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Approaching firing range in ten. Nine. Eight... Wraith One lifted up and proceeding out... Two up and ready to rock'n'roll. ...six... five... four... Hey, something's up with the enemy movements! Wraith four joining into formation, five about to be up. Two... one... Impact! We have positives, I repeat, we have positives! All targets hit, bunker busters have succeeded in crushing reaper resistance, with minimal battle casualties... All Mjolnir siege tanks currently preparing stage one of the reloading sequence, estimated time to preparation is five minutes... Our marines have engaged the enemy at bunkers sixteen, twenty-four and... Wraiths in formation and hovering engines activated. Awaiting orders. Wait... who said you could have these... ahhh!!! What the heck is the commotion down there? Officers, come in, come in, please! Cloaking sequence activated. All five Wraith fighters have successfully cloaked. ...has taken a critical hit and is out of commission, I repeat, Goliath number two- Squadron five to tactical. Any reasons why the opponents we're facing have decided to withdraw from the conflict? Twenty more of my men dead, HQ. Goliath three seems to be off-line. I've lost contact!- This is too good to be true, sir! The enemies on the field directly below us seem to be engaging each other... Squadron seventeen stimmed and running, colonel! What? What's he talking about, Lance? On, and on, the continuous shouts of the various commanders and soldiers turned into a dichotomous drone...

Daniel opened the door and stepped into the hallway, arms behind his back as if he were sure of everything, grasping several of the others' attention with his sudden appearance while approaching the nearest unused intercom set.

"This is Colonel Travincal to Wraiths. Proceed at 225 degrees for six kilometers, then engage the Goliaths there. Then fire at will."

Daniel didn't pay attention to the other shouts ringing out into other commanders' microphones, nor the gasps of amazement that were written on the others' faces, wondering how Daniel could return nearly halfway into the fray and still know what was going on...

He focused on the camera feedback of the five Wraiths, their Quantradyne engines propelling them into the reign of destruction... He saw, from his grand seat at the center of the command center, as the Wraiths sped on toward the Goliaths, who immediately shot out their missiles, one of the few potent weapons useful against the Wraiths. He saw as the Wraiths countered with their burst lasers, massive heat rays punching into the shells of the lumbering hulks. He saw as the Wraiths dropped their payload of chaff and flare, whirling around as they passed their target to return for another strike, as one after another missile detonated harmlessly in the near void of the atmosphere at twenty thousand feet; he watched as yet another exploded mere feet away from a cloaked Wraith, destabilizing its cloaking generator, and thus allowing him to visibly watch as the left wing fell away from the rest of the ordinarily three-winged craft, as other pieces flew out amidst a blaze rapidly traversing up to the rocket's fuel tanks... saw a spectacular explosion as the craft shattered into hundreds of pieces of white-hot sheet metal, slicing and arcing down through the atmosphere at a phenomenal speed...

"Sir, Wraith Five is down."

"Report: What are the inflicted casualties of the Wraiths?" Daniel queried, as he watched another pair of Wraiths bank left and steer back the way they had came.

"Three enemy Goliaths down--no, four."

"Good." "Bad," Daniel corrected himself, as another starfighter exploded in a brilliant flower of unleashed energy.

"Wraith Three is down."

"Colonel, observation reports that the enemy Wraith squadron is inbound on our location."

"Call off the attack on the Goliaths. Intercept the Wraiths."

The red marks representing the wraiths moved rapidly across the cityscape, rushing toward its center--and the command center. Suddenly, various previously unnoticed lights flashed on and off, and klaxons wailed. "We're under attack! Proceed to the underground control center!" Daniel gazed as one of the friendly wraiths rolled obliquely into a position right behind an enemy wraith, and rapidly fired off a string of laser bursts, striking holes in the underside of the enemy craft. Aim for the rocket, Daniel thought to himself, Aim for the rocket, or I'll fire you!

Then suddenly, the enemy craft the Wraith had been pursuing exploded into a display of fireworks. Daniel mentally congratulated the pilot for a job well done...

The four remaining enemy Wraiths were not far from the command center, and were flying in formation. The others had already went downstairs to another set of computers in the basement, but Daniel stayed, thinking, they shall not take down our command center! As he watched, the red enemy Wraith Two veered off course and shot a missile at Wraith One, who was too slow to respond. Its right wing and the right side of the cockpit blew up, and the remaining part of the craft, severely on fire, spun around haphazardly down to the ground far below like a maple wing.

"Adjutant! Mark red Wraith Two as one of ours," Daniel said, remembering how the Red Wolves had supposedly infiltrated the enemy. Then he remembered that everyone had already fled to the basement. "Did you hear me?"

"Yeah," came the muffled reply. Scaredy-cats, Daniel mentally tiraded them as he stood, a lone figure in the command center.

Red Wraith Three broke off from the pattern, with red Wraith Four shearing in the opposite direction. Red Wraith One performed a barrel roll, avoiding the ineffective burst lasers. Behind, and flying through the clouds, came the green trio of Wraiths, each of them firing one missile in turn. One of the enemy crafts unloaded ten flares, and the Apollo missiles detonated in the targeting confusion. Both enemy wraiths now proceeded back to the relative safety of enemy lines.

"Goliaths, I want interception at sector 23-8, within one minute," Daniel shouted into his speaker. He breathed a sigh of relief. At least the incoming Wraith threat was over...

The four green Wraiths regrouped, proceeding outward away from the city toward the enemy Goliaths. Daniel nearly lost his standing as the ground seemed to suddenly quake. "What was that?" he shouted to the others below.

"It seems that five of our concentrated marine squadrons have been decimated by Mjolnir bunker-busters," a lieutenant reported. Darn! thought Daniel. I hope Jaxtor's performance is up to par...

The four green Wraiths proceeded through the thin atmosphere of thirty thousand feet, and caught sight of one of the fleeing Wraiths. All four simultaneously began to unleash a deadly spurt of laser fire, and several of them lacerated the Wraith's plating, setting something on fire and trailing smoke... Daniel couldn't see clearly, but then his attention focused to the other Wraith, cruising at low altitude and sending streams of laser bursts wildly into the city, shattering buildings as it went. It came just into the attack range of the Goliaths, and they launched three pairs of missiles, streaking upward at a furious face. The Wraith swung upward, sending a shower of flares roaring down below, and several detonations occurred... But as the Wraith progressed upward at nearly vertical, it suddenly stalled, then swiftly fell downward, like a rock... into the path of a cruising missile, which dutifully impacted, sending the crumbling remains of the Wraith dropping downward...

The four green Wraiths pursued a lone enemy Goliath, shattering its walker armor with their streams of burst laser fire. Half of the walker simply fell away toward the ground, and the other half teetered for only a moment longer.

"All right, this is Colonel Travincal to Wraiths. Congratulations on a job well done. Now take out those siege tanks."

"Roger, command." The wraiths sped on to the rear guard of the oncoming army, sending bursts of fire into the defenseless siege tanks, turning them into scrap metal, while the helpless marines below very inaccurately fired bursts of Gauss fire at the starfighters circling overhead, Vultures ready for carnage...

"Fire at will, I repeat, fire at will." The Wraiths then broke formation, each heading in another direction but evading the last remaining squadron of marines' laser fire as the siege tanks below them billowed the smoke of death.

Lieutenant Sarlena interrupted. "Dan, our marines seem to have all uniformly taken to drugs in the midst of battle. What should we do about that?"

Christopher, who was in the room, only smiled back. "Why, nothing, Sal. It was my plan after all."

"What!" shouted a frustrated Daniel from across the room at the top of his voice. It was the first indication anyone had that he didn't know what was going on.

She shot back a worried look. "I didn't know you had that in you," she said to Christopher.

"Well, you'll be surprised. Most good commanders have a lot of things that others didn't think they had." Christopher tried to keep his grin from becoming too overt.

The tide of battle was swiftly turning. It seemed that several of the regiments thrown at Antiga Prime either had really bad, impossibly bad commanders, or were missing them altogether. Some had turned against each other, and others had simply retreated. Their laser-gun, Wraith, dropship, Goliath, and Mjolnir squadrons had been wiped out, and their marines were fleeing in terror or were too horrified to do anything, as land mines randomly burst out of the ground in furious fire-balls, and others were sniped at from behind walls in mind-rending street-by-street battles reminiscent of Stalingrad. The Antigan wraiths were hunting down their prey without being halted by any sort of resistance, and the Confederate will to fight was sapped. Through it all, Daniel, Christopher, Sarlena, Michael, and all the others in the command center were shielded from the brutality of warfare, watching it all as if it were a chess game, with dots on a minimap representing the opposing forces.

Slowly, but increasing into a crescendo, the battered invasion forces withdrew alongside their commander Gui Montag, in ignominous defeat, while behind them, the pitter-patter of distant shots could still be heard, sound waves intermingling with smoke and flame...

Daniel slumped onto the sofa. He'd had enough battle for the day, and was tired of standing in one place for so long, overseeing the battle for which he'd ultimately be responsible for. Meanwhile, the other commanders and the adjutant came out from hiding, cheering and shouting whoops of victory. Daniel simply gave them a nod that meant quite frankly, I don't care if you celebrate over this victory, since it's mine anyway.

Several hours later...

Daniel awoke from a short nap (the sofa was just that relaxing), and as soon as the adjutant saw him, she rushed over, one hand twirling her long, flowing blonde hair and the other holding out a report of the battle on a tablet computer. "Good evening, colonel. We have already compiled battle statistics. We lost 215 marines, six Vultures, five Goliaths, four Wraiths, and a Longbolt missile turret. A dropship was also severely damaged while performing an emergency personnel transportation operation."

Daniel frowned. That seemed to be way too many casualties. And if we added in the Zerg, Daniel thought, then this is no victory at all, but a horrific defeat for mankind--at war with itself! "Battle damage?"

"The Confederacy lost 345 marines, 28 vultures, seven Goliaths, twelve Mjolnirs, six dropships, and five Wraiths. Mid-battle, another 465 marines, ten Vultures, one Wraith, two dropships, and three Goliaths switched allegiances. After the battle, we recovered and imprisoned another 590 marines and four Vultures. Well? Satisfied, sir?"

Daniel smiled, looking upward at her. "Not at all, adjutant, not at all." For her part, she simply smiled, placed the report on the sofa, and walked back to the supercomputer.

A moment's silence. "Okay, I give in, that was a remarkable battle, even considering it was a defensive action." He got up from the sofa. "So? Let's stop looking around the command center for the supposed battle damage, there isn't any. Oh, and I wonder what drugs my men were using--could it be a depressant? A useless anti-cancer drug like cisplatin, perhaps?" Several officers chuckled warily.

Raynor (having had over an hour to recover), said next, "what say you, I invite everyone here to a victory feast?" There was a few sparkles in his eyes.

Then, everyone let out a cheer, and there was a nearly mad rush for the exit, as a stunned taxi driver came to a halt in front of them at the sight of the mass movement. "We're headed for the best five-star restaurant you know of around here," Raynor practically shouted at the taxi driver, as a few others stopped to pick up the passengers as well. The taxi driver thought fast, then picked a route to the furthest five-star restaurant he knew of, and the others followed suit.

The restaurant surely was impressive, with decorative chandeliers suspended under the high ceiling; majestic oak paneling; a revolving glass door; and an interior that seemed to be more of a biosphere than a dining hall, so much flora and even captive fauna were inside... At the entrance, two waitresses curtsied in their pink dresses, beckoning the group in. Daniel almost bowed his head in return, then stopped as he realized he didn't have to.

"Well, let's seize the occasion while we have it," said Christopher, a bit grimly. "It could just be the last time we get to eat from a good restaurant in a long time..."

Raynor shrugged the thought away. It was not the right thing to think about right now. Right now was the time to celebrate, and never mind the money. He called up one of the plentiful waitresses at the restaurant. "Let's see... aw, forget this menu. Just bring up what you think are the best twelve meals this restaurant had to offer." The waitresses thought a moment, then rushed off to pass the orders for the twelve most expensive dishes offered, while another stayed behind and poured out wine for them. "Congratulations on defending our city from the despicable Confederates," she said, and Daniel smiled, basking in the self-felt glory that was achieving an objective that others cared about...

It's good to be the winner, he thought to himself, looking at the fanciful restaurant, while the waitresses gracefully poured out wine, coffee, tea, and soda into the wine-glasses.

On the other hand, there's the Zerg, he interrupted that train of thought. And our victory today is bittersweet. Where-ever the Zerg were, they had by now fully taken control over all of Mar Sara. And if--If they were able to traverse space, then things could quickly take a far more nasty turn.

Nasty, as a malignant tumor metastasizing, and humanity were being treated with cisplatin rather than potentiplatin.

And then, he remembered with a start, how the overlords in the final confrontation had been able to use what seemed to be gravitic drives--that device that allowed interstellar travel. His heart fell despite the jovial atmosphere surrounding him.

He was still pondering about the possibilities for a future Zerg offensive when the first steaming hot platters of rare fish, lobsters, crabs, delicacies such as caviar and venison, hand-made sushi, and a variety of other meats were brought forward... Life was surely good at times...

Harbinger(T) :C | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55

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