Damien has heard this word a lot since he awoke on Starbase Tripoli. He was lucky to have been found so soon after the incident. He was lucky the nerve damage was only as severe as it was. He was lucky to be running from sickbay when the USS Valiant collided with his ship, cutting it in two. He was lucky to have survived at all.
He had been a well known Chief Medical Officer within the peacetime Starfleet, competent at his work, brilliant in certain situations, kindly and genteel. It was assumed he’d go on to a posting at Starfleet Medical, or take the Chief of Medical position at one of the prestigious planetary hospitals throughout the Federation. Or maybe he’d sign on with the Federation Emergency Relief Agency, certainly less paperwork there and people would still get help.
And then the Dominion came and set about the plans of war.
Soon his ship the USS Nightingale was making dashes quickly over enemy lines to snatch wounded from the jaws of death, loading her cargo holds and medical bays with the injured and dying. He did good work there, they were lucky to have his skill with a scalpel. He saved hundreds of lives. Until his luck ran out.
The Nightingale and her escort, the USS Valiant, were set upon by Jem’hadar attack ships on one such dash back to Federation space. Loaded down with wounded the Nightingale was an inviting target. The Valiant fought as hard as her namesake suggested, besting two of the three fighters before succumbing to battle damage. Which turned a Sabre class escort into a 20’000 ton navigation hazard.
Damien doesn’t remember the impact very well. There are parts that come to him when he thinks hard on the topic. The blare of an alarm, the smell of sweat and burning plastics. He remembers…calling to someone? Maybe he was just asking the computer if all of his staff had gotten to the lifeboats before he left sickbay?
He remembers waking up six months later on Starbase Tripoli, orbiting the ice moons of Andoria.
He remembers the concerned face of the physicians and specialists, their peculiar hesitancy at revealing the full extent of the damage. Right arm. Right leg. Both kidneys. Forty meters of small intestines. One lung, though it was touch and go about keeping the other one. His right eye. Galil tissue damage.
The Dominion broke his heart.
Due to a congenital defect in his genetic code, Gardner’s body doesn’t take kindly to either dermal regeneration therapies or stem cell printed replacement organs. A one in a billion chance that, another case of his lucky cutting him as deeply as it might. What could be replaced with cybernetic implants and prosthetics was done so in the six months he was in a coma. Given the state he was in when he arrived, waking him to gain consent would have been as good as a death sentence.
Lucky they didn’t wake him.
The final months of the war Damien spent on Starbase Tripoli, learning to walk and live again under the eye of Starfleet Medicals best. He wasn’t alone in the recovery ward, Starfleet looked after its broken soldiers well. But he knew upon leaving this place he would be alone, adrift, and the abyss beyond what was known to him in Starfleet was terrifying.
It took…time to convince them he was fit for duty. It took favours to get people to see his point of view.
But he got it. Chief Medical Officer of the USS Taniwha. It wasn’t a hospital ship, but then again they were not at war. Maybe there he could find a place to heal.
He could be that lucky. One. More. Time.
Damien Gardner remembers the day the Dominion War ended for him, he still bears the scars. One moment he was the CMO of the USS Nightingale, an Olympic class hospital ship making a mercy run for colonies caught in the no-mans-land of stars between Federation space and Dominion occupied territory. The next he's being woken in an intensive care facility on Andoria, where he's spent the last six months in a medically induced coma. The story is retold to him, the blurred edge of memory telling him some of it to be true. How the Nightingale was set upon by Jem'hadar attack ships, and how her escort valiantly fought them off. He dimly recalls the ship-wide announcement to evacuate. He doesn't remember the collision. But he can see the results.