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A short story by

James Waugh

The zerglings got Dave in his own bed, sleeping off a drunken night of poker. Sometimes that was how it happened.

Big Wave Dave came from Santori Isle on Miranar. He was a member of the Screaming Sixes, a thruster board club that was famous for surfing the mountain-sized waves that pulverized Santori's coastlines. They were the same waves that were responsible for the hydroelectric charges that powered the cities across that world. Scientists said waves of that scale were due to Miranar's triple-moon gravitational pull, a perfect alignment of nature; the odds of it occurring elsewhere were extremely miniscule.

The Screaming Sixes were known to follow the planet's mercurial seasonal weather patterns and flock to the island continent during winter, when those patterns were sure to coalesce. The swells were massive then, 30- to 60-meter dark oceanic peaks frothing up from the depths like ominous harbingers. The embattled towns that lined the coast would be flush with thruster boarders from across the system, their hospitals and morgues bloating with the bodies of wannabes. It was one of these wannabes who led Dave to the Marine Corps.

"If it wasn't for dem faker punks, I wouldn't be out here with you slikes," he'd say to Virgil or Birch or anyone of Rho in earshot who would listen. "It's just your luck that I had a hot temper."

The Dominion Marines had a strong recruiting presence among the prison systems throughout the sector, and it was on those rosters where they found Dave, who did indeed have a hot temper. At Bar Method, an underwater hot spot six clicks below sea level, one of the hottest thruster board hangouts on the planet, Big Wave Dave had run into a few tourists who were getting a bit too fresh with one of the local girls.

"I was like a knight in shining armor, bro… Walked up to dem boys and taught 'em what happens when you mess with a Santori loc."

And he did, except things got out of hand and Dave lost control. A few broken bottles later, and the bar was covered in blood. A med unit had to be called in to remove the crippled messes that Dave had created. At the time Dave had been a scraggily, skinny thruster punk with long dreaded hair and islander glow tats, what the boys in Dominion prisons called "fresh meat." After his sentencing, admiring the sort of temper that could put so many men in the hospital, a Dominion recruiter made him an offer: 10 years of loyal service to Emperor Mengsk, or 40 of hard labor in prison. The answer he gave back was:

"Do I have to cut my dreads?"

Though it pained him, they were gone, and he was off to boot camp. Several stim and steroid treatments later and he was on the front lines of the Brood War, 50 pounds of muscle heavier and a Rho Squad poker fixture. Criminal recruits didn't get R&R, and so Scotty Bolger's and gambling were his only escapes.

He missed the days out on the waves. He missed slicing the open face of a deep gray, building-sized swell, the board's ion thrusters pushing him higher and higher, and his dreads, the dreads he missed, blowing back in the breeze. To compensate the best way he could, he kept a bar of Mr. Snorggs's Thruster Wax in his footlocker and took deep inhales from it during downtime, not caring what Virgil or Birch or any of the others said when they mocked him. He knew, in ten years, if he could just hold on, survive, time would fly by and he'd be out there again, carving the winter waves of Santori.

The zerglings got Dave in the barracks after a sensor tower malfunctioned and a litter of the monsters made a mad dash into the base on Seti. Dave was so stone cold drunk he slept through the internal alarms and the sonic spike fire. He slept through as the xenos shredded the security gates and ripped their wave into the barracks. He slept through all the way to the point when one leaped on top of him, shaking his bed with its thunderous weight.

When he woke up, it was in a state of delirium, glaring up into the eyes of death incarnate, a zergling with a Cheshire cat grimace forcing open its mouth. He woke up in time to feel the pain of large talons ramming into him over and over and over, his entrails pouring out of his stomach, looking like his long-cut-off dreads.

Virgil and Birch managed to shoot the zergling down while it was still on top of Dave. Maybe there was some satisfaction to be had in that.

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