DS9: A continuation

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Ln X, Sep 26, 2011.

  1. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    Chapter 6, part 1

    Day 3, 1500 hours

    Nearly three hours after the attack, Megan entered the Infirmary to find Bashir. She had to talk to him about Section 31, because he was the only person who knew as much about Section 31 as Ezri did.

    She walked past the first room, and then continued into the patient ward. There she finally found Bashir taking some medical readings of a patient.

    “Julian!” she said, “I need to talk to you in private!”

    “Now's not the time,” said Bashir, as he frowned at a vial of blood he was holding up. “I have twenty people who are in critical conditions.”

    Megan folded her arms in an impatient gesture. “The medical staff can do without you for a couple of minutes. Besides this is really important, it's about the attack on the station!”

    “All right,” said Bashir, looking mightily grumpy about leaving his patients. “But five minutes of my time only, and not a second longer!”

    Bashir and Megan walked over to the medical storeroom, and when they found it deserted, Megan closed the door so that no would eavesdrop on her or Julian. “Listen Julian there's something you need to know.”

    She took a deep breathe, as she thought about what she was going to say next. “I think I know why DS9 was attacked.”

    She then launched into an explanation about Ezri’s hunch, Section 31, Apocalypse and the conversation she had with admiral Ross. “-so two days after contacting Jack, this station is attacked!”

    Bashir remained silent, and simply looked at her with narrowed eyes.

    Megan was not sure what Bashir thought of all this, so she decided to tell him what she had been fearing and suspected ever since the attack. “Julian I think my message was intercepted by the abductors and that they have an agent inside of Section 31!”

    “That's highly unlikely,” replied Bashir. “Section 31 have very stringent measures when they recruit their agents, it stops Section 31 from being infiltrated.”

    It did not matter how unlikely this was, because Megan was convinced she was right on this matter. “Well it is a remarkable coincidence that only two days separate the time between me contacting Jack and the attack on DS9. I think Jack or a different Section 31 agent is working for Apocalypse.”

    Bashir had his fist against his chin, as he was concentrating intently on the conversation. “Admiral Ross would know far more about Apocalypse than we do, have you told him about this?”

    “Everything except my suspicions about Jack, something is not right here.”

    “Your right about that,” agreed Bashir, and he removed his fist off his chin. “But I don't see what we can do, we can't contact Jack as he may or may not be the Section 31 mole. There are no means to contact or infiltrate Apocalypse unless we go AWOL which is out of the question. No matter which way you look at it there is nothing we can do.”

    “I know!” said Megan angrily. “That’s the problem, there is nothing we can do to help Max, Dax and the others!”


    ***


    Day 3, 1800 hours

    Megan was walking to corridor seventeen, section five, level nine in the station core, after lieutenant Dieter Blank contacted her and told her that he had found an unusual device in one part of the corridor. One part of her hoped that this device would provide the explanation of how the station’s computer was sabotaged.

    Even now her chief of security was still purging from the computer alien code which had proliferated around every system which had deactivated. The only bit of good news was that the weapons and shields could now be accessed. But this was small consolation for the fact that the captain and four others had been abducted.

    Megan still could not believe what had happened, and at times she found it strange to be the commanding officer of DS9. When she entered the corridor, she found lieutenant Blank examining the secondary interlink port. Numerous panels were strewn over the floor, while various fibre optic cables jutted out slightly into the corridor.

    “What is it lieutenant?” she asked.

    Blank looked around, and moved away from the secondary interlink port. He opened his right hand revealing a device. “I found this imbedded into the secondary interlink port...”

    He gave to Megan the device, and upon closer examination Megan realised what this device was. “It's a quantum encoder,” she said, sounding a little surprised.

    Blank frowned in confusion. “I've never heard of a device like that.”

    Megan though had, and with one last look at the device, she wrapped her fingers around it, the quantum encoder explained everything. “Starfleet Intelligence is aware of this device, it's used mainly by criminals, most notably the Orion Syndicate. This device stores a series of algorithms and code, and then when it comes into contact with some hardware, which is part of the main computer, it then interacts with the data flow and produces repeatedly the algorithms and digital protocols it stores.

    “Any computer system is quickly fooled by these false set of codes, and so implements what the code is telling it to do. This explains how the station’s computer was sabotaged, and why we couldn’t access weapons or shields”

    She then passed the quantum encoder back to Blank. “Give this device to the chief of security, he’ll examine it further… Nice find lieutenant.”

    The compliment seemed to lift Blank’s spirits, and feeling that she had done everything she could do, Megan returned back to Ops. She could feel her command skills coming back to her, and she felt marginally more comfortable with her position as commanding officer of DS9.


    ***


    Day 3, 1900 hours

    Megan sat down at the head of the table in the wardroom, she sat there waiting for what was left of DS9’s senior staff and two other officers she had called. This was an emergency senior staff meeting, and after everything that had happened during the attack this was most warranted.

    Once Bashir, Paulson, Tanya and Blank had arrived, Megan started the meeting. “I've called this meeting because as you know we've lost four members of DS9's senior staff. We've lost our commanding officer, chief of science, chief of operations and chief of starship maintenance. I'm now, temporarily, the commanding officer of this station. When Kira is fit to return to duty, she will be the permanent commanding officer.

    “Before I begin there are a few promotions which I must give out. Lieutenant Dieter Blank you are now chief of operations, for the time being the post of chief of starship maintenance will remain vacated. Lieutenant Tanya Dawson, you are now chief of science. With that out of the way, I'll liked to discuss the first matter of the day. I'm afraid Starfleet will not carry out a rescue operation to find our missing officers.”

    The mood seemed to have lowered after that statement, and Paulson looked mightily angered to hear this. “Are you saying we just abandon the captain, and the three other officers?”

    Both Tanya and Blank nodded their agreement at Paulson's question.

    Before Megan could answer, Bashir did and he looked angrily across the table at Paulson. “We have no other choice Paulson, because Starfleet believes it is virtually impossible to rescue Dax and the others.”

    “Bashir's right,” agreed Megan, “and I'm afraid we're going to have to accept the fact that captain Dax is never coming back. I know it's a shock to everyone but we'll get through this, and we'll continue to run this station to the best of our ability just as the captain intended!”

    She looked around at her fellow officers and her words had managed to lift their spirits slightly. Feeling glad that the matter of Dax’s absence had been resolved, Megan delved into the other matters she wanted to discuss at this meeting.

    About thirty minutes later Megan was satisfied with the outcome, and she felt she had reached a consensus on how DS9 should be managed. With nothing more to discuss she dismissed the senior staff.

    She got up, and was halfway to the door, when she stopped and realised that Tanya had not moved a muscle. Megan knew what was going through Tanya’s mind, and she wondered whether she should say something to ease Tanya’s burden.

    Turning around, she walked over to where Tanya sat, and came to a halt a metre away from Tanya. By that time there was only herself and Tanya in the room. “Is there something else you want to discuss lieutenant?”

    Something seemed to tighten in Tanya’s face, and in a sudden motion she rose from her seat and confronted Megan. “You know what I want to discuss; Max. I can't believe we're going to do nothing to rescue him.”

    Megan suspected Tanya was going to say something like this, but her decision was final… “Tanya I know this is difficult for-”

    “Don't try to patronise me!” replied Tanya, she was literally seething. “You wouldn't be so ready to give up on Max if you loved him!”

    Such words made the pain of losing Max all the more raw and fresh for Megan, but she continued to stare as calmly as possible at Tanya. “There is nothing that I can do,” said Megan with a tone of finality. “Max may already be dead, and even if he is alive he cannot be reached. I'm sorry for what has happened, I miss Max as well as he was my friend, but we just have to accept the fact that he is gone.”

    Now Tanya look really hurt, it seemed she was only going to admit defeat when Megan told her the cold harsh truth. “It's not fair!” she lamented. “We had one month together, one amazing month, and now he is snatched from me just like that!”

    “Listen,” said Megan gently, “if you need a few days off to grieve just ask.”

    Tanya though did not appear interested in the offer. “I will grieve in my own time, but it will not affect my duties I promise.”

    Briefly Megan placed a hand to Tanya's shoulder and smiled at her. It was a friendly gesture and a way for Megan to convey without words that she understood everything that Tanya was going through. She held onto Tanya’s shoulder briefly before letting go, but it did the trick, as Tanya was no longer looking so angrily at Megan.

    With nothing more to say Megan left the room, to give Tanya some much needed privacy. Megan had suffered numerous loss, but she knew that the first loss always felt the most raw. But it was definitely all the more painful to lose a lover, and Megan felt genuine sympathy for Tanya. She no longer had any hard feelings for Tanya, as she had completely accepted that Max was out of bounds.
     
  2. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    Chapter 6, part 2

    Day 10, 1000 hours

    Ezri had the back of her head against the cell wall, though she gave the impression of calmness, she felt anything but calm. She expected to die but whether it was today, tomorrow, next week, month or even year she did not know. What she did know was that there was no escaping from this situation, and if she played her cards right she could maximise her chances for survival.

    She could fully count on Holo, Max and Nog as they were fully trained Starfleet officers, but she was really worried for Jake. He was not prepared for this, he was a civilian, with very little combat experience. Jake was the vulnerable one and Ezri knew she would have to pay close attention to Jake’s morale.

    “I hear those soldiers coming,” said Nog, his ears trained on sounds outside of the cell.

    Ezri stood up and mentally prepared herself for whatever was going to come. “Remember do nothing to provoke them.”

    Four soldiers came into sight and one of them took out a device, pressed some controls, and the red force field disappeared.

    One of the soldiers, who appeared to be the leader of this group, stepped forwards. “All right fresh meat,” he growled, “get out of the cell, and don’t try anything stupid. We have the guns, you don’t.”

    Ezri walked out first, she put on her best tough-as-nails expression. She noticed that all of Apocalypse’s soldiers were men, and she sensed that they were little more than sexist pigs who treated women like dirt. One of the soldier’s leered at her, and Ezri stared back and she was pleased to see that the cockiness had faded ever so slightly from the soldier’s eyes.

    When everyone was out of the cell, Ezri followed the soldier in front of her, while Max and the others followed from behind in single file.

    “Move it,” said one of the soldiers.

    Ezri heard a yelp of pain from Jake, and she presumed one of the soldiers had struck Jake with the butt of his gun.

    “Do you have to be so forceful?” protested Jake.

    They walked down an airlock, and through the door which revealed a massive promenade. It had numerous levels to it, and went around in a massive oval shape. The inner part of the oval was lined with lightly blue tinted glass, and the other side of the station could be seen.

    Despite the peril she was facing, she could not help but look around at the all the humanoid faces she saw. There were so many of them, and there were races Ezri had never seen before. Intermingled with the crowds were more of those soldiers, there orange-brown uniforms were very distinctive. Ezri now suspected that these soldiers were actually the station’s security, and served dual roles.

    There was some commotion to her left and Ezri noticed that the crowds were parting way to a group of three people. The soldier in front of her stopped and Ezri waited, watching the group of three come closer.

    Finally the three arrived, two of them were more station guards, while the other one was a shapeshifter. This shocked Ezri, particularly because the shapeshifter resembled Odo, though Odo never had that cold and ruthless look that this shapeshifter did. The shapeshifter was not wearing the guard’s uniform, instead wearing rather drab civilian clothing.

    The shapeshifter came to a stop and looked at Ezri and her companions with something close to scorn. “Ezri and Max you're coming with me to the chief executive's office.”

    He then briefly pointed to one of the guards. “You take the others to barracks fourteen.”

    “Don’t worry,” said Ezri, looking at Jake’s, Holo’s and Nog’s worried faces. “It’ll be all-”

    One of the guards gun butted her in the stomach, and Ezri coiled up in pain, though she managed not to utter any sound from her mouth.

    “Spare me your emotive sentiment,” said the shapeshifter dryly. “Follow me.”

    Faced with no other choice Ezri followed, though she was a little unsteady on her feet giving how winded she felt. Max walked up beside her, and he looked deeply troubled.

    “What is a shapeshifter doing on this station?” he whispered to Ezri.

    “He could be one of the hundred baby changelings that his people sent out many years ago.”

    “Does he know about his people?”

    The shapeshifter came to a stop, and advanced upon Ezri and Max. “Know about? I found out about my people during the Dominion war, some time afterwards I visited their homeworld. I even went into the Great Link, and while initially the experience was interesting I soon became put off by Odo’s constant preaching of peace with the solids and about love.”

    “You know about Odo?” said Ezri, sounding surprised.

    At the very mention of Odo’s name the shapeshifter scowled deeply. “I left the Great Link because I totally disagreed with his views on the solids, and every shapeshifter was seemingly enraptured by Odo’s message. Ha! I wonder if my people are beginning to regret following Odo’s guiding principles now that their Jem’Hadar are raising up against them!”

    The shapeshifter jerked his head slightly to the guards, and they immediately pushed Max and Ezri forwards.

    It took another few minutes of walking, going along the promenade, standing in turbolifts, and walking along corridors, before the shapeshifter finally came to a stop by a wide and imposing metal door. He tapped in some commands on a panel placed on the doorway, and the door parted sideways in two parts.

    The shapeshifter went inside, followed by Ezri. The first thing that caught her eye was the windows of this office, they gave a panoramic view of what appeared to be a series of massive arenas, with massive bent steel frames carrying the lightening that hung above these arenas. The next thing she noticed was the wide and luxurious looking black desk, it had a shiny ceramic look to it, while the consoles seamlessly flowed with the desk.

    Behind the desk was a swivel chair with a high back, it was covered in some sort of black leather. The shapeshifter approached the desk. “The prisoners you requested are here...”

    “Bring them here,” said a voice.

    That voice sounded disturbingly like Max’s voice to Ezri, and when the chair turned around it revealed its occupant. The person looked exactly like Max, the face was exactly identical, the hair cut may have been a little different but that was where the differences ended.

    Ezri looked from Max back to the person on the chair, was this Max’s twin brother?

    Max’s twin looked amused by the surprise on Ezri’s face, and the horror on Max’s face. “It has been a long time since I've seen you brother.”

    Max look totally aghast, his mouth was hung open in disbelieve. “Coplin? You work for Apocalypse?”

    Coplin laughed out loud, and shook his head. “Work here?” he said incredulously.

    He got to his feet and walked around the desk, his eyes were fixed on Max. The joviality was rapidly disappearing from Coplin’s face. “I helped to found Apocalypse ten years ago. This station, this organisation... is my life... and it can be yours to Max. Now you and your friends have two options; either work with Apocalypse or be executed. Nemoltz, my chief of security, would execute you personally. Trust me you don't want to be killed by a shapeshifter.”

    “So you're behind the abductions?” asked Ezri, though she soon regretted it when a guard whacked her hard in the abdomen.

    “That was actually Nemoltz's idea,” said Coplin, and his eyes briefly flicked to Nemoltz. “Apocalypse always needs a fresh supply of gladiators. However Nemoltz is more than just my chief of security, we co-founded Apocalypse when we realised how much money could be made.”

    Ezri looked at both Coplin and Nemoltz with utter contempt, they were little more than interplanetary crime lords who had more firepower at their disposal than most interplanetary states had. “I didn't think-”

    Again she was struck by the soldier’s gun, though this time he hit the centre of her back.

    Coplin flashed his eyes warningly at the guard. “Let her speak.”

    Ezri glared at the guard before confronting Nemoltz. “I didn't think changelings had any need for money or material possessions.”

    Coplin and Nemoltz exchanged smirks, clearly sharing some sort of private joke. “Then perhaps you've met the wrong changelings,” said Coplin with a hint of sarcasm. “Because Nemoltz here is devoted to his job. Setting aside Nemoltz's unquestionable loyalties, you Max have a choice.”

    Now Coplin gazed affectionately at Max. “Work with me brother, set aside your distrust of me, and we can be together like when we were children. We shouldn't be apart, we should be working together as we're family.”

    There was pure disgust all over Max’s face, he looked at Coplin as if he were something revolting to the sight. “I refuse to work with you,” said Max bitterly, “and you know exactly why.”

    “It's an open offer,” said Coplin, shrugging. “Take your time, sooner or later the want for fame and fortune will tempt you.”

    “Highly unlikely,” said Max coldly.

    Some of the affection on Coplin’s face disappeared, and he smiled coldly at Max. “Nemoltz take Ezri and her friends to barracks fourteen. Locate Max some quarters on this station, and make sure he is comfortable.”

    “Wait!” exclaimed Max, and he looked at Coplin pleadingly. “If you're really my brother, then let my friends go, keep me instead!”

    Coplin laughed again, it was a cold and derisive laugh, finally Coplin stopped and looked at Max in a superior way. “I'm afraid brother that you really don't know how Apocalypse works. Do you have any idea the amount of gold-pressed latinum expended to bring you and your friends here? It was a substantial amount, and I'll consider your request only when you have really contributed to Apocalypse.”

    Max suddenly lunged at Coplin, but a guard restrained him, and there was fury all over Max’s face. “You lying bastard!” he roared. “You haven't changed one bit have you?”

    This outburst of emotion had little effect on Coplin. “Take him to his quarters...” he told Nemoltz. “Give him a station pass as well.”

    There was disapproval all over Nemoltz’s face. “Are you sure that's wise Coplin?”

    “He's my brother,” said Coplin simply, while he stared at Max who was still struggling. “And we're family, we'll see eye-to-eye eventually.”

    Though Nemoltz did not look convinced, he did nod and follow Coplin’s orders. With a click of his fingers, the guard forcibly moved Max out of the room. While two guards put an arm each around Ezri’s armpits and carried her away.

    Ezri caught a last glimpse of Coplin, who was staring at her in way that told Ezri that Coplin was in absolute control and that her life was in his hands. She saw Max still struggling against the guard, and she could not believe how stupid Max was in resisting Coplin’s magnanimity. Did Max not realise that if he simply played along he could get into a position of influence and use it to come up with a plan of escape?

    She would have told Max what to do, but then that would mean Max would be in serious trouble. Her last glimpse of Max was when the soldier moving him entered into a turbolift. For the time being Max was safe, but Ezri knew what her fate was. She would be forced into a Apocalypse gladiator training program, and if she survived that she would become a gladiator, which then meant almost certain death.

    At that moment Ezri did not care what Max did, just as long as he found a way to escape from this station. But as for herself, Holo, Jake and Nog, they were condemned and the only thing that mattered now was survival, survival by any means necessary…

    To be continued...

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    Well that is the end of Tip of the Iceberg. This is the last story of the first season of this series, and I will publishing the next story (the first one of season 2) here on the 6th of January (new year)

    Here are links to the rest of my stories (which are listed in chronological order in terms of my series plot):

    Season 1:

    Secrets and Lies

    Shallow Rights


    Vacation

    Bad Blood

    Outlier

    Devolution

    Gold Rush

    Medical Pariah

    Commitment

    Ménage à Trois

    Tip of the Iceberg


    Season 2:

    Survival

    High Stakes

    Running the Gauntlet

    The Price of Sanity

    Cloak and Dagger, part 1

    Cloak and Dagger, part 2

    To be Over

    Knowing Oneself
     
  3. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    Here is the next story: Survival

    Summary: Season 2, 12th story. This is the second part of the Apocalypse story arc, and the first story of the second season of my series.

    Two months after being captured, Ezri and her fellow colleagues and friends have been put through a brutal and gruelling training regime. Now they must fight for their survival when they face their first arena match on Apocalypse station.

    Meanwhile on DS9, things have changed considerably, with Kira finally back in command. As Kira, Megan and Bashir come to terms with the loss of their friends, Kira has more pressing matters as she tries to find a way to persuade admiral Ross to launch a Starfleet attack on Apocalypse...

    Warnings: Strong and gory violence, occasional strong swearing, adult situations.

    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    Survival, Chapter 1 part 1


    It was dark and Ezri was sitting down on the hard metal bed. No matter what she did the metal bed felt ultra lumpy and hard on her bottom and feet. She managed to find a little comfort with her back against the wall, and her knees resting against her chest. On most nights she barely slept, she felt so restless and she was certain it was the steroids and the nanites that the Apocalypse doctors had given her.

    In two months her muscles had firmed up considerably and she had never felt this physically toned up in her life. Still the changes to her body came at the price of restlessness and a more volatile temper. Despite all of this occasionally at night she could somehow daydream about Deep Space Nine. She never realised how much she considered DS9 a home, now the two months away from that place reminded her of what she had lost.

    But she knew that returning to DS9 was a near impossible possibility, all she could do was momentarily daydream about the place. In particular her mind strayed upon one person on that station and that was Bashir, she missed him badly and she suspected that was because one part of her still deeply loved Bashir.

    When the lights on the ceiling turned on, Ezri snapped out of her reminiscent mood, and lithely jumped off the bed. She turned around and lowered herself to remove her equipment from beneath her bed. She dumped it on top of her bed, and was about to put on her dull golden coloured armour when she noticed Holo waking up. “Back from cybernetic oblivion?” she asked.

    Holo simply shrugged. “I don’t have to sleep, but I prefer to do that than lay on my bed all night being wide awake.”

    “Did you have any dreams?” asked Ezri, while she brought her hands through the armholes in her torso armour.

    “No, perhaps last week I experienced some anomaly in my program.”

    Holo got to his feet, he momentarily froze before his visual appearance changed from his Starfleet uniform into the standard Apocalypse gladiator suit. “I'll wake Nog and Jake up.”

    He came over to Nog’s bed and with gently nudged Nog’s ear lobe with a hand. “Come on sleepy head time to get up.”

    Nog mumbled a little bit before opening his eyes. “I feel like I've barely slept.”

    Sitting up, Nog stretched out his arms to loosen up. “But I feel younger, my muscles are more flexible.”

    “It's the nanites,” said Holo, “they must be rejuvenating your bone and muscle structure.”

    “Pity they don't rejuvenate your skin,” said Nog, as he rubbed his hands over his face.

    Briefly there was a small smile on Holo’s face, he then moved over to Jake. “Jake, it’s time to get up!”

    “Already?” groaned Jake.

    Ezri looked leftwards to make sure Jake was getting up, and was relieved to find that he was. She constantly worried for Jake, as he was being pushed to breaking point, and she could tell that Jake was more scarred than he let on.

    She returned to slipping into the tight gladiator suit. It was constructed in five pieces: the torso armour, individual leg and arm armour. While once inside it was flexible, it chafed like mad around her thighs and her armpits. The suit was made of a non-breathable material and when Ezri put it on she felt like she was inside a tomb. The worst bit of putting on the armour was when two pieces connected together. They rubbed against her clothes and skin, and it felt very uncomfortable.

    One part of her wondered if this uncomfortable gladiator suit was for the trainee gladiators only. Whenever she wore the suit it felt hot and uncomfortable, even with only wearing her Starfleet T-shirt and trousers the suit simply trapped in her body heat. Of course the suit was on the minor end of the awful conditions she faced. The training was much worse, and she absolutely hated the Apocalypse instructors, who seemed to be doing their utmost to make life as miserable as possible for the trainee gladiators.

    Disobedience was out of the question, because she, as did every gladiator in Apocalypse, had a metal collar placed around their neck. It was very thin, but it contained enough explosives to blow off their heads if activated.

    When she was finally in her armour suit, she looked around and saw that Holo and Nog had already kitted up. Jake though was still putting on his armour suit, and Ezri knew Jake was taking his time just so that he could avoid the instructors for a few minutes.

    “Listen,” said Ezri addressing Holo and Nog. “Why not you two leave? I need to talk to Jake.”

    At once Holo and Nog left without another word.

    This was good because Ezri needed to give Jake some privacy, and he only really talked to her when there was just the two of them in the cell. She walked over to Jake, and sat down beside him on his bed. “Jake I know you hate it here and I know you are scared but you've got to hang in their.”

    “I'm not a Starfleet officer,” complained Jake. “I wasn't trained for dealing with situations like this! I'm not a fighter...”

    “If you want to survive you have to toughen up,” said Ezri firmly, she sounded a little harsh to chivy Jake along. “That's an order.”

    Jake glared at her. “I'm not in Starfleet you can't give me orders.”

    Ezri ignored Jake’s anger as it was his way of masking his fear. “If you want to stay alive you follow what I say understood?”

    “Yes sir,” said Jake sarcastically.

    “Come on, the training starts in a few minutes, and you don’t want to be late.”

    “I’m finished,” replied Jake irately.

    Briefly Ezri smiled at Jake in an encouraging manner, before walking out of the cell with Jake following from behind. Ezri wondered if she was fighting a losing battle with Jake, and in her attempts to keep his morale up. Her only consolation was that Jake did respond to her advice, but it seemed only she could encourage Jake.

    She suspected that Jake didn’t want to talk to Nog about his concerns, for fear of losing face with his friend. The truth was Jake had already surpassed her expectations because he had endured a gruelling and near torturous training regime for close to two months. But she could sense that Jake was at breaking point, and if he snapped he may not have the strength to continue on.

    Ezri was determined not to let that happen, and she felt a certain attachment to Jake. This attachment primarily stemmed from Jadzia’s fondness for Jake, and Ezri knew that if anything had happened to Benjamin, Jadzia would have looked after Jake, treating him as if he were her own son. If Ezri had to be a parent-like figure to get Jake through Apocalypse then she would do it.


    ***


    Day 1, 0730 hours

    Walking along the passageway, Holo was being escorted by four station troopers. It was always the same routine, the moment Holo left the detainment cell, there were always four station troopers waiting for him. But this was for good reason, because being a hologram, Holo could kill virtually any humanoid armed or not, with his bare hands.

    But he did not dare attack the station troopers because their rifles had been modified to fire electromagnetic pulse rounds. One shot to his form, would severely disrupt his holographic matrix. So attacking was out of the question. Everyday he always walked down the same set of passageways, walking past training courses, firing ranges and barracks. Transparent orange walls, reinforced with black duranium beams, lined the perimeter of each training course and firing range.

    Holo could see various trainee gladiators navigating the training courses. The sound of explosions and phaser fire happened each and every second. It should have been louder, but Holo worked out that the walls had some sort of sound-proofing property.

    Everything was in the open, and looking upwards was the station looming high above, arcing around in a cylindrical shaped torus. It was a spectacular view, and to the left and right there were views of outer space. Only the training facilities shields kept the atmosphere inside. Holo thought it was a precarious arrangement, because if the power went down and the back-up generators went down, then the shields would go. Everyone not inside a barracks would suffocate and freeze to death immediately.

    The guards came to a stop and looking to his left Holo saw the small area where he daily trained in. It was less than ten by ten metres, but there were holographic projectors placed around the walls. Because of Holo’s unique combat skills he had a considerably different training program to everyone else.

    One of the guards, came to a door, which had the same transparent orange material. He punched a certain combination of commands on a small black panel, and a moment later the door opened.

    Holo slowly walked inside, followed by the guards. Inside the area was one of the supervisors, he was standing inside some sort of control booth. It was a miniature self-sealed room, with consoles inside to access the holographic projector controls.

    The supervisor was as alien as you could get with weird dull grey and red stripes all over his skin. While the back of his head bulged out prominently blending into his back, he was hairless and Holo thought he looked like some sort of humanoid fish.

    The supervisor had a small thin rectangular device clutched in his right hand. Holo hated seeing that device, because it sent a signal into his holographic matrix which altered his programming.

    Holo still remembered being trapped in a force field, in some science lab, where the Apocalypse engineers messed around with his programming. He felt violated because the engineers had added new subroutines into his programming. Subroutines which when activated, transformed him into a killing machine, devoid of a soul and of morality.

    He had gotten over the shock of his transformation, but it still disturbed him greatly by the deeds he did under the programming's influence. Every kill he remembered, and sometimes he did not just kill holographic enemies, some of them were people, like Jem’Hadar.

    The station troopers placed themselves behind a waist-high wall, with a blue protective screen on top, for their own mortal safety.

    “You know what to do,” said the supervisor’s voice, and he was talking into a comm unit.

    The supervisor activated the device and immediately Holo felt disorientated as his programming reconfigured. Soon though the disorientation passed, and he felt completely clear headed, cold, calculating and full of purpose. “Who will I be killing today?” he said in a cold voice devoid of emotion.

    The door opened behind Holo, and five Jem’Hadar entered carrying rozstokras, their favourite axe-like melee weapon.

    “These Jem'Hadar are here to practice their fighting skills,” explained the supervisor.

    Holo glanced at the five Jem’Hadar, his programming instantly calculating their fighting strength, and his strategies for defeating them. “I am fighting against these?”

    “We’ve heard of you hologram,” said one of the Jem’Hadar, “and from what we hear you make a worthy opponent.”

    “You are going to die if you fight me,” said Holo in an utterly cold voice.

    “Such confidence,” said a second Jem’Hadar leering. “In case you haven’t noticed you have a weak spot as well. One strike of my rozstokra against your mobile emitter and you are disabled.”

    “If you could strike it,” retorted Holo.

    One of the Jem’Hadar advanced upon Holo wielding his rozstokra. “Defend yourself!” he said fiercely.

    Holo dodged backwards against the first blow, and moved steadily backwards towards the centre of the room. While the other four Jem’Hadar dashed towards him, Holo knew he needed a weapon to level the odds. So he ran to the first Jem’Hadar, twisting his body rightwards to avoid the rozstokra, and then got between the Jem’Hadar’s outstretched arms.

    There Holo used his right hand to punch hard into the Jem’Hadar’s chest, knocking the wind out of his opponent, and with his left hand he snatched the rozstokra out of the Jem’Hadar’s weakened grip.

    Now that he had a weapon, Holo moved away from the Jem’Hadar, concentrating upon the other four. Two of them approached Holo from opposite ends, and swung their rozstokras aiming for Holo’s mid-rift where his holographic emitter was located.

    Holo though lowered himself, and with a lightening fast move, swung his rozstokra around until it made contact with the Jem’Hadar to his right. The rozstokra embedded itself deep into the side of the Jem’Hadar’s chest, and there was a roar of pain from Holo’s stricken opponent.

    Turning around clockwise, with his left hand Holo took the Jem’Hadar’s rozstokra, flipped the weapon around with his hand so he was grabbing the handle. Now he had two rozstokra’s, and with all the force he could muster he confronted the other Jem’Hadar, wielding his two weapons so that they sliced through both of the Jem’Hadar’s hands.

    Holo could sense the three other Jem’Hadar running towards him, but he still had the time to finish off the enemy in front of him. This Jem’Hadar had fallen to his knees, looking aghast at the stump of his arms. Moving forwards Holo crossed his arms, and brought the rozstokra’s into a scissors like position. His rozstokra blades had the Jem’Hadar pinned by the neck.

    In a rapid motion, Holo swung his arms outwards, and the rozstokra blades went straight through the Jem’Hadar’s neck, decapitating him. The Jem’Hadar seemed to have realised what happened, but Holo kicked the Jem’Hadar square in the chest, knocking his opponent to the floor. The Jem’Hadar’s head rolled off and hit the floor.

    All of this was too easy for Holo, his reflexes and programming were making light work of these Jem’Hadar. Still the three surviving Jem’Hadar were not put off, and they continued the fight. But it was a short fight though, and eventually Holo struck them all down.

    When he was finished he looked at their bloodied bodies, he did not feel anything at seeing them. All he could think of was how superior a hologram was compared to an organic. These humanoids could be killed so easily, like slaughtering an animal, they both made the same mess, the same sounds of pain.

    The supervisor walked over, looking a little disconcerted by the bodily carnage. “I must say that was impressive!”

    Holo looked around, he did not care what his instructor thought. All that mattered to Holo was following the instructor’s orders. He was about to ask for more opponents when his audio sensors detected some movement from one of the Jem’Hadar. Holo whirled around and threw the rozstokra in his right hand, right at the Jem’Hadar’s face.

    It was a perfect hit, and for the tiniest space of time there was surprise in the Jem’Hadar’s eyes. But it was short lived and he fell to the floor, with his eyes not staring, while the rozstokra was still embedded directly along the line between the centre of his forehead and his nose.

    Now with the fight over, Holo disregarded the remaining rozstokra throwing it to the floor.

    At once the supervisor clicked his fingers, and two of the station troopers, positioned behind the protective screen stepped forth to remove, one by one, the Jem’Hadar bodies.

    “What fools,” commented Holo, “they think they can defeat a hologram?”

    He glanced at his supervisor. “More!”

    “Computer commence program Jem'Hadar three,” ordered the supervisor. “Difficulty level ten...”

    Holographic Jem’Hadar appeared, and Holo picked up the rozstokra. This was his purpose to kill people, and with each kill he felt somehow content. It was like some sort of triumphant emotion, but he was not sure of that because he had no emotions…
     
  4. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    Chapter 1, part 2

    Day 1, 0900 hours

    Ezri, Nog and Jake stood in a row, with the other trainee gladiators, their backs against the orange transparent wall. In front of them was their instructor and he stood around the centre of the row. Just behind him were individual walled off bays where gladiators practised their weapons.

    The gladiators had all just finished a training program for standard Apocalypse energy rifles. Now the instructor was looking at each individual face as if to try to psyche someone out. “As you have all completed the training course on energy weapons it's time to move on to projectile weaponry. The guns you are holding are your standard .01 metre electromagnetic rifles. A two foot long barrel, muzzle velocity of twelve km a second, low recoil, low noise, twenty round magazine, reload time of three seconds and with non-magnetic adamantium rounds.

    “The advantages of projectile weaponry is that they are impervious to energy dampening fields. Remember in the arena there can be all sorts of obstacles, having a diverse weapons kit is the difference between life and death! For the next hour you will practice with these rifles. Remember projectile weaponry has different trajectory properties, vertical shot dispersion and so forth. Aim slightly higher for longer range targets... They are not like energy weapons!”

    With a slight jerk of his head, he signalled to the gladiators to get to the firing bays. Ezri, Nog and Jake managed to find three bays, so that they were adjacent to each other. In each bay there was a stand, where a weapon was located. The weapons were beamed in and out, as per the instructors specifications.

    Soon the sounds of rifles firing started up, and with each discharge, a whoosh like sound came from the rifle firing. On each individual firing course, holographic test dummies popped up along various parts of the fifty metre long stretch. All the firing ranges and training courses had holographic projectors, so that test dummies, Jem’Hadar warriors, combat droids, and chompers could be materialized at will.

    As usual the holographic safety protocols were always turned off. This was for the gladiators so that they actually got hurt when they made a mistake or got unlucky.

    The instructors stopped by each bay, inspecting the gladiators, occasionally making comments. He then came to a stop at Jake, and positively scowled at him. Walking up to Jake, the instructor bent over him, hissing into his ear. “Your aim is too low human. What did I say about vertical shot dispersion?”

    “Aim slightly higher for longer range targets,” mumbled Jake.

    “I didn't hear you,” said the instructor.

    “Aim slightly higher for longer range targets,” Jake replied in a more louder voice.

    “Your turning out to be a lousy gladiator,” snarled the instructor.

    He grabbed Jake by the neck of his armour suit, and then pinned Jake against one of the bay’s walls. “You are timid, afraid and weak. You wouldn't last one minute in the real arena!”

    “Leave him alone,” snarled Nog, he had walked over and his gun was aimed at the instructors' chest.

    At once two station troopers who were lurking by the orange wall, stepped forwards their guns were instantly trained on Nog.

    The instructor though did not seem concerned at all, he simply leered at Nog in an ugly manner. “Are you sure you want to do that Ferengi? That collar can be detonated at any time, the moment your finger squeezes that trigger the collar will be activated.”

    Nog seemed to realise the futility of his actions because all the fight had drained from him. All he could do was make the Ferengi hiss of contempt, before returning to his bay.

    “Smart move Ferengi,” said the instructor.

    Now the instructor returned to Jake, who was looking fearfully at him. “As for you I want to see a hundred headshots. The computers counting them, and if there is less than a hundred headshots I might just detonate your collar. It's your choice.”

    Jake trudged back to the platform, and he looked utterly dejected and lost.

    The instructor though scowled at Jake once more, before moving on to inspect Nog and Ezri.

    Jake though began firing, but his hands were shaking slightly, and his eyes were watery. It seemed Jake was on the verge of giving up, but to do that would be fatal. If he gave up now the station troopers would kill him, on the instructor’s orders. Jake looked like a rat on a sinking ship, totally cornered and with no means of escape. He was only carrying on, purely out of fear.


    ***


    Day 1, 2100 hours

    Ezri returned to the barracks, with Jake and Nog, back to their cramped accommodation. There was only two bunk beds, some padds, a toilet, and a small holovision set. It may have been cramped but it felt like home to Ezri, and it was a welcome sight after the end of a hard day’s training.

    Once she was inside, she turned on the lights, and headed for her bed. They all began taking of their armour and as usual they did so in silence.

    All day Ezri had been sweating under her armour suit, she was sweaty and dirty, but there were no real means to clean herself up. The toilet was a near cesspit of vileness. So she, Jake and Nog stank to high heaven, but she had got so used to the smell that after a week or so she stopped noticing. Her clothes were all coloured brown and black from the dirt and dust. The only bit of her body she could clean properly was her face and hands.

    So she went to the toilet, her nose still adapting to the sewage like smell. She went over to a grimy sink, turned the tap, and put some of the water against her face and hands. She dried herself with a dirty towel, before turning off the tap, and leaving the bathroom. In particular she was careful to close the door, to keep most of the stench out of the first room.

    She sat down on the metal bed, and she became very conscious of her aching body. All of the running around, climbing over obstacles and crawling had taken it out of her. Though she could feel the nanites sooth her muscles they did not seem to do anything for fatigue. She had been put through such a rigorous training regime that she felt genuinely mad with anger and frustration.

    Every part of the day was designed to provide discomfort for the trainee gladiators, and it was now starting to really get to Ezri. It was the food, the accommodation, the armour, the instructors, the training, the sanitation, taken together it made her feel crazy. However whenever she felt emotionally trapped or overwhelmed, she closed her eyes and did her form of meditation. It gave her some perspective and clarity on her whole situation.

    “I'm wasted,” said Jake. “How long is this training going to last?”

    Ezri opened her eyes, feeling a bit more emotionally settled. “I'm not sure.”

    She noticed how drawn Jake looked, and she realised that Jake needed more nourishment. “Listen take my ration pack, you need to conserve your strength.”

    “Don't worry about me, you have that,” said Jake, his hand pushing away the ration pack. “Besides you are our captain, you're more important than me.”

    “Just being a good captain, they look after their own flock you know…”

    She looked at Jake in an encouraging manner. “So I'm telling you Jake hang in there, you should be proud that you made it this far.”

    “Dax is right Jake,” chimed in Nog, “you're not even a Starfleet officer and yet you've kept your nerve!”

    “I suppose so,” said Jake smiling a little.

    “I'm serious,” said Nog firmly, “it's pretty amazing what you've done, because people aren't designed to take this sort of regime or punishment! Even with Starfleet training it doesn't make the situation any easier!”

    There were times when Ezri was deeply glad that Nog was Jake’s best friend. No one could make Jake smile like Nog could, and Ezri was certain that without Nog, Jake’s morale would be far lower.

    While the three started on their ration packs, Holo arrived. He looked flawless and immaculate, but his face looked troubled.

    Nog looked up from his packet. “How was your day?”

    “Awful,” said Holo quietly, when the door had closed behind him.

    He then stood still and reverted into his Starfleet uniform. “Unlike you three when I train I do sometimes kill real people.”

    “Who did you kill today?” asked Nog, sounding very cautious.

    “Five Jem'Hadar, I cut them to pieces,” said Holo, he looked at Nog in a strangely distant manner. “I just feel strange you know, and this may sound morbid and disgusting but I'm getting used to killing people. Perhaps the Apocalypse subroutines are diluting the effects of my ethical subroutines... I don't know.”

    Holo sat down beside Ezri, he continued to look glum.

    Ezri sought to find the words to say to lift his spirits up. Holo was sort of like her first officer, he was also the one with the best chances of survival. Whatever they were facing Ezri was glad Holo was with them, but right now she needed Holo on board with their goal.

    “You've had it tough for the last two months,” she said, while looking at each face. “We all have. But it's about survival, maybe some opportunity will present itself where we-”

    She broke off when the door opened and a station trooper came through.

    “You four have been assigned to a team. Your team name is United Federation of Planets or UFP for short. Your first match will be in the main arena onboard this station tomorrow at 1530 hours. You will be called out of your quarters at 1400 hours. Remember the arena is not the only thing that can kill you, if the audience grows bored of you, your collars will be activated. So keep it interesting. You will also have a mission controller assigned to you.”

    “Who is the mission controller?” asked Ezri.

    “You'll find out just before the start of the match.”

    The station trooper left the room, and in his wake the tension had skyrocketed in the room.

    Everyone was thinking about what would be coming tomorrow. After two months of brutal training, here came the real test.

    “Great,” said Nog sarcastically, breaking the tense silence. “We’ve seen these arena matches, and they're absolutely brutal, most gladiators would be dead in seconds if it weren't for the nanites.”

    Somehow Jake seemed to grow pale after hearing this. “How can the gladiators take such horrific injuries, recover, and then carry on? Surely the nanites can’t be that effective?”

    “It looks like they are, it’s the only explanation why the gladiators can take such horrific punishment.”

    “Thank God I'm a hologram,” said Holo, sounding relieved, “I don't feel pain.”

    Jake though was starting to look increasingly nervous, and he was fidgeting around with his ration packet. “These arena matches don't sound like anything we've trained for!”

    “A third of all trainee gladiators don't even make it past the first match,” said Nog. “But if you do make it, that usually means your chances of survival are good up to three months.”

    “Three months?” exclaimed Jake. “Those are horrible odds!”

    “Listen,” said Ezri, raising her voice so that she could be heard. “We could all worry ourselves to death about whether we'll survive tomorrow or the matches after that. But right now all we can do is focus on our training, that is our best means for survival! Now I know none of us feel like sleeping but at least let's try to get a good nights sleep, as we'll need it for tomorrow!”

    There were nods all around, and deciding to set down the precedent, Ezri proceeded to lie down in the cold and hard bed. By some miracle for the last seven weeks she had managed to get some sleep, but as always it was fragmented and broken. Her broken sleep cycle was probably contributing to her fatigue and the restlessness she felt.

    Eventually everyone was lying down, though Ezri was certain that nobody would be sleeping tonight. Not when they were thinking about the arena match tomorrow. Indeed Ezri wondered if this was the last time she would ever sleep on this bed…
     
  5. Sandoval

    Sandoval Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2010
    I'm staggered by the amount of time and effort that must have gone into creating such a large body of work.
     
  6. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    I've written 26 stories in all, 24 of them for this series, plus I've written collaboratively for two other stories (check out Star Trek: More than A Will To Live this is a TOS story). I've spent the last nine months writing and publishing, plus about four years developing this series characters and plot. This series comes to about 130 stories in total (110 of which I haven't got round to completing), and I've finished the first twenty stories.
     
  7. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    Chapter 2, part 1

    Kira stepped off the turbolift when it came to a stop at Ops. She was wearing her uniform, and briefly her eyes moved left to right as she took in the view. It had been four months since she last worked in Ops, but this time she would be working in the commander’s office. Through a cruel twist of fate she was now the commander of DS9, and she had not expected things to turn out like this.

    She proceeded to the commander’s office, along the way she noticed some of Ops staff glancing at her. There were smiles on a couple of the officer’s faces, particularly the Bajoran ones. Kira never fully appreciated how popular she was, but she did not care about popularity, but it was nice to know that her fellow officers respected her.

    She jogged up the steps to the commander’s office, and went through the automatically opening door.

    Megan looked up from the desk, and she smiled warmly at Kira. “It's good to see you back in Ops.”

    “Thanks...” said Kira with a small smile. “Shall we get this over with?”

    “Agreed,” said Megan with a nod. She picked up a padd from the desk, stood up and came around the desk to face Kira. “To Commander Megan Felpes,” she said, reading from the pad, “Commanding Officer of Deep Space Nine. Stardate 71489.4. You are hereby requested and required to relinquish command of the station to Colonel Kira Nerys, officer of the Bajoran militia, as of this date. Signed, Admiral Jonathan Ross, Starfleet Command.”

    Megan lowered the padd. “Computer, transfer all command codes to Colonel Kira Nerys. Voice authorization: Megan-omicron-gamma-6-2-9.”

    “Transfer complete,” said the computer. “Deep Space Nine is now under the command of Colonel Kira Nerys.”

    “I think we can skip the formalities now,” Megan observed, she then held out a hand for Kira to shake.

    Kira took Megan’s hand and shook it.

    “Congratulations Nerys you earned this,” said Megan fondly.

    Kira though shook her head. “I didn't intend to be the commander of DS9 like this, it should be Ezri sitting in that chair.”

    “There's nothing we can do for Ezri, not yet anyway. Starfleet is still deliberating about a first strike on Apocalypse, and I think in a few days time they'll come to a decision.”

    “I hope they agree to attacking Apocalypse, they have to agree, otherwise Apocalypse will pose an even bigger threat to the Federation!”

    “This is about captain Dax isn't it?” asked Megan, glancing rather shrewdly at Kira. “You want revenge on Apocalypse because they abducted Dax, your best friend, and Jake!”

    “Revenge is a little harsh, but yes I want to see Apocalypse pay for it's crimes. I know there's no hope for Dax, Jake or the others, and they’re probably all being trained as gladiators!”

    Kira paused, and walked to the back of the desk. “Oh yes I want you Ms Felpes to be second in command of the station. You’ve done a great job keeping this place running despite Dax's absence.”

    With a small bow to her head, Megan acknowledged this. “Is there anything else colonel?”

    “No,” said Kira.

    At once Megan left the office and took up a station in Ops.

    Now that Megan was gone, Kira looked around at the desk, and she noticed that Sisko’s baseball was still there. It was Benjamin Sisko’s way of saying he was coming back, and even now Kira never doubted this. Somehow for some reason Sisko would return…

    She winced a little when she felt a nasty cramp building up around her right thigh. Despite all the physiotherapy she still occasionally got cramp either around her legs or arms. She sat down letting her muscles rest, even now the virus she had contracted four months ago was still indirectly affecting her. Though she was fit enough to return to her post, Bashir had warned her that her muscles may have been permanently weakened.

    The whole experience had changed her, and at times it had taught her a lesson in humility and patience. Now though she had more pressing matters: commanding this station and finding a way to rescue her missing friends and colleagues. Currently her best hopes were pinned upon admiral Ross, in a few days time he would be contacting her, informing her of his decision on what to do about Apocalypse.

    Kira hoped Ross had the guts to launch an all-out assault on Apocalypse, because if he did not then Kira’s last hope for seeing her friends again would be quashed.


    ***


    Megan walked into the astronomy lab for what was probably the last time. Now that she was second in command of DS9 her station was now at Ops, issuing duty rosters, directing ships to docking bays and overseeing the various station departments.

    She had walked a few steps inside when she heard the faint sound of a tracer pen against a padd. Looking around she saw Mia working in the usual spot by the secluded table. “Mia? What are you doing here?”

    “Working what else?” said Mia, she was hunched up, writing rapidly on the padd. “I always prefer to work in here.”

    Megan looked around the astronomy lab, from the ceiling lights to the projector in the centre of the room. “It's been good hasn't it? You and me working here together...”

    Such reminiscent language seemed to distract Mia, and she looked up from her work. “They were good times, you taught me an awful lot about life...”

    “You’re exaggerating,” said Megan dismissively, “those abilities were within you all along...”

    Now Mia was packing up her padds, and placing them into a bag. There was a tone of finality in her actions, as if she were appreciating the significance of the moment. When she was done, Mia walked over to the projector, where Megan was working from. “Are you sure you want to close down the astronomy lab?”

    “I have no need for it,” said Megan, while she used a console, turning the lab’s systems off one by one. “And nobody has applied to take my post, so I'm afraid this place hast to be closed down. So you are going to have to find some other place to do your work... What are you doing by the way? In these last two months we haven't had the time to talk that much…”

    For some reason Mia looked a little sheepish. “Well I'm continuing my studies, but I've been recently meditating a lot and just thinking about what to do next...”

    “I still maintain with your skills you could get into Starfleet Academy, or any other scientific post.”

    “I know,” said Mia, though she did not sound that interested or convinced. “But I just need some time to think about what I want to do with my life...”

    “Sure think about what you want to do, but time has that disturbing habit of flashing before your very eyes.”

    Megan then gazed at the subroutines flashing before her eyes on the console screen. She was a little concerned for Mia’s seemingly lack of ambition, it seemed to have plateaued from the moment Megan had stopped working in the astronomy lab.

    “What you need,” she advised, “is a goal to focus upon, you find that goal and you would have found your life's calling.”

    “It's more than that,” mused Mia, with a puzzled frown on her face. “I'm just more curious about who I am. All of this meditation has made me more aware of myself as a person, I mean one thing I'd like to do is go to the Great Link and experience it.”

    “You may be able to link with shapeshifters but that doesn't mean they will welcome you...” warned Megan.

    Inwardly she thought Odo’s people would flat out reject Mia for what she was, being only half a shapeshifter. All Megan knew was that the shapeshifter’s were a proud people, and they would probably recoil in horror to see their DNA, their essence diluted in a Bajoran girl.

    “It's just a thought...” added Mia. “And by the way I'm not going to be lazing around, I'll be doing the odd job here and there on this station.”

    “Whatever you do be sure you're satisfied with your choice in the long term...”

    With a final few commands, Megan initiated the shutdown sequence, and the projector, and nearly every console, except the one Megan was working from, shut down. “Well that's it, everything's shut down.”

    “There is one more thing,” said Mia. “I was wondering if you would come around to my quarters to have dinner with my family on say Fridays...”

    “It's a nice idea,” said Megan, giving Mia a rather fixed smile. “But your mother is now the commanding officer of this station. I just think it is a little inappropriate to be having dinner with her in such a casual manner, it's a Starfleet thing you know.”

    “Forget about Starfleet,” replied Mia with a wave of her hand. “How about dinner between two friends? My mum really likes you and I think part of that is what you've done for me...”

    When presented that way Megan felt more partial to the idea, because she was friends with Kira. They had at times spoken, in private, at length about various issues, ever since Ezri was abducted. “Alright I'll come, workload permitting of course, but at what time?”

    “Say 1800 hours,” suggested Mia. “My mum will be cooking.”

    “Lord have mercy...” replied Megan, there was only one person she trusted to cook with real food and that was her mother. “I didn't know your mother could cook...”

    “She had to out of necessity to fill in for Odo occasionally... Anyway at the very least I’ll be seeing you this Friday. So er… bye and I hope your day goes well…”

    “Yeah thanks…” said Megan.

    While Mia left the astronomy lab, Megan lingered for a bit longer, looking around the place. She felt like she had reached a turning point in her life, for close to a year this room had been her life. Fate though had different plans…

    Megan hoped she could keep up her friendship with Mia, she really liked that girl, and in some ways Mia reminded Megan of herself when she was younger. Intelligent, curious and a little naïve of the outside world. Aside from Max, Mia was Megan’s next best friend and she hoped that despite the workload of her job she could still maintain her friendship with Mia.

     
  8. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    Chapter 2, part 2

    When Megan entered the Replimat to have her tea, she noticed Tanya sitting all by herself on a table, drinking a beverage and studying a padd. For the last two months Tanya had been avoiding Megan when not on duty, and this irked Megan somewhat. She was off-duty and so she decided to finally get to the bottom of the matter.

    “May I sit here?” asked Megan, when she was next to the table.

    Tanya lowered the mug she was drinking from and stared coldly into Megan’s eyes. “With all due respect sir, I would like to be left alone.”

    “Please drop the formality,” said Megan softly. “I’m not on duty…”

    She hoped this would reassure Tanya, but Tanya simply returned to staring at her padd. Realising Tanya had zero inclination to talk, Megan decided to force the issue upon her. “I've noticed you've been avoiding me for these last few months and I'd like to know why.”

    Angrily Tanya slammed the padd down. “I don't want-” She lowered her voice. “-to talk about this!”

    Megan though ignored Tanya’s objections and sat down. “Is it because I'm friends with Max and he considered me a close friend?”

    This seemed to strike a chord with Tanya, and her defensiveness lowered considerably. “Listen if we're going to have this conversation let's have it somewhere more private.”

    “There's an empty store thirty metres away, we'll go there.”

    There was a moment’s silence from Tanya as she considered the option. “Alright then.”

    The two women left the table, and walked along the Promenade. When Megan came to the empty store, she deciphered the door lock, deactivating it, and opened the door. In a courteous gesture she let Tanya go through the door first.

    With Tanya inside, Megan followed and carefully closed the door.

    There was sparse illumination in this room, and the shadows from the ceiling's bulkheads seemed to make Tanya’s face more mask-like.

    An awkward silence sprung up between the two, and Megan detected there was more bad feeling going around than she realised. “You go first then,” she suggested half-heartedly.

    “No you do,” said Tanya irately. “This conversation is your idea after all.”

    “Okay then,” said Megan, she paused as she thought about how she was going to say this. “You’ve been avoiding me for these last two months… Now I can attribute that to not wanting to socialise with me when I was the commanding officer of this station. But ever since we first met, you've barely spoken to me, and I just want to know why?”

    “I guess I felt uncomfortable around you because you were one of Max's best friends.”

    “Uncomfortable?” echoed Megan.

    “All right!” exclaimed Tanya angrily. “I was somewhat jealous of you, because you get along so well with Max!”

    “Jealous?” said Megan, she could not believe this. “What's wrong with me being Max's friend?” she asked, sounding a little wounded.

    Now Tanya looked super awkward, and her eyes were constantly darting to one side as if she found it really difficult to look at Megan straight in the face. “Well you talked a lot, and Max really liked you in a friendly way, well at least I think his feelings were friendly!”

    “Listen to me Tanya,” said Megan firmly. “Nothing happened between myself and Max! I swear to you absolutely nothing!”

    She forced herself to look into Tanya’s eyes, because she was not quite telling the whole truth. Nothing did happen, but she did fancy Max. “We were always friends, and I never sensed from Max any romantic inclinations.”

    “Oh...” said Tanya, and a red flush rapidly blossomed on her cheeks. “Well I had this conversation with Max two months ago and he told me the same thing. Unfortunately I was a little suspicious of both of you two when you talked on your own.”

    Megan shook her head, talk about misunderstandings… “So that explains why you were avoiding me. You thought I was some sort of rival to you, competing for Max's affections!”

    “Something stupid like that,” said Tanya, looking deeply embarrassed. “You may not know this but Max deeply cares for your well-being, he talked to me quite a bit about you, and how he wanted to help you rebuild your life. I think he's more fond of you than you can realise.”

    “That's nice to know,” said Megan warmly, it gave her deep satisfaction to hear someone else confirm what she already knew: she was one of Max’s closest friends. “I don't suppose there's anything else I need to know about?”

    “No there isn't…” said Tanya, the redness from her cheeks started to disappear. “But I think I'll still find it difficult to talk you.”

    “For what reason?”

    Tanya stared miserably into Megan’s eyes. “Something about you reminds me of Max, you knew him almost as well as I did, and that reminds me of losing Max... So for now...”

    “It's best we keep a respectful distance...” finished Megan.

    “Yeah that's best...” agreed Tanya, nodding somewhat.

    Once again the awkwardness was building up, and Megan realised that Tanya wanted to be left alone. “Well my shift is over, and I'm going back to my quarters, I'll see you tomorrow...”

    With a last look at Tanya’s subdued face, Megan walked out of the store. She realised that Tanya was still grieving for Max’s loss. A jolt of worry churned Megan’s stomach as she wondered how well Tanya was coping. Everyone dealt with loss in their own way, and Megan feared that Tanya had not let go and was still clinging to the past in the vain hope that Max would miraculously return to the station. If that was the case then it came as no surprise to Megan why Tanya seemed so upset.


    ***


    Blow after blow Kira struck the punch bag with her boxing gloves. With each blow she tried to vent her anger and frustration out, but it did not really seem to be working. Recently she had been using her holosuite combat program as a means to vent out her temper, rather than build up her physical strength.

    She had modified a boxing program, so that instead of boxing on the ring, it was hand-to-hand combat with holographic fighters: Cardassians, Klingons, Jem’Hadar. Already after two weeks of using this program she had broken her nose three times, broke a few ribs, her jaw, and took numerous scrapes and bruises.

    That was just at the easy difficulty level, and Kira knew she had her work cut out if she was ever going to return to her level of fitness before the virus.

    “You want to take it easy you know,” commented Bashir, who had been covertly watching Kira, below the boxing ring. “All that exertion may give you further cramp and mild muscle spasms!”

    “I don't want to take it easy!” breathed Kira, while she punched a bit harder. “My punch is as weak as a child's, I couldn't even break an Jourallian nose, and they're totally brittle!”

    Bashir pulled the ropes over his head, and stepped onto the ring. “Jourallian noses aside, I did warn you that it would be highly unlikely for you to regain your full physical strength pre-virus.”

    Hearing Bashir’s words of wisdom did little to soothe Kira's temper. She was so distracted by Bashir that she lost her rhythm and desisted from the punching. Her heart was racing and she did not realise how out of breathe she felt.

    Still she was feeling cranky and Bashir arriving was not helping matters, however boxing was not doing her any good either, so she took off the boxing gloves.

    “Listen say DS9 was boarded by the Cardassians. I'd be lucky to get one decent knock in a hand-to-hand fight. You may not realise this about me but I consider a large part of ones self-confidence to be able to deal with some person's stupid behaviour towards you. If I can't knock out a Cardassian, or any other humanoid for that matter, then I'm a liability in close quarter combat. That's why I'm doing this, to get my fighting skills back.”

    “I still maintain that you may not get your full physical strength back, besides I'd thought you would be happy now you are working again?”

    “I am happy!” said Kira, though she sounded the exact opposite. “But I'd be happier if I'm back at my physical prime!”

    There was that familiar smug look on Bashir’s face, he did not seem to be deterred by Kira’s mood, indeed he seemed to enjoy it. “You know you could always use a phaser pistol in close-quarter situations. I know Garak did because he told me of his distaste of hand-to-hand combat...”

    “Whatever you're trying Julian it won't work, I'm continuing on with these combat programs and that's that.”

    “Alright,” said Bashir, pretending to back off. “But do take it easy, I mean do you really have to fight with the holodeck safety protocols off?”

    “It wouldn't be the same, and I promise to take better care of myself. Happy?”

    “Not really,” said Bashir, the smug look was now gone as he accepted defeat. “But I know there's no point arguing with you... This is your form of stress relief and who am I to deprive you of that?”

    “Computer deactivate program,” said Kira.

    While the surroundings reverted into the inside’s of Quark’s holosuites, Kira turned around to confront Bashir’s rather sly remark. “What makes you think I’m stressed?”

    “Well for one thing you were trying to beat that punch bag into submission, and for another someone important, like admiral Ross, has given you some really bad news.”

    “Bad news?” she repeated ominously, before shaking her head looking downwards. “I think at times Starfleet has no backbone!”

    She paused trying to find the words to describe her meeting with admiral Ross. “Ross told me in the worst bureaucratic jargon possible that Starfleet doesn’t want to attack Apocalypse!”

    “What do you mean by bureaucratic jargon?”

    “How about ‘putting the matter under advisement’,” said Kira putting on her best Starfleet admiral voice. “Or ‘Starfleet takes the threat seriously, but the threat has yet to develop into a situation which threatens the Federation’.”

    “I mean by the Prophets, are they just winding me up?” she exclaimed. “Hasn’t Apocalypse already threatened the Federation? As I said before the Starfleet top brass are spineless wimps more concerned about Earth’s safety, than far flung outposts like this one.”

    “But Starfleet may reconsider if the situation deteriorates…” reminded Bashir.

    “Oh come on Julian!” said Kira sharply. “Apocalypse wouldn’t be stupid enough to force Starfleet to retaliate back! No, Apocalypse are just going to remain as a nuisance, bad enough to give Starfleet a headache but not really threaten it in any way. There I said it…”

    “And do you feel any better?”

    “No,” sighed Kira. “This place still doesn’t feel right without Dax or Weatherby, Holo, Nog and Jake.”

    Bashir nodded in a gloomy manner, no doubt he was deeply missing his friend Nog. “Do you think any them of will survive?”

    “Ezri has a certain as hard as nails quality about her, if anyone can survive it is her. As for the others, one can only hope…”

    Hope, Kira had been saying that word quite a bit, to others and to herself. She had no idea what had happened to Ezri, Nog and the others. The best she could do was get on with her life and not be distracted by the absence of her colleagues.
     
  9. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    Chapter 3, part 1

    Day 2, 1520 hours

    Authors note: the bold text was designed to differentiate between the story's first person focus on Ezri and the third person focus on the commentators (which is the bold text).

    This was a moment that Ezri had been dreading, she was here with Nog, Holo and Max waiting for the ship carrying them to land in the arena. They were waiting in the ship's small landing bay, watching from a screen, inbuilt into the wall, the live coverage of a match taking place in of the Apocalypse station’s arenas.

    This particular match was a one-on-one battle between two famous gladiators Ironman and Hellfire. Ironman was the one in a massive exoskeleton suit slugging it out against Hellfire, who was wearing very simple body armour and carrying a massive rifle in his hands.

    Ezri could not believe the ferocity which those two were fighting. Ironman was launching round after round from his plasma cannons, but Hellfire was constantly raising a shield blocking the plasma fire.

    Hellfire was advancing along the massive square platform, and finally, literally leapt onto Ironman, while somehow transforming his rifle into a pair of razor sharp dagger-like grips and was climbing up the exoskeleton suit.

    There was a terrible fear coming from Ironman’s face, which was the only part of his body visible in the massive machine. For he was stuck in his exoskeleton machine, and Hellfire was climbing to the top. Ironman twisted his exoskeleton machine in all sorts of directions trying to shake Hellfire off but to no avail.

    Finally Hellfire reached to the top and began cutting away with his daggers at the machine's protective armour keeping Ironman’s body safe. The metal casing came off, and Hellfire one-handedly pulled Ironman out of the machine. Hellfire jumped off, taking Ironman with him, before hovering slowly downwards from what looked like thruster packs attached to his boots.

    When Hellfire reached the crowd, he slammed Ironman hard against the floor. All Ironman had was his suit of armour and phaser pistol to defend himself, but with a sweep of his hand Hellfire cast away the phaser pistol and advanced upon Ironman. With a rapid flurry of motion Hellfire stuck blow after blow with his twin daggers.

    Ezri could not believe anyone could move that fast, but through the blur of arms which was Hellfire, she noticed that Hellfire was cutting Ironman’s armour to pieces. After some seconds of this, Hellfire stepped back, and there lying on the ground, bloodied and slashed was Ironman.

    There was a cold murderous expression upon Hellfire’s face, and he was egged on by the arena crowd who were chanting ‘Kill! Kill! Kill!’. He was going to kill Ironman horribly...

    Ezri was disgusted by what she had already seen, but she did not have to watch anymore because the screen suddenly turned off. With a jolt she realised that the ship had landed in the arena, and the landing bay hatch slowly opened, revealing a horizontal slice of the arena which steadily widened as the hatch lowered.

    The bright lights momentarily dazzled Ezri, but she looked away to address Jake, Holo and Nog. “Remember stick close together, and follow my orders! We’ll get through this if we work as a team!”

    Her fellow team mates appeared a little reassured by this, but Jake looked panic stricken. His eyes were wide with fear and his breathing was erratic.

    Now though Ezri could not focus just on Jake, she had a battle to fight and she intended to win. When the hatch was fully lowered, she walked down the hatch and onto the arena.

    There was a sudden roar from the crowd from a nearby arena.

    “Oooooh and that is it for Ironman, Hellfire's 402nd victim!” said Dallas, the humanoid male commentator.

    “Hellfire has been on a year long winning streak,” commented Juanita, the female humanoid commentator, “knocking out some of Apocalypse's finest warriors!”


    Ezri glanced up and saw a floating platform-complete with a desk, chairs and safety railings-upon which Dallas and Juanita were commentating. It seemed to float of its own accord without any form of thrust, and Ezri deduced there must be some sort of anti-gravity generator inside.

    The platform came steadily downwards until it was just above the top most row of seats in the arena. From the other arena the crowd was still cheering away.

    “And listen to that crowd,” said Dallas enthusiastically. “They came here for carnage, and Hellfire is the master of carnage!”

    He paused and looked down at the arena he and Juanita were floating above. “Who's next Juanita?”

    “Erm...” said Juanita, while she flicked through the contents of a padd. “Some unknown team called United Federation of Planets, UFP for short.”


    There was an outbreak of booing from the crowd, and Ezri glared around. It was bad enough fighting in this arena, it was even worse when the crowd was not behind her and her supposed ‘team’.

    “Don't worry folks,” said Dallas in an oily manner, “we'll see how long the mighty Federation can last in the face of this arena!”

    The crowd cheered in a nasty manner, and before Ezri could even think about what a bunch of jerks this crowd was, a voice sounded in her earpiece.

    Ezri is that you?

    “Max?” exclaimed Ezri.

    I don’t have time to explain, so listen carefully. I've been assigned as your mission controller, you better stay alive otherwise I'm out of a job. I'm here to inform you of the arena's obstacles and booby traps.

    “It's good to hear your voice,” said Ezri, there was a silence and she assumed that Max must have been gathering up details of the upcoming arena battle.

    “Who was that?” asked Nog.

    “Max, he's our mission controller.”

    Ezri looked around making sure her team had all the necessary equipment. They were all carrying phaser pistols, plasma rifles, grenades, Apocalypse-issued tricorders, combat knives, explosives and of course they were all wearing the dull orange standard issue armour suits.

    All Ezri could do was wait, in a body suit that made her feel like she was in a sauna, and a helmet with facial plating that clung painfully around her ears and the sides of her cheeks. The only good thing about the helmet was the tactical visor, it was bolted onto the outside of her helmet, and when moved downwards it provided a nice tactical display of what she was looking at.

    “Tonight,” said Dallas with much gusto, “we have a former Starfleet captain turned gladiator who hates candy, kids and holovision. Let gives up for Ezri Dax!”

    Again the crowd booed.

    Ezri glanced up at Dallas with disbelieve, talk about misrepresentation...

    “What a ragtag bunch,” said Juanita, her voice full of derision. “A Starfleet captain, a technician, a hologram and a cook!”

    Now the crowd laughed, and there was an outbreak of more booing and jeering.

    “They won't last two minutes,” replied Dallas confidently. “So don't bother to getting off your seats people, this will be short and sweet.”

    “We'll see about that,” said Ezri through gritted teeth.

    There was a loud siren-like sound, and Ezri realised the match had begun. With a glance at Holo she saw his Apocalypse programming activate, and he suddenly looked like a complete stranger.

    She lowered her visor, and ran forwards to red duranium blocks that had sprung up from the floor. Her team followed and they had just crouched behind cover when a dozen armoured robots with rifles beamed into the centre of the arena.

    Ezri knew that these robots were standard combat droids of fourth class. While deadly, a little skill and some tactics meant they were easy prey. “On my mark,” said Ezri, her head just against the periphery of the block. “Three, two, one… Now!”

    She stood up and fired her rifle at four combat droids who were advancing on her position. The remaining eight droids who were strafing to cover, fired, and she took cover. Holo moved over to the left to flank a couple of droids, and Ezri used this to fire a few more rounds at the droids.

    Some moments later and her team had destroyed the droids, but no sooner did that happen then more droids beamed down, followed by robotic chompers; small two legged robots, which resembled a Doralvian swamp crawler. Likewise the chompers had a very wide mouth full of razor sharp teeth.

    The chompers beamed down close to Ezri and the rest of her team, and she took out her phaser pistol blasting them. One of them got too close and it sank its mouth around her left shin. She felt its teeth penetrate the armour and into her calve, and she aimed her pistol downwards, discharging a round that blasted the chomper’s head to smithereens.

    Suddenly a wave of enemy fire came over her head, and Ezri looked up and saw a wave of droids advancing on all three sides. She shouted at her team to maintain position, and for a moments it was hit and miss, as she ducked above and below the duranium block, firing rounds.

    The next wave was destroyed, and this time Ezri ordered her team to advance forwards, to the right of the platform. She was careful to stick to cover but also not to get to close to the platform's edge, where molten lava awaited those unfortunate enough to fall off the platform.

    Four more waves came, but again she and her team followed the same tactics of taking cover and flanking, and as such each consecutive wave of enemies were destroyed.

    Through all the fighting Ezri did not really notice her leg heal up, but this was because of the nanites. Not only did they heal injuries rapidly but they also provided pain relief.

    After the sixth wave, Ezri saw a door, leading to the second part of the course, open up. Cautiously she and her team approached, because they had to cross a narrow stretch of platform, which branched off from the first. Sure enough their caution was warranted as melon sized hovering balls came flying towards her.

    These were as Apocalypse fans called ‘slashers’, little floating balls which when in close contact to a gladiator, opened up revealing three equidistant foot long blades. The blades then spun rapidly until they made contact with a gladiator.

    Ezri fired round after round at them trying to destroy the slashers but she only managed to hit a few of them. Even Holo with his advanced senses, was having difficulty destroying the slashers while they were in flight.

    The slashers landed around Ezri and they clustered around her, there was only a few seconds before the slashers blades burst out, and Ezri had to club some of them backwards with her rifle. This seemed to disrupt the slashers motion and they moved backwards a bit, and Ezri took this opportunity to blast them pieces. She then whirled around when she heard Jake cry out loud, and she noticed that one of the slashers' blades had embedded itself partially into Jake’s abdomen.

    “Ooh!” said Dallas, “Looks our chef is being cut up like layers from an onion!”

    There was more jeering from the crowd, but Ezri ignored this and was about to fire some rounds at the slashers surrounding Jake, when Nog stepped in firing his pistol at close range.

    “Let’s take a look at that injury,” said Nog.

    “I’ll be fine,” said Jake, breathing deeply and his eyes were rimmed with pain. “Besides the nanites will kick in and fix me up. Let’s keep moving!”

    With one quick glance at Jake, Ezri recognised the look on his face. It was pure unadulterated fear, at any point Jake could simply crack. But Ezri had no choice but to press on, she walked along the thin platform and went through the door.

    This revealed a second arena, and at the centre was a massive grey rocky hill. It was lined with craters, and there were a series of windy stepped platforms that lead to the top of the hill. At that moment Max spoke in Ezri’s earpiece.

    Ezri at the top of the hill can you see a 20mm plasma turret?

    Ezri studied her visor’s display carefully and she just managed to spot the turret as it was 250 metres away. “I can.”

    You have to destroy it, unfortunately the turret has a proximity sensor, and it activates when someone is within twenty metres.

    “Any suggestions then?” asked Ezri, while she advanced forward, her rifle held up waiting for trouble to arrive

    I’m not sure, I’ll think of something when you get to the turret.

    “That’s if we make it there,” commented Ezri irately.

    You will,” said Max confidently. “Now once the plasma turret is destroyed then the match ends.

    “Understood.”

    Fighting to get to the top of the hill was a long and arduous task. Ezri and her team would advance to one platform, only for combat droids, chompers, slashers and even Jem’Hadar to beam in. One memorable moment was when Holo had rigged his tricorder to deflect phaser fire. A combat droid had been unlucky enough to fire straight at Holo, only for the phaser beam to bounce straight back and hit the droid square in the chest.

    “Did you just see that?” said Dallas, sounding awestruck. “That hologram what's his name?”

    “Holo,” answered Juanita.

    “He reflected a plasma beam straight back at that combat droid!”


    Ezri came to a stop against a tall wall, and to her right was a staircase that lead to the next level. There was a brief lull in the fighting, and she could see that she had climbed a considerable portion of the hill.

    Watch out,” warned Max’s voice. “The 20mm plasma turret is up ahead, a direct assault is not advisable.

    “I'll think of something,” said Ezri.

    But before she did, she noticed Jake and he looked utterly woe-by-gone. She walked over to him, and she tried to think of some words which would encourage him. “Listen Jake this isn't the time to be afraid, we have to survive, do you understand?”

    Jake simply nodded, but his eyes were still wide with fear.

    “Arrrr... Little Jake is afraid is he?” said Juanita in a horrible mock-baby voice.

    At this the crowd jeered again, and through the jeers, some verbal abuse could be heard.

    “So typical of humans,” said Dallas, sounding disappointed. “Put them under pressure and they buckle.”

    “Don't give them the satisfaction,” said Ezri firmly, while she gestured with her thumb at the crowd. “They want to see you crumble...”

    Somehow this seemed to strengthen Jake’s resolve, and the fear receded from his face and his eyes narrowed as if to focus on what was to come next. “Let's move on,” he replied grimly.

    “Now this will be interesting,” said Dallas. “Team UFP are close to victory, but only a 20mm plasma turret is in the way. How will they deal with this?”

    “They'll probably die trying,” said Juanita nastily. “But they might surprise us.”


    Ezri realised that Juanita was not joking, the moment they got in sight of the plasma turret, it turned around and began firing down the gentle slope at herself and her team. They spent a minute dashing to and fro from rocks, before finally finding a metre high duranium barrier to hide behind. By some luck it was withstanding the constant pounding from the plasma rounds.

    Looking around Ezri saw that there was more duranium barriers that were placed around in a loosely based series of concentric and broken up circles. “There's plenty of cover,” said Ezri, shouting to get her voice heard above the ear-splitting racket the plasma turret was making. “And that plasma turret seems to focus on one of us, we need to get closer to destroy it.”
     
  10. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    Chapter 3, part 2

    She and her team advanced up, but stopped within twelve metres when they realised they could go no further. They were stopped by this ugly looking turret, with revolving barrels and cuboid-shaped generators.

    “We need a diversion,” shouted Nog. “If one of us draws that turret's fire I can have the time to plant the explosives.”

    “I'll do it,” offered Ezri.

    “You would be killed,” protested Jake, he seemed to have overcome his fear completely, and for the first time he did not look worried.

    “She may be killed,” said Holo in an emotionless voice, “but we would survive. With the plasma turret destroyed the match would end.”

    “Holo's right,” said Ezri grimly, she knew what she was getting into but it was the only way. She would rather sacrifice herself then a member of her team. “On my mark… now!”

    She ran out of cover, taking wild potshots at the plasma turret. Her strategy worked, and a little to well, as the plasma turret was now boring down upon her.

    “What's this?” Dallas observed. “It seems like Ezri is drawing the plasma turret's fire!”

    “Look at her dodge behind cover,” said Juanita sounding amused. “But she can't avoid that turret forever...”


    Ezri ignored this, and from behind cover she looked up and saw Nog planting the explosives. So she decided to ran out of cover again, this time though the plasma turret followed her at a more quicker pace. A three metre high wall suddenly popped up and Ezri realised there was nowhere to go. She turned around, her back facing the wall. Her heart was pounding, there was no escaping this, but her only consolation was that Nog had successfully planted the explosives and was running back to cover.

    Suddenly in a rapid blur of intense pain, she felt round after round cut through her arms, legs and torso. It felt so vicious and she saw the blood spatter out of her body. Her whole body convulsed like a rag doll, but that promptly ceased when the turret stopped firing at her and moved over to Nog’s direction.

    “Oooh!” said Dallas, wincing. “That'll leave a mark.”

    Ezri was oblivious to Dallas’ commentary and the cheering of the crowd. She slumped downwards against the wall, looking briefly downwards at her bloodied and broken body. Hitting the ground with a thud seemed to increase the pain and her vision fogged up. The plasma turret exploded and Ezri dimly realised that the match was over, but for her she felt it was already over. She was dying, pain was all over her body...

    “And that is it folks!” said Dallas loudly. “What a dramatic end to the match! Give up for Team UFP and Ezri Dax!”

    The crowd was cheering wildly and despite her being so close to death, she was glad that the crowd approved of her team’s performance. “We did it,” she said weakly, before she fell sideways, the ground was retreating away from her…

    “Are you alright?” said a voice.

    Ezri stirred, was she dead? She opened her eyes and saw Nog’s face, it was full of worry and concern. “The nanites…” she said distantly. “They must have healed me.”

    “You took a horrific beating,” commented Holo, he was looking worriedly at Ezri.

    This registered with Ezri, and she realised that Holo’s Apocalypse programming had deactivated. She also felt more aware of her body, and the pain had receded considerably. Though she did look a right mess with holes riddled all over her suit, and the suit being considerably blood stained. “The pain's going away,” she said.

    She got to her feet, assisted by Holo and Nog.

    “There’s a transport ship waiting for us,” said Jake, pointing his rifle to a ship stationed at the bottom the hill.

    So they all walked down the hill, and the crowd were still cheering them on. Despite everything that had happened and the sheer destruction and death that Ezri had witnessed, she could not help but feel uplifted and psyched up to hear the crowd roar for her and her team.

    When they arrived at the transporter ship, a station trooper stepped out to greet them. “You’re in luck,” he said gruffly. “The crowd loved you so much, and your performance was so spectacular, that you’ve been bumped up a class to ‘skilled’.”

    “Does that mean we get our own quarters?” asked Jake enthusiastically.

    “It does,” said the man. “Oh yes here are your winnings and a station pass each.”

    The station trooper chucked to Ezri a bag of latinum, and her station pass, which was a small and thin black amulet. She caught it, and feeling that her luck was definitely improving, she gestured to her team to get inside the transport ship. Wherever they were going had to be better than the barracks. They had survived their first arena match, and that was truly a cause for celebration…


    ***


    There on a massive holoscreen placed upon a wall of Coplin’s office, was the footage of Team UFP battling it out trying to destroy the plasma turret. Coplin was laid back on a sofa, and his eyes seemed to be boring into the live feed, as if he were analysing every detail.

    “Very interesting...” mumbled Coplin to himself, as he watched the last remnants of Team UFP’s debut match on the holovision.

    Nemoltz was busy rummaging around for some padds placed on a shelf. “Are you talking about that match?” said Nemoltz disparagingly. “I thought it was bland, Team UFP approached the whole thing so very timidly!”

    With an annoyed flick of his head, Coplin seemed to ignore Nemoltz’s disapproving tones. “That doesn't matter,” said Coplin, his hand briefly waved in front of his face. “What matters is the crowd's reaction, did you hear them? They see something in Team UFP, and in the leader Ezri Dax. If Team UFP last long enough they could be Apocalypse's mascots, the promotional gladiators.”

    For a moment Nemoltz paused from his searching. “And replace Tesla X? That's a hard one because he is still a crowd favourite.”

    Coplin nodded a few times, before getting off the sofa and quickly stretching his muscles. “In matches perhaps, but when it comes to selling our brand, he's unpopular. For two years now he has represented this company, and for two years sales have steadily declined, they're down forty percent from their peak.”

    Nemoltz had finally found the required padd, and when he turned around there was disagreement all over his face. “Tesla X only has his popularity because he was the only person to defeat Hellfire, one-on-one! If Team UFP even has a chance of becoming super famous they have to defeat Hellfire first!”

    “We'll get to that problem when it comes,” said Coplin, as he smiled in a placating manner. “But so far they are shaping up to be the best candidates to replace Tesla X!”

    A scowl came upon Nemoltz’s face as he considered Coplin’s proposition. “Tesla X won't go willingly, unless of course he was killed...”

    “No I have a better idea,” Coplin replied, his eyes were wide with craftiness and smugness. “I'll fix it so that there is a rematch between Hellfire and Tesla X. Hellfire is still smarting about losing to Tesla X, and I'm sure he'll do everything in his power to send Tesla X to an early grave. Besides the audience will love it, two of Apocalypse's greats slugging it out.”

    “If Hellfire wins that match and then destroys Team UFP, which is most likely, we'll be left with no mascot! And you know full well that Hellfire cannot be reasoned with, to this day no one really knows why he came to Apocalypse!”

    “It's a risk I'm willing to take...” answered Coplin.

    There was no reasoning with Coplin, and Nemoltz seemed to realise this, because with one last questioning glance at Coplin, he then walked out of the office.

    Coplin had returned to the sofa and with the remote control rewound the live feed, and resumed his intense study of the match.


    ***


    Despite everything that had happened in that match Ezri felt unbelievably high. She and her team mates had all survived, they had received station passes and accommodation. After two months training under a brutal regime she was finally free of it, and this cheered her up considerably.

    Initially when on board the transport ship, herself and her team mates had been highly excited. But now the excitement was wearing off as they walked through numerous corridors to reach Max’s quarters. Only Jake still seemed cheered, though Ezri could understand why. Jake had really suffered in these last two months, and now his burden had been reduced considerably.

    Ezri was really proud of Jake because he had overcome his fear in the midst of the arena match.

    “I still can't believe our good fortune...” said Jake, for what seemed the umpteenth time to Ezri. “We're out of those awful barracks!”

    “I know you feel excited,” cautioned Ezri, “but it must be the steroids still in your system. They do more than strengthen your muscles, I think they're designed to make us more moody.”

    Jake looked at Ezri in a disbelieving manner. “Trust you to cast a down note on everything! We survived! We got station passes! I'd say our luck is improving!”

    Nog who was walking beside Jake, chimed in. “We may have survived one match but they're only going to get harder, so I think your jubilation is premature.”

    “The matches may become harder,” said Ezri, “but we have the money to afford better armour and weapons. So in the short term things will balance out...”

    “We're nearly at Max's quarters,” informed Holo, who was guiding everyone as he had a map of the station in his program. “It's the tenth door on the right down this corridor.”

    “I'm glad that Max is alive…” said Nog, who then bit his lip a little bit because he did not appear too happy by this. “Mind you he's had it so easy, plus he's working with Apocalypse...”

    “Are you questioning Max's loyalties?” asked Ezri in a cutting tone of voice.

    Nog glanced at Ezri looking a little uneasy. “No...”

    “Well good because Max was forced to work with Apocalypse, anyway we shouldn't be talking about this because we're probably being monitored.”

    The mood was now a little downbeat in the group, but Ezri thought that was because the reality of their situation was settling in. Just because they now had creature comforts did not change the fact that they would be fighting match after match for many years to come, and that was if they did not die in the process.

    “I’ll be glad to have a bath,” said Jake, “and wash off all the stink and dirt on my body!”

    “That’s definitely on my to do list!” said Nog vehemently.

    Ezri could not help but smile at this, it would be nice to have a bath. At that point she had reached Max’s quarters and she chimed the door. It opened up revealing Max who was standing behind the door.

    He looked more relieved than happy to see his colleagues again. “It's good to see you four again! You did an amazing job out their in the arena, and more importantly you stayed alive... Anyway come in and make yourselves at home.”

    Stepping inside Ezri looked around at the rather spacious quarters. They had a window which revealed the station, and walking to it Ezri could see right at the bottom the barracks and training facilities she once lived in. It felt strange to be standing here when less than twelve hours ago she was inside one of those barracks.

    She stopped looking and turned around, she saw Jake, Holo, Nog and Max talk quite animatedly but she felt strangely detached from their presence. Standing there she simply listened…

    “All I can say is that was amazing!” said Jake excitedly. “I didn't even think we would survive masses of Jem'Hadar and all those booby traps!”

    Ezri moved forwards towards the group, she had more pressing matters to discuss. “We're all a bit hyped up from surviving, and receiving better accommodation...”

    “And the one thousand strips of gold-pressed latinum,” added Holo, shaking a little bit the bag of latinum he was carrying.

    “We earned it alright,” said Nog seriously, “after all that training in those cramped barracks.”

    Max though seemed to have lost his enthusiasm much as Ezri had. “Don't let winning go to your head,” he warned. “You've won one match, but there are dozens if not hundreds more matches! And Ezri nearly died in this match!”

    “Your quite right Max,” Ezri agreed, “and I don't intend to spend the rest of my life as a gladiator...”

    There was surprise on everyone’s faces when she said that.

    “If you are thinking about escape that is impossible,” said Max.

    “Before I say anymore is this room bugged or being monitored in any way?”

    “It's not,” said Max, with a shake of his head. “I've checked numerous times but there's nothing, so you can speak your mind.”

    “That's good…” said Ezri, she paused as she thought about the things she was about to say next. “As I said previously we're not going to remain as Apocalypse gladiators indefinitely. I know we can't escape, but if we can't escape then we need to think of ways to sabotage Apocalypse.”

    “On our own we couldn't do that much,” said Max, with a frown. “But… I could send a message to the Federation calling for help.”

    Holo raised a questioning eyebrow at this plan. “That's if the Federation can do anything... Apocalypse as considerable firepower and ships at its disposal, it would take a whole fleet of Starfleet ships to capture this place.”

    “2500 ships by my calculations,” said Max, showing off his intelligence. “I'm fortunate enough to be on friendly terms with Coplin, he gave me these quarters and some pretty decent clearance codes. I now know that there are about 1100 Jem'Hadar ships and 500 Apocalypse warships.”

    Ezri was looking at the holovision set in the room, and she considered Max’s information very carefully. “How well does Coplin trust you?”

    “Well enough,” said Max, a hint of bitterness in his voice. “We haven't made amends but it's more like a working partnership. No doubt he'll trust me a bit more now that I'm Team UFP's mission controller, because I'm contributing to his organisation. However we all have to watch out for Nemoltz, the station's chief of security. He rightly doesn't trust me and he's probably dying to find evidence that we're all trying to sabotage, disrupt or threaten Apocalypse's operations.”

    “What about the collars?” asked Ezri, her hand messaging the thin metal collar around the base of her neck. She noticed that Max did not have one.

    “They can't be tampered with,” said Max with a tone of finality. “If they are, then they'll explode automatically... Incidentally does Holo have a collar?”

    “I don't,” said Holo, who looked weary. “But I have something equivalent which is a self-destruct sequence inbuilt into my programming. If triggered all my memories and programming are destroyed, there would be nothing left of me except for my holographic emitter.”

    Ezri looked away from the holovision and addressed the whole group. “Right now we're all here together and we need a command structure. I'm in charge, so here are the following orders: Max send out that message, the sooner Starfleet comes to attack this place the better. As for the rest of you; I ask you to stay alive and be careful. We may have won one match but they're only going to get harder...”

    “Even if you do send the message do you think it would be enough to convince Starfleet to attack?” Jake asked.

    Max answered that question. “The best I can do is provide to Starfleet the number of ships Apocalypse has under its command, and some rudimentary schematics. Ultimately Starfleet would only attack if Apocalypse were to launch an all assault on the Federation, but that would not happen.”

    “I know the chances of Starfleet support are small at best,” said Ezri. “But we have to try, and if Starfleet does not assist us then we take matters into our own hands! I would rather die trying to destroy Apocalypse then continue on this gladiatorial life!”

    There was a long stunned pause after this, but Ezri felt satisfied that everyone knew what their objective was: to destroy Apocalypse or die trying.
     
  11. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    Chapter 4, part 1

    Day 3, 1730 hours

    Coplin was sat at his desk, and he was constantly fidgeting with the holo projector device, spinning it around between his fingers. A pulse throbbed in his neck, and his impatience seemed to be increasing, as he was waiting for someone, but they were obviously late.

    The doors to Coplin’s office opened revealing a heavily armoured human-looking man. His orange and blue striped helmet was tucked between his arm, and when he walked there was confident and arrogance in every stride he took. But this was Tesla X, Apocalypse’s most well known gladiator, he was in all senses king of the hill.

    Coplin was looking at Tesla X, his eyes sweeping from the pointy black boots, dull orange leather trousers, black body armour to the cocky looking face.

    When Tesla X reached the desk, he stood there looking down upon Coplin. “Make this quick Coplin.”

    A smile came instantly to Coplin’s face, and he immediately stopped fidgeting with the holo projector. “Well far from me keeping Apocalypse's most popular gladiator from his busy schedule…”

    The smile became very fixed on Coplin’s face. “I just have one question for you.”

    “Alright shoot,” said Tesla X as he curled some of his black hair with a finger.

    At once Coplin used the holo projector, and on a illuminated plate on top of his desk, various objects appeared. “How would you like to buy an Tesla X action figure, Tesla X phaser rifles, collectors cards, holofilms, game rights?”

    Tesla X nodded in a self-satisfied way.

    Coplin pressed some more commands on the holo projector, and an image of Tesla X floated above the plate. “Tesla X is the perfectly tailored celebrity, he is the mainstream icon in the Apocalypse media.”

    With a quick flick Coplin disregarded the holo projector and the image vanished. The smile had disappeared from his face and it was replaced with something very ugly. “So tell me,” Coplin snarled, “how come I can't even give this stuff away?”

    With a wide sweep of his hand, Coplin gestured to the boxes of merchandise stacked all around the room.

    Tesla X fidgeted with his hair a bit more, and his arrogant demeanour faded away. “Well er...”

    “Wait let me answer that,” said Coplin, while he got to his feet. “Let me take a wild speculative guess.”

    “It's because Apocalypse fans can't stand Tesla X!” Coplin shouted, while he came around the desk to cut Tesla X down to size. “He's an egomaniacal, self-absorbed, pompous shit! With all the charisma and charm of a Nausicaan thug!”

    Tesla X’s mouth was open a little, and he seemed wounded and a little indignant. “So what you're getting at here?”

    In a furious action, Coplin picked up a Tesla X action figure, and grabbed onto with a grip that nearly broke the figure. “In case you haven't noticed I'm been swamped with worthless merchandise. All of Apocalypse's customers, from little Billies and Suzies to mindless gore-hungry buffoons, are protesting with their latinum!”

    Now Coplin was positively howling. “They're flocking to the Ferengi Alliance and our other business competitors to spend their money on toys and holosuites, and I'm completely cut out of the market!”

    Coplin chucked the action figure with considerable force against the office window behind his desk. His eyes were bulging with rage, and he took a step closer to Tesla X, squaring him up. “Now if you had spent half as much time on advertising as you do polishing your trophies and hooking up prostitutes, we would have cornered the market a long time ago!”

    “What a load of tosh,” replied Tesla X confidently. “My campaigns are highly viewed, and the crowd loves me in the arenas. So how do I have a popularity problem?”

    It looked as if Coplin’s eyes were going to burst with exasperation and rage. “Because you give the mob carnage, but that's all they like about you,” said Coplin, and he paced around to the back of his desk, and came to a stop, his hands gripping the chair tightly. “There is nothing they can relate to, because they all think Tesla X has his head stuck up his ass as he walks around like the ruler of the universe! Now you better improve your public image and sell our produce otherwise I'll find someone who will!”

    “Good luck,” said Tesla X, leering horribly. “The only gladiator who is even half as popular as me is Hellfire, but he has expressed zero interest in becoming Apocalypse's mascot!”

    “Don't push your luck, everyone is expendable,” Coplin hissed, he paused briefly and then smiled at Tesla X in a nasty manner. “In fact I'm already considering a replacement for you. How does Team UFP and their leader Ezri Dax sound to you?”

    This above all else seemed to shock Tesla X immensely. “That Trill bitch a mascot?” he spat, his mouth contorted with disgust. “You're out of your mind!”

    “Audience ratings spiked massively during team UFP's debut match. The crowd see something in that team, and in Ezri, they probably think it's the classic good guys vs the bad guys... Team UFP fighting against the odds from the all-powerful Apocalypse!”

    Tesla X briefly laughed, before shaking his head in disbelieve. “They only survive because of their teamwork, take away Ezri and they're nothing!”

    “And you're just a one-man show with overpowered weapons,” retorted Coplin, each word was laced with venom. “The crowd want variety and they want an interesting challenge. Team UFP provides that in droves!”

    Danger flashed in Tesla X’s eyes, and in a symbolic gesture he placed his helmet on the desk, and placed both hands on the table. He leaned over, teeth bared. “No one threatens my position not even team UFP! Give me a match against them and I'll cut them down to size!”

    Having made his point, Tesla X scooped up the helmet and removed his hands from the desk. “It'll be bloody and when it's over Ezri and the rest of that rag-tag bunch will be begging me to kill them!”

    “I might just consider that...” said Coplin sarcastically, he placed a finger to the tip of his chin, matching Tesla X’s superior stare. “Who knows they may even kill you...”

    An angry ‘huh’ sound came from Tesla X, before he whirled around, his back to Coplin, and walked out of the office.

    Coplin remained behind his desk, he was frowning deeply, and his nostrils flared in and out with each breathe he took. There was no mistaking the loathing in Coplin’s eyes, and it seemed Coplin would like nothing better than to strangle Tesla X with his own bare hands…


    ***


    Day 4, 0100 hours

    It was late in the night and Kira suddenly stirred when she thought she heard a sound. The sound repeated and she realised it was the door chime. Wondering who was rude enough to make such an impromptu call, she got out of bed, left her room and headed down the corridor to the living room.

    She straightened out her orange nightdress with a quick tug of her hand, the door chimed again and Kira could not believe the impatience of this person. Pressing a command on the panel, the door opened revealing a grim-faced Quark. “Quark do you have any idea what time this is?”

    Surprisingly Quark looked apologetic. “I'm sorry to disturb you colonel, but I thought you might be interested in this.”

    He passed to Kira a data rod.

    “What is it?” she asked, briefly looking at the rod.

    “A recording of an Apocalypse match. I’ve spent the last two months trying to hack into their subspace frequencies, only tonight did I finally get lucky; they keep changing the frequencies you see. Anyway while going through the Apocalypse holovision channels I spotted this match. It features Ezri, Jake, Holo and Nog, so at least we know they're alive for the time being.”

    Kira’s heart suddenly started beating quite hard, she was inwardly shocked to hear this, and could not believe such good news could come from a bearer such as Quark. “Thank you Quark for this...” she murmured, additionally grateful Quark had given the data rod free of charge.

    “They took my nephew from me,” said Quark, looking stony-faced. “So I'm just as concerned as you are about their safety. I should warn you this footage is very... graphic at times.”

    “I'm not a little child Quark,” replied Kira indignantly. “I've seen more than my fair share of violence and gore.”

    “It's just a warning… One more thing if I do get further recordings, would you be interested in seeing them?”

    “I would,” said Kira grimly.

    “Well goodnight colonel,” said Quark in a respectful voice.

    Quark walked along a corridor, leaving Kira standing there by the doorway. She was not sure she wanted to watch the recording, but she wanted more than Quark’s word that Ezri, Jake, Holo, Max and Nog were alive. She would only believe Quark when she had seen the recording with her own eyes.

    Having made up her mind, she walked over to her desk, inserted the data rod into an input port on her console. Sitting down she waited some moments for the recording to be uploaded.

    Finally on the blank black screen, it displayed a still image of the recording. Pressing a few commands close to the screen, Kira played the recording. It went straight to what she presumed was the beginning of the match. Sure enough she saw four heavily armoured figures on one side of a huge square platform, surrounded by molten lava. They were fighting off various robots, and taking cover behind certain thin red blocks.

    The match was unbelievably fast paced, suddenly there was a close up shot of one of the gladiators and despite the helmet and the visor there was no mistaking that face. It was Ezri, and instantly Kira paused the recording just to look at Ezri’s face. There was no doubt about it this was Ezri, though Kira noticed her friend’s face was very dirty and strained.

    Kira could only attribute this to the harsh training Ezri must have been put through. Having seen enough of Ezri, she resumed the recording. The longer it went on, the more anxious and disgusted Kira felt. Though she was glad to see Jake, Nog and Holo, her relief quickly turned to horror. It was bad enough seeing Jake get injured, but the commentators made everything sound ten times as worse.

    When she saw Ezri get mowed down by the plasma turret, Kira’s mouth fell open in horror. Seeing Ezri get blasted backwards, with the blood pouring out, was grotesque for Kira. It was even more grotesque and morbid when there were replays of Ezri getting the life blasted out of her. What was made it so horrible for Kira was seeing the pain and shock in Ezri’s face.

    Finally the match ended, but Kira just wanted to know what had happened to Ezri. The commentators had not said Ezri was dead, and when the camera suddenly zoomed in on an Ezri who was shakily getting up onto her feet, Kira could not believe it. Ezri should have been dead and yet… Kira could only deduce there was some substance inside of Ezri that healed injuries.

    The recording abruptly ended and Kira suddenly became more aware of her senses. She had been so transfixed on the match that she had not felt the sick feeling in her stomach or the rapid beating of her heart. In some ways she wished she had not seen the recording, because now she knew what her colleagues and friends faced, it made her feel even more worried for their safety.

    At least Max was safe and sound as he was Team UFP’s ‘mission controller’. But that was Kira’s only consolation, she was not sure she wanted to watch another match. Perhaps it was best that Quark simply told her the outcome and that Team UFP had made it safe and sound for another day…
     
  12. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    Chapter 4, part 2

    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.

    “Coplin-”

    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.
     
  13. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    Chapter 5, part 1

    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.
     
  14. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    Chapter 5, part 2

    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!”

    “I didn’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):

    Season 1:

    Secrets and Lies

    Shallow Rights


    Vacation

    Bad Blood

    Outlier

    Devolution

    Gold Rush

    Medical Pariah

    Commitment

    Ménage à Trois

    Tip of the Iceberg


    Season 2:

    Survival

    High Stakes

    Running the Gauntlet

    The Price of Sanity

    Cloak and Dagger, part 1

    Cloak and Dagger, part 2

    To be Over

    Knowing Oneself

    Reunion
     
  15. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    Here is the next story: High Stakes

    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

    Stardate: 71532.76

    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…
     
  16. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    Chapter 1, part 2

    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…
     
  17. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    Chapter 2, part 1

    “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...”
     
  18. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    Chapter 2, part 1

    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!”

    “How so?”

    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.
     
  19. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    Chapter 3, part 1

    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…

    “Now!”

    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.

    “Great…”

    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...
     
  20. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2011
    Location:
    The great gig in the sky
    Chapter 3, part 2

    There was a rustling sound, and Ezri quickly stowed her PCD back into a container around her waist. She saw something moving, something which looked like a bear dashed through the undergrowth in the distance.

    “Did you see that?” said Nog, and he sounded a little rattled.

    “Whatever it is will not stop us from advancing forwards!” said Ezri.

    Taking the lead, she moved forwards on the dirty track, her rifle extended as she anticipated trouble. As she went deeper into the forest she heard rustling sounds, and she felt like she was being watched.

    Jake and Nog were constantly checking behind to make sure they were not being followed, and even Holo seemed more agitated than usual, his eyes were penetrating everything in the nearby vicinity.

    Suddenly a brown, scaly-like bear creature jumped out of a thick brush and struck Holo. The creature though went through Holo, and its front legs dug into the ground to try to slow itself down from its massive leap.

    At once Jake and Nog fired round after round at the creature. With each hit the creature moaned in agony, and shuddered around on the ground, writhing with pain.

    “Stop!” said Ezri, looking at the stricken creature. “It’s suffered enough already!”

    Jake looked at Ezri with disbelieve. “That thing was going to kill us!”

    “I know,” said Ezri, while she cautiously advanced upon the creature. “But its bad enough killing humanoids, I don’t want to be slaughtering animals as well!”

    Holo walked over, and despite his lack of emotions there was a certain impatience about him. “Listen captain now is not the time to be fretting over ethics, we need to get moving!”

    “You're right!” said Ezri, looking into the creatures wounded eyes. “But we use the stun setting for these-”

    In a sudden motion the creature reared up, and swatted Ezri hard in the chest with one of its paws, the foot long talons ripped through Ezri’s armour. The creature was already onto Ezri before she even hit the ground. It then sank its teeth into her waist and shook its head, tossing her around against the ground.

    The creature was then blasted into bloody pieces before Ezri’s very eyes. She remained still on the ground, gasping for breathe. Her rib cage felt completely broken as did her pelvis bone and she could not get up.

    “Tut tut,” said Juanita, shaking her head. “Ezri's show of mercy nearly got her killed.”

    “Stupid woman...” added Dallas, with a smirk.


    Phaser fire then flew over her head, and she realised Apocalypse troopers were attacking. There was nothing she could do except lie there uselessly on the ground waiting for the Apocalypse enemies to finish her off.

    Eventually the fighting died down, and Ezri heard hurried foot falls coming towards her. She saw Nog standing above her, and she noticed there were several phaser marks on his body armour.

    “Captain,” said Nog, looking down at Ezri. “Are you still with us?”

    “I am,” said Ezri weakly. “But I can barely move!”

    She felt strong hands pick her up, and she realised Jake was getting her onto her feet.

    “Just conserve your strength Ezri,” said Jake, holding her with one of his arms around the shoulders. “Holo will be in charge while you mend.”

    Holo walked over his eyes gazing at Ezri’s wounds. “You see what I mean? You show mercy, and death and injury is your reward! It will take at least twenty minutes for your bones to fully heal. Those are twenty minutes where this team is vulnerable!”

    “I don’t need a lecture!” retorted Ezri, glaring at Holo. She then chucked to Holo her PCD. “Here take it, and lead the way!”

    Holo returned to the front, and walked at a slower pace along the dirty track. Nog took up the rear, he seemed extra watchful after what just happened. Jake supported Ezri, as she hobbled along.

    “That was a close call,” observed Dallas.

    “I thought the team were goners,” noted Juanita, sounding as if she wished Team UFP had died. “But they always seem to find a way to survive!”


    Each step was painful, with agonising bouts of pain flaring up in her groin area and chest. Still her free hand clutched onto the rifle, her fingers rapped around the handle and the trigger. She felt so stupid letting her guard down like that, and Holo was absolutely right. Her moment of mercy had nearly cost her her life, that creature could have just as easily cut off her head with one swipe of its claws.

    Now her own blood was smeared all over her chest armour, and she felt doubly stupid having Jake support her like this. It made Jake vulnerable to an ambush…

    Sure enough two more of those bear-like creatures came out of the bushes, this time though Holo and Nog blasted the creatures to death without hesitation or mercy.

    It was taking longer to cut through this jungle, and Ezri wished this part of the course would end soon.

    Another wave of Apocalypse combat droids beamed in, and Ezri froze in horror. Before she knew it, Jake had unceremoniously thrown her to the ground, while he dashed to a nearby tree for cover.

    Ezri managed to get her hands out just in time to break the fall onto the leafy and damp ground. Still when she landed it felt like her chest had split open in agony. Ignoring the pain, she straightened out her rifle, steadying it with her right hand.

    She took aim and two of her shots penetrated straight through a combat droid’s chest. It fell to the ground, completely inanimate. Some moments later the danger had passed, as she saw Jake come over to pick her up, she decided to try on her own to get onto her feet.

    Somehow she did it, and through the pain, she used her hands to raise herself up, just enough to get into a crouching position. Finally she slowly lifted herself up, her legs muscles straining due to the slowness of her motion. The pain in her chest and pelvis flared up, before receding when she was standing up.

    Jake had now reached her, but he seemed to realise that she wanted to walk unassisted, and stood their waiting for her.

    Taking a tentative step, Ezri realised she could walk, and now that she could walk she felt fully in charge of the whole situation. “Well stop looking at me and get moving!” she shouted.

    At once Jake, Nog and Holo got back into position, Jake though still stood by Ezri’s side and he looked a little awkward.

    “I’m sorry for pushing you over like that, but there was no other option.”

    “It doesn’t matter,” replied Ezri, as she had no hard feelings about the matter. “You saved both our lives by doing that…”

    The more she walked, the more the pain started to disappear away. Still it was a tense time travelling through the jungle, after fighting through several ambushes by Apocalypse soldiers, and repeated attacks by those scaly bear-like beasts. However the jungle finally cleared revealing a wide, grassy valley.

    By this point Ezri's injuries were now fully healed, and she once again took the lead, proceeding cautiously down the gravelly track. Some metres ahead were two hovertanks, they sort of looked like miniature Romulan warbirds in design. Except at the top was a formidable looking turret, with a four metre long barrel protruding outwards.

    “And that’s it!” exclaimed Dallas. “Team UFP have navigated through the jungle. Now comes the interesting part as they travel up the valley to reach the temple!”

    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.
     

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