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Remnants of the damaged audio files recovered from the wreckage of the battlecruiser Emperor's Fury (holo files were completely unsalvageable).

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Remnants of the damaged audio files recovered from the wreckage of the battlecruiser Emperor's Fury (holo files were completely unsalvageable)

Subject: Private Maren Ayers, Medic, 128th Platoon "Iron Jesters"

Receiving: Captain Serl Gentry, Doctor, Special Research Ops

Captain Gentry:

Have a seat, Private. I can imagine that you're upset after what you've just been through.
Private Ayers:

Upset? Don't be silly, Captain: this wasn't a complete surprise. Nature doesn't just adapt. Nature cheats, changes the rules, and slips out the back door with your wallet while you're still trying to figure out what happened.
Captain Gentry:

I'm not sure I follow.
Private Ayers:

Sorry; those aren't my words. That's from my father, the venerable Dr. Talen Ayers. It's his own special flavor of insight: one part renowned research geneticist and two parts backwoods yokel. Always embarrassed the hell out of me.

He'd throw that proverb out whenever I complained about unexpected results in my research. Force of habit, I suppose.
Captain Gentry:

Private, if we could start at the beginning –
Private Ayers:

It's like the time an entire control group of my fruit flies decided to breed small enough to escape the netting in its container and spread into the other habitats. They deliberately ruined three months of long-chain protein sculpts. At least it seemed deliberate to me.

I was twelve at the time and had been slaving away on my own custom mutation of Drosophila melanogaster for a school project. Dad just laughed, told me to use jam jars next time. Old bastard. He didn't have a clever maxim ready when I dropped out of grad school to join the marines, did he now?
Captain Gentry:

Private Ayers, if we could please just stick to the matter at hand?
Private Ayers:

Sorry – too personal? You said to start at the beginning, but I guess you're not interested in my daddy-daughter issues. It's just... it's been a long time since I've been able to really talk with anybody who has more than a boot-camp education, and we've got a long flight back to civilized space.
Captain Gentry:

(Clears his throat.)
Private Ayers:
OK, I'll cut to the chase.
Captain Gentry:

Private Ayers:

Six months back, our platoon was headed to a remote sentry outpost on the frosty side of Anselm, swapping chairs with the poor slobs who had been assigned to that ice world for the previous year. We had just warped in-system and were calculating to make our final jump when we got the priority call from Korhal IV: all Minotaur-class battlecruisers were being recalled to the capital to be refitted for interatmospheric combat.

Instructions were for any non-critical missions to belay their progress, drop any passengers and payloads at the nearest habitable checkpoint, and warp to HQ posthaste. Retrieval would be assumed by secondary military vessels as command deemed appropriate. That sobered us up real fast. You know as well as I do that the term "habitable" can be used a little too loosely by the Dominion.
Captain Gentry:

Unexpected transfers are a part of military life, Private.
Private Ayers:

Yeah, well, I don't think anybody was happy about being indefinitely sidelined for a vehicle upgrade.

Our nav comp calculated that the nearest rock fitting these criteria was a barren mining world on the edge of our in-system range: Sorona. You've seen it – a rust-orange planet with a slender asteroid ring around its midsection. Looks like a fat kid wearing a dirty little belt.
Captain Gentry:

(Laughs, then catches himself.)

Yes, I've seen Sorona.
Private Ayers:

Right. I'd been a medic with the 128th platoon for two years at that point. We called ourselves the Iron Jesters, under the command of Lieutenant Travis Orran. Only a handful of our crew had ever seen combat before, and most of that was just minor peacekeeping actions. Yeah, we were hardly the Heaven's Devils, I know; they don't send war heroes out to sit watch on Anselm. Regardless, I don't think any of us imagined that our temporary setback was going to be somewhat more than temporary.

That was six months ago. Six months, Doc.
Captain Gentry:

That's Captain....
Private Ayers:

Regardless, there was no welcoming committee waiting for us on the hot tarmac.
Captain Gentry:

This is not uncommon, Private. Some of the smaller colonies lack the personnel to keep a starport fully staffed.
Private Ayers:

This wasn't a case of arriving during lunch break, Doc. The place was empty. Had been for a long time.

The lieutenant's plan was to gather whatever supplies we could carry and slog the fifteen miles to the nearest colonial outpost, a little hole in the ground called Cask. There we would make contact with the local mayor and try to find a comfortable place to camp out for the duration. Lieutenant Orran joked that we'd at least be able to work on our tans before shipping out to Anselm. There were a few laughs; I think we were all trying to look on the bright side of the situation.

The zerg cut that short.

(This is followed by a long pause and the sound of Gentry shifting in his seat.)
Captain Gentry:
Please, Private.
Private Ayers:

We were about five miles from the colony when the ground just... just exploded all around us. All I can remember is a chittering sea of claws, gnashing teeth, and blood. So much blood. The zerg swam through our platoon like fish in an ocean of red. Private Braden was just in front of me, and I watched as his arm was ripped clean off – armor, bone, everything – and he went down under a pair of the beasts.

You and I both know there hadn't been any zerg activity in terran space for years. I'd heard of these xenos, seen the training vids. But nothing can prepare you for the sheer animal terror that hits you when these monsters attack. The speed. The savagery. I've seen hundreds of zerg since that time, but the first attack still haunts me. Always will.

(Another long pause.)


DedMustDie Creator

Time changes but people don't.

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