Mr. Spock was in a quandary. It had been a week since the captain had begun carrying his . . . acquisition . . . wherever he went. Despite Doctor McCoy's pessimistic prediction that a captain that carried around a fluffball on his shoulder would lose some of what McCoy colloquially referred to as "the fear factor," the opposite seemed, in fact, to be the case. Even Spock had to admit that the sight of the captain overseeing agony booth sessions with a smile on his face and a purring Hannibal (named after the third-century general, not the twentieth-century serial killer: Spock had inquired) on his shoulder presented a tableau humans generally referred to as "creepy." In fact, despite the distinct lack of opportunity over the past week for striking fear in the hearts of Klingons everywhere, the captain seemed dangerously close to deeming the tribble experiment a success and establishing a permanent program. A program that, if implemented, threatened to destroy everything Mr. Spock had ever achieved in his long and distinguished career in Star Fleet, and possibly even have impacts on the status of Vulcans in the Empire.

It was a little known fact but hardly a secret that the Vulcan species was descended from a creature resembling a Terran feline. In fact, many Vulcans considered this to be a point of pride, certainly more dignified than the human descent from an ape. It was reflected in Vulcan poise and grace, in their impeccable balance and fluidity of movement. It was also, unfortunately, reflected in more obscure traits as well, such as the ability and impulse to purr. And it was this trait that threatened everything Spock held dear. For every time he was within five meters of the captain's cursed beast he had to suppress the nearly uncontrollable urge to purr at it! The situation was becoming intolerable. Something must be done.

Which is why Spock had taken this rare opportunity when the captain and his creature were temporarily separated to stealthily enter the captain's office and look upon his nemesis.

S'chn T'gai Spock was considered by many to be one of the most dangerous men in the Empire. The very sight of his impassive face has reduced many a grown man to tears, and a quirk of his eyebrow has caused more than one officer to relieve themselves in terror. Spock quirked his eyebrow. The tribble cooed. Spock touched his communicator.

"Doctor McCoy."

"What is it, Spock?"

"Hypothetically speaking, were something to happen to the Captain's . . . creature . . . what would you predict to be his reaction?" McCoy grunted.

"Predation is the natural order of things. I'm sure the Captain would react stoically to the loss." The delighted smile that crossed Spock's face then usually heralded the death of an unlucky ensign for the sake of science.

"I see." But McCoy continued, still sounding bored.

"What do I get to kill?" Spock's eyebrow lifted of its own accord.

"Excuse me?"

"What ate the fuzzball? Just because predation is the natural order of things doesn't mean it shouldn't be punished. Does it at least have a decent value on the black market?"

"I am unsure . . . "

"You mean I gotta track the thing?! Dammit man, I'm a doctor, not a wildlife expert!" Spock cleared his throat in a way that was not at all nervous.

"I'm afraid I've been misunderstood, Doctor. The . . . creature is unharmed. My question was entirely . . . hypothetical." McCoy sounded unconvinced.

"Are you sure? Because I was reading this article just the other day on the use of Vulcan livers in . . . "

"Yes, I am certain. The tribble is safe."

"Huh. Well, if you change your mind . . ."

"I shall keep you informed." Spock most definitely did not sigh in relief. He sent the tribble one last withering glare before turning to exit the captain's office.

"Er . . . Mr. Spock?" McCoy's voice reached from the still-open communicator.

"Yes, Doctor?"

"Are you purring?!"

Despite his plans for elimination of the threat being discovered and thwarted by Doctor McCoy, Spock still held out hope for the removal of his enemy from the captain's good graces. Unfortunately, the tribble was clearly designed to be as inoffensive as possible. Even Spock's plan to casually remark to Doctor McCoy how 'close' the captain and his tribble were becoming (the circumstances under which Spock discovered that the captain did, in fact, have "Property of Leonard Horatio McCoy, M.D" tattooed across his ass were ones he had no desire of reproducing, but the sentiment was relevant nonetheless) backfired spectacularly and led to a sleepless night of bizarre noises from the throats of both men and beast emanating from the cabin next door. Before Spock was even able to put together another workable plan, chance placed the final proverbial nail in his coffin.

The Enterprise had responded to reports of a supply ship being ambushed by Klingons, and arrived to find two Birds of Prey looting Tholongian merchant ship. The Tholongians paid good money to the Empire for the protection of their ships, so not only was conflict unavoidable, but it was moreover necessary to prevent further damage to the Tholongian vessel. Spock was sure that Kirk had a plan when he hailed the lead Klingon ship - Kirk always had a plan - but whatever it may have been was immediately rendered moot. As the face of the Klingon captain appeared on the main screen, Hannibal shuddered and let out an ear-piercing shriek. The captain was barely able to catch him as the tiny creature attempted to launch itself in attack at the viewscreen. The reaction of the Klingon was equally remarkable. Spock had never before seen a Klingon lose color so rapidly and shouts of pain and fear could be heard from the other officers on the Klingon's ship. Kirk tightened his hold on Hannibal and stroked him soothingly, the shrieking fading out as he did so. Into the following stunned silence Kirk took control.

Within minutes the Klingons had offered unconditional surrender to Captain Kirk, Beast-Tamer. Kirk closed the connection and spun around in his chair.

"Well. That was . . . interesting." And then he began laughing. Hannibal cooed. And began to purr. Spock allowed himself a moment of human weakness and put his head in his hands.

Eventually, Kirk regained his composure and called Lieutenant Chekov over.

"Chekov, I have a very important job for you. But first I want you to know that you are one of the most delightfully vicious men on this ship, and I respect the hell out of your work." Chekov beamed.

"Thenk you, Keptan."

"And it is because I have so much respect for you that I am trusting you with this job. You have to know you're one of youngest, and most brilliant officers we have. You also look like you're twelve. So I want you to take Hannibal here and go down to the shuttlebay. And when they start bringing the prisoners on board I want you to give them your creepiest, most psychotic smile and pet Hannibal until he purrs. The Klingons are scared of tribbles? I want them to think our children cut their milkteeth on tribble young." Chekov accepted Hannibal with awe.

"Yes, sir, Keptan, sir! You can count on me! I von't let you down!" And then the kid skipped - actually skipped - out off the bridge.

At least with the exit of Hannibal, Spock could stop purring under his breath.

The Enterprise escorted the wounded Tholongian ship to the nearest star base, where they also transferred custody of their Klingon prisoners. Not coincidentally, this happened to be the same star base where, less than a month earlier, Captain Kirk had obtained the newest member of the Enterprise bridge crew. Thanks to a some creative record editing, Ensign Hannibal was now officially on the roster, and pulled duty alongside the captain. He even had a uniform, mini vest and gold sash painstakingly sewn from some of Kirk's damaged uniforms by Sulu, who had gotten over being called a wife if it meant he could still fuck Pavel into the mattress, and embraced his inner homemaking geek. Far from being the joke McCoy had originally feared he'd be, Hannibal had become a sort of ship mascot, and any negative comment or criticism was dealt with swiftly and ruthlessly by the bridge crew. As Kirk had said to one rival captain who was lying in a pool of his own blood and vomit at Kirk's feet, "Respect me, respect my tribble."

Even Spock seemed to have come around. He had stopped trying to avoid Hannibal's presence, a change in behavior that would be explained come Alpha shift when, embracing the Terran principle of "if you can't beat them, join them," Spock would introduce his new black tribble, Clarice, to the bridge. At least with Clarice around, Spock reasoned, any purring could be blamed on her.

And so as the Enterprise headed out into the vastness of space once again, a sleepy, purring tribble named Hannibal was curled up the bedside table, his soft trilling soothing the Captain's and Doctor's dreams. A new scent was drifting in from the chambers down the hall, and Hannibal woke briefly to sniff. "Mate," his sleepy mind identified. All was right in his world.

The End.