“Who…er, just a minute,” he at last managed to call out.
Silence from the other side of the door.
Unsure whether this meant whoever had rung was waiting or had gone away, Chekov was moved to sprint over to his closet and tugged out a pair of uniform pants, then nearly landed on the floor trying to pull them on while standing on one foot. Hopping quickly to one side, the adrenalin rush of this near disaster fueling him, he took a deep breath and pulled the clothing on, then raced back to the door.
“Yes, come in.”
There was a pause, during which Chekov felt his heart pounding. What if it were the captain or Mr. Spock? What if he hadn’t answered quickly enough? A moment later though the door slid aside and Uhura and Sulu stepped into the room—the girl first, carrying a wrapped bundle in her arms, the helmsman following after looking both ways in the corridor behind them.
“That was close,” Sulu breathed. “What took you so long, Pav? We were standing out there for about a solar year.”
Chekov blinked. “I don’t—“
“Never mind that now,” Uhura hissed. “Help me.”
That’s when the Russian boy saw that the bundle in her arms was moving…and, if he wasn’t mistaken, it was making soft whining noises as well.
Sulu stepped over to her and together they put it gently on the carpeted floor. At once, a conglomeration of wet black nose and floppy brown ears, closely followed by a stubby tail, squirmed free and sat looking up at them plaintively.
Chekov’s eyes widened. “Where did you get…this? You know quarantine regulations—“
“Yeah, well if we needed that lecture, we’d have taken him to Spock,” Sulu interrupted in exasperation.
Uhura’s dark eyes pleaded with him. “We found him wandering around the colony and we didn’t want him to be destroyed. So we…” she shrugged.
“You appropriated this animal from the colony we were sent to inwestigate?” Chekov asked. “The one where no one answered our hails?” Though stress was causing his accent to slip in again, the Russian still noted their wet, muddy clothing. All three of them smelled pretty bad, too.
“What other colony is there?” Sulu retorted. “Of course we did. Look, it’s a mess down there. As far as we can tell, there was an earthquake, followed by a tidal wave—and after that, all hell broke loose. They couldn’t answer us because they’ve been living in something approaching the Stone Age for the last three weeks, and they’re damn lucky we got here when we did or…anyway, no one was looking out for this pup. So yeah, we took him.”
Chekov scrubbed a hand over his face, still trying to get his eyes open. Ever since he’d gone to Gamma shift the week before he’d been out of sorts and out of touch with everything going on aboard Enterprise. “Vhat time is it?”
Sulu walked over to his closet and yanked out a uniform shirt, tossing it to him. “Time for you to go looking for puppy food while we report back to the captain.”
“Ya ni panimayu,” Chekov muttered as he pulled the shirt on. “You vant me to hide him? Why me?”
Uhura offered him her sweetest of smiles and stepped over to pat his cheek. “Because you’re young and innocent and no one will suspect you. Besides, didn’t your family raise dogs?” She and Sulu edged back toward the doorway.
“Samoyeds,” Chekov protested. “Not like…” he waved at the puppy, who was watching him with bright interest, tongue hanging out, “…this vhatever it is.”
“Keep him here,” Sulu said, “until we figure out what to do.” And with that, Chekov and his new guest were left alone to eye one another.
The Russian boy knelt down and looked him over with a small sigh. “Well, now, how much trouble could you be, boy?” He reached out to scratch the puppy’s ears.
With that, the dog promptly squatted and peed on the carpet.
Wincing, Chekov said, “And you’re not a boy, you’re a girl. Ai ai ai.”
* * * * *
Chekov had forgotten that puppies like to chew. That was unfortunate, because while he was gone to the mess hall to get her some lean meat, she destroyed a pair of his boots and his PADD and stylus…not to mention pooped on the floor. The young navigator sighed. Starships were no place for dogs. Logic suggested regular trips to the ship’s arboretum might be in order. But how was he supposed to introduce a secret dog clandestinely to that bay, he had no idea. While the little creature ate, he imagined his only other alternative in graphic detail:
“Yes, Mr. Chekov.”
“Hypothetically, sir…if one smuggled a pet aboard Enterprise…say, a cat—”
“Did you say a cat? That’s weird.”
“Er, yes, sir. A cat. Hypothetically speaking. What would be the consequences for that indiwidual?”
“Do you know of such an incident, Mr. Chekov?”
“Me? No, sir! But, hypothetically…?”
“Well, it would depend on who it was, Ensign. For instance, if a crewman was to find a pet in distress—no fault of his own, really—and brought it aboard, purely out of the goodness of his heart, then reported it promptly…”
“Then he would be dealt with most fairly.”
“Yes, but if it was someone else…”
“Someone else, sir?”
“Yes, like an officer.”
“An officer, sir?”
“Well, and if he did not report it…well, then…”
“Then the consequences might be most severe.”
“Oh, yes. Probably demotion—at least, to start with.”
“And possibly the brig—depending on the circumstances.”
“The brig, sir?”
“Oh—and one other thing.”
“Yes. We’d have to eat the cat.”
“Eat the cat, sir?”
“Why, yes—on Deneb IV, they have this wonderful recipe...”
Chekov shook himself out of his reverie, even as the little dog finished its meal and looked up at him. “I really don’t vant to be demoted, or go to the brig,” he told her. “And I bet you don’t vant to be dinner. Am I right?”
She licked his hand, and then scrambled into his lap. “Come on, let’s try to take you for a walk.”
* * * * *
An hour later, he was standing in the shadow of a Vulcan pear-apple tree, waiting for his charge to complete her mission. A yeoman he knew from transporter ops started to walk by and stopped, glancing at him.
The young Russian held his head higher and tried to look casual. “Yes.”
The glance became a stare, accompanied by a cautious smile. “Okay, I’ll bite. Why are you wearing a survival parka in the middle of the arboretum?”
Chekov shrugged. “I vas on the landing party last week. Dr. McCoy says I have the Cartullan flu and I need to stay warm until it’s over.”
Her smile faded. “Uh huh.”
He tried adding an embarrassed laugh, but he wasn’t very good at it. “The heat’s turned up so high in my quarters, it’s almost a sauna. You should see it.”
But she had started walking again. “I think I’ll pass. Feel better.”
“Thanks,” Chekov muttered to her retreating back. And as the puppy emerged from the bushes and he scooped her up in his arms he added, “Great, now you’re ruining my social life, too.” She snuggled back into one of the coat’s voluminous pockets and went right back to sleep. Chekov tried to look nonchalant as he strode back to his quarters, nodding and offering a strained smile to each person he passed in the corridors.
I’ll get you for this, Sulu, he thought to himself.
* * * * *
“Maybe it’s the strain of the Nero incident, finally manifesting,” McCoy offered, frowning. “I dunno. But something isn’t right with that boy.”
“You, Doctor,” Spock commented drily, “are a master of understatement.” He turned back to Kirk, seated at the desk in his quarters. “For the past three days, Mr. Chekov has shown up late to his shift, is obviously tired and distracted, and he smells.” He offered the last with the precise delivery of someone restraining their emotion in the matter. “There have been reports of him roaming the corridors while off shift wearing a survival parka—and he told Yeoman Smith he has Cartullan flu.”
Kirk sighed. He was no stranger to the odd night of bizarre-looking activity himself, but for Chekov it was completely out of character. “That’s damned peculiar,” he agreed. He looked at McCoy. “Do you really think it could be the result of Nero, after all this time, Bones?”
McCoy folded his arms over his chest. “Stranger things have happened.” But the captain could read him like a book, and his eyes narrowed in thought.
“Shall I ask him to report to you, sir?” Spock suggested, clearly bored and ready to be done with this conversation and get back to working on restoration of the colony below.
“No,” Kirk said, getting up from his chair. “If he’s trying to hide something, he’ll just show up all spit shined and polished. If Chekov is going to fold on me, I need to know now. Let’s pay a visit on him. Gentlemen?” And he led the way out the door.
* * * * *
The last few days had fallen into a routine: Chekov got up in the afternoon for his shift and fed the little dog. While she ate, he would put some flimsies over the spot on the carpet she had first ruined and when she was finished she would use them. Then he would put them in the disposal unit. A quick trip in the coat to the arboretum followed. If he had time, he showered, though often she wanted to play when they got back. To keep her from whining loud enough to be heard in the next compartment, he let her sleep on his shirts, although he had secured his last pair of boots and anything else she could pull off a table and chew inside his closet for safety. While he was on shift, she mostly slept, although he came back midway to find the occasional item chewed or peed on. Chekov feared his quarters were beginning to look and feel like one of the barns on his family’s co-op. Sulu and Uhura were not to be found, since the away team had set up a refugee camp on the surface and they had been stationed there for the duration of the disaster relief efforts.
When the young Russian heard his door buzzer go as he was in the midst of playing with the puppy, he froze. She was oblivious, still continuing to jump at him and reach for the sock he had given her as a toy. His first thought was that his friends had come back to get him out of this mess…until the captain’s voice reached him through the door:
“Mr. Chekov. I’m here with Dr. McCoy and Mr. Spock. Open the door, Ensign.”
Adrenalin made him sweep the little dog into his arms so quickly and tightly that she whimpered. Chekov looked around, and then shoved her into the closet, sock and all. Quickly scanning the room for evidence of canine occupation, he pulled a chair over the ruined spot on the carpet. Then, striding to the mirror, he ran a hand through his curls and brushed dog hair from his uniform. Rushing to sit on the bed he called, “Come in” in what he hoped was a normal tone.
Kirk stepped in, followed by McCoy—still frowning—and then Spock, looking around curiously.
“Keptin,” Chekov began. “I don’t understand…”
But Spock took point. “Ensign, you have been behaving in a most odd manner.”
McCoy stepped forward and added, “Son, Cartullan flu? Poppycock! You’d have red welts all over, for one thing…”
The captain put his fists on his hips and just turned slowly in a circle. Chekov gulped as his heart pounded in his chest and he watched his commanding officer take in everything around them. At last he turned to the young navigator, smiling faintly. “So where is she?”
“Sir?” Chekov squeaked. Spock and McCoy just stared at them.
“The colonist you’re harboring. Where is she?” He bent and looked under the bed as McCoy said snarkily:
“You would think this is about a woman.”
“Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?” Kirk shot back. “He’s got a girl he met at the colony and he wants to smuggle her off planet.” He walked over to check the cabin bathroom.
“That is not logical,” Spock commented. “Mr. Chekov has not been down to the planet. His duties have been aboard Enterprise.”
“Jim,” McCoy added, “what about the smell?”
That’s when a thump came from the closet, and Spock pulled it open. A ball of fur with ears barreled out, Chekov’s sock clutched in her mouth. She ran first to McCoy, who reflexively took a step backward. The puppy dropped the sock at his feet and posed, tail wagging, inviting him to play.
“It is…a girl…” Chekov offered, feeling the color drain from his face as Kirk’s gaze landed on him. “And…she did come from the colony.”
“Uhura,” Kirk guessed, sighing. “Or Sulu…or both.”
“Nossir,” Chekov said stoutly.
“Please,” the captain shot him a long-suffering look. “You didn’t do this on your own.”
Bored with McCoy, the little dog went next to Spock, who simply stared at her. Taking this as a challenge, she barked so loudly she looked startled for a moment, then decided to practice this noise some more, and went on yappily for the next few seconds.
“Sir,” Chekov found his voice again. “You von’t…eat her?”
“What…did you say eat her?” Kirk looked askance. “That’s weird.”
The puppy wandered over to the captain then and looked up at him, tongue lolling. Kirk bent down to get a closer look. “I don’t eat dogs, Mr. Chekov—I’m from the other end of the planet. What do you think of that, little lady?”
In answer, she squatted and peed on the carpet.
“Well,” McCoy offered, “that explains the smell.”
* * * * *
As it turned out, Chekov didn’t have to spend even one night in the brig—though the incident would be logged on his permanent record. “It’s not really a black mark,” Kirk explained to him. “It’s…kind of brown.” Sulu and Uhura received similar reprimands.
Chekov really didn’t understand why the captain was in such a good humor about the whole thing. But he was glad. And he was even happier when a crew of stewards was assigned to put rights to his cabin.
Still, it occurred to him to wonder what had happened to the puppy herself, since Kirk had promised she was safe from human consumption. A few days after Enterprise had been relieved by an emergency supply ship and broken orbit to resume her mission, he found a quiet moment on the bridge and worked up the courage to ask.
Kirk immediately glanced at Spock, whose gaze shot across the bridge to Mr. Scott, who had pivoted at the engineer’s console at the question. The engineer then looked at Uhura, who folded her arms and looked back at the captain, lips tight. Chekov glanced at Sulu, who shrugged and tried to look innocent.
“Is she…all right?” Chekov asked tentatively into the silence.
“Oh, perfectly fine!” Kirk reassured him. “Matter of fact, she just arrived at her new home on Earth.”
“Earth, sir?” Chekov blinked.
“Yes. You see there’s a certain admiral of my acquaintance—”
“Er, that is…of Mr. Scott’s acquaintance, who lost his dog in a transporter accident—”
This time Spock just stared at him.
“That is…experiment. And this dog was a perfect substitute for him.”
But Chekov’s family had raised dogs, and he knew replacing a pet was never easy. “But, sir,” he felt compelled to point out, “people get attached to their pets. This dog…won’t be anything like his lost dog. Even if the breed is the same—”
“That’s what I said,” Uhura put in with an impatient glance.
“…well, this dog is…female.”
“Now, now,” Kirk waved a hand, “a dog is a dog is a dog. Trust me,” he said to Scotty’s doubtful look, “this will work.”
But Chekov was sure as he turned away to confer with Spock, he muttered, “One little mistake…”
With a sigh, the Russian turned to his friend. “Sulu, do me a favor next time. If you find something on an away mission, take it straight to the captain. Please?”
Sulu shot him a sly glance. “C’mon, you know you miss her. You liked having her around.”
“Sure. Soiling my floor and chewing my clothes, making people think I was crazy—I loved it.”
But later, in his freshly cleaned cabin, Chekov found it hard to sleep. He couldn’t help but wonder if the admiral would accept his new gift. Would he find time to feed and play with her and take her for walks? Getting out of his bunk he went to the disposal bin where he’d discarded the chewed sock and held it in his hands for a moment. Then, putting it on his night stand, he drifted into a deep, dreamless sleep.