Yeoman Piper walked through the *Ronin's* corridors carrying an armload of PADDs. Sometimes it seemed to her like that was all she *ever* did -- ferry reports back and forth for Admirals and Commodores. These particular PADDs -- reports from various departments on the Kelvan database core -- were for a mere Lieutenant!
The wide doors to the shuttle bay where Lieutenant Benton was working slid open in front of her and she took one step in -- then stopped cold in her tracks. A horrified scream struggled up from her gut, and passed her quivering lips in a shrill, half-strangled outcry. Panic overwhelmed her every fiber! The armload of PADDs clattered noisily to the floor as Piper turned and fled, footsteps fueled by pure terror.
Ten minutes later, Admiral Pike, Captain Evans, and a dozen heavily armed and armored security guards were assembled in the corridor outside the shuttle bay. Piper had returned too, and was standing behind the cover of a particularly burly security man at the rear of the column.
The men now arrayed themselves on either side of the wide door, weapons drawn, waiting for the signal to advance from the Captain. Evans was at the door release panel, one hand on the manual release lever that would open the door, the other holding his own phaser. He checked one last time to see if his men were ready, then pulled the release.
The door hissed obediently open, and the security team rushed into the shuttle bay, followed closely by Evans and Pike. Piper stayed outside the doorway -- she hadn't exactly been invited to this party, and was still frightened by what she'd seen anyway.
When Admiral Pike ran through the doors, he was confronted with a terrifying sight -- although one he was unfortunately already familiar with. Occupying the entire central area of the shuttle bay was the huge, bulbous bulk of a Kelvan! It towered above the humans, reaching almost to the roof of the shuttle bay. Its hundred-odd tentacles were spread out all across the floor in addition to being wrapped around railings, draped over a shuttlepod, and waving in the air. Its baleful, yellow, lidless eye gazed down on them from the center of that hideous mass. *First a Kelvan in sickbay, now one in the shuttle bay! It's like we have a 'room for rent' sign painted out on the hull!*
The security men had by now encircled the behemoth, but for some reason, the Kelvan had *let* them! Pike thought that extremely odd and out of character, and a sudden suspicion dawned on him. He held up his hand and shouted, "Hold your fire, everyone!" He cautiously took another few steps toward the Kelvan and studied it more closely. He now noticed that in addition to the beast's tentacles, there were other, grayish-colored ones intertwined with them. He realized with a start that the Kelvan database core had opened up its twisted trunks like some sickly flower and was locked in some kind of bizarre embrace with the Kelvan like two enormous octopi. Energy sparkled up and down those gray limbs -- the thing had obviously been activated. But he'd given that assignment to....
"....Lieutenant Benton?" he asked the monster, suddenly horrified at what he suspected.
The Kelvan didn't answer, but a few of the limbs nearer to Pike twitched a little more vigorously. One limb suddenly shot out from the Kelvan's central bulk straight towards Pike's chest, but Pike stood his ground. Back out in the corridor, Piper emitted a little startled squeak and bit her knuckle in worry. The tentacle stopped mere inches from Pike and then hovered there. Pike looked down. He wasn't sure, but it seemed to be pointing toward his combadge. Not knowing what else to do, he tapped his badge to activate it.
A voice immediate issued from the badge, familiar, and yet not. [ADMIRAL PIKE. THERE IS NO CAUSE FOR ALARM, I ASSURE YOU.]
"Benton...," said Pike, his suspicions confirmed. "*What have you done...?*" Words were failing him. All around, the security guards were looking at each other, equally confused.
[I DID WHAT HAD TO BE DONE, ADMIRAL,] answered monster Benton. [IT WAS IMPERATIVE THAT WE GAIN ACCESS TO THE DATABASE. HUMAN TECHNOLOGY PROVED TO BE TOO PRIMITIVE, INFERIOR, TO ACCOMPLISH THE TASK, SO I TOOK THE ONLY OPTION LEFT OPEN TO ME.]
"You have access to the Kelvan data it contains?"
[I DO. THE CORE CONTAINS THE SUM TOTAL OF ALL KELVAN KNOWLEDGE.]
"Good work, ...uh... Lieutenant," said Pike. "How long will it take you to retrieve the relevant details?"
[MY KELVAN MIND IS FAR SUPERIOR TO YOUR OWN. I HAVE ALREADY ASSIMILATED THE ENTIRE DATABASE.]
"Very well. We'll convene for a briefing in fifteen minutes." With that, he strode out of the shuttle bay. After ordering the security team to remain, Captain Evans followed him. He found Pike standing out in the corridor, fuming.
"What's wrong, Admiral?" asked Evans.
"That damned Kelvan arrogance!" snapped Pike. "Did you notice? Benton was always a little antisocial and aloof, but he's turned into a full Kelvan in more than just outer form."
Evans nodded, and after a moment's thought said, "I noticed.... I just hope we haven't acquired yet another enemy to fight...."