Parting of the CurtainsEdit
Night had fallen over the nascent base of Travical on Korhal IV. The multitude of stars borne in tranquil violet skies belied the terrible radioactivity of the surface dunes. Most people were safely asleep in the frigates and battlecruisers; some had begun moving their personal belongings to the makeshift residences that had already been built. The space construction vehicles were speeding along outside, building new structures and transporting processed materials Although the majority of the Protoss fleet were in geostationary orbit, the human ships had all landed planetside, their crews mostly asleep, having used stimulants to keep them awake during the day hours. Daniel had told them to trust in the far superior Protoss, even to the point of leaving their fleet entirely defenseless. This was swiftly becoming a common response in many situations; the Protoss were like caring parents that a baby could rely on to keep it safe.
Aboard the Hyperion, all the lights above the halls were brilliantly lit. The mainframe was still powered on, but the ancillary controls had been shut down. The place had the appearance of being a ghost vessel; Daniel found himself quite alone on the bridge, everyone else having gone to sleep in the rows of sleeping quarters down the hallways. The bridge was quite an expansive room, easily able to fit dozens of people, with four entrances, each leading to the two halls on both sides of the chamber. The doors could be shut off, but not while so many controls had been turned off. The floor and ceiling were tiled with polished white ceramic, the only simplistic thing in the otherwise all high-tech room. Calmly enjoying the peaceful silence of the ship, Daniel walked around, imagining what it would be like in another few hours with his crew at their stations. Leisurely and purposelessly, he slid his fingers over the smoothly rounded metal of the hologram table.
Tapping the power button, he brought up a hologram of the koprulu sector - the planets that the Confederacy and the Umojan-Morian Combine had colonized. The planets glowed as minute spheres of bluish-white. They were fifteen in all: thirteen to the Confederacy, which was the strongest of the three original colonies and which had a large military with which to defend new settlements, and one each to the smaller original colonies Moria and Umoja, which stayed on their resource-rich planets because their smaller militaries meant they couldn't defend more than one place at a time. The Confederate capital world of Tarsonis, easily several times more populated than either Moria or Umoja, was now a red sphere to signify its status as being lost to the Zerg. Elsewhere on the map, three other spheres that had once belonged to the Confederacy were glowing red as well. There was Chau Sara, with which contact had been lost about a year ago and which had not been investigated ever since; Mar Sara where he and his original team had stayed for three years; and Antiga.
There was a soft knocking on one of the doors to the bridge. It opened, revealing Janus, Red Wolf leader, standing at the entry. They were alone. He waved his hand in amicable greeting before strolling in. "So, admiral Travincal, about the deal we had made."
"Ah yes, of course, don't you think for a moment that I have forgotten it. You'll get your dropships and everything else I promised in due time."
"It's nice to know I don't need to remind you. But my men are getting impatient with you, and are pressuring me to pressure you to speed up whatever timetable you might have been having in mind."
Daniel smiled. "Your men, pressuring you? Not you yourself?"
Janus frowned, but kept his cool, choosing to remain in a tranquil rather than aggressive stance. "That's the situation, but of course as their spokesman and leader I also have a very big interest in seeing you settle your part of the deal. I really hope we can work together to get this settled before there is a mutiny."
Is that a threat? "You must see that we have more important matters on our hands. We have the Zerg, which are as we have seen an overwhelming threat, and our relations with the Protoss, which are probably our only hope for defeating them. Besides, if I were to give you what I have promised, what will you do then? Build a base right next to mine? You most certainly can't go back to Antiga - there's nothing left there. I've seen it all happen, the planet swiftly destroyed the way they destroyed Tarsonis. You won't be welcome on any planet, Confederate or otherwise."
"True, which is why I haven't brought this up earlier. But my men don't see that far and it's pointless to try to convince them. I'm no superior officer in a military hierarchy. I'm a ringleader. If I don't stand tall then I won't remain in control for long."
There was a sudden rustling noise, and to both Daniel's and Janus's surprise, soldiers had burst in from all four doorways to the bridge - soldiers in the Red Wolves' CLCS-300 suits and pointing their guns right at Daniel. They had quickly surrounded him.
This doesn't look good... They look like they may be seriously wishing to blow my head off... <Oh, Ariel, if only you could be here, to reason with them maybe...> Daniel pleaded telepathically as more Red Wolves patted him down, removing a hidden pistol.
"What the..." demanded Janus. "What are you doing here?"
"We're ensuring that the admiral fulfills his part of the deal," remarked one who seemed to be Janus's lieutenant. Then he turned to Daniel and with a smile introduced himself. "You may call me Lieutenant Tarkin."
"You! You followed me, didn't you!" exclaimed Janus in utter distaste.
Tarkin smiled. "Either we get what we all want or the admiral loses the thing he wants most. Right?"
"Aye!" shouted the other Red Wolves.
Tarkin pointed his Gauss at Daniel. "I suggest you comply and send the orders that the supplies and materiel you promised be delivered to us immediately. Or else."
Just when Daniel thought he had been forced into giving the Red Wolves what they wanted, a golden goo seemed to seep out of the ceiling, with the appearance of liquid metal, spreading and quickly becoming substantial in size, right above the lieutenant's head. At first only Daniel noticed, as everyone else's attention was on either him or on Janus. But then its presence became very clear when part of it plunged onto and bore into Lieutenant Tarkin's combat suit, seemingly disintegrating it like it were nothing. The man's scream was cut off even before it began as his body dissolved where-ever the golden material came in contact with it. A split second later golden reams of the material had thrust out from within the dead man's body, shattering the armored suit. Severed Neosteel pieces fell apart and littered the ground all around a bloodied heap on the floor as the Red Wolves screamed in panic.
It was like magic.
The next moment what had been a golden goo reassembled itself into what resembled a jellyfish, but quite clearly robotic as opposed to the "living" that characterized the Zerg. Its spherical, fog-like body was still attached to the ceiling; attached were hundreds of spindly tentacles, which streaked outward in every direction. As bullets began to fly, at both the alien creature and at Daniel, the tentacles lanced out, disintegrating and deflecting every fired projected. The tentacles that were hit vaporized into fogs which swiftly reformed themselves into more golden tentacles. into Those bullets which managed to hit the golden creature's body sent shockwaves through it, but these were harmlessly absorbed and the golden creature was not affected at all. Several tentacles went around, but did not touch, Daniel, forming an egg-shaped prison of gold that absorbed bullets harmlessly. Daniel was rooted in place in awe. Terrified soldiers ran in every direction but before they made it out, tentacles had shot out at them, grabbing the Gausses and laser staves out of their hands and disintegrating them. Although no other Red Wolf was harmed or captured, they all ran out of the bridge missing their weaponry and with their armor in terrible shape, and fled for their lives down the hallways to the exit.
The thin golden sphere around Daniel broke into filaments and rejoined the rest of the golden mass, which had dropped from the ceiling to the floor. Daniel saw all around him just the way things had been before - all clean and polished, with no trace of a battle having broken out. Janus was cowering in a corner. A golden mist floated over the mangled remains of the Tarkin, converting it into more mist, then rejoined the golden creature. All traces of the lieutenant had vanished.
All this had happened in the course of five seconds. For a few seconds more it remained on the ground, so utterly otherworldly in its half-mist and half-metallic form, waiting silently for any more opposition to show itself. None did.
<What are you, a Protoss contraption?> asked Daniel, attempting to communicate with it telepathically.
The contraption, which resembled a slime mold at the moment, swiftly rose upward, pulling itself away from the ground and becoming solid. It now had the appearance of an egg suspended in midair, but was constantly changing shape, becoming more and more humanoid over the course of mere seconds. The thing then grew brilliantly white and in the blink of an eye the golden creature was replaced by the beautiful teenager Daniel knew as Ariel, standing in a flowing white dress and smiling at Daniel.
"What did you do to the lieutenant?" asked Daniel. Janus kept silent, though he did stand up.
"I removed him."
Daniel had trouble believing what had just happened, and he had been through a lot of imagination-stretching, surprising things. He went into withdrawal. "I can't believe you would do that, advanced a species as you are. Leave, Ariel, or whatever you are. I no longer wish for you to be in my presence."
Ariel pouted and looked down at the ground in sadness. "I saved your life and--?"
"ENOUGH! True, yes, but... just GO!" Daniel forcefully interrupted.
Ariel looked at him one last time before soundlessly disintegrating into a swirling, immensely beautiful golden mist and traveling upward through the roof to where she had been before. All was silent. Daniel and Janus looked at each other with the expression one would have expected from two people who had just found their minds in each others' bodies.
"As I was saying, I really don't want to have to pressure you into doing your part of the deal," was the first thing Janus said since the fiasco had occurred.
Muttering in disappointed annoyance, Daniel put both hands behind him and stalked off the bridge. He could use a night's rest after this... this debacle had occurred aboard his own flagship. In the morning he was going to demand an explanation from her, though he thought he already knew what was up; Ariel - the creature, whatever she was - had leaked out too much of her secret for any intelligent deducer not to see the rest of it all.