By the time she painfully hit the ground, she was no longer on the Erebus.
The human saying speaking to frying pans came to her mind once she had recovered from dropping onto the rocky surface from a couple of meters in the air.
She found herself underneath a dark, night sky but could see well enough thanks to the half a dozen or so bright red and active volcanoes spilling hot lava into the sky. Massive burning rivers crisscrossed the craggy landscape as far as she could see. A steady rain of ash and dirt was drizzling down on her from the constant eruptions.
The heat was almost unbearable and the air so thin, she found it difficult to draw breaths. Those she did manage burned her lungs and forced tears into her eyes.
Matters could have been worse, of course, she could have materialized inside one of those rivers of lava or a volcano. As it were, she stood on a fairly steady rock outcropping, mostly surrounded by deep, pit-like valleys and sheer cliff walls.
She lasted less than a minute before the oppressive heat practically forced her to rip off her uniform jacket and crimson shirt, leaving her in a gray tank top already plastered to her skin by her sweat.
She grabbed her combadge from her discarded jacket and was about to try and reach Eagle when she heard the phaser blast.
Half ducking, she whipped around.
“Stop running. We both knew that this was going to be the way all of this would end.”
It was Owens, still wielding his phaser rifle. Star, although shot and injured, had clearly found her second wind as she was sprinting as fast as she could away from the man trying to blast her to smithereens, jumping across fissures and lava streams.
Fortunately for her, his aim was poor thanks to his compromised depth of field, leaving him with mostly blasting rock.
“No, this is your delusional fantasy,” she shouted back as she crossed a pit of lava by jumping between islands of semi-stable rock formations. “Hope it's everything you dreamed it would be.”
“Not yet. But the night is young,” he said and changed tactics, no longer trying to hit her directly but instead firing at the ground and trying to destroy the rocks she was using to avoid the lava.
One blast struck right in front of her, shooting up rocks and lava and sending her flying as she cried out when she was burned and pelted by the debris.
Tazla realized that Owens had not yet spotted her and quickly resolved to press her advantage. Keeping herself low, she snuck towards the elevated plateau Owens was using as his vantage point.
The terrain was tricky and she had to watch her every step to avoid plunging into one of the many deep crevices and fissures lining her path, while at the same time avoiding the streams and rivers of superheated rock.
“Are you still alive?” Owens shouted from the top of his lungs.
There was no response and Tazla wondered if he had finally managed to kill her. Glancing into the direction she had last seen the other Trill, she could not find any signs of her.
“Wouldn’t want to make it that easy on you,” she finally responded, sounding hurt but definitely not dead.
“Does it amuse you how much pleasure you take from this? You think that’s what your brother would have wanted.”
“You don’t get to talk about my brother,” he shouted, his rage reasserting itself and Tazla could hear him unleashing rapid-fire blasts for phaser fire into Star’s general direction from somewhere above her.
It was a good enough distraction for her to climb the few meters up to the plateau he stood on.
“Face it, this was never about your brother or with seeking justice,” Star shot back, clearly not impressed by the barrage. “This is all about you and your desperate need for revenge. To give your empty life meaning. At least admit that much.”
“I’m doing this galaxy a favor by wiping you out of existence.”
The climb was challenging and hazardous. She lost her footing at least twice, both times she had come close to tumbling down into a literal pit of fire. Her hands were slick with her sweat making it hard to get a good grip on the rugged rock wall and her lungs felt as if they were ready to burst any second. If the fall and the lava weren’t going to kill her, she was sure the thin air and the heat would be more than willing to finish her off soon.
Willing her way onward she finally did manage to reach the plateau, scrambling onto the rock ledge just a few meters behind where Owens stood, spying down at the rough-hewn landscape of fire and stone below him to attempt to locate his target.
Tazla tried to sneak up on him as best as she could but something--and she wasn’t sure what--gave her away. Or perhaps he had just sensed her presence, regardless he whipped around with a disturbing gleam in his remaining eye and a crooked half-smile on his deformed features.
“There you are.”
She jumped just as he fired.
The blast struck the ground and she was pelted by sharp rocks as she landed a few meters away.
“Nice of you to come to me,” he said as he took aim again and clearly too far gone to realize that she was not the Tazla Star he had chased for the better part of a year. Or perhaps simply no longer carrying which one he killed. “Admit it, you want this as much as I do. For somebody to finally put an end to that pointless and miserable existence of yours.”
“Behind you,” Tazla said.
Owens laughed, clearly amused that she would think he’d fall for such a basic ploy.
“You know what your problem is?” Star--standing right behind him now--said. “You just don’t know when to quit talking.”
His eyes opened wide when he realized his mistake. He whirled around with his rifle which Star easily slapped out of his hands, causing it to go flying over the edge of the cliff.
Tazla didn’t think she’d ever forget his soul-crushing scream as Star struck him hard and right into the already broken side of his face.
Instead of being undone by his pain, it seemingly re-energized him and he managed to block her next attack before striking out himself, hitting Star with enough force to push her backward and towards the edge.
That’s when Tazla realized that besides the thin air, the burning rivers, the cooking heat, and the bottomless pits, Telron XI had yet another way to kill any sentient life forms foolish enough to presume they could visit its surface.
As if having waited for the most optimal moment to unleash its latest deathtrap, the earth underneath her began to rumble uncontrollably and she could feel small fissure opening up where she was lying.
It was far worse where Owens and Star stood.
Both of them stopped their fight briefly, not because they wanted to, but because they had to in order to try and keep their balance.
The quake had been powerful but lasted only moments. But even before it had completely subsided, she could see the ground underneath the two fighters give way to gravity.
One moment they had both stood on solid ground just a few meters away, the next they were both gone.
Tazla jumped back onto her feet, leaping forward and toward the newly created fissures, and carefully approached the ledge. She glanced down to find a sheer drop of fifty or sixty meters, maybe more, having exposed the superheated magma in the planet’s crust.
Most amazingly of all, however, she could see both Owens and Star still clinging to life. Quite literally. Owens was hanging on near the ledge while her doppelganger was way out of reach further below but not all that far from a solid-looking ledge that potentially could get her to safety.
Tazla didn’t hesitate and laid out flat on the cliff edge and reached down towards Owens. “Take my hand.”
He hesitated only a moment before his survival instinct apparently overrode his disgust for her and he reached out to take hold of it.
It took all her strength in this ghastly hostile environment, but she could feel herself making progress as he very slowly inched up and towards her.
That was until she saw his one good eye focusing on her, seeing all his hate and fury, directed solely at her.
He reached out for her neck and she was beginning to go over the edge.
“You take us both down.”
He simply laughed. “As long as you burn it’ll be worth it.”
“Damnit, man, think straight,” she said already realizing it was far too late for reasoning with him. She tried to disentangle herself but he had gravity on his side, and she had nothing to slow her sliding to a fiery death.
“We’ll burn together, you and me,” he said, his voice now filled with undeniable madness. “It was always meant this way.”
“Just like your brother was meant to die.”
It was the other Tazla shouting up from down the pit.
“He died like a coward. Just like his brother.”
This caught Owens’ attention. He broke eye contact with the woman he was trying to drag down with him to find her double further down below.
“I did the galaxy a favor when I killed him. And it will be a far better place once you are gone as well,” she continued to shout. “A family of failures and cowards, getting what they--”
Owens drowned out her words with an ear-numbing, primal scream.
And they, just like that, he let go of the death grip he had on Tazla. Not only that, he pushed himself off the cliff to dive straight for the other woman.
“Burn,” he screamed.
For a second, Tazla thought that the other Star would be able to avoid Owens coming crashing down on her. There was a ledge, just large enough for her and quite possibly within reach.
She had no idea what she was thinking in the end, but for whatever reason, she never even tried to get to it or made any attempt to get out of the way.
Instead, the two bodies collided with a loud thump, and Owens ripped Star off the cliff wall as they both plunged down together, entwined in a final and ultimately doomed struggle.
Tazla forced herself to watch until the bitter end as they struck the surface of the molten magma and were quickly swept inside and away into the burning hot liquid, until, oddly silently, they both submerged and leaving no trace that they had ever existed at all.
She kept her eyes on the magma river for a short while longer, as if expecting any sign that it had just swallowed up two humanoid beings whole but when none was forthcoming, she pushed away from the edge and rolled onto her back. She closed her eyes.
She felt tired and utterly spent, desperate to sleep for days.
She wasn’t sure how long she had stayed like that until she felt her combadge buzzing on her chest.
When she opened her eyes again, she could see a spot of light in the dark sky above her. Too bright and moving too quickly to be a star.
It took only moments for it to grow large enough for her to recognize it.
It was a Starfleet shuttlecraft.
It came within a few hundred meters of her before she felt the familiar tingle of a transporter beam.
She closed her eyes once more, letting the light take her away.