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Athena stood in front of Doctor Vincent’s office. She hesitated for a few seconds before pushing the door open and walking in.
The situation inside the office was still more or less the same as it was when Athena’s avatar left the room. There were two roaches present, still watching over a somewhat drunk Doctor Vincent. The woman looked up at Athena, frowning a little at the new face.
“I suggest you people just shoot me here and get it over with.” The doctor sighed. “I told you, I won’t help you. I guess you can try torturing me, but will you really trust the scientific information extracted by torture?”
Athena stared at the doctor for a few seconds. The doctor frowned. “Did I say something funny?”
“No.” Athena simply replied. “I’m sorry, doctor.”
“For what? Destroying this project?”
“For what I am going to do to you.”
The next second, a large Zerg creature materialized behind the doctor. Its body was covered by hardened plates of mold and fungus. Like all Zerg units, it had several large claws and a few too many eyes for most people to be comfortable with. However, it had a few other distinguishing features. Features like the multitude of mouths that were abnormally large, even for the Zerg. Features like the thick flesh cavities to the rear of the monster’s body.
It was a Zerg infestor. A newly produced one, in fact.
Before the doctor could turn and see what was behind her, a stinger extended from the upper body of the infestor and stabbed into the doctor’s back. The appendage easily penetrated the lab coat and the flesh before burying itself into the doctor’s central nervous system.
“What the…” Just as the doctor began feeling the pain, the infestor’s stinger was retracted. It had done its job.
“What did you do to me?” Doctor Vincent was never able to turn around to see what was behind her. Almost immediately, she began losing control over her own body. Her limbs no longer obeyed the commands of her brain. Her efforts to stand up from her seat only resulted in her falling over and collapsing on the ground.
For the first time, fear crept onto the doctor’s face. She was ready to die with Project Guardian, but something told her that wouldn’t be her fate. Her trembling hands raced to the back of her neck where she felt the sharp pain, but whatever was done to her was already complete.
As the doctor struggled in agony, Athena began talking.
“When you can, leave this facility through one of the emergency exits. You will no doubt be brought back to high-ranking Decima commanders to answer for what happened here. You should know what to say and what not to say. Your superiors won’t be happy, but they won’t do anything to you. I have seen your files. You are an expert in the technologies of Xeno Race Gamma. You are impossible to replace.”
Doctor Vincent was confused. What was this young lady saying? Did…did this young woman think she would work for her? She must be delusional! The doctor wanted to speak, to mock the young woman for her foolishness, but she couldn’t. Her head felt heavy. Something was wrong with her…
“Sooner or later, the Imperium will win this war. After that happens, I want you to find a way to defect to the Imperium as a researcher. Again, they will keep you under heavy surveillance, but they will have use for an expert like you. Join them. Work your way up their ranks and get access to as many alien technologies and artifacts as possible.”
On the ground, the doctor had ceased struggling. Slowly, the woman stood back up. There was an odd look in her eyes. She opened her mouth, and the words that came out were hardly what one would expect from the doctor.
“For…for the Swarm…”
She was no longer Doctor Vincent. At least not entirely.
Unlike zerglings and roaches, infestors were designed as a support unit. As a type of Zerg, it had some offensive capabilities, but its primary strengths lay not in its ability to kill the enemies of the Swarm directly on the battlefield, but in its talent of turning enemy soldiers, usually Terrans, into weapons of the Swarm that would then be unleashed against their former comrades.
One of the infestors’ abilities was to spread the Zerg hyper-evolutionary virus among human populations. This highly infectious disease could take over any living organism, permanently changing them into monstrous slaves who would fight for the Swarm against all its enemies. Hell…this disease could even take over Terran vehicles, aircraft, and ships. If measures weren’t taken quickly, this virus could easily tear through entire worlds or even star systems. The infestor itself could devour and infect individual Terrans. When dealing with human settlements, the infestor would plant virophages that would continuously spread the virus as long as they remained intact. The only way for the settlements to survive was by destroying the virophages.
This was honestly a little similar to the effects of Item 1, although each had its strengths and weaknesses. The Zerg virus needed time to spread while the crystal’s influence seemed to be instant, but at the same time, this meant the Zerg virus could cover more ground through its patients without being detected immediately. The Zerg virus could also affect mechanical vehicles and starships, turning them into creatures of nightmares.
Athena had no intention of ever spreading this virus despite the fact that it would be extremely useful against unprepared human factions. There were war crimes, and then there was the virus.
The other ability of the infestors, and the one that Athena just used on Doctor Vincent, was the neural parasite, a Zerg organism that could latch onto its victim’s central nervous system and control its victim's mind and body by force.
From what Athena was informed by the first infestor she built, there were several types of neural parasites the infestor could produce. Some parasites could only control their targets for a while before expiring. These parasites often take over the hosts by overriding their control over their limbs. They didn’t cost a lot of energy for the infestors to use.
On the other end of the spectrum, there were parasites that could last as long as the hosts they were latched onto. This type of parasite was a lot more draining for the infestors, but they were extremely useful when dealing with high-value targets like Doctor Vincent. Victims of this type of parasite would be permanently under the control of the Swarm. Their memories would be altered and edited by the parasite to ensure their loyalty to the Swarm.
To add to the horror factor, infestors could move and use their abilities while underground, allowing them to strike while their victims were under the false impression that they were safe.
Overall, the infestor was a terrifying unit, and its cost reflected its power. Each infestor cost Athena as much as 5,000 units of resources and 3 supplies. As spellcasters, they also needed some time to recover after using their abilities.
The permanent type of neural parasite, for example, could only be used once every three days. That, combined with the expensive cost of the infestors, meant Athena couldn’t go around mind-controlling everyone she came across…not that she had any intention of doing so.
Even as Athena looked at the mind-controlled doctor, she could feel a sense of disgust from the bottom of her stomach. This felt…wrong. Make no mistake. Doctor Vincent, whatever her motivations, was a terrible human being who authorized the torture and execution of countless people, innocent or not, but this? Taking over her body and mind alike and turning her into a slave who no longer had any sense of free will? A slave who would obey any order from her new master, no matter how sadistic or depraved? This was a fate worse than death. A fate that Athena didn't really wish upon her worst enemies.
For a brief second Athena contemplated giving an order to the doctor to terminate herself, but ultimately logic prevailed. She couldn’t afford to simply kill the doctor. The potential benefits the doctor could give her were too much to give up.
The doctor suddenly reached inside her mouth and pulled out something small.
"What's that?" Athena frowned.
"A suicide pill that contains a neurotoxin capable of killing a person in 10 to 20 seconds. The pill is designed to only release the toxin when its surface is pierced by force. It can remain inside the human mouth for half an hour without melting." Doctor Vincent replied quietly. "I was going to use it if I was interrogated or about to be moved."
“Oh.” Athena raised her eyebrows. So this was why the doctor was so relaxed. Anyone who actually tried to extract information from the doctor by force would soon find themselves with a useless corpse. If the doctor wasn't executed by the intruders, she was ready to do it herself. Luckily, after the neural parasite, suicide was no longer the doctor's intention, at least not when suicide couldn't benefit the Swarm. "Do you remember what I told you?"
"Yes, my Queen."
"Good. Go. Carry out your mission. If you can, report to me the reactions from the Decima leadership about this incident, but focus on your main objective." Athena gestured at the door, “I can sense you. Update me regularly on your progress."
“As you command.”
Doctor Vincent turned and headed out of her own office. In a sense, she was still the doctor. She was still the same woman who loved the Kingdom of Decima enough to spend her whole life in a lab working for its prosperity, but now there was something else that was at the top of her priorities. She was now an agent of the Zerg Swarm, and that came above anything else. If it was the will of the Swarm that the Kingdom burns, then so be it.
Athena sighed. It was her time to leave this prison as well. All the valuable data had been downloaded by the adjutant. Most, if not all, of the mutants had been slaughtered by the Protoss zealots. The guards and the researchers were all dead. The much-delayed Decima reinforcements were likely on the way here.
She quickly issued a command for all units to gather at a spot in the prison so she could recall all of them into the game.
As she did this, the two roaches and the infestor in the office received this command as well. The roaches chose the quickest path and attempted to dig their way through another wall. Athena summoned them back into the game first. By the time she turned around to deal with the infestor, the infestor had already barged through the wall and dragged its enormous body into the hallway.
Athena exited the office and walked into the hallway just in time to see the Zerg infestor casually shove the dead body of a Decima guard into its sizable mouth as it continued moving toward the designated location.
“Ok, what the actual fuck…” Athena snapped at the infestor in disgust. She could still see pieces of the guard's head out in the open, and for a second even a veteran like her wanted to vomit.
The infestor tapped the floor innocently and sent a psychic message to Athena. Infestors could store infested humans inside their bodies and spit them out during combat, and humans didn't have to be alive to be infested. It was simply getting itself some ammo by devouring the bodies on the ground.
Athena sighed again and immediately recalled the infestor back into the game without bothering with another word.
As she returned all the units back into the game, Athena briefly counted her gains and losses.
In this entire battle, the Terran forces took the heaviest casualties, losing half their marines and marauders and all but three of the reapers. The Zerg lost three of its thirteen roaches during the storming of the lowest floor. The five Protoss zealots were entirely unscathed. Protoss units by themselves couldn’t recover from their injuries at all, but at the same time, their plasma shields could automatically recharge after taking damage.
While there were losses, the gains were more than enough to justify the investment. The resources she collected from the battle alone reached over 27,000 units. She also unlocked two new structures and three new combat units.
The strength of the zealots and the infestors was already well demonstrated. Swarm hosts, in Athena’s opinion, were not as powerful as infestors. Their lower cost of 2,000 units of resources each also reflected that. That being said, every unit had its use.
Swarm hosts were siege units designed to wear down enemy fortifications with a constant stream of cheap, expendable locusts. Athena doubted she would be fighting a drawn-out siege of attrition in the near future, but there would be a time when the swarm hosts would shine.
There was also the priceless knowledge she learned about Item 1 and Project Guardian. All the data had been downloaded by the adjutant. Hell…if Athena really wanted cash, she could find a way to auction this information off to the highest bidder. A lot of people would pay a hefty price for decades of research by a system-spanning empire.
Before Athena finally left Prison 09, Athena had the adjutant set the nuclear weapon to be triggered after a certain amount of time. The purpose was simple. She couldn’t bring Item 1 with her. Well…maybe she could, but she had to take serious risks in doing so. According to the research records, transporting Item 1 and its fragments could only be done with relative safety via specialized containment boxes, and even then there were numerous times when the influence of Item 1 still reached the carriers with methods the Decima researchers never understood. Even if she could move the item safely, Athena also didn't have the research personnel to really do anything with the item as of now. At the same time, she also didn't want the research at this facility to be recovered by the Kingdom of the Decima or the Venya Imperium. It was simply best for everything to burn.
In addition, there was also a lot about Athena’s units that could be learned by anyone who examined what was left in the base. It was only fitting that the nuclear weapon put in place to be used as the final line of defense be instead used to make sure no one found out the details about what actually happened to the defenders.
Aww. I was kind of hoping she would use a protoss probe to joink the crystal and then just keep it the hell away from everything inside the game.
Should we be worried about radioactive item 1 dust? I mean fragments are weaker than the whole, but does that mean a lesser change, or the same change taking longer?
@Golanth i am pretty sure the probe can isolate the sample while holding it in a forcefield. Should not be a problem.
Athena had no intention of ever spreading this virus despite the fact that it would be extremely useful against unprepared human factions.
It occurred to me that Zealots, the chrapest unit in the protoss arsenal, costs dozens of humans lifes. A small squad of protoss trash, costs about the same as a small village. Scaling that up to a carrier, or lord forbid, a mothership. Athena may very well have to cull a few planets for her dream of the golden armada.
The infestor tapped the floor innocently and sent a psychic message to Athena
It's so adorable!
Like a kitten bringing its owner a dead mouse or squirrel, all innocent.
The juxtaposition of the infestor messily gobbling up mutilated corpses and then doing a little tappy tap is beautiful.
Yasss. Infestors really are absolute horror material in a real world setting, like most Zerg actually~.
Most Sci-fi sh*t in general.
An early chapter?! Yeeesssss.
I like how the horror of the infestor was covered, very terrifying. I also like that the detail of consuming human corpses to become infested terran was mentioned too. A solid introduction to the infestor overall.
Reminds me of the bugs from starship troopers.
"ITS A GOOD DAY TO DIE!!!"
@Crazedpanda1987 sorry reflex to anything Starship Troopers
@Crazedpanda1987 WHEN YOU KNOW THE REASONS WHY CITIZENS WE FIGHT FOR WHAT IT'S RIGHT A NOBLE SACRIFICE WHEN DUTY CALL I PAY THE PRICE FOR THE FEDERATION I'LL WOULD GIVE MY LIFE
@SorrowGrim "WHEN ALL IS FAIR IN LOVE AND WAR. THATS WHAT MY GUNNY SAYS YOU'RE NOT ALIVE UNLESS YOURE ALMOST DYING!!! THESE ARE THE WORDS I MARCH BY: DUTY,COURAGE, HONOR *cannon fodder* EVERY SINGLE DAY IM OUT THERE TRYING!!!!!!!!"
@Crazedpanda1987 agh.....it happened again
The infestor tapped the floor innocently and sent a psychic message to Athena.
Okay ATHENA HAS TO OFFICIALLY APOLOGIZE TO OUR INFESTOR!!!
I am not SC player and because reading this novel I got interested to research the game and the lore. Now I know why you guys love this novel so much, it got a ton of potential is an understatement.
Welcome, I'm an Apocalisk enthusiast, just find your dream unit then gush about it and finally you're golden.
Ya know I somewhat disagree with Athena here. Unless I miss read the description of the Nerual Parasite, the doctor is dead and the Parasite is ridding around in her flesh suit. This doesn't sound like a Yerk or a Zerg where you can pull the worm out and the host is relatively fine. This sounds like straight up ego/brain death.
I hope so, because the alternative is Athena is doing the same thing as Arthas.
Yup. If I remember correctly, it's the zerg virus that mutates the victims into obedient puppets of the swarm like Stukov's units
Caught up in chapters. Kind of fitting, as this was sort of the end of an arc.
I was hoping she would have the protoss zealots look at the crystal see if it can be identified.