Part of Starbase Bravo: Q2 2400

Join and Sing Kumbaya

Trillius Prime
Prior to Starfleet Academy Graduation
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Heriah Khatain sat in the waiting room for what seemed to be hours. Others were already present when she arrived and others entered infrequently after her. All seemed to be waiting on the same thing. Parents comforted their offspring and friends sat and offered words of confidence and praise for just being in the room. It was clear who was there for medical reasons and who was there for support.

Heriah had no one. She could only look around just as nervously as the others.

It did not help that employees and some officials stepped this way and that. They did not engage in any conversation with those waiting, but only amongst themselves. Words were spoken softly and reports were passed back and forth. There was some laughter and some general conversation.

Heriah felt it was all a test; to keep the waiters waiting and sweating. Scans would certainly show levels of perspiration, breathing patterns, heart rates even. If there was someone monitoring the room, they would certainly see the level of nervous tension in the air. If there was someone making a final decision on who would become joined, they were certainly taking note of who appeared more nervous, who was more on edge, who would become joined and who would go home, empty.

Looking to the nurse behind the receptionist’s desk, Heriah caught that set of eyes looking at her more often than any of the others. Of course, the nurse looked away and feigned other business each and every time Heriah connected eyes with her. Even when forcing herself to look away, at the ceiling, at anything, Heriah could feel the nurse’s attention turning her way again.

This did nothing to aid her calm.

There was a door behind the receptionist’s desk. It seldom opened. Each time it did, it caught the attention of everyone waiting to be seen. Each and every time, however, a datapad was given, given back, given a thumb-print signature. Words were sometimes shared, but they were only whispers.

The facility served as a point for recruiting, interviewing and sometimes performing the process of joining a Trill with a symbiont. Seeing as how Heriah had already gone through the application process and had returned on two occasions for interviews, she could only guess at why her presence was requested this time.

That thought alone made her right leg jump and jitter nervously. Or was it excitement? What would whoever was monitoring think? She forced herself to be still.

Even Heriah knew her marks were nothing to be overly proud of. She was not at the top of her class, not even in the upper percentage. Seeing her wish to become joined fading away, Heriah entered Starfleet Academy and studied sciences. If joining with a symbiont was not in her future, then a future far from Trill surveying stars and planets was her desire.

Another year and she would have the credits to be certified fully in the field of science. So far, it was only a minor study. Now, with her summons back to Trill, it appeared her original wish may have been coming true. But why? It was very rare for students staying within the ranks of middle-class to become joined. There was one instance. An Ezri Dax was joined but that was due to an emergency situation. Was this going to be similar?

“Heriah Khatain,” called a nurse. Not a recruiter and not an interviewer, but a nurse. Were things looking up, or looking bad?

Heriah’s heart leapt into her throat and it was all she could do just to stand and raise a hand in response.

“Come this way Miss Khatain. The doctor will see you now.”

‘Doctor!?!’ But she could only nod and place one foot ahead of the other. The others in the waiting room started crying, sighing in disbelief, some gratified even.

Heriah was lead to a room where the doctor was not the person of priority. He simply stood to the side. Heriah saw the only vacant seat which was across the table from a man whose dress was unfamiliar. It was not medical, nor did he wear the uniform of Trill recruiters. It appeared almost military, but not at the same time.

“All medical personnel give us the room please. Only the doctor and official personnel are allowed to remain,” he said.

Heriah was neither medical or official and, through her anxiety, sought to turn and leave as well. She would be called back of course. Though she felt a slight shake of fright in her left leg, she placed her weight on it and remained in the room.

“Miss Khatain,” said the man, “I am Latsian Bul, Trill,” he paused, “Military Sciences. Please sit.”

Heriah did, hesitantly, but doing all she could to not show hesitance. “Military Sciences?” she asked.

“I know it must be unnerving for you to be here. I of course know of you student status. It is my business to know in these matters. Not terrific marks and nothing seemingly special in making you a prime candidate for joining.”

‘Seemingly special?’ she thought but found that she actually spoke those words.

Latsian nodded. “Yes. There is one trait about you that does however make you a prime candidate in these matters.”

“In these matters?” and she made no effort to keep those words to herself.

Latsian sat back in his chair, tapped his finger on the table, and looked about the room at the other officials. Only two and similarly dressed. Their apparent insignias had less material making him their ranking superior.

“I can see there is no beating around the bush with you. Time is growing short and we have to act soon. You of course saw the others in the waiting room. It is going to be up to you if they come in here one at a time or go home far sooner than expected.”

Heriah turned to the other officials. They made no move. Turning back to Latsian, “Please divulge ‘these matters’.”

“You will of course agree that anything else you hear in this room stays in this room and between us only. No one else is to hear these words.”

Heriah nodded. So far, she was only committed to silence.

“Very good. We have in our possession, right now, a Trill that is dying, and the symbiont needs to be joined with a new host. We are of course required to divulge the symbiont’s history to you, so you can make better and more educated decision. Its name is Rex and its history does not matter much before 10 years ago.”

“I take it this Trill did something terrible? A crime perhaps?”

“Not this Trill, no. Two Trills before him. And not a crime. It suffered though.”

“And only 10 years ago?”

Latsian nodded. “Refkin Rex was part of a Trill Special Forces mission to board and disable a Borg Sphere. He was captured and assimilated.”

“Trill symbionts are too few and too precious to send into combat like that.”

“Yes, well I was not in charge at the time and Refkin showed great promise. He was however rescued only 36 hours later so full assimilation did not take hold it seemed. We lost several in recovering Refkin, the Sphere was destroyed and he was returned to us.”

“Did Refkin Rex die?”

“He did. A week later. We removed as many Borg implants as we could but both Refkin and Rex suffered greatly. There were signs that the Borg attempted assimilation of the Rex symbiont but they stopped. Apparently they saw full assimilation was going to kill the symbiont. Seeing as how the Trill and symbiont cannot survive separate once joined, they did assimilate Refkin and Refkin alone.”

“What happened to the symbiont?”

“Rex, showed signs of great mental suffering as well as some physical damage from the attempted assimilation. Rex does retain some scarring and an implant that cannot be removed without causing Rex permanent damage. Once de-assimilated, Refkin lost his mind and his health quickly deteriorated. He died about a week later. Thus Davmorda Rex. Davmorda was training for joining, she enjoyed combat and hand-to-hand sparring. Davmorda Rex, once joined, proved very violent. She excelled in the military but eventually her health started to decline, mentally first, then physically. She died a little over 5 years ago. Thus Luftine Rex.”

Latsian tapped on the console of the table-top. The view screen behind him turned on and showed a vacant room.

“This footage was recorded only three hours ago.”

In the footage, there was the sound of a door sliding open. Then there came grunt, threats and swearing. Three medical orderlies appeared restraining a muscular Trill.

“That is Luftine,” said Latsian.

Luftine was trying to jerk his limbs free, attempted to bite at the orderlies. He fought as hard as he could to break free. Heriah could only describe his technique as uncivilised. A hypospray later, he calmed but still was fighting. The orderlies hit him with the hypospray again and his anger, restraint, and swearing all mitigated down to a snoring beast of a man on the gurney. The orderlies lifted him onto the operating table and started putting restraints on his limbs, over his head and torso. Once and if Luftine awoke, they did not want him to move an inch.

“Pause,” Latsian called out. “This man was already in the Special Forces when he applied for joining. He was already in top physical shape. After joining though, he only got more violent, lost his mind. He married and we figured that would help but he started beating his wife, killed their pet. He recently killed a man and we have deemed Luftine too dangerous. He appears to have already lost his mind and he shows the first signs of physical decay, thus dying. We could imprison him, but he will not last a year our experts say. And we do not want to put Rex through any more carnage than it has already seen.”

“And you want me to join with Rex?” Heriah asked with every bit of unbelief she could muster.

“Davmorda and Luftine both, unjoined, illustrated strength of character and both possessed a trait of dominance. Yes, Rex and what it suffered is most likely the cause of their state. We felt a dominate personality trait would dominate Rex into succumbing to the host, but in both of these cases, only the opposite has occurred. Matters have been made worse.”

“And how do you think I can help?”

“We have kept a close eye on you as well as all the others out in that waiting room, but you have the most desireable trait that we seek. During background checks, we found that your parents, your other relatives, friends, students both here and at Starfleet Academy, peers, instructors, all have declared with utmost conviction that you possess the trait that we may need to bring Rex back from his apparent madness. As you pointed out, the symbionts are too few and too precious. We need to save him.”

“And what trait is it that I have?”

“Care.” He paused. “Sympathy.” Again a pause, letting that sink in. “Some even went on to say that you have the heart of an angel. ‘Would not hurt a fly’ they said. Seeing you are studying science and spatial anomalies, makes you an even better candidate. That job is very relaxing, slower paced. Furthermore, you will not see combat, violence, that which both Davmorda and Luftine lived in.”

“A gentle heart to calm a violent one. So, that’s it.”

“Yes,” he said. “In all honesty, yes.”

“In a sense, I am rehabilitating Rex. I will be his prison.”

Latsian showed his hand to stop her. “Do not think that please. We do think however that you are best suited to bring Rex back. We need someone who is not dominating, physically. Our interviews go on to show that you are strong willed. Your personality will remain and you can overpower any and all malicious desires of Rex. Think of this as you caring for someone who is hundreds of years old, giving someone new life, a full life. Your kind-heartedness and strength of will can be our greatest weapon against this adversity.”

Heriah thought on that a moment. “Will this work?”

Latsian only looked to the other officials then back at Heriah.

“You do not even know if this will work?” her voice cracked with concern.

“It is our best guess. Our experts will keep you under surveillance for a bit to make sure the joining takes and you will need to give regular reports. Whatever doctor on whatever starship you serve on will need to see you monthly for checkups.”

Latsian did say this was all up to her. “I don’t know.”

“By grade standards, you should not even be here,” he continued. “No one with your grades has ever been called for a joining. You are making history just by being here. Do you really want to walk out of here unjoined?”

“Will I live longer than 5 years?”

“Allow me to say that we are treading unfamiliar territory. We have to try. Otherwise we risk joining Rex with someone not as caring as people say you are. We risk more violence and death. We may even lose Rex. Only a very small percentage of Trills are able to join with a symbiont. Losing Rex only makes the odds even greater. The Starfleet doctor aboard your ship will receive full instructions on what to look for, what to report, what to treat. You will be in good hands.”

“My medical records will show all this. My career may be in jeopardy.”

“Joining with a symbiont is the greatest honor for any Trill. Besides, your medical records will only show the attempted assimilation and the two hosts afterward. We will leave out certain…details…that Starfleet does not need to know about. Learn your medical records and divulge only that to whomever comes asking.”

Heriah looked around nervously accepting what she was hearing.

“That…or never be joined. Continue on knowing that you may have been able to help a symbiont but declined. That you could have made history by…”

“I get it. I get it,” Heriah said. “I…uh…”

“We do not have much time. Rex needs a host very soon. We down to counting hours.”

Heriah smiled at the thought, “I will be Heriah Rex.”

“Heriah Khatain Rex, yes. Your identity comes first, remember that always. And stay in Starfleet. We are greatly overjoyed at your potential of being a science officer, exploring and studying. Rex has not done that in a long time.”

Ever since she can remember, Heriah wanted to be joined, wanted to know what it was like, wanted to get her name written in the records of joined Trills. She saw how they were treated and portrayed. Famous thinkers being reborn in new hosts. The pride those hosts showed when they were chosen. Such a rare occasion. More rare in her situation.

“I will do it,” Heriah said. She let out a quick singular laugh unbelieving what she was saying. Not yet believing she was going to be joined after all this time and hard work, after giving up on her most desired dream ever coming true.

Latsian smiled. “Very good. We are grateful to hear it.” He then spoke to the others in the room. “Prepare her.”

A sudden fear shot through her. She expected two sets of hands to grab her and drag her away, knocked unconscious, a gag, full body restraints.  She realized she watched too many movies as the two officials appeared beside her and gently asked her to follow them. Heriah got up and started out of the room between the two. She glanced back at Latsian. He was tapping away at the computer console.

After hyperventilating the nurses put a mask on her. Cool, relaxing air flowed into her lungs with each breath. She was laid up on a table, nude under an operation sheet.

“Just stay calm. You are doing very well.”

Heriah nodded and briefly lifted a hand, balled into a fist with her thumb extended.

The surgeon used a laser cutter to open her up. Heriah felt the incision and felt her skin separate but there was no pain. These doctors were good. Heriah witnessed another doctor bringing in the symbiont.

“I present to you the symbiont Rex.”

Rex squirmed with resistance. It seemed discolored in patches, showed obvious scarring, and even a Borg implant the doctors were apparently unable to remove. The handling doctor petted Rex and shushed it hoping that would calm it down.

“Are we ready?” the nurse asked Heriah.

Whether ‘we’ was meant as a joke or serious, Heriah could not tell the difference. She eyed the discolored and scarred symbiont, reassuring herself that a joining was what she wanted, that this was the chance that she had at joining as well as the best chance Rex had at survival. Heriah nodded and again lifted a thumb.

“We are ready,” the nurse said to the others. “Let’s proceed.”

Heriah closed her eyes. She felt the slimy slug touch her belly. It was cold making her want to recoil. But it slid nicely and warmed slowly. The nurses held her incision open as Rex wormed its way toward the opening. Heriah felt the head slide its way into her belly and her nerves all popped with excitement and nervousness, both at once.

Half-way in, the nurses let go of her incision and the skin fell to wrap itself around the symbiont.

The tail was all that was left and was finally inside. Rex had pulled itself fully inside Heriah and the nurses started closing her incision.

Suddenly there came a realization to Heriah that she was incomplete.

“Rex should be looking for the nerve cluster now,” said someone. “You are about to have a really weird sensation.”

It did not matter who said it. Heriah held her eyes shut and felt that same emptiness. It grew, then lessened. Grew. Lessened.

“Does it normally take this long with the symbiont to find the cluster?”

“Sometimes. It’s like a pet sniffing out a piece of meat in the dark.”

After another seemingly eternal stretch of emptiness, something bit down within Heriah’s consciousness. A pain shot through her and made her limbs jerk hard and all at once. There came a whirring as though a drill, cold piercing metal, a strange liquid. “We are the Borg. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own.” There came a strong desire to end it all, to pull away.

The incision opened as she squirmed. Orderlies rushed to her, grabbing at her limbs, restraining her. Her eyes were wide but not focused on anything. Someone covered her mouth silencing her screams of immense pain.

“Readying a hypospray.”

“No, this has to be natural. They have to accept each other while both are conscious.”

The host was lost to the Borg. Rex screamed for freedom. The host did not obey. A flood of nanoprobes circulated and prevented Rex from offering input. The lost host was now a prison. It was saved but died. Another host. So much anger and violence. Dead. Another host. “Shut up woman!” There came a slap then deathly howl of a battered pet.

Heriah shot her head to the side as though slapped herself. One of the orderlies lost his grip. She nearly slid off the table. Within his grip again, Heriah was stabilized more but still attempted to flail about.

“I can’t close the incision with her squirming. Keep her still.”

“She is going to bleed out if that incision tears.”

“I’m losing my grip.”

“Alright. Hypospray. Minimal dosage.”

Though with wide eyes, Heriah saw nothing but torment, fear, hate, violence, like a burning red and burnt blanket that she could wrap herself up in. All her senses started quieting. All the thoughts lessened and visions darkened. The noises she thought she heard mitigated back to the original whirring of a drill. Then all went black.

Comments

  • Great story showing your background and joining - look forward to seeing where this goes.

    April 26, 2022