Fall of Tarsonis, Part IEdit
The Dropship-class frigate arrived in low orbit around Tarsonis after twenty days of gravitic slipstream transport. Thirteen hours before its arrival, the Sons of Korhal covertly activated multiple psi emitters on the planet surface. Shortly thereafter the Zerg arrived en masse, thus initiating the largest confrontation to date.
What had happened here? thought Daniel, looking at the dropship's scanners, which were indicating death and destruction splattered everywhere throughout nearby space and across the ruins of this portion of the planet that was Tarsonis, the capital city and world of the Confederacy...
But the contingent from Antiga had only gotten here fifteen hours ago... As Daniel observed the mottled black patches that were slowly growing across the planet, the dropship concluded its terrible journey, sinking through the atmosphere toward a run-down part of the city where Christopher had set up a beacon hailing him. All about him were the reddish-blackish skies that resulted whenever a massive-scale confrontation had occurred. They were headed for one of the many dispersed cities on the planet, one that had already been ravaged by the torches of war. The broken, toppled towers of this district came swiftly into view as the dropship approached, aligning itself with a boulevard below so that it could land along the length of the road. As the vessel touched down, great jets of wind blew outward, sending the stalled cars that littered the road flying off in both directions. The dropship nestled snugly along the wide road, with city blocks of shredded and abandoned buildings lining up on both their left and right. It was like one very large truck that took up all six lanes of the road.
As the hatches of the dropship opened, the first thing Daniel noticed was the utter peace that pervaded this district. There were no sounds of fighting - the battle had evidently moved on - but the devastation would never go away. Daniel stepped out into the ruined, charred landscape, which still had fires burning away every few dozen yards. Here was where the Sons of Korhal had made their headquarters. Daniel was welcomed by Sarlena as soon as he entered the makeshift command center. "Oh, Daniel!" she called out in surprise, "we thought you had died! Welcome back!!"
"I don't die so easily," Daniel remarked, smiling once again. Then he frowned. "But so many others have died. About twenty dropships escaped destruction at Antiga Prime after what we did back there, which puts the maximum number of survivors at 60,000. It was bad... What about here, how many refugees made it out safely?"
"Tarsonis may be the capital world and far more populated than all the other Confederate worlds, but transport capacity had never been even close to enough. About 400 dropships made it out, bringing with them a million civilians."
Daniel drooped his head in defeat. "Only a million, out of so many..."
"Civilian casualties on Tarsonis so far?"
"Could be reaching ten million out of the hundred million in total on Tarsonis, sir."
Daniel stared in silent disbelief. There was the sinking feeling that he gasped for show, not because he felt something innate. For some strange reason, he didn't sense their deaths very acutely. That was merely a statistic that had just been reported to him; it meant nothing, really. It was probably even off by a hundred million. That one death by Michael's gauss was such a tragedy, for both me and the Overmind. Now, the tragedy here seems in my mind to pale in significance. Oh, how ignorant and fragile life sometimes seems to be!
"Come on, Daniel, you've got to let it drop, or else such thoughts will consume you. Besides, you can't do anything about it. Now, look: It seems we landed here and Kerrigan, Mengsk's second-in-command, decided to immediately enter into battle against the Confederacy."
"Who's winning?" Daniel tried to keep away the thought that the Zerg were already certainly more vicious and inhumane than the Confederacy had ever been.
"We are. That is, we were losing until the several psi emitters planted around the planet were activated. Now the Zerg are practically fighting for us."
"There's no such thing as the Zerg fighting for you," thought Daniel, instantly suspicious. The Zerg serve their one and only master, the Overmind...
He called the hologram before him to display the situation across the entire planet. Massive regions were swarming with the red dots of the Zerg, quickly overwhelming the comparatively minute defenses of the Confederate defenders. There were so many of them that it was nearly impossible for Daniel to even estimate their numbers. Sprinkled in were some of the fleets of the Others - the third race they had encountered. For a moment there Daniel felt utterly overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the battle. He had never imagined that there could be so many Zerg ready to fight - all at the beck and call of the solitary Overmind. He had still been under the impression that the Zerg forces grew gradually and were limited in number. But evidently they were so numerous that they could easily overwhelm even the Confederate capital world's defenses... Now THAT was something truly frightening for a human. He felt so insignificant against the powers of the three armed races at this conflict... so minute... And he knew that all the trapped and defenseless civilians on the planet must be feeling the same way.
Daniel used a nearby spare computer to take a look at events happening on the ground up close. He could only choose viewpoints from Sons of Korhal ships, since the Confederates were antagonistic to them and at any rate all 108 Telsats that had been in orbit around the planet had fallen many hours ago. Yet what he saw was enough.
Tarsonis was doomed.
It was a repeat of what he had been forced to see back on Antiga, only on a much grander scale. Across much of the planet, the originally one-million-strong human defenders were pitted against a Zerg swarm far outnumbering them in numerous interrelated sub-battles. The entire world was plunged into chaos as the Zerg steadily gained ground, wiping out more and more of the defenders' bases through sheer superiority of numbers. The beleaguered defenders hastily retreated, and again, and yet again, each time dwindling in number. Their last territories were being quickly divided and overwhelmed. The Confederate fleets had all regrouped at the north pole, and were doing their best to hold off the Zerg navy. In the rest of Tarsonis space the alien invaders reigned supreme, spaceborne fleets leisurely patrolling the skies and rushing to where the ground forces encountered any resistance. From space, large crab-like creatures - yet another subspecies of the Zerg - steadily launched strange spherical contraptions down toward the surface that combusted into balls of white fire right before they reached the ground. In this manner the fleets bombarded the planet from beyond their range. Only the presence of the golden fleets were much of a resistance against the Zerg, but there simply were too few of them to cleanse the planet quickly enough.
The situation on the ground had deteriorated completely. Under a bloodstained sky, battered battalions rushed to new defensive positions, only to abandon them when the enemy presence became overwhelming, leaving behind countless urban zones, and their helpless civilians, to the enemy. Practically everyone walked about armed with at least a Gauss submachine gun or a laser staff; the civilians had long ago realized the need to take self-defense into their own hands. However, this only gave them a false sense of safety which was quickly shattered by defeat at the hands of a much more powerful, numerically superior, and technologically advanced foe. Trails of smoke rose upward from the numerous orange flames of destroyed tanks and walkers, downed starfighters and even crashed battlecruisers. The dragon-like dracolisks owned the sky, while swirling concentrations of scourge stood guard over captured territory. Giant worms sprang out of the ground, opening a path for many more minions that seemed to have been hidden underground all this time. What few buildings still left standing were blackened and shredded beyond recognition; residential complexes were dilapidated and almost every roof had collapsed into the floor below. Whole regiments of military forces fell where they had stood marching mere moments earlier. Trenches filled to the brim with blood and the corpses that floated on them. The plains and roads were pockmarked by the craters of shells and land mines. Shredded, deformed gears, scattered sprays of shattered bullets, and burned-out nahqadah fuel tanks gave the entire planet the appearance of a landfill. Whole cities had been leveled by the Confederate defenders, and the Zerg for their part had left no spot of land unmarred. Across the planet were the city-sized clouds reminiscent of nuclear detonations; irradiation had steadily risen from all the nukes that had been either blown up en route or that had done their terrible work.
While the military had been devastated in battle after battle against their resolute foe, the civilians had seemed to have suffered few casualties. Everywhere there were strings of the super-sticky, silken strands of the alien web plastered on the walls and covering the ground. Millions upon millions of civilians were ensnared by them, prevented from moving away by a back of the hand glued to a filament, or an ankle, or by the hair... Oh yes, they all tried to escape, at least at first. Those who did never succeeded; it was touch a bit and stick to it. Often, those who futilely resisted their fate were the ones to end up entangled in the webbing in multiple places, resulting in their being trapped in awkward postures. Many screamed out for help until their voices had gone hoarse, but the only ones who could hear them were also in the same situation they were in. The overlords had dropped creep all over the place, and the blackened material began rapidly growing across the dystopian landscape, dissolving and digesting anything organic that was in their way. As they grew and expanded, they slowly digested their tortured prisoners, the creep entering their bloodstreams and blossoming black all over their skin. Daniel could hear none of their terrified, final screams. Many of the monsters had already set about consuming captives at random, sending overwhelming terror into the hearts and minds of all the others who knew that they had no chance to escape their predators, nor any chance of rescue. Finally, they all resigned to their fate, and those regions soon became deathly quiet with their aura of doom.
Daniel quickly changed the view, though still as a bird's-eye-view. Somewhere else on the planet, Zerg forces were rushing across the charred landscape of more buildings, past where the still-functional security camera Daniel was looking through was located and streaking forward into the distance, over a hill beyond which he could not see. Hundreds upon hundreds of the alien monsters rushed in the same direction, whether it be zergling or ultralisk, scourge or overlord. The streets were filled with them rushing into the distance. Beyond the hill, there were the half hidden light displays of eruptions and blasts all over the place, though Daniel heard nothing. The skies had gone red with the blood of human and Zerg alike. There were so many Zerg creatures moving in for the kill, however, that Daniel was surprised the opposition had not been annihilated by now. The blasts continued; a swarm of creatures circled about in the air beyond the hill, and the smoke in the distance flashed endlessly with the brilliance of countless explosions. Numerous intense beams of white energy lashed out into the skies, whatever they touched instantly bursting aflame. Countless fliers had been downed in this way, streaking back toward the ground beyond Daniel's view. For a short while the explosions continued, while the Zerg reinforcements ended.
Then the Zerg came chargig back over the hill, their fliers gliding overhead, rushing straight past the security camera in what appeared to be a mad dash for safety. A spherical golden contraption came into view from over the tops of the cliff, and as it rose higher and loomed closer, a trio of large, flexible legs also came into view, supporting the golden "head" of what was now clearly a tripod. Daniel immediately saw that there was a connection between this land strider and the needleships he had seen back at Antiga - this one was a needleship with its three bundled legs opened up to support it on land. It loomed over the battlefield, a hundred feet tall, its deflector shielding incessantly flickering blue under the attacks of the retreating Zerg. Seconds later another six tripods also rose into view, their shielding also flickering whenever an attack seemed about to strike them. Also rushing over the hill were the last of the fleeing Zerg. Almost all of them died as beams of brilliant white lashed out from the heads of the tripods, etching the ground and vaporizing all those that came in contact with the beams. With a single stride they had crested the hill and were right in front of the camera. At this close range, the sheer height of the colossal tripods was awe-inspiring. The white beams hadn't stopped; they kept going, lancing across the war-torn street and shredding countless fleeing Zerg as they went. Another stride, and they had all gone over the camera, which now stared blankly at innumerable half-obliterated alien corpses.
The Others were indeed an incredible power, and now Daniel had an opportunity to see the battle between the two aliens up close.
"Give me an overview of the battle," ordered Daniel.
"Admiral, the Zerg in the region are estimated at anywhere between a hundred million and a billion. So far the battles have not made a very significant dent in reducing their number, and it seems whoever is leading them is quite complacent about slowly fighting this war, since they could very well have won it outright. Confederate manpower originally numbered approximately one million, or one percent of the planet's population, but currently only 80,000 soldiers are still capable of continuing the fight. Sons of Korhal forces were roughly 10,000 soldiers - Mengsk put in all the troops at his disposal from across the worlds for this strike. Our forces still number 9,000 as the forces under colonel Kerrigan have seen sparse action. The Others have sizable fleets that are steadily reducing the Zerg numbers far faster than Tarsonis's defenders ever could."
This is probably what the Zerg have been planning. One dracolisk, two scourge, three hydralisks and a dozen zerglings for every man, woman, and child on the planet. Utter slaughter.
"More on our forces."
"Sir, Of the 9,000 soldiers, roughly half of them are marines, with or without speed-bikes. Five hundred others control walkers and another three hundred are in the tank division. We have 150 starfighters, twenty dropships--"
"Only twenty? I thought we had more during the exodus from Mar Sara."
"Sir, the Sons of Korhal aren't the only pirate forces that operate across the planets. For that evacuation they struck a deal with just about all the other pirate forces to borrow their dropships in exchange for control of cities in Antiga, which they did obtain until Mengsk hit upon the psi emitter. We also have sixteen Valkyrie assault frigates and eight battlecruisers, led by the two Hyperion-class battlecruisers the Hyperion and Norad II, with General Duke supervising from aboard the latter. Much of what we have came from our successes on Antiga. We've also managed to capture an Ion Cannon device."
"What about their deployment?"
"Sir, all of the fleet is in geostationary orbit over where we are now. Lieutenant colonel Christopher Lowry and commander Sarlena Aeryth have minor forces out on the field. The ground forces are mostly under colonel Sarah Kerrigan's command, however."
"What does she hope to accomplish?"
"Sir, Mengsk's orders are to delay the Others for as long as possible so that the Zerg may totally destroy the Confederate forces. And that is what we have been doing so far."
"Sounds like an incredibly... interesting strategy," remarked Daniel, wondering if he hadn't heard those words correctly.
"Indeed? Well, Sarah's actually leading the offensive against the Others," said commander James Raynor. "She's in an isolated battle-ground of a city named New Gettysburg in between the Zerg and the Others, which to me is an impossibly stupid place to try to hold. The only reason she's still alive is because the Zerg are more interested in scouring the nearby cities and the Others simply aren't interested in fighting anyone other than the Zerg."
Daniel nodded understandingly. "So. The two of them are sorely mistaken with their offensive. And if it's true that the Zerg are attracted to the psychic emanations of ghosts, she's a goner."
"Are we going to save her?" asked James.
"I don't know... if our forces are already stretched to their limit doing what they can to save the civilians, then there's not much to be gained in switching from saving civilians to saving soldiers."
"We... well, we've been sending out what we'd call a new type of military unit to save the ensnared civilians and then evacuate them to the dropships, for which we had plenty of space. Already, sixty percent of that space has been filled, corresponding to 36,000 rescued," James replied.
"Tell me more about this new unit..."
"Well, Chris knows more, so why don't I have him tell you?" James opened a link to Christopher, who was evidently away and doing battle. The real-time portrait of the lieutenant colonel appeared on the screen.
"Ah, Daniel, it seems you made it here!" he said with a smile.
"Listen, Chris, I need to know about the new unit we've been using."
"Well, I guess we can spend some time taking about that; no fighting going on at the moment. It seems that the weaponry the Zerg overwhelmingly use are nanites - microscopic, invisible-to-the-eye nanorobots. This is partially how their alien weaponry has proven so effective against our Neosteel composite armor and reactive armor. We don't know how the Zerg managed to achieve such a singular example of profoundly advanced technology, but given how advanced a concept nanites represent it's surprising we haven't seen the Zerg use similar levels of technology. It would seem their nanite technology seems unusually hampered. The electrolytic claws the zerglings use, the needle spines of the hydralisks, the glaive wurms of the dracolisks, and even their super-sticky webs utilize destructive nanites; however, those same nanites are destroyed in the process, causing an only finite amount of destruction.
"Unbeknownst to us, the Confederates knew about this little fact about the Zerg long before they ever showed up on Mar Sara. Though we don't know how they managed to obtain this information, they have over the course of two years managed to partially replicate that same technology but for a different purpose. While we don't need nanites for annihilation - we have nukes and all the rest - they have been instrumental and singularly successful in repairing damaged armor plates and, as we have recently discovered, neutralizing the stickiness of the webs. After we entered a half-destroyed installation not far from our current position, we found all this about the Zerg and the new nanite technology. We now have nanite storage pods, and even have recovered nanite generators and put them on board the waiting dropships. We've also-- Enemies inbound; I guess I'll have to cut this conversation short--" The portrait winked out.
Daniel turned to James and said, "Well, at least we know that something good is coming out of this horrific disaster."
"The enemies are just too numerous. I wish we could engage them in combat; Mengsk said that was not our priority, however."
Daniel stared at him. "Wait... We're not fighting the Zerg? We're letting them rampage across the land without even TRYING to stop them?"