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Old August 1 2009, 05:23 AM   #1
July Challenge: "Not Functioning"

Captain Data and Commander Picard sat opposite each other in the familiar, beige ready room. Not facing each other, Commander Picard pondered as he always did looking downwards at a half-finished cup of Earl Grey, while Data studied over a photo of Tasha Yar, recalling those feelings, which he felt were so invaluable in his path towards becoming human, long ago, as it may be. They had been directed towards the Zeus Array: it appeared there had been a malfunction in the hardware and Data had studied the mission briefing at the very least 283 times, since Picard’s last word. The two were talking about Data’s never-ending desire to be human. Picard settled the tea cup down on the saucer and continued to speak.

“It’s not what a human being is, that matters, it’s what he does, Data” Picard spoke in his soft, velvety reassuring voice, as he pondered to sip his tea once more.

“So I should not consider re-activating my emotion chip?” Data spoke succinctly and to the point: almost in a monotone fashion.

Picard shook his head gently. “I’m not saying that at all” He lifted his tea-cup once more “But considering our workload lately, I would advise against anything that could compromise you.”

“Captain, we are approaching the Zeus Array” Riker’s voice came over the comm.

“I’ll be through right away.” Data lifted himself from his chair and walked briskly towards the bridge.


Data stopped, turned and looked at Picard. He swallowed his tea. “I may have to put in a report. I prefer this ship’s former name.” The Frenchman smiled, but the android tilted his head to the side slightly as Picard waved his fingertips, lifting his tea cup. “I’ll see you through there.”

See, the Klingons are on a Photonic crusade: they want to wipe out all holographic lifeforms, but there is a problem” Geordi splayed open his hands as Riker sat across from him on the arm-rest of the Commander‘s chair, smiling in anticipation.

“What’s the problem?”

“The problem is that, holographic life forms are indistinguishable from biological, so what the Klingons do…” Geordi couldn’t hold in the laughter as Riker’s smile grew wider. “What they do, is that they drop biological weapons on the planet, killing all the people down there… so who’s left standing is definitely going to be a hologram!”

The two officers broke out in laughter, but stood promptly, stopping the last few laughs leaving their lips as Data stepped onto the bridge.

“Report!” The android calls out in his authoritative tone.

“The array is ceasing to function.” Riker’s eyes followed Data as he sat on the command chair. “I take it, that was in the mission statement.”

Data turned quickly to Riker. The control in the android’s eyes and voice were gone for a moment as he replied, nearly innocently. “correct.”

Our next mission is to escort Klingon aid to Alpha Centauri” Riker asked. “I take it, we will be late.”

“correct, again” as Data turned to Geordi.

“My repair teams can get on the problem right away” Geordi rubbed his lips, as he appeared to ponder “It’s going to take a little longer than I thought… this hasn‘t just malfunctioned, it‘s been like this for a long time, say twelve hours or so… Captain?” Data heard everything Geordi was saying, but he could not reply, as the information re-sorted itself in his head. Deanna seemed to go around asking what everything was lately, she couldn’t very well be an empath, but it seemed her role was to be out the loop a lot. But Data listened as Deanna had asked the function of the Zeus array, Riker explained.

“The Zeus Array, in short allows us to see the whole universe.” Riker motioned with his hands, taking his hands in a circle to symbolise the universe. Data withstood the need to correct Riker’s faulty representation, knowing, despite his role on the ship, it may be socially awkward and listened further. “Now that the Zeus array is malfunctioning, we are effectively blind to events that occur in the universe.”

“I do not believe the Zeus array is malfunctioning at all, Mr. Riker.” Riker leaned back and turned to the android.

Picard had just walked out the ready room and stood and stared with the rest of the crew: Riker, Deanna, Geordi, even Worf peering comically over the console.

Sabotage?” Admiral Albright squinted, before involuntary coughing, bringing his hand up to his lips, before he rubbed his other hand through his greying hair: composing himself, as Data watched on the projected two dimensional image in front of him.

“Yes, Admiral.”

“Did your holograms recognise the problem?” The Admiral growled, under his breath.

“I’m afraid not, Admiral” Data looked to his corner away from the image for a moment: almost showing emotion, if he wasn’t processing the most acceptable responses. “Unfortunately, their programming is limited in that regard. They are made to serve the Federation.”

“Admiral?” asked Data. “The array has been offline for a long period of time. Why were we called so late?”

The Admiral let out a sigh and dropped his eyes. “You were not the first to be called, we’ve sent twenty starships so far… expendables, purely holographic crews, we’ve lost contact with every one of them. It makes sense this is sabotage. Who do you believe is responsible for this then, Captain Data?”

“I am not confident enough in any possible culprits to give you a response, Admiral.”

“It’s simple: you have to ask yourself who has the most to gain from a blind Starfleet!” The older man settled himself, after the angry tone, balancing his Starfleet insignia on his uniform. Data sat for the few minutes, as the Admiral re-composed himself, caught by another involuntary cough as he raised a question. “I’ve always wondered, Captain Data, why you picked that crew.”

“They assist me in my aspirations to be human not to mention being very capable“ Data‘s eyes turned back to the monitor. “Admiral, I could question the resentful tone and inferences implicating the Cho’l’ok, a prominent Federation member.”

The Admiral laughed, almost uncomfortably. “Prominent indeed.” The Admiral paused for a moment. “Captain, you are the longest serving Federation officer, you were there when we cured the Cho‘l‘ok virus: I.. I am just here to give orders and I am ordering you to consider all alternatives, Data… even possibilities… closer to home.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“One more thing, If I have permission to ask.. Tasha Yar, is there a reason you did not install her on your crew?”

“I’m afraid you do not have permission, Admiral” The holographic two-dimensional image disappeared as the ready room lights illuminated.
Data strolled onto the bridge. “Geordi, search for a Cho’l’ok world-ship.”

“Not hard to miss.” Geordi tapped a few buttons on his console. “We detected a massive Cho’l’ok warp signature heading straight for Earth.”

“The Admiral wanted me to infer a possible Cho’l’ok insurrection against the Federation” Data tilted his head downwards, and fastened his lips forward. “But I find it illogical that the Cho’l’ok would consider such a task. In the Federation, they are a relative peaceful member.”

“They are the perfect member.” Picard stated, hovering by Data and Geordi, Riker beside them. “They are a valuable contributor to the art and culture of the Federation. Some of the most important members of the Federation council are Cho’l’ok.”

“They are incompetent warriors” Worf growled, as Deanna peeked into the conversation.

“…But great in bed” Riker laughed as Deanna nudged him. All, but Data laughed.

“There is room to believe that this may be more than a Cho’l’ok plot.” Data stated. “Set warp for the Cho’l’ok ship. Maximum warp.”

The several thousand long kilometre ship dominated the view screen, The most featureless and common of shapes, a large, black cylinder with no protruding elements whatsoever, it’s only activity a slight spin, as it’s size, made it seeming presence in warp an invisibility.

“Incredible” Picard sighed as he saw the vessel on the screen. “A historical and astounding vessel”

“Not a bad a propulsion drive either…” Geordi tapped on his console, before walking up to the console adjacent to Mr. Worf, agitating him somewhat. “Been around since the time of us… Well, the real us.”

The snickering, and small amounts of laugher crackled around the bridge. Even the burly Klingon on the second level, Worf, letting out a belly laugh. “The Cho’l’ok use a collapsible drive system and…”

The crew turned round to Geordi, even though he had a visor, the whole crew could tell he was scrutinizing the surprising information being fed to him through his console. Data himself turned round.

“Geordi, what is the problem?”

“Captain, the Collapsible drive system is inactive.

“Is that important?” Deanna asked.

“It’s a one-use warp drive, that doesn’t cut out until you reach your destination…” Riker stated. “Makes sense, for such a large crew.”

“That’s right, but the world-ship is travelling at standard warp only” Geordi tapped his console a little more. “The Cho’l’ok signature isn’t coming from the world-ship it is being pulled by it.”

“Geordi, zoom in on this signature.”

The world-ship grew to an incredible size, before the view screen left it all together, zooming on the smallest little black pocket of space, zooming in further and further until the smallest grey ship appeared.

“That’s just a science vessel: Starfleet” Picard clicked his fingers. “Riker, do you know it’s name?”

“Sorry, Jean-Luc, I am not programmed to pronounce Cho’l’ok names.” Riker stated. “Once we board them, we’ve got to ask them a lot of questions: they have a lot of explaining to do.” Data nodded.
On board, the science vessel, a brown-haired female crewmember tapped repeatedly at the holographic controls in front of her, looking tense and worried. Various crewmembers around them worked anxiously, pacing around the circular deck, checking meticulously, shouting commands at one another as they worked. Each one in the visible signs of stress: either easing their foreheads of sweat or letting out a hard sigh. The female crewmember, eyes widened turning to the Captain behind her, himself, immersed in a holographic read out.

“Captain, there is another Starfleet ship entered the area.”

The Captain simply waved his hand, not even giving the girl the gift of his gaze: “Destroy them too.”

They are arming, weapons, Captain.” Worf ‘s voice raised quickly. Even the Klingon was caught surprised by this sudden development.

Riker leaned over to Data, Jean-Luc, the other side of him, Riker stating. “What, are they crazy?”

“Prepare to enter warp, Mr. Worf” Data commanded, Worf acknowledged, grumbling as he tapped his console.

The Klingon said under his breath. “I must say I prefer the old way of ship combat.” Worf growled. “Victory has been reduced to a mathematical formula!”

“Nonsense, Mr. Worf, like two ships of the line, trying to catch the wind.” Riker replied, but was shook from his seat as the ship was hit. The iron pellets flew at warp speed, flying past the shields of the ship, and straight into the hull, parts of the deck, bulk, flying behind it, as the ship wilted.

“Report!” Data called out in his authoritative tone.

Shields are useless, the next hit could destroy us!”

“Reroute power from shields to tactical calculators” Riker called out. “I don’t understand!”

“They are able to make course corrections faster than us.” Picard says as he taps on his chair console. “…like they have a map.”

“The telemetric data from the array” Data realised. “They are using the tremendous amount of subspace data from the array to make course corrections faster than we ever could. Entering warp well before we can.”

“Like we are sitting ducks” Picard stated, defeating.

“They always have the wind.” Riker declared.

“There is only one option: I must plug myself into the computer core and make the course corrections manually.” The bridge shook again, several officers falling off their seats. The smoke and fire starting to emerge from the consoles.

They’ve hit the bridge.”

“It’s a risk, but we have no other options”

A grey wire protruded from Data’s open-head: the wire finishing deep in
his positronic brain as his restless eyes scanned subspace, each officer deprived of their duties with nothing left but to watch Data. Worf however, remained the only active officer staring into his console.

“Captain, the enemy ship has emerged from warp, they are preparing to enter warp once more.”

“Mr. Worf, transfer tactical controls to me” Data asked.

The science vessel and Data’s ship could just see each other in the vast chessboard of space, not that it mattered, as the treacherous seas of subspace were now the battle arena for Starships, but just in that moment, both sat still in the tranquillity of the space not making a move. The science vessel’s nacelles glowing a fiery blue. Suddenly, the small ship broke into two. It’s nacelles flying into one direction, the main hull hurtling towards the huge mass of the Cho’l’ok world-ship. Data’s ship emerged from warp.

“We have victory, Captain” Worf declared.

“Hail them” Data commanded.

The rough, panicked face of the Captain appeared on the view screen.
Nodding. “Of course, the android.”

Captain, stand down. What motivation do you have to implicate the Cho’l’ok in a plot to destroy the Federation?”

What motivation do I not have?! People are starving, people are rebelling…”

“You have an oath to Starfleet. To explore and protect…”

Explore what, there is nothing left to explore, we are just handymen and soldiers of fortune…”

“But why the Cho’l’ok, a peaceful member of the Federation” Deanna asked, in a winced tone.

They are the Federation!” The Captain scoffed at Deanna. “Ever since you cured them of that virus. They’ve been multiplying. Federation had to get larger. Starfleet had to get larger. There wasn’t enough of us of the living. So they had to staff Starfleet with the dead.” The Captain scanned over the crew looking disgustingly at them.

“Do you know what the proportion of the Cho’l’ok of the Federation is, Mr. Data?”

“99.985%” Data replied. “But this is no matter, your actions could seriously damage the Federation, Captain.”

I will save the Federation! The Federation has malfunctioned.” The Captain tapped his hands on something off-screen. “Congratulations, Mr. Data, you’ve convinced me to become a martyr.”

He’s beamed over to the world-ship. Suicide.” Riker stated, looking at his console.

“His life signs appear to be stable.” Geordi declared.

“Beam me over to the world ship, Geordi.”

“Well, well, Mr. Data. Welcome” The Captain was visibly shaking, standing over an oversized helms console, after having dropped a hypospray. He was slurring his British accent and clearly didn’t have control over his mental faculties, yet Data ascertained he had enough motor function to send the world ship on a non-stop suicide run to Earth.

“You tractored the world ship all this way.” Data had beamed over, clutching his phaser in the cavernous room, as their voices echoed. “This can only mean you are reticent to truly carry out what you are doing.”

“What about your own inner conflict, Data- your desire to be human” The Captain inched closer to the controls. “…and your own unwillingness to accept mortality.”

Data froze, unable to respond in one of the very few instances in his operational life.

“That’s it, isn’t it. You are effectively immortal. You refuse to accept mortality. Your programming denies it. Either your own mortality or loss. That’s why you have those ghosts wandering around your bridge.” The Captain’s hands rested on the controls. “Immortality, like the Federation‘s immortality.”

“Captain, I am asking you to step away from the controls.” The Captain refused, and Data let out a phaser beam across the cavern, hitting the human square in the chest. He slumped, but lifted himself once again. The steroid pumping through his blood stream: protecting him from pain and sense. He laughed.

“Kill me, and you kill your aspiration to humanity. The Cho’l’ok are killing ours. They’ll keep being the Federation’s favourite child and last time, I checked, sex wasn’t one of the Federation’s sins. They’ll keep breeding, consuming more and more of the Federation resources. While your automatons follow their programming and protect them, but destroy the Federation… isn’t that funny? Ironic, I think…” The Captain turned to the controls. “You have a choice, Data.”

The Captain hovered over the control that would send this ship hurtling towards Earth with nothing to stop it. He relented. Even in his completely delirious state, he had that conflict in his mind, but he didn’t stop and the action was left to Data. The fingertip was approaching the controls, before Data, across the cavern, slid his cybernetic thumb up the Phaser ramp, hoisting the weapon into mid-air, firing the full-power and the android watched as the threat and the Captain vaporised, as the little ashes, indistinguishable by the human eye, floated in their millions toward their console.

Data had analysed his earlier indecision, but then concluded it was best for the Federation. Resources were hard to come by in the years following the attempted insurrection. Fortunately, a logical resource optimizing programme was created to which Data found quite stimulating. Clearing his desk, he picked up the photo of Tasha Yar. He had failed to see the point in this for a long time, merely letting it sit there, and walked over to the replicator…

Last edited by _r_; August 1 2009 at 05:49 AM.
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Old August 1 2009, 09:21 AM   #2
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Location: Portland, OR (Kaziarl)
Re: July Challenge: "Not Functioning"

A little chunky to read, but my own stuff can be like that.

Obviously there is no time now, but if you ever revise this I would suggest cleaning it up a little. It felt like something I wanted to read, but it was to cluttered. Also, I wasn't clear on what the malfunction was. Was it data? or was it the stagnancy of the federation?
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Old August 1 2009, 09:37 AM   #3
Re: July Challenge: "Not Functioning"

I'm afraid everything malfunctioned one way or another.

The Federation, Starfleet, the array and eventually Data.

The 3000 word limit was a difficulty for me, because I felt i didn't get to explore the story I created. Though I definately feel it has potential.
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Old August 1 2009, 09:47 AM   #4
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Re: July Challenge: "Not Functioning"

_r_ wrote: View Post
I'm afraid everything malfunctioned one way or another.

The Federation, Starfleet, the array and eventually Data.

The 3000 word limit was a difficulty for me, because I felt i didn't get to explore the story I created. Though I definately feel it has potential.
Agreed on the word limit. I felt it was a bit short myself, and there's quite a bit I wanted to include in my own entry. That being the case, why not revise it and repost it after the challenge votes come in? I'd be interested to know more, especially about these holo-crews.
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Old August 1 2009, 10:06 AM   #5
Re: July Challenge: "Not Functioning"

Good idea.

Definately work on it a little more.

I feel they are one of the better parts of my story . What did you want to know about them?
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Old August 1 2009, 12:19 PM   #6
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Re: July Challenge: "Not Functioning"

_r_ wrote: View Post
I'm afraid everything malfunctioned one way or another.

The Federation, Starfleet, the array and eventually Data.

The 3000 word limit was a difficulty for me, because I felt i didn't get to explore the story I created. Though I definately feel it has potential.
So tell a smaller part-we all saw universes when we started but we wrote to the moment.
...sf fandom is only a personality disorder if you do it right.-Klaus - archive stories! for honest gaming

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Old August 2 2009, 06:15 AM   #7
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Re: July Challenge: "Not Functioning"

I also think you are trying to do too much in this one story. You have created a great universe for building stories onto, (I especially like the idea of crewing the ships with the dead concept) but for this challenge you would have been better served just picking one aspect of it and focusing on that.
Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence - Dr. McCoy

And he says that like it's a bad thing...
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