Chapter 40: The Firstborn
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A Protoss zealot slowly made her way down a dark corridor in Area C. She was followed by another figure. A changeling who had taken the form of a Decima guard.

“This is the place.” The changeling said before pointing at a large room at the other end of the corridor. “One of us went missing in that armory.”

Changelings, despite being especially dangerous infiltrators, were hardly the toughest in a fair fight. Any armored human soldier aware of their identity could gun them down. Most mutants could kill them so much easier. Then again, when Kir scattered the remaining changelings across the base, she didn't expect them to take out the mutants. Their role was simply that of cheap scouts whose deaths would alert tougher combat units. Namely, Protoss zealots.

The zealot didn't bother replying to the changeling. She was a proud templar, and she wasn’t going to waste any more time talking to a Zerg abomination than what was absolutely necessary. Instead, she simply marched forward and entered one of the sub-armories of this facility.

Like with the lights in the corridor, the illumination devices in the chamber had also been destroyed, likely by mutants who preferred to hunt in the dark. The zealot was hardly affected by this. Instead of using basic senses to detect threats like a primitive, the Protoss templar scanned the entire armory with her psionic powers.

The next second, the templar turned to a column of Lance class power armors resting on mechanical racks on the other end of the armory. Her body transformed into a blur for a few microseconds before suddenly reappearing right in front of the storage racks. This was the zealot’s “charge” ability. By transforming their physical bodies into pure energy using their psionic powers, the melee-based zealots could quickly close the distance with enemy units.

Who needs ranged weapons when one can simply appear right next to the enemies and stab them with an energy blade?

In a fraction of a second after re-materializing, the zealot was already in motion. A psionic blade, a mixture of blue and white in color, took form above her right forearm, extending over 1.5 meters in length. The zealot immediately brought the blade down against one of the suits of armor.

The Decima Lance class armor was similar to the Imperial Champion class and the Republic A80 armor in that it was an expensive type of armor usually only equipped by the most elite units in the kingdom. It was much tougher than the armor used for infantry soldiers and marines. The lives of elite soldiers were worth the investment. None of that mattered. The psionic blade cut through the armor as if it was made of plastic. None of the steel and alloy delayed the blade for even an extra second.

After the initial strike, the zealot took a step back and examined her kill. In front of her, the two pieces of the severed armor fell onto the ground, revealing the bisected corpse of a mutant that had been hiding behind the armor. Unlike most test subjects in this facility, this one used to be some sort of four-legged animal. Judging by the blood on its claws, it had claimed a good number of victims, not that it mattered much to the zealot.

When the zealot first entered the armory, the mutant wisely decided to hide and wait for the zealot to leave instead of attacking the 2.5-meter-tall alien. Unfortunately, the zealot easily noticed her prey. The mutant didn't even have the time to realize what happened, much less try to escape, before being cut in half. This was why Athena deployed the zealots instead of the roaches. A roach would never be able to secure a kill so quickly.

The zealot marveled at her kill for a second. The Protoss society valued martial prowess above almost anything else. The Templars, the warrior caste of the Protoss, were highly respected compared to the much larger Khalai caste of scientists and builders that made up most of the Protoss population.

It was common for Protoss warriors to take souvenirs from their kills, but the zealot decided against it. Taking souvenirs from dangerous prey was honorable. Taking souvenirs from a foe that barely lasted a second in front of her? Nothing but a waste of time.

After scanning the armory again to make sure she didn't miss anything, the zealot retreated out of the armory and met up with the changeling acting as her liaison with Kir.

Under the instructions of the changeling, the zealot continued going through the halls and corridors of the base, slaughtering mutants lurking in the shadows with impeccable efficiency. Most mutants couldn’t last a single strike. None could last two.

Just as the zealot was getting bored, she finally encountered a prey that offered her some surprise.

After beheading another mutant with one extra arm for a human being, the changeling informed the zealot that she was to reinforce a Terran fire team near an elevator entrance that was assaulted by around two dozen Decima soldiers who were somehow still alive now against all odds. According to the changeling, the Terran soldiers reported something off with the Decima soldiers.

The zealot quickly realized what they meant when she arrived at the area and saw the forces assaulting the Terran position. The Decima soldiers were mechanically advancing onto the Terran position, wasting no time with taking cover. Several of them were brought down by the incoming fire, but most of those hit who had their bodies more or less intact simply ignored their injuries and kept on advancing. One of the Decima guards was dragging his intestines across the floor, but he didn't seem bothered by this at all.

As intimidating as this was, marching toward the enemy firing line really wasn’t a smart tactic. The Terrans these guards were facing was only a small squad, made up of four marines and one marauder, and even so, the Terrans had killed several guards while only taking some minor injuries. Any reinforcements could quickly obliterate these abnormal guards.

The zealot, true to her name, wasted no time sitting around. Instead, channeling her fury at enemies she only encountered seconds ago, the Protoss templar charged right into the squad of Decima guards. Two psionic blades materialized from the psi-blade focusers mounted on both of her forearms and were immediately put to use. The white and blue blades cut through the armored and unarmored guards alike with ease. Four guards were cut down in the first second. Some pieces of bodies were still moving after hitting the ground, but they were hardly a threat anymore.

The other guards opened fire on the zealot, but the zealot saw their move even before they were taken. She abruptly dodged to the side, avoiding most of the rounds and tanking the rest with her plasma shield. With a move so elegant that it almost felt like a dance, the zealot proceeded to dive into the middle of the guards. With a single swing, she cut down five more guards around her.

At the same time, a few ripples spread through a thin blue barrier that suddenly materialized behind the zealot. A few Gauss rounds had hit her plasma shield from the rear.

Primitive Terrans! The zealot scoffed inside but paid no attention to her allies. She didn't need their help to win this battle.

“Hold your damn fire!” A Terran marine serving as the squad leader of the small group of Terrans quickly called out to the others upon finally realizing what was going on. As his men paused shooting, the marine snapped back at the zealot and let out a scoff. “Where did the Protoss learn tactics? Who the hell charges right into our line of fire?”

“I guess that’s just how the Protoss do things. If I have an almost impenetrable shield and a sword that can cut through almost any material in the galaxy, I sure as hell won’t be bothering with a rifle and a combat shield.” A marine behind the squad leader shrugged. “At least it’s better to have them on our side than as our enemies.”

“No shit!” The squad commander replied. To be honest he wasn’t too sure what to do now. Terrans had next to no melee units. The closest equivalent they had were the firebats, and even then firebats weren’t exactly throwing themselves into the middle of enemies.

As the Terrans were still speaking, the zealot had beheaded the last hostile in the corridor, a female researcher in a bloody lab coat who had been fighting with a rifle she likely found from a fallen guard. As the researcher’s headless body hit the floor, the zealot picked up the severed head and examined it closely.

The next second, the mouth of the severed head suddenly opened, and a tiny insect, no more than a few inches in size, suddenly darted out of the orifice toward the zealot. The zealot simply stood there, unmoving, as the insect crashed right into the layer of plasma shield. That was when the zealot reached out and grabbed onto the insect with her right hand. She held the insect there for a few seconds, reaching into its mind and extracting all the information she needed, before crushing the insect in her grip.

“There is something in the head of these humans. Controlling them.” The zealot turned to the Terran squad and spoke to them for the first time. Instead of saying the exact sentences, the zealot created a telepathic impression in the mind of the Terrans that conveyed what she wanted to say. “Scour the remains for these pests and eradicate them at once!”

Before the Terrans could reply, the zealot turned and quickly moved toward the other end of the hallway. She had no intention of lingering around and chatting with these humans when an interesting prey was yet to be slain. Within seconds, she was out of the sight of the Terrans.

“You heard her.” The leading marine sighed and turned his attention to the corpses on the ground. Without hesitation, he lifted his armored boot and brought it down on the head of a dead Decima guard. Behind him, his squad members began doing the same to the other corpses.

The zealot was by no means their commanding officer, but the marine knew enough about Protoss warriors to know these aliens had powers that almost seemed like magic to normal human beings. Their best option was probably to do what they were told.

A minute later, in the command center, Athena was just making a few final preparations before getting ready to leave the base when she received another notification, this time for a Zerg structure that she really didn't expect to unlock so soon.

“Biological essence detected in close proximity to unit…”

“Analyzing essence…”

“Analysis complete. Essence overlaps with Zerg genetic sequences…”

“Zerg structure Infestation Pit has been unlocked…”

Wait…wait…what? Athena was a little caught off guard. What triggered this unlock? She quickly communicated with the five Protoss zealots who had been carrying out purging missions across the facility and soon narrowed things down to a female zealot who called herself Veyron.

After a few telepathic exchanges with Veyron, Athena was brought up to speed about what happened. It appeared like one of the remaining test subjects was some sort of insect. Its mutations were different from the claws and teeth of most test subjects. Instead, the test subject acquired the ability to asexually create offsprings that could then enter human beings via various orifices and control their bodies like a meat suit. This control seemed to be quite crude based on what the zealot saw, but the test subject and its offspring might have the potential to learn and evolve.

This all sounded terrifying, and if this test subject was allowed to enter a city and reproduce freely, it could do incalculable damage. Unfortunately, the test subject itself was much bigger than its offspring and was trapped in a section of the compound. It couldn’t control Zerg units for obvious reasons, and all Terran units were in fully sealed armor. The insects on their own were also quite fragile. This meant the test subject could only take over local guards and researchers. It then tried to assault the exit with its puppets in an attempt to break free.

Once again, unfortunately for the test subject, a Protoss zealot showed up, who proceeded to massacre all its children and then, by reading the mind of one of its offsprings, tracked down the test subject itself and exterminated it, ending a potential planet-wide disaster with relative ease and unlocking a new Zerg building for Athena in the process.

At this point, Athena was absolutely confident the Protoss zealots were well worth their cost of 1,000 units of resources each. Hell, even that cost seemed a bit low. In a Starcraft game, a zealot was a tanky melee unit that could still be killed with some firepower. Luckily for Athena, the zealots she summoned were zealots from the lore, and they were absolute beasts in combat.

Now onto the new Zerg structure…what was that again? Ah…the Infestation Pit. The building that enabled the production of Zerg swarm hosts and, of course, infestors, the nightmare fuel of the Zerg.