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Part of USS Lakota: Episode 2: A Parting of Ways

3 – Coming of Age

Enroute to the Ungeat Homeworld
Stardate 24016.8
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Lakota‘s sleek frame slipped effortlessly out of her warp drive vortex on the edge of the Un’gar system, marking the first time many of her crew had had the privilege of visiting their colleague’s beautiful home system. For others, it was an unwelcome return; memories of their friends and loved ones losing their lives during the battle to retake the system from the Dominion forces, albeit without the weapons fire and destruction that had engulfed the system for days. It was a system no one thought they would revisit anytime soon, even if they were aboard Lakota instead of the Hathaway on this occasion, but the fate of one of their own now hinged on their return. Inching her way through the system’s dreaded ‘Field of Woe’, a massive asteroid field encircling almost the entire system, the Excelsior-class starship crawled towards the homeworld of Un’giri. It was almost as if the mighty starship didn’t want to be there any more than some of her crew did.

When she emerged from the asteroid belt unscathed, the Federation starship continued unhindered, entering orbit of the homeworld with ease, and most importantly, the permission of the Protectorate. Coming to rest above the planet’s third-largest continent, her mission could begin at last.

Commander Noli had remained at her colleague’s side for almost twenty-four hours now, against the better judgement of the Chief Medical Officer, but she needed to do something to try and contribute, to try and bring their friend back to them. While she couldn’t do anything from a medical perspective, she could at least offer some words of spiritual wisdom. She’d brought her candles and incense sticks from her quarters and turned Or’uil’s bedside into a scene from a temple. The medical facility was dark, lit by consoles and candles alone, its occupants working away quietly, happy to accommodate her efforts (for the most part, anyway).

On her knees on his right-hand side, she was chanting a Bajora incantation when the doors to the room opened, almost blinding her with light from the corridor beyond. A shadowy figure stood in the doorway.

“It’s time,” the figure told quietly, before stepping inside and watching the scene closely. “The Captain has arranged for you, Zinn and Nikti to escort Or’uil to the planet’s surface. We’ll remain in orbit to render any assistance that’s needed,” Prida told, her quiet voice ensuring she didn’t disturb the ambience Noli had worked so hard to create. She came to a halt at Or’uil’s bedside and placed a gentle hand on his arm.

Noli rose to her feet and waved towards Zinn and his assistant, who emerged from one of the side rooms. Whilst Noli filled them in on what Prida had told her, the Bajassian leaned down and placed her head next to her friends, an inaudible whisper all that could be heard, but she knew what she had said, and what it meant.

And if Or’uil could hear, he’d know too.

Thousands of kilometers below, in a building beautifully sculpted but surrounded by repair work, four of Starfleet’s finest materialised in a haze of blue, to be greeted by several creatures of varying size and eye colour. Instantly, the Ungeat medical personnel took the hovering medical cart from Zinn.

“Where are you taking him?” Noli called out to the medical personnel, only for a voice to the left to address her in return.

“They will take him and make him comfortable for the transition process,” the voice of Protectorate Sh’int floated through the air effortlessly, almost putting the Starfleet officers at ease. Down here, in their natural habitat and buildings, there was no need for the voice synthesisers Or’uil had worn aboard their ship.

“What do you mean by transition process?” Zinn queried, turning to face the leader of the Ungeat people, who had entered the entrance hall.

“We suspect that Or’uil is going through a troubling period of She’mek’talan,” the Protectorate explained, waving a gangly hand and gesturing for them to follow him as he slowly made his way towards a nearby office-type room. “During this process, an Ungeat undergoes severe physical changes. Usually, they are far less painful, but there have been reports of the process being complicated,” he explained to the three officers who gladly followed him into the room.

Once standing in front of the Protectorate, Nikti looked at Zinn, who gave a singular nod of approval. “What Or’uil is going through is incredibly painful,” the biologist revealed, much to the displeasure of, apparently, everyone except the Protectorate.

“Protectorate Sh’int, please. What is happening to our friend?” Noli asked, taking a step forward, her voice cracking under the strain of what she had seen her friend go through in the last few days.

“His body is undergoing a series of changes that all Ungeat go through, although he is going through it almost two rotations early, which possibly explains the difficulty he is in,” the Protectorate cocked his head, his glowing orange orbs almost burning into the Bajoran’s soul. “You already know too much. We do not openly share the secrets of our people. You must leave,” his voice changed, the tone significantly deeper than it had been before.

“Please, sir…” Noli pleaded. “We mean no harm or disrespect, but Or’uil is more than a friend to us, he’s family. We have to know that he is alright.”

Sh’int’s voice box rattled in what could only be described as a sort of Ungeat sigh. Noli was sure that if he’d had eyelids, he would have probably rolled his eyes at her too.

“Very well,” the Protectorate nodded. “Or’uil’s body is changing to accommodate all of the situations and life processes he will encounter later in his life. I believe people on Earth call it…

“…puberty?” Nikti let out a gasp as the realisation dawned on her. Even after her years of studying medical conditions and the biology of other species, it hadn’t dawned on her that he could just be going through their ‘coming of age’ ritual. “He’s going through the maturation process… from adolescence to adulthood,” the Orion explained, looking at the floored Bajoran. Zinn wasn’t much better himself, trying to make sense of what Nikti had been able to deduce.

“But why is such a natural process causing him so much pain?” the Deltan chief of medicine asked, folding his arms across his ample chest. Now that they had made the connection, it seemed logical, but the fact that their friend was in significant pain had clouded their judgment.

“Off-world influences may have exacerbated his condition,” the Protectorate explained. “Or’uil is the first of our people to go through this change off-world, and his distance from his treatment has no doubt complicated the situation,” the ruler of Un’gar told the Starfleet crew. “Now, you are free to remain until we have an update, Ts’nal will be at your service should you require anything. But please, do not leave the area. Many do not appreciate Starfleet’s presence after recent… events,” the tall figure told the three, looking each in the eye to ensure his request was heard.

“With your permission, Protectorate, I’d like to contact our ship and inform our Captain of this development,” Noli smiled, nodding respectfully to the taller man, carefully choosing the words for her request.

“Of course,” the languid man nodded, returning the bow in a measure of respect to her request.

Watching in silence until the ruler of Or’uil’d people had left them alone, Nikti was the first to speak, “We should have known it could be something like this,” she chastised both herself and Zinn. “Pon Farr is violent for Vulcans if not handled correctly; we should have known they weren’t the only species to undergo such changes in a difficult manner…”

“We can’t be blamed. His symptoms… the pain he was suffering… all pointed to something far worse than we believed,” the Deltan shook his head, slumping into a seat near the far wall.

“Or maybe we were just blinded by our concern for Or’uil?” Noli shrugged. “He’s in the right place now. Let’s hope they can help him…”

Emerging from the ready room on the starboard side of the bridge, Keziah strolled towards the command chair and the green-skinned woman occupying her chair temporarily. “Report Commander?” she asked.

Standing and moving to the side, Teyahna watched as the Captain approached. “It’s Noli ma’am,” the Orion told her Captain.

Nazir stopped short of sitting in her chair, staring towards the forward view screen despite the lack of an image. “Noli? This is the Captain,” she called into the communications array.

Captain…” Noli’s voice cut through the static, “Or’uil is in the hands of his people.”

“Do they have any idea what’s wrong with him?” the Trill asked, hands on hips while glaring at the Orion scientist.

Zinn here, Captain,” the Chief Medical Officer cut in. “Puberty. It looks like it could be a simple, yet massively painful case of Or’uil simply coming of age,” the Deltan explained

“You’ve got to be shitting me?” the scientist whispered, collapsing into what would normally be the Counsellor’s seat, shaking her head in disbelief as the dots started to merge together and make complete sense.

“We’ll deal with this oversight later,” the Captain frowned, inwardly fuming at the apparent incompetence of every crew member, herself included. “Can they help him?” she asked again.

We hope so,” Noli answered again, her voice shaky, “We just have to wait and see…