Chapter 39: Item 1
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After the conversation with the doctor, Athena finally realized the reason why the Decima reinforcements were so damn slow. By their nature, secrecy often came at a cost. An endeavor as classified as Project Guardian would no doubt experience difficulties when it came to allocating and mobilizing resources. Every individual who would be dealing with the project, including the common guards and soldiers, had to be carefully vetted and heavily monitored. When news of the attack first arrived, the higher-ups were likely faced with a dilemma between not sending help and potentially losing the entire facility and sending help that might cause the entire project to be revealed to the Imperium and thereby lost. In reality, the base was already compromised and the project was already doomed to be exposed. This was a fact Doctor Vincent could see, but due to the destruction of the command center and the resulting delay of information, the Decima commanders failed to come to this conclusion in time to react correctly. Their mistaken belief that they were still in control of this facility kept them from acting in time.

In a sense, Athena pitied the Kingdom of Decima. They had a priceless research project that they devoted countless resources to over the span of decades, and the only way they could keep it was by hiding it the best they could. If the Imperium was made aware that its ally was in possession of such a powerful artifact and kept that a secret, the best outcome for the kingdom would be to hand over all research data and personnel to the Imperium and then hope to get some trivial compensation in return.

“Commander, I have retrieved several pieces of valuable information. The first is regarding the surveillance system of this base.”

“Go for it.” Back in the command center, Athena nodded.

“Retrieved security protocols suggest all surveillance footages are exclusively stored at a data server located on Floor -5 of this facility. There are no automatic upload systems in place due to security concerns. Only high-level officers of this facility have the authority to send data files to external locations. It seems like Colonel Will Rikers had sent surveillance footage of the roaches and the Terran infantry units to external locations before his death.”

“That is to be expected.” Athena nodded. “How about now?”

“I have acquired admin-level control of the entire facility, including all remaining surveillance devices and the data servers. What happens in this facility from now on will not reach the outside world.”

“Good,” Athena knew exactly what that meant. This provided a perfect opportunity for her to try out her newest combat unit.

She opened the game, glanced at the resource count, and was a little amazed by the number she saw. 30,880. A number higher than any bank she had saved up until this point. Most of the income came from dead researchers and guards. Others were likely provided to the test subjects killed.

At this point, the few remaining guards were no longer the issue. The main concern had become the test subjects she had the roaches unleash into the base. If time permitted, she wanted these test subjects killed to potentially unlock new Zerg structures. Roaches could easily kill most of these mutants in a fight to the death, but most mutants would often turn and run instead of engaging the roaches. Compared to the relatively slow roaches that also had trouble fitting into tight places, the zealots should be much more effective hunters.

The hefty price tag of 1,000 units of resource did make Athena pause a little, but after some thought, she quickly produced 5 zealots. So far all the Starcraft units she had produced were well worth their price. The zealots would likely be no different.

One by one, 5 Protoss zealots appeared in the Decima command center. They were each two to three meters in height, with a layer of shiny golden armor over their grey skin. Two psionic generators were attached to their arms, capable of transforming the natural psionic energy of the Protoss warriors into psionic blades that could cut through almost any material. Blue crystals, plasma shield generators, were attached to the chest area of their golden armor.

Athena’s eyes quickly landed on the braid-like objects attached to the back of the head of these Protoss. These objects, known as nerve cords, allowed Protoss to communicate with each other and share their emotions. In the lore, these nerve cords would eventually bring the Protoss a lot of trouble, not that Athena was too worried about that here.

“Executor.” The five Protoss warriors turned to Athena as soon as they appeared. The Protoss had no mouths and often relied on telepathic communication to talk to human beings. “How may we serve?”

As they spoke, Athena realized she shared a similar link with them as she did with the Zerg units. Most likely she wouldn’t be able to possess Protoss individuals the same way she could to Terrans. A little disappointing, but sometimes one had to satisfy with what they had.

Instead of explaining the details to the zealots herself, Athena gestured to Kir.

“Kir, I am sure you are familiar with the Protoss zealots. Work with them and terminate the remaining threats in this base as quickly as possible.”

“As you command.” Kir lowered her head submissively, but it was clear she wasn’t too happy about having to work with the Protoss. Still, she recognized this was the most efficient thing to do.

Like she told Vodka, they served the same master. It wasn’t like her Zerg units could accomplish this task more efficiently. The roaches were too slow and too big. Zerglings were faster, but they were fragile. There was no need to spam zerglings when zealots at the same cost could do better.

“To think we will have to fight side by side, Zerg...” One of the Protoss warriors expressed her dissatisfaction as well. Like Kir, she might go along with the collaboration due to Athena's orders, but she was not a fan.

Athena took a quick glance at the Protoss warrior. Fight side by side with the Zerg? Which era of the lore was this Protoss from? The entire Starcraft story was made up of different races teaming up with other races and killing their mutual enemies. Hell at one point Fenix even worked with Kerrigan to attack the Kel-Morians for their minerals. Protoss and Zerg, two ancient alien races, working together to rob a random Terran faction made up of pirates…that was a strange era indeed. Then again that collaboration really didn't end well for the Protoss…

Athena shook her head and turned her attention back to the matters at hand. As the Zerg queen and the Protoss zealots did their best to overcome their disgust and work with their sworn enemies, Athena turned back to the adjutant.

“What else?”

“While acquiring admin-level access to this facility, I have discovered a fail-safe device.” The adjutant slowly explained. “Buried below Floor -5 is a Decima tactical nuclear weapon capable of completely destroying this entire facility and everything within a 2-kilometer radius.”

Wait…nuclear weapon? Athena instinctively jumped a little. “Are you telling me there is a nuclear weapon under us right now?”

“Affirmative, commander. According to accessed documents, the weapon was only to be activated when the entire facility had been lost and a significant danger was posed to the Kingdom as a whole.”

“Then…why didn't the garrison activate it?” Even now Athena was shaking a little. If the garrison used the weapon before their defeat, no amount of roaches or marines would keep her from getting vaporized.

“The fail-safe required two passcodes, one from Doctor Vincent and another from Colonel Rikers, to be activated. This was to prevent any single individual from being compromised and destroying the entire project.” The adjutant explained. “It is possible there are others outside this facility who know the passcodes, but they need to be present in this facility and use designated terminals to activate the weapon.”

Athena silently took a breath of relief. The Decima defenders began losing the base when Colonel Rikers and most of his officers were assassinated by changelings. It seemed that the decapitation operation accidentally saved her life. Without the colonel’s passcode, Doctor Vincent couldn't activate the weapon on her own. With Athena’s forces pushing through quickly, the doctor also didn't have the time to contact the outside world through the designated terminals in the base capable of doing so. Something told Athena if the doctor could, she would gladly blow everything up without a second thought.

The Decima forces had a few tricks up their sleeves, but Athena's lightning strike made sure these tricks would never be put to use.

“And you have the weapon under your control now?”


“Great. I’m sure it will come in handy soon.” Athena nodded. “Now, the crystal in that vault. What have you learned about it?”

“Accessing data and forming summaries now…” The adjutant paused briefly before starting. “The crystal is labeled by the Decima researchers as Item 1. When Item 1 comes into close contact with biological lifeforms, the item exerts physical and psychological influence on the lifeforms.“

“The level of influence depends on the proximity to the item and the time exposed. In addition to going through various levels of physical mutations, the lifeforms will also become extremely aggressive and will attack any non-mutated lifeforms they encounter. The longer the lifeforms are exposed, the less intelligence they seem to retain, and the fewer self-preservation instincts they will have.”

“Tests suggest that this item’s influence applies to all biological lifeforms, including plants, animals, and human beings. Therefore it is imperative that the item be kept in secured vaults. Direct contact can only be done through mechanical tools. Item 1 can be separated into pieces, with the influence of each piece being roughly proportionate to its size.”

"The majority of the decades of research that had been performed under Project Guardian had been focused on using Item 1 to create super soldiers. This included various topics, some of which the project had made major progress in. For instance, the project was successful in developing ways to greatly extend the life of test subjects under the item's influence. The project was also able to design a number of countermeasures against the mutants. The tranquilizer serums were the only countermeasures that were mass-produced and incorporated. However, the project had run into major issues with creating individuals who can maintain their sense of self and follow commands after being irradiated by Item 1. This prevented the project from achieving its objective."

“Where did this crystal come from?” Athena asked curiously.

“According to highly classified documents only available to a handful of individuals, Item 1 was unearthed on 1-3, the third moon of Sierra Prime. Investigations were performed on the moon, but it is unclear how the item ended up there.”

“Ok…” Athena frowned. That wasn't too helpful. “And what exactly is this thing?”

“Unknown, but it has been hypothesized by Decima scientists that this crystal is related to Xeno Race Gamma, an ancient alien race whose ruins have been discovered in several star systems in the Chaos Sectors, including the Sierra System. This conclusion was reached by comparing the way the item influences test subjects to the limited information we know about technologies from Xeno Race Gamma. It is common knowledge among the science community that Gamma technologies often contain transmutation effects.”

Athena tapped her fingers on her chin thoughtfully. It was a well-known fact in this era that humanity wasn’t the first to reach the stars. There were many alien races, now referred to as Xeno Races, that came before mankind, and as far as everyone could see all these races have died out.

Some of these Xeno Races were much more famous than others. The most notable one was Xeno Race Alpha, the first alien race mankind encountered. Xeno Race Alpha had outposts on Mars, and it was by studying the remains of Xeno Race Alpha that allowed Dr. Callisto to invent the Callisto FTL Engines, and that in turn allowed mankind to rapidly spread through the galaxy. Many major technologies mankind developed in the last thousand years originated from scavenged alien technologies of Race Alpha.

Xeno Race Gamma was much more mysterious. If Athena’s memories served, even now, only a small number of abandoned temples and outposts have been attributed to Xeno Race Gamma. No one knew much about them. Who they were. How their societies worked. Even the understanding of how their technologies worked was extremely superficial. She had no access to artifacts related to Xeno Race Gamma, of course, but at least now she knew what to look for.

“Further hypothesis from the Decima researchers over the decades suggest that Item 1 may in fact be a weapon.” The adjutant continued drawing summaries from the downloaded data. “Item 1 itself may just be a small piece of a larger entity capable of exerting much greater influences over a much larger distance. If that is the case, the entity may be used on a planet-wide scale for extermination tasks.”

It took Athena a few seconds to realize what the adjutant meant, and that painted a haunting image in her head. An alien ship, maybe unmanned, drops one or more large blue crystals onto a planet. A large portion of the planet’s population immediately begins going through mutations, turning into resilient, fast, and deadly mutants that proceed to hunt down every unaffected person they can find while leaving other mutants untouched. Even if the planet survives, it will have lost significant portions of its population.

She didn't know how powerful these crystals could be, but the possibilities alone still made her grimace. If Xeno Race Gamma survived to this day and was hostile, then she would really need to get the Golden Armada out as soon as possible to have a chance of beating them.