the next generation
The Pain of the Warrior
A story by Nick Varnau
Based on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”
Created by Gene Roddenberry
Location: Utopia Planitia (Mars)
Commander Worf scowled as he saw his new assignment. He admitted to himself that it was good that he was stationed aboard the Enterprise-E, which was currently undergoing repairs physically and emotionally, after the epic battle with Shinzon, and the death of a dear friend, Data. At least he would still be serving under Captain Picard, whom he found to be one of the most honorable men he had ever known. And he would also see Geordi LaForge, who was staying as Chief Engineer.
However, the position of “Ship’s Counselor” was not the assignment he had in mind. He had no urges to listen to his fellow officers about their “feelings” and “moods.” He wanted a job in security, where the opportunity for battle was much higher, and where his Klingon blood would be most useful.
He stood outside the Captain’s ready room, staring at the notice of assignment, wondering who in their right mind would even think about giving him this assignment.
Finally, he pressed the chime to come in. He was answered with “Come,” and so he entered the spacious ready room with anger and fury.
He saw both his
Captain, Jean-Luc Picard, and his former XO, Captain
William Riker, who was heading off soon to see the fitting of his new starship,
the USS Titan. Worf would have loved to join Riker
aboard the new ship, but he felt his place was aboard the
But he was not here to socialize with Riker. His feelings were hardly pleasant. He slammed down the assignment sheet onto Picard’s desk hard. Harder than he had intended, in fact. Riker had a sheepish grin. Worf guessed he already knew what this was about.
“I’ll leave you two alone,” he said, and promptly excused himself. When the door had whished shut behind Captain Riker, Picard turned back to Worf, with a look that made the Klingon’s blood turn cold. Few beings in the universe could make Worf feel this way, this sense of terror as if they had just done something really, really bad.
Picard slowly picked up the data screen that had been slammed so hardly onto his newly-installed desk and said, “Is there a reason you are slamming this on my desk?”
Worf remembered his anger, and decided that, given the circumstances, he was justified.
“I do not believe I am fit to carry out this responsibility.”
Picard tossed down the data screen and scoffed. “Mr. Worf, you and I have served together for fifteen years. You were the best chief of security I’ve ever had, Tasha Yar included, and you’re one of the most honorable and trustworthy people I know.”
Worf thought perhaps the Captain was coming to his senses. “Then you agree it is outrageous for me to have a position such as ship’s counselor.”
Without missing a beat, Captain Picard said, “Absolutely not!”
“Then why did you request that I my position be transferred to such something which I am incapable of handling?”
“I didn’t. Captain Riker put in the suggestion, and I agreed.”
This was new information for Worf. Not only did his Captain see him fit for this task, but his former XO and best friend as well. Worf couldn’t helped but be intrigued. What possible criteria could they have used to choose him as counselor?
“Captain,” said Worf, “I’m not sure I am fit to do this task.”
“Nonsense. You’re a Starfleet officer, and one of the best damn officers I have ever served with. Mr. Worf, you may not be aware of this, but you have an incredible sense of compassion toward every person you serve with. Your sense of loyalty and honor, as well as your overall confidence in yourself and in this ship, make you the perfect candidate for this position. When I signed the assignment to put you there, I knew you would protest. But believe me, there is no other man alive whom I would accept in this position. And keep in mind, you do have a tendency to surprise even yourself.”
Worf took his Captain’s words to heart. Picard could always find the right things to say to someone. However Worf still felt unsure about his abilities.
“Sir, I believe my ability in combat makes me a better security officer, or even tactical.”
“I’ve got those already,” said Picard. “And I also have a strong man with a strong heart who can really help his crew be the best they can be. I’m not backing out of this decision, Mr. Worf. Your assignment is final.”
Realizing he had just been given his definite answer, Worf straightened. “Yes sir,” he said, and proceeded out of the ready room.
“And Mr. Worf…” said Picard, stopping Worf at the doorway. “It’s good to have you aboard.”
“Thank you sir,” said Worf, and exited the room.
Surprisingly to Worf, he was no longer angered at his assignment. Rather, he looked upon it as a challenge, something to show his worth as a Starfleet officer, to his crew as well as the fleet. Now what he needed to do was decide how his office would look.
* * * * *
Worf had arranged his office on Deck 12 into what he considered a welcoming environment; a bare, red sofa with a small coffee table and his desk and chair. Above the sofa hung a Klingon bat’leth as well as a pair of jejtaj. Worf found this arrangement particularly soothing.
As he was taking in the atmosphere of his new office, the door chimed and Worf barked a loud “Enter!”
The door swished open and in walked
Commander Deanna Troi, who was the counselor for both
the Enterprise-D and E, and who had recently married Captain Riker, although
keeping with Betazoid tradition, had not taken his
name (nor, for that matter, had Riker, who went against Betazoid
tradition). Troi was only half-Betazoid,
but her empathic abilities had made her crucial to the
“Counselor,” said Worf as the beautiful woman entered. Worf and Troi had once been in a relationship together, but Worf had grown uncomfortable about being with her. The end of their relationship was understanding and mutual, and Worf’s feelings for her had changed from romantic to kinship. He considered her, in many ways, a sister.
Troi herself was sad to see them split up, but inside she realized it was for the best. Her feelings for Riker, Imzadi, had not fully gone away, nor had Riker’s feelings for her.
Troi looked around Worf’s new, rather bare, office and, upon seeing the Klingon weaponry, suppressed a laugh. Worf however, could see the smile that pretended not to be there.
“Is there something wrong with the way my office is arranged?”
At this, Troi smiled and said to him, “There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a little… different, but it’s comfortable to you, and it is your office. If it’s one thing the Titan has taught me, it’s that we all must adjust for everyone’s comfort levels.”
“I can’t imagine any difficulties that would cause anything otherwise.”
Troi smiled. “You should meet our Doctor.”
Worf decided not to pry further and just take Troi’s word for it. He sat up straight and took on a professional profile.
“What can I do for you?”
Troi walked over to the sofa. “May I be the first to sit on it?”
Worf smiled. “Of course.”
Deanna Troi sat on the red sofa and felt the soft cushions. She had to admit, what Worf lost in scenery he made up for in comfort.
“I wanted to wish you the best in your assignment.”
Worf looked proud. Deanna continued, “I know this isn’t the assignment you had expected, but based on the time you and I have spent together, I believe you are the only person who can replace me. I want you to know that I feel confident that what I’m leaving behind is in good hands.”
Worf nodded and surprised himself by saying, “It is an honor to follow you.”
Troi smiled and squeezed his hand, a gesture that made Worf feel all gooey, a feeling he really didn’t find welcome. Troi stood up and made her way out of the room.
“I hope you will write to me,” she said. “I want to know how this all pans out for you.”
Worf looked down with an expression that almost looked like a scowl, but was in fact a nod of agreement. “I will do my best.”
“I know,” she said. “You always do.” And with that, she left.
* * * * *
Location: en route to Perrex-IV
The chime in Worf’s office rang and Worf barked “Enter!” The door swished open and a young human male, roughly 28 years of age, entered. Under his black and grey tunic, he wore a turquoise shirt, indicating he was a science officer. Worf concluded that this must be his first appointment for the day, Lt. Mark Timbers.
Timbers walked into the office and sat down onto the couch, balling his hands in his lap and moving his fingers in a nervous manner.
Worf looked down on his data screen and saw that Timbers was an expert geologist, but also suffered from Bi-Polar and acute Schizo-Affective Disorder. Twice he had to be relieved of duty due to a psychotic breakdown. While both times neither the ship nor any crew were injured, it was clear that Timbers needed close counseling.
“How are you today, Mr. Timbers?” Worf asked in the most gentle tone he could, which, being Klingon, still sounded like he was engaging in battle.
“I feel fine,” said Timbers, his voice steady and sure. It had been a year since his last breakdown, and nothing had gone wrong since. This had been thanks to the medication Dr. Crusher had prescribed him, a mood stabilizer and an anti-psychotic. While both medications did their jobs effectively, nothing was positive about a chemically unbalanced brain. Worf made note of this as he watched Timbers’ fingers fidgit.
Timbers continued. “In a few weeks we start our geological survey of Perrex-IV. It’s currently in an ice age, which is fascinating because there are whole civilizations of human-like beings that were wiped out by only a few thousand miles of an orbit change. We’re going to survey what we can find and make records of it. The species is almost fifty thousand years old!”
“So this is an important study for you?” said Worf, interested also in the thought of discovering a whole race of extinct people, preserved over millennia.
“Yes it is, Mr. Worf,” said Timbers. “Or counselor, or Commander… what’s the protocol here?”
“My friends call me Worf.
Since I have no enemies on the
Worf looked down and eyed Timbers’ fidgeting hands. “Is there anything wrong?”
Timbers looked down at his hands. He hadn’t even realized he was messing with them. He stopped. The two were silent for a moment, and Worf was beginning to feel awkward. Maybe he hadn’t been the right choice after all.
He made several attempts to make small-talk with Timbers, but had little to no success. After the half-hour ended, Timbers left the office, clearly just as nervous as when he’d entered. Worf growled to himself. How could he do a job such as this when he was bred to be a warrior? It was a dishonor to put him here, and he had to do something about it.
He went to the bridge, where Captain Picard sat in the Captain’s chair in the center of the room, reading the daily report. It was approximately two days to Perrex-IV, and their mission there would no doubt take a few months, where it would certainly be uneventful.
Worf stormed out of the turbolift. Picard looked up from the data pad and gave one of his patented genial smiles. “Counselor, what can I do for you?”
“Sir,” said Worf, as carefully as he could. “May I speak to you in your ready room?”
Picard stood without hesitation, “Certainly, I could use a cup of tea.” As they walked in, Picard went to the replicator and said, “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” Like magic, a ceramic cup appeared with a piping hot blend of Earl Grey tea. “Something for you?” said Picard.
Worf hesitated at first, then spoke into the machine. “Prune juice. Cold.” Out came a glass of prune juice, Worf’s favorite substitute over Klingon blood wine, which did not sound satisfactory at this point.
Picard smiled as Worf took a mighty drink of his juice. “So what can I do you for, Counselor?”
Worf let out a frustrated sigh, which sounded more like a growl to Picard, but most of the noises Worf made did.
“I am finding it hard to meet the needs of my patients.”
Picard smiled. “Mr. Worf, I know this is starting out difficult for you, and I admit I would be intimidated by such a task, but I have confidence in you. The crew has confidence in you. Keep in mind, you’re not just a psychologist, you’re also a voice of reason and motivation for these people. You’re their conductor for how this ship is run. That’s a very important job.”
“Are you familiar with Lt. Timbers’ condition?” said Worf.
“Timbers,” said Picard. “Is he our Schizo-Affective?”
“Yes,” said Worf. “Today was our first meeting, and I found it difficult to bring forth discussion topics from him. I believe he would be more comfortable with Dr. Crusher.”
“Yes but Dr. Crusher has a whole sickbay to run. She’s already resigned to her duties.”
Worf nodded. He understood that the ship’s counselor and chief medic were two very different duties.
Picard spoke again. “Perhaps Mr. Timbers needs to get used to you. See if you could meet with him in Ten-Forward, where there are more of his fellow officers. It might make it a more relaxed atmosphere.”
“I consider my office to be very relaxing,” growled Worf.
“Yes,” said Picard. “But even I get tired of this room from time to time.”
Worf saw his point. “I will endeavor to do better as ship’s counselor.”
Picard nodded with yet another genial smile. He knew he would see progress from his new counselor soon enough.
* * * * *
Worf sat alone at a table in Ten-Forward, the officer’s lounge aboard the Enterprise-E. The Ten-Forward on this new ship looked quite different than that of the previous design, but then again, this was a completely different class of starships.
Worf gazed out of the window at the endless stars zooming by. He wondered how he could possibly make a breakthrough in this uncomfortable position. At that moment, he wished Data had been there. The late android had always managed to create wisdom out of naiveté. Worf had learned more about humans from Data than any humans he’d known. He missed his fallen friend, who was one of the many casualties in the fight against Shinzon and his Scimitar.
Interrupting his thoughts, Lt. Timbers stood by the table, a red drink in hand.
“May I sit with you, Worf?” said Timbers.
Worf, who was used to sitting alone, surprised himself by saying “Yes.” Timbers sat down and took a drink of the clear red liquid.
“What are you drinking?” asked Worf.
“Tholian brandy. Excellent stuff! What are you drinking?”
“Prune juice,” said Worf.
“Really? How can you drink that?” asked Timbers.
Worf looked at his fellow crewman in shock. “Prune juice is a warrior’s drink!”
Timbers laughed. “Do you know what it’s used for?”
Worf looked startled. “It is used to nourish me!” he said.
Timbers laughed and shook his head. “Leave it to a Klingon to like prune juice.”
“Well then I shall try the Tholian brandy!” said Worf, accepting this challenge. He called the waiter over and requested a glass of Tholian brandy. The waiter came back with a glass of the clear red liquid. Worf took a drink from it and made a face which no human could distinguish was delighted or repulsed.
“Well?” asked Timbers.
Worf, who had immediately decided he disliked this overly-sweet drink, managed to choke it down before replying, “It is… interesting.”
“See? I told you. Tholian brandy beats prune juice any day.”
“Well, have you ever tried Klingon blood wine?” asked Worf.
Timbers nodded. “It’s too bitter for me.”
“It’s been the drink of mighty warriors since the days of Kahless!”
“Then maybe I’m not a warrior,” said Timbers.
Worf, seeing Timbers’ content in this statement, decided to back off. Timbers was not an enemy, and certainly posed no threat. He was simply a shipmate with seriously lacking tastes in beverages.
That gave Worf a great idea. “Lt. Timbers, do you know any drinking songs?”
Timbers admitted to not knowing any.
“Then let me teach you one,” he said, and ordered their respective drinks to be refilled. Once each had a full mug of drinks, Worf went about teaching Timbers the song. The words were easy to learn.
“We march today under stormy skies
Heghlu’meH QaQ jajvam
With weapons in hand and hate in our eyes
Heghlu’meH QaQ jajvam
Heghlu’meH QaQ jajvam!”
After two or three rounds of this, Timbers
felt he had at least most of the words down, though his Klingon was very rusty.
The two drank and sang and laughed for quite a while, gathering a few other
crewmen to join in their fun. Worf found himself
meeting people who had served with him and Picard on
* * * * *
They had been at Perrex-IV for a little over a week. Things had gone rather smoothly for the whole ship, including Worf, who had used his knowledge of the Klingon warrior system to help reach his crew.
It was about mid-day when Worf received some very troubling news. Lt. Mark Timbers
had caught a serious case of pneumonia and the sickness had spread into his
lungs. Worf darted out of his office and into the
nearest turbolift, demanding the computer take him to
sickbay. Within a few moments, the turbolift swished
open and Worf made his way down the hall and into the
Worf kept his distance from the two, but could see from where he was standing that Timbers’ body was making a valiant effort to fight off the sickness. While Worf’s emotions were that of a Klingon warrior, he still felt sadness in having to see him go through this.
Worf stepped out into the hallway and looked down at the grey carpet. He knew there was little he could do for Timbers at the moment, and hated this feeling of helplessness. He remembered the same feeling he had felt when he had seen his own Captain infested with Borg implants. At that moment, he was prepared to accept Jean-Luc Picard as a casualty of war, but he was refusing, adamantly, to give up on the man.
The same applied to Timbers. Worf was prepared to face the death of his newfound friend, but ngav if he was going to do nothing about it.
But, for the moment, there was nothing he could do. Dr. Crusher and the Doctor were doing everything in their power to keep him alive. Worf went back to his office, where he sat, and waited.
Soon his combadge beeped. It was Dr. Crusher.
“My patient seems stable for now,” she said. “Although I had to put him in a coma. It’s up to his body now to fix the problem.”
“What is going on?” asked Worf.
“The sickness spread to Timbers’ lungs, and in doing so his white blood cells began to attack the lungs themselves, as well as his whole respiratory system. It’s what we call Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, or ARDS for short. It’s life-threatening and modern medicine still has no cure for it.”
Worf sighed in despair. “What are the chances he’ll pull through?”
Crusher hesitated, then replied, “Worf, I’d say he’s fifty-fifty.”
Worf stood up. “I’m coming to sickbay,” he said, and tapped his combadge as he walked out.
* * * * *
Mark Timbers lie motionless on an exam bed. A dozen or so tubes were connected to him, cleaning his blood, taking his waste, and feeding him. There was also a breathing unit attached to his mouth and throat.
Crusher approached Worf, who looked at his friend in anguish.
“How’s he doing?” she asked, although the question should’ve been vice-versa.
Worf allowed himself a small smile and said, “He has the heart of a warrior. He will get through this.”
Crusher laid a hand on Worf’s shoulder and checked the levels on the display above the bed. So far, it looked bleak. But she had seen Worf fight through a paralyzing back injury, and new that his inspiring spirit was also alive in the body of Mark Timbers.
Worf sat down in the chair beside Timbers’ bed. “I think I’m needed here, at the moment,” he said in his usual growling voice.
“Stay as long as you like,” said Crusher.
* * * * *
Worf had been in and out of sickbay more than his quarters and office combined. Each day, Timbers had worsened, except this day. Worf had been near Timbers most of the day, ever since he got the message from Crusher that the mucus in Timbers’ lungs was starting to drain through the tubes. Crusher was keeping a close eye on him. She had chosen to keep him in a coma for the duration, as his body needed to work out the problem by itself. She was also able to use the bio-surgery units to help the lungs drain better. But in the end, it was all up to the patient.
Worf sat by the bed watching the levels, wishing there were more he could do. A fellow warrior had fallen, and it had been in the line of duty. What more could a Starfleet officer ask? What more could a Klingon?
Just then, Captain Picard walked into the sickbay and approached Timbers’ bed.
“Jean-Luc!” said Dr. Crusher, surprised and delighted to see her Captain and old friend.
Picard gestured to the bed. “How’s he doing?”
“He’s beginning to do better,” said Crusher. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the presence of Worf is what’s bringing him out of it.”
Picard smiled. “Well done, Mr. Worf.”
Worf merely nodded to the Captain. While he was honored by the compliment, this was not a time for good feelings.
Picard could see the troubled look on Worf’s face. He decided he best be left alone. He turned back to Dr. Crusher. “Keep me posted,” he said.
“I will,” said Crusher with a reassuring smile.
Picard left, and it seemed as though eternities passed before Worf felt Crusher’s gentle hand on his shoulder.
“Worf?” she said. “It’s time for his final surgery.”
Worf understood. He was not to be present in the surgery that would choose the outcome of Timbers’ life. So he did the next best thing.
He went to Ten-Forward and had a cold mug of Tholian brandy. Other crew members noticed him drinking alone. It had been three days since Worf had slept. He looked haggard and worn. Even his ceremonial sash looked beaten and worn, as he had been wearing it for so long. His fellow crew members gathered around him and joined him in his silence. Worf could feel everyone’s thoughts and feelings about Timbers. He considered this moment a tribute to the young Lieutenant.
Worf waited alone in Ten Forward for almost an hour. Finally his combadge chirped sounding Dr. Crusher’s beautiful voice on the other end.
“Mr. Worf, the patient is going to make it,” she said.
At once, Worf felt relief and satisfaction. Timbers had won the battle, thus making him a true warrior. Now the journey of Timbers’ recovery would begin, but it was all uphill from here.
* * * * *
Worf walked into the ready room adjacent to the bridge. Picard sat at his desk waiting for the Klingon to arrive.
“Please have a seat, Commander,” he said to Worf. Worf sat down in the right-hand chair and looked at his Captain with a sense of victory. “You’ve been three weeks into your new position and already you’re singing songs in Ten-Forward with numerous crew members, you’re keeping watch on all of your patients. You showed excellent courage during the most recent sickness of Lt. Timbers, who I hear has come out of his coma. It looks to me as though you’ve proved worthy of your new position. How do you feel?”
Worf straightened his uniform and sat up straight. “I take back my earlier objections to the assignment. I feel my place is in the counseling area, and that I can best perform my duties in that position.”
Picard smiled. “Good. We’re glad to have you.”
With that, Worf was dismissed. He immediately went to his quarters, where he was determined to finally get some well-earned rest. Though this current assignment had proved to be the appropriate one, it was surprisingly more taxing for him than his previous duty as chief of security. Perhaps, he thought, I will discuss this further with Deanna. He decided to write her a letter just as soon as he awoke.
About the Author
Nick Varnau has written many short stories,
including “Celebrity” and “Bloodlust.” He has also written two more “Star Trek”
short stories, titled “A Shimmer of Heaven” and “Vulcan’s Grief.” He lives in