The Final Frontier.
Taban Varis sat in a small holding cell aboard the USS Devoir, the same Starfleet vessel that had ambushed and swiftly disabled his ship mere hours ago. The fate of his ship and his crew were not known to him. He let out a sigh of frustration; everything he’d worked so hard for had vanished in a few brief, violent moments.
“This was supposed to be the last big score,” he thought to himself. “This was supposed to be the last rough job I had to take, and then I could have retired and simply explored the universe, maybe could have found a place to settle.” Soon, he would be turned over to Starfleet Command, to be tried for high treason and piracy.
Trying to take his mind off of his gloomy future, he began to study his surroundings. Several other prisoners were nearby, spread across several cells. Among them he counted a lone Human, a pair of Trill, what appeared to be a Vulcan and what he assumed might be a Betazoid, but it was difficult to tell. Two more Trill were in a cell together, idly chatting about….something. They were very tough to tell apart, they looked and acted so eerily identical.
The last two prisoners, however, were what caught his attention the most. One was clearly a Cardassian, and at the mere sight of him Taban’s blood started to simmer. Thus far the Cardassian had paid him no attention. Taban settled his gaze on the last prisoner, a massive man with a shaven, tattooed head, pointed ears marking him as Romulan, and his calm, relaxed posture noting him as someone who was more than capable of handling the most chaotic of moments.
As if on cue, the ship violently pitched and shook, far too hard and loud to have been anything but a weapon impacting the hull. The ship lurched again, and the ship’s intercom announced a call to prepare for hostile boarding actions. The lone guard posted by the door ran off, leaving the prisoners on their own.
“Don’t panic,” Taban thought to himself. “Keep it together. Starfleet wouldn’t abandon prisoners in an attack, no matter what they’ve done. That’s not the way they do things. They’ll get us out of here.” Another heavy impact shook the vessel, and the roof of the brig crumpled like paper. With a loud snap, the forcefields of the cells dropped. Taban briefly glanced at the other prisoners, who looked back at him and each other. With no words wasted, the motley crew bolted from the cells.
“This way,” Taban yelled, not caring if they heard or not. He ran like he’d never run in his life, not looking back to see if he was being followed. He ran past a hallway with two uniformed security personnel, who took note of his fleeing and attempted to pursue. With a horrendous grinding noise, Taban looked back and watched in horror as an entire section of the bulkhead was blasted off the ship and exposed to open space. The two crew members stood no chance, and were instantly pulled out and violently decompressed. Taban felt the unstoppable vacuum pull him off his feet, hurtling him towards the jagged gash in the ship’s hull. He saw most of the other prisoners holding tight to whatever they could, and he lashed out hoping to grab something…anything…and finally caught hold of something solid. Looking up, he discovered he’d grabbed the Romulan’s foot, and the extra drag was pulling them both free of the Romulan’s handhold. Bellowing what must have been something terribly nasty in the Romulan tongue, the large man’s hand finally slipped, and they both went hurtling towards open space.
“THUMP!” They both collided against shimmering forcefields, the emergency containment fields having finally been activated and closing the hallway against the hull breach. Standing up slowly, the Romulan glared daggers at Taban, then sprinted off. Not wanting to repeat what just happened, Taban followed as well. They ran without stopping; panels sparked and burned as they went past. Floors and ceilings collapsed and caved in as they ran. One of the prisoners-the oddly identical ones-was hurled into the ceiling behind with tremendous force, head and neck making disturbing snapping sounds from the impact, then crashing to the floor and not moving. Taban kept running. “If I stop, I end up like them. Must keep going. Keep going…”
Finally, salvation greeted them in the form of two escape pods not yet deployed. Taban’s starship knowledge and experience snapped back to him. “Take both pods! Split up, we have more supplies that way!” He dove into the first pod and quickly strapped himself in, watching as the Romulan and Vulcan followed into the same pod as him, then the Human. The Betazoid, pair of Trill, and Cardassian jumped into the second pod as another klaxon sounded, this time calling out a countdown until warp core breach. Getting ready for what was sure to be a rough ride, Taban silently mouthed a brief prayer to the prophets, something he had not done in many, many years…
He was jolted from his brief prayer by the sound of people scrambling into his pod. Looking up, he saw the rest of the prisoners quickly fastening their harnesses. “What the hell,” he yelled, “I thought I told you to take the other pod!” The Cardassian glanced at him with disdain, and simply replied, “The glass was cracked. We’re taking this pod.” Swallowing back his bitter retort, Taban settled in and yelled at the Romulan, “We’re in! Punch it!”
The Romulan drove the handle down and held tightly as the pod sealed, and then launched into the open expanse of space. From the small window, the ragtag escapees looked on in terror as the Federation fleet that had once kept them captive was ripped to shreds. Bright beam weapons sliced through ship after ship, sparing none. Taban struggled to see the attackers, and was greeted with a vision of something….beautiful, horrifying in every aspect, but beautiful.
Taban had once seen sketches of what were thought to be Breen ships, and had found them fascinating, but this…this was different altogether. There was no way to make any sense of how the vessels were built, how they functioned, how they moved…they were, without a doubt, the most alien thing he had laid eyes on. Everything about the ships screamed out one thing. Death. And all the while, that haunting sense of beauty remained about them.
One of the Federation ships pitched over, as the side of the hull was blasted clean through. The vessel shuddered for a moment, then blew apart as its warp core started to breach, and still the alien ships fired.
A terrific crash resounded inside the pod as they crashed into a Federation ship that was going into warp, and one of the Trill began to panic. “Oh no…we’re caught in it! We’re caught in the bubble! Hold on!!!!” Taban was about to ask what the heck she was talking about, when suddenly the stars outside the viewport became a blur of white lines, the pod hurtling about space with no direction. “What the heck is happening,” Taban shouted, desperately holding to his harness as the inertial dampeners struggled to suppress the extreme forces acting on the pod. The trill woman shouted back, “we’re caught in the warp bubble of another ship! We have no way of guiding ourselves!” The small panel beside them began to spark, and the navigation system went blank. “Now we’re screwed,” he thought… Eventually, they felt the warp bubble release the pod, and looked on as a large blue orb replaced the empty space they had seen before. The pod began drifting towards it till soon they were caught in the gravity of the planet, and all braced tight as they prepared for a rough landing…
“Drip. Drip. Drip” Freezing cold water was lashing at Taban’s face. Slowly he came around, staring into the darkness of the crashed pod. The Romulan was already up and about, waking the other escapees and trying to assess the situation. Taban immediately set about gathering the emergency kits and divvying up the supplies. “You’re ruining my spots!” Taban heard the trill woman shout out, having been on the receiving end of a slap-wake-up call delivered by the Romulan. Soon they were all awake, sorting supplies, checking equipment, and stripping the pod of anything they could carry… including a large, heavy power cell ripped from the back of the pod. This power cell they gave to Taban to carry, and he struggled to heave it around.
The group stared at the doors of the pod for a moment, all bracing for the inevitable shock of cold water waiting for them on the other side. Taban swallowed, mouthed another silent prayer, then nodded to the Cardassian at the doorway. “Open it.”