StarCraft® II

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A short story by

Matthew Maxwell

Over Thys, white lightning clawed at clouds that hung in the air like scabs. Between them, the sky oozed red and pink. The wind smelled like bone. Metal towers vented waste gasses of bright yellow flame, illuminating the backs of several hundred enemy zerg advancing on the refinery gates.

The sergeant's voice crackled over the comm. "Wraiths are going to work area denial. We go in while it's still hot.

"NOW WHO'S READY TO GO GET SOME?!"

"LOST WOLVES READY TO GET SOME!!" said his men as one.

Dennis and the clutch of hydralisks chuffled noisily in response. The freshly painted stripes on their heads reflected the transport's interior lights, now a dingy orange.

The transport slowed and the deployment hatch slid back, letting in the graveyard smell of Thys's atmosphere.

"GO GO GO GO GO!" someone shouted.

The humans hit the ground running, the Tamed behind them and fanning out in near silence. Loew followed, forcing herself to stay calm, monitoring her zerg's telemetry and coordinating their larger motions.

Dominion Wraiths came out of thin air and opened fire, lighting up the enemy zerg's ranged formations. Incandescent red lances blazed into the mass of creatures, lines of seared and burned carapaces in their wake.

The ships and the ground teams had cut a jagged X across the multitude of zerg at the colony's gates. The zerg army was forced to divide its strength between the Wraiths and the incoming Dominion troops.

Firebats opened up a ragged perimeter of flaming plasma and lurching bodies. Tamed hydras followed while the ground was hot, slashing and tearing and blasting. They ripped into anything that could fire back, locking down ranged defense. For the moment, the enemy seemed not to acknowledge the presence of hydralisks not under zerg control. It was as if the Tamed weren't really there.

Curious, Loew thought. She hadn't anticipated that.

Dennis and his clutch turned toward the seemingly empty sky. Several blurred and winged shapes swept through the roiling clouds. A wave of mutalisks sped in for a strafing run. The Tamed gave a warning shriek that cut through the gunfire and chaos.

"Above! Above!" shouted Loew.

The Tamed fired spines as the mutalisks came into range. The wild zerg returned with a barrage of glave wurms. The scene devolved into strobing images lit by automatic fire, torn mutalisks crashing into the ground, seeps of red between gashed armor plates.

"Wraiths! Friendlies below! Air only!" Loew barked into her comm.

Jets whining, the Wraiths dropped their strafing pass and banked hard to engage the mutalisks, taking pressure off the ground lines. With any luck, they'd be able to cut through the enemy troops and further separate the two zerg masses.

The rain of glave wurms continued to hammer at the Dominion's offense. The zerg weren't picking individual targets, simply pinning their enemies down while they surged back to reclaim ground. Several of the Tamed were hit and leaking fluids, firing until they fell over in unrecognizable shreds. Loew held her breath at the thought of Dennis being among them. She knew what had been asked of them, but knowing was not seeing it in the flesh.

"Loew! Troop status!" the sergeant yelled.

She glanced at the data. So many dead. "Lost a lotta signals! Half strength, if that!"

"Soldiers get asked to die," came his reply. "Whatever's alive goes to the west perimeter to prevent enemy zerg from re-forming!"

She wanted the assault to be over, but there was no telling what reserves the zerg had. Experiments could be measured in moments, but battles could drag on endlessly. The Tamed didn't falter, fighting with a ferocity and resolve that left even their wild brethren cold.

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