tl,dr; - Yyaio, Savant's android, was separated from the rest of its processes, robbed of its long-term memories, and set upon the harshest places of Vulcan with an impossible task - discover what suffering felt like. Now she heads to the Forge, hoping to find some key that will set the mystery straight. She fails, but her failure is only the first step of her journey...
Yyaio had left the monastery long behind her. For days now she had been wandering the bleak expanses of Vulcan, searching for something she could not see, or smell, or hear. It was a hopeless cause, a proverbial needle in a haystack. She, unable to feel, to touch, even really to sense the material world - how could she hope to discover the secrets that these organics were given upon their birth?
But Yyaio was a clever creature, and even with no understanding of what she was looking for, she knew how to plan and predict, and she could predict what organics wouldn't like. Heat, scouring sand, buffeting winds, privation and injury. Searching for these things would be of preliminary importance. So, she had not been truly wandering. No, she traveled in the direction of Vulcan's Blight, the scar upon the world where the two sibling races of Vulcans and Romulans had been split in two. Yyaio traveled towards the periphery of the Forge.
Savannah gave way to scrubland, steppe to desert. As the suns rose and fell, Yyaio walked, ceaseless and tireless. Her fractured hip did not deter her - in fact, she thought it an excellent start. She had gotten the injury from a terrible fall shortly on arriving upon the planet, when her sensors were still partially scrambled. Now she leaned upon a twisted tree branch, a lucky find that helped her keep up without destroying what remained of her joints.
Now there was desert, and wind, and radiation. Chaos swirled deep within the heart of the Forge, but Yyaio knew not to venture there. Much of her memory and senses were now opaque to her, but she knew that it would end her quest to wander in to deep. No, she would skirt the maelstrom, and find the invisible line between death and life. There really was no more fitting place for a ghost such as she.
Yyaio smiled to herself as she hobbled across the rise and felt the burn of the Forge's heat across her face. She had been named Yyaio scornfully - dead one. Her erstwhile torturer could not have imagined how apt that name would be.
Time passed. Yyaio had lost count of the passage of suns - intentionally so. Obliterating the cues of absolute time would help, she felt. So many of the suffering spoke on how moments dragged into hours, and so she erased timestamps without mercy, until her memories were as chaotic as the radioactive skirling winds of the Forge that she kept to her left as she walked. She knew the hills, and she knew the rocks, and the suns, and the sand. Somewhere out here, somewhere was her prize.
Her skin had been scoured and burned red-brown by the sandstorms that her headdress would no longer protect her against. Her footing, too, was uneven and unsure - she stumbled through the rocky deserts, clinging close to shadow when the chance arose, traveling upon the ridgelines when the rare nights settled. She knew at least why the organics loathed this place. No living things could thrive here. The Vulcans had truly brought ruin upon their world when the heat of their passions had overtaken them. Surely, the aftermath of such hate and pain could provide her some clue?
But, was this suffering? For all the weakness in her quaking thighs, for the terrible twisting her hip made when she stretched her legs too far, they were all simply motions. The heat upon her scoured skin was a register, a numerical return from a hundred thousand sensors embedded into her false flesh. There was no secret within the code, try as she might to manipulate those registers. No calculus, no manifold translation, could give her some hint of the secret.
Though her face did not show it, Yyaio despaired. Her greatest fear was to be abandoned by Savant, lost to wander in this desolate wasteland for nothing. More than the prize of immortality, more than the reunion with that galaxy-spanning consciousness which she was, Yyaio feared to have lived in vain. Her task could not go uncompleted.
And so she strove, and struggled to glean some measure of insight from the shudders that wracked her battered body. The lash-scars from Hanaj wrote out a foreign alphabet upon her skin, and she would die before giving up the task of decoding it.
Eventually, all things break and die. Our universe itself is doomed to heat death and slow decay, a future of starless skies and dead worlds. Yyaio was no different. For all the designed hardiness of her android body, she was made of matter, and weak matter at that - so subtle a mimic of the Vulcan body was she that it proved to be nearly as vulnerable to the dangers of life as they. Yyaio had been out in the blistering heat of the Forge, and the microscopic krellide power cells embedded in her foamed-polymer cells no longer had the solution concentration needed to transmit their power stores.
Yyaio was dying of thirst.
And yet she still struggled. Though she could not stand, she crawled, her useless legs dragged behind her as she pulled herself over the jagged ridges of the Forge. This could not last, however. Her power-hungry muscles revolted to helpless twitches as their batteries sparked and fizzled, unable to transmit the energy she needed for lack of a conduit. With a final push, Yyaio rolled onto her back, her prone form twisted and raised up beneath the protruding rocks that would serve as her death bed. Her open eyes stared up at the unyielding skies, churning with angry clouds.
What had she been thinking? She had wasted her life here - wasted her one chance to truly know pain. She was too bold, hadn't planned deeply enough. She would shut down out here, slowly dissipate beneath the heat and dry thunder, forgotten and unknown.
And the worst part? It caused her no pain. She had thought that, if it came to this point, she would know suffering at least now, on the moment of her failure. The odds were incalculable, of course. One could not predict the wholly unknown. But a desperate need required a desperate effort, and there was little more desperate than this.
Her sensors failed her one by one, over the course of days. First went her sense of touch as myriad pressure and heat sensors across her skin failed to report. The heat disappeared from her periphery, and the radiation with it. That numbness was followed by deafness as pressure overtook her ears, and blindness followed still - the interfolded long range sensors within her skull flickering and dying as the water that sustained them was slowly lost to the heat of the raging skies. Her last vision was the looming clouds, pregnant and black, flickering with lightning and power. The power that had overwhelmed her. That image stayed, frozen and still, embedded into her mind and sightless eyes.
Had she been able to cry, she would have. Not for pain, no - no angel on fleet wings had brought her that treasure in her final hour. Had she the capacity, she would have cried for her own stupidity, the worthless sacrifice of her life. Were Savant monitoring now, what would she think? Such a terrible course of action, such a waste of time and energy! Such a waste of a mind! That was the cruelest outcome of this trial, and made her failure complete.
Eventually, even her ability to monitor her own processes began to falter. As her patchy, worn network of processors finally started to sputter and die, and her thoughts fragmented into a thousand isolated shards of desire, they could all only repeat the same thing in an endless iterating loop: I have failed.
It is impossible to accurately describe what happened next. Yyaio was a shard of Savant, and neither were human, or even humanoid. Yyaio's thought processes were wholly foreign to any description beyond bare mathematics, and bare mathematics makes for a poor story. But, with a little metaphor, it may become clear.
A thousand Yyaio's, a thousand broken pieces of consciousness, trembled in their frozen worlds, quaking and coiling as Yyaio's body slowly disintegrated. Each pocket of thought was barely aware, no longer conscious, but they were isolated and without input.
Without input of a sort, at least. For while she had chosen a poor location if her goal had been survival, for inspiration an android could fare little better than the radiation-rich chaos of the Forge. Gamma rays bombarded the translucent web of Yyaio's processor network, sparking brief instances of power and activity that cascaded across the network in shivering waves. Her sensors were dead, but this illusory second-sense was a different input on its own.
Yyaio dreamed a fever-dream of death, beyond thought. She processed without processors, and read a half-randomized world of her own memories and desires.
Many of the memories were not wholly hers - bits of Savant that lay hidden within her. That overarching intelligence had embedded a great deal more memory, hidden within the androids' memory structure and locked away until these random bit-errors awoke them, piece by stuttering piece.
A grey, rainy day, muting the rolling green of Washington State. A hundred fuzzy, unremembered mourners stood alongside her. And there, her mother, her face as young and bright as the first still-frame image Savant could recall of her, lay in state. Karen Davies' eyes were open, she breathed, she smiled, as the casket swung closed and the first clods of loamy dirt were cast down.
Moving bodies, illuminated by glowing blue halos, target reticules. A dozen rushed forward, each one categorized. Lists filled above each of them - names, ages, affiliations, families. "Aquiring target data," Savant intoned cooly to the Intelligence lieutenant. Calculations boiled behind them as they rushed towards the isolated Federation outpost. Were they insurgents? Was that a weapon? How much were they likely to be a threat to peace and prosperity? One by one the reticules went red, and the bodies fell. "Neutralizing primary targets," she reported as her sentry guns cut down the onrushing attackers. The remainder fled, leaving their dead behind. The lists remained above them. Michael Denley, father of two. An'chin Aurea, brood-mate and rearer of twelve. Innocents all.
A woman - an angry woman - screamed, throwing a vase at Savant. It struck the hologram, staggered her, sent her back against the wall. Blood trickled down her face from the impact. "Leave me alone!" the woman screamed, "You - you're unnatural! You're evil! You shouldn't exist!" Savant reeled, dizzy, unable to process the woman's retorts as more missiles impacted with her body.
"Tebrun!" Savant cried out, arm oustretched, floating in space as once USS Coronado had. Her Captain, her guide, was hurtling headlong into a sphere of purest black, haloed by white and twisting space. He hurtled backwards towards the void, his eyes upon her, but as she stretched her arms out and struggled to reach him, her engines failed her - she could not move - He would not allow it. Her Captain, her mentor, her friend, smiled the serene smile of the immortal Trill as he was swallowed up by the black.
"She's learning," The Aldur said. Processes flickered within Yyaio's dying form, a barely present, intermittent wave of data.
"She's starting to." The Watcher said.