Suddenly Daniel felt an incredible sense of unease as a ripple of discharged energy passed through him. The shockwave affected all others in the vicinity, too, and seemed psionically potent enough to travel across worlds. He found himself crumpled into a heap on the ground, and quickly picked himself up before helping Ariel back on her feet. The other humans on the bridge looked at them with mute surprise. "What happened?" Daniel asked.
Daniel turned to stare at the digital minimap. Red dots seemed to be disappearing for no apparent reason...
<There seems to have been a split amongst the Zerg swarm,> noted Ariel. <The enemy seems to be infighting right now.>
<The Zerg fighting themselves? How is that possible?> responded Daniel. Such a thing had not happened ever since the backward brood that had attacked his squad back on Mar Sara had suffered significant casualties in his counterstrike. <Aren't they lead by a single Overmind? And it controlled all the Zerg, at least so it told me...>
<The Overmind definitely does. This seems... strange of it. Perhaps it is dying?>
<You wish,> thought Daniel. But he knew that it was a rare war in which one side won because the other's leadership died naturally.
<We are receiving reports that certain Zerg have been infighting amongst themselves across many other worlds and asteroid belts currently under our Observation,> Tealdarin declared.
<So... Is the Overmind going to die? Is this it, the end of the war?> Ariel asked hopefully.
<A five-hundred-year-war does not end anticlimactically,> was Tealdarin's reply. <But if it is indeed the case, we shall find our lives meaningless.>
<Cerebrate, Zasz is dead!> It was another statement that rang out through the psionic void, which Daniel managed to latch onto. There were clearly several beings capable of sending immensely powerful psionic signals. He guessed they were all Zerg; after all, they needed to be able to communicate with their minions...
<Do you remember this thing about a 'Cerebrate'? Zasz must have been one too!> exclaimed Daniel as he suddenly had an Eureka moment. <The Overmind probably isn't capable of controlling all the Zerg that must be out there unless it's the size of a planet, and I'm inclined not to think so. Instead, it must control a variety of intermediate controllers and thinkers called Cerebrates - each of which is also probably very large. The Cerebrates must be the ones who control the Zerg units indirectly, passing their orders with the aid of Overlords and now their derivatives, the Overseers. The dark ones' fleet must have been on to this long ago. When they heard such a powerful psionic signal, they expected to find a cerebrate here. Only they quickly discovered upon their arrival that the Cerebrate isn't Sarah, but another entity on this planet, and they have proceeded to destroy it.>
< If this is indeed the case, then perhaps you were right - maybe letting the dark ones alone is of strategic importance for us. It is also disturbing that they were able to carry out such a surprising strategy so flawlessly - we should have at least known that they were using hallucinations to distract the Zerg. We shall see... We have waited long enough already,> communicated Tealdarin. <We have managed to hyperspace this Sarah Kerrigan from the planet surface directly to a secure rehabilitation installation. There is nothing of much purport left on this planet. Let us now rid this planet of the Zerg!>
From one of the golden fleet's Dreadnoughts was launched a phase disruptor warhead. But long before it reached the populated planet's surface, the Zerg had realized the threat it posed and shredded it to pieces. The Protoss then launched such warheads from each of their arrayed Dreadnoughts, but the Zerg responded in kind, even as they were for the most part focused on destroying each other.
Daniel watched on for about ten minutes, his mind wrapped in ennui, as the Protoss fruitlessly tried to detonate even a single one of their warheads within the planet's atmosphere, and at the same time engaged the far more numerous Zerg fliers in low orbit battles. For all their vaunted technology, they were certainly getting nowhere fast.
Daniel left the Protoss continue with what they were doing, and turned his attention to the planet---and the nearby asteroid belt. Well isn't that some idea, he mused to himself.
"James," Daniel spoke into his comlink.
"What would happen if the Zerg suddenly realized that something awful was about to happen to all of Char? What would they do?"
"Uh... I guess they'd flee," James offered, confused.
"What's going to flee?" Daniel pressed his question.
"Well, any units they have, but they obviously can't simply pick up their buildings and depart now, can they?"
"Right," was the weak reply Daniel gave him. Then he changed the link so that his words could be heard by everyone. "All ship commanders, set destination to the coordinates I'm giving you," he suddenly announced into his comlink, prompting Sarlena and Christopher to trade questioning glances. Meanwhile, the forces remaining on Char were in disarray, fighting having broken throughout much of the planet.
"Why into the asteroid belt?" Christopher asked.
"Well, I've got a plan," was all Daniel said, leaving everyone else scratching their heads but eager to find out what it was that their revered admiral was up to.
Several minutes later, Daniel's fleet had moved into position--behind a screen of asteroids. He typed a bit more into his computer, and spoke into his public intercom. "All ship commanders, set the targets of your nuclear missiles focused on the asteroid whose positions I'm now giving you."
Daniel emerged from his private quarters to the main tactical chamber, and the adjutant gave him worried looks. "You're wasting our nukes on a piece of rock?" Several others were looking at him as if he were crazy.
"Just do as I said, I'm in charge here, remember? Fire at the coordinates I gave you on my mark. Ready... Get set... FIRE!!!"
On command, multiple nukes detonated long the side of one particular asteroid, temporarily generating a second sun far more brilliant and intense--and deadly--than Char's broiling star. It was a spectacular sight, and Daniel relished it for the several minutes that the flare lasted.
The asteroid veered off trajectory, heading along the path that Daniel had calculated it would, away from the asteroid belt... and headed straight for Char.
It took merely a minute for Christopher to find conclusive, numerical proof of what Daniel was planning to do. Daniel smiled back, merely stating, "This world's already been ridden by both Zerg and hostile volcanic activity. What more is Armageddon?"
As the asteroid approached the planet at increasingly high velocities, the Zerg took notice, and very rapidly fled from the surface. Whatever could flee did so--many flyers of various classifications, as well as the Overlords, fully loaded with ground-based minions. They all proceeded to a particular sector of space in a bid to escape via wormhole, and Daniel laughed exultingly at their flight. All those Zerg... and they are totally unprepared to meet my challenge, he thought to himself. And even if they fly away, they can't move their structures away, nor their countless remaining ground minions.
Then the asteroid finally impacted. The ten-kilometer-wide foreign object drove a crater into the already lava-coursed planetary surface, causing the ground all around it to erupt out and away from the impact zone, a circular wall of destruction that traversed, covering the entire planet within a few short hours. The ubiquitous Zerg presence on the surface were totally destroyed, vaporized, gone.
All life upon the planet was extinguished.
And in the midst of it all, while many of the humans were torn between gladness at the eradication of the Zerg and the horror at seeing such cataclysmic obliteration, Daniel was nearly dancing in his ecstasy. No one paid any attention to the cluster of Zerg flyers, who were proceeding to a huge hurricane-like vortex, a wormhole the size of a small moon which progressively got brighter toward the center, which steadily sucked in countless Zerg silhouettes, taking them to a site of relatively more safety.
"Why are you so happy?" asked Sarlena, more than a bit worried in his voice.
"Why shouldn't I be?" replied Daniel, raising his fists into the air in hoots of joy. "I just masterminded the destruction of millions of Zerg."
They didn't pay attention to another signal that the Protoss had picked up: <Behold, my long silence is now broken, and I am made whole once more. The cunning Protoss have dared strike down that which was immortal...>
"And aren't you horrified by what you just did?" asked Sarlena, rather cautiously. She didn't want to ruin Daniel's day if she could help it.
But then, everyone in the fleet was rejoicing.
Everyone was happy.
And then, it struck him. Daniel realized that there was another, much--larger presence that was also happy. It felt--wrong.
Daniel collapsed onto his bed, the delight still whirling through his head, a very wide smile on his face.
And then he suddenly had the vision of a massive eyeball in an even grander socket.
What the hell??
Daniel abruptly burst out of his vision, halted his laughing... And looked around, seeing the many other humans who were still gleeful with the aura of victory.
But there was no victory if the Overmind was giving off such a strong sense of joy... It was incredible.
Were these not the Overmind's minions? Daniel wondered. <Ariel, did you sense that?>
<Of course I did,> she replied solemnly. The Protoss projected the image of a ubiquitous, teal planet, half occluded in the darkness of night, the other half brightened in the day. Daniel peered closer at the image. Massive glowing windows to hyperspace were opening up all around the planet as far as he could see in the vision, and he imagined countless Protoss arriving through these shimmering portals.
And then the image shifted toward the space. In the far distance, a massive wormhole a thousand times Aiur's diameter and far larger than any wormhole he had ever seen --a purplish vortex with a bright white-orange core--was slowly opening. It was enlarging despite the Protoss' best attempts to shut it down with their normal wormhole destabilizers.
A sense of impending doom undulated over Daniel's mind, far more potent than any he had ever experienced.
<AT LONG LAST,
OUR SEARCHING IS
WE SHALL ASSAULT