Battle of BlessingsEdit
Five more days passed. The promised dropships had already begun evacuating, and Daniel sighed with relief that he would be one of the first to get off the planet, courtesy of his rank as an albeit important captain. The only important military official still on the planet was Raynor, and he seemed to have a bone to pick with the Zerg... The civilians got out next, thickly packed one hundred to a dropship without anything else aboard.
The adjutant interrupted his thoughts. "Magistrate, the report you have requested is ready. Sixteen outlying stations have reported sightings of the lisks, and we have lost contact with three of their number..."
Daniel grinned grimly at several technical workers laboring to attach an add-on compartment to one of the newly landed dropships. Time was running out for them all, all 40,000 or so civilians. And the military would be the last to get off this rock.
The dropship interior was very simple, with few amenities of life. Unlike the Confederacy, the Sons of Korhal could barely afford anything. The fact that they even had a flotilla of dropships said something about their stature in the terran colonial worlds... There were not even any seats, except two for the pilots, nor any cabinets, storage compartments, whatsoever, just thick-walled carbon paneling. It was the only reason why so many civilians could get on to each, crammed in of their own volition like so many herds of cattle--or pigs...
But it was not going to be enough.
For Daniel was safe in high orbit around Mar Sara, as were the other staff sergeants in his vessel, but the Zerg were swiftly approaching... And still no sign of military relief from the Confederacy. They really had given up this planet for good, thought Daniel. Such bastards really aren't fit to rule anything...
"How's the shipment of land mines and spider mines that I requested?" Daniel finally asked into the intercom, watching as another newly arrived dropship began its furiously charged descent down the atmosphere.
"About half of what you have requested is now complete, most of which are loaded onto various speed-bikes," platoon leader Christopher reported.
Daniel looked at the telsat reports. There were plenty of Zerg, some of which have crossed to within six hundred miles of Los Andares, but none were about to assault the city immediately. Meanwhile, there was another ghost town that was about to be assaulted, and had already been nearly evacuated of all civilians. Time to make a stand, was what Mengsk had said, Daniel recalled. "Tell you what, Chris, have them instead loaded into the incoming dropship."
Christopher looked surprised. "But aren't those for the civilians?"
Daniel answered, "No civilian is about to be harmed by the temporary use of a single dropship to rapidly lay land mines across the remaining safe territory around Los Andares. But the speedbikes won't be fast enough-"
"You mean Blessings? That town which we evacuated three hours ago?"
"Precisely. I'll be expecting a minestorm to whirl around the incoming Zerg."
Christopher asked perplexedly, "What?"
"Now, you know what I mean, Chris."
But commander, I don't see any reason why a minestorm will... What I mean is, there AREN'T any mines there--"
"Chris, oh Chris," Daniel muttered out loud. "Do you want to keep your rank?"
"All right then," Daniel quipped. "Then I believe the matter solved. You're not an idiot, Chris, and if there isn't a minestorm when the lisks get there, you can just kiss all your bar good-bye."
Daniel terminated the connection, just in time to phone his second-in-command, platoon leader James Raynor, who was still on the surface. "Greetings Jimmy, I've just requested Christopher, our unofficial master of engineering, to load all our currently produced land mines and spider mines into the currently landing dropship. Your task is to accompany them to Blessings-" Daniel stopped mid-sentence as the portrait of Jimmy turned into static. "Hey, what's going on? They aren't being assaulted right now, are they?"
The bald lady who Daniel recognized as the adjutant replied, "Sir, the second telecommunications satellite covering the space around Los Andares has just been put out of commission by what we suspect to be the Zerg. I have just placed the dropship's automatic communication networks to ansible rather than phone. Requesting permission to leave high orbit due to expectations of Zerg anti-naval weaponry."
The portrait of Mengsk appeared, live on the dropship's computer screens, via ansible. "We've found a destination for you: Antiga Prime. It's a nearby planet; however, we suspect that the local Antigans are about to begin open revolt against the Confederacy. Unfortunately, the Confederates seem to have been picking up on that vibe and have stationed some Alpha Fleet squadrons around the city."
"All right then, I give the okay," said Magistrate Collins. The man buried his head in his arms in a gesture of despair. Sarlena knew what he was thinking--the anguish of knowing that you've failed your people, unable to resist the march of enemy forces--not achieving what objective was entrusted to you.
The stars out the windows disappeared, and Daniel knew that his vessel, as well as many others, were quickly progressing toward that destination.
The adjutant reported, "Estimated time of arrival is twelve days."
Daniel now had nothing to look at, and thus simply sat on the ground, waiting, all the while hoping that his commands were being carried out. I've got to stop acting so lazy, he said to himself, after ten minutes of waiting slothfully. "Get me Christopher on ansible. Now."
The screen nearest to him flickered to life, revealing the face of Christopher, live back at Mar Sara. The nearby civilian refugees also peered at the screen, and for a moment he felt a bit claustrophobic.
"How's the progress, Christopher?"
"All is proceeding as requested, sir. Various bunkers are currently under construction around and within Los Andares, the mines have been sown, those from Blessings have been removed, and my one hundred troops are in position. Do we have new orders?" He raised an eyebrow in anticipation.
Well, at least Daniel didn't misunderstand me. "How are the mines laid?"
"Erratically, sir, though with concentration around the bunkers and along main alleyways."
"Do we have any in the buildings?"
"No, sir, we have not mined the buildings because we do not anticipate the lisks to go there-"
"Well then, Chris, that's your new order." Daniel terminated the ansible right then, angry that the others all seemed to have difficulty catching on. It seemed that the more Zerg there were, the more angry he got at people, like he was at Chris right now, for not thinking things through first. There was becoming less and less room for mistakes. Darn those commanders out in the field, they just don't seem to know what they're doing. Hello, does 'alien' sound like they'll follow standard human-like procedures to you???
Daniel took the time to go to sleep. His circadian rhythms were totally out of order by now.
Meanwhile, the telsat scans showed a massive planetary ring of Zerg slowly progressing toward the densely inhabited side of the planet, the city in particular...
"We have contact with the enemy, I repeat, we have contact!" said an enthusiastic Christopher on the ansible, bringing Daniel awake in a flash.
Let's see the battle, Daniel said inwardly as he brought the telsat's scanners to bear on Blessings, clearly marking the location of each and every land and spider mine. Wow... Now I KNOW the little scanners we used back on Artifact Station and New Haven couldn't see through the ground... There were cyan dots nearly everywhere, over a thousand land mines scattered all about the entire town, as well as green dots marking the ID signals of the military. And a wave of red, the Zerg. Incoming.
His dropship was bustling with activity, though mostly of civilians jostling for space with which to rest and sleep. But down there, it was not peaceful at all, Daniel knew. Down there, a battle was raging. Though small by normal standards, it could only be a sign of things to come, for the wave of aliens seemed relentless across much of the entire planet...
The red dots were disappearing remarkably quickly, scattering throughout the town, racing around...
Daniel stretched his imagination, using his mind's eye to see the battle unfolding as he would imagine it--the houndlisks charging hurriedly for cover and prey, the hydralisks firing madly, showering the battlefield with their corrosive, poisonous spines, the reapers returning fire with accurate bursts of their laser guns, the spider mines crackling to life and scurrying across the ground to find their targets, the land mines lying in wait for the unfortunate lisk to step on them, then exploding in a shower of fire... To match, random red dots on the screen vanished from the screen until none were left.
"Daniel, you better look at this," said Sarlena, turning her computer screen over for him to see. It was a real-time feed of what was happening on the planet surface provided by a Telsat that was providing coverage over the area. By far the most numerous were the houndlings, which were now widely seen as Zerg cannon fodder. Fewer but far more deadly were the hydralisks that shot their bolts of super-corrosive needle spines. Also present were a handful of tarantula-like creatures, up to three four wide, their ten limbs actually composed of a single long chain of spines, much like a saw, only far deadlier. Right before their eyes, these monsters hurriedly burrowed into the ground. "These... tarantulisks... we've never seen them before..." Shortly thereafter, spikes began shooting out in streaks from where the tarantulisks had been burrowed. "Actually, they're the lurkers! Tell everyone, we have made contact with foes that can attack from underground!" shouted Sarlena excitedly.
Daniel continued looking at the screen. All around the burrowed positions, land mines were blowing up remarkably quickly, sometimes even killing the lurker in the process. With the detection and guidance given by the Televista satellite, taking care of the remaining lurkers proved far easier than when Daniel's firing team first encountered them back in their counterattack.
And then it was over. Just like that, Daniel thought. There were still plenty of green and cyan dots still standing, and all the red dots had faded. "Get me Chris on ansible," Daniel ordered the adjutant, who swiftly complied.
"Well, Sergeant, we've got the enemy all decked. Combat casualties: Twenty dead and another eight wounded, two missing in action. Lisk casualties: around two hundred houndlisks, thirty hydralisks, and six tarantulisks."
Darn, that's good, thought Daniel. He frowned very visibly. "Not as good as I would expect of you, Chris. You'd better perform next time..." Before New Haven, I took out twice as many Zerg with zero casualties! And that was without land mines! This is unacceptable!
Christopher was clearly surprised. "Em. Yes sir. Do we have new commands?"
Daniel thought about it for a moment. What would the Zerg do next? Probably not try this again, they obviously aren't stupid... "Have your speedbikes pick up all the undetonated mines and sow them around Los Andares. Have your men go salvage the alien corpses for good carapace, and haul them all back to base." Then he terminated the communication.
I certainly would want to watch the battle unfolding through more classic means, Daniel thought, as he got back to the floor in preparation for sleep...
So it was that when he woke up, the first thing he did was tell the (sleepy) adjutant to get him a clear, up-close visual of the battlefield. Then he proceeded to obtain--midnight snack, it turned out, and began to watch the visual, not knowing that Michael was watching the visual...
He rushed back to the sound of Michael collapsed on the ground, wailing uncontrollably with random bursts of "RUN!! Run for your life!!!", face all flushed, inconsolable, and Daniel was then overcome by a sudden burst of grief, of horror-- which then abruptly ended.
Daniel gripped his forehead in irritation of some queer migraine. Oh, I can't STAND that guy's trauma, he thought to himself. Then, ignoring his continuing wails, he turned to the visual, Sarlena watching it as well, but face contorted in displeasure and sadness.
"Someone give the guy medical attention," he shouted at no one in particular, entranced by the slanted bird's eye view of the battle scene--the muscular tendons of the Zerg shredding through walls, the poisonous spines of the hydralisks, the radiant bursts of blood, the blossoming fireworks of each detonation--and did I mention the nearly invisible bursts of laser fire?
The scenery of the battle struck a chord within Sarlena, something which she never knew she possessed but always knew she could obtain someday. She watched in admiration at the bravery of the near-to-dying soldiers, the simultaneous destructive firepower unleashed--it was enough for the eye and mind to register, even this small, isolated battle. And as she watched, a smile formed on her lips. For she could have been thinking: I can certainly get to know this fighting...
At that moment Daniel's skin seemed to prick up, for he sensed something very rare, something he had not sensed before and thus could not pinpoint... well, maybe I'll rediscover it another day... he thought.
Meanwhile, Christopher was asking Sarlena for some guidance: "He says that if I don't have mines in Blessings in half an hour, then I'll be demoted back to private..."
Sarlena sighed. "Are you sure he said that? Because it doesn't make sense--"
"He said that he'll be expecting the mines to be there unless I didn't want my rank--"
"I think you misunderstood him then."
Christopher raised an eyebrow. "How?"
"If he'll be expecting those mines, then the aliens will to. Daniel doesn't want there to be many mines there; he wants to keep most of them for Los Andares. But he does want to convince the aliens that they would suffer many casualties if they charged in recklessly."
A light bulb might have popped into existence right over Christopher's head. "Thanks," he muttered bashfully, still quite confused, and hurried off to give the commands. He would have the aliens--Zerg, they were called now--waste time and fear greatly for a solitary mine...
Several hours passed, without much but the occasional giving of an order to the military still on the surface, and with occasional scribbling of engagement tactics onto computers. Now dressed in the robes of the former captain, Daniel sat in the former magistrate's cushioned seat, overlooking the largest computer screen in the dropship, which was indicating that the Zerg were now only two hundred miles away, and that the first wave would reach Los Andares in less than a day.
"Captain, as you requested, the report has come in of a large Zerg force approaching Blessings. Now setting Televista satellite target to Blessings." It was the voice of the adjutant again.
Just then, the visual appeared. Dozens of the dog-like brutes rushed across the barren landscape, with the various snake-like creatures in their midst. This 'army' seemed even more formidable than the previous one. Aw, they probably decided that Blessings is a bigger target than it actually is, now that we've defended it once, thought Daniel.
But what interested him in particular were not the packs of creatures on the ground, but a squadron of four floating behemoths cruising directly over them at an altitude of twenty thousand feet. They spread eight giant tentacles, which mostly trailed underneath them; and two in front, like claws; their towering hulks were almost the size of a dropship, fully covered in carapace, seemingly propelling itself without effort. And, of course, they were the exact same as the behemoths they had brought down during their expedition several days ago...
Daniel whirled around in his swiveling chair and called out, "Chris! Sarlena!"
They came rushing up a moment later in their new uniforms. "What's up, Daniel?"
Daniel pointed to the giant floating beings. "Remember seeing those before?"
The others looked at each other, and at him, unsure of what to say. "Well... yeah..."
Daniel answered his own question: "Precisely. They're probably out here for one very good reason: detection. There's one spider mine still in Blessings, which Riley and company didn't find because it relocated itself during the battle but didn't explode. But what I wanted to ask you, Chris, is how those giant things move."
It took only a moment before he came to a conclusion. The lumbering beasts certainly could cover great distances in very short periods of time. "A weak gravitic drive, sir. Possibly organic, considering the type of alien we've been facing."
Even as they spoke, the group of aliens approached at the Blessings town perimeter, pouring into its now empty avenues. Daniel smiled inwardly. The Zerg wasted their efforts on this one, he thought. And they're going to give up their own secrets. As if fulfilling his predictions, the Zerg gave a momentary pause, as if unsure of what had happened and wondering if they had been tricked, then the lisks in the team swept through the town, avoiding the spider mine, while the hydralisks shot a single spine into the ground right on top of the hidden spider mine.
It detonated, sending metal, sand, and stone flying upward and as far as ten feet, a potent fireball lurching into the air, amidst the rising smoke.
It detonated, ineffectually.
Yet that one act was a victory for Daniel and company, not for the Zerg. It had given away a critical tactical advantage that the aliens had.
And as the three awe-struck humans watched from far away, the army marched on, the ruins of Blessings tumbling down into the barren streets.