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The 262nd Emotion

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His first emotion, Data realized looking back, had been Anticipation as he and Geordi had walked from Data’s quarters to Ten Forward. Second was Disgust at the drink Guinan had given him, followed immediately by Excitement. The emotions came quickly after that, and Data had filed each one away, either with a label already attached, or with a note to ask Geordi later.

By the time Geordi and Data had been assigned to search the Amargosa Observatory for trilithium, Data’s Mirth was Emotional State #23, followed a few minutes later by the Terror that left him helpless and frozen in place.

And then Geordi was taken. Remorse, Regret, Guilt. Frustration with himself for having been unable to act. Desperation and Anger at Captain Picard for refusing to deactivate him. Dread snuck in when they realized that 230 million lives were at stake. Finally, Relief washed over him when Lursa and B’Etor said that Geordi was unharmed.

By the time the crew of the Enterprise left Veridian III after the crash, Data had experienced 261 distinct emotional states.

 

———

 

Because they were part of the senior staff, the Farragut had only asked Data and Geordi to share a room with each other, instead of the “three people to a room” setup that most of the rest of the crew received. Though, as Data had observed to Geordi on their way to their room assignment, if you counted Spot, they did indeed have three “people”. Geordi had smiled.

There was a comfortable quiet between them as they each placed their items in temporary locations until they reached the nearest starbase. They hadn’t been able to salvage much from the crash, but Geordi found his extra VISOR and a small painting Data had made for him, and Data had found undamaged the drawer containing his medals, a book from Captain Picard, and the holoimage of Tasha.

Geordi finished first and sat heavily on the couch with a sigh. Taking off his VISOR, he massaged his temples.

“Are you alright?” Data asked. Concern. That one was familiar from when the Klingons had returned Geordi.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just tired.” He clicked the VISOR back into place and looked at Data. “How are you doing?” he asked earnestly.

Data cocked his head and quickly analyzed the state of his systems, paying particular attention to the now-fused emotion chip. “I am alright. The emotion chip has been using significantly more of my processing power than I had expected, but there has been minimal lag caused by its addition. Its integration has allowed me to more effectively anticipate the emotional responses and states of my crewmates, in particular those who I consider friends.”

“So you’re happy we did this?” Geordi asked, leaning forward.

In what Data had come to recognize as Happiness, his heart felt light. “Yes. Thank you for assisting me in the installation and helping me explore the beginnings of my experiences with emotion.”

Geordi smiled. “Of course, Data, anything for you.”

At this, Data recognized a new emotional state that replaced Happiness. If he had had a stomach, it would have felt like it did a backflip. It was not an unpleasant feeling… No, definitely not unpleasant. But it was completely unlike anything else he had experienced up to this point. He was about to ask Geordi about it, when something stopped him. Maybe this time it would be a better question for Counselor Troi.

“…until we get to Starbase 63?”

Data blinked then furrowed his eyebrows. “I… I apologize, I was not paying attention.”

Geordi raised an eyebrow. “That’s new,” he said with half a smile. “I was just wondering what you were planning on doing for the next two days.”

“I was hoping to explore more of my emotional capacity. The Farragut’s holodeck system is not as sophisticated as the Enterprise’s, and its library is not quite as extensive. However, there are still a wide range of programs available to experience, including Shakespearean replicas and—” he eyed Geordi with what he identified as Hopefulness — “Sherlock Holmes.”

Geordi’s smile widened. “I can’t think of a better way to pass the time.”

 

———

 

“It is an interesting experience,” Data commented as they left the holodeck a few hours later, “now reenacting the Holmsian stories with the addition of the emotion chip. Previously it was quite simple to mimic the great detective’s purely logical style, as I had no emotions of my own to prevent that. However, now I must put in an effort to maintain the same level of logic and not become… distracted.” He glanced at Geordi, who was oblivious to the pause.

“Did you still enjoy it though?” Geordi asked as they stopped, waiting for the turbolift to arrive to take them to the Ten Forward equivalent on the Farragut.

“Yes. In fact, I believe my ability to emotionally engage with the dilemmas of the characters increased my enjoyment of the story.”

As the turbolift doors opened, the pair stepped in. “Deck—” Geordi yawned. “Deck 12.”

Data’s eyebrows furrowed, and Geordi waved his hand. “It’s just been a long day.”

“Would you like to return to our room instead?”

After a pause, Geordi sighed. “Yeah, I think so. Sorry, Data, I know you were looking forward to going together. You’ll just have to have fun for me.”

“I… do not believe I would like to go without you. I shall return as well. Computer, cancel deck 12. Deck 5.” He paused for a moment. “Geordi, I seem to be experiencing another emotional state, one which I do not believe I have felt before.”

“Hm?”

“Just now, I felt… sad. However it was more than simple sadness.”

“Disappointment?” Geordi suggested as the doors opened.

“Disappointment. ‘The feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations,’” he recited. “Yes, I believe that is correct. I am disappointed that we are not going to deck 12 tonight.”

Geordi sighed. “I hate to be the one to introduce you to negative emotions, but I’m glad you have a word for it.”

“But Geordi,” Data started, cocking his head, “you have been the initiator of a far greater number of pleasurable emotions than unpleasant ones.” Including, he remembered, number 262.

Despite his exhaustion, a smile crossed his face. “Thanks, Data.”

As they stepped into their temporary room, Data watched as Geordi bent down to pet the insistent Spot for a moment. A small smile flitted across Data’s face as he watched the two of them interact. It had not been very long ago that Spot seemed to hardly tolerate Geordi’s presence. Now Data was beginning to suspect that she may have grown to like Geordi even more than him, a setup that Data did not mind in the least.

Reluctantly, Geordi stood. “I should go to bed. Good night, Data. Don’t have too much fun without me,” he teased.

“I will not,” Data replied, lingering disappointment muting his response slightly. “Good night.” He watched as Geordi crossed into the bedroom and out of sight. After a moment’s pause, he crossed to the replicator.

“A painting canvas, 30 by 60 centimeters, wooden frame; a standard set of paintbrushes; a standard palette; and a standard set of medium artist acrylic paints.”

A moment later the desired materials had appeared, and Data arranged them in the center living space. He paused a moment to “think” about what to paint — but this was merely a habit left over from performing for humanoids, as his positronic net worked so quickly, even with the emotion chip, that there would be no noticeable pause if Data did not create one.

Data placed spots of black and white on the palette, blended them, then added a dollop of blue. Carefully, he began to create a grey London sky.

 

———

 

The next day, Data resolved to ask Counselor Troi about Emotion 262. However before he could do so, Data found himself on Deck Twelve waiting for Geordi to finish a meeting with Captain Picard so they could have lunch. The Deck sported an even mix of people from the Enterprise and the Farragut. Most were gathered in pockets comprised of those from their own ships, but there was some mingling, presumably those who already knew people from the ship and were taking the time to catch up. One of the doors slid open, and Data glanced over to see Commander Riker enter. Data paused, then waved him over. Perhaps he could be of some assistance.

“Commander,” Data started, “may I ask you a question?”

Pulling out the chair across from Data, Riker sat over it. “I think you just did,” he observed, a smile playing on the corner of his mouth.

“I did just ask a question, that is correct,” Data countered, unfazed. “However, the nature of that question implies a second, further question for which permission is being requested.”

Riker blinked. Then, slowly, a wide smile spread across his face. “Touché!” He shook his head and laughed slightly. “What can I do for you, Data?”

“I have recently experienced a novel emotional state that I have been unable to characterize thus far. Emotional State 262—”

“You’ve had two hundred sixty-two emotions since you turned on the chip?” Riker repeated.

Data frowned slightly, confused. “Two hundred sixty-three. Is that a lot?”

A wry smile crossed his face. “Well humans don’t tend to number every emotion we experience, but it seems like a lot to me. It has been a rollercoaster the past few days though, so I’d believe it. What about this Emotional State 262?”

“It felt… different.” He paused, appearing to search for the words, in order to convey the uncertainty he was experiencing. “I was unaware up to that point in time that I could experience anything like it. It felt like…” Again, he paused. “If I had a fully organic body, it would have felt like my upper intestine had turned upside down and then righted itself. Additionally, it would have felt like my upper chest ached. However, it was a pleasant emotion, and I would like to experience it again. Do you know what this emotional state may have been?”

Riker frowned for a moment and gazed off to the side, thinking. “I don’t know, Data. Have you run a diagnostic to rule anything else out?”

“No,” Data conceded. “However, I do believe this was a new emotion and not simply a malfunction.”

Just then, the door slid open again, and Geordi entered. Seeing them both, he approached. “Hey, Data. Commander Riker. We still on for lunch, Data?”

“Yes, of course,” Data said as Riker stood.

“Let me know when you figure it out, Data.” And with a nod of acknowledgement from Data, he headed for a group of people from the Enterprise and Farragut.

“What was that about?” Geordi asked, sitting where Riker had been.

“I requested his assistance in identifying a so-far enigmatic emotional state I experienced yesterday.”

“Anything I could help with?”

Data hesitated. “Not at this time.”

Geordi looked down, examining the cup in front of Data. “Oh. Ok.”

A quiet moment passed, before Data spoke. “Have you decided what you will eat for lunch?”

“I’m thinking… Iskudhexkaris. It’s a Somali dish that my mother would always make for me and my sister to cheer us up whenever we were feeling sad or discouraged. It’s one of my favorite dishes though, so I like to treat myself to it once in a while, regardless of how I’m feeling about the world. How about you?”

“A croque monsieur. It is a traditional French dish of Earth.”

“First time?” Data nodded, and Geordi smiled. “Captain Picard must feel so honored that you’re having a French dish in one of your first few tests of food.”

Data cocked his head. “I have not informed him of this. Do you think I should?”

“Well, maybe make sure you like the French dish first,” he advised with a laugh.

And to Data’s amazement and encouragement, Emotional State 262 returned.

 

———

 

Finally, later that evening, Data had a chance to talk to Counselor Troi. The door to her temporarily assigned quarters slid open a moment after he pressed the bell. As he entered, he glanced around. “Doctor Crusher is not here,” he observed.

Troi smiled. “She apparently can’t get enough of work and is having dinner with the Farragut’s Chief Medical Officer to exchange tales and tricks of the trade. Have a seat,” she offered.

“Thank you,” Data said, sitting at the table.

“It’s not quite as comfortable as my normal arrangement, but this’ll have to do for now. What’s on your mind, Data?”

And at her prompting, Data described the same feelings he had shared with Riker.

“Hm. What did Geordi say? He’s been helping you with most of this, correct?”

“I did not feel that sharing this with him was an appropriate course of action this time.”

“Why not?”

Data opened his mouth, then froze. “I… do not know.”

“Do you mind describing to me what you were doing or thinking about when this happened?”

“I had just expressed my appreciation to Geordi of his assistance and support regarding the emotion chip. He then said, ‘Of course, Data, anything for you.’ Experiencing and attempting to analyze this emotion then distracted me, causing me to not hear what Geordi said next.”

“Mm. Anything else unusual?”

Data thought for a moment. “Before that, in the course of conversation, I said the phrase ‘our room’, and I experienced an inexplicable increase in happiness.”

Counselor Troi leaned forward, folding her hands. “Data, how comprehensive is your emotion chip?”

“I… do not know. I have yet to be in a situation in which I do not experience an emotion that would be expected.”

She nodded. “Have you considered the possibility that your emotion chip, whether in its original design or through fusing with your neural net, includes things that may not be strictly emotions per say?”

“The thought had not occurred to me, though it is possible.”

“I see.” She paused. “Do you think about the future very often, Data?”

Data displayed a confused expression, as he could not foresee where this question may be leading. “I do often consider what is happening in upcoming days to make sure I can plan my recreational activities around other commitments.”

“No, I mean the future. Say, in a few years, maybe even after the Enterprise. When you become older. ”

“On occasion, yes.”

“Can you describe to me some of the commonalities in what you think about?”

“I frequently think about what my career path may lead me to. There is a possibility that I may become a captain. Spot will eventually die, and I will have another cat after her. And…” Data stopped. Embarrassment? Is that what this is? Why?   

“Yes?” Counselor Troi prompted.

“And… I have never thought about a future in which Geordi was not a close part of my life.”

Counselor Troi’s expression softened. “Data… With everything that you’ve just told me, you may want to consider that you have a crush on Geordi.”

Data blinked.

“A… crush?”

“Yes. I don’t want you to simply go with what I say though, I need you to think about. Talk to Geordi. Maybe describe to him what you felt. Sometimes it’s hard to tell someone the truth about how you feel, but I think it will be worth it.”

 

———

 

It was 03:26 when Data found that he couldn’t focus on his painting, or much of anything else for that matter. Careful not to raise the attention of Spot, he padded towards the door and made his way to Deck 12. The hissing of the Deck 12 doors as they opened seemed to echo through the empty hall. He stepped inside, and the doors hissed shut again. Mind still wandering, he made his way to a table by the window and sat facing the stars.

A crush… The words still rolled around in his mind as he tried making sense of everything. The first 261 emotions had been so simple, so straightforward in comparison. He knew — or had a rough idea of — how to respond to the others. Happiness? Share it with others, and perhaps repeat the stimulus. Anger? Express it in an appropriate way, at the appropriate time, but simply let it go if necessary.

But a crush?

If he explained his feelings to Geordi, Geordi likely would not feel the same. After all, he has only expressed interest in women in the past. It is possible that this information would add a new, undesirable dynamic to their relationship. However, if he chose to keep his feelings private, he would continue feeling Emotion 262, but be unable to share it with anybody else.

“Miss the Enterprise?”

Data snapped out of his thoughts and found Guinan standing next to him.

“I am uncertain what you mean.”

“Do you miss the Enterprise?” she repeated

Data cocked his head. “It was merely a ship. A new ship will be built and named the Enterprise. I do not see what there is to miss.”

“Ah, but see, Data, that’s where you’re wrong. A ship isn’t just a ship. It’s a community. It can even become a family, for some, the only real family that they’ve ever had.”

“Hm.” Data was quiet for a moment. “Was the Enterprise that for you?”

Guinan smiled. “The Enterprise is special.”

They were both quiet until Data spoke again. “I cannot help but think of Molly O’Brien. The Enterprise is only home that she has known.”

“It may be the only place she’s lived, but a home isn’t necessarily a place, Data.”

Data looked at her, eyebrows drawn together. “How can a home not be a place?”

“Well, sometimes it can be a person, or a group of people. And if you’ve found a person that’s home?” She smiled. “Then you are very lucky.”

 

———

 

There was a comfortable silence in Data and Geordi’s room the next afternoon, underlined by Spot’s soft purring from the couch, where Geordi sat half petting her and half reading. Data’s paintbrush was barely audible as it swept across the canvas, carefully creating the form of a deerstalker hat.

“Geordi, what does a crush feel like?”

An odd expression crossed Geordi’s face as he looked up, one that Data couldn’t quite read, but it was gone just as quickly as it had appeared.

“I dunno, Data. I, uh… get happy whenever I see them,” Geordi stated carefully, “or think about doing things together. My insides feel warm, like swallowing a big mug of coffee. And I get pretty nervous and excited and can’t really believe they’re talking to me,” he said with half a laugh.

Data was quiet for a moment. “Excitement” had been Emotion 3, and “Happiness” had been Emotion 21, but he did not think he had experienced “Nervousness” yet. Perhaps that was what Emotion 262 had been.

“What does ‘nervousness’ feel like?”

“Well, my heart starts beating really fast. Sometimes my stomach feels like it flips over.” Geordi hesitated. “Data, why are you asking me this?”

Counselor Troi’s words echoed through Data’s head. It’s hard… “I believe—” He stopped. He was correct that he had not experienced Nervousness yet, but it was now Emotional State 264.

As if reading his mind, Geordi spoke. “Data, are you nervous right now?”

Data opened his mouth, then stopped and simply nodded. That much at least he couldn’t keep from him.

Leaning forward, Geordi looked at him carefully. “Why are you nervous?”

“I believe I may have a crush.”

At this, Geordi seemed to deflate slightly, but he forced a smile. “Really?”

“Yes. I believe I have a crush…” It will be worth it. “…on you.”

The smile fell as Geordi stared at him for a second, mouth hanging open. Then, to Data’s surprise, he laughed.

“I know we’re good friends, Data, but that’s not what a crush is. It’s more than that.”

“I know.”

The seriousness with which Data said those two words made Geordi stop. The room was quiet for a moment.

“I apologize if I have made our relationship uncomfortable; I will request a new room assignment first thing—”

“No!” It came out more forcefully than Geordi had expected, and Spot, startled, jumped off the couch. “No, it’s just… I like you too. I have for a long time, but I had stopped hoping, because you had no idea and your first try at a relationship didn’t work, so I never actually thought… And then when you did get the emotion chip, I figured Doctor Soong had made it so you’d like women, if he thought to include that at all, and…”

Before he knew what he was doing, Data had set down his paint brush and palette and was striding over to Geordi. As he sat on the couch, Geordi reached up to take the back of Data’s neck and gently pulled him closer until their lips met. His hand felt strong, yet fragile, and Data knew there were many things in this galaxy that would do Geordi harm. He also knew that he would do everything in his power to prevent that from happening.

All too soon, Geordi was breaking away, and Data suddenly knew what people meant by time passing at different speeds.

“I have wanted this for so long,” Geordi said, smiling.

“I am realizing that, in a way, as have I,” Data revealed, sitting up. “I simply did not have the words for it, nor the physical sensations, both of which have allowed me to compare my experiences with others. For instance, I preferred spending free time with you above any other crewmate. Additionally, whenever you were in peril, I found myself more preoccupied with your safe return, compared to other members of the senior staff, or even—” was that Guilt? “—Captain Picard.”

A small, incredulous laugh escaped Geordi as he gazed at Data. He was quiet for a moment. “What do we do now?”

Data cocked his head. “I believe the next step in a traditional courtship after expressing interest is a first date.”

“Is that your way of asking me out?”

A tentative smile snuck onto Data’s face. “I believe it is.”

“Then I believe my answer is yes.”

 

———

 

That night, Data found himself on Deck 12 again, thinking.

“You’re back,” Guinan observed, not startling him this time.

“Yes. I believe you were correct.”

“About what?”

“Home.”