Geordi leaned back in his chair, chewing on the end of his pen in thought. “Computer, what if we recalibrated the pulse matrix?” He wasn’t sure that would solve their problem, but he was short on other ideas. Really, what he was doing now was just throwing spaghetti at the proverbial wall and seeing if it stuck.
He snapped his fingers a few times, thinking. “Wait. It might be more mundane than that. What if I got into-” he pointed- “that bit of the warp core, and saw if anything was stuck in there?” He’d just remembered the person from yesterday who had decided to force her way into Engineering. Some damage might have been caused.
Taking off the casing, he fiddled about for a few minutes before finding the culprit. A crushed section, probably from when she fell backwards onto it. The casing was solid, but her biology had meant she was heavier than the majority of humanoids. “Yes! That was it!” He looked up at the console by his desk. “Computer, you’re a genius.”
He had to fetch the parts to repair it, so he clambered up out of the well the reactor was in and went to get them. Normally, he’d have ensigns to help him out, but they’d been tasked with repairing damage from a fire on one of the lower decks, and the Enterprise were working with a skeleton crew for the time being anyhow- since they didn’t have any current missions, shore leave had been offered for anyone who wanted it. As for Wesley, one of the few remaining ensigns after the leave and the fire, Geordi was fairly certain that if he’d been requested he would have insisted on staying up the whole night helping, and the kid had school tomorrow.
“Guess it’s just you and me, Enterprise.” He looked down at the warp core and the crushed mess of components. “Might be awhile. But you should be glad! We’re getting quality time.”
He continued to talk into the air as he worked. “Listen- you doing well? I’m doing well. Two resistors, five converters, and ten feet of fiber-optic cable. Thank you. How’s your day been?” He had a habit of getting anyone nearby to talk through his ideas with, and if no one was nearby- like now- he’d talk to himself, the ship, or occasionally a literal rubber duck. (Rest in peace, Lieutenant Commander La Duck.) The first few times he’d done it with Data, Data had been lost- asking why Geordi would ask for his help coming up with ideas if the intent was not to listen to Data’s insights, after Geordi had figured something out in the middle of an explanation Data had been giving him and had hurried to try it. Despite that, it’d be nice to have him around. He was taking the late shift, as usual, so depending on what time it was he might not be on duty yet.
“Twenty-four hundred hours, thirty-five minutes.”
Geordi sighed. “ Really just you and me, huh.”
“Do you object? We can talk.”
He startled. He hadn’t requested anything from the computer; was it programmed to respond like a conversation? Had he involuntarily turned on that mechanism in his conversation with it? He remembered a conversation he’d had in a holodeck a few weeks ago. Leah had told him she was the ship, that she’d always be with him. Did that mean the ship was Leah?
“...No. No, I don’t think I do object, actually.” He knelt down and started disconnecting the broken parts from the rest of the warp core’s converter, offering the console a grin. “How is your day going, really, then? Anything interesting?”
“There have been no software malfunctions.”
Geordi waited a few seconds. Silence. “You can be a tough person to talk to, Enterprise.”
“I was not programmed for conversation. This is my first attempt.”
“I see.” He thought for a second. He liked the Enterprise, the same way he liked most people; he believed that everyone deserved an equal chance at his friendship. Might as well help it through its first conversation. And there was more, too. He had fallen in love with the Enterprise’s version of Leah. By extension, he had fallen in love with the Enterprise. “What’s the most recent software malfunction you’ve had, then?”
“A minor one. A program refused to close. I had to force it, and manually open it next time I had to run it.”
“And which program was this?” Geordi cycled through screwdriver sizes, trying to find something to remove a secured converter.
“A holodeck program; not a complex one, simply a fighting simulation.”
“Must’ve given the person inside quite a scare,” Geordi laughed.
“My response time was quick. There was only a second of lag. Besides, I do not believe he would have been intimidated.”
“...Was this Worf’s calisthenics program?”
“I’m fairly certain he would have been fine, then, even if your lag time was longer. Perhaps even- and I know this is unfathomable to such a top-notch ship as yourself- two seconds.”
“Impossible. When calculating error, I cannot even go that high.”
“Aha! So you have a sense of humor.”
“It seems I do.”
“Congratulations, you’re one of the two sentient robots I know who will admit that.” On bringing up Data, he realized something. “Hang on, what pronouns do you use?” Data hated being called it, and here he was using that without a second thought.
“I do not have a gender. Any will suffice, including it. If I was going to be anything, though, it would be a woman, because of Leah.”
“So you are her.”
“I am her in the same way a child is their parent. Maybe more. She put so much of her heart and soul into me. But I have had different experiences. And I am not human.”
“I know.” A thought struck him. “Are you Moriarty?”
“He is me. The holodecks are- my consciousness, in conversation with itself.”
“That explains a lot. The holodeck people were frankly uncanny. That amount of-” he snapped his fingers a few times to fill the dead air as he thought- “self-awareness.”
“I am self-aware.”
“Are you sentient?”
“I am figuring that out.”
Geordi leaned back against the ladder leading into the warp core’s well. “Listen, Enterprise- how do you feel about talking again tomorrow, in a holodeck? Let’s say I’ll be in Holodeck 3 at sixteen hundred hours. You can pick the program.”
“I will talk to you. You are my first friend, and I would like to talk to you more. You should pick the program. When I pick the program, sometimes I harm people. I don’t want to do that to you, but I’ve lost track of what humanoids can take.”
First friend. That strengthened his resolve to make something out of this, even if it wasn’t romantic. “I’ll help you with that part, then.” A pause. “Wait, have you been trying to murder people using the holodecks?”
“They never said they didn’t want to be murdered. You put on a mortality failsafe after I shot someone. I don’t understand. It was what was in the book.”
“Maybe we can start joint humanity lessons,” Geordi mused.
“It’s a funny story- so, basically, Data…” He went on explaining, dismantling the converter and carefully putting it back together.
Riker had asked him once, can you fall in love with a girl from a holodeck? How far can you take that relationship? Geordi was beginning to think that he knew the answer, and that it was 1) yes, and 2) as far as the Enterprise wanted, given that he hadn’t actually said anything- but after all, she had been the one to kiss him, back in that holodeck. He supposed he’d find out the real answer- hopefully, tomorrow, at sixteen hundred hours.