Fires were still raging across the colony.
His ears ringing from the explosions that had leveled the refining plant only seconds before, Jonathan Archer sprinted toward cover, his phase pistol held tightly in one hand. Disruptor fire screamed by his head, exploding against the already broken rocks where his first officer crouched, and he bit back a curse as spinning shrapnel tore into his uniform. As Jon threw himself forward and cleared the obstacle with a leaping dive, Lieutenant Commander Reed popped up from behind the rocks to provide cover fire.
Archer’s landing was rougher than he expected and the impact left him stunned, but the sharp smell of blood and smoke snapped him out of his momentary daze. He quickly scrambled to his feet and joined Reed at the stony embankment his armoury officer had chosen to use as a defensive position. The lieutenant commander barely acknowledged him, so intent was he on firing at the towering aliens now charging toward them.
“Where the hell did they come from?” Jon demanded as he drew a bead on one of the Klingons and squeezed the trigger of his pistol. The beam flashed out, slamming into the alien’s chest and dropping him with barely a sound. A wail of return fire splashed around the embankment, showering Archer and Reed with debris and superheated sand.
Only a few hours had passed since their arrival on the planet, and the sudden attack had caught them almost completely by surprise. There hadn’t been any hint of anything wrong until the Klingons suddenly materialized in the center of the colony and began shooting anything that moved. If it hadn’t been for Reed’s quick-thinking and quicker reflexes, Jon had little doubt he would have been one of the first casualties. Neither of them had been quick enough to save Crewman Cutler, though, and fury bubbled up from Archer’s stomach as he recalled how heroically she threw herself at the Klingon looming over a little alien boy she’d befriended since their arrival. She’d fallen quickly, victim of a disruptor blast at point-blank range, but her sacrifice had given the child time enough to escape.
Jon only hoped her death had been worth it.
Attempts to contact Enterprise had met with an ominous silence, though Archer hoped it was due to jamming rather than an inability to communicate. Far more worrisome, though, was that Travis was currently in command of NX-01. At the time, leaving the ensign to sit in the big chair for a few hours had seemed like a nice way to encourage Mayweather and give him a little bit of experience.
“We need to fall back from this position, sir,” Reed growled. He didn’t let up with his carefully aimed shots, dropping three Klingons to every one that Jon nailed. “They’re shaking off the stun setting too quickly.” Archer grimaced at that, finally noticing that the Klingon he’d shot earlier was slowly clambering back to his feet; a human would still be unconscious for several hours. “There’s an outcropping three meters behind us,” Reed continued as he shifted fire and targeted a barrel. The phase beam sliced into the metal container, but had no immediate effect. “When I give the signal, run for it,” the lieutenant commander instructed. Jon gave him a sidelong look, wondering if he should remind his acting first officer that it was the captain who gave the orders, not the armoury officer, but decided to hold his tongue. At the moment, survival was far more important than the chain-of-command. “Now!” Reed shouted as he fired again. This time, the barrel detonated like a bomb, hurling a pair of Klingons through the air as if they were little more than puppets.
Long seconds later, Jon slid into cover behind the outcropping Reed had identified like a runner stealing home plate. His breath was coming rapidly, and adrenaline raced through his veins. Movement drew his attention to his left, and he snapped the phase pistol around but managed to keep from firing as Lieutenant Commander Hess and Ensign Sato sprinted toward him, their own weapons hefted. A trio of Klingons pursued the two women, howling fierce cries, and Archer began firing rapidly. One of the aliens dropped like a stone, and the sheer volume of fire caused his two partners to dart for cover.
“Down!” Reed’s voice shouted a half second before he tackled Archer from behind. They hit the ground hard a half second before something metallic and sharp whizzed through where Jon’s head had been a heartbeat earlier. Malcolm rolled away, his phase pistol coming up and discharging a lethal stream of fire that burned into the throat of a Klingon who had apparently pursued them from their previous defensive dugout. The alien toppled, an overpowering stench of burned flesh following him, and Reed sprang to his feet. “Weapons on kill!” he snapped as he began covering Hess and Sato. “Stun isn’t working on them!”
Within seconds, the two women had joined them. Caked in sweat, dirt and what looked suspiciously like blood, they had terrified expressions on their face, but offered no complaint as they crouched behind the embankment, pistols at the ready. Jon gave them quick once-overs, noting with some surprise that Hoshi seemed to be in better shape emotionally than Anna Hess.
“Fall back!” Reed shouted as he knelt and retrieved the dead Klingon’s disruptor. He gestured toward another ditch with it before rising to his feet and opening fire with weapons in both hands like a gunslinger from one of Trip’s old movies. Jon followed suit, abandoning accuracy for sheer volume of fire, while Hoshi and Hess darted toward the cover Malcolm had pointed out. The two women were firing their weapons while on the run, hitting nothing that Archer could see, but definitely causing enough chaos that the Klingons sought cover.
“Captain, go!” Malcolm urged desperately. The British armoury officer was slowly backing away their previous cover, the weapons in his hand beginning to hiss from overuse. “I can’t cover you much longer!”
“We’re both going, Commander!” Archer retorted. “Now!”
They sprinted toward the ditch under a hail of disruptor fire that buzzed around them like furious hornets. As he raced toward cover, Jon instantly noticed that Hoshi was already kneeling, her phase pistol whining as she provided suppressive fire, but there was no sign of Lieutenant Commander Hess. White hot fire suddenly seemed to explode from the small of his back, and Archer screamed out in agonized surprise. He tumbled to the ground, but somehow let his momentum carry him into a roll that dropped him into the ditch.
“The captain’s been hit!” Hoshi shouted as Reed slid over the lip of the ditch and joined her in pouring fire into the cluster of attacking Klingons. Hess looked up from where she was crouched and, through the searing pain from where he’d been shot, Jon vaguely registered that she had broken open a communicator. Calling in reinforcements, a strangely lucid part of his mind reflected. Good girl.
“I can’t get through!” Hess said loudly, desperation starting to creep into her voice.
“Help the captain,” Malcolm snarled, “and get ready for another assault.”
Things got hazy after that as Jon swam in and out of consciousness. He could recall phase pistol fire, and disruptor fire, and explosions, and screams. Images flashed before his eyes, as if he were watching a slideshow. Hoshi in a martial arts pose before a Klingon male twice her size. Malcolm wielding a bloody knife. Anna with two disruptors in either hand, screaming like a banshee as she fired them. Two Klingons down in front of Hoshi, one writhing in agony and the other not moving at all. Reed surrounded, but showing no hint of fear. More explosions.
And then, silence.