Busy setting up the transport enhancers, Corporal Ryan had taken little notice of what was going on around him. Concentrating on his task, he trusted his colleagues to do their jobs and let him get on with his. Even so he could not help but be conscious of the Kainde Amedha drones pressed against the walls and exits of the cavern. No longer attacking for fear of endangering their queen, they remained quiescent but watchful as they waited quietly, hoping for the invaders to make the one fatal mistake that would allow them to act. Only the occasional hiss or scrabble of claws betrayed their malevolent presence.
The marine touched his communicator. "Pattern enhancers in place. Stand by for transport."
"Endeavour standing by." The voice that came back over his radio was that of the Chief engineer. On board the ship Qeytok had been busy double checking all the calculations, ensuring that the transport system was in full working order and that there would be no unfortunate accidents caused by the temporal eddies or any other unexpected anomaly He wanted no unpleasant surprises on his watch. "Transporters ready to engage."
The Yautja ship reported in a moment later, the deep, almost baritone voice little more than a growl. His sparring session with the Klingon General over, Rakai'in was all business now. "Yeyinde standing by. We are ready to receive the queen." The Elite Yautja knew what he had to do and was ready to act. As soon as transport was complete and the queen was safely ensconced in her new cage deep in the bowels of the ship, he would engage the refrigerants and begin the procedure of freezing the Kainde Amedha queen, putting her into stasis for the long journey to her new home.
The third reply came from Ch'Tang. "All weapons primed and ready," Kreltek reported crisply. "We await instructions to open fire." The Klingon battle-cruiser had moved into low, geosynchronous orbit. As soon as the queen was secured and the team were clear of the site, they would launch a deadly barrage of disruptor fire and photon torpedoes, obliterating the caverns and everything in them.
Ryan had wondered why, if they were going to blow the cave up anyway, it had been necessary to destroy the egg chambers. Victor had explained it to him though. The eggs were tough and could lie dormant for years. They could not risk even a single viable egg remaining unharmed under a pile of rubble. The survival of just one egg would mean they had wasted their time and the whole cycle would begin again. That thought was enough to make the hardened marine shiver.
Checking his work one last time, he glanced up at his captain, standing by the side of the Predator Elder. "Everything is ready, Captain. All ships report ready for action."
Kehlan turned her gaze on him. "Understood. Well done, Ryan."
Nodding in acknowledgement, the marine turned his attention to assisting his colleagues as they set explosive charges at key locations around the cave. They would detonate when Ch'Tang opened fire, helping to ensure that everything inside would be not just buried but completely destroyed. He heard the queen scream as the Elder ducked underneath her massive body and cut her free of the egg sac. The sound was high pitched and painful to his ears and he winced as it resonated through his body but otherwise took little notice. It stopped and for a blessed moment there was silence in the cave. Then George's voice. "Kay-lan.. NOW!"
Out of the corner of his eye, Ryan saw his captain move forward. Then all hell broke loose.
The captured queen pulled back slightly, causing the ropes binding her to slacken just a little. Then, with a furious screech of defiance she summoned all her strength and lunged forward, determined to get to the hated enemy in front of her and destroy it. The ropes snapped tight again but her temporary retreat had given her just enough manoeuvring space to catch the Predators by surprise and allowed her just enough leeway to snatch at her target.
Obeying his finely honed instincts, George reacted like lightning. The queen's teeth within inches of the surprised Klingon woman, the Elder dived for Kehlan with a speed he had not exhibited since the far off days of his youth, shoving her roughly out of the way and turning to engage the queen. The movement brought him well within range of those deadly double jaws. His blades bit deep into her exoskeleton, but the queen was too angry too take any notice of the pain. Her outer jaws opened wide and as she screeched her fury to the stars, the inner jaws shot out sinking deeply into George's flesh. The outer set followed a moment later and it was George's turn to roar in pain.
Rearing back on her haunches, the queen lifted the Elder into the air, shaking him like a rat before tossing him aside and lunging again for the small female he had risked himself to protect.
George's shove had been anything but gentle and the force of it had knocked Kehlan off her feet. Swearing as she hit the ground, she rolled and came up again, mekleth in one hand, the shiny communicator still grasped tightly in the other. Seeing the queen release her grip on George, Kehlan brandished her weapon, screaming obscenities at the queen… anything to attract her attention away from the fallen Elder and give him the time he needed to recover.
As the drama developed around him, Kihr'yende was moving to assist his subordinates, shouting orders as he did so. "Cjit! Victor, grab that pauk-de rope and get it under control." The Yautja captain never even noticed that in the chaos he had used the Elite warrior's Ooman name. "Da'rian, get her head restrained."
One of the marines hesitated, clearly considering the possibility of leave his post to assist. "H'ko! Ooman, carry on with your task. The explosives must be readied."
Accepting that the big Predator was in control and knew what he was doing, the marine gave a curt nod and turned back to his work, at the same time casting a slightly nervous look at the gathered drones. So far, they had remained still, quietly watching their queen's monumental struggle for freedom and vengeance. If she succeeded in freeing herself, he knew they would attack in droves. For now they remained on the side-lines, watching and waiting.
The Yautja warriors did not waste vital energy in speech as they struggled to regain control of the queen. Sinews strained as they fought to keep the bonds taut. The ropes must not be allowed to slacken again and give the queen further room to manoeuvre. She had already caught them by surprise and the results were disastrous. She would not catch them out like that a second time. All of them knew what was at stake should the queen succeed in freeing herself.
Keeping a wary eye on the proceedings, helping Ran with the explosives, Cordero winced at the screeching of talons dragging against rock as the Predators dug their clawed feet into the rocky ground. The higher pitch of the sound was clearly audible above the screams of the xenomorph queen and she fancied she could smell traces of smoke from the friction. Strongly reminiscent of fingernails being raked across a blackboard, it was a sound that had always made her shudder. Coming from a relatively privileged background, she'd had a governess as a child and the woman had delighted in using that technique whenever she felt the attention of her student was wandering.
George was momentarily aware of the sensation of flying before the rocky ground rose up to meet him. He hit the ground, the impact knocking the breath out of him and sending pain shooting through his body. Slowly and with some effort he got to his feet, turning to check on the welfare of his old friend. She seemed fine and he was pleased to see that Kihr'yende had taken charge and appeared to have everything under control. His heart pounded in his chest and it hurt to breathe. No doubt he had damaged his ribs in the fall, maybe even pierced a lung. Not to mention the blood that streamed from multiple wounds as a result of the queen's teeth and claws. The Elder sighed. He took a step and then another one, his movements slow and pain filled. He would have taken a third but his body would not respond to his commands. He could not remember ever feeling this tired… so tired…
Slowly… against his will… the Elder's warm, amber eyes slid closed and he fell.