Glancing over her shoulder, Ann called to Tye. "Keep an eye on things out here. I'll be in my office if you need me."
Entering the small room just off main engineering, Ann's thoughts raced as she prepared for Joy's arrival. "What could have happened?" she wondered silently. Reaching into the bottom drawer of her desk, she carefully retrieved her copy of Joy's Manual. It had been awhile since she'd needed to refer to it. She shuddered as the memories of the android's last malfunction suddenly reappeared.
Even after that particular incident, Ann still found it difficult to think of Joy as a piece of machinery. Perhaps it was because of the months they'd spent together in engineering and the many hours of conversations they'd shared about every subject imaginable. Joy was probably the most intelligent individual on the Hawking, but there was an innocence that had endeared her to Ann long ago. Whatever the reason, the full blooded Terran now in charge of engineering always considered Joy more humanoid than android.
Her thoughts were interrupted by Sal's quiet knock on the door. His expression grim, he nodded to his left where a grav sled floated a few inches above the floor.
"She just collapsed. I don't know what happened," he said sadly as Ann walked toward them.
"Oh no," she moaned softly as she caught sight of Joy on the grav sled. The android was curled into a fetal position, her body quivering. It was obvious her programming was caught in a vicious loop. It was painful to see the elegant Joy in such pathetic circumstances.
"Bring her in here, Sal," Ann ordered softly, blinking back the tears stinging her green eyes. "I have her Manual. Let's see if we can't figure out what went wrong and how to correct the problem."
Sal silently guided the sled into the office, positioning it by the desk before disengaging the power and allowing the unit to quietly rest on the floor. Ann was already accessing the Manual's index when he walked up beside her.
"She is just sitting there," he stated solemnly.
Ann nodded while looking up at the young science officer. "Did Joy say anything before this happened? she inquired.
Sal paused for a moment, "She was mumbling. I think she said 'They died,' or something like that."
A knot the size of Texas immediately invaded Ann's stomach. It wasn't unusual for engineering to learn about details of a mission after the fact. Engineers provided the power necessary to perform the tasks required and hoped it all worked out. Rarely was there an update unless it had direct bearing on the ship's energy requirements. The fate of away teams didn't fall into that category. Yet, she knew the phasers had been used heavily.
She wondered about the reasons for that. It had been too hectic to inquire. The science officers had been on the bridge. They would know. The CEO stared at Sal, her heart pounding against her ribs.
"Who died, Sal? she asked in a halting voice.
He looked at her stricken expression and immediately realized the possible implication of his previous statement. Sal reached out and rested a hand reassuringly on Ann's forearm.
"Some of the clones were killed," he spoke quickly. "Some type of self destruct mechanism was activated and many of the inhabitants were lost before we were able to destroy the power source." He smiled slightly. "The away teams are fine.....they're on their way back now."
Ann released the breath she'd been holding and allowed herself to relax slightly.
"Thanks, Sal. You had me worried there for a minute."
She returned her attention to the Manual. Ann was fairly certain Joy's condition had a lot to do with her emotion chip. She quickly referenced the information and smiled as the text appeared.
"I've got it. Fetal position, face against knees, shaking. Emotion chip overload. She disobeyed one of her laws, likely high priority, likely multiple times."
"What are her high priority laws then?" asked Castrux, his interest piqued.
Ann pressed the keypad and a moment later, the "Laws" scrolled before her.
"Do not interfere with pre starlight civilizations,." she read from the text.
"Can't be right," quipped Sal. "This planet had starflight."
"Uh oh!" Ann bit her bottom lip as she read aloud the next "Law." Unless receiving legal orders from valid Starfleet chain off command, do not kill or injure sentient beings, or through inaction allow them to be killed or injured."
"The planet?" questioned Castrux. "She let the people get killed?"
"It must be," replied Ann, becoming increasing alarmed. "She's programmed to give her life rather than allow one organic being to die. The curve is linear!" She stared intently at Sal. "If this equation is right, she'll be disabled for days!"
For a long moment, neither of them spoke. It was Sal who broke the silence.
"There must be a way to override."
"I'll check," replied Ann scanning the information in the manual. A couple of minutes passed before she found what she'd been looking for. "Yes, here it is."
"What is it?" the science officer's tone revealed his concern for his commanding officer.
Ann smiled at him. "It's very simple. According to this, all we have to do is.....
"Maximize body contact with android. Rock gently. Increased fluid outflow from eyes and audible indicators will show feedback cancellation is in progress."
Sal stared at her in disbelief before looking down at the stricken
"You mean, we have to make her cry?"
Ann had already seated herself beside Joy on the grav sled. She struggled to lift her friend into a sitting position and would not have succeeded without Castrux's assistance. Joy definitely weighed more than a standard humanoid. As Sal sat down on the opposite side of the sled, he instinctively took Joy's hand in his own.
"We call it grieving," Ann whispered as she put her arm around Joy. The android's head lolled against her shoulder. "The androids refer to it as feedback cancellation."
Sal smiled appreciatively as he gently ran his hand up and down Joy's arm. "She really is a piece of work, isn't she?"
Ann nodded slowly. "Yeah.....she's one of a kind."
The above was written primarily by Ann, based on a few manual page entries provided by myself.