Joined - A Star Trek: USS Talon Short Story

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by IreneAdler, Aug 30, 2014.

  1. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2014
    Location:
    Ashburn, VA
    Ensign Xeira Sivan wasn’t really certain what she was expecting the spawning pools in the Caves of Mak’ala to be like. She’d certainly heard about them enough when she was an initiate, but the matter of what they were was not as important as what was done there.

    The symbiont breeding grounds.

    It was a closely guarded secret, unknown even to joined Trill, how exactly the symbionts reproduced. But the resulting spawn were nurtured in the darkened caves, in nutrient rich pools. This was where symbionts returned when they were between hosts, and when they were no longer suitable for joining anymore. What happened to them after that time was yet another mystery that no one would discuss. Trill society was terribly secretive like that. Even now, as members of the Federation with numerous joined and unjoined Trill in Starfleet, Starfleet Medical only had the barest grasp of how the host/symbiont relationship worked.

    Xeira had been expecting something more, something grander. Something a bit more embellished than just poorly lit caves, and misty pools surrounded by grey-clothed guardians. It was humid, and despite the relative warmth, she shivered. It felt hallowed, it felt important. It smelled musty. She mused on this matter as she tried to think or something other than her purpose for being in the caves. It was a purpose that sent waves of anxiety through her, despite all of the training that she’d been given.

    Prior to her attendance at Starfleet Academy, she’d done the traditional Trill initiate training. She had excelled in all areas, and had gained the respect and admiration of her field docent from the Symbiosis Commission. She knew that she was a strong candidate for a symbiont then, but had turned down the honor in order to attend the Academy. More and more joined Trill were joining the Academy ever since Trill was officially accepted as a Federation member world, and the Symbiosis Commission was becoming less inclined to try to keep symbionts with Trill on the homeworld. Instead, they were beginning to realize the value of sending joined Trill to other Federation worlds, in order to add to the collection of knowledge that they already possessed.

    That was the goal of the Symbiosis Commission - to ensure that the flow of knowledge continued. This was the reason so few of the joined had left Trill in years past - if the host died, the memories needed to continue in the symbiont, and the symbiont needed to be transplanted to a new host. The symbiont had to survive. But with Federation doctors becoming more well-versed in the procedure of transplanting the Symbiont, and with more unjoined Trill in Starfleet in the event that a host should perish, the Symbiosis Commission had released their hold on matters a bit.

    The unfortunate truth of the matter was that they didn’t much care about the hosts, so long as the symbiont itself was kept safe. And nearly half of the population of Trill could successfully be joined, a fact that was hidden from most. In the event that a joined Trill were to perish on a starship, and for their symbiont to be transferred to an unsuitable host, they would wait for the eventual rejection and choose another host.

    It was really quite simple when they thought of it that way.

    But most Trill waited until they were joined to join Starfleet academy, and this was a regard in which Xeira was different from many of her peers. A classic overachiever, Xeira knew that she could thrive at the Academy with the assistance of a symbiont with several lifetimes of memories. She wanted to do it on her own though. She wanted to prove that she was more than just a container for the brilliant worm within her.

    But the rigmarole of Starfleet procedure made it difficult for her to be called upon to be a host. For it was often difficult to time when a host might perish, and Trill was nearer to the Gamma Quadrant wormhole than it was to Starfleet Academy. Xeira worked hard to distinguish herself in the Academy, in hopes that she could get stationed at one of the ships that was Gamma Quadrant bound, which would have made it far easier for her to return when her chosen symbiont was available.

    The Tor symbiont was joined to a friend of her father, and from the time that she was a little girl, she’d wanted to eventually be joined. A symbiont with 7 lifetimes of experience in the field of Astrometrics - the field that Xeira hoped to study while in Starfleet. She’d been approved to take the symbiont over upon the eventual death of it’s present host Korvin, who had reached advanced age.

    Xeira graduated the Academy, and was told that she would be stationed as a Science Ensign at Starbase Gamma Etimon. It seemed as though things were falling in order for her. When Korvin’s health began to decline, she was given permission to stop off at Trill to become joined before reporting for duty.

    The resulting transport from Earth to Trill was nerve-wracking for the 22 year old. She received frequent subspace transmissions from Trill regarding the status to the host. She knew a secondary host was waiting in the event that Korvin should pass before Xeria could arrive. Three days out, Korvin passed, and Xeira knew that there was a finite amount of time that the symbiont would thrive without a host.

    The minutes seemed to pass by slowly for the Ensign, who could barely leave the computer console in her quarters for fear that news would come. Minutes turned to hours, and hours into a day. A very long, frustrating day of no contact from the Symbiosis Commission. She left her quarters, trying to distract herself with some of her hobbies, but found that not even the holodeck could take her mind from it’s worries.

    On the second day of waiting, she considered having the doctor give her a little something to aid her in sleep, but decided against it in the event that it would prevent her from being joined. She finally fell asleep after a 36 hour vigil, and awoke in the middle of day two to find news that disheartened her.

    The Tor Symbiont was weakening.

    The Symbiosis Commission assured her that they would do what they could, but they could not promise that they would wait until she arrived. Sighing, Xeira retreated to her bedroom, where she curled up into fetal position. She lost track of how much time she lay there, feeling numb, her thoughts a jumble of worry. She tried not to get her hopes up so she couldn’t be disappointed if she didn’t receive the Tor symbiont.

    The console pinged as she received another message some time later, and she stared at it for a long time, debating with herself whether to get up and check it, or to just wait. Regardless of what it said, she was still 18 hours out, and there was nothing that she could do to change that fact.

    After several moments of debate, she got up, sighing heavily. Flipping open the message, she got a glass of cold water from the replicator before reading it. It was another status update on the symbiont, whose condition had become even more unstable.

    They had to perform the joining now.

    She flipped the console off, agitation in her demeanor. They hadn’t even had the common decency to inform the ship that was taking her to Trill that her presence wouldn’t be needed there anymore. She didn’t want to visit the homeworld, but until her next transport arrived to take her to the station, she didn’t have many more options.

    Eighteen hours later, she was beaming down to Trill, where they wanted her to meet with the Symbiosis Commission. She couldn’t fathom what they could possibly want with her. She didn’t want another symbiont now, and it was entirely unlikely that one would become available in her time on the homeworld. You couldn’t just predict people dying, it wasn’t something that happened like clockwork, and the large majority of joined Trill suffered from very few ailments.

    The only thing that she could fathom was that the Commission wanted her around in the unlikely event that the new host did not take, and they needed to move the symbiont on.

    A sick part of her hoped that was true, even though that would almost guarantee that the host who’d taken her place would end up dying. She felt terrible, trying to justify the death of someone young and with promise, just because she had some feeble desire to become a host. Still, worse had happened. People had killed for symbionts before. Not very many people, but there was a desperate minority that would stop at nothing to get what they desired.

    The simple fact of the matter was that there was a higher status associated with being joined. There was the knowledge that your memories would live on for hundreds of years after you perished. That combined with the advantages of having lifetimes full of memory and expertise... it was impossible to ensure that things were fair between the joined and the unjoined. It wasn’t exactly like an employer would be willing to turn down someone that had been in the same field for 7 lifetimes in order to hire some fresh faced 22 year old. And many hosts found that once they were joined, they followed the same path as the hosts who preceded them.

    Xeira had thought that she had gotten to the point where she could tolerate not being joined, but suddenly faced with it, her fear grew. She didn’t want to be limited to a mere century to a century and a half of existence. She wanted her legacy to live on after she passed.

    She’d never really prepared herself for the chance that she could potentially fail.

    As she stood there, hands behind her back, facing the Commission, she realized how badly she wanted it. They seemed to watch her for a long time before one of them finally spoke to her.

    “Xeira, as you know, the Tor symbiont was too weak for us to hold off on joining it any longer,” an older woman finally said.

    Xeira nodded, finding that words didn’t come to her. She wanted to cry that it was unfair, that she’d been chosen, that she was finally going to get what she’d worked a lifetime for. She wanted to run from the room, hiding her face in shame. She wanted to find whoever it was that had gotten the Tor symbiont and kill them with her bare hands.

    There was another long pause as these thoughts ran through her mind, before a second older woman spoke. “There might be... another opportunity though,” she said, speaking the phrase delicately.

    “Another... opportunity?” It didn’t make sense to Xeira. What could that even mean? Did they want her to stick around until a symbiont - any symbiont - was available? Or to join the guardians who protected the symbionts, and who developed telepathic bonds to them? That thought wasn’t too bad to Xeira. She’d heard rumors that the guardians got at least some satisfaction from their limited connection with the awaiting symbionts.

    “Yes,” the first woman said, steepling her hands in front of her. “We don’t have another host who is soon to pass, but a bit more unique of a circumstance.”

    “What... what is the circumstance?” The normally articulate, outgoing Xeira found herself at a sudden loss under the careful scrutiny of the Commission.

    “A new symbiont. One that’s recently reached the appropriate age for it’s first joining,” the woman said. Xeira felt like her eyes were boring into her, looking for any signs of weakness to exploit, and the feeling left her unsettled.

    Xeira paused in thought. The reproduction rate of symbionts was far, far less than that of Trill - that was why there were so few joined Trill. She’d heard rumors that new symbionts were quite uncommon for an initiate to take on, simply because they did not come along that often. The large majority of the joined had symbionts who’d experienced at least a few lifetimes before the joining.

    The second woman spoke once more. “Or, you can be put back onto the waiting list, and try your luck regarding another symbiont. I don’t believe that I need to remind you that your age and your Starfleet position might make that difficult, though.”

    Xeira nodded, struggling to process it. It was preferred for Trill to join as soon as they were physically and mentally ready for the process, and once a symbiont was available. They wanted to get the most amount of memories from a hosts life, and that was the best way to ensure it. Beyond that, there had been some talks of complications arising from joining at a later age.

    Nodding her head once more, this time decisively, Xeira said, “Ok.”

    The trip from the headquarters of the Symbiosis Commission to the Caves of Mak’ala was shorter than she’d expected, but such was the nature of intra-planetary travel. Even though they could not beam there directly, due to security fields in place to prevent the theft of the symbionts, it was still mere minutes before she arrived.

    It didn’t give her enough time to process what had transpired. She knew that her hopes of inheriting generations worth of astrometry knowledge had been dashed, and that she would actually gain nothing from her symbiont. She was a first host. Her symbiont would be more of a burden than a blessing, as those who knew that she was joined from the change in her name would assume that she was joined.

    But really, was being a first host that much better that being unjoined?

    “We trust you not to kill this symbiont,” was basically what it meant to be joined as a first host. And it was really too late for her to say no, at least, not if she actually wanted them to consider her at all in the future. Stay positive, she chided herself. It was an honor to be selected at all. And they did have a point.

    All too quickly, she had been stripped naked, and a hypospray containing medications that would make the joining process easier were injected into her. She was placed on a table, and covered, save for the pouch on her abdomen, which she eyed. For so many years, it had remained empty. Anxiety still filled her. This had been an opportunity she’d not been prepared for.

    While the initiate classes were thorough in explaining to a prospective candidate how the process worked, and how to adapt to the new memories and identity that came from being joined, they had only barely touched on what it meant to be the first host. No one - Xeira included - actually intended to be a first host. She hadn’t really paid much attention.

    She was distracted from her thoughts by a doctor, clad in red garments. “Are you ready?” the doctor asked, and Xeira nodded at her numbly.

    No turning back now, she thought, taking a deep breath.

    The symbiont was brought in - Xeira hadn’t even asked what it’s name was, and she wasn’t even certain that the guardians would know. It was surprising to Xeira how grotesque something that was soon to be part of her could truly be. She exhaled slowly as she studied it, wormlike, lumpy and gray in appearance. Who in the world picked up one of those things and thought, “Wow, I think I’d like to put this in the pouch on my stomach” she thought to herself as the doctor removed it from the protective container. It writhed for a few moments in the doctor’s hands as it struggled to adapt to the dry air around it, then fell still.

    Xeira panicked. Was it alright? Was it supposed to do that? She found herself oddly protective of the ugly little slug she’d just moments before wanted to deny. Will it know that just a few minutes ago I didn’t want it?

    Looking up at the doctor, Xeira could see no change in her expression. I guess that’s normal, she thought. She focused on her breathing, trying to remember the classes she’d taken regarding joining. She forced herself not to look down as her pouch was opened, and the symbiont was gently placed inside. Xeira wasn’t really sure what she was expecting it to feel like, but the feeling was odd, and somewhat disconcerting to her. She felt the symbiont move slightly as it got comfortable in it’s new home.

    Then she waited.

    The joined Trill that had spoken in the initiate classes had described the experience of joining in a way so beautiful that it had driven many of the class to tears. The joined told of instant feelings of euphoria, knowledge seeping into their very being. Those who had symbionts who were once athletes or gymnasts reported a near instant improvement in stamina and coordination. It had been compared to finding a missing part of yourself that you’d never realized you’d been missing.

    There were the horror stories as well, the joined who had not been prepared for the endeavor, and who felt their entire personality shift in an instant. And those who’d tried to fight it, and had nearly rejected the symbiont entirely. Xeira expected that her experience would be somewhat between the two. She was ready, or at least she thought she was, but she wasn’t quite ready for this circumstance.

    She felt nothing.

    The doctors looked down at her expectantly. She wasn’t quite certain what she was supposed to say, or do, or even feel at the moment.

    “Xeira?” The female doctor spoke once more.

    “Eli,” Xeira said softly, her voice weak from between cracked lips. “Xeira Eli,” she said.

    It was coming to her now. Vague recollections from the symbiont, memories of swimming in the pools in the caves of Mak’ala. I wasn’t a feeling of nothingness, like she had expected it would be. Nor was it a shocking difference from how she felt mere minutes before. Eli had a personality, it was a subtle presence within Xeira’s mind. She didn’t get strong impressions at the moment, but she did get vague urges. A desire to explore, to see what existed outside of the pools that Eli had spent it’s entire life in. A longing to experience as many things as it possibly could in it’s time with Xeira.

    “Isoboramine levels are at 80% of optimal level, and rising,” the doctor said. “It seems to be taking well so far.”

    Xeira smiled weakly, the doubt that had taken hold a few minutes prior beginning to dissipate. Sure, as a first host she was always going to be low in standing when compared to other Trill hosts who had more lifetimes of experience to draw from. But she was going to ensure that whoever got Eli next got a symbiont who’d experienced absolutely everything she could do.

    A male nurse burst into the room that the procedure had taken place in, his face flushed with worry. “Doctor, I think you should come quickly,” he said. “The Tor symbiont isn’t taking.”

    “Keep an eye on her levels,” the doctor instructed one of the nurses, who scanned Xeira with a tricorder. The doctor rushed from the room.

    Doubt filled Xeira once more. Had she made the right decision? What would have happened if she would have waited a few minutes longer? But then again, what would have happened if the Tor symbiont had been implanted into her instead? Would she be the one fighting right now instead?

    “You should rest,” the nurse instructed, seeing her anxiety from the chemicals spiking on the tricorder readout. He pressed a few buttons on a hypospray before injecting Xeira. A sedative, she realized, mere instants before slipping into unconsciousness.

    ~*~

    When she awoke again a bit later, she was clothed in a hospital robe, and had been moved to a room where she was under observation. The nurse who’d sedated her stood nearby. “Good morning,” he said softly, a smile on his face.

    Xeira struggled to place herself, the medicine still casting her mind into a fog. She remembered being in Mak’ala, being joined, hearing about the Tor symbiont...

    “Tor?” She asked, her tone concerned.

    The nurse pursed his lips. “The symbiosis did not take,” he said after a moment. “The symbiont appears to have reached the point where he can no longer be joined earlier than most do.”

    The blood pounded in Xeira’s ears. What if it would have been her who was joined to that symbiont? Would she be fighting for her life now? “The... the host?”

    “They are trying to save her. They expect she will recover, but she will likely never be joined again. The rejection was very traumatic to her system.”

    Xeira exhaled deeply, her hand instinctively shooting up from under the blanket to cover her abdomen, where Eli now resided.

    “Oh don’t you worry,” the nurse said, misinterpreting her concerns. Your neurotransmitter levels are looking great. The next transport to Deep Space 9 leaves in a few hours, you should be able to leave on it.””

    Leave. The thought seemed so appealing to Xeira. Eli wanted to get away from Trill. It wanted to explore. A smile crossed her lips as she considered the events of the past few days. Soon, she and her symbiont would be heading for their first mission as a Starfleet officer into the Gamma Quadrant.

    Perhaps her luck wasn’t so poor afterall.
     
  2. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    The Trill are an awesome species and this little tale helps to shed a bit more light on the enigmatic relationship between symbiont and host. I especially liked the plot twist and the joining of a brand new symbiont, wondering what that experience would be like for Xeira.

    I also liked the deeper implications about Trill society here. I suppose much of this might have been addresses in Trek Lit (I haven't really red any Trill-centric novels, yet) but one can easily see how the divide between joined and unjointed Trill could lead, or may have once led, to some sort of class war in this society in which the joined Trill make up the higher, more educated and wealthier segment of the population.
     
  3. Cyfa

    Cyfa Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2013
    Location:
    Over the Cusp...
    I love the thought you've put into this story, and the fact that it shows another perspective around Trill Symbiosis. To be the first joined to a symbiont hasn't really been explored in Trek Lit, as far as I'm aware. There was Lela Dax's story in The Lives of Dax anthology, but she'd been joined for a little while before that took place. I also like your explanation of why the Symbiosis Commission are more tolerant of joined Trill joining Starfleet.
    This is a lovely piece of writing - it really drew me into the story. I'm fascinated with the Trill, their history and their culture, and this is a wonderful addition. Thank you.
     
  4. IreneAdler

    IreneAdler Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2014
    Location:
    Ashburn, VA
    Thanks so much! I've always loved Trill, and it fascinates me to consider the intricacies of their society. It's mentioned in a few books that Joined > Unjoined Trill in terms of society, but the individual benefits of the symbiont sans previous host memories has never really been considered.

    I really appreciate the reads/feedback!
     
  5. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    This was an outstanding introduction to a very promising character. :) The level of detail you've accomplished in such a short story, combined with its emotional weight, makes me hungry for more.

    Well done! :techman:
     
  6. Fashion Victim

    Fashion Victim Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2014
    I really enjoyed reading this a while back. I had always wondered what it would be like for a host receiving a young symbiont with no previous host lives, would they feel honored that they get to be the first who's memories become part of the symbiont's life time or totally ripped off lol! You also tend to wonder if symbionts even had personality of their own or if they were pretty much dull carriers of a host's memories. I love how Eli's adventurous spirit provides Xeira with the boost of courage she needed for entering Starfleet, I also love the irony that she narrowly averted the disastrous consequences of being joined with Tor which is what she wanted. This story short as it is oddly parallels with the sort of curve balls life throws at you sometimes. You want something so badly and then you end up stuck with something you thought you wouldn't have wanted, whilst chasing for the thing you wanted, and then it turns out the thing you got stuck with was the best thing that could have happened to you after all. :D