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Bane 4: To Free a Hero
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Created and written by the immortal deadfast
 

“Awaken my child, you are recalled to life,” the ghostly message drifted through the fog, seeping into the void from the mortal world beyond.

“But father, my rest is so peaceful…I cannot bear to leave this shining place.” The faded voice came again, stronger this time,

“Ah, but you must! You are an agent of the swarm, and therefore eternal,” Again, he attempted to resist the call from beyond,

“Still I cannot, My flesh has failed me, father.” It boomed through now, shattering the serenity of the void,

“Behold! It will be made anew-faster, stronger and more deadly that you might further aid my will.”

“What is so dire that you must uproot me from my happiness?” The Overmind’s voice echoed through the void again,

“Although my will is unquestionable, I will tell you. Terrans have come to our home world and threatened my rebirth into the swarm. Even now they wander closer and closer to the place of my essence. You must not allow them to leave here alive!” Slowly, the comforting glow of the void faded into blackness and the harsh senses of the world leaked in....

“Third defense garrison, reporting in,” I droned into my headset. I didn’t want to join the killing again, but I was drafted into the militia. I had seen enough death on my short adventure with a truly unique Hydralisk-I didn’t want to be anywhere near a war after that. Whatever Bane did that day on the orbital platform saved our Terran asses. Some of my friends told me about it when I came back to the planet. They said that the orbital platform exploding was visible from the surface. Just as soon as it went up in flames, the zerg crushing our defenses suddenly stopped. The zerglings stopped in mid-charge, just standing there until our meager defenses mopped them up. Overlords and mutalisks dropped out of the sky like someone had hit a switch. It was a mystery to everyone but me. I knew what happened. Bane killed the queen of blades and her forces, without a leader, were scattered and broken. The dominion was positive that is was their stalwart defenders-not Bane’s brave sacrifice, that stopped the zerg-I knew the truth. But orders are orders, and it was time to get back to business. Resources were running thin on Tarsonis and “this remote ash world may hold some value” as my commanding officer put it. I sighed and waited for our order to move out. We had arrived at the patrol point a half an hour ago and it was getting cramped waiting in the dropship with three marines and two goliaths. Finally, the message crackled into our headsets,

"Alright boys, head out and sweep the perimeter for hostiles. Sensors show zerg signals on the planet, so be careful!" I shouldered my gauss rifle and pushed the button to open the cargo door.

"Rodger that," I replied as the marines helped back the goliaths out of the dropship. The patrol started plainly enough, trudging along in the ash with the marines in front and the goliaths lumbering along behind. It was getting close to evening and we were finishing our rounds when the little hostile alarm on my arm started bleeping. I reached down to my forearm and hit the button on my power suit to shut the noisy thing off. I looked back to the goliath pilot,

"Wada we got, Slick?" I asked into my headset. The goliath pilot rummaged around with the controls a minute before answering,

"Comsat identifies one bogey-20 yard radius."

"Alright" I said, "Fan out and find this critter so we can get going. Don't go being a hero either-yell when you find something." The marines gave me nods and the goliaths trudged off. It wasn't even a minute into our search when a gargled scream exploded into our headsets. We all came back together at the source of the transmission and found Joe decapitated and crumpled in the dirt. I bent down and picked his dog tag out of the puddle of blood that spread around his body.

"Damn!" I said, staring down at the mess, "Slick, radio command and tell em' we have a situation in sector three thirty fi-" I never got a chance to finish because the dirt I was standing on showered up around me. The earth heaved up beneath me and sent me sailing head over heels to land flat on my back, knocking the wind out of my lungs and my gun somewhere back behind me. Gasping to regain my breath, I could do nothing but sit and watch the terrible scene unfold before me. Some kind of dirty monster had launched itself out of a burrow and didn't hesitate a second attacking us, slashing with deadly blades. The marines couldn't squeeze off a shot before they were cut down instantly by a flash of scythes. The goliaths turned to fire when the beast, it resembled a hydralisk-I wasn't sure because of all the dirt that stuck to it, lunged in and tackled one of the goliaths to the ground and started wrenching its arms off. Slick yelled into his headset and let the twin auto cannons rip. The creature turned with servos and sparking cables hanging from its mouth and scythes just as the barrels wound up to speed. Fire blazed from the barrels, lighting the area around us with bright flashes. The bullets peppered the hydraulics, bouncing and sparking off its thick carapace. It stumbled back for just a second before snarling and charging in, despite the hail of bullets that chipped and ricocheted off its carapace. It impaled the goliath and ripped its scythes back out through the sides, the metal body of the machine splintering open. I gasped for air and crawled to my gun. The goliaths guns sparked and shorted out and the Hydralisk smashed the cockpit open, devastating the pilot with its scythes. I reached my rifle and stood up, blasting the hydralisk with impaler rounds. It dropped the tattered machine to the ground and turned on me. It sidled in faster than I could back up and I stumbled back against a boulder, smashing my head against hard rock. I screamed and fired my rifle for all I was worth. The bullets didn't seem to phase the hydralisk-the shots just bounced off and he kept coming. The terrible beast reached me and swung one scythe forward for a stab at me. I tried to move at the last minute, but I was just a little too slow. The scythe caught me in the shoulder, impaling me painfully against the rock wall. I screamed and dropped my gun, my whole arm was pulsing in tight little waves of pain. The snarling hydralisk reared the other scythe back and for just a second, our eyes met. I winced and screamed again; grabbing vainly at the thick scythe with my good arm as the beast's eyes narrowed-studying my face. I panted, staring back at the monster that was delaying my death. The scythe it had reared back to make the deadly blow eased forward again, pressing against the side of my face. He forced my head from one side to the other, staring into my eyes. Despite the pain, I grew silent in cold fear, waiting for it to rip my throat out, until a familiar voice pierced my mind,

"Charley?" it asked.

"W-W-What?" I managed to stammer. The hydralisk's eyes grew wide and the voice came again,

"Is that you, mortal?" I shook my head, not believing what I was seeing or hearing. It couldn't be, Bane was killed on that orbital platform. I winched from a sharp twinge of pain in my wounded shoulder,

"Bane?!" I gasped between my clenched teeth. The hydralisk pulled its scythe back from my head and it's fierce snarling stopped abruptly,

"Oh shit! I didn't know it was you!!" It said to me hastily. "I'm SO sorry about this! I really didn't know it was you-all you Terrans look alike! You might still live, I don't think it broke any bones yet," He slowly started to ease the scythe in my shoulder back and my world exploded in spasms of pain. I yelled my lungs out and Bane held very still. My teeth even chattered with the pain, making it hard to talk straight,

"God," I hissed between my teeth, "Am I sure glad it's you!"

"We gotta’ get this scythe out," he pleaded, "try to hold still-I'll pull it out on the count of three." I nearly started whimpering before he got to three. Then the hydralisk jerked its scythe back so fast my breath caught in my throat, making the world change colors before my eyes with the pain. My voice finally came back and I let the whole planet know how much pain I was in. Bane winched and apologized repeatedly,

"I mean it, I truly didn't know it was you! How bad is it? I don't know much about Terran anatomy, except that it's very fragile." I leaned against the rock and let my body slide down the wall. I tore a piece off gauze from my field kit, clumsily wrapping it with one hand. Blood covered my shoulder and ran down my arm onto the ash. The wound was deep and wide, but luckily for me it was more of a flesh wound. I still bled like a stuck pig and complained like a sissy over the pain.

"You will live, won't you?" Bane finally asked. I winced and tightened the gauss around my shoulder with my teeth and my good arm, tying it in a big knot over the wound. I gave one last tug on the gauss and it snapped tight against the gash, bringing a single tear to my eye. Blood started seeping through, so I wrapped the remainder of my gauss around it. I finally looked up at the creature that claimed to be Bane. It stood watching me curiously, worry all over its face.

"I really didn't mean it," he said again. I looked over at my fallen comrades for the first time, then back up at Bane, "

Why?" I asked solemnly. Bane looked at the ground, nearly shrinking from shame,

"I couldn't help it, I wasn't in control. I was just following orders!" he stammered. "I'm truly sorry, Charley, if only I had known-" "Don't worry about it," I cut him off,

"I didn't know them very well, anyway. I just don't know how I'm going to explain what happened." Banes head drooped more. "Hey!" I said, trying my best to smile and cheer him up, despite the throbbing wound in my arm, "How did you get off that station?" I was curious, after all. Bane looked up abruptly, apparently glad I wasn't holding a grudge.

"I didn't," he reported.

"But how..." I started to ask before Bane held up one scythe and started the whole story; telling me how he ignored my pleas and continued into the vespene reactor room. He told in detail about his fight with the hunter-killer and then how he sacrificed himself to kill the queen of blades. I sat and listened to his tale in awe.

"But if you died in the explosion, how are you here now?" Bane sighed before telling me,

"I was reincarnated by the overmind. He told me that terrans were threatening his rebirth and he commanded me to do what I did to your squad."

"Why did you obey him?" I asked. Bane shrugged

"I don't have a choice. His will booms on and on, never ending until I complete his wishes. Eventually, it's like the overmind takes control of me, I cannot stop myself. I can barely keep control of my own actions and thoughts as it is."

"Really?" I said, "What is he telling you to do now?" Bane grimaced, allowing the madness to flood in for just a second.

"It's telling me to slaughter you and finish the job," His answer surprised me,

"Wow," I said, "Remind me never to ask his will again." Bane looked down at my shoulder, watching the blood seep through every bandage and strip of gauss tape I had.

"You need to have that looked at," he told me, "From past experience, I can tell you that scythe wounds usually don't stop bleeding." I nodded,

"You're right. A medic should heal this. Let's get back to my ship before I get delirious from blood-loss." I got up slowly, using my gauss rifle for a cane. As I stood up, I noticed that I was even shorter than Bane than before. I stopped and took a closer look in the fading sunlight. Bane was definitely different-he was easily a foot taller. He noticed my staring and asked,

"What?"

"Damn, man! What have the zerg been feeding you? You been working out or something?" Bane only looked more confused. "You got bigger, you're built like a tank!" Bane realized what I was talking about and started moving again,

"Oh, yes. The overmind did make me a little more efficient for killing. It's the only advantage I've found that comes with being enslaved to the zerg." I hobbled along beside him, nurturing my bad arm,

"How do you know were my ship is?" I asked. He answered me, but kept moving steadily,

"I saw you come in." Bane slid easily over the rocky trail I was stumbling on. It was nearly dark before we reached the dropship, having to stop constantly so I could untangle my senses from the traffic jam of pain pulsing from my shoulder.

     The dull, boxy shape of the drop ship was a welcome sight as we finally approached it. I sighed with relief as I felt the cold steel of the drop ship's hull under my hand. I pressed the button for the cargo ramp and trudged up the steel grate when it came down. I turned and motioned for Bane to follow me. He shook his head,

"Are you sure I won't get shot at this time?" He asked. I gasped. I hadn't even thought of what to tell my commanding officer when he asked me why two marines and a pair of goliaths turned up missing under my command.

"That's right, we hafta cook up some story or they'll have both our heads," We stood thoughtfully for nearly a half an hour before deciding that we would think better once we were in the air. I eased into the pilots seat and fumbled with the controls. The cargo ramp creaked in protest as Bane heaved his bulky frame into the ship. I heard a sudden dull "Clang!" and turned around to see Bane rubbing his head with one scythe. He ducked a little and negotiated the small doorway. I chuckled and started flipping switches, powering the ship up. The engines winded up to speed and the rear cargo door closed with a drone of electric motors and a metallic clang. The thrusters threw ash around the ship in a circle as it slowly heaved off the ground.

It was a short ride back home. As we approached the front line, I could tell something was amiss. The SCV's, marines and siege tanks were gone. All the major production buildings were gone-only a few scattered supply depo’s and add-ons remained. Control towers, covert ops, nuclear silos, and machine shops stood alone. The empty bunkers stood silently, somehow still seeming to guard the deserted base.

"Looks like everyone packed up and left," I said.

"That's good" Bane said, "Now you won't hafta explain anything, I guess." I laughed,

"And you won't get shot at, either." I brought the ship to a smooth, hovering stop between a pair of supply depo’s and an abandoned missile silo. I opened the cargo hatch and walked out behind Bane. I gasped; the base looked like everyone just dropped what they were doing and took off; Guass rifles, canister rifles and even a few of the medics Tissue Regeneration Accelerators were laying around. I walked over to one of the medic's TRA’s and picked it up out of the ash,

"Just what I need," I said and checked the power supply. 14 points of energy remained-not enough for a full recovery but a band aid would suffice once this little puppy did it's work. Bane slithered up to see what I found,

"Those things," said Bane, remembering the medic that healed him, "Are the only machines I like." I activated the TRA and awkwardly pointed it backwards at myself. Its little gamma reactor started and a soft white light flashed over me. I watched in amazement, no matter how many times I've seen it done, as the wound stopped bleeding and the skin sealed over the wound like magic.

"Machines," Bane growled, "What would you Terrans do without them?" I laughed and pulled the useless gauss and tape off my shoulder,

"Let's go see what they left us with," I suggested.

"Good idea, " Bane said, obviously excited, "I haven't had a decent meal since those things you got me from the other supply depo!" I started walking toward a depo and Bane followed closely behind,

"Really? What have you been eating all this time?" Bane shivered with memory,

"You don't want to know."

"I'll take your word for it," I said as I reached out and turned the latch on the door.

"Damn, " I said, "It's locked!" Bane pushed me aside,

"Allow me." I smiled and watched Bane test his improved size and strength on the steel structure. He didn't impale it as I expected, instead he just lazily smashed the door off its hinges, taking part of the wall with it. I could have swore that I saw the supply depo lurch over a few inches with the impact.

"If being an agent of the swarm doesn't work out for you, you could definately make a good locksmith," I laughed as I walked past the grinning hydralisk into the supply depo. I flipped a circuit breaker and the lights flickered on.

"I don't get it," he said, sidling in behind me.

"Never mind," I said, chuckling again, "Didn't you say you're hungry?" Bane nodded his head vigorously. I got the crate of hamburger patties out of the fusion locker and fired up the photon cooker. It's flat surface started glowing red hot and I picked up the crate of hamburger and turned to Bane,

"How many do you want?" I asked. He gave me a bored look and reached out delicately with the point of one scythe and tipped the box over in my hands, spilling the whole crate-50 patties-on the photon cooker.

"That's enough," he said, studying the pile of frozen hamburger sizzling on the hot plate. I groaned and pulled out the biggest spatula we had. Bane stood, drooling patiently, waiting for the patties to thaw. Doing what I could to flip the giant heap with a flimsy plastic spatula, I confessed something to Bane,

"Yaknow," I said, "I never got a chance to thank you," Bane let a big drop of saliva run down his jaw and fall to the floor.

"Thank me for what?" He asked. I pried the burger loose from the hotplate before answering,

"For everything!-Thank you for fighting for me and defending me all the time. Thank you for springing me from the prison ship, and thanks for being the best friend I've ever had. Seriously, if there’s anything I can give to repay you, let me know." The hydralisk sighed,

"That's flattering, really, but what I want is something that is not yours to give." I raised an eyebrow in question. Bane continued,

"I wish to be free; free from the mad will of the cerebrates and the overmind, free from the killing and mindless slaughter, freedom from the overmind's blasted covenant. Immortality is not all its cracked up to be." I thought for a moment before saying,

"It may not be mine to give you your freedom, but what's to stop me from taking it for you?" Bane shrugged, staring at the burger.

"It's starting to burn on that side," he said, stabbing the blob with a scythe and turning it over.

"Do you think you can handle the cooking?" I asked, "I've got some things to take care of." I didn't wait for an answer and ran out of the room. I moved down the hall and back out the door, toward the abandoned covert ops. Finding the door to this building wasn't locked, I walked inside. I moved to a familiar door and entered my access code into the little number panel next to it. The door slid open with a hiss and I turned on the light. On either side of the room, ghost equipment lined the shelves. I picked up a Cloak Inhibitor, two C-10 canister rifles with laser targeting, a box of C-10 canisters and as many concussion grenades as I could carry. I found a pack and jammed the ammo inside. Slinging the rifles and the pack over my shoulder, I left the covert ops and moved to the machine shop. It was shut down too, and it took me awhile to find the right power breaker. When I got the lights on, I fished up the keys to an upgraded vulture someone was putting together in the garage. The hover bike rumbled to life in the still twilight, scooting down through the base to my last stop: the nuclear silo. According to the access terminal outside, the Nuke was still operational and waiting for launch, despite not being connected to a command center. I checked my supplies one last time and throttled the vulture up, shooting out of the base in the direction my psychic mind told me that the overmind lay dormant. "This ones for you, Bane," I thought as I gassed the vulture away from the base.

The pinkish brown stuff smelled delicious as Bane turned it over and over on the photon cooker. "That mortal sure has been gone awhile," the hydralisk thought, chopping the heap into three big chunks. He stabbed the first one and jammed it on his mouth, slobbering drool. Bane was chewing away happily, tasting the processed meat, when the overmind finally crashed into his brain,

"FOOL!!!" it cried, "YOU HAVE DARED TO DEFY MY WILL?!"

"No...." Bane said to the voices, "I won't do it! I won't kill my friend! You almost made me do it last time-I refuse to be fooled again!" The voices took on malevolent tones, shattering Bane's control over his body and mind,

"Defiant one, you will slaughter the inferior human before it causes any more damage!!" Bane dropped the second chunk of hamburger, struggling to maintain control. The voices flooded in, saturating his essence,

"You will destroy the Terran that comes now to harm me.....You will destroy him....you will....you will..." The hydralisks eyes glazed over, its mind no longer in control of its body. Bane shifted, snarling uncontrollably. Then, he charged helplessly, smashing the photon cooker over and toppling a freezer. When he reached the wall, he stabbed his scythes through and peeled the metal back, forcing his way out. Once outside, he slithered away at top speed, following the scent of the vultures exhaust.

I sped along the gloomy trail following my psychic senses and the radar screen, until I came to a large, rocky hill. I jumped off the vulture and pulled the two canister rifles and my old guass rifle out from the compartment under the seat. Then I clambered my way up the hill and peeked over the edge. There it was, The Overmind's cocoon, right were my mind told me it would be. Luckily for me, it wasn't fully developed and therefore, couldn't control or rebuild the swarms yet-only its cerebrates were under its power. Three cerebrates and a pair of lone sunken colonies guarded the overmind while it regenerated. I picked up one of the canister rifles and propped it up on some rocks, then I bent down and took a peek through the scope. The overmind was centered in the cross hairs so I flipped up the plastic cover in front of the primary trigger and pressed the switch forward. A red laser beamed down and stopped on the overmind, barely visible. In a few seconds, the adjutant from the nuclear silo crackled into my headset:

"Nuclear Launch Detected!" I laughed and said, "No shit," under my breath. Just as I turned to leave, I spied Bane sidling into view. I smiled, even though he was about to ruin his own surprise and I waved one arm in salute. My smile ebbed a little as Bane ignored my gesture and kept up the pace, coming right for me.

"Hey!" I called out, thinking that maybe he didn't see me. My smile vanished completely when Bane reached the bottom of the hill. My vulture was between him and the hill and Bane didn't even slow down for it. He Sped up in fact, and brought both scythes over his head and brought them down on the vulture, smashing it in half. The vulture exploded in a ball of fire and Bane leapt through it, charging up the hill towards me.

"Bane?" I yelled wearily. Something didn't seem right, Bane seemed hollow, almost like he wasn't really there. But he was, and he let me know by stopping halfway up the hill and opening his chest cavity. I still didn't believe what I was seeing until Bane started firing. Needles whizzed by my head and one bounced off a boulder behind me,

"Oh Shit!!" I said and whirled around behind the boulder, ducking out of the line of fire. I looked back around, this is what Bane was waiting for, and He fired a spread of needles just in time. Most of them chipped off the rock and bounced away, but one big one hit its mark, gouging into my bad shoulder. I yelled and grabbed the shoulder, the old pain from being impaled coming back all over again. I groaned and bent down, grabbing the gauss rifle,

"Alright," I said through gritted teeth, "You want a fight, you got one!" I peeked around the rock and Bane was moving up the hill, coming to finish me off. I flipped around the rock and blasted away with the guass rifle. Bane looked up, as if not expecting the attack, and got pummeled with the spray of bullets that flew down the hill to meet him. The bullets bounced and sparked off his carapace, doing no more than scratching the surface. The shots barely even hampered the hydralisk as it opened its chest cavity again, blasting more needles up the hill. I ducked just in time and dropped the guass rifle, grabbing the C-10 on my way back up. I yelled over the rock I was hiding behind,

"Common, Bane! I don't want to do this!!" He responded by blasting the rock around me with more needles. I stood up abruptly and whipped the Canister rifle up, loaded with high velocity impact grenades. Bane was nearly on top of me when I finally got him in my gun sights. The hydralisk was only a couple yards away, so close I could see the twisted glint in its dark, red eyes, when I closed my own eyes and pulled the trigger. The gun recoiled violently with a resounding "Thwump!" and everything seemed to stop. The grenade flashed across the short distance between us just as Bane raised his scythes for the deadly blow. The grenade caught him squarely in the chest and exploded, engulfing him in ripping flames. The impact knocked me off my feet and Bane was sent toppling over backwards, snarling and whimpering. The back of my head was bleeding somehow and all I could tell was that I was on my back, leaning against that boulder. I heard a click and the laser on the spotting canister rifle I had propped up snapped out. I was just starting to wonder what happened to my poor friend when he slowly crested my little platform on the hill. He was bleeding all over and smoldering, snarling angrily. He sidled up to me and raised one scythe high, ready to end my life when the world blew up. Blinding white light flashed behind me, filling the sky, and a shockwave punished the hill. The last thing I saw was Bane being blown against the ground in the explosion and then everything went black.

I came to and ash was raining down, the nuclear fallout falling just short of me. My vision sharpened and my mind started working again. Bane was leaning against a rock in front of me, his carapace charred and bleeding from the grenade. My head hurt so Bad, I didn't have the energy to move. Bane shifted in front of me and moaned,

"....Oh good...you're still alive..I thought I might have killed you by now."

"What happened?" I asked him drearily. He sat up a little more against the rock,

"It was the overmind....my apologies, Charley,..there was nothing I could do to stop myself." I nodded,

"I figured that's what happened," Bane snarled lightly,

"Thank you, mortal one," I tried to ease onto my feet but failed and fell back down.

"For what?" I said. Bane pulled himself up with his scythes before answering,

"For freeing me....I didn't even know what freedom feels like...they don't make words to describe it!!" I chuckled,

"It was no sweat! A piece of cake, really, compared to what you went through." Bane limped over to me and offered me a scythe,

"I must also thank you that,"

"What's that?" I said as I grabbed the blunt edge and he effortlessly hoisted me to my feet,

"Thanks for stopping me-if you didn't fight back, you would be long dead by now." I laughed, but then groaned when I moved my bad arm too much,

"Then maybe I should shoot you with grenade launchers more often, since you like it so much," The hydralisk smirked,

"Don't get used to it, mortal!" We trekked down the hill slowly, taking careful steps as not to jar our wounds. We walked past the devastated vulture and I said,

"Man! I liked that bike! Why'd you go and do that for?" Bane kept up a limping pace beside me,

"Hey! It's not my fault you parked it right in the way!" I gave Bane a playful shove with my good arm, or really I shoved myself backwards. He retaliated by whapping me off my feet with the flat edge of one scythe. He turned around, giving me his wicked hydralisk grin, and helped me back up.

"Were do we go now?" Bane asked, as we started moving towards base again. "That-" I said proudly, "Is entirely up to you; Today, I've set you free!"

To be continued....

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