Chapter Four: Capture
I am en route to the world of Valhalla V. The Conclave believes that the zerg are mustering there for a second assault, and in the absence of a reigning executor I am to ascertain the location of any zerg, and exterminate all I find there.
My secondary objective is to contact any remnants of Tassadar's Fleet and order them back to Aiur to aid in the defense. Leaving Aiur at this time seems to me a dangerous gamble. Yet it is one I must take.
Praetor Mojo's logs
Matron brushed a strand of mousy brown hair from in front of her face as the dropship headed towards the base. Did she look okay? Yes, good. She made her way out of the Command Center to the landing ground where even now a dropship was touching down. The doors opened and Alan Schezar stepped out of the dropship, flanked by orange clad marines. Matron saluted to him smartly. He looked handsome as always.
'Commander Schezar,' she said 'we've been expecting you.'
Commander Schezar salued back and smiled. 'I apologize for the delay, Matron.' said Alan 'I had some rather pressing business to attend to on Vardona. Tell me, how are things progressing?'
'Well,' said Matron 'we've been using ghosts to assist Malcolm in seizing control of zerg broods throughout the sector. Once we've stolen from from other cerebrates we transfer those broods to Valhalla V. We do a public service and increase our standing forces.'
'Malcolm?' asked Schezar.
'It's what we call the Cerebrate.' said Matron 'I gather that zerg do not ordinarily have names. Not unless they are very old and dangerous.'
'And how have you gathered that?' asked Schezar.
Matron sighed. 'I've been having my ghosts scan Malcolm. We've been able to learn a great deal about the way the swarm operates, actually.' She paused. 'It seems that the Cerebrates only get names once they prove themselves. I kind of feel sorry for them.'
'Tell me what you've learned later.' said Schezar.
'There is one other thing.' said Matron 'We've found the protoss homeworld.'
Schezar looked at her. 'Are you certain?'
'Yes.' said Matron 'The protoss were invaded by the swarm recently. I gather that it was a matter of some importance. Even as we speak the protoss are doing battle with the zerg on their own ground. We're talking about numbers of zerg more than three times the size of the ones that attacked Tarsonis at least.
All the focus of the hive mind is on crushing the protoss. I get the impression that there is some kind of personal vendetta between the two races.'
'I should be on the lookout for the protoss, either way.' said Schezar 'They have not been as active lately as they were, but if they gain control of the space around this planet you can be assured they will glass it.'
'Surely with their homeworld under siege they wouldn't send troops abroad.' said Matron.
'You seem to have forgotten something, Matron.' said Schezar 'No one knows what we've done. As far as the sector knows this planet is just a huge staging ground for the zerg. They might decide to glass it to prevent us from sending troops to Aiur.' He paused. 'Which brings me to the next subject at hand.
Do you think you can relocate Malcolm?'
'Relocate?' asked Matron 'Well yes. Actually almost all zerg buildings can be relocated. Though it takes a lot of time to do so. They embed themselves into the planets crust you see, and they can't just lift off like us.
It can take days, though so it all has to be prepared for in advance.'
'Good,' said Schezar 'the time has come for us to establish ourselves a new base of operations. It is only a matter of time before Valhalla V is discovered. When that happens I mean to have Malcolm and the bulk of our forces in a more secure location.'
'Where do you have in mind?' asked Matron.
'Why, Aiur, of course.' said Schezar.
'…Your plan to secure Malcolm against the protoss is to move him to the center of their power.' said Matron. 'How does that make sense, Alan?'
'Simple enough,' said Schezar 'the protoss are already being invaded. Which means they won't notice yet another brood of zerg coming in. While they are killing each other, we can work to siphon off more and more of the zerg in the surrounding area. Both sides will be too distracted to go up against us, which means we can operate freely to become stronger.
I doubt the protoss would glass their own homeworld. It would be like nuking Earth.'
'There is something you seem to have overlooked, Alan.' said Matron 'What about Arcturus Mengsk?' He probably hadn't overlooked, but she ought to give him the chance to gloat about it.
'Arcturus Mengsk is not an aggressive individual.' said Alan 'He does not stretch forth his hand unless he is confident it won't get cut off. He might be willing to attack Valhalla V, but an expedition to Aiur so soon after the Char fiasco?
Somehow I think he will be conservative in his moves against us.'
'I hope you're right.' said Matron 'We'd better be careful though.' She paused. 'So did you just make all that up on the fly, or did you already know about Aiur?'
'Isabella has kept me well informed as to events down here.' said Alan 'Trust but verify, you understand? It was possible the cerebrate might compromise you.'
'Of course.' said Matron.
'Sir!' said a marine 'We've got incoming protoss vessels!'
'Scramble all flights,' said Matron 'dispatch them immediately. Prevent them from launching a bombardment no matter the cost!'
'I'll get back to the soldier Soldier III.' said Schezar 'Try to surround the protoss. I'd like to speak with them directly.' Then he looked to the marine near him. 'Sanchez, take command of the ground forces here. Make sure nothing goes wrong.'
'Yes sir.' said Sanchez.
The Soldier III moved through space at full speed. Ahead of them they could see protoss vessels dueling with vast swarms of zerg. Matron was making use of the zerg quite effectively. Every time the protoss tried to break through they were checked and there had been serious casualties on both sides. Schezar noted that the battle seemed to be a stalemate.
Even so, eventually the protoss would likely be overwhelmed if the situation did not change. There were were simply more zerg than protoss. Thus an opportunity presented itself. 'Johnathan,' he said to the communications ensign. 'send a message to the protoss vessel. Tell them that we are positioning ourselves to come up behind their lines and that we'd rather not be shot at.'
'Sir,' said Johnathan 'we're to tell them we're coming?'
'Yes.' said Schezar.
'Protoss Commander,' said Johnathan 'this is Battlecruiser Soldier III of Delta Squadron. We are en route to your location. Do not fire on us.'
There was silence on the other side for a moment. Then there came through a channel. 'This is Mojo, Praetor of the Protoss Forces on Aiur. We will not fire.'
'…How did you know that would work sir?' asked Jonathan.
'The protoss have hitherto been cooperating with us.' said Schezar 'And what communications we have had with them have been… condescending. All evidence indicates to us that the protoss have been fighting the zerg for hundreds of years, and the idea of controlling them must seem unthinkable.
These two things combined that we should be the master of these broods must not have entered their darkest dreams.' He opened an encrypted channel. 'Matron, ease off the attack. Keep the protoss where they are but try not to cause too much destruction.'
'Sir,' said a scanning ensign.
'Yes Lucy, what is it?' asked Schezar.
'I'm picking up some strange readings from the protoss flagship. It appears to be sending off a constant psionic imprint out to the surrounding space. Sort of like a psi emitter, but different. This thing is reaching throughout all of terran space.'
'Can you play it back?' asked Schezar.
'Protoss transmissions are strange,' said Lucy 'I don't know but I'll try.' She fiddled around with her controls for a bit. Then the speakers played.
'This is Praetor Mojo of the Golden Armada. All outlying fleets are to return to Aiur and defend the homeworld. This is Praetor Mojo of the Golden Armada. All outlying fleets are to return to Aiur to defend the homeworld. This is Praetor-'
'Cut it.' said Schezar.
'It just repeats itself over and over.' said Lucy.
'So, the protoss are getting desperate are they.' mused Schezar 'Unfortunate. I had hoped their operations would continue for a while. This will make our own plans difficult.' He looked up as they drew very near the protoss vessel. 'Even so, the means by which they are transmitting this signal might well prove useful. Similar to a psi emitter, yet without attracting the zerg…'
'Sir,' said Johnathan 'we're receiving a communication from the protoss flagship.'
'Patch it through.' said Schezar.
A large protoss, thicker of body than most, but also shorter appeared before them. He radiated an aura of professonalism and there was a certain pride in his features. Schezar had seen pictures of protoss, but he'd never seen one up close. They were remarkable creatures.
'Commander,' said Mojo 'we have routed the first zerg attack wave. However I fear that there are far more zerg upon this world than can be defeated. If we combine our fleets against the swarm, we should be able to buy time for your people to evacuate. From there I will annihilate the planet from orbit.'
Schezar lived for moments like these. He wanted to frame with moment up so he could look at it in later years of his life. 'Matron, bring up the swarm in full but don't fire. All wraith flights standby to attack.'
The shock radiated across Mojo's face, despite his lack of a nose or mouth. He stared, uncomprehending as the swarm returned in full. If Schezar had been a smoking man he would have removed the cigar from his mouth, however he was not.
'What is the meaning of this?' asked Mojo.
'You seem to have misunderstood the situation.' said Schezar 'These zerg work for me. The gentlemen you hope to see evacuated are there to ensure they remain under my control.'
'Impossible!' said Mojo 'The swarm cannot be controlled in such a fashion!'
'On the contrary,' said Schezar 'I can, I did, and that is why you are completely surrounded. I'm going to be as forthcoming as I possibly can be, Mr. Mojo. If you attempt any further attacks on my men or my property I will be forced to destroy you. However if you surrender immediately and unconditionally, I will spare your lives.'
'You underestimate us.' said Mojo, but they both knew he was bluffing.
'Do I?' asked Schezar 'I know your homeworld is too busy defending itself to risk a serious rescue fleet. I know the other fleets in this sector are all withdrawing back to Aiur. And I also know that you were struggling to defeat the zerg on your own before I came in.'
'You deceived me.' said Mojo. It was a statement of fact.
'More or less.' admitted Schezar 'A man in my position must use any and all resources to ensure victory with as few casualties as possible. One last time: Power down your weapon systems and prepare to be boarded.'
'…This will not be forgotten.' said Mojo.
The inside of the protoss vessel was quite glorious. The walls were of a golden color, with many designs of ancient battles fought against many races. Many races other than zerg and protoss, which meant that the protoss must have had a reach far larger than Alan had expected.
The protoss did not fight. They knew well that any resistance would result in the destruction of their vessels and everyone aboard. Alan was happy about that, he doubted he could have stood against them toe to toe without serious casualties. Though the narrow hallways made excellent chokepoints.
'Praetor Mojo,' said Schezar as the massive protoss was brought before him. 'you will immediately give my technicians access to your datanet and all historical records you might have aboard this ship.'
Mojo glanced to a protoss who moved forward. 'I will show them the way.'
'What dark purpose do you desire our records for?' asked Mojo.
'Dark purpose?' laughed Schezar 'Pure curiousity actually. I'd like to read about other alien races. No, my interest is purely in the means by which you are transmitting your message demanding the protoss fleet withdraw. You understand the method eludes me.'
'…The khaydarin crystal.' said Mojo 'It will gain you nothing. If you release us, relations between our peoples may still be salvaged.'
'I'll be the judge of that.' said Schezar, remembering the fleet under Reikson en route to the protoss homeworld. 'And in regards to our peoples, I expect relations would have broken down soon enough.'
Mojo stared at him, not comprehending. Schezar had the feeling the Praetor was scanning his thoughts, realizing just what was happening. Best not to let him stare too deeply. He motioned to his guards. 'Take him away.'
A ghost appeared out of nowhere, and Schezar suppressed a shudder. 'Sir, we've ascertained the location of the psionic transmitter. They call it a khaydarin crystal. It appears to be able to magnify psionic wavelengths over a massive scale.'
'Excellent,' said Schezar 'bring it down to Matron. I'm sure she'll enjoy studying it.'
'What of the prisoners?' asked the ghost.
'See to it that they are not mistreated.' said Schezar 'Inquire as to what they require to live. Food, water, and then see about getting it. They may well have some value as hostages. A negotiated peace with the protoss ought to be pursued eventually.'
Life was good.
Something about Korhal had changed since Serena had seen it last. Yet she wasn't exactly sure why as of yet. The continents were still blighted wastelands, and deserts of sand wandered only by the most resilient of creatures. The oceans were vast seas of sludge and blackened water, and the rivers were not much better. Yet life here was recovering, slowly.
Tiny patches of scrub grass could be seen here or there as Serena stepped out of the dropship and approached Arcturus Mengsk, who stood at the edge of a cliff, a perfect target for a sniper. He was clad in a black leather trenchcoat, and his hair was unadorned. No crown for the humble Emperor. His gloved hands were clasped behind him.
Beyond him Serena could see a water treatment plant by a river flowing by. Pipes led from the plant into a nearby city. Though city might be a bit of an overstatement. Many of the buildings were actually portable military structures repurposed for civilian use. Those that were not portable were multipurpose, build for practical use rather than beauty. The citizens of Korhal did not have the luxury to beautify their structures.
Arcturus said nothing as Serena came to a halt behind him. She looked around, and wiped the sweat from her brow as he still said nothing. Glancing back to where her guards were standing by, she looked back to Arcturus. 'Interesting spot for a meeting ground, Mengsk.'
'I must apologize for that,' said Mengsk, looking distant. His eyes were scanning over the landscape before him. 'in my life I have served many causes. Money, pride, independence, revenge. Yet I loved Korhal.
I loved every street and forest, every square foot of my world.
Look at what I have done to it.'
'You can't blame yourself for this.' said Serena 'It was entirely the Old Families fault. Not yours.'
'I am aware.' said Mengsk 'Yet it remains a scar, a reminder of my failings. My younger self would have said I was stirring up trouble where there was none. Provoking the Confederacy into action.'
'Your kidding.' said Serena. 'I thought your family was vocally anti-Confederate.'
'My Father was.' said Arcturus 'I wanted nothing to do with it. I took steps to distance myself from him and create my own legacy. I was aware of what the Confederacy was doing, of course, and I only became more aware after I joined the military.
But I thought I'd dodge it. Remain uninvolved.
Then my entire family was murdered.' He sighed. 'After that I just wanted revenge. I wasn't interested in democracy, just justice. Justice for what had happened to me, and what the Confederacy did to everyone else.'
'I'm not really concerned with your motivations, Arcturus.' said Serena 'Just your results. A lot of people are alive today because of your actions. That is what counts.'
'I suppose it is.' mused Arcturus, before looking out over the blighted sea. 'This place used to be a beautiful summer villa. When I was a teenager I had fun breaking into the security system. Now it's just ashes and dust.
The past is dead. The present is dying, and the future is doomed.
But there is still time. Time to make a difference and leave the universe better for our presence in it. And I intend to do just that.' He turned around and then he was once again composed. 'Commander, I am pleased to tell you that the recruitment of our forces on Korhal is going well. However I believe some speeches from one of my most accomplished tacticians would serve to inspire them.'
'You called me all the way here so that I could make speeches?' asked Serena.
'As you no doubt may have noticed,' said Arcturus 'it has been a slow few weeks. Yet I would also like it if you familiarized yourself with the defenses of Korhal. It is possible that this planet may come under assault, and I should like my chief lieutenants to understand it.
In the meantime I will introduce you, and you will make a few public appearances. It should serve to inspire men a bit.'
'Well I have always imagined myself among the most inspiring of individuals.' laughed Serena. 'Very well, Arcturus. We'll play things your way.'
'Excellent,' said Mengsk 'then we can begin.'
Peace, Serena reflected, was not nearly so bad a thing as some people made it out to be.
Okay, not much to say here. Enslavers is a pretty short campaign, primarily because most of the story takes place offscreen. Going into just what led the Squadrons to tame the Cerebrate and capture Mojo has been among the more interesting parts of writing this fic, since I feel giving Mengsk a proper nemesis enhances both their effects.
Enjoy. I promise we'll have some action next chapter.
Oh and my grammar checker is on the fritz again. So that's why it doesn't look as good.