Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfic
Disclaimer: These characters don't belong to me.
Klingon knives, Data knew, were extremely sharp. And Klingons, unfortunately, had little compunction about killing. Even killing women did not disturb them, in sharp contrast to many societies. Klingon women were nearly as strong as the men, so little social protection had evolved for them over the centuries.
He hesitated a few feet away from Tasha, weighing his options. If he moved closer, the Klingon would in all likelihood kill her without a second thought. If he did nothing, it was very nearly as likely the Klingon would kill her anyway.
The trouble with Klingons was that many of them regarded killing as a sort of hobby, much like playing the violin or reading Shakespeare. Klingons were in fact a very ethical people, but killing for fun was not a breach of their particular brand of ethics.
He looked at Tasha and saw the grim resignation on her face. She was, after all, trained as a security chief, and most likely fully expected to die sometime in the line of duty. She understood as well as any human the meaning of the old Klingon proverb, It is a good day to die.
Data was less sanguine. He had watched Tasha die once in the line of duty.
He did not wish to watch her die again.
Several hundred options flashed through his positronic matrix, and he selected the best one in a matter of milliseconds. He took a step forward and met the Klingon’s angry gaze, keeping his head turned slightly so that the Klingon would be unable to see the blinking lights on his head that marked him as a machine. “I challenge you to hand-to-hand combat,” he said.
The Klingon looked at him and snorted contemptuously. Data was not much taller than Tasha, and he had a slender build that did not inspire fear in the hearts of large, muscular men. “I battle with you?” he retorted. “There is no honor in such a combat.”
“There is less honor in combat with a small, defenseless woman,” Data said evenly. He saw Tasha’s eyes flash dangerously and knew she had taken exception to that description. In truth, she was no more defenseless than a tiger. Armed or unarmed, she had Starfleet security training and was extremely dangerous. But any human was effectively helpless with a knife pressed against the throat, one of the most vulnerable parts of the human anatomy.
The Klingon hesitated, then, as Data had suspected he would, acquiesced. “I accept your challenge,” he growled. “But I do not wish to be shot. Send the security guards away.”
Data barely turned his head. “Captain,” he said. “Please have them leave the area.”
Data saw the captain’s dubious look and realized Picard was doubtful of his ability to defeat a Klingon in combat. “Captain,” he said, a little more forcefully. “You will have to trust me.”
Picard hesitated a moment longer, then said, “Make it so. All of you, leave this deck.”
A moment later the security guards had disappeared into the turbolift. The Klingon stared at Data with dark, savage eyes and spoke formally. “We are battling for the woman. If I win, I take her and do with her as I will. If you should win—“ His expression of contempt showed how unlikely he thought that was. “You take her. Do you accept these terms?”
“I accept,” Data replied.
The Klingon pushed Tasha away, hard enough to send her sprawling. She leaped instantly back to her feet, looking as if she were about to charge the Klingon, but Data sent her a quick, hard look, and she paused. She was a well-trained officer, and even though Data had no real authority here, he nonetheless outranked her.
The Klingon dropped into a fighting crouch, his hands outstretched, his weight balanced on the balls of his feet. Data planted his feet and stood still, waiting with inhuman patience. He knew he must look like a person with absolutely no experience in hand-to-hand combat. The Klingon would certainly think so. But he would soon learn his error.
The Klingon snarled the ritual question of Klingon combat. “Are you prepared to die today?”
“It is a good day to die,” Data responded equably, completing the ritual. He let a corner of his mouth twitch upward in what he hoped resembled a contemptuous smile. “But not for me.”
With a snarl, the Klingon lunged at him. Klingons were quick, by human standards, but Data could have read Hamlet in the time it took the Klingon to cover the two meters’ space between them. The Klingon stretched out his long, muscular arms.
Data caught his arms easily and flung him backward, hard. He was less concerned for the Klingon’s wellbeing than he would have been for a human’s, knowing as he did that Klingons had extremely hard bones.
The Klingon shrieked with surprise and rage as he found himself suddenly airborne. He grunted as he collided with a bulkhead some six meters away.
“Do you concede?” Data asked.
The Klingon rose to his feet with a roar of inarticulate rage and came at him again. Data threw him in the other direction this time. There was no wall to break his fall, and the Klingon sailed on for quite a distance before slamming into the carpet.
“It would be best if you were to concede now,” Data said.
He did not really expect the Klingon to concede. If the Klingon were to give in now, he would brand himself as a coward in front of his own people. Klingons would generally go on fighting until they died or were knocked unconscious, even when faced with far superior strength. Or perhaps especially when faced with far superior strength.
The Klingon staggered to a standing position, lavender blood streaming from his nose, and charged again. Data considered his options while he waited the long two-point-five seconds for the Klingon to reach him. Ordinarily he performed a Vulcan neck pinch, taught to him by Ambassador Spock, to render humans unconscious, but the Klingon wore heavy leather armor in the area he needed to pinch, and he was not certain that particular maneuver would work on a Klingon anyway. A blow to the head could work, but if he miscalculated the strength of his blow he could easily kill the man. Not that the Klingon would mind. He doubtless believed he would go to Stovol Kor, the Klingon Valhalla, if he died in combat.
Data, however, was less certain of the eventual disposition of the Klingon’s eternal soul. At any rate, his programming did not permit him to kill unnecessarily.
At last he decided on what Geordi referred to as “the Darth Vader maneuver,” an obscure reference to an old movie from the twentieth century. As the Klingon came within arm’s distance of him, Data easily ducked under the man’s outstretched arms, caught him by the throat, and lifted him in the air.
The Klingon struck furiously at him, with fists and booted feet, but his blows were effectively harmless and did not disturb Data. He held the man twenty centimeters off the ground and looked up at him. “Concede,” he said.
The Klingon continued to struggle. Data let his fingers tighten marginally, cutting off the man’s oxygen. He could let his opponent pass out from lack of air if need be, but seeing the Klingon’s dark eyes widen in the beginnings of panic, he began to suspect that might not be necessary. No humanoid enjoyed being deprived of oxygen. “Concede,” he said again. “There is no dishonor in it. You cannot defeat me.”
His fingers tightened again, and the man began clutching at his wrists, nodding frantically. “You concede?”
The Klingon nodded again, and Data dropped him. He collapsed to the floor in a heap, rubbing his neck and glaring up at him.
“You may have the woman,” he growled.
“So you think I’m defenseless?”
Data had retreated back into his quarters after his battle with the Klingon, followed closely by Tasha. Now she stood glaring at him, her eyes flashing. She appeared extremely annoyed with him.
Evidently he was, as Geordi would have put it, in deep shit.
“I am well aware you are not defenseless,” he said in the mild, unflappable tones that tended to drive temperamental humans to fury. Tasha was one of the more temperamental humans he had ever known, and he saw her mouth tighten with annoyance. “In fact I believe I can safely say you are one of the most efficient and well-trained security officers I have ever had the privilege of working with. I was merely trying to reason with the Klingon in terms he could understand.”
“By calling me defenseless?”
Evidently that particular word strongly irritated her. He recalled she had spent her early life in an Earth colony whose government had descended into anarchy. She had spent those formative years dodging rape gangs and protecting her younger sister. Had she been defenseless, she would never have survived.
“At that particular moment, you were in fact defenseless,” he pointed out. “As any human would be in that circumstance.”
“I shouldn’t have been in that circumstance,” she snarled. “I screwed up, damn it.”
Ah. He began to perceive that the anger she was displaying toward him was in fact aimed at herself. Transference. A perfectly normal psychological reaction. “In what way did you err?”
“I got cocky, damn it. I tried to handle too many of them at once. And I didn’t see the knife until it was too late.”
“The Klingons were supposed to be unarmed, were they not?”
She snorted. “You can’t be certain a Klingon is unarmed unless he’s naked. Even then I wouldn’t lay odds. I’ve known them to conceal weapons in what you’d think would be some pretty painful places.”
“Next time I am certain you will be more careful.”
She walked past him and looked out at the stars. “I hate having to rely on someone else to save my ass,” she said softly. “I hate it, goddamnit.”
Given her origins, he understood that sentiment well enough. On the planet she had grown up on, there had been no one else to protect her. “No one is self-sufficient,” he pointed out. “Everyone on this vessel relies on others, every hour of every day.”
“It’s not the same thing. You had to do my job for me.”
Data hesitated a long moment. “I did not wish to see you die,” he said at last, softly.
There was a long silence. Then she turned around and looked at him, her blue-gray eyes boring into his intently. “What happened to your Tasha?”
Data blinked at what appeared to be an abrupt change of subject. “I would rather not say.”
“She died, didn’t she? You watched her die.”
Data opened his mouth, but no sound came out. For the first time in his life he was literally speechless. At last he managed, “How did you—"
“I saw your face when you came down the hall,” she said. “I know you said you don’t feel emotions, but I saw something in your face... I don’t know, something like desperation. Like you’d been in the same situation before and couldn’t stand to go through it again.”
That was such an accurate description of what he had experienced that he was stunned. Desperation was probably too strong a word, describing as it did an emotional state he could not experience. But no more appropriate word came to mind. He had definitely been averse to standing by idly while Tasha died a second time.
“Tasha was killed in the line of duty,” he said at last. “I was unable to save her. None of us could save her, although we tried. We got her to sickbay as quickly as possible.” He paused for a moment, then added starkly, “It was too late.”
“But you and she—“ Tasha hesitated. “You were a couple?”
“Not at that time, no.”
Tasha drew in a long breath. “Just a few weeks after I came aboard the Enterprise, something happened. There was a virus—"
“The intoxicating virus.”
“Yeah. It happened on your Enterprise too, huh? Anyway, I—I seduced Day. That’s how we became a couple, actually. I just wondered if something like that happened in your universe.”
He saw a flush, high on her cheekbones. Fortunately he himself was unable to blush, given that he had no blood vessels. Otherwise he rather suspected he might have. “A similar event occurred in my quantum reality.”
“But you two didn’t start dating?”
“No. I believe Tasha was.... disturbed... by my nature. Afterward, when we were cured, she told me...” He hesitated, uncomfortable. “It never happened.”
“She said that?”
He nodded. “We never spoke of it again.”
“That was really cruel, Data. I’m sorry.”
“There is no need for you to apologize. You are not the Tasha I knew.”
“Yes, but—“ She paused, looking uncomfortable. “We really were the same person, weren’t we? So in the same position, I guess I would have made the same mistake.”
“Not necessarily. That is the foundation for relative-state metatheory: the notion that any small decision may have infinite outcomes, leading to the formation of infinite quantum realities.”
“So just because I screw up in one universe doesn’t guarantee I screw up in another, huh? That’s comforting.”
“That is certainly one way of looking at it.”
She took a step closer to him. “The problem is, I think I might have made the exact same mistake, Data. Because until tonight, all I could see when I looked at you was a machine.”
“That is perfectly understandable. You do not know me very well.”
“I know you better now. When you defended me against those Klingons... for the first time I really believed you’re a person.”
“Thank you,” he said softly. “That means a great deal to me.”
She took another step closer and looked up into his face. “Thank you for protecting me, Data.”
And she leaned forward and kissed his cheek.
Data stared at her blankly as she stepped back, then gave him a smile that seemed, oddly, rather sad. She left his quarters without speaking, which was just as well. He was not certain he could have responded intelligently to any further efforts at conversation.
For the second time in an evening, she had rendered him speechless.
Read Chapter 7 here.