By Carol Sandford


Chapter 25


One enormous muddy coloured boot stepped down from the ship, slowly followed by a matching one. Once on solid ground, both feet slowly turned around towards her and Deanna couldn't stop her eyes from rising higher, and then higher still.

He was tall, taller than Will by a good three or four inches. And despite his alarming pallor which Deanna assumed was natural, he had a mean, vicious aura about him. Judging by the way that other members of his team that had descended after him, stood much shorter than he, and much less fearsome, Deanna knew instinctively that he was the leader.

The Sindareen's gaze surveyed his handy work, his face impassive, uncaring as it slowly turned from left to right, finally settling back on the carnage that she was aware lay behind her. Where she knew that her friend, her dearest friend lay deathly still in a mangled heap. She could hear sounds; pitiful wails of dying people, distraught people, scared people all around her, but Deanna's own silence, she knew, was caused by shock, the deep shock of loss.

But when the giant Sindareen moved towards her, Deanna found that her quietness was an unconscious mistake and she soon realised that he was selecting her because she wasn't making a noise. Steely intent filled his being as he bent before her and wrenched her to her feet, roughly holding on tighter as her knees buckled from the pain of her many minor injuries and the terror that rendered her as useless as a babe in arms.

Deanna winced as he dragged her up from the floor. Her injuries, even though mostly minor, still managed to emit a hiss of searing pain, especially when he reached behind her to support her, causing her to flinch away from his touch. Of course he only held on tighter, thinking she was going to make a run for it.

Even though Deanna had no idea what her back looked like, she knew that she had sustained a number of sharp shards of glass that ripped right through her top and embedded themselves into her delicate skin. She'd felt tiny rivers of blood trickle down, but hadn't dared reach round to check if the blood loss was major. She had a feeling that she wouldn't have wanted to know.

Her hair she knew must be a mass of frizzy, matted and melted strands. She could smell the unmistakable stink of burnt tresses, even amongst the odour of burning corpses that lay behind her. It was a smell that would live in her memories forever.

When Deanna's feet refused to carry her weight, she found herself swung up into huge arms, the stench of his alien body assaulting her nostrils and she gasped before adapting her breathing to take in shallower breaths, reducing the intake to her sensitive nose.

His breathing was also an alarming noise, seeming to come from gill-like structures along his neck that moved much like a fish's, the rasp sounding hoarse and painful, even though he gave no indication of it being so.

It was then that Deanna suddenly realised what was going on, what was happening to her. He was taking her to his ship. He was going to kidnap her, or worse! As he reached the bottom of the ladder that he had only stepped down from - was it only minutes ago? - Deanna finally sparked into life, the Sindareen starting in surprise as she jerked in his grasp in her futile, pathetic attempt to free herself from the inevitable capture.

Deanna yelped as his massive fingers tightened their grip on her slim arms, and she was fully aware that if he chose, he could snap the thin bones in two. But at that moment, she didn't care. She had to get away from him because she knew, if she left this planet, her home, her family, she would die. Stories from long ago about the Sindareen still swam around her head. Stories of torture, and rape, and murder. Somewhere, sometime, long ago, when as children, they had spoken in dreaded awe about the 'bad people', she had even heard rumours of cannibalism.

She had to get away, she just had to. She had to try.

Deanna squirmed and twisted, boldly trying to turn enough out of his grip to jump away, her whimpered pleas, high pitched with the terror that oozed from her very soul as scenarios that had no right to belong in the mind of a young woman filled her thoughts. Intimate unions that she had shared with Will, with her Imzadi, were sullied, pushed aside by visions of brutal violations that she feared were in her imminent future.

Will. Oh, God, Will. Where was he? She needed him, but he wasn't here. He wasn't even in her thoughts any longer, severed eons ago when she had cried out to him as her world died around her. One minute he'd been there, reaching out for her, and the next, gone.


Will was gone. Deanna struggled to remove him from her mind. Tried to imagine him lost to her forever, but she couldn't do it. She couldn't let him go. Wouldn't let him go. But the word still drenched her soul, pulling her deeper into the abyss.


The fight left her body as the loss began to permeate her soul, bringing her out of the dazed-like state. Deanna began to wail as though her heart would break, drawing the Sindareen's attention to her face, He stared down at her, his strange mouth turning hard as the noise filled his head. He hated noise as much as he hated the pathetic humanoid race that were weak and stupid.

Even with soldiers from other worlds, what good had it done them? Where were they when the planet needed them in their darkest hour?

The Federation were off chasing his decoy group. The gullible fools had fallen for the trap.

The thought tickled the Sindareen and suddenly he began to roar with laughter, deliberately shutting out his captive's cries as climbed up the ladder and bundled her, non-too-gently inside. Following her in, he all but threw her into the vast empty cavernous hold towards several other captives that had already been loaded.

Instinctively, Deanna and her fellow prisoners huddled together, holding onto one another, the women whimpering quietly into the men's embraces, and the men watching the activities going on around them.

Soon, three more Betazoids joined them, none seriously injured, and Deanna realised it was purposeful. Minor injuries meant less hassle, and better bargaining chips. And maybe also, less injuries meant better torture sessions. And better games for the brutes that would undoubtably take advantage of the women. And if they were going to be eaten, fresh, live meat tasted a whole lot better than battered and bruised dead meat. Deanna briefly wondered if her childhood stories were true, or just the work of over-active imaginations. She hoped with all her heart that it was the latter.

The man Deanna clung to, a man that Deanna didn't recognise, felt her fears, her pain. Hugging her tighter, she heard him speak silently to her, I won't let them hurt you, Little One, not as long as I am breathing

Her own breath shuddered past trembling lips as she sighed with gratitude, uncaring about the fact that he had used her mother's pet name for her. Just knowing that there was someone there, with her, for her, was beyond relief. Will couldn't be there for her in her hour of need, but this man would be, she was sure. She didn't understand why she suddenly felt safe - as safe as she could be under the circumstances, but safe enough to let him step in and just be there, for whatever happened.

Thank you, whoever you are

But minutes later, the moments relief and comradeship that swept around the small group of terrified prisoners got swept away on a tide of terror as the ship's engines started up and the hold door slowly began to close, enclosing them into an inky black darkness that was as terrifying as what they knew lay ahead, the roar of the engines, so loud that they obliterated everything that ran through their minds. Everything except the terror.

And as the ship began to lift off the ground, behind Deanna, a woman began to scream. Seconds later, Deanna's scream joined hers.

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