Star Trek: Chimera - Season Twelve
Episode Seven: "Shades of Gray"
Standing at one of the large observation windows on the main recreational area of the Odyssey-class USS Sentinel stands Lt. Commander Winter Gray. Outside, the slipstream corridor glows a blueish-green hue as the ship makes it way to Trill. Winter Gray is going home...
One Week Previous:
Natasha's runs another series of scans on Grey, and hasn't found anything useful in her analysis of the tissue sample she took before, beyond lower then normal isoboramine levels within the symbiont itself. Winter reminds her that Grey is one of the oldest symbionts that is still capable of joining before finally returning to the pools to breed, so lower levels make sense. She quickly leaves, not wanting Natasha or Green to see how much pain (emotional, not just physical) she is in.
Arriving at her quarters, she's surprised to see Anna James. The Strategic Ops Officer is just checking up on her after everything that happened with Marlon Vey. The two officers have become good friends in the brief time on Chimera, and she is genuinely concerned about the joined Trill. When she tries to get Winter to open up, Winter lashes out and tells her to leave her alone, before storming off and leaving her alone in the corridor.
Winter knows she shouldn't have done that, but opening up about things has never been a strong point with her. None of the memories of previous hosts offer any solace. Except one. "Computer, open up a comm-link to Starbase 17."
A short time later, Winter smiles in welcome at the face of Lt. Nimah Zeta, the newly appointed Counselor of Chimera, due to arrive within the week, once she rendezvous with the Excalibur. A friend of Jerzan Gray, the host immediately before Winter. An El-Aurian, Zeta looks about 30 or so, in human years, but is closer to 200. With everything going on, Winter needs a familiar face. The two talk about old times, but Zeta knows Gray, no matter the host, well enough to see something's wrong. But she doesn't want her to talk to her - she wants her to talk to her friends at Chimera. Realizing she's right, and she needs to admit she needs help, she says her goodbyes, promising to welcome Zeta when she arrives...
In Sickbay, Winter waits for Anna and Natasha to deal with what she's just told them. It's Anna who speaks first, "What the hell do you mean, your forgetting things?"
"A joined Trill receives all the memories of the previous hosts once we merge with the symbiont. Our personality changes as we take on all these new experiences," she tells them. "I'm Gray's 23rd host. It's one of the oldest symbionts still capable of joining."
"Still capable?" Natasha asks, the xenobiologist in her curious, "You mean they loose that ability?"
"Eventually, yes," Winter explains, "and then they return to the pools to share those experiences with older symbionts who have grown too large for joining and have gone on to breed and procreate."
"But you're loosing your memories?" Anna persists, much to Winter's embarrassment.
"Yeah, I mean, it's not everything, but a lot of stuff from the earliest hosts. I mean, I can remember their names, and who they were, but specific memories..?" She shakes her head, trembling slightly. She's scared. "I... I never thought I'd be joined, it's not where I saw my life going when I was young. But I got used to all these memories, all the experiences. I feel like it made me good at my job. But they're fading... and I feel empty knowing they're gone."
Two Days Previous:
Gray makes her way down the docking port, walking alongside Anna James. Her request for medical leave, endorsed by Natasha and Zeta, was approved by Marcus Riker, in his last official act as commander of Chimera, before handing over command to Darren Tel. "I hate that I'm cutting out in the middle of all this crap,"
Anna waves it off, "You're not. This is important, and you being here won't change how things are." As they approach the docking port to where the USS Sentinel is waiting to
make the trip to Trill, Winter is stunned to see another figure with a carryall waiting - Nimeh Zeta. The El-Aurian grins mischievously, "Did you really think I'd let you go home alone?"
The Sentinel arrives at Trill, and both Zeta and Winter beam down to a small residential area just outside Leran Manev, the capital city. "How long since you spoke to your family?" Winter cringes, "Too long. We're not exactly close."
A short walk brings the women to a cute little two-story house with a well-kept garden. Tending the lawn is an older Trill man of around 50 - Winter's father, Pranin Lorr.
Pranin studies the woman before him - he knows this is his daughter, and yet not at the same time. "It's been a while, Winter." There is a distance between them. They share a brief, chaste hug, before a young woman, only a few years younger then Winter comes out and embraces her in a tight squeeze - her sister, Lerin, "It's so good to see you!"
Winter quickly performs introductions for Nimeh's benefit, as well as explaining how she knows her. Nimeh tries to make casual conversation, "You must both be very proud of Winter being joined with a symbiont as old and revered as Gray."
Her words have the opposite reaction she intended. Winter looks mortified, and any friendly manner from Pranin and Lerin vanished as they glare at Winter, accusuingly.
"She doesn't know? What, are you ashamed? Embarrassed?"
Pranin demands to know, before storming away - clearly, Winter has her father's temper. Lerin merely looks at her with disappointment before walking away as well. Nimeh is dumbfounded, "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to--"
"It's not you," Winter assures her, tears in her eyes as she remembers, and tells her story...
Nine Years Ago:
Winter Lorr, 2rd year-cadet of Starfleet Academy, tried not to roll her eyes in boredom. When she'd come home during summer break, she'd wanted to visit the Tenaran Ice Cliffs
with Lerin, maybe visit the Devritane Museum...
Not this. Stuck on a sub-light in-system passenger ship, coming back from one of the outer-system habitats. Her mother, Lillia, worked as senior assistant to Jerzan Gray, a
venerated Federation High Commissioner. They'd been sent to clear up some bureaucratic red tape causing issues with something or other, Winter didn't really care. Mother had insisted Winter come along, as Jerzan had asked to see her - an old friend of the family, he was godfather to both Winter and her older brother Kartin. She wished she had said no, but she knew Mother would not forgive her. Not only was Jerzan family, but he has chosen Kartin to be his successor as Gray's host. Normally, a host candidate was assigned whatever symbiont became available, but those with pull could choose who they wanted. Curzon Dax had done the same with Jadzia, and Jerzan wanted Kartin. Winter, although she understood the honor, had no particular desire to ever be joined. She knew she was in a minority, and had disappointed her family, all of whom besides Kartin had washed out of initiate training. She'd taken the early tests and had been pre-approved, but she had no desire to go any further.
When the ship rocked ever so slightly, she didn't think much of it. Not even when it bucked, hard. Just turbulence, she figured - she'd seen training sims like it at the Academy.
It wasn't until the hull-breah klaxon sounded that she felt fear turn her blood cold, before the ship spun wildly and she felt her head smack against the deck, and everything
As consciousness slowly returned, Winter felt her entire body growing cold. She blinked, shivering, to find herself in what was a storage compartment. Barely big enough for the
three people inside. "What..?"
"Don't move, you took a nasty blow to the head," a soothing voice told her. She recognized the speaker as Dr. Errin Kol, a member of the Symbiosis Commission traveling on the same flight. "We suffered a catastrophic engine failure. It caused a section of the hull to be torn away."
"Where is everybody?" Panic gripped her. "Where's my mom?!" The look in Kol's eyes was her answer, "I'm so sorry."
She shook her head in resignation, "I couldn't find anyone else in time. There was only us three in the passenger cabin when it happened. I got you and Commissioner Gray inside and sealed it. The computer sealed us in and redirected life support since it's air-tight."
"Winter..." a raspy, weak voice called. It was Jerzan. He looked terrible. Like he'd aged 20 years or something. Skin paper thin. "We need you to do something..."
A feeling of dread spread through her, down to her bones, "What do you mean?"
"He's dying," Kol bluntly told her, "he won't survive until help gets here. We need to save the symbiont."
As Winter's eyes went wide as she realized what was being asked of her...
Nimeh studied her friend, seeing her with new eyes, "I had no idea." Winter grimaced, "It's not something I want to talk about, even with you. Because that was just the beginning."
Memories of her life flood her mind's eye as she explains the series of events...
...how she took the Gray symbiont to save it's life, hoping they would be rescued in time to move it to Kartin' the true deserving host.
...how rescue never came until well past the 93-hour mark to safely remove the symbiont without killing Winter, leaving the Symbiosis Commission no choice but to allow her to keep it...how Kartin was devastated, losing out to a sister who never even wanted to be joined, and went off the rails, running away from home. He eventually run amok of a couple of Nausicaans and was killed in a bar-fight several years later.
"I never got the chance to tell him how sorry I was," Winter whispered, as tears fell down her face, allowing Nimeh to take her in a comforting embrace.
A day later, at the Symbiosis Commission medical facility, Winter is stunned to see a familiar face - Dr. Kol. "Hello, Winter," she offered warmly. "I wanted to be the one to see
you, to offer whatever help we can."
Sitting in the garden, marveling at the work her father has done on it, keeping it so maintained, Winter is joined by Lerin, who sits down next to her. "I'm sorry I haven't been around much, Winnie," she tried to explain, "But..."
"You don't have to say anything. You and Father are right - I shouldn't have hid how I was joined, but even after all this time, I'm still having trouble accepting it all."
"It's not just that," Lerin pushed, "I mean, neither one of us has made much effort in keeping in contact, have we?"
Winter laughed mirthlessly, "No. No, it's not something we Lorrs are good at."
A sudden stabbing pain in her abdomen knocked the wind out of her, as she doubled over in pain. It was getting worse, it was like the pouch inside her where Gray rested was on fire! She barely heard Lerin calling her name in panic as everything went black, and consciousness left her...
Winter listened to what Kol was telling her, but she could not take it all in. "The connection between you and Gray isn't breaking down, as was suspected, but there is something wrong with it," Kol said gently, doing what she could to ease the heavy blow her words were having.
"Gray's dying, isn't it?" Finally saying what she had been wondering for weeks made it far too real. Somehow, on some level, she had known - had always known, she figured.
Kol nodded sadly, "Our scans are more detailed then those of a Starfleet facility. Symbionts are our lifeblood." She pointed to a medical scan on a screen, "Necrotic tissue has formed all throughout its body."
"Why? Pranin asked, standing close by with Lerin and Zeta, the counselor doing what she did best, trying to offer comfort to her family.
"I can only surmise it's due to what Winter described as her ordeal with the Okkula. The invasive procedure they carried out."
"It did something to Gray, whatever they extracted?" Kol nodded, "As a result, the symbiont is now acting more like a parasite, causing your organs excessive strain as
toxins build up in your body."
"So, what can you do?" Pranin demanded, "Some kind of treatment or surgery?"
Winter recognized the empty look in Kol's eyes. She had seen it before nine years ago, "I'm sorry, Mr. Lorr. There is nothing we can do."
As Winter packed her carryall, getting ready for the long trip back to the Rigel system, she heard the knock on her door, "Come in, Nimeh."
The diminutive El-Aurian stepped in, curious, "How did..?"
Winter grinned, "You're the only one who would knock."
Zeta studies her for a moment, "Something's on your mind?" Winter sighed - she could read her too easily. It was annoying, but there was no point in lying, "The connection
between me and Gray is still there. It may be dying, but I should still be able to access my memories."
"But you can't," Zeta queried, "and you're wondering why?"
Winter nods, surprised when Zeta grinned, "What?"
"Winter, you're not exactly someone who accepts things easily and quickly," she commented. "I mean, how long was it after the Okkula Incident was it before you even went to see Dr. Taggart for help?"
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying, you have a habit of going it alone, of pushing people away. Like you did Anna James."
Winter was confused, "What does that have to do with my memories."
Zeta signed, exasperated, "Maybe it's a mental block. You're pushing away Gray's memories just like you push away people who care about you. You're mentally going it alone."
"Why would I push away the memories?"
"Because maybe," Zeta said gently, "they'll help you accept the inevitability of dying."
Winter Lorr opened her eyes. She found herself in the Caves of Mak'ala. Chest deep in one of the murky pools that were the symbiont's natural home. But it wasn't not really. Why did I let Nimeh convince me to do this? Winter thought, her thoughts echoing loudly in this mental safe-space she'd conjured up. Mild hypnosis? She'd never even been to the Caves, why would she create this?
"But you have been here, child." In the blink of an eye, Jerzan Gray appeared in front of her, a kind smile at the ready, "That symbiont remembers here very well."
"But I've never remembered that before," Winter replied, shocked to see this man in front of her.
"Because you never wanted to." His eyes filled with sadness,
"But it's not your fault. You never wanted to be joined, it was thrust on you by me, and I am so sorry. For that, and for everything that followed."
Winter shook her head, "Was I angry? Yes, for a while, but I realize something. I'm a Trill. The symbionts and us, we're all part of the same race. Different aspects of the same whole."
She felt a warmth grow inside her, a lightness almost, "I'm so very honored to have been part of the Gray legacy, even if I'm the last." Names appeared in her head, and she felt such a joy as she reeled them off, "Lia, Kuyin, Renid, Invan, Prelin, Derris, Klino, Hennik, Sannas, Ollin, Frayin, Xerin, Zeryil, Wallit, Vannis, Merrit, Unin, Errit, Teyshi, Anillin, Anaki, and you, Jerzan." She remembered them all, and as she said their names, they appeared, all around her, filling her with such love and acceptance. Not just of her, but of their own sense of peace. Peace she had been looking for, for so very long...
Winter Gray took a final look around the main sitting room of her father's - no, her family home, taking in every detail. She was going back to Chimera tomorrow when the U.S.S. Janeway would pick them up. She didn't know how much longer she had, but she wanted to spend it being useful. "I have something for you," she heard her father say as he walked in, holding a large box. He placed it down in front
of her on the small table.
"I'm not going to try to convince you to stay, Winnie," he quickly added, smiling. "You get my stubbornness, so I know there's no point." His smile faded, "You have a sense of
duty, I admire that."
"What's this?" She gestured towards the box, curious.
"It was left left for you, by your brother." Winter looked back at it, stunned. "It's been sitting in the attic for years. I wasn't sure if you were ready to ever open it, so I never told you. I'm sorry, Winter."
Carefully, Winter removed the lid. Inside was a single PADD, a civilian issue one. She picked it up and with a single press, activated it. It only had a single file on it - a video, recorded 7 years ago, according to the metadata. Scared, but curiosity burning at her, she pressed [PLAY].
The smiling face of her brother appeared, frozen for a long moment, allowing her to see how much he'd changed in the short time between him leaving Trill and his death. Hair longer, face thinner, but still her brother...
[Hello, Winnie,] he grinned, [This is something I should have said a long time ago, but I was too angry, too ashamed.] The words hit her, hard. Why did he feel that way? She was vaguely aware of Lerin joining her and Pranin as she watched, but she couldn't tear her gaze away from the video. [I had no right to leave you with all that guilt. I want you to know, I have never blamed you for what happened. It was an incredible situation. We lost Mother, and Uncle Jerzan, and there you were, left with no choice.] He looked away, and Winter saw the tear roll down his check, [But I couldn't deal with it. For so long, I knew Jerzan wanted me to be his successor, I pushed myself so hard every day to make myself worthy of that honor. So I ran. I just kept running.] He faced the screen again, and there was a fearlessness to him now, [But I'm tired of running. So, I'm coming home. I want to show the Commission I'm still worthy, and that I want to contribute to Trill in any way I can, even if I'm not joined.] He grinned, [I'm so proud of you, Winnie. I hear what people
are saying about my Starfleeter, butt-kicking sister, and I'm so, so proud of you. You're a worthy host to Gray. I love you, Winter. I'll see you soon.]
The screen went dark. Winter allowed her father to take it from her numb fingers and place it back in the box. She felt his arms around her, joined by Lerin, as she quietly shed tears for her beloved brother...
Star Trek: Chimera
“Shades of Gray” by Alex Matthews - orbingmaster
Maggie Grace as Winter Gray by Jonbromle1
Trill Landscape - ST: DS9 Screenshot
Cave Photography by an unknown artist.
Image by jonbromle1