Siege of Los Andares, Part IIEdit
The third day of waiting was half over when the Zerg seemed to be ready to mount an offensive. Only this time, they were not arranged in a ring, ready to encroach upon the city from all directions. Thwarted by their inability to use humans as a shield in the siege, Their leadership seemed to have adjusted to their continuing defeat by changing strategies, and in this case it was to bulldoze through from only one direction.
"Oh my goodness are we meant to fight a force like that?" Daniel muttered in disbelief as he looked at the holographic map before him. All around the table the captains looked on with equal dismay. This was a force many times stronger than all that they had encountered before combined: sixteen thousand Zerg units were densely regimented in what appeared to be a matrix of sixteen regiments, every one of them the size of all of Los Andares's defense force. Suspended high above the army, over a hundred of those Overlords stood in neat columns, awaiting the order to advance. Interspersed were other columns of now flying creatures, appearing much like grotesque dragons, the specifics of which no human knew and about which no one wanted to find out about.
Sarlena arrived at the table and when she saw what she was up against, she was speechless, able only to shake her head and stare at the hologram, backing away in utter disbelief.
"It's obvious we can't fend off a Zerg force of this size," Daniel lamented, hoping for some of the others to have a backup plan, but instead saw them dropping their faces in defeat. "Doesn't ANYONE have an idea to save the day?" For some reason, Daniel now felt very alone. For so long he had been depended upon by others around him to come up with the winning strategy, one that could save the day. And now, he either had to or would be responsible for the deaths of so many people. It certainly was no winning proposition.
"Hey, what about the Thing?" offered one of the captains.
"What Thing?" asked Daniel, hoping against hope that this was his way out.
"There's this cylindrical Thing back in the basement of the Los Andares military compound the size of a briefcase. There's only a single message, that says 'Use at an enemy when all else fails.' Since no one knows what it does, no one wants to attempt to use it. But if the situation is otherwise doomed, then it certainly shouldn't hurt to use this Thing."
Daniel looked at him with a piercing glare. "Well, what are we waiting for? Use it!"
"Sir, it needs a passcode to activate," replied the captain. "Only the commander should know what it is."
"I do," replied Magistrate Collins. "And Daniel, it's time I told you what that passcode was," he said, leading Daniel to another room.
A minute later, a solitary Wraith ferried its payload at twenty thousand feet toward the arrayed enemy forces. Before the Zerg had realized that this solitary craft was a threat, the Thing had been activated.
A city-sized fireball engulfed the Wraith and everything within miles around it in a solitary blast with the heat of a star's core and the brilliance of a second sun, vaporizing all it touched and soon growing into a radiant, sky-high mushroom cloud. Streaks of radioactive lightning criss-crossed through the skies. Anyone in the city who looked at the explosion with their own eyes was permanently blinded.
"Good God! What the Hell was that?" exclaimed Daniel, while all the others watching the display were shocked stiff. A moment later, Daniel repeated, "I asked you, what the Hell was that?"
"It's called a nuke," replied the Adjutant upon doing a slight bit of research.
"Well, whatever it was it wiped out the enemy for good," said an officer, noting that the sands had been glassed over and the red blips entirely vanished.
"I BET they didn't see that coming," cheered another exultantly.
"Yeah, well I doubt that'll save us again," remarked Daniel solemnly.
"Why not? Even if the Zerg can evolve before our very eyes they won't evolve a carapace capable of withstanding that Thing!"
"Good point. Well, so do we have any more of these nukes?"
"Actually, we do: we had ten in total, and we still have nine."
"Well then we're safe for sure," concluded Magistrate Collins. "Thank goodness my people are safe. And we may have hope yet against the Zerg."
The Zerg approached once again that night. Mixed in with the expected houndlisks and hydralisks were enormous mastodon-like giants the size of houses. They easily dwarfed all other military units in the area, both human and alien, and even their slightest movements sent seismic tremors throughout the vicinity. Periodically, smaller Zerg were trampled under their massive elephantine legs with hardly a thought.
Daniel gave the order for a spare frigate to be armed with marines and fitted to allow them to fire on targets from within the relative safety of the large vessel. It was the last day, but the Zerg were once again ready and in enormous numbers. However much everyone else trusted in the ability of nukes to defend the city, Daniel was not going to place all his chips on that bet.
Two hours later, James ansibled him. "All right, the marines have boarded a spare frigate. Permission to pursue targets?"
"Great," replied Daniel. "Now, wait until the first wave of Zerg are within firing range of Los Andares defenses."
"Commander sir, our Wraiths are prepped and loaded. Shall they be dispatched?"
"Green light," replied Daniel as he typed the passcode to them. Immediately a trio of Wraiths took off into the darkness of night, headed for the three approaching Zerg forces. But before the Wraiths had reached their destination the Zerg flyers had advanced up to greet them and blew all three out of the air.
"None of the nukes detonated, I repeat, all three nukes have failed," reported the adjutant.
"That's not to worry; we still have six nukes left." It's as I suspected: the Zerg have compensated for our newest weapon by making sure nothing at all gets near their main forces. Heck, if I were in their position I'd do that too. So I really doubt that those other nukes can work their magic either.
"The Zerg are advancing on our position! We have incoming!" cried out James via ansible.
Oh, well, here they come. "Dispatch our remaining nukes, two Wraiths to a target and remind them to cloak," Daniel commanded. And so the remaining six nukes were sent off. But the Zerg were on the alert for something like this to happen, and the flyer escort was already in the front, acting as a screen. One by one the Wraiths were shot down, their nuclear payloads unactivated for fear of causing inestimable damage to Los Andares itself.
"Negative!" shouted the adjutant in alarm. "Not a single nuke has detonated and we have none left. I am tracking all three Zerg forces advancing on our position." Down at the city citizens who had been informed of this failure were screaming in terror and rioting like mad for they knew that the end was coming swiftly. The frigates - their salvation - would be there by the earliest light of dawn, but that was still six hours away, and the Zerg could have every single human remaining on the city dead within one. Everyone rushed to get off the planet on the sole remaining frigate, but it was flying high above the city, out of terrified civilians' reach and awaiting orders for a final confrontation.
Back on Daniel's transport, a long pause, as the Zerg drew ever closer. This is it, thought Daniel. The final battle. Or, the final battle on this planet. Bye bye, Los Andares.
He turned to see the magistrate clasping his hands over his face, doing his best to prevent tears from coming out. Sorry pal, he thought empathically. He fancied that he could hear the man crying. There were definitely tears there...
For a sudden moment, he felt as if his heart had just collapsed; he felt as if he couldn't continue. As if the energy to fight had been sapped away from him.
"My adjutant should have sent you the coordinates of the Overlords. Destroy them--all of them. Oh, and give me a visual, I'd like to watch."
"Consider it done."
The minimap was replaced by the view of one of the dropship's cameras. Through the screen, Daniel could see the blackened skies meaning that the vessel was using its gravitic drive.
The telsat was now on continuously in preparation for ongoing battle command from the dropship. Daniel paced back and forth across the catawalk, which had been cleared expressly for him, dressed in his uniform, with his arms folded behind his back, thinking of battle tactics. "James, I want all the speed-bikes to retreat to the center of the city, the land mines not to explode until plenty of hydralisks can be taken down when they set off, and the marines to focus fire on the flyers, and not to worry about taking out any ground forces not an immediate threat to them. Relay that order for me."
Meanwhile, the telsat view on the adjacent computer monitor showed the Zerg clashing with the humans across much of the perimeter. Most of them had slipped past the fire from the defenses, and were spreading into the city. Most of the street fighting was being done by the Zerg's numerous smaller minions; however, the house-sized ultralisks used their incredible mass and might to smash down everything down in the main sub-battles. Their fore limbs were massive blade-like claws that had greater power and resilience than the wrecking balls of old, and could be used to swipe an entire avenue clean of resistance within seconds. Their beetle-like armor soaked up damage seemingly without end. Before them, whole platoons were flattened or buried under readily collapsed houses.
Siege tanks fired their bunker busters upon the three Zerg armies like tossing pebbles into a pond, before themselves being quickly overrun and shredded to pieces. Those that managed to get past the perimeter defenses found traversing the city to be easy--at first. The tarantulisks too made a reappearance in this engagement, burrowing into the center of the streets and flinging their subterranean spikes every which way. Others entered abandoned buildings and swung their single spiky tentacle around the corners of the walls to attack unsuspecting defenders.
The dropship decelerated near a group of four behemoths, and several red dots appeared on the nearest one. The dropship and behemoths were the only objects that high up, and from here one had a great vantage point of the city that sprawled below. Further away into the distance, the evening sun could be seen, along with the expanse of orange-brown badland dirt characteristic of Mar Sara's canyons, as far as the eye could see.
There was the shout of "fire!", and suddenly the red dots were replaced by the festering sores of burst lasers, melting deep into the carapace of the creature.
It began to spasm, blood streaming out of the being in pulses, and it rapidly lost altitude. "Right, then. That one's a goner," said Sarlena.
The dropship approached the next behemoth in the group, just as the three had decided to turn. Suddenly, it too began to quake violently, bright red blood leaking out profusely. "Two down, and two to go," someone said to the camera. For Daniel. Then began the chase.
Unfortunately for the behemoths, the dropship's gravitic drive could accelerate considerably faster, and as it passed by each of the remaining two, the reapers fired their lasers, and their targets lost altitude. Just then, the telsat showed the first behemoth crashing dead into the ground, sending a cloud of debris upward.
Payback time! thought Daniel, looking with glee at the collapse of the fourth behemoth. "Adjutant, what's the progress of the dropships?"
"Four of the eight behemoths inbound to Los Andares have been destroyed." Sweet, but no cigar.
"Have your marines land. Then give me the telsat of the hunt in the air," Daniel spoke.
The four other behemoths had already wandered to near the center of Los Andares, so high they were invisible to the people on the surface, and Daniel assumed that they were relaying information. "Okay, now's the time to turn on those missile turrets."
"You heard the man, turn on the turrets," Sarlena spoke into her console, relaying the orders across town. The four stationary defense buildings that had stood out among the rest of the military suddenly whirled to life, antenna grids whirring, and each fired a string of Longbolt homing missiles upward. The projectiles themselves rushed at nearly the speed of light as their sub-gravitic drives kicked in. Before the aliens realized it, the remaining four behemoths had all been put out of commission.
"Stalemate," Daniel spoke out to no one in particular as he watched the lifeless behemoths fall toward the surface. Then he turned to face Sarlena. "Those behemoths are done for now. Just for the heck of it, considering how they seem to be the bosses that tell the Zerg where those land mines are, we'll call them overlords from now on. It's time for the ground war, Raynor," he spoke into the comlink. "And get me a nice view of the battle down there."
"Sure thing," agreed Raynor, and Daniel's computer screen changed to show Los Andares. The Zerg had started to advance unhindered through the outer suburbs, which had long been evacuated.
Then suddenly, a string of detonations occurred in one sector, taking down nearly half of the hydralisks in the area. Then, another string of such detonations, then another, then another, then another... The nightmare invaders looked around, bewildered, rushing to and fro and not knowing what to do next as dozens of eruptions erupted simultaneously every few seconds, offering the defending marines a few dozen precious seconds to lay waste to the rather stunned dragon-like creatures soaring through the air.
Then, the surviving ones resumed their offensives, rushing around madly without any coordination, engaging the defending humans, and setting off more land mines in the process. The officials could all imagine the booms of the eruptions as he watched the displays.
Before long, the masses of Zerg flyers had been decimated, but the swarms of lisks had overrun the bunkers and turrets, leaving behind quite a few human casualties and proceeding to lay waste to vast portions of the city...
It seemed as if everything was building up to this moment. He realized that these last few weeks had made him quite familiar with the characteristics of marine, reaper, lisk, hydralisk, dropship, behemoth, vulture, and land mine. Everything was working together in tandem. He could scarcely imagine how everything would have seemed to unexplainable to him a mere month ago.
"All right, have the vultures take out the dead invasion," Daniel said at last, and knowing that the battle had been determined, he relaxed on his sofa, the only one on the dropship.
The speedy crafts readily hovered out into the battlefield, chasing the lisks, eradicating them with fragmentation grenades, spilling alien blood throughout the city, rapidly covering the city and augmenting key defensive points. The invaders were doomed.
A few minutes later, Daniel finally returned to his supercomputer.
The telsat's visual of the ground battle showed the overwhelming numbers of Zerg sorely losing what should have been a near total victory, as strings of land mines detonated in succession across the battlefield, as the carapace-empowered marines wielded superior firepower against the remaining flyers that managed to get close. Alien blood flowed seemingly everywhere, only a certain places intermingling with those of humans. The ground was battered by Gauss submachine gun fire, drenched by the acid of projected spines, and filled with corpses. The debris of shattered, detonated mines lay everywhere. With the aid of long-range detection provided by the final telsat, the humans regained the offensive and struck back with deadly precision against the burrowed lurkers, which were eradicated where they were burrowed.
There was nowhere the Zerg could hide. They could try to rush down the middle of the street, and be put to waste by bunker fire; they could try the sides of the street, setting off land mines placed at every corner and crevice; they could charge up the side of buildings, but which were rigged to collapse on them should that be the case; they could go into them, but still find mines, mines, more mines--on the ceiling, walls, floors, in the sewers, behind and in front of barricades, on marines themselves, even on civilians. Without the coverage provided by the behemoths, the Zerg ground forces kept on crashing into the thousands of mines, and were rapidly exterminated.
The ultralisks were the last invaders to go. There were just too few of them at the scene of battle, and even their meters of thick, chitinous plating could do little but vaporize under the sheer destructive power of the siege tanks' Mjolnir bunker busters. Battered over and over again by their smaller but longer-range tank counterparts, the ultralisks were soon blasted into oblivion, ending their lengthy, bloody trail of rampage.
Then the marines from the frigate landed, sending beams of laser fire everywhere before following up with the pitter-patter of their guns, and it was over for the last offensive, and the battered Zerg forces retreated.
Daniel watched with surprise and distaste as James then summoned forth his marines to go on their own counter-offensive against the retreating Zerg. "Darn it, Jim, what in heavens do you think you're doing??"
"Making a few more kills while the lisks are busy retreating, lieutenant!"
"Darn it, Jimmy, they're probably going to set a trap for you! Now get back to safety!"
"But sir, this is a grand opportunity--"
His oratory was cut off as the rear guard of the retreating Zerg turned around and fired volley after volley against the surprised marines, rapidly intoxicating them with deadly needle spines. James and three surviving marines rushed to safety, leaving nearly twenty dead in the failed counter-offensive.
Darn you, James, I'm going to have to dish out a bit of a punishment when we get over with this...
"Lieutenant, the final batch of frigates has arrived, and the last survivors have been evacuated. The remaining extra space is currently being filled with the carapaces of the fallen and land mines. There are nearly no civilians left on Mar Sara, and all dropships are proceeding safely to destination."
Daniel watched a replay of the battle that had occurred at a planet which was now far, far away from him. Well, what now? He remembered, and called up James on ansible, with the other staff sergeants listening in. "James, you cost us two dozen of our best men out there with your silly counter-offensive--"
"Wha!! But we didn't know at the time that they were setting a trap for us!"
"Then how come I knew?!" Daniel exclaimed, infuriated. He was mad at James--really mad. This left him in a scared silence, and the other officers dared not intervene. But then again, it really wasn't entirely James's fault... Daniel shrugged off this thought.
At last, Daniel broke the silence, the anger inside him swelling up. "Now, you had better write a report explaining on how stupid your move out there on the battlefield was, Or Else, PRIVATE Raynor!" And he slammed off the ansible connection, not noticing James's expression of indignant surprise. He spent a few seconds taking a deep breath, attempting to calm down.
The next few minutes were spent in making sure the Zerg had all been weeded out of the city, recovering the wounded, and counting the kills.
"Give me final battle estimates, adjutant."
"We suffered three hundred and twenty (320) military fatalities, a hundred ninety-six (196) military casualties. Civilian casualties may be close to a thousand. We inflicted around four thousand one hundred (4100) fatalities, of which around three thousand (3000) were to houndlisks, nine hundred (900) were to hydralisks, a hundred and fifty (150) were to tarantulisks, forty (40) were to dracolisks, eight (8) were to Overlords, and five (5) were to ultralisks."
Daniel nearly whistled at the undisputedly high performance of the ground soldiers, though the civilian loss of life was worrisome. Wait a minute... "Adjutant, did you just take the liberty of coining a new term for the dragon-like lisks?" Daniel turned to face her, a smile on his face.
"I am very sorry, captain, I'll try not to let that happen again-"
"No no, try to let that keep happening, adjutant! I was beginning to think of you as a human-looking robot!"
The adjutant's face flushed. "Okay, then. Anyways, we are currently on target for arrival at Antiga a week and a half from now. Please relax and enjoy your ride."
Just then Sarlena remembered that during this entire time they had been traveling toward another planet, effectively supervising the war from afar. "Um... Daniel?" asked Sarlena, a bit disheveled.
"What is it, Miss Aeryth?" he replied, grinning. His face was flushed with victory.
"Isn't Antiga a Confederate planet? Won't we be like, branded as traitors or terrorists there?" she quivered upon seeing Daniel's fists suddenly clench at the realization. There was not a single sign of victory on his face any more.
He thus didn't know it when a solitary golden vessel appeared from out of nowhere and fired a single projectile at the abandoned planet. For a moment, the planet glowed with the intensity of the Saran sun, its parched surface sinking into the magma and plasma that now burst across its surface in an event of total, planetary purging.