Disclaimer: These characters don't belong to me.
Weeks had gone by. Daystrom Soong sat by himself, staring out into the empty darkness of space. Just like the region they were passing through, his existence was vacant, dark, and devoid of life. He wished he could fling himself through the transparent aluminum of the window, into the vacuum, and end everything.
There was a signal from the door. Without turning his head, Day said, “Come.”
He heard the door slide open, heard soft footfalls on the carpet, but he still didn’t bother to turn his head. “Counselor,” he said.
Troi’s musically accented voice was bemused. “How did you know it was me?”
“I was thinking very bleak thoughts,” he answered. “Somehow I knew you’d come.”
She walked across the room and sat in a chair next to him, placing her hand lightly on his arm. “I could feel your despair five decks away.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you could feel it five parsecs away.”
“Day...” She sighed. “You cannot go on this way.”
“What way? Mourning for my family? Do you think I should rejoice in the knowledge that I’ll never see them again, Counselor?”
“No,” she said gently. “I am certain you will mourn them for the rest of your days. But you must realize that your life has to go on.”
Day turned his head and regarded her with savage fury. “My life,” he said through his teeth, “can’t go on. My life isn’t here, damn it. My life has been taken from me.”
“You must create a new life here, Daystrom.”
Day stood up and stalked across the room. “I don’t want a new life, damn it. I want to go home.” He knew he sounded petulant, like a lost child, but he couldn’t help himself.
She looked at him with sympathy on her lovely features. “You can’t go home, Day. It’s time you accepted that fact.”
He knew she was right. He hadn’t dreamed of Data, of his own universe, in weeks. Data was gone, probably dead—if dead was a word that could apply—and without Data, he could never return to his own universe. Geordi was absolutely certain of that.
He was never going home again.
The cold realization of that fact hit him in the chest like a blow, and he felt tears running down his face. Troi stood up quickly, crossed the room, and put her arms around him.
He pressed his face against her shoulder and wept for everything he had lost.
Data drifted in a state somewhere between dreaming and waking. He was not aware of the passage of time, perhaps for the first time in his life. He saw faces from his past, faces of friends and enemies, but few coherent dreams surfaced.
At last he opened his eyes.
He was unable to determine how much time had passed. It could have been nanoseconds or years, for all he knew. He turned his head, noticing that he was able to do so, which meant that his head was presumably still attached to his body. But he was lying down.
Lying on a table near him was Tasha Yar.
Her beautiful features were frozen into an icy mask, her eyes wide and staring blankly at the ceiling. He noted with a sinking sensation that she was not breathing. An odd emptiness welled up inside him.
“Tasha,” he whispered bleakly, with absolutely no idea why he spoke. She was obviously unable to hear him. Still and stiff, she was clearly no longer alive.
He had failed to save her a second time.
“So,” said a voice he knew all too well. “You’re awake.”
Data turned his head again and found himself looking at Maddox, who was regarding him with the familiar unpleasant sneer. Without any intention of doing so, Data opened his mouth and uttered the first spontaneous curse of his lifetime.
“Go to hell.”
Evidently amused rather than offended, Maddox grinned. “Now, now, Data. Don’t forget your programming.”
“As far as I am concerned,” Data said, “my programming may go to hell as well.”
“Unlikely,” Maddox said. “You have to have a soul to go to hell. It’s one of the ways in which you’re luckier than humans, Data. You won’t have to face some sort of accounting after death. When you die—you will simply die.”
Data turned his head and regarded Tasha again. He wished he could believe in the concept of an eternal soul. Perhaps then, believing she would live forever, he would not regret her passing so deeply. Unfortunately, he had never encountered any scientific, rational basis for a belief in life after death. And not being human, he lacked any sort of faith.
“Why did you kill her?” he said at last.
Maddox looked surprised. “Who?”
“Tasha,” Data said harshly. “Why? Simply because she tried to help me escape? Why did you not destroy me instead?”
Maddox suddenly grinned. “Did you think I’d let Soong take you apart permanently, Data?”
“I rather assumed so, yes.”
Maddox shook his head. “You’re much too valuable, Data. I made certain that we were able to get the information we needed without damaging you permanently in the process. And it worked. We succeeded.”
Data stared at him, uncomprehending, then turned his head and looked at Tasha’s still figure. At last he said, “Are you attempting to say that you have built a Soong-type android?”
“You’re looking at her.”
Data stared at the still figure on the other table for a long, long moment. At last he said, “Why did you use Tasha’s likeness?”
Maddox shrugged. “She was here. I didn’t want another android who looked like Soong—frankly, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, even a machine—and I didn’t want one that looked like me, either. At any rate, we were aware that you had a certain... history... with Lieutenant Yar. We returned Lieutenant Yar to the Enterprise, but it seemed appropriate to make a female in her image. She will be a perfect partner for you, if you wish.”
A partner. Not a daughter, since he himself had not made her, but a partner. Someone who could understand him as no human woman could, someone who could play the violin, study the works of Shakespeare, play chess, and carry on a conversation all at once, just as he could. A woman who could justifiably be called his soulmate, assuming that either of them possessed a soul.
“Has she been activated yet?”
“No. We thought you would want to be present.”
Data was surprised to find he was no longer restrained. He stood up, noticing that the disturbing lack of coordination was gone. Evidently all his parts had been restored to him. For some reason the notion of attacking Maddox, of winning his freedom, never occurred to him. He was consumed by the curiosity that had caused him so much trouble over the course of his lifetime.
He walked across to the motionless female figure and gently pressed the side of her head.
A panel popped open, revealing a dark, inactive positronic brain.
Data stared at the android’s head for a long time. At last he looked up, seeing Maddox watching him expectantly. “You are offering me a bribe,” he said bluntly. “Are you not?”
“A bribe?” Maddox said. “That sounds so ugly, Data. We simply designed an android to be your counterpart. Consider her a gift, if you like.”
“A bribe,” Data repeated, more firmly. “So that I would not continue to fight you. So that you could construct an army of androids without my objections.”
Something flickered in Maddox’s gaze, something dark and ominous. “We don’t need your cooperation, Data.”
Data tilted his head. “Then why did you bother to awaken me? If you are able to create viable androids, why not simply go ahead and create your army?”
Maddox dropped his eyes and gazed at the still figure of the android on the table. “We need your input, Data.”
“Ah. You have already attempted to awaken her. And the results were not what you hoped for.”
Maddox scowled darkly. “She’s not functional, Data. We can’t figure it out. We—“ He hesitated. “We need your help.”
Data looked at the still figure for a moment longer. His counterpart. Deliberately he looked away, refusing the temptation.
“I will not help you.”
“Data...” Maddox sighed. “Without your help, she’ll just lie there forever. But if we can just figure out what the problem is, you’ll have companionship. Someone you can talk to. Someone just like you.”
In his mind’s eye Data saw an army of entities like himself marching into battle. He could not condemn thousands, perhaps millions, of people like himself to slavery and eventual death.
He looked down at the android and saw her face. Tasha’s face.
If she were to awaken, to achieve sentience, he would not have to go through his life alone.
Slowly, almost against his will, he spoke.
“I may know what the problem is.”
Data plugged one end of the wire into his head, then plugged the other end into an outlet in the inert android’s head. “She may simply be missing some basic programming,” he explained to Maddox and Soong. Soong’s eyes were narrowed, as if he suspected Data of some nefarious ulterior motive. Soong was evidently possessed of a suspicious personality, perhaps even a paranoid one.
Data concentrated, communicating his startup program to the other android. The parts of her positronic brain—her hardware-- were all there, as far as he could tell, but her software had gaping holes. He would have to find those holes and plug them.
He worked slowly and methodically, for an android. Within twenty seconds the lights of her brain began blinking, slowly at first, then faster. Data pulled the plug from her outlet and stood watching as she turned her head toward him.
“Hello,” he said. “How are you?”
The apparently innocuous words formed a code phrase. The android's response would tell the designer whether or not the android was operational. She opened her mouth.
“I am functioning within normal parameters.”
Maddox let out an audible sigh. So far, so good, Data thought, parroting a phrase that Geordi was fond of. “My name is Data,” he said.
“Hello, Data. My name is—“ She paused for a long moment. “I have no designation.”
“We will provide you with a designation eventually. Can you sit up?”
She rose easily to a sitting position, swinging her legs over the side of the table. She moved quite gracefully, Data noticed. His own daughter had moved in a rather mechanical, stiff fashion. He had to admit that Soong and Maddox had done a better job in that regard. Of course, they had taken apart his entire sensor net in order to see how it was constructed, which had probably helped.
“What is my purpose here?” she asked. She spoke, Data noticed, in Tasha’s clear, clipped tones.
“I am not certain of your purpose here, or my own,” Data said.
“You will help us build other androids,” Maddox said, stepping forward. “That is your purpose.” He reached out a hand and touched her cheek with the air of a sculptor examining carved marble, and Data felt a totally irrational desire to strike the man’s hand away.
Possessiveness, he thought. What was happening to him? Had they damaged him somehow? Or was he merely protective of a helpless android?
“I will help build other androids,” she agreed. She looked back at Data. “Are you an android?”
“Are there many of us?”
“We are the only two I know of.”
“But there will be more,” she said confidently.
Not if I can help it, Data thought.
“Is this the entire world?”
The new android looked at her room with wide-eyed interest. Data remembered his earliest experiences, his overwhelming, naive interest in everything from apples to black holes. Soong-type androids were designed with a desperate thirst to learn, and they asked enough questions to drive humans up the wall, metaphorically speaking. Fortunately he was not human.
“No,” he responded patiently. “This is merely one room.”
The android tilted her head. It was odd, he thought; she looked just like Tasha, but her mannerisms were Data’s. That was not surprising, since she was modelled after his programming, but it did seem peculiar to see his own habitual tilt of the head on Tasha. “How many rooms are in the world?”
“I do not know precisely how many rooms are on this world. But this planet is only one of billions in the galaxy.”
She hesitated, and he knew she was accessing the definition of “galaxy.” To him the hesitation was quite pronounced, but it would have been undetectable to a human. “There are billions of stars in the Milky Way galaxy,” she announced brightly.
She walked to the small window and peered out. “That is a star,” she said a moment later, pointing toward the sunshine that streamed down onto the planet’s barren, rocky surface.
"Yes,” Data agreed. “One star, among billions.”
She turned and looked at him. “Have you visited many planets?”
“Seven hundred fifty-two,” he said, thinking privately that Picard would have rolled his eyes at the specific response. It was oddly pleasant to speak with another person who thought in specifics, just as he did.
“Someday I will visit other planets.”
"I hope so.” And I hope you will not visit them as a soldier, he thought as the reminder of what he had done settled bleakly over him like a shroud.
Maddox and Soong would analyze what he had done to start up the android. They would reproduce it. And then they would begin to produce androids en masse. The Klingons would have a vast, virtually unkillable army at their disposal. And the entire balance of power in the quadrant might change.
Of course, this was not his own quantum reality. But what was to stop Maddox and Soong from invading his own universe as well?
Somehow he had to stop that from happening.
And yet, faced with the bright-eyed interest of the female android, he could not completely regret what he had done. Surely she had as much right to live, to be sentient, as he did. She was an innocent pawn in the game Maddox and Soong were playing, and he felt he had had a moral obligation to help her.
Or am I merely rationalizing? he wondered as she walked toward him. Were my actions solely the result of a selfish longing to no longer be alone?
She paused next to him and looked up into his eyes. Without intending to, he reached out and slowly curled his fingers around hers.
She studied his face intently. “There is danger here,” she said at last. “I am in danger. Am I not?”
He clasped her hand so tightly a human would have cried out in pain.
“I will protect you,” he promised softly.
More to come...