Stealing the AceEdit
Just as Daniel was about to return to his bed-room along the outer ring of the command center, the adjutant noted, "receiving incoming transmission."
The image of General Duke appeared. "This is General Duke of Alpha Fleet! My battlecruiser, the Norad II, has crash-landed on Antiga, and we are surrounded by Zerg! Half of our weapons systems are still functional and so we can keep them at bay, but not indefinitely. Requesting immediate backup! Repeat, this is a high-priority alert--"
"Wow, I never expected that snake Duke to be caught in such a position," James declared, eyes practically beaming at the sudden turn of events. That is, until Mengsk entered the conversation via ansible.
"Listen. I want you to go down there and rescue him and anyone else that you can find there," he intoned.
"I'm CERTAIN I didn't hear THAT right," said Raynor very irritatedly.
"Well you just did, Jim. Duke may be a Confederate bastard, but a whole crew shouldn't have to suffer because of that. Besides, maybe we can come to use him. It's a chance I can't simply pass up." Then his portrait vanished.
"O--kay," said James, meaning the opposite. "Then let's just quickly get this thing done, all right?"
Daniel looked at his reports and at the tactical display. "Seems like the crashed Battlecruiser has blown a crater into the ground, and they're using it to defend against a light onslaught of Zerg. The Zerg obviously don't care much about what is obviously a useless Battlecruiser, so it'll be safe to sneak in there with a couple of dropships. How many people operate a Battlecruiser?"
"One hundred and forty, plus or minus twenty," replied Christopher.
"Good, then I'll have a dropship go there and pick 'em up..." said Daniel readily. "Adjutant, have one prepared to go right away."
Daniel then looked at the visual from a Telsat. "Darn, there's that creep already!"
James chimed in, "if that's the case, Daniel, then that means the Zerg have already been here for a while!"
Daniel looked back at the visual. There was already an extensive field of creep, and it was slowly spreading into the crater. "There seems to be some unusual organic structures scattered about the vicinity of the crash site. Why hasn't anyone noticed them before?" He was getting frustrated at what seemed to be incompetent commanders.
"Colonel sir, the dropships have reached thirty thousand feet and are activating gravitic drives."
"Good, Jimmy," Daniel replied.
"Magistrate, sensors have detected clouds of some dense matter scattered about the airspace up to ten thousand feet in altitude, concentrated on those organic alien structures. They seem to be reminiscent of spores."
"Well, we'll find out what they're for soon enough," Daniel thought, as the dropships approached their location.
"Sir, encountering destructive interference, requesting permission to pull out!" shouted one of the warrant officers on the intercom.
"What's the matter?" Christopher shouted back in response, a bit worried.
"Strange spore-like objects impacting onto the dropship and corroding it, sir, repeat--" The officer's last words were cut off as holes appeared in the underside of the dropship as it descended, and a cloud of corrosive acid spread into the dropship interior, burning at the warrant officer's exposed flesh. He cried out in pain as his face started to exude blood, and coughed out more of the same. The camera shook as the walls broke apart and pure fire billowed up, and all was static--
The large vessel, now reduced to a wrecked hull, plummeted toward the ground, taking more aerial spores onto its surface, melting away all the way to the ground, shattering into pieces as they crashed.
"Darn," said Daniel, realizing that he had just sent a dropship to its destruction, and thus possibly another 3000 civilians who could no longer get off the planet in time. "We need some big object to take the brunt of the spores during the descent so that the dropships can get down safely, then another one to take the brunt of the spores as we go upward," Daniel declared. "Any ideas?"
Christopher came up to him. "Many colonial constructs are retrofitted with rockets and gravitic drives of their own. We could use, for example, a barracks to act as damage absorber."
Daniel smiled at the prospect. A barracks was quite large, and could probably take enough damage for the dropship to make it in and out. "All right, we'll arrange for a barracks to lift off right away, followed immediately by the two dropships."
Soon enough, a few minutes later saw the barracks falling out of the sky, with the dropships drifting down in the safety of the barracks's wake. The barracks, however, was eroding fast, parts of its carbon and metal shell blistering away and its rocketry taking a severe hit. It only took three minutes to descend to the surface, and the crew welcomed their arrival, eagerly entering the crafts, along with General Duke.
"You guys were the last people I was expecting to show up," said a clearly disgruntled General Duke over the intercom.
This only made Raynor angrier. "Listen here, you snake, if it weren't for-"
"Enough of that, Raynor," said Mengsk via ansible and entering into the conversation. Then, a period of mute conversation took place between Duke and Mengsk.
"What the heck's going on?" asked Raynor. "How can you trust him at all?"
Mengsk spoke back to him now, clearly audible: "Don't worry about it, Raynor. He may be a snake, but he's our snake now."
Daniel spent the rest of the day busy with making preparations for a possible return strike at the dracolisks, as well as against the zerg ground forces rapidly making peaceful inroads across the countryside.
He was interrupted by Raynor. "The adjutant wanted me to warn you that our position has just been discovered as of several hours ago, and that a large Confederate strike force operating under the orange banner of the Delta Fleet has taken up positions around our city. Also, I think Mengsk wanted to speak with you..."
Daniel nodded, and Raynor turned on the ansible, and a real-time portrait of Mengsk appeared on the screen. "What's up?"
"While you were taking a break on your frigate the day of the final stage of evacuation, a small task force comprising of Raynor and a few other marines entered a nearly abandoned secret Confederate installation known only as JACOBS. We retrieved from there a set of data discs rumored to hold advanced cybernetic weaponry being tested upon by the wily Confederate scientists.
"Well, it turned out that there weren't any plans for advanced weaponry. Instead, it held designs for a Transplanar Psionic Waveform Emitter." Cool name, thought Christopher. And he immediately had the feeling that it had to do with something unusual.
At that time, Kerrigan entered the room, having returned from whatever mystery operation she had been up to. "You guys briefing our beloved colonel on the psi emitter?"
"Yep, that's right," replied Raynor.
"Well, let me tell you a bit about it. It's a strange mind-related thing, and it has to with the psychic emanations of the ghosts." Oh yeah, Christopher thought, remembering that Kerrigan was a ghost.
"Well, those running the Confederate ghost programs at the academy also found out that the Zerg are attracted to the psionic emanations of ghosts."
Raynor was flabbergasted, and replied, sarcastically: "So the Zerg are here because of you, Kerrigan? This keeps getting better and better." Kerrigan merely brushed his comment aside.
"These psi emitters amplify the brain waves of us ghosts a billion-fold. The vibes of these things can reach across worlds."
Daniel felt a shiver crawling up his spine. Now it all seems to click into place, he thought to himself. Obviously the Zerg had been lured here by the psi emitter, probably used accidentally, too.
Raynor was irritated. It would seem that Mengsk was even more so, as he said, "So you see, Daniel? Much as the Confederates were willing to use their thousands of Apocalypse-class nuclear warheads to glass over Korhal IV decades ago, they will use their Zerg--their pet creations--to take dominance over the militia of the fringe colonies and restore order--their type of order. Only know, who would suspect that the aliens weren't really coming from the vast reaches of space on their own accord? And then the Confederates can enter the fray, killing off the Zerg and being lauded as heroes. That's the best way to come into control of any world, by making your subjects believe that you are their saviors."
Daniel was lost in thought at all the ramifications of those words...
Kerrigan cut in. "Only now, we have the opportunity to turn the twisted wiles of the Confederacy against itself. With these psi emitters, we can lure the Zerg to the Confederate capital world of Tarsonis, and finally mete out punishment for all the thousands who have died by the power of the Zerg." Her face was charged with fury...
You want to damn all the innocent civilians on Tarsonis?!? Maybe I am in league with the wrong group, if that's what you all really want, Daniel thought, and realized the next moment that Kerrigan probably caught his anger and the meaning behind it.
"I-I think I'm going to need a vacation," said Daniel, and rapidly left, leaving the other three wondering what had caused him to suddenly need a break just as things seemed to be 'turning up'.
Outside, Daniel thought as he hailed a taxi and entered it, saying, "Red Wolves silver tower." If what they say is true, they still can't assault Tarsonis--yet. They would first have to eradicate the newly arrived Delta Fleet forces. And we obviously don't have the military needed to wipe out Delta Fleet, so Kerrigan is going to want to set off the psi emitter in the midst of the unsuspecting Delta Fleet base, luring more Zerg here...
Daniel followed the secretary through the labyrinth...
But what about all the civilians currently residing in the cities, towns, and villages? Will they all similarly be overrun by the Zerg? Oh my goodness, but if these Sons of Korhal commanders are off to damn their own kind...
Daniel awaited as the massive doors to Janus's room opened, revealing the same man now being tended to by a different pair of women, surrounded by plenty of guards.
The man looked up. "Why greetings there, Daniel," he said.
"Hi Janus. Whatever happened to the two women you had with you last time?"
"I killed them," he said as if it were nothing, leaving Daniel flabbergasted.
"They tried to kill me," Janus replied. "Evidently, being the leader of a renowned gang isn't as safe as you'd like to think."
"Uh--well! I guess not then, but hey, you survived," Daniel noted.
"Yeah, I did. You ever heard the story behind the Sword of Damocles?"
"Is this some mythical instrument that can kill Zerg pretty quickly?" Daniel asked sarcastically.
"No, nothing of the sort. See, there was one person Damocles who thought that the life of a king must be all easy and such. When the king overheard him, he offered to let Damocles be king for a day. Damocles eagerly accepted, and so he had much fun, and the night of that special day, they had a grand feast. Unfortunately, Damocles suddenly lost his appetite halfway through. Care to guess why? I bet you'd never guess."
"No, why?" Daniel was intrigued.
"Because he looked upward at that point in the feast, and saw that there was a sword hanging shortly above his head, suspended by a single string. And in the balcony above him was an imperial guard holding scissors."
Daniel's cheeks were all puffed up; he was about to say something, but then couldn't recover from the shock of the story to open his mouth.
Janus continued nonchalantly. "So yeah, that's what I realized when the two women tried to assassinate me. Unfortunately for them, I have hidden automatic weapons, and they were both killed off. That's my little anecdote. What service do you desire performed, Daniel?"
"I need to perform an underhanded operation involving a dropship and probably quite a few soldiers. And I can't use my own military because I don't want several other important people to find out about it. Basically, I need to use the dropship to sneak up to a currently unknown destination when the showdown with the Delta Fleet comes."
Janus beamed at the thought. "All right, I'm pretty sure we can arrange something. What shall you be willing to offer?"
There's that same question. "I'll offer you and the Red Wolves full control of an entire city, Antiga Gamma. Plus a few more dropships so that you'll be able to get off this planet in case the Zerg strike."
Janus, knowing that he could not maneuver for more, nodded his head slowly. "Very well then, deal concluded."
"When does this dropship take off?"
"Presently. I have just had reports of a certain entourage taking a currently unknown device to some underground position beneath the main command center of Delta Fleet."
Daniel whistled at the startling rapidity at which they had moved. "All right, I'll go now then."
Daniel took the elevator up to the top level, where a dropship was already awaiting, and entered it. The dropship was even worse kept than that of the Sons of Korhal, but he could live with it. The starcraft soared high into the air, unbeknownst to the commanders still in the command center...
Then cruised at an altitude of forty thousand feet until they were directly over the base of Delta Squadron. The warrant officer, a fellow Red Wolf, opened up a connection with a commander on the ground, which Daniel believed had some connection or another with the Red Wolves. Because they then began their descent, and landed on the planet without troubles.
There were several marines waiting on the surface. "Why do you wish to dig here?" They were clearly baffled.
Daniel decided to bluff. "There is a powerful weapon below you, a new type of thermonuclear weapon that can crumble nearly everything in this overextended base. And though I don't know when exactly it's about to detonate, it'll be soon."
The marine, stunned at the news which she believed to be true, backed away, and Daniel closed his eyes, sensing, sending feelers out with his mind...
"So? Where is it?" asked the marine, who was becoming increasingly worried for her own safety.
"Wait, don't go down there yet, they've got quite a lot of soldiers preparing to set it off. We'll wait until they have evacuated, then we go down there, take it in this dropship, rise out of the atmosphere, and then let it detonate. Don't worry, this thing doesn't leak any radiation." Daniel smiled, but was also smiling inwardly at the trick he was planning to pull off.
So---they waited, and waited.... and waited, until Daniel was getting increasingly irritated. He scarcely knew what to expect, but then he also realized that since it was a psi emitter, and since he was at least partially psychic, that he'd know when the time came.
Then suddenly, he felt a strong continuous pulse, an irresistible attraction... And he went across the ground, as if possessed, until he was immediately on top of the object several feet below. "Hurry over here!" he said to the Red Wolves, who were a bit baffled, but obeyed, and set to work setting a charge in place, then dragged Daniel away from the explosion radius.
Then, as the detonation faded away, and as Daniel coughed from all the smoke, the Red Wolves set to work digging the last foot of clay separating them from the psi emitter activated below...
Daniel had a feeling that time was beginning to run out, just as the Red Wolves used one of the dropship's cranes to lift up the sizable, alien-looking, rotating device.
The call was now irresistible, and Daniel found himself a moment later practically hugging it. He sensed an overwhelming sense of a calling, as if he were meant to come here... He could no longer focus on what he was doing... He sensed the vibes, their emanation...
Then suddenly, just as it had come, it was gone.
He had deactivated the psi emitter.
Daniel returned to shouting, so as to keep up the semblance of something dangerous going on. "All right, everyone! What are you waiting for? Let's get this thing out of the atmosphere!" The Red Wolves rushed to place it aboard the nearby dropship, then as the team got back on board, the warrant officers lifted the dropship into the air at an incredibly fast acceleration.
From within the dropship, Daniel saw the readings of the telsat, the blips on the screen...
He practically fainted at the effectiveness of the psi emitter.