"But she was so ... human," Peter said. His eyes were distant and filled with sadness. "She had such a wonderful, mischievous sense of humour too."
It struck me that we were already talking about Lizzy in the past tense.
"And she laughed so hard once that I saw her cry. Androids don't cry."
I couldn't really comment as I hadn't known her long at all, but I felt I should add something.
"I saw she was frightened when she mentioned Steven Firth's name."
Peter gave a small, hollow laugh.
"Of course! He's a cyberneticist. She was just an invention of his, an experiment."
Experiment ... the word kept going round and round inside my head.
Experiment. Experiment. Experiment.
I recalled all those little things that had made no sense, and everything began to slot into place: the girl without parents; the girl that got straight As in everything even though she never attended her classes.
"But she needed sleep," I suddenly protested. "And she ate food."
"Even androids need downtime. There's a Lieutenant Commander Data in Starfleet—he's an android."
"Yes, so I've heard, but he doesn't feel things the way Lizzy did."
"He did make an android that felt emotions, though. Lal."
"What happened to her?"
"Her positronic brain couldn't handle the emotion, I think. Something about a cascade failure in her neural net. I'm not a cyberneticist so I don't really know."
Positronic. I'd heard Firth talk about that. What was it he had said?
"Maybe Lizzy suffered the same fate. Maybe her positronic brain couldn't handle it either. Perhaps that's why she played up. Perhaps she died too, or had to be shut down because her condition was terminal."
Nausea suddenly filled my stomach. I had remembered something.
"What day is it?" I demanded urgently.
Peter looked up and saw the dread in my face.
"Aw! Cripes! Come on! We have to go while there's still time."
"Time? Time for what?"
"She's still alive."
"What? Lizzie? How do you know?"
"I heard Firth talking. He said something about—oh! What did he call her? Alpha-B9! That's what he called her! He said that they would ... transfer the data from Alpha-B9's positronic data storage unit into the backup unit. Then they were going to ... wipe it and do a full restore."
"But how do you know he was talking about Lizzy?"
"Because he said that if they were successful, it would retain its characteristics but if they failed, they'd just have a standard IT unit. They would be back to where they were before they animated it."
"That still doesn't mean they were talking about Lizzy."
"And the woman said, 'it just seems a little heartless. I quite liked Alpha-B9.'"
Peter frowned as he considered it.
"That sounds like what Commander Maddox wanted to do to Data."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. He wanted to download Data's memories from his positronic brain into a computer, then deactivate and disassemble Data and try to copy him."
"Data argued it. He didn't believe that Maddox would be able to restore him."
Peter went on to tell me the whole history of the case. I was horrified that Starfleet would have contemplated such an experiment on a sentient being.
"And that was the big question," explained Peter. "Data had to prove his sentience. It was a similar thing with Lal. When Starfleet found out about her, they tried to take her from him. She became frightened and suffered cascade failure that resulted in her death."
"So what if Firth has successfully created a Soong-type android, but it won't dance to his tune. If he wipes it and restores her from backup and he loses all her characteristics, he can start again this time teaching her to be obedient. And if not, he'll have successfully backed-up, wiped and restored a positronic brain with all its complexities."
"That's one hell of an advance in cybernetic technology."
"Exactly. He's got nothing to lose!"
"Other than Lizzy."
"And he hates Lizzy."
"Cripes! But how long have we got?"
"He said he would do the transfer Friday."
"Yes, so she's still alive. We have to act tonight!"