Disclaimers: Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry and is owned by Paramount Pictures.
I make no monetary profits from my fanfic.
Summary: Data meets someone special.
Author's note: My first ever Trek fic, inspired after I read a review for the episode "In Theory" before the episode.
Rating - M
IF I ONLY HAD A HEART ...
THE ENTERPRISE JOLTED VIOLENTLY.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard, desperately clutched onto the armrests of his chair and struggled to remain seated.
"Negative" said Data checking the Ops console. "Sensors detect an energy disturbance in Engineering. Calculated danger level high."
Captain Picard hit his communicator.
"Mr. La Forge ... What happened? ... Geordi, are you all right? Geordi? ... Geordi?!"
There was no reply.
"Quickly, Data. Go to Engineering. Do you think you'll need any help?"
Data stood up.
"Perhaps, Sir, depending on how great the danger is."
"Go with Lieutenant Commander Harrin, and be careful, both of you."
They ran into the turbolift.
"Engineering," and the doors hissed shut.
The smoke in Engineering was thick. Thick enough to cut through with a phaser beam. Data managed to get a glimpse of Geordi through the smoke, lying on the floor, the VISOR knocked from his head. He ran to his friend, knelt down beside him and turned him over.
"Geordi?" he whispered.
"Is he all right?" asked Harrin, concerned.
"It would appear so. I detect no internal or external damage. He is unconscious and should recover soon. "
Data then caught a glimpse of Ensign Davies and Gomez through the smoke.
"Please take Chief Engineer La Forge to sickbay."
Sonja Gomez knelt down to Geordi and helped Davies pick him up. They did as Data ordered.
Data stood up and walked further into the smoke with Commander Harrin. The Enterprise shook violently again and there was an explosion in the Engineering Hull. Harrin was thrown against the wall. Data leapt to her and helped her up.
"Are you all right?" he inquired, concerned.
"Yeah" she replied, dusting herself off. "I'm just a little bruised, that's all. "
"Be careful, and stand behind me for protection. We have to locate the source of the disturbance before it is too late. "
A computer terminal exploded, sending sparks flying in all directions. Data waited until he calculated it would be safe to proceed. Captain Picard's voice sounded over his combadge.
"Data, have you located the source of ..."
"Not as yet, Captain. The smoke emissions are substantially thick, but judging from the force of the explosions, I believe we are getting closer."
"Maintain an open frequency, Mr. Data."
The bridge shook forcefully. Counsellor Troi was thrown from her chair. Captain Picard gave her a hand up. The lighting then began to flicker.
"Picard to Data. Are you any closer?"
Another vigorous jolt threw the captain onto the floor. Riker helped him up.
"Captain! ..."came Data's voice, with extreme urgency, "the disturbance has been located in the antimatter containment tanks! If it cannot be sealed off, the antimatter core must be emergency-dumped, otherwise the Enterprise will be destroyed."
"Copy, Commander. Do what you have to - and hurry ..."
Back in Engineering, Data and Commander Harrin had made their way to the antimatter containment tanks. Data saw the cause of the problem.
"The fissure is large, Captain, but I believe I can seal it off, with ..."
"Data - Don't yap, just do it."
Data began to weld the split closed. A fierce explosion blew out of the containment tank. Data was standing directly in front of it, took the full brunt of the explosion and was thrown back a few meters.
"Data!" yelled Commander Harrin.
"Data!" came Jean-Luc's urgent voice, "what happened?!"
Commander Harrin looked around and pushed her communicator.
"Captain, this is Lieutenant Commander Harrin. Data was welding the crack and was knocked unconscious by an explosion. I can continue."
She completed welding the fissure, then an small explosion struck her and her rusty brown hair caught fire and a piece of metal sliced her leg. Commander Harrin instantly slapped the flames out. She was hurt, but attended to Data, who had just regained consciousness.
"Everything's under control, Captain," she reported.
"Thank you, Lieutenant. You and Data may return to the bridge."
Data began to stand. He saw Commander Harrin was hurt. Her leg was bleeding heavily, due to a large, deep incision at the rear of her thigh. It took and effort to stand up.
"I shall escort you to sickbay" offered Data.
Harrin smiled. "Thanks." She tried to hide the pain in her voice, but it was not hidden from Data. He tapped his communicator.
"Captain, reporting to sickbay. Lieutenant Commander Harrin has been wounded."
"Negative, Sir. The wound looks painful, but there appears to be no permanent damage."
"Report to the bridge as soon as possible."
Data then gently picked up the Commander.
"Am I holding you too tightly?"
She smiled and shook her head. Data carried her into the turbolift.
He arrived at the required destination and laid her on the biobed, just as Geordi was leaving.
"Data ... is everything ..."
Data gave his friend a short nod.
"Everything is under control, Geordi. Are you all right?"
"Yeah, Data, I'm fine. Thanks. Just a slight concussion."
Data smiled at him. La Forge then left for his post.
Doctor Beverly Crusher walked toward Commander Lucia Harrin, medical tricorder in hand.
"Is it very painful?"
"A little," winced Lucia. "It's hurting more ... owww ... I think something's stuck in there ..."
"Doctor Crusher, I believe I can help."
Beverly looked up at Data.
Data gave her a nod.
"Yes, Doctor. I know exactly what I am doing. I have done this before."
Data took a piece of synthetic material and wiped away the blood. Lucia's leg was continuing to bleed quite heavily. The android then placed his hands on the back of her leg. Lucia had expected the hands of a machine to be rough, hard and cold, but Data's were quite the opposite. Data saw what was stuck inside her leg. A small piece of metal. He slowly began to pull it out. Lucia winced, expecting the operation to be extremely painful, but the android's gentle touch surprised her. She felt no pain, other than what she had felt before the operation. Data placed the metal splinter down on the ledge.
"The operation has been completed successfully, Doctor," he informed. He then looked down at Lucia, on the biobed. "Are you feeling all right, Commander?"
"Yes, Data. Thank you, and thank you too, Doctor."
Beverly smiled. She then sealed Commander Harrin's wound. Data helped her off the bed and returned with her to the Main Bridge.
"Is everything under control, Data?" was the captain's first question.
"Affirmative, Sir," replied the Second Officer. "The situation in Engineering has returned to normal. The antimatter is contained and both Commander Harrin and Geordi and are fine."
Picard tapped his combadge. "Geordi, have you any idea what caused the ..."
"No, Captain. Sensors detect nothing at all. I've scanned for just about everything. I'll keep you posted. La Forge out."
As Lieutenant Commander Lucia Harrin walked towards the helm, Captain Jean-Luc Picard noticed her short black miniskirt, which rose well above her knees. As she leaned over to the console, her skirt lifted further. The sight of her slender, shapely legs caught more of Picard's attention - made him raise an eyebrow.
Worf too found it hard to look away. He managed to pull his eyes back to tactical with some effort. Commander William Riker tried to focus his attention on the viewscreen, but failed miserably. He could not keep his eyes off her. If it wasn't for a quick snappy gesture from Picard's hand, Riker would have fallen out of his chair. She was Baloriian, and as Baloriian custom goes, it was on offence for their species to fully cover their legs.
Data, confused at what the fuss was about, looked with curiosity at Commander Harrin's legs. Becoming frustrated when he couldn't figure it out, he turned back to the Ops console. Lucia, unaware of the commotion she was causing, sat down at Conn. She then looked over at Data and smiled. Data wanted to ask her what was so special about her legs, but decided against it and smiled politely back at her. He then turned back to his console.
"Captain," came Worf's booming voice, "StarFleet Command is hailing us."
"Open hailing frequencies, Mr. Worf."
"Frequencies open, Sir."
Captain Picard stood up and walked toward the viewscreen.
"On main viewer."
Admiral Elita One appeared on the viewscreen.
"Greetings, Enterprise," she said. "StarFleet has an urgent rescue mission for you. We have checked and confirmed that you are the closest Federation starship to a derelict vessel in which positive life signs have been confirmed. We are not exactly sure what type of vessel it is, but we believe it may be Federation. The vessel has been located in the Neutral Zone."
Picard tensed. "Admiral," he began, "have you any idea of the difficulties that mission would cause?"
"StarFleet is aware of the difficulties and dangers involved in this mission, Captain Picard. There may be many people on that ship that need you. You have your orders, but proceed with extreme caution."
"We'll do our best, Admiral One."
"I know you will, Jean-Luc. I know the Enterprise will not let us down. One out."
The viewscreen went blank.
"Wonderful ..."muttered Riker
Captain Picard eyed the crew and rubbed his chin. "Mmmm... we have a problem ..."
"Entering the Neutral Zone will appear provocative, Captain," warned his First Officer. "The Romulans ..."
"I'm aware of the danger, Number One, but if we do not enter, the people in that vessel will most certainly die."
"I realise the importance of this mission, Captain," said Worf, "but we are taking a substantial risk."
"I know, Lieutenant, but the Admiral has a point - There may be people on that ship who need our help. Who knows how many?"
"Captain," cautioned Worf, "it may also be a Romulan trap."
"We cannot automatically assume the Romulans are involved, Lieutenant. Set a course for the Neutral Zone."
Captain Picard then tapped his communicator. "Engineering, we need Maximum Warp for as long we can hold."
"Aye, Sir," came Geordi's voice. "Maximum Warp. The engines should hold."
"Data," said the Captain, turning to Ops, "travelling at Maximum Warp, exactly when will we reach the derelict?"
"Forty-eight hours, twenty-two minutes, and fifty-thr..."
"Thank you, Mr. Data. That was exact enough."
"Of course, Captain, the time will vary as the derelict continues to drift further away or toward us. I cannot be certain in which direction it is drifting."
"By how much will the time vary?"
"Approximately four to seven seconds, Sir."
Jean-Luc sighed. "Thank you ... thank you, Data ..."
As the Enterprise soared into Maximum Warp, Captain Picard addressed his third in command.
"Data, brief Lieutenant Commander Harrin on our previous encounters with the Romulans."
Data pushed the rotating Ops console away from him turned towards Commander Harrin and began.
"... and then ..."
"Data ..."interrupted Captain Picard, tediously, "- I said brief."
Data turned to him. "Yes, Captain. I apologize." He pulled back to Ops. He knew he got carried away sometimes ...
Lucia had taken everything in quite well. She was a quick learner, well she had to be to be helmsman of the Enterprise. She had listened to Data well and made notes in her head of what he had said. Lucia was puzzled at how an android's voice could sound so calm and gentle. Frankly, when Captain Picard called Data off, she wanted him to go on. She then discreetly glanced over at him.
Hmmm ... Quite good looking for an android ... In fact ... very good looking ...
"Lieutenant Commander Harrin," said the captain, "come to my Ready Room. "
Lucia looked around. "Yes, Sir."
She stood up and followed him. The doors hissed shut behind them.
"Sit down," offered Jean-Luc.
He waited for Lucia to be seated, then said, "this is not the best of circumstances, Commander. You are our newest officer. Do you feel confident with this situation?"
"Captain," began Commander Harrin, her tone serious, "I realise the danger and risk involved in this mission. I don't mean to sound modest, but I am the helmsman of the Enterprise, because I was the best in the Academy. I joined StarFleet for a challenging career. I know the risks that come with the StarFleet Uniform. I am confident, Sir and I will do my best to serve you, the Enterprise and StarFleet, always."
Captain Picard nodded.
"Thank you, Commander. Dismissed."
Captain's Log, Stardate 46209.4:
* * *
Lieutenant Commander Harrin was off duty, and was walking down one of the Enterprise's many corridors. She had never served on a starship as large as the Enterprise before and was amazed at her size and technology. Lucia turned around and looked back at where she had been. She then began to walk backwards. Unaware of who or what was in front of her, she turned around and bumped smack bang into Lieutenant Commander Data.
"Oh ... sorry ... excuse me ... I didn't see you ..."
The android was puzzled.
"I realise the fact that you did not see me," he said, "but may I inquire as to why you were walking backwards?"
"This ship ..."she said. "She's amazing ... massive. No matter where you turn, she never seems to come to an end."
"The Enterprise is a large starship," confirmed Data, "but everything comes to an end. I am off duty, Commander Harrin. If you desire, I would be willing to escort you around the ship."
"That would be wonderful, Data. Thank you, but are you sure you won't get lost?"
Data nodded. "It is understandable to assume that one could get lost on the Enterprise, but I being an android, I have the entire lay out of the ship stored in my memory."
"I keep on forgetting that you're an android. You seem so ... human."
Data smiled. The smile then faded away.
"You are not angry or disappointed in the fact that I am not human?"
"No. I don't have any prejudice against you, Data. Some of the nicest people you meet aren't human. I have to admit, sometimes I wish I was an android as well. Some of my people's customs get funny looks." She tugged on her small black skirt.
"I see ... Being an android has many advantages," pointed out Data, "but I would gladly give them all up to be human."
"It'd be nice if we could swap bodies for a while."
Data had a puzzled look on his face as he looked up and down her body. "That is not possible," he concluded.
"I know, I know, but I wish it were."
There was a short pause.
"Now," said Commander Harrin, suddenly, "how about showing me around?"
Data gave a nod. "Certainly."
He began showing her various aspects of the Enterprise, being very careful not to bore the Commander with explicit detail.
Hours later ...
"Thanks, Data. I feel as if I know my way around this ship backwards."
"I would not recommend that, Commander," advised Data. "You may know your way around the Enterprise backwards, but you do not know who is behind of you. You may bump into someone - again."
"You're really something ..."she complimented. "And please, call me Lucia."
"Thank you, Lucia," Data said automatically, not entirely sure what he was thanking her for.
Data stopped in front of a door in the corridor.
"What's in there?" asked Lucia.
"This is my personal quarters," replied Data, walking inside as the door hissed open. "You may come inside, if you desire."
"Thank, you, Data."
Lucia followed him in. Data was puzzled at the slight excitement he detected in her voice, but he decided not to say anything more. Lucia then looked around. Data's quarters were quite spacious. Something bright then caught her attention.
"What's this?" she asked.
"One of my paintings," answered Data.
"It's beautiful ... You painted it yourself?"
Data nodded. "Of course I had to be taught how to paint. Geordi, my best friend taught me, but all my work is original."
Lucia turned to another of Data's paintings. "What is this one?"
"It is not yet completed. It does not appear to be a painting of anything in particular, but much human art falls into the same category. I have been studying many ancient painters, the most interesting being, Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Picasso, Pro Hart..."
"Pro Hart?" inquired Lucia.
"A twentieth century Australian painter. I find his work most interesting. Perhaps also the most unusual."
Captain Picard's voice sounded over Lucia's communicator.
"Lieutenant Commander Harrin, please report to the bridge."
She tapped her insignia. "On my way, Captain."
She took another look at the android's painting, then started to leave.
"I'll see you later, Data."
Lucia left for the bridge. Data turned to his unfinished painting and began to work on it.
* * *
Later, Lucia returned to Data's quarters and sounded the door buzzer.
"Come in," said Data, continuing to paint.
Lucia entered. Data put his paints down on the ledge.
"Data," she began, "I've got a surprise for you."
Lucia produced a wrapped parcel from behind her back.
"A gift?" said Data, confused, "I thank you, but why? It is no special occasion."
"I know, but open it."
Data took the parcel from Lucia and ripped the wrapping off, as Wesley had once told him he was supposed to do, but being careful not to damage what was inside.
"It is a tapestry," he said, examining it.
"I got it for you to do. You seem to like art so much, you'll enjoy it. Do you know how ..."
"Affirmative. I have observed humans sewing. Thank you, Lucia."
"Don't mention it. By the way, how long do you think it'll take you?"
Data glanced at the tapestry.
"It contains three hundred and ninety-two lines, each containing two hundred and fourteen stitches ... I would estimate - nine minutes and twenty seconds."
"What?! These usually take weeks ... months ... Oh yeah... I forgot, androids can do things faster than humans."
"That is correct, Lucia, but even though I could finish in under ten minutes, I would like to do it slowly, as if I were human."
Lucia smiled. "That's lovely, Data."
Data then hesitated. "Lucia," he said, "I have to report to Engineering to assist Geordi in increasing shield efficiency. We are going to need it if things turn for the worse with the Romulans."
Lucia nodded. "I agree."
Data put the tapestry down. "I will start this later. I am Sorry, but I have to go. Duty calls."
"It's okay, Data. I know the feeling."
Data frowned a little, puzzled, but decided not to say anything. They then both left his quarters.
The Enterprise without warning, rocked violently.
"Captain!" came the chief engineer's urgent voice, "it's happening again!"
Jean-Luc was preoccupied with wrestling the armrests of his chair, to remain seated.
"Copy, Geordi. Do everything you can to keep ... whatever it is away from the antimatter containment tanks."
"Aye, Sir, but that's not gonna be easy."
"Do you need any extra hands down there?"
"If we can't rectify the damage no amount of extra people will help. We're doing the best we can. I'll keep you posted. La Forge out."
"Geordi," said Data, glancing at him, "perhaps if we can locate the source of the disturbance, you may be able to counter its effects. I would hypothesise that the near disaster which struck the Enterprise before was caused by the same ..."
The Enterprise continued to shake vigorously.
"Captain," came Geordi's voice, "I've scanned for everything and anything. The only thing I've been able to detect is very faint. It seems to be a strange energy of some sort. "
"I'm not sure, Sir. It appears to be constantly changing. It isn't anything we're familiar with. I can't even make it out with the VISOR. We've managed to keep it away from the antimatter, for now. Things should quieten down, but I'm not sure how long the peace can be maintained."
"Geordi, run a further analysis on the energy and try to find its source. Keep me posted."
A few moments later ...
Data instantly tapped his insignia.
"Captain," he reported, with some element of surprise, "it appears that the source of this strange energy is emanating from within the Neutral Zone ..."
Captain Picard's eyes widened.
"Are you sure, Data?"
"I have triple checked and confirmed it, Sir."
"Captain, it has to be the Romulans" accused Worf, anger burning inside him. "They are trying to destroy us."
"There is not enough evidence to support such an accusation, Lieutenant. The alien energy has never been encountered by the Enterprise or any other Federation vessel, so it probably has never been encountered by the Romulans either."
Worf agreed, reluctantly.
One hour later, Lieutenant Commander Harrin was in her quarters, frustrated and confused, pacing back and forth, back and forth. The door buzzer sounded. Lucia did not want to be bothered.
"Come in," she said, a little harsher than she had intended.
Then her anger vanished.
"What are you doing?" Data asked, puzzled, as he walked into her quarters.
"I'm worried Data ... I'm off duty and I can't think straight. This Romulan situation's really getting to me. What makes me even angrier, is there's nothing I can do about it."
"Come with me," Data said, offering her his hand.
"Where are we going?"
"Holodeck Two. You need to relax, then you will operate with higher efficiency."
Lucia smiled. "Thanks, Data."
They arrived at the entrance to Holodeck Two.
"Have you ever been to the holodeck?" Data asked.
"No, I haven't. I haven't really had time since I arrived."
"What setting is to your liking?"
Lucia then giggled, her cat-like eyes sparkling. "Um ... something romantic ..."
Data hesitated and turned to her. "I am afraid my experience in romance is somewhat ... limited..."
Lucia looked sympathetic. She then turned to the computer.
"Computer," she said, "moonlit seaside on a warm, but crisp clear night."
There was a moments pause. "Program complete. You may enter when ready."
The holodeck doors slid apart, revealing the program specified. Data and Lucia stepped inside and the doors closed behind them.
"Oh Data ... I never imagined it could look so real ..."
Lucia gazed into the purple sky, which deepened toward the horizon.
"It's ... it's wonderful ..."
"The holodeck is always extremely accurate in simulating real situations."
An ocean wave broke on the shore. Lucia ran to the rim of the water and touched the next incoming wave. She jumped back as it touched her feet. She then fell backwards, and Data caught her.
"I still can't believe how real this all is ..."
She and Data began to walk along the sand.
"Forgive me," started Data, pausing and putting his right hand into the left, "but I do not understand how a moonlit seaside scenario is considered to be ... romantic."
"Data, it's romantic because it's peaceful, calm and beautiful. The way the moonlight sparkles on the ocean ... the dim light, the quietness, stillness ... That's why people have candlelit dinners ..."
Data stopped walking. I remember he thought, the candle lit dinner with Jenna D'sora. I failed then, and may happen again. I do not want to hurt Lucia as I inadvertently did Jenna. Perhaps I will come to an understanding of romance, but I will never truly feel it?
When Data dragged himself back to the present moment, he noticed Lucia's light green eyes were staring into his.
"Hey ..." she said, "you with me?"
In the past, Data would have been puzzled and said `I have been here all along,' but he had come a long way since then.
"I was just ... thinking about something ..."
"It's all right, Data. What were you thinking about?"
"I would rather not discuss it ... I ..."
"I understand. You don't have to. Everyone has private thoughts they don't wish to talk about."
"Lucia ..." said Data, quickly changing the subject, "I can never physically be human, but being with humans for so long, I have learnt so much about them. I understand many aspects that I did not in the past, but there is so much I do not understand ... You seem very understanding, Lucia ... could you..." Data hesitated.
Lucia gazed into his innocent golden eyes. "Help you to become more human?"
He slowly nodded. "Yes," he said, quietly.
"Sure, Data. It'll be my pleasure."
"Thank you," he whispered, sincerely.
Lucia suddenly sneezed.
"Ah ... That is one thing which I would like to know more about."
"What?" asked Lucia, confused.
"Sneezing. How do humans do it? I keep trying, but I cannot seem to get it right." Data tried to sneeze.
"What is so funny? I also find human humour difficult to understand." Data sounded frustrated.
"Hang on, Data - One thing at a time. A sneeze is an involuntary action. You can't control it. It just happens."
"Well, there's two ways one can sneeze - one, from a disease called a cold or hay fever, which is quite rare now, and two, when the nose is irritated." Lucia sneezed again. "You see? I didn't control that. I haven't got a cold. There's something very small inside my nose, perhaps a dust particle which is making me sneeze."
"I see," said Data. "Is there any possible way I could sneeze? ... Just once?"
"I don't know, Data ... Um ... Wait a second." Data paused. "I have waited a second."
Lucia smiled again. "Just wait a little longer Computer change setting to a middle-classed old fashioned restaurant."
In a flash, the setting changed to a late twentieth century restaurant. Data and Lucia found themselves sitting at the corner table. Data looked around to familiarise himself with the surroundings. He then turned back to Lucia and saw her pick up a small glass object, with holes at the top.
"Sniff this," she said.
Data looked confused.
"What is it?" he asked, as he took it from her.
"Just sniff it, Data and sniff hard."
Data curiously eyed the object that Lucia had given him, and sniffed hard. He then looked inquisitively at her.
"I do not understand why ..."
Then it happened. For the first time in his life - Data truly sneezed. He could not believe it. He hardly had any time to be surprised, before he sneezed again, and again.
"I finally did it!" he exclaimed. "What was in that object?"
"Pepper? Is that not an additive humans use to enhance flavour of certain foods?"
"It also makes you sneeze, Data."
Data smiled. "Thank you."
Lucia smiled back at him. Together they stood and walked out into the street, the crisp, night air all around them. Lucia slipped her arm through Data's, then gave him a kiss.
The two were then violently thrown onto the floor. The holodeck scene instantly changed back to the beach setting, then to the restaurant, then to the street and then it was blank. Showing only the glowing yellow grid.
"Commander Data, report to the bridge immediately!"
The holodeck doors appeared and began to slide open and closed.
"How will we know when to go through?"
Lucia readied herself to make the dash.
"Wait," said Data. "You may injure yourself. Perhaps I can hold the doors open."
Data took hold of one door and then the other, holding them apart with his immense android strength. Lucia darted out underneath him. Data quickly released the doors and leapt out of the way as they slammed shut.
"Holodeck deactivated," came the voice of the computer.
"Phew ... We got out of there just in time," gasped Lucia.
Data checked her over and made sure she was not hurt.
He then stood up and charged into the turbolift. The ride was rocky, but he soon arrived on the bridge and instantly was at his post.
"What do you make of that, Mr. Data?"
Captain Picard pointed to the viewscreen.
"It appears to be a cloud of ionised gas particles, Captain, but the sensors disconfirm that. It is an energy cloud of some kind, but of what kind, I cannot be sure."
There was a pause. Then the Ops terminal gave a buzz. Data glanced down at it and his eyes widened.
"Captain!" he exclaimed, "the sensors have confirmed the energies of this cloud to be identical to the alien energy Geordi detected in Engineering."
"Shields up! Red Alert!"
Data's fingers flew across the Ops console.
"Captain, shields will not have any effect. Sensors indicate the alien energy is already aboard the Enterprise, and levels of it are increasing at alarming rates in Engineering."
Engineering was in utter chaos. Geordi was madly trying to secure the antimatter containment tanks. He slapped his combadge.
"Captain! Everything's going haywire down here! We're doing everything we can, but energy levels increasing fast. If it keeps up, we're gonna have to dump the antimatter core."
"Do what you have to, Geordi. Picard out. Data, is there any way to stop it?"
Jean-Luc's voice was full of urgency; the android was calm as ever.
"I am endeavouring to, Sir, but the energy appears to be fluctuating and therefore is altering readings."
"Captain!" came Geordi's urgent voice, "the energy is beginning to overload the antimatter containment tanks! I'm gonna have to dump it."
"Make it so."
Geordi began initiating the sequence to emergency dump the antimatter.
"Captain! ... Something's gone wrong! ... I can't dump the core! It won't budge ... And it's going to blow in less than four minutes! ..."
A shiver ran up the spines of all on the bridge and Engineering, with the exception of Data, who was busily monitoring the Ops console.
"Captain ..." he said, "the alien energy is beginning to spread from the Engineering Hull, throughout the entire ship. It has not yet reached the Saucer Section. I suggest we prepare for Emergency Saucer Separation. At present, I see no way to save the drive section. If we separate, at least one of the sections will be saved."
Jean-Luc took a deep breath, wishing there was another way out of this. A way to save everyone including the Enterprise.
Data's thoughts were for his best friend, Geordi La Forge. They had been through so much together and Geordi had always been there when Data needed him.
"Make it so," said the captain, after a pause. "Picard to Transporter room 1 Beam the remaining crew off the drive section."
"The transporters are malfunctioning, Sir ...
"There is no time for evacuation," Worf said.
Picard took a deep breath "... Separate."
Worf began the sequence for Emergency Saucer Separation.
"Captain! The controls are not responding! Separation is impossible ..."
Picard spun to tactical. "What?!"
"The energy has now infiltrated the Saucer Section, Captain," informed Data. "Estimated time to total destruction of the Enterprise, two minutes and forty seconds."
This is the end Jean-Luc thought. The end. I have always known the risks involved being the captain of a starship, I always knew it would come. But not now. Not like this ...
"Captain!" called Data, abruptly, "I believe there may be a way to save the Enterprise."
Picard spun towards him.
"What will be involved, Captain, is ..."
"Forget the explanation, Data!" snapped Riker. "Do it! We only have about a minute left."
"Forty-nine seconds, Sir." Data tapped his communicator.
"Data to transporter room 2 ... O'Brien, lock onto the co ordinates of the antimatter containment tank in Engineering and beam it directly into the centre of the energy cloud and boost the signal."
"Data?" questioned Picard.
"I know exactly what I am doing, Captain."
"Proceed with the transport."
O'Brien struggled, but in the last five seconds, the antimatter core was beamed to the co ordinates specified by the Second Officer.
"I recommend we Raise shields," Data said.
Worf did so.
The galactic explosion witnessed was spectacular. All but Data were temporarily blinded by its brightness. The Enterprise rocked heavily. When she stabilised, Data checked the Ops console.
"Captain," he said comfortably, "the alien energy is no longer aboard the Enterprise. The antimatter totally disintegrated it."
Relief overwhelmed everyone, except Data.
The chief engineer's voice sounded over the Captain's communicator.
"Bridge, everything's A-OK down here," he informed. "A few minor injuries, but that's all."
"Good to hear it, Geordi," smiled Jean-Luc. "We owe our lives to Data and Chief O'Brien."
Geordi smiled and nodded. "That's my pal."
Data smiled, grateful to hear his friend's voice.
Will Riker sat down in his chair.
"Another moment and our goose would have been well and truly cooked."
Data turned around in his chair, his quizzical look taking over his fair complexion. "Goose, Sir? I detect no ..."
Will smiled and shook his head. "Don't worry about it, Data. If it wasn't for you, the ..."
"The goose would have been cooked, Sir?"
Jean-Luc, Deanna and Will smiled.
"Something like that," Riker said.
Data gave a small smile, but still looked confused.
"Captain," he then said, "we are now travelling on impulse power. The time we will take to reach the derelict has altered from the original. Our ETA at its co ordinates will be six hours and thirty-one minutes."
"Thank you, Data." Captain Picard looked at his Second Officer, and something faint caught his attention.
"Data, what's that?"
Data frowned and looked puzzled. "What is what, Captain?"
"That - on your face?"
Data looked at his reflection in the Ops console. He blinked and quickly wiped the dash of holographic glitter lipstick away.
"Er ... nothing ... Captain ..."
Will Riker looked away and a smile broke out on his face.
"Dismissed, Mr. Data," said Jean-Luc, not wanting to pursue the matter.
Data gave an abrupt nod and walked promptly to the turbolift. He could feel the eyes of the entire bridge crew watching him. Why are they all staring at me? Did I say or do something wrong?
Data did not turn around. The bridge crew were even more surprised when they heard the android sneeze just as the turbolift doors were about to open. "Excuse me, please."
Data then entered the lift without saying another word.
Will Riker turned to Jean-Luc, eyes wide.
"Was that a sneeze, Sir?"
The captain raised his eyebrows and gave a surprised nod.
"Yes, Number One, I believe it was."
Lieutenant Commander Harrin was Ten-Forward, sitting alone, with one of Guinan's specialities in hand. Commander Riker walked to her table and sat next to her.
"Mind if I sit here?"
Lucia looked at him. "I suppose not."
Frankly she wished Data would come.
"So, why's a beautiful girl like you sitting all alone?"
The statement caught Lucia off guard.
"I ... I don't know ... Just wanted a drink I guess..."
Riker eyed her. "Come on ... I think you're lonely ..."
Lucia was getting slightly agitated.
"Come with me ... I'll take you to the holodeck."
"I've already been to Holodeck Two with ..."
Lucia's voice trailed off. Riker was interested.
Lucia wouldn't answer.
"Come on ..."insisted Riker. "Who with? ..."
"With all due respect, Sir, It's none of your business."
Riker looked a trifle offended at that.
"I'm sorry ..."he said with an apologetic face. "You know ... the light of this place makes your eyes look beautiful..."
At that moment, Data walked into Ten-Forward.
Thank God ... thought Lucia.
"Excuse me, Commander, but I'm really not interested."
Riker nodded, a trifle upset. Lucia stood and walked to Data.
"Hi, Data," she said.
Data turned around to face her. "Hello, Lucia."
"Let's go," she said softly.
"But I have only just arrived ..."
Lucia looked around and saw Riker's eyes fixed on her. She gave him a fierce look. Riker instantly looked away. Lucia kissed Data and the two walked out of Ten-Forward. Riker watched them go. He didn't take his eyes away from the entrance, until a familiar figure stood before him. Riker looked up.
"Can I get you something?"
Riker hesitated, then said, "no ... no thanks."
Riker looked up at Guinan. "What about?"
Guinan looked at him, implying Riker knew exactly what about.
"I don't know ... she's a beautiful woman, but I can't help feeling happy for Data."
"So, ask yourself again - Are you jealous?"
Riker looked at her and after a pause softly said, "I guess not."
Data and Lucia were walking down the corridor. "Lucia," he said, "I have I have lost my tapestry needle."
"No problem, Data. I'll replicate another."
At that moment, Captain Picard's voice sounded over both their communicators.
"Commander Data and Commander Harrin, please report to the bridge - Now."
"On our way, Captain," transmitted Lucia.
They walked to the turbolift and the doors opened. Data gestured to Lucia to enter the turbolift first. He then followed her.
The doors hissed shut.
The turbolift opened. Lieutenant Commander Data and Harrin walked onto the bridge.
"You sent for us, Captain?" inquired Data.
"Yes, I did, Data. StarFleet Command has hailed us urgently and we've lost the signal."
"I shall attempt to relocate it, Captain."
Data sat at Ops and Lucia sat at Conn. Data glanced over at her.
No matter how much I wish I could have any feelings for her, I must remember - I am incapable of emotion. I will have to live with that for the remainder of my existence ...
"Mr. Data, have you located the frequency?"
Data was deep in thought.
Perhaps someday I will learn what emotions actually mean, but will I ever truly feel them? This is a question that can only be answered in time, if answered at all.
Irritated, the captain raised his voice.
"Mr. Data, is there something amiss with your hearing?"
"Negative, Sir. I am functioning at optimum level. My hearing is..."
"This is the third time I'm asking you."
"I apologise, Captain. I was ... lost in thought,"
"Kindly think about your duty. Have you located the frequency?"
"Not as yet, Sir."
A few moments later ...
"Captain, I have something. It is very faint. Audio only."
"Is it the StarFleet message?"
"I believe so, Sir."
"Pipe it through, quickly."
"Enterprise ..."came the urgent voice of Admiral One. "This is an extremely urgent warning. The Romulans have blamed the Federation for the destruction of three of their Warbirds, due to an unknown alien energy source emanating from the Neutral Zone. They are aware of your mission into the Neutral Zone and believe you are responsible ad they also believe we are going to attempt to destroy them. They will be waiting for you, Jean-Luc. They may even attempt to intercept the Enterprise. "
"Admiral, we are not responsible," emphasised Picard. "The energy almost destroyed the Enterprise as well."
"I know, you are not responsible, Captain Picard. All our attempts of negotiation with the Romulans have failed. You must proceed with extreme caution."
"Thank you for the warning, Admiral. We are taking all the necessary precautions. We've already manage to increase shield efficiency by thirty-seven percent."
"Jean-Luc, even if you fail, StarFleet will always know you did your best. The name Enterprise will never be forgotten. StarFleet out."
"One disaster after another ..." muttered Picard. "There won't be any prizes for the person who guesses what's going to happen next..."
A few hours later, Data and Lucia were off duty, and were in the turbolift, going to their separate quarters. Data was unaware of it, but Lucia was staring at him.
He's been so kind to me ... When my leg was hurt, he was so gentle ... And aboard the holodeck ... that was so romantic. It was beautiful, even though Data didn't understand it as I did. Maybe he did inside, but didn't know what it was ... I feel so sorry for him. He tries so hard and never seems to get what he deserves. All he wants is to be human ...
Lucia quickly wiped a tear from her cheek as Data turned around. The turbolift doors hissed open.
Data and Lucia spent some time in his quarters. Lucia was very taken with Spot. She sat down on Data's sofa than stood up instantaneously with a ear-piercing shriek.
"Data ..."she said, gingerly, "I think I've found your needle."
Then embarrassed, she sat down again without saying another word. She handed the needle to Data, who gave her nod. He opened his mouth, but found he did not know how to say what he was thinking - feeling. He wanted to apologise, but didn't know how. Lucia could see this and smiled.
"It's all right," she said to him.
Data was quite relieved that Lucia was not in the slightest, angry with him.
She is so understanding ... he thought. She treats me as if I were a human and she cares about me.
Data looked over at Lucia, who was busily studying her console.
* * *
In her quarters, Lucia sat in her chair and turned the computer monitor toward her.
"Computer," she said, "request all available information on Lieutenant Commander Data."
"Lieutenant Commander Data was the fifth android created by Doctor Noonian Soong, earth's foremost robotic scientist. He has a computational speed of 60 trillion operations per second and a total storage capacity of 800 quadrillion bits... "
The computer continued with Data's technical schematics and history in StarFleet. Lucia was very impressed, with Data's medals and achievements.
"Intriguing ... as Data would say ... Computer, you said Data was the fourth android. Who were the others?"
"The first three androids created by Dr. Noonian Soong never functioned. The fourth was Lore."
The computer went on to tell Lucia more about Lore.
"An android with a criminal record. Data's evil twin ...
Weird family... I wonder how Data feels about Lore?..."
Quite a while later, the computer had finished. Lucia was glad to have more of an understanding of Data.
Data was in his quarters, reading a book, entitled HANDLING FIGHTS IN A RELATIONSHIP - The Male Role.
He finished the book in a matter of seconds.
"Most intriguing ..." he found himself saying. "Perhaps I will do better this time ..."
Data placed the book on the ledge. He then sat down and continued with his tapestry enjoying the peaceful pastime. Realising he had almost run out of brown wool, he left to get replicate more as his replicator was malfunctioning. While he was gone, Lucia walked into his quarters.
"Data ..." she called.
She saw there was no one here. She then walked towards Data's unfinished tapestry.
"He's good at this ..."she said to herself. "Most intriguing..."
Lucia then looked on the ledge and saw the book.
"Ohh ... that poor guy ..." she said quietly, sympathetically. "He tries so hard ... I'll play along with him ..."
Lucia then turned and looked again at the tapestry. At that moment, Data walked into his quarters and saw Lucia in there, with her back to him.
Now is my chance ... he thought.
He put the wool over the book and looked at Lucia.
"Get out of my way," he snapped.
Lucia turned around and looked at him.
"What?" she asked, a little confused.
"You are in my way," snapped Data sounding impertinent. "Move."
Lucia realised what Data was trying to do.
"You're a very rude android," she said, playing along with him.
Data then slapped her across her face with the correct amount of pressure. Lucia put her hand over her cheek, shook her head and recovered.
"No ... no ... I cannot do this ..." he said, sitting up. "I am sorry. I was reading a book on..."
"I know, Data. I saw it. I was playing along with you, but if I may say is I hadn't known, you might have hurt my feelings."
"I am sorry, Lucia. I was endeavouring to be more-"
"I know, Data, but you only have to be yourself. I'm sorry if I've placed you in an awkward position. "
"No ... it is not your fault ... It is mine ... I tried to have a relationship before and it did not work. I hurt Jenna's feelings. I did not mean to ..."
Gently, Lucia kissed him.
"No ..." said Data, raising his voice. "I can't..."
Data blinked, frowned a little then inclined his head to one side.
"I used a contraction!"
He hugged Lucia, perhaps a little too hard. Lucia coughed, shook her head, then smiled.
"I am Sorry ..." he said, an apologetic look on his face.
"You can, Data, if you put your mind and heart to it."
"That's ... just it, Lucia," said Data, "I do not have a heart."
"You do, Data ... just ..."
"Lucia, I do not. I cannot feel anything."
"You can feel, Data, you just don't realise it. "
"But how can ..."
"Data, I'm sure you've heard the story of the Tin Man, how he wanted a heart so badly, he didn't realise that he already had one. I believe .... I'm sure it's the same with you."
Data gave a small smile. "How can I know if that is true?"
"You will know in time, Data, all good things succumb to those who wait and Data, nothing you do will offend or hurt me. I know that is not your intent."
Data nodded. "I am extremely grateful to you, Lucia, for being so understanding. It would seem no one had ever understood me this well, apart from my close friends."
Lucia smiled. "It is my pleasure, Data, always, and, "Lucia inclined her head to one side, "you would not consider others as friends if you did not have any emotions."
"I have never thought of it like that before, but, Lucia, as much as I would like to think I have emotions, I ..."
Lucia put her finger over Data's mouth.
"How do you feel about your brother Lore?" she asked.
"How do you know about..."
"I was looking at some computer files."
"Lore is jealous of me and he is evil."
"Was he always like that?"
"My father, Dr. Soong did not make him evil. Lore said that the colonists rejected him. That is why he turned against them."
"Have you ever tried to understand him?" Lucia asked. "Perhaps he wouldn't be evil if someone accepted him."
Data nodded. "Perhaps, but I have yet to confront him again to test that theory."
Lucia smiled. "I hope you do ..."
"Lucia," said Data, after a while, "most humans would find it hard if not impossible to have a relationship with a machine. You ..."
"Data ... you're not a machine ..."
"I am a machine, Lucia. I was created by ..."
"Yes, Data. I know Dr. Noonian Soong. You have the components of a machine, but you are sentient. Machines are not sentient. I don't like the term 'machine' to describe you."
Data looked at her, inquisitively.
"What ... term would you choose, then?"
"Data, you're ... I like to think of you as a mechanical life form."
Data's expression showed he agreed.
"And," said Lucia smiling, gently putting her arm around his back, "-Computer, dim the lights ... You're a very sexy android you know..."
Commander William Riker was on his way to the bridge.
"Picard to Riker."
The First Officer tapped his communicator.
"Riker here, Sir."
"Both you and Data report to the bridge."
Riker turned to the computer.
"Computer," he said, "locate Lieutenant Commander Data."
"Lieutenant Commander Data is in his private quarters."
Commander Riker walked to Data's quarters. He sounded the door buzzer. There was no reply. Riker then opened the door and took a step inside.
"Dat ..." he began to say.
His gaze then met Lieutenant Commander Data and Lieutenant Commander Harrin on Data's sofa, kissing passionately, seeming to have a wonderful time. Will's eyes almost shot out of their sockets, as he stood there, gaping like a goldfish. He then stepped out of Data's quarters and silently began to walk the other way. Despite the initial shock, Will could not help smiling to himself.
"Pinochle's discovered women ..."
William then hopped into the turbolift.
The turbolift doors hissed open and Commander Riker stepped out onto the bridge.
"Number One, where's Data?"
"Uh ... he's indisposed at the moment, Captain ... It's not urgent is it?"
"No "said Picard. "No one is manning the Ops station at the moment. I need to estimate the time we have left before we reach the derelict vessel. No matter. I'll do it. "
Jean-Luc then sat at Ops and flexed his fingers.
"Three hours, twenty-nine minutes."
"And thirty-five seconds ..." added Will with a smile.
Meanwhile, in Data's quarters, the two still lay close together on Data's bed. Lucia sensed someone else was near. She looked sideways and shrieked. A face was peering at them.
"Spot ..." Lucia gasped. Lucia smiled and gently stroked him. The cat began to purr. Data then stood up, holding both Lucia and Spot in his arms. The cat jumped onto the ledge and pawed the wool. Data put Lucia down. Lucia saw the book again. She picked it up.
"Data, you don't need this to impress me."
Data seemed to be embarrassed, but said nothing as Lucia continued. "I like you the way you are. You try so hard to be human. Perhaps just be yourself for a change."
Data nodded. "Thank you, Lucia. I will make note of that."
He gently kissed her.
"Data," she said, "can you do some more of this painting? I would love to see you paint."
Data smiled at her, picked up his paints and began. The painting did not take him long to complete, as he was almost finished.
"Now ..." he said, putting the paintbrush down. "What should I entitle it, Lucia? Any ideas?"
"Data ... this is your painting. Your work of art. You created it. You think of a title. You probably have more ideas than I do anyway."
Data nodded. He had a thoughtful look on his face. He then looked at his painting.
"As I said to you before, it is not a painting of anything in particular. It is simply free strokes of the brush. "
Data inclined his head to the right and paid particular attention to the gentle colours merging freely into one and other like a rainbow.
"Ah" he said, abruptly. "I have an idea."
"I knew you would, Data," smiled Lucia, putting her hand around his back and leaning o his shoulder.
Data then picked up a fine brush, dipped it in brown paint and bent down to the painting. He painted the title in the left hand corner.
"Data ... that's beautiful," gasped Lucia. "Freedom ... that is exactly what your painting portrays."
She then gazed directly into Data's luminous golden eyes.
"Data ... how can you have given the painting such a beautiful name if you had no feelings?"
The android's confused look took over his complexion.
"I do not know, but I told you I have no ..."
"Shhh, Data," silenced Lucia, gently. "You do have emotions, you just don't realise it."
Data smiled, not of pleasure, but with what appeared like pain, longing.
"I wish I could believe that."
Lucia put her arms around Data and gave him a light hug.
"Believe it, Data. You ..."
"Shhh," said Data quietly, as he kissed her, gently.
* * *
We have entered the Neutral Zone and are on full alert. As yet we have had no confrontation with the Romulans. I have a feeling, however that may change - soon.
"At least we haven't bumped into the Romulans," pointed out the First Officer, hoping the situation would not change. "Mr. Worf, can you locate any Romulan vessels?"
Worf checked tactical. "Not as yet, Sir. Sensors indicate no other vessels in this area besides the Enterprise and the derelict. But, Sir, the Romulans may 'bump into us' if they are cloaked."
"Understood, Lieutenant. Keep scanning."
A few moments later, Worf looked up from tactical.
"Captain, detecting an unusual energy source ..."
Jean-Luc looked out of the viewscreen. He instantaneously hit his combadge.
"Commander Data, Commander Harrin, report to the bridge - Immediately."
"Damn," cursed Lucia, under her breath. "Always in the middle of something ..."
She zipped up the top of her uniform. Data then touched his communicator.
"On our way, Captain."
Data and Lucia raced into the turbolift.
"Data." Picard's voice was somewhat urgent. He pointed to the viewscreen. "Is that the same type of energy cloud that almost destroyed the Enterprise?"
Data sat at Ops and checked the console.
"Confirmed, Captain. The energy readings are identical, and appear to have the same fluctuations."
It's going to happen again thought Jean-Luc. How can we stop it this time?
"Captain ..." Data's voice sounded very surprised. "The sensors are reading possible life signs."
"Life signs?" Jean-Luc was astonished. "Are you sure?"
The Enterprise was suddenly blasted by the cloud. Captain Picard stood his ground.
"Shields up, quickly! Red Alert. Arm phasers and photon torpedoes."
"Armed. Shields up," boomed Worf.
The Red Alert klaxon blared and the blood red glow flooded the bridge.
"Captain," said Data, turning in his chair, "the cloud is definitely showing signs of sentience. Readings also indicate a single phaser blast or photon torpedo will instantly destroy it."
The Enterprise was blasted a second time.
"Shields holding, Captain," boomed the Klingon, "but power has been reduced by twelve percent. I suggest we destroy the creature now, while we still have the chance - Before it destroys us."
Data looked at the viewscreen. "Captain ... it is changing both colour and form..."
Jean-Luc turned and saw what was happening. He too was puzzled.
"Captain!" exclaimed Counsellor Troi suddenly, "I'm sensing fear - unbelievable fear ... What ever that is out there, it's alive. And it's terrified."
Bill Riker saw the anguish in Deanna's eyes, almost identical to the pain she had sensed at Farpoint. He felt sympathetic. I'm with you, Imzadi ...
"Captain, we are being hailed by the creature," interrupted Worf.
"Open hailing frequencies."
"Aye, Sir. Hailing frequencies open."
A message came through, but in alien tongue.
"Patch in Universal Translator, Mr. Data."
"... Do not harm me ... Please do not kill me ... "begged The creature, sounding as though it was crying. "I mean you no harm..."
"Then why did you fire on our vessel?" barked Riker.
"I was not aware of your intent. I ... I'm sorry, I ..."
"This is a Federation Starship," interrupted Picard, "not designed for war, but for peaceful purposes. We have no wish to harm you. I assure you, we come in peace. May I remind you, it is you who attacked the Enterprise in the first place. Who are you? - What are you?"
Deanna could sense the creature had calmed considerably. Will saw her relaxing and felt grateful.
"I am Y'ran," introduced the creature. "You have my sincere apologies, Enterprise. I attacked you in self defence, but I realise, now, reason should have come first. I had no idea I had provoked you into readying your weapons."
"A necessary precaution," explained Lieutenant Worf. "You did not know our intent and we did not know yours. It is fortunate our shields were operating."
Y'ran apologised again.
"Apologies accepted, Y'ran," forgave Jean-Luc, "but now we must ask you to leave this sector of space. Your being here has created difficulties and may lead to a war."
Y'ran was confused. "I do not understand."
"You are in a sector of space which we call the 'Neutral Zone.' By being here, you have complicated matters with us and the Romulans. The matter goes back many years ..."
"I understand," said Y'ran. "I detected energy readings here - identical to those given off by my people, but I discovered that I was picking up my own signal beam, which had somehow come into contact with this vessel. I will leave and continue my search elsewhere."
"Search?" inquired Jean-Luc.
"It is a long story ..." began Y'ran, "but I will shorten it. Our sector of the universe is many millions of light years from here. Long ago, a black hole appeared, and almost all of my people perished inside it. Only a handful of us managed to escape, but we lost all contact. I have been roaming the universe in search of them ever since the catastrophe. - Ten million years ago. I send out signal beams to try to locate them, but so far it has been in vain."
"Captain," said Data. "I believe Y'ran's signal beams were the cause of our problems."
"Explain, please," came the voice of Y'ran.
"We encountered a strange alien energy ..." Picard began to explain.
He concluded with, "... we were able to destroy the last one, but only just."
"You have my sincere apologies. I did not know my signal beams would cause harm. I am so sorry ... I cannot believe I caused harm to other life forms ..."
"It was not your intention," comforted Counsellor Troi, sensing Y'ran's guilt, despair and pain. "You have our sympathy."
"I am able to alter my signal beams slightly so that they will not arm other life forms. Thank you, Enterprise. I will leave you now. "
Y'ran did as he promised and zoomed out of sight, perhaps on his way back to his galaxy, possibly to come into contact with his people someday.
Data's eyebrows went up, higher than anyone had ever seen them go.
"Captain ..." he began, almost in disbelief. "Y'ran accelerated from zero to warp nine point nine-nine in less than one second, without any warp propulsion systems ..."
Commander Riker raised his eyebrows.
"I'd call that fast ... Now, we'd better get this rescue mission under way so we can hotfoot it out of here before the Romulans..."
Data looked up at him, an inquisitive look in the android's eyes. "Inquiry - Hotfoot?"
"Forget it, Data."
Data tilted his head a little, then turned back to Ops.
"We are approaching the derelict craft, Commander Riker," he informed.
"Captain," interrupted Worf, abruptly, his head shooting up from tactical. "A vessel is approaching. It is a Romulan Warbird."
Riker tensed. "Uh oh ... "
"Their disruptors are reading as fully armed "informed the Klingon.
"Be ready for anything," said Captain Picard, "but keep calm, everyone."
Despite the captain's words, tension on the bridge was escalating.
"Captain, the Romulans are hailing us."
"Open hailing frequencies, Mr. Worf."
Two Romulans appeared on the viewscreen of the Enterprise's Main Bridge.
"I am Captain Tarogh. I demand you explain your illegal presence in the Neutral Zone."
"I am Captain Jean ..."
"We know who you are! "snapped Tarogh. "Explain your..."
"We know we are in the wrong," admitted Jean-Luc. "We have orders from StarFleet Command to rescue ..."
"Do not hide it from us, Picard. We know why you are here. You are here to destroy us."
"You are wrongfully accusing us. We ..."
"Do not lie!" fumed Tarogh. "Three of our finest Warbirds were destroyed by an energy the Federation somehow developed. I will not let you destroy us, do you hear?!" Tarogh's anger was threatening to explode any second.
"We do not intend to destroy you," assured Jean-Luc. "We are innocent. The energy you speak of was also encountered by us."
Captain Picard explained about their encounter with Y'ran.
"I do not believe you, Picard," concluded Captain Tarogh. "If you had encountered the energy, the Enterprise would have been destroyed."
Picard was firing up, but he kept his cool. "The reason we were not destroyed, Captain Tarogh, is we beamed our antimatter core out of the Enterprise, destroying the energy cloud. If we had not done that, we would not be talking to you right now."
Captain Tarogh took a moment to think. The viewscreen on the bridge of the Enterprise went blank.
Tarogh to his second-in-command.
"Talez, scan the Enterprise. If you detect any antimatter aboard it, I will destroy it without warning."
Talez performed the scan. No antimatter is aboard, Sir. Perhaps we can believe them."
"Perhaps, but if it they did not destroy our Warbirds, who did?..."
"I do not know, Sir."
Tarogh nodded. "Open hailing frequencies."
"The Enterprise is standing by, Captain."
"Captain," called Worf, looking up from tactical at the Romulan Warbird, "the Romulans are powering down their disruptors."
Tension eased on the bridge.
Once again, the two Romulans appeared on the viewscreen.
"Enterprise, we have confirmed that no antimatter is aboard your ship. We are considering that you have told us the truth. I may have overreacted. My ... my only brother was on one of the Warbirds destroyed ... But, Captain Picard, there is still the matter of your violation of the Neutral Zone."
Jean-Luc began to explain. "We have orders from StarFleet Command to rescue any survivors that may be inside a derelict vessel that has been located in the Neutral Zone. I too disfavour this situation..."
He finished with, "... I realise our presence here aroused your suspicion, and appears provocative, but, Captain Tarogh, we are here for one reason and one only - To save lives. Nothing more."
"Proceed with your rescue mission, Captain Picard, but be warned, if you try anything suspicious, we will not hesitate to fire."
The viewscreen went blank.
"Sir," said Worf, "the Romulans are rearming their disruptors."
Picard turned. "Counsellor?"
"At this moment, they do not intend to fire, Captain. I sense confusion, anger and grief. Tarogh is under a tremendous amount of emotional pain due to the loss of his brother. I cannot be sure if he will act on his threat. Romulans are extremely unpredictable. I suggest we proceed with caution."
"I'm with Deanna," agreed Will. "Let's be careful. We're treading on egg shells."
The bridge crew focused their attention on the strange looking derelict craft. It was floating in outer space, appearing to be motionless.
"Magnify, Mr. Data," said Picard.
The craft looked even stranger when the image was magnified.
"Can you identify it, Data?"
The third in command shook his head.
"Negative, Captain. It is unlike any craft the Enterprise or any other Federation vessel has ever encountered."
"Captain," said Lucia, abruptly, "I'm picking up life signs, but I can't be sure what."
Picard turned to Ops. "Mr. Data, elaborate."
"Life signs have been detected, Captain, but sensors cannot be certain if they are biological, mechanical or other. Judging from these scans, the life forms aboard are not humanoid."
"Open hailing frequencies."
"Open, Sir," came Worf's voice.
"This is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise. We have been sent to rescue you."
There was a pause.
"No response, Captain," informed Worf.
The captain then tapped his communicator. "Picard to Transporter Chief. Can you get a fix on the life forms in the derelict? "
"Negative, Sir. Not yet. The energy of Y'ran's signal beam is aboard the derelict and is interfering with the transporter, but we can transport something or someone there."
Captain Picard then turned around.
"Number One, prepare a minimal Away Team."
"Aye, Sir. Data. Harrin."
Data and Lucia stood up and followed the First Officer to the turbolift. The doors hissed open, and they entered.
"Transporter Room Three."
The three of them stood on the transporter pads and set their phasers on stun.
"Energize," said Riker.
The Away Team shimmered as they were beamed directly aboard the derelict. They instantly drew their phasers. Seeing there was no apparent danger, the weapons were lowered. Riker pushed his combadge.
"We're here, Captain, but we have not as yet seen anyone."
"This is a relatively small ship." added Data. "I would hypothesise that there are few survivors."
"Understood," said Picard. "Maintain open frequencies."
The Away Team split up and began searching. Further on, Data was detecting possible life signs. As he drew the tricorder upwards, he noticed several forms of plant life in what seemed to be scientific observation capsules.
"No survivors have been located as yet, Captain," he reported, "but the tricorder has located several forms of plant life which appear to be contained for scientific study. Perhaps this was what the sensors detected."
"Perhaps, Data, but there may be survivors. Keep searching."
Captain Picard touched his combadge. "Chief, can you get a fix on the Away Team? I want them beamed up immediately if anything goes awry."
"Aye, Sir. I haven't got an exact fix, but I'm working on it. I'll keep you posted."
Data left the plants and made his way to what appeared to be the Main Bridge. There, he saw three navy blue skinned people lying motionless on the floor. He turned one of them over. Data pushed his communicator. Data pulled out his tricorder and scanned.
"Captain, I have located three deceased humanoid life forms aboard the Main Bridge of the derelict vessel. Two male, one female. They do not appear to be any form of life that we or any other Federation vessel have encountered ... Captain judging from their uniforms, the plants and the structure of this vessel, I would theorise that it was intended purely for scientific purposes."
"Are there any life signs?""
Data drew his tricorder and scanned. "None, Sir."
"Have you any idea as to what killed them?"
"I cannot give an exact account, Captain. They appear to have been dead for some time. I would hypothesise that there was an explosion aboard the bridge. All three of them have extensive burns to their bodies. Perhaps it was a scientific experiment than went drastically wrong, but more likely an accident with Y'ran's energy."
"Copy, Data. Thank you. Number One? Lieutenant Harrin?"
"Harrin's with me, Captain. Other than the plant specimens, and ourselves, we are detecting no life signs here."
The derelict shook violently.
"Away Team! What happened?!" exclaimed Jean-Luc, concerned.
Data hit his combadge. "The vessel jolted, Sir, reason unknown."
Data's hand accidentally pushed a blue button and a female voice sounded.
END OF LOG --"
There was a pause, and then the computer blipped.
"The Tieo will self destruct in seven minutes and fifty seconds. Forty nine ... Forty eight ... "
"Picard to O'Brien. Beam the Away Team up - Now."
"I can't, Captain!" he replied, madly punching the transporter controls. "There's too much interference ..."
"We need that transporter. The Away Team is in considerable danger."
"I know, Sir. Believe me, I'm doing everything I can."
"Well do better," barked the captain. "Picard out."
Data dashed away from the entrance to the bridge.
The Tieo jolted vigorously.
Lucia was thrown into Will Riker's arms. "Quick!" he yelled, as some shelving came tumbling down, "we have to get outta here!"
Lucia and Will ran as fast as they could down one of the corridors. One of the ship's computer terminals blew apart near Lucia. She screamed and was thrust to one side.
"Lucia! ..." shouted Will, desperately ripping through the smoke and sparks," are you all right?"
"I'm fine ... Sir." She was still a little shaken.
"Forget protocol for now. Our lives come first."
Will helped her up. They then continued to run down the corridor, with explosions ripping all around them.
"Picard to O'Brien ... Are the ..."
"I've got something, Sir! Yes! I'll be able to beam them up."
"Do it! Now!"
Picard then turned to tactical.
"Hail the Romulans, Mr. Worf."
"Frequencies open, Sir."
"Captain Tarogh, all life forms on the derelict vessel whom we were sent to rescue were found to be dead. We are now withdrawing out people and pulling out of this sector."
Without a word, the Romulan vessel vanished.
"They have engaged their cloaking device, Sir," informed the Klingon.
"I'm going to the Transporter Room Three. You have the bridge, Mr. Worf."
The security chief gave a curt nod. "Yes, Captain."
Commander Riker and Lieutenant Commander Harrin dematerialised in the glistening transporter beam and re-materialised on the transporter stage. Captain Picard met them in the Transporter Room. Riker walked off transporter pad. He then looked around.
"Where's Data? ..."
Lucia saw a StarFleet communicator insignia on the transporter stage, bent down and picked it up.
"No! ..."she gasped. "He's still on that ship ... this is only his combadge..."
She looked desperately at Captain Picard.
"Captain ... we have to go back for him..."
"The Tieo's going to blow in less than five minutes" said Riker.
"Captain ..."said Lucia, frantically, "... we have to go back for Data. We can't let him die ..."
Jean-Luc took a deep breath. "Lucia, there's not enough time. There's no way you can save him in four minutes."
"Still, Captain, I have to try."
"No, Lieutenant. Losing one friend and valid crew member is bad enough. I do not want to lose two - And the Romulans are still out there."
"I appreciate your concern, Captain, but ..."
"Please, Jean-Luc ..."
"No, Lucia. I cannot let ..."
"Permission to insult, Sir," snapped Lucia, sarcastically.
"Not granted..." Then Picard softened. I'm sorry, Lucia ... Please return to the bridge."
Lucia was silent for a short moment. She then looked behind Captain Picard.
"Data!!" she exclaimed. "You made it!!"
Picard, Riker and O'Brien spun around, but there was no one there. The diversion created enough time for Lucia to activate the transporter.
"Override!" yelled Picard.
"I can't, Sir!"
Picard wanted to feel angry, but for some reason, he was not.
"How can anyone punish such bravery?"
Commander Harrin was beamed directly to the Tieo.
"This vessel will self destruct in three minutes and thirty- nine seconds. Thirty eight ..."
"I have to find him ..."Lucia said to herself, determined.
She began frantically began searching.
"DATA!! WHERE ARE YOU??!!"
Explosions erupted all around her and the ship's hull was beginning to break apart. Some of the higher ledges tumbled down. Lucia quickly manoeuvred out of the way. She then looked towards an open door. She ran to it and looked inside. She saw the three dead scientists, but they were not her concern. Her concern was Data. As Lucia ran in the other direction, she tripped over a large slab of metal on the floor, which was on an angle. She peered under it.
Lucia instantaneously knelt down to him and used all her strength to free him from underneath the metal. She was a little confused, however. Data was much stronger than her, so why couldn't he have freed himself? Lucia then gasped, horrified. There was another, very sharp piece of metal which had sliced through Data's chest and was still stuck inside him and he was bleeding heavily. Lucia winced.
"Data, are you all right? ..."
There was no reply. The android just lay there, motionless.
"Data ... Data say something, please!..."
Lucia managed to pry the metal loose and take it out of him. She cut her hands, and they started bleeding, but she was too worried about Data to notice the pain. Data slowly began to open his eyes. Lucia gasped with relief.
"Where ... where am I? ..." Data asked, weakly. "I cannot see..."
"You're on the Tieo, Data. It's set to self destruct. I came back for you."
"No ..." said Data, weakly, sounding as though he was in pain, "save yourself, Lucia."
"No, Data. You're hurt. You're dying ... You need me. I didn't come back here to watch you die."
"My destruction is inevitable now, Lucia, but you can still escape. Go now, while you still have a chance ... please ..."
"It'll be a cold day in Hell first, Data. You're coming with me. We're both coming out of this - alive."
"Lucia, I am ... I'm too heavy for you ... You may not make it. Leave me here."
"Shut up, Data - That's an order."
Lucia then smiled and helped Data stagger to his feet. The gash in the android's chest was large. Lucia was not sure how much it was hurting him, but it looked as though the android was in excruciating pain.
"This vessel will self destruct in one minute and ten seconds... nine ..."
Data was quite heavy, but Lucia was determined to save him.
"Come on ..."she said. "We don't have much time."
Data did his best to walk, but found it quite difficult in his damaged predicament. His eyesight was beginning to return to him, but he saw only blurred visions. Lucia staggered with him away from the exploding machinery, out of danger.
As they were staggering away, a sharp piece of metal sliced into Lucia's ankle. She shrieked with pain. Data stopped. He spoke weakly, but with concern. "Are you all right, Lucia?"
"Yes ... I'm okay ... it's just my ankle, but saving our lives ... your life is my main concern right now."
Data appreciated Lucia's concern for him, but did not want her to sacrifice herself on his account. Lucia managed to locate a corridor which appeared to be safer than the others. She gave Data his communicator and hit hers.
"Enterprise, two to beam up."
"There's a malfunction ... The transporter is only capable of beaming one person up at a time."
There was a pause.
"You go first, Lucia," said Data, breaking the silence.
"No, Data, you ..."
"I thank you and appreciate all you have done for me. I commend your bravery, but..."
"But nothing, Data. You go first ... I ... I love you."
Data smiled weakly.
"Thank you for everything, Lucia. I appreciate all you have done for me, and I shall remember your kindness, always. I wish I could say 'I love you too', and return your love."
"You already have, Data."
Data was confused, but before the android could say anything, Lucia pushed his communicator in his hand, but not before she kissed him, passionately.
"Enterprise," she said, "one to beam up."
Before Data could do anything, he was beamed aboard the Enterprise. The android collapsed on the transporter stage.
"Captain, Data's badly wounded," O'Brien said, worried for his friend. Transporting him to sickbay
"Have you got a fix on Commander Harrin?"
"I'm trying, Sir, but there's too much interference ...
Sir ... I think I have something! Energising transporter!"
The image of Lucia began to form on the transporter stage.
"Anything?" asked Jean-Luc.
"Negative, Sir. I almost got her, but I've lost her signal."
From the viewscreen, the entire bridge crew witnessed the Tieo detonate in an enormous, violent, spectacular explosion.
"Shields up," said Picard, automatically
The bridge crew were left temporarily visionless by the blinding glare.
Captain Picard then bashed his combadge. "O'Brien ... Anything?" he said, urgently
There was a pause, then, "negative, Sir. Nothing, and there's nothing in the pattern buffer..."
Jean-Luc pushed his lips together. He took a deep breath and
pushed his communicator.
"Doctor Crusher, how's Data?"
"He's bad, Captain. Geordi and I are working on him."
"Any improvement in his condition?" asked Will, concerned.
"Not much Commander," said Geordi. "He suffered a considerable amount of damage. His chest has been ripped open. I believe with our help and his automatic repair systems ..."
"Geordi," interrupted Jean-Luc, "is there any hope Data can be repaired?"
"Fortunately his positronic brain was not damaged, but there has been a substantial amount of internal damage and he's lost a lot of his chemical nutrients."
"Mr. La Forge, Doctor Crusher, keep us posted."
Geordi looked at his friend's wounded body. "Please don't die, Data ..."
Later in sickbay ...
"There ... that should do it."
Geordi finished clearing up Data's chemical nutrients and welding Data's chest. Doctor Crusher looked at him and nodded.
"I hope so."
The two waited anxiously. Data's eyes opened a few seconds later and he sat up without effort. He looked down at his chest, then looked up.
Geordi smiled and tapped his combadge.
"Captain, Data's A-OK."
"Excellent, Geordi," smiled Jean-Luc. "I'll join you with Commander Riker and Counsellor Troi in sickbay."
Data then looked around. "Doctor? ... I am on the Enterprise ..."
Captain Picard arrived in sickbay moments later. Data took a few seconds to recall what had happened.
"Data, are you all right?"
There was a moments pause.
"Yes, Captain, I am fine. All my systems are operating. Where is Lucia?"
"Was she injured? I do not see hr in sickbay?" Data asked, concerned when he saw the look on the captain's face. "Was she not beamed aboard the Enterprise?"
Jean-Luc paused for a while.
"You were beamed up first, Data," explained Riker. "We tried desperately to lock onto Lucia, but there was too much interference. We were unable to save her ... I'm sorry..."
Data paused for a long while.
"She ... she sacrificed herself for me ..."
Jean-Luc nodded. Neither he, nor Geordi, Will, Deanna or Beverly could explain the strange look in Data's golden eyes. Neither could Data. He slowly slid off the biobed and walked towards the exit.
"She died with honour, Data," Worf said.
Data nodded. "I know," he said softly.
Data turned around and looked at Captain Picard.
"Yes," he said, his voice sincere. "I know that, and I will never forget it. I will respect and remember her, always."
Data then left sickbay without saying another word. Deanna watched him go.
"Captain, I'm sensing ..."
Jean-Luc raised his finger, silencing her.
"I know, Deanna. So am I."
Back on the bridge, the entire crew had assembled.
"Lieutenant Commander Lucia Harrin has demonstrated extreme value and courage in her self sacrifice. We shall remember her, always."
"We shall remember ..."repeated the entire bridge crew solemnly, in unison and respect.
Jean-Luc sat down.
Dark skinned Ensign Rager at the Conn, looked over at Data. "Sorry about Lucia," she said softly, sadly.
A million things flew through Data's head, but all he could do was nod and say, "me too ..."
Data was confused. He felt Lucia's death was his fault. felt Guilt? ... am I feeling guilt? How is this possible? I cannot feel anything ...
Rager was deep in thought about Lucia as well. She barely heard the order from Captain Picard.
"Ensign Rager, take us out of the Neutral Zone and lay in a course for the nearest Starbase. Proceed on half impulse power."
She did not comply. Captain Picard raised his voice.
"Ensign Rager ... "
She jerked. "Captain?"
Captain Picard repeated his order.
"Sorry, Sir. I was thinking about Commander Lucia Harrin ...
"Aye, Sir," Rager said. "Co-ordinates laid in, one half impulse."
As the Enterprise sailed through space on impulse power, Data
turned in his chair and stood up.
"Captain, request permission to return to my quarters."
Jean-Luc nodded. "Granted, Data."
Data left the bridge and entered the turbolift. The doors hissed closed.
Data soon arrived at his quarters. He walked inside and looked at his Freedom painting. He then turned around and saw the tapestry on the ledge. Images of Lucia flew through his head. He missed her smile, her gentle pointed ears, her warm understanding voice. Her shrill but subtle laugh.
"Second Officer's Personal Log, Stardate 46240.0:
Data explained in his Log, the times he had with Lucia from beginning to end. Her tragic end.
Data then picked up his - Lucia's tapestry, left his quarters and slowly walked into the turbolift.
Data reached his destination. The Ten-Forward lounge, normally buzzing with social excitement was now totally deserted. Not a soul to be seen or heard. Data slowly walked to the front of the lounge and sat down by the window. He gazed out at the twinkling stars.
"You okay?" came Guinan's soothing voice.
Data jerked, then turned his head toward her.
"I did not think anyone would be here."
"I'm always here, Data."
Data turned his eyes away from her and looked down at Lucia's tapestry and played with the wool.
"She was so kind to me ..." he said, softly. "And understood me so well."
Data looked into Guinan's eyes.
"It is not fair, Guinan ... Why ..."
"A lot of things in life are not fair, Data, but we just have to accept them."
Data closed his eyes, then opened them and slowly nodded.
"She did not deserve to die. I did."
"No you didn't, Data. Lucia loved you very deeply. That's why she chose to sacrifice herself. She did it because she wanted to. You life was more important to her than her own."
"I realise that, Guinan and I will always respect her for her sacrifice, but ..."
"A thing you are going to have to learn about being human, Data, is accepting pain."
Data then realised had advanced further in his never ending struggle to become human. He wanted to feel happy, but he was not. He had suffered such a great loss in the process, in a way he felt he was better off before.
"And remember, Data. Death is never an end, but a new beginning. Wherever Lucia is now, be assured that she's happy and safe."
This brought Data some comfort. "Thank you, Guinan," he said, grateful for her understanding, "but I would like to be left alone now."
Guinan gave a warm smile and nodded. She then turned and seemed to disappear in her flowing clothes behind the Ten-Forward bar.
Data looked down at Lucia's tapestry of a thatched cottage. He picked up the threaded needle and began to sew. He was surprised when he saw a small droplet of water on the tapestry. He wiped his eye, amazed. He was crying. For the first time in his life. Real tears. Yet, despite this achievement, he was not happy. He then gazed at the billions of stars outside, and whispered sadly and softly, "If I am capable of love, at all - I love you, Lucia."
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