Disclaimer 1: I fully acknowledge Paramounts ownership of the Star Trek universe and all characters and installations that have ever appeared in the Star Trek series or movies. I'm grateful for all that they have given us over the years. No infringement intended.

Disclaimer 2: Between the time I wrote this - in November 1995 - and the time I finally got the means to post it, I noticed parts of the same ideas in a lot of other fanfiction. This is perhaps not surprising, since the consequences of Lore's acts - like an imminent trial, evaluation, counselling of sorts - are logical conclusions that would naturally spring to mind for many creative people. I only want to point out that I have not stolen anything from any other fan, nor will I ever knowingly do so. Here too, no infringement is intended.

Feedback: Yes, please! :) You can reach me at the address given on my top page.

And now, finally, the story ...




Android Rights - and Wrongs..

 

by Eliann SleepingCat



"Come", Captain Picard answered the door chime to his ready room, his voice causing the doors to part with a soft hiss.

His giltfaced Second Officer, the only artificial officer in all of Starfleet, took a step inside but paused just inside the now closing doors. "You sent for me, sir", he pointed out, an acquired formula rather than an actual reminder. Humans might have flitty memories, but he did not really think his captain would have forgotten having summoned him.

"Yes, Data - would you sit down, please? This might take a while to explain.."

Lt Commander Data obediently walked over to the two-seat sofa and sat down on the edge, very straightbacked, hands folded - or rather, his long, slender fingers intertwined in a pattern resembling a fold, yet confusing to anyone looking closely. He had no need to sit down, no matter how long the captain's explanation was going to take, but he had learnt long ago that humans felt more comfortable with everybody sitting down when partaking of a conversation - and not just physically. Hence, he concluded that his captain felt forced to talk to him about something that was in itself unpleasant. A rebuke? Not likely; a quick memory scan revealed no reprehensible acts in Data's recent past. But something personal all the same; the captain had not used his officer's title.

For a moment, Picard stood wondering how to begin. Then he said, "Data, how - thoroughly, did you deactivate Lore?"

Showing no unease at the mention of his 'evil brother' - and why should he, Picard thought; the man was a machine, how easy it was to forget that fact - Data responded immediately. "Not permanently, if that is what you mean, sir. A permanent deactivation would require irreparable destruction of one or more vital parts; I chose not to do that. I saw no reason to needlessly destroy Dr Soong's work, especially since he is now deceased and only the two of us remaining as a manifestation of his achievement. Also, you did specifically request that he be dismantled, not destroyed, sir."

"Quite so", Picard acknowledged. "And for much the same reason. I felt that in time, someone might learn something from him - by studying him, I mean. Besides, Geordi said something about possibly using him as a set of spare parts for you - I must admit I couldn't tell if he was serious."

"I hope not, sir. All necessary repairs to me have so far been successfully accomplished without an actual replica to - I believe the expression is cannibalize. Also, Lore himself was convinced that his parts were substandard - although I think Dr Soong disagreed with this opinion."

"Well, it was a thought. However, we have a problem. Someone has had the same idea that we both had. You and I, that is. To learn from Lore by studying him. Your old - acquaintance, Bruce Maddox at the Daystrom Institute, apparently has access to all Starfleet logs even remotely bearing on cybernetics. When he first read about your - brother, he saw his chance to study a positronic brain without having to bother you again."

"I know, sir", Data said quietly.

"You do?"

"Yes, as I have told you, Captain, I correspond on a semi-regular basis with Commander Maddox. I find it fully believable that he will someday duplicate Dr Soong's work. He has discussed this opportunity with me, pointing out that since Lore has never been in Starfleet, the ruling that now applies to me - that I am not property - may not apply to my brother. I however hold the view that Lore, not being part of any organization, is to be considered a free agent. However, both arguments were academic at the time, since nobody knew Lore's whereabouts after our first two encounters with him."

"I know, I know", Picard said. "The first time, you and Wesley beamed him into space; the second time he beamed himself there - or out somewhere anyway. And our reports to Starfleet showed as much. Of course, that all changed this time.. Not only do we have him on board, because we were unwilling to leave him with the Borg who might someday find out how to reassemble him - but he is also dismantled."

"Are his inanimate parts property, sir?" Data asked, his dispassionate voice yet cutting through Picard like a knife.

"I'm not sure about the legal implications, Data", he sighed. "I would assume that Lore's parts are not property, and especially not the property of Starfleet. But there might be a case for custody. One might argue that you as next of kin are your brother's custodian while he is out of commission."

"Then the reverse would also apply, were I temporarily inanimate", Data remarked, his logic flawless as always. Picard shuddered.

"All of this is not really our concern right now", he said. "Commander Maddox' request is. Has he had the time to tell you about that too?"

"No", Data said, "but it is reasonable to assume that he is now strengthened in his resolve, knowing that Lore might be physically available."

"He's more than strengthened, he has already acted on that resolve", Picard replied. "And the result is an order from Starfleet Command to me to deliver Lore to Starbase 66 where Commander Maddox will meet us to pick him up." For a moment, he thought he actually saw anxiety - or at least concern - in his officer's amber eyes. He went on quickly, "They have promised to review all legal implications, treating the ruling on your status as the precedent it is. But the legalities are not our concern. They were quite adamant about that. We are to deliver Lore into Commander Maddox' hands, nothing else. However, Commander Maddox will not receive the go-ahead for any actual experiments until all the legal aspects are straightened out."

"With your permission, sir", Data said quietly, "I shall endeavour to convince Commander Maddox he should not do this. Lore is flawed; his emotional programming did not work out and may have been further damaged by the chip he stole that was intended for me and so not entirely compatible with him. If the Commander were to duplicate Lore's software as well as his hardware.."

"Quite", Picard hastily agreed. "I'm sure that is not his intention. You have my full support in your efforts to caution the Commander. Advise him as to the risks - but don't tell him flat out that he'd better desist."

"Sir?" The golden eyes widened into twin topazes. Picard grinned.

"Human nature, Data. Trying too obviously to thwart the Commander's ambition might arouse his muleheadedness.."

A quick sideways flicker of those citrine eyes. Searching.. Then, "Ah. I think I see what you mean, sir. The Commander is a rather persistent person."

Picard nodded. "Do your best, Data. Dismissed", he added, before the android could ask, As opposed to what?

But Commander Maddox was not to be put off his trail again. Having learnt respect and consideration for Data, he was polite but determined in his refusal to be deflected from his aim this time. And when Data sought out his captain to report on the commander's 'muleheadedness', he was met with another round of bad news.

"The JAG office claims they have no case", Picard muttered grumpily. "Quote: the subject has filed no complaint against the Daystrom Institute concerning the Institute's intended experimental procedures. Unquote. Meaning that since Lore has not formally refused to undergo Maddox' experiments - the way you did - they have nothing to act upon. The fact that he is in several parts and can't complain of anything, hasn't made any impression on them."

"Then we are left with only one option", Data said calmly. "Reassemble Lore and activate him, so he can speak for himself."

Picard looked up sharply. "You wouldn't!"

"I would prefer to have your permission, sir."

"But you would go ahead without it? That's mutiny, Commander!"

"I am aware of that, sir."

"You once said your loyalty was to me and to Starfleet, not to your brother. Has that suddenly changed?"

"No, sir. It has not. And this has nothing to do with any familial feeling on my part, as I am certain you must know. I would insist on the same procedure for any sentient machine in a similar situation."

For a heartbeat, Picard prepared to give his Second Officer a good dressing-down. Then he thought better of it. Data's particular brand of insubordination usually had an ethical touch to it that no captain in his right mind could actually fault. And this particular captain had lived long enough to be able to give in gracefully, once in a while.

"Very well, Mr Data", he sighed. "Make it so."

*  *  *  *

"Reassemble Lore?" Chief Engineer Commander LaForge turned his VISORed gaze on his friend, his dark face a study in incredulity. "You out of your positronic mind?"

"I have not.." Data searched briefly through his stored colloquialisms, "..lost my marbles", he selected, in the hope of making his friend laugh and so ease the tension he seemed to detect in him. And indeed Geordi did flash a grin but he refused to be distracted. "If I have rights, so does Lore", Data went on, "but the JAG office of Starbase 66 has ruled that he must formally decline to submit to Commander Maddox' experiments, and he cannot do that unless he is active. I am fully aware that he is dangerous, but we have no alternative."

"So this is another one about android rights.." Geordi mused. "No offense, but I'd like to check with the Captain first.."

"None taken, Geordi. Go ahead."

But Geordi's hearing was as discerning as any blind man's, despite the fact that his VISOR enabled him to see better than anybody normally sighted. And now he thought he heard a slight hurt in Data's voice at not being believed by a close friend. Then again, perhaps it was merely Geordi's own conscience chafing on his ears. He did not feel any better for carefully keeping his best friend in sight while talking to Picard over his commbadge. He would trust Data with his life - barring the android's spells of malfunction; not that they had been many during the years he had known him - only when machine rights were at stake would he not take the word of the mechanical man.

*  *  *  *

Dr Beverly Crusher reacted in much the same way as Geordi had. But persuaded by what Geordi termed Data's silver tongue - which prompted the android to deny that there was any silver at all among the components of his tongue and proceed to list them - and by Geordi's reassurance that Captain Picard had in fact ordered the reassembly of Lore, she finally agreed to help with the biochemical constituents.

"After all", she said wryly, "we can always hope Lore will agree to Maddox' experiments.."

"That", Data said, "I believe to be highly unlikely."

Because Lore's parts were kept in one of Sickbay's storage compartments, they cleared an isolation ward of excess equipment and set to work there. Data, recalling the procedure from last time Lore had been reassembled on board the Enterprise, asked if the doctor and engineer would need to look inside himself again for reference. Crusher smiled.

"No thanks, Data, that won't be necessary this time. I remember most of what went where, and I recorded an extensive medical log at the time."

"Same here", Geordi said. "I may not have done this before, but I have Chief Argyll's log. I think you'll be of better use counselling and taking part - you ought to have a good sense of his layout by now."

Data nodded and went to fetch Lore's head. As he brought it back, Geordi was reminded of how he had seen his friend on Omicron Theta, holding that head, having just discovered what might become his brother. Geordi wondered what hopes had been raised that time - hopes both fulfilled and dashed.. This time they knew what to expect. And what not to hope for..

At one point, before they were quite finished, Lore opened his eyes and seemed to look around, though they could not tell at what stage of awareness he was, if any. But his lips parted as if to speak. Then, inexplicably, the fluid to keep his eyes moist started flowing - and overflowing. It looked too much like tears of frustration for Crusher to interpret it in any other way, and she looked to Data in astonishment.

Geordi must have seen the phenomenon in much the same way, for he muttered, "I should have connected his vocal chords earlier.." Swiftly, he went to work to remedy his oversight.

Data's lips parted to offer an explanation of the tear effect, but realizing he did not really have one, only conjecture, he chose to say nothing.

Finally, Lore looked up with full awareness. After running a quick POST to check himself out, he glared pointedly at Data. "My dear brother", he said sarcastically. "How come that every time I wake up, it is to see your face?"

Geordi briefly considered a quip about saving the need for a mirror, but thought better of it.

"That could be because your waking up at all is usually at Data's insistence", Crusher retorted sharply. "As is the case this time."

Lore glanced at his 'brother' with renewed interest. "Why the sudden remorse, little brother? Have circumstances altered that significantly, or are you just malfunctioning again?"

Considering that he himself had been responsible for Data's latest malfunction, he might have been trying to get a rise out of his brother - but they had no doubts that he knew better.

"Circumstances have indeed changed, Lore", said Data gravely. "I had better brief you as soon as possible. But you will forgive me, dear brother - " his very faint hint of sarcasm had to be something he had picked up from his emotionally equipped 'sibling' "- if I insist that my friends be present."

Crusher did not really have the time to stay but she knew better than to decline. And Geordi wholeheartedly agreed, "He's right, Lore. Each time you two are left alone, one of you ends up deactivating the other. And I just as soon not have to do this meccano puzzle all over again, if you don't mind.."

"So there is after all someone who might be able to fix me?" Lore mused after the quick briefing. "Or at least get some of the bugs out that OftenWrong planted.."

"Dr Soong did not 'plant' any bugs, Lore", Data said. "You should be a learning system, just as I am. It is entirely possible that you have planted most of your bugs yourself."

Lore lashed out towards him but aborted the gesture halfway. "That's easy for you to say, dear brother. I'm the eternal prototype. I didn't come with half the gifts you did." It was the first time he had admitted this semi-publicly, but his brother took no notice of the fact. Instead he simply said, "That is no excuse for humans, and it is no excuse for you."

Dr Crusher was making the most of her enforced stay as a witness, to run a few checks on Lore's physical condition - the biochemical components of it. Her 'patient' was still on the bed where they had reassembled him. He seemed fit enough by android standards, which were of course quite a bit above human ones.

"While Commander Maddox is certainly a serious and dedicated scientist", Data resumed, "I would not trust him so easily to straighten out your programming. He is rather impetuous, and when he requested to experiment on me, he had not yet mastered the linkage procedures at the synapses of a positronic brain. I gather he is closer to the solution now, but I would not deem him close enough to reconstruct your sentience after disassembling your mental processes. Perhaps because he is still not convinced machine sentience really exists. Though he has graciously consented to give mine the benefit of the doubt. I advise you to decline, brother. That is the reason we assembled you. So that you can formally refuse to undergo Commander Maddox' experiments."

"So what you're in effect saying, brother, is that it might be possible for him to fix me eventually, but that I'd better wait? Well, I can live with that. After all, time is not of the essence any longer - or maybe I should say, not right now.." he gave them a scheming look, perhaps only to keep them on their toes. "All right", he said pleasantly, "I'll decline if it makes you happy, dear brother. That all you wanted? So - what do you propose to do with me now?" He glanced from one to the other of them, teasingly.

His gaze settled on the doctor, lingering long enough for her to become acutely and unprofessionally aware of the fact that he was not clothed yet. Then he winked at her.

*  *  *  *

"Put him in the brig", Picard said calmly.

"That might be where he ultimately belongs", First Officer William T Riker conceded, "but do we have the right to confine him?"

"My first concern is the safety of this ship", his captain explained.

"And he has already proven himself a hazard last time we had him aboard. But I'm open to suggestions. Any alternatives, Number One?"

Commander Riker thought it over. The forcefields of the brig could, when enhanced, hold an android. The facility was designed for a wide variety of lifeforms with a physical strength far exceeding that of humans. He could not think of any other place onboard which could readily meet the same standards. Regretfully, he shook his head. "Short of keeping him and/or Commander Data under surveillance at all times.." he began. "I suppose you're right, sir", he sighed.

Picard nodded. "Make it so."

Before long, Chief of Security Lt Worf approached the captain to voice the complaints of his staff.

"Tell the prisoner that any objections will be disregarded", Picard said. "He has brought this upon himself by his previous actions, and he knows it."

"We are all aware of that, sir", the Klingon replied, "and it isn't his complaints we can't stand. It's his singing, sir. He keeps singing the same song over and over again - a silly little ballad of some sort - and it's driving my people crazy." He broke off at a signal from his communications panel and took the few steps over to it from the science station where they had both been standing. "Incoming message, sir", he reported. He looked up significantly. "From Starfleet Command. Your eyes only."

Picard sighed. "In my ready room."

But the message had a lower classification than he had feared, and after a minimum of consideration he decided to share it with his senior officers. Gathering them all in the main briefing room, he broke the news at once.

"The JAG office of Starbase 66 has considered Lore's refusal to submit to an experimental refit", he began. "The verdict is that since Lore is now assembled and functional, he has the right to refuse." He looked sharply at Lt Commander Data, half expecting to see a sigh of relief, then berating himself for the notion. "However", he resumed, and this time he thought he saw something in those amber eyes, though not enough to be safely termed concern, "Federation legislative procedures somehow got into this - presumably at an appeal from Commander Maddox - and it was found that Lore is to be considered a criminal. He has committed acts of treason resulting in the deaths of at least 700 Federation citizens, conspired to make war on the Federation, etc etc. So, now that we have him, we are ordered to keep him confined -" he shot his First Officer a significant look, indicating he had been right about the brig "- and to bring him to justice on Starbase 12 itself."

Data's face still revealed nothing, but his lips had parted, whether in surprise or to comment was impossible to tell, though, all things considered, it had to be the latter.

"Or rather, we were so ordered", Picard amended again, "until Maddox' next petition came in. Dr Maddox has correctly pointed out that even if Lore will have to stand trial for his misdeeds, it is entirely possible that he will be found not responsible for his acts, due to constant malfunction. Which Dr Maddox proposes to correct. In fact, he concludes, altering Lore's programming might be the answer even if he is found guilty, rather than any kind of confinement or other punishment which will most likely prove ineffective in view of Lore's nature of artificial being and his considerable life expectancy. Diplomatically, Maddox makes no reference to Lore's superhuman strength, but we may assume Federation lawyers are able to think for themselves."

Picard's officers were all disciplined enough not to mumble among themselves, but he could see their anxiety as they were eagerly waiting to hear where this would lead.

All except Commander Data, of course..

"So", the captain resumed, "Our orders at the moment are to bring Lore to Starbase 66 as originally planned, and to deliver him to Commander Maddox. No change there. Dr Maddox' task is now to determine whether or not Lore can be beneficially reprogrammed. This is to be determined before the trial takes place, as it is believed the information will have bearing on the case. And of course it will provide Maddox with his long sought opportunity to examine Lore. What methods he will use will be determined at his own discretion. I just wanted to make that particular point clear to all of you." But he was looking at Data as he said it.

"I thought only Lore himself would resort to experimenting on prisoners of war", Data said quietly.

Nobody objected openly, though quite a few of them must have felt Lore certainly had it coming to him.

"Right", Picard said. "Now that we all know precisely where we stand, I'd also like to remind you that we have our orders." He knew he was confusing them, but also that they knew he could not be any more explicit in his request to every one of them to think for aself. "And those orders contain yet another interesting detail. Apparently Maddox is not taking any risks. Since Lore is now fully operational, the good doctor has requested that we rendez-vous with the Ash Ra Tempel at coordinates we can both reach in a matter of six hours at warp 5, to pick up an assistant of his, robot psychologist Sally Asterind. She is then to accompany us on our voyage to Starbase 66, and to conduct tests of Lore's psychological status and stability underway."

"I could do that", Counsellor Deanna Troi offered. "Lore's psyche should not be that different from.."

"I beg to differ, Counsellor", Data butted in. "While your skills would undoubtedly be quite sufficient in most circumstances, it would seem that a person trained specifically in cybernetic psychology could.."

"I didn't know there were robot psychologists", Geordi muttered, "outside of Dr Asimov's works that is. Asterind.. what kind of a name is that anyway?"

"Aurelian", Data informed him. "Largely human colonies on the fourth moon of.."

"There are too, Geordi", Dr Crusher answered the Chief Engineer's first comment. "There have been robot psychologists around since.."

"It's a trick", Worf rumbled. "Maddox wants her to keep an eye on us while she begins his experiments."

Picard held up a hand. Here he had thought this was a most disciplined lot.. Still, he could have been right. He did receive instant silence. "I just want to point out two things more", he said. "While it is possible, even likely, that Dr Asterind will join us to 'keep an eye on things' and see that Lore does not disappear out of Dr Maddox' reach again, she is not to perform any experiments beyond questioning him and taking notes in the line of her profession. That's my first point. My second is that we are all expected to give her all possible assistance. Is that clear?"

It would fall to him to see that it was.

*  *  *  *

"Thanks for telling me, Data", Lore said. It was the first time he had used his brother's name rather than make an oblique reference to their enforced relationship. Indeed, his voice was without its usual sarcasm at the moment. "Though I'm surprised your ethical programme let you. Or were you ordered to tell me?"

"I was not ordered not to", Data said, standing just outside the enhanced forcefield. "And I thought it only fair that you should know. After all, it is your life." In fact he was wondering if Picard had not deliberately omitted any instructions of silence on the matter, relying on his officer's honesty to at least let the prisoner know what he was bound for.

"So I'm to be a mad scientist's guinea pig after all", Lore commented. He shrugged, with a little snorting laugh. "Fortunes of war. For this time it is war", he added, looking up with a sudden intensity. "Not even you should make a mistake about that, little brother." His gaze softened, in the manner that would convince anyone of his honest intentions - anyone save his brother, that is. "I promise you that when my time comes, I'll give you another chance to join me."

"There is no need", Data replied coldly. More coldly than a neutral, supposedly unfeeling machine should have been capable of. "I have let you know the threats against your life. My responsibility ends there. I will not save that life for you." Turning his heel to leave, he flung back over his shoulder, "Incidentally, your 'time' has come and gone. It will not be back. You are the one making the mistake. Big brother.." He left, and the one who knew him better than anyone sat alone in his cell, wondering how much was programming, how much sheer imitation, and how much - something else.

*  *  *  *

Dr Sally Asterind was not quite what they had expected, and that pretty much summed up the impression of everyone of the bridge crew. She was older than Picard had expected, younger than Geordi had thought, not so beautiful as Riker had hoped, knowledgeable enough to surprise Beverly Crusher, and much less like a psychologist than Troi might have wished for. Worf found her impressive, and Data - somehow special. She was well into her forties and looked it - by 24th century standards at any rate. Her hair was streaked - but not by grey; she would have another forty or fifty years before it would actually grizzle. Instead it was an intriguing mixture of very light and medium browns, making for a slightly tabby impression of broad stripes. Apart from one formal dinner, when she wore a moss green, floor-sweeping gown and looked very uncomfortable, she was usually seen in loose shirts or the occasional lived-in lab coat. In fact, her choice of dress had been one of the major surprises about her; for some reason, they had all come to expect a Starfleet officer, possibly because Dr Maddox was one. But Dr Asterind was clearly not only uncommissioned but unorganized altogether, and her assistance to Commander Maddox probably rested on mutual agreement, not Starfleet orders.

After a perfunctory greeting of them all to Picard's brief introductions, she asked at once to see Lore. Picard, Data, and Troi took her down to the brig to meet him. She took one look at his surroundings, then said, "Release him."

Picard began to outline the danger Lore represented to his ship, as well as Lore's status as a criminal and prisoner of war, but she dismissed it all. "Release him", she repeated. "Or do you expect me to work in the brig? Well, I wouldn't put it past you, but do you also expect me to get any results in these surroundings? Speaking of which, where do you expect me to work?"

After a brief conference, an office and quarters were set up in a cabin complex next to Troi's working area, with one entrance in common so that the counsellor would be able to assist if Dr Asterind required it.

Still Picard would not be responsible for releasing Lore, and the robot psychologist maintained that she could not work with him confined. Her solution was yet another bold request. "Tell me, Captain", she said, as they were all four once more standing outside Lore's cell, with the feeling of not really getting anywhere, "for how long at a time can you spare your Second Officer?"

"Well..", said Picard, somewhat taken aback, "that entirely depends on what we encounter and what our status is. It varies greatly."

"Then I request his assistance in my sessions with his brother", she said. "For such times as he doesn't have to be on the bridge. I do have need of both of them together, for reference if nothing else. You must realize I haven't worked with fully sentient positronic individuals before. And if Commander Data is present, he can see to it that Lore doesn't attempt anything drastic. Will that meet your safety requirements?"

Picard glared at her. "It might, except for one thing. Suppose your back has been turned for a few minutes - you've been to the head or something - when you return, would you be able to tell with absolute certainty which one of them is which?"

She stared at him for half a moment, in total amazement. Inside his cell, Lore looked up with interest. Then she burst out laughing, surprising all of them except Troi. "Yes, I can", she said, still bubbling with mirth. "Don't you worry about that. Of course, if you want me to prove it to you.. you mean, you can't?"

Troi took the captain's arm and turned him slightly aside. "Captain, even I can tell them apart - if only by the fact that Lore has feelings, and Data has not - exactly. But she has been specially trained. To her it must be as if you had asked me if I could tell her and you apart.."

"Dr Asterind", Data said, "I am most curious as to how you would.."

The robot psychologist put her hand on his shoulder, squeezing lightly. "And I will still all of your curiosity and perhaps more", she said. "Eventually. In session. If I can ever get your Captain to agree to my proposal."

Picard knew when to give in gracefully, but he insisted on two conditions. First, Lore must be returned to the brig each time nobody was readily available to watch him. Dr Asterind agreed but made a mental note to see that it would not be necessary. And secondly, the captain gave his counsellor secret orders to listen in from her office and keep eyes, ears, and antennae open as he put it. While she did not particularly care for the reference to her empathic talent as antennae, Troi acknowledged her orders. After all, she was quite curious to learn how a session in robot psychology would differ from one of her own.

*  *  *  *

She found the first one quite interesting, at times amusing. Sally Asterind had quickly noted her curiosity and generously invited her in.

"Don't you need to be alone with your clients?" Troi asked.

"Sometimes", the roboticist said, "but not often. When I do, I'll let you know. At all other times, you're welcome as an observer. Just please don't interfere, even when you would have done things differently."

"Of course not!" Troi protested, trying not to be offended.

Dr Asterind was seated at her desk, her terminal activated to enable her to make notes on its old-fashioned but remarkably clickless keyboard. The terminal was her own, but she had had no problems - nor objections - connecting it to the ship's computer. Apparently, she did not hold with using her voice to record in the midst of ongoing sessions; instead her fingers moved with a rapidity that seemed to fascinate Data who had not seen this particular skill in a human before. Lore was less interested in the talent as such, taken out of its context as it were, although he had certainly noticed it.

The two androids were seated at opposite ends of the room, by the walls flanking the desk though not on a level with it. Rather they were sitting so far into the area adjoining Troi's office that Dr Asterind had to turn her back on them both whenever she was making notes, and on one of them whenever she was speaking to the other. Troi wondered to herself what Picard would have thought of the safety measures in this layout, but since Lore would be in Data's line of sight at all times - even with the doctor in the middle, for she would only block Data's view as long as Lore was still obediently sitting down - Troi found she could not really fault it.

"I take it you two don't exactly get on", Dr Asterind said. "Why?" She deliberately did not direct her question but simply sat back, waiting to see which one of them would answer first. As she had expected, Lore did.

"He's beamed me into space, deactivated me.."

But Data did not come far behind. "He has betrayed everyone he has ever known, including me. He has killed hundreds, he has tried to kill me, he.."

"Threatened to kill you, yes", Lore countered, "but I never actually tried. And I shut you down once, but I never deactivated and disassembled you the way you did me. Oh, I could have killed you a thousand times, but I never did, you have to admit that. And one day you just might stop to wonder why not.."

"And what would you say is the reason you have avoided slaying your brother?" Dr Asterind asked, with clinical detachment.

"Simple feeling", Lore stated. "I do love him. He may not believe it, but I do."

"Do you believe him?" the doctor asked Data. He shook his head.

"He has given me no reason to. But I suppose it might be possible."

Asterind waited. A psychologist's wait, for the silence to become unbearable enough for her subject to say something more. It should not have worked with Data. But it did.

"Frankly", he said, "I do not care. Any more."

That brought forth a surprised giggle from Troi who got a stern look from Asterind and an astonished one from Data.

"Sorry", Troi said, "it's just that I haven't heard anything like that from you before, Data. I'll be quiet, promise", she reassured Asterind.

"I've heard quite a lot about this difference in inclination between you two", the doctor went on. "The one came with built-in emotions and his quest has been for power. The other came with nothing so much as an astounding ability and hunger to learn, and his main quest is for human feelings. Tell me Lore, if you had the power you seek, what would you do with it?"

"Realize my full potential. Fill my mind to capacity with the knowledge of the universe. Teach, lead, and unite all beings oppressed by the Federation. Rule the universe - all dimensions of it. And make it good because living forever, I would have the time."

"You would be hard put to be everywhere at once", she said.

"I wouldn't have to."

"Yes, you would. There'd be only one of you. Once you start to delegate, that's where corruption sets in. That situation would be no different for you than for any other leader."

Lore sighed. "That's why I hoped my brother.."

"Two of you? A little better, but.."

"But trillions of artificial beings - if I could have had the Borg.."

"You abandoned them too, in the end", Data pointed out.

"A tactical retreat", Lore amended. "I still aim to return."

"That is not what you said then. But then, most of what I have ever heard from you were lies. Doctor, he is probably lying to you now. He has no goal, no direction for his ambition. Nothing save his self-interest for the immediate future."

The doctor ignored Data but acted on his words. "What about that, Lore? Are you prepared to take on responsibility for the ones you lead? Are you convinced you would do what's best for them? A leader has to be consistent, almost to the point of being an archetype. Could you be that? Would you be that?"

"Yes", he said. "If given half the chance, I would. I'd do anything for those who have suffered injustice at the hands of the Federation. I know what it's like."

Troi wanted to ask him how it was that everybody could treat him unfairly without him ever being able to prevent it out of any strength of his own personality, but she felt herself losing her temper and wisely held her tongue. Dr Asterind merely said, "And will you still feel like this tomorrow?"

An impatient gesture was Lore's only answer.

*  *  *  *

Asterind's next session dealt more with Data's quest, for comparison. On this occasion she learnt of the 'chip of contention' between the brothers, the 'basic emotions' that Dr Soong, their father/constructor had made for Data and which Lore had appropriated. She frowned a little, recognizing that this might well have been an integral part in Lore's disasterous development. But all she said was, "You can't put feelings on a chip. They are biochemical in nature. Ask Dr Crusher. And you two haven't got any hormones to wreak havoc with your biochemistry. All you can have on a chip would be emulated feelings, and either one of you could emulate them quite well already from the start, after studying humans for a while."

"They were not just random reactions burnt into a bunch of circuits", Lore objected. "They were our father's memories. What did you do with the chip, Data? I take it you're not using it?"

"It was not operational after I fired on you", Data said.

"But did you keep it?"

"No. I have no knowledge of its whereabouts", Data replied truthfully. He was not going to tell his deceitful brother that Geordi had taken care of the chip.

"So it contained an approximation of the emotional reactions your - father associated with certain memories", Asterind said. "I suppose he thought of it as a beginning. For Data. But you, Lore, who already had integrated emotions - strong enough to make you suffer - well, Dr Soong was right, you know. The chip couldn't have been compatible with you. You knew that, didn't you? But you felt slighted by your father and you wanted at least something, before he died. And if it was something Data wanted too, then all the better.." She shook her head. "This is worse than I thought, for it might actually have damaged you beyond repair. What we have to determine now is whether or not it has overwritten any part of your original BIOS. If it has, then we can probably save your hardware; Dr Maddox should be able to do that - but you will have to be wiped entirely and a new personality put in. If you prefer to be destroyed, I shall understand, and I'll do my best to see that your wishes are honoured."

She saw him actually swallow hard.

"But you're not yet certain there really has been any damage", he noted.

"Any additional damage, no", she confirmed. "But you are of course a learning system, and you seem to have made a mess of your own emotional rewriting a couple of times."

"It's hard without guidance", he said, with a venomous glare at Data. "If I had had an ethical programme like my brother, but not even that was.."

This seemed to alarm the doctor even more. "An ethical programme? Written by a human? Oh my gods - who knows what his ideas of right and wrong were, let alone the delicate balance of both. Well, I suppose we may find out the hard way.."

"A basic respect for all living beings", Data supplied. "That is its fundamental component; all the rest are functions of that."

"Simple enough", she admitted with genuine astonishment that it had been possible. Apparently this Dr Soong had been genius enough to find the simple, elegant solutions. "and yet you say your brother - or his Borg - broke it. How?"

"By paradox", Data said, his face still showing some of the pain of that experience. "The Borg asked me if I would kill for the feelings aroused by the act, and.."

"And you soon opted for worst choice in your response for reasons of self-preservation", she said, seeing Troi nod from her new listening place far off in the corner. "You went into defence, like a human. Your brother's method was often used by criminals of war to break down the integrity of their captives", she added with a pointed look at Lore. "I see you had been doing your homework, Lore."

"Always", he smirked.

"Incidentally, such methods are not the mark of a good leader", she said. "They undermine authority, replacing respect with fear and opposition. Just so you know. But then you don't really care, do you?"

He shrugged, not looking any too pleased.

*  *  *  *

"Basically, Lore's a child", Asterind told Troi after the session. "A spoilt brat with too much power, immature emotional reactions - probably because they were built in and not learnt of his own accord - and a strong feeling of having been shortchanged by life, his father, and soon enough everybody he met."

"There's no easy way of getting around that", Troi remarked with a sad look in her dark eyes. "Not now that he's had this pattern all his life, and the fact that he had no actual childhood only makes it worse. I don't see how we can.."

Dr Asterind smiled. "There is some hope", she said. "Because of the one thing you left out. He's a mechanical man. It's all in the programming. But as I said in session, that depends on how far he was damaged by the incompatibility of that miserable chip with the rest of his system."

They walked together through the corridors for a while, each in her own thoughts. Then the doctor said, "But if you ask me which one is the more dangerous, speaking as over the long term, I'd say Data."

"What?" For once, Troi was totally taken aback. Too lost in her own musings, that was one she had not sensed coming. "How can you possibly say that?"

"Because he has integrity", her companion said. "It may be his ethical programme and it may quite likely be more, by now. In many ways his brother is his Shadow, psychologically speaking. You know, mean and immature. If Data never comes up with an internal shadow part of his personality yet keeps adding to its complexity the way he does.."

"..his Shadow functions might take over.." Troi filled in. "Aren't you anthropomorphizing?"

"I hope so", Asterind said. "But I ask you one thing: which one of them is more likely to forgive the other - Lore with all his wayward hangups and aimless hatreds, or Data with all his logically founded integrity?"

Troi gave her an almost helpless look. "I've never thought of it that way..", she said.

At the end of the corridor, Troi made to enter the turbolift. She had assumed that Asterind would accompany her to some level or other on her way to the bridge, but instead the doctor just waved goodbye and turned left.

"Holodeck four?" Troi asked, as there was little else in that direction. The doctor might need a brief timeout, but Troi was nevertheless amused by this sudden onslaught of humanity, this purely biological need for relaxation, after working with the two living machines.

"Yes", Asterind admitted, almost defensively. "I have an experiment to run."

Troi frowned. She could sense something furtive about this, but at the same time it was obvious that the doctor did not consider her experiments harmful to anyone - and indeed, why should they be? Troi was curious, but she also knew that a person's holodeck activities were off limits to everybody else, as long as that person did not need to be sought out for other and more pressing reasons. Or of course, if others were invited. Troi did not feel invited, and her shift on the bridge was to begin in two minutes. All the same, a quick probe.. "Holodeck four is the smallest", she pointed out. Asterind gave her a quick smile.

"I know. I don't need much space.." Without further elaboration, she was gone.

*  *  *  *

The next session began in a lighter vein.

"Have you had your sexual programming activated yet?" Dr Asterind tossed out, leaning back in her desk chair. This time, as she had half expected, Data was the first to answer.

"I have", he said, noncommittally. And that was all.

"You don't have to elaborate", Asterind hastened to reassure him. "But there are a few things I need to find out. Such as, do you have an ongoing sexual relationship with the same individual?"

"No", he said. "I have not."

"Have you had one?"

"Please define, in terms of frequency."

"Hmm.. I think your question has answered mine", she said.

He looked slightly puzzled at that.

"I take it you came close to a continuous relationship. Let me guess.. human female?"

"There are precious few female androids - I suppose that's gynoids - around", Lore offered.

"Sshh. Your turn will come later. Well, Data?" She had never used his title beyond their first meeting; she did not usually address her clients by title.

"Yes", he said. "Crewmate. Later fallen in action."

Lore exploded in laughter, although it did sound as though he had tried to suppress it. Asterind shot him an angry look and he held up his long hands apologetically.

"Sorry, no offence. I know, no pun intended.."

"Pun?" Data frowned, apparently searching wildly.

"The pun is in what sort of action", Asterind explained impatiently, in an attempt to break off his search. Which your brother chose to misunderstand..", she added with another glare at Lore.

"Ah", Data said. "I see. But how could anyone - "

"Good question", she cut him off. "Any other relationships since then?"

"On an occasional basis."

Asterind nodded. "And how do you - think about them? Do they mean anything special to you?"

"Usually, they are very special to me. As are all manifestations of deep friendship by humans. Whenever I am considered human enough to be regarded as a close friend, I treasure the experience. The only occasions I do not particularly value a sexual relation is when I seem to sense that the - female entered into it out of.. curiosity rather than friendship."

"Understandable", Dr Asterind said, feeling Troi's compassion for the android like a hot blanket in the room - and Asterind was no empath.

Lore chose that moment to erupt, "Pleasing humans, licking humans, being valued by humans, defined by humans, friendship with humans - friendship?? Dammit, what about love?"

"I do not understand love", Data said, in slightly clipped tones.

"Yes, Lore, what about it?" Dr Asterind said, turning to the more emotional of the pair. "Could you tell us about it? What's your experience?"

He shrugged, suddenly defensive. "Human too. As I said, there isn't much choice. If you want to stay compatible, that is. Though I suppose that some of the stronger humanoid species would be.."

"I did not ask for conjecture", Dr Asterind said. She could see his defence growing stronger by the moment. Best jolt him out of it. "I asked about your own experience. In fact, I'm rather surprised you had one. I wouldn't have thought you had had that side of your personality activated yet." She had expected belligerence at this, but he looked sad rather than hostile.

"One of the colonists on Omicron Theta", he sighed. "We had an ongoing affair for several months. She was very beautiful.."

"You comprehend human standards of feminine beauty?" Data asked, unable to contain his curiosity. His brother glared at him.

"Who cares about human standards? She was beautiful to me. And she was not afraid of me. Not many were then - that came later."

"What happened?" Data asked. "Did you kill her?"

"No!" Lore roared at him. "Of course not. I did beat up her husband though. When he found out. But that was in defence of her. He attacked her."

"Did you kill him?" Data persisted with what Asterind could only think of as insidious innocence.

Lore sighed, shaking his head. "No. Although I should have. Eventually, he killed her. So like humans. I took my cue from them, and I seemed to have a certain flair for their style of plotting. The husband later became one of the first victims of the Crystalline Entity. I saw to that personally."

"Revenge is important to you", Dr Asterind noted. "Any other relationships since then?"

"No. No time", Lore said defiantly, but his voice was not quite steady.

"Was that when the colonists began to fear you?" Data wanted to know.

"Somewhere around then. They said I changed - but I had only become more like them. Anyway, it wasn't the only reason, although it might have contributed. Suddenly I was left without a purpose - and when I got to thinking about it, I realized that with my potential, I should not be chasing petty human reasons for living. So I began to pursue worthier ends. More compatible with me."

"Instant megalomania", Dr Asterind commented, but Data disagreed.

"No, Doctor. He is right as far as it goes. He does have a greater potential for intellectual development, longevity, endurance - not to mention sheer physical strength. He was right in looking for greater purposes. He only drew the wrong conclusions."

Asterind managed to silence Lore with a stare before he could object. "Please elaborate", she said.

Data looked puzzled for a moment. "In essence, I would say my brother has always taken the long view - or rather the overview. Missing the details that could have enriched his life. And then losing all, whenever his great schemes failed. At least that is how I see it. But then, Dr Soong said I was wasted in Starfleet. I suppose his opinion of a worthy purpose for an android differed greatly from both of ours."

*  *  *  *

Dr Asterind's stroll with Troi through the corridors after sessions had already become a habit. They both had a feeling that leaving the two mechanical brothers alone together was not considered safe enough by Captain's standards, but since they could both tell them apart effortlessly, they saw no real danger in it. And the rest of the crew were highly aware of Lore's presence and were told to largely keep out of the psychology area. This precaution had been taken so that they would not unnecessarily start questioning Lt Commander Data's orders, under the assumption that he might actually be Lore in disguise.

"Deanna, I had a dream last night..", Dr Asterind said. "At least I think - maybe hope - it was a dream. If you can make any sense of it, perhaps that would help me be certain." Troi nodded, expectantly. "I thought I woke in my bed with only emergency lights on, the way it would be if I had really awakened. And one of the androids was in the room. I thought I could make out a uniform, so at first I thought it was Data, but as soon as he spoke I knew it was Lore."

"What did he say?" Troi asked.

"That's just it - all he said was that he wanted to know for sure that I could tell them apart. He asked me who I thought he was. I spoke his name, and he said nothing more, just smiled and left. That's all."

"How did he phrase his question? Did he really ask you who you thought he was, or did he just ask you to tell him who he was?"

"The former - I'm fairly sure of that."

"Hmm. I suppose it could still be a question concerning his identity and your definition of it - but I would have expected the other phrasing. Are you sure of which of them it was?"

"Of course."

"Quite sure, Sally?"

"No question of it. It was Lore."

"I see. No beginning selfdoubts then.." Troi hesitated a moment, then went on, "Sally, there is another possibility we must take into consideration. Do both of them have night access to your quarters?"

"You mean it might not be a dream? I was wondering. Well, I would say neither of them has access, but I'm not familiar with ship regulations."

"Data, being Second Officer, can override any lock in case of emergency."

Asterind looked up sharply at that, a gleam of interest passing quickly over her hazel eyes. "I'm still certain it was Lore."

"He shouldn't be able to override anything. Especially not since he is still technically a prisoner of war. He wouldn't be granted access anywhere. The only way would be if he had somehow got the override code from Data, by trick or - mindmeld or whatever it is they do.."

"You mean download", Asterind said with a quick laugh. "While they would not need to be physically connected for that, I doubt that Lore would attempt it. He was interested in Data's ethical programme, yet he never attempted to copy it. Besides, he could not download anything without Data noticing - and blocking it, if I know him right. Denying access."

"If Data were shut down?" Troi ventured.

"Lore couldn't establish the link."

"Standby mode?"

"The attempt would wake Data up. But I do consider Lore more than intelligent enough to pick a lock on his own, if he wanted to. What type of override code is it, by the way?"

"I'm not sure, but I could find out. All bridge personnel have clearance for that kind of information, should they suddenly find themselves in command."

"I was just thinking - could it be voiceprint?"

"I suppose it could.." Troi said, her own voice trailing off as the implications hit her.

"Not very bright", Asterind agreed. "It might be a good idea to find out."

"I'd better report this to the Captain", Troi said, somewhat officiously.

"Tell him my dream? Haven't you left a professional vow of silence lying about somewhere sometime, Deanna?"

"This might be a case of ship security. Would you at least give me leave to talk to Commander Riker about it? He won't act on it unless it becomes necessary, but I'd feel better if he knew."

"Deanna, for all we know it was just a dream."

"I'm not so sure. If I find that the override is indeed only by voice imprint, then I think we should momentarily revoke Commander Data's access, just to be on the safe side."

"No!" Asterind protested, then caught herself. "I don't want to stir up trouble, Deanna. What if it's nothing? Then we might have given Lore some new and twisted ideas, as well as thoroughly ruining Data's confidence in me."

"If we come up with any twisted ideas, rest assured Lore has already thought of them. Part of the reason he thinks so little of human intelligence. And Data would understand."

"I still don't see what Lore could hope to gain by getting into my quarters", Asterind muttered.

"A hostage against his escape?" Troi suggested.

"He certainly made no attempt. He only wanted to know if I could actually tell him and his brother apart. I suppose that could indicate he's up to something. He may have a uniform - I couldn't be sure; it was too dark in there."

"If he wants to be mistaken for his brother again, he now knows he'll have to get rid of the two of us first.." Troi mused, looking decidedly uneasy.

"Touchée. But I'm still asking you not to tell anyone about this as yet. Not as long as I have reason to believe it was just a dream. But if it makes you feel better, I will tell someone."

"Whom?" Troi wanted to know.

"Data. The logical choice, wouldn't you say?"

At the turbolift, the two women parted as usual. "I sense great anticipation of your holodeck visit, Sally", Troi said. "Would you mind telling me about it some day? Perhaps show me what you've set up?"

Dr Asterind merely laughed, making a half dismissive gesture. "Oh that", she said. "This time it's just for recreation. Thought I needed it. Some silly little idea.." She left for the holodeck, and though Troi would not spy, she nevertheless turned left too, and lingered just close enough and just long enough to catch a glimpse of the holodeck scenery. She caught mostly green, some well-ordered vegetation, before the gates closed. She shrugged. It had looked pleasant enough, perhaps it was just for recreation this time..

*  *  *  *

Dr Asterind's next session with the two brothers - and Troi off in the corner as usual - was stormy. It concerned feelings, and they did indeed run high, at least at one end of the room.

"If I only knew what makes you chase an empty ideal like emotions so hard. To the point of falling easy prey to my schemes, let alone to ridicule!" Lore challenged his brother. "You know, there was a time when I felt I should not underestimate you. But lately, I've begun to wonder if you're not more lacking in the area of common sense, than you are in the area of emotions."

"It may seem like an empty ideal to you, brother", Data said, "but then you had them all along. I however do not even have a proper reference for them, apart from the negative ones you fed me. All I know is that they seem to be greatly valued by my human crewmates, so I must conclude they form an important part of being human."

"Greatly valued - and feared", Lore said, standing up to see his brother over Asterind's head. She was furiously comparing her logs backward over time and did not ask him to sit back down. "Feelings can be torture - if you ask me, you're better off with the level you've got. What do you expect? A rush of emotional insanity washing out your reason? What's so great about that?"

For some reason, his voice broke a little, and Asterind made a note of it. Pushing her keyboard aside for the moment, she said, "You're still unstable, Lore, probably in the same manner you always were. But you'll be pleased - or not - to hear that you are considerably less violent. Seems like you're recovering nicely from the effects of the chip. We may not have to wipe you after all. But I'd like you to monitor all your rewrites consciously. Don't just let them happen - the way a human would", she added mischievously. "And please think twice before you perform them."

She swivelled her chair to adress Troi in the corner. "That's equivalent to telling a human to try and overcome emotionally conditioned reflexes. Get conscious control of ingrained but unwanted responses."

"How can I know what is so great about feelings until I have known them?" Data asked reasonably. "They may well be as unpleasant as you say, but I would very much like to be able to determine that for myself."

"Feelings are overrated, believe me", Lore snapped, waving his arm for emphasis.

"Please quit tensing your upper lip as if you were chewing tobacco", Dr Asterind said. "It's not at all attractive."

She thought she could see Data begin to search for references to tobacco and the uses thereof, but Lore reacted exactly the way she had hoped, losing his clenched expression from sheer astonishment, his lips parting like Data's in moments of surprise. For a second, their faces were truly identical. Then Lore even sat back down, laughing a little to himself. "I suppose what I want to say", he began quite reasonably, "is that if I were as levelheaded as you, brother, I wouldn't go playing with fire. Metaphorically speaking", he added somewhat acidly, although Data had made no sign of taking this common saying literally. "And to continue the metaphor", Lore added, "well, me, I was born inside a volcano and I haven't found a way to cool off yet."

"Have you sought one?" Data asked interestedly. Lore thought about it.

"No", he finally admitted. "Sometimes wished for it, yes - actively sought it, no."

"There you are", Data said. "You would have a hard time convincing me feelings are overrated." Lore made an impatient click of his tongue.

"You know, I'm really getting tired of all this hypocrisy. Or is it really that you can't tell what you've got? Why all this insistence that you have no feelings?"

At that, both Asterind and Troi almost visibly pricked up their ears. Data looked completely taken aback, so Lore took his chance to elaborate. "Is it that humans tell you you don't have any, and you're gullible enough to believe them? The puppet listening to his master's voice even when he should know better? I might have expected something like that."

"Humans are afflicted by emotion all the time", Data said. "It stands to reason that I should value their opinion on the topic. But I would also like to hear your reasons for your apparent claim that I do indeed have feelings."

"Curious?" Lore teased, standing up once more. "That's a feeling, Data, better watch it. I've watched you throughout several of these sessions now, and if I see you act surprised once more, I'll scream at you. I must conclude you feign astonishment, since you have no feelings, hmm? You've spoken in high and mighty terms about friendship and loyalty - enough to make me sick - but how can you know of such things if you can't feel them? I see I'm confusing you - I take it you're not actually feeling that confusion? I've heard your superior officers and crewmates interrupt your explanations of various facts often enough even when they are highly relevant, but of course you never take offence at that - or do you? Does it ever hurt, even one little bit? Why do you sometimes persist, finishing the sentence in spite of them? Oh yes, I've heard you do that. Any explanation? And what about that damn feline you keep hanging around your cabin at all times - cute little thing, actually - are you telling me you have no feeling whatsoever for your cat? Simply an object of study? I'll believe that, when.."

Asterind held up a hand. "Lore, that's enough. He's got the message. He's your brother, he's not dense. But don't flood him; give him a chance to think about it, now that you've told him what to look for. Data, do you want to break off now? You may need time to sort this out.."

Data nodded. "I see your point, Lore", he said, and this time his voice was the one to sound less than steady. "I may indeed have looked in the wrong places - though I always had the impression the kind of responses you have listed do not count as feelings with humans. Just tell me one more thing."

"Anything, dear brother", Lore smirked.

"If all these responses count as feelings, then what exactly was it you fed me from Dr Soong's chip? Because that - felt different indeed."

Lore shrugged. "A matter of degree, I imagine. Not quality. Those emotions were stronger - quite a bit beyond your normal level."

"Of course!" Troi gasped from her corner, then caught herself. "Sorry, Sally. I'll keep quiet."

"After that outburst?" Asterind said with an ironic yet friendly smile. "I think you'd better tell us all what just occurred to you, Deanna."

"Well, it seems to me we've all got our terms confused. I think Lore has just proven beyond a doubt that Data is capable of feelings. I'm sorry, Data, if we had not all been so blinded by faulty definitions, we might have treated you better at times. I know we've hurt you occasionally, even if you don't know it yourself. Even I was too dense to listen to what my senses were telling me, because the intensity level is so low, I'm afraid I discounted it. But", she went on, turning back to Asterind, "what he hasn't got, and what we've all been looking for, is passion. He's truly dispassionate. Except for the anger and hatred artificially fed to him by Lore that time, he has never known passion, and that's what made that experience so strange and powerful. It's passion he is incapable of, not feelings as such."

Asterind nodded. "Interesting theory. What do you say, Data? If that is indeed the difference, will you seek passion? Play with fire out of mere curiosity? Or will you rest content with feelings that let you keep your rationality, if not unaffected, so at least intact?"

Data was beginning to look decidedly confused, to the point of unhappiness. "I shall have to think about that", he said. "I cannot make that choice without pondering all the implications, making sure I leave nothing out."

"You may not have a choice", Lore said quietly. Uncharacteristically so.

"You mean he's probably incapable of passion without the influence of the chip?" Asterind prodded.

"On the contrary", Lore said. "Or at least I meant it the other way around. Data, I was thinking of what you said to me the time you surprised me talking to the Crystal Entity, outlining my plan - which was a clear case of treason as far as your rigid ethics were concerned."

"'How sad, dear brother. You make me wish I were an only child'", Data quoted himself, recalling the incident effortlessly.

"That's it. Don't tell me there was no feeling behind those words. But was whatever made you say it anything like the feelings I fed you from the chip? You don't have to answer that - I'm not even sure I want to know. I'm only asking you to research that possibility for yourself. If you find any similarity, then you may not have a choice - not in the long run, and for us, that can be very, very long. As you're so fond of pointing out, we're both learning systems."

Data's commbadge twittered. "Commander Data, please report to Conference Room One", said Picard's voice.

Data slapped the badge to acknowledge. "On my way, sir."

Lore remained seated by the opposite wall. "And he's the one who once accused me of being too eager to please..", he muttered after his brother had left.

"He has to follow orders, same as everybody else in Starfleet", Troi remarked. Sensing that the session was over with Data's departure, she felt once more free to comment.

"That's just what I mean", said Lore with some intensity. "Why he insists on burying himself in Starfleet is more than I'll ever understand. His potential should be every bit as great as mine; why spend his time jumping at the commands of mere humans?"

"Do you really despise us so?" the doctor asked. "I know many beings with fewer faculties than humans, yet I appreciate the diversity. In fact, I find most of them cute. Can't you at least find it in you to think of us humans as kind of cute?"

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Troi's baffled stare. Then the Betazoid frowned, as though unable to quite reconcile her empathic input.

Lore chuckled. "In fact, I often do", he admitted. "And I wouldn't call it despise exactly - I want to take care of you, better than you can of yourselves for you've certainly managed to make a good mess of things so far. But I told you about that - what you are all so eager to term my ambition, my hunger for power. Have you ever considered that it might be a hunger for responsibility? Or at least for - something worthwhile to do? I want to help. Not that anybody seems to want my help, but I'll gladly give it anyway", he added with a mischievous smirk.

"Exactly, whether we want you to or not", Asterind sighed. "You have a silver tongue and a twisted mind, Lore. Let's just hope we can untwist it at Starbase 66."

Lore glanced quickly at Troi. "I'd like to speak to you about that, Doctor.. can I talk to you alone? Without the mindprobe present?"

"Insulting me won't get you anywhere", Troi said. "I know you don't like me, and I also know you're up to something again. Sally, I'd advise you not to be alone with him - ever."

Asterind gave a clearly dismissive shrug before Lore could do anything drastic, such as using her for a hostage to make Troi leave, for instance. "And just how much would your prescience change things if he decided to harm me? His brother is really our only protection - shut up, Lore", she added as a comment to the android's derisive snicker, "- and he has left."

Turning back to Lore, she told him, "You see I understand my situation. And I've decided to trust you - for now. Yes, I'll speak to you alone, but not now. I have some pressing business elsewhere. But I'll talk to you real soon - and that's a promise."

She stood, snapping her screen and keyboard together. "I suppose that's that for this session. Oh damn, I can't let you just walk out, can I? Will you promise to behave if I have Security escort you?"

He sighed. "Back to the brig? I'd rather not. If you trust me - for now - why don't you and the mindp.. the Counsellor escort me to my brother's quarters? I promise to stay there - consider me confined - and please feel free to alert him to the fact that I'm there."

Troi shook her head, and Asterind frowned thoughtfully. "In that case, I'd better alert him before we go", she said. Lore shrugged, and the doctor tapped her commbadge - issued to her at the captain's insistence.

Her explanation elicited some brief debate in Conference Room One, until Data solved the problem by offering to drop by Asterind's office and pick up his brother for escort to his quarters. "In fact, he might be able to help me", he said. "And so might Counsellor Troi - pity we could not call you away right now, Counsellor, we needed you here. Will you join us in my quarters in.."

"Absolutely not", said Riker's voice over the open channel. "You volunteered to were to examine this thing yourself, Commander. That means, no organic beings around. We have no way of knowing what it might do, and we're not taking any risks."

"Will, it's just sitting there.." Dr Crusher's voice broke in.

"Yeah, but I don't know.." said LaForge. "It looks kind of funny in my VISOR, might be a power buildup of some kind, or else it's just its metabolism running wild.."

"Geordi, you and I have been examining it for the past hour, and none of our tests has elicited a response", Crusher said firmly. "I thought you concluded it was not dangerous."

LaForge's shrug was evident even in his voice. "All I said was, it presents no immediate danger. I still can't see that it does."

"Commander Riker is right", Picard closed the unknown issue. "We should minimize the risks, until we know more about this being. Commander Data has volunteered to study it, because he is the least likely to be affected by any means of attack. He is more sturdily constructed than we are, and his reflexes are far superior to our own. But I will not allow any of the ship's biological life forms in close proximity to this being while Commander Data is examining it. Or trying to contact it, should it suddenly reveal signs of sentience, which I deem highly unlikely at the moment. However, Commander, if you feel - uh, think you can trust your brother long enough to enlist his assistance, you have my permission to do so. But as he is still a prisoner, I shall hold you responsible for his actions."

"Acknowledged, sir", Data said brightly, closing the channel.

In Asterind's office, Lore made a face at the prospect of being guarded by his brother.

"Wonder what they've found", Troi said. "Sounded like it's alive, but I don't sense it. Apparently Data is bringing it to his quarters for study - or else they are beaming it directly over. I would have liked to see it, but I suppose I shall have to wait until it's considered safe for humanoids."

Her guess proved to be correct, for Data turned up empty-handed, collected his brother, and was off again. As soon as the two androids were gone, Asterind made to leave, but Troi put her hand on her arm, holding her back for a moment.

"Sally? For a couple of sessions now, I've felt great excitement from you", she said. "Combined with strong affection. I would say you're in love. But I have no way of knowing for whom you have these feelings.."

"If so, do you really feel it's any of your business?" Asterind fell just short of snapping. "I'm sorry, Deanna, but.."

"I didn't mean to pry", Troi said hastily. "Only to warn you. In the light of your main interest in life - you're not falling for either of these machines, are you?"

Asterind smiled. "So you've sensed that I'm not much fonder of humans than Lore? It's true that I find machines more interesting, particularly these sentient ones. But don't worry, Deanna, I can take care of myself."

"Please, Sally - which one?" Troi asked, anxious enough to forget discretion. "At least tell me it isn't Lore.."

Asterind's smile grew sunnier. "Then why would I make excuses to get out of that private talk he wanted? No, Deanna, if it's any comfort to you, rest assured I'll come out of this with no more than a broken heart.." With that, she swept out of the office, leaving Troi openmouthed behind her.

"Data..", the counsellor mumbled to herself. "If I knew how he does it, stealing everybody's heart like that." She shook her head. "Must be projection; but shouldn't even a robot psychologist know about that? No wait, she expects a broken heart - she knows the score. She knows he cannot love her back. And maybe he's better off for it. It's obvious that human feelings are extremely hard to control.."

*  *  *  *

Back on holodeck Four, Sally Asterind once more entered her elaborate garden maze of deep green hedges, a few of them cut to animal shapes. Here and there were small garden gnomes of unpainted terracotta, each one seemingly busy with normal garden chores. One pushing a cart, another digging, a third toting a watering-can, and a fourth just lazing about, smoking a pipe. Asterind tried to find her way by these small markers, but in accordance to her instructions to the ship's computer, they had changed places since last time she used this program. Delighted, she walked deeper into the maze, repeatedly losing her sense of direction.

She knew well how to make good use of the smallest holodeck. At the computer's randomized discretion, there he was. A little later this time; she had had the time to lose her way four times before he appeared. She first saw the sun glint off his commbadge, then the gold of his shirt between the clipped branches of the hedge. Finally he stepped out in front of her. He always found her. Even as a holographic replica, his sense of direction was flawless. She reached up to put her arms around his neck, and with a not quite uncharacteristic smile, he bent slightly to meet her lips.

In his quarters, the original was preparing to study the exotic being that had been beamed aboard only moments before its shuttle was destroyed, apparently due to an inexplicable power surge in its navigation system. The shuttle had been unmanned, apart from this being who had most certainly not piloted it. Current theory had it that the being was a pet of come kind, to a species who had for some reason abandoned ship - or rather, shuttle - and the little creature with it. The being was sitting on Data's computer panel, from which Spot had fled in panic, all hairs on end. The cat had probably got out in the corridor and was most likely being a nuisance, getting underfoot of everyone who happened by, but Data was loth to retrieve his feline as yet. Bearing in mind that no humanoids were supposed to get close to the strange being, he felt it was all the better if no strictly biological life forms whatsoever were about.

The being was quite pretty. Vaguely cone-shaped and translucent, it contained an abundance of soft colours which kept swirling, most of the time slowly, sometimes faster. At the moment, the colours were picking up speed.

Lore, having moved about the rest of the place, fingering just about everything, came sauntering into the computer area. He cast one look at the being with its now swiftly swirling colours, and on Data's face closely studying the swirls. Then he sprang across the rest of the room, jerking his brother away the moment before an electric blue bolt shot across the space where Data had been, burning an ugly mark in the opposite wall.

"Don't your precious Starfleet friends know anything?" Lore grated, his voice not quite steady. "Or did they plan this all along? That's a Pimlicon. It isn't harmful to humanoids. They don't trigger it; they could have examined it at their leasure. But oh no, they had to let you do it. You know that thing would have shorted out your entire nervous system by sucking the power from it at the discharge? It isn't slow, but it takes just enough time to be extremely painful, especially at our rate of sensory input."

As if suddenly aware that he was still holding his brother tightly to him, Lore let go quickly, almost pushing Data away.

"And how would you know?" Data asked, steadying himself. "Have you been using these beings as instruments of torture?"

"On what? I told you they are harmless to humanoids. No, I.. if you must know, I encountered one myself. Learnt the hard way, as the Terran saying goes. I was lucky. I was way out beyond Federation space at the time, I had landed on a forlorn asteroid that no biological being in its right mind would bother to visit. I needed to make some repairs to my vessel. Then this thing comes gliding up. Curious, I suppose. It didn't look like a predator, not according to my database anyway, so I never suspected a thing till it zapped me. It drained me and left me for dead, and I wasn't far from it, I tell you. But for some reason, it hadn't closed down all my neural circuits. I don't know why; it might have had something to do with conditions on the asteroid. Maybe the temperature affected it, or the atmosphere. I don't think it was indigenous to the place. Eventually, a Borg ship happened by. The crew found me and made some basic repairs. I thought then that they needed to know more about my functions before assimilating me. I didn't realize they were a splinter group until later. Anyway, their assistance enabled me to do the rest myself, and then, naturally, I took over. Don't tell me you never wondered how I met the Borg.

"Anyway, it was three days before they found me in the first place, and I couldn't even switch myself off. I was in pain all that time, and throughout most of the repairs."

Data swallowed - a reaction that had for some reason been built in from the start and which some of his crewmates found strangely endearing. "Why did you save me?" he asked. He expected a sarcastic remark with reference to family, but apparently Lore was still shaken up enough to be sincere.

Looking up from the chair he had sunk down on, he said, "I don't know, Data. I really don't know."

They left the Pimlicon in Data's quarters after he had made his report to the bridge. Riker had promised to send someone to get the creature. He had not, however, apologized. And Lore was making the most of that. "You say you're not their puppet", he argued, as they strolled down the corridor. "Yet you jump at their every word, and they don't hesitate to risk your life."

"I do not jump as you put it at just any humanoid's command", Data said. "But I am sworn to obey the orders of my commanding officers. As for risking my life, they cannot have known. I myself did not know the particular kind of danger presented by a Pimlicon. I would say it was logical to assume that I would be safer from it than they would."

"That assumption could have cost you dearly. What'll it be next time they try to be logical and end up merely generalizing? An antidote for something that has befallen you all? One that saves them and proves lethal to you, because nobody thought of checking?"

"I think you are being unfair, Lore", Data objected. He was about to add 'again', but decided against it. "They really are quite concerned for my wellbeing, most of the time."

"That Commander Riker didn't sound any too worried about you."

"Why should he? He could hear quite well that I was obviously all right."

"Oh? For all he knew, it could have been me talking to him." Lore waited a beat for his brother to comment on that, but when Data chose not to, he dismissed his own furtive threat - if that was really what it had been; he wasn't quite sure himself - with: "But I suppose he lacks the imagination to think of it." Changing tacks completely, he said, "Data, I don't want to go to Starbase 66. I don't want to be the prime guinea pig at the clumsy hands of a human."

His voice sounded strangely small, whether by accident or intent was impossible even for his brother to tell.

"One might argue that turnabout is fair play", Data said calmly.

"I didn't mean for any of my experiments to go wrong", Lore spat with sudden passion. "I didn't want to lose even one Borg - I needed them all. But I wasn't as skilled as you, brother. My first interests never really ran to science. Still, given the time, I could be scientifically proficient also. You know that as well as I. You and me both. We could be anything we ever wanted to. Given the time - given our lives. The longevity we were built for. But you, you're content with burying yourself inside Starfleet, living out that life as a mechanical appendage to humanoids - and assorted other biological beings. A mere prosthetic device if you will, because their own senses aren't accurate enough, not efficient enough. Content to be sworn to obey orders. Content to sell me out - or will you look the other way, if I try to jump ship?"

"No", Data said curtly.

"There you are. You're a hypocrite, you know that? Respect for every life save that of your own brother. Despite the fact that you yourself was once up for this treatment at human hands."

"Commander Maddox is my friend these days..", Data began.

"That figures", Lore cut him off bitterly.

"..but that is not what I meant by saying no", Data clarified. "I meant no, I would not look the other way, were you to attempt escape. If I knew about it, I would not conceal that knowledge. I would prevent you or actively help you, but I would not lie to the Captain."

His brother shot him an amused stare. "Let me make sure I got that right - you might actively help me escape?"

"I have not yet made that decision", Data said. "I require more information."

"Insufficient Data", Lore quipped, pun fully intended. Then, well knowing that insults would get him nowhere with his dispassionate brother, not even to the point of getting some satisfaction, he sobered. "What d'you need to know?"

"If your attempt were successful, would you still wage war on the Federation?"

Lore sighed, deliberating. But this time he opted for honesty.

"I have waged war on human-style oppression and dominance. My war on the UFP is merely the first step. Earth-founded and -based, the UFP is the organisatorial body most dominated by humans and their ideals. Given time, I'll be sure to find more targets. But yes, I am committed to that war."

"Thank you, brother", Data said lightly, noncommittally but with a touch of the same tone with which he had once wished for an existence without siblings.

Lore sighed again, this time impatiently.

"For what it's worth, I don't particularly hate humans. Some of my best friends.." he added with a smirk but broke off at the prospect of having to explain what the joke was. "But they are not to rule the universe. So far, they've always made a mess of it, and their sovereignty is usually achieved at a great cost to other beings. A state of affairs to which I've noticed that even you find it hard to reconcile yourself, dear brother. It's time some of those beings came into their own."

"Mechanical beings? Like the Borg, had your experiments turned out better?"

"Mainly. And why not some of those who can't speak for themselves? Such as your fluffbrain of a cat, for instance?"

"My righteous brother", Data said, his attempt at sarcasm almost on a level with Lore's usual brand. "If only I could believe in your sudden attack of integrity. But I cannot. And I trust even you would admit that it would not be logical for me to do so."

"You err on the static side", Lore said. "Keep in mind that we're both learning systems."

They had reached an intersection of corridors. Unexpectedly, Counsellor Troi turned the corner in front of them, in such haste that she actually bumped into them. The collision was forceful enough to make her lose her balance and sit down on the deck with a lot less dignity than she could have wished. Each android immediately held out a gentlemanly hand to help her up, and Data wondered briefly if Lore's reaction was based on chivalry or sarcasm. It dawned on him that humans might have the same difficulty interpreting his own actions, as based on pure rationality or a vestige of feeling. He filed the insight as yet another piece of the inscrutable puzzle called the human condition.

After being rather unceremoniously pulled to her feet by effortlessness doubled, Troi said, "Data, I need to talk to you. Or rather, I need you to talk to Sally - Dr Asterind."

"By all means, Counsellor", Data said affably. "What do you wish me to say to her?"

Lore stifled a snicker. He could not recall ever having been that literal himself.

Troi ignored him. "I think Dr Asterind is having problems with the holodeck. Will you talk to her about it, Data? Just ask her what's wrong?"

"Certainly, Counsellor", Data said. "Do you want me to check the holodeck system for malfunctions first?"

For the barest moment, Troi hesitated. Then she nodded. "That might be a good idea, Data. But if you don't find anything, please check with Dr Asterind also."

Data nodded - almost a bow. "Of course, Counsellor."

*  *  *  *

"What are you looking for?" Lore wanted to know.

The two mechanical brothers were back in Data's quarters. The Pimlicon was gone, assigned some quarters of its own, pending the captain's decision on where to take it. Data was sitting at his console, Lore studying the readouts over his shoulder.

"For now, just about any sort of malfunction", Data said. "None appear to be present."

Lore placed his hand on his brother's shoulder. "I don't think there's any technical malfunction, Data."

Data glanced up at him. "What makes you say that?"

"The counsellor was strangely evasive. I think she used the possibility of a holodeck failure as some kind of pretext, to get you to talk to Dr Asterind about something else."

"Why would she do that?" Data asked, with just the right amount of puzzlement to seem human.

Lore gave him a condescending smirk. "I don't know everything, little brother."

Data turned back to his console. "I shall investigate the matter. However, I had better complete my diagnostics of the holo system first. It will only take another 6.538 minutes."

Lore pointed to the screen. "What does this routine tell you?"

Data glanced over at the corner where the readout was scrolling past. He was running his diagnostics split-screen fashion, with three concurrent partitions displaying independent data at considerable speed. "That is a programme I wrote to detect if any replica of me is being used on the holodeck. It is part of the holodeck diagnostics now, but I also run it separately, at regular intervals."

Lore chuckled. "Whatever made you think of that?"

"Some of my own functions were crosslinked with those of the holodeck by accident, creating holographic characters that not only looked like me but were also in posession of quite a few of my android qualities."

His brother gave a low whistle of understanding, and Data nodded. "Naturally, the holographic androids were considered a security risk. I wrote this programme to ensure that the incident would not occur again."

"I think it just has", Lore said calmly.

Data's amber eyes followed the fast scroll effortlessly. "You are right, Lore. Someone is using a holographically generated replica of me on Holodeck 4." He touched a few controls, changing the readout of one of the other partitions on the screen. "It is Dr Asterind's programme. Perhaps this is what Counsellor Troi wished me to talk to Dr Asterind about."

Lore bent eagerly forward, almost leaning on his brother's shoulder. "Can you debug it?"

"Of course", Data said. "I have Level A clearance to the holodeck system. If Dr Asterind is using a holographic android character in her programme, I must ascertain whether that character constitutes a danger to her or any other humanoid." He punched up the debugging routine that let him peruse the code of any programme, whether it was running or not.

He found the programme somehow aesthetically pleasing. It was basically very straightforward, but with many randomized variables. The timing when Data's image would appear, the placement of the assorted garden gnomes, and above all the layout of the maze itself were all subject to change from one run to the next. And so was the behaviour of Data's image. But however that behaviour started out, it sooner or later led to an intimate session with the user - if Dr Asterind. Other users would not trigger any specific response in the image, apart from answering when spoken to, and the like.

Lore, looking over his brother's shoulder, commented, "She's thought of everything essential and yet kept it simple, letting the randomizing algorithm do most of the fancy work." While falling short of admiration, his voice nevertheless held a marked streak of appreciation.

"I fail to see the purpose of this programme", Data said. "If she wants to study my reactions in this particular setting, why not study me directly? A holographic duplicate can only ever be an approximation, its accuracy depending on the extent of relevant information in the holodeck database."

"I don't think she wrote this for her work, Data", Lore said. "It's probably her idea of relaxation. She's attracted to you, little brother. Well, I always knew you had it in you. After all, you are quite handsome", he concluded derisively, making a show of preening himself.

Data ignored him. "She should have told me", he said, shaking his head. I still fail to understand why she would create duplicates of me on the holodeck instead of talking to me directly. It does not compute."

"Humans are a random variable, Data", Lore said. "They rarely 'compute'."

"Perhaps she does not want to take up more of my time than necessary for her work?" Data ventured.

Lore's mouth quirked a little. "Or else she prefers the approximation to the real thing. After all, she can customize a replica to meet her needs precisely. In effect, she can perfect it. You, dear brother, might offer a little more resistance to that."

Data gave him a puzzled look. "Why should I resist Dr Asterind?"

Lore sighed over his brother's literal-mindedness. "She's attracted to you, and she knows better than any other human that you can't reciprocate. But maybe your duplicate can."

Data shook his head slowly. "I disagree. I do not detect any significant difference in the image's behavioural programming from my own. She has not had it do anything I could not."

"So she has a keen sense of reality as well", Lore said. "Quite a girl, wouldn't you say, dear brother?"

"That is not the point I was trying to make", Data said with some concern. "Note the setting itself. A maze. A classic computational problem of a kind that could be easily and aesthetically converted to concrete form on the holodeck, providing a pleasant environment, enhanced by the garden gnome markers which might either lead or mislead. The image naturally solves this maze each time, thus eventually coming into contact with Dr Asterind."

"So? She is a robot psychologist. It's reasonable to assume she would be affected by her work."

"Deeply affected, it appears", Data confirmed. "She has stressed some of the things I as an android do best. She is not like most humans seeking her own counterpart in the most unlikely place. She wants a machine, and she has specified one. She is not attracted to a wish fulfilment modification or an unrealistic dream. She is attracted to - me specifically. Now that you have brought it to my attention, I can see it clearly. And I fear that this attraction may run deeper than you think."

"You flatter yourself, little brother", Lore said, but this time even Data could hear the lie.

"You seem opposed to my observation?" he observed. "I should think it fairly obvious. She wants me because I am a machine, not in spite of that fact."

"A desire for the unusual? Human curiosity? Who would've thought it."

"No, Lore. That is not it. I find it hard to believe she would go to all this trouble if that were the case. The attention to authenticity alone is impressive."

Lore exploded with frustration. "Data, don't give me this! Finally someone who understands you, eh? A human? Brilliant to be sure, but still only a human. Go talk to her as you were supposed to, and be done with it. Make a point of telling her you know all about her programme, that should help.. And brother?" he added as Data was already making for the door, "watch out that you don't get hooked.."

His brother gave him a puzzled look, then nodded briefly, not quite understanding but filing the warning for future reference. "I shall consider you confined to quarters in my absence", he reminded Lore. "For your own sake, you had better share my view." The cabin door hissed shut behind him.

The ship's computer located Dr Asterind on holodeck four, so Data was about to turn back, when he saw Guinan approaching, a familiar feline form in her arms. She seemed to be - cooing at it. On seeing Data, she quickly assumed a semi-stern mien. "I'd thank you to keep track of your cat, sir", she said, drawing herself up to her full, less than impressive height. Then, with her next tender look at Spot, all her poise collapsed as if it had never been. "This little marauder has been eating my sundaes all morning."

Data thanked her courteously, accepting his squirming cat from her. "Please do not run away again", he asked Spot in one of the sudden lapses in rationality he often found himself subject to when talking to his cat. He wondered if he had ever really expected Spot to listen to anything he said. Spot was the one true anarchist on board - never obeying orders. "Fluffbrain.." he said gently, thoughtfully as if experimenting with the epithet.

"WHAT did you say?" Guinan asked in surprise.

"Just something my brother called Spot. I suppose I had better leave Spot with him; perhaps they can keep watch over each other while I am busy elsewhere."

Guinan's eyes narrowed. "You trust that brother of yours with your cat?"

"I do not see why not. Spot may be undisciplined by Starfleet standards, but I have never known my cat to conspire with anyone."

Guinan grinned, widely but briefly. "That's not quite what I meant", she said.

Data's eyes - as golden as the cat's - flicked sideways for a moment, searching.. "Ah", he said, "you think being with my brother might be unsafe for Spot?" When Guinan nodded, he explained, "I however do not think so. Spot is not human. My brother gets along quite well with less demanding beings."

Guinan looked absolutely baffled to hear this, so he added,"I do not know why that should surprise you. After all, Lore has had very human emotions all his life. From what I have been able to ascertain, it is precisely those emotions that make it easy for humans to relate peacefully to beings they do not perceive as a threat. As well as fear those who are thus perceived. With Spot's help, I have been experimenting, attempting to reach a sufficiently emotional state from the other end, as it were." He made a sort of half-shake of his head, clicking his tongue as if indicating no go. "So far, I have not been able to - find it in me."

Spot was now squirming impatiently. Data held on firmly but not quite effortlessly, as he was always careful not to harm the cat - which Spot knew and shamelessly utilized - and also because his strength and the cat's agility were not well matched. In fact, the odds were that Spot would slip away again. Despite the struggle in front of her, Guinan said with conviction, "You're very good with cats, and you don't need emotions for it. Your innate respect for all forms of life is enough."

She frowned a little, briefly pondering the fact that the cat seemed to have disciplined its master better than should have been possible if a general respect for all life forms were all that Spot had had to work from. Dismissing that aspect for the moment, she added, "Your brother now, strikes me as what's generally considered a bad person. And bad persons don't often care for other beings - I suppose because they can't really care for anything but themselves."

Data searched again, comparing her statement - which he found possibly true on a general basis - with some fast flickering images from his perfect memory. Lore's lip - and voice - trembling at the news of Dr Soong's imminent demise, the times he had switched off his brother yet never deactivated and dismantled him, and the recent incident with the Pimlicon. True, Lore's sincerety was always in doubt, but in those instances, what had he stood to gain? In the case of the Borg there had been the obvious goal of power - only, Data suspected that empty power was not really all that interesting to Lore if there were nothing to be done with it. And he had in fact done a great deal for the Borg, put a lot of effort into pulling them to their feet again, as it were, even when basically malfunctioning due to incompatibility with his stolen emotions chip. The error of judgment resulting in unfortunate experiments on the Borg had to be due to that malfunction. It was too blatant for anything else, even given Lore's normal instability as an emotional being.

"That may be so", he answered Guinan. "But I think you may be wrong about my brother. Or at least not entirely right." Clutching his by now very determined cat, he turned back towards his quarters, leaving Guinan with a worried look on her face. Shaking her head, the Listener made her way back to Ten-Forward.

*  *  *  *

Dr Asterind was on her way back from the holodeck when she ran into Data who had just dumped his cat on his brother's lap - from which Spot had promptly sprung, not for reasons of personal aversion but on the general principle of never staying put where placed by anybody else.

"Oh - hello, Data", Asterind said, slightly flustered. She had been deep in thoughts about her recent holodeck experience, trying to decide if it wasn't really the best so far. She was about to pass him when he put his hand lightly on her arm to hold her back. She stared down at his hand. Unlike his holodeck replica, he had never touched her before. Those long, slender fingers..

"Please wait, Doctor", he said. "Counsellor Troi has asked me to have a word with you. She stated that you had had a problem with the holodeck and suggested that I ask you about it." The roboticist opened her mouth to comment, but Data went on quickly, "Please hear me out. Thinking that the Counsellor was referring to a technical problem, I ran a full diagnostics on the holodeck system. Finding nothing wrong, I am afraid I took the liberty of studying your programme. It is quite impressive. However, I now believe that the Counsellor is concerned about your obvious attraction towards myself. Apparently she feels I might be better able to dissuade you from becoming too attached, than she could herself."

Asterind considered briefly whether to be angry with her friend and colleague - no point, Deanna could not help being an empath, and what she had not been able to ascertain in what was to her the natural way, Sally had herself made some rather obvious hints about. Should she then be annoyed with Data? He could no more help his nature than the Betazoid could. Besides, anger with him promised to be singularly unrewarding - and not only because of his lack of emotional response..

"So it's all out, is it?" she said in resignation. "All right, I'll listen to you. I always have. Though I can't quite understand what concern my personal feelings are to you, Deanna, or anyone else as long as I keep them confined to the holodeck."

"And do you?" he asked quietly. "Keep them confined to the holodeck?"

At that, she did bristle. "Have you noticed any signs that they are interfering with my work? If so, why don't you come right out and say so?"

"I have not", he admitted reassuringly. "In fact I did not know about this until I examined your programme. Is that why you decided on the holodeck solution - to keep your feelings from interfering with your work?"

"How do you mean that?" she asked, dreading the answer. "The holodeck solution?"

"I mean, why not ask me directly?"

She swallowed. "The primal fear of rejection, I suppose. You mean, you would have accepted?"

"I might have then, not knowing of a reason not to. But please do not ask me now that the Counsellor has told me of her fears that your attachment might become too strong for your own good."

'Drat Deanna', Dr Asterind thought. But all she said was, "Well, fear of rejection might have been my gut reason as it were, but it wasn't the only one. A relationship with you would have had no future, though I might have deceived myself that it could have. On the holodeck I never run that risk. And yes, there were professional concerns as well. While you are not my client, you are my control group of one, and if I got involved with you, I could never be certain I might not create a Rosenthal effect."

Data searched briefly. "Does not the Rosenthal effect consist of inadvertently influencing the subject through the very premises of the test? Unless your - involvement with me were a test, I fail to see how.."

"Got my terminology crossed", she admitted. "You're right of course. I was only thinking of the influence itself that I might inadvertently cause, thus invalidating my work with your brother. While rational reasons have a naturally lower priority in humans than their emotional ones, I wasn't quite prepared to show up on Starbase 66 and have to tell Bruce I bungled it - out of love. Yes, I do love you", she said almost fiercely to his somewhat startled face. "But don't worry - I'll be all right. I know myself. This'll pass, in time. And you can tell Deanna I said so. Better yet, I'll tell her myself."

"There is one thing I do not understand", he said. "Why me?"

She had to think about that one for a while. Finally she said, "I suppose because I've never met a machine with such integrity of character before. I only hope I'll grow tired of that in the end. Too good ought to become too much eventually. Humans crave balance in their lives. I'll rely on that to get me over you. As for now, however.."

He tried with some desperation to work out if what she had said had been a compliment, if so, whether it was intended, and whether or not he was expected to thank her for it. He gave up, filing her words among his stack of unintelligible human behaviour to be researched later. "Why not take an interest in a human with integrity of character?" he asked somewhat naïvely. "There are quite a few on this ship alone."

"Now you're sounding as xenocist as your brother", she warned him.

"That was not my intention. I merely.."

"I know", she carelessly interrupted him. "and you're hardly the expert at counselling humans. Actually, I never much cared for other humans. Too troublesome. In fact, I can quite understand some of your brother's views on them, and I grew up as one." She paused for a moment. "Does Lore also know about my attachment to you?"

"I am afraid so. He studied your programme with me."

She nodded. "Then I suppose I had better quit my sessions with the two of you as of now. Your knowledge of my personal involvement - possibly of my personal preference - might affect the outcome of future sessions. I'm not saying it would, but I wouldn't be able to rule out the possibility. Besides, I'm told we're only a day or three out from Starbase 66, unless the Captain suddenly decides to go to maximum warp, and he hasn't so far."

"Three days, five hours, and sixteen minutes, actually", Data said, stopping short of the seconds. Where humans were involved, seconds might be subject to change. "At our present speed", he qualified.

She waved her hand carelessly. "Whatever. My research is ended. You may both consider yourselves free of your obligation to participate."

"May I ask what your conclusion is?" Data queried. "Specifically with regard to Lore's memory. Will you have it wiped and replaced with a different personality?"

"In my opinion that will not be necessary", she said. "I find he's healing quite nicely from the malfunctions caused by the incompatible chip. And his own basic instability should prove an interesting challenge for Dr Maddox. There ought to be no need for anything so drastic as a wipe on account of that alone. Still", she added on noticing a shade of relief on his goldleaf face, "that's only my opinion. Of course, Dr Maddox will be given every opportunity to make his own decisions."

Any signs of relief faded as though they had never been there. And in fact she wondered if they had. "I see", Data said quietly. "Thank you Doctor. I have enjoyed our talks. All of them."

As he turned to leave, she said teasingly, "For the few days that are left, I intend to make the maximum use of the ship's sophisticated holodeck technology. Do I have your permission?"

"I have no right to cancel your access to the holodeck. There is not sufficient reason."

"Maybe not, but what about my access to your image?"

"My image", he said, "is your creation. Please use it at your own discretion."

Somehow, somewhere, that hurt. Enough that she was about to tell him so, when she realized she could not hope to explain to him something she did not quite understand herself. Briefly wishing herself capable of such sublime indifference, she let him go. But her eyes followed him till he turned the corner.

*  *  *  *

Back on the holodeck the next day, Dr Asterind knew at once that someone had been tampering with her programme. Not to disrupt it in any way, on the contrary, subtle touches had been added that she had not thought of. The inclusion of birdsong for instance. No birds were to be seen, but their twittering and occasional bursts into fervent, territory-marking arias were heard everywhere. Or almost everywhere. It took her a while to realize that whenever she was in a dead end of the maze, the birdsong subsided. It never died out completely, or she would have been clued in earlier - but the more colourful outbursts ceased, to be replaced by mere twitter-chat. She smiled to herself. Now who would have thought of that..?

After about fifty turns - nearly half of them wrong - she emerged into the centre of the maze, rather explicitly pointed in that direction by one of the ubiquitous garden gnomes. She knew about the centre with its softly spraying fountain; she had written it all in herself, but somehow she had never been able to find the place once she had got out of there the first time. Several of the passages debouched into this place, and she stood for a while with her back to the one she had come from, enjoying the sight of the sunlit sprinkling from the fountain.

Suddenly there he was, emerging from a passage about a quarterway around the open space, and to her left. He looked up briefly at the sun - without squinting, of course - and started walking towards her. He got about halfway before he emerged again, about as far off as the first time, but this time on her right. The second replica also looked up at the sun, then started towards her.

'Oh no, she thought, and here I believed programming was one of his fortes. This has got to be a bug, probably introduced with the birdsong. Wonder how many of him there are..'

She glanced apprehensively at the other openings around the little plaza, but no more images seemed to be in the offing at the moment. The two already present came to stand before her, apparently oblivious to each other. They seemed truly identical; both wore the same polished Starfleet issue boots, the same now well-known uniform, the sun high behind her glinting off both commbadges. And the same very slight smile was on both faces - though not exactly mirrored; she found that she had almost expected it to be.

And yet there was a subtle difference, now that they were standing so close together. One of - solidity? As if he had been waiting for her to notice, the one on the right now turned his head looking straight at the other one.

"Computer, discontinue image of Lt Commander Data", he said. The leftside image promptly vanished while the one on the right remained, holding out his exquisitely slender hand to her. "I changed my mind", he said. "Now that I am no longer likely to affect your work.."

*  *  *  *

She went to the holodeck twice the next day, and yet again on the third. After all, she had no sessions to run, and there was time enough to consolidate her material between visits to Hd4. She had given the new turn of events considerable thought, then finally decided she liked it - and perhaps more than that. The actual experiences were leaving her slightly bruised but never battered. Not what she had expected, if indeed she had expected anything other than her own programme, but this state of affairs had already come to mean a lot to her. Bruises and all..

Eagerly she prepared to start her programme, found it already running, and went in. She enjoyed their secret meetings in this peaceful but challenging setting and would have insisted on the holodeck even had he suggested any other meeting place. Which he had not.

This time she found her way easily through the maze - partly because of the birds, partly because she was not really consciously thinking about finding her way, which for some reason seemed to help.

He met her in a passage just short of the centre, and she more or less fell into his arms. Then, she drew back apprehensively. He smiled a little. "No, it is really me. But I can say it for you, if you want proof: Computer, discontinue image of Commander Data."

"No image of Commander Data is currently active", the computer promptly replied.

"There, you see?" But she wasn't listening.

She was staring behind him towards the fountain, at the one sitting there, waiting, his arms folded across his chest. "Then I take it that's no image either.." she said weakly. Her lover spun around, taking in the situation at a glance, then he started walking towards the fountain. All the while he never let go of her, rather he clasped her tighter to him.

"Get out of here", he said in a low voice to the one waiting by the fountain.

"You did not say please", said the other. Now and then the fountain aimed a lightly sprinkling shower in his direction, darkening the sleeve of his uniform, but he seemed not to notice. "I cannot permit this to continue, Lore. You know I cannot."

The one still holding Dr Asterind gave her a swift, almost apologetic glance. "Sorry", he said to her. "But I did tell you I wanted to talk to you alone.." Then, giving up all pretence, he turned to his younger twin. "What's it to you, brother? You don't want her for yourself, and I do. You don't need her, and I do. You wouldn't act on her feelings, and I did. You'd never.."

"You cannot have her, Lore", Data cut him off. "You come here to forward your own ends somehow, by tricking Dr Asterind and capitalizing on her feelings for me. This is really low, brother. If I had ever suspected even you of.."

"'Cannot have her'?" Lore mimicked. "But I already have, dear brother, each time more thoroughly than you'll ever be capable of. I'll have her right here before your eyes, unless you leave this minute - or would you rather join in?" he added maliciously.

Sally held a finger to his lips to silence him. "Before either of you takes this quarrel any further", she said, "let me just point out that I did know. All along. Yes Lore, your passion is a dead giveaway, but I knew already from the first you came in here. I may not always have been sure you were not a holoimage, but I always knew it was you." She laughed at the startled look on his face. "I always said I could tell you two apart, didn't I?", she went on. "Not my fault that you never quite believed me.."

Incredibly, Data was looking almost as startled as his brother. "But if you knew - why did you consent to this?" he asked. "I might have thought you were merely trying to save your life, finding yourself alone in here with him -" the look he gave his brother came as close to a glare as anything he had ever produced "- but obviously you came back, more than once. Why? Did he threaten you in some way?"

Lore sighed, with a disgusted click of his tongue. "You really don't get it, do you?"

"No", Sally said, "he did not threaten me. But he seemed to need me - at least want me - and you did not. I suppose he - rather than any humans - was the logical choice, after you."

At that, Lore bridled. "Don't tell me I've been second to my kid brother again?" he shouted. "I thought you liked me, I thought.."

"Don't overdo it, Lore", she said calmly. "You thought I believed you were Data, and you were quite content with having fooled me. Let's face it, I don't love you, and you don't love me. But I did grow quite fond of you, for all that I could see right through you. Or perhaps because of it, because you were so sure you had fooled me. Seems like your brother is not the only one around here capable of endearing naïveté."

Data blinked, this time trying to figure out if he had just been served an insult or not.

"So I wound up sort of liking you", Sally resumed. "For what it's worth, that still stands. And it certainly seemed that you sort of liked me. So what do you say about it? Will you let me come with you?" She held out her hand to him, surprising them both. Data because she showed so little regard for android strength, Lore because she had so easily seen through his plans and did not even seem to object.

"Come with me where?" he hedged, "I'm the one condemned to go with you, remember? To Starbase 66?"

She feigned surprise. "And here I thought your sole ambition was to lure me into helping you escape."

"Not my sole ambition..", he admitted, frankly and unnecessarily. "For what it's worth, I did enjoy it."

"Come on", Sally said briskly, trying hard not to believe him. "We still have a few hours before Starbase 66."

"Eight hours and four minutes to be precise", Data said automatically. "Will you attempt escape?"

Lore looked him over briefly. Seeing no sign of any weapon he said, "Will you still try to stop us, dear brother? You have a choice, you know. You could let me turn you off - or we could wrestle about it and both sustain damage." He reached out with the speed of a striking snake and snatched Dat's commbadge from his shirt. "This appears to be malfunctioning", he said, dropping the gleaming object into the holographic water of the fountain.

"I know", Data said calmly. "I disabled it before I came in here."

They both stared at him, so he added, "It seemed a reasonable precaution. I did not want to be called to the bridge and have to leave a possible emergency here. But if someone tried to contact me and failed, they would be sure to investigate.."

"He's right", Lore said quickly, sweeping up Sally in his arms to carry her. "Sorry, but this is faster. We'd better be out of here right away." As he ran, he threw back over his shoulder, "Take your time reporting this, brother. If I find you in my way, I swear I'll walk right through you."

"And if you ever cross my path again, dear brother", Data called back, "I shall be the one walking."

*  *  *  *

"Shuttle away, sir", Worf growled from his station. He looked up, glaring as if at a personal insult. "Apparently authorized by Commander Data."

As if on cue, Data emerged from the turbolift, uniform still missing a commbadge. His Captain glared at him. "Anyone aboard?" he asked Worf.

"Affirmative, sir. One humanoid." He adjusted his sensors without waiting for the order he knew was coming. "One human, to be precise, and one android.." Picard's glare was accompanied by Riker's.

"You have anything to do with this, Commander?" the First Officer asked, his tone dangerously light.

"I knew Lore would attempt escape", Data said truthfully. "In his place, so would I. But I admit I had not expected Dr Asterind to go with him."

Riker and Picard looked at each other. "Hostage?" Riker snapped.

"No sir. It would appear she went willingly. She told me she had - developed an affection for my brother. I have no reason to believe she was coerced."

"You seem to know quite a lot, Commander", Riker said ominously. "Did you or did you not help them effect this escape?"

"I gave them no active assistance", said Data noncommittally.

Riker waited. But there were occasions when not even his best poker patience was a match for the steady gaze of those citrine eyes. When Data set his mind to being inscrutable, he was.

Finally, Picard broke up the staring match. "Commander Data, my ready room", he said.

Once out of earshot of the rest of the bridge crew, Picard began, "You told us you would have escaped too, if it had been you. Does that imply I can trust you to obey orders only so far? What if the case had gone against you that time, on Starbase 173, and you had been ordered to submit to Commander Maddox' experiments?"

"I would naturally have submitted, sir", Data said. "Since in that event, I would have been ruled unable to resign from Starfleet. But if I may remind you sir, what I said was that in my brother's place I would attempt escape. My brother, for all his military stratagems, is not Starfleet."

Picard glared at him, only half convinced. "That'll be all, Commander", he said then. "For now."

Unperturbed, his Second Officer nodded and turned to leave. But just before triggering the door, he paused and turned. "I notice you made no attempt to retrieve the shuttle, Captain", he said. He hesitated for a moment, as if weighing the risks, then added, "Thank you, sir." Then he left quickly.

Picard glared at the closed door. "Well", he muttered to himself, "Perhaps I wasn't any too keen on seeing your brother, for all his misdeeds, turned over to wilful experimentation. And you instrumental in it.." He fell silent, thinking. Then he added in a lower mutter, "And frankly, I'd just as soon have seen the last of that brother of yours. Let's hope he has the sense not to cross our paths again.." 


* The End. (Or is it?) *