Let Me Entertain You
I have discovered that achieving your greatest lifelong dream is not necessarily all it's cracked up to be.
The truth is, I realize now, that I never wanted to actually be human. What I wanted was something I thought reasonable and achievable without invoking flagrant violations of the laws of physics. I wanted to emulate humans. I was inspired by Andrew Martin, the Bicentennial Man, in the Asimov novella by the same name. In that story a robot with the ability to create art goes on a quest to become more and more human, and finally earns the appellation "man" instead of "robot" when he has himself modified to age and die. Andrew never actually became flesh and blood, a creature of DNA and organic tissue; his brain remained positronic all his life. But he became human. It was in this sense that I wished to be human.
Commander Riker once offered to transform me into a human, when he had been given the powers of the Q. I refused. In part it was because I was aware that Q was using the Commander's desire to aid his friends as part of a ploy to separate him from his humanity and possibly destroy him, and I wanted no part of that. But in part it was, genuinely, because I wanted to achieve the state on my own. And that would imply, obviously, that what I wanted was never to be human but to understand humans, to behave like a human, to be indistinguishable from a human. When Q himself wished to give me a gift, I was concerned that making me human would be his choice, not because at that point I distrusted Q-- at that time, in that situation, I knew he would not be malevolent-- but because I wanted to achieve the state on my own. Again, biologically, not possible, so what I wanted wasn't biological.
I would willingly have modified myself to age and die, eventually, as I later learned my father had done for the duplicate of my mother Juliana. I would have given up my superior strength if it would have made me more human. I embraced dreams, and emotions, and devised algorithms to emulate every type of human behavior. But there was one aspect to my self that was so fundamentally part of me, I could not imagine ever being without it. Intellectually I knew humans couldn't do it but I never truly considered what it would be like to be human, without it. I sought to emulate the weaknesses of humanity as well as the strengths, but this was one aspect I never considered.
I'll put it bluntly: I'm stupid now.
Oh, in many respects I have gained by the transformation. See, I said "I'm" and "I'll." I can feel emotion now, and being fully functional turns out to be far more intriguing with emotion behind it. Of course, I learned that much with the Borg Queen, but it's different with a human body. My feelings are more an integral part of me now that they do not come on a chip I can shut off at will. I certainly have gained much more insight into the human condition.
This doesn't change the fact that I am stupid.
I find it hard to think of two things at once, let alone dozens. I cannot perform complex mathematical calculations in my head. When I become tired and need sleep or when I drink alcoholic beverages I feel my intellect lowering still further. Tests seem to indicate that I am still fairly intelligent for a human, but to myself my thoughts seem to move at about the speed I imagine Pakled thoughts do.
It isn't merely loss of access to information. Others have suffered that fate. Joe Zimmerman and Annika Hansen both had access to terabytes of indexed information, as I did, and lost all but what they had personally used, as I did. But Annika's Borg implants apparently never made her think or analyze faster than a human; any ability she had in that regard was native to her human brain. And Joe Zimmerman had always run on a small part of the Voyager computer processor, an interruptible subroutine rather than a full processor to himself, and therefore thought at the speed of an ordinary human even when he was a hologram. In fact none of the human former-holograms I know seem to feel any loss in the matter of the speed of their thought. They can regain what they have lost, since all it was was information and information can be learned. I am the only enhanced or artificial intelligence I know of who lost so much in his capacity for thought, by becoming human.
Geordi didn't understand. He pleaded with me to stay and work on the time travel project. Quite aside from the fact that it's obvious that the Q do not intend to let it work, I don't feel I can do science any more, at all. My intellectual gifts are gone. I was superintelligent simply because my brain was positronic, not organic. In an organic brain, my intelligence is nothing special, and I don't think I can adapt to that.
The Data that once was is no more. I am someone new now.
Vic Fontaine got me my first gig, at the 1960's Vegas Lounge he runs in Rio de Janeiro. I learned some period standards in Portuguese and English, performed them, and learned something about myself I'd already known in a way.
My special gift, the uniqueness I had that was not part of the structure of my brain but part of the structure of my soul, was never science. It was art. It was emulation and performance. And now, I understand emotion.
I didn't restrict myself to 1960's lounge style-- unlike Vic I was never originally programmed with an interest in that time. I have been a troubadour in Renaissance garb singing ancient classics. I have worn a long wig and tight black leather and screamed out anthems of despair and nihilism, clinging to hope. I have dressed in a stylish 1930's suit and played jazz. I have tie-dyed my shirt and sung about war and the hopes for peace. I have put on the rags of a performing beggar of the 21st century and chanted demands for a better life, someday, somehow.
It seems that when humanity reached the stars, there was no more need to sing, no more need to express pain and frustration and hunger for something better through music. Music has been rather bland for three centuries. I didn't know this until I could feel like a human, and until humans such as myself were packed in a cage far too small, seething with rage and pain and loss.
Now I understand what I am here for. I am very experienced at researching historical archives, and recreating periods and imagery. And it turns out I am very, very good at evoking an emotional state by singing. I sing in many styles and seek to evoke many different emotions, but my end goal is always the same. I want to make people cry. I want to make them angry, to let them let their pain and rage out safely through the music. And then I want to make them laugh. I want to give them catharsis and bring them back to a place where they can bear to face another day in the horror our lives have all become.
I am stupid now, but I understand emotion. Perhaps better than most humans do, having researched it extensively from the perspective of someone who couldn't feel it long before I was finally able to feel. And I am a good performer. I always have been, and it doesn't appear to have required a positronic brain. When they made me human they left me that.
I have insight, now, into what I truly am. What parts of me were artifacts of my construction and what parts of me were me. My essence, my soul if you will, whatever it was that was left when they took me and transformed me. And it turns out I was never all about information.
I still go by Data on all legal documents, as well as to my friends, but my stage name is Song. It is one letter removed from my father's last name, and it describes who I am now far better than Data can. And this, I think, is the most valuable work I can do. Geordi clings to the hope that technology can save us, but Geordi has managed to forget that technology has never, ever worked against the Q. I may have become significantly more stupid than I was before, but I do remember that. And even if I had my full android intelligence it seems to me that it would have been a waste of my time to dedicate myself to a chimera. Better to concentrate on making this life better, because it is all we will ever have.
We have no hope. All we have are the songs, to keep our souls alive.
Next: When they poured across the border, she was cautioned to surrender. This she could not do; she took her gun and vanished...
Previous stories: VOY: It's Always Fun Until Somebody Loses, TOS: Te Morituri Salutamus, TNG: One of the Living, DS9: Go Down, Moses