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Teresa M Shafer - For books that kindle thought and ignite the imagination!
Chapter 15
Xena and Ares
Ares and Xena struck and parried and neither landed a blow, not even an occasional fist across the face or kick to the stomach. They didn’t seem to be applying themselves to the confrontation. But their eyes often strayed to the men and women that were fighting and dying all around them.
 Xena was merely occupying the God of War long enough for her Amazons to refuel the ship. She should never have come here. Many of these women were going to die for her today so she could satisfy a whim, so she could scratch a self-serving itch that should have been scratched two thousand years before. The only thought going through Xena’s mind was the thought of retreat and saving as many of these women as she possibly could. But they were outnumbered and on foreign soil. Ares knew that and that’s why he wasn’t pressing her. She had already lost. He just needed to wait until she realized that fact.  
But just as Xena recognized the position in which she had placed these brave women, a voice came out of nowhere and tickled her ear. “Hey Warrior Woman, I see that you’ve landed. Are you alright?” It was Dan. ‘How the hell…?’ Xena asked herself… and Margo had no idea, not that Xena was asking her but… Margo did have some information that helped Xena considerably. ‘If he’s near he can pin point our location from my implant and he can set up a strafing run to buy us sometime.’ The image of a subcutaneous implant that was installed when Margo had joined the Marines came to mind and the image of a strafing run was added in after the first. ‘Thanks Margo… good idea.’
During all of this she had managed to continue her half assed battle with Ares. “Dan please tell me that you are near.” She fervently hoped that he had found a way to circumvent Gabrielle’s orders.
“Baby, I’m about five seconds out ‘cuz I could never last for an eight second ride… just ask my wife.”
 “Can you locate me and do a strafing run or something ‘cuz we’re pinned down and we need to get out of here.” Xena was trying to keep her voice low and when she spoke she was spinning away from Ares. With any luck at all he had not heard what she had said. But his face told her that her luck was not what it used to be.
“Taken to talking to yourself Xena? That’s not a good sign you know?” Ares almost sounded like that’s what he wanted to believe. Obviously nobody had informed him that some of Mars’ Marines were flying in Earth’s airspace.
 “We’re on our way Xena, hold tight.” Dan’s message was quick. He had heard part of what Ares had said and knew by the scans that she really was in quite a predicament.
To Ares Xena said, “It’s only really bad when you start answering yourself.” Xena let out a battle cry and flipped over Ares. She had seen all she needed to see from that view. The two women that had been tasked with refueling the ship had joined the battle. That meant that they needed to go… now! So she pressed the attack with abandon.
At first Ares was taken by surprise by her sudden change of attitude but he recovered quickly and pressed his own attack. The fighting between them grew furious and the fighters around them were infected by their zealousness. Many of the Amazons abandoned their pulse rifles. They threw their rifles onto their backs and pulled their long knives, swords and Sais and met Earth’s Marines in close combat. This is what they were good at, this is what they had learned since they could walk and it was here that they gained the advantage.
Xena drove Ares back off of the dock and her Amazons drove Earth’s Marines back as well. It was a short lived advance for them. They were hopelessly outnumbered and other Marines began firing upon them from hidden places amongst the many offices that faced the docks as soon as they disengaged from the Earthlings. Amazons began to go down quickly.
“Retreat!” Xena yelled into the sound of blaster fire and screaming women. “Retreat, grab your sisters and retreat to the shuttle!” She pulled her own hand gun and began firing at random at the window and cracks in the structure before her. She even hit something from time to time and she was slowly backing up.
Many of the Amazons had grabbed one of their sisters and were retreating but five sisters knelt behind boxes and bodies and began firing into the structure as well. “I said retreat!” Xena yelled at one of them.
“Not without you. So you better get moving or we’re all going to die out here.” The woman’s name was Jennifer. Xena and Gabrielle had met her at the Museum. Xena didn’t remember her joining the strike team. “Not all of the seats on the shuttle had unfriendly replacements.” She answered the question that was written on Xena’s face.
Xena looked back at the building in front of her. Someone was still shooting from cracks in the windows and holes in the walls. Ares stood unmoving in front of the building. In one hand he still held his sword, the other hand was held up to Xena in the ever present silent offer for her to join him. She sneered at his gesture and took a step back. It seemed like an eternity had passed but it had only been seconds since she had spoken to Dan.
Just then four squadrons of fighter jets roared down from the out of the sun. Earth was unprepared for such a maneuver. They did not fire upon the ships. But the ships did fire upon the Earth. They drew a fiery line between Xena and Ares and made an impressive show of force.
Both Ares and Xena fell backwards and the guns from both sides fell silent. “Run!” Xena screamed and this time no-one argued. They ran and as they ran they grabbed any fallen Amazon that they saw. There weren’t that many left, their sisters had collected most of them. But Xena was left to grab the handle on the back of a little girl’s armor and drag her body from the field. The girl was taken from her a good ten feet from the shuttle. Xena stopped and looked back at the field. She could see no other Amazons. But through the smoke and fire she could see the angry face of Ares. She could hear the shuttle engines start and her sisters were telling her to climb on board. The shuttle was lifting from the ground when Xena finally jumped through the open doorway.
The fighting on the ground was done, now it was up to Major Dan Baldridge to get them home. The shuttle threw the occupants around the cabin for several minutes while the pilot evaded the anti-aircraft batteries that had belatedly been deployed against them.
Outside the ship they could see the Martian Fighters dodging and spinning as well. But they never fired upon the ground again. They weren’t here to start a war they were here to retrieve their property and their people. Xena wondered if Earth’s Government would see the difference.
Minutes later she knew the answer to that question… they would not be given a choice… Ares had launched some of Earth’s Fighters to intercept them. Whether it was done with or without the permission of the Government was irrelevant at this point. It was done. The war was begun.
Earth’s Fighters did not reach them until they were well away from Earth’s atmosphere, Dan was thankful for that small favor. He did not relish the thought of firing upon the surface or anywhere near civilians. But to fire upon other warriors that he could live with… well… it still left a mark but it had to be better than killing an innocent. Didn’t it?
Once the battle was joined Dan had little time to think about the consequences. He simply fought to save his command from meeting their maker this day. In his mind there was no such thing as a good day to die, neither was there a good day to kill but there was a good day to survive and go home to your family… and he was going to make sure that for his command, today was that day. So he fought and he killed and he gave commands and his people killed.
 They quickly passed from Earth’s airspace to Luna’s airspace and instead of being free of their attackers they were plagued with more. Luna’s Governor had decided to take the side of Earth and he launched three squadrons to intercept the shuttle. Dan’s squadrons were horribly outnumbered now and it seemed like they were losing two ships for every one of theirs. Regardless of the numbers they were losing.
 Luna’s ships were like a swarm of angry wasps that made a beeline towards the little defenseless shuttle. Dan pulled his ship around and put himself between the shuttle and the swarm. He ordered what was left of his command to do the same and told the shuttle to get out and push if it would make them go any faster. Somewhere the pilot of the shuttle found another squirrel to throw into the engine because it put on a small burst of speed and evaded the majority of the oncoming swarm.
The Martian forces fought like they were possessed. Their ships dipped and spun and did back flips and they destroyed a lot of the enemy Fighters. The shuttle occupants watched the ships bob and weave and chase each other in intricate patterns that were accentuated by the light show of their rounds. While they watched from their tiny windows the shuttle scooted away from the main fighting and tried to stay ahead of any stray wasps. But they were chased relentlessly.
Dan saw his life pass before him when he saw the blinking light on his ship’s console. Someone had locked onto him. He threw the ship into a spin and did a backflip and even caught a glance of the ship that had him in their sights. But he could not shake the blinking red light. That’s when he knew, short of a miracle in a few seconds his life would be over. He glanced at the picture that he kept by the canopy. It was of his wife and children. Mentally he said ‘Not today baby. Nobody’s gonna bury me today.’
 Dan turned his ship towards the enemy once again. He caught the guy napping, the man should have fired when he had had the chance but now Dan was going to make him chase him again. Dan threw his ship into making smaller and smaller circles forcing his enemy to do the same. They spun and spun, around and around as if they were chasing each other around a huge tree trunk, until he and the offending Earthling were literally chasing each other’s tails and he opened fire. Dan kept firing until he unnerved the man and he made a small but exploitable mistake and one of Dan’s rounds clipped his tail fin. From there on it was all over for the Earthling.
Dan glanced back up at the picture of his wife and children, ‘Told ya girl, ya can’t get rid of me that easy.’ He looked away from the picture and out the clear view of the canopy and he saw at least four squadrons of Martian Fighters joining the fracas.  He let out a heavy breath and looked at the picture again and smiled.
 “Mind if we join the party? Are there enough party favors to go around?” Major Dale Toledo asked.
 “There are plenty thank you and if you don’t mind my asking what the hell took you so damn long?” Dan couldn’t be happier to see them.
 “Sorry my friend we came as soon as we were able.” Major Toledo did sound a bit ashamed for taking so long.
“It’s damn good to see you. Now let’s kick some ass and go home.” Dan flipped his ship over and headed back towards the fight all the while assessing the situation and giving orders. First things first… where had his little shuttle run off too? Once he had it in sight he ordered a maternity blanket for it and had it ushered away from the fighting. Then he joined the battle himself.
 Inside the shuttle the survivors had strapped down the dead and wounded and were hanging on for dear life while watching the show outside.
 Xena was beside herself with anxiety. She wanted to be a part of the defense but there was nothing that she could do to help. So she went to one of the wounded. But what she found confused her and Margo was little help, what she said made no sense whatsoever. “Where’s the blood?” She asked of no-one in particular.
A wounded Amazon answered her; she was cradling her right arm. It was obviously badly injured but there was no blood and she didn’t seem to be in any pain. “It’s our new under gear. It’s made from med cloth.” Xena’s eyes told her that she needed to explain. “It hasn’t been released yet for sale. It’s a cloth that attunes itself to the person that it is in the most contact with, so in the case of our clothing that would be us. It does that so that if we get injured it can help us.”
 “Oh for God’s sake April, I know what you’re talking about and I can’t follow you! Xena, med cloth contains three things, a clotting agent, an anesthetic and an antiseptic. When it comes into contact with hemoglobin it seeks out the source and it infiltrates the wound. First it numbs it, then it cleans it and then it stops the bleeding and seals it from further contamination. Our under gear was designed to react to our blood specifically, because on a battle field we can get splattered quite a bit and we don’t want our clothing reacting to someone else’s blood. The damn things are working just as they were designed. All of our wounded are doing well.”
 Xena was looking at how April’s shirt had melted into her skin and sealed the blaster burn that covered most of her right arm. “How do they get it out?”
“They have a chemical wash in all the hospitals that will wash it all away. But it can stay until they’re ready to operate or whatever they’re going to do.”
 Xena nodded. “Handy stuff.” Now she really had nothing to do but wait and wonder how angry Gabrielle is going to be when she got back to Mars.