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Born to renowned terraformer Doctor Bernard Hanson and geneticist Talise Cogan, Ariel Hanson grew up on Agria, a colony founded by her father when he and Talise divorced. Ariel showed her genius at an early age; at age six, she began poring over her father's old chemistry digi-tomes. At eleven, she published her first research paper about the effects of mutagenic chemicals on the rare trabillia flower. At sixteen, after graduating from upper school two years ahead of her peers, she received a full scholarship to Tarsonis University, a prestigious institute that was also attended by her father. Despite the rich bio-diversity of Agria and her father's objection, she accepted grant and traveled to Tarsonis.
During the three years on Tarsonis, Hanson earned a bio-engineering doctorate but refrained from accepting a job offer there. Disenfranchised by the crass, ruthless and arrogant intellectuals there – especially her own mother – she returned to Agria. Her mother only proclaimed she was simply running away from the "real" world, just as her father had. The words only reaffirmed Hanson decision: if Tarsonis was the real world, it was one she didn't want to be a part of.
While her father remained the colony's chairman, she effectively became his second-in-command. Her duties included holding a round of hands-on health examinations. Agria remained largely unscathed by the fall of the Confederacy. The Terran Dominion retained Agria's status and even stationed a permanent defense force there.
In 2503 pirates raided the colony, intending to steal its advanced technology. The Dominion fought back, but many innocent colonists were killed in the crossfire. Hanson risked her life to save dozens of innocent bystanders trapped in areas of heavy fighting. She now believed the Dominion saw the colonists as expendable.
The Second Great War
- Hanson's distress call.(src)
The Second Great War further intensified Hanson's hatred of the Dominion: When the zerg invaded the planet, the Dominion fleet pulled back to the core worlds instead of defending. Instead, Raynor's Raiders responded to Hanson's distress call and successfully evacuated as many colonists as possible.
The colonists resettled on Meinhoff. Hanson, however, stayed with the Raiders to assist them, as they had neither a modern medical facility nor scientific expertise. As artifact pieces were gathered by Raynor's Raiders, Hanson studied the mysterious device, discovering that protoss could be killed simply being in close proximity to it.
Ariel Hanson also detected jorium in the minerals the Raiders mined for Tosh, which could be used to produce psionic abilities on humans. She also briefed Commander Jim Raynor regarding terrazine.
When the colonists reached the world of Haven on the border of protoss space, the zerg infestation found its way to Haven as well. A protoss fleet, led by Executor Selendis, arrived to contain the virus by purification.
Raynor chose to protect the colony. During the fighting, Hanson continued to develop a cure for the virus. When the protoss were driven back, Hanson left to settle on Haven. She could not persuade Raynor to come with her. Nonetheless, Hanson gave him a kiss on the cheek and said he was a good man before leaving.
Raynor chose to assist the protoss effort, believing that purification was the only way to stop the virus from spreading. Hanson was displeased, stormed off Hyperion's bridge, and locked herself in the laboratory, becoming infested with the zerg virus. By the time the Raiders were finished purging Haven, 99.3% of her DNA was zerg. Raynor was forced to kill her.
At some point the Dominion became aware of the family connection between Hanson and her mother, who was involved with Project Blackstone at the time, as well as Hanson's involvement with Raynor's Raiders. Hanson was regarded as one of two "troublesome girls," the other being Maren Ayers. It was feared Cogan's research would suffer if certain details concerning her daughter became known to her. Regardless, Cogan was informed by Daniel Rothfuss, that Hanson had been caught up in the Second Great War, and that contact had been lost with her at Meinhoff, and she had last been seen around protoss space. Cogan believed that her daughter was dead.
Throughout the game, Hanson offers opinions on the previous mission. For example, after finishing "Breakout", Hanson states that Tosh and his spectres were not the psychotic killers that Nova claimed. Alternatively, if the player sides with Nova, Hanson expresses her dislike for the Dominion assassin.
Hanson was originally conceived as a male citizen, one that the player merely helped along the way. However, the design later changed to that of "doctor lady with glasses" that came to serve a more important purpose: Hanson provides morally positive guidance to the player through Jim Raynor, acting as something of a love interest (albeit limited by Raynor's status as a hard-bitten mercenary) and bringing out his good side. She plays the foil of Tychus Findlay, acting as "the angel on Raynor's shoulder," as opposed to Findlay being the "devil."