( Authour’s note – the shows Data references are ”What are Little Girls Made Of?” (Classic), “Return to Tomorrow” (Classic), “The Motion Picture” (Classic, movie), and “The Schizoid Man” (Next Generation), respectively. )
Two hours later, Geordi LaForge walked into Engineering. He spied a pair of legs sticking out from under a console and took a deep breath.
Walking over, he tapped on the console. "Uh-hm?" came the response.
"You could have told me," Geordi said.
The legs jerked, and a thump followed by an "OW!" erupted from under the console. The human under the console slid out and gazed up at Geordi.
Geordi shook his head. "It's funny. Looking at you and not seeing an aura, I mean."
The smile showed in the voice as Data said, "Humans don't give off electromagnetic emanations as badly as androids do."
"Are you all right in there?" Geordi asked. "I mean, is there anything I can do?"
"I'm not comfortable," Data replied. "It's not my body, and right now the head aches." He massaged it for a second, then switched tools and leaned back against the console. "As for can you do anything, I don't think there's anything anybody can do. We shall just have to wait till a week passes."
"You still could have told me."
"I am sorry, Geordi. We were a bit in shock." He gave a rueful smile. "So in shock, we instinctively tried to hide it at first. It's still hard to believe." He sighed and slid back under the console.
"Ah, the Romulans," came the complaint, so like Riker Geordi had to remind himself it was Data. "They are complaining the replicators are off, so I am running a level five diagnostic."
"Under the console?" Geordi spluttered.
"The board showed nothing wrong, so I am checking the circuits." He came back out and punctuated his point by waving the tool at Geordi. "But if you ask me, I think it is just a matter of different tastes."
Geordi shrugged. "Maybe they're just being contentious."
Data laughed. "Yeah. Maybe."
The doors to Engineering slid open and Riker walked through. "Geordi," he called.
Geordi turned, the VISOR picking up the distinct aura around the android. "Here, Commander."
Riker moved toward them, and Data jerked to his feet. "What in space happened to you?" he exploded.
Riker was dressed in sweats. He was also limping badly. "Ah, the Romulans," he complained.
Geordi did a double-take. Data couldn't stifle the small grin.
"The second-in-command said he'd show me a few new moves," Riker went on. Geordi got a tricorder and scanned him as he finished, "He showed me a few new moves, all right. Threw me all over the holodeck."
"Mm," Geordi said. "The servomotors in your right pelvis are out of alignment."
"Now you sound like an android," Riker teased. "In Standard, please?"
Data gently pushed Riker onto a flat console. "He means you threw my right hip out of joint. Hold still." Data put a hand on the android's stomach and held the other underneath the right thigh. Suddenly he pulled, hard.
Riker felt no pain, but heard a distinct POP! and felt a slight whirring in the right hip. "I think it worked."
Geordi scanned him again. "Yep. They're back in." He turned to Data. "How'd you know to do that?"
Data smiled at him. "The Academy Olympics. My senior year. I had a pole-vaulting accident and the same thing happened, only with my left hip. A human cadet with joint problems showed me what to do if it ever happened again."
Geordi then turned to Riker. "How could this happen? Didn't you have the safeties on?"
Riker grinned. "I deactivated them. Figured I could give the Romulan a real workout."
Data and Geordi looked at each other, then back at Riker. "Sir," Data said, "that doesn't sound like you."
"No? Hm." Riker stood, gingerly testing the servos. "They seem fine. Thanks." He sighed. "But the big problem remains. What are we going to do about the Romulans?"
Data replied, "The Captain is discussing the issue with Starfleet Command. We think he should have an answer soon."
At that instant, Picard's voice rang around them. "All senior officers, report to Briefing Room Three."
"Guess he got it," Geordi quipped as they left Engineering.
As the officers entered the Briefing Room and took their seats, they all noted Subcommander Tryshon seated beside Picard.
Riker gestured at her. "Why is she here, sir?"
Picard blinked at him. "This concerns her and her crew, Number One. I thought it would be best if she were present."
"Simmer down, Will," Deanna whispered. "This isn't like you!"
"You know," Riker snapped, "I am getting very tired of people telling me 'this is not like me'!"
Data's eyes widened. "Commander, we are all merely concerned about you. About both of us."
Tryshon leaned over and whispered, "Captain, what is going on?"
"A personal matter between my two officers," Picard whispered back. Aloud, he said, "Number One, Mister Data, now is not the time."
"Yes, sir," Data replied.
"No, sir!" Riker snapped. "I have one more thing to say. I am fine, people! Stop treating me like a lab experiment!" He leaned back. "Now I'm done."
Data's eyebrows drew together angrily. He leaned forward, one elbow on the table, the other hand behind his back. The body language was so like Riker it made Beverly, Picard and Deanna blink. Data addressed Riker. "I was not aware that showing concern for a friend's well-being was considered being treated like a lab experiment."
"That's enough, you two!" Picard snapped. "We'll take this up later!"
Data and Riker fell silent, fury written over their faces. They glared at each other.
"Later," Riker whispered.
"Consider it a promise," Data whispered back.
An exclamation in Romulan startled them all. Tryshon was on her feet, glaring at the both of them. "Your commanding officer has decreed you both be silent!" she exclaimed. "Obey him or I shall forget I am guest on this ship and demonstrate Romulan discipline techniques!"
The golden eyes narrowed as Riker turned toward Tryshon, an eerie smile on his face. Before he could say anything, Data had gained his feet and interposed himself between them.
The odd tableau continued for a few seconds, then Riker said softly, "Yes, Ma'am. It is not over, but I shall postpone it." The android speech pattern sent chills through every human there.
Data did not let it faze him. "So shall I," he promised.
Riker nodded and turned back to face Picard.
"Sit down, Data," Picard said softly.
Data nodded once, quickly. "Sir." He sat down.
"I apologise, Subcommander," Picard said.
Tryshon sighed as she sat down. "Understood, Picard. The enmity between our races runs deep."
"Now, to the matter at hand," Picard said. "We have been given permission, by mutual agreement of Starfleet Command and the Romulan Alliance, to penetrate five million kilometres into the Neutral Zone."
Tryshon nodded. "We shall be met there by the warbird PRAAKA. Under a mutually-agreed temporary truce, we shall transfer to the PRAAKA, then both ships will return to their respective sides of the Neutral Zone."
"How do we know we can trust them?" Wolf growled.
"You don't," Tryshon replied. "And we don't know if we can trust you. This is a true test. And, I shall tell you now, expect the PRAAKA not to be alone."
Picard sighed. "I expected as much."
Tryshon smiled. "I thought you would. I heard you discussing reinforcements with your Admiral. A wise plan."
Picard nodded. "We will be at the Neutral Zone, at our present speed, in forty-eight hours. Dismissed."
Several officers left, including Tryshon. Picard walked over to Deanna and Beverly. "Did you hear that?" he asked.
Deanna nodded. "His speech is completely like Data's now, and Data's body language is completely like Will's."
Picard frowned. "But why is Will acting so paranoid?"
Beverly let out a deep sigh. "I was afraid of this," she said. "Every single record we have a of a human being transferred into a machine ends the same way."
"What way's that?" Picard asked.
Beverly met his eyes. "Madness."
Data sat in his cabin, staring blankly at his computer terminal. Fear coursed through him.
Spot, frightened, meowed her way into his lap. He absently scratched her ears, one part of him awed that she still recognised him as himself. She had attacked Riker earlier, though he wore Data's android frame.
"You can sense my fear, can't you, sweetheart?" Data whispered. Spot meowed up at him, green eyes huge. Data lifted her and gently kissed her nose. "Don't worry, cat. Everything will be all right." Then he set her gently down on the floor.
Data leaned back in his chair. "Yeah," he whispered. "Everything will be fine." He glanced back at the records. "Sure it will."
He had been scanning records of mental transference from human to machine. In every case where a human had been placed into a machine, madness had been the result. Where the machine had become human, the madness had come slower, but just as inevitably.
Data closed his eyes. Now I know why he's been acting so strange, he thought with a deep sigh. Will's going mad.
And so am I.
His door buzzer sounded, startling him into opening his eyes. "Come," he called automatically.
Picard walked in. "Busy, Num--Data?"
Data smiled in spite of himself. "I get confused, too, sir. No, I'm not. Just checking some records."
"Mm. Of what?"
Data sighed, switching off the database. "Transfers. Doctor Roger Korby, on Exo III.... the aliens of Arret... the probe they called Ilia... even Doctor Ira Graves... Captain, every time a human has become a machine, or vice versa -- every single time, insanity has resulted!"
Picard sighed. "I know. And Will's showing early signs of it."
Data stood, straightening the yellow tunic. "Agreed. Paranoia, irrational hatred for me.... Sir, I am frightened."
"Afraid you're next?"
Picard opened his mouth to give reassurances, but his combadge squawked to life. "Captain! Worf here! Commander Riker has just attacked the Romulans!"
When Data and Picard arrived at the scene, Riker was gone. "What happened?" Picard demanded.
Tryshon glared at him. "Your Commander attacked my men! One is dead!"
"As is one of my security men," Worf growled.
Tryshon took a deep breath, some of the fire leaving her eyes. "So. It would seem we have a common enemy. I had assumed this was under your direction, Captain."
"I would never jeopardize the safety of guests aboard my ship," Picard snapped.
"Sir?" Data asked, blue eyes haunted. "May I?" At Picard's nod, Data tapped his combadge. "Computer. Location of Commander Riker?"
Commander Riker is on Deck Seven, Section 4.
"What?" Tryshon gasped. "Where in Section 4?"
Data repeated it, and the reply came, In the corridor just outside cabin 7-4-Delta.
Despite the situation, Picard smiled slightly.
”We forgot to reprogram the pattern recognition," Data chuckled. "Computer, location of Lieutenant Commander Data."
Lieutenant Commander Data is in Holodeck One.
"B-But... you are Data!" Tryshon gasped.
"Come on," Picard ordered. "I'll explain on the way." He tapped his combadge. "Counselor Troi, Doctor Crusher, meet me outside Holodeck One!"
A small contingent of people descended upon Holodeck One. The program running was a starfield, but the environment was ship's normal. All was blackness with small pinpoints of light, except for a small, pale figure slumped in a corner, head bent on folded arms.
Data motioned for everyone to stay put, and took a step forward. "Will."
The head raised to focus on him. Fury blazed from the golden eyes.
Data continued to move toward him. "Will, you need help."
"I need nothing but to be left alone!"
"Will, we can help you," Deanna said from the doorway.
"Help me?" Riker laughed. "Look at me! I'm stronger, faster, and smarter than any of you! And you know what? I like it!" He climbed to his feet. "Yes, you heard right! I like being an android!" He laughed again. "I could take over this ship if I wanted to, and nobody could stop me!"
"I could," Data said. He stood immobile in the centre of the room.
"You?" Riker shook his head. "You are the weakest one of all! You are handicapped, Data! Handicapped by the frailties of humanity! You most of all, because you are not used to it!"
"He truly is mad," Tryshon whispered to Picard.
Riker heard it. "Mad, am I? You are the mad one, Romulan! All of you!"
Suddenly, Riker lunged. Data just barely stepped aside, one leg shooting out.
Riker tripped, but did not fall. Instead, he lurched toward Tryshon, roaring incoherently.
Moving as one, Worf and Tryshon met his charge, each grabbing an arm and stopping Riker's headlong plunge.
Then, laughing, Riker simply raised his arms. Both Klingon and Romulan felt their feet leave the floor.
“That’s right,” Data whispered, edging toward Riker. “Just keep him busy….”
“No you don’t,” Riker said, kicking backward.
The blow caught Data full in the stomach. Gasping, he was sent skidding along the floor.
Beverly ran to Data’s side as, laughing hysterically, Riker threw first Worf, then Tryshon, forward. Picard, LaForge and Deanna scattered.
Worf hit the holodeck’s door and slid to the floor. Then he gasped as Tryshon plowed into him. Miraculously, neither was knocked unconscious. As they gained their feet, Worf growled, “The safeties are not working!”
“I turned them off,” Riker sneered. “They got in my way.”
Data pushed Beverly gently aside and climbed to his feet. “Face me!” he ordered. “Let them be! It’s me you want!”
“Right,” Riker said, turning and taking a step toward Data. “All I need do is dispose of that body, and I will be this powerful forever!”
Suddenly, Worf tackled him from below, Tryshon from above. Surprised, Riker went down. Klingon and Romulan both sat on him, ignoring the yells as the android struggled to get some leverage that simply did not exist.
“Hold him!” Data yelled, racing over. He leaned on Riker’s back, hand groping around the lower left quadrant.
Suddenly there was an audible CLICK. The android form went limp and quiet.
Data sagged and groaned. He rolled off of Riker and sat on the floor, head in his hands.
Tentatively, Worf and Tryshon rolled off of the android as well. Riker did not move.
“What happened?” Tryshon gasped.
“Data turned him off,” LaForge informed her, running a tricorder over the insensate form.
Tryshon was breathing hard as she smiled at Worf. “We make a good team, Klingon.”
He returned the cold smile. “Don’t count on it lasting… Romulan.”
Tryshon laughed and nodded.
“He’s finally subdued. It’s over,” Deanna sighed.
“No, it’s not,” Data said. He raised his head, deep pain reflected in the blue eyes. “Beverly, sedate me.”
“What?” Beverly gasped.
“You heard me,” Data sighed. “Sedate me. I’m sane for now, but I don’t know how long it’s going to last. It’s only a matter of time before the madness takes me as well.”
“He’s right,” Picard said evenly. “Sedate him.”
Data felt a spray against his arm and suddenly became very drowsy. He looked up at Tryshon and whispered, “I’m sorry.”
Then darkness overtook him.
Riker struggled to open his eyes. They felt like lead. From a great distance, he heard Crusher say, “He’s coming out of it.”
Forcing his eyes open, he saw Crusher, LaForge, Deanna and Picard bending over his bed. “How are you?” LaForge asked.
Riker frowned. Then memory of what he had done flooded over him. He moaned, and shook his head. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it,” LaForge said. “You did what you had to do.”
“What are you talking about?” Riker groaned, sitting up slightly. “I attacked you and the Romulans! Now you tell me I had to do it?”
LaForge straightened up. Crusher instantly ran her Feinberger over him. Picard asked, “Counselor?”
Deana touched his shoulder. “Who are you?”
“Will Riker,” was the reply.
He felt her gentle touch in his mind, then she broke into a grin. “It’s Will, Captain.” She sounded on the verge of tears. “And there’s no trace of madness.”
“None,” Crusher confirmed.
And all at once, Riker realised what was going on. “I’m back!” he gasped. “Back in my own body, aren’t I?” He grinned as he raised his hand and felt his beard, then laughed as he felt the giddy rush of emotion that broke over him. “I’m human again!”
“Welcome back, Number One,” Picard said. “Geordi, if you please?”
“With pleasure.” LaForge walked to the next bed and threw the switch on the android’s back.
Data sat bolt upright, eyes opening. He blinked once, twice. Then he turned to face LaForge. “Geordi.” He turned his head. “Captain. Counselor. Doctor.” Then the golden eyes widened involuntarily as he spotted the grinning form on the other bed. “Commander. It would appear we are normal again. I would appreciate the return of my uniform, sir.”
Riker couldn’t help it. He burst out laughing.
Data nodded. “If I may, sir? How is this possible? We had five days left.”
A flash of light was his answer. “I did it,” Q said, walking forward to face them. “Your experience got a little too intense, so I reversed the charm.”
“You said you were powerless to do that!” Picard reminded him.
Q shrugged. “I was mistaken.”
“Mistaken, my eye!” Riker said, vaulting off the medical bed. “You had no idea what was going to happen!”
Q’s irritated look at Riker confirmed the truth of the statement.
Picard squared his shoulders and tugged on the hem of his tunic. “Well, well. It would seem you’re not as omniscient as you like to think, mon ami.”
Q smiled at him. “I am hardly your friend, mon capitan. And sarcasm hardly suits you.”
Picard blinked at him.
Having gained the verbal advantage again, Q turned to Data. “So, Teacher. Did you like my gift?”
Data opened his mouth, then closed it without a word.
Q frowned slightly. “Oh. Not even a word of gratitude?”
“Gratitude?” Riker shouted. “What do we have to thank you for?”
Q shrugged. “I did wait until you were both insensate to do the reversals.”
Data nodded. “There is that,” he conceded. “But it was inconsiderate of you to perform the reversals at all.”
“Consideration doesn’t apply to me,” Q said, smiling. “I am above your petty mores.”
“Q, Get. Off. My. Ship,” Picard ground out dangerously.
Q performed a little comic bow. “As you wish, mon capitan. But remember – I leave only because it suits me. For now.
“Until next time, mes amis.”
And he was gone.
Riker and Data looked at each other. Then, slowly, Riker smiled again. Data nodded at him quickly, once.
Captain’s Log, Supplemental. We are leaving the Neutral Zone, our mission of mercy officially over. Subcommander Tryshon and her crew are safely aboard the warbird PRAAKA, heading for Romulus.
Personal note: I must admit to being a bit shocked. Commander Sela was almost courteous this time. It would seem Tryshon is a childhood friend.
As for Commander Riker and Mister Data, both seem none the worse for wear from their… unusual experience. I only hope this is the last we’ll see of Q for quite some time.
Though I doubt it.
Peals of music rippled through Riker’s cabin, yet his trombone lay silent. This music was recorded, from an early 21st century jazz group.
Riker sat staring out the porthole, just listening. Suddenly his door buzzed. “Computer, end music. Come!”
He was not surprised when Data walked in. He smiled warmly at the android. “So, how are you?”
Data shrugged slightly. “Hollow inside. You were right, Will. Once one has experienced emotions, they are missed.”
Riker motioned for Data to join him on the couch. Data did, and looked out the porthole at the starfield. “But I have no regrets.”
Riker sighed. “I do. Two people dead.” He frowned. “I can never say I’m sorry enough.”
Data turned to face him. “You have been forgiven, sir. You had no control over your actions.”
“Yeah? Well, I haven’t forgiven myself.” He sighed. “I wonder if I ever will.” He smiled and changed the subject. “Well, Pinocchio, now you know what being a real, live boy is like.”
“The question is, can I ever be satisfied being wooden again?” Data paused. “And the answer is, ‘To my own self, I must be true’.”
Riker groaned. “Shakespeare would never forgive you.”
“Nevertheless, it is true. I was created an android, not born a human. I must learn to be what I was made to be.”
Riker nodded. “So must I.” He stood up. “Come on, I’ll buy you a drink.”
Data nodded and stood to join him. “As long as it is not coffee.”
Riker laughed. “You’re on!”
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