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A short story by

Antony Johnston

"...To base... Jorres... Dan, you there?"

The line was fraught with static, but it was good to hear her voice. "Illyana, where are you? I've been trying to raise you for the past hour."

"Not good, Dan... sphere was completely... zerg, I'm sure... trying to reach you..."

The crashing sounds from Hesken's dorm now combined with another noise. The screams of panicking men fighting for their lives.

Dannion shouted at the other scientists, "Shit, they're here! Head for the armory! Everybody run!" He spun round, trying to remember the direction of the "armory," which was little more than a cupboard stocked with a half-dozen pistols. They wouldn't do much good if Illyana was right, and he couldn't be a hundred percent accurate that he'd heard her correctly...

It turned out not to matter.

Dannion, Callins, and all the other scientists stood frozen to the spot, gaping openmouthed at the massive numbers of zerg breaking through the base corridors, into the lounge area, to surround and overwhelm them.

It wouldn't take long.

* * *

The medivac landing was rough. The Victory's bay was already full with its own complement of medivacs. The addition of Krakulv's fleet had maxed out their available space.

But any landing you could walk away from was good enough. The marines began disembarking, greeted by those who'd come up earlier. A medical crew rushed over, ready to take Brach and several other injured marines into emergency surgery. Lee would follow soon. But not yet.

Instead, she threw open the medivac cockpit door and grabbed the pilot's headset.

"Captain, this is Major Treicher."

"Welcome aboard, Major. Your boys already told me you're the last —"

"Shut up and listen. Take her up, right now. Do you hear me? We have to clear low-level orbit!"

"No can do, Major. We have orders to cleanse Krakulv Base with nukes before returning to station."

"What the hell do you think we were doing down there, cutting it fine for some laughs?"

"...Oh. Copy that."

* * *

The terrans had gone, fled like the cowards they were, and abandoned their precious base. The Kerrigan scanned through her zerg's eyes, assembling a patchwork panorama of the terrans' leavings. Much of the tech was old or useless to the zerg, and no biowork had been detected anywhere in the base. But that was logical; this was a warning station. Their primary sustenance would be intelligence.

The zerglings spread out, swarming throughout the base, every square foot to be noted and marked. The mutalisks did the same over the base's exterior. The Kerrigan would leave nothing to chance.

Hydralisks and roaches moved onward through the base, to the nerve center. If there was any useful human intel on the dead moon, it would be here. The Kerrigan sent the lead roaches to excrete their way through the blast doors, opening them into a hive of light and sound that hummed with activity, an electrostatic ghost soul playing out forever in forlorn hope of the humans' return.

The first roach detected heat as it scurried through the liquefied remains of the door. The Kerrigan registered the sense, but it seemed inconsequential until more zerg began feeling the same thing.

Flames spread across the walls of the nerve center, moving outward from where the blast door had been. A singular scent stirred all of the roaches as one, awakening a dim ancestral group-memory of humid jungles, proud mountains, and exotic vine sap.

Flames rippled along the ceiling. The light wavelength altered, shifting towards infrared. A fast-oscillating wave of sound filled the space.

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