Why I'm mad at you, Blizzard. (Global WC)

Joeyray's Bar
Blizzard and I have always had a good relationship. They make excellent quality games and I, in return, give them money. It's a functional system, and we've gotten along just fine.

But yesterday, Blizzard, you made me so mad I wanted to cry.

The past few months, I have been diligently plodding away at my entry to the 2011 Global Writing Contest. It has been, without a doubt, the hardest I have ever worked on a single writing project for this significant a length of time.

The vast majority of my story was written on the bus and subway going to and from work. I spend upwards of two hours each weekday on public transit, and every minute of it these past few months have found me with a clipboard full of notes and rough edits, happily scribbling out words in favour of better ones. For this, Blizzard, I suppose you have my thanks. I truly enjoyed writing this.

So you can imagine my delight when yesterday, I found that, somehow, it was done. Through some kind of black magic, all my little ideas and sneaky one-liners had somehow managed to evolve into a single, flowing narrative. After a few re-reads just to make sure I wasn't going crazy, I did what anyone would do in my situation: I clicked "Submit".

My girlfriend was next to me while I read the terms and conditions for what should never have been the first time. I read faster than she does, and my heart was already through the floor when she asked "What's that bit about Quebec?"

This isn't the first time I've been denied entry to a contest because of my silly, silly province's silly, silly laws. Nintendo Power shafted me the same way, as I'm sure any kid from Puerto Rico can tell you. Heck, even recently I was denied the opportunity to appear on Wipeout Canada because of my Quebec residency.

So I'm mad at you, Blizzard. Mad because I should have seen this coming, should have checked the terms and conditions earlier. I'm mad at you, Blizzard, because I should have just moved to Ontario when I had the chance after college. I'm mad at you, Blizzard, because my story won't get the chance to compete that it deserves, and I can't blame you even in the slightest.

I'm just so incredibly, unrelentingly, soul-crushingly MAD at you, Blizzard.

But give it a week and we'll be cool again.


I'll stay in this thread a little while so I can feel sorry for myself a little bit more, so feel free to ask my any questions about my story, or Quebec's ridiculousness.

And now, here's the hardest thing I have ever worked on for no reason. I hope you it can be enjoyed this way, if not the way it was originally intended.
First Encounters
With a special thank you to my girlfriend Meagan, for put up with my ignoring her in favour of writing about aliens and their neighbours.

Final word count: 7,493


It was a strange thing, to hold a planet in the palm of your hand. Yet, as High Templar Garthanus focused his mind on the Khala, allowing himself to fall deeper into meditation, it seemed to him an apt comparison. He rolled the planet left and right, reaching his mind out to the most remote areas of the vast, desolate planet he had found himself stationed on just a few weeks ago. He was young by Protoss standards, younger still among those who had achieved the honor of being called Executor.

Not yet a hundred years old, Garthanus was rumored to be a direct descendant of Praetor Karass, and Garthanus knew that many considered this to be the driving reason behind his quick promotion. Though he did not have any way of determining the truth of the rumor, he did not begrudge those who believed it. He knew his title had far more to do with his own ability than any real or imagined bloodlines. He had no surviving siblings, his three brothers having been ripped apart by their own psionic powers before reaching maturity. Although this was not uncommon for the Protoss, it was considered an ill omen to have occurred to so many of the siblings.

He, in course, had not wrestled with his mind as they had. He had learned that his own psionic capacities were not an instrument to be harnessed and wielded, but an extension of the Khala that resided within him. It was a second being sharing his body, better an ally than a tool. Just forty-nine years after his birth, he had demonstrated such control that he was considered mature enough to join the ranks of Templar, and had impressed many with his aptitude for learning. Through his training, he had ensured that he spend as much time as possible studying the two other major species, the Terran and the Zerg. He dreamed one day of uniting all Protoss as the dominant race of peace under the Khala, and the Terran and Zerg would be the only significant obstacles. Though he was considered quite knowledgeable on the topic, he had encountered neither. Garthanus had a strong suspicion that this was directly related to his current post, far from the homeworlds of the two alien species.

But he didn’t mind. He was still young, and any experience was valuable. Time spent not training he spent meditating, taking in the energies of the planet’s life, trying to make sense of the emotions and forces he felt from so many kilometers away. There were Terrans here, he knew, but in small numbers. Meeting them would be an exciting prospect, but for now he contented himself in differentiating their energies from those of the other beasts. They were social animals, and this reflected in the fact that he mostly found Terran energy gathered in clusters.

Garthanus suddenly felt a prod, a slight tug pulling him back. It must be something important, for someone to request that he abandon his meditations. But he had found something new, and whatever required his attention could wait until he had discovered everything there was to know about the exciting energy. He turned the planet to get a better look, allowing his mind to flow freely around the unidentified force. It was different, to be sure, but still familiar.

Another pull, stronger this time. What was it about this energy that he recognized? He discarded the planet and analyzed it alone. It was stable, not like the Terrans’. He had never seen anything similar, and yet it was… comfortable? He felt another pull, not as forceful as the last but no less urgent. Unwilling to further ignore his duties, he reluctantly scattered the energy, making a note to return and examine it later.

Rekara stood silently as her Executor rose from his trance. Born on Shakuras to the Lenassa Tribe of Dark Templar, she had come to reject the individuality of their teachings. Growing back the nerve appendages that had been severed upon her birth to separate her from the Khala was a long and difficult process, but her ultimate goal was to be the first Shakuras-born Protoss to achieve the rank of High Templar. Progress was frustratingly slow. She was blocked at every turn, either by her own lineage, or the physical limitations of having nerve cords that were not fully connected. She was older than her Executor, and in exchange for her valuable advice, Garthanus had been helping her to train her mind.

“There is a Terran here, Executor, alone. He asks to speak with you.”

Garthanus was momentarily startled to hear her words resonating in his mind; he was not yet used to Rekara’s inexperience in communicating her emotions through the Khala. But his surprise quickly faded to excitement.

“A Terran? Why has he come here?”

“He would not provide us that information, Executor.”

“I will see him, Rekara. Have a chair arranged to be brought into the main hall. It is my understanding that Terrans like to sit.”

***

With Rekara following behind, Garthanus entered the grand chamber at the Nexus center. It was a lavish area, and Garthanus had long hoped that his first encounter with a Terran would take place here. They were, after all, one of the few animals intelligent enough to appreciate the enormity of the hall. Intricate rows of crystals glowed bright, pulsating in the impossibly complex language of the Khala. Garthanus had hung d###!ry around the room, partially because he knew this was how Terrans identified importance, and partially because he himself liked the aesthetic. Arched passageways stretched infinitely along the sculpted gold walls, culminating in an enormous entrance, in front of which stood the expected three visitors.

Two Zealots, the first motionless, psi blades sheathed. Disciplined, Garthanus thought, though angry. The second, psi blades glowing brightly, his fierce blue eyes unwavering from the third, most enthralling figure. Garthanus examined the Terran excitedly. It wore the synthetic exoskeleton common among Terran Marines, and appeared to have revealed its head voluntarily. It had a thick coat of brown, dirty fur at the top of its head, and it seemed to be spreading along its face. A trait only possessed by male Terrans, he knew.

“We greet you, Terran, I am Executor Garthanus. I am responsible for this base, and you are welcome here.” He spoke slowly, deliberately. There was no way to be certain how the Terran would react to sudden psychic communication. Terrans were quite intelligent, but they were still animals.

“Sergeant Captain Cameron Morris. I’m also responsible, but without the fancy title.”

Garthanus was fascinated. He had seen memories of Terran speech, but it did not do justice to the real thing. The perfect synchronization with which its lips and tongue moved was astounding. It was so quick, so precise, each impossibly intricate movement weaving into and from another, as if its lips were forever chasing its tongue, but could never quite catch it.

“Executor.” Rekara’s voice echoed through his mind, pushing him back to the conversation. It was only then that he noticed the Terran had closed the distance between them, and was standing just meters away, hand outstretched. Cursing himself for slipping up on one of the Terrans most basic social rituals, Garthanus quickly jumped forwards and lightly grasped the Terran’s hand in his. After ensuring his palm was properly oriented, he raised and lowered his arm twice, and released. Perfect form, he thought. Perhaps he had sufficiently disguised his blunder.

Barely able to stifle his laughter, Cameron Morris allowed himself a smile that he hoped looked friendly. He had expected the Protoss Executor would be inexperienced in dealing with Terrans, but this was another level. He coolly lifted a hand to his visor and pulled down slightly, just enough to check the countdown timer ticking away on his HUD. Not too long now.

“We welcome you, Sergeant Captain. Please,” he gestured to the lone chair sitting awkwardly in the middle of the huge room, “would you like to sit?”

“Uh, no thanks, I’m okay to stand, Executor.” …Wow.

“As you wish. Now, I must cut short our pleasantries, and inquire as to how it is you have come to find yourself here.”

“Call it a social visit, I guess. Us Terrans’ll be leaving the planet soon, and I’d never seen the inside of a Nexus before.” Liar.

“It saddens me that you will be leaving so shortly after we have made acquaintance, Sergeant Captain.”

Morris chuckled. “Well it sure as fekk don’t sadden me, Executor. I can’t wait to leave this hole. I’d rather camp butt-naked on Char than spend another night here.”

“I am… sorry, to hear that.”

“Don’t be. Lousy Confederates never even told us what our mission here was, just set us down and fekked right off.”

“Surely you must have completed your objective, if you are being recalled from this planet?”

“By accident, maybe. Fekk if we’ll ever know. Confeds cut off all contact a month ago.” Morris stole another glance at the timer on his HUD. Acting time. “…soon as the Zergs showed up.” He left the sentence dangling in the air, bait waiting to be grabbed.

“Zerg?”

Morris smiled inside. Too easy. “Yep. Total radio silence, like in the movies.”

“You are mistaken. There are no Zerg on this planet.”

“What? Hold on, you didn’t know the Zerg were here?”

Garthanus grew agitated. “You’ve been mislead, Terran.”

“Oh fekk off I have. You really didn’t know? The fekk’ve you been doin’ with that big blue crystal of yours, opening lebnuts with it?”

“That’s enough.” But Garthanus could think of nothing further to say. His mind flickered to the stain of rage he had sensed in his meditations so short a time ago. Could that have been…?
“Sorry, Executor. I thought you knew.” Morris removed his C-7 Stinger sidearm from the holster hanging from his side. Garthanus watched, annoyed but curious, as the Terran spun and fired. A single 8mm spike slammed through the head of the rightmost Zealot, and he collapsed unnaturally to the ground.

The remaining Zealot exploded into action, charging Morris at an incredible speed. Its psi blades flared, the molecule-thin edge glowing only half as fiercely as the eyes locked firmly on the Terran. Morris stumbled backwards, but made no attempt to defend himself against the rapidly approaching Protoss. With a powerful slash, the Zealot annihilated the Terran sidearm, then flashed its second blade forwards with the intention of driving it directly through his chest.

After a moment, Morris was finally able to exhale. The Zealot had frozen, the radiant blade burning a hole an inch deep into his armor, sending thin, black smoke wafting into the air. Gathering himself, he risked a glance over at Garthanus, thankful the High Templar had realized something was strange in time to stop the Zealot from skewering him like a pig.

Yes, something was strange. Had he not been certain, Garthanus would have gladly allowed the Zealot to spill the Terran’s blood with no afterthought. But something was off. The Zealot’s plasma shield should easily have protected him from the small, primitive weapon, but had failed. Why? The answer came quickly, as he saw the Zealot’s prone body was… melting? The skin and power suit seemed to become one, dissolving together into a dull, ugly purple. The sheen of the wondrous armor died away, to reveal revolting organics. It was a disgusting sight, but Garthanus recognized the unique protoplasmic substance.

How could he have allowed a Changeling to infiltrate his Nexus? What had it learned? Most importantly, where had it come from?

Garthanus’s head was reeling. He could not speak, could hardly identify the individual doubts swirling through his mind. He needed to be alone, to return to his meditations and search the Khala for answers to this new crisis.

“You really should pay more attention to your own soldiers, Executor.”

Garthanus, having lost all his patience, turned his attention towards Morris.

“Your assistance has been noted, Sergeant Captain, and I thank you for your warning. In return, you will be escorted to the base perimeter and allowed to go free. Unfortunately, your social visit has reached its conclusion.”

“Sorry, but that ain’t happening.”

Garthanus bristled impatiently. “I hardly think you are in a position to negotiate the matter, Terran. I would suggest, you obey my generous offer.” But Morris just shook his head.

“The changeling’s seen us. That means every fekkin’ Zerg on the planet knows we’re here. Now, they’ll probably come for you first, and I don’t care about that. But once you’re gone, they’re coming for me. For my family, my friends. And that’s something that I just can’t allow.”

“Then your visit has doomed your tribe to the worst end imaginable: annihilation and infestation.”

“Don’t you spit at me, Blue.” Morris used the Protoss slur almost like a second name. “We were doomed the moment the Zergs set foot on this fekked up planet. We’ve been chased and hunted and we’re fekkin’ tired of it. Only safe place is here with you.” Morris smiled again. “That’s why we’re staying.”

“Unacceptable. If the Zerg come, we will need to direct all resources towards the upcoming battle. You will continue with your plan to leave this planet, and we will deal with the Zerg. We cannot afford to shelter you when our main priority must be to protect ourselves.”

“You think we’ve got the resources to just leave? Besides, I wouldn’t call it protecting, really. See, we can establish a powerful static defence, but we don’t have a standing army near big enough to engage the Zerg directly. Now, you’ve got the manpower. But with no defences, the second they breach your line, you’re done. Individually, we’re screwed. But together, we’ve got a shot.”

“Our defences are more than adequate, Terran. Our photon cannons blanket the cliff tops, and will cut the Zerg to pieces, far better than any of the rocks you intend to sling at them.”

“Funny guy. But I don’t see what good your cannons can do, what with those big blue pylons of yours being inoperative.” Morris smirked knowingly.

“That, is-“ too late, Garthanus realized his mistake. The distinct sense of foreboding at the back of his mind pushed forwards. Whatever was happening, he had not felt it. He felt it now. The distinct, low rumble of a nearby explosion tore through the huge room. Then another, and another. Garthanus’s mind rolled. How could the Zerg have arrived so quickly? His eyes raced around the room, desperate to find answers, but finding only the smiling face of the Terran.

“You? You-“

“There’s about two hundred and fifty of us, call it three to be safe. You’ll provide the main force, a standing army to engage the Zerg. We’ll provide static defences to assist, as well as anti-air support and motion sensors to detect any underground surprises the Zerg want to throw our way. We squash the Zerg together, and then part ways.” Morris extended his hand again. “Do we have a deal?”

“We can establish new pylons before-“

“Not with my boys there you can’t.”

Morris could feel his mind buzz under the fury of the High Templar. But it didn’t matter. He had the upper hand now, and with the stakes this high, he couldn’t afford to waver. He forced himself to keep his smile.

“It would seem, then,” Garthanus spoke deliberately, “that I have no choice.” Clearly incensed, Garthanus spun and left the room, leaving Morris’ hand hanging uselessly in the air.

“You truly wish to leave this planet?” Forgotten in the shadows, Rekara’s voice rang uncomfortably through Morris’ head. It was an observation, more than a question, and Morris felt suddenly oddly exposed.

“Are you calling me a liar?”

Rekara moved past him, studying the bubbling changeling. “There is not a single more Terran notion in the universe, than the idea that one can be honest by simply not lying.” Out of the mess, she lifted what looked to have once been a hand. It fell apart between her fingers, separating in a series of sticky strands.

“Zerg changelings,” she continued, “are evolved to deceive. They broadcast calming psionics, for the specific and sole purpose of deception. It would be incredibly difficult for any Protoss to identify one so arbitrarily. And it is considered impossible for a Terran to do so,” she looked to him curiously, “under normal circumstances.”

“Well, I think we can both agree these are pretty abnormal circumstances.”

Rekara nodded, considering the thought. Dropping the ‘hand’, she watched it for a moment as it slowly began to disappear into the pile of protoplasma, before finally turning back to face Morris.

“You will be provided with any resources you require in order to set up defensive structures as you see fit. All other Terrans will obey your command, and you in turn will obey the command of Executor Garthanus. This, of course, will extend to after the Zerg have been defeated. Do you accept these conditions?”

“Sure.”

“Good. Follow me.” She glided back across the room and Morris followed her, the eyes of the remaining Zealot still locked on his back the entire way.

***
Half an hour earlier...

“You really think this will fool the Protoss?”

“I’m betting my life on it. All our lives, really.”

In the command cabin of the modified dropship, Sergeant Captain Cameron Morris stood drinking with his close friend and fellow soldier Matt Griggs.

“It just seems like we’re operating on a lot of assumptions, Cap. I don’t like playing with guesswork.”

“No way the Protoss know the Zerg are here, Matt. If they did, one of them would be dead already.”

“And him?”

Griggs pointed to a nearby screen, which displayed a low-quality video feed of the ship’s fuselage. Within, they could see a large group of marines, all hand-picked. Despite the serious nature of their mission, the rowdy marines talked, joked, and laughed. All except one. Morris set down his drink and put his hand on his friend’s shoulder.

“Listen, I know you’re not comfortable with this. I’m not comfortable with it either. But it’s the only way we know the Protoss will listen. It needs to be done.”

“I know, I know. It’s just so...” Griggs looked back to the screen, “...eerie.”

For a moment they stood in silence, examining the motionless soldier. He was the only marine with a lowered visor- the strange behaviour seemed even stranger amid the laughter surrounding him.

“Why doesn’t it do anything?” Matt asked.

“It’s probably confused. Changelings aren’t actually sentient. They just have a kind of simulated intelligence, so they don’t do social situations well. It’ll stay undercover until we pay it too much attention, and then it’ll take as many of us down with it as it can. So,” Morris grabbed his drink again and took a long swig, “as long as we don’t do anything to make it nervous, it’ll stay like that forever.”
“I hope you don’t mind me sayin’ so, Cap, but that’s fekkin’ creepy.”

“Yep.”

“Do they know?” Matt indicated the rambunctious marines sharing the fuselage.

“Of course. I had to tell them, couldn’t risk spooking the changeling. They can handle it.”

“Approaching Protoss air space, sir.” The pilot’s voice crackled through the static of the comm. speaker.

“Fun.” Morris flicked on his suit radio. “Aleks, you hearing me?” The answer came quickly.

“Loud and clear, sir.”

“I want all vehicles powered down and all siege tanks in tank mode. Any non-vital personnel should exit their stations. Nobody so much as casts a mean look at the Blues without may say so. If they have an Executor competent enough to know we’re here, I want him to think we’re just comin’ for tea.”

“Yes, sir. Should I get a perimeter defence up, per protocol?”

Morris paused for a moment to consider the question.

“No, Aleks. Keep all the construction vehicles in a safe area for now.”

“...Are you sure, sir? We’re easily within range if they decide to scramble their interceptors.”

“They won’t. We don’t pose a threat to them. Not compared to what’s coming. We’re gonna need everything later, anyway.”

“Yes, sir.”

Morris switched off his radio as he and Matt entered the fuselage. The chatter of conversation quickly ceased. Morris took the time to eye each of the Marines individually.

“I hope you guys don’t think I’m gonna give you some fekkin’ pep talk. You all answer to Griggs now. Do your jobs, let him do his, and for fekk’s sake don’t die. You-“ he turned to face the motionless, subhuman marine sitting just feet away.

“You’re with me.”

***

Amongst a flurry of SCV’s, engineers, and construction workers, Morris flailed his checklist wildly, barking orders at anyone who would listen. It was difficult incorporating their defences around the existing Protoss structures, but they didn’t have a choice; Executor Garthanus had forbid them from dismantling the now unpowered photon cannons. Aleks’ voice crackled over the suit comm.

“Almost set over here, sir.” Aleks’ voice crackled over the radio. “There’re motion sensors every hundred meters and we’re just finishing up the last of the cliffside bunkers. Still a few vulture squads out dropping mines, but they should be back soon.”

“Radio them to plant whatever they’re got left anywhere and come home. These Protoss buildings have been doing a lot of glowing lately, and it isn’t hard to guess what that means. You’ve probably got just a few hours to find anywhere you think the Zerg can scale the cliffs and clog it with perdition turrets.”

“Can’t do perdition, sir. All the salvaged flamethrowers are either part of the opening system or were too rusted to get off the Hellion.”

“Fekk. Whatever, just put anything there. Something scary.”

“Oh. Um, well… I could strip the vultures, set some grenade launchers. Or re-purpose the old Goliath Hellfires into turrets.”

“Aleks, listen. You rip a cutting torch off an SCV and strap it to a targeting system, I don’t care. But something needs to be between us and the Zerg, and I’d like it to at least be kinda pointy. This place needs to be harder to get into than a Marauder’s daughter, and we ain’t gonna do that with a kindly worded note, are we?”

“Uh, no sir.”

“Right. Now, go build something loud.”

“Yes sir.”

Kids. Can’t make a fekkin’ decision to save their life. The frequency went dead as Morris side-stepped a frantic SCV rushing towards the enormous steel construction that housed their temporary living quarters. It had taken just a few hours to complete, and was an amazing example of Terran dedication and ingenuity. It was also ugly as sin, the pile of steel sitting uncomfortably amid the elegant Protoss structures.

“Sergeant?”

Slightly startled, Morris turned to find Rekara standing just behind him. He eyed her momentarily before turning back to examine his checklist.

“Sergeant CAPTAIN.”

“Of course,” she said apologetically. “It certainly is an eyesore, isn’t it?”

“Gotta live somewhere,” Morris said dismissively.

“What is it that you call this structure, again?”

For the third time. “Barracks.”

“Barraks,” she voiced. She had never seen one of the Terran structures before. “You’ll be interested to know that Terrans are the only recorded animal known to attach a means of propulsion to their living quarters.”

Whether it was a joke or a jab or she legitimately found that interesting, Morris wasn’t sure, but it was certainly a waste of time. He set down his checklist and turned to face her.

“What do you want?”

“Is it not obvious?” Rekara responded. Her eyes remained fixed on the Terran structure as if expecting it, too, to suddenly reveal itself as a changeling. “I am to subtly check on you. Executor Garthanus does not wish to appear ungracious, though he does not trust you even slightly.”

Morris smirked. “Can you blame him?”

“I suppose not, no.”

“Just tell him we’re ready when the Zerg are.” Rekara simply nodded. After a long moment, she finally pulled her eyes away from the steel monstrosity to face him.

“You are a pilot.”

Morris sighed loudly. “Mind reader, eh?”

“No,” she responded, gesturing to his chest. “But I am familiar with some Terran military insignia.” Morris looked down at the CAF symbol on his chest. It was incomplete now, the zealot’s psi blade having just nicked the top corner. It made his air force emblem seem smaller, somehow.

“Fair enough. Ex-pilot. I flew Wraiths, then Medivacs, for maybe ten years. Why?”

“Are you mentally unstable?”

“…Pardon me?”

“It is my understanding that some Terrans are born with mental defects. It is the only explanation I can imagine as to why you are still here.”

Morris looked at her, legitimately surprised. “That’s kind of a leap in reasoning, isn’t it?”

“You have already made very clear your feelings regarding this planet. Yet, even with the capability to leave, you have remained.”

“Kinda hard to squeeze two hundred men into a Wraith, Blue. It’s not like they’re small guys, either.”

“If you are implying that you have remained here out of a sense of respect to them, I find that unlikely.”

“What? They’re good, loyal men. What am I supposed to do, abandon them here?”

“That seems more in line with what I have come to expect from your kind.”

“I’m sorry, my kind?”

“Yes. The Terran race. Your brothers.”

“My… oh, fekk off. Listen, I don’t know what kind of guys you’ve been hanging around, but I really don’t think you of all people should be judging by genetics.” Morris gestured behind his head, mimicking the stunted nerve cords at the back of Rekara’s skull.

“I denied my Shakurian heritage long ago; my home is with the Khalai. You, could no sooner stop being Terran than you could stop the tides.”

“I’m gettin’ mighty tired of you using ‘Terran’ like it’s a fekkin’ adjective, Blue.”

“In the short time I have known you, you have been obnoxious, distrustful, and have shown a remarkable disdain for any form of authority. You have practiced the vile art of deception at every opportunity. These are characteristics I have found to be universal among Terrans.”

“What, and that makes us all evil? You may as well say all Protoss are the same because you have fingers. Or because you’re all obnoxious a-holes. Of course we all deceive. We lie and exaggerate and steal. You can’t just look at that and say ‘Oh, they’re all bad.’”

“You are saying that it is justifiable to commit evil, so long as it ultimately produces good?”

“No. I’m saying you can’t take some concept like deceit and label it evil. It’s just a thing. People can use it for whatever, but that’s on them. The reasons a person does something are what speaks to their character, not just their actions.”

“There is never a valid reason to deceive. There are always alternatives.”

“Doesn’t make them better.”

Rekara did not respond immediately and Morris swore he could see a smile on her mouth-less face.

“I had not expected you to be the philosophical type, Sergeant Captain.”

“Not much else to do around here, really.” Another pause, longer this time. She seemed to be measuring him.

“And when you and your men came here under false pretenses, killed a dozen Khalai, and blackmailed us for protection, those were the actions of a good, deceitful man?”

Morris sighed audibly and looked away. He had suspected this was coming.

“I don’t know.” He said finally.” But I needed to make a decision, and my loyalty is to my men first.”

“You could have approached us peacefully, sought to face the Zerg as allies.”

“And when you said no? What then? What do I say when you decide you don’t want to babysit the poor Terrans? ‘Whoops?’”

“We would not have sent you against the Zerg alone.”

“That’s a lie.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Exactly, I don’t. I had no way of knowing at all what you would do. And I’m not going to gamble the lives of friends.”

“And yet in making this decision, you have made of us an enemy. Did this not give you pause?”

Morris couldn’t help but grin at the question. “Fekk, Blue, I’m sure you’ll be more reasonable than the Zerg.”

“And afterwards?”

“We’ll just have to deal with whatever punishment your Executor calls for. Fair’s fair.”
“And we are to trust you on this matter?”

Morris’ radio cut through the conversation; the Zerg were earlier than expected. Morris grabbed his things. He would have to find the Executor to finalize coordination. They likely had less than an hour before the Zerg arrived. As he turned to head towards the cliffs overlooking the hills below, he remarked over his shoulder:

“If your track record with Terrans is as bad as you say, then no, you probably shouldn’t.”

***
In the distance, Executor Garthanus and Cameron Morris had begun to hear the squeal and dull shudder of spider mines detonating. Morris turned from his radio to face his new ally.

“We’re ready, Executor.”

“Once your initial defence is complete, your forces are to remain here and hold the perimeter. I will not have your men running amok and causing confusion along my line.”
“Whatever you want, Executor. It’s your fight.”

The two stood in silence as the green and brown hills below steadily turned to purple. It was amazing to watch, Garthanus thought, like the Zerg swarm was becoming a part of the planet itself.

“You may begin, Sergeant Captain.”

Morris turned back to his radio.

“You’ve got the go, Aleks, you’ve got the go. Sing me a song, man.”

“Cleared sir, going. I call this one ‘Mar Sara-fried Zergling’, in F major.”

“…You wait 15 years to tell a joke, and that’s what you’re going with?”

“Yes, sir. Sorry sir, I’ll work on it.”

“Just blow stuff up, Aleks.”

“Yes, sir. Stage one is hot.”

A heartbeat later, columns of searing hot flame erupted amid the Zerg swarm in a series of parallel lines. They weren’t designed for lethality, though the re-purposed Infernals would definitely cook the insides of any Zerg unlucky enough to have been caught close enough. But the sudden heat and light would be enough to make the Zerg instinctively leap away, creating cracks in the swarm. Cracks which, hopefully, would reveal the soft green glow of the Zerg’s deadliest weapon.

“Stage 2 is hot.”

Chaingun fire (salvaged from busted Vikings) burst from the cliffside bunkers, targeting the banelings hidden away within pockets of the swarm. Hundreds of the angry green creatures detonated with a violent crack, sending corrosive acid spraying through the Zerg ranks. Through his suit’s Enhanced Optics Kit, Morris watched as an ultralisk, face covered in acid and missing a leg, turned and stampeded in the wrong direction, flattening the front half of an infestor in the process.

“Stage 3 is hot. Danger, danger, siege tanks firing.”

The familiar ‘Fwoom’ of the Arclite’s Shock Cannon echoed across the skies. They fired rapidly and erratically, one after another. Since they had no trained Arclite operators, it had been necessary to input strike coordinates into the old tanks’ out-dated targeting systems hours ago. Morris smiled with satisfaction as the area-denial shells crashed into the Zerg perimeter below in an almost perfect arc. Any Zerg not obliterated by the directional blast of the specialized munitions was sent flying into the middle of the swarm in a jumbled mess. Morris reminded himself for what must have been the thousandth time that he would have to buy Aleks a drink once the kid was of age.

“Endgame is hot. Danger, danger, siege tanks firing.”

It took just a moment for the Crucio’s networked targeting system to calculate to the centimeter where each individual shot would land. They fired as one, shaking the cliffs, each perfectly placed shell smashing its own unique section among the densest areas of the Zerg swarm. It looked sort of like a scantid, Morris noticed, mentally connecting the dots.

“Danger, danger.”

Another barrage from the siege tanks shattered the clustered Zerg mess. As the volleys continued, Morris spoke, eyes still locked on the approaching swarm.

“Alright, Executor. We’re support from here on out.”

Garthanus nodded slowly.

“I expect you here when I return, Terran. Know that I am well aware of the low-atmosphere flight capability of your Barracks.” Garthanus turned his head to face him. “If you attempt to leave early, we will find you.”

“Don’t worry about it, Garthanus. We’ve got no plans to leave here.”

“I doubt that. Rekara has informed me of your background as a pirate.”

“…What?”

“This.” Garthanus stabbed his finger to the CAF emblem tagged on Morris’ chest. “Does this emblem not tell the story of your pirate background?”

Boisterous laughter exploded out of Morris’ radio and he moved quickly to switch it off.
“Pilot, Executor. And yes, it does. Don’t worry, we’ll be here, all of us.”

“See that you are.” And with that, Garthanus vanished. A moment later, a massive Protoss force slowly appeared in prisms of blue light in the valley below. He turned his suit comm back on to find the laughter had not died down in the slightest.

“Okay, okay, that’s enough. Matt, are you there?”

“Aye Cap’n!”

“Shut up. Are you guys ready?”

“Of course. I still don’t get why we’re going down there, though. If tall, grey, and ridiculous wants to fight the Zerg by himself, who are we to judge?”

“That’s not how we do things, Matt. Let’s go.”

Before leaving to join his men, Morris watched as the Zerg draw closer to the Protoss force and allowed himself a moment to daydream about how wonderful life would be without either. Then, the pungent stench of the baneling’s acid finally reached him, and he hurried back, fighting the urge to puke into his suit.

***

Garthanus rather enjoyed the sensation of being warped. It felt to him almost like he was winking in and out of existence. As he regained his vision, the scene appearing before him became increasingly chaotic. The Protoss line was holding and did not appear to be in any real danger of giving up ground, but they were sustaining heavy losses.

He advanced towards the battle, eyes scanning the Zerg swarm as, with a thought, he moved a group of sentries to reinforce further east. His head swiveled as a sensation of panic entered his mind. A single zealot, skin stained dark with blood, fought a losing battle against a pack of terrible zerglings. Garthanus’s eyes glowed a fierce blue and he looked to the sky, allowing the Khala to rush smoothly into his body. His arms stabbed forwards, and like a bursting dam, he unleashed the psi storm. The zerglings cracked open like eggs, bones breaking and twisting in an enormous jumbled mess. Garthanus moved on quickly, wiping a drop of the zerglings’ blood off his face. A pod of roaches, clicking madly and scuttling over piles of broken Zerg, were obliterated by another rush of his psionic energies.

The skirmish continued for what seemed as much a few seconds as it seemed a few hours. Garthanus’s line held strong, retreating only when the growing pile of dead Zerg made engagement difficult. Nearby Terran gunfire indicated that they had joined the battle, but he would have to deal with them later. As he severed the neural activity of an enormous hydralisk, Garthanus remarked that the ocean of Zerg, which seemed endless even after the Terrans’ potent defence, was finally beginning to dwindle. The Terrans would-

A sudden impact from behind sent Garthanus to the ground, hard. Strangely, he felt no pain as the rocks and dirt cut at his face and chest. No, he felt no pain, not anymore. He felt strength. Infinite control. He rose to his feet to find himself invincible, a monolithic power amongst cowering insects. He was indestructible and eternal. Briefly, a distant thought wondered where the Zerg had gone. But it didn’t matter, not with this new enemy to fight. Shadowy monstrosities, a mess of tendrils and limbs, eyes glowing bright with unfathomable rage. They were despicable, pitiful creatures, demons sent to tear him apart. His mind lashed out in a frenzy, ripping at the black abyss of eyes and claws enveloping him. Like raindrops they fell, his divine energies cleansing their consciousnesses from existence.

A group of the demons converged nearby, shrieking madly. He swiveled to face them, his mind feral but focused. They held strange weapons, but oddly did not point them at him.

Again, Garthanus was thrown hard to the ground. His newfound power evaporated from his body, quickly and completely replaced by a powerful headache. The sharp, persistent pain rippled through his every molecule. He lifted his head from the ground, bits of dust and rock tumbling from his lacerated face. The movement sent a shot of pain through his spine, and through the haze, he registered that the Zerg had returned. Strange that they would have left so suddenly, he reflected, lowering his head slowly back to the ground. Perhaps they had all fled from him in fear. Yes, he thought happily, his body shuddering from the intensifying pain. Yes, that must have been it.

Morris and his men rushed to the side of the unconscious Protoss. He had encountered infestors before, but he had never seen one do… whatever the fekk that one had just done. Garthanus had gone berserk, attacking his own forces and dropping them with terrifying ease. The ugly slug had been just as susceptible to bullets as he remembered, though. As a hydralisk spine embedded itself into a nearby rock, Morris knelt and pulled at the long pink tentacle stabbing into the base of Garthanus’s skull. The relaxed muscles slid out easily, revealing a jagged flower of hooked bone. Matt approached and let out a low whistle.

“The fekk is that thing?”

“I don’t know. Some kind of brain virus or toxin or something. Help me out.” The two grabbed the awkward Protoss form and began dragging him away from the front lines.
“Where are we going?” Matt yelled over the deafening sound of gunfire covering their retreat.

“Bunker!” Morris hollered back, pointing to the nearby cliffs. “Then we’re packing our bags, it’s past time we clear out of here.” Besides, Morris thought to himself, after seeing with Garthanus was capable of, he had no intention of being anywhere close by when he woke up.

***
His headache gone, Garthanus stood solemnly among the unmoving bodies of several hundred Khalai. He had sent the majority of his remnant forces to purge the remaining zerg nests around the planet, so he stood alone now, bloody and sore, the deep hole at the base of his skull a terrible reminder of an evil deed done.

In his memories, he saw each of them. Fellow Khalai too proud to fight back, twisting in agony from his psionic attacks. And he, unable and unwilling to yield, could do no better than watch them die. The Terrans, of course, would have had a hand to play here. Garthanus considered it no coincidence that such chaos would arise with them nearby. Their unsolicited presence on the battlefield, he reasoned, had required his attention at the crucial moment that the Zerg had attacked his mind. Had they obeyed his orders, he thought angrily, how many more Khalai would have survived the battle? How much less blood would wrongly be on his hands? They would sacrifice their fair share. He would see to that.

Garthanus looked to the sky and willed the Khala to help calm his mind. He needed to meditate. He was allowing his personal feelings to influence his judgment in a matter unbefitting of one called Executor. The Terrans were capable of at least some rational logic, it was not outside of possible that he would be able to open a dialogue with them.

“Executor Garthanus!”

He was surprised to hear Rekara’s voice breaking through his thoughts from such a great distance. Even with the psionic amplifiers available to her within the Nexus, it was an impressive feat for one with an incomplete link.

“What news would you bring me, Rekara? Though I dare say I know already.”

“The Terrans flee, Executor. They gather in their barracks, and will surely take the skies.”

“To what end!?” Garthanus demanded, annoyed. Had he not made it clear he understood perfectly the capabilities of the Terran structure? “Do they believe they will be able to hide?”

“Perhaps they-“ Garthanus cut off the thought as the bright flash of the enormous Terran engines lit the evening sky. It was actually quite impressive, Garthanus thought. The thing was huge, as large as a Carrier at least, and the fact that such a simple animal had been able to devise a way to get it off the ground was a wonder. It drifted lazily upwards towards the lower atmosphere, and Garthanus could not help but feel offended that the Terrans had imagined this to be a valid means of evading him. Once they had reached the mesosphere and set their course, he would dispatch a robotic observer to monitor their position. It was a small planet.

Yet, as the vessel gained altitude, it did not slow. The engines flared again, and to Garthanus’s dismay, it accelerated upwards.

He had been a fool.

“Rekara, deploy any graviton-ready Phoenix spacecraft. Orders are to restrain and ground that ship, immediately.”

“All Phoenix are currently engaged with remnant Zerg forces, Executor, and our observers have not been outfitted for deep space. It seems the Terrans have made good their escape.”

“By Aiur,” Garthanus responded, his words thick with anger and contempt, “they have not. There are reserve Interceptors in the Bay. You are to activate them with standard orders.”

A long silence preceded Rekara’s response.

“Executor, you surely do not suggest an assault on the Terran vessel?”

“I do not suggest anything, Rekara. It is a necessary action, one I do not make lightly.”

“It is brutish. The Terrans are defenceless, they would stand no chance of surviving an attack at such an altitude.”

“Then through no fault of our own, they draw inevitably closer to the ultimate consequence of their actions. The nature of causality is sometimes regrettable, but always impartial.”

“You would see them killed, to ease your pride!”

“I would see them treated as the enemy! As they have treated us, from the beginning!”

“They are desperate and scared animals. They have done only what they thought that they must. It is not reason for murder.”

“We too, must do what we must, Rekara. This matter warrants no further discussion. Launch the Interceptors, immediately.”

“Enough blood has drowned our planet today, Garthanus.”

“Protoss blood, every drop of it, all on their hands! It must not stand!”

“The Terrans pose no further threat to us!”

“Now!” The word burst violently from him, stinging Rekara’s mind so many kilometers away. A zergling twitched nearby, but he ignored it. A long moment later, Rekara’s voice rang through his head.

“Yes, Executor.”

Almost instantly, a dozen Interceptors shot into the sky. Garthanus watched with satisfaction as the computer-guided craft rapidly closed the distance to the escaping Terran vessel. Their pulse cannons fired rapidly, detonating violently on the sides of the Terrans’ Hercules-class ship. Entirely unfazed it plodded on, seemingly oblivious to the powerful bursts smashing its hull. How could the Terrans have built something so powerful? The Interceptors dashed in and out, delivering a constant stream of plasma charges, but to no effect. For a few minutes they carried on their assault, looking like no more than a mild annoyance to the huge Terran spacecraft. Soon, it was gone, and the robotic Interceptors automatically returned to base.

“NO!” Garthanus’s consciousness thrashed like an animal in a cage. He smashed his clawed fingers into the neck of a hydralisk corpse and slammed it violently to the ground. “Go back! GO BACK!” His mind bucking with fury and his thoughts boiling, every molecule in his body screeched at the distant dot that was the Terran vessel. Around him, Zerg and Protoss bodies shook together, skin splitting and breaking as one. With a final vehement shriek of rage he fell, cradling his returned headache in two weary, bloody hands.

***

Alone in the enormous Nexus of the Protoss base, Rekara, too, had fallen. Hands on the ground, her body shook from exhaustion, and her severed nerve cords burned hot. She worried that, with her link to the Khala already so weak, the exhausting effort of producing the Hallucinations could potentially have damaged the connection irreparably. In the corner of her eye, she noticed the unused Terran chair, still sitting absurdly alone, and she wondered then for the first time if she had done what was good.


Thanks for reading.


TL;DR - What, are you too busy?
Very good story. I'm impressed.


Unfortunately, the last paragraph has me a little confused. Understood everything else though.
The idea is that the Interceptors were Hallucinations.

It's kind of a weird paragraph since it's so vitally important to Rekara as a character (relating back to her conversation on the nature of deception,) but I wanted it to be really short, almost like a footnote to the story.

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