With an explosion, a large portion of the Tal’darim ground forces was obliterated. Hundreds of mercenaries on that battlecruiser was wiped out as well, but they were cheap and replaceable. A decent amount of credits could buy anyone an army as large as this one.
Supplicants and Tal’darim ground forces, on the other hand, were almost impossible to be replaced.
“No!” Olane stood up and smashed her fists into the wall of the bridge. The metal frame cracked, but she was beyond the point to care about that.
She sent 150 of her 200 supplicants on that ship! That’s ¾ of her forces! And now they were gone. She built them in centuries, and they were lost in just a few seconds. Olane couldn’t even imagine what would happen later.
Without her supplicants, she would be challenged in Rak’Shir. She would be outnumbered and defeated. Nuroka would abandon her because she was no longer useful. She would fall, and another ascendant would step on her and rise to a higher level.
She would be nothing but a stepping stone.
And it was all because she was impatient. If she was more careful and kept the supplicants back...but how was she supposed to know this would happen? The terran showed no sign of evacuating. The last report from the boarding parties reported encountering heavy resistance. All the signs showed that they were trying to defend the ship, not blow it up.
The only way it was possible would be if every terran trooper on the battlecruiser was willing to sacrifice themselves, but was that even possible? Tal’darim warriors would gladly die for their god, but she has heard about these terran mercenaries, and they weren’t exactly the brave type.
She wasn’t the only was surprised.
“Tosh, what have you done?” Through the computer screen, Horner struggled to control his anger.
“What do you mean? Scanners show at least six hundred Tal’darim on that cruiser. That means six hundred less enemies to kill. You should be thanking me.”
“You blew up an entire battlecruiser! Your own battlecruiser! Did you even evacuate your men?” Again, it was one thing to lose a ship in battle. It was another to blow it up with hundreds of men on it.
Tosh dodged the question. “It’s my ship, and what I do with it is my own problem. Press the attack now and the Tal’darim will be forced to retreat. They can’t afford any more losses.” He knew the mindset of these Tal’darim warlords. After this, they would hesitate before launching boarding parties again. Even if they do, they wouldn’t send their best, assuming they still had any of their best left.
“You...we will talk about this afterward.” The experienced captain knew this wasn’t the time to argue. Dissent among the ranks was one of the top causes of defeat. He turned around and passed down a few orders.
The six battlecruisers kept on moving. Their mercenary fighters were pretty much gone, but so were the phoenixes and interceptors.
Another carrier started to burn from the inside. Its supplicant forces were gradually thinned down by the endless wave of boarding parties. With one final explosion, its shield disappeared. The mercenary battlecruisers focused fire on that ship, slaughtering Tal’darim and mercenaries alike.
“My master, what is your command？” One of the supplicants that survived the explosion walked up to Olane. He was on guard duty for the ascendant, and it saved his life.
Olane’s eyes dimmed down. The terran were much more ruthless than she imagined. Two of the four carriers were already gone. Most of the destroyers were ashes. She still had a sizeable ground army, but she couldn’t afford to trade with the terran.
If she were to keep on attacking and end up losing her entire fleet, Nuroka’s fleet, she had no doubt her head would be stuck to a pike and be put on show in front of Nuroka’s fortress. The First Ascendant would gladly unleash his anger on her.
But she couldn’t afford to back off and give up the planet either. A planet this size was valuable, even for Nuroka.
“Have we made contact First Ascendant yet?”
“Yes, my master, but First Ascendant Nuroka is currently attacking a Nerazim settlement. He is unavailable.”
After trading off two whole fleets, Nuroka felt like his forces were smaller than he wanted, and for a Tal’darim, the only way to replenish forces was by attacking other protoss factions. That was exactly what the First Ascendant did.
Unfortunately, this left Olane without reinforcement. Other fleet lords were free, but Olane knew if she asked for help from, say, Alarak or Ji’nara, Nuroka would definitely have her head. That would be like telling the world Nuroka couldn’t protect his own territory.
If that was the case, then Nuroka no longer deserved to be the First Ascendant. He might as well back off and let someone else take his place.
“My master?” The supplicant asked again. Outside, the last destroyer fell in a spectacular demonstration of firework. All the fighters were gone. All that was left were two crimson carriers and a thousand or so interceptors.
The terran lost one battlecruiser to the self destruction. Two of the mercenary battlecruisers were barely able to keep flying. The Hyperion’s armor took quite the punishment. Jean’s ship was already burning, but the fire was quickly controlled by SCVs.
Most of the terran ships were still suitable for combat, and the same couldn’t be said for the Tal'darim. More importantly, the Yamato Cannons were loaded again. If they open fire on the shieldless carriers...
“Recall all the ground forces and prepare for warping.” Olane made up her mind. At this point she could only hope Nuroka would take all the factors into consideration and let her live, though deep down she knew that was unlikely.
Thousands of light beams dropped down on Bel’Shir and teleported all the ground forces, including probes, back onto Olane’s carrier. The once empty hallways were instantly filled by confused Tal’darim warriors. When all the units were in, Olane didn’t waste a second to bring her ship and the other carrier survivor into warp space.
“Scanners indicate all protoss units have been evacuated. The planet is ours.” Jean announced as she looked down on one of the computer screens. She just did an orbital scan of Bel’Shir.
“My boys are collecting the terrazine now. It’s being nice doing business with you, Mr. Raynor.” Tosh smiled in satisfaction. “There are some mineral clusters on the planet. Feel free to grab them, but keep in mind the Tal’darim might come in any time, so keep your ships ready and only send out SCVs you don’t like.”
Both Raynor and Jean nodded, though Raynor frowned at that last bit. A few minutes later, several command centers were sent to Bel’Shir. Packed with SCVs, they would collect as many resources for their boss as possible.
Suddenly, Matt Horner, who wanted to say something to Tosh, saw a transmission request on the computer screen in front of him. He frowned before tapping it open. Imagine his surprise when he saw a blonde figure in a hostile environment suit.
“Hello, my name is Nova…”
On Slayn, two battered carriers exited warp space.
“My master, what should we tell Nuroka? He will not be satisfied.” As a supplicant to Olane, the zealot valued the female ascendant over anyone else, even Highlord Ma’lash.
Olane groaned, but before she could say anything, the screen in front of her was automatically opened up.
“Ascendant Olane. I am...”
“Sixth Ascendant Nyon. I am well aware of your identity.” Olane immediately tried to take back the control of the conversation. This was an odd timing, and she wasn’t sure why the Sixth Ascendant would want to talk to her, an ascendant who pledged her allegiance to Nyon’s potential enemy that was just defeated in battle. “However, I am not aware of your purpose.”
“I am here to offer you an offer.” Nyon said quietly. “As I have learned from a quite trustworthy source, you have just been defeated by a terran fleet. You lost Bel’Shir and, judging from the look of it, most of the fleet Nuroka gave you.” He smirked. “Nuroka will not be happy.”
“I have been defeated, and I am willing to face his wrath.”
“Really? Do you know what happened to the last ascendant that disappointed him. It took Nuroka three days to finally end his misery. Do you think you’ll receive a better fate?”
Olane didn’t answer. It wasn’t the pain that worried her. It was the shame of defeat. The knowledge that her path of ascension was over hurt her more than the most brutal torture.
“However, I can offer you a deal. I can offer you a way to continue your ascension.” Nyon suggested. “Join me with you and your ships, and I will make sure Nuroka doesn’t lay a finger on you.”
Olane turned around and waved at the supplicants, who immediately set up an observer and secured the bridge. Finally, she turned back and smirked. “Why do you think you can protect me? Nuroka can kill you as easily as he can kill me. If you offer me protection, then Nuroka will have a reason to attack you.”
“Perhaps, but no one will know that you are in with me.” Nyon has went over the plan a couple times with Jean. “No one knows you have survived. As long as you cover the identity of you and your warriors, Nuroka will think the terran wiped you out. He wouldn’t even be looking for you.”
“And if he finds out? And he will, eventually. The First Ascendant’s spies are everywhere.”
“As long as the cover can buy me some time, I will no longer need to fear Nuroka.” Nyon said confidently. “If I become the First Ascendant, no one will question your presence.”
“You must be really short on ships. Otherwise why would you go through all that trouble just for two half destroyed carriers?”
Nyon ignored the question. ”That is not your consideration. Are you joining me?”
Olane thought about it for a second. It seemed to be her only way out. She wasn’t going to sit by and just allow Nuroka to kill her.
“I’m in, but how can you make sure my warriors will join you as well? The supplicants will follow me without question, but the common warriors won’t. They serve Nuroka and Nuroka alone. If you try to turn them to your side, they will go against you.”
“How many Tal’darim are on your ship beside the supplicants?”
“Around two thousand.”
“You can leave that to me.”
As the two struck down the deal, Olane parked her carrier on a planet a distance away from Slayn. The ascendant from the other carrier was persuaded as well. Both ships went silent and allowed a platform for a move to be made on the Tal’darim warriors inside the two ships.
It didn’t take long before rumor started to spread. The word got around that First Ascendant Nuroka, angered by these warrior’s defeat at the hands of the terran, wanted to have every last one of them executed. Not only so, they would be branded as cowards and weaklings. When they die, they wouldn’t even return to Amon.
That caused an outrage. Most of the Tal’darim still alive didn’t even meet the terran in combat. All they did was sit back in their base on Bel’Shir and wait for their time to shine, which never came. Blaming them for the defeat was irresponsible and unfair. Having them executed was simply foolish.
Of course, some Tal’darim argued that the rumor might be a fake, but all of them mysteriously disappeared a while after they spoke their ideas. Others wanted to contact Nyon. Some wanted to face remain loyal to Nuroka even if it meant death. All of them failed to live long enough to get to what they wanted.
This continued for two days, and in the end all the Tal’darim capable of thinking independently, which wasn’t much, were gone. All those left were those who could be easily manipulated.
The brainwashing continued for three more days, and when it was all over every Tal’darim in the two ships wanted to rip Nuroka’s throat out.
At this point, when Olane announced they would switch side to Sixth Ascendant Nyon, very few questioned it, and those that did didn’t question it for long.
After all, the dead doesn’t have a voice.