting” Spock commented.
“Interesting my boots! … Uh … sorry, sir. But I can’t think about what these scoundrels will do, once on
the Enterprise …”
“Mister Scott, the Enterprise is a deep space research vessel – her security system is designed to face
much more than a few emotionally happy students.”

“With all due respect, sir, I think I would be able to jump over that security system in a few hours, if I
wished to … I mean the analogous of another ship, of course …”
Spock looked at him for a moment, raising an eyebrow.
“Really, Mr. Scott? My congratulations. I remember to have tried once, without succeeding … If I had
had more time, perhaps …”
“Ye did … what? … When?”
“When I was attending the Academy, of course … Anyway, Mr. Scott,” Spock went on, intentionally
turning his back to the Scottish’s bewildered face, “we will see that they are kept too busy to have time
to play these kind of tricks.”
“Ye can bet on it!” Scott said, readily recovering his natural boldness. “I already have my plans about it.
I’ll fix them well, don’t doubt it, sir!”
Spock didn’t doubt it in the least. He spent the rest of the day chasing after the intruding program –
skilfully hidden inside the technical library consulting modules – and writing new security codes to
access source modules. It would have been simpler, of course, to install a security system based on
the authorized personnel’s vocal print – or other biological data – but the Academy management thought
similar devices too expensive, compared to the value of what they had to protect … Captain Spock’s
time was a quite irrelevant matter, of course!
Once he had rescued his layouts, Scott had swiftly solved his problems with the energy panel and had
volunteered to help his commanding officer, still busy to check that the *lovely child* didn’t have any
brothers and sisters hidden somewhere and ready to act. Every time they discovered a tampered
module, the Scott burst out with loud curses and more and more bloodier plans of retaliation.

“Damned wretches, if only I could catch them … Ye, sir, should be able to identify them. They are your
students … Don’t tell me ye have no idea about who they might be. There can’t be many of them who
are able to do such a thing.”
“Sometimes, Mr. Scott, students devoted to these kind of tasks with such energies and skills are far
beyond any speculation.”
“Oh, come on, sir! I can’t believe it … Are ye willing to allow them to get away with it?”
No, Spock didn’t whish, in the least, to leave the culprits unpunished and, of course, he knew very well
who they might be, but he had no whish to deliver those, who were – after all – some of his best
students, into the hands of a man raving about glorious traditions of Scottish boarding schools, where,
he said, corporal punishment was still applied!

Thus, he met that unending flood of questions, mutterings and curses with his most unreadable Vulcan
mask. On the other hand, the engineer’s unseemly emotionalism had ceased to annoy or even surprise
him long ago. Years of familiarity and a deep reciprocal esteem allowed the two men, who had all the
qualities to get on each others nerves, to work together in a perfect harmony. They were a formidable
team – in a few hours, order was restored in computer memory banks.
In the end, to the Scott’s joy, Spock wrote a program intended to *trap* whoever would try again to
tamper with forbidden memory levels, giving him or her a very hard time.
Scott thought he could see a bit of Human malice, under that Vulcan elegance, but, of course, he didn’t
vent his thoughts. If his commanding officer might be tolerant of a bit of verbal excess and roughness,
he never would forgive him such an insinuation.

***

Spock got out of the shower, tidying his bathrobe … He would have had to work through the whole night
to make up for lost time. Distractedly, he put a hand inside the drawer for underwear in order to take out
some garments he needed. An unexpected pain, along with a threatening hiss, made him withdraw
swiftly.
Cautiously, keeping a safe distance, he bent and slowly pulled the drawer out, just as much as needed
to look inside it. Yellow eyes gazed at him with such a cool hostility, that it was hard to recognize
Izzy’s nice little muzzle behind them. The very Izzy, who used to rub herself against him purring and – at
any time he allowed her – slept curled up on his knees.
What had made a tender pet turn in a wild beast was … a furred little heap, which stirred itself in a
tangle of tiny heads, tails and paws. Even Spock’s infallible mathematical brain had some difficulties
calculating the exact number of kittens. The only thing he was sure of was that Izzy would leave the
drawer only when she felt ready to and any attempt to force her would bring quite unpleasant results.
Resigned, Spock gave a last melancholic look at what had been spotless articles of underwear, now
useless. He had a new problem to solve … and a not easy one.

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