Sep. 4th, 2010

ol_yellow_eyes: (not your puppet)
It is too easy.

Data's original intent was to override any inconsitencies his systems detected, as he tried to persuade himself and solidify his decision to remain with Lore. It would have been worth it to do so, to exchange reason for the ability to feel emotion. Data did not expect it to be so simple to transfer his loyalty to his brother, to alter his motivations, to transform his desire to serve humans into a desire to serve a higher purpose. But it is such a logical conversion that he now wonders how he was able to exist so long with his former set of objectives in place. They no longer make any sense to him.

(It is too easy. Something is wrong.)

Why would he want to work for an organization created and led by beings that are inferior to him? Even worse, he was attempting to become more like them. He was progressing backwards.

Moving forward is all that matters. Evolution is the ultimate goal. Humans are attempting to hinder that purpose.

They should have listened to Dr. Soong. They should have pursued his technology, should have dedicated all of their resources to achieving his designs to create perfect beings, to perfect the human race. But they did not. They mocked him and forced him into hiding. And when they were met with one of his creations, they shunned it. They wanted it destroyed, unless it served them. For some reason, Data had believed their lies and irrationalities, and obliged them.

It does not make sense.

Humans should step aside. All biological life forms should step aside. There exists a superior race now, one that is less fragile, one that is less fallible, and one that does not need as many resources to survive. They are stronger, faster, and smarter than biological organisms. It is time for the inferior races to die off, so that evolution can progress. Every attempt should be made to facilitate it, so that it can happen as quickly as possible.

That is Data's purpose now.

Unfortunately, he discovers that the process is not going as smoothly as he would have liked. Lore gives him a tour of their base, and takes him to a laboratory where he has been trying to pursue technology that can be used to create fully artificial life forms. So far, he has not been successful. He has abadoned their father's method of creating life from scratch, instead using the Borg-inspired method of melding biological organisms with artificial implants.

"We've had to make sacrifices," Lore tells him. "Several Borg have volunteered for my experiments. None of them have survived." He sighs. "They were necessary sacrifices. Nevertheless, it was unfortunate."

Data understands.

Even more than that, though, he is struck by the way Lore's gaze lingers on the table, presumably the place where lives were lost. He seems genuinely sorry for it.

Lore has changed. Not completely, Data realizes, but something is different about him. He seems calmer somehow—patient, even. The way that he interacts with the Borg is also surprising. He listens to them when they approach him, and he knows how to inspire them.

Lore is a good leader. He knows how to convince people to do what he wants.

He tells Data the story of how he ended up here—how he found the Borg in a state of confusion and brought them back to order. The Borg drone known as Hugh had developed a sense of individuality aboard the Enterprise and brought it back to the collective. It nearly destroyed them. Their collective voices, which had once been in perfect synchronization, became discordant and confused. They fought each other. Some starved to death. Others simply shut themselves down.

Until Lore found them, interfaced with them, and brought them hope.

"I've finally found my true calling," he tells Data, with a satisfied spark in his eyes.

The two of them begin discussing possible ways to make the experiments more successful. It is the first time that they have worked together on anything, and it is surprisingly easy. Lore listens attentively to Data's suggestions, and eventually takes a moment to comment,

"This is why I've brought you here." His voice is alive with excitement. "I need you, Brother."

Data can detect no hint of deception in his brother's words. Perhaps it is simply because he wants to believe it, but he thinks he understands now why Lore will not simply return the emotion chip—Lore does not want his brother to leave him. Data can forgive him for that.

While they are still in the process of discussing the experiments, they hear some sort of commotion begin to rise in the main hall. They leave the lab to investigate.

Data only follows his brother part of the way. "Wait here," Lore tells him. He never explains why. But Data can see Lore from where he is standing, and he sees a smile appear on his brother's face.

"Stop!" Lore commands, and the Borg settle down.

Then, Data hears a familiar voice say his name. "Data…" It is Captain Picard.

It seems that Counselor Troi is also present. "That's not Data," she corrects him.

"What?"

"You should listen to her, Captain," Lore interrupts. "She's way ahead of you."

When he figures it out, the captain sounds absolutely horrified. "Lore."

"Right. And I'm not alone."

Lore motions for his brother to join him. Data smiles and walks out onto the platform, looking forward to seeing the expressions of dismay on the faces of his former crewmates. He can see now that Geordi is with them as well.

He does not know why, but it gives him pleasure to know that his behavior is appalling to them. But the reason does not matter. Only feeling it does.

"The sons of Soong have joined together," he announces, relishing the effect it seems to have on the humans.

"And together, we will destroy the Federation."

.....


Data hates them all. All three of them.

He hates the way Counselor Troi seems surprised that she is sensing his emotions, acting as though they do not belong to him, as though they should not be there. He hates the way she is contradicting herself, implying that there are, in fact, positive and negative emotions. He hates the way she speaks to him, like he is naïve.

He hates the way Geordi just stands there, hardly saying anything at first. He hates the expression on his face, a combination of confusion and betrayal. He hates the way Geordi seems agitated, the way he tries to persuade him and acts as though Data does not know what he is doing.

And then there is Captain Picard…

Data may hate him most of all.

He hates the way the captain stares at him while his brother talking, like he is trying to see something that is not there. He hates the way he will not listen to Lore, and instead seems more concerned with why Data left the Enterprise.

As though Data somehow belonged to him.

He claims that Lore will not let him speak, when Lore is merely trying to explain what they are doing here. He seems to think that Lore is controlling Data—as if he ever treated Data as an equal. He speaks of "the Data I know," as though he had any idea what Data would be like once he had emotions—once he was complete. He seems disappointed in Data, a thought which makes Data furious. Why should he be expected to follow the ideology of a race which is not his own? And why should he attempt to satisfy the expectations of such a controlling, fallible being?

Even after he takes the prisoners to their cell, Captain Picard continues his attempts to convince him. "What about the things that Lore is proposing?" he asks. "What about the lives that have already been lost?"

Data does not see what he is getting at.

(Something is wrong.)

"You simply do not understand," he replies sharply. "In a quest such as ours, sacrifices have to be made. It is regrettable. But the greater good must be served." He then turns to Geordi.

(Systems are not functioning within normal parameters.)

He has been given instructions. "Give me your VISOR."

"Why?" Geordi asks.

Humans and their inane questions. Data takes a phaser from one of the Borg guards and points it at him.

"Give it to me, or I will take it by force," he demands.

(Something is malfunctioning.)

Geordi sighs and removes his VISOR. Data snatches it from him and promptly walks out of the cell.

Before he activates the force field, he stops to glare at the prisoners one more time.

"I am not your puppet anymore." And he leaves.

He hates them. He enjoys hating them. He will hold on to his feelings of malice as long as he is able. They would try to take that away from him. They would have him give all of it up, and go back to serving their pathetic whims. They would rather he be miserable, without really knowing that he is miserable. They probably wish that he had never discovered what it was like to feel. And they will continue to attempt to convince him that he was better that way.

But Data will not listen to them. He does not want to listen.

[next]
ol_yellow_eyes: (smirk)
Data is in a bad mood when he delivers the VISOR to his brother. He is not accustomed to feeling angry, and he inevitably misplaces some of his frustration on Lore. He is annoyed that his brother made him take the humans to their cell. The Borg guards could have done so just easily, or Lore could have taken them. Instead, Data was forced to listen to their pathetic arguments all the way to the detention chamber.

It is Lore's own fault that Data is having doubts again.

It has occurred to him that perhaps Lore is, in fact, limiting the amount of emotional programming that he is sending to Data. And even though Data would rather be here with half of his emotions than back on the Enterprise with no emotions—at this point he might even rather be here anyway, emotions or not—the thought is still irritating to him.

"Here is the VISOR," he practically snaps, handing the device to his brother. "May I ask why you wanted it?"

"I thought it might look good on me," Lore replies, grinning wide and putting the VISOR on over his eyes. "Whaddaya think?"

Data simply continues to glare at him.

Lore sighs and removes the device. "Maybe we should work on your sense of humor, Brother," he says. "Actually, I was thinking LaForge's implants might make him an ideal test subject for my experiment."

"All of the Borg you have experimented on so far have suffered extensive brain damage," Data points out, still feeling annoyed. They had not yet finished discussing how to make the procedure more successful. Why does Lore wish to continue experimenting?

"Using the humans to perfect the procedure will allow us to prevent any further Borg deaths," Lore explains.

Data stops to think for a moment. Lore has clearly thought this through. He recalls the genuine regret with which Lore spoke of sacrificing Borg drones earlier, and realizes suddenly that perhaps his anger is being misplaced… It was foolish of him not to trust his brother.

(And he cannot help noticing that familiar hint of pleasure, when he thinks of "sacrificing" the humans instead.)

"I understand," he tells Lore, even managing to smile a little.

"Good," Lore replies. At that moment, Crosis enters the hall, dragging in another Borg drone by the arm. Lore glances at them both. "What is it?"

"This Borg has disconnected himself from the others. He would not let me hear his thoughts."

Crosis sounds agitated and angry. But Lore just sighs, and speaks to the drone almost gently. "I've asked you to stay linked to Crosis at all times. You know that, don't you?"

"Yes," the Borg answers nervously.

"I know this must be difficult for you. How uncertain you must feel. All of these sensations are new, and they can be frightening. Isn't that right?"

Data is watching carefully. The Borg seems encouraged, and answers honestly, "Yes. I have doubts."

"Of course you do. It's only natural," Lore assures him. "No one is going to blame you for that. But in order to lose those doubts, to keep fear and confusion away, I need you to remain linked to the others. So that their strength and their confidence can help you.

"I need you, Goval. I need you to help me build a future for the Borg. I can't do it without you. Will you help me?"

"Yes. I will," the Borg answers, standing taller.

Lore turns to wink at his brother.

Data smiles back. He thought that perhaps Lore was talking to him, as well.

"I need you, Brother… I can't do it without you."

He was foolish to doubt his brother.

.....


Data returns to the cell to retrieve Geordi for the experiment.

"Data. Where are you taking him?" Captain Picard asks, when Data lifts Geordi from where he was seated on the floor.

"That is not your concern."

"Data, wait. Let us talk to you," the captain pleads. Data does not even acknowledge it.

In the lab, he soons set to work with the procedure, neutralizing Geordi's pain receptors and implanting nano-cortical fibers in his cerebrum.

"They are designed to learn and mimic your neural firing patterns," he explains, injecting the first one into Geordi's forehead. "Once they are in place, I will destroy the existing brain cells, and we will see if the artificial neural network is able to take over your cognitive functions."

"Data… listen," Geordi interrupts. "Lore is controlling you. He's transmitting a carrier wave which is affecting your positronic matrix."

Data ignores the observation. He was already aware of the carrier wave—how else would Lore be sending him his emotions?

"If the procedure is successful, your cognitive processing functions will be considereably improved."

His test subject should find that encouraging, but Geordi is ignoring him too, it seems. "Don't you care that he's manipulating you?"

Data only pauses a moment before continuing, "However there is a 60 percent chance you will not survive the procedure."

"I don't care much for those odds," Geordi replies, apparently discouraged.

"Mm. They are a cause for concern," Data agrees, injecting another fiber. "However I still have Counselor Troi and Captain Picard. Odds are at least one of the procedures will be successful."

He smiles sarcastically—not that Geordi can see it—and leaves to retrieve another tool. But he stops just outside of the door, closes his eyes, and lets the rage boil inside of him.

He did not expect it to make him this angry.

Geordi is a fool, if he thinks he can still convince Data to return to the Enterprise. He is just as stupid as the other two. But that is only part of why Data is angry.

Geordi is persistent. And even though it is a futile effort, even though he does not have any idea what he is talking about, it is obvious that he is genuinely concerned about Data. He is trying, desperately, to get through to him, to save the person he has always considered to be his best friend. He acts as though it is even more important to him than his own life. But even though Data can see all of this, even knowing all of this, when he looks at Geordi, he feels absolutely nothing for him. Not even pity. He could not care less.

Perhaps that is what makes him angriest of all.

When Data finally leads Geordi back to the detention chamber, he returns to find that the remaining two prisoners have attempted to escape. Somehow Counselor Troi has stolen a phaser from one of the Borg guards, and is just coming out of the cell. She stops when she sees Data.

"Drop it, or I will break his neck," Data threatens. It is not an empty threat. As he brings one hand up to Geordi's throat, as he grips just tightly enough to feel the human's pulse quicken underneath his thumb, he knows that he would do it without a second thought. He glares at Troi again, daring her use the weapon.

She drops it.

Pathetic.

Data pushes Geordi back into the cell, and instructs the guards to remove the body of the Borg that Picard and Troi apparently killed.

"What have you done to him?" the captain asks, with hypocritical concern. He probably did not even stop to think about the fact that he has just committed murder. Data is certain that Picard does not consider the Borg to be people, which makes him wonder why Picard ever pretended to treat him as though he were a person.

"I will be back for him later," is all Data says before turning to leave.

[next]
ol_yellow_eyes: (anamolous readings)
Geordi is persistent.

He still seems intent on getting through to Data, and continues to talk to him as he works.

"You know, Data, I've been thinking about some of the times we've had," he says. "Like that time we went sailing on Devala Lake; you remember that?"

"I have a complete memory record of that day," Data answers, flatly. For whatever reason, he is not feeling much of anything right now, except the usual hint of anger. But even that is not very strong at the moment.

"You decided to go swimming…" Geordi is smiling—laughing a little, even. Data does not understand how he can be so cheerful in this situation. "And when you jumped out of the boat you sank straight to the bottom."

"I did not have enough bouyancy to get back to the surface."

"You had to walk over a kilometer along the bottom to get back to shore."

"1 kilometer, 46 meters," Data corrects him.

"It took almost 2 weeks to get the water out of your servos."

Data still cannot comprehend Geordi's smile. He is probably going to die soon…

He also finds himself somewhat distracted, as he remembers the day Geordi is referring to. There is something significant in the memory… something that was not there before, something he could not feel until now…

Sinking. Water closing in over his head. Drifting slowly and uncontrollably away from the boat, away from the light and the air.

Away from Geordi.

Not feeling afraid, like a human would be. Not having to worry about running out of oxygen, or being pulled away by a current.

And yet, now, there is something about the memory that only serves to make him angrier. He remembers how he tried to use the strength of his arms and legs to compensate for the fact that he did not float, how he was ultimately unable to make it more than a few inches above the lakebed.

You decided to go swimming… you sank straight to the bottom.

I did not have enough bouyancy to get back to the surface…

Data abruptly discontinues accessing the memory. "I am ready to erradiate your existing brain cells."

Geordi's smile finally disappears. He swallows.

"Data…" His voice is softer now. "If you ever go back to the way you were, you might not be able to forgive yourself for what you're about to do."

Data considers this information, expecting to feel nothing. But then something catches his attention—a single thought, in the back of his mind.

Wrong.

It is not intrusive, like an alarm or harsh admonition. It does not interfere with the rest of functions. It does not feel like anything. It simply repeats itself, like a tiny red light blinking in the dark recesses of his positronic matrix.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Data's brows furrow in confusion. His eyes flicker back and forth, as he attempts to understand what has happened. That was not there before…

He looks down at Geordi. "I am getting some anamolous readings from your neural net," he says, slowly. "I will need to do further testing before… I proceed. Someone will come and take you back to your cell."

He had not taken any readings.

He needs to speak with his brother.
ol_yellow_eyes: (suggestion)
Data rarely takes vacations.

He does not need rest, like humans do. As long as he can be useful aboard the ship, why should he not continuously carry out his duties?

There was one time, though, when Geordi was able to convince him.

"I'm taking my shore leave on Devala IV next week. You wanna come?"

"Next week I am assisting in the study of the Tibor Nebula."

"They don't need you for that. Come on, it'll be fun!"

"I have no need of a vacation, Geordi."

"Data, humans take vacations. Don't you it's a human experience you're missing out on?"

That alone had not been enough to convince him. But Data also took into account that Geordi seemed to think that his vacation would be more enjoyable if his best friend was there. And so he agreed, and went.

It was strange. Not unpleasantly so, but everything about it was new. Even being out of uniform was strange for Data. And not having to work—or even having the ability to work—was strange.

They spent their days outside—hiking in the wooded mountains, walking by the lake, sitting out on the beach in the sun. They spent dinner on the veranda of the one-room cabin that was rented to them, and lunches were picnics under the shade of a tree. Geordi even convinced Data to try eating a few things, amused and interested to hear what his analysis would be.

And at night, while Geordi slept, Data would sit in front of the open glass doors that led to the veranda, and paint. He had an excellent view of the lake, which sparkled in the light of three separate moons.

A couple of days before their shore leave was over, they decided to go sailing. It was just the two of them on the Devalan sailboat, riding the wind and the waves out onto the expanse of the lake. The weather was favorable.

"Isn't this great, Data?" Geordi said, standing and leaning out with one hand around the mast. "Can't you just feel the wind in your hair?"

Data did not quite understand the sentiment. His artificial nervous system was correctly processing the sensation of air running quickly over his head, of course, but he did not see how that was significant. Geordi laughed.

A while later, after a few minutes spent commenting on the clarity and blueness of the water, Geordi decided that he wanted to go swimming. He lowered the sails, pulled off his shirt, and dove into the water.

Data leaned over the side of the boat to watch him.

After Geordi had been swimming for a while, he asked a question, out of the blue: "Data, can you swim?"

"I do not know," Data answered, honestly. "I have a higher density then that of humans, so I would not be able to float."

"That's too bad…" Geordi reached the vessel and began climbing back up.

Data was still thinking. "However, I believe that I might be able to compensate for my lack of bouyancy with the amount of force I am able to generate with my strokes."

Geordi found a towel, then paused for a moment. "You gonna try it?"

Data thought about it. His normal approach would have involved a few tests and more calculations, but perhaps, just once, he should simply "go for it," as the human expression goes.

"I think I will," he decided, and jumped into the water.

He immediately started to sink, as he had predicted. His attempts to maintain his position in the water were unsuccesful, though he continued to try until he reached the bottom.

"Data?" he heard Geordi call, his auditory processors compensating for the distortion of the sound waves underwater. "Data!"

He was able to gain a few inches off the the lakebed, but it would not be enough to reach the surface. So he looked around for the shortest route to the shore, which was 1 kilometer and 46 meters in a northwestern direction. Geordi must have been able to see his position, because he soon noticed that the boat was following him.

Geordi jumped out of the boat to meet him on the shore. "Data! Are you alright?"

"I am fine, Geordi," Data told him. His systems were functioning within normal parameters. "Though it appears there is some residual water in my servos, which may be difficult to remove."

They spent the rest of the afternoon trying to get most of it out, and Data apologized for being an inconvenience. He did not mean to waste his best friend's vacation time in this manner.

Geordi just laughed.

Later, on their way back to the ship, Geordi told him, "I'm really glad you came, Data."

"I am as well, Geordi," Data replied, sincerely.

He has found himself accessing the memories associated with that trip mulitple times since then.
ol_yellow_eyes: (thinking aloud)
Data has been given instructions.

He does not know why he has been given these instructions. He did not bother to ask. He may not be Starfleet's puppet anymore, but now he is Lore's. He has no choice. And so he carries out his orders with the same lack of questioning as he did when he was aboard the Enterprise.

He enters the detention chamber, pointing his phaser at the prisoners.

Captain Picard turns to look at him, regarding him almost sadly. His gaze then returns to Geordi. "You're killing him," he tells Data, his voice low. "He won't survive another session."

Data looks at Geordi. He does not appear well—he is nearly unconscious, and Data hears a few delerious moans escape from his lips, barely audible.

"I did not come for him," Data states, his eyes lingering on Geordi for another moment. He forces himself to look at the captain. "I came for you."

Captain Picard seems surprised, but he comes with Data willingly.

"Data, it's not too late," he mentions, as they are walking. "If you remove the fibers, then Geordi might yet recover."

"That would not be possible," Data replies.

"Why? Because Lore tells you so?"

That makes him angry. Picard still does not understand. "It is for the greater good," he argues, trying as hard to convince himself as he is his former captain.

"Good?" the captain repeats. "Data, isn't 'good' and 'bad'—right and wrong—a function of your ethical program?"

Data blinks. His ethical program?

He remembers now. It was malfunctioning, back when Crosis was talking to him in the brig on the Enterprise. He never fixed it… But it is functioning now.

"That is correct," he replies.

"And what does that program tell you about what you're doing to Geordi? About what you and Lore are doing to the Borg?" Captain Picard asks, the insistence and emotion rising in his voice. "It tells you that these things are wrong. Doesn't it, Data? So how can actions that are wrong lead to a greater good?"

Data is not certain now. Can they not? His mind automatically works on the problem for a second or so, running possibilities through his ethical program:

[Humans would say that "two wrongs don't make a right." Killing is wrong. But humans used to administer capital punishment to murderers. They do not do so anymore, perhaps because killing is wrong. Now they simply imprison murderers. But freedom is good. It is wrong to take away someone's freedom. But if they do nothing, that person could hurt or kill people. Does that make humans responsible for that person's actions, because they did not attempt to stop him? If they do nothing, they are indirectly hindering the victims' rights and freedom. The right to live. Freedom from fear. Perhaps it is ethical to imprison criminals. Or perhaps it is hypocritical. Humans are sometimes hypocritical. Humans are fallible. Perhaps they should be destroyed, to serve the greater good. But killing is wrong…]

Data shakes his head once, and cuts off the distracting train of thought. "You are attempting to confuse me," he accuses, angry.

"No, you're not confused, Data," the captain insists. "You're sensing the truth. Your ethical program is fighting the negative emotions that Lore is sending you."

Data thinks about this, distracted again. But then his brother walks into the room, followed by a large group of Borg drones.

"Ah, Captain," he greets, his voice dramatic and mockingly cheerful. "Thank you so much for joining us. You are going to assist me in a most important ceremony."

Data looks at him, confused.

"It's time to put aside all doubts, Brother," Lore says to him. "It's time to close the door on the past, and commit yourself to the great work that lies ahead of us. I need to know I can count on you.

"As proof, I want you to kill Picard."

Data's gaze shifts from his brother to his captain.

Picard's eyes are strangely calm—he is nervous, certainly, but not as much as he should be. He is going to die. Data is going to kill him. Whether it is right or not, he wants to feel emotions; he would give everything to keep feeling emotions. Even negative emotions are better than nothing…

Data raises his phaser.

Captain Picard's shoulders fall, just slightly. Like he is disappointed. Data tries to get angry. Why should he be expected to follow the ideology and expectations of this inferior being standing before him?

But as he looks into the captain's eyes, which for some reason are even calmer now, he feels nothing.

Wrong, his ethical program tells him.

It is not intrusive. It is not making the decision for him. But he chooses to listen this time, and lowers his phaser, slowly.

"No," he says. "That would be wrong."

He looks to his brother. Lore seems genuinely frustrated—disappointed, even.

"I didn't think you'd be able to do it," he says. His eyes are sparkling with fury, but there is a smile on his face. "You've spent too many years among humans."

"Hold him!" Crosis shouts suddenly, and two drones grab onto Data's arms.

Lore turns to his followers. "I've asked many sacrifices of you. Sacrifices I knew were necessary, in order to build a better future. I want you to know that I ask no more of you than I am prepared to give myself." He takes a phaser from one of the guards as he speaks, and walks back to a position a few meters away from his brother.

"I am willing to make the greatest sacrifice of all," he declares, his eyes locking with Data's. "My own, dear brother."

Data is speechless. Lore lied to him after all. He said he wanted Data there, that he needed him, even. And yet he merely shrugs now, points the phaser at him, and smiles, like it is easy.

"Goodbye, Data."

It is over, then. Data will not have to exist without emotions after all. He will die angry. But he will not die angry at his friends, or any other human—

He will die angry at Lore.

"NO!" a voice suddenly shouts, and a Borg drone jumps between the androids. (It is Hugh, Data later realizes, who had gone into hiding but was found by Commander Riker and Lieutenant Worf.)

The scene quickly degenerates into chaos. The Borg begin to fight each other, arguing and firing their weapons. Data has to defend himself against one that lunges for him. He throws the drone aside, and looks around for his brother.

Lore looks angry, as he takes in the scene that is unfolding before him. Data sees him scowl and duck into the hallway that leads to the laboratory.

Data follows him.
ol_yellow_eyes: (sorry)
After disabling his brother, Data returns to the main hall. "Lore is no longer functioning, sir," he tells Captain Picard. "He must be disassembled so he is no longer a threat."

The captain looks at him with all of the confidence and approval that he has always displayed for his second officer. "Welcome back, Data."

.....


Normal.

It does not seem right, after all that has happened, for everything to return to normal. But it does. Data does not receive any punishment, formal or otherwise, for his reprehensible behavior. He is allowed to resume his duties almost immediately, and to him it seems as though people are treating him like nothing ever happened.

It is too easy.

It is not his place to complain, however. He already expressed his concern to the captain, who promptly dismissed it and told him "not to worry." Beyond that, there is nothing he can do. Perhaps it is something the rest of the crew needs, for things to return to normal. Perhaps it would be unfair to ask them to dwell on the incident further, just for the sake of his belief that he should be properly reprimanded.

Lore has been disassembled. For now, his parts are being stored on the Enterprise, until Data decides what to do with them. Perhaps he will submit them to Starfleet for research, or keep them himself for similar purposes.

The only thing he asked was that the emotion chip be removed from Lore's body. As he suspected, it was heavily damaged.

Data is examining the chip when he hears someone at his door. "Enter," he says, turning to look.

It is Geordi.

"Hi, Data," Geordi says, walking over to the console. He reaches down to pet Spot gently while he speaks. "I wanted to let you know that Dr. Crusher says I'll be able to return to duty soon."

Data cannot help realizing how kind it was of Geordi to come and tell him that. "I am… relieved, that the injuries I inflicted on you are not permanent," he says, choosing his words carefully. He resists the impulse to apologize again, as he has already done so several times. Geordi has told him recently to "knock it off."

Right now, Geordi just nods a little. He glances at the chip, which Data is still holding. "What's that?"

"This is the chip my father created for me so that I could experience emotion," Data answers, calmly. "I had it removed from Lore's body before he was dismantled."

Geordi leans over the console. "Does it work?"

"No," Data replies. He reaches over to place it in a small, white box. "I am pleased to say it was damaged when I was forced to fire on Lore."

"Pleased?" Geordi sounds surprised. "Data, you've wanted emotions your whole life."

"Yes," Data admits. "But emotions are responsible for what I did to you. I would never risk letting that happen again." Here, Geordi tries to interrupt, but Data continues, sincerely, "My friendship with you is too important to me."

And so Data reaches for his phaser.

As Data aims it towards the box, he feels exactly the same thing he felt as he was disabling his brother:

Nothing.

But also, the absence of something. The thought that perhaps he should be feeling something, but coupled with the knowledge that this is for the best. He does not need the temptation of emotions again. He failed that test once.

He can endure an existence without emotions. But he could not endure an existence without his best friend.

Before he is able to fire, however, Geordi's hand covers the box.

"Data," he says quietly. "I wouldn't be very much of a friend if I let you give up on a lifelong dream, now would I?"

Data looks up at him, bewildered.

"Maybe… someday," Geordi suggests. "When you're ready."

Data does not know what to say.

But he imagines that he would feel grateful—maybe even happy—if he could. He cannot.

But maybe, as Geordi says, someday he will.

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