I mengsk s 6, p.1

I, Mengsk s-6, page 1

 part  #6 of  Starcraft Series

 

I, Mengsk s-6
 



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I, Mengsk s-6


  I, Mengsk

  ( Starcraft - 6 )

  Graham Mcneill

  Sixty-thousand light-years from Earth, the corrupt Terran Confederacy holds the Koprulu sector tightly in its tyrannical grip, controlling every aspect of its citizens' lives. One man dares to stand up to this faceless empire and vows to bring it to its knees: Arcturus Mengsk -- genius propagandist, tactician, and freedom fighter.

  A monstrous act of bloody violence sows the seeds of rebellion in Arcturus, but he is not the first Mengsk to rail against such oppression. Before Arcturus grew to manhood, his father, Angus Mengsk, also defied the Confederacy and sought to end its brutal reign.

  The destiny of the Mengsk family has long been tied to that of the Confederacy and the Koprulu sector, but as a new empire rises from the ashes of the past and alien invaders threaten the very existence of humanity, what will the future hold for the next generation...?

  I, MENGSK

  Graham McNeill

  BEGINNINGS

  VALERIAN HEARD THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR, BUT ignored it, concentrating instead on the tawny port that swirled in the expensive cut-crystal glass held in one manicured hand. The knock came again, more insistent this time, and the tone and impatience of the sound told Valerian Mengsk who was on the other side of the door without his having to answer it.

  He smiled as he sipped his drink, the gesture out of place on his handsome features this day, or any other day recently, for that matter. Valerian settled into the deep leather upholstery of the chair, enjoying the heat of the room's coal fire and the warmth of the drink in his belly.

  Precious little else had given him enjoyment these last months, for they had been thankless and painfilled. The pain had not been his, at least not physically, but it had been hard watching his mother suffer as the wasting sickness melted the flesh from her bones and unraveled her mind.

  Valerian stared into his glass of port, a fine blend with a rich, fulsome flavor that lingered long on the palate and was the perfect accompaniment to the wildfowl being served to the guests awaiting him in the main chamber of his home.

  His home.

  The words still felt unusual, the fit not yet settled upon him.

  Valerian looked up from his drink and cast his eyes around the room, taking in every exquisite detail: the fine mahogany paneling that concealed sophisticated communications arrays and elaborate countermeasures against electronic eavesdropping, the silken wall hangings, the gold-framed portraits, and the tasteful uplighters that bathed the high-ceilinged room in a warm, restful illumination.

  But pride of place on the walls was reserved for the many weapons of Valerian's collection that hung between the more archaic decorations. A long-bladed falx rested on silver hooks, curved swords hung by their quillons, and a multitude of punch daggers and bizarre circular weapons with blades protruding from leather handgrips were set on concealed hooks. Glass cases against the walls contained antique pistols of wood with gold inlay and long-barreled muskets with battery packs fitted to their skeleton stocks.

  A marble surround contained the crackling fire and a grainy holo plate sat upon the mantel. It shimmered with the ghostly image of a woman with wistful eyes from which Valerian studiously kept his gaze averted.

  He stared into the fire and sipped his port as the door opened behind him.

  Only one person would dare enter the chambers of Valerian Mengsk without invitation.

  "Hello, Father," said Valerian.

  A shadow fell across him and Valerian looked up and saw his father's stern, patrician features staring down at him. Though he had seen the face of Arcturus Mengsk a thousand times in holographic form, his father's sheer physical presence had a powerful charisma that no mere technology could capture.

  Arcturus was a big man, broad of shoulder and thick of waist, with hair that had once been dark and lustrous but was now streaked with silver. His beard contained more white than black and where age might weary other men, it had only enhanced the natural gravitas and dignity with which Arcturus had already been generously endowed.

  His father's black frock coat, similar to the one worn by his son, did nothing to disguise his bulk and only emphasized his power. Gold fragging edged the coat and wide, bronze epaulettes framed his shoulders. A basket-hilted sword and magnificently tooled pistol hung from his belt, but Valerian knew it had been many years since his father had had cause to draw either of these weapons in anger.

  "I knocked," said Arcturus. "Didn't you hear me?"

  "I heard you," said Valerian, nodding.

  "Then why didn't you answer the door?"

  "I didn't think you'd need an invitation, Father," replied Valerian. "You are the emperor, aren't you? Since when does an emperor wait on the pleasure of others?"

  "I may be the emperor, Valerian, but you are my son."

  "I am that," agreed Valerian. "Now that it suits you."

  "You are angry," said Arcturus. "That's understandable, I suppose. It's only natural for people to behave irrationally over these kinds of things."

  "These kinds of things'?" snapped Valerian, rising from his chair and hurling his glass of port into the fire. "Show a bit of damned respect!"

  The glass shattered and the fire roared as the alcohol burned ruby red in the flames.

  "Have you no feelings for others?" cried Valerian. No sooner had the words left his mouth than he realized what he'd said and to whom he'd said it.

  Valerian laughed. "What am I saying? Of course you don't."

  Arcturus remained unmoved by Valerian's outburst and simply laced his hands behind his back. "That was a waste of good port," he said. "And a nice glass, if I'm any judge. I thought I had taught you better than to show anger. Especially when it serves no purpose."

  Valerian took a deep breath and turned away from his father, making his way to a drinks cabinet set into the wall. His precious malts and ports were protected from the attentions of poisoners by reflective glass sheathed in an impenetrable energy field, the installation of which had been at the behest of his father, since anyone who knew anything of the Mengsk dynasty would know of their love for quality liquors.

  Valerian paused for a moment and studied his reflection as he reached for the recessed brass button that would disengage the security field. Valerian's blond hair spilled around a face that was handsome to the point of beautiful. His features were unmistakably his father's, but where Arcturus wore his hard edges plainly. Valerian's were softened by the influence of his mother's genes.

  Full lips and wide, storm-cloud eyes that could charm the birds from the trees sat within a face of porcelain-smooth skin and noble features. At twenty-one he was a beautiful young man, and he knew it, though he was careful to keep that knowledge hidden beneath a veneer of modesty. Which, of course, only served to heighten his appeal to the opposite sex.

  He pressed his thumb against the button, the gene-reader on its surface comparing his DNA with the hourly updated records held within the building's mainframe. Though the technologies of the modern world were commonplace to him, Valerian detested the idea of function overwhelming form.

  A slight ripple in the air was the only sign of the protective field's disengaging. Valerian opened the glass door to pour two fresh drinks, selecting another tawny port for himself and an expensive ruby vintage for his father.

  Valerian returned to the fire, where his father had taken one of the two chairs. His basket-hilted sword sat propped up against the armrest. Arcturus nodded appreciatively as Valerian handed him the glass.

  "Calmer now?" asked his father.

  "Yes," said Valerian.

  "Good. It does not become a Mengsk to openly display his thoughts."

  "No?"

  "No," said Arcturus. "When men think they know you, they cease t
o fear you."

  "What if I do not want to be feared?" asked Valerian, sweeping his coattails beneath his rump and sitting opposite his father.

  "You would rather be loved?" countered Arcturus, sipping his port.

  "Can't one be both?"

  "No," said Arcturus, "And before you ask, it is always better to be feared than loved."

  "Well you'd know," replied Valerian.

  Arcturus laughed, but there was no warmth to the sound. "I am your father, Valerian, and cheap gibes will not change that. I know you do not love me as a father ought to be loved, but I care little for that. However, if you are to succeed me you will need to be tougher."

  "And if I do not want to succeed you?"

  "Irrelevant," snapped Arcturus. "You are a Mengsk. Who else is there?"

  Anger touched Valerian. "Even a Mengsk you called a bookish, effeminale weakling?"

  Arcturus waved a dismissive hand. "Words spoken in haste many years ago," he said. "You have proved me wrong, so move on. Scoring points over me does you no credit."

  Valerian covered his irritation at his father's stoicism by drinking some port, letting the aromatic liquid sit in his gullet a while before swallowing. He watched as Arcturus used the pause to look around the room at the weapons hanging from the walls, the one point of common ground upon which they could converse without the threat of argument or resentment rearing its ugly head.

  "You have made a fine home here, son." said Arcturus, apropos of nothing.

  "'Home'?" said Valerian. "I don't know what that word means."

  Seeing the puzzlement in his father's eyes, Valerian continued. "Until a few months ago, home was simply where we settled until we had to move on. From one crumbling Umojan moon to another. Or one of the few orbitals the UED or the zerg hadn't destroyed. You must know the feeling, surely?"

  "I do," conceded Arcturus. "Though I'd forgotten it. For a long time, home was the Hyperion, but then with all that happened with Jim..."

  "What about Korhal IV?" said Valerian, not wishing to endure another tirade regarding the treachery of Jim Raynor. Over the last few years, Valerian had thrilled to the adventures of Jim Raynor and had secretly admired the man as the thorn in his father's side the former marshal had proved to be.

  Arcturus shook his head, quickly masking his irritation at the interruption. "Vast areas of the planet are habitable again and we have rebuilt much of what was destroyed, but even I don't have the power to undo in so short a time the damage done by the Confederacy. Korhal will be great again. I have no doubt, but it will never be what it once was."

  "I suppose not," agreed Valerian. "I should have liked to see Korhal before the attack."

  "Ah, yes, you would have liked it, I think," said Arcturus. "The Palatine Forum, the Golden Library, the Martial Field, the summer villa... yes, you would have liked it."

  Valerian leaned forward. "I would like to learn of Korhal," he said. "From someone who was there, I mean. Not dry facts from a digi-tome or holo-cine, but the real thing. From someone who walked its surface and breathed its air."

  Arcturus smiled and nodded, as though he had expected such a request. "Very well, Valerian. I will tell you of Korhal, what I know of it and what I have pieced together over the years, but I'll tell you more than that if you've the wit to hear it," said Arcturus, standing and draining the last of his port.

  "What do you mean?" asked Valerian.

  "The story of Korhal is the story of your grandfather and what it means to be a Mengsk. Korhal was the forge in which our dynasty was hammered into shape, raw and bloody, upon the anvil of history."

  Valerian fell his heart quicken. "Yes, that's what I want."

  Arcturus nodded toward the woman in the holographic plate upon the mantelpiece. "And I'll tell you of your mother."

  "My mother?" said Valerian, instantly defensive.

  "Yes," said Arcturus, making his way toward the door. "But first we have to bury her."

  Book 1

  Angus

  25 years earlier

  CHAPTER 1

  THE VILLA WAS DARK, ITS OCCUPANTS ASLEEP. From the outside it looked peaceful and quiet. Vulnerable. He knew, of course, that it was not: laser trips surrounded the villa in an interconnected web, motion sensors swept the high marble wall that surrounded it, and tremor alarms were set into the floors and walls around every opening. It wasn't the most expensive security system money could buy, but it wasn't far off.

  To penetrate the Mengsk summer villa, a white-walled compound perched on a headland of white cliffs overlooking the dark waters of the ocean, would be no easy feat, and the silent figure took his time as he approached the farthest edge of the system's detection envelope.

  The scanner attached to his belt, used by prospectors of the Confederate Exploration Corps, was a modified geo-survey unit, a harmonic detector set to read the electromagnetic returns of vespene gas. It had been a simple matter to adjust the sensors to pick up the security lasers and link its display to the goggles he wore over his young, handsome face.

  For such a device to work, you had to know the frequency of the lasers and the exact mineral composition of the crystals that produced them. All of which had been simplicity itself to obtain from one of the techs who had installed the system only the previous summer.

  The goggles bleached everything of color. The midnight blue of the sky was rendered a flat, rust color, the mountains to the north a deep bronze, and the sea a shimmering crimson.

  Like an ocean of blood.

  The walls of the villa were dark to him, the lasers and sensor returns gleaming like cords of silver strung like a hunter's trip wires.

  "Too easy," he whispered, then inwardly chided himself for the unnecessary words.

  The figure dropped to his belly and slithered around the northern side of the villa, avoiding the road that ran all the way to Styrling and keeping to the tall grass that waved in the brisk winds blown in off the sea.

  The net of lasers moved regularly, but preprogrammed algorithms in the survey unit meant that by the time they shifted, he was already in a patch of dead ground.

  Of course, no algorithm was completely perfect and there was always a chance that he would be detected, but he was confident in his abilities and wasn't worried about failure.

  In truth, the prospect of failing was something that hadn't occurred to him. Failure was something that happened to other people, not to him. He was good at what he did and knew it. It gave him a confidence that reached out to others and made it all the easier to ensure he always got what he wanted.

  Well, almost always.

  He eased ever closer to the villa, keeping his movements slow and unhurried. He knew that to rush things would be to invite disaster, and it took him nearly two hours to come within six meters of the wall.

  Passive infrared motion sensors were built into the eaves of the wall, but these were old systems, installed nearly a decade ago, and were about as sophisticated as those you'd find protecting some fringe world magistrate. It was most assuredly not what you'd expect to find protecting the summer villa of one of Korhal's most renowned senators and his family.

  The figure was rendered invisible to these sensors by the coolant systems of the black, form-fitting bodysuit he wore. He had fashioned it in secret from the inner lining of a hostile-environment suit used by miners when prospecting high-temperature sites, and he smiled as he rose to his feet and the beams swept over him without detecting him.

  Once again the laser net shifted, and he froze as the new pattern was established. He let out a breath as he saw a glimmering, hair-thin beam of light at his calf, and carefully eased away from it. It would be another seventeen point three seconds before they changed again, and he shimmied up to the wall, careful not to touch it for fear of setting off the tremors.

  He was within the laser net, and so long as he kept close to the wall—but didn't touch it—he would be invisible to the villa's security. Taking a moment to compose himself, the figure eased around the c
ompound, heading for the delivery entrances.

  He froze as a patch of light was thrown out onto the ground.

  A door opening.

  A man came out, followed by another, and he felt a flutter of fear. Then they sparked up cigarettes and began to smoke and gossip. He let out a breath, his heart hammering against his ribs. Kitchen porters, nothing more.

  They moved away from the door, taking refuge from the cold wind behind a lean-to, and he took this golden opportunity to sneak forward and slip through the door, flipping up the lenses of his goggles as he entered the kitchen.

  Warmth assailed him from the large, stone-built ovens, and the air was redolent of the lingering aroma of the Mengsk family's last meal. This time of night, the kitchen was empty, the cooks and skivvies retired for the night before rising early to prepare breakfast, and he briefly wondered what the two smokers were doing up this late.

  He dismissed the matter as irrelevant and continued onward, moving from the kitchen to the door that led toward the main entrance hall, easing it open, and looking out into the shadowed chamber.

  Portraits of Angus Mengsk's illustrious ancestors lined the walls and a number of tasteful statuettes, vases, and weapons, chosen by his wife, Katherine, were displayed on fluted columns. In contrast to the dignity of these objets d'art, a number of toys belonging to Angus's youngest child, Dorothy, were scattered at the bottom of a flight of carpeted stairs that led up to the family bedrooms.

  The tiled floor was a black-and-white, checkerboard pattern, and he waited as a guard entered from across the hall and checked in with his compatriots in the security room on a throat mike.

  Angus Mengsk kept only a handful of armed guards within the summer villa, claiming that he came here to get away from the trouble Korhal was having with the Confederacy, not to be reminded of it.

  The guard turned from the front door and started toward the dining room, shutting the door behind him. With the guard gone, the figure swiftly entered the hall and made his way up the stairs, pausing at the top to glance along the wide corridor.

 
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