Siege of Los Andares, Part IEdit
Christopher ansibled them. Only then did the three awake from their stupor. "What'll we do now, Dan?" asked Christopher.
"I say we shoot down those things," Sarlena inserted.
"Receiving incoming transmission."
The portrait of some stranger appeared. "This is General Duke, Alpha Fleet. As of ten minutes ago the Confederacy High Command has issued a direct order: all refugees fleeing from Mar Sara are to be arrested and imprisoned awaiting court-martial, no excuses, y'hear?" Then the portrait blacked out.
"Wow, he's lame," Daniel quipped.
Daniel knew that back at Los Andares, sky was beginning to turn into evening. By this time tomorrow, thought Daniel sadly, the Zerg will have assaulted Los Andares. Fully one third of the civilians still have yet to evacuate, won't be able to evacuate for another six days, and the two hundred soldiers on the ground won't last long.
Daniel looked at the records of the last few days. The first few weeks of the war, as the Zerg forces expanded outward in a ring, their ranks had become thinner and thinner even though their numbers had been gradually increasing. Now, on the other hemisphere, that ring was shrinking on Los Andares, and as such the Zerg forces had become denser and denser much faster. Thousands upon thousands were on approach. Good thing land mine production was on schedule...
One more thing, guys, Daniel thought without saying it out loud. Make good use of those land mines. For each that blows up, you've got one less.
Daniel then drifted into a rather long, dreamless sleep...
But it wasn't dreamless at the end. It was peaceful, as usual, when all of a sudden a massive eyeball appeared, white all around, with black pupil staring straight at him, thick veins wrapping around its back and stretching along the tendons along the sides of the otherwise bare, fleshy eye socket. An immense stare.
Daniel nearly threw himself out of sleep, perspiring immensely and hyperventilating. He looked around. There were no eyeballs nearby...
But he also had the feeling, that something titanic had just been peering into his mind, seeing, reading his thoughts...
The captains were in a flurry of activity, giving various orders and such to their platoon leaders and sergeants. The civilians on board were milling about aimlessly, becoming very bored, much like he felt when he was stuck in prison. The military map showed a dense ring of red marks progressing toward the city, the final bastion; the cyan showed that the mines had been sown; the green showed the strong points in the human defense, one thousand men and women strong.
The Zerg looked like they had all maneuvered into position around the entirety of Los Andares, and were about to strike...
Daniel notioned to Christopher, half expecting to be laughed off or refused. "Something strange just happened, necessitating a swift change of plans. I want half of the land mines to be converted from proximity detonation to chronic detonation and simultaneous detonation."
"Ah, I was expecting some problem like that, captain. All mines have already been fitted with these functions. It'll only take a while to change their defaults."
"Good!" Daniel smiled. As long as I don't go back to sleep in the meantime, the big giant in the dream won't figure out about my new plans. Ha!
"Adjutant, get me a video of the Wraiths," ordered Daniel. Soon he was watching a video of these starfighters in action. A trio of them swooped down upon an enemy force of marines. Each of the starfighters had three wings arranged 120 degrees apart in a circle, and on each wing was a much larger version of the laser weapons that Daniel and company had used back on his expedition. And what's more, because of the large batteries on board, these crafts could fire their laser weapons on full power for quite a while. In the video clip, the marines on the surface were absolutely no match for their aggressors, who quickly unleashed their burst laser fire, burning the unfortunate marines to a crisp in an instant. Within moments the ground forces were wiped out. Then the video proceeded to show the result of another marine platoon under attack by Cloaked Wraiths: there was absolutely nothing any of the soldiers could do other than drop down and die.
That gave Daniel an idea. "Adjutant, do we have any Wraith starfighters available on Los Andares?"
"Yes, we have sixteen of them, captain."
"Ah, very well. Then let us deploy them for the battle ahead. I want all of our starfighters reloaded and recharged by the time the Zerg get to the city, understood?"
Daniel turned back to the video, and watched the ending, in which the starfighters launched their Apollo missiles at a transport frigate, unleashing their deadly payloads and very quickly reducing it to space debris. began to watch the briefing for another unit, the remotely controlled Goliath walker. It was equipped with twin autocannons, which fired shaped penetrators much larger than the meager bullets used in the Gauss submachine guns, and because of its mass could fire them more accurately over longer distances. The walkers' secondary weapons were Gemini rockets, which were similar to the weaponry of the Wraiths but when equipped with Charon boosters had incredible range - enough to strike starships in low orbit all the way from the planetary surface. It was clear that in any battle the Goliaths would trump marines hands-down...
"Adjutant, about about Goliaths, have we ever used them before in combat against the Zerg?"
"No, why?" ...
Over the next two days, more and more citizens panicked, thinking that they were about to die, slain by an alien nightmare. Daniel, however, found a good use for them: he had them all to learn how to handle a gun. If it comes down to that, it would be very good for the people to face their fate knowing that they at least had a chance to defend themselves, moments before they were killed... And who knows, maybe they'll even turn the tide of the battle...
Those who knew about engineering and military warfare did all they could to produce as much weaponry and spider mines as possible and to improve upon the city's defenses as possible. The next wave of transport frigates was six, then five, then four days away. If only the remaining thirty thousand could keep the Zerg at bay, they would be able to retreat effectively.
But more than anything else, everyone waited. They waited with the anticipation of a convicted man being led to the gallows.
And now, it was time.
The Zerg spearheads had already closed to within two miles of the city outskirts. Thousands upon thousands of grounded Zerg completely ringed Los Andares, while a dozen giant overlords floated overhead. With their detection abilities, the overlords ordered the many Zerg to take paths least well covered by the land mines, thereby detonating only a necessary few. The second-last mile was painstakingly traveled by the countless Zerg, which now seemed to well fit their namesake. Those who watched the spectacle unfold were horrified by the fact that barely any of the land mines had detonated - the Zerg seemed to have adjusted almost entirely to this new threat. And when those Zerg did trigger a mine, the explosions seemed to do less damage on the average than when they had been deployed back at New Haven and Blessings. It seemed to everyone that the Zerg was real-time evolution at work here.
Then Daniel typed into his computer a passcode.
People watching from their computer screens were stunned when suddenly chunks of dirt and sand parted to reveal hidden Goliaths. Then, and only then, did the Zerg suddenly realize their presence and rush toward them.
"How did you manage to keep them undiscovered by the Overlords?" asked Sarlena, mystified.
"I didn't. However, I counted on the Zerg having the impression that the Goliaths were defunct, since they have yet to see robotically controlled machines of war. Though I doubt that they will be fooled by it more than once."
Meanwhile, pairs of Gemini missiles streaked up into the atmosphere with the thunderclap of breaking the sound barrier, one after another, from each of the Goliaths' turrets. Before long, every single one of the Overlords had been struck by multiple missiles and had exploded into bloody fireballs, raining back down to the ground.
"Ha! We took down the Overlords, now they're going to fight themselves and spare the city!" Sarlena concluded excitedly.
"I wouldn't count on it," Daniel said ominously. He still remembered having seen the great eye glare at him, perhaps attempting to pierce his thoughts. He wouldn't put it past the Zerg to have done something to compensate.
And compensate they had. Evidently the Overlords sent to this mission were not the ones controlling the attacking Zerg ground forces - or the Zerg had spare Overlords that could be immediately assigned - because none of the Zerg attacked themselves. Instead, they homed in on the Goliaths, ready to tear them to pieces as a form of alien revenge for the losses of their Overlords. And they would have immediately succeeded, if not for the fact that they now had no land mine detectors and all the revealed Goliaths were encircled with land mines. All around the city the Zerg ground forces strayed away from safe passages and were promptily engulfed by the destructive firepower of the land mines, still a mile and a half from the city. The Zerg suddenly became frantic and, realizing that their detection service was gone, both tried to proceed forward and, when that didn't work, tried to retreat. But because they didn't trigger any land mines coming in, there were now active mines all around them, and the Zerg were utterly blind to the hidden threat.
It was a massacre. The Zerg invasion forces wilted attempting to push forward and withered in hasty retreat. Only a handful of lucky minions managed to escape alive. The force was decimated. In the firestorm that annihilated countless Zerg, few people noticed that the Goliaths that had brought them this victory were entirely wiped out in the confusion, nor that a great swath of mines had been used up.
When it was all over, Daniel found himself swarmed by admirers. Just when they had thought that it was all over, Daniel had snatched his victory back and denied the alien race the planet's jewel city, all without costing a single life. He found himself being tossed into the air like some sort of celebrity or the key football player... And found that he enjoyed it immensely. Flushed with victory, he immediately returned to the stark reality and began considering his next move... yet another way to thwart the enemy.
"Magistrate Collins, your tenure as magistrate has been suspended, pending an official investigation of your affiliation with the Sons of Korhal..." said another adjutant.
"Don't worry, I've got this situation under control."
Then, amidst all the flurry of civilians emerged one with a radiant aura of pomp and circumstance, which, when Daniel turned around, turned out to be the Mar Saran bureaucrat. "Hello there, so we meet again," he said.
"Why, yes indeed, you being on the same dropship as many of the colony's VIP's," Daniel replied, smiling. This probably means another promotion.
"Well then, let us continue. Our Magistrate is magistrate no more, and since Collins's title as Captain is linked to his being magistrate, he's no longer captain either. We need a new captain, Travincal. The captain must be capable of leading our peoples, protecting the weak, confronting the lisks. Who do you suggest should have this position? You must choose from among the current captains--or Christopher, he's just been promoted to captain for his admirable conduct of the Battle of Blessings and at this latest engagement. Now, who shall it be?"
Daniel was a bit confused. Why ask him? I thought you were going to hand the position over to me... But whatever. "I believe that I may be most suited to this task," he replied astutely.
The bureaucrat was a bit amused. "And why, Daniel, should I give you this position?"
Well, with timing like this, it sounds like you want me to get it for myself, doesn't it? "Humor me, but wasn't it my idea to take a stand with the mines at Blessings in the first place?" Daniel knew now that he was partially getting credit for another's work, but also--"Besides, I was the one to order mass construction of the mines. I wonder if I should get credit for that?"
Pause, as both sides looked intently into each other's eyes, wondering if the other was thinking the same thing. Then the bureaucrat's lips broke into an understanding crescent. "Good answer, Daniel. For captain, I was looking for a person who believes in himself, who has rapidly demonstrated capability against the aliens, who has strategic foresight, and who can use other people to his own ends."
Daniel smiled at each of the descriptions. "You flatter me, sir."
"Oh, no, it's the truth!" he replied, turning his eyes to look at the monitors yet still having the impression of veracity.
"Oh well, if you say so... thanks for the promotion, then."
"You've earned it, Commander."
The next day dawned upon them much faster than they had hoped. And with it came premonitions of more approaching Zerg - the next wave in a ring around the city that seemed impossible to fully vanquish.
"So what's your strategy for beating them this time around?" asked Christopher.
"This time we use Wraiths and do the same thing," Daniel replied.
"Well, would you look at that," muttered Christopher in awe. Daniel quickly switched to the same view from the Televista satellite. "How the heck did that happen!?!" he exclaimed in fury right the next moment. The Zerg continent was moving ever closer toward the city, but they didn't have any Overlords with them. Instead, they had with them scores of captives - Humans! - who were being forced to be the walking shields for the Zerg menace.
"I... can't stand to watch these people being killed by our own weaponry, "Christopher muttered in dismay. "What can we do to stop them?"
"We already did it," said, Daniel complacently, before resting on a sofa.
Christopher's eyes followed him to the sofa, disbelieving. "What the heck is that supposed to mean?" he nearly shouted.
"Don't worry, I got it under control." He then opened a comlink channel with James. "Hey Jim, I want you to have your men remove all the mines from the outer ring immediately. And make it plenty obvious that they were removed if you want to."
"Yes commander!" James replied with a smile.
When the channel switched back to Christopher, the man had an understanding smile on his face. "Oh, I get it!"
"Yeah well don't tell anyone else." Those aliens, they think they have our psychology all figured out, don't they, using humans as shields?!? Well they haven't seen anything yet!
A few hours later, the Zerg forces had marched to within a mile of the city, having swept past the outer land mine ring without a single loss. The humans had even ceased to fire their long-range turrets, so unwilling were they to hurt fellow humans.
Then suddenly, the Zerg ring started to close in swiftly, the forces rushing over at incredible speeds from all directions and forcing the humans to run on ahead of them. The bunkers ringing the city remained silent; everyone held their fire and even their breaths as the captive humans were whipped into running toward the city's gates.
The driven humans fled forward, then stepped on the spider mines' triggers. And thought for a split second that their lives were over.
Only they weren't. Instead, the signal was relayed to all the spider mines further away from the city, under the encroaching Zerg armies. In a string of detonations all around the city, rows of land mines erupted one after another outward and away from the city and the human captives close to it. The thunderous noise of the chain detonation threw the Zerg off guard, allowing the humans to realize that their chance had come and dash for the cover of the city gates. The Zerg forces were lost in the sudden conundrum and scurried for cover, firing blindly at each other, only to run into additional land mines that had just been activated. The next moment just about every weapon the city had was brought to bear on the disarrayed Zerg invasion forces, sending them reeling away from the city in every direction as a most battered and depleted force. The battle and the anxiety were over in mere seconds, the alien forces almost totally wiped out.
Another victory for Daniel's team.
And the peoples of Los Andares were safe for another day.