Author: Ke Roth
Contact: keroth1701 (at) sbcglobal.net
Post-TNG, B-4, original characters, rated PG
Summary: After the events of Nemesis, and after Data’s consciousness has been transferred to a newly built android, B-4 has a conversation with a woman who once was romantically involved with Data and who feels uncomfortable with the new android.
Other chapters of this story can be found at Trekiverse.
The door to the holodeck slid open.
Andile turned, already knowing it was yet another one of Alyssa Ogawa’s staff bringing in yet another of the still sleeping children, settling them into their temporary new home, knowing that each child was now well on their way to recovery – a physical recovery, at least – each was bathed, dressed in clean new clothes, each perfectly safe and in utterly reliable arms – and yet she still turned, wanting to check each child for herself, making sure each was safe, whole, as healthy as could be… wanting just to know they were with her once again.
Andile turned, the welcoming smile – completely plastic for the incoming crewmembers, utterly genuine for her children – set upon her face already.
Andile turned, the welcoming words already starting to stream from her lips, ready to direct the technician, nurse of doctor to whichever bed had been prepared for each child, ready to point to where S’bey or the two girls stood waiting, helping get the children settled into their new beds.
Andile turned – and froze.
“You… you…” she began, horrified, shocked appalled – furious – then stopped.
“B-4,” she said at last, finally recognizing the newcomer for who he was.
Gods, she thought, he looks so much like Data does… did, she amended. Not at all like that thing that Geordi had built; that thing looked… almost human, she decided. Not quite, of course – but the golden skin was now almost the same pinky-rose hues tone that covered many of the people on this ship, the hair had lost some of its too-perfect color, taking on a hint of age and time, matching almost perfectly the aging skin with its faint pattern of lines and creases.
If my Data had been human, she thought, that was what he might have looked like.
But my Data looked like this creature before me, she reminded herself – except my Data died, and this thing is alive.
“Is there something I can do for you?” she asked with forced politeness.
He looked at her for a long time. “My brother would like you to talk to him,” he finally explained.
Andile looked away, letting out a tired sigh. “B-4… I’m sorry, B-4, but I can’t – and to be blunt, he shouldn’t have asked you to come here,” she said angrily. The Data she had loved hadn’t been entirely beyond emotionally blackmailing her when the occasion required it, she reminded herself – but to ask his less-able brother to come in his stead was reprehensible. Her Data would have never done something like that – which only goes to prove that he isn’t my Data, she protested in silent triumph.
B-4 gave her a troubled look. “My brother… did not ask me to come here,” he said after several moments.
“No?” she said skeptically.
“He… He is in Engineering. Geordi LaForge wanted to perform a diagnostic. I wanted to see the fish,” he explained.
Despite her anger, Andile smiled at the android’s answer. “In that case, I think you got lost. There are no fish here,” she pointed out, gesturing at the plain that swept out in all distances from where they stood, a gathering of rough shelters dotting the gently sloping hills.
“No fish,” B-4 replied.
It took her a moment to realize that his response had been a statement rather than a question; he knew there were no fish here, she realized.
Which did nothing, however, to explain why he was here.
“Do you know where the fish are?” she asked him gently.
“The fish are in the water,” he answered.
“Yes,” she smiled back. “Do you know where the water with the fish are?”
“It is in the arboretum. Would you like to see the fish?” he added.
Andile sighed patiently. “I would, but not tonight. Tonight I have a lot of work to do. Would you like me to have someone walk you to the arboretum?” she pressed.
B-4 considered, then gave his head a single shake. “No.”
“Would you like me to have someone walk you back to the Admiral’s quarters?” she tried again.
“I told him I wanted to see the fish,” B-4 said.
“But you came here…” she started – then stopped, understanding slowly dawning.
“You told him you wanted to see the fish, but you came here instead,” she tried, suddenly realizing the conflict that his more limited mind must have been facing – and sympathizing with his attempt to resolve that conflict.
B-4 looked at her with what appeared to be relief. “My brother wants you to talk to him. I came to see you.”
She nodded. “I understand, B-4. You’re trying to help your brother.”
“My brother wants you to talk to him,” he repeated. “He asked the admiral to ask you. The admiral said he would not.”
No, she thought, he would not; she had asked him to keep Data – or rather, this incarnation of Data away from her – and the gods praise Picard, he had kept his word.
But she had made no such request of B-4, she reminded herself – and out of love for his brother, he had come here to ask for that same favor.
“B-4,” she started softly, “I appreciate what you’re doing, but…”
“My brother loves you,” the android interrupted.
Stunned into silence by the remark, Andile stared at the man for a long moment – then shook her head.
“No he doesn’t, B-4. The man who was Data loved me, but…”
“I love you,” B-4 interrupted again.
And again, she fell into a stunned – no, shocked! – silence, for a long time before managing a weak, “B-4… you don’t love me. You can’t. You don’t even know who I am. “
“I…” The android stopped, cocked his head as his mind tried to struggle with the concept.
It was a futile attempt; despite the best attempts by his mentor and guardian, the ability to understand ambiguous ideas and concepts was still far beyond his mental grasp; his was a world of absolutes.
“I know who you are,” he said at last. “You… are part of me. You are part of him,” he added after a moment. “He loves you. I love you,” he repeated.
“B-4,” she began again – and stopped.
Protestations and logic were all well and good – but he was right. When Data had transferred his memory to B-4, all his feelings for her had been transferred as well. That B-4 couldn’t understand the true nature of those feeling was irrelevant; all he knew as that he did, indeed, love her.
He would never, could never act upon those feelings, she knew – but that did not change the fact that they were, indeed, a part of him.
She studied him for a long time, watching the conflict play across his face, watching as the complete inability to comprehend the feelings that were implanted in him played against his limited ability to comprehend the very idea of emotion – and felt her heart break.
Varel loved me, she thought; Varel, with her so limited mind, damaged beyond repair by the starvation and deprivation her people had forced upon her when she was only an infant; Varel who could not, and would not ever be able to speak; Varel who could barely tend to her own, extremely basic needs; Varel loved me. That Varel had been no more capable of understanding that emotion than B-4 was didn’t mean that she didn’t understand it, Andile reminded herself; Varel had loved her.
B-4 loved her.
“Would you like to help me?” she asked at long last, her heart reaching out to this creature who would never be able to fully understand what the feelings he possessed had meant to their original owner.
A look of vague relief crossed his face, as though the conflict he couldn’t understand was being resolved in an equally incomprehensible manner – but he said nothing. Instead, he cocked his head, waiting for more information.
“We’re putting the children into their beds. Would you check them to make sure they are asleep? If they start to wake up, let me know,” she explained.
“I know when the Admiral is waking,” B-4 replied.
“Oh?” she answered, curious.
“I hear him. I make his tea. Earl Grey. Hot,” he continued.
Andile smiled. “That’s the admiral, alright.”
“Shall I make tea for the children when they wake up?” he pressed.
“Uh… no,” Andile answered with a smile. “I don’t think the children will want tea. But you’ve got a point; they will be hungry when they wake up,” she mused. “We’d better start thinking about breakfast,” she added.
“What shall I think about breakfast?” he countered.
She stared at him for a long moment – then reminded herself how literal he was – and would always be. “You should think about where we can spread out blankets so the children can eat out in the sun.”
“It is hot in the sun,” he replied.
“Yes, but they are Cardassians,” Andile replied. “They’re used to higher temperatures than we are.”
“It is very hot,” B-4 answered.
“Yes, but…” she started – and stopped again.
It was very hot, she thought – and while the children were from a planet noted for its high temperatures, it had been a long time – a very long time – since any of them had been exposed to strong light and heat.
Working up to regular exposure during the duration of their trip might be a good idea – a very good idea, indeed.
“You’re right, B-4. It is very hot. I’ll ask Geordi to decrease the temperature a bit, then we’ll slowly build it up as they develop some resistance to the heat – and I think a few big umbrellas over the eating area might provide some extra shade. Too bad there aren’t any trees,” she sighed wistfully.
“The arboretum has trees,” B-4 offered.
“Yes – but the trees scare the children. It reminds them of places where people – bad people, people who wanted to hurt them – would hide,” she explained.
B-4 contemplated that idea for quite some time – then looked back at Andile.
“I will protect them,” he said at last.
“Thank you, B-4,” Andile replied, “but…”
The faint sound of a child’s cry interrupted the two; Andile turned toward the android, about to direct him to stay where he was – but B-4 had already begun to move, instantly locating the source of the sound and moving smoothly toward the source of the sound.
S’bey had heard the cry as well; turning, he saw Andile and B-4, then watched as the android stepped away from the woman, saw the look of concern on her face – and hurried to intercept the machine.
“Stay back,” he said angrily, planting himself between the child and the android.
“The child cries,” B-4 countered, as though that were explanation enough. “I will protect the children.”
Perplexed, but unwilling to yield, S’bey held his place. “I said, stay back!”
“S’bey,” Andile said placatingly, hurrying up to the two.
“Stay back, Komiada,” S’bey snapped. “You, too,” he hastily added as B-4 moved toward the noise once again.
“The last time I checked, I was the one who gave the orders here, S’bey,” Andile replied tersely. “That goes for you, too, B-4. No one is to do anything with these children unless I say so,” she added, reminding herself of the literalness of the android’s mind.
Even so, B-4 looked at her, conflict raging in his eyes once again. “But… the child cries,” he protested.
“It’s just a bad dream,” she answered, having heard the cries, having felt the nightmares often enough to know their source – and to know they would fade away, even without their intervention. “It will go away,” she added.
“But… the child cries,” B-4 repeated plaintively, almost desperately.
Desperation? From something – someone – who was not supposed to be able to feel? Andile thought – and instantly relented, realizing the conflict that must be tearing the android apart.
“All right,” she relented. “Go to him,” she added, then looked at S”bey.
“We’re going to need a hand, S’bey; if he’s capable…” she started.
“He may be capable, Komiada, but can we trust him?” the young man asked.
Andile studied the android as he found the troubled boy, watching as the android crouched low beside the child, lay a gentle hand on the child’s shoulder, and said something softly. A few moments later, the child’s cries faded, and B-4 adjusted the blanket over the once again calm form.
Still, he didn’t rise to his feet, but rather, remained where he was, awkwardly positioned beside the child, his hand still resting on the boy’s shoulder.
And there he would stay, Andile realized, oblivious to his own discomfort, to his own needs, to anything and everything, until he was called upon by another child.
More than one person had said he would do anything for love, Andile thought – but for most people, those words were nothing more than lip service.
Data, though… Data had been different. Data had loved her – but he had loved Picard and the others on the Enterprise as well. Dying had meant little to him – when compared with the knowledge that his friends, his lover, would be left in a universe that was safe from a threat that no one else could eliminate.
He had died for them, for her – and yet a part of him, that glorious, magnificent part of him that had loved others more than he had loved himself lived on in the being who now knelt beside a sleeping child.
She turned to S’bey. “Can we trust him?” she repeated softly. “Oh, yes, S’bey. We can trust him, to the ends of time itself.”
She looked at the android once more, then turned back to her companion. “I’ve never told you about what happened on this ship, have I, S’bey?” she said, then took the young man by the arm and led him back toward the holodeck entry. “There are many things I can’t tell you, but there was a man – a wonderful man – named Data…”