Friday, June 28, 2013

Me and Aldaris (p12): Protoss Missions, Brood War

Well, we'd just finished off the story on the Starcraft disc, there in a storage room on Aldaris' ship.  The power on my laptop wasn't gone yet, so I could try to show him what happened next.  I'd already installed the Brood War disc, so I didn't make him watch the opening cinematic.  I didn't think he would like seeing DuGalle and Stukov watch pitilessly as their men died.  For the moment, I loaded up the single player missions 

"Hey, quick question."  I hovered the mouse over Artanis' portrait.  "Artanis here is portrayed as a Dark Templar, but in his character bio he's said to be a High Templar.  Which one of those is right?"

"Both, technically speaking." Aldaris replied.  "He served among the High Templar in the Cyclades province, where his nerve cords were severed in battle.  He began to study the dark ways in an effort to 'reach out' to those of Shakuras."

"Oh, so once those things are cut it's all over, then?"

"Much as the severing of the arm, yes, with the added measure of severance from the Khala." Aldaris was stiff as he spoke, and he straightened further as if his posture somehow made him superior.  "To lose them is quite painful, I am told."

"Yeesh.  Poor Artie." I flicked my ponybun.  "I think I like hair better."

"Suit yourself."

Aldaris resumed his silence for the first couple of episodes, studying the projection quietly as I went through the evacuation mission and the warp gate mission.  We made it all the way to Kerrigan's appearance with him in contemplative silence.

"I wonder..." Aldaris mused.  "If it were truly necessary for Kerrigan herself to come to Shakuras.  Whether or not she wished the cerebrates to be destroyed, we were obligated to protect ourselves, and using the Xel'Naga temple was a good strategy even without her influence, if perhaps there were no alternative I was unaware of."

"I always assumed that she didn't think you guys would be able to get the crystals in time, or maybe she had to secure her control over Raszagal." We'd already heard the intro dialogue in the mission where the player grabs the Uraj, so I entered in the end level cheat.  "But yeah, it does seem kinda weird she would bother showing up and risk people finding out about her plan.  Unless she wanted some Dark Templar to go ahead and destroy the new Overmind right away."

"There truly was another Overmind?" Aldaris asked.  "This was not one of her lies?"

"Not at all.  The best liars never lie, not if they can help it.  Besides, it's the most obvious option for the cerebrates, who've lived under hims so long.  Of course they'd try to bring him back."

"Hmm." We got through the next mission dialogue, the one where Zeratul and Artanis go to Char, before Aldaris continued.  "This would be better with more detail.  For what reason does Artanis suggest attacking this new Overmind without destroying it?  Surely if they had the resources to injure it and make their escape, then it would be little more effort to succeed in destroying it.  Certainly the Zerg would be far better prepared to defend it."

"I don't know what to tell you." I shrugged.  "That's just how the game turned out.  Maybe the game is wrong, or maybe Kerrigan offered them a lot of help.  Or maybe they did try to destroy it, only there were Zerg reinforcements on the way.  Though my official opinion is that Blizzard was just trying to introduce choices into the game and that's just how it turned out.  Do you know anything about their trip?"

"Little.  They contacted us briefly after retrieving the Uraj."  Aldaris' eyes narrowed, but he didn't explain any further.

"Well, there's no point in me actually playing this mission." I said, typing in the cheat.  "It happens, ends, and that's it.  However, the next mission, uh...well, I hope you're ready for this."

I didn't have to say it.  Aldaris picked up on my nervous thoughts and shook his head.  "I knew this eventuality would arise.  Indeed, I was aware of the possibility in that situation, before my arrival to Earth.  Just let it be done as quickly as it can be."


The mission briefing was first, and I had to admit it was kind of scary watching Aldaris listen in on this conversation, where Raszagal ordered Zeratul to kill him.  Aldaris' quiet wrath filled the storage room like a poisonous mist as Zeratul expressed his doubts over his matriarch, and yet did not a thing about it.  But he said nothing, and I avoided the Judicator's gaze by quickly building a lot of scouts.  

"Show me the money...operation cwal..." I murmured.  "Mm'kay, so this is actually a really interesting mission.  Black sheep if you click on your little character here, tada!  Tassadar's unit portrait."

"Is that symbolism?" Aldaris said, sounding sort of tired.  "Or can that be answered by 'Blizzard is lazy' by simply using what was already programmed for Tassadar?"  

"More than likely the latter, with convenient symbolism."

"Well, at least the player is on my side, for a few minutes at least."

"For at least an hour." I said optimistically.  "The game takes much longer when you're not cheating."

Aldaris just rolled his eyes.  With some quick cheating, I built up a lot of scouts and sent them against each of the Aldaris figures, then went for the real one.

"I'll have to take off power overwhelming." I said, typing it into the computer.  "The cheat makes neutral characters invincible too, so then Kerri would just be standing there, slicing you all day."

"I thank you, young human." Aldaris said dryly.  "For that ever so pleasant bit of mental imagery."

The ending dialogue came up.  I guess it might have been a while that some of you readers have played the game, so I'll go ahead and quote the dialogue in full.  Yay for copy/paste!

"It is finished, Judicator." Zeratul said.  "Surrender your remaining forces, and join us in eradicating the Zerg."

"I would sooner die, dark one, than tarnish the memory of Aiur by joining with you." Paul Eiding's Aldaris snarled in return.  "Your fate was sealed the moment your Matriarch allied herself with the Queen of Blades! Those of us still loyal to Aiur will never be slaves to Kerrigan and her Broods."

"Aldaris, be reasonable!" the cute little puppy Artanis pleaded.  "Kerrigan has changed. She no longer seeks to enslave everyone. Do not force us to destroy you."

"You can no longer afford to be so naive, Artanis." Aldaris said as a couple of overlords cruised in, unloading lurkers and the Queen of Blades.  "While you were securing the crystals, I discovered that your Matriarch has been harboring  dark secret! She has been manipulated by de-

"We have no time for this!" Kerrigan suddenly announced.  She and her lurkers made short work of digital Charlie.  I dared to take a look at non-digital Charlie, but he still just studied the projection, his face stern as ever.  

"Kerrigan..." Zeratul gasped.  "What have you done?

"I just cleaned up your mess, Protoss.  Don't be so squeamish."

"Wretched creature! This was a Protoss matter; you had no right to interfere! Begone from this world! You are no longer welcome among us!"

"Fine. I've done what I came here to do. I've insured the destruction of the renegade Cerebrates, and I used you to do it.  Have fun, mighty Protoss... We'll be seeing each other again, real soon..."

I shook my head.  "What I don't get about this mission is why Zer just doesn't shoot her right then and there.  I mean, come on, with that kind of statement it's evident she has further plans for the Protoss.  Shoot her in the face already, Zeratul!  I mean dang!"

"It is perhaps another inaccuracy of the game." Aldaris said quietly.  "Though Zeratul has already proven in my experience to be hesitant in killing."

"You're not really mad?" I asked.  

"Of course I am angry." Aldaris said, resting his chin on a hand.  "But it is not so bad as I expected.  It is good to know that my death was caused by Kerrigan, rather than another.  A death at the hands of my own race, even those of the dark host, is not preferable.  Kerrigan herself chose to slay me, and that is something, if it is accurate."

"Um, if I can ask, why didn't you just tell Zeratul straight out that Raszagal was under Kerrigan's control?  I mean, worst case scenario, Zer might have been under Kerrigan's influence too, and telling him wouldn't make things any worse than they already were."

Aldaris shrugged slightly.  "I do not know.  The anomaly that brought me here occurred shortly after my departure from the executive citadel.  I had just begun the evacuation of those loyal still to Aiur, though it is all beginning to look as though this decision was not the wisest.  Again, if Starcraft at all reflects reality in this matter."

"Wasn't it accurate earlier, other than Tassadar attacking the Conclave?"

"Surprisingly so, yes.  Though the words themselves more so than the missions." Aldaris stretched his legs a bit further out.  "I am reluctant to watch more of this.  How many more Protoss missions remain?"

"Just one more.  It's the one where Zer and Artanis activate the Xel'Naga temple and destroy the Zerg."

"I see." Charlie lazily swatted the air in the direction of the screen.  "Finish it."

Nothing remarkable happened.  We got through the mission dialogue, and Aldaris let me skip the mission -- he clearly wasn't in the mood to wait around thirty minutes for the mission to end.  He sat quietly through the cinematic.  As if on cue the projector cut off at the near end of the cinematic, closing down that session of Starcraft.  

"That was....something." Aldaris rubbed his eyes.  "How much of this game remains?"  

"Uh, well there's the Terran and Zerg missions left, and then Starcraft 2." I folded down my laptop and unplugged the projector.  "It's a recording I edited instead of a game, so it'll be easier to deal with."

"When the time comes, I will prefer to view Starcraft 2 alone." Aldaris said.  "Your disc technology is similar to human technology of my period, and I doubt it should prove difficult to load a simple recording."

"Mmkay." I said, trying to stop wondering how a Protoss figured out human technology.  "Do you want to hold onto the Starcraft discs?"

"No." Aldaris said, with just a touch more emphasis than necessary.  "Bethany, there is something I feel is necessary to discuss with you, and perhaps should have been spoken of earlier than this present time."

"Okay.  What's on your mind?"

"As of this point, you have done little in the way of diplomacy.  At most, you cautioned that my status as a 'fictional character' prevents you from telling your authorities that I have come.  I can perhaps hope, for your sake, that you remember that you bear some responsibility to the well being of your planet."

I blinked.  "Um, meaning what?"

"Meaning," Aldaris folded his hands in front of him and assumed the posture of lecturing teacher.  "That I ask to know your intent in when it comes to a foreign being staying within the orbit of Earth.  You spoke of my being the first 'alien' to travel here, and thus your world has no regulations in this matter.  Thus, you, and to a lesser extent, John and Toby, are at your leisure to create whatever precedent you see fit.  You shall determine Earth's reaction not only to myself, but any other extrinsic creature to reach this world.  I suppose I could simply have queried your mind directly, but as you have thus far been open, I prefer simply to ask."

Aldaris patiently awaited my answer, smugly folding his arms as if he already knew (okay, heck, he probably already knew) that I don't have a plan at all.  I straightened my posture, trying to look as dignified as anyone can in a neon pink plaid blouse and jeans.

"To be honest, I've kind of been making this up as I go along." I admitted.  "I mean, maybe John has some sort of plan, but it was my intention to base our actions more or less on you.  For now, me and John have been writing everything down in case something happens, but it's as good as fanfiction at this point.  I have no clue who to tell about this sort of thing without being thought of as some nerdy fruitcake that's so trapped in her own fantasy that she has to pretend Starcraft is real."

"I admit I do not fully comprehend what it means to have never known extraplanetary beings to exist." Aldaris was lookin' mighty smug for someone admitting he didn't understand.  His eyes glowed a gentler red as they stared down at the inferior creature before him.  Jerk.  "As circumstances stand, it is not my will to serve as an ambassador to your kind.  If you wish to gain a grander perspective towards the universe at large, then your species must do so on its own."

"Okay then." I piped up.  "Contrary to what it might seem, I have put at least a little thought into things.  But let me answer this with a question.  You're asking me my intention, so what's yours?  What exactly do you plan on doing here?"

"Amusing." Aldaris chortled, not entirely merrily.  "You sincerely believe that had I darker motivations, I would simply admit them to you?"

"You forget that I have the advantage here.  I got to see your character in Starcraft, so I automatically know a little better how you think." I grinned.  It was nice to wipe that smug look off Aldaris' face.  You'd be surprised how expressive someone can be with only one third of the normal facial features.  "Quite frankly, I'd be surprised if you had any darker motivations at all.  You're the kind of guy that doesn't like to get his hands dirty.  When something needs to be done, you send Templar to do it, like when Chau Sara was burned up."

"I am hardly responsible for each and every decision made by the Conclave." Aldaris retorted.  "That decision was not my own.  I was responsible for related administrative tasks, not sending out Tassadar to destroy humans simply because it amused me to do so."

"Well, that kind of proves my point.  You don't like killing things just for the fun of it.  If something doesn't have a purpose, you don't do it.  You're not going to shoot down a bunch of populated cities just to watch people scream.  Besides, it's not like killing any of us will do your future any good.  Even if this is really the past and you're from the future, then shooting down military targets is only going to insure that we remember Protoss and develop weapons over the years specifically designed to be anti-Toss.  And if this is an alternate universe to Starcraft, then doing anything to us will simply have no effect whatsoever on your time period.  Given your dignified persona, I'd say there's very little chance you're going to do something stupid simply because you don't like humans."

"Well said." Aldaris folded his hands.  "What then do you believe is my true intent, if you are so keen on observation?"

"I dunno.  That's why I asked.  Though I'd guess and say you just want to get out of here."

"That is a rational assumption." Aldaris gave a small nod.  "Most of my actions to this point have been to investigate the cause of my arrival here and to return my vessel to its proper working order, each to make progress toward the goal of returning.  Yet now that I have had the chance to see this Starcraft game, I have become curious of its origins."

"Well, I can find out some for you." I thought about it a minute.  "Uh, there's this guy named Chris Metzen, and I know he was involved in a lot of the writing.  Of course the thing is, the guy that writes the plot isn't necessarily the one that makes everything happen.  I was involved in this Starcraft mod once, and even though I ended up being the main writer, a lot of plot came from the mapmakers, because they're the ones that have to turn a story into something interactive.  Other than me finding out stuff, how exactly are you going to learn about this?  Were you planning on talking to Metzen or some other Blizzard guy?"

"No.  If it is at all avoidable, no other humans shall learn of my existence.  To put it plainly, my goal is to learn whatever interests me and then depart, with Earth none the wiser."

"I find this plan...well, acceptable." I shrugged.  "I can't help but feel like there's something important I'm not considering, but I won't tell on you.  I'll talk to the guys about it.  Of course, there's the question of figuring out how you got here.  Do you have any leads on that?"

"There is considerable information on my computer's logs.  Over time, the information shall become decipherable."

"And so you have no idea how long that'll take?"

Aldaris hesitated only slightly.  "No."

"Okay.  In that case, we'll have to come up with a plan B; how you're going to tell the Earth you're around but just minding your own business."

"Absolutely not!" Aldaris glared at me.  "I have no wish to involve myself in human matters, or find your unscrupulous leaders demanding Protoss technology from me in exchange for rights that are worthless to me the moment I stray outside Earth's atmosphere.  I shall in no way advance human technology, especially when doing so would provide your race the ability to attack our own."

"And then everything suddenly became clear." I grinned for only a moment.  "Look dude, us humans don't need your technology to fight you.  If we had to shoot you down, we have nuclear missiles and I think that missile defense thing that President Reagan was going on about back in the day managed to get some funding.  And that's assuming we even know how to find you.  I can't promise every politician you might happen to meet isn't a scumbag, but the Starcraft universe is pretty dystopian compared to Earth; not all our leaders are like Mengsk.  Right now the attitude on Earth is very friendly toward aliens, particularly with Star Wars, Star Trek, and Doctor Who all popular.  Few leaders are going to be dumb enough to try and get technology from you, and I promise right here and now that I'm not going to steal for them.  Heck, anybody who could steal can only get on your ship with your permission, so yeah.  The same kind of precautions you'd take if humans knew about you are basically the same kind of precautions you'd take without us knowing."

"I have already made it perfectly clear to you that I have no intention of revealing myself to anyone." Aldaris glared.  "Your attempt to persuade me otherwise is foolish and unwelcome."

"I'm not trying to persuade you.  It's just something you're going to have to consider at some point whether you want to or not.  Even if us four peeps that know about you now don't say a word, there's always the chance you'll get caught.  Like maybe you accidentally do something to alert our satellites, or your cloaking goes out.  Or you'll get so sick of staring at these walls all the time that one day you'll just get bored and want to go on a walk, and someone'll be all like, 'Hey, that's not a tree!'"

"The Templar are known for dwelling in space for as much as five Aiuran years." Aldaris retorted.  "Though I am no Templar, my own training can see me through a reasonably comparable period of time."

"That's not even the point.  Unless you figure out what to do pretty quickly, you're going to get sick of this ship sooner or later." I winced, steeling myself for Aldaris' possible reaction to what I was about to say.  "And that's assuming you find out what happened at all.  Maybe you just don't have the right information, and you'll be stuck here...for the rest of your life."

"The gods forbid that such a thing should happen!" Aldaris recoiled, pulling away from me as if being too close to me would make it come true.  "Surely I have done nothing worthy of that punishment."

"Pssht.  Earth's not that bad.  Except North Korea.  And North Sudan.  And Cuba.  But there's no reason you'd have to live in any of those places.  But like I said, it's a plan B.  If you really want to hold off, that's fine.  I'm just saying it's probably better to have a plan of your own rather than just be incidentally discovered, push comes to shove." 

"Though I acknowledge the logic of what you say, but I pray such precautions shall prove unnecessary."

A dopey grin grew on my face as I thought of a plan.  "Hey, you know what would be really hilarious?  If there was this really massive Starcraft tournament with all the best players, and the guy that wins gets a special match against a mystery opponent, only it turns out it's you.  You would teleport down into the arena, and a hush would go over the crowd.  And then, mere seconds later, everyone starts screaming and cheering so loud you can't hear anything else and it would be GLORIOUS!"

I blinked, slowly coming down out of the purple and pink clouds of my humorous little fantasy, only to be met with the reality that was Aldaris' face, his white goatee distorted by a look of disgust.  I tried my hardest not to giggle.  It was really hard, but I managed to contain my glee and show only a devious grin.

"You are mad." Aldaris ever so slowly shook his head.  "I genuinely fear for the future of your planet."

"Aw, come on, you have to admit that it's a cute idea."

"I most certainly do not.  And doubtlessly you would expect me to lose such a competition."

"Actually, it'd be funnier if you won.  Then the next year you'd be the guy to beat."

"I grow weary of this conversation." Aldaris rose from his chair, shaking his head.  "Perhaps it is time I return you home."

"Aw, you don't like my idea..."

"Of course I dislike it.  Not for anything would I learn to play such a disturbing game, much less master it."

Aldaris opened the door to the storage room, and I obediently followed him out once I had my laptop tucked under my arm.  I walk pretty fast for a human, but it still must have been pretty annoying for him to have to wait on the little person with the shorter strides.  To his credit, he actually tried not to show this on his face, but went slowly and turned back each time he inevitably got too far ahead in the hall.  

"Y'know, if you're going to be annoyed at me for being a little person with little strides," I snorted.  "You could have left me back in the storage room."

"And leave the little child alone without the giant pile of distractions?" Aldaris said.  "She might wander about aimlessly in the quest to satisfy her short attention span."

"For your information, 'the little child' still hasn't figured out how to open doors on this ship."  Oh great, what other weird stuff was dude getting from my mind?  More to make myself stop wondering about the possibilities, I changed the subject.  "Oh hey, there's something I meant to tell you.  I still have some of that won we found on your ship our first time here."

"You should have given that to Cheonha." Aldaris replied.

"Yeah, I should've." I admitted.  "But I didn't think of it in time, and neither did she.  So for now I'm just going to consider it your money since you 'found' it.  I spent some of it in Korea, but I counted the rest of it, and I've set up some accounts on my computer to keep track of it."

"Why would you bother?" he asked.  "I have no need for human money."

"We don't know that for sure.  Besides it's not like we can return the money.  What are we going to do, go to Korea and ask if anyone's missing a million won?  And I can't think of any legal reason that someone would give away cash instead of transferring money through a bank."

"Whatever amuses you." Aldaris rolled his eyes as he opened the doors to the bridge. \\\ "I do not plan on using it.  With the favor of the gods I shall escape this scenario within a short period of time."

"Okay.  If you leave before spending it, I'll donate it to something Korean." 

I entered the bridge ahead of Aldaris.  He pointed to a spot on the floor, and I stood there.  Maybe I shouldn't be so compliant with this guy, but eh, if I'm going to argue with him about something, I'll pick my battles better.  Especially when I'm not on the planet.

Aldaris stepped toward the computer, but suddenly paused.  The glow in his eyes dimmed ever so slightly, and two seconds later he started to sink down, and an awkward hand went out to grasp the "captain's" chair.  I instantly rushed over and grabbed his arm to support him.

Only whatever it was, it was just as suddenly over.  Aldaris' eyes went back to demon red, and his feet stabilized against the floor.  Offended, he shoved me away with a lot more force than I expected from someone still forcing himself up into a fulling standing position by hanging onto a chair.  

"Do not touch me again." he hissed.  "Or you shall suffer for it."

I stepped back from him, not frightened but instead confused.  I only stared at him, confused.  Do you really think I wouldn't help you if I saw you in need? I found myself thinking automatically.  Quickly I shook my head.  That's a weird thing to think.  I can't blame him for wanting personal space, and in his perspective, I'm a weirdo midget.  So I backed away.  

"Excuse me for being concerned."

"There is no need for concern." Aldaris retorted, straightening himself.  "Mind your own business."

He didn't seem to be lying.  He wasn't limping as he went to the console, and his eyes retained their normal glowing coal affect.  In fact, the momentary stumble seemed never to have happened at all, the way Charlie ignored it.

Aldaris turned around as he reached the console, his hand still hovering over the controls.  "I hope to end these sessions of Starcraft soon.  Expect to return in a short time."

"Okay.  I'll be ready."

"Then I shall see you then."

The blue mist rose up again, and the ship once again was replaced by my house.  

"Well," I put my laptop on the table and stretched.  "Maybe...just maybe, I now want some ice cream."  I sure hope walking to the gas station burns off all the calories.  

Then for just a moment, I paused.  What was I doing?  Surely I had to think.  Who is there to talk to about aliens?  And who do I talk to in order to find out about Starcaft.  I'd take the time to slack and get ice cream, but that could mean our dear friend Charlie trying to find out about Starcraft himself.  Or maybe he'd just get annoyed and yell at me or something.  Either way, research was in order.  I sighed, grabbed my power cord, and booted up to go do an internet search.

"Dang..." I muttered.  "And I really wanted some ice cream."

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