Chapter V - Terror
The world burned.
It was midday, and the twin suns of Tengus-4 were unleashing their wrath
on the planet below. Dust hung in the air, slowly choking the land with
its dry omnipresence. Even the most resistant of plants showed signs of
pain and distress. Their wilted bodies seemed to bow before the mighty
Helios, who spurred his chariot of fire across the sky above. The native
creatures left their dens only to hunt, but food was scarce, and many
would soon die.
Shugar's camp, contrary to the lethargic land around
it, was alive with anxiety. The troops had been assembled and were
awaiting orders while officers attempted to yell instructions above the
clamor. Arclite siege tanks were firmly rooted into the chapped earth at
key positions, their shock cannons extended upward ready to deploy death
at a moment's notice. The barracks were empty, weapons had been moved out
of storage, and tension was in the air. Marines kept their guns close and
their minds sharp in anticipation of the unknown. It was as if the entire
camp were a colossal mousetrap, armed and baited, with no one knowing when
it would snap.
Lieutenant Shugar strode through the mesh of nerves and excitement when
another man appeared at his flank. Shugar recognized him as Sergeant Amon,
an experienced and highly respected officer of the confederacy.
"All men have been placed on priority standby Sir. All that's left is
your word and we'll make the Zerg bleed."
Shugar nodded, "Very good Sergeant, have your men stand by. We are
not staging an attack."
Amon appeared puzzled, "I don't understand. Never have our forces
amassed so quickly and with such power. If there is to be no battle, what
possible reason is left?"
"I never said there wouldn't be a battle Sergeant, I said we will not
be the ones to initiate it."
Amon visibly tensed, "The Zerg move!?"
"Not yet," Shugar replied. "But it is a definite
possibility in the near future. And we cannot be caught unprepared."
"Sir…. Permission to speak freely?"
"Rumors have started circulating around the base. Many people don't
expect to live much longer. This sudden mobilization combined with your
stoic secrecy has left a lot of people guessing, myself included. I know
that there is much more at stake here than you care to admit." Shugar
tried to protest but was cut short by Amon holding up his hand,
"Please don't deny it. I have known you for years and can read your
thoughts almost as well as my own. You are keeping something from not only
me, but from all of the officers who stand under your control. I still
trust however, that you are doing this for a good reason, and I want you
to understand that regardless of the situation, we will all stand by you
until the bitter end."
Shugar placed a hand warmly on his friend's shoulder, "You have
helped to ease my thoughts, and for that, I thank you. But you must
believe me when I say that hiding the truth is not my decision, I am under
strict orders from Emperor Mengks himself."
Amon's eyes widened, "Gods! Arcturus is involved? This is more
serious than I thought."
"Yes, even more so than you understand now. But please, we can
discuss this no further. See to your men and try to calm them. This will
all soon be over, that much is inevitable. The outcome however, is still
very much to be decided."
"Yes sir." The Sergeant saluted, turned on his heels, and walked
away. Shugar watched him for a moment appreciatively, before he too moved
off into a crowd.
Tsetra's hands caressed the tempered steel of her
knife. Around its intricate grooves and textures came her wise fingers,
over the handle, across the hilt and back again. She knew no boundary
between the vulnerable flesh and its hard metal. She felt a bond forming
between them - creator and creation working symbiotically for a common
It was a sturdy design, made to endure harsh treatment in trying
situations. Forged of the finest alloy and meticulously crafted by a
brilliant artist aspiring to perfection. Tsetra treated it however, as if
it had been blown from glass: an aesthetic work of art that needed
protection. In a fit of passion or rage, the blade would serve as a window
out of madness. A chance to unleash every scrap of fear and confusion into
a another living soul. Wrongs would be avenged, and prices would be paid.
In her tranquillity, and in her chamber, they were meaningless. But when
possessed by a demon, and lobbed into the mindless bedlam of war, together
they could destroy lives, which was remarkable.
Her mind was snapped back to the present by a distinct chime. She slid her
blade back into its sheath before standing.
"Come," she projected.
The metallic doors slid open effortlessly, revealing Jake on the other
side. He walked through the open portal wearing a somber expression. When
their eyes met however, he seemed to brighten a bit before speaking.
"Tsetra, hello. I… I'm not interrupting you am I?"
She smiled, "No, of course not. Please come in and sit."
He walked a bit closer, but remained standing. "I can't stay long, I
just… I had to see you again before something happens."
Although Tsetra knew much more about the current situation then he did,
she feigned ignorance, "What do you mean 'something'?"
Jake was staring vacantly at the floor, "There may be an attack soon.
One that… we might not be able to turn away. So, I just wanted to look
at you one more time.. " He looked up, and spoke into her deep ashen
eyes, "…and thank you for saving my life."
"You are very welcome, I could not have done any less." They
both stood in silence for a few moments, before Tsetra prodded further.
"There's… more isn't there?"
"Yes," he whispered through a trembling voice. "When I
think about those horrible things, and what they did to me, I… I can't
go through it again. Even though it violates everything the army has
taught me, and tears me apart inside… I am frightened… a spineless
"No!" she interjected, "You are human! And that, I am
afraid, is something the confederacy dreadfully needs more of. But even
so, do not permit your emotions to cloud your judgment. And trust Shugar,
for he will not allow you or anyone else to die in a meaningless war. Even
as we speak, the Zerg colony is under constant surveillance, should they
make any move to attack, we will instantly be alerted to it. Within
forty-eight hours, Emperor Mengks' men will arrive with a fleet of
warships, at which time we will evacuate."
Jake showed confusion, "How do you-"
"I just know," She interrupted. "You can't afford to lose
your head. Not now. Try to stay calm, and you will live to avenge the pain
they brought upon you."
He almost smiled, "Thank you again… for everything."
"Again, you're very welcome. I'll see you soon."
He nodded, and walked back to the door which eagerly opened.
Tsetra spoke as he was stepping into the corridor, "Illigitimus non
carbarundum est, Jake."
He returned the translation, "Don't let the bastards get you
"You know Latin?" She called after him, but he was already gone.
* * *
Hours later, and many miles away, wisps of smoke
lazily drifted upward into the vast midnight sky. A red glow burned into
the darkness for an instant, before yielding to the relentless void. Once
again, the hazy gray matter blew in, and floated ever upward.
Indeed, it would have been quite a sight to the uneducated observer, one
that might be attributed to optical trickery. If one took the time
however, to sweep a beam of light about the area, it would soon reveal a
clever disguise as the ray would twist and skew through the psionic
translucency of a Terran Ghost. Yet without the proper equipment, or a
form of extrasensory projection, he would be quite impossible to track.
Disregarding of course, his foolish decision to smoke a cigarette.
Their reputation had spread far and wide because of this uncanny ability
that only the confederacy had truly mastered. Yet underneath the thick
bulwark of his consciousness trembled a small man, whose life had been
stolen by those who had no right. To achieve such a status which men and
woman alike would envy, a great sacrifice had been made: his chance to
lead a normal life.
From birth he had been poked and prodded with abnormal devices and
unnatural purposes. Tubes ran into a delicate child, and results flowed
out to be recorded and studied. Where most would experience cradles and
loving parents, he only understood the cold empty feeling of lab tables
and lights, with strange beings in masks hovering about, ensuring he would
grow up to be "all he could be." It was a choice he was never
given, and an injustice he could never avenge.
The small speaker in his ear allowed for instant communication, should the
need arise. At the touch of a button, he could receive and transmit an
audio message anywhere within a radius of thirty miles. He had been on
duty for approximately an hour, leaving at least another 2 until the shift
As he smothered the butt of the cigarette on his boot, he casually glanced
up into the sky, and noticed an odd silhouette drifting through the
moonlight. He squinted his eyes in an attempt to better see through the
unrelenting darkness but to little avail. As it moved close however, the
dangling tentacles made it painfully obvious that it was a zerg overlord -
one of the few tools available to the swarm for detecting cloaked bodies.
The Ghost sat with a blank look on his face, and slowly licked his lips as
they had become quite dry. His body froze in place, refusing to move, even
when the bushes around him began to rustle, and the notorious hissing drew