Cesh smashed the mandible of a Votheen as he rounded the corner with the butt of her Terutto Defence shotgun, spun it around in her palms deftly and unloaded a buck shot round through its chest. She wiped her bloodied brow on a loose rag close by and leapt the ramshackle cover the marines had mocked up. The kill zone of the turret had lived up well to its name until the ammunition had run out. That’s when the marines had been forced to go on the offensive in order to maintain their lines. For all the Votheen’s technological prowess their battle strategies were crude and uninspiring at best. Once enraged they seemed to suffer tunnel vision and put themselves in harm’s way to exact their revenge. Self-preservation seemed to go out of the window as their sole desire seemed to be to bludgeon the object of their aggression to a bloodied pulp. “You’d think they’d try something new at this point.” Jericho smiled as he put a round into the back of a fallen Votheen’s head, just to make sure it was dead.
“Or maybe they’re just throwing grunts at us until our bullets run dry,” Cesh suggested, she’d noticed the lack of new breed of Votheen and it troubled her.
“Wow, you’ve got a sunny disposition, ma’am.” The stream of enemy combatants died off completely not long after. They kept quiet for a time, mindful that the alien horde could be changing up tactics finally. Nothing came. AI Construct R051E appeared from a wall mounted emitter. She strutted across the rail and surveyed the scene. “All enemy combatants have been purged from The Protector and your presence is requested on the bridge.” She winked out and a relieved pair of battle-scared warriors made their way to the command deck.
President Wilhelm observed the chaos before him with more anticipation than he had expected. The Votheen had been too sure of their fleet’s power. The decoy fleet had been almost wiped out but the northern host had split their lines and was holding out quite well. The hull shuddered as plasma screeched overhead, The Protector responded and fired which split one of their cruisers in two. After that no more fire came. AI Construct R051E materialised once more on the holo-table. “The Votheen are in full retreat.” The Admiral was first to act as he pounded the table with a clenched fist.
“Do not allow them to escape. Cut them down!” he ordered with anger dripping from his words. In their haste the Votheen had left many of their ships vulnerable. The Admiral was right although the laws of combat forbade it, yet this was an enemy like no other and the same rules of engagement it was decided didn’t apply. If they retreated they could form back up with reinforcements or they could join their main fleet above Engevaal, returning once they were at full power. These were both conclusions he refused to permit.
The light in the pod had dulled nicely that night in accordance with Earth time and the air temperature was perfect. She had ironically never been more comfortable. She found herself on an alien warship with her childhood friend’s breath teasing the hairs on the nape of her neck. She lay still, cradled in the arms of the Sarcurian she had never realised she loved and let her mind wander. She hoped in her heart that Earth was still there for her to go back to. A shaft of light broke the serenity, Shayara’s eyes struggled to adjust to the shock. She wriggled out of Jarner’s grasp, threw the sheet over her naked body and shuffled toward the AI podium as a gold orb danced on top of it. The sphere shattered and out of the fragments a beautiful slender female of Atribulan decent looked upon Shayara with a warmth. “I am pleased that you find our accommodation comfortable,” it said, nodding towards the still unconscious Jarner. Shayara felt as though her cheeks were on fire when the AI turned her attention back to her. “The Emperor has requested your presence, at your earliest convenience of course,” the AI Construct said politely.
“Yes of course.” The light collapsed quickly leaving Shayara in the dimness once more.
She managed to rouse Jarner without too much effort, the time for dreaming was over and duty called for the pair of them regardless of whether they wished to enjoy the moment longer. They collected their gear and made haste across the living area. The AI had told them to take their time but Shayara had no intention of making such a powerful being wait, especially when they had come for his help. She didn’t have such an audacity in her. The lack of a guide this time however hampered their pace and it didn’t take long for them to get lost. An inquisitive engineer sent them in the right direction but even so it was sometime before they found the bridge and that made Shayara blush more than her little run in with the AI. As the Administrator came into view it was evident that the Emperor had already manifested himself. Shayara and Jarner bowed out of respect as he greeted them with a pained smile. The Emperor walked among them, flanked by two honour guards. Shayara was unsure whether this was common practice and whether they truly trusted their guests. “I appreciate your patience while your homes may be burning as we speak.” The harshness of his words bit hard and Shayara had to trouble herself not to speak out of turn. She wondered what had caused the lack of manners. “Usually the system should be allowed to run its course.” He paused as if discussing laboratory results over a swift lunch. “Having said that, the Votheen have proven themselves a unique threat and their crimes must be answered for. They threaten to rule this system and that kind of power we cannot commit. Even if it means meddling in our own experiments.” Shayara was suddenly more thankful than she had ever been but the logical part of her brain made her stop short of joy. The Atribulan seemed only concerned by the threat the Votheen may cause to them in the future, not the millions that may die because of them. She didn’t much care for their agendas as long as they helped.
“So you’ll assist us?” pressed Jarner who, not for the lack of trying, was getting immensely irritated by the manner in which the Atribulan were toying with their future. The Emperor nodded solemnly as he looked out the viewing window to the stars beyond.
“The Votheen will answer for their crimes before the day is out,” he promised as he once more released control of the Administrator who seemed clumsy as he regained control of his own body. “I’ll provide you with an escort to take you to the hangar where your crewmen and ship await your return. He has been very animated.”
The Pariah appeared comically tiny in the vast and generally sparse hangar. James waited, leant against the ship with a cigarette in his mouth. “Since when have you been a smoker?” Shayara asked trying to recall a single time he’d engaged in the activity and drew a blank.
“I quit years ago. Always kept a pack in my medical kit just in case of emergencies.”
“How cute, so this qualifies?” Jarner smirked.
“Possible extinction and two advanced alien races we didn’t know existed a month ago? Yeah, I’d say so,” he responded completely deadpan.
The remaining Votheen warships suffered a pounding as they attempted to flee the theatre of war. The Protector led the charge with its superior fire power, armour and technology which had all given it the edge on this outing. “Forward rail guns overheating, Admiral, and shield has drained below ten percent,” warned a concerned crewman from his post to the Captain’s immediate right.
“Stay on course! Not one escapes!” ordered the Admiral with conviction. From the corner of his eye all the Admiral’s drive fell away from him and he felt as helpless as a small child. The anomaly was small at this distance but the “Slip space rupture!” required no explanation. What followed did come as a surprise. Out of the void came a long angular dreadnought, pulsing with light. At the sight of it the Votheen attempted to do a double take, one pulling a manoeuvre so dangerous the vessel began to tear in half. The dreadnought used its energy to fire upon the Votheen capital ship. It cut through the shields and through the hull with ease, throwing debris from the hole it had caused on the opposite side. As the Admiral attempted to take in exactly what he was seeing his viewing window filled with stars, one of which pinged the Pariah’s IFF signature. The cavalry had arrived.