The air was hot and misty on the surface of Fraybox IV, just muggy enough to cause a slow constant drizzle of thick gunk to mist up on the front of a faceplate. The wipers kicked on again, sending almost mucusy drops of condensation to either side of Corporal Fodder's armored suit. He rested his massive, tank-like weight against the rock formation and looked out over the landscape, towards nothing of interest. The entire place was weird, there's no other way to say it. A small series of raised land plates that were surrounded by lava like the couch out of some child's living room playground, and chock full of minerals and vespene gas. The Corporal suppressed a shiver as he watched several small, rapidly moving forms dart in and out of some undergrowth a stone's throw away before becoming completely still. He checked his clip with a glance towards his massive autorifle once more as his comm clicked on from a private channel.
"You there, Carl?" The voice of Sergeant Shredder, his boss.
"Yes, sir. Uh, yeah. I'm here," he waited a few moments, searching the undergrowth with his eyes. "Fucking creepy out here, sir."
There were a few moments of silence. The comm crackled again with "Couldn't have said it better myself. Too much movement, not enough going on." An SCV trundled by, heading towards a gas geyser before coming to rest and starting to set up shop.
"Look, uh, sir. I have some serious reservations about this." He hoped he hadn't gone too far. "It just doesn't make sense, I mean, nothing really seems to fit right out here."
"What are you trying to say, Corporal?" His Sergeant's voice was tense. He could almost make him out through the haze of the thick atmosphere on the ridge across the thin, winding valley. A red armored blotch leaning up against a sizeable boulder.
"Well, here we are, locked in an intergalactic war, terror and death on all sides... I mean, the Emporer's home planet even got taken out by these things, and yet we are here... with them, doing what? Just doesn't seem right, sir."
"Corporal, it's not your place to..." before the Sergeant could finish, the comm snapped to life with global chatter.
A murky, distorted voice came over the link, half seeming choked by phlegm and half stuttered like it was coming from many different mouths. The very sound sent chills up the spines of every Terran on the channel, which was just over a hundred men. The thought of it brought back flashes of every vidcast where they'd seen a planet ripped to shreds, a carrier brought down by a hundred acid spitting snake-like beasts, or a bus load of nuns knocked over by a stampeding ultralisk. The Corporal gritted his teeth against the auditory intrusion.
"Babe, seriously, I know what I'm doing. It's not going to kill us if I put another hatchery over on the ridge where those weird markings are. I'm gonna do it." The Corporal suppressed a shudder.
A female voice cut in over the link, soft and somehow sexy and commanding at the same time. She sounded tired, with a sort of forced patience. "Love... goddamnit, you're going to get us killed. Just fortify for a bit and then we'll push forward. Don't open up our lines."
Here they go again, thought the Corporal, arguing like lovers. I don't get it. How can any human even stand to communicate with the Zerg... and anyway, how can they use a damn microphone? It's not like they know how to speak. He chalked up another question to ask the Sergeant over drinks back at the Nameless Cantina once they were done with this ridiculous mission.
"I'ma do it," the voice was somewhat like slime on the inside of his ear that he couldn't dig out, and seemed to be restless with where it was going. "It's just one guy and, like, some stuff. I'ma push him up there, I won't need anyone to guard it at first, I've got to grow the damn thing first." Ugh, grow, the very thought brought back memories of the first time he'd seen a zerg structure mutate its way from creature to building, and the recollection almost caused him to soil the inside of his faceplate with his nutrient shake from earlier in the day.
After a long, drawn out sigh, his Commander, a strong lady known as Bebop, replied to the thing on the other end of the comm. "Honey, if you go up there, you're going to draw their agg and they're just going to come in and..." there was a splashy-squelchy noise over the comm, then a moment of silence. "Did you just seriously," the tone sounded harsh, tense, and another pause. "You did, didn't you! You fucking went ahead and did it. Damnit, we're so fucking screwed."
The Corporal wondered for a few moments if maybe they had just left the microphones on by accident or something, this really shouldn't be global chatter. He could see the effect rippling through the men posted nearby. Several were looking at each other and shaking their armored heads. A rustling came out of the brush behind him, and a towering, snake-like form of a blue-chitin covered hydralisk slithered up next to him.
He didn't think he'd ever get used to the sight of these weird bugs, but at least now he didn't scream and start firing reflexively anymore. The beast came to rest within arm's length, and covered its eyes with one scythe-like claw and scanned the horizon. It jerked what it had for a chin upwards, drawing his attention towards a weird, bubbling mound about an eighth of a mile away through the thick atmosphere. His eyes caught the modified commset it wore before he looked towards the mutating drone.
The zerg voice came over the comm again, "See, everything's fine, they won't even notice." At just about then, he saw about twenty Protoss warriors come racing up over the ramp near the growing hatchery, and start to cut into it with those creepy glowing blades. The structure started to scream loud enough to be heard even from this distance, and the hydralisk next to him shuddered and drew back a few inches as it let out a low, hard growl.
Around his feet suddenly ran about fifteen of the dog-like little zerglings, and to his left lumbered up a massive critter called a roach. He caught something metallic in its hands, and looked down to see it was offering him a beer.
Oh fuck it, he thought. Might as well get drunk while I watch the world burn.
Again came his commander's voice, the crack of the comm lost under the popping of the top of the beer. The air tastes like stale piss as he drank, his rifle held casually over one shoulder. "I told you. Damnit, I can't defend you. You're going to lose that base." The hydralisk took a beer as well, and just ate the whole thing.
The couple began to argue again over the global channels, and Corporal Fodder saw the hydralisk touch the side of it's commset, and a weird, warbly voice overrode the signal. Its mouth parts moved strangely as the words hissed through.
"Ever get the thought that this is all pointless? I don't understand any of this. Just the chatter between them is enough to drive a hive mind insane." The weird, alien eyes found his own as it offered a bizarre parody of a shrug with its chitinous shoulders.
"I know that feel, bro. Name's Carl by the way." He toasted his weird compatriots with another beer, and watched the protoss surge towards him as the seige tanks began to light up.
"Good to meet you, Carl. Call me Fred."
|A much more usual encounter between the two buddies from the story.|