Chapter 3: The First Towel

When he came back, Ashur said nothing about Vina or the battle. Though he did not regret what he did, it still irked him that he had to save them, and it bothered him that it bothered him. Despite what they did, Ashur had to admit that they didn't deserved to die, so why were their lives so meaningless to him? Neither Ashur nor Sky was the kind of people, so why was he?

Did the nanites in his blood turned him callous? More machine-like? The thought worried him, until he remembered a quote from one of his favorite character, Captain Malcolm Reynolds of the star ship Serenity. "I look out for me and mine. That doesn't include you unless I conjure it does."

He may be fictional but he was a great man. His philosophies were pretty decent to live by. It was a moment of pseudo-enlightenment for Ashur, and he put Vina out of his mind.

The next day, Ashur decided to try something that he had been putting off, restoring his father's arm. Kanus had lost his arm protecting him. To Ashur, that had always been a scar. If Ashur hadn't been careless that day, Kanus wouldn't have lost his arm.

Ashur knew that his nanites could fix his arm, but he had been hesitating. It was a problem of confidence. Despite the fact that he was the Terran's Supreme Commander with complete access to the entire civilization, he was still affected by Sky's consciousness. By Earth's scientific standard, growing an arm was science-fiction. Rejection, mutations, so many thing could go wrong.

It wasn't until he saw Cameron in battle that he decided to proceed. The Quantum Avatar was a work of art, in every sense of the word. He refused to believe that a civilization advanced enough to build something like her couldn't properly grow something as simple as a human arm.

And so, his family looked on in amazement as Kanus 'grew' a new arm. It was actually quite disgusting, which fascinated Namus, and Ana saw the entire thing as a display of Magic, which further enamored her to him. Afterward, she looked at him with a wonder and reverence of a devoted zealot.

Ten days after the battle of Vina, Ashur, with Cameron's help, finally saved up enough Quantum Energy for his first command center. After moving his tent a little way into the trees, he dropped a nanite 'egg' in the middle of the clearing.

Within the next three days, a tower appeared, filling the clearing and more, displacing many trees. The tower was glossy and black as though it was made of ebony glass. Bands of light streaked the outer surface, highlighting its features.

It was the Ashur first Command Center. He had redesigned its appearance, using the style of the Ancient from the Stargate: Atlantis television series with a few features from the Tron: Legacy movie mixed in.

It did not improve the function of the Command Center; he couldn't even if he wanted to. Each of the preloaded designs in the Database was a masterpiece, all but impossible to improve upon, at least with Ashur's current abilities. The alterations were simply aesthetic preferences. It was one of the few gripes he had with the Terran from the Starcraft universe. The Terran was supposedly a super advanced technological civilization, he couldn't understand why so many of their buildings and units were so ass-ugly.

The worst of them, he had to say, was the Command Center. It was a round metallic dome like a turtle shell which had been randomly hit by a hammer so parts of it had slightly caved in. When it was upgraded into the Orbital Command, it looked even worse with satellite dishes sticking out of it. He couldn't understand what kind of style that was, American white-trash chic?

As grateful as he was to have the Terran at his command, he was very glad that it was possible for him to redesign the outer appearance of Terran technologies, for a price of course. A normal Command Center cost one thousand units of Quantum Energy. Redesigning it had increased its cost by twenty-five percents but it was worth it.

Building wise, he had always liked the style of the Ancient from the Stargate universe. As a matter of fact, one of his goals was to build Atlantis. The very thought of having a flying city made him tingled.

As such, his first Command Center became his first Command Tower, the first step to Atlantis, a seventy-story monolith with a base dimension of fifty yards by fifty yards. It was a massive complex with hundreds of living quarters with their own individual bathrooms, several mess halls and dining chambers, a dozen communal chambers, a multiple indoor pools and a massive indoor garden.

The garden was a special request of Ashur. Lira was located in the relatively deep north of Devin so the winters were long and harsh. As such, more delicate plants such as flowers were extremely rare. Ashur had ordered it to be filled with flowers whose color complimented each others, whose scents were most compatible. He even had a little waterfall that filled a small pool which in turned fed a small brook that flowed through the chamber.

The Command Tower also contained a computer core and a multitude of construction chambers and bio lab that were used to create a multitude of machineries and synthesize any organic substance the civilization could need. The resource for these construction were obtained through the Quantum Converters, one of the most vital technologies of the entire civilization, one that allowed the Terran to convert Quantum Energy into any raw resources they needed

Traveled through the complex were accomplished through a dozen glass elevators reminiscent of the one in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, able to move not only vertically but also horizontally and to make turns. The interior of the tower was not as fixed as Earth's building. Walls shifted and retract, forming opening to allow the elevators passage. Entire room could move, divided and combined to fit any need.

Despite the technologies of the Terran, the Tower was not perfect. The Teleporters were not functional; teleporting technologies were not available until stage two. Worse than that, the Gate Room that Ashur had commission was simply an empty chamber. There was no design for a Stargate in the Terran's Database, and he so wanted a Stargate.

Regardless of its flaws, the view from the Tower's balcony was beyond amazing. The tallest trees were beneath his feet, and he could see as far as the horizon. It was mesmerizing and it quickly became Ashur's favorite spot.

As the Tower rose, seemingly from the ground, his family had watched in wonder and, in the case of his parents, no little amount of fear. They could not overcome their fear of Magic, or what they considered to be Magic, even if it was wielded by their own son.

Though the Tower was a far better home, his parents chose to remain in the tent, and his siblings stayed with them the first few days. His sister was the first to move into the Tower. She had heard stories of Wizard's towers before. To be able to live in one was a dream come true. When she discovered the gleaming marble bathrooms that were attached to the living quarters and the clean ivory bathtub within, she couldn't be dragged out of the Tower. Her first bath, she stayed in the bathroom for three hours. Ashur was afraid that she had drowned in the tub if not for the fact that her vital signs were as strong as ever. Even his mother went into the Tower every day. As uneasy as she was in the building, the lure of indoor plumbing and hot baths were irresistible.

As for his other family member, his brother moved into the Tower after he discovered culinary possibilities in the Tower.

Though it was possible for every piece of technologies in the Terran civilization to be built in the Tower, because it did not had the specialized machines, there was a significant increase in cost. The only two units that the Tower was designed to build were the SCVs, Androids, and Data Collectors—fly-like robots with the sole purpose of collecting information, a dozen of them could scan an elephant right down to the genetic level within a few minutes..

The Terran Androids greatly resembled that of the NS-5 from the movie I-Robot starring Will Smith. These Androids would be the equivalent of the civilians of the Terran. They would the one in the various battle suits of the Terran, they would be the drivers for the vehicles, and the pilots for the planes and eventually spaceships. Though they were not sentient, their programming and personal processor were advance enough that they could learn to perform any task. With a direct connection to the Terran central computer network, they could do anything and do it well.

As Namus discovered, they were amazing cooks. At the same time as Ashur commissioned the first dozen Androids, he had also ordered the creation of several thousand Data Collectors.

Within forty-eight hours of their creations, the Data Collectors had scanned every plant, animal, and mineral within a hundred miles of the Tower. With a detailed scan of several dozen fruits, vegetables, and animals along with a comprehensive map of a human's taste buds, it was a simple thing for the central computer to come up with a hundred different dishes. As the saying went, "The short way to a man's heart was through his stomach," or something along that line, and from the very first meal, Namus' heart was captivated.

Within a week, his brother and sister had permanently moved into the Tower. His mother, on the other hand, stubbornly insisted on living in the tent, and as always, his father acquiesced to her desire and decided to keep her company.

Ashur left them be. Though the Tower possessed a far greater defensive capacity, there wasn't any threat in the immediate vicinity of the grove so they would be just as safe inside the tent as they would be in the Tower. Of course, just to be sure, he ordered a hundred Androids to keep guard around the grove, arming them with pulse pistols. From his calculation, one on one, it would take a Master to destroy an Android armed with dual pistols.

Of course, he could order the SCV to build Marines or Marauders suits. Unfortunately, this would increase the cost by a multiple of five. That meant that a Marine suit would cost two hundred and fifty, and a Marauder would cost a cool seven hundred and fifty. For the same price of a Marine suit, Ashur could create twenty five Androids. Twenty-five Androids could cover a lot more ground than a single Marine. As for simply building the weaponries of the Marines and Marauders, it would not be practical. Such weaponries boasted a much higher rate of fire and more power shots, which meant that the energy requirement was significantly higher. Conventionally, it was the suits that powered the weapons. Without the suits, the weapons' personal reserved would be depleted after twenty or so shot.

Still, he thought it would be best to build a Barrack as soon as possible. Fortunately, one of the Command Tower's main functions was the ability to absorb the ambience solar energy within ten miles and convert it into Quantum Energy. Considering Devin's proximity to the sun and their position on the planet, within a period of twenty-four hours, the Tower could absorb and convert roughly one hundred thousand Quantum Energies. It might sound like a lot, but he needed five hundred billions units of Quantum Energy to unlock stage two technologies. That meant that even if he saved every units of Quantum Energy, it would take him a little over thirteen thousand years.

He needed more Towers, a lot more, if he hoped to get to stage two within a year or two. Unfortunately, because the amount of ambience solar energy within a fixed area was finite, he had to spread the Towers across a very large area, as large as a kingdom, perhaps even an empire. Though he had no plan to wage any war, he had little doubt that the Terran would have to step onto the center stage of Devin in order to garner the required Quantum Energy in an acceptable timeframe. Once the various kings and emperors learned of the Terran's power, they would die of envy. He needed an army, not only to defend the Terran but also to protect his family.

As such, within a few days of the Tower's completion, Ashur ordered the construction of one thousand SCVs. In the game, the Terran's SCVs were squarish mechs walker about twenty feet tall whose arms were one pincer, one drill used for construction, resource collecting, and resource transportation. Ashur's SCVs were similar to the mechanical squid of The Matrix. The SCV consisted of a central sphere with one glowing optic sensors and eight steel tentacles whose tips could transform into any tool they would need for construction. Unlike in the game, Ashur's SCV were fully automated; one only needed to upload the necessary spec to the Terran's computer network.

Unlike in the game, where a building could be constructed by a single SCV virtually out of thin air, it takes a small army to build any of the Terran structures. The resourse for the Terran buildings were obtained from Command Tower, or Supply Depo if there was no Command Tower immediately available. In the game, the Supply Depo was a structure that raised the population cap. Ashur's Supply Depo was large Quantum Converter independent of the Tower. It was also capable of creating a substance call Nutrients Gel, a type of jelly that contained all the nutrients that a living creature need to survive. A serving of eight ounces contain two thousand calories and it could be made have any flavor or no flavor at all.

With an army of SCVs ready, Ashur ordered the construction of four smaller towers. They were situated to the north, south, east and west. These towers were connected to the main Tower through elevated walkways. Three of the towers the redesigned Barrack to the East, Factory to the west, and Starport to the north, each with their own Quantum Converter. As for the southern tower, Ashur reserved it as a storage tower, where he will keep the weaponries and suits where they were not in use.

At stage one, the suits Ashur had access to were all for terrestrial combat: Marines, Marauder, Firebats, Medics, Reapers, and Ghosts. For the next month, Ashur split his resources between building those suits, the Androids needed to operate the suits, enough Medivacs to transport them, and a number of Banshees sufficient to escort them.

Medivacs and Banshees were the only two air units he had access to at stage one. As for the vehicles, he had access to Hellions and Crucio Siege Tanks, but both types were best used in open warfare, not really something he was aiming for. In his situation, he felt that it would be wasteful to spend eight hundred Quantum Energies on a Siege Tank, especially since Siege Mode would not be available until stage two.

A month after the battle of Vina, Ashur was having lunch with his family in the garden level of the Tower. His mother and sister adored the garden so his family had taken to eating every meal there.

They were sitting around a table with pearly white linen. Upon the table was a feast worthy of any emperor, with a few dishes that wasn't so high-class, such as bacons. Of course, Ashur had to synthesize bacons in the Bio Lab. The first batch had the more unhealthy aspect, and certain fat and oil, removed, but it didn't taste right, so the second batch was flawless in all its 'unhealthy' perfection. Because of his will, the food that was bacon had reached across the stars.

"I have to leave for a few days," Ashur said, chewing on a bit of bacon.

Lia looked up from her soup. "Where are you going?"

"I have a little business in the Golden Scar," he said.

"What?" The spoon dropped from her hand, and next to her, Kanus froze. "That's suicide. You can't go there."

The Golden Scar was the wide desert five thousand miles wide, stretching from shore to shore, cutting the continent in two. According to legends, many thousand years ago, the gods of Devin went to war with each other. Each god, commanding the various species of Devin, declared a jihad on everyone else, each proclaiming their superiority. No one knew who won because all the gods disappeared. The results of their war were the extinction for many species, the fall of many civilizations, and the lost of uncountable knowledge. The most visible legacy of the god war, however, was the great desert known as the Golden Scar, a wound across the known world that could not be heal even by time.

After the god war, though the gods were gone, their followers did not stop. The surviving species wage war on each other, and humans lost big. The beastmen and elves forced the surviving humans of the war into the desert. Nearly ninety percents of the remaining human population did not survive the crossing. Those that did settled in the land of long winters. Thankfully, while the humans did not have the strength of the beastmen or the mystic aptitude of the elves, they could breed many offspring if they had a mind to, and the birth rate exceeded that of death. After millennia, kingdoms and empires rose. Through it all, the desert remained, a natural barrier that kept the species apart.

"I am not so easily harm by a little sands and sunlight, mother," Ashur said.

"Why do you have to go there?" she said.

"Time, mother," he said. "As things stand, my ascension, will take too long. I need a lot of power, and the heat and sunlight of the desert will give me that."

Lia stared at him. "Ascension?"

"I have a duty among the stars, a task I must complete. Where? I do not know, but I must get there within the next twenty years. Considering the sheer expanse of the heaven, I do not have much time. I have to ascend as quickly as possible and began my search."

Both of his parent stared at him in bewilderment and wonder, along with a touch of fear, always fear, the fear so many humans had when face with the unknown and oftentimes the divines.

The next day, two hundred Medivacs escorted by five hundred Banshees took to the sky, carrying eight hundred SCVs, five thousands Marines, fifteen hundred Marauders, one thousand Firebats, and the necessary raw material needed to construct a Supply Depo. It was the common protocol when establishing an expansion to construct a Supply Depo first and use the Quantum Converter within to convert enough material for a Command Tower. It was more efficient than carrying the massive amount of material necessary to build a Command Tower with you to a distance site.

From within one of the Medivacs, Cameron by his side, Ashur watched as his family stood at the base of the Tower to watch him go. Even from high above the trees, he could see his sister pouting. He had spent nearly an hour arguing with her that morning. When she saw the Medivac that morning and learned what its function was, she had cried, pleaded, and finally gave him the silent treatment all in an attempt to get him to take her flying in one of the 'magic birds'.

Unfortunately, he didn't have the time to accompany her, and as much as Ana loved Magic and flying, she wasn't willing to ride one by herself. Of course, even if she was willing, Lia would never allow it. And so, Ana's first foray into the sky would have to wait. Ashur couldn't very well take his sister into a desert for a week. It was, after all, more or less the abyss of Devin. Heaven only knew what was out there. He was taking considerable risk going himself.