"Painful Answers"
[previous post was "Bide" by the delightfully talented Susan]

Setting: Moon of PI ALPHA III, Inside the Underground Ruins
Stardate: 30148.1935

Through narrowed eyes the Intelligence Liaison Officer looked at the Atkitashiinu named Eeru, or to be more accurate the ILO peered into the mind of the alien being in search of answers.  The race and the ancient machine that had been discovered inside the underground ruins had been linked in some way, and Shar'El had taken on the task to flesh out this association and understand what it had all been about.

The general consensus had likely been that the machine had been used by the silicon-based race for some dark purpose, but the more the ILO tried to understand both the race and machine, the more she grew to question the simplicity of that idea.  Aas she made her way through the shattered images, Shar'El could not help but feel that something had not been right.  As alien as the images had been, the memories simply felt as if they had not been as they should have been. 

The barely audible words that had been spoken by the Ship's Counselor when this experience began had continued to echo in the mind of the Ullian as she navigated through the fragmented memories of the Akitashiinu.  ~Try not to force your way in.~  Strangely enough, Shar'El could hear another voice, one that originated from within beckoning, almost pleading her forward.

Setting: Inside the mind of Shar'El
Stardate: Not Applicable

The seemingly endless maze of images had given way to a long circular corridor which began to dip forward.  Any and all efforts to she the ILO retreat proved to be in vain and soon Shar'El found herself falling with no way for her to slow her rapid descent.  Being in someone else's mind meant that the Ullian often came to experience the emotions of her subject, but in this case the fear she felt had been hers and hers alone.  When the fall ended with the ILO landing onto a rocky surface a quick survey of her surroundings showed her to be in the same place as she had been when all of this began.  The difference of course had been that none of the other members of the ANUBIS' crew had been present, this having been a deeply buried memory in Eeru's mind.

The machine stood there unchanged as how Shar'El remembered it, the alcove where Doctor Mizore had been trapped in having been vacant in this memory.  As the observer that she was, the ILO could do nothing but watch as Eeru approached the machine.  Curiosity it seemed had not been limited to carbon-based life forms.  A deep gasp of air filled the ILO's lungs when the Akitashiinu was lassoed by several glowing conduits and dragged into the machine.

Setting: Moon of PI ALPHA III, Inside the Underground Ruins
Stardate: 30148.1940

"Are you alright?" Eve asked of the ILO who seemed in urgent need to draw breath.

"That machine," Shar'El barely managed to say through her rapid and shallow breathing.  "It changed Eeru and the others that went into it."

"Changed?" the Counselor wondered in a whispered voice not wanting to draw the attention of the named Akitashiinu.

"I am not sure how to describe it," the ILO said appearing almost in a panic.  "Brainwashed doesn't truly define what it is that I saw and felt."

"Reprogrammed?" the Captain asked in an equally whispered tone, indicating by the same token that he had been listening in on what had transpired.

"In theory the brain of a silicon-based life form should act very much like a computer, a sort of bio-mechanical processor," Eve nodded.  "At the very least it should be able to be accessed in the same general way and possibly even affected in the same manner."

"Yes," the ILO said with wide opened eyes.  "That would fit what I felt, a sense of duality in Eeru's mind, like conflicting directives, peaceful intentions and ways having been overwritten by more militaristic objectives.  Whatever the Akitashiinu are doing they are doing it under the directive of that thing," Shar'El added as she sent an accusatory finger in the general direction of the machine.

Without saying anything else, Captain Morningstar simply looked at the kneeling ILO and then at the machine, the intensity of his gaze had made it very clear what he expected Shar'El to do next.

"I am so much going to need a vacation after this," the ILO whispered to the Counselor in a half joking manner before Shar'El turned her complete attention to the machine and the Bajoran trapped within it.

"I think Seska has the easier part of this," the ILO whispered as she glanced into the memories of the aCMO to find her still firmly holding on to the peaceful recollections of her time on VULCAN.  Using the link that the machine had established between the Bajoran and itself, Shar'El could easily travel back into the bio-mechanical mind and try to discover why the machine had been using the Akitashiinu as it had.

Setting: Inside the mind of Shar'El
Stardate: Not Applicable

Having visited this memory archive once before, the ILO did not feel as lost as she had that first time around, yet there had been no way for Shar'El to full ward off the overwhelming sense that she faced at the sheer amount of memories and knowledge that stood before her.  The one advantage that the Intelligence Liaison Officer had was the fact that the memories had been very neatly organized and catalogued.  All that she needed to do was to locate the correct memory segment among the hundreds of thousands that stretched before her.

Using a simple process of elimination, the ILO scanned general time periods to see if she could see anything that seemed out of place for an entity devoted to learning all that could be learned.  At some point the machine had gained a militaristic attitude and goals, and backtracking to that specific point of origin would hopefully indicate who or what had been responsible for this shift in the machine's directive.

The knowledge of thousands of years flashed before the ILO's mind, causing her on several occasions to nearly forget why she had been here in the first place. Exploring the knowledge of places never seen or heard of by the Federation as a whole had proven to be an enticing prospect, one that could very easily cause the Ullian to never return to he real world.  So using Seska's own memories of VULCAN and the Counselor's words as an anchor, the ILO continued her search.

When she encountered a memory loosely based on pain, the ILO narrowed her search to that general area.  How could a living machine actually experience *pain*?

Setting: Moon of PI ALPHA III, Inside the Underground Ruins
Stardate: 30148.1945

"It was tempered with," Shar'El said as she clenched her stomach, the pain of the machine having become hers for a split second.  "I could not identify who did it, but someone added a component to he machine which forced it to follow a new set of military driven directives.  All it wants is to gather information for the sake of the experience, it was never programmed to hurt anyone or anything in this search for knowledge."

"Why the pain?" the Cardassian born Counselor asked, trying her best to help the ILO without actually knowing what was happening.

"Although it had gathered knowledge on this concept, It directly knew nothing of pain and suffering until *after* the tampering of its system.  It was tricked in some way to accept this modification, and through it learned what it was to actually feel pain.  Not as you and I know pain, but it does *feel* something because it has been used in ways that contradict its primary function and programing."

"You need to rest now," Eve said as she offered the agitated woman a chance to lean back and rest.

"No!" the ILO snapped as she pushed the Counselor's caring hands away.  "We need to help it and the Akitashiinu NOW!."

Tiffany Reeve

Ensign Shar'El
Intel Liaison Officer