But is he?
Investigating the mysterious destruction of a new android created by Starfleet, Data and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise uncover startling secrets stretching back to the galaxy's dim past. That knowledge is coveted by beings who will stop at nothing to control it, and will force Data to redefine himself as he learns the hidden history of artificial intelligence.
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"Have you lost your mind?"
It was not, Troi thought, the most tactful question that the captain had ever asked, but it had the virtue of getting directly to the point. Everyone seated around the table in the observation lounge -- the captain, Geordi, Rhea and Admiral Haftel -- stared at Data, awaiting an answer. Will was on the bridge helping the local authorities untangle the snarls Data had created. Reg had gone off in search of an empty bunk, assuming (quite correctly) that there was nothing else for him to do right now.
"No, Captain," Data replied neutrally. "I do not believe I have." Troi allowed the tendrils of her empathic senses to reach out and feel what she already expected to find: confusion tinted with fear. Beneath that she felt an undertow of concern, which was more than she could have hoped for under the circumstances.
Only Admiral Haftel was close to losing his temper, which was, Troi decided, an understandable response considering that he had invited Data to Galor IV to help solve a problem, not create another one. "Commander," he said tightly, "I want an immediate explanation for your actions."
"My apologies, Admiral," Data said, "for the inconvenience to you and everyone on Galor IV. When I became convinced that I was standing in the midst of a crime scene, I perceived that speed was essential. Any delay might have been enough time for the culprits to escape."
"Explain yourself, Mr. Data," Picard said. "What evidence do you have that what happened in Commander Maddox's lab was deliberate?"
Troi felt Picard and La Forge brace themselves for the impeccably organized, torrential flood of observations and insights that invariably comprised one of Data's verbal reports. It was something that they had learned to expect, but Troi knew that something was wrong. Data was suddenly immersed in a sour, discordant stew of uncertainty. "I am afraid, Captain," he said, eyes flicking down at the tabletop, "that I do not have any empirical evidence to support my conclusions."
Deanna listened to everyone in the room readjust themselves in their seats.
Picard let the springs in his seat tip him closer to the table. He was not angry, Troi knew, only confused and concerned that he had misunderstood his officer. Breakdowns in communication were one of the things Picard strived hardest to avoid, and he quickly grew frustrated with himself when he thought he had missed something. "I beg your pardon?"
"I said I do not have any empirical evidence," Data said, looking up at the captain. "I found nothing in the wreckage or in any of my tricorder readings that would lead me to believe that the conclusions drawn by the Institute's security team are incorrect. An EPS conduit did indeed explode beneath the lab, and every indication is that the overloaded power grid was triggered by a lightning strike. The android was destroyed. Dr. Vaslovik was killed. Commander Maddox was injured. I have no reason to conclude that the events did not occur in this manner."
"Except...," Picard said expectantly.
"Except," Data continued, "it simply does not...feel right, sir."
Haftel's eyes narrowed.
With a visible effort of will, Picard kept his expression as neutral as possible, though Troi could feel his anxiety rolling off him. "It doesn't feel right," Picard repeated.
"No, sir." Data did not say anything more.
"I see." Picard closed his eyes, massaged the bridge of his nose, then opened them and fixed his gaze on Data. "Lieutenant Commander Data, effective immediately, you are relieved of duty and ordered to submit to a complete systems diagnostic, to be carried out at once by Lieutenant Commander La Forge. Lieutenant McAdams."
"Go with them."
Data began to protest and Troi felt his uncertainty deepen. "But, Captain...The investigation..."
"...Will proceed without you. I'm sorry, Data, but we have to consider the possibility that the strain of recent events might be affecting your...your mind...in ways that even you cannot perceive."
"Captain," Data said, his voice breaking ever so slightly with the strain of keeping his tone even, "I do not believe my emotional state is negatively affecting my perceptions."
"I understand, Commander. Now you understand me: my primary concern at this moment is for your welfare. If Mr. La Forge doesn't find anything amiss, we'll discuss the next step."
Seeing that Picard wasn't going to change his mind, Data nodded. "Aye, sir."
"Dismissed," Picard said.
Data stood and walked to the door, La Forge and McAdams following close behind. No one spoke until the trio left the room, but as soon as the doors snapped shut, Haftel rose and said, "Captain, you'll excuse me, but I need to contact my people on the surface. I'll expect a full report from you on Mr. Data within twenty-four hours -- "
"So, you're calling off the alert?" Troi asked.
Haftel stopped and looked at her. "I don't believe I have any choice. Do you disagree, Counselor?"
Troi pursed her lips, frowning. "No," she said. "I don't. I'm just concerned about what this will mean to Data."
"Counselor," Haftel said sternly, "we're all concerned about Mr. Data. And yes, there are still things about this incident that need explaining, things that may involve him directly. That's why I summoned the Enterprise here. But he just as much as admitted he was experiencing a major malfunction -- "
"Respectfully, Admiral, he did not," Troi said.
"Counselor, what are you saying?" Picard asked quietly.
"I'm saying we may be overlooking something important here, Captain," Troi said. "Think about it, sir: You just told Data that he's made an error. Has this ever happened before?"
Picard frowned, then said ruefully, "In fact, Counselor, it has, but in the end, it always turned out that he was correct." He shrugged. "But this was before the emotion chip was installed, before his...what would you call it? His breakdown."
"I've been monitoring Data's emotions all day," Troi said, "and I can say for certain that though he has been functioning under a great deal of stress, he's been managing it quite well. The only time he gave off an emotional response that truly concerned me is when he realized that you didn't believe him."
"Which means...what, exactly?" Haftel asked uncertainly.
"Data is trying to come to terms with some very complex concepts -- among them mortality and isolation," Troi explained. "These are concepts that even organic beings have trouble understanding. But I believe that something else is happening simultaneously, something we've all been helping him to work toward for years, but perhaps never expected to see happen so suddenly. We just heard him tell us he came to a conclusion without any evidence to back it up, something the best Starfleet officers do routinely. Yes, in Data's case, it could mean a malfunction. Or..."
"Or?" Haftel demanded, clearly not liking where he thought the conversation was leading.
"Or he's finally developing thought processes that extend beyond the scope of pure fact," Troi finished, and she could see that the captain had already grasped her meaning.
"Intuition," Picard breathed. "Data has developed intuition."
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