Chapter 3, part 3 “Finally we're off!” said Dallas, and at once his hand had stopped playing with the padd. “Hmm,” murmured Juanita, sounding disapproving. “Let us see if Team UFP are equally adept driving hovertanks as they are fighting with small arms!” One part of Ezri's headset had a small speaker, and she assumed this was for contacting the other hovercraft. Noticing a small button on the speaker she pressed it down, to activate it. “Ezri here, Holo, Jake can you hear me?” “I hear you captain,” said Jake. “Do you know how to drive these hovertanks?” “I’ve worked out the basics, helps with Holo being on board of course. Anyway I’ll follow you from behind.” “Good, Ezri out.” She turned the speaker off, and focused on driving the hovertank. Pretty soon there would be an attack from somewhere in the distance, and Ezri hoped that Nog would have figured the controls by then. “Hey Nog do you know how to use the turret?” “I think I’ve got it figured out,” said Nog, though he did not sound to sure. “You think-” Ezri stopped when she heard Max’s voice, come through her headset’s earpieces. “Sorry I took so long,” said Max. “It doesn’t matter, we’ve got the basics figured out on our own.” “Still there are a few more things you need to know. Firstly on the console to your immediate right are the controls for accelerating and braking, but I see you’ve got that figured out already. Above the driving controls are the optical/target acquisition controls.” “Yeah I see it,” said Ezri, briefly glancing at those controls. “What do they do?” “Well they control what you see through that eyepiece. There are three different settings: natural light, infrared and of course x-ray. Infrared would be handy for spotting disguised enemies and vehicles, but you get the drift.” “Can I zoom in?” “Yeah you can, that’s the command to the direct left of the driving controls. That’s about all you need to know for the basics… How is Nog doing?” Ezri turned her head around and was glad to see that Nog was familiarising himself just fine with the tactical controls. “He seems fine.” “Well tell him that aside from the main plasma barrel, on the turret, there are the mortar launchers and the auxiliary plasma machine gun, that is for enemy infantry.” “Hey Nog do you know about the mortar launchers and the auxiliary plasma machine gun?” “I do now,” said Nog, and he frowned at one of the overhead consoles he was looking at. “Yeah I see the controls for those two weapons, you can tell Max I can figure out the rest myself!” “We’re all fine here,” said Ezri, addressing Max. “Good, well there’s nothing more I can do, so good luck travelling across the valley!” “Yeah thanks!” Ezri activated her headset’s speaker to inform Jake of her attack strategy. “Jake do you read me?” “Loud and clear captain.” “We have ten kilometres to travel, and we have no idea what to face. You remain on the track, while I’ll go on the grassland, travelling a few dozen metres parallel to you. By splitting up like this the enemy will have to concentrate fire upon one of the hovertanks.” “Sure got it.” “Tell Holo to keep his eyes peeled for enemies! Ezri out.” Turning off the speaker, Ezri returned her full attention to the view on her optical eyepiece. So far it was just more grassland and nothing up ahead, but that could change very quickly. She tilted the joystick to the left, and she felt the hovertank lurch a little to her left. It felt a little strange seeing the outside view change, while her right eye saw the cockpit. Never the less after a minute of driving she felt far more accustomed to it. Now she was driving at full throttle and the speedometer told her she was doing forty metres per second. “And it is a beautiful day on Dollebia,” commented Juanita a little blandly, “but a few explosions would be nice...” In the distance Ezri spotted two other similar looking hovertanks about five hundred metres in front. They were tiny specks but she zoomed in to get a better look, there was no doubt about it they were enemy hovertanks. “Nog do you see those hovertanks, in the 12 o clock direction at five hundred metres distance?” “I do, I’ll blast them with the plasma cannon.” While Nog was aiming up the plasma cannon, Ezri saw two flashes of light come from the enemy hovertanks. At once she moved the hovertank leftwards, it was a good measure because she heard a loud explosion come from somewhere right of the vehicle. On the eyepiece she briefly saw a plasma round fly through the air heading for one of the enemy hovertanks. The round made a direct hit to the hovertank’s thrusters, soon afterwards the entire hovertank burst into flames as the thruster fuel packs ignited. Ezri realised Holo had fired that round, and for a hologram, such precise accuracy came as no surprise to her. The hovertank she was driving, rumbled severely when the plasma cannon discharged, and Ezri concentrated simultaneously moving forwards while also focusing on the plasma round. It hit the second enemy hovertank, but directly on its side armour, so little damage had been done. “Nice shot!” commented Ezri. “Thanks!” said Nog a little cheerfully. “I’m getting the hang of this aiming system!” Some moments later and the second enemy hovertank exploded, and with the danger passed, Ezri accelerated her hovertank to maximum speed. In some ways driving this hovertank was fun, speeding across the grassy plains and engaging in long range combat. “How do Team UFP do it?” asked Dallas rhetorically. “You know make everything look so easy!” Though Ezri quickly regretted thinking all of this was fun when she saw a rocket home in directly for her hovertank. She strafed the vehicle rightwards, but still the rocket followed her movement. A split second later a deafening roar reverberated through the entire cockpit, while the sheer vibrations pummelled her innards. She expected to die any moment soon, but she then realised that the armour in front of the cockpit had absorbed the full blow. Now she looked for the enemy who had fired that rocket, but she could not see who was out there in the distance. So instead she switched to the infrared vision, and the result was instant. The grass, trees and the river became a dull blue/green, but three hundred metres up in front were a dozen or so humanoid figures. Ezri could just see the red glow of the enemies, who were taking cover behind the rim of a small roll in the grassland. “Nog switch to infrared vision, you’ll see who fired that rocket!” “Yeah I see them, though this time I went to try out the mortars!” “I don’t care what you use!” shouted Ezri. “Just kill the person who fired that rocket!” A second rocket fired in the distance, and Ezri moved the joystick in a diagonal left position. That way the rocket would hit the right side of the hovertank, the side that had just as much armour as the front. However she saw small plasma rounds, flying from the hovertank and directed at the rocket. She realised that Nog was trying to shoot the rocket down. Yellow round after yellow round missed the incoming rocket, and with each miss Ezri saw little puffs of blue earth flying up from where the rounds hit the ground. Now the rocket was less than a hundred metres away, and she braced herself for the impact when it suddenly exploded. Ezri breathed out a sigh of relief, she never wanted to hear such a deafening sound ever again. Just at that moment she heard the sound of multiple rockets going off to her right. Glancing upwards she saw the faint orange tracer marks giving off by the mortar rounds. They flew in a wide arc, before going downwards, their trajectory steepening before hitting the enemy soldier’s positions. The explosions briefly flared a bright white, and given their size Ezri knew that those soldiers had been blasted to pieces. But she felt nothing for them, and she reverted back to the natural light view. Straightening up the hovertank, she drove the vehicle at maximum speed again. The ground was becoming a bit more rocky, but the hovertank was a good metre above the ground so it easily avoided the rocks. As she went upstream, the valley turned considerably to the left, and the mountains upstream were becoming progressively higher. At the very periphery of her vision, she could see a massive stone structure situated between the confluence of two valleys. That had to be the temple, and Ezri worked out that they must have travelled at least five kilometres. But each kilometre seemed to have more enemy soldiers and hovertanks than the last. The temple grew larger and larger, and even from here Ezri had to admire its beauty. The main part, and the highest bit, looked like a triangular shaped pyramid with the top chopped off. At the lower half were massive supporting arches and buttresses. While at the ground level were a series of walls and smaller structures. All of it was made in the same dull sandy coloured rock. They must have been less than two kilometres away, when Ezri felt a series of vibrations emanate both around her and in the hovertank. Something was firing from behind, so turning her head around she saw one of those Apocalypse transport ships chase both hovertanks. “Nog,” she shouted, “get that ship off our backs!” “Oh crap!” exclaimed Nog, and he began working the controls with an intense passion, as he fired whatever armaments the hovertank had left. “Now this is what I call action!” said Dallas, who was literally on the edge of his seat, watching screenshots of the match. “Watching an Apocalypse transport ship pursue two rapidly moving hovertanks!” The hovertank shook again, and though Ezri tried to dodge what appeared to be rockets, she was running out of decent ground to manoeuvre on. The flood plains were narrowing, and becoming steeper, and eventually she would have no choice but to stay on the track. It was hit and miss, and when Ezri was forced to drive on the track, she felt increasingly worried. Without the space to strafe, her hovertank would easily get hit. The track was becoming more bendy, and she had to slow down to avoid either crashing into the trees on her right, or careering down the steep bank to her left. The hovertank continued to take a pounding, and she deduced that both Nog and Holo were having difficulties trying to aim at the transport ship. Suddenly the transport ship zoomed on ahead of the two hovertanks and disappeared over a small hill. Ezri wondered what it was doing and she felt deeply uneasy by what was going on. When she drove over the top of the hill, the temple came into sight again, looking more majestic and splendid than ever. Looking downwards was a long bridge across a steep and deep ravine, and just above the bridge was the transport ship. Ezri’s heart sank, as the transport ship had both hovertanks pinned down. To go across the bridge was suicidal as it was made of stone, and Ezri doubted how much pounding it could take. The transporter ship advanced slowly forwards firing multiple rockets and plasma rounds at both the hovertanks. Inside the cockpit sparks flew from some of the consoles, and Ezri realised the hovertank armour had become dangerously weakened. “And now Team UFP are totally cornered,” said Juanita. “Do they go across the bridge or stay by the rocks and get blasted to bits?” She looked up at the transporter ship, glaring at it, there was nothing for it. Either she stayed here getting blasted or she went across the bridge and took her chances. But she did not have to think about what to do, because when the transporter ship was moving away to make another round of attack upon the hovertanks, one of the plasma cannon rounds made a direct hit on the ship’s left thrusters. Fire and metal erupted from the ship’s stricken left side, and it drifted uncontrollably downwards into the ravine, before eventually making contact with one of the rock faces. A huge explosion billowed upwards from the ravine, and the transporter ship was no more. “That was one very lucky shot!” exclaimed Dallas. Ezri activated her communicator as some congratulations were in order. “Jake tell Holo that he has my sincerest admiration for what he just did.” “Did you hear that Holo?” asked Jake, sounding cocky. There was a faint rumble which must have been Holo’s voice. “He says your admiration isn’t needed.” “Never mind,” said Ezri, she realised that giving Holo a compliment when his Apocalypse programming was activated was nigh on useless. “Let’s get across this bridge, and the next one before anything else comes to attack us! Ezri out!” She moved the hovertank down the track, and across the bridge. On either side was a considerable drop of at least five hundred metres, still she felt there would not be any more enemies at the end of the third part of this course. So she looked around taking in the view which was rather impressive. As she crossed the second bridge, which was considerably longer, she looked to her left where the ravine extended for some considerable distance. To her right was a huge steep hill covered in rainforest, while straight ahead was the temple. It did not look so tall with the mountain range running to its left and behind it. Something else caught Ezri’s eye and that was a spectacular series of small waterfalls just to the right of the temple. A faint rainbow lingered in the water vapour churned up by the waterfalls, while the occasional flock of birds flew overhead, some of them nesting on the sides of the tallest temple building. This whole area was so unbelievably beautiful, though Ezri considered it greatly tarnished by what Apocalypse was using this environment for. The track finally ended just outside the first line of stone walls that defined the perimeter of this temple complex. Ezri parked the hovertank by a gateway, she removed the headset and removed herself from the driver’s chair. She opened the exit hatch, and climbed out, carefully going down the blackened and somewhat twisted climbing rungs. When she was on the ground, she stretched her aching muscles. Sitting down in that cramped cockpit had made her muscles seize up, though she had been so busy focusing on driving the hovertank that she was not really aware of the rest of her body. In front of her was the mighty ravine, but as much as she wanted to relax she couldn’t. There was one more part of the course to do, and no doubt this would be the deadliest and most difficult part of all. Turning around she looked at the hovertank, there were numerous burn marks, dents and damage to the armour. She briefly nodded her respect to the vehicle, because it had kept her alive under very dangerous circumstances. To her right Holo and Jake were stepping out of their hovertank, and Ezri walked over to them. “Alright we’re three quarters of the way there. Now I say let’s find this leviathan beast, kill it and get this match over with!” Jake nodded enthusiastically, and together the team advanced as one group towards the gateway. “And now we have come at last to the finale!” said Dallas eagerly. “Team UFP vs the Leviathan!” “I really don't envy them because they are going to die in a really really horrible manner,” said Juanita in an uncaring voice. Once at the gateway, Ezri tried to open up the lock with her bare hands but it didn’t work, so instead she resorted to the cruder option of blasting the lock with her phaser rifle. She glanced at Holo, who had his rifle ready, and together the two kicked down the double doors and advanced forwards. “Ezri keep going forwards,” said Max, “once you are past the second set of walls, you will come to a massive courtyard. That’s where you will be fighting this leviathan.” “Understood,” said Ezri, she looked around at the rest of the team. “We continue forwards until we come to a courtyard, we’ll be fighting the leviathan in there.” “What there are no Apocalypse enemies?” asked Nog, though he sounded a little afraid. Jake though looked amused to see the apprehension on his best friend’s face. “Are you scared Nog?” he asked, while giving Nog a playful punch to the arm. “Of course not,” said Nog pretending to look tough and brazen. “Good,” said Ezri darkly, “because we’re not backing out now!” The team advanced along a stone bridge, which went over a moat, and headed for the second and smaller line of walls. The main temple structure towered overhead, and the sunlight shined upon it, giving Ezri the strong sense of an autumnal feel to this place. Once they passed the bridge they came to another set of double metal doors. This pair had some fanciful artwork imbibed onto the metal, and looking carefully Ezri saw a huge scorpion-like creature dominate the image, while small people with spears were gathered around attacking it. Now she had some idea of what she was facing and it helped to ease a little of her fear. She tore her gaze from the artwork and blasted down the doors. There was a moment’s hesitation amongst everybody, and so Ezri decided to take the first few steps forward.