We beamed up this animal and…well, look for yourself. It's in the specimen case
—Scotty, "The Enemy Within"
While Spock was content with his position as the chief science officer on the USS Enterprise, he could not deny that it came at a price.
He had joined Starfleet because he knew it would present unique opportunities for scientific discovery and research. His keen Vulcan intellect had made his quick promotion to the highest rank in the science department of the fleet's flagship inevitable, and now that he had attained the position, he was not displeased. (A very illogical voice inside of him whispered that perhaps his father's attitude towards his career choice would be softened by his success.) But with position came administrative duties, in particular the duty to oversee his fellow scientists, and make certain that everything was carried out according to regulation. Spock had brilliant men and women working under him, so this was not often a burden. But they had an emotional investment in their work, even an emotional attachment to their work, that he could not understand, and which manifested itself in curious ways — ways that at times made his job . . . challenging.
"Yes sir?" The young man looked rather puzzled by his stern tone of voice.
"What were you doing just now, ensign?"
"Just taking care of Gertrude."
"That is not a gertrude, it is a Rigellian snapping flower."
"Yes, I know, sir. Gertrude is the name I gave that particular plant."
"You gave the plant a name?"
"Yes sir. It's such a lively plant, it almost seems like an animal. So I named it. You know . . . like a pet."
"Oh . . . on Earth humans keep animals in their homes and . . ."
"Yes, ensign, I am aware of the definition of the word "pet." However, I am surprised that a member of Starfleet would take so puerile an attitude towards the subjects of his study."
Both Mr. Sulu and another ensign near him had turned quite red. The second ensign, Ensign Patil, had covered her face in her hands, and her shoulders were shaking. Spock did not believe that his mild reprimand should have elicited that much . . . fear? . . . (He believed that was generally the emotion associated with shaking.) particularly from an ensign who was not being reprimanded. Interaction with humans was not in his area of expertise, and he would have to consider this situation further. At the moment, however, it was clear that he had made his point, if more sternly than he intended, so he walked out of the lab. As the door closed behind him, it shut out the sound of Ensign Patil, who had begun coughing loudly.
Rather unfortunately, Mr. Sulu was not the only man in the science department who displayed an illogical attachment to the subjects of his experiments.
Spock approved of enthusiasm in his scientists. A Vulcan did not need to be emotionally invested in his work to perform admirably, but Spock observed that humans performed their tasks with more care and precision when they enjoyed what they did. After consideration, he had decided that he would not say anything else about Mr. Sulu's plants, as his naming them did no harm, and he worked assiduously when he was on duty.
Spock did not, however, approve of madness. And the enthusiasm of some of his younger scientists could not be accurately described in any other way.
For example, one of the biologists discovered several hours after leaving Alpha 177 that the second horned quadruped they beamed up after the first met its untimely end, was pregnant. It gave birth, Spock knew from the record, to fifteen young. A month later it had only fourteen. The culprit was an intelligent young zoologist, who had done very well in the academy, and was on her first assignment. She loved animals, and she paid dearly for it: the creature she had taken from the lab had an affinity for brightly colored things, like clothes, and jewelry, and pictures, and knick-knacks. Despite this, Ensign Rayburn declared that "Snuffles" was adorable, and wept when Spock insisted that it be returned to the science labs. Spock was sure that the desire to retain a creature that destroyed and would continue to destroy one's possessions must be a sign of mild insanity.
Aside from plant life, the only living things that the crew of the Enterprise found on Eta Piscium II were tiny, fourteen-legged creatures. The largest specimen that his scientists measured was about 5.35 cm long, and the smallest 2.876 cm. Their bodies were in eight segments, with two legs on each segment but the first, like elongated insects. Their heads were a deep orange, and the remaining seven segments were covered in blue fur. Spock found them to be fascinating. Apparently the captain did as well, for when Spock showed one to him, he said something incomprehensible about a "very hungry caterpillar," and called the new chief medical officer, Dr. McCoy, over to look at it. This course of action led to an argument between the captain and the doctor, in which the words "blue" and "green" featured prominently, but as it sounded to Spock unscientific, if not illogical, he ignored it as best he could.
No one in any of the three landing parties that went down while they were orbiting the planet was ever able to find the creatures' nests or homes. One scientist suggested that they did not need shelter, because they had no natural predators. However, since the heavy rainfall on Eta Piscium II had a very low pH, and another scientist discovered that the creatures were very sensitive to water-based acid solutions, this could not be the case. The members of the science department, therefore, collected over one hundred of the creatures, and created a large terrarium that simulated the planet's environment, so they could continue to study the creatures after they left orbit. They were dubbed "kullats" by Ensign Rayburn, who seemed to have a fondness for naming things. Spock allowed the name to be used in the logs because it was logical to name the creatures after the star their planet orbited, rather than because he was concerned about a possible deluge of tears if he refused.
"Honestly, Commander Spock, I don't think there is anything else to learn about these kullats. It seems to me that they're surprisingly hardy, but otherwise useless . . . sort of like cockroaches on Earth."
Because he had sensitive Vulcan ears, Spock overheard Ensign Patil hiss, "See, Gloria! I told you they were bugs," to Ensign Rayburn.
"Lieutenant Martin, I fail to see how their similarity to the cockroach is relevant. There must be an explanation for their survival, particularly since they are sensitive to the rain on their planet. It is your job, and the job of this department, to discover it. If I decide that you should be working on another project, I will inform you of your new duty. Until then, I want to see you working diligently to learn all that you can about the kullats."
Spock admitted to himself that the creatures were proving to be less fascinating than he had first anticipated. If there had been another project that needed Lieutenant Martin's attention, Spock would have put the investigation of the kullats on an indefinite hiatus, but the Enterprise had not sent a landing party down to any new planet in a week and a half, and the science department was not busy. Until something else needed to be done, the lieutenant could continue to pursue the question of how the kullats protected themselves from their planet's rainfall.
"Lieutenant Martin to Commander Spock."
"Spock here. What is it Lieutenant?"
"Commander Spock! I've found it!"
"The intercom is not malfunctioning, Lieutenant. There is no reason to shout."
"Sorry, sir. It's just that I've seen how the kullats protect themselves! I simulated a very light rainfall over one of them, and . . . well, sir . . . I don't know exactly what he did, but he sort of . . . dove . . . into the plastic wall of the container I had him in . . . like he was diving into the water, or into a hole, but there was no hole. There is no hole. It is completely sealed!"
"Fascinating. When you have determined the process by which the kullat does this, report to me. I will be on the bridge."
"Captain Kirk, I'm getting reports that replicators are malfunctioning all over the ship."
"Tell them Scotty's trying to fix it, Lieutenant Uhura. And tell them that there are proper channels to go through for problems like this. We don't run maintenance from the bridge, so we don't need to hear about every single malfunction on the ship."
"I never thought it would get so dull on this ship that I'd have to hear about every door and replicator and . . ."
"Engineering to bridge."
"Scott here. Captain, I cannae understand what's going on. I had some of ma men fixing the door down on Deck Two, and they found a bunch a' wires tangled together . . . like they'd melted, sir, but there was no reason for it. And then, sir, there are the replicators — the first two had the same problem. We need ta know what's wrong, before something important is damaged."
"You have no idea what could be doing it?"
"No, Captain. I know the first tangle is here in Deck Two, and the tangles show up in order, like a trail, but I don't know what's doing it."
"Hold on Scotty. Yes, Mr. Riley?"
"The controls are not responding."
"Did you call down to the auxiliary control room?"
"Yes sir. They're working down there. It seems like an electrical short in the helm, to me."
"Inform auxiliary that they have navigational controls right now, and then get someone to see if the problem is right here, or in a circuit somewhere else in the ship. Scotty, are you on Deck Two?"
"I'm coming down to take a look. Spock, you come with me. Riley, you have the con."
Spock looked carefully at the wiring Scott had exposed on the wall near the door of an ensign's quarters. As the lieutenant commander had said, several wires were melded together, but it did not appear that they had been melted. The particles had been irregularly rearranged. It was fascinating.
"You say that all these malfunctions are on a single path that leads back here?"
"Yes, Mr. Spock. Each a' these is on a path that seems to lead generally up towards Deck Three — none more than a fifteen centimeters apart."
"And you cannot determine what is doing it?"
"No, sir. It's not easy to get behind these panels, I can tell you. So even though we know within two or three meters where the next problem is going to come up, we cannae do anything about it quickly enough. We don't even know what we're looking for, Mr. Spock."
"You have to be able to do something, Scotty. We're not getting power to the helm, and I've got a hunch that it has something to do with this. We're not in danger now, but anything could happen if this isn't stopped."
"Aye, captain. I don't deny it. But I need more information."
A commlink nearby whistled. "Lab Four calling Mr. Spock."
"Lieutenant Martin, sir. I know what the kullats do, Commander. You're not going to believe it, though."
"Tell me what you have discovered, Lieutenant."
"Well, sir . . . they . . . it appears they have some sort of instinctive telekinetic abilities. When something hurts or frightens them, they just dig their way out of danger. But it's telekinesis. They don't have claws or teeth. They just think things out of the way."
"Commander Spock, there's one other thing. They seem to be able to get through almost any material. It's a miracle they haven't already escaped from their terrarium"
"It is not supernatural in any sense, Lieutenant. They have not been attacked, and therefore they have had no reason to run away. We have been keeping them in a simulated natural habitat except for when we have been testing them. They would have felt more comfortable there than any other place"
"Yes, sir. I understand. But while I was testing, one ended up digging its way thought a desk, and when it hit the floor, it panicked. It did some damage to a nearby PADD and some paper, even though it wasn't actually digging into them. We just barely caught it and put it back in the habitat before it started denting the floor. It just moves anything within a few centimeters when it panics."
"Make sure that you replace them all in their habitat immediately, Lieutenant, before one gets away. Spock out."
He turned to the captain and Mr. Scott.
"These are the quarters for female ensigns, correct?"
"Yes, Spock, why?"
"I must know the names of the crewmembers currently quartered in the rooms on either side of this bulkhead."
As he expected, Ensign Gloria Rayburn roomed in one.
"Mr. Scott, the problem is being created by a kullat that was brought down here by an ensign from the science department."
"You mean the very hungry caterpillar things?"
"The little creatures from Eta Piscium II."
"That's what you were talking about to Scotty? They do that telekinetic digging thing?"
"I've got to tell Bones! They really are like the very hungry caterpillar."
"I do not know why you insist on using the definite article, Captain. But you are correct that their appearance is reminiscent of that of the Terran caterpillar. Furthermore, one might compare the damage the kullats have effected on this ship to the damage many caterpillars effect on trees and plants. More importantly, however, one of them is the source of Mr. Scott's problem. A panicked kullat, it appears, will continue creating telekinetic disturbances until it feels safe, and the jolts of electricity it receives when it disrupts wiring in the walls will cause its panic to continue indefinitely. Now that we know what we are searching for, though, it should not be very difficult to contain."
Spock sent Ensign Patil and Lieutenant Martin to help Mr. Scott catch the small animal, and then explained to the captain that one of his ensigns had, for a second time, absconded with a specimen from the science labs. He suggested that Captain Kirk officially reprimand Ensign Rayburn, for the purely logical reason that since it was her second offense, and had led to a potentially dangerous situation, a reprimand from the captain would be more effective. At dinner he decided that he would rather listen to the captain's complaints about dealing with tearful young women, than deal with them himself.
Humans were emotional and illogical at all times, but as Spock spent more time with them, he grew to appreciate things that, seen in his mother, and even deep within himself, on Vulcan, he had found distasteful. He saw, for example, that Captain Kirk made an excellent captain despite (or perhaps because of) a native impulsiveness and a propensity to take statistically unwarranted risks. Spock remained content with his decision to follow the Vulcan way, but his dissatisfaction with the human characteristics that he could not eradicate from his being was beginning to subside. He found himself at times engaging in (even enjoying) recreational activities with his shipmates, when a proper Vulcan would be meditating or resting. But despite this softening, there were two things of which he was absolutely certain: No amount of study would help him understand the attachment of adult humans to "pets." And no amount of exposure to those humans would ever result in his getting one himself.