1: Monsters and Minutemen
This time, we barely needed to aim.
They came right at us, streaming down from the tree and grass covered
hill, right into our waiting arms.
The mass hobbled and wobbled, the slightest change in direction in one
place spreading like a wave across the whole formation.
No order was given, and none was needed.
They screamed as we fired.
One hundred and fifty rifles, twenty heavy gattling cannons and one
The sound was enormous, thundering, deafening.
And yet, I didn't hear a single shot being fired.
Only the screams.
It was pitiful, in all its display of might and glory.
They were cut down, slaughtered, disemboweled, maimed, beheaded, at a
distance proportionate to their size and toughness. Not once did they
Most of them fell short of our makeshift barricade, usually far away
enough as to be invisible as individuals in their enormous horde. Some
of the really large ones, lumbering, four legged things with tusks the
size of a human body, made it to the wall, but none ever came across.
Silence rolled over us like a wet blanket.
A small river of blood trickled down the hill, collecting in front of
Someone threw up next to me.
I dropped to my knees and followed his example.
Davidson was all smile, as usual, when I met him near the command
"At least we didn't have to use our fists, now did we?"
I smiled back, ignoring his customary salute and handed him one of my
"If they keep this up, well be fighting them with bats and clubs in
a few days."
I gestured towards the bunker. "Here's an order for you, since you
look so cheerful and healthy: give me a link to forces in orbit. Tell
them that we are in deep shit, and that I'd like to talk to whomever is
still in charge up there, Admiral Dugalle or one of his aides."
He nodded, losing the smile for a second, then turned and jump-ran in
the typical power armor fashion, heading for the bunker.
Exhausted, I dropped my rifle and leaned against the wall of the
barricade, sliding down until I sat firmly on the ground, arms out by my
sides and legs together.
The barricade. Our home, our salvation, our doom. The two former had
been fulfilled, and I was dearly hoping for the last to never happen.
It was, however, very likely, as things stood right now.
The silence was tiresome, and I yawned aloud, closing my eyes, trying to
think remember how I got into this mess in the first place.
The briefing was, in hindsight, the biggest lie I had ever been treated
"A simple mission, commander. As you know, Zerg sightings have
increased greatly on most planets and moons in this system, and
Jennings-371 is no exception."
An enormous amount of info scrolled by on the display, most of which I
The planet looked green enough to be accepted, but not enough to be
loved by its settlers.
"Since you have, hmmm, a relatively large share of combat
experience, we deem this mission to be simple, especially with the
manpower allocated to you."
The officer pointed at the screen, his face as neutral in color as the
topographical map on it.
"In the last twenty days, we have received more than two hundred
separate sightings of various creatures of the Zerg warrior breed, all
concentrated around our colony."
Something in my head screamed danger at this state, but I simply ignored
it, as I usually do just before things go to hell.
"The colonists are getting restless, and security on site had to
kill several colonists when they attempted to ransack the armory, with
intentions to disperse the armaments to their comrades."
His face showed some amount of anger as he continued.
"You are to take one hundred and fifty men, with complementary
support weapons, and secure the site. You are fully authorized to use
deadly force if required."
He leaned in closed, stressing the words.
"We don't want a full scale colonial rebellion on our hands. Make
sure that the colonists don't get any stupid ideas. The Zerg WILL NOT be
a problem. Our best scientists have examined the reports, and everything
indicates that these are just scouting missions.
The Overmind is fully occupied with battling the Protoss and our own
forces near Aiur.
Concentrate on the colonists. I have complete confidence in your ability
to solve this problem."
I nodded, rose, saluted and headed for the door.
Then came the hacking slashing screaming mad unbelievable dear god
I woke up so hard I slammed my head into a support beam, the blow only
partially softened by the helmet.
A private, still manning a gattling, sent me a concerned look, and I
simply smiled and waved it off.
I rubbed my eyes, cursing at my pounding headache.
Davidson came running along the length of the barricade, his smile
replaced with urgency.
"Sir, I've got Vice Admiral Johnessey on the phone."
It didn't take me too long to get to the bunker this time.
Johnessey was not a beautiful man, by any standards.
Short, black hair, pig eyes and a small moustache, he more appeared to
be a store clerk on some colony world than a vice admiral. On the small
screen attached to the roof of the bunker, he more resembled an insect
than a man, something that made me smile inside.
"What is your plight, Commander?"
As if he didn't know. I decided to play it gently.
"Sir, as you may already know, we have been under direct assault by
heavy Zerg forces more than five times since our deployment on site. We
are in dire need of weaponry, supplies and medical personnel.
Reinforcements could also prove useful."
He nodded slowly, looking thoughtful and wise.
"And you are certain that all this is necessary?"
I sighed. Stupid asshole! Wasn't that obvious?
"Sir, I counted at least one thousand Zerg bodies before the latest
assault. I'm not only certain, I guarantee you that we will lose control
of this outpost without heavy weapons, manpower and supplies. That is my
professional and personal opinion."
He in turn sighed, and leaned back into an invisible chair.
Silence filled the speaker, and I felt like ripping it off its mount,
fly up to the admiral and shove it down his throat. Did he even need to
THINK about this?
Damn the bloody UED for putting us in this mess in the first place!
"Very well, commander. Expect reinforcements to arrive shortly.
The screen went blank, and I smiled once again.
Outside, the sun was setting.
I was so tired I passed out before I hit the floor.
The transports were the most beautiful things I had ever seen since I
set foot on that god-forsaken rock. They came in from the sea, floating
through the air like fat seagulls, the sun glistening on their armored
And their cargo was an even better one.
We filled the armory in under half an hour. Case after case after case
left the shadows looming in the dropships, each one passing me and my
Everyone seemed to be in high spirits. Even Mcmullins, the sour bastard,
was grinning like a madman. One of our forward scouts gave me the latest
sighting report: nothing. Not a Zerg up to 4.5 kilometers to our north.
Then the rolling hills ended, replaced by a mountainous area which was
practically impossible to travel through, man or Zerg.
"No Zerg?" I said out loud, dismissing the scout with a quick
"No reinforcements either." A voice broke in behind me.
"Eh?" I asked Jackson, our communications officer.
"Johnessey called us back about five minutes ago. No
reinforcements. Make due with current manpower, and this little charming
snippet, which is for your eyes only, evidently. Came with a big damn
crate, never seen anything like it."
He handed me an envelope, gray to the color.
Top Secret was stamped across the top in bold red letters, fueling my
already growing curiosity even more. I tore the seal. Inside, a thin
chafe of paper, two keys and a steel badge with a ten digit number. I
started to read, the acid in my stomach sending a sour taste up my
To: Site commander Captain William Haynes.
From: Vice Fleet Admiral Mark Johnessey.
Security rating: class III, receiver only.
By the time you are reading this, you know that there will be no
I'm counting on you to hold the fort, so to speak, and to aid you, I
have, beside the substantial shipment of weapons and medical supplies,
sent one sub-tactical nuclear device.
I stopped for a second, squeezing the red keys hard in my hand. What the
Your new orders are as follows: Maintain a firm hold on the outpost, and
find the Zerg base.
Use all means necessary, including the device, to destroy it. No
casualties are too large.
If you are unable to keep the Zerg at bay, the device must be used to
ensure that the outpost is never captured. I cannot tell you why these
orders are so specific, due to secure information, but I can tell you
that failure means your certain defeat at the hands of the Zerg.
These orders are top secret, and must remain so, for obvious reasons.
Good luck, commander. May god be with you.
-Vice Admiral Mark Johnessey.
I hung the keys around my neck, suddenly chilled to the bone. Jackson
looked at me, waiting for an explanation. I sighed, crumpling the letter
in a knuckle-whitening grip.
"Get all the officers together in Command. I think we need to have
a little orientation meeting."
"Yessir," he motioned for a salute, turning to walk away.
"And Jackson?" He stopped, and talked without turning around.
I smiled coldly as I answered:
"Don't bump that crate around."
We gathered in the bunker, six men all in all. I opened the locker on
the wall, dispersing six steel cups and a bottle of scotch around the
plain metal table in the center of the room.
It was always a notch too hot in there, and the air felt like it hadn't
been circulated since the planet was born. The fan in the roof made a
pitiful attempt at shuffling it around, failed miserably, and signaled
its protest with a series of constant creaks.
The first cup eased them into their seats, the second removed the
immediate need to ask about the sudden meeting, the third loosening the
tight, "I'm-tougher-than-you-so-help-me-god" look on three of
the faces. Those were the new ones: Kingby, Floyd and Carter. Young,
eager, inexperienced, in other words perfect for the mess we were in.
The other three simply drank one or two sips of the third drink, then
leaned back, carefully eyeing me. Backman, Davidson, Jackson. All
experienced and friends of mine.
My most trusted too. I just sat there for a few minutes, listening to
the three at the other end chattering louder and louder, courtesy of the
It was then I decided to tell it all to them. What good would it serve
to let them walk into certain death without knowing it?
"Well, gentlemen, it seems we really struck gold this time
around." I fished a pack of cigarettes out of my breast pocket,
slowly lighting one up and taking a deep drag.
The three at the other end kept chattering among themselves, and I was
getting pretty annoyed by now, but not enough to shut them up. So I
decided to let the truth do it for me.
"I don't need to tell you that command surely screwed up their
intelligence for this mission.
What I DO need to tell you is that I received new orders along with the
supply shipment, and I know you won't like them."
I powered up the display unit, our orders projected onto the wall behind
Dead silence. They stared at the message, each on in his own way struck
I knew it, they knew it. They didn't show it, but I knew nevertheless.
I just leaned over the table, in my mind remembering those last stupid
words: May god be with you.
"T-this…this is INSANE!" cried Kingby, rising so fast he
knocked his chair over with a welcome clatter.
"No, those are orders, Sergeant." Jackson muttered, his face
looking older by the minute.
Davidson regained his smile, taking a big swig from his cup.
"Well, at least I'll get a tan." The laughter that followed
was as false as Johnessey's
promise of reinforcements.
"I will call a tactical meeting tomorrow at noon. Until then, I
will retire to my quarters. Not a word of this conversation leaves this
room. Good day, gentlemen."
I stood up and walked out, ignoring Kingsby's staring form.
He went after me, babbling like the panicked fool he was.
"…Captain, listen to me, this is insane! You must stop this from
Jackson, 1.97 meters tall, grabbed him by the shoulders and gave him a
brutal slap across the face. I didn't stop, didn't look back, didn't
listen, didn't care, until I came to my slate gray door, set in the wall
ten meters down the corridor.
I can't say I recalled opening the door, but then I was sitting there,
right in front of my desk, with that big picture of Sharon and the kids
beckoning for my attention.
It was then I realized.
No way off this rock.
No way, except through the Zerg.
I cried myself to sleep.
2: Guns, Guns, Guns
I visited the armory, first thing in the
morning. I grabbed a cup of coffee and a stick of vitamins on my way
there. Godawful taste combination, but it helped clear the fog nestled
in my head. Jackson and Davidson were already there, waiting at the
door, along with three privates in their armor. I washed the last bit of
the vitamin stick down with the coffee, discarding the cup on the floor
of the trench.
Davidson grinned, and I just knew I was in for a treat.
"Good morning, sir." Jackson said, a thin smile on his lips. A
flurry of unorganized salutes and counter salutes followed, and we were
all happy to have that out of the way.
"Sir, if you would…" Davidson gestured at the door.
I walked inside, stopped about a meter in, staring and grinning.
The room had been the primary colonial food storage, and it was big:
twenty meters deep and fifty wide. Tables had been placed on it, running
from the far wall up to us, and every one of them were crammed with
weapons…standard issue Gauss rifles, flechette spitters, six-pack hand
held rocket launchers, thermite grenades, shrapnel grenades, and
something very, very odd.
I picked one up, motioning Davidson over while I examined it closer.
The thing was about as long as my forearm, and consisted mostly of a
thick tube, pistol grip molded into the bottom. A fat clip protruded
from the front of the triggerguard. The muzzle was nearly as big as to
fit my fist. It was real damn heavy, too.
I'd never seen anything like it.
"Sir?" Davidson asked, peering at the weapon over my shoulder.
"What the hell is this?" I asked, not taking my eye of the
"Oh, that one. Nice little item, isn't it?" He sounded
"Particle beam?" I asked, doubtfully. "I thought these
things weren't even portable yet?"
"Oh, but as you can see, sir, the technology is very portable as of
now. We're probably sitting on the first production run," He
gestured at a table packed with similar guns "Right here."
"Got any specs on them?" I raised the rifle to my shoulder,
feeling the weight of the thing.
"Hmmm…one moment." He walked over to yet another table,
filled with papers, discs and a small computer. I thumbed a button on
the grip, the weapon rewarding me with a short, electronic wail. Hmm.
The number 60 suddenly floated above the barrel, which was devoid of
sights of any kind.
"It's loud." One of the privates mumbled.
I nodded. "Same loading procedures as the gauss rifle."
I turned to Davidson. "A holographic ammo counter." I more
stated than asked.
"Never seen one of those in real life…"
"Yup. Says here there should be a sight there too. Auto lead
compensation and all.
Accurate to…400 meters, 60 shot "battery". Full automatic,
Cyclic rate instantaneous?"
He laughed, shaking his head in disbelief.
I tried another button and found a small, green ring had replaced the
number above the barrel.
"I like this gun already. Let's go to the range."
"What about the "device"?"
"Hell, it can wait. To the range."
The range, as we used to call it, was a small strip of sand, about ten
Someone, evidently very bored, had walked out into the killing zone,
bringing a whole pile of Zerg corpses back. Then he talked to the
carpenter in the colony, who absolutely would not tell us, no matter how
much money we offered, who paid him to build a bunch of targets.
The result: as close you could get to killing Zerg, without having them
I stepped up to the firing pad, feeling the cold of the place slowly
eating through my uniform.
What the hell. Power on, sight up…
A Hydralisk was spiked to the target in front of me, its dead eyes oddly
alive in the dim morning light. Some blood still dripped from the corner
of its mouth, and I lined the ring up over that. Safety off…breathe
out, adjust, breath in, adjust some more, fire.
The sound was…well, it was most certainly unlike anything I'd ever
Deafening, for one. Terrifying, for another. It chilled me to the bone,
since it sounded so…human. The only thing I can compare it to is a
But the results were certainly neat.
The burst traveled from left to right across its mouth, vaporizing the
Its head just, well… fell off. No blood, no splattering pieces of
meat, just a clean incision.
Extremely impressive, considering how much armor these bastards had
grown into their bone structure.
I shivered and lowered the rifle.
"Jesus Christ…" Davidson managed behind me.
"How many of these did you say we had?" I asked, not able to
take my eyes off the severed head.
"Oh, about fifty."
"Then these rifles are standard issue to all officers above
Davidson hammered a quick set of commands on his portamem, nodding
"That order will be a pleasure to execute."
"And to those in the assault team."
"Yes. You, me, Backman, Jackson and twenty others."
A dull thud sounded behind me, along with a quick cough of surprise.
"Did I miss something here?"
"Nope. Just made the whole plan up."
"But where are we going to find them? Last I heard there wasn't a
Zerg in sight to the north, we got the ocean to the south, west is
nothing but mountains…"
"So we go east."
"We take the nuke with us?"
"And, just a concerned question here, what happens if the Zerg take
it from us?"
I turned around and looked at him. The constant smile was gone, his eyes
displaying the same hopelessness that my own must at the time.
"They don't," I smiled coldly, "because the last man
alive triggers it."
"Oh…" he nodded, without an ounce of faith in the plan.
"Of course," I began awkwardly, "that's only a summary of
the whole thing. But…well, that's the basics." And I knew, from
that moment on, how incredibly stupid the plan was.
But it was the best we had.
I hung the rifle over my right shoulder, shivering lightly in the cold,
"Let's go see Mr. nuke."
The tech was far too busy on Mr. Nuke to notice us walking in.
From the looks of it, I'd say it would have taken an earthquake to get
his attention, staring down some part of the detonator under a
"Greetings, sir. I heard you were coming to see it." Oh. Looks
do deceive. I smiled to Davidson. Davidson didn't smile back. His eyes
were riveted to the two meter long cylinder, seemingly carelessly
dropped on a table, a look of terror frozen in his face.
Then I remembered. Davidson had been on watch detail aboard the Eagle,
on that fateful day of 08-05-2477.
I motioned for him to step out the door, trying not to look too
"Yes. What can you tell me about this thing?" I leaned back
against the wall, preparing for a lot of techno babble.
He didn't even look up when he spoke, and appeared totally concentrated
on whatever it was under the microscope.
"Well, what we have here, is something a lot bigger than a sub
"Huh?" I asked, losing my careless look. "What do you
"This is no sub tactical weapon," he explained, much in the
same way a teacher talks to a scared child, "It is a Teller-Ulam,
four stage device, with a core of about 50 percent U-238 and Charlie
compound. Fission-Fusion-Fission-Fusion, to be exact. Not very friendly
to the environment, if you ask me."
"Would you mind telling me what the hell all that means, in plain
He looked up, for the first time. His face looked pale, with hollow eyes
and high cheekbones.
He spoke without as much as a hint to emotion.
"This thing is way above the sub tactical limit. I'd say it's in
the 1-3 megaton class."
Madness! How the hell was I supposed to plant that thing and get away
My mind chewed what I knew about nuclear weapons back and forth, back
and forth, trying to remember what Charlie compound was. I gave it up
after about five seconds, giving in to the tech.
"Criticality booster. It reacts with the neutron shower from the
uranium and gives of about five times as many as exposed to. Pumps up
the bomb "wattage" by a whole lot."
Now something clicked.
"Doesn't that mean we get a hell of a lot of extra radiation?"
He nodded, an odd gesture.
"Yep. A lot. I'd guesstimate about 8000 rems to anyone within a
thousand meter radius."
I coughed, a bit surprised.
"I thought the lethal dose was something like five hundred?"
"Close. Six hundred. Eight thousand will kill you on the
"Great…" I sighed, feeling my last faith in the plan fading
away inside my head.
"So, instead of giving us a pistol, they gave us a howitzer."
"About that, yes. This is the first time I've seen a piece like
this - it's a combo weapon - ER and thermonuclear in one. The best of
both worlds, so to speak. They figured out how to build them this way
back in 2315, right when the colonial wars began…."
The tech just went on and on, his facing glowing with enthusiasm, the
first and only feeling I ever saw him express.
He was impressed? We are talking about a weapon that has killed more
than most modern diseases combined, and he's impressed?
I tried to muster some anger, some hate for him, but I couldn't.
Not for this, this pretended human being, who seemingly couldn't
understand death, pain and suffering, who thought only of them as terms
in some kind of personal dictionary.
Like the rest of the idiots, the ones who gave me the bomb, who gave me
They deserved it, not him. He was just too dumb.
So I just ignored him, tried to look at the bomb, the killer in its
Chapters 3 and 4!!