Chapter 35: Starting the Assault
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A hellion came to a stop in the middle of the Cindia desert. The door of the vehicle opened, and Athena climbed out with shaking legs.

“You good, sir?” Several other hellions stopped beside Athena, and one of the drivers asked, somewhat concerned.

Athena simply waved her hand and steadied herself.

Since Prison 09 was located in a desert, Athena went with the Terran hellion as a method of transport. As a rapid reconnaissance and skirmish vehicle, the hellion had a greater speed than most Decima civilian vehicles that Athena could find. It was also relatively more armored compared to civilian vehicles. There was just one problem…hellions only had a single seat, which meant Athena had to drive herself.

Luckily for her things weren’t as difficult as she feared, and it wasn’t like there were many things in the desert to crash into. With the other four hellions as escorts, she managed to find her way near the prison in one piece. If she got closer to the prison, she risked triggering potential proximity sensors that would likely be there.

As she recovered, Athena connected to the changelings inside the prison and instructed them to give her any new information they collected about the base.

The changeling that took the form of the girl reported that it had been taken to a heavily guarded underground containment area where a large number of other experiments were kept. She alone countered over 50 of them. On the way to the area, she was escorted by entire squads of heavily armed soldiers. All the other experiments were kept in what the changeling believed were reinforced glass tubes. There was some liquid in the tubes that were likely keeping the experiments dormant.

The changeling was put into one of those tubes as well, but it was still very much awake in the same way that the tranquilizer darts it was hit with back in Terrin didn't actually knock it out. Zerg units, as masters of bio-engineering, were much more resilient to things like poison than one would expect. Even when the Terran Dominion experimented on the Zerg, they had to use physical restraints instead of any tranquilizer or poison. Once the restraints were breached, the Zerg would immediately start killing once again.

The other changelings posing as the townspeople were also taken to their cells, but Athena sensed that their cells were one floor, maybe two, above that of the experiments. These changelings reported seeing maybe two dozen other prisoners in the cells.

As expected, the security measures that these changelings witnessed were much weaker than what the first changeling experienced. The guards that escorted them weren’t in armor, likely because armor would be unnecessary against unarmed prisoners and would needlessly slow them down in tight corridors. They were also equipped with handguns and shock batons instead of rifles and machine guns. Even the cells themselves were mostly composed of steel bars and walls. These measures were enough to keep in terrified civilians or even hardened criminals, but they were vulnerable to changelings.

Athena quickly summoned Rum and Vodka. She paused briefly before also summoning the Zerg queen. She would need to use Zerg units in the upcoming battle, and the Zerg queen could help her coordinate things.

“Ah, my Queen.” The queen’s talons clicked together in excitement after being summoned by Athena again for the first time in months. “It is good to serve you again.”

“Yeah, good afternoon to you too.” Athena shrugged at the queen who she had yet to name. “Before we begin…any chance you’ve got a name?”

“Negative, my queen.”

Athena sighed. She had never been one for names. She glanced at Rum and Vodka, both of whom were looking at the Zerg queen nervously, before turning back to the queen. “Well, since we’ve got Rum and Vodka here…how about Kir?”

“As you command, my queen.” The queen, Kir, simply nodded her armored forehead, not really caring too much about the name.

“Now that that’s settled…” Athena proceeded to explain the basic situation to the queen and the two marines before moving on to her plan.

“This facility is keeping most of its important features underground. It is a smart idea against traditional human forces, but it makes these features prime targets for my roaches. Kir, you will direct the roaches to approach the facility from underground and attack the floor where they keep their experiments. Once you breach that area, destroy the containment cells holding the experiments.”

“As you command, my queen.” Kir nodded before glancing at Vodka and Rum. “The roaches will make short work of these experiments. They will not stand a chance against us.”

Athena raised her eyebrows at Kir. Kir was likely correct in her assessments if all the experiments were similar to the girl. The tough armor of the roaches would make the claws of the experiments almost useless. If the experiments tried to melee, the roaches could cut them into pieces with ease. Even the strong acid of the roaches could likely halt the rapid regeneration of the experiments.

That being said, it was interesting that the Zerg queen was mocking the Terrans. This was the first time she summoned units from two different races at the same time, and it seemed like they were hardly friends.

“I don’t want you to kill the experiments. Not yet.” She shook her head. “Once you set these experiments loose, I want the roaches to retreat into the ground and let the experiments fight the guards, and maybe each other. If this base is as heavily defended as I think, we will need all the help we can get.”

“Turning your enemies against each other. Wise call, my queen.”

“At the same time, the Terran forces will attack the defenders head-on. This will force the defenders to stretch their forces in response.” Athena continued. “Meanwhile, the changelings in the underground cells right now will find a way to break out using the chaos. They will take the form of local guards and do what they do best. Infiltrate. Assassinate. Disrupt.”

“The final objective is to take this entire prison and gain access to any and all experiments and information contained here in this base. Any questions?”

Athena looked to the others. She knew they would all obey her orders, but she still wanted to get their input on her plan. If this operation failed, she would be the one paying the price for it.

“My queen,” Kir was the first to pose a question. “Since the changelings are already in the facility, is it possible for them to achieve your purpose through infiltration?”

She had a point. Athena didn't need the changelings to steal anything. All she needed was the changelings to get close to some samples, and that would likely be enough to unlock important structures for Athena. But Athena simply shook her head.

“The experiments are just one of the things I am after. Plus, changelings cannot steal memories, and even their process of assassinating and replacing guards is flawed. If they act by themselves, they will likely be discovered quite quickly. They need chaos and confusion to truly be dangerous, and our assault on the base with give them that chaos.”

“Commander, Adrianna had a point. This location is likely heavily defended.” Rum asked. “Even with infiltrators inside the facility, there is a chance we will fail to break through before enemy reinforcements arrive. What happens then?”

“I will place hellions and widow mines to watch out for enemy reinforcements. If it comes down to that, I will recall all Terran units and retreat. It will be very difficult for them to find a single hellion in this entire desert. I will deploy mines and additional hellions to cover my retreat if necessary. Meanwhile, the Zerg roaches and changelings will stay behind and try to access as many research samples and data as possible.”

“Very well.” Rum nodded. He was concerned Athena would get overzealous and throw everything she had at the base, only to be surrounded by reinforcements. It was good to see his commander was as careful as she had always been.

“My queen. I believe you currently have access to ravagers.” Kir asked.

“I do.”

“May I suggest you add some ravagers to the Terran forces launching the frontal assault? They will be quite effective when it comes to destroying enemy defensive structures and armored vehicles.”

“We don’t need your ravagers, Zerg.” Vodka snapped before Athena could answer. “Do you think we have never faced entrenched enemies before?”

“It is just a tactical suggestion, human,” Kir replied quietly. “We serve the same master. Do not place your hatred of my race over the greater good.”

Vodka scoffed but didn't say anything else.

“I will keep that in mind. If the Terrans encounter difficulties, I will deploy ravagers.” Athena agreed. “Now, if there is nothing else, let’s get ready to move.”

She entered the game and took a look at her available resources and units.

With the Terran, she had 60 marines, 25 marauders, 12 reapers, 5 hellions, and 5 widow mines.

With the Zerg, she had 1 queen, 10 zerglings, 13 roaches, and a number of overseers.

On top of that she currently had around 8,000 units of resources.

After some thought, Athena produced 20 more marauders to reinforce her existing Terran infantry forces, knowing they would likely take a number of casualties. This brought her resource count down to 4,000 units. Luckily, if things went well, the casualties resulting from this battle would help Athena recover some of her investments and produce even more units to throw into battle.

Area B. Floor -4.

A pair of Decima soldiers in Lance class power armor silently patrolled across the room, carefully examining each containment tube as they passed. Whenever one of them examined the electronic interface, the other would keep their tranquilizer gun aimed in the general direction of the test subject.

Usually test subjects were constantly kept dormant by the fluid inside the tubes, but from time to time something would go wrong, allowing the test subject to break free. It would be the job of the guards to knock them out again. Instead of using firearms, the guards were equipped with specialized tranquilizer guns that could knock most experiments out with multiple shots. It was usually enough to handle singular test subjects.

One of the guards just finished checking the status of one tube before looking up at the figure contained within. It was a young boy who couldn’t be older than the guard’s own son. Half of the boy’s head was missing, but it was still very much alive. The man sighed and turned to his comrade.

“Do you believe in an afterlife?”

“No. Why?”

“Well, if there is an afterlife, then people like us are definitely going to hell.”

The other guard sighed and stepped up to his friend. “Everything we do here, we do for the prosperity and security of our Kingdom. We do so our people will never be enslaved. Not by the Republic. Not by the Imperium. If that means we are going to hell when we die, then so be it.”

“For king and country.” The first guard scoffed and said sarcastically before turning to the other containment tube down the line. This time, it was a little girl in the tube.

The interface in front of the tube said Experiment Delta-3.

That was when the guards suddenly heard something. There was some odd noise coming from the concrete wall behind him. The guards initially thought the wall was somehow cracking under the weight of the structure, but the sound wasn’t that of something cracking. Instead, it was as if…as if someone was digging through the wall.

But…how could that be possible? They were deep underground! How...

One of the guards immediately activated his comms, but before he could say a single word of warning, the concrete wall suddenly burst open, and a creature that stood at least 2-meters tall burst into Area B. Before any of the guards could say a word, a spit of green acid showered the pair of guards.

As the two guards screamed and melted, more roaches entered Area B through several more breaches in the wall. One by one, they moved to the different containment tubes and started cutting through the reinforced glass with their blades. The glass was tough, but few materials could last long against the acid and the giant roach blades.

One by one, the experiments in the area were set loose. Some of them were similar to the girl, with extended claws and rotten, hardened skin. Some had fewer mutations. Others had more. One particular test subject used to be some breed of cat before several bone blades grew out of its back. Another test subject had an extremely enlarged upper body, including a pair of arms that looked like they belonged to a giant.

Most human forces here would be quite shaken by the sight, but the roaches really didn't give a damn about how these mutants looked. If anything, many Zerg units looked much more horrifying than these mutants. The volatile infested terran or the infested siege tanks, for example…

Interestingly, the freed test subjects never tried attacking each other. Many of them turned to the roaches and, after brief moments of consideration, wisely decided not to attack the two-meter-tall, heavily armored beasts that were clearly stronger than they were. Instead, guided by their remaining instincts to prey on the weaker lifeforms, they turned to a number of other guards across the floor who ran over after hearing the screams.

Soon, more screaming ensued. The guards were well armed and well trained, but there was only so much tranquilizer guns could do when two dozen mutants were dashing toward them.

For the next few minutes, the roaches continued to free every single test experiment in the area and send them loose against the guards on the floor. The entire time the sirens of containment breach were echoing through the floor, not that the roaches cared.

The changeling was among those freed as well. As she was let out of the test tube, the changeling quickly assumed the form of one of the two guards first killed by the roaches.

“For king and country.” The changeling whispered, testing his new voice before picking up one of the intact tranquilizer guns and heading out of the door.