It was late in the afternoon when the dropship holding Daniel and the other "important people" of Los Andares concluded their eleven-day celestial voyage and descended into the large starport of Antiga Prime. "We are currently about to land on the starport of Antiga's largest city, Antiga Prime, population one hundred thousand. Be warned; contact with each of the first twenty dropships was lost shortly after each landed. This may or may not be due to a troubling concern."
Daniel was getting tired, and yawned, just as there was a thump, a rocking of the ship. Hey, that isn't supposed to happen! Daniel recalled how on every other landing there had been next to no sound, and definitely no shock like this one. Someone is opening the hatch violently, he concluded, as the thumping noise repeated itself, sending a few easily scared civilians shrieking.
Daniel looked around. There was no military force on board the dropship. "What's going on out there?" he whispered to the warrant officer.
"The Confederates are probably attempting to place us under arrest. We did after all ally with the Sons of Korhal."
"Darn them, they still don't know who their real enemy is," Daniel nearly shouted. Well, we don't have any weapons, so we had better be getting out--soon. Turning his attention to the added chamber to the dropship, Daniel told the nearby civilians, "Quickly now--break down that door with as little noise as possible!"
The civilians seemed to understand this above all the other ruckus, and proceeded to take apart the door.
"If you don't open up, we'll blast the door down," said the voice of a commander on the far side of the suddenly seemingly thin dropship door. "NOW OPEN UP!"
A few moments later there was a sudden explosion as the reinforced carbon door of the dropship was torn to shreds, smoke filling the inside of the dropship and obscuring all view, a fireball scorching all that was nearby, though the carbon proved resilient to fire. The Confederate soldiers, fully clad in marine armor, gradually entered the dropship's several chambers, looking for their quarry.
By that time, however, the frigate was empty of all people, though there were many belongings scattered about the place. "What a mess," said one, right before seeing the door-shaped hole on the far side of the dropship. "They got out through an escape door! After them!" shouted the corporal, and the team rushed back out of the frigate.
Daniel, Sarlena, Christopher, and Michael dashed as a group around the corner, all the way down the starport terminal, knocking a few disheveled passengers aside in their rush to safety. Several shouted out in surprise, bringing the attention of the nearby fully armored guard to them. Just as he swung his Gauss submachine gun at them, however, they vanished into yet another room--a dead end. The guard followed, a grin on his face, opened the door, and stepped inside--
And was immediately pinned to the ground, face-down; Sarlena snatched his weapon out from his hand and pointed the barrel at his head. The guard decided not to move as Sarlena pushed the button on the suit that deactivated its movement, then Christopher proceeded to take off the armor, while Daniel rushed to close and bolt the door.
Half a minute later, the guard found himself unsuited, with a submachine gun pointed at his head, while Daniel had gotten into the Neosteel CLCS-410. "Knock him out," he ordered, and Sarlena set the gun on stun, sending a single shot into the helpless guard, then returning the gun to him. "Now, the confederates who've noticed some ruckus here will expect a guard to come out, and since there was a shot, he ought to be bringing three prisoners with him." He lowered his reflective visor, and held out three pairs of handcuffs from the back-pack attached to the suit. "Sorry, but you've got to put these on." Michael groaned, Christopher grimaced, and Sarlena stood resolute...
Soon after Daniel had finished placing the handcuffs, he took another look at the trio. Christopher is evidently not in his favored position; but then of course he wouldn't be. Michael sure looks worried... Daniel saw the contortions on his face--hadn't he ever been in compromising situations before? And Sarlena-- The young woman was very determined, an innate fire shining through her eyes. Indomitable.
"See, I told you not to worry about him," said one of the reinforcement guards to another, as the guard emerged from the locked door with a young lady and two young men captive and cuffed together. "Now, let's get some tea," he said, and left with the other guard, stomping down the corridor. The civilians seemed the only ones who thought the idea of a single guard handling three captives to be unusual, but none were surprised either--the guard had a power suit on after all...
From inside his suit, Daniel looked at the signs hanging overhead as he progressed down the terminal. There were shouts elsewhere in the complex, and at one point he saw another Confederate guard bringing two prisoners in tow. "Good'one, mate," he said, faking cheerfulness and nodding simultaneously; the other returned the same. Thankfully, Michael's gone back to his wailing, Daniel thought to himself. Now I can pull this off too. "Say, do you by any chance know who has a tranquilizer gun around here? This guy won't shut up."
The guard stopped, just as they reached the starport's exit. "Say, pal, I've got one right here, actually!" And he handed it over to Daniel.
"Gee, thanks!" Turning around, he shot it at Michael. The drug rushed through his bloodstream and through his nerves, and he found his resistance fading away...
Daniel escorted the three captives, trudging down the avenue to the nearest taxi, grudgingly thrusting the three captives into the rear seats and taking the front seat for himself. "Nearest jail," he said gruffly, and the taxi swiftly sped away.
The avenues of most Confederate cities were all similar: rather narrow, but with several floating lanes superimposed over the surface lanes; and several-storied buildings on both sides. The taxi rushed forward, steered upward, later coming back down, and landed at the entrance of the taxi, sometimes clocking two hundred kilometers an hour. "Now, you're not expecting me to pay the fees, right?" Daniel asked, knowing that the marines generally got free rides, to be paid for by the military establishment.
"No sir, we bill indirect for military affairs."
"Good." And with that, he hauled out his three 'prisoners', bringing them to the prison warden who had by then decided to wait at the entrance, so fast were the new refugees arriving. That jail is Huge, Daniel thought to himself as he walked up to him.
"Another three," he said, noting it down in his laptop before lazily pointing at the farthest corridor. "Cells 12530, 12531, and 12532." Daniel gave a curt nod, then took the other three with him down the path.
"I recognize a few people here," Sarlena whispered. "I suppose most of the people here were originally from Mar Sara." Daniel nodded in agreement, but was already far away enough from the warden for him not to notice. He tapped the door to cells with his magnetic ID badge, and they opened automatically. Then he unlocked the handcuffs and put one in each cell. "I'll get you guys out soon," he said to them, before proceeding down the corridor.
It took ten minutes to find the nearest armory in the jail while avoiding the other guards. He took out all the weapons and hauled them to the middle of one corridor with his power suit's added energy. Then, he positioned himself at one end of the corridor, rushing down the halls as fast as he could while tapping each of the cell doors with his badge.
Behind him, a wave of unlocked cell doors opened, and the freed inmates each equipped themselves with some weaponry and armor.
He rushed back and forth, back and forth, corridor after corridor, freeing all the inmates in turn, and a massive flood of civilians, some of them armed, quickly subdued the astonished and sorely outgunned guards and threw them and the terrified prison warden into the cells, unarmored, before any of them could even make a call. Then the deluge of several hundred people rushed out of the prison to the starport, where they knew tens of thousands would soon land in the coming thirty six hours. Daniel regrouped with his three friends, now relieved with their freedom being returned to them, and now that each was suited and armed, the foursome approached Antiga Prime's center of power, a hemispherical chamber akin to the one in Los Andares, taking a taxi one block down the road...
Minutes later, they had arrived at their destination. The round, twenty-feet-tall building's sole entrance and circular walls were covered by twelve soldiers, their laser weapons pointed upward, ready to defend the command center against vandals, thieves, and gangsters.
But they weren't meant to stand up against a team attacking from out of sight. The four got out of the taxi, which sped away, and a constant stream of traffic headed back and forth obscured the guards' vision. "All right, team. We're gonna take out those guards really quick."
Four guns were trained on the guards, who were walking around aimlessly and evidently too bored to care. Then, they opened fire all of a sudden, their sprays of shots instantly piercing into the majority of the defenders, killing some of them outright. They dashed into action, shooting laser beams into the fray as many cars began to meander off course, their drivers slain in the deadly crossfire. But the guards were shooting around aimlessly, then realized they were in trouble and tried to escape, and all were killed.
"Quick--get them before they notice!" Sarlena shouted, and the foursome rushed up to the crosswalk one flight of stairs up, just as the dazed drivers began honking their horns and blowing their whistles in fear.
The people in the headquarters were just about to flee the command center when Daniel appeared on the scene, his Gauss trained on them, followed immediately by three others. Oh no, she's going to burst into it, Daniel thought, realizing with a start that Sarlena was about to discharge all the fury of her pent-up emotions at being handcuffed and imprisoned, but was not fast enough as she fired her Gauss into the crowd of obviously unprepared and unprotected targets. By the time Daniel could knock her aside, six of the officers lay dead on the ground, and the others were rushing to the sides of the command center, heading toward the escape exits.
"Stop! Don't move!" shouted Christopher, bringing them to an immediate and terror-filled halt before they could make for it. They put their hands in the air as Daniel came to them and handcuffed them to their chairs around the imposing mahogany table in the middle, as the doors closed on their own.
A red-haired woman was not far from where they had been standing, lying on the ground and seemingly beaten and whipped. Probably a failed rebel, Daniel thought. He moved toward her and used his badge to unlock her handcuffs, and she immediately burst to her feet, retrieving a canister rifle from seemingly out of nowhere in her suit, aiming it at him. Whoa there! I thought I was being nice to you!
Then suddenly, he sensed a reply: <Oops! Blame it on my confederate Ghost conditioning. Now, you won't be telling the others that they had managed to subdue me, right?> It seemed as if there was another person, an intruder of the mind, who had drilled a hole into his head and spoke from within, a powerful, focused thought...
Daniel was truly shocked. But he only expressed it by tilting his head at little, and narrowing his eyes at her.
"Now, Magistrate, why don't you just do what we tell you to," said Sarlena in what even Daniel thought was a rather despicable tone. It worked, though; the shocked magistrate nodded pleadingly, eyes closed in fear.
Daniel looked at Sarlena with a smile. Not bad, he thought, as he turned on the public announcement keypad. Suddenly, the portrait of Sarlena and the terrorized magistrate appeared on the supercomputer screen, and doubtlessly throughout much of the planet.
"All right everyone, listen up. We've got the magistrate practically watering his pants right here, as well as half a dozen other high officials hostage and another half a dozen dead. You all can come out of hiding now, and welcome the arrival of the Sons of Korhal!"
What the heck is she doing?! thought Daniel, backing away. Then suddenly: Oh...yeah!
Then, as soon as Sarlena had finished what she was saying, there was a resounding crackle. All four looked at the magistrate, his head blown off and blood spilling everywhere, then at the seriously bruised red-haired woman who had just earlier been lying prone on the ground.
"Greetings, comrades of Korhal. You were a bit late."
The five prepared to defend the command center against an immediate counter-revolutionary strike by the Confederates, but it never came, though there were many gunshots to be heard. At long last, with Daniel getting very tired and particularly strained from being cramped into the same position for several hours, they decided to venture out into the open.
And were confronted by the corpses of several dead Confederates, their light armor suits punctured, trickles of blood still flowing out into glistening pools of blood.
"There you are!" The team turned instinctively in the direction of the sound, and saw a speedbike practically on top of a dead Confederate marine, and Jim Raynor standing on top of the speedbike. "Been looking all over for ya' in this bike of mine."
"James! How's it been around here?"
"Great! Only a few casualties, Colonel, most of the Confederates decided to drop their weapons and armor as fast as they could after they heard the announcement, and we just had a few others to subdue."
"All right, that's what I wanted to hear." Then, with a squinted eye: "Did you just call me colonel?"
"Yep, that's right, Mengsk has just promoted you to colonel as of a few hours ago, Christopher to lieutenant colonel under you, and Sarlena and I to commanders. Well, isn't that amazing?"
"Okay, but... why me?"
"You? You were on television, didn't you see it?"
"Not really... But I think that means we've got to be going, isn't there supposed to be a ceremony for promotions to colonel?"
"Yep, let's go," Raynor said, but he was actually looking--no, staring--at the red-haired woman.
"I'm warning you," she said, pointing a threatening finger at him, her other hand on her canister rifle.
"What's the problem?" asked Daniel, then decided, Well, I might as well try to think about what's in Raynor's mind. And within seconds, he got a signal, or so he thought: <<the gracefulness and lush warmth of the naked-->>
The peering of thoughts made Daniel back off with a start, breaking the connection. "Oh, my goodness, how could you, James?"
"What??? You too?" James's cheeks were flushed as he looked from the red-haired woman, to Daniel, to the others, then ignited the vulture hover-bike's ion engines and roared off into the traffic.
Daniel felt his forehead with his hand. How had that happened? Is it true? True, all those rumors of telepathy? And could the red-haired woman be using it on me right now?
"No, I'm not," she blurted into the gentle swishing sounds of the overhead traffic, then suddenly cupped her mouth with her hands, knowing she had said something wrong.
"What?" said Sarlena, whirling around and thoroughly confused. Daniel felt a lump trying to rise up in his throat; he didn't want Sarlena to discover this little secret before he had even gotten the chance to explore it himself. He looked at Sarlena, who was staring back at him, and felt his insides clench--perhaps even a sweat drop maybe... And Sarlena continued to stare at them both, getting more suspicious by the moment.