Shane leveled his finger at the marine. "Let me out." Shane knew in his gut the armored figure was responsible for this. For all of it. "If this isn't completely real, then none of it is. That means this is a dream. Let me out."
"This is not a dream," said the other, older Shane. "This is a memory."
Silence reigned over the assembly hall for a long, long moment. "A memory?"
"A memory that changes?"
"How can that be a memory?"
"It is the memory you remember."
"That clears it right up." Despite his anger, Shane felt queasy. He was growing convinced that he—this twisted Geoff Shane with the expressionless eyes—was telling the truth as best as he knew how.
The headache was relentless. He felt as if his mind would soon burst at the seams. He lifted his fingers to his temples. The pain was blinding.
The marine slowly stood up. The floor creaked under the massive weight of his armored suit. "You remember Mengsk"—and he hissed on the name again—"speaking to you, do you not?"
"He wasn't there. Not in person," Shane said through gritted teeth. He was certain of it now.
"But you remembered it that way." It wasn't a question. Shane didn't answer. The marine drew himself fully upright, towering over Shane. "Did it actually happen?"
"Fine," Shane growled. His hands gripped the sides of his head. He fought to keep his eyes open against the pain. "It wasn't real. So what?"
"That memory is false. What else is false?"
The question was simple. It added only a feather's weight to Shane's agony. But it was enough.
He felt something tear open in his mind, just a bit. It was as if two hands were pulling apart thick canvas, with tiny rips opening up at the weakest points of the fabric. He shuddered, and reality seemed to tremble with him.
Shane could see little black spots floating around the assembly hall. Little windows into the deep void of madness. They were dancing around his vision, and when they collided, they joined together. Some of the tiny dots grew into gaping holes.
There was nowhere to run. The darkness would overwhelm him. What else is false? If the answer was everything, Shane knew he would be lost to insanity. He desperately concentrated on the opposite question: What is true?
The assembly hall. That was true. That was firm. That was the bedrock. Shane clung to it. The tearing sensation stopped. The pressure didn't slacken a bit, but it didn't increase. The holes hovered in place, quivering.
"We've seen this before with your kind," the armored Shane said, "often. You're right to be afraid. There's no coming back from... that." He waved toward one of the larger dark holes. It trembled like a mad dog at the end of its leash. It wanted to grow. It wanted to swallow Shane's mind. All of it.
No coming back. Shane believed it. There was something final down there. He could only muster a whisper. "How do I stop it?"
The answer came without hesitation. "Let us help."
Shane wanted to scream, Do it. Help me! The pressure ratcheted up a notch. The darkness shivered with anticipation.
"We will strip away the lies. But you must let us in."