Author's Note: Slightly AU; we're going to pretend the end of "Descent" never occurred and Lore is still wandering about the universe, causing mayhem.


"Troop movements up the ridge will – the hell?" Lore stopped abruptly and glanced at his feet. As one, the assembled Enterprise crew members followed his gaze to the floor, where a tabby cat had twined herself around his legs, purring loudly.

Data was on the animal in an instant, scooping her up into his arms before putting several feet between himself and Lore. Spot mewled, her contentment gone. "How did you get into the conference room?" he asked her in his best imitation of a scolding voice. She strained against him, paws digging into his shoulders, desperate to be on the floor.

"Sorry, captain," La Forge said quickly, chancing a glance at Picard's stony face while the rest of the staff shuffled nervously. Spot had grown a bold streak in recent months and delighted in giving the engineers fits – no matter the forcefield erected or door locked, she always managed to find a way around it and into the least likely (and most unwelcome) of areas.

"Mr. Data, this is really not the time," the captain rumbled.

"If you can tell us how she does it, we'll put a stop to it," La Forge replied, bristling.

Picard sighed, demeanor softening almost at once, as was liable to happen when he realized that his anger was unwarranted. "Of course; forgive me." He passed a hand over his eyes, got to his feet, and tugged at his uniform top. "We've been at this for far too long. I am sure we could all benefit from a break. Mr. Data, kindly remove your pet and we will pick this up – "

"That's yours?" Lore interrupted. A muscle twitched in the captain's jaw, but he held back the comments he longed to say.Thirty-six more hours; then I can be rid of his insolence for good.

"Yes." Data frowned as Lore let out a bark of a laugh. "Is this surprising?"

His look-alike held out a hand to the animal. Dr. Crusher yelped, "Don't!" and Data was about to move out of Lore's reach when Spot did the unthinkable - she stuck her head out and rubbed against the proffered fingers, purring anew. The five humans in the room shared a glance and let out a collective breath, convinced they had been about to witness a slaughter.

"Yes, considering the fact that you were allergic to just about every creature that roamed Omicron Theta and quite a few that didn't," Lore said. He smirked. "You couldn't get within twenty feet of Often Wrong's old dog; it sent you into a terror of a sneezing fit."

"Now hold on a second," La Forge broke in, disbelief in his voice. "Androids can't have allergies."

Lore turned a withering gaze on him. "How clever of you to figure that one out, La Forge; well done," he snarled. "No, we don't have allergies in the sense that humans do, but we have breathing apparatuses and air filters. Well –" he inclined his head "– Data does, at least. An experiment to make him appear more human."

"It is also an efficient way of cooling my systems," Data pointed out.

"Yes," Lore drawled. "Trouble is, it couldn't figure out how to deal with animal hair and dandruff and Soong never hit upon the proper modifications to fix it; hence, you sneezed. A lot." He snorted. "How you hated the colonists' pets."

"I believe you are exaggerating," Data said, in a tone that was the closest La Forge had ever heard him come to exasperation. "You know I cannot feel hate."

"You can't now, no." Lore winked, and his words lingered heavily over the group. He tossed the PADD containing his calculations and projections onto the conference table. "I'll be back at 0600. Do try not to do anything moronic before then."

He turned on his heel and strolled from the room. The senior staff members left behind blinked at one another stupidly save for Data, who appeared to be finding Spot's fur quite interesting.

"All right, how many more bombshells does he have?" Riker said finally. "Honestly,every time; I don't know how much more of that I can handle."

"You aren't the only one," La Forge agreed in a soft voice. He clapped Data on the shoulder sympathetically and then turned to gather his tools as the other crew members began filing out the door.

Spot gave a mighty yawn, butted Data on the chin with her head, and let out a warble of a purr.

"Yes, Spot, I know. I am late with your dinner."