The Hammer FallsEdit
The Zerg had by now reached Aiur's surface and immediately commenced planetary bombardment. An untold number of the cancerlisks' glowing-yellow plasma balls slammed into the beautiful, orderly arrangements of countless pylons. For a handful of seconds the shielding held, flickering cyan and blue. The shields gave way, faster and faster. The hundreds of thousands of the Swarm now cluttering the firmament continued to unload an endless barrage of destruction, stopping only when all on the surface was ashes, twisted gilded Protoss metal, and more ashes. And now the shielding had collapsed, and then the wave of destruction struck at the sea of defenseless constructs. Although each of them held a considerable store of repair nanites, they were nowhere near enough to compensate for the tide of oblivion that had reached them.
"Computer, show me what's happening on the surface," ordered Christopher grimly as the starfighter prepared to leave dock.
The image on the screen before him changed; an incredibly detailed visual picture of the surface. The overlords had already reached the surface and were regurgitating out hordes of alien ground forces; scourge spun in massive circles, looking for prey, as fliers engaged in a short-lived riposte against fortified ground defenses. The dense, purple atmosphere gradually turned black all the way to the horizons from all the concentrated Swarm minions that were descending.
Within minutes the lush and beautiful world that was Aiur, which Christopher sadly remembered he had never set foot on nor experienced, had been tarnished by the invasion. Over half the entire planet, beautiful structures gilded and blue turned to shrapnel under the firepower of innumerable strikes from the atmosphere and were quickly burned to a crisp. As the Protoss did not have any military presence on the planet itself, the monstrosities that managed to slip through the golden gauntlet continued to destroy everything in sight. Before long, this side of the planet had been leveled.
What had been a hemisphere ubiquitously green from the combined golden nanites and blue crystals had before long been reduced into the mottled black and red of uncontrolled flame and endless fields of debris.
The Zerg had claimed that portion of the planet. And all across the hemisphere, the Zerg were gaining a foothold. But when the Zerg tried to attack the other hemisphere, they were deactivated by the Psi Disruptor's power the moment any tried to leave Aiur's psionic umbra. And so for the moment Aiur was only halfway destroyed.
He, Christopher, could not abide and let the Zerg do as they pleased. Not here, the Homeworld of the Protoss.
"LET'S DO THIS!" Christopher shouted to himself as his Wraith soared off into the darkness and surveyed the scene of battle. Off in the distance, dracolisks chased their prey, turning impossibly fast as they performed their strafing runs, while endless waves of scourge slammed into the Stargates, displacing vast gobs into a different reality.
His craft swiftly plunged in on his targeted foe, and opened fire. Yet against the highly maneuverable dracolisk and its highly intelligent master, his attacks consistently missed, as they took incredibly unpredictable paths. Then a second later, the computer AI warned him, "WARNING: hostile at six o'clock." Crap, there's a dracolisk on my tail? Immediately he ejected a plume of chaff and flares, many of them being destroyed as a glaive shot forth from the Zerg flier into the decoy and exploded into a shower of acid and flame.
"Hello? Anyone here? I need backup!" shouted Christopher into the intercom, not knowing if anyone would be able to understand him. Needless to say, there was no reply; as far as he was concerned, he was fighting this battle all by himself. It was a frightening prospect; now he wished that he had heeded Sarlena's advice and not come out to fight in this huge battle. He immediately made a beeline for the edge of the umbra, where he would be safe.
The dracolisk in front of him, meanwhile, had plenty of allies. It swerved once again, and Christopher strained himself to place it back in his crosshairs. He launched a missile.
And watched in dumbfounded amazement as the dracolisk proved far more agile, instantly falling behind the contraption and exploding it with an accurate hit from another glaive. A ferocious dogfight was progressing all around him all the while.
Unbeknownst to him, Sarlena was using a televista satellite far above them to monitor his every twist and turn, staring at a computer screen with several fingers squeezed by her teeth, her worry and anxiety about to explode at any moment, while James could only look on at her distressed form with sadness.
That dracolisk was proving to be a very challenging foe, Christopher realized; however, the one tailing him was now nowhere to be seen. He regained his target in his cross hairs and this time shot out bolts of laser, yet even their constant stream failed to hit his target. That dracolisk was a pest indeed. Probably just like he was...
Then it broke out into a turn to the right. He eagerly gave chase, now flying at an oblique angle thirty degrees from the horizontal. As they went, the signature of the dracolisk became slightly larger; that gave him a greater chance of hitting his target with pinpoint laser fire. Yet it continued to dodge, never entering the cross hairs exactly, even as it then veered sharply to the left.
Trying to lose me, eh? Christopher smirked, then realized with a start that the hologram before him showed another dracolisk coming at him from his side - the angle from which he would have the largest signature, since he was currently turning and had wings tilted - realized that he had been caught by the two dracolisks' figure-S maneuver. And it was firing.
At first he didn't believe it. Then he did, and was filled with worry, trying his best to get out of the way, pouring out chaff and flares once again. But that glaive came ever closer; it was definitely locked on him.
<<No, it can't be, I hadn't even made a kill yet, it isn't the right time, I can't die--NOOO!!!!!!!!!>>
Then he and his craft shattered into a million molten pieces as the glaive detonated, a burning fireball spiraling through the great nothingness of space.
At that exact moment, Sarlena was so frightened for his safety that she was praying more diligently than she had ever done in her life, with palms pressed before her and lips muttering at a frantic pace, sweat rolling down her youthful face.
She never saw her fiancé vaporize.
All she saw was a flying fireball of a wreck where there should have been a starfighter.
What!?! No, it can't be!! It can't be-- but it is-- my adored one, my Chris! Could he truly be gone? But if he is not, then were is he? No, I absolutely refuse to believe that he is dead! Use your brain, Sarlena, he's dead. No, shut up, the other me! I won't allow that to happen! There's no way he could have died, I was praying fervently, God wouldn't have allowed the unthinkable to happen! It didn't! Yes it did, you saw it happen -- No, I did not! Stop deceiving yourself! Stop telling me lies! I shall see him return to me, and we... we will live happily ever after! That's impossible! Sarlena, take a hold of yourself, and see what's going on! He's just not there any more, your beloved Chris, he's gone, and there's no way he is coming back, and the other Chris on Bounty is already a cold meat bag, or several pieces of it, and -- shut out that thought! He is not dead! I wouldn't have allowed to happen, the heavens know I wouldn't have! No, he is still alive and well, and I shall find him, and end this torment! Oh really? Then where is he? Well, he,... I... I don't know. Exactly. So stop presuming that he's still miraculously alive. Oh, but how can I live without him?! This is hell on earth! Well, not exactly earth, but... What am I going to do now? What can I do, now that he's gone? This can't possibly be happening to be, it is not, my eyes must have been playing tricks on me, I have no proof he's dead -- There's never proof when it all goes up in a fireball, self! He was so nice to me, there's no way in hell he could just go out there and never come back! Why, how can he, when he knows that I'm still here, faithfully waiting for his return? I Have been faithful, haven't I? Oh God, what, is it possible that I did not do something right? Oh, damn it, all the fault belongs to me! I shouldn't have let him just leave like that, I should have restrained him, called for others to stop him - should have known it was coming! I -- I didn't even make the best of what time we did have together, didn't even tell him that burning desire in my heart, promise him that I'd marry him at the earliest opportunity! And now, he's in heaven, yet it will still be like hell for he will still not have heard my heartfelt words 'I do', and he will never know the true extent of my feelings! Oh, damn it all to hell! If this were all to have happened anyway, then why did I have to be the hapless maiden who fell in love with the man in the first place? And now look at yourself, myself, you're a terrible wreck of a woman, even worse off than a widow for having not spent enough time together .. Why had I been so diligent in my duties to Travincal, and neglected him? And now I shall never have the time to set things right, never be able to make things just -- It is all over for me and my weary soul! Why not just take the quick way out, see him in heaven straight away, with the gun heavy in my holster? Are you insane? Good question... Am I? Am I insane already?
All this was only expressed in the form of an unblinking, frozen stare at the computer screen for many a long moment, before Sarlena collapsed from her own weariness and overwhelming sorrow.
"It is always one death that is a greater tragedy than all others combined," James muttered to himself, as he looked at Sarlena's unconscious form. I hope she will come out okay, considering how crucial she is to the war effort.
Daniel awoke at last and found himself staring up at the holographic Doctor.
"Well, it seems you're doing fine," the Doctor announced. "I guess I'll terminate myself then." The next moment there was a soft beep, and the man was gone.
Daniel looked to his sides, then got off the bed. "Hello? What happened?" he asked, perplexed that he was now in sickbay. He rushed down the hall to the bridge and found Ariel fully recovered, Zeratul deep in meditation, and Sarlena looking around absent-mindedly. He peeked into her mind to see just what was the matter with her, and found himself shouting, "Guards! Stop her!" Immediately several marines in their heavy combat suits hulked over and easily pulled the woman away. She had been secretly attempting to extract a gun from an officer's holster. Daniel peered into Sarlena's eyes, which were half expressionless, half dismal. Friend... Would this not have come to pass...
"I think she was trying to commit suicide," noted James.
"Indeed," replied Daniel as he turned away. "I cannot allow her to kill herself in her grief. Her situation is different from Michael's, for reasons I cannot explain right now. Lock her up in a cell and make sure she is well attended to, but do not under any circumstances give her any means to kill herself. If she starves herself, I want you to force-feed her. If she bangs her head against the wall, I want you to use your bodies as a buffer. If she tries to hang herself using her own clothes, strip her. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"
"Yes Admiral," the guards said unanimously.
"What, you can't do that!" protested Sarlena at last as she struggled futilely against the mechanized grip of the marines, the sounds of her voice quickly fading away, leaving Daniel beside himself in his dilemma.
Floating not far from an asteroid home to yet another Cerebrate, a fleet of golden vessels belonging to the dark ones surrounded their seemingly invulnerable target. At the forefront of this fleet was a Protoss starship few humans had ever encountered, and one which the light ones had looked condescendingly upon for its general impracticality against the Zerg. Its entire front portion was a trio of finger-like devices pointed at the same focal point, with a directing device right at the center. Called a Warp Ray, it was armed with warp cannons - one for each of the three fingers that came to resemble a golden claw. Zeratul's hope for victory rested on its ability to successfully destroy the Cerebrate, once and for all, despite the failure of the phase disruptor earlier. Far, far away, a similar fleet with another Warp Ray had also reached its destination - a second Cerebrate.
<On Zeratul's command. We are in position.>
Their Prelate, who had been the first to recover from the psionic attack, responded immediately. <Permission to go ahead with the plan.>
A hundred light years apart, the Warp Rays activated their warp cannons one by one. As the first one went online, it emitted a slanted bluish beam that, upon being redirected by the central device, shot outward at the monstrosity before them. It seemed to have fairly little effect, but the part of the creature near the point of impact began to wobble and shift around with a ghostly appearance. Within seconds the bluish beam had become much stronger as the result of some kind of feedback mechanism. A second beam joined with the first, lashing out from the same re-director device. Suddenly the power of the strike had become amplified by hundreds, if not thousands, of times, blasting giant holes into the target. The distortion and shifting of the creature became ever more apparent. And yet, it was not close to enough.
Soon the feedback had become strong enough in both Warp Rays that the third warp cannons were brought online. The trio of combined beams lanced out with absolute ferocity, magnitudes stronger than when there had been only two. The entire Cerebrate's form seemed to be splitting into multiple ghost entities, becoming unimaginably contorted as the fabric of space-time became horribly bent. The Cerebrate was literally ripped to pieces in the process, the warping power of the Warp Ray stripping it of its Xel'Naga-given immunity to conventional harm.
Both Cerebrates were no more; there were no traces left of either.
<Job done. Let the hammer fall.>
Back at the battle on Aiur, a good percentage of the swarms suddenly seemed totally leaderless, turning on each other and on the unaffected Swarm and forcing the rest of the Zerg to annihilate them. Both human and Protoss looked on in bewilderment. There wasn't a disruptor of any sort scheduled anytime soon as far as they knew. Perhaps the Zerg leader WAS getting old...