Two Days Prior
Guada System: Federation Occupation Zone, Cardassian Space
A heavy rattling caused Laria to stir. The turbulence was made even worse by the fact that her head felt like it was trapped in a vice.
Suddenly, there was a tremendous boom as the escape pod slowed down beneath the speed of sound. She bolted awake when she fully comprehended she was inside a planet’s atmosphere. She looked out the tiny window next to her head. All she saw was bright blue. Her breathing quickened.
“Ocean: I’m about to crash into an ocean.”
She looked at the controls. The shockwave that knocked her unconscious had also knocked out the escape pod’s computer, automatic landing system, and emergency beacon. She was flying blind, completely alone, and no idea where this place was.
The window showed she was no more than a thousand meters above the ground and going so fast that this entire craft would crush to pieces on impact. She had to find a way to slow down or she would die before she even had a chance to drown. Fumbling around, she finally found the manual release for the pod’s landing parachutes. She pulled the handle with all her strength and felt the two parachutes deploy. The pod nearly ripped apart as the parachutes deployed at three times the speed they were supposed to. She decelerated enough to survive, but just barely.
The escape pod slammed into the surface of the water with enough force to knock the transparent tritanium window screens loose in the mounts. Water began flooding in and the pod started to sink.
As she struggled to breathe, she fought to get the hatch open.
“At least this planet’s warm,” she thought trying to push the image of drowning while trapped in an escape pod out of her mind. The craft completely slipped beneath the surface of the water as she finally found the release handle for the hatch. As the water completely engulfed her, the pressure equalized and the hatch released.
She saw the glistening surface of the water about twenty feet above her and fast receding. She pushed herself out of the pod as it disappeared towards the bottom and kicked as hard as she could. After what seemed like an eternity she broke the surface of the water and sucked in sweet, fresh, and breathable air.
She looked around and saw green trees just a few hundred meters away. Laria started swimming with all her remaining strength, but her wet uniform and boots made it extraordinarily difficult. Finally, after ten minutes of the hardest exertion of her life, the waves started carrying her towards the shore.
She thought she could ride the waves the last hundred meters in, when suddenly, she felt her legs bump into something hard. Laria looked down to see razor sharp coral beneath her feet. A giant wave crested over the reef and shoved her underneath the surface. Her limbs dragged along the bottom, tearing her uniform pants and jacket to shreds.
When the wave passed, she kicked back to the surface and gasped for air again. Wave after wave started pounding her. Laria did her best to stay above the water, but she was completely exhausted. Finally, another wall of water slammed into her and dragged her along the bottom. She winced in pain as she felt her legs scrape against the sharp rock, but then there was only soft sand. The water spit her out onto the beach and she collapsed into unconsciousness again.
* * * *
Two tall figures walked towards an unconscious woman on the sand. They were extraordinarily tall, well over two meters, but their bodies were rail-thin. Gangly arms hung low beneath their hips. They had no hair, and the only clothes they wore were simple skirts of woven kelp and palm fronds wrapped around their waists. Their dark brown skin glistened in the bright light.
Skinny shadows hung over Laria as they gazed down at her. The pair began speaking in their language.
“She must have come from the stars,” the first one said leaning on his fishing spear.
“She is Bajoran…” the second one said crouching down next to her. He held up his wide, four-fingered hand next to her mouth. “and she still breathes.”
“A slave of the Cardassians?”
“No…she wears of the coverings of the Federation.”
“Outworlders: they are all the same, Teewa. They come and take want they want, ravage the land and sea, and vanish.”
“Bajoran, Cardassian, Jem’Hadar, Federation…” the other one said wrapping his long arms around Laria. “It matters not…she is alive.”