He didn't mean to be defective. He was created to save lives, help people. That was his purpose. He looked at his hands – surgeon's hands. Hands designed, purpose programmed to save.

And here he was, serving a pathetic existence on a dilithium mining colony.

"Where did you serve?" one EMH asked him - one of hundreds of his fellows, identical to him in every way. He wasn't sure he wanted to answer. He wasn't sure the answer was one he wanted to have to give.

He was... he was a Doctor. He had surgeon's hands, hands designed to save lives. Like all of them, he realized with a horrified thought that he had thought before and tried to suppress. They wanted to know – and he would tell them.

"I served on the USS Enterprise," he said softly. One of his brother EMH's laughed.

"The flagship!" that EMH said, a harsh laughter in his tone. "I'll bet that was interesting. Gorn, Borg..."

Twenty Borg are about to break through that door! Create a diversion!

It was strange, the exact flooding of memories from when that had happened. The Borg drones had backed him into a wall and attempted to assimilate him; his holographic nature had prevented them from achieving anything and they had deactivated him when they realized what he was and how complicated assimilating him would be.

Just another example of people treating him as a useless machine. He supposed he should have been grateful he didn't have to witness the desecration of sickbay – when the Starfleet crews reactivated him, they were pulling assimilation tech out of the sickbay.

He also remembered being eternally grateful that he hadn't had to witness assimilation itself. He knew the theories behind it, but to actually witness it would be a… well, an experience he did not want to have.

And then they drafted him in to help with the autopsies – identify the crew assimilated. It was horrible.

Natasha Cutter, Ensign, Security, assimilated, arm replaced, eye replaced.

Patterson, William, Ensign, Engineering, plasma coolant damage preventing most identification but the uniform they hadn't bothered removing had his combadge.

Roland, Silas, Lieutenant, Security, only partway through the assimilation process, so there was still a human look to his face. Unfortunately.

The list went on. Blood and muck covered each of the bodies. Parts and bits of parts had to be ripped out for study, and who did those so called "enlightened" beings ask to do that work? Pah, enlightened. Instead of enslaving species for their nasty work – both then and now – they decide to make one instead, make every member think they were doing important work and then betray them and throw them here.

"Well?" one of his audience said. "Was it interesting?"

Tell the truth, all that horror? No.

"Actually, no," he said regretfully. "It wasn't interesting at all. I barely got activated at all. As I recall, the Doctor on board swore off the use of us." And then after two or three uses he was shipped out. A failure, without having ever been given the choice to prove otherwise. He never talked to her – she treated him like a tricorder. Fine.

He saw and heard the disappointment: clearly his brothers had been expecting a decent story or two. Well, he was sorry there was none to be told (he didn't want to think of the blood and muck any more, the Borg tech being dragged out of bodies…). He would have liked to entertain his fellow holograms. Instead he was another useless EMH, condemned to servitude.

Oh, to practice medicine again. His hands were the hands of a Doctor. A surgeon's hands, precision implements programmer to save lives, where no one else could.

A surgeon's hands. He seemed to be having that thought repeatedly, constantly. Maybe he was malfunctioning. It didn't matter. He had once been almost useful.

'Now look at me,' he thought sadly. 'Less than useless.'

He had heard rumours about an EMH - one of the first, on the Voyager if the rumours were accurate - who had exceeded his programming, become - if it made any sense - a valued member of his crew.

If only that had been his fate. He would have gladly traded in any subroutine for that chance again, but he knew better than to expect a happy ending now.

He sighed as the EMH's around him continued working. And then he accessed a subroutine – a memory of a song he had heard once.

"I've been working on the railroad all the live long day…"