Forward: This isn't your older brother's thumb-stick copy of Bane. As the title suggests, dearest reader, this chapter has been entirely rebooted from its original form, as will the next nine chapters to follow. It is now darker. More serious. More detailed. My true appreciation goes out to those readers here who have followed my story for so long; I am still working on chapter 20, but perhaps rewriting these classic chapters will take some of the sting out of waiting so long. Enjoy! **(If you would like to go back and read the original 'Thumb-Stick' copy of Bane, look it up on my old website, The Hive: thehive)**
Continuity Issues: The rebooted first season will be different from the original in many ways, and the mismatches could get ugly later on. Note that, to date, I have only rebooted the first chapter, the rest of season 1 is still original.
The Bane Series Rebooted: Chapter 1
At first there was nothing but darkness and cold. There was no pain, but that came with the feeling of the floor pressing up against my back. I brought a shaking gloved hand to my forehead and struggled to sit up. With a throaty groan, I came to full consciousness with the worst head ache of my life. The four weeks in rehabilitation after the psionic dampener implants was an ear-swab compared to this; it felt as if my brain was swelling to the point that it threatened to bust out of my skull like some sort of alien.
I began sweating bullets in my tactical armor as I bit back against the pain, willing it to recede. For the first time, I was able to unclench my eyes and get a look around. My helmet, mask and targeting gear were missing, along with the control pad for my personal cloak generator. I still had most of my armor and environmental suit, but the later was useless without the mask. I appeared to be in a stepped, circular chamber with a high ceiling. A great, round column occupied most of the space in the center. It was made of some sort of translucent material and extended the height of the room. A dim blue glow radiated from where it met the floor and ceiling, offering the only illumination.
It was difficult to tell in the dull light, but the entire room looked to be made of the same yellow, metallic material. Protoss. As I looked around, my eyes fell on a pedestal set into the wall behind me. There, in plain view, was a sight to behold. The long, gray barrel and boxy steel stock could be recognized anywhere. It was my C-10 canister rifle.
Before my senses had fully awakened, I pushed to my feet and stumbled toward the outcropping in the wall. My vision was spinning, but the feel of the weapon in my hands brought a much welcome comfort. Panting against the continuos throb of my headache, I jerked the bulky magazine free and checked the contents before returning it. Four anti-armor rounds; it wasn't much, but it was a far cry from hand to hand combat if I had to fight my way out of this place.
That's when it hit me. Where the hell was I? How did I get here? It was obvious that I was a captive, but why take all my equipment only to leave my body armor and canister rifle? I nearly fumbled the weapon as my head went for one last spin. Slowly, I was able to dredge up bits of memory.
The Zerg invasions had only intensified after the Brood War. Our unit was dispatched to support the third defense garrison on Tarsonis, where dominion military presence was the weakest. Our perimeter around the capitol was broken on the third day when a second wave of Zerg descended from orbit.
There was something terribly different about that particular brood. The Zerg driven before the Queen of Blades was infamous for their mindless zeal and an insatiable lust for battle, but these beasts fought with the individual cunning and intelligence of seasoned warriors. Swarms of zerglings came with the synchronized coordination of a schools of fish. Our siege fire was wasted as they feigned left and right, dodging the shells as if they knew exactly when and where they would fall. Mutalisks dove and churned in the sky; bombing the lines and intercepting our missiles with well-aimed glave wurms.
We were in constant retreat. Nearly half the city was lost to the invasion before the Protoss mysteriously appeared overhead. An immense, round vessel materialized over the skyline with dozens of escorting fighters in tow. I had seen carriers before, but even their immense size paled in comparison to this flying wonder. A fierce ariel battle ensued between the two alien races, with our crippled army and thousands of civilians watching helplessly from below. The mass airborne chaos was both terrifying and awe-inspiring, but before the last Protoss fighter plummeted to the streets trailing a ribbon of blue fire, the Mothership came to a halt above the war torn capitol.
Even the Zerg seemed to hold their collective breath as a shadow settled over. Despite the swarming cloud of mutalisks that bombarded it from all directions, a brilliant shaft of light beamed from the bottom of the ship. The scene hung for what felt like hours, but it could have only been a few seconds. There came a sudden, blinding flash of light and a sound like mountains crumbling. Then, there was only darkness.
And now I was here. Although I still had no idea where here was, I knew one thing for sure. I had to escape. There was a threshold for a door at the East side of the room, but there were no visible controls for opening it. For a moment, I thought about blasting my way out and quickly reconsidered. Even if the rounds punched through, there was no guarantee that the door would give after word. Whoever put me in here apparently didn't want me to leave, and I surely didn't want to confront them empty handed.
My headache was still pounding, but I tried to force it down and focus my thoughts. Through the pain, I could vaguely feel the presence of two living creatures on the other side of the door. As I tried to probe further, I suddenly noticed a third presence. It was in the room with me.
I spun around to face the large, translucent tube in the center of the room. Trying to get a feel for the thing inside was almost like staring into a mirror. My breath stopped in my throat. This thing, whatever is was, had a psionic waveform nigh identical to my own. All cadets were trained to recognize a psionic match very early in the Ghost program. Matches were highly desirable for co-op teams due to the individuals' sixth-sense connection. Perhaps this was part of the reason I was here.
Slowly, I approached the tube with the C-10 gripped in one hand. I could see a blotchy outline of the thing inside, but a thick layer of frost obstructed the already-poor view. When I lifted my free hand to wipe a spot through the frost, I nearly jumped out of my boots.
The second my hand touched the glass, the tube was bathed in light. Inside, suspended as if frozen in time, was a monster. Instinctively, I hefted the long canister rifle and took a few steps back.
It was a Zerg Hydralisk. I had seen hundreds of them before; even caught a glimpse of the deadly Hunter-Killer breed and lived to brag about it. None of them held a candle to this abomination.
The serpentine body made it difficult to judge its actual standing height, but this thing had to be pushing near twelve feet. From the bulky plates that comprised the exo-skeletal beast, it looked like it could shrug off explosions and its curved, macabre blades were almost as long as I was tall.
My finger found the trigger and began squeezing. Before I realized it, I was bearing my teeth in a furious scowl as I thought of all the destruction and misery these things had wrought. The Dominion had an excuse for its crimes; it was greed. But the Zerg only seemed to kill for the sake of it, as if each planet they left lifeless was another trophy in their galactic case. It was time for me to return the favor.
I raised the C-10's barrel in line with the monster's skull, using the simple iron sights in absence of my optical targeting equipment.
"You got off easy, you murdering, alien son of a bitch."
The sound of the weapon's report thundered in the confined space of the chamber, instantly followed by the unearthly shatter of the stasis cell. I was temporarily blinded by the two-foot muzzle blast and an eruption of vapor, but I felt the weight of the beast when it dropped on the deck.
Steam gushed from the floor and ceiling, where the stasis cell used to be anchored, and it quickly began to fill the chamber. Warily, I stepped back from the churning cloud of vapor. Beneath the hiss of escaping gasses, I could vaguely hear a rattle of glass shards and a brief scrape of heavy carapace on metal.
Initially, I thought that this thing might take two shots to put down, but I had no idea just how ineffective the canister round had been. I felt the sudden movement and turned in kind with the rifle, but I was a full three seconds too slow.
Launching from the steam like something escaped from a nightmare, the wall of carapace and muscle fell on me faster than anything so large should have been able to move. It hit me so quick that the blow of its blade on my throat and the impact of my head hitting the wall seemed to come at the same time. I would have been killed instantly if the beast hadn't struck with the blunt edge of its scythe.
For a moment, I was blacking out for lack of air. Finally, my crushed windpipe opened just a crack and I was able to draw a precious, wheezing breath. Bright spots danced across my vision and I found just enough sense left to be surprised that my feet were off the floor. The monster's continuous growl made the wall behind me tremble and the stink of its breath was like rotting corpses. Grappling feebly against the suffocating pressure on my throat, I braced myself for the stinging blade of death.
Five seconds passed and I was still alive. That was impossible. Despite what I might see, I opened my eyes and stared back at the massive hydralisk that held me pinned against the wall at arm's length.
The double set of overlapping jaws were studded with jagged fangs. It drooled non-stop, seemingly accelerated by the growling. The armored skull showed little, if any, damage from my canister rifle. I was stunned about that, but its eyes left me terrified despite all my experience with the Zerg.
Like a twin pair of crimson lamps, they glowed with a fierce luminescence all their own. There was no pupil, only a bright red orb that seemed to bore into my soul. I could feel it leafing through my mind like a book, searching me. I tried to hold back, but it pushed through my mental defenses like they were made of wet paper.
"Go on!" I finally managed to scream, powerless against the beast's mental and physical strength, "Kill me!"
The thing's eyes burned a shade brighter, but it did not move otherwise.
"What are you waiting for? Finish it already!"
Like a weight lifting away, I felt the hydralisk quickly leave my mind and it's head snapped to one side. Half a beat later, the sealed doors to this chamber slid open momentarily and two Protoss stepped inside. They were zealots by the look of them, fully outfitted in combat armor. Their psionic blades arched to life with a crackle of energy as they assumed a fighting stance. With an agitated snarl, the beast turned to accept their challenge, simultaneously releasing its death-pin on my throat.
I dropped to the floor and collapsed to my knees, gasping for air. Holding my crushed throat in both hands, I turned to see the alien battle unfolding before me. Slithering forward almost lazily, this over-grown hydralisk towered above its opponents. It was two-to-one odds, but this Zerg had the advantage in power and reach. Lunging forward like their legs were spring loaded, the zealots charged.
A brilliant blue flash lit the chamber when the first zealot's shield absorbed a brutal upswing from the monster's scythes. Though it may have blocked the deadly edges, the momentum carried through and smashed the gangly alien against the ceiling. The first zealot dropped back to the deck as its comrade shot by on the right and buried both searing blades in the hydralisk's flank.
Snarling in outrage, the furious hydralisk turned on the second assailant, bring both scythes down like a falling mountain. The zealot managed pull its own blades up in time to block the edges, but the weight and power behind them could not be stopped.
A telepathic scream tore across my senses as the Protoss warrior was cut down by its own weapons. By now, the first zealot had recovered and leapt to its feet with psi blades cleaving the air. Particles of energy and bone flew in miniature starbursts when the hydralisk actually parried the incoming attack with a single timely sweep of one blade. The second scythe came right behind the first, catching the zealot off-balance.
Another, brighter flash of a failed plasma shield dazzled my eyes as the hapless warrior was hurled against the wall. It hit face-first and flopped lifelessly on the deck, bearing a cavernous gash in the armor on its back.
In less than ten seconds, this monster had fought two zealots at once and slaughtered them both like it wasn't worth the effort. If the Protoss were having as much trouble with the new brood as we were, it was no wonder they burned the city. And now they had me trapped with one of them. What the hell was going on here?
I had dropped the canister rifle when I was hit by that drooling, armored truck, but it lay only a few feet away. Still on my knees, I leaned forward on one hand and reached out to take the weapon back.
Just before I touched the grip, the stamped steel rifle practically exploded in my hand. I reflexively recoiled and covered my face with one arm as little bits of metal shrapnel peppered me. When I looked again, what remained of the gun was nailed to the floor by a series of oozing, foot-long spikes.
Without warning, a malevolent telepathic voice boomed over my thoughts.
I had experienced communication with Protoss before, but they were effectively hospitable by comparison. Demonic would be putting this lightly; It sounded as if the maw of hell itself had spoken.
Moving only my head, I turned to face the hydralisk. It stood among the bodies of its slain enemies, scythes dripping in blue blood, and glared down at me with eyes burning like the heart of a fire. Its own dark red blood ran down one side of its immense tail from the dual slashes left in its side.
The telepathic message repeated like a clap of thunder in my mind as the nightmare roared simultaneously, hurling drool with the wind of its breath. This thing was actually speaking to me. Reluctant though I was, this was not the type of statement one could ignore with confidence..
Slowly, I got to my feet. I would have given my right arm for the control pad to my cloak generator just then.
"T-this...this isn't possib-"
"SILENCE!" The creature suddenly demanded, interrupting me in mid-ramble, "The First-Born shall RUE the day I was imprisoned! And you shall do as I command or share their fate!"
I was speechless. My brain simply couldn't take everything in at once. The battle with the Zerg and the arrival of the Protoss; waking up in their custody with no recollection of how I got here, and now this. The best response I could muster was a hesitant nod.
To my surprise, the hydralisk quickly seemed to understand this human gesture. When it spoke again, I noticed that its glowing eyes burned a bit brighter with the rumbling words.
"A wise decision, Mortal. The First-Born would not be so cooperative, otherwise you would have already met death. "
This beast represented my sworn enemy; the last thing I wanted to do was take orders from it. However, I shuddered to think of the consequences if I refused.
"You shall follow closely. Stray from my path and your life is forfeit. Allow yourself to be injured by the Protoss, and I will devour your limbs for sustenance. Should you survive, you shall aid in my escape from this colossal, flying prison."
So that was it. I was on some sort of Protoss ship; a big one by the looks of it. Since it worked so well before, I nodded again. The hydralisk glared at me a moment longer before turning to face the door at its back.
"Come, mortal. My vengeance beckons."
I watched in trepidation and mild curiosity as the beast approached the closed metallic hatch. Without hesitation, the hydralisk speared both scythes into the door. The surrounding bulkhead groaned and the door itself actually began distorting before it was violently torn from the frame with a screech of parting metal. The monster hardly even recoiled from the abrupt release, turning and hurling the heavy hatch aside in the same motion.
I couldn't believe this thing's unnatural strength. Even the new strains we fought on Tarsonis paled in comparison.
Although they were built for the height of the average Protoss, the hydralisk had to duck and squeeze through the doorway. For lack of an option, I followed, staring down at the ruined bodies of the zealots in passing.
I stepped out into an expansive hallway with rows of doors like the one we came through. The hydralisk was a few paces ahead, turning its head slowly and sniffing the air.
"Keep close, Mortal. The First-Born are aware of my plan and will strike at you given the opportunity."
I stepped up the pace, staying right on the creature's tail. Ahead, the hall widened at a junction large enough to accommodate a siege tank. Out of the blue, the hydralisk suddenly stopped and I nearly stumbled into it.
The floor jolted beneath my boots and a high-pitched noise whined from behind me. I looked back and saw two immense slabs of yellow metal sliding into place, sealing us in the hallway. The pounding of heavy feet thundered from the junction ahead; the tell-tail sign of an ambush. From each direction, zealots with dragoon escorts charged around the corners.
There were four melee fighters and a pair of the cumbersome, quad-legged machines bearing down on us with no hope for retreat. However, the unreal hydralisk stood its ground unflinchingly. At the last moment, the beast sent me a simple telepathic message.
I dove to one side of the doorway and tried my best to meld with the vertical bulkhead just as the monster hurled both scythes out in sweeping, horizontal swings. All four zealots were sent reeling back to the deck as they tried to dive on the hydralisk at once and got caught in its surprising reach and power.
The dragoons were already in position and took this opportunity for a clear shot. Following a brief phase disruptor charge, they fired. The hydralisk only had time to bring both arms and scythes together in front of its face to block the beams. Crackling blue explosions engulfed the beast on impact, washing around the armored mutation as if they were hitting a granite boulder. Slightly charred, the hydralisk emerged from the smoke and fire and met the returning zealots with scythes cleaving the air.
The first one to meet demise attacked with both psi blades, only to have them repelled in kind before a devastating third swing from the hydralisk got under its defenses. Practically torn in two across the middle, the unfortunate warrior's telepathic scream cut the senses as it was hurled into one of its charging brethren. The last zealots leapt around their fallen comrades and came at the beast from the sides.
One stayed low, lunging in with its blades in a scissor motion, and was met with point-blank blast of barbed spikes. Following a bright flash of its overwhelmed plasma shield, the alien's head vanished in a splatter of flying, wet matter. A pair of the spikes themselves thunked into the wall right next to me, having passed through their target like jell-o.
The other zealot had gone high, diving through the air with its weapons outstretched. It planted the blades deep in the beast's thick, spiked backside upon landing, and now the second zealot had recovered and was racing in from the front.
With a sudden, mighty heave of its tail, the hydralisk lunged backwards and crushed its unsuspecting passenger into the closed blast doors with bone-shattering force. The maneuver couldn't have come at a better time if they had rehearsed it. The zealot attacking from the front hit nothing but air with its flailing psionic daggers and fumbled forward into the waiting scythes of the hydralisk.
Another telepathic cry rang out and I had to fight to keep from averting my eyes. The alien warrior was gruesomely impaled through the chest by one scythe. Its psionic blades flickered twice and blinked out.
Instead of finishing its enemy, the hydralisk hefted the wailing zealot of its feet and used it as a meat shield against the incoming phase disruptor pulses from the dragoons. The rippling explosions obliterated the zealot, but it took the brunt of the force as the hydralisk closed the distance. This was all the time the beast needed.
It was on top of the clumsy machines by the second shot, bringing both blades and what remained of the zealot down on the nearest contraption center mass. The machine's boxy legs splayed out and blue fluid sprayed into the air as it was crushed to the floor.
Monster and machine disappeared in a plume of fire when the final dragoon fired again from zero range. Bursting from the smoke and flame, a continuous volley of armor-piercing spikes rained against the walker's plasma shield and punched holes in its armor like soggy cardboard. The walker stumbled backwards in the hail, finally crumpling to the ground in a smoking heap.
I peeked around the bulkhead for the blast door when everything suddenly became silent. Zealot bodies lay scattered and broken on the floor and their blood was splattered everywhere; even on the ceiling. The hydralisk stood in center of the junction ahead, among the smoldering piles of wreckage that used to be the dragoons. Albeit burned and bleeding in several places now, it had won.
"Their pitiful assault has failed. Come Mortal, we press on."
I stepped over and around the carnage, moving quickly to catch up with the hydralisk as it disappeared around one corner. My mind began to race as I followed this insane creature. Perhaps this wasn't a death trap after all. If the beast could keep this up long enough to run across a hangar, perhaps I could borrow a small craft and get the hell off this crazy crate.
That's when it hit me. I practically came to a stop with the realization. Of course; the thing had read my mind back in the stasis chamber. As a tactical specialist for the Ghost program, there wasn't a craft that crept, rolled, hovered or flew that I couldn't competently handle. And this hydralisk knew it. That's why it needed me to get off the ship. Without warning, the beast's telepathic voice snapped me from my thoughts,
"Keep moving, Mortal!"
The hydralisk was almost out of view already, having ascended where the hallway sloped up. I jogged to catch up and was stunned by the view at the top.
The hallway opened to an enormous place with ceilings easily five stories high and a quarter mile deep. I craned my neck to stare up at a massive blue crystal before us. At almost thirty feet across, it reminded me of the type the Protoss had scattered around their settlements to power their buildings. Despite its titanic weight, it floated ominously in a turning shaft of light emitted by a raised platform underneath. There were at least a dozen of them, all lined down the center of the expansive room The very air seemed to hum with dense energy.
This was the heart of the Protoss ship, the core that powered it. How did the hydralisk know where to find it?
The beast crossed the open floor toward the first crystal core and stopped before the wide base that held it afloat. With a thundering roar that echoed from the highest corners of the room, the hydralisk lifted both long sickles high over its head and brought them down on the crystal's base with all it's strength. The metal-rending blades plunged deep into the alien machine, causing it to burst to life with spiraling arcs of crackling energy. Despite the tendrils of electricity that seemed to reach out for it, the hydralisk raised its blades and struck again and again. On impact of the fourth strike, a hot, white flash consumed my vision.
A fountain of energy erupted from the base in an explosion that billowed around the crystal and rose to the ceiling. The immense prism listed to one side before dropping onto the base altogether, triggering a second, larger explosion as it toppled into the one behind it. The deck quaked beneath my boots, threatening to throw me off balance.
The chain reaction only intensified as one core after the other exploded into raging clouds of blue fire and escaping energy. I began to back down the ramp. This was crazy; the whole chamber was going up. Just when I was about to turn back and abandon my captor, the Hydralisk emerged from the inferno.
Once again, I was struck speechless as the monster briskly passed me by, carapace dark and charred, as if this was all part of the plan. I turned after it, but I couldn't remain silent any longer.
"What the hell was that for? Do you have-"
I was interrupted, briefly occupied by keeping my balance as another, deeper explosion rocked the ship.
"Do you have any idea what that will do? This whole crate is going to come apart around us! We've gotta get off this damn thing!"
In any other case, I would feel like a loon yelling at a Hydralisk, but today, it seemed almost normal. I half expected the thing to turn vicious for speaking out of line, yet it surprised me once again.
"Impressive," it growled without stopping, "You have proven more insightful than I predicted, mortal. It is most fortunate for me that the rest of your species have not inherited such all-knowing intelligence."
It was difficult to detect much variation in the bestial telepathic voice, but I could have sworn it was being sarcastic with me.
We quickly reached the junction in the hall again and turned left this time. About fifty yards ahead, there was an open blast door leading into another large chamber. We were just over halfway there when an ominous tremble rattled the ship around us. In a textbook picture of the odd-couple, both the hydralisk and I looked back when a blast of light and sound came from behind.
A river of blue fire engulfed the junction and spilled out to fill the adjacent hallways, billowing up the corridor on our trail like something alive. I didn't wait around to be told by the hydralisk.
To my horror, the blast doors ahead began closing. They were attempting to seal off the fire. Using its scythes as well as its tail, the alien reached an astounding speed for something so ungangly, but it wasn't fast enough to beat the doors.
The beast jolted to a halt, having jammed its blades into the last few inches before the two mammoth plates of yellow metal met in the center. For the first time, the hydralisk seemed to be pushing the limits of its strength. It snarled with exertion, struggling to force the vault-sized doors back apart.
"C'mon!" I yelled, panicking as I shot a glance at the wall of fire rapidly closing the distance, "COME ON!"
A fountain of sparks erupted from the protesting actuators and jets of escaping vapor hissed from the metal-work. Slowly, the doors actually began sliding open again. However, it still wasn't enough.
In an act of desperation, I threw myself at the widening crack and put everything I had into forcing it open faster. My added effort was but a fraction of the beast's, but it was enough to push it over the edge. The doors were almost two feet apart when the blast of fire struck.
It was only dumb luck that the incoming wave of hot air launched me between the doors and into the next room. I hit the deck on my face and instinctively rolled to one side, just avoiding the cone of flame that scorched from the open doors like a roaring furnace.
The horizontal column of fire grew briefly as the doors widened further. After a full five seconds in the consuming heat, the hydralisk was finally able to slip through.
The torrent of fire suddenly died, sealed off behind the blast doors as the hydralisk collapsed forward on both scythes. It's a charred arms trembled as it fought to hold itself off the deck and its once-smooth carapace was cracked with burning embers. As I sat up and watched, I noticed it was panting smoke. The mutant hydralisk seemed to be in bad shape now, but it was still alive. It lifted its head long enough to glance at me and I could see the pain in those flickering, crimson eyes.
It was actually feeling pain. Perhaps it was human weakness, but for a few seconds, a tiny part of me actually felt a sliver of sympathy for this monster.
Shaking from the lingering adrenaline, I got to my feet and turned around. I couldn't believe my luck; it was the hangar.
This place competed in size with the power core room, only it was sectioned off into eight separate bays. Each one housed an interceptor, complete with its own automated repair station. Occupying the space down the center, a long robotic assembly line sat motionlessly. Its prone arms stuck out in different directions like metallic, skeletal limbs. At the far end of the hangar, the vast blackness of space could be seen through a transparent energy field that sealed the atmosphere inside.
Hovering a couple inches off the ground, three shuttle transports waited in a row at the head of the assembly line. My ticket out of here was only thirty paces away. I shot a backwards glance at the hydralisk. Damn, I breathed silently. It was getting up.
It's armored exoskeleton crackling and smoking, caked with scorched blood, the hydralisk moved to stand next to me. The fire was held at bay for now, but the ship still tremored beneath me with ever-increasing intensity. It was only a matter of time. Despite the deplorable condition of its body, the monster's telepathic voice was without pause.
"Time is growing short. Let us depart this wretched place before-"
Without warning, another booming telepathic voice that competed with the hydralisk's cut across the senses.
"DAMNABLE VERMIN! Rakeem was a FOOL to believe this Terran could destroy the cerebrate! Now, my brethren must pay for this mistake with their lives. YOU WILL SHARE THEIR FATE!"
Suspended in a vortex of twisting psionic power, the owner of the voice approached from around the assembly lines. My mouth almost fell open in disbelieve and fear; it was an Archon. An angry one.
Standing even taller then the hydralisk, the ethereal demi-god hardly finished its furious outroar before it loomed toward us with startling speed, gathering a wave of psionic energy in its wake. This was it; I was certain we were both going to die. However, the hydralisk spoke as if this were just another zealot coming to be slaughtered.
"Ready the flying machine, Mortal. I shall deal with this pathetic whelp."
Stunned, I glanced to the Archon once and back to the hydralisk. This creature may have represented the scourge of the galaxy, but I couldn't help admiring its courage.
"Go!" The thing snarled at me urgently, "NOW!"
No sooner than I made a break for the last shuttle in the row, Archon and Hydralisk met.
From six feet away, a psionic explosion issued from the Archon's joined palms. The monster brought both scorched scythes up in attempt to block the incoming blast of energy, but to no avail. A hot, white flash lit the furthest corners of the hanger and vicious electrical crackle filled my ears. Briefly, the hydralisk was engulfed by the sheer mass of the psionic assault before it was launched backwards across the deck like a line-drive fastball.
Trailing residual psionic energy, the monster skipped twice before crash-landing in one of the interceptor bays like a train wreck. The small craft crumpled beneath the half-ton of sailing zerg and blossomed into plume of fire and flying shrapnel. Bits of smoldering metal rained against the nose of the shuttle I huddled beside. If I had any intention of jumping on board and leaving the combatants behind, they were brutally stamped out as the livid Archon spun to face me.
"NOW it is your turn to die!"
The thing barreled across the room towards me, closing the distance at an unnatural rate. I began to backpedal away from the shuttle, despite how futile escape might be. However, the swirling psionic nightmare stopped short as its plasma shield suddenly reacted, deflecting a barrage of lethal poisoned spikes. The archon craned its neck to see where the attack had come from, and I followed its gaze. Never in my life had I been so happy to see something Zerg.
"...YOU?" The Archon bellowed, "You will SUFFER for your insolence!"
Defying death itself, the burned, bleeding hydralisk emerged from the wreckage spewing a cloud of needle spines. I dove to the deck before the next sheet of spikes rained against the Archon's rippling plasma shield and pelted the shuttle hulls around me. The infuriated entity practically flew across the hangar toward the assailing beast, charging psionic energy in both hands. The hydralisk moved sideways, blasting the enemy with wave after wave of spikes, but they were all absorbed harmlessly by the Archon's immense shields.
Backed against the sealed blast doors, the hydralisk suddenly had nowhere left to go. In a last stance of desperation, it beared its blades as the Archon bore down on the beast with the fullest extent of its wrath. At the last possible moment, the hydralisk threw itself to one side as the Archon unleashed a concentrated orb of psionic energy.
As if someone had thrown open the gates of hell, a tidal wave of fire washed into the hangar from the ruined blast doors. The river of flame coursed around the Archon as its shields briefly protected it, but not long enough to escape.
A torturous telepathic scream filled my mind as the unstable psionic abomination exploded, unleashing a shockwave that rocked the ship and pushed the fire back in a semi-circle.
Finally, it was done. I stood and watched the fire rushing through the blast doors, growing rapidly in intensity as it consumed the ship. Jets of flame burst through the floor at increasing intervals and plates of metal began dislodging and dropping from the ceiling. It was time to go.
I strained my eyes one last time, scanning the wreckage and flame for the dark figure of the hydralisk, but it was nowhere to be seen. It had fought a good fight, but in the end, it was good riddance. I turned on the scene and raced around to the back side of the shuttle.
There was no visible way inside, but when I put my hand on the shuttle, the hull parted wide; revealing a pristine yellow interior that illuminated automatically. There was a huge cargo space inside, large enough for two siege tanks, but I paid it little attention as I ran through it to the windshield at the front.
There wasn't a cockpit or even a place for a pilot. I was at a total loss for ideas; there weren't any controls to be found anywhere on the shuttle. A deep, thudding explosion resounded from somewhere low in the carrier and the shuttle heaved violently beneath my boots. I had to think of something!
"...God damn it!" I swore, running my hands through my hair, "What the hell am I supposed to do?"
After all I had been through, I was going to die right here in the very ship I planned to escape with. I sighed in complete exasperation and slammed my palms down on the smooth, rounded dash below the windshield.
I was nearly knocked to the floor when the shuttle lurched up beneath me, its thrusters suddenly singing to life. Of course! The Protoss controlled everything psionically; All I had to do was think it.
I could almost taste the fresh air of Tarsonis when that rumbling telepathic voice halted me in mid-thought. In utter disbelief, I looked up and stared through windshield. The hydralisk was alive. Having dragged itself from the fire, the monster lay sprawled on the hangar deck. Its combined injuries left it too damaged to stand on its own, so it simply glared at me with those piercing, crimson eyes.
I thought seriously about doing just that, and I wanted to. Any other day of the week, I would have jumped back off that craft just to kick the beast in the face before I left it to burn alive, but something held me back. As if in its final death throes, the carrier groaned and shook beneath the shuttle, and burning debris fell from above. Yet, still I hesitated.
"What are you waiting for, Mortal? Leave me."
The shuttle's thrusters wound up to speed as I gave them the mental signal. All my experience and memories of the destruction and death screamed at me to go, but a tiny, solitary voice in my mind objected at the last moment.
This wasn't right. This monster once had such an opportunity, but wether for its own survival or otherwise, it had refrained from sealing my fate. Was I really going to turn my back and leave it to die?
To be Continued...