Future's Gain
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Trek and all of its characters, but only
because we haven't wrestled them from their corporate grip!
Author: Tracy

They were on Earth, the Enterprise "E" going through a re-fit, the
crew going through a memorial service. Every face in the funeral
chapel was familiar to Deanna, she'd seen them for her entire
career, they were family. All of them. And now, one was missing.
One important person. One that no one would grieve for except the
Enterprise crew. How could anyone else understand how important this
android had become to them?

She began to cry again and Will held her tightly, letting her spill
out her loss. Everyone in the soaring, gothic chapel was crying,
except of course, Jean Luc Picard. He stood by a large holo of
Data, with his hands clenched in front of him, his hazel eyes
blinking back tears he was unwilling to shed. "Friends, we have said
goodbye to our comrade before, but I felt we needed a bit more time
with our old friend. If you'll remember, years ago when Tasha Yar
left us, she made a holo recording of herself to play at her
memorial. Well, our Mr. Data decided to follow in her footsteps,
and I'd like to play for you now our dear friend's final words."

Touching a button at the base of the holo-stand, he then backed away
and almost flinched as a full-sized version of Data flickered to
life before him. "Hello friends. If you are viewing this then I am
most likely dead. Can an android be dead? I am not certain. But
since I am no longer with you, it does not matter what we call the
state that I am currently in."

Deanna stifled a laugh. Even in death Data had to go on and on,
using as many words as possible. Will grinned at her and squeezed
her tightly and they stared at their friend's image together,
smiling through their tears.

"What I would like to say is that all of you have given me so much
over the years that we have served together. I did not know the
meaning of friendship or loyalty or any other human concepts such as
these until I came aboard the Enterprise. All of you accepted me as
another being, and did not ever treat me as though I were a
machine. I...appreciate that more than I can say." Data's image
seemed to clear it's throat and then continued.

"I know that you are wondering if I have my emotion chip activated
and the answer is yes. I could not say goodbye to you without
allowing myself to feel the pain of our parting myself. And I do
feel it. My emotions have never been as complex as your own, but
they are here and I have feelings for each of you."

"Captain...it was you who accepted me first. From the beginning you
took me on as any other trained officer, never treating me with
suspicion or distrust. We grew to have a "bond", did we not? A form
of loyalty and friendship that I did not know was possible. And as I
look back over the years we have served together, especially now
that I wear this chip, I can feel how special our connection was.
And is. I am going to miss you very much, Sir and I have to say that
serving with you has been my greatest honor and achievement."

Jean Luc stiffened and Beverly moved to him, putting her arms around
him, rubbing his back gently as the tears finally forced themselves
over his stubborn eyelids and onto his dry cheeks.

"Commander Riker. You are a good man whether you realize it or not.
Beneath an exterior that is as solid as mine lies a heart that is as
big as the distance between planets. You were always ready to help
me, to teach me, to take me with you on a mission, and the trust you
placed in me meant more to me than you can know. I will miss you,

Will's eyes pricked with tears and he let them fall and mingle with
his wife's as they held one another tightly. The old chapel was
cold and sad, old and beautiful, the perfect place to have this
emotional send-off. Data would have been intrigued...

"Counselor. It has been my pleasure to serve with such a loving,
warm human being. In all of our years together you always treated me
as a much loved friend, never as a part of the ship, never as a
machine. It was you who first showed me the concept of love, and as
I watched you at your wedding, the love I saw between yourself and
the Commander was inspiring. I only wish I could have felt such an
emotion before I died. In any event, my "life" was enriched by
knowing you, my friend. I shall miss you."

That was more than Deanna could take and she was soon sobbing with
abandon, rocking in her husband's arms like a child as the storm of
emotion took her over completely.

"Geordi. What does one say to a friend like you? From the first you
were my brother, much more so than Lore or any of my Father's
creations ever could have been. You have an independent spirit and a
kind heart, and you always watched over me as though I were in your
care. You are and always will be my best friend. I don't know
where androids go when they die, but if some part of my being still
exists now, I promise I will not forget you, my friend."

Geordi's eyes, now visible without his visor teared and ran, and he
covered his mouth with a fist, unable and unwilling to cry. It was
easier to force the pain inside. He had to, it was the only way he
knew to get through this.

"Beverly. My friend and dance teacher. You will not ever know how
much I enjoyed our time together. I learned much from you. Not just
how to dance, or how to act, but how to be more human. How to care
for others the way that you yourself do. You are a special woman
and I am grateful to have known you, dear friend."

Bev moved into the circle of Jean Luc's arms and buried her face in
his shoulder, feeling slow tears soak the fabric of the uniform

"Of course, there are so many others that I am missing. After
several decades so many of you have become important to me. Forgive
me for not thanking you all by name. Each and every one of you is
special and it has been such an honor to serve with you all. And
now, of course, it is time to say goodbye."

With a loving glace around the room, a glance that seemed to take
them all in, Data smiled and said, "Goodbye." And then, as quickly
as that, the holo winked out and he was gone.

The crew stood there, rooted to the spot, then moved together,
hugging in pairs, comforting where they could, recieving comfort
where they needed. It was one of the worst days of their lives, but
seeing Data's innocent face again and hearing his last words was a
gift. A precious gift that none of them would ever forget.

Jean Luc pulled himself together and moved to stand at the front of
the room, motioning for everyone to look in his direction.
"Friends, I thank you for coming today to give this send off to our
dear friend Data. We are all going to miss him terribly and things
will never be the same without him. Still, if I know Data, he would
not want us standing around here crying our hearts out over him. He
would want us to celebrate his life and to enjoy one another. So
won't you join me in the next room? We are having a bit of a party
for Data. And if there is such a thing as an android having a
spirit, then I know that he will be there with us."

They all smiled at the Captain and wiped their faces, then shuffled
out the door to move to the next room where decorations, music and
food awaited them. After the chapel emptied, one last person
lingered, his heart aching, wishing he knew what to say or do. Data
had sacrificed his life for him, for all of them, and guilt was a
burden he could not completely drop. Not yet.

Flicking on the holo again, Captain Picard reached out to touch the
vision of Data and murmured, "I am so sorry old friend. But I do
thank you for what you did for us. We will never forget your
generosity and your sacrifice. And we are, more than you can know,
going to miss you."

In silence, he flicked off the holo again, wishing he could talk to
the real Data, that he could clench him in a hug and not let him
go. But he was gone and there was nothing to bring him back.

Walking slowly, head bowed, Jean Luc left the room and did not hear
the voice from behind the curtained vestibule. It said, "I will be
back, Sir. I am not truly gone. Remember...B-4 is waiting. Waiting
to bring me to life again. Do not grieve. I am still among you. I
will see you soon."