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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


"You’ll enjoy it. My home planet is a great place for a holiday," the transport pilot observed. "It’s no Risa, of course, but hey, there’s only one Risa, right?"

His passenger affirmed that there was only one Risa listed in the UFP’s planetary index. "Commander Riker was also of the opinion that it was unfortunate the Enterprise was too far from Risa to afford me the opportunity of visiting that planet. He said there was no better place to have a good time."

"Yeah, well, if it’s a good time you want, Xelsia’s got plenty to offer. They get a lot of tourists there. Even have a special reception in the Mayor’s Palace in Xel City once every ten days. Specially if you got plenty of cash. ‘S cheaper than usin’ credits, no surcharges, see? You plannin’ on stayin’ long?"

"Nineteen days," Data answered, "although my stay may be extended if the Enterprise is delayed during its current mission."

"You can fit a lot of fun into nineteen days," Rick winked one bloodshot eye at him.

"It is my intention to have a good time," replied Data.

* * *

Lieutenant Commander Data was not conscious of any need for a break from the normal routine of his life aboard the Enterprise, and when Captain Picard brought to his attention the fact that he had accrued just under two years’ worth of leave, was quite baffled by the suggestion that he should take a holiday.

"But I do not require a vacation in order to rest and recuperate," he pointed out. "I make full use of the ship’s recreational facilities in my off-duty hours—the holodecks, the rehearsal rooms, Ten-Forward —"

"We all need a holiday occasionally, Data. Even you. I am grateful to Counselor Troi for bringing this matter to my attention."

"There’s an old human saying, Data, ‘A change is as good as a rest’," the Counselor reminded him, leaning forward to give him a sympathetic pat on the arm. "A vacation is supposed to be a complete change. You can’t possibly get a proper holiday while you’re still aboard the Enterprise."

"But Counselor, as I do not require rest, it would be illogical to assume that I need a change of scene."

"Nevertheless, Commander, you are going to get one," the Captain assured him. "Our mapping mission to the Algari cluster should be simple enough. I believe the Enterprise will manage without you."

"After all, Data," Deanna Troi added, "human beings like to go on vacation. This is your chance to find out why."

Data had never taken a holiday before. None of his previous captains had thought it necessary, which was how he had managed to accumulate six hundred and thirty-seven days of holiday entitlement. Not that he was expected to take them all at once. He was to have three weeks’ shore leave.

He was indeed interested in exploring the human need to break away from the routine cycle of work and leisure. Naturally he sought the advice of a number of crew-members before his departure. Geordi suggested sight-seeing as a suitable holiday occupation. The Captain preferred to explore archaeological sites; Dr Crusher admitted to the secret vice of shopping, which she indulged whenever possible. Lieutenant Barclay usually filled his days by attending lectures. Lieutenant Powell liked to play golf, and said one could usually find a course somewhere on a human colony planet. Commander Riker recommended he seek out the company of an attractive female. Three of the ensigns on conn rotation confessed to lazing in the sunshine and reading escapist literature. Other crewmembers advocated ski-ing, participating in re-creations of historical events, mountaineering, skyblazing, attending concerts or dynamo races, and rambling.

Data was resolved to try all the possible options.

However, the android was conscious of being somewhat... unsettled at the prospect before him. Many of his friends and colleagues had instructed him to "have a good time". But he was not entirely certain that he had grasped all the nuances of the term "a good time", and wondered how exactly he would know whether or not he was experiencing "fun" without the accustomed input from his friends and colleagues to define the situation.

So he had disembarked from the Enterprise at Starbase 47, and now here he was, sitting in a transport bound for Xelsia. Xelsia: third planet in the Xanthus star system; human colony, primary export: cylanite; secondary source of income: tourism.

* * *

After fourteen days of his holiday had passed, he was still not certain that he was fulfilling his colleagues’ instructions. Xel City was an orderly arrangement of polychromatic buildings, planted with native ferns and imported Terran oleanders. But Data’s sensory inputs were accustomed to the pale corridors of the Enterprise, and the faces of the 1,013 other people who lived aboard the ship and would smile at him. The human colonists here were indifferent to his presence. Perhaps if Geordi had been on leave too, or Commander Riker...

"Hey there! It’s Data, innit?" It was Rick, the transport pilot, who smote the android’s shoulder in a friendly way. "You havin’ a good time, mate?"

"I am not certain," Data admitted. "I have followed the advice of my crewmates, but—"

"Come and have a drink! You can tell me how it’s going."

From the flavoursome nature of Rick’s exhalations, Data judged that the pilot had already imbibed a quantity of liquor. Still, an opportunity to interact socially with a human being (however drunk) was always welcome. Rick led the way with a drinker’s instinct, and the unlikely pair soon found themselves sitting in a comfortable corner of a jovial establishment and awaiting the delivery of their beverages.

"So, Mr Data, whatcha been doin’?" Rick asked.

Data told him.

He had obtained a list of the sights to be seen in the vicinity of Xel City, and dutifully observed the five recommended buildings, the waterfalls on the Osiris river, the crenellated mudflats and the coloured cliffs. He would have explored sites of archaeological interest, but there were none: Xelsia had been colonised only ninety-eight years ago, and there had been no sign, ever, of prior inhabitants any higher on the evolutionary scale than the native amphibia and reptiles which coexisted with the human settlers.

"Very tasty, those mud lizards," the pilot commented irrelevantly, and took a deep draught of his second extra-fortified, treacle-coloured ale.

Data went on with his recitation. Public lectures, he had discovered, were delivered in the Norton Building in Xel University; he had already attended several and planned to attend more in the days that remained of his vacation. But he was not certain that his friends aboard the Enterprise would consider that this qualified as "a good time".

Rick did not comment, but sniggered into his beer.

Golf had been more interesting. Lieutenant Powell was quite correct: there was a spacious and verdant course available to players of this esoteric game.

"Golf? You play golf? Whaddaya know. Hey, waiter, another round!"

"I have not, hitherto, but I purchased the assistance of an instructor on the third morning of my vacation," the android clarified, going on to explain, in some bewilderment, that Mr Sandison had begged him never to return. "I am at a loss to understand his objections. I replaced the ball which I inadvertently shattered in my first attempt to tee off." He was sure that he had begun to grasp the game, and had managed to complete the last five holes in a single stroke each. But it was when he expressed the desire to achieve a perfect round that Mr Sandison had begun to cry.

The android paused. His companion was wheezing with laughter (which was gratifying, if inexplicable), and in an uncontrolled gesture, overturned his glass. But when the table had been wiped, the glass refilled, and Rick had wiped his eyes on his sleeve, Data continued with his explanation.

As for the other sporting options, ski-ing was unavailable due to the clemency of the Xelsian climate. He had climbed the coloured cliffs, both down and up, in lieu of anything more officially described as a mountain, but had derived no noticeable relaxation from the experience. He had hurtled through the inner atmosphere in a skyblazer, he had rambled (at least, it had been impossible to distinguish this from ordinary walking, but he had done his best), he had attended nine concerts, seven theatre matinées, a dynamo racing event, a game of football, and a Tudor-style banquet of dubious authenticity, and had even lain in the sun for five minutes and seventeen seconds while he read twenty-four escapist novels.

But was he having a good time?

"S’a good thing I found you, mate," said his companion, thickly. "You wanna know how to have a good time? You wanna go down the Tail."

"The Tail?"

"Tail End. Far side of the city. Lotsa bars. Oopsh." The pilot was attempting to stand, with scant success. "Take me shpasheport? Gotta room..." and he slid gracelessly to the floor.

So Data settled the bill and conveyed his helpless companion to the spaceport hostel, where the brusque but not unsympathetic warden promised to keep an eye on Rick while he slept it off. Then, following Rick’s advice, Data headed for the Tail End.

It was dingier, here, west of the spaceport. The walkways were narrower, the building units closer together. However, there appeared to be activities in progress. There were people in the streets, and old-fashioned laser displays pulsed above the entrances to several outlets: Chameleons, Casa di Bianco, The King’s Head, The Kit Kat Klub, Bracers...

"Hello there." An underdressed human female shimmied forth from the chiaroscura of a doorway and laid a hand on the android’s arm. "All alone tonight, handsome? Want me to show you a good time?"

Data brightened. "Yes, please."

"Come right on up," she drawled. "What’s your fancy? Anythin’ partic’lar I can do for you?"

"I do not have a preference," Data replied. "I am seeking to broaden my experiences. Perhaps you could show me all the options?"

The woman looked somewhat taken aback, but the professional smile soon returned to her face and she cast an assessing eye over him. "That’ll be.... eighty cattels."

Data counted the plastic tokens into her palm, and followed her inside.

It was 0417 hrs when he emerged. The young lady (‘Honey’) was apparently fatigued and had declared her intention of sleeping until noon, but the street was not devoid of life. Data decided to investigate further, and set out towards a flickering red sign that announced the presence of Arry’s Bar.

"You wan’ to have a good time?" a woman’s voice called to him as he passed another shadowy entrance.

"No, thank you, I have just had one," he replied politely, and continued on his way, feminine giggles floating unheeded in his wake. It seemed probable to Data that Cdr Riker at least would concur with Honey in considering their shared activities as constituting "a good time", and indeed, he was conscious of a certain satisfaction in his circuits; however, rather than repeat the experience, there was time to explore the Tail End further before he returned to the Xelsian University’s Norton Building for Culture Shock: The Colonial Ethos: Interaction or Interference?.

The interior of Arry’s Bar was not promising. The illumination was barely sufficient, leaving the corners in darkness, and the atmosphere was hazed with unexpected fumes. A moment’s analysis identified five illicit substances. Data made his way cautiously towards the long, chest-high barricade which bore scant resemblence to Guinan’s welcoming bar but which must, he surmised, be the servery.

"What’ll it be?" asked a world-weary female, in costume not dissimilar to Honey, but somewhat older in appearance.

"Synthale, please."

"We don’t serve that stuff here," the barmaid replied, bored.

"Wassamadder? Don’t ya got the head for a real drink?" a hoarse voice challenged from the far end of the bar.

"Take no mind of him," advised the barmaid. "You want a beer? Whisky? Exotica?"

"Beer, thank you," Data replied absently, casting his gaze over the rest of the room. Most of the customers appeared to be human, but here and there a blue pate or bony forehead marked the presence of alien life.

Were these people having a good time? he wondered. There were several small huddles indicative of card play, but most of the customers appeared to be occupied in drinking and making surly conversation. However, there was a group gathered around a large table: some were wielding thin poles, and there was an occasional clack! whose source he could not identify. A memory search yielded the possibilities of billiards, snooker, pool, or the modern variations of domjaht and stackery. Games involving the potting of balls by means of cue and cue ball. Perhaps the players of this game were having a good time. He resolved to investigate, but was forestalled.

"I’m tellin’ ya!" bellowed a local male, purple-faced, "there ain’t no-one to touch Golden Joe! Never has been!"

"Demeckis can whip Joe Doro any day and twice on Sundays," another enraged Xelsian replied, fortissimo. An instant later the two men were entwined in battle atop the nearest table, whose occupants snatched up their drinks and stood back to watch. Then somebody accused somebody of stepping on an ill-placed toe, fists and glasses began to fly, and within seconds the whole bar was a noisy mêlée of thumps, grunts and crashing furniture.

Data, bewildered, turned to the barmaid.

"Don’t mind them, mister, they’re just havin’ a good time."

Startled, he turned to re-examine the heaving throng. Still fighting.

"Query: a good time?"

"Sure." She sounded bored. "Tomorrow they’ll go back to their respectable jobs ‘thout all that tension bottled inside ‘em."

A dazed Bolian caromed into Data and bounced back into the fray.


A table shattered against the far wall, showering glass chips and splashes of whisky.

"Well, most of ‘em, anyway. There’s a few ruffians from the cheap end of the spaceport, there always are, gives a bit of character to the place," the barmaid allowed. "You wanna get behind here?" She lifted a slab from the bar and admitted him to her sanctuary. They crouched, as the furniture flew.

"I would prefer to join in and have a good time too," Data said wistfully, "but I do not know how."

His companion stared. "You want to join in the fight? You just don’t look the type."

"I do not understand."

"Look at you," she gestured. "You look like you’re dressed for the Symphony or the Mayor’s Banquet or somethin’. Guys who show up in the Tail wearin’ smarts mostly don’t want to get down and dirty."

Data reviewed his stored impressions of the customers, and compared his own attire with theirs. Everyone but himself wore durable but shabby workwear, or faded blue pants and loose, plain tops. Nowhere was there anything to match his own rich blue and gold replicated silk shirt and pleated beige trousers—Counselor Troi’s suggestion, and, according to her, very dashing. The discrepancy was obvious. Why had he not noticed it before?

"Where may I purchase appropriate garments?" he inquired.

The barmaid laughed weakly. "Just ‘bout anywhere, I reckon. There’s an outlet down the street, name of Zachar’s, but it won’t be servin’ this time of night."

Data peeped over the parapet. The battle was still raging. He was interested to notice that several of the participants were female, indistinguishable in their dress from the Xelsian men, and just as competent with their fists. "There are a considerable number of breakages," he observed.

His companion shrugged. "We buy ‘em cheap. People like to break the furniture. Makes ‘em feel good."

"I suppose it will be over by the time I have purchased the correct attire?" Data said with a hint of sadness in his tone.

"There won’t be a soul left standin’ half an hour from now," she promised him. "But you c’n always come back tomorrow. For now, I think you’d better get along." She ushered him through a low door and out into the greying night.

Data was sorry, on the following evening, to discover a mere handful of customers occupying Arry’s Bar when he arrived at 1800 hrs. Perhaps he should have accepted Honey’s offer after all, or her companion’s. He had plenty of cattels in his money belt, and the ladies had seemed quite disappointed.

However, there were two human males playing a desultory game of pool, and Data, remembering his desire to learn this game, acquired the obligatory drink and went to observe the play.

"That’s it, Mac, I gotta go," the younger man sighed as the elder sank the last ball.

"No stamina," muttered the grizzled Xelsian, draining his glass and emptying the balls back onto the table.

"Sir," ventured the android, "may I join you? I have never played this game before, and I would be grateful for the opportunity to learn."

Mac looked up suspiciously. "You hustlin’?" he barked.

"I do not understand," Data replied with patent innocence.

"Hmph. All right, see if you can get this ball," he indicated, "into this pocket. Hooee, don’t even know how to hold a cue right, here, like this."

Six minutes later the table was cleared, and Mac stood staring at his new companion with an acquisitive light dawning in his eyes. "You busy this evenin’, son?" he asked, laying a friendly arm over Data’s shoulders. "I got an idea."

Three evenings later, nobody was fool enough to take up the challenge any more, but by then, Mac was considerably the richer and Data had established his own place at the coveted far corner table. He could no longer play pool, having run out of opponents, but poker, of course, was another matter, since not even Data could expect to have the cards in his favour all night. And he still found it difficult to determine whether a player was bluffing, although his skills were improving with experience.

Lectures, sporting events and holographic symphony concerts no longer formed part of Data’s holiday programme. He arrived promptly at 1800 every evening, was greeted with a noisy kiss from the barmaid—who turned out to be Arry herself, the owner of the Bar—and settled down with Mac to discuss women, prospecting, star-travel, and whatever other subject happened to take their mutual fancy. Gradually, the bar would fill, and—failing a challenge from a cocky pool-player—Data would drift into a poker game, or a raucous session of singing, or would simply absorb the sensation of being among friends.

When the bar closed, at around 0600hrs, or sometimes rather earlier, he would accompany one of the young ladies to her room. They seemed to have arranged a rota, and kept him pleasurably occupied until it was time to return to Arry’s.

Data was pleased to be having a good time—several, daily, in fact—at last. The only disappointment was that he had not had the opportunity to enjoy a bar fight. The Enterprise would be sending a shuttle to collect him from Xelsia tomorrow. But perhaps the ship would be delayed.

"Say, I was beginning to think you weren’t gonna make it tonight!" Mac slapped him heartily on the back, and called for more whisky.

"I am sorry to have kept you waiting, Mac. I was saying goodbye to some friends, and they did not wish me to depart."

"You’re not leavin’, are you, son?"

"It is probable that tonight will be my final visit to Arry’s Bar. I am scheduled to return to my ship tomorrow."

"Say, that’s a pity. Got used to seein’ you in here." Arry passed him a foaming tankard. "On the house."

"Thank you," said Data, politely.

"Aw, you’ve been good for business," said the Xelsian woman with a rueful smile. "Never known anyone work a cue like that. There’s a lotta gals hereabouts who’re goin’ to miss you."

"Yes," the android agreed. "I believe I will miss them, too."

The spacers showed up just before midnight.

They swaggered in, a brawny bunch of young males in flight overalls, noisy with drink and self-satisfaction. Mac snorted briefly at the sight, and Kanda, a tough female with an aggressive poker style to rival Dr Pulaski’s, murmured something disparaging which sent a chuckle round the table, but the newcomers settled in peacably enough, ordering drinks and arranging themselves along the bar. The regulars returned their attention to their cards.

It was perhaps unfortunate that it was Data’s turn to get the next round. But there would probably have been trouble anyway.

He was not entirely sure how it started. He had turned, with his tin tray laden with full glasses, to find himself surrounded by the spacers, and somehow an innocuous request to pass was interpreted with hostility, an innocent gesture was understood as a threat, and within seconds he was facing off with a sullen blond Xelsian in studded coveralls.

"You sayin’ I’ve no right to stand where I like?"

"No, I merely —"

"Are you callin’ me a liar?" The blond spacer’s eyes narrowed and his body tensed.

Data blinked, rapidly reviewing the conversation. "Not at all, I —" The Xelsian’s right arm swung violently towards the android’s elegantly-sculpted nose. But Data transferred the tray to his right hand, sidestepped sharply, grabbed the arm and used his would-be assailant’s momentum to flip him onto the neighbouring table. An instant later, he felt the impact of another body, approximately 84.6 kilos, and as he turned to deal with it, glimpsed one of the women at the table wantonly emptying a glass over the blond Xelsian’s head, and, in the corner, Mac rising purposefully from his seat.

Somebody gave a wild yell, and the bar erupted into battle.

When Data woke up, he was in jail.

Not alone, by any means. Eleven other customers from Arry’s had been packed into the same smallish cell, but they were still unconscious. Data reviewed his memories. He and Mac had been standing back-to-back amidst a lurching mob of combatants, fending off the attacking spacers with perfect competence, and suddenly a familiar tingle had struck, microseconds before oblivion. There had been, he surmised, wide-field stun sweeps in the bar, probably set into the pitted ceiling. Plainly, the local security force had been summoned.

Data’s communicator, safely cached inside his shirt, chose that moment to crackle into life. Riker to Commander Data—Shuttlecraft Feynman now entering orbit. Standing by to beam you up when you’re ready to leave.

"Acknowledged, Commander. Please stand by," Data replied. He was somehow reluctant to mention that he was at present confined behind a forcefield and unable to beam anywhere. But what was he to do? He gazed round the cell at the untidy bodies. Was there an established protocol for this situation?

Gradually his cell-mates began to groan and sit up.

"Ohhhh, my head."

"Yeech, feel like I bin fed through a warp coil."

"Helluva fight," muttered somebody else. There were murmurs of approval and sympathy throughout the cell.

A uniformed guard appeared beyond the restraining forcefield. He eyed them dourly for a moment before announcing: "Twenty cattels each, damages. Then you can go home." The forcefield buzzed out of existence, and the prisoners stumbled to liberty.

As the android’s form shimmered into solidity on the shuttle’s transporter pad, Commander Riker’s jaw dropped with a palpable thunk. Data in holed, dusty denims and a shirt so tattered he might as well not have been wearing one at all. Data with his hair dishevelled and—blood? on his sleeve?

"Data, are you all right?"

"I am fine, thank you, Commander."

"Then I guess you must have had a good time?" Will asked, warily.

A glimmer of a smile flickered across the android’s face. "Xelsia is a great place for a holiday," he said.



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