Data was in his quarters, watching Spot chase mice. He had designed a set of artificial mice, each programmed with various evasive maneuvers, to see whether the cat could adapt his stalking strategy to changes in the behavior of the prey. After an hour of observation he had concluded that, insofar as hunting was concerned, Spot was endowed with great enthusiasm and absolutely no technique. Now he was watching merely to see whether Spot understood the concept of futility.
The doorsignal chirped. Jriba MacKenzie, a cyberneticist, had an appointment with him to discuss a new chip design. She had been on board the Enterprise for four months as a civilian consultant, modifying some of the artificial intelligence networks in the ship's communication systems. She worked on other cybernetics projects in her free time. As Jriba entered the room, one of the mice escaped past her into the corridor; Data touched a remote-control button to turn it off. Jriba glanced back at the now- motionless mouse but didn't ask. Spot retrieved it, his tail held high as he carried in his first kill.
Data and Jriba sat down at his desk. He turned on his computer viewscreen and accessed his notes on Jriba's project. "I have reviewed your design for an esthetic-response chip," he said. "It appears promising, but I believe you have overlooked some complications."
Data had several suggestions for improving the design, which they discussed at length. He and Jriba had collaborated on a number of projects since she came on board the Enterprise. At times they also discussed Data's subjective experience as an artificially-created consciousness. Although Jriba was curious about him from a cybernetics perspective, it was clear to Data that she viewed him as a person, not merely as an object of study. He considered her a friend.
At last Data turned off his computer screen. He had another topic to discuss with Jriba. "I would like to talk about my recent experiences with the dream program, if you would not mind."
"Sure -- you know I'm always curious to hear about that. What's been happening lately?" Spot had climbed into her lap while they were reviewing the chip design; she scratched under his chin.
"Something which I did not believe was possible, and which has preoccupied me for some time. I have been experiencing sexually explicit dreams."
Jriba was surprised, though not by Data's candidness – she'd been exposed to that before. "Why wouldn't you -- I mean, why would you think that was impossible? You're programmed for sex, aren't you?" The advantage to Data's straightforwardness was that he was never offended by blunt questions. She thought sometimes that spending too much time with him could make a person lose all sense of tact.
"I am programmed to emulate sexual behavior," he said. "I am not programmed to experience desire or arousal. My sexual functions are entirely under voluntary control."
"So why shouldn't you dream about exercising your, uh, functions? It doesn't sound any stranger than dreaming about anything else." Jriba was intrigued. She'd been curious about Data's sexual programming, but they had never spoken about it before.
"The difference is that the dreams involve sensations which are unfamiliar to me, and which have never occurred during the waking activation of my sexual programs. I am not certain how to evaluate these sensations, as I lack appropriate reference points, but I suspect I am experiencing some form of sexual arousal."
The seriousness of his expression made her laugh. "I'm sorry, Data -- it's just that you don't look very happy about it. Let me rephrase that," she added, guessing he might be about to respond literally. "I know you're never _happy_ about anything. I meant that you seem concerned, and I don't see why. It could be a major breakthrough for you."
"It is simply that I do not know where these sensations are being generated, or what their long-term effects may be. To use an aphorism, I do not know whether I have opened a can of worms."
Jriba sensed that he was holding something back. Data was incapable of feeling embarrassment, but he was able to calculate that certain information might provoke a negative reaction, and should therefore be kept to himself. She would have to wait until he was ready to tell her the rest of it. Meanwhile, she could offer a small suggestion.
"Perhaps you should investigate the physical side-effects of your dream program," she offered. "Has anyone ever checked to see whether you experience rapid eye movement, for example?"
"Not as yet. Would that be relevant?"
"Well, humans seem to have an intrinsic connection between dreaming and sex -- the rapid eye movement or REM sleep period, when the dreams occur, is often accompanied by symptoms of arousal. If you're designed the same way, you could simply be experiencing some kind of spillover activation of your sexual programs."
Data considered this. "I do not think it is that simple. The normal activation of my sexual functions does not produce the sensations I have experienced in my dreams. Nevertheless, you have a point. I will ask the computer to monitor for physiological changes when I next activate the dream function."
"Then if any turn up, you could run some tests and try to identify the circuitry involved."
Data nodded but said nothing more. Jriba looked at him, surprised. She'd never known Data to be reluctant to talk. She was tempted to ask a few more questions, but decided not to pry. Gently removing Spot from her lap, Jriba stood up and said goodnight.
After Jriba left, Data reflected on the situation. His dreams were not precisely upsetting -- he was incapable of feeling upset – but they required careful evaluation. He had not told Jriba everything about the dreams. The imagery was not merely sexual, but violent. Many of the things he did in the dreams would, in real life, conflict with the ethical programming which monitored his behavior.
Data had not discussed the dreams with Counselor Troi; he supposed that she would merely tell him not to worry about it. He had discussed his mental state with her on several other occasions, and it seemed she gave essentially the same advice every time. Jriba was usually more helpful. It seemed to him that she too tended to take his concerns lightly, but when he could persuade her to bring her analytical skills to bear, she often had useful insights.
Jriba's questions about REM sleep were intriguing, but Data was unsure whether it was safe to continue exploring the dreams. In the most recent dreams, he had experienced unfamiliar physical sensations of surprising intensity. Of greater concern was the possibility that he was responding emotionally as well -- a factor with unpleasant implications. All of this was uncertain; as Jriba had noted, he still had insufficient information about the effects of the dreams.
Data could rarely resist the temptation of curiosity. Requesting the computer to monitor his physiological responses, he lay down on the bed and shut down all conscious functions, activating the dream program.
He was standing next to a large worktable of some kind, in what appeared to be a laboratory. The walls were lined with shelves on which lay an assortment of body parts -- android body parts, he realized. Evidently this was a cybernetics laboratory.
A female lieutenant whom he did not recognize approached him. "What do you want me to do now, sir?"
He could not understand why she thought he was in charge. He stared at her, puzzled. "What is this place? And what are we doing here?"
She looked at him strangely. "Don't you know? This _is_ your project."
He remembered then: they were constructing some kind of android. He had no idea what needed to be done at that moment, however. The lieutenant was still waiting for him to give her instructions. The thought that came to him seemed illogical; he hesitated, confused. He could find no explanation for his impulse, yet it seemed necessary to express it.
"Lieutenant, remove your uniform, please." She seemed unperturbed by his request but did not comply. Taking hold of the collar of her uniform, he tore the material down the front; it fell away in shreds. He was momentarily aware of his own strength, and the awareness provoked an unfamiliar sensation in him.
Taking hold of her hips, he lifted her onto the worktable. He climbed up and pushed her down on her back. She struggled slightly, but he easily pinned her hands above her head. His actions made no sense to him, but he felt compelled to continue. In addition to confusion, he noticed another sensation -- perhaps excitement.
It seemed appropriate to restrain her somehow. He found that there were straps attached to the table, apparently intended for this purpose. She did not seem frightened, although she tried to resist; her struggling intensified the sensation he perceived as excitement. He found that he was now naked as well. He ran his hands over her body, feeling a surge as he realized she was extremely aroused. As he entered her his excitement peaked, the physical sensations reaching an intensity that jolted him back to consciousness.
Data awoke with a sense of confusion that was becoming familiar. This dream had been similar to the others -- different in several specifics, but clearly involving the same themes. As before, the symbolism was opaque. The cybernetics laboratory might have some connection with Jriba's recent visit, but it was certain that the female Starfleet lieutenant did not represent Jriba; not only were they very different in appearance, but Jriba was a civilian. The overall meaning of the dream completely eluded Data. He knew that his skills in interpreting metaphoric symbolism were minimal, but he was reluctant to ask anyone for assistance. Setting aside interpretation for the moment, he mentally replayed the dream several times, becoming absorbed in the images. He was surprised when it was time to report to the bridge.
Data's duties on the bridge that day were routine, requiring little attention. He accessed the ship's computer through his console and began reading about the physiology of REM sleep. He had been intrigued by the computer's report that he did in fact experience rapid eye movement, along with symptoms of sexual arousal. The shutdown of his conscious mind during the dream program should have inactivated all sexual functions, as these were normally under conscious, voluntary control. Now it seemed there might be an involuntary component to his sexual programming, perhaps accessible only through the dream function. He wondered what its purpose might be.
For that matter, he was not certain why he had been constructed with sexual functions of any kind, as he was incapable of biological reproduction. The obvious hypothesis was that Dr. Soong, the cyberneticist who created him, had wanted him to participate fully in human experience -- except that his sexual programs were clearly inadequate for complete participation. He could perform sexually, but 'perform' was an apt description; he felt no desire, no emotional response, and no physical pleasure. His only reason to engage in sex was curiosity. Perhaps Dr. Soong had thought of that, and had given him functional genitals only so that he could closely observe this facet of human behavior.
Which left unexplained his experience of the most recent dream. He was certain that he had felt both pleasure and excitement, though he had thought this to be impossible. Emotions were not part of his normal programming. Dr. Soong had designed a chip to give him basic emotions, but Lore, the android created before him, had stolen it. Lore later used the chip to induce violent emotions in Data, causing him to behave sadistically. That incident had convinced Data to abandon his lifelong wish of attaining emotions; he believed their effects on him were too dangerous.
His relationship to Lore was the most disturbing aspect of the situation. Data and Lore were virtually identical in construction – "except for a bit of programming," Dr. Soong once said. Data would have preferred to think that Dr. Soong had exaggerated the similarity. Lore had the emotional capacity which Data lacked, a fact which had once led Data to hope that their circuitry was fundamentally different. The incident with the emotion chip had removed that hope. He now knew that mere programming modifications could give him the capacity for emotions -- and make him as violent as Lore.
By activating the dream function, he had risked bringing an unknown factor into his programming. He realized now that he had not considered how unpredictable the consequences could be. It occurred to him that he did not know whether Lore had ever activated his dream function; perhaps a malfunction there had contributed to his aberrations. Accessing subspace communications, Data sent an inquiry to the Daystrom Institute, which had taken Lore's components for study. He could think of no other avenue of investigation at the moment. Perhaps he would discuss it with Jriba later.
Jriba came to his quarters again that evening. Data was observing Spot's acrobatic abilities. He dangled a cord for Spot to chase, pulling it up into the air and reversing direction suddenly to see whether the cat could twist around in mid-leap. It seemed that Spot could perform quite complex maneuvers, though at certain angles and velocities they resulted in what could only be described as a crash landing. By the time Jriba showed up, Spot had knocked over an impressive number of objects. Data set the cord aside and sat down at his desk.
Jriba took the chair next to his. "So, how have your dreams been?"
"Intriguing." He did not wish to discuss the dream as yet. "I have been thinking about Lore again. I believe we should investigate his circuitry further."
"Again? I thought we gave up on that project a couple of months ago." They had discussed Lore extensively when Jriba first came on board the Enterprise, though it seemed she had lost interest in the subject.
"We might have overlooked something. I realized today that we do not know whether Lore ever activated his dream function. I have sent an inquiry to the Daystrom Institute."
Jriba picked up the cord Data had used to play with Spot; she began absently running it through her fingers. "Why do you want to know about Lore's dream function?"
"It might be a clue to his malfunction." He hesitated. "I have become concerned that my exploration of the dreams may lead to a similar malfunction."
"Why would you think that?"
Data was unsure which factor to mention first. "I am now convinced that the dreams are evoking emotional responses, though only within a certain range -- primarily excitement. As you know, I believe emotions were a central factor in Lore's instability." He paused as a memory came to him. "Lore once told me that if I began experiencing emotions, we would become more alike. The thought does not appeal to me."
She shrugged. "I'm sure Lore said a lot of things."
"Indeed, he talked a great deal, though his range of topics was rather limited --"
"That was an expression. I meant you shouldn't believe whatever he said to win your sympathy." Jriba wound the cord around one wrist. He found the gesture oddly distracting. "Look, Dr. Soong once disassembled Lore because of his malfunctions. He obviously didn't think there was anything wrong with _you_. For all you know, he may have intended for your dream function to trigger some kind of -- sexual awakening. It may just be another way the dream function contributes to your creative and cognitive development."
"Dr. Soong made a number of mistakes. Most significantly, he underestimated Lore's capacity for violence, after he had been reassembled."
"Nevertheless, Data, you can't go through life constantly comparing yourself to Lore. It would be nice to be certain that you could never malfunction the way Lore did, but I don't think we're going to find any proof of that -- and meanwhile, obsessing on it is going to cripple your own development."
"My similarity to Lore is not the only concern," he reminded her. "Past events have demonstrated that emotions have dangerous effects on me."
"Only under some circumstances," she insisted. "Maybe you do have a latent capacity for emotion -- but it probably wouldn't have manifested in such a nasty way if Lore hadn't been manipulating things. Mere excitement doesn't sound that bad."
Data hesitated, unsure how to convince her to take the problem seriously. "There is another factor which I have not mentioned. I find myself committing violent acts in these dreams, suggesting that this aspect of my sexual functioning may involve hostility."
Jriba stopped fidgeting with the cord. "'Violent acts'? That's very interesting." She looked at him curiously. "You shouldn't jump to conclusions, though. Before you decide it's hostility, I think you need to sort out whether you're actually feeling hostile emotions in these dreams. For example, how do your feelings compare with what you felt when Lore was controlling you?"
It had not occurred to him to compare the feelings in detail. He hesitated, reluctant to re-experience those particular memories. He knew from experience, however, that Jriba's suggestions were usually worth pursuing. Asking her to excuse him for a few moments, Data closed his eyes and began accessing memories.
Waiting for Data to come back to the conversation, Jriba asked herself whether she had the stamina to see him through another round of obsession with Lore. She knew that the incident with the emotion chip had left Data with an urgent need to determine the cause of Lore's instability, even after Lore had been deactivated and disassembled for the last time. The fact that they were almost identical had taken on a new significance, one which apparently did not sit well with Data's ethical programming. When Jriba came on board the Enterprise, Data immediately asked for her assistance. They spent weeks reviewing the analyses of Lore's badly-damaged circuitry and the incomplete notes recovered from Dr. Soong's laboratory. Their friendship developed as Data confided his concerns to her; she gathered it was hard for him to discuss the matter with his other friends, particularly Geordi.
After several weeks, Jriba had concluded that they weren't going to figure out what had gone wrong with Lore. By then Data's fixation was starting to seem excessive. She tried once to nudge him out of it, telling him he was in danger of developing an obsessive neurosis known as Evil Twin Syndrome; this backfired when he became intrigued and she was forced to admit she'd made it up. At last Data had seemed to accept that he wasn't going to find any guarantees for himself other than the fact that, without the emotion chip, he had no emotions. Now that this had become uncertain, it looked as if he was going to get hung up on the same problem again.
Data opened his eyes at last. "I believe the emotions are largely different," he said, "though it is difficult to be certain. It appears however that I am not as yet experiencing violent emotions, such as rage. I have ascertained also that there is no impairment of my ethical programs, as there was when Lore was controlling me."
"I didn't think there would be."
"Nevertheless," he continued, "further exploration of the dream function would involve an unacceptable risk. If I have a latent potential for violent emotion, I may be on the verge of accessing it unintentionally. I should not take that chance."
Jriba had had all she could take of his self-flagellation. "Data, if you're not willing to take chances, you're not willing to live," she snapped. "For gods' sake, all we know for certain is that you have a lot of unexplored potential. If you're going to stop exploring because you _might_ find something inside yourself that you don't like -- then you might as well deactivate yourself right now, permanently."
She stopped herself; she hadn't meant to yell at him. Gods forbid, if he thought he was turning into another Lore, he might decide deactivating himself was the best response. After a moment she smiled ruefully and added, "And then the rest of us should all kill ourselves too, because we don't come with any guarantees either."
He cocked his head, eyebrows raised thoughtfully. "If I understand your meaning, you are saying that being uncertain of one's capacity for evil is part of being human. That is something for me to consider."
There was a silence. Jriba dangled the cord in front of Spot, once again in her lap; he did not appear interested. Data seemed to have brightened slightly, but the atmosphere in the room remained heavy. Jriba wanted to change the subject.
"Data, there's something I've been curious about -- but please let me know if you don't want to discuss it."
"What do you wish to know?"
"To put it very straightforwardly -- why would you ever have sex? Not in your dreams, in real life. I know you don't feel emotions, and you've told me you don't experience physical pleasure. Do you get anything out of it?"
"Yes, of course." He seemed surprised by the question. "I am fascinated by all aspects of human life, and sexuality plays a central role in human experience. I am sure I have a great deal to learn about it. Unfortunately, I am seldom given opportunities to exercise my curiosity in that area."
It was her turn to be surprised. "Why not?"
He considered. "I do not know. Given the information I have on human sexual taboos, I would speculate that most humans find the prospect of sex with an android -- distasteful." Data looked as close to pained as she had ever seen him. "I only know that I am very rarely requested to access those programs."
Suddenly she figured it out. It struck her as both hilarious and heartbreaking. "Oh my gods.... Data, I think you've been misunderstanding something. You never initiate sex, right? You only, umm, access your programs when someone asks you to?"
"That is correct. I cannot judge when it would be appropriate to initiate sexual contact, and so I do not attempt to do so; I merely respond when given an explicit invitation."
"An explicit invitation," she repeated, still amazed. "You mean the woman has to come right out and ask you to go to bed with her?"
He looked puzzled. "I believe that is what I just said. Do you find this remarkable?"
She struggled not to laugh. "Data, I can't imagine very many women would have the nerve to ask. If a woman is interested, she'll try to make sure the interest is mutual before saying anything direct. But you don't take hints. A woman could try every flirtation technique in the book, and finally she'd give up and leave. Nobody is going to give you an 'explicit invitation' out of the blue -- not unless she's incredibly brazen, or drunk out of her mind."
Data's face went blank; she knew that meant he was thinking intently, perhaps accessing memory files. "What you suggest would account for certain things," he said at last. "It is a more appealing theory than my previous explanation."
She smiled. "I am sure that plenty of women would love to ask you, if they thought you would say yes." Feeling suddenly emboldened, she leaned forward and took his hand. "Data, would you like to exercise your curiosity with me?"
Data took Jriba into his bedroom, after pausing to evaluate the situation. He knew from one previous experience that a sexual liaison with a friend could lead to awkwardness later, but this did not seem to be a danger with Jriba. Unlike Tasha Yar, Jriba seemed unlikely to suffer embarrassment over the incident, or to deny afterwards that it had occurred. On reflection, he realized he had never known Jriba to suffer embarrassment over anything.
He accessed his basic sexuality programs, which informed him that it would be appropriate for them to sit down on the bed at this point, while still clothed. He told the computer to partially dim the lights.
Jriba put her hand on his shoulder and leaned over to kiss him. Data checked his systems once again. He felt intense curiosity, but other than that, he felt nothing. All functions appeared to be normal.
"Maybe we should get undressed now," she suggested.
He was aware of Jriba watching him as he undressed. "White all over," she murmured as they lay down on the bed, facing each other. "But you're as warm as a human, and nicer to touch – your skin is silky, not like most men's."
Jriba guided his hand to her breast, and he felt her nipple harden beneath his fingers. Her hands roamed over his body, caressing his hips and thighs before moving to his genitals. His programs told him she would expect a physiological response to her touch; he activated that mechanism.
Jriba stroked his penis, looking at his face as if searching for a reaction. "I suppose you don't feel much of anything when I do this?"
"I am incapable of feeling pleasure," he replied. "Though I observe that the sensation in that part of my body differs subtly from other tactile inputs. I was not previously aware of this, and I cannot specify the nature of the additional sensory information."
"That's okay." She moved her hand away from his penis, resting her fingers lightly on his hip. "It's just that, since you don't get turned on -- I just hope you're not bored."
"I assure you, I am not bored."
She smiled. "You're curious, right?"
She did not appear to be displeased; nevertheless he wanted to make sure. "Does that disturb you? I am aware that my sexual functioning may seem cold and, perhaps, artificial."
She pressed his hand in what he understood to be a gesture of reassurance. "Data, I think that if curiosity is how you approach sex, then it's authentic for you. Besides, I'm fairly curious myself."
Jriba kissed him again, gently parting his lips with her tongue. With her arm around his waist, she pulled herself closer to him, one leg intertwined with his. The increase in her body temperature told him that she was becoming aroused.
Data was uncertain how to proceed. His programs suggested a range of options, but he did not know which might meet with her approval. He thought it best to inquire. "Would you like me to stimulate you manually or orally?"
Her eyes flew open. "Uh, either would be nice. Manually, I guess."
Assured that this was acceptable to her, he proceeded. He ran his finger gently between her labia, almost but not quite touching her clitoris. She sighed and let herself fall back slightly, opening her legs wider as he continued to stroke her.
His programs told him that women often enjoyed stimulation of their nipples as well. "Would you like me to touch your breasts? I could also -- "
"No -- I guess -- just do what you were doing, that felt nice."
He continued to stroke her genitals, but he had detected a change; her breathing indicated she was no longer aroused. He stopped touching her. "What would you like me to do next?"
Jriba pulled back slightly and propped herself up on one elbow, facing him. She hesitated a long moment before answering. "Data, I was just wondering -- could you possibly be a bit more, uh… assertive?"
"Certainly. Being unfamiliar with your preferences, I thought it best to proceed cautiously. Do you prefer an aggressive partner?"
Jriba looked surprised. "Can you do that? Completely different styles, I mean?" She sat up, frowning slightly.
"Of course." He sat up as well. "I am programmed in multiple techniques. I have also read extensively on human sexual practices, and have incorporated the information into my programs."
"I see. And when you say 'aggressive', you mean...?"
"I can assume complete control of the encounter, if you wish." Her eyes widened; he took that to mean she was interested. He elaborated, "I have various programs for what is commonly called 'domination', ranging from the use of different forms of restraint, to the infliction of pain without permanent physical damage."
"Oh." She was obviously intrigued, though perhaps uncertain how to respond. "Well... to be perfectly honest, I often have fantasies about being, mm, dominated. In fact, I had one lover who used to do that, and I definitely enjoyed it. I'd be interested in doing that with you -- but without any pain," she added quickly.
Data nodded and began accessing the necessary programs. He stopped as certain implications occurred to him. "I believe it would be inadvisable to proceed at this time. There may be danger of a malfunction."
"What kind of malfunction?"
"I... cannot specify. I am not entirely certain that there is a danger; it is only speculation. Nevertheless I think we should discontinue."
Jriba looked at him strangely. "You're thinking about your dreams, right? I had a feeling, when you said 'violent acts', that I knew what you meant. You're afraid this is getting too close to whatever part of you is coming out in your dreams." Oddly, this did not appear to make her nervous; in fact he was fairly certain that she was displaying signs of increased interest.
"You are essentially correct, although the word 'afraid' does not strictly apply. Until I understand the full effects of the dreams, I hesitate to access programs which closely approximate my dream behavior. I might be risking interference from the dream function on my conscious mind." He had experienced such interference once before, in very different circumstances; that incident culminated in his stabbing Counselor Troi.
"Look, Data, I think I've got a pretty good guess what these dreams are like, and I'm willing to bet that they aren't dangerous or - or evil, or whatever it is you're worried about. You said they don't involve rage or other hostile emotions, isn't that right?"
"Insofar as I am aware, that is correct."
"And does anyone in these dreams get hurt?"
He accessed his memories. "I do not believe so."
"Then what are you worried about?" Jriba took both his hands in hers. "Look, I don't know exactly what being, uh, 'dominant' is about, in psychological terms, but my ex-lover used to try to explain it. He said it had something to do with 'claiming your power to create an experience' -- realizing your ability to evoke an intense response in someone." She looked at him intently. "In other words, maybe these dreams mean that you're developing a sense of potency - wanting to have a strong effect on another person, especially sexually."
He had not even remotely imagined such an interpretation, and had no ready reply. Her suggestion might make a certain amount of sense, but he would need to consider it at length. At the least, the observation that he did not inflict physical injuries in the dreams suggested that the danger might be less than he had supposed. He noted also that he had not as yet experienced any symptoms of malfunction.
After a moment Jriba asked, "In any case, have you ever had a chance to use these particular programs?"
He shook his head.
"I didn't think so. And so you may never know how they would work in real life." She sat back then and waited.
Data found once again that he had little defense against a direct appeal to his curiosity. "Very well. But you must inform me immediately if you wish me to stop."
"Of course. We can set up a safeword -- if I want you to stop, I'll say 'Exit', like on the holodeck."
Consulting his programs, he realized that he would need one piece of equipment. "I will be back momentarily." He stood up and went into the next room to use the replicator.
Spot had jumped up on the bed while they were talking. Jriba carried him over to a chair, admonishing him to stay put. It was all she could do not to burst out laughing at the irony of dragging Data into taking a dominant role, practically against his will. She wondered if he could possibly be any good at it; the whole thing might easily turn out to be ridiculous. He might tie her up and ask, "What would you like me to do next?"
She heard Data coming back into the room; before she could turn around, he suddenly picked her up and dropped her onto the bed. She landed on her back, gasping in surprise. "My gods – you startled me," she said quickly. He did not reply, but moved to pin her arms above her head, holding both her wrists in one hand. Feeling suddenly exposed, she turned to one side, pulling her knees up to cover herself. With his other hand he took hold of her hip and pulled her flat onto her back. He looked down at her as if searching for clues to her reaction.
She squirmed slightly, wondering what would happen next. Her wrists were going numb in his grip, and she could not move her hips more than one or two centimeters. She'd known he was strong, but she hadn't imagined it would feel like being caught in a vise. She could also feel herself becoming aroused as she struggled against him. "What are you going to do with me?" she asked. A cliche, but she couldn't think of anything more clever to say.
"I have not decided yet." Apparently he was programmed for this kind of dialogue; she giggled nervously. He suddenly turned her onto her stomach and pulled her arms behind her back. He wrapped some kind of strap several times around her wrists, pulling it tight and fastening it. She tried to pull her wrists apart, half expecting to find that he had tied them only loosely, symbolically; a shockwave of arousal went through her as she found that she was securely bound. She was beginning to think that Data had not been exaggerating when he said he could take complete control.
He turned her onto her back again; she was startled by the ease with which he manipulated her body. Lifting her hips, he pulled her to the edge of the bed, leaving only her upper body on the bed. He pushed her legs apart and knelt between her legs to look at her closely. She felt his hands between her thighs and then his fingers spreading her open. She was intensely aware of his curiosity; she found it suddenly disconcerting.
Jriba gasped as Data's tongue stroked between her labia; her body jerked slightly and she felt the pressure of his hands on her pelvis, holding her in place. His tongue probed her cleft again, and then he pulled back momentarily; she guessed he was analyzing the taste and smell of her wetness. She shivered slightly as his fingers spread her more fully open, exposing her clitoris. Again he paused, looking at her, before continuing to explore her with his tongue. She moaned softly, feeling herself opening to him.
After a short time Data pulled away from her and stood up. Jriba looked up at him, slightly apprehensive. She was suddenly aware of feeling very vulnerable and exposed, her hands still behind her back. Data knelt on the bed beside her. His face was expressionless as he pulled her knees up and apart. His fingers brushed lightly between her legs and she squirmed, wanting to be touched more firmly. Then she gasped as he pushed two fingers into her. She knew she was dripping wet; his fingers slipped easily between her labia. She groaned as his fingers slid in and out of her, bringing her closer to orgasm. Despite her intense excitement, she felt a twinge of nervousness. Data had changed somehow; the thought of being under his control no longer seemed entirely safe.
Data seemed to move in an uneven, mechanical way, as he always did when he was fascinated by something. She could see that he was observing her reactions as he touched her; his head jerked slightly as he scanned her body. Data suddenly seemed very much an android, his demeanour entirely unlike his usual childlike curiosity. He was obviously enthralled by the effect he was having on her. He flexed his hand, pressing the heel of his palm against her clitoris as his fingers moved inside her. She gasped, reflexively pulling away slightly and raising her upper body; immediately he moved his other hand to her shoulder, pinning her against the bed. The awareness of being totally helpless pushed her over the edge to orgasm; she spread her legs wider as she climaxed, opening herself to him more fully. As her orgasm faded, she was aware that Data had stopped stroking her and was now sitting motionless, simply watching.
Data hesitated, struggling to understand what was happening to him. At first he had been merely curious, dispassionately following his programs -- but as Jriba began to respond to him, he felt a change. Something similar to the experience in his dreams was happening, as curiosity had given way to a sensation that could only be excitement. And yet his ethical programming was not objecting, and he found that he did not wish to stop. His earlier concerns seemed trivial compared to the fascination of observing Jriba's responses. He had never imagined he could affect another being so intensely. Every detail -- her wetness, her movements, the sounds she made -- brought a surge of excitement. He wanted to continue, to see what the limits were to her responsiveness.
Data turned Jriba onto her stomach. Her hands were still tied behind her back. He knelt between her legs, spreading her thighs to look at her more closely. She was extremely wet, and her swollen clitoris and labia indicated that she was still aroused, even after her orgasm. He stroked her gently and she moaned, squirming slightly; her reaction sent another jolt through him. He decided to initiate intercourse, and was surprised to find that he already had an erection; he did not remember accessing that subroutine.
He mounted her, resting his weight on one arm as his other hand guided his penis into her. She groaned softly as it slid fully into her. He reached around to find her clitoris as he began to thrust, short sharp movements that made her gasp repeatedly as her body was driven down against the bed. He found that he was experiencing intense sensations in his penis, similar to those in his dreams. He was no longer concerned about interference effects; whatever part of him had been concerned was quiet now, drowned out in the rush of excitement.
He needed to see Jriba's face, to see the effect he was having on her. Reaching down to release her hands from the strap, he turned her onto her back. He rubbed his penis between her legs, feeling another upwelling of excitement when she moaned and pressed herself harder against him. Her desire made him aware of his body, his being, in a new way; the change in perspective was exhilarating. He pinned her hands beside her head, resting his weight on his knees and elbows. With a quick movement of his hips he pushed himself into her again. The sensations in his penis were stronger now; with a shock he realized that he was enjoying these sensations, enjoying the entire experience.
Data stopped moving then, pausing to focus on this novel awareness. Still holding Jriba's wrists, he raised himself up to look at her. He held himself motionless, feeling her pushing ineffectually against his hands; the sudden awareness of his own strength excited him. He moved his pelvis slightly, just enough to see her react. He realized he liked being inside her, liked pinning her down, feeling her tightness and her small movements as she squirmed as if trying to stimulate herself against him. He wanted to be inside her even further, to be inside her mind.
"Does it excite you to feel my penis inside you?" he asked.
"Of course," she said, almost whispering.
An unexpected thought occurred, one he could not have imagined before. "And does it excite you, knowing that you are being penetrated by an android?"
Jriba blushed, embarrassed at last; she did not answer. He tightened his grip on her wrists, not enough to cause real pain. "Tell me," he ordered.
"Yes, it turns me on -- I can't stop thinking about it," she confessed in a rush.
Her response evoked a deep need in him. He began to thrust, closing his eyes to focus on the sensations in his penis. He felt her climax, her contractions intensifying his own pleasure. He groaned and felt his body jerk hard several times as his circuits were flooded with sensation.
Data opened his eyes and looked at Jriba. He was momentarily concerned that he might have injured her, but she did not appear to be in pain. He rolled over and lay on his side next to her.
Jriba turned to face him, smiling. "Data, that was wonderful," she said softly. Taking his hand, she added, "And slightly surprising -- I have to admit, I didn't know you had that in you."
"It was a revelation to me as well." He did not know what else to say as yet; he would need time to evaluate the experience.
"I thought it might be." She looked at him curiously. "You actually -- felt something, didn't you."
"Yes," he replied. "The experience was much like my recent dreams -- though the sensations were more intense."
"How exciting for you. I'm glad I got to share the experience with you." Jriba kissed him lightly. "How do you feel now?"
He considered. "I am not experiencing any emotions at the moment. I believe all systems are functioning normally, though I will need to run some diagnostics."
She nodded. "Data, would you mind if I slept here? I'd like to be close to you for a while -- but I know you don't need to sleep, and I don't want to keep you from whatever you want to do."
He realized that he did not wish for her to leave just yet. "You are most welcome to stay," he said. "The experience has given me a great deal to consider; I intend to spend the next several hours in contemplation."
Certain questions demanded to be addressed immediately. His ethical programs had not objected to anything he had done or felt during the encounter with Jriba. This might mean that he had done nothing unethical, or it could be an indication that his ethical programs were not functioning properly. He closed his eyes and ran several self-diagnostics.
"My ethical programming is unimpaired," he announced several moments later, opening his eyes. "Yet I am intrigued to find that it did not interfere with my responses during our encounter."
Jriba had gotten under the covers. She raised her eyebrows at his remark. "Data, if your ethical programming said you couldn't give someone an experience like that, I'd say it needed adjusting."
"My actions would not, in themselves, be unethical – provided that you granted consent. But my emotional reaction requires additional evaluation. To enjoy controlling another being --"
"One who enjoyed being controlled," she reminded him. She yawned. "I'm sorry, but I think you're going to have to sort out your ethical programs by yourself; I don't think I can keep my eyes open another minute." She smiled and added, "But I want to thank you for a wonderful evening -- and for making yourself vulnerable like that."
He frowned, perplexed. "I would thank you for the experience as well. But perhaps you are mistaken in your choice of the word 'vulnerable'. The term does not properly apply, as I was the one in control."
"If you say so." Jriba lay back and closed her eyes.
Data added her comment to his list of things to ponder. He was suddenly certain that several hours would not be nearly enough time to sort it all out.