Chapter 5, part 1
Ezri was getting a little tired of waiting, as she and her team stood on one corner of the arena's platform. She felt reasonably certain that defeating Heamatitus was in her team's ability, and surely he would be no more formidable than the leviathan. The crowd were unusually quiet, and while she waited, Jake and Nog were having a whispered conversation, literally to pass the time.
Here they were perhaps only minutes away from death, and Ezri felt impatient, almost bored. She had flirted with death so many times that she almost wasn’t afraid of it anymore.
In the background were Dallas and Juanita who were commentating, but it was more fill-in stuff. Everyone was waiting for Heamatitus to show up. There was some commotion from the crowd, and looking upwards Ezri saw an Apocalypse freighter descend downwards into the arena.
It came to a stop, hovering several metres up from the centre of the arena platform, and then one of the freighter’s side hatches opened. Out jumped an exoskeleton walker, at least four metres tall, and it landed on the ground with a massive crunch. Ezri could here the suspension systems in the walker’s legs straining, as the pneumatic fluid pumps worked.
Now the crowd had become audibly louder, and the loudness became a near deafening roar, when Heamatitus straightened up his walker, stretching out the machine’s arms and revealing the twin five-metre long swords (held in the machine's hands) his machine was carrying.
The Apocalypse freighter ascended rapidly upwards, it seemed the commander of the vessel was as keen to put as much distance between his vessel and Heamatitus’s exoskeleton walker as possible.
Ezri looked to her left and right, and was pleased to see that her team did not look fazed.
“This evening we watch with baited breathe, as Team UFP battle it out against Heamatitus,” announced Dallas. “Only one will survive, and my money is on Heamatitus.”
“On one side we have Heamatitus,” said Juanita, “Apocalypse’s longest serving gladiator and combat veteran. With this last match he wants to go out with a bang, before retiring.”
“And on the other we have Team UFP,” said Dallas, “new to the arena, but already displaying some amazing talent. Will this exterminator match be a walk in the park, or a trip to their own graves?”
“We will soon find out,” replied Juanita, with a smirk. “And the match is starting in ten, nine-
“We’ll never get close enough to attach the orillium explosives,” said Holo, who was to Ezri’s immediate left.
“That remains to be seen,” said Ezri. “It depends on how fast Heamatitus can wield the swords. If we can slip in past his melee defences, then we could defeat him.”
The arena klaxon went off, signalling the start of the match. Ezri and her team slowly advanced forwards, and likewise Heamatitus did the same. With each footfall of Heamatitus’s walker, the platform literally shook ever so slightly.
He seemed to be lazily moving his machine forwards, and Ezri was not sure if Heamatitus was trying to pretend to be relaxed or if he was psyching her team out. Ezri took cover behind a thick duranium block, and peaked her head over the top, waiting to see how Heamatitus attacked.
She aimed her rifle at the top of Heamatitus’s machine, where she could just see the top of his head. She fired one round, but with a swift motion, Heamatitus blocked it with a quick raising of one of his swords.
When he was about five metres away, he raised the right sword, held in his machine’s hand. He then brought it down with considerable speed and force upon the duranium block cleaving it in two. Ezri was lucky because she dodged just in time.
“Ha ha!” exclaimed Dallas, his eyes were alive with amusement. “Hiding behind duranium blocks won't protect you now Ezri!”
Looking upwards Ezri saw the left sword being raised, and she realised Heamatitus was going for her. She rolled and strafed from side to side on the open ground. All she could do was avoid a blow that would more than likely kill her instantly. But she could not dodge forever, and after half a minute of dodging, she found herself at the corner of the platform, with nowhere to go.
“And it looks like Ezri is the first one to go!” said Juanita.
Ezri gulped and looked as Heamatitus raised both his swords, suddenly there was an explosion close to the walker's left leg, and the machine momentarily lost balance.
She took her chances, and ran straight for the gap between the walker's legs. As she ran, she took out a cuboid block of explosive from a pouch, and then slapped it onto a piston on the walker's lower part of the left leg.
She ran like hell, as she only had five seconds before the contact detonator in the explosive activated. The ground trembled, and Ezri could almost feel Heamatitus forcing his walker to run faster.
The sticky explosive went off with a loud bang, and turning around Ezri saw Heamatitus’s left leg buckle inwards. For a moment she thought she had been successful, but then Heamatitus straightened his exoskeleton machine upwards, and he looked furious.
However an idea had come to Ezri’s mind. “Nog, Holo,” she shouted. “You run over to the left side of the arena, we need to split up in two!”
“And what are Team UFP up to now?” asked Dallas.
“Diverting Heamatitus it seems...” said Juanita, and she threw in a little sigh, as if the team were doing exactly what she expected.
While Nog and Holo went one way, Ezri caught up with Jake. “Stick with me,” she told Jake. “Heamatitus can only pursue one group at a time!”
Sure enough Heamatitus bounded over to Nog and Holo, and Ezri could see the back of Heamatitus’ machine. The grey armour looked considerably thinner, and she dashed towards Heamatitus.
“Jake,” she said as she ran. “Have you got a rocket launcher on you?”
“I have,” said Jake. “Don’t tell me, you want me to launch a rocket to hit the back of Heamatitus’ machine?”
“That’s right, we need to-”
Ezri dashed to one side, when she saw plasma rounds strike the ground close to her. She and Jake raced towards a duranium block to get behind cover. Stealing a brief glance, Ezri saw the shoulder-mounted plasma guns on the machine’s shoulders firing.
“So much for the diversion...” quipped Juanita.
So much for striking from behind
Ezri thought. When she and Jake settled behind the duranium block, she noticed that the plasma guns were not firing.
Jake took out his rocket launcher, and was stowing a rocket inside the barrel.
As he was doing that, Ezri realised that if just one of the machine’s legs were damaged, then Heamatitus’ mobility would be drastically reduced. “Don’t aim for his back,” she told Jake. “Aim for his legs.”
“Which part of his legs?” said Jake.
Ezri poked her head above the block, she noticed that the machine’s knees seemed the weakest spot, where the armour was nearly non-existent. Though she quickly lowered herself to avoid getting splatted by plasma rounds, when the plasma guns fired up again. Clearly Heamatitus was also paying attention to what she and Jake were doing.
“Aim for one of the machine’s knees,” she said.
“That’ll be impossible without a tracer dart!” protested Jake.
“And Holo’s carrying the tracer gun!” said Ezri, she kicked herself for not bringing Holo instead of Jake with her.
“Just stay there,” she ordered.
“Where are you-”
But Ezri did not hear the rest of the question because she was dashing forwards to the next duranium block.
“And Ezri is making a suicidal dash towards Heamatitus!” exclaimed Dallas.
Sure enough plasma rounds came in her direction, and Ezri had to strafe rightwards. She literally dived forwards to get into the cover zone provided by the block.
Heamatitus was in a ten o’clock direction, but he was steadily advancing forwards, his swords trying to swat Holo and Nog. But the two were dodging and ducking everywhere.
Ezri needed to get to Holo, and the only way to do that was to do a mad dash forwards. She was going to get hit by a few plasma rounds, but it was the only way. Steeling herself for the task, she dashed out and ran as fast as possible. Once more the plasma guns were trained on her, and the rounds came closer and closer, until they started hitting Ezri’s armour.
Her armour was holding up, but barely. She needed to buy herself some time, and taking out a portable shield generator from a compartment in her thin backpack, she activated the device. A green translucent shield came around her, and it shimmered as it absorbed the plasma rounds.
“Oh come on,” said Dallas, throwing his arms out in disapproval. “That's cheating!”
“Actually portable shield generators are allowed in arena matches,” replied Juanita, smiling as she got one over Dallas.
“It's bad practice I say!” maintained Dallas.
The generator’s power source would only last for about a half a minute, but this was all the time Ezri needed. Finally she made it to Holo, and by that time the shield had gone. She stayed close to Holo, while she avoided Heamatitus’ melee strikes. “Holo, I need you to get over to Jake’s position!” she shouted.
“Why?” said Holo loudly, while he strafed to the left to avoid one of the swords.
“Because I need you to fire-”
She jumped backwards, narrowly missing a sword strike which dug in two feet into the arena platform. “Fire a tracer dart at the back of one of the machine’s knees!”
Dodging again, she finished her explanation. “Jake’s going to fire a homing rocket straight for one of those knees, but he needs a tracer dart on the target!”
“Got it,” said Holo, and he dashed leftwards and out of Heamatitus’s melee range.
As Ezri continued to dodge, she realised Heamatitus’ was simply too big and lumbering to use his swords against such nimble and small opponents. He was trying, with noticeably increased frustration, at thrusting his swords directly downwards at Ezri and Nog.
Ezri could avoid such blows for many more minutes to come, but eventually fatigue would set in, and Heamatitus would get lucky.
“And we see some more of Dax's fanciful dodging...” said Juanita sardonically.
“It's like watching ballet...” added Dallas, who looked seemingly mesmerised by Ezri’s display.
Suddenly Heamatitus changed his attack, and swooped his left sword downwards and along. Ezri dived straight down, and felt the swish of the sword as it whipped through the air. She heard a cry of pain, and saw Nog fly sideways through the air.
Ezri looked up, and saw a jubilant expression on Heamatitus’ face. She got herself onto to her feet, but she saw the right sword raising upwards. Her luck had finally ran out.
Suddenly Heamatitus twisted around and was now charging at Holo and Jake’s position.
Ezri could see a faint red on the back of the machine’s knee, that was the tracer dart! But Jake’s rocket would never reach it, because Heamatitus’s front would take the rocket.
Dashing over to Nog, who was feebly stirring, Ezri removed from his backpack a rocket launcher. Placing a rocket inside, she mounted the rocket launcher onto her left shoulder. She took aim through the optic eyepiece, and when the image from the eyepiece highlighted the tracer dart on Heamatitus’ exoskeleton machine, she fired.
The rocket roared out of the launcher, and at supersonic speed pounded exactly into the place where the tracer dart had penetrated. The result was immediate, a fiery explosion consumed most of the walkers legs, and Heamatitus' machine swayed.
“Oooh!” exclaimed Dallas, wincing. “Heamatitus seems to be in some serious trouble!”
“I still maintain he'll snuff out Team UFP!” said Juanita rather stiffly.
And to Ezri’s immense satisfaction, she saw Heamatitus’ left leg fold inwards. The leg pistons and servos had obviously seized up, and though Heamatitus was still standing, albeit at an angle, the walker's left leg was barely moving.
She could just hear a roar of frustration, come from Heamatitus, and though he had straightened his walker, it was literally limping and moving at near walking speed. Surely this had to be a crippling blow...
However Ezri’s moment of jubilation did not last long, as one of the plasma guns was now firing at her. She ran, leaving Nog, and made a desperate dash towards another duranium block. This time though when the rounds did hit her, her already damaged armour provided little protection.
She felt multiple agonising impacts all over her body, and the force was so strong that it overpowered her legs, and she tripped on her feet, and fell forwards. She had barely smacked the ground hard against her helmet and chest, when more rounds entered her torso, arms and legs. The energy of the rounds made her body shudder, and for two excruciating seconds this went on.
Her body’s commotion stopped, and she lay there, unable to move anything. Her arms were folded up, just in front of her head, in an awkward position, and about a meter in front of her lay the cylindrical rocket launcher. She felt the blood ooze out of her wounds, and the pain was so bad, it was making her eyes water. All she could do was breathe in and out, and she began to think that perhaps even the nanites could not save her.
“And poor little Ezri has bit the dust!” said Juanita, who sounded pleased by Ezri’s demise.
“No surprise's there,” commented Dallas, who sounded disappointed. “She spent too much time standing around.”
“Indeed,” replied Juanita, who sounded like she was making a point to Dallas. “A rare slip up on Ezri's part but alas a fatal one...”
Ezri was bleeding out to much blood, and when she saw a pool of blood steadily expand out in front of her, tainting the bottom of her visor, she was convinced that she was about to die. Even if she did recover, by that time Heamatitus would have finished off her comrades, and would finally kill her.
The sights and sounds of the match grew dimmer and fainter, and each breathe seemed to grow more painful. She was leaving this universe, she could feel it, and death seemed so close. The last thing she felt were strong hands picking her up…