Too little, too late.
She couldn’t stop thinking it over and over again. Too little, too late, even as she cut down Xenarth warriors left and right, killing the tough insectoids by the dozens while desperately ignoring the fact that she was taking life almost indiscriminately. Trying to pretend it hadn’t been her who had been the attacker, it hadn’t been her who had given the orders to assault this sovereign Xenarth facility and now to shoot and kill.
It was for the good of the galaxy, she told herself. She was trying to safe lives, she told herself. And in the end it may all come to nothing after all because she had given the orders to late.
There were simply too many of them and not enough bodies to fight them off. They were already overwhelmed and barely holding their own. No doubt more Xenarth reinforcements were on the way.
“Captain, get down.”
Before she could even turn to look who had shouted the warning, she was felt a strong grip push her onto the floor. The spear-like weapon came flying in over her head almost at the same instant, she could feel it brush by her hair. It struck something.
The Vulcan woman didn’t as much as flinch as the razor-sharp blade ripped through her side, tearing through her flak jacket an flesh.
“V’Ner,” Maya cried.
“Stay down,” she said as she brought up her phaser rifle single-handed while her other hand was busy holding her side, barely able to the keep the staunch of thick green blood back. She fired the rifle and struck the Xenarth warrior who had tried to take down the captain right in the neck.
The insectoid went down in a heap.
One down, Maya thought, legion to go.
Her personal bodyguard was clearly wounded but the stoic Vulcan security guard showed no signs of slowing down as she continued to cover Maya with her phaser even as the captain picked herself off the ground.
“You need medical attention,” Maya said but found that she couldn’t quite afford taking her eyes off the enemy all around her and instead kept up a constant pace of weapons fire which did little to suppress the enemy and even less to stop them.
There was little point in arguing, Maya realized. By now almost everyone was battling with injuries, light or severe, O’Shaugnessy, her other appointed bodyguard was already down for the count. She wasn’t sure if he was dead or alive.
She found Chief Holly, standing on a number of containers, overlooking the battle field like a field marshal of old. He made a mighty inviting target up there but it also allowed him to maintain a semblance of control in the chaos, directing their meager resources where they were needed most. The gray-bearded veteran didn’t look like his best days were behind him. On the contrary, banged up and bleeding from multiple wounds and scratches, he was directing the troops with ironclad confidence, trying to dispel any notion that this battle may have already been lost.
“We’ve got more bugs coming in through the main entrance,” he shouted. “Cut them off, cut them off.” Then he made eye contact with Donners and just for a second his façade dropped and his eyes revealed not just his age and his exhaustion but his hopelessness of wining this battle. It was gone in a flash. “Sonier, get your people over there and cover Daystrom,” he shouted to a group of Marines who didn’t hesitate to take orders from the Master Chief.
Maya spotted Hugh on the opposite side of the room, engaged with two dozen Xenarth. Their temporary truce had given them some time which was rapidly running out. From what she could tell, the former Borg drone had already lost half his men, mostly due to Xenarth using their blades in close quarter combat which was not a preferred Borg battle style, liberated or otherwise.
He was barely holding his ground and it was only a matter of time until he and his remaining men were overwhelmed by the sheer number of the opposition force.
She had taken a second too long to consider their seemingly inevitable fate and failed to notice the staff being side swiped into her direction. Fortunately for her, it wasn’t the sharp end which ended up striking her torso. The blow was more than enough however to force all the remaining air out of her lungs and flinging her back to the floor and sending her rifle out of her hands.
When she looked up she saw the gleaming spike now pointed at her bruised torso once more. The cold, dark compound eyes of the Xenarth warrior seemed to be focused on her with total determination.
Is this how it ends, then? She wondered, as the warrior was bringing down his weapon, gripping it tightly with all four hands. Shortest captaincy ever?
She forced herself not to close her eyes.
Then she heard the shriek. It was a sound of pure agony and it reverberated from the walls and the ceiling, louder even than the sound of unrelenting battle. Maya thought it was a sound she’d never forget.
The Xenarth stopped suddenly, his weapon just inches from running her through, he turned his head towards where the sound had come from. It hadn’t been this room. It hadn’t even been close and yet it appeared to have been unmistakable to the solider.
And then she realized it hadn’t just been the warrior who’d had her dead to rights who had stopped. All of them had. Every single Xenarth in the room had suddenly frozen and turned towards the shriek of pain and misery.
And the Starfleeters had been shocked into inaction themselves by their enemies odd behavior. For a moment that shriek remained the only sound anyone could hear. Then it died away slowly and the room remained eerily quite with a hundred combatants simply standing in place like statues.
Maya, realizing that she was still in mortal danger, quickly pushed herself away from that gleaming spike hovering above her.
“Take’em down, take’em all down. Do it, do it now,” she heard Holly cry and promptly opened fire on the unmoving Xenarth.
Within seconds every phaser and Borg weapon in the room was blasting the momentarily defenseless insectoids to pieces and they crumbled where they stood.
Maya hated herself for it but the moment she found her rifle again, she took aim and took down the solider who had tried to perforate her a moment earlier.
Some of the Xenarth eventually tried to fight back but at that time it was already too late. A battle which had seemed all but lost seconds ago, had completely and irrevocably turned around. By the time Maya was back on her feet, not a single enemy solider remained standing. A few Starfleeters were still firing however, blasting away at injured or already dead Xenarth to make doubly sure they’d never stand up again.
Maya stepped up to a crewman who was taking aim at a squirming Xenarth on the ground, already oozing profusely from a number of wounds. The young man was bringing up his weapon to the warrior’s head to finish him off but she pushed his rifle away before he could fire. “That’s enough, Crewman.”
His eyes were wide and filled with rage and hatred. The firm look in his captain’s eyes seemed to reassure him however. She was neither upset nor accusing but her tone left little doubt to her resolve. “That’s enough.”
Then she turned to the rest of her people. “Cease fire and secure the room.”
“Let’s do it, people, we’re not out of this yet,” Holly shouted, adding some much needed urgency. Then he hopped down from his elevated porch and approached the captain.
“You were asking for a miracle earlier, Chief. Somebody just delivered,” she said to him.
He nodded. “I’m not one to look a gift targ
in the mouth. It has rather sharp teeth and all but if you ask me this is just a reprieve. We need to pack up and get the hell out of Dodge yesterday.”
“Agreed,” she said and quickly headed towards Daystrom and the surprisingly undamaged Omega generator which she quickly found was still pulsating with blue energy, a clear sign that the molecules within were still alive and well. Her heart sank.
The scientist was only lightly wounded with his flak jacket slightly torn around the chest and arms. “Captain,” he said when he saw her approach.
“Wayne, tell me we’re almost done here.”
He looked pained as if he didn’t even want to reveal the truth which his captain would clearly not be satisfied with it. Then he shook his head ever so slightly. “I … I can’t do it.”
Maya became furious. “Wayne, so help me God, I will—“
“Captain, you don’t understand. I couldn’t shut them down even if I wanted to. The molecules have fully bonded, there is no way to reverse the effect from here. I’m sorry.”
Hugh had stepped up to generator as if in trance. “I can see them,” he said reverently as if he was facing the physical manifestation of a deity. “I can see them through my optical implant. It’s ... it’s perfection.”
The other former Borg quickly gathered around him, equally spellbound by the pulsating chamber in front of them.
Maya hit her combadge. “Donners to Cuffe, what’s our status?”
Glover responded with little delay. “All teams are reporting that they have completed their objectives and are moving to their exfil positions. We’re not quite sure what happened yet but the Xenarth seem to have been stunned into inaction for a short moment. They are back on the move now.”
“Can you beam the teams out?”
“Negative, not with the residual Omega radiation emanating from the various generators. And the radiation is through the roof at your position. How close are you at shutting down your generator?”
Maya watched the former drones wordlessly for a moment. Where they praying? “Apparently no longer an option. We’ll have to go to plan B.”
“Not sure if we’re ready for it yet,”
“We’ve got movement,” called Holly who had proceeded closer to the main entrance. “Second wave coming in.”
Donners whipped around. She couldn’t see anything yet but the sound was unmistakable, the pounding of boots, the clicks of Xenarth ready for battle were approaching rapidly. “Glover, are you getting this?”
“We’re seeing it on sensors. You’ve got at least sixty bodies heading your way. Two minutes, maybe less,”
he said, managing to sound cool under pressure but then again it wasn’t his butt about to be overrun, she mused darkly. “Maya, set up the pattern enhancers, we’ll be ready.”
Holly had overheard Terrence Glover and was already directing half the men to take position by the entrance for their counter attack and getting the rest to set up the pattern enhancers around the Omega generator to allow Cuffe
to beam the molecules into its resonance chamber where they could be neutralized.
She turned around to find who had addressed her. It turned out to be Redmon O’Shaugnessy, one of the two security officers Mer’iab had designated her personal guards during the assault. The young Irishman had been injured earlier and was quite obviously not on the mend. His face was sickly pale and his bandages were already soaked through with his blood again. He barely managed to keep his balance. A heavy backpack was strapped to his back.
“Lieutenant, you need the medic,” she said and then turned to find a first aider. “Corpsman?”
“Captain,” he said and coughed hard, spraying blood onto his hands in the process. “I think … it may be too late for that. But … I can give you the time … you need. I’ve got the explosives,” he added gesturing first to the backpack and then to the main entrance.
It took Maya a moment to understand what he was saying. Then she quickly shook her head. “Absolutely not, that’s suicide.”
“Please, Captain, it may be our only chance,” he said coughing again.
Something that Vej had said days earlier reverberated in the back of her mind. Something about sending good people to their certain death.
She turned back to see how far along the pattern enhancers were. There were twelve in total and the cylindrical-shaped devices had to be carefully positioned around the Omega generator in order to allow Cuffe
to get a stable signal on those molecules and beam them up. Only half of them were in place.
And those pounding boots were mere moments from reaching them.
Maya looked at O’Shaugnessy. “Do it.”
He gave her a crisp salute and then she watched in astonishment how he managed to sprint towards the entrance despite his grievous injuries.
Holly saw him coming and understood. “Clear the area, clear the area,” he said to the men positioned closest to the entrance. He exchanged a meaningful look with the younger lieutenant as he sprinted passed him, giving the man one last nod before he rushed into the dark corridor.
Maya held her breath for the next few seconds.
Then came the explosion.
The floor trembled and a bright light shot out of the corridor, giving absolute proof that O’Shaugnessy had been successful in his final act of valor and heroism.
The clicks quickly gave way to shrieks and then all was still for a moment.
A small dust cloud came wafting out of the hallway.
“Pattern enhancers in place,” said Daystrom.
Maya watched as they were turned on, a bright blue beam shooting out from each device until the generator was completely surrounded.
“Glover to Donners, we’ve got a lock.”
She nodded. “Any chance you can get us out here the same way?”
He hesitated for a moment. “Sorry, no. All the eggheads up here seem to agree that adding additional molecules to the attempt is a recipe for disaster. We’re not even sure we can get the molecules safely out of there.”
“In any case,”
he said. “I suggest you hightail it out of there. The main force heading your way has stopped but there are plenty more Xenarth trying to reach you and cut you off from your extraction point. You’ll still have a battle on your hands just to clear out.”
She turned to what remained of her people. “Set up timed charges on the generator and get the wounded ready to move out. Double time folks.”
Nobody had to be told twice.
Daystrom joined the Borg in watching the molecules beginning to dissolve as they were transported onto the starship in orbit. It wasn’t an instant process.
“How long will this take?” she asked the science officer.
“I’m not sure,” he said as he kept his eyes on the Omega generator which turned dimmer by the moment. “But it can’t be stopped now. I doubt we have to stick around to the end.”
“We’d be lucky to get out of here alive if we leave now,” she said.
Hugh turned away from the generator for the first time in what had seemed forever and considered the Starfleet captain. “We can help,” he said.
“A few moments ago you were willing to kill us all to stop us from destroying Omega, now you’re just going to help us get out of here?” she said skeptically but fully aware that Hugh and his men had made no attempt to stop them from beaming out the molecules and claiming them for themselves. She had anticipated another battle but just like Holly, she decided to stay away from those targ
“I only ask that you allow me to see them up close, in your resonance chamber.”
She considered this for a moment. Hugh didn’t really have the numbers anymore to try and fight the admittedly decimated assault team. But she could use his help to avoid further casualties while evacuating the facility.
“No promises,” she said and found Hugh surprisingly relaxed and reverent perhaps for the first time since she had met him. It was almost as if he had found some inner peace by observing the fully bonded Omega particles. He was almost serene now.
He nodded in agreement.
She found her phaser rifle and gripped it firmly. “Let’s move it people.”