"What's the big emergency, Jim?" said McCoy as he rushed into the transporter room.  Kirk, Spock, Chekov and two security guards already waited on the platform.

"The transmission didn't say.  Just that there was a complication with one of the experiments on the Astere station and that they were requesting additional bioscience support immediately.  Uhura hasn't been able to raise them since."

"Long range scans?  Give me something to go on here, Jim."  McCoy accepted the filter mask passed to him and made a last-minute check of his medkit.

Kirk shook his head. "An emergency containment shield has deployed around the lab complex, so we can't scan for information.  We're going in blind.  That's why you're here.  Doctor Lightful is renown around the Federation for groundbreaking bioengineering work.  Whatever it is that went wrong in that lab could be more up your alley than standard science."

"It seems a shame," said Chekov as McCoy took the last place on the transporter pad.  "It's such a wery pretty little planet."

"Despite your romantic notions of pathetic fallacy, Ensign, experimental mishaps are not constrained to your so-called dark and stormy nights."

"Spock, do you have a romantic bone anywhere in your whole body?"  McCoy sniped in his predictable acerbic fashion.

Chekov raised an eyebrow and looked pointedly away.  Was he…blushing?

McCoy seemed not to notice.  "You ever been there, Jim?"

"Astere? Once," said Jim distractedly.  "The food was good.  Ham, I think."

"Captain." Lieutenant Atkinson called out from behind the console.  "Entering transporter range."

"Filter masks on," ordered Kirk.  The six raised the filters into position on their faces.

"Energize."  Kirk said the word and they flickered away into a sparkle of gold.

They rematerialized on Astere just outside the containment field.  The lab complex was visible inside and appeared serene and undisturbed.

"Spock, can you get us in?"  Kirk paced restlessly along the force field barrier between them and whatever the unseen trouble might be.

"Affirmative, Captain--assuming the access codes in the databanks are current."  Spock fiddled with an instrument clipped to his tricorder and a ripple appeared in the force field.

"We're in!" said Kirk and jumped though the ripple with the others trailing behind.

"Radiation levels normal on all scales," reported Spock as he scanned the interior.

"All atmospheric gases at normal lewels and vell within acceptable breathing standards.  No toxins." Chekov shut off his tricorder

"No bacterial, fungal, viral or prion pathogens airborne," said McCoy.  He reached to lift his filter mask off.

"Not yet," said Jim, staying McCoy's hand.  "Something happened here.  It could be something new--something our instruments don't know how to read for.  Leave those masks on until we know what we're dealing with."

The laboratory complex was unlocked and quiet as they approached the front entrance.  "Where is everyone?" asked Kirk.

"We are deep in the third season, almost canceled once with no hope of being renewed this time.  There is no budget for extras," said Spock.  "Consider yourself fortunate to have been allowed two security guards--for now."  Spock's tone deepened ominously.  "They are being paid by the hour."

The two red shirts looked at each other.   One checked his chronometer; the other swallowed nervously.

"Mm.  So, where to?" asked Kirk, rubbing his cheek.

"According to the layout plans, the high sensitivity labs should be on the first level.  This way."  Tricorder whirring, Spock led the entourage down the hall. 

They came to a closed door with a small, red light flashing near the lock.  "Here," said Spock.  Monitoring his tricorder he manipulated the locking panel until the door slid open.

Lying just inside the door was a human body in a laboratory jumpsuit completely covered in a mass of thick, brown slime.

McCoy dropped to one knee and scanned the man.  He looked up in alarm.  He let a beat skip. "He's dead, Jim!"

*****Space, the final frontier…blah, blah, blah…no man has gone before!****

"Dead!"  Jim knelt and passed a hand through the goop.  Oblivious to the danger, Kirk whipped off his filter mask and sniffed the goo.  It smelt sickly sweet, like honey, only--not honey.  More like…Easter…long ago.

"Spock, is this what I think it is?" Kirk's eyes seemed unfocused, as if looking back long ago and far away.

Spock studied his tricorder with fixed intensity.  "Affirmative, Captain.  Composition:  sucrose, corn syrup, gelatin, potassium sorbate, yellow  number five, carnauba wax, trace esters.  In other words…"

Meanwhile Kirk had stuck his finger in the thickest part of the goo and popped it in his mouth.  As the familiar flavor ran down his throat, his eyes widened in recognition. He completed Spock's sentence.  "…in other words, it's a Peep!"

"More specifically, it’s a burned Peep," said Spock.  "Apparently hit with a high energy blast."

"But that's impossible, Jim.  Look at the size of this puddle.  There must be liters of this glop."

"Two-hundred seventy-six point nine seven liters," said Spock.

"That's a hell of a Peep!" said Kirk.

"Or it could be many standard Peeps ganging up together," said Chekov with a cute-as-a-button grin.

"Check out the science logs," Kirk ordered. "Maybe there'll be an answer in there."

Spock and Chekov turned their attentions to the laboratory computers.

"Forget it, Jim," said McCoy as he moved restlessly around the room.  "I think I found your answer."

Kirk strode over to where McCoy stood.  McCoy pushed aside a room divider to reveal two 20-foot tall cages, with sticky, yellow globs dotting the newspaper lining of each one.  One cage was labeled "Buttercup", the other "Creampuff".

The thick, iron bars were bent wide apart in the middle of each one!

"Captain," spoke up Red Shirt Number One, "It would help if we knew what we were dealing with.  What, exactly, is a Peep?"

"Ensign," cued Spock still absorbed in the computer bank.

Chekov snapped to attention.  "PEEP:  Polymeric Engineered Easter Parapoultry.  A semi-synthetic form of non-sentient protolife designed for space travelers and deep space colonists.  They have been deweloped to solve the problem of long-distance transportation and depot prowisioning, as they are designed to keep for decades vithout appreciable degradation.  There have been some--issues regarding the nutritive walue, however."

McCoy grunted.

"And, of course, they were deweloped in Russia," added Chekov with a cherubic grin.

"But Peeps aren't know to be aggressive. They aren't even intelligent." argued Kirk.  "Wasn't the Dubya variety specifically designed not to be able to formulate any independent action?"

"Apparently something has changed that. This is an experimental lab.  According to the most recent logs, they were attempting to modify the Peeps so to enable one to meet the total nutritional needs of one human for one day."

"They had quite a ways to go," said McCoy.

"Indeed.  Apparently making the extensive modifications proved…problematic."

"How so?" asked Kirk.

BAM! BAM! BAM!  There was a sudden bang at the overhead window.  The Enterprise officers looked up.  At the window, at least ten feet over their heads, was a giant yellow poultry head slamming itself repeatedly against the window!

THWAP!  THWAP!  THWAP!   With a sickening sound, the thick chicken head hit the window over and over leaving a sticky circle on the transparent aluminum every time.

"Spock!  How long can we hold out?"

"We should be safe in here, Captain.  It should not be able to penetrate the building structure." With a blood-curdling "PEEEEP!" of frustration, the parapoultry product turned away from the window.

"Options, gentlemen?" Kirk looked around.

"We could synthesize a volf."

"A volf?" Kirk narrowed his gaze on the ensign.

"You know, a big, bad volf to raid the chicken coop." Chekov smiled an impish smile.

Kirk rolled his eyes.  "Better suggestions, gentlemen?"

"I like 'em with chocolate milk," said McCoy.

Kirk willed the incipient headache away. "Spock?"

Spock gestured to the crusting mess on the floor.  "It appears it is vulnerable to phaser fire."

"Good!  Contact the ship. Send them the composition data. Have them lock in on the Peep--"

"Captain," Spock interrupted.  "I must advise against that.  In order to allow phaser fire, we would have to drop the containment field and that would risk letting the Peep out into the general population in the time it took the Enterprise to locate it and lock in."

"Mmm."  Kirk rubbed his jaw.  "In that case, it looks like we're it.  Gentlemen, prepare to move out.  Set phasers on--" Kirk floundered for the word. "Caramelize.  Let's go."

One by one they tossed their filter masks on the floor and followed Kirk as he jogged out the door.

The scene around the complex was almost pastoral: bright green Astrosod, cerulean blue sky, fluffy white clouds.  Off to stage right was a conveniently located isolated outcropping of jagged rock.

"There!" shouted Red Shirt Number One as a big glob reared its ugly head over the top of the rocks.

"Peeeeeeep!" The Peep chirped a warning cry, then spat an egg-shaped pastel colored missile out of its beak.  It hit RS#1 smack-dab in the middle of the forehead and exploded in a kaleidoscope of candy-coated malt chocolate.

RS#1 hit the ground.  McCoy ran to him and put a hand on his neck.  "He's dead, Jim!"

"No!" RS#2 leapt up from the side of his fallen comrade and turned his weapon on the giant Peep.  He checked his aim.

"NO!" Back from the direction of the lab sprang a mad scientist in a white lab coat with frizzy hair about his ears.  "No!  You can't kill Creampuff!  I created her.  She's my legacy!"  He fired his phaser at RS#2 killing him dead.

Kirk pivoted and lunged at the mad scientist coming at him with a one-two punch.  They tussled and wrestled.  Kirk's shirt tore down the front in just the right places.   "She's killing my people," Kirk ground out between bared teeth.

"Creampuff is the last of her kind," choked the mad scientist as he struggled out from a stranglehold. "You can't kill her! You can't!"

"Spock, Chekov!  Kill it!" ordered Kirk, as he took the mad scientist to the ground with a flying V kick.

"Not necessary, Captain.  I think that I can--"  Spock hopped up onto a rock and squeezed his fingers into the Peep's--neck?--but the squishy polymer just sucked his arm in.  He lost his footing and began to be slowly but surely sucked completely into the depth of the Peep inch by inexorable inch.

"Spock!" McCoy shouted, holding his phaser impotently in his hand.

"It's killing Mr. Spock!" shouted Chekov with his phaser aimed at the Peep, but considerately not firing in deference to the captain's Heroic Moment.

With lightning speed, Kirk summed up the situation.  He knocked the mad scientist out cold with a left jab to the face, then whirled and took out the Peep in a single phaser shot.

Creampuff exploded in a starburst of yellow curd, dropping Spock to the ground, gooey but unharmed, and covering everyone else in coat of burnt marshmallow cream.

One commercial break later found our four heroes standing inexplicably clean and dry back outside the laboratory building.  Of course, Kirk's shirt was still ripped.

"So I guess that about wraps it up," said McCoy, bouncing on his toes.

Kirk began to tick items off on his fingers.  "Requisite Russian joke, McCoy baiting Spock, Spock showing off, pointless fight scene, shirt ripped, morality message delivered, bad guys dispatched…yeah, I guess that's it.  Still…I feel like I'm forgetting something."

Spock coughed discretely.

"Oh, Captain Kirk."  A blonde wearing parts composing the more important half of a dress held up largely by imagination and a hairstyle that defied at least three separate laws of physics appeared behind Kirk, as if out of no where.  She sauntered over to the captain and took his elbow.  "I'm the laboratory director--Dr. Dee Lightful--and I just wanted to say--"  She sidled a little closer and wiggled her body as if just daring the half-dress to stay where it was.  "I just wanted to thank you for all you've done for us.  I don't know how I can ever repay you."  She batted her false eyelashes enticingly.

Kirk snapped his fingers.  "That's it!  I knew I was forgetting something!"  He grabbed her by the shoulders and gave her a big, ol' wet smakaroo.

[Cue closing credits]