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Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 1

Ghost Academy chronicles the early years of six StarCraft characters all destined for greatness—and tragedy. Five teenaged fourth-class Terrans (Nova, Tosh, Aal, Kath, and Lio) are rough-around-the-edges Ghost cadets in training—and they are forced to deal with everyday teen issues such as crushes, physical and emotional pain, addiction to drugs and their own budding telepathic abilities.

Publisher: TOKYOPOP
ISBN-13: 9781427816122
Format: Paperback: 192pp
Pub. Date: January 05, 2010

Writer: Keith Decandido
Artist: Fernando Heinz Furukawa

Pre-Order here

Starcraft: Heaven’s Devils - Excerpt

The excerpt of Starcraft: Heaven’s Devils is now available.  We get to see in this book an 18-years old Jim Raynor having fun with his friends Harnack and Kydd at a bar in Mar Sara.  Things aren’t simple for these guys as they constantly get in trouble and end up usually in jail for their deeds.

The book will reveal how Jim Raynor and Tychus Findlay met and became best friends, their days in the Heaven’s Devils team.

For the time being, here we have the excerpt.

World of Warcraft: Stormrage

Pocket Books has provided Blizzplanet the front cover of the upcoming World of Warcraft: Stormrage by Richard A. Knaak (February 23, 2010). Expect our World of Warcraft: Stormrage video interview with Richard A. Knaak straight from Blizzcon.  Submit your questions.

A few months ago, Chris Metzen and Micky Neilson revealed in our video interview this book would deal with the Nightmare which is affecting the Emerald Dream. Thus making lore geeks go into speculation-mode that the next expansion to the MMORPG might introduce the Emerald Dream.

The front cover already incites controversy. The twins Malfurion and Illidan were identical except for one thing. Illidan’s eyes were golden, while Malfurion’s were silver.  This front cover shows a golden-eyed Malfurion which brings the interrogative whether Illidan’s psyche has somehow merged with Malfurion’s body after his demise in the Black Temple.

In the present, Malfurion’s body is hidden by the Night Elves in an unknown location, presumably it should be at the Barrow Den in Moonglade, but it’s not physically there in the MMORPG.  Meanwhile, Malfurion’s dream-form is trapped in the Nightmare within the Emerald Dream, and has been unable to wake up.  Could it be possible, that somehow Illidan’s psyche took over the physical body of Malfurion during his sleep?  Speculation, but that image spawns many intriguing questions.

Starcraft: Uprising - Excerpt


Description


December 2000
eBook, 180 pages

Far in the future, 60,000 light-years from Earth, a loose confederacy of Terran exiles are locked in battle with the enigmatic Protoss and the ruthless Zerg Swarm. Each species struggles to ensure its own survival among the stars in a war that will herald the beginning of mankind’s greatest chapter—or foretell its violent, bloody end. She is the Zerg Queen of Blades. Her name has become legend throughout the galaxy, and that legend is death for all who stand against her. Yet once, long ago, Sarah Kerrigan was human—the unwilling subject of an insidious clandestine experiment. She was forced to serve as a merciless assassin for the Terran Confederacy until a twist of fate propelled her toward a destiny none could have foreseen. This is the untold tale of Kerrigan’s shadowy origin…and the war that was fought for her very soul. An original tale of universal conflict set in the world of the award-winning, bestselling computer game from Blizzard Entertainment.


Chapter One: The Seeds of Rebellion



Throughout the course of every person’s life, a large-scale catastrophe is certain to occur. At some point, fate will hand each of us the ultimate test: a tragedy so profound and so inescapable that it will forever alter the remaining course of the life affected. This event will have one of two outcomes. The man or woman confronted with the catastrophe may be defeated in the test, and live the remainder of their life as a shadow of the person they once were. Or a person might transform and become strengthened by their experience, transcending all self-imposed limitations and flourishing in a way they had never deemed possible.

Arcturus Mengsk was one such man. He had overcome a tragic event in his life, and now it had changed him, forever molded him into a being of single-minded purpose and unshakable determination. Lesser men would have been broken by the tragedy. Lesser men would have just given up. But lesser men did not take their place in the proud annals of Terran history.

During his formative years, young Arcturus would often awake from dreams in which he had seen himself as a figure of importance, a preeminent leader of men. Mostly, Arcturus would dismiss the dreams as whims of an overactive imagination. In the waking world, Arcturus did not see himself as the leader-type at all. He didn’t care about the affairs of others; he didn’t care about the Confederacy. All he cared about was serving his time in the Confederate military and how much money he might be able to earn as a fringe-world prospector when that time was done. He had certainly done his duty, and, lack of desire to lead notwithstanding, had ascended to the rank of colonel before the climate changed; before he realized he was not fighting for what he believed in, and of course, before the tragedy.

Now, in the wake of the tragedy, things had changed. Arcturus’s self-perception had changed; the man he once saw himself as seemed no more than a distant relative. Now Arcturus was on his way to becoming the man he was in his dreams.

For the most part, up until now, it had all been about preparation: keeping in constant communication with his colleagues in the underground network on Korhal (although they had become so vocal and overt as of late that the term “underground” no longer applied); recruiting like-minded, eager civilians for training; and observing the actions of the Confederacy here among the relative safety of the Umojan Protectorate.

Preparation was well and good, and Arcturus prided himself on planning ahead. But he believed that the time had now come for action. Blowing up supply route bridges on key planets, hacking into Confederate mainframes and staging mine-worker revolts was all well and good, but the time had come to strengthen his numbers and to set out on his quest in earnest. The time had come to raise hell.

And so General Mengsk now stood looking into the determined eyes of the roughly twenty or so Umojan men before him. They were an able-bodied lot, though not as many as he had hoped for, and he was fairly certain that none of the men had ever seen combat. Still, they were capable, and they were willing to fight for what they believed in, and that’s where the seeds of rebellion truly began to germinate.

The general greeted each man’s eyes in turn. Once he was confident that he held their attention, he spoke. “You men are gathered here today because you share common beliefs and a common desire. Among the beliefs you share is the tenet that no man or body of government should have authority to treat you unjustly; the desire you share is the pursuit of independence. Make no mistake men—these are the ideals that wars are made of. The least of the troubles that lie ahead for all of you is a life of forced seclusion, of being branded as seditionist by the very government that would impose her unfair laws upon you. The worst of what you may face—of what we all face—is death. Pollock and I and the rest of our fighters are, as you know, already considered turncoats by the Confederacy….”

Arcturus motioned to a man standing at parade-rest to his left. Pollock Rimes was a man who looked the part of a battle veteran—his bald head and face were covered with scars, and the upper left hemisphere of his skull bore a slight indentation the size of a large man’s fist. His left ear was mostly missing and the bridge of his nose formed a backward S. Pollock’s eyes stared ahead blankly as Arcturus continued. “It is important that all of you go into this knowing that there exists a very real possibility that you may not live to see it through.”

As Arcturus allowed his words to sink in, his eyes fell on a man outside the room, visible through one of the large windows. The man, of Asian descent, wearing the clothes of a low-level prospector, seemed to be quite intrigued by what was going on inside. When the man looked up and saw Arcturus staring at him, he held the gaze for a second before looking away. He seemed to be wrestling with some kind of decision. Just then Arcturus heard the sound of one of the men clearing his throat. He turned to see a somewhat crazed-looking older man standing near the front of the group whose face bore a web of wrinkles and whose white tonsured hair circled his bald dome like wispy clouds hovering around a particularly worn mountain peak. “My mother, may she rest easy, used to say that there wan’t nothing worth living fer that wan’t worth dyin’ fer.”

Arcturus allowed himself a half-smile. “I see. And what might your name be, civilian?”

“I’m Forest Keel, and I seen my share o’ friction in the seven cycles I served in the Guild Wars.”

“I’m sure you did. And I’m sure you made your superiors proud.” Old Forest beamed a smile devoid of a few teeth as Arcturus’s eyes once again scanned the nearby window, where the prospector was still standing, nervously undetermined. Arcturus turned his attention back to the group. “Well men, the time has—“

Just then Arcturus was interrupted by the sound of an entryway opening. Looking to the far side of the room, the general saw Ailin Pasteur—one of the Protectorate’s ambassadors—stick his head in. The usually unflappable man looked pale and distressed.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, General, but there is a situation that requires your immediate attention.”

The Spy Deck was an area where mining foremen watched image-enhanced holograms of planets within the system that might be fertile grounds for prospecting. For the enlistment of its current purpose, the Spy Deck could not have been more aptly named. Not long ago, Ailin Pasteur had served under the command of Arcturus’s father, Angus. Angus had saved the man’s life on one occasion and Ailin had repaid the favor by being one of the voting members of the Ruling Council that appointed Arcturus the rank of general, and leader of the revolution. The Council also allowed Mengsk to use the Protectorate as a base of operations, and to use the Spy Deck as a somewhat archaic means of surveillance. The imaging program contained detailed charts of all the planets within the known systems. It was also capable of charting the progress of freight ships carrying their valuable cargo through the trade routes in real-time—a primitive kind of “radar” system to be sure, but more than adequate for Arcturus’s needs. It was here on the Spy Deck that the Ruling Council of the Umojan Proctectorate stood, their haggard faces revealing collective concern.

Ailin turned to Arcturus and spoke in a halting voice: “We received an anonymous transmission suggesting that we keep on eye on this sector.”

Arcturus looked at the sector currently being displayed. He recognized the planet at the display’s center immediately. “Korhal,” he said, to no one in particular.

The superintendent nodded slightly. Arcturus noticed that the man was sweating heavily. “Yes.”

Several smaller objects that looked like orbiting satellites of some kind surrounded the image of the planet. Arcturus had an idea, even before the superintendent spoke, of what the objects really were.

“Battlecruisers,” Ailin confirmed. “We make out twenty of them. We’ve been monitoring the military channels and have overheard nothing that might explain this.”

“Nothing they’re willing to admit, anyway,” offered Mengsk. “But you can bet your bottom credit that the Confederates are the source of your anonymous tip. And if those ships are orbiting Korhal on Confederate orders, they mean to start trouble. Send an intelligence report to Achton immediately.”

In Korhal’s capital city of Styrling, Colonel Achton Feld—the elected leader of the rebel forces in the absence of General Mengsk—was busy shouting orders, standing atop a guardwalk at the city’s perimeter, the myriad antiair missile turrets that served as outer defenses forming a jagged outline on the horizon behind him. At one time, this fortress in the center of the city had been a Confederate post. That was before the revolution. Now it served as the rebel headquarters on Korhal.

The rebels had of course known about the presence of Confederate ships in their orbit, but their limited surveillance systems had been unable to uncover what the recent intelligence transmission confirmed: that the orbiting ships numbered twenty—quite a number, especially with the capacity of each ship to hold hundreds of marines, dropships, siege tanks, even armored Goliaths. And those were just the ground forces. They were sure to be bombarded from the air first. But none of that mattered now. The rebels had spent almost a full cycle beefing up their antiair defenses and had recruited enough of the planet’s population to form an army that was more than just sizable—it was huge.

The confrontation with the Confederate forces was inevitable. And even now, in the midst of all the fear and the panic and the anticipation, Achton was glad. He was glad that the waiting was over and that the battle was about to begin. The Korhalians were about to send a message to the Confederates: that they were the citizens of a free planet, and that they would fight to ensure that freedom. Let them come, thought the Colonel, let them bring their armored walkers and their cloaked fighters, but just let them come.

Colonel Achton smiled and waited for the first dropships to appear.

The holo-image now showed several tiny objects, no more than minuscule dots. They came from the ships in swarms, like locusts, leaving the battlecruisers and snaking their way toward Korhal’s atmosphere.

“Dropships?” Ailin responded to the unasked question on everyone’s mind. Mengsk shook his head. “No. Too small. They look more like … no, no that couldn’t be, just could not—” Mensgk continued shaking his head, refusing to believe, because he knew that if he believed, that just might make it all the more real.

He watched with the others as the scores of tiny, luminescent dots began descending into Korhal’s dense atmosphere.

Achton waited, looking out at the array of defenses beyond Styrling’s walls. A lieutenant raced up onto the guardwalk, out of breath. He had the harried look of a man who suddenly wished he were somewhere else.

“Sir, we’re tracking hundreds of incoming objects that have locked onto several positions across this side of the planet. I’m not sure, but I think we got a report from the Underside that they’re tracking objects as well.”

“Hundreds, you say?” The colonel’s calm veneer was slipping, and the naked fear began to become apparent on his face.

“Yes, sir. Too small for us to identify just yet, but they’re coming fast.”

Just then the colonel heard a low hum, barely detectable, like the whine of a small insect. Then he looked to the horizon and saw a swarm of small objects descending, trailing tails of smoke from behind, and he knew. “Not fair…” he whispered.

But the lieutenant did not hear him. The hum/whine had become almost deafening now. As the lieutenant looked up and saw more of the objects descending on them from directly above, he began to scream.

On the Spy Deck, a palpable silence pervaded as pools of brilliant light began spreading across the surface of the already luminescent image of Korhal. They continued from multiple locations until the majority of the planet was engulfed in that brilliance and no one in the room could question what they had just seen.

“By the fathers, it’s gone … Korhal’s gone. Every-body. Millions of people …” Ailin seemed on the verge of fainting.

Arcturus felt his stomach tighten and was aware of nothing but that image in front of him, the image of Korhal burning. After a short time, the pools of light began to fade, and the holo-image of Korhal became a darker, featureless facsimile of its former self.

In the midst of his shock and denial, Arcturus managed to speak three words: “Gather the men.”

The case of Korhal was, like many others throughout history, an example of a government attempting to suppress upheaval among its populace through tyrannical means and thereby only strengthening the determination of its dissenters. Inside the ready room where twenty men had stood just moments before, a throng of over fifty now crowded, exchanging angry and violent discourse over the loss of Korhal and the impudence of the Confederacy.

A hatchway slid open at the head of the room and Arcturus entered, looking like a lion that has stalked its prey into a corner and is savoring the moment just before the kill.

“You all know what has just transpired. For those of you who want the specifics—and I think you all deserve to know—twenty battlecruisers just launched about a thousand Apocalypse-class missiles from Korhal IV’s orbit. The missiles impacted on the planet’s surface and 35 million people will never again see the light of day. You need no stirring speeches; you need no coercion or coaxing. You all know the difference between right and wrong. Now the time has come to fight for the values you hold dear and to challenge those who would strip you of your individual freedoms. Are you with me?”

Fifty fists raised into the air simultaneously as the mob responded with a deafening roar. Mengsk waited for the din to subside before continuing. “As of this day, I declare that you are all no longer civilians. You are now soldiers. And we are now at war.” Mengsk prepared to go on, then stopped as a hatchway at the side of the room opened, and the Asian prospector he had spotted outside earlier now stepped in. The crowd was silent. Mengsk’s eyes traveled to the newcomer.

“I want to join,” he said.

Mengsk approached the smaller man and stood before him, an intimidating presence.

“I saw you before. You seemed hesitant.”

The Asian man nodded. “I wasn’t sure yet. But I am now.”

Somewhere among the crowd a mocking comment was made. A man near the general muttered “Fringe-squib” under his breath. The general silenced the man with a glance, then turned back to the Asian. “Indecision on the battlefield costs lives, boy.”

The smaller man held the general’s gaze. “Sir, all I’m asking is that you give me a chance.”

“Will you follow orders without question?”

“I will.”

Mengsk searched the other man’s eyes for a moment, then finally nodded. “What’s your name?”

“Somo. Somo Hung.”

“Welcome aboard,” said the general before he walked back to his spot next to Pollock and surveyed the men. “As I said, from now on … you are soldiers. And you will bear that mantle proudly. And as for the name of our little army, the name that shall be the bane of the Confederacy’s existence, I think it only appropriate that we call ourselves the Sons of Korhal!”

Once more the room erupted, this time with spirited cries of “Mengsk! Mengsk! Mengsk!”

Ailin stood next to the general, looking out into the docking bay where a battered, barely recognizable craft hung suspended. Workers pored over the behemoth busily, their torches spraying out sparks of light as final fittings and adjustments were made.

“She’s not exactly pristine, but she’ll serve her purpose,” Ailin offered, nodding his head toward the craft outside.

“That she will, my friend.” Arcturus was visibly pleased with the progress.

The battlecruiser was the casualty of a navigational systems error, much like the snafu that landed four supercarriers, carrying convicted criminals onto a few inhabitable worlds (including Umoja) into the deepest reaches of space just a few millennia ago. Those criminals were the forefathers of the Terrans, a blanket term that applied to all the generations of humans who followed and spread, inhabiting world after world and marching on in the way only humanity can.

The battlecruiser now in the docking bay had crashed onto a fiery planet not far from the Protectorate, but well out of range of the Confederacy’s hailing frequencies. Ailin and Mengsk went to the crash site immediately and stripped the craft of its tracking beacon. In the cargo bay they found several SCVs as well as a fully operational siege tank, and in the launching bay they found two CF/A-17G Wraith fighters, as well as four dropships.

The Protectorate shepherded the cruiser into one of its many docking bays. The Confederacy was obviously angered by the loss of one of their ships, but without proof of the Protectorate’s subversion, was unwilling to start another war. The crew was pronounced dead, and offered better pay and shorter hours to remain among the Protectorate and remain silent (a proposition no one balked at), and not too long after that the displaced ship’s captain became Arcturus’s most trusted soldier, Pollock Rimes.

It seemed like so much time had passed since then, though it was only a cycle. The craft had remained, being upgraded and modified slowly and methodically, until it became what Arcturus now saw before him, a battlecruiser he could call his own.

Ailin interrupted the general’s thoughts briefly. “What would you like to call her?” he asked.

Mengsk thought for a long moment.

“Hyperion,” he said at last. “I’ll call her the Hyperion.”

Just then Pollock approached the two men. “The soldiers request an update of status, General.”

Arcturus turned his bright eyes to Pollock. “Tell them we set out at next interval.”

Pollock’s lip lifted slightly, the closest thing to a smile Arcturus had ever seen cross the man’s face.

“Yes, sir.”

Copyright ? 2000 by Blizzard Entertainment

Starcraft: Liberty’s Crusade - Excerpt


Description

April 2001
Pocket Book, 272 pages

Far in the future, 60,000 light-years from Earth, a loose confederacy of Terran exiles is locked in battle with the enigmatic Protoss and the ruthless Zerg Swarm. Each species struggles to ensure its own survival among the stars in a war that will herald the beginning of mankind’s greatest chapter—or foretell its violent, bloody end.

Danny Liberty was a good reporter…too good. When his investigations struck too close to the heart of the corrupt Terran Confederacy, he faced a simple choice: continue his current series of expos?s, or take a hazardous new assignment covering the Marines on the front lines of the Koprulu Sector. It didn’t take him long to decide….

Behind the attacks of the Zerg and the Protoss lies the story of a lifetime, but every piece of information blurs the mystery further. Thrown into the middle of a war where the outcome will determine mankind’s very survival, the only thing that Danny Liberty knows for sure is that the only person he can trust to keep him alive is himself.

Liberty’s Crusade
The first in an epic new series of space warfare novels set in the world of the bestselling computer game!


Chapter 1: The Press Gang


Before the war, things were different. Hell, back then, we were just making our daily living, doing our jobs, drawing our paychecks, and stabbing our fellow men and women in the back. We had no idea how bad things would get. We were fat and happy like maggots on a dead animal. There was enough sporadic violence—rebellions and revolutions and balky colonial governments—to keep the military going, but not enough to really threaten the lifestyles we had grown accustomed to. We were, in retrospect, fat and sassy.

And if a real war broke out, well, it was the military’s worry. The marines’ worry. Not ours.

—The Liberty Manifesto

The city sprawled beneath Mike’s feet like an overturned bucket of jade cockroaches. From the dizzying height of Handy Anderson’s office, he could almost see the horizon between the taller buildings. The city reached that far, forming a jagged, spiked tear along the edge of the world.

The city of Tarsonis, on the planet Tarsonis. The most important city on the most important planet of the Confederacy of Man. The city so great they named it twice. The city so large its suburbs had greater populations than some planets. A shining beacon of civilization, keeper of the memories of an Earth now lost to history, myth, and earlier generations.

A sleeping dragon. And Michael Liberty could not resist twisting its tail.

“Come back from the edge there, Mickey,” said Anderson. The editor-in-chief was firmly ensconced at his desk, a desk as far away from the panoramic view as possible.

Michael Liberty liked to think there was a note of concern in his boss’s voice.

“Don’t worry,” said Mike. “I’m not thinking of jumping.” He suppressed a smile.

Mike and the rest of the newsroom knew that the editor-in-chief was acrophobic but could not bear to surrender his stratospheric office view. So on the rare occasions when Liberty was summoned into his boss’s office, he always stood near the window. Most of the time he and the other drudges and news hacks worked way down on the fourth floor or in the broadcast booths in the building’s basement.

“Jumping I’m not worried about,” said Anderson. “Jumping I can handle. Jumping would solve a lot of my problems and give me a lead for tomorrow’s edition. I’m more worried about some sniper taking you out from another building.”

Liberty turned toward his boss. “Bloodstains that hard to get out of the carpet?”

“Part of it,” said Anderson, smiling. “It’s also a bitch to replace the glass.”

Liberty look one last look at the traffic crawling far below and returned to the overstuffed chairs facing the desk. Anderson tried to be nonchalant, but Mike noted that the editor let out a long, slow breath as Mike moved away from the window.

Michael Liberty settled himself into one of Anderson’s chairs. The chairs were designed to look like normal furniture, but they were stuffed so that they sank an extra inch or two when someone sat down. This made the balding editor-in-chief with his comically oversized eyebrows look more imposing. Mike knew the trick, was not impressed, and set his feet up on the desk.

“So what’s the beef?” the reporter asked.

“Have a cigar, Mickey?” Anderson motioned with an open palm toward a teak humidor.

Mike hated being called Mickey. He touched his empty shirt pocket, where he normally stashed a pack of cigarettes. “I’m on the wagon. Trying to cut down.”

“They’re from beyond the Jaandaran embargo,” said Anderson temptingly. “Rolled on the thighs of cinnamon-shaded maidens.”

Mike held up both hands and smiled broadly. Everyone knew that Anderson was too cheap to get anything beyond the standard el ropos manufactured in some bootleg basement. But the smile was intended to reassure.

“What’s the beef?” Mike repeated.

“You’ve really done it this time,” said Anderson, sighing. “Your series on the construction kickbacks on the new Municipal Hall.”

“Good stuff. The series should rattle a few cages.”

“They’ve already been rattled,” replied Anderson, his chin sinking down to touch his chest. This was known as the bearer-of-bad-news position. It was something that Anderson had learned at some management course but that made him look like a mating ledge-pigeon.

Crap, thought Mike. He’s going to spike the series.

As if reading his thoughts, Anderson said, “Don’t worry, we’re going to run the rest of the series. It’s solid reporting, well-documented, and best of all, it’s true. But you have to know you’ve made a few people very uncomfortable.”

Mike mentally ran through the series. It had been one of his better ones, a classic involving a petty offender who was caught in the wrong place (a public park) at the wrong time (way after midnight) with the wrong thing (mildly radioactive construction waste from the Municipal Hall project). Said offender was more than willing to pass on the name of the man who sent him on this late-night escapade. That individual was in turn willing to tell Mike about some other interesting matters involving the new hall, and so forth, until Mike had, instead of a single story, a whole series about a huge network of graft and corruption that the Universe Network News audience ate up with their collective spoons.

Mike mentally ran through the ward heelers, low-level thugs, and members of the Tarsonis City Council that he had skewered in print, discarding each in turn as a suspect. Any of those august individuals might want to take a shot at him, but such a threat wasn’t enough to make Handy Anderson nervous.

The editor-in-chief saw Mike’s blank expression and added, “You’ve made a few powerful, venerable people very uncomfortable.”

Mike’s left eyebrow rose. Anderson was talking about one of the ruling Families, the power behind the Confederacy for most of its existence, since those early days when the first colony ships (hell, prison ships) landed and/or crashed on various planets in the sector. Somewhere in his reporting, he had nailed somebody with pull, or perhaps somebody close enough to one of the Families to make the old venerables nervous.

Mike resolved to go back over his notes and see what kind of linkages he could make. Perhaps a distaff cousin to one of the Old Families, or a black sheep, or maybe even a direct kickback. God knew that the Old Families ran things from behind the scenes since the year naught. If he could nail one of them…

Mike wondered if he was visibly salivating at the prospect.

In the meantime Handy Anderson had risen from his seat and strolled around the side of his desk, perching on the corner nearest Mike. (Another move directly out of the management lectures, Mike realized. Hell, Anderson had assigned him to cover those lectures once.) “Mike, I want you to know you’re on dangerous ground here.”

Oh God, he called me Mike, thought Liberty. Next he’ll be looking plaintively out the window as if lost in thought, wrestling with a momentous decision.

He said, “I’m used to dangerous ground, boss.”

“I know, I know. I just worry about those around you. Your sources. Your friends. Your co-workers…”

“Not to mention my superiors.”

“…all of whom would be heartbroken if something horrible happened to you.”

“Particularly if they were standing nearby when it happened,” added the reporter.

Anderson shrugged and stared plaintively out the full-length window. Mike realized that whatever Anderson was afraid of, it was worse than his fear of heights. And this was a man who, if office rumor was correct (and it was), kept a locked room in the sub-basement that contained dirt on most of the celebrities and important citizens of the city.

The pause dragged beyond a moment into a minute. Finally Mike broke. He gave a polite cough and said, “So you have an idea how to handle this ‘dangerous ground’?”

Handy Anderson nodded slowly. “I want to print the series. It’s good work.”

“But you don’t want me anywhere in the immediate vicinity when the next part of that story hits the street.”

“I’m thinking of your own safety, Mickey, it’s…”

“Dangerous ground,” finished Mike. “I heard. Here be dragons. Perhaps it would be time for an extended vacation? Maybe a cabin in the mountains?”

“I was thinking more of a special assignment.”

Of course, thought Mike. That way I won’t have the chance to figure out whose tail I’ve inadvertently twisted. And give those involved time to cover their tracks.

“Another part of the Universe News Network empire?” Mike said with a broad smile, at the same time wondering what godforsaken colony world he would be doing agricultural reports from.

“More of a roving reporter,” teased Anderson.

“How roving?” Mike’s smile suddenly became flinty and brittle. “Will I need shots for off-planet?”

“Better than getting shot for being on-planet. Sorry, bad joke. The answer is yes, I’m thinking definitely off-planet.”

“Come on, spill. Which hellhole do you want to hide me in?”

“I was thinking of the Confederate Marines. As a military reporter, of course.”

“What!”

“It would be a temporary posting, of course,” continued the editor.

“Are you out of your mind?”

“Sort of ‘our fighting men in space,’ battling against the various forces of rebellion that threaten our great Confederacy. There are rumors that Arcturus Mengsk is rallying more support in the Fringe Worlds. Could turn really hot at any moment.”

“The marines?” sputtered Mike. “The Confederate Marines are the biggest collection of criminals in the known universe, outside of the Tarsonis City Council.”

“Mike, please. Everyone has some criminal blood in them. Hell, all the planets of the Confederacy were settled by exiled convicts.”

“Yeah, but most people like to think we grew out of that. The marines still make that one of their basic recruiting requirements. Hell, do you know how many of them have been brain-panned?”

“Neurally Resocialized,” corrected Anderson. “No more than fifty percent per unit these days, I understand. Less in some places. And the resocialization is more often done with noninvasive procedures. You probably won’t notice.”

“Yeah, and they pump them so full of stimpacks they’d kill their own grandpas on the right command.”

“Exactly the sort of common misconception that your work can counter,” said Anderson, both eyebrows raised in practiced sincerity.

“Look, most of the politicos I’ve met are naturally nuts. The marines are nuts and then they started messing with their heads. No. The marines are not an option.”

“It’d make for some good stories. You’d probably get some good contacts.”

“No.”

“Reporters with experience with the military get perks,” said the editor-in-chief. “You get a green tag on your file, and that carries weight with the more venerable families of Tarsonis. In some cases even forgiveness.”

“Sorry. Not interested.”

“I’ll give you your own column.”

A pause. Finally Mike said, “How big a column?”

“Full column-page print, or five minutes stand-up for the broadcast. Under your byline, of course.”

“Regular?”

“You file, I’ll fill.”

Another pause. “A raise with that?”

Anderson named a figure, and Mike nodded.

“That’s impressive,” he said.

“Not chump change,” agreed the editor-in-chief.

“I’m a little old to be planet-hopping.”

“There’s no real danger. And if something does flare up, there’s combat pay. Automatic.”

“Fifty percent brain-panned?” Mike asked.

“If that.”

Another pause. Then Mike said, “Well, it sounds like a challenge.”

“And you’re just the man for a challenge.”

“And it can’t be worse than covering the Tarsonis City Council,” Mike mused, feeling himself sliding down the slippery slope to acceptance.

“My thoughts exactly,” his editor agreed.

“And if it would help the network…” Yep, Mike thought, he was on the edge, poised to pitch over into the void.

“You would be a shining light to us all,” said Anderson. “A well-paid, shining light. Wave the flag a little, get some personal stories, ride around in a battlecruiser, play some cards. Don’t worry about us back here at the office.”

“Cush posting?”

“Cushiest. I’ve got some pull, you know. Was an old green-tag myself. Three months work, tops. A lifetime of rewards.”

There was a final pause, a chasm as deep as the concrete canyon that yawned beyond the window.

“All right,” said Mike, “I’ll do it.”

“Wonderful!” Anderson reached for the humidor, then caught himself and instead offered Mike his hand. “You won’t regret it.”

“Why do I feel that I already do?” Michael Liberty asked in a small voice as the editor’s meaty, sweaty hand ensnared his own.

Copyright ? 2001 by Blizzard Entertainment

Starcraft: Queen of Blades - Excerpt

June 2006
Pocket Book, 288 pages


Description



The book novel plot is from Jim Raynor’s point of view, and it details the events that occur on planet Char, specifically the interactions between Raynor, Kerrigan, Tassadar, and Zeratul. However, look forward to reading what happened in the meeting between Tassadar and Zeratul.

“Former marshall-turned-rebel Jim Raynor has broken away from the power-crazed Emperor Arcturus Mengsk. Enraged over Mengsk’s betrayal of the powerful telepath, Sarah Kerrigan, to the ravenous Zerg, Raynor has lost all faith in his fellow humanity.

Yet, in the aftermath of Mengsk’s treachery, Raynor is plagued by strange visions of Char—a deadly volcanic world haunted by horrifying alien creatures. As the nightmares grow in intensity, Raynor begins to suspect that they may not be figments of his imagination—but a desperate form of telepathic contact. Convinced that the woman he loves is still alive, Raynor launches a mission to rescue Kerrigan from Char. But deep beneath the planet’s smoldering surface, Raynor finds a strange chrysalis . . . and is forced to watch in horror. as a terrible, all-too-familiar entity arises from it.

Before him stands a creature of malice and vengeance . . . Sarah Kerrigan : The Zerg Queen of Blades.”

Copyright ? 2006 by Blizzard Entertainment

PROLOGUE

The world went dark.

Not just a darkened sky—no mere nightfall could produce such utter darkness. No, this was the dark of captivity, confinement, blindness. Nothing visible, no light, no shadow, only a smothering visual shroud. A stark contrast to the blinding lights and sudden bursts of color from just before.

I struggle to make sense of my surroundings. Where am I?

Nothing but blankness answers, and an instant later a far larger question looms up, erasing the first. Who am I?

A wave of panic rises deep within, bile carried along its edge, threatening to drown me as I realize I cannot remember. I do not know who I am!

Calm, I tell myself. Calm. I force the panic down, pushing it back by sheer will, refusing to let it envelop me. What do you remember, then?

Nothing. No, brief flashes. A battle. A war. Horrid, horrible foes, great monstrous beings surrounding me, dwarfing me. Betrayal—though I cannot recall the act itself I can still taste the bitter realization of it. Abandonment. Desperation, a last frenzied struggle. The feel of sinewy flesh pinning me, choking me, killing me. The light fading around me as the numbness creeps in.

And now this.

Where am I? I stretch my senses to their limit, probing my surroundings. The results, though hazy and disjointed, form a single conclusion.

I am being carried.

I can feel the movement, the gentle rocking motion. Not directly—something cushions me, envelops me, holds me all around. But that cushioning is moving, and me with it.

I try lashing out, but my limbs will not cooperate. I feel sluggish, drained—drugged. Senses dulled, body leaden, but nerves oddly on fire. I am burning from within! My flesh crawls, creeps, melts, morphs—I have no control over my own form anymore. I am changing.

Around me I can feel others shifting. They are not confined as I am—they are free to move, though their minds are oddly blunted. They are my captors, conveying me in my confinement.

I can hear their thoughts, slithering across me, through me. A part of me recoils but another part—a newer part—welcomes their intrusion. Vibrates in tune with their gibbering, allowing the patterns to resonate through me. Changing me further, bringing me closer to those waiting just beyond.

The part that is still me, the old me, recoils in horror. I cannot, I will not become one of these! I must escape! I must be free! My body is captive but my mind soars, reaching out for help, any help. I scream, desperate for anyone to hear.

And, far away, I know that my pleas have been heard.

Help me!

Rubble lay everywhere, evidence of a city in flames, a world in demise. Buildings had fallen, vehicles were crashed and crushed, bodies littered the ground. A sign still stood near the edge of the destruction, its scorched surface reading “Welcome to”—the name New Gettysburg only a jagged hole with blackened edges. All manner of bodies, from the pale flesh of the Terrans to the smooth hides of the protoss to the sinewy blades of the zerg. People, those not yet dead and unable to evacuate, ran screaming, wailing for help. Some brandished weapons, crazed beyond rational thought, desperate to defend themselves and their families. Others cowered, weeping, unable to face the end of their world. A few hid or ran, hoping to escape their fate.

The Swarm ignored them. It had a higher agenda.

The battle had not gone as expected. The Terrans had put up a strong fight but with fewer soldiers than anticipated. The protoss, the hated protoss, had appeared as always, gleaming in their battle suits and glowing in their arrogance, but had rapidly lost focus, dividing their attentions as if facing not one but two opponents. In some places the Swarm had sighted Terrans battling protoss, a strange but welcome sight. Yes, it had been a strange battlefield, the sides constantly shifting. But that was for the Overmind to consider and digest. For now, the conflict was over, the battle won. The remaining Terrans posed little threat and the protoss had vanished once the outcome was clear. For some reason they had not razed the planet, a fact which had allowed the Swarm to discover and claim a previously unexpected prize.

Now, their linked minds already turned from this conflict to those stretching out before them, the zerg marshaled their forces and prepared for their victorious departure.

One brood cleared a path, removing any obstructions, whether flesh or stone or metal. A second brood followed close behind, its ranks protectively closed around its prize. Near the center several ultralisks moved in close formation, their back-spikes almost touching. Between them were four hydralisks, thick arms linked to support the large oblong they held. Through its rough, sticky shell the cocoon pulsed with light, though its faint glow was lost amid the fires and flares and explosions that had once been this city.

“Carefully,” warned the brood’s cerebrate, observing their progress through the overlord floating just above the sphere. Because the celebrant itself could not move, the airborne overlords served as its eyes, ears, and mouth. “The Chrysalis must not be harmed!”

Obedient to its will, the ultralisks shifted slightly closer and slowed their pace, allowing more time for the brood before them to open the way. Their heavy feet crushed bone and metal and wood without thought or pause as they lumbered on, shielding the Chrysalis from attack.

“We have it, Master,” the cerebrate announced in the depths of its own mind. “We have your prize.”

“Good.” The reply echoed from within, rising from the deep well of the zerg hive-mind. “You must watch over the Chrysalis, and ensure that no harm comes to the creature within it. Go now and keep safe my prize.”

Accepting the Overmind’s orders as always, the cerebrate redoubled its efforts, making sure its brood’s defenses were secure. The Chrysalis would be protected at all costs.

On the zerg marched, the city burning around them. At last the Swarm had gathered itself within a vast crater where once the city’s vaunted lake had stretched. Now the surface was glass-smooth, seared by the force of the protoss’s landing ships and unmarred by the heavy feet that had trekked across toward the city under siege.

“We are ready, Master,” the cerebrate declared, arraying its brood around the Chrysalis.

“I am well pleased, young Cerebrate,” the Overmind answered, the warm glow of its benediction washing over the cerebrate and through it all the members of its Swarm. “And so long as my prize remains intact, I shall remain pleased. Thus, its life and yours shall be made as one. As it prospers, so shall you. For you are part of the Swarm. If ever your flesh should fail, that flesh shall be made anew. That is my covenant with all cerebrates.”

As the cerebrate swelled with pride, a great darkness descended upon the crater, a shadow of the mass that drifted into view high above them. Beyond the upper reaches of the planet’s dying atmosphere hung a massive storm, a swirl of orange and violet gases that spun around strange flickering lights. They moved faster and faster, the colors merging in their fury, until the center of the storm collapsed in upon itself, light and color giving way to a shadowy circle far darker than even the space hovering beyond.

“Now you have grown strong enough to bear the rigors of warp travel with the Swarm,” the Overmind stated, its words sending a thrum of power through the Swarm. “Thus we shall make our exit from this blasted world and secure the Chrysalis within the Hive Cluster upon the planet Char.”

As one the first brood rose, soaring high above the ruined city. They broke free of the planet’s weak, fading grasp and approached the storm above, pulled into that yawning, beckoning darkness at its center, and vanished. The cerebrate felt their transit through the hive-mind link all zerg shared and allowed a spark of contentment to linger within its own mind. Then the Overmind summoned it as well, and the cerebrate called its brood together, linking them tightly for travel through the warp. They rose from the crater, letting the power of the Swarm fill them as they ascended, and soon the darkness had drowned out all thought, all sense, as it carried them across the vastness of space to their destination.

And within the Chrysalis, faintly visible through its thick skin and viscous contents, a body writhed in pain. Though not conscious the figure within shifted, stirred, unable to lie still as the zerg virus penetrated every cell, changing DNA to match their own. Soon the Chrysalis would open and the new zerg would emerge. All the Swarm exulted with the Overmind.

And, as they departed and Tarsonis died behind them, the mind trapped within the Chrysalis screamed.

STARCRAFT ? 2006 Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.

Starcraft: Shadow of the Xel’Naga - Excerpt

June 26, 2001
Pocket Book, 272 pages


Description



Far in the future, 60,000 light-years from Earth, a loose confederacy of Terran exiles are locked in battle with the enigmatic Protoss and the ruthless Zerg Swarm. Each species struggles to ensure its own survival among the stars in a war that will herald the beginning of mankind’s greatest chapter—or foretell its violent, bloody end.

Bhekar Ro: a bleak, backwater world on the fringe of the Terran Dominion, where every day is a struggle to survive for its handful of human colonists. It is a veritable wasteland—one speck of dust among many in the vast, dark sea of space. But when the most violent storm in recent memory unearths an unfathomable alien artifact, Bhekar Ro becomes the greatest prize in the Terran Sector—the Holy Grail of the Zerg, the Protoss, and Humanity alike—as forces from the three great powers converge to claim the lost secrets of the most powerful species the universe has ever known.

Order this book at our Blizzplanet Store


Chapter One


As a smothering blanket of darkness descended over the town of Free Haven, the rugged settlers scrambled to avoid the storm. Night came quickly on the colony planet of Bhekar Ro, with plenty of wind but no stars.

Pitch-black clouds swirled over the horizon, caught on the sharp mountainous ridge surrounding the broad valley that formed the heart of the struggling agricultural colony. Already, explosive thunder crackled over the ridge like a poorly aimed artillery barrage. Each blast was powerful enough to be detected on several still-functioning seismographs planted around the explored areas.

Atmospheric conditions created thunder slams with sonic-boom intensity. The roar itself was sometimes sufficient to cause destruction. And what the sonic thunder left unharmed, the laser-lightning tore to pieces.

Forty years earlier, when the first colonists had fled the oppressive government of the Terran Confederacy, they had been duped into believing that this place could be made into a new Eden. After three generations, the stubborn settlers refused to give up.

Riding in the shotgun seat beside her brother Lars, Octavia Bren looked through the streaked windshield of the giant robo-harvester as they hurriedly trundled back to town. The rumble of the mechanical treads and the roar of the engine almost drowned out the sonic thunder. Almost.

Laser-lightning blasts seared down from the clouds like luminous spears, straight-line lances of static discharge that left glassy pockmarks on the terrain. The laser-lightning reminded Octavia of library images she had seen of a big Yamato gun fired from a Battlecruiser in orbit.

“Why in the galaxy did our grandparents ever choose to move here?” she asked rhetorically. More laser-lightning burned craters into the countryside.

“For the scenery, of course,” Lars joked.

While the bombardment of hail would clear the air of the ever-present dust and grit, it would also damage the crops of triticale-wheat and salad-moss that barely clung to the rocky soil. The Free Haven settlers had few emergency provisions to help them withstand any severe harvest failure, and it had been a long time since they had asked for outside help.

But they would survive somehow. They always had.

Lars watched the approaching storm, a spark of excitement in his hazel eyes. Though he was a year older than his sister, when he wore that cocky grin on his face he looked like a reckless teenager. “I think we can outrun the worst of it.”

“You always overestimate what we can do, Lars.” Even at the age of seventeen, Octavia was known for her stability and common sense. “And I always end up saving your butt.”

Lars seemed to have a bottomless reservoir of energy and enthusiasm. She gripped her seat as the big all-purpose vehicle crunched through a trench and continued along a wide beaten path between plantings, heading toward the distant lights of the town.

Shortly after their parents’ death, it had been Lars’s crazy suggestion that the two of them expand their cultivated land and add remote automated mineral mines to their holdings. She had tried, unsuccessfully, to talk him out of it. “Let’s be practical, Lars. We’ve already got our hands full with the farm as it is. Expanding would leave us time for nothing but work—not even families.”

Half of the colonists’ eligible daughters had already filed requests to marry him—Cyn McCarthy had filed three separate times!—but so far Lars had made plenty of excuses. Colonists were considered adults at the age of fifteen on this rough world, and many were married and had children before they reached their eighteenth birthday. Next year, Octavia would be facing the same decision, and choices were few in Free Haven.

“Are you sure we want to do this?” she had asked one last time.

“Of course. It’s worth the extra effort. And once we’re established there’ll be plenty of time for each of us to get married,” Lars had insisted, shaking back his shoulder-length sandy hair. She had never been able to argue with that grin. “Before we know it, Octavia, it’ll all turn around, and then you’ll thank me.”

He had been certain they could grow crops high on the slopes of the Back Forty, the ridge that separated their lands from another broad basin and more mountains twelve kilometers away. So the brother and sister had used their robo-harvester to scrape flat a new swath of barely arable farmland and plant new crops. They also set up automated mineral mining stations on the rocky slopes of the foothills. That had been almost two years ago.

Now a gust of wind slammed into the broad metal side of the harvester, rattling the sealed windowports. Lars compensated on the steering column and accelerated. He didn’t even look tired from their long day of hard work.

Laser-lightning seared across the sky, leaving colorful tracks across her retinas. Though he couldn’t see any better than his sister, Lars didn’t slow down at all. They both just wanted to get home.

“Watch out for the boulders!” Octavia said, her piercing green eyes spotting the hazard as rain slashed across the windows of the impressive tractorlike vehicle.

Lars discounted the rocks, drove over them, and crushed the stone with the vehicle’s treads. “Aww, don’t underestimate the capabilities of the machine.”

She snorted indelicately. “But if you throw a plate or fry a hydraulic cam, I’m the one who has to fix it.”

The multipurpose robo-harvester, the most important piece of equipment any of the colonists owned, was capable of bulldozing, tilling, destroying boulders, planting, and harvesting crops. Some of the big machines had rock-crusher attachments, others had flamethrowers. The vehicles were also practical for traversing ten- to twenty-klick distances over rough terrain.

The hull of the robo-harvester, once a gleaming cherry red, was now faded, scratched, and pitted. The engine ran as smoothly as a lullaby, though, and that was all Octavia cared about.

Now she checked the weather scanner and atmospheric-pressure tracker in the robo-harvester’s cabin, but the readings were all wild. “Looks like a bad one tonight.”

“They’re always bad ones. This is Bhekar Ro, after all—what do you expect?”

Octavia shrugged. “I guess it was good enough for Mom and Dad.” Back when they were alive.

She and Lars were the only survivors of their family. Every family among the settlers had lost friends or relatives. Taming an uncooperative new world was dangerous, rarely rewarding work, always ripe for tragedy.

But the people here still followed their dreams. These exhausted colonists had left the tight governmental fences of the Confederacy for the promised land of Bhekar Ro some forty years before. They had sought independence and a new start, away from the turmoil and constant civil wars among the inner Confederacy worlds.

The original settlers had wanted nothing more than peace and freedom. They had begun idealistically, establishing a central town with resources for all the colonists to share, naming it Free Haven, and dividing farmland equally among the able-bodied workers. But in time the idealism faded as the colonists endured toil and new hardships on a planet that did not live up to their expectations.

Nobody among the colonists ever suggested going back, though—especially not Octavia and Lars Bren.

The lights of Free Haven glowed like a warm, welcoming paradise as the robo-harvester approached. In the distance Octavia could already hear the storm-warning siren next to the old Missile Turret in the town plaza, signaling colonists to find shelter. Everyone else—at least the colonists who had common sense—had already barricaded themselves inside their prefabricated homes to shelter from the storm.

They passed outlying homes and fields, crossed over dry irrigation ditches, and reached the perimeter of the town, which was laid out in the shape of an octagon. A low perimeter fence encircled the settlement, but the gates for the main streets had never been closed.

An explosion of sonic thunder roared so close that the robo-harvester rattled. Lars gritted his teeth and drove onward. Octavia remembered sitting on her father’s knee during her childhood, laughing at the thunder as her family had gathered inside their home, feeling safe….

Their grandparents had aged rapidly from the rigors of life here and had the dubious distinction of being the first to be buried in Bhekar Ro’s ever-growing cemetery outside Free Haven’s octagonal perimeter. Then, not long after Octavia had turned fifteen, the spore blight had struck.

The sparse crops of mutated triticale-wheat had been afflicted by a tiny black smut on a few of the kernels. Because food was in short supply, Octavia’s mother had set aside the moldy wheat for herself and her husband, feeding untainted bread to their children. The meager meal had seemed like any other: rough and tasteless, but nutritious enough to keep them alive.

Octavia remembered that last night so clearly. She had been suffering from one of her occasional migraines and a dire sense of unreasonable foreboding. Her mother had sent the teenage girl to bed early, where Octavia had had terrible nightmares.

The next morning she had awakened in a too-quiet house to find both of her parents dead in their bed. Beneath wet sheets twisted about by their final agony, the bodies of her mother and father were a quivering, oozing mass of erupted fungal bodies, rounded mushrooms of exploding spores that rapidly disintegrated all flesh….

Lars and Octavia had never returned to that house, burning it to the ground along with the tainted fields and the homes of seventeen other families that had been infected by the horrible, parasitic disease.

Though a terrible blow to the colony, the spore blight had drawn the survivors together even more tightly. The new mayor, Jacob “Nik” Nikolai, had delivered an impassioned eulogy for all the victims of the spore plague, somehow rekindling the fires of independence in the process and giving the settlers the drive to stay here. They had already lived through so much, survived so many hardships, that they could pull through this.

Moving together into an empty prefab dwelling at the edge of Free Haven, Octavia and Lars had rebuilt their lives. They made plans. They expanded. They tracked their automated mines and watched the seismic monitors for signs of tectonic disturbances that might affect their work or the town. The two drove out to the fields each day and labored side by side until well after dark. They worked harder, risked more…and survived.

As Octavia and Lars passed through the open gate and drove around the town square toward their residence, the storm finally struck with full force. It became a slanting wall of rain and hail as the robo-harvester ground its way past the lights and barricaded doors of metal-walled huts. Their own home looked the same as all the others, but Lars found it by instinct, even in the blinding downpour.

He spun the large vehicle to a halt in the flat gravel clearing in front of their house. He locked down the treads and powered off the engine, while Octavia tugged a reinforced hat down over her head and got ready to jump out of the cab and make a break for the door. Even running ten feet in this storm would be a miserable ordeal.

Before the robo-harvester’s systems dimmed completely, Octavia checked the fuel reservoirs, since her brother never remembered to do so. “We’ll need to get more Vespene gas from the refinery.”

Lars grabbed the door handle and hunched his head down. “Tomorrow, tomorrow. Rastin’s probably hiding inside his hut cursing the wind right now. That old codger doesn’t like storms any more than I do.”

He popped open the hatch and jumped out seconds before a strong gust slammed the door back into its frame. Octavia exited from the other side, hopping from the step to the broad tractor treads to the ground.

As she ran beside her brother in a mad dash to their dwelling, the hail hit them like machine-gun bullets. Lars got their front door open, and the siblings crashed into the house, drenched and windblown. But at least they were safe from the storm.

Sonic thunder pealed across the sky again. Lars undid the fastenings on his jacket. Octavia yanked off her dripping hat and tossed it into a corner, then powered up their lights so she could check one of the old seismographs they had installed in their hut.

Few of the other colonists bothered to monitor planetary conditions or track underground activity anymore, but Lars had thought it important to place seismographs in their automated mining stations out in the Back Forty foothills. Of course, Octavia had been the one to repair and install the aging monitoring equipment.

Lars had been right, though. There had been increasing tremors of late, setting off ripples of aftershocks that originated deep in the mountain range at the far side of the next valley.

Just what we need—another thing to worry about, Octavia thought, looking at the graph with concern.

Lars joined her to read the seismograph strip. The long and shaky line appeared to have been drawn by a caff-addicted old man. He saw several little blips and spikes, probably echoes of sonic thunder, but no major seismic events. “Now that’s interesting. Aren’t you glad we didn’t have an earthquake tonight?”

She knew it would happen even before he finished his sentence. Maybe it was another one of Octavia’s powerful premonitions, or just a discouraged acceptance that things would get worse whenever they had the opportunity.

Just as Lars formed another of his cocky grins, a tremor rippled through the ground, as if the uneasy crust of Bhekar Ro were having a nightmare. At first Octavia hoped it was merely a particularly close blast of sonic thunder, but the tremors continued to build, lurching the floor beneath their feet and shaking the entire prefab house.

Lars tensed his powerful muscles to ride out the temblor. They both watched the seismograph go wild. “The readings are off the scale!”

Astonished, Octavia pointed out, “This isn’t even centered here. It’s fifteen klicks away, over the ridge.”

“Great. Not far from where we set up all our automated mining equipment.” The seismograph went dead, its sensors overloaded, as the quake pounded the ground for what seemed an eternity before it gradually began to fade. “Looks like you’re gonna have some repair work to do tomorrow, Octavia.”

“I’ve always got repair work to do,” she said.

Outside, the storm reached a crescendo. Lars and Octavia sat together in weary silence, just waiting out the disaster. “Do you want to play cards?” he asked.

Then all the lights inside their dwelling went out, leaving them in pitch blackness lit only by flares from the laser-lightning.

“Not tonight,” she said.

Copyright ? 2001 by Blizzard Entertainment

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