We were about five miles from the colony when the ground just… just exploded all around us. All I can remember is a chittering sea of claws, gnashing teeth, and blood. So much blood. The zerg swam through our platoon like fish in an ocean of red. Private Braden was just in front of me, and I watched as his arm was ripped clean off – armor, bone, everything – and he went down under a pair of the beasts.
You and I both know there hadn’t been any zerg activity in terran space for years. I’d heard of these xenos, seen the training vids. But nothing can prepare you for the sheer animal terror that hits you when these monsters attack. The speed. The savagery. I’ve seen hundreds of zerg since that time, but the first attack still haunts me. Always will.
(Another long pause.)
So how did you survive the ambush, Private?
Well, it was the lieutenant who kept his head, who finally pulled us out of a blind panic. He called for the Jesters to drop their packs, circle up, and open fire. I can remember his voice – steady and even in the midst of that chaos. He’s a good leader. A good man.
Five marines were already wet piles on the sand before the first shot was fired. On instinct, I had holstered my A-13 and was headed to Braden with medkit charging when Private Delme grabbed me and shouted that I should save my breath. She was right. There’s not much my nanos can do when a marine’s had his viscera pulled out through the belly of his CMC.
It probably wasn’t two minutes before Lieutenant Orran called for a halt. The smoke cleared, and we just stood there, stunned.
Stunned? Come now, Private. All Dominion marines are trained for the eventuality of a zerg attack.
You’ve never seen combat with the zerg, have you, Doc?
Our troop of sixty marines had just dropped by twelve, and three more would be joining them shortly. The zerg had caught us flat-footed, and all the training in the world hadn’t counted for squat. The worst part? After checking and double-checking, we were only able to recover ten alien bodies. Ten xenos. A handful of zerglings had taken out a quarter of our platoon in a matter of minutes.
And we wouldn’t have seen the next dawn if the colonists hadn’t heard our shots and come to investigate. We saw a dust cloud on the horizon, red in the evening light. The lieutenant called us into formation, and we readied ourselves for another attack. Then we heard the welcome sputtering of a heavy terran motor. A mining vehicle – a big ore loader, by the look of it – was heading our way, and we started cheering.
The cheer stopped when the vehicle got within eyesight.
Not what you had expected?
Let’s just say that the loader had seen better days. Deep gashes cut through the chassis in places, and the treads appeared to have been gnawed through on one side. Mounted on the front of the transport were two hydralisk skulls, and the plasteel headlights shone grimly through the empty sockets. Not the welcome wagon we’d been hoping for, but at least it had room to spare for our platoon in the dented ore trailer. We loaded up and tried to ignore the hopeless look on the faces of the civvies crewing the thing. They’d obviously been expecting more than our wide-eyed platoon.
We got the story on the drive back. The zerg had first hit the outlying Soronan settlements about eight months ago and then quickly swept across the remaining terran holdings. Yes, that’s right – eight months. The colonists claimed to have been sending emergency messages to the Dominion and any nearby ports on a daily basis ever since then. No reply. They assumed that their comm station must have been faulty. Helluva time for the fones to go out, huh, Doc?
So how did a civilian population of unarmed miners survive an eight-month siege by one of the most dangerous enemies mankind has ever come across? This has us baffled.
Any chance you got a look at the recon vids from when you finally decided to show up? If they haven’t already, have your tech boys pull up the schematics on Cask.
The colony is well named. Situated in one of the most perfect natural fortresses I could ever imagine, the colony is a military architect’s dream come true. Cask is nestled in the folds of a high-walled canyon that terminates under a massive arch of rock. Apart from providing shade from the planet’s twin suns, the arch shields the colony from anything but the heaviest air attack. A land-based assault would be forced through a narrow bottleneck that the miners have affectionately named the Wedge. Even our single transport was scraping the walls as the miners opened the scarred paristeel gates to let us pass inside the makeshift barricade.
Doc, the zerg had been swarming the Wedge for eight months on a daily basis and had been held off by civvies armed with shotguns and mining lasers. It was the first time I’d ever heard of civilians stemming a zerg assault, and I think we dared to hope that a strategy of attrition might bear fruit. The zerg couldn’t sustain this kind of activity on a practically lifeless world forever, could they?
I am unable to relay any further scientific information on the xenos than what you have been cleared to see in your training vids, Private. Please continue with your report.