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A short story by

Antony Johnston

"Report to centcomm for debrief ASAP when you land, Captain."

Five minutes later he arrived, back in his CMC combat suit as if he'd never left. But his expression betrayed a different story.

"We eliminated a couple of squadrons, Major. I estimate we've bought ourselves two, maybe three extra hours while they regroup and re-prep the ground wave."

"Was it worth it?"

Brach stiffened. "That's not for me to decide, Major. The men carried out their duty, as do we all."

Lee sighed. "And what about intel? Was there anything to indicate the zerg line of attack when they reach us?"

Brach hesitated. "Hard to say. They burrowed down into the rock like it was sand."

"Have you ever walked outside the base? Give me a shovel, and I could burrow into this moon."

He ignored her sarcasm. She didn't know yet. "And could you heal up a broken leg in five seconds while you were down there?"

Lee's eyes widened. "What?"

"I thought I'd killed half the column on my first pass. Then as I came around, I saw a bunch of them burrowing into the surface... and after the mutalisk ambush I looked down again, and I swear, so help me, almost every last roach came back out of the ground good as new. It was like I'd hit them with party streamers."

Lee set her lips into a thin, grim line and nodded.

* * *

The landing had not been kind to the behemoth, and it would need time to recover. More time than the zerg it carried inside its body could survive without sustenance. Besides, there was exploring to do.

The Kerrigan guided them out of the behemoth's unconscious form and out into the terrain. The planet was hot, humid, mountainous, and treacherous, but these discomforts were nothing to the zerg. Many Ones, Spinebearers, Winged Ones and more swarmed through the rainforest, sweeping aside flora and fauna alike.

Mutalisks soared over the forest canopy to scout the location. Through them, Kerrigan saw a nearby structure in the forest. Two pale domes, and smaller buildings of metal branching off. Terran or protoss? It didn't matter. Her primary interest lay in military installations, which this was obviously not. Still, if it harbored life, it could feed the zerg. She issued a single command.


The hydralisks were the first to smash through the dome's pale screens. Hot air and steam rushed out, and the terrans' primitive warning system flashed colored lights. The terrain inside the dome was the same as outside, but hotter, with paths of hard floor surface weaving through the vegetation. The hydralisks ignored it, surging onward —

A sound, a terran scream. The Kerrigan urged the hydralisks forward.

Small slug-like creatures, unknown to the zerg-mind, fell from the trees and plants as the hydralisks passed. Some latched onto the zerg, which registered pain where the slugs landed, but the Kerrigan's attention was elsewhere.

A single terran, standing in front of a metal door. He reeked of fear and desperation, a heady cocktail that flooded and intoxicated the hydralisks' senses. They drank of it, savoring it, and then the cocktail was drained. The only odor remaining on the terran was death.

Now the zerglings were inside the dome, and followed their brethren to the door. But more slugs fell from the trees as the zerglings crashed carelessly through, and more zerg registered pain, some at high levels. The Kerrigan brought them to a halt, curious that a creature as small as these slugs could injure the mighty zerg.

She willed some of the zerglings to examine the slugs, but they were fragile creatures and died easily under the zerg's razor-sharp claws. She moved her attention instead to the hydralisks around the door, and saw something she had originally missed.

More slug creatures covered the door, and the surface was pitted with holes. Some slugs lay inside the shallow holes. The dead terran wore protective coverings over his hands. A container at his feet still held several slugs.

The slugs could not only injure zerg flesh; somehow they could also eat through metal. This could be very useful.

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