So this one took awhile. A looooong while. I apologize for that. Number 1 - Life got in the way. I was trying to finish up my senior year of college, then came Grad school applications, then there was just so much Doctor Who to watch... blah, blah, blah. Number 2 - This Chapter was hard. it never quite felt right, or gelled, or came together in the perfect way I wanted, despite countless rewrites. Eventually, I knew I just had to let it go and finish it/post because that's the only way I could move the hell on. So here it is, hope you like it. As always reviews are both appreciated and salivated over. -Maribor


Old Odd Corners Of An Empty Heart

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where-" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"-so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

Bruce Maddox entered his offices the next morning and found Data waiting anxiously for him. Both men eyed one another and it occurred to Maddox that they mirrored. Each looked weary, stressed, eager and hesitant.

"You don't look as if you've slept, Data." Maddox said rubbing the back of his own neck trying to loosen a kink.

"Nor do you, Captain. I have many questions to ask you regarding the file you sent me.

Maddox walked past the android silently before sitting down hard on a nearby stool. He had what he described to Reesa when he awakened her at around 0700 hours as a "panic attack" and asked her to come earlier. She had agreed and in fact would be there momentarily. Maddox was grateful, he had lost a bit of his nerve and as morning approached he was certain he couldn't handle it alone. Every time he attempted to talk himself out of this mounting worry, rational thought would break through. This was a big deal, a huge deal and Data was, though he hated to say it, leaning towards instability. How he would take this news was an enormous concern. What he would inevitably ask next would be even more difficult. Maddox dreaded having to speak to Picard again.

"Data, um…this is going to be hard. Really hard. I don't think you like me all that much now and I think you're going to like me a great deal less once this day is over. Perhaps not at all."

"I do not understand." Data said approaching him.

Maddox laughed a bit crazily. Suddenly the grief, the loss of 'his' Data bubbled to the surface and he saw this breach for what a grotesque twisting of fate it was.

"No, of course you don't. I've been up all night going over this...going over the reasons."

The door chime sounded and Maddox opened his mouth to speak but Data interrupted him.

"No! I am sorry but you must tell whoever that is that you cannot assist them now." Data raised his voice and pointed at Maddox to stress his point. "I require answers."

"I know, Data. And you're going to get them. Come in."

The door opened and in stepped Doctor Reesa Brahms. She was in uniform and looked a great deal more rested than Maddox had imagined possible.

"Bruce." She said with a professional nod before approaching Data. With her palm extended for a handshake she gave him a smile. If she was surprised or disbelieving she didn't show it. What Maddox did see was her mind quickly putting together the reasons he had requested she study all available crossover material.

"Data, pleased to meet you." She said. "I'm Doctor Brahms."

Data took her hand politely if not coldly. When he spoke he addressed Maddox.

"I assume she is a doctor of psychology and psychiatry. So you have gone against my wishes in this pursuit?"

Maddox did his best to not cringe from the wounded anger in Data's voice.

"That's right, Data I am and I think I can address some of the questions you might have. Would you have a seat?" she asked with a pleasant smile.

"My only questions center on the file Captain Maddox sent me yesterday evening."

"I understand." She said pulling up a chair first one for herself and then another for him. "Please, have a seat." She said again, her voice just as pleasant yet with an undeniable firmness.

Maddox watched warily as the android obliged.

"Now, there are a few things that Captain Maddox had asked we all three address. I'm here to help and to listen. Now if we continue your sessions they will most likely be one-on-one." Reesa crossed her legs and began to bring up information on her PADD.

"I do not believe there will be other sessions, Dr. Brahms. I am not in need of your services."

Maddox noted that Data spoke through nearly gritted teeth and he imagined the android must feel betrayed.

"Maybe you're right. Maybe after today we'll never see one another again. Maybe you don't need me. But right now Captain Maddox does, and I'm not leaving."

Data inhaled sharply through his nose, his posture changed and while he hardly looked agreeable there was a sort of resoluteness to his demeanor.

"Do you know of the file Captain Maddox sent me?"

"Yes, detailing the Enterprise D, E and F."

"And one specific life form." Data added.

Reesa nodded. "You're interested in this life form. What is it you want to know about him?"

Data faltered for a minute and glanced at Maddox as if for help.

"I feel it is important to know him, to research him. The reasons at the very least are twofold. Perhaps there is some advancement in his construction schematics that could aid in the reactivation of my sister and…he should not be forgotten." Data concluded pressing his lips together tightly.

Reesa turned to Maddox as she spoke. "It seems you and the Captain share a similar fear, not wanting him to be forgotten."

Data shifted his gaze to Maddox his eyes sharp and wide.

"You knew him?"

"I did." Maddox said with a nod, "For a great many years in fact."

"Another secret." Said Data quietly.

Reesa spoke again steering the conversation back.

"You feel a connection to him, to this android that you never met."

"I believe that I do, yes. Despite the inherent illogic nature of such an attachment."

"What if you discover in your search that he is nothing like you. What if this pursuit both emotionally and technologically failed to benefit you in any way? How would that affect you?"

Data furrowed his brow as he crafted his answer.

"I am uncomfortable dealing with the hypothetical, Doctor."

"How did you feel when you read about his death?"

"It upset me." He said his jaw clenching.

"Why?"

"Because it was the loss of something entirely unique, for reasons that still remain unclear to me."

"I understand that's its been a bit like pulling teeth to get information regarding your own past, Data. Captain Maddox said he's been trying for weeks to find out just what it is that makes you who you are."

"My past is irrelevant."

"Not to me." Maddox interjected. "And more than likely not to you either."

"It seems to me that you want to plunge headfirst into this distracting mystery while leaving certain stones of your own past unturned."

"What have you been telling her?" Data asked turning his head swiftly to gaze at Maddox.

"Nothing." Reesa assured him. "I am a professional, give me some credit. Honestly, Data if you were my patient, a regular patient I wouldn't approve of what we're going to do today. Its too much, it's too soon and you're not ready."

Maddox sighed audibly just as Data was about to open his mouth to protest. But Reesa held up a hand to silence them both.

"However, the UFPPA has different guidelines for how we handle crossovers."

"Crossovers? That is what I am?" Data asked.

"Yes, one of a small group of people who have migrated for one reason or another from the mirror universe to ours. At last count, there were all told somewhere around 300 to 350."

Maddox gaped at her. "I had no idea it was that many."

"No one does. It's not something that's publicized. My colleagues have decided that accelerated exposure and integration is the best treatment." Reesa quickly typed something onto her PADD and a moment later one near Maddox beeped. Picking it up he found a message from her stating; "I'm nixing the trip to the morgue." Trusting her judgment he nodded in response.

"As far as integration goes, I have accepted where I am. I have no desire to return from where I came and I also know it is a temporal impossibility. I grasp the historical differences between the past of my world and this one. I take it as fact. Just as I take my current state of existence in this world as fact." Data said all this is a testy sort of rush.

Maddox noted the professional demeanor drop from Reesa's face for a moment. She was no doubt comparing what she had heard and read of his Data with the man that sat before them.

"You're so full of anger." She said with soft sympathy.

Data recoiled a bit, pressing his lips tightly together. After a moment he looked down at his hands and with a slight shake of his head responded.

"I am not angry. It would just appear that everyone has me at a disadvantage. I have simply tired of being treated as a child, Doctor, from whom things are kept for his own good." Data concluded softly and Maddox felt pangs of guilt.

"I'm not a crossover specialist, Data. If at any time during this you want to switch over to an expert that's fine with me." Reesa leaned forward again as she spoke, trying to engage the android on a more personal level. "The truth is, as I said earlier, we like to keep these things rather quiet. Honestly, Starfleet and Daystrom and most reputable scientists would rather this information remain privileged. Better that than having everyone running around setting off photostatic charges trying to rip a hole in this universe to get to the next one. Though I suppose given who you are, it will be hard to keep that secret much longer."

Data exhaled, his amber eyes meeting hers.

"Who am I?"

Maddox noted Reesa smile ever so slightly. He had known that she would like him.

"Data, what do you know about trans-world identity?"

Data's brow wrinkled and his face took on a contemplative look.

"I am unfamiliar with that term." He said finally.

Reesa nodded and continued.

"It's also known as counterpoint theory and it was postulated by an Earth scientist by the name of David Lewis and a few others in the mid to late 20th century. It goes beyond the idea that there are universes parallel to ours. It posits the idea of infinite, identical copies of any given universe."

Data nodded and to Maddox while he didn't appear the least bit confused he also seemed unable to make the leap. No, he corrected himself. Not unable. Unwilling. The theory naturally extended to a sort of object permanence but Data wasn't biting, in fact he seemed to pull back a bit from the conversation.

"Data, until it was proven otherwise, the prevailing viewpoint of scientists was that trans-world identity was impossible. It would require objects, people to have temporal parts in different locations. Having different existences yet never being wholly present in any of them. We now realize and have for some time that this constraint is false. Anything that can happen, does happen, Data. Has happened. Is happening, will happen.

It was slowly dawning on him, Maddox could see that. The obvious was creeping in upon him like sunlight beneath a bolted door.

"Bruce." Reesa said in a prompting way.

"The man…the android you read about, his name was… Data, his creators or his parents as he came to refer to them were Doctor Noonien Soon and Doctor Juliana O'Donnell Soon Tainer."

Data looking absolutely horrified began to shake his head slowly.

"No." he said softly but Maddox continued his voice growing stronger.

"He served aboard the Enterprise, he had family and friends and he died a hero's death. And he was my friend."

His voice broke on the last words, as fresh grief rose up within him. "My very good friend."

"I do not believe it."

Maddox scoffed with his own disbelief.

"He doesn't believe it." He said to Reesa.

"Bruce, calm down."

"Calm down? I actually think I've been remarkably calm through all of this." Anger and frustration suddenly propelled him from his chair. Data watched wordlessly.

"Computer, state the name of all androids who have ever served in Starfleet."

"There is only one officer who fits that criteria." The computer intoned.

"State his name, biography and service record."

"STARFLEET PERSONNEL FILE: Data. Final Rank: Lieutenant Commander
Last assignment: Second Officer/Science Officer, U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-E
Full Name: Data
Date of birth: Permanently re-activated Feb. 2, 2338

Initial Activation Unknown
Place of birth: Omicron Theta science colony
Parents: Created by Dr. Noonien Soong and Dr. Juliana O'Donnell Soong Tainer
Education: Starfleet Academy, 2341-45
Marital status: Single
Children: One, deceased
Quarters: Formerly, Enterprise-D: Deck 2/Room 3653
Date of death: 2379
Place of death: Destroyed with Reman ship Scimitar in line of duty
Service Awards: Starfleet Command Decoration for Valor; Starfleet Command Decoration for Gallantry; Medal of Honor, with Clusters; Legion of Honor; The Starcross

"Enough." Reesa said forcefully.

"Computer, resume and continue!" Maddox shouted.

"Computer, belay that!" Reesa stated and the room momentarily sank into silence.

"Goddamn it, Reesa! I will not have him sit there and shake his head in the face of all of this!" Maddox thrummed with anger, the emotion of the past weeks finally breaking through the surface. How could he sit there, looking so much like Data yet seeming to purposefully ignore what was going on.

"Captain Maddox, we're done for the day. You're temporarily relieved of duty pending an evaluation. That's on the record. Off the record. Bruce, get yourself together, get some rest, have a drink, run a holodeck program but get the hell out of here, now." Reesa commanded.

Maddox looked down at his hands and noticing they were shaking he balled them into tight fists. With a silent nod he headed towards the door. Turning just before he exited he addressed the android.

"I'm sorry, Data. I don't know what…"

Maddox trailed off as Data looked away offering no reply. Without another word he left.

Reesa fixed her gaze upon the android. He looked shell shocked.

"What are you feeling, Data. Tell me."

He opened his mouth but no words came out and it seemed for awhile he could only shake his head back and forth.

"I feel this is the most unlikely of all situations." He finally said.

"Why is that?"

"I cannot conceive of there being two of me."

Reesa smiled sympathetically.

"Its often that way, you're experiencing a common reaction. Some people are disturbed to find out they don't have a counterpart."

"That would have made more sense."

"Why is that?" Reesa asked with a frown.

He appeared to grow emotional as he spoke.

"Because I am a machine. Constructed on a whim, an afterthought, an experiment. I am more unlikely than likely."

"Yet here you are. Questioning the probability of the situation is irrelevant. You sit here as fact, not speculation. You are Data. As was he."

She quickly typed something onto her PADD before turning the instrument and its screen around to face him. What he saw was a man, an android with his face, yet a face unlike he had ever seen before. He didn't resemble any of his brothers. Well of course he did in the essential ways, obviously an almost identical template had been used. If their measurements differed from this Data it was by microns. And still, this face didn't remind him of what he saw reflected back in the mirror. The imperceptible differences to the wear and tear of his synthetic skin, the slight lines around his mouth, the crinkles near his eyes, his eyes themselves.

"What do I do now?" he asked.

"Nothing more for today. I think we've all done enough." She answered with a sigh.

"I want to know more about him." Data said suddenly.

"I know, but first I want you to learn a bit more about yourself." Reesa paused before venturing on. "I'd like to learn with you, if you'll let me."

Data stood up and extended his hand, she took it in hers and they shook.

"We shall see, Doctor. If you'll excuse me, I wish to return to my quarters now."

"Of course." She said and Data felt her eyes upon him as he strode from the room.

Upon entering his he immediately opened the file that contained his log. Sitting at his bed he began to speak.

Personal Log Stardate 56983.9

I have…

He tried to continue but found no words forthcoming. No words seemed large enough, expressive enough to capture all that he was feeling. Instead he chose to address the tumult within in a rather unorthodox manner.

Father,

While I am aware it is folly to hope for things that cannot be, I find myself indulging in the practice all the same. At this moment, I wish that you were here. The world is not as we imagined. It as if I have fallen through a crack in time, perhaps through the Looking Glass. Just as I was adjusting to the idea of perhaps having a soul of my own I find that it is shared. Shared by a stranger with my face. I wish I could speak with you. I wish I could make use of your council. I wish we might embrace. I am so alone here and feel, perhaps irrationally that there is something even worse on the horizon. I have too many secrets and I feel the time is coming when I can no longer keep them silent…