Dressed in a desert uniform Ethan put the canteen to his lips and drank heavily from it. He was none too careful with his drinking and water ran down his chin and dribbled down down the front of his uniform.
“This is miserable,” Aimee said wiping sweat from her face.
“Aye, we Scots aren’t built for this bloody heat,” Dougal replied.
“And that’s why we’re here,” Ethan replied. “Stay hydrated and keep an eye out for surface water.”
The team was on a training mission on an even more remote part of Vulcan than was usual, but this wasn’t the usual junior class cadets either. They were supposedly the best of the best.
In this training scenario, there were no communications, field rations had been damaged in the “crash” leaving them with limited water and even less food. They didn’t even have tricorders, just to make things more difficult. But, they had each other, their phasers. In the case of Ethan, he also had his six-gun strapped to his hip and a bowie knife hanging from the belt.
Ethan spotted Joile approaching from the north and he shuffled through the sand his boots sinking deep into the copper-red material. “Report commander?”
Jolie sat down on a knee and reached for her water pouch, taking a long draw from it. The sun had scorched her throat as she scouted ahead. “I spotted the remains of a wrecked outpost and probably a well,” she told Ethan after the water had slightly quenched her thirst.
She then reattached the pouch to her belt and gestured back the way she had come, “About half a kilometer north of our current position.”
“Once we secure water we can proceed to the objective,” Ethan replied. “Okay, people let’s move out.”
Ethan lay flat on the sand with Jolie at his side with the outpost situated below them nearly an hour later. The rest of the team sat out of sight behind them. He studied the abandoned outpost looking for signs of life.
“I don’t know what Admiral Hathaway is going to throw at us this time. It could be holograms or androids. I do know they are Jem’hadar so I expect holograms. Way easier to simulate their cloaking abilities, but it also limits where they can pop up, and this is a good place for an ambush.”
When she heard the name Jem’Hadar, Jolie muttered, “Fuck.” After removing her face from the scope of her rifle, she buried it in the warm sand. Her mouth made a soft groaning sound.
“Jem’Hadar, are you fucking kidding me?” she said softly as she turned to face the Commander, sand stuck to her face. Her voice was strained as if she were yelling but in hushed tones. Even if she was speaking in hushed tones, anyone within hearing distance could hear the hatred in her voice.
Even though it had been twenty-six years, Jolie could still hear her father and mother’s haunting tone of fear as they rushed her to a shuttle lent to them by the former Commanding Officer prior to the Denver being rushed into battle with the Jem’Hadar and the Dominion.
Ethan stared at her with an odd look on his face trying to understand her reaction. Turning his attention back to the abandoned outpost he visually scanned it for any signs of movement. They needed water, but it wasn’t time for doing something reckless.
“Relax Commander, it’s only a simulation… a highly realistic simulation designed to push us to our limits, but none if it’s real.” He let out a low chuckle, “We had a forest training a while back, and one of the new combat specialists soiled himself at the face of a robot Klingon raising a bat’leth and charging him. Needless to say, I washed him out of the team. In that scenario, they employed an EM dampening field. With my pistol, I was the only one armed with a ranged weapon. Everyone else had to make do with improvised weapons. Clubs, rocks, or whatever they could take off the Klingons.”
Jolie was immediately embarrassed by her outburst. She usually kept her emotions close to her chest and didn’t let them show. Swallowing hard to try to relieve the dryness in her throat, she returned her gaze to the scope and looked down into the outpost, knowing she only had about a swallow left in her water pouch.
“You know, Commander, I could cheat this exercise with your knowledge of how these simulations tend to go,” she said, gently caressing the toggle on her scope but not activating the electroscope. “However, because this is as much a training for me as it is for the rest of us, I will need you to place your voice command over the electroscope function of my rifle until this training is over,” Jolie said as she moved away, on her belly, so Ethan could disable the function on her scope.
Ethan looked at her and frowned, “A pistol isn’t exactly Starfleet issue. But, it’s something I normally carry just in case. Will the electroscope be something you’d normally have? Is it something that would change the outcome here, but not in the field? And to that end, we are already operating in a moral gray area. We do some damned distasteful things at times. I got to know your character is above reproach. If I can’t trust you to do the right thing without me physically preventing you… well, you’re probably not a good fit for this team.”
Jolie closed her eyes as she felt what the Commander had just said and bellied up to the rifle and dismantled it. With her eyes, she answered him, “I have what it takes,” she states in a tone that was dark. She then slid down the side of the dune leaving the dismantled rifle behind.
Just before the dune shifted to the bottom she rolled onto her back and then kicked down with her heels and rolled backward onto her feet just as her back came into contact with one of the sides of one of the ruined buildings. Her hand reached down and retrieved her phaser. She looked up at where Ethan was still at the top of the dune. Had he been able to see her eyes he would have seen the devil inside of her.
Steeling herself she slowly squatted down and moved toward the edge of the ruined building and peeked it. Her eyes darted from building to building searching for any signs of movement. Keeping her eyes moving she reached to a small pouch that sat on her lower back and retrieved a small scanner and slid it into place over her right eye. As soon as it was in place she blinked twice activating the device, instantly her right eye was fed information about her surroundings. Normally this information would have been fed to her from the Pike as it circled in orbit or nearby, however, in these circumstances she was being fed information from a Vulcan satellite instead.
Without taking her eyes off of the simulated battlefield before her she signaled for Ethan and the rest of the team to follow her down.
Ethan swore under his breath. He turned to the others. “Aimee you provide covering fire from up here. Dougal flank the building to the north. I’ll try to keep them off, Jolie.”
Dougal smirked, “Aye sir.” The big Scotsman didn’t enjoy killing, but he did love to fight. These simulated training missions were a guilty pleasure of his.
Dougal shuffled low to the dune staying out of sight while Ethan crested over the ridge, and slid down it in the same way Jolie had. A glance back, and he could see the barrel of Aimee’s phaser rifle poking out over the edge of the sand.
He closed the gap between them just as a Jem’hadar soldier dropped his shroud raising his weapon on Ethan. A phaser beam from Aimee’s rifle dropped the holographic enemy and he fell with a heavy thud to the ground. Then as if on cue three more soldiers appeared Ethan shot one with his phaser, but the other hit him directly in the chest. As he fell to the ground and consciousness faded he fired once more striking a second enemy. Aimee obligingly took out the third.
Jolie saw the Jem’Hadar materialize from her scanner and turned to look back to the team, just in time to see Ethan take the hit squarely in the chest. Sudden anger flooded her system as she rushed to his side; once his momentum faded. Placing two fingers on the side of his neck she felt a pulse, all the while keeping her eyes and head moving.
The hairs on the back of her neck suddenly stood up and she twisted her body to avoid an incoming attack. Landing on her back she let loose several shots from her phaser ending the attacker’s life. It was then that she realized that she had inadvertently awoken the hornet’s nest so to speak.
Jem’Hadar could be seen dropping their shrouds left, right, and in front of her. Inside her mind, she knew that she was done with the team but she was going to do her best to keep the Commander as safe as she could. After all, she knew that his wife would kill her should he not make it back. Without thinking she began to send phaser bolt after phaser bolt into the holographic images of the Jem’Hadar, yelling at the same time as adrenaline courses through her body.
Dogal had succeeded in flanking the outpost, and with quick efficiency, he had managed to eliminate the two sentries without being spotted. Suddenly phaser fire erupted around the far side of the outpost and could see someone, presumably Aimee firing at enemies he couldn’t see.
“Aw bloody hell. The wee bisom kicked the hornet’s nest,” Dougal muttered to himself.
Dougal had the element of surprise, but he also knew the whole bloody thing had gone ‘cock-up’. “Oh, bloody hell!” He growled, and then shouted at the top of his lungs he shouted his Clay’s battle cry, “Creagan an fhithich!”
Dougal had shot three before they could even react to him, but he was quickly enveloped by four attackers who had abandoned their energy weapons in favor of the bladed kar’takin. He fought them off valiantly with his phaser rifle and he even got a shot off taking one of them down. Eventually they knocked his feet out from under him and one buried the blade deep into his chest.
On top of the sand dune Aimee was frantically firing at anything that moved that wasn’t part of her team, but she was drawing a lot of attention to herself. Remaining stationary in a battle was one of the cardinal sins of a sniper…
But, she wasn’t a sniper. She was a doctor,” Aimee thought as she heard the distinctive sound of a shroud being dropped, and before she could react there was blackness.
Jolie watched as her teammates dropped like flies around her and her anger rose even further. Suddenly the sound that any person behind a phaser does not want to hear is the sudden discharge of energy. Her eyes darted to the side of the phaser and saw a red flashing light; an indication of a depleted energy pack. Tossing her phaser to the ground she looked about. It was then that she realized that she had royally fucked up and had gotten her entire team killed. However, she knew that she still had breath in her lungs and squared off at and charged at an incoming Jem’Hadar soldier. Slamming her shoulder into the soldier she felt the sudden burning as her shoulder dislocated. The pain seared her insides as she tried to spin around the wall of a humanoid, but failed as another pain joined her shoulder, this time from the back of her head. Just before she blacked out from being struck she witnessed a figure standing up next to a now kneeling Aimee and then the red hue of the Vulcan sands.
A sigh left her lungs as she lay there in defeat.