"I give the fight up: let there be an end, a privacy, an obscure nook for me. I want to be forgotten even by God." -Robert Browning
At Times I Almost Dream
The strangest thing was not the fact that he woke up on the flat table, in the unfamiliar setting. It was not the fact that he was in a controlled environment with a series of bright lights aimed at his body. It was not even the fact that he found himself restrained. The strangest thing was that he woke up at all.
Data's confinement allowed him no movement and the only sensory information available to him was what his eyes and ears afforded. His environment seemed sterile and calm, not what he would have expected from a supply ship doing an illegal, flyby pickup. He did not hear the expected hum of engines or even his mother's argumentative tone bargaining with the captain. Everything was too quiet, too clean and too still. It was all disconcerting and frightening and the longer he lay there the more agitated he became. Somehow he had failed in his endeavor, he was alive and as he was unable to move, as best he could tell, meant his chances for continuing survival were slim. All of these facts made him incredibly despondent. He turned his emotion chip off.
Off to his right Data heard the distinct sound of someone clearing their throat. Up until that moment he was certain he was alone.
"Excuse me," Data called out to the unseen person. "Am I to assume, sir, that you are the Commanding Officer of the Abraxis?"
His question was followed by a surprised, choked cough and then the sound of feet hurrying over to him. A face came into Data's sight line. A human male, mid forties, dark hair and wearing a look of absolute amazement on his face. He sniffled, began to speak but apparently felt another cough approaching and turning his head cleared his throat loudly.
"Yes, that is my name. And yours?"
"Bruce Maddox, but just call me Bruce."
"And you are the Captain of this vessel?"
"Vessel? Well, yes I am a Captain but we aren't aboard a vessel. We're aboard a space station. Data…what do you remember?"
Data found the question far too leading and vague. He decided not to answer.
"I can only assume am I a prisoner here. A captive, because my mother neglected to tell you about an extra passenger, my sister. Let me assure you, holding me for ransom would be a useless endeavor. There is no one to pay you in addition to that once the Alliance became privy to the transaction they would more than likely imprison and execute you."
"The Alliance…" Maddox said before coughing into his sleeve. "You'll have to excuse me Data. I have a nasty case of the Bolian flu." The man pulled a nearby stool over and sat down. "You're not a prisoner here, Data. Quite the opposite. You're a free man. I know you don't know me but…in a way we're old friends."
Data wrinkled his brow in naked skepticism.
"Forgive me, but restraints do not appear to be the most logical way to begin or continue a friendship. I am also certain we have never met." A though suddenly occurred to him and he added; "Do you have a system of laws here?"
"We are governed by laws, yes."
"Am I to be put on trial?" Data asked with a rather disingenuous calm.
"Is there something you've done that you feel you should be tried for?" Maddox asked with surprise. When Data failed to answer he continued. "Actually you were tried in a manner of speaking. There was a ruling, you were in absentia-"
"What sort of ruling?" Data asked unable to keep the concern from his voice.
"A ruling to determine your rights and place here. It was decided you should be afforded all the rights and privileges of a Federation citizen. In addition to that it was ruled that because of your very nature and pending certain uploads and tests you could even return to your rank and position."
Very little of what Data was hearing made sense and his attempts to process it were sluggish. An internal diagnostic revealed some systems were offline, others having been booted but only in safe mode.
"Have you been attempting to alter my systems?" Data asked vaguely horrified.
"Yes," Maddox replied nonchalantly. "You were completely offline when you were delivered here. It's taken me a long while and there were times I feared the damage to your neural cortex may have been too extensive but as usual I underestimated your recuperative abilities. I have to apologize for the restraints, Data." He said before disappearing from the androids sight line again. Data felt the disturbing sensation of the man performing several quick operations through his cranial port. Suddenly several systems came back online and safe mode blocks disappeared. He gasped audibly as he immediately felt whole again and a moment later the restraints too vanished.
Maddox returned still looking apologetic. "I've been doing some rather sensitive work and while you're almost identical to-…well I wanted to know the moment you regained consciousness but I also needed to make sure you remained completely immobile."
Finally able to move Data sat up and swung his legs off the side of the table. Maddox pushed back bit on his stool and they both regarded one another.
"You are an engineer?" Data asked.
"Yes, an engineer, a cyberneticist and I also hold the Daystrom Chair of Robotics."
"You seemed quite skilled in handling my specific systems. I can detect no anomalies or damage and if I was a severely injured as you claim I appear to be no worse for wear now." Data stated all this with quiet amazement.
Maddox bowed his head modestly and answered simply; "I've had a bit of experience. There's actually a more that I'd like to do, Data, if you don't mind. A couple of system tweaks but only with your permission." The man coughed hard again before continuing. "I want to emphasize you are not a prisoner here Data, the truth is you are totally free to walk out that door, no one will stop you. But we have a lot to discuss and I hope you'll stay. I have so many questions and so does Starfleet. But again I offered to be your liaison with them, its one of the things I fought for during your trial."
"You were my advocate?" Data asked.
"I was, I even got this damn cold from the Bolian JAG." Maddox said with a chuckle.
"You mentioned a 'Federation', I am unfamiliar with such an organization. Has there been a shift in power in this section of the galaxy? Precisely how long was I unconscious?"
"A little over two months. As for what the Federation is, I think it may be best if you discover that for yourself. I have quarters set up for you here and I've virtually taken up residence myself."
"Sir, where is my mother?" Data asked tentatively physically bracing for the reply.
The other man sighed. "I'm no counselor, Data but…" Maddox extended a hand and placed it in what Data identified as a gesture of comfort on his knee. "She died, Data. From what I understand the Paracelsus came upon your ship, it seemed to be phasing in and out of time. They locked a transporter beam on but another beam from an undetermined source did the same. It started a sort of tug of war and they attempted transport a few seconds too late. I know this is hard to hear."
Data's mouth twitched, he hoped imperceptibly. It was impossible to comprehend, it was something he had never truly run the calculations on before. She was dead. He was alive. At first he felt, even in the dim haze of being without his active emotion chip, a sense of happiness, relief. He had never anticipated surviving while she perished. But that was quickly replaced by a sense of shame and disgust with himself. He had put all this in motion so neither of them would continue, so both evils would die. This was not right. This was not a reprieve his conscious matter-of-factly informed him, this was punishment.
"We have her stored here in cryo. We weren't sure what sort of arrangements or plans you might want to make but we wanted to give you the opportunity to decide."
"Jettison it." Data replied before he could stop himself.
"I'm sorry?" Maddox said looking a bit aghast.
"The corpse, you may jettison it if you wish or dispose of it in whatever manner this Federation sees fit. What is my sisters condition?"
"Data, do you have an emotion chip? Is it functioning?" Maddox asked peering at him quizzically.
Data was shocked to hear such an intimate question asked so casually. He assumed the man had discovered the chip during his repairs. Though he bristled slightly at the impropriety Data chose to answer nonetheless.
"I do have an emotion chip but it is currently not activated."
"I could have sworn-"
"My sister?" Data asked interrupting him purposefully.
"I confess I've been focusing all my efforts on you and I haven't allowed anyone else to touch her. I admit I gave her a brief once over when she arrived and discovered her systems are incredibly advanced, more advanced than yours if you'll forgive me for saying. I didn't even want to attempt any work on her until I felt confident you were 100%, not to mention I thought I could use your help. But before any of that there's something we need to discuss."
Data fleetingly wondered what more could possibly be revealed.
"Do you know where you are right now, Data?"
"As you told me I am aboard a Starbase. I assume somehow we much have traversed past the reaches of the Alliance. Though I fail to understand how, that may be the most likely explanation. This appears to be a Terran stronghold of some sort. The Bajoran who was coming back for my mother, sister and I mentioned a rebellion. I can only assume you and other individuals here are part of that rebellion, a regrouping of humans to overthrow the Empire."
Maddox smiled and nodded slowly. "A reasonable conclusion. But I think you may find the truth even more far fetched. I assume you're familiar with theoretical quantum physics?"
Data nodded prompting the man to continue.
"For centuries scientists had theorized that there may be alternate timelines and realities running concurrently with ours, sometimes even intersecting. The 20th century physicist Hugh Everett maintained that whatever can happen does happen."
"I am familiar." Data said. His mind was of course able to process this information rapidly but hints and residuals of emotions seemed to be stunting obvious mental progress. "Are you saying, sir, that I am not in the reality to which I am native?"
"Your quantum signature is distinctly different from mine or that of anyone else's here. We're not sure how this happened, it may be a combination of the ion storm I understand you ran into, your shuttle's core breech and dueling trans-universe transporter beams but somehow you, your sister and your mother were brought here, to our universe." Maddox looked at him, concern etching his features. "Are you all right?"
No one save his father had ever asked him that before, it was strange to hear it. Was he all right?
"I am simply processing the information you have given me." He replied with uncertainty.
"I'm afraid we've only reached the tip of the iceberg." Maddox said. "Come with me, Data." He said rising from his stool and placing a hand on Data shoulder.
Data rose as well and followed the man silently taking a long look at the lab and the equipment therein. Suddenly he was struck with the idea of turning a corner and seeing his sister lying unmoving on a slab and goosebumps rose up on his flesh.
"This part of Daystrom is a secure facility. It comprises my secondary office, my laboratory and my living quarters. Now when I sleep, if I sleep its always in my office, the quarters are virtually untouched." Maddox was leading him down a long hallway, past smaller labs filled with computers and diagnostic equipment. Finally they stopped in front of a closed door. Maddox coughed again and sniffled as he quickly used the adjacent keypad and after inputting a series of numbers the doors slid open. "I hope you'll find everything in here to your liking. I realize it's rather spartan."
Maddox stepped inside and Data followed. The quarters were expansive and functional and the idea that this space could belong to him, albeit temporarily was a bit shocking. Living with his parents had afforded him no privacy, and it was not until now when it was presented to him that he realized it was something he craved.
"I'm not sure what your habits are but there's a bed, a bathroom, sonic shower, brand new replicator, they just upgraded it last week as a matter of fact. And um…" Maddox walked over to a computer work station and brought it online. "Right now you have a level 2 security clearance, I realize its not that high, about the equivalent of cadet but it will allow you to access basic Starfleet records, I assume you'll want to familiarize yourself with history first. You have a few hundred years to catch up on. Is there anything you want to say, anything you want to ask me?"
"Not at this juncture, no. I believe these quarters will be more than adequate. Thank you." Anticipating that Maddox was about to leave Data switched on his emotion chip. Almost immediately he became fed up with the mans presence, he wanted time by himself to think. He was alive and he did not wish it. He was in a strange place where his 'captor' continued to state how free he was though he saw no evidence of it yet. He began to run circular diagnostics suddenly distrustful again of the mans work on his systems. He thought about his sister and felt something akin to depression sweep over him. Nothing had tuned out as it should have, nothing.
Maddox broke into a smile.
"You're more than welcome, Data. Like I said, you're a free man, I'd just like to make sure you aren't having any further issues. After you study up a bit we'll have more to talk about. Okay, if you have any questions you can ask the computer, call me over the comm. system or just walk out and get me."
Data nodded his eyes shifting towards the waiting computer as he found himself eager to get started.
Maddox seemed to be waiting for something and Data turned his gaze back towards the man.
"Was there something else, sir?" Data asked with tight impatience.
The other man made an awkward advance toward him, his arms were bowed a bit as if for…an embrace? Data noticed his eyes also seemed a bit damp, his cheeks flushed. This could all however easily be caused by the illness the man appeared to be battling. Finally he dropped his arms and instead just extended his hand to the android. He seemed to be requesting a handshake and Data grudgingly obliged.
"Data it's…it's really good to see you."
Unsure of how to respond to the mans emotional display, Data only nodded. Perhaps he had simply become invested in him and was overcome with seeing him up and functioning. It was curious no doubt and he intended to examine it later but for now he was more concerned with knowing exactly where and when he was. Maddox made a hasty exit following the handshake and Data was left alone. Seating himself before the terminal he spoke.
"Computer, please access all historical records regarding; The Federation."