Chapter Six: Blood in the Water
Just when we thought we were out, Schezar pulled us back in. It was a rapid assault with almost no collateral of the human kind, lasted a few minutes and it hit the Dominion where it hurt. Badly. It was a humiliation of the first order, and got the sharks thinking that there was blood in the water.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and Arcturus Mengsk responded in kind. Thus began yet another showdown between the terran factions, even as the zerg mustered their forces for round 2.
Liberty's reports, volume III
Another day, another shipment of supplies.
Orsen looked over manifest of supplies coming into the Dylerian Shipyards. Spare parts, supplies, the usual stuff he had to sign onto. This place was where the Confederacy, and now the Dominion kept most of the fleet in dry dock when they weren't being used.
He signed the document. 'Alright, here you go.'
'Thanks,' said the merchant 'I'll get the stuff unloaded.'
As the merchant crews began to unload the vessel, Orsen's SCV teams went forward to begin transporting the merchandise to their designated dropoff point.
'Why the hell do these battlecruisers need all this maintenance if they aren't being used for anything?' asked John Carman, one of the boys.
'They're still running.' said Orsen 'Life support, air conditioning, heating, the works. And some of them get damaged.'
'Yeah what I don't get,' said Osbourne 'these ships are some really scary badass things right? So why do we keep up just lying around here instead of going out and fighting some aliens with em. I mean I heard a place called Alterior V got hit hard by the zerg.'
'Osbourne,' said Orsen 'do you have any godly idea how much one of these things costs to fly around? Let alone if they get shot down?'
'…No.' said Osbourne.
'Well then maybe you shouldn't talk.' said Orsen 'Just one of these things can carry an entire army, and ever since the Battle of Tarsonis the zerg have been in real small numbers. The Dominion doesn't like sending more forces than it needs to. It's expensive.'
'Yeah, but most of these things were made by the Confederacy.' said John 'And they didn't have no aliens to fight?'
'The Confederacy was overcompensating.' said Orsen 'They built them to fight the combine, but they barely saw any action there. I guess they figured they'd put it all in reserve just in case one of the rebel groups got too big.'
'Yeah, that worked out.' said John.
A laughter went through them. Then a shadow loomed overhead. A vast battlecruiser, remarkable for it's orange stripes and the figure of the Confederacy painted onto it. Orsen had seen it before. The Soldier III.
He opened a com. 'This is Orsen, we've got Schezar's Scavengers! They're attacking the Dylerian shipyards!'
Down came a force of marines and Orsen raised his hands in fear. Multiple dropships were descending and landing forces. As he and his men were herded against the wall, Orsen looked at the form of Lieutenant Sanchez. He hadn't seen him in years and now he was pointing a gun at him.
'Everyone stay calm.' said Sanchez 'Schezar's Scavengers are taking control of the fleet. We're not interested in you, just get up against the wall and stay out of our way.'
'Sanchez,' said Orsen 'you don't really think you'll get away with this. The Dominion's on it's way. You're toast.'
Sanchez's visor peeled back to reveal a glaring red cybernetic eye. 'Wouldn't be too sure about that. Commander Schezar always has a plan.'
It had been the perfect time to strike. The Dominion was occupied with multiple other engagements throughout the sector. It would thus only take one proper diversion to distract the last defense and slip in to seize his objective. Schezar watched in satisfaction as Sanchez's men stole one battlecruiser after another from the vessels.
They would not be able to take them all, of course. But they could take enough.
'Sanchez,' said Schezar 'status report?'
'We've gotten our crews to five different battlecruisers.' said Sanchez 'Our skeleton crews are powering them up now, should be done in a few minutes. Guess our intelligence from Umojan was right, these places are practically undefended.'
'It's only natural.' said Schezar 'Mengsk has grown confident from victory and is distracted by his battle with the zerg. Otherwise, he'd have tighter defenses.'
'I could hit a few more if you want.' said Sanchez.
'No,' said Schezar 'let's not push our luck. It takes time to activate battlecruisers and we've got little of that. I want you to go throughout the shipyards and wreck everything you find. Blast open the hulls of the vessels.'
'You sure sir? These things are valuable.'
'Yes,' said Schezar 'and when Mengsk learns of what we've done he'll be swift to launch a counterattack. If his reserve fleets are disabled, many of the colonies he's been arming will feel more confident in themselves and less confident in the Dominion. We might persuade them to break away.
But don't make them unsalvageable, we'll want to be able to use them later. If you run into serious resistance withdraw. Speed is of the utmost importance.'
Schezar sat back in his chair and observed the shipyard. A crane was used to slam a hole in the side of a battlecruiser. Another had its engines blown out and floated death in the water. Others were shot with siege tanks as one by one sixteen battlecruisers were badly damaged and left to float uselessly in the space around Dyleria. It was a serious blow to the Dominion, which would only become more serious as things went on.
'Sir,' said Sanchez 'that's about it for this section. The crews on the five battlecruisers we stole tell me they're almost ready to go. Shall I move on to the others?'
'Negative,' said Schezar 'withdraw back to the Soldier III. We're withdrawing at once. Never overplay your hand. Sometimes it's better to be content with a partial success. Ensign Morton take us out.' Then he opened a channel. 'Gregory, what is the status on your side of things?'
'I've made contact with my old forces on Braxis.' said Reikson 'They're nominally Dominion but I've managed to sway them over to my side. If we bring serious enough force down there, they'll support us.'
'Excellent, keep up the good work.' said Schezar, changing to another channel. 'Matron what is your assessment?'
'Our hit on Alterior V was clean and simple.' said Matron 'We destroyed several Dominion bases. While their forces were in chaos Gamma Squadron robbed a large number of mineral shipments from Dominion mining companies and pulled them off-world. We're bringing them back to Vardona as plunder.
Should pay for quite a bit of military hardware.'
'Good, good,' said Schezar 'and how is our progress with Malcolm?'
'It's coming along well.' said Matron 'I have some ghosts psionically influencing him. I expect we'll be able to launch assaults without fear of the creatures assaulting civilians within a few months.'
'So we can avoid collateral then?' asked Schezar.
'Yes,' said Matron 'yes we can.'
'Perfect,' said Schezar 'alright-'
Then out of warp space came a series of battlecruisers who surged into view. There were at least a dozen of them and they were approaching rapidly. Schezar sighed. 'If you'll excuse me.' He cut the channel. 'How long until we can jump?'
'Thirty seconds.' said Morton. 'We're receiving a transmission from the Battlecruiser Medusa.'
'Patch it through.'
On the screen appeared Carolina Davis. 'Attention Schezar's Scavengers. You have violated Dominion Space and have openly attacked our troops. If you do not surrender immediately and unconditionally I will blow your pathetic fleet out of space.'
'Interesting proposition.' said Schezar 'You know, I'd love nothing more than to have a full-on showdown with you here. Yamato cannons, lots of collateral. Unfortunately, I've got business elsewhere, and you've got a bomb to disarm on your shipyards.'
'Schezar!' she said 'You bastard, if you think-'
Schezar cut the channel. 'Take us out gentlemen.'
'Sir,' said Morton 'the Dominion ships are trying to stay clear of the shipyards and are dispatching bomb crews. Others are coming toward us now. Shall I open fire?'
'They won't find anything because there is nothing to find.' said Schezar 'I only did to haze them.'
'Sir, we're ready to jump.' said Ensign Morgus.
'Take us out, Morgus.' said Schezar.
They escaped without a nick, leaving the shipyards devastated behind them.
Tara Bennet's Father had executed by firing squad because of two votes he had cast years before. And she was upset about the fact, to say the least. Ava Holt had been unable to vote on the assassination of Angus Mengsk's family, due to being sick. She had voted against the nuking of Korhal. And she was angry about losing her power. Constantino Terra, who was acting as Magistrate in Serena's absence, had voted against both and pointedly left the meeting. And he was angry about losing his daughter.
These three heads of three Old Families were now sitting in a secure location being served tea and biscuits. Duran was not usually one to make offers, he preferred to be subordinate playing things from behind the scenes, but now he had to step into the light for a time.
'Gentlemen,' said Duran 'as you can no doubt see from outside the window the reconstruction of Tarsonis is well underway. No thanks to the Dominion.'
'No thanks to you, you mean.' said Tara 'You invented the device which did all this.'
Obviously, he would have to put their minds at ease, and Duran adopted an expression of regret. 'A regrettable truth.' said Duran 'My intention was originally to simply lure the zerg to isolated containment areas. Unfortunately, Arturro Calabas saw other uses for it.'
'You didn't do anything to stop him.' noted Ava.
'Neither did you.' noted Constantino.
'Yes,' said Duran 'our policy of inaction has caused some serious problems. However, it is my desire that we might take steps to fix this unfortunate series of events.'
'Let me just cut you off right there.' said Constantino 'Mengsk wanted all of us dead. And he has ghosts watching all of us. If we do anything treasonous we'll all be dead in mere moments.'
'An important concern,' mused Duran 'fortunately no longer relevant. 0123 come forward.' The air itself wavered and into sight came several squads of ghosts. The various heads of the Old Families shuddered as they saw them. 'As you can see, gentlemen, the Dominion ghosts assigned to us are no longer a problem.'
'How did you do this?' asked Tara.
'Need I remind you that I was once a ghost myself.' mused Duran 'I know well how to influence and control them. Thus we now possess some room to maneuver'
'What are you suggesting?' asked Terra 'That we stage a revolution?'
'Of course not.' said Duran 'A revolution at this stage is simply not practical. Public opinion is turned against us despite your benevolent gesture of paying for the cities reconstruction.'
'Get to the point, Duran.' said Ava.
'We network.' said Duran 'Make contacts, bring special interest groups over to our side. The Dominion is fighting a very expensive war and it is only a matter of time before people tire of it. Already there are cracks in the pavement.
Recent defeats have damaged their myth of invincibility.'
'What 'special interest groups' do you have in mind, exactly?' asked Tara.
'Well,' said Duran 'I was thinking of our errant Squadron's who have struck out on their own. I have made… an arrangement with them. They have agreed to support any uprising we create in the future in exchange for some military hardware. Some which are well within your power to provide, Magistrate Constantino.'
'What, exactly?' asked Constantino.
Within the meeting chamber on Vardona the Squadron Heads all met together via conference call with one notable exception. Schezar and his comrades reviewed the results of their recent operations with satisfaction. 'Overall, my friends, I should say that the operation was a complete success. We've sewn the seeds of several future operations, bloodied the Dominion's nose and destroyed Mengsk's myth of invincibility. I expect that special interest groups will now be far more interested in working with us against Emperor Mengsk.
The Confederacy may be reformed yet, gentlemen. And it will be greater than before.'
'Unfortunately, I have some bad news.' said Matron 'It appears that we've been tracked. Isabella's scout ships detected a number of cloaked wraiths departing Valhalla V's atmosphere. They got off a signal. It seems Davis had us followed.'
'I know.' said Schezar 'If it hadn't played out that way I would be disappointed.'
'You knew?' said Reikson 'The hell man, Mengsk is going to hit us with everything he's got!'
'No. He's going to underestimate us.' said Schezar 'He knows that we've got a powerful military machine, but he does not know that we have the zerg at our command. We've been gathering swarms from across the sector for months now and he is none the wiser.
He needs a victory, so he'll send one of his better Commanders, but he'll send them with a weaker task force. We're two-bit pirates remember?'
Matron considered this. '…So, you intend to lure Mengsk into a decisive battle.'
'Yes, and even if things go against us, with all the chaos sown in our enemies ranks it has provided an excellent distraction for us to achieve yet another long-term victory.' said Schezar 'Or have none of you wondered just what Isabella has been doing all this time?'
Duran lounged against the side of the psi disruptor, taking a smoke break. It was a habit which gave him no pleasure, he was beyond such things, but it kept up an appearance of normality. He looked up to the brilliant illusion known as the sky. Billions of molecules scattering the suns blue light across the area above their heads.
Oh, and there were some Confederate resistance forces dropships descending on his location as they spoke. Interesting, it was a good thing the Dominion had pulled troops out of Tarsonis to deal with various zerg threat, and then pulled more out to deal with Schezar. Otherwise, there might have been a fight.
The dropships hovered overhead, and out of them poured many ghosts. At their head was Isabella Moros, who pointed a gun at him as the rest of her ghosts came down. 'Samir Duran, I'm here by authority of General Schezar to take custody of the psi disruptor.'
Samir took the cigarette from his mouth and cast it into the dirt. 'Very well then, take it away. I will be in touch.' He paused. 'I trust I can rely on our mutual friend Schezar to honor his end of the bargain.'
'Of course, Lieutenant.' said Isabella 'Disassemble it and let's move people, we have a timetable.'
Donny Vermillion was a recent news anchor. He wore a bright suit, had orange hair, and a mustache. He'd been given the position as anchor of the UNN on Korhal and now Emily, Michael, and Serena were watching him on the bridge of Calabas' personal battlecruiser, the Medea.
'Breaking news, the Dylerian Shipyards have been raided. We're bringing you Kate Lockwell to tell you more.' said Donny.
'Hi Donny, I'm here at the Dylerian Shipyards where the so-called pirate Alan Schezar launched a raid. He stole five battlecruisers to add to his fleet, and from the looks of things he seriously damaged a lot of the ones he couldn't steal. We're talking major damages, it could take months to repair them all.'
'Kate, I imagine civilian casualties were high in the attack.' said Donny.
'Actually Donny it looks like no one actually got killed. A couple of people accidentally injured themselves when Schezar's Scavengers came in, but they were given proper medical treatment-'
'There you have it, folks. Alan Schezar, weakening humanities defenses in a time of crisis.'
'Uh Donny I was kind of-'
The logo flashed and Emily looked furious. 'That's irresponsible!' said Emily 'She's broadcasting favorable data on one of our enemies.'
'You know,' said Michael 'there was a time when the purpose of News was to get the truth out.'
'That's crazy talk Mikey.' said Emily 'Everyone knows that truth should only be played over the networks when it benefits the government in power.'
'I think you've been in the army too long, Swallow.' said Serena 'Besides, everything is well in hand on the Dominion networks.'
'But… what about what they were saying.' said Emily 'People might think the Dominion is weak.'
'It is unfortunate that Schezar is being portrayed in a positive light.' said Serena 'Though it will make making peace with him easier. But I do not think you fully appreciate the magnificence of Arcturus Mengsk's control over the media. The Confederacy tried to control people by bombarding them with logos and declarations of how wonderful they are. When all evidence in everyday life pointed to the opposite. Whenever somebody stepped out of line… well, you might want to ask Michael about why he joined Alpha Squadron in the first place.'
'Shot through the head.' said Michael, forming his fingers into the shape of a gun and pointing it at his head. 'Everyone knew the truth, but people were too terrified or greedy to act on it. Mengsk is smarter than that. First, he understands that people will tolerate a lot more if they have a stake in the system.
Which is why he has been going out of his way to improve the standard of living.
Second, he holds a looser hold over the media. He allows them to put in a bit of truth here and there, which means that people are more likely to take it seriously. And one channel, UNN, he lets broadcast whatever they like on one condition: They make it a comedy skit.'
'…I don't get it.' said Emily.
'Didn't you notice that both Lockwell and Donny were acting a little unprofessional.' said Serena 'Nobody broadcasts propaganda without a good idea of what they're going to say. If any real propaganda reporter went off script as many times in their career as Lockwell has this week they'd be fired and never get another job.
So why don't they?'
'Because the Dominion is in every way better than the Confederacy.' said Emily.
'No, no, no!' said Serena 'Because the truth always gets out! Sooner or later every dirty little secret every government has had leaks! And in this day and age information travels so quickly and over so many networks that controlling it is nearly impossible!
So we don't. Kate Lockwell is allowed to say whatever she wants. She says all kinds of things which could turn people against the Dominion. But it doesn't matter because Donny Vermillion turns it into a wacky comedy gag! A parody of itself!
Kate Lockwell is constantly striving to get the story out, Donny is constantly striving to twist it to suit Dominion interests! He is totally ineffectual at it of course, but Lockwell never gets to finish a sentence. People are laughing.
If anyone says the Dominion News doctors the truth, we can point to Lockwell and Donny. And since the whole thing is one big joke anyway, the inconvenient truths Lockwell might reveal are rendered meaningless.'
'That sounds like something that could backfire.' said Emily.
'It could.' said Michael 'If hypothetically our glorious Dominion did something truly unforgivable which couldn't be turned into a joke, then were it broadcast by Lockwell it could ruin Mengsk's day real quick. That's why I refused Mengsk's offer, Emily. Someone has to stay on the outside.'
'Ma'am,' said Morgan 'we're receiving a long distance transmission from Emperor Mengsk.'
There was silence for a moment.
'So about this Tychus Findlay fellow,' said Emily 'why was he freed?'
'Officially it is because he has contacts with the Kel'morians and an intimidate understanding of different brands of weaponry.' said Serena 'Unofficially? I'm pretty sure he's just here as a favor to Jim.'
'That seems unprofessional.' said Emily.
'If pardoning a few criminals is the worst of the Dominion's excesses than I think we have small cause for complaint.' noted Serena.
'Yeah,' said Emily 'I guess you're right.'
'Commander,' said Morgan 'we're receiving a message from Emperor Mengsk.'
'Patch it through.' said Serena.
Mengsk appeared, looking absolutely furious. 'I am dispatching General Warfield to assist you. Crush him. Completely.'
Serena saluted. 'Yes, sir.'
On to Valhalla V.
Okay and here we have the next chapter. This one was actually made long before the previous ones and then edited to fit this fic. Originally I was just going to skip it, but I guess I figured some of the content in this chapter was worth posting.
After all, having Kate Lockwell support the bad guys seems to me like an interesting contrast to canon.