“I am Lieutenant Commander Shamat, Chief Medical Officer of the U.S.S. Paladin. I am here to render assistance.”
Then every day, Shamat waited. Sometimes minutes, sometimes hours. Then he stood, slowly stretched, and quietly left without so much as a glance at the door.
On this day, Shamat was surprised to discover a guard crouched in front of the door. Her armor was Omega, with the Juggernaut enhancements, though the mesh was torn away from in several places, revealing scorched duraplate or skin. Sometimes metal that should have been skin. Her hair was matted and hung loosely over one side of her face as she looked down toward the heavy pistol she held in her clasped hands. Shamat stopped at the entrance as the pistol flicked up slightly.
“Captain Lahn, I am Lieu-“
She looked up. Her face, like the walls, was a disturbing quiltwork of borg technology and ash-grey skin. Her face was emaciated and sharp, her spots all but faded into a smear along the side of her head. One eye was normal -- a dull green, though bloodshot; the other a blackened pit with a small blue light at the center. She said nothing; her cracked lips taut in a thin line while she let the heavy pistol in her hands did her talking. He was unwelcome; he was a hostile. Shamat held up his hands, crouching to assume the least threatening position possible.
“I am a doctor and a psychic healer. I am here to help, Captain Lahn.” He repeated. Lahn said nothing, but the pistol lowered slightly. Shamat took it as an invitation.
“I’m sure you’re curious about the task force. The U.S.S. Vendetta has been recalled – Captain Olsen was acting outside of orders, and his chain of command is none too pleased. He is under arrest while the situation is investigated. The Grungnir—“ he hoped he saw a flicker of interest cross her face. “The Grungnir suffered heavy damage -- I understand there were a number of injuries -- and has been ordered back for repairs and to participate in strike forces against the Iconians. I can give you a full report when you are stronger.“ he paused, hoping for a nod or a reaction, but Lahn simply stared, assessing him. He sighed and continued, “The Paladin stayed behind to help the C483 cut free from the sections of cube that came along with it. It was badly damaged in the fight, but operational. However during repairs on the C483, nanites from the borg cube infected the Paladin’s systems and we had no choice but to lure them to the warp core, and jettison it. The nanites were destroyed when the core exploded. You, Captain Lahn, are on the Paladin’s sickbay, under my care. You have been in a comatose state for almost five standard days.”
Lahn started to unsteadily lurch to her feet and Shamat took a step forward. Lahn flicked the barrel of the pistol up with an unexpected quickness. Her legs trembled with the effort to rise. Shamat slowly raised his hands higher, taking a slow step back. Lahn gave up trying to stand and slid back down against the doors clumsily with a heavy sigh. The effort made her hands shake violently as she held the pistol in a tight grip.
“I am not a threat” Shamat said calmly. “That nanite purge, or whatever they called it, introduced more trauma than the assimilation itself. It nearly killed you, Captain.” Shamat shook his head “Yes it worked, but while it destroyed the nanites, that barbarous mix of modulating energy pulses and adaptive toxin replicators nearly tore you apart. You beamed over with the thing still sending tetryon pulses through your body and it took a inversion coil to get the damned thing to stop. Do you know that it would have probably disintegrated you if it determined that it couldn’t purge the nanites? In between treatments I’ve been studying that wretched little toy of yours. I provided a full report to the Grungnir so they could take it back to Starfleet, and all your first officer said was, ‘That sounds about right’. “ Shamat sullenly crossed his arms. “About right? By the Elements, there was nothing about right with that technological monstrosity.” He paused in his tirade, looking over to Lahn, who sat impassive. “Doesn’t that…bother you?” he asked, while her expression remained unchanged. He wondered how much she really understood – or if that pistol in her hands was all the thought she needed to understand.
“Captain Myles is doing well – much better than you at the moment. She helped with repairs, and visits you often. She worries. I tell her there is no reason, but she worries. She worries about you. She worries about Helm, all while working miracles with our engineering teams. Helm asks about you as well – but he – Is still merged with the C483. I can only guess that his being a construct initially made such a thing even possible. Captain – everyone is fine and recovering, but you…I have to help get you out of here.“
Lahn scowled slightly, her back pressed up against the doors. She adjusted her grip on her pistol, clearly daring him to take her away from her post.
Shamat looked to the doors. “I assure you, your hosts are fine, Captain. Your nanties are gone and this—“ he wave his hand to indicate everything around them, ”Is just your mindscape – a permanent dream you have--”
Lahn tilted her head slightly, her eyes defiant and weary at the same time – like he was the deluded one who didn’t understand reality. He cursed himself for contradicting her perceptions, such as they were, so directly. What had Captain Quint said about her? Tactician. Spy. Killer. He waited several moments. “Perhaps,” he said, more charitably, “I have underestimated the tactical situation, Captain. My apologies.”
Lahn’s face remained unreadable.
“Perhaps I can assist you in expanding your defensible perimeter – spell you so you can get some rest.” Shamat seated himself at the edge of the antechamber. “I’ll stay right here, and wake you if there is any trouble.” He could tell from her slight frown she didn’t like the idea, but relied on the tactician in her to realize she didn’t have much choice. Finally she relented, sliding down from her crouch to sit on the floor, leaning back against the doors. Her Trill eye closed, while the blue of her borg eye remained firmly fixed on him. Despite her unblinking eye, she was too exhausted – too damanged – to maintain any vigilance. As her head dipped, the blue dot on his chest drifted up across his face to settle in the upper corner of the wall behind him. She remained unconscious for several hours, well passed Shamat’s duty shift. He wasn’t sure when she woke – one moment she was out, her head dipped low, the next, alert, staring at him. She still looked – what was Captain Quint’s phrase – ‘like hell’. But she there was a clarity to her gaze that hadn’t been there before her color slightly better with some of the technology on her skin in retreat.
“Report.” She rasped, her mouth and throat clearly dry.
“No activity to report, Captain Lahn.”
“Do not let your guard down because of one quiet shift.” She cautioned with a dry whisper. “We hold too little of this territory”
“Of course, Sir. If I may, I shall be on patrol and will return.”
Lahn seemed to consider this carefully. “Very well. Stay safe, Lieutenant Commander. I don’t anticipate an easy fight of it. But I’m sure we’ll get through.”
“Of course, Captain.”
* * *
Lahn awoke groggy and confused, reaching for the edge of the biobed that wasn’t there. Strong hands on her shoulders kept her from throwing herself over the edge. Her eye pounded with white-hot pain that ricocheted through her head.
“Awake Captain?” the owner of those hands asked her.
“How long was I—“ she tried to think of the right word. Comatose? Unconscious? Dead?
“Nine days, seventeen hours and…some. I am Lieutenant Commander–“
Lahn didn’t wait for him to finish. “Shamat. Chief Medical Officer of the Paladin.” She shrugged at his surprise. “I think Quint mentioned you.”
The Reman’s expression was curious as he offered a small cup of water “Possibly. What’s the last thing you remember?”
“Activating the nanite purge.”
“Nothing else, up to now?”
Lahn furrowed her brow, briefly concentrating and groaning as she rubbed her temples. “No, and it hurts to think. Grungnir?”
“Don’t strain yourself. Grungnir is back at Sol III, along with Vendetta. We’re drifting, but at least got a distress call out. The U.S.S. Oppenheimer is hours away.”
Lahn sighed, exhausted from the effort of waking up. “I didn’t expect the purge to work.”
“Your assimilation was nearly complete. Your symbiont self had disengaged from your host body after pulling what it could from your mind, preparing for another host. After we cleared the nanites from your host brain I facilitated the transfer of your consciousness back.”
Lahn nodded. “So I engaged the purge just before handing the wheel back to Yassal?” Lahn weakly chuckled. “She must have been pissed. I wish I remembered more of that. Sorry you had to spend time in my head, Doctor. If I’d have known I was having guests, I’d have picked up some.” She patted her belly and murmured “And you. Abandon ship huh? Well, you’re not getting out that easy.”
Shamat looked at Lahn curiously as she drifted back to sleep, then shrugged and prepared for Oppenheimer’s arrival.