Captain, USS Atlas.
One hundred fifty days.
Three thousand nine hundred hours.
Two hundred thirty-four thousand seconds.
It seems an insignificant chunk of one’s life in the grand scheme of things. Less than one-percent of my total existence, assuming I live to a not unreasonable age of one hundred twenty-five years. Time is a strange beast, though. Unpredictable. Cagey. Slippery.
One hundred fifty days stuck in a hole on Bajor, the prisoner of the True Way.
The mission began innocently enough. The Osler was ordered to Bajor to transport a group of high-ranking local diplomats to Earth where they were to attend a conference discussing trade arrangements between Bajor and other Federation worlds. After beaming down and greeting the group (accompanied by a security contingent) we were set to beam up. After calling for transport, I was surrounded by the familiar blue beam. But when the beam cleared I wasn’t standing on the transporter pad of the Osler. Instead, I was in a damp, unlit cell.
I would learn later that there was a True Way infiltrator onboard the Osler, a Crewman Jedek Otha, who redirected the transport beam to an underground True Way base. On the Osler, Otha (who worked as a transporter technician) was able to make it appear that due to ionic interference, my pattern had been lost in transport – a rare, but not unheard of, accident.
For the next one hundred fifty days I existed in darkness punctuated by periods of glaring light, ceaseless questioning and pain. I never saw my captors, I only heard their voices and felt their hands and tools of torture.
It’s strange how we settle into habits and patterns, even in the worst situations. It didn’t take me long to settle into a sort of haze of routine. I could time my weeks almost to the dot (though time lost some meaning in the darkness).
Every morning (at least that’s what I came to think of it as), my captors would throw a piece of bread and mouldering fruit through a small slot in the door of my cell. After eating, I would do some basic callisthenic exercises.
In the first days after I was captured, I used this time to search my cell for any sort of escape. There was none. The cell appeared to be (from my limited ability to survey it) a natural pocket. The walls were composed of a dense igneous rock, not unlike granite. The door was solid metal (aside from the slot which opened regularly to provide me with sustenance). There were no apparent ventilation systems or other entrances or exits (though there may have been on the ceiling, which I was unable to access).
After my callisthenic exercises, I would try to engage myself in mind games, humming songs, mathematical puzzles – anything to keep the darkness at bay. I would do this for hours until I fell asleep and was awakened the next day (morning?) by my meal.
This would be my routine for four days. The fifth day was always the day of questioning.
I assume they injected a gas into my cell because I would awaken bound to a chair, bright lights in my eyes, with no memory of having been moved. For hours on end they would ask questions, punishing me if my answers displeased them. These days are a blur of light and pain – I don’t even remember the questions or what I said or if I even told the truth. All I knew was that I had wanted the pain to stop.
Thirty times I visited the questioning chamber. Thirty variations on the torture and questions and pain.
It was during my last session of questioning that something changed. My captors’ voices stopped momentarily and I could hear them speaking in hushed tones. Then I heard phaser fire, screams, and the familiar hum of a transporter beam.
It seems that my faithful first officer, Draymen, had noticed inconsistencies in the transporter logs shortly after I had gone missing. After piecing together the truth of what had happened, he located the hidden True Way base and convinced Starfleet to send a squad of MACO anti-terrorist agents down to Bajor to save me.
I owe him my life.
Starfleet, assuming I’d been killed in action, had reassigned the Osler and her crew.
After several months of debriefing with Starfleet, I’ve been reinstated and provided command of the USS Orion, a retrofitted Excelsior-class vessel. Through a little finagling, I’ve been able to get most of my senior staff transferred to my command. Starfleet is still wary about the effects of my incarceration and have assigned me to system survey duty (a way to keep me occupied and away from key systems in case residual trauma from my incident should render me unfit for command). All I know is it feels good to be back in space again. I want to forget everything that has come before. It’s time for a new start.