Star Trek:

THE NEXT GENERATION

Ascent

Lydia Gastrell

Author's Note

In the interest of maintaining the cohesion of the Star Trek universe, I have used all due diligence to be factually and chronologically accurate with my work in Ascent. Owing to that research, I would like to thank the people who tirelessly maintain the website, as the resources and articles there have been invaluable to this work. I would also like to thank the creative geniuses at Paramount for being good legal sports and choosing to ignore the paltry entertainment that is fan-fiction, despite the fact that it is, technically speaking, grossly illegal. Thank you, Gentlemen.

Ascent takes place immediately following the events of Star Trek: Insurrection. This places it in a time frame roughly two years prior to the events of Star Trek: Nemesis. While I have made attempts to "remind" readers of the various events surrounding the life of the character Lore, I have also assumed that the reader has some prior knowledge. To fully enjoy this story and understand the background behind it, I highly recommend being familiar with the following episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation: "DataLore", "Measure of a Man", "Brothers", "Descent I", and "Descent II".

In following the established facts of Star Trek canon, I have allowed myself artistic license in those areas were canon is, for lack of a better description, lacking. I believe that creating information that is not established, yet does not contradict established facts, is perfectly acceptable. Also, do note that I am only using facts established in the show and movies, not new information that has been presented in various Star Trek novels. Thank you, and enjoy….

Lydia Gastrell

I

"Years…Eight years…."

"Green tea with lemon, hot."

The replicator hummed gently and produced the beverage with a soft glimmer of particles. Doctor Bruce Maddox carried the tea gingerly in one hand while clutching a small pile of data pads in the other. Normally he would have created his favorite drink himself, using the scared and ancient kettle he had inherited from his grandmother. But there was no time for luxuries such as home made tea. Today was hectic—and destined to become more so.

Dropping the data pads with a clatter on the counter, he sipped the precisely heated tea and surveyed the lab floor from behind the glass partition. The main lab of the robotics division had never been as large as he would have liked, in spite of recent upgrades. The Daystrom Institute gave him and his staff access to every technological resource to be sure, but it just felt so pathetically small for the importance of it all.

After this, they'll have to give me stellar cartography's space.

He smiled as he imagined a room the size of a shuttle bay, everything focused on one small table in the center…

"We're just about ready in here, Captain."

Maddox glowered at the young ensign only briefly.

"I'm sorry. Doctor." The young man corrected quickly. "But everything is set up, we're ready."

"All right." Maddox drained the tea in one shot and took an unsteady breath. He had been pleased with his promotion, certainly, but what did it matter to him? Captain. It was a title for starships, for commanders, men who made decisions but who created nothing. No, he preferred Doctor.

He ordered the lab lights lowered a bit. Seeing every blip and minute flutter of the screen was absolutely essential. He could not allow a potentially once in a life time opportunity to be destroyed because of glare on a monitor. As he ran that through his head – once in a life time – the reality began to sink in. It seemed his entire career had been waiting for this moment, a moment which could have occurred years ago, but…

He suddenly regretted the tea. His nerves didn't need it.

"All right, people." He waited until every tech in the room was looking at him. It took a few moments, considering what else there was to look at. "I've been telling you for weeks how important this is, so I shouldn't have to say more." His voice was even, betraying nothing.

One of the techs nodded and took a step back from the table. The force field restraints sizzled once before becoming invisible. "Restraints are in place." He reported before returning his eyes quickly back to the same spot that had occupied them prior to Maddox's entrance. Several of the other techs continued to shoot glances over their shoulders.

"Pay attention to your stations." Maddox ordered. "No mistakes."

Maddox rolled his eyes as he began to work minutely at the head of the table. Even the restraints were a useless precaution in his opinion, so the anxiety around him seemed doubly unnecessary. What did they think was going to happen? His objections had been for not, though. The board of directors had been explicit and Starfleet command had backed them up with an ultimatum: Full restraints and a security detail, or the experiment was a no-go. He shrugged. If something did happen, the force field probably would not help for very long anyway. It was not as if he wouldn't find a way out.

Maddox used a thin tool to hold the hair away as he flipped open the upper cranial plate and slowly lowered it down. He still never got used to the look of it all. Not the circuitry or humanoid shape, as some of his colleagues did, but rather the artificiality. Try as he might, sorting through journals, correspondence, every nook and cranny of Noonien Soong's work, he just couldn't understand why that genius would make an android with yellow eyes and gold-white skin. When every possible avenue for realistic imitation had been open to him, why did he choose such a purposely flawed impression?

At the moment it didn't matter, nothing mattered but success. He finished connecting the positronic uplink and returned to the glow of the console. Nothing. The positronic brain was totally inactive.

So far, so good.

He saw the wary glances of the techs. Maybe a little fun would ease his nerves, which really were a bit raw. He approached the table again and reached underneath to the hole that had been specifically designed for this purpose. "All right, people, hold on."

He smiled to himself as he saw one of the young ensigns grab the stair railing, ready to make a run for it.

Maddox pressed hard into the precise spot at the lower back. The switch was misleading; no click or noticeable suppression, but the whole body shook and the eyelids fluttered for a moment. Stillness followed and the ensign let go of the railing. The open cranial section, previously dark, now housed a single pin point of red light. Maddox moved quickly back to the console, "Begin the transfer."

It was hardly the stuff of action packed hollow-novels, but Maddox was in his element. He had performed this in simulation twenty-three times and had twenty-one successes to show for it. Not a bad margin considering that no one's life was in danger if he failed. The positronic brain he had built, that he had spent seven years building, was handling the transfer with steady, if assisted grace. When a pathway became too unstable, he compensated quickly or redirected. When damaged data entered the stream, he would discard it.

So much damaged data….

When the transfer was sixty percent complete, his nerves finally began to settle. The techs were still shooting glances at the table, but with a bit less anxiety now. Everything was going according to plan. As the final data stream was transferred, there was a heavy pause. Maddox watched the monitor, waiting for his stable positronic brain to fail. It did not happen, and he exhaled as if he had been holding his breath for the whole hour. The lab hummed with congratulations and mixed conversation. He had a successful positronic brain. That was everything, the only thing on which everything hinged. Everything else was spackle and paint.

"Captain."

The anxiety in the voice made Maddox forget the slip as he followed the tech's gaze to the table. Everything was still and in place, just as it had been. For the few seconds it took him to realize the cause of the summons, he was a bit irritated. Then he saw it.

The solitary red light in the front cranial section had been joined by a cluster of others, several of which blinked steadily. Maddox stepped out from behind the console, moving forward slowly. He knew each light for what it was, knew them like a cook knows a stove. The three green lights to the right of the steady red one indicated hearing. They were blinking. The double blue lights below that indicated sight. They were not blinking, but they were there. Maddox was now closer to the table than anyone else. As he watched, two more lights activated. Touch.

"Ensign, disable the transfer uplink." He kept his voice calm. After all, it was just a glitch; a meaningless glitch.

"Uplink deact— this can't be right."

"What!" Maddox had no time to keep calm now.

"Sir, the transfer…" The tech's brow was knitted in worry, "It's being reversed. Down to seventy percent!"

"What are you talking about? That's impossible!" Maddox all but shoved the man out of the way as his hand flew over the controls. His head shook unconsciously. This didn't make any sense.

"Thirty percent." The tech continued from behind. A moment later, the consol sounded an unhappy note. "Sir, the transfer's been…reversed. Zero percent."

Maddox couldn't reply, he couldn't even think. He leaned on the console, his arms bracing. How could this happen? There was no indication?

"Ensign," He almost whispered, "Set up a new line of analysis and start following the path of the destabilization. We need to find out where the collapse started—."

"Sir, there was no collapse." One of the other techs' voices rang out from across the room. "The positronic brain is still stable. Awaiting transfer."

"That's impossible." He said to no one.

"Doctor, I'm…" The ensign shook his head, reluctant, "I'm reading processing activity in the positronic brain."

"Processing of what! The transfer failed!" He snapped.

"No, Sir, not that one. The other one." He nodded his head toward the table.

"That's ridiculous!" In two long strides, Maddox reached the table and pulled the hard line link-up from the cranial connection. The head jerked back and Maddox shuddered. He had never been so careless with it before.

Maddox would have serious trouble explaining just what happened next, as it all happened so quickly. Every indicator light in the exposed cranium activated in a flutter of blinks. The left hand shot upward, causing the force field the shudder violently under the assault. Two of the techs ran for the door and even Maddox leapt backward. He nearly fell over backwards as he rammed his lower back into the console. He stared, confounded, as the left hand continued to graze its' fingers along the force field, making it hum. The head rolled a bit from side to side.

"Where…time?" The voice was stilted, clipped, like a recording being cut short. It continued, "Years…eight years…happened?"

Bruce Maddox slammed his hand down on the console so hard, he was sure he had broken it, "Security to main lab! Security!"

His experiment had been a complete success.