"I mean it - she was the most realistic simulation I've seen since Minuet."
Riker's eyes were bright as he recalled the earlier test of the Enterprise-E's holodeck that he, Data, Troi, and Geordi had conducted at a jazz bar. Even Worf had come along, after his protests were dismissed by Troi pointing out that the reason for his visit from Deep Space 9 was to see the new ship. They had decided to cap the night off with an inaugural poker game in Riker's quarters, which quickly became controlled by his and Data's rapidly growing chip stacks.
Geordi tossed two cards into the center of the table. "You're just saying that because she could actually pretend to put up with your bluster."
"I'm shocked - shocked, Geordi, that you doubt her interest was genuine."
"It was not genuine, Commander." Data flicked two cards neatly into Geordi's waiting hands. "She was merely a holographic representation of a female patron of the establishment and any interest she may have demonstrated was the result of a computer simulation." He considered for a moment, then continued. "The fact that she did appear to have an interest in your unsubtle advances may in fact demonstrate a flaw in the holodeck programming of the new Enterprise."
Troi and Geordi stifled their laughter, and even Worf looked amused, in his own way. Data was pleased - it had been 439 days since the installation of the emotion chip, but he was still not completely confident in his ability to determine the appropriateness of humor at the expense of someone else.
"Yeah, okay. But come on, you guys gotta admit, this was one of the best holodeck programs we've seen in a while, right? I mean, she was stunning." He turned to Geordi for confirmation. "Right?"
Geordi looked at his new cards. "She was something, all right," he replied noncommittally as he toyed with his chips, waiting for Troi to make her bet.
"Twenty," she said, and tossed two chips into the pile.
Riker quickly called. "What'd you think of her, Worf?"
"She was much too small a mate for a Klingon." He scowled at his hand and the growing pile of chips in turn, then slapped his cards onto the table. "Fold."
"You guys are killing me. What about you, Data?"
"What did you think of her? I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but I'd just assumed that since you got the emotion chip you'd..." He made a vague hand gesture. "...be able to experience sexual attraction."
Geordi raised a disbelieving eyebrow, but failed to seem surprised at Riker's forwardness. "Call."
Data felt an odd sense of embarrassment - an emotion he had experienced much less frequently than many others. He considered whether or not he should avoid the subject Riker had brought up, as many humans would choose to do. But then, was it not a common human bonding experience to discuss one's romantic life? Though was it also not common for humans to stop short of discussing more intimate details?
After 27 microseconds seconds of consideration, Data decided to match Riker's forwardness. "Indeed you are correct, Commander. However, thus far it has only been directed toward male members of humanoid species. Consequently I felt nothing for her. Dealer folds."
There was an awkward silence while Riker, Troi and Geordi exchanged glances.
Geordi turned slightly in his seat to look at him. "Data, do you mean to... Are you telling us you're... gay?"
Data accessed his language databases. "In my understanding of the most common usage of the term, yes, I believe that may be accurate."
"And this, uh..." Riker scratched at his beard as he leaned forward, brow furrowed. "This is because of the chip? Because of a bit of programming?"
"It would appear so. Dr. Soong was meticulous in his creation of the chip. I do not doubt that he would have taken my sexuality program into consideration while constructing it."
"But Lore got hold of it before you did, right? Is it possible that he tampered with it?" Troi sharply jabbed her elbow into Riker's arm at this.
"No. Geordi and I saw no evidence of damage to the chip other than what was caused when I was forced to fire a phaser at Lore." The usual unbidden conflicting emotions that arose when the death of his brother was brought up began to flood his mind. The subject had proven to be the greatest obstacle in his attempts to fully integrate emotions into his life, and was still capable of causing great distress. Counselor Troi had assured him this was to be expected of anyone who had experienced what he had and advised him to not simply turn off the chip when it became a problem, saying only time would allow him to fully heal.
Accordingly, he allowed the emotions to continue to process in the background and continued. "You seem to imply that the emotional expression of my sexuality program may be a defect of some kind in the chip. I do not understand why this would be so."
Riker opened and closed his mouth a few times as he appeared to search for words. Worf interrupted anything he would have said, however, as he straightened his back and appeared to enter what Geordi had once called his Pompous Klingon mode. At the time Data had failed to understand the joke; however, upon reviewing similar instances from the past he now believed he could see the appropriateness of the appellation.
"Could you not alter the program?" The Pompous Klingon mode was accompanied by this particular grumbling voice in 87.4% of occurrences, and nearly always coincided with an assertion of the proper Klingon way of conducting one's affairs.
Data was beginning to see a problem. "Why should I wish to do so?"
"Because it is not... normal."
Another silence descended upon the table. Data noted that Geordi continued to appear to devote his attention to stacking his chips in various patterns, his jaw clenched. Troi looked at a loss for words, and Riker widened his eyes by nine percent as he thought out loud.
"Wouldn't say it's not normal... Unusual, maybe..."
This seemed to be the wrong thing to say. Geordi's stack of chips collapsed and he looked up sharply. "Now wait a-"
Troi smacked Riker's arm with the back of her hand this time. "Will!"
"Please," Data interrupted, and they all stared at him. He found the effect was somewhat off-putting. "This appears to have made you uncomfortable in some way. I had not spared much thought to the implications of this particular manifestation of my emotional programming. I was unaware that it would be cause for concern. In fact, I was given to understand that homosexuality began to become destigmatized in human society during the period after Earth's third World War, shortly prior to the founding of the Federation. Is this not accurate?"
"Yes, Data, it is." Troi said this as much to Riker as to Data.
Riker raised his hands in a placating gesture. "Yeah, definitely, it's just... uncommon. And, well... What about Tasha? And Jenna?"
"Those relationships are not relevant, as they occurred prior to the installation of the emotion chip. My actions with Tasha were the result of a sexuality program that lacked the direction that the emotion chip now provides for it. My relationship with Jenna was governed by a program I had to specifically create for her. One could liken it to the conditioning of the humanoid mind to produce an expected response upon encountering certain stimuli. It is not a native response to the individual."
Anger was the first emotion Data had ever felt, and aside from humor was the one he had spent the most time analyzing. During his sessions with Troi following the last encounter with Lore, she had raised the possibility that he would not be able to fully understand everything that had occurred if he was unable to experience the associated emotions. It was a large factor in his decision to finally install the chip. He had used the majority of the shore leave he had been granted after the destruction of the Enterprise-D to attempt to come to terms with the events, and consequently he had had to relive several distinct varieties of negative emotions.
He occasionally felt a twinge of regret that anger was the emotion with which he was most familiar. Data knew that Troi harbored a quiet yet profound sympathy for this, and was grateful.
At this moment, however, the emotional state he was experiencing was a novel one. It contained the sixteenth type of anger that he had identified, but also the third confusion, eleventh fear, a small amount of the eighth variety of sadness, and an overwhelming desire to voice every thought that came to mind on the subject. He would need to speak with Counselor Troi about this, but for the moment he followed what they had agreed would be the best course and let the emotions take him where they would.
"To my knowledge," he continued in a coolly logical tone before anyone could respond to his analogy, "there are 28 same-sex couples aboard the Enterprise. Of these, seven are interspecies relationships. It is not an uncommon phenomenon. I do not understand why you are more concerned with my apparent sexuality than you are with theirs."
The poker game seemed forgotten. "Further, I believe it must be pointed out that my gender was itself essentially an arbitrary decision on the part of Dr. Soong. He and my mother argued over the matter until he simply crafted my head in his image. In fact, one could say that this is true for any aspect of my personality. For example, while I am in all practical aspects ambidextrous, I do favor my left hand for simple tasks such as painting. This is not a conscious choice or a spontaneously generated piece of code. It was a decision that Dr. Soong must have at some point purposefully made while he was creating me."
Riker let out an uncomfortable laugh. "Maybe we should call it a night before you end up having an existential crisis."
"On the contrary, Commander. I am quite comfortable with my identity. I am Noonien Soong's son." Data paused momentarily as he considered how best to help the others understand. "My original programming is not unlike the genome that humanoid children inherit from their parents. My subsequent enhancement of that programming is simply the child maturing as it learns how to interact with the world around it.
"You will note, for example, that I often include short pauses in my speech when I am engaged in casual conversation. I have found that affectations such as these add nuance and connotation to speech that is beyond the simple meaning of the words. While in reality it may only take me 12 nanoseconds to determine the most appropriate word for the occasion, I may show hesitation in order to convey the complexity of the situation. This was not part of my original language programming, but rather came out of several years of observation and experience."
It had been a long while since Data had spoken largely uninterrupted for such a lengthy period of time outside of a staff meeting or a theatrical performance - not, in fact, since consulting with Troi about Lore's death and his first brush with emotion. He wondered what it meant that the others had remained silent except for Riker's attempt at a joke.
"In contrast, the program that I wrote for Lieutenant D'Sora was not the result of this normal growth pattern. It was written out of necessity rather than growing organically, so to speak, and was subsequently deleted. It has no more relevance to my current operation than would any other learning experience for what not to do.
"While it would theoretically be possible to alter the sexuality expression of the emotion chip, to do so would fundamentally alter the programming that my father laid down for me. I would essentially be changing my genome for no purpose other than to be more 'normal.'" He glanced at Worf. "I am not a conventional lifeform. I see no reason to attempt to alter myself in this respect so that I may experience commonality."
The subject of the D'Sora program had raised the memory of the argument he had attempted to engage her in. The program he had written included a provision for "storming out" when one was finished with a heated discussion, and since then Data had been fascinated by the idea but had never found an opportunity to attempt it himself. His observations led him to believe that this would be an ideal occasion, and, if he correctly understood the idea behind it, would serve to finalize his argument.
He rose, neatly stacking his cards and chips and pushing them to the center of the table. "I believe I have said everything there is to be said with regards to my sexuality program. If you still find yourself confused, I suggest you converse with Counselor Troi. I must attend to an experiment in the biometrics lab. Excuse me."
If Data had been unsure whether Troi would mind being used in such a manner, the quickly suppressed amused smile that crossed her face as he left would have told him all he needed to know.
10.7 hours after leaving Commander Riker's quarters, Data entered Counselor Troi's. Her eyes brightened when she saw him.
"Hi, Data. I have a feeling I know what you're here to talk about." She gestured to the sofa next to her. "Come in, sit down."
"If you are referring to the incident during the poker game last night, you are correct," he began, taking his usual place at the end of the couch. "I have several concerns I wish to discuss."
Troi's smile faded, but she retained the ghost of it she often held when counseling someone. "Such as?"
"Primarily, my attempt to make the others understand my feelings on the matter of my sexuality program. I believe I may have... 'laid it on too thick.'"
Her brow furrowed slightly. "In what way?"
"I am concerned that my actions may be perceived as ranting at Commander Riker and Worf. I had not intended to do so, and I feel as though I must apologize." He blinked. "I find, however, that part of me does not wish to apologize."
Data blinked again. "Counselor?"
Troi leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. "Data, you did nothing wrong. You reacted exactly as I would expect someone whose identity was unfairly questioned to react."
"Unfairly questioned?" He reviewed the conversation to determine what she most likely meant. "Are you referring to Commander Riker inquiring if Lore had tampered with the emotion chip, or Worf's suggestion that I alter the program due to its abnormality?"
"Both." Troi sighed. "See, Data, it's true that now most humans don't care one way or another about other people's sexualities, but some wounds of the Eugenics Wars are harder to heal than others. And some cultures are still somewhat hesitant about it." She smiled wryly. "Sometimes Worf has a tendency to forget that what's important for Klingons isn't important for everyone else. Either statement on its own would have been enough to make anybody angry, and I certainly can't imagine either of them saying those things to any other gay member of their crews."
"You suggest that they reacted the way they did because I am not human."
"Mostly I think they just have a hard time understanding why Dr. Soong would have deliberately programmed your emotion chip to make you attracted to other men."
Data nodded slowly, considering this. "My father did have an unusual way of looking at things. I do not doubt that he would find this situation most amusing. But I am what he made me, and I accept that."
"Exactly." She leaned back in her chair and settled in more comfortably. "The people that we're attracted to is a great part of what makes us who we are. It was natural for you to want to defend yourself. A perceived personal attack can easily be interpreted as though it were a physical threat, and reacted to just as aggressively."
"I believe I understand. Shortly after Worf's suggestion that I alter the program, I began to experience a novel confluence of emotion consisting of 72.3% anger, 16.1% confusion, 7.8% sadness and 3.8% fear. I also felt a compulsion to express every thought on the subject that came to mind."
"I've never heard righteous indignation described quite so precisely before."
"I could tell you precisely which types of those emotions I experienced."
Troi let out a small laugh. "No, thank you Data, I think I get the picture."
"As you wish." Another detail occurred to him. "I believe that the mention of Lore may have precipitated my... rant."
"That was the most civil rant I've ever heard, Data." Her face softened. "But it's understandable. I know that thinking about Lore isn't easy for you. It's to be expected that someone in an already emotionally fragile state would react more easily to something like that."
"It is normal for the subject of Lore to evoke several strong emotions, and this occasion was not an exception. I followed your advice and allowed the emotions to continue, and looking back, it felt as though this served to... 'feed' the anger I felt. I believe it did not help that I subsequently began to consider my past experiences with anger."
"Which naturally brought you back to Lore."
Troi sighed again and moved to join Data on the couch. "I wish I could tell you that it will get easier, Data. You experienced a sort of trauma that most people can't even begin to imagine, and it's going to be a sore point for a very long time. But you seemed able to keep calm, so I'd say you're making progress."
Data recalled the first time he had thought about Lore after the installation of the chip. It had been... unpleasant. "I agree. Thank you, Counselor."
"I'm glad to help. So," she clapped her hands on her thighs and smiled wickedly. "Are you going to tell me just how you discovered your attraction to men in the first place?"
As Data observed Geordi constructing a model of the original United States schooner Enterprise to replace the one lost during the crash on Veridian III, he believed he was beginning to understand the appeal of crafting such objects by hand rather than simply replicating them. Geordi sat cross-legged on the floor of his quarters, surrounded by assorted miniaturized pieces of wood and rope and appeared to have no worldly concerns at all.
"I think his exact words were 'I'm such an ass.' Hand me that flag, will you?"
Data joined him on the floor and passed over the indicated replica flag. "Counselor Troi did suggest that Commander Riker's later silence was indicative of his embarrassment at his initial reaction."
"Then he stared off at your pile of chips for a second and said something like, 'he just stormed out on us, didn't he?' and laughed. He loved it. I don't think you've ever been more human to him than in that moment."
"Counselor Troi was similarly delighted. She said she was proud of the manner in which I ended the conversation while making clear what I thought of their reactions."
Geordi picked up what appeared to be the final piece of rigging. "Oh, you made it clear all right. Worf seemed worried that his honor would be tainted or something if he didn't get to apologize to you before he had to go back to DS9."
Data chose to forgo the obvious response regarding Worf's subsequent apology to him in the biometrics lab. The topic seemed to be a conversational dead end, as it were, and he found he wanted to raise another subject. "She also expressed amusement at my response when she inquired how I discovered my attraction to men."
"Oh yeah?" Geordi appeared distracted by the delicate operation of attaching the rigging to the mast.
"Yes. I am curious: do you also find it amusing that during my early exploration of emotion I watched several erotic holofilms in addition to the usual dramatic fare?"
Geordi's hand slipped and a yardarm swayed dangerously. He blinked rapidly - an expression of surprise still novel given that his ocular implants were only 63 days old - and steadied the yardarm. "Erotic holofilms?"
"Over the course of fourteen days I watched 382 films, seventeen of which were erotic in nature. 99.83% of all instances of sexual response were due to male humanoids."
Geordi cleared his throat as he ran a hand over his head. "What was the outlier?"
"A human female who bore an unfortunate resemblance to Tasha. I believe the response was caused by the sympathetic memory of our time together, as I do not experience attraction when I think of her. There is love, but only that for a lost friend." He had not finished that film.
"I'm sorry, Data."
"Do not be. Among other things, it serves as an excellent example to me of the varying degrees of intersection - or lack thereof - between lust and love." He resumed the original course of the conversation. "Did you find my approach amusing?"
"Well..." Geordi resumed his attempt to rig the ship. "It's certainly... strange to think of you watching those things. But it's a reasonable thing to do, I suppose."
"I believe Counselor Troi was primarily amused by the immediate mental image she said she formed of me taking copious notes and calculating exact angles and forces. I confess, prior to the installation of the chip this was precisely my method of exploring various facets of sexuality."
Geordi smiled and bit back a laugh. "So what are you going to do now?"
"I do not know. I find I am at a loss as to how to proceed with intimate relationships. I do not even know how best to determine whether a potential partner would be interested in such a relationship."
"Ah, I know how you feel."
"In what way?"
"Well, I mean, just because I've never had a relationship with a man doesn't mean the interest isn't there." Geordi finished attaching the rigging and the yardarm hung securely in its place. He leaned back, satisfied. "It's just... I'm awkward enough with relationships already, it's easier to try it without the added insecurity of whether or not they're even into men. And I've never really had anyone I felt motivated enough to get over that for."
"You suggest you would attempt to engage in a relationship with a male if you knew beforehand that his sexual orientation would not preclude it."
They were silent. Geordi stretched out his legs and grimaced. "Dammit, my leg's gone asleep."
"I have told you several times that it is not possible for an extremity to enter a semi-conscious somniative state."
"Now look-" Geordi glanced up from rubbing his calf.
Data just smiled at him.