The Invasion of AiurEdit
A lithe projectile shot out into nearby space, resulting in a black hole that quickly transformed itself into a wormhole. The Protoss fleet set a course for the wormhole, and Daniel knew exactly where it led. "This is Daniel. All ships follow the Protoss through the wormhole. The final battle is at hand." As the metallic-gray human fleet joined the Expeditionary Fleet into the orange-red aperture, Daniel tried to communicate with Ariel.
<There can be no joy for us. The Zerg have found the location of our secret homeworld, Aiur, and even now the Swarms are coming through the largest wormhole we have ever encountered. The long-awaited final conflict has begun, and now we know that we are not prepared to face the entirety of the Swarm in all its extensiveness...>
<This is the moment we have all been waiting for, and we stride eagerly into battle,> Tealdarin broadcast to all the Protoss in his fleet.
Daniel felt as if they were striding eagerly into Hell.
For Hell it had already become in the space of mere minutes.
<You've always been waiting for an opportunity to fight the final battle against the Zerg. You've been hoping for this your whole lives, and now you've got it,> said Daniel sarcastically and without any bit of joy.
<We are now going to engage the Zerg,> said Tealdarin in what seemed to be a farewell remark.
<Are you out of your mind!?! There is no way we can possibly fend off the Zerg!>
<Trust in the glory of the Khala, for the Khala is our strength, and hence our strength is Infinite. Never forget that.>
<But... Tealdarin! This... this is... suicide!> Daniel lamented.
<We fight nonetheless. We shall prove to all who are taking notice that the Firstborn are superior to the Second born.>
Daniel turned around and asked Ariel, "Just how many Protoss are on their way here?"
"This is no longer classified information. The Temple of Knowledge must not be allowed to fall into the grasp of the Overmind, so the Protoss are recalling almost all their fleets from across the galaxy to this one battle. This newly named Homeworld Fleet is comprised of roughly 100 billion Needleships, eight billion Carriers carrying a trillion interceptors, a billion Dreadnoughts, half a billion Guardians, and 50 million Motherships, plus ancillary vessels."
"But... Where's the trillions of starships you promised?" Daniel demanded.
"I guess my estimate was off a bit."
"A bit?" Daniel was incredulous.
Moments later they had come out the other end, in full view of Aiur.
For a moment, Daniel was speechless.
In comparison to what he now saw of the Zerg, the annihilation that befell Char was a grain of sand on the beach. There must have been at least a million billion Zerg flyers in this massive solar-system-sized swarm, filled with an assortment of different classifications. He identified overlords, overseers, dracolisks, damselisks, scourge, and others that resembled giant floating spiders, crabs, and anemones. they took up a massive, spherical volume of space with a radius stretching from Aiur all the way to its moon.
The Protoss had brought in their full might as well, an immensely breathtaking sight. Near the planet, one couldn't go ten kilometers in any direction without running into another golden vessel, then another. Rows and columns of the gilded vessels stood glistening in their neat formations, waiting to be called to battle. All around them, golden starships continued to emerge from a host of wormholes.
The planet itself was quite insignificant compared to the theater of this particular invasion. Battle had already begun breaking out as the two concentrated fleets dueled around the Homeworld, over its moon, around the nearby star and even throughout the asteroid belts. The scale was downright unimaginable. No one picture could capture all that was happening around them, no one mind capable of comprehending all the simultaneous events that were occurring. Numbers could not describe the sheer quantity of vessels being deployed with utmost precision to each sub-battle. Adjectives could not describe the ferocity with which the two sides fought each other.
And yet, to the humans aboard their starships, it all seemed to be a silent movie. Or rather, it was like watching a replay of a prior battle - none of this seemed to really be happening now, in flesh and blood. Nothing could be heard of the titanic engagement being waged, sometimes mere thousands of kilometers away. The battle seemed so separate from them, so distant, so cold, so unreal. Many, entranced by the scenery now encompassing all of the solar system, sat back complacently and watched it all unfold from the peace of their cabin rooms.
"I knew that both sides would have tremendous numbers," remarked a stunned Daniel, "but I didn't know just how numerous they truly were, nor how they would appear if you put them all together."
Daniel and the others had arrived the same time that the two warring factions had brought in their great numbers. With both sides coming out with seemingly endless numbers, the concentrated Zerg swarms immediately made a suicidal dash straight for the shielding of the Protoss. The numerous bubble shields, constantly redeployed, could barely keep up with the rate at which the Zerg were, with sheer numbers, depleting them. Hundreds of thousands of dracolisks would fall upon the distortionary shielding and disintegrate, within seconds breaking through each one of the many millions of bubble shields being erected. What had been expected to be devices that could withstand minutes of punishment by Zerg swarms gave out almost instantly. The immediate result of this was that many Zerg simply vanished, vaporized and disintegrated into great clouds of cosmic dust upon contact with the bubble shields.
All the fleet battles Daniel had been a part of had lasted only a few minutes at most, if not decided in the space of seconds. But this was a confrontation of cosmic proportions, and so seemed to take forever to play itself out. Fleets moved and fought each other as if in slow motion. For a long while practically no Protoss vessel was scathed, while innumerable clusters of Zerg, numbering in the millions, seemed to let themselves be vaporized with incredible rapidity. But Daniel knew that the vaunted Protoss shields were being swiftly drained. He himself had hit upon this realization, this great weakness of the shields, by accident, not too long ago. Instead of being able to delay the enemy for hours upon hours and letting them get an infinity of free shots against the swarms, the bubble shields could now only hope to eliminate so many individual targets from existence before they collapsed, one by one.
Meanwhile, the Protoss were doing the best they could to slaughter as many of the Zerg as they possibly could while the shielding still held. The darkness of space had gone gray from all the constant ion cannon beams that were streaking through space from every position and in every angle, so dense that they were apparently criss-crossing each other like a highly complex game of connect-the-dots that constantly morphed as the beams swung through vast stretches of space. Everything they touched, even if only slightly grazed, was instantly turned into a brilliant fireball and many shards of organic debris. The carriers had released their seemingly endless payloads of interceptors, which were firing their photon torpedoes endlessly, many of them even wildly. As the attacks went into the swarm of swiftly approaching enemies, pins and daggers striking into a roiling mass of flesh, they left countless dead in their wake - even those attacks that had been fired blindly into the Zerg mass almost always hit a target, so dense were the enemy swarm clusters. The Dreadnoughts opened fire with bursts from their Phased Ion Cannon Arrays, which easily went straight through the enemy formations, puncturing a small gaping tunnel through whole swarms and leaving behind a long trail of simultaneously disintegrated Zerg. None even bothered to take evasive maneuvers as it was quite clear that any attempt to do so would be of little consequence when fleets were concentrated so as to form blocks of starcraft - they merely held position in space, raining destruction on their foes. The sight of billions upon billions of shiny Protoss vessels firing into far more unkempt Zerg carapaces was a once-in-a-millennium spectacle.
But there were simply too many Zerg; no amount of ion cannon slashing could severely cut down the numbers of the advancing swarms, which could rush from nearby star to the planet in seconds, to sacrifice themselves against the surface of the very much hated bubble shielding. And behind them, were many more swarms ready to do their part in the war.
"Daniel, are we going to deploy?" asked Sarlena. "The Protoss have not explicitly asked for our help yet, but they have been excellent hosts to us so far. The least we could do is to repay their kindness in their time of need."
"Sarlena, there's a reason the Protoss haven't mentioned it yet, and it's not because they are too shy to ask for it. If you hadn't noticed, we wouldn't make a dent in this particular battle. The only lasting contribution we can really make is with our Psi Disruptor," the admiral replied. "I too would like to help our allies in any way possible. But it is clearly futile to do much right now. All Harbinger Fleet vessels are to hold position away from the battle zones until further notice." As he returned to his seat, he couldn't help but feel hypocritical. For months now he had wanted to do as much as he could fighting the Zerg. And here he was, able to take his fleet into battle at a moment's notice, and yet he was unwilling to lift a finger to help the Protoss defend their Homeworld.
Such a great change some essential facts had wrought on him, he realized.
Christopher watch the display. The tactical hologram sized in the entire planet as well as the much larger Zerg Swarm, which was slowly encircling it. It reminded Christopher of a hydrogen atom--only instead of one natural electron, there were a hundred trillion angry ones forming a dense cloud that stretched for a hundred thousand miles.
His heart dropped at that. No! I've got to keep in touch with reality! I can't slip--not now, not now... Not when I'm needed most. Okay, I've got to focus. Let's see--the first rule of thumb when encountered with this kind of situation is concentrate--think it through! Yes, that's what I'll do.
Christopher turned to the adjutant. "Patch me in to Christopher."
The adjutant turned around in utter disbelief and said, "What?"
"I said patch me to the Christopher on Braxis."
"But aren't you--"
"Just do it!"
The adjutant turned back to her consoles and opened a link via ansible to the small base on Bounty. The portrait of another Christopher appeared, much to the shock of the adjutant.
"Hey pal!" the Christopher in Aiur space said to the other.
"Hey self! What's up?"
"We've just encountered a MASSIVE Zerg force on Aiur. Turn on the Psi Disruptor and focus its signal at the coordinates I've just given you!" Christopher(Aiur) shouted. His ditto on Braxis, which knew just how important it was to do this, had no thought other than to comply.
He turned to find Daniel looking at him, a smile creeping up his lips. "Well chosen move, Christopher," said Daniel, his grim face breaking into a slight smile. "Maybe we still stand a chance."
The great majority of the Zerg seemed to have suddenly found something else to be much more interesting. A new wave of massive wormholes began to open up throughout local space, all of them facing the same direction - toward Braxis - into which the bulk of these Zerg now entered.
"Admiral, most of the Zerg seem to have broken off their engagement and are leaving the the Aiur system!"
"Good. That's... very good. We've made a momentous contribution to the war," acknowledged Daniel with a great sense of pride. He, a human with only so many people and far fewer ships under his control, had been able to deliver a powerful blow to the Zerg war effort. As he watched the hologram, he noticed that all the Zerg had responded to the giant psi emitter's call. All, but those within the psionic shadow of Aiur itself, and that of its moon and star. The beasts that were in these three cylinders of space continued to fight on even as the others rapidly departed from the sector. The Protoss, upon realizing that any Zerg that decided to stay in the shadows of either the moon or the star was a Zerg out of range of Aiur, immediately blinked all their fleets (which had been spread in battles across the star system) back to the defense of Aiur. The Protoss fleets were now arranged in immense layers stretching from Aiur to a million kilometers into space, and guarding the only approach vector the Zerg could use in attempting to reach the planet.
This in turn meant that the Zerg would have to become incredibly concentrated if they wanted to make any headway in the fight against the amassed Protoss - sometimes too close. Multiple times, the Protoss managed to detonate a phase disruptor warhead at the edge of an ultra-crowded swarm, causing them all to break down at the molecular level. The closeness with which the Zerg were packed meant that the phase disruption could jump from flier to flier until the entire swarm had been turned into a boiling, effervescent mass. Within a few seconds of taking extremely heavy losses the Zerg realized that this was a battle they couldn't win - fighting only in Aiur's psionic shadow was too narrow a path for trying to crush the planet's defenders. A massive wormhole opened up right next to the remaining swarms as they quickly beat a retreat to safety.
"We won!" exclaimed James after the entire crew had remained in stunned silence for a prolonged moment.
"I can't believe it, we did it!" said another.
"We actually did it! That Psi Disruptor did what no Protoss fleet could accomplish!"
"I wouldn't be so sure of that," Daniel muttered darkly. Sure, it seemed very unusual for the Overmind to have, as the proverb went, put all its eggs in the same basket, especially when those eggs were actually trillions upon trillions of individual dracolisks, all of which were the near equal of a Wraith. Perhaps the Overmind had expected something like this to occur. Perhaps it had plentiful reserves kept somewhere else in the galaxy, which it would now be dispatching?
<What have you done?> Tealdarin asked Daniel, as the vast majority of the Zerg swiftly departed.
<Project Red Herring,> Daniel replied smugly, expecting overwhelming gratitude. <We used our knowledge of psionic emanations to lure away the vast majority of our enemies. Thanks certainly necessary.>
<Thanks? Why have you denied us the honor that is rightfully ours?>
<What? I don't get it-->
<This is the fight that Protoss have been looking forward to for half a millennium. You have done a great disservice to us by preventing the fated battle from happening.>
<Tealdarin, the Zerg are a force to be reckoned with. You see all the blips on our tactical screens. You can sense what the Protoss all Aiur over can sense. You should at least see that your forces are wholly outnumbered.>
<That is where glory comes from! What reason have we to exist, if we cannot fight when our peoples need us to?>
<You should be asking what reason have you to exist if you are all dead at the hands of the Zerg-->
Daniel sensed a massive wave of indignation. <Do not for a moment doubt the power of the Firstborn! We never cared for superiority of numbers. I would have thought that you at least, as the Whisperer, would have understood this. You Terrans, you just don't get our principles, do you?>
Daniel terminated the telepathic bond holding them together. He had always imagined the Protoss to be reasonable, but this was certainly a stupid remark. Perhaps the overzealous Tealdarin truly believed in their collective's prevailing belief that honor was above life? But Daniel was getting tired of watching the Protoss continue to go at their enemies seemingly without end.
"I guess this is cause for celebration," gruffly shouted James as he raised a toast to everyone.
"Put that down, James, and I mean right now," interrupted Daniel. "You don't seriously expect me to just let you get drunk on alcohol, do you? We have a war to win!"
"Calm down," protested James with the air of not taking his commanding officer too seriously. "What war is there to fight? We beat the Zerg Swarm, haven't you noticed? Almost all of them were lured into the trap at Braxis by the Psi Emitter, and the rest have hastily retreated! We're not under threat any more! Right, guys?"
"Yeah!" shouted a few other officials, and they drank together, but there were also others who took Daniel's warning tone seriously.
"We're not exactly sure that it has succeeded," reminded Daniel, gazing cold and hard at those who had decided to disobey him. He pointed a finger at the exit. "As commanding officer of the Harbinger Fleet I order you to take your drinking to the brig so that no one else here will be lured into making a fool out of yourself like you are now." James and a few of the others departed, feeling both a bit light-headed and a bit uncomfortable.
Daniel paced back and forth across the bridge, hoping with all his might that the Zerg would really fall under the influence of the Psi Disruptor when they finally reached Braxis. Otherwise, they would just come back a few minutes later and tear Aiur and the Protoss Homeworld Fleet to pieces. It really all depended on the success of this one emitter. Five minutes passed in this manner, with Daniel's charisma pervading the thoughts of everyone else in the room and keeping them sober in anticipation of what would happen next.
Finally, the results came out.
"The team on Braxis reports arrival of the swarms almost simultaneously," reported the adjutant. "They have deactivated their emitter and activated their disruptor to devastating effect, working exactly to plan. Even those swarms with great numbers of Overseers were rendered inert by the new technology. There are now trillions upon trillions of concentrated Zerg in the Braxis system, doing absolutely nothing while the lone Dreadnought stationed there, Fist of Aiur, continues to deploy its phase disruptor torpedoes to apocalyptic effect."
Wild hoots of joy accompanied fists punching up into the air, to be followed by an infectious clapping. There was no one there not in a joyous mood.
Daniel felt elated at this piece of good news. "Good. Tell them to tend carefully to the disruptor and make sure it's always online. The last thing we want is for the Zerg to rip it to shreds." Then he turned to the officials. "Today we have scored a major victory against the Zerg," he remarked with a hint of pride, though still with considerable stoicism. "Now we must prepare for the second stage. As the massive swarms resting at Braxis are gradually destroyed, we will not be able to activate the psi emitter again, which means that the Overmind will be able to bring in new forces here soon. In fact, I'd be expecting them any time now. Return to your stations. If the Zerg show their ugly faces in this sector again we will not be caught unprepared."
This removed much of the blatant enthusiasm from the officials. However, as they returned to their stations their spirits were bolstered by their sense of success.
Daniel's words suddenly became prophetic as seconds later, a massive wormhole reopened not far from where the first one had opened, revealing its exotic coloration, which was soon blackened by the silhouettes of a new swarm of Zerg almost as massive as the first wave.
"Oh my God," muttered Christopher as he looked on in horror at this new development. It seemed as if the Psi Disruptor had accomplished nothing; there were just way too many Zerg. All around the planet and even as far as the local star and the other planets, battle burst out once again as the swarms rushed headfirst into the shielded golden vessels. Within seconds it was clear that this new wave would result in a battle much like the first one, with just as much attrition being employed, only this time the humans would not be able to use their treasured super-weapon again.
It was the same numbers as before. It was the same shield deployment and mass dracolisk sacrifice as before. It was the same littering of the battlefield with countless floating corpses as before. And now the Protoss would just have to rely on their own technological prowess to carry the day, a feat which Daniel was beginning to find less and less likely with each passing moment.
Then he looked out one last time at the battle happening all around them. With a start Daniel realized that the novelty had already started to wear off. The novelty had worn off! This was the greatest battle known to all of humanity and he was getting tired of it in under eight minutes! After all, he had known that this would happen, and he had seen most of these units in battles before this one. He knew very well the power of the PICA's and the bubble shields; and as for the ion cannons... well THAT was definitely monotonous to him.
And as the battle continued to wage, and billions of Zerg continued to die every second in a star-system-wide holocaust, Daniel found his mind drifting to other matters, including ones that were unimportant given their current situation - matters that he was ashamed to find himself thinking about, such as the delightful prospect of...
Of going home.