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 3: Cyberlisks
Straas awoke in the morning, after dozing of in the cave they had used. Weeks had passed after the battle and rescue of the human children.
Szcraa lay curled up on her side, occasionally twitching. Straas looked down at her. He needed to get away for a few minutes. He went outside, and began to hunt. While their mechanical parts had near infinite power from state of the art fusion generators, their organic parts still had to eat for nourishment and material for their Magna Needles. The lush grasslands could handle that problem easily.
In the grasslands that were the majority of Waj Norhal, he stalked, looking for prey. All the while he was replaying the scene from last week in his mind.
Spotting potential a quarry, he crept up on a native rhynadon, pounced, and killed it with a slash of his scythes. He let the blood drain out of the body cavity before heaving up the two-ton carcass and carrying it back to the cave. Szcraa was already up and walking about, stretching her legs. She looked back at the game he had brought back, and took a portion of the meat. She sat down, opened her hydralisk-like mouth, and began to eat. He looked down at his food and ate too.
He was turned away and was eating in silence. His mind could not seem to stop playing the encounter with the Zerg hydralisks.
He could not bring himself to look into Szcraa's eyes. He was not sickened by his partner Szcraa, whom he now considered a close friend, but of himself, for he saw a half-Zerg, half-machine monstrosity. When he saw Szcraa, he saw himself, and when he saw himself, he saw evil and savagery...
"Straas, you are hurt," said Szcraa. "Over there, on your shoulder."
He glanced at his shoulder. A large, red cut was there. Apparently the acidic needle had prevented his repair systems from healing it immediately.
"I'm fine, Szcraa," he answered back.
"Are you sure you are unhurt? The shoulder wound looks bad," she probed.
Szcraa got up and strode over to where he sat. She reached out to get a better look at the needle wound. He hissed, shrugging off her touch, and got up abruptly. He walked over to the entrance of the cave and stood there, not facing her. He was still in pain. The wound did hurt, but he didn't want Szcraa to come closer.
"I said I am /fine/," he hissed, hurt and pain in his voice.
Szcraa could not figure out what was wrong with him. He had never turned and walked away from her. There was something in the way he spoke that scared her. It sounded like disgust, or rage at himself. She decided that she would talk to him about that later. Right now, she had better check up on the Dominion military.
Sighing, she used her comm interface to hack into the Dominion military network and scan for anything interesting. She found out that the Dominion that was only mounting a half-heated search for them. Wondering why, she accessed more files, looking for the most recent ones. She gasped in surprise. Protoss ships had just entered the planetary system, and had dropped off a large force of troops planetside. The location of the Protoss encampment was about two hundred kilometers away. The Dominion was in a standoff, letting the aliens do what they wanted. Normally, the Dominion troops should have assaulted the aliens immediately, but Mengsk's power and influence here was less than the vaunted terrorist's claims. Even the upper echelon commanders were not too fond of Mengsk, unless the Dominion Emperor had ordered them to keep secrets from him.
Suddenly, she picked up a broadband message coming from a Dominion city.
"/Anyone out there/! /We are getting hit my masses of Zerg! We need help/.
/We have hours at best/! /Anyone/..." The message looped.
She looked at her comrade. He looked as if he had not even detected the plea for help. He just stood there, gazing out onto the fields. "Straas, we have to aid the Dominion. They are getting assaulted hard by Zerg," she said.
Straas said nothing.
"Are you condemning all humans for the offenses of one? Do you want young people like Ken and Lena and Charley to die?"
Straas looked up from the floor. Still not facing her, he said softly, "No I will not let others die for another's misdeeds."
Szcraa realized what a personal sacrifice he had just made. She gave him a little touch on his shoulder. The she twisted around and charged for the stricken city, Straas right behind her.
The city was decimated. Hasty barricades had been set up to impede the masses of Zerg, but the citizens and soldiers were losing men as the days progressed, while the Zerg could expend as many of their warriors as the Brood's Cerebrate dictated.
Lieutenant Stanton Hunter hefted his C-10 canister rifle, moving off to the bunkers. He did his best to stay away from other people, being a psi-gifted Ghost. /It gets annoying when you know just about everything about anyone you talk to, at least what they're thinking at the moment/... A few hours ago he had discovered a large, fairly ugly, female marine had developed a crush on him. He steered away from her from then on. Reading minds sucked in some situations.
He walked to a bunker in the west part of the city, and entered it, finding two marines and a flamethrower-armed firebat already there. "And I was saying..." said one of the marines, who stopped when Hunter entered the bunker.
"Yeah, you fought off a whole pack of Zerg? Right. All you actually fought off were six squirming larvae... oh wait, one was an egg," remarked Stanton, reading the mind of the marine.
"Stupid psychic," muttered the marine as the other soldiers broke down into laughter. Hunter could sense that the marine took the jab well. Of course, mind reading didn't suck all the time. Still...
"At ease, corporal. Remember who're your talkin' to."
"Sir. Yes sir! My apologies, sir."
There was still some insolence in the back of the man's mind, but he was used to it. Not many people liked Ghosts.
Hunter was about to retort back when the sensors detected a wave of Zerg advancing on their set of bunkers. Ha/. /Some more trophies/. He sent a warning to other troops in the area, warning them of the attack. The rifle troops set their gauss rifles to the firing slots, while the firebat kneeled, allowing the marines to fire over him. Hunter raised his canister rifle to his shoulder, peered through the scope, and began to fire. Using the special sniper-configured C-10 canister rifle, he picked off dozens of zerglings that were skittering towards the men. He prided himself in being the /best sniper there was on this backwater world. One shot, one less zergling.
Too bad there were dozens more to spare...
"This is getting real old, real fast," Stanton Hunter muttered to himself the next day. He rubbed his head, feeling his bristly red hair. It was beginning to gray along his temples. Premature aging was just a normality of being a Ghost.
But so was premature death.
Another wave of zerglings assaulted the bunkers, and were dispatched quickly from the fire coming from the marines and firebats in the other pillboxes. He and the troops in the bunker complex were keeping awake on stimpacks and piss-tasting coffee.
He saw a golden opportunity. A group of twitching zerglings was just out of rifle range, but they were all nicely grouped together...
"I'll be right back," he told the marines, and exited the bunker. He cloaked, immediately feeling the exhaustion of last night's battle. The psi-consuming cloaking field made it worse.
He faded from the marines view, and sprinted to where the large group of zerglings had gathered. Making sure there were no detecting overlords, he pulled a demolition charge from his belt, clamped on a detonator, programmed it, and tossed it right in the middle of the crowd. He sprinted back to the bunker, and dived in. There was a deafening explosion as the C-50 exploded. A rain of zergling parts and ichors began to splatter on the bunker.
"Yee-hah. Feel that go up your tails, you bug-eyed lizards!" crowed the huge firebat. The other two troopers voiced similar taunts. Suddenly the alarms began to sound, detecting Zerg forces.
"Oh my God..." gasped Hunter. There were at least five hundred creatures converging on their position. There was no way the five bunkers could hold off plus five hundred aliens.
The skittering horrors came into view, racing toward the bunkers and the city. Swearing, he began to snipe at the attackers, wiping out dozens with precision aim. Then the marines began to spray fire when the attackers reached about 300 meters, and then the firebats added their fiery punch at close range.
Then the Zerg were upon them. The troops defended viciously, but the Zerg attacked just as hard. One bunker crumbled under the relentless assault of the zerglings and hydralisks. Those troops, without the reinforced concrete and hardened neosteel protecting them, were quickly butchered by the savage creatures.
Soon his was the only bunker left, and it was crumbling in sections. Overhead, a flight of mutalisks, was streaking toward the bunker, intent on discharging their symbiotic weapons on the offending mound of neosteel and concrete.
Suddenly, the mutalisks exploded into meaty tatters, several plasma bolts ripping them to shreds. Looking back, he saw the Cyborgs that the Dominion military had been searching for. /Why had they come back to aid the city/? At the moment he didn't care though, because the Zerg had turned their attention to the Cyborgs. The larger, more muscular one was concentrating his attack on the hydralisks, savagely slaughtering them. The smaller, more agile one, was dancing around the zerglings and stomping and slicing them, though with less bestial viciousness than her partner. The large one seemed to /hate /hydralisks. Hunter thought that was strange, considering that the two Cyborgs' upper halves resembled the spine-shooting Zerg. No matter.
Seeing the Cyborgs engaging the enemy, he got out of the bunker, cloaked, felt the fatigue, and began to assist the two.
Straas screamed in fury. There were hydralisks here... and whenever he saw hydralisks, he remembered he himself was a Zerg, and that he was one of them, a beast, a monster. Innards flew as he tore the serpentine creatures into minuscule bits.
He roared and launched Magna Needles at the oncoming tide of flesh, and blew the Zerg to bloody fragments. Whirling around, he beheaded a hydralisk that had been ready to leap onto his back. Snarling, he turned to see another serpentine Zerg leap, its armored body flying towards his face. Before it could reach him, however, he heard the sound of a C-10 canister rifle firing, followed by a shower of brains from the popped cobra head. The shot neutralized the Zerg's momentum, and it hung in the air for a second before tumbling into the earth. Hissing, he activated sensors, and saw the cloaked Terran Ghost, sniping from a distance, already accounting for ten Zerg deaths. Their numbers severely depleted, the Zerg retreated, for the moment. Szcraa walked over to the sniper.
Szcraa was still energized from all the adrenaline in her system, but not too energized to notice that Straas had retreated and was standing alone facing away from her again. It genuinely pained her to see him in so much pain, but if she got near him to comfort him, he just shrugged angrily and moved away. She turned back to the Ghost trooper, and asked him what the immediate situation was.
"What the hell!" shouted the redheaded Ghost, blanching and jumping back. Szcraa was not surprised. No one knew that they could talk; many assumed that there were mindless automatons, like regular Zerg warriors fitted with high-tech equipment. Of course, they had been, until Govalich had done some "programming" on them.
She felt her head being "scanned" by the psychic Ghost, and felt him recoil from the memory of her killing of Thurston. He also was surprised at something else...
"You're a female? Well yeah, I could sorta tell by the voice. But..." He twisted his head around, pointing his thumb at Straas. "And he's male?! I thought Zerg were genderless-" He stopped as Straas twisted, charged, and lifted Hunter by his armor, his scythes retracted.
"Never, /ever /compare me to a Zerg, you /human/." He spat the word "human"like a curse. Szcraa looked at her partner, who was still avoiding her gaze. He was beginning to scare her.
she yelled at him over the comm. Straas glared at the trooper, shook the Ghost once more, then dropped him on the floor. Growling softly, he then returned to his earlier spot, peering out onto the battlefield, his emotions hidden. The Ghost gingerly picked himself off the floor. Szcraa noticed that several tiny furrows had been left in the Ghost armor by Straas' claws.
She clicked her mandibles and turned again to the Ghost.
"What's your guys' names?" inquired the Ghost first.
"I was going to ask you the same. My name is Szcraa, and his name is Straas," she said, gesturing to the lone Cyberlisk. "We are Cyberlisks."
The Ghost snorted. "I was expecting somethin' like a number. Well, my name is Stanton Hunter, First Lieutenant of the Dominion Army," said the Ghost.
She frowned a little, and opened up her long-range comm equipment. She hacked into the Dominion personnel files. And called up the file on Hunter, Stanton.
Nothing... except a series of characters and numbers: 65-8864-COVOP-STNHNTR-439. Most likely an ID code of some sort. She closed the comm link.
She looked back at Straas.
"He hasn't been the same since yesterday. He was decimated when he found he was genetically linked to Zerg. He first found out when he encountered hydralisks, which he did not have visual file on," she explained to Hunter. She then stopped. /Why am I telling this to a complete stranger/?
"That makes three that the Dominion has messed with," growled the Ghost. He seemed to have developed a faraway look, as if reminiscing about something in the past.
She didn't pursue what he meant by that
She detected a transmission from another part of the city. "It seems the attack here was only a minor attack; the real fighting is over to the west. Jump on my back, we'll be faster that way." Hunter clambered up onto her back, and she rushed off toward the battle.
Hunter was amazed at how fast the Cyborg could move. The legs looked ponderous at first, but that assumption was refuted when he found himself moving at over 95 KPH.
"Drop me off here," he told Szcraa, and dropped off her back. He cloaked, feeling the familiar exhaustion, and ran to the entrance of he city, slaughtering any Zerg in his way. When he arrived at the battle at the main gate, he found the fleet-footed Szcraa already engaging the enemy, lithely dodging, striking, and firing. A battalion of marines, firebats, Goliaths, tanks, and Vultures were rallying alongside her. A litter of dismembered parts lay in a circle around her, victims of her hard, sharp scythes. Blasted corpses stood testament to the power of the Magna Needles and plasma cannons. Hunter charged into the fray, drawing his knife and sidearm, a small but powerful 10-millimeter needle pistol. His C-10 rifle had run out of rifle ammunition ages ago. And electronic-inhibiting lockdown rounds might as well be pebbles to organic Zerg.
He gutted, shot, beheaded, and punctured dozens of enemies, watching them wither and die. Soon, he was down to his last seven shots.
Suddenly, he heard shouts coming from his right. A large building was on fire, and he heard children screaming for help. Swearing, he sprinted off to the apartment; Szcraa and the other Dominion troops could hold of the Zerg for now. He charged up the smoldering stairs, placing his breathing mask on his face to protect from the smoke. He retrieved two of the coughing children and brought them downstairs. He set them down outside and told them to run to a bunker. The two kids took off for the pillbox.
He heard more screams. He turned to the building, but was met face-to-face with a hydralisk and three zerglings. The Zerg hissed, and began to slither and hop toward them. He stole a glance upward and saw an overlord, which was revealing him.
Cloaking was useless.
He looked back and saw that the building was being consumed even faster. But if the Zerg got through him, the children in the building would all surely die.
Yelling savagely, he charged the hyrdralisk. The zerglings were converging from the sides, chittering for blood. The hydralisk reared up, and sprayed a volley of spine toward him. He dodged left, but he took a spine in his right arm. The acid-coated spine /burned/.
"Damn you, you ugly mother!" he screamed at the hydralisk.
He brought up his pistol, and shot two of the zerglings in the head. Before he could shift his aim, the third one leaped on top of him, striking. Claws penetrated his abdominal armor, and he felt pain shoot through him as claws ripped into his stomach. Finally he fought it off, and jabbed his knife through its eye. The dog-sized alien convulsed, went limp, and sagged off him. Holding his wound closed to prevent his guts from spilling out, he jumped back to his feet and turned to the hydralisk, which was rearing to fire. He rushed it, knife extended. The hydralisk fired, giving Hunter a full six spines in his already shredded armor.
He knew that he would die, but damn him if he didn't take down the Zerg with him. He rushed it, ignoring the agony, and rammed his knife into is face. As the wounded Zerg tried to back away, he jammed his pistol into its mouth and emptied his last five shots into its brain. The creature shuddered and fell twitching to the ground, most of its head gone.
"See you in hell, ya bastard," he muttered at the hydralisk corpse. Then he stumbled.
He felt the last of his strength go, and he slumped to the ground. Saving damn kids, and look what it got him...
Curiously, he felt... triumphant. Like he had died for something worth dying for.
He sent a message to Szcraa.
"Szcraa, there are kids in the flaming building here. Hurry... get... them." Then darkness pulled him down.
Szcraa saw the lines break, and roared in victory as the Zerg turned back and fled. Then she got the message from Hunter
"Szcraa, there are kids in the flaming building here. Hurry...get...them..." His voice trailed off, but Szcraa was already hurtling to the source of the transmission. She found the burning building, with Hunter and four Zerg dead around him. She felt sorrow, but then looked up. She hoped the burning building would hold her weight. She jumped, and dug her claws into to the building "Hurry!" she yelled into the smoke. "Get on my back." She thought a moment. "I'm... a... a... a nice monster," she added. The children, already shocked by the battle, obeyed without question. She felt five children climb on her back, and she dropped down onto the ground. The children clambered of, and she told them to go the nearest bunker. The kids took off running. Then she heard a sound that made her blood run cold. She whirled around and saw the burning five-story building toppling onto her. She couldn't get away in time...
He had not moved from his spot where he had manhandled Hunter. He was too deep in his self-loathing
Straas heard the distress call and at first ignored it. /I'm just a Zerg/, he told himself.
/Just a cruel vicious Zerg who cares nothing for friends and comrades/. Looking off to the west, he saw the flashes and explosions of battle. Changing his mind, he got up and ran toward the battle, consoling himself with the though that he might kill a few additional hydralisks there.
Szcraa dodged, but not fast enough. The flaming structure fell on her, pinning her to the ground. She struggled to free herself, but to no avail; the building caught her legs and part of her lower torso.
She sent a distress signal to Straas. Her mechanical legs struggled, but she desisted when she felt her left ankle joint snap. Hissing in pain, she wondered when Straas would show up. If he did at all...
Straas found the spot when were Szcraa laid pinned under the burning building. Doing his best not to look at her, he began to lift the smoking wreckage off of her. He freed her, little by little. Grunting, he lifted a 30-foot slab of solid steel off of her, and finally she was freed. Szcraa got to her feet, clumsily limping. He glanced at her foot, which was already repairing itself, and peered off to the horizon. He gaped at the hoards of horrors. Tens of thousands of Zerg were approaching the city on the ground, while thousands more flew in the sky. There was no way they could handle it, even with the Dominion's help. Also, Szcraa's leg was not to full repair. "Szcraa, get out of here. I'll hold them off," he told her, his back turned.
"No. I will not leave you," she answered to his back.
"Why not? I'm only a Zerg, an evil Zerg."
"Straas. You are not a Zerg! Stop thinking that!" Szcraa sounded angry.
"Why not? I-" He was cut off as Szcraa spun him around struck him full on the face with a hand, her scythe retracted. His eyes flew open in surprise. She then grabbed his head and angled it to look her eye-to-eye. He fought, but he was too shocked to resist strongly. He shuddered when he looked into his partner's eyes, remembering he looked like a Zerg also.
"I will tell you why not!" she screamed at him. "You are no '/other/ /Zerg/' STRAAS! You could have left me to die, but you rescued me. Would a Zerg do that? Or would a Zerg rescue, or even /care /about children?" Her voice rose a few decibels. "No, Zerg would not do that. But that proves you are not a Zerg, Straas! You are much more than a Zerg with mechanical legs. You are a Cyberlisk, a thinking entity with feelings and emotions. What you are on the inside makes you who you are, not by external appearances; I care too much for you, Straas, to let you live in your lonely world of isolation. I also care too much to leave you alone to die. We will defeat this swarm together, Straas, or we will die trying, together." Szcraa finished, her eyes blazing, her voice choked with emotion.
He was about to roar back at her, to tell her he is just an ordinary Zerg, to leave him, to just go away... But something in her words triggered some emotions in his mind. Sorrow. Joy. Anger.
A mixture of the four. His emotions in turn triggered something else... Suddenly he felt himself changing. As his vision clouded, he felt something begin to change within him.
Yet another switch fell into place, as another programming fell away. His psionic dampeners that had held his full potential captive shorted out and dissolved into biodegradable silicate paste. Full datafiles, kept hidden, were revealed. After what seemed days, even if it was only seconds, his computer rebooted and he awoke.