Engineering, E4 Defiant, Two Days Later

        "So, you found the thing," the Captain snarled. "Why did I have to come here to see it? Just put the thing out the garbage chute and be done with it."
        "You need to see something," the Chief Engineer said, gesturing at the deck where the cat sat licking his paws. A plate of fish was half-eaten in front of him, but laying just behind the cat was a row of eleven tribbles, all dead.
        "Did it kill those things?" the Captain asked.
        "Indeed," the Chief Engineer answered. "Whatever it is, that thing is a natural predator."
        "Ensign Ketrick," the Captain said, "You're now assigned to engineering. Keep the animal busy and find it a place to sleep."
        "Fear not, little warrior," Ketrick said, gathering the cat into his arms, "for you are safe."

Dockside Portal, Thunderchild, Y176
        "Is that our new XO?" an ensign asked.
        "Indeed, laddie," a senior technician answered. "He's a hotshot frigate commander, and he's been been hand-picked to become our next captain. A real firebreather, this one is."
        "What's in that box?" the ensign asked.
        "Ah, that," the technician laughed. "A friend on the Defiant told me about that. It's some kind of small predator. I don't know where it came from, but it kills tribbles."
        "Some kind of experiment from headquarters?"
        "Nah, laddie," the technician warned. "That thing is a pet. Lots of senior officers keep exotic animals on their ships. At least this one seems actually useful. Best not get too close to it, and you had better not allow it to come to harm."

Bridge, Thunderchild, Y178

        "Portside shields holding," the Engineer Kelix said.
        "One Kzinti drone got through," the weapons officer said.
        "Kzinti cruiser is heavily damaged, trying to evade," XO Kerg reported. "Pursue?"
        "Send the Rampager," Ketrick said. "We need to consolidate our victory. Get me a report on damage to the convoy."
        Mrroooww, came a noise as the cat jumped onto Ketrick's command chair and settled in his lap.
        "Fear not, little warrior; you are safe," Ketrick spoke softly, knowing that the crashing sounds of the recent battle had terrified the small animal into his favorite hiding spot, behind the engineering control panel. The bridge officers glanced sideways at each other, amused by Captain Ketrick's attention to the beast.

Red Fleet Headquarters, Staff Meeting, Y181
        "Ketrick!" Admiral Kumerian snarled. The cat had jumped onto the conference table, turned around twice to look at the dozen senior officers in attendance, then flopped into a pile of fur in the center of the table. "I told you to keep that vermin locked in  your quarters!" The admiral held up his left hand to display four angry red scratches across it. The cat decided that the admiral posed some sort of threat, and scurried to his favorite lap.
        "Yes, Admiral," Captain Ketrick said, gathering the feline. "Fear not, little warrior; you are safe," Ketrick whispered.
        "When you leave this base," Kumerian snarled, "that monster had better leave with you."
        "He will, Admiral," Ketrick assured him.
        "Maybe you should promote him to lieutenant," Commander Krawford said. "Commodores need a staff aide, after all."

Bridge, C7 Death, Operation Riposte
        "Steady as she goes," Commodore Ketrick said evenly, supposedly to the helmsman but actually to the entire bridge crew. The viewscreens showed the fiery orange-red of the WYN Cluster's radiation barrier ripping at the shields.
        "Engines down 21%," the engineer said. "Shields holding."
        "Left wing phasers have burned out," the weapons officer reported. "The repair crews are still trying to get disruptor alpha back on line."
        "We've got major electrical fires on decks five and six," the Marine officer reported, having been drafted into work as the assistant damage control officer.
        "We're going to lose the long-range scanners," the tactical intelligence officer said.
        "Thirty seconds to clear space," the navigator said.
        Everyone held their breath as the ship shook again and again, wondering what else had shorted out or caught on fire.
        "Clear space!" the navigator shouted.
        "Enemy ships on scanners," the weapons officer screamed. "Drones inbound! Enemy cruiser is firing!" The ship shook with the blast as phasers, photon torpedoes, and disruptors tore through its shields and into the hull.
        "Battle Plan Gamma!" Ketrick ordered. "Maneuver right. All weapons engage the largest enemy ship. Get me a report on which ships made it through with us!" The cat jumped into Ketrick's lap and dug in his claws as the ship shook.
        "Fear not, little warrior; you are safe," Ketrick whispered.

Unknown Location, the Next Day

        Ketrick awoke in what felt like a bed, but (his hands told him) was more like a very large basket, woven of something that could have been organic vines, or maybe synthetic resins. He felt his body and limbs, finding several bandages and some kind of metal or plastic splint around his entire right leg. His left arm hurt when he tried to move it, and he realized that bones were broken and some kind of plastic splint was strapped around his forearm.
        "Is anyone there?" he asked. No one answered, but the lights came on. He was in a very large room of some kind, with tall ceilings, at least six or seven meters high. He could feel air moving. Looking over the edge of the ... basket, he noticed a mug of water, and a plate with a piece of bread and some kind of fruit. Biting into the bread, he discovered there was meat and cheese baked into it. He decided that he liked the flavor.
        "Are you in pain?" came a voice. Ketrick turned to see who was speaking, and was startled to find himself face to face with what he thought was a very large Kzinti - but the fur was wrong.
        "Am I a prisoner?" he asked the... tigercat.
        "Hardly," the tigercat laughed. "You took good care of me, and I could not let you die." Ketrick looked puzzled. "You would call me a Leopard King," the tigercat said. "We never left, but not all of our bodies are in your dimension." Ketrick froze in horror.
        "Fear not, little warrior; you are safe," the Leopard King said.