Drone: Chapter Thirteen
by Paul Darcy
Barclay’s plan was coming together nicely. It had been several days since his appointment as Julie-Anne’s tutor. She was thrilled to be able to work with the officers of the Enterprise and her parents, who knew she was exceptionally bright, had agreed that it would be a good idea. They were not too pleased once they had found out the trouble she and her experimental android had caused, but saw this as a great opportunity to guide her interest and talent in a safer, more disciplined way.
Julie-Anne had been released from sickbay two days ago, fully recovered, and showed all signs of a healthy ten year old as she kicked vigorously at the ball during this Thursday’s match. Barclay watched as the clock ticked off the final seconds and it looked as though Julie-Anne’s team, Warp 7, would retain it’s 3-2 lead putting them into first place in the standings. That would make Julie-Anne happy, but not nearly as happy as Barclay’s surprise he was sure. The final buzzer sounded marking the end of the game and the score remained unchanged.
Julie-Anne spotting Barclay waved as she exited the holographic playing field and entered the shower area. Some time later she returned. Mr. Barclay was waiting with a big silly grim displayed the whole of his face.
“Hi, Mr. Barclay,” Julie Anne said. “You sure look happy today. We are now in number one spot,” she looked at him more closely, “but that doesn’t explain why you are looking like that, does it?” She couldn’t help smiling herself. Mr. Barclay’s ridiculous grin was contagious.
“Well, actually today is surprise day,” Barclay replied. “As you are well aware I am your tutor in robotics and microprocessor technology and that won’t change, but today, and possibly for a good while, I am soliciting some extra help for your studies.”
It didn’t seem possible to Julie-Anne but Barclay’s smile appeared to actually widen. She feared his mouth was about to tear. She had no idea what he Was talking about. Barclay had suggested they build another Apur together, but she had her trepidations after what happened to the last Apur. Her smile faded slightly when she recalled Apur flying out of the shuttle bay, but returned in full once she looked at Mr. Barclay again. He was quite possibly the silliest person she had ever seen, but he was very kind and she liked him.
“What are you talking about?” She asked directly. Maybe Mr. Barclay would introduce her to a friend in Engineering to help them on the new Apur. Her thoughts froze.
He couldn’t have. It couldn’t be.
“Follow me,” Barclay said mysteriously leading the way from the holodeck.
Barclay was moving so excitedly and quickly that Julie-Anne had to run on occasion to keep up with him. Once they were in the turbo-lift and Barclay called for the crew quarters deck her heart nearly skipped a beat. It couldn’t be?
But once they exited the lift and Barclay lead them part way down the hall she had no doubt. She had been this way hundreds of times, her heart racing faster now than at any time during the game she had just played.
Finally Barclay stopped in front of the door she knew so well. She was going to faint. Barclay looked at her. “We are here,” Barclay said and activated the door chime. Almost immediately the doors swished aside and Data stood facing them both. Julie-Anne stopped breathing. Was this really happening?
“Please come in,” Data said amiably and moved aside indicating with one hand for them to enter. Barclay marched straight in. Julie-Anne began to walk forward on trembling legs, scared to death. What was she going to say? What should she do? Calm, stay calm she said to herself in her mind. Then she saw Spot curled up on the floor. The cat opened first one eye and then the other at the sounds they made entering Data’s quarters. With sudden friendly recognition Spot rose, meowed and strode across the floor and rubbed her head against Julie-Anne’s leg.
Like a magic potion the cat’s touch released the butterflies in Julie-Anne’s stomach and her legs stopped trembling. She bent down and patted Spot’s head. “Hi, Spot. How are you?” Julie-Anne asked the cat who was already purring in contented response to her attentions.
Data looked quizzical. “It would appear you and Spot are already acquainted. Curious.” Data looked at Barclay then back at Julie-Anne. Then it came to him. He addressed Barclay. “Ah, the time you reprogrammed the tricorder. Julie-Anne was here as well.”
“Yes, did I forget to mention that,” Barclay said. “Oh, it must have slipped my mind. Anyway, Julie-Anne, Mr. Data has agreed to assist you in neural net physics and basic android design technology.” Barclay was very grateful to Data and pleased with himself for arranging this for Julie-Anne.
Data moved to stand beside Julie-Anne and spoke directly to her. “I can spend two hours a week with you until you feel you have learned enough about those topics to proceed on your own.” Data stopped and considered. “That is, if it is okay with you?” Data did not want to pressure her.
This was it. Julie-Anne swallowed her fear and answered nervously. “That would be great.”
Data, nonplused nodded. “Excellent. Shall we proceed?” He motioned Julie-Anne toward his personally designed workstation.
“Yes, please.” Julie-Anne could not have been more excited and pleased. It was her dream come true. Two hours a week with Data. She owed it all to Mr. Barclay who had been so nice to her right from the beginning.
Impulsively she ran up to Barclay and hugged him. “Thanks, Mr. Barclay for everything.”
Barclay blushing slightly replied, “you are most welcome. And now I have to go to Engineering to check on the agrav units so I’ll leave you both to it” Julie-Anne watched as he grinned again and made his exit first going in the wrong direction then turning around to head the proper way.
Julie-Anne’s laughter was interrupted by Data who was keying in a protocol at his enhanced work station. “Are you familiar with basic duotronic matrixes?”
“Yes, I,” Julie Anne began, then stopped herself. What was she doing? Confessing too much knowledge would shorten her overall tutor time with Data and besides she could use a brush-up on all the basics anyway. “I mean yes I know some about duotronics, but maybe we should start from the basics and go from there?”
Data showed no expression. “As you wish.” He keyed in several more commands, pulling up basic circuit displays. Julie-Anne watched his hand move with incredible speed over his keypad. It was like a dream come true. She was sure that they would become good friends. Spot leaped up on Data’s console to be closer to her and Data kindly shoed her off. Julie-Anne was beginning to feel comfortable and couldn’t have been happier.
* * *
Riker inhaled deeply and looked about the bridge. They had all seemed to have weathered the latest crisis like a true Starfleet crew. The best crew in the fleet he was sure. He was tired though and longing for the end of his shift so he could relax in his cabin to some jazz music. The captain was due to relieve him in about an hour. He rubbed his eyes hoping the time would pass quickly. In two days they would reach earth for repairs. He hoped to go fishing in Alaska while they were there.
The turbo lift door opened and Riker turned his head to see who had arrived on the bridge. It was the captain. Riker immediately rose, making himself alert. What could be going on now he wondered?
Picard approached him and raised a hand. “At ease, Will.” The captain cracked a smile. “You are officially off duty now.”
Will blinked. Had the captain forgotten when his shift started? Before Will could correct him the captain said more quietly so that just Will could hear, “I know I am early,” Picard explained, “but I believe I owe you a bit of duty time. But, before you go Admiral Rhoulin would like to relay a message to the crew.”
As if on cue the officer at Worf’s post said, “Call coming through from Starfleet Command, captain. Its Admiral Rhoulin.”
“On viewer.” Picard and Will turned to face the screen together.
The image of Admiral Rhoulin came on at once. He looked much less tense than the last time he had spoken with the crew. He began, “John Luc, Will. We at Starfleet would like to extend our congratulations on a successful and very fruitful mission. Give our thanks to the rest of your crew.”
“Thank you Admiral, we will pass the message along,” Picard assured Rhoulin.
“If the dilithium crystal samples are as pure as you’ve indicated,” Rhoulin said, “it will mean a significant find for the federation. It should cut our rebuild time of the lost ships from Wolf 359 nearly in half. And the tricorder data La Forge collected aboard the alien cube was analyzed. There are some things there that Lieutenant Commander Shelby thinks could be used in preparation of the next Borg incursion.” Rhoulin seemed very pleased with how things had gone and it showed in his tone of voice and easy manner now.
“And the Romulans?” Picard said. “What did the High Command at Romulus have to say about the attack on our ship?” Riker wanted to know.
“Just about what you would expect. That ship, the Actos, was apparently a renegade which was hunted by the Krestfir which the High Command suspects was destroyed by them. Their arguments make perfect sense and we can’t prove a thing against their story for certain. Typical Romulans. They have an explanation for anything.” Rhoulin smiled sardonically. “The truth, I believe, is that they are not ready to start a war with the Federation over Trilithium crystals. That asteroid field will drift into Romulan space in about forty years anyway. They will get plenty of dilithium crystals then. Of course most of the good crystals may be mined out by then, but it will be all theirs in time.”
“Yes, in time.” Picard answered smiling. “In time.”