"You'll be okay, ma'am." She said, nearly hyperventilating.

A shadow loomed overhead and one of the Imperatrixians raised the curved blade at the end of its nuclear reaper to hack into Eliza. The young aide turned her body and kicked out as the blade came down, directing the weapon into the corpse of the medic. The dead body parted easily beneath the weapon and loops of intestines spilled out. Eliza raised her assault rifle with her off hand and fired on full auto, raking the Imperatrixian almost uselessly with bullets. It grabbed Eliza by the face with one huge gauntlet and as it did she reached to her belt and pulled out her combat knife. It swung her to snap her neck, but she was quicker, working the blade up and into its wrist joint and nearly severing its hand.

It howled with rage and released Eliza. She landed with a grunt on Raylene's legs and rolled back to her feet. The Imperatrixian bellowed and swung its ponderous weapon down towards the small woman once again. This time Eliza was better prepared. She launched herself up and above the blade, slamming her upper body into the neck of the towering creature and toppling it onto its back. She swung her knife towards its throat but it slid off the armored gorget and nearly into her other hand. The Imperatrixian's hand closed around Eliza's arm with painful vice-like strength. She switched the blade to her free hand as it yanked and as it attempted to fling her off of its bulk she sunk her knife down and under the metal collar of the gorget.

The creature released her immediately and made a terrible choking sound as it flailed for the hilt of the knife. It gripped the weapon and tossed it away, slowly rose to its feet as Eliza steadied herself, and promptly collapsed back down on the ground. It wasn't dead, but it was obviously dying. Eliza pried Raylene's pistol from her tightly-clenched hand and fire a single shot into the creature's face. The Imperatrixian convulsed dramatically and dark blood began spreading out from its head like an ink stain.

Eliza took a deep breath, scooped up her assault rifle, and slammed another magazine home. The Conservator who had been with them limped over and Eliza could see blood darkening the cloth portions of the woman's uniform and a large shard of metal wedged into her thigh. A thin Latino woman joined them as well and fired a grenade into an Imperatrixian emerging from the now smoke-shrouded drop ship. Eliza realized with slight surprise that the woman wore no armor over the black uniform of the Sisterhood's outer circle. She was a simple technician, communications probably based on the thin hip pack connected to the large headset resting around her neck.

"We have to pull back," the Conservator shouted nervously. "We're dead meat out in the open like this."

"No." Eliza replied and slung her rifle over her shoulder.

With one hand the petite aide scooped the unconscious form of Raylene over her shoulder. Her muscles straining, Eliza crouched and retrieved Raylene's pistol with her free hand.

"We advance." Her high voice was deepened by resolve. "We are going to wipe them out, take their drop ship, and escape to save her."

"Are you crazy?!" The Conservator shouted and then immediately fired off three long bursts from her rifle. An Imperatrixian staggered back and then was struck by several high-caliber shots from another direction.

"Are you coming or are you running away scared?" Eliza snarled back.

She strode forward, her legs unsteady under the added weight of Raylene. The Conservator and the technician watched her move forward, uncertain of whether or not to follow the headstrong young woman. Three more Imperatrixian's emerged from the smoke their guns blazing at the women still behind cover. When they spotted Eliza walking fearlessly towards them they brought their nuclear reapers to bear. Eliza lifted the hummingbird slowly, almost wearily, and squeezed the trigger over and over until the gun stopped firing. All three Imperatrixians sprawled motionless on the ground.

The communications technician made the sign of the cross on her breast and charged after Eliza, followed closely by the hesitant Conservator and a handful of other survivors. The lone surviving Imperatrixian began to flee back to the drop ship as it fired wildly with its nuclear reaper. One of the women running behind Eliza was torn in half by tracers just as another woman connected with a shot to the Imperatrixian's head. The high caliber round failed to penetrate the alien's armored helmet, but the force of the impact snapped its neck and it flopped to its knees. A second high caliber round hit it in its shoulder guard and it toppled over sideways.

Eliza slid Raylene through the open side door of the drop ship and unslung her rifle. The drop ship's engines began to power up as more women piled into the passenger compartment. Inside the craft was red-lit and covered with dark tiles that seemed to be made from some form of ceramic material. Eliza headed towards the cockpit. The craft begin to lift from the ground, its engines screaming with thrust.

The co-pilot turned as Eliza approached and fired back at her with a huge pistol that discharged whistling teardrops of luminous red energy. The shots snapped and spread as they struck the tiles, slowly dissipating as a crackling red mist. One struck Eliza's right arm pauldron and tore it free from the securing straps. It sizzled and disintegrated before it hit the deck of the drop ship. The pilot and co-pilot wore thick crash helmets with no faceplate and Eliza exploited this fact by putting a well placed shot through the bridge of each of their noses. Gore painted the inside of the windscreen and dripped in thick strands from the drop ship's control surfaces.

With a jarring thump the craft dropped the few feet back down to the ground. Its landing struts groaned in complaint but held. Eliza dragged the pilot and co-pilot out of their seats and turned back to the women still climbing into the passenger section.

"I hope one of you knows how to fly." She shouted and then sagged weakly against the wall of the drop ship as the adrenaline drained out of her body

– Zack "Geist Editor" Parsons (@sexyfacts4u)

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