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Being Human

Chapter Text

The starship Enterprise moved cleanly through space, moving farther and farther away from the Romulan Neutral Zone. There had been a slight scare at some of the Federation's outermost posts and colonies involving the detection of possible Romulan ships in the area, and the Enterprise had been ordered to go investigate these claims. Thankfully, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, so the starship was permitted to go about its usual routine.

"Take us off yellow alert, Lieutenant Worf." Picard had demanded that it be on while they were in the vicinity of the Neutral Zone.

"Yes, Captain."

Next to Data, Ensign Crusher breathed a sigh of relief, which he believed was an understandable human reaction. Most beings did not seek out danger.

Riker slumped awkwardly in his seat, bringing his leg up to rest on the chair. Data was always perplexed by this. Was the commander incapable of using the seat properly? 

Once they were far away enough from the Neutral Zone, the captain spoke. "Set course to Ranous VI." Picard stood as his combadge dinged, the voice of Dr. Crusher then reminding him of a physical that he had been delaying for two months, three weeks, three days, seven hours, and twenty-five minutes exactly. 

After engaging in temporary eye contact and silent conversation with the captain, Commander Riker slid to the other seat to occupy the con.

Data never understood why Picard and some other humans would ignore and delay physicals. He never once missed a check up with Geordi himself; after all, what use would he be if he were damaged? Humans as well needed to make sure that they were in adequate if not optimal condition every now and then.

Wesley gave a small sound of frustration, typical of him when the computer system of the Enterprise wasn't up to his preferred standards, but something told Data that that was not the case this time. That was a relatively human thing, was it not? Perhaps he would have to speak with Counselor Troi on whether or not it was possible for him to learn how to read into human behaviours and perhaps gain an acceptable amount of empathy.

"You are stressed." Data spoke, moving his head in the direction of the ensign.

"Kind of, yeah." The teenage boy agreed with the android's conclusion.

The lieutenant-commander twisted in his chair slightly. "Is it because the captain left momentarily? Sometimes, I have observed that crewmembers feel more pressure in the absence of their leader than they would if they were present."

Wesley only looked confused and raised an eyebrow.

"I have prepared for this situation."

He widened his eyes. "You have?"

Data nodded enthusiastically, his emotion chip granting him abilities he had longed for for years. Well, he hadn't been capable of longing for anything then, but that was besides the point.

"How?" Crusher looked back and gained eye contact with Riker, who shrugged.

The android rose from his seat. "Let me explain. In the absence of the leader, efficiency ratings have always tended to drop, so recently, I have taken to trying to prevent this from happening. Geordi, do you have my box?" He turned to his friend.

Geordi looked as though he was trying not to laugh. "I sure do, Data." He pulled out a small cardboard box from underneath his station.

"What is it?" Troi sounded especially curious.

"In order to palliate any detriments seen in the absence of the captain or other common authority leader, I have created a way to simulate their presence." Data responded and shuffled through the box a little bit.

He then proceeded to pull out a very lifelike, very detailed, felt puppet of Picard.

Troi gasped. "You made this, Data?" His developing emotions always warmed her heart. It was like experiencing a child grow and learn on the starship.

"Yes." The android confirmed this.

"How does this improve efficiency?" Worf's deep voice grumbled. "The captain is still absent."

Data looked his puppet Picard in the eyes for a moment before walking to Riker. "Commander, may I suggest that you put this on your dominant hand?"

Riker, who had been dying of silent laughter, wiped away his tears. "Yes, I'll put the Picard puppet on. How many do you got in there?"

"I have created a selection of all the Enterprise's leaders." Data answered immediately.

"They're really cute, Data." Wesley laughed from his station, his stress having been relieved not by the presence of the puppet but by the hilarity of the situation.

Geordi agreed. "Yeah, Data has been spending a lot of time making these." He held up a random one, this one of Worf.

"Is that me?" The lieutenant inquired.

Data nodded. "Yes, it is."

He stared for a moment before nodding in approval. "It looks like a tiny warrior."

"It does represent you, Lieutenant." The android pointed out.

Riker stared at the puppet now on his hand. "Make it so." He badly imitated the captain while moving the mouth up and down.

"For that, I would suggest pressing the topmost button on the inside of the head." Data offered his hell.

Troi smiled. "It has buttons too? These are amazing, Data." She didn't think Starfleet would approve of the professionalism of using an imitation puppet of the captain, but it was cute and did no harm. Anything that Data did that could help him develop not only his emotions but also ways to cope with them was a good thing.

Riker smirked at the puppet for a moment before pressing the button.

The puppet then created noise. It was Captain Picard's voice coming from the puppet, a recording that must have come from the computer.

"Make it so."

Chapter Text

Data focused on maintaining normal breathing and blinking patterns of a human as he subconsciously repeated everyday routine tasks at his station; it was almost as if he was on autopilot. The android could do many tasks at once, but he had limited it to the two: whatever Picard ordered him to do and reviewing his memory files. Geordi had commented earlier that it seemed like he was almost daydreaming whenever he did that.

He was on the bridge, but his mind was figuratively elsewhere. More specifically, 2366. Despite it being 1105 hours, Data thought back to a time in 2366 when it had been 1300 hours. That was when his daughter finally succumbed to complete neural system failure and was subsequently deactivated.

It was the Federation's Bring Your Child to Work Day, and while Picard thought it was unnecessary and dangerous in some cases, he allowed it on this one occasion. Ensign Crusher was with his mother instead of at his usual station, and around the ship, children were accompanying their parents to their stations and experiencing life in the work place (sometimes from a safe distance).

Data, however, was childless. His daughter's programming had been incorporated into himself, yet he still felt a strange sense of...absence, he believed. While not being an expert on emotions by any means, he still believed that what he was experiencing right now was caused by the presence of other children around their parents. Not to say he was jealous of them per se, but their presence reminded him of his own failure to save his daughter's life.

He hadn't even noticed that the captain had been trying to get his attention.

"Data?" Picard raised his eyebrow at the still android, who was unaware of the situation at hand.

After his name had been repeated enough, several bridge members looked in confusion to the android robotically completing his tasks and seemingly zoning out.

"Is he ignoring you?" Riker knit his eyebrows together in confusion.

Geordi shook his head. "No, he wouldn't do that. Maybe there is something wrong with his auditory sensors." He frowned.

Picard considered that a possibility, but he turned to Troi. "Counselor, can you sense anything from him that is...strange? Unusual?"

Deanna had been staring at the android with a face of intense sadness, having sensed his grief. "He feels extreme sorrow, guilt, grief." She fell silent.

"Why?" Riker adjusted his position in his chair. "Has anything happened to him recently?"

She shook her head. "No, not recently. His feelings are coming from past experiences."

La Forge snapped his fingers. "That makes sense. It's not his auditory sensors, Captain; whenever Data reviews his memory files, he just kind of zones out sometimes." He shrugged. "I think it has to do with his emotion chip."

Picard tugged on his shirt. "Why would he be looking at his memory files on duty?" He knew this was very out of character for the android.

"Something must have reminded him of the past, triggered the memories to come to the forefront of his mind." Troi responded. "I can't tell exactly what memory he is reviewing and perhaps reliving right now." She met the Captain's gaze. "I'll make sure to meet with him as soon as possible."

He agreed. "Make it so."

"But how do we fix this now?" Riker asked. "How do we snap him out of it? If he's just stuck reviewing his memory files, could we try to regain his attention?"

The counselor considered this although she was unfamiliar with how the android specifically worked.

"Some of his sensors should still be active." Geordi agreed. "His visual sensors are probably offline, and the auditory sensors might be as well. His touch receptors should be fine though."

Picard understood and approached the android, touching him on the shoulder.

"Yes, Captain?" He immediately turned around, having snapped out of his memories.

The Captain looked relieved. "Data."

"Yes?"

"We thought we lost you for a second there." Riker called out from behind him.

Data paused. "I do not understand."

"You were daydreaming." Geordi explained.

"Yes, I was reviewing my memory files."

Picard arched an eyebrow. "On duty?"

He looked baffled for a moment. "I was not aware at the time. I apologize, sir; it will not happen again."

"Is there anything that would help you keep focus until you can talk to Counselor Troi about these memories that are causing you so much stress?" The Captain spoke out of concern.

He nodded in confirmation.

Troi agreed. "Yes, I sent Worf out to get him a few minutes ago."

Picard looked up, surprised. He hadn't even heard the Klingon leave the bridge.

"Wait, 'him?'" Riker looked confused. "Who is Worf bringing up here?"

Just in time, Worf returned to the bridge. "This cat is who I was bringing up here."

"Spot?" Data let the cat jump onto his lap although he was confused about why she was there.

The Captain looked to the Counselor for information.

"Sometimes, having a pet nearby can help ground people in the moment." Troi explained. "I think she'll allow Data to focus."

Data pet his cat absentmindedly. He supposed that some cat owners considered their pets a child as well, so perhaps Spot would be allowed to stay.

"I see." Picard nodded. "I suppose that it is acceptable for now until a better solution is reached, but Data, do try to find a solution with Counselor Troi quickly." He encouraged.

The android eagerly accepted and paid closer attention to the cat. Geordi felt better after seeing Data interact with him, but he was glad that he didn't have to go near Spot. Spot was incredibly overprotective of Data and was definitely not afraid to use claws and teeth to protect the android. And those things hurt.

Riker snorted. "I think Spot should be an honorary acting ensign for the time being." He joked.

Picard allowed himself to laugh slightly at that, and despite the fact that it was a joke, Data took his cat's presence on the bridge very seriously.

A small, cat-sized acting ensign's uniform appeared on Spot the very next day.

Chapter Text

"You are tense." Troi observed coolly.

Data made a sound of agreement. It didn't sound human--more like a machine whirring--but the counsellor got the message nevertheless. Following the Captain's suggestion, the android had been religiously reporting to Troi when he had a question regarding his new emotions.

"Has something been stressing you out lately, Data?"

She observed that he didn't seem as invested in their talk as he normally was. The second officer merely sat in the chair across from her, looking as tired as an android could. It was concerning to say the least as she usually saw this behavior out of the more depressed crewmembers.

"No." He finally answered.

"Has anything changed with your work or social life?" She pressed.

Data blinked slowly as if he had forgotten to for a while. "No."

"You seem...saddened by something."

"You said I wad tense." He cocked his head to the side in confusion.

Troi smiled at him. "Emotions are complex things as I'm sure you've come to realize. People usually feel many layers of emotions at once."

"I see."

"Data, are all of your relationships going well?"

"If you mean my friendships, then, yes." The android responded clearly.

The counsellor leaned forward, confused as to why the android was suddenly thrown into a stressed state. "Is it your emotion chip?"

"I do not understand what you mean. I am here because of my emotion chip." Data answered to the best of his ability.

"No, Data. Is the sudden bombardment of all these new feelings at once stressing you out? Most people aren't left stranded in adulthood and in the workforce when their emotions start developing. You, however, are still developing emotionally in a very stressful environment. Regardless of if it is different than what it usually is or not, such tension could be a side effect."

Data nodded along with her. "This sounds accurate. What should I do with this information?"

"What coping skills do you use?" The counsellor inquired.

The android picked at the hemline of his uniform, an odd quirk he had picked up sometime after having the chip installed.

"You are very artistic." She probed.

"Yes. That is my coping skill."

Troi pursed her lips. "You play the violin. You sing. You can dance. You paint. You make puppets and who knows what else. However, I think that you would benefit by picking up some more."

"Oh? Like what?" Data seemed interested in what else he could do.

She always loved that childlike curiosity. "Have you written poetry?"

"Yes. For Spot."

The counsellor remembered that well. "Perhaps you could try journelling of going on walks. Exercise has proven to be quite the stress reliever."

Data shook his head. "Exercise only benefits organic beings due to their access to neurotransmitters. It does not help me."

Troi should really ask Geordi about what specifically makes Data different than the rest of them, but now was not the time.

"If when you say 'journelling,' you mean the writing, then, I have not partaked in the activity, but I have made some lots about similar topics."

"I see." Troi frowned, wondering if any coping skill would work for the android. "And was that helpful?"

"No."

"You are quite artistic. Do you find those skills better than others?"

Data considered this. "Yes."

"Great!" She continued on that path then. "Are there any forms of art you have not tried yet?"

"Accessing." Data paused. "Yes, counsellor. There are many art forms that I have not experimented with including but not limited to the arts of origami, makeup, hair, and a few forms of martial arts."

Troi thought for a moment. "Do you want to learn how to braid someone's hair?"

"Yes, I think I would like that." Data nodded his head.

The counsellor smiled for a bright couple of seconds before guiding the android's hands carefully towards her hair.

By the time the session was over, Troi was quite proud of Data, and he was proud of himself as he had picked up a new skill. The counsellor's hair was braided in a complex and beautiful way. Soon after, Beverly had allowed him to braid her hair before an operation to keep it out of her way. He was also pleased with those results.

Chapter Text

"I'll be right back, Data." Geordi promised the android, wiping the sweat off the engineer's forehead. "I have to get another tool."

"That is all right." The android smiled at his friend as he left the room.

The wiring and mechanics inside his head were exposed where Geordi had been working on it, but as he was not in enemy territory, Data decided not to close it. Instead, he opted to 'daydream,' so to speak, and access his memory files. Humming along to an improvised tune, he sank from reality.

"That should do it."

Data snapped back into the present time by his best friend closing his head back up. "Hello, Geordi."

"Hi, Data." The engineer grinned. "I'm now officially on break; would you like to go to the Holodeck?"

Needless to say, the android took to the idea almost immediately. He too was on break as Troi advised Picard and Riker to allow him some time after being repaired by Geordi. Every time a tool had to be used to fix him, all it did was remind him of how inhuman he was.

They masqueraded as Holmes and Watson once more and even visited the sentient Moriarty after making sure he would not take over the Enterprise once more. The Holodeck seemed to cause a lot of problems in that regard. The murder afoot had obviously been too easy for Data and Geordi although he still found it a useful resource to practice reading emotions.

The dynamic duo then traveled to Ten Forward, and Data noticed that he was walking with a sort of skip in his step. Odd. He presumed it was due to his mood at the moment.

Entering the room, the android made sure to walk past the spot he had spoken to his daughter quickly without giving it a single glance. He didn't want to deal with sadness today--especially when he was feeling so positive about the day. He hoped Troi would be proud of him next time they met.

"So, Data," Geordi threw warning glances towards those young recruits who found it entertaining to stare at the inorganic being. "How have you been?"

"Very good today." The android beamed and sat up a bit straighter. "And you?"

The engineer laughed. "I'm okay." He smirked, "Your cat been up to anything?"

"Spot is a good cat." Data swore to himself. "They only tear apart things on occasion."

Geordi remembered the cat's sharp claws well, and the skin on his arms trickled slightly. That cat only liked being held on certain occasions by certain people.

"I wonder if Spot is lonely." Data hummed to himself. "Do you think Spot is lonely?"

The engineer pursed his lips. "No. Why?"

"There is no other cats in my quarters for the them to bond with. They are the only one of their kind there. Just like me, they must long for companionship in someone like them."

"They've got you. You are programmed with the knowledge on how to communicate with cats if I'm not mistaken."

"You are correct in that assumption." Data confirmed the detail with a nod. "Maybe I should see if Picard would allow me to get another...."

"You know that Picard would never let anyone have multiple pets."

"But if Spot is lonely, I must." Data looked determined, but after a moment, he leaned forward and stared at Geordi with wide eyes.

The engineer sighed. "I know those eyes, Data. I'm not getting a cat, remember?"

The android sat back. "Spot is lonely; I can feel it."

Later on in the night, Data returned to his quarters. The skip had not left his step yet, but it had only garnered a few laughs and smiles. He wasn't too concerned about it. After all, Geordi just repaired him.

He quickly removed the civilian clothing he had been wearing for his night wear. A shaky hand had caused him to spill some water on it, so he would have to set them out to dry overnight.

While he was doing his nightly maintenance on his teeth, however, the shakes returned, making it nearly impossible to complete the task. Data frowned; had Geordi missed something? It was so unlike the engineer to do so. He must still be excited from the night's adventures.

His cat lay asleep on the bed next to Data's, so the android did not wake them up to see if they were truly lonely. Instead, he took a brush through his hair, which had gained some knots during the night. His knee suddenly shook hard.

Concern bloomed within him. Maybe he should avoid that much excitement at once in the future. Regardless, he went on with his task, ignoring the twitching, which had migrated towards his neck and head. Suddenly, his visual receptors were unable to pick up certain wavelengths of light, leaning him with less colors than a normal human. He frowned. It was eerily silent, or were his auditory sensors damaged too? Geordi had just checked those.

The android had felt his core temperature slowly rise throughout the night, but he had assumed that his hyperactivity was catching up with him. He knew now, however, that that might not be the case. His limbs and neck twitching, his sensors dying, what else was wrong? He suddenly forced himself to into the bathroom and wretched in the toilet. Maybe Geordi had made an accident; he was only human after all. The vomit that came up had no taste though: another sensor down. His head spinning, Data decided that it would be best if he got some rest, and he all but collapsed into his bed and waited for his mechanical body to fall 'asleep.'

Chapter Text

Data was up several hours later, all sensors suddenly online. He could not recall why he felt it necessary to focus on that one fact, but he supposed it could have been due to his awakening. He all but marched towards where he kept his uniforms but frowned when he opened the door. To the best of his knowledge, these were not the uniforms being used at this current time, and he most certainly would have noticed if he had changed it. A diagnostic test of his own revealed nothing out of the ordinary however. Perhaps he should locate the Chief Security Officer to make sure that no immature ensign was trying to fool with him.

He got dressed in the uniform he found and pressed the combadge while walking towards the bridge. "Data to Lieutenant Yar."

A couple crewmembers sent him startled looks. Intriguingly enough, all of them were wearing the new uniform as well.

He felt an odd prickling sensation coming from somewhere within, but it was not physical at all. What was it--confusion? He didn't have emotions.

Where was Lieutenant Yar? She normally replied to him by now. "Data to Lieutenant Yar." He repeated.

His combadge came to life. "Data, this is Captain Picard. I would like to see you on the bridge."

"May I ask why, sir? I am not late."

"No," the captain agreed. "Nevertheless, vome anyway."

"Yes, sir."

As soon as he made it onto the bridge, Geordi was holding a tool up to his head as if he was checking for something.

"May I help you, Geordi?"

"You're acting weird, Data."

"How so?"

The engineer sighed. "Why are you trying to contact Tasha?"

"I suspect that someone has changed my uniforms and other parts of my room." He explained.

"Tasha hasn't been here for years, Data."

"No," the android disagreed." My memory banks do not include any reason why she would have left the Enterprise." The prickling sensation gripped him, and for some reason, he felt some of his functions quickening.

"Data," Counsellor Troi spoke up. "You are panicking."

"Everyone knows that I am not capable of panic or any other emotion."

Riker looked concerned and met eyes with Troi. "You've been capable of it since you got an emotion chip."

Data ran another diagnostic. "When did that get there? I do not recall acquiring it." The sensation--panic--seized him.

"It's okay," Geordi reassured. "I'm just going to check you out."

"Shall we go to the engineering wing then?"

"I'll do it here since this seems to be a bit of an emergency. I just checked you out there too. Sit please."

Data obediently sat down in his chair as Geordi opened a panel."

"You're holding your breath, Data. Try to breathe normally." Troi instructed.

"What happened to Lieutenant Yar?"

Troi bit her lip. "She's gone."

"Gone as in deployed on a different starship?" He clarified.

"No," she responded. "Gone as in..."

"Dead." A wall of grief slammed into him, and Troi's eyes saddened as she felt it.

Geordi clapped a hand onto his shoulder. Data didn't have the chance to grieve her when she really died.

"La Forge, report." Picard requested.

"I'm not all that certain right now. There is evidence of tampering with some of his pathways, but I swear I just checked those yesterday." He frowned. "Whatever it was spread rapidly. There is strain on almost all of his sensors and his memory bank, almost like a virus is trying to take him down. I suspect that it separated some parts of his memory from the rest. He still has them, but his sensors can't find them."

"Is it fixable?" Riker asked.

"It should be, but this would not happen naturally. Someone attacked Data with this virus--someone on the Enterprise right now."

 

Chapter Text

Picard sighed for the nth time that hour. "La Forge, is there any reason you do not want to move to the engineering wing? I'm sure this would be easier there." The Captain had ordered an immediate shift change, so all of the superior officers were in the conference room.

"It may be easier, but it would certainly be a lot more dangerous." La Forge gripped his best friend's shoulder in a reassuring way. He must not be feeling that great right now with some of his panels exposed in front of the Captain.

Troi nodded in agreement. "Whoever attacked Data must have had a decent knowledge of how he works. Odds are they're from the engineering section."

"Computer, were there any unauthorized life forms inside Commander Data's room in the past 24 hours?"

When they got a negative for their answer, Riker spoke up. "Geordi, who was on duty while you were repairing Data yesterday?"

"Well, there were a few ensign studying the warp core, and of course, Barclay was there." He responded. "I was around Data almost constantly though."

"But not every moment." The First Officer clarified.

He conceded to that. "There was one time I had to leave to grab a tool, but I was back within minutes."

"That may have been enough time to upload this virus or whatever it is to Data." Dr. Crusher paused. "Have there been any notable symptoms he has displayed besides the memory loss?"

Data cocked his head slightly,causing Geordi to frown. "I am not susceptible to organic viruses."

"Yes, but maybe we would be able to identify how to fix you based on how it has been affecting you." She explained. "Do you recall any other symptoms?"

"My sensors were damaged, and based on their current state, I believe that it is likely that they went offline some time before I went to 'sleep.'"

La Forge agreed. "It does look like that back here. You were twitching a lot last night too, and I for one don't think you were doing it on purpose."

"Why would I have not reported my concerns to you?"

"I don't know, Data, but maybe you could tell us after we reload your memories." He smiled at his friend.

Troi frowned. "Data, is there anything we can do to ease your discomfort and confusion?"

"It would mean the most for you all to carry out your normal duties. The ailments of one officer should not cause the entire command team to shut down. Geordi is suitable for now." He tried to convince them to leave. He just wanted to be left alone.

Picard looked at his Number One and back again. "We're sorry, but this has become an investigation into an attack on a Starfleet officer." He felt himself almost slip into Dixon Hill. "Our man is on board this ship, and we can't have him try anything else."

Riker came into contact with O'Brien. "Riker to O'Brien, for an indefinite period of time, notify either the Captain or I before allowing anyone to transport on or off the ship. Riker out."

The Captain approved of that action. "As for Counsellor Troi, you were just attacked, Data. It is required that she be here now."

The android supposed he could understand that, but it still didn't make sense. He was so sure that Lieutenant Tasha Yar was still a member of the Enterprise crew anf so sure that he had no emotions, but both of those were inaccurate. Therefore, there was a greater chance of further miscalculations and misunderstandings in the future.

"Might I suggest, Captain, that we question all those on duty at the time of the incident?" Worf was a bit more aggressive than normal, but Data took that as a sign of affection.

"Make it so."

Chapter Text

"That should do it."

All of a sudden, an influx of memories new and old flooded his neural circuits. Tasha Yar, Kivas Fajo, Bruce Maddox. Data felt panic grip his sternal plate and queasiness settle into his abdominal structures. How could he have just forgotten all of this? What had happened to him?

"Data." It was Counsellor Troi. "I need you to listen to my voice. Can you take some deep breaths with me?" She participated in the exercise to encourage his compliance.

He tried to follow her lead, his mechanical lungs inhaling and exhaling. There was, however, no exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide; it was merely for show. The same gases that came in came out.

"You're doing a good job, Data." She commented. "Do you think you can sit up?"

The android moved to do so, but half way up, his whole body jerk erratically. Geordi caught his best friend before he fell back to the table he had been laying on in the conference room.

Worf had stationed two trusted officers outside of the door, and everyone except Geordi and Deanna had returned to their normal post for now. The investigation was still ongoing however.

"Do you remember who attacked you, Data?" Troi inquired serenely.

"No." His voice came out incredibly mechanical and staticky, and Geordi winced in sympathy.

"Do you remember when you first started displaying symptoms of the virus?"

The android looked up at his friend, but only one of his eyes seemed to be able to move around.

"He was very shaky when we were at Ten Forward." Geordi thought back. "He seemed fine on the Holodeck though. We were there for about an hour too."

"Data, did you notice anything change on the Holodeck?"

His voice was just as strained and inhuman as before. "I thought it was possible, but I did not voice my concerns because I had just been repaired."

Geordi sighed. "Data, no matter how soon it has been between repairs, you can always tell me if something is wrong. You've never hesitated to do that before."

"It-It-It-It-" Data fell silent and shook his head in frustration.

"It's okay to feel frustrated or annoyed right now, Data." Troi reassured her colleague.

The chief engineering officer opened a panel on his neck around where the human voice box would be located. "Just what I thought. Something is corroding all of your panels and wiring. That's probably the reason you couldn't sit up either."

"Is there any new piece of programming that could be causing this?" She asked out of curiosity.

Geordi shrugged. "I'm not sure. What do you think, Data?"

The android mimicked his friend's shrug. "I find myself unable to check at this point in time." He spoke regretfully, his voice cutting out once or twice.

His friend nodded in understanding. "I'm going to replace your speech panel, Data. Is that okay?"

Data nodded, and Geordi stood up and quickly ran out of the conference room to get the necessary parts.

"How are you doing emotionally, Data?" The counsellor asked.

In all honesty, Data could feel his emotion chip start to corrode. He felt a brief stabbing feeling of loss as he had wanted it for so long, but it was out of his control.

"I'm going to ask Geordi to remove my chip."

Troi's eyebrows furrowed. "Are you sure that is the best path, Data? You've made so much progress; you can't turn back in this stage of your evolution."

"I-I-I-I." He paused before trying again. "I will get it put back in eventually, but it is corroding like all my other parts. My emotion chip, unlike my other parts, however, cannot be replaced."

She understood. "I see, so it is out of necessity?"

He merely nodded in silence.

Soon after, Geordi ran back in, and Data looked pleadingly at the counsellor for her to speak for him. It was obvious that the corrosion was causing him pain.

She spoke up. "Data has asked that you remove the emotion chip as soon as you can to prevent it from corroding." She reported.

Geordi looked stunned for a moment but understood the severity of the situation. "I got you, Data. I'll do that first."

He set to work.

Chapter Text

Ensign Gates stowed away out of the engineering department. His shift had just ended, and he wanted to put as much distance between him and it as possible. It was truly a marvel, a feat of engineering, but it had no right being a Starfleet officer. Was the Admiralty trying to replace all stations with machines?

Later on, he knew that he had succeeded in putting it in its place. The command team was distracted unfortunately, but a minor lapse in their work would be the price to pay if they were to purge the ship of inorganic crew members. Recently, he had been in communication with a man who he knew the android despised. Well, if it were organic, it would have despised him, but it couldn't feel like organic beings could whether or not it had an emotion chip.

He entered his quarters, noticing that his roommate, Ensign Ynis, was not there. She wasn't scheduled to return until much later. He couldn't help but wonder whether or not he would be discovered and if so how soon. Technology had made many leaps over the past couple of centuries, so it was likely that there was at least some surveillance in the area at the time of his crime.

Could it really be considered a crime? At least it definitely wasn't assault. At most, it would be vandalism of Starfleet property. Gates smiled inwardly as he thought about how much the command team would reprimand him if they could hear his thoughts at that time. They valued the hunk of metal and wires way too much.

Suddenly, his communicator beeped even though he was technically off duty. It must be due to the android's damage; they must have realized it was someone from the engineering department. Naturally, La Forge would call everyone who was on duty at the time back for questioning, all for a machine.

"Gates," he responded to the call.

"Ensign, report back down here in five." The chief engineering officer's voice came through.

"Yes, sir. May I ask why, sir?"

There was a pause. "I'll let you all know once you're down here. La Forge, out."

Gates swiveled on his foot and turned back to the door. He probably didn't want anyone to realize what had been done and possibly decide to flee. He wouldn't do that; he was no coward. Plus, it would look even more suspicious if he didn't show up. It would be better for everyone involved if he reported as he was supposed to.

As he made his way down to the engineering wing, he took some time to contemplate. Why did the android not notice that he was messing with its components? Did it? Did it even care? He knew that it wasn't off; La Forge always seemed keen on keeping it 'awake' because of its 'feelings.' He almost laughed out loud at that. How could a bunch of wires have feelings? A conscience? The Enterprise certainly didn't have any of that, and she was a stunning work.

He moved to stand by Barclay, who anxiously fingered the hems of his uniform. He was the last to arrive; hopefully, La Forge wouldn't take note of that.

"I'm sure you're all wondering why I called you all here." The chief engineering officer started. "I did so because the command team has eliminated everyone but those of you standing before me from the suspects' list."

Ensign B'Bora knit her eyebrows together. "Permission to speak, sir?" She paused and waited for his approval. "Thank you, sir. What do you mean by suspects list? Has there been a crime?"

Gates bit his lip. No, what he had done hadn't been a crime. At least not one against a conscious being.

"Yes," he responded. "Lieutenant Commander Data was assaulted while receiving repairs here yesterday. I was with him almost the entire time, but there was a small fraction where I was not. It is the command team's current hypothesis that someone uploaded a virus to Data's programming during this time."

Barclay stiffened, but Gates knew it was due to anxiety rather than guilt. La Forge seemed to know this also. Looking around, the ensign noticed that there were a couple of armed guards around the exits. They were definitely taking all precautions necessary to catch him.

"My question is," he paused. "Who was it?"

Like he was going to straight up answer that question.

"Can anyone tell me where they were and what they were doing while I was gone to retrieve some tools?" La Forge passed something to Worf before continuing to look at them. It was clear that the Klingon had not taken lightly the attack on the android.

Barclay raised his hand. "I-I was working with the dilithium crystals, sir."

"Thank you, Barclay." La Forge turned towards the others. Gates knew that the chief engineering officer didn't really suspect the anxious man. "Anyone else want to tell me what they were doing?"

B'Bora spoke up again. "Ensign Nelson and I were repairing damage to the main replicator shafts, sir."

Gates decided that it would be a good time to speak up then. Not too early, but not too late. "And I, sir, was going over the schematics for new repairs to the phaser banks."

La Forge nodded his head as he looked down the line.

Ensigns Hono, V'ly, and Brakia had been repairing a defective food replicator in the cafeteria at the time. It had been getting orders wrong for days, and honestly, Gates was glad to see it being fixed.

Worf surveyed the group suspiciously, and Gates made sure to show no weakness. Anything could tip the Klingon off to his identity as the culprit.

La Forge sighed deeply and pinched the bridge of his nose. Obviously, he had come no closer in his investigation.

Barclay spoke up again. "If I may ask, sir, how is the Lieutenant Commander?"

The chief engineering officer looked surprised. "I cannot tell you that."

The other man looked slightly put out, but he understood the reasoning behind it.

He turned to Worf. "Keep an eye on them for now, will you? I need to check on Data."

"Understood."

Leaving the room, Geordi took a breath of relief. The air in there was incredibly thick, but he desperately needed to see his friend with or without the emotion chip. He had removed it a few hours prior, and based on how he had been doing lately, the android would probably need to be repaired again soon.

"Riker to La Forge." His combadge buzzed slightly.

"La Forge here."

"You better come quick. Something is wrong with Data."

Chapter Text

"Data? Data, what's going on?" The First Officer clutched the fallen android.

He was kneeling by a nearby bucket, heaving hard. Yellow liquid dripped down his forehead. Sweat, his neural receptors supplied, but he had never done this before. Geordi had come by earlier to take out his emotion chip before leaving to question the engineering team, but that hadn't stopped him from feeling. No, in contrast, it could be argued that the emotions that were plaguing him were coming back at an unforeseen rate.

The android heaved again, but there was nothing to come up. He had not ingested anything recently, but he could feel the strain of his dry heaving taking a real toll on his internal circuits. He felt some snap clean in half.

He couldn't hear anything more. Vaguely, he was aware of his superior officer trying to communicate something to him, but he could not grasp what he was saying. Data briefly wondered if his snapping circuits had made an audible noise that the First Officer could have picked up on, but he was unsure.

Yellow liquid also started to seep from his eyes. That was odd. He had been emotionless for ten minutes and thirty-six seconds before it came back in strong waves, and now, a new feeling, panic, gripped him tightly. He was going to die just like his daughter Lal had. Or they were going to put him out of his pain and disassemble him to examine his parts. He didn't want to be turned off. He didn't want to leave Geordi or any of the other people who he had become accustomed to.

The door opened, but it wasn't the chief engineering officer. Instead, it was the ship's counselor. She dropped the PADD she had been holding and rushed into the room. She was probably saying something out of concern, but Data could only see her mouthing words. His vision grew blurry.

If this was how it was going to end, it could at least be said that he was surrounded by friends and family. He wasn't alone; he wasn't with any enemies. But he desperately wished that Geordi was here. The Watson to his Holmes. His best friend.

He didn't want to leave; he didn't want this to be over. He had just started understanding humans on a level he had not been able to before. He had come closer to accomplishing Dr. Noonien Soong's lifetime goals.

The android dry heaved once more, sobbing. He barely felt Commander Riker holding him anymore, but he faintly registered Troi kneeling beside him and gripping his hand. He wished he had tried harder to live life more, to be a better friend, to be supportive.

Was this what humans felt when they were dying? Did they feel all of their systems break down one by one until there was nothing left? Or was it easier for them? Was it like ripping a bandaid? He felt proud that he had been able to use a human metaphor, but that was overwhelmed by the panic and the pain that came with his virus.

He felt the fluids settle low in his body. Normally, they would be making sure he could move his joints and greasing places like his eyes for clean movement, but with his next heave, all of it came up and onto the floor. It was yellow like so many other parts of his body.

He tried to move his eyes, but without the fluid, all he could do was force them slowly. He felt it click. He felt no more sweat leave his body, no more tears. That was one thing, but that probably meant that he was running dangerously low on fluids.

Would his Father be able to fix him? His Mother? He tried to think back to that time on Omicron Theta, but like always, it escaped him. He had no memory of his time with them, but he couldn't help but feel intense despair when he thought about it. He wanted his Father. He wanted his Mother. He'd even take Lore at this point even though he would probably only laugh at the situation he had gotten himself into.

He felt vibrations come from Riker's chest. He was probably speaking, either to him or to Counselor Troi. It would be a useless venture to try to speak to the android; he couldn't hear anything anymore.

His grip on Troi's hand tightened as he was forced to throw up even more of his internal fluids into the bucket. He felt her tighten her grip in response, probably trying to be reassuring.

Data remembered how his daughter, his baby girl had died. She had been troubled with the sudden onslaught of emotion, just like what he was experiencing right then and there. Could Troi feel that? Did she know just as he did that it was the end? He didn't want to go. There were still so many things he wanted to do, so much more he wanted to know and discover.

He felt more vibrations on the floor, too many for it to just be one person coming in. He tried to look up, but he found that his joints weren't greased well enough to move. The android nearly sobbed on the ground where he knelt. Hell, maybe he did sob; he didn't know anymore.

There was a gentle hand on his shoulder, and he instantly knew who it was without even looking. Geordi La Forge. He forced himself harder to look up, cracking and breaking several of his joints. It didn't matter anymore. There was no hope for him, just like how there had been no hope for Lal. He just wanted to see his friend, enjoy his friend's presence one last time. He tried not to think about all of the adventures that the two would never be able to enjoy again, all of the concerts he would never perform, and all of the artworks that would remain forever unfinished. Just to take in this one moment, that was all Data desired. His visual circuits remained blurry, but he could see Dr. Crusher and Captain Picard there as well. He was not sure why they were there, but he would need of the friends he could surround himself with at this time.

Geordi motioned for Riker to do something that Data did not understand, but it came to him when the First Officer picked him up. His legs fell limp and out of the position they had previously been in, and the commander laid him down on the conference table. The chief engineering officer probably did not want to expose him to the threats in his wing at this time.

His friend was trying to communicate something to him, but he didn't get the message. He attempted to cock his head to the side, and he felt something give. The chief engineering officer looked towards Dr. Crusher for a moment. She said something to him, something he couldn't make out. He would have been able to read their lips if his vision had not gone so blurry. Geordi lifted the plate by both of his ears and set to work.

That repair would probably be the easiest of all of the ones laid out in front of him; all he really needed to do was replace some parts. Data tried not to throw up while he was doing this; he knew how difficult his own circuitry was to fix.

Suddenly, he could hear again. All of them were quiet for the most part, but upon feeling the relief that Data felt, the empath spoke up.

"There are many feelings that I'm getting off of you, Data." Troi voiced. "Can you understand me?"

"Yes." His voice was painfully mechanical, so much unlike the one he and his Father had perfected over the years. "I am...dying, but I am...happy." He figured.

The counselor nodded her head. "You are, Data, but I can still feel your panic."

Riker seemed to be confused. "Why are you happy that you are dying?"

"I...am around friends." His eyes felt horribly, horribly dry. He could barely blink them anymore. "People that I care about."

He saw the Captain turn away and put his head in his hands. Data knew this must be tough for him; they had known each other for so long. Picard had fought for him, secured rights for him that originally had only applied to organic beings. He knew that the Captain was trying to stay strong for the others.

"Well, Data, I'm going to do my best to fix you, okay? I just need to look at your programming, see what has been added. Do you think you could help me with that?" Geordi looked concerned.

"I can tell you where it is not, but whatever it is is programmed to remain hidden from me. To stop me from correcting it." The android responded. "I have tried."

Dr. Crusher spoke up. "Whoever made this thing must have been a genius if you cannot find it."

The chief engineering officer agreed. "I don't think anyone on the suspect list is capable of making a virus like this." He opened the cranial plate again. "I'm not going to lie, the damage is extensive."

"Will he be able to make a recovery?" Picard asked immediately.

He didn't know. "Maybe if I can figure out a way to stop this from progressing. Can somebody get Data some fluids?"

"He's just been throwing it back up again." Riker commented.

The chief engineering officer bit his lip. "He can barely move anymore; his joints need the fluid. Even if he throws it back up, I want to try to get it to him."

"We could try to get it in intravenously." The CMO stated. "I know that it is normally only for organic beings, but we could try."

Geordi paused. "Try it." Clearly, he was desperate.

"Is that why his eyes are...the way that they are?" Troi gestured to his eyes.

Data frowned. What was wrong with his eyes? He knew that he was severely lacking fluid there, so much so that every time he moved them they gave off a clicking sound, but there was nothing really wrong with them.

Geordi confirmed his beliefs. "That's just lack of fluid. The fluids are yellow, you see? So Data's eyes are yellow. Without the fluid, his eyes go to the gray that they are now."

He registered Dr. Crusher leaving, probably to try to find some fluid, but then, he could not register any more. He went into his circuitry to try to find the error, the virus, the addition, and he knew no more.

Chapter Text

It seemed that every time Geordi would fix one thing, another thing would go terribly wrong. Sweat poured down his back, and his anxieties were not helped by the other members of the command team watching him work. Could he actually save his best friend? Not even Data could save his daughter when she started to experience cascade failure. What hope could he possible have of succeeding?

"Is there anything we could do to help?" Troi sensed his worry and urgency.

He bit his lip, trying not to curse in front of the Captain as his visual circuits once again began to break faster and faster. "Yeah, uh, could someone get me some more parts? Some of everything, really. I don't know what I'll need next. Everything's just going wrong."

"Are you losing him?" Dr. Crusher stepped up, wondering if she could be of some help with her medical knowledge of organic beings.

"I hope not, but I've never been the best at understanding Data's programming and circuits." Geordi confessed.

She spoke up. "You are the most qualified engineer in all of Starfleet."

"Yes, but I am no Noonien Soong." Feelings of inadequacy plagued him. "I wish I could help Data more, but I can't work as fast as an android could."

An android. Maybe that was what they needed after all. Geordi always doubted that Lore actually hated Data; he was certain that Lore hated organic beings. Hell, even Q would be able to help Data more than he could at this point. With his powers, he'd be able to right these wrongs instantly, and he did seem to like the crew of the Enterprise more than any other. Or maybe that was just Picard.

Would Lore even agree to helping Data? They had had their differences in the past, but Lore must remember some things from Omicron Theta. Perhaps he held a soft spot for the other android.

Geordi shook his head. What was he thinking? Lore had done horrible things to his good friend; there was no way he had a soft spot for anything. But he would have the ability to help. Maybe if they made some sort of deal?

Seriously, how could he be actually considering asking him for help? Was it just because of his need to fix Data? He'd do anything to get his friend all right again.

He doubted that the other android was even in the vicinity anyway. Both finding him and convincing him to help would take too long, longer than they had to save the second officer. He had to do this himself. He had to prove himself and save his friend.

Guilt ate at him. He had turned his best friend off, hoping that it would halt the virus's progress. It had somewhat worked. It was progressing slower than it had been, but would that make up for the betrayal? He shook his head. Anything to save Data.

His fingers flew through the circuitry in the lieutenant commander's head, trying to find any evidence of tampering. If he could cut the virus off at its source, its point of entry, maybe it would fizzle out. He didn't have much time left at all.

The grayish hue that had originally been spotted in the android's eyes was spreading. His lips turned, then his fingertips.

Dr. Crusher touched them lightly. "He needs more fluids. What happens if he goes bone dry?"

"He won't be able to move; he'll be completely paralyzed. I'd have to replace so many parts." He responded quietly, almost too quiet to hear.

Riker stood. "I'll see what we can do about that."

"Make it so." The Captain, for once, felt truly helpless as he watched one of his closest companions slowly die.

Geordi was down on his luck. He didn't know what else he should try. He stared at the blinking lights for a moment, aware that they were slowly growing dimmer. At least it wasn't as fast as it had progressed before.

Then, it hit him. "Oh, damn."

"What's going on?" Picard's attention snapped toward him.

"Someone's messed with his circuitry right here. They changed his subroutines to reject the fluid that keeps him mobile; think of it like an allergy or autoimmune disorder. Because of this, his body is trying its hardest to get rid of all the fluids in his body." Geordi allowed himself to smile. He had done it. That must be why they couldn't get any fluids in him; it hadn't even worked intravenously.

Crusher sat up straighter. "Is it reversible?"

"It should be, yes, but his recovery will probably take a while. There has been so much damage due to this, so I don't think I'll be able to fix it all in one go. And I don't want him in the engineering wing with the culprit still unknown."

He focused on the issue at once, trying his best to resolve it as soon as possible. Whoever did this somehow made it invisible to Data, but he didn't know how they had done that. Data had a remarkable amount of self awareness.

The repair took thirty-five minutes, but he knew that everything else would take ages. Riker ventually came in with a large amount of fluids for his friend.

"We should try to get it to him intravenously again." Geordi allowed Dr. Crusher to take center stage. He wasn't very good with needles.

Finally sure that Data wouldn't die on the table, he switched his best friend back on.

Data snapped into consciousness and spoke in a mechanical, painful sounding voice. "You turned me off, Geordi."

Chapter Text

"Why did you turn me off, Geordi?" The android's voice sounded more defeated than sad.

"Sorry, I had to. I hypothesized that the virus would at least slow down if you weren't operating." His friend squeezed the other man's hand in a comforting manner.

Data's eyes clicked to his arm as he noticed Dr. Crusher inserting an IV. "I am...uncertain about a lot of things right now."

"You're safe now." Picard looked like he could cry from the intensity of his happiness. It wasn't often that a crewman could be pulled back from the brink of death.

"I understand that, but I am still perplexed about the cause of all this."

Geordi responded. "The virus made your body reject your fluids, and that must be what caused the other issues."

"You deleted the virus, right?" Riker asked for confirmation.

The chief engineer turned his attention to him. "No, but I did my best to reroute his programming. I also installed another antivirus program." He flexed his fingers and yawned.

"It is getting late." Data's mechanical voice nearly cut out. "You should....You should go to sleep, Geordi." He tried to move the fingers of the hand that his friend was holding, but they were paralyzed. It would just be another part that would have to be replaced.

Picard swallowed and cleared his throat. "It is getting late." He repeated. "Data, take all the time you need to heal. La Forge, make healing Data your primary mission."

Worf then came back in. "The suspects will be held in the bridge overnight, captain. None of them offered any evidence."

"Thank you, lieutenant." The Captain adjusted his shirt. "You're all dismissed. Today has been stressful; we shall reconvene tomorrow to search for the culprit."

Troi nodded her head. That was a good idea. "Data, where would you like to stay? In your room?" She felt a sudden jolt of fear from the android.

He didn't say anything.

"You're scared of being in your room. The suspects are all locked up, Data. There is nothing to fear." The counsellor advised.

"I know." The android voiced. The other members of the crew except Geordi slowly left the room, realizing that this was a private moment. "I am....not able to defend myself right now."

Troi gripped his arm. He couldn't feel it at all. "You are afraid of being vulnerable."

"I do not want to be by myself tonight."

The chief engineer spoke up. "Why don't you stay in my room while I work on repairs? That way you don't have to go to your room defenseless. I don't want you in engineering right now either."

Data's eyes clicked again as he looked away. "Can Spot come?"

Geordi was not a fan of that cat. "Okay, Data. The cat can come."

"Thank you."

Troi stood. "How should we move him?"

He pursed his lips. "Do you mind being carried, Data?"

"No." His voice cut out.

Geordi nodded his head, wrapped his arms around his best friend, and lifted.

Chapter Text

Geordi and Troi guided Data into the chief engineering officer's room. The ship's counsellor was understandably still concerned about the second officer, but it seemed apparent that the android was not going to speak anymore that day. It had been very taxing on everyone involved, especially Geordi and Data.

"Where do you want to go?" Geordi adjusted his hold on his best friend. His arms were starting to burn from the effort.

Data's eyes clicked again as he looked up at his friend. "I do not mind anywhere."

"My bed is big enough for two anyway." He led the android over to the bed with Troi's help.

"Very well, Geordi. Thank you."

After a moment of silence, Deanna spoke up. "Is there anything I can get the two of you? I am sensing a lot of stress coming off of you."

"We're fine. Sleep wouldn't hurt, but I think we'll all be in a much better place once we know who did this." The engineer scowled to himself.

She agreed. "I'll check up on you two tomorrow." She wished them a good night and was on her way to her own quarters.

Data fell into his own thoughts. Why had he been so irresponsible as to access his memory files in public? He showed such a large amount of weakness that it was no wonder someone had taken advantage of it. Hadn't he learned from all the times someone wanted to take him for their own personal gain? Hadn't he learned from Kivas Fajo? Even when he was alert, things still went wrong. How could he be so naive as to relax out in the open?

He felt his best friend slip into bed next to him. He was warm yet tense. The android strained to look at him, just to see his friend, ignoring all the pain shooting through his body. Geordi had taken his visor off. He must feel safe in his room even though Data would be unable to defend them if someone intruded in his space.

But at the same time, intruders were a rarity on the Enterprise. At least, they were rare when there were no ambassadors or other travellers on board. Data had convinced himself that no crewmember would dare attack him after all, but that hadn't turned out well.

Was he ever really safe? People were always seeking him out as though he were some precious commodity. They wanted to take him back to wherever they came from and learn about him by removing his panels and wires piece by piece. He had trusted every member of the engineering crew, yet someone, he didn't know who, harbored ill will towards him, ill will strong enough to warrant such an attack.

Would he ever be truly safe? His eyes clicked nervously as he looked at the door. Would someone come bursting in to attack the two of them? Would he be able to warn Geordi in time?

The android closed his eyes hard. By now, his friend was probably deep in the realm of Morpheus. Perhaps he would be spared, but he would not. His kind were never spared.

His subroutines were screaming at him, telling him that he had drastically overthought everything, but what was the harm in thinking things through thoroughly?

He hadn't wanted to die, but he had come so close to accepting its embrace that day. He had been happy while dying, happy that he was around friends. But then, he was yanked out of consciousness by his best friend in a desperate attempt to save his life, and it had worked. Data could officially say that he expected to still be there when Geordi woke up, but that didn't mean that he was out of danger yet.

Had it been Barclay? The android severely doubted that the anxious man was behind all this, but he was having trouble recalling who was on duty at that specific time. He would have to bring that up to Geordi. There were the other ensigns as well, but they definitely didn't have the skills necessary to create such an elaborate virus, let alone be able to hide it from Geordi and him.

Ice gripped him. That meant that whoever did it could not have been working alone. There was someone else, probably off-ship, who had most likely constructed the virus and taught the culprit how to use it. But who could it be? The android had made many enemies over the years.

Could it be Maddox? Lore? Or was it someone else entirely? Some affluent person who could pay to commission such programming?

He felt his eyes begin to water, but he wasn't sure why. Geordi had said that he was finally safe, but did 'safe' exist? His eyes clicked back over to the door and around the room in apprehension. What if they were already inside, hiding behind a bookshelf or in the bathroom, just waiting for the perfect time to strike? It would make sense. Beings, organic and inorganic, were generally at their weakest during the night.

The android wanted to get up and look over the room, to walk around and search in every nook and cranny for an attacker. He didn't like feeling so vulnerable. He had always been the strong one, practically indestructible, but that wasn't the case anymore.

He had been stupid, so now, he was weak. Data's eyes clicked over to his friend. There was no way he was going to sleep that night, not when there could be someone just waiting to pounce.

He wouldn't put himself in that danger again. He wouldn't put Geordi in that danger. He wasn't stupid.

Chapter Text

"Did you rest at all during the night?" The chief engineering officer inquired, preparing a makeshift workspace in his quarters. He was taking Captain Picard's orders very seriously; Data was to remain away from the engineering wing.

The android's eyes clicked as he looked at his friend. "No, Geordi."

"You should try to rest. Staying up all night can't be good for your recovery."

"I do not function like organic beings, and I needed...to keep you safe."

He understood now. "You were on guard."

"That is an accurate statement."

Geordi sighed and sat down next to the android with a couple of tools. "The computer will alert us if there is an intruder. You are safe here, Data."

Data shook his head the best he could. "There are ways to bypass all security protocols. I cannot be stupid anymore."

"You're not stupid."

"I slipped into my memory bank in public. I was practically asking for someone to harm me." The chief science officer disagreed.

His friend squeezed the android's arm, which was lacking its bioplast outer layer and exposing all sorts of panels and wires. "It was of no fault of your own. The only one responsible is the culprit. Besides, people daydream all the time in public, and they aren't asking for it."

"But I should be better. I was created with mental and physical capacities beyond that of an organic being."

Geordi paused for a moment. "The counsellor could probably help you with these feelings. I could always call her if I'm not helping."

"I find your presence to be quite pleasant, Geordi."

He worked in silence for a few minutes, knowing that his friend 's anxieties were running high. The android refused to look away from the door as if he expected an attacker to suddenly assault the two of them.

The chief engineering officer felt the need to start up another conversation. "So, what did you do all night?"

"I watched the door and the walls and everything else. I also came to a realization." Data responded concisely.

His interest was piqued. "What realization was that?"

"None of the suspects are capable of creating such an elaborate virus. If they had done it, it would have been more clumsy, and we would have been able to find it Iong before we did."

"Yeah, we were sort of thinking the same thing. None of them have the right level of expertise."

The android forced himself to nod. "Yes, so that means there is still someone responsible who is not in custody. Therefore, I must keep watch."

"They might not even be on the Enterprise."

"Perhaps, but we cannot know with 100% certainty."

The engineer bit his lip. "You think they are going to try something else."

Data confirmed this. "I do. Why would they go through all this effort if they weren't going to accomplish their goals? They may take a little while to come up with a new plan, but I believe that they eventually will come up with something."

"Who do you think it is? Bruce Maddox?"

"I am uncertain."

Geordi closed the bioplast on his arm and wiped the sweat off of his own forehead. "We'll figure it out, Data. I promise."

Chapter Text

After the next day, Data was able to move his eyes around without them clicking into place. By the day after that, he regained some control over his fingers. He could only wiggle them around without pain, but he considered any progress to be an improvement. Geordi had reminded him that it would take some time for his structures and parts to accept his body fluids once more. That was truly the only reason progress seemed so slow, but Data could be patient.

That didn't stop him from concerning himself with the affairs of the security team. Worf and his crew had been working on identifying the attacker for days now, and they had only cut the suspect list down minutely. Barclay was in the clear. No one really expected him to be the culprit anyway, and Ensign B'Bora was also vindicated. There were still a lot of ensigns and other crewmembers unaccounted for, but the android had faith in the Klingon. He would be able to sort this out.

Geordi tapped the inside of his elbow, trying to trigger some sort of reflex. It didn't work. Unfortunately, his movement capabilities in his arm were limited to his fingers.

"Do you think it would help if I replace some of the pseudoligaments?"  He asked, running his hand on top of his head. "That might speed up the fluid absorption."

"It might." Data agreed. He had regained control over his voice slowly over the past couple of days. It no longer cut out every minute, but it still didn't sound exactly like it used to.

Nodding his head, the chief engineering officer opened a panel on his arm. "Now, I'm sure you know that it'll take time for your body to accept the new part, but it should be quicker since it wasn't in contact with the virus."

The android knew all of this already. "Yes," he sounded distracted. Geordi had yet to convince him to stop keeping guard during the night, and even Counsellor Troi seemed to have problems with that as well. She said that Data was very fearful of being assaulted again, and he didn't want to put his friend in danger also. As a result of his caution, however, he had not taken any time to 'sleep.' He wasn't recharging properly, and he stopped taking time to review his memory files. Normally, he would process those in an area he felt safe in, but he couldn't find any such place.

"I'm really concerned about how anxious you are, Data. You need to review your files." He reminded, already knowing that nothing would probably come from it.

"Last time I reviewed my memory files, someone uploaded a virus on me." The lack of emotion in the android's voice startled the other man; he had grown used to hearing Data's feelings through his speech.

The chief engineering officer sat down next to his friend. "You're in my quarters though, not in the engineering wing. All the suspects are currently in Worf's custody."

"Not all of them." Data cut in quickly. "Someone must have commissioned the virus, and if they were wealthy enough to convince someone onboard to upload it to me, then, they probably can bribe someone else as well."

After a few moments of silence, Geordi responded. "Once we find out which one of them is guilty, Worf will be able to get that information out of them. There is no use in over thinking this right now, Data."

"I know." He let out a remarkably human-sounding sigh.

"Are you afraid?"

The android looked away for a second before turning his head back to his best friend. "Yes, Geordi."

"I get that. Hell, I would be terrified if I was in your position." The chief engineering officer paused as he installed a fragile part. "We won't let anything happen to you."

"Bad things will always happen."

There was a buzz at the door. Geordi stood to open it, revealing Troi. "Good morning," he greeted.

The ship's counsellor responded appropriately and was welcome into the space. Relief clouded over Data's positronic mind; for some reason, he felt safer in her presence.

"I see you have improved since I last saw you." She commented. "But you are incredibly afraid."

"Bad things will always happen." He repeated.

Troi continued on as Geordi got some more work done. "Yes, you are victim to a lot more negative experiences due to your nature as an android, but you've always tried to see the best in people."

"Not all the time."

"No," she agreed. "But when the deserve it, you do. As an android, you are more likely to be the victim of hate crimes and collectors, but that shouldn't stop you from living your life to the fullest."

Data looked away. "I cannot function adequately while there is still a threat and while I am still incapacitated."

"You look exhausted." She gave him a sympathetic look. "I really think you should try to get some rest. You're safe here."

"That would leave me vulnerable for an attack." He moved his fingers around experimentally.

Troi pulled on her shirt sleeve. "Your efficiency will suffer if you don't review your files. Organic beings always get lots of rest after they have been wounded or sick. Why should you be any different?"

"I am an android. I can function without it."

"Not optimally," Geordi interjected.

"No," he admitted.

The chief engineering officer spoke up again. "Rest is conducive to the healing process. I'm trying to fix you, so it would be helpful for me if you get some sleep."

Data considered this for a few moments. "I suppose you are correct."

Chapter Text

"You were the only one in the engineering wing at the exact moment La Forge left." Worf spoke through the door to the brig. "All of the other ensigns and other crewmen have been accounted for."

Gates blinked hard. He hadn't been out of the holding cell for days, and he was starting to get nervous. Did people usually get in this much trouble for vandalizing other people's property? "I was doing my job. Does that make me a criminal?"

"It makes you the only one around Lieutenant Commander Data when he was attacked. Therefore, the attacker must be you, or you must have seen something happen." The Klingon tried to keep his anger down to a minimal level. He had little patience for this interrogation. He was sure that he had the culprit, so there was really no point in beating around the bush.

"I didn't see anything. I wasn't even paying attention to the Lieutenant Commander!" He argued. "Besides, I am hardly qualified to construct an virus that would actually have an effect on him."

Worf narrowed his eyes. "And how did you know that he was infected with a virus? We have not shared these details with the suspects."

Gates was obviously on edge. "Well, sir, I just kind of assumed." He paused. "You know, computers get infected with viruses all the time, so why would an android be any different? He's much too strong for anyone to be able to physically attack him anyway." The ensign was careful to use the 'appropriate' pronouns for the object, knowing that using 'it' would make him look even more guilty.

"Who were you working with?" Worf demanded.

"I wasn't working with anyone! I have no connection to the attack."

"You said it yourself. You are not capable of creating the virus."

Gates thumbed his sleeve roughly. He had hoped that he would have been able to avoid all of the traps in an interrogation. How did Worf corner him like this?

"How much were you paid for this?" The Chief Security Officer continued, not waiting for a proper response. "Who would be so interested in bringing harm to Lieutenant Commander Data?"

He laughed nervously. "I'm sure you've heard the stories, sir. Throughout the years, there have been plenty of people eager to get their hands on him. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to check up on them."

"Which one of them paid you off?"

"I don't know! None of them!"

Worf stared at him for a long moment before standing. "We will be investigating into your communications logs."

"That stuff is private." Gates complained.

"We have reason to believe that you have been in contact with someone capable of constructing the virus. We know that it must have been you who installed the virus."

The ensign was done. "Come on, sir, it is just a lump of metal and wires! It can't feel like we do, and it certainly has no place on the crew of the Enterprise!"

The Klingon snarled violently but restrained himself from attacking the man. He left the room.

"He must be the culprit." Riker commented from a safe distance from the interrogation. "If he could talk about Data like that, he would probably be willing to try to get him off the Enterprise."

"Yes," Picard agreed. "Was there any clues as to who bribed him, Lieutenant Worf?"

He paused in front of the captain. "Only that perhaps they have been in contact with Data before."

"They must have some vendetta or grudge against him." The First Officer mentioned.

"Could it have been Lore?" Dr. Crusher worried her bottom lip. She normally did not get this involved in cases, but Data was a good friend of hers.

Worf shook his head. "It is unlikely that someone like Ensign Gates would have agreed to work with another android."

"Who else could there be?" Riker inquired. He knew that the android had had his fair share of enemies over the years, but those he considered to be truly threats were locked away.

"We have yet to find that out."