When Picard announced the upcoming event onboard ship, not one officer in the observation lounge seemed to be excited about it. Even the event's initiator's face showed no emotion.
But that last was to be expected, as the person who suggested that the cybernetics conference be held aboard the Enterprise was Lt. Commander Data—the emotionless android. As for everyone else, Picard could guess that they were remembering certain...unpleasent incidents.
Indeed, when Geordi LaForge glanced at the other officers and leaned forward to speak, that was exactly what he brought up.
"Captain, with all due respect to everyone involved, we haven't had the best of luck with people interested in studying Data."
Everyone else around the table nodded solemnly in agreement.
Picard couldn't ignore those concerns—in fact, ever since the stressful hearing where he had to prove Data's sentience, the mention of cyberneticists made him nervous. But as captain, his duty was to remain diplomatic despite his personal feelings. He envied Geordi the luxury of being able to express those views.
"I empathize—"he glanced at Counselor Troi "—with your feelings, but there is something different about this conference that might help set your minds at ease. Data, explain."
The android nodded his pale head and started by directing his words at his best friend. "I suggested this conference be held aboard the Enterprise precisely because of those concerns. I believe that the problems we have had stem from their ignorance of how I am actually viewed by those I serve with. This conference will allow them the oppertunity to observe the truth. In addition, I have suggested that they interview members of the crew, to gain firsthand evidence. They have agreed to do so."
"And it is a captain's order that senior officers respond to questions." Picard added.
"Did you think we wouldn't?" Beverly Crusher pointed out, and then, appearing to realize what she said could be seen as challenging the captain, added "Sir?"
Deanna Troi shot an appreciative look at the other woman. "She's right. We all know Data is more than a machine and as his friends, it is our moral obligation to stand up for him."
"Hear, hear!" Riker and Geordi agreed in unison. Even Worf tilted his head in a nod of support.
"I had not expected such a unified reaction," the android said, a note of surprise in his usually placid voice.
"Would you expect any less from your friends?" Geordi challenged.
"From you, no," Data conceded. "You are my best friend. But I am not as close to everyone else."
"We're still your friends, Data," Riker said, seeming to be aware that he was one of the people Data was referring to. "And we'll support you."
"With that settled, I've made up a list of questions the cyberneticists could ask. You might want to study them." Picard passed a stack of data padds around the table, and once everyone had gotten one, he said "Dismissed."
The officers filed out, but Data lingered.
"Thank you, Captain," he said, seeming genuinely grateful.
Picard smiled at the humanity Data displayed with that simple phrase, and wondered at the way he and his officers had to fight for something that was so plain to see. "You're welcome, Data."
A/N The rest of this fic will be scenes with different characters talking to cyberneticists about Data. All the cyberneticists will be OCs, but you will see hints of characters like Commander Maddox (who wanted to disassemble Data) and Admiral Haftel (who tried to take Lal away from Data). Each chapter will be the name of that character, and there will be another title at the top of the page. The first few are short, but they get progressively longer, so hang in there! If you have a suggestion for a character that should talk about Data, review and tell me! Actually, review anyway. Constructive criticism is okay if you say something nice too.