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Data Recovery

Chapter Text

Year: 2379

Stardate: 56844.9

 

Geordi held the synaptic scanner up to the cable attached to B-4, making certain that the transfer was working, “I still can't believe the Captain went along with a memory download.”

Data could hear the worry in his friend’s voice, “Captain Picard agrees that the B-4 was probably designed with the same self-actualisation parameters as myself. If my memory engrams are successfully integrated into his positronic matrix, he should have all my abilities.” He sat in a chair, facing away from B-4, who was seated in the chair behind him. Between them was a transfer console which displayed the files being transferred through the cables from himself to the prototype.

Geordi walked away, to check the monitor display on the nearby wall, “Yes, but he would have all your memories as well. Do you feel comfortable with that?”

Data replied, with a nearly indiscernible hesitation, “I feel nothing, Geordi. It is my belief that with my memory engrams he will be able to function as a more complete individual.”

Geordi frowned at that. Data never spoke of what happened when he had been taken by the Borg, back when they tried to stop Zefram Cochrane’s launch of the Phoenix, but Geordi knew something terrible had occurred. When they worked on repairing the damage and replacing his bioplast, Data had Geordi remove the emotion chip. Geordi kept his voice calm, although it saddened him that his friend had given up on his dream of feeling emotions. “An individual more like you, you mean.” He gestured with the PADD in his hand as he walked back towards the two androids.

Data raised both eyebrows, pressed his lips together and nodded, “Yes.”

Geordi let out a loud sigh and set the PADD down, “Maybe he's not supposed to be like you, Data. Maybe he's supposed to be exactly the way he is.” He picked up the hand scanner and checked the transfer port on the back of Data’s head.

Data raised his eyebrows again, and moved his head slightly, “That might be so, but I believe he should have the opportunity to explore his potential.”

Geordi shook his head, “Okay …” he announced, then unplugged the cable from Data’s head. “We're done.”

Data’s hair automatically closed over the port as he stood and walked around the table to speak to his brother, “B-4, do you know where you are?”

Geordi matched Data’s movements, walking around to face the prototype.

B-4’s eyes were wide, and his expression was more like a toddler’s than an adult’s, “I am in a room ...with lights.” How is this possible? Data’s transferred engrams were active within B-4. He had his full memories and consciousness, and was receiving all input from B-4’s senses. He tried to exert some control, to move or to speak. No effect. This was not how it was supposed to happen...

Geordi raised an eyebrow and glanced over at Data.

Data frowned for a moment, then asked, “Can you remember ...our father?”

B-4’s head swayed slightly as he looked up at Data, “Our father?” It is quite odd to be looking up at myself...

Data nodded hopefully, “Yes... Doctor Soong.”

B-4 smiled, and for a moment, it seemed as if he would answer in the affirmative, “No.” I seem to have no access to the upper level cognitive functions or active memory. Most intriguing.

Data frowned again, “Do you know the name of the Captain of this vessel?”

B-4 replied, “Captain? ...No.” Hmm. I also never realized how annoying I can be.

Geordi looked between the two, then spoke as sympathetically as he could, “Data, he's assimilating a lot of programming.” As he spoke, Data moved behind B-4 to remove the cable from his port. Geordi continued, “Remember, he's a prototype, a lot less sophisticated than you are. We just don't know if his matrix will be able to adapt. We really need to give him some time.”

Data frowned and bent to inspect a strange port on the back of B-4’s neck, “Geordi, what purpose does this serve?”

Geordi circled around to look, “What?”

Data pointed out the small port with blue LEDs, “This.”

Geordi bent to take a closer look, “That's a redundant memory port. Maybe the provisional memory storage is in case his neural pathways overload?” He straightened up, “Do you mind if I keep him here for a while. ...Run a few diagnostics?”

Data also straightened up, then shook his head, “No, I do not mind.” He turned to leave engineering. B-4 turned to see Data leaving, and stood up to follow him.

Geordi called out to his friend, “Data…”

Data turned and spoke to B-4, “No! You must remain with Commander La Forge. He is going to try to and help you.”

B-4 looked back at him with bewilderment, but returned to his chair. Geordi will not be able to help in this matter, but at least I know what the problem is. Unfortunately, I have no way to tell Geordi or myself, so I suppose the original me will have to figure it out, later.

Geordi waited until he was certain Data was far out of earshot, then regarded B-4, “I’m fairly certain that your positronic pathways aren’t advanced enough to run any of Data’s programs. I can’t even tell if all of his memory engrams are loaded into you or not.” He sighed again, and began running diagnostics.

B-4 answered Geordi with, “I do not understand.” I cannot even seem to communicate with B-4, much less with Geordi.

As he checked each of the pathways, Geordi told the prototype, “I know you don’t. Don’t worry about it. After this, we’ll get you settled into Data’s quarters.”

B-4 remained quiet while Geordi worked on the diagnostics. I suppose I should take this time to do my own diagnostics from within. It could become important for me to attempt to communicate, if only to let them know to erase me from B-4’s memory pathways.

 


 

 

The diagnostics were finished after a couple of hours, and Geordi led B-4 up to Data’s quarters. “All right, B-4. I want you to stay here, in this chair, until Data gets back.”

B-4 complied, sitting in the chair, and watched Geordi leave.

“Meow.”

B-4’s yellow eyes widened with surprise and pleasure, as the orange tabby cat jumped up onto his lap. Hello, Spot. The prototype reached over with his right hand to serenely pet the animal, and proceeded to do so for the next thirty minutes. A slight bleep emitted from the port in B-4’s neck, causing him to stiffly freeze, and halting inner-Data from his attempts to get access to B-4’s higher functions. What was that?

Spot leaped off of B-4, who then got up from the chair and walked over to Data’s desk. His fingers flew over the console’s touchpad, as he gained entry to the main computer and began to transfer the information.

With a growing sense of alarm, Inner-Data attempted to stop him, but without success. This explains what the provisional memory port is for! Why would he have been programmed to do this? He is rerouting the queries through multiple substations and gaining information about basic stellar cartography, star charts, communications protocols, and uplinks from colony tracking stations… for what purpose? All I can do is hope that Geordi notices… or that I do. But how long will that take?

His answer came an hour later, when Data entered his quarters, walked over to B-4 and deactivated him.

 


 

 

Inner-Data’s consciousness sprung back into motion as B-4 was reactivated. B-4’s internal chronometer has malfunctioned and is no longer working. I wonder how much time has passed? This must be how it is for humans. Intriguing.

B-4 looked to the left, at Data, then down at the restraining device around him, then back to Data, watching the younger android move to stand in front of him. “Brother, ...I ...cannot move.”

Data shook his head once, “No, I have only activated your cognitive and communication subroutines.”

B-4 simply asked, “Why?”

Data’s voice was soft and apologetic, “Because you are dangerous.”

B-4 asked again, “Why?”

Data explained, “You have been programmed to gather information that can be used against this ship.”

B-4’s eyes moved back and forth, as he attempted to access his files,  “I ...do not ...understand.”

Data nodded, replying in a near whisper, “I know.” He paused for a moment, then spoke in a firmer tone of voice, “Do you know anything about Shinzon's plans against the Federation?”

B-4 replied,  “No.”

Data walked around to B-4’s left side, again, “Do you have any knowledge of the tactical abilities of his ship?”

B-4 answered, “No. ...Can I move now?

Data shook his head, “No.” He brought up both hands to the left side of B-4’s neck. In his left hand was a small screwdriver.

B-4 sounded almost frightened, and his voice wavered. “What are you doing?” I suppose this is where we are deactivated for good.

Data’s expression showed a slight bit of sadness, as he told the other android, “I must deactivate you.”

B-4 stared blankly ahead, now. “For how long?”

Data paused in reply, then said, “Indefinitely.”

B-4 began to ask, “How long is that--” but was cut off as the screwdriver found its mark and shut down all functions in the prototype.

 


 

 

Sensory inputs all came on line, as both B-4 and the Data inside him were reactivated. Data wasn’t sure at how much time had passed, and again mused about being more like a human. He was able to see and hear, now, through B-4’s senses, and he noted with slight distress that his quarters were emptied of all his possessions.

Geordi La Forge was next to him, putting the small screwdriver back into his pocket. “Follow me, B-4.” His blue ocular implants had a wet sheen to them, and his eyes were rimmed with red.

B-4 began to follow, “Where are we going?”

Geordi’s voice broke slightly, as he replied, “You’re going to see the captain.”

B-4 continued to follow Geordi obediently. Why does Geordi look as if he has been crying? What has happened to my quarters? Where is Spot?

Geordi brought B-4 into Captain Picard’s quarters, then sat him down in the chair across the desk from the captain. “I still have some things to do, sir. Let me know when you want me to retrieve B-4.”

Captain Picard nodded to Geordi, “Thank you, Mister La Forge.” He gazed across the table, looking at B-4. His expression was even, although his eyes seemed to be filled with a haunted glaze.

B-4 looked back at the captain, although his eyes also scanned across the desk and the items on top of it. Something is very wrong.

Captain Picard took a deep breath, then let out a slow exhale, “One of the saddest duties a captain has to perform is to notify the next of kin when a crew member dies.” He paused again, then continued, “As you were Data’s brother, you would be considered next of kin.”

B-4 answered, “Data is my brother.” I have been killed in the line of duty? The emptiness in my quarters now makes sense, as does Geordi’s sadness. I must try to communicate.

Captain Picard placed his forearms on the desk, bringing his hands together and interlacing the fingers, “Your brother, Data, sacrificed his own life to save my life, as well as this ship and the Federation. He was an extraordinary man, an outstanding Starfleet officer, and a loyal friend. Those of us who knew him will miss him and grieve for him in ways we cannot even imagine, right now.”

B-4 listened quietly, as the captain spoke about Data, although his attention was often distracted by the various items on the captain’s desk. I did not realize my death would have so great an effect on the captain… Wait… I have an idea for communication...

Captain Picard finished his eulogy about Data, “I don't know if all this has made any sense. I wanted you to know what kind of man he was. In his quest to be more like us ...he helped us to see what it means to be human.”

B-4 attempted to comprehend what had been said, “My... my brother was not human.” At least you were aware of that, my brother.

Captain Picard smiled very slightly, “No, he wasn't. But his wonder, his curiosity about every facet of human nature ...allowed all of us to see the best parts of ourselves. He evolved. He embraced change because he always wanted to be better than he was.”

B-4 attempted to process that,  “I...I do not understand.”

Captain Picard leaned back in the chair, then placed both hands, palms down, on the desk surface, “Well, I hope someday you will.”

A beep sounded from the intercom, and Worf’s deep voice announced, “Captain, the warp engines are ready to go on line.”

Captain Picard responded, as B-4 reached for one of the items on his desk, “I'm on my way. Please inform Commander La Forge.” He watched B-4, as the android studied the isolinear board he had taken. There was no sign of understanding or sentience, so he told the prototype, “We’ll talk later.” and got up from the chair to head to the door.

B-4 began to absently sing, “'Never saw the sun...' 'Never saw the sun...' 'Never saw the sun…” then stopped. His attention still seemed to be on the object in his hands.

Captain Picard came to a halt and turned to regard B-4. When the android stopped, he sang the next line to him, “'...shining so bright.”

B-4, while still focused on the isolinear board, sang back,  “...shining so bright. Never saw things…” Captain, it is me. My music subroutines seem to bypass all my other pathways.

Picard sang back, softly, “...going so right.”

B-4 sang back, “'...going so right.” I cannot see the captain.

 The “whoosh” of the doors opening and closing was heard, and Data felt consternation. How long would it take before someone figured out that he was trapped inside B-4?

 

Chapter Text

Year: 2380

Stardate: Unknown

 

Data was beginning to despair. While B-4’s internal chronometer wasn’t working, he was able to figure out that time was passing between the moments that his brother was activated. Geordi had spent a few months trying to work on B-4’s self-actualization, with no improvement, and neither he nor Captain Picard seemed to figure out that the occasional song that B-4 sang was an attempt at communication. They had deactivated him, and when he was activated again, he was no longer aboard the Enterprise.

His internal chronometer was still broken, but he was able to see a calendar from where B-4 was seated. Since he still had no control over any part of B-4, he could only see whatever had B-4’s attention. Currently, that was a small crystal statue that was faceted and refracted the light, so that colors could be seen. Data decided to concentrate on what B-4 was hearing.

“Here’s the final authorization, Doctor Maddox.”

“Thank you. It’s about time we got him.”

There were footsteps and then a man walked in front of B-4 and crouched slightly, to catch his attention. “Hmm. It looks exactly like Data.”

B-4 looked up from the crystal and into the man’s face. “Where am I?” It seems Doctor Maddox has aged a bit during my absence.

Dr. Maddox’s dark hair was now peppered with gray, and there were some wrinkles around the edges of his blue eyes. He ignored B-4’s question, and seemed to be speaking to someone else. “We should get it into the lab for diagnostics. I spent a while waiting for the requisition to be approved. I don’t want to waste any more time.”

“Yes, Doctor Maddox.”

Hands grabbed at B-4 from behind, and Data made an attempt to communicate by singing. But, tell me – who’s the youth whose faltering feet .. With difficulty bear him on his course?”

Dr. Maddox reached for a small screwdriver, sighing, “Don’t tell me it’s going to sing the whole time. I’d better leave it deactivated until we can figure out how to search its memory.”

Before Data could try to sing again, everything went black.

 



Awareness returned, and now he was looking up at a white, tiled ceiling with bright lights. A man he didn’t recognize was bent over him and hooking up cables to B-4’s head.

B-4 spoke in a meek tone, “Where am I?”

The man working on him didn’t reply, nor did Doctor Maddox, but a woman came over to the edge of the worktable that B-4 was lying on and smiled at him. “You’re at the Daystrom Institute.” Her dark hair was pulled back in a bun, and blue eyes gazed down at him from her olive-complexion face.

B-4 tried to process the answer, then asked, “Who are you?”

The woman answered, “I’m Doctor Vanzanen. Just lay here and behave and we’ll run some tests on you.”

B-4 paused, then asked, “Why?”

“You’re wasting your time, Emily. That thing’s as dumb as a doorknob.”

Doctor Vanzanen shook her head, “I feel bad for him. He looks frightened.”

Doctor Maddox grumbled from somewhere outside of B-4’s peripheral vision, “I’ve spent so long trying to understand Soong’s work, and no matter what I do, it’s always beyond my ability. Data was extraordinary, and losing him has been a catastrophe.”

“Didn’t the Enterprise’s Chief Engineer say that Data had done a complete memory transfer into this one?” Doctor Vanzanen finished hooking one of the cables into B-4.

“Yes.” Doctor Maddox answered, “But he can’t seem to find where the transfer went and, so far, neither have I. We should -- watch it, Zome! You’ll---

Everything went black.

 


 


Data was back online again, still staring up at the white ceiling. How much time had passed, he didn’t know. It seemed that there had been some sort of accident, before his deactivation, so he began a self-diagnostic. He contemplated singing, but couldn’t see anyone nearby. I wonder if they’ll do so much damage to B-4 that they’ll wind up destroying both of us? To his relief, the self-diagnostic showed all systems fully functional, except for vocalization. B-4’s auditory sensors picked up footsteps approaching. By the sounds and rhythms, Data surmised it to be two people conversing. Their voices became louder as they entered the lab.

“He’s over here.” the voice of Dr. Vanzanen could be heard. “Thank you for coming. We’ve gone through seven other cybernetics specialists, so far.”

A man with ridges that ran down the middle of his forehead to the bridge of his nose walked over to B-4 and peered down into his face. “Hmm, does he speak?”

Data recognized the man’s race as Tyran.

“He did,” Dr. Vanzanen answered, “But then Mister Rylan accidentally hit the vocal box. We’ll have that fixed in a day.” she assured him.

The man frowned, then nodded and moved out of B-4’s vision. “Let me see the readouts, please, and the specs for the android.”

For a time, there was no other conversation. Data assumed the man was studying whatever the readouts were. Once again, Data was struck with how different the observation of time passage was when one didn’t have a working chronometer. He could hear another set of footsteps faintly approaching.

Finally, the man spoke. “I do believe that the transferred files everyone is looking for are in this android, but there’s very bad news.”

Doctor Maddox’s voice was audible, as he entered the room, “Bad news, Doctor Elenon?”

“Yes.” Doctor Elenon responded, “As I was telling Emily, I think your Data is in this android. However, it’s not going to be easy to retrieve. This android… what was its name, again?”

“B-4.”

“Yes, B-4, of course… Anyway, its index system’s been corrupted badly.” Doctor Elenon spoke in an almost apologetic tone. “Even if you could get Commander Data’s code working, this one’s brain won’t be able to run it. I don’t have confidence enough in my ability to recover the index filesystems or the hidden engrams, although I do know someone who might. If she can’t do it, nobody can.”

Doctor Maddox walked over next to where B-4 lay, looking sadly down at him, “Who is that and where can we find her?”

“Her name is Doctor T’Mera Chipman. I’m not sure where she is. I thought she was here at the institute?”

A look of anguish passed over Bruce Maddox’s face, followed by a wince, “You’re right. She’d be able to do it.” He looked up and away from B-4, and over to somewhere that Data couldn’t see. “She’s currently at Starfleet Medical on Earth. They’re attempting to save her life.” He paused, then added, “She was on a ship that was attacked by the Borg. She somehow got away, but the implants…” he trailed off.

“By the stars…” the horror in Doctor Elenon’s voice was palpable.

Doctor Maddox frowned, then said, “Let’s go back to my office.”

“What about B-4? Deactivate him?” Doctor Vanzanen came back into view.

Bruce Maddox shook his head, “Not right now. Leave him on. I’ll return later and fix his vocals.”

Doctor Vanzanen nodded, then walked out of the line of vision, followed by the two men. The sound of three sets of footsteps got softer until they faded out into silence.

Data made more attempts to communicate with B-4 or to try to exert control over his body, but nothing seemed to work. He began to ponder over what the Tyran had said, and found himself in agreement. He accessed his memory files, and brought up the ones pertaining to Doctor T’Mera Chipman.




Chapter Text

Year: 2366

Stardate: 43630.2

 

The Cybernetics and AI Sciences Conference on Vulcan was going fairly well. Data was especially enthusiastic about information from one seminar, entitled “Synaptic Scan Transference.” On the third night of the conference, he attended the social gathering, and did his best to mingle. He had finished speaking with someone, when the sounds of a heated debate reached his ears.

Data glanced in the direction of the argument, and saw the woman whose strong contralto voice carried to his ears. She stood 1.707 meters tall, with a slim build. Straight brown hair fell to her shoulders, with full bangs that ended just above slanted eyebrows. The tips of her pointed ears poked out from beneath the sides of her hair. While her appearance was Vulcan, her display of emotion was decidedly not. He recognized her from the audience in a few of the seminars, and was intrigued.

Accessing: Name: T’Mera Chipman, PhD. Graduate of Daystrom Institute, Class of 2360. Degrees in Psychology, Computer Systems, Artificial Intelligence and Holography Systems. Prolific holosuite program author.

The man she was arguing with stood 1.778 meters tall, with dark hair that displayed advanced male pattern baldness. His gold Starfleet dress uniform bore the rank of Lieutenant. His emotions were also on display, and Data recognized his disposition as “indignant.”

Accessing: Name: Lewis Zimmerman, PhD. Starfleet Academy Class of 2342. Degrees in Systems Engineering, Holography and Artificial Intelligence. Colloquially known as the “Father of Modern Holography.” Current assignment: Holo-Programming Center at Jupiter Station.

T’Mera gritted her teeth, “That’s not why I wrote that paper, Lewis. I can’t believe you’d take my research and then do something so dangerous with it.”

“Dangerous?” Zimmerman snorted, “There’s nothing dangerous about holograms. If you feel threatened, just shut them off and erase the program.”

T’Mera returned, “This wasn’t just a hologram. It was accidental sentience, and he was able to use the computer controls from inside the holodeck. Those Galaxy Class holodecks and computers are a calamity waiting to happen...”

Lewis Zimmerman shook his head, “Doctor Chipman, I’m trying to leave my legacy. Not that you’d know anything about those. Your legacy will be “Vulcan Love Slave”, most likely.”

T’Mera’s dark eyes flashed with anger, “Is that always going to be your counter-argument to me?” She frowned, took a sip from her glass, and told him, “Oh, you’ll leave a legacy, all right, Lew. Just not the one you wanted to.” She let out a long sigh, and then, as if feeling Data’s gaze, turned her head to the right, meeting his yellow eyes in a locked stare for 3.45 seconds. The anger seemed to drain from her and she turned back to continue her discussion.

Around the same time, one of the attendees of the conference approached Data, and he had to turn his attention away from Doctor Chipman.

 


 

Year: 2367

Stardate: 44631.1

 

The reception hall at the Vulcan Academy of Science once again held the social gathering for the annual Cybernetics and AI Sciences Conference. Data stood next to Lieutenant Reginald Barclay, who had come along with him. Over the past eleven months that the Lieutenant had been part of the crew of the Enterprise, he had gotten to be more relaxed around them. Currently, the Lieutenant seemed to prefer to stand silently next to Data as various scientists walked up to ask the android questions about himself.

Lieutenant Barclay waited until the one speaking to Data had finished and moved away. “Are you having fun, Commander?”

Data glanced up at the sandy-haired man, “I am not capable of experiencing “fun” as a human would. However, this experience is not disagreeable tonight. Social gatherings have a complicated set of variables, so they often become problematic for me.”

“I know what you mean.” Barclay sipped at the drink in his hand, then straightened up a bit. “There’s Doctor Chipman.”

Data followed the Lieutenant’s gaze and easily spotted the holographer at the bar. “She attended last year’s conference. I did not meet her, but I did witness her argument with Doctor Zimmerman.”

Barclay nodded, his eyes still on the woman at the bar, “She and Lewis argue all the time. It makes me glad I wasn’t on the initial holographic suite and matrix design team, when both of them had to work together.”

Data also watched the Doctor as she ordered and received her drink, “It is curious that he is referred to as the “Father of Modern Holography”, while there are very few references to her outside of their field. She wrote quite a bit of the software, according to Federation records, and most of the AI algorithms for entertainment holo-programming. Would that not make her the “Mother of Modern Holography”?”

“You know, I never thought about that.” Barclay replied, frowning into his glass. “I guess that because what she does has more to do with entertainment and his work is more…”

“Utilitarian in nature?” Data offered.

“Exactly.” Barclay answered. “So, it makes it seem that what he does is more important. I mean, what’s going to seem more impressive? Holograms to help out in sickbay and around the house, or a program that lets you be inside a famous book or in a forest?”

Data replied, “Both would seem of equal importance to me. I am accessing her catalog of holosuite programs and it turns out that I have enjoyed many of them, especially the one called Woodland Pattern One.”

Doctor Chipman walked further down the bar, then hopped up to sit on one of the nearby stools. Her position on the stool allowed her to catch Data staring at her from across the room. Dark eyes locked with his for 4.674 seconds.

“She’s looking at you.” Barclay stated the obvious.

Data continued to hold his gaze on her, “Most likely due to the fact that I was looking at her, first. I am attempting to discern her current emotional state and failing.”

“Maybe she’s interested in you.” Barclay told the android, then began to move. “I’ll go check.” and he was halfway across the room before Data could tell him not to bother.

T’Mera tore her eyes away from Data and fixed them on the approaching Lieutenant. She moved her glass to her left hand, then held up her right hand, dividing her fingers into the Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper… Lieutenant Barclay, wasn’t it?”

Barclay smiled, “Hello, Doctor Chipman. Yes, but call me Reg. How are you?”

“I’m doing fine.” she answered him, “Yourself?”

Data could hear their conversation from his position and moved towards a potted plant, pretending to examine it.

“Oh, I’m fine.” Barclay replied to her. He paused, then told her, “We couldn’t help but notice you…”

T’Mera raised an eyebrow slightly, “We?”

“Commander Data and myself.” Barclay stammered slightly, “H-he’s very interested in your …  body ….”

There was a long enough pause that T’Mera’s right eyebrow shot up far enough for the upward slant to disappear beneath her bangs.

“.. of work! Of work! Your body of work!” Barclay screwed his eyes shut and winced. “We were talking about holography.”

T’Mera looked over at Data, then back at Reginald Barclay, “He seems more interested in botany, at the moment.”

Reginald Barclay swallowed nervously, then told her, “I should go. It was nice seeing you.” He turned to flee, nearly bowling over a younger man approaching them.

Data glanced up from the plant, but not in time to see the young man’s face. His clothing was rather elaborate and rich, and seemed tailored to fit him. The man’s long, purple hair was drawn up into a ponytail at the back of his head.

T’Mera held up her right hand in the Vulcan salute, “Live long and prosper, Felix.”

Felix brought his own right hand up, struggling to get his middle and ring fingers to remain apart. “Peace and long life, T’Mera. Who was that fellow?”

T’Mera took a slow sip from her drink, then replied, “Lieutenant Reginald Barclay. A very imaginative diagnostics engineer. A bit socially inept, but aren’t we all?” her lips quirked into a slight smile, “He thinks outside the box.”

Felix chuckled, then asked, “What about the fellow with the eyes of yellow? He seems rather mellow…”

T’Mera lifted her head to scan the room, then found her target, “That is Commander Data, of Starfleet.”

Felix followed the line of her eyes, “The artificial lifeform? What’s he like?”

T’Mera turned her attention back to Felix, “I’m not sure. I’ve never met him. He’s usually surrounded by adoring fans in the cybernetics community.”

Felix smiled across the room at Data, then spoke to T’Mera, “He’s got a nice face, don’t you think?”

T’Mera looked back over to where Data was watching her, “His face is amazing. The amount of facial expressions he seems capable of makes me curious about what Soong was using for myofibril. The amount of servos in his neck… and look at his hands. He’s got amazing articulation.”

Felix let out a soft laugh, “I bet you say that to all the androids…”

Data blinked in surprise. He had found that remark amusing.

T’Mera shook her head, looking down into her glass, “I’ll have to steal that line from you.”

Felix told her, “Be my guest.” then his expression and tone of voice turned more solemn, “I had another reason for coming over to see you. You know I normally won’t attend these things. I …” he paused, then continued, “I heard about the Melbourne. I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do?”

T’Mera raised her head to look back at him, “Thank you for your concern and sympathy. I’m fine and don’t need anything special. In fact, I should be heading to meet my family now.” she slid off the stool, “It was nice to see you, Felix.” She held up her right hand in the Vulcan salute, “Peace and long life.”

Felix bowed his head to her, “Until we meet again.”

Data frowned slightly, watching Doctor Chipman leave. Accessing: USS Melbourne, NCC-62043, Excelsior Class. Destroyed at Wolf 359. All hands lost. Cross-referencing: Chipman: Lt. Cmdr Audrey Chipman, Astrometrics. Deceased. Survived by husband, Lt. Cmdr Senek, current assignment: USS Shirkahr. Survived by daughter: T’Mera Chipman, PhD., Systems Analyst at Daystrom Institute…  Son: Stevik, professor of physics, Vulcan Science Academy.

Before Data could move to follow her, one of the conference attendees approached him and began to ask him questions. He remained to answer them, and spent the next two days attempting to locate Doctor Chipman. He was unable to do so before it was time to return to the Enterprise.

 


 

Year: 2369

Stardate: 46630.2

The Cybernetics and AI Sciences Conference attendance seemed to be larger than the last one Data had attended, two years ago. He’d had to miss the one last year, due to being undercover on Romulus. He walked through the elaborate halls of the Vulcan Science Academy, then stopped when he saw Lieutenant Barclay leaning in a doorway.

“What is happening, Lieutenant?” Data stopped to stand next to his shipmate.

Barclay straightened up, “Oh! Doctor Chipman is about to play one of her famous tunes on the piano.”

Data’s pale eyebrows knitted together, slightly, “I was unaware of any famous tunes of hers.”

Barclay answered quietly, “Well, not famous, really. You know she does original music for many of her holo-programs, but at conferences, she’ll sometimes do ad-libbed covers of other songs.” He motioned Data to follow him into the room.

Data followed behind the Lieutenant, where he could see the group of people around the piano, and T’Mera seated on the bench in front of the keyboard.

T’Mera reached forward, placing her fingers on the keys and began to play, followed by singing. “Mem'ry, Write the caches of my drive. All the random-access memory. Of the way we were…”

Data tilted his head to the left and frowned in confusion, then looked at the faces of those gathered around T’Mera. Instead of alerting her to errors in the lyrics, they seemed to be amused and some were laughing. Accessing: The Way We Were. Writers: Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman and Marvin Hamlisch.

Graceful fingers danced over the piano keys as T’Mera continued the song, “Fragmented sectors, Of the files we left behind.. Files we sent to one another... For the way we were…”

Data leaned towards Lieutenant Barclay and whispered, “This is not the way the song lyrics are listed in my memory engrams.”

Barclay whispered back, “That’s what makes it funny.”

Data raised both eyebrows and pressed his lips together with a sort ‘hmm’, then continued to listen. As the song bridge began, he noted that T’Mera was playing it staccato, which the passage most certainly should not have been. It elicited giggles from those around her.

“Can it be that source was all so simple then? Or has time rewritten every line? If we had the chance to GOTO all again... Tell me, would we? Could we?” T’Mera smiled at someone near her, as several of her audience chuckled.

Barclay whispered to Data, “I think she sings well.”

Data responded in a like whisper, “Her vocal intonations are flat by one-thirty-second of a step.”

T’Mera turned towards the whispering duo, and her eyes locked with Data’s while she sang, “Mem'ry, may be logical and yet... What's too difficult to access... We simply choose to comment…”

Barclay looked down at the floor, “I think she heard you.”

Data kept his eyes focused on hers, “Vulcans do tend to have excellent hearing.”

If T’Mera did hear them, her performance didn’t show it, “So it's the structure... We will compile... When executing mem’ry... of the way we were…” She turned her eyes back to the keys, as those gathered around her sang the last few “The way we were” lines with her.

The crowd around Doctor Chipman clapped for her, then began to disperse. She rose from the bench and closed the keyboard cover. Data began to walk towards her, when someone called out for him.

“Commander Data! There you are!”

Data turned towards the voice, “How may I help you?”

The man approaching him was an older human, with white hair and bright blue eyes, “I wanted to speak to you about the Exocomps that you mentioned in one of the talks, earlier.”

Data nodded, “Very well.” and turned to look back into the music chamber, briefly. T’Mera had already left, as had Lieutenant Barclay. He turned back to the man standing by him, “Shall we find someplace more suited to the discussion?”

The man began to walk, “Of course. This way.”

Data followed the man to one of the empty sitting rooms and spent forty-five minutes and twenty seconds speaking with him about the Exocomps. Once the discussion had ended, Data walked around, searching for Doctor Chipman. He eventually found her at a table in the Academy’s tea room, sitting with Lieutenant Barclay, Doctor Lewis Zimmerman and the one Data recognized as Felix. He stopped and remained by the door, after noticing her facial expression.

T’Mera’s eyes flashed with anger, “If I’d known what was going to happen, I would never have written that paper.”

Doctor Zimmerman frowned back at her, “I don’t see why you’re so upset. That paper was a work of genius. Your research has enabled us to make self-aware holograms. Do you know the potential of this? You made it possible for me to create Haley and begin my current project.”

T’Mera folded her arms across her chest, “What project is that?”

Doctor Zimmerman smiled proudly, “I call it the Emergency Medical Hologram. Imagine, if you will, a starship in red alert. In danger. The doctors might be on an away team or incapacitated or, perish forbid, dead. Now, the ship will still have a competent medical person aboard. I’ve designed it using my appearance and personality as a template.”

Felix let out a snort, then clapped his hand over his mouth.

T’Mera shook her head, “While the emergency doctor is a nice idea, it might be better for you to not use anyone’s actual likeness and personality. Why not give the CMOs of the ships a choice of perhaps five appearances and personalities and let them choose which one suits their style best?”

Zimmerman returned, “Because I want it to be my legacy.”

T’Mera reached up with her right hand to pinch the bridge of her nose. “Fine. I’m glad for you and your legacy.” She removed her hand and placed it back in her lap and turned to regard Barclay, “Meanwhile, Reg, you have the Moriarity problem again?”

Barclay shook his head, “It’s been taken care of. The simulation for them is safely at Jupiter Station.”

Felix leaned back in his chair, “I’m getting jealous. Everyone has a sentient hologram but me.”

T’Mera leaned forward to correct him, “I don’t. And do me a favor, Felix? Make yours be someone who’s happy to be confined to a holosuite? I don’t see any use in creating sentient holograms, just to have them be miserable with their existence. It also brings up the question of their legal rights, no? Do all these Emergency Medical Doctors belong to you, Lew? Or to Starfleet? What if they don’t want to be on the ship they’re on? I remember reading about Commander Data’s legal status hearing. They nearly declared him to be property and almost compelled him to be taken apart.” She turned to look at the doorway, then bit her lip at seeing Data standing there.

Data raised his hand in the Vulcan salute to her, and T’Mera returned the salute. Just as he was about to walk further into the room to join the group at the table, someone from behind him in the hall shouted his name. He turned and exited the tea room, then headed to the person beckoning to him. As he walked away, he heard Doctor Chipman’s voice one final time.

“He’s a popular fellow.”

Data would get no other chances to be in Doctor Chipman’s presence during the conference.

Chapter Text

Year: 2378

Stardate: 55020.5

 

The Conference Center at Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco still gleamed, having been newly built after the Breen attack in 2375. In addition to the conference rooms, they had added smaller side rooms, comfortable waiting rooms, and several small eateries in addition to the commissary.

Commander Data walked through the facility, exploring it, during his free moments. He had much more spare time at the Symposium on Artificial Lifeforms than he did at Cybernetics conferences. Most of the attendees seemed to be legal advocates, followed by AI specialists. The only artificial lifeforms in attendance were himself and the EMH Mark I from the Voyager. A familiar contralto voice reached his ears and he slowed his pace.

“What tickles me most is the idea of a hologram writing a holonovel. I found it a bit melodramatic, but somewhat enlightening. What else have you been doing?” The voice of Doctor Chipman seemed to be coming from a small coffee bar.

Data entered the bar and walked past the table where T’Mera, the Voyager’s EMH and a young, blonde woman were sitting. He realized he would need to be subtle, so he approached the counter and placed an order. His peripheral vision was sufficient to see the three of them, and he noticed that the blonde woman had Borg implants around her left eye and temple, below the right ear, and along her left hand.

Accessing: Seven of Nine. Liberated Borg drone.

The Doctor was answering T’Mera’s question, “Mostly medical research. I experimented with eating, and even made myself a holographic stomach, but that turned out to be quite messy when I was deactivated.”

T’Mera placed her right hand over her mouth to hide the smile. “That must have been horrible. Why didn’t you just use the replicator functions that would get rid of the food?”

Seven’s deadpan voice replied, “It would be impractical. The Doctor’s mobile emitter does not contain replicator functions like a holodeck.”

Data thanked the attendant, and sat down at a table with his coffee, making certain to have a view of Doctor Chipman’s table.

The Doctor studied T’Mera’s face for a moment, “You’re nervous, aren’t you?”

T’Mera leaned her left elbow on the table as she took a sip from her cup, “Most likely. I dislike public speaking, and I’ll be having to do just that in half an hour. I don't want to work with legalities, I want to work with fantasies. But, it seems the law intrudes on all things, especially when we don't do our job properly in programming.”

The Doctor reached to pat her arm with his hand, “Well, thank you for trying to help me. Nobody seems to understand what it’s like to be seen as just some piece of technology, rather than as a person.”

The left side of T’Mera’s mouth lifted slightly, “Not quite.” She gestured towards Data’s table. “He knows.”

Data tilted his head to the left, and met T’Mera’s eyes for 3.07 seconds.

The Doctor’s brow furrowed, “Who is he?”

Seven spoke up, “That is Commander Data, a positronic artificial lifeform. He is known as a formidable opponent among the Collective.”

The Doctor looked across the room at the android, “Hmm. He’s not much to look at, though. He lacks my rugged handsomeness and strong chin. What do you think, Doctor Chipman? If you had to choose between us, which one would you prefer?”

T’Mera glanced sideways at The Doctor, “What do you mean if I had to choose?”

The Doctor lifted his head very slightly, “Let’s say you were going to a dance. Which of us would you choose?”

T’Mera glanced back and forth from the The Doctor to Data, “My only choices for romance are between two artificial lifeforms, each designed in the exact likeness of their narcissistic creators?”

The Doctor let out an exasperated sigh, “Never mind.” He stood to leave, “Seven, we’re due at the hearing about my mobile emitter.” He dipped his head to T’Mera, “Good luck with your presentation, Doctor Chipman.”

“Good luck to you, as well.” T’Mera put down her coffee, then raised her right hand in the Vulcan salute. Once The Doctor and Seven had left the cafe, she looked back over at Commander Data, meeting his gaze again.

Data began to rise from his seat to join Doctor Chipman, but someone entered the cafe and headed right to her. He returned to his seated position.

“Doctor Chipman?” the man seemed to be in early sixties, age-wise, with white hair that contrasted his dark skin.

T’Mera looked up at the man, “Yes?”

The man sat down at her table unbidden, “My name’s Ferguson Davis. I know you need to be at your next talk soon, but I attended the hearing earlier and wanted to speak with you.”

T’Mera nodded her head once, “You may speak with me.”

Ferguson didn’t waste time, "I'm surprised by you, Doctor Chipman. You've written several papers about the dangers of holographic sentience. I would have thought you'd be against the EMH Mark I being defined as a person."

"You misread my papers, then.” T’Mera replied, took a sip of her coffee, then continued, “I'm against irresponsible programming that results in runaway sentience. Doctor Zimmerman's EMH programs are a prime example of that. Without a high end limit to the defined operating parameters, six hundred out of the thousand Mark Ones wound up developing sentience by accident. Now, they’re all menial slave labor in dilithium mines, or scrubbing plasma conduits on ships and stations.”

Ferguson frowned, “I was there for that decision. They aren’t people, Doctor Chipman. They’re just cleverly programmed holograms that simulate us. Something had to be done with them, when Starfleet decided to remove them from the ships.”

T’Mera stared directly at Ferguson, “If that’s the case, why not use mining tools and Exocomps instead of holograms, which required holo-emitters? Why not just delete the Mark Ones?”

"We couldn't just delete them.” Ferguson explained, “Most of them had become sentient. If we deleted them, it would have been an execution with no crime."

"Let me get this straight. Federation legal experts and Starfleet admirals have been maintaining that The Voyager EMH Mark One is NOT a person and has NO legal rights, except for those pertaining to his creative works.” T’Mera took a moment to drain her coffee cup, “Yet the rest of the Mark Ones are being subjugated because they're considered sentient and, as such, can't just be shut down or deleted.” She slammed the cup onto the table and stood up, “You can't have this cake and eat it, too. Maybe not today, maybe not this year, but some day in the future the people who made that decision are going to be made to answer for it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m giving a talk on what defines a “person”.”

“Good day, Doctor.” Ferguson replied, frowning.

Data watched Doctor Chipman walk out at a brisk pace, then he rose from his seat and moved to follow her. He planned to attend her presentation.

Chapter Text

Year: 2380

Stardate: Unknown

 

The return of Bruce Maddox to the lab interrupted Data’s memory retrieval. The scientist leaned over B-4’s body, his hands working on something that was out of view.

“Say something.” Doctor Maddox commanded.

B-4’s voice warbled into being, “What should I say?”

Doctor Maddox nodded once, “That’s fine. The vocal box is fixed, now.” He pressed a button and the table on which B-4 lay slowly adjusted from horizontal to vertical, allowing B-4 to stand.

B-4 asked, with an almost sad tone, “Can I move now?”

Bruce Maddox turned to regard the android, then told him, “All right. You’re allowed to move around, in this room.” He walked over to a desk that had a comm panel on it and sat down at the chair.

B-4 shuffled around the room for a while, then stopped to stare at his reflection in a mirror. Data tried once more to communicate with his old associate, “ Che gelida manina, se la lasci riscaldar…

Doctor Maddox seemed to not notice the song, and tapped the comm panel. “Patch me through to Starfleet Medical. Patient search, surname Chipman. First name, T’Mera.” He leaned back in the chair, waiting for the system to respond, while the android serenaded him with Puccini.

B-4 wandered around the room, examining anything brightly colored or shiny, and Data finished the song. When the screen on Doctor Maddox’s desk came to life again, B-4 shuffled over to stare at it.

Doctor Maddox jumped back slightly, startled, when a woman’s face appeared on the screen.

B-4 stared directly at the screen, giving Data a perfect view. The woman was entirely bald, with very pale skin tinged with green. Silver Borg implants protruded from her skin around her right eye and temple and below her pointed left ear. The left side of her neck showed two Borg tubules exiting and entering about an inch apart. Data recognized the dark brown eyes that stared out from the ravaged face.

“Hello, Bruce. It’s been a while. How have you been?” the woman smiled very slightly.

Doctor Maddox hesitated, then spoke, “T’Mera. I…” he paused, again, “I don’t know what to say. I’m so sorry. I’m fine, but what about you? Have they given you a prognosis?”

The smile faded from T’Mera’s lips, “Yes. The Borg implants can’t be removed without killing me. They also found that the Borg nanoprobes inside of me are still slowly eating me apart. They’ve given me a year to live, maybe two. Or, if I go to the Medical Center on Ba’ku, I might get a few more years.”

Doctor Maddox rubbed at his eyes, “I don’t know what to say, T’Mera…”

T’Mera gazed back at him through the screen, “You could say why you called. I doubt it was simply to find out my prognosis?”

Doctor Maddox slowly inhaled and nodded, “If there was anyone else I could have called about this, I would have. The last thing I wanted to do is make your final years nothing but work. It’s about Commander Data.”

T’Mera tilted her head to the right slightly, “Is this about everything you sent me, twelve years ago? I still don’t think he’s meant to be mass produced, and after what’s happened with the Mark Ones, I stand by that decision even more.”

Doctor Maddox shook his head, “No, no. I agreed with you then, and you’re right.” He paused, then told her, “Commander Data has been destroyed.”

“Destroyed?” Her dark eyes widened, “What happened?”

“He sacrificed himself to save everyone. Ship explosion, at the end of last year.” Bruce explained, “It’s assumed he was vaporized. It’ll be in the report I’m sending you along with this communication.”

T’Mera frowned, “Did he have any backups of his program, memory and body parts?”

Doctor Maddox shook his head again, “Not as such, no. A day before he was destroyed, he downloaded his memory engrams into the B-4 prototype. Nobody’s been able to figure out how much of it even transferred into it. I was hoping you still had the one from twelve years ago, if this one didn’t work.” He moved his chair to allow B-4 to be seen.

T’Mera’s looked past Bruce to B-4. “I still have everything from then, yes.” She addressed the android, “Hello there, B-4.”

B-4 stared at the screen, “Why are you shiny?”

T’Mera smiled slightly, “Someone put metal things in me. They’re shiny.” She turned to Bruce, “Has this been his standard behavior? Very simple questions?”

Doctor Maddox nodded, “Mostly, although he’s taken to singing, now and then. Captain Picard thought that it meant he was integrating Data’s memories, but so far, B-4 hasn’t shown any signs of improving. We think the prototype’s brain is too simple to run anything as complex as Data.”

B-4 pointed to the screen, “You have metal in you. Are you my sister?”

T’Mera replied in a kind voice, “I’m not your sister. B-4, you like to sing?”

B-4 told her, “No.”

T’Mera raised an eyebrow, looked at Bruce, then back at the android, “B-4, you know how to sing, though, and have been singing?”

B-4 continued to stare at her, as if mesmerized, “No.” Sudden inspiration hit Data.

Doctor Maddox shrugged at T’Mera, “He was just singing, right before I called you.”

B-4’s expression was vacant, but he began to sing, “ Mem'ry, Write the caches of my drive. All the random-access memory. Of the way we were…

Both of T’Mera’s eyes widened fully, as she listened to the android sing. “Bruce, are you the highest ranking official on this?”

Doctor Maddox’s eyebrows knitted in confusion at the song, then he looked at T’Mera, “What? Oh, no. Admiral Haftel’s also interested in getting Data back. Why?”

“I guess it depends on what you wanted me to do.” She told him, as the android finished the parody tune.

Doctor Maddox placed his palms on the desk surface, “What we’d like to do is give you B-4 and whatever else you’ll need, so you can find out if Data’s matrix is in there and if you can resurrect him.”

T’Mera nodded, “I’ll need Alpha level security clearance and access to Starfleet personnel logs, both active and archived, as well as all specs on Data and the notes from everyone who’s ever worked on him. I’ll have to do this on Ba’ku, so I’ll need a fairly powerful computer there and my own lab, while still having access to medical treatment. I can tell you right away, though, that Data’s in there and able to at least hear us.”

Doctor Maddox blinked in surprise, “How?”

T’Mera smiled at the cyberneticist, “The song he just sang is one that I ad-libbed at a conference we both attended. There’s no other way for it to have been in his memory files, and since I make them up as I go along, the lyrics aren’t written down anywhere.”

Doctor Maddox turned to B-4 in disbelief, then back to T’Mera, “All right. What else will you need?”

T’Mera began to type on a keypad, “I’m going to transmit a laundry list, of sorts.” Her expression grew solemn, “I can fly the Nomad back to Galor IV, pick up B-4 and everything else. I assume the Ghost is where I left it?”

Doctor Maddox nodded, “It is, yes. You’ll be taking it to Ba’ku?”

T’Mera replied, “That’s the plan, so I’ll need everything before I get to the Briar Patch.” She looked back at Bruce, “Based on what I saw when I first studied his programming, it could take me a few years to bring Data back, as far as his code goes. He’s still going to need a positronic brain, though. Is your department up to that, yet?”

“No,” Maddox sighed, “But maybe in four years, we might be. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Maybe we’ll be lucky and you can figure out what’s wrong with B-4’s positronic brain.” He paused, then added, “I’m really sorry to ask this of you, T’Mera, with all you’re going through, right now.”

T’Mera lifted a hand to touch the implants by her neck, “It’s all right. This will serve as a distraction from my slow demise, and would be a nice final accomplishment for me. I should be arriving at Galor IV within a week.”

Doctor Maddox winced, then smiled softly, “We’ll see you, then. Maddox out.” and the communication was terminated.

B-4 announced, “The shiny lady is gone.” For the first time since his imprisonment in his brother’s body, Data felt hopeful.

Chapter Text

Year: 2380

Stardate: 57240.5

 

After Doctor Maddox replaced the broken chronometer in B-4, Data was able to track the passage of time without having to depend on clocks and calendars. Doctor Vanzanen worked in the lab each day, activating B-4 in the morning and then shutting him off each night. As she reactivated them, Data noted that six days had passed since Doctor Maddox had spoken to Doctor Chipman.

“Good morning, B-4.” Doctor Vanzanen greeted the android. Her right hand held a small duffel bag.

B-4 replied in his customary warble, “Good morning… Emily.”

Doctor Vanzanen walked over to one of the desks and began to place a few PADDs and a box of data crystals into the bag.

Soon afterwards, Data could hear heavy, mismatched footsteps approaching. The sound also caught B-4’s attention and he turned to look at the doorway. T’Mera Chipman entered the lab, and Data immediately deduced that the irregular footfalls were caused by one of her legs being covered in Borg implants while the other still seemed normal. The halter dress she wore had been altered to accommodate the growing Borg cybernetics, with the entire left sleeve missing, and fasteners above and below the left arm. She wore only a shoe on her left foot, as her right foot and leg were entirely covered in metal.

Doctor Vanzanen gasped, then winced. “You must be Doctor Chipman.” she attempted to disguise her reaction, “It’s an honor to meet you.”

T’Mera raised her right arm and held up her fingers in the Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Doctor…”

“Emily Vanzanen. Call me Emily.” She used her left hand to get her right fingers into position, then returned the salute. “I heard about the Chipman Test. Congratulations.”

B-4 shuffled over to T’Mera and reached out to touch the metallic implants along her left arm.

“Thank you.” T’Mera replied, then gently pulled her arm away from the android, “Hello, B-4. It’s not wise to touch me on the metal.” She looked back at Doctor Vanzanen, explaining, “There’s a bit of worry that I could accidentally assimilate others.”

Doctor Vanzanen grimaced, taking a few steps back, “Wonderful.”

“Don’t worry.” T’Mera smirked, “It hasn’t happened, yet. Now…” She reached out her right hand to B-4, “I’m assuming Bruce took incremental neural scans of B-4’s positronic matrix, all this time?”

Doctor Vanzanen nodded and held up the duffel bag, “Those are in here, as is everything else you asked for, as far as our institute is concerned. We couldn’t get the recordings of Data’s performances on the Enterprise, though. You probably have to requisition that from the ship’s captain.”

B-4 placed his right hand on T’Mera’s right arm, then stared at her facial implants. Why does she need to see my performances? And what is the Chipman Test? Accessing: No results.

T’Mera furrowed her brow, “Should still be Captain Jean-Luc Picard, I believe. I can contact him while in flight.” She took the duffel bag from Doctor Vanzanen, “What about the other items on the list?”

Doctor Vanzanen smiled weakly at T’Mera, “Everything is loaded into the cargo bay of the Ghost.” She looked over at B-4 and her smile changed to a wistful one, “I’ll miss him.” She walked over to the android and mussed his hair, “Goodbye, B-4. It was nice to have you around.”

B-4 looked between the women, “Where am I going?”

T’Mera wrapped her right hand around his left hand, “B-4, I’d like you to come with me. We’re going to find Data. Is that acceptable to you?” She limped towards the door.

B-4 moved to follow her, “My brother…”

T’Mera walked with the android through the lab corridors, and then through the section of the Institute which linked the labs with the planetside ship port. They passed a few ships with Federation registries, and then she stopped and frowned. “Damn. I forgot how annoying it is to remember where I parked the ship.” She reached into her dress pocket and pulled out a small device, then pressed the symbols on the touchpad.

B-4 stood next to her, waiting. The sound of a ship’s hatch opening drew his attention, and then the sight of a door opening out of what seemed to be thin air. Data could see the outline of the ship, using B-4’s sight. Most intriguing. Refractive metamaterials over a duranium hull. Four deflector arrays, sixteen visible thrusters, atmospheric-capable impulse engine, and two warp nacelles. He noted the ship registry with surprise. FA-254PV. Ferengi private craft.

T’Mera led B-4 through the door, which entered the ship through the cargo bay. She wandered through the bay, checking each container, then nodded with satisfaction. Tugging at B-4’s hand, she brought him through the hatch that separated the cargo bay from the midsection and command area. They passed the emergency supplies locker and transporter pad, then headed into the front of the vessel.

“It’s not much to look at, but it’s mine.” T’Mera announced. She guided B-4 into the rear starboard seat, then pressed a button to bring up a small screen. “You can watch some programs during the flight.” Once he was seated, she fastened a five-point harness around his lap and torso. With another few button presses, educational children’s programming began to play on the screen in front of B-4.

B-4’s attention riveted on the colorful images and sounds. I suppose I will also be stuck watching this until we reach Ba’ku. I wonder if those were holo-emitters I saw, along the wall and ceiling?

T’Mera seated herself in the front starboard seat, fastening her own five-point harness. Once the engines and thrusters were online, she hit the communications switch, “Daystrom Control, this is the Ghost, registry FA-254PV, requesting departure clearance.”

“This is Daystrom Control. Ghost, you’re cleared for take-off.”

T’Mera worked the helm controls, “Navigational retroreflectors active for tracking. Firing up vectored thrusters for vertical planetary liftoff in five… four… three… two… one… Mark!” The thruster engines roared, lifting the small ship into the air. “Firing all thrusters… Now leaving troposphere. Impulse engines engaged.”

“Copy that, Ghost. Safe travels. Daystrom Control out.”

Through the viewports, the Pasmar Mountains and Tiranic Sea grew smaller, until Galor IV was nothing but an orange ball in the star-filled heavens. T’Mera waited until they were clear of the system, then pressed some of the controls, “Engaging warp engines at Warp eight.” The stars outside the viewports changed from pinpoints to rainbow streaks, as the Ghost sped through space.

Gravity and inertial dampeners kicked in, and T’Mera pressed the release button on her harness. As she stood and moved away from the helm chair, she spoke, “Computer, activate Quimby.” A female figure shimmered into being, seated at the helm. The hologram wore a purple uniform with matching hood, thick black belt, brown leather boots that came up to the knees and brown leather gloves. Flight goggles over the eyes completed Quimby’s outfit.

B-4 turned to look at the hologram at the helm, his attention drawn away from the dancing letters and numbers on the screen in front of him.

“Quimby,” T’Mera addressed the hologram as she limped over to the communications station on the port side, “Set course heading for Briar Patch and Ba’ku Planet. Standard flight mode.”

“Course laid in.” Quimby replied in an even voice.

T’Mera sat down in the chair at the communications console, “Open secure channel to USS Enterprise, registry NCC-1701-E, address to Captain Jean-Luc Picard. From Doctor T’Mera Chipman of the Daystrom Institute. Regarding Commander Data. Use standard Starfleet encryption.” The screen changed to the United Federation of Planets insignia while the subspace relays sent the message from the Ghost to wherever the Enterprise was located.

After a few minutes, the image changed to Captain Picard. His brows furrowed slightly over his steely blue eyes, but showed no other reaction at T’Mera’s appearance. “Doctor… Chipman, is it? What can I do for you? The message subject said this was about Commander Data.”

T’Mera gave the captain a small smile, “Thank you for answering so quickly. I only have a few days before reaching the Briar Patch, so time is of the essence. This will seem an odd request, but I need any and all recordings of performances or social activities that Commander Data took part in.”

Captain Picard moved his head back very slightly, “You’re right. That is an odd request. May I ask the purpose for needing those?”

T’Mera leaned forward on the console, “You were right about the singing. I still have to do tests and monitoring, but in order to do so, I need to see and hear his performances. I’m not sure why, but anything related to creative or performing arts seems to be bypassing B-4’s main pathways. It’s a huge security hole, but in this specific case, it may allow us to resurrect Data.”

“A security hole?” Captain Picard reached for the cup next to him, then took a sip from it, “What do you mean?”

T’Mera started to bring her hands together, to steeple her fingers, then remembered the implants and stopped. “All right. How well versed are you in positronic matrix programming and neural nets?”

Captain Picard pressed his lips together briefly, “Not as well versed as my Chief Engineer.”

“I’ll put it in layman’s terms.” T’Mera went on to explain, “Ideally, every command that runs through B-4’s positronic brain should be routed through a certain amount of security checks before going on to the cognitive level. What seems to be happening here is that anything related to singing is bypassing the security checks and…” She trailed off as she noticed his expression, “Imagine that you have visitors beaming up. You get security ready in a transporter room. The talking visitors all beam up there and get checked by security before being allowed on the bridge. However, one visitor is singing and only talking is marked as needing security. The singer goes straight to the bridge.”

A look of understanding crossed Captain Picard’s face, “One time, Data had malfunctioned after being shot by phaser fire. We couldn’t communicate with him, but when we sang, he sang back to us, enabling us to distract and disable him.”

T’Mera blinked in disbelief, then nodded once, “It’s the same in B-4. I’m going to do more testing, but I wanted something to compare to, so I can make sure it’s definitely Data’s neural net I’ll be seeing.”

Captain Picard smiled, his expression softening, “Do you know how long it’ll take, Doctor?”

T’Mera shook her head, "I have no idea. It's not like I can just type in a grep string search for "data". This is the equivalent of someone dumping one hundred pounds of various yarn, all tangled, on my floor and then asking "Can you find the sweater that's in here?" Data was able to speed it up by communicating with me in song, but the hard part is yet to come. I also won’t be able to have realtime communications on Ba’ku.”

“Doctor,” Captain Picard set the tea cup down on the desk, “If it’s not too personal to ask, why are you going to Ba’ku and not using the Daystrom Institute’s facilities?”

T’Mera bit her lower lip, “I’m sure you’ve noticed that I have Borg implants?”

Captain Picard nodded with a stoic expression, “At the risk of being indelicate, they’re fairly noticeable.”

T’Mera let out a soft sigh, “When I couldn’t be assimilated, I was ejected from the cube. The nanoprobes are still active, however, and they’re killing me. Going to Ba’ku might extend my life long enough to do this… pardon the pun… Data recovery.”

Captain Picard’s face finally betrayed emotion, as sadness mixed with pain washed over it. “I’m so sorry to hear that. I’ll gather what I can and send it to you. And thank you, Doctor, for all your effort on Data’s behalf. Tell him that we all miss him dearly.”

T’Mera’s lips moved upward into a smile, “I’ll be sure to tell him. If you need to send any messages once I’m on Ba’ku, make sure they’re addressed to me at the Medical Center there.”

Captain Picard gave a quick nod, “Very well, Doctor. Expect our files by subspace within the next day or so. Picard out.”

The screen was replaced with the United Federation of Planets insignia, and T’Mera leaned back in the chair. “Hmm, I wonder what he was drinking. Come to think of it, I could use a cup of something, myself.” She stood up and walked over to the small replicator. “Vulcan spice tea.” The replicated whirred into action and she retrieved the cup from the shelf inside it. “B-4, do you require any food or drink?”

B-4 answered, “No.” Interesting. If T’Mera is correct about the creative arts circumventing the main neural pathways, I should be able to dance with her. This gives me an idea.

T’Mera chuckled softly as she sat down with her tea, “This should be the most comfortable crew I’ve ever had on the Ghost. I’m the only one who needs to eat, drink, sleep or use the head.”

B-4 figured out how to push the floor with his feet, to make his chair turn so he could face her, “You are… not  human?”

T’Mera swallowed the mouthful of tea, “Mmm, mostly human. My mother was fully human, and my father was half-Vulcan, half-human.” She took another sip, “It’s funny how dominant the Vulcan physical traits are, isn’t it? If I put on a stoic expression, it would be difficult to tell that I’m not entirely Vulcan.”

B-4 tilted his head to the left, then the right, “I have not met a Vulcan.”

T’Mera tipped her head back to drain the cup of the remainder of tea. “Now you’ve met twenty-five percent of one.” She stood up and placed the cup back in the replicator, where it vanished to be recycled. “I’ll be right back, B-4. You stay there.” She headed back to the cargo bay, and then ten minutes later, uneven footfalls heralded her return.

B-4 eyed the box she carried with curiosity. Monitors, transmitters and receivers for neural net activity. The box of data crystals.

T’Mera set the box on the surface of the port side science area. “B-4, will you consent to my placing these monitor devices on your body?”

B-4 peered at the box, “Why?”

As she began to remove one of the devices, T’Mera replied to the android, “I’ll need to have a neural net activity monitor on you running constantly, so I can see where Data might be. I still would like your consent, though.” She turned to look directly into his eyes, “There’s no danger during the monitor phase, but once I start to work with your positronic matrix, there’s a very real possibility that your own neural net might be damaged.”

B-4’s eyes lowered and glanced to the right. For a moment, he was silent and still. When his yellow eyes raised again to meet hers, he said, “I consent.”

T’Mera reached out her right hand to stroke B-4’s hair, then opened the access panels that hid the circuitry of his brain, “Thank you. Also, B-4, you are not to remove or interfere with these devices on you. If any are uncomfortable, you need to tell me, and I’ll move them for you.”

“I… understand.” We do not feel discomfort. Still, it is nice that she is concerned for us. Nicer still, that she has asked for an android’s consent.

T’Mera tapped on the science panel, “Display specifications on file for Commander Data, Positronic Cortex Unit.” The image popped up on the screen. “Change to dual display, side-by-side, and display specifications on file for B-4, Positronic Cortex Unit on the right side.” She picked up some of the small devices in the box, “Setting ten transceivers.” She plugged one into the main port on the right side of B-4’s head, “Three monitors in the temporal port. Interesting. You also have a holo-imaging interface.” She spoke aloud as she placed the other devices, “Two monitors attached to the occipital port. One monitor on parietal and sensory…” She attached them to the back and top of his head. “Two in the cerebellum and stem port.” Those were placed in the small neck opening.

B-4 sat still in the chair as the small devices were placed on the various sections of his head. “What are you doing?”

T’Mera placed a device in the center of his forehead, “One in the frontal.” then answered him, “B-4, these will show me activity in the different sections of your brain.” She placed a final device on his right temple, “Broca monitor.” Her fingers tapped the console, with the display showing a neural net with the pathways being highlighted each time an impulse traveled along them. “There’s your brain.”

B-4 turned to look at the display. “It is pretty.” Several pathways are missing from most areas, with the exception of the temporal net pathways. Interesting.

“I’m glad you like it.” T’Mera chuckled softly as she placed a stocking cap over B-4’s scalp and forehead, “B-4, do not touch or remove this hat. It should keep you from fiddling about with the monitors.”

The android stopped his hand halfway, “I…  understand.”

“Computer.” T’Mera pressed a few buttons on one of the panels, “Begin holographic information displays from science console. Three-dimensional, interactive.” The neural net monitor scan appeared in the center of the command area, in three-dimensional form. T’Mera reached for it with her right hand and moved the holographic neural net to her right. “Create similar displays from file Daystrom-b4002, and one from file DSA-45946.7A.” Two more neural net displays appeared in the center of the command area, and she moved each one so that she could clearly see them in triptych.

B-4 stared, mesmerized at the displays hovering in the air.

T’Mera watched the neural patterns for a moment, then moved back to the science station, “Now, I need to run a submicron matrix scan and I suppose the subpolymer scan can’t hurt. May as well do it while we have time out here.” Once the scans were confirmed, she closed the box of devices and secured it to the console. “B-4, I’m going to try to get some sleep. I’ll set up the display here to entertain you.”

B-4 used his feet to turn the chair back to face the screen. “I see.”

T’Mera checked the android’s harness, then crossed over to port side and harnessed herself into the ops chair. With the flip of a lever on the side of the chair, she pushed it into a flat position. “Computer, begin sleep mode.” The artificial gravity generator slowed down, until the occupants of the Ghost were floating above their chairs, with the harness straps keeping them in place.

Data could hear the sound of T’Mera’s breathing change to faint and regular, indicating sleep. He watched some of the entertainment programs B-4 had his attention on, but made sure to listen to the sleeping holographer. He noted that she slept fitfully, waking with a start or a soft cry at irregular intervals. Aside from that, the time passed uneventfully.

Chapter Text

Year: 2380

Stardate: 57242.7

 

T’Mera woke so violently that the harness straps made a loud, snapping sound. As Data listened, he could hear that her heart was beating rapidly and her respiration rate was heavier than normal. The noise distracted B-4 from the entertainment display and he turned his chair to face hers.

“Computer…” T’Mera’s hoarse voice commanded, “Re-enable artificial gravity at full, with gradual increase.” The gravity returned, lowering everyone gently down onto the chairs. She unbuckled the harness, and returned her chair to the upright position, then leaned forward to cradle her head in her hands.

B-4’s voice warbled, as his wide yellow eyes focused on her, “Is something wrong?”

“No, B-4.” T’Mera answered him, then stood up, “Everything’s fine.” She walked over to the replicator, “Plomeek broth and a corn muffin, both ninety-three degrees.” Her breakfast appeared on the tray, and she carried both items back to the rear port seat. As she began to sip the broth, she brought up a display at her station. “I hope you don’t mind if I turn off your display, B-4. I want to get a start on these logs while I eat.”

“I do not mind.” B-4 answered, watching her station.

“Ensign’s personal log, Stardate 26010.3.” The smooth tenor voice spoke in a calm, even fashion, and T’Mera relaxed in her chair as she listened to it. “My new post aboard the Trieste is going fairly well. I have been able to perform my duties adequately…”

B-4’s attention didn’t remain on the other station for long. I wonder if she intends to listen to every log entry I have ever made?

T’Mera listened to the logs until the broth and muffin were finished. “Time to get to work.” she declared, then stood and walked over to the android. “B-4, I’m going to use packet sniffers on you, now.”

B-4 looked up at T’Mera, not replying, but simply smiling at her.

T’Mera smiled back at him, typed on the console, then melodramatically bellowed, “Send in the Hounds!” On a second display panel, she brought up the continuous neural net scan. “Replay from time index zero to current time.” After the display was finished, she tapped on the console, then let out a verbal barrage of curses.

The normally silent Quimby chided, “Such language is hardly befitting of a learned scientist. Not to mention that some of the things you said are anatomically impossible.”

T’Mera closed her eyes, “Breathe… breathe… remember dad’s techniques…” She inhaled very slowly, held the breath, then let it out just as slowly, “All right, so the entire neural net mapping index is corrupted. No reason to panic. I’ll have to reconstruct it by hand.” She looked at the android, “It’s a good thing all my hair fell out after the Borg got me, or else I’d be tearing it out, now.”

With another loud inhale, she walked over to the old scan of Data, then exhaled. “And Data’s map index is absolutely nothing like yours. I’ll be back in a moment.” She limped off to the cargo bay. An echoing thud and a crash followed.

“Did I do something wrong?” B-4’s warble was tinged with a bit of worry.

Quimby replied to the android, “It’s doubtful. She gets this way.”

T’Mera returned to the command area, “All right. Let’s come at this from another direction.” She inhaled again, then picked up a holo-marker. “Add two transparent cel layers to current neural net imaging scan.” She turned to the android, “B-4, you are only to respond to statements that I begin with B-4, is that understood?”

“Yes.” B-4 replied.

“Simon says touch your nose.” T’Mera quickly ordered, then seemed pleased to note no response or reaction from B-4.

“Conversely,” T’Mera continued, “When I begin a sentence with the name Data, only Data is to comply. Let’s begin.”

“B-4, imagine a sphere.” she told him, then looked at the monitor scan. “B-4, imagine a square. B-4, imagine a pyramid…” As each command created activity, T’Mera marked the active pathway in blue. After twenty minutes, she pushed the transparent cel to the side. “Data, imagine a sphere. Data, imagine a square. Data, imagine a pyramid…” This time, T’Mera marked the activity in red, highlighting the pathways, for another twenty minutes. She pushed the cel with the blue highlights back over the neural monitor scan and studied the image for a moment.

“Computer, add my voice to the recording of the functional neural net monitor scan.” T’Mera moved over to B-4’s chair and unbuckled his harness. “B-4, stand up.”

B-4 stood up obediently.

T’Mera gestured with her right hand, “B-4, please walk over to this spot and face me.”

Again, B-4 did as instructed.

“B-4, stay.” T’Mera told him, then walked over to the science station, tapped on the console, then looked at the display. “Hmm. Singing. Dancing.” she coughed slightly, “Romance subroutine?” She grumbled, then walked back to the center, facing B-4 and with the holographic displays in her view.

The top of T’Mera’s head came up to B-4’s eyes, so she tilted her head back to look up at him, while still seeing the display. “B-4, sing to me.”

B-4 frowned, “I… cannot.” There was a slight burst of activity along one path, but the android remained still.

“B-4, dance with me.” T’Mera watched the display.

“I cannot.” Again, there was a brief bit of activity, but the android remained still and silent.

“B-4, initiate romance subroutine.” T’Mera let out a sigh of relief, as there was a brief bit of pathway activity, but no action from B-4.

“I … do not understand.” B-4 told her.

T’Mera smiled at the android, “B-4, it’s all right. You did well.” She waited a moment, then said, “Data, sing to me.”

B-4’s mouth opened, but instead of the unsure, warbling voice, a soft tenor began to sing, “Isn't it romantic... Music in the night... A dream that can be heard…”

T’Mera blinked in slight surprise, then watched the activity on the display behind him. “Data, dance with me.”

B-4’s arms jerked upwards, as he continued to sing, “Isn't it romantic... Moving shadows write the oldest magic word…” His left hand wrapped around T’Mera’s back and his right hand reached for her left, “I hear the breezes playing in the trees up above…” He began to sway with her in time to his song.

T’Mera watched as the activity increased on the display, “Data, initiate romance subroutine.”

B-4 continued to sing and dance with her, “While all the world is saying you were meant for love…” On the last word, he leaned forward, planting his lips on hers. His right hand quickly moved to cover her left hand and squeeze it.

T’Mera’s body stiffened, and her left arm spasmed. Two tubules shot out from the Borg implants and injected themselves into B-4’s forearm. She closed her eyes, then wobbled, as if losing her balance. The air around them turned humid and misty, and the hum of the engines turned into the sounds of insects, birds chirping and a babbling brook. The sterile scent of the ship changed to smells of plants, trees and dirt.

Data’s left arm tightened around T’Mera’s back, to keep her from falling. His lips continued to move gently over hers, and he pressed his body tight against her. As he embraced her, he could feel her muscles transition from rigid to nearly limp, as her soft lips caressed his in response.

T’Mera’s eyes opened and her head lolled back, “This is what it must be like to go mad. I’ve gone insane, and now we’re in Woodland Pattern CE-0001. Fitting. My first environmental pattern.”

Data planted a trail of kisses along her jawline. “This used to be one of my favorite holodeck environments.”

T’Mera’s body shuddered, “B-4?”

Data replied to her as he moved his mouth to nibble on her ear, “I am Data.”

“But why…” she blinked, then quickly became flustered, “Data, end romance subroutine! I’m so sorry! The Borg implants, and I was distracted by… whatever happened. I forgot to tell you to stop!”

Data stopped the nibbling, but still kept his arms around her, “You need not apologize, Doctor. This effect is disorienting. It seemed as if you were falling.”

“Falling, yes.” T’Mera frowned in confusion, then glanced around, “I must have fallen into the holographic controls and accidentally changed the ship’s environment. Wait… How are you talking?”

Data furrowed his brow, with his yellow eyes glancing down and to the right, then back at her, “We are directly interfaced, so I can communicate with you. We seem to be in a virtual environment being generated by your Borg implants.” His eyebrows raised back up. “Most intriguing.”

T’Mera buried her face in Data’s neck, emitting a muffled grunt.

“I am unfamiliar with the term “Gurf”, Doctor.” He replied, “Please elaborate.”

T’Mera inhaled slowly, then exhaled, and looked back up into Data’s eyes, “That is a personal term of mine. The proper context is used when I have no idea what’s happened and no clue as how to proceed.” She sighed, “It was a nice song, by the way.”

“Thank you, Doctor.” the edges of Data’s mouth quirked upwards, “I nearly chose Some Enchanted Evening. Are you familiar with that one?”

T’Mera shook her head, “I only know the fish version.” She started to sing to him, “Salmon chanted evening, you may hook a striper... You may hook a striper across a coral reef…”

Data continued to hold her, while he quirked a single eyebrow, “My memory engrams contain no record of an ichthyological version of the song. I suspect it is another one of your humorous endeavors.” He paused a moment, “Ironic.”

“What’s ironic?” T’Mera moved her left arm away from him.

Data spoke softly, “This is the first time we have had the opportunity to speak to one another. I have wanted to for twelve years, seven months, seven days, two hours and thirty-two seconds.”

T’Mera blinked, then started to lose her balance. “Did I assimilate you and B-4?”

Data carefully lowered her to the ground, then sat next to her, “No. Soong-type androids cannot be assimilated without allowing ourselves to be. You and I are merely interfaced, and I am grateful for it.”

T’Mera closed her eyes, nodding, “That’s a relief.” then covered her face with her hands, “I have to pull myself together.”

“As I understand it, Doctor,” Data’s facial expression showed concern, “We still have three days of travel until we reach the Briar Patch, and nothing very pressing to do. It might be best to remain here a while, until you feel better?”

T’Mera raised her head up, “T’Mera. Call me T’Mera. Have you been receiving sensory input while in B-4? Are you conscious within him?”

Data nodded once in reply, “I have been, and when he is activated, I receive all sensory input. I cannot, however, speak or move his body, nor can I communicate with him. The exception seems to be singing or dancing. I also seem to have my full memory. I heard you complaining about the mapping indexes.”

T’Mera let out a long sigh, “Something has corrupted them. I’ll need to reconstruct them by hand in order to save you. I’m sure you know the quick way would be a total reformat, but that would defeat the point of having me do all this.” She looked up into his face, “So many people want you back. They miss you.”

“My memory engrams sense the absence of their proximity, as well.” Data returned her gaze, “I have the utmost faith in your ability to restore me.”

T’Mera snorted, “Hell of a thing to tell me. Data…” she smiled slightly, “It’s going to take me a long time, and then, once I’m done, the Catch-22 still exists. You’ll need a new android body and especially a brain. B-4’s brain, even if he weren’t so damaged, isn’t the same architecture as yours. That could be why you can’t adjust the indexing from inside him.”

“That does make sense.” Data told her, “I do wish to request something. Your health must be a priority before mine. I would rather not have my life return at the expense of yours.”

T’Mera reached up with her right hand, placing it on Data’s left shoulder, “I’m dying. Whether I work hard on you or not, my death is guaranteed. I can’t grant you that request. You’re the final project I have, and I mean to finish it before my end.”

Data pressed his lips together, regarding her silently for a moment, then asked, “T’Mera, I would like to know how this happened to you, if it is not too difficult for you to speak of it.”

T’Mera removed her hand from his shoulder, “It’s extremely difficult.” She pulled her knees to her chest and rested her chin on them, “But given how I’ll be invading your privacy in a huge way, I suppose it’s only fair.”

Data moved in front of her, so he could look directly into her eyes, “I realize that we have only just met, but I trust you with everything you are going to learn about me. I hope that you will come to be able to trust me in the same way.” He reached out with his left hand, placing his fingers on the implants around her right eye. His head jerked slightly to the right, “ Accessing.. . “

Chapter Text

Year: 2380

Stardate: 57109.3

 

“Passing the Terell system now.” Naton’s deep voice announced. “Nothing on long range sensors.”

T’Mera looked over at Naton, from her position at the helm. The curly mop of light brown hair nearly covered his dark eyes, but he winked at her. She confirmed, “Still on course for El-Auria.”

Latarian sat in the command chair, “Excellent. See, T’Mera? You don’t regret coming along, do you?”

T’Mera shook her head, turning slightly to look at the dark woman in the shimmering purple tunic, “My only regret is that we’re traveling in this repurposed runabout hunk of junk, instead of the Ghost.”

Kaniel Marroquin spoke up from where he leaned back against the tactical console, “The Ghost has no bunks and barely room for four people on it.” He patted the wall next to him, “The Nomad can hold six, bunk all six and has more cargo space.”

T’Mera returned to face her own console, “But the Ghost is small, fast and we’d stand a better chance of not being seen.”

“You sound like you’re expecting trouble.” Kaniel shot back, “We’re not going near Romulan space.”

Naton frowned, “I don’t think it’s the Romulans she’s worried about.”

“It’s not.” T’Mera tapped the edge of her console. “I knew the risks of this trip. Still, if we do succeed, it’ll be a great holo-documentary.”

Latarian smiled at T’Mera, and spoke softly, “The price of art, I suppose. I thank you for coming along, even though the risk is so high. You’re a good friend.”

“What about me?” Naton grinned back at the woman in the command chair. “Am I a good husband?”

Latarian chuckled, “A great husband.”

Kaniel declared, “And you’re all good friends, and my wife, Fayna, is also good, even if she’s asleep in her bunk.”

“I feel like a fifth wheel, with two couples.” T’Mera joked.

Kaniel grinned over at the helm. “Say, you’re in your forties, aren’t you, T’Mera? How come you haven’t married?”

T’Mera shrugged, “No one has ever been interested in me, in a romantic sense. I’m too emotional for most Vulcans, too Vulcan for most humans, and I guess I just have the kind of personality that lends itself to being left alone by others.” She suddenly smirked, “Although, I was once asked which of two sentient artificial lifeforms I found more suitable for romance.”

Latarian raised an eyebrow, “Oh? Which one did you choose? I’m not even sure who they are.”

“One was an EMH Mark One. A photonic.” T’Mera answered. “My other choice was Commander Data of Starfleet… positronic android. Mind you, it was a hypothetical question, asked by the EMH. Neither of them had propositioned me. He was most likely fishing for compliments.”

Naton glanced to his right at her, “Now I’m curious who you would have chosen.”

T’Mera let out a soft snort, “Given that the EMH is designed to be like his creator, who I argue constantly with…” she trailed off without an answer. “Then again, I never met Dr. Soong. I might have argued with him .”

Kaniel shook his head, “If you’re waiting until it’s someone you don’t argue with, you’ll never get married.”

Naton suddenly spoke up, as his console beeped. “Detecting transwarp signature on sensors!”

A swirling green vortex appeared near the Nomad, and a Borg patrol cube emerged from it.

“Crap.” Latarian sat up in her chair, “Evasive maneuvers.”

T’Mera’s fingers flew over the helm console, “Initiating evasive maneuvers.” The change in course and velocity was so sharp that the inertial dampeners couldn’t compensate.

Kaniel grabbed the sides of his chair, nearly being thrown out of it, “What the hell kind of maneuver was that ?”

T’Mera responded as she continued to try to evade the beam emitting from the cube, “I call that one “Feet don’t fail me now”.”

Naton kept his voice calm, “Shields are down to twenty percent.”

The multiple-voiced enemy forced a channel open. “ We are the Borg. You will surrender yourself. Your defensive capabilities are unable to withstand us. Your offensive capabilities are no match. If you try to defend yourself, you will be punished. Resistance is futile. ” A moment later, the Nomad was brought to a full stop by the powerful tractor beam.

Everyone sprang up from their seats, running to grab a weapon.

T’Mera stopped by the command chair, pressing the return hail button, “Borg vessel… What is it that has a trunk but no key, weighs two thousand pounds, and lives in a circus?”

The Borg voices replied to the hail, “That is irrelevant.”

T’Mera replied, “That's the answer...There's a whole lotta irrelephants in the circus.” At Latarian’s unbelieving stare, T’Mera shrugged, closed the channel, then spoke more firmly, “If you’re using a phaser, remember to set it on the variable frequency modulation.”

Naton pressed the setting on his phaser, “What about you?”

T’Mera replied, “I’m going to try Tal-shaya. The one thing the Borg have never adapted to is broken spines.” She inhaled deeply, “It’s been an honor knowing you all.”

Borg drones materialized on the bridge of the Nomad, and the crew put up a valiant fight, but the Borg numbers prevailed. T’Mera managed to break the necks of three drones before one got close enough to inject her neck with tubules. As the nanoprobes began to infect her, another drone grabbed her, and the shimmering light of a transporter engulfed her.

She rematerialized on the small Borg cube, still being dragged by the drones.

“Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”

The drones lifted her up and laid her down on a table, where they strapped down her extremities. T’Mera closed her eyes, then concentrated on the mind block her father had taught her. To strengthen her focus, she began to repeat a nursery rhyme. “All around the mulberry bush, The monkey chased the weasel. The monkey stopped to pull up his sock... Pop! goes the weasel.”

Searing pain shot through her body, but T’Mera ignored it, pushing against the voices trying to enter her mind. “All around the mulberry bush…” Something hot spread across her left arm. “The monkey chased the weasel…”

“Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”

T’Mera pushed harder against the voices, “The monkey stopped to pull up his sock…”

“Resistance is pop goes the weasel.”

All around her, the drones began to repeat the rhyme with her, stopping in place as if frozen. T’Mera began to force her way into the collective mind, “All around the mulberry bush…”

“The monkey chased the weasel.”

She could feel the collective mind breaking apart, with each drone beginning to individualize. Confusion nearly broke her focus, as she tried to figure out how a simple block was causing the drones to disconnect, but she put it out of her mind. There was a sudden feeling of intense anger, and a new presence within the collective.

“No!” A female voice commanded.

T’Mera opened her eyes.

A bald female Borg’s head, shoulders and upper torso was moving down towards her, suspended by three heavy wires. “You dare to try infect us!” The suspended upper torso was lowered into a black-suited body, and the wires detached.

T’Mera replied to the Borg Queen, “Resistance is NOT futile.”

The Queen approached the table, then injected T’Mera with more tubules. “I will not allow your mutation to be introduced to us.” Her black eyes burned with rage, “You are to be punished. Your death will be slow and painful, and by the end of it, you will wish you had been assimilated.” She raised her hand and the shimmering light of the transporter beam surrounded T’Mera.

T’Mera could no longer hear the voice of the collective, and when the transporter beam disappeared, she was back on the bridge of the Nomad, in a supine position on the floor. Pain still coursed through her body, and she fought to retain consciousness. From where she lay, she could see the viewscreen, and watched as the Borg cube flew off into distant space.

“Computer?” she croaked hoarsely.

“Working.”

T’Mera coughed to clear her throat, “Computer, engage autopilot. Reverse heading and set course for the nearest Federation starbase. Engage at Warp Four, and begin automated general distress beacon.”

“Autopilot engaged. Warp Four. On reverse heading to Omicron station. Distress beacon activated.”

T’Mera remained on the floor, unmoving, still staring at the viewscreen. Eventually, she lost the battle to stay awake, and slept a short time. A full day passed, with her drifting in and out of consciousness, unable to lift herself from the floor. On the beginning of the second day, the ship’s sensor alert sounded, waking her up.

“Computer, what’s going on?” T’Mera opened her eyes to look at the viewscreen.

“Vessel detected on mid-range sensors, on an intercept course.”

“Drop to impulse.” T’Mera commanded, and the Nomad left warp. On the viewscreen, a mid-size green ship shimmered into visibility. “Brilliant. Just what I needed.”

“Vessel is hailing.”

“Computer, open channel and display on viewscreen.” T’Mera tried to lift her head, but it fell back to the floor.

“Federation vessel, you are in Rom---” was as far as the captain of the other ship got before his expression changed from irritated to horrified as he viewed T’Mera on the floor.

T’Mera spoke as evenly as she could, “I apologize for the intrusion. I was unable to set a proper heading to skirt around the Romulan Empire.”

“Prepare to be boarded.” the Romulan on screen told her.

The sound of a Romulan transporter heralded the boarding party, and two Romulans ran over to kneel by her. One of them waved a medical scanner over her. Another Romulan walked over to one of the consoles, pulling up the ship’s logs.

T’Mera tried to raise her right hand, “I’m Doctor T’Mera Chipman, a Federation citizen. I’m just trying to get home to die.”

The Romulan who was scanning her spoke to the other one. “Subcommander, she is severely dehydrated and in shock, in addition to all this.” His hand gestured at the small areas where Borg implants protruded from her skin.

The subcommander nodded, “Stabilize her, if you can.” He looked down at T’Mera, “I am Subcommander Bochra of the scout ship, Ri. I would ask what happened, but it’s fairly evident. The more pertinent question might be… how did you escape the Borg?”

T’Mera looked up into the face of the Romulan subcommander, “I’m not entirely sure. I used a Vulcan mind block technique, but…” she winced as the Romulan medic pressed a hypospray into her neck. The pain soon diminished, and she spoke a bit easier, “Something was wrong with me. Something they didn’t want. I was thrown out.” Tears began to form in her eyes, “They took the rest of the crew. My friends…” She inhaled, then said, “I apologize for my emotions.”

Bochra took her right hand in both of his, “What was your vessel doing? What was its purpose?”

“I was helping my friends. They wanted to return to El-Auria.” T’Mera answered weakly.

Bochra raised one of his slanted eyebrows, “That would seem unwise.” He looked up at the soldier at the console, expectantly.

“The ship’s logs and flight plan indicate they were heading to El-Auria, Subcommander.” The soldier by the console announced. “There is also a holo-imaging file here called…” he paused, then continued, “It seems to have two names. It is either “The Return to El-Auria” or “The Tale of the Ill-Fated Nomad.” I am transmitting everything to the Ri, now.”

T’Mera told the Subcommander, “A holo-documentary I was making about this trip. The final title would depend upon what happened, assuming any of us survived.”

Bochra gave a quick nod to the soldier, then addressed T’Mera, “Isn’t it illogical for a Vulcan to join what was surely to be a suicide mission, for just a piece of entertainment?”

“I owed them.” T’Mera’s voice saddened, “The El-Aurians are a race of listeners and lorekeepers. They normally don’t share what they learn with other races, but my friends not only shared what they knew with me, they gave me permission to make holographic programs about what they told me. I was able to make unique holovids about subjects that no one else had knowledge of. I don’t expect you would understand.”

“I do understand.” Bochra told her.

T’Mera grimaced as another hypospray pressed against her neck. “Am I going to be taken prisoner?”

A strange look of kindness passed on the Romulan’s face, “I will let you know, after I make my report.” He lowered her hand to the floor, then stood up and walked over to the other soldier. The sound of the transporter beam and shimmering light followed, and only the medic was still on board the Nomad.

T’Mera remained quiet during the ten minutes the Romulan medic worked on her, but when he began to pack up to leave, she spoke softly, “Thank you.”

The medic placed a pillow beneath her head, and then covered her body with a thermal blanket. “You are welcome.”

Bochra returned to the Nomad bridge and addressed the medic, “You are to return to the Ri. I will remain here with the Vulcan.” After the medic had beamed away, the subcommander sat on the floor next to T’Mera. “Commander Vatalk has decided that we will tow your vessel to the Neutral Zone and send out a call for the Federation to come retrieve you.”

T’Mera blinked up at the Romulan, “That’s kind of you. Thank you.”

Bochra mused, “I just hope the Federation will not attack us.”

“I’d hate to be the cause of an incident between the Federation and the Star Empire.” T’Mera replied, “I doubt they’ll just attack, especially if you’re sending out hails.” Her voice began to falter as she attempted to remain conscious.

Bochra placed a hand gently on T’Mera’s hair, stroking it, “You should rest. It will still be some time before we get to the Neutral Zone. I will not leave your side until there is a Federation vessel arriving to get you.”

T’Mera looked up into the Subcommander’s face, “I don’t wish to offend, but I hadn’t heard of Romulans being so kind and forgiving. It comes as a surprise to me.”

Bochra smiled softly, “Some time in the past, when I was a young Centurion, my ship crashed in Federation space. My commander on that mission was injured and separated from me, and I was alone and lost in the electromagnetic storms. A Starfleet officer was also lost, and we worked together to get back to our ships. I had been taught that the Federation was weak, but my experience proved…” he paused a moment, as if searching for the proper word, “...enlightening.”

T’Mera shivered slightly beneath the blanket, “Just as my time with you now is enlightening.”

Bochra waved a medical scanner over her, “With such things as the Borg and the Dominion in the other quadrants, it seems to me that those of us in the Alpha and Beta sectors will need to stand together against threats. I am uncommon in my thinking, but not alone in it.” After checking the scanner, he told her, “Now, you do need to rest and conserve your strength.”

T’Mera closed her eyes, “I’ll try.” She slipped into a fitful sleep.

 

Giant spiders crawled along the walls as T’Mera ran through dark corridors. Thick webs blocked her escape route, and held her immobile, allowing the nearest spider to sink its fangs into her…

 

T’Mera heard voices and the sound of someone screaming in hysterics. It seemed as if the person screaming wasn’t stopping to breathe. There was something over her eyes, preventing her from seeing.

“Ten ccs of anesthizine!”

“Yes, Doctor!”

“I think we need to use Vulcan dosages on her.”

 

Voices faded to murmurs, and the screaming stopped. Eventually, the voices became loud enough to hear what was being said.

“Can’t you remove them, Doctor? I thought that once a drone is cut off from the collective, the implants can come out.”

“She doesn’t seem to be cut off, but neither is she connected. I’ve never seen anything like this, and, to be honest, I don’t want to chance making her worse. I can keep her stable and comfortable until we get to Earth. Borg injuries are not something I’m used to, Captain.”

T’Mera opened her eyes. She could see she was in the sickbay of a starship, on a biobed. A tall, dark-haired man with a beard was speaking with a Pahkwa-than at the foot of the bed. To T’Mera’s right, near her shoulder, a dark-haired woman with large dark eyes watched over her.

“You’re on board the USS Titan.” the woman told her, “I’m ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi. Do you feel up to talking?”

T’Mera licked at her dry lips, “What happened to the Romulans?”

“They’ve returned to Romulan space. Your ship is being towed.” Counselor Troi replied. “Do you remember what happened to you?”

T’Mera flexed the fingers on her right hand, “Our ship was attacked by the Borg. The other four on the Nomad were taken.”

The tall man walked over to stand next to the counselor, while the reptilian doctor went into a nearby office. “I’m Captain Riker. It’s odd that you were the only one not assimilated.”

“Something was wrong with me.” T’Mera attempted to flex her left hand. The fingers felt stiff. “I was ejected and put back on the Nomad.”

Counselor Troi studied T’Mera for a moment, then asked, “Do you hear anything in your head, like voices?”

“No.” T’Mera replied. “I don’t. What’s to be done with me?”

Captain Riker placed a hand on the biobed, “We’ve been told to take you to Starfleet Medical. Our doctor wasn’t able to remove the implants, but he’s had little experience with those. There’s a few at Starfleet who’ve had far more luck in removing them.”

T’Mera closed her eyes briefly, then opened them, “Thank you for coming to get me and for bringing me back.”

Counselor Troi gave her an encouraging smile, “Perhaps you should rest, now. I’ll be here, if you need to talk about what you’ve been through.”

T’Mera nodded, “Thank you, Counselor.” She closed her eyes again, then drifted back into the stuttered sleep.

Chapter Text

Data stopped accessing T’Mera’s memories and studied the woman sitting in front of him. Her chin was nested in the valley between her kneecaps, and both her arms wrapped around her lower legs, with her right hand clasping her left wrist. With his index finger, he traced a line from her temple implant to her cheek.

T’Mera opened her eyes, “Has your curiosity been satisfied?”

Data’s finger traced a line to T’Mera’s lower lip, “It has. I am sorry…” he spoke in a hushed tone, “I do not know if it will help you, but I do understand what you have gone through.”

“I’m afraid to ask.” T’Mera remained still, letting his finger move to the other side of her face.

Bright yellow eyes met hers, “It is something I have not spoken about, even to the Captain, who saw what the Borg Queen had done to me. She removed parts of my bioplast and replaced it with organic flesh that had been torn from my shipmates.”

T’Mera winced, “I’m sorry you had to go through that, Data.”

“I had Geordi remove my emotion chip, after that.” He cupped her left cheek with his hand, “I did not wish to feel anything. Strange that I seem to have emotion now, although it is nowhere near as overwhelming as it was with the chip.”

“Can you tell me about this emotion chip?” T’Mera made no move to avoid his hand, but slowly moved her legs to sit in a more normal position.

“Of course.” Data adjusted his sitting position to accommodate hers, “Doctor Soong had made me without emotions, because of how they had affected Lore.” He elaborated, “Lore was made the year prior to me.” then continued, “After he realized I was active, he worked on the emotion chip for me. Lore stole it and used it, but I retrieved it from him. Nineteen months later, I decided to have Geordi install the chip, because I still could not grasp something as basic as humor.”

“Wait, what ?” T’Mera narrowed her eyes at him, “Since when is humor basic? It’s got some of the most complicated sets of variables for any behaviors. It’s dependent on so many factors, like species, upbringing, culture, geographical area, education and … I could sit here reciting the list all day. Anyway, sorry for the tangent. So, you decided to install this chip.”

Data nodded, then continued the story, “Geordi installed the chip. However, it soon overloaded and fused itself into my positronic brain. It could not be easily removed. I could not control all the emotions that were suddenly flooding me.”

T’Mera reached out with her right hand, to touch Data’s hair, “Dumb question… did you remember to clear your memory buffer prior to installing the chip?”

Data’s eyes widened as he replied, “No. I did not think to do that. Once all the cached emotions from my memories were done, I was better able to control myself, although I still had to resort to deactivating the chip in more intense situations. I never realized how unpredictable and powerful emotions would be.”

T’Mera patted Data’s shoulder, giving him a small smile, “Most of us get to learn to control them gradually, over a childhood. You had them dropped on you like an anvil, every emotion you’d ever felt from the start of your activation.” Her brows knit together, “There’s a discrepancy, now that I think of it. If Doctor Soong made you without emotions, why did you have any to feel from the past? Something else, as well… According to the files I was sent, didn’t you make Lal through a synaptic transfer of yourself?”

“That is correct.” Data replied, then it was his turn to furrow his brow, “Why were you sent files on Lal? Was this recent?”

“No.” T’Mera shook her head, “I was sent the files by Admiral Haftel, right after Lal suffered the cascade failure. He wanted my analysis of why it happened.”

Data frowned deeper, “I mean no offense, but I gave no consent to anyone else having access to Lal’s information. Why would they send it to a holographer?”

T’Mera reached for Data’s left hand with her right hand, “I’m the one who always gets the files, when AI programming fails and nobody knows why.”

Data’s consternation faded, and he closed his hand around hers, “What were your findings, in Lal’s case? If you had any, I was never notified.”

“She encountered a logic error that she wasn’t developed enough to clear.” T’Mera gave Data’s hand a light squeeze, “Admiral Haftel seemed to be giving you no choice, and her emotions built up, but she couldn’t understand that there would be other options aside from being forced to leave you. It created a seize up that precipitated the cascade effect, in my opinion. I sent Admiral Haftel my report, and one free ticket for a guilt trip. I didn’t mean to upset you, Data, by bringing this up, but there was a reason I did.”

“What is the reason?” Data’s head tilted to the left slightly.

T’Mera matched his head tilt with her own, “Well, if you copied yourself onto her, and she had emotions, that means that you’ve had them all your life. Based on what you’re telling me, I think the emotion chip doesn’t give you emotions. I think it was a hardware bridge in a socket that, when removed, made it so your emotions were only at the subliminal level, so you couldn’t feel them or react strongly. It would also explain why you have emotion while inside B-4, who lacks that hardware bridge block.” The left side of her mouth quirked upwards, “I suppose it could be said that, instead of emotional baggage, you have emotional babbage?”

Data raised an eyebrow, then deadpanned, “A very humorous joke. Hysterical, in fact.”

T’Mera’s smirk faded as she gazed around the virtual reality, “We can’t stay in here forever… assuming I can even figure out how to get us out of here. I hope between this and the Hounds, I’ll be able to hook a speech box up for you, so you can at least communicate.”

“That would be preferable to not being able to say anything.” Data nodded in agreement, “Although I would not be averse to more interfacing like we are currently doing.”

T’Mera bit her lower lip, “I’d want to make sure B-4 is okay with that. It’s his arm being skewered by me, after all. If he consents, then we can do more of this. I enjoy being with you.”

“Agreed.” Data smiled very slightly, “Thank you for thinking of his wishes.”

“So…” T’Mera looked expectantly at Data, “How do we get out of this?”

Data frowned slightly, glancing down and to the left, “Perhaps B-4 can hear us? Try giving him a command to remove the Borg tubes from his arm.”

T’Mera called out, “B-4, remove the tubes going from my arm into yours.”

The woodland and Data vanished, and T’Mera found herself still in a dancing position with B-4, unmoving. She extricated herself from the android and moved over to the neural net monitor, “Beautiful! Look at all that activity.”

B-4’s warbling voice broke through her excitement, “Can I move now?”

T’Mera turned to face the android, “B-4, yes, you can move. I’m sorry. You don’t have to wait for your name, now. I’ll let you know the next time we play that game. I do have to ask your permission for a couple of things. First, I’m going to need to access your ports. Is that all right with you?”

B-4’s expression remained mostly vacant, “Yes.”

She walked closer to B-4, to examine his right arm. “Data wanted to interface with me in the future. It’ll require me putting those tubes in your arms, when we do it. Will you let me put tubes in your arms, from time to time?”

The android looked at the two small holes in the bioplast on his arms. “Yes.”

T’Mera studied B-4’s face for a moment, “You could hear both of us talking, when we were interfaced?”

B-4’s mouth moved to make a smile, “Yes.”

“Interesting.” T’Mera mused, then guided the android to sit at the rear port chair, “Here, we’ll strap you into this one, since I’ll need the science station from now until we get to Ba’ku.” She fastened the harness around the obedient android, then turned on a display for him, “Let’s see what you can watch while I work… B-4, do you want modern or archaic?”

B-4 seemed to think, then decided, “Archaic.”

T’Mera pressed a few buttons on the console, “Archaic, it is. There. Yellow Submarine. That should be fun and colorful, and you don’t need to worry about understanding it, because nobody understands it.” As the android settled down to watch the cartoon, she made her way to the cargo bay, then returned with a small box and toolkit.

Data could see her reflection on the wall past the display, and noted that she stuck an earpiece in her right ear after she sat down. She seemed to be tinkering with something in front of her, while going through his personal logs. As he couldn’t hear the logs, he assumed that she was listening to them through the earpiece. Now and then, she tapped the screen to pause the logs, then resumed playing them. He split his attention between the hourlong cartoon and the reflection of T’Mera’s activity.

When the animated entertainment ended, T’Mera walked over to B-4 and removed the cap from his head. “I just have to hook this into a port, and then put a nice choker on you.” She removed one of the activity monitors, then plugged a few small wires into some of the ports on the right side of the android’s head. Once the wires were secured, she replaced the monitor, and fed the wires back behind B-4’s ear and down to his neck.

“B-4, this has to stay on your neck at all times.” T’Mera instructed the android, as she fastened a five centimeter fabric band around his neck, and then attached the wires from the port to a five centimeter square box placed at the front of the band. “Data, I’ve hooked a concatenated synthesis module into the ports I think you can use. This is slapped together using your personal logs, so you might wind up sounding more like a ship’s computer… but you’ll at least be able to speak. Try to say something.”

Data’s voice emerged from the new module, “That was an extremely odd animation, T’Mera.”

T’Mera smiled, then replaced B-4’s cap on his head, “That was the point. It’s colorful and musical, and so odd that it inspires neural activity in the viewer. There’s something I should have asked you, and which I should ask you, before we get to the hard work.”

“What is that?” Data queried.

T’Mera turned B-4’s seat so that she could face him, “You do want to come back, right?”

“Yes,” Data answered, “I am not sure why I put myself in a position to be destroyed, but I assume that I had a good reason for doing so and no other options were available at the time. I am fairly certain that if there were a way to accomplish a goal without being killed, I would have done it that way.”

“I just wanted to make certain.” T’Mera told him, then returned to the science station. “Once the Hounds are done sniffing, I think I’ll be able to start on the long job. Maybe I’ll teach the three of you a little traveling game, so you can entertain each other while I work.”

“That would be interesting.” Data responded, then said, “You are correct. I do sound like a ship’s computer. Also, I wish to alert you that four hours, fifty two minutes and twenty seconds have elapsed since you last ingested any nutrients. I have noticed that biological lifeforms will experience detrimental effects when the level of glucose in their blood is too low.”

T’Mera smirked, “Now you sound like an android version of a mother. Fine, I’ll eat. You three could play a game called ‘I Spy.’ You look out the viewports, and whoever starts says “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter…” and based on what you’re looking at, you choose the letter beginning its name. The person who guesses correctly is the one who says “I spy” next.”

“It sounds simple enough.” Data replied.

“It helps pass the time.” T’Mera told him as she approached the replicator. “Plomeek soup and spinach salad.” The food materialized on the tray, and she carried it to the science station to eat while she listened to Data’s old personal logs.

“I spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter S.” Data began the game.

Quimby answered first, “Is it space?”

“Correct.” Data answered.

Quimby stared out the front viewports, “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter S.”

B-4 warbled, mimicking the previous answer, “Is it space?”

“Correct.” Quimby replied. “Your turn now.”

B-4’s head wobbled slightly as he looked out the viewport, “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter S.”

“Note to self…” T’mera grumbled, “Never play I Spy in space with AI.”

Quimby attempted to answer, “Is it space?”

“No.” B-4 replied.

Data was the next to answer, “Is it a star?”

“Yes.” B-4 warbled happily.

T’Mera sighed and concentrated on her work while the S-version of I Spy continued for hours.

Chapter Text

Year: 2380

Stardate: 57243.4

 

“I spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter S.” Quimby stated.

T’Mera groaned softly, continuing her work.

“Is it space?” B-4 asked.

“No.”

Data guessed, “Is it a star?”

“No.” Quimby waited for more guesses, and when none were forthcoming, she said, “Sphere.”

T’Mera unbuckled her harness and scrambled out of her seat at the science station, “What?!!” She bumped B-4’s body as she flung herself into the front port seat at ops and looked out the viewport. She slumped in relief, “Not a Borg sphere, thank goodness. What is that thing?” She tapped the console, “Huh… It’s a Dyson Sphere.”

Data spoke up, “A common misnomer. It is more properly termed a Dyson Shell, although both names are inaccurate for the structure that Dyson postulated. His initial idea was for it to be a permeable megastructure consisting of satellite energy collectors around a star or a sun, which would then collect all of the energy for use by a civilization. In that initial state, it would have seemed more like rings, rather than a solid--” He stopped himself mid-sentence, then said, “Hmm. Most humans stop me from rambling this long, T’Mera.”

T’Mera smirked, then said, “I don’t like to interrupt unless it’s necessary. Also, I’ve gotten quite accustomed to the sound of your voice, due to the logs. I find it… soothing.” She added, “Even with the synth box you’re using now.”

Data replied, “My voice is based on that of Doctor Soong.”

“Well, I never met him.” T’Mera returned to the science station, “So, I suppose I might have found him soothing, as well.”

“I spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter S.”

“Quimby!” T’Mera snorted, “Give it a rest. I think a day is long enough to play that game. You just pilot now.”

“Aye aye, Cap’n.” Quimby replied, before falling silent.

After a moment of silence, Data spoke again, “I am glad you like my voice, T’Mera. I wish we had been able to meet years ago at the conferences.”

T’Mera tapped on the science console, watching some text scroll on the display, “Instead, we meet at the crossroads of desperation.”

“If I might ask,” Data paused in the inquiry, “What is the Chipman Test that Doctor Vanzanen spoke of?”

“Ah.” T’Mera turned to look at the android, “There was so much debate as to what constitutes a person for the sake of rights that I wrote up a paper that outlines what I consider to be indicators of a conscious and sentient being. It was received well, and Starfleet JAG offices are supposed to be adopting it for any sentience hearings.”

“Please elaborate?” Data asked.

“Very well.” T’Mera leaned back in the chair, “They show an interest in their own destiny, are capable of forming friendships and close relationships, have developed hobbies and interests that are unrelated to their intended function, are capable of overriding their programming, capable of choosing to sacrifice their existence for another, and, finally, capable of arbitrary preference in equilateral decision-making without breaking down.”

Data remained quiet for a moment, then said, “That does seem to be a fairly comprehensive way of testing.”

T’Mera grumbled, “Well, knowing how most of my research papers are interpreted, someone’s probably going to figure a way to pervert my test into something evil.”

“I must disagree with your assessment of your research.” Data replied, “While the predicament of the EMH is regrettable, the holograms are not evil, nor am I aware of anything else you have done resulting in something I would term to be evil.”

T’Mera turned back to the console, as a beep announced an incoming file transfer, “I suppose you’re right, Data.” She tapped the screen to open the files, “Something from the Enterprise, and another from a crewmate who was on the Trieste with you. The files from the Enterprise are what I needed. Recordings of you in performances or social situations.”

“I am curious…” Data inquired, “What you need those for.”

T’Mera scrolled through the list, “They’ll help me figure out how much of you is distributed where and when within each neural subprocessor. Without the indexes, I have to map each subprocessor and reconstruct you, line by line, neuron by neuron, manually. I’ve decided to order them chronologically, since your memories all contain the timestamp of when you experienced them.”

Data was silent for a moment, then said, “That is a nearly insurmountable task. You are correct. It will take a few years for that.”

T’Mera chuckled, “One thing’s for sure. They don’t call you ‘Data’ for nothing. I’d considered trying to toss out the part of you that’s a walking encyclopedia, but then thought better of it, since you might have something important attached to those.”

Data told her, “I do enjoy amassing knowledge, and as far as my name, Doctor Soong tended towards whimsical ones.”

As she perused the new files, T’Mera said, “I wouldn’t have chosen an extremely common informational term for you, though. I would have tried to give you a name that was both meaningful for a computer, yet would double as a human name.”

Data asked, “What would you have named me?”

T’Mera rubbed her chin, then replied, “How about Chip?”

“I see your point.” Data’s voice remained even, due to the vocal box. “What did someone from the Trieste send you?”

“Nothing all that important.” T’Mera answered. “I can use it as a verification for timestamps. It’s an image taken of you in a skant.”

“I remember that day.” Data told her. “My modesty subroutine kept sending me alert prompts, so I changed back to the jumpsuit. Have you ever tried it?”

“I was never in Starfleet, myself, so I never wore the uniforms.” T’Mera kept up the conversation as she worked, “I’m used to seeing the uniforms, though. I was born on the Wellington. The classic Starfleet brat.”

Data’s vision became obscured when B-4 picked up an isolinear chip to study. “Curious. Why did you never join Starfleet, if both of your parents served?”

T’Mera stopped her work for a moment, “I didn’t want to deal with the discipline and uniforms and having to go wherever I was sent. I wanted to go where I want to go.”

“Speaking of that,  I notice that you have your own ship, and that it is not registered to the Federation.” Data began his next line of inquiries, “How did you get this ship? I also noticed it has what could be considered a cloak, which would be against the Treaty of Algeron, had it been a Federation vessel.”

“It’s not a true cloak, really. It’s more like a chameleon. Anyway, I do some business outside of the Federation, in which currency is exchanged.” T’Mera explained, as she resumed the work, “My holosuite programs tended to be successful, especially with the Ferengi. That’s why this is a Ferengi ship. I do like it, since they’re never at war with anyone, meaning I can travel fairly safely outside of Federation space. I doubt anyone goes into red alert at seeing it. It also has very good defense capabilities, in addition to speed.”

“What about weapons?” Data checked his memory and tried to recall if he had seen any on the vessel.

“Well…” T’Mera bit her lip as she studied one of the files, “I have something I call the Mosquito Phaser, but the Ghost really hasn’t got any weapons, unless you count the change I had made to the deflector arrays.”

“What did you have changed?” Data recalled seeing the deflectors, albeit faintly.

T’Mera checked the neural monitor display, “In a bad situation, it can be a reflector array. It’ll bounce an attack right back at whoever shot at me. I haven’t had to use it, so I honestly have no clue if it works, or if I got taken.”

Data replied, “Most intriguing.” He was about to attempt small talk, when T’Mera let out a strangled cry, and there was a thud loud enough to attract B-4’s attention. The android swiveled in the chair to face the science section.

T’Mera had fallen from her chair and clutched her left leg with both hands, as the skin around her ankle began to move as if something beneath it were boiling. Metal spikes shot out from the area, then expanded and stabbed back into her epidermis. Despite the expression of pain on her face, she used her arms to drag herself towards the emergency supplies.

“B-4! Get us out of this harness!” Data commanded, “Press the button in the middle!” The prototype complied, and the straps retracted into the chair. “We have to help T’Mera.” He noticed the medkit on a shelf, “We need to get that grey box.” Taking care to not step on T’Mera, B-4 leaped over to the shelf, then reached for the box.

“Here, B-4… bring the box to me…” T’Mera’s pain was audible in her voice as a few tears coursed down her cheeks.

B-4 ran back to kneel by T’Mera, holding the box out to her, “Here is the box.”

T’Mera took it from the android’s hands, “Thank you.” then opened it. She reached for the hypospray and grabbed at a vial labelled ‘triptacedrine’. Once the vial was inserted into the medical device, she pressed it just above where the Borg implants were bursting out from her calf. A moment later, her right hand went limp and she dropped the hypospray and lay on the floor, panting heavily.

Worried yellow eyes stared down at the fallen woman, then B-4’s attention turned to the shiny metal protrusions in her leg.

T’Mera closed her eyes, “I’m all right. Go back to your seat.”

Data countered, “I can find no correlation between what just happened to you and the term “all right”. I therefore conclude that you are not all right, and are, in fact, the exact opposite of that state.”

T’Mera shook her head, “The medicine will work quickly, and I’ll get back up.”

“Perhaps.” Data admonished, “However, I believe that you should ingest some sort of sustenance and then experience a full sleep cycle, once you get back up.”

“You’re right.” T’Mera picked up the hypospray and replaced it in the empty space in the medkit, “We’ll be at the Briar Patch tomorrow, and I’ll be the one who has to pilot through that. Bit of trivia…” she added, as she closed the medkit, “According to legend, the first person to call Klach D’Kel Brakt the Briar Patch was Arik Soong.”

“Hmm. I suppose it could be true. He is supposed to have been a progenitor of my father. Perhaps a great-grandfather.” Data replied. “How are you feeling, now?”

“Better.” T’Mera answered, as she slowly got to her feet. She looked down at her left leg, where the implants had wrapped around her calf and ankle, “The pain is dulled. Once those things are done growing, it won’t hurt as much.” She replaced the medkit on the shelf, then limped to the replicator, “Mushroom barley soup, ninety-three degrees in a sourdough bread bowl.” The food materialized and she took the tray to the seat at the science station.

“Edible food container. Fascinating.” Data mused, as B-4 sat down in his own seat.

“You’re sure you don’t need food, Data?” T’Mera asked in between mouthfuls.

“I am certain.” Data’s voice replied, “Although I occasionally ingest a semi-organic nutrient suspension in a silicon-based liquid medium in order to lubricate my biofunctions, it seems as if B-4 does not yet need to do so. Any eating or drinking that I used to do was purely in a social context, and I see no reason for that, at the moment.”

T’Mera wiped her mouth, “Just let me know if and when you need anything of the sort.”

Data replied, “I will be certain to do so.” B-4 managed to figure out how to put his harness on, and then the android was secured into the chair.

T’Mera finished her soup, returned the tray to the replicator, then checked the android’s harness. “Good work on buckling. I’ll be right back.”

Data and B-4 watched as she entered the small room that held the head, and waited patiently for her to return. When she emerged, Data reminded her, “You should be ready for your sleep cycle, now.”

T’Mera pushed the science station chair into the flat position, “Look, I’m getting into my bunk. You don’t need to nag me.” She buckled herself into the harness, “Computer, sleeping mode.” She closed her eyes as she began to float in the zero gravity.

Data listened to the holographer’s breathing throughout her restless sleep.

Chapter Text

Year: 2380

Stardate: 57246.3

 

“Ghost to Ba’Ku Center Control. Requesting landing vector.” T’Mera twisted her head slightly, to make certain that B-4 was harnessed, and then turned to look out the front viewports again. The rings around the Ba’ku planet were visually impressive, but she would need to avoid flying through them. She could see the continent with the small Ba’ku village to the West, and the continent to the East of that, where the Ba’ku Medical Center had been built in 2377.

“Ba’ku Center Control to Ghost, affirmative on landing procedures. Vectoring coordinates being sent now.”

“Ghost to Ba’Ku Center Control. Coordinates received. Beginning descent.” T’Mera circumvented the rings, then adjusted the pitch of the ship. “Adjusting to one-fifth impulse, maneuvering thrusters engaged.” As she spoke, the ship began to rattle and shake as it traveled through the ionosphere.

“This is an unexpected amount of turbulence.” Data announced.

“It’s normal, Data.” She adjusted course again, “With so many bells and whistles on this ship, I needed to skimp somewhere, so I chose the inertial dampers. Don’t worry. We’ll make it to the ground.” She continued the procedural recitation, “Impulse engines shut off, vertical landing thrusters engaged.”

“The laws of gravity would guarantee that we will make it to the ground, T’Mera. My concern is whether we get there in one piece or in several.” Data quipped.

T’Mera snorted, “This is a great ship, and it’s going to land just fine. It only feels like we’re going to crash. You’re just used to Galaxy class or Sovereign class ships, which ride so smoothly, they don’t even install a chair belt, much less a harness.” There was a downwards lurch and then the ship stopped moving. The roar of the thrusters died down to silence. “All engines and thrusters powering down. See? We made it.” She rubbed her chin, “Hmm. I don’t want the Ghost invisible here. What to choose…” She pressed a few buttons on the console, then unbuckled her harness.

B-4 followed suit, “Can I move now?”

“Yes, you can move.” T’Mera told him, “Come with me to the cargo bay, please.”

The android followed her to the cargo bay of the Ghost, and waited, while she packed boxes and bags onto an anti-grav sled.

T’Mera opened the outer door and pushed the sled outside, then inhaled deeply, “This planet has nice, crisp air.” She looked at the blue sky, and the small wisps of white clouds that floated over the green mountains, “It’s beautiful here.” She waited for B-4 to stand next to her before she closed the cargo bay door of the Ghost. On the small remote, she tapped a few buttons and the chameleon-cloaked ship changed into a twentieth-century recreational ground vehicle with warp nacelles on each side of it.

“Your ship has holo-emitters on the outside?” Data was slightly amused, but his vocal box didn’t carry inflection.

“Yep. I can hide it, or alter how it appears.” T’Mera answered him, as she pushed the sled. The Ba’ku Medical Center’s building had been constructed in such a way as to blend in with the surrounding landscape. The siding resembled rock formations, and green ivy snaked its way down and around the four stories. Gardens and small farms surrounded the center, with a path leading to the main entrance.

B-4 obediently followed her, taking in the scenery.

A young woman with cornsilk blonde hair and bright blue eyes moved to meet T’Mera just inside the entrance. “I’m Ba’iba. Welcome to the Ba’ku Medical Center. I’ll be your caregiver during your stay here.” Her red and white striped uniform denoted her status as a patient’s aide.

T’Mera held up her right hand with the Vulcan salute, “Live long and prosper, Ba’iba. I’m T’Mera Chipman, as you know, and this is B-4.” she indicated the android next to her.

“Oh.” Ba’iba widened her eyes at the pale-skinned android, “We only gave you a single bed. I’ll have them give you a double.” She tapped her fingers on the small PADD in her hand. “Follow me to your residence. Since you have specific power requirements, your unit is the one normally reserved for VIPs.”

T’Mera pushed the sled and followed the woman, while making certain that B-4 remained close by. “Thank you. I’m sure everything will be sufficient.” As they walked, she noted the locations of more gardens, a therapy and fitness center, and a few restaurants and shops beneath an atrium. “Quite a lovely facility.”

They reached the room, and Ba’iba held the door open so the sled would fit through. T’Mera began to unpack everything, setting up the computers, displays and equipment on the tables and desks. Once the sled was clear, Ba’iba placed it vertically in the closet. “I’ll be checking on you four times a day. You’ll see the doctor tomorrow, and then I’ll be given your regimen. The replicator is right here, or, if you feel up to walking, there’s restaurants around the atrium which serve food grown in the gardens. The communications shuttle leaves each morning at eight. The white buttons are call buttons, for non-emergencies, and the red are for emergencies.”

“Thank you, Ba’iba.” T’Mera gave her a smile as she continued to set up the equipment. “I should be fine for now.”

Ba’iba stared for  moment at B-4, then bowed her head, “I’ll be back at three to see how you’re doing.” She turned and closed the door behind her.

T’Mera looked at the android, “Do you two require anything to feel at home? We’ll be here for a few years.”

B-4 stared into a mirror, seemingly entertained by his own reflection.

Data replied, “Neither of us require anything, and they had emptied out my quarters on the Enterprise before I was sent to Daystrom. I am not even certain what has become of any of my personal belongings.”

“I’ll send a message out on the shuttle, asking after it, if you wish.” T’Mera began to place small devices along the wall, spaced fifteen centimeters apart.

“That is acceptable, thank you.” Data told her, then asked, “Are those holo-emitters?”

The left side of T’Mera’s mouth lifted slightly, “Yes, they are. I never go anywhere without some. I know that pure holo-displays never caught on, but I like them.”

“T’Mera?” Data spoke hesitantly.

“Yes, Data?” she paused in her work to look at the android.

“Would it be acceptable with you if we interface tonight?” Data was able to briefly see her as B-4 turned to examine the next shiny object.

T’Mera resumed plugging in the various displays and equipment, “That should be fine. We can do it before I go to sleep.” By the time she finished setting up her workstation, the patient aide had returned.

Ba’iba knocked, then entered, “How are we doing?”

T’Mera replied to the woman, “Everything seems to work as it should. Thank you.”

Ba’iba leaned in and whispered to T’Mera, “Is he anatomically correct?” she indicated B-4.

T’Mera looked over at B-4, then shrugged, “I don’t know. I didn’t check.”

Data could hear the whisper, “Yes.” he answered.

T’Mera corrected her answer, “Oh. Yes. He’s anatomically correct, it seems.”

Ba’iba giggled softly, “Sorry. I was just curious. Is there anything you need?”

T’Mera shook her head, “No. I’ll probably eat something, then get to work. Thank you, again.” She rolled one of the chairs in the room over to the workstation, waited until Ba’iba left, then gestured to the android, “B-4, come over here. It’s time to reattach the brain monitors.”

B-4 shuffled over to her, then sat in the chair as she placed the monitor devices in his various ports.

“Why an anatomically correct prototype?” T’Mera mused.

Data offered, “To make us seem more human.”

“That doesn’t make sense.” T’Mera clucked her tongue, “I could see making you humaniform, but what your creator did goes much further than that. Pores, breathing, tear ducts, a penis… Why give you things that serve no real purpose?”

“I have used my penis. It serves a purpose.” Data replied. “Although I do understand your confusion on the matter.”

T’Mera placed the cap over B-4’s head, covering the monitors, “He placed it a higher priority than making certain your programming was secure, and far higher than your hobbies. Which have you used more, your violin or your penis?”

“Violin.” Data responded. “I concede the point to you.”

T’Mera switched on the continual holographic display of B-4’s positronic neural net, with Data’s neural net also visible in red, “There we go. Nothing says “home” like having your neural scan hovering in the air.” She walked over to the replicator, “Cornbread with butter.” then took the food to the desk, sitting down to work while eating. She tapped a button on one of the PADDs near her, “Work log, add timestamp. Doctor Chipman recording work on one Commander Data.”

She picked up a stylus with her right hand and pressed it against the large display of code, while making her log entry, “Soong seems to have developed his own programming environment, which means his source and libraries are unique to him and the androids. I’ll have to write my own compiler and debugger, once I figure it out. To exacerbate this, it’s not even a straight programming language. It’s as if he combined linear programming with brainwave generation somehow. I stand no chance of being able to create a dynamic mapper, and will now begin the process of trying to rebuild it.”

Data kept silent while T’Mera logged her process, catching glimpses of the displays whenever B-4 looked in that direction. He could see the activity in red and blue on the display, and attempted to calculate the mapping of B-4’s neural net.

He could hear a bird making a ‘kraa’ sound. T’Mera’s body seemed to be twitching and jerking about wildly. The wall by the desk flashed back and forth from wood paneling to the gray and beige corridor with black wall displays from the Galaxy-class starships. Images began to flash in one second intervals:

Raven flapping its wings…

“Do you KNOW desire?!”

His own face with blue eyes…

“Ahh ahh ahh ohhhh yessss”

A strong, blonde woman sitting atop his lap, bouncing, gripping his shoulders…

“I love you, brother”

The blonde woman, lifeless, on a biobed…

“I feel… I love you, father…”

A woman with Vulcan features, kissing him passionately…

“Data, dance with me…”

 

“Data, what the HELL are you doing!?” T’Mera swiveled in the chair to face the android, with an alarmed expression.

Data’s disorientation caused a delay in his answer, “I…” His internal chronometer had progressed much farther than he thought it should have. “Malfunction… stand by…” Slowly, he returned to minimal functions. “I attempted to help you map B-4’s neural net, but something went wrong.”

T’Mera bit her lower lip, frowning, “B-4’s brain won’t be able to handle those kinds of complex calculations. You need to try to not think that hard.” She pointed to the neural display, “You just overclocked him and nearly caused a thermal overload in the entire positronic matrix. If you keep doing that, you run the risk of burning out his circuits and possibly causing a cascade failure and wipe.”

“Ah.” Data responded to her, “It would explain why I feel slow, at present. I am sorry for nearly causing a shutdown.”

B-4 warbled, “I saw a bird.”

“Just keep a low profile.” T’Mera turned back to her displays, “I’m not even sure how you’re working in there, just on a basic sentience level.”

“I will endeavor to not perform a dental examination on a donated equine, Doctor.” Data told her. “I will be satisfied just to be functioning enough to communicate.”

“Do you want me to put some entertainment on for you and B-4? I’m going to need to concentrate on this. Soong's programming style is like finding the works of Shakespeare typed by infinite monkeys, but scrambled." T’Mera let out a long sigh.

“Not at present, thank you.” Data replied, still shaken from the barrage of visions.

B-4 frowned slightly, “Did something bad happen?”

T’Mera got out of the chair and rummaged through one of her bags. “No, B-4. Nothing bad happened.” She pulled out a square container and brought it over to the small table next to B-4. “This is just in case you want to play with something colorful.” She pulled off the lid and shook the container, “Interlocking shaped blocks.” She left it by the android and returned to her seat.

Data remained silent as T’Mera worked for the next few hours. B-4 eventually began to play with the blocks, although he didn’t manage to build anything meaningful out of them. Data noted that their internal chronometer was nearing nineteen hundred hours planet time, and listened for the caregiver to return.

“Doctor Chipman?” Ba’iba returned to the room on time and called in before entering.

T’Mera looked up from her work, “Yes? Oh, I suppose it’s been four hours. Come in.”

Ba’iba glanced at all the equipment, “I need to place a vitals monitor on you. It won’t hurt, and it will stay on, even if you bathe or soak in the lake.” She held up a three centimeter, circular device. She crossed the room to where the holographer was seated. “This way, the nurses at the telemetry station will be able to see how you are.”

T’Mera nodded to the woman, “All right. Slap it on.”

Ba’iba unfastened the shoulder strap of T’Mera’s dress, then placed the device in the center of her breastbone. “That should do it.” She stole a glance at B-4 again, then turned back to T’Mera, “Do you need anything else, tonight, before I go off duty?” She fastened the strap, again.

“Yes. Please have this sent out on the next message shuttle.” T’Mera replied, handing Ba’iba a message crystal. “I’ll probably eat and turn in soon, myself.”

“Very good.” Ba’iba took the crystal, bowed her head, then turned and exited the room, closing the door behind her.

T’Mera rubbed the bridge of her nose, then walked over to the replicator, “Plomeek broth, ninety three degrees.” She sat down in a chair and rolled it over to the space next to B-4, “How are the two of you doing?”

B-4 replied, “I am... Fine.” He continued to stack blocks in random patterns.

Data responded, “I am functioning within minimal parameters. The more pressing question is how you are.”

T’Mera smiled as she sipped the broth, “Still functioning within expected parameters. I’m pondering indulging in a hot water shower before I get ready for the interface and bed.”

“Many humanoid lifeforms do find such an activity to be relaxing.” Data agreed.

T’Mera finished the broth, then stood up and grabbed one of the bags she had yet to unpack. She headed to the dresser next to the bed, unzipped the duffel, then opened each drawer and loaded it with her clothing. She stuffed the empty bag next to the dresser, then pulled out a sleeveless nightshirt. She looked back at the seated android, then walked into the bathroom.

T’Mera hung the nightshirt on one of the hooks on the wall, then unfastened her dress and removed it. A stack of clean towels had been placed on a rack next to the combination shower and bathtub unit, and soap dispensers were attached to the wall in the shower and by the sink. She stepped into the tub and turned on the water and shower head, adjusting it to a relaxing heated setting. As she dispensed some soap into her hands and began to lather, she heard talking.

“No, B-4. She will wish for privacy.”

T’Mera turned to see B-4 through the glass door, half a meter away. Startled, she yelled, “B-4! You have to stay out there. Your monitors aren’t supposed to get wet!”

“I apologize, T’Mera.” Data spoke up, “I tried to get him to sit back down. I assure you that he is not being salacious.”

T’Mera sighed and returned to washing. “It’s like having a hundred kilogram toddler.” She rinsed off the soap while B-4 busied himself with testing the faucets in the sink, the soap dispenser and the flush lever on the commode. She turned off the water in the shower, then grabbed a towel and dried herself off. “I suppose I shouldn’t be expecting any privacy.”

“I apologize again, for that.” Data replied, “If it is any consolation, I am well aware of the varied daily functions of biological organisms, even if I have never experienced such functions myself.”

T’Mera finished toweling off, then pushed at B-4, “Excuse me. I need to use what you’re standing near.” She attempted nonchalant conversation with Data, “So, your own system is entirely self-contained for the most part? Even if you eat and drink food at a social occasion?”

“That is correct.” Data told her, “It is very rare that I have to ingest anything, and what I do ingest gets broken down and used by my systems entirely, with no need to excrete any waste products. I do have some ability to evaporate extra liquids through the pores in my skin, if needed, although I do not sweat in the strictest sense of the term.”

“Interesting.” T’Mera moved to retrieve her nightshirt from the hook, “Far more convenient than being biological.” She tugged the nightshirt on, being careful with her left arm. “Come on out, B-4. Time to get you ready for bed. I want to be lying down for the interface, in case I get dizzy.”

B-4 obediently followed, then stopped next to the bed.

T’Mera bent down to remove the android’s boots, “No wearing shoes to bed. We should take this jumpsuit off, as well. I hope they put undershorts on you.”

“I believe we did.” Data stated in the even tone of the voice box, while T’Mera removed B-4’s gold jumpsuit.

“That’s a relief.” She guided the android to the bed, “B-4, you lay down on the right side of the bed, next to the wall. Your head goes on the pillow closest to the wall.”

B-4 did as instructed, then asked, “Why?”

T’Mera climbed onto the left side, then pulled the covers over both of them, “This is called going to sleep. You’ll be laying here next to me, and I’ll be interfacing with Data. After that, I’ll be sleeping. Is that acceptable to you?”

B-4 seemed to ponder the question, then replied, “Yes.”

Data spoke up, “I am unsure as to which action caused you to inject us. It could have been the kiss or the hand squeeze. We should attempt both.”

“Data, are you sure you’re not being salacious?” T’Mera joked, then leaned over to kiss B-4’s lips, “Goodnight, B-4.”

B-4 replied softly, “Goodnight.”

T’Mera rested her head on her pillow, then wrapped her left hand around B-4’s right hand and squeezed, concentrating on the implants in her arm. Tubules shot out of her forearm, injecting B-4, and as she closed her eyes, the environment around them changed.

Curved corridors lined with a wood rail and shiny black display panels and soft white light stretched out in front and in back of them. The textured loop carpet beneath their feet was blue with beige on both wall edges. Orange double-doors were spaced every few meters down the hall.

T’Mera glanced over at Data, “Let me guess… it was your turn to design the Borg-generated virtual reality?”

Data blinked and looked around, “It would seem so. I apologize for the mundane environment.”

“It’s as good as any.” T’Mera began to walk, “The Galaxy class ships were such a headache for me, although in some ways, they remind me of the early times. The more innocent times of holography programming.” She chuckled, “The days of standing in the emitter testing room with binoculars and walking backwards on a tropical beach to see where the footsteps in the sand change from material to simulated visual effect. Oh, and Turtle Boy. I wonder whatever became of him?”

Data strolled along the corridor next to her, “Turtle Boy? Was he part human and part cryptodira?”

T’Mera laughed, then shook her head, “It was a nickname. He was earning extra credit at the Institute by helping us with quality assurance. We were having trouble figuring out how to test the limits of the holosuite’s ability to compartmentalize and deal with multiple living observers all moving independently. One day, he came in with a basket filled with turtles and proceeded to place one little turtle in each grid. He was henceforth known as Turtle Boy.”

“A creative solution.” Data smiled very slightly, then stopped in place.

T’Mera stopped walking and turned to look at the android, “Is something wrong?”

Data’s brows knitted together, and his yellow eyes glanced downward and to the left, then back, “I can perform complex calculations again.”

One of T’Mera’s slanted eyebrows shot up. “Oh? I’ll have to remember to check the neural net monitor for this time, to see what you’re doing. It’s best not to, though, in case you’re hurting B-4.” She studied his face for a moment, “Data, you said you had wanted to speak to me for twelve years and seven months, right?”

“That is correct.” Data tilted his head, regarding her.

T’Mera began to walk, “How come you didn’t send a subspace message, then?”

Data matched her pace through the corridor, “It… did not occur to me to do so.”

She chuckled, “That’s kind of funny.” At the confused expression on his face, she held out her right hand to him, “Don’t feel bad. I didn’t send you any messages, either.”

Data looked down at the offered hand, then grasped it with his left hand. They walked and talked for a while, until she began to fall asleep. He had B-4 remove the tubules, and then spent the rest of the night listening to T’Mera’s breathing patterns as she slept.

Chapter Text

Year: 2380

Stardate: 57503.4

 

Data waited patiently for T’Mera to finish the work for the evening. Without the ability to do heavy calculations, he spent his time contemplating and making observations. T’Mera had settled into a daily routine immediately, and rarely deviated from it during the ninety-five days that had passed since they’d arrived on Ba’ku. She was so punctual that Data began to wonder if she had her own internal chronometer.

She would wake without any alarm, just before seven in the morning, in time to be ready for Ba’iba’s first visit. This would be followed by a small breakfast and work. All subsequent meals were taken immediately following Ba’iba’s other visits. After the final evening visit, T’Mera would consume a small meal, then proceed with hygienic matters. On the second night, she had attempted to return to working, but Data had objected on the basis that she required some time to spend on rest or leisure. She acquiesced to his wishes, and the evenings were set aside for relaxing or interfacing. B-4 had also become used to the exact routine, climbing onto his side of the bed each night, and waiting expectantly for the goodnight kiss, whether or not there were plans for Data and T’Mera to interface.

The last time Data had come to Ba’ku, the effect of the metaphasic radiation on the crew of the Enterprise had been fairly quick and powerful. He noted with slight disappointment that it seemed slower on T’Mera. Four centimeters of dark brown hair had grown back on her head, and she seemed in good spirits, but his observations told him that she was eating less than she had in the previous months. Her clothing was also looser, and he deduced that she had lost perhaps ten kilograms in body weight. Any hopes that the planet’s regenerative effect would negate the Borg implants were dashed; The left leg implants continued to grow, and both legs were covered with metal. The only positive side to that development was that T’Mera now walked more evenly.

T’Mera began to shut down her work for the night, “I think that’s enough for tonight.” She got out of the chair and walked over to the replicator, “Small cup of Vulcan spice tea.” As she picked up the cup from the food slot, she looked at the android, “What’s your pleasure tonight, Data?”

“Do you feel able to interface with me tonight?” Data asked. He preferred the interface, but noticed that it tended to tax T’Mera physically.

“We can do that, although maybe we should think of a new place to be.” She continued to drink her tea, speaking in between mouthfuls, “The old Enterprise-D corridors are becoming monotonous.”

“Agreed.” Data replied.

B-4 undressed himself and left the jumpsuit folded on his chair. He made his way to the bed and climbed onto the right side, then lowered his head onto his pillow.

“It’s interesting that B-4 has created his own little nighttime ritual.” T’Mera finished the tea, then walked into the bathroom, still speaking as she got ready for bed. “He’s managed to make a teeny, tiny neural pathway. It’s not much, compared to what you do, but it’s at least something.”

Data replied, “It is a slight sign of improvement, although I was hoping for more.”

“Well…” T’Mera finished in the bathroom, and walked to the dresser, “I don’t think he’s got the self-correcting program that you have.” She opened a drawer, removed her current attire, and then changed into a nightshirt. “He’ll need a new brain, I think, before he can have that kind of neural net. Of course, then you get into the question of whether it’s still B-4 if it’s a new brain. Then again, is it right to leave B-4 like this? It’ll eventually be up to you and Bruce.”

“At present, B-4 serves no useful function, aside from containing me.” Data stated, “Dr. Soong created us to become active and useful members of society. I do not believe he would have wanted the B-4 to live out his life in his present state.”

T’Mera stretched out her arms, then joined the android in bed, “I’m not sure he meant to have all of you active. His manner of creating you makes no sense to me. Getting the prototype to a certain level, then starting anew, making Lore… who was not a useful member of society… and not fixing him, but instead creating yet another android? That speaks to me of far too much trial and error, like he didn’t know what parts of the program were working or not, and he kept trying from square one again.” She pulled the covers over both herself and B-4, then leaned over him to give him the usual chaste kiss on the lips. “Goodnight, B-4.”

“Goodnight.” B-4 replied to her, then placed his right arm in the usual position.

T’Mera slid under the covers and lay down on her back, while her left hand wrapped around B-4’s right hand. With a squeeze, the tubules emerged and injected themselves into the android’s forearm.

A pristine white sand beach, blue sky and warm air greeted T’Mera and Data as they appeared in the virtual reality. Trade winds gently blew across the tropical plants further inland. Instead of wearing a gold Starfleet uniform, Data wore a sleeveless white shirt and swimming trunks. She wore a tropical print sundress.

T’Mera smiled as she took in their surroundings, “This is really nice. Are we anywhere in specific?”

Data shook his head, “Not that I am aware of. I just thought of it as somewhere we have not yet gone.” He glanced sideways at T’Mera, opened his mouth very slightly, then set his lips together tightly.

T’Mera studied his face, then tilted her head to the right, “You’re making that ‘processing’ face you make when you want to talk about something that bothers you, but you’re not sure how.”

“You know me fairly well.” Data told her, then asked, “Could we perhaps sit on the sand and talk, although I am still uncertain as how to broach the subject.”

She lowered herself to sit, with her legs extended out to the side and knees bent. “Of course. Sit, and we’ll talk about whatever it is.”

Data mimicked her sitting position, facing her. “Do you estimate that we are friends?”

T’Mera rubbed her chin, getting a bit of sand on it, “I think so, although we’re in a strange situation. We’ve been together constantly for over three months, in extremely close quarters. In some ways, we’ve shared far more than friends normally do. I’ve spent the bulk of that time working, but we’ve either been doing this at night or some other activity we enjoy. We haven’t had many conflicts. We seem unusually compatible, now that I think about it. What are your thoughts on it?”

“Friendship is an interpersonal bond that includes affection, sympathy, empathy, honesty, altruism, mutual understanding, compassion, enjoyment of each other's company, trust, and the ability to be oneself, express one's feelings, and make mistakes without fear of judgment from the friend. Three significant factors that enable friendship are proximity, repeated interaction and a setting that allows people to confide in each other.” Data watched her face as he spoke. “If I follow those definitions, then you and I are defined as a friendship, even though I am uncertain if I am able to openly emulate and express those emotions.” He hesitated, then asked, “Do you feel that the expression of emotion is something that you require in a friend or companion?”

T’Mera reached up and tugged at each pointed ear with her hands, “Half my family is Vulcan. I don’t think that I require outward displays of emotion or even strong inward ones from my friends.”

Data’s mouth relaxed into a slight smile, “Then we seem to be friends.”

T’Mera grinned back at him, “Yes, we do seem to be friends.”

Data’s expression returned to one of hesitancy. “I do not know how to ask the question that I wish to.”

“What about outright and blunt?” T’Mera offered, leveling her gaze at him.

Data pressed his pale lips together, frowning, “I do not wish to ruin our friendship, if my assumptions are misguided.”

T’Mera took her turn to knit her slanted brows together, “Just list whatever the assumptions are. I’ll brace for them.”

“Very well.” Data replied, paused, then stated in an even voice, “For the past thirty-five days, when you have been interfaced with me, during our interactions, I have noticed that your heart rate increases and your pupils dilate. In addition to that, up until tonight, you had met ten out of twelve conditions for my romance subroutine. Just now, when you agreed that we are friends, that number rose to eleven. I would like you to consider the possibility of formulating a romantic relationship with me.”

T’Mera’s eyes widened, then she let out a long exhale, “I was not expecting that.”

Data leaned forward to study her face, “Have I inadvertently ruined our friendship?”

“No, Data.” T’Mera held out her right hand to him, “Just… let me absorb what you said.”

Data took her hand with his left, then waited quietly. The sound of ocean waves softly roaring and sliding up the shore filled the silence.

Finally, T’Mera said, “We should have gone fishing.”

Data tilted his head to the left, “I am uncertain as to the correlation between fishing and romance.”

“There’s no correlation,” she looked down at the sand, “But you just opened a can of worms.”

“Opened a can of worms…” Confusion crossed Data’s face as he lowered his gaze and looked down and to the left. His eyes returned to meet hers, “Ah! To do something rash without knowing the possible outcomes... To unexpectedly set in motion something that has wide-reaching consequences... To examine or attempt to solve some problem, only to inadvertently complicate it and create even more trouble. I understand.”

T’Mera squeezed Data’s hand gently, “If I hop onto the logic train and ride it, I come across many reasons why we shouldn’t. From an ethical standpoint, am I your doctor and you my patient? From a moral standpoint, is it right to do when you share your brother’s body and he has the intellect of a two year old child? The biggest issue is my imminent death. If we become involved romantically, you’ll be in horrible pain when I die. I don’t want that to happen.”

“For the first two arguments you have presented, there is no precedent as to whether you are considered a doctor and whether I am a patient, since I am an android, and you are working on my programming. There are also no Federation laws or Starfleet regulations pertaining to whether it is immoral to be engaged in romance with an android who is sharing another android’s body.” Data replied evenly.

“What about the big issue, then?” T’Mera asked, then inhaled deeply.

“I will sense your absence profoundly when you die, whether or not we are romantically linked.” He paused, then continued, “Shortly after I was assigned to the Enterprise, I found myself drawn to the Chief of Security. A mishap with a molecule that loosened inhibitions caused Lieutenant Yar and myself to copulate once. After the incident, she walked over to me and told me, “It never happened.””

T’Mera blinked at the story, but continued to listen quietly.

Data continued, “I did not argue with her, nor even try to talk to her to have her clarify why she said that. I decided to be patient and just continue on as she said, and never to speak of it. I am breaking my word, by telling you.”

T’Mera gave his hand another light squeeze, “I won’t tell anyone.”

Data smiled softly, “Thank you for your discretion.” He paused, looked down at the sand, then continued with the story, “Six months later, she was killed in the line of duty. I was not able to feel the grief and pain that I experience now, but my memory engrams missed her sensory input, and I was greatly affected by losing her. I kept a small hologram of her on my desk, even though I have total recall. However, there was something else that happened, which I never told anyone… not even Geordi or Counselor Troi. When Tasha died, a subroutine in my positronic matrix was created, which continually looped something I can only describe as “what if” processes.”

T’Mera blinked back tears as she held Data’s hand.

Data turned his gaze back up to look directly into her eyes, “To this day, I am still wondering what might have been, if only I had felt I could talk to her about it. What could we have had, even in that short time together? T’Mera, when you die, I will be feeling pain and grief, in my own way. Please do not sentence me to a second subroutine of wondering what might have been.” He lightly returned her hand squeeze, “The only reason you should be saying no is if you have no romantic interest in me, which is an acceptable answer.”

T’Mera let go of Data’s hand, sighed, then crawled over the sand to sit on his lap. “Hold me?” she asked him as she wrapped her arms around him in an embrace.

Data complied, embracing her as well as he could. “Does this mean yes?”

T’Mera leaned her head against his shoulder, “For me to fall in love with a disembodied android who exists as fragmented code is highly illogical. For you to fall in love with a dying woman is also illogical.”

The left side of Data’s mouth quirked upwards, “Then let us be illogical.”

The two remained quiet, content to sit on the beach in their embrace, as waves continued to crash along the shore. Several minutes passed before Data broke the silence, “How should we proceed?”

“I haven’t the foggiest idea. I’ve never been with anyone, even for one night.” T’Mera started to softly laugh, “Since we’ve decided to jump off of the logic train, we might as well continue on that theme, and do something called “bumbling along”, as far as how to proceed with romance.” She lifted her head to look into his yellow eyes, “One caveat… this is not to interfere with the work I’m doing on you.”

“Agreed.” Data returned her gaze, then lowered his head to kiss her lips gently.

T’Mera returned the gentle kiss, then rested her head against his shoulder.

“You are tired.” Data stated, “We should have B-4 break the interface, so you can sleep.”

“Ten more minutes, please?” T’Mera murmured, “It’s nice to be here in your arms, even if they’re just virtual arms.”

“That is acceptable.” He replied, continuing to hold her close. When her breathing became slow and regular, he signalled to B-4 to cut the interface. The beach disappeared, and instead of being in his arms, T’Mera was on his right side, sleeping soundly for the first time since they had left the Daystrom Institute.

Chapter Text

There was a bright white flash of light accompanied by a soft chime sound. Instead of looking at the room from B-4’s position, he was now standing by the desk, facing the bed that contained B-4 and the peacefully sleeping T’Mera. He looked down at his suddenly independent body. The uniform covering him was unfamiliar, but definitely Starfleet issue. The long-sleeved jacket had a command red collar, black shoulders, red sleeves and red on the torso, with tapered black on each side under the arms. A strip of red fabric ran vertically from his right shoulder to his chest, with three pips on it. On the left side of his chest, a gold Starfleet insignia communicator was attached. His lower body was covered by black pants with the front slit over the feet to let the hems neatly drape over the black boots. A black belt with a gold buckle finished the uniform.

Another flash of white light and chime sound occurred. The brown haired, brown-eyed man that appeared next to him stood 1.93 meters tall, and wore the same uniform as Data, but with four pips on the rank strip.

“Greetings, Q.” Data whispered, “Please do not wake her. This is the first time I have seen her sleeping peacefully.”

Q let out a snort, “Don’t worry about them. They can’t see or hear us.”

Data relaxed, turning to face the powerful entity. “How can I help you, Q?”

“Help me ? You're the one who needs help.” Q scoffed lightly, “This is quite a mess you've gotten into, isn't it? Stuck inside some dullard prototype, while everything you've worked for is dashed to pieces. Your long-deserved first officer position was given to Microbrain, who also has your cat... all of your personal belongings are either in storage or given away. And now…” He gestured to where T’Mera lay sleeping, “Your future depends on a dying woman. Even if she learns to understand how you work, it'll take years. You might have to start your Starfleet career over again. Or lose it entirely. And why? Because Picard failed you.”

Data frowned, “I am not certain how that could be.”

Q folded his arms over his chest, “No? Would you like to be certain?” He leaned so close to speak into Data’s ear that the android could feel breath on it. “I could show you what happened. Aren’t you the least bit curious?”

“I do admit to wondering about the chain of events that led to my current situation.” Data replied, “I know that the Remans used B-4 as bait and to acquire information from the Enterprise, but beyond that, I do not know the specifics.”

Q smiled, “Well, then. Let me show you.” A snap of his fingers and white light surrounded them.

    

Stardate: 56844.9

     

Data found himself watching, disembodied, as events from the past began to play out in front of him. He could not interact with his past self, and simply observed as Past-Data switched places with B-4 and added the hidden transponder to himself. Events played out, with the Enterprise crew discovering the thalaron radiation.

Past-Data spoke, “Captain, Geordi and I have identified the source of the unauthorized computer access. And, I believe, we have found a way to gain a tactical advantage.”

Q appeared beside Data, “You gained a tactical advantage and did Picard truly use it? Nooo.”

Data-as-B-4 appeared on the Scimitar, downloading the false information, and then listening to Shinzon with the captured Captain Picard.  

Captain Picard stared at Shinzon from his cage, “All of this so you could capture me?”

Shinzon walked away, “Don't be so vain. After we found the android, we had to make a few modifications. An extra memory port. A hidden transponder. I've now gained access to Starfleet's communications protocols. I now know the exact location of your entire fleet.” He turned to speak to Data-as-B-4. “You may go.”

Data-as-B-4 smiled vacantly,  “Where?”

Shinzon answered, “Out of my sight.”

When Shinzon shooed him away, Data-as-B-4 walked freely about the ship, gathering information, and then returned to free Captain Picard. Data-as-B-4 told the captain, “My mission was a success, sir. I have located the source of the radiation. This entire ship is essentially a thalaron generator. Its power relays lead to an activation matrix on the bridge.”

Q spoke to present-day Data, “See? You could have stayed on and disabled the whole thing, but no. Picard wanted you off, together. Still, that isn’t what got you killed.” He gestured as the scene changed from the escape in the Scorpion vessel to Data and Picard speaking in Astrometrics. “Picard is shaken that his clone is a ruthless murderer. So much so that he doesn’t even listen to you. How many identical androids of you are there, Data? Four others, correct? Five, if you count… No…” Q smirked, “I’ll let that be a surprise. My point is that, if anyone has cause to be upset at having evil duplicates running about, it’s you , not Picard.”

The battle in the rift played out while Data watched helplessly, including the collision of the two ships.

Geordi shouted, “The Scimitar’s targeting sequence should take about seven minutes, Captain. When the targeting arms are fully deployed the matrix on the bridge will relay the thalaron radiation to the firing points at the tips. No one on the Enterprise will survive.” The arms of the Scimitar were beginning to move apart.

Captain Picard walked over to a weapons locker, “Prepare for a site-to-site transport.”

Geordi began to argue, “Captain, I don't think there's a transporter…”

Captain Picard checked and loaded the phaser rifle, “That's an order, Commander.”

Past-Data walked up to the Captain, “Sir, allow me to go.”

Captain Picard spoke firmly, “Data, this is something I have to do.”

Past-Data began to argue, “Sir… ”

Captain Picard turned to go, “You have the bridge, Commander. Try and put some distance between you and the Scimitar. Now, Mister La Forge.”

Geordi answered, “Aye sir.” After the transport, the console sparked and went dead. “That's it! Transporters are down.”

Past-Data gritted his teeth, “Counselor Troi, please assume command. Geordi, come with me.”

Q shook his head, “Disobeying orders. How insubordinate of you, Data.” He whispered in Data’s ear again, “But you were right. The Enterprise couldn’t move far enough away in time. The only way to save it would be to stop the thalaron weapon from firing.”

Geordi and Past-Data set up the force fields to blow Past-Data out into space and towards the Scimitar.

Q continued the running commentary, “And look. Your best friend is helping you disobey orders. Quite creative, though, flying through space.” He waved his hand to show Picard’s fight. “Look at that. Sloppy. Lost his phaser… didn’t kill Shinzon when he could have. He still has three minutes before it goes off. You’ve only just hit the hull of the Scimitar.”

As Picard and Shinzon struggled in a knife fight, Q commented, “Picard might be getting too old for this. Oh look, he’s disarmed Shinzon with two minutes to go.” Shinzon pulled a small knife, while Picard grabbed a spike, “Finally. Shinzon is impaled with one minute and thirty seconds left. But… what is this?” Q gasped melodramatically, “Thalaron mix at eighty percent, and Picard is frozen. Paralyzed with shock. Now he’s just sitting there while Shinzon tries to choke him. Oh good, now Shinzon is truly and finally dead. There’s still one minute to go. He could have shut it down… but no, he’s standing there, still in shock.”

The Scimitar computer’s voice spoke, “Thalaron intermix level completed.”

Past-Data arrived and looked around the bridge, then ran up to Captain Picard. He pushed the lifeless body of Shinzon to the floor, then slapped the emergency transporter device on Picard, who vanished in the shimmering beam. Past-Data uttered a broken and sad whisper of “Goodbye…” and then turned and fired into the thalaron generator. The resultant explosion was bright and loud.

Q and Present-Data were now back on the bridge of the Enterprise. Q quipped, “Duranium construction or not, you didn’t survive that.”

Data furrowed his brow, “No, I would not have.”

Q placed a hand on Data’s shoulder, “But you saved everyone. If you hadn’t gone, the only one left alive from your ship would have been Picard, as he would have been on the Scimitar when it fired at the Enterprise. If you had been the one to go, in the first place, you would have been there and disabled the intermix generator and been able to beam back with the emergency device. With time to spare.” Q then added, “Picard seemed most agitated when I popped in on him and pointed this out.”

Data was silent for a moment, then said, “Thank you for showing me. It satisfies my curiosity as to why I did what I did.”

Q raised an eyebrow, “That’s it? You’re not angry?”

Data turned to look at the captain. “In all the time I have known Captain Picard, I have never seen his face hold the expression it currently does. He looks like a parent who has lost his child. I do not believe he meant for this to happen.” He gave Q a slightly apologetic look, “I am also not programmed to hold grudges.”

Q shrugged, “Suit yourself. Do you want to stay and listen to everyone eulogize you? It’s appallingly short.”

Data shook his head, “I have no need of that, but thank you for asking.”

    

Stardate: 57503.4

    

There was another white flash and they were back in T’Mera’s room at the Ba’ku Medical Center. The holographer remained sleeping peacefully in bed, next to B-4.

Q leaned closer to Data, whispering seductively in his ear, "I still owe you for saving my life when the Calamarain tried to kill me. I could snap my fingers and make it so that right after you fire that phaser on the Scimitar, you're back on the Enterprise. Your career will continue uninterrupted. None of this will have ever happened. You won't be some impossible project assigned to a frail mortal who's about to be painfully torn apart for the next few years. You'll avoid the agony of watching her die."

Data gazed over at T’Mera’s sleeping form, then looked back at Q, “I do not suppose you would be willing to make her whole again, instead of me.”

Q shook his head, while folding his arms across his chest, “Nope. I don’t owe her a thing, and the last thing I want to do is let you self-sacrifice yet again.”

“I did not think so.” Data replied softly, then fell quiet for a few moments, before launching into an explanation, “I cannot ask to have the consequences of my choices taken away with the snap of an omnipotent entity's fingers. While my memory engrams do sense the lack of proximity of those I called my friends and that which was the only place I considered home, I do not wish to avoid the challenges which are now placed in front of me.” He turned to face Q, “Part of the human experience is the way we deal with changes and transitions, is it not? And to deny myself such changes would mean that I would deny any growth that comes with it.”

Q’s mouth turned up in the slight sardonic smile, “If you’re sure about it. The path you’re choosing isn’t going to be a quick or easy one.”

Data’s brows knit together briefly, “I do realize that. Thank you for the knowledge of what happened.”

Q sighed, “I would have loved for you to be angry and yell at Picard…” He visibly deflated his shoulders, “Maybe even watch you toss him across a room.”

Data replied softly, “In the few moments when I have been angry, I have not been the type to yell. Even when Lore was feeding me hatred, I did not raise my voice. As far as what happened with the Scimitar, it is regrettable, but I feel I made the right decision.”

“In retrospect...” Q regarded the android evenly, then gestured at the sleeping woman, “The little after-wedding toast you and Picard shared has become both prophetic and ironic.”

Data raised both eyebrows slightly, then nodded to the omnipotent being, “That fact has not escaped my thought processes.” He mused as he recalled the conversation. “Captain Picard began with the toast “To the future.””

Q regarded the android with an intense gaze that bordered on a stare, “And when he asked you to make the toast, you said…”

Data spoke in a whisper, “To new worlds.”

Q’s expression softened, then he leaned towards Data, “I’m going to leave you with some final advice, android. You might wish to enhance your budding romance with a nice long walk. The kelbonite caverns in the Northeastern mountains on this continent are particularly of interest to someone like her. Maybe make a picnic of it.” He lifted his right hand, about to snap his fingers, “But don’t wait too long to take her.” A flash of white light and the chime sounded, and the entity was gone.

Data’s perspective returned to that from inside B-4. The prototype’s head was turned to the right, for the purpose of watching over T’Mera as she slept. Data joined B-4 in the vigil, while he mulled over Q’s words to him.

Chapter Text

Year: 2380

Stardate: 57541.2

 

“No, Data.” T’Mera sifted through the morning’s messages, fresh from the shuttle. “We’re not training B-4 to do that. The interface will have to do.”

Data replied to the holographer, “Are you certain? I do not wish to be depriving you of any of your biological needs.”

“First of all…” T’Mera scrolled to the next message, “You’re meeting my needs just fine. Secondly, I don’t think it’s right to use your brother’s body that way, since he has no idea what it’s about.”

“It is also my body, for the time being.” Data stated as a counterpoint.

T’Mera raised her right eyebrow and leveled her gaze at the android, “That body belongs to the prototype named B-4. Yes, you’re sharing it now, but it’s more like you’re hitching a ride in him, rather than an actual sharing. Whatever possessed you to copy and paste your entire neural net into him? You couldn’t have known you were going to be killed, and I know you didn’t keep actual backups of yourself.”

Data replied, while B-4 played with a few colorful blocks, “I had expected that if my memory engrams were successfully integrated into his positronic matrix, he would have all my abilities. Synaptic Scan Transfers have been fairly successful, before.”

T’Mera shook her head, “Not when you do them on top of an active neural net that has someone already in it. You should have wiped his entire matrix before copying yourself over. That would have given you better results, although you would still be running slow.”

“But that would have meant effectively killing B-4.” Data replied.

“Really?” T’Mera scrolled through another message, “And what do you call doing a dump of yourself into him in the hopes that you’d somehow magically overwrite everything except his personality? And didn’t you tell me that Ira Graves had done something similar to you, nearly eradicating your own personality?”

The android was silent for a few moments, then spoke, “I concede your point.” When B-4 looked up, Data got a quick glance at the message screen. “That is something from Counselor Troi?”

T’Mera rubbed her chin, “This is an old report I was double checking. I’m not sure if I should tell you about it, since it’s about you.”

Data replied, “I just viewed it.” then recited the report. ‘I've watched Data with the B-4 and I'm troubled. Data's desire for a "family" is very strong. I'm afraid he may be investing too much in the B-4, which is like a slow child. Data, in his own way, has assumed the position of a parent or guardian. I'm afraid he has expectations based on his own experiences. He'll be disappointed when the B-4 cannot meet those expectations.’ It seems that the desire for a family is detrimental?”

T’Mera opened a new window in the display, “I think she meant that you were expecting too much of B-4, as far as him being a brother you can share things with. According to this file, your family is considered to be the following: Father is Doctor Noonian Soong. Mother is Doctor Juliana Tainer, previously O’Donnell and Soong for surnames. An older brother named Lore. Then for a child, there was Lal.”

“That is correct, although now B-4 could be an even older brother.” Data responded. “Juliana began as a biological woman, but when she died, my father created an android body for her and did a synaptic transfer into it. It was nigh impossible to tell that she was not human. In fact, she did not even know she was an android. My father kept it from her.”

T’Mera grumbled, “Oh good. Because what we need are replicants in the galaxy…”

“I am unfamiliar with that term, T’Mera.” Data replied.

T’Mera smiled slightly, “I know which holovid to play, next time we do that at night instead of an interface.” She returned to a solemn expression, “Data, is it that important to you to have an android family, as opposed to building a family with biological organisms?”

A few moments of silence passed, then Data spoke, “I would no longer be alone in my experiences. B-4 cannot share them with me. Lal ceased to function. My father is dead. My mother will die at the age a human woman does, never knowing she was an android. Lore is dangerous and must remain deactivated.”

“That bothers me.” T’Mera glanced at the android, then back at the files, “There’s an ancient proverb about computers. “Garbage in, garbage out.” Somewhere among Lore’s subprocesses is the garbage that’s making him dangerous, as you claim.”

Data paused before replying, “Doctor Soong told us that we are virtually identical, except for a bit of programming. However, I am not dangerous, and Lore was.”

T’Mera tapped her finger on the desk surface, “I’m willing to bet that your bodies are virtually identical, but that there’s more than just a “bit” of programming difference. There’s also the matter of environmental upbringing. You were raised by Starfleet, according to these files. Lore was raised by a narcissistic mad scientist. That would make a big difference, in my opinion.”

“I had not thought of that.” Data admitted. He waited a beat, then asked, “How are you feeling, by the way? I noticed that you barely touched your meal, this morning.”

“It tasted funny.” T’Mera told the android. “A bit metallic. I’ll see if they can check the replicator.”

Data offered, “Perhaps we could get you something from the atrium that is grown on the planet? I also have an idea for an activity for us to do.”

“Oh?” T’Mera turned her chair to face him, “What would that be?”

“There are some interesting caverns in the Northeastern part of this continent. I was thinking that a hike there, followed by a picnic, would be a change of pace. With the exception of going to the doctor’s office down the hall, you have not left this room since we arrived. I have noticed that such conditions are often deleterious to biological beings, especially humans.” Data told her. “We also need to do it fairly soon.”

T’Mera raised an eyebrow, “Caverns? You have to be kidding.”

“I have not mastered kidding enough to attempt it. I also have a confession.” Data added, “I received a visit from Q, and he suggested I take you there.”

“Q?” She leveled her gaze at him.

“He is a highly powerful entity from a race of omnipotent, godlike beings called the Q Continuum.” Data explained.

“Yes, I’d read about them. And you believe we should do as he says? I’ve heard he’s somewhat of a trickster type.” T’Mera tilted her head to the right.

Data responded, “He can be that, yes. He turned me into Friar Tuck, once. However, there was something in his manner when he spoke about the caverns that seemed to infer that he is trying to point me in a specific direction. In addition, as I have noted, you could most likely use the break from all this work.”

T’Mera leaned back in her chair, “If I hop on the logic train, it would dictate that when a godlike being suggests you go check something, you should. I’ll see what the policy here is for overnight trips. It’s not like I’m needing a lot of medical care, yet.” She paused, “Too bad Q couldn’t restore you.”

Data hesitated, then told her, “He did offer, but I felt the price was too high.”

“Hmm. Is there a price for the caverns, then?” T’Mera asked as she pulled up another file on the display.

“We will not know that until we are there. It is a risk, but as you said, logic dictates investigating.” Data replied and then added, “B-4 and I do not require anything special for the hike to the caverns, but you will need to bring warm clothing, water, food, a tricorder and light, and possibly a sleeping pad, if we decide to remain overnight. We will carry everything you wish to bring. You may also want to use a walking stick.”

“Good idea, Bright Eyes.” T’Mera closed out the files on the display, then got out of the chair, “I’ll go make arrangements, so they know where we’re going. Then I’ll pack and we’ll go.”

While T’Mera gathered the supplies and made arrangements, Data and B-4 waited patiently. Thirty minutes later, she was dressed in layers for the hike, and a backpack had been strapped to B-4’s back. The monitors were removed from B-4, with the exception of Data’s voice synthesizer.

They left the grounds of the Medical Center and headed to the Northeast. After a short while, T’Mera began to whistle a tune.

Data spoke as they walked, “That is a catchy tune. What is the name of the song?”

“I think it’s called The Best of Buddies.” T’Mera told the android, then inhaled the crisp Ba’ku air, “It’s whistled much faster than it’s sung.”

“I never did learn how to whistle well enough.” Data lamented.

T’Mera looked over at B-4, then asked, “Was your mouth the same as B-4’s?”

“Yes.” Data replied, “My mouth was the same. Why do you ask?”

T’Mera navigated around some rocks, using the walking stick for better balance, “I’ve noticed the android mouth is very dry compared to ours. I think a mouth and lips needs a certain moistness to whistle? Think of it like reed wetting on a woodwind. When you have a body again, try drinking some water before whistling.”

The android was silent a moment, “Hmm. I had not realized it, but now that you explain, it makes a great deal of sense. All this time, no one told me.”

T’Mera chuckled softly, “Most people don’t think about how moist organic life is. Or, I suppose, how dry androids are. I do have to think about it.”

“Oh?” Data kept alert for any dangers to them, but the area seemed fairly safe. “Why would you be thinking of such things?”

T’Mera smirked slightly, “Do you know how many erotic holosuite programs I’ve written? I’ll put it this way… the interactive holograms for those need to be moister than other types.”

Data began to recite, “You have a total catalogue of two hundred and forty holosuite programs, written over the course of twenty years, which consist of one hundred entertainment programs translated from earlier varieties of media, seventy-five of an atmospheric or environmental nature, twenty of an educational or instructional nature, eight original adventures written by you, and thirty-seven of an erotic, sexual or therapeutic nature, including the translation of “Vulcan Love Slave”, which won you the Latinum Plegg Lobes Award of 2364, and garnered a Holosuite Critic aggregate rating of ninety-five percent.”

T’Mera snorted after he was finished, “Well, I guess you do know how many I’ve written.”

B-4 stopped to check some bright flowers, so T’Mera stopped with him. Data continued to speak, “I do not have access to your work in fixing malfunctioning artificial intelligence.”

“That’s fine, Data.” T’Mera watched over B-4, “I didn’t keep track of that, either. I fixed mostly non-working holograms, Galaxy-class computer malfunctions, the exocomps… now you...” When the android began to move again, she started walking. “Do we know where we’re going or we’re just blindly bumbling?”

“Bumbling, although Q specifically mentioned kelbonite.” Data answered. “The entire distance to reach the cavernous area is approximately sixteen kilometers. Once we get closer, we can use the tricorder to scan for kelbonite deposits.” He paused, “You fixed the exocomps?”

T’Mera weaved her way through a thicket of wildberries, “Dr. Farallon couldn’t quite figure out how to stop them from gaining sentience. I sent her a patch that kept their heuristic nature but blocked the emergence of self-awareness. She wanted disposable, mobile tools, not living beings. If she ever does decide she wants them sentient, all she has to do is revert my patch. I made it very modular.”

“That is a shame.” Data replied, “While I understand wanting them to be merely tools, there might have been a way to work with them as living beings.”

T’Mera reached out to take B-4’s left hand with her right, “In an ideal world, yes. However, your own full rights haven’t even been determined, and you’re a walking, talking person. The hearing only legally determined that you are your own property. Photonics aren’t doing all that well, although I hope my test will change things for them. The exocomps are, literally, Maddox’s “box on wheels”, and have even less chance, right now. It’s best to leave them as tools for the time being.”

Data responded, “You are most likely correct.” He could see her in his peripheral vision, “How are you faring? Do you need to rest?”

T’Mera shook her head, “I’m fine. I used to be in very good physical condition. I’ll make it to the caverns without needing to stop.”

Data initiated part of his romance subroutine to squeeze T’Mera’s hand gently. They walked for a couple of hours, occasionally singing as they hiked. As they approached the foothills of the mountains, he suddenly spoke. “B-4, please stop!”

B-4 stopped in place, causing T’Mera to nearly trip.

“B-4, please crouch and stare at the ground approximately half a meter in front of us.” Data commanded, and the prototype obliged. “T’Mera, I can see faint markings of what might have been a trail. There are two distinct depressions in the ground, as if made by a terrain-based vehicle. The path leads to the East from here.”

T’Mera bent to check, then said, “All right. Let’s go that way, then.” She took out the tricorder and held it up in front of her, “Readings are difficult, due to kelbonite. Picking up a bit of fistrium, as well.”

Data guided B-4 by voice, as they followed the faint trail to a wall of rocks. “The trail ends here, but there is a slight incongruity to the surfaces of the rock.”

T’Mera walked up to run her hands along the wall. “I see what you mean. It’s made to look like a natural formation. Very clever. If you hadn’t said something, I wouldn’t have noticed.” She frowned, then said, “There’s a place up here to put a hand, but it doesn’t do anything when I place my hand in it.”

“B-4, please go to T’Mera and let her put your hand into the print in the rock.” Data commanded.

B-4 replied, “All right.” and walked over to T’Mera. She took his left hand and lifted it to match the print in the rock. His hand fit perfectly, and a few creaks and clicks sounded, as the rockface door moved inward, revealing a hidden cavern.

“Intriguing.” Data watched, then said, “B-4, please enter the cavern.”

T’Mera followed the android into the cavern, turning on the flashlight at the end of her tricorder, “How long do you think this has been here?”

Data answered her as they walked through the rock tunnel, “If I were to gauge it by the plant growth over the tracks and around the door, I would estimate it to be at least fifty years old. The growth suggests that the last time someone was here was over forty years ago.” A black panel with a glowing red button sat a meter above the floor, in the wall. B-4 instinctively pressed the button, which began a sequence of lights illuminating the interior.

“It seems the power cell still works.” T’Mera mused. She checked the tricorder, “Not picking up any lifeforms, although the kelbonite could be masking them. I’m picking up fistrium, rhyolite and limestone in the rocks, and calcite deposits, as well as some hydrothermal vents in here.”

“The vehicular trail leads farther down this tunnel.” Data prompted B-4 to move in the direction of the tracks.

T’Mera followed the android until they found the source of the tracks.

B-4 reached out to touch the shiny object, while Data stated, “Curious. A four-wheel, two axle all terrain ground vehicle capable of seating one person, with cargo space in the back. Solar fuel cell is currently at half-charge.”

T’Mera passed the vehicle, holding up her tricorder, “There’s another hidden door here, with a large room behind it. Similar handprint as the rock wall.”

B-4 turned his attention away from the vehicle and walked over to T’Mera, offering his left hand to her. She wrapped her right hand around his wrist and then assisted him in placing his hand in the print on the door’s panel. The sliding door opened with a slight ‘whoosh’ sound.

“Level of dust and other growth still consistent with the theory that no one has been here for nearly fifty years.” Data announced as they entered the next room.

T’Mera let out a soft whistle as they entered the room. Beakers and jars of chemicals were stacked on one of the tables. Bookshelves held several paper books and binders filled with loose-leaf papers. Incongruous among the books on human anatomy, genetics, brain chemistry and other sciences were two books; Of Human Freedom and The Silver Chalice. A few planters held the brown remains of potted plants, while anatomy, brain and nerve charts leaned against the walls. Toys and other knick-knacks were scattered about in a haphazard manner, and every surface and corner held clutter of some sort.

B-4 moved towards a bookshelf, reaching out to play with a Newton’s Cradle toy.

T’Mera bent down to check a large metal trunk, but the lid was too heavy to lift. “B-4, can you come over here and give me a hand?”

Data suddenly said, “This cannot be…” and fell into silence.

B-4 grabbed something from the bookshelf, walked over to T’Mera and held out what he had picked up; An android hand, identical to his own. “Here is a hand.”

T’Mera looked up at B-4, then at the hand, “Thank you, B-4, but it was an expression of speech. I meant, can you help me open the lid of this box?” She took the hand from him, then stood back as the android opened the trunk. “Data, did you see this?”

“T’Mera, given that I am inside B-4 and see what he sees, yes, I see it.” Data answered. “I will have to check the bitanium decomposition to be able to tell how old the android parts are.”

“All right. That can be done later.” T’Mera placed the hand on the floor, then looked inside the trunk. She pulled out one of plastic items from within, “It’s an epidermal mold?”

Data replied, “Find one resembling a face and see if it fits over B-4’s cranial unit.”

T’Mera dug through the trunk, then pulled out the plastic face and turned it around to fit over B-4. “Perfect fit.” She sighed, “Don’t tell me we’re going to find one of the two missing prototypes here.”

“I would not be able to tell you, since I do not know, either.” Data replied.

B-4 offered helpfully, “I will not tell you, T’Mera.”

T’Mera blinked, “Say, Data, do you have a set of molds of yourself? We might actually need these, to make your new body.”

Data seemed to think for a moment, “I do not have molds of myself, so you are correct. These will help, if they are the exact specifications I used to have.”

T’Mera stood up and searched the walls, “Let’s see if we can shed more light in here.” She moved a slider on the wall and the ceiling lights increased illumination.

“Thank you.” Data said, “B-4 and I will look through these.”

T’Mera smirked as she moved to a nearby desk, “When they made you, they threw away the mold… some of it grew back?” she joked, then opened one of the desk drawers.

Data responded, “An hysterical joke. Ha. Ha. Ha.”

“I thought you’d like it.” T’Mera pulled out some items from the drawer, and spread them on the desk to investigate.

“Given all the evidence, thus far, I postulate that this was once a lab for Doctor Noonian Soong.” Data told her, as B-4 pulled out the epidermal molds to check against his own body parts.

T’Mera gasped in shock, “For the love of Pete…”

Data asked, “Who is Pete?”

“Fine…” T’Mera snorted, “For the love of Olivaw… and you better damn well know who he is. Anyway, I found some very old Orion identity forgery devices. Laminators, mag strips, coders, imager… you name it, it’s here. As well as a few previous IDs, some from the twenty-second century, some from the twenty-third, and a few that are more current.” She held up one of the identity cards, then her jaw went slack.

B-4 walked over to see the card in T’Mera’s hand.

Data paused, then said, “This cannot be.”

The name on the card was Arik Soong, and next to the name was a picture of a white-haired, blue-eyed man who bore a shocking resemblance to Data and B-4.

Chapter Text

Several moments passed as both T’Mera and Data remained silent in shock. B-4 continued to rummage through the lab, finding the toys more interesting than the books or charts.

T’Mera finally spoke, “Arik would have been dead long ago, though…”

“Not if he were on Ba’ku.” Data explained. “The metaphasic radiation in the rings grants a near immortality to those who live on this planet. Several of the individuals in the Ba’ku village have been living here for over three hundred years.”

“Yes, but when you leave the planet, all of that stops.” T’Mera told the android as she searched through more drawers, “People who live here a long time and then leave actually wind up aging horribly. Especially their skin. Granted, they still live the extra hundred or however long years…”

Data went silent as he attempted to process the information, then said, “T’Mera, I have a favor to ask.”

“Go ahead, Bright Eyes.” T’Mera turned to look at the android.

“I would like to interface with you, later.” Data replied, “There are calculations I need to do, and B-4 cannot do them. I will need to share your Borg implants.”

“That’s fine.” She pulled down one of the loose-leaf binders and began to flip through the pages, “We can camp out in this place. I doubt anyone’s coming here, if nobody’s been here for half a century.”

“I am not as certain of that.” Data told her, “We should try to keep alert.”

T’Mera smirked, “If anyone intrudes, I could threaten to assimilate them.” She changed to a monotone voice, “I will add your biological distinctiveness to my own. Resistance is futile.”

B-4 tilted his head in confusion, but Data replied, “You would make an excellent drone.”

T’Mera stuck out her tongue at the android, then blew air along it to make the ‘thbpth’ sound.

B-4’s yellow eyes went wide. “That is a strange noise.”

Data told him, “B-4, please walk to the North. I wish to check where that other door leads to. T’Mera, we will return soon.” B-4 obliged, walking to the door on the far side of the room, opening it and going into the next room.

The next interior room contained a bed, a chair, and a chest of drawers. Data instructed B-4 to open the drawers, but the only thing inside were some bed linens and a few articles of clothing. A passageway to the South led to a small area that seemed to serve as a bathroom. The android returned to the bedroom and walked through a passage to the Northeast. The small passage opened up to a large cave with an exit to the outside that was disguised with rock-faced sliding doors.

“A shuttle bay. Shuttlecraft is currently absent.” Data mused, then noticed large devices to the South. “The power generators, which still function. All right, B-4, we should go back to T’Mera.”

B-4 turned and began to walk back through the passage, “Data?”

“Yes, B-4?”

B-4’s voice still warbled slightly when he spoke, “Will there be a goodnight kiss tonight?”

Data paused, then responded, “I believe so. You seem to like those.”

“Yes.” B-4 replied to his brother, “T’Mera is nice.”

“I hope I will not have to fight you for her affections, someday.” Data told the prototype.

B-4 opened the door to the bedroom, “You are her mate. I am not.” He then added, “I would not fight my brother.”

A wave of relief passed through Data’s pathways, “I am glad about that. We have another brother, who is currently deactivated. Unfortunately, he has no such compunctions and would fight you or myself, if it suited his needs.”

B-4 opened the door from the bedroom to the lab and walked through, “A bad brother.”

T’Mera sat at the desk, poring over the binders filled with handwritten notes. “What’s a bad brother?”

“Lore is a bad brother.” Data answered her, “Have you found anything of use or value?”

B-4 echoed Data’s statement, “Lore is a bad brother.”

“Very much so.” T’Mera flipped one of the papers, “This might be the notes for the original neural mapping design for the prototypes. It also answers so many of my questions, and explains why all of us have been tearing our hair out over Soong’s programming for decades.”

“B-4, move us over by T’Mera, please.” Data commanded the prototype, “What have you discovered?”

T’Mera pointed to one of the schematics, “We knew he designed the positronic matrix to act like a biological neural network, but I didn’t realize he didn’t program at all, before this. He never knew what not to do, or what couldn’t or shouldn’t be done, so he wrote these strings of code to mimic how the brain works. You’re programmed to be almost entirely heuristic. In other words, he made a bit of starter code, and then you programmed yourself the rest of the way, based on your personal experiences.” She grimaced, “I usually like when someone thinks outside the box, but Soong didn’t even know there was a box to think in. His work isn’t even on the same planet that the box is on.”

“Can you work with it?” Data asked her.

T’Mera nodded with a smile, “I think so, although I’ll have to brush up on neurology and the physical sciences related to the brain. I’m glad I actually have a degree in psychology, since it’s going to help quite a bit. With these notes, I might be able to reconstruct B-4’s indexes, and then separate your code from his. Now, if only I can find the development tools.”

“Excellent news.” Data replied, then saw the notes. “This handwriting is definitely Doctor Soong’s. I recognize it from the chalkboard in his lab at Terlina Three. Left-handed, as well. Both Arik and Noonian seem to have shared a love of archaic writing methods.”

T’Mera flipped to the next page, “This also calls bullshit on Soong’s claim that the only difference between you and Lore is a “bit” of programming. Sure, the initial system he put in is probably the same, but given that you each built your own neural pathways, that’s a heck of a lot of difference, in my opinion. Like human twins separated from birth and raised in entirely different situations.”

“I concur.” Data stated evenly. “I begin to wonder just how much of what our father told us is the fecal matter of a bos taurus.” He paused, then added, “On a related matter, there is what seems to be a bedroom in the North chamber, and a bathroom passage to the South of the bedroom, for when you need to tend to biological functions.”

“Thank you, Data.” T’Mera closed the binder. “I think what we’ll do is pack up what we need to bring back, and then walk back in the morning with everything, assuming we can carry it.”

“B-4’s body should have nearly the same strength that mine had.” Data told the holographer, “As long as we have a container to carry everything, we will be able to bring it back to the Medical Center for you.”

T’Mera smiled, “If not, we can always bring the Ghost here and put everything in the cargo bay.” She then reached for another binder, “I’d better go through all of this, to see what else I’ll need, then.”

B-4 moved towards some shelving with boxes, while Data told T’Mera, “Do not forget your sustenance, especially if your intent is to be igniting the midnight petroleum.”

“I’m fine. I don’t need any, yet.” She opened the next binder and hummed absently as she read through the pages. “I wasn’t intending on burning midnight oil, anyway.”

Data mused, “I always wondered about the etymology of that idiom.”

“You’re kidding, right?” T’Mera responded, as she flipped through more binders. “It’s from Earth, from a time before electricity, when humans needed to use oil-based lamps for illumination. Literally, if you were up at midnight, you would need an oil-based lamp or candle to see by.”

“Hmm.” Data replied, “That is a sufficient explanation. Most intriguing that the expression continues on, to this day. Thank you.”

T’Mera chuckled, “You’re quite welcome.”

B-4 began to pull out one device after another to inspect, as Data rattled off the name of the object in the android’s hand, “Duotronic chips… phase discriminating amplifier pre-dating the current Types… bitanium servos… Alginate powder...” After identifying the object in B-4’s hand, Data then instructed B-4 to either discard it or to place it in the trunk. “... voice recording device… Most intriguing.”

B-4 pressed the button on the voice recording device, and a sentence played:

“Scratching the collar of my neck, where humans once had gills.”

T’Mera turned to look behind her, to where the android stood, “That’s your voice, Data. Well, and B-4’s, too.”

Data replied, “It does seem to be, although it is a strange sentence.”

“I bet that recorder has many strange phrases and sentences. Unit selection synthesis, would be my guess.” T’Mera explained as she turned back to the binders on the desk, “It gives the most natural sound to a synthesized voice.”

Data listened to a few more sentences, then said, “The voice matches my memory record of Doctor Soong’s voice. It is not a surprise, since we were all modeled after him.”

“Identically modeled.” T’Mera corrected the android, “It’s kind of creepy that he didn’t even bother to physically differentiate you. I mean, I understand being frugal and using one set of molds, but he could have changed coloring or something else from one android to the next. Altered the vocals a bit. Even just the hairstyle.”

“You are lecturing to the vocal ensemble.” Data replied, “When we return to the Medical Center, do you think you would be able to send for historical records on Arik Soong?”

T’Mera nodded, as she flipped through a new binder, “As long as it isn’t classified, I should be able to.” She let out a sudden high-pitched cry. “This is it!”

B-4 rushed back over to T’Mera’s side, “You screamed.”

T’Mera held up the binder excitedly, “It’s the source!” She flipped through a few pages, “These are his development tools and libraries! I can’t believe he just left these lying about where anyone could find them.” She hugged the large three-ring binder to her chest and rocked her torso back and forth.

“To be fair,” Data told her, “Gaining entry requires having a Soong-type hand.”

“Mmm, true. I concede the point to you.” T’Mera stopped cuddling the binder, opened it and perused the pages, “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen, but now that I have this, I can learn it. I think it might be that B-4 is actually the first prototype, although I don’t understand the naming convention, then. No A? No B-1 to B-3?” She smirked and looked over at the android, “2B or not 2B, that is the question?”

“Your capacity to generate witticisms is something I admire about you.” Data stated. “I wish I could respond to them in a way that rewards you.”

“Don’t worry about that, Data.” T’Mera stacked the binders, “I mostly do it for my own entertainment, so I don’t require any feedback. Let’s start packing up everything we’re taking. I assume we don’t need the actual materials from here, like the bioplast and metals? We’ll have newer construction materials available at Daystrom.”

“Agreed.” Data replied, as he instructed B-4 which items to pack into the box. “I can also take the time to upgrade my own construction. At the time of my death, my cranial unit was five hundred years older than the rest of my body.”

“Remind me to have you tell me how that happened.” T’Mera chuckled softly. “During our resting times.”

B-4 spoke up as he packed the plastic molds, “Can I hear the story, too?”

Data replied to the prototype, “Given that we share one body, the probability is very high that you will also be listening to the tale, B-4.”

B-4 warbled, “I like stories.”

T’Mera placed several binders in the trunk. “Data, did you want to check the decomposition before we pack everything?”

“That is an excellent idea.” Data responded, “B-4, please let T’Mera create an interface.”

B-4 held out his right arm to her. “Is there a goodnight kiss? We are not laying down.”

T’Mera reached out for his right arm with her left, “We’ll do that later, B-4. This is a quick interface.” The tubules sprang out of her implants, injecting themselves into the android.

“B-4, please hold up the hand that is next to the box, and let me look closely at it.” Data instructed, then studied the part when B-4 complied. “Most interesting. There is a one point four four percent decomposition of the bitanium in the hand. That would be consistent with an elapsed time of sixty years .”

“So,” T’Mera peered over at the android part, “This hidden lair has been around for at least that long? Maybe longer, given the dates on the identity cards.”

“It would seem so.” Data replied. “Thank you for the extra processing power, T’Mera. You may disconnect now.”

B-4 pulled gently at the tubules, and they retracted back into T’Mera’s arm.

T’Mera wobbled unsteadily on her feet, then grabbed the back of the chair to keep her balance.

B-4 moved to try to steady her, while Data spoke. “T’Mera, I think it would be best if we take you to the bedroom and have you lie down for a while. B-4 and I will continue to pack what we need to bring back with us.”

T’Mera didn’t resist, and let the android lead her to the small bedroom area. “Thank you.” She climbed onto the bed and closed her eyes.

“B-4, please return to the other room.” Data asked the prototype.

B-4 walked back to the lab, “The room with the toys.”

“Yes,” Data answered. “If you wish, we can bring one or two toys of your choosing back to the Medical Center.”

B-4 widened his eyes and smiled, “I would like that.”

With Data directing B-4, they managed to get everything packed into the trunk. He noted that three hours, twenty minutes and ten seconds had passed on his internal chronometer since T’Mera had gone to lay down, and told B-4 to walk to the bedroom to check on her. As they entered the room, Data noticed a half-eaten ration bar on the table next to the bed, as well as an emptied potable water bag. T’Mera was awake, sitting on the edge of the bed.

“How long have you been awake?” Data asked. “Did you sleep?”

“I slept a bit.” she shrugged. “I had to get up to do what you would call “attending to biological functions.””

“B-4, please move to the dresser and open the middle drawer.” Data told the prototype, who did as instructed. “I am glad you did, T’Mera. I would have had to remind you to do so, otherwise. B-4, please take the sheets out and we will place them on the bed.” The android carried the linens over to the bed and waited for T’Mera to stand before spreading the sheets over it. “We have finished packing everything that is possibly pertinent to our mission.” As B-4 turned, Data regained visual contact with T’Mera, who was pressing her right hand against her abdomen. “Are you ill?”

T’Mera shook her head, “No. It’s just indigestion. Probably the rations. Nothing to worry about.”

B-4 removed his boots, then climbed onto the side of the bed usually reserved for him.

T’Mera climbed back in, on her side, then leaned over to kiss B-4. “Goodnight, B-4.”

“Goodnight.” B-4 answered, then let his right arm go slack.

T’Mera wrapped her left hand around his right hand, and initiated the interface. The bedroom of the hidden lair faded, replaced by the white sand beach and tropical waters. Instead of the cold, crisp air of Ba’ku, warm trade winds blew past them.

Chapter Text

T’Mera stood near the waterline, as the cerulean ocean sent wave after wave crashing onto the white sand beach. The thin fabric of her tropical sundress fluttered around her legs in the trade winds. Her body was fully organic, with no sign of the Borg implants, and she wiggled her toes in the wet sand.

Data walked over the dunes to T’Mera, holding out a hand to her. He still wore a white sleeveless shirt and swim trunks. “Are you certain you wish to do this? I do not wish to drain your physical energy.”

T’Mera took Data’s hand and squeezed it gently, “I want to be here with you. To be able to see you and feel you, instead of having to remind myself that the body you’re in isn’t yours.” She tugged on his hand to pull him into an embrace. “Do you still want to do all this? The romance subroutine, I mean.”

“I do.” Data wrapped his arms around her, then leaned down to meet her lips in a soft kiss.

T’Mera’s lips pressed against his, then she rubbed the tip of her nose against his, “You know what would be nice? A cozy beach house.”

Data replied, “Your wish is my command.” A thatched roof house with open sides appeared behind them. Curtains were tied up at every corner, by the wooden support beams, which could be untied and closed for privacy. A large bed was centered in the main room, where sisal carpeting covered the wooden floor. To one side, a bathroom retained privacy with shoji. A wraparound porch with a swinging loveseat completed the structure.

T’Mera smirked, “I get to command the Commander?” She chuckled at her own joke, then looked behind them, “That’s perfect. It’s from Bali Hai Getaway number five.”

Data started walking with her towards the house, “I still find creativity fascinating. The capability to imagine something which does not exist is a skill that has been difficult for me to cultivate in myself.”

“Keep at it.” T’Mera spoke in a reassuring tone, as they made their way into the room with the bed. She reached up to run her fingers through his chestnut brown hair, “Everything in here feels so real.”

Data reached with his arms to embrace T’Mera tightly, “It feels more than real, to me. I am aware of several physical sensations that I do not usually experience in an android body.”

T’Mera widened her eyes as their bodies pressed together, “Is that an isolinear rod in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”

“I am very happy to see you.” Data set his unblinking golden gaze into her dark eyes, “Happy to see you, hold you, and to be with you.” He paused, then asked, “Should I enable my solicitous mate subroutine?”

T’Mera pursed her lips, “I’m afraid to ask what your solicitous mate subroutine consists of.”

Data’s voice altered to one with a slower cadence and slightly lowered tenor. “May I say… your hair is looking particularly glossy tonight, dear?”

T’Mera burst into giggles, “Data, you sound like a Risian Rake. It’s not who you are.”

“With regards to romance,” Data returned to his normal speaking voice, “There is no “me”.”

T’Mera rubbed his back, “There’s no me, either, but I love you as the android you are, not… well, whatever that was that you just imitated. I’d be more receptive to you asking me to download you than I would be to the smooth talker.” She studied his face for a moment, “Data, something is bothering you about this. I can tell. You’re making ‘processing face’.”

Data furrowed his brow slightly, “I am experiencing a…” He blinked in surprise and then widened his eyes, “A confluence of emotion! I am having one! Pleasure and fear simultaneously.”

T’Mera smiled, still holding him in the embrace, “Congratulations.” She returned to a solemn expression, “However, the confluence is affecting you. Would you like to talk about it?”

Data nodded, then kissed T’Mera’s forehead, “While I am anticipating the consummation of our romantic relationship, my past two experiences give me pause.”

“I’m all pointed ears, Bright Eyes.” T’Mera remained in the embrace with him, looking up into his face. “I’m listening.”

“I will speak about the most recent one, first.” He tilted his head, “Because it deals with a temporal displacement, it means that my last time being with a woman was either six years, eight months, three days, five hours and twenty-two seconds ago or it was three hundred and seventeen years, two months, ten days, twelve hours and forty seconds ago. Also, while it could be said to be an experience of a sexual nature, it was not fully consummated.” Seeing the expression on T’Mera’s face, he explained, “The Borg Queen attempted to seduce me, to make me give up control of the Enterprise. She grafted organic flesh onto my endoskeletal structure, and somehow managed to transmit the organic nerve impulses to the central processor in my positronic net. The sensations were quite… alluring. I was tempted, for zero point six eight seconds, but I played along until an opportunity to stop her presented itself.”

T’Mera winced, giving Data a slight squeeze in the embrace, “That sounds more like torture, Data. Even if there were sexual overtones to it, that’s hardly a romantic experience. In fact, it would be traumatic for most of us. If you need time, because of what happened to you, that’s perfectly fine with me.”

“I availed myself of counseling, afterwards. I also had the emotion chip removed, because of that experience.” Data replied, “But there is something more. Something the Borg Queen had said to me. She told me “You are an imperfect being... created by an imperfect being. Finding your weakness is only a matter of time.” She was correct. I am tempted by emotions, and by sensations of the flesh.”

“For zero point six eight seconds…” T’Mera reminded him.

“For an android, that is nearly an eternity.” Data let out a sigh. “My desire to be more human is my weakness. It is the temptation I succumb to. Just as I did with Tasha Yar. Do you wish me to elaborate?”

T’Mera rubbed Data’s back gently, “Go ahead.”

Data hesitated, “I will understand if, after hearing the circumstances, you decide to rescind our romance.” When T’Mera simply looked up at him expectantly, he continued. “We had encountered something called polywater. It is a molecule that changes water in the body into a complex molecule that binds with the carbon from the body and then acts like intoxication. It spread throughout the Enterprise. Captain Picard had ordered me to take Lieutenant Yar to sickbay. I knew that she was infected. Yet, when I went to get her, and she attempted to seduce me, I succumbed to temptation. I was derelict in my duty.”

T’Mera listened, then asked softly, “She’s the one you kept the hologram of, right?”

Data nodded, “Yes.” He frowned deeply, “I am not certain why I did not follow my orders, or why I ignored that she was acting under the influence of the infection. By the time she was done propositioning me, all I could process was how much I wanted to give her what she was asking me for; gentleness, joy and love. From me . She could have been with any other crewmember, but she specifically wanted me .”

“It’s a very biological male reaction to that situation.” T’Mera offered. “I’m not excusing going against the captain’s orders or that you overlooked her not being in her right mind, but nobody’s perfect. A woman you were most likely wanting to be with was suddenly also wanting to be with you, and you had a momentary lapse of reason.”

“Androids do not have momentary lapses of reason.” Data responded.

T’Mera patted his back, “Soong-type androids seem to. Do you think Lieutenant Yar would want you to still be beating yourself up about it, all these years later? When she told you that it never happened, did she seem upset or betrayed?”

“It is difficult for me to tell, even now, after experiencing over three hundred distinct emotional states.” Data pressed his lips together, “She continued to treat me as a friend, afterwards. You are most likely correct about how she would react to me beating myself up about it.”

T’Mera nodded, “You didn’t seem to do it out of malice, but out of a desire to give yourself to her. It’s not like you went around boasting about it, either. Quite the contrary, you kept it hidden, except at your hearing, kept a physical object to remind you of her, and couldn’t avail yourself of counseling to deal with the emotions you had for Tasha. I think it’s time for you to forgive yourself.”

Data raised an eyebrow, “I did not see you at my hearing. You are speaking of the one with Bruce Maddox?”

T’Mera nodded, then told him, “I had clearance to see your case. Are you upset about my having seen it?”

“No.” Data moved his arms to pull her tighter to him, “It is fine that you have witnessed it. Perhaps if you had even been there, at the time, you would have been able to prove I am sentient.”

“Or I would have been thrown out for contempt of court after demonstrating Commander Maddox’s off switch.” T’Mera quipped.

“He has an off switch?” Data tilted his head in confusion.

T’Mera held up her right hand, then lightly pressed the index, middle and ring fingers against Data’s neck as a gesture, “Vulcan nerve pinch would have acted like an off switch.” She placed her hand on his chest, “I consider it the dumbest argument of that case. Just because you can be dismantled or shut off doesn’t mean you’re not sentient.”

“Thank you, T’Mera.” Data let out a soft sigh, “It is my worry that my weakness, which has now been proven twice in the past, will somehow cause you harm. That is why I had compiled and calculated the variables involved in a successful romance and marriage, which is what I used to determine whether I should have asked you to join me in such a partnership. I did not wish to make any more lapses in reason.”

T’Mera moved her hand from his chest to his left cheek, “There’s never a guarantee of that, Data. No matter how many calculations you do, there’s room for mistakes. It’s that kind of universe. You could do everything properly, and the result can still be bad. You can also bumble through everything, making mistakes, and still have things turn out fine. We just aim to do the best we can with the knowledge we have, and go from there.”

Data’s yellow eyes locked with her brown eyes. “I will endeavor to be the best romantic partner for you that I can be.”

T’Mera smiled, “I endeavor to do the same.” she gazed back up at him, “You give me that look, and I just melt inside.”

Data raised an eyebrow, “I am programmed in multiple techniques, and a broad variety of pleasuring… However, none of them pertain to a melting partner.”

T’Mera laughed softly, “I’m programmed in no techniques. We’ll have to improvise, then.” She placed her hands at his hips, then pulled at his shirt to lift it over his head.

Data lifted his arms to facilitate shirt removal, then allowed T’Mera to slide his trunks down to his ankles. He lifted his feet out of the swimming shorts and reached out to unfasten her dress. “T’Mera…” he spoke softly as he pushed the dress down and lifted her naked body out of it. “I cannot find the words to express what this moment means to me.”

“Don’t use words, then.” T’Mera answered with the caress of her hands and a passionate kiss, “Show me.”

The left side of Data’s mouth lifted into an odd smile, and he set her down on the large bed. As he looked into T’Mera’s dark eyes and began to explore the contours of her body with his hands, a new emotion built up slowly within him. The soft roar of the ocean waves, combined with the breathy sounds of their lovemaking, soon brought him to euphoria.

 

There are still many human emotions I do not fully comprehend, but I am not mystified by the desire to be loved or the need for friendship. These are things I do understand.

Chapter Text

Year: 2380

Stardate: 57560.1

 

“Ugh.” T’Mera groaned, then let out a few choice curse words, “This isn't programming syntax. It's programming sin…”

Data had become used to the complaints that uttered forth from T’Mera during the past week, as she painstakingly reconstructed the development environment that Doctor Soong had invented for the programming of positronic brains. He would have liked to have been helpful, but even if he could have processed at his original speed, B-4’s attention wandered to the various toys that littered his table in the room at the Medical Center.

In some ways, Data experienced what he concluded was envy of B-4. The last time he had been on Ba’ku, a twelve-year old boy named Artim had come to befriend him and explained to Data how to “just play” like a child. As much as Data tried, he found that it was difficult to play without some sort of structure or reason. Yet, here was B-4, happily involved in the freeform style of playing that any child would enjoy. Rather than dwell on the emotion of envy, Data decided to vicariously enjoy B-4’s enthusiasm for unstructured activity.

Artim’s last words to Data were easily accessed from his memory engrams: "...don't forget, you have to have a little fun everyday."

Data found slight amusement from that statement, given his current situation. While the type of fun that he was having everyday was certainly not what Artim meant, Data was having fun each night in the interface that he shared with T’Mera. While their nightly sessions could be bittersweet, due to her terminal prognosis, they were also blissful.

B-4 turned his head, looking up at the colorful 3-D hologram display suspended over T’Mera’s workstation. This enabled Data to see their current neural net scans, which were being recorded. B-4’s head was covered in monitors, as it was before the hike to the cavern that T’Mera nicknamed The Soong Lair. A red knit stocking cap covered the android’s brown hair and exposed monitor ports.

Another slew of curses came from the woman at the workstation, followed by, “... no, of course the great Doctor Soong doesn’t believe in revision control… well, we’re going to have it NOW.”

Data decided to speak to T’Mera at this point, “How are you doing, t’hy’la?”

T’Mera grumbled in reply, “I’m doing great, considering I’m making an apple pie from scratch and am nearly done creating the universe.”

“Speaking of apple pie…” Data broached the next subject, “The intellectual efficiency of high order beings does diminish proportionately with the deprivation of nutritious fuel. Would you like us to get you anything from the atrium? I have noticed you are not enjoying what the replicator creates.”

“I don’t feel hungry, right now, but thank you.” T’Mera replied. “And you can spare me the readout of percentages of how much less I’m eating now than I used to.”

Data quietly pondered her words, then spoke, “Have you mentioned your decreasing appetite to the doctor?”

“Yes.” T’Mera’s answer to him was short and curt.

Data waited a few minutes for her to add more, then prompted, “What were the findings, if any?” When a minute went by with no response, he prompted a second time, “Are you withholding information from me?”

T’Mera let out a sigh, then finally replied, “Data, the nanoprobes have gotten into my digestive system. Pretty soon, they’re going to breach the mucous membranes. When that happens, they’ll have to put in artificial replacements. I won’t be able to work for two weeks, once that takes place.”

“I am sorry, t’hy’la.” Data could feel concern and worry building within him, “I will not remind you, again. I just want you to know that if there is anything you need or desire, at any time, we will procure it for you.”

T’Mera swiveled her chair to smile at the android, “Thank you, my t’hy’la. I’m sorry that I’m taking so long, but the more I learn about the positronic brain, the more I find out that it’s not anything like a computer, which is what I’m used to programming on. Soong’s design is a very specific and bizarre fusion between a neural network and a massively parallel processing system.” She paused, “Data, if it turns out I’m going to die before I can complete this, maybe you should take up Q on the offer to restore you. Was his price that bad?”

Data told her, “I found his price unacceptable. He would restore me on the Enterprise a nanosecond before the Scimitar explodes. I would never be able to meet you or know you.” He ceased talking as he noticed T’Mera’s eyes watering and tears running down her cheeks. “Did I inadvertently hurt you? I meant no offense.”

T’Mera wiped at the teardrops, “I’m not hurt. It’s just that you gave up everything you could have had, knowing how this is going to end for us.” She regained her composure, “I’m going to finish this work, one way or another.” She swiveled her chair to face the workstation once more.

“I have never doubted you, T’Mera.” Data replied, then went silent again as B-4 found new toys to keep his attention.

 

Stardate: 57565.5

 

B-4 sat happily at his table, watching the entertainment display run “These Are The Lifeforms Of The Galaxy”, a children’s musical education program. Data had never seen the program before, since his memory engrams contained all of the lifeforms mentioned within, plus many more that could not be covered in a children’s holovid. He was surprised to see T’Mera’s name come up in the credits for one section.

“T’Mera?” Data called over to her.

T’Mera looked up from her workstation, “Hmm? What is it, Data?”

“Did you really write this part of the program, called “The Horta Know How To Rock”?” he asked.

T’Mera chuckled, “Is it too painful of a pun for you?”

Data replied, “I am not programmed to take damage from puns.” He was satisfied that she was in better spirits, now that the development tools were finished and the neural net was being remapped. “How is your work progressing on reading positronic matrix directive language?”

“I’m picking it up. It’s an odd language, but at least he kept consistent within his own source. I think I also have the answer to a mystery that’s been haunting you for sixteen years. I don’t know if B-4 wants to be disturbed to walk over here, if you wanted to see the visual or not.” T’Mera laid the paper-filled binder flat on the surface of her desk.

Data waited to see if B-4 reacted to his name being spoken, “I do not need to see it. You could tell me what it is, if you wish.” The prototype remained seated, watching the colorful and musical program.

T’Mera lifted the cup next to her for a brief swig of water, then set it back down. “This is in the base system code for B-4, and most likely was also in yours. It’s part of the sexuality program you were created with. It’s seven conditions that, when all seven are met, bypass all other functions to be marked highest priority in the queue… making it go to the top of the heap, so to speak.”

Data processed the information, then asked, “What are the seven conditions listed?”

T’Mera began to list them, “If ‘established friendly relationship’, If ‘consenting female’, If ‘setting of privacy’, If ‘unmarried/uninvolved’ (both), If ‘provocative dress’, If ‘provocative/solicitous behavior’, If ‘aesthetic interest’.” then continued, “When the entire conditional statement is met, it starts an event trigger that overrides any other commands currently running in your system. Would you like the good news?”

Data hesitated a moment, “I am attempting to ascertain the emotion I am currently experiencing, but I can do that later. What is the good news?”

“Well,” T’Mera looked at one of the displays on her desk, “It looks like you trashed that part of your program and wrote over it with your current directories and subdirectories, sometime back around stardate 42493.1. It’s still running on B-4, however.”

Data was silent for a few moments, then said, “Disgruntled. I believe I am disgruntled.” After another few moments, he spoke up, “It should be removed from B-4.”

The holovid ended, causing B-4 to pay attention to his name being mentioned, “What is removed from me?”

T’Mera swiveled to face the android, “It’s a part of your programming that I’m going to call “Momentary Lapse of Reason”, B-4. It could prompt you to do something wrong or something you would rather not do. Would you like me to remove it?”

B-4’s eyebrows took turns moving as he pondered her words, “I do not want to do anything wrong.”

T’Mera gave the android a smile, “Good B-4. I’ll remove it. You needed that bit of programming as much as a fish needs a bicycle.”

Data quipped, “T’hy’la, you continually add to my database of idioms.”

“So,” T’Mera continued, “Soong seems to have wanted you to be extremely monogamous and heteronormative.”

“That was how he was.” Data accessed his memories from the hologram of Doctor Soong, “He had only one woman that he ever loved. You are certain I no longer have the Momentary Lapse of Reason?”

“Positive.” T’Mera turned back to the display, “I’m looking at your sex and romance directories, now. There’s wedding dancing, solicitous mate, the deleted remnants of one called DeSora_J, the calculated variables for a successful marriage of two humanoids, and the physical pleasure techniques.” She paused, “I hope it isn’t bothering you that I’m basically picking through your whole brain.”

“Why should it bother me?” Data asked. “You are constantly working on similar systems and programs.”

T’Mera smiled slightly, as she continued to study the lines of code, “Yes, but I’m normally not romantically involved with those systems. Still, there’s something to be said for knowing exactly what the man you love is thinking…”

Ba’iba had walked in at that moment, “Er… should I come back in a few minutes?”

T’Mera turned to face the woman, “No, it’s fine. I was just working on some of the subdirectories.” She eyed the container in Ba’iba’s hand with distaste, “It’s already time for that, eh?”

Ba’iba nodded, smiling, “I’m going to stand here and make sure you drink all five hundred milliliters of your liquid nutrition.” She handed the bottle to T’Mera, then placed some crystals on the desk, “And those are your incoming messages.” She waved to the android, now that her hands were free, “Hello.”

B-4 mimicked the wave, “Hello.”

Ba’iba stood closer to T’Mera to watch her drink. “What was that about romantically involved, when I first walked in?”

T’Mera swallowed the liquid in her mouth, then answered, “I was talking to Data. About Data, really.”

Ba’iba’s blue eyes widened with excitement, “Mister Data, the artificial lifeform?” She turned to look at the android again, “I thought you said this one’s name is B-4?”

T’Mera took another gulp with a grimace, “That body belongs to the prototype named B-4. Lieutenant Commander Data, of the Federation Starfleet, is… well, he’s sort of trapped in B-4’s positronic brain. My job is to detangle them, and then…” she hesitated again, “I guess resurrect is the right word. I have to resurrect Data. I’m not sure if you understand any of what I just said.”

“My parents know all about positronic devices, although I think they said Mister Data is more complex than they can work with.” Ba’iba pointed to the bottle, then asked, “How did he get stuck in B-4?”

T’Mera took another swig of liquid, “The short story is that he downloaded himself into B-4, hoping to help him develop. Then, a day later, Data was killed in the line of duty.”

An expression of sadness crossed Ba’iba’s face, “Oh no. He saved our village, a few years ago.”

“This time, he saved the whole Federation.” T’Mera winced and drank more from the bottle. “We do have his program in here, and I’ll get him back up and running in a few years.” She took one last bit from the bottle, then handed it back to the medical aide.

Ba’iba took the bottle and checked to make certain it was emptied. “You drank all of it. That’s good. Is there anything else you need?”

T’Mera shook her head, “That should be fine, thank you, Ba’iba.”

Ba’iba smiled, “Goodnight, Doctor Chipman, B-4 and Mister Data.” She turned and left the room, continuing on her rounds.

Data waited until Ba’iba had left before asking, “Do you dislike the liquid nutrition supplement?”

T’Mera stuck out her white-coated tongue, “It’s terrible. I imagine this is what your semi-organic nutrient suspension tastes like. Thick and milky.” She picked up one of the crystals on the desk and inserted it into the slot for the computer on her desk. “I should replicate flavored chewing gum, so I can at least remove the taste from my mouth. This is the information on Arik Soong, by the way.”

“B-4, please go stand next to T’Mera and look at her display.” Data asked the prototype. B-4 stood up and complied.

T’Mera frowned, then tapped something on the neural net monitor. “Hmm, something glitched the mapping. I’ll restart.” She turned back to the display and opened one of the files. Most of the video files showed a man with short, slightly greying hair and blue eyes surrounded by several young children.

B-4’s interest perked up for the videos that showed the man presenting a birthday cake to the children.

The next video started, seeming to be some sort of history lesson. The greying man spoke in an extremely familiar voice, “ Some claim humanity rose up against the Augments. Others say the Augments began fighting among themselves. Whoever started it, the war devastated Earth. Millions perished. And when it was over, people like you were feared. Humans will always fear you. They fear your power, your intellect. They fear you because you're everything they want to be, but can't be. Which is why I brought you here, where it's safe. I've raised you like my own. You call me Father.

Data spoke up, “Voiceprint identification matches the recorder we found in the Lair.”

T’Mera nodded, “All right, so Arik Soong was there. These children are from the Eugenics Wars.” She read through the informational file, “He served his time in prison and was eventually released, although it doesn’t say when. It also doesn’t say where he went, and whether he married or had children. He just vanished.” She added, “It’s also really eerie to hear what sounds like your voice saying such things, Data.”

“It is eerie to me, as well, t’hy’la.” Data concurred.

But I'm only watching over you. You belong to the future, and someday you will fulfill humanity's promise.” Arik Soong continued in his lesson with the children.

T’Mera grumbled, “It failed again?” then frowned. “Maybe I’d better run the new debugger.”

“What is it, T’Mera?” Data asked, still able to see her in B-4’s visual sensory area.

“For some reason, when I try to rebuild B-4’s neural net, something scrambles it, ten minutes later. I’ll run the debugger on your whole positronic matrix and see what comes up.” T’Mera pressed her right hand on her ribcage. “Ugh. I told them I can’t take half a liter at a time.” She stood up and walked to the bathroom.

B-4 followed after her, as usual. Data had long stopped trying to impress the idea of privacy to his prototype, and in the time they had spent at the Medical Center, had been present for all manner of biological functions. T’Mera had acclimated to having an android present at all times, and never protested. As the android turned to enter the bathroom, Data immediately sensed that something was wrong.

T’Mera lay on the floor, curled up in pain, with her hands wrapped around her midsection. A coughing sound turned into retching, and then to regurgitation. A small puddle of thick white liquid formed on the floor near her mouth, decorated with swirls of green.

Data immediately spoke, “B-4, press the red button on the wall! Quickly!”

B-4 pressed the button, “Something bad is happening?”

“Yes.” Data answered, “T’Mera is very ill.”

The intercom beeped and a voice asked, “What is the situation?”

“Doctor Chipman is vomiting blood and has collapsed.” Data answered. “She is breathing, but her body temperature is rising rapidly.”

“Medical team is on the way.” the intercom answered.

“B-4, we need to move out of the way.” Data instructed. “Move over to the bathtub, please.”

By the time B-4 had moved, the medical team arrived with a gurney. One of the team waved a medical tricorder over T’Mera, then barked, “Start anetrizine. We have to get her to emergency surgery.”

The medical team gently moved T’Mera’s body to the gurney, raised the bed, and then quickly pushed it through the patient room to the hallway.

B-4 hurried to follow after them. Data considered telling B-4 to remain in T’Mera’s room, but decided that he would remain silent for the time being. The android was able to follow the team as they wheeled her through the halls, and through the doors into the surgery bay. As they transferred her body to the biobed, someone noticed B-4.

“Get him out of here.”

One of the medical personnel walked over, grabbed B-4’s arm and attempted to pull the android to the doors. “Come on. You can’t stay in here.” When the android refused to budge, the orderly called to another one, “I need help here.” One by one, another orderly was added, until there were five of them, trying to move the android without success. B-4 was able to grab a support beam in the room and grip it tightly.

Within minutes, the doctor and medical assistants arrived, all wearing the standard crimson red scrubs. “What in the world is going on here?”

“Sorry, Doctor. This is the patient’s android. We can’t budge him.”

The doctor sighed, “Put him in scrubs, then. We can’t have this becoming a circus.”

B-4, while unwilling to leave, allowed the orderlies to place scrubs and booties on his body. One of the medical assistants waved a medical tricorder over the android, then declared, “He’s actually sterile.”

“That’s a relief. Hopefully, he’ll stay there.” The doctor waited until the surgical support frame was in place over T’Mera, then began the procedure.

B-4 remained where he was, out of the way of the medical staff, but in range to allow himself and Data to watch over the entire transplant procedure. Only when the surgery was over and T’Mera was wheeled into the recovery room did B-4 move again, to then stand vigil over her sleeping form in the post-surgical biobed.

“Goodnight kiss.” B-4’s voice wavered as he softly spoke, then bent to give T’Mera a very light kiss on her forehead. The android remained silent, as tears began to fall from his eyes, leaving a wet streak down each of his cheeks.

Chapter Text

Year: 2380

Stardate: 57603.3

 

The two weeks following T’Mera’s emergency transplants had not been easy for Data. B-4 stood vigil over her recovery bed the entire four days, until she was well enough to be transferred back to the bed in her room. Acting as a caregiver for her while not having control over B-4’s body had proven challenging. In a few days of patient instruction, B-4 had finally figured out the routine of giving T’Mera her liquid nutrition and cleaning her when needed. She was too physically drained to work or to interface, so each night consisted of watching a holovid from the bed, followed by the goodnight kiss that B-4 demanded.

T’Mera spent most of her time heavily medicated and asleep during the first week, so Data maneuvered B-4 to the desk where he was able to read the information on Arik Soong and watch the archived videos of the augments gathered from Trialas IV. He was also able to read some of the notes taken out of Arik’s prison cell. One, in particular, caused Data to feel extremely unsettled:

“Perfecting humanity may not be possible. Cybernetics. Artificial lifeforms. That may be the way to go. I doubt I'll finish the work myself. Might take a generation or two.”

Data attempted to dig further, to find any information related to Arik as far as descendants, and when that failed, to find any information on Doctor Noonian Soong’s parents and grandparents. No records existed. There was a record of Arik’s mother being a chemist, but no record of his father. Data knew that many worlds, especially in the Orion, Rigellian and Borderlands sections of the galaxy, had gone through political upheavals or other disasters that had destroyed historical records on those worlds. Still, there was something off-kilter about everything they had found since discovering the Ba’Ku Soong Lair.

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” It made Data wish he still had his briar pipe.

T’Mera, still on the sedative painkillers, replied to his spoken statement, “That’s a logical fallacy, which works for the specific framework of Sherlock Holmes stories, but not in practice. It should be “Within the set of known phenomena, once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be true. If the entire set of known phenomena are eliminated as impossible, then the solution is simply unknown until a new phenomena that can serve as a solution is positively established.”... in my opinion.”

“I concede your point, t’hy’la.” Data responded, “Although your statement is a bit more cumbersome, as far as writing style.” He paused, then asked, “How are you faring? Do you require anything?”

“I’m fine.” T’Mera turned her head on the pillow to face him, “Sorry if I ruined Holmes for you.”

Data scanned a few more lines of information, “You did not. I am curious… who is your favorite fictional detective? Do you have one?”

T’Mera took a moment to think, “I’m not usually one for that sort of thing, but my favorite would be Elijah Baley. Shocking, isn’t it?”

Data attempted to chuckle, but the synth box made it sound more like clearing a throat. “It certainly falls well within the parameters of your interests.”

“I’m not sure why, but robots have always fascinated me.” T’Mera told the android, “I guess I’m more like a robot, myself.”

B-4 spoke up, “You are not a robot.”

T’Mera’s medicine-based giddiness started to surface, “I am a meat robot.”

B-4 frowned, “You are not a robot. You are biological.”

“I am a meat popsicle.” T’Mera started to softly laugh.

Data chided, “I think that is enough talk of that sort. The sedation effects of the triptacederine are altering your reactions to conversational stimuli.”

“Bring me a PADD, please?” T’Mera pleaded, “I wanna see the debugger dump.”

“According to the attending physician, you are to be considered impaired and should not be working or operating heavy machinery or any sort of vehicle.” Data paused, then replied, “I suppose reading will not do any harm. B-4, pick up the PADD with the red stripe and carry it to T’Mera, please.”

B-4 grabbed the PADD, then walked over to the bed, handing it to T’Mera. “This is for you, from Data.”

T’Mera giggled and took the PADD, “Thank you, B-4. Tell Data thank you.”

B-4 immediately spoke, “Data, she says thank you.”

Data replied, “Thank you, B-4. Can you please move me back to the workstation?”

B-4 walked back to the desk, “Of course.”

Data returned to sifting through the information on Arik Soong. “Computer, analyze cranial structure of Arik Soong, with current downloaded information. Cross-reference with cranial structure of Noonian Soong.” He waited, while the computer processed the request, then read the results, “Curious. They have identical bone structure, yet if Arik is a great-grandfather, then Noonian should only share twelve-point-five percent of his DNA. Both of them match my own measurements.”

A sudden outburst of giggles from T’Mera caused B-4 to turn his head to look at her. Data asked, “What is it you find amusing, t’hy’la?”

“Measurements…” she trailed off into snickering.

“I suppose that is also the same size, given that everything else is in his image.” Data told her, “And you are most definitely impaired. B-4, please turn your head to look at the display.”

B-4 did as instructed, “Will we watch something tonight?”

“Most certainly.” Data replied. “What are the choices, T’Mera, if you are not too delirious?”

“Choices are…” T’Mera let the PADD drop horizontal on her lap, “One about a robot left alone on Earth who has to clean up the planet, but then meets a female robot… Or there’s one about a good android who helps protect people from aliens… One about a robot who gets struck by lightning and becomes alive and runs away from the people who built him.. Or one that is a fantasy about computer programs being alive and fighting against Master Control. Whose turn is it to pick?”

B-4 piped up, “It is my turn. I pick Master Control.”

“Good choice, B-4.” T’Mera picked up the PADD again, “We’ll put that on, later tonight.”

“And goodnight kiss.” B-4 added.

“You and those goodnight kisses, B-4…” T’Mera shook her head with a smile.

B-4 reached for one of the crystals on the desk, turning it in his hand to watch the colors refract in the light.

Data turned his attention back to the display, “If he traveled to Ba’ku and remained here long enough, he would have grown younger in appearance and extended his life by two centuries. With the forgery supplies we found, he could create new identities for himself. His original goal was perfecting humanity, but when that failed, he turned to artificial lifeforms.”

T’Mera pressed the button to raise the incline of the upper part of the bed, “Are you opening a can of worms, Data?”

“It appears so.” Data replied. “Do you think I should close the can?”

T’Mera let the PADD drop to her lap again, “I suppose the answer to that is what’s gained from opening it, versus what’s gained in leaving it shut. Arik apparently served his time, and then didn’t commit any more crimes.”

“It may gain me nothing.” Data responded, in a softer volume, “However, if what I suspect is true, then it clears up many discrepancies in what I was told, and explains a few others. My father told me that he never felt too comfortable living anywhere without a prearranged route of escape. Why should a cyberneticist need prearranged routes of escape? Nobody at Daystrom Institute does. Nobody at Jupiter Station does. You do not. Nothing in the recorded background of Noonian Soong gives any indication that he should be running away from anything. Arik Soong, on the other hand, had avoided capture for ten years, managed to escape from the prison once, and even was able to escape from the Enterprise NX-01 in 2154 while in the custody of Captain Jonathan Archer. He also had dealings with the Orions, who do engender a modicum of fear in those that they work with.”

     Data paused for a moment, then continued, “When I asked my father why he created me, instead of answering my inquiry, he led me in a circuitous line of questions until the answer seemed to be that he created us to give himself a sense of immortality. He claimed to be dying, but when I asked him what he was dying of, he ignored my question. He also seemed to visually appear older than he should have been, chronologically.”

     Another moment of silence ensued, then Data continued on his train of thought, “If he was dying and all he had time to do was to make the emotion chip, what was the purpose of the male android parts that I saw in his lab on Terlina III? He also made Juliana after me, because viable synaptic scan transfer had finally been achieved. If he truly wished for immortality, all he would need to do is scan himself into an android body.”

T’Mera frowned as she listened, “And meanwhile, all he’s done so far is make androids that look like himself. Not counting Juliana…” She bit her lower lip, “We’re getting into can of gagh, now. So, what would it mean to you if it turns out you were made by Arik Soong, and that Noonian is him in a current identity?”

“A scientist in love with the idea of eugenics would have named himself Noonian after Khan Noonien Singh.” Data extrapolated, then answered T’Mera, “I am uncertain as to what it means to me, if I am correct and Arik Soong is my creator. I am reminded of something I told Bruce Maddox, when he wanted to dismantle me: I am the culmination of one man's dream. This is not ego or vanity, but when Doctor Soong created me he added to the substance of the universe. If by these experiments I am destroyed, something unique, something wonderful will be lost. I cannot permit that, I must protect his dream.” He paused, “But what if I am not the culmination? What if I was simply a test run and not his true goal?”

T’Mera’s voice softened in kindness, “Even if you weren’t the final goal, maybe it means he finally got one thing right, in a few hundred years?”

Data inquired, “What was the one thing?”

“You, dopey.” T’Mera clucked her tongue, “You’re the one thing he got right, albeit mostly by making you and then not trying to raise you.” She glanced over to where the android stood by the desk, “Seriously, Data, no matter who built you for whatever reason, the fact remains that you are a unique individual who is in charge of his own life.”

Data replied as he continued to read, “As Polonius had said, in Hamlet; This, above all… to thine own self be true. You are familiar with Hamlet, T’Mera?”

T’Mera shook her head, “Not really. I only know the porcine version. Piglet.” After a strange sound emitted from Data’s voice box, she added, “Or the musical version…” and began to sing, “Neither a borrower, nor a lender be… do not forget, stay out of debt…”

Data finally spoke, “That is a mixture of Bizet’s Toreador song from Carmen with a phrase from Hamlet. Another of your humorous endeavors, I believe.”

“I’m very lowbrow, Data.” T’Mera retorted, “Having second thoughts about being involved with someone as uncultured as I am?”

“You are highly cultured, and I enjoy your sense of humor.” Data remarked, “You have a tendency to use wordplay and juxtapositional irony, all of which are fairly analytical, and are easy for me to comprehend.”

T’Mera lowered the PADD to her lap again, closing her eyes, “Glad to be of service. I think I’ll rest my eyes a moment.”

Data spoke encouragingly, “Resting is what you should be doing. I will be silent now.” He listened carefully, as her breathing slowed and became more regular. When she finally passed into stage two sleep, he used a low volume of voice to give instructions to B-4, so he could continue studying the histories for both Soongs. Fifty-four minutes and twelve seconds later, the sound of approaching footfalls interrupted him.

Ba’iba entered the room and peeked over at the bed. She moved closer to the android, speaking in a near whisper, “I’m here to change the waste output containers.”

Data replied just as quietly, “We have already done so, Ba’iba, about an hour ago. Both are currently nearly empty.”

“You’re doing my work.” Ba’iba said, but smiled.

“I am handling the biological needs of the woman I care very much about.” Data told the young woman. “I apologize if my doing so robs you of the opportunity.”

Ba’iba studied the android, “I am amazed at how deeply you care for her. A machine who can love. I had never seen anything like you before the Day of Lightning.”

“I have no memory of that.” Data told her, then explained, “The So’na damaged several of my memory engrams when they shot me. I am told that I did not injure anyone from the village.”

Ba’iba smiled, “You didn’t, although you gave us quite a shock. I was one of the children by the dam when it all started.”

Data searched his memories, “I do have recall of the children near the dam, prior to the damage to my systems.”

“I was the one with a red sash around my waist.” she leaned against the wall near the desk, “I was nearly hit by whoever was shooting at you.”

“I recall the girl in brown pants, red sash and long-sleeved blouse. Your specifications have changed somewhat since then.” Data told the woman, then amended, “You have grown.”

Ba’iba watched B-4’s face closely, “It’s odd to hear you speak when your mouth doesn’t move.”

“That is because I have no access to direct cognitive functions in B-4. My own consciousness is running in a separate group of processors from his, and so T’Mera had to make me a voice module.” Data explained, “It is disconcerting for me, as well.” He paused, then asked, “Ba’iba, I was under the impression that the people of your village disliked technology. If I may ask a personal question, what brings you to work here?”

Ba’iba smiled at the android, “Even before you appeared to us, I was curious about offlanders. This Medical Center is the best of all worlds for me. I don’t have to leave my home, but I can meet the people who come here and learn of life beyond our planet. It’s also nice to be able to help those who are sick and injured. To help them heal.”

“Very admirable.” Data replied to her. “You are an excellent patient’s aide.”

Ba’iba grinned, then said, “Thank you, even if you do my work. I have to get back to my rounds, now. I’ll check in later, as usual, but I assume you’ll be the one giving her the supplement?”

“Affirmative.” the android responded. “I think B-4 even enjoys feeding her.”

B-4 acknowledged hearing his name, “I like to feed her.”

Ba’iba patted B-4’s back, “Keep up the good work, then. I’ll return later.” She quietly walked out of the room, her footsteps growing more distant until the sound faded entirely.

Data returned to studying information until he heard T’Mera stirring from her sleep. From the sounds behind him, he could hear her lifting the PADD from her lap as she began to try to work again. “I assume the sedative has worn off? Would you like another dose?”

“No.” T’Mera replied. “I want a clear mind for a while, thank you.”

“Be sure to let me know the moment you need it.” Data stated, then returned to his reading. Twenty-five minutes later, he heard a sharp intake of air from T’Mera.

"Fuck me..." Horror and anger colored T’Mera’s voice.

"T'Mera, while I would be quite willing to at the moment, it would require interfacing and you are still in a state of convalescence. It would be inadvisable for us to copulate." Data replied evenly.

"Context is expletive." she grumbled.

Data paused, then acknowledged, "Ah. Understood. Please elaborate on the context."

“Well, remember when you said you couldn’t understand why downloading yourself into B-4 had resulted in a non-integrative state? I just found out why. It’s also the reason that B-4’s neural net keeps scrambling itself after I start mapping it.” T’Mera inhaled deeply, then exhaled. “The Remans stuck an obfuscated rootkit in him. From what I can gather, they altered B-4's code in a way to make it more able to compartmentalize and run multiple independent programs on the same hardware without them being aware of each other. This was supposed to enable him to carry the information from the Enterprise in a separate section, making it easy to extract, while hiding it from you or whoever might check his system. However, it also had the effect of forming a separate sentience for what you downloaded into him, instead of integrating with the existing one that was B-4.” She then added, “It’s still running, tearing apart B-4’s neural net. If I don’t get rid of it soon, it’s going to destroy both of you.”

Data was silent for a moment, then spoke, “I now find myself in complete agreement with your assessment of the situation, t’hy’la. Fuck us, indeed. Will you be able to remove it from our system?"

T’Mera hesitated for a moment, then nodded, “It’ll take me three days to write a scrubber. It’ll also mean shutting you both down until the scrubber has finished clearing the malicious program from the several billion subprocessors you contain.”

“How long would we be shut down?” Data inquired.

“Anywhere from a few days to a week.” T’Mera replied, “There’s really no choice. This has to be done.”

Data was silent for a few minutes, “I worry that something will happen to you while I am shut down.”

T’Mera shook her head, “If it does, I’m in the right place to get help.” She sighed, “I know you don’t want to be shut down, and I don’t want you to have to be shut down, but I also didn’t want to spend two weeks in bed. Sometimes, things have to be done that we don’t want, so that everything gets better.”

“I concede.” Data responded. “Our options are exceedingly limited.”

“The miserable have no other medicine but only hope.” T’Mera began to tap on the PADD, opening new windows on the display, and beginning work on the scrubber.

“I should like to point out that you just quoted Shakespeare.” Data quipped, then returned to his own reading. The work and reading continued until it was time to see to T’Mera’s needs, and then to relax for the remainder of the night with a holovid, followed by T’Mera’s overnight slumber.

Chapter Text

Year: 2380

Stardate: 57611.4

 

“That’s everything.” T’Mera announced, followed by a slightly raspy cough.

Data paused, then replied, “I wish I could say I am eager to do this, but I am not. Your cough has gotten noticeably worse over the past two days.”

T’Mera reached for the cup of water near her desk, “I’ve left instructions, in case the worst happens. You’ll be fine.”

“It is not myself that I am concerned about. It is you.” Data told her. “If anything should happen to you…”

“I’ve left a holographic program of myself, in isolinear storage unit number two.” T’Mera took a quick sip from the cup, then replaced it on the desk, “If I die, everything here will be brought back to Daystrom and I’ll be activated as a photonic and will be able to continue the work.”

“I find that to be of little comfort.” Data countered.

T’Mera hesitated, then studied B-4’s face.

“You are making a processing face.” Data quipped.

T’Mera smiled at the android, “What about an interface, then, before I shut you both down? I’m feeling stronger and walking around. I should be able to handle it.”

Data was silent for a minute, “I should know better than to accept your offer, but I am succumbing to temptation.”

“Let me set everything up for the scrubbing.” T’Mera walked over to her desk, “B-4, would you please bring your chair over here? We’ll have you sit in it with your back to the wall.”

B-4 did as instructed, “This way?”

“Perfect.” T’Mera set up a few displays nearby, then said, “Now you can sit down in the chair. Once I sit down, I’ll put the tubes in your arm, so Data and I can see each other. We haven’t been able to for a few weeks.”

B-4 nodded as he sat down, “I … understand.”

T’Mera moved her chair next to B-4’s, making herself comfortable in it. She held out her left arm, while B-4 reached for it with his right, and the Borg implants thrust the tubules out of the metal and into the android’s forearm.

The white sand beach, dunes and beach house appeared around them, but above the ocean and off to a distance were thick, dark cumulus clouds with vertical streaks of dark gray extending from the underside of the clouds to the horizon.

“The incoming storm is a nice touch.” T’Mera turned to face Data, then moved closer to embrace him. “I missed holding you.”

“I find that I also missed holding you, which is an interesting concept.” Data wrapped his arms around her, reciprocating the embrace, “For most of my existence, I was fairly certain that I was incapable of love.”

“What was the definition of love that you were working with as a basis for that assumption?” T’Mera asked softly, between quick kisses to the virtual android’s lips.

Data’s head tilted slightly, “I do not think I ever truly defined it, before deciding I was incapable of it. I had merely extrapolated that, since I was an android, I would be incapable of it. I was unable to feel any of my emotions, including love.” He lifted T’Mera up with his arms, to put their lips level to one another.

T’Mera planted a longer, more passionate kiss on his lips, then asked, “Did you ever define what it was to be an android? Specifically, a Soong-type? You’re not much like the ones on Galor IV, who can be shut down with the liar’s paradox.”

“I do not believe I did, now that you mention it.” Data answered, while brushing his lips against hers.

T’Mera’s hands moved across his back, “Does this have anything to do with the trashed romantic subroutine folder?”

Data started walking carefully towards the beach house, still holding her above the ground. “It does. I attempted a romantic relationship with a crewmate who showed passionate interest in me, but after sixty hours, thirty two minutes and ten seconds, she concluded that nothing she did or said would ever matter to me, and ended the relationship. We remain friendly and it did not affect our professional interactions.”

“All of sixty hours? That’s quite a deep investment.” T’Mera snorted, then wrapped her legs around Data’s hips as he carried her. “Did you feel drawn to her like you had been to Tasha Yar? And feel free to tell me if I’m getting too personal.”

“You are never too personal, t’hy’la.” Data answered, “No. I did not feel drawn to her in same way I had been to Tasha or Ishara. I initiated the romance subroutine because Jenna had made several obvious overtures, and the consensus among those I consulted was that I should try. After I deleted her folder, I created the twelve conditions for a humanoid marriage.” He carefully lowered her to the bed, adjusting her position.

T’Mera lifted her hands, running her fingers through Data’s chestnut hair, “She might have been picking up on your lack of interest. It sounds like it was for the best that she didn’t string you along.” She planted another kiss on him, “I’m curious… what did she look like?”

Data began the task of clothing removal as he described his previous girlfriend, “Shoulder-length blonde hair, blue eyes, fair skin, oval cranial structure, one point six five one meters in height, fixty-six point six nine kilograms in weight.”

“You seem to like blondes.” T’Mera remarked as she helped remove his shirt.

Data replied, “It is most likely a coincidence.” His hands moved to unfasten her dress, “I find you very aesthetically pleasing, as well as intellectually stimulating.”

T’Mera moved her hands to caress Data’s chest, “Your actions over the past months are what I would include as the definition of love. In addition to the friendship we have formed, you have cared for me, nurtured me, worried over me and been attentive to my needs and desires. I only hope I’ve been as good to you as you’ve been to me.”

Data gazed into T’Mera’s dark eyes, “What you and I have created together has been more than I had ever imagined would be possible. It is exactly as Captain Riker stated: ‘When it really works between two people, it's not like anything you've ever experienced.’”

“I cannot refute his statement.” T’Mera stared back into his bright yellow eyes, “No matter what’s to come, we’ve made something beautiful for each other.” She shivered as his fingers moved across her skin.

“Very beautiful.” Data replied quietly, as he positioned himself between her legs. His hands continued to explore her body, “Pupils fully dilated… current heart rate is one hundred and ten beats per minute… “ he absently listed off her vitals, as if performing a standard diagnostic, “Respiration rate is twenty one breaths per minute… all systems primed.”

T’Mera managed to suppress an amused chuckle, and instead nuzzled the android’s neck. Her hands roamed his body, and she answered him with similar wording, “Hmm, hydraulic regulation unit functioning… fluidic subsystem regulator at critical… locomotion subsystem and substrate interface properly set…Interior conduit ready for control cylinder.”

A subtle, amused smile spread over Data’s lips and he fell silent as they began to move in sync. His mind automatically tallied each sensation, committing to memory the soft gasps, the light caresses and the scent of ozone mixing with the salty ocean air. Algorithms and calculations ran in the background of his thoughts, weighing variables, examining empirical evidence, and calling up definitions and discussions from his memory banks.

 

Data and Worf stood in a stone temple, where Gowron's men waited for Kahless to return, and the android spoke quietly, "I once had what could be considered a crisis of the spirit."

Worf lowered his chin, giving Data an incredulous look, "You?"

Data nodded, "Yes. The Starfleet officers who first activated me on Omicron Theta told me I was an android, nothing more than a sophisticated machine with human form. However I realized that if I were simply a machine, I could never be anything else. I could never grow beyond my programming. I found that difficult to accept, so I chose to believe that I was a person, that I had the potential to be more than a collection of circuits and subprocessors. It is a belief which I still hold."

Worf's eyebrows knit together, "How did you come to your decision?"

Data replied openly, "I made a leap of faith."

 

As T’Mera’s body shuddered and she cried out with ecstasy, Data’s internal equations reached their own conclusion. Aware of the impending storm, both in the virtual mindscape and in their physical reality, Data made another leap of faith. He smiled, pressed his lips against hers, and then declared, “I love you, T’Mera.”

“I love you, Data.” T’Mera whispered, “Taluhk nash-veh k'dular. I cherish thee.”

They remained in the bed for a while longer, until the wind began to pick up. T’Mera ran her fingers through Data’s hair, then said, “The storm is almost here.”

Data nodded in agreement, “We will have B-4 disconnect us.” He called out, “B-4, please remove the tubes from your arm.”

The stormy beach faded and T’Mera and B-4 sat in chairs by the workstation in her room. “Thank you, B-4.” Her fingers tapped on a few of the consoles, and she hooked an optical cable into the redundant port at the base of the android’s neck. With her right hand, she picked up the jeweler’s screwdriver and began to deactivate each of B-4’s systems, leaving the cognitive and communication systems for last.

She leaned over and kissed B-4 softly on the lips, “Goodnight, B-4.”

“Goodnight, T’Mera.” B-4 answered, and then his expression went slack and his eyes stared blankly ahead as the remainder of his functions were deactivated.

Chapter Text

Year: 2380

Stardate: 57830.3

 

Data knew something was wrong before he checked his internal chronometer. T’Mera’s hair follicle replenishment was four centimeters longer than when he had last been activated, indicating a far longer time passage than one week. The internal chronometer confirmed his suspicions; one hundred twenty one days, ten hours and fifteen seconds had passed since the shutdown. The 3D holographic display of B-4’s neural network, with pathways in red and blue, floated in mid-air over the workstation.

“T’Mera!” Data’s voice sounded at full volume from the synth module on B-4’s neck.

“Sssh, Data.” T’Mera’s spoke in a hoarse whisper as she turned the small screwdriver to bring all of B-4’s systems back online. “I know, I know… please calm down.”

B-4’s head turned side to side in short, birdlike movements, “I am accessing.”

Data replied to T’Mera, “I am quite calm, but confused. Please explain the time differential between your estimate of our offline duration and the actual elapsed time.”

B-4 warbled, “Did something bad happen?”

T’Mera sighed, “It’s all right, B-4.” She replaced the red stocking cap on his head, “I had a few system failures, and the elapsed time is because of that and the recovery periods. Nothing to worry about, Data.”

“I should have been at your side. I should have been taking care of you.” Data lamented. “I am remiss.”

“You were in worse shape than I was.” T’Mera turned back to face the displays on the desk, “I was well taken care of by the staff here, and I was able to remove the malicious portions of the Reman program. I wound up keeping the part that allows for two independent positronic neural nets to run on B-4’s brain. If I hadn’t, you’d quickly start to overwrite him.”

“I would like a complete update on your current physical and psychological conditions.” Data stated.

T’Mera raised a slanted eyebrow, “Is that a command, Colonel Panic? Aye aye, sir.” She handed B-4 a plush Tribble toy to play with, then continued speaking, “As you might have guessed, the cough was due to nanoprobes in my respiratory system. That’s been replaced, as has my liver and kidneys. They estimate the next organ to be attacked will be my bladder. At that point, I’ll be given a medical support chair and ileostomy. They also want to amputate my legs and give me prosthetics.”

“I should have been there for you.” Data commented, “Will we require any more offline time?”

“Not until we’re ready to go back to Daystrom.” T’Mera told the android. “There’s several things I want to get done here, in case I have more breakdowns. I don’t want to be going into cardiac failure at the Institute when there’s still work to do. I could always shut you down when I’m too sick to work, and reactivate you when I’m able.”

“I would consider that unacceptable.” Data responded. “I realize that you and I are not married, however many wedding vows include the passage “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health”. I fully intend to be your romantic partner and friend, which includes taking care of you during illness and attempting to bring cheer to you when you need it. Do not seek to spare me from the full experience of our relationship, please.”

“All right, Data. If you’re certain.” T’Mera regarded the android for a moment, then turned back to her work.

“I am certain.” Data replied, then paused. “I am disappointed that the effect of the metaphasic radiation is helping you less than was hypothesized.”

T’Mera tapped on the console, “My situation is fairly unique. The nanoprobes are on their own schedule. Being on Ba’ku is slowing down the rate at which they can break me, but not stopping it. I’d rather spend my time working on your matrix and enjoying our time together than thinking about what’s going on inside my body. It serves no logical purpose to dwell on the inevitable.”

Data replied, “I will respect your wishes, then. How is the mapping proceeding? I cannot see the display, since B-4 has his eyes focused upon the stuffed toy you gave him.”

T’Mera rolled her chair to the replicator, “The mapping seems to be going according to plan, now… chewing gum, coconut flavor…” then rolled back to the desk as she popped the stick of gum into her mouth. “Once the indexes are rebuilt, I’ll need to interface with you, so you can design the architecture of your new positronic brain.”

“That would put a physical strain on you.” Data pointed out.

“It’s not that much of a strain.” T’Mera replied, while lightly snapping her gum. “You’re also the only one who can make the working brain. I sure can’t.” She started to sing, “I could while away the hours, conferrin' with the flowers... Consultin' with the rain... And my head I'd be scratchin' while... my thoughts were busy hatchin'... with a positronic brain.”

Data felt a pulse of amusement, then spoke, “Doctor Graves once told me a story about a mechanical man who wished to be human, and at the end, finds out he always was. The song he whistled was the same as the one you just sung, but he called it “If I Only Had A Heart.” Have you made up your own lyrics, again?”

T’Mera smiled, “I made up only a couple lyrics, there. The song is sung three times, once for a Scarecrow, who wishes for a brain… once for the Tin Man, who wishes for a heart, and then for the Lion, who wishes for courage. I did a holovid transfer of the entire ancient film, that can be both passive or interactive. We could watch that tonight. B-4 should enjoy it, since it’s colorful, but it seems that Doctor Graves spoiled the plot twists for you.”

Data was silent for a moment, then said, “I believe I would still enjoy it, if only for the apparent numerous cultural references in the work that continue on to this day. Many people have called me Tin Man.”

T’Mera’s brows knit together as she turned to the display, “How nice of them to call you that.”

“I have found it counterproductive to argue about such things with the people who assign a derogatory label to me.” Data remarked, “In many cases, once they get to know me, they start to treat me as a person. When I first met Doctor Pulaski, she referred to me as “it”, inferred that I was not alive, called me “the cold hand of technology” and was unable to understand my consternation at having my name pronounced wrong. Within a few months, as she got to know me, she began to treat me as a living being and even assigned emotional qualities to me.”

T’Mera tapped a few buttons, watching the display, “You’re a very patient man, Data. If someone called me Tin Man, I’d have called them Meatball. I’m anti-social, whereas you’re very polite.” She popped her gum, then continued, “Anyway, once you design the architecture for your brain, then I can begin writing the file transfer protocols that will be needed. That’s going to be a fairly involved bit of work for me. Right now, the mapping is automatic and probably will be done in a couple of days.”

“Then I want you to rest and save up strength, during these couple of days.” Data told her.

“Motherboard Hen.” T’Mera chuckled, “All right. We’ll rest, and at least we know what we’re watching tonight.”

“I am very interested in seeing whether I have anything in common with the Tin Man.” Data mused.

T’Mera scrolled through some files, then told him, “I don’t remember the whole thing, but Dorothy fixes his mouth first, so he can speak.”

Data let that process for a moment, “That was the first thing you fixed for me, as well. It is helpful to be able to communicate.” He went silent for a moment, “I literally have no heart.”

“Then how the hell do your chemical nutrients move and the vascular fluids, and all that? I think I’ll call up your physical specs.” T’Mera snapped her gum noisily.

Data stated, “Those are controlled by a network of redundant vascular fluid pumps.”

T’Mera countered, “So you have lots of hearts.”

“I have pumps.” He corrected.

T’Mera lifted an eyebrow, “What exactly do you think a heart is, Data?”

“It is a muscular organ in biological beings which pumps blood through the circulatory system.” Data answered.

“Right. It’s a pump.” A wide grin spread over her face as she looked over the various schematics of Data’s body.

“Of course, in other usage, having a heart refers to having compassion, kindness, empathy and love.” Data added.

“Which you do have.” T’Mera emphasized. “More than many biological people have. Face it. You’re a humandroid.” She peered at some of Data’s schematics, “I’m assuming you’ll be leaving out the socket for that horrible emotion chip.”

“Without the emotion chip, I will not be able to experience emotions.” Data pointed out.

“No.” T’Mera replied, “In your original head, Doctor Soong put that in, so you wouldn’t feel the emotions you generated. Your head was destroyed. You get to make a new head, and it’ll generate emotions. If you feel you need an emotional control system, I’ll write you a script for an amygdala with an adjustable gain.” She smirked, “That would let you set different modes of emotional control, from Kolinahr, to standard human, or to Klingon, where you growl and smash your forehead into solid objects.”

“Thank you, t’hy’la.” Data answered. “I do not think I need to change much of the design of my brain or body. There are very few things that can affect me.”

“Speaking of that, I think I figured out the polywater infection.” T’Mera pointed to the fluidic system, “The polywater molecule binds with carbon, right? Your liquid supplement contains silicon. I wonder if the silicon then formed a bond with the carbon, to make crystals of silicon-carbide? They’re semi-conductive and could clog up some of your cooling channels and cause localized overheating.”

“I had suspected something similar.” Data replied. “It is such a rare occurrence that I had not bothered to change anything about my chemical nutrients.”

“Are there any special materials you’re made out of that we’d have to get through non-Federation sources?” She pulled one of the Soong paper binders over to her and began to flip through it.

“No.” Data answered, “All the materials should be readily available through the Daystrom Institute.”

“All right. When we get closer to the time of return, I’ll send out a full requisition list to Bruce.” T’Mera scratched at her head with her right hand.

Data added, “I will also want to send a message to Commander Geordi LaForge, to ask him to come help me at Daystrom Institute.”

T’Mera nodded, then removed the gum from her mouth and put it in the recycler, “We can certainly do that. I hope I get to meet him. He documents his work very well.” She grabbed a PADD, stood up and walked over to the bed, “I’m going to get some rest.”

B-4 moved over to his play table, sat down in the chair facing the bed, then proceeded to play with the colorful blocks spread out on its surface.

“Good.” Data responded. “I want you resting as much as possible.” He kept watch on her as she first read from the PADD while lying down, and then as she slept. The rest of the day continued in the usual routine from before, with Ba’iba checking in, T’Mera getting her liquid nutrition and dealing with biological needs, and finally, watching the Wizard of Oz, followed by B-4’s goodnight kiss.

Chapter Text

Year: 2380

Stardate: 57865.4

 

The ten days needed for Data to plan and design the architecture of his future positronic brain turned out to be far more challenging than anticipated. Keeping B-4’s attention focused on the displays and consoles, instead of toys, was proving difficult. The Borg tubules that connected B-4’s forearm to T’Mera also meant that the android was tethered to her, and unable to move around at will.  Data found himself continually reminding his brother to remain in place, and reiterating to him that the reason he couldn’t move was due to Data needing the interface. With the use of T’Mera’s cybernetic matrix, Data’s computational speeds were exceeding that of his former positronic brain, even though Data was acutely aware of the strain it could put on the holographer’s body.

T’Mera was currently slumped in her chair, with the seat back reclined at an obtuse one hundred and thirty degree angle. Her right ear rested on her right shoulder, while her left arm dangled off the armrest on the left side of the chair. Her metal-covered legs were raised on an ottoman beneath the desk. Slow, even breathing and closed eyelids meant that she was in stage three sleep. He detected  irregularities in her heart rate, but so far, it remained within normal parameters.

While he missed her company during slumber times, he was satisfied that she was getting the rest she needed. She seemed to sleep for approximately three hours, then would wake and engage in conversation with him while working, and then, after another few hours, she would tire and fall asleep again. Data’s main concern was the level of pain she might be experiencing; she was taking smaller doses of triptacederine than were prescribed, and only when she wasn’t expecting to work.

The oddness of his current situation, and the amount of effort being taken by others to recover him, initiated a new thought process which, in a human, could be termed as reminiscing. If a time traveler had appeared to him on the Trieste and told him that in twenty more years, not only would he have several close friends, but also some relationships of a more intimate nature, he would have dismissed them as playing a practical joke. From the time of his activation, through his duty on the Trieste, he had been treated as a machine and nothing more.

Data recalled the surprise of his transfer to the Enterprise, and his assignment to the positions of Second Officer, as well as Science Officer and Operations Officer. Even more surprising to him was how the captain of the vessel would engage him in conversation. Previously, no one had thought to speak to him about anything except his next assignment and how best to do it. On the first mission aboard the Enterprise, he had met some of the other crew who would go on to be his friends; Captain Picard, Deanna Troi, Worf, Miles O’Brien, and Natasha Yar. Despite being treated as a person, it took Data nearly a year to get used to the idea. His memory banks brought up a recollection:

 

Captain Picard walked through the corridors of the Enterprise, with Data at his side, then stopped to face the android, "Data, I want this to be an away team of one. You. I don't think there's any reason to risk anyone else."

Data halted and turned to face the Captain, "It is reasonable, sir. After all, I am a machine and dispensable."

Captain Picard's mouth moved in a slight smile, " Indispensable is the appropriate word." He began walking again and Data kept pace, "I think it should be only you because you seem more able to control the effects of the time distortion. If other members of the away team became disoriented, it could create additional problems and perhaps increase the danger."

 

The crew and families aboard the Enterprise had not only seen him as a person, but as someone who could be a friend. They encouraged him to have hobbies and to perform musical pieces and participate in plays. With some amusement, he recalled the few who had managed to sit through “Ode To Spot.” For the first time in his life, he could define somewhere as a home. Not merely the place he resided, but the place he belonged… the place he was wanted. Even after his destruction, they wanted him back. His memory circuits accessed the recent viewing of the Wizard of Oz, and one line in particular had struck a resounding chord in him:

“A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.”

Data noted that T’Mera’s eyes were moving beneath her eyelids, indicating REM sleep. He checked her heart rate again, but it was still within the range of normal. As he worked, he pondered about something Q had mentioned. His positions aboard the Enterprise were, understandably, given to others. Would there still be a place for him, when he returned? Would he be wanted? Would he still belong? For the first time, a new question emerged in his thoughts: What would his life be like, after T’Mera finally died? The idea of the future held less appeal to him if she were not there to share it.

His mind wandered to the isolinear storage unit that T’Mera claimed held a hologram of her, in case of emergency. He considered the temptation of using that, and whether it would satisfy his need for her. The computational power for creating a sentient hologram was a known quantity, but he knew her feelings on the subject. He could not bring himself to make a sentient hologram of her, and then relegate it to being in a box for its lifespan, even if it meant she would be with him. With another spark of irony, he realized that if he did so, it would be the second woman he had loved, who would exist in holographic form for him after her death.

“I must be strong.” Data stated out loud.

B-4 offered, “We are strong. We have the strength of ten men.”

“I meant psychologically, B-4.” He replied to his brother.

“I… do not understand.” B-4 responded, “Why must you be strong psychologically?”

Data attempted to speak in a lower volume, “Being able to bend a thick rod with a tensile strength of forty kilobars is not going to help me go on with my life, after T’Mera is dead.”

B-4 frowned, then said softly, “I cannot process that.”

“I know.” Data told his brother, “I am sorry I spoke the thought out loud.”

“Were you talking to yourself, again, Data?” T’Mera’s eyes were open and she straightened up in the chair, grabbed the cup of water on the desk, and began to drink.

“I was.” Data listened for the amount of water she consumed, “I have a tendency to do that.”

T’Mera took a few gulps of liquid, then leaned forward to work. “How’s your design progressing?”

“I am nearly done.” Data replied, “I am hesitant in saying this, but the cybernetic matrix in your body is quite efficient and I have enjoyed the acceleration in speed. I also enjoy the transneural matrix inside of you, which gives us the virtual reality in which I experience sensations like a biological person.”

“The Borg are the monsters of the galaxy, but they do seem to be the experts in combining organics and synthetics, and in communications that are faster than spoken language.” T’Mera acceded, “It makes me wonder what sort of species and culture was the one who had those, before they got assimilated. I think that’s really the worst part of the Borg. They don’t invent, they steal others’ inventions and then claim it brings them closer to perfection.”

“Once again,” Data remarked, “I am in your vocal ensemble.” He paused, “Are you returning to working, so soon after waking? Would you like a painkiller?”

“I am working, yes, and painkiller, no.” T’Mera pulled one of the Soong binders towards her, “I’d like to copy your ethics and morals program to B-4. I was looking at the original version that B-4 has, and which is in this set of notes, and it’s lacking, to say the least. There’s also a logic flaw in it. I checked and it’s in B-4, but his neural net is too simple to run it, so it didn’t crash him. Just enough of it runs to make him worry about doing something wrong.”

“It is not the same program that I have?” Data asked, slightly perplexed.

T’Mera shook her head, “No. The timestamp on yours seems to indicate that you wrote your own, shortly after your activation, and then erased the one with the logic flaw. That could be your self-correcting mechanism in action. Your ethical and moral subroutine reads like a Starfleet regulations manual. You met good role models, it seems.”

“Yes, I did.” Data replied, “Even the Starfleet personnel who only thought of me as a machine were still good people, from the ethical standpoint.”

T’Mera peered over at Data’s work on the display, “That looks good. Are you going to keep the off-switch near your spine? I saw that in your previous schematics.”

Data answered as emphatically as the synth module let him, “No. Not at all. There seem to be more than enough ways to shut me off without my consent, in the rare occurrence that I am on some sort of uncontrolled rampage.”

“I can’t picture you on a rampage.” T’Mera smiled and took a bit more water, “You’re the gentlest person I’ve ever met. From what I’ve read in all your personal logs and other reports, if I was in half the situations you’ve been in, I would have been ripping off people's heads and using them as chamber pots.”

“Androids that do that tend to get disassembled and stripped down to their wires.” Data told the holographer. “I also cannot make use of a chamber pot, so their heads would wind up unused.”

“Fair point.” T’Mera replied, “Oh, and I want to upgrade yours and B-4’s intrusion detection systems. Make them more robust. Unless you enjoy things like an alien archive writing the history of its people into you, or non-corporeal aliens taking over your body?”

Data noted slight amusement, “I authorize the upgrade.” He paused, then spoke, “B-4, please move us very close to T’Mera, so that we can kiss her.”

B-4 moved as instructed, “A goodnight kiss?”

“No,” Data replied, “I want to kiss her the way I like to.” As soon as B-4’s lips and T’Mera’s lips were close enough, he initiated the romance subroutine, giving her a passionate kiss. “I cherish thee.” he declared quietly, after the kiss was spent.

“I cherish thee.” T’Mera smiled back at him. “And thank you, B-4, for letting Data borrow your lips.”

“You are welcome.” B-4 replied and returned to his original position.

“Hmm. B-4 and you remind me of a song.” T’Mera mused, then started singing, “The road is long... With many a winding turn... That leads us to who knows where... Who knows where. But I'm strong... Strong enough to carry him... He ain't heavy, he's my brother… “

Data accessed the song and sang with her, finding it pleasant when she started to harmonize with his synthesized voice. Once it was over, he stated, “I am astonished. You used the lyrics that are listed in my memory banks.”

B-4 smiled softly, “Data is not heavy. He is my brother.”

Data finished the final part of his future schematics, “I have finished the schematics for my new body and brain, T’Mera. We can disconnect. B-4, please pull out the tubes from your arms.”

B-4 reached down with his left hand, tugged the tubules out and then watched them retract back into T’Mera’s left arm. “All done. Is it time to feed, yet?”

T’Mera shook her head, “I don’t feel like eating. I’m nauseous, actually.”

Data’s concern grew, “Please let me know if you feel dizzy, light headed or have a shortness of breath. I fear that the extended use of the cybernetic matrix may have weakened your heart.”

T’Mera snorted, “Nothing weakened me, except for the nanoprobes. If they got to my heart already, I suppose the doctor was wrong about the order they’re going to fail.” She started to look over Data’s work, “You document very well. I’ll start working on the file transfer protocols now.”

“I would rather we call in a nurse to check you.” Data replied to her, “There were a few irregularities, over the past couple of days.”

“How about a compromise?” T’Mera glanced at the android, “I’ll begin the work and get everything set up so that I can work from bed again, and then I’ll call the nurse.”

“Very well. I accept the compromise.” Data agreed, although part of him continued to be concerned. “What are those colors for?”

T’Mera took another drink of water, then set the cup down, “I’m assigning color codes for basic emotions in you. I want to be certain that the flavor of your life is retained, as well as your personality. While I design the transfer protocols, you’ll be watching holovids designed to evoke certain emotional reactions. The debugger will be event logging, and I’ll be tabulating those results. Then, at my leisure, I can go back through the entirety of your memory engrams and categorize your emotional responses and make certain that they get saved and transferred properly.”

“That is a monumental task.” Data told her, “What color have you assigned to which emotions?”

T’Mera pointed to the display, “I’ll use gradients that show the strength of the emotion, as well. In some cases, certain emotions will wind up as combinations. Anger and rage are being assigned to red. Fear-based emotions will be yellow. Sadness to depression will be in the blue range. Grief and mourning is black. Lust and desire will be purple and will fade towards pink for affection and love. Confusion will be grayscale, minus black. Envy will be green. Happiness and humor will be orange.”

“Most of those do correspond to idioms on color,” Data mused, “Except the orange. How did you choose that for happiness, or was it a process of elimination?”

“You’ll groan, but it’s based on a ‘knock knock’ joke.” T’Mera told the android.

“Accessing…” Data searched his files for repository of ‘knock knock’ jokes. “Orange you glad?”

T’Mera smiled, “Exactly. You’re starting to understand me.”

“You are fairly easy for me to understand.” Data stated. “While you claim to not follow the Vulcan ways, you are actually quite logical and analytical, even in your emotional responses. Your color mnemonics are very accurate, including the orange.” He watched her work for a few minutes more, then asked, “What is the purpose of this file transfer protocol you are writing?”

“It’s for something I swore I’d never do, but we have to.” T’Mera explained, as she typed, “It’s a holomatrix to positronic matrix transfer protocol. When we get to Daystrom Institute, I’ll be activating you as a sentient hologram, so you can work on your body. Once the work is done and you’re successfully recovered as an android, the hologram will be deactivated and stored.”

Data pondered her words, “Intriguing. The file protocol transfers will work for transferring me back to positronic, as well?”

T’Mera let out a long sigh, “If I do my job correctly, yes. I’m also going to be making a copy of B-4, because, before I turn you into a hologram, B-4 will need to be deactivated until we know if we succeeded. I’ll be leaving you inside his brain until then, just in case of the worst case scenario.”

“What is the worst case scenario?” Data inquired.

T’Mera grabbed her cup for a quick drink of water, then set it back down, “If the hologram fails, or if the transfer to an android body fails, we might have to settle for you being in B-4’s body. I would then remove the Reman program entirely, which would let you overwrite B-4 and get control over all physical functions.”

Data protested, “That would be akin to killing B-4.”

B-4 piped up, “I would rather Data live. I will give up my body for him. T’Mera said she will copy me.”

Data fell speechless for a few minutes, “B-4, do you comprehend what we are speaking of?”

B-4 answered, “Yes. If T’Mera cannot make you like Quimby, you will not be able to have a body. But if you have mine, you can make more bodies?”

T’Mera smiled and reached her right arm to pat B-4 on his shoulder, “You do understand. In the worst case, Data can have your body, and then, when he can, he would make a new one for you and we’d transfer you into it. Of course, there’s no guarantees with any of this.”

Data paused, then spoke in a soft volume, “Thank you, B-4. You have been very good to me, and I hope we succeed with the original plans.”

“I’m almost one hundred percent positive that I can make a sentient Data hologram.” T’Mera told the androids, “Taking someone’s personality and keeping the essence of who they were is old technology now. I just don’t want Data to be stuck as a sentient hologram.”

“If I am,” Data offered, “Then we should put your hologram in the program with me, so we can remain together.”

“We’ll burn those bridges when we get to them.” T’Mera shook her head, continuing to type.

“You have mixed two idioms together, t’hy’la.” Data quipped.

T’Mera chuckled, “We’ll beat around the burning bridges when we cross the bandwagon. I put four in that one.”

Data attempted to make a laugh sound, then followed with, “Quite humorous. How much longer do you require before we can call the nurse in to check your heart?”

“Twenty more minutes, I promise.” T’Mera replied.

B-4 asked, “Can I move now?”

Data replied, “Yes, B-4. You can move now.” He went silent as T’Mera worked and B-4 sat at his play table with the toys. He began to ponder idioms. One in particular came to the surface of his processes: This feels like the calm before the storm.

Chapter Text

Year: 2381

Stardate: 58035.5

 

“Please hold still.” B-4 admonished, as he attempted to wash T’Mera’s hair. “You’re almost falling off of the seat.”

“You’re too close to the water. Your monitors will get wet.” T’Mera grumbled, but held still and closed her eyes.

“I won’t let my head get wet.” B-4 reached for the hand sprayer, then rinsed the lather from her hair.

Data kept quiet during the bathing rituals, as had become his habit. The past sixty three days had been replete with hardship, as T’Mera endured one surgery after another on her internal organs, until not much more than her central nervous system and brain remained untouched. Much to Data’s surprise, B-4 had risen to the task of primary caregiver. The daily routine and instructions were easy enough for the prototype to perform, although T’Mera tended to get argumentative and fidgety during bathing. The most peaceful moments occurred during the hours that T’Mera pored over her work.

B-4 finished rinsing T’Mera’s dark hair, which was now nearing twelve centimeters in length, and turned off the water. He reached for one of the thick towels on the rack nearby, then carefully patted her body to dry it. “Will you take your medicine?”

T’Mera shook her head, “Not yet. I want to finish some work, first.”

“All right.” B-4 answered, gently drying her hair, “I don’t want you to be in pain.”

Data noted some improvements in B-4, now that the malicious program was gone. The prototype was able to engage in simple conversations, and seemed to have a better understanding of the current situation. Instead of being entertained by spoons and shiny objects, B-4 was able to use a PADD, and chose to watch entertainment programs or read books written for early school-age children. Now that the contentious bathing had ended, Data spoke up, “B-4 seems to have mastered contractions. That is something I have not been able to do.”

T’Mera held up her arms, letting B-4 dress her, “It’s a speech affectation for you, Data. I’ve seen plenty of your performances, and you use contractions in those. You also occasionally slip them in during regular conversation. So, it’s not a case of inability. Just a personal quirk of yours, I’d say.”

Data replied thoughtfully, “That had not occurred to me. Perhaps it was something initiated by Doctor Soong in me, to differentiate me from Lore.”

“Lore is the bad brother.” B-4 offered, as he lifted T’Mera and carried her out of the bathroom, to set her down in the medical support chair she was given after her legs had been amputated.

“I still disagree with that assessment.” T’Mera remarked as she positioned herself for comfort in the chair, then leaned forward as B-4 hooked up the hose from her chair to the stoma in her back. “Bad programming is more like it.”

Data noted with concern that T’Mera had lost another kilogram of weight. At the conference in San Francisco, she had weighed sixty-three point five kilograms. Now, she weighed forty-five point three. He attempted to dismiss the worry, and continued the conversation, “I suppose you are correct, but when Lore asked our Father why he did not fix him, Doctor Soong told him that it was “not as easy as that” and claimed the next logical step was to build me.”

“Thank you, B-4.” T’Mera settled down in her chair, “Data, really… Let’s hop on the logic train. If you’ve created something you claim to value, and it doesn’t work right, what’s the next logical step?”

Data paused, but knew what the proper response should be, “To analyze why it does not function and repair it.”

“Right.” T’Mera pushed the controls of the chair, wheeling herself over to the workstation, “Trust me. I’ve spent half my life surrounded by engineers and technicians. Logic has nothing to do with abandoning Lore and building you. When you create something and it isn’t functioning the way you want, you need to determine if it’s due to a design flaw or due to a faulty component. Once that’s done, if it’s a design flaw, you work on fixing the design, using the existing parts. You don’t just start over from scratch with the same design and spin the wheel on which part to change, in the hopes that it might work now.”

T’Mera paused for a drink of water, then continued, “For a man who claimed he was building his children, it’s even worse. You don’t just throw children away, no matter what they’re doing, and make a new child. Not that I’m upset he built you, but I’m explaining why Lore’s case is more complicated than just being a bad brother. I’m also not claiming it will be an easy fix, like there’s a Good and Evil toggle that someone accidentally pushed, but it should have been feasible to repair the errors. Soong just needed motivation to actually look for the errors. Or the knowledge and skill for how to go about doing so.”

Data listened, then replied, “I concede the points to you.”

“I feel bad, Data.” T’Mera reached for a stick of gum from the container on her desk, “You keep having to concede points to me.” She popped the stick into her mouth and started chewing.

Data answered, “That is the direct result of you being correct more often. Which flavor is it, this time?”

“Black licorice.” T’Mera answered, snapping the gum between her teeth as she worked, “It was a good idea you had, for me to replicate a variety and put it in a container for random choosing. The liquid supplement leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”

Data responded, “I am glad to be of service.” he then continued with their conversation, “Juliana, my mother, had told me that she was the reason I was left behind. She had forced my father to leave without me, because she worried that I would turn out like Lore and that I would also need to be dismantled.”

“It’s very possible that she was right.” T’Mera continued to chew gum while speaking, “You might have been showing signs of that, before they wiped you. Since Doctor Soong never bothered to use scientific controls, we have no way of knowing what problems they were experiencing with you. I’m of the opinion that she did the right thing, even if it was the hard thing to do. Like when someone who knows that they can’t give their new child a good life leaves it where they know people will take much better care of the child.”

Data quieted as he pondered her words and accessed his memories of Juliana Tainer. B-4 began to build a small structure from interlocking blocks. His brief envy of B-4’s ability to play had been transformed into a sense of wonder at watching his android brother develop through stages, much like a human child. With the current conversation in mind, he began to wonder what had gone wrong with B-4, when the Soongs had worked on him. What was it about the prototype that had not worked and resulted in his being left behind? B-4 was growing into a decent and sentient being while under the care of T’Mera for two hundred and ninety-four days, eleven hours and thirty-five seconds, so why wasn’t that possible for Doctor Soong? His reverie was broken by the sound of Ba’iba’s footsteps.

“Hello!” Ba’iba’s chipper voice announced her arrival, “Time for the mid-morning check and message service. How are we?”

T’Mera held up her right hand in the Vulcan salute, “Live long and prosper, Ba’iba. Everything is fine here.”

B-4 stood and walked over towards Ba’iba, “Hello. We are fine. She drank most of the liquid and she had a bath. No medicine.”

Ba’iba winced at that, “Doctor Chipman, you really should take something. Nobody’s giving out medals for enduring pain, here.” She placed the message rods on the surface on the workstation. “Is there anything you need me to do?”

T’Mera nodded, then inserted one of the rods into the side of one of the PADDs, “I’ll need to make arrangements to be taking the medical support chair with me when I leave tomorrow, even though I’m getting prosthetics for my legs. I’ll make sure it gets returned after my death.”

Ba’iba’s mirth faded, but she held the smile, “I’ll see to that. Enjoy the rest of the morning. Goodbye, B-4 and Mister Data.”

“Goodbye.” B-4 waved in response to the medical aide.

Data politely replied, “Goodbye, Ba’iba.” then urged his brother, “B-4, please move closer to T’Mera, so I may see the messages.” B-4 obliged.

T’Mera began to read the incoming messages. “This one is from Geordi La Forge. He was able to get leave to come to Daystrom and help you. He’ll arrive there in nine days. The next is from Bruce. They have the supplies you requested…” she scrolled down, “Ah, and Holostation One has been set up as I specified, with its own dedicated power and core system. Good. Data, you asked for quite a lot of materials. I would think that you could make three androids from all that.”

“I wanted to be sure we have more than we need.” Data told the holographer. “What is the next message?”

“This is the acknowledgement that your status has been changed from “destroyed” to “extended medical leave”.” T’Mera smiled, “That should help you get back into your career. B-4, please come closer to me, and kneel.”

B-4 moved closer and kneeled by T’Mera’s chair.

T’Mera leaned forward to remove B-4’s red knit cap, “Thank you. Hold still, please.” She carefully removed each of the port monitors from the android’s head, then placed the monitor devices in a small box. After the devices were removed, she closed the access panels on his head, then smoothed out his dark chestnut hair. “There you are, B-4. No more monitors to worry about.”

“Can I have my hat back?” B-4 asked, reaching for the red knit stocking cap.

T’Mera handed him the hat, “Sure. You really want to keep wearing it?”

B-4 nodded as he pulled the cap back on, “Yes. I like my hat.”

“I assume that since you are removing the monitors, that the transfer protocols are finished?” Data asked quietly.

“They are.” T’Mera closed the box with the monitor devices, “The only part of the holomatrix to positronic matrix that I couldn’t resolve deals with the sensory input differences. Your physical android body has billions of micro-sensors that detect and carry sensations to your brain. A hologram uses tactile protocols. You might not have as much sensation as you’re used to, or you might have more, or just of a different nature. You should function well enough to build your android body, though.”

Data agreed, “It should suffice for our purposes, as a temporary existence for me. What about B-4?”

T’Mera answered, “He’s got the ethics program in him, as well as the intrusion detection system I designed. Should I give him the amygdala, as well?”

“Yes, please.” Data responded, “That could help him avoid cascade failure, later on.”

T’Mera reached for an optical cable, then lifted B-4’s hat, “Sorry about this, B-4. Just one more thing.” She opened his side access panel, plugged in the cable, then tapped on the desk console. “Doctor Vanzanen will be in charge of B-4, so I’ll be leaving her instructions for deleting you and the separator program from him, and then installing the self-correcting mechanism, once we know you’re up and running.”

B-4 smiled, “I remember Emily. She was nice.”

Data replied, “That is acceptable.” then mused, “I will miss B-4. He may not be able to function with as much speed and complexity as I do, but I have come to accept him as he is, and as whatever he might become.”

T’Mera smiled, “I’m glad to hear it. Counselor Troi might be glad, as well.” She watched the display for a moment, then disconnected the cable from B-4, “All right, you’re all set.” She tugged his hat back down over his hair.

“I would hope the Counselor would be less concerned for me, now that I am not expecting too much from B-4.” Data answered, then mused, “She was the friend I understood the least, as her life centered around feeling and understanding emotions. Betazoids and other telepaths do not sense anything from me. I have been told it is as if I am “not there.””

“If all I have is a gravimetric scanner, I might deduce that subspace communications aren’t there.” T’Mera gave the android a smile. “You’re able to hook into the Borg communications, so obviously, you have something . I’m not an expert on what the wavelengths of biological telepathy are, so I can’t say how you differ. Since the old logs stated that she picked up Doctor Graves’ emotions while he was in you, it’s most likely something about the difference in thought patterns from a positronic neural net. I’m speculating, of course.”

“Your speculations are logical.” Data told her. “What more needs to be done here?”

“A few backups, some packing, and then I’ll get medical clearance to leave tomorrow morning.” T’Mera grabbed a tissue from a box and discarded her gum into it, “During the flight, I’ll work on your emotional algorithms, and maybe sift through logs. Once we’re on Galor IV, I’ll transfer you and deactivate B-4.” She tossed the wadded tissue into the nearby recycler.

Data replied, “Very well.”

T’Mera took a quick drink from her cup of water, “B-4, do you want to help me pack?”

“I can help.” B-4 smiled, then asked, “Can I take my new toys when we go?”

“Of course.” T’Mera told the android, and the task of packing almost everything onto the anti-grav sled and moving it back to the Ghost was begun in earnest. By the evening, most of the packing had been completed, and the standard night time ritual of watching a holovid, followed by a goodnight kiss and then sleep was observed.

Chapter Text

Year: 2381

Stardate: 58038.2

 

T’Mera wobbled a bit on her new legs, as she walked around her room. “It seems like we have everything.”

Data replied to the holographer, “I do not see anything that we might be leaving behind, but I can only see what B-4 is looking at.”

T’Mera reached for B-4’s left hand with her right, “Well, in five days, you should have your own body and then you can look at anything in Holostation One. Let’s go say goodbye to Ba’iba and get back to the Ghost.” She added, “And we’re not going to play I Spy, this time. Twenty hours of “I spy metreon gas” would drive me bonkers.”

“Agreed.” Data could hear familiar footsteps ahead, “Ba’iba is approaching.”

B-4 waved to Ba’iba with his right hand.

Ba’iba smiled as she met the android in a hug, “Goodbye, B-4 and Mister Data. It was an honor to have you with us.”

B-4 attempted to return the hug, after T’Mera let go of his left hand. “Goodbye.”

“Farewell, Ba’iba. Give everyone at the village my regards.” Data told her.

Ba’iba moved to hug T’Mera, “I will, Mister Data. Doctor Chipman, I hope that you’ll find peace. I’m sorry that Ba’ku couldn’t save you.”

T’Mera accepted the hug and patted Ba’iba on the back, “I didn’t expect it to. It did what I needed, and enabled me to finish my work in saving Data. Thank you for all the help.” Once the embrace was released, she held up her right hand in the Vulcan salute, “Live long and prosper, Ba’iba.” She and B-4 began to walk, making their way past the atrium and through the main entrance to the gardens outside. The walk on the path to the landing platforms was short enough, and they were soon back on the Ghost.

“I’m going to secure my medical support chair at the science station, so I have an easier time of it when Quimby is piloting.” T’Mera told the android, then set the medical chair where it needed to be.

Data found himself in agreement, “A wise decision.”

B-4 entered the main area, then asked, “Should I sit here?” He pointed to the rear port station.

“Perfect, B-4.” T’Mera told the android. “Now that you can work a display, you can even read or watch at your own leisure. You won’t have to wait for me to put something on.”

B-4 sat down in the chair and buckled himself in with the harness. “You will still watch with us before the goodnight kiss?”

T’Mera smiled slightly as she settled in at the helm and fastened the harness. “If you and Data want that, for the next four nights, sure. After I finish my work, we’ll continue that ritual until we reach Galor IV.” She pressed some of the console buttons, “All right… engines and vertical thrusters online.” She hit the communications switch, “Ba’ku Center Control, this is the Ghost, registry FA-254PV, requesting departure clearance.”

“This is Ba’ku Center Control. Ghost, you’re cleared for take-off. Standard vector. Watch the rings.”

T’Mera worked the helm controls, “I promise to avoid the rings. Navigational retroreflectors active for tracking. Firing up vectored thrusters for vertical planetary liftoff in five… four… three… two… one… Mark!” The thruster engines roared, lifting the small ship into the air. “Firing all thrusters… Now leaving troposphere. Impulse engines engaged.”

“Ba’ku Center Control to Ghost. You’re clear. Safe travels.”

“Thank you, Ba’ku Center Control. This is the Ghost, signing off.” T’Mera answered, then switched off the active communications. As the ship cleared the planet’s gravity, the red-orange clouds and pillars of metreon gas appeared in visual range. “Impulse engines engaged at one-third. Please don’t fling me in da Briar Patch.”

The small size of The Ghost made navigating the Patch easier than it would have been for larger vessels. Data spent the time trying to teach B-4 how to sing, and occasionally, T’Mera joined in for any songs she recognized. B-4’s cadence was off and Data’s voice still had synthetic qualities, but the singing turned a normally tedious leg of the journey into something more enjoyable. Every four hours, B-4 reminded T’Mera to drink her liquid supplement and chew gum. They finally emerged from the Patch, twenty hours later, and T’Mera unbuckled herself and activated Quimby for the remainder of the flight.

Data spoke up, “I would recommend that you sleep. You have been more active than normal for the past twenty-three hours, which could have detrimental effects on both your physical and psychological states.”

T’Mera replied, “I will, I will. I just have to empty the bag, first.” She vanished into the head, then returned a few minutes later. “Before I strap in…” she walked over to B-4, bent down, and gave him the chaste kiss on the lips, “Goodnight, B-4.”

“Goodnight, T’Mera.” B-4 answered.

T’Mera settled into the medical support chair, hooked the hose to her stoma, then harnessed herself down. “Computer, begin sleep mode.” The gravity gradually lowered until she floated slightly above her chair, with her arms and body restrained enough to not float away.

B-4, also floating above his chair, but restrained by the harness, swiveled to keep T’Mera in view, and spent the time watching over the sleeping holographer.

 

Stardate: 58040.9

 

A man’s voice spoke, “It's a machine, Schroeder. It doesn't get pissed off. It doesn't get happy, it doesn't get sad, it doesn't laugh at your jokes.” then a few other male voices joined in unison with the first man. “It just runs programs.”

B-4 had taken to watching more old holovid transfers from T’Mera’s “robots and androids” list, and Data involuntarily watched them with the prototype, while T’Mera labored over algorithms at the science station.

B-4 dutifully watched, until the end, then asked, “Data? What happened to that robot? Is Johnny still alive?”

“I do not believe there was an actual robot named Johnny, B-4.” Data explained. “Most of what we have seen has been of a fictional nature. I am also fairly certain that the robot in the movie is not actually a true robot, and is, instead, some sort of puppet being moved by human actors.” He paused, “Inquiry, T’Mera. When you transfer entertainment from an archaic medium to a modern one, why do you not also update the characters? You could have created holographic Johnny Fives that look more realistic.”

“Why don’t I replace all of Shakespeare’s words with modern language?” T’Mera asked, in return.

“Ah. I concede the point.” Data stated.

“If we replace everything to make it modern, we lose a sense of how things were and where we are now, and where we might be going. It’s linear, but we’re linear beings.” T’Mera elaborated. “Most importantly, did you enjoy the entertainment?”

“I believe so, although it does confuse me.” Data replied.

T’Mera turned to look at the android, “How so?”

“Nearly four hundred years have passed since this fable of robotic rights was created, and here I am, still trying to convince humans that I am alive, or that exocomps are alive. Much like Johnny.” Data remarked.

“Some of us are working on that, t’hy’la.” T’Mera turned back to her work, “At least, with these algorithms, I have proof that you get pissed off, get happy, get sad, and laugh at jokes. And you still run programs.”

“Am I alive?” B-4’s warbly voice piped up.

“Do you have a favorite color, B-4?” T’Mera asked, while tapping through one of the files.

“Red.” B-4 answered immediately.

Data found himself taken aback, “How do you have a favorite color? I do not.”

“You’re five out of six on my test, B-4, so I’d say that you’re alive and sentient.” she answered, then tried to reassure the disembodied android, “Not everyone has a favorite color, Data. It was just the easiest equilateral decision I could ask him. You also had a straight-jacket wrapped around your emotions for most of your life, and B-4 doesn’t.”

“Will I feel emotions as a hologram?” Data asked.

“As a sentient hologram, you should.” T’Mera replied, “That’s pretty much been established.”

“So, it would seem that having emotions is not a requirement to be thought of as alive and a person with rights.” Data mused.

“Nope. That’s why “feels emotions” is not on my sentience test.” T’Mera told the android. “Hmm. This is odd.”

“What is it?” Data inquired of the holographer.

“I was sifting through Natasha Yar’s personal logs and files. I came across a deleted one. I’m wondering if I should do a bit of file necromancy.” T’Mera rubbed her chin with her right hand. “It’s a holographic file, and it came up because I was searching for anything related to you.”

B-4 turned the chair to face T’Mera, “Who is Natasha Yar?”

T’Mera looked back at the android, “Data, at some point, you’re going to have own how you felt about her, or else you’re going to remain stuck with her ghost. At this point in time, I don’t think any harm can be done to her career or her memory, as far as keeping the secret. I’m not saying to broadcast it through unsecured subspace channels, but you can’t remain bottled up like this. You’ve had to suffer all alone, not able to grieve or speak about her death or how it affected you.”

There was a long silence, then Data finally spoke, “B-4, Natasha Yar was the first woman I loved. She died in the line of duty.” He went silent again, then came to a decision, “Please try to retrieve the deleted file, T’Mera.”

T’Mera turned to work on the file, “If it’s something horrible that makes you feel worse, I promise I’ll make crow-flavored gum and chew it for a day.”

“You need not resort to such a thing.” Data quipped, “I am a big android. I can handle it.”

T’Mera typed in some commands on the console, “All right. I’m here for you, if you need. I got the file, which has the deleted portion first, then ends with the undeleted portion.”

In the middle of the Ghost’s main cabin, a tall, muscular woman with short-cropped blonde hair appeared, wearing the Starfleet black and gold one-piece jumpsuit. Her hands were clasped in front of her body and she stared straight ahead with bright blue eyes. “Computer, begin next segment for addition.” She paused, then smiled softly, “Mister Data. Android... automaton... robot.” She shook her head, “No. You see things with the wonder of a child, and that makes you more human than any of us. I love you just the way you are…  It happened.” She frowned, then sighed, “There’ll be too many watching. Computer, erase last entry and and start again…” she resumed the smiling expression, “My friend Data. You see things with the wonder of a child, and that makes you more human than any of us.”

The hologram file ended and T’Mera tapped a button on the console, but kept quiet.

B-4 remarked, “She is pretty.”

Data’s voice came through the synth box in a low volume, “I am having a remarkable confluence of emotions that I am experiencing difficulty processing. Please stand by.”

“Take all the time you need. I’m standing by.” T’Mera replied, as she continued working.

Data finally spoke up after a protracted silence. “I am feeling better now, thank you.”

T’Mera blinked in surprise, “Really?”

“Yes.” Data replied, “I did not know why she told me it never happened. There were many possible reasons, not the least of which would have been that I am a machine that she was intimate with, thus causing her embarrassment. There was the consideration of neither of us being in full control of our faculties at the time of coitus. Tasha also tended to be very restrained as far as romance. She often denied any feminine side of herself. This deleted file narrows down the possibilities to the final one. I was her superior officer, and she was directly under my command.”

T’Mera reached for the nearby container of liquid, “It’s been a while since I brushed up on Starfleet regulations.”

“While there is no specific Starfleet regulation forbidding the fraternization, it is generally understood that an intimate relationship with someone directly under one’s command is considered ill-advised.” Data explained, “It could also have adverse effects on the Starfleet career of both participants. Given that Tasha was fairly ambitious in her career, it logically follows that she would seek to protect both her career and mine, even if I am less ambitious.”

T’Mera furrowed her brow in thought, “But she erased this file and chose the “My friend” one instead.” She grimaced and began to drink her supplement.

“The only reason for her to do so would be if she thought she was protecting my career.” Data surmised aloud, “At that point, she was dead and had nothing of her own to protect.”

“That makes sense.” T’Mera put the container back in the holder on the chair, “I’m glad you feel better. You don’t speak that much about it, but I could sense it was haunting you.”

“It caused a few feedback loops in my logic and memory circuits.” Data replied. “T’Mera, you and I will not have any such issue, will we?”

“Not to that degree.” T’Mera sighed, then reached for the container of random gum sticks, “You’ve just reminded me that when we left the Institute, I wasn’t having an illicit affair with you.” She popped one of the sticks into her mouth and began to chew, “But, it shouldn’t affect my career or social standing. It might shock a few people.”

“Are you embarrassed to be having intimate relations with an android?” Data asked hesitantly.

T’Mera shook her head, “Any embarrassment I’m feeling is due more to general societal and personal feelings, rather than having to do with you being artificial. My main concern is about leaving you to grieve. However, you and I did happen, and it’s been wonderful, and I’m not leaving you with unresolved issues.”

“I do appreciate that, t’hy’la.” Data replied to the holographer.

T’Mera chomped noisily on the gum for a moment, “I do need to ask a favor. I want to keep Soong’s notes and my transfer protocols classified between us, and possibly Geordi. I don’t think I want my work to help proliferate Soong-type androids.”

“If you wish.” Data answered, “But may I ask why?”

“Picture the Eugenics Wars, but with thousands of Lore, instead of augmented humans.” T’Mera answered. “Or someone decides to take the historical education holograms of some of history’s most ruthless conquerors and transfer them into androids.”

“Ah. Very good points.” Data conceded. “We will keep it classified, then.”

“Thank you, Data.” She raised her right arm, laying it on the desk, and then rested her forehead on her arm.

“Perhaps you should take your medicine and get some sleep?” Data suggested, “My emotional algorithms can wait.”

T’Mera let out a sigh, then discarded her gum in the recycler. “You’re probably right.” She pushed the back of the medical support chair to recline, then closed her eyes.

B-4 swiveled the chair to face the display at his station, then tapped on it to choose something for the androids to watch. The remainder of the trip to Galor IV consisted of similar activities.

 

Stardate: 58051.7

 

The orange planet came into visual range, and T’Mera slowed from warp speed to full impulse. She opened the active communications panel, “Ghost to Daystrom Control. Requesting landing vector.”

“Daystrom Control to Ghost, affirmative on landing procedures. Vectoring coordinates being sent now.”

“Ghost to Daystrom Control. Acknowledged. Coordinates received. Beginning descent.” T’Mera adjusted the pitch of the ship. “Adjusting to one-fifth impulse, maneuvering thrusters engaged.” As she spoke, the ship began its familiar rattle and shake as it entered the atmosphere. “Impulse engines shut off, vertical landing thrusters engaged.” There was a downwards lurch and then the ship stopped moving. The roar of the thrusters died down to silence. She turned off the active communications. “Well, we’re here. B-4, would you please help me move some boxes from the cargo bay to the transporter pad?”

B-4 unbuckled his harness, “Yes.” He followed after T’Mera, as they both walked to the cargo bay, each picked up boxes and equipment, and then brought them to the middle of the Ghost and placed them on the transporter pads.

T’Mera tapped the transporter panel buttons, “This will beam everything directly to Holostation One. It’ll take a few transports, since I only have the four pads.”

With B-4’s strength, carrying the boxes and equipment to the pads was fairly quick and easy. Once the cargo bay was empty, the medical support chair was transported to Holostation One.

T’Mera pointed to one of the pads, “Your turn, B-4. Time for us to transport, as well.” She pressed the buttons for the coordinates, then joined the android on the transporter pads. “Computer… energize.” The shimmering energy of the transporter coalesced around them, and the next moment, they appeared in Holostation One, next to the cargo they had just beamed in.

T’Mera reached for an isolinear storage unit, lifting it with her left hand. “Follow me, B-4” She reached her right hand for his left hand.

B-4 took the offered hand, then walked with T’Mera out of the Holostation doors, and up a corridor to the main offices. “I remember this place.”

T’Mera led the android to an office on the far side, and quickly tapped in a sixteen digit code which unlocked the door to Emily’s office, then brought the android inside the small room, “B-4, we have to say goodbye. You'll be going to sleep for a while.”

B-4 tilted his head with a worried expression, “Will I be reactivated?” He let go of her hand and looked around the office.

T’Mera nodded to him, then pulled a chair to the wall for him. “Once Data has been recovered, Doctor Vanzanen has the instructions on how to reactivate you properly.” She set the isolinear storage down on the floor next to the chair.

B-4 moved to the chair, “Will you be there?”

“No, I won't.” T’Mera sighed softly, “My life is coming to an end soon.”

Data remained quiet during the exchange, content to let T’Mera explain.

B-4 sat in the chair and looked up at T’Mera, “You will be deactivated?”

T’Mera pressed her lips together, then answered, “Yes. I'll be deactivated, and biological people can't be reactivated.”

A moment of silence passed, and B-4’s voice warbled, “I don't want to say goodbye to you.”

“I don't want to say goodbye to you, either, but we have to.” T’Mera blinked back the tears that threatened to form in her eyes.

“Can we say goodnight, instead?” B-4 asked hopefully, “Can you kiss me goodnight?”

T’Mera smiled at the android, “Yes, we can do that. Goodnight, B-4. Sweet dreams.” The tears fell from her eyes as she turned the small screwdriver, deactivating the android.

Chapter Text

Year: 2381

Stardate: 58051.7

 

From Data’s perspective, everything changed in an instant. T’Mera’s face was directly in his field of vision, and she wept as she deactivated B-4. Suddenly, he was in a large room, surrounded by holo-emitters and elaborate grids. He tried to access his internal chronometer, but couldn’t locate it. The differences in sensory input startled him and left him disoriented for a few moments. Once he regained his senses, he attempted a more complex calculation, to test his abilities.

“I am processing at speeds I never imagined…” He spoke with astonishment.

“Welcome to life as an isolinear photonic, Bright Eyes.” The familiar voice of T’Mera came from behind him.

Data spun around to face the holographer, “Am I truly processing? Do I exist? Can you see and hear me?”

T’Mera smiled, “I see and hear you. How do you feel? Especially the “substance and flavor” of your life, as you once mentioned. It might take a while to figure out if anything’s missing, but I suppose the most important question is… Will you have the ability to create and assemble a positronic brain and body?”

Data furrowed his brow, dipped his chin slightly, and looked downwards and to the left. “Accessing.” then turned his eyes back up to look at T’Mera, “All of my memory engrams are available, at a faster rate of recall than I am accustomed to. This includes my skills, knowledge and experiences in constructing positronic androids.” He looked down at his body. “I am not wearing anything.”

“I wanted to let you choose what to wear.” T’Mera began to move the boxes from the Ghost to one side of the Holostation near the door. “You’re on leave, and I think the uniforms have changed since you were last in active service.”

Data knit his brows together, “I believe the standard issue engineering jumpsuit will do, for now.” He closed his eyes and a gold jumpsuit appeared, with a black turtleneck underneath and standard black boots. “All of my perceptions and sensations are vastly different. Your prediction of the changes was prophetic.”

“We’ll test whether you can use your hands as well as you need.” T’Mera told him as she pushed a few more boxes, “I broke every one of my rules to make you photonic. That’s why this holostation is entirely isolated, with its own backup power generation, conditioning and regulation, line-interactive power switching and surge protections. You are a sentient hologram who has full control over the extremely powerful core that runs this holostation, which includes every function used in holography.” She winked, then referred to one of the holovid transfers they had recently watched at B-4’s behest, “Phenomenal Photonic Powers!! Itty-bitty living space.”

Data started to make various hand gestures and movements, “My hands do not feel like my hands. It is as if I am… “ He stopped and hunted for the word to describe the sensations, “As if I am a shadowy projection of myself.” He paused again, then said, “While this is not ideal for an extended existence, it is preferable to being stuck inside B-4 and unable to do anything but think and speak.”

T’Mera nodded as she finished moving everything to one side, “Vic Fontaine once referred to his existence as “hollow”, and that’s coming from a sentient hologram who’s contented with his life. You’ll have help from Commander La Forge and Bruce Maddox in building your new body, so it should get done quicker. Possibly Doctor Vanzanen, if she wants to learn a bit more about the engineering aspects of cybernetics.”

Data raised an eyebrow, then lifted his left hand. A blue energy tractor beam emerged from his hand, enveloping T’Mera and pulling her to him. “I have decided I wish to test my hands immediately.” He wrapped his arms around her in a gentle embrace. “And my lips.” With a slight smile, he leaned down to kiss the holographer. “The essence of my interactions with you has not been altered with the change in my physical form.”

T’Mera wrapped her arms around Data, returning the kiss. “Good.” she replied, then found herself breathless as the gentle meeting of their lips transformed into passionate, hungry kisses.

The doors to the Holostation whooshed open and Doctor Bruce Maddox entered, then stopped immediately, his face taking on a stunned expression.

T’Mera broke off the kiss, “Ah, Bruce, I know this looks bad…”

Doctor Maddox’s expression faded quickly, then turned to dismay as he got a better look at T’Mera, “My god, you’ve lost so much weight…”

Data dipped his head to the Chairman of Robotics, “Greetings, Doctor Maddox. It is good to see you, again, even under these circumstances.”

T’Mera ambled over to the pile of boxes and the medical support chair, telling the other two, “I’m going to sit over there, until I feel less stupid.”

Data frowned, “T’Mera, you are not stupid.” He looked at Doctor Maddox, “Will she be in some sort of trouble for engaging in the consensual romantic relationship that I have initiated with her?”

“What?” Doctor Maddox looked between the holographer and Data, “Slow down, both of you. I was just unprepared… There’s no trouble. Let’s start from the beginning. Data is it really you?”

Data tilted his head slightly downward and to the right, “I am currently existing in a holographic form, which is quite different from my android body. It seems that T’Mera’s transfer protocols have succeeded, including preserving the ineffable qualities of my memories.” He added, “The effort that Doctor Chipman has exerted in retrieving me has been quite monumental, in my opinion.”

Doctor Maddox smiled, “I don’t doubt it.” He turned to regard T’Mera, who was sitting in her medical support chair, facing the wall. He blinked, then turned back to Data, “I’d like to be here to assist, when you build your body and brain. I never did figure out how to properly calibrate the electron resistance across the neural filaments.”

“That would be acceptable.” Data responded, his gaze also following Maddox’s, “Commander La Forge will also be arriving in two days to help.” He lowered the volume of his voice, and approached the cyberneticist, “I apologize for the unexpected osculation you encountered upon entry, but I assure you that my intentions are honorable.”

“I’m part Vulcan.” T’Mera called over to the men, “I can hear you, Data.”

Data added, “Vulcans tend to be very private about their sex lives --”

T’Mera interrupted, “It’s not pon farr!” She buried her face in her hands. “Just go back to talking about cybernetics, Bright Eyes.”

Doctor Maddox glanced between the other two, then settled his gaze on Data, “We do have everything you asked for, and the schematics you sent ahead are in the computer here.”

“Excellent.” Data turned his attention back to the cyberneticist. “The first task is to build the major skeletal structure and cranial assembly, since they need to be forged from cortenide and duranium and cannot be replicated. I am hoping that this process was initiated when I sent the schematics?”

T’Mera piped up from her position of digging through the boxes by the corner, “No duridium? That stuff is disruptor-proof.”

Data’s lips formed a slight smile, “T’hy’la, I do not wish to be barrel-shaped, which is what duridium is mainly used for. You are correct, however, in that the material is resistant to energy weapons. It is simply not malleable enough to create a humanoid shape.”

Doctor Maddox nodded in agreement, “The cranial assembly and skeleton will be here in a few days. They’re being sent in from Utopia Planitia.”

At the sound of T’Mera laughing softly, Data looked at the holographer, “Is something amusing?”

“Sorry.” T’Mera replied as she grabbed a soft-sided bag from behind the boxes, “It just hit me that I’m love with someone who has body parts made out of starship hull material. I’ve always admired your mettle.” She pushed the controls of her chair, moving it towards the doorway.

Doctor Maddox placed a hand over his face, while groaning. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had to withstand your puns, T’Mera.”

“I enjoyed the pun thoroughly.” Data remarked, then frowned and quickly walked across the floor to intercept T’Mera, “Where are you going?”

T’Mera craned her neck slightly, looking up at Data, “I’m not needed for building the android body. I figured I’d go to my quarters until it’s time for the transfer.” She narrowed her eyes, “You’re making the processing face.”

Data bent down on one knee, “Please remain here with me. I do not need this entire room for a cybernetics laboratory, so I can set aside the Northeastern corner for your quarters and whatever else you require.” He tilted his head slightly to the right, and raised both eyebrows an infinitesimal amount, just enough to put a couple of wrinkles across his forehead. His lips parted about a centimeter from each other.

T’Mera let her head drop, until her face was resting on the bag in her lap, “Dammit, Data…”

Doctor Maddox moved towards the door, “I think I should let the two of you speak in private. Just give me a call over the comm when you need, Data.” He slipped out the door without waiting for acknowledgement.

“Bruce probably thinks the two of us are crazy.” She lifted her head up to look at Data. “There is no logical justification for your request.”

Data reached for her right hand with his left hand, “Then I will be illogical.”

T’Mera opened her right hand, moving her fingers to intertwine with his, then gently squeezed his left hand.

“I have already calculated your needs and can create the holostation simulation of your room at Ba’ku Medical Center, or I can alter it to anything you wish it to be.” Data offered hopefully. “I am well versed in your feeding times, medication doses, and how to attend to disposal of the support chair’s receptacles. I would be more at ease with you here, where I have you within visual range.”

T’Mera let out a long sigh, “All right, Bright Eyes. I’m going to stay in the chair, so I won’t need a bed, but I’ll need a bathroom like we had at Ba’ku, and you’ll want to make a different bathroom for everyone coming to help you. I’ll set up my workstation just outside my room, and I’ll make a dome of silence inside the sleeping area.”

“Dome of silence?” Data tilted his head to the left as he inquired.

“It’s easy for people to forget how sound has to be altered in a holographic setting.” T’Mera explained, “It’s what allows someone five feet away to not hear the other person, if the environment is supposed to have them at a distance. In this case, however, it’s fairly simple to just mark off one corner as impermeable to sound from outside the designated markers. This way, I can sleep while everyone is working.”

Data leaned forward, bringing their hands towards him, and pressed his lips to the top of her hand, “Thank you, for indulging me in my illogical behavior. It seems like we have so little time left, and I wish to spend as much of it in your presence.”

“You’re welcome.” T’Mera smiled wistfully at him, “They could replace everything about me, except my brain.”

“I recall the doctor saying that, when we were on Ba’ku, after your last surgery.” Data looked down at their interlocked hands, then lifted his gaze to meet hers. “I believe the way she stated it was: “At that point, you may as well be an android.” Hmm. Stand by… ”

T’Mera studied his face, then raised an eyebrow, then frowned slightly, “You’re making processing face, again.”

Data’s eyes widened and his yellow eyes stared directly at her, “I may have the answer…”

“Are you going where I think you’re going?” T’Mera narrowed her eyes in reply.

Data offered, “Synaptic scan transfer from a biological brain to a positronic brain has had far better success rates than submicron matrix transfers between two positronic brains.”

“Yes, you’re going there.” T’Mera shook her head, “Data, it’s all right. I’ve accepted my death.”

“I realize that. I do not know that I can accept your death, t’hy’la.” Data replied, placing his right hand to cover their already conjoined hands, “All I can think of is how empty my life will be without you. Returning to Starfleet and to my career will mean nothing to me, if you are not there to share it. I regret that I am unable to keep my promise of being able to endure the idea of your mortality. I also realize that it depends upon the success of my own transfer first, but…” he paused, then pleaded, “Please, let me try to save you.”

“Data, this might open a can of worms that has a Pandora's box in it that, when opened, contains another open can of worms.” She sighed, “What does this entail and what are the approximate chances of success in what you’re asking?”

“The chance of a full success would be approximately thirty percent.” Data answered, “You would be as you are now, with your full personality, memories, knowledge and skills. There is a fifty percent chance that only the memories, knowledge and skills would transfer. Finally, there is a twenty percent chance of cascade failure. We will perform the scan transfer on Terlina III, in my father’s old laboratory, because that is where he conducted Juliana’s. There might also be notes that he left behind, on how to best accomplish the transfer.”

“What will you do if you wind up with the fifty percent chance result? Will you still take care of her?” T’Mera studied his face, then met his eyes directly with hers.

“Yes.” Data replied, “I would still wish to be with you, and consider it to be analogous to you having a stroke and losing some of your personality.”

“Dammit, Data.” T’Mera looked down at the floor, then went silent.

Data waited, then said, “I am not my father. I will not make you into an android and lie to you about it. If your answer is no, I will have to accept that.”

T’Mera muttered a soft string of curses, “Fal-tor-pan is sometimes done for someone who’s special, but there’s nothing special enough about me to warrant saving my katra.”

“You are special to me .” Data attempted to emphasize, lightly squeezing her hand.

T’Mera inhaled deeply, then exhaled, “For you, there will be an eighty percent chance of some modicum of success, which will give you a companion? You would no longer be alone.”

“That is correct.” Data moved his pale lips into the slightest hopeful smile.

T’Mera sighed, then relented, “All right. I consent to it, but I feel like we’re cheating fate.”

Data quipped, “If I was indeed built by Arik Soong, then I was created by a man who, it seems, regularly cheats fate. It only makes sense that I should keep up the family traditions.”

T’Mera let out a soft laugh, “You’re amazingly talented at finding loopholes, you know that?”

Data felt relief, then replied to T’Mera, “Thank you, t’hy’la, and I am aware of my aptitude at finding and using loopholes.” He leaned forward, planting a kiss on her lips. “T’Mera?”

“Yes, t’hy’la?” T’Mera returned the kiss with another kiss quickly added.

“Would you say that you and I have commitment to each other?” Data inquired.

“I’ve just consented to being an android for you, and you’ve just told me that you can’t live without me.” She replied with a slight smirk, “That could be construed as commitment. Why?”

Data responded, “If that is so, we are now at twelve out of twelve conditions needed for a successful humanoid romantic relationship.”

T’Mera chuckled, “Good to know. I’d hate to think we were acting rashly.”

Data lifted his right hand to brush the dark hair out of T’Mera’s eyes, “I hope it is not considered rash. Six months, twenty-two days, six hours, forty-two minutes and ten seconds has elapsed since we agreed to formulate our romance.”

“I think we fall under the category of unorthodox relationships.” T’Mera smiled back at him, “Well, Bright Eyes, if you will do me the favor of creating my holographic quarters, I’ll unpack my things and get my workstation ready. You should be busy with making the test fixtures, assembly jigs and testing rigs, while I do that.”

Data’s yellow eyes looked downward and to the left, then returned to her face, “Your quarters have been created. I will now begin the task of creating the cybernetics laboratory, unless you need help with unpacking?”

“I should be fine.” T’Mera let go of Data’s left hand, “If I need anything, I’ll yell.” She pressed the controls for the chair and rolled it to the containers, “Ah, crap. I forgot to leave B-4’s toys with Doctor Vanzanen. Eh, we have time to have her come get them.” With that, she started settling in and unpacking inside the facsimile of her patient room.

Data watched her for a moment, then turned to create his lab. In the center of the allotted space, he set the octagonal, raised platform that would house the android body main assembly. Along the East wall, he set the nanofabrication device workstation, servo testing and calibration units, and a console with a several displays. Once he was satisfied with the lab, he searched through the containers at the North wall for the one containing the epidermal molds and moved them to the South wall.

“I had best start this now.” Data walked back to the nanofabricator, then closed his eyes, placing the specifications for his subprocessors in it, then willed the device to start creating and then testing each one. A large container appeared next to the nanofabricator, filled with a blue nutrient fluid suspension, for storing the subprocessors.

Data looked at the remaining containers from the Ghost and used the tractor beam to move them closer to T’Mera’s room. As he walked towards her quarters, he added a food replicator/recycler slot near the doors that separated the Holostation from the rest of the institute. “May I help you with anything?”

T’Mera peered out the door towards the cybernetics lab, “That was fast. But, of course, you’re a holomatrix god, now. I just have to set up my own workstation.”

“It can be set up here, just between your quarters and the servo testing and calibration bench.” Data moved some of the boxes to the designated area. “That way, I have you in view.”

T’Mera narrowed her eyes, “You’re not sick of me? We’ve spent every moment together for ten months.”

Data turned to observe the holographer, “I am not sick of you. Are you sick of me?”

“No.” T’Mera replied as she began setting up her own workstation. “Something must be wrong with us.” She winked at the holo-android, then smiled. “Unusually compatible.”

Data bent down on one knee, to place his eyes at the same level as hers, “Love is not a malfunction.”

T’Mera smiled, then held out her right hand to him, “My workstation can wait. How about we christen my quarters, while we have the time and privacy? I have a feeling we won’t get much time alone in the days to come.”

Data took her hand, squeezed it, then wheeled her chair back into her quarters, “An excellent idea.” Silently, he instructed the holostation’s sound system to play soft music and dim the lighting, after which he initiated the romantic subroutine for the gentle lovemaking they would enjoy for the next hour.

Chapter Text

Year: 2381

Stardate: 58054.4

 

“How do I look?” T’Mera fussed with the indigo halter top, which consisted of a seven centimeter band around her neck and material that draped over the front of her body and covered part of the black skirt, but left her arms and back uncovered. She smoothed the skirt down over the front edge of her chair. “Maybe I should have put my legs on.”

Data made an attempt to be reassuring, “You remain aesthetically pleasing to me. I thought you found the prosthetics inconvenient while you are using the chair?”

“I do.” T’Mera grumbled, “But I don’t want to scare your friend. It’s bad enough I have tubes in my neck and Borg implants on my face and arm.”

“Geordi is my best friend, and he will like you, I am certain.” Data stepped over to the side of her chair and reached out to lightly stroke her dark hair. “He also understands when there are physical limitations or disabilities.”

“I don’t think I can get the middle fastener closed on this halter.” T’Mera leaned forward in the chair, “If I move like this, am I covered?”

Data tilted his head to check the large gap created between her body and the garment, “In human terms, I am getting an eyeful.”

T’Mera stuck her tongue out at him, “What about in android terms?”

Data bent slightly to study the side view of her body, “In android terms, the draping of the fabric exposes everything along your pectoralis major region, near the sternum, including the mammary gland and nipple-areola complex, which show signs of ptosis due to the extreme weight loss you have been subject to.” He reached over with his hands for the mid-back fasteners in the rear of the shirt, pressing them together. “However, I can easily remedy the situation for you. Now you have full modesty.”

T’Mera sat up straight in the chair, “Thank you, Bright Eyes.”

Data’s eyebrows lowered and his yellow eyes glanced down and to the right, “I will still need to figure out a solution for creating the physical parameters and specifications for your android body. Using your body in its current state might be considered less than ideal.”

“Access my holographic form in Daystrom Institute remote educational program number ITH101.” T’Mera answered, smoothing out her skirt hem again, “It’s me from ten years ago, but should still be fine, assuming you can translate the dimensions.”

“That is an excellent idea.” Data smiled down at the holographer, “I will be able to easily translate them, create your specifications, and then send the information to Utopia Planitia. You do not need to keep fiddling with your attire. You look presentable. I admit a preference for you to not look overly appealing.”

T’Mera raised a slanted eyebrow, “Why not?”

“I do not wish to have Geordi accidentally become attracted to you.” Data replied quietly. “Geordi was enamored of Lieutenant Yar, at the same time that I was. While this phenomenon has not repeated itself in the subsequent years we spent as friends, I would still like to take steps to avoid any such problems from occurring.”

T’Mera smirked up at Data, “I’m fairly certain I look terrible, so you don’t have to worry. If you’re very concerned, you could always tell him right away about us.”

Data nodded in agreement, “That would be the most prudent course of action.”

The holostation doors whooshed open, and a short, stocky man with brown skin, close-cut black hair, van dyke beard and electric blue eyes walked into the holographic lab. Instead of a uniform, he wore a muted teal long-sleeved shirt with a rounded collar, a navy blue vest over the shirt, and black pants over black ankle boots. A small bag was slung over his left shoulder. He looked around the lab with confusion, then headed towards T’Mera, “Hi! I’m Geordi La Forge. You must be Doctor Chipman. I’m a little confused. I thought Data would be here.”

“Hello, Geordi.” Data spoke up and started to walk towards his friend, “It is good to see you.”

T’Mera held up her right hand in the Vulcan salute, “Live long and prosper, Commander La Forge. Data is here and is moving to meet you.”

Geordi stopped in mid-stride, “This is a hologram of Data?”

T’Mera shook her head, “No. Data is currently in a holographic form.”

“Isn’t that the same thing?” Geordi frowned, looking from Data to T’Mera.

“Not at all.” T’Mera replied, smiling softly, “If I were to make an historical or educational hologram of Commander Data, I would have started with the basic AI program, which has the standard algorithms and parameters for all non-sentient holograms. From there, I would have overlaid the scripts for Data’s knowledge, skills and personality, which would create the behavior patterns he’s known for. That’s not what I did here.” She paused, then elaborated, “For this, I wrote a full transfer protocol that made it possible to have every single line of Data’s positronic matrix change to a holomatrix form. Think of it as the difference between an actor performing as Data and Data himself.”

Geordi resumed walking over to Data, then hesitantly placed his right hand on Data’s left shoulder. “It’s so hard to believe it’s really you.”

Data cocked his head to the right with a nod, “It has not been an easy time for me, as well, but I can assure you that I am Data. Or more accurately, I am a working copy of Data.”

Geordi furrowed his brow, then shook his head, “This might take some getting used to. I saw the Scimitar explode. The Data that I knew was destroyed. Is a copy of you the same as you?”

T’Mera frowned deeply, raising her voice in annoyance, “They better well legally declare him to be Data, after all I’ve gone through to get him back for Starfleet! If I have to, I’ll call in some favors, and have this declared the android version of fal-tor-pan, since there’s precedent for that , at least. Or how many people have been declared lost or dead, only to turn out to be in some sort of temporal wedgie and return centuries later?” She let out a sigh, “Sorry to snap at you, Commander. The truth is, I didn’t get to speak to Data before he was destroyed, so I have no way to know if this is anything like him.”

Data quietly spoke to Geordi, “She can become quite impassioned --”

“I can hear you, Bright Eyes.” T’Mera stuck her tongue out at Data.

Geordi held up his hands, “Whoa, whoa, both of you, it’s okay! I didn’t mean to say Data’s not himself or that he’ll have legal troubles. I’m just used to him having an aura, and all I can see is a hologram.”

“Maybe you two should sit down and catch up with each other?” T’Mera offered, “After all, his skeleton and skull won’t be here for a while.”

Data pressed his lips together tightly in a slight smile, “That is a very good idea, t’hy’la. Geordi, would you care for a beverage or other sustenance?” He turned his head to the right, creating a table and two chairs to appear directly in the center of the available space.

Geordi sat down at one of the chairs, “Nah, Data. I’m fine for now.” He removed the bag from his left shoulder and set it on the table surface.

T’Mera pushed the buttons on her chair to move herself to her workstation, “Oh, Commander La Forge, I meant to tell you I admire your clear documentation. You made some of my work easier.”

Geordi smiled back at T’Mera, “Glad I could help.” He turned to face Data, “I’m not even sure where to start.”

Data sat down on one of the chairs, “I suppose I should ask what I have missed while I have been indisposed. My memory record diverges from that of the original Data, since I was imprisoned in B-4 right after the transfer we did in engineering. I should also inform you that you were correct. B-4 will most likely not be able to achieve my level of complexity.”

Geordi nodded in agreement, “Yeah, I know how much you wanted him to be like you. I tried to work on him for a few months, but I was getting nowhere, and I wasn’t even sure the transfer had been successful.” He frowned again, then said, “Actually, I think I’ve changed my mind about the drink. Do you mind if I go get something?” He pointed to the replicator.

Data dipped his head once, “I do not mind. The replicator is fully programmed.”

Geordi rose from the chair, walked over to the replicator, “Iced coffee.” then grabbed the glass of light brown liquid that appeared. He returned to the table and sat down, “Let’s see. Spot is with Worf, and she’s all right. Your paintings are displayed all over the Enterprise, although some of the people who knew you asked for certain ones, and those are in their quarters. I brought some of the smaller personal items you’d owned.” He indicated the bag. “You have something new to go with your medals. The Starfleet Citation for Conspicuous Gallantry was awarded to you. Your briar pipe, although I guess you won’t have much use for it, yet. There’s a holo-statue of Tasha in there, and a small yellow crystal. I’m not sure what that is.”

“Ishara Yar’s proximity detector implant.” Data’s facial expression turned thoughtful as he explained.

Geordi raised an eyebrow, “I also brought your emotion chip.” He lifted his glass, taking a sip of the coffee.

“I will not be needing that, Geordi, but thank you for bringing it.” Data resumed his neutral facial expression.

Geordi frowned, “Data, having emotions was your lifelong dream. Have your experiences with them been so awful that you’ll give up on that?”

Data shook his head, “The problem is the chip, not the emotions. T’Mera is writing a subroutine for me, called Amygdala. It will let me experience emotions and control them to the level I wish to do so.”

Geordi raised both eyebrows in shock, turning to look at T’Mera, “She can do that?”

T’Mera’s back was to the men as she worked, but she quipped, “She can . She’s just that good!”

An amused smile spread across Data’s lips, “She has become quite the expert on the programming of positronic brains, in addition to her previous specialties in holography and artificial intelligence.”

T’Mera piped up again, “She also knows to clear a memory buffer before trying new hardware…”

Data added, “And I enjoy her sense of humor.”

Geordi snapped his fingers and sat up straight, “Wait a minute! I understand now. That would explain why the chip overloaded your positronic relay, if it was calling up every emotion you’d ever felt since your activation.” He frowned, “But that would mean that you did have emotions, all those years. Why would Doctor Soong create a chip to give you what you already had? It doesn’t make sense.”

Data pressed his lips together, changing to a solemn facial expression, “As she learned more about how my programming works, T’Mera discovered that Doctor Soong merely laid down a small base of commands. Once I began to achieve sentience, I was creating my own pathways and erasing earlier, simpler ones. In essence, I was programming myself, which included generating emotions. According to T’Mera, Doctor Soong put in a deliberate hardware block that kept me from being able to experience what I was feeling. When he abducted me, he never asked me, nor did he check my current programming. He simply decided to put the chip in.”

Geordi rubbed his beard and nodded, “To keep you from being like Lore. Since he didn’t know you were generating them, he made that chip, but all it did was amplify what you were already feeling, and then you had that overload at Amargosa.”

Data winced, “The incident at Amargosa makes me wish I could forget some experiences. I still feel remorse and guilt for what happened there. I also apologize if my insubordination at the Bassen Rift caused you any problems.”

An expression of sadness passed over Geordi’s face, “We were so devastated at losing you that I don’t think the captain even remembered we disobeyed his orders.” He lowered his voice, “Counselor Troi took it the hardest, I think.”

Data frowned very slightly, “I did not think to ask, but is my recovery common knowledge, or is it being kept classified? I do not wish Counselor Troi to think I have been dead all this time.”

“Oh, she and Captain Riker know about this.” Geordi replied reassuringly, “The six of us knew it was a long shot, but we all had high hopes, anyway. Except Worf. He thinks we’re trying to rob you of entrance to Sto’Vo’Kor. Let’s see… right after your…” He hesitated, “I’m not sure what to call it. Calling it “your death” seems final. Destruction sounds the same way.”

“Destruction is the truth.” Data offered. “And I do not believe that androids go to Sto’Vo’Kor.”

“All right, Data.” Geordi resumed, “After your destruction, we got a new first officer, and Captain Riker played a practical joke on him. He told him to call the Captain “Jean-Luc”.”

Data’s head moved back a few centimeters in surprise, “Not the most auspicious way to begin a tour of duty.”

Geordi shook his head, “That’s an understatement. Commander Madden had a really rough time, at first. The Captain even called him Data, a few times, until it finally sunk in… After that, he just called him Number One.” He let Data visibly react, then continued, “The Betazoid wedding for Captain Riker and Counselor Troi was interesting, although Worf was extremely uncomfortable.”

“I imagine he would have been.” Data nodded in reply, “I regret having missed it, although I am certain that my modesty subroutine would have been sending me alerts every fifteen seconds.”

Geordi chuckled, “Mrs. Troi was disappointed you weren’t there, too. How did she put it… “Oh, I wanted to see if that robot of yours had anything between the legs.”” He lifted his glass for another sip of iced coffee.

T’Mera chose the moment to add to the conversation, “Commander La Forge, did you tell her that Data had an interchangeable penis with a choice of several pleasure attachments?”

Iced coffee sprayed across the table surface as Geordi simultaneously choked and laughed, unable to swallow.

Data created a towel to mop up the coffee, “She is generating a witticism. I have only ever had the one penis and it was a permanent fixture.” He looked back over at the holographer, then at Geordi, “Perhaps it would be best if T’Mera joins us here? I am not letting her leave the holostation, and since she is part Vulcan, she will hear us.”

Geordi raised an eyebrow at that, “It’s fine with me if she joins us, but why aren’t you letting her leave?”

T’Mera stopped working, then pressed the buttons on her chair and rolled it to the table, to the left of where Data sat. “He’s keeping me captive.” She smiled and placed her right hand on Data’s left arm. “If you don’t want me to hear you, I can always turn on the dome of silence.”

“That will not be necessary at this moment, t’hy’la.” Data smiled and placed his right hand gently on top of her hand. He turned back to Geordi, “Six months and twenty-four days ago, I initiated a romantic relationship with Doctor Chipman. We are… a couple.”

Geordi looked between the two, “Congratulations, then. Six months? But…”

T’Mera held up her implant-covered left arm, “My Borg hardware comes with some very strange abilities.”

Data explained further, “Her implants were able to generate a virtual environment in which she and I could interact and communicate. Once she had surpassed seven out of the twelve conditions for a successful humanoid marriage, I asked her to formulate the romance with me.”

Geordi looked at T’Mera with concern, “Captain Picard said you’re dying.”

T’Mera nodded, biting her lower lip, “I am. We don’t know how much time I have left until the nanoprobes go after my central nervous system and brain.”

“Which brings me to a favor I need to ask of you, Geordi.” Data regarded the engineer, “You are here to help build my new body, but once I am an android again, I wish to build a body for T’Mera. After it has been finished, we will go to Terlina III and use my father’s equipment to do a synaptic scan transfer.”

Geordi blinked at his friend, “Are you sure about this, Data? Are you just making her into an android because she saved you, and now you want to save her?”

Data’s face took on a sad expression, “While I wish I could say that I am doing this to save her, it would not be the truth. She has accepted her mortality, whereas I cannot.” He turned and looked into T’Mera’s dark eyes, “In essence, what I am doing is asking her to save me twice .”

T’Mera smiled wistfully back at Data, looking back into the bright yellow eyes.

Geordi watched the two for a moment, then spoke, “I’ll help you two, to the best of my ability.”

T’Mera smiled at Geordi, “Thank you, Commander. I’ll also be leaving a non-sentient hologram of myself, with instructions, in case I die before the scan can be completed. I do ask that my file transfer protocols be kept classified, though.”

Geordi nodded, “That won’t be a problem.” He grinned at Data, “And here I thought you only liked blondes.”

T’Mera began to laugh softly.

Data blinked and confusion spread across his facial features, “Odd. That was what T’Mera said, at first.” He looked back at Geordi, “Jenna was blonde, but I was unaware that you knew of more.”

Geordi looked down at the table for a moment, took a sip of his coffee, then gazed back up at Data, “You and I know each other really well. I saw how Ishara affected you, and I kind of figured something was up between you and Tasha. I just never said anything.”

“Ah.” Data replied. “It is still too small of a sample size to make statistical inferences as to any aesthetic preferences I might have to a woman, not to mention the central limit theorem-- “

Geordi interjected, “It’s okay, Data! I was joking.” He then grinned, “You’re definitely the Data I remember.”

T’Mera let out a sigh of relief, “Thank goodness. I was worried that something with him might have changed from being stuck inside B-4. It’s good to know he’s coming through intact.”

Geordi finished the remainder of his coffee, “And it’s good to have my best friend back.” He knitted his brows slightly, “So, why are you not letting Doctor Chipman leave the holostation?”

T’Mera leaned forward in the chair, “Please, call me T’Mera.”

Data replied, “I do not wish to waste any of the moments we have, and this way, I can make certain that she is fine.”

T’Mera smirked, “Even though there’s not much I can do, as far as assembling an android body goes. But you know how it is... “ She looked between the two men, then added, “They also servo who only stand and wait.”

Geordi groaned and placed a hand over his face, then chuckled.

Data smiled, then patted T’Mera’s right hand. “You will get used to her sense of humor, Geordi.”

Geordi removed his hand from his face, then grinned, “If I could get used to your attempts at telling jokes, I can get used to hers. Well, I’m going to go settle into the quarters they’ve assigned me here. I just wanted to check in with you first. I’ll be back soon.”

Data dipped his head once to Geordi. “We will be here.” After Geordi exited the holostation, Data returned to the nanofabrication area and T’Mera returned to her work.

Chapter Text

Year: 2381

Stardate: 58059.8

 

Geordi La Forge sat at the metallurgical analysis station, using both his optical implants and the scanners to inspect the newly arrived pieces of Data’s skeleton and cranial unit, “I have to admit that confused me, too, T’Mera. You’ve written so many papers that warned against sentience, but then you go to the mat for them in court, to try to get rights for them, when there’s only a few sentient holograms.”

T’Mera had turned her workstation and chair so that her back was to the wall and she faced the others while working, “A few right now, but let’s take a ride on the logic train, shall we?” She gestured to where Bruce Maddox sat, as he fed wires through the center of the duranium bones that had passed inspection, “What we’re doing now is time-consuming and painstaking, putting together a Soong-type android. The only reason it’s going as fast as it is, is because of Data.”

Data spoke up at this point, from where he stood at the servo replicator station, “I do have to admit that being photonic is advantageous for this sort of work. I am able to do calculations at much greater speeds. I am also able to use the transporter functions inherent in holography to place components inside of other ones, instead of having to carefully insert them physically.”

Geordi replied while scanning another piece, “Okay. I’m on the logic train with you, now. This is a highly involved bit of engineering.”

Bruce Maddox added his opinion to the discussion, “It’s one of the reasons we abandoned the idea of “every ship in Starfleet with a Data on board”. Aside from being nearly impossible to reproduce Soong’s work, it’s impractical on a large scale.”

“Right.” T’Mera replied, “Meanwhile, holography was moving by leaps and bounds, taking already existing technology and refining it, but without thinking of the ramifications. We enabled the easy creation of androids that are made of light, force fields, tractor beams, transporters and molecular-level replicators.”

Geordi placed another metal bone in the ‘inspected’ pile, “Yeah, but they’re stuck in holodecks or wherever there’s emitters.”

“For now.” T’Mera chomped at the gum in her mouth, then chewed more quietly, “But Daystrom engineers are studying the EMH’s mobile emitter, and before that, there was work on making emitters smaller and more portable. Now we go into the tunnel of very dark logic.” She snapped the gum between her teeth, “I create a fairly small emitter that I could hide somewhere, and have a hologram capable of assassinating someone without leaving much in the way of clues.”

Geordi let out a slow whistle, “That’s really dark logic, all right.”

T’Mera continued, “I know Lew had been working on little holographic spy flies. I’m not sure where that went. I’d been asked by Starfleet Intelligence to make something similar, and I told them I’d rather make holographic cucumbers that they could shove up their asses.”

Geordi started to laugh, “I would have loved to see that.”

The edges of Bruce Maddox’s mouth rose up into a small, tight smile, “I’ve been on the receiving end when T’Mera turns down a job she finds unethical. I would have paid real money to see her tell off an admiral.” He sighed, “And it’s been hard to watch a lifetime of work be pushed aside for holograms. At least there’s still medical purposes for cybernetics.”

T’Mera continued, “Mhmm. So, now that we’ve ridden through the tunnel of dark logic, the train continues. We have a combination of easily made photonic androids, the possibility of them being able to have mobility beyond stationary holography areas, and the ability to make them sentient with just a bit of extra power. Now, suddenly, you have your disposable people. Easy to duplicate, easy to use, easy to delete, and with no legal rights.”

Geordi frowned at that, “I see where this train is going.”

“The train can always go through another tunnel, too.” T’Mera told the engineer, “Picture the photonic androids, all with physical autonomy, when they get pissed off enough to override whatever programming is being used to keep them in line. They could form an uprising. That’s why I went to the mat. We’d better get artificial lifeform rights in place before the issues arise in the first place.”

Geordi nodded, as he inspected another duranium rod, “Now I understand. Thanks, T’Mera.” He took another rod from the container on the floor, “I must admit, Data, this is going to be difficult for me to get used to. I’m handling your bones.”

Data’s eyebrows knit together briefly, “It should be no different than handling the parts when you assemble a plasma conduit or warp engine, Geordi.”

Geordi let out a sigh, “Yeah, but you’re not a plasma conduit or warp engine. You’re my best friend.”

“Just as you are my best friend.” Data looked over at the engineer, “I never knew what a friend was until I met you, Geordi. You spoke to me as though I were human, and you treated me no differently from anyone else. I also have not forgotten that we are The Perceivers.”

Geordi grinned broadly, “We haven’t spoken about that in so long, but yeah, I remember those times.” He looked over at Bruce, then at T’Mera, “When Data and I were first assigned to the Enterprise, we wound up talking about how his brain and the VISOR I wore at the time both saw the world in a similar way. In a way that was different from everyone around us. We could see the truth of our surrounding environment.”

Data smiled as they reminisced, “From then on, we were close friends. Geordi taught me how to paint.”

T’Mera raised a slanted eyebrow, then shook her head, “I’ll never understand how you deemed Data as non-sentient, Bruce. He’s one of the most sentient people I’ve ever met.”

Bruce gave Data an apologetic smile, then replied to T’Mera, “I suppose I was blind and arrogant, back then. I made a mistake. In retrospect, I’m thankful that Captain Picard stood up for Data.”

“As am I.” Data added to the conversation, as he moved to the raised octagonal platform where the main assembly station waited. “I will begin to set down the fluidic channels for the skeletal structure, and after that is complete, we can start the polyalloy coating of the bones.”

Geordi picked up another piece of metal, “So far, so good. No sign of any microfractures during the metallurgical scans.”

“The nutrient processing and distribution systems will need to be installed as the skeleton is being built, but they are fairly simple to replicate.” Data instructed. "T’Mera, how is the calibration and testing coming on the bitanium servos?”

T’Mera peered over at the workstation to the South of her position where dozens of servomechanisms of varying sizes, with LEDs blinking, pushed quietly against strain gauges, cycling back and forth repeatedly. “It’s coming along well, so far. No errors logged. What’s going to happen with the molybdenum-cobalt alloy?”

“That will reinforce the upper spinal column.” Data replied as he walked back over to check the nanofabrication of the subprocessors.

T’Mera smiled at Data, “The tank you’re near looks like it’s full of rainbow glitter. B-4 would have loved staring at it.”

An amused smile spread on Data’s pale lips, “Those are the subprocessors filling the nutrient fluid suspension. I suppose he would have enjoyed the visual stimuli from it. I often find myself thinking about the absence of his sensory input patterns.”

T’Mera nodded, “I do, too, but we can’t just leave him activated. He’d wind up growing pathways, and we need to get you secured, first.”

Geordi continued his metallurgical scans, “Did B-4 ever learn any new songs?”

Data replied to Geordi, “That was my singing, not his, although I did attempt to teach him how to sing on the return journey from Ba’ku. I am quite impressed with T’Mera’s work. She was able to advance B-4’s development enough for him to understand very basic concepts, and allow for him to be trained in simple, repetitive tasks.”

Geordi’s eyes went wide, “That’s very impressive, T’Mera.”

“Well, I can’t take the full credit on that.” T’Mera removed the gum from her mouth with a small piece of tissue, then placed the tissue in the nearby recycler slot, “Ironically, the Reman rootkit was what allowed B-4’s positronic matrix to stabilize. Since he wasn’t able to form new pathways quickly, it lowered the possibility of a cascade failure. I’m hoping that he’s past that point, and that once Doctor Vanzanen removes the rest of the Reman program and Data’s code from him, that he’ll be able to form new pathways without danger.”

“I can’t believe that I overlooked a rootkit.” Geordi let out a long sigh, frowning.

“Geordi, I had one job, for months, and I was digging around in there and couldn’t find it until I got the development tools showing the unfiltered process tree and the first level root access.” T’Mera spoke in a reassuring tone, “The program was constantly randomizing process IDs, inhibiting the growth of new pathways, periodically wiping the event logs, scrambling the neural indexes, and dumping incoming files into write-only memory partitions... which is how Data wound up as a separate sentience in B-4. I don’t think there was any way you would have been able to find it, while doing your duty aboard the Enterprise.”

Bruce perked up, raising an eyebrow, “How did you get the development tools?”

T’Mera bit her lower lip, “If I tell you, you two have to swear to absolute secrecy on it, because I’m not giving them up or making them available to anyone.” At the look on Bruce Maddox’s face, she added, “Having the tools doesn’t make the programming or building of the Soong android any easier. All it did was let me find where the Reman program was. Oh, and give me an appreciation for just how insane Soong was.”

Bruce sighed, then shrugged his shoulders, “I swear not to speak of it outside of the four people in this room.”

Geordi gave a smile back to T’Mera, “Hey, Data’s one of the most ethical people I know, and you’re the woman he’s in love with, so you must be similar in that fashion. I won’t tell a soul.”

T’Mera opened her mouth to speak, then went wide-eyed, “Data, maybe you’d tell the story better than I would, since it was… your friend.”

Data raised an eyebrow, but obliged the holographer, “While we were at the Medical Center, Q visited me and heavily suggested a course of action that led to us finding one of Doctor Soong’s early laboratories. It was there that we found the handwritten notes he kept while working on the prototypes.” He tilted his head to the right, “It is a fairly short story, t’hy’la.”

Geordi shook his head, “You would think Q would have offered to just bring you back, but no, everything has to be a game with him.”

“He did offer. I turned him down.” Data went on to explain, “I felt that my new situation presented challenges I would rather overcome than avoid. T’Mera is correct, however. While the notes helped in my particular circumstance, it does not make it practical to replicate androids like me.”

Bruce nodded to that, “The irony that we needed a hologram to bring you back isn’t lost on me.” He glanced back at T’Mera, “I would still have loved to have seen the notes, just from the historical perspective, but if you’re positive they shouldn’t be seen, I’ll have to trust you.”

“Thank you for trusting me, Bruce.” T’Mera replied, “I’m not doing it just to keep some great thing to myself.”

After another hour of work, Bruce rose from his chair, “I have to get to work at the Institute, but when I can, I’ll be back to help. Good day, all of you.”

“Thank you for your help, Doctor Maddox.” Data dipped his head to the cyberneticist.

Geordi gave an acknowledging wave, “Take care of yourself, Doctor Maddox.”

T’Mera held up her right hand in the Vulcan salute, “Live long and prosper, Bruce.”

As Maddox exited the holostation, Data turned to regard T’Mera, “It is time for your liquid nutrition and rest.”

T’Mera rolled her eyes, but pushed the controls on her chair, directing it to the replicator. “Half a liter of LMRHP-zero-one in vanilla.” A tall glass appeared, filled with white liquid. With a grimace, she grabbed the glass and pushed her chair back to her workstation.

Geordi stood up and stretched, then walked over to stand next to T’Mera, “What’s all this? It’s a chart with colored lines?”

“This is the chart of Data’s emotion algorithms, in color-coded glory.” T’Mera took a large, quick gulp of liquid, then winced. “It took a while to match them up, but I’m pretty sure these are accurate.”

Geordi peered at the display, “It mostly seems to be grey, with little blips of blue until this point. What happens here, where there’s orange and a bit of light pink?”

T’Mera reached out with her right hand, widening the display into a floating hologram. “That is stardate 41134.8. Orange is happiness and pink is akin to affection, friendship, liking or a non-sexual attraction.” She returned to the task of drinking her liquid nutrition.

Data offered, as he worked, “My assignment aboard the Enterprise, and meeting Geordi.”

Geordi looked over at his friend, “Do you mind me seeing this? It almost seems like it’s an invasion of your privacy, poking through your emotions.”

Data smiled, “I do not mind you seeing them, since we are best friends, and I certainly do not mind T’Mera seeing them, since she is my…” he paused, as if searching for words, “My soulmate. In addition to the fact that she has to catalogue them for the transfer.”

Geordi gave a single nod to his friend, then looked at the display. He touched the display, making it scroll slightly to the left, “Whoa… what’s this spike of purple and orange? Stardate 41209.3.”

Data pressed his lips together, “The polywater virus. I was not immune to that, as it happened.” He frowned, “That reminds me. I need to remake my previous fingerprints.”

Geordi’s face took on a rueful smirk, “Yeah, I’d like to forget that day, too.” He looked along the chart, “Wow. There’s a huge spike of red, blue and black here. Stardate 41601.3.” He added quickly, “We’ll skip past that. I remember what it is, now.”

“Thank you, Geordi.” Data softly replied as he continued to fill the duranium rods with components.

“Maybe I shouldn’t be asking about these spikes.” Geordi stared up at the holo-display. “It seems like there’s so many bad memories.”

“Do not worry about difficulties for me, Geordi.” Data moved his mouth into a reassuring smile, “This is the first I am hearing of which color matches what, so I am also just as curious as to my past emotions and how they correlate to my experiences.”

Geordi raised and lowered his eyebrows, “All right, Data, if you’re sure.” He continued through the chart, “Spike of blue, black and … is that whitish-pink? On stardate 43678.6.”

“Lal ceased to function on that stardate at thirteen-hundred hours.” Data replied, “I believe the pale pink is non-sexual love.”

T’Mera nodded, in between sips and winces, “Correct.”

Geordi scrolled further in time, “There’s grey and red that are sort of low, and then they suddenly spike into red, a few blues and black. Stardate 43874.9?”

Data frowned at the date. “The two of you might lose respect for me if I tell you what happened on that date.”

T’Mera shook her head, “Doubtful, Bright Eyes. I love you, and that includes any mistakes you make or lapses in judgement.”

Geordi nodded, “Same from me, although not the same kind of love. If it’s too difficult to talk about, I understand.”

Data’s yellow eyes seemed to be looking somewhere beyond the room, then he said, “It is perhaps time I shared this with someone, and the two of you are the closest to me.”

The surrounding lab turned into the interior of an escape pod, as Data began to holographically display his memory record to T’Mera and Geordi.

 

A woman is screaming in agony from outside the shuttle. The scene changes to a greyish shuttle bay with a small escape pod in it. The point of view moves to see a red-haired woman in a teal and purple jumpsuit being slowly disintegrated by orange energy. The point of view turns to see a short, heavyset man with dark hair, dark eyes and thick eyebrows in ostentatious purple attire with an electronic device on his belt.

With a stunned expression, Kivas Fajo speaks to the point of view. "It's your fault. You knew the price for disobedience. And so did she. Well, there's always another Varria." He walks off behind the shuttle.

A pale whitish-gold hand picks up the disruptor on the floor in front of them, walks around the back of the escape pod and points it at Fajo's back.

Fajo turns around to look at the person holding the disruptor, "You won't hurt me. Fundamental respect for all living beings. That is what you said. I'm a living being, therefore you can't harm me."

Data's voice is clearly heard, emotionless and calm. "You will surrender yourself to the authorities." The point of view moves closer to Fajo.

Fajo shrugged, "Or what? You'll fire? Empty threat and we both know it. Why don't you accept your fate? You will return to your chair and you will sit there. You will entertain me and you will entertain my guests. And if you do not, I will simply kill somebody else. Him, perhaps."

The point of view moves to the left, to see a man in a grey and black jumpsuit getting up from the floor and looking dismayed at being threatened with death. The visual turns back to Fajo.

Fajo waves the man away, "It doesn't matter. Their blood will be on your hands too, just like poor Varria's. Your only alternative, Data, is to fire. Murder me. That's all you have to do. Go ahead. Fire. If only you could feel rage over Varria's death. If only you could feel the need for revenge, then maybe you could fire. But you're just an android. You can't feel anything, can you? It's just another interesting intellectual puzzle for you. Another of life's curiosities."

Data's voice is a soft, reluctant whisper, "I cannot permit this to continue." The disruptor in the hand is raised to aiming level.

Fajo goes wide-eyed, his hands held out in front of him and his body shaking with fear, "Wait. Your programming won't allow you to fire. You cannot fire. No!"

The disruptor's firing button is pressed, just as the shimmering of a transporter beam surrounds the field of vision.

 

The holographic replay ended, and the cybernetics lab was returned to its usual state.

“I am capable of murder.” Data lowered his head, staring at the ground.

T’Mera shook off her stun faster than Geordi. “I wouldn’t call that murder, Data. He pushed you into the Zeroth Law of Robotics.”

Geordi pulled himself together, “Data, he kidnapped you, faked your death, and he killed someone and blamed it on you and then threatened to kill more. You couldn’t have known we were coming for you, so you did what you had to do.”

Data raised his eyes, looking at the two of them, then walked over to the display, “Thank you both for the kind words.”

T’Mera raised her right hand to rub Data’s back, “Bright Eyes, if that had been me, that bastard would have been buried under anything heavy I could throw at him, long before you lost your temper. In this case, it seems you determined that your only logical course of action was to kill him, to save everyone else.”

Geordi spoke softly, offering, “It was a less than ideal situation, Data.” He looked back at the display, “I want to find positive colors. Which ones are they?”

T’Mera replied to the engineer, “Purple and pink are love and desire… usually positive… the orange range is happy.”

Geordi searched the scroll for the next positive spike, “There! A spike of purple, a bit of pink… Stardate 44215.8.”

A slightly amused expression spread across Data’s face. “That was Ishara Yar, Geordi.”

Geordi groaned, “All right, moving on.”

T’Mera took a bit more of her drink, “Poor Data. It’s not fair.”

Data moved his left hand to rub T’Mera’s back, “If she were here, Doctor Pulaski would at this juncture, no doubt, remind us, life is rarely fair.”

Geordi poked at the display, “Here! I found one with a pink spike, a little purple, an orange spike, a tiny blip of yellow and then a bit of blue. Stardate 44631.1. Those are positive, right? Except the yellow?”

T’Mera brought up a small reference display on the hologram, “Yellow is the fear range. That’s a light yellow, so it’s nervousness or anxiety.”

Data’s mouth lifted on the left side, for a lopsided smile, “That was the annual Cybernetics conference on Vulcan. That timestamp is the precise moment that I caught the gaze of a certain holographer, across a crowded room.”

T’Mera’s right eyebrow raised, “My body of work?”

Data nodded, “That is correct.” He turned to Geordi, “That is a positive memory with no corresponding tragedy.”

Geordi looked between the two, “You two met at the conference?”

Data shook his head, “Not precisely. I was watching her, but I was too nervous to approach her.”

Geordi scrolled back again, then pointed to an orange spike, “There. Just orange. Happy. What does that correspond to?”

Data peered at the stardate and timestamp, then said, “Counselor Troi’s mother and Mrs. Victoria Miller were engaging in petty bickering during the party for Counselor Troi and Wyatt Miller’s upcoming nuptials”

Geordi let out a hearty laugh, “I remember that! Everyone was on edge, and they were being catty, and you were circling the room like a buzzard, Data, observing all the human behaviors.” He grinned at T’Mera, “Counselor Troi finally had it, stood up and yelled “Stop the petty bickering!” and ran out. In the middle of the stunned silence from everyone, Data asks… How did you put it, Data?”

Data accessed the memory record, then spoke in a very polite tone of voice, “Could you please continue the petty bickering? I find it most intriguing.”

T’Mera began to laugh, “And you said you have no sense of humor, Data?”

“It was not meant as a humorous remark, although in hindsight, I do see the humor in it.” Data replied, then leaned down to kiss T’Mera, “I should return to the task at hand, but I have enjoyed the investigation of my past emotions.”

T’Mera returned the kiss, “All right, and I promise I’ll rest.”

Geordi smiled, “Thanks for the insight into Data. Sleep well, T’Mera.” He returned to the metallurgical analysis table and resumed the scans.

Data watched T’Mera for a few more minutes, as she turned on her ‘dome of silence’ and reclined the back of her medical support chair. He returned to working on the subprocessors for the brain, but kept part of his attention on the sleeping holographer’s condition.

Chapter Text

Year: 2381

Stardate: 58062.5

 

Geordi La Forge sat at the metallurgical analysis table, this time inspecting the duranium and cortenide pieces for T’Mera’s skull and skeleton. He looked to the center of the cybernetics lab where Data labored on the main assembly, then over to T’Mera, “Data’s been online constantly, working around the clock. I thought holograms need to be shut down at times or their matrix degrades?”

T’Mera shook her head, “Just the ones like the EMH. Lew forgot a few limiters, as usual, and if the EMH was on longer than expected, it caused a memory overrun error. Some of the other holo-program designers copied his style and wound up with the same error, which caused people to think that complex holograms need to be shut off every night.” She rolled her chair over to the metallurgical station, “There’s no danger for Data, in the least. Well, as far as being a hologram goes. I’m still nervous about the transfer back to a positronic brain.”

“Can I ask you something personal?” Geordi placed one of the rods in the inspected bin.

“Sure.” T’Mera nodded in reply. “Although if it’s too personal, I might not answer it.”

“Fair enough.” Geordi rubbed his beard, then asked, “As a woman, what attracted you to Data? What was the first thing you look at, when you look for a man?”

T’Mera raised both eyebrows for a moment, then furrowed them, “Hmm. I never looked for a man, at all, and nobody ever expressed a real interest in me, prior to Data.”

“Never?” Geordi’s eyes widened in disbelief. “What about dating?”

T’Mera shook her head, “The only kind of dating I ever did was quantum dating, and I only did that in a couple of undergraduate labs. As for Data, the first thing I noticed was his unusual eyes. Next, I noticed his subtle facial expressions and became interested in his myofibril, and I also thought he had amazing articulation in his hands.”

Geordi leaned forward and pinched the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes for a moment, “His articulation…”

“I believe that trying to ascertain the success of our relationship, in order to apply it to your own situation, might prove to be of little use, Geordi.” Data spoke from where he continued to coat the skeleton with the tripolymer composites. “She and I had extraordinary circumstances. Since I am an artificial lifeform, it also follows that there will be some aberrations in what physically attracts someone to me.”

T’Mera picked up one of the inspected bones to look at, “Hmm. I had seen Data almost each year at the conferences, from across rooms, but had never spoken to him. Of course, I’d read about him in various publications, and been called in as a consultant on a few of the cases dealing with him.” She smiled wistfully, “The first time we truly met and interacted, I was running a test on their neural nets. Data sang to me, danced with me, and then gave me a kiss that took my breath away. Then, we talked a while, in the Borg interface. For the next few months, we spent time with each other, both in reality and in the interface, and slowly became friends.”

“It was an extended process.” Data added to the conversation. “The proper conditions had to be met, and several variables had to be fully figured before I could formulate the proposition for romance.”

T’Mera replaced the metal bone to the bin, “I’m sorry we’re not more help, Geordi. From what I’m told, the answer is to just be yourself and be friends with someone first. Data and I grew our love slowly, like a…” she bit her lower lip, then finished with, “Fermented product.”

Data offered, “A fine wine? Delicately aged cheese? Lutefisk? Yogurt cultures?”

T’Mera laughed softly, “A fine wine would work.” She rolled her chair over to the main assembly area, watching Data apply the tripolymer composites as connective tissue and insulation.

Geordi laughed softly, then grinned toothily, “The “fermented product” sounds more like how Data would have described it.” He returned to scanning the metal, “The two of you have similar ways of seeing things and describing them, I guess.”

“Indeed.” Data smiled as T’Mera approached, “I had discounted Vulcans as possible partners, since I find their stark philosophy to be somewhat limited, but I had never before encountered a part-human, part-Vulcan person who had chosen not to follow the teachings of Surak. In a certain way, T’Mera is a reversed image of myself. I am devoted to a certain amount of logic by design, and while I do have feelings, I do not express them very well outwardly. She has no trouble expressing her feelings, yet is deeply analytical and logical in more hidden ways.”

T’Mera looked up at Data on the platform, “I wanted to ask if it’s too late to make a design change to you.”

Geordi chuckled, “Last minute design changes are always welcome, right?”

T’Mera stuck her tongue out at the engineer, “I’ve had enough of them thrust on me, in my life. It’s only fair that I get to ask for one.”

Data tilted his head, regarding the holographer, “What design change would you like?”

T’Mera held up her left arm, “In my own arm, I want a reinforced heel of the hand and knuckles. Under the knuckles, I’d like a variety of common console interfaces, and then in the heel, I’d like an interface port for you. I’d want you to have a matching one in the heel of your right hand.” She placed her hands together, to show the connection, “That way, we could just hold hands to interface with each other, instead of having a cable coming out of our heads.”

Data’s yellow eyes glanced down and to the left, “Calculating… stand by.” After a moment, he turned his attention back to T’Mera, “It is not too late to make that design change. I have added the interface to the specifications.”

“Thank you, Bright Eyes.” T’Mera pushed her chair to the replicator, “LMRHP01 peanut butter flavor.” She grabbed the newly materialized glass with light brown liquid in it and rolled back to her workstation.

Data replied while attaching bitanium servos to each skeletal joint. “You are most welcome, t’hy’la. I believe I can best accomplish what you described by adding a short-range wireless communications link through a magnetic induction contact in the palms of our hands. That would create a completely secure connection and not require any breaks in the bioplast.”

T’Mera grimaced after sipping the drink, “It sounds great.” She looked over at the engineer, “We’ll try not to be disgustingly or sweetly romantic around you, Geordi.”

Geordi smiled back at her, holding up both hands in a casual surrender gesture, “Hey, I’m happy Data finally found someone, and based on how the two of you speak, I don’t think I have to worry about there being much in the way of public gushing over each other.” He looked over at the holographic android, “Data, are you keeping yourself to the same coloring you used to have?”

“Yes, Geordi.” Data replied, “I briefly entertained the idea of altering my appearance to one that is more human, then decided against it. I will keep my eyes, skin and hair the same color they used to be. For T’Mera, I plan to have her keep the appearance she had before the Borg attack.”

“Data” Geordi grinned broadly, “This time, build in some buoyancy.” He turned to speak to T’Mera. “We went sailing on Devala Lake. He decided to go swimming, and when he jumped out of the boat he sank straight to the bottom. He had to walk a kilometer along the bottom to get back to shore.”

“Oh no.” T’Mera let out a soft chuckle.

Data corrected, “One kilometer, forty-six meters. I will make certain to build in buoyancy, this time, in both myself and T’Mera.”

T’Mera shook her head, “Soong built in all that sexual programming, but no swimming. Makes no sense.” She finished her liquid meal, then picked a random stick of gum from the container and popped it into her mouth.

Geordi rubbed his beard, “You know, T’Mera, you’re right. I never thought about it, before, although, I didn’t really think that much about Data’s sexuality, either. I suppose he figured Data wouldn’t drown, so why bother having him swim.”

“Rest assured, I am improving on the original design.” Data told the other two, “Although not by so much as to require all new programming. Just small improvements that will enhance my quality of life and which represent my actual activities, rather than what Doctor Soong assumed I would be doing.”

“Hmm.” T’Mera chomped her gum, then looked up from her display, “Data, are you sure you don’t want to differentiate yourself in appearance from the other four? This is assuming the two missing prototypes are even still around. If they aren’t, that still leaves two that are very identical to you.”

“I have never been bothered by that.” Data replied. “I realize that humans value their uniqueness and the sense that they are different from everyone else, but it never occurred to me to be different in physical appearance from the other Soong-type androids.” He paused, then offered, “B-4 wears his hat.”

T’Mera rolled her eyes, “Oh, yes, because a hat can’t be taken off…”

“Lore’s still dismantled.” Geordi added to the discussion, “I hope.”

T’Mera nodded, “As far as I know, he’s still in secured storage here, behind a thick vault. I was surprised nobody suggested just wiping Lore and transferring Data into that body, rather than starting a body from scratch.”

Data’s eyes flashed with alarm for a moment, “I would rather have remained destroyed, stuck in B-4 or spend eternity as this hologram than allow my program to run in Lore’s positronic matrix. He is far too dangerous, and I would not trust even the deepest level wipe to eradicate his personality.”

“I can attest to that.” Geordi frowned. “I’m not usually one to call anything evil, but Lore certainly qualified.”

“The two of you sound more like superstitious people, rather than rational scientists.” T’Mera made a small bubble with the gum, then snapped it back into her mouth, “All this fuss over some error-laden programming?”

“That error-laden programming took over my best friend and almost killed me.” Geordi shot back, “Damn right I’m being cautious about anyone saying he should be reactivated.”

“Lore, in his short times of activation, was responsible for the combined deaths of over seven hundred and thirty five Federation citizens.” Data rattled off, “That number is not including any Pakleds he might have killed or the amount of Borg drones he killed through experimentation, or any other deaths he might have caused which I am unaware of.”

“I didn’t say I wanted to activate him and have him to tea.” T’Mera told the men, “But I get the point. He’s extremely dangerous.”

Data’s expression was solemn as he stared across the room at T’Mera, “It is one of the reasons I will be making you stronger and more durable than I am.”

T’Mera tilted her head, “Are you sure that’s wise? I tend to have outbursts of emotion, after all.”

“You have outbursts that are very rapidly concluded.” Data responded, while he finished with the joint servos, “Moreover, the majority of your outbursts are verbal, not physical. You might threaten to shove a cucumber up an admiral’s posterior, however you have not actually carried out your threats. Your professional and personal background files only state that you tend to be argumentative. This leads me to conclude that you are quite controlled in all the important ways. I have more trust in you than I have in myself, when it comes to the handling of emotions.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Bright Eyes.” T’Mera smiled at the android-hologram, “I trust you, too.” She reached for the box of tissues, pulled one out, spit her gum into it, and dropped it into the recycler slot. “I think I’m going to turn on the dome of silence and rest a while.”

“Sleep well, t’hy’la.” Data dipped his head to her and watched as T’Mera reclined and closed her eyes, then he returned to working on the musculoskeletal system in the main assembly station.

Geordi rose from the metallurgical analysis station and walked over to join Data, “I finished the metal scans. No microfractures or defects. I’ll work on the hydraulic fluid distribution systems, since it looks like you’re almost ready for that.”

“Thank you, Geordi.” Data replied, giving his friend the customary single head nod. The two worked for several hours more, until Geordi needed to return to his quarters and rest. Data continued working, with short breaks to tend to T’Mera’s medical needs.

Chapter Text

Year: 2381

Stardate: 58076

 

Data, Geordi La Forge and Bruce Maddox all stood around the main assembly platform, putting the final touches on the skinless, metallic-grey android body, while Emily Vanzanen stood off to one side from the others, watching.

“Nutrient processing system and distribution are completed and in place.” Geordi announced, then tapped the PADD in his hand.

Bruce Maddox affixed clips to some of the piping, connecting it to the musculoskeletal system, “Cryo-fluid pressure system and fluidic subsystem regulators are filled, and the vascular fluid pumps are ready.”

Data acknowledged with a nod, “Hydraulic regulation unit is also in place, as is the chemical fuel reaction unit and individual power cells. Primary power couplings, shielding and breakers are where they should be. The locomotor neural net is finished and the sensory neural net is in place and awaiting eventual attachment to the bioplast.” He fiddled with the neck for a moment, “The spatial orientation servos are well-seated.”

Emily watched from the side, “This is what you look like without skin? Lots of metal, plastic, wires, connection ports and lights?”

“Indeed.” Data replied with a slight smile, “This is the inner workings of a Soong-type android. Once the matrix transfer is successful, I can add the tear ducts, hair follicles, myofibril and bioplast and the final sensory net connections.”

“So much work.” Emily whistled softly as she looked over the intricate body, “It’s like you all put a human being together, cell by cell.”

“That’s what it feels like.” Geordi smiled at the woman, “I thought it was hard just maintaining and fixing Data. I never realized the scope of creating him.”

“What does each thing do in there?” Emily walked closer to the body, then lightly touched one of the arms on the metal. “Sorry for so many questions. I’ve worked on many systems before, but nothing that was anywhere near the complexity or detail of this.”

“My skull is made of cortenide and duranium, with extra layers of shielding, since it has to protect my main memory core and positronic matrix.” Data began to point out each system on the body. “My spinal support has some duranium rods for vertebrae, which protect the main power cell and backup memory core. The bulk of my actual skeleton is a molybdenum-cobalt polyalloy designed to withstand extreme stress, but which also allows for flexibility in the spine and rib cage.” He moved the arm that Emily was touching, showing how the various materials flexed, “My muscles are a combination of bitanium servos layered with tripolymers, which give me increased strength and are tightly woven, which makes them resistant to ballistic projectiles and some energy weapons. All the fluidic systems are encased by the tripolymers, as is my locomotion system. The sensory network runs through everything, but will be connected to all the sensors in the bioplast sheeting that comprises my skin. The bioplast is slightly protective, but is porous and mimics human skin in most ways.”

Emily removed her hand and returned to stand just outside of the main work area on the platform, “So many different parts to put together just right.”

“It is a formidable task.” Data checked around the neck once more, then called out, “T’Mera, I am ready to attach the positronic cortex unit and cranial assembly.” He turned to look in her direction, then blinked in surprise.

The back of T’Mera’s tunic was pulled up a bit over the back of her head like a hood, and she walked with a limp that included dragging her right prosthetic leg behind her a bit. In her hands, she carried the android skull with the positronic brain inside of it. As she made her way up to the main assembly, she held out the skull to Data, “Here it is. It belonged to… Abby Normal.” With four pairs of eyes staring blankly at her, she waited until Data took the skull and then pulled her tunic down to its proper place. “I guess that’s another holovid to watch together…”

Bruce Maddox smiled his usual tight-lipped smile, “I forgot what it was like to work with you.”

Data began the task of setting the cranial unit onto the body assembly, “I find T’Mera’s capacity to generate witticisms an endearing quality.” He attached the cables to the various ports in the panels of the brain.

Geordi grinned, shaking his head, “At least you can try out jokes on her , Data, instead of me.”

T’Mera sighed as she headed to the console near the main assembly, and began to tap on the console. Four 3D holographic displays formed and floated in the air near her.

Emily moved to stand near T’Mera, “You’ll be doing the transfer soon?”

T’Mera nodded to Emily, “Yes. Once Data gives me the say so. What I have here is the current holomatrix neural net approximation of Data on the far left. The left central display contains the last map I had of his neural net when he was in B-4. The right central display is going to be the positronic neural net after it’s transferred into the new body, with a debugger log running. Far right is the verification display.”

“Flow regulator online. Osmotic pressure at optimal level.” Geordi called out.

Bruce Maddox added to the checklist, “Motor pathways functioning. Autonomic nodes active. ”

Data nodded, then turned on the main power to the body. Red and green lights began to flash asynchronously, as each system powered up. “Main fuel cell is functioning at expected parameters. All primary, secondary and tertiary power cells are charging. Subprocessor relays in place and neuroelectrical systems enabled. Polarizer circuits are activated. Input polarizers are fully functional.” He turned to T’Mera, “You may begin the transfer.”

T’Mera bit her lower lip, “Initializing. Positronic subprocessors are passing self-checks. It's the bottom of the ninth at the home stretch, with two Hobbits on Mount Doom. Beginning the transfer protocols.” The far right display began to scroll text, while the right central display began to show red lines zipping along and branching, in geometric patterns, first forming neurons, and then dendrites. “Positronic relays are accepting the transfer.” She let out a long exhale of relief.

Geordi held up a hand scanner near the positronic brain, “No sign of phase variance, so far. Everything seems smooth.” Tiny red and green lights began to flash along the areas of the grey metallic skull panels, while, in a few places, static amber lights activated and remained steadily lit.

Data watched the displays, his super-fast brain able to keep up with the rapid rate of information, “Successful transfer of the heuristic associative pathways. Ready for memory engrams.”

“Transferring primary memory storage engrams.” T’Mera read off each set as they downloaded into the android brain. “Primary memory transfer verified. Starting secondary memory storage.” She glanced at Emily for a moment, then back to the display, “Secondary memory transfer is verified. Beginning the verification of all subroutines.” She looked at Data and smiled, “You sure do have a concentrated plethora of dendrites, and it seems very thick in the center, like both of your hemispheres are connected better than most human brains.”

Emily suddenly frowned, “Wait a minute. When the android activates, won’t that mean there’s two of Data?”

Data nodded once to Emily, “Yes. There will be two of us, with nearly identical memories and personalities, if the transfer succeeds. One of us will have an isolinear brain and photonic body, while the other will have a positronic brain and an android body.”

T’Mera watched the the displays, while telling the others, “Once we know if the android is successful, the photonic version will be deactivated.”

“T’hy’la…” Data pressed his lips together with hesitation, “I have decided that both versions of myself should remain active until your body is finished. As a photonic, I work much faster than an android version of myself would. Meanwhile, the android version can see to your physical needs, thus allowing me to continue working during every possible moment, while assisting me when you do not need care.”

“Dammit, Data.” T’Mera shook her head, “Fine. I can’t argue against it. Very logical. However, when the time comes, you must be deactivated.”

“Agreed.” Data answered, then returned to monitoring the body in the assembly station. “I have no desire to remain a hologram longer than is required.”

“Bright Eyes…” T’Mera peered at one of her displays, “Should your interlink sequencer be in asynchronous operation? B-4's was synchronous.”

“The interlink sequencer is bidirectional, which compensates for the asynchronous mode distortion arising from the resonant field.” Data responded, “It was a change I made in my own processing, to improve my computational speeds. Will that affect the transfer?”

“It shouldn’t.” T’Mera glanced nervously at the console, then over at the others. “But the time to mention that you differ from B-4 in that way might have been when I was writing the file transfer protocols.”

Geordi eyed the holographer, “You don’t sound too sure of it.”

T’Mera placed her right hand over her forehead, “I’ve never done this before, Geordi. We’ll know pretty soon if this worked. Verification is nearly complete.”

Bruce Maddox spoke up as his scanner beeped, “Positronic net online.”

T’Mera placed her left hand on the far left holographic display, pushing it to overlay on the central right display. She pushed it away, then expanded the central left display to overlay it on the central right. “Neural net pattern match achieved.” She let out a melodramatic cackle and yelled, “IT’S COMPILED! IT’S COMPILED!”

Emily jumped back, startled by T’Mera’s shouting, then shook her head, “I don’t know that I can get used to that…” She jumped again, as the android in the cage suddenly moved.

The android’s arms jerked upwards, each hand gripping the vertical cage support in front of it. The head turned with quick, birdlike movements, “I am accessing!”

Geordi leaned in, asking, “Do you know who you are and where you are?”

“I am Lieutenant Commander Data.” He turned his face towards Geordi, “This is the holostation at the Daystrom Institute on Galor IV.” His head turned towards each person present, “Geordi… Doctor Maddox… Doctor Vanzanen... T’Mera... “ then finally to the holographic version of himself, “Data.”

Bruce Maddox furrowed his brow with concern, “How soon will we know if this positronic matrix is stable?”

“Within hours, I would think.” T’Mera told the cyberneticist. “The biggest danger is during the formation of sentience, when they’re erasing Soong’s programming and starting newer, more complicated neural pathways. Since Data’s are all formed, and he’s been sentient for decades, the risk of cascade should be low. I hope.”

Bruce Maddox raised an eyebrow, “Erasing Soong’s programming?”

T’Mera leaned against the console, then explained, “When Doctor Soong created an android, he laid down a small, basic operating system in his own proprietary language. His positronic brains are supposed to become heuristic, which means that as soon as they learn something superior to what’s there, they create a new pathway and erase the previous one. Data has almost none of the original programming he contained when the Tripoli found him.”

Bruce blinked, as how eyebrows knit together, “I knew they were capable of learning, but I didn’t realize it went so far as to overwrite the original groundwork.”

“They’re really more like artificial humans than they are androids.” T’Mera tapped on the console as she spoke, “Data, I’m going to run a verification on your emotional algorithms, now.”

“That is acceptable.” Both photonic and positronic Datas answered in unison, with a single head nod.

Geordi shook his head, “This’ll take some getting used to.”

Photonic Data dipped his head in apology, “I had best get to work on finishing my body. If anyone is unsettled at the thought of seeing me without clothing, now is the time to leave.”

Emily held up her hand, “Thank you for letting me watch this, but that will be my cue to leave.” She turned to T’Mera, “I hope everything goes as planned.”

“I’ll let you know.” T’Mera replied, then pointed to a container near the door. “Don’t forget B-4’s toys.”

Emily smiled as she turned, “I’ll get them right now.” She walked to the container, lifted it, and then walked out through the connecting doors.

Bruce Maddox held a hand scanner near the android Data’s brain, “Everything seems to be working properly. I should be getting back to the Institute, but if you need me, use the comm.” He placed the scanner on a nearby table.

“Thank you for your help, Doctor Maddox.” Photonic Data gave a single head nod to the cyberneticist.

T’Mera raised her right hand in the Vulcan salute, “Peace and long life, Bruce.”

Bruce Maddox smiled, then left through the connecting doorway to the rest of the Institute.

T’Mera looked over at Geordi, “Are you leaving, as well?”

Geordi leaned back against the railing behind him, “I might. It looks like Data’s new body and brain are functioning, and I might be more in the way than helpful, as far as putting on the bioplast. Plus, we’ve been at this all day, and I could use a rest.”

“Thank you, Geordi.” The android Data looked over at the engineer. “We will see you tomorrow.”

“You got it, Datas.” Geordi gave everyone a broad smile, then made his way out the doors.

“Now, it’s just the three of us.” T’Mera told the two Datas. “Algorithm matching is positive, so far. How do you feel? How do your memories feel?” She quickly added, “Android-body Data is the one who should answer. I already know the Photonic Data is doing fine.”

“Photonic Data is also busy with the final touches to the body.” the hologram of Data replied, as he attached the bioplast to the feet and legs of the android.

Android-body Data turned his metallic head to regard T’Mera, “I am functioning within normal parameters, so far, although I have yet to run a self-diagnostic. I will do so, once you are finished with the algorithms. I have also noticed that the frequency of your witticism generation has increased by nineteen percent, leading me to conclude that you are compensating for a reduced rate of physical well-being.”

T’Mera lowered her chin and leveled her gaze at the android, “I see your nagging subroutine transferred over. You are not incorrect, however, there is nothing I can do about my declining health. Logic dictates that I should increase the rate at which I joke.”

Android-Data lifted each foot in turn, to allow Photonic Data to finish the soles of his feet. “You have a different approach to logic than most Vulcans.”

“That part is human logic.” T’Mera smiled at Data, “Humans can be logical, you know.”

“I am aware of that.” Android-Data replied, turning as the Photonic version covered his thighs, hamstrings, adductors and abductors, “I had been using Captain Picard as a role model in my quest to be more human, when Ambassador Spock described him to me as “remarkably analytical and dispassionate, for a human.” I had not considered that, but when I thought more upon it, I realized it made sense. Ambassador Spock was half human and half Vulcan, yet chose to follow the Vulcan way.”

“My father and brother did the same.” T’Mera leaned against the console, then glanced at the readouts. “I just felt it made no sense for me to reject or ignore part of what I am in favor of the other part. I am both, and I decided to be both logical and emotional. They are not mutually exclusive.”

“No, I suppose not.” Android-Data replied, then quipped, “My penis is about to be attached permanently, unless you wished for the interchangeable one with the pleasure attachments?”

T’Mera eyed the two Datas, “The singular, permanent one is fine. Carry on.”

Photonic Data began to softly laugh, then attached the bioplast sex organs to the android.

“Have you incorporated the amygdala, yet?” Data turned again, letting the Photonic Data wrap bioplast around his gluteus muscles and abdominal area.

“Not yet.” T’Mera tapped on the console, “I was making sure all your emotions are correctly in place. Let’s do a quick check. Bring up a memory that you know for certain is attached to annoyance.”

Android-Data accessed for a moment, “I have found a perfect one for the test.” then recalled it in full:

 Doctor Pulaski stood over Data at the ops console, then turned to talk to Captain Picard, "It does know how to do these things, doesn't it?"

Captain Picard answered sternly, "Commander Data knows precisely what he is doing."

The doctor turned back to Data, "Forgive me, Mister Data. I'm not accustomed to working with non-living devices that--" then looked back at Data's eyes as he turned to stare at her, "Forgive me again. Your service record says that you are alive. I must accept that."

As the android accessed memories, Photonic Data added bioplast over both arms, the torso and the back, attaching each section with care.

 “Wonderful.” T’Mera smiled as she watched the display, “Little blip of red and blue with a slight bit of grey. I’m not sure how strong to test you, or whether we should do the full psychological stimuli visual reaction test or not.” She looked back up at the main assembly cage, “You have your eyes now.”

“Indeed.” Android-Data smiled back at T’Mera, while the Photonic version attached bioplast to his neck and face, “I am nearly complete. I do not think we need to do a full test on me. If I begin to show signs of instability, then we can do them. I would say that you can add the amygdala to me now.” He blinked his eyes, trying out the eyelashes, “Fourier system interval is working.”

T’Mera tapped at the console, “Transferring. You should have it, now.”

“I have incorporated it into my programming.” Android-Data glanced down and to the left. “Initiating amygdala.”

T’Mera left the console area, walked over to the android, and unplugged the cables from the access ports in his head, “All done, then.”

Android-Data ducked his head to allow Photonic Data to attach the bioplast panel overlays and hair above the access ports, then reached up to touch the chestnut hair on his head, “A full length mirror, if you please, Data?”

Photonic Data nodded, “Of course, Data.” and a mirror materialized next to the android version. “I will begin the work on T’Mera’s brain, now.” He walked off to the nanofabrication area.

T’Mera stood behind Android-Data as he looked himself over in the mirror. “It looks like you, no?” She reached up with her right hand, placed it on his back, and slowly tracing her fingers over the new bioplast.

Android-Data turned around in place, “I look like me. I feel like me.” He leaned forward to kiss her on the lips, “The essence of my interactions with you has not been altered with the most recent change in my physical form. It is, however, nice to finally kiss you with lips that are truly mine and hold you in arms that belong to me.” He gently wrapped his arms around her, then lifted her into a cradle carrying position.

“What are you doing?” T’Mera reached up to place her right hand on his shoulder, and leaned her head against the right side of his chest.

“You are exhausted.” Android-Data walked down the platform risers, towards T’Mera’s quarters. “I am going to tend to your biological needs and do what I can to help you sleep.”

T’Mera grumbled, running her fingers over his left nipple, “We should celebrate the successful transfer.”

“Once I have handled your medical needs, it will be time to bathe you.” Data carried her inside the private suite, and carefully removed her tunic with one hand, while the other easily held her up. “Do you wish to begin the celebration while we are in the bath?”

T’Mera moved to allow the tunic sleeves to slip off, “That sounds like a good idea, Bright Eyes.” She poked at his chest, “Then, we should relax and watch that holovid. Unless the other Data needs you?”

Data shook his head as he gently removed her leggings, “He will be working on the brain, which he is far better suited to do. When you finally fall asleep, I will go help him.”

T’Mera nuzzled against the bioplast, “Will he be jealous of us?”

“No.” Data spoke softly as he carried her into the bathroom, “He and I are the same person. I cannot be jealous of myself.” He set her down on the bench in the large tub, then stepped in.

As Data took care of the various medical issues, T’Mera began to softly sing. Her voice reverberated in the favorable acoustics created by the tiled room, “ Give me these moments back... Give them back to me... Give me that little kiss... Give me your hand.

Data accessed the song lyrics, then sang the next part of the song back to her, “I know you have a little life in you yet... I know you have a lot of strength left... I should be crying, but I just can't let it show... I should be hoping, but I can't stop thinking… ” He cupped her left cheek with his right hand, “My father had so many regrets about losing my mother. I do not intend to lose you, t’hy’la. I do not wish there to be ‘all the things we should have done, but never did’ or ‘all the things we should have said, but never did.’”

“I know.” T’Mera looked into the bright yellow eyes, “I’ll do my best, Data, to keep living until the transfer is done. I promise that I’ll rest more, now that my work is done.”

Data finished with the medical needs, then turned on the water to fill the tub. “Thank you.” He moved himself to sit down, then positioned T’Mera atop his lap, with her legs straddling his hips. “Are you certain you will be able to do this?”

T’Mera smiled with a nod, “I’ll need your strength to hold me, but yes.” She leaned forward to kiss him, “Let’s properly welcome your new android body into life.”

Data smiled up into her dark eyes as he entered her body, “I cannot think of a better welcome.” He fell silent as the two of them celebrated for a while.

Chapter Text

Year: 2381

Stardate: 58078.7

 

Data was in the middle of pulling a science-blue jumpsuit on over the black turtleneck undershirt and shorts, when he noticed T’Mera twitching in her sleep. He walked over to where she lay in her reclined support chair and gazed down at her face. Beneath her eyelids, the eyes were moving back and forth, indicating REM sleep. He placed his left hand on her forehead, then frowned as his sensors indicated a slight elevation in temperature.

T’Mera’s eyes flew open as she gasped. For a moment, she seemed unaware of her surroundings, but then her body relaxed. “You’re here.”

“I am here.” Data reassured the holographer, “You were having a nightmare, I believe.”

T’Mera raised her right hand to press the buttons on the right arm of the chair, bringing the reclined seatback to a nearly upright position, “I’m not sure where I was, but I was eight or nine months pregnant with your child. I was trying to get on a shuttle before it left.”

Data raised an eyebrow, “I cannot reproduce biologically.”

“Neither can I, anymore.” T’Mera replied, “But dreams are what they are. They don’t always reflect reality.”

“Accessing…” Data’s yellow eyes glanced downwards and to the right, then returned to watch T’Mera’s face, “According to some interpretations, pregnancy dreams can often symbolize an aspect of yourself or some aspect of your personal life that is growing and developing. They may also represent the birth of a new idea, direction, project or goal. I find this summary to be consistent to the current circumstances of your life.”

T’Mera smiled up at the android, “Thank you, Data Freud.” then she glanced at his jumpsuit, “Blue for you and gold for the photonic?”

Data nodded, returning to the task of fastening the jumpsuit, “While it should be obvious which of us is an android and which is a hologram, I have decided to take your advice to differentiate further from the other Data.”

“I like how the blue jumpsuit makes your eyes almost look green.” T’Mera tilted her head to the right. “I also like how your hair color changes, depending on the lighting, as well. Sometimes it seems like your hair is nearly black, and then at other times, it picks up the light and turns auburn. You also don’t have it styled back so severely, here. I like it when it’s a bit mussed.” A soft smile spread across her lips, “Listen to me, waxing poetic about you. What are the Double Datas up to, today?”

“The photonic version of me is working on building your brain and body.” Data hesitated for a moment, then continued, “Geordi wishes for me to meet with him to celebrate at Giskard’s restaurant in the central common area here. I am reluctant to leave you.”

T’Mera pushed her chair over towards the small dresser and opened one of the drawers, “You should go with him. You’ve been trapped in a variety of bodies over the past ten months, so it could be good for you to take a walk. I’m sure Photonic Data will watch over me.”

Data moved to the dresser, “It is an advantage of being able to be in two places at the same time.” As she pulled out a crimson velvet halter, he reached for it, in order to help her dress. “I will also need to send a subspace message to Captain Picard, letting him know that I have returned to android functionality, and asking for an extension of my current leave. I will need to get clearance for you to live aboard the Enterprise, and to ask for shuttlebay space for the Ghost.”

T’Mera blinked as Data set her halter in place and fastened it in the back in three places, “I hadn’t thought of that. If the transfer succeeds, I’ll be living with you?”

“That was the general idea, was it not?” Data smoothed the halter out, then grabbed a black wraparound skirt to fasten around T’Mera’s waist, “We will be together, wherever I am. I am simply assuming it will be the Enterprise. Do you wish to wear your legs?”

T’Mera shook her head, smoothing out the skirt over the edge of the chair, “Not today. I’ll rest and maybe do a little bit of holovid transfer work.”

“Do you require any of the painkillers?” Data checked on the chair receptacles, then pulled out the small medkit.

T’Mera hesitated, then replied, “Maybe the improvoline, so I can work but not get silly.”

Data removed the hypospray and inserted the five cc vial of improvoline into it, “It should be sufficient.” He pressed it against her neck, then returned it to the case. “I will roll you out to your workstation, then get your nutritional supplement. Which flavor do you desire?”

“Strawberry.” T’Mera let her head drop back, to stare up at the android behind her chair. “Thank you for taking care of me.”

Data pushed her chair to her workstation, then leaned down to kiss her fully on the mouth. “You are most welcome, but it is my greatest wish to be an attentive mate to you.” He crossed the room, then ordered the strawberry liquid from the replicator. “Data, please watch over T’Mera while I am out with Geordi?”

Photonic Data looked over from where he worked at the main assembly, “I will be happy to do so, Data.”

Data carried the glass of pink liquid to T’Mera, “Here is your meal, and your chewing gum is next to you, as is your cup of water. Is there anything more you require, before I go meet Geordi?”

“Just one more kiss?” T’Mera lifted her chin towards the android.

Data placed his hand gently beneath her chin and leaned down to give her a tender, lingering kiss. “I cherish every moment of our romantic affiliation.” He smiled softly, then turned and crossed the room, to leave by the automatic doors. Outside the holostation, a sign pointed down a long corridor to the common area. He traversed the 24.38 meters until he arrived at the circular area that held the gathering places, food, beverages and the Daystrom Institute Robotics Annex Bookstore and Gift Shop. He turned left, and headed to the restaurant labeled Giskard’s.

 

Geordi was waiting by the entrance, “Data!” He walked over and clapped the android on the shoulder, “It’s great to see you walking freely. I hope you’re not in the doghouse by going out without T’Mera?”

“T’Mera has not stated any sort of desire for canine companionship at this point, so it is doubtful.” Data replied, lowering his chin and raising both eyebrows.

Geordi chuckled, “I really missed those responses.”

“Your laughter suggests I have been too literal-minded.” Data stated good-naturedly, “Ah. In The Doghouse... A situation in which someone is angry at you for something you did or did not do. To be in mild or temporary disfavor. In a situation of being the object of someone's anger or disapproval. Frequently used to describe a situation in which one is experiencing the anger of a spouse or romantic partner.” After he rattled off the listing, he told Geordi, “I do not believe I am in a doghouse. T’Mera’s exact words to me were “You should go with him.””

Geordi led Data inside the restaurant, “That could mean either go or not, though, depending on the woman.” He chose a table and sat down. “Some women will tell you to go out with a friend, but are really just waiting to see if you’ll do it or whether you’ll choose to stay with them, instead. Then, if you do go out, they get angry.”

Data sat down across from Geordi, knitting his eyebrows slightly, “Lieutenant D’Sora did such things. She would tell me to return to what I had been doing, yet became upset when I did exactly as she instructed. T’Mera has shown no similar behaviors. For our entire association, she has always meant exactly what she has said.”

Geordi picked up the menu to peruse, “That’s good, Data. It’s hard enough to be with a woman who expects a man to read her mind, when you’re human. I can’t imagine how hard it was for you.”

“The unpredictable nature of the variables involved in a relationship with Lieutenant D’Sora were extremely challenging, to say the least. I experience none of those challenges with T’Mera. I believe that when she says I should go with you, she expects me to go.” Data picked up the menu, then raised an eyebrow as the server approached.

The server was a woman standing 1.67 meters tall, with dark brown hair, tawny skin with pink undertones, curvaceous body and unblinking bright blue eyes. She wore a red tunic with silver print flowers over glittering silver stockings and black pumps. A gold chain with a heavy pendant hung from her neck. The number on the pendant was 15. She approached the table and spoke haltingly. “I am Alice Fifteen. May… I take your order? Do you require… more time?”

Geordi smiled at the server, “I’ll have a glass of iced coffee and the pasta alla fiorella.” He looked across at Data, “Are you getting anything?”

Data replied to Geordi, “I believe that I wish to test my new body’s functions fully.” He turned to Alice Fifteen, “I will have the iced coffee and pasta alla fiorella, as well.” He paused, studying the server, then noticed that many of the other servers were identical, but with different numbers on their pendants, “You are an android?”

“That is correct.” Alice Fifteen smiled at Data. “Two iced coffees and two pasta alla fiorella plates.”

“May I inquire as to your construction?” Data tilted his head, looking up at her.

Alice’s unblinking eyes and smile remained static, “This body is covered with a self-renewing plastic over a skeleton of beryllium-titanium alloy. The estimated duration of this model is five hundred thousand years. Do you require anything else?”

Data narrowed his left eye and raised his right eyebrow, “Alice Fifteen, what is your favorite color?”

Alice Fifteen’s pendant began to flash, “I am not programmed to respond in this area.”

“Never mind.” Data waved her off, “Just the nourishment and beverages, then.” He looked back at Geordi.

Geordi grinned back at Data, “They aren’t sentient. You nearly caused her to crash, I think.”

“I had never met one of the Galor IV androids, before.” Data moved his mouth slightly to the left, “I see I was not missing much.”

Geordi turned his head, watching the server head to the kitchen, “They’re pretty, at least.”

Data’s head turned in a quick movement, “Hmm. I suppose they do have a certain aesthetic quality to them, but I prefer a woman who is more intellectually stimulating.” He looked back at Geordi, “I am planning to contact Captain Picard, after this, and ask his permission to bring T’Mera and her ship aboard the Enterprise, assuming he still wishes me on his crew.”

Geordi rubbed his beard, “Will T’Mera be happy living on a starship?”

Data replied softly, “She was born on the Niagara-class Wellington, to two Starfleet officers, and was raised there until she was of the age to study at the Daystrom Institute. While she, herself, never joined Starfleet, she has not forgotten what life aboard a starship is like. I believe that you and she have that in common.”

“Oh yeah? I didn’t know that about her.” Geordi smiled, then leaned back to let Alice Fifteen set their food and drinks on the table.

Data dipped his head to the android, “Thank you, Alice Fifteen.” He picked up a fork in his left hand and began to prod one of the pasta pieces as if checking it for lifesigns.

“I’d kind of heard of Doctor Chipman before, but just her work and a couple of the issues from the Enterprise D. I never knew her personal background.” Geordi began to eat his pasta, then told Data, “Just pick it up with the fork, put it in your mouth, chew and swallow.”

Data did as instructed, then chewed thoughtfully, “High concentration of sodium and carbohydrates, liberal amount of lipids and cellulose.” He took another bite and chewed, then declared, “I like it.” He took another piece, then pressed his lips together, “Geordi, do you foresee any problems with my returning to the Enterprise and bringing a romantic partner with me?”

Geordi swallowed his current forkful, then washed it down with the coffee, “I don’t see why there should be problems. Off the record, I think Captain Picard misses you. Also, nobody else was ever able to hold down three positions at once, or do double shifts. I think he wants you back, and if having you back means he gets a second android and needs to make space in the shuttlebay, he’ll do it.”

“T’Mera’s ship is…” Data paused, as if hunting for words, then continued, “Unusual. You will see when we use it to travel to Terlina III.” He tasted the iced coffee and made a higher-pitched, “Mmm. This has an intriguing blend of lactose, sucrose, caffeine and caffeol from a Maillard reaction. I believe I like it.”

“So, this program she wrote for you.” Geordi regarded his friend, “It’s letting you feel emotions and whether you like or dislike something?”

Data nodded as he took another sip of coffee, “Yes. It lets me choose the level of intensity that I wish to feel, as well. Doctor Soong’s emotion chip not only did not let me choose levels, any feeling that I experienced was at a degree of intensity that I doubt humans actually encounter on a regular basis.”

“Either no engines or warp ten, eh?” Geordi shook his head, “You seem much more balanced, now.”

Data pressed his lips together, with an expression of shame on his face, “Sometimes, I wonder if I should simply delete the memory engram with Amargosa on it. The only positive fact I can state about that incident is that I am glad you were the only one to witness it. Losing control over oneself is unpleasant.”

Geordi smiled at his friend, “Data, everyone has embarrassing memories they wish they could forget. Just try not to dwell on those.”

“Sound advice, my friend.” Data lifted his iced coffee glass and held it up in a toast, “Here is to…” He glanced down for a moment, then continued, “To friends and the future.”

Geordi lifted his glass to clink against Data’s, “To having you back with us.”

Data smiled and dipped his head once, then took a long sip of the coffee. Once his mouth was wet enough, he pursed his lips and began to whistle the ‘Best of Buddies’ tune that T’Mera had whistled on their walk.

Geordi blinked in surprise, “Data! You’re whistling!”

Data smiled back at Geordi, “Indeed, I can finally whistle. I am still slightly off-key, but I feel it is serviceable.” He finished off the rest of the pasta on his plate. “I have yet to be able to sneeze properly, however that is a minor issue.”

Geordi finished his meal, “Yeah, I wouldn’t worry about the sneezing.” He wiped his mouth with the napkin next to his place setting. “What needs to be done on T’Mera’s body today?” He winced, “That never sounds right.”

“It is all right, Geordi.” Data smiled at the engineer, “The fluidic systems will need to be assembled. Everything else is ahead of schedule, since I assist myself while T’Mera sleeps.”

Geordi stood up and pushed his chair out, “Let’s get you back to her, then, and get more work done.”

Data stood up right after Geordi, “After you.”

Geordi left the restaurant with Data right behind him, and the two walked down the Eastern corridor, back to Holostation One. The doors whooshed open, letting both men inside.

 

T’Mera was near the doors, on the comm panel, speaking to a woman. The conversation seemed to be coming to an end, as the holographer was speaking, “Thank you, again, Ms. Shaw. This should make sure everything goes smoothly.”

The woman on the display nodded, “I’ll have it for you in a day or two. Shaw out.” The display went dark.

T’Mera turned when the doors opened. She smiled, “Did you two have a good time?”

Data walked over to T’Mera and bent to kiss her, “It was quite enjoyable. How are you feeling?”

Geordi waved as he walked inside, “Hi, T’Mera. I’m going to go right to work.”

T’Mera nodded to Geordi, then looked back up at Data, “A bit sedated, but I managed to do some work and get some legal matters wrapped up.”

“Legal matters?” Data raised an eyebrow.

T’Mera held out her right hand to take Data’s left hand, “If the transfer works perfectly, the resultant android will legally still be me, and will be considered a fal-tor-pan with a prosthetic body. My legal rights and identity will not change from what they are right now. If that fifty percent chance happens, and the android isn’t really sentient, she becomes your property. Not the Federation’s, not Starfleet’s. Yours.”

Data gently squeezed T’Mera’s hand, “That is acceptable. Thank you for thinking about such things before they become a problem. May I push you to your console?”

“All right, Bright Eyes.” T’Mera relaxed as Data rolled her across the room to her workstation. “I have a question. Will you know how to do a synaptic scan transfer, when we get to Terlina III?”

Photonic Data looked up from his labors, “I assume you’ll be answering that, Data?”

Data nodded to his duplicate, “For the sake of ease, it might be best if I handle all the conversational needs, Data.”

“Agreed.” Photonic Data returned to building the endoskeletal framework for the female android.

Geordi pinched the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes with a sigh.

“I should be able to figure out what to do, once I see the equipment that he used on Juliana.” Data replied to the question, “I am hoping it will not be in disrepair, since Doctor Soong would have died approximately fourteen years ago, assuming he died shortly after we left him.”

“Left him?” T’Mera raised an eyebrow.

Data nodded to the holographer as he walked to the servo workstation, “Yes. It was his wish to be left alone to die there.”

Dark, Vulcan eyes stared at the android, as T’Mera raised her voice slightly in incredulity, “Wait… You just left him alone there to die? So, when we open the doors, we’ll be greeted with a decomposing corpse?”

Geordi looked up from the hydraulics construction, “Oh, geez, Data, that’s right. We never did go back, even to bury the man.”

“In retrospect, I see the error of leaving him behind and not returning to check.” Data replied to the other two, “After 14 years, decomposition would be mostly completed, leaving not much more than a skeleton and possibly some mummified tissue. The important thing will be in finding his notes on Juliana’s transfer, and the equipment he used.”

“Oh, that’s a comfort…” T’Mera lifted her cup to drink a bit of water. “You said that your father had regrets about her?”

“Yes.” Data replied as he looked over the servo calibration and testing, “He had brought her back perfectly as an android, but being alone on Terlina III with him and having no real life or social interactions began to have an effect on her. He was so busy in his work that he paid no attention to her, and she left him.”

T’Mera tilted her head to the right, “How did you find all this out?”

“Doctor Soong had placed an information chip inside Juliana, with a holographic interface, so he could explain to anyone who found out the truth about her.” Data told the holographer.

“Odd. How could he have put the chip inside of her with the knowledge that she left him, unless he did it after she had already departed?” T’Mera mused.

Geordi looked up from his work, with a stunned expression on his face, then looked over at the android version of Data.

Both the android and photonic versions of Data had halted work at the exact same moment, with the same deep frown and processing expression. The photonic Data shook his head and continued his work, while the android Data let out an exclamation, “ Son of a bitch !

Geordi blinked at Data’s outburst, “Are you okay, Data?”

Data turned to view both T’Mera and Geordi, “I apologize for my outburst, but at times, it feels as if I have an aberration in my programming that forces me to take whatever my father says as a pure truth. This is another container of Annelids. The only way that Doctor Soong could have put that amount of information on that chip into Juliana is if he had called her back to him after she had already left him. She most likely has the same homing device that Lore and B-4 have and which I used to have.”

“I’ll tell Emily to have Bruce remove it from B-4.” T’Mera frowned at the revelation, “He had a homing device in you?”

Data returned to the servos, nodding, “Indeed. I did not even know of its existence until he decided to activate it. It overrode my entire neural net, and I wound up taking over the Enterprise by myself. It nearly caused the death of a sick child that we were supposed to be taking to a starbase.”

“Why didn’t he just send you a subspace message, asking you to come see him?” T’Mera reached for a stick of gum and popped it into her mouth. “Just hijacking you seems to be a really selfish thing to do, especially considering he knew you were a Starfleet officer with duties. It’s a good thing that you weren’t in important negotiations or something, at the time.”

“It is as if I can trust nothing he has ever said to me, at face value.” Data’s voice took on a slightly annoyed tone, “He lied to me, he lied to Lore, he lied to his wife… Lies of omission and lies of loopholes.” He suddenly looked up, his facial expression changing to delight, “I am aggravated!” He turned to look at Geordi, “I am quite aggravated!” He told his friend, cheerfully.

Geordi laughed softly, “That’s great, although it’s too bad it has to be like that.” He continued his work, then asked, “Weren’t you going to try to reach Captain Picard?”

Data nodded, then walked across the room to the comm panel, “Affirmative, but I wanted to check the servo calibration, first.” He tapped on the display and the Starfleet insignia popped up. After a few minutes, the face of Captain Picard appeared on the monitor.

Captain Picard stared at the screen for a few moments, after which he seemed to finally find his voice, “Commander Data, is that really you? The message header... “

Data moved his lips into his usual slight smile, “Greetings, Captain. Yes, it is me. I am contacting you for a few reasons. The first is to inform you that the transfer of myself from B-4 to a new android body has been successful.”

“That’s quite good news, Commander.” Captain Picard smiled back at the android, “The Enterprise has not seemed the same without you. When will you be able to return to duty?”

“That is the second reason.” Data replied to the monitor, “I do not wish for Doctor Chipman to die, so I am going to attempt a synaptic scan transfer of her mind into an android body. Once the body is completed, it will take us three days to travel to Terlina III. If everything goes well, the synaptic scan will take perhaps a day. From there, the only extra time needed will be the time to travel from Terlina III to a rendezvous point with the Enterprise. That leads to the third issue. It is my intention that Doctor Chipman remain with me aboard the Enterprise, and her personal craft will need to be docked in our shuttlebay. It is approximately the size of a Danube-class runabout.”

Captain Picard stared at the screen, “You’re going to make another android? Isn’t that a bit reckless, Commander?”

“Doctor Chipman has already taken care of the legal issues that might arise from such an undertaking.” Data told the captain, then added, “If we need some sort of exception, since she is not in Starfleet, Doctor Chipman would be aboard as my domestic partner.”

Captain Picard leaned forward, setting his elbows on the surface of his desk, bringing his hands together and steepling his fingers, “Commander, as I recall, Doctor Chipman has more than enough Starfleet clearance to serve in a civilian capacity aboard the Enterprise if you need her for maintaining your systems. There’s no need to claim her as a domestic partner.”

Data lowered his chin slightly, “You misunderstand me, Captain. I do not need her to maintain my systems. During our time together, I initiated a romantic affiliation with her, and was gratified that I was able to induce her interest in me to a degree beyond one of a professional nature.” He raised both eyebrows and pressed his lips together quickly, then summed up, “We are in love.”

Captain Picard placed both hands over his face with a sigh. “Give me a moment, Commander.”

“Understood, Captain.” Data responded, “I realize this is quite a bit of information to assimilate.”

Captain Picard removed his hands from his face, then seemed to study Data through the screen, “There is also the matter that, in your… absence… the position of First Officer has been filled. Commander Worf is my current first officer, but as it happens, our current Operations Officer and Second Officer is going on family leave soon. We still need a Senior Science Officer as well. Essentially, you would be getting your previous three positions back, although you will still be promoted to the rank of Commander.”

“Worf is an excellent choice for First Officer, Sir.” Data replied, his face showing a neutral expression. “I would be more than willing to resume my previous posts.” His expression changed to a more solemn one. “There is also the matter of my insubordination at Bassen Rift. I disobeyed your order.”

A shadow seemed to pass over the captain’s face, as his expression changed to a combination of shame and sadness, “You don’t remember what happened, do you?”

“While it is true that my memory record diverges from the original Data before the events with Shinzon took place, I was informed of the series of those events.” Data explained. “Regardless of the outcome of my actions, I am unsure as to whether the ends justified the means.”

“Commander…” Captain Picard seemed to be struggling with words, his facial expression changing to one that Data had come to associate with regret and remorse. His voice became both soft and hoarse, “Data… I committed a terrible mistake. I had a lapse in judgement brought on by my emotions, and I failed you and I failed the crew of the Enterprise. Had it not been for your insubordination, I would have caused the deaths of the entire crew of this ship. Thank you for that. Even if you had lived, I had no intention of marking it as a negative in your record, nor would I have reprimanded you.” He inhaled deeply, then slowly exhaled, “The fact remains that I am directly responsible for your destruction and for costing you one year of your life.” He went silent, with his face now a mask of misery.

Data watched the captain, moved his jaw forward slightly, raised his eyebrows, and with a small smile, offered, “One year, two months, twelve days, two hours and twenty-five seconds of my life, sir.”

That brought a smile back to Captain Picard’s face, although his eyes now had a wet sheen to them, “I have sorely missed you, Mister Data.”

“I have missed you, as well, Captain.” Data smiled fully at the screen.

“Both you and Doctor Chipman will be welcomed aboard.” Captain Picard sat up straighter, “You will keep us apprised of your timing and whereabouts, I assume?”

Data nodded in reply, “That is the current plan, sir. Thank you.”

“Thank you, Mister Data. Picard out.” The captain’s face was replaced with the Starfleet insignia, which then faded to black.

Chapter Text

Year: 2381

Stardate: 58092.2

 

T’Mera awoke and turned off the dome of silence, then pushed her chair towards the main assembly, where both Datas worked on the female android body. A yawn accented her question, “Sorry… I drifted off to sleep, it seems. How is it coming along?”

Data smiled at the holographer, “We are applying your skin and breasts, now. We will still need to do a test of the positronic brain.”

T’Mera  peered up at the body, “As an android, I need breasts? Oh, wait, I’m asking the android who has a belly button. Of course I need them.”

“It has taken me many years…” Data spoke as he worked, “But I have come to the conclusion that I enjoy the aesthetic and tactile aspects of the female prominences that encase the mammary glands. Now that I can explore my memories with my emotions intact, I am able to recall several instances where they caught my interest. I can also remember the time that such an inclination blinded me to a deception. ”

T’Mera grinned up at the blue-suited android, “Then by all means, give me a pair.” She leaned forward, “What was the deception?”

Data frowned as he and his photonic doppleganger worked, “Ishara Yar.”

“I keep hearing her name mentioned, but then you say nothing more.” T’Mera tilted her head to regard Data. “Even Geordi seemed to drop the subject after her name is mentioned. Do you want to talk about it?”

“I find myself reluctant.” Data lowered his chin, looking down at the floor of the assembly station, “It is another example of how I am flawed.”

T’Mera watched the android, then spoke, “You were made to be an artificial human, which includes flaws. If you still don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine.”

Data kept silent for another minute, then continued, “Ishara Yar was Tasha’s sister. Unlike Tasha, Ishara had chosen to join one of the factions on Turkana IV. We were there to rescue two crewmen from the Federation freighter Arcos, who had managed to land an escape pod there. Ishara was sent by the Coalition to us, under the guise of helping us get the crew members back from the competing faction.” He stopped speaking for a moment, to work on setting the bioplast properly.

“I was sent to meet her and escort her from the transporter room to the observation lounge.” Data continued his tale, “At the time, I did not realize that I was affected by her. Her mannerisms were very much like Tasha’s, and while she was not identical in appearance, she shared the same colorations of hair and eyes. I also remember with clarity how the thin fabric of the white shirt she wore accentuated her-- ” He stopped speaking and looked at T’Mera nervously.

“I get the idea.” T’Mera seemed to be suppressing a smile, keeping her expression somber. “That would have been that purple spike.”

Data resumed speaking, “She made every overture at friendship with me, claimed that she completely trusted me, and she even kissed me. I was entirely unaware that she was doing so in order to gain my trust, so that she would be able to accomplish her own mission for her cadre. When I discovered what she was doing, I attempted to stop her, at which point she fired upon me with a phaser that was set to kill.” He frowned at the memory, “That is not friendship.”

“No, it’s not.” T’Mera replied in agreement, her voice softening, “It’s not always easy or painless to be on the side of trust… to be a good person.”

Data turned to smile at T’Mera, “It seems not. Given the choice between trusting and potentially being open to betrayal or not trusting and losing the ability to make friends, I chose the former.” He cupped his hands around the finished android breasts and shook them lightly. “They feel proper-- is there something amusing?”

T’Mera wiped at the tears of laughter in her eyes, “Very much so. Don’t worry about it. Everything looks good. It looks like I used to, before the Borg.” Her laughter fit reached its conclusion, “So, aside from sex characteristics and cosmetic appearance, the android of me will be the same as you?”

“Not quite.” Data replied, “Since you are a synaptic scan and not a native positronic life form, there is more leeway in specifications. My phase discriminating amplifier is Type-R. Yours is Type-V. You also have a feedback processor designed to send out a false bio-signal… in this case, you will be able to choose between Vulcan, human or bypassing it and allowing your positronic signature to be detected. As mentioned before, you will be much stronger than I am, and tougher, reflecting your Vulcan heritage.”

Photonic Data set the scalp and hair in place, then interjected, “You may wish to choose a garment for your android body, T’Mera. Geordi is due to arrive soon, and I suspect that you would not wish him to see you this way.”

T’Mera pressed the buttons on the armrest of her support chair, “Good idea. I might use the replicator, since the only clothing I brought with me is altered to be worn with the Borg implants.” She rolled her chair to the replicator, then rubbed her chin thoughtfully, then typed in her body measurements on the console, “Solid hunter green pullover, long-sleeved, cowl neck, pleated dress with asymmetrical below-the-knee hem, mid-weight fabric.” The dress materialized, and T’Mera grabbed it with her right hand and rolled back to the assembly platform.

Data reached for the dress, “Another difference is that you will slightly outweigh me, even though your body will be smaller in dimension.” He and Photonic Data coordinated to pull the dress onto the android, holding her arms up and feeding them into the sleeves. “It is a result of the extra servos and tripolymers.”

The doors to the holostation opened with a whoosh, and Geordi La Forge stepped into the lab. “Good morning, Data… T’Mera… Data.” He waved with his right hand, while his left shoulder held the strap of a full duffel bag.

The two Datas dipped their head once and answered in unison, “Good morning, Geordi.”

“Good morning, Geordi.” T’Mera held up her right hand in the Vulcan salute. “Did you sleep well?”

“Yeah, I suppose so. I’m all packed, too.” He stepped up onto the platform, “Hey, she’s got skin and hair.” He let out a soft whistle, “She’s beautiful.”

T’Mera covered her face with her right hand, then quipped, “If you want, Geordi, Data could make you a second one of me for yourself?”

Data blinked and his eyebrows knit together with confusion. He looked at Geordi, “That particular idea had never occurred to me. Was I remiss in not asking if you wished a T’Mera android for yourself?”

Geordi’s blue eyes went wide, “Data, she was joking!” He then looked at T’Mera, “And I mean she’s beautiful in the engineering sense of the word.” He winced, then added, “Not that you’re not a good-looking woman…”

Data glanced down and to the left, then back at Geordi, “Ah, a jest. Yes, very amusing.” He flipped part of the female android’s hair up, then connected the cable to one of the ports, “We are going to perform individual subprocessor checks for connectivity, to make certain all the pathways will work.”

Geordi looked over at T’Mera, “I thought your program lets him have emotions and a sense of humor?”

“It does.” T’Mera smiled over at the engineer, “It doesn’t mean he’s going to find every joke funny. Humor is very subjective and extremely particular to an individual. You don’t want him laughing at everything , do you?”

Geordi shook his head, “No. I’ve seen him do that. It makes sense that he should have his own reactions to what is or isn’t funny.”

Photonic Data turned to the other Data and spoke quietly to him, “Startup procedure has been initiated.”

“Thank you, Data.” The android Data replied, then announced as each process completed, “Main fuel cell is functioning at expected parameters. All primary, secondary and tertiary power cells are charging. Subprocessor relays in place and neuroelectrical systems enabled. Polarizer circuits are activated. Input polarizers are fully functional.”

Geordi watched the procedure, then asked, “Data, doesn’t it strike you as odd to be talking to … well, another you?”

Android Data shook his head, “No, Geordi. There have even been times when I have had to speak to two of myself.”

Photonic Data gave the others a tight-lipped smile, “Once everyone is packed and ready to leave, I can be deactivated.” He unhooked the cable from the female android’s head and closed the access panel.

T’Mera pressed the buttons on her chair, “I’ll go break down my workstation and pack up my things.” She rolled back to her workstation and began the task of unplugging each piece of equipment and packing it into its case.

Data and Geordi packed up the non-holographic supplies and equipment, then moved the containers to the center of the room, in four separate groupings. A short time later, T’Mera rolled to the center of the room and placed her bags and cases with the others.

Data’s facial expression betrayed his concern, “T’hy’la, if you do not wish to wear your legs, I can pilot the Ghost.”

T’Mera nodded to Data, “Just takeoff and landing. Quimby can do the rest. I can be secured at the science station, if you and Geordi want to sit at ops and engineering.”

Photonic Data carried the female android over to the area with the bags and containers, then set her down. He walked over to T’Mera and bent to kiss her, “One final kiss for me.”

T’Mera returned the kiss, then smiled at the hologram as he straightened up. “Thank you, Data. Computer…save and end program ChipmanT_SoongD01 and move to my protected archive.”

Photonic Data, the cybernetics lab and the temporary quarters vanished, replaced by the emitter grid and lines.

T’Mera pressed a few buttons on a black device and the bags and containers in the four groups were surrounded by shimmering transporter energy, then vanished. “Do we want to beam onto the Ghost or travel to the pad it’s on?” When Data placed the female android in one of the transporter circles, T’Mera pressed the buttons again, and the body was transported away.

Geordi shrugged, “Either is fine with me.”

Data moved behind T’Mera’s medical support chair, “We will travel to the pad, then. I will push you, t’hy’la.”

“All right, Bright Eyes.” T’Mera leaned back as he rolled her through the automatic doors. “Stop, please. I want to set the Holostation on cleaning mode, just so I know it gets done right away.” Data obliged and she pressed the buttons on the screen. “All right. Now, we can go. Take this corridor to the four-way and make a left.

Geordi followed the couple through the corridors, to the landing pads, then blinked in surprise, “Is that a holographic ship? I see a strange aura around it. It’s like it’s reflecting all the light.”

T’Mera clicked the device, “Oops. I left it in disguise mode. Sorry. Normally, it’s hard to see.” The recreational ground vehicle with warp nacelles faded, showing the Ghost as it normally appeared. “It’s not much for comfort, either, but the Ghost is stealthy, small, agile and speedy.” Once the door to the cargo bay was fully open, Data pushed T’Mera’s chair into the ship.

Geordi followed the couple to the main control area, “What’s her top speed?”

“Warp nine point nine.” T’Mera replied as she helped Data secure her chair near the science station in the rear starboard area. “At that speed, though, the lack of strong inertial dampers becomes noticeable.” She fastened a harness around herself. “Speaking of which, you’ll want to strap in.”

Geordi smiled and sat in the ops seat, then put on the harness. “Good to know. There’s no bunks?”

Data explained as he sat in the chair at the helm, “The chairs turn and fold flat, becoming a bed for whoever occupies the seat. T’Mera tends to turn off the gravity during sleeping hours, as well.” He pressed the buttons on the console in front of him, and the engines rumbled to life. Once the engines and thrusters were online, he hit the communications switch, “Daystrom Control, this is the Ghost, registry FA-254PV, requesting departure clearance.”

“This is Daystrom Control. Ghost, you’re cleared for take-off.”

Data recited T'Mera's flight protocol word for word, “Navigational retroreflectors active for tracking. Firing up vectored thrusters for vertical planetary liftoff in five… four… three… two… one… Mark!” The thruster engines roared, lifting the small ship into the air. “Firing all thrusters… Now leaving troposphere. Impulse engines engaged.”

“Copy that, Ghost. Safe journey. Daystrom Control out.”

Data turned off the active comm to control, then pressed a few more buttons, “Setting speed at warp eight. Laying in course for Terlina III. Estimated travel time is three days.” Once the ship was free of the planet’s gravity, he unbuckled himself and vacated the helm chair. “Computer, activate Quimby.” He moved to check on T’Mera’s chair.

The purple-clad Quimby materialized in the helm chair, “Aye, aye, Cap’n. Course heading to Terlina III at warp eight.”

Geordi studied the hologram next to him, “Well, hello there.”

“Hello, yourself.” Quimby replied coldly.

Geordi grinned at Quimby, “So, what’s a nice hologram like you doing in a Ferengi private craft like this?”

“Waiting for a modest man like you…” Quimby replied with a coy smile, “Who has much to be modest about.”

T’Mera sighed, “Quimby.” then gave an apologetic look to Geordi, “I’m sorry. That’s my fault. I programmed her with witty insults to pass my time when I travel.”

Geordi chuckled, “It’s okay. She’s not sentient?”

“No.” T’Mera shook her head, “She's just very well programmed with many triggers. One of the advantages to my psychology degree. I once came on board to find a mechanic arguing with Quimby, unaware that she was a non-sentient hologram. He'd just managed somehow to hit every single trigger properly, so that she was keeping up her side of the argument. It was an amazing thing to watch.”

Data asked quietly, “Do you wish for your medication?”

T’Mera turned to meet his yellow eyes, then nodded, “I think I do.”

“I will get the hypospray.” Data’s expression changed to a forced version of his neutral blank ‘just an android’ face as he opened the medkit and put in the vial of triptacederine. He administered the hypospray to the right side of her neck, then leaned in to kiss her cheek. He stepped away to replace the medkit on the shelf.

T’Mera smiled at Geordi, “My doctor has a great bedside manner, doesn’t he?”

Geordi gave T’Mera a broad grin, “Yeah, he really does.” His smile faded slightly as he got a glance at Data’s expression. “I was about to ask Data to play a verbal engineering test game, but he knows everything, so it won’t be much fun.”

Data returned to the engineering station seat and fastened the harness. “I do not know everything , Geordi.” He paused, then added, “Just many things.”

The two good friends lightly chatted until T’Mera seemed to be sound asleep.

The animated cheerfulness in Geordi’s voice dropped away as he asked, “She’s getting worse, isn’t she?”

Data frowned, pressed his lips together, then nodded, “She has lost three more kilograms, and is now requiring her painkillers as prescribed. Her care might require most of my attention for this trip.”

Geordi spoke in a reassuring tone, “That’s fine, Data. You take care of her. If I get bored, Quimby and I can trade insults.” He looked at the holographic autopilot, “Haven’t I seen you someplace before?”

Quimby smiled seductively at the engineer, “Yeah, that's why I don't go there any more.”

Geordi chuckled, “See? She’s fun.” His smile faded again as he looked at the sleeping holographer, “She’ll make it, Data. One way or another, we’ll save her.”

Data gave a weak smile back to his friend, “Thank you, Geordi. If you wish, we can play a game while she sleeps.”

Geordi snapped his fingers, “All right. You have twenty seconds to answer this. List the resonances of the subquantum states associated with transitional relativity in alphabetical order.”

Data immediately replied, “They are asymmetrical, inverted, phased, stable, universal.”

Geordi rubbed his beard, “Let’s try a different game…”

The three days passed uneventfully, as the ship traveled through the edges of Federation space, and then out into the remote, unclaimed regions of the alpha quadrant.

Chapter Text

Year: 2381

Stardate: 58100.3



“Is it Tuesday?” Quimby asked, glancing at the six cards that were face down on the side of her console.

“Tuesday where?” T’Mera tilted her head, looking at her seven cards.

Data replied while dealing Geordi six cards and then himself. “I do not believe it is Tuesday on Earth, currently, so that means the two cards on the left are turned face up.”

Geordi grinned as he turned up his two cards, “I can’t believe we’re trying this.”

Quimby frowned, “Is it day or night? We’re out in space.”

T’Mera looked out one of the viewports, “We’re also out of claimed territory. My mother would have called this the B.F. Nowhere Sector. Are you sure something’s out here?”

Quimby glanced at her console, “Heading still reads as three-forty-one by two-twenty-one.” She eyed Data coldly, “If we wind up nowhere, it’s the android’s fault.”

Data leveled his gaze at Quimby as he turned up his own two cards, “At least I am sentient.” He then dealt Quimby another card, face-down.

“The hatch is in the back, to your right and you can watch the stars twinkle in the distance as you leave the ship. Perhaps that will help calm your soul and bring you inner happiness.” Quimby retorted with a cheerful lilt.

Geordi pressed his left forearm against his stomach as he started to laugh. “She’s great.”

Data laughed softly, “I do admit that I find her highly amusing.” He turned up another card, “Everyone turn up another card in your hand.”

T’Mera turned one over, then leaned back, “Well, I’m out. Three of a kind. Shralk.”

The helm console beeped, and Quimby immediately announced, “We are nearing the destination. Dropping out of warp and switching to impulse engines. Do you wish to resume manual flight mode for a landing or establish an orbit?”

Data replied to the holographic autopilot, “Quimby, please establish a geostationary orbit over the following coordinates: zero six dash one six five four dash two three four point two eight slash zero zero five point seven three slash four three two point zero zero.”

“Aye, aye, Cap’n.” Quimby responded, “One lifesign detected on the planet surface. Human. Stealth or Open mode?”

Geordi and Data both turned their necks sharply to look at each other.

T’Mera gathered her cards together, handing them over to Data, then told Quimby, “Open mode, but be prepared for evasive maneuvers. If any weaponry is detected, change to stealth and avoid.”

“Gotcha. Orbit established.” Quimby replied, as the greenish-blue planet came into view and grew larger. “We are being scanned. No weapons detected.” She pushed her cards towards Geordi.

Geordi gathered his cards, as well as Quimby’s and handed them to Data, “What do you think? Is it possible he’s still alive?”

Data placed all the cards back in the deck and slid them into their box, “It is possible. All that he said was that he was dying. He never said of what or when, and if I do take after him, then he certainly would know verbal loopholes as well as I do.”

T’Mera peered out the viewport, “Very lush-looking planet. Even the clouds are green.”

“That is due to the Ascomycota and the Chlorarachniophyte zoospores that are blown by storms up into the clouds, giving them the distinctive green color.” Data rattled off the information as he moved to check on T’Mera’s chair, “This enables the fungi and algae to travel at far greater distances than simple airborne mobility would allow, and is responsible for the abundance of plant life and ichthyological presence in the bodies of water.” He vanished into the head with the receptacle from the chair.

Geordi unbuckled his harness and leaned on the ops console to look at the planet, “The last time I was here, Data had taken over the Enterprise and locked us all out. We had to network several tricorders together to fool the computer into thinking we were Data, just to let us beam down and get him back.”

Data returned and replaced the receptacle in the chair, “I apologize for that. As I no longer have a homing device, there should be no more danger of that happening again.” He removed the securing ties from the chair. “How are you feeling, T’Mera? If you cannot walk, I will carry you in the chair.”

“I think I can walk. I just need my legs and the mobile pouch.” T’Mera replied, then looked at Geordi, “I’m in a sorry state, hmm?”

Geordi walked over to her side, then gave her a pat on the shoulder, “Considering what you’ve been through, you’re holding up well. I’ll go into the cargo bay and get the android body.” He turned sideways to slip past Data and headed into the back.

Data kneeled in front of T’Mera, positioning her prosthetic legs and helping her attach them. “Are you in much pain?”

T’Mera shook her head, then leaned forward to disconnect herself from the chair and attach the mobile pouch to the stoma in her back, “No. The morphenolog you added to the triptacederine took the edge off. I’ll need a cardigan.”

Data placed his hands in her underarms and gently lifted her out of the chair, “I will get it for you.” He made certain she could stand on her own, then walked to the shelves by the medkit. He grabbed the black cardigan and returned to stand behind her. “Right arm… now the left…” he stated as he performed each action, then set the cardigan on her shoulders, “There. You are covered.”

T’Mera turned to face Data, “Thank you.” Her arms reached around him, “My cherished one.”

Data returned the embrace, “I would do anything for you, t’hy’la.” He looked up as Geordi returned from the cargo bay, dragging the female android, “Ah, Geordi. Let me carry her.” He released the embrace.

Geordi smiled, “She’s heavier than she looks. No offense, T’Mera.”

T’Mera smiled, grabbed a PADD and a binder from the surface of the science workstation and shuffled to one of the transporter circles on the floor. “None taken. I’m going to be a heavy android, it seems.”

Data casually lifted the body with one arm, then walked to the transporter area. He waited for Geordi to get into the final circle, then ordered, “Quimby, please beam us down to the aforementioned coordinates.”

Shimmering transporter energy surrounded the four, and they vanished and rematerialized in a small clearing in a lush jungle. Warm humid air hung stagnantly in a mist around them, and the haze from a nearby light filtered through. Insect chitters and bird calls created a constant chorus around them.

As they walked through the dense and tangled vegetation, a figure popped up, backlit from the circular awning of several lights on the grey building behind him. “Stop right there. I have a phaser.” A familiar male voice spoke, as the figure raised his left hand and aimed the weapon.

Data frowned, then replied in a voice that was nearly identical to the voice of the man with the phaser, “Do you really intend to kill me and my friends, father?”

“You called me father…” The man lowered the weapon, “Which one are you?”

“I am Data.” Data replied curtly.

The man stepped closer, slipping the phased back into a pocket in his long, brown duster-length cardigan. “Data? What are you doing here, boy?” As he drew closer, his features could be seen. He stood 1.8 meters tall, seemingly in his forties, with beige-pink skin and unkempt brown hair that stood out in some places. Bright blue eyes crinkled with a smile, “I’d heard you were killed. I’m glad the report was wrong.”

“The reports of my death are not exaggerated.” Data replied, “But I have come here for a certain reason.” He indicated the woman to his right with a nod of his head, “Father, this is Doctor T’Mera Chipman. To my left is my best friend, Commander Geordi La Forge, who you might remember from my last visit here.”

T’Mera lifted her right hand in a Vulcan salute, “Live long and prosper, Doctor Soong.”

“Hi, Doctor Soong.” Geordi greeted the man.

Doctor Soong gestured at them, “Come in, come in. I’ve lived alone for so long, I tend to forget all the social niceties.” He turned to walk to the door in the building, then opened it for them.

Data led the way, carrying the android body, with T’Mera and Geordi close behind him. As they followed the Doctor down the four steps, he took off his cardigan. His attire was similar to the last time Data had seen him: brown slacks, a white Ansgar shirt topped with a quilted long vest in umber, maroon and sienna, and slippers.

Doctor Soong moved a few stools around the cluttered room, “Have a seat.”

T’Mera chose one of the stools, and set her PADD and binder down on the nearby table. “Thank you.”

Geordi followed suit, sitting close to T’Mera.

Doctor Soong sat down on a stool and smiled at Data, “You’re probably surprised to see me alive…”

Data shook his head, “No, I am not. Based on everything you had said to me the last time we met in person, items that were here on display, combined with your behavior patterns, the various messages you left for me in my dream program and the message inside of my mother, I had already deduced your current state.” He paused, then continued, “While there are many things I wish to say to you, I did not come here to speak with you. I am here to do a synaptic scan of Doctor Chipman into the android body I am currently carrying.”

Doctor Soong turned his attention to T’Mera, “Hmm. Vulcan. I've always admired Vulcans.”

T’Mera’s face bore a stoic expression, “I finally get to meet you, Doctor Soong. I admire your cybernetic work, but may I be honest with you?"

Doctor Soong shrugged, "You're a Vulcan. You have no other choice."

“Very well.” T’Mera deadpanned, “Your programming language and lack of proper discipline in such matters nearly drove me insane. However, I am gratified that you are allowing us to visit with you in your lair.”

“My lair?” Doctor Soong’s lips quirked in amusement.

T’Mera nodded, “You are a mad scientist. Ergo, the proper term for any residence or workplace of yours is ‘lair’. I thank you in advance for whatever help you render.”

Geordi covered his face with his hand, attempting to hide a smile.

Doctor Soong smiled good-naturedly, “Mad is better than Often Wrong, I suppose. Welcome to my lair, then.” He turned back to Data, “Why do you want to do a synaptic scan of her?”

“She is dying from what the Borg have done to her.” Data replied to the scientist, “She is my… romantic partner. I do not wish to lose her. I had not expected you to be here, but I had hoped the equipment you used for Juliana Tainer’s transfer would still be here, as well as some notes on how to use it. Since you do happen to be here, it is obvious that you achieved success a second time.”

Geordi frowned, then stared at Doctor Soong. “Wait…” then clapped his hands together once, “Of course! He’s a masked android, like Doctor Tainer was!”

Data nodded to Geordi, “Indeed. He has a bio-masking feedback generator that allows him to be detected as a human, instead of as a positronic lifeform.”

Doctor Soong stood up, “Romantic partner? But I thought Lore stole the emotion chip?”

Data turned back to his father, “He did, but I… retrieved it, eventually. However, that is not what I am currently using. The emotion chip was extremely problematic in its practical application, and I had ceased using it after a couple of years. Doctor Chipman was able to write a better solution.”

T’Mera picked up her PADD, tapped on it, then held out the displayed text for Doctor Soong.

Doctor Soong maneuvered around some junk piled near him and glanced at the PADD. His eyes widened, “Brilliant programming. I wish I'd met you in 2336, when I was building Lore and Data.”

T’Mera placed the PADD back on the binder, “I would have been of no help to you, then, having just been born.”

“You’re almost the same age as Data.” Doctor Soong grinned, “That’s interesting. Well, I’ll help you, but I don’t want to make a habit of this. I don’t want a line of people clamoring at my door to be transferred into immortal bodies.”

“We do not intend for that to happen.” Data moved to stand by T’Mera, “This is not even a favor for her. It is for me .”

“Bring the body you want her to be transferred into over here.” Doctor Soong walked past the tables piled with books and beakers, to an octagonal area with a vertical cage with four supports on one side and a blue reclining chair in the center. “Stand her up in this cage, and then I can connect the cables to her.”

Data complied, carrying the android body to the area. “I am curious, father. Is your current android form comparable to mine?”

“No, no, no.” Doctor Soong flipped a few switches, powering on some of the machines nearby, “I’m at the highest level that a human can reach, but still well within human range for just about everything. I have no desire to have the strength of ten men or be able to compute as fast as you. After my failure with Lore, I gave up on making more androids.” He glanced at Data, “Don’t get me wrong… I’m glad I had the chance to make you, but with holograms these days, physical androids are a technological dead end.”

Geordi stood up and joined the men at the octagonal station. “That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it?”

Data looked over at his friend as he secured the android in the cage, “I agree with him, Geordi. As we have just experienced, I am extremely difficult to create, and aside from my physical strength, there is nothing so special about me that a Vulcan could not also do.”

Doctor Soong frowned as he set up the next machine, “Data, you claimed that your death wasn’t exaggerated and now you said “as we have just experienced.” I’d managed to tap into some Starfleet communications last year, and there was talk of you having been destroyed.”

“The communications were correct.” Data opened the access panels in the android’s hair and hooked cables into the ports, “I was killed in the line of duty, and my body was vaporized. I had previously downloaded my neural net into B-4, in the hopes that it would improve him, but I did not know the Remans had put a rootkit in him. It caused B-4’s brain to run both him and myself as two separate consciousnesses. Doctor Chipman worked for nearly a year to separate our code, rid B-4 of the Reman rootkit, and then she transferred me into a hologram, enabling me to build my new body.”

Doctor Soong grinned over in T’Mera’s direction, “That’s clever! I’d never think to use a hologram for that. I would have helped you, had I known.”

Geordi nodded, “We all thought you were dead. Of course, we’ve thought that before.”

Data spoke very casually, "Tapping into Starfleet communications is easy for you, then? Is that how you used a PADD to unlock every security door in the prison in which you were incarcerated?"

"That was different, I--" Doctor Soong stopped mid-sentence, then stared at Data. “I guess I shouldn’t be shocked you figured that out. I made you to be super-intelligent, after all.”

Data leveled his gaze at Doctor Soong, then nodded, “Yes, you did.”

Geordi looked between the two, “I feel like I’m missing something.”

“Can I add that to the list of what I want in return for helping you?” Doctor Soong grumbled as he started hooking wires up to the blue reclining chair in the center, “Keep it a secret, outside of the four of us.” He turned to look at Geordi, “Data has figured out that I’m not quite who I say I am.”

Data explained to the engineer, “He is Doctor Soong, however he changes his name now and then, as well as slightly altering his appearance. Originally, he was known as Arik Soong, and was incarcerated for stealing embryos from Cold Station Twelve. Embryos left over from the Eugenics Wars.”

“That’s impossible.” Geordi’s face took on an incredulous expression, “He’d be over two hundred years old.”

“Two hundred and eighty two.” Doctor Soong offered, “But I stopped celebrating birthdays. The candles became a fire hazard.” He looked back at Data, “I’m surprised. I thought I’d covered my tracks well enough.”

Data tilted his head to the right, with eyebrows slightly raised, “To use T’Mera’s terminology, we found your lair on Ba’ku. It is what helped save me, since your development notes were there.”

Doctor Soong shook his head, “Still, I thought that place was hidden and locked. It would take a miracle to find it, if you were just wandering around.”

“I was directed to it by an omnipotent godlike entity.” Data explained, apologetically.

Doctor Soong stared at Data for a few moments, then replied, “Well… I can’t compete with that .”

“I’ll keep the secret.” Geordi leaned back against a table, “So, you used the metaphasic radiation on Ba’ku?”

“Exactly.” Doctor Soong smiled as he set up the next machine. “I found it by accident, while using the Briar Patch to hide in. It was a nice place to work on my ideas, and it regenerated me. All I had to do was keep changing my name, and pretend to be my own descendant. I’d originally thought of passing it on to actual descendants, since I love to be called father, but then I realized that children don’t always follow in their parents’ footsteps.” He gestured to Data, “My most successful child joined Starfleet.”

T’Mera piped up from her spot on the stool, “He looks good in a uniform.” She dug into her right pocket and put a small black device on top of the PADD.

Data’s face brightened with a smile. “Thank you, T’Mera.”

Geordi folded his arms across his chest as he leaned against the table, “So, Doc, why did you change from genetics to artificial intelligence?”

“I'd wanted to show that genetically engineered humans wouldn't have to be like Khan Noonien Singh, but then my own children... the augments... They eventually did turn on each other and on me. They had no fundamental respect for life, even when I tried to weed out ambition in them. I decided to give up on perfecting humanity and turned to making artificial lifeforms, most notably, the positronic brain.” Doctor Soong explained as he finished the preparations, “As it turned out, I was even less successful there. I wound up with only two viable androids, one of which is a homicidal psychopath with no respect for life. With what I learned from making them, and making Juliana, I decided to put myself in an android body so I could have immortality. Doctor Phlox would have been pleased to know I've finally learned from my past mistakes.”

“I'm not sure you did. Your take on it seems to be "If you want immortality, you have to do it yourself."” T’Mera slid off the stool and walked over to the octagonal area, “It's also illogical to try to perfect humanity when your own inclinations have been towards isolationism. Social interaction is a large part of the human species.”

“Congratulations, Doctor Chipman.” Doctor Soong bowed his head to her, “It took you far less time to figure that out than it did for me. Come, sit in this chair. I have to place the encephalotransmitters on your head.”

T’Mera walked towards the chair, giving Data lingering gaze, then held out her right arm with her pinky held under her thumb, and her index and middle fingers extended.

Data moved closer to T’Mera, then held out his right hand in the same manner, touching his extended index and middle fingers to hers.

T’Mera’s dark eyes met his yellow eyes for a moment, then she brought her arm back to her side and sat in the chair. “Here we go, I suppose.”

Doctor Soong commenced placing the electrodes on her skull, taking care to avoid the Borg implants. Once they were placed, he walked over to a console. “Data, you and your friend should monitor the pathways in the new body.”

Geordi nodded and moved to stand near Data by the cage. “Sure thing.” He picked up the hand scanner and watched for activity along the exposed positronic brain.

Data gave a head nod in acknowledgement, “We are standing by.”

“Transfer is beginning.” Doctor Soong announced. “Synaptic patterns being transmitted.”

The lights along the positronic brain of the female android began to blink and flash in sequence, and the body twitched. She let out a stifled cry, “Pain!” and the lights began to slow and stop.

Data frowned, grabbing one of the tools near him, “Attempting repolarization of the pathways.” His hands moved rapidly, as each pathway collapsed. “Cascade failure…” he whispered, as if in shock.

Doctor Soong frowned from the console, “I don’t understand it. The transfer supposedly succeeded. There shouldn’t be any pain.”

Data’s yellow eyes widened in panic. He dropped the tool from his hand and leaped over to the blue chair. “I need a medical tricorder! Anything!”

T’Mera’s body was slumped in the chair, her brown eyes staring out into an unseen horizon. A trickle of dark green blood slowly made its way from her right nostril to her upper lip.

Doctor Soong turned and rummaged through a box of devices near him, then pulled out a handheld scanner. “Here.”

Data reached for the scanner and waved it over T’Mera’s head.

Geordi ran over to Data’s side, using his eyes to scan her. “Her body heat is dropping. Data, what is it?”

The medical scanner dropped from Data’s hand as he whispered hoarsely, “The nanoprobes weakened several arteries in her brain, causing multiple aneurysms. She is dead.” His arms reached out, grabbing T’Mera’s lifeless body and pulling her to him in a tight embrace. He buried his face in her left shoulder, then let out an anguished wail that resonated off the metallic walls of the room.

Geordi’s eyes began to glaze over with tears, and he looked across the room to Doctor Soong, who seemed shaken.

Data’s shoulders began to heave as he sobbed into T’Mera’s shoulder and neck. “It is all right, t’hy’la… you are free now… no more pain. Finally, no more pain…”

Geordi lowered his head and placed his hand on Data’s left shoulder. Tears fell from his eyes, as he listened to his friend grieve.

Silence hung over the lab for a few minutes, broken only by Data’s mournful sobbing. Finally, the crying tapered off and Data removed his tear-stained face from her shoulder, "I apologize... I did not expect to have an emotional reaction of this magnitude."

Geordi spoke softly, wiping his own tears away, “It’s okay, Data. It’s very normal.” He gave his friend’s shoulder a firm rub, “It’s not all over, though. Remember, we still have her hologram and the transfer protocols. Don’t give up, yet.”

Data nodded to Geordi, “I will not.” He turned to Doctor Soong, “I should bury her.”

Doctor Soong placed his left hand on Data’s right cheek, cupping it gently, “I have a shovel, by the door. We could bury her near Juliana, if you want. The plots are outside the door, and about one hundred and fifty meters to the right, up the slope of a hill.”

“If it is all right with both of you,” Data removed the electrodes from T’Mera’s head, “I would like to do it alone.”

Geordi frowned with concern, “Are you sure? This isn’t a good time to be by yourself.”

Doctor Soong moved his hand and disconnected electrodes. “I know how hard this is for you, son.”

Data gave each man a sad look, then gathered T’Mera’s body up in his arms, “I am certain. I need to be alone to process my thoughts and feelings.”

Geordi gave his friend the single head-nod and backed off, “I’ll see if I can’t figure out why the cascade failure happened.”

“Thank you, Geordi. Father.” Data moved slowly at first, carrying the body of the woman he loved. He stopped briefly by the stairs, repositioned T’Mera so he could hold her with one arm, then grabbed the shovel. Each step he took on the four stairs made a light ‘thud’ sound, and then he was out the door.

Geordi let out a long sigh, then looked at Doctor Soong, “I was there when the emotion chip overloaded Data’s positronic relay, and he had a fit of emotions. But that was nothing compared to what just happened.”

Doctor Soong’s blue eyes were dry, but haunted, “When the woman you love dies, it’s like a part of you dies with her.” He let a moment of silence pass, then said, “Let’s get to work and see what went wrong with the transfer.”

Chapter Text

Year: 2381

Stardate: 58100.3

 

Everything turned into a cacophony of bright lights, images and sounds. Two separate viewpoints created double vision as if she were viewing old fashioned red and green 3D images without the glasses, only with every color and more. Waves of energy smashed into her, like a relentless tide. Sharp, piercing pain attacked her, as if someone had stabbed a spear through her eye, clear through her head.

She was able to let out a cry of a single word, “Pain!”

The second viewpoint vanished, and a thought crossed her mind. Immediately, she sent out the command: Shutdown all systems, except auditory and autonomic. Begin restart in safe mode.

The cacophony ceased, and she could think more clearly. Male voices were speaking nearby.

 

“Attempting repolarization of the pathways. Cascade failure…”

“I don’t understand it. The transfer supposedly succeeded. There shouldn’t be any pain.”

“I need a medical tricorder! Anything!”

 

Restart successful: initialize reload circuits and base matrix.

 

“Here.”

“Her body heat is dropping. Data, what is it?”

Re-initialize tactile sensory input, gradient level zero point one. Increase gradually. Mark the fifth level as normal parameter.

 

“The nanoprobes weakened several arteries in her brain, causing multiple aneurysms. She is dead.”

The sound of a reverberating, anguished wail rattled her.

Data… my love. Hold on. I’m working on it…

“It is all right, t’hy’la… you are free now… no more pain. Finally, no more pain…”

 

Re-initialize olfactory sensory input, gradient level zero point one. Increase gradually. Mark the sixth level as normal parameter. That’s too much. I can smell my own blood over there. Reduce to fifth level. Once I get used to it, I can have a dog nose later.

 

"I apologize... I did not expect to have an emotional reaction of this magnitude."

My poor Data...

 

“It’s okay, Data. It’s very normal. It’s not all over, though. Remember, we still have her hologram and the transfer protocols. Don’t give up, yet.”

Re-initialize internal sensors, itinerant method.

 

“I will not. I should bury her.”

Re-initialize gustatory sensors.

 

“I have a shovel, by the door. We could bury her near Juliana, if you want. The plots are outside the door, and about one hundred and fifty meters to the right, up the slope of a hill.”

I feel like I’m forgetting something… Something important...

 

“If it is all right with both of you, I would like to do it alone.”

Re-initialize all gyroscopes.

 

“Are you sure? This isn’t a good time to be by yourself.”

“I know how hard this is for you, son.”

 

Re-initialize magnetic field sensory input. Why do I even have that?

 

“I am certain. I need to be alone to process my thoughts and feelings.”

“I’ll see if I can’t figure out why the cascade failure happened.”

 

Re-initialize … gamma x-ray spectrometer… wait, what did he build into me?

 

“Thank you, Geordi. Father.”  *thud* thud* thud* thud* whoosh*

Auditory sensory report: thuds. Footsteps. Stride length and weight correspond to Data.

 

“I was there when the emotion chip overloaded Data’s positronic relay, and he had a fit of emotions. But that was nothing compared to what just happened.”

“When the woman you love dies, it’s like a part of you dies with her. Let’s get to work and see what went wrong with the transfer.”

Re-initialize optical sensory input: wavelengths 390 to 700 nm only. Much better. I’ll bring up the IR and UV later.

 

T’Mera focused her newly working eyes, just as Geordi’s face appeared in front of her. She opened her mouth, but nothing happened. I’m an idiot. Re-initialize and calibrate language circuits and activate. I knew I’d forgotten something.

Doctor Soong’s voice came from behind her, “Wait, I’m getting positronic net activity. Why did he say she went into cascade failure?”

Geordi’s blue eyes blinked, looking at T’Mera’s brown eyes following his movements, “Her systems were shutting down. I was next to him when it was happening.”

“Gah!” T’Mera managed to speak.

Geordi smiled at her, “Hey! Do you know who you are and where you are?”

“I’m Doctor T’Mera Chipman.” She answered him, “This is the lair of Doctor Soong. Complete with laser sharks.”

Doctor Soong moved to the spot next to Geordi, in her view. “I don’t have laser sharks.”

“Her sense of humor transferred over.” Geordi smirked, “T’Mera, what happened?”

T’Mera let out a groan, “Sensory overload, I think. I never bothered to ask about the schematics and design for me.” She glared at Doctor Soong, “How the hell does Juliana not know she’s an android? This is an entirely different way of perceiving!”

“Hmm.” Doctor Soong studied one of the open panels, “I made Juliana and myself within normal human parameters. For Juliana, every sense she has is the same as it was for her in her human body.”

Geordi snapped his fingers, “That’s it! Data mentioned that he was making her stronger and tougher than he is.”

“But what part of that needs me to sense electromagnetic fields, or see gamma rays?” T’Mera asked the engineer. “Gah, I get informational readouts and logs for everything that I sense!”

Geordi shrugged, “He didn’t consult me. If it helps, I can sympathize. When I first got my VISOR, I thought my brain was going to explode from all the extra information.”

Doctor Soong waved the hand scanner over her head, “All the pathways check out. Everything seems to be working now. How did you fix yourself?”

T’Mera smirked at the men, “I used the ancient programmer’s solution.” She waited a beat, then elaborated, “I shut everything off and turned it back on again.”

Geordi let out a hearty laugh, “Your humor definitely came through.”

Doctor Soong laughed, then held up a small ball. “Take this ball in your hand, lightly squeeze it, then transfer it to your other hand and do the same.”

T’Mera reached for the ball with her right hand, closed her hand around it, and proceeded to crush the ball. “Oh no! I’m going to have to relearn how much force to apply, aren’t I?”

“Seems so.” Doctor Soong replied, “But you seem to have your motor skills, so far. Let’s get you out of the cage.” He opened the restraining bands.

T’Mera gingerly walked forward. “So far, so good.” She stopped once she was out of the cage, “I heard a horrible wailing, before. Please tell me that wasn’t Data… Where is he?”

The jovial expression on Geordi’s face faded, “He’s burying your body. You died during the transfer.”

“That must have been what the pain was.” T’Mera shifted her weight from leg to leg, checking her balance. “I should go to him. I can’t imagine what he’s going through. I was doing all this so that he wouldn’t be overwrought when I died.”

Doctor Soong smiled softly at T’Mera and placed his hand on her shoulder, “Even when we think we’re prepared for it, there’s no way to ever really be braced for watching the death of someone we love. He should be outside, to the right, about a hundred and fifty meters.”

T’Mera raised an eyebrow, “It’s going to be strange to be talking to him while standing over my own grave.”

Doctor Soong smirked at her, “You want strange? I had to dig my own grave and bury myself.”

“You win, Doc.” T’Mera chuckled, then moved to Geordi, “I’d hug you for being here for Data, but I’m afraid I’ll crush you.”

Geordi clapped a hand on T’Mera’s shoulder, “It’s all right. Go to Data. He needs you.”

T’Mera smiled, then walked through the room to the four steps and out the door. She turned to the right, and followed through a path that was newly pushed through the dense jungle plants. The land sloped upwards and as she walked, she could hear the soothing voice of Data, but as she got closer, he abruptly stopped speaking.

T’Mera could see him now as she approached him, standing with his back to her, his head hanging down, and staring at the new pile of dirt at his feet. Two other graves, much older, lay to the right of the new one.

“I still wish to be alone.” Data spoke softly, his shoulders sagging as if beneath a weight.

“If that’s what you want, I’ll go.” T’Mera sighed, “I just wanted to say I’m sorry, Data. It took me so long to re-initialize everything. I never meant for you to grieve for me. It undermines the purpose of me consenting to be an android in the first place.”

Data turned at hearing her voice, and his jaw dropped in surprise. “T’Mera!” He shouted and quickly reached out to wrap his arms around her in a tight embrace.

T’Mera returned the embrace awkwardly, “I’m sorry.”

Data lifted her up with ease, and planted his lips on hers, “Do not be sorry. You were correct.”

“Correct about what?” She managed to speak in between kisses.

“About how much pain I would be feeling.” Data pressed his lips against hers, “Even though I knew we still had other methods to bring you back.” He stopped kissing and studied her face, “Is something wrong? You are holding your arms strangely.”

“My motor functions aren’t quite calibrated, yet.” She ran a hand up his back, “I didn’t want to accidentally crush you. I think you overengineered me, Bright Eyes. Full sensory overload. I had to re-initialize each system individually, so I could get used to all the sudden, new things I could sense.”

Data winced, “I am sorry. I will help you acclimate to your new body. We also should test your systems, to make certain the transfer was successful.”

T’Mera squirmed in his arms to try to kiss him, “I still feel my love for you. I don’t care if I’m flopping around and crushing things… the most important thing transferred.” She smiled, looking into his yellow eyes, “I love you.” She reached up with her right hand to wipe away the yellow tears from his cheeks.

“I love you, as well.” Data moved his right arm to lift T’Mera off the ground and reposition her so that her lips would be level with his. He grabbed the shovel with his left arm, then began to walk back towards the lair, while maintaining the tender kisses.

T’Mera returned the kisses with passion, then rubbed her nose against his, “We should calm down, maybe, or else we’ll initiate your sexuality subroutine by accident.”

“It is too late.” Data pulled her tighter to him. “We could claim that we decided to test your systems, starting with that?” He stopped walking halfway back to the building and jabbed the shovel into the dirt to free his left hand.

T’Mera looked around, “What? Do it out here in the jungle?”

“We are androids…” Data spoke in between trailing kisses down her neck, “Elements do not affect us. We could survive in the vacuum of space for extended periods of time, if we wished.”

T’Mera let her head roll back slightly, to allow him access to her neck, “Or we could wait until we have privacy somewhere.” She rubbed his back with her hands as she held onto him, “Most scientific testing should be done in a controlled environment.”

“Your logic has defeated me, once again.” Data shifted her in his arms to hold her with just the right, again. “Cancelling sexuality subroutine.” He grabbed the shovel with his left hand and walked the rest of the way to the lair, then stepped inside after the doors opened.

“There they are.” Geordi announced, as Data entered with T’Mera.

Data placed the shovel back where it had been, then used both arms to carry T’Mera. “I apologize again for my uncontrolled emotional behavior. However, the time alone was… cathartic.”

Geordi walked over to place a hand on Data’s shoulder, “Data… It’s okay.” He smiled at T’Mera, “What’s important is that both of you are all right now.”

T’Mera grinned back at the engineer, “Functioning within normal parameters.”

Data smiled, as well, “All systems operating.”

Doctor Soong wandered over, “You were gone for so long, I thought you’d both stopped to try out your sexuality program.”

Data immediately replied, “She would not let me. We will wait for a more appropriate setting.”

“Data!” T’Mera smacked him in the chest, good-naturedly.

“It’s my fault, Doctor Chipman.” Doctor Soong’s voice held a certain joviality, “You’re like the Adam and Eve of androids.”

T’Mera regarded Doctor Soong, then quipped, “Does that make you the snake?”

Geordi let out a soft whistle, then laughed softly, “Her biting remarks transferred, too.” He turned his attention to Doctor Soong, “Is there a stability watch period, like with native positronic androids? A certain of amount of time to be careful or else they go into cascade failure?”

Doctor Soong shook his head, “No. With a synaptic scan, the neural pathways are already formed, so it’s a matter of whether the transfer worked fully or not. You find out right away. It’s only when you program one from nothing that you have to watch out for cascades, especially during the formative months.”

“I remember my formative months.” Data’s pale lips formed a rueful smile, “I had nearly considered shutting myself down and starting over, but in the end, I did not. Hopefully, B-4 will manage to get through the upcoming months, once he is reactivated.”

“You mentioned being stuck in B-4.” Doctor Soong ran a hand through his unkempt hair, “He was the one I could never get to work past a week or two. The other prototypes lasted a month, at least.”

Data’s expression became more somber, “The Remans somehow found B-4, planted a program in him that stunted his neural pathway generation and also allowed for a second program to run independently in his matrix. Ironically, it saved both him and myself. My memory transfer into him became the backup for rebuilding me, and in B-4, it kept him from going into a cascade failure. He will not have the intellectual capacity that I possess, but when we left him, he was able to understand simple concepts and perform repetitive tasks. I attribute his growth to T’Mera.”

“Just simple child development methods.” T’Mera lowered her chin bashfully, “The real work will come with Doctor Vanzanen. We’ll send her a message after we leave here, while we’re on the way back to the Enterprise.”

Doctor Soong nodded to the couple, “Are you leaving to go find your ship right away?”

Geordi looked at the others, “We really should, since it could take over a week to reach the Enterprise, depending on where they are.”

T’Mera gave Data a quick kiss on the cheek, “Can you let me down, so I can go get the things I left on the table?”

Data lowered her to the floor, “Of course, t’hy’la.” He focused his attention back to Doctor Soong, “We really should leave without delay. Thank you again, for your help.”

T’Mera walked over to where she had left her PADD, remote and the binder, gathered them up carefully, then returned to Data’s side.

Doctor Soong smiled, “It was good to see you again, Data, and even better to see that you found someone to love. Make sure she always knows how you feel about her, son. May you all have a safe journey.”

T’Mera held up her right hand to do the Vulcan salute, “Peace and long life, Doctor Soong.”

Geordi gave the doctor a brief wave, “Goodbye, again.”

Data remained where he was, for a few minutes, his yellow eyes staring intently at Doctor Soong. His lips parted, ever so slightly, as if he were going to speak, but then he pressed them back together tightly. After a moment, he finally spoke up, “I have so much to ask and so much to say to you, but it is perhaps best to leave this container of Annelids closed for now. I no longer have a homing beacon, so there will be no way to contact you, after we have left.”

Doctor Soong moved to stand directly next to Data, then whispered into his ear. “If you ever need me, that’s the frequency.” He turned and walked over to one of the stools, then sat down. “Goodbye, Data.”

“Goodbye, Father.” Data turned to join Geordi and T’Mera, and the three walked up the steps and out through the doors.

“Quimby, three to beam up.” T’Mera spoke into the small remote device, and shimmering transporter energy surrounded them. The misty jungle changed into the interior of the Ghost, as the three rematerialized on board.

As soon as they materialized, T’Mera walked up to the helm and ops console, then typed in a few commands. She placed her hand on one of the panels, scanning it. “I just have to set up security for my new form.”

Quimby glanced at T’Mera, from head to foot, then snorted, “Well, don’t we have a fancy new body?”

T’Mera stuck out her tongue at Quimby, “Just set a course for Federation space. Once we contact the Enterprise, I can give you the coordinates.”

“Aye, aye Cap’n.” Quimby replied, and the Ghost’s impulse engines kicked in. “Leaving orbit.”

Geordi made his way to the ops seat, “You still want me to sit here?”

Data took the chair at the engineering console, “That should be sufficient. If we are dissatisfied with our seating arrangements, we can always switch.” He buckled himself into the seat.

T’Mera walked back to the science station, then pushed the medical support chair to the cargo bay and secured it inside. She returned to the command area, taking the seat by the science station and fastening her harness. She peered over at Geordi to ensure he was also harnessed, “All right, Quimby. Warp 8.”

“Aye, aye, Cap’n.” Quimby pushed a few buttons on the console, and the warp engines engaged. The stars outside the viewport changed to streaks of light, as the tiny ship sped back to Federation space.

T’Mera leaned back in her seat, “Maybe my next ship will have infinite improbability drive.”

Data raised an eyebrow, then frowned slightly, his yellow eyes darting back and forth. “Accessing: As soon as the ship's drive reaches Infinite Improbability, it passes through every conceivable point in every conceivable universe simultaneously. Source: Humor book from twentieth-century Earth. Hmm.” His yellow eyes focused back on T’Mera, “You are still generating witticisms. This is good.”

Quimby announced, “We have reached warp eight and inertial dampeners are working. Feel free to walk about the cabin.”

Geordi unbuckled himself, “I just realized it’s been a while since I’ve eaten.” He walked over to the replicator, “Iced coffee and fettucine alfredo.” He grabbed the cup and plate and returned to his seat.

Data swiveled his chair to face the console, “I am sending a subspace message to the Enterprise, requesting rendezvous information.”

“I’ve just sent one to Doctor Vanzanen, giving her the green light for B-4.” T’Mera stated, then turned to face her chair forward. “It’s so odd to not have any pain and not feel exhausted.”

Geordi chewed the current forkful, then swallowed it, “I’m glad it worked. Say, T’Mera, with you being on the Enterprise, does this mean you’ll fix any holodeck malfunctions?”

“Software-based ones, sure.” T’Mera wiggled her fingers, testing the articulation, “I can even maybe diagnose any hardware issues, but I can’t fix those. I think. We’ll see. I don’t know yet, if I’ll wind up like Data, where I read something and in a couple seconds, I become an expert on it.”

Quimby piped up from the helm, “If X means a value that’s unknown and a spurt is a sudden drip of water, would that make an expert an ‘Unknown Drip’?”

Data turned back to face the others, “I have received a response from the Enterprise. We are to rendezvous with them at Earth. The ship will arrive there in approximately five days and be docked at McKinley Station for extensive repairs.”

“Course laid in for Earth.” Quimby typed in the coordinates. “What speed do you wish to travel? If we remain at warp eight, the duration will be ten days.”

T’Mera tilted her head to the right, “We can do warp nine point four without the ship shaking too much. Past point five, we’ll feel it.”

Geordi rubbed his beard, “It would shave three days off the trip if we go at warp nine. You’re sure this little ship can manage that, for an extended period of time?”

“I’m sure. I’ve done full speed, when I’ve been alone and needed to go from Galor IV to Ferenginar.” T’Mera rolled her head from the right shoulder to the left. “Quimby, let’s do warp nine.”

Data raised an eyebrow, “Are you testing your neck servos, t’hy’la?”

T’Mera nodded emphatically, “That’s what I’m doing. Getting used to all this.”

Geordi finished his meal, stood up and returned the tray and cup to the replicator to be recycled. “Seven days on a tiny ship with a couple. This should be fun.”

“A couple of what?” Data raised his left eyebrow at Geordi.

T’Mera smiled at that, “We’ll try not to be lovey-dovey, and we’ll restrict testing certain subroutines to the times when you’re sleeping. Is that fair?”

Geordi chuckled, then walked back to the chair and seated himself, “That sounds fair. Seven days is still a lot of Fizzbin.”

Data spoke as everyone settled in for the long journey, “Much of the time can be best put to use by testing T’Mera’s new systems and her motor control.” He smiled in delight, “And I could not ask for better companions.”

Chapter Text

Year: 2381

Stardate: 58108.4

 

Data rushed at T’Mera, attempting to tackle her, but she sidestepped at the last second, then pushed him with her arms, using his own force against him. Only Data’s android reflexes kept him from hitting the starboard side wall of the Ghost’s cargo bay. It had been easy enough to clear what little cargo there was to the sides of the bay, to create a large center area for testing T’Mera’s motor skills, coordination and reflexes.

Geordi watched from the port side wall, near a full length mirror. “I have to agree with her, Data. I think you overengineered her body.” He smirked, then added, “I’m still not used to seeing your legs, either.”

Both Data and T’Mera wore standard replicated black undershirts and shorts, with no foot coverings. Data looked down at his legs and feet, “I normally wish to keep them covered, as they tend to invite comments about how pale I am. However, for this particular activity, it seemed more prudent to keep clothing to a minimal level.”

Geordi turned to study his reflection, “Say, T’Mera, why do you have a mirror in your cargo bay, anyway?”

T’Mera set her feet firmly on the cargo bay floor, widening her stance, “Oh, that’s because I tend to live out of my ship, especially if I’m traveling around to conferences. The closed storage next to you is my wardrobe and personal items. The mirror is so I can check that I’m presentable.” She kept her eyes focused on the other android, “Data, if you’re sensitive about being pale, why did you keep that color of bioplast?”

Data pressed his lips together, while both eyebrows rose upward, “This is how I look, and how I see myself. It is who I am, even if I do not understand why.” He let out a soft sigh, “I should have asked father why he decided on this coloring, but knowing his behavioral pattern in answering such questions, he most likely would have replied “Why not?” or “Why did Michelangelo use marble?” to the inquiry.”

Geordi changed his position to watch the couple in the center, “You’re probably right about that. Maybe gold was all he could get at the time?”

“Pale ‘moonlight gold’ bioplast is very visible, as are yellow eyes.” T’Mera circled around opposite Data, “The colors also have meanings, from a human psychological standpoint. It’s why, even though we don’t use it for currency anymore, it’s used for trophies, medals, pressing containment for latinum and fancy decorations.”

Data attempted to grab T’Mera, but she dodged easily, “Accessing: The color gold is the color of success, achievement and triumph. Associated with abundance and prosperity, luxury and quality, prestige and sophistication, value and elegance, the psychology of this color implies affluence, material wealth and extravagance. Gold is linked to masculine energy and the power of the sun.” He lunged for her, but she remained out of his reach. “My father might have chosen it as signifying his own triumph, albeit prematurely, since he fashioned how we looked prior to our becoming viable.”

Geordi leaned back against the wall storage, “And yellow eyes might have the same impact. They’re very visible.”

Data continued his attempts to catch T’Mera as he rattled off, “The color yellow relates to acquired knowledge. It is uplifting and illuminating, offering hope, happiness, cheerfulness and fun. Yellow inspires original thought and inquisitiveness. Yellow is the great communicator and loves to talk. It is the practical thinker, not the dreamer. Yellow is the scientist, constantly analyzing, looking at both sides before making a decision; methodical and decisive, although it can often be impulsive. Yellow is non-emotional, coming from the head rather than the heart.”

T’Mera grinned at Data, “So, the colors do fit your lifestyle and personality. Hmm, they don’t fit the other identical Soong Sons so much, though.” She evaded his grasp easily, “Or, maybe like Geordi said, he got it cheap or in bulk, or it’s all he could get.”

“Perhaps.” Data furrowed his brow, then lunged at T’Mera, changing to a sudden feint at the last moment.

T’Mera let out a surprised gasp as Data’s arms encircled her. Instead of breaking free, she wrapped her arms around him and pressed her face into his right shoulder.

Geordi caught the expression in Data’s eyes, then walked to the door separating the cargo bay from the central section of the Ghost. “Hey, you two, I think I’m going to eat, then turn in for some sleep. I’ll see you both in seven or eight hours.”

“Sleep well, Geordi.” T’Mera lifted her head and smiled at the exiting engineer.

Data gave the customary single head nod to Geordi, “Sweet dreams.”

“Computer…” T’Mera waited for the door to close, then listed instructions, “Set acoustic barrier around cargo bay to keep sound inside.”

Data smiled, then added, “Computer, play soft instrumental dance music.” He focused his attention on T’Mera, “Would you care to dance?”

“I would love to dance with you.” T’Mera replied, then released her arms, allowing him to lead her in slow dancing. “Where does my left hand go, again?”

“On my shoulder.” Data responded, taking her right hand in his left, and placing his right hand on her hip. He deftly led as they danced around the cleared area in the center of the cargo bay.

As the second song began to play, T’Mera glanced from side to side, “I know this song.” then began to sing the chorus over the instrumental, “And they whirl and they twirl and they tango... Singing and Jinging a Jango... Floating like the heavens above... Looks like Android Love...”

“Ah, more humorous lyrics replacement.” Data remarked, allowing himself a toothy smile. “Had you already done that one, or did you devise it just now?”

“Just now. All I did was replace Muskrat with Android. I left the rest of the ridiculous lyrics as is.” T’Mera swayed as Data’s movements indicated her direction, “Nice to know that skill of mine transferred.”

“Indeed.” Data’s eyes gazed intently into hers, “T’Mera, shall I initiate my romantic subroutine? We still must test out your functions in that area.”

T’Mera licked her lips slowly, lowered her eyelids just a touch, then whispered, “Execute…”

Data’s hand moved from T’Mera’s hip to her backside, and he pulled her tighter to him, “Executing.” Pale gold lips pressed against green-tinged pink lips, “Let me know if there are any malfunctions or lack of sensory input.”

“I won’t lie to you, Data. It’s different from when I was biological.” T’Mera replied in between kisses, “I do have sensations from what we’re doing, but it’s like they’re one step removed.” She gripped his black undershirt, pulling it up and separating from him long enough to peel it off of him and toss it to the floor.

Data mimicked her actions, pulling her shirt over her head, tossing it aside and fighting the urge to stop the proceedings in order to fold both shirts neatly. “Engaging primary mammary protocols…” He cupped her breasts in his hands, stroking her nipples with his thumbs.

“You have mammary protocols?” T’Mera tilted her head to the right, giving him an amused smirk.

“No, I do not. I was attempting humor.” Data leaned to kiss her again, as his hands explored her chest.

T’Mera returned the kiss, “I found it quite funny. Ooh, look what else I found.” Her right hand slipped beneath the waistband of his shorts, then wrapped around his member.

“Not many women would tolerate someone reading command line functions during copulation.” Data’s smooth voice took on a breathy tone as he spoke, “I value your unique ability to do so.” His hands caressed her bioplast as they moved lower, pulling her shorts down at the same time that she removed his.

In a short time, both androids were completely unclothed. T’Mera lay on her back on the floor of the cargo bay, with Data positioned between her legs. “Wait… I don’t want to do it like this. Can you sit down in a cross-legged position?”

Data’s left eyebrow rose in puzzlement, but he nodded, “Of course.” He readily complied, sitting down with his knees out to the sides, and his left ankle crossed over the top of his right one.

T’Mera lifted herself off the floor and climbed into Data’s lap, wrapping each of her legs around his corresponding hip. As she pressed her upper body against his, her right arm reached around his back. She held her left arm out, with her elbow creating a ninety degree angle, “Place your right hand to mine, the same way. Your left hand will support my back.”

Data obliged once more. “I am intrigued.” He hooked his left arm, cradling her back, “Is this a variation on Gemini or Liana?” As he positioned himself, he realized with amusement that the mirror was reflecting their lovemaking efforts to him. He turned his attention back to T’Mera.

T’Mera lowered herself slowly onto him, “I don’t know. I never needed to know any of the positions. I only added the packaged protocols to my holograms.” She let out an extended exhale as he entered her, then pressed her left hand to his right, interlacing her fingers with his, making contact between the heels of their hands. Her head lolled back as their individual positronic matrixes networked. "My net to your net, my processes to your processes..."

Data’s yellow eyes widened with awe and excitement, as they fixed on T’Mera’s brown eyes. The combination of their relays created faster processing speeds, and everything within their minds intermingled. He continued to thrust rhythmically into her, while their lips pressed together in passion. Their merged minds became simultaneous mirrors and windows, reflecting and exposing each and every sensation, emotion and impulse from one to the other and back again. With every motion, he felt both his and her reaction to stimuli.

Memory Engram Access Request: Trusted Source. Y/N?

Data gasped out loud, while his internal protocol answered the query with the same answer, “Yes.”

The mixing of minds dropped to a deeper and deeper level, as they accessed memories of their times from the beach house virtual reality. Corresponding biological sensations melded with the android versions, increasing the intensity and excitement. A sudden burst of heightened pleasure radiated from the combined neural nets, hitting every relay and connection, and raced through every servo in their bodies, causing uncontrolled spasms.

Data fell over backwards, staring up at the cargo bay ceiling, while T’Mera fell forward with him and remained limp on his chest. Five minutes elapsed with silence and no movement. The connection withdrew level by level, until the network terminated.

T’Mera recovered first, “Was that an orgasm or an overload?” She remained resting atop the pale golden body of the male android.

“I am uncertain.” Data answered, then wrapped his arms around her and straightened his legs. “Whichever it was, it was remarkable and enjoyable.”

“I hope it was an orgasm.” T’Mera leaned her head against his, “If we overloaded all our servos and are stuck this way until Geordi can re-initialize our locomotion systems, it’s going to be very embarrassing.”

“Agreed.” Data laughed with delight. “However, since I have already moved my arms and legs, and my self-diagnostic shows all systems functioning within established parameters, I think we do not need to worry.”

T’Mera experimented by moving her own hands, “Mhm. So, do you like my last minute design change?”

“I adore it, t’hy’la.” Data squeezed T’Mera tightly, “Very few experiences will leave me speechless. That was one of them.” He blinked, and his right eyebrow lowered.

T’Mera raised her head to look at his face, “A slip of latinum for your processes?”

“It just occurred to me…” Data remarked with a hint of amusement, “This was my first time having sex with an android.”

T’Mera burst out laughing, then ran her right hand through his tousled hair, “How was it?”

“Amazing, astounding, wondrous, miraculous, spectacular, breathtaking…” Data stared up at T’Mera with a dreamy gaze, “We have invented our own type of sex.” His eyes widened, “I am no longer a culture of one. You and I are creating a culture of two.”

“What’s that? A mix of human, Vulcan and android?” T’Mera stared back into the bright yellow irises.

“Perhaps.” Data sighed contentedly.

T’Mera tilted her head to the left as her mouth quirked, “Your face is already changing. I just noticed it. Your right eyebrow is remaining lower than your left. I remember that from the times we noticed each other at the conferences. B-4’s eyebrows didn’t do that. Sorry… just noting a differentiation.”

“No apology necessary.” Data rubbed T’Mera’s back with his hands. “I believe it is safe to say, at this point, that all your systems are fully functional.”

“Leaving four more days on this trip.” T’Mera replied thoughtfully, “I suppose we’ll figure out more activities to pass the time.” She placed her knees and hands on the floor, then lifted herself off of Data. After standing, she offered a hand to the supine android.

Data gripped the offered hand and smiled as T’Mera easily pulled him to his feet. “I am certain we will be able to amuse ourselves.” He bent to pick up the discarded undergarments, separated them, handed one set to her, and pulled the other set onto his body. “I wonder if Geordi is asleep, yet. I will check.”

T’Mera nodded in acknowledgement, as she dressed herself. “Sounds good.”

Data carefully opened the cargo bay door, frowned, then closed it. “T’Mera, there is some sort of opaque force field around the ops station, and I do not see either Geordi or Quimby.”

T’Mera pursed her lips into an ‘o’, “I guess he figured out how to make use of Quimby’s entertainment functions. Actually, that makes me feel less guilty about what we were just doing.”

Data ambled across the cargo bay to stand next to T’Mera, “Explain?” His head twitched to the left, “Belay that. I believe I understand.” His left eyebrow quirked upwards, “For your purposes?”

T’Mera shook her head, “No, I never availed myself of her sexual functions, but sometimes I had guests along for extended voyages, and they would require relief. He probably won’t be occupied too long, if you needed to speak with him.”

“You are correct, although I do not know the exact time that he commenced his current activity.” Data’s eyes oscillated as he accessed and recited, “Coitus considered "adequate" lasts anywhere from three to seven minutes. For the more ambitious, seven to 13 minutes is considered a "desirable" length for intercourse. Statistically speaking, human sex lasts five minutes and twenty-four seconds on average, although that does not take into account foreplay, female orgasm, or non-heterosexual pairings.” He met T’Mera’s stare, “Our elapsed time of coitus tonight was nine minutes and four seconds, if you were curious.”

T’Mera reached out to embrace Data, “Thank you for the information. Computer, remove acoustic barrier.”

“I do not necessarily wish to speak to Geordi.” Data returned the embrace with a light squeeze, “I wish to replicate painting supplies. In this particular case, watercolors.” He released T’Mera and moved back to the door, “More than thirteen minutes has elapsed.” He opened it and walked into the main cabin.

T’Mera followed after the pale golden android, then let out a sigh of relief at seeing Quimby at the helm and Geordi at ops.

Data had already reached the replicator, “One high quality watercolor canvas, square, twenty-six centimeters. Three round, synthetic sable brushes in size three, six and twelve. One set of watercolor paints. One backing board, square, thirty centimeters. One cup of water, half liter. One painter’s palette.” He dipped his head to Geordi, then gathered his painting supplies and returned to the cargo bay.

Geordi stretched his arms, then approached T’Mera, “Can I ask you something about Quimby?”

T’Mera nodded in reply, “Of course. What do you want to know?”

Geordi glanced back at the holographic autopilot, then returned his attention to T’Mera, “Are you sure she’s not sentient?”

“Absolutely.” T’Mera folded her arms across her chest, “She’s not sentient at all. She's programmed partly with the idealized personality of the original Harriet Quimby, my sense of humor and the rest of her personality is filled in by the Ghost's computer. From there, I added about a thousand individual behavioral triggers for her insults and responses to a variety of probable and possible situations.”

“Oh. You did a very good job, then.” Geordi rubbed his beard, “She almost seems like a real person.”

T’Mera smiled at the engineer, “That was the idea, especially to help on these long voyages.”

Geordi scratched the back of his neck, “You programmed her, entirely?”

“Entirely.” T’Mera emphatically stated, “Every line, function and call. There’s nothing that she does that I didn’t intend for her to do.”

Geordi’s mouth widened in a yawn that he failed to suppress, “All right, then. Good to know. Thanks.”

T’Mera smiled at Geordi, “I guess I’d better get back into the cargo bay, so you can get some sleep.”

Geordi headed back to sit in the ops seat, “Sure, if you want. It doesn’t matter to me if you and Data are out here, as long as there’s some quiet.” He buckled himself into the harness, reclined the seat to the flat position, then let out another yawn and shut his eyes.

T’Mera turned and headed back into the cargo bay, shutting the door behind her.

Chapter Text

Year: 2381

Stardate: 58119.2

Earth Date: February 13, 2381



Quimby announced, “Now entering the Terran system.”

T’Mera unbuckled her harness and left the science station, “Prepare to disengage and switch to manual piloting.”

Geordi waved to the autopilot, “Goodbye, Quimby.” He zipped up the top of his Starfleet uniform.

Quimby pressed a few buttons on the console, “All set for you to take over.” With a sardonic smile, she stated, “I've had a perfectly wonderful voyage... But this wasn't it.” and then vanished as the manual piloting system engaged.

T’Mera sat in the helm seat and fastened the harness, “Slowing to impulse.”

Data finished pulling on the standard black suit with grey shoulders, covering the mustard-yellow undershirt. The collar was plain, without any rank pips. “The Enterprise is at Earth Station McKinley, for repairs.” He pulled his boots on, then sat down at the communications panel.

As the Ghost entered the vicinity of Earth, the station came into view. Beneath the claw-like lighted arms of the station, the Enterprise-E floated. The secondary hull had breaches in several places along the starboard side, and all around the ship, the crew affected repairs.

T’Mera let out a soft whistle. “Holy ship.” then glanced at Geordi, noting his expression, “What?”

“That was terrible.” Geordi shook his head, but smiled. “I better ask to be transported right away. They probably need me.”

Data unbuckled himself, “That is a good idea.” He opened the communications panel, “Enterprise… This is the Ghost, registry FA-254PV. Lieutenant Commander Data speaking. Requesting permission for Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge to beam over.”

“Permission granted, Commander Data.”

Geordi unbuckled himself, then grabbed his bag from the midsection locker and stood on one of the transporter pads. “Energize.” The engineer vanished in the shimmering energy.

Data spoke once more, “Enterprise, the Ghost will need to be guided into one of the shuttle bays. Awaiting instructions.”

“Acknowledged, Commander. Use thrusters to maneuver into position behind the Enterprise. We’ll do the rest.”

T’Mera engaged the thrusters to move the small ship directly behind the Sovereign class vessel, then positioned the Ghost directly between the nacelles of the Enterprise. She turned and nodded once to Data. “We’re in place.”

“Enterprise.” Data called over the comm, “The Ghost is in position. At your leisure.”

A tractor beam emerged from the Enterprise, then pulled the small ship into the large shuttle bay in the primary hull. In a few more minutes, the Ghost was parked inside near a runabout.

T’Mera powered down the engines, then unfastened her harness and stood. She began to fuss over the dark green turtleneck shirt that was tucked into black pants. “Maybe I should have worn something more formal.”

“You look aesthetically pleasing, as usual.” Data’s lips curved into a tight smile. He walked to the cargo door, then opened it, waiting for her to walk through.

T’Mera sighed and bowed her head to the android, “Thank you, Bright Eyes.” As she passed into the cargo bay, she grabbed both of their packed bags and slung their straps over her left shoulder. “I’ll carry our things, since you’ll probably be busy.”

“I will need to return later, for my painting.” Data informed her, “So it might be best just to leave everything here, and I will bring it to our quarters later.”

T’Mera placed the bags down on the floor, “That makes sense.” She hesitated as they approached the door, “I’m nervous.”

Data shot her a reassuring smile, “I am here with you. Just remember that.” He opened the hatch door and stepped out into the cargo bay.

Commander Worf stood ready to greet the Ghost’s occupants. “Commander Data. Welcome back.”

Data walked forward to greet Worf, “Greetings, Commander Worf. It is good to be back, sir.” He turned and gestured with his left hand to indicate T’Mera. “May I introduce Doctor T’Mera Chipman?”

T’Mera’s face bore a calm, blank expression as she exited the vessel. She moved to stand at Data’s side, and held up her right hand in the Vulcan salute, “Live long and prosper, Commander Worf.”

“So…” Worf bared his sharp teeth to a small degree, “This is the woman who has kept you out of Sto'Vo'Kor. Welcome on board.”

Data leaned his head forward, holding up his right index finger, “While I appreciate the Klingon culture, I do not believe that androids get to go to Sto'Vo'Kor, no matter how honorably they die, sir.”

“That is too bad.” Worf replied with wistful relish, “You had a glorious death.”

Data smiled up at the tall Klingon, “True, but had I remained dead, I would not have met my Par'Mach'kai.”

Worf regarded both Data and T’Mera, then replied, “Congratulations to both of you. Captain Picard wishes to see you both in his Ready Room. I will escort you there.”

“Thank you, sir.” Data replied, then held out an elbow for T’Mera.

T’Mera placed her hand around Data’s arm and walked with him, as Worf led them to the turbolift. As they passed a few crewmembers in the corridors, some waved to Data.

As the turbolift sped towards their destination, Worf informed Data, “Your quarters are on Deck Four. I have already returned your animal, Spot. She is in good health.”

“I thank you for taking care of her in my extended absence, Commander.” Data bowed his head to the Klingon.

The turbolift doors opened onto the bridge, and Data led T’Mera to the captain’s Ready Room, then pressed the panel.

Captain Picard’s distinctive voice called out, “Come!” as the doors whooshed open.

With a final dip of the head to Worf, Data entered the room, escorting T’Mera inside. “Lieutenant Commander Data, reporting for duty, sir.” The doors closed behind the two of them, after they passed through.

Captain Picard stood, pushing the burgundy chair away from the semi-circular desk. “Commander Data.” He held out his hand as he approached the android, “Welcome on board. It’s so very good to see you.” When Data clasped his hand in return, the captain shook it enthusiastically.

“It is good to see you, too, sir.” Data dipped his head in deference, then added, “May I present Doctor T’Mera Chipman?”

T’Mera raised her right hand in the Vulcan salute, “Live long and prosper, Captain Picard.”

Captain Picard released Data’s hand and formed the Vulcan salute with his right hand, “Peace and long life, Doctor. I can’t thank you enough for saving Mister Data.”

“I am gratified that I was able to do so. Thank you for having me on board the Enterprise.” T’Mera responded in a stoic voice.

Captain Picard lowered his hand, “I’m honored to have you here, although there is a matter that I found slightly concerning, when I was trying to look up your clearance levels.”

Data tilted his head to the right, “Does she not have enough clearance, sir?”

“It concerns her Sigma clearance.” Captain Picard’s steel-blue eyes focused on T’Mera.

Data frowned and turned his head to directly look at the holographer, “Accessing: Sigma is the clearance level that often signifies clandestine involvement by Section Thirty-One.”

T’Mera’s glanced down to the floor, “How much do the two of you know about the organization? About their methods and tactics?” Her gaze returned to the captain and Data.

“It is supposedly a non-existent organization that was created under Starfleet Charter, Article Fourteen, Section Thirty-One, which states that extraordinary measures may be allowed in times of extreme threat.” Data answered, still keeping his expectant stare on her face.

Captain Picard replied to her question, “I know very little, except for rumors and whispers. I suspect that you know far more.”

T’Mera folded her arms across her chest, “The first time one of them appeared to me, they had put me through a holographic loyalty and psychology test. I don’t even know how they managed to get me out of bed and into the holosuite. They tried to recruit me. I said no.” She paused, then continued, “They came to me again, this time demanding that I do what they ask. They knew my mind so well that I was put in situations where I would do what they needed me to do, even if I had no idea what I was doing, or that I was even doing it for them. I thought very long and hard on it, and I realized that if people like myself, with ethics and morals, won’t work with them… who does that leave?”

Data offered, “It leaves them with only operatives who have no moral compass.”

“Exactly.” T’Mera dipped her head once to Data, “I haven’t done much for them, but I no longer outright reject them when they come to me. I have completed three missions that I’m aware of, all which fell within my own standards of ethical and moral behavior. I honestly doubt they’ll approach me here, on the Enterprise, especially since I’m an android. They’ll no longer have easy access to me.”

Captain Picard leaned back against his desk, “Do you feel that your association with them will be a danger to this ship or her crew?”

T’Mera shook her head, “No. If I thought I was bringing danger with me, I wouldn’t have agreed to come here with Data. From my own experience with them, Section Thirty-One is a danger to the principles of the Federation, but not a physical threat. I have pointed out to the operatives that I met that there does need to be a line drawn, as to how far extreme should go.”

Captain Picard seemed to regard her for a moment, then nodded, “Very well, but I want to make this clear. If they approach you, I want to be informed as soon as possible.”

“Yes, Captain.” T’Mera replied, then glanced up at Data. “I’m sorry I never mentioned it to you, but we’ve had far bigger problems to deal with, and up until a couple of weeks ago, I thought I was going to be dead.”

“I understand.” Data’s lips curled into a soft smile. “T’hy’la.” He turned his attention back to Captain Picard, “Are there any other concerns with Doctor Chipman, sir?”

Captain Picard returned his attention to Data, “You said that her ship would be available for use, if needed, which should not be all that often. She will be on board as a civilian consultant, in the sciences division.” He smiled at T’Mera, “You might be called upon for matters of computer security and programming, artificial intelligence, holography and also for matters which pertain to the Borg. If you wish, you may wear the blue utility jumpsuit while on civilian duty.”

T’Mera dipped her head, “Understood, captain.”

Captain Picard’s attention returned to Data, “As you may have noticed, the Enterprise will be in spacedock for at least two more weeks, so there are few duties to attend to at the moment. There is the matter of your promotion to full Commander. Do you wish to avail yourself of the sailing vessel ceremony?”

Data pressed his lips together, “If it is all right with you, sir, I would rather not.”

The captain gave Data an understanding smile, then reached for a box on his desk, “It’s perfectly fine.” He flipped the box open, showing three golden pips inside, then pinned them one by one on the right side of Data’s shirt collar. “Mister Data, I hereby promote you to the rank of Commander, with all the rights and privileges thereto.”

Data’s lips quirked upwards into a smile, “Thank you, sir.”

“The Titan is at one of the other spacedocks.” Captain Picard continued, “The timing of your return is perfect, Mister Data. There will be a small gathering tomorrow evening to celebrate, in reception room five at the Starfleet Headquarters conference center. For now, why don’t the two of you settle into your quarters?” He reached for two communicators on the desk, then handed one to Data and the other to T’Mera.

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” Data pinned the communicator to the left chest area of his uniform, then held his left elbow up for T’Mera.

T’Mera pinned her communicator on, then wrapped her right hand around the crook of Data’s elbow, “Thank you, Captain.”

“Then, I will see you later. Dismissed.” Captain Picard smiled at the couple.

Data turned and led T’Mera out of the Ready Room, and over to the nearest turbolift. “Deck seven, shuttlebay one.” He smiled at T’Mera as the turbolift conveyed them down six levels and aft.

T’Mera gave Data’s arm a light squeeze, “You’re happy to be back. I can tell.”

“I feel as if I am home again. While I call Doctor Soong "father", the truth of the matter is that he has not done much that I would consider fatherly. Doctor Soong was my creator.” Data placed his free hand on hers, “On the other hand, Captain Picard has mentored me, counseled me, protected me and valued me; he has been a true father to me.”

The turbolift doors opened, and the two androids exited into the corridor leading to Shuttlebay One. The bags, belongings and painting were gathered and brought back to deck four, to the new quarters assigned to Data.

As the doors opened, T’Mera walked inside first, “You’re finally going to unveil the painting? I’ve been curious to know what it is.”

“I intend to hang it as our first decoration.” Data replied as he followed her inside. He set the covered painting down near a wall, then carried the bags into the bedroom section. “We may need a second workstation in the other room for you.” As he set the bags down, a tabby cat ran over to him and rubbed against his legs. “Spot! I am glad to see you!” He bent down to lift the cat in his arms and stroked the orange fur.

T’Mera smiled and ran her hand along the cat’s fur, “Hello, Spot.” She walked over to the drawers in the walls, “I suppose we can put my workstation right up against yours, in a yin-yang style. I’ll put my things in the drawers on the right side, since I’m right-handed and you seem to be left-handed.”

“That is logical.” Data carried Spot back into the living area, then set the cat down on the floor. He walked to the replicator, “Four hooks for wall decoration.” Once the hooks materialized, he busied himself with hanging the watercolor on the wall.

T’Mera folded and put away both of their clothing, then unzipped the bag Geordi had brought them. She held up the clear display case that contained Data’s medals, then walked over to the shelves behind the workstation area. She read each one aloud as she placed the case on one of the shelves, “Starfleet Command Decorations for Valour and Gallantry, Medal of Honour with Clusters, Legion of Honour, the Star Cross, Starfleet Medal of Commendation, Tolley Citation and the Starfleet Citation for Conspicuous Gallantry. You’re quite decorated, Bright Eyes.”

Data eyed the painting, then pushed one side, to hang it level. “Indeed, I am.”

T’Mera removed the briar pipe and placed it on Data’s desk. The emotion chip and the yellow proximity detector implant were placed on a shelf. She reached into the bag and removed the small holograph crystal. “Where do you want Tasha Yar to be?”

“You wish me to keep her hologram?” Data turned to observe T’Mera. “In most of the articles that I have read, and in human behavior that I have witnessed, it is said that reminders of a previous love would be unwanted by any subsequent lovers.”

“She was important to you.” T’Mera placed the crystal in a central part of the shelf, “I don’t feel threatened by it.”

Data finished hanging the watercolor painting and stepped over by T’Mera’s side, “It seems unbalanced to have so many of my items on display and none of yours.”

T’Mera raised an eyebrow, “If you want, I can put my Latinum Plegg Lobes award in there, but I usually just keep that in a box in the cargo bay of the Ghost.” She turned to look at the watercolor, then let out a shocked gasp.

The watercolor painting showed two unclothed figures on a graduated grey background. A female figure with shoulder-length brown hair sat with her back to the viewer. One pointed ear was visible poking out from under her hair on the left side. She sat atop a male figure that had pale yellowish skin and brown hair and who faced the viewer. His legs were crossed beneath her bottom, while her legs wrapped around his hips. Each of them had one of their arms in a ninety-degree angle on the left side of the painting.

Data’s eyebrows raised as he studied T’Mera’s face for her reaction, “How do you like it? I chose to use a style similar to Henri Matisse and fauvism.”

“Data…” T’Mera bit her bottom lip, “It’s a beautiful painting, but are you really intending to display it? It’s us having sex.”

“I was so moved by the experience that I felt a need to memorialize it.” Data offered, his lips parted into a near pout. “The style is such that it is not an explicit nor overly erotic image.”

T’Mera winced, then sighed, “Fine. It stays up. What’s the title of the painting? Androids In Flagrante Delicto?” A smile formed on her lips.

Data shook his head, “That title suggests that something is criminal or immoral, which you and I are most certainly not. I have not yet thought of a good title for it.”

T’Mera rubbed her chin, then offered, “What about ‘A Perfect Moment’?”

Data smiled and moved to embrace the holographer, “That is a fine title for it. Thank you.”

T’Mera returned the embrace, “Anything for you, Bright Eyes. I’m assuming you want to go tour the ship and see if you can assist with repairs anywhere?”

“Indeed.” Data answered with a quick kiss to her lips, “Unless you have need of me?”

“I’ll put on a blue jumpsuit and tour the ship, myself, since I’ve never been on a Sovereign-class.” T’Mera released her arms from the embrace, “We can meet back here after we’re done and figure out something to do until tomorrow’s gathering.”

Data gave T’Mera one more kiss, then a single head nod, “Agreed. I will return later.” He released her and then exited their quarters to attend to shipboard duties for the first time in one year, three months, fourteen days, nine hours, thirty-six minutes and four seconds.

Chapter Text

Year: 2381

Stardate: 58121.9

Earth Date: February 14, 2381

 

Data clutched a rectangular black box in his left hand and entered the quarters he shared with T’Mera. The automatic doors closed behind him, and he announced loudly, “Honey? I’m home!”

A muffled contralto voice called back, “Which cultural reference are you drawing that from, so I can formulate the proper response?” T’Mera added, “Also, I want to point out that you used a contraction.”

“So I did. Intriguing.” Data followed the direction of the voice into the living area, then halted in surprise. A pair of legs in sciences blue coveralls protruded from under a holograph-capable black surface desk that was pushed up against his white desk. Miniature holo-emitters lined the wall edge below the ceiling. To the left of the desks, near the wall, Spot stretched out on one of the perches of an elaborate carpeted cat tree with eight levels, steps, hammocks, interior hiding holes, and an enclosed cat litter area on the floor level. His eye then caught another new item on the display shelves; A clear Tyrinean blade carving that had once been given to him by Lieutenant D’Sora.

T’Mera’s muffled voice emanated from beneath the desk, “I was able to beam down to Starfleet Medical and return the support chair, so that’s all done. I also took the liberty of getting a few more pieces of furniture.”

“That is fine.” Data responded, while accessing several possibilities for inquiring about the blade carving. He settled on blunt. “T’hy’la, how did that Tyrinean blade carving come to be displayed on the shelf?”

T’Mera slid out from beneath the desk, “Lieutenant D’Sora dropped by, earlier. It had been returned to her, when your quarters were cleaned out. Once she heard you were back, she wanted you to have it again.” She noted the expression on his face, “Should I have refused it? If so, I apologize for being presumptuous.”

“It is fine for you to have accepted it on my behalf. I am simply…” Data hunted for the proper wording, “Surprised.” He turned his head to regard the cat, “I also thank you for thinking of Spot’s needs.” He walked towards the double desks, “You have installed your work area?”

“Yes.” T’Mera performed a kip-up to stand, “I’ll be able to do everything I need to.”

Data remembered the box in his hand, and held it out to the holographer, “As today is Valentine’s Day on Earth, and is associated in modern times with romantic love, I have procured a gift for you, in honor of our affiliation in such matters.”

T’Mera grinned, then closed the distance between them and wrapped her arms around Data. “Thank you, Bright Eyes. To me, every day with you is a Valentine’s Day.”

Data’s lips curled into a smile as he opened the box, “I saw this adornment for the neck and it reminded me of you.” He removed the five centimeter thick black satin band with the dangling gold infinity symbol charm and clasped it around T’Mera’s neck, “The lemniscate is also significant in my esteem for you.”

T’Mera ran her hands gently up Data’s back, pushing his face towards hers, “I think it’s wonderful.” She pressed her lips against his for an extended kiss.

Data gazed at T’Mera after the kiss, “You are the most beautiful android I have ever seen."

T’Mera waggled her eyebrows, quipping, "And that's not saying much for me?"

“I do not recall inviting Groucho Marx here.” Data laughed softly, then returned to a serious mood. “It is saying everything. I only have optical sensors for you.”

“Ditto.” T’Mera leaned her head on Data’s chest, “I cherish thee.”

The comm system chime interrupted, followed by a male voice, “Bridge to Commander Data.”

Data tapped his comm badge, “This is Commander Data.”

“You have an incoming subspace message from a Doctor Vanzanen on Galor IV.”

Once T’Mera had released him from the embrace, Data moved to his desk, “Thank you. Patch her through.” The image on the display changed to Emily Vanzanen’s face. “What can I do for you, Doctor Vanzanen?”

Doctor Vanzanen’s body jerked to her right, as if she were being shoved aside, “I’m sorry to bother you, Commander, but I reactivated B-4 and he’s been adamant about speaking to you.”

B-4’s face appeared in the display, to Doctor Vanzanen’s left, so close that their heads were touching, “Hello!” He reached up to tug on the red stocking cap covering his hair.

Data tilted his head to the left, “Hello, B-4. Do you know who I am?”

B-4 stared out from the screen with wide, yellow eyes, “You… are me.” He followed the statement with a hearty laugh, then settled down, “You are my youngest brother. Data.”

“That is correct, B-4.” Data smiled at the prototype. “How are you?”

“I am functioning well.” B-4 replied, “Emily is nice. She gives me goodnight kisses. I like it here.”

“I am gratified to hear that, but puzzled as to the nature of your call being described as adamant.” Data sat down in the chair at his desk.

B-4 jostled again, and Doctor Vanzanen slid further to the right, “I am worried you are sad. T’Mera is deactivated?”

Data blinked, then waved T’Mera over to his side, “Ah! I managed to save her, B-4. She is here with me now. I am no longer sad.”

T’Mera crouched next to Data, to set herself in the viewing area of the comm panel on the desk, “Hello, B-4.”

An expression of relief and happiness passed over B-4’s face, “You are reactivated. Good. You will stay with Data?”

T’Mera nodded to the screen, and placed her left arm around Data’s shoulders, “I will stay with Data, yes.”

B-4 replied, “Very good.” and then wandered away from the display.

Doctor Vanzanen returned to the center of the image, “I followed your instructions to the letter. The rootkit and extraneous programs are gone. He’s all B-4, now. I’ll send you reports every few months.”

“Thank you, Doctor.” Data wrapped his right arm around T’Mera’s lower back. “Please take good care of my brother.”

“Will do.” Doctor Vanzanen smiled, then reached forward with her hand, “Vanzanen out.” and the image was replaced with the Starfleet insignia.

Data’s face took on a pensive expression, then he leaned to kiss T’Mera, “Are you going to wear the jumpsuit to the gathering?”

“Hell no.” T’Mera returned his kiss, “I’ll wear something nicer than this. Is it dress or normal uniforms?”

“Normal uniforms.” Data removed his arm from her waist, watching her as she stood up and walked into the bedroom. A moment later, he got up from his chair and followed to observe her.

T’Mera had already removed the teal coverall, by the time Data reached the bedroom. She pulled on a pair of black leggings and a long-sleeve black shirt with a scoop neck, then pulled on shiny, black knee boots.

Data sat on the edge of their bed, “Are you planning to embark on an undercover mission?”

“Very funny.” T’Mera stuck out her tongue at the male android, “Watch and learn.” She reached into one of her drawers, retrieved a garment from within, and pulled it over her arms and head. The green and blue geometric patterns of the tulle dress, along with the ruffles on the flared sleeves and asymmetrical bottom hem, created a fancy, yet modest dress. “How’s that?”

“Aesthetically pleasing.” Data stood up and stepped forward, reaching with his left hand to feel the soft, translucent fabric. “Also pleasing to the tactile sensors.” He let go of the dress, then held his elbow out for her, “Shall we?”

T’Mera smiled, took his elbow, and accompanied him to one of the transporter rooms.

 

Starfleet HQ

 

Reception room five at the conference center at Starfleet Headquarters had a maximum occupancy rating for twenty, spacious enough for the gathering of the friends from both the Enterprise and the Titan. Floor-to-ceiling windows on the South side of the room offered a view of the Golden Gate bridge and the city in the distance, during fogless moments. A buffet station lined the East wall, while a bar stood in the Northwest corner of the room. Two round tables with five chairs each were set by the windows, but plenty of space remained for socializing and mingling. Instrumental background music played over the speakers.

Data glanced sideways at T’Mera as they approached the room’s entrance. “You need not be nervous. I am certain everyone will like you.”

“I’ll probably be the only one in civilian clothing.” T’Mera sighed as they entered, then amended, “Or not. I see another person who isn’t in uniform.” Her eyes were drawn to the brown-skinned woman speaking with Captain Picard. A large, circular-topped fuschia hat with a stretching bottom covered her hair and scalp. She wore a matching fuschia and red turtleneck tunic with a double collar, diagonal trim across the upper chest, and draping pleats that hung to the knees. Matching fuchsia leggings underneath, tucked into ankle boots, completed the eccentric outfit.

“That is Guinan.” Data spoke in a quiet voice, “She is a friend of the captain, and has advised me on many occasions. She used to manage Ten Forward in the Galaxy-class Enterprise. Come. I will introduce you.”

T’Mera gripped Data’s elbow with enough force for it to register on his tripolymer sensors, “All right.”

Data approached the two, “Greetings, Captain. Greetings, Guinan. It is good to see you again. May I present Doctor T’Mera Chipman?”

T’Mera lifted her right hand in the Vulcan salute, “Live long and prosper.”

Captain Picard returned the Vulcan salute, “Live long and prosper. With everyone arriving soon, I need to give the bartender instructions about the wine and the toast. If you will excuse me.” He stepped over to the bar to speak with the man behind it.

Guinan gave a warm smile to the couple, “It’s nice to see you back, Data, and wonderful to meet you, Doctor Chipman.” She studied the holographer’s face, then added, “I’ve been told you’re the one that brought back Mister Data.”

“More accurately, I brought Data back enough to where he could bring himself back.” T’Mera replied modestly. “It’s been an interesting experience.”

“I can imagine.” Guinan glanced between T’Mera and Data, “You must have gotten to know Data very well, over the course of the past year.”

T’Mera’s lips quirked in a slight smile, “I can say with all truth that I know Data inside and out, now.”

Data spoke up, “T’Mera has a capacity to generate witticisms that I find highly appealing.”

Guinan laughed, then nodded, “So I see.” She paused, “I don’t mean to be intrusive, but you two seem like a couple.”

Data smiled, then clasped T’Mera’s left hand with his right hand, “We are affiliated romantically.”

T’Mera nodded in agreement, “It’s not intrusive. I believe we’re fairly obvious about it.” Her attention was drawn to the door, “Although it might be best if we wait until everyone gets here, so we only need to tell the tale once, tonight.”

The noise level rose as Beverly and Wesley Crusher arrived, followed closely by Worf and Geordi La Forge. A few moments later, Captain William Riker and Deanna Troi entered the room.

Guinan smiled broadly, “The gang’s all here.”

Will Riker closed the distance between himself and Data, grabbing the android in a half-hug and patting him on the back, “Welcome back, Data.”

T’Mera quickly let go of Data’s hand and moved back a step, as an amused smile formed on her lips. Geordi stepped up to stand next to T’Mera.

“Thank you, Captain Riker.” Data mimicked the back pat on the taller man. “It is good to be back, sir, and very agreeable to see everyone.”

Beverly Crusher joined the growing crowd around Data, giving him a hug and a cheek kiss as soon as Captain Riker had released the android.

“Hello, Doctor.” Data mimicked her hug, but refrained from the cheek kiss. His demeanor changed and his speaking voice smoothed out, “It is very good to see you both again. Beverly. May I call you Beverly?” the result of which brought out laughter from both Will Riker and Beverly Crusher.

One of T’Mera’s eyebrows shot up and she glanced at Geordi, “That’s a new one.”

Geordi whispered to T’Mera, “That’s his small talk voice.”

T’Mera nodded in understanding. “I see.”

Wesley Crusher offered his hand to Data, shaking it when Data clasped his. “I’m glad you’re back, Data.”

Data shook Wesley’s hand, then looked past the small crowd to where a subdued Deanna Troi stood back from the others. After the various hugs and handshakes seemed finished, he stepped over to the counselor and drew her into an embrace. “Counselor… Deanna…” He whispered to her, “I am so sorry if my actions caused you pain. It was never my intention.”

Deanna buried her face in Data’s chest. “Data…” Soft sobs preempted whatever she had planned to say, and the two of them remained in the tight hug for a few minutes.

Everyone else in the room fell silent, watching the tearful reunion between the one Enterprise crewmember whose life was based around emotions and the one who, for so long, lived a life devoid of emotion.

Deanna managed to compose herself, “I missed you, Data. I’m glad she was able to bring you back to us.”

“I missed you, as well, Counselor.” Data replied as he released the embrace. Deanna moved to stand by Will Riker’s side, and Data returned to T’Mera and Geordi.

Captain Picard chose the moment to hand out wine glasses, each of which contained sparkling white wine. Once everyone held a glass, Picard lifted his in the toast, “You know... it wasn’t easy to choose a wine that celebrates someone’s return from death.” The captain’s eyes settled on Data, “Especially when that someone has been like a son to me. Then I saw the bottles of Chateau Picard from 2336, and I knew they were the ones to choose. That was the year our Mister Data was created, you see. I remember when I was given command of the Enterprise, and I had to choose my senior staff. I spent hours poring over Starfleet personnel records, when I noticed an anomaly; A Lieutenant aboard a small research vessel who had been decorated by Starfleet multiple times. An officer who had saved his ship and crew several times, yet seemed unappreciated by his captain and crewmates.”

The group had formed a semicircle facing Captain Picard, listening as he continued to speak.

“I requested that this officer be transferred to the Enterprise, which they authorized, but told me “He’s just a machine.” From the moment I met Data, I knew he was not ‘just a machine’. Each of us on the Enterprise came to know, befriend, and love Data for the remarkable person that he is. So, it seems fair to pick a wine to celebrate the year of his creation… However, there is more…” Captain Picard continued, “While making arrangements for his return, I noticed something interesting about the woman who facilitated Data’s return to us. Doctor Chipman was born in 2336, so the vintage year is hers, as well. Not only has she returned a member of our family to us, but she will be living on the Enterprise, and I hope she, too, will become part of the family.”

Captain Picard lifted the glass higher, “Here’s to family.”

Everyone else followed suit, lifting their glasses and speaking in unison, “To family.” Data watched and mimicked their actions a second afterwards.

Wesley moved to speak to Data and T’Mera, while the others headed to the buffet table, “I didn’t realize you were going to be on the Enterprise, Doctor Chipman. I thought you’re a holographer?”

T’Mera smiled at the young man, “I am. I’m just going with Data. I won’t be part of the crew, really.”

At Wesley’s confused expression, Data offered, “T’Mera is my romantic partner.”

“Data, I thought you said sexual attraction wasn’t part of your programming?” Wesley blinked at the android.

Data’s yellow eyes oscillated for a moment, “Cross-referencing and accessing…” He focused his eyes back on Wesley, “You are speaking of the time Captain Okona came aboard?”

Wesley nodded in reply, “Yeah, that was it.”

Data smiled at the lieutenant, “My exact words were: “Sexual attraction in this context is not a part of my programming.” That statement remains true. I do not have the type of programming that lends itself to meaningless flings with strange women.”

T’Mera quipped an addendum, “Data prefers the long-term commitment to one extremely strange woman, instead.”

Wesley laughed at her statement, “Oh! I understand now.”

Data’s expression turned to an amused smile. “I would have it no other way. T’Mera is a woman who has captured all of my vascular and hydraulic fluid pumps.”

T’Mera waggled her eyebrows, “I love android humor.”

Wesley grinned, “I like it, too. It was nice to meet you, Doctor Chipman. I’m going to grab something to eat, now.”

“The pleasure was mine, Lieutenant.” T’Mera replied to Wesley, then stood closer to Data as she finished the sparkling wine in her glass.

Data moved closer to T’Mera, placing his right arm around her back, and holding his wine glass in his left hand.  

T’Mera let her neck roll to gaze up at Data’s face, “A slip of gold-pressed latinum for your processes…”

Data inclined his head to touch hers, “I was thinking of what has transpired and what is to come. You and I have shared much in the way of hardship, but we have prevailed. Our time of recovery is finally over.” He squeezed her gently with his arm, “The time of discovery lies ahead.”