She squeezed off another shot and watched with a mixture of satisfaction and trepidation the stunned Xenarth warrior collapse.
The beam had been aimed just below where a human’s left collarbone would have been and had been just powerful enough to penetrate the thick exoskeleton and deliver a shock to his system he wasn’t likely to recover from quickly. She was glad to find that Queen Ket’s intel had remained accurate and now gave them the kind of edge they needed if they held out any hope in making this mission a success.
She turned to look at the rest of her team which consisted of herself, Chief Holly, security officers O’Shaugnessy and V’Ner, Wayne Daystrom plus another well armed six Marines and another six security specialists.
Like in the three other teams making up Operation Pandora, hers was the scouting party, the most crucial element of the team, tasked with locating the Omega generator and shutting it down for good. The rest of her fifty-man assault force was to keep their flanks and escape routes clear, ensure that they would not be ambushed and most importantly, keep any Xenarth reinforcements who had been sent to stop them at bay.
The plan had sounded solid when Mer’iab and Sh’Fane had drawn it up initially but already Maya realized that things were beginn
ing to fall apart, most notably due to a much larger than expected hostile force.
“Chief,” she said after they had cleared another room which according to their scans stood between them and the Omega generator. “How are we doing?”
The veteran senior-NCO already had his padd out to provide an update. Maya had initially resisted the notion of having the quartermaster join the assault, having fallen into the ageism trap of falsely believing that the veteran had too many years on him to be part of a strike team. But Holly had been quite insistent after he had learned that she’d chosen to lead the operation herself, claiming that his experience would be invaluable to her. She had quickly found that he had not exaggerated in the least. His reflexes were as sharp as those of a man half his age and he was probably a better shot with the phaser rifle than any of the security officers or Marines. But most significantly, the Starfleet veteran had an undeniable command presence which was not only universally respected by the men, Maya felt it helped motivate them as well.
“We’re encountering heavy resistance on all fronts. The drones upstairs are being taken apart and the Xenarth main force is beginning to shift to the lower levels. Clearly they know we’re here,” he said as he looked over the data streaming into the handheld device before he focusedon her. “Sh’Fane was right, we have a lot less time than we anticipated. “
“How much time do you think?”
“Hard to say. I suppose it depends on how many casualties you are comfortable with.”
She frowned at that. “None, Chief.”
His eyes practically bore themselves into hers, giving the captain a stone-cold look and trying to make her understand that that option was simply no longer realistic.
But she chose to ignore it and instead turned to her science officer. “Wayne?”
He quickly stepped up. “Omega-Two and Three have made contact with the generators and have commenced the shut down process.”
That was some good news at least. “What are the chances that they can do this within the time frame we need this done?”
“I think Altoss has a good handle on it,” said Daystrom, referring to the Efrosian science officer who had been assigned to Sh’Fane’s team in order to shut down the generator.
“What about Omega-Two?”
Daystrom seemed a lot less sure on that one. “They’ve also made contact but Elborough is having some difficulties.”
“Damn,” said Maya. “Was she the right choice?”
He nodded. “She’s the best molecular science specialist on board and she understands the basics of Omega just fine. She’s just never quite expected to having to do this under these kind of conditions.”
“None of us did, Wayne,” she said. “Talk her through it if that’s what she needs. Just get it done.”
He nodded sharply.
“Captain, Lieutenant Meldin reports that his team has located one of the three boronite repositories and they are clearing it now,” said Chief Holly after getting the latest update through the padd.
“That means everybody is on schedule but us,” she said and then quickly turned to head down the corridor. “Let’s double time it, people.”
But before she had even made one step, another Xenarth patrol stepped into their path at the far side of the large laboratory they had just cleared. Maya saw them too late. O’Shaugnessy and V’Ner, who true to Mer’iab’s promise had acted like her shadow ever since setting foot into the facility, did not.
“Get down,” the tall Irishman shouted and pushed the captain roughly to the side.
The firefight was over in seconds.
The three Xenarth soldiers fired their spear-like rifles only a nano-second before the two security guards could respond in kind. Then the remaining team members opened fire, immediately reducing the insectoid patrol to unconscious husks.
“Man down,” cried Holly.
It took Maya a second to realize that it had been the red-haired security man who had taken a hit. One which had been meant for her. Holly and the corpsman were at his side in an instant while the Vulcan moved closer to Donners now that her fellow protector was down.
“Is he alright?” Maya wanted to know straight away.
“I’m fine, sir,” he said quickly after the two men had helped him sit up against the wall, the corpsman already tending to his wound. “Just give me a few stims and I’ll be fine,” he added but Maya was not fooled by the pain he was clearly trying to hide.
The corpsman, a dark-haired Marine, shook his head slightly. “Damn weapon seems to have had an anticoagulant,” he said after referring to his tricorder. “I won’t be able to stop the bleeding here. He needs a sickbay.”
Maya turned to her senior NCO. “Chief, get two men to take him back to the runabout.”
“Captain," said the injured security officer and then shortly gritting his teeth from the pain. “You can’t afford losing three men know, not if we’re already so vastly outnumbered. Not if we’re already running out of time.”
She shook her head. “This is not the time to play hero, Redmond. You need treatment.”
“Just get me a thick bandage and something for the pain and I’ll be fine, sir.”
She glanced at Holly who seemed to nod along in agreement. Maya didn’t like this one bit but couldn’t ignore the fact that he was right. The math simply didn’t add up and everybody knew it.
Despite her better judgment she turned towards the corpsman. “Do it.” And then to her injured bodyguard: “You let me know the moment this gets worse, that’s an order.”
Within moments the corpsman had bandaged the wound and given him enough stimulants and painkillers to allow him to stand up on his own. Maya admired his professionalism when he once again grabbed his phaser rifle and took her side, giving her a short nod to indicate that he was just fine.
She knew that not to be the case.
“Alright, folks, that all the rest you gonna get for a while. The generator is just three hundred meters ahead. Watch your sectors but keep moving, we can’t afford to stop again until we reach our primary target,” said Holly, already leading by example as he headed out towards where they so desperately needed to get to.
* * *