“Tuvok, it’s an empty cage,” observed the captain.
“Indeed,” he answered. “It used to contain a female T’Kuthstra, a highly intelligent rodent-like creature from the Vulcan homeworld.”
“Did you lose it on the journey, Tuvok?” she asked. “If so, I’m very sorry.”
“No,” he answered solidly. “I lost it decades ago, long before I met you.”
“What happened?” asked the captain curiously.
“Through a series of mind melds, I attempted to train it in Kolinahr.”
Janeway’s jaw dropped. “Did it work?”
“Yes,” Tuvok answered. “She became highly efficient. Her days became orderly, with regular mealtimes, and, most extraordinarily, she began to use the objects in her cage to perform simple arithmetic.”
“Extraordinary!” exclaimed Janeway.
Tuvok continued, “I hoped that she would be able to pass along her skills to her young, but for that to happen, she needed to breed. So, I introduced a male into the cage.”
The captain’s eyes widened.
“At first, the attraction was clear. Her pupils dilated, her heart rate increased, and she began to produce pheromones. When the male detected her reaction, he began typical mating rituals, including building her a nest and bringing her gifts of food.”
“It sounds good so far,” Janeway observed.
Tuvok raised an eyebrow. “She ignored him. In fact, after the initial reaction, she managed to curtail her biological responses; even her pheromone levels decreased.”
“She didn’t even eat the food he brought her?”
“She ate it, but she did not allow him near enough to initiate coitus.”
Janeway shook her head. “What did you do?”
“I attempted unsuccessfully to retrain her,” he answered, “and meanwhile the male grew listless and refused to eat or sleep. I removed him from the cage, hoping to preserve his life, but shortly thereafter, he died in his new home.”
“Oh!” exclaimed the captain, raising a hand to her mouth as her eyes became moist. “And what happened to the female?”
“She continued her efficient daily routine after he left, but began to sleep more and more, until one day she did not wake up. In fact, her death was approximately two point four minutes after his.”
“But they weren’t anywhere near each other! How could they have known?”
Tuvok paused before answering. “It could have been a coincidence, but I believe, despite her training to ignore it, a bond was formed between them, and they were not able to live separately.”
“Oh, how sad!” lamented the captain.
When Tuvok remained silent, it suddenly occurred to her what he was trying to say.
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” she said, “I think I understand. I’d best be going; it’s late.”
“Goodnight, Captain,” Tuvok answered curtly, nodding slightly.
Kathryn walked slowly back to her quarters, but something stopped her before she got there, and she found herself ringing her first officer’s door chime.
When the doors slid open, he looked surprised at his visitor. “Captain!” he remarked, “What can I do for you this evening?”
“I’m sorry for disturbing you at this late hour,” she apologized, eyeing his pajamas.
“It’s no trouble. Please, come in,” he offered, then gestured for her to sit on the couch.
“Thank you,” she answered cordially as she sat.
“Can I get you some coffee, Captain?” he asked.
“No, thank you,” she answered, “and please, call me Kathryn. This isn’t official business.”
He raised an eyebrow and sat next to her. “What is it?” he asked quietly.
“Nothing to worry about,” she answered quickly, sensing his unease. “It’s just that there’s been something I’ve been meaning to tell you for quite some time.”