When she was through the gateway, her eyes beheld a truly gigantic courtyard. By her estimates it was two hundred by two hundred metres wide, and a good portion of that space was consumed by what could only be described as a huge steep pit. At the top was a ring of columns lining the perimeter of the pit, while the flagstones filled the rest of the courtyard.
She glanced to her left and saw numerous swords, lances and axes held up on the walls to the courtyard shelter, which had a steep sloping roof and columns to support it. She sincerely hoped such crude weaponry was simply for decorative purposes only.
“And now we have the main feature of the match!” said Dallas with a commanding voice. “Team UFP against the Leviathan of Dollebia!”
Juanita was now leering unpleasantly as she said, “Watch as the leviathan stings them with its ferocious tail, bites them with fangs dripping with acid, and finally digests Team UFP to a slow agonising death!”
“Now now Juanita,” reprimanded Dallas, “let’s not get ahead of ourselves! I have a feeling they may just surprise us all and slay this beast!”
“You want to make a bet?” asked Juanita, she said trying to dare Dallas to back down. “If Team UFP lives you’ve got yourself a date, but if they die you have to clean up this Sautian’s feet!”
“Which is not recommended folks,” said Dallas in an oily voice, “but I accept your bet. I’ve been wanting to date you for months!”
“Those two are sick!” exclaimed Nog.
“Who cares?” said Ezri angrily. “We should be-”
She stopped talking when she heard the distant sound of falling rocks come from the pit. Had the leviathan smelled out the organic members of her team this quickly? Or had it sensed the team’s vibrations on its hunting grounds?
“Let’s fan out and slowly approach the pit!”
Very carefully she and her team mates advanced, Ezri expected this leviathan to literally jump out of the pit at any second. Still she moved forwards, perhaps if she could reach the pit, the team would spot the leviathan and shoot at it before it came any closer. With each step she passed by a concentric series of broken up stone circles, where on top grew various flowering plants. Perhaps all the metre high stone walls would give a bit of cover…
What was odd about this were the foot long orange spikes that were littered all over these walls. She had no idea what their purpose was, but the optimistic part of her hoped that these spikes would somehow assist her against the leviathan.
She became very conscious of her body, each footstep she took, her breathing. Were these going to be the last few minutes of her life? Don’t think about dying now!
There was some more commotion which occasionally came from the pit, and each time it grew a little louder. The leviathan must have been climbing up the pit, but it was definitely taking its time.
Finally Ezri reached the pit, and looked down. It was very dark, though she could just make out the rocks and some caverns. This was not right, what she needed was some illumination otherwise the leviathan could be at any point in that pit.
“Holo have you got some flares on you?”
“I have,” said Holo, and he took out two green coloured cylindrical objects from his backpack.
He lit up one of the flare’s fuses, and then chucked it down the pit.
Just as the flare descended below the level of the courtyard, it lit up casting a powerful white light upon the darkness of the pit. As the flare descended it revealed more of the pit, until it came to-
“What was that?” said Nog suddenly, a little tremor in his voice.
“It must be the leviathan,” said Ezri quietly, her eyes were closed as she had caught a brief glimpse before it scuttled out of sight.
Even from down there it looked huge, lethal and menacing. What disturbed Ezri the most was how quick and agile this beast was. “We need to spread out about twenty metres,” she said while continuing to look down into the pit. “That way the beast will ambush one of us and not the whole group!”
While Holo looked totally unconcerned by the situation, Nog and Jake looked rattled. The thought of being the one first attacked by the leviathan was deeply stomach-churning, but tactically it was the best strategy Ezri could think of.
When everyone is in position, Ezri trained her rifle downwards at the pit. “Holo toss another flare, when you see the leviathan fire everything you have at it!”
The flare lit up and slowly descended, Ezri’s eyes scanned everything the light revealed, and then she saw the creature no more than a hundred metres away from her. “Fire!” she cried.
Volley after volley of phaser fire hit the leviathan, it tried to evade the rounds, but it had nowhere to hide and was making a zizzag approach up the rocks.
“Retreat!” she shouted, when the leviathan came dangerously close to her.
They ran backwards towards the courtyard shelter, which provided some limited cover. There was a ear-splitting screech and turning around, Ezri saw the leviathan burst out of the pit and squeeze itself between two columns. The leviathan had a mixture of light brown and dull green scales all over its body. It had eight very sturdy, but flexible, legs and a horrific looking tail complete with a two foot long black stinger.
The head was the most hideous part of the creature; three sets of foot-long mandibles and some pincers. Just above the mouth were more eyes than Ezri could count, all of them were gazing in fury at her. The leviathan must have been at least eight metres long, but she had seen enough of this creature and ran towards Holo who was taking cover.
“And here is the leviathan in all of its glory!” announced Dallas.
Ezri expected the leviathan to run at full pace towards her, and though she heard a scuttling sound, turning around she saw the leviathan carefully navigating over the stone walls. Very quickly she realised it was avoiding the orange spikes, something about them seemed to make the leviathan very cautious. Even so the leviathan was going at a pace just a little slower than she could run.
Knowing that she could outrun the leviathan meant only one thing to her; mobility. The leviathan would find it difficult to pursue the team and this gave Ezri the time needed to work out how to defeat this beast.
“Let’s try firing at it with our rifles again, maximum setting,” she told Holo.
Looking around she saw Jake and Nog taking cover behind a stone wall to her left.
“We’re firing at the leviathan,” she shouted over to them. “Aim for its head and its eyes!”
“On my mark, fire!”
Round after round hit the leviathan, and it twisted and turned its head and thorax to avoid the phaser fire. Its scaly armour simply absorbed the phaser rounds, and the leviathan screeched and squawked in irritation. Ezri realised firing at this thing only made it mad, what she needed was more substantial firepower. “Holo fire a rocket at this beast’s head! Maybe that will make a dent!”
While Holo prepared the rocket launcher, Ezri and the rest of her team fired some pot shots to slow down the leviathan.
“I’m ready,” said Holo, who had mounted the rocket launcher on his shoulder and was aiming through the weapon’s optical package.
“Fire!” shouted Ezri.
The rocket fired, but in an amazingly fast reflex, the leviathan tossed its head to the side, and the rocket hit the creature’s scaly armour. Though Ezri was pleased to see that a few of the foot wide scales had shattered, revealing a flesh wound, it had done little to slow down the leviathan.
Now the leviathan had quickened its pace, mandibles clicking angrily.
“It’s no good Dax!” said Holo. “If our rockets can’t make a dent on this creature then nothing else will!”
“Let’s fall back to the perimeter of the courtyard!” she told Holo.
She dash past the series of low walls, and the rest of her team followed. When she arrived in the courtyard shelter, she looked back at the leviathan, it was fifty metres away and closing though at a far slower pace.
“We can’t evade it forever,” said Nog.
“And our weapons don’t do a thing against this monster!” exclaimed Jake.
“Let me think!” said Ezri tensely, there had to be a way of defeating this creature. The orange spikes were the key, but then her eyes caught the swords and lances hung against the courtyard walls.
“Holo,” she said slowly, “just what are those swords made of?”
Holo hurried over and picked a sword off the wall, he simultaneously examined it with his eyes while scanning the sword with his tricorder. “It’s made of neutronium, extremely sharp neutronium. So sharp it could cut through the leviathan’s scales. Also I’m detecting trace amounts of a poison, some sort of nerve agent.”
“That must be what’s on the outside of those orange spikes!” Ezri exclaimed. “They’re laced with poison, so that is why the leviathan doesn’t touch them!”
She walked over and took the sword Holo was holding. Gripping the handle she looked up at the metre long blade, with her other hand she stashed her rifle back into a holster attached to her waist. “We’re going to use these swords to defeat the creature!”
“At such close range?” asked Jake, looking at Ezri as if she were mad.
“It’s the only option we have left to injure this creature,” explained Holo. “If we can injure it enough, it will eventually become frightened of us and retreat back down the pit. Or it will become paralysed from all the nerve toxin inside of its body. Either outcome would in effect guarantee us ‘defeating’ the creature and hence winning the match.”
“You heard him,” said Ezri. “Grab yourselves a sword each!”
“Have Team UFP lost their minds?” asked Dallas, his mouth agape. “They've resorted to using crude antiquated swords and spears!?!”
Even Juanita appeared quite interested by what Team UFP were doing. “While crude it may just yet be effective!”
“Hmm...” said Dallas, who did not sound at all convinced. “I'll take your word for it Juanita. But seriously... swords!”
Ezri looked at Holo was carrying both a spear and a sword, Jake and Nog who had a sword each. “This is our best shot at defeating this creature…” she told them all.
Slowly Jake and Nog seemed to come round to Ezri’s plan, and eventually they both gave her a nod of approval.
The leviathan was only fifteen metres away, and Ezri cautiously advanced towards it, sword drawn out.
Now the leviathan looked almost triumphant as if it had its pray well and truly cornered.
Ezri kept her grip on the sword firm and stared right back into the leviathan’s eyes.
Suddenly Holo threw the spear with incredible speed and the spear pierced one of the leviathan’s eyes. The creature thrashed around, clearly in considerable pain, and Ezri saw this as her opportunity to strike.
They all charged at the leviathan, swords raised, and Ezri aimed for the creature’s front leg towards her right. She swung her sword out and was amazed to see it slice halfway through the leviathan’s leg.
“I take it all back,” said Dallas, “the swords are cutting through the leviathan like a hot knife through butter!”
The leviathan now began to stamp around, its legs in a frenzy and the tail reared backwards before swinging forwards.
Ezri saw the danger and dived to her right, a moment later the black stinger plunged into the ground at the exact spot where she had just been standing. Though injured the leviathan could still aim its stinger with dangerous accuracy.
A massive screech of pain came out of the leviathan’s mouth when Nog had cut through one of its front legs. Blue blood came pouring out of the cleft leg, but the leviathan struck back with its stinger.
Somehow Ezri followed the movement of the tail, and saw the three-inch wide stinger penetrate Nog. The stinger went straight through the upper part of Nog’s chest and pierced all the way through his chest to the lower part of his groin area.
Seeing that stinger go through Nog was the most horrific sight she had ever seen, and when the stinger came out, it made a sticky slicing noise that Ezri would remember for the rest of her life.
Nog looked completely shocked, his eyes were wide, and he swayed a little. The hole in his chest visible for all to see, before eventually he fell backwards.
“That must be it for our little Ferengi!” said Juanita
“I won't be shedding any tears for him...” replied Dallas.
Jake was looking at Nog with horror, he seemed unable to comprehend what had just happened. An angry scream came out of Jake’s mouth, and he charged at the leviathan, heading straight for the creature’s mouth.
Ezri charged as well, she was too incensed to feel fear, she just wanted to kill this creature. She drove her sword straight through the leviathan’s left pincer, slicing it cleanly in two. Jake had done the same, and both she and Jake were now hacking at the leviathan’s mouth.
Suddenly the leviathan seemed to stumble, and its head bumped hard against the ground. Disregarding all caution and safety, Ezri took her chances and jumped straight on top of the leviathan’s head.
She ran along before lowering herself and grabbing, with one hand, onto a chinked scale. With her right hand she plunged the sword straight into the back of the beast’s head. The leviathan let out a blood curdling scream, but Ezri felt confident she was safe because the leviathan could not use its stinger against her because it would stab itself.
Again and again she thrust her sword into the leviathan’s head, she cut off several scales and started slashing to pieces everything that was fleshy. Blood spurted out of the cut arteries, and Ezri was covered in the creature’s gore. Now the leviathan seemed overwhelmed, with Holo and Jake attacking its mouth and parts of its thorax, and with Ezri cutting its brain to pieces, she knew that the creature would eventually be overpowered.
Now though the leviathan was losing energy and the will to fight, it was feebly strewn on the ground trying to shake Ezri off, but its motions were not enough. Ezri then dug the sword deeply into one part of the leviathan’s thorax, that way the sword would not get dislodged if the creature moved around. Her right hand pulled out her phaser rifle, and she then fired round after round into the creature’s head.
Blood, bone and brain matter came exploding out, but Ezri continued firing for over half a minute, until steam was coming out of the cavity she had made into the leviathan’s skull. The leviathan was barely moving, its legs were not twitching, and Ezri lowered her rifle, took off her helmet and placed an ear to one part of the thorax.
She could hear the leviathan’s deep but erratic heartbeat. It was slowing down, the space between beats was increasing until finally there was silence…
“It’s dead,” she shouted. “Its heart has stopped beating!”
“Unbelievable people,” said Dallas, sounding genuinely shocked. “Team UFP are the first... and well the only ones, to have slain the Leviathan of Dollebia!”
“I must say even I was just a little impressed by their performance,” added Juanita.
“Coming from Juanita that is high praise!”
Usually Ezri would have felt cheerful about surviving such a difficult match. But she actually felt wretched, she had brutally killed this creature, and though the leviathan had tried to kill them all it was simply an animal which had been disturbed. She felt a little compassion for the slain creature, but then she looked at Nog, who was shuddering on the ground, coughing up blood.
Ezri felt doubly worse, and now she did not care if the match had ended or not. All that mattered was Nog. She jumped off the leviathan’s head, and came over to Nog.
Already Jake was crouching down next to Nog, and speaking very softly to his best friend. “We did it you know, we killed that leviathan!”
“I know,” said Nog weakly, his eyes then fixed themselves upon Jake’s face in an impassioned manner. “And you want to something else? I’m not afraid of it anymore!”
“Hang in there Nog,” said Ezri, giving him a proud smile. “You fought with such valour and bravery that if I was in Starfleet I would give you the Starfleet medal of honour for such deeds!”
Nog appeared to take great comfort in this, and he did not look so pained and distraught now that he was in the company of his friends. “Thanks captain for the vote of confidence, but I don’t think I can make it. That stinger must have had some sort of poison, because I can’t feel the nanites working!”
Even Holo was looking at the whole scene, with a slight hint of curiosity. Though he was the first to look up when an Apocalypse transporter ship came descending down from the sky. “We’ve got company,” he blandly said.
Ezri turned her head around to see the ship land on one of buildings just behind the courtyard. She saw some station troopers and Apocalypse medics rush out of the ship. She recognised the medics because of their dull green uniforms, and hope flared up inside her for Nog. Perhaps the medics could stop the poison spreading through Nog’s body.
Some moments later and the Apocalypse party arrived.
“I need a doctor now for my friend Nog!” she said to the whole group. “The leviathan penetrated Nog with its stinger, and he is close to death!”
“Don’t worry,” said one of the medics, “we have an antidote for the leviathan’s poison.”
The medic walked over to Nog and took out a small vial full of a black liquid.
Jake seemed to realise what was going on because he carefully removed Nog’s helmet.
Lowering himself, the medic got to his knees and put the small vial to Nog’s mouth.
Nog gulped down the contents in one mouthful, and swallowed.
“You should be feeling better in a few moments,” said the medic.
Both Ezri and Jake lifted Nog onto to his feet, already Ezri saw that the nanites had sealed up the hole that went straight through Nog’s torso. She and Jake followed the Apocalypse soldiers and medics back to the ship, with Holo walking behind her.
Once on the ship Nog looked like some of the life had returned to him, his face did not seem so drawn and pale.
Ezri sat back in a chair looking out of a window, there she could see the leviathan’s body, bloodied and broken. She got herself a towel to wipe the leviathan's blood off her face. This was one match that was both memorable and haunting for her. She had nearly lost Nog, nearly got killed herself, but despite everything that had happened she still found this planet beautiful to look at.
However what Apocalypse had done was nothing short of defiling this planet, and Ezri’s hatred of Apocalypse flared up once more. This match reminded her more than ever before that this gladiator life of hers had to end, though she had no plan of escape, no plan for sabotaging Apocalypse. All she had were horrible memories and terrible experiences…
Of course what had happened to Nog was going to stay with Ezri forever. In all nine lifetimes she had never seen such a horrific and gory sight, though she knew that Nog would laugh it off later when they got back to their quarters in Apocalypse station. She saw nothing positive about Nog’s close shade with death.
All of this was starting to really weigh on Ezri's mind, looking after the team, keeping everyone alive, killing people, getting injured or seeing her team mates get injured. It was becoming a heavy burden, and she inwardly feared that this burden might be causing the mild hallucinations she occasionally suffered from. She needed a way out of this life, and she needed it quickly…