Captain’s Prerogative

author’s note: This novel takes place after the TNG movie “Generations” with the exception of the following prologue introducing a new character, which takes place during Captain Kirk’s time.

Prologue

Somewhere deep inside the need stirred again, rousing him to awareness, compelling him to try once more.  The force of his mind dove into the goo of raw genetic materials gathered from throughout the universe, sifting, sorting, searching.  With utmost care he chose.  With endless patience he examined, separated and joined the genetic codes into new combinations.  He did not measure the passage of time nor take any note of it.  He did not tire.  The fire of creation and need burned in him.  At last, he gazed upon the finished DNA, 99.9% unchanged from its original donor. Oh, but what a difference that .1% could make, if it survived. But he had no fear it would not. He knew how to nurture it, to test it, to educate it, to see it to maturity. His creation would grow and thrive, and when ripe, he would pluck it.

###

Earthdate: 2269

Stardate: 6139.5

The four man landing party that had just transported to the planet’s surface surveyed their surroundings — a lush tropical forest.  Huge leaved vines entwined sinuously up red-barked tree trunks broader around than the four could have reached joined hand-to-hand. Platter sized winged insects flashed rainbows of color as they flitted in and out of the shadows or landed on blood-red flowers speared in their centers with stamens of bright blue. They might have thought it paradise if observed in a painting. In real life, they felt dwarfed in an oversized world — too large, too bright, and far too hot and humid for human comfort.

At least they needn’t worry about any large carnivorous wildlife  – only plants, insects, reptiles and small rodent-like mammals indicative of a Class-M planet in the early stages of its evolutionary processes. They were here on a routine botany mission. They pushed through the forest taking samples as they went.

Before long, hidden in the dense foliage of the trees, a pair of green eyes followed them.  The slender figure leaped silently from branch to branch outdistancing them at times then falling back behind, occasionally even dropping to the ground nearby to peer at them through the undergrowth.

Lt. Hernandez, the tall big-boned man at the rear caught a flicker of motion out of the corner of his eye but when he turned to look, he saw nothing.  Probably one of those flying insect things, he thought.  Ahead, his dark-haired superior with the slight greenish cast to his skin paused, looked closely at his tricorder then stared off again into the forest.

Captain Kirk noticed the hesitation of his Vulcan officer.

“Something wrong, Spock?”

“I believe we are being watched,” Mr. Spock announced. He examined the tricorder’s readings closely, then aimed it ahead and upward.  “The creature is sizable, approximately 1.75 meters in length, and, at the moment, located 21.3 meters above us.”

The men looked up but could see only the dense green canopy daggered with sunlight.  Branches and leaves swayed and shimmered above them.

“One of those large yellow reptiles?” the Captain asked.

“Negative. It appears to be warm blooded. Additionally, the known reptiles are not tree-climbers.”

“Let’s move closer. We’ll see what it does.”

The Captain led them forward while Spock targeted the creature’s location with his tricorder. A crashing noise followed by a spray of mud behind them startled the men into spinning around. Suddenly, Spock’s tricorder was ripped from his arms.  He yelled and grabbed at the strap as it flipped up out of reach.  Lt. Hernandez in charge of Security jumped in front of Spock, his phaser drawn.  The others pulled their phasers out also but all they could see was the thick growth. They stood in a tense circle scanning for movement. The forest seemed undisturbed.

Ensign Baker, the assigned botanist of the party, pointed to the edge of the muddy puddle they had just passed where a basketball sized orange-colored nut now floated. “Looks like that’s what fell,” he said.

“An intentional distraction, Spock?” Kirk asked.

“If so it would indicate at least a rudimentary intelligence,” Spock concluded.

“And the tricorder?”

“Perhaps whatever is following us does not wish to be tracked,” Spock’s comment was accompanied by one raised eyebrow. Like his companions, he continued to stare upwards searching the trees.  He took a step backwards and caught his heel on a gnarled root.  Off balance, he wind-milled his arms before splashing tail first into the puddle, landing on his back with his legs splayed like an upended turtle. Baker started toward him, when from high above a light mirthful trill froze them in place. Spock scrambled to his feet.

“That sounded like laughter!” Captain Kirk exclaimed. He flipped open his communicator and contacted Mr. Scott, the ship’s engineer.  “Scotty, scan for all warm blooded humanoid-sized life forms within 1 kilometer of our position.” The results came back within seconds – no longer just four, now five detected.

“So why didn’t it show up before?”

“I can’t explain it, Captain.  But I have a lock on the life form now,” Mr. Scott replied, “Shall I transport it to a holding cell?”

“No, not yet. I don’t want to traumatize it if we don’t have to.”

“Captain,” Spock interjected. “As First Officer, I must respectfully request that you return to the ship until this creature is restrained.”

Kirk smiled. “Thank you, Mr. Spock. Request acknowledged and ignored.”

Spock merely raised his eyebrow again in protest.

“Let’s set up camp in that clearing back there. Perhaps, curiosity will get the better of it.”

As they worked their way back to the clearing, every flicker of motion or rustle of leaves seemed evidence that their companion was still with them. Their imaginations worked overtime but they saw nothing. Baker called up to the ship for supplies. They each watched the forest around them, looking for some sign that they were not alone.

Plant samples and equipment appeared and disappeared in brief flashes of light accompanied by the high-pitched whine of the ship’s transporter.  They used the newly materializing equipment to transform the empty clearing into an encampment, erecting a shelter with beds and chairs upon which they could recline. Spock’s newly replaced tricorder told them the creature remained hidden high in the dense foliage of the trees undoubtedly watching them. Kirk hoped that as it continued to watch, it would find them less and less threatening, and more and more appealing. He imagined it ached to get closer, to look at their skin and faces. To see how they smelled, to see how they felt. But there was risk. They were unknown.

As the hours passed, the last of the natural light faded to darkness.  No moons were visible in this planet’s sky tonight, just stars peeking through the trees.  The men listened to the odd screeches, clicks and hoots of the indigenous life, wondering if any belonged to the creature following them.  Cell lanterns held the darkness at bay making a small circle of light around them.

Captain Kirk assigned first watch to Lt. Hernandez.  The other three bedded down.  Hernandez paced for awhile then stood beside a folding seat which he knew would groan audibly at the strain of supporting his formidable size.

“They ought to make these things bigger,” he grumbled to himself, and remained standing.

 

He concentrated on trying to see past the light into the dark shadows beyond.  Every crackle and rustle in the undergrowth made him start.  They had no evidence that this creature was dangerous, but the way it had followed them so invisibly through the trees and deftly ripped off Mr. Spock’s tricorder definitely made him nervous.  He envisioned some long armed apelike creature, despite that intriguingly human-like laugh.

A slightly darker shadow wavered at the edge of the light catching his attention.  Armed with a phaser in one hand and a handlight in the other, he cautiously approached.  He crouched for a long while at the circle’s edge listening quietly, sweeping the area with the light and peering into the trees. Nothing there – just his imagination again. Finally, he sighed and turned away. Suddenly something simultaneously grabbed his wrist, clamped over his mouth and jerked him backwards, feet flying.  He struggled desperately to yell a warning but a sharp pain in the back of his neck stopped all resistance.

Kirk felt something silky brush across his cheek making him stir. A lovely fragrance filled his nostrils and he inhaled deeply.  His eyes flickered open.  Someone was leaning over him just inches from his face.  He instinctively reached out but grabbed only air.  The intruder escaped out the door giving him just the briefest glimpse of a female form with long flying hair silhouetted against the camp lights outside.  He was immediately on his feet racing out the door, but there was no sign of her.  Hernandez sat slumped in his chair, obviously asleep.

“Damn it!” Kirk swore softly.  Spock and Baker poked their heads out.  He went to Hernandez and shook him roughly, “Wake up!”  Hernandez blinked in hazy confusion rubbing a sore spot on the back of his neck.  “I’m sorry, Sir.  I… I don’t know what happened.”  Kirk glared at him as the other men gathered round.

“She was here!” he told them.

“She, Captain?” Spock inquired.

“Yes, she, a human female.”  He stared into the forest in frustration.  “I think I’ll go for a walk.”

“Sir?” Hernandez looked alarmed and jumped to his feet towering over his captain by several inches.

Kirk grabbed the security officer’s handlight and headed to edge of the clearing. “Stay here!” he ordered and disappeared into the trees.  The remaining three could see glimpses of his light for a few moments then nothing but the dark.  Spock flipped open his communicator.

“Captain, are you all right?”

“Yes, Spock,” Kirk responded. “I haven’t encountered her yet.  She’s obviously skittish.  Even these communicators may scare her. Maintain silence. Kirk out.”

He found a semi-comfortable tree trunk to lean against, and waited.  What had seemed like quiet slowly took on a living quality.  Sounds of buzzing insects, and distant animal calls he hadn’t noticed before grew to fill the hot night. Leaves rustled above him in the breeze. Or was it a breeze? He felt no stir of air on his face. Was she here? He stared into the pitch black forest, seeing nothing.  He might as well have been blind. Someone was here. He could feel it. He wondered how she could navigate these woods in such blackness.  He fought the urge to switch on his handlight.  As the seconds ticked by, his heart pounded ever more loudly in his ears.  He could bear the waiting no longer. Very softly he said, “Hello?”  No answer but the feeling of another presence remained strong.  He waited and made no further sound.  Then he felt a slight tug on the light in his hand.  It took all his discipline to remain motionless and merely tighten his grip.  The tugging stopped.  He felt a touch on his hand, fingers moving across his own, as if counting them one by one.  The hand slipped upward fingering the fabric of his sleeve, moved slowly up his arm then across his chest and stomach.  The hand found the bottom of his shirt and slipped underneath against his bare skin, making him catch his breath.

His pulse raced but still he held himself in check, silent and unmoving. Even this close, he could see only a featureless darkness before him. He began to panic just a little.  He had believed she was human, but what if he were wrong?  Just as he was considering a hasty retreat, that same sweet fragrance enveloped him and instead of scrambling away, he found himself reaching out.  His hand found her face, smooth and soft. His thumb found her mouth. Without thinking, he leaned forward and kissed her. He dropped his handlight seeking to embrace her when his communicator at his waist beeped loudly.  The noise startled them both and she leaped away into the night.

“Wait!” he yelled frantically, but his arms found only open air.  He swept the ground before him until his hand landed on his light.  He flicked it on.  Only the forest jumped into focus.  He grabbed the beeping communicator.

“I told you not to call me!” he snapped.

“Apologies, Captain,” responded Mr. Spock evenly, “We were concerned. I take it you are unharmed.”

“Yes, I’m fine.  She was here, but the communicator frightened her away again.”  The angry disappointment was clear in his voice.  Spock wouldn’t be calling again for some time, he was certain. He sat back down in the dark hoping she would return.  After nearly an hour passed he gave up and made his way back to the others.

At first light, Kirk requested that his chief medical officer, Dr. Leonard McCoy join the landing party.  When McCoy materialized, he looked mildly annoyed.

“I’m not a fan of camping,” he said.  Kirk smiled patiently at his old friend.

“I’m hoping we won’t be here much longer, Bones.  When I encountered our mysterious female last night, she seemed human enough but there was definitely something unusual about her.  When she finally decides to come out of hiding, I want you to check her out.”

“Well, it’s pretty unusual she’d be here at all,” McCoy commented with his southern drawl. “So what did she look like?”

“I don’t know. It was too dark to see.”

“Well then, what’s so danged unusual about her?”

“It’s the way she smells and um…,” Kirk smiled a little sheepishly, “tastes.”

McCoy looked surprised but contained himself, barely. “Good or bad?” he asked.

“Good,” Kirk answered, “Too good, in fact.”

McCoy shook his head then dropped heavily into one of the chairs in front of the temporary shelter.  “So what do we do now–just sit around and wait for our mystery lady to appear?”

“That’s the plan.” Kirk grinned and sat next to him.

McCoy stared at Kirk’s face for a moment. “Well, at least you’re smiling again. You’ve been awfully morose of late.”

Kirk grunted and his smile disappeared. “I have every right to be.  It’s nearly the end of our 5 year mission.  And to top it off, these last few months have been dull, dull, dull.  I was hoping for a little more excitement before I accept that Admiralty position at Starfleet Command.  I know I’m making a good career move, but giving up the Enterprise…”  He sighed heavily.

“So is that why you’ve been jumping on every away mission, even routine botany samplings?” McCoy needled him.

Kirk laughed a little, “Well this one’s turning out to be not so routine.”

“So it would seem,” McCoy acknowledged. “Anyway, I wouldn’t worry too much about being bored back at Starfleet, Jim.  Something interesting will turn up for you… it always does.”

When Spock and the other two men completed transporting the botanical samples to the Enterprise, they joined Kirk and McCoy to sit and wait.  The five men in the clearing engaged in small talk to pass the time as they watched the forest.  Hours went by and nothing happened, but they continued to wait.  Spock’s tricorder and the ship’s sensors confirmed that their visitor was still nearby, at times approaching fairly close, then scooting back into the depths.

They again debated the possibility of locking onto her with a transporter. Spock reminded them that the prime directive dictated they should leave her undisturbed if she wished it.  McCoy argued that the directive applied to viable civilizations and cultures, not to apparently stranded individuals. As the two men continued their debate, growing more adamant in their views they failed to notice that the subject of their discussion was now standing in the clearing.

“Sir!” Lt. Hernandez called.  The others turned in the direction of his stare.

There, not ten feet away, stood the most incredible-looking woman any of them had ever seen.  In all important aspects she appeared human – two legs, two arms, one head, one neck, one torso.  All the right equipment was there in the correct number and order but it was the combination of similarities and differences that stunned them.

Translucent golden-colored skin covered a smoothly muscled body with ample breasts, a slender waist and full hips.  Thick long hair hanging almost to her waist shimmered in seemingly impossible iridescent tones of golds, blues, and reds.  Most disconcerting of all were her eyes – bright emerald green with the vertical-slit pupils of a cat.  She wore no clothing or decoration other than a slender gold band encircling her upper right arm.  The men stood in frozen silence drinking in the sight of her.  She stood equally still returning their stares.

Spock was the first to break the spell.  “Greetings,” he said formally.  She stared back blankly, obviously not understanding.  McCoy looked at Spock scornfully. “Did you expect her to speak English?”  He pulled out the universal translator, and spoke to her again but her blank expression did not change.  Spock raised his eyebrow at the doctor in apparent disdain.  Chagrined, McCoy turned to the Captain.  “Now what?”

Kirk glanced at the others then took a tentative step towards her.  She mirrored his movement taking one step back.  He paused to turn his hands upwards trying to look non-threatening then took another step.  This time she held her ground.  He looked back at his men with a small smile.  He took another step and she backed up further than any progress he had made towards her.  He sighed and dropped his hands.

“Any suggestions, Gentlemen?” he asked.

McCoy answered, “I’d suggest that we go back to our conversation and pretend to ignore her.”

Kirk nodded and returned to the group.  “Let’s do as the good doctor suggests.  Everyone just sit back down, go back to our business and act as if we don’t even notice her.”

They sat in a circle and kept their voices low as Dr. McCoy furtively scanned her with his medical tricorder.  “It’s a bit difficult to get detailed readings from this distance, Jim, but she is humanoid.  Some unusual organ placement, but good old-fashioned iron-based blood.”  He glanced over at Spock, “Unlike some.”  McCoy noticed she was no longer standing where he had last seen her.  He looked up over his shoulder to find her peering at the medical tricorder in his hands.

“Keep your places, everyone,” Kirk ordered quietly as she surveyed them.  Her gaze rested on Mr. Spock and she stepped around the circle until she stood behind him.  He tensed slightly and Kirk whispered, “Don’t move, Spock.”  She reached forward and ran a finger along his cheek up to the top of a pointed ear. He looked slightly annoyed.  McCoy couldn’t help but chuckle and automatically smiled at her.  She mimicked him.

“We seem to be making progress,” Kirk commented softly. “Keep it up, Bones.”

But then she focused on Kirk and moved around the circle to stand near him.  Very slowly, making no sudden movement she might deem a threat, he rose from his chair to face her.  He was pleased to see that she held her ground.  Kirk touched his  chest, “My name is Kirk, Captain Kirk.”  She watched his lips move, studying him. She raised a hand and placed her thumb on his mouth much as he had done to her in the darkness. He held still.

Then to his surprise, she pressed her mouth against his.  When she completed her greeting and pulled back, the others had all risen to their feet. She approached each one and performed the same ritual.  They all smiled except for Spock who bore an expression of surprised annoyance.

“Well, well, well,” McCoy’s grin was wider than ever. “She seems awfully friendly now.  I suppose we have you to thank for that warm welcome, Captain?”

“I guess she thinks it’s how we say ‘hello’,” Kirk answered with some embarrassment.

“Well, I hope you won’t disabuse her of it.  I, for one, think it most charming.  But I see now what you meant by unusual…,” McCoy commented touching his lips, “However, I don’t think that it presents any danger.”

Kirk noted that the sky was beginning to grow dark again.  “Let’s pack up,” Kirk ordered, “We’ll see what she does.”

She watched the men as they went about the work of taking down the temporary shelter, collapsing the chairs and bedding.  She tried to help by carrying small items to them that they took and packed away all the while smiling at her.  The more they smiled the more she did.  Soon everything was gathered in one spot. The men had been observing her carefully while they worked and concluded that she seemed tame enough, even eager to please. By the time they were finished they had agreed that she should be brought aboard for further observation and analysis.  After all, their prime duty was to investigate new life forms and she definitely qualified.  Besides, they could hardly justify leaving her here alone.

Kirk issued the order to transport the equipment aboard.  She watched with surprised curiosity as it disappeared in the beams of light.

“Let her see some of us beam up first,” Kirk said, “Hernandez and Baker, you go ahead.  We’ll follow with her.”

She watched the two men disappear as had the equipment. Kirk gestured for her to join the remaining three of them.  She hesitated then started to back away.

“Transport Hernandez and Baker back immediately,” Kirk ordered and the two reappeared exactly as they had left.  He patted them on the shoulder to show they were unharmed. “See?  It doesn’t hurt a bit,” he told her. “All right, beam them back up again.”  Again they were gone.  Kirk beckoned to her once more, “Come on.”

The words probably meant nothing to her, but his outstretched hand spoke volumes.  She took hold and he pulled her beside him.  He squeezed her hand as the beams took them.

When she materialized in the transporter room, the strangeness of it overwhelmed her and she sagged against him.  He caught her in his arms and tried to reassure her.  McCoy handed him a cloak and he wrapped it around her nakedness.

“Seems a downright shame, doesn’t it?” McCoy observed dryly.

“Well, we don’t want to start a riot,” Kirk replied, “Let’s get her to sickbay, Bones, and see if you can figure out what she is and how we can communicate with her.”

“I would like to examine the armband she is wearing,” Spock said.  “An analysis may provide clues to her origin.”

After a moment’s hesitation, she allowed Spock to remove the band.  As McCoy and Kirk guided her through the corridors to sickbay, she stared at the many people they passed, who returned her stares with equal curiosity. Kirk thought that no doubt she was wondering if she should have trusted them so quickly.  There was no helping it now, she was obviously out of her element. They took her into sickbay. McCoy gestured that she should lie down on one of them. With some encouragement on Kirk’s part, she complied.

McCoy gathered and adjusted his equipment in preparation for running the various tests required for a full physical analysis. He saw her watching him with wide eyes.  He placed a hand on her shoulder and felt her trembling.

“Poor girl,” he commented to Kirk. “She’s scared to death.”

Kirk took her by the hand again and stroked her forehead gently.  It seemed to calm her a little.  He noticed McCoy smiling in amusement at him.  Then the doctor scowled slightly at his medical scanner while running it across her other hand.

“Something interesting, Bones?”

“You could say that,” he answered and picked up her forefinger squeezing it gently.  From beneath the nail, a  crystal clear claw appeared – an inch long and razor sharp.  Kirk looked uncomfortably at the hand which held his. When Nurse Chapel arrived, he tried to let go but she gripped him tighter.

“Dr. McCoy and Nurse Chapel will take good care of you,” he said to her, pointing at them to make himself understood.  She sniffed at Nurse Chapel and glared at her suspiciously. He gently but firmly extricated his hand and headed toward the door. “Let me know when you’re done, Bones.”

Several hours later, Kirk met with Spock and McCoy in their capacities as his head science and medical officers.  Dr. McCoy reported his findings first.

“I’ve analyzed her DNA.  The majority of it is human but  combined with traces of a number of other species I can’t even begin to identify.”

“Fascinating.  I take it is unlikely that such a combination could occur naturally, Doctor.” Spock said.

“Danged near impossible in my opinion.  It’s got to be some form of genetic engineering, but on an incredibly sophisticated level.”

“So you think we’re dealing with a unique life form, not a previously unidentified humanoid race?” Kirk asked.

“That would be my guess,” McCoy nodded in agreement.

“Go on, Bones,” Kirk requested.

“She’s younger than she looks. Maybe 15 or 16 years of age. Each of her fingers and toes is equipped with a cat-like claw. She has two sets of lungs.  One appears dormant and no, I haven’t figured out why that is yet.  Basic skeletal and muscular structure are the same as ours but far denser and more elastic.  She has two completely separate nervous systems, one like ours, one not — don’t ask me what that other one does, I have no idea.  She’s hairless.  What looks like hair on her head isn’t, it’s living tissue.  Each strand is an un-pigmented tube filled with live cells so all those lovely colors we see are light refraction.  Her hearing range goes well above and below our own. She can see further and more clearly than we can even in very low light.”

“That explains how easily she negotiated those woods in the dark,” Kirk commented.

McCoy paused at the interruption. “As I was saying… agility, reflexes, muscle strength, endurance, cell regeneration – all completely off the human scale.  Whoever engineered her, did one hell of a job.”

“Fascinating,” Spock observed again, that single eyebrow popping up.

“And what about that other unusual characteristic of hers?” Kirk asked.

“Pure pheromones,” McCoy answered, “Very effective ones.”

“I see,” Kirk exhaled audibly, “So what are we going to do with her?”

“Now there’s a loaded question, if I ever heard one,” McCoy said with a slow smile.

“Really, Doctor,” Spock said disapprovingly.  McCoy smiled wider, obviously enjoying himself.

“Did you learn anything from that armband, Mr. Spock?” Kirk tried to get them back on track.

“Indeed, Captain.  The material itself tells us little as it is merely a common gold alloy.  However, I did make a most interesting discovery.  The band is completely covered with microscopic engraving.  The same message is inscribed repeatedly over its surface in every known language, as well as in thousands of others of which our computer has no record.  I believe that the study of these language samples shall be particularly illuminating.”

When Spock fell silent, McCoy demanded irritably, “So what does it say, Spock?”

“It says, ‘My name is Shea.”

“A name tag?” Kirk laughed. “I take it there was no address?”

“No, sir,” Spock answered seriously.

“Shea,” Kirk repeated the name getting a feel for it. “So why doesn’t Shea talk?  I haven’t heard her make any attempt at speech.”

McCoy had an answer, “If she ever knew how, she lost it when her memories were erased.”

“Erased?” Kirk asked in surprise.

“According to her brain scan she only has about two days of long term memory.  I suspect someone or something must have wiped her mind clean and dumped her here just about the same time we arrived.”

“That explains why our earlier scans didn’t register her,” Kirk said. “But that raises an even more troubling question. How did someone slip her down there without our detection.  We have no indications of another vessel in the area.”

“Cloaked perhaps?” Spock speculated.

“Perhaps,” Kirk replied unconvinced. “She has no earlier memory whatsoever?”

“None.  She’ll have to be completely re-educated, but I’m guessing she’ll pick things up pretty fast,” McCoy said. “She seems to have a knack for learning.”

“Really?  What makes you say that?”

“Well, once she got over her initial fright, she started getting into things.”  McCoy looked amused. “It was like dealing with a precocious 2-year old–grabbing anything in reach.  I turned my back for a minute and she took my bionoscope completely apart.”

“Breaking equipment hardly seems indicative of remarkable intelligence,” Spock said.

“She didn’t break it, she disassembled it.  Then she put it back together and it worked!  I figured she’d be taking the ship apart next so I locked her up in an empty bio-med room.  Nurse Chapel is keeping an eye on her.”

“So we have a very bright genetically engineered humanoid female.  But if someone went to so much trouble, why would they wipe her memories and abandon her?” Kirk asked, seeking theories.

“Maybe they weren’t happy with the results,” McCoy suggested, “though that’s hard to believe.”

“Or possibly her abandonment is simply another part of an experiment with which we are either interfering or participating,” Spock countered.

“That’s an unsettling thought,” Kirk replied. “Lots of questions and few answers, gentlemen.  One thing I do know is that we’re talking about a young woman here, not a lab rat.  If this is all part of someone’s experiment, then I think it’s time it ended.”

Ensign Chandler’s voice on the ship’s intercom interrupted them.  “Captain, I’m in the recreation lounge,” he said urgently, “I think you better hear this.”

Over the intercom came the sound of a sweetly complicated but unfamiliar piece of music.

“Very impressive, Ensign, but this is hardly the time…,” Kirk admonished.

“Sir, you don’t understand,” Chandler insisted, “It’s that woman you brought up from the planet.”

“What?” Kirk was on his feet, “How did she get there?”

“I don’t know, sir,” Chandler replied, “I was just sitting here practicing some music when she came in.  She listened for a moment then practically threw me off the keyboard and started playing it herself.  I’ve never heard anything like it.”

“Are you in danger, Ensign?” Spock demanded.

“No, sir, I don’t think so” he replied, “She just wanted to get to the keyboard.”

“We’ll be right there,” Kirk told him and headed out the door.  McCoy and Spock were close behind.  He turned to Dr. McCoy, “I thought you said she was locked up.”

“She was,” McCoy answered hotly, “Chapel is supposed to be watching her.”

Kirk hailed Nurse Chapel and inquired about her charge.  She reported that the girl was safely locked away and that she had kept her eye on the door the entire time.

“I think you’d better go take a look,” Kirk advised her.  There was a brief pause then she breathlessly came back on the intercom.

“Captain, she’s gone and the airduct cover is open.  I’m sorry, sir, it never occurred to me that–”

“It’s all right, Nurse.  It didn’t occur to any of us either.

Kirk grumbled to his two senior officers.  “It looks like our guest is a going to be more of a handful than we anticipated.”

“Well, I did hear you say you were hoping for a little more excitement around here,” McCoy chuckled.

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