The next thing Data knew, there was sun.
He was laying face down on a peak of rock, jutting out of the ocean. The door to the mechanisms in his back was open, the sun beating down on them. Of course, he couldn't feel fear, but there was something unmistakably vulnerable about the position he was in. But before there could be any worry he looked up to a face floating in the water. Geordi reached out to him, fingers catching his chin and soothing, "It's okay, I've got you. You're okay."
"Geordi, what happened?
"You fell overboard. When I pulled you from the water you weren't functioning, but a little time drying in the sun…"
"You were there… You followed us?"
"Well…" Geordi said awkwardly, "You make it sound creepy."
"It wasn't my intention to make it sound creepy," said Data, missing some of the nuance of Geordi's response.
"I'm just saying that… It was a split second decision and I wouldn't do things like that if you asked me not to. I know there are stories about the mer-people—"
"Geordi, I do not feel threatened by your presence here. Though I have no way of knowing in absolutes, I have suspected since you first approached me that you had no ill intent. I am the one who went looking for you, despite being told I should not. And if you had not been here last night I would be dead." Data paused. "That is to say, non-functional," he corrected himself.
"I'm just glad I could help," said Geordi, and he directed his eyes straight into Data's, such that it was hard for Data to believe he couldn't see him. And as Data looked into those pupil-less eyes he could feel recognition form. The connections of familiarity. Usually it took longer for him to properly register that someone was a "friend." It was possible that he was damaged. There were salt and mineral deposits left on his gears. Perhaps however, it was the fact that people didn't usually put this kind of effort into Data right away. It took humans so long to even trust him.
Data pushed off from the rock and started to sit up.
Geordi heard the sound of him rising and said, "Wait! Wait," coming around to Data's side as fast as he could. "I left your key sitting inside your back, so it wouldn't slip off into the water. May I?" Data nodded, then realizing that was useless said, "Go ahead." Geordi felt around looking for the key with touch. He picked it up and gently closed the little door. After trailing his fingers along Data's back until he came across the little hole, he screwed the key firmly. "Alright, all back together," he said.
Data sat up and looked around. He was wearing damp slacks but nothing else.
Now that Data wasn't lying down, there was enough room for both of them on the rock, so Geordi hoisted himself up so he could sit next to Data, leaving just the fins of his tail beneath the water like he was soaking his feet.
"Geordi?" Data asked. "I believe when I fell from the ship I was wearing a blouse, a vest, and a coat."
"When I was pulling you to the surface I didn't see a coat. And once I had you here I was just trying to get things off you so I could open you up and get you dry. I wasn't thinking about where your clothes went. I'm sorry."
"That is okay. You cannot see. I cannot expect more from you than you are capable."
"Are you cold?"
"I am not capable of feeling cold. I dress because it is appropriate. The coat, however, was given to me by my captain. It was quite thick, and was meant to…" Data actually smiled as he said it, "Protect me from the water. The rain and the ocean spray on the ship."
"There will be other coats. Assuming I will find a way off this rock and back to my ship."
"They probably think you're gone."
"There was cannon fire. What happened?"
"In hindsight it may have been inevitable. We were stealing from goblins. Of course, we were only taking something they had stolen in the first place."
"If you were asked to do this, you couldn't ask for help?"
"It was discussed to the best that time would allow. The closest people are the Cardassians. Riker, our first mate said asking for Cardassian help is a death wish. And the Captain told him the Dead Elves were too far to contact."
"I know of the Cardassians, but Dead Elves?" asked Gerodi.
"You've never heard of them?"
"I've heard of elves and their telepathic powers… but why are these dead?"
"We see little of them, but they are supposed to be allies to the humans. I have heard that people call them that because they appear… 'Dead inside.' Though by comparison some might say the same of me."
"I don't know… I think you're full of life."
"Can I touch your tail?"
Geordi burst out laughing and moved the tips of his fins in and out of the water. "Sure."
Data reached out a hand and ran it along Geordi's tail. "It is similar to small fish, but not quite as delicate." Geordi nodded.
They sat for a while, chatting and touching, and acting like old friends. Geordi was beginning to get a bit chilly when he noticed a feeling in the water and sound on the wind.
"Is there a ship?" he asked. "A ship nearby. Maybe it could get you back to yours."
"It might. But I think you should go."
"That ship has been moving closer to us for some time. Now a goblin in a rowboat is coming from it. They are not known for their generosity. It is unlikely they want to save us. More likely they want to sell us."
"But… There's no way for you to get away."
"If they attempt to sell me, it will only get me closer to my ship. But if they attempt to sell you…"
Geordi nodded. "I will follow. From a distance. To make sure you're safe."
"You do not have to do that."
"I want to see you again."
"I want to see you again."
"I won't follow if you tell me not to."
"It… is up to you. Please go before the boat arrives."
The merman started to push himself off the rock when he heard Data say, "Geordi? … Thank you."
Geordi hesitated for a moment, then leaned over and kissed Data on the eyelid. It was unclear if this was where he was aiming for. As Geordi slipped into the water and out of sight, Data's speculated nerve endings on his eye exploded with sensation as though he had been touched much harder than he had been. There was definitely something wrong with his functioning. Someone would need to help him clean and oil his gears.
As the boat approached, Data heard the goblin call, "What happened to the other fellow?"
"He went into the water," Data said honestly. "He is probably long gone by now."
"O…kay. What are you? Some kind of robot?"
"How much do you think you're worth?"
"I don't know what I would fetch among goblins, but I do know that humans consider me quite the advancement. They would surely pay, what is the expression? Through the nose."
"I don't know what that means," said the goblin.
Data boarded the boat as it bumped into his little rock, and even put his hands out to let the goblin wrap ropes around his wrists. The goblin was baffled but followed suit.
"I am very expensive," Data replied.
The goblin huffed and rowed them back to his ship.
"You know, you add a lot of extra weight to this little boat."
"Apologies for any inconvenience."
Once they were aboard the ship Data sat awkwardly with his hands tied as they argued about what to do.
"He could probably do the work of ten men. He's valuable to any Ferengi," said someone who seemed to have authority.
"But I would escape," said Data.
"I thought he was being no trouble," he said to the goblin who'd brought Data in.
"You think you could escape so easily?" said another.
Data slipped his hands out of the ropes and tossed them aside, but he didn't stand. It wasn't his intent to be overly intimidating.
"I have no desire to work for goblins, and I have no desire to work for free. So, I would escape. Or be permanently immobilized. And if I escaped, I would be loose on a goblin ship or in goblin territory, which could be very inconvenient for you. I simply think it is more logical to skip all the trouble and extra work. Sell me to a human. You will get your pay, and they will have to deal with me."
"He's just trying to manipulate us into getting him home!" said one of the goblins.
"But if he is willing to be a nuisance to get what he wants it's the same trade off," said another.
"Indeed, and we don't know if hu-mons will come looking for him, like they did their last precious device. At least we can get some latinum out of them."
"Alright! It is decided. Start heading for the nearest coast. No need to travel farther than we have to if we can find hu-mons closer. And get the robot a shirt!"
The goblins weren't so bad actually. They were just looking for a quick payout, but the same could be said of anyone Data interacted with as a corsair. He had certainly met people who had less respect for his autonomy. People who wanted to own and control him just for the sake of it.
The goblins, on the other hand, talked with him and taught him to play their card games. Though they asked him for favors while he was aboard because of his strength and inability to tire, they saw no reason to be cruel when their only goal was to make money.
Data recognized the shoreline immediately as they approached what the goblins thought might only be their first stop. He'd wanted to return to this shore, but only to see Geordi, and now that he knew Geordi could follow him just about anywhere as long as he was near the sea, he wasn't as pleased to see it.
As they drew closer however, The Enterprise lay in their sight. There was static aboard the goblin ship, but Data pressed a hand to the goblin captain's shoulder and said, "You will make no profit attacking."
"But I could attempt to exchange you for the device."
"They wouldn't. We would all suffer if we don't return the device to the human government."
"They would risk us keeping you?"
"They also know I could get out of your possession easily."
"Well then, we are at a disadvantage. Perhaps we should sail on and try to sell to someone who doesn't know so much about you."
"That might be a long trip, do you have enough food?"
The goblin glared at Data. "Did you know this all along? Was this just a glorified delivery?"
"No, I didn't know they would be here. …I would just ask for latinum. They will give you latinum to avoid a scuffle."
They escorted Data down onto the shore, following smoke into the clearing. They tied Data's arms and feet, but they knew it was just for show. As they entered the clearing hundreds of people turned to look at them.
"We're outnumbered," whispered one of the goblins.
"There are plenty of Ferengi on the ship."
"Not that many… We're not prepared for—"
"Do not worry," whispered Data. "No one wants a fight."
"Get the captain!" shouted Riker.
Some men went off to fetch him and the rest were left staring at Data in silence.
"Rob'ut, we thought you were at the bottom of the sea," said Riker.
"I will tell you the story when this is resolved."
"Of course, are you… are you functional?"
Data lifted his tied hands awkwardly. "The goblins have not harmed me… yet."
Will nodded. The captain rustled through the trees and into the clearing, with a great sigh of relief and a saddle bag in his hands.
"Captain!" There was a pause and then Data said, "Oh please help me, Captain." He stuck out his bottom lip. Everyone looked at the robot incredulously, including the goblins.
Data looked to the goblins and shrugged. The Captain started laughing.
"How much do you want for him?" he asked.
"How much do you have?" the goblin captain asked.
"I asked you first."
"Three," replied Captain Picard.
"Captain," whispered Riker, "We're down to strips until we get paid for the device."
"Four!" said the Goblin.
"3, and 2 strips, that's my final offer."
"I could probably get ten for a machine like him on any other shore!"
"You probably could," Picard said with a sneer.
The goblin captain and Data looked at each other and Data stuck out his bottom lip again. The goblin rolled his eyes.
Picard opened his bag and took out the agreed upon amount.
"Untie him," said Riker.
The goblin captain looked to Data, and Data nodded. He flicked a thumb and the other goblins untied Data but held onto him gently.
Picard handed his fellow captain the latinum, and the others let go of Data.
"Goodbye," said one of them quietly.
"Goodbye!" said Data, "Thanks for teaching me your games."
The goblin captain was staring at the latinum in his hands. He looked a little sick. He stuffed it in his coat and turned to leave.
Troi approached Data and gave him a small kiss on the cheek. He was glad that he seemed to be returning to normal. Her kiss hadn't produced the same malfunction Geordi's had.
"May I go to the ship?" he asked, and the captain nodded but put a hand on his shoulder before he could go.
"We're glad to have you back," he said, then felt the material of the top Data was wearing, "Is this leopard print?"
"It belongs to one of the goblins," Data replied, and then disappeared through the trees.
He didn't keep quarters on the Enterprise in order to save space, since he need not sleep; so he kept his personal items in a drawer in the captain's office. Nothing had been disturbed. First Data pulled a black collared shirt from the drawer and changed out of the thick fabric the goblins had given him. Inside a box in the drawer was a rather large necklace. Data retrieved it. He folded the shirt and lay the necklace on top of it, carrying it with him as he left the Enterprise to return to the goblin ship.
He skipped the clearing, instead going along the shore, and he caught the goblin captain not yet boarded, but yelling at some crewmen.
"Captain," said Data, "I wanted to wish you a good trip."
"Well now you're just making fun of us, not even trying to avoid people who kidnapped you. No fear at all."
"Do not take it personally. I am incapable of feeling fear. I wanted to return this garment."
"Oh, that's alright."
"I will not be needing it," Data pressed. "And I have brought you… a present of sorts."
"A present?" the captain eyed him suspiciously.
Data placed the shirt and the necklace into the Captain's hands. "I received it from a woman who was convinced I was a spirit. I tried to give it back but she refused. I am not attached to it. Perhaps you could sell it."
The goblin immediately slipped it into his coat pocket.
"We never should've taken you…"
"Because I didn't fetch very much?"
"No… because…" the captain shuffled back and forth awkwardly. "Well just because we're in it for the latinum doesn't mean we have no morals. Ferengi aren't like the Cardassians, or the Troll syndicate. We don't deal in people."
Data's eyes widened and he smiled. "Honest mistake," he said.
The goblin turned to leave but not before saying, "See yah around, robot."
Thanks for reading. By the way, I take commissions, so if that's something you'd be interested in, feel free to send me a message, or you can reach me through email at LtCharlesLorem