Hugh and his fifteen-man strong landing party materialized in a swirl of green energy, their transporter clearly able to overcome the Omega radiation which had not allowed the Starfleet assault teams to enter the facility in the same manner.
The former drones, covered from head to toe with dark, black cybernetic implants, wires and tubes, immediately took on defensive postures, raising their arms and their wrist mounted weapons at the startled Starfleet officers and Marines in the room.
The hesitation didn’t last long. Seconds after the Borg party had fully materialized, every single rifle was promptly pointed at the new threat. Maya already knew that it wasn’t going to be enough. While never having faced the Borg before in ground combat, she knew enough that this was not a battle she could afford. Not with a horde of Xenarth soldiers just around the corner, trying to wipe them out before they completed their mission.
“Hold you fire,” she said and stepped forward, Master Chief Holly and Chief V’Ner immediately flanking her. She shot Hugh a wide smile. Charm had worked on Glover, maybe it work on a former Borg drone. “Nice of you to drop by. Next time I’d appreciate a bit of a heads-up.”
Hugh and his right-hand man, Goval, shifted their arms to draw a bead on the starship captain which in turned caused a nervous reaction by the assembled Starfleet team.
Maya did the opposite. She holstered her phaser and raised her arms. “You wouldn’t shoot an unarmed woman now, would you?”
“Captain, we don’t have the time for this,” Holly whispered. “The Xenarth are almost on top of us.”
She ignored the well-founded advice for now and much to his chagrin took another small step towards the Borg. “We’ve covered this already, remember? We’re not enemies here.”
The tactic seemed to work. Hugh lowered his arm.
Goval and the others did not.
“You plan to destroy Particle 010. We will not allow this,” said Hugh’s chief lieutenant.
“And you are willing to go through all of us to get it?” she asked. “What about the Xenarth. Would you risk for it to fall into the hands of a race clearly not prepared for this kind of power?”
“The Xenarth are irrelevant,” Goval said. “And so are you.”
That caused another murmur to go through the Starfleet teams. Now even the injured at the triage point were trying to get up, ready to face what seemed like an inevitable showdown with the Borg. Every Starfleet officer’s worst nightmare.
“You notice how you started sounding just like your brothers in the collective? Is this all it takes to revert you back to being a mindless drone?” said Maya, her voice taking on an edge.
It only made Goval angry. “You will not be able to stop us by talking us down, human. Particle 010 will be ours.”
But Maya kept her eyes on Hugh, realizing that he had not said a single word yet, choosing instead to silently watch and appraise. She couldn’t be certain if it was because he was considering what she was saying or perhaps to figure out the best assault strategy while surrounded by Starfleet troops.
Maya had no illusions. If it came to a fight now, they’d lose before the smoke would get a chance to settle. Taking down the Borg would be difficult enough, but even if they survived this, they wouldn’t the Xenarth onslaught in their weakened state.
“It does not have to be like this,” Hugh finally said.
Both Maya and Goval glanced at the Borg leader, not fully understanding what he had meant by this.
Then he focused on Donners. “If you just step aside and allow us to take what we came for, we will remove it from this place and ensure the Xenarth will never be able to attempt to synthesize it again. We will take it far away from here.”
It was a damn good argument, Maya had to agree. Just let the damn Borg have it and be done with it. And it would certainly solve one of her problems. Her mission would be over and she could get her people out of harm’s way. And it wasn’t as if these were real Borg, who’d use Omega against innocents. Hugh, from all she had heard and read about him, was a conscientious individual, able to reason and use his power responsibly.
She was tempted to give in. All she had to do was to stand down and let Hugh’s Borg take what they wanted and this nightmare would be over.
Patience was clearly not one of Goval’s virtues. He took another step forward. “You will comply.”
Maya turned to look at Chief Holly just behind her. He still had his rifle up but he was looking at her, almost as if he knew exactly what she was thinking. He shook his head marginally.
Then she spotted Wayne Daystrom, also holding a phaser now. The man had been her most vocal advocate for the preservation of the Omega molecule. He took a step towards her when he noticed her eyes on him. “This … this is not right,” he said, his voice small and without real confidence.
“You will comply, now.”
The Borg’s firm voice seemed to change something in the science officer. His expression grew more tense and his voice firmer. He clutched his weapon tightly. “Captain, we can’t let them have it. I’d rather see it destroyed.”
“Enough talk,” the former Borg drone said and moved forward.
“Goval,” said Hugh.
“No,” he shot back, aiming a quick glance at his leader. “Every second we talk we further delay the inevitable. Particle 010 must be ours. You know that.”
When Goval turned back around, he did so firing.
“Captain, watch out,” Chief Holly cried and pushed her down just in time to avoid being struck by the ugly green bolt of angry energy.
Starfleet and Marines did not hesitate after seeing the Borg taking a potshot at their captain.
In the opening moments of the firefight, two former Borg drones were immediately cut down, one Marine was hit by the Borg returning fire and three Starfleet officers went down with injuries. After the initial exchange of weapon’s fire, everyone scrambled, using the many bulky computer consoles and equipment crates littered throughout the chamber for cover.
“Watch you fire, watch your fire,” a panicked Daystrom cried form the top of his lungs as he hid behind a console near to the Omega generator. “If you hit the containment field we’re all dead.”
Thankfully both the Starfleet team and Hugh’s Borg seemed to understand this and limited their fire, shooting only when there was no chance of hitting the one thing they were fighting for.
Maya had found cover behind a large crate and listened intently. She heard the telltale sounds of phaser burst and disruptor blasts all around her. She recalled her ground combat training. Rule number one: Avoid at all costs to get into a ground combat situation.
She almost laughed out loud at the thought. Long passed that.
Another rule that training officers had tried to drill into cadets at the Academy was to listen carefully. If you couldn’t avoid getting into a battle, good chances were you’d sit behind some sort of cover without being able to see who is firing and in what direction. The last thing you wanted to do was to pop out at the most inopportune moment and be rewarded with a phaser blast right into your face.
A mistake many impatient young Starfleet officers made, too eager to try and hit an enemy than considering the tactical soundness.
Phaser blast. Disruptor. Phaser. Disruptor. Disruptor. Phaser. Disruptor.
There was almost a beautiful harmony to this battle for life and death. And very soon it became predictable.
She waited for the inevitable lull just after another set of phaser blasts had been unleashed. Then she made her move, coming up from behind cover and immediately noticed the sole Borg trying to return fire on the Starfleet position.
Maya held her breath, steadying her type-III phaser against her right shoulder and gently depressed the firing stub. Her aim was true and her enemy stumbled backwards. Three more phaser blast caught the now unprotected Borg and slinging him to the floor, hopefully unconscious.
Chief Holly used the distraction to make his way to Donners’ position, firing his rifle as he went to discourage somebody trying to take him down as he stepped into the open.
Maya was back behind cover when he joined her. “Thanks for that earlier,” she said.
He simply nodded before peeking up to once again return fire. When he came back down, he aimed a serious look at the captain. “We cannot keep this up.”
“Beck is down, not sure yet how bad,” he said, referring to the Marine who had taken a blast right to the chest when the shooting had started.
“It’s worse than that,” he said. “Last we checked the Xenarth were less than ten minutes away from making their—“
The veteran NCO didn’t get to finish his sentence. As it turned out, ten minutes had been a far too optimistic an estimate. The Xenarth were coming right that moment, streaming into the chamber in full force, determined to take back what was theirs.
Hugh’s men and the Starfleet contingent were not prepared to face a third party, too busy trying to take on each other. The Xenarth used their spear-like weapons to impale three unlucky Borg near the main entrance and another Starfleet officer before they could scramble out of the way.
Maya watched in horror from her position. There were at least two dozen insectoid warriors storming the chamber and probably a few more right behind them. “Fall back, fall back,” she shouted to her people nearest to the entrance and fired at the incoming horde. Then she whipped around to look at the Chief. “Do we still have the option to detonate that hallway?”
He shook his head sharply. “Didn’t get the chance to set up the detonator.”
She frowned and returned to firing her weapon. The effect was negligible even when Holly and a number of other Starfleet team members joined in. Their phasers, set on heavy stun, caused most of the Xenarth streaming in to stumble, some fell and others seemed to lose consciousness but a many did not. And their numbers simply refused to go down. For every soldier they managed to take out of the fight, two more appeared.
Matters were made worse by the fact the battle had turned into a massive free-for-all. Starfleet fighting the Xenarth, Xenarth fighting Borg, Borg fighting Starfleet, everyone and anyone was apparently fair game now.
The only constant so far was that everybody was going out of their way to keep the battle as far away from the pulsating Omega generator as possible, apparently fully cognizant of the immense power it could unleash if an errant blast would take out the protective containment shielding.
Holly shook his head and Maya understood why. This was not going to end well. At this pace both Starfleet and Hugh’s people would eventually get worn down by the relentless Xenarth push, especially if they continued to fight each other.
“You will not have 010,” cried Goval, his modulated voice mirroring anger and frustration. Maya watched in disbelieve as he left his cover, firing relentlessly at the incoming Xenarth without a thought to his own safety.
“Goval, no!” shouted Hugh.
But the former drone was determined to stop the insectoids dead in their track, no matter the cost. “Secure 010, I’ll hold them off.”
And he did an admirable job at that. Blasting the enemy soldiers with almost perfect accuracy, taking them down with one headshot after the next, before firing point blank as he got closer and closer. He deftly deflected the spears looking to impale him, using his superior strength to rip one right out of a surprised Xenarth hands, before using that same weapon to slash and stab at the horde bearing down on him.
But the plan was flawed. There were simply too many for one man, even a former Borg drone, to battle head on. Before long he was overwhelmed. He stayed upright even after multiple lances penetrated his body but when his wrist mounted disruptor gave out and his spear wielding arm was dislocated, he found himself defenseless.
Hugh never got the chance to carry out Goval’s suggestion and even though he and his men did their best to keep up a constant spray of disruptor fire, it was far too little to save the former drone.
“This is insanity,” said Maya. “Cover me.”
“Captain, no,” cried Holly but found himself as helpless as Hugh had been when he had watched his man’s self-sacrifice. He let out a little sigh of relief when he realized that she had no intention to follow Goval’s example. And yet he couldn’t help but feel that what she intended wasn’t much less ill-conceived.
She zigzagged through the chamber and right towards Hugh’s position, managing in the process, to avoid a few Borg trying to bring her down, as well as the Xenarth soldiers and her own people’s phaser blasts.
She slid the last few meters until she got behind another crate, just a couple of meters away from were Hugh had sought cover.
The Borg leader noticed her immediately and lifted his wrist canon in her direction. She responded in kind with her hand phaser. But then she flipped the weapon up and away from him. “Truce?”
“What do you want?” he barked angrily. The fact that he had not fired his weapon yet however was a promising sign.
“We can’t hold out against this if we fight each other. Let us combine our forces. I think we can agree that neither of us wants to see the Xenarth getting their hands on Omega again.”
“He … he sacrificed himself for us to get a chance to obtain Particle 010,” he said, his wrist wavering slightly, clearly shook up over what he had just witnessed.
“I know, I saw,” she said.
“You want to destroy it.”
“Right now, I just want to survive the next ten minutes,” she said. “Tell you what, we push back this wave together and afterwards we’ll go back to figure out what to do about Omega. Do we have deal?” Maya had to duck suddenly when one of the Xenarth spears came flying her way, missing her by inches.
Hugh seemed torn.
“What would your friends back on the Enterprise
He glared at her. “This is bigger than my friendships,” he said. “This is—“
“I know, I know, it’s your goddamned Holy Grail. Help me keep the Xenarth from using it to blow us all to kingdom come.”
His nod was barely perceivable but he lowered his wrist before aiming it once more at the Xenarth who by now had made significant inroads into the chamber, taking up cover positions near the entrance.”
The message was quickly received by both Hugh’s men and the Starfleet contingent. A temporary alliance had been struck, allowing both parties to focus on their common enemy.
And yet it was still not enough. The Xenarth kept pushing forward, reinforcements still streaming in.
Chief Holly had eventually followed Donners. His frowned seemed to have been permanently etched into his weathered features by now. “We lost two more,” he said. “Mueller and T’Lok. Mueller is dead.”
“Can we win this Chief, tell me straight.”
His response was immediate. “No,” he said. “Not unless we up the ante. And a miracle or two couldn’t hurt either.”
He didn’t have to explain what he meant by upping the ante. Maya took a couple of seconds to consider this, seeing another former Borg going down as he was impaled by one of the Xenarth spears which they were able to throw with uncanny accuracy.
“The Xenarth are overrunning all our positions, Captain,” Holly continued. “At this point nobody will survive this mission.”
The truth hurt. She had wanted to avoid taking the next step at any cost. Maya had already been devastated over their decision to assault a sovereign Xenarth installation in order to secure and destroy Omega. She had not wanted to play the role of the belligerent party. But over two hundred officer’s lives now depended on her next decision.
She made the hardest call of her life and hit her combadge. “This is the captain to all hands. Use whatever means necessary to push the Xenarth back. I say again, whatever means necessary,” she said. “The use of lethal force has been authorized.”