I skipped all my lessons too. What would be the point of them if I was thrown out of the Academy? And I ended up turning my room into something like a criminal investigation centre from some old detective story because the thing about a datapad is that you can't have lots of pages viewing at the same time. I ended up replicating some good old-fashioned paper and coloured pens. With them, I jotted down the points of interest and then stuck them to the walls. I've discovered that pen and paper are a medium that offers wonderful flexibility. You can scribble, amend and add notes in big letters or small print, draw arrows and mood doodles (sad faces, smilies and little yellow light bulbs for the odd epiphany), and you can colour code things to highlight links. When the time came, I was ready. At least, I felt ready.
The two days passed quickly. I was able to get Lizzy's pass code to her datapad just as I had anticipated, so spent the time studying the files with such intensity that I neglected to go to bed.
It seems I have two days until my hearing and then I'll be thrown out of the Academy. It's longer than I expected though. Is somebody rooting for me? Actually, it wouldn't surprise me if the Dean was cutting me as much slack as he could. Not because he likes me or anything, but because of the possible injustice here. He'll have met Lizzy, I don't doubt. Even if she didn't pass in front of his desk as a naughty student, he must have met her, spoken with her, interacted with her. Anyone with half an ounce of humanity in them can feel her passion and her ... wackiness! That's the word I'm looking for! Wacky. Lizzy is wacky, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
So how do I set about proving that Lizzy is sentient, especially in her absence? I certainly have no intention of producing her. How did Data do it, I wonder?
In that moment I realised that I needed to research Data's case, and Lal's for that matter, but did I have access to them? Probably not, but ...
I toyed with T'Roc's datapad in my hands, stroking its smooth edges with my fingers. Is that why she had left it, so that I could access Starfleet records using her codes? Instantly I knew how stupid that was. T'Roc would never be so irresponsible as to give access to all of Starfleet's confidential records to a curious, young cadet. Yet that very thought filled me with confidence.
Before then I was dubious about awakening the pad. I didn't want to fire it up and intrude into T'Roc's private affairs. Nor did I trust myself not to sneak a peek at a few people's personnel files, (what did mine say, I wonder?) but T'Roc wouldn't be that naive. She just wouldn't do that. So, I'd either fire it up and see nothing, or I'd fire it up and see exactly what T'Roc wanted me to see. At least that's what I had convinced myself of.
I pressed the activation key and the screen illuminated. Hey presto! Two folders were open, and I found that I was relieved that I had access to nothing else. I really don't think I'm strong enough to resist that sort of temptation. It was still a huge risk on T'Roc's part, though, but once again, it proved how much she believed in her crew.
The first folder was codenamed 'The Measure of a Man' and contained all of the reports and log entries by those involved during the period in which Data was ordered to report to Starbase 173 for disassembly, through to the conclusion of the enquiry. The second folder, 'The Offspring' comprised the reports and log entries surrounding Lal's creation and development right through to her 'death'.
It was a lot of information that would take hours to read and I didn't doubt that T'Roc would be back for her datapad sooner rather than later, so I sent them all to—not my datapad. I wasn't sure how secure that would be now, so I sent them to Lizzy's. I could then contact Peter and ask him to ask Lizzy for her access code. So that's what I did.
Being awoken by a hypospray is a somewhat unique experience. It's not like someone gently nudging you awake. It's more like someone throwing a bucket of cold water at you ... only without the water.
As synthesised adrenaline rushed through my veins, my eyes snapped open and my brain screamed. It wanted to be asleep; it had been asleep and now it clawed at unconsciousness in the same way that you claw the covers back over your face to shut the daylight out when so rudely awoken.
There was also confusion as the light blinded me. I shut my eyes again quickly and then opened them slowly, squinting at first to allow them to adjust to the brilliance.
I was in the Academy medical facility lying on a bio-bed. I was near the window, a huge plate glass thing that dominated the wall. The sun was shining brightly through it, and silhouetted against it was my captain.
T'Roc had her back to me and gazed across the splendid Academy gardens, with her hands clenched behind her back. Usually, T'Roc always seemed more Klingon than Vulcan to me, but today her tranquillity was most definitely Vulcan.
She spoke. Her voice was calm, clear and devoid of emotion. She did not turn to look at me, but continued her study of the gardens.
"Where is Elizabeth Buffalo?" she asked.
I paused before answering. Firth's words were echoing in my ears ... you're through with Starfleet.
"I don't know ... and even if I did, I wouldn't tell you. My career is over if I tell you where she is and it's over if I don't."
I felt sick as I said it. I loved Starfleet. It's the only thing I've ever done that had any meaning, anything I was any good at.
T'Roc did not reply immediately. She stood pensive but raised her head to gaze at the clouds in the sky.
"So you know you were wrong," she finally said.
"No. I was not wrong. What Steven Firth wanted to do was immoral. It's tantamount to murder."
"Can you murder an android?" she asked, turning to me, her chocolate brown eyes neither cold nor warm, just mysterious, mischievous even.
"Yes. Lizzy is sentient. Destroying her would be the same as murder."
"Starfleet doesn't engage murderers," she replied, a discrete, almost invisible smile played at the corners of her mouth. She knew it and turned back to the window, but I could see it still there in her reflection.
"Well, he didn't actually commit the crime, did he? I stopped him. Without committing the crime, he can't be convicted."
"But he was going to."
"Yes. You know that."
"I do, but unless Lizzy was sentient, there is no crime."
"She is sentient. She laughs, she cries, she sings ... I think she may even have a lover."
"Interesting ..." T'Roc dragged the word out and clasped her hands in front of her mouth as though in prayer. She was definitely getting at something ... something she couldn't say as a Starfleet officer, but something that she wanted me to know. My face screwed in query but T'Roc said nothing more. She waited expectantly.
"If Lizzy was sentient, would Firth's actions be considered an attempt at murder?" I asked.
"Indeed, but Lizzy is not sentient."
"Data is sentient."
"Lizzy is not Commander Data."
I sat up, pushing at my pillows to prop me up. I scratched my chin and ran my fingers through my matted hair and thought hard. My brain was fuddled as though stuffed with cotton wool, but I needed it to work. This was important.
"But if I can prove that Lizzy is sentient ...?"
T'Roc drew a long, deep breath and I saw her pout a smile in the glass.
"Indeed." There was a quiet satisfaction in her voice.
"Then I have to fight this. If I want to keep my career, I have to prove that Steven Firth's actions were immoral by proving that Lizzy is sentient."
She turned to me, her poise one-hundred percent Vulcan.
"It would seem to be the most logical course of action."
"But how do I do that?"
"That will be for you to determine," and then, having completed her objective, T'Roc turned and left. My eyes followed her and stared at the closed door after she had gone. Then they drifted to the table beside my bed. A datapad lay there. It was T'Roc's. I recognised it by the intertwined IDIC and Klingon crests that she had emblazoned on the back of it. I picked it up, reaching towards the door and opening my mouth to shout after her, but stopped. T'Roc didn't do things by accident. If she had left it there, it was intentional.
The first thing I became aware of was the light. Even through my eyelids, I could tell that it was bright—very bright. As I opened my eyes, I blinked against its whiteness and heard myself moan. Where was I? What had happened?
In answer to my questions, the memories came flooding back until only one remained. Had Lizzy and Peter got away?
From my side, a shadow fell across my face. I turned and found Steven Firth looking down at me. He had a black eye that had yet to be treated and was staring at me with eyes so cold, they could freeze ice.
"Where's Lizzy Buffalo?" he snarled.
Joy filled me. He hadn't caught her! I felt a laugh rising in my throat and a smile spreading across my face. It angered Firth all the more and before I knew it, he had grabbed me by the shoulders and was shaking me vigorously.
"Where's Lizzy Buffalo?" he demanded again. "Where have you taken it? Who was your accomplice?"
But all that did was make me laugh louder. I realised that I sounded like a mad woman, but I couldn't help it. I just laughed harder and harder.
"Tell me, Terran. You're through with Starfleet anyway! Tell me where you've put it!"
Firth suddenly raised his hand. I think he was going to slap me, but two people intervened, doctors I think, and dragged him off me.
There was a lot of shouting and swearing but, in that moment, I didn't care. All I knew was that Lizzy and Peter had got away. That was all that mattered as I drifted away from consciousness again.
She could have been lying at rest in her coffin, she was so pale and still. Beneath the sheet she wore a simple cotton garment. It was a loose fitting one-piece suit that had a sleeveless top and shorts.
"We're too late," muttered Peter.
"No, we're not. Firth isn't doing the procedure until tomorrow. She's just been ... deactivated."
The words drove firmly home the fact that Lizzy was, indeed, just an android. We stood and stared at her lifeless body for moments that dragged on endlessly. I felt guilty wanting to disturb it, but the urgency of the situation was gnawing at me. We weren't supposed to be there.
"We need to figure out how to activate her," I said.
Peter just gawked at me. The shock of seeing her like this had really stunned him.
"How?" he asked feebly.
I shrugged. I didn't know.
"Data had a switch," Peter suddenly announced.
"I don't know."
His voice echoed his despondency as he stared at her, but I was getting more and more edgy. We shouldn't be there and the longer we were, the more likely it was that we would be discovered.
"Okay, Peter, buck up!" I suddenly shouted, eager to get things moving. "We've got to get her activated and out of here."
"How!" he shouted at me, angrily.
"I don't know!" I shouted back, but quickly bit my tongue and recomposed myself. It wasn't really anger in his voice. It was frustration, so I shouldn't retaliate.
"Okay, let's search her," and I leaned forward, patting her down. Peter stood gormlessly to one side.
"Help me," I instructed him.
"I can't do that!"
"It's ... inappropriate!"
"She's not conscious."
"Which makes it even more inappropriate."
"If you want to save her, put your gallantry aside and help me!"
Awkwardly at first, he placed a hand under her neck and then gently wrapped it around her shoulder to raise her.
"She's warm!" he cried softly as he lifted her limp body. He sounded relieved.
Her head flopped onto his shoulder, her mass of long, dark hair curtaining her face. Gently, he swept it aside and gazed into her porcelain smooth face. The love in his eyes was humongous! Boy, did this guy idolise her!
I, meanwhile, continued to run my fingers over her body and under her arms, but I found nothing. Reluctantly, I broke the news to Peter. He bit down on his bottom lip, swallowing back tears, and pulled her closer to him. I heard him stifle a sob as he stroked her face, his fingers brushing her ear. Suddenly, I saw her jerk—a little hypnagogic jerk, and she let out a murmur, opening her eyes. The first thing she saw was Peter. She whispered his name loudly, beaming him a wonderful, happy smile.
"My hero! You've come to save me!" and she pulled him down so that her lips met his and kissed him long and hard. I waited a few moments.
"Yeah, I'm saving you too, but I hope you don't intend to kiss me like that."
"Jenny!" she cried, pulling herself away from Peter and wrapping her arms around me. "But what's going on?"
We quickly filled her in as best we could as we helped her off the table. Aware that she was barefoot, I hunted for some shoes but found none. It never occurred to me to look in the boxes in Steven Firth's office, which was probably as well. That would be another locked door. I did find a white coat though, and made her put it on.
As she pulled it around her, something in the pocket weighed it down. She pulled out a small reflex hammer which she handed to me for some reason.
"We have to get out of here now," I said, pointing towards the door with the hammer and chivvying them along. With our quarry in tow, I was painfully aware that if we were caught now, we couldn't talk our way out of it. We couldn't pretend that we had just wandered in accidentally, not with Lizzy standing next to us as evidence of our encroachment.
We tiptoed quietly. I took the lead this time, Lizzy was in the middle and Peter brought up the rear. We left the laboratories and proceeded down the corridor towards the main door. We reached it and Peter began to work on it. This had been the difficult one on the way in. The next two doors were the easy ones. Peter had them both open in just moments when we came, but moments could mean the difference between success and failure now.
A reassuring click resounded signifying his success and the door shushed open.
"Hey!" a voice suddenly shouted behind us. I turned. It was Steven Firth!
"Go!" I shouted, and we all ducked through the door. It shut quickly behind us and locked, but within seconds, Steven Firth was hammering on it. His face was angry and red through the glass. Lizzy's was filled with terror.
Peter grabbed her hand and took her down to the next door and began working on it. I hesitated. Steven was fumbling for his security pass to unlock the door between us. If he got through, he'd catch us. Suddenly, I became aware that I still had the reflex hammer in my hand. Urgently, I began smashing it into the panel beside the door. If I could break the system that would read his card, he wouldn't get though, or so I thought.
The panel suddenly clanged to the floor exposing a mass of electronic components and wires. I began attacking the inside of it.
"Come on," Peter suddenly shouted.
He'd got the door open and was standing in it waiting for me. I could see Lizzy's terrified face peeking out behind him. I dropped the reflex hammer and ran, but I also heard the door behind me open. Steven was through! I could hear his footsteps pounding up behind me. He was nearly upon me ... and I was nearly at the door. But if I got to the door, he'd be there at the same time! He'd have Lizzy again. There was only one thing for it. I turned and lashed out, barging into Steven and driving him into the ground. We struggled, a mass of arms and legs locked in combat. He was trying to throw me off, and I was hell bent on stopping him getting to Lizzy and Peter.
"GO!" I screamed. " For crying out loud, just GO!"
I heard Lizzy protest, but I also heard Peter arguing with her. Then, to my relief, I heard the door shut drowning their voices, but I couldn't relent now. I had to keep Steven here. Peter had another door to get through.
I felt Steven's hand on the side of my face trying to push me off, but I clung onto him like a limpet. He punched his fist into the side of my face. It stunned me, but still I held on. I felt another blow and everything around me began to swim. There was a third blow and, I think, a fourth but I didn't feel that one. I was out cold.