StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm hits retail stores in a week on March 12th. The collective hearts of millions of fans are pounding with excitement — not only to play the new Terran, Zerg and Protoss units; but to savor the single player campaign’s storyline.
If you haven’t read StarCraft II: Flashpoint, I recommend you to read it before March 12th. The story begins few seconds after Jim Raynor shot his handgun at Tychus Findlay in Planet Char.
Toward the end of the novel, Sarah and Jim Raynor are brought by Valerian Mengsk to a secret lab on an orbital platform within the Umojan Protectorate.
Something the Heart of the Swarm tie-in novel by New York Times bestselling author Christie Golden establishes throughout the story is that this is a very vulnerable and human Sarah Kerrigan. I think the objective of the novel was well written and received by the readers. There is no doubt this is the Jim’s loved Sarah. We even get to see some flashbacks from the point of view of Sarah at Antiga Prime and how her love affair with Jim escalated.
In early screenshots and video clips dating back to BlizzCon 2010-2011, we have seen Sarah wearing a ghost uniform. She is very human except for the tendril-like hair which shows she retains some zerg DNA in her system.
As detailed in my “Vengeance” analysis article, there are two messages we got across from Blizzard Entertainment. One: Sarah will remain Sarah for a while during the single player campaign. We’ll enjoy her very human emotions in cutscenes, cinematics and as she engages some of her missions.
On the other hand, two: We see Sarah at a Xel’Naga Temple emerging from a crystal-like crysalis or cocoon — during the scene where we see a bright flash followed by an explosion.
Sarah emerges as a new Queen of Blades right in front of Jim Raynor.
I think you have been sharp-eye enough to have noticed her face as the brand-new Queen of Blades looks slightly different than when she was the old Queen of Blades prior to the Wings of Liberty-finale. Her eyes and the sides of her face have a special glow she lacked previously. A radiance of never-before untapped power.
The old Queen of Blades emerged from a zerg crysalis. This new Queen of Blades seems to emerge from Xel’Naga or Protoss technology — as seen in the “Vengeance” trailer. An enhanced Queen of Blades.
We don’t know exactly how Sarah becomes the Queen of Blades again. I can only interpret what I thought I saw. I know some lore fans might not like to see Sarah lose her humanity, especially after all Jim Raynor did to revert her back to human. However, the StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty storyline was very specific on what Kerrigan’s role in the three-episode shall be.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty – Protoss Campaign in a Nutshell
This quick summary will open up your eyes on why Sarah must be the Queen of Blades again.
Zeratul sought the three fragments of “The Return of the Xel’Naga” prophecy in planet Ulaan. Both, Zeratul and Kerrigan the Queen of Blades were drawn to planet Ulaan. Kerrigan said she heard whisperings from the stars which drew her to the prophecy fragments. A storm is coming.
Kerrigan also knows more about what’s coming and about the prophecy than Zeratul gives credit. He simply refuses to understand the words coming from an abomination like Kerrigan.
She knows there’s a war coming like a tidal wave from where none shall survive. There is no time to fancy a life as a normal human, in love, alongside Jim Raynor. The Fallen One and his minions are bringing about the extinction of the entire universe. It’s to go out in flame, and then eternal utter darkness. Kerrigan knows this. She must prepare to save everyone. It’s her role. This is what the Overmind created her for.
During the “Zeratul’s Warning” cinematic, Zeratul brings tidings of doom and asks Jim Raynor to save Kerrigan the Queen of Blades even if justice demands she is slain.
Zeratul: “I have pierced the veil of the future and beheld only … oblivion. Yet one spark of hope remains. You will hold her life in your hands … And though justice demands that she die for her crimes, only she can save us.”
During his quest to learn what the prophecy fragments said, Zeratul visited the three immortal protoss preservers in the remote planet Zhakul.
The protoss preservers were held captive by a hybrid protoss, who was siphoning their lifeforce to augment his own powers and to gain immortality. Presumably, it was also stealing their sacred archive’s knowledge for his master: The Fallen One.
Zeratul and some allies he met in planet Zhakul rallied together and defeated the hybrid. The protoss preservers revealed the following:
Protoss Preserver: “The Cycle shall draw to its end. The Xel’Naga who forged the stars will transcend their creation … Yet, the Fallen One shall remain … Destined to cover the Void in shadow … It begins with the Great Hungerer. It ends … in utter darkness.”
Zeratul determines the Great Hungerer is a reference to The zerg Overmind. Thus, Zeratul embarks into a journey toward his former homeworld … planet Aiur. There, he plans to draw psionic imprints from the tendrils and the cortex off the dead husk of the zerg Overmind.
To Zeratul’s surprise, he got more than he bargained for. Tassadar’s avatar materialized from the beyond. Somehow, Tassadar did not die at all in his final sacrifice plunging the Ganthritor protoss carrier into the zerg Overmind (as seen in the original StarCraft video game, 1998).
In the original StarCraft game, Zeratul was teaching Tassadar the way of the Dark Templar. If you watch the cinematic above, Tassadar channeled the High Templar and Dark Templar energies and became a being of pure light. The Ganthritor is shown to actually desintegrate long before the energy ball hit the Overmind, which means Tassadar trascended his corporeal form to become something else.
Tassadar told Zeratul the Overmind had been programmed unwillingly with an all-consuming directive and assigned with the mission to destroy the Protoss. The Overmind was imprisoned within his own mind with lack of free will.
Tassadar admited he did not know who programmed the Overmind with these directives. It seems as if someone sabotaged the Xel’Naga’s original plans for the Overmind. Maybe a traitor from within?
Before the zerg arrived to the Koprulu Sector, the Overmind had seen a vision of the future. In this vision, the Terrans had fallen. The universe was aflame. Only the protoss remained alive in a distant world holding the last bastion of the protoss civilization. In this future, Zeratul, High Executor Selendis, Hierarch Artanis and other heroes fought to the bitter end in a glorious battle against the Hybrid and the enslaved zerg.
In this future, Kerrigan the Queen of Blades had been killed earlier. It seems Jim Raynor had eventually killed Kerrigan as he originally planned.
The Fallen One whispered into the minds of the Protoss the only one who could have posed a threat to him was the Queen of Blades. The protoss in their arrogance did not see.
The Fallen One: “Foolish, prideful children … There was one among you who could have jeopardized my great plan … but in your recklessness – you mistook her for the true threat!”
Zeratul: “The Queen of Blades … how could we have known?”
The Overmind orchestrated a hope to set itself and the zerg race free. It created the Queen of Blades. She will destroy the hybrids, the harbingers of the Fallen One. This is the role she was created to undo. This is why Sarah must be the Queen of Blades once more in “Heart of the Swarm”.
Wait — but how comes if this is her role, she died in that dark future? Jim Raynor had something to do with her demise. Or maybe Tychus Findlay was meant to shoot her in this alternate timeline. Somehow the prophecy came to the past from the future. I think I can explain that one. The bonus objective in the “Utter Darkness” mission is to protect the “Protoss Archive” vault.
A High Templar says the following:
High Templar: “High Templar: Great one, the vault is prepared. Guard us while we preserve our knowledge for those that may follow. They must not make the mistakes we did.”
It seems the Protoss Preservers managed to send the archive back in time, securing the knowledge of this dark future so that the wisdom could be used to change the outcome. We have seen time manipulation before in the StarCraft lore. In StarCraft II: The Dark Templar trilogy we see Zamara halts her death by placing her dying body in a time bubble. Maybe the protoss are not capable of traveling back in time, but they might be able to send a signal back in time? If that can’t be believed, then let’s just see how Tassadar pulled an Obi-Wan trick and cheated death. For instance.
This vision of the future was given to Zeratul by Tassadar, who saw into the Overmind’s memories as it died. It is then how Zeratul recorded his experience into the Ihan Crystal and gave it to Jim Raynor during the “Zeratul’s Warning” cinematic.
Only Jim Raynor can save Kerrigan. And so he did.
It’s now Kerrigan’s turn to fulfill the role she was created to accomplish. There is no doubt whatever Blizzard’s Creative Team has cooked up for StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is going to leave fans hungering for more with an epic storyline.
StarCraft II: Flashpoint by New York Times best selling author Christie Golden hits bookstores today November.6.2012. The novel bridges the gap between the events of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm.
The very first page starts two seconds after the last StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty cinematic with Jim Raynor sinking in what just happened. He just shot his best friend Tychus Findlay in order to safe Sarah.
This novel explores the love relationship between Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan both in the present and the past (the original StarCraft game via Flashbacks). This is no longer the Queen of Blades. Sarah has been reborn after the Xel’Naga artifact zapped the Queen of Blades. This is a weakened and vulnerable Sarah, with no vestiges of her Queen of Blades personality. A purely human and emotional Sarah.
The novel’s story has its share of smart and radical twists and turns. Is Prince Valerian Mengsk holding up to his alliance with Jim Raynor, or do his machinations end up backstabbing the former-Marshal? On the other hand, readers learn more about the Moebius Foundation and Dr. Emil Narud[uran?].
Micky Neilson discusses StarCraft II: Flashpoint at the New York Comic Con 2012 (Videos)
An all-new hardcover based on the eagerly anticipated StarCraft II videogame expansion, Heart of the Swarm!
The Queen of Blades is gone. On the hellish planet Char, Jim Raynor harnessed the power of an ancient Xel’Naga artifact in a desperate bid to stop the zerg Swarm from overrunning the Koprulu sector, and the relic restored Sarah Kerrigan to her human form. Without their queen to guide and unify them, the Swarm has fractured into several broods scattered throughout the Koprulu sector. One of the greatest threats to the galaxy has been neutralized… or so it seems.
Sarah Kerrigan is on the loose. Even without the terrible powers of the Queen of Blades or the might of the Swarm at her command, the former Ghost remains a foe not to be taken lightly. But if the artifact really did set her free, then why is Kerrigan seeking out zerg broods scattered throughout the Koprulu sector? Is she still pursuing her quest for vengeance, or has her transformation given Kerrigan a new purpose? Just who is Sarah Kerrigan?
The Queen of Blades has fallen.
The sinister zerg leader no longer commands her legions of bloodthirsty aliens against the humans of the Koprulu sector, all thanks to the combined courage and tenacity of Jim Raynor, General Horace Warfield, and a mismatched team of Dominion soldiers and outlaw rebels.
Although the queen is no more, Sarah Kerrigan is very much alive. The woman who once controlled countless alien minds in a rampage across the stars has been spirited away by the man who dethroned her. Now Arcturus Mengsk’s Dominion armada is on her heels, roaring for blood. Jim Raynor will need to test his strength, his wit, and his loyalties against impossible odds to protect the woman he loves.
StarCraft II: Flashpoint bridges the events that take place in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and the upcoming StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm. Featuring never-before-seen glimpses into Jim Raynor’s and Sarah Kerrigan’s past, this novel opens a window into a world of passion, action, and adventure.
Chapter One Excerpt – Spoiler Alert
“We all got our choices to make.”
Those were the last words Tychus Findlay— criminal, former marine, and traitor— would ever hear from his old friend James Raynor.
Tychus had made his choice first— to betray Jim’s trust and friendship by attempting to murder Sarah Kerrigan, the former Queen of Blades, who now sprawled shivering and vulnerable in a red-black cavern inside the planet Char.
Jim had chosen not to let him.
“I made a deal with the Devil, Jimmy.”
And for that deal, Sarah lay limp and trembling and alive, and Tychus Findlay lay stiffening in the armor that had turned out to be first a prison and then a metal coffin.
Jim lowered his pistol. Smoke still drifted upward from its muzzle, mingling with the steam that curled and coiled at his feet. The bullet meant for Arcturus Mengsk, the man he hated above all others, had instead ended the life of the man Jim had once called his best friend.
What have I just done?
Jim fought back the tidal wave of emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. This was no time for rejoicing that the artifact to restore Kerrigan had worked, for berating his own lack of judgment regarding Tychus, for mourning the giant of a man whose rumbling voice would never again utter either jokes or threats.
They needed to get out of this murky, hellish cavern, off this world, and fast.
With Sarah Kerrigan.
His men moved forward as their commander holstered his weapon, clearly intending to bring Tychus’s body with them. Jim barked sharply, “Leave him!”
“Sir?” Cam Fraser asked, confused. “We don’t leave no one behind.”
“We’re leaving him. I ain’t gonna risk any of your lives for the sake of carrying the corpse of a traitor,” Jim snarled. It was a valid argument. But even as he spoke the words, Jim knew it wasn’t the only reason for his decision.
He wanted to leave Tychus behind. Findlay had cut a deal with Arcturus Mengsk. He would have traded Kerrigan’s life for his freedom. Now Sarah Kerrigan lived, and Tychus would rot inside his suit. There was a brutal justice about it that Jim suspected would rack his soul if he thought about it too much. But, perhaps mercifully, there was no time for thinking.
They had come here, to the zerg base world of Char, to do what no doubt seemed like madness: to make the Queen of Blades human again. They had found her deep inside the volcanic, ashy planet. She seemed completely stripped of her zerg-given abilities and appearance. Gone were the bony wings, the scaly skin that had once covered her toned body. But her hair was still—
It looked like it had worked. And “looked like” was close enough for Raynor, for now.
“We need a dropship, Matt,” Raynor said into his comm.
Matt Horner, captain of the battlecruiser Hyperion, sounded stunned. “It . . . it worked?
That alien thing Valerian had us go find for him . . . it really worked?” Raynor knelt and, as gently as possible in the giant metalsuit, slid his arms beneath Sarah and lifted her. She whimpered, once, and his heart broke.
“Looks like,” he said. He didn’t voice his concern about her to Matt as his gaze was drawn again to what crowned her head.
The long red, silky tresses Raynor had once run his hands through were still only things of memory. This part of the Queen of Blades had not changed; instead of soft tendrils, what looked like a hideous cross between tentacles, sectioned insect legs, and quills adorned her skull. Maybe, like a tail that wasn’t needed anymore, it was just a vestigial relic left behind after the artifact worked its voodoo.
Maybe it wasn’t.
“I . . . really can’t believe it, sir.” Matt was still stuck in astonishment.
“I said we need a dropship, unless we’ve gone to all this trouble to free Sarah only to have her die along with the rest of us, Matt,” Raynor said. He rose. Sarah’s form, naked as any newborn’s, shifted with the gesture, rolling closer to him.
If only he were really holding her in his arms, not just carrying her in his armor, he thought fleetingly. If only he could feel her against him, as he had once, a few years ago, a lifetime ago.
Sarah . . . I’m gonna keep you safe.
“Of course, sir,” said Matt, snapping to attention again. “The zerg are going crazy without Kerri— without the Queen of Blades to direct them. Some of them are fleeing, but a whole mess of them are apparently just interested in suicide runs.
It’s going to be tough getting something down to you, but we’ll do it.”
“Attaboy,” Raynor said. He headed back toward the entrance, carrying Sarah carefully. “Now listen up: We’ve got alittle complication. Your dropship needs to wait for two groups, not just one. I had to split up my team. My group went to find out what the xel’naga artifact did to Kerrigan, and Lisle and Haynes stayed behind to protect it. Once you’ve figured out where you’re going to land that dropship, they’ll bring it with them and meet us there.”
There was no way they were leaving the artifact behind. Jim could see it in his mind’s eye: sleek and black, slightly longer than a man was tall, with blue luminescent lines that revealed where five separate pieces had come together to create a single astonishing device. Raynor knew that although they had only begun to understand what it was capable of, he would always remember it and be grateful for what it had done for Sarah.
“I’ll start analyzing the terrain for the safest place to park one, sir,” Matt said.
“You do that.” Jim ended the conversation and switched to another channel. They stepped out of the cavern—
—I killed my best friend and left him to rot in there—
—into the red glow of what passed for sunlight on Char. It was an ugly and unpredictable world. The surface was rocky and black, or gray with ash, or simply just liquid fire. The atmosphere was survivable without hardskins . . . barely. It was Hell, pure and simple, and a fitting place for the zerg to call their home.
“Jim?” The voice was weak, but it was hers. Human. And she knew who he was.
“It’s okay; I gotcha.” And that was all he needed to say. He walked slowly, carefully, then, feeling her gaze, met her eyes. He did not give her a reassuring smile. His feelings ran too deep for that. He looked at her for a moment, then returned his attention to the ugly world around him. Words could come later. Right now, he needed to get her to safety.
“Hey, boys,” he said into his comm, “it worked. You kept that xel’naga thing safe for me like I asked?”
“Yes, sir!” came Lisle’s voice. “Had to fight back a bunch of ’em when it first started, but they’ve steered clear of it for awhile. Was the damnedest thing— critters just started attacking each other.”
“And I bet you ain’t complaining.”
“No, sir, not one damn bit!”
“I’ll let you know the rendezvous point as soon as we know ourselves.” Jim glanced up at the red sky. He could see that the battle was still raging above the planet; here and there were explosions, appearing as small puffs from this distance. He could even see the tiny shapes of mutalisks closer to the surface. “We—”
Kerrigan’s body suddenly spasmed, and she began to cough. Jim swore. He should have thought of this. They still didn’t know what, exactly, had happened to Kerrigan— it could be that the transition back to human had weakened her more than they thought.
“Medic!” he called as he placed Kerrigan on the ground, kneeling beside her. Lily Preston hurried up to him, striding swiftly in her medic’s hardskin while pulling out a respiratory unit from her pack. She too knelt beside Kerrigan, fastening the unit over the gasping woman’s mouth and nose. A thin blanket, featherlight but made of a material known as insulweave that would ensure that the patient’s body heat stayed at a steady 37 degrees Celsius, was gently wrapped around Kerrigan. She whimpered softly as her limbs were lifted and tucked in like a doll’s, but the coughing and spasming stopped.
Preston peered at Jim. “We don’t know what she is anymore, Jim,” she said.
“I’m treating her like a human, but—”
“She is human, dammit!” Jim snapped, insisting on it even though he himself was gripped with a cold fear that Kerrigan really wasn’t. “She has trouble breathing the air just like we do. Her body temperature—”
The ground on which the two knelt suddenly pitched like a wild animal, and there was a huge, reverberating sound that seemed to go on forever. Several other Raiders were knocked clean off their feet. Jim held Sarah close, trying to keep her stable. Out of the corner of his eye he glimpsed a huge red glow, and he whirled to see what had happened.
A gigantic chunk of what had once been a battlecruiser was now nothing more than blazing wreckage, burning sullenly in the crater it had made. Things out of nightmares were swarming all over it. They were zerglings, the smallest package in which zerg hell came. Hydralisks were a maglev train-wreck combination of insects with scythelike arms, snake bodies, teeth that never ended, and neosteel-penetrating spines they fired from their backs. Mutalisks were monsters that brought the ability to fly in atmosphere and in deep space, acidic blood, and parasitic glave wurms into the mix. What the zerglings lacked in size and unique attacks compared to their brothers, they made up for in numbers. Seemingly composed entirely of teeth and claws and carapaces, the zerglings threw themselves on the wreckage, attracted like insects to the brightness and the heat, and screamed horribly as their bodies were burned to a crisp. Jim glanced skyward and shouted, “Brace for impact!” as the rest of the battlecruiser, in fiery chunks as small as a helmet and as large as a house, followed, slamming into the surface of Char like an armored fist into an unprotected face.
Despite Jim’s warning and the stability the hardskins provided, the ground trembled so violently that more than one of them fell. Jim hung on tightly to Sarah, swaying and fighting to remain steady out of sheer cussedness.
Many of the remaining zerglings were suddenly silenced, but others continued to scramble and shriek. Any second now the hideous things, utterly undirected, would no doubt turn and come for Jim and his team. Not because they were bearing away the zerg Queen of Blades, who had once controlled and directed them completely, but simply because the terrans were moving, and thus they were prey.
In his head, Jim suddenly saw the image that had haunted him for four years: the disturbed, broken fantasy of what Sarah’s last moments as a human woman had been like.
He heard again her request for aid, heard Arcturus’s despicable words: “Belay that order. We’re moving out.” Arcturus Mengsk— he who used people until he had used them up, then threw them away once they were of no more use or had become too dangerous. Jim heard himself screaming, “What? You’re not just gonna leave them?” The disbelief— it had still been a question then. Jim had still somehow thought he had misunderstood, that Arcturus wasn’t really doing what it looked like.
But that ice-hearted bastard had intended to do exactly that. Sarah’s voice had come again, a slight tremor of worry in its normally cool tones: “Uh, boys . . . ? How about that evac?”
“Damn you, Arcturus! Don’t do this.”
And you are damned. You are. . .
“Commander . . . ?”
“. . . Jim? What the hell’s going on up there?”
And then nothing. Jim had imagined her looking in all directions as they came, endless wave after wave of horror, chittering and shrieking in triumph. And after that? The Queen of Blades, part psionic human but more monstrous zerg, had been born.
He had tormented himself with wondering how she had faced what should have been her death: Firing till her ammunition ran out, then leaping on them? Standing quietly and letting them take her? Attempting to kill herself first?
I thought they’d killed you. There were times— a lot of ’em— that I wished they had.
And now, even with all you’ve done, even with so many dead—I’m so glad you’re alive.
He heard the sounds of weapons being fired in the distance, and then the inevitable high-pitched chittering and screaming of the zerg. Jim rose and reached for his pistol, taking a huge step so that he stood protectively over Sarah. They would get her only over his dead body— literally. Except he would take the precious second to kill her before they got him. Sarah Kerrigan would never again be their creation.
And today was not a good day to die. Not when his life had a chance of restarting after hurtling to a heart-shattering stop four years ago.
Fraser glanced at him quickly, then away as he too took a defensive stance. “I kinda feel sorry for the zerg right now, tackling you, Jim.”
Jim looked upward, relieved to see that, for now at least, the mutalisks were busying themselves attacking the Dominion vessels in the air, which were better prepared to fight them off. Of more immediate concern to him was the cloud of ashy gray dust stirred up from the enemy’s approach. Jim could distinguish the shapes of multijawed, scythe-armed monstrosities slithering on their tail-torsos. He counted four hydralisks. Swallowed by the powdery dust were lumps that had to be several more zerglings racing forward like a pack of wild dogs, only infinitely more lethal and terrifying.
Jim took aim as the cloud drew closer and ordered, “On my mark— fire!”
His soldiers were good. Jim felt sweat trickling into his own eyes and blinked it back, ignoring the sting. He waited until that sweet second, when the attack would have the most effect but not be so late that they would be overrun. In some distant part of his mind, he lamented that he had become so familiar with how best to slaughter zerg that the timing was almost second nature.
Still they came, crying out for blood and death, crazed with the lack of guidance from their missing queen.
“Mark!” he shouted. The clacking, gleeful screams of triumph and lust to kill changed abruptly into sharp keening sounds as the zerg were blasted to bloody chunks. Pieces of the insectoid horrors flew wildly into the air. A chunk of carapace thunked on Jim’s helmet before sliding off. He didn’t change his pace. He kept firing, moving the pistol with a steady sweeping motion back and forth, mowing them down as they came. He had never seen independent thought in their actions or movements, but he had often seen intelligence. Kerrigan’s intelligence, directing and maneuvering them. Now, he saw only chaos and insanity glinting in their tiny, bright eyes, erratic choppiness in their movements.
He blew off the last one’s head. It dropped six paces from him, spewing blood and ichor, twitched, and lay still.
At once Jim knelt beside Sarah. She was curled up in a ball, clutching the blanket about her. Oddly enough, the gesture reassured Jim. It was . . . very human.
“Matt, where is that dropship?” Raynor shouted into his comm.
“Sir, it just launched.” Matt’s voice was sharp with anxiety. Judging by what remained of the battlecruiser still smoldering nearby, Jim could make a good guess as to what he was dealing with up there. But there was no time for sympathy. They had to get Sarah aboard, and then they had to get the fekk away from this hellhole.
“Tell them I’ll double their pay if they get here in five minutes.”
“Sir, you haven’t paid them in weeks.”
“Well, if I’m dead by the time they get here, that ain’t gonna change, now, is it?”
Matt’s faint chuckle was heartening. “There’s truth in that, sir. I’ll let them know, but there’s no guarantee when they’ll get there. Rendezvous coordinates are bearing eight four seven mark eight.”
“Good. We’re not far from that plateau.”
“Sir,” said Fraser, “readings indicate that it’s crawling with zerg.”
“Of course it is,” said Jim. “Whole damn planet is. We just got to get there and hold them off till the ship comes.”
He gathered Kerrigan in his arms. Her eyes opened. They were now back to their normal shade of green, no longer glowing and terrifying. She gave him a small smile, the pale lips of her too-wide mouth curving slightly. Her hand lifted to touch his chest, then fell back limply as her head rolled and her eyes closed, her body exhausted by that simple effort.
Oh yes. He’d hold them off. He’d hold them off forever.
Jim had notified Lisle and Haynes where the dropship would be landing and had to simply hope that the two soldiers would be able to hold off the zerg on their own. The plateau where rescue would come loomed ahead, only a few kilometers and yet a world away. Even as they ran steadily, their hardskins carrying them gracefully and easily, Jim heard a distant, low sound. He was incongruously reminded of the hot summers he had experienced, growing up on Shiloh, of the descent of twilight accompanied by the droning music of insects.
This sound, though, snapped him to full attention. He could see the creatures now, heading toward him and his team. Uncontrolled, they were reacting like the beasts they were, scenting prey and closing in on it. Jim felt a flash of grim humor as he realized that Lisle and Haynes were probably safer than he was this time.
Without Kerrigan to control them, the zerg would likely be less interested in the two humans with the artifact than the four humans without it, simply because Jim’s group would provide more food.
“Stand your ground!”
There was a clatter as the soldiers came to a halt, lifted their rifles, and stood ready to attack on his command. Jim could distinguish three separate packs. There was no order to them, no uniform numbers or types, no flanking on one side or the other, no strategy at all. There was only hunger.
Wait . . .
The Raiders butchered the zerg relentlessly. Some of the things stopped dead in their tracks and whirled, turning on their fallen colleagues for sustenance with the same enthusiasm they would have turned on Raynor’s Raiders. While Jim held Sarah, the others kept firing, dropping more and more of the wretches, and when at last no attacking zerg remained, only diners and dinners, he gestured to his soldiers to go around the feast. The Raiders ran past while zerglings cannibalized hydralisks. As he left the grotesque sight behind, he suddenly wondered if the zerg would find and devour the body of a man he had once regarded as “friend,” cracking open the metal shell of Findlay’s armor to get to what was inside. . . .
He recoiled from the image for an instant and then forced himself to harden his heart against it. Tychus was dead. He didn’t have to be. He could have still been alive, have still been Jim’s friend, if he had turned his back on his “deal with the Devil.” If only he had not been about to murder the woman Jim loved. But Tychus had made his choice, and he had to have known going in what Jim would do. He knew Jim better than anybody.
Tychus. Damn, there was a time when I’d have done anything for you. And when I thought you would’ve done anything for me. A time when you did give up everything for me.
A zergling was charging up to him, slaver dripping from its jaws. Without a pack its run was suicidal, but it didn’t know that. It just knew it was hungry. Jim cradled Kerrigan close and turned so his back was to the creature, protecting her with his own body. Fraser leveled his rifle and fired a spike right between the thing’s gleaming eyes. It kept coming for a stride or two, as if its body required a few seconds to understand that its brain had just been impaled, then it collapsed. Fraser took a bead on a second one, but it was unnecessary. The other zergling came to a halt and began to tear chunks out of its pack mate.
Jim shouted. Fraser whirled and dropped two more. The other zerglings chattered excitedly at the banquet Jim and his Raiders had spread out before them. Jim didn’t even bother to wrinkle his nose in disgust. He simply held Kerrigan and started, again, to run straight for the rendezvous point.
It would be hypocrisy to condemn the zerg for turning on their own. They, at least, had excuses. Once completely controlled by the Overmind and then by the Queen of Blades, now they were nothing but simple minded beasts. What excuse did humans have for doing the same thing?
Mengsk had turned on Kerrigan without batting an eye, abandoning her to what he expected would be a horrifically brutal fate. Tychus, at least, seemed to have taken an instant to mourn what he saw as a necessity. “Damn shame,” he had muttered.
Before starting to squeeze the trigger.
Before choosing to murder a helpless, traumatized woman right in front the man who loved her.
Damn him any way.
It was becoming brutally rote: Zerg, one or two or twenty, would come out of nowhere. Jim would shout the orders. His Raiders would fire, and the zerg would fall, sometimes quickly, sometimes not. And when enough were dead, as if there were some kind of tipping point unknown to the Raiders, the zerg would stop hunting humans and start eating their own kind.
He wondered if his people resented the fact that their leader, who had chosen to put all their lives in jeopardy, stood by, holding Sarah Kerrigan, the former Queen of Blades— the one responsible for the deaths of so very many— while they fought to protect them all. Jim realized with a sick sensation that no matter how well you thought you knew someone, you didn’t. You couldn’t. Only the protoss could know someone through and through, by linking their minds and essences in the great psychic meeting space they called the Khala. And even some of their own kind, the dark templar, had chosen not to reveal themselves so profoundly.
I’m flying blind, Jim thought as he kept running, trying to cover as much ground as he could while jostling Sarah as little as possible. We all are. Every man, every woman. We’re flying blind, and we never really know shit about any other heart or mind but our own.
“Sir!” cried Fraser. “Look!”
Mortified, Jim realized he had been so lost in his thoughts that he hadn’t seen the tiny speck in the sky that was growing larger and larger, its shape becoming clearer until he could see the familiar and welcome curves of the dropship Fanfare. It looked more beautiful to Jim than just about any other sight he had ever seen . . . except for the look Sarah had given him as he bore her away.
But as cheers and whoops of delight went up from the weary soldiers, the sound was joined by another— a buzzing, humming noise. Jim swore. The Fanfare, like all dropships, had no weapons, and it couldn’t land to rescue them until Jim’s team cleared the area first.
“Fire at will!” Jim ordered. “Ain’t gonna let a few pesky zerg get in our way!”
The soldiers agreed, and they fired on the zerg with evenmore intensity than they had demonstrated before. Zerg blew apart into pieces, and this time the Raiders didn’t spare those that stopped to eat. Jim and his soldiers kept going, winning the prize step by slogging step, spattered in zerg blood and ichor. And finally, blessedly, the Fanfare settled on the rocky but mostly flat ground.
The ramp extended and the pilot, Wil Merrick, beckoned furiously. “Hurry! There’s a whole slew of them heading this way!”
“Any sign of the second team?”
“None,” Merrick said, then his eyes fell on the blanket-wrapped form. “Damn, that her?”
“That’s her,” Jim said.
“She’s in shock,” said Preston. She reached to take Jim’s precious burden away from him, lifting Sarah as easily as he did thanks to the medic’s armor. Jim didn’t want to let Sarah go, but she needed what the medics could do for her right now more than what he could do. He handed her over to Preston, feeling a lurch in his heart as he watched the medic carry her inside. Kerrigan was eased into a seat and hooked up to an IV drip and (what looked to Jim) about six thousand other tubes or portable monitors. The words forced themselves out of Jim’s mouth, a quiet plea: “Be gentle.”
The irony did not escape him; it was a hell of a request to show gentleness to the murderess of billions. But Preston understood, nodding wordlessly as she went about her job of trying to save Kerrigan’s life. Sarah gave no sign that she was even peripherally aware of anything.
Hang on, Sarah. You’re tough; you can survive. Don’t let it be too late. Not after all this. . . .
“Damn, sir, we need to get going!” the pilot shouted. “We got another bunch of zerg incoming.”
“We had to evade a whole shitload of mutalisks just to get down here, sir,” Merrick replied. “Once we hit atmosphere, they went after someone else, but sensors indicate there’s a mess of zerglings and hydralisks that seem intent on finishing the job.”
Jim glanced over at Sarah. He desperately wished she could be gone, out of danger, safely in the Hyperion’s sick bay, but he couldn’t abandon the men who had risked everything to save her.
“We ain’t leaving my men to be zerg fodder nor that artifact to be destroyed!” Jim snapped. “Keep her as stable as possible. Her survival is paramount. If I give the order for you to take off and get to safety and leave me behind, you do it, do you understand?”
Jim looked again at Sarah, her skin painted an unnatural hue by the artificial lighting, then jumped out of the dropship. The doors closed behind him.
His Raiders joined him, one of them handing Jim a gauss rifle. While he had treasured every moment he had tasted with Sarah in his arms again, Jim was also glad to be hoisting a rifle and tackling an active role in the fight once more.
He could hear the zerg coming now, feel the earth tremble beneath their onslaught. Grinning a little, Raynor lifted his rifle, pointed it at the roiling cloud of gray dust, and began to fire.
Jim Raynor: I don’t think I want to see any vision of the Overmind’s … But if Kerrigan’s involved … I need to know.
Overmind: On a distant, shadowed world, the protoss will make their final stand. Their heroes will gather, their forces will be marshaled, and they will die bravely. But still, they will die.
And my zerg … will be slaves … to the hybrid. All will bow before the power … of the Fallen One.
Kill 1500 Enemy Forces – Research
Defend Until the Last Protoss Falls
Protect the Protoss Archive (25:00) – Research
Zeratul: Protoss brethren, heed me! The last twilight has fallen. The galaxy burns around us! The terrans have been consumed. We are all that stands against the shadow. But if we are to meet our end this day, then we will do so AS ONE! En Taro Tassadar!
High Templar: Great one, the vault is prepared. Guard us while we preserve our knowledge for those that may follow. They must not make the mistakes we did.
Urun: I have rallied the last of our great fleet!
Zeratul: Your timing is impeccable, Admiral Urun! When the enemy takes to the air, we will need your support.
Dark Voice: The zerg performed their function as I planned … My Hybrid are proof of this. Now, the last of the protoss will fulfill their function … In death!
Urun: The zerg are swarming at our flanks. We have to react quickly or our perimeter defenses will fall!
Dark Voice: All shall be remade in my name! Behold my greatest creation!
Urun: I’m detecting a large amount of zerg activity in their hive-clusters! Prepare for an assault!
Mohandar: Our Void Rays are ready to do their part! Disengage prism inhibitors and concentrate all batteries on the hybrid!
Zeratul: Well met, great Mohandar! For Aiur!
Dark Voice: Every hand is turned against you. Even the ground beneath your feet carries the seeds of your destruction!
(Note: 3 or more Nydus Worms emerge near the Protoss Archive)
Selendis: This is the hour of truth, noble templar! Let the enemy know the wrath of Aiur’s champions!
Zeratul: Executor Selendis! Unleash the full power of your forces! There may be no tomorrow!
Selendis: En Taro Tassadar, Zeratul!
Dark Voice: As I was your beginning – so shall I be … your end.
Dark Voice: You have no place to hide and nowhere to run!
Artanis: This is Hierarch Artanis commanding the Shield of Aiur! Our matrix-fields are within range! Engaging mass recall! My brethren, hear me! For there is little time left. All that remains of our race, our civilization, are those that stand beside you now. Trust in each other. Strike as one will! Let our last stand burn a memory so bright, we will be remembered forever! En taro Tassadar!
Dark Voice: Foolish, prideful children … There was one among you who could have jeopardized my great plan … but in your recklessness – you mistook her for the true threat!
Zeratul: The Queen of Blades … how could we have known?
Zeratul: If only we had acted sooner …
Dark Voice: Your efforts are futile. My harbingers will usher in a new age!
Mohandar: I return … to the Void.
(Dark Prelate Mohandar has fallen in battle.)
Urun: There’s just … too many of them …
(Admiral Urun has fallen in battle.)
Selendis: Forgive me great Tassadar … I wasn’t … strong enough.
(High Executor Selendis has fallen in battle.)
Artanis: Kerrigan … how could we have known …
(Hierarch Artanis has fallen in battle.)
Dark Voice: As I was your beginning – so shall I be … your end.
(Note: The Hybrid shed away their corporeal forms transforming into pure void energy. Each hybrid becoming sort of a black hole consuming everything. The Zerg implodes. The whole world is consumed.)
Dark Voice: Your light is expended. It is finished.
Note: The stars. The entire universe is destroyed. Only utter darknesss remains. Only the Fallen One remains in the void.
Jim Raynor: Alright Zeratul, old buddy – you got your mysterious prophecy. Now let’s see what your Preservers made of it.
Zeratul: My quest to decipher the prophecy took me to the forbidden archive world of Zhakul.
Zeratul: Here, the three immortal Preservers guarded ancient knowledge. Only they could transcribe the prophetic fragments. I needed to seek them out quickly.
Zeratul: It is strangely silent here, yet these structures are intact. With power they would be functional.
Power-up the Abandoned Base (0/6)
Free the Preservers (0/3) – Research
Power-up Abandoned Structures (0/3) – Research
Zeratul: The mighty spirits of the preservers are imprisoned close by – we must find them.
Zeratul: There are many abandoned structures in this place that we can make use of. They merely need their power restored by the construction of a few well-placed pylons.
Zeratul: A Dark Shrine! Once power is restored it could be of great value to us.
Dark Templar: Zeratul! Truly fate has sent you here.
Zeratul: Join me, brothers, and we shall cleanse this place of evil.
Dark Templar: Command us!
Stalker: The Preservers you seek serve a higher power now, dark one.
Zeratul: Higher power? What could have corrupted these protoss so? Truly, something foul has taken hold of this sacred place.
Zeratul: A Robotics Facility! This structure may prove useful to us.
Immortal: I return to serve.
Zeratul: My thanks, mighty one.
Zeratul: This templar archive lies abandoned!
Hybrid Protoss: INTRUDERS …
Zeratul: A … protoss and zerg hybrid … Gods, an abomination! Who created this atrocity?
Hybrid Protoss: Come, my SLAVES. The time has come to give me your STRENGTH.
High Templar: Our liberation is at hand!
Zeratul: Ready yourself, noble warrior. We confront a terrible evil this day.
Hybrid Protoss: This knowledge is FORBIDDEN.
Hybrid Protoss: I shall return.
Zeratul: The hybrid is draining the preservers to survive! I must free them before it is too late!
Hybrid Protoss: Your lives are FORFEIT. Surrender to DESPAIR.
Hybrid Protoss: Your doom is only delayed.
Zeratul: The spirits of the Preservers are entombed within! We must break them open immediately!
Hybrid Protoss: Your existence ENDS this day.
Hybrid Protoss: Merely a temporary setback.
Hybrid Protoss: Come, my SLAVES. The time has come to give me your STRENGTH.
Preserver: We have seen the prophetic fragments in your mind, Zeratul. We will make of them what we can. The Cycle shall draw to its end. The Xel’Naga who forged the stars will transcend their creation … Yet, the Fallen One shall remain … Destined to cover the Void in shadow … It begins with the Great Hungerer. It ends … in utter darkness.
Zeratul: A Great Hungerer … could it refer to the zerg Overmind? It has a part to play in this prophecy? I must seek out the Overmind’s final resting place. Our ancient homeworld … of Aiur.
Jim Raynor: Zeratul … what the hell have you gotten yourself into?
Zeratul: Friend Raynor … long has it been since we stood together against the Swarm. Since then I have wandered the Void in solitude – seeking an ancient prophecy rumored to foretell the return of the Xel’Naga.
My sojourn led me to a remote world known as Ulaan … where I discovered fragments of the prophecy. Yet I was not the first to find them.
It falls to you know, old friend … to relive my memories … and believe.
Bring Zeratul to each Xel’Naga Shrine (0/3)
Zeratul must survive
Destroy Zerg Hatcheries (0/3) (Research)
Zeratul: The prophecy was divided into fragments, each kept at separate shrines. I must gather them and depart this world quickly.
Zeratul: This chasm is vast. It is fortunate that I can phase through the shadows to the other side!
Zeratul: Spore crawlers can detect my presence! I should stun them with my void prison.
Zeratul: That spore crawler can detect me from across the chasm. It must be destroyed.
Zeratul: That overseer can see through my cloak. I’d best stun it with my void prison before crossing this chasm.
[Xel’Naga shrine 1/3]
Zeratul: The first fragment of the prophecy! Soon all will be made clear.
Kerrigan: Why not surrender yourself to oblivion, Zeratul? Wouldn’t it be better to end your struggle now than witness the final agonizing moments of your species?
Zeratul: The foreboding prophecy weighs heavily on my heart. I’d best reach the remaining shrines before she reconsiders letting me live.
Zeratul: So much for Kerrigan’s reprieve!
(Note: Several Mutalisks, Scourge and an Overseer fly above Zeratul. Four Protoss stalkers beam down)
Stalker (Daelaam Protoss): For Shakuras! Greetings, exalted one. We are here in the service of High Templar Karass. He is nearby.
Zeratul: Your presence is most welcome. Let us keep moving.
Stalker (Daelaam Protoss): Permit us to destroy their defenses before we proceed.
Zeratul: That patrol of brood lords must be dealt with cautiously or we will be torn asunder.
Zeratul: Prepare for an aerial attack. Brace yourselves my brethren!
Zeratul: The Queen of Blades built hatcheries here! She seeks to subvert this sacred world. I shall put an end to that plan.
[Xel’Naga shrine 2/3]
Zeratul: The second fragment of the prophecy! My task is nearly complete.
Kerrigan: Your hope is an illusion, old fool.
Zeratul: If you can so easily read my mind, Kerrigan – you’ll see that I’ll never give up so long as hope remains!
Zeratul: Careful now. Kerrigan has set guards to bar our way. It could be a trap. We should take them out carefully, one at a time, or risk being overwhelmed.
Zeratul: The banelings spew acid when they die. Stalkers, take them out from a distance!
Zeratul: This hatchery must be destroyed if I am to keep the Queen of Blades from subverting this land.
Zeratul: Spine crawlers! Kill them before they can take root and attack!
Stalker: High Templar Karass is nearby.
Karass: En Taro Tassadar, Prelate Zeratul! I am High Templar Karass. My force tracked the Queen of Blades to this world – yet we know not what she seeks.
Zeratul: Kerrigan and I were both drawn here to uncover an ancient prophecy. With your aid, I pray we can discover it before her.
Karass: It is an honor, great one! Lead on.
Karass: Zeratul! Can you destroy the airborne zerg?
Zeratul: These nydus worms must be destroyed or the zerg reinforcements will overwhelm us! Stalkers! Take the high ground and support our brethren!
Karass: Zeratul has destroyed their worms — press on!
[Xel’Naga shrine 3/3]
Zeratul: The final piece of the prophecy. It speaks of one who shall “… break the cycle of the gods …”
Karass: Most ominous. But if the Queen of Blades seeks this prophecy, we must keep it from her.
Zeratul: The rest is obscured … what??
Kerrigan: You might peel away the prophecy’s layers, Zeratul – but you cannot outrun the doom that awaits us all!
Zeratul: We cannot prevail against so many!
Karass: I will stand against the Queen of Blades while you escape with the fragments!
Zeratul: I will not abandon you!
Karass: The prophecy is more important than either of us! Reveal its secrets, Zeratul! The future rests on it!
Zeratul: Your sacrifice will not be forgotten, Brother.
Zeratul: I must get to the Void Seeker before the zerg overwhelm me and the prophecy is lost!
(Void Seeker destroyed in: 2:00 minutes)
Karass: Now … I shall become one … with the khala.
Zeratul: I cannot decipher the fragments on my own. Yet I know who might interpret them: the Preservers of Zhakul. If they cannot … I fear this entire universe will burn.
Zeratul: I have pierced the veil of the future and beheld only … oblivion. Yet one spark of hope remains. You will hold her life in your hands … And though justice demands that she die for her crimes, only she can save us.
Jim Raynor: Wait a second, you’re talking about Kerrigan? It’s been four years! Y’show up outta nowhere —
Zeratul: Time is short! You must understand! The answers you seek lie within. Study it well, the fate of creation hangs in the balance.
During my visit to the Blizzard Entertainment offices, I had the opportunity to be among the first few mortals beyond Blizzard developers to be able to play and experience the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single player back on July 20, 2009.
In summary, it was simply awesome. Not just as the player who enjoys RTS games in single-player mode and enjoys to go through the whole storyline, but also as the lore-nerd. That sounds redundant, but I will explain how different both terms are.
The latter means much more than just the single player. It is no secret to fans who have followed my news reports over the past seven years that I am a hardcore collector of all Blizzard games licensed products such as novels, mangas and most recently subscriber to the Starcraft comic book.
If you are among the fans who have never read a Starcraft novel or one of the Starcraft: Frontline manga you will play through the single player shrugging at many unknown characters, and wondering what certain objects or symbols’ meaning is. You will probably overlook them, and discard them as you go through the missions.
However, if you are a lore-nerd such as me, who have read most of the Starcraft novels and manga, every step of yours through the missions will be filled with awe and drool. You will be analyzing every bit of info and details in each mission and most importantly you will recognize them and understand how much work and passion the developers have put into making your printed media lore knowledge and the single player missions be seemlessly one and the same—integrated as one flowing continuity of the wholesome that comprehends the Starcraft universe.
No … I am not smoking anything, in fact I have never smoked or done any of the other stuff. I’m sober, maybe drunk with excitement and euphoria, but nothing beyond that. Chris Metzen told me the single player stories and ideas came to be first. And from there, it branched out into the novels and manga. This is a work of ten years of jammin’ ideas in the making integrating both media as time goes to make everyone’s experience much more rewarding. I played through six missions of the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single player at a room within Blizzard Entertainment campus in Irvine. And my lore-nerd spider-sense tingled the whole ride.
That means, I stopped many times to look at something and after a quick glance I had a pay off. I could recognize certain details from the stuff I have read in the novels and manga.
For example, in the very first encounter with Jim Raynor, you are in Mar Sara at the Joey Ray’s Bar. On the bulletin board by the wall is a piece of newspaper pinned to it. You can click the newspaper and the view zooms in to let you read the news report. There you see a photo of Jim Raynor carrying an orphan girl through a fire.
The news says that the Terran Dominion forces are retreating from the fringe-worlds, recalled by Emperor Mengsk to protect the core-worlds. All the fringe-worlds are abandoned without military support, risking to be overrun by the renewed zerg invasion. Jim Raynor heard the call for help through a mayday transmission and decided to rescue all these people aboard the Hyperion. Eight hundred civilians to be exact. Where the heck did my lore-nerd spider sense tingled with that? Meteor Station. If you haven’t read the Starcraft mangas the location where this heroics took place will mean nothing to you—you will overlook it and move forward.
To us lore-nerds this will ring a bell. Meteor Station [Kel-Morian Mining Post]. The only place to my knowledge that this place is ever mentioned is in the short story titled Last Call by manga-writer Grace Randolph. This short story may be found in Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 3.
In this story, a female singer who used to work in Tarsonis lived the horror of the Zerg invasion triggered by Mengsk when he ordered Sarah Kerrigan to bring the psi-emitter to Tarsonis to lure the zerg upon the throneworld of the Confederacy.
A zerg queen somehow implanted a parasite in her cheek, allowing her to live unharmed beyond the disfigured cheek. Few years fast-forward, Starry now sings at Meteor Station in a remote fringe-world. She thinks she came here to forget her past, and the nightmares that torments her ever since. However, she is unknowingly serving a purpose for Kerrigan the Queen of Blades. She is unaware of it.
The Kel-Morian Combine has unearthed a Xel’Naga artifact during an excavation drill. The Terran Dominion has shown interest in purchasing this artifact from the Kel-Morian before they sell it to the black market. For this matter, the Dominion sends an ambassador to meet a Kel-Morian ambassador at Meteor Station.
Separately, Starry beds both of them, unknowingly extracting critical and classified info from both men. Shortly after, the Zerg ambushes both ambassadors and steal the artifact. The Dominion found Starry, and questioned her about the zerg, the whereabouts of the artifact and the deaths of both ambassadors. The Dominion asked the doctors if she was infested. The scanners did not detect anything. An inner-voice is heard within Starry, and we see a closeup of her infested brain. “We evolve. The next stage of evolution has been successful.”
Pretty nice story—apologies for spoiling it. So now that you know the relevance of Meteor Station, when you get to play the single player and read on the bulletin board’s newspaper the name of this location—you will go: “Ohhhh … aha!” It’s a priceless feeling.
Now you have to wonder. If Starry returned to sing at Meteor Station, and Jim Raynor just rescued 800 citizens from there—- didn’t Raynor just get a zerg-parasited-spy aboard the Hyperion? One that allows Kerrigan to listen to anything said near her? Hmmm …
From the few missions I played, I didn’t get to see Starry aboard the Hyperion, but ultimately it still makes you wonder what has been her fate after the short story, and how that could mean a world of trouble to Jim Raynor if Kerrigan’s next zerg evolution can effectively cloak zerg parasites from Terran scanners, and spy upon the Dominion and Raynor’s Raiders with terran hosts that aren’t even aware they are serving as an instrument of remote espionage.
You can find Jim Raynor’s Marshal badge from his old days at the Mar Sara backwater pinned to the cantina wall. You will interact a lot with Tychus Findlay and Jim Raynor who talk about their old days before he was a Marshal; and find out a lot about Raynor’s past in Warcraft Legends Vol. 5 which has a story about Raynor by Chris Metzen and in the upcoming Starcraft: Heaven’s Devils by writer William C. Dietz, [due December 1, 2009].
Most of your entire missions are about earning credits through mercenary jobs and to retrieve Xel’Naga artifacts. All of these artifacts are a plot you will recognize from Starcraft: The Dark Templar trilogy by Christie Golden. According to Chris Metzen, there is much more to the artifacts you are gathering throughout the campaign, intimately tied to the Xel’Naga’s return plot.
The next two missions set in Mar Sara do not offer much of a backstory lore reference from the licensed printed products, but once Captain Matt Horner arrives to extract Jim Raynor and Tychus Findlay aboard the Hyperion, you will notice a few interesting lore bits implemented in the game from the novels and manga.
For instance, take a look at this up-to-date screenshot of the Hyperion’s Bridge. And compare it with the bridge screenshot shown at Blizzcon 2007 [a couple of years ago]. The bridge got a complete graphic overhaul. It looks more detailed now, and you will notice these black wolf heads on the Star Map console and all around the ceiling.
A fan that has never read any of the novels, will just see some meh-don’t-care-wolf heads there, and ignore them. A lore-nerd like myself will simply drool and say: “OMG, I know what that means!!!”. And one memory will trigger another, and you will connect the lore references laid hidden here and there.
You know … the Hyperion battlecruiser used to belong to Arcturus Mengsk in the classic Starcraft (1998). Jim Raynor stole it after Mengsk abandoned Sara Kerrigan to die to the Zerg and defected the Sons of Korhal. That’s an important backstory info—the Hyperion was formerly Mengsk’s.
The next dot comes in the shape of these black wolf heads in the Bridge. If you have read Starcraft: I, Mengsk by writer Graham McNeill—you already know that this book is divided into three parts which explore three generations of Mengsk: Angus, Arcturus and Valerian.
From this book, you will learn that the Mengsk family’s crest is a … wolf insignia. See how small a detail the developers integrated into the game? Considering they went through all the trouble of overhauling the bridge’s graphics to add this lore reference, it’s amazing. Wait till you hear about other major stuff.
When you play through the mission Tooth and Nail set in the protoss shrine-world Monlyth, you will see these protoss are tagged as Tal’drim. To fans who never read the novels, that’s meaningless. A random name. Inconsequential. Let’s just pew-pew them to kingdom-come. Right?
To lore-nerd fans this will be a major loregasm. Though these Tal’drim don’t offer any sign to be the same as the ones in Aiur, they are the same tribe. So we will have to find out throughout the three episodes of Starcraft II who these guys are and how they got there. Monlyth has been abandoned for centuries, and we don’t know exactly how long these Tal’drim have been in Monlyth. Whether they are the same people, who somehow managed to leave Aiur to reach this place, or not. That’s vague, I know. But you know very well, I will spill the beans—so you better not mind spoilers.
After the invasion of Aiur, the very first Protoss mission in Starcraft: Brood War is about Zeratul finding other Aiur protoss and to rally them toward the Warpgate to escape Aiur. Remember that mission? Jim Raynor and Fenix show up and stay behind to protect the Warpgate while you move your units toward the Warpgate. Its destination is Shakuras.
Many protoss were able to escape and reached Shakuras. As they teleported to the other side, the warpgate’s coordinates to Shakuras were locked out to prevent any zerg from reaching Shakuras. However, there were still many Protoss left behind in Aiur who still lived and survived. Artanis knew about them, and still left them behind thinking it was much more important to ensure no zerg would follow them through the warpgate.
The surviving protoss defended themselves from the Zerg for the past years in a ruined Aiur, and their faith in the Khala remained strong. But they kept losing more protoss to the zerg’s attacks day by day. Other survivors however grew tired of fighting the zerg and their faith in the Khala was severed. These felt anger and despair. Their fellow protoss had abandoned them in Aiur, left to die and rot to the zerg.
The Tal’drim tribe felt again the memory of the day the Xel’Naga abandoned them, when they felt unworthy and blamed each other for that back then. They felt the same now that their fellow protoss abandoned them by closing the way to Shakuras. The leader of the Tal’drim decided they would no longer believe in the Khala. He rallied other surviving protoss to follow him to the forbidden caverns of Aiur to seek shelter and technology to survive the zerg. The Tal’drim are in a mental state similar to that of the Aeon of Strife, before Khas thought them the Khala.
Those who did not follow the Tal’drim, remained in the jungles and other ruins for shelter, and fought bravely the zerg day by day. Their faith in the Khala stronger than ever. These renamed themselves the Shel’na Kry’ha [“Those who endure”]. While the Tal’drim renamed themselves to “The Forged”.
The Khala heretics [The Forged / Tal’drim] entered the forbidden caverns beneath Aiur, where the Xel’Naga chambers hide many secrets. There they found a patron that protected them from the zerg. Their patron was Dark Archon Ulrezaj [from the Enslavers: Dark Vengeance campaign mission in Starcraft: Brood War—you might remember the Schezar’s Scavengers too]
These Tal’drim known as the Forge use a drug named Sundrop, provided by Ulrezaj. It inhibits the Khala, and blocks them from the other protoss tribes. You will learn a lot about the Tal’drim in Starcraft: The Dark Templar trilogy, book two: Shadow Hunters by Christie Golden. You can watch my video interview with Christie [Book Revue, Huntington, New York – June 13] for further details on this trilogy.
Now we find the Tal’drim in the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single player in a remote shrine-world that is not Aiur. How did they get here? Are they the Forged, or were they already in Monlyth unaware of what happened to the Forged in Aiur? I asked Chris Metzen during my visit to Blizzard Entertainment’s headquarter [on July 20, 2009] if these Tal’drim are also influenced by Dark Archon Ulrezaj. His response was kinda cryptic, and all he could really say is that we will see the Tal’drim’s motives play out throughout the single player and it sounded like we will keep seeing the Tal’drim throughout the next two episodes [Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void]—you can watch the video interview with Chris Metzen here.
Another reference from the Tokyopop manga merchandise can be seen throughout all the single player. Blizzard introduced a new character named Reporter Kate Lockwell. She reports for the UNN news network. She is neutral on her coverage of the Terran Dominion and rebel affairs.
Fans who do not read any of this merchandise stuff prior to the game will just see a random reporter with no backstory to her. Lore-nerds however will be excited to see Kate Lockwell in the flesh integrated into the game each time you visit the Cantina Room to learn the latest news from the interactive TV screen. After any mission ends, you can head to the Cantina Room and click to the TV screen. It will play a different news report by Kate Lockwell each time you complete a mission. Very nice.
In Newsworthy, she comes aboard a battlecruiser to report the lifestyle of the Dominion marines, and why other youth should join the marines. They are portrayed as heroes who protect the Dominion core-worlds from alien threat (zerg and protoss). However, she soon finds out that Emperor Mengsk and the Dominion forces are hiding many info from the news media and the public eye. These past four years the Terran Dominion hasn’t gone offworld to fight the zerg nor the protoss. All this time they have been salvaging Confederate properties and resources, disowning legally acquired property, and killing Terrans who spread bad propaganda against Mengsk, or that may have ties with the rebels who support Jim Raynor and Michael Liberty.
Reporter Kate Lockwell found out there were prisoners aboard the battlecruiser after a mission she was not allowed to partake for her news coverage, and to her shock a storage room was full of corpses from the mysterious mission the Dominion forces were sent to. She took video footage of this storage room, and was threatened by the captain to give up the CD copies to him, and shoots her. At this point, Michael Liberty and his rebels aboard the battlecruiser and Lockwell gives him the video footage to report it through the clandestine communication channels.
In the meantime, Lockwell was rescued by the Dominion and continues reporting what the Dominion wishes her to report. She pretends to be a neutral reporter, but in reality she knows the truth and knows what Jim Raynor and other rebels are doing is rightful.
In the manga short story War-Torn we learn about the telepath boy Colin Phash—son of Dominion senator Corbin Phash—who is hunted down by the Dominion after finding that the senator had held info about his son’s psionic potential. Both are hunted down throughout the fringe-worlds. The Senator asked the Umojan Protectorate Minister Jorgensen to offer asylum to him and his boy. However, the boy is captured by the Dominion. We see Reporter Kate Lockwell announcing his capture and revealing to the public what the Dominion wants the public to know (lies).
It’s awesome to see this character [Kate Lockwell] in the single player informing players of the current status after our missions. It feels like players are part of a breathing-universe while playing through the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single player that integrates the licensed products and the game lore as one and the same strongly rooted in a flowing continuity.
We will see Colin Phash branch out into the upcoming Tokyopop manga Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 1 [January 1, 2010]. Metzen said during our interview there are no plans any time soon to include Colin Phash to the single player—however, between you and me, I smell the Starcraft: Ghost game rebirth somewhere in the depths of some triple-neosteel-plated vault within the Blizzard campus.
Regardless, two characters from the Starcraft: Ghost series will appear in the Single Player: the Terran Dominion ghost November Annabella Terra also known as Nova from Starcraft: Ghost Nova by Keith R.A. DeCandido. Also known as the main character of the postponed FPS game. She will make a cameo in one of the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single player missions—according to Chris Metzen.
The other character from this series is Gabriel Tosh who appears onscreen in the Mission Briefing computer at the Hyperion’s Bridge Room. He offers you a mercenary mission titled “Mining Your Own Business” in planet Redstone III—known as the lava world. He seems to know his share of info about the Terran Guild Wars and the Kel-Morian Combine and Umojan Protectorate history from what I could read in the single player hands-on.
The lore-nerd spider-sense in me tingled wildly when I read the name of this guy. The reason? He is one of the students in the academy where Nova studied and will appear in the Tokyopop manga titled Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 1 [January 1, 2010]. We will see a younger self in this new manga series. However, we will also find Gabriel Tosh in the upcoming Pocket Books novel titled Starcraft: Ghost Spectres [March 30, 2010].
We will learn a lot of backstory lore about Gabriel Tosh and Nova in these merchandise. Additionally, Nova will appear in the Starcraft comic book published by Wildstorm Comics from famous-writer [of The Transformers] Simon Furman—as revealed during the San Diego Comic Con 2009, a few days ago.
During my interview with Chris Metzen a few weeks ago at the Blizzard campus, I asked him if the War Pigs mercenaries would be among the mercenaries we hire from Mr. Graven Hill at the Cantina Room in the Hyperion. The War Pigs are the main characters of the Starcraft comic book by Wildstorm Comics. Metzen said there are no plans to add them to Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, but they will have them in mind for any of the other two episodes [Heart of the Swarm or Legacy of the Void]. We will eventually see the War Pigs in the next episodes of the single player.
So keep your eyes peeled and subscribe to the comic book to absorb all the new lore these guys have to offer by no less than Simon Furman. In the first arc, they are sent by Arcturus Mengsk to kill Jim Raynor. They have been hunting him down through the Kropulu. What I am wondering is if the zerg has started invading the fringe-worlds once more after four years of hiatus—could this mean the War Pigs will be surrounded like General Duke and be saved by the man they are sent to kill?
That would be very interesting if they join the rebels, and eventually show up in the single player. Before wrapping up, for those who have missed it, Chris Metzen wrote a short story based on Jim Raynor which will be published in the upcoming Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 4 [Sept 29, 2009] which may offer some extra backstory to digest in preparation for the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single player. Enough of my musings and speculations—the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is full of fun to play, but it gives me that extra kick in the brain to see all this lore from the novels, manga and comic book integrated into the core of the single player. I LOVE YOU, BLIZZARD !!!
I also wish to thank Chris Metzen for inviting me to this single player event, as well as Shon Damron, CW, Karune, and Bob Colayco. I also wish to add it is amazing to see Robert Clotworthy back in action as our beloved voice of Jim Raynor. Thus, thanks to the Starcraft community who signed our petition to Blizzard to reconsider the reprisal of the voice that’s dear to us. Rock on!
This screenshot is from the mission “The Evacuation of Aria”. In this map you need to escort 50 civilians all along the road toward the hangar site—seen in this screenshot—where you can see three Hercules-class dropships awaiting civilians for extraction. The zerg is overrunning the colony and needs to be taken offworld asap. You will see a cargo truck appear near your base approximately every 5 minutes or less. Dr. Hanson will contact you to inform you their next truck is ready to be escorted to the hangar. Each truck contains 10 civilians. If the truck is destroyed, 10 civilians will spawn where the truck was destroyed.
Here you can see the dig site where the Terran Dominion forces are attempting to extract a Xel’Naga artifact offworld. The sights are amazing. It shows how much detail Blizzard is putting to make our single player experience be worth the wait. This image is from mission # 2: The Dig. It’s located in Mar Sara.
I assume the object the Raynor’s Raiders are reaching in this screenshot is one of the Protoss relics needed to complete 12/12 relics for the Xeno Research Project that grants you gain + 1 armor to all vehicles. This bonus mission objective can be obtained aboard the Hyperion at the Lab Room. This screenshot is from planet Monlyth for the mission: “Tooth and Nail”. The enemy in this mission is the Protoss Tal’drim tribe.
In the mission: “Tooth and Nail”, you arrive to the Protoss shrine-world Monlyth. It was abandoned centuries ago, but the Tal’drim tribe is here for mysterious reasons. Your mission is to retrieve a Xel’Naga artifact guarded by them. For the lore-nerds out there, the Tal’drim tribe is the same shown in Starcraft: The Dark Templar, Shadow Hunters by Christie Golden. Except those were left behind during the Invasion of Aiur and have survived by allying with a patron who turned out to be Dark Archon Ulrezaj. He gave them a drug named Sundrop which inhibits the Khala artificially without cutting their head-appendages. Those other Tal’drim named themselves The Forged.
I asked Chris Metzen during our video interview on July 20, 2009—see the video on the main article page—if these Tal’drim are also under the influence of Dark Archon Ulrezaj—he didn’t confirm nor deny. He will let us find out as we play the single player. However, here I present to you Exhibit A … this screenshot will show you what I saw while playing the single player myself at Blizzard’s headquarters. These are supposed to be Aiur protoss—yet here you can see they are using a Stalker—which is Dark Templar technology. Aiur protoss are supposed to use Dragoons. So in a sense this basically answered my question partially. The only way these Tal’drim could use Dark Templar technology is if Dark Archon Ulrezaj provided it. Rest my case.
For example, in the novel we are told that The Forged are stranded in Aiur, and have Ulrezaj as their patron—however, we find out later on that Zamara’s assassination attempt before Jake Ramsey found her in the Xel’Naga temple was from Ulrezaj’s lackeys—but if the Forged were supposedly stranded in Aiur, who were these protoss who chased her in the first place? Probably these guys. (report by detective Medievaldragon—this is assumption of course)
Here you can see the lava in all its awesome splendor all the way up to where the yellow minerals used to be. All buildings and units get intense hot—we have never seen this special effects in any RTS game where even the hue of units and buildings gets an intense reddish aura about it. Sheesh, I can even feel the sweat running down by looking at that.
The single player mission “Mining Your Own Business” in planet Redstone III is one of the most fun maps due to the special effects and mechanics. You must mine a certain amount of minerals while getting assaulted by the zerg and evading the lava. This is a lava world. Send your SCVs to mine from the yellow minerals down the ramp. However, when the Adjutant warns everyone to leave the perimeter and to move up the ramp—you should do so immediately. You have a a few seconds to do so.
The lava can be seen far down below the canyon, however—the lava will rise in real-time all the way up to the ramp. Anything caught by the lava is instantly destroyed. Wait until the lava subsides back down the canyon. On another note, this mission is given by Gabriel Tosh—who we will find in the upcoming Starcraft: Ghost Spectres (Pocket Books, 2010) and Starcraft: Ghost Academy (Tokyopop, 2010).
Here we have a close-up look at the Cantina Room’s Juke Box and TV screen. In here Kate Lockwell is reporting on the Zerg invasion onto the Dominion fringe-worlds. You can see the boots hanging on the cables to the left, and on the right—I can see Jim Raynor’s Marshal badge from his days before the Zerg invasion to Mar Sara a few years ago.
This is the Cantina Room within the Hyperion battlecruiser. There are many things here to sink your eye-teeth in. First, the guy on the far left is Mr. Graven Hill (or Mr. Hill). He is the guy you should visit often to hire Mercenaries. When click on his laptop, you get access to the Mercenary Interface which lists all the available mercenary types. You can interact with the Juke Box strapped to the ceiling-computer to play Country music. You can also click on the TV screen to watch the latest report from Kate Lockwell. You should watch the TV often because after every mission she talks about the current status after your actions, or things the Terran Dominion responded to your actions or plans to do. A lore source for lore fans—so it’s optional.
Something funny about the TV screen is the note taped onto it, which says: “Don’t shoot the screen.”—probably a reminder so that Raynor doesn’t shoot at the screen when Arcturus Mengsk is talking on the news. There are two nice easter eggs in the Cantina Room: The holographic dancer on the top dances exactly like the World of Warcraft night elf female (which in turn is a dance from french singer Aliz
In this image, you can see the Lab Room inside the Hyperion. You are greeted by the young scientist Steltman. At first glance you wouldn’t notice, but the object floating in front of Jim Raynor seems to be one of the Xel’Naga artifacts. The Lab is an alternate source for bonus upgrades only available through the Xeno Research Project. You must click on the console in front of Jim Raynor to access this interface. There you can see available projects which give you bonus mission objectives such as retrieving 12 protoss relics from any of the missions to obtain +1 armor to all your vehicles; or kill 4 Brutalisk (Zerg mutants) to gain bonus weapon damage; or 4 chrysalis to gain infantry +1 damage. This is a place you would want to check out as soon as it becomes available through you somewhere after mission # 3: Zero Hour.
After the third mission (Zero Hour) and its posterior cinematics end, your view is shift inside the Hyperior at the Bridge. You can see Captain Matt Horder, Jim Raynor and Tychus Findlay in this screenshot. One thing to note in this screenshot is how much the bridge has evolved from what we saw at Blizzcon 2007. This is a totally overhauled design, and those lore-nerds out there like myself will notice a lore reference in the new design of the Hyperion. For example, the Hyperion was formerly owned by Arcturus Mengsk, right? So it should still have decoration suited for its former owner, right?
In Starcraft: I, Mengsk, it is mentioned that the Mengsk family’s emblem is the Wolf. You can see throughout the Hyperion’s bridge many wolf heads on the decoration across the walls near the ceiling.
As soon as mission # 3: Zero Hour ends, a cinematic appears onscreen showing the Zerg mutalisks attacking the Hyperion Battlecruiser. We can see the heavy upgrades given to the Hyperion which now has several canons on the upper helm for anti-air combat.
This is the third mission in the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single player. It’s titled Zero Hour. You must hold out 20 minutes until extraction. In the meantime, the Zerg has arrived lured somehow by the Xel’Naga artifact. At the end of the 20 minutes, Captain Matt Horner arrives aboard the Hyperion battlecruiser to rescue Jim Raynor, Tychus Findlay and the Raynor’s Raiders.
The Raynor’s Raiders approach the Dominion Shipment Center which is heavily guarded by Marines and Vikings. This is the main objectives of the first mission in Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty—titled Liberation Day.
In this screenshot, the Dominion amasses near a holographic projector, Raynor appears onscreen through the commlink UI and says no problem boys, and sends reinforcements. Three pods fall from the sky into the ground, and more Raynor’s Raiders marines pour out to annihilate the Dominion forces. Odd thing … there was no ghost to recall these pods.
The Mar Sara citizens stand to listen to Emperor Arcturus Mengsk through a large hologram projector. Raynor orders his troops to destroy it shortly after. This scene is from the first mission (Liberation Day) in Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty.
The Raynor’s Raiders were sent to the Protoss Shrineworld known as Monlyth. It had been abandoned for centuries, but the Tal’drim tribe seems to have a mysterious interest in the place. You are there to retrieve a Xel’Naga artifact and some protoss relics. In this screenshot you can see at the center the Xel’Naga artifact. As soon as you get near it, protective walls surround the artifact, and you are ambushed by four enormous zealot statues that shoot two lasers from their eyes. The mission is titled Tooth and Nail. Watch the Single Player video for this scene—the link is on the main gallery page.
Gabriel Tosh offers Jim Raynor and Tychus Findlay a mission to mine resources in the planet Redstone III also known as the lava world. This character will appear in Starcraft: Ghost Spectres (Pocket Books) and in Starcraft: Ghost Academy.
In this screenshot you can see the three Firebats given to you at the beginning of the mission: “The Evacuation of Agria” escorting a cargo truck. The vehicle is carrying citizens of fringe-world Agria which you need to escort along the road toward the hangar, where Hercules-class dropships await for offworld extraction.
In this screenshot, Raynor’s Raiders are about to land near the Dominion Shipment Center in the first mission of Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty titled Liberation Day. Raynor has grown tired of Mengsk and plans to rally the civilians against the Dominion forces that have come to Mar Sara to salvage any leftovers of the Confederacy and any mining and gas resources.