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Publisher's description

He is perhaps the ultimate human achievement: a sentient artificial life-form -- self-aware, self-determining, possessing a mind and body far surpassing that of his makers, and imbued with the potential to evolve beyond the scope of his programming. Created by one of the most brilliant and eccentric intellects the Federation has ever known, the android Data has always believed he was unique, the one true fulfillment of a dream to create children of the mind.

But is he?

Investigating the mysterious destruction of a new android created by Starfleet, Data and the crew of the USS Enterprise uncover startling secrets stretching back to the galaxy's dim past. That knowledge is coveted by beings who will stop at nothing to control it, and will force Data to redefine himself as he learns the hidden history of artificial intelligence.


500,000 years ago

The civilization of Exo III is driven underground by drastic ecological changes. Small, fragile creatures, they invent a servant race of androids, though these artificial intelligences are imperfect and prone to irrationality. The Exoans are unable to repair the inherent errors, and instead plan to transfer their own consciousnesses into artificial bodies. They try to trick the androids into voluntarily shutting down with false promises of a fix, and the entire species is wiped out when the androids realize their creators’ lies. Not possessing spaceflight technology, most of the androids go into stasis to await an eventual interplanetary visitor, leaving one of their number, Ruk, to stand vigil.


After millennia of isolation, Ruk is unstable and most of his memories have been lost to time. Dr. Roger Korby leads an expedition to study Exo III. His ship crashes, Dr. Brown is killed, and Korby is gravely injured. Ruk saves Korby by transferring his consciousness into an android body. The ancient equipment’s imperfections, coupled with its not being calibrated for a human, allow flaws to develop in Korby’s new artificial brain. He embraces his new life and begins building more androids. Five years later, Korby’s encounter with Captain Kirk is fatal to all of the androids.


Professor Emil Vaslovik and two of his students, Ira Graves and Noonien Soong, conduct an archaeological mission on Exo III to explore the rumors of that world’s artificial intelligence. They discover the remains of several ancient and modern androids, destroyed through violence, as well as ancient android-producing hardware. They load a 500,000-year old android into the duplication matrix and activate the device, but are forced to flee when their actions awaken an android army from millennia of stasis. Soong observes that Vaslovik seems to have known what they would find there, but the older man is tight-lipped and he disappears with all of the Exo artifacts soon after.

Unbeknownst to the humans, the android they resurrected stows away aboard their ship and disappears into Federation society. The android army discovers and reverse engineers Korby’s crashed ship, enabling them to escape as well. They spend the next 70 years secretly studying the artificial intelligence advances of local galactic powers, hoping to find a solution to their instabilities.


Dr. Julianna Tainer dies of natural causes, but Data recovers her body before her true status as an android can be discovered. He inters her in his cybernetic lab alongside the rest of his deceased family—Soong’s three failed prototypes, Lore, and Lal. Overcome with emotion, he grows bitter over the fact that he will outlive everyone he will ever know or care about. Lt. Rhea McAdams transfers aboard the USS Enterprise-E as the ship’s new chief of security. She is popular, impressive, and possesses great insight and empathy; she and Data quickly develop a friendship, then a romance.

At the Daystrom Institute Annex on Galor IV, Commander Bruce Maddox, Lt. Reg Barclay, and Professor Vaslovik work to develop a new “holotronic” android, using a holographic matrix to minimize the risk of cascade failure in a Soong-type positronic brain, and their work seems quite promising. However, a freak electrical storm wreaks massive damage on the complex. The lab is destroyed, Vaslovik is vaporized, the android is crushed, and Maddox is left injured and comatose. Admiral Haftel orders the Enterprise to Galor IV. Data and McAdams are tasked with the investigation, and Data orders a global lockdown, believing that the accident was really an attack, though he can present no evidence to support this. A diagnostic on Data reveals no problems and the crew realizes that he is developing intuition.

The destroyed android is salvaged from beneath the debris of the lab and discovered to be a forgery. Data and McAdams think that obsessively private Vaslovik faked his death and escaped with the real android, leaving the fake to delay the investigation. A team searches the professor’s home and accidentally trips an automatic transporter that delivers them to a secret subterranean lab. Vaslovik’s files show that he planned to steal the android all along, but that his discovery of another interested party forced him to accelerate his plans and stage the accident. The team is attacked by several large androids and narrowly escapes in the complex’s escape pods. Data is critically damaged, but Rhea, revealing herself as an android, stabilizes him and takes him to Vaslovik. Riker and Barclay head to the Enterprise, but find the starship under attack by an unknown vessel resembling an iceberg. They use the pod to destroy the iceship and are transported to safety by Sam, the Enterprise’s bartender who reveals himself as an android and a member of a loose galactic Fellowship of Artificial Intelligence. Sam is actually an Exoan who transferred his consciousness to an android body. His new body was disabled during the ancient uprising, but Soong and Vaslovik's actions allowed him to be repaired, and he was able to escape.

Vaslovik reveals himself to be the immortal Akharin and repairs Data aboard his secret cloaked space station. In recompense for his mistreatment of his creation/daughter Rayna Kapec, Akharin has devoted his life to the advocacy of artificial life, and has built a shrine to the deceased artificial intelligences discovered or created over the last century. He learned that the holotronic android project was under scrutiny from the Exo androids, who believe that Rhea is the key to their renovation. Akharin rescued and finished the android, then hid her in plain sight as Rhea McAdams, granting her the best protection possible and putting her in the position to root out their enemies. She was also supposed to learn how to interact with biological beings by observing Data, but Akharin didn’t count on the pair falling in love. The station comes under attack from a fleet of iceships and is nearly destroyed. Data and Rhea are captured by the Exo androids and the Enterprise arrives just in time to save Akharin.

The starship disables several iceships, and Data remote-activates the M5 computer aboard the station, who acts to protect itself by destroying several more Exo ships. Data and Rhea escape to the outer surface of their captors’ ship and inflict severe damage to the shield emitters. Sam atones for his people’s mistreatment of their androids by sacrificing himself to stop them and end their misery. He pilots a shuttlecraft into the atmosphere of a nearby planet, acting as bait to draw the last iceship in after him. The atmosphere is actually home to an immense colony of Wesley’s sentient nanites, which dismantle and consume both ships, uploading the Exo androids’ matrices into their own collective consciousness, where they find peace. Data and Rhea are saved, but Rhea realizes that she can’t stay aboard and goes off in search of the Fellowship of AIs. She and Data part amicably. Akharin disappears without a trace, taking the deactivated Julianna with him. He restores her to youth and life and reveals her true existence to her.



Reginald BarclayBlinkenCasciatoBeverly CrusherDataIra GravesHaftelHeyesRanul KeruRoger KorbyGeordi La ForgeM-5Bruce MaddoxRhea McAdamsO'NeilJean-Luc PicardPoQozWilliam T. RikerRixaRukSamNoonien SoongSpotMaury SullivanJuliana TainerTellisarTolmanDeanna TroiUmbangoEmil Vaslovik (aka Flint, Akharin) • WellesWinken
Referenced only 
Aaron BrownErnest HemingwayHenochRayna KapecNodKeiko O'BrienMiles O'BrienNormanSargonThalassaVogWorf

Starships and vehicles

ArchimedesUSS Enterprise-E (Sovereign-class) • Turing
Referenced only 
Breen destroyerUSS Defiant


Galor IV (Daystrom Institute Annex) • HuginMuninOdin
Referenced only 
Atrea IVDeep Space 9Exo IIIStarbase 105Tzenketh

Races and cultures

Referenced only 

States and organizations

Daystrom InstituteFellowship of Artificial IntelligencesStarfleetUnited Federation of Planets
Referenced only 

Science and technology

exocomphologramholotronic brainM-5 computer

Ranks and titles


Other references

ak'vohDominion Warplanet



  • Despite the given stardate, dialogue suggests that this story takes place later, shortly after Voyager has made contact with Starfleet in the episode "Message in a Bottle".
Flint (under his Emil Vaslovik identity) accompanies Ira Graves and Noonien Soong on an expedition to the planet Exo III in order to learn more of the rumored technology that produced artificial life. However, their trip woke a large number of androids that had been in stasis and sought to kill the trio of trespassers.
Juliana Tainer "dies".

Related stories

External link


published order
Previous novel:
The Genesis Wave, Book 3
TNG unnumbered novels Next novel:
A Hard Rain
chronological order
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The Soft Room
Pocket Next Adventure:
One Little Ship
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The Soft Room
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The above chronology placements are based on the primary placement in 2374.
The Pocket Books Timeline places events from this story in two other timeframes:
Previous Adventure:
Burning Dreams
Chapter 19
Next Adventure:
Burning Dreams
Previous Adventure:
Chapter 14, Section 5
Seventy Years Ago
Next Adventure:
Iron and Sacrifice

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