We sat around the conference table, the map spread out in front of us. Jim was looking grim, staring at the map without saying a word. Then, suddenly, he drew a knife and plunged it through the map and into the wooden table, where it stood, quivering. “Here,” he said.
“Here” was a ruin. The area of Torus that Jim’s knife had pierced was a huge, powerful, sprawling metropolis – two hundred years ago. That was before the bombardments, the salted fields, the genocide, and ultimately, the evacuation of what few survivors were left.
“That’s not defensible,” Commander Boone said. “There are no provisions for miles. You couldn’t keep more than two battalions alive there. But the approaches are so easy that the Zerg will be able to attack us with twice our numbers. It’s suicide.”
“The people of Torus remember what the Confederacy did to their city,” Jim said. “They may not live there anymore but they revere it. They visit the Ruins, they walk through, and they swear, ‘never again.’ So believe you me – that city is the key to Torus. If we can hold it long enough, the people will rally to our side and our numbers will triple. If the Zerg get ensconced there, morale will disappear and the whole planet will fall.”
“And if Torus falls?” I asked.
“Then the sector falls,” Jim replied, gesturing at the map. “Look for yourself. Torus is the centre of a wheel. The other three planets extend outward from the spokes. All navigation, all trade, all shipping between the three outer planets has to go through Torus.”
“Are there any other points of interest?” the commander asked. “Another way of achieving –”
“Our headquarters in Halcyon. Zerg headquarters on Antiga Prime. Both are strategic locations. Both are worth fighting for. But the city on Torus is worth as much as both of them put together.”
“So what do we do?” I asked.
“We load up our flamethrowers. We arm our marines with the explosive pellets.” Jim stared at the map again and slowly shook his head. “And we pray.”
The ruins were worse than the stories. There were craters in the ground from the bombardment, tangles of glass and metal strewn about the streets. In 200 years nobody had cleaned it up. The moss had reclaimed some of the city, but elsewhere nothing would grow at all. The surrounding fields were black and we knew that any supplies we needed would have to be shipped in. We couldn’t support more than two battalions there, that was for sure.
We had just finished setting up a base there when another disturbing report came in. The Zerg had managed to jump from their staging ground on Antiga Prime directly to resource-rich Bhkar Ro without going through Torus at all. I shivered in the control tower. We could be attacked from two sides.
And then the attack came. Swarms upon swarms of zerglings and hydralisks flung themselves against our hastily erected walls. Every few seconds I heard explosions as the marines fired their explosive canisters among the zerglings. The smells of burning flesh from the flamethrowers crept up to the control tower along with the screams of man and Zerg alike.
When the ground cleared all of our defenders were dead or dying, but they had taken twice their number down with them. We’d lost two full battalions – but we’d kept the base.
Score: Raynor 3, Overmind 1 [No SVC’s Available]
“They’ll be back.”
I hated to say it, but it was true. We’d bloodied them in that first battle but they knew as well as us what the key to the sector was, and even our new Wraith production might not be able to hold them off.
“It’s the base on Bkhar Ro,” Commander Boone said. “It’s the breadbasket of the sector, we can’t compete with their resources, unless –”
“I agree.” It was Jim Raynor, speaking up for the first time. “We can’t let them outspend us month after month if we mean to hold this sector. Build up a strike force on Torus and prepare them for transit to Bhkar Ro. We have to take them out.”
I rushed to obey. A vulture and some infantry units were all that I could scrounge, but it would have to do. We boarded the dropships with apprehension. It was one thing establishing a base and firing out from behind our own walls. Flying to a planet that the Zerg had occupied – well, that was another.
The dropships landed and we hit the ground running. The infantry battalions started a pitched battle with the enemy hydralisks and for awhile things weren’t looking good. But the vulture had snuck through the enemy ranks and laid down a small minefield. Explosions had never sounded so sweet as when he lured the defenders into its path, and the Zerg base crumbled around us.
As soon as the battle was won, I radioed back to Torus. The commander there was elated. “We held them off! They came again but we held the bloody bastards off!”
When I finally got the story out of him, it was absolutely amazing. Our last wraith had taken a shot to its wing, but the pilot pulled a miraculous emergency landing. The Zerg kept firing on him, but a worker managed to sneak through the fray to give him the necessary repairs. When he took off again, he completely annihilated the remainder of the hydralisk battalion.
Score: Raynor 6, Overmind 2
I was overseeing the construction of our new base on Bkhar Ro when I got the news from Torus. The survivor was panicked, hysterical. The wraith pilots had taken to the sky at the first sign of the Zerg attack, but they had waded right into an ambush. Scourge took them from all sides, blowing them out of the sky.
The marine corps stood at the walls, waiting anxiously for the main attack, but they never saw it. One moment an ominous shape hovered above them – the next moment, a huge group of men had collapsed dead. Ravenous insects the size of dogs had burst from their flesh. The remaining defenders were devoured as a group of Zerg infantry tore down the base.
The Ruins, the key to Torus which was the key to the sector, had fallen to the enemy.
Score: Raynor 7, Overmind 5
I’d never heard this sort of panic in Jim’s voice before. “They have the ruins. They have the RUINS.”
“I know.” How could I calm him down? I knew as well as he did what this meant.
“You have that base on Bkhar Ro now, put it to use,” Raynor said. “Make me an army. I’ll take some troops from Halcyon and meet you there. We’ll attack the city from both sides.”
“They’ll shoot us out of the sky, won’t they?” I asked. “Our scouts reported that they’d developed some sort of orbital defence –”
“Only in their bases,” Raynor said anxiously. “Let’s take Torus back before they can build one there.”
The Zerg had only left the Queen with a small detachment of hydralisks, but it was still a tough battle. A vulture squadron was destroyed, and some more infantry lost their lives to the Queen’s Broodling power. But soon enough Jim’s reinforcements arrived and mopped up.
As we planted our flag back in the ruined city, the ominous shadow was lifted as the Queen flew away. Jim immediately ordered our scouts to follow her, and we were shocked at what they found – the Zerg had established a new base among the Vespene fields of Torus, preparing to assault the Ruins yet again.
Score: Raynor 10, Overmind 7 [Overmind got +1 CP from an event card.]
“Commander! Commander!” It was four in the morning and I stumbled out of bed, groggy. “Commander!” came the shout again. “You have to see this!”
I stumbled into the research lab and collapsed in front of a computer. The engineer pressed some buttons and a map came up on the screen. “What am I looking at here?” I asked.
“We just got this data in from Bkhar Ro. Remember how the Zerg got there straight from Antiga Prime, bypassing Torus entirely?” I remembered. It was one of the first things that troubled us here. “We’ve found out how they did it. There’s a wormhole connecting the planets!”
“A wormhole that we’d be able to use?”
“We can get our dropships through there, no problem.”
“Jim will want to hear about this,” I said.
In a few days I was bound for Antiga Prime, the Zerg’s main staging area in the sector. As we came through the wormhole we circled wide around their base to avoid their orbital defence. We targeted the planet’s largest mineral fields and made to land.
The hydralisks started swarming, so hard and so fast that we couldn’t keep up – and then disappeared into the shadows again before emerging for another attack. Their defensive plan was flawless. Our wraith squadrons hunted some down and we may have even killed a full battalion, but we just couldn’t keep up with their manoeuvres. “Retreat!” I called “Retreat!”
The wraiths provided cover while the infantry scrambled back into the dropships. The surviving hydralisks swarmed us again but the dropships took off just in time, flying through the wormhole and back to Bkhar Ro.
Frazzled and anxious, I ran back toward my chambers in the Bkhar Ro base when something caught my eye in Engineering. “That’s it?” I asked. “That’s the new weapon?”
“Aye, Commander,” came the response. “Will vapourize a zergie in 4 seconds or less.”
“Commander?” said another voice behind us. “It’s Raynor on the nets. Says it’s urgent.”
I ran to the computer, fearing the worst. The worst had come.
A squadron of mutalisks had descended upon Halcyon, the site of our headquarters in the sector. Headquarters were safe due to our own orbital defence, but it wouldn’t hold much longer, and our mining operation there was destroyed.
Worse, the Zerg had attacked the Ruins again. The defenders had died or scattered, Jim himself barely escaping back to Halcyon before the hordes descended. Hydralisks were roaming the streets of the dead city. And once again a Queen hovered silently overhead, casting an ominous shadow on the ground below.
Score: Raynor 11, Overmind 10
“I’d like to protest –”
“Protest acknowledged. My decision is final.” Jim had never had much time for Commander Boone, and I didn’t blame him. Abandoning headquarters was a tough decision to make, but the Ruins were more important.
“We’ll never win this war by holing ourselves up at HQ,” I pointed out. “We have to reclaim the Ruins while still maintaining enough of a force to assault Zerg headquarters on Antiga Prime.”
“But after what happened last time –”
“We didn’t have battlecruisers last time,” I said.
“Boone, get to our mining station on Bkhar Ro,” Jim ordered. “Get the workers to work double time.”
“They’ll complain,” Boone warned.
“Better them complaining than me,” Jim said. “Commander, head up the strike force on Antiga Prime. I’ll lead the assault on the Ruins.” The Ruins were an obsession for him, I knew, and having to retreat from there last month was eating him up. I knew he would want to take that job on himself.
I started shaking as I strapped myself into the dropships. I did not want to face that wormhole again, to land in that mineral patch again, to face the swarms – but I steeled my nerves and gave the order to move out.
Again we steered wide around the Zerg base and came down on the mineral patch. “Battlecruisers,” I said into the radio, “power the secret weapon.” They did, and their hulls began to glow red with the energy. “On my mark,” I said.
Our scanners picked up a Queen emerging from the woodwork. The hydralisk battalion had returned and were storming toward our infantry. “Wait – wait – FIRE!”
There was a blinding flash of red light and turbulence in the air as the Yamato Cannons released. A squadron of mutalisks had burst onto the scene. Now they were completely gone, turned into wisps of vapour by the awesome power of the weapon.
On the ground, our infantry were battling their hydralisks with neither side able to come out ahead. The battlecruisers would not have the energy to fire again for awhile, and until then they would be sitting ducks. I weighed my options and ordered a retreat. Our forces settled on the Vespene fields of Antiga Prime, in perfect position to assault the Zerg base next month.
Once the retreat was secure, I made contact with Raynor. He had evacuated headquarters just before the mutalisk squadron descended and destroyed it. He arrived at the Ruins, took it easily, and built a base there to prepare for the counterattack.
The Zerg sent some scourge after Jim’s air force, but the wraiths cloaked and got away just as the scourge were detonating. Firebats shooting out from bunkers were able to hold off the rest of the Zerg assault.
Score: Raynor 13, Overmind 12
I was elated after hearing of Jim’s success, but there was still work to be done. The Zerg base on Antiga Prime, their main staging ground in the sector, had to be destroyed.
I ordered my troops onward, a little apprehensive. Zerg bases are living organisms and it’s always unsettling to gaze upon a slimy, pulsating creature spanning several city blocks.
But this creature was dead.
There were no zerglings, no hydralisks, nothing. The base itself seemed to have committed suicide. We wandered through its shrivelled remains and wondered where the defenders had gone.
A few days later, Raynor and Boone joined me on Antiga Prime. “The same thing happened with the Zerg base on Torus,” Raynor reported, “and the Mutalisk squadron that trashed our headquarters on Halcyon has disappeared too. The Zerg have abandoned the sector.”
“But why?” Boone asked.
“The Ruins,” I said. “The people started coming to our side. They stopped seeing us as ex-Confederates. They realized that we’re capable of fighting the Zerg, of defending their holy sites, of rebuilding their homes.”
“The resistance movement on Antiga Prime quadrupled since you vaporized those mutalisks,” Jim continued. “It stretched the Zerg resources even thinner. The governor of Bkhar Ro declared for us and offered us the full power of her militia and her production facilities. The Overmind knew it could not keep up.”
“And Torus?” Boone asked.
“Ever since we reclaimed the Ruins, people have been flocking there, begging to enlist.”
“So the Overmind abandoned the sector!” I exclaimed. “We defeated the Zerg!”
But Jim just shook his head. “We reached the crucial time and won our local support before it was too late. Another month or two and we would have lost the Ruins again, possibly for good. The Zerg on Antiga Prime may have held out awhile longer. And we never would have reclaimed Halcyon. No, the Overmind is far from beaten. It is just tired of fighting over ruins against increasingly high odds. It’s shifting its forces. It will soon attack a city where humans still live, mark my words.”
“This is still a victory worth celebrating,” Boone protested.
“Not for me,” Jim said, grim as ever. “Commander, see if you can contact Mengsk. I’ll search for Tassadar. They might know where the Overmind will strike next.”
Final Score: Raynor 14, Overmind 13 [Two “The End Draws Near” cards were drawn.]
Note: This was a game between me and my roommate, who was playing for only the 2nd time; it was my 6th game. I played the Zerg and lost. I never truly recovered from the disaster of the first turn, when I lost 4 units to two splash damage cards. Nonetheless, the game ended up extremely close and I almost pulled off the victory.
Sweet Report! Keep 'em coming!