The moment was over when Captain Picard’s voice was heard on Data’s intercom. He was requesting the two of them to meet him in Joelle’s quarters for a surprise for the young lady. The pair of them went down to Joelle’s quarters, curious as to what awaited them. As soon as the door opened, they were greeted with loud exclaims of surprise and streamers.
“What’s all of this?” Joelle asked, looking around at the decorations and friendly faces she’d come to meet.
“This is your welcome party,” Picard said, putting an arm around her shoulder. “This is our way to say welcome to the Enterprise, under the circumstances of course.”
“We hope your stay has been comfortable so far,” Riker said, giving her a hug from the side. “If there is anything you need, please don’t hesitate to ask. We are all here for you.”
Joelle’s eyes teared up from their kindness. From what she had seen so far from the crew, they acted more like a big family than crew mates. Seeing how they worked together and treated each other made her feel like she was home even though Michigan was constantly on her mind.
“Are you alright, Ms. Carter?” Data asked, concerned with her sudden silence.
“I’m fine,” she assured him with a smile. “I’m just taking this all in.”
Deanna gave her a hug. “I understand you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. But I’m glad to know you’re feeling a small hint of peace here amongst us all.”
While Deanna and Joelle went off into the room to talk more, Data sat back and watched the two interact. Riker found himself watching as well.
“Commander,” Data spoke up, pulling Riker from his thoughts. “How does one know if they are attracted to someone else?”
Riker turned his gaze to Data in surprise and a smirk crossed his face as he followed his comrades gaze to Joelle.
“Why do you ask? Are you attracted to someone, Data?” Riker asked, already knowing the answer.
“I am unsure, sir,” Data replied, his eyes following Joelle.
“Well, Data, the signs of being attracted to someone goes like this,” Riker began. “Hearing them speak is like the sweetest melody to the ears. There is something about that person that excites and calms you at the same time. Sometimes you might feel a little mad if you’re away from them for too long. And when you’re with them, you feel like you’re on cloud nine.”
Data leaned his head to the right a bit to process what Riker had said about feeling attracted to someone. Did he feel all of those things or maybe most of them? Perhaps not at all.
“Let’s put it this way,” Riker added. “If you didn’t feel attracted to someone, you would not have asked the question.”
He had a point, Data thought to himself. As an android, human feelings intrigued him so if he had started feeling this way towards someone, could it possibly mean he was more human than he thought? But was it entirely possible for an android to fall in love with a human, he thought? Data’s mind was thinking up different scenarios of perhaps her having feelings for him. She would blush when he would get close to her or touch her hand. She would avoid eye contact sometimes when they would have their interesting conversations.
Data noticed that Joelle was looking at him just then. She and Deanna had been talking for the longest while and he was curious to know what they were talking about.
“Why don’t you go and talk to her, Data,” Rike said, nudging him on the arm. “You won’t find out anything by sitting here staring at her.”
Data nodded in agreement and made his way across the room to where Deanna and Joelle were talking. He can’t remember when he had first seen her happy and heard her laughing. Deanna noticed him and patted Joelle on the hand, making eye contact with Data.
“I will let you two talk,” Deanna said, rising from her seat and finding her way to Riker.
“I hope you are happy,” Data said, taking a seat in front of Joelle. “I had no idea they were doing this for you.”
“I’ll be honest, Data,” Joelle said, a bright smile on her face. “This is one of the first times I’ve been happy since I’ve been here.”
“One of the first times?” Data caught on. “There were other times you were happy”
“Of course. Spending time with you makes me happy,” Joelle admitted, her cheeks becoming that champagne kissed pink.
Data locked gaze with her as her face grew redder and redder at his stare. For some reason seeing her blush made him feel happy inside. To know that he, an android, could make a human like her blush.
Joelle broke eye contact and looked at her feet. She could still feel his curious eyes on her as she stood up from her seat in a clumsy way. Her foot caught on the leg of her chair, causing her to fall forwards into his arms.
“I’m so sorry,” she said, her face now feeling like a furnace.
“It is okay,” Data said softly, helping her stand to her feet but keeping her in an embrace.
It felt like everyone in the room had grown quiet, as if they were all watching them. Joelle wasn’t sure how she felt about that. Negative thoughts started to rush to her like a hurricane. Those thoughts caused something to trigger in her mind. A sudden flash of an image came into view in the back of her head. She pushed herself off of Data and stumbled back, pressing hard on her forehead.
Deanna stood up immediately, feeling what Joelle was feeling. Riker had to catch Deanna as she fell out of her seat. She looked worried and a bit frightened.
“Joelle,” Picard said, inching forwards toward her.
Data was right there, just like he said he would be. He had no hesitation as Joelle began to stumble back into furniture. He grasped her by the wrist and pulled her into a gentle hug. She buried her face in his chest as the pain of whatever she was feeling ran through her entire body. Date held her tight as her body began twitching and she cried out in pain.
“Bring her to sickbay,” Dr. Crusher said, making her way across the room and towards the door.
“No, no,” Joelle managed to say through the pain. “I’m fine.”
“Ms. Carter, I believe I need to take you to sickbay,” Data said, standing up and carrying her out of the door.
It seemed as though her pain had subsided as soon as they made it to the elevator. Her breathing became steady and her heart rate slowed to a normal pace. She clung to Data’s as if her life depended on it, her eyes closed.
Dr. Crusher checked on her as they reached the deck to sickbay. “Everything seems normal now. Do you have any idea what just happened?”
Joelle shook her head. “It felt as though something was trying to take over my body and mind.”
“Let’s get you checked out and make sure it’s nothing serious,” Dr. Crusher said, leading the way into sickbay.
Data was still carrying her. When she tried to have him set her down, insisting she can walk on her own, he shook his head no.
“I do not mind carrying you,” Data said.
Dr. Crushed gathered some things before returning to Joelle’s side. She used a device to scan her entire body. Her face went pale and a look of concern crossed her face.
“What’s that look for?” Joelle asked.
“It would appear you have something inside of you,” Crusher said, going to the intercom and requesting the captain to come to sickbay at once. “It’s located in your brain.”
Joelle’s mouth dropped, unable to form words. She was afraid before, but this was a whole new level of fear. This was like a never ending circle of anxiety that just built up every second.
Just then the captain came through the door with a look of concern on his face. Deanna and Riker followed close behind him with the same look. Joelle felt sorry for Deanna because she knew she felt every emotion.
“Captain, there seems to be someone in Joelle’s brain,” Dr. Crusher got to the point. “I am unsure what it is at the moment but once I run some tests, I know I can figure it out.”
“Do it,” Picard said. “And don’t take no for an answer from Joelle.”
“Will the testing hurt?” Joelle asked, feeling tears form in her eyes.
Dr. Crusher shook her head with a reassuring smile. “I promise they won’t hurt at all. Data can stay here if you’d like.”
Joelle didn’t even have to say anything. Data was quick to answer that question without hesitation. Everyone looked at him in surprise but acknowledged his decision.
“I believe it would be best if I stayed with her,” Data said, grasping her hand in his. “I did make a promise.”
Joelle smiled a little. Feeling like she mattered meant so much to her. She had to admit that being here with everyone made her feel like she was a part of a big family. Everyone was kind and reassuring and very understanding. Back home in 2020, it felt like she was struggling in fitting in even when she was a teenager. The people she called friends had been cruel to her and her parents had stopped talking to her due to the job interview she was going to. No one ever explained to her why they had a change of heart towards her.
But here on the Enterprise, she felt like she mattered, like she was cared for. Being around Data made her feel happy despite what was going on. If they managed to find a way for her to return home, would they give her a choice to stay if she wanted?