Chapter 1 (1,435 words)

Data didn't know what was wrong with him. He was lonely. At least, that was what he thought it was. He knew that he, himself, couldn't actually really feel lonely, so to speak. Nevertheless, he was acting different. Nothing in particular was happening but he just had an inkling that something was not quite right.

At present, he was in engineering. "Geordi?" He asked his closest friend.

The engineer turned around and placed his PADD on top of the engineering console. "Yeah, Data?" He asked. He want really paying as much attention as he thought he should be. Only a week ago the Enterprise, despite being the best ship that Starfleet had to offer, had suffered a warp core breach. Captain Picard had given Geordi the task of trying to make the warp core a little safer.

The golden skinned android walked over to the other engineer and stood in front of him, whilst partially leaning against a console. "I do not know what it is that you should like me to do," Data stated bluntly and a little perplexedly.

Geordi sighed and rubbed his forehead a little. He then said, in an authoritative yet sympathetic tone of voice, "Oh, sorry Data. I thought I told you."

Data frowned and his eyes went blank and then said, "My memory banks do not contain any record of you saying such a thing."

Geordi apologised and then picked his PADD back up. "Yeah, now I remember," he replied. He then looked over at Data and he saw that the confused android still hadn't had his question answered. He then set about answering him, "I just wanted you to keep an eye on that console over..." He turned around to point to it "...there."

Data nodded and then walked over to the console which Geordi had pointed out to him. He sat down in the chair and then orders the computer to initiate a simple diagnostic of the Enterprise's systems.

Geordi looked over at his friend and he couldn't help but think of how weirdly Data had been acting lately. He finished what he was doing and then proceeded to where Data was. He bent down a little so that he could speak to Data less awkwardly and then asked him something, "Data?"

The android lifted his head up and then looked up at his friend, "Yes, Geordi?"

"I'm... not quite sure how to put this, but..." He shrugged his head a little and then wiped his forehead.

Data could see that his friend was getting a little uncomfortable so he made an attempt to try and make it a little easier for Geordi. So, he said, "I cannot feel offence, Geordi."

"I know that Data. Anyway, what I was trying to say is that I've noticed that you've been acting..." He paused, so that he could find the right thing to say. "...strangely."

Data raised an eyebrow, confusedly, "In what way?"

"It's just that, well... you've been asking for more time off of your shifts and you're always in your quarters," Geordi observed.

"I do apologise if it has caused you any disturbance," Data said rather too apologetically.

Geordi shook his head and then smiled, "It's all right. But, I guess I'm just a little worried, that's all."

"I assure you Geordi, there is nothing the matter with me."

"Okay..." Geordi trailed off at the end of the word. He was still not entirely sure of what his friend was doing. "Any way, I'm gonna go check on the impulse drive and see if its all in good working order," he stated before doing just that.

Meanwhile, on the bridge of the starship Enterprise, Picard and Riker were going over the recent events. One particular topic which had crossed both of their minds was the strange behaviour of their fellow officer, lieutenant commander Data. They too, like Geordi had noticed Data's seemingly unorthodox behaviour.

"What was all that about?" Commander Riker pondered rather loudly. He thought that he had said it to himself, but he hadn't.

Captain Picard, as he was sat barely a metre away from the first officer, had heard this statement being uttered. "Sorry? What was that, Number One?"

Riker shook his head, "Sorry, captain, I was just thinking of when Data asked yesterday if he could have his shift shortened."

Picard rubbed his chin, musing over what Riker had just said. "It was unusual, to say the least." He then turned his attention to the woman next to him, "Deanna, has Mr Data come to see you recently?"

She thought for a little while and then said in response, "No, I don't think so." She paused and frowned, before asking, slightly alarmed, "Why? Is there something the matter?"

Picard shook his head, "No, not at all. We're just simply curious because Mr Data has been acting out of character recently."

"Oh god," Riker exclaimed.

This caused the captain to look over at him, "What is it, Number One?"

"I just had a thought... What if, the reason why Data is acting weirdly is because it's not really Data?"

Deanna frowned, "Then, who do you suppose it is?"

"It's simple," he replied, "its Lore."

"No, I'm glad to say that's not possible," Picard answered.

"Oh?" Deanna cocked her head to one side and leant forward, so that she was closer to the conversation.

Picard turned his head to face the ship's counsellor. "Well," he began in a rather blunt tone of voice, "Lore has a slightly different neural net to Mr Data, our ship would have noticed if anything was the matter."

Deanna nodded and she looked over at Riker who was sat there with his arms folded tightly. He didn't look all that convinced with Picard's answer. Nonetheless he nodded in agreement, "I suppose so. But," he stopped and then started to talk again, "we still don't know why Data is acting so weirdly. It's like he's trying to hide something from us."

Picard pondered the commander's strange statement. "Yes, it rather does, doesn't it?" He asked.

Deanna shrugged and looked the captain in the eye, firmly, "That's all very well and good, but Data can't lie." Suddenly, Deanna felt herself becoming rather unsure with her response, and then added, "Can he?"

Picard sighed a little wearily and replied, "Anyway," he said, ignoring Deanna's question, "I don't think we should be discussing this behind Mr Data's back."

Riker stepped in, saying, "But, captain? What if something is wrong with Data?" He was obviously concerned about the welfare of his fellow android officer but, all the same, he was really quite considerably curious about what precisely was happening. He had only been serving with Data for around five years, but that was quite a long time to get to know someone. And, in all that time, he had never known Data to be acting the way he was.

Picard frowned, as he was unsure as to whether or not Riker's concern was genuine. Nonetheless, he decided to answer his second in command. "If there is something wrong with Mr Data, then I'm sure if it is that important, he will tell us. He saw the commander was about to open his mouth, in an effort to try and say something else, but Picard waved off his interruption, saying, "Regardless, if you feel there is something you would wish to flag up, then I will consider a staff meeting.

Riker frowned, seemingly unimpressed with his captain's offer, "But..."

"No, Number One," Picard said decisively and finally, "I have already said so." Picard then finished his speech with a definitive crossing of his arms and he leant back into the comfortable captain's chair which was situated in the centre of the USS Enterprise's bridge.

Riker shrugged and then sat back in his chair as well and decided to speak again, "Did we ever reach an agreement with the residents of…" he trailed off, trying to think of what the name of that planet was. He had heard of so many and had been to many, sometimes it was quite hard to keep track of them all. He then continued his question "…Minos IV?"

Picard cast his gaze over at Riker and replied, "Yes, we did. You were in charge of the away team that was responsible for the whole affair," he pointed out.

Riker suddenly began to feel a little embarrassed. "Oh, now I remember." He looked over at Deanna, who was sat on the other side of captain Picard, as usual, and he saw a faint flicker of a smile creep across her face.