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A short story by

Robert Brooks

No answer. Shane tamped down a fresh surge of fury and looked through the windows.

Everything was a seething mass. More than everything. He had the impression that the actual terrain was flatlands, maybe meadows with a few scattered groves of trees, but he instead stared at writhing chaos, a wild landscape of organic, living hills and valleys.

Shane's entire body went slack. He swayed on his feet. Only sheer will kept him upright.

Small four-legged creatures scurried from place to place, weaving in and out of the paths of larger slithering organisms. Giant hulking beasts, dozens of meters tall, lumbered about. Heaving pyres of flesh waved like boneless arms, and towering peaks of pure living mass seemed to spawn even more creatures by the hundreds with each passing moment.

The sight stretched to the horizon and farther still. Shane could sense entire planets teeming with the creatures. More sailed through the cosmos, seeking new homes. The scale boggled the mind, soared past what he could imagine, but his consciousness perceived yet even more billions of the creatures, all working in terrible harmony.

This was the zerg. All of the zerg. The Swarm itself. They were letting him see it. They were making him see it.

Who is we? Shane had asked. Here was his answer. They were legion.

Shane turned around. The assembly hall was empty again but for the marine in the combat suit. Shane didn't give the crowd's absence a second thought. He felt calm. Perfectly serene. He even smiled.

"None of this is real," Shane said. "This is a dream."

"No." The marine shook his head again. "We believe some of it is true."

"Which part? The part where a crowd vanishes into thin air? The part where a marine with my own face talks to me?" Shane's smile expanded into a sloppy grin.

"Do you recognize this place?" The marine gestured toward the front of the empty assembly hall.

"It's where I graduated," Shane said.

"From training," the other creature said.


"You're certain?"

Suddenly, Shane wasn't. "Yes," he lied. He looked around the room again. He had been here; he was sure of it; but the warm memories of pride and honor he had always associated with that day felt different, corrupted. Twisted.

Bile rose in Shane's throat as the faint shadow of another memory wafted into his mind. He could smell sweet smoke.

"This man, Mengsk," the marine hissed. "He spoke to you that day?"

"He... yes," Shane said. Had he? He remembered believing that Emperor Arcturus Mengsk had personally sworn him into service, but that was impossible, right? Maybe the speech had only been broadcast via holovid, or maybe it had been sent as a prerecorded message. Shane couldn't quite remember.

"In person?"

"Hey," Shane said, angry. "How are you inside my dream? Why are you asking me anything at all?"

The pressure in his head pulsed along with his racing heartbeat. The pain was immense.

The marine didn't respond for a moment. "We told you this is not a dream."

Enough of this. Shane kicked one of the empty chairs as hard as he could, launching it into the air. It came crashing down several rows away, toppling more chairs with a deafening clatter. The sound was profoundly satisfying.

The kick hurt his foot. His toes throbbed in harmony with his head. How could Shane still be dreaming? Shouldn't physical pain force you straight awake?

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