What War WroughtEdit
High above the blasted and highly radioactive surface of Korhal IV, all was quiet. A handful of Protoss vessels rested in the darkness of space, keeping silent vigil over the newly founded joint-race outpost below. Three massive, gilded carriers, each with their full complement of 144 docked interceptors, were interspersed with a half dozen four-legged needleship frigates. Almost a kilometer long, the carriers resembled giant flower buds, the massive petals protecting the interceptors within. The needleship were giant metal balls with their legs wrapped up and pointing in the same direction for space travel, but which could also tread great ground distances upon surface deployment. In between their legs was their massive ion cannon, a weapon that had proven its worth in combat a thousand times over. While small, the Protoss task force was not something to be underestimated.
A window to warp space opened not far from the Protoss fleet, and swept through a spherical portion of space, pulling into the space-time continuum the battered Harbinger Fleet. The flagship Hyperion I immediately began broadcasting instructions to the people on the surface, ordering them to make way for the landing of the eleven transport frigates.
"You did what you set out to do?" asked an official from the surface, giving the battered fleet a queer look.
"Yep, we saved the Agrians just in time too," remarked Daniel.
His sense of pride was abruptly cut off when the adjutant shouted out, "Wormhole detected eight thousand kilometers away! We have Zerg incoming!"
Daniel's eyes flung wide. "Oh shit!" Pretty darn unlucky day. How the hell could they have gotten here just shortly after we had ourselves? Unless... Only then did the realization strike him: the Zerg could decode the Protoss blinking drive's waveform to reveal where they were headed, and Daniel had simply led the Zerg from Char to Agria and now to Korhal IV...
Which meant that he was solely responsible for all the deaths of the men on his fleet and on Agria after all... All those people... all those lives lost... Why did I just have to think that I was everyone's savior? Now look what I have done... The tool that was meant to save the lives of thousands instead was the instrument of their doom... There is no way I can atone for all this... The immensity of his failure struck him down.
"Daniel, are you okay?" shouted Christopher in surprise when the admiral suddenly fainted. "Darn it, Daniel, you can't quit on us now, not when we're under attack!" After seeing that Daniel wasn't about to wake up right away, he ordered, "I need Daniel transferred to the medical ward, stat! Oh, and see if you can't get the Protoss to help with whatever advanced medicine they might have. While he is out I, as rear admiral, will be in charge. Hail the Protoss fleet."
The mainframe screen revealed real-time video of... who else but Ariel.
"What the... Ariel, are you in charge of the Protoss fleet here?" he asked, a bit surprised.
"We act as a collective. Anything you tell me will of course be forwarded to the rest of the fleet. And of course, I AM the ambassador to you Terrans," the teenager replied.
"Fine. Well we have Zerg incoming. Our fleet suffered heavy losses in the battle by Agria, so we need you to please fend off this one, and any other waves they might be sending, while we order a full-scale evacuation."
"You don't need to evacuate; the Zerg aren't going to send in waves against a Firstborn fleet. Your fears are unfounded."
"Well I certainly hope so, Ariel. Good luck."
"Thanks but we don't need luck. Projected chance of favorable outcome is 100 percent." The mainframe winked out, while the hologram displayed the Protoss and Zerg fleets closing in: the Protoss with their massive vessels and interceptor wings, against the far more numerous Zerg hordes.
Brilliant white ion beams struck out from the needleships, disintegrating columns of inbound Zerg at a time, while hundreds of interceptors launched from the carriers, forming six wings of 72 starfighters each. The interceptors immediately broke into a seemingly disorganized mass as they hunted dracolisks with their photon cannons, launching bluish spheres of ionized light into the maelstrom. Entire dracolisk squadrons turned into bloodied corpses in a single second, while almost all of the glaive wurms striking the golden craft detonated harmlessly, their energies absorbed by the Protoss' resilient shielding. Every now and then an interceptor would blow up in a bluish flare, but those were greatly dwarfed by the losses the enemy incurred. Explosions blossomed all across the battlefield as red lights winked out at an incredible rate from the hologram, something that Christopher had never seen before. He simply sat in his chair, taking in the breathtaking panoramic view.
The Zerg ignored the Protoss vessels and their withering attacks altogether as they made for another human fleet.
"Wait... where did that fleet come from?" Christopher asked Ariel, referring to the fleet, which was being quickly torn to pieces by the Zerg.
"Those vessels are merely hallucinations."
"You mean realistic holograms?"
"No, hallucinations. I'll explain to you sometime later."
The hallucination of the Hyperion detonated in a brilliant display of fireworks. The Zerg forces had nearly entirely laid waste to the imaginary fleet, but they were also themselves mostly eradicated by concentrated Protoss fire. When the last invader had been gotten rid of, the hallucinations suddenly vanished, the debris and trails of smoke being replaced by the clear emptiness of space.
"Wow, I wish Daniel would have a chance to see this," muttered Christopher in amazement. The Zerg had been confounded into attacking an altogether different fleet, one that did not really exist, and there were no human casualties. "Ariel, did your peoples suffer any losses?"
"We did not lose any ships. Our interceptors are robotic. We lost a dozen of them, but we currently have several dozen in wait in our carriers' assembly lines, twelve of which will be finished within the next... four seconds. We have effectively suffered no losses, as have you."
"So... The Zerg won't be coming again, will they?"
"They destroyed what they came to destroy, what they feared: a Terran fleet with the ability to Blink. They believe they have already done so. Besides, it would be foolish of them to attempt to vanquish a Firstborn fleet."
Daniel woke up to gentle hands caressing his head and Ariel's smiling face. He bolted up right all of a sudden, startling her.
"What... what happened?" he demanded to know.
"You fainted because you believed that you were responsible for the deaths of countless humans," she replied.
It all came rushing back to Daniel, a relentless torrent of torment. "Yes..." he stuttered at last, his eyes glazing over, "I did do that, didn't I?" He frowned, muttering, "I don't deserve to be admiral, not after what I've done. I screwed up enormously this time, I know it."
"No, you are not the only one responsible, nor are you fully responsible for, the deaths of the others. We should have warned you that the Zerg might pull something like this. We had trusted that you would know better than to simply go from start to destination in a direct path without going anywhere else to shake off any Zerg that might be on your tail. We didn't give you any other technologies that would save you in such a situation, thinking that you could always hyperspace your fleet out of trouble. The Agrians hadn't needed your message right from the start, or you would have been able to save that last Dropship. And of course the Zerg are responsible for all that we've been having trouble with."
"I don't care about who else might be at fault - I'm well aware some others led to it as well - that doesn't excuse my actions! I am smart, that's how I became admiral! How could I screw up so monstrously this time? I don't deserve to live," Daniel tried to convince himself.
"Now, now..." Ariel gasped as a hallucination of a dagger suddenly appeared out of nowhere and pointed at Daniel. "What!-- Where did that dagger come from?" She focused on it, willing it away, and the dagger vanished, only to reappear a split second later. "Daniel, don't do this!"
"I want to, and don't you stop me," said Daniel angrily, and concentrated on it. The dagger accelerated, thrusting right into his chest as if it were real before promptly vanishing again. Daniel collapsed onto the ground, heaving from his pain as he saw his own imaginary blood leak out, feeling the imaginary wound as though it were terrifyingly real.
James, who had been secretly keeping watch over all that transpired in the room, rushed out shouting, "They've killed the admiral! Daniel has been assassinated!" The marines at the hatch suddenly rushed in, their guns aimed at anything that might seem to be a threat and of course directly at Ariel, who remained as calm as one could possibly be under such situations. "Ariel! Daniel was right when he suspected you might be up to something! Hands up or we'll shoot!" The soldiers took up firing positions around them all, hands on their triggers.
Just then Christopher rushed in, alarmed. "James! What the hell is going on here?" he exclaimed.
"They killed our admiral, that's what!" he fired back.
"What? No..." Christopher mouthed in mute dismay. It... can't... be...
"Daniel killed himself," Ariel said in self-defense.
"Yeah, right, I know Daniel too well to believe that he would kill himself," replied James. "He's cold and stoic; he would never do something as self-defeating as that! Especially not after all the good he's done!"
"That's the problem," remarked Christopher, for the first time realizing what had transpired. "He must have believed himself solely responsible for--"
"The deaths of thousands in the last hour," Ariel finished. "Exactly. And in his own sense of atonement, he has killed himself."
"I don't believe you!" exclaimed Raynor in outrage. "Daniel, our leader, is dead. Why should I believe anything you say, Protoss prostitute!" He was quivering with rage and could barely restrain himself from pulling the trigger.
Ariel let go of Daniel's unconscious body and stood up in seething anger, pointing an accusing finger at James. "I did NOT--"
Ariel toppled over beside the wall, lifeless, with a bullet hole through her head.
"James, I have a bad feeling about this..." began Christopher.
"You're right; me too. Let's get Daniel and ourselves the heck out of here before Protoss warriors come through some trap door." Stealing furtive glances behind his back every few seconds, James pulled Daniel over his back and shuttled him out to the hallway of the attached Hyperion. "We're leaving!"
"Oh no you don't," countered Christopher. "As long as Daniel isn't with us, I'm acting admiral around here, and we're not leaving. The Protoss are an incredibly valuable ally and I don't plan to simply give it away. They may be our only chance of defeating the Zerg and saving humanity. Besides, I doubt we can defeat, or escape the Protoss for long. Angering them would be a very, very bad idea."
"And allying with them will get yourself killed, as you've very well seen," remarked James, setting Daniel down on a stretcher while other officials and doctors huddled nearby.
"Sir, there's no wound on him," said the lead doctor, pointing to Daniel's unstained shirt. "There's no blood, no--"
"That doesn't mean that the Protoss haven't killed him some other way," protested James.
"Except for the simple fact that I didn't," replied Daniel, sitting up like a miracle.
Christopher looked to James for an explanation. "What was that about Daniel having been killed?"
"What the... I saw with my own eyes that dagger sink into him and the blood staining his shirt--"
Everyone else started looking at him like he were crazy. "Are you delusional?"
"No, seriously! I--" James gave up arguing.
"It's okay, I did get stabbed, but it's not by who you think. I did it."
"You... stabbed yourself?" James sputtered in disbelief.
"Well then what happened? And why is there no blood anywhere?"
"Let's just say at the gates of Hell the Devil turned me away, protesting that I had too much good in me to enter the underworld," Daniel replied with an enigmatic smile.
The priest began, "We are gathered here to honor and remember Ariel, Protoss ambassador to the human race, who despite being artificially created by the Protoss, has been like a savior and trusted advisor to us in our times of greatest need, and who has shared with us what it means to be Protoss and a superior race. And now, a moment of silence for her spirit."
As everyone hushed in remembrance, Daniel looked about the room. They were in a rarely-used area of the Hyperion, and Ariel's flower-laden coffin stood in the center of the room. In a circle around her were the highest-level officials of the Harbinger Fleet and, curiously, no Protoss were present.
"Would you like to say something?" the priest asked Daniel.
"Yeah, just that... I've decided not to give up on myself and not to give up on anyone else, Protoss included. And I would certainly like to have a guiding light, someone who can keep our alliance with the Protoss alive and personal," said Daniel as if he were talking to Ariel's corpse. A pause, and then Daniel shouted at the coffin, "I need you to come out and help us, Ariel! Now come on, stop acting!" As he said this, he shifted the cover off the coffin.
"Hey, what's wrong with you, she's dead, all right?" said one official.
"Yeah, and if it weren't for your strange suicide she would still be alive," added another.
"She IS alive," retorted Daniel.
"Umm... No, she's not," retorted James steely.
"Actually, I am," Ariel said sweetly, sitting up and looking into many stunned faces, grinning. She looked exactly alive and well. No longer was there any wound on her. With Daniel's help, she stood up and got out of the coffin.
"How the hell--"
"--did you know--"
"--that would have--"
"I am the Whisperer," replied Daniel enigmatically, as if it meant something extremely important.
"Wait... she wasn't wearing that when we put her IN," said someone, indicating her white clothes.
Daniel merely smiled as he led the way out of the room. Ariel followed right after, smiling at the confounded officials. As she exited the room, her pale dress suddenly clouded into a golden mist and rearranged on a microscopic level into blue jeans, causing them to gasp in wonder. Daniel simply gave her a knowing glance before proceeding onward. It seemed only Daniel was in touch with, or understood, half the mysteries surrounding Ariel.