• Published 15th Nov 2018
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Starcraft: Queen and Country - Wanderer D



A seemingly safe experiment is violently interrupted, sending three unwitting innocents through the Void to emerge into a universe at war.

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Chapter 003

Starcraft: Queen and Country
By Wanderer D
Chapter 003

2503, Koprulu Sector █

As soon as they left the cave, they were assaulted by the realization of how different the whole world really was. Sheltered as they had been, their exposure had been limited, and now that there was no storm, the full weight of where they actually were started to affect them.

The sand under their hooves felt rough, less like the smooth, powdery stuff from Equestria's shores, and more like road gravel. Last night they had been too focused on merely escaping the storm to really think about the quality of the ground behind them. But now, all of their surroundings were new.

The air quality, the ground, the heavens above. It was all different, and now that they weren't exhausted, they could quite literally feel that they had left Equestria behind.

"It's the magical field," Quantum explained as they walked, gravel crunching under them with each step. "Equestria's field is all-encompassing, from the planet itself to the nearby stars. It's massive (to say the least) and it permeates everything within its boundaries. This planet, however, doesn't seem to be part of that (or any) macro-thaumic-spectrum, so the only magic is within us."

"I swear I could hear the parentheses in that explanation," Gallus groaned.

"Yes, well." Quantum coughed. "It is a fascinating topic."

"Yeah. I almost didn't fall asleep walking."

Sweetie giggled. "Aww, it wasn't that bad, Gallus."

"Well, professor, I have a question for you then," Gallus said, rolling his eyes at Sweetie. "If you're right and there's less magic around here, won't that affect our chances of getting home?"

Quantum kept quiet for a few minutes as they kept walking, guiding them to where his magical pin lay.

"Not necessarily," he said eventually. "As you might remember from our earlier discussion, the actual amount of magic wasn't as important in getting us here as the thaumic mechanism that did it. With a bit of time, I should be able to replicate the event and get us on our way back home."

"Yeah, well, how much time will that be?" Gallus asked, glancing up at the suns. "No offense, but this place gives me the creeps."

"Not long, I would think," Quantum said, "we're almost at the location of my Quantum Sphere. I should be able to gather enough information to at least apply a direct opposite thaumic—"

"So, soon. Thanks."

Quantum shook his head as Gallus bounced ahead, but continued on walking. The group eventually reached the base of a hill.

"We're almost there," he said. "When we are, I want you two to help me find all the pieces of the sphere. They're not all necessary, but the more we find, the better."

"Um, professor? I think that might be a problem."

Gallus' voice trembled as he quickly threw himself to his stomach. The two unicorns quickly made their way up and crouched behind cover, looking down the hill at the remains of the Quantum Sphere.

Huge, bipedal creatures, each three times as tall as any of the three travelers, and encased in strange, heavy—scarred and thick-looking—red metallic armor stomped around the debris of the Quantum Sphere. In their claws, they held massive instruments of some sort, their size and appearance indicating considerable weight, but the armored beings carried them without a problem.

The creature's movements were not fluid, however. They lurched occasionally, and stopped at odd moments, seemingly to stare at nothing, before continuing with whatever they were doing.

"What in Tartarus are those things?" Gallus asked, lowering his voice.

"I've never seen anything like them…" Sweetie whispered. "How about you, professor?"

"I have not either," Quantum admitted, "but they seem intelligent."

"And dangerous," Gallus whispered back.

He seemed a bit bigger, and Sweetie glanced at him in confusion.

Noticing her reaction, Gallus tried to shrug nonchalantly. "Defense mechanism. My feathers puff up when I sense danger." Clearing his throat at Sweetie's amused look, he glanced in turn at Quantum. "We really should hide."

"I agree but I do worry about what these creatures might do to—"

Whatever he was going to say was cut off by a roar and blast of sand. The trio looked around in surprise, confused and scared as something massive smashed onto the rock in front of them, shaking the ground itself.

They stared in open mouthed awe at the metallic monstrosity standing in front of them. It was made of metal, also painted red. The legs of the mechanical thing were thick and stank of oil and smoke, ending in a three-digit claw that dug onto the earth below it. The front of it was a large shield that was as thick as Sweetie was long, and it's two arms ended in what appeared to be triple long cannons of some sort on each side, above its "shoulders" were some sort of towers, as tall or taller than the creatures they had seen next to the sphere, with many holes on them, where Sweetie could barely make out pointy rockets of some sort.

"Magnificent!" Quantum gasped, earning an incredulous look from both Sweetie and Gallus, "A golem of this magnitude! And it contains a pilot!"

A screeching sound emanated from the metallic contraption, and sounds they didn't recognize came out from it. It was an unknown language, but worse, still, was the unearthly tone to it, as if whoever was speaking was half-babbling, half swearing.

It made motions with its weapon-arms, clearly indicating that they should move down to where the other creatures waited.

"I-I think we should do what it wants," Gallus whispered.

"Do not follow its instructions," Sweetie suddenly heard in her mind. "When I attack, run back to the cave."

"Wha—"

"Blachgrh! Dhortha thngat monfthagrrndthar!" the mechanical brute roared, slamming its cannon next to them and shoving it towards the waiting creatures, showering the trio in gravel.

"Mother fthar-whatever yourself, jerk!" Gallus shouted, coughing and brushing the dust and stones from his face.

"I guess it really wants us to move!" Quantum said, starting to go in the indicated direction.

"No! Wait!"

"Now!"

"This way!" Sweetie shouted, taking off back the way they had come.

"Sweetie!" Gallus shouted, bouncing after her, followed by a panicked Quantum.

"Smarghlbjrack!" the mechanical golem's speakers blared. Its arms started spinning with a loud whirr, which made the trio stop in surprise with wide, panicked eyes, just in time to see a figure emerge from wispy energy, onto the "face" of the golem.

The new creature's claw had some sort of green energy blade shimmering out of it, which it used to pierce through the thick glass that covered where Sweetie assumed the pilot would be.

"Run, Sweetie!"

"Come on!" Sweetie shouted, snapping out of her reverie when she heard the now-familiar voice in her mind. "Back to the cave!"

"What the hay is going on!?" Gallus shouted, gaining speed as they dashed through the terrain. Quantum didn't say anything, gasping and breathing hard as he galloped after them.

Behind them, a loud explosion rattled them, forcing them to stop and turn around. The metallic monstrosity was gone, and an angry ball of fire had erupted where it used to be. Even then, they could still hear loud popping sounds and explosions, so it took little nudging from Sweetie to get them on the run again.

She followed the magical pin she had set earlier, leading them towards the cave, and—hopefully—safety.

They made it back a lot quicker than the trip to the Quantum Sphere had taken, which was no surprise, galloping desperately as they had been.

Quantum collapsed into a heap, breathing hard and staring behind them, as if expecting the creatures to have followed them. Gallus was less winded, but his feathers were still ruffled and he prowled inside the cave, growling lightly, while Sweetie herself slid down against the wall, trying to catch her breath.

"T-that was scary."

The other two stopped their hard-breathing for a second to look at her. "That's putting it mildly," Quantum said, still unable to stand up. "And too much for my old bones. What possessed you to run away from that thing? It could have killed us all in an instant! We were lucky to make it here alive!"

"But now they have the Sphere," Gallus said, "we're trapped!"

"Even if they seemed questionable, there was the chance that we might have been able to communicate if we had gone with them," Quantum added. "Perhaps running wasn't the best option."

"Had you been captured by Duran's Terrans, you would not have lived long." A deep voice, echoing—almost as if was coming through a veil of some sort—reached them, making the trio jump in surprise. It had an odd quality, as if it had begun to reach their ears a few seconds before the words actually formed.

Dark smoke formed across from them and from it stepped out a bipedal figure, standing on digitigrade legs. It was twice as tall as any of them, wearing pieces of golden armor with green stones in them. Its head was plated, and its eyes glowed with green, magical energy. A ragged cape, deep purple where it wasn't torn, surrounded most of its blue-skinned body, with a long scarf-like cloth that covered the lower part of its face. It hunched slightly, giving him a menacing look, as if he were about to attack.

Despite his fear, Gallus jumped in front of his companions, flaring his wings and growling menacingly, just as Quantum forced himself up and braced for combat, his horn lighting up with power.

"Zeratul!" Sweetie suddenly shouted, trotting in between them and leaving them blinking in confusion. "It's you, isn't it?"

"En taro Adun, Sweetie Belle," the creature—Zeratul—responded with some amusement. "Even though we had spoken before, it surprises me that you would so quickly welcome me." He turned to face the others, bowing slightly. "I am Zeratul, Dark Prelate of the Nezarim."

"You helped us before, and saved us from those things, Zeratul" Sweetie said, smiling up at the menacing-looking creature. "Why wouldn't I welcome you as a friend?" She pointed at the others. "You already know my name, I'm a unicorn, this is Professor Quantum State, and that is Gallus, he's a griffon."

"Geez," Gallus drawled, sitting down and taking a deep breath. "You're just like your sister."

"Thank you!"

"I admit I was surprised when I saw you," Zeratul said, "Your species are not familiar to me." He turned to Gallus. "In fact, the Terrans have a type of ship they call the griffon."

"Those monsters?" Gallus asked. "None of them looked like me."

Zeratul shook his head. "They would not, and yes, now they would seem as monsters. Alas, they were not always like that. These terrans have been modiefied somehow by Duran. Not all terrans are trustworthy, but some—like Jim Raynor—are worthy of praise and respect."

Gallus didn't look convinced. He crossed his forelegs and gave the alien a sidelong glance. "How do we know you're not going to kill us, like them?"

"The metal monstrosity…" Quantum whispered, eyes widening as he studied Zeratul, "you're the one that attacked it! How did you destroy it?"

"Guys, guys," Sweetie said soothingly, turning to face them. "Zeratul led us to this cave when we arrived, and he warned us about it being dangerous."

"Well, he could have been a bit more specific. 'Dangerous' can mean just about anything back home."

"'Dangerous', young one," Zeratul spoke up, walking to stand next to Sweetie, "can mean a lot of things in this universe. But when a Protoss warns you, it usually means death."

"How are we getting home now?" Gallus asked, "Those things took the Quantum Sphere…"

"I'm afraid the remains of your machine were destroyed by Duran's forces," Zeratul said, shaking his head and turning his gaze to Quantum. "Little—if any—remains."

"Great!" Gallus growled, "So we're stuck here, alone, and with no way home." He looked away, annoyance and despondency evident in his body language. "Figures we couldn't go on a single school trip without things getting out of control."

"I take it that your arrival here was not intentional."

The trio looked at Zeratul and Quantum shook his head. "Unfortunately not, or I would not have allowed things to devolve into this situation! We arrived here quite by accident. A magical surge messed with my matrix and the next thing we know, we're here."

"I could feel when you arrived," Zeratul said, "If you travelled through the Void and arrived here alive, then you were very lucky indeed."

"Not all was luck," Quantum muttered, "but unfortunately, my device was the only way I could trace back our trajectory through this… Void of yours. As it is I don't think I can simply calculate how to return."

A heavy silence descended inside the cave, as the group considered their situation.

Gallus felt furious. He was trapped. Sure, it wasn't a tiny little size-reducing trap like what the Tree of Harmony had thrown his way before, but for all intents and purposes, it was basically the same situation. Worse, even, a whole world out there full of things that could kill him and the others, and no way to fight them.

He had been making a life for himself away from Griffonstone, enjoying time with his friends, and learning not only about friendship, but also different cultures and things. He had planned to do something after Twilight's school. Maybe learn a trade, or depending on his interests, maybe even study more and–his thoughts derailed when he heard the sniffling.

Sweetie had sat down and was staring at the floor. Her curly purple and pink mane covering her face as her body shook every time she took a deep breath. She was trying to be quiet, but the cave was too small for any real attempt at privacy.

She looked so vulnerable, it almost made his heart ache just by looking at her. He glanced around, searching for Quantum, but the unicorn scientist was standing next to the cave entrance, muttering to himself.

This left him and Zeratul as the only viable option, which meant that, since he knew Sweetie Belle better than the other two (which wasn't saying much), it fell on him to say something. He took a deep breath and shuffled closer to the sniffling young mare.

She had been taking everything in stride so far, and the Crusaders had done so many crazy things, it had been easy to forget she was actually younger than him. He approached her, then hesitated, glancing around for any other option. Quantum was still distracted, and Zeratul—the strange creature was watching them silently from the other side of the cavern, making no motion to help at all.

Gallus gritted his beak and scratched the back of his head, then sat next to Sweetie and wrapped his wing and foreleg around her. "H-hey, come on Sweetie Belle, we'll figure something out."

Sweetie turned and hugged him, letting out a loud sob. "I-I won't see my sister again! Or my friends! We're lost!"

The truth was that they were, and as far as he could tell, there was no way for them to even figure out how to get back, now that the Quantum Sphere was completely destroyed—if that Zeratul guy was telling the truth—but as much as he wanted to bemoan the fact, he felt worse for Sweetie.

Truth be told, he could see an upside to this. At least this wasn't Griffonstone. Silver lining and all that.

Still, thinking about his friends—Yona, Sliverstream, Sandbar, Smolder and Ocellus—made him feel hollow inside. As much as friendship was a powerful force, the lack of it was staggering. Even during his trial he had known the others were nearby, but now… now he was the closest thing Sweetie Belle had to a friend here.

"Hey, Sweetie, come on," he said, trying to think of something more substantial. "We can figure something out. Quantum's sphere brought us here, right? Maybe he just needs more time to do his calculations. We've got each other still, right?"

Sweetie sniffed, looking at him soulful green eyes.

It was then that they noticed Zeratul, who had approached and was now kneeling on one leg as he carefully patted Sweetie's head. "Your friend is correct, young Sweetie Belle. You must not give up hope, for it is a force that can lead you to many places. It will keep you strong, and help you in the most dire of straits... perhaps even to the answer that you seek."

Sweetie looked from Gallus to Zeratul, sniffling again, but this time, she wiped her tears with the back of her hoof and nodded.

Gallus felt immensely proud in her for some reason.

"D-do you know of a way out?" Sweetie asked, turning to their Protoss host.

Zeratul hesitated. "I-I do. I can help you three off of this planet, but I fear that I am unable to help you search for your home. I have a mission to complete, and my failure would harbor far worse a fate than being lost and away from home."

Sweetie hadn't expected Zeratul's callused claws to be so gentle. She leaned into it and looked up, swallowing and taking a deep breath. There was concern there. Empathy. Whatever else had gone wrong… she had found a friend.

She smiled and nodded as he stood up and stepped back, then leaned in and nuzzled Gallus, who went rigid with surprise. "Thank you, Gallus."

"Um, sure!" the young griffon said, quickly moving back and refusing to look at her directly. "No problem! That's what I'm here for!" He cleared his throat when he saw her wink at him. "Don't get the wrong idea! I don't want your sister to fail me because I didn't take care of you!"

Green eyes became watery again. "Y-you mean I'm not special?"

"No! I-I mean yes, you are buh—gah!" Gallus flew to the other side of the cave, facing away from Sweetie, who giggled.

"Young Gallus seems very flustered," Zeratul commented.

"My sis taught me a few tricks," Sweetie said, smiling a bit sadly. "I hope I see her soon so I can tell her all about it."

"It seems a very effective trick. I have seen terran females and… former... terran females use similar guiles to manipulate others of their species." He shook his head and looked at the others. "We should move. I have no doubt search parties are already active, and my ship is not too close."

"You said you could help us out of this world, correct?" Quantum asked, finally turning to face them. "I've gotten a good feel for the thaumic fields here. Perhaps we can do this faster." He smiled. "My talent is with teleportation magic. I can sense that when you talk to us, you are projecting your thoughts… can you project an image of the area near your ship?"

Zeratul considered the unicorn, before nodding. His eyes flashed, and Quantum suddenly could see the creature's "ship" it looked almost like the top of a magical staff would, shaped almost as an arrow, but with a rounded lower part, and the wings curving around and up, forming the "tips" and soft glowing green energy shining in between off-black metallic parts.

"Perfect! I can open a portal there," Quantum said after a moment, "I was saving my energy earlier in order to rebuild the Quantum Sphere but…" he shook his head sadly. "That is not an option anymore."

Zeratul's eyes were wide. "You… are able to do this?"

"Wow, I thought you needed a magical item, like the one that Neighsay had."

Quantum grinned. "If you want, I can teach you at least the basic forms, Sweetie Belle. I was, after all, the one that made that for him."

"Oh! Cool!" Sweetie grinned and nodded. "Teach me!"

Quantum nodded. "It will be a long time before you can do something like this on your own, and you'll need plenty of study. I have no doubt Princess Twilight will help you with it if you ask... but for now I'll let you perform the spell with me. Link your magic to mine, and try to visualize everything as I do it."

Zeratul was joined by Gallus as the pair watched the unicorns work. Slowly, tendrils of magic blended together and Quantum gently led the magic in a harmonious flow that coalesced into a shimmering ball of energy.

Before their eyes, the energy seemed to press together, light flashing for a moment before energy spiraled out for a fraction of a second, then retreated into a now flat, shimmery surface. Beyond it, Zeratul could clearly see the Void Seeker. "Incredible."

"A useful skill, no doubt," Quantum said, "Now, if you go ahead an—"

Whatever he was going to say was interrupted by the sound of thousands of bullets being shot in a second. The echo of the salvo was barely enough to soften the sound of Quantum suddenly becoming a mass of flesh and blood as the entrance of the cave exploded into pieces.

A piece of shrapnel flew through the air, slicing Gallus' shoulder just above the wing. The griffon roared in pain and fell to the floor hard, while Sweetie yelped and ran behind some rocks, her magic still holding on to the spell. "Run through the portal!" she shouted. "I can barely keep it open! I can't open it again!"

"But Swee—gah!" Gallus gasped in pain, collapsing again as the moment he had opened his wing, the flesh and muscle around the wound had ripped painfully.

"Zeratul! Grab him!"

Not wasting a second, the protoss picked up Gallus under one arm, then dashed towards the portal.

"Sweetie!" Gallus shouted as he and Zeratul crossed the magical gate. The protoss slid on the ground, turning around while still holding Gallus steady. They saw Sweetie stand up and prepare to jump through… only for her lower body to explode into blood.

Gallus' last sight of her were her wide, panicked, pained eyes as the portal flashed and disappeared.

End Chapter

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