Sep. 2nd, 2010

ol_yellow_eyes: (understanding)
The possible ramifications of the behavioral anomaly which Data experienced on Ohniaka III are a cause for concern. Beyond the fact that it was likely a malfunction of his systems, his reaction was quite violent, and could present a threat to other crewmembers if it were to recur. For this reason, Data requests temporary relief from duty until he can find the cause of the anomaly. The captain reluctantly agrees, and Data asks Geordi to help him perform a full diagnostic of his systems.

Geordi scrolls through the results on his PADD. "Hm, well. Your positronic net checks out… Everything else looks fine."

"My internal diagnostic also finds nothing wrong," Data mentions.

"I dunno, Data; there's nothing here that would indicate anything that might cause any sort of behavioral anomaly."

"I agree."

Data hesitates for a moment. Despite his concern about what occurred at the outpost, he is hopeful. And he believes he has eliminated enough of the alternative possibilities to make his original hypothesis the most probable explanation. But he is not certain how his friend will react.

"Geordi… I believe I have experienced my first emotion."

Geordi exhales. His initial response appears to be skeptical. "No offense, Data, but how would you know a flash of anger from some odd kind of power surge?"

"You are correct in that I have no frame of reference to confirm my hypothesis. In fact, I am unable to provide a verbal description of the experience," Data admits. He then gets an idea. "Perhaps you could describe how it feels to be angry. I could then use that as a reference."

"Okay…" Geordi takes a moment to think about it. Data has always appreciated how Geordi takes his questions seriously. "Well, when I feel angry, first I, uh… first I feel… hostile."

"Could you describe feeling hostile?" Data asks, walking around to face him.

"Yeah, it's like feeling… belligerent. Combative."

That information still does not register in his systems. "Could you describe feeling angry without referring to other feelings?"

Geordi lets out another breath, similar to a laugh. "No. I guess I can't. I just… feel angry."

Data notes Geordi's apparent need to use hand gestures to express himself, and imitates it. "That was my experience as well. I simply… felt angry."

"Well, let's say you're right, and this is a real emotion," Geordi finally concedes. "How is that possible?"

"I do not know," Data replies. Optimistically, he suggests, "Perhaps I have evolved to the point where emotions are within my grasp. Perhaps I will experience other emotions as time goes by."

"Well, I hope you're right," Geordi says, though by his tone Data can tell that Geordi does not share his optimism.

"I'd hate to think that anger is all you're capable of feeling."

.....


Anger is a negative emotion.

It often leads to violence. When humans get angry, they are told to remove themselves from the situation that is causing their anger. There are "anger management courses" designed to teach people how to calm down whenever they become angry. It can be a very strong emotion, and in humans it can create dangerous physical reactions such as increases in heart rate and blood pressure. It can also have psychological ramifications, such as a loss in self-monitoring capacity and objectivity.

Anger is the first emotion Data has ever experienced.

It resulted in another being's death.

A concern has begun to develop in Data's positronic net, in the form of a hypothesis he does not want to prove correct. But the evidence so far seems to be gradually leading up to that conclusion…

Data spends the next six hours after his conversation with Geordi trying to produce a more positive emotion. He listens to several operas known to be uplifting. He watches three holodeck programs designed to be humorous. He even attempts to induce sexual desire by subjecting himself to erotic imagery.

Nothing happens. He feels nothing.

When he goes to Counselor Troi for advice, she asks Data why he is not trying to make himself angry again.

Data explains his reasoning: "Anger is a negative emotion. I wanted to concentrate on something more positive."

The counselor leans forward slightly. "Data… feelings aren't positive and negative. They simply exist. It's what we do with those feelings that becomes good or bad." She pauses, exhaling audibly. "For example, feeling angry about an injustice could lead someone to take a positive action to correct it."

Data considers this information. "But my study of humanity indicates there are some emotions that are harmful. Such as jealousy, or hatred."

"Those are very strong emotions, and you're right; very little good can come from them," she concedes. "But I don't think that an exploration of anger need necessarily lead to hatred or malice."

"But what if it does, Counselor? What if those are the only emotions I am capable of experiencing?" He pauses.

"Would that not make me a bad person?"

Counselor Troi responds with a slight smile, which incites Data's curiosity. She gets up to sit next to him on the couch.

"We've served together for a long time, and I think I've come to know you pretty well," she says. "I have to believe, if you ever reach your goal of becoming human, you won't become a bad one."

Data thinks about that for a moment. "I wish I were as confident as you, Counselor."

He takes a moment to ponder her words, and perhaps attempt to persuade himself. If anger is not a negative emotion, then perhaps he was justified in killing that Borg. The Borg drones presented a genuine threat to his friends. The anger he experienced might have simply aided him in eliminating that threat. His reaction to it might have been excessive, but possibly natural, when taking into consideration the fact that he is unaccustomed to to feeling. This conclusion is logical, and supports the counselor's theory that he is a good person.

But no… there was something else…

"When I was fighting the Borg, I felt angry," he begins, thinking. "When I think back on the incident, I realize that I was also experiencing another sensation. It was not the same as anger. But I think it was an emotion."

The counselor's smile has disappeared. "When exactly did you feel this other emotion?"

"It was just after I had killed the Borg. I looked down at his body…" Data is not looking at Counselor Troi now; his eyes are angled towards the floor, as he loses himself in the memory. "I felt something."

The counselor's voice registers as gentle and patient in Data's auditory processors. "If you had to give this… feeling a name, what would you call it?"

Data does not answer her for a moment.

There is only one possibility. He knows it because he has heard it described before. He knows it because of the way he is processing it, because of the fact that he is allowing the memory to linger in his neural pathways, when he should be focusing on responding…

"I believe… it was…" His sentence comes out broken, and he looks up at her face again, wondering what her reaction will be.

"Pleasure," he answers finally.

Data is not certain, but he believes that the expression on Counselor Troi's face might best be described as mild horror.

.....


Data decides that perhaps it is best to discontinue pursuing his emotions. But he is still off-duty for the time being, and so he returns to his quarters with nothing to do.

He takes the time to feed his cat. Or rather, he attempts to feed his cat. He tries offering seven different feline supplements from the replicator, all of which Spot refuses to eat. He resorts to his usual strategy of leaving the food out in the hopes that Spot will become hungry enough to try it later.

It occurs to Data that perhaps a human would have gotten frustrated in this situation. But he feels nothing.

There have been several red alerts since he returned to his quarters. The Enterprise has sent information to Starfleet vessels regarding the new type of Borg ship that was spotted in orbit around Ohniaka III, as well as the odd, individualistic behavior that the drones displayed during the conflict on the outpost. So far, the red alerts have consistently turned out to be false alarms. Apparently, the news has made people nervous.

Data does not know what that is like. Every time the alarm sounds, people could be in danger. Perhaps the sound should make him feel frightened.

But he feels nothing.

Data takes up his violin and begins to play. Whether it is a good idea or not, he wants to capture that feeling of anger that he had—the only feeling that he has ever had. He plays several pieces in allegro furioso, but the sound now seems as empty and lifeless as he feels. He cannot get the notes to match what happened to his thoughts suddenly when he experienced that flash of anger. He can remember, but he can no longer feel how they rose and fell in a chorus of something like music, something passionate, as though they belonged to someone who was truly alive. It was like the cadence of a human voice, which is something that Data has tried to imitate but which never came naturally until that one moment.

Data lowers his instrument.

And then, whether it is a good idea or not, he decides to go to the holodeck to continue experimenting. He has not yet explored the possibility of making himself angry again. He must know if it is possible.

Data attempts to make himself angry using various stimuli—insults, irritants, loud noises, portrayals of injustice—but none produce any sort of reaction. He decides that the method most likely to succeed would be to attempt to replicate as closely as possible the circumstances which caused his first emotion. He recreates the interior of the outpost, as well as the Borg drone which attacked him. He then runs the program several times, increasing the drone's strength incrementally with each test.

Halfway through his experiment, however, Data is met with a visitor.

"Data, am I interrupting something?" It is Geordi.

"Yes," Data answers. "But it is all right. Do you need me?"

"Uh, I… wanted to see if you were ready to return to duty; I need some help with an analysis on the ship the Borg were using."

Data considers this. "I believe I am able to resume my duties."

Geordi looks around. "Data, exactly what is it that you're doing here?"

"I am attempting to recreate the experience which caused my initial outburst of anger."

"Any luck?" Geordi seems genuinely curious.

"None so far," Data replies. "I have almost completed this experiment. May I finish before we return to engineering?"

"Yeah, sure." Geordi sits down as Data resets the simulation, increasing the Borg's strength by 20 percent. He runs the program.

Still nothing.

"Computer, reset simulation to Time Index 2.1. Increase Borg strength by 30 percent."

"Unable to comply. A 30 percent increase would exceed safety limits."

A 30 percent increase would very closely resemble the actual strength of the drone, and since Data is attempting the replicate the circumstances, this is a necessary test. Fortunately, it is possible to override the holodeck safety mechanism.

He turns to his friend. "Geordi, the computer requires a voice authorization of two senior officers in order to disable the safety routine. Will you help me?"

Geordi leans forward. "Data, wait a minute. That thing could kill you."

"During the original incident, the Borg presented a genuine danger to my life. Since the holodeck safety routine is in place, I know my life is not in danger. Since I am trying to duplicate the conditions of the original incident as closely as possible, I must also attempt to duplicate my jeopardy as well."

"Data, we're talking about an experiment here. You can't put your life on the line just to prove some theory!"

Data thinks for a moment before pointing out, "This experiment may hold the key to something I have sought all my life."

Geordi stands up, sighing heavily. "It's crazy!" he concludes. "There's gotta be another way—can't you think of some other way to make yourself angry?"

"I have tried other stimuli but they have been unsuccessful," Data tells him. Geordi is standing close to him now, and his back is nearly up against the wall. Geordi seems genuinely upset. Data takes a moment to consider his words. Perhaps it is irrational to gamble his entire existence on the chance that he will feel emotion again. Certainly he should place greater value on his life.

And yet…

And yet, when Data looks at Geordi's face, his brows furrowed in worry and anger, it is difficult for him to concentrate on anything other than the fact that he wishes he could feel it as well.

He wants to feel anger. He wants to get angry when Geordi is the one in danger.

Data would be jealous, if he could. He cannot. But he wants to, suddenly.

"I understand your objections," he tells Geordi, sincerely. "But it is my life. And I have a right to risk it if I choose."

"Yeah, and I'm your friend, and I'm not gonna just stand around and let you do this."

They are interrupted by the sound of an alarm.

"Red Alert! All hands, battle stations!"

Data and Geordi immediately make their way to the bridge.

[next]
ol_yellow_eyes: (yes I would)
This red alert is not a false alarm. Another outpost is under attack. (Captain Picard notes that it seems odd, that the Enterprise was the closest ship in both cases.) They come within sight of the Borg ship, and follow it into some sort of energy stream. When they emerge, they engage the ship in battle.

The Enterprise is hit with a phaser blast, and shields are down to 16 percent. Two Borg drones transport onto the bridge and begin firing. The crew disables the intruders, but the Borg ship gets away.

"They beamed aboard as a distraction… to give their ship time to escape," the captain speculates.

"This is another change in Borg behavior… They left their dead behind instead of vaporizing them." Riker looks down at one of the unconscious drones, and Data kneels to examine it.

"Captain," he says. "This one is still alive."

.....


An initial interrogation of the prisoner leads to some worrying revelations. The Borg drone insists that it has a name—Crosis—and that the Borg are no longer interested in assimilating biological life forms, but plan to destroy them instead. It refers to some sort of leader, whom it calls "the One." Picard asks if it is referring to Hugh, a Borg that the Enterprise had previously taken aboard and given a name. But Crosis refuses to explain anything else.

"This is going nowhere," the captain says, displaying visible signs of frustration. He turns to Dr. Crusher. "Doctor, I want you to do an autopsy on the other one. Compare the differences with what we learned of Hugh's anatomy. See if there have been any recent modifications which might explain the behavioral differences." He then looks to Data. "Data, run a biospectral analysis on this Borg. See if he is trying to send a subspace signal to the others."

"Aye, sir." Moments later, Data is left alone with Crosis.

The Borg paces, looking at Data. "You are not like the others," it says. "You do not have to be destroyed. You can be assimilated."

"I do not wish to be assimilated," Data tells it, simply.

"Resistance is futile. You will not resist what you've wanted all your life."

Data glances downward slightly, sensing movement. The Borg appears to have activated a device on its forearm. He stares at it, puzzled.

Crosis continues talking. "I was like you once… without feeling. But The One helped me. He can help you, too; he can help you find emotion. Have you ever felt a real emotion, Data?"

"Yes," Data answers, automatically. Something is wrong. "On Ohniaka III I was forced… to kill a Borg. I got angry."

"How did it feel, to get angry?" it asks. "Did it give you pleasure?"

Data looks up into Crosis's eyes now. "It… would be unethical to take pleasure in another being's death," he says.

"You didn't answer my question," it accuses. Data turns away. "Did it feel good to kill?"

"…Yes," he is forced to admit, finally.

The drone speaks slowly, careful and almost taunting. It is oddly familiar. "If it is unethical, to take pleasure in another being's death, you must be a very unethical person."

Data swallows. "No," he insists, facing it again. "That is not correct. My creator, Dr. Soong, gave me a program which defines my sense of right and wrong. In essence, I have a conscience."

"It didn't seem to be functioning on Ohniaka III, when you felt… pleasure, in killing that Borg," Crosis points out, walking closer.

"Step away from the force field," Data says, trying to concentrate on his tricorder. Something is not right. "Your proximity is… interfering with my scan."

Crosis ignores him. His voice is teeming with emotion… It sounds out of place, strange in the synthesized voice of a Borg drone. "You enjoyed it. That surge of emotion inside you… as you watched the life drain from your victim. It was unlike anything you've ever felt before."

Data remembers… But it is more than just remembering, now…

At this point, he can hardly feel the tricorder in his hand. "It was a very… potent experience," he agrees.

"You'd like to feel that way again."

"Yes."

"You'd do anything to feel that way again. Even if it meant killing someone."

"No," Data replies, swallowing and forcing himself to ignore what is happening to him. It is difficult. "That would not be ethical."

"You don't sound very sure of yourself. Is your ethical program functioning?"

Something is wrong. Something is malfunctioning. Data turns away. He needs to leave, to fix the problem…

"Data?" Crosis calls. Data stops. "Do you have a friend?"

"Yes," Data answers, hollow and automatic. "His name is Geordi."

Crosis's voice pulses through his auditory processors, like something alive. Like music. "If it meant… that you could feel emotions again, the way you did on Ohniaka III, would you kill your friend? Would you kill Geordi?"

Data can hear his own pulse, can almost feel it as his processes synchronize to it in an organic rhythm. He imagines what it would be like, to feel the life drain out of the human known as Geordi, to kill him like he killed the Borg on Ohniaka III. And he truly feels something. It is not anger, this time… It is the other feeling. The corner of his mouth twitches into a slight smile.

This is not a malfunction.

This is being truly alive.

"Would you kill Geordi?"

"Yes. I would."

[next]
ol_yellow_eyes: (evil)
Data leaves his analysis incomplete and returns to his quarters, trying to put Crosis's words (and his own) out of his mind. He sits at his desk. Perhaps he can complete the biospectral analysis, complete the orders that Captain Picard gave him… Spot is sitting on the console, and Data absentmindedly reaches over to pet him.

Spot hisses and runs away, darting to the other side of the room and hiding under the bed.

Data looks after him.

And finds himself smiling.

He frowns, not allowing himself to dwell on the sensation. He came here to fix something… No, to finish something. Or perhaps it was both…

Something is wrong. This is wrong.

He is feeling emotion. But that is impossible. He does not have any reason to believe that he would have developed such a capability on his own. It seems to be connected to the Borg somehow. But how would they have developed the knowledge and technology to affect his postironic brain? Their systems are completely different from his own.

In fact, the majority of systems in the galaxy are completely different from Data's. The only person who successfully pursued positronic technology as a means of developing sentience—as a means of developing a capacity for emotion—was Dr. Soong.

That conclusion leads Data to an unfortunate hypothesis.

Forgetting his tricorder and his orders and the malfunction he discovered (or perhaps choosing to ignore those things), Data returns to the brig. He needs to talk to Crosis. Alone would be better.

Upon entering, Data speaks to the ensign who is on security duty. "I have been sent to interrogate the prisoner further," he lies. "Please lower the force field."

"Yes, sir," the ensign is obviously confused, but does as her commanding officer tells her to. While she is distracted, Data renders her unconscious with the technique he learned from Ambassador Spock. The force field is down, and Data walks straight into the cell.

He lifts Crosis by the throat, pushing him against the wall.

"Who is it?" he demands. "Who is doing this?"

Crosis hesitates. Clearly he has not been permitted to reveal that information. But he has a sense of individuality now, and Data can use that against him.

"Who is 'the One'?" he asks again. "Tell me his name, or I will kill you."

Despite the vice grip on his throat, Crosis manages to say it—the one name Data did, and did not want to hear:

"Lore."

.....


Data has heard a theory regarding human decision-making processes, in which it is speculated that humans have no control over most of their decisions, and only have the power to rationalize those decisions afterward. Data does not know for certain to what extent this theory might hold true for humans, but he knows that it is impossible for it to apply to his own decision-making process. His cognitive speed is so fast that he can consider all possibilities in a very short amount of time, and arrive at the best decision quickly. He is programmed to do so. He has no reason to rationalize his actions after the fact.

In this case, however, Data is starting to wonder if he is doing exactly that.

He knows that it is not true, of course. His memory of the decision to escape with Crosis is clear and complete, and he knows for a fact that he considered all of the possibilities before arriving at his decision.

But this is the first time he is not completely confident that he made the best decision.

And what he is doing right now, as he helps the Borg escape, is unnervingly similar to "rationalization." His mind is running through the reasons he thinks he should do this, from the altruistic (he could reason with Lore, and put an end to this threat to the Federation) to the selfish but reasonable (he will demand his emotion chip back, and say goodbye to his brother forever). But even though those reasons were valid considerations in his decision-making process, they do not necessarily outweigh his duty as a Starfleet officer, to obey his orders and remain on the ship. If he is being honest (and he is incapable of being dishonest… or is he?), the deciding factor was little better than an instinct, the realization that regardless of the outcome, he might regret it forever if he did not do this. He has to see this through to its inevitable end, if only to discover what will happen.

This may be his last chance to retrieve his emotion chip. His last chance to feel.

For that, he would give everything.

Data pilots the stolen shuttlecraft into the energy stream after triggering the phenomenon with the appropriate tachyon emissions. Without looking back, he leaves the Enterprise—his crewmates, his friends, everything—behind.

He will face his brother alone.

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January 2011

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