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Bane 10: Hero's Legacy

Bane woke from the trance with a ferocious snarl as impaler rounds rained on him, chipping and ricocheting off his carapace. Marines were filing through the door and down the ramp into the hangar, opening fire as they got in range. Bane began to charge against the streams of bullets to fight the marines, until two of them met him at a sprint, spraying flaming napalm. "Not firebats!" Bane thought hopelessly, but he didn't panic this time. Despite the scorching fire, Bane lunged for the Terran he knew to be at the center of the flames. Although the nalpam burned his eyes, Bane aimed his swing carefully, and his synth smashed across the firebat's head like a runaway train. There was a crack of bones amounst the thundering guass rifles and one firebat toppled to the floor. The smoldering hydralisk was pelted with bullets again before the second firebat stepped up, spewing flames. Bane stumbled back from the pelting shards of lead and gushing napalm, and the marines advanced forward, forming a line.

With a raging snarl, Bane surged against the lashing bullets and scorching flames one last time. He used his momentum to shove the firebat, who flew backwards into a squad of marines. Bane was right behind him, and impaled the firebat as the marines caught him. His synths ripped through the powersuit, just puncturing the napalm tanks on the Terran's back. The group of marines yelled over the chaos, trying to get their commrades to hold their fire, but it was too late. A stray bullet bounced off of the firebat's steel powersuit, and a fireball engulfed the hydralisk and the nearby sqaud of marines. Tormented screams filled the hangar as the inferno died to a small fire on the floor, revealing five marines and a hydralisk ablaze with the sticky napalm. The remaining marines stimmed up, redoubling their efforts against the desprate hydralisk when another explosion rocked the hangar.

The wide door wouldn't open on its own because of the large hole ripped in it, so I launched a pair of hellfire missiles at it to give it a boost. The steel door crumpled away under the explosion and the metal feet of my goliath war-walker stomped through the crumbled cement and metal on the floor. I stopped as my viewport revealed a line of marines pounding at a flaming hydralisk with their gauss rifles. Pulling the triggers on both control sticks, the twin auto cannons gunned away at full speed while I turning the torso of the golaith 45 degrees, sweeping bullets accross the sqaud of marines. They fell like dominos as the rumbling machine guns mowed them down. Three more marines fell before they turned their full attention to me. I kept my fingers planted on the triggers, despite the pelting impaler rounds that rattled loudly in the stuffy cockpit. Still partially aflame, Bane lunged for the marines with vengeful synths, bringing one of them to his knees with brutal swings that ripped armor and flesh, shattering the bones beneath. Sparks flew from the instruments in the goliath, sending up a miniature cloud of smoke inside the cockpit, but I pushed the machine to its limits as the remaining infantry turned against my friend once more.

Suddenly, there were only five marines left, then three. I stopped firing the auto cannons and unstrapped myself from the seat as Bane cornered the last enemy. The marine backed against the wall, emtying his last clips into the smoldering hydralisk in panic. The bullet-dimpled face of the goliath split open, and I jumped down with a TRI from our dropship. Sidling through the annoying hail of bullets, Bane swatted the puny weapon to the floor and impaled the marine by the shoulders of the bulky powersuit, lifting him off the ground with a furious growl. "WHERE'S MENGSK?!" he demanded. "Yes, answer his question." I said casually as I moved to stand next to the hydralisk, activating the TRI. The trained marine only whimpered in fear as Bane healed; the carapace crackled as the gashes and burns in it shrank away and vanished. He seemed to grow alittle as he got his strength back, involutarily lifting the marine a few inches higher. Bane snarled with impatience, smashing the marine against the wall and mangled the powersuit, lacerating the Terran inside, "I don't have time for this! Tell me where Mengsk is hiding!!"

With blood streaming down the synths that held him up, the marine finally croaked, "Y-y-you can f-find him in his o-office," before he passed out. Bane dumped the marine to the floor and turned, noting my shot up goliath and the exhausted TRI in my hands, "Thank you, mortal. You can be quite helpful with enough machines at your disposal." "Don't mention it," I said as I began walking over to the goliath, pulling the rest of my guns out from the open cockpit, "I still owe you a few dozen of those."

Bane slithered down the hall ahead of me, zeroing in on the last cerebrate. "You got that equipement from our old dropship, didn't you?" He asked as the wide doors slipped by us. "Yeah," I answered, not thinking much about it. "Go back to the ship." The hydralisk ordered calmly. "What?" I asked. "Get the ship and meet me on the top floor, I'll be waiting there." "Bane, are you sure?" My freind stopped abruptly and turned to another wide steel door on the right, taking a swing at the metal with both synths. The blades punched through the amor plating and Bane started peeling the door open, "Hurry, we're running out of time!" he told me telepathically while he worked, "After the last cerebrate is dead, I'll make my way up to Mengsk's office and drop off my regards." The hydralisk finished riping the door open and slithered inside without another word. "So you're gonna hog all the action and I get to warm up the ship, huh?" I called after him. As usual, I didn't get an answer. My laugh sounded flat in the empty hallway as I turned around with a shrug. Suddenly, a familiar chime came to my ears and I looked up. The elevator at the far end of the hall slid open, but nobody stepped outside. In fact, there was nothing in it at all-or so I thought. Three fireballs flashed in the elevator; the signature recoil of C-10 canister rifles. Flipping on my own cloak, I hit the floor before the drywall exploded from the wall as a result of poor aim. The other two rounds sailed over my head, thunking into the floor and the cieling somewhere down the hall. As the smoke and dust cleared, sound became a common enemy. Making a noise would give away your position, and we all knew this. It suddenly became an errie game of patience. I tried my best not to move at all, drawing tiny breaths at a time to remain absolutely silent. They had me outnumbered three to one, but time was on my side. They came up the elevator cloaked, and I just activated mine. The ghosts would have to move sometime before their cloaks ran out. I held my breath and listened, and, finally, there was a tiny sound. It was a little squeak of rubber on stone tile, over and over again-footsteps. They were coming down the hall, steadily pacing my way. I began to panic; I couldn't think with the lousy grenades on my ammunition belt jabbing into my shoulder, but that's what gave me an idea. I sat up alittle, just enough to pull one of the explosives out of its pouch without scraping it on the floor. The sqeaks came again, louder this time and I gently pulled the pin out of its slot, activating the ten second timer. It was a mircale they didn't step on me as they drifted by unseen, but by the sound of their footsteps, they had obviously passed by, so I lobbed the grenade down the hall and jumped to my feet, stumbling foreward. I had excellent aim, although I couldn't see what I was throwing at. The grenade smacked against the thin air and I even heard one of them say, "What the-" before the bomb detonated. The explosion was deafening in the solid hallway as it knocked me off my feet. I got up and my ears rang angrily as I coughed my way through the smoke, canister rifle at the ready. There was no need for it, the explosion had masacred two of the ghosts. The third one was only injured; a thick blood trial leading down the hallway gave him away, but that didn't matter to me. I turned abruptly from the bloodstained scene and headed back down the cooridoor to the first hangar. I changed my mind, "I've had enough fighting for one day," I though to myself as I punched in the code for the hangar again. Surprizingly, the keypad emmited a dull buzzing noise, indicating that the combination was incorrect. Trying twice more, I getting the same result. I sighed, pulling two more grenades off my ammunition belt and setting them at the foot of the door. After jerking the pins out and stepping back, I remembered to cover my ears with both hands this time as powerful blasts shook the floor. The smoke threatened to choke me again as I stepped through it to the doorway. There was the dropship, still with the back door open like I left it. But I wasn't going to be able to just hop in and fly away this time, for auto cannons lowered out of their hiding places in the cieling in unison with the five that rose out of the floor.

Bane ignored Charlies half-hearted complaining and made his way down this new hall, closing in on the cerebrate. But as he approached the right door, a rotating alarm on the cieling began spining around with its strobbing lights. The hydralisk turned and threw his blades against the steel barracade as autocannons began rising out of the floor on both ends of the hall.

The steel plating covering the hangar door suddenly crumpled in, giving away to the bone synths that lashed against it. Scientists and enginers panicked as the hydralisk hastily forced his way inside and slithered down the ramp. "You know the drill!" Bane snarled at them, approaching the cerebrate as the egg heads cleared out. The hydralisk only hesitated a few seconds before crushing the defensless worm, fearing what it would show him next, yet curious as to what truths it could reveal. When the heavy synths crashed through the skull of the cerebrate, Bane began to drift away again. But this time, no rippling visions came to him. All he could see was the blinding extent of the overmind's angry will. Bitter flames of hatred lashed out at him, seeking to end his life. The raw, burning flares were stamped out suddenely and the cold confines of the hangar came rushing back to meet him, ending the dream aburptly. He wasn't out for more than three seconds; the last scientist hadn't even left the room yet. Bane stared at his synths that still lay gored in the cerebrates' face, watching the vile liquids inside run down them to collect in puddles on the floor before jerking them free again. Turning on the gurgling monstrosity, Bane began sidling back towards the door, but stopped before he squeezed through. Looking down the hallway Bane spotted the auto cannons rising out of the floor again, and the squads of marines closing on his hangar from both sides of the hallway. He was trapped.

I flipped back into the hall as the auto cannons sensed my motion and began firing in all directions. I could have taken cover and plucked away at them with the canister rifle, but ammunition was already in short supply. Still cloaked, I made my way back up the hall. Stepping over the mutilated bodies of the two ghosts, I suddenly remembered the blood trail. I looked to the red trail on the floor and began following it. Around a corner and five doors down I found the body of the third ghost. He had dragged himself in here and reactivated the security systems on this floor. That explained why the doors were suddenly locked and the auto cannons armed. The ghost was sprawled accross the floor of the utility room, one hand still outstretched toward the huge steel panel of circuit breakers. I looked up, to the mass of switches and lights. There were no labels on them. I sighed, reaching up to the biggest switch and jerking it down. I was met with promising results as every light on the hangar bay blinked out. Now that I needent worry about being shot at, or seen for that matter, I bounced my way down the hall through the dark. The only light shone dimly from a lighted arrow above the elevator, casting a light green glow over the hall. Thankfull for the tiny light, I found the hangar door again. I gropped around in the dark awhile until my hand finally found the handle on the dropship door. I pulled it open with a jerk and jumped inside. The turbine engines sounded louder than usual as the spot lights came on, revealing the closed hangar door. I couldn't open it manually without electricity, so I sighed again, grabbing the last three grenades off my belt.

Gauss rifles thundered from both ends of the hall as the marines spotted Bane's head poking out of the hangar door. He lurched back inside again as the bullets riddled the steel enclosure. Bane looked around hastily, desprate to find something that could give him the advantage against the superior numbers. The marines could be heard moving closer, their swearing and commanding grew louder. The hangar, despite the fact that the bulky cerebrate was occupying it, was the largest room in the building. It would leave the marines all the room they wanted to manuever and encircle him with their rifles, so Bane fought his instinct to hide and smashed through the door, into the hall. The marines raised their rifles and the autocannons lifted from the floor again, but the hall was suddenly plunged into darkness. Bane grinned to himself as the blinded marines stumbled and tripped over the half deployed auto cannons in the dark. A short scream peirced the dark hallway and the marines panicked, gunning away at nothing with their rifles. Bane slashed at one helpless marine after the other as the crossfire of impaler rounds pelted the unsuspecting terrans. The squad leaders had been yelling for his troops to hold their fire, and the order finally sank in. The lead marine flipped on his suit lights, revealing a bloody hallway devistated by guass fire. 14 marines lay slaughtered on the stone tile; some lacerated beyond recognition and others full of holes, but the hydralisk was nowhere to be found.

Crimson explosions glowed on the horizon, rising and fading again in the night sky to match the lighting streaking from an approaching storm. Rain pounded the tall glass windows in sheets causing the dimly lit expanse of the office to strobe with light with every clap of thunder. The only other light streamed through tiny spaces between the wooden double doors. Locked and barred in his office, Mengsk could only sit and listened in silent terror to the sounds of his failing defense system. Backup soldiers would have been extremely helpful, but most had fled their jobs to be home with their families-quite possibly for the last time-The looming threat of the zerg had driven all but the die hards to safer ground. The auto cannons had thundered to life in the hallway only minutes ago, and now silence claimed the hallway again as the last chattering machine gun be heard crashing to the floor outside. The ribbon of light blinked out when a form taller than the door blocked it. The locks and chains on the double doors shattered the dark serenity of the office, rattling and clanging in recoil as the hydralisk on the other side tested the doors' strength with a slight blow. The emperor reached into his desk drawer with a trembling hand, pulling out a sidearm hidden there. Lighting flashed again, illuminating the office with a blue glow. Before it could fall to darkness again, the wooden doors shattered off of the wall in thick splinters as the hydralisk tore them off their hinges. "B-Bane! How good it is to see you!" Mengsk stuttered, sitting up straight in his chair. Bane ignored the false statement, growling deeper and louder as the emperor tried to talk his way out of his own fate, "Don't be so rational, friend, I'm sure there's something I could give you-" Bane snarled with rage, "FRIEND?! You tried to kill my friends, you used me to unleash a terrible plague upon the universe simply for a slight chance of becoming the unquestioned ruler of this one meager planet; you're directly responsible for the hell I've been through, and the misery I must go through yet!!" Mengsk flinched as the furious hydralisk spoke, slithering closer with every sylable, "C-C'mon, Bane ole buddy," the emperor croaked, standing now and backing away from the advancing hydralisk, "I know you're hungry, I can get you all the food you want!" Bane reached Mengsk's desk and flung his right synth against the flat peice of furniture between him and his enemy, sending it tumbling to the other side of the room. Mengsk held his sidearm up, aiming for Bane's chest, "Don't come any closer!" he cried. Bane competely ignored the handgun, even after the emperor began firing away. One bullet at a time bounced off the rocky carapace, doing almost nothing to stop Bane from lunging in and pinning Mengsk against the glass windows with one synth. Lighting flashed again when he hit the window, nearly breaking it. Mengsk panicked, uselessly firing round after round at the beast that held him. "Yes!" Bane growled, "Do your very best to piss me off before I kill you!" The bullets ran out and cracks spread through the glass, spidering out as Bane put more pressure on the emperor's throat. "What are you going to do to me?" He strained for air as the hydralisk's eyes closed to slits, "I won't kill you," Bane began, letting his free synth fold down to its locking place against his forearm, "I'm going to make your world VERY painful before I bring it to an end." Bane reared back the free arm and brought it foreward hard, crushing the closed synth joint across Mengsk's face like a giant, bony fist. Blood flew in a thick mist as the terran was knocked to the floor with the force of the blow, and the hydralisk sidled accross the room after him. "This is from Rakeem!" Bane snarled, swinging low and catching the Emperor in the stomach with another blunted punch as he struggled to get up. He groaned with the impact, sailing to the other side of the office in an arc. Blood ran down his face as he hit the floor and rolled over onto his hands and knees, gasping for air. The hydralisk quickly approached again, using a wicked uppercut to knock the emperor against the wall, "This one's for Charley!!" Mengsk hit so hard that it flattened his body out on the tall bookshelf mounted against the wall, sending thick dictionaries and novels avalanching down on him. "And these are for every innocent life form you put in my way!!" Before Mengsk could go down again, Bane reached him and threw punch after punch in snarling fury, crushing the emperor's face and breaking ribs. Mengsk tried blocking some of the huge bone fists, but it only resulted in his hands being smashed. The pummeling finally ceased and the emperor slid down the wall, whimpering in pain when Bane stopped him with the point of one outstretched synth. The sharp point forced the emperor to sit up against the bookshelf again, and Bane slowly put more and more pressure on it. Mengsk coughed blood, "No, Bane, wait!!" he gurgled helplessly as the hydralisk's blade tore through the fabric of his suit. "And this is from me," Bane growled. Searing pain pulsed from the emperor's shoulder as he was slowly impaled. When the synth was a mere five inches deep, Bane lifted the Mengsk off his feet, carrying him to the center of the office. Mengsk screamed in pain as the hydralisk lifted him up to the full reach of its arms. Bane roared in the face of his enemy, "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't kill you right now!!" Mengsk could only pant in tight little gasps to keep from screaming again as Bane gave the synth a slight shake. The vibration caused the Terran to slid further down the synth by the force of his own wieght; flesh tore and bones snapped as the point of the sickle ripped through the cloth on his back. Blood gushed to the floor, running down Bane's synth in streams. The hydralisk turned, carrying his prisoner to the window. "You holding on tight?" Bane asked with a feral grin as he shoved the emperor through the glass window. Wind rushed in from the angry storm outside and lighting crashed accross the sky again as Mengsk's feet dangled over the open air, illuminating the 53 story drop to the pavement far below. "I'll give you a choice from here," Bane growled sadistically, "You can plummet to your death now, or hang around until you bleed to death." Mengsk only moaned, growing paler with each breath. "Suit yourself," the hydralisk laughed, raising its free blade and violently slashing the Terran off his synth. A faint scream could beheard as Mengsk disappeared into the distance.

The pattering rain on the windshield was interupted by a crunch of metal as a limp form plummeted out of the darkness and bounced off the nose of my hovering dropship. I looked up at the sound, getting a glance of what had hit the ship, "That's my cue," I said with wide eyes as I flipped a few switches, causing the ship to climb. Dim windows passed the windsheild, until I reached the top floor were the one of the three tall glass windows of Mengsk's office was shattered out. I hit the searchlights and his devistated office greeted my eyes. Bane stood in the middle of it and watched the ship as it leveled out, raising one synth high in victory. I smiled and used the left rudder pedal to swing the ship around 180 degrees. When I opened the rear cargo door, the hyralisk jumped the small gap into the back of my dropship. I closed the hatch again and looked back at my friend. He gave me a nod and I gassed the engines. The rain eased some, but the lighting still clashed as we left the capitol building in silence.

The horizon glowed with the explosions of a fierce battle as we approached the city limits, illuminating thick columns of smoke that stretched into the black sky. "This doesnt look good," I said, noting the signs of chaos, "It doesn't look like the zerg slowed down at all. You said the overmind was attacking so persistantly because it's cerebrates were trapped in the city. They're dead now-" No," Bane interrupted, "They live. Cerebrates can never truly be killed; the overmind will reincarnate them soon." Fat rain drops began pelting the windsheild again as I asked, "Then everything we did back there was in vain?" "No, again." He replied. "The cerebrates shall take form within the safety of the hive clusters, but until they do, there will be a brief pause in the endless onslaught of the broods. We must rally the remaining troops here and make an assualt on the Overmind and the hives as soon as possible." Silence reigned for eight solid minutes, and the battlefield began to take on detail in the thrashing lighting storm as our dropship approached the front lines. Smoke billowed over the torn landscape below us that used to be the center of a bustling terran complex. Flaming heaps of wreckage were all that remained of the rows of barracks and factories. Lighting flashed again and again in the pounding rain, illuminating the nightmarish battlefield below; mangled bodies of machines littered the ground amoungst the piles of dead zerg. Mounting causualties bared withness to the zerg's feircest strike yet. There was nothing left of the terran base, it was all reduced to smoldering rubble save for a few hovering buildings that managed to escape the chaos. The protoss side was in shambles. Endless blue flames rippled into the night from the pylons and cannons set as defenses, acting as beacons in the driving rain. I steered the dropship toward the base, dropping in altitude. Despite being in a capitol ship, the damaged but potent net of photon cannons didn't fire their phase distruptors as we came within range. The thrusters kicked up sheets of mud from the war-torn earth as our ship came to a stop. Streams of rain ran off the back of the ship when I opened the door, revealing the waterlogged worled ouside. As Bane and I trudged through the rain to the glowing pylons, I noticed an arbiter hovering above. We were suddenly meet with several battle-weary faces as the cloak disolved. Surviving marines, zealots, and high templar stood in squads, watching as we entered the base and approached the remainder of the dragoon force. Somehow everything looked tired, even the robotic reavers seemed to sag in the downpour. "My friends," Rakeem spoke up, stepping forward in a battered dragoon that sparked and smoked, "We were barely able to stop the broods, I'm afraid we may not survive should they strike again. I have ordered a counter offensive-we must strike the primary Hive while there's still a chance!" "Precisely," Bane growled, "But we're only going to get one shot at this." The hydralisk turned to me, "Charley, remember how you vanquished the overmind once before? Can you do that again?" I checked the canister rifle that I had stolen from the base along with the Ghost armor I still wore. With the dim light from the pylons and the occassional flash of lighting, I found the small laser and safety trigger mounted under the barrel. "The canister rifle's ready, but it's useless without a nuclear silo to arm it with," I looked up to the hovering command center and the surviving tech buildings that hung in the air. "Those things still work?" I asked the question outloud. The only Terrans I could see through the stormy night were marines and few seige tanks that had seen better days. Lighting streaked accross the sky and the rain beat down on us harder than ever as one of the marines in a powersuit stepped foreward, "Our chain of command has been completely whiped out, those structures are on autopilot. We would have to board them to bring'em down again." "Then use my dropship;" I ordered, "Get those buildings on the ground and throw together a new missle silo. I don't care if you use sticks and glue to build it-just hurry!" The marine listened to me with a sleepy look on his face, but he seemed to snap out of it. Giving me a nod, he turned and headed for the dropship parked in the mud. "Get those seige tanks ready for transit," I said, pointing toward the sputtering machines huddled behind the photon cannons. The remaining marines gave me blank stares and I looked around, realizing there were no shuttles anywhere. The only aircraft in the sky was a sole surviving arbiter with a pair scouts. I must have looked confused, because Rakeem spoke up, "Our air fleets were devastated in the last zerg attack, all that remain are these nine ships." The robotic voice of the dragoon paused for a second, "There is only one way to reach the Overmind, and once we arrive at the center of the nest, there will be no turning back; Failure is not an option."

The arbiter and its escort rocketed overhead, venturing the into darkness from wench the armies of the brood came. Rakeem and his forces packed into tight squads, preparing for the Recall spell. Although the terran buildings were going up in smoke, the robotic systems onboard still functioned porperly. The nuclear silo seemed to build itself as 18 marines with five siege tanks joined Rakeem's small army of zealots, dragoons, and a pair of reavers. Not a single dark temlpar survived the onslaught, and only one of their high templar brethren was able to join us today in the desprate battle ahead. As the the protoss crafts vanished into the stormy night, I moved to stand next to Bane, "Do you think we'll make it?" I asked. The warriors around us stood against the wind-driven rain, silently watching the place where the ships disappeared. "I cannot say," my friend sighed, "but if the overmind isn't destroyed quickly, we will all die and your planet will fall to the zerg." "It's good to see that you're being optimistic about this," I laughed nervously. "Charley," Bane interupted. I dropped the jokes when he used my name; he still rarely does. He continued, "We're too late, the broods are nearly ready to attack again. This tiny force will have to fight back the entirity of the swarms to reach the overmind and it's cerebrates; I only have one card left to play-" My friend's phsycic voice was suddenly muffled by a thick silence. The thin air seemed to fold over on itself before a deafening crack of psionic energy announced the recall spell. A blue field ripped across my view of the small offensive force awaiting teleportation and everything stopped. Time stood still as Bane, the marines, the protoss-everything dissolved before my eyes and a new picture began fading into my vision. As the world took on detail again, a thick carpet of creep was suddenly under my booted feet. I looked up as the color drained back to my eyes and time sped up to normal. No rain fell here, but the lighting flashed relentlessly, illuminating the towering Hives that surrounded the overmind and its cerebrates. Even at a distance, they seemed huge; larger than any living thing I'd ever seen. Giant eggs pulsed at the base of each hive. There was only one strain of zerg that was that large, and the presence of them struck fear into the small army as it materialized at the scene. Then everything suddenly happened at once. Marines and dragoons formed a line as the five remaining tanks sieged up beside the reavers. A flock of scorge flew into view from behind the hives, screeching as they soared over the sunken defenses. The planet began trembling under our feet as the zerg army burst forth from their burrows. It was only a few dozen at first, but as the scorge closed the distance between the hive cluster and us, the creep-smothered ground exploded in a wide tidal wave of unburrowing hydralisks and zerglings that sprung out of the dirt and hit the ground running. "FOR AUIR!!" Rakeem boomed over the small army of Protoss warriors that stood against the impossible odds. The zealots poured life into thier psionic blades, casting bright glows that relfected back at us in the eyes of the charging broods. The few marines around us cheered with it to give them hope, even if it was a battle cry for another planet. Arcilite fire announced the battle's start once again as the rows of unburrowing zerg drew within range. Five explosions rocked the oncomers in the distance, adding a crimson shade to the flashing lighting; illuminating the raging swarms that rampaged towards us. Despite the bombarding hail of bullets, the scourge soured high over the dragoons and marines and ran headlong into our Arbiter. Blue plasma shields crackled before the ship spiraled to the battlefield in front of us in a ball of rippling flames, exploding on impact amoungst the roaring flood of zerglings. The line of zealots met the claws of the zerg with a flurry of slashing blades, but the huge numbers of the swarm surged against the phase disruptors and impaler rounds; surrounding our short line of defensive zealots. The siege tanks fired again and needle spines began falling on the dragoons and marines in volleys as I shook my head to clear it. Bane opened his chest cavity and began launching spines of his own back at the offending hydralisks. My hands shook as I fumbled with the canister rifle. Flipping on the laser targeting, I held the stock to my shoulder and sighted through the scope. The overmind and the cerebrates were visible beyond the hives, but the targeting system couldn't get a lock at this distance. Trumpeting roars peirced the stormy night, causing me to jump as the fearsome ultralisks tore free of their eggs to join the charging hydralisks and zerglings. My hair began to stand on end as the High Templar behind me created a powerful field of psionic energy. Crackling arcs of lighting leapt from the thin air, forming deadly whirlwinds of fury that shredded groups of attacking hydralisks. The reavers released their scarabs one by one as they zipped into the relentless swarm, exploding amoungst packs of charging zerglings, sending the light enemies reeling through the air. The siege tanks blasted once more, steadily pummeling the horde of churning carapace, but it all wasn't enough. "We must get closer!!" I yelled to Rakeem, who drove his dragoon to its limits beside me, "The bomb must hit the Overmind directly to kill it!" Phsycic screams and blue embers rose from the zealots as they began to fall under the onslaught of the broods. The dark templar responded hastily, "There is nothing we can do, my forces are already loosing ground!" Indeed, he was correct. The dieing zealots fell back again and again, until the zerglings began leaking through, drawing our essential ranged fire away from the fierce hyrdalisks. Dragoons were encircled and tored down and the organization of the offensive began to break up. Siege tanks rang with metalic thuds as their armor absorbed the concentrated blows of the rampant needle spine fire and marines were tackled to the ground by trio's of leaping zerglings.

As Bane switched from firing needle spines to fending off screeching zerglings with his powerful synths I began to realize the cold truth. What we had attemped could not be done. Our tiny force of warriors should have fled instead of foolheartedly trying to stop the zerg, and Bane's prediction was true. We were all going to be slaughtered and comsumed by the terrible broods. I began to panick, changing the canister rifle back to C-10 rounds and futily pumping explosive shells into a mob of hydralisk's that slithered into range. "Gonna die...This is how I'm gonna die..." It was all I could think of while gunning away. Only three siege tanks reported this time and the gunfire of the marines seemed to wither beneath the roaring static of the swarms. The sound grew and grew, filling my ears and my mind until my friend's confident voice broke through it all. The rumble and heave of the losing battle faded away, seeming faroff and unreal as Bane shared his mind with mine, bringing sudden calm to my racing pulse and panting breath. "You see what I must do," came the solemn message from the hydralisk in front of me who fought with graceful synths that always seemed to find the vitals of the lunging zerglings. "No, Bane!! It doesn't have to end that way..." I couldn't have screamed the words to Bane over the snarling beasts surrounding us, but phsycically linked as we were, he seemed to understand every sylable. "There is no other way besides death, and you know I cannot allow that." A lump formed in my throat as the lighting storm intensified, throwing angry bolts of electricy accross the sky. "You are my friend; I won't let you die again!" My voice sounded small and weak in my own mind as Bane responed, "Friend..." he repeated the word, savoring the sound of it, "You are my only friend, Charley, and as my friend I ask you to help me. Help me end the misery and slaughter, before its too late for you as well." The sense of calm shuddered as Bane was tackled by another hydralisk. He threw the enemy off with a raging snarl, lunging for the deathblow. "I-I-can't do it," I stuttered, fighting back my emotions. The lightning crashed again, illuminating the hydralisk's solid form as Bane turned to face me for a split second. I don't know where I got the strength from, but my trembling hand involuntarily found the bottom of the canister rifle, switching the laser targeting back on. The hydralisk gave me a nod and I stared into the large red orbs of his eyes for the last time, "Goodbye, Bane. I'll never forget you..." my failing voice echoed. "Farewell, Charley, my friend." came the sad response from the noble creature before it turned abruptly, facing the raging swarms that had nearly finished crushing our meager army.

The calm was suddenly torn as the roar of the battle came rushing back to my ears. Thrashing a leaping zergling aside, Bane lunged into the sea of carapace, fighting his way through the zerglings and hydralisks that stood to oppose him. Impaling another hydralisk and dumping it aside, he reached a break in the charging rows of enemies, gaining a few yards before remembering what he saw from the second cerebrate-the scorching will full of hate that seeked his life. The overmind, in the absense of the two cerebrates, struggled to maintain it's delicate control over the raging broods, managing to drive them against the invaders until the cerebrates could be made whole once again. As a cerebrate, Bane wasn't able to manipulate the swarms. He could only amplify the overmind's will, flinging forth the blind anger that he saw flowing from it, corrupting the control of the swarms. In the stobing flashes of lighting, I could see the dragoons and remaining squad of marines that guarded the last siege tank seem to sigh as the pressure of the swarms suddenly gave. "What's happening?!" Rakeem asked from over my shoulder as we watched the tide of zerglings and hydralisks suddenly turn tail and run from us, chasing my brave friend. "He's saving our asses!!" I barked back, "Give me all the backup we have, I must get a lock on the overmind!" The dark templar watched Bane trying to fight his way through the swarms, leading them back towards the hives. The broods twisted and swerved, lunging for the fleeing hydralisk. I didn't hesitate any longer, leaving the stunned remnants of the army behind at a dead sprint. Bane did his best to dodge the leaps of the zerglings ahead, but they began colliding against him at a flat run, throwing him off balance and slowing him down. Rows of hydralisks formed lines and opened their chest cavities, revealing their needle spines before unleashing them in a furious hail. I slowed down just enough to get a look through the scope of the canister rifle, aiming the crosshairs at the hulking shadow of the overmind in the distance. The scanner's Range light flashed dully for a few seconds, but then a high pitched beep sounded in my headset and the electronic crosshairs suddenly found the overmind in the dark. The seemingly harmless laser cut the night, falling as a little red dot on the center of the huge creature's mass. Though distorted beyond recognition, the adjetent crackled into my headset, "Nuclear Launch Detected." Then the broods went into a frenzy.

The Overmind sensed the launch of the deadly terran device, and suddenly stopped fighting Bane for control of the swarms. Instead he whipped the broods into new furys, desprately driving them all against the renegade cerebrate. Lighting crashed again and again, making the terrible scene as broad as daylight. The zerglings swarmed in on him now, diving at him from all directions. Bane stumbled over one that had just missed and was hit by four more on the left side. It threw him to the right and the dozens of vicious little monsters trailing him caught up, diving onto his back and stabbing away with their tiny synths. Bane slowed to a crawl as they piled on, screeching and thrashing. He tried to fling them off as the packs of hydralisks rained needle spines on him, regardless of the damage they did to their own brethren. The hydralisk finally buckled under the crushing wieght of the dozens of zerglings hanging off of his carapace and the swarms poured against him. The pile of zerglings grew as they mounded up around my friend, their thirst for the kill overwhelming them. The hydralisks closed around them in a circle, pounding the churning mass of zerglings with their needle spines. This madness continued for a few seconds that seemed like hours, until the pile of zerglings began to grow again. Something was different, the mound of screeching creatures seemed to get larger even though no more zerglings could pile on. They even began to fall off in pairs as the dogpile trembled and shook. Then the will of the renegade cerebrate began to subside, and the overmind's control over the broods slowly returned like the second half of a storm. Some nearby zerg that were keeping their distance while I painted the target seemed to snap out of a trance and turn against me. But the few charging zerglings and pair of hydralisks stopped short as a deafening roar split the night air, muffling the thunder and lightning. The little laser clicked, blinking out suddenly as an arc of lighting stretched accross the sky. Zerglings suddenly exploded from Bane, flying through the air as a pair of giant synths flung outwards from the pile, slinging the tiny enemies away. They rose out of the ripping carpet of zerglings once more, and the deadliest of the zerg strains tore free from the hold of the inferior creatures. The friend I knew was gone, replaced by a wicked thing that trampled through the broods on several armored legs with deadly curved synths at the end of each one. The form of an overgrown lurker could be seen crushing dozens of zerglings at once and cutting rows of hydralisks down with blades that dwarf those of the cumbersome ultralisks lumbering over their brethren to stop the mammoth beast. Bane threw his huge synths into one of the ultralisks as they raised their Kaiser blades for the devistating attack, impaling it and then the world turned white. A burning hot light consumed my vision and the roar of the powerful nuclear explosion was the last thing I heard. I had a faint recollection of lying on my back, watching the ash rain down from the thundering sky above before everything went cold and dark.

Epilogue: Two days after Bane sacraficed his own life, for the second time, I sat up with a start and found myself staring at the dull yellow walls of a Protoss Citadel. At first I didn't believe the horrible nightmare I had was true until I made my way down the halls to the wide open door and the ruins of the terran base and the smoldering desert grimly reminded me. The rebel faction was completely wiped out by the zerg, Mengsk having deployed them, and some of his own men as well, in the desert to stop the Protoss from hindering his plans with the zerg. Of the hundreds of men and women serving on the field that day, a mere handful returned home to tell others what they had seen. Rakeem and his brethren, their mission complete, scraped together a new fleet and bid me farewell, departing for their homeworld. The governement fell into a state of disorder and eventually broke up without a leader. As for Mengsk, you know what happened to him. There were riots in the major cities and control of them fell to who ever had the biggest guns, but soon a uneasy peace settled again. The zerg were never seen again, except for a few stray zergling species that had turned feral and were incorporated into Khorhal's natural eco system. Packs never grew to numbers greater than four or five and there are no recorded accounts of an aggresive attack on Terrans resulting in a fatality.

As for me, life was very dull without my synth-swinging companion, but it did go on. I quit the military and I haven't fired a weapon since; in truth I developed a particular distaste for machines-you could say I hated them. For decades, I have lived quietly in the tranquil, open spaces of Khorhal, enjoying the seemingly endless days of peace brought by Bane's sacrafice long ago. But I secretly yern for the day of the zerg's return, just for the chance to speak to my friend again, just to see the wicked hydralisk grin full of jagged teeth and hear his voice in my mind once more.

To Be Continued...

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