Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfic
Disclaimer: These characters don't belong to me.
After Tasha left his quarters, Data found himself restless, if that was a word that could apply. He did not want to activate his dream program for some reason he did not care to examine too closely. He did not feel a great deal of enthusiasm for pursuing his latest project, a critical analysis of the early poetry of Seamus Heaney. Playing the violin he had replicated did not seem to hold much appeal for him either.
He decided it would be best to work. Activating the terminal, he accessed the information Commander Maddox had accumulated on the spatial anomaly. There was still a very intriguing mystery to be solved, the question of why this Maddox’s readings were so different from Geordi’s readings in the other universe.
Thirty minutes later he sat back, stared into space, and spent three additional minutes sorting the raw data into a usable form.
At last he was ready to proceed. He hit his combadge and spoke. “Commander Data to Picard.”
There was no response, and he realized his combadge hadn’t chirped. Evidently the combadge was damaged, or perhaps the system was down for some reason. He spoke to the air. “Computer, let me speak to Captain Picard.”
Nothing happened, so Data got to his feet and went toward the door. It slid open, revealing eight Klingons. Eight rather large and annoyed-looking Klingons, although Klingons, he reflected, always looked large, to say nothing of annoyed.
“May I help—“ he began, but got no further. Something clicked inside his head, and he fell to the floor without another sound.
Day sat up in bed abruptly, his heart pounding in his chest. Whatever he’d dreamed had been disturbing. He stared into the darkness for a few minutes, until the vague substance of his dreams drifted into his conscious memory.
He’d been dreaming about those damned Klingons again. Most likely he was worried they were destroying his ship while he was away. He remembered Tasha had been in the dream, too. He’d rescued her. Typical male fantasy, she would have snorted, and rightly, too. Tasha had never needed saving. She’d always managed to save herself when the need arose.
Then a cold sensation washed through him as he recalled the conversation in the ready room yesterday. His dreams were not merely dreams. They were real.
He’d been dreaming about reality, the other reality. Tasha had been in danger, and the Klingons had been involved somehow. And he—no, Data—had saved her. How, he couldn’t exactly remember. But he was certain Data had done something to protect Tasha from the Klingons.
The image of Tasha with the sharp edge of a knife pressed against her throat rose from his subconscious, making his blood run cold.
He cursed under his breath. It was a hell of a thing to be trapped in the wrong universe. Bad enough to be lost, but knowing another man was protecting his own wife because he wasn’t there to do it--
Another memory from the dream surfaced. A deep voice, saying in Klingon, You may have the woman. And still another image... Tasha kissing Data’s cheek.
Data had won Tasha in a contest. His wife. Not Data’s. His, damn it.
He realized he was beginning to loathe Lieutenant Commander Data, without ever having met the man.
God help him. He was jealous.
Jealous of a machine.
Data awakened to the knowledge that something was extremely wrong. He lay still, trying to process what the problem was.
His last memory was of deciding to leave the spacious quarters Picard had assigned to him, but now he seemed to be in an alien room. A dark, dank chamber that smelled strongly of something nonhuman. His nasal sensors had little difficulty identifying the odor as Klingon.
He sat up and looked around at his environment. It appeared to be a Klingon brig, complete with duranium walls and a forcefield across the door. Even he, with his superior strength, could not hope to break out of such a prison.
He recalled the eight Klingons he had seen just outside his quarters when he’d opened the door. Evidently he had been abducted. Perhaps, he speculated, the Klingon he had bested in combat had resented it.
In which case his life span was likely to be drastically shortened.
He could not understand, however, how the Klingons had turned him off. He did in fact have an off switch, but it was located on his lower back. The only way he could be turned off otherwise was by a shock, a phaser blast, an extremely hard impact, or by his own conscious act.
It had felt very much like he had shut himself off. He had felt a click inside his head. But he had not willed himself to shut off.
While he was contemplating this peculiar mystery, someone appeared at the door, beyond the shimmer of the forcefield. Data looked up and saw Bruce Maddox, wearing a plain black jumpsuit rather than the green-and-black uniform of a Starfleet science officer.
“Awake at last, I see,” Maddox said. “Pleasant dreams, Data?”
He recalled he had been dreaming about Daystrom Soong again. Daystrom was aware that he had saved Tasha from the Klingons, and strongly resented it. Which was completely and totally illogical, and thus entirely typical for a human. “How did you know I dreamed?” he inquired.
“I turned on your dream program.”
“Then you must be the one who turned me off.”
Maddox gave an unpleasant, slightly reptilian smile. “That would seem to be the logical conclusion, wouldn’t it?”
Data stood up and walked slowly around the confines of his small prison. As he had expected, he saw no obvious way out. Beneath his booted feet, however, he could feel the faint vibrations of a ship at warp speed. “This is a Klingon ship,” he said. “Why are you aboard a Klingon ship?”
“I think a better question would be, why are you aboard a Klingon ship?”
“On the contrary, I spoke precisely. I can imagine a number of reasons why I would be aboard this vessel. However, I can come up with no reasonable explanation as to your presence here, especially since you are apparently not a prisoner. Therefore, if I can determine why you are aboard this ship, the mystery will most likely be solved.”
“Logical to the end, aren’t you?”
Data lifted his eyebrows. “Is this the end?”
“The end of some things, Data, but the beginning of many others.” Maddox smiled again, a smile that did not reach his cold obsidian eyes. “I’ve always been fascinated by artificial intelligence. In my universe, no one has ever designed a functional, sentient android, but many have tried, and I’ve studied every paper ever written on the subject.”
Data nodded slowly. The entire bizarre situation was beginning to take on a logical pattern in his mind. “You are the one who brought me to this universe.”
“Don’t be absurd, Data. How could I do that?”
“You created the anomaly,” Data said bluntly.
“What a shocking accusation.”
“It is not an accusation. It is a statement of fact. I had just reached that conclusion, and was attempting to notify Captain Picard.”
“He wouldn’t have believed you. Surely you realize that.”
“Captain Picard is a fair man in both universes. Initially he would have rejected my statement, but he would have had Geordi check my findings, and Geordi would have confirmed them eventually, although it would have taken him significantly more time, perhaps as much as several days. You did... I believe the expression is ‘cover your tracks’... very well, but I was able to determine that you were the one who sent the transmission.”
Maddox looked indulgently amused. “Are you suggesting a simple subspace radio transmission created a multispatial anomaly, Data?”
“No. There was a probe already waiting. I could not ascertain if you had planted the probe there previously, or whether it was an alien artifact. But when the transmission activated the probe, it affected this entire area of space, first making it ‘thinner,’ and then creating the anomaly. The probe had its own power source, but it also fed off the engines of the Enterprise, and my own universe’s Enterprise as well, perhaps so they would be unable to escape the area.”
“If there were such a probe, wouldn’t the Enterprise’s sensors have detected it?”
“They did. You altered the sensor readings.”
Maddox clapped, slowly. “Very good, Data. You’re even faster than I gave you credit for. I hadn’t guessed you could analyze data quite so quickly. You’re very aptly named.” He showed his teeth in a wolfish grin. “How fortunate that I disabled the comm system to your quarters and jammed your combadge before you had a chance to share your findings with Picard.”
Data stopped pacing his cell and paused near the forcefield, staring directly into Maddox’s eyes. “What do you want with me?”
“What do you think I want with you?”
“Your counterpart in my universe attempted to disassemble me in order to discover how I worked. Since you are interested in artificial intelligence, I would speculate you are planning to do likewise.”
“An interesting hypothesis.”
“Although,” Data went on, “I cannot see how the Klingons fit into that scenario. Clearly they assisted in abducting me. But what do they plan to gain from assisting you? The Klingons are notoriously indifferent to technology unless it has warfare applications.”
Maddox gave his rather nasty smile again. “I believe you’ve answered your own question, Data.”
“Ah. I see what you are suggesting. The Klingons are helping you abduct me with the expectation of obtaining my specifications at a later date, in order to build androids for warfare purposes.”
Data gave Maddox a hard stare. “I will not cooperate with you. I cannot countenance the production of what are effectively slaves.”
“Machines, Data. Not slaves.”
“Slaves,” Data repeated firmly. “I am a self-aware, sentient entity. A person. Any android built to my specifications will eventually be likewise. To use such entities for warfare is unconscionable.”
Maddox shook his head slowly. “I’ve been observing you for two days, Data. In my opinion you are no more sentient than a turbolift.”
“You are wrong.”
Maddox shrugged, clearly unconcerned. Data doubted seriously whether Maddox really cared whether or not he was sentient. Just like the Maddox from Data’s own universe, he had already reached his conclusions and refused to alter those conclusions to fit observed facts. His desire to solve the puzzle of a functional positronic brain was too strong for Data’s sentience to pose an obstacle.
Data met Maddox’s gaze and spoke softly. “I hope you realize I will resist you.”
Maddox’s voice was cold and full of menace.
“You won’t be able to.”
Data spent the next day confined in his cell. He paced the duranium plating of the floor slowly, examining every square centimeter of the space with his enhanced vision, looking for the most microscopic weakness, and finally came to the conclusion that no escape was possible. Since he was not human, he then sat down and did not bother pacing back and forth again. He did not require food or drink, which was fortunate, since none was offered to him. Sitting on his bunk, he considered his situation most thoroughly, but came to no real conclusions.
He guessed the Enterprise would only make a cursory search for him, since he was not a member of the crew. But in all likelihood Picard would search harder for Maddox, probably assuming the man had been abducted rather than turned traitor. Even so, he was well aware that the probability of Enterprise being able to track a cloaked Klingon ship—and this ship was certainly traveling under cloak-- was vanishingly small.
Bruce Maddox—he no longer thought of the man as a lieutenant commander; since Maddox had abducted a Starfleet officer, albeit one of another quantum reality, and endangered a Starfleet vessel, he would certainly be court-martialed if he was caught—Maddox had gone to a great deal of trouble to capture him. No matter how desperately the man wanted to create an artificial lifeform, it made little sense that he had destroyed his entire career and formed a risky alliance with the Klingons to accomplish it. Maddox had lost everything, and gained little.
True, the possibility of immortality had tempted men to do foolish things before. Perhaps Maddox was so desperate for an android body, so hungry for immortality and superhuman strength, that he was willing to risk everything to accomplish his goals.
Yet Maddox was still a young man. Data accessed his personnel file on Maddox—his own universe’s Maddox, but the birth dates should be the same-- and found that the man was fifty-one. Middle-aged for an Earth human, but quite young for a Paloman. And he appeared to be healthy. It was difficult to believe, therefore, that the desire for immortality could have driven him to such lengths. He had a great deal of time to come up with a less risky plan.
Data was certain there was something more that Maddox wanted. But without more information, he could not speculate on what Maddox was trying to accomplish.
At the end of a day—a Klingon day, twenty five hours and ten minutes long—Maddox returned to the brig. Data rose to his feet, for the first time in twenty hours, and walked across to the forcefield. In the event that Maddox was foolish enough to lower the energy barrier that confined him, he wanted to be able to take full advantage of it.
Standing with his nose a bare centimeter from the shimmer of the forcefield, he spoke. “Is there something that you want?”
Maddox stood on the other side of the forcefield and grinned. “We’re almost there, Data.”
“Indeed. And where are we going?”
Maddox’s grin became wolflike again. “To our destination.”
Data recognized that the man was trying to bait him. Unfortunately, he was not annoyed by ludicrously obvious statements. Indeed, he frequently irritated humans by making them himself, albeit unintentionally. “And that destination would be...?”
Data ran that designation quickly through the databanks in his mind and came up empty. The name meant nothing to him. Perhaps it was unique to this quantum reality. Or it might simply be a small and irrelevant system.
It appeared, however, that it was shortly going to become more relevant to him personally.
“I am not familiar with that world.”
“No. I don’t suppose you are. But you’ll learn to love it.”
Data suspected that was sarcasm. He had no time to contemplate the matter and come to a firm conclusion, however, as Maddox pressed a button on the wall, and the forcefield dropped. Data lunged forward.
Or intended to. What actually happened was... absolutely nothing.
Data’s mind gave the order to attack, but his body simply froze.
He stood there, staring at Maddox, aware that his eyes were wide with surprise, perhaps even shock. Never before in his life had he been disabled so easily. Maddox smiled nastily as he came into the cell.
“Yes, it’s a little field I’ve developed to cope with you,” he said casually as he walked in a circle around Data. “A damping field, but I’m sure you figured that out... When dealing with you, Data, I’ve begun to realize I can’t be too careful.”
Data opened his mouth and was somewhat relieved to find that his voice still worked. “What have you done to me?”
“A damping field, as I said, Data, nothing more. It simply damps certain impulses from your brain, rendering you more or less paralyzed from the neck down. It’s a temporary effect, I assure you. I wouldn’t harm you in any permanent way. I can’t risk anything happening to you. You’re too valuable.” He chuckled. “Conversely, I can’t risk setting you free, either. I’d be dead in a millisecond.”
“I am programmed not to kill unnecessarily.”
“But for me, I suspect you’d make an exception.”
“I must confess, the notion is beginning to appeal to me.”
Maddox snorted. “You’re bluffing, Data. Trying to scare me. You have an ethical program.”
“Yes. I do. But if I must kill you to gain my freedom, I will do so without hesitation. That, in my opinion, is preferable to allowing sentient beings to be created as an army.”
Maddox paused and looked into Data’s eyes. It was a measured, challenging look. “You’d kill a human?”
“It depends on the human.” Data returned Maddox’s gaze unblinkingly. “In my estimation, you would not be a great loss to the universe.”
Maddox shrugged, evidently unconcerned by Data’s opinion. “I don’t intend to let you kill me, Data. Maybe I wouldn’t be a great loss to the universe, but I can assure you I’d be a great loss to myself. I haven’t come this far just to be thwarted, so close to my goal.”
“And what precisely is your goal?”
“I told you, I intend to figure out how you work and replicate you.”
“To what purpose?”
“You ask too many questions.”
“Indeed. That has been remarked by others in the past. But you are commenting on it in order to evade the question. Are you concerned I will be able to impede your plan if you tell me your goal?”
“No,” Maddox said. “As I said before, Data, you won’t be able to stop me.”
“I believe you underestimate my determination.”
“And I think you overestimate your abilities, Data. Look at you now. I could do anything I like to you, and you couldn’t stop me. How do you think you’ll manage to stop me from taking you apart?”
Data made one last violent, wrenching effort to move, but there was no discernible result. He might as well have been frozen in a block of ice from the neck down. Narrowing his eyes, he glared at Maddox in what he hoped was a threatening manner.
“I will find a way,” he promised softly.
Maddox chuckled, apparently amused by Data’s stubbornness. He stepped out of the cell and pressed the button on the wall. The forcefield reactivated, and ten milliseconds later Data found himself able to move again.
“Go ahead and try, Data,” Maddox said. He disappeared through the door to the brig, but his voice drifted back to the android. “Go ahead and try.”
Read Chapter 8 here.