The Lore Appreciation Society presents
A story by Kate Orman, 1993
Please feel free to download this for yourself and others. However, if you wish to post it to a BBS outside the internet/usenet, or to publish it in a fanzine, you *must* contact me (email@example.com) first. The usual disclaimers about Paramount apply.
"Disassemble - dead!" Number Five, Short Circuit
Alone in the darkness.
And when the pathways of his mind had unfrozen sufficiently, he began to dream:
Four boxes. Four metal boxes. Four metal boxes on a table.
Shooting into a mirror.
Each box had a label, written in a wiry, loopy script. *Head*, said one of the boxes.
There was a man there, a great black bird perched on his gloved fist. The bird threw its wings open and squawked, a pleading squawk. The man stroked the slick feathers of its head, running delicate fingers through the detailed plumage, the fingers of a surgeon, a priest.
Shooting into a mirror.
With a single, tidy movement, the man twisted the bird's head off. The bird stiffened, frozen in time, a headless horror made out of metal. With precision, the man twisted off its left wing, put it into the box. Twisted off its right wing, put it into the box. Put the remainder of the metal bird into the last box. Carefully lidded each of the boxes, as blood leaked out through the cardboard, scrawling meaningless messages on the tabletop.
And when his eyes had unfrozen sufficiently, he began to see.
It was a day before he could move. Shadows flickered around and above him; at first he thought his vision was malfunctioning, but as his sight became clearer he realised that the power to the lights was cutting in and out at irregular intervals. Sometimes a smiling face leered over him, the teeth of its top jaw fused together in a corrugated bar of enamel.
They cut the vacuum-damaged uniform off him, taking inches of skin with it. He was too cold to bleed, too cold to do anything except lie on a workbench, waiting to see what they would do to him.
Shooting into a mirror.
It was the last thing he remembered, before the darkness had closed on his brain like a terrible frostbitten fist.
Well. At least he wasn't dreaming any more.
"We will take it apart. We will see how it works."
He sat up with a start as everything came online. The aliens startled, moving backwards, then coming close, pushing their faces up to peer at him.
"It is not broken any more," one of them observed.
He smiled. "What are you?" he said, sweetly.
"We are Pakled. We look for things."
"Pakled! You have rescued me. I am programmed to serve. What would you like me to do?"
The Pakled smiled back at him, showing those ludicrous fused teeth. "We do not need to take it apart," one of them said.
"No," he said. "You do not need to take me apart."
"I am Rindol," said the Pakled.
"And I'm Lore," said the android.
The ship was tiny, dirty, and full of junk. The junk, at least, he was used to.
They made him stay in their laboratory. The lighting was erratic, the air alternatively hot and cold; it gave him the creeps. He'd never liked laboratories. It was as though a flesh and blood being had been asked to bed down in an operating theatre.
They had laid out bits of a computer on the bench for him to tinker with, like so much meat. He turned the circuitry over in his hands. It all ought to be working; they just didn't know how to put it together properly.
It had all happened so quickly. There was no break between being switched off and coming back online aboard the Enterprise - but there were twenty-six years, an abyss. All that time, gone. Not that it really made any difference. But it was frightening to have such a vast gap in his memory record.
He had not been aboard the Enterprise more than seventy-two hours. In that time, he'd absorbed just about all the information there was to absorb, ship's records, history, computer information, weapons information, anything classified which he was able to break into. His brother was such a dope -
He really didn't want to think about his dear sweet darling little *brother*.
So instead he concentrated on the memories that the Pakled laboratory brought back. Remembering learning to speak, the smile on his father's face when he'd finally puzzled out the art of the contraction. He saw that smile often, every time he did some new and clever thing. Learning to pat his head and rub his stomach, to eat convincingly. Learning not to show off too much so he wouldn't upset the colonists.
They were extremely upsettable types. Lore had derived days of amusement from just "forgetting" to blink when he spoke to them. It drove them crazy. Ha.
But it never stopped that flush of pride and pleasure when his father smiled at him.
He found he had assembled the computer core. He rummaged about in the junk until he found a suitable power source.
Dr Soong had been in his fifties, and mad as a hatter. The children used to come to his laboratory just to see the latest toy he had concocted: a wind-up cat, a nightingale, a teddy-bear that walked and talked and recited Lear. He looked like some favourite uncle, with the grey just starting to pepper his hair and his blue eyes always staring, finding something new to smile at.
Dr. Soong had always ended up mixing up his personal stuff with his serious work, so that the labs were full of half-read books and pot-plants, bits of archaeology, his prized collection of fossils. A great bronze Buddha partly obstructed the main door to the lab, and his bedroom was full of circuit diagrams. Sometimes Lore discovered him asleep in the lab, lying on the bench under a sheaf of printouts, snoring gently while a swarm of electronic butterflies buzzed noisily about the room.
And now he was dead. Devoured. It gave Lore a delicious shiver just to think about it. The man, the great man, who'd breathed life into him, who'd known every detail of his body and mind, who'd raised him from a tabula rasa into a thinking being, who'd had the most perfect power over him-
He was dead. And Lore had been the cause. And if he had the chance, he would do. It. Again.
Squeezing off that last shot at Data had been like firing into a mirror. And about as useful. But at least he'd seen the last of the little whelp.
Well. Now what was he going to do?
"So take your last look at the sunshine and brook, and send your regrets to the Tsar, by which I imply, you are going to die- "
Lore waited a few seconds before turning; he did not want them to know how good his hearing was.
Two Pakled watched him from the corner of the poorly-lit cargo bay. He gave them his best eager-to-please smile, lifted a half-ton chunk of disruptor array with one hand, and packed it neatly into a transport container.
"He is strong," the Pakled observed. Geniuses. Their language contained less than four hundred words - plus perhaps another hundred or so cannibalised from their contacts with other species. They were also thick as planks.
They *also* had disruptors, and they *couldn't* be as stupid as they seemed - not if they'd been able to "collect" some of the goodies in the storage bay. There were weapons, lots of weapons, and equipment that must have come from Federation ships - all in useless pieces. They were cunning enough to get the technology, but not bright enough to know how it worked.
"We look for things to make us strong," explained Rindol.
Gosh, no, really? Tell me something I don't know, wetware. "Yes," agreed Lore.
"It makes a noise while it works."
"It's called singing. It indicates that I'm happy."
"You are happy to work?"
"I'm programmed to serve."
Lore watched their little Pakled faces light up. "He fixed the computer's brain. He can help us get things."
"I'd like to help you get things." I don't believe I'm *having* this conversation. "What things do you want?"
"We wanna be strong. We wanna be smart."
Strong. Smart. Lore was still smiling. He already knew what he wanted to do with the Pakled.
In Dr Soong's room, Lore was making paper aeroplanes in more and more complicated shapes. His fingers moved rapidly over the paper, tucking and folding, his wrist snapping as he sent each of the tiny vessels into the air.
"I don't understand why Dr Clendenning won't let me help him," he said. "I can program his computer about four times faster than he can."
"Perhaps he'd like to do it himself," said his father, who was watering the pot plants, a distracted look on his face. Around his feet, the reciting teddy bear was wandering, muttering about the cows going bong.
"But that doesn't make sense. I can do it better. Like driving the hovertractors, and they wouldn't let me do that, either."
His father didn't say anything, but his frown deepened as he shook the watering-can.
"Do you want to work on some neural nets this afternoon?"
Dr Soong put down the empty can. "Lore, I can't. I've - you know how busy we've been since that whatever it is attacked the southern continent. There's a lot of work to do if we're going to defend ourselves against it."
"I want to help!" said Lore, crumpling a paper aeroplane in his fist. "I want to help, and nobody will let me help. Even you won't let me help. Dr Clendenning thinks he might have worked out a way to talk to it, but he won't even tell me about it. He just *looks* at me."
Dr Soong came and sat down next to him, gently patting him on the cheek. "Lore, I am sorry I haven't been spending as much time with you lately. But we're afraid. We're all afraid. If that thing comes back, it could kill all of us. There are more than five hundred children in-"
Lore jerked away from him. "You only care about them. You don't care about me. Nobody cares about me. Just because I'm a machine!"
He stood up, wrapping his arms around himself, feeling something terrible and black grinding away inside him. "Just because I'm a machine!" he said again.
"Nasticreechia Krorluppia," said the teddy. "All the King's horses and all the King's men, couldn't put Humpty together again."
"Oh, Lore," said Dr Soong, looking at him with eyes that were - more than worried. "Listen to me. You've been alive for less than a year. In some ways, you're still just a child."
"Then why won't you let me go to school with the other children?" Lore hated the way his voice skittered up the scale when he got scared. He forced himself to speak normally. "I'm stuck here all the time, with nothing to do, and-"
"In time, Lore, in time. Perhaps we-"
"I don't want to wait!" With a suddenness that surprised even him, Lore snatched up the prattling teddy bear and tore it in half. The little robot squealed once, fitfully, and fell silent, bits of circuitry and stuffing hanging out of its body like entrails. He hurled it against the wall.
His father jumped back, looking at him.
"No," said Lore, "no, no, oh no-" Because he'd seen the children look at him like that, he'd seen Dr Clendenning look at him that way when his wife had come into the lab carrying their daughter, he'd seen the farmers look at him that way, their conversations dribbling out to nothing when he'd come near-
His father was afraid of him.
"I hope it does come back!" he shouted. "I hope it does come back, and it kills all of you! All of you!"
And he found himself running, out of the room, out into the complex. Looking for anyone. Anyone who would *listen* to him.
In the Pakled lab, he stared into a mirror. He was looking at his eyelashes. His father had attached each of them individually; it must have taken more than a day's work. He tried to imagine the patience, the loving care, but all he could think about was Data.
He'd been fair, hadn't he? He'd offered Data a chance to come over to his side. The Soong boys, together, right? Their father would have been proud. It was much more than Data deserved, the little whelp, nothing more than a computer with legs. Unable to feel a thing. Wanting to be human, for God's sake.
A dreadful blackness was scraping around inside him, like a bit of clockwork that had come loose. Humans were stupid and slow and - weren't they? Obsolete. Weren't they? It didn't matter if they died. Data was like a little puppy, yapping around their heels, oh so anxious to please them. The colonists would've just loved him.
Lore turned away from the mirror. Rindol was mucking about with the repaired computer core, turning it around and around in his pudgy hands, as though just randomly moving it would somehow make it work. He didn't mind Lore's unblinking stare.
"Where are we going?" asked the android.
"We look for things," said Rindol.
"Is that all? Just looking for things?"
Rindol smiled his idiot's smile. "We wanna be strong. We don't wanna wait to be strong."
"But where are you going?"
Rindol shrugged. "You are strong. We need you. We want to make some more Lores." The Pakled put down the circuitry. "Where are *you* going?" he asked.
Lore raised an eyebrow. "I'm programmed to serve," he said. "I want to go with you."
"Do not try to trick us," said Rindol lightly. "We can tell."
Lore raised his other eyebrow. "You're not as stupid as you look, are you?"
Rindol's grin widened. "We are smart. We are more smart than you. We will make more Lores. We are smart." The Pakled stood and left the lab, still grinning.
"At least," said Lore, "I know where I'm going."
He came running back to the lab, as he always came running back to the lab. The doors hissed open to admit him.
No sign of his father. He turned, and turned again, looking into the corners of the laboratory. The air was cool, the room was full of machines for heating and bending and testing. It frightened him. There was something terribly important he had to tell his father, something awful. There wasn't much time.
There was a hand on the bench.
Lore froze where he stood. Involuntarily, he looked down, making sure both of his hands were still attached.
It was macabre, this deactivated body part, just sitting there... just... was it a replacement? It must be for him. A replacement, a spare part, for him. It must be for him. It must be, it must be.
With a paroxysm he ran to the wall and slapped the control panel. The door opened, venting a great jet of freezing vapour. He ducked under it, desperate.
The other arm was inside. And a leg, and another leg, and scattered pieces like a jigsaw puzzle man, and a face. A face. There was a face in the wall. His *face*. *His* face.
Lore screamed, hearing his voice crescendo up into an electronic whine. He backed out of the wall recess, banging his head on the door, not noticing.
"Lore!" said his father.
He spun around, making Dr. Soong startle.
"You - you've, you-" his language programming seemed to have jammed. He pointed back through the steam at the collection of pieces.
"Oh, Lore," said Soong. "I'm so sorry. It's alright. I'm sorry. I was going to tell you..."
Lore whipped the phaser out of his jacket pocket and pointed it straight at his father, his hand trembling, servomechanisms failing to compensate. He felt his whole body start to quake as a great tangled wave of rage crashed over him.
It had never occurred to him before how much his father looked like him. It was like shooting into a mirror. But his father's hair was greying, and there were lines around his eyes. Lore was better, because he would never get old. He was stronger. He was a damn sight smarter. And he- he-
"That's what you've been doing. In secret." Lore glanced at the arm on the bench. The word *replacement* suddenly came back into his mind.
He fell to his knees in front his father and wrapped his arms around him. "Oh, please!" he sobbed. "Please! Please don't take me apart! I'll be good, I promise! I will! I will! Oh, please, Father, don't take me apart-"
"Oh, Lore." There were tears coursing down Soong's cheeks as he ran his fingers through his creation's hair. Those gentle fingers, so delicate. "Shhhh."
He still had the phaser gripped in one shivering hand. He should have killed Soong, then, just pressed the weapon into his back and let it tear him apart, molecule by molecule.
But he didn't have to.
Shooting into a mirror.
The Starfleet people hadn't trusted him from the beginning. They hadn't given him a chance. It wasn't fair. Data was inferior, couldn't they see that? He couldn't even talk properly. It didn't make sense to keep the replacement when they had the original. But they saw him as the copy, as some sort of flawed twin.
Lore stared at himself in the mirror, but all he saw was his father's face, his brother's face. And he knew that he wanted to be alone. He smacked his hand into the mirror.
"I'm *not* your twin!" he wailed.
He smacked his hand into the mirror.
"I'm not your *twin*!" he wailed.
He smacked his hand into the mirror.
"*I'm not your twin!*" he wailed.
At last the mirror shattered, exploded, bright fragments embedding themselves painlessly in his palm, lacerating the skin. He started to leak, laughing, laughing. They had put him back together, but he was still in pieces.
From the doorway, Rindol said, "We will take it apart. We will see how it works." The Pakled was holding a disruptor.
The wave broke on him them, boiling up out of some hot place inside him, as it had when he'd torn apart that kindergarten classroom, as it had when he'd smashed apart that hovertractor, as it had when he'd screamed at his father, feeling that gentle hand sliding down his arm, not understanding until the last moment when those delicate fingers pressed into the gap in his side.
He was across the room in an instant. Without effort, without a thought, he took Rindol's wrist between his forefinger and thumb and wrenched the Pakled's arm out of its socket.
Rindol started howling then, an intolerable high-pitched wail of animal panic. The fingers of his disconnected arm unclenched, dropping the disruptor to the floor. Lore flicked his hand across the Pakled's face, sending him flying into the wall, blood exploding from the violated shoulder. He took the fat man's other arm and twisted it free, dropping it onto the floor next to its twin.
Rindol died. Lore stalked out of the room, still laughing. Two Pakled tried to stop him as he headed for the ship's main airlock; he snapped one fat man's neck with a casual slap, punched the other in the ribs so hard his spine broke with the impact. Ripped apart airlock circuitry until the outer door opened and the inner door opened and the air screamed out of the ship, Pakled bodies whirling past on the hurricane. Until there was nothing to breathe, nothing to carry the sound of his voice.
Alone in the darkness.