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  1. “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” It seemed to Captain Chirakis that the Rihan child known simply as Annisha had a facility for swift computation of statistics, compiling complex bits of data for evaluation and making accurate conclusions even more quickly than some of the seasoned operatives with which she worked. As Annisha continued to assemble the bits of Aegis available to her on the view screen, the captain decided to up the ante by secretly removing two or three puzzle pieces. “I think your game is broken,” Annisha said with no change of expression. She tilted her head to view a piece of the station propped at a strange angle on the display. “Oh, this needs flipped.” The tiny exterior section of the outer hull was indeed flipped the wrong direction. Changing this however still left an incomplete version of the station on the screen. Annisha sat motionless and looked quizzically at what she had remaining. "If it is broken, then, to save the lives of those on the station, we must determine why it is broken, then formulate a strategy to fix it," the captain replied, mirroring the young engineer's concerned and puzzled expression. "Perhaps a three dimensional puzzle will clarify the problem." Kirel tapped the board to modify the image. "Ah,” she vaguely pointed, “do you see it?" “No,” Annisha answered, her voice trailing off. “I, um...wait.” She brushed her black hair back with her hand to get it out of her face, studied the additional dimension further, then started to manipulate the controls. In what looked like an ancient 3D Tetris game, the pieces began to fall into place. Not every attempt was successful and a few times she dug herself into a hole. She let out grunts at failed attempts, but kept at it. This diversion sucked her in. Minutes passed. Annisha hardly noticed the time, nor the Bajoran watching her. “I’m thirsty,” she said in the middle of moving a large piece with her fingers. She could be clever with puzzles like these, especially when it did not feel like a test. Everything stopped as she rubbed her eyes and wrinkled her nose, then resumed. Annisha let out a raspberry sound with her lips. “Oh...” When Annisha turned, a glass of water sat within reach. The girl grabbed the glass without lifting her gaze on the display. “Hmm...,” mused Kirel. “Why did I not think of that? It’s the obvious solution, and quite simple.” The child definitely had some kind of education, and possibly advanced. Moreover, she had been encouraged to explore. Aristocratic or high-ranking diplomatic family. Only they would have regularly used the vocabulary and high Rihan dialect Kirel had been speaking. Only they would have encouraged her in this type of education. If not, the child was either precocious or truly brilliant. “I believe it’s time to progress to the next step, Annisha. Are you ready?” “Next step?” She asked peering up. She then gave a brief smile and appraised her work. Her eyes danced around the outline of the station. When she arrived the true nature of Aegis had been hidden behind bulkheads. This station soon would be a memory as another transport sped her off to a new life on A’Tari. Not enough time to learn all of the kid-only hiding place. “I’m ready,” she mumbled as if in trouble. What did she know? “Then I have another surprise for you. A sanctuary into which few are admitted.” The Rihan vocabulary increased in difficulty. Kirel watched Annisha for signs of comprehension. “My office, wherein resides an athenaeum of documents and assorted paraphernalia that should be very interesting, especially for one of your caliber.” A button on the console erased the puzzle and brought up another outline of the station. Kirel gave one command. “Three-dimensional solid, one meter by one meter, non-permeable manipulative, monochromatic, materialize on the command office floor, central area,” she paused to consider, “difficulty seven.” She turned to Annisha. “Come.” “Toys?” she asked. “I had those. But I have drawings back at my bed. They gave me some paper. I can get them.” She got out of her seat and brushed back her hair again, its length had started to annoy her. She followed behind Kirel and got her first real view of her attire. “Why do you dress like a Tal Shiar person?” “Do I?” Kirel turned, bemused, as the office door opened. “I hadn’t thought of it that way. But now that you mention it, I suppose my uniform does resemble one. If you’re referring to the black,” she paused as the doors closed behind them, “I am a Starfleet officer but I work for a very special branch of Starfleet, a branch that wears black uniforms.” “Ohhhh,” was all Annisha could muster as she looked all around. Her excitement got a hold of her and she rushed to every corner to get a closer look. Every place she’d been since the Great Fire was plain and merely functional. Even her hero’s place seemed boring by comparison. “What’s this?” She pointed to the pieces of a puzzle in the middle of the room. Then she walked right in the middle of the numerous pieces and started grabbing each one. “What do you believe it to be?” “Something you put together? A house?” Annisha placed a piece on her head. She then took the piece and played with it in her hands. With her other hand she grabbed a piece on the floor and hooked it to the other one. “Look.” showing her accomplishment to Kirel. The captain turned from the bar, drinks in hand. “Excellent. I wonder if all the pieces fit together like that. And when you’re ready, I have some Romulan ginger ale for you.” “I have to put this together?” Kirel shrugged, setting the child’s glass on the coffee table close to her. “You do not have to do anything. You can sit and watch them put themselves together if you wish, but that may take a very long time. I’m sure they would appreciate some assistance.” She sat in an armchair and pressed a button, bringing Dr. Davis to the small viewscreen on her desk. Pressing a finger to her lips, Kirel pointed to Annisha, who seemed completely absorbed with the puzzle. “I’ve done this before, first you lay out all of the pieces so you can see what you have.” She began to arrange the pieces apart from each other. She sat in the middle of the pile and arranged them radially in circles around her. “This looks like a bird,” she said of a piece resembling such. A minute passed and she had placed all of the pieces out where she wanted. “Hmm.” She laid herself flat on the floor staring at the arrangement for a time. In short order the Rihan girl had moved pieces together appearing to be similar shapes. She wrinkled her forehead as she has seen something like this before. “These fit together like plates,” she observed, holding one-half a plate in each hand. She held them in midair as she looked on the floor for other pieces. She knelt, “Here’s one...and another.” She stacked the plate-shaped pieces into a pile. She spotted another piece, grabbed it and sat down with it. “Are we here?” “I am here. Are you?” She smirked, sipping her ale. “You are home, I am not,” she said, manipulating the piece for the tip of the station. The girl poked at the very top of the piece, an antenna relay or something. She smiled as the realization of all this hit. So many pieces. She’d never seen something this large or complex. A tinge of worry that she’d not get this finished crossed her mind. Her stomach growled and her mouth dry. “I think I need that drink now, please.” “The one on the table?” The captain pointed to the glass that had been sitting close to Annisha while she had absorbed herself in the puzzle. “Perhaps something to go with it?” Embarrassed, she grabbed the glass and took a long drink. “I think I may need more. This is a big puzzle,” she explained, spreading her arms wide and almost spilling her drink. “And big puzzles need more concentration, which can quickly drain your body of energy,” Kirel replied. “Computer, some of Dr. Davis’s cream scones, with chocolate bits for energy, on the table next to her.” Within seconds the plate materialized along with another glass of ginger ale next to the one Annisha had just drained. Annisha nearly jumped out of her skin and pounced on the treats before her. “Mmmm.” She ate quickly and started in on the puzzle before her. The universe around her shrank to encompass only the puzzle, and the occasional drink. After several hours’ work, the nine-year-old Rihan child had accomplished what should have been impossible for her age. Slowly, carefully, but not without a little frustration, she had completed a level seven difficulty puzzle of Sky Harbor Aegis, one intended to judge the manipulative ability and concentration of prospective station engineers - minus a few intricacies, of course. Kirel was nothing short of astounded, but refrained from showing it. Instead, she replicated another, smaller version, at the next level of difficulty, placed it in an Aegis satchel, and handed it to her before escorting her back to the orphanage.