A Valentine for Data and a Lesson for the Captain
Lately Data had included regular visits to Ten-Forward each evening before beginning his night shift on the bridge. He found that adding regular casual social interaction helped to improve his interpersonal skills and working relationships. Tonight, he sat with Geordi, whom he considered to be his best friend.
“So what are you planning for Valentine’s Day?” Geordi asked. “Isn’t it tomorrow?”
The question took Data by surprise. “I am not planning anything in regard to that holiday.”
Geordi frowned and set his drink down on the table. “Really? No party? No little frosted heart-shaped cookies? Nothing?”
“Captain Picard has clearly indicated that my hosting holiday parties is no longer appreciated.”
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t know,” Geordi said, a little embarrassed now for his android friend. “I guess you have gotten some mixed reactions.”
“Refills, Gentlemen?” Guinan asked, pausing at their table.
“Yes, thanks,” Geordi replied. “Hey, Guinan, what did you think about Data’s holiday parties?”
Her face froze for a moment into a neutral expression. “I thought they were…interesting. Why?”
“We were just talking about his plans for Valentine’s Day.”
“As stated previously, I have no plans,” Data said.
“No plans at all?” Guinan scowled at him. “That doesn’t seem right. Valentine’s Day is about love and romance. I always thought you were especially interested in those emotions.”
“Yes, that is true, however, the Captain does not seem to appreciate my…”
“Trust me,” Guinan interrupted. “Captain Picard is a die-hard romantic. He just covers it well with that dignified veneer of his. In fact, under the current circumstances, he might appreciate being reminded of the date. If you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, I think you should.”
“Hmmm,” Data responded in mild surprise, and his internal programming altered slightly in response to Guinan’s input. “Perhaps, I shall give the idea further consideration.”
When Guinan walked away, Geordi smiled. “I admit I’m curious about what you might come up with. Love and romance are tricky things.”
“Agreed,” Data replied. “I have observed humans dealing with these concepts and have personally tried to replicate the behavior of individuals who seem successful in their romantic relationships. However, in my personal experience the results have proven unsatisfactory to my chosen partners. When my last partner ended our relationship, I deleted the subroutine devoted to romance.”
“So that’s how you deal with a broken heart? You just delete it?”
“You misunderstand. I have no heart to break. I have programs.”
“I’m not sure it’s all that different. There are a few old programs stuck in my head I wish I could delete.”
Data nodded his understanding. “It is one of the benefits to having a positronic brain.”
The conversation moved on to other topics in which Data participated as he deemed appropriate until such time came that he needed to excuse himself to take over his duties on the bridge. He wished Geordi a goodnight and left. Upon his entering the bridge, Lt. Worf reported to him the current status of the ship’s operations in progress and turned over command. As of this morning they had completed a routine mapping mission, observing star formations in the Carina Nebula, a huge stellar nursery lying about 7500 light-years from Earth. They were particularly interested in taking readings of Eta Carinae, a huge highly unstable star in the Nebula’s heart. Lt. Commander Nella Daren was in charge of the operations in stellar cartography conducting most of her work during the night shift, when ship operations were less demanding. This afternoon, the Enterprise had moved on to the Borgolis Nebula to study unusual radioactive emissions. He noted that Stellar Cartography had urgently requested use of the main sensor array which had just now become available. Since Lt. Commander Daren apparently enjoyed working in the middle of the night, he decided to alert her to its availability. He attempted to contact her directly on his communication badge, but when she did not respond for several minutes, he asked the computer to locate her.
“Lt. Commander Daren is currently in the quarters of Captain Jean-Luc Picard,” the computer reported.
Someone snickered and Data looked curiously at his fellow crewmen, seeing their shared smiles. He was fairly certain he was missing something. He was about to inquire, when Daren’s voice came over his com-badge.
“Commander Daren, here,” she said.
“Commander, I understand you wanted additional time on the main sensor array. Engineering has completed the warp drive tests. The array is now available for your use.”
“Oh, thank you, but I think it can wait until morning.”
“Very well,” he replied, though a bit puzzled at her seeming disinterest now, when her earlier request had been so adamant.
When Data returned to his quarters after his night shift, he pulled out a small black disk in his drawer and placed it on his desk. He sat down and touched the disk activating the holographic display. A small three-dimensional image of Tasha Yar appeared before him, smiling and shifting her weight slightly as she clasped and unclasped her hands in front of her, a trait he remembered. He could erase his memory of her if he chose, of course, but it would be disrespectful to her and he valued it for himself.
Tasha was the first woman on the Enterprise with whom he had shared physical intimacy… only once, granted and while under the influence of polywater intoxication, but a significant experience for him nonetheless. He still could not quite grasp her intention when subsequent to their interaction she had told him emphatically that it had never happened. Clearly, it had happened. He wondered if the fact that he missed her presence fit the concept of romantic love. He had no answer for that.
As for his aborted attempt to reciprocate the romantic feelings for him held by Lieutenant Junior Grade Jenna D’Sora, that too defied analysis. He had researched the concept in great depth before creating a program devoted to courting her, yet she had not been pleased by the result. How does one reciprocate an emotion without actually experiencing it? he pondered. Apparently, one does not.
Romantic love was highly valued among humans and clearly influenced much of their thoughts and activities. An entire holiday had been devoted in celebration of it. Guinan was correct… Valentine’s Day deserved further examination on his part. Perhaps he could determine a way to explore the holiday without hosting a social gathering and thus avoid further annoying Captain Picard. After viewing every article, recording and historical reference on the subject of Valentine’s Day logged into the ship’s computer, Data thought he had the answer.
The act was a socially acceptable form of interactive reciprocity between both romantic and non-romantically linked persons to acknowledge and celebrate their connection in a manner clearly dictated by the traditions of the holiday in question. Satisfied that he saw nothing in it which could be misinterpreted, found objectionable, or personally intrusive, he sat down at his desk to complete the task, going in order of rank, beginning with the captain. Yes, he thought to himself, as he continued on down through his list, this exercise should serve as an excellent test of his social standing among the crew.
The following morning, Captain Picard discovered a small red envelope on the desk in his ready room. He recognized the perfectly formed script and sighed in annoyance before looking inside. Within, he found a folded white card with a red velvet heart on the front. He opened the card expecting another invitation to some awkward party Data was planning. Instead, there was a poem:
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
When it comes to Captains,
I prefer you.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Lt. Commander Data.
He involuntarily grimaced. It had to be one of the worst poems he’d ever read. Whatever was he going to say in response? He knew Data meant well, of course, and to his relief there appeared to be no social obligation involved. He looked at the poem again, seeing that the message was clearly complementary despite its lack of sophistication. Picard decided a simple thank you would suffice and counted himself lucky to have skirted the holiday so easily. Or had he? He hadn’t thought about doing anything special for Nella. He’d have to correct that.
That night, shortly before he was to assume the night shift on the bridge, Data went to Ten-Forward to engage in social interaction with his fellow crewmen. He saw his friend Geordi sitting with Commander Riker and Counselor Troi, and approached their table.
“Good evening,” he said. “May I join you?”
Deanna looked up and smiled. “Of course, Data. We’d love for you join us.”
Data nodded and offered his polite smile in response, then pulled a chair over and sat down. He engaged his small talk program. “How are you doing on this night?”
“I think we’re all doing fine. We were just talking about the cards you gave us today,” she replied.
“Ah,” Data said, “Would you like to discuss them with me?”
“Roses are red? Violets are blue?” Geordi asked. “What was that all about?”
“It is the most traditional of Valentine’s Day greeting formats,” Data explained. “I have been careful not to stray far afield when exploring human holidays.”
“Okay…. Well, I really appreciated the friendship part. Thanks for that.”
“Yes,” Deanna agreed. “I thought the sentiment was lovely. Thank you for mine as well.”
They looked at Riker. He cleared his throat. “Yes, right, thanks. It was…nice of you.” The others kept looking at him as if he weren’t quite up to par. “Damned nice of you,” he corrected. Deanna rolled her eyes.
“You are most welcome,” Data replied. “I am pleased that you enjoyed them.”
“Yeah,” Geordi answered. “Except for reminding me that I’m single with no prospects at the moment. But at least I have my friends to hang out with.”
“Well, don’t count on me,” Riker said. “I have a hot date. I’m just waiting for her to get off duty in about…” He checked his watch, “five minutes.”
“I have noted that unlike Captain Picard, you show no hesitation to engage in romantic liaisons,” Data said.
“That’s because we have a different philosophy on the subject. He’s long followed that old saying that you can’t have your cake and eat it too, but in my view there’s plenty of cake to go around.”
Deanna frowned at him. “Please don’t give advice to Data on romance or dating. He deserves a better role model.”
“I consider Captain Picard my role model,” Data stated.
“From what I hear, the Captain is having a little cake himself,” Geordi said.
“Don’t be crude,” Deanna warned him.
“It’s not exactly a secret that he and Nella Daren have become an item.”
Riker nodded, looking less than pleased. “Yes, word’s getting around. I had an awkward moment with her making demands again today.”
“I think that’s just her strong personality coming through. I doubt she expects special treatment,” Deanna said.
“I don’t know. She got really pushy with me.”
“Then you should talk to the Captain.”
“I already have,” Riker replied. He looked up and a big smile lit his face as a voluptuous blonde ensign approached waving and smiling. “There she is. If you’ll excuse me everyone.” He got up from the table and departed with the ensign.
“He does seem to have a great deal of success with women,” Data said.
Geordi watched Riker walk off with his date and sighed heavily. “Yes, he does.”
“Well, I guess that depends on how you define success,” Deanna replied. “If you think a series of meaningless encounters is success, then he’s successful. Personally, I think it’s rather sad.”
“He didn’t look sad,” Geordi said.
“Men,” Deanna said dismissively and rose from the table. “Don’t pay any attention to either of these two, Data. Good night.”
“Good night, Counselor,” Data replied and watched her go. “Am I correct that her tone of voice and facial expression indicated displeasure?”
“Definitely. I think she’s a little jealous,” Geordi told him. “Like I said, Data, love and romance are tricky things.”
Data nodded. “I am inclined to agree.”
The next day, the Enterprise rerouted to Bersallis III to study an impending firestorm generated by solar flares. Fortunately, the outpost stationed there did not appear to be in any danger. Data noted that Stellar Cartography was once again being rewarded with an intriguing assignment, and there seemed to be great deal of whispering going on among the crew regarding Lt. Commander Daren. Before reaching their destination, the nature of their excursion to Bersallis III changed abruptly when they received a distress call requesting its evacuation. The firestorm was changing direction and increasing in intensity. The outpost was now in imminent danger.
In conference, it was decided to create a firewall using thermal deflectors around the perimeter to gain time to complete the evacuation, and since Lt. Commander Daren had suggested the idea based on her personal experience using the deflectors for that purpose, Riker put her in charge of deploying them. Data remained on board monitoring the efforts of the ground crew below, as the outpost’s inhabitants were transported aboard. The firestorm was fast approaching but the deflector teams were running into difficulties setting up the firewall.
“... we’re having trouble keeping the deflectors cross-connected. The only way this is going to work is if we calibrate them manually,” Lt. Commander Daren reported.
They still had seventy-three colonists left to evacuate. Without the firewall in place, those people would surely die. If the crew stayed below to keep the firewall in place, there was a very good chance their people would burn in the oncoming storm. The Captain had only seconds to decide.
Captain Picard looked grim as he gave his order. “It is imperative that you hold your positions until we finish the evacuation of the colony. Picard out.”
Data allowed himself a quick glance at his Captain’s facial expression as he delivered what was probably a death sentence to his remaining crew on the ground, one of whom was the woman Captain Picard was personally involved with. Love and romance had just collided with dispassionate duty and the hard responsibility of command. Data filed his observations away for later reference.
When the storm passed, all six hundred and forty-three colonists had been safely evacuated, but eight of the crew below had been lost. Fortunately some of the crew below had found a way to protect themselves by modifying their phasers to create small pockets inside the plane of the field to wait out the storm. Lt. Commander Nella Daren had been one of those who had survived.
Data would have expected the Captain to be happy that his partner in love and romance had survived. Instead, he seemed subdued and introspective.
Data mentioned his observations to Guinan when next he saw her in Ten-Forward. “Am I missing something?” he asked.
“She’s leaving the Enterprise,” Guinan explained. “They thought it best.”
“So he is sad?”
“A little. But I wouldn’t mention it, if I were you. This is his personal business and we should stay out of it.”
“I am confused. If the Captain desires this woman’s company, why would he choose for her to leave the Enterprise?”
“Call it a conflict of interest. It’s a hard lesson, but sometimes you can’t have everything you want, even if you’re the Captain.”
Data nodded. “I understand. Personal desires often go unfulfilled. It appears that I am the Charlie Brown of this ship. Like him as well as our Captain, I have not gotten what I had hoped for in exploring the nature of love and romance either.”
“A cartoon character of some renown in the twentieth century, who appeared in a Valentine’s Day story.”
“A cartoon. ” Guinan looked at him in puzzlement. “So what exactly were you hoping for?”
“Reciprocity,” he stated. Then he wished her goodnight, as it was time he reported to the bridge, and left.
“Uh oh,” Guinan said to herself and called up Geordi La Forge. “Geordi, I think we’ve all made a serious mistake…”
When Data completed the night shift, he returned to his quarters to find Geordi waiting outside. “Good morning, Geordi. I was not expecting you.”
“No, I know. I just wanted to see your face when you go inside your quarters this morning.”
“My face is the same as always. I have suffered no damage of which I am aware.”
“It’s an expression, Data. Just open the door.”
Data did so and walked inside with Geordi following. Data immediately noticed a large pile of envelopes on his desk. A quick glance counted them in the hundreds.
“What are these?” he asked.
“That’s love, Data. That’s a whole lot of love.” Geordi smiled wide and patted him on the back. “We’ll talk later.”
Data nodded and watched Geordi leave. He then approached his desk and picked up one of the hundreds of red envelopes with his name written in hand upon the front. His lips curled upward ever so slightly. Apparently his conclusion had been incorrect.
He was not the Charlie Brown of the Enterprise after all.
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