So we made contact with the local leader, who grew more and more despondent as we made it clear that, no, we weren’t part of a larger force and, no, we didn’t have any idea when our transport would return. The colony’s doctor had taken his own life only a month before, so I found myself quickly inundated with sick and injured civvies.
Malnourishment had set in once the supplies had run low, and the civilians were scraping together whatever they could from the beleaguered hydroponic gardens and a native mold that grew along the shadowed edges of the canyon. The stuff was acidic, tasted like paste, and had an odd peppery scent. But it had enough protein and carboxylic compounds to keep the people from starving. The acid had worn through most of the enamel on their teeth, so I actually spent a lot of time doing dental extractions. Not what you’d expect following a zerg attack, I know.
The first wave of zerg hit only an hour after our arrival. We were unloading what gear we had been able to bring with us when the Klaxon went off. In between the sounding alarms, I could hear a rustling crescendo as the canyon walls seemed to shiver. The lieutenant had us drop everything and take posts along the makeshift walls the civvies had erected.
Being ambushed by the zerg is one thing. Being prepped, locked, and loaded for them is an altogether different experience. The first zerglings turned the corner to meet a withering crossfire of three dozen C-14 rifles and eight mining lasers. A shower of ichor painted the canyon walls, and the next wave of creatures rushed forward, the aliens wet from the remains of their siblings. They were mowed down just as quickly.
The next twenty minutes were filled with regular bursts of gunfire punctuated by the hissing cries of dying zerg. After it became obvious that my field-dressing skills wouldn’t be needed, I took a spot on the wall and started firing with a loaned C-7.
Firing. Punching wet holes into zerglings. Watching them squirm, drop to the ground, twitch before going still. Hippocratic Oath notwithstanding, it felt good.
Yeah. It felt really good. Putting spikes through those fekking demons. After they had murdered so many of us… just being able to kill and kill and kill and…
(Soft sounds of crying.)
(Into his lapel) This is Gentry. I don’t think I’m going to be able to get any further here. Get meds down here and a gurney prepped for –
No! No, I’ll be alright. Just need… just need a minute.
(Still into his lapel) Hold on that.
(Sniffs, then takes a big breath.)
I apologize, Captain. For a moment I was back down there and…
Steel yourself, Private. This is information the Dominion needs to save lives. Remember that.
Save lives? Ha. I’m glad you put it that way, Doc. That will make this much easier.
So my platoon is locked down on this dirt world, and the zerg are hitting us on a daily basis. Like clockwork. We hold the line. Days go by. Weeks.
We learned to conserve ammo, relying on the mining lasers the civvies had jury-rigged onto platforms above the walls to control the xenos. The Wedge really did seem to nullify the zerg offense: no matter how many claws stormed down that canyon, they could only get close enough to scratch at the barricades before being picked off. It was almost more work to burn away the corpses with the lasers when the attack was over.
We settled into a routine. Attacks would come at indeterminate times during the day, but only once in any twenty-four hour period. It started with a few dozen zerglings, then spilled into a rush – hundreds of the things crawling over each other in such masses that each shot was guaranteed to pierce two or three bodies at a time.
Alright, Private, now we’re getting to the important information. What form did the attacks take? Were you only assaulted by the smaller zergling strain?
Yes. I asked about the other types of zerg that I’d learned about – hydralisks, ultralisks, devourers – you know, the whole cast of uglies. Apparently they had been part of the initial assaults, but their numbers had diminished as the siege wore on.
Diminished and then disappeared entirely. The colonists noted this as a significant change as the months passed, and we surmised that this was a sign of the zerg population being worn down to its cheapest weapons.
Is that still what you think was happening?
No. I wish I had seen it for what it really was.
Care to elaborate?
I’ll get there. You need to hear the rest to understand.
The civvies were grateful to have us there, and they made sure that we were provided with water from the colony well and ammunition hot off the colony’s modified tool factory. The food and supplies that we’d packed in provided some relief, and our tech-savvy Private Hughes did a checkup on the comm gear. It was all up to spec: as far as he could tell, the messages had been going out. It’s just that nobody was answering.
(A long pause. Captain Gentry again clears his throat.)