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Bane 11: A New Beginning

Author: deadfast

"Come forth, my children! Arise and claim your places at my side. The era of our perfection is at hand!" The booming voice shattered the silent calm of the void.

"Indeed, father. We live to serve." One by one, the Cerebrates slowly awakened, drawn out of their slumber by the overpowering will,

"Soon I will be made whole once more, and the swarms will be reborn."

The beings hesitated, "But Father, what about," They paused, perhaps in fear, "Him."

Vibes of fury and hate bordered the edges of the Overmind’s will as it satisfied its minions’ curiosity, "Though I still sense the renegade is among us, his thoughts elude me. But fear not, no cerebrate can stray from my will; there are more important events at hand, my children, than the threat of a single foe. The first born have avoided the inevitable for the last time, and we must strive to complete our conquest...but first the strains here must be purified. Although these Terrans have shown a slight psionic potential, they're reckless betrayal has proven them to be inferior. Once the swarms have grown in enough numbers, the Terrans shall fall quickly. For despite their slight development over the period of my dormancy, a lingering distrust and crippling strife still plagues them to this day."

...The roar of the raging battle had become nothing but a memory, buried by what seemed like an eternity in the dreary comfort of the void...hidden in my thoughts along with the flash of brilliant, consuming light that had first brought me here long ago...there is no passage of time in this place, the voices just came again; as I knew they inevitably would. But I was ill prepared for what befell me when the Overmind brought the crushing wrath of its will down on my essence. It was quick and venomous, flooding in and overtaking me like an angry sea that had been whipped into a fury by a malevolent wind. The swirling winds carried howling voices with them, of every pitch and tone. But as my ability to fight them dissolved in the sea of hate, they seemed to meld together to form one sublime voice who’s every word crashed through my thoughts...Then the cold senses of the world took over once more...

The dilapidated halls of the crumbling facility were cracked with age and the lights and obsolete computer screens had long since given in to the darkness as well. A lumpy, living carpet covered the floor and stuck to the ceiling in veins of goo that dripped back down to the floor again, eating away at the ancient cement of the forgotten Terran facility in a never-ending cycle of accelerated corrosion. It has been this way for quite some time, as the creep had flowed all the way into the uncharted rock hallway bearing only a set of mangled hinges from where the door had been torn off long ago. The remains of the shattered glass of an ancient criotank, turned green from a layer of moss, stood silent witness to past events as the creep piled around the machine in clumps, stretching to the walls in purple fingers that pulsed and swelled. It was thicker in the wide hall that lead to this room, covering a decimated airlock door with the ever growing substance that crawled forth from the depths of this place, where life began to stir again...The depths...where the creep covered every inch of the high rock walls as well as the giant steel blast door that had rusted shut decades before the first drop of creep appeared...The scuttling drones stood silent guard and gave care to the brewing larva that spawned forth from odd structures jutting out of the creep. They soon crawled forward to join the hundreds of others in a massive demonstration of the Overmind's powerful control over them. Screeches and hissing echoed from this place as the numbers of defenseless worms changed, mutating at an accelerated rate to become creatures of their master's bidding...The huge facility became suddenly cramped as the great swelling eggs reached maturity and the things inside tore free from their thick, protective membrane...hundreds of clawed feet rattled against the floor as the mindless pawns sprang forth, rampant with the voices of a single being, one that wanted nothing but power and destruction...And so it became their desire, the single purpose that still held reason in a world that was otherwise lifeless...

...The consuming darkness was all around, saturating my world with a dull reality that muffled my every action. I strained to see and a fussy picture met my eyes; cracked, mossy walls enclosed me in this dark place with the others. The others were all around me, spewing forth from the hive clusters by the pair. I could sense the Overmind’s will radiating from the numerous beings much like me, driving them into a frenzy for blood and destruction.. They lunged against one wall repeatedly, mindless slashing at it with their tiny scythes. I could feel it descending upon myself as well, and I nearly lost hold on my vision. Struggling to maintain concentration, I forced the blurry picture to return. When it did, I found my own blades amongst those of the others; slashing away at the barrier that withheld us in this dark prison. My own vicious snarls rang out with theirs, roaring with the anger and the fury the Overmind crushed us with. It grew louder and louder as our numbers multiplied by the pumping hatcheries. It called to us, urging us forth as I leapt through the ever widening gap in the ancient metallic door. Our lust for death was made anew by the presence of an alien species outside, but our urges to bring swift wrath to this single being were stamped out by the thundering voices,

"Stay your wrath, my children, it will lead you to more..."

This was not a suggestion or a command, it was exactly what we did. There was simply no defying the Overmind’s whim. We watched as the creature promptly turned tail and ran at the first site of us. The thing used a machine to accelerate away from us at a rate that seemed pale in comparison to the noise it produced. It had only made a short distance before the will lifted, releasing our restrained thirst for battle...the chase was on...

It was another one of those dreams, they've plagued my nights regularly for as long as I can remember. Usually they are nightmares; scenes of gory battles and death drag by... Occasionally, I get lucky and they are not so violent. Only recently, they have risen more frequently and each one more intense than the last. Fortunately for me, this one was suddenly cut short as an indistinct voice pounded through the darkness and the ground rolled away and I began falling...

I fell out of my bunk and woke up when I hit the grated steel floor. A deep voice with a southern drawl hailed me,

"Get your lazy ass up, Reece! Sleepin' time's over."

I groaned, fighting the covers as I got up. "Hey, man, it's my day off!" I complained, staring groggily at my watch.

"I don't care if you're dead, get your shit. Everyone else has already left." The Captain barked before stomping back out of the dingy crews' quarters, letting the automatic airlock door slide shut behind him with the harsh sound of metal on rusted metal. The same irregular work hours and pathetic living conditions greeted me again at four in the morning. But for as young as I am, I'm lucky to have a place to sleep at all. I share a dingy little crews quarters with three other kids around my age, and I've only heard one story of how we came to be here in the first place: Once the governments supply lines started losing salvage vessels to the rebels, they started losing funds as well. The population was already stressed for new recruits, so the Republic of Korhal used the most readily available labor source to help maintain the remaining cargo ships: orphans. Don't be shocked about it. So woop-dee-doo, I don't have parents. Since the war broke out eight years ago, the panicking factions that held control of the Korporl sector suddenly began drafting all Terran civilians capable of fighting-parents or not. The drafting has declined sharply in the last year because the number of orphaned kids started growing larger than the ones still with their actual parents, but that hasn't helped the thick mainstream of corruption and crime that has gripped the entire sector for decades. Things aren't all bad; surprisingly, the economy is up and the threat of the invaders known as the Zerg haven’t been seen for over a century, allowing the population to spread to the outlying planets again. So there you have it, that's all I know about the world outside of this lumbering hulk of metal that has been my home for most of my thirteen years. I was shipped here by an anonymous orphanage and put to work for nothing as soon as I grew strong enough to carry things around. Since then, not a lot has changed. I do work and simple repairs on the ship and recently Bill has taught me how to fly the rickety old transport and take shipments to the surface whenever we get an order. There are three other kids here and only two adults here with me on the ship. You’ve already met Captain Bill. Cletus and his loudmouth sidekick are okay, but I've always disliked them. They’re unruly bastard’s that yell and cuss all the time, always ordering me around while they argue over the last beer in the fusion locker. They don't seem the type to have kids around, but free labor is free labor. The other orphans, Jill, Randy, and Mike, are decent company, but there's never alot of free time to talk or hang out-it's actually a rarity when we’re all together in the same place at once.

This morning, I sat down on the rusted metal frame of my bunk and pulled my boots on involuntarily, just like the countless ones before it. "My life sucks," I mumbled as I took one last look at the cramped bunks around me. I sighed, unable to figure out what gave me the will to climb out of bed every day as I stood up again and pressed the button to open my door. Little did I know, this was the day that my life would change forever.

I made my way through the familiar corridors of the salvage ship. It wasn't very complicated; how could it be with only two decks? Although it was a small ship, it was still a brisk walk to the stern of the "Rusty Bastard" as Cletus had so fittingly named her. There are only two bays that open to the vacuum of space. One is the big, slow cargo door in the main hold and the other is a small crafts launch bay. I stopped at the door, reaching out to the control panel that opened it and flipped the one switch Bill had replaced the keypad with after breaking it. The ancient hydraulic motor whined pathetically as the door clinked up inch by inch, slowly revealing the cramped little hangar. As my eyes adjusted to the dull light, I noticed two feet sticking out from beneath our dilapidated dropship, nicknamed the Bomb because of the unstoppable fuel leak it had developed over the decades of use.

"It's about damn time, boy!! Mike's been gone with the first shipment for over an hour!" Cletus barked as he slid out from under the ship with a greasy wrench, "I've got eight K's of ore ready to go; take em to these coordinates." He reached into the top pocket of his dirty jumpsuit and pulled out a crumpled scrap of paper. I took it and Cletus stood up, uselessly brushing at the dust that matted his coveralls. It took me a moment to decipher his hieroglyphics, but I finally made it out.

"The capitol?!" I winced, "I hate Korhal!" Cletus frowned with exasperation,

"Do I look like I care?! Do as I tell you or you'll eat this wrench!" He shook a large crescent wrench in my face angrily. I stepped back, taking his threats quite seriously. Particularly because he always carries them out.

"Yessir," I droned in reply, pacing towards the dropship's dented hatch. I reached up to the handle above my head and jerked back on it. The rusted hinges creaked as the door opened and I climbed into the cockpit.

"Get back here as soon as you drop the supplies off, " Cletus added, "And don't you dare pull another stunt like last time, either." He's referring to my recent escape attempt with the dropship. I rolled my eyes and started flipping the switches on the dashboard in front of me. Although I'm barely big enough to see over the instrument panels, I know this old bird like the back of my hand. The stumbling turbine engines rattled to life and Cletus shook the wrench again, reminding me of what the consequences were if I screwed up somehow. A dull red light on the ceiling began flashing and the first airlock door rose up. I eased the controls forward, slowly maneuvering the ship into the tiny space. The door came down again as I flew through, sealing the air inside the bay. The second door opened, slowly revealing the black depth of space with the tiny specks of light that made up the constellations. I pulled out and throttled to the left, bringing the nose of the ship around. The dull planet of Tarsonis loomed into my view with the small red planet of Korhal far beyond. I sighed, this was going to be a long trip. The ship began accelerating after I set the auto-pilot and leaned back in the ripped up seat that was far too big for me.

"Might as well pick up were I left off," I said to myself, letting the hum of the engines put me to sleep.

....The rocky dessert terrain of this place flashed below...The others were all there with me, leaping in unison to my own claws as we pursued the machine in search of more like it, as the Overmind wished. And so we found this place we were promised...Its structures sat in dormant contrast to the dark night sky as the machine we chased raced into it. Although we expected heavy resistance, the base was quite and unguarded. We took full advantage of this. Stealing into the barracks and bunkers, we leapt upon the unsuspecting Terrans with brutal scythes. Few were ready to meet our assault, and those who did stand to oppose us were brought down with deadly efficiency...Our triumphed snarls filled the night sky as the last of the inferior creatures were destroyed and their machines razed to make way for our own creations...I could sense the Overmind was pleased with our victory, but many more must be won before the true might of the swarms could be unleashed...and so the lust for battle fell upon me again, as it did my brethren. In a flash, the dessert was passing below again...a new place had been found and it too must be purified...

...This one was greater than the last, and they were prepared in advance. Just as the boxy Terran structures began materializing out of the darkness, thumping explosions cracked from the distance, shaking the sand beneath my claws. There was a split-second of silence, save for the "Swish" of my every leap through the dessert terrain. Then the world blew up. Great crimson explosions erupted from the dunes, illuminating the Others and I with as a picture of dozens of zerglings being pulverized and scattered by the powerful arcitlite blasts. The fire was all around me, ripping at my carapace...seeking my life, but I did not fall in the flames. I finally leapt free unto the cool sand with a few of my brethren and the structures came into sight once more. We rushed to meet them, but these were not like the buildings from before. These fought back as well, bursting into flurries of light that threw a volley of stone at us, cutting our numbers away as we still approached. I could vaguely feel the pain of being sprayed with these projectiles, but the damage they caused was fatal. I stumbled into the rocky building and flailed at the reinforced cement with both scythes as my legs buckled beneath my own weight. I vaguely recall being pelted by the angry structures, but then my brethren poured around me, they had come to finish what I could not, surging against the buildings. But the explosions came again, deafeningly close this time. Everything fell silent as my brethren and I were engulfed in the roaring fireball, but the structures were also destroyed in the blast...

"We shall win the next battle," came the voices as the flames tore the world away and left me in the dark. I would have guessed that I had served my purpose in the swarm and that now I would be allowed to rest, but the void did not come. Instead, the swirling senses of reality returned yet again, as did the thundering voices. I fought them, but it was in vain. I soon found my claws in the sand once more...

There was the brief moment for thought that always came between the times of darkness. When the slaughter and confusion finally came crashing to a stop, and everything fell silent, the swirling madness lost its grip for a few seconds. Everything seemed the same at first, but I slowly realized the difference. Something was out there, drawing nearer. And with each passing moment, it grew stronger, further drawing back the curtain of unconsciousness that blotted out the world. I looked around, and for the first time, the things I saw made sense. I could recognize red sand beneath a set of clawed hind feet with a matching pair of bladed forelegs that stabbed idly at the sand. "Clawed feet? Blades?" I asked myself in this new dream. That was odd as well, usually a simple thing such as speech is also impaired in this place, but now thoughts and words rang through, clear as day. Then there was a flash, I was suddenly in the air and I quickly found out that this thing wasn't anything near human. It snarled and growled, thrashing around on the ground as if something was wrestling it into submission, although no enemy could be seen. The thing finally collapsed on the dunes and began trembling as a buzzing sound slowly penetrated my dreams. Everything began to grow blurry and dark again, but before I was swept away from this place, the creature turned directly towards me, staring dead into my soul. Just as everything plunged into the darkness again, a strange echoing voice ended the dream, "H-help M-m-me...."

I sat bolt upright in the pilot's seat in disbelief. I felt lightheaded as I looked around; I didn't even know where I was for a few seconds. The buzzing autopilot alarm finally registered to me and became an annoyance. I shook my head in a vain attempt to clear my mind as I leaned forward and shut it off and I noticed the bustling desert world of Korhal that filled the windshield. Multiple orbital stations stuck out like sore thumbs around the planet. Tiny dots could be seen rocketing back and forth between them and the surface far below; it’s a busy day as usual on the capitol. I hate going to this place, the rebels are the most active here. Wether its fighting other factions or ambushing the infamous Republic of Korhal, there's always a battle breaking out somewhere. I wanted to turn the ship around but I didn't have much of a choice. I could only sigh and ease the controls forward, preparing to descend to the surface. As I flipped the thrusters off and angled the ship into a sharp decline, the orbit light began flashing, indicating that I was entering the atmosphere. I yawned as flames began to billow up from the nose of the ship, eventually blotting out the view. The ripping turbulence outside the ship only translated to a dull static inside the makeshift armored shell of the Bomb. The thing flew like a rock, but it was built like tank. The controls shuddered in my hands as I eased back on them again, leveling the ship's decent a few degrees, but the intense heat of re-entry didn't fade away for nearly a whole minute. The flames died suddenly as I fired the engines again, revealing nothing but clouds in the wide wind shield. I swore and jerked the controls to the left as the cloud layer suddenly broke, revealing two convoys jetting over the capitol. I barely missed a wraith as I leveled the craft out, steering it away from the cargo ships and their over-protective escorts. The engines whined as I flew the ship with one hand and reached over to the co-pilot's seat and snatched up the paper Clem had given me. I read the chicken scratch again and sighed, "At least it’s not in the middle of town." I poured the coal to the stuttering engines and turned the nose of the ship southwest, toward the industrial side of the city.

"You’ve gotta do something! People are dying out here!" The distress calls just kept coming this morning, but this one was more urgent than the last,

"The Rebels have rallied in large numbers and are pressing the attack against our defenses-They’re attacking the front line as we speak! We’re not gonna hold out much longer."

"We’re doing what we can, Lieutenant, my forces are scattered all over the city as it is."

"Please hurry!" croaked the officer at the other end of the line. The standing magistrate, General E. Warren, ended the transmission to the First defense Garrison that ended just like the other twelve calls he had made to every platoon under his command.

"Sir, we have another situation."

"What is it now?!" Demanded General Warren as he was assaulted with another message from the communications team,

"Multiple rebel signals have been detected approaching our sector from the east," came the wiry voice again.

"Put our defenses on full alert!" The general barked over the arsenal of personnel running the command deck of Korhal's Militia Reserve. An officer with a head set responded,

"Sir, we have an incoming transmission from the Rebel attack force."

"Patch it through!" General Warren barked gruffly. Static crackled from multiple speakers before a strange voice with a thick southern accent broke through firmly,

"Republic of Korhal, I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but eight of our outposts have mysteriously turned up missing during the past seventy-two hours. My associates and I believe that compensation is due. Knowing that you're our only enemy, we have ultimately chosen to retaliate immediately-" The general cut him off with a booming order to his command personnel,

"Battle stations!!"

The thrusters whined as I drew closer to the area marked on Clem's instructions. Small buildings began dotting the horizon as the city shrunk into the distance behind. Soon, they formed the shapes of missile turrets and a line of bunkers.

"Must be some kind of military joint," I said to myself as I entered their airspace. A platoon of tanks were also rumbling along the perimeter. It all centered around a huge facility made up of two multistory structures that joined at the top. The base was bustling with activity, but I still had no idea where to dock the ship at. I sighed and read the coordinance again. It gave an address but this place was huge, I had no idea were to dock the ship at. The directions state that an air-traffic adjutant would radio in when I got close enough. I just shrugged my shoulders and sighed with boredom. The dull grey steel of the Bomb had become too bland long ago and I started looking around for other things to keep myself awake until I noticed a rotating yellow light on the west facing side of the building. I approached it and to my surprise, I found a tunnel. So I entered there. Afterall, Clem didn't teach me anything about warning sirens or a flashing light for that matter and I still hadn't been given further instructions by radio. The short corridor had brightly lit cement walls that ended abruptly, widening to form "Dock 24," as the simplistic letters stamped into the wall read. I was almost ready to turn the ship around and forget the whole thing, but the door to the hangar suddenly began opening. The wide steel hatch slid up, letting in four soldiers with some boxy looking armor. This wasn't unusual, but I gasped when they stopped in front of my windshield abruptly and raised their weapons. I could hear a demanding voice penetrate the high pitched thrum of the Bomb's engines,

"Get out of the ship!! You have ten seconds to comply!" I cut the engines abruptly and scrambled with my buckles. Easing the door open, I yelled out to them,

"What's the problem, Mack? This is just a delivery!" One of the marines sidestepped, aiming the gun at chest height as he came around to the open door. He had to aim his gun down to see me and he laughed when he did, "Hey, false alarm guys; it's just a kid!" The marine flipped his visor back and lowered the guass rifle out of my face some. He turned to me and seemed about to say something else but a dull explosion interrupted him. Shouts and gunfire erupted from the open door and more marines ran by. The soldier next to me turned in time to see A pair of dark figures blot in the doorway and open fire with two automatic machine guns. I ducked while high caliber rounds peppered bounced around the hangar as the marines were cut down by the surprise attack. Impaler rounds pelted holes in the front of the Bomb as I watched the marine who had been threatening me a few seconds ago tumble to the floor in a hail of guass fire. My breath came in tight little bursts as terror suddenly gripped me. The two people who had stepped into the room stopped firing after the last marine fell and surveyed the hangar, sweeping their gun barrels from left to right as they watched for any movement. I hunched down in the pilots’ seat, doing my best to hold my breath despite my racing pulse. Steam and smoke hissed from the front of my ship as more gunfire and a few screams came from the hallway behind them before one of the silhouettes said,

"All's clear in here, Cap'n!" With that, they turned and left me in the hangar with the dead marines. I desperately wanted to get out of there but I was petrified. I had never seen anyone get seriously hurt before, much less killed. This was too much for me, I couldn't take it all in at once and my brain seemed to shut down. I don't know how long I sat there trying to catch my breath, but finally, simple details came back as the shock wore off. I shook my head and flipped a few switches on the dashboard of the Bomb, only resulting in a couple dull buzzes, indicating that the vessel was incapable of firing its engines. I had no choice except to leave the hangar and find another way out, but I still had a hard time stepping over the body of the marine that lay in front of the dropship door in a pool of blood. Once I overcame that small obstacle, I walked quietly to the door, always looking over my shoulder at the dead bodies, as If they could still do me harm somehow. I looked outside, finding nothing but the bullet dimpled walls of the hallway. "I'll just check the next hangar," I said out loud to myself, trying to keep my cool as I slowly stepped over the thresh-hold and turned toward the next door. I nearly jumped out of my skin when a deep voice with a thick southern accent rang out from behind me,

"Hey, Kid! Where'd you come from?!" My hands trembled as I stopped and slowly looked back. A rebel marine stood in the hall with his gauss rifle aimed at my back. I could hear more of them coming, drawn by the commotion. Now that I look back on this situation, I probably would have been okay if I listened to the Rebels, but the thirteen-year-old mind can only comprehend so much.

"Stop right there!" He yelled in vain as the fear and confusion finally became too much and I panicked, taking off down the hallway at a sprint.

"The planet is nearly ours!" The voices proclaimed wickedly, "Every known small encampment of the accursed Terrans has been consumed and now it is time now to move to the second phase of my plan. Soon I will release the entirety of the swarms upon this world, but first the path must be prepared. The Terrans’ strife is at its peak, go my children, make certain that nothing stands in the path of the swarm. Cripple the Terran defenses..."

The large compound lay in the distance. Once a shining place bearing forces to be reckoned with, it now looked small and weak in contrast to the plumes of black smoke rising from within. The strange creature's weapons could be heard far away, chattering and thumping. They were fighting each other, as the voices said, and now was our chance to strike...The urges to kill and maim forced their way in and we leapt in perfect unison with only one goal in mind: The death of the enemy to ensure victory for the swarm. It was the clearest thought I had as my flicking claws stretched for more sand with each leap. No fire rained from the outskirts of this place, so we continued into its depths unchecked. As we entered the outer walls of the Terran's compound, I found the battle between the Terran's was still waging. Clumsy looking creatures brandishing hand held weapons launched their projectiles back and forth at each other. Tall mechanical beasts could be seen standing above them all, cutting their own brethren down by the dozen. "They are all enemies of the swarm...Eradicate the infidels..." came the overpowering will, flinging itself upon us...I had no control; I leapt, burying both scythes in my nearest foe with the force of the landing. Few were met that offered resistance, and they were all brought down by our fury...

...Then the voices quickly fell silent and my pumping legs slowed some as a sudden numbness took over, a feeling of freedom that was once familiar. I tried to ignore this thing, but it only grew and grew as my feet carried me further into the Terran compound, dwarfing even the thundering voices that yearned for murder...Time seemed to slow down as I rounded the next corner and literally ran into the source of this disruption...

The marines jogged to catch up with me, but their bulky powersuits slowed them down and I was able to keep ahead. Wide doors crawled by as I ran and I looked back to see if the marines were still on me. Their thuding footsteps and cursing had faded back quite a distance. I would have slowed to a stop and found a better escape route, but I ran into solid rock before I could turn my head forward again. I slammed into it at a dead run and I bounced off, stumbling backwards to land hard on my backside. "Damn," I swore, rubbing my forehead before looking up to see what I had run into. My breath caught in my throat. The fear from watching the marines being killed was nothing like this. Monsters stood in the hallway, brown creatures with deadly sickles protruding from their limbs. They all appeared to be the same, all four of them, except for the largest one, which slowly moved closer and stared at me, slobbering drool and snarling slightly. I wanted to scream as the thing stalked forward with its two clawed hind feet and bladed fore-arms. It's face somewhat resembled a human skill, but it kept going to form a protective shield that flared out over the thing's neck and back. My hands shook as I groped for the floor behind me in an attempt to crawl away while my mind finally croaked out the answer. I had seen them before in old pictures and video's-but I never actually believed that they exist. The lead zergling growled as I began to move, so I stopped abruptly. I could hear the marines catching up from down the hall as it stepped over my outstretched feet and stood very close to me. It's stinking breath huffed in my face while it's dark red eyes focused directly on mine. I panted as it gaped at me, but a sudden feeling of calm overtook me as a strange voice echoed into my mind. I wasn't sure if what I thought I heard was real until it came again, more audible now,

"....You...."

"What?!" I stammered out loud. Time froze as more words came, clearer this time,

"...You...can hear me...I'm able to...think..." I was at a loss for words; I didn't know zerglings could speak telepathically. I remained silent and it broke through once more,

"Who are you?... Where am I?" I'm not sure wether it was my own curiosity or the 14 inch scythes hanging in my face that caused me to answer the questions,

"I'm R-Reece and t-this is Korhal." At that instant, the flow of time returned to normal, but the zergling’s waiting patiently behind the one that spoke to me suddenly exploded in angry growls and squeals, lunging for me with their blades. I closed my eyes as they drew near, but the harsh sound of scythe meeting carapace rang out. I opened my eyes again to see the zerglings in a tangled dog pile with the big one that talks. I stood up as they screeched and snarled, smashing from wall to wall in a deadly fight of blades. It growled and slashed at the two of the others, but one still leaked by. The strange voice came again, but urgent this time,

"Run, Mortal, Run!!" I didn't have to be told twice. I only stumbled a little as I took off back up the hallway. I left the scene of the brawling creatures behind as one of the zerglings leapt up the hallway after me. It sailed through the air, barely low enough for the ceiling, before landing with a heavy thud and leaping again, landing closer this time. I looked over my shoulder and found it to be only a few feet behind now. The Zergling stopped and bunched its feet together for one last jump, but before it could spring at me, the big one from before saved me again. A distant snarl caught my attention, and I saw the creature fly through the air in a graceful arc, landing on the aggressive one with scythes wide open. They toppled to the floor in another rolling, deadly fight as I rounded the next corner and got away again. But Just as I ran into the zergling, I ran flat into some marine’s power suit, stopping dead and falling down again. The two marines I had run into looked down and bent over, grabbing me by the arms and jerking me to my feet.

"Just where do you think you're going, kid?!" One of them barked at me.

"Put me down!!" I yelled back, kicking and struggling against the marines' strong hold.

"What the hell's your problem, boy?! We’re not trying to hurt you,"

"You don't understand!" I argued with them, "There's this thing down the hall-"

"Shut up!" The other one interrupted me, "We just cleared this hall; there’s nothing-" He stopped short as that angry snarl rang out again. The two marines began to turn around at the sound, but they were far too late. The zergling was in mid-air already, and it smashed all three of us over backwards as it landed scythes first against the chest plating of the left marine. The soldier screamed and yelled in pain as the zergling maimed him, stabbing one scythe after the other through the reinforced armor the marines wore. "Get outta the way!" The second marine yelled to me as he sat up with his guass rifle, but the offending zergling turned, lunging right by me to the second marine. He was hit so hard that the back of his power suit crashed against the cement wall. The snarling creature flailed it scythes left and right, slashing pieces of armor away before thrusting them both forward. I winced as I heard the rip of flesh and a few crunching bones, followed by the marine's agonizing scream of pain. He dropped his weapon and the zergling shoved it out of reach, stepping over the mutilated body of the first marine to me. I should have been terrified, but I believe shock hid that at this point.

"W-What are you going to do to me?" I asked with a breaking voice.

"Get up," The voice commanded. I did so and gasped as I stood to my full height. The ancient video records show zerglings to be no bigger than a large dog, but I was just barely taller than this one. The panting creature had to look up slightly to see my face as it's mind spoke to mine again,

"I do not know how or when I got here, but I am sure of one thing: you're in great danger. The Terrans here are in a raging conflict amongst themselves as the swarms gain more and more control over your planet-"

"This isn't my planet," I interrupted. The zergling clacked its jaws together,

"Than you won't mind abandoning it. We must leave this place before the zerg's real attack arrives."

"We?" I asked, appalled.

"Yes, we," the zergling growled back, "You must come with me if you want to live."

"I'm not going with you!!" I yelled back as the zergling turned around and began stalking away. It stopped and looked back,

"Mortal, you obviously don’t understand your own significance right now-" The creature stopped as the lights flickered twice and went out, plunging the cooridoor into complete darkness. Multiple growls and snarls began echoing throughout the facility as the creature spoke again,

"Nevermind! I'll explain later, kid! C'mon!"

"I can't see!" I yelled back. The zergling came back to me, able to see the pack of hungry zerg bounding up the hallway after us. "You'll never out run them, get on!" Came the message from the dark. I was very confused by now, but the sound of the unseen enemies drawing closer was encouragement enough for me. I found the creature's solid back in the dark and climbed on. "Hold on!" was the only warning I got as the thing fairly exploded beneath me. I nearly lost balance and had to cling to the rim of the zergling's protective skull to stay on as it made 12 feet at a time with each powerful leap. The thing seemed to carry my 100 pounds effortlessly as it bounded through the dark. I couldn't see my hand in front of my face until lights began reflecting off the walls.

"Watch out!" The zergling warned as I spotted the suit lights of marines just ahead. We passed through the beams a few times in the process of leaping and the marines opened fire.

"Shit!!" I swore, hunching behind the zergling's big armored skull. The retort of the gauss rifles was incredibly loud in the cramped hall as bullets bounced and ricocheted off the rocky carapace.

"What the?!" I heard someone say as another leap carried us through the squad of marines. They toppled over like bowling pins as we went through them. Suit lights flashed in every direction as the zergling landed on a marine and kicked off of him, launching us down the hall.

"Were are you taking me?!" I asked desperately. Gunshots and screeching zerg could be heard as our pursuers assaulted the marines we passed in the hallway. Suddenly, the zergling leaned back and came sliding to a stop. There was a tiny winding sound that grew in the darkness just ahead as the creature that carried me scrambled for traction again on the grated floor. Four blazing auto cannon barrels lit the hallway and stray bullets pelted the zergling’s light carapace for a brief moment before we made a hard turn down the next hall, leaving the two cumbersome goliaths in the dust. The zergling started sliding to a stop again, but this time it suddenly jolted to a halt with a loud metallic clang. I fell off in the dark and hit the floor hard. "What are you doing?!" I asked irritably. I could hear those scythes wrenching against some kind of metal. "Help me open this door!" It demanded. This thing apparently meant no harm to me, so I decided to help. I got up and groped around in the dark for this door it was struggling with when I found the elevator. The double sliding doors were open by about four inches. I grabbed one side and with both of us pulling, the doors slowly began to open. The dead electric motors complained as the two doors finally parted enough for us to pass through. I was about to walk into the opening when the zergling suddenly shoved me back,

"Hey! If your looking for an elevator, you're only going to find a sixty foot drop in there." Suddenly, that familiar whining sound in the dark came from behind us and the zergling growled,

"Hold on tight!!" I scrambled onto its back again and the zergling moved to the opening and kicked off from the edge as bullets riddled the elevator doors. We hit the opposite side of the empty elevator shaft with dull clang and I slammed against the zergling's solid carapace with the impact and nearly lost my grip. I began to panic as I found only open air under my dangling feet but the zergling hushed me with a sharp hiss of warning. Then the thing began shifting around in the dark and I could hear metal wrenching against those scythes. I yelped as we suddenly dropped, but then felt sort of dumb when we stopped only a foot into our fall.

"Shut up and hold on," the thing growled as it hacked another hole in the elevator shaft and we dropped again. The zergling began making slow but steady progress, climbing down a foot or so at a time, and I was starting to wonder if I would ever be able to see again. Then, as if someone were reading my thoughts, tiny maintenance lights began blinking on in the black fathom of the elevator shaft. They steadily rose up to meet us, and soon the entire shaft was illuminated with a dull yellow light.

"The power’s back on!" I exclaimed cheerfully, "They must have stopped the zerg."

"They’ll be back," The zergling dully reported. I looked over my shoulder to the bottom of the elevator shaft three floors down and my vision began to swim a little bit.

"What’s that noise?" The zergling suddenly asked.

"What noise?" I asked back.

Then the elevator shaft began trembling slightly.

"Oh no! The power’s back on!" I complained. A humming sound came from above and I looked up to see the jagged bottom of the elevator dropping down to us. The zergling picked up the pace but it was no use. We had barely made it below the second floor and it was nearly on top of us. I could do nothing but cling to the zergling and watch in terror as the elevator plummeted straight down... Then it suddenly stopped a few inches above us. We hung there silently as booted feet drummed on the floor of the elevator and the doors slid shut. The humming sound came again, but to our relief it began climbing back up the shaft. The zergling resumed its climbing and we finally made it down far enough for me to let go and drop to the floor. After I moved out of the way, the zergling jerked its scythes free of the wall and dropped down as well. The shaft grew silent for a moment as the elevator rose away and I could hear a dull thumping and chattering through the closed doors of the elevator. The zergling paid it no heed and lunged for the double doors, using its momentum to wedge its scythes between them. The safety system on the doors kicked in as the zergling began pulling the doors apart and they opened the rest of the way with their electronic bell noise. They parted to reveal a fierce firefight between the Rebels and the Republic on the ground bay. The main doors to the facility were blasted open and the Korhalians were fighting to keep the Rebels from invading, but the emergency exit was intact behind a pair of chattering goliaths.

"There’s no way out," I stammered as the elevator doors closed again automatically, "We’re trapped."

"Not for long; the swarms will return any second with enough broods to keep your mortal counterparts busy for quite a while," the zergling unexpectedly answered. The elevator shaft was eerily calm, save for that tiny humming noise that slowly grew again.

"It doesn’t look like there’s time to wait for them," I said as I noticed the elevator about five floors above and dropping. The zergling didn’t waste any time.

"Listen closely, kid," It spoke telepathically with a verbal growl, "I’m going to...distract the machines. You must run; get as far away from here as you can."

"Wait a minute, this facility is on the outskirts of the city!" I argued back, "What am I supposed to do? Go wander around in the desert?"

"No," the thing hissed in return, "I’ll help you; I give you my word."

"There’s no way I’m going anywhere-How do I know I can trust something like you?!" I began to yell as the elevator fell foot by foot. When I said that, the zergling didn’t say anything else. It only glared at me with its fiery red eyes a brief moment before pouncing against the doors, snarling as it forced them open again. The fierce sound of battle spilled in and the zergling lunged outside with one springing leap. I watched for a moment as the small beast raced to meet one of the goliaths before I suddenly realized what it was doing. I squeezed between the double doors as they began to close again, and the battle seemed much more real. Bullets wizzed by and bounced off the reinforced concrete walls as the marines and goliaths had their backs to us, returning fire on the rebels. I began to run for the door as the zergling closed the distance and leapt for the machine, landing scythes first atop one of the goliath’s bulky cockpits. The pilot swivelled the torso of the walker around in a vain attempt to throw the screeching monster off. The zergling seemed to be a different creature when it fought; it stabbed and slashed at the armored plating with an unnatural rate of speed that sent small bits and pieces of the metal reeling in all directions. For once, I didn’t waste any time. I turned on the scene and bolted for the emergency exit. I tackled the latch and shoved the door open, revealing a short hallway with a glowing red sign above the door at the end.

I stepped outside into hot red sand and it swallowed my boots whole. The grey side of the building seemed to crawl by as I turned right and began trudging along. But before I realized my mistake, I rounded one corner of the building and found the Rebel forces fighting their way inside. I had gone the wrong way, but the Rebels aren’t what scared me; the brackish cloud billowing over the land behind them seemed much more threatening. It got closer and I realized that this is what the old history books and ancient video disks told of. This innumerable mass of creatures, twisted with mutation, roared ahead at full speed without the slightest hint of hesitation. I closed my mouth, I hadn’t realized it was hanging open as I attempted to turn and run, but my legs felt like led. Some of the Rebels turned and opened fire on the herd of zerglings while the others kept up the firefight with the Korhalians, but it wouldn’t have mattered in the least if they all rallied against the swarm, anyway. The zergling was right, I had to get out of here. My legs finally started obeying me and I turned around again, going back the way I had come.

...I got one short glimpse of the mortal turning and bolting through the door before the machine rotated beneath me, despite the considerable damage my blades were causing to it. I could sense the Terran inside the clumsy metallic shell panicking with fear as one of my blows crushed the transparent surface covering the front side. The glass shattered and the machine’s weapons sang to life, but I was sure to stay clear of them. Nearby marines came to assist their comrade with chattering gauss rifles. I couldn’t help snarling in pain as the bullets pelted my back and the goliath suddenly toppled over, taking me with it. I was thrown to the floor, but I was up again just as quickly. More bullets bounced off the floor and shot by me this time as I lunged for the closest Terran, but my leap was cut short by a devastating stream of firepower. Everything seemed to catch fire as the onslaught of metal shards punished my light carapace. I stumbled in the hail; I knew this small being that I now inhabited was weaker than my true form, but I didn’t realize just how vulnerable it is to mass weaponry. Until now. The marines used their stim-packs, redoubling their efforts. I believe I tried to wail with agony as my limbs crumbled beneath me and I faltered in the blaze, but my throat would only produce a nauseating gurgle sound. My world swam with terrible anguish as I demanded my limbs to lift me off the ground once more, but I couldn’t move. The taste of blood filled my mouth and suddenly, I couldn’t draw another breath. A dark, warm liquid oozed across my vision as the Terran weapons faded away and everything went mercifully numb, but not before the sound rose in intensity to match a new one...a stronger one...a sound that howled from so many throats that they all grew together to form one static roar...the swarms had arrived...

Then everything went dark, silent and cold...I was near despair with my own failure but once again, the gloom of the void did not claim me...Instead, the voices returned in its place. They carried the Overmind’s sinister wrath with them; it roared in like a firestorm and consumed my essence, despite my attempts to fight it again...I could no longer fight it...I fought for it...

Reality came crashing back with a vicious light that vanished as suddenly as it appeared... I found my unscarred claws raping harshly against the stone floor of the Terran facility. The inferior ones stood to oppose us once again, but now we were many against their few...And so they used their noisy contraptions to hurl pieces of metal at us, but to no avail...I ignored the wounds stricken upon me and lunged for the nearest Terran, as was the Overmind’s want...as the others among me obeyed as well. The inferior creature could muster little resistance while I tore away at its synthetic armor and obediently hacked it to death with repeated slashes of my blades. Many more fell on my scythes, though I cannot recall any particular number of them, before the voices came crashing anew...

"Well done, my children! Their defenses are finally broken...Scour the perimeter, let not a Terran survive!"

And it was so...Visions crossed my dull reality, gnarled images from a nearby overlord...We were off in chase of one of many stray Terrans awaiting purification....the 3 flat surfaces that made up the Terran hallway raced by for a split second...then the small creature was in my sight, stumbling ahead pathetically as we leapt nimbly atop the sand in pursuit...I took the lead, ready to pounce upon my enemy with deadly claws, but something struck me...I had seen this before...Crushed beneath the will of the Overmind, the world holds no memory, yet here was something familiar...Then I remembered...I remembered my promise...

Frantic gunfire and explosions from the artillery echoed across the desert, booming from just around the corner in the ground bay. The Zerg’s minions were piling into the base, nothing was safe. Soon the firing seemed to die out, but then, I heard the muffled sound of more gunshots from inside the facility. Great winged fliers screeched overhead, raining gluave wurms throughout the Terran complex. I heard a crash and turned around to see the emergency exit door topple off its hinges. Zerglings spilled from the open doorway and swerved in my direction. "Oh Shit!" I yelped as I struggled through the dense sand. More Zerg poured from around the side of the building from the Ground bay; the entire base was swamped with them. There was no way I could outrun them, they were easily three times faster than me and gaining by the second. I stopped and looked around for anything that could possibly give me an advantage, but there was nothing. The perimeter of bunkers and missile turrets were gone, as was the platoon of siege tanks. I had made just a short distance from the main compound, where a few gunners from turrets on the sides still helplessly fired down at the broods. With only miles of open desert behind me, and the swarm of Zerglings bounding for me from the other side, I was as good as dead. Despite my usual ability to keep my cool, my own age caught up with me again and I became petrified with fear. I could barely stand with my trembling feet as the blood-thirsty monsters got closer and closer. I closed my eyes, I was too afraid to watch as one of them leapt ahead of the others with a sudden burst of speed; lunging with its deadly scythes outstretched.

"What the?!" I asked out loud in confusion as I heard it slide to a stop in the sand next to me.

"C’mon, kid!!" Came that strange voice again. I looked up and I thought I’d never be so happy to see that little fiend again,

"It’s you!" I exclaimed hastily as I scrambled onto its back. It shot off again before I had a grip and I nearly fell off once more. As I glanced over my shoulder, I realized that the zergling had arrived just in time. It’s counter parts had mimicked its attack and fell just short after we took off like a rocket, leaving them in the dust.

"Where’s the seat-belt?!" I thought hopelessly as the zergling sped up. Unlike in the enclosed halls of the terran facility, the agile creature was able to launch itself forward on the open terrain. The large, serpent-like creatures with the deadly curved scythes were far too slow and stopped suddenly as the zerglings continued the chase. But before the Hydralisks turned to head back to the rest of the swarm, the upper half of their bodies split open and they unleashed a volley of long green spines. The zergling must have been waiting for this. Despite our already considerable speed, the creature lunged forward, almost jerking me off again as it pushed its top speed to the limit. A few stray needles clipped the dunes around us as the pursuing squad of zerglings fell right into the trap; they were caught in the brunt of the hail and half of them got maimed by the raining needles. They tumbled to a stop in the sand, but somehow, three of them had made it through the volley. We were covering ground at an incredible rate, but the zergling was panting heavily from over-exertion, and its leaps started growing shorter and shorter. The others were a few steps behind now and closing fast. Suddenly, the zergling dug its claws into the sand and slid to a halt, coincidentally slinging me off its back and throwing me clear as our pursuers instantly collided with it like runaway missiles. The tumbling mass of carapace, snarls and thrashing scythes rolled to a stop and began to kick up dust as I pushed myself off the ground and spit out a mouthful of sand. I shook my head to clear my eyes and found the three zerglings back on their feet and stabbing away at the big one on the ground. All it could do was perry blows with its scythes in attempt to save itself. I had no weapon of any kind, so I did the only thing a child could do in this situation. I bent down and picked up rocks from the sand and threw them by the fistfuls. The sad little projectiles made tiny dull tapping noises as they bounced harmlessly off the creatures’ backs, but by a stroke of luck, it got their attention for a split second. It was just long enough for the zergling to slam both clawed feet into one of his enemies, toppling it over backwards. A shrill squeal pierced the hot dessert air as the zergling slung both its scythes into the underside of the other, lifting it off the ground with the impact. Dark red blood gushed from the dying creature as the third zergling lunged with a sharp growl of outrage, attacking while its enemy was occupied. I watched as the big one didn’t hesitate, heaving its dead foe up for a shield, but the zergling that was kicked got to its feet again. It turned to me with a pair of foggy, mindless eyes and leapt with scythes outstretched. I ran-tripped through the dense sand, and the zergling missed the first lunge, hitting the ground right behind me. It snarled before diving again, and I saw stars as it tackled me to the ground. I tried to scream, but I had a mouthful of sand again. Searing pain ripped down my spine as the zergling began slashing my back open with its scythes, making four deep lacerations. The last thing I saw was the zergling lunging for the death blow before it suddenly vanished with a flash of carapace and claws. Then everything went dark...

To Be Continued...

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