"A man who has no conscience, no goodness, does not suffer."

Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

oOoOo

In the utter blackness of deep space there travels a single small starship, a tiny speck of cosmic phytoplankton. Inside the cramped, ambient lit cockpit a solitary man presses long pale fingers into his temples. A man made not of flesh and blood but of tripolymer composites and bioplast sheeting. A mechanical construct. An android.

The steady blip of consoles does nothing to silence the angry thoughts and conflicting emotions that eat away at this android second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour. Fingers point, loud voices accuse him of things he hasn't done. These are not the hallucinations of a schizophrenic- these are exquisitely detailed memories, files he can't seem to archive or ignore let alone delete. These events really happened and he can't escape them. "Freak". "Abomination". "Broken toaster". What else did they expect from the grotesque creation of Often Wrong Soong?

The android's name is Lore. Sometimes he thinks his name is the only thing he owns. Everything else is transient- power, wealth, life itself. All are gained and discarded equally. None bring him happiness in the long run. He doesn't even know what he wants any more.

Before his mind became corrupted there were mountains and meadows, laughing children, a sparkling lake with a flower lined path. He would walk for miles, adding his unique set of footprints to those left by other explorers. His olfactory sensors processed each exquisite scent borne on the breeze, identifying the unique flora of Omicron Theta one by one. He studied the clouds. He categorized the different insects. Was he happy then? Maybe, maybe not- but he was content for long spells at a time, especially when he was left alone.

The endless darkness of space becomes a beautiful cerulean blue as Lore accesses his memory of the kite. It was a diamond shaped, rainbow colored kite flying like a bird on that warm summer's day, long tail curled against a cloudless sky. Flicking, snapping and buzzing, dipping low then soaring high, the kite drew Lore's attention and enraptured him with its hypnotic dance. He felt drawn to it, for some unspecified reason. It looked so carefree, almost alive. Almost... sentient.

The child to whom the kite belonged tugged the string to control it as he ran around in the long grass. He wore an olive green jumpsuit made from a basic, utilitarian fabric and had unruly blond hair that flashed in the sun. He also had precisely twenty four freckles across the bridge of his nose and eyes that matched the color of his clothes.

Adults didn't trust Lore, but some of their children did. They were fascinated with him. "Intrigued", as dear Data might say. They asked him questions like could he burp? Did he have boogers? Why were his eyes yellow? Why did he look like a ghost on Halloween? In contrast they bored this nonchalant android. Having no questions for them, he felt they were nothing but smelly little nuisances, always shouting- though he wished them no ill will, at least not at the time. When he was feeling benevolent, he even answered some of their queries. "I can approximate the sound of a burp for you", and then he would let rip with a belch that echoed across the valley until the children fell on the ground crying with laughter. Small thing amused small minds.

The kite spun in circles, a manic blur of color tracing patterns in the wind. Lore decided that such a thing of beauty deserved a skilled navigator with lightning reflexes, not some impulsive little kid. *He* would make the kite twist and turn and loop the loop. *He* would make it waltz across the sky. He would take care of it, treasure and nurture it- because as beautiful as it was, the kite could only trace its perfect patterns on the end of a line. Never truly free- always under someone else's guidance, much like Lore himself. That's why the quality of guidance was so important. The kite deserved it, needed it, in order to perform at its best.

The kite is a pleasant memory. A good memory. Good memories are distressingly rare and Lore protects this one like a precious jewel. The kite not only calms him- it brings back all the sights, sounds and smells of that warm summer day on Omicron Theta. The lake, the flowers, the boy whose actions determined the fate of the kite even as he yanked the string like the clumsy human that he was.

Things went FUBAR after that, but none of it was entirely Lore's fault. If the colonists had only treated him more kindly...if they had just...tried to understand him instead of jeering and ridiculing. Even his own father... the man who made him. How could he discard his own son like an unwanted piece of garbage? The colonists' nickname was fitting. Often Wrong never did anything right, and he always left other people to clean up the mess while he ran away and hid.

The file shuts off as it always does and the cacophony of malcontent returns. Exasperated beyond comprehension, Lore grinds his fists into his temples and begins performing trillions of computations per second, endlessly searching for some kind of repair kit. Self diagnostics only go so far- he can't fix that which he can't find. He's misfiring badly somewhere in his neural net and all he can do is rail against the unfairness of it all, cursing the fatally flawed genius of Dr. Noonien Soong.

Once upon a time this android was brand new with a life full of promise and potential in front of him. Now he's a prisoner in his own twisted mind where there's more dark than light, more bad than good. He's a timepiece with the hands running backwards, a clockwork toy banging its springs out against a wall. He tells himself repeatedly that he no longer cares about his home world or his father, or even the handful of children who might have been his friends under different circumstances, or if he cared. Because it's all gone, all of it, and the kite is his one good memory from all of that time. The snap and hum of fabric, the cascading colors, the blinding sun, the peace that it brought him just for one day. The kite is a blip of sanity in an ocean of unrelenting chaos and he guards his files like a jealous lover.

In the utter blackness of deep space there travels a single small starship, a tiny speck of cosmic phytoplankton. Inside the cockpit sits a man. This man, this troubled android in his lone starship travels towards an uncertain future with equal measures of optimism and dread. And somewhere in the distant past, where no children play any more, an arid wind covers his footprints while the broken kite flutters in the branches of a leafless tree.