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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

An Odd State of Flux

written for the Fandom Gift Box exchange 2021


How was he to process recent events? He had been stolen—kidnapped—taken from the Enterprise. His home. He had been alone, but for the visits of his kidnapper. People had died. Not because he, Data, had killed them, but because he was wanted, coveted, desired, and considered to be of greater importance than the organic life forms Fajo commanded.

Worst of all, he had been reduced to a thing. An object, to be possessed. Stripped of agency.

Data spent no time reconsidering his decision to execute Fajo. It had been the logical response, only prevented by the timely intervention of the transporter, but if he had not been rescued at that moment his decision would have remained correct. Fajo was a criminal who had murdered and would murder again in order to get his own way. The decision to execute him to prevent further harm had been logical and correct. It was not that which... persisted.

He had been an object.

It was not a situation that could apply to any of his fellow crew members. His friends. Nobody had ever questioned their sentience or their right to exist as an independent being.

His possessions had been restored to his quarters. Data adjusted the position of three items to the exact placement he required. Somebody had cared for his potted plant: when he checked the moisture level of the soil it did not require additional water. He did not wish currently to play his violin. And there was the painting he had not quite finished.

He would finish it, but not today.

Today he was in an odd state of flux, unable to commit to his regular occupations. He had been given time off duty in which to "relax and recover your equilibrium". But he felt no need to relax and there were no discrepancies in his balance mechanisms. And yet, he was unable to function properly. Even after two self-diagnostics, he could not define the problem.

A chime interrupted his thoughts. "Enter," he called.

Lt Barclay entered the room, carrying Spot, along with Spot's food and water dishes, blanket and toys. "I looked after him, when we thought, well, everybody assumed you were—anyway, he's fine."

Data accepted his cat and thanked Lt Barclay. "I am... relieved to know how well he has been cared for in my absence," he said. "Thank you."

"Oh, no, really, it's been a pleasure." The lieutenant reached out and scratched the top of Spot's head. "Any time you need a cat-sitter. Um. Right. Well, I should be going."

After Lt Barclay's departure, Data sat down with Spot on his lap. There were papers—he had read seventeen hundred twenty six of them—which demonstrated that petting a cat could help a human to 'feel better'. But Data was an object, a thing.... Nonetheless, he found that he was stroking his cat, and the sensation of soft fur under his fingers was pleasant, and the sound and vibration of Spot's purring generated an impulse towards... calm? Then Spot wriggled free of the caressing hand and stood on his hind legs with his front paws on Data's chest. The cat nosed at Data's face, inspecting him, perhaps.

After one minute twenty-seven point four seconds—which was, Data believed, a long time for a cat—Spot resettled himself on Data's lap and began carefully to lick Data's left hand.

What could be the cause of this? Data could think of none. His integument was unlikely to be flavored with anything of interest to the cat. There were no salt traces available on the surface, although there was a small quantity of sodium chloride in the substance of his skin. He had not previously observed Spot to groom anyone or anything but himself, and yet Spot was now, apparently, grooming him.

It was an odd sensation. The outer part of his cat's tongue was soft and damp, while the inner surface was rough, as though coated with tiny hooks. And the cat was continuing to purr.

It was, somehow, pleasing.

Spot licked his entire hand meticulously, gave a little whuffle of what seemed to be contentment, and lay still across Data's thighs. He found that he was stroking the cat's silky fur, and that somehow, he was reassured that he was... he was... important.

Eventually, Data recognized that his cat was asleep. He kept stroking Spot nonetheless, finding satisfaction in the sensations the act brought him. It was strange. The cat was not doing anything and yet, Data discovered that he was now able to regard Fajo's behavior as the aberration, that he was now certain that Fajo had been absolutely wrong to treat him as an object. He was not an object. He was a sentient being, and he had the right to be free and make his own choices.

Data sat still for more than two hours, gently stroking his cat, and understood that he was a person again.


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