Book Publishing News
Click here for ordering information.
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 singleminded 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 drop-ships 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 man-aged 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?"
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 sol-diers 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.