by Cheryl Petterson

(Standard Year 2253)

Return to The Valjiir Continuum

First contacts were always tricky.

It was a small ship, under the size of a scout, but in his many years of captaining a starship, James T. Kirk had learned that it seldom paid to make assumptions about unknowns. The ship had halted at the first hailing transmission from the U.S.S. Lincoln, but hadn't, as far as could be determined, attempted any reply.

"Maybe the sight of a ship over four times their size is something they'd rather not deal with?" Commander Uhura suggested from her position in the Exec's chair. She kept her gaze on the con, resisting the urge to get up and walk behind it over to the Communications board. It was taking the lovely TerAfrican some time as the Lincoln's First Officer to get used to the idea of someone else handling that station.

"They might not have any form of translation protocols," Lieutenant Commander M'ress purred from Communications. "Or those they do have take some time to complete." She nodded to Uhura, well aware of the compliment the First Officer was paying her skills. She herself had often wondered how, after so many years as the Chief of Communications for the old Enterprise, the woman didn't automatically perform all those duties out of sheer force of habit.

"Keep repeating the friendship message," Jim said with a grin. "There's not really much else we can do."

He turned from the Communications station, his gaze automatically scanning the rest of the Bridge. In front of him, his Chief Navigator and Chief Helmsman were chatting amiably, there not being much for either one of them to do either. Kevin Riley, now a Lieutenant Commander, had matured a great deal from the impulsive young man he'd once been. Jim couldn't help but wonder if that had anything to do with having had his heart broken by a certain Antari of their mutual acquaintance. But he was still the charming Irishman, though a little more subdued, and Jim was pleased that his skills had matured along with him.

The man at the Helm was one of the first Havens to join Starfleet. Lieutenant Sel Liaz was, like all members of his race, dark-haired and dark-eyed with golden-tan skin. He had an almost impish quality about him, not one Jim had come to expect from Havens. But Uhura had assured him that Havens generally came in three 'types;' strong, no-nonsense Enforcers, like her lover, Tomor Rand; suave, urbane, slightly cynical, always cool-headed professionals, like Ambassador Lane Gage and Dr. Lian Rendell; and casual-in-the-extreme, almost flighty, to-all-appearances dilettantes - but whose outward image almost always hid very deep intelligence and purpose, and Loki Monolem was the best example of that. Jim was certain his helmsman was of the latter type. Liaz was a little more insubordinate that was usual for Starfleet officers, but that wasn't anything Jim hadn't handled before, and after all, the man was Haven. But he was friendly, very good at his job, and he and Riley got along famously.

The new configuration of the Bridge was still something Jim was getting used to. Directly to his left was the lift, but it was flanked by the Security and Defense and Weapons stations. Commander Tara Ryan sat at Security, scowling. The small ship that had caused the Lincoln to pause in its patrol route had a surprising sensor block, which didn't put the Security Chief at all at ease. At the D&W station, Lieutenant Thelen, a tall, reed-thin Andorian was going over his protocols, his usual just-in-case attitude being fed by Ryan's anxiety.

Next to Thelen, Commander Noel DelMonde relaxed at Engineering, talking quietly with Jim's Yeoman, Calaya Wheal. Having Del on board was an infinitely more pleasurable experience than it had been the last time he'd served on Jim's ship. Not having Spock on board was, Jim was certain, one reason; the Lincoln not being haunted by memories of Ruth Valley or Pelori MacEntyre was, Jim assumed, another. But the most important reason was standing right next to the Cajun. DelMonde's new relationship with the Indiian yeoman had worked wonders, mellowing the engineer's famously foul temper and moderating his tendency to self-medicate. She was as much a godsend for him as Jilla Majiir had been - and still was - for Sulu. Though Jim hadn't ever really noticed any particular difficulty Sulu ever had, Jade had assured him that it was the truth.

He smiled as his gaze skipped past the forward viewscreen - still displaying the small ship - to the new Medical station and his new wife. Jade Han was watching him, as she almost always did. He'd discarded the notion that she was still reacting as his therapist. She'd told him often enough that she simply liked looking at him. She smiled back and the warm feelings that always flooded him at the softness of her features did so again.

The voice of his Chief of Science, Lieutenant Commander Beth Arista, interrupted his reverie. "I'm sorry, sir," she began, "but the sensor block is still scattering all our attempts at scanning the interior of the craft. All I'm getting is dozens of distorted bits of information, and the computer can't piece it together in any way that makes sense."

"Isn't there anything you can tell me?" Jim asked.

Beth pushed her hand through her short, layered hair. "I'm pretty sure there are life forms aboard her, but I can't determine size, composition or number. It all blurs and shifts."

"Thank you, Miss Arista," Jim acknowledged, then stood and stretched his back. He moved down into the well of the Bridge, crossing it to reach the stairs that led to the Med station.

"Why isn't she a Vulcan?" he muttered softly to his wife.

Jade suppressed another smile "She came more than highly recommended," she reminded him. Beth Arista had, in fact, been Sulu's Life Sciences Officer on the Drake, and both he and his Chief of Science, Jerel Courtland, had assured Jim that she was more than ready for the Chief's job.

Jim scowled.

"And truth be told, she's more than competent," Jade went on. "It's hardly her fault that the ship doesn't answer our hails."

"Or run away, or open fire, or insult our mothers, or anything else," Jim returned sourly.

"Getting impatient?" Jade asked sympathetically.

"It's been over seven hours," the captain reminded. "Why don't they do something... anything!"

"Captain," Arista's voice interrupted, "I'm picking up increased energy readings..."

At Engineering, Del abruptly hissed "Sheee-it!" and beside him, Calaya gasped.

M'ress' voice was a hoarse but controlled yowl. "I've got something, sir," she broke in. "A greeting..." She paused, shaking herself in the Caitian equivalent of shock. "... in Anglo-Terran."

Jim turned, walking quickly back to the con. "Let's hear it, Lieutenant Commander."

"Aye, sir," M'ress responded.

A voice that seemed neither masculine nor feminine - or perhaps both - filled the Bridge.

"Ship Lincoln," it began, though the name was pronounced exaggeratedly phonetically: Lin-cohln, "We are the Tenorrh. We come with intentions non-hostile to find place new to insettle. We wish non-harm to beings of Planets Federation. We take time to much learn speech of Planets Federation, and wish giving of knowledges and ways of Planets Federation. There is Ruling Personage we speech to?"

Jim glanced warily at DelMonde, who waved his captain's concern away with a hoarse, "They jus' loud is all, Captain."

Nodding, Jim gestured to M'ress.

"Channel open," she assured him.

"Greetings, Tenorrh," the captain said. "This is Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Lincoln."

Contact, and communication.


The rate of exchange between the two ships was surprising and pleasing. The Tenorrh were incredibly open and eager to learn all they could about the Federation. Command was overjoyed at this peaceful encounter and were already drawing up entry papers for the Tenorrh's admission to the Federation. Most of the praise was heaped upon Jim for managing this highly beneficial contact, though Fleet Admirals were falling all over themselves to credit their own wisdom in trusting in Jim's recovery enough to have given him the captaincy of not only a Nest, but the flagship for the Lincoln-class heavy cruisers. Jim was taking it all in stride, neither too humble nor too haughty, recognizing both his diplomatic skills and the fact that he had simply been in the right place at the right time.

Jade sat at her desk in her office, preparing her preliminary report on the Tenorrhite people. Finding a civilization that seemed to have no xenophobia nor paranoia about other species was terribly refreshing. In three days, the Lincoln's crew had learned all about the Tenorrh's ship's design and weaponry - the former on a par with the Federation, the latter far inferior. Almost all aspects of Tenorrh culture had been at least touched on: they were mostly agricultural, yet obviously had developed modern technology. They lived at a frantic pace which they clearly thrived on. There seemed to be no leader, and the various functions of society were performed with no apparent thought to individualism, each member efficiently interweaving both purpose and function for the good of the whole. They also seemed to have no gender, or only one, and were, at first, quite in awe of the female members of the crew. Their appearance was humanoid, skin, hair and eye color reminiscent of the Terran Nordic regions, but they were on average three feet in height. It had been unnerving for a while to have them scurrying around, soaking in Federation culture with wide-eyed wonder and obvious approval, but all hands quickly got used to their gentle, polite - even if seemingly unquenchable - curiosity.

All hands except Noel DelMonde. He had complained that the Tenorrh were almost excruciatingly loud and had asked Jade for more sapphire than he'd required in several months. She'd tried subtly questioning him about the Tenorrh language as it sounded in his telepathic brain. He'd replied, "Buzz, buzz, buzz! Like hearin' a hornets' nest in th' damn walls."

"You can't distinguish any words or concepts?" she'd asked.

He'd glared at her. "I already answer that, non?"

"That's rather unusual, wouldn't you say?"

"That surely sound like somet'ing you'd say," Del had retorted. "Me, I jus' want 'em to shut th' fuck up."

Jade had kept her sigh to herself as she'd given him the script that would allow him to access the ships' pharmacological station. "Let me know if you hear any actual language," she'd told him.

He'd nodded, then had left the office, muttering to himself.

Jade pondered that anomaly as she considered how to put it into her report. The Tenorrh had clearly taken great care in learning Anglo-Terran; so great that no one had asked them about their own language. With a mental start, Jade realized that they didn't even speak to one another except in Anglo. They had been traveling between the two ships, but had not invited any of the Lincoln's crew to visit theirs. They'd been generous to a fault with schematics and design specs of their ship's technology, and graciously accepted the same from the Federation, along with studies of Federation culture... but had provided no such material about their own homeworld. That was more than curious.

She heard the door to her office open and glanced up. Jim walked to the couch that lined the right-hand wall and dropped onto it, putting his feet up on the coffee table that sat in front of it.

"It's good to sit down," he announced to no one in particular.

"Tenorrh-chasing running you down?" Jade asked.

"They are just a bit inexhaustible," he replied with a wry grin.

"Do you suppose they'll join the Federation?" Jade asked in what she hoped was a casual manner.

Jim sat up. "I know that tone, Jade," he said. "What's wrong?"

"Have you noticed that they haven't shared anything at all about themselves?" she offered carefully.

Jim snorted. "Really? It seems to me that if anything they've been over-sharing."

"About technology, yes, and they certainly don't have any reticence about interacting with us," Jade continued. "But we know almost nothing about them, how their agricultural society is structured, what their customs and habits are, nothing about their psychology, not even what their native language sounds like."

"They could be telepathic..."

"Purely telepathic races don't often pick up spoken language as quickly as they did, James," Jade pointed out.

"What about the Antaris?" Jim interjected. "They're telepathic..."

"Not purely, and don't get me started on them," Jade stated. The Matriarchy of Antares was not, at the moment, one of her favorite subjects, since her comparison paper on Antaris and Havens had recently been rejected by the Zehara as "the fanciful imagination of someone with an overly developed sense of pattern recognition." Which, of course, and as Jade had pointed out, didn't mean that it wasn't true.

Jim frowned, his brow furrowing. "I hadn't realized that," he said. "With how breathless they keep us, trying to keep up with them..."

"And maybe there's a reason they're doing that," Jade pointed out.

"Damn," Jim muttered. "They seemed so impressed with us.... and yes, maybe there's a reason for that, too," he added before Jade could. He got to his feet, and the comm on Jade's desk chimed.

"Jade, is Jim there?" Uhura's cautious voice asked.

"I'm here, Uhura, go ahead," Jim replied.

"The Tenorrh request your presence on the Bridge, sir. Immediately."

"All right, I'm on my way."

"And Captain?"


"We were wrong. There are definitely two sexes."


The first thing Jim noticed when he stepped onto the Bridge was the scent. It hit his senses like an explosion of spring flowers, making him feel light-headed, gentling every emotion within him, giving way to a sensation of extreme well-being.

The second thing was that Tenorrh manned every station. The male members of his Bridge crew were standing in the well, the expressions on their faces mirroring the way he himself felt; dreamy, lethargic, unconcerned. Beth Arista and Uhura were seated on the stairs, surrounded by other Tenorrh who, while gentle and respectful, nevertheless kept the women confined. M'ress was nowhere to be seen.

The third thing was the vision that rested in his command chair. She was clearly of Tenorrh stock, but she was twice as tall and had a beauty that rivaled the Silmarils. She, too, was surrounded by others of her species, who fussed and tended to her, constantly arranging and rearranging her hair and the layers of gossamer that adorned her slender figure.

She turned her head - which, Jim noticed, was rather more elongated that the other Tenorrh - and smiled at him. He felt his breath catching in his throat, immediate tears of sublime joy filling his eyes.

"Drone or worker?" she asked. Her voice surrounded him with the overwhelming need and desire to please her in all things, no matter the cost.

Before he could gather enough breath to speak, the Tenorrh at the Communications station turned.

"As was told, my Queen, there is not clear distinction," it said. "It serves a queen, yet has function as a worker. It is Ruling Personage."

The Queen laughed and Jim shuddered with delight. "Their Ruling Personage is a drone? How ridiculous!" She turned glittering, multifaceted eyes to him, gesturing with one slender hand. "Come, drone," she said, and though he wanted to race to her, he found his movements were slow and lazy. A part of his mind recognized that this was in sharp contrast to the way the Tenorrh had been moving on his ship the past three days - and yet was in keeping with what little he had observed of the Queen's movements - but that information seemed about as interesting to him now as were the flight patterns of monarch butterflies.

All that mattered was that the Queen had summoned him.

When he reached her side - the Tenorrh that were attending her parting to make room for him - she ran her fingers along the side of his face. "Are you really the Ruling Personage?" she asked.

"I'm the captain," he replied.

"And what is the function of 'captain'?"

Jim had to swallow before he could answer. Her touch was making his head swim, and seriously affecting other parts of his body as well.

"I command the ship," he finally managed. "I issue orders to the crew based on our missions and dependent upon all relevant factors regarding the health and safety of...

The Queen waved her hand in dismissal and Jim immediately stopped talking.

"You are a coordinator, then?" she said.

"I make the decisions for the ship and crew once I have all the necessary information," he began again.

"You? Make decisions?" She laughed again, a sound that seemed the very essence of enchantment. "You 'captain' a very funny people if they will listen to the instructions of a drone." She stretched languidly, motioning her people away. "I am Queen Diomera of the Twelfth Swarm of the Tenorrh," she announced with indolent superiority. "I have decided that ship Lincoln will make an excellent hive."

Jim found himself dropping to one knee beside her. "Yes, my Queen," he murmured in utter, wholehearted and absolute adoration.


"Buzz, buzz, damn motherfuckin' buzz!" Noel DelMonde growled as he furiously clamped his pillow harder around his ears. The noise had gotten louder in the past hour, and neither sapphire nor bourbon seemed to lessen the effect it was having on him. To make matters worse, Calaya was buzzing around him solicitously.

"Stop - buzz - your damn - buzz - hoverin' woman!" he snapped.

Buzz, Noel? her voice sounded through the noise in his brain.

"I done tol' you, all I can hear is...."

He felt the pillow being pulled from around his head and snatched at it, but her movements were quicker than his.

That what come from doin' too much blue an' bourbon, he scowled at himself.

Ain't no such t'ing, he reminded.

"Noel, you said 'buzz,''' Calaya said.

"I say buzz, buzz, damn motherfuckin'..." he began irritably.

"And then you said 'stop - buzz - your damn - buzz - hovering, woman,'" the Indiian told him.

He frowned. "No, I not, I say stop your damn hoverin' but...." The sound of his own voice replayed in his mind, and he blinked.

"And you're moving very slowly," Calaya added. As proof, she held out the pillow to him. He reached for it and she seemed to move like white lightning keeping it away from him.

"What the - buzz - fuck...?" he said, then clamped his hands over his mouth before another incongruously eerie 'buzz' came out of it.

"What does this mean, Noel?" Calaya asked, sitting down next to him.

Afraid to speak out loud, he murmured to her thoughts, I not know, cher, and was overwhelmed by the nearness of her. He reached for her, puling her close, then lowered his head to her breasts. The ample flesh seemed to mold itself around his ears, quieting the buzzing noise to a mere whisper. Calaya's heartbeat soothed his raw nerves, and he found himself falling into a kind of stupor. He sighed in relief, relaxing for the first time since the Tenorrh had made contact, all his thoughts numbed by the rise and fall of her breasts as she breathed and the feel of warmth - like a soft, nurturing cocoon - surrounding him.


Calaya enjoyed the feel of cradling Noel in her arms for several minutes. She could feel his anxiety and discomfort draining from him, and was momentarily overwhelmed with joyous pride that she could provide such an escape for him. He was so fragile behind the gruff exterior, and had endured so much terrible loss in his life it was sometimes hard for her to do more than weep with him - something she would never tell anyone.

Except, possibly, Jeremy Paget, she thought to herself, who already knows him so well.

After allowing herself to wallow for a few moments more, she straightened, meaning to gently disengage herself from Noel's embrace.

His arms locked around her like a vice.

"Noel, I think we should go to the mess. You haven't eaten anything since..."

"Buzzzzzz...." he murmured.

Her tia, the sense of emotion that all Indiians possessed, jangled like a red alert.



It sounded in her mind like a whispered caress.

Noel, pelo'ros, Aema sumin tu, si asam?! she replied in alarm: Noel, beautiful man, Aema have mercy, what is it?

He lifted his head languidly, then slowly extended his tongue, and licked the side of her face.

Calaya pulled away and reached for the intercom.

"Sickbay, emergency in cabin 4D, Chief Engineer's quarters, Dr. Han, come NOW!"


Lieutenant Di'ilan, the Assistant Science Officer, sat in the cabin of her Andorian countryman, Lieutenant Thelen. They had been commiserating over the fact that their sensitive antennae had been quivering with the high-frequency emanation of the Tenorrh for the past three days. It had been distracting, but nothing more; certainly not enough to take to the Lincoln's sickbay, or to mention to Thelen's section chief, Tara Ryan. Since Defense and Weapons had had little to do - the first contact being with such a friendly species - Thelen was more bothered by the constant hum than Di'ilan had been. She was expressing her sympathy in their native language, which sounded to Terran ears like a series of squeaks, clicks, hisses and hums, when Thelen suddenly stiffened. His antennae seemed to stiffen as well, then drooped in the total relaxation that usually signaled unconscious. His eyes fixed on her, and he moved with a slowness uncharacteristic of any of their kind to kneel beside her. He rested his head in her lap and let out a long hum of utter contentment.

Di'ilan's own antennae stiffened in alarm. They weren't, as yet, an established pairing, and his position was quite unexpected. She glanced around the cabin in alarm, then stretched out one long arm to the intercom and called Sickbay.


Jade was out the door, responding to Calaya's urgent call when she heard M'Benga fielding an equally urgent call from Lieutenant Di'ilan - though with the Andorian's thin, breathless voice, it was hard to be certain regarding the level of exigency. Then the Sickbay intercom system lit up with emergency calls. It took only a minute for Jade to realize that each and every one of the 46 male Indiians on board who were in some kind of sexual relationship had just offered mnorindar to their partners - which was alarming said partners, whether Indiian or not, and prompting 46 calls to Sickbay.

"Ben, Darya," she called over her shoulder to her assistant and Head Nurse, "Log those, get details, assign them out. I'll be back as soon as I can."

M'Benga nodded, Nurse Darya Asaan, replying "yes, ma'am," and Jade hurried to the lift and DelMonde's quarters.

She pressed the buzzer outside and heard Calaya's anxious, "Come!" and stepped inside to find the Indiian seated on the bed, cradling DelMonde in her arms. Jade frowned. This certainly didn't look like any emergency. The yeoman, obviously responding to Jade's own emotions, gave a frown herself, then said, "Watch, Doctor."

Jade did so. Calaya took a careful breath, and tried to move away from the Chief Engineer. DelMonde pulled the Indiian closer - as if that were possible - and raised his head from her breasts, licking up her throat and face.

In her mind, Jade heard a clear, somehow salacious buzzzzz.

"You see?" the yeoman asked helplessly.

"Did that - ah - buzzzz - come from...?" Jade began.

"Yes," Calaya answered. "It happened very quickly. One moment he was complaining about the buzzing noise, then he began speaking with the sound intermixed with his words, and the next..." The Indiian gestured helplessly. "If he speaks, all that comes from his lips is 'buzzz.' And you heard his telepathy, yes?"

"Yes," Jade replied. She crossed the cabin and knelt next to the bed, running her scanner over DelMonde. The readings indicated quite a substantial amount of alcohol in his system, and an amount of sapphire congruent with his increased prescription.

But it also specified an abnormally slowed metabolism, even taking into account the chemicals. In fact, if she could believe what her scanner showed her, every bodily function was abnormally slowed - with the one exception of muscle coordination. Which explained why he gripped Calaya so fast when she tried to pull away. It was as if the only thing which was supposed to function normally was his physical response to physical stimuli.

"When did this begin?" she asked.

"Only a few minutes ago, Doctor," the yeoman answered. "He said whatever he's been picking up from the Tenorrh was getting louder, and then...." Her voice trailed off as another loud buzzzz echoed in their brains, followed by another long lap at the Indiian's face.

Picking up from the Tenorrh, Jade's thoughts repeated, and she remembered the call from Uhura: "We were wrong. There are definitely two sexes."

Jade stood. "Let's see if we can get him to Sickbay," she told Calaya. "There's something I have to check on."


Del went with Calaya relatively docilely - as long as she held him close to her and allowed him to lick her face. Which was a little awkward since he was three or so inches over six feet tall and she was just a centimeter or two over five. After having to stop several times, the Indiian tried holding her hand gently across his lips. But that only invited a frenzy of licking at her fingertips and a loud, almost continuous buzzz from his mind - which was obviously heard by everyone they passed in the corridors. It seemed, from Jade's observation, to have little or no effect on the female crewmembers. The males, however all seemed to back away from the engineer, their eyes downcast in what was clearly submission. She made a note of it, then glanced at Calaya, who was starting to react in a way that Jade found wholly unexpected. Instead of mirroring the deference, the Indiian held her head a little higher, her skin taking on a slight glow of suffused pleasure. Her grey eyes gleamed, her expression no longer concerned. Instead of wincing at DelMonde's lingual expression of whatever he was expressing, she seemed to enjoy it. More than enjoy it. If she'd been a cat - or a Caitian - she would have been purring.

By the time they reached Sickbay, Calaya was questioning why they needed to be there. Jade directed her to one of the observation rooms and asked her to please wait - after the Indiian had glared imperiously at being told to wait. Then she went to confer with M'Benga about the other emergency calls.

"No one's reported anything like that," M'Benga said. "Marriage proposals, lots of declarations of undying love from people who weren't even dating - or from males who weren't dating the females they were suddenly desperately in love with," Ben clarified. "Whatever is going on doesn't seem to be affecting females at all." He nodded in the direction of the observation room. "With the notable exception of Yeoman Wheal, there. And," he added, "it only seems to be effecting hetero or bi males. There have been no reports of any disruption in normal mating patterns from the gay officers."

"Normal mating patterns?" Jade repeated, somewhat sardonically.

"Well, what else would you call it, Jade?" Ben replied.

"I'm not sure," she returned, then gazed thoughtfully at the observation room, where Calaya was seated in one of the chairs, with Del on his knees in front of her. He gently held her face in his hands, slowly licking it. Her hands rested at the back of his neck, her fingers extending up through his hair, her thumbs just below his ears. Something about the position struck her, but before she could analyze it, her attention was caught by a loud commotion just outside Sickbay.


Lieutenant Commander Mrraal was getting increasingly irritated. He was a good officer, but the instincts of the Caitian people were deeply ingrained and were getting harder and harder to control. He had tried to stay away from the Terorrh completely, but with his Chief debilitated by their telepathic emanations, it was up to him, as Noel DelMonde's Assistant, to take up the slack. Still, as the little creatures swarmed around him, it was more and more difficult to restrain himself from swatting at them. He had, it seemed, lost the ability not to growl at them. Fortunately for them, they seemed to respond to the sound by moving rapidly away from him.

"Get away from me!"

The voice was the high-pitched yowl of his mate M'ress and he turned to see the Tenorrh scattering before her as she stalked into Engineering.

"Don't you have Bridge duty?" he asked as she reached his side.

"I can't stand it, they're everywhere!" the tabby-striped female replied. "They surrounded me, hounded me off the Bridge..." She hissed as one of the creatures came close to her.

"Maybe you should request...." he began, then fell silent as his sensitive hearing picked up a slight change in the pitch of the engines, one that signaled the operation of the impulse engines.

"Are we moving away from the Tenorrh ship?" he asked, and turned to call the Bridge - and suddenly both he and his mate were completely surrounded by Tenorrh. They were all speaking at once - not over one another, but in chorus - and the fur along Mrraal's spine rose. With a deep hissing noise, he dropped to all fours, noting M'ress did the same. The claws that were usually sheathed just beneath his finger pads thrust out and he began swiping at the creatures. When they ran, both he and M'ress chased them.


On the Bridge, Queen Diomera lifted her head with a frown, then turned to Jim. "Drone," she said, "what are the creatures who hunt my workers?"

"My Queen?" Jim replied.

"As was told, they do not unite, my Queen," the worker at the Communications station said, ducking his head when Diomera glared at him. "Ruling Personage does not hear his workers."

The Queen tossed her head. "How inefficient," she murmured, then again turned to Kirk. "These workers are not like the others," she said, clearly annoyed. "They have the bristles of their legs all over their bodies. They make screeching and hissing and growling noises. They do not feel my authority. What are they?"

Jim once again was overwhelmed with desire as he basked in the regard of his Queen. She was so beautiful, so powerful, the only proper authority and he gladly submitted to it.

"I think you mean the Caitians, my Queen," he answered.

She waved her hand. "Whatever they are called," she said, as if she had not just asked that very question. "They are harassing the workers and must be stopped. As their Ruling Personage, they will obey you, yes?"

"Yes, my Queen."

"Then tell them to stop!" she snapped.

Jim headed for the Communications station, only to freeze at Diomera's, "Wait! What are you doing?"

"As you bade, my Queen," Jim began, and again the worker at Communications again spoke up.

"He must use technology, my Queen," he said. "They do not unite."

The Queen frowned and the worker moved away to allow Jim to use the comm link. He opened a ship-wide hail.

"Lieutenant M'ress, Lieutenant Commander Mrraal," he said, "by order of the Queen, you are to stop chasing the workers.


Jade and M'Benga hurried out into the corridor to find Lieutenant M'ress crouching at the bulkhead with a Tenorrh cowering before her. There were several slashes along the Tenorrh's arms and legs, leaking a yellowish substance, the same substance covering the Caitian's claws. She was growling and hissing and yowling all at the same time. Further down the corridor, just at the turbolift, Mrraal was pawing at another of the Tenorrh, alternately pinning it down, then letting it go - and pouncing on it again when it started to move away.

"What the..." Ben began, and the captains voice came over the intercom.

"Lieutenant M'ress, Lieutenant Commander Mrraal; by order of the Queen, you are to stop chasing the workers."

Both Caitians screeched, but let their captives go. The Tenorrh immediately ran down the corridor. M'ress and Mrraal rose and started licking the yellowish substance - which Jade now realized must be Tenorrh blood - from their fingers. From the faces they made and the way they shook their heads, it didn't taste very appealing.

"And just what did you think you were doing?" M'Benga began, but Jade touched his arm.

"Ben, did James just say, 'by order of the Queen'?"

"Instinct, Doctor," Mrraal answered Ben's question with a scowl. "Those - things - just move too fast and..."

"The way they run around..." M'ress broke in.

"We're hunters," Mrraal rejoined. "It's like they're taunting us."

"We've been trying to resist, but..." M'ress put in.

"Ben," Jade said, a little louder, "The Captain just said 'by order of the Queen'."

All three turned to her, their expressions shifting from angry and frustrated to alarm.

"Queen?" M'Benga said.

"Uhura said there were definitely two sexes," Jade returned. "Lieutenant M'ress, you were on the Bridge. What happened?"

The Caitian bowed her head in contrition. "I don't know, Doctor," she admitted. "The Tenorrh hounded me off."

"I think we'd better get up there, Jade," Ben suggested.

"M'ress, Mrraal, confine yourselves to your quarters for now," Jade said. "I'm authorizing medical leave."

"What about DelMonde and Wheal?" M'Benga asked.

"We'll just have to trust that he doesn't lick her face off before we get back." She turned to call into Sickbay, "Darya, keep an eye on Observation Room 2."

"Will do, Doctor," Nurse Asaan, said.

Jade turned to her fellow physician. "Grab a kit, Ben. We don't know what we'll find up there."

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