Star Trek: Defiant

"Queued" - Part Ten

Written by Laine Rael

Scott led them back the way he had come through a dizzying network of tunnels and passageways, transforming first into a wood elf, dark cloak drawn tightly around his head and shoulders. Jeffrey followed Scott closely. "How the hell did you find us?" Jeffrey whispered after a time.

"There is not sufficient time to explain," Scott said quietly. "Also, I did not have time to look for the fastest way ... this is the first route to the surface I found."

"We're not going back to the surface," Jeffrey said.

They paused. "If we have to fight our way out," Jeffrey said, "we're going to have to go through Q."

They looked at him. "I remember this from one of the novels," Jeffrey explained. "My character, at the end of the book, beheads Matron Baenre. I'm guessing I'll have to do the same."

"And you're thinkin' Q's gonna let you do that," Mak said sarcastically.

"I'm betting that's what he wants me to do. It's the challenge -- can we get through to him?" Jeffrey said.

The crew thought about this somberly. Getting back to Q would be no easy task, to be sure, and they might be injured or killed.

Finally Maerret spoke, breaking the silence. "Let's get him," he said.

"I will have to do it alone," Jeffrey said. "No help from anyone else."

"We'll watch your back, sir," Catrin said, and grinned as they raced on.

The group emerged at the side of the temple, near the spot where they had been captured. They hurried past, their footsteps sounding far too loud to their own ears, searching for the door.

Q was at the alter once again. He spun, eyes gleaming. "Guards!" he cried.

Their cover blown, they ran, searching for the entrance. Their hoods fell back from their heads as a stiff breeze started from a faraway tunnel. The group prepared for battle as they ran. Maerret drew his scimitars, Jeffrey drew his axe from over his shoulder, Mak gripped the warhammer in a death grip, Dan held his club high, Catrin brought her bow out, and Rael reached for her daggers. The click of loading crossbows was heard. Emeras tapped Rael and Catrin as they ran, pressing a small piece of twig into each of their hands. "Put this in your mouth and chew hard, but do not swallow it," she said. They popped the pieces into their mouths. Rael thought it tasted a bit like jendru nuts from home.

Emeras had given similar items to the others, and was chewing on a piece of the twig herself. It was from a native shrubbery that had been growing near the cave entrance. She had not known at the time why she had picked it, had not even known during the first attack what it was for.

As she ran, she was hit by a quarrel in her right thigh. She did not slow, and the poison did not affect her. Rael turned long enough to whip her golden-hilted dagger into the drow's chest. He fell, gasping. None of the surrounding drow seemed concerned in the least, and four more leveled tiny crossbows at her. She ran faster, catching one quarrel in her left side. Another sliced cleanly through her left legging and lacerated her upper thigh. She winced, but continued, shoving Emeras in front of her to keep her protected.

But Emeras needed no protection -- she had her rings back, and she was protected from the drow poison as the rest were. She pointed her left fist at the nearest drow, chanting softly. Catrin's arrow sliced through the darkness toward him, and motioned to Emeras to look up. A drow levitated above them, and was dropping slowly. In his hand was a short sword with jagged teeth rising from one side. The other side was thin and looked to be razor sharp. Emeras pointed her fist upward and completed the chant. A blue glow sizzled up from the ring and ice crystals spidered quickly up his body, freezing him with an open mouth of protest. The dead drow continued to levitate for a moment -- then, the spell expired just as the group passed him. The drow fell, shattering into thousands of pieces on the hard stone floor.

Guards were rushing in from all sides to surround them -- they all knew the penalty would be death for failure. Hundreds poured from countless corridors. Scott had acquired a drow crossbow and several quarrels and was taking down any threatening guards that happened to cross in front of the group. Mak had taken down several drow with his mighty warhammer, shattering skulls and chests alike, his weapon returning after impact in a blink. Maerret slaughtered a steady stream of drow that threatened to break through the center of the group, and Dan used his mighty club to knock out any approaching drow on the other side. Jeffrey picked up the slack with his double-bladed axe. Catrin's arrows blazed fiery paths through the city's sky, some so bright they illuminated the domed ceiling.

They burst through the entrance of the large temple, a thousand drow pouring in after them. They zigged and zagged -- to the left, to the left again, to the right. They continued toward the alter, faster, faster. The footsteps of hundreds followed in a whisper, filling the temple from all sides.

Mak fell behind suddenly. "What--" Rael said as Mak took up pace behind her.

"Not to worry, ladies," he said chivalrously, a boyish smile playing upon his lips. "Just tell me when," he called to Scott.

Emeras and Rael looked at each other, wondering what he was up to. A moment later came the cry. "Now!" Scott called.

Mak stopped dead in his tracks. Catrin gasped. "What are you ---" Mak swung the mighty hammer over his head to a nearby pillar.The raised image of a slender-legged spider rose from its surface. A feral cry escaped him as the hammer made contact.

One blow wasn't enough, and the drow were almost upon them. "Oo oi!" Dan cried, and rushed in next to Mak. The next blow was swung together, simultaneously. A rumbling began as the group rushed forward toward the alter as the back half of the temple fell on the hordes of approaching drow.

There was a stunned silence. The crew approached the alter.

* * *

Q chuckled as the group raced toward him. "Splendid!" he cried as they approached. More drow started to enter from passages on the sides of the alter. A few drow who had made it past the collapse tried to launch themselves into the path of the crew, but only succeeded in dying that much more quickly. Maerret's scimitars sang as metal clashed against bone.

Scott and Catrin's bows kept away the stream of drow approaching from the left, but it was clear they couldn't hold them for long. Dan helped as well, standing near the doorway and clubbing any who managed to avoid her arrows. Mak threw his warhammer time and time again, keeping the few dozen drow that had entered from the right tunnel at bay. One of Catrin's arrows connected squarely with the alter. The magical priestess/spider likeness began to flicker. Jeffrey rushed up the steps, straight at Q, with Catrin, Emeras and Rael close behind, facing the few remaining drow. Rael drew her silver-hilted daggar, but Catrin reached a hand out before she could throw it. "Wait," she said softly, gesturing to the alter. Rael turned with the rest to watch.

Q laughed once again as Jeffrey began the backswing of his mighty axe. "Splen-"

Jeffrey swung, severing Q's head cleanly from his borrowed body. Bright blood sprayed the alter crimson as Q's head rolled across the alter. It fell off the edge with a sickening plop. The drow priestess body crumpled, then disappeared in an ethereal mist, leaving only the black and purple robe behind.

After that, all that could be seen was a brilliant flash of light.

* * *

At the instant Jeffrey beheaded Q, a young Ocampan woman with dark, short hair inclined her head upward from the book she had been reading. Had she heard something? It was hard to tell. She listened for a few moments more before turning back to her reading.

* * *

Rael reappeared back in her office, the ice still solid in her tea. She blinked for a moment, feeling slightly disoriented. She looked back at the files that she had been studying, and began to read something that hadn't been there before ...

"I never thought females could be so ... vicious," Q purred from a couch near the door. "I was quite impressed."

"Should I say, 'Thank you?' Rael said, taking a sip of her tea.

"Perhaps you should, after reading what's on your terminal. It pertains to your fiance's condition ... something you might find interesting."

She turned back to the terminal, which suddenly went dead. Rael gritted her teeth and looked back at Q, who chuckled. He stood, and went to her side.

"You don't get to look at that until later," he said. "After all, who knows when you'll see me again? I was hoping we could spend some quality time together."

"I don't have time for this, Q," Rael said, rolling her eyes. "All I want to know for now is if Bishop and Tagana are safe and unharmed."

Q lost his grin. "Your crewmates are all perfectly well, although I fail to see the usefulness of those two ... or for that matter, most of your crew. I don't see why the continuum picked you at all ... although the good word I threw in couldn't have hurt."

"Why us?" Rael said directly, staring into his eyes.

"As I said, I thought you were interesting. I put in the good word; it was the continuum who decided you'd be next in our little experiment, if you will. I must say, you handled this game rather well ... don't disappoint me in the future." He turned as if to go, but seemed to think better of it. "In fact, why don't we start a new experiment right about .... now?" He snapped his fingers, and disappeared in a blaze of white light.

"Bridges to Laine," came a familiar voice over her combadge.

"I'm all right," Rael said.

"I'd like to see you on the bridge," he said. "It appears Q left us a little gift."

On the bridge of the Defiant stood a woman with dark, short hair and ears which were difficult to describe. None of the crew had seen anything like them. She looked quite disoriented. "What am I doing here?" she said to Jeffrey. "I was in my home reading ... what is this place?"

"You are on the starship U.S.S. Defiant," Jeffrey said gently. Noting the flash of white light just before her arrival, he said "And I'm betting you've come a long way."

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