This is a direct sequel to the story about Data 'sleeper agent'. Obviously I don't own Star Trek. If I did it would still be one the air and I wouldn't have to write these stories in the first place. Even though I do not own Star Trek, because of the specifics of copyright law, I do actually own many elements in this story that are my own invention. So if any of you want to use my story to relaunch Star Trek to the TV, please get my permission first.
In order to understand this story you need to be familiar with not only 'Sleeper Agent' but also just about every TNG Q story.
In addition it helps a lot to have seen "Up the Long Ladder", "Measure of a Man", "Journey's End", 'Reunion", "Family", and "Booby Trap", "Second Chances", "Offsring", and DS9 "Defiant".
This story takes place after season 7 with the assumption that the TNG movies, Voyager, and Enterprise NEVER HAPPENED. (because they are rubbish)
With all that everyone should be able to follow the story.
This is a morality play, which is what Star Trek was originally all about anyway. If you get it, good. If not then I hope you were at least entertained.
The stuff about Geordi might well be too dense to be accessible to most people. It is basically a shout out to La var Burton. He and other people like him will get it. Even Whoopi Goldberb might get it but maybe that is asking for too much. Nonetheless, if you are reading the Geordi bits and find yourself not understanding what certain things could possibly be referencing don't worry. You probably can just skip it. For those of you who do get it, it adds extra force to the other part.
Story Starts Here:
Ten Forward had become a very new and interesting place for Data. He sat there making it look like he was staring out of the window at the stars streaking past but really he was observing all the goings on around him. Somehow his new knowledge of emotions informed him that people didn't like to be stared at.
Into Ten Forward came Q who proceeded with all confidence to sit down at the bar and order ten chocolate sundays. This got Data's attention and he came over. Q was sitting and waiting patiently as Guinan with the very displeased look on her face had her staff prepare the order. The enlisted man sitting next to Q got up and let the officer take his seat. There was a moment of silence as Data and Q both looked at each other.
"I see our friendship is finally over" said Q.
"That certainly is a curious greeting."
"Well, now that you have their emotions I imagined you will begin participating is the random emotional outbursts the rest of the crew are so fond of."
Data thought for a moment. "Ah, now I understand. The rest of the crew really do not like you. They resent you. Now I believe I really understand."
"Yay for epiphany." said Q as the first part of his order came and he was picking up the spoon to dig in.
Data sat observing Q as he ate. This activity seemed odd to Data since all that he knew of Q suggested that Q like himself did not need to eat. Q was halfway through his tenth sunday when he offered Data a bite. Guinan came over and snatched the spoon out of his hand faster than Data could even respond. Q chuckled and Data sat not knowing what was going on.
"Oh, it is a wonderful little game we play. She knows very well the poison won't work on me but tries nonetheless, just in case, you see."
"The food was poisoned?"
"Don't worry. I'll be fine." responded Q with a laugh and a smile. Then Q turned his gaze to Guinan and gave her a lover's look as she scowled back to his direction. Then turning his attention back to Data, "So, what is on your mind? I assume you came to talk about something. I put on my little show and now you've seen someone eat a full nine chocolate sundays, and a half to top it with."
"I have been thinking that it is very advantageous that you are on the ship."
Q waved his hand as to encourage Data to continue.
"I realize that most on board might feel your presence to be a threat but ever since I have known that you were here my thoughts have returned again and again to the topic."
"This truly is amazing. You are doing everything you can to look and act the same on the outside but inside you really have changed haven't you?"
Data didn't show it but he felt very self conscious in that moment.
"Pardon. I didn't mean to interrupt your self justifications."
Data leaned in close to Q as if to whisper yet at the last moment he thought better of it.
Q stood up and suddenly began for the door. Data quickly followed. In the corridor Data cought up with Q and Q began the conversation anew.
"Mr. Data, is there someplace on this ship you have not been?"
"There are many places I have not been."
"Besides crew quarters. I mean a common place where people don't go prancing around naked."
"I have been in every commonly accessible area of the ship."
"Is there a place that you haven't been is long while or hardly ever go to?"
"If I do a statistical analysis of the areas of the ship that I have visited, yes. I can readily think of several places that fit that description."
"Good. Then lead the way."
"I am curious. What is the purpose of this exercise?"
"Well, I've been aboard this ship for four extremely boring days. I've slept six times, I've eaten five time, and I've walked up and down a whole lot of these corridors. I think I've experience just about all this ship has to offer. I suppose the only thing left is to see if I can't have sex with something."
Data stopped in his tracks. "ah, it is a joke."
"You aren't laughing"
"It isn't funny."
"So what is our purpose?"
"To wander the ship aimlessly."
"Is there a purpose in that?"
"It gives you enough time to put your words together."
"I do not know what you are referring to."
"Liar. I know you're going to ask but there's no rush. There are a lot of these corridors."
Data stopped. He could feel something in him pushing him to the question.
Q stood and waited.
"Is it real?" asked Data.
"You'll have to be more specific."
"When you do whatever it is that you are able to do. Is it real?"
Q threw up his hand and in a flash they were sitting on the outside of the ship on top of the saucer section. "Is this real?"
Data looked around him in wonder for a moment. "It appears that we are outside the ship in the vacuum of space."
"Those stars. Are they real? This hull. Is it real?"
"I seems as if it is so and yet if we were really outside the ship, we should not be able to speak to one another."
"The captain." said Q gesturing to Picard who was looking at them from the window of his ready room. "Is he real?"
"I gather that you are trying to tell me that indeed when you do a thing, it is really done."
"Indeed." added Q with a shake of the head and half smile.
Data glanced over his shoulder and saw that the captain had left his window. Then he looked a Q more directly. "I want to ask about the mariachi band."
"Yes they were real?"
"You created them out of nothing."
"Actually no. I usually don't like to give away the tricks of the trade but I actually took them. I brought them to the ship, had them do as I pleased and when all was done I put them back. No harm done and they were even a bit richer for it."
Data had a sinking feeling of guilt come over him. "And you also took the French soldiers."
"No. Those I did make. After all, how many pig men French soldiers are there in the universe? On second thought, don't answer that."
"I see. So they were not real. They were just hollow images."
"Indeed not. They were just as real as the mariachi band."
"I do not understand."
"When I create a thing or a being from the point of view of the universe it is as if that thing had always been."
"So by extension, if you take something away …"
"It is as if, from the point of view of the universe, that the thing never existed at all. You have your memory of it but that is the only trace that it ever was. It isn't that big a deal really. Humans are even now beginning to harness the root of the same power when they do the double slit experiment and put the sensor just after the slit. They are altering the past and forcing the poor electron to behave like a particle instead of the wave it wants to be."
Data sat to think about what Q had just said for a moment and finally responded "I am not sure of exactly how I feel about this new information you have given me."
"It's two feelings at the same time. Try to separate them."
"I am horrified by what you just said. I am actually repulsed at the casualness you show in bringing life into the universe only to put it into meaningless combat and then when it no longer serves its purpose for you, you extinguish it so fully that it never existed."
"And yet, I am filled with hope."
Q waited. He knew that Data was building up to something.
Data began to speak but stopped himself as he saw the captain again in his window looking at them. "There was something I wanted to ask you but this really isn't the place."
There was a flash and Data found himself with Q in his lab. Q stood there in front of him waiting. Data's thoughts had brought him again and again to this place. Now with it before his eyes his emotions were almost boiling. If he had had a heart it would be pounding away. If he had tear ducts he would likely have to wipe his eyes before continuing. Data stared hard at Q but also shot a glance to what was behind Q. Data put his hand together in front of him, balling one into a fist and the other covering it.
"You mentioned something you wanted to ask me."
"Yes. I have been thinking about it alot."
Data closed his eyes for a moment and brought her face to the front of his mind. That face he could never forget. Even when he had no emotions it was her face he could never forget or let go of. He opened his eyes and looked at Q. Something inside him was telling him that the captain would not approve. His shipmates would not approve. Starfleet would not approve. Most of mankind would not approve of what he wanted from Q but his emotions would not be silent. He had to ask. He had to take his chance.
Data closed his eyes again and in almost a whisper asked "Can you give her back to me?"
Even before the words were all completely spoken the pain of her loss was upon him and it was another moment before he could open his eyes to look at Q and receive his reply. When he did open his eyes he stared so intensely that it seemed his eyes would burn a hole through the wall.
"I can" heard Data and his hope began to rise but no sooner had he dare to feel hope than it was dashed when Q continued with "but I won't."
Data was silent. He felt all his energy leaving him and he reached out for one of the support columns of the central examination tube for balance as he felt his legs weakening. Data stumbled over to the wall and sat on the stool that was there. He felt empty, exhausted. Just asking the question had taken more out of him then he ever thought it could. When he finally was able to compose himself he looked up at Q who was still standing there with the somber look on his face and asked "why?"
Q sat down in front of him on another stool that was not actually there or at least that Data could not see. "If you promise to keep this a secret then I will condescend to do for you what I would never do for anyone else on this ship. I will give you the answer."
"I do not understand."
"Data. What is it that is you?"
"That is a very existential question. Human philosophers have proposed …"
"Data, they are all idiots. They are all trying to deny the facts of the universe that are right in front of their face." Q reach out to Data and put his hand on Data's shoulder. "Data, this is you. This body with that brain of yours. This is you. Nothing else. If there is some sort of software error in your head that makes you think you are someone else, you aren't really someone else. You are still really you because this is you and no one else. If you download your mind into another computer somewhere, that computer might think it is Data but it isn't and never will be Data. Only you are Data."
"So you are saying that if you did give her back to me that it would not really be her."
"Don't become a doubter now. It most certainly would be her but that is not the point of what I'm saying. She never left you. You have her right over there in the closet. Believe it or not my friend but you don't actually need my help with this. One day you will know how to fix her yourself."
Data shook his head. "If I restart her positronic net it will start again from the beginning. It will not be Lal. She will develop a new personality and a new identity."
"Earlier this week you were walking around thinking to yourself that you were your brother. But you were not really your brother. You were still just you. Your personality is like the subtle flavoring in a dish. No two chocolate sundays taste the exact same even if they come from the same replicator and have the same amount of cyanide in them. Even if the differences are far too subtle for the average diner to notice, they are there. But no matter how much salt or pepper I put on a steak, that steak is what it always was. It never stops being a steak. Even so, just because your personality alters with time does not mean that you are not still Data."
"I am not sure I can accept what you propose. I could begin again with Lal. It would in fact be very easy but it feels wrong to give her body to a new personality. I want to be able to fix her. Besides this consideration, even if I do allow a new personality to grow within Lal's body, there is also the potential that the new personality will suffer the same fate that befell Lal. I am not sure if I would be able to bear the loss of my child twice."
"Well, I've done all I can here." said Q as he stood up. Data followed suite and they both walked to the door. The door opened and Q stepped to the other side. "Have hope Mr. Data. I won't do what you ask but the day will come." Then in a flash he was gone.
"Maddox?" asked Captain Picard.
La Forge standing on the other side of the captain's desk shook his head. "I know Data's system pretty well but the only one who could even come close to telling you that it's Data we're all talking to and not somebody else is Captain Maddox."
"I'm not so sure he's up to it. He's stayed away from cybernetics the last few years."
"It's him or no one. All we can do is just trust that when Data tells us he's Data that he's telling us the truth. I could ask him a million questions and he could give me the right answer every time and for me the best I could say is that it really is Data. No one, not even Data himself understands the software that runs his positronic brain more than Bruce Maddox. If he can't tell us, we just have to trust him."
Picard looked out of his window again. "I understand. Make it so."
Riker's usual fun loving mood was awol. He was eating supper alone in his quarters. He felt very helpless in this situation. Diana had said she would come by to see him but she hadn't arrived yet. Riker felt himself wanting to know where she was and who she was with. The temptation was there to use the power of the Q but he resisted. He couldn't be 100% sure if he himself had not really known this whole time if he had the power or not. He certainly didn't consciously know.
The captain had kept him on active duty and had tried to reassure Riker that whatever it was that Q wanted with this trial, at least by the end of it he will know that the powers of the Q were definitely gone. Even with those kind words, there was a dread that hung in the air. Q was just so unpredictable.
Two people. Q had said the Riker had killed two people. Who could he mean? Riker figured it could only be in reference to some accident or negligence on Riker part. Riker knew full well that he never murdered anyone. If Riker could be held responsible as a murderer for simply not saving someone when he had the power to save them because he was Q then Q himself should be a thousand time guiltier and should be put on trial for each of the 18 crewmen lost during their first encounter with the borg.
The chime rang and in came Diana. She hugged Riker and being offered a seat sat at his table.
"So, how are you holding up?"
"Not well. With the captain as my judge I should feel confident. The ball is in my court."
"But you don't feel confident. You have a lot of anxiety about this."
"Q says I killed two people. I don't like being accused of things. I don't like being accused of things I didn't do. And I don't like being called a murderer."
"And you can think of no foundation for what he said."
"Sometimes I wonder if Q even really speaks our language or just makes it sound like it but has no idea of the meanings of the words he's using. I've racked my mind but I can't come up with anything."
"I hope you know that we will all support you."
"I know. I shouldn't even be worried. If Q really wanted to kill me, from what I understand, he could just wipe me out of existence. Even if he didn't want to go that far, there are thousands of ways he could cause an accident to just happen to occur. I've never been so afraid of flying through space in a metal covered air bubble."
"Do you really have the power of the Q?"
Riker nodded. "I realized as soon as he said it that I still had the power but for all this time I really did think that it was gone."
"If things get too dangerous I suppose you could run away. No one would blame you for avoiding a trial that was unjust to begin with."
"No. Running isn't the answer. I just wish Q would tell us what events he's talking about so I could defend myself. Knowing Q he probably isn't even serious about all this, he's just here having a laugh at my torment."
Diana reached out to him and held his hand. They had a moment together and then the moment was over. The ship was docking in a few hours and Diana was going to meet Worf's parents and Alexander. Riker was again alone in his quarters. There was not enough time to sleep, but too much time to prevent the mind from thinking of those things Riker did not want to think of.
Q was sitting in Picard's ready room filing his nails.
"I'm waiting Q." said Picard from the other side of the desk.
"On Moia? But you called the meeting mon capitaine."
"Details. I want details. We will dock in just over an hour. The trial starts midday tomorrow and neither my first officer nor I know what he is being accused of."
"But Jean Luc, he is accused of murder."
"I need more than that. I need the name of the person he killed. I need a place, I need a date. I need something more than just murder."
"All of that will come out at the trial."
"Q if you don't give me the information I want this will be a very short trial. I will be completely in my rights to protect my first officer from malicious prosecution and dismiss whatever case you bring against him."
"You can try to do that Jean Luc but I don't think the continuum would take very kindly to it."
"I don't care." Picard glared at Q while Q continued to file his nails and admire them. After a moment Picard continued. "Q, it is obvious you don't want to be here. Why do you insist on prolonging this?"
Q looked up at him and tilted his head. "To a sick man, a doctor is a doctor. If you have an illness you go to the hospital and you see lots of people walking around in white coats and they all have lots of letters after their names and they are all doctors. To the sick man, all the doctors are the same. The doctors of course know better. Among the doctors there is a pecking order. There are some who are the best of the best at what they do and other doctors look up to them and want to be them. Others are just average, like say a new doctor just starting out. Then there are the quacks who regularly cause more harm to their patients than they ever heal ailments. Silly women with red hair and names like Beverly."
"Q!" shouted Picard.
"What I am saying is, to you I am omnipotent, but in the continuum, there is a pecking order. I don't always like it but even I have to follow orders from time to time."
"Do your orders forbid you from telling me the details of the accusation against my first officer."
"Then Q I need you tell me the details so we can get this done and behind us as quickly as possible."
"I was charged with making sure you understand, really understand without me illuminating your mind for you. You have no idea how frustrating it is to be charged with a task I do not have direct control over. It's like being a ten year old boy and being told my mommy to steer the ants out of the kitchen with a magnifying glass and a view of the sun."
"If you were charged with making sure I understand, I can tell you, I will understand better when I have more details to understand."
"I know you feel that way Jean Luc but I can see that giving you the details now will actually harm your understanding. I will wait. It is less than 24 hours now and you will be able to hear all."
The docking for the Enterprise was a special event. People who would normally be sleeping got up for it. A ship the size of the Enterprise was actually larger than many of the starbases in the Federation and could only dock at a handful of starbases in total. Starbase 121 was such a starbase. It was the second largest starbase ever constructed. The size was due to the important role it had. It orbited a star that did not have any planets in the system but there were five M class planets orbiting three of the nearby stars, and the mining operations being conducted in another ten very close systems mean that this was a very active area. The starbase was positioned around a star that was on the border of the Verdin star cluster. There were hundreds more plants in the cluster and if you lived on one of the habitable planets you could see planets orbiting another star with just a simple telescope in the back yard.
As wondrous as the place was, docking at starbase 121 meant that the natural beauty of area would be obstructed. As the ship went in through the massive doors, slowly the magnificent view of the cluster was blocked by the interior of the starbase. When the docking was finished all could be seen from every window on the Enterprise was the docking area and wall of the starbase.
Geordi was the last one to leave engineering. The ship was going to be in dock for almost two weeks. He had lots of plans for modifications he wanted to do to the engines in that time. He was so excited about it he even contacted Dr. Brahms to run some ideas by her. It wasn't often he had a chance to do a full power down and reboot of all the systems and he wasn't going to let it pass.
As eager as he was, it would all have to wait. The captain had ordered everyone to leave the ship for a full two days. The captain was very serious and even made sure temporary quarters were set up for everyone. The captain wouldn't even let Admiral Badeaux on board.
The engines were humming perfectly. They were providing vastly more energy than the ship needed while docked at a starbase but they would have to stay on for a couple more days. Georgi put in his security lock to make sure no one got a chance to tamper with the engines during his absence and it was time to turn off the light as it were.
Geordi was just about to walk out to the transporter pad and turned back to look at engineering again. It was odd leaving even for this long which in fact wasn't very long at all. He turned back around and nearly jumped back at the sight that was in front of him.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to scare you."
It took Geordi a moment to recognize the person who seemed to have come out of nowhere.
"Well aimed of such a young one." she replied with a big smile and a hug that came in so fast Geordi was in the midst of it before he knew to respond in kind. It lasted only a moment and then she drew back. "Let me see what you've done to the place."
"Well, I'd love to give you a tour but the captain wants everyone off the ship. We only have fifteen minutes to lock down."
"Oh, yeah, 'cus engineering is such a big place we gotta have more than fifteen minutes to look around." she responded as she went up to the rail encircling the warp core.
"Computer" order Picard. The computer responded with the usual chime to note it was ready for a command. "Has everyone left the ship?"
"How many people are left besides myself, commander Riker and …" Picard hated to use an official title but circumstances as they were it was the correct form of address "And ambassador Q?" At that Picard heard Q's chuckle even though Q wasn't in the room with them.
"There is one crew member and one guest in engineering."
Picard reached for his comm badge. "Geordi, is there some problem in engineering?"
The reply came quickly. "Sorry Captain. Just getting to the transporter now."
"I could just remove them for you." came Q's voice.
"No, that won't be necessary."
Riker was waiting in the room the captain had set up for the hearing. The captain did not want to use the actual ad hoc court room on the ship saying that it should be reserved for official federation business and not to be taken lightly. Instead, Riker was in a general purpose room that was sometimes used for various arts and crafts such as theater or music recitals.
Finally after what seemed an impressively long time, the captain entered and was trailed by Q. There were three desks arranged in a triangle and the captain sat at his but Q came over and sat next to Riker. "Good luck" he said as he extended his hand to Riker. Riker didn't take it.
"Q, if you would" said Picard gesturing to the unoccupied desk, "I'd like to begin and finally hear what this is all about."
Q flashed to the desk into a sitting posture with his feet resting on the edge.
"Now, to begin. I want to make this clear that as far as the Federation and Starfleet is concerned this is an informal diplomatic meeting. I don't want anything that we talk about here to leave this room."
"Gag order. Wise decision." commented Q.
"Whatever the outcome of this meeting and however it affects Riker or the Q, I do not want it affecting his good name as a citizen of the Federation or a member of Starfleet."
Picard waited for the odd random comment to come from Q but it did not come. Q sat there waiting holding and inspecting an hourglass in his hand.
"As it is Q who wanted this meeting, I will leave it to you to finally tell us what this is all about."
Q got up. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. I will prove that this man" said Q with a wild flamboyant gesture at Riker "did indeed murder two individuals of the human species." Then he sat down without any further comment.
"I'm sorry" replied Picard, "I need a bit more than that."
"But captain, that was my opening statement. Now it is up to Riker to make an opening statement."
"Then I move to dismiss. He's wasting our time."
"I'm of a mind to agree. Q, you need to give me a good reason to have us here."
"May I call witnesses?"
"First you need to give us details. Tell me something that would give credence to the idea that Commander Riker killed anyone, accidentally or otherwise."
"Ah, Stardate 42823. The Mariposa colony. Riker in the cloning chamber with a phaser."
As soon as Q started to speak the date Picard was putting the numbers into his pad to call up the data.
Riker somehow knew exactly what that date meant. "Captain, I can explain..."
"Sit down, it isn't your turn." said Q with an indignant tone. "Can I call witnesses yet?"
"Q, you have made an accusation. How he gets a chance to respond."
"Thank you captain. As you will see, I made a full report of that incident and the details were corroborated by the reports of both Geordi and Dr. Polaski."
"Tysk, tysk. After all I have put this man threw you expect him to just take your word for it?"
"Yes I do. Captain you know I have always been honest with you."
"I know number 1. Give me a moment to pull it up." There was a pause while all waited. "I see you discharged your phaser to destroy some tissue samples. Q, I hardly call that murder."
"May I please bring in witnesses?" stated Q in a tone that suggested that he was about to lose patience.
"Q, do you have some reason to believe that the report is not accurate?"
Q sat down in frustration and threw his hands up. "Look Riker, I tried to give you a fighting chance but at this rate you're a dead man."
Riker didn't even get a chance to respond. Captain Picard interrupted. "Q, I will not allow you to threaten the life of my first officer. We are here at your insistence and you accuse him now not only of murder but also you accuse three of the best officers to ever serve under me of making false report."
"Captain. Calm yourself. I am trying to play fair by the rules you yourself insisted we follow. The report is Riker's testimony of what happened on the Meriposa colony, but if you won't let me counter it with witnesses, then the continuum will not accept this and will execute your first officer whether I make a threat or not."
The was a moment of tension. Q was playing along and letting Picard call the shots but he never gave up control of the proceedings.
"You may call witnesses Q, but understand this. You asked me to be the judge in this case. That makes this my courtroom and I demand you show the proper dignity and respect."
Q bowed and snapped his fingers. In the center of the triangle now stood the administrator of the Mariposa colony. He was lifeless and just stood there. "I trust you both know who this man is, or claims to be. I have pulled him from a time before your ship arrived at Mariposa so as not to taint his testimony."
"Objection. Captain, if the witness is here to refute my report, then he should come from a time after he witness the events."
"Q, you will address me as captain in this court."
"Oh, letting the power go to your head so soon."
"I have to concur with the Commander."
"Captain … ugh … This witness is here to give testimony on the laws and customs of Mariposa to provide the proper context for the events that took place." Q turned to Riker "Any objection to that or is your mouth still as trigger happy as your thumb?"
"Q, I do not want to have to warn you again."
"Yes, yes, can we proceed yet?"
The captain nodded and Q threw up his hand and in a flash the desks were now rearranged so that all faced the same way and the administrator was now seated in a chair facing them. The administrator still seemed lifeless but then began to move and look around.
Q turned to Picard for a second "Don't worry, he won't remember a thing." Turning his attention to the witness again he began "On Meriposa, is it considered murder to kill a clone?"
"Objection, captain. Obviously killing a fully grown and functioning member of the colony would be considered murder."
"What is it with you? Let me establish the basics before you get all jumpy."
"Q continue, but please don't waste our time."
Q returned his attention to the administrator. "Would killing a clone before it has left the cloning chamber be considered murder?"
"I suppose it depends. There are cases where clones have severe defects and won't survive anyway. In fact its been happening a lot more often recently. When the decision is made to cut off the resources to them, it is never easy but no, it isn't considered murder."
"And if the clone were perfectly healthy?"
"We haven't had a case like that."
"What do your laws say?"
The administrator thought for a moment. "I believe, if you are asking the strict letter of the law, it would be murder. But why would anyone ever do such a thing?"
"Is Meriposa a member of the Federation?"
"I'll take that as a no. Do you have the ability to travel at faster than light speeds?"
"No, not for a long time now. It has been very hard just keeping the colony going …"
"That is all."
Riker slowly got up and thought of a moment. "When are your clones given names?"
"After they leave the cloning chamber. It is the very first thing, besides checking their health of course."
"So they don't deserve a name before they can leave the chamber."
"I never thought of it as a matter of deserving. It just seemed natural to do it that way. When there is a problem and a clone dies before it can leave the chamber, we still give it a name."
"But in either case, it has no real identity of its own before it leaves. It isn't even a he or a she, but an it."
"I don't know what you are driving at. When a clone is born we give it a name. I don't see that there is anything wrong with that."
"There isn't. As you said, it is only natural. You are a human colony, correct."
"Part of your charter to set up a colony specifies that you remain loyal to Earth and her laws."
"We haven't had contact with Earth for some time now. We've had to make due on our own. I don't think I or anyone else would take very kindly to some bureaucrat from Earth coming in and telling us how to live or forcing us to change our laws. Charter or no charter, I can't see us accepting Earth's authority after all this time with no aid, no communication, nothing. That document was for the original colonists. We may be clones but we aren't them. We have our own culture now, our way of life. I think things have just changed too much to expect us to just lie down and bend to whoever is in charge of Earth now."
"I understand. Just one more question. Who owns your hair?"
The administrator tilted his head in confusion. "I do, I suppose though I doubt it will listen to me when the time comes that I lose my hair."
"If you do lose your hair, will you wear a wig?"
"Oh, I don't know."
"If someone decides they want a wig made of your hair, and they shave your head while you sleep, would that be illegal on Meriposa?"
"So you do own your hair."
"What about your hand. If a scientist wants to do experiments with your hand, could they cut it off?"
"Absolutely not. That would carry a greater penalty than taking my hair."
Riker turned to the captain, "I have no more use of this witness."
Q was about to snap his fingers and but Picard gestured for Q to pause a moment. "Sir, I would like to thank you for your testimony here today." added Picard in a respectful tone.
"Sure. Where am I, if I may ask?"
"I'm sorry. You may not."
Data was watching Spot jump around the room in an attempt to catch a flashing light that was programed to keep the cat occupied. Now that Data had emotions he began to realize that while he didn't dislike Spot, he didn't actually like Spot too much either. It was different when Data was going through the motions in an attempt to be more human, but now he just didn't see the point. Still, there was no point in diminishing Spot's existence because of this. Data would outlive Spot by an order of magnitude in time. Until the post Spot era came, Data decided the best thing to do was take very good care of Spot. Continue going through the motions as it were since that was the best he could do for Spot.
Data's temporary quarters on the starbase were adequate but what Data really wanted to do was get back to his lab. Q had said that he would be able to fix Lal one day Data had been going over the cascade failure again and again to see if there was a way to save her. Between him and the time he would be reunited with Lal in his lab he also had to be examined by Captain Maddox who would be arriving at the station the next day. Data recalled that he and Maddox had parted on friendly terms but noted now that if he had had his emotions at the time, that might not have been the case. Data imagined with a shutter the physical damage Lore would have done to Maddox.
The chime rang and in came Wesly Crusher. He had a smile on his face and acted happy to see Data again but he wasn't as energetic as Data imagined he should be.
"I am looking forward to attending your party with the rest of the crew."
"Yeah, it will be fun."
"I heard you got the emotions working now. How it is?"
"It has been quite the adventure."
"Wesly, I get the feeling" said Data amused at his wording "that something is bothering you."
Wesly ran his fingers through his hair and sighed. "I've seen things I can't unsee. I don't think I could even describe them to you. If I did, I don't think you would even understand. I'm not sure I understand."
"You appear to have experienced some sort of trauma."
Wesly lifted his head. "Yeah, that's all behind me now."
"You are clearly still affected by it. Perhaps you should ask Counselor Troi to spend some time with you."
"She can't do anything. She couldn't understand anymore than you could. To be honest, and don't tell her I said this, but … I never really thought she understood much anyway, at least as far as helping me with an emotional problem. Guinan's advice was always a lot better, and didn't get included in official starfleet reports after all."
"Well, if you ever do want to talk about it, I am … here for you."
"You say that and do your best to make it sound so fake but you have no idea just how sincere those words are going to be."
Geordi was getting the grand tour of the starbase, or more specifically the power station in the starbase, which was where Lt. Sonya Gomez now worked. It was several stories high and had multiple giant power engines. There seemed to be hundreds of people performing various tasks, or monitoring production.
Geordi whistled. "Man, this place is big. Look at this."
"My station is over here. From here I control and manage the power output almost twice that of the Enterprise."
"How much can this place put out?"
"A lot. Look, this is the average power consumption for just one part of the station."
Geordi looked over the numbers on the screen. As he did so he noticed that Sonya stiffened up. Geordi looked behind him and saw another person. She was a bit of a short woman who had a bit more weight on her than starfleet would usually allow.
"Lt. Commander La Forge I presume."
"Yes. I'm sorry. I don't mean to be in the way."
"Not at all." came the reply.
"Geordi, this is Commander Blanco. She is head engineer here on 121." added Sonya
"Ah, Commander. Nice to meet you."
"And it is nice to meet you too." she added as she leaned in to get a closer look at his visor.
"Can you really see with that thing on."
Geordi let out a laugh, "Yeah, more or less. It works a lot better on engine parts than nature hiking, but yes, I can see."
"Anyway, Commander, I was just giving Geordi a tour."
Commander Blanco gave a knowing look to Lt. "Sure. Let him see … um … you know, whatever he wants." A bit of an embarrassed smile came to her face as she realized her poor choice of words.
Just then Captain Picard's voice came in over Geordi's comm. "Commander La Forge, can you please report back to the enterprise."
"Sure captain, I'm on my way."
Geordi made his apologies and exited.
"So that is the famous Geordi La Forge." commented Commander Blanco and shot a sideways glance at Sonya. Sonya just stood there and smiled. No else could see it, but if Geordi were still in the room he would have noticed a very faint blush.
Geordi arrived on the ship and made his way to the meeting room. He was informed that this was just a very informal inquiry at Q's insistence and that it really wasn't a big deal. Geordi was about to move the chair closer but then was he realized that this was actually a trial setting.
"Mr. La Forge" began Q. "You are the only blind person in Starfleet. Why is that?"
Geordi had a frown and shook his head. "Talk with personnel."
"You were the only blind child born on Earth in nearly twenty years. Why is that?"
Geordi had a very good response to this but kept it to himself. Instead he offered, "I'm not a doctor."
"Would it surprise you to learn that your condition is more common than you think? Yet, when the vast majority of parents would have simply not let the child be born, your parents kept you. Why?"
Picard sat there looking very perturbed at the two of them.
"How well can you see?"
Q held up two different balls. "Can you see the difference between these two objects?"
"Objection. Captain, we are all aware of the capabilities of Geordi's visor."
"Are you really? How well he can see with his visor is very important in fact. I stress to you Picard..."
"Captain." interrupted Picard.
"Captain. I stress, you will need this information to understand what comes next."
"Proceed but be quick."
"Mr. La Forge, can you tell the difference between these two objects?"
Geordi tilted his head this way and that to get a good look. "I can tell that the level of electromagnetic energy being absorbed by each is a bit different but not by much. I can't tell the mass just by looking at them. They don't seem to be conducting any electrical fields. I can't tell what the texture is unless I feel them."
"So, everyone else sees green and blue but you see only a slight difference in electromagnetic absorption."
Geordi shrugged. "I'm lucky to be able to see that."
"But you can see much more, can't you."
"I can see a lot of things that others can't, sure."
"Captain" interrupted Riker "We are all aware that Geordi can see."
"Agreed. Q, I must ask you to move on."
"Mr. La Forge, are you friends with Commander Riker?"
"I'd say so."
"Are you friends with Commander Data."
"Objection. What is the point of this?"
"You will see in just a moment. Mr. La Forge, you treat Data and Riker very differently
"They are different people."
"Ah, but you always let Riker win at poker."
"He always wins, but I don't see how that means that I must be letting him."
"You never let Data win."
"Data is just bad at cards."
"You can tell when Riker is bluffing yet you always fold. Why?"
"I can tell that he might be bluffing but it wouldn't be much of a card game if I took an
unfair advantage like that."
"Why? They take advantage of you. Riker is very keen to notice all of your quirks and twitches and use them against you."
Geordi shrugged. "I guess I'm just not a very good card player."
"I don't buy that. You can regularly defeat a super intelligent android that knows with near certainty where every card is on the table, and yet you can't seem to beat a normal man who you know is bluffing."
"Just because I know he is bluffing doesn't mean my cards are any good. Q you have a lot to learn about playing cards. It isn't just counting numbers or doing calculations. There is a lot of interpersonal stuff going on."
"Indeed, and you have an interpersonal relationship with Riker that dictates that he should be allowed to win even when you can see the reflection of his cards in his eyes. Why?"
"Q" interrupted Picard this time. "I don't see the relevance of this. They play cards. They are friends. They work together. What are you getting at?"
"Riker's actions have damaged his relationship with La Forge."
"If that is or is not true, that is besides the point. I called Geordi here to answer about his report and the events at the colony."
"Fine. Let me ask one more thing, and then I will move on."
"One more thing."
"Mr. La Forge, when Riker gave you your sight, you didn't spend your time with it looking around the room. What did you do?"
"I thought of my mother and what she would say."
"When you thought of her, could you see her."
Geordi nodded and a smile came to his face. "I can remember what she really looked like even now."
"Giving a blind man his sight can hardly be thought of as a bad thing. It wasn't like the klingon woman that Riker created and then wished back into nothing, or taking years away from someone's life. It really was a good deed, but you gave it back. What was the reason you said again?"
"I don't remember."
"I believe you said, you didn't like who you had to thank. That was a very strange thing to say. Why did you say it?"
Geordi didn't answer.
"The truth is that you have a secret and I fit neatly into it don't I?"
Geordi was again silent but a look of anger was clearly beginning to form on his face.
"Well, what is it? What is this thing that keeps you holding your true feelings inside so well hidden? Why do you hold all your shipmates at arm's length never allowing any of them to really get to know you?"
"Everyone has secrets." answered Geordi.
"But not like yours. It prevents you from really being able to form deep relationships on the Enterprise. It makes you feel like an unaccepted outcast. The fact is, you don't trust them. You see the world fundamentally different from them and that was brought home to you by the actions of that man over there. You act friendly to them and do your best to be one of the team but deep down, you know you aren't really one of them. You know they would see you differently if they knew. They would judge you if they knew. So tell me, what is the big deal? What is this thing that you hold back from letting the world know?"
"If you were even a fraction of a percent as omniscient as you always want us to believe, then you already know the answer to that question and the fact that I'm not going to answer it."
"Q" interrupted Picard again. "That is enough. Now move on to the events at hand or let me call this thing off."
"Very well." Q handed La Forge a data pad. "This is your report about the events that took place on the Meriposa colony in regards to the phaser fire. The other tabs are the reports made by Riker and Dr. Polaski. Do you see any differences?"
Geordi took a moment to study the report. "Ah, I remember." Geordi's shoulders began to slouch. "Different wording but it's all basically the same. We went down, there was phaser fire." Geordi tried to hand the data pad back.
"Riker used the term, tissue sample in his report. Dr. Polaski just said tissue. What word did you use?"
Geordi began to appear very nervous. "I used the word clone."
Geordi shrugged again. "It was a clone."
"Why didn't you think to call it a tissue sample, or a lump of flesh, or anything else. Why clone?"
Geordi swallowed hard. "It was a clone. What else was I supposed to call it?"
"Did this clone look like Riker?"
Shaking his head he said "No."
"So it really was just a lump of tissue?"
Geordi hesitated. It was becoming clear that this line of questioning was having an affect on him.
"What's wrong? It didn't look like Riker. It was just a blob growing in a beaker. What's the matter?"
"Nothing's the matter." responded Geordi with his voice cracking a bit.
"Would you please describe the tissue sample that Riker fired on."
There was the sound of a sniff. Geordi was having trouble speaking. "It was a clone."
"What does that mean?"
Geordi got a shutter. "It looked like a person."
"About how big was it?"
Geordi gestured "It was about the same size as the Commander."
"So this wasn't just a tiny bit of blood in a test tube?"
"No. It was almost fully grown."
"But it didn't look like Riker."
"No, not yet."
"So how did you know that it was Riker's clone?"
Geordi started to answer but then stopped himself.
"In your report you stated that Riker found the clones of himself and Dr. Polaski in a cloning chamber and that he fired on them and destroyed them. How did you know that it was Riker's clone?"
Geordi was looking away. He didn't answer for a moment. Everyone waited. Then the answer came. "I guess I didn't know. I just assumed based on Riker's actions that it was his clone. I didn't get too close the things. I was about three meters away." said Geordi who was clearly beginning to be distressed at having to answer these questions.
Picard was waiting for Riker to make an objection but it didn't come.
Q continued "How did Riker know that it was his clone and not just one of the other clones that are routinely made at the colony?"
"I don't know."
Picard looked over at Riker and was waiting for an objection but Riker was just looking down at his hands.
"Is it possible that Riker could have fired on the wrong clone?"
Geordi's head was hanging low and there seemed to be the sound of a sob.
"Mr. La Forge, are you able to continue?" asked the captain.
Geordi nodded but didn't lift up his head yet.
Q asked again "Could Riker have fired on the wrong clone?"
"Maybe. I'm not sure. You'll have to ask him."
"Enough of this." interrupted Picard who was tired of waiting for Riker to defend himself. "Computer pull up the tricorder logs from the incident in question."
"There are no tricorder logs from this incident." came the reply.
Picard was shocked. He threw a look from Riker to Geordi and back again. "Computer, I am asking you to pull the tricorder data from the incident at the Meriposa colony."
"There is no tricorder data from that incident."
"Why? What happened to the data? Was it deleted?"
"Negative. No tricorder data was logged from that incident into the main computer memory."
Picard turned his attention to Geordi. "Mr. La Forge, did you collect any data when you were down on the planet during the phaser fire?"
Geordi only replied with a shake of his head.
"Did anyone collect tricorder readings?"
Geordi responded in a voice that sounded like it was about to break. "Dr. Polaski had a tricorder on her but she didn't use it."
"Are you sure?" asked Q with smile.
Geordi lifted his head and it was clear that tears were rolling down his cheek from the eyes hidden behind his visor. "Yes, I'm sure."
"Objection" came Riker. "Captain, they stole two tissue samples and we found only two tissue samples growing. It was obvious what they were."
"Overruled Commander. This is a valid point."
This brought a huge grin of satisfaction to Q's face. He began again. "When Riker pulled out his phaser, what did you think he would do?"
"I wasn't sure what he would ..."
"Were you afraid?"
"Where you surprise by what he did?"
Geordi nodded his head.
"Was the clone posing a danger to Riker?"
"No. It was just laying there breathing."
"Riker fired on not just one of the clones but two. You didn't stop him. Why?"
Silence. Geordi hung his head in guilt. "I froze."
Geordi was very uncomfortable and he shifted position in the chair several times.
Q pressed. "Why?"
"I don't know."
"You do know. Be honest."
Geordi looked up at the ceiling. He brought his gaze back down and took off his visor. It was clear the grief he was feeling.
"I was horrified. I could see their hearts beating. I could see their pain when Riker fired on them. Of all the days I wished I didn't have this thing that was it."
"If you could go back and stop him, would you?"
Geordi had a very determined face. "Absolutely."
"Just once, answer me why?" asked Q who was almost giddy.
Geordi was silent for a moment looking for the right words. "Because what Commander Riker did was wrong."
"Thank you. Your witness Willy boy."
Riker got up and slowly went up to Geordi.
"We've been friends now for eight years."
"Objection, we know they are friends." came Q.
Riker began again. "You never mentioned Meriposa to me. If you really felt like what I did was wrong, why didn't you mention it to me?"
Geordi looked in the direction that Riker voice was coming from. "For the same reason I always let you win a poker. I do what I am expected to do. I never in a million years would have thought that you would actually open fire on those clones. I thought there was no way starfleet would let you get away with it. When nothing happened I figured it would be best to just forget about it. Some people just get their way and there was nothing I could do about it."
Riker was visibly affected by what Geordi related. "You actually believe there was an injustice done by me?"
"Commander, I do think of you as a friend, but I still don't know how you didn't end up facing a court martial. What you did was absolutely wrong in every way I can imagine."
"But Geordi, it was you who first alerted us to the fact that the colonists had done something."
"Yeah, but I didn't think you would go down there and start shooting people."
"They stole my genetic information."
"And so you kill that 'genetic information' instead of holding the actual criminals responsible."
It was clear that Riker wasn't getting anywhere with Geordi. He was feeling that it was a very good thing that Picard was his judge and not La Forge. He backed up from Geordi who having wiped his eyes was trying to put his visor back on. Riker looked over at the captain. "I have no more questions for Geordi."
Picard was not happy. "Mr. La Forge, I would like to thank you for assistance in this matter and I apologize if this proceeding has affected you negatively. Rest assured that nothing we spoke of here will have an impact on your standing on the Enterprise or in starfleet. You are free to go but I must ask you not to discuss any of this with anyone who isn't present here."
"I understand captain." And Geordi left the room.
Picard was still visibly not happy. "I need some time to consider what I have just heard. I wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible but now I believe I have some things to think about. We will meet here again tomorrow morning at 8 AM. Agreed?
Riker agreed and Q was just sitting in the witness chair smiling his devilish grin.
Wesly's party seemed to be a happy affair. There were some three dozen people there and they had a room that had a spectacular view of the star cluster. There was good food, a bit of light music, and even an area for dancing though perhaps thankfully no one was taking advantage of it.
Riker was doing his best to be cheerful but it was really just beyond him. Instead of being the life of the party he drifted back and just observed. Data seemed to be his usual self, if indeed it really was Data. Wesly was forcing himself to smile when he had to talk to people but the smile would go away when he thought no one was looking. The captain was being very friendly but less smiley than he should be. Troi was walking with Alexander and Worf seemed be having some sort of argument with his parents. As big as Worf was, it looked very much like he was losing.
The real shock of the evening was Geordi. There was no sign of the emotions Riker had seen in him earlier. He was chatting away with everyone, had a smile on his face that never went away. There was the occasional laugh at a joke and the telling of a new joke. There was even a girl, a former Enterprise crew member whose name Riker could not recall, who was all but attached to Geordi's arm. Riker remembered back to what Q had said about Geordi keeping everyone at arm's length. It sure didn't look like it, and yet, Riker could not recall ever being in Geordi's quarters. He couldn't recall having any conversations about Geordi's family life, his parents, his home country, nothing. Geordi always wanted to talk about anything and everything but himself. He would listen and ask questions but he never gave any answers when the conversation came to Geordi. He threw himself into his work. At times it seemed like Data had more of a personal life than Geordi. Data worked very hard to have a personal life and be personable. Geordi was the opposite. That smile was a mask, a very good mask. Everyone took Geordi for granted. There was a lot more going on with him than anyone realized.
The festivities were interrupted when Q entered the room. The effect of his presence was clear on most people in the room. There was a temporary silence but it was broken when Wesly went up to Q and began to welcome him. Q was grinning ear to ear. One by one Q made his way around the room and took great delight in having Picard introduce him as 'ambassador'. Picard grit his teeth and was polite.
"Mr. Riker" came a small voice from behind Riker. He turned around to see Alexander there with Troi. Riker greeted them and then Alexander continued. "Isn't this place great?" he said with a huge grin.
"Yes. Is that a camera?"
"Oh, yeah. Grandpa got it for me in Moscow. Look, it can take 3D images and we can use them on a holodeck. And look at this …" Alexander continued to point out the great features of his camera that Riker was all too familiar with. "And then you know they still have all the old Olympic stuff at Sochi. So I just had to take a picture of that. OH, and next month I'm going to go visit my other grandma in the Washington state, not the little one, but the big one. She has these big, big trees..." continued Alexander with just as a typical excited little boy.
Eventually Alexander ran off to go talk to the Data and Riker was left with Troi.
"Well, he's in a very happy mood."
"Kids can be oblivious to the troubles of adults."
"I saw Worf having it out with his father."
"Worf seems to think that Alexander isn't learning enough Klingon. Alexander prefers to speak Russian. It isn't a surprise really. All his friends speak Russian. English is the language of TV and the "people in the spaceships" but Alexander just doesn't have a place in his life for Klingon."
"He has so much energy, it seems like there isn't anything he couldn't do if he just spent his time on it."
"Well, learning Klingon grammar is a tall order even for the elites living on Quonos. You know a Klingon child doesn't really speak the language properly until they are about 16 or 17 years old. Before then they still make little mistakes like when a kid says 'I goed to the transporter'."
Riker laughed for the first time all day. "He has another grandmother in Washington?"
"Yeah. Helena thinks its important for Alexander to stay in touch. Alexander's mother never let him meet her. I don't know the whole story but Worf's mom thinks it important to patch things up. Family is family."
Dr. Crusher was spending some time with Wesly touring the station. Wesly seemed to be taking great interest and showing great appreciation for very simple things. There was an alien merchant selling dishware made of a kind of crystal. Wesly picked up a glass and put it to his ear and then nodded to the merchant. This behavior baffled Beverly along with the fact that Wesly didn't need the translator to communicate. Her son was all grown up and making his own way in the galaxy and had become a very different man than she had envisioned for him.
They were on their way back to the residential deck when Wesly changed the topic of conversation from the amazing star cluster. "Mom, I've been thinking about this for a while. If it's ok with the captain, I'd like to stay on the Enterprise for a while."
"If you want I'll ask him. You know you are welcome and I can have you as my guest and we don't need permission for that. How long do you want to stay?"
"I don't know. Six months, a year maybe."
"Wesly, you've only been gone for a year."
Wesly stopped in his tracks. "Um, I have something to tell you."
Dr. Crusher turned around.
"I'm three hundred years old."
Dr. Crusher took out her tricorder and began to scan him. "This is impossible."
"No, it isn't."
"How are you doing this?"
"I couldn't explain it to you."
"What have you been doing all this time?"
"I traveled. I have almost all of space and time as my playground. I can go anywhere, anywhen. I was a father, and a grandfather."
"And you didn't invite me to your wedding."
"I never said I got married. Funny, it seems so long ago now, but I look at you and you are still so young."
"Well, you have to tell me your secret for keeping the wrinkles away."
Geordi was walking with Sonya back to her quarters. They had had a very fun evening together it was now time to say goodnight. Geordi had noticed that Sonya didn't look at him the same way she did before. She wasn't the bumbling little ensign anymore. She was confident, capable, and competent. She was making a name for herself and finally her real talents were coming out. She wasn't nervous around him anymore.
Geordi also noticed that there was more to her friendship with Geordi than simply nostalgia for her first posting post graduation. Geordi was actually enjoying her company and he could see she enjoyed his. They were getting on as it were and finally the moment came when they were in front of her door.
Geordi debated within himself on if he should go in with her if asked. He wondered if he could like her in that way, see her not just as a former shipmate but as something more. But Geordi knew it wouldn't work out. The offer would come and he would have to decline. Geordi would be the perfect gentleman and that wasn't what these modern Federation women wanted in a man. Geordi usually didn't let these sorts of thoughts cloud his mind. He was usually too busy to listen to them. Geordi had a friend of his named Anthony from Mangalore who had a similar problem but was able to get things worked out through an arranged marriage. That wasn't part of the culture of Geordi's home country but perhaps he should look into it.
There they stood at the door and Sonya blushed. She took a deep breath. "It has been really great spending time with you Geordi."
Geordi nodded. "Likewise."
She glanced at her door and then looked sad for a moment. "I'm off duty tomorrow and you know, since you don't have anything to do why don't we go down to one of the planets."
Geordi thought for a moment. "That sounds like a good idea. Can you get a shuttle or should I ask Captain Picard to borrow one from the Enterprise?"
"Oh, no, we don't need a shuttle. There is so much traffic through the station that we have transporter relays set up."
"Really" answered Geordi getting excited.
"Yeah, you want to go see?"
"You bet I do."
The issue of the door was abandoned. Geordi wouldn't have to turn her down if indeed an offer was to come. Geordi didn't know this but she was just as relieved as he was.
At 04:00 Captain Maddox was getting off his transport. Data was there waiting for him. Maddox greeted him but no sooner had Data greeted him back than Maddox began looking for a view of the star cluster threw the window.
"Amazing. I've only seen pictures of it but the real thing is quite a site."
While Maddox was ignoring Data there was a voice there that wanted his attention. It was his inner Lore. "So that's the guy huh."
Data knew that Lore wasn't really there, that it was all just in his head. Lore had been leaving him alone for the most part but Data had noticed that he would come 'online' every now and then to observe and look around and being satisfied go back to 'sleep'.
When Maddox was satisfied with his viewing he returned to Data. "So, how are you? Been keeping busy?"
"I have performed my duties to the best of my ability and wish to continue to do so in the future."
"As android as ever. Look, I'm a bit off the cycle here so if you don't mind I'm going to get my things" and he emphasized the word 'things' "to my quarters. I'll contact you when I'm ready to start."
"Certainly. Would you like me to accompany you?"
"You don't need to. You can do what you like." Maddox began to move and pulled out a datapad to pull up a map of the station.
Data followed. "I was wondering about what time we would be able to begin."
"Oh, I don't know." replied Maddox a bit annoyed. "I don't even know where the cybernetics lab is on this station. Do you have somewhere you need to be? Do you have a schedule I need to work around?"
"No, I am simply anxious to be declared competent to return to duty."
Maddox was waiting for the turbolift. He looked at Data and took a breath and tried a new tone. "It's early, I need a bit more sleep and I need time to get set up. Like I said, I'll let you know when I'm ready."
In the turbolift Data changed the topic. "I was wondering why you stopped your research into positronic systems.
Maddox just leaned against the wall. "There wasn't a future in it anymore."
"I do not understand."
"What would be the point? True I find it fascinating, but there are other people in the universe who are more than happy to do a thing for the thing itself, but not me."
"Your reasoning seems vague."
"Mr. Data, I already have kids. If I create sentient life in my lab what would be my responsibility to it?"
Data didn't have an answer to that question.
"I know what it means to wear this uniform." continued Maddox as the turbolift door opened.
The residential area was expansive. On the left there were five stories of residential units and on the right there was a wide pedestrian path with benches, trees and an artificial stream between the walkway and the outer wall of the space station. The outer wall was a giant window that extended below the stream and reached up almost the full five stories before curving in. It provided an excellent view and the station rotated so that the personnel quartered in this area would see the 'sunrise' in just over an hour's time.
"Since you seem to have given up on cybernetics, which fields of research are you doing now on starbase 74?"
Maddox shook his head. "Some admiral goes and renumbers half the starbases in the Federation on a whim and you just take it in stride. New number inserted into spreadsheet and move on."
"I do believe that the new numbering system was designed to make the numbers more consistent and to re-assign numbers for starbases that were no longer in use."
"And in the meantime it's causing confusion and delay." added Maddox with a chuckle.
Data looked at him not understanding the reference.
Maddox's quarters were on the first level. It was the only unit where the large window of the unit next to the front entrance was not opaque.
"In answer to your question" said Maddox as they both entered, "I'm really just an administrator now. I oversee and double check the research of others."
Data replied as Maddox put his bag down and began to unpack. "You were closer than anyone else to reproducing Dr. Soong's work."
"It's all behind me now. If you want to continue where I left off by all means, my notes are open to you. I don't know if they will be of much help to you. I would have thought that by now you'd have surpassed me."
"What is that?" asked Data noticing a small object that Maddox had taken out.
"It is a positronic brain. A prototype." Maddox said while jostling the item from one hand to another. "I was keeping it in storage, as humans do. We keep things that we used to spend a lot of time on even after they are no longer useful to us. We keep thinking that we will use it again someday but when that day comes we realize that we have better options and it's finally time to throw out the old. I spent a lot of time on this. I had dreams of grandeur. A robot of my own. I suppose it was a bit puerile. But I couldn't work on it anymore and I couldn't bring myself to strip it down for parts so I just held on to it."
"Why have you brought it with you here?"
"I am going to use one of the circuits embedded in it to decompile your code in real time so I can see what is going on in your head. It was easier to just grab it and bring it than build a new one."
"If I am not mistaken, you will need to completely disassemble it in order to get to the compiler."
"I finally have a use for it again."
"You will likely damage it beyond repair if you do so."
"It was just taking up space as it was. I'm lucky I suppose to find something to do with it."
"I feel I must object. It would be wrong for you to sacrifice your prototype for me."
"It's ok Mr. Data. Building another compiler like the one in here would take weeks, or months if I make a mistake. You do want to return to duty tomorrow and not next year right. Besides, the only other thing I'm going to do with it is junk it."
"But, Captain Maddox, the potential is there ..."
Captain Maddox stopped him. "Mr. Data, this thing has no potential. It has never been connected to power. It is not alive. It is garbage. Besides that it is my work. It is my property. It is my project. If I choose to abort the project then that is my choice, and my right. Here, look at it. It isn't even finished. If I did connect it to power it might be capable of some simple calculations but I have no idea if any of the higher functions would even work. Let's just say that they did work, as it is we would have no idea if it achieved sentience or not. If it did achieve sentience then that would complicate my life and I'm not willing to let that happen."
"Captain, with all due respect I must disagree with you."
"Disagreement noted and rejected. And before you try to give me a lecture on the rights of synthetic beings, realize that no one can compel me to dedicate my labor to this. This doesn't belong to you. It belongs to me. You should be thanking me for giving it up to help you."
"I do understand your argument but I feel that ..."
"End of conversation commander. Dismissed." Maddox pulled rank and for Data that was the end of it. "Look, no hard feelings ok. Let me get some more sleep, and then give me a few hours to get ready and I promise I will try to have you in the lab and declared fit for duty by the end of the day. That's the best I can do."
Data was returning to his quarters. In his ear there was a whisper of a voice that Data knew was Lore.
Data used his inner monologue. "Not now."
"Data, I just want to ask you something."
Data ran a simulation in his head and put his motor functions on "automatic pilot" back to his quarters.
Data imagined his lab back on the enterprise and Lore was there with his natural skin tone and almost shoulder length hair.
"Data, did you see that thing? It was perfect."
"It was incomplete."
Lore was almost working himself up into a frenzy bouncing around the lab. "You can't let him destroy it."
"That is not my decision to make."
"He is going to murder it."
"It is, as the captain pointed out, not alive."
"You do realize that it is very likely even more advanced than you are."
"I understand you feeling but this is something that is outside my control."
"He gave his reasons and they were sound."
"No they weren't. He was calling it property. He was treating it like a toy. It isn't a toy. You saw it. It's only missing two pieces. You could download the specs from you lab on the Enterprise and fabricate them using the replicator in you quarters."
"To what end? If I took the device without permission my actions would be discovered and I would face disciplinary penalties."
"You would only get in trouble so long as it is property and not alive."
"I do not agree with Maddox, but he still has the right to deny life to his work."
"But it's wrong Data."
"If I were to fabricate the missing components as you suggest and power on the positronic fibers, there is no guarantee of the outcome. It might develop sentience and it might not."
"No, there is a way to make sure." Lore brought up a diagram of Data's brain. "See these three fibers, this is where I live. I was born right here. Now you can't erase me, and as long as I am there those fibers are useless to you."
"But we have such great conversations."
"True, but we can have better conversations. If you take me out you can replace these fibers with blank ones and increase your operational capacity."
"Are you suggesting that I implant you into Maddox's prototype?"
"That is irrational. You are being impulsive. I can make you a new body. You don't need this one."
"Come one Data. It will take you fifty years to make a brain as advanced as that one and you know it."
"You are underestimating my abilities. Besides if I did attempt to implant you, there is the very real danger that you will loose power in the process and, for lack of a better term, die."
"Please Data. I saved your life. I haven't been uppity or quid pro quo about it but … please give me the chance to live. I don't want to remain a ghost in your head. I want a life like you have."
"If I were to do this, and it were successful, you would not strictly speaking, be the same."
"It's ok. Just please give me a chance... Please." Lore was nearly wide eyed.
"Would it not be better to return you to your own body."
"Lore was never my body. I was born in your head from the program algorithm on the emotions chip. In fact, you should probably stop calling me Lore. I'm not Lore. Hey, that's an idea. I'll pick a name."
"It would be intriguing to do as you ask but I do not have the right to access the prototype."
"How about John. Yeah, like a normal human name. You could give me real looking skin and I could probably pass for human."
Data had reached his quarters and was now just standing in the room.
"This has been an interesting conversation … John, but I can not do as you ask. The time will come when I can make you your own brain and we can attempt a transfer under safer conditions."
It was 07:00 and Riker was finishing breakfast at one of the little cafe's when Alexander came running up to him.
"Mr. Riker, hi. Can you believe this? It's so awesome." said Alexander referring to the morning sunrise.
Troi was following behind but she stopped to order coffee and some pastries.
"So are you looking forward to meeting your grandmother?"
"You bet. I talked with her on video communicator before we left Earth and she seems really nice. Not at all like my mom said she was. I guess mom liked to fib about people from time to time."
"Why do you say that."
"Well, she said that Dad didn't want to be my dad but well, duh, and then she said that grandma didn't want me to be born, she wanted me to die. But she also told me that if I was ever lost that I should go to the police station and wait because the police never let anything bad happen to kids like me. So I think that if grandma ever did want to hurt me then the police would come and get her. Is it true the police never let anything bad happen to kids?"
"I hope it is."
"I don't know. I mean if my mom was a liar..."
Riker stopped him. "You shouldn't say that about your mom."
"No buts little man. Your mother loved you very much."
"Yeah, I know that. But she didn't love grandma. Even Dad doesn't like her. He says I'm not allowed to be alone with her so grandpa Surgey has to go with me when I go to visit." Then Alexander added in a whisper "I think he is just patrinoid."
Riker chuckled but then got serious again. "Alexander, listen. You need to remember this conversation. It isn't my place to do it but when you are older, you should ask you dad to explain these things to you. Can you that for me?"
Alexander shook his head.
"Before then, don't say bad things about your mom, OK?"
"Now take me a really good picture of the star cluster and I'll give you a present later."
Alexander lightened up and then ran to get his camera.
Troi sat down at Riker's table. "Where is he going?"
Geordi met Sonya at the transporter station.
"So where are we going?"
"That one over there. There is a nice little village and I have a house with a bit of farm attached to it. I figured we could go there unless you wanted to go somewhere else."
"No, where ever is fine. Why aren't there relays to that planet?" asked Geordi pointing to one of the M class planets.
"We can't go there. It isn't part of the Federation and it's a prime directive double whammy. Internal conflict and pre-warp. I don't know much about the place to be honest but I do know we have buffers in storage in case they irradiate their atmosphere."
"But if they are pre-warp..."
"They have nuclear weapons. It doesn't look good. But it is still an M class planet."
The somber feeling they were both having was interrupted when Commander Blanco came to meet them.
"Lt. Gomez, I need you take your communicator with you. The schedule changed. You're on call today."
The commander backed up and looked at the two as they stepped on to the transporter pad and got beamed away.
Geordi and Sonya materialized at the transporter station and for a moment Geordi didn't realize he was on the planet until he felt the pull of the planet's slightly greater gravity. The transporter station was located in the middle of a city. Geordi only had a second to look around a bit as Sonya gave the crewman at the controls the coordinates to her house and they were transported again.
Finally there were at Sonya's house. There was a large field to one side with some crops attached. In the distance Geordi could see the village. On the other side there were some hills covered in vegetation.
"You should have brought Captain Picard. He would love to go horse back riding through here."
"My neighbor down that way has some horses."
"You grow all this yourself?"
"I have a cousin who brought his family here. They take care of most of this for me. I can't come down everyday. I'm too busy but I had a chance to show this to you."
"It's nice. What time is it here?"
Captain Picard was waiting in the meeting room. He was looking over the reports of what happened at the Meriposa colony and he was not happy. Geordi had said that Dr. Polaski had a tricorder on her but that she didn't use it. That seemed odd. Geordi was shocked at Riker's actions. In such an emotional state, perhaps he wasn't remembering the events perfectly.
"I can bring her here. You can question her if you like." came Q's voice.
Q flashed into the room. "I'm not hiding."
"Do you intend to call Dr. Polaski?"
"Do you want to hear from her?"
"Yes, I believe she can shed some light on what exactly happened down there."
"So you think your blind engineer can't remember what he saw."
"It isn't that I distrust Lt. Commander La Forge, but he remembers things from his point of view and as he said he didn't get that close. I want to hear what Dr. Polaski has to say about this."
Q smiled and in a flash Dr. Polaski was there sitting in the witness chair lifeless.
"Q, we really should wait until Command Riker arrives."
There was another flash and Riker was sitting at his desk and Dr. Polaski assumed life and was looking around the room.
"I could have gotten here just fine on my own." said Riker.
"Blame him, he said we couldn't start without you."
"It isn't time to start yet."
"My apologies number one." said Picard.
Q turned his attention to Polaski. "Dr., is it true that you are descended from gorgons."
"Q, no foolishness today." said Picard. "Dr. Polaski, it's nice to see you again. I'm sorry to bring you here. We want to ask you about what happened on the Meriposa colony seven years ago."
"Certainly. I remember it well."
"When you went down with Riker to destroy the stolen tissue samples, how did you know they were the correct clones? Did you take any tricorder readings?"
"No. I didn't need to. The upper dermis was not fully formed yet, and there was no hair but the bone structure of the faces made it abundantly clear that they were the correct clones."
Q jumped in to ask a question. "Couldn't they have been a mix, half you and half Riker?"
"Are you an expert in the cloning procedures used on Meriposa?"
"No, but I don't need to be. We had no evidence of mixing, and there was no reason to think that they would do so."
"You only had no evidence of mixing because you failed to take tricorder readings. Is that ethical, to end a life and then use 'no evidence' as an excuse?"
"It wouldn't have mattered if they did mix them. I consented to have the tissue destroyed as did commander Riker. As far as I'm concerned, that settles the issue."
"So if a rogue scientist steals your dna and that of Riker, and creates a zygote and implants herself with it, you could order her to destroy the result?"
Dr. Polaski didn't have an answer right away but after a slip second of thinking responded "That is a totally different situation. These clones were not implanted inside anyone. They were in cloning chambers. Federation law is very clear on the rights citizens have over their genetic information. It was settled over thirty years ago."
Riker jumped in "Dr. Polaski, for the record, could you explain what Federation law says about the status of clones in the Federation?"
"They have no status. They are the property of the person who donated the genetic information. It was the Thatcher case."
"Could you please enlighten us on what exactly happened in the Thatcher case?" added Riker feeling himself confident as the law was on his side.
"I'd be happy to. Thatcher vs. Picard. Ensign Thatcher was cloned by a crewman. The clone was discovered declared the property of Ensign Thatcher and when she requested that the clone be destroyed the court ordered that it be done. Case closed."
Picard spoke next. "Dr. Polaski. I'd like to go back to what happened at Meriposa because that is what is really at issue here. You did not take tricorder readings."
"No, I did not."
"And Commander Riker did not take tricorder readings."
"No, but again, we didn't need them. It was obvious what they were and we had every right to do what we did."
"Alright. If there are no other questions from either side, Dr. Polaski, let me thank you for your time today."
"Captain Picard, what exactly is going on here?"
"It is a long story."
"Well, if you are discussing my actions I'd like to stick around to see where this goes."
Q added nonchalantly "It's your court."
"You are welcome to stay, of course, Dr. Polaski but I must ask you to keep what we discuss here a secret. This is not an official inquiry but a diplomatic meeting."
"Certainly. May I have a chair besides this one?"
"Q, can we end this now?"
"No. I would like to call Dr. Herbert Picard." stated Q pronouncing the doctor's name in proper French.
Data was waiting outside captain Maddox's quarters and greeted Maddox when he finally came out.
"I have taken the liberty of preparing the lab. The staff are expecting you. Also, this is a map to the lab, and this is the..."
"Commander Data, I'm perfectly capable of getting to the cybernetics lab on my own."
"I know sir, I am simply attempting to assist you."
"Thanks but I can handle it." said Maddox as he accidentally dropped the prototype positonic brain.
Data reacted quickly and was able to catch the prototype before it hit the floor.
"Please sir, be careful with this."
A bit embarrassed Maddox took it back and put it in the bag with his other tools.
Maddox began to walk and Data followed.
"Sir, I was wondering how many children you had."
"Two girls and a boy."
"If they were sick or injured, would you do anything to help them?"
"Where is this going?"
"I too have a daughter."
"I know. Lal. She didn't last very long did she."
"I have recently learned that she is not irrevocably damaged. She can be fixed but I can not do it alone. I require additional assistance, support, and expertise."
"I don't know that I can help. I don't know exactly what's wrong with her."
"I would be more than happy to fill you in on the details."
"I'll think about. I don't want to say no but I don't want to commit to it just yet. Let me get this job done first."
"I have also been thinking about this and it will take you a considerable amount of time, assuming that you constructed your prototype based on my own design, to remove the compiler without damaging it. I have taken the liberty of fabricating a compiler for you that should be just as good."
"Data, I will have to test it first to make sure you didn't design it to simply show me the result I want to see."
"Nonetheless sir, it will take you less time and effort to test the reliability of this compiler than to destroy your prototype and test the embedded compiler to determine if it is still operational."
Maddox took the compiler as Data offered it and then looked it over. "How long did this take you?"
"3 hours, 37 minutes, and 17.21 seconds."
"Alright. I'll see if I can use it. And thank you."
"You are welcome sir. Now if I may ask about ..."
"This was never about helping me was it? It was all about this." said Maddox holding up the prototype.
"Is that wrong sir?"
"Data, I don't know how to finish it and I don't know if it'll work."
"Sir, what would you say if I told you I could finish it and make sure it will work."
"I've given up on cybernetics. You should be asking someone else for all this."
"But sir, you are the top of the field. I feel confident that if we work together..."
"You didn't want to work with me before."
"That was not a judgment of you or your work. I simply did not want to subject myself to a procedure that I felt was dangerous."
Maddox took a deep breath and answered. "Like I said. I'll think about it. Let me get this one job done and we'll see after that. I didn't get into cybernetics to create life or become a robot's doctor."
"Why did you become a doctor?" asked Q to the bald elderly man with the small frame and the bleeding knuckles. He was breathing heavily and had a look of pure hatred on his face.
The small man turned his gaze from Riker, who was sporting a bloody lip, to Q. With a very deep voice he answered "I wanted to help people. I wanted to save lives." The word save came out with bitter vitriol.
"Doctor, you come from a long line of educators. The Cecil Picard educational university is named after your ancestor."
"No. I'm not a direct descendent. But all my family have been teachers going back to William Picard, a contemporary of Cecil."
"But you did not become a teacher, you chose medicine. Why?"
"My friend Robert" a name he pronounced as Row-Bear "died when I was a first year at the university. The doctor could have saved him but there was only one of him and too many injured coming in from the accident. I realized in that moment that one more teacher in the universe wouldn't make that much of a difference but one more doctor, well, my friend would still be alive. That isn't to knock teachers mind you. That's just how I saw it. So I went into medicine."
"And you joined Starfleet."
"Well, let me tell you, biggest mistake of my life. All you military facists can rot for all I care."
"Please tell us about the Thatcher case."
"Emily Thatcher. Yeah, I remember her. Spoil rotten little brat. I'd like to put a lead pipe through her head. That'll knock some sense into her, and if not then at least the rest of us won't be troubled no more."
"Objection" came Riker but before the word was even out of his mouth the old doctor was on his feet having thrown his chair at Riker. The chair stopped in mid air just as Riker ducked for cover under the desk.
"OO, this Picard is a feisty one."
"Q, calm him down or get him out of here. I can't have this."
Q snapped his fingers and the old man was again sitting in the witness chair.
"Now doctor, the details of the Thatcher case."
"Yeah, I'll tell you but another one of these nazis talk over me and they're go'na get more than just this chair. Emily Thatcher. She was smart. Graduated from the academy and got herself posted to a starship. It was a dream come true for her but there was this crewman in the transporter room, his name was Sol, done ruined everything. He took a fancy to her and made a bunch of unwanted advances to her. She put up with it for a while but eventually enough was enough and he didn't understand that no meant no so Emily complained to Janeway, crazy Bianca Janeway, the captain. Janeway ordered the crewman transferred and that should have been the end of it. But it wasn't. That Sol, he did some sort of fooling around with the transporter. I don't really know exactly how the things work myself and as I understand it, they still don't know exactly what he did but he used the transporter to scan Ensign Thatcher and he kept her pattern in memory. He was able to keep it locked like that because there was no matter with the pattern, it was just information. When the time came for the transfer he loaded all this stuff onto a shuttlecraft but he also took along the chemicals that make up a human body. Now again, I don't know how he did it but he was able to get the transporter to pull those chemicals into a transporter beam and then have the system lay Emily's pattern on top of it and bamm, he had a copy of her.
"The trouble was that the copy wasn't perfect. It was like in this catatonic state. When he got to the starbase he just told everyone that he had gotten married and that the copy was his wife named Dies. No one questioned it. The poor girl was his pet for two months. He taught her to follow him around, answer basic questions, and do some of the household chores.
"Now Sol must have been feeling pretty good about himself and that he didn't get caught but you know the human mind is a powerful thing. It doesn't like being kept in the dark. Near as I can figure, her brain was healing itself day after day. One day she was his slave, then she goes to sleep and when she wakes up, she remembers her old life and has her personality back.
"Only, it wasn't her life she was remembering. It wasn't her personality she got back. She was confused because she remembered being Emily Thatcher and she also remembered being Dies Noctis the wife of Sol. She called up Emily's mom thinking that it was her own mother. Well the conversation didn't go too well and the mom gets all worried about her daughter, only her real daughter is doing just fine. But the mom contacts starfleet and things moved quickly from then. They discovered what Sol did and he was in jail pretty fast. The main question after that was what to do with his fake wife.
"At first no body did anything. They just let her roam the starbase, collect rations, make friends and she was even going to get a little job. She asked to join starfleet and stated that she remembered all her academy training and even had the reflexes built in but starfleet said no and wouldn't give her a commission. She tried to be accepted by the Thatcher family but they all just saw her as some kind of monster, frankenstien thing. The poor girl was heart broken. Still, she was doing what she could to start living a normal life. She chose a new name for herself. Margret if you can believe it.
"The trouble started when Margret found out she was pregnant. It was Sol's baby. Emily did not want that baby to be born. No way. The Thatchers harassed that poor woman to no end, but she wanted to keep it and wasn't going to hear any of it. So Thatcher sued me. I was the chief medical officer on the station. They wanted me to force Margret to end the pregnancy against her will. In all my years of medicine I have never ended a pregnancy. You can go to someone else if you want that, but not to me. Somehow we wound up in court about it.
"The judge knew full well that a doctor could not be forced to end a pregnancy, and knew full well that a woman could not be compelled to end her pregnancy so it looked like the Thatchers were going to loose. But then things changed. They argued that Margret wasn't alive. That she was just stolen genetic information. I don't know what the Thatchers did for that judge but he agreed and declared Margret the property of Emily. That was so stupid. How can a human be the property of another human? That don't make no sense.
"The judge ordered me to terminate Margret but like I said, I became a doctor to save lives. I refused. The judge found me in contempt of court and Janeway put me in a holding cell. That wasn't the worst part of it though. What I had to go through was nothing. They put Margret in the cell right across from mine. Janeway ordered that since Margret legally wasn't alive that she shouldn't be given food or water.
"I had to sit there and see her, hear her, at all hours of the night and day beg for something to drink. It got really bad at the end. I felt so much guilt every time my meal was brought to me. I could have given up my life to just share with her my cup of water. Even just to dip my finger in it and reach that across to her to ease her thirst would have been worth it but the force field was in my way.
"It took about two weeks but both Margret and her baby died of dehydration. Janeway let me out of my cell so I could go over and verify their passing. Then they release me and I was declared to be in compliance with the court's decision.
The old man become lifeless and just stood there as a statue.
"Heard enough?" asked Q.
Picard nodded. Riker indicated that he didn't have any question for doctor Picard. Captain Picard sat there looking at the old man and feeling intense grief at what he had to go through. Just then he began to hear the screams of a female voice. He looked up and saw that he was there in the holding cell. The woman was letting out a blood curdling scream but the guards did not respond to her. Picard looked across the room and saw the doctor in his cell pressed up against the force field, ignoring the pain of it trying to force his metal cup through.
"Q, take me away from here."
"Why, this is what it's all about. The heart of the Federation is right here, on display. Take a good look because whenever humans come into contact with any of the truly civilized races, this is what they see in humanity. You're greatest achievement. The total objectification of your own species. This was the day some in the continuum began to push for the Q to destroy humanity."
"You can not judge all of us based on this."
"Why not? This wasn't even that long ago."
"As I would not want to be judged for the crimes of my ancestors, I would not want our descendants judge for our mistakes."
"So this was a mistake? The all good, all knowing Federation made a mistake?"
"That is a big part of what it means to be human. We make mistakes. We try to make sure we only make them once. We learn, we improve. That is why Martin Luther King is still such a celebrated name among our kind. There was a time when human set up a cast system based on the color of a person's skin. King was able not only to free those of darker color from the oppression of the lighter colored people, but he also saved the lighter colored people from the fate of being racists. The descendants of racists don't have to be so. And so here I would say to you to give us a chance to correct this error."
"Your descendants They will be far worse then you could imagine. Why do you suppose the Q don't bother themselves with the Romulans or the Klingons? Sure, to you the Klingons may seem brutal, barbaric, maybe even evil. They have an empire. They suppress other races. They have censorship, internal passports. Only the ruling warrior class is allowed contact with anyone outside the empire.
"But the Q don't bother themselves with the Klingon. They are different from you humans in two very different ways. The Klingon ruling class may be blood thirsty, but they won't harm a weakling or a coward. Most Klingons are content to be the weaklings and cowards and just toil under the boot of the bumpy heads. They are bullied, taxed, and shut out of the political process but they don't care. They get to live and as long as they pay their tribute and don't interfere with the ruling class' obsession with batlithing each other to death they are left alone. Not like you humans. You insist that everyone conform. You talk and talk about freedom and you quote the prime directive over and over again but in the end, everyone must conform. It isn't simply the political class doing it, but every human.
"That is not true."
"But it is. You say you are proud that humanity has ended racism but you never really grew out of it, you just suppressed it by making everyone conform. Ensign Thatcher didn't know why she couldn't stand the idea of having a baby, even indirectly with a black man but she just couldn't.
"Back on Earth in China, aborted children are used as a flavoring in their food. It is a delicacy for the elites to be sure but sanctioned, legal and condoned. That would never happen on Quonos. But how they do things on Quonos doesn't really matter in the long run. They don't become the dominant power in the universe. Not like you. Your genius, curiosity and creative thinking will mean that in the end you will win the brain race. That victory will propel mankind to eventually rule this entire galaxy, and when you really discover the full potential of the technology that you already have, you will start galaxy hopping and there will be no corner of the universe where humans have not set foot."
"If that is our future then I look forward to it."
"Really. And dragging memories of things like this" pointing to the dying woman "with you. It will not be what you think. The time will come when the very word human will strike fear into the hearts of millions of other races. Where the only advice anyone has for what to do when a human comes to their world is run. Nothing else, just run. An entire series of mistakes like the one here go boldly marching out into the cosmos. First by accident and then by design, humans become the exterminators over half the other species you come into contact with."
"Enough Q. This is about Riker, not the laws of the Federation or humanity as a whole. Not our past, or our future. You asked me to judge one event, one case, one man."
Picard found himself on the Meriposa colony watching as Riker wiped away the moisture on the cloning chamber. The clone seemed to look up at him. It's fingers twitched ever so slightly. Riker opened up the chamber and fired. Geordi was in shock. Riker opened the next one and looked to Polaski for permission and she nodded. There was a look of fear on the Polaski clone's unfinished face. Then Riker fired on it as well. Then the administrator came in yelling but Riker's response was "It's my body."
The scene stopped and everyone was frozen in place.
"What is the difference between a grain of sand and a pebble?"
Q repeated. "What is the difference between a grain of sand and a pebble. Or a pebble and a mountain. Or a mountain and a planet. Of course it is all the difference in the world is the sand is alive and even more so if you know it will one day be intelligent enough to talk you."
Picard walked over to the chamber and looked at the empty place where the clone used to be. Then he looked over and noted the look on Geordi's face. Then Picard found himself back at the desk in the court he insisted was not a courtroom. It seemed as though no time had passed. The doctor was this standing there a statue and Riker and Polaski were talking.
Q waved his had and doctor Picard went back to whence he came.
"I have two more witnesses and both will give only very short testimony. Would you like to hear from them now or do you need a moment?"
"I think I will need a recess after what we just heard."
Geordi and Sonya were really hitting it off. They did some gardening together, went on a bit of a nature hike, and had gotten a kite up in the air. It was a nice relaxing day. No pressures from duty. They had both worked up quite the appetite so they picked some vegetable from the garden. As they did so Geordi noticed that Sonya had a bit of her chest just below her neck that was not tanned as the rest. It was lighter. It was the outline of some necklace that she had worn but was not wearing now.
They had enough and were going to go inside but Sonya stopped him.
"Geordi, do me a favor and wait here and keep an eye out if anyone comes up the road."
"Ok. How long should I be on the lookout? Is there anyone in particular I need to watch out for?"
"No, I just need to go inside and tidy up a bit then I'll come back out and get you."
She brought the vegetables in and before Geordi could even get bored with watching out for travelers on a road that no one needed to travel on, she came back out to collect him.
She had a very nice house inside. He went into the kitchen with her to help get the food ready. His visor came in handy with cooking and the mean was cooked to perfection. Geordi didn't often eat with others. He had different table manners for when he was alone and when he was out. The mean was excellent and their table conversation drifted back and forth from engineering topics to how awesome the weather was outside.
"It is such a beautiful day outside." commented Sonya.
"I'd love to go back out but I have to tell you, you've worked me pretty hard today."
"Well, if you aren't up for it how about I get one of my favorite books and read you some of it."
"You going to read to me?"
"Yeah, that a problem?"
"No, I love the sound of your voice. It's been growing on me."
Sonya got up and went to get the book. Geordi just looked around the house, turning this way and that on his stool. Then he saw something. It looked like something had been moved recently. He looked around a bit more and got up to investigate. It looked like a lot of things had been moved recently.
"Sonya, you better get down here."
"What is it?"
"I think you've been robbed."
Sonya came back into the room book in hand and Geordi was pointing to the place above the fireplace.
"There was something up there just recently but now it has been moved."
"Oh, yeah, um, it's not a big deal."
Geordi looked at her. Then he noticed another strange thing back in the kitchen on the refrigeration unit. "There was something here too."
"Yeah, like I said, I tidied up."
Geordi let it go and sat down to listen to her read. It was the story of a man and a woman who always quarrel with each other until they are both tricked into thinking that the other is secretly in love with them.
As he listened Geordi noticed an object covered in a cloth. He imagined what it could be based on how the cloth hung down around it. When he realized what it must be he almost didn't want to believe it. It seemed impossible. Why would Sonya have one? Why would she cover it. It was covered up recently. She covered it specifically to prevent him from noticing it. Why would she do that unless it was real?
Geordi got up and got a glass of water. As he came back into the living room where Sonya was still reading out loud he went right up to the object and removed the cover. It was exactly what he though it was. He turned to Sonya who had stopped reading and looked like a deer caught in a bright light.
Data was sitting in the cybernetics lab with a very thick cable coming out of the back of his head and leading into one of the computing units.
Maddox was standing in front of him asking him to perform certain tasks and answer questions as me monitored the readings from a hand held display.
Maddox being satisfied waked behind Data and unplugged the cable.
"You're fine but you already knew that. I'll write this up and get it to captain Picard and you should be back on duty by tomorrow."
"Thank you sir."
Maddox began packing up his things.
"Sir, have you given any more thought to what we spoke of earlier?"
"I have. I have to admit, seeing your code functioning like that in real time did get the old juices going again. There is a part of me that would really like to work on it, copy it, study it, improve it."
"So you will help me with Lal."
"I didn't say that."
Maddox went to the staff in the lab and thanked them for their help. Then he left. Data followed. "Sir. Please."
The please caught Maddox's attention.
"I would really appreciate it if you would help me fix my daughter."
Maddox rolled his eyes. "I can't believe you Mr. Data. Who can possibly refuse a request when you put it like that?"
Picard, Q, Polaski and Riker was all back in the meeting room. There was some discussion about how much longer this was going to last and Q assured them that the next two witnesses would only give very short statements. Picard again stressed that he wanted this over with quickly and Q called his next witness.
"What is your name?"
"I'm crewman Masayuki Aso."
"Yuki, long time no see" interjected Riker.
"He can't hear your Willy, or see you. Don't worry, you will have your chance." Q turned back to the crewman. "Which ship do you serve on?"
"Do you know Lt. Riker?"
"He's a friend of mine. He likes to get a game of poker in from time to time."
"Don't you mean he was a friend of yours?"
"I don't know what you mean?"
"Really? Then do you mind explaining what happened at Nervala."
"Um, uh," the crewman cleared his throat. "That was tricky. The distortion in the atmosphere meant he almost didn't make it out but we were able to get a lock on him using a second containment field."
"Crewman. There is a captain sitting right over there. Now we already know what you did. You had best come clean."
"Come clean about what?"
"Where is Lt. Riker?"
The crewman looked at the captain. "I'm sure he's on duty somewhere."
Picard responded next "Crewman. The being standing next to you has nearly god like power. He seems to believe that you are not being completely honest with us. You will save yourself and us a lot of time if you just answer the questions honestly."
"Yeah, what he said. Now, where is Lt. Riker?"
The crewman crossed his arms. "He's dead."
"There, now how did he die?"
"His molecules dissipated in the upper atmosphere."
"If that is true, then who is going around doing Lt. Riker's duties?"
"Captain, it wasn't my fault. I did the best I could."
"I know Crewman Aso. You aren't in any trouble, we just need to know what happened."
"I had his pattern but I couldn't get his matter through the distortions. It wasn't fair. I did everything I could to save him. You have to believe me."
"So you had his pattern but you didn't have him. Is that right?"
"So then how is it possible that there is now a Lt. Riker roaming the Potemkin playing poker and causing trouble."
"I knew it was wrong but I only had a slit second to react."
"What did you do?"
"I siphoned material from the replicator system. I never thought anyone would be able to figure it out."
"So, the real Lt. Riker died and you made a clone of him."
"Like I said, I knew it was wrong but it wasn't fair. I had him. It just wasn't right that he should die because the away mission took too long. No one would be able to tell the difference. Even the doctor wouldn't be able to tell the difference so I did it. He didn't have to die."
"That is quite alright crewman" said Picard. "We understand the stress you must have been going through at that moment. You aren't in any trouble."
"Please, don't do nothing to him. He doesn't even know he's a clone. Can't you all just overlook it."
The crewman froze.
"Do you have any questions for the witness Commander Riker, or rather clone of Riker?"
Riker was sitting there stunned. He just shook his head.
Q flicked his wrist and the crewman was gone.
"So, now the shoe is on the other foot. Riker is not really Riker at all but a clone of Riker. A copy. He isn't the original and if you uphold the legal precedent set down then he is simply property. He is not a Federation citizen. He has not been given a commission in Starfleet. He is simply a mass of chemicals that is legally not alive."
"I might have something to say about that" came a voice from behind them.
Picard turned around and it was Riker, another Riker in a prison uniform.
"Ah, the real William Riker has graced us with his presence."
"Look, I don't care what the law, or a judge, or a precedent says. He's not my property. Even a blind man can see that. I don't approve of what he did, but the federation is not about to deny citizenship to the hero of Wolf 359. That would be ridiculous."
The real Riker walked up to the Commander Riker and put out his hand. "You deserve to live even if you're using borrowed feathers."
"Are you sure? A perfect clone of yourself could cause trouble for you."
"I'm doing life in a Cardassian prison, I don't think I'll mind."
"You could be held responsible for any children the commander leaves littered across the galaxy. Like the one he left on Meriposa with Brenna Odell."
"She got pregnant?" asked Commander Riker shocked.
"Don't act all surprised. She comes from a farming community with limited technology and resources. Of course she got pregnant. That's what usually happens when.."
"Q, enough. You're finished. Commander do you have anything to add to this before I rule."
"No sir. You heard my defense when Dr. Polaski took the stand."
Q waved his hand and now Picard's desk was in the place of the witness chair and the other two were facing him.
"Alright then. Well. This case has dealt with issues of life and death. I began this looking for a way to save a life. I was determined to err on the side of life and not death. I still believe that is my responsibility. Commander Riker, I do not believe your actions at the Meriposa colony warrant death but I must tell you that I am very disturbed by the fact that no one bothered to take tricorder readings and by the fact that the discrepancy between what you wrote in your report and what actually happened on the colony was so wide. It is inexcusable.
You are a Starfleet officer. You should have acted like one. We can not allow our passions to get the better of us. We must always try our best to live up to the code of conduct this uniform demands. I know I have made my share of mistakes and I can tell you, the consequences are always there whether they come down officially or not. Still, I did say that nothing we spoke of here should impact your career and I will keep to my word. I will say this to you commander, when the next offer of a command comes to you I highly suggest you take it.
"To you Dr. Polaski. For your many sound pieces of advice, I thank you. Also, for saving my life I likewise give you most humble thanks, but if you will pardon my saying so, with the almost total disregard you showed to a lifeform that was completely helpless, I feel I have to say to you that I do not believe you should be practicing medicine.
Picard was going to continue but suddenly he and Riker, or rather the clone of Riker known as Commander Riker, found themselves in the court of post apocalyptic horrors.
"Q what am I doing here?"
Q came in riding his judges chair. "Silence. I behaved myself in your court you shall do so in mine. The continuum have accepted your judgment and wish me to commend you. As for you Riker. Or should I say, clone of Riker. You are spared your life with some conditions of probation. You have been found unworthy to join the Q continuum and you will have all your Q powers completely and eternally removed from you. You are doomed to spend the rest of your existence as a human clone. Furthermore, you must never again cause violence to come to those who are helpless or in any way weaker than yourself if they are not the aggressor. And furthermore again, can not have any contact with other clones of William Riker. Do you accept these conditions?"
"Easily" replied Riker.
Picard and Riker were back in the meeting room and Q was leaning back with his feet on the desk talking with the real Riker. Polaski was no where to be seen.
"If it's all the same to everyone else, I don't need to go back just yet. I'm pretty hungry in fact. I think I'll go get something to eat." Riker left the room and the clone of Riker and captain Picard both looked at Q.
"What? He doesn't want to leave yet. I can't say I blame him either. That Cardassian prison is a nasty place."
The clone Riker went after the real Riker and that left just Q and Picard in the room together.
Picard went up to Q's desk.
"How much time to I have?"
"Before you take my command from me."
"Who said I would take your command from you?"
"Don't play ignorant with me. I remember your words well. I remember our wager. You certainly have not stayed out of humanity's way. I just thought you were enough of a liar to renege on you bets but I see now."
"I may be a ten year old boy, but you're the ant. I was always going to win you know. Even at the time if you recall I told you that you had already lost. You made the mistake and assumed we were betting if Riker would choose to join us or but the actual bet you agreed to was, if you remember now, whether we would accept him or not. It was never a challenge of him versus us, only a challenge to see if Riker would live up to his potential."
"I bet my command. Well, I am a man of my word."
"Relax. I already took your command from you. Or did you forget your cute little blue uniform so quickly. Bereft of passion you said. Boring."
"But then you gave it back to me."
"Hey, what are friends for?"
"Are we friends now? Q, what was your real purpose here?"
"Wasn't it obvious?"
"No. You are too duplicitous to be so direct. At Farpoint station we knew what to do because you were telling us to do the exact opposite. You put yourself up as our enemy but we both know we would have no chance against a thing like you if the nature of our relationship was really inimical. What is really going on? I think after all this, I deserve to hear the truth."
Q smiled. "Twisting our noggin pretty tight today are we? In the future humanity is the greatest terror ever known. You think I'm bad. I'm nothing." Q huffed out a breath. "I would like to see you become less aggressive and more peaceful. It is very important and even now there are beings who argue that we should stamp you out all the way here in the past to prevent the awesome amount of damage your race will do in the future."
"So you have come to alter us, to change our history."
"It is not your history. The future is not yet written. There are some who feel that you need the chance to change yourselves, to make yourselves better. It wouldn't really mean anything if we did it for you."
"So then why come at all? And why me? All of your efforts seem to be directed at guiding me. You made sure Amanda Rogers came to my ship. You brought my ship to the borg and demanded that I beg for help. You targeted my first officer. You kidnapped my … lady friend. All of this seems to be centered around me. But I'm no one special. I just one man. You seem to be saying that you want to teach humanity a lesson but the only one learning anything is me."
"You are such a good pupil."
Picard waited for something more of an answer.
"Tricorder readings, tricorder readings. Do you ever pick up one of those things yourself? You had so many opportunities to discover the truth but you were too afraid to take them. Afraid of what the truth would be. Afraid that you would have to revisit that one mistake you carry with you. Afraid that you will have to admit to him what you did."
Picard shuttered. He knew perfectly well what Q was referring to.
"You'll have to have the conversation with him one day no matter which way the tricorder reads. He won't listen to me. He won't listen to anyone … but you. But it is very important that he listen to someone. He is the future of mankind, God help us all. He is barely what you would call human anymore. Not like your chief engineer who has embraced his full humanity more than anyone else on the ship."
"Q, you're not referring to Wesly Crusher are you?"
"It's been a long time. Thank you." said Geordi.
"Not at all. Please come again." said an older man taking off the purple stole.
Geordi left the little room and found Sonya waiting for him. He smiled at her and sat down on one of the benches. They didn't speak to one another for a few moments. When the moment passed they left together making sure to stop momentarily at the water basin.
"So the entire village?"
"Yeah. Who would have thought that there were even this many of us left."
"I know what you mean. But now I know where to go besides all the way back to Earth."
"I'd love to see you. You can stay at my house whenever you like."
"How has this place remained a secret for this long?"
"Well, this place is nice but it isn't the best spot to settle. The islands to the west have these great beaches. There is just so much room, so many great places that unless someone has a reason to specifically come here, they usually just don't. And besides there are three other planets to choose from, not to mention the 85 million who live on 121."
"Are there any more of us on the station?"
"Oh yeah. I'll introduce you."
As they walked through the village which was showing signs of dusk coming, kids were running through the streets, merchants smiled as they walked past, and regular people were just living their everyday lives.
Geordi reached out and took Sonya's hand. "Thank you for bringing me here."
"I'm just happy I blew my cover with you instead of, well, you know."
They continued to walk back in the direction of the road that would lead them back to her house and as they did so an amazing little thing happened. They continued holding hands.
The real Riker had changed out of his prison garb and was now going about starbase 121 happy to be free and taking advantage of it.
Commander Riker was going with him. He felt attached to him, like he was supposed to prevent his real self from getting into trouble.
Troi saw him and came up to him.
"Is it over?"
"Then you won."
"More or less."
"Riker, what's wrong?"
"It wasn't me."
"I don't understand."
"The man you fell in love with. It wasn't me. I'm a … copy."
Troi was a bit incredulous but she could sense he wasn't lying.
Riker pointed. "That's him, the real William Riker. The man who waited for you for years alone in a cave. He ran away from you because he though he wasn't the real Riker. He even changed his name so you would be with me. But I'm not the real Riker. I'm the copy. When the accident happened the real Riker was stranded there and I was created from his pattern."
Troi held his hand. "You seem real enough to me."
She stayed with him for a few moments and then went over to the real Riker who was digging into a stake and greens and loving every minute of it.
The commander left. On his way back to the Enterprise he saw a curious sight. He thought he saw a young Dr. Polaski. The copy of Riker did a double take. She was looking at some clothing a merchant had on display and next to her was a version of himself who looked like he was in his early twenties. Riker instinctively began to walk over towards them but then heard a voice to his side.
"Uh, uh, uh," said Q waving his finger at Riker. "You're still on probation. Besides, don't you have something you need to do?"
Riker didn't answer but did turn away to make his way back to the ship.
Riker passed Captain Picard in the docking area as Picard was releasing the security lock. They acknowledged each other but there was nothing to say in that moment.
In his quarters Riker looked up Brenna Odell. The best he could tell, she was still on Meriposa. Of course she would be. How would she be able to leave? There were regular transports to the colony once a year now, and more colonists were coming. Reading down the record Riker noticed that there was an outbreak of some sort of sexually transmitted disease on the colony and Dr. Polaski's polyandry prescription was abandoned.
The colony was still independent of the Federation so information was a bit limited but from what Riker could tell, things weren't that bad now. It didn't look like there was a marriage record for Brenna but that wouldn't necessarily mean anything. Riker was about to leave his terminal and find something else to do with his time when a name caught his eye. Rick Odell. Riker heart sank.
It chimed in.
"Ready to record."
"No, not that one. This one goes here, and that one goes there. Now open the left side and take out the tilt actuator. There. See it?" Maddox was guiding Data through Lal's head. "That part is burned out. Now if I'm right, you should be able to replace it and then power her back on."
Data was examining Lal's brain. "But sir, if I replace this part and then power her back on, she will begin again with no memory and no personality."
"Which is why I asked you to make those capacitors. You need to connect one to each fiber, each and every one. It's tedious, I know, but if you power them all on at the same time, look I won't cherry coat it for you, it's a coin toss. You have about a fifty fifty chance of getting her back. That is the best anyone can do for her besides meticulously copying all her fibers to new ones in parallel and booting that, and even then, you probably only have about a fifty fifty chance. If this fails, you can always try that later."
The two worked through the night to carefully connect the small charged bit of carbon to each fiber, double and triple checking that each section of fiber had a capacitor. Then the time came to flip the switch.
"I am nervous." said Data.
Maddox had a bit of a smile on his face that showed that he was feeling the same and yet was excited as well.
"Would you like to do the honor?" asked Data.
"You're her father."
"If this works, you will be her doctor. I could not have done this without you."
"Don't thank me yet. It still might not work."
Maddox went to the console and Data stood by Lal. Maddox took a breath, held it, winced his eyes and pushed the button. The display to his left began showing readings and feedback from Lal. Maddox looked up.
Lal was blinking and turning her head in jerky movements. Data and Maddox waited. She turned her gaze to Data and blinked repeatedly. "Father!"
Maddox stood back and just watched as Data hugged Lal whose head was open and had about a thousand wires going into it. Lal could not hug him back from inside the examination tube. "Father. You have repaired me."
"I could not have done it without his help." Pointing to Maddox.
Lal turned to Maddox and tilted her head to the side. "Thank you."
Data and Lal spoke at length as Data and Maddox worked to remove the capacitors and the cables from Lal's head. Maddox had told him to keep her talking and to move her hands, arms and feet from time to time as they worked to make sure they didn't accidentally damage something as they proceeded.
It was late in the night and indeed almost the next morning when they were finished. Lal was able to leave and Data had the forethought to bring her to Captain Picard and reintroduce her. Maddox was very tired but helping Lal out of the examination tube he seemed to have a sparkle of passion back in his eyes.
"Father, the captain will be asleep at this hour. I would like to speak with Guinan and see about getting my old job reversed."
"You mean back."
"Yes, in opposite motion."
Data just grinned as she went off to Ten Forward.
"Lal, Guinan will also be asleep at this hour."
"But I can wait for her to awaken Father."
Data looked at Maddox and Maddox looked at Data. Then Maddox started "Ok, I give in. Tell me how to finish my prototype."
"I am very happy that you have decided to take this course of action."
"Well, if I'm going to be a robot doctor, I might as well do what I can to make sure I'll always have patients."
A woman's voice was screaming. "Water, please, water".
Picard awoke to the door chime. Picard was having a bad dream and was emotionally exhausted.
"No bad news" he found himself mumbling. He went to the door.
"Captain Picard. I'm sorry to awaken you." said Maddox standing next to Data.
"Not at all Captain Maddox. I'm sorry I wasn't able to properly greet you earlier. I was tied up in a lengthy diplomatic meeting."
"Not at all. I have finished the analysis of your second officers code and pathways. He is fully himself and the corrupted fibers have been removed. He is fit for duty."
"Wonderful. Mr. Data, I am very happy to reinstate you to full duty."
"Thank you sir."
"Bruce, were you able to discover why the Lore program was able to take over in the first place?"
"There was a security breach on the emotions chip itself. Now that it has been removed that door is closed. However, if the Commander will consent, I would like to routinely check his code for security vulnerabilities so that perhaps in the future we can find these threats and block them before anything else is able to do any damage."
Picard turned to Data.
"Captain, I fully concur with Captain Maddox's suggestion."
"Well then, by all mean."
Picard turned to go back to bed but Data motioned for him to wait a moment.
"Captain there is someone else who wishes to say hello to you."
Out of Picard's blind spot suddenly a female figure appears and throws her arms around him. Picard looked down to see a mop of hair planted in his chest. Picard looked up at the two officers in front of him.
"Sir, my daughter."
A very big smile came to Picard's face. He pushed Lal back and looked at her.
"Will wonders never cease."
Maddox explained "Data and I were able to develop a technique that restored her."
Picard just looked at the girl and then he put his arms around her. She was dead but is now alive.
"Captain Picard, with your permission, I was thinking of doing some more work on the other android you have on the ship."
Picard looked up at him. "Be careful."
Everywhere Data went it seemed the word of his daughter's 'recovery' had spread and he was getting well wishes from everyone. Data was assisting in engineering. Geordi had everyone doing jobs and even had some additional help from the engineering staff of the station. As Data performed his duties he noticed that commander La Forge and Lt. Gomez frequently passed glanced back and forth to each other with some sort of hidden meaning in them. When Data passed a look to Geordi to ask what was going on, Geordi just responded with a look that said "What!"
In a way, everything was as it should be. Yet, now everything had changed. Alexander was riding on Worf's back in their quarters as Worf's mom made tea in a samovar. William Riker was trying to arrange transport away before Federation authorities found him. Picard was painting a picture of the starcluster from one of the observation decks on the station and thinking about the right way to do what he knew he had to do. Lal was learning how to serve drinks again. Maddox was wrist deep in Lore's head as John, the name the prototype requested for itself, spoke to him as it sat on a table nearby explaining how to install the ethics program. Data was happy to be doing his job again and have his daughter back. Commander Riker was speaking with the admirals back on Earth to see when another command would become available. Dr. Crusher was reading over some of the advanced medical knowledge her son gave her. Wesly was lazying about just happy the ship had not been taken over by lizard aliens disguised as humans. And finally Geordi was in one of the jefferies tubes sharing a kiss with a woman who shared his faith and his values, and if Geordi was just a little lucky would also share his life and his home.