Commanding Data

I had a chance to sit down with Jim Trender who is part of the famous team of engineers from the Enterprise. His other claim to fame of course is his part in the Commanding Data incident. I would like to make clear that he and the other two engineers are top notch people with years of experience and service in Starfleet and I have the utmost respect for him and his team.

Having been assigned his first mission on the Enterprise opens up a lot of opportunities to the inquisitive mind as Jim elaborated. It was the ultimate assignment where he and his engineer shipmates could explore the possibilities of all the tech they wanted without restraint. It was like a candy store and they had the front door key. 

Of all the tech available to them what really drew their attention was Commander Data. An android and they were given access to almost all of his operational information. But what really got their attention was the mission reviews and the one mission where a disease affected the whole crew of the Enterprise leaving them all incapacitated. The assistant chief engineer, under the influence of the disease, removed all the isolinear chips in engineering. During the last seconds of the incident Commander Data was able to replace all the isolinear chips before a star fragment hit the Enterprise. What the mission analysis revealed was that Data had programmed each arm and hand separately by scanning the board and the loose chips and then setting each arm to complete the task. His central system only monitored the progress until all the chips were replaced. What this means is that every component of Data is actually autonomous and can be programed and operated separately from the whole.

It would have to be the mind of an engineer to be able to come up with a hack for Commander Data. Now of course you really can’t do anything too dramatic when you are dealing with an officer, but the temptation is just too great to pass up when it’s an android. What they originally set out to do was to send a command to Data and move one of his arms and see if they could then get that arm to perform a BHS. The BHS or Benny Hill Salute is from an old comedy show from early twentieth century earth that was all the rage with engineers some time back. If you haven’t seen the show it features a performer named Benny Hill and in one of his routines he performs an exaggerated military salute with this silly look on his face. It always gets a laugh from the engineering staff.

So Jim and his colleagues determined that if they used a low yield Tachyon emitter with a carrier wave command sequence, they would be able to reboot Commander Data’s arm and then upload a mapped sequence that would in turn feedback to his central processor that would then move his arm with the desired effect, a BHS. The feedback loop would allow them to also slightly alter Data’s face into a sort of grin to complete the process.

Well the game was set and they figured they would get the best response if they programmed Data just before he entered the command bridge. Think of all the fun when he enters the bridge and then BHS’s the captain and all the bridge crew. Jim mounted the emitter with a magnetic latch on a bulkhead near the bridge entry and waited for Commander Data to pass. To deter suspicion he opened a plasma conduit panel and ran some diagnostics while he waited.

If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which a procedure can go wrong, and you can circumvent all four of those with ease, then a fifth way, unprepared for, will promptly develop. This is what engineers live for and fear at the same time but no what matter happens you always try to keep your cool.

As Jim waited for Commander Data to pass he explained to me that he wasn’t really nervous, just excited. But as Commander Data appeared, the diagnostic program he was running on the plasma conduit went into active mode. It sent a surge of power through the conduit that in turn sent out a flux wave that then loosened the emitters magnetic latch slightly. The emitter was precisely aimed and focused and set to activate within a very narrow band. When the magnetic latch was loosened it dropped only a couple of centimeters but that was enough to miss its intended target unbeknownst to Jim. As Commander Data passed, the emitter activated and ran its program and Data continued onto the bridge.

Success in anything is rewarded when you can see the results like when you plant a seed. You water and nurture it and as you do the seed turns into a seedling and eventually a full-grown plant. After Commander Data passed and then entered the bridge Jim started to close up the panel and remove the emitter. Just as Jim was about to turn and walk away the bridge door opened and Commander Data exited quickly. Behind him, just before the door closed again Jim could hear the sounds of muted laughter. As Commander Data passed, Jim could see what almost looked like embarrassment on the Data’s face. Jim cracked a smile and just then Data looked him straight in the eye. It had worked and he couldn’t wait to retrieve the bridge security video.

The news of the incident made its way around the ship quickly and Jim and his buddies relaxed in ten forward basking in the glow of a successful mission. They were waiting for someone to come up to them and tell them what they already knew. But when that first telling came they all just froze, it was as if the bottom of the ship had dropped away and they were inches from the eternal cold of deep space. They gathered up their senses and quickly all four of them headed off in different directions looking for verification of what they just heard, but each person they encountered told the same story.

It seems that the emitter had done its job better than expected, it was just that its aim was off, very off. When the emitter had slipped those few centimeters as Commander Data entered the bridge it was not his arm that was affected or even one of his legs. Something that was completely missed by all the engineers was that Commander Data is anatomically correct and that his “special part” is also autonomous and was quite susceptible to the emitter signal program.

Commander Data did perform a salute on the bridge but it wasn’t with the appendage Jim and the other engineers were expecting.

Yes, they paid dearly for that prank but because they uncovered a vulnerability in Data’s systems they were commended for discovering a serious flaw. So it was decided there would be no punishment, but also no praise.

But it did come with the perk of never having to pay for a drink again as everyone wanted to hear the details first hand and maybe see that one image that was not saved from the bridge security video.

The idea for this story came to me when I thought about the crew on a Star Trek Starship because they would all be very young and probably easily bored with routine. Someone would be thinking up things to do that really weren’t Starfleet approved. This may have been one of them.