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|January 9 2012, 12:16 AM||#151|
Location: The great gig in the sky
Re: DS9: A continuation
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…
|January 9 2012, 12:16 AM||#152|
Location: The great gig in the sky
Re: DS9: A continuation
Day 5, 1700 hours
Bashir moodily stirred the contents of his Tarkalean tea with a spoon. He was sitting around a table with Megan, Dawson and Paulson in Quark’s bar. It was sort of like an unofficial tradition that DS9’s senior staff-except for the commanding officer-got together once in the day after a shift.
Today though Bashir and his colleagues did not feel like talking. Though after seeing a recording of Team UFP’s arena match he did not feel like talking either.
“What are you three so gloomy about?” asked Paulson, after a lengthy silence. “It's been twenty minutes and I've seen more life in a graveyard than from you three.”
Bashir looked up from his drink. “Haven't you seen the match?” he asked disbelievingly.
“What match?” said Paulson looking confused.
“The Apocalypse match,” said Megan irately, “the one where our missing colleagues fight tooth and nail just to reach the end of a death course...”
“That sounds horrible,” said Paulson, pulling a disgusted face. “How could you watch something like that?”
“Because it shows that our friends are still alive...” Bashir answered.
Megan nodded her agreement. “I hear that Quark is going to provide us with more recordings, if he can hack into the Apocalypse channel again, so we can watch what happens to Team UFP.”
“How morbid is that?” asked Bashir, as he could not stomach the idea. “Watching one match is bad enough, but seeing more of them?”
Everyone except Tanya did not seem inclined to watch any more of these matches. “Well I'm going to keep watching to see if those commentators make any further mention of Max. Apparently Max is our colleague’s mission controller...”
“I'm not surprised about that,” replied Megan, “because Max's twin brother, Coplin, runs the place.”
“How do you know that?” Paulson demanded.
“It was at the start of the recording,” explained Megan. “It made mention of Coplin, Apocalypse's chief executive.”
“I don't know how Max can work with his brother,” murmured Bashir. “After all Coplin's organisation kills dozens if not hundreds of people everyday!”
Megan though shook her head in disagreement. “Personally I only think Max works for Coplin, because he's using it as an opportunity to gather information on Apocalypse. Information that could be used for himself and the rest of Team UFP to escape!”
In an angered motion Tanya slammed her mug against the table, getting everybody’s attention. “Would you stop calling Max and the others under that ridiculous name?” she hissed.
“Sorry,” said Megan, looking a little put-off by Tanya’s outburst. “But I think it's easier to say Team UFP to refer to collectively Max, Ezri, Nog, Holo and Jake.”
“Let's just be grateful that our friends are alive,” said Bashir diplomatically.
“But for how long?” asked Tanya sceptically. “The next arena matches won't get any easier, I don't see how they will survive.”
Bashir was half tempted to copy Tanya’s outburst but he thought better of it, though he did think Tanya was being too pessimistic. “They will survive as long as Dax has something to say about that. She knows how to look after herself and she is a very tough cookie, she'll get Team UFP through that.”
Tanya winces slightly at hearing the phrase ‘Team UFP’, but she quickly regained her composure. “I guess I'm just going to have to get used to hearing that name,” she said sadly.
Paulson was looking a little shifty, and he leant forwards a little closer, as if about to broach something top secret. “I don't suppose one of you three could lend me a recording of Team UFP's first match?”
“Why do you want to watch it?” asked Megan, her eyes narrowed.
“This may sound a little macabre and insensitive, but by studying that video I could find ways of improving security as it seems Team UFP goes through one firefight after another.”
“Are you sure it's not morbid fascination of violence?” replied Megan, sounding a little harsh.
“Of course not!” exclaimed Paulson, looking angered by the very possibility. “I'm watching it on a strictly informative basis!”
Bashir was convinced that Paulson was telling the truth, even so the mood felt tense and a little fractious. So with nothing better to do Bashir returned to sipping his tea, he noticed that the silence had returned and he thought it was no bad thing…
From inside his office Coplin was watching his holovision, taking notes on his padd. He was watching the same match over and over again and this was Team UFP’s debut match. This was not recreational viewing as he was watching to understand Team UFP’s tactics, methods and style. All very important if he was to make them Apocalypse’s new mascots. The first thing he would do was to get the Apocalypse media to spruce up Team UFP’s bad boy and hard as nails image. This equated into improved advertising and more latinum.
Coplin was so transfixed on the holovision that he did not hear Nemoltz come inside.
Feeling annoyed Coplin raised a hand to silence Nemoltz. “Is this necessary?” he said without looking at Nemoltz.
“Someone on this station has sent an unauthorised communication out, if the Federation receives it they may come knocking at our door. I suspect it is Max and we should execute him and his team immediately!”
Coplin turned the holovision off, and got to his feet, he could not believe this. “With no evidence?” he said angrily. “You're going to have to do much better than that!”
There was a scowl all over Nemoltz’s face, Nemoltz was looking at Coplin as if he were a fool. “You are trying to protect your twin brother, your affection for him is clouding your judgement, you should execute him-”
“I am the one who has the final say on these matters!” said Coplin loudly and heatedly. “And don't think Nemoltz that because you formerly ran Apocalypse it gives you the right to tell me what to do! Under my leadership Apocalypse as expanded in size tenfold, and profits are astronomical, your good at security Nemoltz but you don't have the business sense that I have.”
“Getting sponsored by the Ferengi Alliance is one thing, but working with the Tren?”
Nemoltz shook his head and paced slowly forwards to Coplin’s desk. “I don't trust them, we don't know how many ships they have, and if things turn ugly we have no one to turn to for help.”
Coplin followed Nemoltz and was side by side with him. “The Tren offered me 70000 Jem'Hadar and 1100 of their ships, in exchange this organisation does some of the Tren's dirty work...”
He stopped when he reached the desk as did Nemoltz, both of them were staring out of the window. For some moments Coplin thought about the Tren and his dealings with them, he did not like dealing with them but the Tren offered considerable latinum and payment in exchange.
“Is the second Apocalypse station ready?” asked Coplin, as he cast aside his worries about the Tren.
“It is...” murmured Nemoltz, who still looked unhappy about something.
“Then that is all that matters,” said Coplin firmly. “I want a gradual relocation of Apocalypse ships, personal and gladiators to the new station, a month should be an amble amount of time.”
For a moment Coplin paused because he realised Nemoltz was right about one thing, Max was a potential security threat and certain precautions had to be taken. “Look into the matter of the unauthorised message, but I want concrete evidence that my brother has done some actual wrongdoing! And if you feel it is necessary to install your security devices in Max's quarters, then do so...”
“Thank you...” said Nemoltz sounding glad that the matter was out of the way.
There was one more issue that Coplin had to resolve with Nemoltz. “If you do find my brother guilty of sending out that message, then be sure to punish him for it. He may be family but I will not overlook or forgive betrayal...”
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Nemoltz nod and smile in a satisfied way. At the moment Coplin did not care what Nemoltz thought because he was more preoccupied with his brother.
Without another word, Coplin heard Nemoltz walk away and back to the doorway. Only Nemoltz could walk in uninvited because he was the only person Coplin could really trust. Coplin’s other important staff had the annoying habit of sucking up to him but he saw through all of that. He knew that any one of those staff would try to kill him if they had the opportunity.
But with Nemoltz, Coplin knew exactly what his colleagues motive’s were because Nemoltz was always honest, forthright and spoke his mind. Coplin took Nemoltz’s warnings seriously but he hoped for once that Nemoltz was wrong. Would Max try to sabotage or disrupt Apocalypse’s operations?
One of part of Coplin said yes, but Max was his brother and he felt an attachment to Max. Maybe they would not see eye to eye but perhaps they could have a productive working relationship. This was all Coplin wanted…
His chronometer made a beeping noise and Coplin realised it was time for his dosage of steroids, nanites and anti-depressants. He took these compounds for good reason, not only to double his muscle strength but together the three substances helped to keep Coplin focused, ruthless and on top of his emotions. Being the one in charge of Apocalypse meant you had to be totally ruthless, and yet be a crime lord and a businessmen at the same time.
Walking over to his desk, he pulled out a secret compartment close to his chair, and took out a hypospray. He placed it to his neck, discharged the contents and almost immediately he felt better. Some of the tension he had been feeling drifted away, while his small amount of guilt also receded.
Coplin told nobody this but he suffered from a guilty conscience, ever since he had ran out of home when he was sixteen he had been fighting on and off battles with his guilt. One part of it was upsetting his parents and his twin brother, the other part was what he had done while getting involved in organised crime. But feeling guilty made him weak, Coplin had to act strong and he cursed himself for having a guilty conscience.
|January 9 2012, 11:36 PM||#153|
Location: The great gig in the sky
Re: DS9: A continuation
Day 5, 2300 hours
After closing the premises, Quark stood by the bar going over on his padd the profits for today, the expenditures and so forth. Any Ferengi could do accountancy but the real skill was using it to find ways to cut costs and increase profits. So far he had not find any cost-cutting measures.
He was distracted from his padd, when he heard a faint beeping sound coming from a console to the left of where the vintage drinks were stored. Walking over he analysed the computer message and realised it was a subspace transmission, but a very disguised one, blending in with the background radiation of the universe. So disguised Quark doubted that the station’s sensors would pick it up.
Fortunately he had his own subspace communicator that picked up such frequencies, due to his frequent contact with criminals and other people on the run from the law. He tapped a few commands and he realised this was not a transmission but a simple message.
“A message?” he said to himself.
He then activated the message.
On a small screen was displayed Max, where he was Quark had no idea but he was deeply surprised to see Max.
“To anyone receiving this I'm a Starfleet officer, called Max Weatherby, who has been captured by a gladiatorial organisation called Apocalypse. My serial number is DH dash zero eight four dash two seven three dash nine three six. I've managed to access Apocalypse's tactical database and I've discovered that the station I'm on is in the Pushui star system, 200 light years from Earth. Please to anyone receiving this message, Apocalypse must be attacked and destroyed. I've discovered that Apocalypse has about 1100 Jem'Hadar ships and 500 of its own warships at its disposal. A massive fleet will be required to capture Apocalypse, but as long as Apocalypse is still active it poses a serious threat to the security of the Alpha Quadrant!”
The message ended, and Quark was left standing there deeply surprised by what he had heard. “You don't say,” he said, before taking out a data rod in his chest pocket and inserting into the console to get a copy of the message’s contents.
If Max were alive perhaps his nephew was as well. It still angered him what Apocalypse had done, and he hoped with this message it could persuade Starfleet to do something about Apocalypse and perhaps launch a rescue operation to find Nog, his friend Jake, Ezri and all the other Starfleet officers being forced by Apocalypse to fight as gladiators.
Day 6, 0900 hours
Kira looked up from her laptop when Quark entered into her office. “Quark? Don't tell me it's another one of those matches?”
Quark laughed, he had the look of someone about to sell something very valuable. “I received this transmission, a transmission from a very surprising source.”
“Really Quark I don't have time for one of your guessing games, who contacted you?”
“It was more like a message,” said Quark, and he showed to Kira a data rod lying in the palm of his hand. “I got it all recorded in this data rod.”
For all of Quark’s mystery Kira knew that it had to be something to do with Apocalypse, and she was not going to play along this bargaining game of his. “Give me that data rod please.”
She extended her hand out, and impatiently beckoned Quark with her fingers.
Quark though did not seem to be in the mood of being generous, he cocked his head slightly to one side and his hand clenched over the data rod. “And what do I get in return?”
Kira did not really want to do this, but she knew it was the only way. She had once seen Jadzia Dax employ this trick, to persuade an unwilling Ferengi. So Kira moved around the table, and she approached Quark, with what she hoped to be a charming smile.
Already Quark seemed curious by what she was doing, and Kira moved behind Quark, carefully running a finger along the top of Quark’s lobe. “You’ll have my gratitude,” she said in a warm voice.
She could feel Quark relax, and she noticed his right hand, the one carrying the data rod, had relaxed. With a little extra stroking of Quark’s ear, she lightly grabbed his hand, opened it and removed the data rod.
Having got what she wanted, she immediately removed her finger from Quark’s ear and walked away from him.
Quark was rapidly regaining his senses, and he looked a little perplexed by Kira’s behaviour. “What do you mean by gratitude?” he asked, sounding annoyed. “That doesn’t-”
Suddenly Quark fidgeted with his right hand, and a look of surprise came upon his face. “The data rod! You took it from me!”
Kira smiled at Quark, it felt good to beat Quark at his own game. “Just goes to show you shouldn't be distracted by oo-mox.”
Quark though shook his head in disbelieve. “I continue to underestimate you colonel, with each passing year you seem to grow more cunning and shrewd!”
“Thanks for the compliment,” said Kira, while she headed to the exit. “But your still not getting anything from that data rod.”
As she walked outside of her office and into Ops, Quark followed just a bit behind her. “I didn't realise Quark you had your own personal sub-space communications relay.”
“It's an absolute necessity, it means my contacts can contact me without Starfleet or anyone else monitoring the transmission.”
“Astronomy lab,” said Kira to the computer, when she was inside the turbo lift.
The turbo lift doors closed, and with a slight jolt the turbo lift moved downwards. “Do you mean your criminal contacts Quark?”
Quark looked a little wounded to hear this. “You disappoint me colonel, you make it sound like I’m committing a crime, sometimes a man just wants privacy when he is contacting someone.”
It was so typical of Quark to make such convincing excuses, but Kira at the moment did not really care. Quark had already done her one favour by providing a record of Team UFP’s match, and now he had done her another favour, again free of charge. For that Kira was slightly in his debt and no doubt at some future point Quark may just collect up on that debt.
Kira sat down on the metal rim, at the edge of holographic projector. She was waiting for the computer to complete an analysis of the recording, having set the analysis parameters herself. The recording was of Max, presumably he was had transmitted this somewhere on the Apocalypse station.
She should have been pleased to see Max alive and well, but she could not get her hopes up for fear that this message was a forgery. For the last two hours she had been working with Megan trying to determine the legitimacy of the message. They both agreed on one thing which was Apocalypse would not have faked it because Max had given tactical information about Apocalypse.
So Kira and Megan were forced to check the authenticity of the actual image and video. The computer had gone through frame by frame looking for visual anomalies, while also checking the composition of Max’s voice. If the recording had been faked then there would have been disfiguration, something that was not visible to the naked eye. Or Max’s voice could have been broken down into a sequence of verbal recordings.
The computer had not detected any of this, and with each analysis, Kira grew more confident that this recording was genuine.
“Analysis complete,” said the computer. “There was no detectable disfiguration, no detectable splicing or image manipulation. Audio tests confirm the voice as lieutenant commander Max Weatherby.”
For the dozenth time Kira had heard this, and she rubbed a hand through her hair, as she thought about what other ways to analyse the recording. Right now she had ran out of ideas and she could not see what else the computer could check. “We've checked this transmission for the dozenth time, to check for a forgery or any evidence that Max was forced to send this transmission. I'd say it seems authentic.”
“It's hard to tell,” said Megan sceptically, while she studied the data on the console. “I've scanned the actual signal and the content of the message, it adds up, but it could be a really good forgery.”
“Listen we could run a hundred more tests and not get any closer to finding out how genuine the recording is. You humans have your gut instinct, so what does your gut instinct tell you?”
Megan frowned considerably, her arms were folded, and she seemed to be giving the matter a great deal of thought. “I think it is genuine and that Max sent it, and besides, why would Apocalypse draw attention to themselves?”
That was Kira’s reasoning all along, and she was glad to see that Megan seemed finally convinced of the recording’s authenticity. “Let's assume it is genuine for argument’s sake… If there really are 1600 ships it would take a colossal fleet to take on Apocalypse!”
“I'd like to see Apocalypse attacked more than anyone,” said Megan firmly, a cold rage burning in her eyes. “But to send such a massive fleet into unchartered and dangerous territory could be potentially throwing it away!”
“I know the risks,” said Kira a little irately. “But left unchecked Apocalypse is only going to expend its operations!”
She jabbed her finger downwards against the rim to reinforce her point. “It hast to be stopped and stopped now!”
Moving off the rim, she took a few paces away the holographic projector, before turning around to address Megan. “I'll talk to admiral Ross about the message… but I think it is unlikely he'll approve of a direct attack against Apocalypse.”
“It is still worth a try,” said Megan, nodding in approval.
Kira nodded once. “It’s the best option we have,” she said, before walking off and leaving the room.
The message changed everything, because now Starfleet would know Apocalypse’s military capability. Surely with this information, the biggest obstacle in terms of persuading Starfleet to attack Apocalypse, had been removed. Kira was certain that Admiral Ross would be far more partial to her suggestion of attacking Apocalypse, now she was armed with this information.
|January 9 2012, 11:38 PM||#154|
Location: The great gig in the sky
Re: DS9: A continuation
Kira waited in her office for admiral Ross to respond to her transmission. She was certain that she had the information needed to make Ross reconsider his stance on Apocalypse.
Some moments later and the laptop changed from the Federation insignia to displaying a live feed from Ross’s office.
“Colonel this is a surprise,” said Ross, who was as usual sitting behind his desk. “If you're trying to change my mind about my decision, then you should know it is final.”
Kira put on her best diplomatic smile, as she broached her subject to the admiral. “It's not about that. You see admiral I'm contacting you because DS9 received a disguised subspace message from Max Weatherby one of the people abducted off DS9.”
In an instance she had Ross’s full attention, and Ross was sitting up a little more straighter and looking more alert.
“I'm listening...” he said.
Kira explained about the message from Max, about its contents and how she had run numerous tests to authenticate it. Finally she told Ross what this meant in terms of Apocalypse’s tactical capabilities.
Finally when she was done, and there was a small silence as Ross thought about what she had said.
“Has this message been tampered with or falsified, or is there anything to doubt its authenticity?”
“The message seems genuine...” said Kira with conviction. “More than that I will send the actual message for Starfleet Intelligence to analyse, to further determine its authenticity.”
Ross still looked unconvinced, and Kira doubted it was about the genuineness of the message.
“Even if it was genuine,” Ross explained, “I'm not sure how the Federation will respond to this threat.”
Kira’s diplomatic stance finally faded, what would she have to do to spell this out to the Ross? “Admiral,” she said loudly and angrily, “there are over 1000 Jem'Hadar ships 200 light years from Earth, given their close proximity they pose a serious threat to the Federation. Apocalypse could use the ships to attack the Federation, or carry out small raids. They could go in deep and do considerable damage, if they carried out a hit and run strategy. Personally I think you need to seriously reconsider your decision not to attack Apocalypse.”
Finally Ross seemed to understand what Kira was telling him. “I appreciate your concerns colonel, and with this information I promise I will assess this matter once more…”
Ross paused and clasped his hands together, he looked deep in thought. Finally he came out of his reverie and looked at Kira with a strong determination. “You have convinced me that Apocalypse is a serious enough threat to the Federation and that it must be stopped. I'll see what kind of support I can get for an assault on the Pushui star system. I'll contact you in two weeks about whether such an operation will be approved. But I should warn it will be hard persuading Starfleet Command to change their minds.”
“I have faith in you yet admiral,” replied Kira, smiling at him.
Ross though shook his head. “It will take more than faith to get approval for the operation, but thanks for your vote of confidence. Ross out.”
The live feed ended and the console screen displayed the Federation insignia once more. Finally Kira had managed to persuade admiral Ross, and if she could persuade Ross then it was possibly likely that the other admirals in Starfleet could be persuaded.
It that was the case then Starfleet would be attacking Apocalypse in less than a month’s time. This gave Kira considerable satisfaction, because she wanted to see Apocalypse destroyed for threatening the Federation, abducting people, and more importantly Ezri and the others.
At that moment Bashir and Megan walked in, no doubt they had deduced that Kira had finished her discussion with admiral Ross.
“What did admiral Ross say about attacking Apocalypse?” asked Bashir.
“He said he agrees with it in principle, but that he hast to persuade his fellow admirals first. He should get back in two weeks, and then we'll know where the Federation stands on Apocalypse.”
Both Bashir and Megan looked a little cheered to hear this.
Though Megan's cheerfulness quickly descended into pessimism and doubt. “Even if Starfleet attacks Apocalypse, and the rescue operation takes place, there's little chance of finding Dax and all those who were kidnapped alive. By the time we get there, they would probably be dead. I’ve seen that arena match and I don’t see how Dax and the others can continue to beat the odds.”
“I’m reasonably certain Team UFP will survive for that long,” reassured Bashir. “If you study the match carefully, then you will realise that every course can be won. Not only with the weapons and the body armour the gladiators wear, but with teamwork and cunning strategy. Apocalypse can’t make their courses too deadly otherwise they would rapidly run of gladiators.”
This did little to convince Megan. “Even so, the courses have become steadily harder,” she pointed out. “It is only a matter of time before Dax bites of more than she can chew!”
Bashir looked at Megan angrily. “You may have given up on our missing colleagues, but I haven’t!”
“Listen,” said Kira, cutting through Bashir and Megan’s arguing. “We can debate about Team UFP’s survival chances for hours. However Team UFP have gotten this far, and all we can do is hope that they’ll survive long enough for Starfleet to reach them...”
For Kira this was all it came down to; hope. Either Starfleet reached Apocalypse and rescued Team UFP, and all the other Starfleet prisoners, in the nick of time, or it did not. In either outcome the only likelihood was that Apocalypse Station would be captured, and the Apocalypse organisation would rapidly collapse.
With each step Nemoltz walked closer to the desk Coplin was sat behind. Nemoltz looked unusually grim, and clutched against his chest was a padd. Coplin glanced up from his work, the two seemed to be reading each others minds as they locked eye contact.
“Why is it,” said Coplin, “when you look at me with that mask-like face, I know you're about to deliver to me some really bad news?”
Angrily Nemoltz chucked the padd onto Coplin’s desk, and a little surprised Coplin picked it up and read through the contents. With each line read, Coplin’s frown became more pronounced.
“It is bad,” replied Nemoltz vehemently. “One of our ships was captured by the Klingons. This ship incurred a malfunction to its warp drive, it managed to destroy fifty Klingon ships but it was eventually overwhelmed.”
“The Klingons...” said Coplin thoughtfully, while he disregarded Nemoltz’s report. “Didn't the captain of that ship activate the self-destruct sequence?”
“That must have been damaged as well,” said Nemoltz heavily, he then shot an inquisitive stare at Coplin. “By now the Klingons will be all over that ship analysing every nanometer of it... and you know what that means...”
“They'll examine the multiphasic weaponry and come up with a defence against it,” answered Coplin, sounding weary but also troubled.
Nemoltz took a step backwards from the desk and shook his head. “I'd give them a few weeks, perhaps a month before they'll find a measure against the multiphasic weaponry…”
Now Nemoltz looked at Coplin in an urgent manner. “Coplin if that happens our tactical advantage over the Klingon and Starfleet ships will decrease considerably. It makes us vulnerable, and it also completely jeopardises operation Judgement Day!”
“If we follow our defence strategy we will keep the Klingons and Starfleet at bay!” said Coplin almost defiantly. “Besides with some modifications we can reconfigure the modulation of the multiphasic weaponry.”
“That will not be enough to compensate for the tactical advantage we've lost!”
“I know that!” replied Coplin angrily. “But operation Judgement Day still goes ahead!”
In a swift motion Coplin rose from the chair and moved around the desk to face Nemoltz. “In the greater scheme of things this is only a minor setback!”
Nemoltz however did not seem to see things this way, disagreement was etched all over his face. “We're in too deep with these intergalactic affairs,” he protested, “and if the operation goes wrong I cannot see how Apocalypse will survive!”
“You have to trust me on this one...” said Coplin forcibly, looking at his colleague to support him. “If the operation succeeds we won't have to worry about the Federation as they will be too frightened to attack us! Apocalypse will come out of this stronger, and in a few years time we will have enough ships to defend the Pushui system, and other neighbouring star systems, against any kind of Federation or Klingon attack!”
After some moments of silence, Nemoltz eventually nodded his head, but only once. Coplin had won the argument, and for the moment operation Judgement Day would be going forward as planned…
To be continued...
Well that is the end of Survival. Here are links to the rest of my stories (which are listed in chronological order in terms of my series plot):
Secrets and Lies
Ménage à Trois
Tip of the Iceberg
Running the Gauntlet
The Price of Sanity
Cloak and Dagger, part 1
Cloak and Dagger, part 2
To be Over
|January 11 2012, 11:58 PM||#155|
Location: The great gig in the sky
Re: DS9: A continuation
Summary: Season 2, 13th story. This is the third part of the Apocalypse story arc.
While Starfleet prepares an attack on Apocalypse, Team UFP must survive the dangers and rigours of life as Apocalypse gladiators. Unbeknown to Starfleet, Apocalypse's chairman, Coplin, is quietly implementing a plan that will rock the Federation to it's very core...
Warning: Contains strong, gory and sometimes graphic violence, and one use of strong swearing.
High Stakes, Chapter 1 part 1
Day 1, 1100 hours
Megan and Bashir arrived at the same time in the wardroom. Evidently they were puzzled because they were glancing up and down the empty table looking for someone.
“Where's the colonel?” asked Megan.
Bashir had stopped glancing at the table, his eyes were full of suspicion. “That's odd,” he said, frowning. “Computer locate colonel Kira.”
“That won't be necessary,” said a voice behind Bashir and Megan.
Having turned around, Bashir was gazing at the stranger with a mixture of concern and confusion. “And who are you?”
The man before Bashir smiled, as if he expected a more warmer welcome. “I'm the head of Section 31, Timothy Rooter.”
While Bashir looked at Rooter in a disgusted manner, Megan appeared more curious than angered. “Did Jack contact you?”
“He told me of your questions,” Rooter answered. “But there are more pressing matters... I am convinced that there is a mole in Section 31, and that he is stationed in DS9.”
Briefly both Bashir and Megan looked at each other in surprise, such a revelation seemed too extreme to be true.
“I'm not listening to you!” Bashir hissed, every syllable was tainted with rage. “Your organisation tried to exterminate the Founders! I'm surprised you had the audacity to come here and talk to me!”
Rooter sighed in an exasperated manner, and momentarily he shook his head in apparent frustration. “We could argue about the moral high ground for ages, suffice to say you don't trust me and I don't trust you, but we do have a common enemy here and that is Apocalypse.”
Strangely a smile formed upon Bashir’s face. “What's the matter Rooter?” he said, staring at Rooter nastily. “Can't the mighty Section 31 infiltrate Apocalypse?”
A ghost of a smile appeared on Rooter’s face, as he tried to brush off Bashir's scathing remark. “Let just say Section 31 wasn't to successful when it came to that matter... Until that is I thought I found what I was looking for; a defector, one who could play the role of the double-agent.”
“He betrayed you didn't he?” Bashir replied, the smile was now gone. “Despite all of your checks he still fooled you.”
This made Rooter look even more defensive. “I realised there was a problem when Section 31 lost contact with the infiltrator. One of my agents Jack Smith had requested that the infiltrator be sent to DS9, but unfortunately Section 31 had lost track of him three months ago. He may be here on this station or not, I just don't know.”
“I don't believe it,” said Megan, though more to herself, “Jack kept his promise...”
“He was ordered to do so!” said Rooter impatiently, giving Megan a cold but derisive stare.
“You want us to find this mole don't you?” Bashir asked. “You want myself and Megan to do your dirty work!”
“In a manner of speaking,” said Rooter, with a smile. “I believe the attack on DS9 was to silence Megan, as she had been attempting to pry into Apocalypse's affairs. Since Apocalypse must have known about Megan's contact with Jack, then they wanted to send Jack a message; no one interferes with Apocalypse's affairs.”
Bashir though did not look convinced. “Even if what you are saying is true, how can we find this person?”
“Put it this way; the Federation is going to attack Apocalypse, and our rouge agent will travel on the Defiant maintaining his cover while informing Apocalypse of the incoming attack. When the time comes and the Defiant is travelling towards Apocalypse station, that will be your opportunity to find the agent. That is your mission.”
Megan took Rooter’s words with great umbrage. “I refuse to take orders from you...” she snarled, her mouth twisted and contorted in loathing. “Your organisation isn't part of the Federation.”
It appeared that Rooter was expecting considerable objections to his orders, because he was staring at Megan in a sly manner. “Oh but I think you will follow my orders, the last thing you need in the heat of battle is an unknown saboteur onboard the Defiant. If he thinks he's cornered he may destroy the Defiant, personally I don't think he wants to be captured...”
Now Bashir looked even more suspicious, he was frowning so hard his eyebrows were almost scrunched together. “You seem awfully convinced that Starfleet will attack, how would you know the outcome of the admiral's meetings?”
Turning to address Bashir, Rooter folded his arms and he had the air of one explaining something in the simplest way possible. “Because Starfleet has no choice but to attack. Apocalypse will only grow bolder and more ambitious, it is funded by the Ferengi and the Tren, and with that sort of money Apocalypse is steadily building up fleets of ships and purchasing weaponry and mercenaries from various criminal elements.
“You can tell admiral Ross that according to Section 31's calculations, Apocalypse will have the weaponry and the ships not only to be impervious to a Starfleet assault in the Pushui system, but also it will considerably expand its zone of influence. These abductions are only the start, in a few years time there will be devastating raids on Federation worlds from an area stretching from the tip of the Breen Confederacy to the Romulan Neutral Zone! The civilian casualties will run into the millions!”
“And why haven't you told admiral Ross-or any other admiral for that matter-about this?” Bashir asked, he was looking daggers at Rooter.
Once again Rooter’s face slipped a little, he even seemed ever so slightly awkward about answering the question. “Well Section 31's working relationship with the admirals reached an all-time low after the end of the Dominion war. The thorny issue was the plan to cripple the Dominion-”
“You mean the murder of millions of shapeshifters!” Bashir exclaimed.
“You could call it that...” said Ross, in a chillingly uncaring voice.
“What else can you portray it as?”
Annoyance cropped up on Rooter’s face, and it seemed he had lost patience arguing with Bashir. “Please doctor spare me your holier-than-though morality,” he said, saying the words as if they were vile. “You and I both know that if the Dominion had won, the Founders wouldn't hesitate to exterminate our race. It was either us or them, and Section 31 had to make a choice that naive and decent men like yourself doctor could never make; to destroy or be destroyed!”
Bashir did not have an answer to that, and Rooter looked victorious having settled the argument decisively. “Now if I may continue... Certain admirals I know have kept me at arms length because they want nothing to do with myself or Section 31. So for the last nineteen years I've had to give information to the admirals through more covert measures, not as face-to-face if you get my meaning...”
“You want us to be the messengers?” Megan asked.
“Precisely,” said Rooter emphatically. “You can tell colonel Kira all that I have revealed to you.”
Some of Bashir’s anger had returned, and he was once more staring at Rooter in a partly smug and defiant way. “You're taking a risk, telling me this information, I could inform Starfleet and tell everyone I know about Section 31.”
This did not seem to worry Rooter whatsoever, he looked totally nonplussed. “My predecessor had a similar discussion and just like him I'm not that worried,” he said, a hint of impatience cropping up once more. “You see the top brass will lie through their teeth and deny that Section 31 ever existed. They have to do this otherwise the word will eventually get out that they allowed Section 31 to exterminate the Founders. That is why they distance themselves from Section 31 as much as possible.”
“But they're willing to use the intelligence you provide to them?” Bashir asked in seething tones.
Rooter moved some steps closer to Bashir, and there was a powerful self-confidence coming from this man. “I have one word for you doctor; leverage. Starfleet Command wouldn't dare touch my organisation because I know too many damaging secrets that Starfleet has very carefully hidden away. Suffice to say Starfleet did not come out of the Dominion war smelling like roses, and so Section 31's existence remains hidden and the status quo preserved. Now you can disagree with my motives all you like, but if you don't try to apprehend the rouge agent he may try to sabotage the Defiant, or disrupt the soon-to-be-coming Starfleet attack on Apocalypse.”
“How do we know you are not the mole?”
A smug smile came to Rooter’s face. “Because we wouldn't be having this discussion if I was the mole.”
“Why can't you find the mole?” said Megan, she appeared suspicious by the whole rouge agent matter. “I mean with all your technology couldn't you send someone to track this agent down?”
“As I said before Section 31 doesn't want to get its hands dirty,” Rooter explained.
He started walking away from Bashir and Megan, and came to a stop at one end of the table. Turning his head to the right he addressed the two once more. “Good luck doctor, commander, I'm sure you will find the rouge agent if he is still on board this station.”
A transporter beam then enveloped Rooter, and in a few seconds he had dematerialized. Rooter’s sudden disappearance had shocked Megan, and she dashed over to a computer interface some metres away from the other end of the table.
“Damn there's no trace of him...” she said, while examining sensor logs. “He must have wiped out all the computer memory…”
She turned away from the computer and gave a questioning stare to Bashir, who was now standing close by. “Are we really going to follow his orders?”
“I'm not sure,” said Bashir, looking somewhat surly and troubled.
To Megan’s surprise he then walked away to leave for the exit. “Where are you going?”
“To talk to colonel Kira about what just happened!”
Bashir left the room, leaving Megan standing there looking a little surprised by the prompt exit.
Bashir tapped the door chime outside of Kira’s office, before walking inside.
Kira looked exceptionally busy, with numerous padds strewn over the table. “What is it doctor?” she said impatiently.
“I just had a meeting with the head of Section 31, and-”
“You what?” said Kira, looking totally bewildered by what Bashir had just said.
Bashir sought to explain himself better. “Myself and Ms Felpes received a false communication from you telling us to meet you in the wardroom. But when we arrived you weren't there, some moments later the head of Section 31, Timothy Rooter, beamed in. Well at least I think he was beamed in.”
The padd Kira was holding dropped against the desk with a small clunk, it appeared that Kira had totally forgotten about her work as her eyes were fastened upon Bashir’s. “What did he want?”
“He wants me and Megan to find an agent of his who has gone rogue. This agent was formerly Section 31's infiltrator in Apocalypse, but he has now apparently defected or gone on the run. Rooter told me that he believes this agent could still be on DS9.”
“And how would he know that?”
Bashir frowned somewhat as he thought about his conversation with Rooter, he did not have an answer for that and this was starting to concern him. “Rooter wasn't exactly clear about that, but he was quite adamant that this agent would be on board the Defiant.”
“And why the Defiant?” asked Kira in a sharp manner.
Grimacing a little, Bashir felt deeply awkward about what he was going to say next. “Well Rooter believed that Starfleet would attack Apocalypse, and the Defiant would be involved.”
This statement seemed to both somewhat shock and make Kira more suspicious. “So somehow Rooter already knows the outcome of the deliberations going on amongst the highest ranking members of Starfleet Command?”
“There's more to this than meets the eye…” Bashir mused. “Rooter told me that the admirals and Section 31 aren't on speaking terms. This explains why Rooter gave me this warning about Starfleet not doing anything about Apocalypse.”
“A warning?” said Kira loudly, sounding deeply concerned.
“He said that Apocalypse is funded by both the Ferengi and the Tren, and with that kind of funding Apocalypse is steadily building up its armaments and fleets. It gets worse because Rooter believes that Apocalypse will only grow more aggressive and in a matter of a few years it would have amassed enough ships and weaponry to not only be impervious to a Starfleet assault in the Pushui system, but also carry out massive scale attacks upon the Federation.
“We're talking about a zone of danger from the Federation's border with the Breen to the Romulan Neutral Zone! Finally he said that given such attacks the civilian casualties could run into the millions!”
“Does admiral Ross know this?”
“I don't think so,” said Bashir wearily, he hated having to talk with all this vagueness and mystery. “Section 31 rarely communicates with the admirals, and when it does the occasions aren't always face-to-face... I think this is Section 31's way of warning admiral Ross and his peers about the dangers of not agreeing to attack Apocalypse.”
Kira looked deeply perplexed to hear this. “But isn't Rooter taking a risk talking to us about Section 31?”
Bashir shook his head, though Kira knew about Section 31, she did not fully grasp how this organisation worked, whereas he did. “Well firstly we already know Section 31 exists. Secondly we haven't told anyone else about it, and if we did mouth off then Section 31 would go into absolute hiding, which would only make matters even worse...”
Kira made a small tutting sound, her frustration seemed to have increased considerably. “I have heard your reasoning before and it still sounds like a glib excuse for not exposing Section 31.”
“I don't like it either,” replied Bashir as he tried to deflect the blame. “But I don't see how exposing Section 31 to the entire Alpha Quadrant will destroy it!”
The scowl on Kira’s face only seemed to deepen, while her hands which were resting on the table had now been clasped together. “Setting aside the matter of Section 31, what about this mission Rooter has given you, do you intend to complete it?”
Bashir gave out a brief and almost imperceptible sigh, he was not looking forward to talking about this mission, and what he was going to say would only make Kira more angry towards him. “As much as I don't want to work with Rooter I'm afraid I have to agree with him about finding this rogue agent. If this agent is on DS9 then he could pose a serious security risk... Besides the agent may have being staying on this station for close to three months, that places him in the timeframe before the Apocalypse attack. For all we know this agent could have sabotaged DS9...”
The expression on Kira’s face softened a little, and she did not seem so exasperated. “I fully appreciate the threat this person poses, but if Section 31 couldn't track him, what makes you think we can?”
“We won't have to track him,” answered Bashir craftily, and he could not help feel a little smug as he envisaged this situation happening so easily. “If events proceed as planned, such as Starfleet assaulting the Pushui system, then the Defiant will surely be involved in such an operation. If the agent is on DS9 then he will board the Defiant, no doubt posing as a Starfleet officer. Hence it will be on the Defiant that we find our agent.”
Kira raised a questioning eyebrow, and her voice went up half an octave. “If this agent really is posing as a Starfleet officer then surely the logical thing to do would be to question each Starfleet officer on board this station?”
Inwardly Bashir groaned to himself, what seemed like the logical thing to do was unfortunately the incorrect course of action for a situation like this. “I know this sounds complicated and we've already made to many assumptions. But if the agent is on DS9, if he has stayed here for three months, and if he is under the guise of a Starfleet officer, then it shows his skill at not being caught!
“We could question all the Starfleet officers on this station and we would more than likely finding nothing suspicious or anything to implicate one of them as this agent! That's why I maintain we will only find the agent once on board the Defiant when it is taking part in the more-than-likely Starfleet assault of the Pushui system!”
Almost immediately Kira shook her head, in an almost reflexive-like response, she looked deeply troubled by Bashir’s proposal . “It is still a risk deliberately letting such a person go on board the Defiant during a combat mission!” she exclaimed.
She paused, as she mulled matters over. “But under the circumstances it looks like we have no choice... However before we go along with this mission of Rooter's, I'm talking to admiral Ross first about your meeting with Rooter. If he gives his approval of this mission then we proceed with it.”
Bashir had one more thing to ask of Kira. “Also tell Ross about Rooter's warning about the consequences of leaving Apocalypse to its own devices!”
“Are you sure that's wise?” asked Kira, giving an almighty penetrating stare into Bashir’s eyes. “If I do tell him then it could heavily influence the deliberations he is having with the other admirals!”
“But that's exactly what Section 31 wants!” exclaimed Bashir, it all made perfect sense to him. “It wants Starfleet to attack Apocalypse! Besides I have the feeling that Starfleet Command still listens to Section 31 whenever advice, intelligence or warnings are given.”
“Alright I will tell Ross,” relented Kira, though she still sounded deeply dubious about the whole matter. “And if that is what it takes to convince Starfleet Command to attack then so be it!”
“Thank you,” said Bashir, glad that his friend had put up with such a huge amount of speculative talk and reasoning.
With the topic closed, and with nothing more to say, he moved away from the desk and left the office. He could fully understand Kira’s suspicions and doubt about this Section 31 mission and Rooter’s warning, as the whole situation did not feel right. But Bashir was prepared to get his hands a little dirty if it meant guaranteeing a Starfleet assault on Apocalypse.
He was coming to regard Section 31 as a necessary evil because it had its uses. Still he wished Section 31 never existed, and every time he had come into contact with Section 31, he left each encounter feeling that his morality had been a little sapped and withered. What he did not like about this was that he was playing Section 31’s game of for the greater good. The only thing he was certain about was that Apocalypse could not be allowed to continue on unchecked…
|January 11 2012, 11:59 PM||#156|
Location: The great gig in the sky
Re: DS9: A continuation
Day 1, 1100 hours
Finally with admiral Ross on board Kira’s whole mood had lifted. The chances of Starfleet attacking Apocalypse were now considerably higher, but still Kira feared Ross may not be able to convince Starfleet Command. Furthermore Ross had agreed to Bashir and Megan going along with the mission Section 31 had assigned to them.
Despite all of this, Kira knew that Starfleet Command could still object to launching a first strike against Apocalypse. What she needed was more evidence of the threat Apocalypse posed to the Federation...
She knew of one person on the station who could give her that evidence and that was Quark. Walking into his bar, which as usual was bustling with customers, she spotted Quark making drinks behind the counter.
When Quark had passed what appeared to be a Klingon blood martini to Morn, he glanced around and spotted Kira coming towards him. “Talk about lightening up my day, what can I do for you colonel?”
“I'd like some information...” she said, sounding intentionally a little vague.
“Then I'm your man,” said Quark confidently. “What kind of information might I add?”
“I think the Ferengi Alliance is funding Apocalypse.”
Quark’s face fell slightly, and momentarily Kira wondered if Quark had no information or was bluffing.
“I wouldn't know about that...” said Quark.
“But your brother does,” said Kira, getting crafty, “and you've always been on good terms with him. Besides if the Ferengi Alliance are funding Apocalypse, then you could persuade your brother to reconsider his government's stance regarding Apocalypse.”
“Even if my brother has some sort of dealings with Apocalypse then it is still going to be tough to persuade to stop this supposed funding of Apocalypse. Personally it isn't worth the effort.”
“Perhaps,” mused Kira, and she gave Quark a penetrating stare. “Though maybe it might be worth your effort...”
Quark leaned over the table looking very interested. “I'm listening.”
“You have not paid Federation taxes in 26 years, and it is a lot of taxes you've dodged.”
Kira gave Quark a very serious foreboding stare, though she was bluffing she maintained her expression without it faltering. “I could order you to legally pay that tax, no doubt such a repayment would bankrupt you at the very least.”
All the interest had vanished from Quark, and he looked horrified, so horrified that his breathing had become ragged and erratic. “That's blackmail!” he protested.
“I'm just enforcing the law...” said Kira, giving Quark a small wicked smile.
“Alright!” said Quark angrily, baring his teeth. “I’ll talk to Rom...”
“Thank you Quark,” said Kira in a somewhat sweet voice.
She turned away and walked out of the bar. Threatening Quark like that gave her no pleasure, and she felt a little guilty seeing how hurt Quark looked. But it was the only way to make Quark do something for her without paying in latinum, concessions or downright seduction…
However she had used some considerable leverage against Quark, and she knew she could not use that threat again. With many Ferengi the only way to get one over them was leverage, and Kira was rapidly coming to the point where she was running out of favours and leverage. Still she hoped Quark would provide her with some useful information, maybe some of it would be damning evidence of Apocalypse’s intentions regarding the Federation…
Day 2, 0500 hours
She was running away but still the Jem’Hadar came nearer. Death was coming to her and yet she could not go any faster, fear urged her to run faster but something seemed to be slowing her down.
Turning around a corner in a corridor, she saw that the corridor came to a dead end. Fear totally overwhelmed her, she had no weapons and now her escape route had lead her into a trap. The Jem’Hadar came around the corner, and Ezri staggered backwards like some frightened, cornered animal trying to avoid the predator’s jaws for as long as possible.
Finally there was no more corridor left and she bumped into the wall. The Jem’Hadar were advancing upon her carrying standard issue Apocalypse melee knives.
“Please don’t kill me!” she screamed.
Still the Jem’Hadar advanced and Ezri felt so frightened she wished she would die right now without pain, without even realising what had happened…
Before she realised it, a Jem’Hadar knife was buried into her chest, penetrating her left lung, and it was the most painful experience Ezri had ever felt. She screamed out aloud, screaming from the very depths of her guts as all her fear and terror manifested itself. In and out the knives went and Ezri thrashed around, against the wall, trying to avoid the Jem’Hadar knives. All the time she was screaming both in pain and fear, blood was pouring out of her body, and agonising pain erupted all over her wounds.
The Jem’Hadar threw her to the floor and became more frenzied in their attack. Desperately Ezri tried to shield herself with her arms, but they became so slashed, bloodied and wounded that Ezri could not even move her arms anymore.
All the time in her head the same words repeated over and over again. 'Let it end! Let it end! Oh please let it end!'
Now the Jem’Hadar were not just using their knives, some of them were pummeling Ezri’s torso and head with their fists.
Ezri felt her nose break, her lips burst, her teeth being punched out, and every bone in her face breaking. There was so much blood it clouded her vision, and still she screamed as the Jem’Hadar took their time killing her.
Finally she saw a Jem’Hadar take out a rozstokra, he swung it high and brought it down aiming for Ezri’s face. Somehow the pain seemed to fade away as she saw the axe, death itself, come to her face. This would be the final blow and then she would be dead, the axe was inches to Ezri and it-
Ezri suddenly sat bolt upright on the mattress, breathing deeply. For a moment she felt totally terrified but then slowly she caught up with her senses. She had not been stabbed and battered to death by the Jem’Hadar, her body was whole and totally unharmed. Still she felt considerably rattled and realising how much of a cold sweat she was in, she got out of the mattress and headed to the bathroom to clean herself up.
She was sweating rather profusely around her chest, and her white T-shirt felt slightly damp. Checking her chronometer it was 0500 hours and she knew that going back to sleep would be out of the question giving her nightmare. So she may as well start her day a few hours early.
Once inside she locked the door, she headed over to the sonic shower. She activated the shower head from the command panel on the outside of the sonic shower unit. There was the hiss of water from behind the transparent glass doors. Just as Ezri was reconfiguring the temperature of the water, she heard the faint sound of a roaring crowd and the sounds of the arena…
She froze, maybe it was just some sort of remnant from the nightmare and she had just imagined those sounds. Even so she felt another bout of fear, and for some peculiar reason she could not attribute this to the nightmare. No this came from within…
The sounds of the crowd and the arena got a little louder, the volume was that of someone talking right next to her. She heard explosions, cries of pain, of fury, and all these sounds made her feel frightened. This did not make any sense, the sounds got a bit louder and her fear correspondingly increased.
There had to be a way to stop these sounds, maybe if she could not hear them they would go away… Looking around, her eyes came to the shower. Yes that could be loud enough, once inside the shower unit, to drown out the sounds. She opened the shower door, ignoring the fact that she was wearing her night clothes, and stepped inside.
She was standing a few centimetres away from the foot-wide fountain of water pouring from the shower head, her socks were already wet from the pool of water that had formed at the floor. Still she could hear those sounds, though they had dimmed somewhat, she realised her hearing would be further impaired if the water was gushing into both her ears.
Taking a step forwards, she moved beneath the shower head. She felt the warm water trickling down her hair and wetting her arms. Soon her hair was soaked in water, and the water clogged up her ears and the loudness of the sounds steadily diminished.
“Go away,” she breathed. “It’s not real Ezri, go away!”
The fear started fading away and now she started to relax, the water ran down her T-shirt and lingerie, before moving through her trousers, until the garments clung to her body. It was a pleasant sensation and she breathed out deeply, with each breathe her fear and the imaginary sounds were swept away with the water.
Finally she opened her eyes, and though she was soaked to the skin, she finally felt calm. The nightmare and the experience of hearing those voices did not feel so fresh and raw. Now though she was beginning to feel sick with worry. What just happened was an indication of something far worse; she was starting to lose her mind and her sanity. Hearing voices was a bad sign and she realised all the fighting in the arena matches had affected her more deeply than she realised.
If she heard more voices, and the problem deteriorated, it would considerably affect her abilities as a gladiator. If this was not just a one-off occurrence, how long could she pretend that nothing was wrong with her before someone noticed? In the worse case scenario she would be deemed medically unfit to be a gladiator, and that would mean the end of her short-lived career, the end of her life…
She suddenly realised that she was crying, as her eyes felt puffy and there was a burning sensation. Why was she crying? It did not make any sense to her, she did not feel that upset and yet there was this strange feeling of insecurity. Out of some strange instinct Ezri sat down on the floor, her knees were huddled against her chest, and she fought for some considerable moments to regain control…
“Come on!” she said in a tortured voice. “Pull yourself together, keep your wits about you because the team needs you!”
Speaking out aloud felt like the best way to confront the strange feelings inside of her. Finally some sort of common sense hit her, and she realised she had gone to the shower to clean herself up. Now that she had something to do, she got to her feet, and took off her soaking wet clothes and lingerie. Feeling more sure of what she was doing, she proceeded to clean herself…
|January 12 2012, 10:37 PM||#157|
Location: The great gig in the sky
Re: DS9: A continuation
“Are you sure you heard correctly?” asked Jake, while he fired his rifle at targets in a firing range.
“I'm positive,” said Nog who was also shooting, though in a separate block. “I was wide awake and I heard Ezri get into the shower, and she said something like 'go away, you're not real!'. That's what it sounded like, and then she spoke for a second time and it sounded like she was having some sort of breakdown. She sounded scared and upset, and I think Ezri is getting stressed out and could even be hallucinating.”
“Maybe she is stressed,” admitted Jake. “But hallucinating?”
“Computer end program,” said Nog.
The firing range disappeared and Jake and Nog were standing on the holosuite floor. Nog looked really annoyed by Jake’s scepticism. “Well explain to me the 'you're not real' part? If you ask me it means she is seeing things or hearing things.”
Jake was a little miffed at Nog suddenly ending the program, but he recognised that Nog was more concerned about Ezri than rifle practice. “You are absolutely certain you heard this correctly?”
“I was wide awake the whole time, I woke up and realised it was Ezri muttering in her sleep. It sounded like she was having a really horrible nightmare, so anyway I tried to go back to sleep but couldn't. Then I heard her wake up, and then walk over to the bathroom. So I'm telling you I was wide awake the whole time.”
“Okay okay,” said Jake wearily. “I believe you!”
“Good,” said Nog, for a brief moment he looked victorious. Though that soon changed into worry. “I wonder if we should tell Ezri that she needs to see a doctor for her stress?”
“Firstly this is your idea so why not you tell her?” pointed out Jake, he wanted no part in this little idea of Nog’s. “Secondly I don't think she would like it if you told her she was stressed.”
“For we all know Ezri could be at breaking point, we have to tell her!” said Nog a little desperately.
Jake though thought that Nog was not only worrying for the captain, he knew that Nog looked up to Ezri and she had given them all hope and the strength to keep fighting on. “Listen Ezri would only want help when absolutely necessary. She's the leader of this team, sort of like our captain. She wants to appear strong and not show any signs of weakness, besides Ezri isn't stupid, eventually she will ask for help if her problems worsen...”
As she walked along the promenade Ezri felt much better, and the events of last night seemed like a distant memory. She was now more concerned with day-to-day matters: buying ammunition, weapon upgrades and, more recently, acquiring sturdier body armour.
“Are you certain about buying new armour instead of the XM7 plasma rocket launcher?” asked Max.
“We upgraded our plasma rifles to fire HE Fralax rounds, so I'm happy with our firepower. But the gladiator armour just doesn't cut it, we need stronger armour, and I'm also getting sick of having slasher blades dig into my body. You have no idea how painful it is, and hopefully with stronger armour I can avoid that.”
“We can try Hodge's Armoury, the store owner. He's a Relletian called Vajarn Felour and he sells the best quality merchandise, but...”
“But what?” said Ezri somewhat impatiently.
“He charges an arm and a leg for it, he puts most Ferengi to shame with his negotiating skills.”
Ezri suspected that this Vajarn person had been running rings around Max, and she knew exactly why; Max was no negotiator, whereas negotiating was more her realm. “Tell me something Max, did this Vajarn fellow get a sense that you were a soft touch?”
At that moment Max looked a little uncomfortable. “Well I was just investigating, and I wasn't buying... I wouldn't exactly say I was pussy-footing around.”
“People like Vajarn are ruthless and calculating, the only way to counter this is to be equally as ruthless...”
There was silence after that, and the two continued along the promenade until they arrived at Hodge’s Armoury. It was a dingy looking place, and most of the light came from the armour displays. The rest of the store was cast in shadows, and Ezri noticed that not all the produce on sale was armour. There were all sorts of bottles, vials and containers, which contained metals, pastes and powders. She recognised some of the substances and realised this store sold the materials for gladiators to make their own armour.
One of the armour suits caught Ezri’s eye and she had seen that type of armour before because Tesla X wore it. Even from here it looked fanciful and elaborate, with little grey nodules all over the black scaly armour. She stopped looking when she saw someone come out of the shadows.
It had to be Vajarn, and his yellowish scaly skin, messy brown hair, purple eyes all seemed to make him blend in with the colours of the shop. Though he stood very upright, there was a certain devious quality in his eyes, but physically he looked woe-by-gone with a somewhat bulging belly and weak chin.
“Ah Mr Weatherby welcome back!” he said in an oily voice. “I see you brought a lady friend with you!”
“This is Ezri Dax,” explained Max, “the leader of Team UFP.”
Vajarn bowed slightly towards Ezri, though Ezri could tell Vajarn was going through the formalities, as all Vajarn really cared about was Max’s money.
“A pleasure to meet you. I take it you are here to buy some new armour?”
“We are,” said Max, briefly glancing at Ezri. “And I'm interested in buying the Norconian armour plating.”
“Indeed,” said Vajarn, though he seemed to ignore Max’s request. “But why not try the electro-stasis armour that Tesla X himself wears?”
“We don't want electro-stasis armour,” said Ezri, her mouth had become rather thin due to her impatience. “We just want the Norconian armour plating.”
“We're on a tight budget, and I'm buying for four people,” explained Max.
“Oh,” said Vajarn looking a little disappointed. “Well… in that case I'll show you the Norconian armour plating.”
Vajarn walked over to a shelf and removed a plastic container. He moved over to a nearby table, placed down the container and opened it up.
Ezri moved closer and looked down into the container’s contents. There was an assorted amount of brown armour plating. “May I?” she asked Vajarn, pointing to the armour.
Vajarn nodded, and at once Ezri’s hand went for one of the forearm plates. She raised the piece up, examining it against the light. The armour felt surprisingly smooth to the touch, yet it was somehow almost furry as her finger brushed over the metal. “Just how strong is this armour?”
“It has three times the tensile strength of standard issue beginner gladiator armour. Not only that the armour is specially layered in microscopic lattices which allow for the absorption of shock against a melee weapon.”
“How much does it cost?” asked Max.
Vajarn turned around to face Max. “300 strips of gold-pressed latinum for each unit of armour.”
“300 strips?” breathed Max, his mouth was agape in disbelieve. “I've only got 700 strips in my financial account!”
“Well that is most unfortunate,” said Vajarn, though he did not at all sound sympathetic. “Of course if you weren't so intent on buying four units of Norconian armour and instead tried the more superior Yustol armour suit it would-”
“I'm not interested in the Yustol armour suit, I want the Norconian armour instead! Besides I've done some checking and I've heard rumours that you have sold Norconian armour at a fraction of the price to some of Apocalypse's more famous gladiators!”
Vajarn though looked a little uneasy, and at that moment Ezri realised that Vajarn was ripping both her and Max off.
“Those are just simply rumours,” said Vajarn, with a faint smile. “I assure you I don't discount!”
Ezri dropped the armour and advanced upon Vajarn. “And why should we believe you?”
“If I discounted my products I would be out of business a long time ago!” he explained, trying to sound confident but giving himself away by the nervousness his face betrayed.
Ezri though had had enough of Vajarn’s lies and excuses, and she launched her right hand straight at the collar of Vajarn’s rather posh looking jacket. She pushed Vajarn leftwards and slammed his back onto the top of the table. Her right hand pulled out a knife in a hidden holder between her jacket and her shirt, and she placed the knife against Vajarn’s throat.
“Liar,” she hissed. “I can see in a man's eyes when he lies to me! And you sir are lying through your teeth! I want the truth or I will slit your miserable little throat and you can bleed to death!”
“I swear to you I'm telling the truth, I don't discount!” replied Vajarn, who sounded very scared and his eyes were constantly flicking from Ezri’s face to the knife she was holding against his throat.
“Tell the truth!” she said loudly, giving Vajarn a little shake with her right hand.
However Vajarn seemed to regain a little of his confidence. “You wouldn't kill me, as Nemoltz would track you down and execute you!”
Unfortunately Vajarn was right, Ezri was not about to kill him, but she had to keep bluffing if Vajarn was ever going to abide by her terms. “In case you haven't noticed I've got nothing to lose, whereas you have everything to lose. You can't make money when you're dead! Whereas everyday I face death in the arenas, and whether I get slain in the arena tomorrow, or slain by this station's security today, there is no real difference.”
She pressed the knife more forcibly against Vajarn’s neck, almost to the point where it would cut through his rather saggy skin. “Now tell me the truth, what is the discounted price of Norconian armour plating?”
“Alright alright!” squawked Vajarn. “The truth is I don't discount at all. Norconian armour plating actually costs 100 strips of latinum! But everyone who isn't involved in the armaments trade doesn't know that! Civilians and nearly all of the gladiators simply accept the high price of weaponry and personal protection!”
“So why do you raise the price?” demanded Ezri.
There was a moment’s silence and it seemed Vajarn had lost his will to talk. “Answer me!” she said in commanding tones.
Vajarn looked even more scared, but managed to find his tongue again. “Apocalypse taxes and tariffs are quite punitive, and because of that if I sell at 100 strips of latinum I barely make any profit! Fortunately though Apocalypse doesn't impose a mark-up tax, and it gives merchants like me the opportunity to mark-up the value of produce considerably, and this mark-up is all tax-free! That's how we make so much money, but please don't tell anyone what I said, otherwise we could all get arrested!”
Now Ezri realised she had some considerable leverage over Vajarn, and with leverage Vajarn would have no choice but to agree to her terms. “If you sell to us the Norconian armour plating at 100 strips of latinum each, Max and I won't tell a soul about your trading practises!”
“Agreed,” said Vajarn shakily.
At once Ezri stashed her knife back inside its holder, and pulled Vajarn back onto his feet.
Vajarn was now trembling slightly, and with shaking hands he took out a padd and a tracer pen. For a moment he was writing something on the tracer pen. Finally he passed the padd to Max. “You need to pay here, and sign here.”
Max took the padd, and Ezri waited as he accessed his bank account.
About half a minute later, Max was done and he passed back the padd to Vajarn.
“Excellent sir,” said Vajarn, while he checked the payment details on the padd. “Your armour will be delivered by 1700 hours today to your quarters.”
The moment the transaction had been complete, Vajarn hurriedly scurried away to the back of the shop. He seemed too frightened to be in Max and Ezri’s presence any longer.
“You see Max,” said Ezri, when they were outside of Vajarn’s shop, “a little ruthlessness can go a long way...”
|January 12 2012, 10:37 PM||#158|
Location: The great gig in the sky
Re: DS9: A continuation
Quark sat on his bed, while he waited for Rom to return the call he had sent out. He felt a little annoyed because he had intended to spend this time in the holosuite, trying his newly acquired program Vulcan Love Slave Five. Alas tonight he would not be seeing scantily clad Vulcan women, desperately trying to make love to him, and all of them suffering from pon farr...
“Transmission received,” said the computer.
Stretching his stiff arms, Quark got up and walked over to his console. Pressing a command, the screen activated, showing Rom in his office.
“Hello brother,” said Rom in his always warm and welcoming voice. “I didn't expect you to call so soon.”
“This isn't a house call Rom,” Quark reminded, he wanted to make this conversation as short and as brief as possible. “Before I go any further just how secure is your end of the comm link?”
Rom looked somewhat puzzled to hear this. “I can encrypt this transmission with the highest security levels if necessary.”
“Then please do so, there are some... sensitive issues to discuss.”
The screen went black before the video feed returned. “I've encrypted the transmission,” said Rom.
“Good...” said Quark, before he cut to the chase. “Today I've heard a rumour of sorts that the Ferengi Alliance is secretly funding Apocalypse. Is this true?”
“Uh...” replied Rom, stalling for time. “I don't know what you are talking about brother.”
Quark sighed, because he instantly realised from Rom’s nervousness to his quick reply, that his brother was lying. “Rom don't try to lie to me, you were never very good at obfuscation, so you may as well preserve what dignity you have left and tell me the truth!”
“But who are you going to talk to about this conversation we’re having?”
“Colonel Kira of course,” said Quark a little impatiently, he could not understand Rom’s reluctance to spill the beans. “She asked me to contact you!”
“And what does the colonel want with this information-I mean why doesn't she ask me herself?”
“Ha! So you do admit it, the Ferengi Alliance has been secretly funding Apocalypse!”
“I never said that!” protested Rom.
“You alluded to it,” replied Quark, trying to sound as patronising as possible. “Listen are you going to tell me or not, because right now I've got better things to do than talk to you!”
Rom grimaced in a frustrated manner, and it seemed something else was holding him back from telling Quark everything. “Even if I wanted to give you the information, I can't! It would be too dangerous!”
At the mention of dangerous, Quark became ten times more engaged with the conversation. Just what had his brother gotten himself involved in here? “Does mother know about this?”
“Not exactly...” said Rom slowly, avoiding Quark’s stare.
“By the Blessed Exchequer!” exclaimed Quark. “Just how deep are your lobes in this mess?”
“Listen I can give you details, but promise me you won't tell to Kira the names I'm about to tell you!”
“I promise brother,” said Quark, making the Ferengi hand gesture of trustworthiness.
With that Rom then launched into a full explanation of how the Ferengi Alliance funded Apocalypse.
Quark was astounded by what he heard. It seemed clear that Apocalypse had only grown so rapidly in the last ten years because of Ferengi funding. The Ferengi government provided Apocalypse with millions of bricks of gold-pressed latinum. While Apocalypse used this to build the station, its ships, arenas and purchase mercenaries and weapons. The ingenious part was that the Ferengi companies could advertise their produce on the Apocalypse media, and reach an audience of trillions of people, trillions of new customers.
Quark was even more surprised when Rom told him it was his idea to assist Coplin, and his business partner Nemoltz, to set up Apocalypse. However the more Quark found out, the more his apprehension grew. He was going to have to tell this to Kira, and likewise she would tell the Federation about the Ferengi funding of Apocalypse.
But if the Federation found out there would be diplomatic and economic consequences, consequences that Rom did not seem to realise right now.
“Rom I hate to interrupt you but we have a serious problem!”
Quark shook his head, at times Rom’s stupidity could be maddening. “I have to tell Kira this, and she’ll tell Starfleet, and then the Federation will realise your government has been helping Apocalypse. Do you see now the dangers of funding Apocalypse?
“Oh no!” exclaimed Rom, his eyes wide with fear. “If the Federation knows, then they could carry out a trade embargo of the Ferengi Alliance… Unless of course you don’t tell Kira about what I told you!”
“You don’t get it do you?” said Quark angrily. “If I don’t tell Kira everything, and I don’t think I’ll be able to lie and get away with it, she’ll ruin me!”
“And if you do tell her, you’ll ruin the entire Ferengi economy!” shouted Rom.
“Just calm down!” said Quark, placing his hands up. “There is a way out of this mess and that’s damage control.”
“Damage control?” quoted Rom.
“It’s simple, you withdraw all funding from Apocalypse, and so that way when the Federation comes knocking at your door, you can say to them you did the right and noble thing.”
Quark paused as he thought about his solution, as he did so he absentmindedly rubbed a finger against his right ear. “Also tell them that you didn’t realise that Apocalypse was abducting people and attacking ships, stations and worlds in Federation territory.”
Rom’s mouth dropped in horror. “Apocalypse has been attacking the Federation?”
“Don’t tell me you had no idea of what Apocalypse has been getting up to recently?”
Now Rom looked a little guilty. “The truth is Apocalypse never did inform the Ferengi government about exactly what the money was used for. Also I did hear rumours that Apocalypse was behind the hit-and-run raids in the Federation and elsewhere, but I thought they were just rumours.”
“You thought brother?” said Quark disbelievingly. “You are the Grand Nagus, how could you not know what was going on?”
“That’s not the only problem. If my government withdraws funding from Apocalypse, I could make some considerable enemies amongst the business community.”
“And if you do nothing the Federation will ruin the Ferengi economy, and you will make even more enemies!”
Rom looked a little taken back to hear this, he seemed to be doing some considerable soul searching. “Alright I’ll see if I can get my government to withdraw Apocalypse funding.”
“That’s all I ask for,” said Quark with a slight bow. “But do take care brother, what you are about to do is very unpopular and there could be challenges to your position!”
Despite Quark’s warning, Rom looked resolutely at his brother. “Whatever happens to me doesn’t matter, I did the right thing, and if I lose this title as Nagus then so be it!”
The transmission ended, and though Quark thought Rom’s tenacity to abide to righteousness and justice was a little stupid, he could not help but admire Rom’s bravery. However misguided it was…
Day 3, 1000 hours
Quark received some stares from the officers in Ops, but he ignored those and proceeded to the commander’s office.
The moment he had entered the office, Kira had looked up from her work. “What did you find Quark?”
“It seems you were right,” said Quark, and he slid a padd across the desk to Kira. “The Ferengi Alliance is providing significant amounts of funding to Apocalypse. Furthermore the Ferengi Alliance has a vested interest in Apocalypse because it can advertise Ferengi company's produce to the trillions of people who watch Apocalypse.”
For a moment there was silence as Kira read Quark’s report, afterwards she lowered it and looked at Quark rather thoughtfully. “Is there any means to stop the Ferengi Alliance's funding of Apocalypse?”
“The only way would be for the Grand Nagus himself to demand a cessation in funding. Rom assured me he would look into the matter, but I can't promise you anything. One last thing; given the size of Apocalypse I'm certain that the Ferengi Alliance are not the only ones to be funding Apocalypse. There could be third party involvement.”
Kira face betrayed a little surprise, and Quark knew that he had given her some really useful information.
“Thanks Quark, I owe you one,” said Kira giving him a brief smile.
“Don't mention it...” said Quark pretending to be modest, he thought it was now best to ask whether he had fulfilled Kira’s terms. “Does that mean I won’t have to pay any taxes?”
“I suppose I can continue to keep looking the other way,” said Kira, though she looked undecided. “For now of course…”
“Thank you colonel,” said Quark, and giving Kira a polite nod, he turned to leave the office.
|January 13 2012, 11:51 PM||#159|
Location: The great gig in the sky
Re: DS9: A continuation
Day 3, 1100 hours
Ezri and her team walked down the ramp, leaving the Apocalypse ship’s passenger hold. No sooner had they left the ramp, did it recede back into the ship. As the ramp moved backwards, the passenger hatch moved downwards. Both the ramp and the hatch closed in near harmony.
Already Ezri could feel the heat and humidity, it was 35 degrees centigrade, and she inwardly groaned because Trills did not like the heat.
The ship’s wing-mounted thrusters, aimed at the ground, fired up. Slowly the ship began to rise until the thrusters from behind activated and the ship began picking up both speed and height.
Ezri ignored the departing ship, as her eyes were trained on a massive metallic grey coloured blimp, hovering a few hundred metres up. She waited for Juanita and Dallas to announce the start of the match. As always Max had reconfigured the team’s helmets, so that they tapped into the Apocalypse commentary. This would be useful because during arena matches, Dallas and Juanita sometimes revealed what lay ahead during a match.
Even Max could not always update the team, because he could not hack into every blueprint and schematic of the match layout. This was a practice which virtually every mission controller did to varying degrees.
Though against Apocalypse rules, Ezri knew it did not deter mission controllers. She personally suspected that Apocalypse did not clamp down on this practice because it secretly approved of it, as it was another means of prolonging a gladiator’s lifespan.
As she waited, on the grassy ground, for the commentary to begin, she looked straight ahead to where the course began. Past a force field generated by two metallic columns, there was a wide gorge, lined by trees on both sides, and Ezri knew it would be treacherous going.
“Max here, I’m uploading the first part of the course onto your PCD. As you probably gathered you have a gorge to navigate, it extends for half a kilometre before ending at a cliff face.”
“And then what?” Ezri asked.
“I’m not sure, but I’ll find out the rest of the course layout before you reach the cliff, Max out.”
This did not sound to promising to Ezri, but before she could think anymore about the cliff, the commentary began.
“Today we have a special treat for all you Apocalypse viewers,” said Dallas. “Team UFP are down on the planet Dollebia, it’s hot, it’s humid and the native wildlife is just as unaccommodating. If Team UFP survive the gorge, make there way across the valley, they will come to an abandoned temple. In there we have a little surprise for them, as they will have to defeat what we affectionately call ‘The Leviathan’.”
Dallas smirked to Juanita, who elaborated upon the leviathan. “Some of Apocalypse’s fiercest gladiators have died at the claws of the leviathan. No doubt Team UFP will join those departed warriors.”
“But enough said already,” said Dallas excitedly, “and let us get to the action!”
The force field disappeared and Ezri knew the match had now started. “You know the drill!” she said to the rest of the team.
Making their way past the two black columns, the team headed down a grassy slope. As always their rifles were held up since danger could come at any time and from any point. The slope became considerably steeper and now the team was clambering down a rock face.
Juanita looked down from the cockpit and at the gorge. “In the first part of the course, Team UFP must navigate through the gorge which will eventually come out to a sheer rock face. The terrain is treacherous, ambushes abound, and the inexperienced gladiator is easy pickings for the dangers lurking inside this gorge!”
The lack of action made Ezri uneasy, and she wanted to get down onto the flatter, though still rocky, terrain as soon as possible because she was ridiculously exposed clambering down this steep rock face. Suddenly phaser fire hit the rock surfaces next to her, and she quickened her speed. She jumped the last two metres, landing heavily onto the rocky floor.
Her feet seized up from the impact, but her ankles felt fine, and Ezri dashed over to some boulders the size of escape pods. Jake, Holo and Nog were now moving over to positions of cover, and while they did that Ezri fired a few pot shots at some combat droids lurking amongst the rocks.
The droids had been painted in a grey rocky camouflage pattern, making them difficult to spot. So Ezri switched to the partial infrared/natural light setting on her visor. Bringing it downwards, her vision became more black and white in colour, while the outlines of the droids were now a dull glowing orange.
Looking to her team mates, who were now behind cover, she signalled to them giving them a countdown of three. Holding up her hand she held up a finger, two fingers, three fingers…
She and her team mates burst out of cover, firing at the droids. Ezri fired a few rounds at one such droid, and one round hit the droid’s head causing it to explode into burning pieces of shrapnel. Her thallium powered rifle was really doing the trick, and she marvelled at how it chipped away at the rocks the droids were hiding behind.
Moving out she advanced to the remaining droid’s positions.
Holo did the same lowering himself and quickly, and quietly, moved forwards. One of the combat droids moved out of cover, but Holo was more than a match for him. A round had been discharged from his weapon before the droid even raised his rifle.
The three remaining droids burst from the rocks, but Ezri and Holo dived downwards into a prone position, while Jake and Nog finished the droids off.
Ezri got back to her feet. “Let’s keep moving. Nog you cover from behind and keep those lobes of yours open!”
She moved, alongside with Holo, deeper into the gorge. Not only did she have to keep her eyes peeled for enemies, but she had to watch where she put her feet. The gravelly track was not always so, and Ezri hated the brief times when she had to lower her rifle to get over a particularly large boulder.
It was easy destroying the next few lines of droids, as they were not so nimble moving around the rocky terrain. However things became very ugly when a fifty strong horde of slashers came flying into the gorge.
“Slashers!” warned Ezri, as she looked upwards.
At once the rest of her team trained their rifles upwards and started firing. Even so it was not enough and about half a dozen slashers came flying towards each member of the team.
It was hard destroying them because they drifted around so much. When four slashers slowed down and were within two metres of Ezri, their blades whipped out of the spherical body and began whirring around. She managed to destroy three of them but turning around the fourth was too close. Its blades made several revolutions penetrating her armour and digging many centimetres into her flesh.
The blades were agony as they dug into her intestines, but gritting her teeth, Ezri aimed her rifle at the slasher and fired. The round made a huge whole straight through the slasher’s centre, and the blades suddenly stopped. One of the blades embedded into her intestines, splintering from the burnt slasher’s body.
“Ooh those slashers!” exclaimed Dallas. “They probably cause the most painful injuries that gladiators have to endure!”
Blood was already pouring out of Ezri’s wound, and it hurt like mad. Still she had to get the blade out of body, looking around she noticed the slashers were no more.
Jake, Holo and Nog were hurrying over, with Jake and Nog looking concerned at the thirty centimetre long blade protruding out of Ezri’s abdomen.
“Do you need some assistance captain?” Nog asked.
“No,” said Ezri grimacing. “I just got to take it out of my guts!”
Clenching her teeth together, she got her left hand to the blade and tugged. For a moment her wound felt like it was on fire, and Ezri let out a shout of pain. The pain settled down, and the more she breathed the better she felt. Now the nanites were working, the blood flow had been staunched, and the pain was further receding.
Still Jake and Nog looked a little worried, and Ezri had to chivy them along. “It's nothing this wound, I’m feeling better already! So stop standing around like idiots and get moving!”
She started walking again and the rest of the team followed. What surprised her was how the armour was penetrated, this was armour she had bought a few days ago and was supposedly stronger than the original gladiator suit of armour. Though maybe these slashers had extra sharp blades… It was the only explanation and served to remind Ezri that Apocalypse was not going to make things any easier with the matches.
After defeating some more combat droids, the team came out of the gorge and were now facing a huge three hundred metre high cliff.
“What on Trill do we now?” said Ezri, more to herself.
“Look over there,” said Holo, pointing to a circular platform. “I think we use that to somehow proceed to the next part of the course!”
“You think so?” said Jake sceptically.
“Let’s go to the platform and find out what it does,” said Ezri wearily.
As she walked closer, she noticed the platform was made of some blue glowing material, while black tritanium plating lined the perimeter.
“I know what this platform is,” said Max through Ezri’s earpiece. “It’s a transporter pad, just step on it and it will automatically beam you over to a preprogrammed destination point!”
“Thanks Max!” said Ezri gratefully.
Turning around she addressed the whole team. “It’s a transporter pad, Max told me, we just step on and it will beam us over to the next part of the course.”
However Jake, Nog and Holo were looking dubiously at Ezri, they did not seem to believe this. So deciding to take the lead in matters, Ezri decided that she would step onto the pad first. “I’ll step on the pad first…” she told her team.
Walking over she stepped onto the transporter pad, which was less than half a metre in diameter. The moment both her feet were on the pad, she saw a green transporter beam dematerialise her.
Moments later she materialized onto a small clearing between the edge of a forest and the edge of the cliff. Walking over to the edge, she came to a stop and looked down. She could just see Jake, Nog and Holo down at the bottom of the gorge.
“It’s alright!” she yelled at the top of her voice.
This did the trick as moments later Jake, Nog and Holo had materialized close to her position.
Dallas was rifling through his commentary notes on a padd, and he pretended to be surprised when he saw on the screen Team UFP materialising on top of the cliff. “Having easily made the first part, Team UFP must navigate through a two kilometre long track through the jungle.”
“It’s not only Apocalypse opponents they have to worry about,” warned Juanita. “There are other dangers lurking amongst the trees!”
“Indeed,” said Dallas automatically. “If they do make it through the second part of the course, then at the end there are two hovertanks which will be at Team UFP’s disposal!”
Ezri turned her back to the cliff edge and looked at the dusty track leading into the jungle. She did not like it one bit and she needed a map of the route. “Ezri here, Max I need a map of this jungle route now!”
“Just a moment…”
“Hurry!” she warned. “I can’t wait around and I’m proceeding right now into the jungle.”
She signalled to her team to follow her into the jungle, as she walked along the track the tall trees loomed overhead, and Max finally responded.
“Alright, I’ve got the map for this part of the course, I’m uploading it into your PCD right now.”
Now Ezri was inside the jungle. Tall and twisting brown tree trunks stretched high above her from the ground. Massive green shrubs and ivy like plants filled the undergrowth. The track was winding and somewhat indistinct, and Ezri quickly took out her PCD, her personal computer device, and flicked to the recent downloaded contents of the map.
Thankfully the route she was taking was straight, more or less, and Max had even been generous enough to provide a reading of how close to the centre of the path Ezri and her team were. This was important in case she lost sight of the path, also another handy feature was a red marker that filled a small part of the yellow route shown on the map. Already a tiny bit of red had covered the yellow, showing to Ezri just how far she had to go...
|January 13 2012, 11:55 PM||#160|
Location: The great gig in the sky
Re: DS9: A continuation
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!”
“Nice one,” 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.
|January 14 2012, 12:00 AM||#161|
Location: The great gig in the sky
Re: DS9: A continuation
“Finally we're off!” said Dallas, and at once his hand had stopped playing with the padd.
“Hmm,” murmured Juanita, sounding disapproving. “Let us see if Team UFP are equally adept driving hovertanks as they are fighting with small arms!”
One part of Ezri's headset had a small speaker, and she assumed this was for contacting the other hovercraft. Noticing a small button on the speaker she pressed it down, to activate it. “Ezri here, Holo, Jake can you hear me?”
“I hear you captain,” said Jake.
“Do you know how to drive these hovertanks?”
“I’ve worked out the basics, helps with Holo being on board of course. Anyway I’ll follow you from behind.”
“Good, Ezri out.”
She turned the speaker off, and focused on driving the hovertank. Pretty soon there would be an attack from somewhere in the distance, and Ezri hoped that Nog would have figured the controls by then. “Hey Nog do you know how to use the turret?”
“I think I’ve got it figured out,” said Nog, though he did not sound to sure.
Ezri stopped when she heard Max’s voice, come through her headset’s earpieces.
“Sorry I took so long,” said Max.
“It doesn’t matter, we’ve got the basics figured out on our own.”
“Still there are a few more things you need to know. Firstly on the console to your immediate right are the controls for accelerating and braking, but I see you’ve got that figured out already. Above the driving controls are the optical/target acquisition controls.”
“Yeah I see it,” said Ezri, briefly glancing at those controls. “What do they do?”
“Well they control what you see through that eyepiece. There are three different settings: natural light, infrared and of course x-ray. Infrared would be handy for spotting disguised enemies and vehicles, but you get the drift.”
“Can I zoom in?”
“Yeah you can, that’s the command to the direct left of the driving controls. That’s about all you need to know for the basics… How is Nog doing?”
Ezri turned her head around and was glad to see that Nog was familiarising himself just fine with the tactical controls. “He seems fine.”
“Well tell him that aside from the main plasma barrel, on the turret, there are the mortar launchers and the auxiliary plasma machine gun, that is for enemy infantry.”
“Hey Nog do you know about the mortar launchers and the auxiliary plasma machine gun?”
“I do now,” said Nog, and he frowned at one of the overhead consoles he was looking at. “Yeah I see the controls for those two weapons, you can tell Max I can figure out the rest myself!”
“We’re all fine here,” said Ezri, addressing Max.
“Good, well there’s nothing more I can do, so good luck travelling across the valley!”
Ezri activated her headset’s speaker to inform Jake of her attack strategy. “Jake do you read me?”
“Loud and clear captain.”
“We have ten kilometres to travel, and we have no idea what to face. You remain on the track, while I’ll go on the grassland, travelling a few dozen metres parallel to you. By splitting up like this the enemy will have to concentrate fire upon one of the hovertanks.”
“Sure got it.”
“Tell Holo to keep his eyes peeled for enemies! Ezri out.”
Turning off the speaker, Ezri returned her full attention to the view on her optical eyepiece. So far it was just more grassland and nothing up ahead, but that could change very quickly.
She tilted the joystick to the left, and she felt the hovertank lurch a little to her left. It felt a little strange seeing the outside view change, while her right eye saw the cockpit. Never the less after a minute of driving she felt far more accustomed to it. Now she was driving at full throttle and the speedometer told her she was doing forty metres per second.
“And it is a beautiful day on Dollebia,” commented Juanita a little blandly, “but a few explosions would be nice...”
In the distance Ezri spotted two other similar looking hovertanks about five hundred metres in front. They were tiny specks but she zoomed in to get a better look, there was no doubt about it they were enemy hovertanks. “Nog do you see those hovertanks, in the 12 o clock direction at five hundred metres distance?”
“I do, I’ll blast them with the plasma cannon.”
While Nog was aiming up the plasma cannon, Ezri saw two flashes of light come from the enemy hovertanks. At once she moved the hovertank leftwards, it was a good measure because she heard a loud explosion come from somewhere right of the vehicle.
On the eyepiece she briefly saw a plasma round fly through the air heading for one of the enemy hovertanks. The round made a direct hit to the hovertank’s thrusters, soon afterwards the entire hovertank burst into flames as the thruster fuel packs ignited.
Ezri realised Holo had fired that round, and for a hologram, such precise accuracy came as no surprise to her. The hovertank she was driving, rumbled severely when the plasma cannon discharged, and Ezri concentrated simultaneously moving forwards while also focusing on the plasma round. It hit the second enemy hovertank, but directly on its side armour, so little damage had been done.
“Nice shot!” commented Ezri.
“Thanks!” said Nog a little cheerfully. “I’m getting the hang of this aiming system!”
Some moments later and the second enemy hovertank exploded, and with the danger passed, Ezri accelerated her hovertank to maximum speed. In some ways driving this hovertank was fun, speeding across the grassy plains and engaging in long range combat.
“How do Team UFP do it?” asked Dallas rhetorically. “You know make everything look so easy!”
Though Ezri quickly regretted thinking all of this was fun when she saw a rocket home in directly for her hovertank. She strafed the vehicle rightwards, but still the rocket followed her movement.
A split second later a deafening roar reverberated through the entire cockpit, while the sheer vibrations pummelled her innards. She expected to die any moment soon, but she then realised that the armour in front of the cockpit had absorbed the full blow. Now she looked for the enemy who had fired that rocket, but she could not see who was out there in the distance.
So instead she switched to the infrared vision, and the result was instant. The grass, trees and the river became a dull blue/green, but three hundred metres up in front were a dozen or so humanoid figures. Ezri could just see the red glow of the enemies, who were taking cover behind the rim of a small roll in the grassland. “Nog switch to infrared vision, you’ll see who fired that rocket!”
“Yeah I see them, though this time I went to try out the mortars!”
“I don’t care what you use!” shouted Ezri. “Just kill the person who fired that rocket!”
A second rocket fired in the distance, and Ezri moved the joystick in a diagonal left position. That way the rocket would hit the right side of the hovertank, the side that had just as much armour as the front. However she saw small plasma rounds, flying from the hovertank and directed at the rocket. She realised that Nog was trying to shoot the rocket down.
Yellow round after yellow round missed the incoming rocket, and with each miss Ezri saw little puffs of blue earth flying up from where the rounds hit the ground. Now the rocket was less than a hundred metres away, and she braced herself for the impact when it suddenly exploded. Ezri breathed out a sigh of relief, she never wanted to hear such a deafening sound ever again.
Just at that moment she heard the sound of multiple rockets going off to her right. Glancing upwards she saw the faint orange tracer marks giving off by the mortar rounds. They flew in a wide arc, before going downwards, their trajectory steepening before hitting the enemy soldier’s positions. The explosions briefly flared a bright white, and given their size Ezri knew that those soldiers had been blasted to pieces.
But she felt nothing for them, and she reverted back to the natural light view. Straightening up the hovertank, she drove the vehicle at maximum speed again. The ground was becoming a bit more rocky, but the hovertank was a good metre above the ground so it easily avoided the rocks.
As she went upstream, the valley turned considerably to the left, and the mountains upstream were becoming progressively higher. At the very periphery of her vision, she could see a massive stone structure situated between the confluence of two valleys. That had to be the temple, and Ezri worked out that they must have travelled at least five kilometres.
But each kilometre seemed to have more enemy soldiers and hovertanks than the last. The temple grew larger and larger, and even from here Ezri had to admire its beauty. The main part, and the highest bit, looked like a triangular shaped pyramid with the top chopped off. At the lower half were massive supporting arches and buttresses. While at the ground level were a series of walls and smaller structures. All of it was made in the same dull sandy coloured rock.
They must have been less than two kilometres away, when Ezri felt a series of vibrations emanate both around her and in the hovertank. Something was firing from behind, so turning her head around she saw one of those Apocalypse transport ships chase both hovertanks. “Nog,” she shouted, “get that ship off our backs!”
“Oh crap!” exclaimed Nog, and he began working the controls with an intense passion, as he fired whatever armaments the hovertank had left.
“Now this is what I call action!” said Dallas, who was literally on the edge of his seat, watching screenshots of the match. “Watching an Apocalypse transport ship pursue two rapidly moving hovertanks!”
The hovertank shook again, and though Ezri tried to dodge what appeared to be rockets, she was running out of decent ground to manoeuvre on. The flood plains were narrowing, and becoming steeper, and eventually she would have no choice but to stay on the track.
It was hit and miss, and when Ezri was forced to drive on the track, she felt increasingly worried. Without the space to strafe, her hovertank would easily get hit. The track was becoming more bendy, and she had to slow down to avoid either crashing into the trees on her right, or careering down the steep bank to her left.
The hovertank continued to take a pounding, and she deduced that both Nog and Holo were having difficulties trying to aim at the transport ship. Suddenly the transport ship zoomed on ahead of the two hovertanks and disappeared over a small hill. Ezri wondered what it was doing and she felt deeply uneasy by what was going on.
When she drove over the top of the hill, the temple came into sight again, looking more majestic and splendid than ever. Looking downwards was a long bridge across a steep and deep ravine, and just above the bridge was the transport ship. Ezri’s heart sank, as the transport ship had both hovertanks pinned down. To go across the bridge was suicidal as it was made of stone, and Ezri doubted how much pounding it could take.
The transporter ship advanced slowly forwards firing multiple rockets and plasma rounds at both the hovertanks. Inside the cockpit sparks flew from some of the consoles, and Ezri realised the hovertank armour had become dangerously weakened.
“And now Team UFP are totally cornered,” said Juanita. “Do they go across the bridge or stay by the rocks and get blasted to bits?”
She looked up at the transporter ship, glaring at it, there was nothing for it. Either she stayed here getting blasted or she went across the bridge and took her chances. But she did not have to think about what to do, because when the transporter ship was moving away to make another round of attack upon the hovertanks, one of the plasma cannon rounds made a direct hit on the ship’s left thrusters.
Fire and metal erupted from the ship’s stricken left side, and it drifted uncontrollably downwards into the ravine, before eventually making contact with one of the rock faces. A huge explosion billowed upwards from the ravine, and the transporter ship was no more.
“That was one very lucky shot!” exclaimed Dallas.
Ezri activated her communicator as some congratulations were in order. “Jake tell Holo that he has my sincerest admiration for what he just did.”
“Did you hear that Holo?” asked Jake, sounding cocky.
There was a faint rumble which must have been Holo’s voice.
“He says your admiration isn’t needed.”
“Never mind,” said Ezri, she realised that giving Holo a compliment when his Apocalypse programming was activated was nigh on useless. “Let’s get across this bridge, and the next one before anything else comes to attack us! Ezri out!”
She moved the hovertank down the track, and across the bridge. On either side was a considerable drop of at least five hundred metres, still she felt there would not be any more enemies at the end of the third part of this course. So she looked around taking in the view which was rather impressive.
As she crossed the second bridge, which was considerably longer, she looked to her left where the ravine extended for some considerable distance. To her right was a huge steep hill covered in rainforest, while straight ahead was the temple. It did not look so tall with the mountain range running to its left and behind it. Something else caught Ezri’s eye and that was a spectacular series of small waterfalls just to the right of the temple.
A faint rainbow lingered in the water vapour churned up by the waterfalls, while the occasional flock of birds flew overhead, some of them nesting on the sides of the tallest temple building. This whole area was so unbelievably beautiful, though Ezri considered it greatly tarnished by what Apocalypse was using this environment for.
The track finally ended just outside the first line of stone walls that defined the perimeter of this temple complex. Ezri parked the hovertank by a gateway, she removed the headset and removed herself from the driver’s chair. She opened the exit hatch, and climbed out, carefully going down the blackened and somewhat twisted climbing rungs.
When she was on the ground, she stretched her aching muscles. Sitting down in that cramped cockpit had made her muscles seize up, though she had been so busy focusing on driving the hovertank that she was not really aware of the rest of her body.
In front of her was the mighty ravine, but as much as she wanted to relax she couldn’t. There was one more part of the course to do, and no doubt this would be the deadliest and most difficult part of all. Turning around she looked at the hovertank, there were numerous burn marks, dents and damage to the armour. She briefly nodded her respect to the vehicle, because it had kept her alive under very dangerous circumstances.
To her right Holo and Jake were stepping out of their hovertank, and Ezri walked over to them. “Alright we’re three quarters of the way there. Now I say let’s find this leviathan beast, kill it and get this match over with!”
Jake nodded enthusiastically, and together the team advanced as one group towards the gateway.
“And now we have come at last to the finale!” said Dallas eagerly. “Team UFP vs the Leviathan!”
“I really don't envy them because they are going to die in a really really horrible manner,” said Juanita in an uncaring voice.
Once at the gateway, Ezri tried to open up the lock with her bare hands but it didn’t work, so instead she resorted to the cruder option of blasting the lock with her phaser rifle. She glanced at Holo, who had his rifle ready, and together the two kicked down the double doors and advanced forwards.
“Ezri keep going forwards,” said Max, “once you are past the second set of walls, you will come to a massive courtyard. That’s where you will be fighting this leviathan.”
“Understood,” said Ezri, she looked around at the rest of the team. “We continue forwards until we come to a courtyard, we’ll be fighting the leviathan in there.”
“What there are no Apocalypse enemies?” asked Nog, though he sounded a little afraid.
Jake though looked amused to see the apprehension on his best friend’s face. “Are you scared Nog?” he asked, while giving Nog a playful punch to the arm.
“Of course not,” said Nog pretending to look tough and brazen.
“Good,” said Ezri darkly, “because we’re not backing out now!”
The team advanced along a stone bridge, which went over a moat, and headed for the second and smaller line of walls. The main temple structure towered overhead, and the sunlight shined upon it, giving Ezri the strong sense of an autumnal feel to this place.
Once they passed the bridge they came to another set of double metal doors. This pair had some fanciful artwork imbibed onto the metal, and looking carefully Ezri saw a huge scorpion-like creature dominate the image, while small people with spears were gathered around attacking it.
Now she had some idea of what she was facing and it helped to ease a little of her fear. She tore her gaze from the artwork and blasted down the doors. There was a moment’s hesitation amongst everybody, and so Ezri decided to take the first few steps forward.
|January 14 2012, 12:03 AM||#162|
Location: The great gig in the sky
Re: DS9: A continuation
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…
|January 15 2012, 10:37 PM||#163|
Location: The great gig in the sky
Re: DS9: A continuation
Day 5, 1300 hours
Ezri walked with Jake and Holo along the promenade, and she was going from store to store, occasionally stopping to examine certain merchandise. “No wonder Apocalypse makes so money, look at these prices for ammunition and weaponry-”
She felt someone bang hard into her shoulder, without the armour it really hurt, and turning around she saw that Hellfire had bumped into her. Whether Hellfire had accidently walked into her or not she wasn’t sure, but there was no mistaking the pure loathing and contempt on Hellfire’s face.
“You're Team UFP,” said Hellfire sounding disdainful.
“So?” replied Ezri, in a somewhat defiant manner.
She regretted speaking so disrespectfully to Hellfire, because suddenly his right hand flew to her throat. Ezri could barely breath under his iron-tight grip, and all the air was knocked out of her lungs when Hellfire slammed her against a bulkhead. She tried to resist but it was no good, and her legs hung loosely above the ground.
Already a crowd had gathered around her, as they watched the spectacle unfold.
“Just because your on a winning streak you shouldn't get to cocky,” hissed Hellfire, his face inches from Ezri’s. “What a pathetic bunch, one day you'll meet me in battle and I assure you, you won't be smiling.”
Being barely able to breath, Ezri somehow found the air to talk. “Is something bothering you?” she gasped in a hoarse voice.
Hellfire’s grip tightened around Ezri’s neck, and he looked even more incensed. “You have some nerve, though I'm not surprised because you think you're on top of the universe because of your winning streak. Well let me tell you that your luck will change... When I'm finished with you no one will even remember the name of Team UFP!”
In a sudden and fluid motion, Hellfire slammed Ezri to the ground while at the same time removing his hand off her neck.
Ezri fell to the floor hard, coughing and retching, as she gasped for air. She took Jake’s hand and pulled herself back onto her feet. Looking around she could not see where Hellfire had gone to, but she was just glad he was out of sight.
“What a temper,” she said, while she massaged her throat.
“That Hellfire is such a prat,” said Jake angrily, “strolling around like he's the king of the universe!”
“There’s a reason for that,” added Holo, “and that’s because virtually no one can beat him! His telekinetic powers are said to be legendary.”
“It's strange that he has those powers considering that he's human,” Ezri mentioned.
“I don't think he is human,” said Holo in a somewhat weary voice. “He may look human but I'm certain he's lying about his true identity.”
“Then let's hope we don't have to face him!” said Jake.
“We will eventually if we keep winning match after match.”
Ezri had now recovered from her near asphyxiation experience, and right now she wanted to leave the area because there was still a crowd gathered around. “We'll worry about Hellfire when we are pitted against him in an exterminator match! For now let's concentrate on this week's matches!”
She strode forwards, elbowing her way through the crowd. That encounter with Hellfire had severely rattled her, and she realised the day when her team would be fighting against Hellfire, was the day when a death sentence had been placed upon them all.
Day 6, 1100 hours
As she worked from her desk in her quarters, Kira was surprised to see on her console the message that she had a transmission from someone. She disregarded her work, and activated the transmission. Her surprise further increased when she saw it was admiral Ross who was contacting her.
Ross had been some days overdue in his promise to get back to her about what decision Starfleet Command reached regarding Apocalypse.
“Admiral, I take it Starfleet is going to attack Apocalypse?”
“Affirmative,” said Ross, solemnly nodding. “Apocalypse is growing more bolder by the day, and we need to stop this organisation completely in its tracks with one massive counter-strike. I’m sorry I took a little longer to contact you, but that is due to discussions I had with chancellor Martok about Klingon support for this operation.”
“How many ships will Martok provide?”
“1300 ships, he will be personally leading the Klingon fleet. Starfleet is sending 1700 ships for the joint operation, and the Starfleet ships and Martok's fleet are rendezvousing at Deep Space Four, before finally heading to the Pushui system.”
Though glad that Starfleet was finally going to attack Apocalypse, something still seemed to gnaw inside of Kira. She realised she would only be truly happy if she could contribute in some way to this assault, more than anything she wanted to see Apocalypse severely punished and reduced to submission for its crimes. “Admiral would it be possible for the Defiant to join the fleet?”
Ross though simply gave Kira a blank stare, and she realised she would have to explain her reasons for making this request. “Over two months ago Ezri Dax and four others were kidnapped off the station by Apocalypse. Myself and the Defiant's crew are eager to attack Apocalypse and give them a taste of their own medicine.”
“Permission granted,” said Ross eagerly, he seemed to understand exactly what Kira was going through. “Who knows when we do capture Apocalypse station, we may find Ezri and dozens of other Starfleet officers, who were captured by Apocalypse, alive.”
“Thank you admiral,” said Kira, giving him a sincere smile.
“Don’t thank me yet,” warned Ross. “You’ve just volunteered for what could be a very dangerous operation. Anyway get the Defiant over to Deep Space Four in less than seven days time. Because on the seventh day, at 1000 hours, the Klingon and Starfleet task force will be departing and the operation will commence.”
“Understood, I look forward to joining the fleet.”
The transmission ended, and though she had paper work to do, her mind was far from such dull tasks. She knew exactly what she had gotten herself into, and she also knew that the Defiant crew would gladly follow her into this incoming battle. The only thing that bothered her was not so much dying, but leaving her children without their mother should the worst happen.
Though Mia and Deru would understand why their mother had left to join the operation, Kira still felt obliged to write up a leaving message just in case she did not make it back home. But not even her children would stop her participating in this assault. There were some things in life that could not be avoided, and some duties that had to be fulfilled no matter what the cost…
After a hard day’s work, Quark relaxed back into his bed and put his feet up. Today was a little better than most days, it was one of those days when the bar was for some reason bustling with business and life. He silently thanked the Blessed Exchequer for today, but his satisfied musings did not last for long when the computer interrupted him.
“Incoming call from Ferenginar.”
“Patch it through,” sighed Quark, no doubt this call was from his brother who had to be worrying about something new.
Walking over to his computer unit, he rerouted the message to there. Activating the message he was surprised to see his mother, Ishka, who was standing in what must have been one of the offices in the Ferengi Tower of Commerce.
“Moogi…” he said, before stopping when he saw the tears pouring from his mother’s face. “What's happened?”
“A bomb went off in the Ferengi Tower of Commerce,” wailed Ishka. “It nearly killed Rom! Someone tried to assassinate him!”
Quark’s breathing became suddenly shallow, all of this was happening to quickly for him. “Will Rom survive?” he said, barely able to string those words coherently together.
Ishka nodded in a miserable manner. “He's lucky, there are third degree burns but the doctors reckon he'll make it through the night. If he does then it seems his condition will stabilise.”
The grief then changed into anger, and Ishka's eyes were raging. “What I'd like to know is who would kill my son, and I mean really try to kill him not just plot some hare-brained scheme!”
Inwardly Quark thought that Ishka was being naïve, though Ferengi females were good at making money they saw the universe in a far more positive light than Quark ever did. “Apocalypse shares have plummeted since the Ferengi Alliance withdrew funding, and Apocalypse was a major share option for investors. It could be an angry investor... or an assassin sent from Apocalypse.”
“Whoever tried to kill Rom may target this family again, keep your ears open.”
“I always do Moogi,” replied Quark, struggling to keep the irritation out of his voice. “It's the 7th rule of acquisition.”
“I know you do,” said Ishka, looking at Quark with big fearful eyes. “But still, do take care.”
“I will mother,” promised Quark, “and tell Rom I hope he gets better and that I love him...”
The transmission ended, and Quark was still trying to comprehend what had just happened. He was convinced that Apocalypse had tried to kill his brother, and it made perfect sense. Apocalypse lost a massive income source and so in retaliation they tried to assassinate the very person who caused their loss of income, and that was Rom.
Still something did not quite make sense to Quark and that was how someone managed to successfully plant a bomb, in the Grand Nagus' office no less, and remain undetected. A horrible thought came to Quark when he realised all of this pointed to an insider job, a Ferengi, or someone hired by a Ferengi must have planted the bomb.
This Ferengi had to be working with or have regular contact with Apocalypse. More than that who hated Rom so much that this somebody was prepared to kill the Grand Nagus?
The answer came to Quark’s mind immediately; Brunt. However there would be very little evidence that implicated Brunt, because Quark was in no doubt that Brunt had covered his tracks well… Though Quark did not agree with revenge even he would not pass up the opportunity to struggle Brunt by his miserable neck…
Day 9, 1800 hours
Ezri was the last to clean herself up in the sonic shower. Afterwards she got dressed and went to the living room where Max and the rest of the team had gathered. This was the usual evening gathering when the day’s fighting and killing had been done. Max told them all about next day’s matches, and this cycle repeated to the point where Ezri was becoming quite weary of it.
She took a chair and sat down, waiting for Max to speak.
Max was being hesitant and he looked troubled, which meant tomorrow was going to be a bad day. “Bad news everyone. I've just been told that our team has been put in for an exterminator match which will take place tomorrow.”
There was some low level muttering at this, and a few of the team had turned their heads to cast troubled glances at each other.
Jake looked the most uncomfortable, he looked at Max with wide doubtful eyes. “So who are we er... exterminating?”
“Heamatitus,” said Max, he paused before launching into an explanation. “He's an old seasoned gladiator who's close to retirement. Usually he uses his exoskeleton machine in combat, even more so now he's got older.”
Now Jake looked marginally happier. “That doesn't sound to bad, he seems easy to defeat.”
“Let's not get to overconfident,” Ezri warned, giving Jake a stern stare. “This Heamatitus sounds like a survivor, and this is his last match. He's going to give it his all, I suspect he chose to fight us because he wanted a dramatic final match but not a match too difficult. He must think we are easy fodder, but that's where he has underestimated us.”
Nog, who sat next to Jake, was still looking troubled by the incoming match. “I know we've had this sort of conversation ages ago but are we really going to kill him? I mean this ain't like destroying combat droids or killing Jem'Hadar. This is an actual person that we're going to kill in cold blood!”
All this talk about killing barely raised an emotion on Ezri’s part, and this had become something that troubled her. She was turning into someone she despised. “I don't like killing anymore than you do, but Heamatitus wants a fight between this team and himself. He knows that either we kill him or he kills us.”
“You may not have to kill him,” said Max, sounding cunning. “I've realised that the station's shields protecting the fusion reactors drop when a major match is happening, due to the massive power consumption in the arena. When they drop I could send a falsified overload protocol, destroying the fusion reactors...”
“And us as well,” pointed out Holo.
“I know,” said Max, but he still looked determined to press this unpleasant point through. “This station would be destroyed as would the hanger bays storing Apocalypse's warships, in short it would deal a massive blow to Apocalypse. Besides one way or another we're not going to get out of this station alive...”
Ezri nodded her agreement. “Max is right, we shouldn't be thinking about escape, we need to sabotage this station... Max carry out your plan at the soonest possible opportunity... One way or another we are not going to remain on this station as gladiators!”
“I probably won't be able to do it tomorrow,” explained Max, he paused for a bit, clearly thinking this plan of his out. “But I should have things ready before the second exterminator match.”
“That's if we survive the first one,” said Jake sounding gloomy.
“We will survive,” said Ezri passionately, “because we have something to fight for!”
The other four were somewhat taken back by her sudden outburst of emotion, but Ezri did not care what the other four felt. For the first time she was going into an arena match with a goal of something other than survival. Now survival was not enough, it was time for action and Max's plan was the best thing she had heard in a long time.
|January 18 2012, 10:24 PM||#164|
Location: The great gig in the sky
Re: DS9: A continuation
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…
|January 18 2012, 10:26 PM||#165|
Location: The great gig in the sky
Re: DS9: A continuation
Jake was huddled behind a duranium block, holding his rocket launcher. Holo was right next to him, and he knew that they could not hide behind this block forever.
“This looks like the end for Team UFP!” announced Dallas.
“Heamatitus advances towards Jake and Holo, preparing to finish them off,” said Juanita.
“Such a pity, I rather liked Team UFP,” said Dallas sadly.
“I’ll distract him,” said Holo. “And you fire a rocket at him.”
“I’m down to my last round,” said Jake, and he felt Holo’s order was somewhat pointless.
“We go down fighting,” said Holo, sounding almost brave and determined, “and not cowering behind some duranium block!”
Jake could not agree more, he had seen first Nog and then Ezri go down, and those two had not been hiding behind cover. “Let’s do it!” he said grimly.
Holo ran to Jake’s right, and Jake went around the left of the block. There was Heamatitus advancing towards him. Jake readied his rocket launcher and was about to fire, when Heamatitus suddenly turned leftwards, his walker's left leg been dragged along, aiming for Holo.
Jake took his chances and fired the rocket, aiming for the centre of the machine’s back. The rocket missed the back of machine, and instead directly hit one of the shoulder mounted plasma guns. It exploded and for a moment the top half of Heamatitus’ machine was enveloped in a yellow and orange fireball.
When the explosion had cleared, Jake was astounded to see a huge gash running along the top of the machine’s shoulder, and the top of the right arm twisted and mangled. He had got lucky and realised with that hit he had done considerably more damage then even he could have imagined.
“My God that was a good shot!” exclaimed Dallas who sounded thunderstruck.
“And Heamatitus is now in serious trouble!” observed Juanita.
Dallas was shaking his head in disbelieve. “What an unbelievable turnaround in fortune!”
The exoskeleton walker's legs were stationary, but the torso was jerking slightly from side to side. Suddenly the hands gripping the swords slackened, and the swords fell to the ground with an almighty clatter. Then the left knee buckled, and this time the machine leant backwards. It seemed Heamatitus had lost control of the exoskeleton walker.
Jake watched as the machine toppled backwards, making a colossal crunch against the floor.
Ezri stirred, and though she felt the very life taken from her body, she was still somehow alive. She saw Holo looking down at her, and for a moment she wondered what had happened.
“Where’s Heamatitus?” was the first thing she said.
“Jake and I managed to disable his exoskeleton machine,” replied Holo. “You had a close brush with death, but Nog gave you an injection of nanites. Without that injection you would have probably died.”
Turning her head to one side, she saw the machine strewn across the ground, lying flat on its back.
Seeing this gave Ezri the strength to get up, and with some assistance from Holo, she got onto her feet. She was still in pain, but she could just move her limbs. Looking around she spotted Nog, he seemed just as wounded as her. “Thanks for saving me,” she said gratefully.
Nog simply gave her a nod, and in that moment Ezri realized that Nog would give his life to protect her.
She started moving towards the exoskeleton machine, and as she did so she became aware of the crowd’s cheering. The cheers grew even louder as she walked, and she wondered if this match had ended. “Is Heamatitus dead?” she asked Holo.
“No,” said Holo, with a shake of his head. “He’s still in his exoskeleton machine, Jake is guarding him.”
“Who’s going to kill him?” asked Nog, and he sounded a little disgusted by this.
“I will,” said Ezri wearily.
“I could do it,” said Holo, who sounded even more devoid of humanoid emotion.
“No,” said Ezri firmly. “When you’re programming deactivates, you will feel the consequences of killing Heamatitus… I don’t want any of you bearing that burden.”
“Couldn’t we spare his life?” suggested Nog hopefully.
“The crowd want him dead Nog!” said Ezri angrily, she could not understand why Nog did not grasp this. “The commentators went him dead, as do Apocalypse. This match will only end when Heamatitus has been slain!”
“Are you really going to kill him?”
“I have no choice!” said Ezri bitterly, though she wished she did have a choice.
Dallas looked highly animated now that the match was coming to an end. “This will be one exterminator match that will be talked about for years to come! A truly dramatic comeback from Team UFP!”
Juanita though gave Dallas a questioning look. “And now all that remains is for Heamatitus to be killed. Who do you think Dallas will kill him?”
“It hast to be Ezri...” replied Dallas confidently.
Finally Ezri came to the stricken exoskeleton machine, and saw Jake standing over the top of the machine.
She walked over to where Heamatitus was, and then walked on top of his machine. Walking over the burnt and battered armour, surrounding Heamatitus’s body, Ezri came to a stop with her feet right at the tip of the armour. Just below her was Heamatitus, and the upper part of his body was visible. He had clearly tried to get out of his machine, but his injuries had stopped him.
Ezri looked down at the bloodied and burnt Heamatitus, parts of his face were blackened and charred from the burns. But what really struck Ezri, were those calm eyes. They seemed to be urging her to kill him.
The crowd had grown even louder, and they were now chanting ‘Kill! Kill!’ at the tops of their voices.
Slowly and miserably Ezri pulled out her phaser rifle, but she did not aim it.
“You should get this over with quick you know,” came Heamatitus’ throaty and weak voice. “The mob doesn’t like waiting for the final blow to come…”
“I don’t want to kill you,” said Ezri softly.
“I’m just one person,” explained Heamatitus, “and why does one more dead person matter to you?”
“It matters because I don’t want to kill someone out of cold blood!” hissed Ezri.
“If you don’t kill me, then we all die!” snarled Heamatitus, and he looked beside himself with frustration and rage. “Just pull the trigger and be done with it!”
“I won’t,” said Ezri simply.
“Listen give me a respectable death,” urged Heamatitus, he seemed to be pleading with Ezri. “The match is over, my time is over, and I won’t shy away from death.”
Still Ezri hesitated, despite Heamatitus urging her to kill him.
“What’s this?” mentioned Dallas, sounding deeply disapproving. “It seems Ezri is reluctant to kill Heamatitus!”
Juanita still seemed to be smarting about Heamatitus’ defeat. But she appeared eager to talk down Team UFP, and with barely suppressed glee she said, “I have constantly maintained that it was a bad idea training Starfleet officers into gladiators. They lack the ruthlessness and drive to take another life!”
Ezri could hear the crowd’s cheers start to wane, and realised that if the crowd started booing, her team’s collars could be activated. She raised her rifle and aimed it straight at Heamatitus’ head. The crowd’s cheers increased considerably, as did the chanting.
But Ezri ignored all of that, she was looking into the face of Heamatitus, who looked remarkably composed as he was so close to death. Finally some cold and ruthless part of Ezri overrode her objections, and she felt her hand squeeze the trigger.
A yellow round discharged from her rifle, and struck Heamatitus squarely in the forehead, he was dead instantly.
“That's it!” shouted Juanita, over the roar of the crowd. “One our of most experienced gladiators has been slaughtered by the hands of Team UFP!”
Ezri watched the blood pour out of the inch wide wound, and she felt absolutely disgusted with herself. Even though Heamatitus had nearly killed her, she would have much preferred killing him while actually fighting.
Killing while fighting made sense to her, as she was defending herself to stay alive. But killing a humanoid who was defenceless, just because she had to kill him, felt like murder to Ezri. If this were any other situation, Heamatitus would not have been killed in cold blood.
She jumped off the exoskeleton machine, and walked over to Holo (whose Apocalypse programming had deactivated), Jake and Nog. The crowd were cheering like she had never heard them cheer before, but she did not care about the crowd. In an angered motion she chucked her phaser rifle to the floor, and looked around at the ground.
“Is this what you wanted?” she shouted in the direction of the arena's stands, though she knew no one in the crowd would hear her. “To see me blast Heamatitus’ brains out?”
Her legs were now walking of their accord, and she removed her helmet, and chucked that to the floor as well. Ezri needed to breathe and she felt so detached that she did not even see the platform Dallas and Juanita were on, float downwards. She did not even see Dallas and Juanita step off the platform and onto the ground.
“And to top it off,” said Dallas excitedly, “here is the man, sorry, woman of the match! Ezri Dax!”
Juanita pressed a microphone close to Ezri’s mouth. “How do feel winning your first exterminator match!”
Ezri though slapped aside the microphone, she was not going to answer any of Juanita’s or Dallas’ stupid questions.
“Woah!” exclaimed Dallas. “This is one gladiator who is really pissed off!”
Dallas looked super cocky, and he stepped in front of Ezri, blocking her path. “But tell me what did it feel like killing Heamatitus?”
“Get out of my way,” said Ezri slowly, her every syllable sounding dangerous.
However Dallas did not seem to realise the danger, and he thrust his microphone close to Ezri’s mouth. “Come on don’t be shy,” taunted Dallas, “there’s nothing to be afraid of-”
That was the last thing Dallas said, because Ezri launched towards him, sending a fist straight to that stupid, cocky and leering mouth of his. She felt a whole tonne of Dallas’ teeth dislodge, but she was so angry she did not stop there. With her other fist she punched Dallas hard in the stomach, and he doubled over. She then pulled her forearms together, her hands clenched as one, and brought them down hard on the top of Dallas’ back.
She felt some of the vertebrae in Dallas’ spine break, but still she could not stop. With her left hand she grabbed onto the collar of Dallas’ orange shirt to hold him. While her right hand, curled in a fist, smashed hard against Dallas’ face. Finally she let go of Dallas, and with one well aimed kick, aimed her boot straight at Dallas’ groin. She heard a faint crack, and that must have been Dallas’ pelvis bone shattering.
Dallas fell to the floor hard, his face a bloody mess. He was whimpering in pain, and looking at Ezri with the utmost terror.
Juanita had taken half a dozen steps away from Ezri, afraid that Ezri would pound her to a bloody pulp, or possibly kill her.
Ezri though had vented out her anger, and though she had battered Dallas, it was nowhere near enough to kill him. It was what Dallas deserved, for constantly gloating at other gladiator’s pain, and for being such an arrogant bastard.
She walked away from Dallas, picked up her helmet and rifle, and returned back to her team. They all look stunned by what she had done, but she did not care what they thought of her. The crowd were cheering even louder, clearly excited by Ezri’s flattening of Dallas, and Ezri was relieved to see an Apocalypse transport ship land on the platform.
She wanted nothing more than to leave this arena, away from the cheering crowds, and from the death and destruction. Her only consolation was that neither Jake, Holo or Nog had to feel what she feeling at the moment; guilt and self-disgust.
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