This story has been given a rating of PG-13 (US) and 12A (UK)
Captain Picard was about to wrap up his daily briefing with the senior staff of the Enterprise.
“Oh, and one last thing. Because we are en route to the cybernetics conference on Betazed, we’ll be taking on a few passengers from the Mary Christine, who’ll also be attending the conference,” he said, his eyes twinkling merrily as if he had a delightful secret he was keeping. “I want you to join me, Number One, in greeting them when they arrive. You too, Mr. Data. I think you’ll find our guests quite to your liking. Now, everyone is dismissed,” he finished, trying hard to suppress a smile.
Data and Deanna Troi exited together, a puzzled frown on Data’s face. “I wonder who the guests will be, and why the captain thinks they will be ‘to my liking’, as he said,” Data mused aloud. Deanna shrugged. “I’m sure I don’t know, Data, but they’ll be here at 0700, so I suppose you’ll find out then,” she answered, striding confidently down the corridor.
0700 arrived all too soon as Data walked towards Transporter Room 2, where he was met by the captain and Commander Riker.
“Energize, Mr. O’Brien,” said Riker, his voice calm and even, betraying nothing, as usual. The transporter beam shimmered for a moment as two figures began to materialize. Data frowned for a moment and then suddenly realized why the captain said he’d enjoy the guests. They were felinoid, Sivaoan to be exact. That made them very interesting indeed, since Data had only studied their culture, but never had the chance to interact with beings from their world.
“Greetings. I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard. This is my first officer, William Riker, and ship’s second officer, Lieutenant Commander Data. Welcome to the Enterprise,” said the captain, smiling.
One of the felinoids raised her hands and uncurled her fingers, extending her claws and then retracting them to show she meant no harm.
“I am StarDreamer to-Ennien. This is my assistant, Dreamfinder to-Vensre. We thank you for your welcome, Captain Picard,” the first felinoid said. She was short, the tips of her ears almost reaching Riker’s shoulder, and she had long silver fur, banded with black and white. The other, Dreamfinder, was a little taller and had shorter fur that was a peachy orange with darker orange bands, a white blaze down her forehead and nose, a white tipped tail, and two white feet. Data was immediately intrigued by both of them, but more so by Dreamfinder because she resembled his cat Spot.
“Welcome indeed, ladies. Would you care to be shown to your quarters?” asked Riker, turning on that famous charm of his. Data followed behind him as they exited the transporter room, Dreamfinder walking alongside him.
“That would be fine, Commander. It’s been a long journey and we are both tired.” StarDreamer explained as they walked, her tail twitching with excitement.
“I hope your quarters are to your liking, Miss Dreamfinder. I know that on your world, you often sleep outside in tents and in the trees.” Data said, by way of making conversation. Dreamfinder’s tail looped and a smile crossed her face.
“Yes, we do often sleep in tents and in the trees in what we call ‘swagger lairs’ when we are young. But how did you know this?” she asked curiously.
“I have studied your culture. I find it quite interesting, as a matter of fact, and would like to learn more, if it is permissible.” he replied as they reached the turbolift that would take them to the guest quarters.
“Then while we journey to the conference, we shall have to make time to talk, shall we not, Mr. Data?” Dreamfinder’s tail was still helixed in amusement.
“That would be acceptable. I would also like to learn your opinion on certain…human customs. Such as the keeping of domesticated felines…cousins of yours, almost,” he replied as the turbolift rose gently with a soft humming noise.
“I have spoken with many domesticated felines, Mr. Data. Their language is but a prototype of our own, you see. Some of them express the desire to see our world, to live among their larger, bipedal cousins, but most are happy where they are,” she explained as the turbolift door opened and they walked out into the hallway. Her eyes sparkled with amusement. She looked forward to speaking with Data more, getting to know him better.
“There will be a reception tonight, in your honor, in Ten Forward. If there is anything you need, please don’t hesitate to ask us.” Captain Picard said, escorting StarDreamer into their new quarters.
“Again, I thank you, Captain. I’m sure everything will be just to our liking once we…rearrange some things to suit our needs.” she said diplomatically. It was what she did best, after all, and why she was chosen for this mission. The Sivaoans were slowly starting to rebuild their technology after generations of disharmony with those who opposed its use.
“I will see you at the reception, Commander Data? We must speak some more, to…satisfy your curiosity about my people.” Dreamfinder said, an air of mystery about her. Data nodded. “I will be there,” he told her. And an odd urge rose up in him, to take her hand. But she was a guest and he would do nothing improper towards her. It went against his programming.