Chapter 3, part 2
There was a rustling sound, and Ezri quickly stowed her PCD back into a container around her waist. She saw something moving, something which looked like a bear dashed through the undergrowth in the distance.
“Did you see that?” said Nog, and he sounded a little rattled.
“Whatever it is will not stop us from advancing forwards!” said Ezri.
Taking the lead, she moved forwards on the dirty track, her rifle extended as she anticipated trouble. As she went deeper into the forest she heard rustling sounds, and she felt like she was being watched.
Jake and Nog were constantly checking behind to make sure they were not being followed, and even Holo seemed more agitated than usual, his eyes were penetrating everything in the nearby vicinity.
Suddenly a brown, scaly-like bear creature jumped out of a thick brush and struck Holo. The creature though went through Holo, and its front legs dug into the ground to try to slow itself down from its massive leap.
At once Jake and Nog fired round after round at the creature. With each hit the creature moaned in agony, and shuddered around on the ground, writhing with pain.
“Stop!” said Ezri, looking at the stricken creature. “It’s suffered enough already!”
Jake looked at Ezri with disbelieve. “That thing was going to kill us!”
“I know,” said Ezri, while she cautiously advanced upon the creature. “But its bad enough killing humanoids, I don’t want to be slaughtering animals as well!”
Holo walked over, and despite his lack of emotions there was a certain impatience about him. “Listen captain now is not the time to be fretting over ethics, we need to get moving!”
“You're right!” said Ezri, looking into the creatures wounded eyes. “But we use the stun setting for these-”
In a sudden motion the creature reared up, and swatted Ezri hard in the chest with one of its paws, the foot long talons ripped through Ezri’s armour. The creature was already onto Ezri before she even hit the ground. It then sank its teeth into her waist and shook its head, tossing her around against the ground.
The creature was then blasted into bloody pieces before Ezri’s very eyes. She remained still on the ground, gasping for breathe. Her rib cage felt completely broken as did her pelvis bone and she could not get up.
“Tut tut,” said Juanita, shaking her head. “Ezri's show of mercy nearly got her killed.”
“Stupid woman...” added Dallas, with a smirk.
Phaser fire then flew over her head, and she realised Apocalypse troopers were attacking. There was nothing she could do except lie there uselessly on the ground waiting for the Apocalypse enemies to finish her off.
Eventually the fighting died down, and Ezri heard hurried foot falls coming towards her. She saw Nog standing above her, and she noticed there were several phaser marks on his body armour.
“Captain,” said Nog, looking down at Ezri. “Are you still with us?”
“I am,” said Ezri weakly. “But I can barely move!”
She felt strong hands pick her up, and she realised Jake was getting her onto her feet.
“Just conserve your strength Ezri,” said Jake, holding her with one of his arms around the shoulders. “Holo will be in charge while you mend.”
Holo walked over his eyes gazing at Ezri’s wounds. “You see what I mean? You show mercy, and death and injury is your reward! It will take at least twenty minutes for your bones to fully heal. Those are twenty minutes where this team is vulnerable!”
“I don’t need a lecture!” retorted Ezri, glaring at Holo. She then chucked to Holo her PCD. “Here take it, and lead the way!”
Holo returned to the front, and walked at a slower pace along the dirty track. Nog took up the rear, he seemed extra watchful after what just happened. Jake supported Ezri, as she hobbled along.
“That was a close call,” observed Dallas.
“I thought the team were goners,” noted Juanita, sounding as if she wished Team UFP had died. “But they always seem to find a way to survive!”
Each step was painful, with agonising bouts of pain flaring up in her groin area and chest. Still her free hand clutched onto the rifle, her fingers rapped around the handle and the trigger. She felt so stupid letting her guard down like that, and Holo was absolutely right. Her moment of mercy had nearly cost her her life, that creature could have just as easily cut off her head with one swipe of its claws.
Now her own blood was smeared all over her chest armour, and she felt doubly stupid having Jake support her like this. It made Jake vulnerable to an ambush…
Sure enough two more of those bear-like creatures came out of the bushes, this time though Holo and Nog blasted the creatures to death without hesitation or mercy.
It was taking longer to cut through this jungle, and Ezri wished this part of the course would end soon.
Another wave of Apocalypse combat droids beamed in, and Ezri froze in horror. Before she knew it, Jake had unceremoniously thrown her to the ground, while he dashed to a nearby tree for cover.
Ezri managed to get her hands out just in time to break the fall onto the leafy and damp ground. Still when she landed it felt like her chest had split open in agony. Ignoring the pain, she straightened out her rifle, steadying it with her right hand.
She took aim and two of her shots penetrated straight through a combat droid’s chest. It fell to the ground, completely inanimate. Some moments later the danger had passed, as she saw Jake come over to pick her up, she decided to try on her own to get onto her feet.
Somehow she did it, and through the pain, she used her hands to raise herself up, just enough to get into a crouching position. Finally she slowly lifted herself up, her legs muscles straining due to the slowness of her motion. The pain in her chest and pelvis flared up, before receding when she was standing up.
Jake had now reached her, but he seemed to realise that she wanted to walk unassisted, and stood their waiting for her.
Taking a tentative step, Ezri realised she could walk, and now that she could walk she felt fully in charge of the whole situation. “Well stop looking at me and get moving!” she shouted.
At once Jake, Nog and Holo got back into position, Jake though still stood by Ezri’s side and he looked a little awkward.
“I’m sorry for pushing you over like that, but there was no other option.”
“It doesn’t matter,” replied Ezri, as she had no hard feelings about the matter. “You saved both our lives by doing that…”
The more she walked, the more the pain started to disappear away. Still it was a tense time travelling through the jungle, after fighting through several ambushes by Apocalypse soldiers, and repeated attacks by those scaly bear-like beasts. However the jungle finally cleared revealing a wide, grassy valley.
By this point Ezri's injuries were now fully healed, and she once again took the lead, proceeding cautiously down the gravelly track. Some metres ahead were two hovertanks, they sort of looked like miniature Romulan warbirds in design. Except at the top was a formidable looking turret, with a four metre long barrel protruding outwards.
“And that’s it!” exclaimed Dallas. “Team UFP have navigated through the jungle. Now comes the interesting part as they travel up the valley to reach the temple!”
” came Max’s voice from Ezri’s earpiece.
Ezri ignored this, as she was more preoccupied with the hovertanks. “I have a question Max, how do we use these hovertanks?”
“Wait a moment,
” said Max.
While Max must have been reviewing the specifications for these hovertanks, Ezri walked around one of them. She examined the sleek blue armour, and the thruster unit at the back of the hovertank. This hovertank was unbelievably streamlined and Ezri thought the design looked very cool.
On the second side, she noticed some handles, and she realised they must have been for walking up to an access hatch. “I’ve found where we can get inside,” she said out aloud. “Nog you're with me inside this hovertank. Holo you team up with Jake…”
Ezri climbed up the hovertank first, and halfway up the hovertank she noticed an access hatch. There seemed to be no apparent handle, so Ezri used her tricorder to interface with the hovertank’s computer system. From there she remotely opened the hatch. It jolted outwards slightly with a slight hiss.
Fully opening the hatch, she climbed inside the rather cramped interior. There was just enough room for two, and she took the front seat. Once inside she removed her helmet, and put on a special optical headset. This headset closely resembled a Jem’Hadar headset for guiding one of their vessels.
It was rather disconcerting seeing with one eye a completely clear image of the outside, and with the other seeing the cockpit and the controls. From the outside she saw a wide and long valley, it was truly beautiful, with a river running through the middle, and jungles running along the perimeter of the flood plains.
However she was more interested in mastering the hovertank controls. The console closest to her knees, had a joystick, instinctively Ezri leaned over and pulled the base of the joystick. The joystick platform moved towards her, while the platform was supported by two thin cylindrical metallic beams attached to the underbelly of a console.
As Dallas waited, he was absentmindedly spinning his padd around the desk with his finger, and he looked very bored. “To all you watching please be patient as Team UFP tries to master the hovertank controls.”
“Well they better learnt fast!” said Juanita, who had taken out a mirror with one hand, and with the other was applying lipstick to her mouth.
“A bit cramped!” exclaimed Nog, and he closed the hatch, making the images on the screens and the cockpit lightening seem even brighter.
“I don’t care how cramped it is!” replied Ezri. “Right now we need to learn these controls and fast!”
Nog looked at several consoles and screens surrounding him, some were to his side, while others were hung from the ceiling. Like Ezri he to had a headset. “Looks like I’m in charge of weapons and maintenance of this vehicle’s systems!”
“So I must be in charge of driving and keeping an eye for what’s around us,” Ezri commented.
She shook her head out of frustration, this would be much easier if she knew what every control did, instead of finding out by trial and error.
A loud bang, followed by a shudder, occurred. Ezri jerked her head around, wondering what just happened.
“Sorry,” said Nog, who was wincing. “Looks like I found the controls for firing the turret.”
“Well next time warn me,” said Ezri irately. “It scared the hell out of me!”
Returning back to the matter of the controls, she threw caution to the wind and tilted the joystick forwards, while her right hand pressed on what appeared to be the accelerate command. She felt the hovercraft move forwards, and she realised there were no gears to this vehicle, just a simple accelerate and brake system.