Star Trek: Defiant

Pilot Episode Four

Written by Ry Emeras

She woke in pain, tried to move and discovered that she was in chains, her wrists and ankles in manacles, smaller, but unbreakable chains joining the larger ones so that every move she made jangled in a dissonance of despairing constraint. Opening her eyes to see where she rested only confused her more, rather than enlightened her. Laying on the gritty floor of a jail cell, no bed, no blanket, no companion . . . but there had been someone here, surely? She remembered that she hadn't been alone . . . as her eyes adjusted somewhat to the dusty half-darkness, she could see the stains in overlapping layers on the stone. Old blood. Cold, sneaking closer and closer, crept into her aching bones and made her shiver. Some scaly animal with red eyes and evident teeth, roamed over to sniff at her. She drew back from its foul breath in revulsion, and the thing seemed amused, sauntering off as if it could afford to wait.

Why was she here? How did she get here from the Defiant? She couldn't remember leaving the ship.

Many days' hunger scraped at her stomach, but she ignored it; it was an old companion from her childhood, and she was only really thirsty when she heard the sound of falling water somewhere. She thought perhaps it was rain and imagined it falling in warm, windy sheets, the ground drinking it in and the green, emerging life from its touch . . .

A boot kicked her awake the next time, and poised almost hungrily to see if she really would waken or if the boot would -have- to kick her again. She moved as quickly as she could so that her consciousness was apparent, looked up into the imperturbable, gray face of a Cardassian.

He smiled with grim humor. "You're awake. Good. It's time for your treat."

Emeras felt her heart jerk so hard in her chest that nausea swelled all the way to her teeth. She clamped her jaws together tightly, the one knot of unforgiving and implacable hatred she could never dissolve, expanding until explicit in her eyes as she glared at her enemy.

The Cardassian bent down and put his fingers beneath her chin, holding her when she tried to move. "Now, now, is that any way to thank me?" He grabbed her by the shoulders and forced her up to her feet; the movement stretched the tendons of her arms and legs, tore at the cartilage of her knees and shoulders as her head bent against the pull and the metal bit cruelly into her neck. Abruptly all of the chains fell away, leaving her feeling oddly breathless and dizzy. "There we go, all ready!" He dragged her out of her cell and down the hallway, passing empty cell after empty cell, and Emeras thought, 'There were other people here, people I knew.'

Out of the prison into a corridor, and through a transport tube and down another corridor until they finally entered a large room that Emeras recognized immediately. A group detention room. Other prisoners stood against the far wall, the lighting of the place so adjusted that she didn't know them until she was well into the middle of the room.

T'Mal. Her sister Minneus and brother Dralev. The Emissary. Major Kira. Her aunt. A Bajoran boy she had loved once whose name she'd never told anyone. . . Captain Bridges and Dr. Laine. Commander Hardin and Ensign Mak. All the Defiant's crew. Teachers from the Academy. Classmates. Bajoran orphans. Strangers with kind faces seen in crowds . . .

All in chains. All bloodied from many hurts. All looking at -her-, not at the Cardassians.

"What happened?" She spoke, she heard her own voice, but it was as if she spoke from inside a well or behind a wall of glass that swallowed up the sound as soon as it passed her lips. Certainly not one of the people in chains heard her. But they could -see- her. Emeras looked down at herself, weak but unbound, and then up again. She met T'Mal's eyes across the vast space, across the silence and saw puzzlement there, as if her Vulcan friend had come against something so illogical she had not figured it out yet.

One of the Cardassians spoke, his voice ringing throughout the entire room. Emeras could hear him. The prisoners reacted to the voice, in various ways, but clearly they could hear -him-.

" . . . we feel it was only right that you see the person who is responsible for your sentence of death before it is carried out."

Emeras flung herself forward, unable to walk, her spirit so outraged that she thought her will alone might allow her to soar through the air to the feet of her friends and crewmates, but she hit the forcefield like a moth hitting the flame; collapsed to the floor, every nerve ending burning with incandescent agony. And still the pain was nothing to the ache in her heart as she looked up and saw them all, saw the questions, the confusion, the scorn . . . She rose to her knees, flames flickering ghost-blue over her skin, her fingers digging into the tangible field, sparkles of hot light curling off in streamers from her fingernails . . ."NO! NO! NO!"

". . . she has saved her own life in return for all of yours . . ."

"It's a lie!!!"

" . . . even the youngest of you is braver than she is and more true . . . "

Emeras pressed against the force field; enveloped in a veil of smoke, tears she had never let fall in front of the Cardassians trickling out of her dazed eyes. "I would -never- do that! You all know it!" But it was as if she made no sound, no protest, as if she were really the coward the Cardassians claimed her to be. And when the firing began in great, slow sweeps that disabled and tortured before killing so that they fell in groups of ones and twos, the frightened, screaming children first, she watched, her throat hoarse with her cries, her vision blind with smoke and tears and blood.

All dead.

And they died believing she was capable of such a monstrous thing, had in fact betrayed them; disappointed, disbelieving, unforgiving, hating perhaps . . .

Cardassian laughter. The room reverberated with it. "Ah, but you -did- do it. Don't you remember?"

* * *

She thought the bright flash of light meant she'd died. Emeras materialized in a white room on a bed, her straining forward impetus propelling her headfirst off of the bed in an involuntary somersault to the floor, her head bouncing against the bed's legs. Bewildered, she rubbed at the back of her head as she sat up.

"Are you injured?"

Emeras paused, her soul grieving, but said, "No," because she understood that the question was for a physical wound.

"Join the others."

A part of one wall opened a doorway into another room beyond. Emeras stood up and walked through it, feeling light-headed. In the next room were Captain Bridges, Commander Hardin and T'Mal. Seeing them alive. . . she closed her eyes, thanking the Prophets from the core of her heart.

"We are in the power of 'aliens' who are testing us by making us face our worst fears, Lieutenant. Whatever you experienced was not real."

Emeras looked at the Captain and tried to smile, but couldn't quite do it. T'Mal watched her with a pucker between her brows. Emeras, giving herself a mental shake, looked about the room curiously. "And the reason for this? Do we know? Can we stop it somehow? I hate to think that everyone will have to go through . . . what we have."

"No, we don't know." The Captain's voice was controlled as his gaze went inward, but none of them imagined his fury had abated. "Not yet. But we need to do something soon."

"I'd like to ask -them- a question or two," murmured Emeras as she strolled over to the wall, examining it with her hands as she kept moving. "They must have amazing technology."

The Captain glanced pointedly at T'Mal, who raised her eyebrows at him before she joined Emeras in her examination of the room.

The voice of their alien captors broke into their thoughts. Emeras and T'Mal stopped moving. "You four are of different species, but of the same 'crew?' You work together? You are not related, but 'family'?"

Captain Bridges met the gazes of each of the others before answering aloud: "Right first time."

They waited for further dialogue, but none was immediately forthcoming.

Commander Hardin said, "I didn't like the tone of that."

"Indeed," agreed T'Mal.

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