Besides the rodents there were four other cages containing a variety of insects, a lizard and a snake. Dr Franks was there too, overseeing the operation and checking the health of the animals before they leave. As I walked in, he could see I'd been crying. I held out the cage to him and he took it. He looked in at Beastie and then studied his datapad. I turned and started to leave.
"Crewman!" he called.
"It really would be worthwhile studying the rules and regulations with regard to animals on board a Starfleet vessel."
"I realise that Doctor, but with all due respect and as you well know, I didn't bring her aboard. I found her."
"I know exactly the circumstances surrounding your acquisition of Beastie. That's why I am suggesting that you make yourself familiar with the regulations in regard to the matter."
That made me angry. I knew the rules all too well.
"The regulations are quite clear. This is a military vessel so pets are not permitted unless authorised by the Captain. Authorisation should be sought prior to the animal's arrival and absolutely no later than 24 hours after its acquisition and introduction on board the ship. It must also be subjected to and pass medical examination by the Chief Medical Officer."
"Very good Crewman, but the magic word here is acquired."
"Yes, and when did you acquire Beastie?"
I was dumbfounded. Bugger! I thought and began kicking myself. It was a subtle loophole that meant that if I'd sought the Captain's permission when I presented Beastie to the Commander, she could have stayed aboard. I buried my head in my hands.
"Why look so crestfallen?" but he knew full well why. "Well, fortunately for you I'm not in the habit of vaccinating animals unnecessarily. If you were anybody else—" and he stopped dead. His face tensed, realising his slip.
"Anybody else?" I repeated and stepped up to him. Even though he stood the best part of a foot above me, I looked him square in the eye. He avoided eye contact looking at the ceiling instead.
"Anybody else," I repeated.
"I thought we were talking about the cat."
"Yes. Let's talk about the cat. You were saying that you were not in the habit of vaccinating animals unnecessarily, but you did so with Beastie."
He remained silent for a while. Finally, he picked up the cage and thrust it at me. Beastie meowed in annoyance at the rough handling, but I took the cage from him.
"When you brought your cat to me, she was automatically registered and reported to the Captain. He approved her presence. Be happy with that."
Delight filled me.
"You mean she's kosher!" I exclaimed.
"Yes, now I suggest you wend your way. I'm sure you have duties to perform."
His voice was stern making it clear that there was nothing more to be said on the matter and to be frank, I had what I wanted... my cat.
"Thank you sir," I said and scuttled off quickly with Beastie.
Needless to say, the elation and happiness I am feeling is quite overwhelming; feelings to which Beastie is completely oblivious. She is totally unfazed by her little expedition through the ship and has returned to our cabin ready for her mid-morning nap. She really is a very lazy cat.
There is something else though. "If you were anybody else... If you were anybody else... If you were anybody else." The words keep reverberating around my head.