Chapter 4, part 1
Day 3, 1730 hours
Coplin was sat at his desk, and he was constantly fidgeting with the holo projector device, spinning it around between his fingers. A pulse throbbed in his neck, and his impatience seemed to be increasing, as he was waiting for someone, but they were obviously late.
The doors to Coplin’s office opened revealing a heavily armoured human-looking man. His orange and blue striped helmet was tucked between his arm, and when he walked there was confident and arrogance in every stride he took. But this was Tesla X, Apocalypse’s most well known gladiator, he was in all senses king of the hill.
Coplin was looking at Tesla X, his eyes sweeping from the pointy black boots, dull orange leather trousers, black body armour to the cocky looking face.
When Tesla X reached the desk, he stood there looking down upon Coplin. “Make this quick Coplin.”
A smile came instantly to Coplin’s face, and he immediately stopped fidgeting with the holo projector. “Well far from me keeping Apocalypse's most popular gladiator from his busy schedule…”
The smile became very fixed on Coplin’s face. “I just have one question for you.”
“Alright shoot,” said Tesla X as he curled some of his black hair with a finger.
At once Coplin used the holo projector, and on a illuminated plate on top of his desk, various objects appeared. “How would you like to buy an Tesla X action figure, Tesla X phaser rifles, collectors cards, holofilms, game rights?”
Tesla X nodded in a self-satisfied way.
Coplin pressed some more commands on the holo projector, and an image of Tesla X floated above the plate. “Tesla X is the perfectly tailored celebrity, he is the mainstream icon in the Apocalypse media.”
With a quick flick Coplin disregarded the holo projector and the image vanished. The smile had disappeared from his face and it was replaced with something very ugly. “So tell me,” Coplin snarled, “how come I can't even give this stuff away?”
With a wide sweep of his hand, Coplin gestured to the boxes of merchandise stacked all around the room.
Tesla X fidgeted with his hair a bit more, and his arrogant demeanour faded away. “Well er...”
“Wait let me answer that,” said Coplin, while he got to his feet. “Let me take a wild speculative guess.”
“It's because Apocalypse fans can't stand Tesla X!” Coplin shouted, while he came around the desk to cut Tesla X down to size. “He's an egomaniacal, self-absorbed, pompous shit! With all the charisma and charm of a Nausicaan thug!”
Tesla X’s mouth was open a little, and he seemed wounded and a little indignant. “So what you're getting at here?”
In a furious action, Coplin picked up a Tesla X action figure, and grabbed onto with a grip that nearly broke the figure. “In case you haven't noticed I'm been swamped with worthless merchandise. All of Apocalypse's customers, from little Billies and Suzies to mindless gore-hungry buffoons, are protesting with their latinum!”
Now Coplin was positively howling. “They're flocking to the Ferengi Alliance and our other business competitors to spend their money on toys and holosuites, and I'm completely cut out of the market!”
Coplin chucked the action figure with considerable force against the office window behind his desk. His eyes were bulging with rage, and he took a step closer to Tesla X, squaring him up. “Now if you had spent half as much time on advertising as you do polishing your trophies and hooking up prostitutes, we would have cornered the market a long time ago!”
“What a load of tosh,” replied Tesla X confidently. “My campaigns are highly viewed, and the crowd loves me in the arenas. So how do I have a popularity problem?”
It looked as if Coplin’s eyes were going to burst with exasperation and rage. “Because you give the mob carnage, but that's all they like about you,” said Coplin, and he paced around to the back of his desk, and came to a stop, his hands gripping the chair tightly. “There is nothing they can relate to, because they all think Tesla X has his head stuck up his ass as he walks around like the ruler of the universe! Now you better improve your public image and sell our produce otherwise I'll find someone who will!”
“Good luck,” said Tesla X, leering horribly. “The only gladiator who is even half as popular as me is Hellfire, but he has expressed zero interest in becoming Apocalypse's mascot!”
“Don't push your luck, everyone is expendable,” Coplin hissed, he paused briefly and then smiled at Tesla X in a nasty manner. “In fact I'm already considering a replacement for you. How does Team UFP and their leader Ezri Dax sound to you?”
This above all else seemed to shock Tesla X immensely. “That Trill bitch a mascot?” he spat, his mouth contorted with disgust. “You're out of your mind!”
“Audience ratings spiked massively during team UFP's debut match. The crowd see something in that team, and in Ezri, they probably think it's the classic good guys vs the bad guys... Team UFP fighting against the odds from the all-powerful Apocalypse!”
Tesla X briefly laughed, before shaking his head in disbelieve. “They only survive because of their teamwork, take away Ezri and they're nothing!”
“And you're just a one-man show with overpowered weapons,” retorted Coplin, each word was laced with venom. “The crowd want variety and they want an interesting challenge. Team UFP provides that in droves!”
Danger flashed in Tesla X’s eyes, and in a symbolic gesture he placed his helmet on the desk, and placed both hands on the table. He leaned over, teeth bared. “No one threatens my position not even team UFP! Give me a match against them and I'll cut them down to size!”
Having made his point, Tesla X scooped up the helmet and removed his hands from the desk. “It'll be bloody and when it's over Ezri and the rest of that rag-tag bunch will be begging me to kill them!”
“I might just consider that...” said Coplin sarcastically, he placed a finger to the tip of his chin, matching Tesla X’s superior stare. “Who knows they may even kill you...”
An angry ‘huh’ sound came from Tesla X, before he whirled around, his back to Coplin, and walked out of the office.
Coplin remained behind his desk, he was frowning deeply, and his nostrils flared in and out with each breathe he took. There was no mistaking the loathing in Coplin’s eyes, and it seemed Coplin would like nothing better than to strangle Tesla X with his own bare hands…
Day 4, 0100 hours
It was late in the night and Kira suddenly stirred when she thought she heard a sound. The sound repeated and she realised it was the door chime. Wondering who was rude enough to make such an impromptu call, she got out of bed, left her room and headed down the corridor to the living room.
She straightened out her orange nightdress with a quick tug of her hand, the door chimed again and Kira could not believe the impatience of this person. Pressing a command on the panel, the door opened revealing a grim-faced Quark. “Quark do you have any idea what time this is?”
Surprisingly Quark looked apologetic. “I'm sorry to disturb you colonel, but I thought you might be interested in this.”
He passed to Kira a data rod.
“What is it?” she asked, briefly looking at the rod.
“A recording of an Apocalypse match. I’ve spent the last two months trying to hack into their subspace frequencies, only tonight did I finally get lucky; they keep changing the frequencies you see. Anyway while going through the Apocalypse holovision channels I spotted this match. It features Ezri, Jake, Holo and Nog, so at least we know they're alive for the time being.”
Kira’s heart suddenly started beating quite hard, she was inwardly shocked to hear this, and could not believe such good news could come from a bearer such as Quark. “Thank you Quark for this...” she murmured, additionally grateful Quark had given the data rod free of charge.
“They took my nephew from me,” said Quark, looking stony-faced. “So I'm just as concerned as you are about their safety. I should warn you this footage is very... graphic at times.”
“I'm not a little child Quark,” replied Kira indignantly. “I've seen more than my fair share of violence and gore.”
“It's just a warning… One more thing if I do get further recordings, would you be interested in seeing them?”
“I would,” said Kira grimly.
“Well goodnight colonel,” said Quark in a respectful voice.
Quark walked along a corridor, leaving Kira standing there by the doorway. She was not sure she wanted to watch the recording, but she wanted more than Quark’s word that Ezri, Jake, Holo, Max and Nog were alive. She would only believe Quark when she had seen the recording with her own eyes.
Having made up her mind, she walked over to her desk, inserted the data rod into an input port on her console. Sitting down she waited some moments for the recording to be uploaded.
Finally on the blank black screen, it displayed a still image of the recording. Pressing a few commands close to the screen, Kira played the recording. It went straight to what she presumed was the beginning of the match. Sure enough she saw four heavily armoured figures on one side of a huge square platform, surrounded by molten lava. They were fighting off various robots, and taking cover behind certain thin red blocks.
The match was unbelievably fast paced, suddenly there was a close up shot of one of the gladiators and despite the helmet and the visor there was no mistaking that face. It was Ezri, and instantly Kira paused the recording just to look at Ezri’s face. There was no doubt about it this was Ezri, though Kira noticed her friend’s face was very dirty and strained.
Kira could only attribute this to the harsh training Ezri must have been put through. Having seen enough of Ezri, she resumed the recording. The longer it went on, the more anxious and disgusted Kira felt. Though she was glad to see Jake, Nog and Holo, her relief quickly turned to horror. It was bad enough seeing Jake get injured, but the commentators made everything sound ten times as worse.
When she saw Ezri get mowed down by the plasma turret, Kira’s mouth fell open in horror. Seeing Ezri get blasted backwards, with the blood pouring out, was grotesque for Kira. It was even more grotesque and morbid when there were replays of Ezri getting the life blasted out of her. What was made it so horrible for Kira was seeing the pain and shock in Ezri’s face.
Finally the match ended, but Kira just wanted to know what had happened to Ezri. The commentators had not said Ezri was dead, and when the camera suddenly zoomed in on an Ezri who was shakily getting up onto her feet, Kira could not believe it. Ezri should have been dead and yet… Kira could only deduce there was some substance inside of Ezri that healed injuries.
The recording abruptly ended and Kira suddenly became more aware of her senses. She had been so transfixed on the match that she had not felt the sick feeling in her stomach or the rapid beating of her heart. In some ways she wished she had not seen the recording, because now she knew what her colleagues and friends faced, it made her feel even more worried for their safety.
At least Max was safe and sound as he was Team UFP’s ‘mission controller’. But that was Kira’s only consolation, she was not sure she wanted to watch another match. Perhaps it was best that Quark simply told her the outcome and that Team UFP had made it safe and sound for another day…