“The use of lethal force has been authorized.”
“Finally, the gloves come off,” said Mer’iab and promptly dialed up his phaser rifle all the way to eleven. It was the setting that had shown to be most effective against the Xenarth exoskeleton during their pre-mission simulations.
He had admired the captain’s initial restraint and her orders not to kill the enemy even if the opposition force clearly had no such scruples. Considering the size of the Xenarth contingent and the scope of the mission, it had been a laudable ambition. He had known it wasn’t going to be tenable the moment after their first contact with the enemy.
He wasn’t even sure if it would make much of a difference at this point. The chamber had come under heavy enemy attack and the only reason they had not yet been overrun outright, he guessed, was because the Xenarth were throwing most of their weight against Omega One, the captain’s team.
As a security chief, he hated the idea that he was nowhere near his commanding officer after she had made the—in his eyes—foolhardy decision to join the ground assault. For now he had to focus to keep the people in this chamber alive and the sooner he was able to beat back the Xenarth hordes, the sooner he could try and check in on the captain.
Unfortunately an end was simply not in sight.
“Keep at their flank,” he shouted at the injured Andorian Marine sergeant who nevertheless had been amongst the first to pick up a rifle after the Xenarth had made their first push. “Keep them from penetrating deeper into the chamber and away from the generator at all cost.”
Mer’iab fired his own, now deadly phaser rifle, one handed even as he shouted out orders to his men. His accuracy didn’t suffer and a handful of surprised insectoids went down quickly after being impaled by red-hot lances of phased energy.
Their assault had been rather unfocused thus far, putting emphasis on their higher numbers instead of on any strategy to efficiently secure the chamber. They were further hamstrung by orders they must have been given to limit their own fire, mindful of the Omega generator in the room.
“Lieutenant, behind you,” Yuen cried out when he saw a Xenarth trying to sneak up on the avian from behind, having somehow managed to slip by their defenses.
Yuen needn’t have worried.
Without even turning Mer’iab unfurled one of his wings which snapped backwards like a released rubber band, sweeping the insectoid clean off his feet. A well placed phaser blast by Yuen made sure he’d never get up again.
If the security officer was holding out for any sign of gratitude by the avian, he was going to wait a long time. Instead Mer’iab shot him the briefest of glances. “Get Elborough to finish this up yesterday.”
Yuen nodded sharply and then went to find the science officer.
He did. She was cowering behind an equipment crate close to the still pulsating, globe-shaped generator.
“A.J.”, he said as he kneeled next to the petrified woman. “How’s it going?” he added with an easy smile.
She looked up at him as if he had lost his mind. “What do you think?”
“We really need you to finish up with that generator,” he said and threw a thumb over his shoulder. “It’s why we’re all here, you know.”
“Can we … can we wait until the shooting stops?” she asked with a very small voice.
“Don’t think it’s going to,” he said and held out his hand to her. “Come on, I keep you covered.”
“Cross my heart,” he said and then pulled her back on her feet only to watch her flinch at the sound of battle all around her.
She nodded at his reassuringly easy smile and made her way back towards the generator while Yuen took position by the crate, taking a knee and bringing his phaser rifle to bear. He found no lack of targets as the Xenarth made another push to re-claim the chamber.
Mer’iab noticed this as well. Firing his now deadly weapon with pinpoint accuracy and watching dozens of Xenarth warriors fall, the difference it made, it appeared, was negligible.
“Grenades! Give me grenades on the opening right now,” he shouted as he lifted off the ground just in time to avoid a concentrated barrage of enemy fire on his position. He glided back down gracefully near where a number of his men had taken cover.
His order was followed promptly and numerous cylindrical-shaped explosives were lobed towards the entrance which continued to funnel in warriors by the dozens.
“Get down,” he shouted and unfurled his wings over the men around him to cover them from the impending explosion.
The shockwave flattened Elborough. “What the hell?” she said as she tried to get back onto her feet. But before she could turn to see what had happened, she felt a strong hand holding her arm. She turned to see Yuen’s dirt covered face.
“Leave that to us, ok? Just focus on the generator.”
She nodded hesitantly.
“Once this is all over, I’ll take you out for a drink,” he added with a little smirk.
“Sounds … fair,” she responded. “But don’t let them do this again or we’re all going to regret this,” she added and turned back to the Omega device with a smile on her face she wasn’t quite able to dispel.
Mer’iab’s first instinct was to check on the most sensitive machine in the room after he had recovered from the massive explosion and the chamber had stopped shaking. He found the generator no worse to wear and noticed with satisfaction that Yuen was keeping a close eye on their skittish science officer.
He glanced back at the opening but all he could see was dust.
“Cover me,” he said before he easily leaped up from where he stood and glided towards the entrance, touching down just a handful of meters in front of the still settling dust cloud.
As much as he tried, it seemed impossible to see what lay beyond. His solution was surprisingly simple. He unfurled his wings once more and flapping them forward, he used them like a giant fan.
The shape which emerged from the now dissipating cloud caused him to hesitate for a moment as it did not seem to be consistent with what he had come to expect a Xenarth warrior to look like.
Too late did he realize that his first impression had been mistaken. The eight limbs outlined in the haze made it all too clear that he was facing another Xenarth, albeit one much larger than any he had encountered before. He came to regret his momentary hesitation when the massive figure launched itself forward with speed and agility belling its size and hit him with a bone-jarring tackle and with such force that for a moment he felt as if he had been hit by a starship at warp speed.
He went down hard with the massive Xenarth jumped on top of him.
“I will enjoy ripping those wings off your body,” the clearly feminine voice hissed as they struggled on the cold and dirty floor. “You will come to rue the day you faced the Warrior Queen.”
Mer’iab was hardly even aware that the Xenarth leader had not come alone, too preoccupied was he to keep her razor-sharp mandibles from separating his head from his body. He had lost his phaser rifle when she had jumped him and the queen herself appeared to be unarmed, apparently eager to kill her opponent with her bare hands. And the odds were squarely in her favor, considering she not only had the size-advantage, he was also outnumbered by the number of hands she had available to her. Two of which pummeled his midsection, one kept a tight grip on his throat while he struggled to keep the fourth away from his beak, no doubt trying to crush it.
His men were in no position to help. The queen had led another wave of warriors into the chamber which kept the Starfleet assault team beyond occupied.
He was not the last to realize that this wave was perhaps the fiercest yet and judging by the way they were throwing themselves at the assault team, it seemed they had been given orders to take back the chamber no matter the cost, and the cost, it appeared, meant overwhelming the intruder with superior numbers in close quarter melee combat.
Having apparently given up on the idea on taking on the Starfleet assault team from a distance and having been constantly outgunned in the process, the battle was quickly turning up-close and personal.
It was a fight, Mer’iab knew they couldn’t win.
The Xenarth soldiers were simply far better equipped to wage such a battle with their armored exoskeleton, razor-sharp mandibles and multi-purpose weaponry which they were able to wield either as a piercing spear or punishing staff.
They had no choice but to fight.
A few of the Marines had managed to snatch up some of the weapons the Xenarth had dropped and were holding their own for the moment while the wounded were being evacuated away from the immediate combat area.
Remembering everything they had leaned about the Xenarth in their pre-mission investigations, Mer’iab managed to land a quick and vicious hit to the lightest armored part of his opponent’s torso, buying himself a few seconds and just enough time to escape her immediate clutches and get some separation from the ferocious warrior.
He appraised her for a brief moment. She was nothing like Queen Ket or even most of the warriors they had faced so far. This Xenarth stood easily seven and half foot tall, with wide, powerful shoulders and thick arms.
She practically ripped two spear weapons away from a couple of astonished Xenarth soldiers and immediately began to wield them expertly and in a manner which reminded Mer’iab a little bit of a Klingon Dahar
master working a bat’leth
Her large compound eyes made contact with his and an immediate understanding passed between them. They were both leaders of their respective factions and for a moment there was an almost unspoken, if begrudging respect between them, even in the middle of this battlefield thrown into chaos. Warrior to warrior, for just an instant, they were the same, regardless of all their differences, physiological as well as philosophical.
That moment passed in a heartbeat, replaced by the absolute certainty that the outcome of this battle could only be determined by whoever was left standing at the end.
Ignoring all her little drones, Mer’iab charged the Xenarth Warrior Queen.
While the avian security chief usually preferred stealth when facing off a formidable opponent, there was little place for him to hide here and she saw him coming from a mile away, fully prepared for his assault.
He deftly dodged the first staff which had been aimed at his head but was less successful evading the second which she wielded like a lance and which struck him in his side, tearing through uniform and plumage.
Pain and blood were nothing knew to the Aurelian and he pressed on regardless. Coming up just behind the giant insectoid, he kicked hard against the back of where he thought her knees were located.
When she didn’t go down the way he had hoped, he wished for a moment he’d spent more time with Ket to study Xenarth anatomy.
The queen merely stumbled and then brought one of her weapons around in a wide arch, designed to strike his neck. The strength of the blow would surely have crushed his windpipe instantly.
Instead he managed to roll out of the way.
When he come up again he grabbed hold of her second spear, hoping to be able to dislodge it from her firm grip.
It was a complete no-go. Her strength was simply too great and the fact that she was able to hold on to it with two of her hands, made it nearly impossible for him to even the odds in that manner.
She high-kicked him into his chest, causing him to fly backwards and land hard against a near wall where he collapsed to the floor.
Her mandibles seemed to turn into something akin to a smirk as she bore down on him, entirely ignoring the battle raging around them.
Mer’iab needed a moment to catch his breath even though he was fully cognizant that it was a moment he didn’t have. She had already raised both weapons, turning the gleaming spikes into his direction, no doubt planning a twin penetration of his torso.
That’s when he heard phaser fire. A lot of it.
He knew immediately it wasn’t coming from his people as they were too busy fending for their lives in close quarter combat.
The Warrior Queen had heard it too and turned her head to find the source of this unexpected commotion.
The security chief noticed the blue blur flying through the air perhaps half a second before the queen did. By then of course it was far too late for her to bring up her defenses.
The Andorian had catapulted herself into the air somehow, probably by jumping on top of a nearby computer station and brought her entire weight down onto the Xenarth leader in a flying, high-body tackle.
They both crashed to the floor.
Mer’iab was both relieved and disgusted at the same time. Had Beatiar Sh’Fane just saved his life? If so he would never hear the end of it.
The Andorian Marine commander however had made the same mistake he had done just moment ago. Underestimating the Xenarth queen’s strength. Using her upper arms, she easily pushed the much smaller female off her and used her lower arms to prop herself back up.
Sh’Fane hadn’t expected that much force but somehow managed to land on her feet nevertheless, landing close to Mer’iab with one boot and one knee on the ground, the momentum causing her to slip backwards across the floor.
She turned her head see the security chief pushing himself up to his full height. “I had this covered,” he said, without ever taking his eyes off his opponent.
“You’re welcome,” she responded, also avoiding eye contact and keeping them focused on the massive Xenarth instead.
“It does not matter how many of you there are,” said the Queen, with angry clicking sounds dotting her words. “You cannot defeat me.”
“Then why do you suddenly sound so desperate?” Mer’iab shot back. Witty repartee wasn’t normally part of his fighting style but right now he needed any advantage he could get.
The other advantage? Sh’Fane’s leaping tackle had knocked both of her weapons out of her hands and they were now lying unused just between them.
All three fighters seemed to notice this at the exact same moment and leaped into action once more.
Mer’iab got there first, scooping up the spear/staff before any of her many limbs could reach it. He got his fingers on the second one as well and threw it towards the Andorian who easily pulled it out of the air as if she had been fighting with such weapons all her life.
The avian had just enough time to bring his weapon up to block a double punch the queen was throwing his way. And even tough deflected at the last moment, the force of the impact was almost as powerful as if she had landed a direct hit.
Sh’Fane didn’t hesitate and swinging with both hands, she struck the Xenarth across the head, breaking off parts of a mandible in the process.
The queen uttered an ear-numbing, high-pitched shriek but instead of letting it slow her down, it apparently only made her stronger. And madder.
She reached out for the staff still being held by the Andorian with lightning speed and to her utter surprise, lifted her clean off the floor and then, unbelievably, right over her head, causing the Marine to perform an involuntary, circus-like leap, flying high into air, going right over the Xenarth and then coming down hard behind her, crashing into the unforgiving floor and landing on her back with a sick crunch and a loud groan of pain.
Mer’iab made the mistake of getting distracted by Sh’Fane’s scary landing, not immediately realizing that the Xenarth had kept hold of her weapon and that it was now coming in fast for his head.
This time his dodge came too late and the staff struck him hard in the right shoulder, knocking him off his feet and causing him to land on the floor, painfully holding on to his dislocated shoulder.
The Xenarth uttered a hysterical laugh from seeing both her opponent at her feet. Or at least Mer’iab thought it was laughter.
He looked over to see if Sh’Fane was still breathing. “Lieutenant, are you still with me?”
The Andorian had somehow managed to roll over onto her stomach but when she tried to pull herself off the floor she just flopped back down when her strength gave out. He was relieved to find that her back, at the very least, didn’t appear broken. “I think … I may need … a minute.”
Ignoring the pain in his side and shoulder, Mer’iab willed himself back onto his knees. “Don’t have a minute.”
As if to stress her point, the Warrior Queen swung her weapon again, once again trying to crush the avian’s head. This time he saw it coming and rolled out of the way coming back up right next to the fallen Marine.
He noted with some satisfaction that the Warrior Queen had slowed down now. Possibly because she no longer saw the two injured aliens as a major threat but more likely because her own strength was failing after the painful blow she had taken to her face.
Mer’iab, still on his knees, placed a hand onto Sh’Fane’s shoulder. “I hate to say this,” he said, “but right about now I could really use your help.”
She actually managed a smile at that, even through bleeding lips and possibly a broken nose. “I think … that just may be … worth it.”
“Can you get up?”
She tried again. “If you’re up … I’m up,” she said and managed to get on her knees with his help, breathing hard and clearly not without sharp pain.
Mer’iab watched the huge Xenarth slowly bearing down on them, still holding on to her weapon and getting ready for a final blow, this time no doubt planning on taking out both her opponent’s in one devastating attack.
“I need you to distract her for a little bit while I try something else,” he said quietly.
“What do you have in mind?”
He shot her a playful look. “Think holodeck.”
She nodded with understanding, responding with a knowing smirk of her own. Then she focused on the approaching insectoid. “Make it fast, will you? This dance is not going to last.”
“Be right back,” he said and took off in a run.
“No you won’t,” the Xenarth hissed, not willing to entertain the notion that one of them was going to get away and deprive her of a justified double kill. She quickly spun her weapon around, ready to throw it with deadly strength and accuracy to perforate the fleeing avian.
Just as she was about to bring her arms forward to release her missile, Sh’Fane charged with a roaring battle cry, hailing back to the ancient warrior days of her forefathers.
This time she went low, tackling the surprised queen around her legs. She managed to get the spear off but her aim was untrue and instead of piercing her target it found a hapless Xenarth who immediately sagged to the ground after being penetrated with a sickening crunch.
The Warrior Queen was unable to keep her balance and dropped like a felled tree. The moment she was down, Sh’Fane jumped on top of her and began punching her repeatedly and viciously in the face.
And had she fought another humanoid, her fists would have made short work of that face. Instead she was up against the hardened exoskeleton of an insectoid and while she managed to do some damage to her large eyes and feelers, the pounding was doing just as much damage to her gloved fists.
The Xenarth intercepted her tireless blows with her lower arms and then responded in kind with her upper hands, smashing the momentarily paralyzed Andorian right into her own face. The third blow was strong enough to get her off her chest.
The Warrior Queen stood once more but this time grabbed hold of Sh’Fane by the collar of her fatigues and lifted her up a good eight feet into the air, holding her above her and considering the bleeding, dazed and seemingly beaten down woman in her grasp.
“You are so soft and fragile,” she said with obvious disgust. “That’s why you humanoids are so weak. That’s why you’ll never stand a chance against the might of the Xenarth Colony.”
The look she was getting in return was apparently not quite what the Warrior Queen had expected. She tilted her head slightly, perhaps an expression of confusion upon noticing that twinkle in her opponent’s eyes and the unmistakable crack of a smile on those blue and busted lips.
She brought up her upper arms to finish her for once and for all. “There is nothing you should be amused about. This is your end, little humanoid.”
Sh’Fane’s response was unintelligible through her broken and swollen lips.
But for some reason the Warrior Queen seemed eager to learn the Andorian’s dying words. “What was that?”
The Marine mustered all the strength she had left to make herself heard. “I said,” she paused for a moment to spit a wallop of cobalt-colored blood onto the floor before she managed with some effort to look above and behind the queen with a widening grin on her face. “Heads up.”
The Xenarth took the bait and turned. At first she must have been confused as there was nothing immediately obvious which could have inspired the Andorian’s bravery in face of certain death. But that was because she didn’t look high enough.
He was gliding so far up, he was nearly brushing the ceiling, his wings fully unfurled and giving him a majestic look as he defied gravity. By the time he was finally spotted, he had already honed in on his target and came down with the speed of a cannonball.
The Xenarth let go out Sh’Fane, trying to whirl around in time to brace herself.
There wasn’t going to be time.
She also didn’t realize until the last moment that the avian had picked up a spear at some point and that the gleaming tip was held out just in front of him as he shot through the air on a collision course.
His loud screech echoed across the chamber and his massive wings flapped exactly once to slow his ascent and ensure this wouldn’t end up as a suicide run.
It was still more than enough speed to ram that spear right through her tough exterior and running it completely through the Xenarth Warrior Queen. The resulting collision knocked her down hard while Mer’iab managed to roll, looking all but a ball of feathers for a moment, knocking down unprepared Xenarth and Starfleeters alike to absorb his momentum which otherwise would have been enough to break every bone in his body.
The queen shrieked again as she flopped helplessly onto the floor, trying desperately to dislodge the spear protruding from her chest with all four hands. But before she could even get a handle on it, Sh’Fane had collected what little remained of her strength, found the other weapon discarded earlier and then put all he weight against it as she drove that one through the Warrior Queen as well.
The second shriek, even louder than the ear-numbing cry that had come before, captured absolutely everyone’s attention and for a brief moment the room fell almost deadly quite as every last Xenarth warrior stopped whatever they were doing at that moment to turn and find their slain queen.