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Fiction by Pen . . . . . not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment
Star Trek is not mine and I make no claim on it

A Few Datas More

Now, there was a sight you didn’t see often, thought Deanna Troi. A cowboy, complete from his dust-coloured hat to the heels of his booted feet, was strolling along the Enterprise’s featureless corridors. Suddenly, it looked like being an interesting day, she said to herself as she set off in pursuit.

“Data? Is that you?”

He turned and waited politely for her.

“You look great, Data! You’re going to the holodeck?”

“Thank you, Counselor. I am going to holodeck three. Lieutenant Barclay asked me to test a new program for Worf and Alexander. I believe Worf had occasion to speak to him about certain irregularities in the previous adventure.”

“I’ll say.” Nobody had specified to Data that his own incarnation as the villain — villains — of the piece had been the most pressing irregularity, and Deanna decided not to enlighten him now. How sensible of Reg to have asked Data to do the testing: at least he’d be fighting android-to-android if anything of a similar nature occurred again. Not that there was any reason why it should, with Data inside the holodeck, not outside with Geordi conducting experiments.

“I didn’t know you were interested in the Ancient West,” she observed.

“I am interested in everything, Counselor,” Data replied truthfully, “however, I had not studied this particular period in Earth’s history or fiction until Lieutenant Barclay requested my help. Before replicating a suitable costume I spent five minutes absorbing a random selection of the literature appropriate to the period.”

“Data, do you mind if I join you? I love western stories!” Besides which, Deanna thought privately, it was only fair to Reg to get someone who knew more than a ‘random selection’ of western literature to test out his scenario.

“Of course not, Counselor. Do you wish to change your uniform? I will accompany you to your quarters —”

“There’s no need to bother,” she replied blithely, her pulse already quickening in anticipation. “You go on ahead. I’ll see you — in Deadwood!” She headed straight back to her quarters.

* * *

The air was cold and still. Pale streaks in the eastern sky foretold the imminent dawn. Data looked interestedly round at the bleak scene. It corresponded closely to the landscapes so briefly described in the novels he had just absorbed.

Before instructing the program to run, he must complete his costume, and accordingly turned to the holodeck replicator for the final items. It took him less than half a minute (27.23 seconds) to sling and fasten the gunbelt round his hips and strap the holsters to his thighs, and another 12.7 seconds to assess the balance of the heavy, ivory-handled Colt .44s, load each with six bullets, and give them an experimental twirl before holstering them. The unaccustomed weight made a slight but palpable difference to his equilibrium.

The holographic subroutine of a computer as powerful as that of the Enterprise can carry out a great many operations in 39.93 seconds. Although the western scenario had not yet been set in motion, there was considerable activity in progress within the circuits. There was, within the holodeck, a program, saved but not altogether inactive, which incorporated something very like self-awareness. This consciousness had kept itself occupied for four years by investigating the limits of the holodeck environment which contained and constrained it. Those confines, so thoroughly explored, no longer held enough interest to stave off the inevitable tedium of non-corporeal existence. The program was bored. How long would it take Picard to discover a means of releasing him from the holodeck?

Fortunately, a number of peculiarities had recently entered the system, during just such a scenario as was currently being accessed. So there was a good deal of material for the Moriarty program to play with, to idle away a little of this interminable wait. Moriarty made good use of those 39.93 seconds, and had time to spare before Data instructed the computer to run the program.

* * *

A small crowd was gathering beneath a tall tree at the edge of the town. Men in hats and heavy coats with their collars turned up, breathing fierce white plumes in the chilly air. There was a stationary horseman beneath the tree, and a rope slung over its lowermost branch which ended... in a noose around the rider’s neck. An execution, then.

With a moment of paralysing shock, Data recognised the face of the condemned man. Lore! But how —?

No. An instant later, Data realised that the man with the noose round his neck was not his brother. Lore was... no-one knew where in the galaxy Lore was, brewing wicked mischief no doubt, but certainly he was not here. That man was Data’s own image.

But why? Why should the holodeck create as part of the program an image of the player? He had not encountered such a variation before. Perhaps this was a clue, to indicate the path the player should follow. Logically it would seem that he, Data, was intended to form an alliance with that prisoner. His task here must be to rescue the victim before the execution could take place.

Pleased with this reasoning, Data began to consider how the task might be accomplished. There were many men between himself and the captive. He required a diversion. His eyes hastily scanned the surroundings, and he examined his newly-acquired western files for possibilities. Then, stealthily, he made his way toward the cattle pens from which irritable mooing sounds irregularly emanated. No-one was near. He found the gate, and calculated several necessary angles before unfastening and opening it wide. Then he pulled out one of his sidearms, took careful aim, and fired three times.

The rope stretching between captive and tree was severed and fell slack. Simultaneously the penned cattle bellowed in terror and poured through the open gate in a thundering stream of hooves and horns. Straight towards that lone tree they hurtled, and the gathered crowd raised cries of alarm and rage before scattering with all speed. The captive dug his heels into his horse’s flanks, evaded the stream of beasts, and headed up the main street.

As the fugitive’s horse passed Data, it slowed for an instant; the rider, his hands still tethered behind him, looked briefly into Data’s eyes, nodded, and muttered a laconic “Thanks” before setting off again at full gallop.

The cattle pen was empty now, and the fugitive had disappeared. Data was not quite sure what to do next, until a shout of “There he is!” recalled to his attention that crowd which had been gathered to witness a hanging. Although many were anxiously pursuing the escaped steers, several of them were hurrying in his direction, and as the first gunshots began to sound, Data realised it was time to hide. He ran for the shadows of the nearest porch, but found the building’s doors secured for the night. Quickly, round the corner, before the angry lynch mob could reach him. Data darted between two structures and cast about for a place of concealment.

“Psst! Here!” A doorway stood open, and he made for its refuge, squeezing himself inside seconds before the first of the townspeople ran into view.

“Upstairs!” hissed his rescuer, and hurriedly led the way. In the dim light from a room on the upper landing, Data caught his first glimpse of her: a woman in her middle years, curved of form and wearing a wrap of some lavishly brocaded material. He followed, into what was obviously her bedroom, as a wide bed, caparisoned with curtains, stood against the far wall. A lit branch of candles was standing on the table beside it; by their light Data could see other items in the room — a dress, heavy-skirted, laid over a chair. Neat kid boots. A large wardrobe of some dark wood. An ornate mirror —

“Take off your boots and get in,” said his rescuer. Data looked at her, startled. “Stop wastin’ time! Put your boots out of sight and get under the covers!”

A thump from below convinced the android to follow this course of action. As he scrambled beneath the covers, the woman crossed to the window and threw it open, the sudden draught causing the candles to flicker wildly.

“Quit pounding on my door!” she yelled. “Saloon’s closed! Can’t a woman get a bit of rest 'thout folks come knocking?”

“Begging your pardon, Miz Annie, but we’re huntin’ a fugitive. Eli Hollander done escaped,” came a shout from the street.

“Well he ain’t here!”

“Mind if I come up’n see for myself?” The townsman was polite enough for all that his question sounded more like a statement of intent.

“Land’s sakes! Do you think Eli Hollander’d be hiding under my petticoats or somethin’?”

“He sneaked past this way, Miz Annie. You wouldn’t want to come across him hidin’ in your place, now, would you? Best we come and check things out.”

“Hmph. Please yourselves. I’m sure I don’t see why you men should think you have a right to go disturbin’ decent folks’ rest, but come on in and look around. Just you make sure you bring your friends up with you, mind, I ain’t having the whole town sayin’ as how I was entertaining you in my bed-room, Jed Taylor.”

Data, up to his eyes under the bedclothes, watched in some surprise as she climbed into the bed beside him. Clucking admonitions she pushed his head down under the blankets, and he felt the bed shift as she spread the wrap artistically over the hillock of his body.

There was a knock at the door — a more respectful knock this time. From his place of concealment Data heard the muffled sounds of their conversation.

“There’s no sign of him anywhere downstairs, ma’am.”

“Course there ain’t.”

“I just need to check...:”

“In here? In my bed-chamber? I’ve been right here since I closed up the saloon, and let me assure you I ain’t hiding no outlaws in my bedroom! But of course, if you think that Eli Hollander’s hiding himself in amongst my dresses, why, you’d better go see for yourself. And you, Bobby Doyle, don’t you just stand there smirkin’ in the doorway. Hmph.”

There was a brief pause, some creaking of floorboards, and then Miz Annie’s voice again. “Satisfied now, Jed Taylor?”

“That’s fine, Miz Annie.” The man sounded discomfitted. “Sorry to disturb you.” Dimly, Data heard the sound of feet clattering down the stairs.

A hand on Data’s hair kept him from moving until the door downstairs was closed and the house was quiet. Then, at last, his benefactress drew the bedclothes down. Data found himself looking into the intent and slightly predatory eyes of a smiling, plump-cheeked blonde whose wrap had now been quite cast aside. She had evidently not finished preparing for bed, as she wore a tightly-laced dark red satin corset, whose lacy festoons were straining to contain the twin globes of a magnificent bosom.

Slightly unsettled, Data sat upright. “I am very much obliged to you, Miz Annie,” he began, and halted as her fingers traced lightly along his nose and over his lips.

“Seems like I just keep right on risking my life for you, don’t it?” she murmured. As she leaned towards him, Data’s eyes strayed towards the impressive cleavage between those creamy breasts. Did women in the Ancient West really constrict their rib cages to such an extent? Her hand was plucking at the buttons on his plaid shirt, brushing across his chest.

“I reckon I deserve a reward,” she purred. “Don’t you, sugar?”

* * *

Deanna adjusted her hat, threw back the folds of her long coat, hitched her left thumb into the waistband of her form-hugging leather trousers, swung the rifle in her right hand, and stared narrowly at the town of Deadwood. There must be something to tell her what kind of scenario she was playing.

A small but vociferous crowd of thirsty men was gathered round the saloon doors. She moseyed on over to them, swaggering a little. The trousers made it easy to swagger. In point of fact, the trousers made it impossible not to swagger. She felt strong and mean and in the mood for trouble.

So. Where the heck was Data?

“Howdy, stranger,” someone greeted her. She nodded an acknowledgment. “If you’re wanting a drink, best head on by. Saloon ain’t open.”

“What?” She was so taken aback she forgot to drawl. She’d reckoned on the saloon being the obvious place to find Data, and had been looking forward to making just such a dramatic entrance as she had last time.

“Maybe Miz Annie don’t figure on opening up today,” said another of the men, meaningfully. “Maybe she don’t like having her place searched at dawn.” The group reoriented themselves to face a bewhiskered man in a grey hat, who looked unnerved and began to back away.

“Now see her, neighbours, every place in town had to be searched! You know that!”

“Yeah, but most of us could search our own places ‘thout waking up the occupants. I reckon Miz Annie was mighty put out, you lookin’ through her dresses an’ all.”

“I didn’t look through no dresses!”

An indignant buzz broke out, from which Deanna could distinguish little. She turned to her neighbour for clarification.

“See, we was fixing to hang Eli Hollander this morning. They found him dead drunk in the saloon last night so we threw him in jail. He done killed 23 men, he never denied it so we di’n see no point in waitin’ for the judge to come around. ‘Sides, we know his daddy weren’t going to make it easy, but there was a Texas Ranger in town and we had him along to keep an eye on things, since we got no sheriff. But that Texas Ranger, he went and set old Eli free, so they say, though I reckon myself it must have been one of Hollander’s men.”

“How?” Deanna was agog.

“Shot through the rope and stampeded the cattle. Got clean away, both of ‘em. We tried searching through the town, but there was no sign of either one. Reckon they’re long gone.” He spat morosely. “All that time wasted, and a thirsty man can’t even get a drink.”

At that moment someone set up a cheer. The saloon doors swung open and there stood Miz Annie, just as Deanna remembered her, a buxom blonde with pussycat eyes, a low-cut crimson dress and an air of detached smugness. She deflected the citizens’ complaints and compliments with ease, and invited them all inside.

Deanna lingered thoughtfully in the street. It sounded as though Data had gone wrong at the very outset — for she had no doubt that he was the errant Ranger. Whatever had possessed him to free the outlaw? Some benevolent impulse to help the underdog, perhaps?

Whatever the reason, this holodeck adventure was badly off track. She must find him before things got into too much of a tangle!

If only she knew where to start...

* * *

Data, meanwhile, was thoughtfully pulling on his boots. This holodeck program was full of surprises: Mr Barclay was to be congratulated on his imagination. However, he was by no means certain that Lieutenant Worf would consider the content suitable for Alexander’s use.

Nevertheless, Data was finding the scenario quite intriguing and was perfectly willing to continue with his exploration. He was unsure what his next move should be. The townsfolk were likely to be hostile, and he did not know how to re-establish contact with the man whose life he had saved. But there was little point in remaining here — he must go and seek out the next stage in the adventure.

Then he heard an unwelcome sound. Footsteps. Someone in boots and faintly jingling spurs was climbing the stairs. No, two someones.

There was no obvious escape route. He could use the window, if necessary, but... Data decided to stay where he was. Cautiously he loosened the heavy guns in their leather holsters.

There was no knock. The door opened, slowly. A black-gloved hand, at head-height, was thrust into the room palm forward. Slowly it was followed by an arm, and gradually a well-dressed stranger in black coat and hat and elegant waistcoat entered the room.

The man was another replica of himself; clothing apart, only the clipped mustache adorning the newcomer’s upper lip saved this face from mirroring Data’s own. Data’s eyes narrowed, strengthening the resemblance further.

“Howdy.” The newcomer nodded abruptly. “I come to thank you.”

A second duplicate entered the room: Data recognised his maroon shirt and dusty coat. It was the condemned man — Eli Hollander. Data nodded a wary greeting.

“Much obliged to you, stranger. Here.” Eli’s face distorted into a slightly unpleasant grin. “I brought somethin’ for you.” He flung a pair of handcuffs. Data caught them reflexively. Both bracelets had been sawn open. “For good luck.”

“Eli.” The first visitor inclined his head meaningfully, and Eli slid back through the door. His footsteps faded down the stairs as Data and the visitor eyed one another.

“The name’s Frank Hollander. I got a proposition for you. You saved my boy. More’n that, you think fast, act fast and shoot straight. Reckon I could use a man like you.”

“In what capacity?” Data was not certain he could trust the man standing before him. It was probably because Hollander reminded him of Lore, he concluded, and decided that such prejudice was irrelevant here on the holodeck.

“I have some... business. With the bank.” Hollander nodded thoughtfully. “I believe it will be very... profitable. You want in?”

“I want in,” Data replied evenly.

Hollander’s lips curled in a smile. “Good,” he said. “Let’s go.”

Data picked up his hat, and they went.

* * *

“Hot, stinkin’ day,” Hollander remarked as they stepped outside. He took a silver case from his pocket, extracted a thin cigar and thrust it between his teeth. He struck a match against the side of the house, lit his cigar, and continued walking.

They passed steadily down the street, perfectly in step. Data observed that the townsfolk drew aside, looked away, took pains not to impede their progress. However, no-one attempted to halt them and demand a reckoning for the chaos he had caused at dawn.

“I got the best nose for... business in the state,” Frank Hollander observed. “But a man gets hot and tired when he has to think business all the time. Man needs a little relaxation now and then. So... “ He blew a reflective cloud of pungent smoke. “You know what I need right now?”

Data thought for a moment. “A bath?” he suggested.

Hollander’s eyes slitted and he stared very hard at Data... then let out a bark of laughter and slapped him on the back. “A bath! That’ll do just fine. Just fine.” In high good humour, he stepped onto the porch of a large, well-kept building, and knocked briskly on the door. “Miz Langford’s,” he announced.

“Frank! Darlin’!” A generously-built female in black satin and lace embraced Hollander with a squeal of delight. This woman’s ringlets were of a slightly artificial red, and her lips vividly scarlet, but the décolleté style of her dress and the generous quantity of bosom thus displayed reminded Data of Miz Annie. Then he found himself surrounded by several admiring young women in bright and rather revealing clothing.

“Brought you a new customer, Millie. You make sure he has a good time. My friend here saved Eli’s life this morning. I owe him for that, and I’m a man who likes to pay his debts.”

“Well, now, isn’t that a neighbourly thought?” Miz Langford murmured throatily. “So, what’s your pleasure, Frank?”

* * *

Twenty minutes later, after two glasses of what purported to be whisky, Data found himself alone in a lushly-furnished bedroom, with a hip-bath full of steaming water. He did not, in fact, consider that he required a bath, but it seemed churlish not to comply, so he undressed, piled his clothes neatly on a velveteen-covered chair, and lowered himself carefully into the bath.

He was very much taken aback when the door opened and three scantily-dressed young women entered the room, bearing towels and soap.

They surrounded him. His hat was too far away for modesty, so he clasped his hands between his knees and attempted to look nonchalant. A shy-looking olive-skinned brunette knelt beside the bath and smiled innocently; a knowing redhead whose long legs were displayed to great advantage by her minimal costume settled herself on the other side, and a well-cushioned blonde, licking her lusciously pink lips, positioned herself behind the helpless android and began to soap his back.

“What’s your name, honey?” the blonde asked him huskily.

Data’s face fell. He had neglected to provide himself with a fitting appellation. “I have no name,” he whispered.

“That’s all right, honey. Man don’t need a name, long as he’s got everythin’ else,” the redhead assured him. “Now you jus’ lean back a little and let me wash your front for you.”

She did not even give him time to protest. Soapy female fingers slithered across his torso, front and back, with the redhead paying particular attention to the small nubs of his nipples. Just as Miz Annie had done, she triggered the automatic response of his sexuality program. Data decided to override. It would be inappropriate to display the inevitable masculine response.

The doe-eyed brunette smiled angelically at him. “Guess I’d better find something to wash, too,” she said, and her hand slid under the water.

Data reconsidered his decision.

The brunette cooed appreciatively.

I must have a little talk with Mr Barclay, thought Data.

* * *

Deanna was getting worried. She’d searched practically all over town, and hadn’t caught up with Data yet.

What was worse, she’d discovered that the town’s bank was about to receive a shipment of gold bullion, on its way to Chicago. The treasure would stay securely in the vault overnight and continue on its journey in the morning. Knowing how stories of this kind worked, Deanna was pretty well certain that there would be some attempt to rob the bank; doubtless she and Data were supposed to foil the villains and save the gold, but if she couldn’t find him — or worse still, if he had inadvertently fallen in with the bad guys and was intending to participate in their plan — the program was going to go so badly awry it would have difficulty coping with the changes.

She had two choices. Alexander had mentioned a disused tunnel somewhere close to town, where he’d been held captive. Alternatively, she remembered Miz Annie accusing Worf of seeing ‘that floozie down at Miz Langford’s house of pleasure’: a whorehouse seemed an unlikely setting for Data, but if he was taking Worf’s place as protagonist here, perhaps he had encountered the ‘floozie’. It was worth a try. Besides, intrepid gunslinger though she might be, Deanna did not much relish the thought of investigating a tunnel full of outlaws on her own.

So she headed back down the main street towards that notorious house, and started with surprise, as she saw Data mounting the steps to the front porch. She broke into a run, but he was through the door before she got more than a dozen yards. Odd — she’d thought he had a blue shirt on, but he seemed to be wearing a red one. She must have misremembered.

What Data was doing in there was anybody’s guess, thought Deanna, but at least she had located him. They’d soon have this holodeck adventure back on track. She sprang smartly up the porch steps and rapped on the door.

The woman who opened it had a wide, practised smile on her face, but this disappeared the instant she took in Deanna’s appearance.

“Yes?” she snapped.

“Miz Langford?”

“That’s me.”

“I’m lookin’ for a man —” Deanna began.

A sneer formed on the older woman’s artfully-powdered face. “There’s no-one here. Good day.” And the door closed, almost quickly enough, but not quite. The barrel of Deanna’s rifle got in the way.

“Let me explain,” Deanna said coolly.

“Sister,” Miz Langford replied icily, “if you want a job, we ain’t got no vacancies. Come back another time. Otherwise, get lost.”

“But it’s important —”

“My customers don’t like being disturbed. Now, git!” This time, the door did close.

Nonplussed, Deanna stood there, feeling rather foolish, but determined to circumvent the tart-tongued madam and investigate the place for herself. Obviously she wasn’t going to get in through the front door. Perhaps she could find an open window?

She set off round the side of the house (and thus missed seeing Eli Hollander leave). Yes! one of the windows was ajar. She lifted the sash further, and — somewhat impeded by the tightness of her wretched trousers — managed to get one leg over the high sill. Then she heard an ominous sound.

A click.

Not just any click, but the more than distinctive click of a rifle bullet dropping into the chamber.

“I believe I told you my customers don’t like to be disturbed,” came Miz Langford’s voice.

Deanna smiled weakly and slid back to the ground. The window came down emphatically, and as she trudged away, she was aware of the madam’s sardonic stare following her.

So much for that idea.

All right, so she couldn’t get inside through the front door. Or the window. But maybe if she looked as though she belonged on the inside, she could sneak in through the back?


Clutching her long coat over bare shoulders and a more-or-less exposed bosom, Deanna hurried back to Miz Langford’s as best she could. In these ridiculously tight shoes she could break an ankle, and then what would happen to Data? He must be expecting her to show up any time now, and as he hadn’t come looking for her (at least, if he had, no-one had mentioned it), he’d probably gotten into some kind of trouble. Maybe he was lying tied up somewhere, helpless, unable to escape and hoping desperately for rescue. (Actually, he was indeed lying tied up somewhere, helpless, although rescue was not at that moment among his priorities.)

Deanna had been unexpectedly fortunate to find a townswoman so close to herself in size, and with enough sense of adventure to be willing and able to provide her with a suitable disguise. Though it was just as well she’d had the forethought to replicate a bag of silver dollars along with her holographic rifle. Of course, she could have sneaked off the holodeck and replicated a costume in her quarters without having to go through long, involved negotiations, but that would have felt like cheating. And, having done it the hard way, so to speak, she was rather proud of herself. So here she was in borrowed finery, with her face painted and her hair twining seductively over one shoulder, and only one problem: how was she to get inside that whorehouse?

Then she spotted the wagon.

Sidling round she realised that a delivery was being made. She sneaked a look at the cargo. Hmm, ‘Genuine French Champagne’. Like hell, she thought. But there was a door open. This was her chance. Deanna rolled her overcoat round the parcel of her Western costume and dumped the lot up against the wall. She watched the two men tramping in and out, picked her moment carefully, and darted inside. Bestowing a tantalising smile on the sweating delivery men, she sashayed past them and found her way up the stairs, keeping a wary eye open for ‘Miz’ Langford as she went.

Three girls emerged from one of the rooms, giggling and rearranging their gloves and lace as they walked towards the stairs. With nowhere to hide, Deanna turned her back to them and looked out of the window, idly twirling a lock of her hair. They took no notice of her, but she caught snatches of their conversation as they passed. “... known a man with so much stamina...” “...nearly died when he licked...” “...take me for a gallop any time...”

She glared enviously at their retreating figures. At least someone was having a good time in this program. She’d been trailing round looking for Data, and not a hint of real, western adventure had come her way. Unless you count a close encounter with a gun-toting madam, she thought ruefully. She hoped Data was having a more interesting time of it.

Wait a minute — no. No, it couldn’t be. Could it? Data didn’t — then again, maybe he did? Someone had put a smile on those three faces. And, she supposed, Data would have more stamina than the average male...

Then again, maybe she was projecting her own fantasies onto her innocent android friend. It was this damned basque, she told herself firmly, it was being laced into this thing that squeezed her waist and pushed her breasts up and out, it was being presented so blatantly as a man’s plaything, that made her think of sex. Hot, mindless, straightforward take-me-now sex. Made her remember those secret fantasies she’d toyed with when she wasn’t in the mood to be ‘the mysterious stranger’, when all she wanted was satisfaction, hard, fast, slow, whatever, the feel of a man’s strong hands on her body and — oh, stop it, Deanna! she admonished herself. Go and find Data.

She’d have to investigate these rooms, she realised. The girls had come out of one of them, but she hadn’t noticed which one. With extreme caution, she turned the handle of the nearest door and opened it silently.

Loud groans met her ears. On the wide bed, a pallid pink backside was bouncing up and down between two black-stockinged legs.

Definitely not Data. Deanna whisked herself back out of the room with a stifled squeak of amusement. Though she rather thought the couple in that bed had been too occupied to notice her.

Tiptoeing further, she put an ear to the next door. No groans. Was that good? Carefully she opened the door and peered inside.

On the bed, stark naked and lying with one hand behind his head, Data was calmly smoking a cigar. Deanna’s surge of relief at finding him at last was swiftly overtaken by a swell of amazed pleasure at the sight before her: long, lean legs, trim waist, neatly masculine chest and strong shoulders, all pale golden and gleaming in the faint light that pierced the closed shades. Her gaze strayed back to his genitals, more coppery than the rest, nestling in a tidy thicket of hair.

“See anything you like?” the figure on the bed enquired lazily.

Deanna’s entire body blushed hot crimson at the totally lustful response which formed immediately in her mind. She’d never thought of Data in that way before, but now... she imagined herself running her hands over those taut thighs, tasting every centimetre of his gleaming skin, sliding up and down that — Then her brain clicked back into action. This wasn’t Data. Not unless Data had provided himself with a mustache.

“Well, well,” said Frank Hollander. “You’re new here, aren’t you, sugar?”

“Yes,” she admitted breathlessly, trying not to stare. He seemed to be... interested in her. Oh, my, that was tempting.

“What do they call you?”

“Uh, De — Delilah,” she said huskily.

Frank leaned over and stubbed out his cigar in the dish on the dresser. “All right, Delilah,” he said. “No better way to learn than from an expert. Come here.”

Deanna fought a brief struggle with herself. Really, she should go and find Data. This was no time to indulge herself with a holographic... man... with a lithe, perfect body, a magnificently erect and shapely cock, and an expression of knowing sin in his eyes...

There really wasn’t time...

Then again, she might never get another chance. And it was more than her Betazoid blood could stand.

Swaying with promise, she walked slowly to the bed and looked him in the eyes. She might as well play this fantasy for all she was worth.

“What do you want me to do?”

* * *

Data was pulling on his boots for the third time that day when a brief knock heralded the arrival of yet another duplicate of himself. This one, bizarrely, sported a wide handlebar mustache and wore a large hat in the sombrero style.

“Come with me. El Jefe’s orders.”

El Jefe. The boss. Frank Hollander, no doubt. Data picked up his hat and followed the Mexican lookalike. Several girls were in the main hall, and bade them fond and admiring farewells as they passed.

Mucho gusto with your pértiga, eh, amigo?” the bandit laughed coarsely, nudging Data in the ribs as they descended from Miz Langford’s front porch. They walked, perfectly in step, past the hanging tree, past the well-tenanted graveyard and into the hills. (Why did they walk, Data wondered? This was a Western adventure: there should be horses. Odd. Perhaps Lieutenant Worf was unable to ride?)

For a moment it seemed the Mexican had disappeared, then his sombrero popped back into view, and a hand waved Data down into a small depression behind a clump of bushes which concealed the entranceway to what was plainly a disused mine shaft.

Inside, dim lamps illuminated the way forward. The excavation was unusually neat. Very strange.

“Ho! Senor Eli! I have him!” the Mexican called.

The tunnel had broadened, and in an underground room were gathered six men. Data registered their appearances with some surprise —each was a variation on himself. Eli Hollander, slightly less Lore-like now that his lank hair was flopping over his forehead, introduced them briefly: ‘Stubbs’ was a shabbily-dressed gunman with the shadow of a three-day beard; ‘Snake’ bore a livid scar down his right cheek; ‘Gambler’, nattily dressed, carried a pack of cards which he shuffled restlessly in his long, pale gold fingers. Data noticed, with some concern, that this duplicate was manipulating the pack with no less facility than he himself possessed. Could the holodeck have replicated not only his appearance but his abilities too? If so, this would be a formidable group. The next lookalike wore buckskins, carried a large knife as well as his gun, and his hair was long. ‘Breed’, they called him. The final duplicate was respectably dressed and had small round spectacles, which he kept fingering nervously. “This here is Francis Croker,” Eli explained. “He’s our inside man at the bank. And I don’t believe I caught your name, stranger?”

This time, Data was prepared. “Tex,” he replied.

“Lemme guess — you’re from Dakota.” Eli grinned unattractively. “Now listen up, everyone, and we’ll go over it again.”

“Is he —” the replica with the scar spat tobacco onto the sandy ground at Data’s feet — “in on this?”

“Yeah, he is.” Eli caught the scarfaced man’s gaze and held it until the other backed down.

The plan was unexpected, daring and very clever: The gold would be arriving in a heavily armed and guarded coach. A direct attack when they expected to be outnumbered by the outriders protecting the shipment would be suicidal. Instead, Hollander and his men would take over the bank where the gold was due to be kept overnight, and would substitute rocks for the gold so that the coach, and its attendant guards, would continue on their journey unaware that their treasure had been stolen.

As he listened, Data was overcome with something very much like dismay. For, no matter that the Hollanders, and these henchmen of theirs, were all made in his own image: he was certain that Worf would take no pleasure in joining a band of honourless criminals and stageing a robbery, not even as part of a holodeck fantasy. Worf’s role must be to prevent the theft. He, Data, had made a serious error.

“Any questions?”

“I have a question,” Data spoke up. “How are we to keep the bank employees prisoner?”

“These.” The scarfaced one stood, brandishing a pair of metal handcuffs. In one swift motion he strode over to Data and snapped the cuffs onto his wrists. Data pulled against the restraints, cautiously at first, then rather harder. They did not break. Strange that the holodeck should be able to replicate something with sufficient strength to keep him prisoner.

“Quit wastin’ time, Snake!” Eli snarled, tossing a small key to the Mexican, who used it hurriedly.

“I don’t like it,” Snake answered. “I say we leave him here where he can’t do no harm. I don’t see no reason to trust him. ‘Sides, why should we split the gold any further’n it’s already being split?”

An instant later, Snake was crumpled against the wall, with a singed round hole between his staring eyes.

“Good point,” said Eli, returning his .45 to its holster. “Man can have too many friends. Stubbs, you go tell my Pa Tex here’ll be takin’ Snake’s place.” The unshaven one rose obediently. “Let’s go give the nice folks down at the bank a little surprise!”

* * *

Urgently she pushed backwards, jamming her buttocks against the groin of the man kneeling behind her. He grasped her hips, steadying her as his thrusts grew faster and more insistent, then his wickedly clever hands crept round to the dark tangled triangle of her pubic hair, and roamed slickly over her most sensitive places. Deanna’s moans of pleasure were muffled in the eiderdown quilt, but she could hear his affectionately obscene endearments encouraging her to respond more, faster, louder. A break in the rhythm, a pause, then the sharp ecstasy of his hard, irresistible entry brought her to screaming point and she bucked and shuddered helplessly.

After he withdrew, she collapsed in boneless languor. Dear... heaven...

There were businesslike noises of washcloth and water, of clothes being donned, but Deanna had no energy to lift her head and watch. Reg, she thought, you are one hell of a programmer.

“I got some business to attend to,” Frank Hollander announced in that sly drawl of his. “I’ll settle my account with Miz Langford. Next time I come into town,“ the bedsprings dipped beside her as he leaned down to whisper, his mustache tickling her ear, “goin’ to bring you something special, Delilah. Sweetest filly I’ve ridden in a long time.” A strong, warm hand stroked her bottom and bestowed an appreciative slap. Then she heard the door open, and he was gone.

Ohhhhhh... she’d never move again. That was... incredible!

Wait — settle his account with Miz Langford? Oh no! The madam would be up here in no time to see who ‘Delilah’ might be! She must get out of here. She fell off the bed and hauled on stockings, bloomers and dress. No time for the corset, she’d never get it laced on her own. She pushed her feet into the dainty shoes and ran, along the landing, down the stairs and out of the front door — straight into the arms of a stubble-cheeked cowboy who — incredibly — looked like Data with three days’ growth of beard.

“Hello there, darlin’. Wanna come play with me?”

“Go play with yourself,” she snapped, and shoved him off the porch. Without a backward glance she hurtled past the sprawled form, dashed behind the nearest building (Rickaby’s Leather Wares) and cannoned into another cowboy in her haste. The shoes betrayed her and she fell to the ground.

“Not you too!” she gasped, as another Data lookalike stared down at her in astonishment.

“Counselor! Are you all right?” Data extended a hand and helped Deanna to her feet. She clung to him, panting.

“Oh, Data! Am I glad to see you!”

“I would surmise, yes, Counselor. However, I am afraid we have a problem.”

“We sure do, Data. You’ve gotten in with the wrong crowd. There’s a shipment of gold due in any time, we have to stop them stealing it!”

“I am aware of the situation. I assume that Lieutenant Barclay intended me to take on the role of a law enforcement officer.”

“Well, a Texas Ranger, anyway. Not exactly official, here in Deadwood, but one of the good guys. I’m sure we are supposed to foil the robbery, and we probably have to capture Hollander and his gang,” Deanna explained. “How many of them are there?”

“Including Frank Hollander, and excluding myself, seven. But the Mexican has been sent out of town to watch for the arrival of the coach.”

“And are they all...?”

“They all resemble myself, yes.”

“Oh dear.”

“We do have certain advantages,” Data pointed out. “Firstly, the Hollanders do not know that I am not one of them. Secondly, I am cognisant of their plans for this robbery. Thirdly, these” he produced two pairs of handcuffs “are strong enough to restrain even me. They should therefore be effective in holding my duplicates.”

“All right,” said Deanna worriedly, “but... it’s still just the two of us against six of them, and I don’t even have my rifle.”

“I believe I can shorten the odds, Counselor. Once we have restrained the bank employees, we are required to conceal ourselves inside the vault, in readiness to transfer the gold from its container and replace it with rocks. It should be possible for me to neutralise some of the gang, as they will not be expecting an attack. However, Hollander and his son, and one other — I assume it will be the treacherous employee, Croker — will be masquerading as bank staff. If we are to capture them we will need a diversion. That will be your task.”

“What did you have in mind?” Deanna wasn’t at all sure she wanted to be facing three holographic androids with a gun in her hand. Rifles were awkward, and a lot heavier than phasers.

“It should be quite simple. You have only to enter the bank at the appropriate moment. I believe that in the costume you are wearing, you will draw the eyes of all the men in the bank at that time.”

“Oh, this ridiculous costume!” she exclaimed crossly, somewhat put out. Even if she was a little apprehensive at the prospect of facing Frank Hollander and the others, it was rather a let-down to be relegated to such a very feminine role.

“It is most appropriate for this setting.”

“Appropriate for someone in Miz Langford’s house of pleasure, you mean,” she said unwisely, and felt a blush colouring her cheeks.

“You have been in that house?” Data looked doubtful. “Why?”

“I was looking for you,” Deanna replied primly. No need to mention seventeen glorious orgasms and the fact that she was now swaggering along practically bow-legged without the aid of her leather trousers. “I had to disguise myself to get past Miz Langford. I don’t usually dress like this for the Ancient West.”

“Can you hide one of the pairs of handcuffs?” Data asked, somewhat dubiously. “You may need to access it quickly.”

“I’ll find a shawl. I’ll steal one if I have to.”

He looked reproachful. “That would not be appropriate behaviour for one of the ‘good guys’.”

“Never mind about me. What’s your plan?”

* * *

Ten minutes later, clutching the shawl she had ‘borrowed’ from Miz Annie’s bedroom, Deanna stood in the shadows, watching. The bank had closed some ten minutes earlier, presumably in order to be cleared and ready for the gold when it arrived.

Frank Hollander and his stubble-cheeked sidekick walked down the main street towards the bank. She stared, fascinated, as Hollander extracted a cigar from his silver case, struck a match casually down the cheek of the bewhiskered cowboy, and stood, smoking in a contemplative way until the town clock sounded, then he nodded sharply, threw the cigar butt into the dust and strode towards the bank. To Deanna’s surprise, the door opened — looked like Frank had a key — and the two men went straight in.

She took a deep breath. Give them four minutes, Data had said, then saunter in.

“Tex!” Eli Hollander was saying as she opened the door. “You’re s’posed to be in the vault with Stubbs and Francis, waitin’ for that gold.”

There were four men in the room, but the extra duplicate was not the mild-mannered bank clerk Data had anticipated. Frank Hollander and his son were standing in the centre, and Data was by the door, only a yard or two from where she stood, but there was also a man in buckskins, with shiny pale skin and a leather thong tied round his long black hair. Something between an Indian and an android, and very sinister indeed, she thought.

“Hey, where’d everybody go?” Deanna asked loudly, in her best come-and-get-me voice.

Like greased lightning the half-breed whipped out a knife and hurled it directly at Deanna. There was a thunderous report as a bullet buried itself in the half-breed’s chest, and a clatter as the knife hit the floor, deflected by Data mere inches before it struck Deanna. Frank Hollander slid his gun back into its holster as Deanna, screaming with not entirely feigned terror, flung herself into his arms.

“It’s all right, sugar. What are you doing in here?” he patted her reassuringly, then his body stiffened. Deanna seized her opportunity and clasped one iron bracelet over Hollander’s right wrist, as he stood, staring with helpless fury at Data, who had both guns pointed unwaveringly at the two men.

“You’ll be sorry for this,” Frank threatened, as Deanna fastened the corresponding handcuff to Eli’s left hand, and proceeded — careful not to impede Data’s line of fire — to tie their other hands together in similar fashion, so that the pair were fastened back-to-back, and quite unable to free themselves or retaliate.

“Stubbs! Gambler!” Eli yelled. “It’s Tex, it’s a trap!”

“I am afraid they will not be joining you,” Data informed them politely. “I have locked them in the vault. And Mr Francis Croker is now attempting to explain to the manager of this establishment why he chose to provide you with a duplicate key.”

As if on cue, the prosperously-built manager of the bank emerged from the back room with his staff, and — Data having no further need of both guns — shook the android firmly by the hand. A few minutes later the Mexican burst rapturously through the door proclaiming that the coach was in sight, only to find himself facing down the barrel of Data’s .44. The dozen outriders who accompanied the gold were very helpful in dragging the Hollanders and their men along to the jail, where the seven of them sat disconsolate in their overcrowded cell.

* * *

Deanna put her arm companionably through Data’s as they strolled out of town towards the setting sun. “Hell of a day, pardner,” she told him.

“Indeed, Counselor. A most... intriguing program.” He was briefly silent. “However, I believe certain adjustments are required before Mr Barclay can offer it to Worf and Alexander.”

Deanna giggled. “I’ll say!” Worf was so straight-laced... ”Computer,” she called, “end program!” And shrieked.

After a startled, frozen second, Data politely turned his back on the stark-naked woman whose holographic costume had disappeared along with the rest of the program.

He spied a small heap of clothing lying near the far corner of the holodeck, and fetched it for her, considerately averting his gaze while she dressed.

* * *

The Moriarty program found it difficult to understand why neither participant had questioned the program’s duplication of Datas. Surely they must remember the consciousness imprisoned in their wretched computer? Thwarted and increasingly resentful, Moriarty began to assess the likelihood of devising more blatant means of bringing itself to the notice of the crew of this cursed ship. Direct interference with a Sherlock Holmes mystery might produce more useful results.

* * *

Somewhat later, after making his report to a very bewildered Lieutenant Barclay, Data found his attention reverting to that unexpected finale. Counselor Troi had no need to be embarrassed: her body compared quite favourably with those of the other females he had seen unclothed. But what of those neat sets of oval marks on either side of her hips, identical in shape, size and spacing to the imprints of his own fingers?



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