"You know, kid, if what you're telling us is a lie and it endangers my soldiers' lives; I'll kill you myself." The general
said coldly to me. "Trust me," I said confidently, "If Mengsk was so quick to betray me, he wouldn't pass up the chance to
take out an enemy rebel faction and the protoss at the same time." The officer's voice rose in tone alittle, "Don't you think
Mandelle would contact us if there was any hint of trouble?" "Where is your commander?" I replied, pausing to letting the
truth take affect. "That's right," I answered for him, "With Mengsk and his troops back in the capitol. Mandelle is dead."
The two zealots slowed down more as they breached arcilite fire range, but still steadily approached the front lines. Multiple
targeting confirmations began crackling in from the siege tanks and marines maning the bunkers. The chief communications officer
turned to the General, who stood gazing at the monitor screen for a moment before answering, "Hold your fire." The communications
team began relaying the order back to the troops. The zealots stopped about five feet infront of one of the bunkers, amidst
rumbling siege tanks and humming missile turrets. The battle field was ghostly calm, not a breath of wind stirred. Even the
buzzing and bleeping of the command center seemed to fall silent before the general finally spoke up again, "Send a team down
to meet them, they don't appear to be hostile-" The commander stopped short as annoying buzzing noises began blaring from
the scanners. The adgetent droned to life, and blips starting pinging off of the radar screen by the dozen, "Multiple zerg
signals detected entering the sector," It reported calmly. "Do you believe me yet?" I yelled over the droning alarms. "Give
me a visual!!" the commander barked, and the screen flicked to an image of the south eastern front. The room fell to darkness
when the image changed, revealing what, at first, appeared to be an enourmous cloud rolling in over the land. The command
deck suddenly errupted in a roar of noise as the general began shouting orders and the officers shouted back. The alarms kept
going off, and the adgetent could be heard faintly beneath the panic. This was too much; I had to get out of there. I slowly
backed towards the door, until the lousy marine gaurding it gave me away, "Were do you think you're going?!" He barked. I
looked behind me to the panicking control room, and then back to the gaurd, "Don't you think you've got bigger problems to
deal with right now?" The atmosphere of the situation finally started infecting the thick-headed gaurd and he stepped aside
with a blank look on his face. I nodded and ran by him.
The chaos inside the command center couldn't possibly hope to match that of the battle outside. I looked to my left, towards
the sounds of gunfire, explosions, and the roar of the swarms as I stepped outside. Medics and marines ran by me, and a few
wraiths flew overhead. In the distance, I could vaugely make out a front line between the buildings. Missile turrets were
few and far in between-mainly due to the cluster of guardians bombing them with great blobs of green acid. For a few seconds,
I could do nothing but stand in awe of the raging battle. The corrosive fluids scorched thier way through the welded alloys
of the structures, which began toppling one at a time as the guardians concentrated their attack. The essential bunkers were
targeted next, but the seige tanks still stood with their arcilite cannons swiveling back and forth, furiously pounding the
tidal wave of zerglings rushing in. I decided I would help the rebels, even though one extra gun wouldn't add much firepower.
Checking the safety on my canister rifle, I began jogging to catch up with the marines, and the front line took on detail
and the sounds and sights of battle grew intenstly. Just as the bunkers came into view, a sizzling glob of acid hurtled into
the ground next to me. I jumped back as it exploded on impact, sending sand and rocks flying into the air. I only stumbled
alittle as I took off again, racing for the smoldering bunkers. The raining fire from the siege tanks and the hail of hot
lead and napalm from the bunkers kept the lightly armored zerglings at bay, but they pushed closer and closer with their charge
by sheer numbers as the guardians began taking a serious toll on the anti-air defense. I panted as I flipped my canister rifle
up, resting it on the slopped wall of a thundering bunker. I winced as the siege tanks defeaning arcilite cannons retorted
sharply, but I didn't hesitate to take aim at the floating monstrosities that rained acid. The canister rifle belched fire
as I squeezed of a C-10 round. A crimson little fireball dotted the armored beast in the sky, not seeming to slow the destruction
of the buidlings down at all, but the wraiths finally arrived on the scene and cloaked, taking the behemoths out with their
missiles one at a time. It was slow work, but reinforcements were on the way. Goliaths trudged past the command center by
the pair with the lumbering battle cruisers coasting in far overhead. The chattering of dozens of gauss rifles was muffled
by the rumbling auto cannons of the goliaths as the battlecrusiers took positions over the line, pelting the guardians with
the powerfull ATS lasers while the remaining ground forces fought the zerglings. My own thunking canister rifle was the only
thing I could hear clearly above the chaos, so I kept firing. Then, just as suddenly as the sounds errupted, the battle died
altogether as the endless flow of zerglings stopped short. A slight breeze kicked up a swirl of sand from the desert floor;
then siege tanks shattered the calm again. A wall of brown carapace came into view, as far as we could see on the southern
lines. The seige tanks fired in unison, pounding the hundreds of hydralisks that slithered toward us as one giant mob. Unlike
the zerglings, the combined hydralisks took the punishing blasts of napalm and kept coming, bouncing over the terrain with
their gangly synths. I fired another canister round into the field, missing a lead hydralisk by inches. A shadow covered the
stampeeding monsters and the goliaths' hellfire rockets sprang to life as flocks of scourge glided over the carpet of ground
units. The goliaths and bunkers flared, launching a thick blanket of bullets over the desert sand. Every hydralisk stopped
at once and began blasting volleys of needles at the lines. Led rain pelted the lead hydralisks, but they didn't cease their
powerful attack until the siege tanks fired again. Violent explosions rocked the ground and bloody gore splattered in the
distance as the hydralisks took casualties. Unexpectedly, the mob suddenly changed fighting tactics and advanced, heedless
of the bullets and napalm that rained on them. The small flying scourge hit the thick hulls of the mighty battle cruisers
like powerful missiles, ripping into the ships with screeching explosions. The hydralisks stopped again amidst the hail of
bullets and time seemed to slow down as they all opened their chest cavities at once, now dangerously close in range. I ducked
as the extreme volley of six inch spines devistated the bunkers and siege tanks. Fire and shrapnel plummeted to the ground
from the falling battle cruisers as a green mist blotted out the view of the enemy. The goliaths began trudging forward, steadily
laying into the swarm with their auto cannons. Needles rained against the front line in counter attack, tearing gashes in
the hulls of siege tanks and punching thick holes in the goliaths' reinforced armor. The bunkers' flashing gunfire seemed
to fade as they caught fire, chipping away beneath the onslaught of needles. The wraiths bravely ventered into the fray, hoping
the zerg detectors hadn't arrived yet, and began firing away at the armored beasts with their puny ATS lasers. The siege tanks
thundered again, but this time explosions not only came from the swarms, but from the terran defenses as well. Fireballs rose
up with plumes of smoke as 7 siege tanks faultered under the endless barrage of barbed spines from the hydralisks. The remaining
battle cruisers fell to the sand in pieces of flaming wreckage amoungst the raging battle as the cloaked wraiths slowly picked
hydralisks off one by one with impunity. But the hydralisks overpowered the failing defenses at a rate faster than the wraiths
and bunkers could handle at once. The goliaths began buckling by the pair, literally getting mowed down when the hydralisks
concentrated their attack. In a last ditch attemp to stop the zerg advance, the firebats poured out of the flaming bunkers.
Stimmed up, they sprinted into battle at inhuman speeds, unable to feel the pain of the thick volley of needles that maimed
them. The plan worked. The cracking of needle spines against the cement buildings faded as the hydalisks began focusing on
the problematic human blow-torches that lumbered over the sand to confront them. I took a quick glance at the terran line.
The bunkers were flaming wrecks, but the marines inside tirelessly fired bursts of impaler rounds at the enemy invaders. "It
looks like we might actually make it," I thought as I gunned away with my canister rifle.
The next second I realized that the idea of stopping the zerg attack was a vain one. Just when the hydralisks were down
to a few dozen and falling fast, the zerglings returned. They raced in by the hundreds, the massive numbers of them stretching
as far as I could see to the left and the right. Unfortunately, a flock of the slow, floating overlords lumbered into view
high over the shifting masses as well and the wraiths' cloak dissolved, leaving them vulnerable to about sixteen hydralisks.
The stampeeding zerglings flowed around the hydralisks and met the remaining firebats. Bounding heedlessly into the gushing
flames, the closest ones leapt for the panicking terrans at the center of the fire with miniture synths outstretched. The
flares of the brave firebats dieded as the horde literally ran them over. The hydralisks blasted a volley of needle spines
into the air, ripping the lightly armored wraiths to shreds of metal. Then, the roar of their engines could be heard faintly
as they attemped a retreat, but four wraith fighters were blasted out of the sky as the surging wave of zerglings met the
damaged bunkers. I backed away from the crumbling building, still plucking away at the zerglings one at a time as I backpedaled.
The scene was terrible and incredible at the same time; the screeching creatures covered the buidlings like huge ants, flowing
in at a rate faster than the marines inside could cut them down at close range with chattering gauss rifles. Wraiths spiraled
to the battlefield in fireballs of smoke and flame, exploding on impact amoungst the charging zerglings and sending a few
of them reeling through the air. The wraiths that managed to escape the volley of needles veered back around as they reached
the bunkers, hastily blasting a handful of zerglings at a time with their lasers. Above the faint gunfire, I heard the rumble
of heavy machinery and looked back to see a new squad of seige tanks rolling in. There weren't many, but it was better than
nothing. They all stopped abruptly with a whining of powerfull hydraulic motors. Steel arms extended from the tanks to the
ground to brace the machines for the powerful shock of the arciltie cannons that swivelled into position. The marines abandoned
the flaming wrecks of bunkers and 8 siege tanks thundered at once. The swarms flowed over the buildings as the marines fled
and were caught in the ripping shockwave of the arcilite blasts. Crimson explosions engulfed the advancing swarms, taking
the bunkers with them. But the few dozen the zerg had lost in the explosion didn't phase the numbers of their army, as the
carpet of bounding zerglings seemed to materialize by the hundreds out of the smoldering front line. The marines reached the
seige tanks and turned abruptly, letting loose a sheet of gauss fire on the the zerglings and the seige tanks's recoil rocked
the ground again, raining powereful napalm shells into the mob. The wraiths retreated to the safety of the marines gauss rifles
once more before the hydralisks caught up to the them. I suddenly realized, as I gunned away with the last rounds of my C-10,
that I've seen this once long ago, in the battle with the zerg on Tarsonis before I met Bane. It was the Terran's last stand
on the planet, as pathetic as it was, and here we were again; fighting another seemingly unwinnable battle with the endless
swarms of the zerg. The zerglings were so close I could see the blood thirsty look in their eyes when, just like the battle
before, massive shadows swept in over our army. I looked up amoungst the panicking marines and snarling zerglings, getting
an awesome view of eight carriers before their arbitor caught up, enveloping the ships in its cloak. But instead of incinerating
us all, the huge vessels began spewing miniture fighter ships that rocketed out from the carriers in tightly calculated formations,
spraying the advancing swarm of zerglings with their bright blue lasers. Explosions rocked the battlefield as the interceptors
flew in a circulating formation that dealt a steady stream of firepower, but the zergling army was far too vast. They still
leaked through and began reaching marines around me, tackling them to the ground, swinging viciously with their tiny synths.
One side of the terran offense, I saw as I looked to a new source of screams and exstatic gunfire, was nearly overrun. The
marines were surrounded and falling fast; the zerglings had even started to rip away at the seige tanks from inside their
minimal range. The situation began to spread as more and more zerglings pushed through the pummeling barrage of plasma attacks
from the Protoss interceptors and the remaining efforts of our tanks and guass rifles. My pulse raced as I fed round after
C-10 round into the surging mass of carapace that leapt and stabbed at the marines around me. I heard a marine yell for help
close by; two men went down, and the zerglings took advantage of the hole in the line. They charged headlong into the raining
bullets, taking another marine down. I swung my rifle up and took carefull aim at the zergling standing up above the marine
amidst the chaos. A fireball erupted from the small enemy as it toppled, head-first, into the sand. But three more bounded
around the injured terran and came straight for me. Another marine beside me had heard the commotion and turned to help with
his guass rifle, but he could only squeeze of a few rounds before he was hit in the side by yet another leaping zergling.
"Shit!!" I yelled involuntarily as I stumbled backwards, the falling soldier nearly taking me with him. I tried to swing the
long canister rifle back to the left, towards the zerglings I knew to be hot on my heels, but the barrel was knocked away
and something large and solid smashed me over backwards. I landed hard on my back and the screeching zergling rolled over
me with its own momentum. Despite having a hard time catching my breath again, I reached for my canister rifle as the zergling
got to its feet and leapt again while the the other two still bounded to catch up. The zergling seemed to sail through the
air in slow motion, it outstretched claws would not miss. But instead of dropping on top of me and tearing my organs out,
a long synth intercepted the zerglings flight path; nearly ripping it in two with the force of the blow. The other two were
in mid leap now, but it didn't matter. The satisfying "Splitch!" sound of Bane firing his powerful needle spines cracked the
air and one of the zerglings suddenly jolted back in the other direction; the impact sending it spiraling to the dirt. Another
sound came to my ear as well, a vaugely familiar "Whooshink!" of psionic blades cut the heaving static of battle for a brief
moment. The third zergling exlpoded into a mist of bloody gore that splattered to the ground as the dark templar materialized
before my eyes, giving me a quick nod before turning to help defend the marines and siege tanks from the zerg with the gracefull
I looked around and gasped to see several other dark templar, standing and fighting alongside the panicking terrans. The
carriers still held their positions, conductioning their fleets of interceptors and Bane stood above me with a slight grin
on his face, "Are we late?"
"Can you tell us what's happening?" asked the Commander wearily. Bane turned, glancing at the front lines. The flow of
the zerglings was finally brought to a hualt by combined efforts of the Protoss and the remaining Terran army. Although the
battle was won for now, there were no cries of victory after the smoke cleared. "They'll be back," Bane said calmly, "And
these forces won't be able to stop them again." "How are you so sure?" I asked, looking around at the terran base and the
protoss defenders that had come to its aid, "This army could be rebuilt, it won't even take a whole day-" "The zerg will return
with their true strength in two hours," Bane interrupted firmly, "The Overmind's will thunders accross the planet, louder
now than ever. The swarms are preparing a second attack." "Then it must be stopped, or at least slowed down." I replied. The
commander rubbed his face and sighed, as if unable to remember something, "Mengsk has two of the renegade cerebrates holed
up in the capitol building, if we could infiltrate the facility and destroy them, that may buy us some time." "That's quite
possible,"added the gangly dragoon that bobbed on tall metal legs above my head. I had come to recongnize him as the Dark
templar that saved me from mengsk's troops. He continued after a moment of concentration, "The overmind was defeated on Auir
with the same methods. Even with the mighty fleets at our command, their numbers were undescribable; destroying the cerebrates
will thin the swarms out considerably." "We've wasted enough time!" Bane growled, "And besides-I'd like to pay the Emperor
a visit. I owe him a slaughtering." My friend turned to the Terran General, "I need one of your machines," he commanded. The
rebel commander did a double take, "You don't actually think that you can fight your way past Mengsk's body guards and automated
weaponry single handedly, do you?!" "He won't be alone," I spoke up, "I'm going with him." The General threw his hands up
in frustration, "I can't believe this! I don't even have the first transport to spare anyway-" "Then I will provide a shuttle,"
the dark templar interrupted, turning to Bane and I, "And the air support you'll need to get within a mile of the capitol
building." "Very well," sighed the General, "I don't see any other way around it. Take anything you need from the supply depos,
I don't have enough soldiers to man the equipement as it is."
Florescent lights buzzed to life, illuminating the familiar sights inside the supply depo with a dull white light. The
new boots from the stolen ghost suit I still wore sqeaked as I paced across the floor to the wall of steel mesh containing
a supply of arms and ammunition. Bane ducked under the low doorway and slithered in silently behind me, stopping as he came
to the photon cooker. I groaned, staring at the small padlock that held the doors of the lockers shut. "Figures," I complained,
"They tell me to pick up some guns, but the things are all locked up when I get here." The hydralisk sidled over to the fusion
cooler and pulled back on the long handle with his synth, swinging the door wide open; A trick he had perfected weeks ago
on Char. "What's the special this week?" Bane asked, ignoring my difficulty with the padlock. I turned around and read the
label of the boxes stacked in the floor of the cooler. "Chicken," I said offhandedly, "Yaknow, you really should learn to
read sooner or later. There are some good books out there." Bane snorted, "Ha! I've got a better idea: since I don't have
hands, you get this box of 'Chicken' on the fire so I can have a decent meal and I'll unlock your machines." I laughed as
I walked over to the cooler and picked the box up, setting it on the counter next to the photon cooker. "Yeah, that IS a good
idea. The last time you tried to pick the box up yourself, you ripped it in half and spilled the chicken thighs everywhere."
I flipped the switch on the hotplate and it began radiating heat. "Wasn't my fault," Bane replied as he moved to the locker
and punched his synth through the thin metal easily, "And I ate most of them anyway." The hydralisk jerked the locker door
off its hinges and I dumped the box of chicken parts onto the steaming photon cooker. They began sizzling and Bane pushed
the stuck locker door off his synth with his free blade, letting it fall to the floor. I shook my head and grinned, "It still
made a mess when they thawed out, why didn't you go ahead and eat them all?" "That's just the problem," Bane replied, "I had
to eat them frozen solid and they were too crunchy." I laughed again, walking back to the locker and grabbing a few guns.
One canister rifle, one guass rifle, two sidearms along with extra ammunition and a few impact grenades; I was being modest
with weapons this time-just what I could carry. As I jammed a full clip into my new gauss rifle and jerked the bolt back,
the Hydralisk waited patiently for its food to cook, only drooling slightly. His table manners were improving. I laughed out
loud again, inspite of myself. "What's so funny?!" Bane asked hysterically. "Nothing," I chuckled as the smell of burning
chicken began to grow. Setting down the gauss rifle, I picked up the C-10 and began feeding cartridges into the magazine.
"Ah! Just right!" Bane exclaimed as he stabbed a charred drumstick and jammed it in his mouth. The chicken bones made Bane
sound like he was eating a giant stale cracker as he crunched the bones and meat easily before gluping the whole mess down
in one swallow. The cooking chicken smell reminded me that I hadn't had a proper meal myself in nearly two days, and hunger
had begun to stir, but watching the hydralisk snag up a second piece and devour it just as quickly as the first killed my
appetite altogether. Bane noticed the crossed look on my face and stabbed another piece, "You want some?" he offered. "No,
thanks," I gagged, "I'm not hungry."
The SCV's were in a nonstop rush to get the frontline back up again. The huge team had already gotten a rough net of missile
turrets back online, and were working hard to get the bunkers ready for the remaining marines and firebats who stood by waiting
and guarding. A squad of new tanks rolled off the assembly lines and rumbled past Bane and I, taking positions behind the
new bunker sites. The terrans didn't stand alone against the swarms this time; zealots stood in neat lines in front of the
hard-working SCV's with psionic blades ready. The majestic carriers still hung silently in the air, effortlessly defying gravity.
From where Bane and I stood, waiting for the dragooned Dark Templar, we spotted the hovering robotic slaves of the protoss.
The tiny machines gracefully scooted from one end of the terran lines to the other, creating rippling shows of light that
flashed into solid structures as both forces merged to form the next frontal defense. "Finally," Bane complained outloud.
I looked away from the armies and saw the templar wading towards us through the marching squads of marines and zealots. "You
always pretent to hate him just because he's Protoss," I teased. "Pretend?" Bane snarled, "It's in my genetics to dislike
them. They're our opposite half." "Really?" I raised one eyebrow in question, "I've never seen you show sympathy for anything
until he died." The hydralisk looked as if it had another wity response ready, but the Templar ended the conversation for
us, "Hurry, we have your ship ready and the escort is waiting!" I had to jog to keep up with the gangly machine as the templar
inside gave us the details, "We'll get you as close as we can. A roof drop would be risky due to the anti air defenses, but
we can get you within a city block easily." The dragoon led us to a shuttle that hovered soundlessly a mere inch off the ground.
"I would prefer to be dropped at street level anyway;" I replied, "Mengsk might know we're coming and we could get cornered
up there." "That is true, but you'll have to fight through the emperor's most potent defenses just to reach the second floor,"
the Dark Templar exclaimed, "And what if Mengsk attemps to make an escape before you destroy the cerebrates?" "That's were
I'm hoping that our escort will intervien, and as for the initial firefight, we have two key elements on our side. First,
we have the element Bane," I gestured toward the ten foot hydralisk posing next to me, "And second, we'll have the element
of surprize." The blue liquid inside the Dragoon could be heard sloshing around as the Dark templar floating in it agreed
with me, "Not the best plan I've ever heard, but it may suffice-" "We gotta get moving, the zerg will return soon." Bane interrupted.
"He's right," I snapped, picking up my canister rifle, "By the way," I said as Bane sidled up the ramp, ducking under the
door, "Are you ever going to give me your name, or am I going to have to refer to you as Templar all the time?" I could still
sense a bit of life stir inside the cold shell as the Dark Templar answered, " If you must know, I've been called Rakeem by
my friends for centuries. You may use it as well." I nodded, "Thank you, Rakeem, for your help." "Good luck," he replied as
I turned and jogged up the ramp into the shuttle.
The highly efficient Protoss shuttle soared along silently, in contrast to the lumbering dropships the Terrans used for
transports. But due to a complete lack of windows, we couldn't see the nine sleek corsairs at our flanks as we reached the
city limits and began passing over the first few businesses and homes at the edge of the capitol. But the front windshield
offered a view of the sky scrappers and taller structures as we neared the center of the capitol. There was no cockpit at
all, the shuttle piloted itself , leaving most of the space inside the compact ship for cargo and soldiers. I've always admired
the protoss for their incredible efficiency. Just when I was starting to enjoy the smooth ride, the shuttle dipped down at
a sharp 45 degree angle. The G forces of the dive held me in my seat but Bane began sliding forward to the front of the ship.
"I hate machines," The hydralisk growled, stopping just short of the glass windshield as he stabed a synth into the wall for
a brace. Through the small windshield, I could see the squadron of wraiths that served as the Emperor's protective escort.
The scream of their jet engines could be heard through the hull of the shuttle as the wraiths raced in a tight formation to
meet our corsairs. The protoss fighter ships glared with light as their thrusters accelerated the light crafts instantly.
Streams of smoke trailed ahead of the wraiths from the twin gemini missiles they fired, but the corsairs paid no heed to the
flying bombs and concentrated their nuetron flares on Mengsk's escort. The missiles meet the corsairs in midair, exploding
on impact. The corsairs' blue plasma sheilds strobed as they absorbed the shock of the attack and flew through the flames,
still thrashing the wraiths with their nuetron flares. Armor plating tore away from the terran ships violently as they began
evasive manuevers. Suddenly, a single wraith broke away from the churning dogfight and dove down far ahead of us. We were
still in a low angle dessent when the wraith fighter leveled out in front and fired its gemini missiles at our shuttle. They
streamed straight for the windshield of the ship, but our view was blotted out by a rippling blue light. The ship jolted from
the impact, and the autopilot responded immeadiatly. I could definately feel a change in direction as the plasma shield became
transparent again and a vertical view of the overlapping lanes of evening traffic and the wide street a mile below filled
the windshield. "Hold onto something," I said nervously. Bane just shuddered and stabbed his other synth through the floor
as the ship plummeted straight down, weaving wildly through unforseen gaps in the flow of the flying city commuters. The persuing
wraith launched another set of missiles at our shuttle, but once again, their explosive impact was asorbed by the protective
shields that lay just inches over the hull. The jolt was still felt inside our ship and the blue fields blocked the windshield
once more. When it cleared again, the shuttle broke free of the rush hour traffic and the cracked cement of the unused street
loomed just ahead. I was sucked into my seat as the the agile craft twisted in the air, leveling out over the street and swerving
into an ally. The wraith was too big to follow us bewteen the buildings, but it had one last shot at the fleeting yellow shuttle.
"I think we got away," I sighed with relief. "Don't be so sure," Bane said just before another explosion cracked against the
plasma shields, causing the ship to rock and weave. The stone wall on the left side suddenly rushed to meet the hull of the
ship and the blue shield flashed brilliantly for a brief second as its remaining power shorted itself out on the solid wall
of the building. The impact sent the ship reeling back to the opposite wall as the dazzling light of the dying plasma shield
faded out for the last time. The windshield shattered and wind rushed in as the shuttle hammered against the stone building.
The ear splitting wrench of ripping metal screeched from the hull and pieces of the ship tore free when it began crashing
from wall to wall in a series of devistating collisions that ate speed and killed the engines. Without the thrusters, the
once nimble protoss ship now flew like a brick, falling to the pavement in a steep arch. Upon impact, Bane's synths ripped
free of the floor and wall and he smashed from wall to wall in the shuttle as it tumbled to a stop, slinging shrapnel in all
directions. I got one last look at the world rolling end over end in the windshield before I blacked out.
I wasn't out long, but it was enough to disorrient me. I didn't know which way was up and my vision wouldn't focus well.
It was hard to remember were I was until Bane spoke up, "You okay?" I groaned and rubbed my eyes, determined to find something
that made sense in the dim light. "Yeah, I'm fine." I finnally managed when my head cleared. The first thing I noticed was
that I was held upside-down in my seat by the safety restraints. Light leaked in from multiple rips and holes in the hull
and pieces of the floor panels hung down by cables and wires like dead things. "How do we manage to crash every ship we get?"
I complained as the hydralisk cut my seat belts. The last strap snapped unexpectedly and I fell to the cieling, landing on
my canister rifle. "Graceful," Bane complimented sarcastically. "Oh, shit," I swore, ignoring the joke as I noticed the extra
clips for my guass rifle scattered around the shuttle. I had set my ammuition belt and my guns behind the seat before leaving
without thinking much about it. When the ship rolled, my guns and ammunition were slung out of the broken windshield and scattered
all over the ally. My canister rifle and about half of the gauss rifle clips were still inside the ship, as well one of my
sidearms. Bane and I searched around the ally and found the other .45 sidearm, the gauss rifle and four more clips for it,
but the ammunition belt with the extra C-10 canisters still eluded us. After a few quick minutes of unsuccessful searching,
I spoke up, "Did we look everywhere? I'll just leave them-we don't have time for this." "Wait," Bane said, sidling back over
to the desimated protoss craft, "Could they be under the shuttle?" I just shrugged and the hydralisk punched both synths into
the hull of the shuttle and hefted one side of it up with only a small growl of effort. I dropped to the pavement and peeked
under the ship. It's always in the last place you look. Crawling under the heavy transport, I snagged the buckle with one
fist and dragged it out. Bane set the ship down again and jerked his synths free of the crumpled metal, "Let's go."
Surface streets are usually busy near the middle of town, but a chilling calm had was all that inhabited the desserted
pavement outside the ally. Maybe it was the fact that the city had just narrowly avoided being run over by the zerg, or perhaps
the threat of another, stronger attack, that kept the bustling foot commutters in their homes. Wide cement steps led up to
the foot of the skyscrapper, where tall stone columns seperated tinted glass walls with multiple sets of double doors leading
into the building. The setting suns shone with with their last light of the evening, creating a translucent glare on the bullet
proof glass. Although the view of the outside was a bit obstructed by the bright light, the servalence cameras hanging outside
showed four different pictures of the lifeless stone steps. The security officers slumped in their chairs as they stared blankly
at the same bland monitors. "When's quiting time?" One of them asked outloud, "Shut up, Joe! You complain too much." The other
barked back. While they argued, the montonous video screens changed. A single Ghost in light rebel armor struted up the steps
carrying a canister rifle. "Hold on, Lewy, we got something here." I pushed the glass door open and strode into the capitol
building with ammunition belts brimming with clips and grenades and the gauss rifle on my back. "Hey, you!" One of the guards
stood up abruptly and barked at me, "You can't come in here armed like that, stop where you are!" "Whats the problem?" I asked
in a bored tone as continued to approach the metal detector. "Its not me you should be concerned with; I would be more worried
about him if I were you," I laughed, pointing over my shoulder with my thumb. They unholstered their sidearms and stood up,
but it was too late.The glass door and most of the wall around it seemed to explode as Bane charged through it, sending thick
shards of glass flying everywhere. I Swung my canister rifle to the left and let one of the guards have it. He screamed as
the barrel belched fire and the canister hit him in the chest. It exploded, sending the gaurd reeling to the floor as the
automated defense system came to life. What had appeared to be tiles in the floor rose up abruptly, each one revealing 2 sets
of chainguns mounted underneath. The machines wound up and blinding flashes lit the darkest corners of the tall cieling. Sheets
of bullets wizzed over my head as I dove to the floor and took aim at one of the insane spinning machine guns. Bane leapt
onto the security desk as the second guard held his sidearm out at length, but the the snarling hydralisk swatted the puny
weapon away just before the officer was cut down by his own defense system. He hit the floor beside me as I pulled the trigger,
releasing an explosive canister that engulfed one of the auto-cannons in a crimson explosion. Bane growled as he was caught
in a bursts of automatic fire; the bullets peppering his carapace, but doing little to slow him down as he lunged for the
closest machine gun. I fed another explosive round into the chamber of my rifle as the hydralisk impaled the machine and growled
with furious effort, tearing the bolts free from the cement anchors and lifting the sparking auto cannon above his head. I
pelted another chain gun with one of the powerfull grenades and Bane heaved the machine accross the room. It sailed through
the air before landing hard on the floor and tumbling into another chain gun, rendering them both offline. "Four guns down
and only a dozen to go," I thought to myself as I reloaded with another explosive round. Bane lunged again, bringing both
synths down on another auto-cannon, crumpling it to the floor. I pulled the trigger once more, missing my first target but
clipping the chaingun behind it. It toppled over with the impact, and the hydralisk slithered through the angry hail of bullets
to the next autocannon, cutting it down with one brutal swing before moving on to the next one. Smoke billowed through the
room from the raging gun barrels and smoldered from the ravaged machines, choking me and burning my eyes, but I still plucked
away at the automated defenses with my canister rifle. The thundering machines eventually faded away and died all together
as the panting hydralisk smashed the last auto-cannon. Pieces of plaster could be heard falling off the walls in the sudden
silence, making crumbling noises while the smoke cleared. I stood up wearily, "That wasn't so bad." Somehow, I was completely
out of breath. "That's easy for you to say," Bane complained as I approached, "You didn't have to fight these things while
beging hit with your own wieght in lead." Bane's carapace was scuffed beyond recognition; the bullets had made an uncountable
amount of deep scratches and dimples in the thick armor. "Don't worry about me," the hydralisk read my thoughts, "We've got
a job to do." I shook my head and reloaded the canister rifle, "You're right. Lets go find the cerebrates." Bane started sidling
toward the elevators, but stopped infront of the closed doors and waited for me to walk up and push the button for him. The
doors slid open with their trademark "Ping!" and we stepped inside, although Bane had to duck under the doorway. Just as we
turned around and the doors began to close, several powersuits could be seen lumbering up the capitol steps before the doors
slid shut with one last "Ping!"
The elevator lurched to life seconds after I pressed the button for the next floor. When it came to a stop again, Bane
spoke up aburptly, "Keep going-there's nothing here." I only shrugged and pressed the button, "How do you know?" "The cerebrates
amplify the Overmind's will-I can home in on them when they're this close," the hydralisk responded. "They?" I asked while
the elevator hummed away. "There are two of them here," he answered. "The last time the Overmind was around, you had trouble
controling yourself. What's different now?" Bane thought for a few seconds before answering, "I'm not sure how I am able to
resist the will of the swarms, despite the fact that I can still sense it clearly." I nodded, taking the information in. A
short silence held the crampt little square of the elevator until I asked another question, "What's happening out there? Can
you tell?" My friend sighed in concenration before replying, "The Overmind is driving the broods against the city to reclaim
it's cerebrates, and they're winning...we must hurry." Silence reigned again, save for the mechanical sounds of the elevator,
but it was Bane who spoke up this time, "Stop here!" He said suddenly. I jammed my my fist into the emergency stop button
and the elevator came to a hault. The doors slid open, revealing the wide hallway of the hangar bay. Strangely, this hall
was lightly guarded. Only a survailence camera stood watch at the end of the hall. "It's here somewhere..." Bane trailed off.
"Let's start looking; I'll take this door," I said, I walking to the first door on the left. Hoping that Mengsk hadn't changed
the hangar combinations since yesturday, I punched the code into the keypad next to the hatch as Bane slithered down the hall.
He looked at each door in passing until he reached the fith one. Stopping and hammering both synths into the door, he tore
them through it lengthwise. The metal curled back on itself as the powerful hydralisk peeled the rip wide open and forced
its way into the hangar. I shrugged and steped through my door when it opened with a hiss. Once inside the first hangar, the
lights flickered on automatically. Unfortunately, they only illuminated a dull grey repair hangar with a dropship parked in
front of a tall door, no cerebrates. With a gasp, I suddenly realized that this was the same hangar Bane and I had landed
in when we rescued the advisor. I didn't have much time to spare, enemy troops would be here any minute; the survuilence camera
mounted in the cieling assured that. But there was one weapon I left in the dropship that I always thought I would need some
day, and I felt compelled to retrieve it before moving on to the next room.
The scientists buzzing around the cerebrate worked frantically to find a way to bring the zerg back under their control.
Both cerebrates outgrew the biggest of criotanks and had to be moved to the largest rooms in the building, along with the
tables of chemistry equipement and electronic gizmos that always accompanied them. The bustling flock of genetic engineers
and biologists echoed like static off the tall steel walls of Hangar 8, until the resounding impact of synth against metal
crashed from the closed door. The terran scientists backed away as Bane hacked a long rip through the wide steel barrier and
rammed through the gap, crumpling back the reinforced armor plating. He sidled down the ramp, and inspecting the crowd of
writhing terrans with an angry snarl. They huddled against the farthest wall, armed with thick tablets of calculations and
and lab coats instead of armor and guns. The hydralisk took one a glance at the cerebrate that occupied most of the space
in the hangar, and turned back towards the frightened scientists, sending them his phsycic voice with an rumbling growl, "Run
if you want to live!" They didn't need to be told twice. The engineers and scientists scrambled towards the exit, staying
as far away from Bane as they could in the process. While they poured out of the hole in the door, Bane slowly approached
the cerebrate that dwarfed the machines it sat amoungst. Like a giant, overweight centipeed, the pulsing creature filled the
hangar. The multiple stubby legs protruding out of its body were completely useless for walking. It was also coated in some
discusting, sticky fluid that ran off in sheets and made puddles on the floor. "I'm glad I'm not this kind of cerebrate,"
Bane thought to himself as he raised both synths high and brought them down on the worm's rounded skull with all his strength.
Blood splattered and the creature screeched in pain when the synths met the rocky carapace, smashing through to the stinking
fluids inside. The cerebrate shuddered convulsively as blood and organs spilled from the huge gash running down its forehead
and then everything faded away. The hydralisk lost conciousness as the cerebrate died and their minds became one for a few
seconds, but it seemed like years...
...There were the cerebrates, and the overmind towering above them all. The numerous swarms churned around them, flowing
forth from them like raging clouds, consuming all in their path...They stopped at nothing to be the sole surviving species
in the universe...it became their one driving force in life, one that the Overmind had forged since its creation long ago.
The swarms ravaged planets, crushing all life in their path, innocent or otherwise; incorporating the strongest of the species
they encountered into their genetic fold...
...Then the ancient records of the past shifted, taking shape of the present's images. The familiar battlefield was visibile
through a clear spot that grew out of the consuming glare, suddenly dragging the swirling dreams into a world of overwelming
detail that mocked reality. The evening sunlight began flickering out before sunset behind the rumbling thunderstorm rolling
in over the dark battlefield. Pylons glowed dully, casting long shadows; shilloettes of the rows of bunkers and photon cannons
that would soon stand against unbeatable odds. High Templar stood behind the limited protection of the defenses, pooling their
energy for the vital psionic storms as the remaining tank squadron stood with their barrels aimed south, awaiting the tides
of armored carapace...The errie calm was shattered violently by the thundering seige tanks as the endless flood of zerg warriors
began. Charging in by the hundreds, their numbers stretched across the horizon; the pounding attacks of siege tanks, guass
fire, and photon cannons began causing the futile casualties to the zerg. Revears released their deadly robotic scarabs that
zipped accross the battlefield, meeting the lead zerglings with the pelting streams of bullets and the raining napalm, creating
thumping blue explosions that rivaled the ariclite shock cannons. Despite the extreme volley of the combined terran and protoss
defenses, the inumerable oceans of broods swelled against the punishement, driving closer and closer to the front lines. In
unison, 8 tiny glaring lights flashed from behind the lines: the High templar. Just before the charging masses of zerglings
got too close, a wide crackling wall of brilliant psionic arcs crashed to life, creating a destructive sheild of lighting
that annihilated anything that attemped to pass through it. The view of the swarms vanished breifly as the rippling energy
consumed the battlefeild, but the powerful attacks suddenly ended and the unstoppable flow of zerg began again. The templar
drained their psionic reserves, calling on the massive storms once more. More zerg broke through amisdt the crushing lighting
and pummeling defenses of the armies, assualting bunkers and photon cannons. They were gunned down brutally as the rippling
psionic energy held the swarms at bay for the last time. The protective lighting blinked out, but the desprate defenders fired
on as the smoldering battlefield rumbled to life with the living carpet of zerg invaders once again. The swelling waves of
zerglings overcame the forces of the attackers this time. Sqauds of zealots crumbled as dozens of zerglings threw themselves
into the noble warriors at a dead run, trampling over them in a rampaging charge for the bunkers and cannons. The unstoppable
numbers built up against the the stalwart defenses, mangling photon cannons and piling on top of bunkers despite the flames
and chattering bullets of the terrans inside. Siege tanks were hacked to peices by the dozens of ferocious creatures that
surrounded them. Reavers were destroyed as they ran out of scarabs and attemped to flee. Blue and red flames began to spring
up from the lines, exciting the broods to new furies. Buildings began toppling, and both the brave Terrans and noble protoss
began helplessly falling to the neverending onslaught of the broods. Suddenly, a ripping blue light made the leaping flames
of the burning buildings seem duller than cold ashes. Shockwaves thrashed the ground as four mighty Archons emerged, approaching
the churning battle wielding the strength of raw psionic power. The swarming creatures screeched in outrage as the unworldly
beings showered them with psionic energy. The bunkers crashed to the rocky dirt leaving the marines and firebats to climb
out of the wreckage. They began to stand and fight the mounting zerg with their puny weapons, but the Acrhons all told them
the same thing with crashing phsycic voices, "SAVE YOURSELVES!!" The towering forms of the archons were smothered by the brown
carapace that flowed past the failed defenses, the archons sacrafice only delayed the invitable...Rain began thrashing down
as the storm broke, releasing powerful polts of lighting that crashed accross the sky as the base was overrun by the zerg.
The protoss called on every warrior in their army and brought ever ship in their fleets, but there was no stopping the destruction
of the terran base. The zerg were winning, mounting more and more numbers against the helpless factories and barracks. The
dwindling numbers of defenders fell back repeatedly, always retreating further into the base until there was nowhere left
to go. The base was gone in a matter of minutes, leaving only the protoss encampment for shelter. A few surviving terrans
escaped, just steps ahead of the ravaging swarms that came to crush the protoss base from two sides. The same scenes were
repeated again, but faster. Without the terran backup, the photon cannon defense was down in seconds...
...The vision faded as the overwhelming broods began to crush the protoss bass...but something incredible happened. Zerglings
tumbled to the ground in mid run, and mutalisks spiraled lifelessly to the dirt. The broods suddenly began falling dead by
the hundreds, mysteriously dropping the ground as if someone had hit a switch....The overmind's delicate control of the massive
swarms was shattered as one of its cerebrates was destroyed...
...They would come again, eager to resume thier plans of destruction and assimulation-but there was something different.
The driving force that swayed the broods to annihilate life shifted, now turning against a new threat...one they could not
rid themselves of; for it rose from their own ranks....
Then the vision suddenly started dissolving as a sensation from another realm began punching holes in the world like heavy
rain. Bane strained to see more, but the downpour began changing viciously; stamping out the last remaining embers of the
dieing picture. All that remained was the feeling that grew into something familiar: Pain.
Sorry for the break in the story, but this chapter is so long that Tripod's puny site building program can't handle it.
Don't fret, just click Here to view the second half of the chapter.
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