Chapter 38: Zealots
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The primary Protoss unit-producing structure, the gateway was equivalent to Zerg spawning pools and Terran barracks. By itself, the gateway enabled the production of Protoss zealots, the most basic of the Protoss combat units.

Zealots were Protoss melee warriors who would often charge head-on into enemy ranks and cut down every hostile unit they could see with their psionic blades. Their personal plasma shields could keep them safe against any and all threats, whether they were Terran bullets, Zerg claws and acids, or the blades of other Protoss. Most zealots were veteran warriors who had been fighting for decades, if not centuries. Even the most basic zealot was often more experienced in war than the most elite human soldier.

Back in the Korpulu Sector, a single Protoss zealot could carve through squads of Terran infantry and cut down hundreds of zerglings. Although this was indeed a testament to their strengths, it was also important to note that in the context of major conflicts, lost Protoss warriors were often impossible to effectively replace due to their low reproduction rates. On the other hand, Terran marines could be drafted en masse from brainwashed criminals and the Zerg could produce hordes of zerglings over the span of minutes.

Either way, when Athena heard the notification, she knew this entire assault had been worth it. There was little doubt that a few zealots would do wonders against fortified enemy positions or in close-quarter combat, especially against human forces who have only fought against other human forces before.

Zealots each cost a staggering 1,000 units of resources and 2 supplies.

“The crystal…” Athena turned to Kir. “Do you know what it may be?”

“No, my queen. The Swarm had never encountered anything like it before. My roaches have secured Floor -5. The remaining defenders on those levels have been slaughtered. We have taken the overseer of this site, Doctor Arya Vincent, alive in her office. We may be able to find some answers from her.”

“Well done.” Athena nodded and turned to tap her earpiece. “Rum. Everything going well?”

“Yes sir. We have routed the defenders.” On the other end, Rum replied as he watched a few marauders blast several flamethrower turrets into pieces. “However we have taken a lot of casualties. I don’t believe we will have the numbers to clear this entire building.”

Athena silently calculated her remaining forces. Her roaches were mainly focused on Floors -5 and -4. Her Terran infantry forces have lost a large portion of their numbers. She had received a lot of resources since the fighting began, but instead of spending them on Terran or Zerg units, she had something else in mind.

“Just hold the stairs and elevators for now. Keep the remaining mutants trapped in this building.” She ordered before turning to Kir and a handful of marines serving as her bodyguards. “Let’s head for the command center.”

Before she left the terminal, Athena frowned and turned to the adjutant again.

“Any updates on the Decima reinforcements?”

“Decrypted communications seem to suggest that Decima reinforcements will not arrive in the near future, commander.”

“That doesn't make any sense,” Athena whispered to herself. "Is that information credible?"

"Affirmative, commander. The messages were highly encrypted and were directed to the leadership of this facility. The local garrison was instructed not to expect additional resources."

Athena frowned. This was indeed a surprise attack, but this facility was located in the capital world of the Kingdom of Decima! How long had it been since the fighting began? Ten minutes at least? This was a top-secret research facility! How the hell was the reaction so slow?

It was unlikely the leadership was lying to the commanders at this facility. Why would they lie? Whether help would arrive soon was closely associated with the tactics of the defenders.

It was indeed odd, but the hellions and widow mines Athena put around the perimeter didn't detect anything either. It looked like help was indeed a distance away.

With these questions in her head, Athena made her way to Floor -5. As soon as the elevator door opened, she took a step back, a little disgusted.

As the most important level in this facility, Floor -5 was defended by two full platoons of guards. When seven roaches suddenly burst through the walls near the command center, the nearest platoon did its best to put up a fight.

To their credit, they did remarkably well given the terrible situation they found themselves in. They initially attempted to use tranquilizer guns and automatic rifles on the roaches. When both weapons proved to be useless, the remaining forces turned to machine guns and rocket launchers. Unfortunately, the deck was stacked against them. Without heavier artillery, armored, and air support, the guards had little chance of repelling the heavily armored Zerg beasts.

Within two minutes, the seven heavily armored roaches had torn through the guards. Some guards were melted alive by showers of green acid. Others were mauled to death by the roach blades. Some roaches simply charged through the tight corridor, using their thick armor and large size to crush every single guard in their path. True to their names, the roaches were extremely difficult to kill. Single grenades and rockets could only leave minor injuries on them. Repeated hits could threaten their lives, but all these roaches had to do was bury themselves underground and wait until their bodies rapidly healed.

The first platoon took down one roach, killing it with several rockets before it could burrow itself and heal. The second platoon, further away from where the roaches showed up and much more prepared than the first, killed two more roaches. Still, the entire floor soon fell under the control of the Zerg.

Doing her best to ignore the hallway of gore and carnage, Athena entered the command center. Her eyes landed on the corpse of a man in the uniform of a Decima colonel. If she wasn’t mistaken, this was Colonel Rikers, the commander of the local garrison. A good tactician whose skills were rendered meaningless when a changeling blew him up with a grenade.

She approached one of the computer terminals.


“Bypassing security protocols now…Estimated time until data retrieval…6 minutes. Confirmed. This terminal has access to all local databases.”

“Good. You know the drill. Download everything you can. Inform me whenever you find something you deem important.”

“Understood. Proceeding.”

“In the meantime…” Athena closed her eyes and took over the body of a marine as a part of her escort. “Let’s go pay this Doctor Vincent a visit.”

Using the marine as an avatar, Athena walked out of the command center and made her way down the hallway, the steel boots of the marine coming down heavily against the floor. She found her way to a door surrounded by at least a dozen dead Decima guards.

Inside the office, in addition to two Zerg roaches standing guard, sat a woman in a white lab coat with several spots of red blood. She looked like she was around 40 years old, but in this new era, there were plenty of rejuvenating treatments that could help make people look a lot younger than they actually were. It was impossible to tell her actual age just from her appearance.

There was a glass cup on the desk in front of the woman. It was half empty.

The doctor had been staring thoughtfully at one of the roaches. Instead of being bothered by the hideous beast, she almost seemed intrigued.

“Doctor Vincent,” Athena said quietly as she shut the door behind her. “You’re still here, doctor.”

To be honest, she was quite surprised to hear that the doctor made no attempt to flee. It was odd, considering an evacuation order had been placed and many other researchers have escaped this compound via secret exits that Athena didn't have the time or the resources to block. If the doctor wanted to run, she could easily escape while Athena was still busy dealing with the guards. As the facility's overseer, she would no doubt be high on the list of priorities.

“Obviously.” Doctor Vincent scoffed as she briefly pulled her gaze away from the roach to examine Athena’s avatar. “I would ask who you are, what you are doing here, and what these xenomorphs are, but I suppose it doesn’t matter anymore. What’s done is done." She paused. "If you’re here to try to extract information from me or to get me to work for you, don’t bother.”

Athena watched in silence as the doctor took another drink. There was a level of despair in the woman's voice. A level of despair that Athena found a little odd.

“I have no such intentions,” Athena replied. “I simply have a few curiosities that I hoped you would answer.”

This was more or less true. Her physical body had to stay in the command center for a few minutes, which was why she was taking the time to come see the doctor. If she could learn useful information from the doctor, great. If not, no big deal. The encrypted local databases likely contained any information the doctor knew and more.

Doctor Vincent silently picked up the glass bottle and chucked it at one of the Zerg roaches. The glass bottle shattered upon making contact with the armored head of the beast. The roach let out a growl but didn't move. Doctor Vincent, both surprised and amused, turned back to Athena.

"What do you want to know?”

“For starters, why are you still here?”

“I could have ran, like all the others, but what would be the point?” The doctor sighed, “After what happened today, this project is finished. Maybe we will get the containment breach under control eventually. Maybe we won’t. It doesn’t matter at this point. Most of the researchers who have been working on this project for decades are dead. All the test subjects are set loose and will likely have to be terminated. It will take years to get things back online, and we don't have years. It will just be a matter of time before this planet, and what is left of this project, falls to the Imperium. In the past, we were able to hide this project from all outsiders. It was the only way we could keep this project, but now? The IIA's presence is strong on this planet. With all that had happened, I won't be surprised if the Imperium takes over this facility tomorrow.”

“Even if the Imperium prevails, you will keep your position,” Athena noted. The Imperium was ruthless, but it wasn’t stupid. Perhaps a few officials who knew about the project would be executed, but irreplaceable senior researchers? Not a chance. The doctor would likely be put under heavy surveillance, but Athena doubted she had much personal freedom working for the Kingdom of Decima.

“Indeed. For most researchers, funding is funding. In fact, I'm sure many of the employees in this facility are perfectly fine with the Imperium claiming victory over their own nation and taking over this project." Doctor Vincent scoffed. “But unlike them, I didn't join this program to make myself rich. Or to further science. Believe it or not, I joined this project all those years ago because I believed our world, our nation, deserved more than being just a client state, a subordinate, of the Venya Imperium. I believed we deserved to be an equal, if not more.”

The doctor paused. “But equality is based upon force, and an ant will never have the chance to be equal to a lion. We will never achieve our independence without real power. This project…it was meant to propel our nation into greatness. It was my duty to make this happen, and yet…I have failed. I have lived my whole life around this program. It is only fitting that I die with it. I suppose I could’ve fled and lived my life as a prisoner of the Imperium, or I could’ve gone into hiding, but what would be the point?”

“Equality? Independence? How noble of you.” Athena whispered. “It’s all for the greater good of the kingdom, isn’t it? I wonder if the people you used as lab rats will agree with you.”

She didn't go to the experiment areas herself, but she received feedback from Zerg units that gave her a brief idea of how bad things were. Whatever their motive was, the researchers had committed countless inhumane atrocities in this facility.

“Science has its price.” The older woman admitted, but there was little regret in the doctor’s voice. “If we were afraid of sacrifices, we never would have made it off Earth all those centuries ago. Most of the test subjects used here were death roll prisoners who were going to be executed regardless. Others were volunteers from the Legions who knew what was at stake.”

“And the others? Experiment Delta-3. She didn't look like a death roll prisoner or a soldier.”

“As I said, science has its price.” Doctor Vincent simply repeated.

Athena observed Doctor Vincent. She didn't know if the doctor was telling the truth or not, but her actions seemed to have lined up with her words. She truly did believe her actions, no matter how horrific they were, were selfless and for the greater good of her nation. It didn't change what she did, but it still somewhat took Athena by surprise.

At the same time, this was never a war of justice and righteousness. Athena didn't attack this facility because it was conducting inhumane experiments or kidnapping civilians. She attacked this base simply because she hoped it would help her unlock new Protoss and/or Zerg technologies. Her goals here were entirely for her own self-interest. Plus, it wasn’t like she was in a position to take the moral high ground. She had hurt and killed so many people to keep herself alive. Some were combatants. Others weren’t. She did what she thought was necessary to protect herself and those she cared about. She hardly considered herself a saint.

“Why here?” Athena moved on from the morality of the program and asked a strategic question that Adrianna first brought up. “Why set up this facility in your capital world? Instead of…perhaps a remote space station?”


“Secrecy?” Athena frowned.

Doctor Vincent was being oddly patient. Perhaps she hoped to delay Athena for long enough until reinforcements arrive. Perhaps, with nothing else to lose, she was just feeling talkative.

“Even if we use a remote space station, we will still need to send ships to and from that location to transport supplies and prisoners. Sooner or later people will start asking questions. This level of attention will be dangerous. Such an operation will also require a lot more people to be involved, and every extra person involved is another potential source of information leaks. If the coordinates of the station get leaked, the station is going to be as good as lost.”

She saw the confusion on Athena’s face and decided to clarify.

“The Kingdom has no ability to resist the full might of Imperium or the Republic on its own. Our only chance in the event of an invasion is to rely on another galactic superpower, who will likely want our research for themselves. The only way we can keep the research for ourselves is by making sure no one knows we have it in the first place, and this means making sure as few people know about this as possible. To that end, a prison like this one helps justify the supplies and prisoners. No one will bother with asking too many questions about how murderers and rapists died.”

Athena silently nodded to herself. The staff that kept this prison up and running was just over a thousand. A starship, even a transport, would likely need a crew of at least several times that number to function. Add in the ships that would need to protect the space station and the other links on the supply chain, and there were so many more spots where things could go wrong.


“The Kingdom of Decima has a population of what…tens of billions? Is it that difficult to find tens of thousands of trusted loyalists?”

“Loyalists?” Doctor Vincent scoffed again. “For most people, there is a price to loyalty. For the common guards or researchers, their options are to do their duties and get a good paycheck, or betray the Kingdom to, say, the Imperium. If they do that, the Imperium will likely reward them handsomely. If they’re lucky, they may end up being the Lord of their own planet and the governor to tens of millions of people. Even for those we have carefully vetted, their loyalty may not be as valuable to them as we may think.” She snickered a little as she said those words. It seemed like the doctor was speaking from personal experience.

There was a sudden pause as Athena briefly returned to her own body and received some updates from the adjutant. It seemed like the adjutant had come up with some important information for her, and more likely than not this conversation had to be cut short.

“There is a blue crystal stored in a secure vault on Floor -4. What is it?” She abruptly asked. “Where did it come from?”

Doctor Vincent’s eyebrows visibly darkened, and she simply shook her head and refused to answer the question. She was willing to answer a few trivial questions that no longer mattered to the bigger picture, but she wasn’t going to give out sensitive information like that.

“Fair enough.” Athena nodded, unsurprised.

Without another word, and not too sure what to do with the doctor, she turned and left the office with the avatar and then quickly returned to her own body.