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Random thought of the day...
Is there such a thing as too much Star Trek?
Obviously, my current answer is no. I can never get enough.
However, sometimes I think being in the fandom is driving me nuts. I've been developing the weird habit of imagining people in full alien costume and makeup, from friends to strangers on the street, and I'm getting frighteningly good at guessing who would look best as what species. Is that a symptom of Trek-itis in its terminal stages? Where's Bones when you need him?
My best friend, who knows enough about Star Trek to understand what I'm talking about, would look great with Trill spots, but I haven't told her to her face (yet), just in case she decides I'm certifiably insane.
I literally spent two hours trying not to laugh last Monday when I realized that the guy sitting right in front of me in class has the most Vulcan face I've ever seen. I swear, my brain kept wanting to add a pair of pointy ears to his head.
Speaking of ears, a professor with whom I've worked closely has ears that stick out a bit... and now all I can see is him as a Ferengi, of all things. Poor devil. His personality doesn't match the species at all.
Question: am I crazy?
  • Mood: Lmao

Q’Mar threw down her PADD in anger, sending it clattering across the stage. She didn’t care that she might have broken it, or that she was making a scene in front of Mr. Data and the others. She’d had enough.

“This is stupid. Just find another Dorothy. I’m out of here.”

She stormed out of the taped area and towards the large door of the cargo bay, but she hadn’t taken more than five steps before a pair of strong hands stopped her.

“Are you sure you wish to give up your role after working on it so hard?”

Why did Mr. Data have a way to make certain ideas sound stupid without saying that they were? She turned her head to face him and he released her from his iron grip – and how careful he must have been to stop just short of hurting her, like the Tin Man stepping over an innocent ant on the road –, probably hoping she’d turn around and try that nasty scene again as if nothing had happened, but it wouldn’t be as easy as that.

“Don’t you see? I’m the only one who keeps forgetting things. And even if I ever learn my part, I’ll never really understand what it means, so what’s the use? Ask Clara Sutter to do this instead. She’s human, she’s smarter and she’s prettier. You don’t need me.”

Dr. Crusher was by her side in a flash.

“That’s nonsense. We knew from day one that it wouldn’t be easy for you to learn the script in Standard, but you’ve been great so far, and I don’t even want to think about what would happen if we all suddenly had to learn to work with another Dorothy with so little time before the play is scheduled. We do need you.”

“But I don’t even know what I’m saying half the time!”

“It sounds to me like you’ve learnt more than enough Standard to understand your lines just fine. Do I have to ask Data to spout some numbers at us about how much you’re improving, or do you believe me?”

Couldn’t she see it? It wasn’t just a matter of language! Most of the words were easy enough taken one by one, and Mr. Data had patiently explained to her that the reason the characters ‘talked funny’ at times was that the story was very, very old, written back when space travel only existed in some humans’ wildest dreams. That was not the biggest problem at hand.

“It’s not that. I know what most of my lines mean, but there are so many other things I don’t get!”

“Like what?”

Well, she had asked for it, hadn’t she? Q’Mar knew that sometimes adults found her annoying when she asked too many questions, but she had her permission this time, so she let them flow, not caring the least bit what she would think of her. Those questions needed to be asked. She’d been holding them in practically since the first time she’d seen her script.

“Why does it matter that Dorothy’s dress is blue and white? Why is the road yellow instead of another colour? Why does the Wizard want everyone to think the city is all green? Isn’t it beautiful enough already? I tried on the green glasses the last time we rehearsed in the holodeck, and they don’t work for my eyes. They just make everything a little darker, and it’s prettier without them.”

There was a long pause before Dr. Crusher answered her, and her voice was slow and careful, as if she had suddenly forgotten how to speak Standard and had to look for the right word at every turn.

“I’m sorry, Q’Mar. I guess that when I offered you the part, I didn’t realize how important colours were to the story. Seeing in colour is so normal to humans that I never thought about what your species might feel about it.”

“It’s a fun story, I’m just not good enough at sounding like I care about the colours, and that’s bad for the play. It’s difficult to pretend the City looks amazing when I don’t even know what green is.”

“Well… maybe there is something we can do about that.”

Q’Mar’s stomach flipped. What? Really? Hadn’t Dr. Selar said it was impossible? And if there was a way, would it be forever or just for a while? Would it hurt? There were so many questions at once that none ended up coming out of her mouth, and it wasn’t just because her translator was lying a few meters away.

“But… but…” she stammered. “I thought I’d never…”

“We’re not sure it can work yet.” We? As in Dr. Crusher and who else? “I didn’t want to tell you because we’d risk getting your hopes up for nothing, but if you feel like trying, I think I can make an appointment for you tomorrow.”

“Yes! I’ll be there, I promise!” She trusted Dr. Crusher enough to think she wasn’t making it all up, but it certainly sounded far-fetched. No matter. If it meant she would finally know why blue, yellow and green were so important, she would gladly go through a million hypos and tests and who knew what other unpleasantness. “But… what do I have to do, exactly?”

“I’m sure Dr. Selar can explain that to you better than I can.”

 

When Q’Mar entered Sickbay, she was skipping more than walking. Finally, finally, she would get to see the world the same way Patterson and Clara and everybody else did, and she was so impatient she could hardly stay still.

One look at the doctors, however, was enough to forget the deliriously happy mood that had been carrying her through the day as if she were floating on her own little cloud. Dr. Selar was even more serious than usual, if that was even possible, and Dr. Crusher’s face looked for all the world like there was a piece of very bad news ahead. Had they found out that they couldn’t do it after all? Wouldn’t it have been better to just cancel her appointment, then, instead of calling her all the way here just to tell her she had to go back and say goodbye to her dream of really understanding what it meant to walk along the yellow brick road?

“Hello,” she said in a much smaller voice than she’d planned. “Is… is something wrong?”

“That’s what we’d like to find out,” said Dr. Crusher, a weak smile flashing across her face. “Dr. Selar has had an idea that just might allow you to see in colour, but we want you to understand some very important things first.”

“Okay.” The butterflies in her stomach were fluttering madly. There was something in her voice that made her feel like they were treating her as an adult rather than a kid, and while that would have been fun and exciting on a good day, now it was just plain scary.

“The first thing you need to know is that it might not work at all. We need to run some tests before we try, just in case.”

“I doubt she is naturally immune, Doctor,” the Vulcan put in, earning herself a perplexed look from both of them, “and there is no indication that she has had any particular training. However, I cannot exclude the possibility of ill effects, and a clearer picture of Lorquian neurophysiology will certainly provide more clues of what to expect.”

Even with the precious pin secured to her chest, Q’Mar was beginning to feel a little lost in the maze of scientific words, but in a way, it was good to know the doctors were being so careful about this, whatever it was. It was one less chance to get hurt, right?

“I have a feeling there’s something you’re not telling me,” said Dr. Crusher, sounding suddenly suspicious, “but whatever it is, if it helps, it’s more than welcome. Now, Q’Mar, you might be disappointed to hear this, but if it does work, it’ll only be temporary. We need to be sure you know that it’ll only last for a short while, and then you’ll be back to seeing in greyscale. Do you still want to do this?”

What kind of question was that? Up until yesterday, she’d never dared to hope for a second of colour vision, let alone ‘a short while’. If it hadn’t been all too clear that this was no laughing matter, she would have been hysterical. Dr. Crusher had to be crazy if she thought it needed to be asked.

“Of course! When do we start?”

Dr. Crusher bit her lip, appearing to think hard. “Please understand that you’ll miss it when it’s over, and we might very well find out that it’s better for your health not to try it ever again. Can you accept that?”

Well, when she put it like that, Q’Mar supposed it would hurt to go back to her old grey world and never hope to see even the smallest flash of red or green again, but still, it was more than she, or any other member of her species, had ever thought to ask for. She truly felt like an explorer now, and she certainly wasn’t going to turn on her heels and give up.

“I’ll remember it, won’t I?”

“Yes, you will.”

“Then it will be a memory that nobody else has, and a very good one too. Why wouldn’t I want it?”

There was a pause as the doctors took in what she said, and then: “Well, you’ve certainly convinced me. Anything else you’d like to add, Dr. Selar?”

“Actually, there is. Do you remember our… conversation about the extent of my species’s telepathic abilities?”

This time, Q’Mar came dangerously close to snorting, perhaps to release some of the tension that was filling the air, as their worry was apparently contagious. She called that a conversation? Well, there certainly had been a lot of talking involved, so it wasn’t exactly wrong, but if she had to define it, ‘conversation’ wouldn’t be the first word that came to mind. She didn’t know what to call it, but she did know it had been a lot more.

“Yes,” she said, hoping she sounded as serious as the situation called for. “But what does that have to do with seeing in colour?”

“You wished to know what else I could do, and I must admit that my answer covered only a small part of the whole truth. Have you ever heard of mind melding?”

“Uh… only once, and even then, I didn’t understand much.” She only had that Vulcan boy to blame for being so clueless—his visit to Miss Kyle’s class had been interesting, but it had felt like he had prepared a script of his own and was performing for them, never once straying from what little he was allowed to say.

“I see. I confess it is far from easy to describe it briefly to someone who has never experienced it, but you have a right to know what you’re facing. If you were to accept, I would have access to your memories, and you, in turn, would share mine. And since my race is able to see in full colour…”

“Then I’d see your memories in colour too! That’s… that’s…” Was there even a word for something that was so much more than just ‘amazing’ or even ‘wonderful’? Q’Mar gave up her search for it. Not even ten translators could help her with that.

“That is the general idea. You would give up a lot of your privacy in the process, and though I’ll actively try to stay away from the worst of it, you might be forced to relive something… unpleasant. Do I still have your permission?”

Q’Mar frowned. Even with her usual level voice, there was something in the way she’d said ‘unpleasant’ that made her fear it would be a lot worse than that. Still, she’d known her long enough to believe she’d never let her come to harm on purpose, and whatever was ahead of her, if it meant understanding what it was like to see in colour, it was worth it. Maybe she’d even be able to pick her favourite. Everyone but her seemed to have one: Patterson liked green, Clara preferred blue, and whoever else she asked always had a quick answer on the tip of their tongue, except maybe Mr. Data, who would probably launch into one of his usual lectures about all the science behind colours and top it off with the exact reason why an android couldn’t have a real favourite. She wanted a favourite colour too, and it was the only way to get one.

“Yes, Doctor. I want to do this.”

 

The tests went by in a whirl of things she didn’t understand, and it took all that she had to sit through them like a good girl and ask only a tiny part of the questions she wanted to. Dutifully, she had her eyesight tested again ‘the old-fashioned way’, whatever that meant, with the big difference that she now knew her Standard letters well enough to read them from the chart until they got too small to make out from a distance, courtesy of Miss Kyle and Mr. Data’s combined efforts, then she lay on a biobed without squirming too much while small, uncomfortable things were attached to her forehead and the doctors made their comments, both too hushed and too complicated for her to catch, as they looked at what she thought might be a picture of her brain—she’d seen a thing like that on one of the classroom computers, but this was much more complex, and she had no idea what it was telling them.

And then, just like that, the comments ended and an abrupt, heavy silence took their place. Q’Mar shot a look at the doctors and her insides gave an odd little flutter. Dr. Selar appeared to be bracing herself to do something very difficult, and Dr. Crusher, she noticed, was looking pointedly away from her, as if she weren’t supposed to watch her doing it. Q’Mar looked the other way too, just in case.

“Ready.” The devices came off with a slight pull of Dr. Crusher’s expert fingers, and Q’Mar, more than ever, got the sense that this was it. There was no room in her stomach for butterflies anymore. She’d moved far, far beyond them. As she swung her legs off the side of the bed, she realized she was trembling a little, though it was hard to tell if it was more out of excitement or fear. “If you’ll just sit up, I’ll let Dr. Selar take over from here. I’ll be monitoring the situation, but this is between the two of you.”

“That is an apt description.” Dr. Selar sat in front of her – had there always been chairs in Sickbay, maybe for visitors, or had they brought one in especially for the occasion? – and said with a solemnity that sent a small shiver down her spine: “Whatever happens next will be indeed ‘between the two of us’.”

“But what will happen?” Q’Mar had the strange impression that she’d just spoken out of turn, but the doctor didn’t seem angry. But then, when did she ever?

“That is… not entirely predictable. I can only ask you not to be too frightened.”

“I’m not scared… much.” Half a lie was better than a whole one, right?

Still, when her hand reached for her face, it was hard not to pull away. She wasn’t afraid of her, or even of telepaths in general, since she’d had to get used to both on the Enterprise, but this was bigger than a session with the Counsellor, and bigger than her previous experience with Dr. Selar.

Somehow, the way her long fingers touched her didn’t feel random. Dr. Selar knew exactly what she was doing, and the fact that Q’Mar was thoroughly lost didn’t matter, or so she hoped. She probably knew enough for both of them.

When she started speaking, it seemed like every feeling she’d ever had fought its way to the surface. Confusion, as she hadn’t expected her to say anything at all. Fear, she admitted to herself, because she didn’t know the first thing about this, but it was beginning, and there was no turning back now. Happiness, even, because she was just one step away from something she’d been dreaming of ever since she’d boarded the ship. And there, somewhere in the back of her mind, a strange sense of calm that seemed to be the only thing that kept her head from exploding. Was it even genuinely hers, or was she sending it to her? For some reason, she didn’t care.

“My mind to your mind,” she said. It was not the droning voice of one who’d learnt a piece by heart, and yet, Q’Mar knew with startling clarity that the words were not entirely her own. “My thoughts to your thoughts.” She’d barely registered that the sound was oddly distant, as if there were something in her ears, when it happened.

There was the smallest of tingles where their skins made contact, and then it was very much like falling, except she wasn't sure which way was down.

The next thing she knew, she was fighting to draw breath. The room smelled all wrong, her throat felt constricted, and something invisible weighed heavy on her chest as spots started creeping up at the edges of her vision. She tried to look down to make sure her respirator was working, but she found she couldn’t even move her eyes, let alone the rest. Fear flooded her.

As a shimmering force field came down around her and blessed clean air filled her lungs again, she realized what must be happening: it was her first time in Sickbay all over again, but something was different.

There was her other self, completely disoriented, too frightened even to be curious about the strange room she'd just been transported into or the alien lady talking frantically to thin air in a language she didn't understand, clinging to the sight of her friends for comfort, for they were the only familiar thing around.

There was her current self, the one who recognized that lady as Dr. Crusher and did understand what she was saying (well, some of it, it was too full of big scientific words), which meant that the hours spent with Mr. Data were paying off, and knew from experience that he would walk in any minute, rattling off specifics about the atmosphere on the Uquarr so that their respirators could be made. That was the first time they'd met, and she'd had no idea how important that memory would become.

And then, just at the edge of her consciousness, there was something else too, something that hadn't been there the first time around. It felt like yet another part of herself, but at the same time, it didn’t quite belong. She (because it was definitely a she, that much she knew) was neither expectant nor scared, and instead just emanated a sense of… polite curiosity, it seemed, as if she were content with taking the back seat, hidden but very much there, watching and listening to everything and making a steady stream of observations. It wasn’t like a voice, exactly, as she couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from. It was more like a memory of a voice she’d heard before, only that couldn’t be, because the words weren’t familiar. Interesting, the voice was saying. The photoreceptors seem to be underdeveloped, compared to most known humanoid species, and yet they have adapted to life without them. I wonder how this affected their aesthetic. It sounded almost like something Mr. Data would say, but it wasn’t him. It was Dr. Selar, she realized suddenly, her whole body wanting to jolt in recognition but frustratingly unable to do it, and if she could hear her, maybe she could talk to her too.

Not quite knowing what she was doing, she reached out and gave the gentle intruder what felt oddly like a cautious mental poke—not that there was anything to touch, but she didn’t know how to explain it even to herself otherwise. It was like saying Hey, I know you’re in there, but without really using words.

“Your mind is quite responsive.”

It was the doctor’s voice, but it sounded more real somehow, as if she were right beside her instead of an invisible presence inside her head. Something shifted, though she couldn’t quite name it, and yes, just like she suspected, she could move all of a sudden, no longer restricted to doing exactly what she’d done the first time.

She whipped her head in the direction of the voice and found Dr. Selar standing there in the flesh, or in as much flesh as there could be in the strange memory world they’d been plunged into.

“Y-you weren’t there when this happened,” she said experimentally, afraid her voice would betray her.

“You are correct. I was not on duty when you first arrived. This is only a manifestation of my mind; I am not really here, you might say.”

“Then why can I talk to you?”

“It is the simplest way our minds can process being in such close contact. I can see what you see, hear what you hear, and in a few moments, if you are willing, it’ll be the other way around.”

“Will I be able to see in colour?” Oh, how she ached for that. Everything must be so beautiful in all those interesting shades she could understand only in theory.

“That is what we’re about to find out. Come closer.”

“I’m stuck in the force field.”

“Ignore it. It’s as simple as that. It is no more real than my presence here.”

“You sure seem real to me…”

But Dr. Selar must have said it for a reason, so she decided to try anyway. She sat up on her biobed, half-expecting her head to hit the field and send her sprawling back, but there was no obstacle at all. Wow. Q’Mar hopped off and went to stand next to the doctor, shooting one last look at the ineffective cocoon of light she’d left behind. Such things had only ever happened to her in dreams before, and this was starting to feel more and more like one.

“Now what?”

“Take my hand.” Q’Mar looked at her dubiously. Going by her precious few experiences, it was strange of her to offer. “Once again, I am not real. We can’t be much closer than we are now; physical contact, or the appearance of it, will make no difference.”

Q’Mar grabbed on, and the scene began to shift. Was this the moment she’d been waiting for? When everything settled back into familiar shapes, would she see them in reds and greens and blues?

And then pain shot through her head and the world exploded in a mess of sound and smell and a thousand other sensations at once. The doctor’s fingers dissolved beneath hers, and she was all alone against them. She closed her eyes, but it was no use, they were everywhere.

The shrill call of leikil as they splashed playfully in the ocean. The heady smell of jup-tal that made you a little woozy just being at the same table, even if you couldn’t drink it. The wail of a red alert piercing her chest with fear. The rich taste of an oskoid bursting on her tongue even with her mouth clamped shut. Daddy’s fingers (and she knew they were his, even though they were invisible) tickling her mercilessly. Wind rustling through the leaves, very close, as if she were listening to it from her treehouse. Acrid smoke filling her nostrils. The constant thrum of engines pounding too loudly into her head as if amplified, even though it was the kind of noise you got so used to you stopped hearing it after a while. Distant strains of songs, human and Lorquian alike, overlapping in a discordant jumble. The crunchy saltiness of the chips from her party. The sweet scents of countless alien flowers in the arboretum. And through it all, sickening bursts of pain that made her want to pray to ancient gods she didn’t even believe in that it would just stop, because it hurt, it hurt so much…

She screamed and screamed until her lungs felt empty, and it seemed to her that her mind screamed too, crying for help, casting about wildly for Dr. Selar, who seemed gone, maybe drowned in the sea of mixed messages coming from everywhere and nowhere.

Try to stay calm. It was her not-quite-voice again, seeming to come from inside her own head to rescue her, and she clung to it for dear life.

Her soothing words seemed to keep the worst of the pain away, and she breathed a little easier, silently begging for more.

What’s going on? she tried to ask, and she instantly knew the message had been delivered, even though she’d never talked with her mind instead of her mouth before.

Your brain is trying to translate unfamiliar information into familiar terms, she explained, and all Q’Mar wanted was to keep her talking, or thinking, or whatever it was, because the more she did, the further away the torturous knots of feelings seemed to go. I did not realize it would be painful.

It’s getting better.

I know, and though her tone was calm, a split second of amusement pulsed through her, immediately tempered by a wave of guilt. I am experiencing this with you. I never intended to put you through all this. If you open your eyes, you’ll find the transition is almost over.

Ever so slowly, Q’Mar complied. The strange shapes around her were still blurry and as grey as ever, but… what was that? She chased after it, but she hadn’t moved two steps when she found it was already gone. And yet… there had been a flash of something. She couldn’t give it a name, but she knew she hadn’t imagined it.

And then there was another, a splotch of something she didn’t know what to call, and another, and another, and they were becoming wonderfully solid around her and beneath her feet, turning into a smooth floor, and walls, and stars glistening out of tall windows on the far side, and tables that had been pushed away to make room for people, all sorts of people in Starfleet uniforms, and if those were uniforms, then that was what it meant to wear yellow and blue and red, and now she knew! For real!

She thought she’d feel the sting of happy tears in her eyes any moment, but it never came. Someone only vaguely familiar came up to her and greeted her warmly. It was the woman who had covered for Dr. Selar when they’d been to the holodeck to see Oz for the first time, Nurse Ogawa. Wait, did she remember her name on her own, or was it the doctor who had supplied it? Somehow, it felt like the thin line where Q’Mar ended and Dr. Selar began was getting blurry. She should have been way more scared about that than she actually was, she was sure of it. Anyway, if Nurse Ogawa was in Medical and wearing her regular uniform, then that was what humans called blue. That was progress, right? How pretty. No wonder Clara liked it, and so did Dorothy, for that matter. But… whoa, wasn’t the nurse a lot taller the last time she’d seen her?

You are seeing from my point of view.

Where are we? When did this happen?

Ten Forward. I selected a memory that I believed would provide you maximum enjoyment of colour vision. This is my recollection of the crew’s latest art exhibit.

Those last two words seemed to linger in her head like an echo. If this was an art exhibit, then surely…? But she only allowed herself a tiny bit of hope, because hope, she’d learnt, sometimes led to disappointment, and she didn’t want it to spoil this precious experience.

She would have dearly loved to commit every single painting in the room to memory, touch them, even, to see if the colours felt different as well as filling her hungry eyes with a spectacle the likes of which she’d never seen, but it was her turn in the back seat. She knew only too well that the reason she could enjoy all of this was that these eyes weren’t hers, and if it meant that neither was the rest of the body and she was forced to walk only where Dr. Selar had walked and see only what she had seen, well, it didn’t matter. It was worth it. Now, if only she could spot Mr. Data…

Nurse Ogawa led them closer to the windows, where another human woman was entertaining a small group of guests, obviously explaining something about what she’d painted, though art was one thing Q’Mar had never even hoped to understand until now.

“Lieutenant Wright,” she heard Dr. Selar say through a mouth that felt a little hers too—and what a peculiar feeling that was!

“Oh, hello, Doctor. Come to see my latest work?”

“Indeed. By my understanding of human visual arts, it appears you have decided to go back to your roots.”

Dimly, Q’Mar noted that Lieutenant Wright’s face, much like Nurse Ogawa’s, looked like she probably came from the part of Earth they called Asia. But frankly, her latest geography lessons were the last thing on her mind.

There, framed by a twinkling expanse of stars, stood a sight so beautiful it seemed to ram violently into her stomach. Against a soft background of drifting clouds in a colour she couldn’t pinpoint – purple, came Dr. Selar’s prompt, if a little amused, assistance –, Lieutenant Wright had painted a vast landscape of rocks that seemed to float weightlessly on the canvas, and though each was different from the next and there was no pattern that she could see, it was perfect, as if a giant hand had scattered them knowing exactly where they would look best. Clinging to the doctor’s running commentary, Q’Mar found that she had coloured them in warm reds and browns, giving each a thin black outline that made them stand out even more sharply.

“Spot on. I tried my hand at a Japanese style of painting—only, the great Hokusai could hardly have picked the asteroid belt of Rousseau V as a subject.”

“Interesting combination. I suppose the beginning of space exploration always broadens the range of choices considerably, and art cannot help but reflect that in the coming years.” Q’Mar giggled internally at hearing herself talk like that.

Dr. Selar said her goodbyes – no, she wanted to look at the asteroids a little longer! – and moved on, and from there on out, Q’Mar could barely keep up with the wonders she was faced with.

She learnt all about orange and yellow from a painting of a Risian sunset: not one, but two suns shining brightly on the canvas, and as soon as the young ensign who had made it stopped waggling his eyebrows and saying that his latest shore leave had been ‘inspiring in more ways than one’ in a voice thick with meanings she didn’t get and invited Dr. Selar to have a closer look, she thought her heart would stop, assuming she even had one within someone else’s memory. What had seemed like a picture of twin suns setting an alien sea on fire was actually a myriad of tiny little individual dots of colour arranged next to each other with all the precision in the world so that all you could see if you only stepped back was the landscape of Risa.

“French pointillism,” said the young man. “I don’t know what got into me, but boy, am I proud of this one.”

“A worthy endeavour. I was not aware that humans had the patience to accomplish this.”

He bristled a little at the comment, but his smile was firmly back in place soon enough. “I guess we’re just full of surprises.”

Green, it seemed, had a way of coming to her from all sides even when she wasn’t looking for it. The next time she rehearsed a scene in Emerald City, she was free to choose the colour of the lush Feloran bromeliads that reminded their Bajoran painter of home, or the shade of those beautiful hillsides that were apparently somewhere on Earth – the first picture of Earth she saw properly! Maybe she would get to go there one day –, or the one in the portrait of a strange alien lady with barely any clothes on that she only caught for a split second before the doctor turned away from it, both her old and her current self pronouncing it vulgar, with the former making a mental note to tell the painter’s superiors about it.

Blue was everywhere too. Someone had brought a picture of an Andorian friend, smiling widely with his antennae curled in flattery, and another aspiring artist had chosen a stunning view of Casperia Prime from orbit as his best piece, with its wide rings surrounding what looked like a blue marble suspended in the blackness of space.

And then there were the chameleon roses. Patterson, ever the plant expert, had been very taken with them ever since they’d been added to the Enterprise’s arboretum, but Q’Mar hadn’t been able to see what was so special about them… until now. Someone had decided to join the exhibit not with one painting or just a few of them, but with a whole collection. They were smaller than most, but to Q’Mar, they were amazing. The painter, grinning from ear to ear through all of her explanation, said she had invited people in all sorts of moods to hold one so she could practice faces, and in each piece, the rose was a different colour. Blue, purple, white, pink, even some beautiful ones in which the rose was half-and-half, as if it couldn’t decide what to become. They were all there. How was she supposed to pick a favourite at this rate? There was no way to tell which one was the best.

I was counting on this particular incident to give you the widest possible range, said Dr. Selar’s kind mental voice, and oh, how right she had been to choose this memory! And yet – maybe she was getting better at reading the messages she sent, or maybe she’d done that on purpose – Q’Mar couldn’t help but get the sense that the best was yet to come.

There were familiar faces in the next flock of guests the doctor went to join, although everyone looked so different in colour it took her a moment to reconcile them with the way she usually saw them. Counsellor Troi, in particular, looked like something out of a book of Earth fairy tales in her flowing blue dress that was not quite the same shade as a Science uniform; strangely, the way the lights reflected off the Captain’s shiny bald head was a little funnier from this perspective, and oh, would Dr. Crusher be embarrassed if she told her to her face how much she liked her hair? And of course, there was no mistaking the voice that was lecturing them in big words ending in ‘ism’ on what the paintings were supposed to mean. Q’Mar was momentarily stunned. Even before this, she’d noticed how much lighter Mr. Data’s skin was compared to everyone else’s, but she’d never realized just how much he stood out, and his eyes… she didn’t suppose anyone on the ship had eyes like his, golden and almost unmoving as he recited his well-prepared string of artistic jargon. They were… not scary, precisely, but Q’Mar had to forcefully remind herself of all the times she had seen them soften with something that, if it wasn’t emotion, was surely the next best thing.

“Wait, wait, wait, Data,” Mr. La Forge said, interrupting the steady flow of his speech, “can you hold on a minute and explain just what abstract painting has to do with your cat?”

“It was a style I had not experimented with yet. Spot was the only available subject, though I must admit she is not very good at posing.” And just like that, his eyes went back to being as nice as she knew them to be, even though the change in his expression had been so tiny it was hardly there at all. “I had considered asking you, as the way a painting is seen through your VISOR could perhaps provide me with unique insight, but then I realized that abstract painting does not usually produce results that conform to human canons of beauty, so I estimated a 73% chance of a negative reaction to what you would perceive as an ‘ugly’ depiction of your figure. Spot, on the other hand, is incapable of being offended by a matter of aesthetics.”

There was some scattered laughter at this, and Data stared at the others’ gleeful faces as if he were looking at an unusual spatial phenomenon on a viewscreen.

“Was that considered humorous?”

“By everyone but me,” said the engineer. “Someday you’ll understand.”

And it was Spot indeed, sitting proudly on something red whose jagged shape mustn’t have been very comfortable despite all the fur on her backside, and staring at her from the canvas as if inviting her to play, but… well… she wasn’t as pretty as the real thing at all. She was all sharp angles, and didn’t look nearly as soft and warm as Q’Mar had felt her under her fingers the very few times she’d managed to pet her. Why had Mr. Data chosen to paint her like that? She itched to ask him, but unless Dr. Selar had done so herself, she would have to wait until the next time they met.

“What about that one, Data?” asked Counsellor Troi, and as the doctor followed her pointed finger, she, too, saw that there was another painting, covered by a rich red cloth so that the audience couldn’t look at it yet. “Is it what I think it is?”

“As I do not possess any telepathic abilities, I am unable to answer that question with absolute certainty. However, considering that I have refrained from displaying this piece to the general public for five months, seventeen days and six hours, I have reason to believe it is indeed what you think it is.”

He uncovered it with an obviously studied flourish and everyone held their collective breath. Q’Mar would have joined in, but it was Dr. Selar’s body she was seeing it from, and Vulcans simply did not react like that, so she had to be content with staring in wonder.

She didn’t know what it was, but if it had been up to her, she would have stood looking at it until she grew old and wrinkled. The swirls of light and shadow seemed to want to move even in their stillness, and in the middle of it all stood a single white star that called to her insistently, almost sucking her into the painting to find something at the end of the long tunnel of deep, deep blue, she had no idea what, but something very special, no doubt.

“Data, that’s… that’s amazing! Why did you wait so long?” asked the Counsellor, and she ached to free herself from the confines of Dr. Selar’s ever-so-controlled mind and body to voice her loud agreement. “If I didn’t know you any better, I’d say you were suffering from lack of confidence.”

“This piece holds a particular importance to me. While I cannot say it is of ‘sentimental value’, it is without a doubt a milestone in my artistic and personal growth. Unlike most of my other subjects, it has no basis in reality, or, in other words, it is not something I have actually seen. I consider it one of my first attempts at being truly creative, in the fullest sense of the term. This, besides a number of technical reasons, was what made me hesitate to put it on display until now.”

“I didn’t know that,” she admitted softly. “I thought you were just being a perfectionist, as always. Good for you, Data. This is why you took up painting in the first place, isn’t it?”

“Yes. The imitation of other painters’ styles is excellent practice for my fine motor skills, but I found that I wished to move beyond that and seek one of my own. Would you say I was successful?”

“I’m no critic, but if this is the result, then yes, it’s a hundred percent you.”

“Thank you, Counsellor.” He paused, and Q’Mar realized that if it had been anyone else, he would have sounded choked up. “I consider that the highest praise I have received tonight.”

“Congratulations, Mr. Data,” said the Captain, and he was so serious you would have thought he was giving him a promotion or something just as important. “I believe I can say without fear of exaggerating that this brings you one step closer to humanity.”

Q’Mar felt something stir inside her when she realized how closely those words mirrored the way she felt. She was quite content with the species she’d been born into, thank you very much, and she couldn’t say she was doing this to be more human, exactly, but after this experience, she could at least understand something that her human friends took for granted and had always been inaccessible to her. It was worth every second of pain and fear she’d been through to get there.

Mr. Data’s words of thanks – and she couldn’t think of them as anything less than heartfelt, even though he would surely correct her – sounded oddly faint, as if she were listening from further away than she was, and then it was like trying to remember a dream when you woke up in the morning, only to see it slip away as if trying to catch water with your bare hands. The scene began to blur before her eyes, its beautiful colours running together in a shapeless mess.

When it reformed, the first thing she could think of was how cold her face felt in the spots where Dr. Selar’s fingers had just left her.

The room seemed both familiar and strange now that it was back to its old grey self—familiar, because it was as she’d always seen it; strange, because the magic she’d just experienced (and no, she wasn’t going to let anyone spoil the moment with their incomprehensible grown-up talk of neural pathways and the like, it was magic, and that was that) had been so intense that, now that it was over, she felt oddly empty and tired, as she usually was after a heady rush of excitement.

She looked up at Dr. Crusher, wanting no more than to tell her everything, but her head still hurt a little with a distant shadow of the pain she’d felt within the meld, and the words refused to get out as quickly as they usually did, as if she’d forgotten how to talk.

“So pretty…” she managed, sounding stupid even to herself.

“What?” she asked with a tiny smile.

“The chameleon roses, and the suns on Risa... and your hair too.”

“Why, thank you. Why don’t you lie down while I ask Dr. Selar some very important questions?”

Oh, what an excellent idea. She curled up on the bed she’d been sitting on and listened with her eyes closed, glad, for once, that they were seeing nothing but the darkness behind her eyelids.

What happened?” she rounded in on the Vulcan. “Her K3 indicators spiked so high I had half a mind to pull you away.”

“That would have been inadvisable.”

“I know, but my hands were itching, let me tell you. What went wrong?”

“Nothing. I had not foreseen that pain would be involved, but I have concluded it was a natural, if unpleasant, part of the process.”

“Unpleasant? She’s only a child, and I could name a lot of adults who have never been through that much!”

“Her brain was not used to processing colours, though I suspect it is not entirely incapable of it. That initially caused an adverse reaction I had not expected.”

“You mean she could…?”

“The cells devoted to colour vision are not entirely nonexistent, but they are not yet functional. It would be logical to assume that her species might eventually evolve in that direction, but it won’t happen for a few million years at the very least, and I would not wish to tamper with evolution itself to correct a condition that is natural to her race. The child got the experience she wished for and she’s going to have to make do with it.”

“Perhaps an external device like Geordi’s…”

“Doubtful. Lt. Cmdr. La Forge’s VISOR, while undoubtedly suited to his particular situation, is not a viable solution to this. Firstly, we would have to adapt it to her physiology, and secondly, even seeing in colour temporarily was an obvious strain on her brain and optic nerves. Making it semi-permanent, if at all possible, might be too much.”

“I see what you mean.”

Fighting through the tiredness that made her limbs heavy, Q’Mar opened an eye, then the other, and finally spoke up: “May I ask Dr. Selar a question too?”

“Certainly,” said the Vulcan. “As it was your first time, questions are only natural.”

“Is it normal that my head hurts?”

“Yes. There are records of mind melds that are even more traumatic than this; considering what happened, your symptoms are the least that could be expected.”

“I’d give a mild analgesic, but I have a feeling that letting it pass on its own is probably a safer bet.”

“That is a wise choice, Doctor. It is logical to refrain from administering drugs so shortly after an experience no member of her species has ever had before. I would also advise keeping her under observation for the next few hours. And, Q’Mar, please remember that if you notice any other symptom that you think might be related, however small, you are to refer directly to me as soon as possible. I have seen several cases of patients doing damage to themselves under the mistaken belief that ‘it was no big deal’, and I would not wish you to be one of them.”

“I will, Doctor, I promise.”

“Good girl. Now, what was that about my hair?”

“It looks so different in colour. I like it.”

“Why, thank you! Get some rest now. It’s the best medicine sometimes, and honestly, in this case, it’s probably the only one.”

 

Q’Mar had lost count of how many people had already yelled “No running in the corridors!” after her. Three, or maybe four. She didn’t care, she just had to get to Sickbay, and fast. She was panting with the effort when the doors slid open to let her in, but thankfully, she spotted Dr. Selar not too far away, and her heavy breathing was apparently greeting enough.

“What is wrong? Are you experiencing side effects from yesterday?”

“I think… I think I dreamt in colour last night. I don’t even remember much of it, but it was the best dream I’ve ever had.”
In Living Colour
Hi, everyone!
Drumroll, please... yes, yes, YESSSSS! This had been in the works since... oh, I don't know, forever? It grew a lot longer than I originally intended, it was painfully awkward to write in some parts, and it's generally the product of a lot of blood, sweat and tears (none of the three is literal, but still...). I tweaked some sentences endlessly, rewrote some sections radically three or four times at the very least, stared fruitlessly at the screen trying to find the words in that one particular case that almost made me postpone the posting to tomorrow, and finally managed to produce this. I'm so proud of my little baby.
Also, the idea of her brain having to get used to unfamiliar sensory information by translating it into familiar sensations in what we could call a form of synesthesia is shamelessly taken from Isaac Asimov's short story Secret Sense, though obviously not as well-written. Sorry, Uncle Isaac. (Yeah, I call him Uncle, so sue me. His works have been my constant companions for a large part of the past year, I've earned it.)
Anyway, rant number one over. Let me just quickly label this as #064 of the 100 Innocent Themes challenge, "Painting", and I'll happily launch into rant number two.
The opening formula for mind melds. Whoa. Don't even get me started. It used to bother me that there was no real standard for it in TOS, and then it became pretty much fixed from TNG onwards.
Then I watched ENT, and all was right with the universe again. ENT has variations on the standard words. OHMYGOSH YES. It makes so much sense. It's perfectly plausible that the era of ENT and TOS had no single ritual phrase, and that the later standard took hold gradually until it became sort of crystallized and nobody even considered making their own variations anymore. Honestly, at this point, I can only pray that VOY doesn't disprove this (it's the only one I haven't watched yet). Anyway, TNG is well into the era of the unified standard words, which is a true blessing, because I didn't have to make them up, which would have been ten times as difficult as using something tried and true.
Rant number two over. I feel so much better now. :XD:
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Data wiped the last traces of moisture off his cheek and checked his reflection to make entirely sure he was presentable for rehearsal, though to be exact, he’d just had a rehearsal of his own.

Given the lack of certain bodily functions and his superior control on the growth of his facial hair, he did not make use of the fully equipped bathroom in his quarters as often as his fellow officers, but he had been spending 6.2% more time looking at his image in the mirror as of late.

In this particular case, he had thought it best to verify one more time that he could, if the situation required it, produce an approximation of tears, and that the effect was realistic enough to be used on stage. Dr. Crusher, being intimately familiar with his inner workings, would not flinch, but he estimated an 87% chance that many of the others would react with genuine shock when he got to the first instance in which his script called for him to cry. He was not even certain that they knew he had actual, functioning tear ducts.

Granted, his tears were not composed of water, salts, antibodies and enzymes, nor did they change their chemical makeup according to what triggered them, and upon closer inspection, they were not even clear in colour as human tears were, but they would do for the purpose of the play.

He had been compared to his character more than once during his tenure in Starfleet, sometimes in well-meaning ways, sometimes with an emotional undertone that likened it to an insult, but in both cases, those who said it had been labouring under a partial misconception. Data could see the similarities, but there were several fundamental differences between him and the Tin Man to take into account: first, that L. Frank Baum’s character had once been human, and was perhaps closer to a Borg than an android in his progression from biological to artificial life form; second, that while his wish for a heart was an excellent metaphor for his own emotion chip – and perhaps an even better one now that he knew of its existence, that the accomplishment of his ultimate goal might very well depend on a single object, albeit so much more complex than a heart made of silk and sawdust –, what the Tin Man perceived as missing from his life was one feeling, that of romantic love, instead of the whole range of them with all their highs and lows—and in Data’s opinion, thousands of those lows would have been adequate payment, if they meant a chance to experience a single high. But the fact remained that his character, even in the ‘heartless’ state he bemoaned for most of the script, showed a broader variety of emotional reactions than he could ever display in normal conditions, particularly by weeping on several occasions and doing damage to himself in the process, as the shedding of tears caused his face to rust, which was impractical, to say the least. Apparently, his suspension of disbelief was another skill that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was putting to the test, as well as his budding abilities as an actor.

When he had decided to take up acting, his colleagues had been mostly supportive, but had he been human, their disbelieving tones probably would have undermined his confidence—what did he mean to accomplish by simulating what he could never have?

This time, however, he was, perhaps paradoxically, at an advantage: it took a seasoned human actor to cry at will, whereas he, despite not having experienced any of the emotions that could elicit tears first-hand, had not required any particular training. Rerouting some of his bodily fluid so that it would spill when needed, lending believability to his performance, was no different a function than calculating their ETA to the next planet when the Captain requested it.

 

Q’Mar looked slightly subdued as they made their way to the cargo bay for practice, she with her PADD tucked under her arm, he without, as the true reason he took part in rehearsal was to learn to give his lines the proper emotional inflections while at the same time working seamlessly with the rest of the cast, not to memorize the words. That task had been accomplished almost instantly, as soon as Dr. Crusher had sent him the material, and while the others were just now beginning to alternate between reading out loud from their devices and reciting their respective parts without looking at them, he had never once needed external help, much to the little girl’s envy.

She’d also been disappointed to find out that most meetings would be taking place in a cargo bay with a simple ‘stage’ marked on the floor in tape instead of a fully furnished holodeck simulating the lush grass of the Land of Oz and Toto’s boundless enthusiasm (as soon as the holographic dog had been programmed to recognize her as its owner, it had promptly started licking her face, so they had to tone down his puppy-like energy a bit to make it docile enough for the purposes of the show), but they’d soon gotten her to understand that they could hardly claim the room as their own until the day of the performance, so the knowledge of their less than appealing destination alone did not justify her current state.

“Is something the matter?”

“This play makes me feel stupid,” she said sulkily. “I wish a wizard would come and stuff my head with pins and needles, then maybe I could learn all my lines. Why can’t I be as good as you?”

Considering her age and his latest estimate of her intelligence, the learning process was actually going better than her pessimistic perception of her own performance would suggest, but judging by what little he could safely say he’d understood of her psychology, it was an understandable reaction to the apparently daunting task of memorizing a script in a language she wasn’t entirely familiar with, especially considering that she was the only child actress in the group and she only had fully grown adults as a basis for comparison.

“As you will doubtlessly remember, the Scarecrow is under the impression that he has no brains, but he is often the one with the best ideas. Have you not considered the possibility that you might be making the same mistake?”

“I sure hope so,” she answered, sounding at least marginally comforted. “But still, sometimes I feel like I’m wasting everybody’s time. I bet you’ve never had anyone who always needed to be told what to do at least twice.”

“That is an exaggeration. Having to interact with us in Standard has improved your language proficiency by 37.2% so far. Have you tried it in class yet?”

“No, I want it to be a surprise. Besides, I’m afraid I’ll mess up in front of Miss Kyle.”

“An interesting course of action, but I believe you are being overly cautious. If you can hold a conversation with us during rehearsal without the translator, a lesson at your current level should not be a problem.”

After briefly experimenting with it, they’d found that keeping Q’Mar’s universal translator offline when it was time for her to say Dorothy’s lines and online on all other occasions, be it to listen to Dr. Crusher’s instructions or to ask for a simple glass of water, was too impractical a method to be sustained for long, so they’d opted for the most drastic solution available—she would get rid of her combadge as soon as she stepped inside, as if it were an extended Standard lesson, and make herself understood to the best of her steadily growing ability, with all the difficulties and frustrations the decision brought. At first, the new situation had revealed an unsuspected shy side of her: the usually curious and talkative child would often lapse into long silences and, rather than speak and risk making a mistake, seemed to prefer to say nothing. Necessity, however, was apparently a stronger force than fear in this case, and other than her slow and careful way of enunciating, with the occasional panicked pause when the word she was looking for slipped her mind, there was now very little difference between her behaviour with the translator and the one without.

 

“You know, Data, there’s something different between the way you talk as yourself and as the Tin Man,” said Cmdr. Riker during a break in their rehearsal. Q’Mar, for her part, was fairly pleased with herself, as she’d finally managed to pretend to ‘oil’ all of Mr. Data’s joints without bursting out laughing at his rigid, jerky movements that gave a very good impression of a layer of imaginary rust making them difficult.

“It… it must be the contractions, I think,” said Lt. Barclay. She’d soon found that she liked their resident Cowardly Lion very much, because he was often as nervous as her about the upcoming show, and if they could be nervous together, it was much more bearable for both of them. Besides, he was the only other person on the ship besides Mr. Data that Spot wouldn’t scratch and hiss at, and that had to count for something.

“Your statement is accurate. While I have found that the Tin Man’s part does not contain many of them compared to other characters I have played, there are certainly enough to make the difference noticeable. I am not entirely incapable of using contractions, and repeating words I have memorized from an external source is one of the occasions on which I do.”

Mr. Barclay looked like he couldn’t quite believe he’d said the right thing, a feeling she was all too familiar with, as she had it every time she finished a sentence without incident. She looked longingly at the little Starfleet-issued pin that made things so much easier for her, currently abandoned on top of the nearest container in the cargo bay, looking shiny but perfectly useless.

“Let’s get back to work, shall we?” Dr. Crusher’s enthusiasm effectively put an end to their break.

The next part they practiced was a rather tough one for everyone involved, because Lt. Barclay had to hit Cmdr. Riker, and he was so good at pretending to fall over (since the Scarecrow was so light that even the Lion’s half-hearted blow could send him spinning as if he’d been hit very hard indeed) that the lower-ranking officer interrupted the scene to apologize profusely, thinking he’d really hurt him and could even get in trouble for it.

Q’Mar was off to a rough start, herself: while she knew it was all make-believe, she didn’t feel the least bit at ease looking up at Lt. Barclay’s face and telling him off for being a coward. She had to go through her lines three times before they sounded properly angry and she didn’t stumble over the words (her rant wasn’t believable at all if she suddenly forgot that she was supposed to say ‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself’), but at long last, the Cowardly Lion made their band of travellers complete, and off they went to the City of Emeralds. Well, more like to the opposite side of the stage, but that didn’t matter.

And that was when it happened. In theory, Q’Mar knew what to expect, but to see it was a whole other story. Mr. Data froze in the middle of the imaginary yellow brick road, staring at his own foot, and though the beetle wasn’t there (they’d probably have a hologram of it too when showtime came), he looked so very sorry for having crushed it that she almost joined him in his crying, and as he gestured madly at her to oil his rusty jaw, she noticed that his tears were real. Throwing the script to the wind, she reached out and touched them. He froze once again, and it had very little to do with Dr. Crusher yelling “Stop!”, though to be fair, she didn’t sound quite as irritated at the interruption as she’d been on other occasions.

Q’Mar inspected her own fingers closely. “I’ve never seen you cry before.”

“You do not find it… disgusting?”

“Well, no, it’s just… just…” Ugh, not again! She made a sound of frustration as the words to describe what she felt escaped her, half-wishing to run off the stage and say it with the translator. “Your tears are different from mine.” The liquid was rather warm to the touch, but it was… oily, compared to what it felt like to wipe her own tears from her cheeks. It wasn’t exactly pleasant, but she wasn’t disgusted at all, just curious and more than a little sheepish, as if she’d just seen something she wasn’t supposed to—which was just plain ridiculous, if she gave it some thought, because it was in the script and it had to happen that way, and besides, Mr. Data wasn’t even really sad, and was in fact probably ready to tell her once again that he couldn’t be. But then, if he couldn’t be sad, or happy enough to cry tears of joy, why did he have them in the first place?

“That is correct. They are made of the same lubricant that keeps some of my internal systems functioning, which makes them quite the opposite of a rusting agent. I suppose that could be considered… ironic. It appears that my character and I are not so alike after all.”

“But you are!” The words tumbled out faster than they ever had without the UT’s help, and she had no idea where they were coming from, but they needed to be said, and frankly, her hesitations could go tumble out in the cold vacuum of space just beyond the force field that kept the room safe. “The Tin Man is worried because he thinks that without a heart, he can’t be a kind person, so he has to pay more attention than everyone else, right? Well, that’s just like you. I think you already have a heart, and a really big one too. It’s just a little… different.”

She wiped her fingers clean, and they left a more noticeable spot on her clothes than they would have if they’d been wet with her own tears, but as she wasn’t in full costume, she couldn’t care less. So what if his tears left her a little dirtier, or his heart didn’t work the same way as hers? It was very much there, and that was all that mattered.
Just a Little Different
Hi, everyone!
I can finally present #016 of the 100 Innocent Themes challenge, "A Big Heart". Frankly, I've known it was coming ever since I started this Wizard of Oz arc.
Just a few quick notes:
a) No, I have no idea what Data's tears are actually made of, but it seemed to make sense based on that one scene in which he actually does cry (which is adorable, by the way, but I'm a cat person, I simply couldn't think otherwise. :heart:), considering they're yellowish.
b) The costumes they're going to be wearing for the show are very much like the ones in the Judy Garland movie, but the script I'm envisioning is an adaptation of the original novel, and closer to that than to the cinematic version.
c) This story was originally very different, longer and introducing another issue I'm planning on dealing with soon. The part that was cut is probably going to find its way into the next piece. I didn't know how to start it off anyway, so I guess the problems I had with this one were actually a blessing in disguise.
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Dr. Crusher looked at the appointments for the day and failed to suppress a grin. She couldn’t possibly have asked for better timing. Resisting the urge to rub her hands in anticipation, she began the preparations for her master plan.

 

Q’Mar hoped this visit would be the last one. Not that she minded seeing the doctors so often, but she felt just fine, really, and she was beginning to lose sight of the reason why her day-to-day plans were so full of trips to Sickbay. Oh, well. As usual, she started wondering who would be available: while she knew that there were several people working under Dr. Crusher, it was usually her or Dr. Selar who took care of her, probably because they’d already read her file so many times they knew it by heart.

The Vulcan doctor was the first person she caught sight of as she went in, so it was probably her turn.

Then Q’Mar took in the whole scene and had to blink hard once or twice to make sure she wasn’t seeing things.

She and a young, dark-haired girl whose uniform was a different shade in her eyes were standing on either side of a biobed, and just as she was beginning to wonder why someone with an entirely different job would be there as something other than a patient, the person lying between them sprang up to a sitting position and she realized it was Mr. Data. It was all she could do not to let her jaw drop. Mr. Data was never, ever sick! He could get hurt, as she’d already found out the hard way, but a quick look revealed no nasty burns and nothing noticeably missing, so this wasn’t like last time. What was going on?

“Very well, Lt. Cmdr. Data. Consider yourself released and fit for duty.”

“As if he could be any less than fit,” said the girl.

“Still, this was not a futile exercise, Ensign Gomez,” answered Dr. Selar sternly. “You know full well that the regulations make no exceptions, even for an android.”

“Of course! And to be perfectly honest, I still can’t believe they trusted me with this.”

“I did not inquire about Lt. Cmdr. La Forge’s reasons to choose you, but I had no objections to your handling of my periodic physical after he spoke so highly of you.”

“He did? Uh, I mean, thank you for the vote of confidence. I’ll do my best to live up to it.”

Q’Mar came closer, not quite daring to interrupt them, but hoping they would take notice of her. Dr. Selar was the first to acknowledge her presence.

“Good, you are just in time for your visit.” She always knew what time it was down to the last second, just like Mr. Data. Q’Mar itched to ask at least one of them how they did it, but the occasion never seemed to come.

“Is your recovery going well?” asked the android. At times like this, she simply refused to believe that he didn’t sound like he actually cared.

“Yes. And… thank you for carrying me all the way here when I got sick.” There, it was off her chest now. She’d been meaning to say it for a while.

“It was no trouble at all. If you will excuse me…” He slid off the bed and made to leave, but Q’Mar couldn’t resist stopping him.

“What about you? Are you okay?”

His eyes flickered to the biobed he’d just left before he answered: “Yes. I am only here because Starfleet requires a periodic assessment of every officer’s physical condition, human or not.” He paused and seemed to have to look for the right words, something he hardly ever did. “The fact that I am allowed to have mine in Sickbay rather than Engineering makes them… a more positive experience than they would otherwise be.”

“I never thought I’d meet someone who was actually happy to go to the doctor’s, no offense meant,” said Ensign Gomez.

“None taken,” answered Dr. Selar evenly. “Illness and injury can hardly be associated with positive memories, so your statement is founded. However, Lt. Cmdr. Data’s situation is somewhat exceptional.”

He looked just about ready to answer, but whatever he meant to say was cut off by Dr. Crusher’s familiar voice calling out: “Crusher to Sickbay.”

Uh-oh. It seemed the visit was off. Even if two out of three people in her line of sight barely changed their expressions at all, it was obvious they were already prepared for the worst.

“Dr. Selar here, go ahead.”

“Oh, good. Are Data and Q’Mar there as well?”

She blinked in confusion, and for all her usual impassivity, the doctor didn’t seem to be in a much better state. What? Well, it certainly didn’t sound like an emergency, that much was clear, but what in the world could Dr. Crusher want from her outside of a visit?

“I can only surmise that you either memorized today’s schedule or asked the computer to locate them. They are with me as we speak.”

“Isn’t that just perfect?” Her tone of voice was definitely happy, which was a good thing, but the reason for the call was still a mystery. “Could the three of you spare a minute to come to holodeck two?”

Even Mr. Data seemed… well, as confused as he could get. Strangely enough, neither of the two adults seemed to have any clue what was happening. Ensign Gomez, who was still watching the scene, seemed torn between laughing and being concerned that the CMO had accidentally injected herself with something that had driven her crazy.

“May I have a moment to find a substitute?”

“Sure, take your time.” The communication was cut off.

Dr. Selar walked away briskly, and was not alone when she returned.

“I am aware that this is unexpected, Nurse Ogawa, but I have just received a most peculiar request and I find myself forced to leave my post. If everything goes well, I should be back shortly.”

The other woman seemed perplexed, but if the pips didn’t deceive her, her rank was below the doctor’s, so she had no choice but to cover for her while they went to find some answers.

With a chirp of her combadge, she alerted Dr. Crusher that they were ready to leave. She sounded positively giddy. Again, what?

 

When the large doors of the holodeck slid open and then closed behind them, it took a moment for her eyes to get used to the darkness. She didn’t know how much Dr. Selar or Mr. Data could see in there, but she could barely make out three strange human-sized figures. What had they just gotten into?

“Lights up,” Dr. Crusher’s voice commanded. Q’Mar squinted at the sudden change. Even she could tell that the strange place they’d just been plunged into must have been full of bright, garish colours. The grass at her feet – her list said that was green, and by the looks of it, it was probably greener than any she’d ever seen – was split cleanly by a narrow brick road in a different shade she couldn’t pinpoint, and it led to…

When she took in the scene before her eyes, her first reaction was, for the third time that day, What?

Then she snorted loudly. Instead of her uniform, Dr. Crusher was wearing a huge frilly dress and what looked like a crown on her head, and two enormous fake wings were stuck to her back, as if she’d tried to grow membranes but had put them in the wrong place. The other two people were little more than strangers to her, and they were sporting an even stranger selection of clothes: one was in a worn-looking costume that seemed to be just about to fall apart at the seams and scatter what appeared to be bits of stuffing all over the place, and the other had a suit that only revealed his face, which, judging by the mane, ears, paws and – yes! – tail sticking out of his backside, was supposed to make him look like an Earth lion standing on his hind legs.

“Uh… roar?” he said, wiggling a paw at her in a way that was a good few light years away from threatening.

Q’Mar lost it. She didn’t mean to laugh at them, really, but it bubbled up before she could stop it, and soon enough, she was bent over, gasping for air as uncontrollable giggling fits made it impossible to draw breath. She looked up at Dr. Crusher, but it only made things worse. Seeing her grin from ear to ear and give an enthusiastic little wave to the thing she was carrying, which, as far as she could see, was a long stick with a little glittering star on top, had her wheezing in helpless laughter all over again. The two men flanking her were having a hard time holding in some guffaws of their own, too.

She looked at Dr. Selar instead. Surely she would help her get a grip on herself, she thought as tears started leaking out without her permission, and indeed, she was as serious as ever… hey, wait a minute, did her lips just twitch? It wasn’t much, but it was there, she was sure of it! She’d never see her laugh or even smile outright like the Vulcan in the song, but even as she clasped her hands behind her back and stood ramrod straight, looking everywhere but at the merry band assembled before them, her eyes were sparkling with not-so-secret amusement. Ha! So she did know how to have fun!

Only Mr. Data looked unaffected. Instead of finding it funny, he seemed to think this was just another very interesting scientific experiment, if the way he cocked his head in thought was any indication.

His pale hand shot forward to support one of her shoulders just as she thought she’d fall over entirely from too much laughing, tears of mirth streaking her cheeks and almost getting in the way of her respirator, not that the device was helping her much anyway.

“Are you in distress?”

“Oh, Data, you’re something else. Haven’t you ever heard the expression ‘laugh ‘til you cry’?” said the doctor, sounding like she was about to laugh herself.

“Yes,” he answered, “but this is the first time I have seen it happen. Before I cross-referenced it with my knowledge of human anatomy and found it to be an actual occurrence, I believed there was at least a 21% chance it was a case of hyperbole. She is not in danger, I take it?”

“No, Data. Laughing to tears might be a very real possibility, but as far as I know, ‘to die laughing’ is still a figure of speech.”

“That is good to know,” he said. “Then, Doctor, would you be so kind as to explain why you have summoned us here? Your cast for L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz appears to be incomplete.”

Q’Mar bit her lip hard, and it appeared to help some. When she was sufficiently steadied, Mr. Data withdrew his hand, and she looked up at him, hoping for further explanations. As always, he knew more than anyone else about what was going on. The costumes were still hilarious, but maybe she could even learn something if she managed to stop laughing and listen.

“Oh, it is,” answered Dr. Crusher. “Q’Mar, I don’t know if I told you already, but I’m running a little theatre club on the side. Do you have anything like that on Lorquis?”

“Yes.” Her parents had even taken her to see some plays, even if they were a little too difficult to understand for her. The big difference between the kind of acting she’d seen and what little she knew of Earth theatre was that climbing and gliding up and down the several levels of the stage was as important a part of the play as the lines that were spoken. Mommy said that you could understand a lot more about the plot just by keeping track of who was on the upper levels and who was on the lower ones. “But this looks… weird.” She hoped she hadn’t offended them.

“I’m not surprised. I’m glad you can understand the concept, at least. Well, then, I’m proud to present…” she paused dramatically, then gestured to the man standing to her left, “Cmdr. William Riker as the Scarecrow.” He took off his hat and bowed with a flourish. “Lt. Reginald Barclay as the Cowardly Lion, an inspired choice, if I do say so myself.” The ‘lion’ bowed and had to shake his mane out of his face afterwards. “And yours truly as Glinda, the Good Witch of the South.” She gave a little curtsey. It was obvious she’d been preparing all this for a very long time, if her smug expression was anything to go by.

“Data is one of our actors too.” Q’Mar grinned at him. It had never come up. He really could do everything. “And if I know him, which I do, he will have put two and two together as soon as he saw us in full costume.”

“I believe you orchestrated this as a way to ask me to play the Tin Man.”

“See? Exactly as I planned. It’s not… offensive, is it?”

Mr. Data appeared to consider his answer for a moment. “As you know, I took up acting as a means of obtaining a better understanding of human emotions. So far, I have attempted to do so by accepting parts that were as different from my off-stage self as possible. It will be an interesting change of pace to play one that, in many ways, is so similar. Please send the script to my PADD at your earliest convenience.”

Dr. Crusher looked just about to start jumping up and down in joy; Q’Mar, however, was still confused.

“Mr. Data, why do you say that this Tin Man is so much like you? And what does all this have to do with us?”

“I suggest you familiarize yourself with the Terran children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. You might like it.” He looked ready for a full-blown lecture about the plot and characters, but the doctor stopped him before he could even open his mouth to deliver it.

“Don’t spoil it for her, now.”

“Ah. It would indeed maximize your enjoyment if you took up the reading with as little information as possible. All you need to know for now is that my character, the Tin Man, is also an artificial life form, whose ultimate wish is to obtain a heart.”

Her laughing mood was forgotten. She could definitely see the similarities now, even though she was practically bursting to tell him that they weren’t so alike after all, because as far as she was concerned, he already had one.

“As for your other question, Dr. Crusher is probably better suited to answer it.”

“I was just coming to that. Now, since you don’t know the story, you couldn’t possibly guess it, but the main character just so happens to be a little girl. The part is usually given to someone older, but I honestly couldn’t think of anyone better. I’ve wanted to stage this play ever since Data joined us, but we didn’t have the right child actress. Would you be interested in being our Dorothy?”

Q’Mar had no clue what Dorothy was supposed to do or say, but the answer was out of her mouth before such considerations could stop it. “Yes, yes, yes!”

“Well, this day is just getting better and better. And since the two of you seem to be spending a lot of time together lately, Dr. Selar, I would like to extend a formal invitation to come and watch the performance.”

“I shall endeavour to keep my schedule free of other engagements.”

“Perfect! Now we just have to adapt Dorothy’s costume, and the rest will work itself out… mostly.”

Uh-oh. Q’Mar didn’t like the sound of that hesitation at all.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m afraid we can’t translate the script and allow you to perform with the universal translator on you.”

“Wait… you mean I’ll have to learn it all by heart in Standard?” She gulped and crossed her fingers, hoping it wasn’t too long. “But won’t my accent ruin everything?”

“Don’t worry about that. Nobody’s a professional here. It’ll be good practice.”

“But Dorothy sounds like a human name. I just don’t look right.”

“Nobody will care. Last I heard, one of the school plays had a little Bolian as Cinderella. People can just use their imagination.”

“Well, I can try…”

“Good. As for your little friend Toto, we can just have the play in here. Holographic dogs are so much more obedient than real ones.”

“Dorothy has a dog?” Q’Mar smiled. Getting to play with the hologram of Toto would be the closest thing she’d ever had to a pet. “Too bad it’s not a cat instead,” she said, looking up at Mr. Data.

“If you were suggesting casting Spot, I must remind you that there is only a 5.2% chance that she would do what a script requires of her.”

“Now, if we could get an Orion as the Wicked Witch of the West, we could do without the makeup,” piped up Cmdr. Riker.

“Will! Really? It’s a children’s story! Even if we could, I’d have to pump her full of pheromone suppressants.”

She didn’t understand the half of that exchange, but Mr. Scarecrow’s disappointed expression almost gave her another fit of the giggles.

It would be far from easy to learn Dorothy’s part without stumbling over all the difficult words she was sure it would contain, but as long as the best ‘Tin Man’ in the galaxy was there to support her, she felt she could memorize twice as many lines and still have fun in the process. She just hoped Dorothy’s part didn’t come with a bear suit or the outrageous makeup worn by clowns in Terran circuses, considering what the others were sporting.
Holodeck Surprise
Merry Christmas, everyone!
I thought I'd wait a little longer to post this, but I couldn't resist. It had been in my head for ages.
It also just happens to fit #029 of the 100 Innocent Themes challenge, "Belly Laugh".
The associations are pretty obvious, but I'll explain them in a little more detail anyway:
- Q'Mar as Dorothy because of her young age, and because it's an excuse for more interaction with Data outside of a formal context, and we all know that any excuse for that is a good one. ;-)
- Dr. Crusher as Glinda because, frankly, she's the only positive female character who took part in the plays regularly.
- Reginald Barclay as the Cowardly Lion because come on, he's so many levels of perfect. He signed up for the theatre club in hopes of coming out of his shell, didn't he? The poor man is so nervous about everything that I'm sure he can relate to his character, but he's actually good at his job when he puts his mind to it, and I love when he shows his more competent side.
- Data as the Tin Man: really, guys? Do I have to explain it? The part is practically tailored to fit him!
- Riker as the Scarecrow because I was desperate. Honestly, I don't think he's stupid. He's the only regular male member of the club I had left, and it's a way to have him and Q'Mar say something to each other besides "Hello" if they meet in a corridor.

I hope the play will be the catalyst for a little something I've had in store for a long time now. Let's just say that the abundance of colour references in her script (the significance of Dorothy's dress, the yellow brick road, the City of Emeralds) won't be the most pleasant thing in the galaxy to memorize. :-(
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Q’Mar had always known that Mr. Data’s job was dangerous, but this time was different. All she knew was that he was gone, and whenever she tried to ask an adult about it, she only got increasingly irritated answers that told her nothing. They said she was too young to understand what he was doing off the ship, and that even if she could understand it, they wouldn’t talk about it anyway, because it was classified, which, as far as she could tell, meant it was a secret, and a very important one at that.

While she’d never had any particular reason to call him, mostly for fear of disturbing him in the middle of something that shouldn’t be interrupted, the thought that he wasn’t a tap of her combadge away filled her with a sneaky sort of tension that never quite left her, even when she tried to sleep. She would often forget it was even there for hours on end, and then it would resurface at the strangest times, like when Miss Kyle used a difficult word she could easily imagine coming out of his mouth, or when a picture of a large Earth feline reminded her of something Spot did—and who was taking care of the poor kitty in Mr. Data’s absence anyway? She wished she could stop by and see how she was doing, maybe even pet her, but there was no way she would be allowed into his quarters without him there, and even if someone did let her in, the room would feel odd without him, as if the most important thing of all were missing. The thought made her sad.

To be fair, a lot of things made her sad lately. When she found that the holodecks were all occupied and she couldn’t go play to take her mind off things, she’d almost cried, even though it had already happened to her before and she knew perfectly well it wasn’t worth crying for. When she gave the teacher a wrong answer in front of everyone, it had taken all morning to shake off the feeling that she was too stupid for the class and she would never catch up—and she hadn’t had that kind of thoughts for ages.

The first few times it had happened, she chalked it up to missing Mr. Data, but then she began to notice that it wasn’t just her. At first, she thought it was just her imagination – everything and everyone looked a little sadder if you were the one feeling down –, but it wasn’t. It couldn’t be. The corners of everybody’s mouths seemed to turn down a lot more often, and wherever she looked, she could spot people walking with their shoulders slightly slumped, sighing their way through duties they usually carried out with a smile. What was worse, she was beginning to forget the last time she’d heard someone laugh in the hallways. It was as if a constant raincloud were following the Enterprise around, pouring its heavy load of sorrow on its residents.

 

Counsellor Troi looked over her shoulder at her latest picture. Ever since she’d gotten the box of crayons, she’d been encouraging her to draw as well as talk during their sessions. She didn’t know what it was she saw in the images she produced by meticulously consulting her list every time she had to change colour, but as long as the blank pages in the little book got fewer and fewer, she was fine with it.

“How nice,” she said. “Would you like to tell me a little about it?”

“It’s our old backyard, sort of,” Q’Mar answered. “No one I know has ever seen my planet in colour, so I can’t really be sure I’m using the right ones. I have to go with the ones I’d use for a picture of Earth, but they’re probably all wrong.”

She set down the crayon labeled ‘BROWN’ she’d just finished using to colour the nice, sturdy branches of the veklar tree that supported her beloved treehouse. It was dark enough to be about right, but what if it was completely different and she couldn’t tell?

“It’s the thought that counts. I like seeing a little more of your home.”

Q’Mar tried to turn the corners of her lips up, but it came out more like a quiver that refused to turn into a proper smile. “I used to play up there all the time. Mommy had to come up and get me when I was having too much fun to come down for lunch.”

Her eyes stung dangerously, but she fought it by rummaging in her box for the one called ‘BLUE’ and getting started on the sky with a vengeance. The sensation of keeping tears away was becoming sadly familiar, and giving herself something else to think about usually helped. At that rate, the poor crayon was going to be a lot smaller when she was done.

“It’s okay if you feel like crying. It’s only natural for you to miss her.”

She shook her head as hard as she could, refusing to give in, but it must have given her memories a good shake instead, because when she looked at the crayon in her hand, she suddenly remembered something she’d been meaning to ask her for quite some time.

“Why do humans say they feel blue when they’re sad? I’m sure blue is too pretty to mean such a bad thing.”

“I don’t know, to be honest, but as soon as you find out, be sure to let me in on the secret. Are you feeling a little blue?”

Her eyes snapped up from the picture. Why ask if she already knew anyway?

“Yeah,” she admitted. “I wanted to tell you about that, by the way. I’ve been feeling sad about the silliest things—more than usual, I mean.”

Counsellor Troi seemed interested. “Really? Now, I can’t tell you any names, obviously, but I think it’s safe to say you’re…” she trailed off and appeared to think hard, “at least the fifth to tell me that these days. The only time we’ve had anything like that happen was…” She froze and looked worried for a moment. Uh-oh. Did that mean there was something very wrong with her, or maybe with the ship? But then her soft smile came back and she said: “Never mind. If it’s what I think it is, I promise you’ll be back to your usual cheerful self sooner rather than later. Now, that looks like a beautiful treehouse you had there. Did you help build it yourself?”

 

After the scare with the Levodian flu, Q’Mar had been visiting Sickbay a lot more often than usual. At least Dr. Crusher was nice, and she knew she only wanted to make sure there was no danger of her getting sick again. She’d taken a few miserable days of headaches and nausea to get the bug completely out of her system, as opposed to the twenty-nine hours Jake Potts had needed to stop sneezing, and there was no way to tell if the virus was truly gone without a few follow-up visits.

On the bright side (though it had been unusually difficult to find a bright side in anything lately), her stomach had stopped performing an unpleasant flip of disappointment and fear when she saw that the CMO was not available. She supposed sharing such a scary experience with Dr. Selar had changed things between them. Before, it had seemed wrong to show any kind of feeling in front of her, good or bad, for fear that she would believe her stupid or – as she seemed to be so fond of saying – illogical. But now… well, now it was too late. Dr. Selar had seen her at her very worst, reduced to a tearful mess by the chain of terrifying events brought about by that thing the adults called ‘quantum filament’ and vomiting until there was nothing left in her stomach to throw up as she slowly recovered, and she didn’t seem to think any less of her for it. It was perhaps a bit of a stretch to say they had made friends, but it was a lot easier to be around her now that she had her unspoken permission to be less than perfectly serious. She hadn’t seen her around the last time she’d stopped by, now that she thought about it.

“… most generous of you to grant me leave, Dr. Crusher, but I believe I would have been able to function normally,” Q’Mar heard her say as the doors to Sickbay slid open to admit her.

“Don’t give me that. You looked like you needed it, and I bet you weren’t the only one.”

“I suppose recent events did take a toll on all of us, but that is no reason to treat all the representatives of my race as invalids, at least not for an extended period of time. Kaiidth.” She didn’t know what that last word meant, but Dr. Selar had said it as if it explained a lot of things, never mind the fact that it didn’t explain anything to her. “As they say, life goes on. I am ready to resume duty.”

“Excellent. You never know when you might need an extra pair of hands. In fact…” Dr. Crusher looked meaningfully in her direction and the Vulcan covered the distance between them in a few purposeful strides without adding another word, then motioned for Q’Mar to follow her to the closest bed. The CMO was apparently busy doing something else, judging by her hasty retreat into her office.

Dr. Selar, she noticed, seemed to take great care never to touch her unless she truly had to. Where another adult might have taken her hand or given her a gentle push in the intended direction, she preferred to keep her distance, and even in the rare cases in which she’d had to administer a hypo, she’d trusted her to stay still of her own accord instead of holding her. Q’Mar suspected it wasn’t just her, though: she didn’t know much about Vulcans, but she did remember that the boy Miss Kyle had invited had also made a lot of polite excuses to get out of the round of handshakes, preferring instead to try, with only partial success, to teach them the traditional Vulcan greeting—and even then, his eyes had flickered to the teacher when Clara had shyly offered him her struggling fingers, and she’d pitched in to guide them into the correct position.

“Have you been sick too?” she asked as she hopped onto the biobed and the screen came to life.

There was the smallest of pauses, so brief she might as well have imagined it, before Dr. Selar answered: “I have not. What makes you think that?”

“You sounded like you just came back to work, so…”

“I was wondering how much you had heard. Yes, I have taken a short leave of absence recently, but it was not due to illness.”

“I’m glad you’re okay now, whatever it was.”

“I appreciate the sentiment.” Another pause. “You might say I suffered a… loss, but that does not justify neglecting my duty.”

The significance of what she’d just heard seemed to hit her a second too late. Coming from her, it was a big admission: she knew very little about Vulcans, but if the boy she’d met in class was a good indication of what they were like, then it was hard to get them to talk about personal things. Whoever it was, it had to be someone who mattered, or she wouldn’t have mentioned it at all.

She knew first-hand how much that hurt, and to think that Dr. Selar not only followed the strict rules that told her to keep it all inside, but was back to work as if nothing had happened, well… it impressed her, to be honest, but mostly, it just made her feel sorry for her. She never could have managed it: when P’Jor had gone to check on the grown-ups and had come back with the news that there were just the four of them left, all she’d wanted to do was curl up in bed and stay there forever. It had taken the combined efforts of the other three just to get her to eat something, not that they were very hungry themselves (which was good, they supposed, because they didn’t trust the replicators anymore and the food reserves could only last so long). Q’Mar gave a great shudder at the thought, and a single tear escaped her before she could even try to stop it. It felt as if bad memories were closer to the surface lately, easily triggered even by the tiniest thing that went wrong, and this was hardly tiny.

She bit her lip, finding that there was something more in her than just the heavy lump of sadness she’d been carrying around. Had it been anyone else, she wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but this was Dr. Selar, with her long fingers that always hovered close but never quite made contact, and who knew what Miss Kyle would have said if she’d been there, with all the times she’d stressed that other cultures had to be respected, no matter how strange they looked.

But then she met her eyes, and though they went back to being as impassive as ever before she could even be sure of what she’d just seen, Q’Mar could have sworn on everything she held dear that even she felt as ‘blue’ as everybody else. All of a sudden, Miss Kyle’s warnings didn’t matter anymore. After the Uquarr, she found that she simply could not hear the word ‘loss’ and do nothing, so she swallowed her doubts and slipped her hand into the doctor’s, wondering for a moment at how much bigger than hers it was.

“I’m so sorry,” she said softly. “It sounds like someone… important.”

Dr. Selar froze, and Q’Mar whipped her hand away as if burnt, knowing for a heart-stopping instant that she’d really done it this time.

She seemed to have to take some time to consider before she said: “What you did was not offensive, but simply… unexpected. Your assessment is correct, by the way—you might find that every Vulcan aboard was similarly affected. He was, as you say, important.”

“I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t have touched you, but… it’s what people usually do to make me feel better.”

“I realize that you meant well. You’ve clearly had some losses of your own.”

She didn’t sound like all the times she’d heard her relate things from her file, though she was sure that the fact that Mommy and Daddy were gone was written all over it. Where else could she have gotten it from?

And then Q’Mar’s stomach sank to the floor. She’d just remembered exactly why their special guest had been less than thrilled at the idea of a rapid-fire string of handshakes, and judging by Dr. Selar’s reaction, it must have shown.

“Touch telepaths tend to avoid unnecessary contact, out of respect for other people’s privacy if nothing else. I admit you caught me off guard, but if that’s of any comfort to you, you at least managed to express your sympathy most effectively.”

“How… how does it even work? I mean, I got used to Counsellor Troi after a while, but this is different, isn’t it?”

To be perfectly honest, she hadn’t known what to think of the Counsellor at first: on the one hand, she was very nice, the kind of person you couldn’t help but trust, but on the other hand, the idea that she knew so much about her while Q’Mar knew nothing to make up for it was scary, not to mention unfair. Before coming onto the Enterprise, she hadn’t even known such things were possible.

“It is, but there are perhaps more similarities than differences in this particular incident. The effect of casual skin-to-skin contact is very limited. Without a conscious effort, I can do no more than skim the surface, so to speak, which is fortunate for both of us. If we were to know a person’s every thought each time we accidentally brushed fingers, we would be barely functional.”

“What else can you do?”

That was probably one question too many, as always, but hey, that boy hadn’t exactly given the class a lot of answers where his powers were concerned, even though a good half of them thought they were really cool. Ask him anything about his planet’s history or its climate or whatever else and he would talk your ear off; bring up the small matter of mind reading and he’d clam up and somehow manage to steer the conversation away. Maybe she’d have better luck with Dr. Selar.

There was a definite hesitation this time, longer than she’d ever seen, and then: “We do not usually discuss it with outworlders, as some of them have been known to react negatively when informed of the full extent of our abilities. I can tell you’re curious – by simple observation, in this case –, but I would not wish to frighten you.”

“I’m not afraid.” It was the honest truth. With all the strange things she’d already seen, sometimes she began to believe that nothing could surprise her anymore… until the next thing did. Besides, she reminded herself, she’d decided that she was an explorer, so how was she ever going to learn if she ran away? “It’s not like you can help it.”

“I have seen fully grown men with worse attitudes.” She sounded… impressed? Could that even happen? “You have a gift for the unexpected, it would seem. Very well, I suppose there’s no harm in it.”

She slowly extended a hand, palm up, as if offering her an invisible gift she wasn’t sure she would like.

“What are you doing? Am I supposed to take it?”

“The first time you touched me, I had a certain… impression. I would like to make sure I was not mistaken.”

She was getting better at telling the tiny changes in her voice apart, and that was the tone she’d used as she watched the progress of the Levodian flu: Dr. Selar was a scientist through and through, and she seemed to find this interesting. Frankly, Q’Mar wasn’t sure she wanted to be treated as one of her experiments, but this felt like a special moment, and she didn’t want to spoil it by backing out.

“Okay.”

Her skin felt very warm and dry, her grip firm but gentle as her fingers closed around Q’Mar’s, this time with no intention to let go until she got to the bottom of the apparent mystery. She had no idea what she was getting; she certainly didn’t feel much of anything in return, except for the ever-present butterflies.

“Ah. Yes, that is quite possible. With so many of us aboard, some of whom young and untrained…”

Q’Mar was well and truly lost. “What?”

“Have you been feeling… unnaturally sad as of late?” She seemed to say it slowly, as if having to test the sound of words she wasn’t used to.

“How did you…?” she began, and then shut her mouth before the rest of her silly question came out. Of course she knew.

“Vulcans have been known to project their own feelings as well. Under normal circumstances, we can prevent it from happening accidentally, but the past few days have hardly been normal. Some may look down upon me for admitting it, but Ambassador Sarek’s death hit us all hard, and with several Vulcans on the ship, including children who are not yet in full control of themselves, it may very well be that some of our grief has been affecting the other residents.”

“You mean… it wasn’t all me?” Could that really be the reason she’d been feeling down? She didn’t fully understand it, but then, if Dr. Selar woke up the next morning and found she’d somehow sprouted membranes, she probably wouldn’t understand all the tricks of gliding, even knowing as much as she probably did about physics.

“Exactly. Please accept my apologies on behalf of the entire Vulcan community of the Enterprise.”

Q’Mar was confused. Dr. Selar sounded so very serious in apologizing to her for something she probably should have taken to the Captain himself, or someone nearly as important, considering he was gone too…

“This is not a matter of rank,” she said, and Q’Mar realized they were still holding hands and she’d probably caught that. “The discomfort we have caused you is not any less important than anyone else’s. I can only hope it was not too disruptive. Will you allow me to… make up for it?”

“Make up for it?” she repeated, hoping she didn’t sound too stupid. “All right, but how?”

Dr. Selar gave her the tiniest little squeeze, and Q’Mar had no idea what it meant at first, but just as she wondered if she was supposed to squeeze back or not, a pleasant warmth seemed to melt away some of the knot of sadness that had been wrapped tight around her heart. She knew it didn’t come from within her, but somehow, it was comforting instead of frightening, as if she were holding something more than just her hand. In fact, it was probably the best she’d felt since Mr. Data had left.

“Wow,” she breathed. “How did you do that?”

“That was also a simple case of projection. I attempted to counteract the unwanted influence that has been dampening your mood.”

And just like that, the doctor’s hand went back to her side where it belonged. For just a split second, Q’Mar felt oddly cold without it.

“That was… incredible. Why don’t people ask you to do it all the time?”

“It would not be healthy to keep a person’s negative emotions at bay indefinitely. Every species has its own way of dealing with them, but outside interference is rarely a good idea. Moreover, the prospect of working alongside someone who is gifted with psychic abilities is hardly new to anyone on this ship, but some would be scandalized if they knew of this incident, as they would not want anyone to meddle with their thoughts. I expect that many of them would choose to live with the sadness until it subsided on its own rather than willingly submit themselves to this, and I would respect their decision. Privacy is important to my people, and privacy inside one’s own mind most of all.”

“But it was nice,” she protested weakly. “They’d be stupid to miss out on it.”

“It can be, in your own words, nice, but it is just as likely not to be. In the wrong hands, our abilities can easily turn into a threat, and I am the first to admit it. Some people find that they simply cannot live with the idea of someone else having too much power over what they think or feel and treat us with distrust, not realizing that we do not see their minds as playthings to be used on a whim.”

Q’Mar considered it all carefully. Sure, she’d had her fair share of daydreams about what it would be like to have the strange powers some other species were born with, but she’d never realized just how difficult it was to live with them.

“I wouldn’t want people to be scared of me,” she said. “I want them to like me.”

“That is understandable.”

“I don’t think I could be scared of you, Dr. Selar.” She felt a little guilty for skipping over the fact that it was probably more truthful to say she wasn’t afraid anymore, but she’d described things as they stood now, so she wasn’t really lying, right? “I know you wouldn’t make me feel bad on purpose.”

She blinked. “That’s quite a vote of confidence. Speaking of ‘feeling bad’, have you experienced any symptoms you might want to tell me about?”

Q’Mar shook her head. As the usual round of questions began, her mind went to the information on Earth mythology she’d asked Miss Kyle to send her since the doctor had mentioned it. She definitely couldn’t see her doing any mischief or harm, like some of the elves she’d read about, but between the ears and the fact that she could use her powers to do such good things if she wanted to, she was beginning to suspect that maybe First Contact had happened sometime before 2063. Q’Mar smiled to herself: it was probably silly, but it was nice to believe that, even if just for a split second. After all, if humans had met Vulcans earlier than the books said and the memory of that encounter had become one of their legends, then in a way it meant that elves were real and she was sitting in front of one. Sort of. She’d never tell the teacher that, though, because she’d just shake her head at her and tell her to stop daydreaming and brush up on her history.

Dr. Selar didn’t even ask her what she was smiling about. She was back to her usual professional self, and the visit looked like it was going to follow the usual routine—until strange things started happening.

Dr. Crusher emerged from her office, not quite at a run, but not exactly walking either, and shot the Vulcan one of those looks that had more meanings in it than a whole dictionary as she passed. Dr. Selar nodded briskly and disappeared for a moment, and before Q’Mar even realized what she was doing, the privacy screens were already half set up around them.

“What’s happening?”

“This visit will have to continue in a more private fashion.”

“But why?”

Her question almost covered the distant whine that told her someone had just been transported into Sickbay. She couldn’t see who it was because of the curtain that stood between her and the rest of the room, but one thing she could tell: important things were going on, and she was right in the middle of them. Her heart picked up some speed. There might be danger ahead.

“Do not be concerned. They are not intruders. I expect you will understand at the proper time.”

That didn’t do much to calm her down. They weren’t being attacked, which she supposed was a blessing, but if someone had just been beamed directly into Sickbay, didn’t that mean that whoever it was, they were probably too hurt to get there on foot? That couldn’t be good news.

On the other side of the screen, Dr. Crusher said something, but her voice was too hushed for Q’Mar to make out the words.

“There will be plenty of time for a report later. For now, all I ask for is to be rid of these prosthetics, a shower and a cup of tea.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Q’Mar’s stomach twisted unpleasantly with dread. She should have been happy, but she couldn’t bring herself to smile. That sounded like the Captain, which meant that he was back from whatever it was that had kept him away. What if he was badly injured? Was Mr. Data back with him? Was he okay? So many questions! Happiness could definitely wait. She almost – almost – hopped off her bed to go find some answers, but one stern look from Dr. Selar reminded her that she probably could have held her back with one hand if she needed to.

She heard footsteps. How many sets of feet were there? She strained her ears, and it sounded for all the world like three people, but maybe it was just wishful thinking.

Then there was only one pair of feet, coming closer and closer this time, until Dr. Crusher peeked through the curtain and nodded meaningfully at Dr. Selar, who took it as an order to start putting the screens away again. Q’Mar looked around, but there was no sign of either officer anywhere.

“Is everything okay?” She probably shouldn’t have asked, but she just couldn’t resist.

“As well as can be expected, but I’m afraid you can’t see them yet. It might be a little… odd.”

Q’Mar frowned. Them. She’d said ‘them’, so they were both back, and apparently safe and sound, but the sigh of relief refused to come. Something had happened to them after all, otherwise she would have allowed her to say hi. Where was the harm in that?

“I’m sorry, little one, but this is one of those times when we really can’t tell you any more than this. Asking Data would be an even bigger waste of time, knowing him.” She paused, and – of all the faces she could make! – took on a mischievous expression. “I suppose I could take a picture, but I guess I’d have to destroy it afterwards.”

“A picture of what?”

“Well… let’s just say that Data and the Captain had to disguise themselves, and you might not even recognize them if I let you see them now.”

Q’Mar grinned. It sounded exciting. “What, like a costume party?”

The doctor looked like she was suppressing a tiny laugh.

“That was no party, but I suppose you’re right about the costumes. At least Dr. Selar here won’t be the only one to get jokes about her ears—sorry about that last one, by the way, it was out of line, I’ve already talked to Alyssa. I wouldn’t have expected it of her in a million years.”

“It was of no consequence.”

Q’Mar had no idea what they were talking about, but it didn’t matter. She was too busy trying to imagine Mr. Data with pointy ears. He looked just as good for the part of a gentle, well-meaning elf as Dr. Selar, as far as she was concerned.
Feeling Blue
Hi, everyone!
FINALLY, after tweaking it and changing it almost beyond recognition, I present you #063 of the 100 Innocent Themes Challenge, "Holding Hands".
I worked on this a lot before I was even halfway satisfied with it, and there's another story in the works that will be even more difficult. Why do I keep putting myself into this kind of trouble? (Kidding, I love every minute of it!)
Data is barely in the story at all, which comes as a shock even to myself, but hey, it's set during and after Unification, there's a reason for his absence. He'll be back.
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Hello, everyone! As I don't really have any relevant news (actually, real life has been a little crazy, but I'm not here to talk about that), let's jut cut to the chase, shall we?
Woohoo! First tag ever!

My answers to the questions from :iconcuddlesaurus21::

1. What's the last song you listened to?
I don't listen to much music, so the honest answer to that would be Where My Heart Will Take Me by Diane Warren, as performed by Russell Watson. In short, the theme song for Star Trek: Enterprise, which I sing along to loud enough to make my cat think I'm nuts every weekday when it's on (there's an Italian channel that is currently going through a sci-fi phase. I'm a happy camper).
2. Your favourite character from your newest fandom and from one of your long-standing fandoms meet. They are given a delicious-looking sandwich and told that whichever one of them wins a competition of their choosing will get it. What contest do they both agree on, and who wins it?
Tough one. That would be Sadness from Pixar's Inside Out and Hermione from Harry Potter. Seeing as they're both bookworms in their respective worlds (which has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I love them and want to hug them senseless, noooo...), I'd love to see them engaged in a speed-reading contest: get two copies of the same text and see who gets to the end first, while actually understanding it, hopefully. I'm going to have to give the sandwich to Hermione on this one, because little Sadness is so small she would have her fair share of trouble handling a human-sized book, so unless her copy was a miniature one, there would be no contest.
3. Which would you rather buy at the pet store, a new puppy or a new kitten?
A kitten! :heart: I'm such a cat person. I'd rather adopt it from a shelter, though. There are so many cats in need of a good home...
4. What color is your room?
There is a definite prevalence of pink and lilac.
5. What's your favorite book?
Uuuuugggghhh, that's like asking me what my favourite finger is. I need all ten of them, cutting one off would hurt. Anyway, I can try... I feel like I'm doing all the others a terrible injustice, but here goes: among the classics, possibly Pride and Prejudice, but if I have to pick a book that is particularly connected to personal memories, well, I'm a proud member of the Potter generation. I think people about my age have a relationship with the series that newer fans will never have. That is not to say they are not "true" fans, but we grew up with those books, waiting, hoping, conjecturing, daydreaming and just generally obsessing in ways that simply cannot happen if you already have all seven books lined up for you to read. Harry Potter is, without fear of exaggerating, my childhood. It's painful to pick only one installment, but I'm going to go with the third. I like its atmosphere, its structure (it's the only one in which Voldemort never physically shows up), and of course the fact that they finally had a good DADA teacher who actually taught them something worthwhile and was not an impostor nor let his unfairness overshadow his competence.
6. What's something that makes you laugh?
The sound of my own local dialect (the Piedmontese variety of Italian). I'm ashamed to admit it, but while I understand most of it, I can't speak it, not just for lack of knowledge, but because I would burst out laughing before I could finish a sentence.
7. Invent a new sport. Tell me the rules.
... Can I skip this one? I simply don't have the skills to invent a good, engaging sport with fair rules. The only time I ever tried to make up a game, I was a little girl with a sadly inflated opinion of her own athletic prowess, and the only thing I can remember is that it involved a ball and a lot of craziness trying to figure out when and why to switch places with each other.
8. Two OTHER characters (your second-favourites or just anybody) from the two fandoms you picked in question #2 decide to go to the movies together. What movie genre (comedy, fantasy, horror, etc.) do they pick and how does it go?
For the sake of craziness, I'm going to choose Joy and Luna Lovegood. They'd choose a romantic comedy, and Joy would squeal at all the cutest parts, while Luna would probably think the main characters' heads were infested with Wrackspurts. In fact, she just might mistake Joy herself for a Wrackspurt, now that I think of it.
9. How well can you imitate other accents?
In as few words as possible: I suck. Spectacularly. I can barely imitate a Roman inflection (again, keep in mind that my first language is Italian), and that's an easy one that we hear all the time on TV and such.
10. What's your favourite cake flavor?
I'm going to go with chocolate, but I'm really not a fan of cake. Weird, I know, but my tongue is VERY sensitive to flavours and it doesn't take much for sweets to feel too sweet to me.

Ten new questions from me:
1. Where's the farthest place you've ever travelled to?
2. Can you roll your tongue? (Apparently, it's more common to be able to do it than not; naturally, being the queen of weirdness that I am, I can't, just FYI.)
3. Your favourite and least favourite character from a fandom of your choice are stuck on a deserted island together. Do they ever manage to get rescued and how?
4. Cliché time: if you found a genie in a lamp, what would your three wishes be?
5. If you play video games at all, do you prefer them slow-paced or fast-paced?
6. Do you think you have a good fashion sense?
7. At what age did you stop believing in Santa Claus (assuming you ever did)?
8. Do you have a good luck charm? What is it?
9. Who was your favourite teacher in your entire school career and why? (You don't have to disclose his or her name if you don't want to, privacy is important!)
10. The characters from question #3 are forced to pair up for a dancing contest. What kind of dance do they agree to perform and how does the show go?

Tag time! Ugh, this is difficult. I don't have much of a circle of friends on DA. I'm going to go with :iconcuddlesaurus21:, if she doesn't mind being tagged back, and :iconaloiinthesky:, the only other person I know who (hopefully) won't be too bothered.
  • Mood: Amused

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SweetOphelia4231616
Martina
Artist | Hobbyist | Varied
Italy
Current Residence: Italy
Favourite genre of music: Celtic/folk all the way, but hey, I watch MTV too.
Favourite cartoon character: I noticed that Shinichi Chiaki from Nodame Cantabile reminds me of a friend of mine.
Personal Quote: I am weird and proud of it!
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:iconreinde-er:
REINDE-ER Featured By Owner May 14, 2013  Student General Artist
Happy Birthday, ~SweetOphelia4231616 Have a fantastic day.
:party:
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:iconsweetophelia4231616:
SweetOphelia4231616 Featured By Owner May 14, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much! :D
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:iconreinde-er:
REINDE-ER Featured By Owner May 14, 2013  Student General Artist
:D
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:iconrikanekohypno:
RikaNekoHypno Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Ho visto un tuo commento in una storia di :iconswirlyeyeshypnotize: e dico solo: YAY! Un'altra italiana a cui piace l'ipnosi!

*fugge via ridendo in maniera malvagia*
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:iconsweetophelia4231616:
SweetOphelia4231616 Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Non ti aspettare chiss che cosa, una passione che va molto a periodi. Posso non pensare ad altro per un pezzo e poi dimenticarmene per mesi di fila, a seconda dell'umore e di quanto tempo ho per fantasticare. Ossia poco.
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:iconrikanekohypno:
RikaNekoHypno Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Capisco...io son divisa tra ipnosi, Megamind e i MLP (S, sono una pegasister!), e poi fare cosplay ecc...XD

Anche se la mia passione per l'ipnosi la sto tenendo segreta, infatti questo il mio secondo account su DA...
Io per fortuna ho parecchio tempo per fantasticare...:D
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:iconswirlyeyeshypnotize:
SwirlyEyesHypnotize Featured By Owner May 14, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy Happy birthday!
A gift from me to you!
Happy Happy birthday!
Skipping kangaroos, YAY!
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:iconsweetophelia4231616:
SweetOphelia4231616 Featured By Owner May 15, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you! :D
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:iconswirlyeyeshypnotize:
SwirlyEyesHypnotize Featured By Owner May 15, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
You betcha! 8D
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:iconswirlyeyeshypnotize:
SwirlyEyesHypnotize Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much for watching me!
Have a HypnoLollipop!

:iconhypnotizeplz:
:iconlollipopstickplz:
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