Previous Next

Family Counseling

Posted on Sat Nov 11th, 2017 @ 8:13am by Captain Akiva ben-Avram & Lieutenant JG Jaya Maera Garlake & Biynah

Mission: Mission 0: Everybody Has A Story
Location: USS Vindex
Timeline: 2388

"Let's establish some baselines." Jaya sat on a stool pulled up to the sofa in Akiva's quarters, sat opposite to both Akiva and Biynah.
"Number one: we are going to speak honestly and respectfully. If you feel that one or more parties is violating that, then raise your hand, but do not interrupt."

Biynah raised her hand.

"Yes, Biynah?" Jaya folded her hands together.

"How does one speak respectfully?"

Jaya cleared her throat. They had been at this for nearly an hour with nearly nothing to show for it. "Respect is a concept of deferring to someone else because we value them."

"We show our loved ones respect because we love them," Biynah said. "A lack of respect is a lack of love."

"It can certainly seem that way," Jaya agreed. Counseling androids seemed about as productive as folding liquids, but she was here for her first officer who, with his head in hand braced on the arm of the sofa, was obviously distressed. She had absolutely no bearing or reference for Biynah's disposition--she was a blank slate to Jaya's mind. No, more like a hole in the universe that emitted clever observations which could be taken as naivete or manipulation depending on the nuance one interpreted.

Biynah held her hand up again.

"Yes, Biynah?" Jaya suppressed her mounting aggravation. Patience was a virtue, and she was determined to help Akiva regain his footing. If that meant she had to answer a thousand more questions, then so be it.

"Is it respectful to restrict someone you love in a confined space?" Biynah's face was neutral, though her eyes dilated in a knowing tell.
Jaya could not determine if it was a rudimentary subconscious action (she did not know enough about programming software to even rule out the possibility) or if Biynah was mimicking human interaction down to the smallest detail.

Akiva sighed in exasperation. "I've already explained this to you, Biynah: I cannot allow you to roam the ship freely. When you aren't in school, you need to be here. Those are the rules."

Biynah raised her hand. "I do not feel respect from Father at this moment."

"You need to respect my instructions," Akiva retorted. He didn't want to resort to threats. "Everything I do is because I love you."

"But you do not respect my desires," Biynah said.

"Nor you mine!"

Akiva found himself on his feet, hands clenched, instantly regretting his outburst. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I've become my own father..." He turned away, unable to look at either Jaya or Biynah.

The situation was getting away from Jaya. She had to regain control.
"Let's take a moment of silence before anybody says something they cannot retract," she said cooly. "Akiva, why don't you compose yourself there for a bit. I'd like to speak just to Biynah."

She turned to Biynah. "Social interaction is built on mutual trust. In families, that trust is more familiar, while in public the contract is more formal. Either way, however, there is a level of trust required in order for any relationship or civilization to endure. If you cannot trust your father, then he cannot be your father."

"I do trust him," Biynah said. "Why does he not trust me?"

"Biynah, you went behind his back."

"I made amends," Biynah said. "I informed him the next time I left our quarters."

"That doesn't make it acceptable," Jaya said. "Breaking a regulation is not acceptable simply because you declared your intention."

"I am to do what Father says," Biynah said, "but I must arbitrate between his words. Father is your senior officer, and if he issues orders or directives which exclude one another, it is up to your judgment to determine their priority and order of operation. Why is it different for me?"

Jaya raised an eyebrow. "Which directives are at odds?"

"Obedience and self-realization. Grow through the consumption of sense data and adding it to my base programming in order to reach my fullest potential, yet I am restricted from doing so to my fullest potential." Biynah blinked at the end of her sentence almost precisely like Akiva tended to punctuate his statements.

"I'm not a software specialist, Biynah, but I am a doctor of psychology," Jaya said. "You cannot sit there and tell me that conditional logic trees are beyond your reasoning. If your father provides another rule, then it can suspend the previous one rather than cancel it out altogether."

Biynah stared blankly. "My prime function is immutable. I cannot suspend it."

"You have a choice, Biynah. That is part of what your subprocessor is designed to provide, is it not?" Jaya narrowed her eyes as she studied Biynah. She could not read her psyche, so she had to rely solely on the unreliable body language that Biynah had learned to display since her weekly bootstrapping diagnostic upgrade.

"You can feel the thoughts of others, can you not?" Biynah asked.

"No. Well, not exactly," Jaya said. "I cannot feel your thoughts, if that is your next question."

"But I feel," Biynah said. "Father said so. He made me so. Can you feel that?"

Jaya felt a spike of terror tingle through her at the mere suggestion. "I don't know," she said honestly.

"Please try," Biynah asked. "Father says you can feel him when he resists your pheromones. Perhaps then you may understand."

"I... wouldn't know where to begin," Jaya said, delicately balancing Biynah's candor with her own professionalism. "You don't... you aren't like any other lifeform I've encountered, Biynah."

"You don't think I have a soul." Biynah's words were flat. Were they also accusing? Jaya couldn't tell.

"'Soul'... 'psyche'... those are just words. It is the consciousness which those words imply that concerns me," Jaya said diplomatically. "Since you possess conscious sentience, I am compelled to honor you... even if I cannot perceive your consciousness as I can with others." Jaya hoped that would be the end of that line of dialogue.

"Father, may she try?" Biynah looked to Akiva who had stood in the corner all of this time.

To the outside observer, Biynah's request had fallen on deaf ears. For Akiva's inner turmoil which had been an endless soliloquy, her words forced him to a decision.

"You can do whatever you want," Akiva said. "Just so long as you understand the consequences."

"Commander... Akiva... respectfully, I do not think--" Jaya began to say.

"No." Akiva was quiet but final. "If Biynah is determined to defy me, then I cannot stop her. That is what love means."


"But nothing," Akiva said curtly. "If Biynah is to be all she can be, then she will learn consequences one way or another--even if they're consequences outside my control." He looked upon Biynah for the first time since his prior outburst, his eyes full of pain, betrayal, and love. "I release you to do as you see best."

Jaya forced her jaw to close. This whole relationship had been unhealthy from the start in her professional opinion, but to watch it unravel so quickly astonished even her. The anguish radiating from Akiva was all but deafening.

"Is that what you want, Biynah?" Jaya said.

A tear formed at the corner of Biynah's left eye. She had tear ducts? Were they from original design or had her software altered the program algorithm in her molecular motors to generate them? Despite the emotional deadness she felt from Biynah, Jaya was having a harder time not thinking of her in terms of a biological lifeform with a developmental disability or delay.

"No." If Biynah had aught else to say, she kept it to herself.

Introspection. Jaya cocked her head as inspiration struck her. As a bio-neural synthetic lifeform, that meant many of Biynah's internal processes were bio-electric rather than conventionally cybernetic like most robotic constructs. Perhaps even akin to the Borg Collective, who had some sort of metaphysical conscious link between drones.

No telepathic screening or mind meld could read a computer's processes, but if Jaya could detect Biynah's bio-electric processes, perhaps she could interpret them as feelings in the same way a blind man could read Braille.

"I will try," Jaya said. "For everyone's sake. Give me your hand."

Biynah complied without hesitation or sign of uncertainty. She simply looked at Jaya with expectation.

When Jaya took Biynah by the hand, she felt nothing but cold, soft contact. The flesh felt real, but there was no emotive quality beneath it. She forced away thoughts of touching a corpse. Biynah was alive. She had to focus on that, not what her blind empathy was telling her.

Normally she would have to tell the other person to relax in order to penetrate their barriers and emotional interference, but when she reached away from herself toward Biynah through their physical contact, Jaya felt like she was in the vacuum of space. Alone.

~Biynah. Where are you?~

Nothing. There was no echo or resonance in the void of her empathic probe.

~If you detect me, give me a sign~

"I detect an attenuating signal in my hand," Biynah said.

"What?" Akiva asked. "What kind of signal?"

~Tell him it's me~ Jaya emoted.

"At first it felt akin to a diagnostic, but then I detected a transmission," Biynah said. "It feels like tactile contact with Counselor Maera without proximity."

Jaya blocked out all auditory conversation as she fervently concentrated on the bioelectric feedback through the neural nodes in Biynah's extremities.

Tension in face, neck, and abdomen. Repressed anxiety. Excess build-up.

Delayed neural impulses. Confusion. Uncertainty.

No breathing due to lack of lungs or respiratory function of any kind.

Jaya knew she had to press deeper, but how? The bio-electric feedback oscillated through the subprocessor in Biynah's skull. Jaya allowed her feelings to stretch outward, placing her own sensory perception on top of Biynah's.

And then she saw stars. The room went black. A roaring sound filled her ears.

Blood pressure spike leading to subsequent drop. Risk of cardiac failure: high.

If only she could remember what that meant...

Akiva had no idea what to make of what he was witnessing. Biynah sounded as though she were talking to herself, and Jaya didn't flinch a muscle save for the ever increasing look of concentration on her face.

Then her nose began to bleed.

Akiva was already on his feet when Jaya collapsed to the floor. "Counselor!"

"I'm all right," Jaya whispered. Her eyes opened, though they were unfocused for a moment. When she wiped her face, her hand pulled away red with blood from her nose. Fortunately the trickle had stopped though.

"I just... saw things from Biynah's perspective."

Akiva went from concerned to incredulous. "Biynah has a quantum powered positronic subprocessor. She thinks in terms of superpositions that are undefined in reality. Her thoughts are literally in another universe for all intents and purposes."

"Are we so different then?" Jaya said. Color returned to her cheeks. "I hope you aren't going to let me lay here all day."

Akiva nodded, then shook his head in the negative. "Easy does it." He he took her by the hand and shoulder and helped her to the sofa.

"Biynah is afraid." Jaya rubbed her nose and forward with both hands as if treating a migraine.

"Afraid of what?" Akiva said, looking back and forth to both of them.

"Her superpositional processing has placed her within a conundrum that is physically unsolvable: she cannot obey you. If she follows her prime function, then she disobeys your secondary mandate; if she obeys your secondary mandate, she violates her prime function. If she suspends her prime function, she will be changed."

"Changed? Changed to what?" Akiva turned concerned.

"To something other than your daughter," Biynah said. "And that is not how I am defined."

Akiva stared at the wall with a smoldering intensity. He had put Biynah at risk for a cascade failure and hadn't even known it. Undoubtedly the lion's share of her subroutines were devoted to preventing that due to the dilemma he had created for her. She had been drowning in an ocean of logical error and he couldn't see it before. Fear itself and its resultant disobedience were the buffer she had self-designed to preserve her core self.

"You will always be my daughter," Akiva said. "No matter what you do." He thought for a moment. "How's this? I will speak to the captain and the department chiefs. When you are not with me or your classmates, I can see about a work study within various departments in the ship. You will be required to learn by doing as they say, but at least you will not be confined to quarters while I'm on duty. And, perhaps one day, you could serve as my yeoman."

Biynah looked at him and smiled for the first time that day. "Father, I would like that very much." She turned to Jaya. "Thank you, Counselor. I knew you could understand."

"I'm glad one of us did." Jaya was still shaking her head. "If you two will excuse me, I have one hell of a report to file." She laughed. "It sounds as though you two have plenty to discuss now without me anyhow."

"Yes," Akiva said, a smile splitting his face. "I think we do."


Previous Next