They were created by the Terran Dominion, secret weapons forged from Zerg flesh and Terran steel. They were the ultimate war machines, unstoppable on the battlefield. They were incapable of questio...
Gregory P. Wong
Chapter 9: Ignite
Straas felt Szcraa's hands caressing his shoulders. Yesterday's battle had left painful wounds in him, which still ached slightly, despite being healed. He turned towards his lover and kissed her crest. She hugged him and buried her face in his neck. Ulreathan had been true to his word, and the Protoss encampment was under constant assault the past few days. Further search parties had uncovered another three hundred Dark Templar survivors. Half of the total of six hundred survivors had agreed to stay in fight, with most of the children and females retreating to the safety of the orbital carriers.
Curiously, no space encounters were reported by the remaining ships in orbit
Straas stretched, and got up from the mattress. Szcraa rose just after he did. Twisting, he kissed her. They put their arms around each other and went outside.
He and Szcraa helped in the repair efforts, bringing the damaged photon cannon to full repair. The weary zealots thanked them heartily, as they were all tired from the constant siege. He picked up a signal from Esralath, telling both of them to report to the central Nexus.
Tarthan\Jetok, Traenid, and Esralath awaited him and Szcraa at the command Nexus.
"I have detected a plea for help message from some trapped colonists," said Esralath. "They have been silent so long because of the heavy activity of Thres'nalop in the area."
"A recovery force might draw too much attention to the survivors, thus threatening them." Traenid gestured at Esralath. "Esralath suggested that you two could be dropped off about three of your kilometers from the site, then you could neutralize any threats and escort the survivors to the pick-up zone."
He hesitated. Without him and Szcraa, the base would be hard-pressed to hold back the hordes of Thres'nalop. Traenid seemed to read his mind.
"Do not worry. Rethoj and his Khalais have constructed several antimatter cannons, which will make do for the duration of time that you two are gone. According to Rethoj, the cannons have the capacity to hit orbital targets. Their power is estimated to be twenty times that of the photon cannon's power and range. They should suffice for the time you two are gone," explained Traenid.
Straas thought. The base might be in danger, but the Dark Templar survivors were weakening every day. Someone had to get them out.
"Give Szcraa and me some time to prepare. We'll depart at dawn."
Somewhere deep in his mind, he knew that something was wrong
The shuttle dropped them off at the beginning of the canyon, about one-hundred kilometers north of the Protoss base. Szcraa peered around, examining the kilometer high walls. The canyon was eighteen winding kilometers long, but only twenty meters wide. Galloping at full speed, she and her mate had cleared seventeen kilometers in 5.024 minutes, at their maximum speed of 100 KPH. She powered up her sensors to 300%, and proceeded the last kilometer slowly. The canyon end came into visual range, with several small but distinct caves about sixteen meters above the canyon's rocky floor. /Strange. The caverns seem to be somehow blocking my sensors/. /Perhaps the material in the caves are disrupting my carrier waves/. The caves looked like they could be reached by walking on a Protoss-size path. The more she thought about it, the less likely it was that the rock walls could be causing passive interference.
I don'/t like this/...
Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Straas jerk. Szcraa turned around, puzzled, but then hundreds of white Thres'nalop weapon sparks descended from above. She whirled around, looking at the suddenly very close canyon walls. Hundreds of Thres'nalop noblades, stoneblades, steelblades, and black, six-armed darkblades all were swarming from the caves in the wall and bursting from the ground. Thres'nalop sickles, daggers, and Bloodscythes were converging on them. She could see no Protoss anywhere. The way out was blocked by the ambushers.
She and her partner were trapped.
Straas roared in frustration. He had extended his scythes and Ignited as soon as he had sensed the aliens. His plasma cannons went into action, devastating the oncoming ranks of Thres'nalop noblades with hot, fiery death. A smooth dodge caused a massive darkblade to miss its intended target, and he decapitated the monstrosity with a backhand swipe of his burning scythe. He looked around. The walls of the canyon seemed to have transformed from rust colored rock into gray insects.
He heard a cry. Spinning around, he saw Szcraa trapped against the wall of the canyon, under the fire of twenty hideously powerful sickles. The triple barrels roared. A dozen beams of white energy converged on her, and she fell to the ground, unconscious and bleeding. She had managed to destroy or disable sixteen of the powerful Thres'nalop machines. The remaining sickles converged on her prone form. Ignoring the fire that seared his carapace, Straas charged into the midst of the powerful machines, destroying them with powerful slices and bursts of plasma and Needles. The remaining pod-like body cores of the sickles were burning on the floor when he noticed that all the Thres'nalop had fled. They had us hopelessly outnumbered, so why did they flee?
"Because I want the pleasure of killing you two, you monstrosities." The voice of Ulreathan dripped with hatred and malice. Straas spun around. "Sentient Zerg are an even /fouler /abomination than the Protoss. You were created to be beasts, and beasts /only/." The Judicator was covered in a heavy gray cloak. Strange shapes were outlined from under the thick, unknown cloth.
Szcraa stirred, regaining consciousness.
"Shadowgate!" shouted Ulreathan, pointing his fingers at Szcraa. A swirling vortex of shadowy energy opened over Szcraa, then slowly lowered over her inert form. As it lowered, it became a sphere that surrounded her. Then the dark globe flashed blue, and vanished. Szcraa was there no longer.
"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO HER!?" he screamed.
"Nothing... yet. She is just gone. I will deal with later. Wait..." Ulreathan said with mock concern, "I left something to keep her company. A Thres'nalop fused with Protoss DNA; mine, in fact. My other ones have unbelievable strength, and powerful psionic signatures. Perfect to eliminate you and the other DNA mistake cooked up by the misguided Terran scientists."
"Monstrosities..." he whispered, rage building within him.
"Like /you/." Ulreathan sneered. With a sweep of his shoulders, Ulreathan threw of his cloak. Straas stepped back in shock. The Judicator had /transformed/. The thin Protoss frame was now packed with un-Protoss muscle, and had probably gained over twenty kilos in weight. Ulreathan's skin had shifted color, so that it was now a dark gray, nearly the same hue of the Thres'nalop. Small spikes seemed to jut from his shoulders and legs at a seemingly random pattern. He was wearing strange, savage armor, which seemed all spines and blades; a black headpiece crowned his head. Strapped to the sides of his armored legs, the former Judicator had two sheathed swords. Straas heard rasping as the blades were drawn. The swords were engulfed in black fire, the near opposite of his own Ignited blades.
"I hope you are ready to die, Straas. You will die an abomination, a freak, and as someone who could even protect his partner. I will make sure Szcraa suffers. Or perhaps my Demonblade will finish her off first... Yes, that would be appropriate. There will not be much left when it is done. The Deomonblades are very violent." The former Judicator paused, and looked thoughtful. "Strange. In a way, I will kill her, since my DNA is in the Demonblade..." Ulreathan's voice dripped hate and contempt. "Yes, that would be most amusing. Her limbs will be ripped off her body... though I don't know how the Demonblade will handle those hideous legs of yours. Perhaps she will scream louder as they are ripped from her body."
Straas gave a roar and rushed Ulreathan. With a mocking laugh the Judicator blocked his blows and counterattacked, bringing down the left sword. Straas swung his right arm in a feint, then jabbed with his left scythe. Ulreathan laughed and blocked his left arm, and slammed Straas' face with a powerful kick. He stumbled back a few meters, stunned. Recovering, he leaped again, performing a whirling backhand strike with his right arm. Ulreathan ducked the blow, and brought a sword up to block Straas' followthough with his left blade. The other sword flashed out, but Straas parried it, and somersaulted away.
Straas circled his transformed opponent. Leaping back to gain some distance, he deployed his plasma cannons and began blasting away. Ulreathan held up an arm and the balls of energy seemed to hit an invisible wall in front of him, not getting within a meter of his body. He attacked with his Ignited scythes again, and again he was repelled easily by the transformed Protoss.
He was weakening against his adversary, and he knew in the back of his mind that he could not win. He fought on, getting more and more tired as his monstrously powerful opponent laughed and mocked. /I MUST win/. /For Szcraa/...
She fully awoke in an unknown zone of the canyon. She shook herself, and sat up. All she remembered was that a powerful Thres'nalop force had waylaid her and Straas. She sat up and felt her heart stop. A thing was staring down at her. The monster had the body of a Thres'nalop darkblade, with two hooked arms, two bladed arms, and two regular six-fingered hands. /The thing from my dream/! The body was shaped the same, but instead of the rough chitin of the Thres'nalop, the abomination had scaly skin... skin that resembled that of a Protoss. Her terrified gaze traveled up to its head. It had the head of a mutated Protoss! Four mandibles swung out from its head, and two glowing eyes glared evilly at her. With a burst of energy, she kicked up and away. The thing grunted and looked at her. She was already gone and running.
She was running through the winding canyons, pursued by the powerful creature, a monster horrible beyond imagination. She stole a glance back, and saw that the thing was on her heels. She ran faster, and pulled away. She rounded another corner, and gasped. Straas had Ignited, and was battling desperately with what appeared to be a Protoss in strange armor./ Ulreathan/. The Protoss had out two swords, which were glowing with an evil, black, light. Straas was weakening against the powerful adversary. Dark swords flashed, and azure-white blades flashed to meet them. But as the battle progressed, the blue-white blades were taking longer and longer to parry the blows. Suddenly, a powerful blow knocked her forward. She slammed into the ground and felt her left leg crack, sending webs of pain through her nerves. She rolled onto her back, and saw the creature that had been pursuing her leap into the air, its claws ready to impale her and pin her to the ground.
"NO!" yelled Straas, and Szcraa saw the monster knocked away by a burst of plasma. She heard a crunch as the creature slammed into the canyon wall.
With Straas facing her, his back was turned to the Protoss. Straas could not see the pulsing ball of darkness that hit him in the back. She screamed in horror as the Protoss ravaged the stunned Straas, cutting and slamming him with fury.
"Enough toying!" screamed the transformed Judicator. "Meet death, Straas!"
Then, sheathing his swords and cackling maniacally, Ulreathan locked his hands on Straas' head. As she watched in horror, waves of energy transferred from Straas' head to Ulreathan's arms. Straas roared and tried to throw the Protoss of, but he was weakening by the second. Soon, Straas stopped struggling, and lay still; his once glowing blades had extinguished. His attacker leaped off him, and floated into the sky, still laughing. After the Protoss had soared away from the area, she limped over to Straas' body, and knelt next to it.
"Straas! No this cannot be! You died to save me. Save me again. No." She sobbed into his body. "I love you." In a start of horror, she remembered her dream. It had just happened as she had seen it. She didn't sense the thing behind her.
She was stunned as the powerful blow smacked her several meters away from Straas' body. She could not move her legs anymore; they were extremely damaged by the ferocious blow of the monstrosity. She watched in helplessness as the monster kicked and ravaged Straas' still form. Tears came to her eyes as her lover's body was violated and despoiled.
Boring of Straas' body, the monster began heading towards her. Its Protoss eyes curled up into a mocking grin made hideous by its horrible form.
/Straas has protected me twice already, and I cannot even protect his body. Straas/! /Straas/! Tears began to stream from her eyes.
/Straas, I love you/.
With that thought echoing in her mind, something miraculous happened
Energy surged into her system. Her legs mended, and her scythes burst into green-white flame. She felt the energy, and the power.
She had Ignited.
The monstrous Protoss/Thres'nalop hybrid stopped in its tracks as it examined the prey that had become predator. With a speed that could barely be recorded by her chronometers, she closed the ten-meter distance between the thing and her and sliced it into five different pieces with her psi-scythes.
As the pieces of the violently destroyed creature splattered into the ground, she kneeled next to Straas. With a sob, she retracted her scythes and took her mate's head into her arms and cradled it. The blinding grief was still inside her. She gazed down at her lover's still form. Rough cuts zigzagged over his carapace, and some of his shell was crushed.
"Oh Straas. Oh Straas." she said over and over again. Blinking tears, she looked down, and gasped.
Emerald flames were licking from her chest onto Straas' body, and his body seemed to be drinking it. She dropped his head. The flames no longer touched his body.
Despair set in. Can I not even hold his even body now?
She looked closer. His body had not burn marks on it, save for the ones that had been there from his previous battles. If Straas is to vanish, then at least let it be from fire from /my body/ she thought with finality
She was crying, embracing his body, when Straas stirred in her arms.
Straas slowly opened his eyes, feeling almost too weak to even do that. He was looking into his lover's startled features. Szcraa's eyes were engulfed in fire, as his eyes were when he had Ignited. Her retracted scythes were burning with an emerald-white flame, similar to his azure-white scythes. Szcraa extinguished herself. Like himself, she was not quite the same; her body had streaks and flecks of silver running down it.
"Straas, I... how... what..." Szcraa stammered. Her mandibles were splayed open in surprise.
"I don't remember what happened Szcraa," he replied wearily. "All I can remember was Ulreathan..."
"Straas... you... you died. He drained your energy." She looked at him.
He felt the shock go into his body. "I died? Then how...?" Talking was so hard.
"When I was holding your... body... emerald flames were entering your body from mine..."
"I'm not sure, love, but I think I gave energy to you."
"Oh." He paused for a moment. "Do you feel weaker?"
"No..." she said, puzzled. "Straas..." She burst into tears. He drew her down and embraced her, holding her close.
"Amazing, Szcraa. Amazing." Then he dropped into unconsciousness, the strains of the battle finally overcoming him.
Szcraa picked her unconscious lover up and began charging at full speed towards the encampment, Igniting to pick up speed. Someone had betrayed them, and she was almost certain of who it was...