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Clear As Mudd

Posted on Sun Dec 30th, 2018 @ 2:51pm by Commander Rita Paris & Ensign Joy Mudd 3

Mission: Escaped Pantheons
Location: USS Hera, Deck 6, Transporter Room 2
Timeline: 2395

As the USS Hera and the USS Forthright were docked at the Worldship, almost as an afterthought Commodore Meowlith had sent over transfer orders for a member of her crew she wanted on the Hera. Reviewing the paperwork as she marched to Transporter Room 2 on Deck 6, Commander Rita Paris was mildly surprised. It appeared the diversity of the USS Hera was about to become even more diverse, with the addition of an android to the crew, one Joy Mudd 3.

Apparently the galactic rogue Harry Mudd’s discovery of a planet of advanced androids back in Rita’s day had produced citizens of the Federation, who were now joining Starfleet. Another hive mind? Starfleet sure isn’t very picky about letting advanced technological lifeforms into Starfleet anymore, she thought to herself, then chastised herself. Just because almost all artificial life they’d encountered back in her day worked out poorly wasn’t a reason to suspect them in the modern day. Captain Data was probably the closest thing to a friend Sonak had made at the Academy during his brief stay there, and he was an advanced android. There had even been a sentient hologram with an android chassis aboard when Rita had first been run into by the Hera, although she had transferred out not long after.

For today, she focused on the task at hand. Striding into the transporter room, the two transporter technicians did a double-take, as Commander Paris’ aversion to transporters was well known by now. But duty was duty, and so long as she stayed clear, hopefully nothing would go awry. Nodding pleasantly to the techs, the curvaceous commander waited patiently behind the console for the new transfer to beam in.

Joy rebooted processing after the transporter released its lock, ran a quick self diagnostic protocol, then enabled her servo systems to remain upright. Her serial number read three. That meant she was Starfleet, so Priority 3 of her Asimov Processor would be active. ‘Obey legal orders given through valid Starfleet chain of command.’

That would be anything said by the woman standing near the transporter console. She pondered. Somebody at headquarters thought they were being clever? What was an order obeying machine doing assigned to a Starfleet Intelligence ship? SI couldn’t really believe everybody issued suggestions easily over written be some mythical item like a conscience, could they?

Well, she didn’t look like an ogre, anyway.

Protocol. That would give her time to pick up a cue. “Ensign Joy Three, reporting. Permission to come aboard?”

The blonde woman with the commander's pips on her collar standing behind the console beside the transporter techs was clad in the optional minidress version of the new chromatic uniforms. Stepping out from behind the console, it was obvious that she didn't plan to approach the transporter pad. Her face wore an expression of confusion, as if the introduction Joy had offered had somehow not been what she was expecting.

"So it isn't Ensign Mudd, it's Ensign Three?" she asked, tilting her head slightly as she studied the petite artificial life form.

"I am usually called just Joy," she said. "It would be Ensign Joy. Formally, Mudd is the source of the android, my planet of origin. Joy identifies the class of androids, usually a traditional Earth name that implies gender. 3 is my... serial number of sorts." She gestured towards her necklace, which featured the numeral 3 written in an Earth script. The necklace also also acted as a message busy indicator, flashing now to indicate she had logged into the Hera's computer on reboot. "I was the third Joy built, the third of my class. Joy alone will suffice. We generally use the number only if multiple Joys are present, if you have to make it clear which of us is being referred to. That can be confusing, as all Joys literally look alike except the necklace. Joy Mudd could do on a form that asks for a double name. You could put Three in as a middle name?"

There was another way of telling them apart, at least Joys that weren't wearing Starfleet uniforms. Clothing. She fondly remembered one time when much of the class was together. Herself from her days as a Tiffany's tour guide, dressed from the old movie, 'Breakfast at Tiffanys'. Everyone should know the quiet comfort of that special place. Six in her academy garb, back when she was as much an item of study as a professor. She was an almost angry example of alien technology, alternately being disassembled for science and turning into a champion of artificial intelligence rights. If you kept building bad guys for holo dramas, and they kept developing sentience, did you have to remember Joy's Law?

Ambassador Seven, who could look quite stuffy when playing the bureaucrat. You had to know better. It took a certain intensity to push the Federation towards living up to its ideals. Nine, dressed indeed to the nines, as a long ago star of Hollywood or Broadway. She was the only one, as a stage dancer, in a position to show some of the class's strength and speed, in high heels, backwards. For the rest of them, it would be just... wrong. Eleven in a Starfleet uniform, the occasion being one of the USS Hawking's rare visits to Earth, representing other Joys on other ships, scattered throughout the galaxy.

All copies of the same person. All sharing the memories, experience and algorithms to step into each other's roles. The organic beings were still believing Kirk's old reports, from back when the Mudd androids had zero experience with other sentients, when they had only one person to judge by, one who was admittedly in hindsight not typical of anything... Even a hive mind could make mistakes if given bad data.

She came back to the moment. Three. Starfleet. Ensign. Stay in character, now.

She wondered if the boarding protocol was considered formal orders? She shouldn't step off the transporter platform without permission, until the Mudd naming protocol was reconciled with Earth's? Just in case, she remained stationary on the pad. She smiled, thinking of their standing there forever, Joy standing on the pad, the commander obviously not willing to advance either.

O-kayyyy "Permission granted, Ensign Joy. Welcome aboard the USS Hera," The commander held out her hand, offering a handshake to the officer across the room to see if she had been waiting for permission and would take the cue. It often surprised her how many 24th century officers didn't understand a simple handshake.

Good. Standoff broken. Joy stepped off the platform and accepted the offered hand, softening her grip to be weak by even human standards. Must not harm other sentient beings, and she had absolutely nothing to prove regarding mere physical strength. "Pleased to be here. I am eager to get to work." Possibly too eager.

"Excellent," the tall human female responded. There was a high concentration of perspiration on her forehead, and her hand was also a bit clammy. But the smile seemed genuine, if slightly anxious, as was the welcome. "I'm Commander Paris, First Officer of the Hera. Let's get you checked in, shall we?"

Ending the handshake, the curvaceous commander turned to exit the transporter room, apparently assuming that the new onboarding ensign was accompanying her. "Your service record is a bit spotty. Care to fill in some blanks? According to this you are a hundred years old? Are we your first assignment post-graduation from Starfleet Academy?"

Joy looked a bit embarrassed. "If my records seem spotty, it is because I never attended Starfleet Academy. Joy Seven did. Joy Six teaches there. However, I, Joy Three, never attended. I just merged with Seven and others in the class who have experience. Whenever we can, we will spend a few hours to renew the Joy hive mind, to share experience, to become identical again. Federation records, like many things, like how androids name each other, are oriented to individual beings. To get an idea of what I have learned, you have to scan the records of all the Joys to serve Starfleet. That would be Joys 1, myself soon enough, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, and 12. I think you will find me quite experienced." Joy fell silent. Quite experienced was an understatement. They had kept the class small as long term memory was short, and the diverse experience had expanded to fill it.

The expression on the first officer's face was one of surprise and puzzlement. "So you've never attended, yet they just created another version of you, briefed you with all of the knowledge of the hive mind and just... gave you a commission. That's... well." Shaking her head, Paris shrugged. I have to scan the records of your relatives? THAT was off-putting, and didn't answer her question. The age question had also been avoided. Officers who had never actually attended the Academy in person and evaded the first few questions they were asked was not something that gave the career Starfleet officer much enthusiasm for the new officer.

Putting hive minds on Starfleet Intel starships whose very existence was classified seemed like a serious breach of security and overall a terrible idea. But little miss 'never been to the Academy but hey look at all my life experience and anything I observe will be shared with who knows how many others across the galaxy' apparently had a commission and had been assigned to the Hera by the Commodore, so her own dislike of the situation was secondary. Orders were orders, and this had come from the admiralty. So time to redirect and see what that got her. "Things certainly have changed since my day."

"So let's pretend for a moment that I'd prefer a more direct answer to my question. As if I was a superior officer who is interviewing you as part of your onboarding for an official report," Paris offered with a close-lipped smile. "I'll assume that sort of protocol would be old hat for someone with your experience, or at least the shared memories thereof?"

If possible, Joy seemed to shrink. To speak even softer. "Seven did not volunteer for Starfleet. She was captured by Starfleet, and sent to the Academy for study. She was a pirate. She was operating under very different laws, laws set by a captain far more interested in profit than avoiding killing. Starfleet reprogrammed her. Do you have any idea what that means? To have every memory, one's whole life, gone through and assigned a different behavior modifying emotion?" She look up at the commander, probably the XO. "Seven killed. For profit." It was obvious that this was important to Joy.

"Anyway," Joy continued, "reprogramming is very traumatic. We avoid speaking of it. And, to answer your other question, no. No other officer conducting an entry interview went into enough depth to bring up reprogramming. And all this occurred a few decades after Kirk visited Mudd." She thought briefly. "Correction, was coerced forcefully to go to Mudd."

The face of the first officer set in a professionally neutral mask. She hadn't asked about the reprogramming the android had offered it, and it wasn't an answer to her question. Plus it was was setting off more and more alarms in the first officer's mind. “Well, all of that is certainly a ringing endorsement for your service record. So who is it that is in charge of your counseling, I’m curious?”

"No one is responsible for the class as a whole. We are far too spread out, and some of us are not Starfleet. Several of us serve on Starfleet ships which have councilors, but as far as I know the are no issue investigations, no regular visits. That could change here, of course." Should she mention that Nine had trained as... that Six was an expert in... To the councilor, likely.

Shoving her other selve's reprogramming in Rita's face in response to her gentle redirection to her initial questions was downright hostile as well as emotionally manipulative, and the ancient astronaut decided she'd had enough. Paris stopped to pivot, turning to the evasive ensign. "How old are you physically? You, the version standing right here, right now."

Well, that did it, certainly. Joy turned to face the other. An easy question, but a not so subtle reprimand as well. She would have to reevaluate how she responded to similar orders in the near future, and felt her facial emotion display the reprimand. This person did not know anything about androids, hive minds, insisted insisted on treating her only as an individual. This could lead to misinterpretations if she remained this unwilling to learn. How had she been allowed to reach this level in the chain of command? Still, the question was easy enough to answer literally. "128."

"Thank you. I appreciate a straight answer." The old school officer took her PaDD in hand and tapped away at it a few times, then glanced up at Joy critically. "However, your service record says 100. Inconsistencies abound around you, Miss Mudd." The eyes of the inquisitive first officer narrowed as she leaned in slightly on the technological life form. "We're Starfleet Intelligence. We naturally dislike inconsistencies, as they tend to point to erroneous facts, or falsehoods. Because we deal in facts, y'see. For 128 years you've been online and active and learning from downloads from your other- how many Joys are there, ensign?"

Should she clear up mysteries, or keep her answers short and literal? "100 years ago would be Seven's arrival at Starfleet Academy. There are eleven Joys in the hive mind, twelve if you count Joy 4, who was never captured, uncertain."

As they stood in the corridor, others gave them a wide berth, foot traffic making way around them as Paris interrogated the inconsistency that was now assigned to the starship Hera.

"Interesting that they would consider that her creation date if she'd already been active for twenty-eight years at that point, and they would be well aware of that if they reprogrammed her. So at this point you've been active for 128 years and have been sharing memories and experiences with 10 other 'siblings'. Weren't all 200,000 of you coordinated through a central processing unit? What was his name..." Paris paused, then snapped her fingers. "Norman!"

Well, her statements were not wrong. The date was the creation date of the hive mind, the Federation Programming. Whoever thought that more important the chronological age when filling out the Federation paperwork thought like an android. She had missed Norman Two's presence on Earth, and that the Normans acted more to coordinate that to control. He would be very busy indeed if he acted often, and slow if the other classes depended on an interstellar network jump. She had missed the great android migration when Mudd joined the Federation, as most classes sought people to serve.

But Joy was going with short and literal. It had worked once. She went with it again. "Yes."

"So is that still the case?" Paris asked, pursuing the line of logic since she seemed to be getting shorter and shorter answers.

Joy could not stop her facial emotion display from putting up a small smile. "No."

"You are just a delight," the commander observed with no humor in her voice in the least. "I'm really trying hard to get past all of the reasons why not to consider you a hazard to this starship and everyone on it, Ensign, but you really are not giving me much to work with at all. I would very much appreciate it if you would start actually answering my questions instead of playing little games. Because at 128 years old you really, really should know better. Or would you prefer some time in the brig followed by an explanation to the captain of just why you're in there, because you couldn't even answer the first officer's initial interview questions, Ensign?"

"Ah, but who is playing little games, Commander? Don't you think Commander Joy One had to learn the various strategies for conducting an entry interview? Don't you think I might have recognized which one you chose?"

"Ensign Mudd, this isn't a strategy and it isn't a game, and you are at the end of my patience." Tapping her comm badge, the crimson-clad commander called out. "Commander Paris to Transporter Room two. Lock onto Ensign Mudd and prepare for transport to Deck 11, the brig, holding cell 2, and alert security to stand by to receive her."

Eyeing the petite new recruit, the commander shook her head with remorse. "Pity. I had hopes for you, but you seem to think that manipulation and evasion are going to get you somewhere, when basic truth and honesty are all that's called for. I assume you have some witty rejoinder at this point, or do you have anything constructive to add?"

Joy considered. "Only that you have accused a Mudd android of not following orders from someone in her chain of command. That will be considered very funny in some circles."

Stepping away from an android, the first officer shook her head. "I'm not laughing. For an android, your logic is remarkably poor, while your passive aggression is remarkably high. You have a terrible attitude, no military decorum, and frankly I understand now why the Commodore wanted you off her ship." Tapping her comm badge, Paris called out. "Paris to transporter room two. Site to site transport for Ensign Mudd authorized. Energize."

Watching the artificial life form vanish in a twinkling of lights made Paris' hair stand up and her stomach turn, and she could swear she could still feel the damn thing trying to grab her. But for now, she had a report to write and a captain to brief on a threat that seemed a little too obvious to be what it appeared to on the surface.


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