Power in PerspectiveEdit
Thank goodness they have come! Daniel turned to look at the hologram and saw that a handful of golden blips had appeared, right in the middle of the fray. The Protoss immediately broadcast in human language across the entire communications spectrum so that everyone would hear their ultimatum: "We are the Protoss. You will make peace with each other. Resistance is futile."
To which General Duke replied, "We are the Dominion. You have violated Dominion space and must either surrender control of your ships or face destruction."
To which the Protoss replied, "The young are ever so insolent."
Daniel activated a viewscreen so that he could watch the unfolding battle. A solid golden carrier stood resplendent in space and over a hundred interceptors blossomed forth, lashing at the Dominion forces with the bluish spheres of photon torpedoes. Any Wraith the torpedoes struck immediately vanished into a cloud of brilliant debris, whereas laser beams and even missiles impacted harmlessly across the golden starfighters' deflector shielding. Only under intense concentrated fire from many attacks did the shields of only a few of them give out. In this way they quickly cleared the neighboring region of the startled Dominion starfighters.
Beside the carrier were six golden needleships, their three thin, long legs bundled together around their solitary ion cannon. Immediately they fired endless beams of energy so concentrated one could see their paths from the side. The ion cannons flashed across the sky, brilliant white lines of obliteration. No matter what evasive action the starfighters' pilots took, any that the needleships decided to strike at were instantly flash-vaporized. One frigate, which had shrugged off hundreds of hits from Combine lasers and turbolasers, gave out in five seconds and detonated under fire from a single ion beam which had gone right through the ship and out the other end. The needleship then dragged its deadly beam across the skies, hunting for more targets and vaporizing all it touched. Other frigates likewise detonated shortly after ion cannons slashed across them, easily burning right through the thick plating and burning holes into the delicate fusion reactors on board.
Also present was a solitary golden dreadnought, resembling a giant flying saucer significantly larger than a battlecruiser. At the center of the saucer was a beaming device surrounded by ten ion cannons, all pointing inward toward it. The ion cannons lit up simultaneously, and the beaming device glowed breathtakingly prettily. The next moment the focused beam of the ion cannon array had struck out at an oblique angle at a Dominion battlecruiser. In a split second, it had cleanly cut through the vessel, causing them to instantly split into white-hot halves that then promptly erupted into spectacular fireballs. The armor gave away as if it didn't even exist; the ion beam cut through the ship like a knife cuts through butter. A second later, the ion cannon array fired again, its super-intense ray delivering the same fate to a second ship as it had given to the first. Like all the other Protoss vessels, the dreadnought's shielding easily deflected any threat directed its way.
The Dominion vessels abruptly stopped firing, turned and fled back the way they came using their by comparison painstakingly slow gravitic drives. The combined Terran-Protoss fleet tagged along right after them, none of them firing any more.
General Duke sent out on a basic frequency, "What is it you want?" Daniel could tell from the somewhat toned-down haughtiness that the big man had been humbled. The Protoss set up a four-way channel.
"We merely want you to stop fighting each other," came the transmission from the Protoss Pride of Aiur. It was Ariel's voice.
"Yeah, well, you've persuaded us all right," muttered Edmund.
"Humanity should work together to defeat its common threat."
"That's exactly what Emperor Mengsk wants to do!"
"True, but only after he FIGHTS and crushes all resistance to his rule. And as we all know, a tyranny is highly unstable. That would only be helping the Zerg."
"I believe that what Mengsk wants to accomplish is right."
"And you also believed that you could walk all over Moria. Things just don't turn out the way they apparently would. Here, why don't the three of you make friends, and we'll moderate?"
"Well, Johnson, I can be quite sure that our two groups are now in an alliance, aren't we?" asked Daniel.
"I cannot speak for the emperor. I also believe that it will take a while for him to decide if, when, and how we are to establish a truce. You will just have to wait."
"You must come together in the end. As a sign of good faith we hereby are establishing a blinking drive on one of your ships," said Ariel.
"WHAT!?! How can you do that?" Daniel exclaimed. Giving the enemy a blinking drive could very easily make matters worse.
"You've done what? Oh no, you've tampered with my ship!" protested Edmund rather helplessly.
"Would you rather we blew it to smithereens?" Ariel asked rhetorically, to which Edmund shut up.
"But Ariel, why?!?"
"It is not every day that the Protoss encounter a new technology we have not developed ourselves. The hyperspace inhibitor is a marvel and certainly has important strategic consequences. We have now assimilated it."
"Oh no you did not just steal our hard-earned techs!" exclaimed Edmund in dismay.
"Think of this as a just trade: the blinking drive is far more useful to you than the hyperspace inhibitor is to us. Besides, we do have the advantage of being the premier race around here. I suggest you don't try to get on our bad side," Ariel threatened. Edmund gulped, then terminated the connection.
"Well, one way to help facilitate a truce and mutual cooperation is to present a gift to the other party. Surely you must know of that psychology?"
"Damn it, Ariel, I've met Mengsk before, and he isn't that kind of person! He is crafty and will certainly see in the blinking drive a way to continue fighting. Now he's going to do what any sensible person in his position would do: congregate all his fleets together into one large Imperial Fleet with the blinking drive at its core."
"There's really no need to worry, Daniel. You trust in our ability to protect you, do you not? Our fleets are many, many magnitudes more powerful than all the forces of the Dominion combined."
"No, thank you, I would rather trust in myself and my own abilities and commands. You know, it's the human way of doing things."
"Right. I see you want to have something to help protect your fleet against the relatively overwhelming might of the Dominion fleets. That's fine. With this new hyperspace inhibitor technology added to our arsenal, we figured that it is okay to give you another gift. You shall now have your personal Protoss guardian starship."
Right before his eyes Daniel saw a new ship come out of hyperspace. Easily larger than the Hyperion, the Guardian too was a golden vessel, but shaped like a butterfly, with a long and slender main section and two symmetric pairs of what could only be called the starship's wings.
<How do I control this thing?>
<Telepathically, as usual. You already know how to use the Guardian. Just tell it to do what you want it to do, and it will do it. We have also already applied the recently assimilated interdiction technology into the Guardian, so that now you can use it to trap ships in normal space indefinitely.>
Daniel tested a command, <Bubble shield!>
The Guardian's wings shifted position. Something happened which could not be seen, and the next moment Daniel's fleet was wrapped from top down in the translucent, incredibly resilient spherical shield, with a radius of up to two hundred kilometers, that gave this ship class its name. At the same time, he felt something warm swell up within him. He looked down and saw his Khaydarin amulet shining a resplendent rich violet.
"I can get used to this..." Daniel said to himself with a smile.
Daniel spoke to the adjutant, "All right, everything resolved here. I want us back home immediately and a report of battle damage written within the hour." He stood up and left the room, just as the space around him flickered as they entered hyperspace.
After the confrontation, the Harbinger Fleet had most of its ships still functional - and repairs had already been initialized by the engineering crews on each of the vessels. But at the moment, whatever functionality the human ships had were absolutely useless.
Daniel seated at the admiral's seat in the well-fortified, well-lit bridge, a hologram of his fleet in right front of him. On the far wall was the main viewscreen, depicting the spectacle happening outside.
His ships were arrayed in wall formation, all of them pointed at a Wraith starfighter in close proximity to a solitary golden vessel, one that looked remarkably like a titanic angel. Interspersed around the fleet's attacking starships were Wraith starfighters, not moving but merely hovering in space where they were. From each of the Wraiths' three burst laser turrets came intermittent bursts of intense light; from the many large turrets on the starships shot forth the much more powerful turbolasers as well as complements of Halo rockets and Apollo missiles. The brilliant red spheres of Yamato Guns shot at their targets as well. An endless barrage of explosions filled the center of the screen and all around the golden vessel, as a perfectly spherical shield continued to flicker with a light blue glow around the target ship, protecting the otherwise vulnerable wraith from all harm. Out from the surface of this shielding erupted the explosions of innumerable weapons detonations, causing glowing white and yellow fireworks all around it. The two vessels was not returning fire of any kind; the golden one seemed to have no ability other than to generate its many-kilometer-wide shield.
And yet, that one shield had the entire Harbinger Fleet stumped. Neither laser nor explosive could get through, and the stalemate had been ongoing for a full minute now.
"Admiral, the Guardian reports its shielding have only been drained by 15 percent. At this rate it will take our combined fleet another five minutes to break through," said the adjutant.
"Understood. If the Guardian's shielding ever falls to below 10 percent I want all fire on it to stop immediately. Judging by its shield capacity, there's no telling how much damage we will do to our prize if we let a single hit get through that shield, and we do not have the technology to repair or reproduce any part of that vessel," ordered Daniel. He had already lost interest in watching the attrition continue - it was quite evident that this solitary ship - HIS ship - would be a tide-turner in any battle to come. If he were to engage all of Mengsk's fleets now, he could easily destroy them all in the time it took for them to drain the Guardian of its shields...
The moment Daniel had realized that he would be in command of Guardian he had devised the course of action that had resulted in this. He already knew that a Guardian had tremendous protective powers, but he needed to gauge just how much so in real situations. Even losing a Guardian - which to the Harbinger Fleet was one of a kind - paled in comparison to learning of any weaknesses the Guardian might have, especially since it was possible he may encounter a Protoss fleet led by the Dark Ones. Intrigued by the way Daniel was treating a gift and the most prized ship in his fleet, Ariel stood mute on the bridge.
Daniel turned to Christopher. "Imagine that this Guardian and its Wraith is an enemy vessel. In this time that one Wraith could have put one or two Valkyries out of commission, and in another five, it could knock out all three of our Hyperion-class battlecruisers. I want these shields drained in less than five minutes. See if you can come up with any effective strategy."
Christopher nodded, then spoke into his comlink, "Christopher speaking. All vessels hold your fire. Squadron One, on my mark, fire one nuke, set to detonate right in front of the bubble shield, then take evasive maneuvers... Mark!"
"You're going to use a nuke?" Daniel asked, alarmed.
"Against that kind of resilience, it's our best hope."
From the bow of the Flannum's Legacy shot out a warhead. It exploded, sending vaporized, hotter-than-a-star metallic fragments through space in all directions. Roughly half of them struck the quantum shielding, causing the bubble shield to suddenly go entirely white - as if there were a temporarily new star right there. The hundreds of other fragments came right back at the assembled fleet, which quickly picked up the projected paths of each fragment and maneuvered themselves to avoid taking damage. One palm-sized fragment - it would be more accurate to describe it as a spray of energy - slightly touched one moderately damaged Valkyrie on the side. The next instant the entire ship had been vaporized into a similar but much larger spray of energy, drifting aimlessly and lifelessly in space.
"We lost a Valkyrie," reported the adjutant.
"You just can't compare the chemical energy with nuclear power," stated Sarlena.
"How much damage did we do?"
"The nuclear blast did not penetrate. The Guardian's power reserves have fallen to 70 percent."
"Yeah, it seems this 'angel ship' is indestructible, doesn't it? Only fifteen percent. Fire two more nukes."
"Bombs away." Another two nukes launched toward their target, erupting likewise. The bubble shielding flared brilliantly.
"Negative. Still no signs of penetration. The Guardian's power reserves have fallen to 69 percent."
That last number left everyone stunned. "That... barely made a dent," muttered James. It was one thing to think one would need seven nukes to drain such a vessel. It was another matter entirely to think one would need over hundred of them.
"It seems the ship's automated response and resistance is unbelievably swift," remarked Daniel. "In the future, if we were to engage an enemy fleet with such vessels we will need to deploy seven nukes to each of them and detonate simultaneously if we are to have any hope of success."
"Why don't we try using Shockwave?" asked Christopher.
"Good idea; let's do it, Chris!"
"Chris again. Bring up that Explorer science vessel we have, and deploy a Shockwave device." On the viewscreen, one such vessel rapidly propelled itself up to get a good view of the Guardian, then released what clearly resembled a missile. Only in this case, it detonated a little distance away from the target vessel, releasing an expanding ring of destabilizing quantum energy. For a split second the Guardian's quantum shielding became an opaque light blue as the shockwave traversed the surface area of the bubble shield. "Results?"
"Guardian's shields down to 62 percent and holding," stated the adjutant.
"All right, hurry up and deploy ten more," ordered Chris. Ten more distortionary eruptions took place right at point-blank to the ship.
"It's just like with the nukes, sir! Shielding still at 60 percent." Several of the officers groaned in dismay. They were now clearly out of ideas.
"Everyone, this is Daniel. Cease firing. Chris, let's try a cloaked warhead. Perhaps this is a ship without adequate detection capabilities." Daniel then turned to Ariel. "Fine ship," he commended, though the compliment was really intended for the Protoss which he knew could listen to him through her.
"Why thank you," Ariel replied with a gracious smile.
"Tell me, if the Protoss have THAT kind of power, why can't they clear out all the Zerg?"
"I thought I told you this before; there are simply too many of them, and they are spread too thinly for us to hunt them down effectively."
"The things I have seen today... I mean, I knew ever since I saw the Protoss over Antiga that they were powerful, but this... this is entirely imbalanced."
"How do you say it? War is not fair."
Of course war wasn't fair. There was little there that Daniel could argue with.
"Yeah, well I still hope to make a substantial contribution to the war. I can't do it if, as I'm aware of, you aren't willing to give us more of your technology, and even if you did, like you said, it wouldn't help to simply redistribute forces."
"I don't know. You'd have to come up with something very new if you hope to accomplish that lofty goal."