Commander, is it your intention to continue to grow your beard?
Actually, I'm not sure yet.
- Why, Worf? - I was just asking.
Seven-card stud, one-eyed Jacks are wild.
- Frankly, Geordi, I like the beard. - Thank you, Commander.
You know, I have always been a little suspicious of men in beards.
- Why is that? - It's like they're hiding something.
Hide? Don't be ridiculous. The beard is an ancient and proud tradition.
Many distinguished men have worn beards.
After the razor was invented, beards became mostly a fashion statement.
I'm not concerned with fashion.
To a Klingon, a beard is a symbol of courage.
I think it's a sign of strength.
Sure, and of course, women can't grow beards.
It sounds like you think beards are an affectation.
I do.
But there's nothing wrong with that. Women wear make-up and nail polish.
I just think it's time that you men admit it.
My beard is not an affectation.
Then you wouldn't mind shaving it off.
In a minute. I've just gotten used to it.
OK, then why don't we up the stakes a little?
And if I win, all of you shave your beards off.
Wait a minute, what if you lose? What are you gonna give up?
I'm open for suggestions.
I'd like to see you as a brunette.
I did that at 13. I couldn't change back fast enough.
That makes me even more curious!
Fine. If one of you wins, I'll become a brunette. Are we on?
Yeah, we'll take that bet.
Looks like you have the hand to beat, Commander.
I'm in 200.
This is the Captain.
We've arrived at the Tyran system. Senior staff to the bridge.
Sorry. Duty calls. We'll have to do this some other time.
Captain's log, stardate 46307.2.
We have just come into orbit of Tyrus VIIA
to monitor progress on the Tyran particle fountain,
a radically new mining technology.
The project has been fraught with problems and is well behind schedule.
Mr. La Forge has been assigned to evaluate the situation.
Dr Farallon, the plans call for the particle fountain
to lift 500 kg per minute from the surface.
So far, we haven't come close to that.
I want to increase the stream density.
That should boost capacity by 72 percent.
You'll be overloading the field generators in the process.
Not if we distribute the overload evenly.
Maybe we should complete this phase before we talk about redesigning it!
Commander, I know you're here to evaluate this project.
Starfleet may use a particle fountain on Carema III.
- They want to know if it's feasible. - Will your opinion decide that?
No. I'll report to Capt Picard. He'll make the recommendation to Starfleet.
- They'll decide. - What's your feeling?
The question we should be asking is,
is this technology more efficient than conventional mining techniques?
Commander, I know we've had problems.
It seems like nothing's gone right.
It's taking longer than I thought to get the stream to full strength.
But I know it can work.
This is the direction of mining in the future,
and it should be implemented on Carema III.
I know this can be potentially very exciting...
Alright. I want to show you something I've been working on.
It might help us complete this project.
I've used these on a limited basis...
Enterprise to Cmdr La Forge.
I am reading power fluctuations from the station core. Please report.
We have a malfunction in one of the power grids.
We're losing particle-stream confinement.
- Do you require assistance? - Stand by.
We'll have to shut it down.
It took four months to get the flux to this level.
If we shut it down, it'll take four months to get it back.
In five minutes, we lose containment.
The stream will flood the station. We'll have to shut it down anyway.
- We'll have to fix the power grid. - But how do we do that?
The defective grid is 200 meters down conduit A-2,
and through four bulkheads.
Here's the perfect opportunity to show you what I had in mind.
What is this?
This is an exocomp, the experiment I was telling you about.
If it fails, we'll still have time to shut down the fountain.
Enterprise to La Forge. What is your situation?
No change. We're working on it.
If this doesn't work soon, we'll have to shut down.
The confinement field is at full strength.
Particle flux steady. All power levels are back to normal.
Please report.
We're fine, Data. The power grid is fully restored.
The malfunction seems to be repaired
and operations here at the station are back to normal.
How did you accomplish the repairs so quickly?
You know, I'm not exactly sure.
Space, the final frontier.
These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.
Its continuing mission, to explore strange new worlds,... seek out new life and new civilizations,... boldly go where no one has gone before.
Captain's log, stardate 46315.2.
Repairs to the particle fountain seem to have succeeded
and it is now functioning smoothly.
Dr Farallon is to demonstrate the device that carried out repairs.
- Energize. - Aye, sir.
Welcome to the Enterprise, Doctor. I am Lt Cmdr Data.
Mr. Data, I was hoping I'd have a chance to meet you.
I've done studies of your positronic network.
And I have studied your fountain. I find the concept innovative.
Thank you.
I am curious how you were able to repair the power grid so quickly.
- This should make it clear. - Let's set it up in Engineering.
Is it true your computational speed
is limited only by the separation of your positronic links?
That is no longer the case.
I recently converted my sequencer to asynchronous operation,
- removing the constraint. - Doctor. This way, please.
But how did you resolve the signal fragmentation?
The sequencer is now bi-directional,
compensating for mode distortion arising from the resonant field.
Yes. That's fascinating.
Does it require any buffering system to eliminate interference?
We've been using devices like this on Tyrus VII for years.
The basic unit is a common industrial servomechanism.
A few years ago, I started tinkering with one. This is the result.
Boridium power converter. Axionic chip network!
Very impressive.
In terms of computational speed, this guy might compete with Data.
The exocomps don't come close to Data's sophistication.
- Exocomps? - That's what I call them.
Let's say you had an antimatter- flow converter that was fluctuating.
How would you repair it?
By adjusting the converter.
- With what? - A mode stabilizer.
OK. Let me input the problem into the exocomp.
A fluctuating antimatter-flow converter.
Now, let's see what happens.
A mode stabilizer. Very nice.
You have incorporated a microreplication system,
in order to fashion tools.
It's more than that. I designed the exocomps to be problem solvers.
When they perform a task they've never done before,
the microreplicator creates new circuit pathways in its memory.
- So in a sense, they are learning. - Exactly.
The more situations they encounter, the more circuit pathways they build.
They become better tools as they work.
It's very impressive technology, for sure.
After the experimental stage, it'll be useful.
Commander, I'm hoping the experimental stage is over.
When are we supposed to brief Capt Picard on the fountain?
- 1600 hours. - Good. I'll have a proposal to make.
I know you should give your evaluation to Starfleet today.
I'd like you to postpone the report for 48 hours.
We leave tomorrow. To change that plan, I need a very good reason.
I realize that, sir.
If you're going to report to Starfleet
about using the particle fountain on Carema,
it's only fair you see it operating at full strength.
I think I can complete the project and boost the stream's efficiency
if I use exocomps, the new devices I've constructed.
I understand one of these devices repaired a faulty power grid.
Yes, sir. I've been testing them on a limited basis.
But I think they're ready to be used on a larger scale.
Mr. La Forge, your thoughts?
Well, I guess the only risk is in falling further behind.
- I'm willing to take that risk. - Mr. Data?
Exocomps are highly sophisticated devices.
If they perform well, their potential for this project is considerable.
I'm inclined to agree. I don't think 48 hours is too much time to risk
when the gains are so substantial. You may proceed, Doctor.
Thank you, sir. If possible, I'd like Cmdr Data to work with me.
Thank you, Doctor. I welcome the opportunity.
Commander, there's a plasma conduit
in one of the tunnels ready to be sealed.
- The perfect job for an exocomp. - I agree, Doctor.
Well, Mr. Data, what is your analysis so far?
I have completed 14 separate tasks with this exocomp in the past hour.
I estimate it would take two people nine hours to complete those tasks.
I characterize the unit's performance as excellent.
I hope Cmdr La Forge and Capt Picard agree.
I am confident they will. Cmdr La Forge is especially...
It didn't finish sealing the plasma conduit. Let me send it back in.
It is not accepting your commands.
Maybe there's a malfunction in the control processor.
Let me see if I can override it.
I'm alright. The control pad just overloaded.
What's the matter with this thing?
Second Officer's log, stardate 46315.5.
The behaviour of the ex ocomp has puzzled Dr Farallon and myself.
We have brought the defective unit to the Enterprise for investigation.
The exocomp came out of the plasma conduit.
We tried to override and send it back but it shut down.
It's been unresponsive ever since.
Well, let's see what our computer has to say.
The circuitry which links the exocomp to the control pad is burned out.
That's strange. Any indication of secondary power surges?
But what's going on there?
Data, increase the magnification of section Gamma four.
The number of new circuit pathways has increased by 632 percent.
- No. - What is it?
Sometimes an exocomp forms large numbers of new pathways at random,
until it reaches a point where it shuts down,
just like this one.
Doctor, the new pathways
do not interfere with the original circuitry.
Once the exocomp is corrupted, it's useless.
You have to erase the unit and start again,
and there's no time for that now.
That leaves just two. It's gonna slow you down.
Yes, you have the right to point out you told me so.
I only wanted to say we'd add on an extra shift to pick up the slack.
I'm sorry. I guess I'm touchy these days.
It's OK. You've got a lot on your shoulders.
Well, I'd better get back to it. Thanks, Commander.
I feel sorry for her. This project has had nothing but problems.
Why did that plasma conduit explode?
There was a micro-fracture in the conduit wall.
The fault did not show on our instruments.
It's a good thing the exocomp malfunctioned.
Almost seems like it knew just when to leave.
Geordi, are you implying the exocomp
exhibited some form of self-preservation?
Of course not.
Lt Pierson to Cmdr La Forge. Can you join us in the systems monitor room?
On my way.
Computer, run a level-one diagnostic of the exocomp's command module.
The command pathways are functioning normally.
How can that be, if the interface circuitry is burned out?
The interface circuitry has been repaired.
Computer, access the exocomp's sensor logs.
Confirm there was a failure in the circuitry in the last 12 hours.
Confirmed. Interface failure occurred at 1150 hours today
when the ex ocomp produced a power surge which burned out the linkage.
How and when was it repaired?
The ex ocomp activated a self-repair program at 1340 hours.
Why would the exocomp burn out its own interface circuitry
and repair it two hours later?
Here you are. I thought you'd be hard at work by now.
I wanted a quiet cup of tea before I went back. Gathering strength.
I've assigned two teams to work on the particle fountain.
Thank you, Commander. I'm grateful.
You know, I want you to know that I do admire the work that you've done.
I'm sorry the exocomps aren't working out.
You were right. I'm trying to move too fast.
I lack that conservative streak most scientists have.
I always seem to be out on the edge, taking chances.
I bet, as a girl, you always climbed one branch higher than other kids.
Anything to get to the top of the tree.
- And I bet you never fell. - No. I fell all the time,
usually breaking a bone in the process. I just never let it stop me.
If it's down to sheer determination, you'll get this fountain built.
You're right about that, Commander.
I've spent six years of my life on this project.
It's the first thought I have when I wake up
and the last before I go to bed.
Whatever it takes to prove this technology, I'll do.
Doctor, if you wish to master the bat'leth sword,
you must learn to strike and avoid in the same motion.
I almost got in under your guard, Worf.
Well, I'll keep that in mind next lesson.
- Are you injured? - Only my pride, Data.
Doctor, what is the definition of life?
That is a big question. Why do you ask?
I am searching for a definition so I can test a hypothesis.
Well, the broadest scientific definition might be
that life is what enables plants and animals to consume food,
derive energy from it, grow, adapt to surroundings
and reproduce.
Anything exhibiting these characteristics is alive?
- In general, yes. - What about fire?
Yes. It consumes fuel to produce energy, it grows,
it creates offspring. By your definition, is it alive?
Fire is a chemical reaction.
The same applies to growing crystals. But we don't consider them alive.
And what about me? I do not grow.
I do not reproduce. Yet I am considered to be alive.
That's true, but you are unique.
I wonder if that is so.
Data, if I may ask... Have a seat.
What exactly are you getting at?
I am curious as to what transpired
between the moment when I was an assemblage of parts
in Dr Soong's laboratory
and the next moment when I became alive.
What is it that endowed me with life?
Wesley asked me a similar question when he was little.
I tried to give an answer, but everything I said sounded inadequate.
But scientists and philosophers
have grappled with that question for centuries,
without reaching a conclusion.
Are you saying the question cannot be answered?
No. I think I'm saying that we struggle all our lives to answer it,
but it's the struggle that is important.
That's what helps us define our place in the universe.
I believe I understand.
I don't think I've been much help.
On the contrary, you have been a great deal of help. Thank you.
Murphy's team will cover gamma shift from 2300 to 0700 hours.
OK, I've split the Engineering teams among the shifts.
If nothing else goes wrong, you should finish on time.
With the help of the exocomps, I think we will.
Think they'll toe the line?
Don't worry. They know who's in charge.
Doctor, I must ask you to stop using the exocomps.
Why? Is something wrong with them?
No, it is not that. I have reason to believe the exocomps are alive.
Captain's log, stardate 46316.6. I've summoned the senior staff
to discuss Cmdr Data's theory that the ex ocomps are a life form.
Dr Farallon has attended only reluctantly.
I object to being called here. My time can be better spent elsewhere.
Doctor, I appreciate your time constraints,
but recognizing new life, whatever its form,
is the principal mission of this vessel. Please.
Now, Mr. Data,
will you tell us what makes you think that the exocomps are alive?
Sir, when the exocomp left the tunnel prior to the explosion
it may have been attempting to save itself.
Do you have any basis for that?
Yes. When you tried to send the exocomp back in the tunnel,
it deliberately burned out its control interface.
The computer diagnostics show the exocomp disabled its interface.
That could have been a malfunction.
However, two hours later, when no longer in danger, it repaired itself.
I believe the exocomp was protecting itself.
If so, it demonstrated an awareness of its environment
and an ability to adapt to it.
You're anthropomorphising these units.
Like any mechanical devices, they can malfunction.
One time, I saw an exocomp enter a reaction chamber and vaporize itself.
Should I think it was depressed and suicidal?
Why is it so difficult to accept that the exocomp could be alive?
You're talking to a living machine now.
I have nothing but respect and admiration
for Dr Soong's accomplishment.
But his intention was to create an artificial life form.
I created the exocomps to be tools.
And there's a big difference between Data and a tool.
Doctor, there is a big difference between you and a virus,
but both are alive.
If the possibility exists, no matter how slight,
that the exocomps are life forms, we must examine that possibility.
Thank you, sir. And until we have a definitive answer,
I believe it is inappropriate to exploit them as labourers.
That's absurd!
If they are intelligent life forms,
we have no right to force them to work.
That's like me saying don't use your tricorder.
- Tricorders aren't alive. - Neither are exocomps.
Clearly these are difficult issues to resolve.
We have to proceed very carefully.
So the first task is to test Mr. Data's hypothesis.
You're claiming this exocomp demonstrated survival instincts?
Then why don't we threaten its survival again and see what happens?
Make it so.
Doctor, we're pretty much ready here. You can begin programming it.
We've recreated a situation similar to the one in the plasma conduit.
We have created a small conduit breach in this tube.
The exocomp would normally take several minutes for such a repair.
But in the tube, it will find a plasma-cascade failure in progress.
I assume this is a simulation.
Yes, sir. An overload signal will simulate a failure in one minute.
If it does possess a survival instinct, as Mr. Data claims,
it will exit the tube before the minute is up, to save itself.
Very well, proceed.
OK. Beginning test program now.
One minute.
50 seconds.
30 seconds.
10 seconds.
Five, four, three,
two, one.
That's it. If this had been for real, that conduit would have exploded
with the exocomp inside. Go ahead, bring it back in.
I think we've spent more than enough time answering this question.
I hope the outcome wasn't too disappointing, Mr. Data.
It was no surprise to me.
- Thank you for your help. - You're welcome.
Well, I consider it time well spent.
As do l, sir. Thank you.
30 seconds.
20 seconds.
Cmdr Riker said you'd still be down here.
He also said the exocomp failed the test.
That is true.
Time expired. Test complete.
I completed 34 more tests. The results were the same in each.
Perhaps I was wrong in suspecting the exocomp was alive.
This was really important to you, wasn't it?
You said earlier that I am unique.
If so, then I am alone in the universe.
When I began investigating the exocomps,
I realized I might be encountering a progenitor of myself.
Suddenly the possibility exists that I am no longer alone.
For that reason, I...
The exocomp has returned.
Wasn't it supposed to do that?
In the previous 34 trials, I brought it back after the simulated failure.
- This time, I neglected to do that. - I distracted you. Sorry.
Do not apologize. We made a significant discovery.
- What? - It has replicated a different tool.
That is not the molecular fuser it had on entering the tube.
Doctor, the exocomp not only completed the repairs,
it also deactivated the overload signal.
I thought this was just a simulation.
It was, and the exocomp must have realized that.
It saw that there was no real danger and completed the repairs.
And replicated the correct tool to eliminate the false signal.
I see no other possible explanation.
The exocomp didn't fail the test, it saw right through it.
Captain's log, stardate 46317.8.
At Dr Farallon's request, I have agreed to tour the station
and assess the situation personally.
I must decide soon if it is in Starfleet's best interest
to recommend the particle fountain as a reliable technology.
We're making progress, Captain.
We may not be at full capacity within the deadline, but we'll be close.
There's still difficulty with the phase selectors.
True, but I'm sure it's the last real problem.
I hope so, for the sake of the project.
I understand, sir. We'll do our best.
This is strange. Primary power is still on line.
- A power-grid malfunction? - I don't think so.
Something's drawing power into the particle impeller.
That's not a good sign. It may mean...
We've lost internal confinement. The particle stream is surging.
Radiation will flood this chamber. We've got to get everyone out.
- The station must be evacuated. - Captain...
That is an order! Assemble your personnel on the transporter now!
Picard to Enterprise.
- Do you read me? - Riker here, sir.
Radiation field is increasing. We are losing communications.
- Prepare for emergency transport. - Red alert.
Transporter room two, prepare for emergency transport.
Radiation is setting up an ionization effect. We've got less than a minute.
- Is that everybody? - Where's Takenta?
- He was near the impeller control. - I'll get him.
Mr. La Forge!
Stand by to transport.
Captain, you'll be trapped here!
Mr. La Forge!
Are you alright?
I'm fine, Captain. I only caught the edge of it. He's dead.
- Do you have them? - They're here, sir.
- Is everyone alright? - We're fine, sir.
But Capt Picard, Cmdr La Forge and one of my men are still there.
Kelso, can you get them off?
I'm trying, sir. I can't establish a pattern lock.
We barely managed to transport off. The field ionization is too intense.
Commander, the particle fountain is continuing to surge.
The radiation in the core will reach fatal levels in 23 minutes.
If I can access the field emitters, we could establish a force field.
Try to link your console to my command-system subroutine.
- Link established. - OK, here we go.
I'm reading fluctuations. The field is not stable.
Radiation is too high. The emitters are deteriorating.
- How long will it last? - Not very long.
- Cmdr Riker has to get to us. - Maybe we can help him out.
Try to access the emergency shutdown.
I'll try to activate the ionic dampers.
A force field was just activated on the station.
Cmdr La Forge may have established a low-intensity deflector field.
It won't last long in that radiation.
No, sir. My readings indicate it will fail in 22 minutes.
OK, we've got 22 minutes. I want some options.
- Can we send a shuttlecraft? - We'd never get there in time.
We must shut down the particle fountain.
If we detonate a torpedo within the particle stream,
would that shut it down?
We must configure it carefully.
The shape of the shock wave is critical, but it could work.
How long would it take to set up?
It would take a minimum of 65 minutes to configure the torpedo.
We don't have that kind of time.
Maybe the exocomps can help us.
I can program their power cells to explode on command.
They can be configured just like a photon torpedo in a few minutes.
I must object to that plan.
We've been through this. We tested the exocomp and it failed.
Dr Crusher and I discovered the exocomp did not fail the test.
It is still my belief that it is a new life form.
You know I respect your judgement.
But I can't risk the Captain and Geordi on the basis of your belief.
Prepare the exocomp, Doctor.
If I am correct the exocomps will not allow themselves to be destroyed.
They have a sense of survival. They will shut down rather than comply.
I could disconnect their command pathways before I program them.
Do it.
Cmdr Riker, we're ready.
Target 200 meters below the apex of the particle stream.
Feed the coordinates to transporter room two.
Aye, sir.
- Coordinates received. - Mr. Kelso.
Mr. Kelso?
Sorry, sir. The transporter system just went dead.
Some kind of malfunction.
Run a diagnostic. Try bypassing...
Commander, that will not be necessary.
The transporter is not malfunctioning.
I have locked out the controls.
I gave you a direct order. Release that transporter lockout now!
I cannot do that, sir.
If you don't, I will relieve you of duty.
That is your prerogative. Under Starfleet regulations,
insubordination is a court-martial offence.
But I will not release the transporter.
Those are two of your friends out there.
They have saved your life many times.
I can't believe you'd sacrifice them.
Commander, do not think this is an arbitrary decision.
I have considered the ramifications of my actions.
It is not justified to sacrifice one life form for another.
You don't know the exocomps are life forms.
True. I am acting on personal beliefs,
but I do not see I can do otherwise.
You're risking a lot on the basis of a belief.
I have observed humans often base their judgements
on instinct or intuition.
As I am a machine, I lack that particular ability.
But I may have insight into other machines that humans lack.
If I could save the Captain and Geordi
without destroying the exocomps, I would,
but this is the only solution.
Then let me offer an alternative. Transport me to the station.
I will attempt a manual shutdown.
The radiation levels are too high, even for you.
Your positronic net would ionize in no time.
I can't let you sacrifice yourself.
Commander, if I give my life for my fellow officers, that is my choice.
The exocomps no longer have a choice.
What if we reconnect their command pathways and give them a choice?
You assume the exocomps would shut down before accepting this mission.
What if we ask them if they are willing to proceed?
That sounds reasonable, sir.
If they choose to go, I will release the transporter lockout.
Fair enough.
Alright. I've enabled their command pathways.
If they do not shut down after I have programmed them,
we may assume they are willing to go.
- Are they willing or not? - They haven't shut down.
They seem to be reprogramming the commands I entered.
Reprogramming them?
They are unwilling to be transported for detonation.
But they may have another solution.
That we haven't considered? Do they have superior intelligence?
No, Doctor, but they do have superior experience.
The exocomps have interfaced with every part of the station core,
something none of us has done, including you.
They may have another way to control the particle surge.
Those appear to be power taps.
Sir, new coordinates are being fed to the transporter by the exocomps.
The coordinates are inside the station core.
- Kelso, energize. - Aye, sir.
Mr. La Forge.
What are they up to?
The exocomps are siphoning power from the core.
They're distorting the stream.
That might open up a window to beam us out.
If they can modulate the radiation field, it'll work.
but they have to get the subharmonic frequencies to resonance.
The particle-stream frequency is beginning to fluctuate.
They're having difficulty controlling the feedback.
Can we help them? Modulate the power transfer?
No, sir, we've done all we can do. It's up to them now.
They're beginning to balance the power-absorption rates.
It's working. The particle stream is beginning to distort.
Almost at resonance.
- They've got it. - Drop the force field.
- Commander, I've got a pattern lock. - Energize.
- Can you lock on to the exocomps? - I'm trying, sir.
I'm sorry, I was only able to lock on to two of them.
I couldn't fix a signal on the other one.
One of them had to continue disrupting the particle stream.
That could prevent a signal lock.
It was the only way to save the other two.
I must admit you've given me a lot to think about, Cmdr Data.
I don't exactly know what the exocomps are,
but be assured, until I do, I won't be treating them as simple tools.
Thank you. I wish your particle fountain had been more successful.
Maybe the exocomps will help you reconstruct it.
I hope they will. And I predict that in a year or two,
you will be able to recommend the technology to Starfleet.
I look forward to it.
- Something more, Mr. Data? - Yes, sir.
You might want to know why
I was willing to risk your life for several small machines.
I think I understand. It could not have been an easy choice.
No, sir, it was not.
When my own status as a living being was in question,
you fought to protect my rights. I will always be grateful.
The exocomps had no such advocate.
If I had not acted on their behalf, they would have been destroyed.
I could not allow that to happen.
Of course you couldn't.
It was the most human decision you've ever made.

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