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A short story by

Robert Brooks

Shane remembered the view outside the assembly hall windows. He remembered the unending fields of zerg. "How? How could I end up like you?"

"Ask."

"No."

"Let us help," the marine repeated.

"I don't need that kind of help," Shane said.

"You do. We've seen pain like yours before in your kind," the marine said, "often. Your leaders seem to prefer it."

Shane felt helpless. His crimes had been laid bare before an inhuman perspective, and they had been described as pain. "What I did can't be forgiven."

"We accept."

The statement caught Shane off guard. "What?"

"We accept."

"You want people like me?" That sounded like a good reason to refuse.

"We accept, just as they did."

Shane spat. His manacled hands jerked uselessly. "The Dominion didn't accept me. They changed me."

"Yes."

Shane could hear the two meanings in the word: yes, the Dominion changed you, and yes, they accepted you.

Shane squeezed his eyes shut. Another concept locked away under his resocialization surfaced. He remembered deformed marines lumbering alongside the zerg, with guns and tentacles and absolutely no remaining humanity. Enslaved.

Infested.

Fresh terror flooded his stomach. Shane—Private First Class Geoff Shane—had seen them with his own eyes. He had fought them. He had watched with envy as firebats had burned them to a crisp. The infested had been nothing to fear. They were simply zerg. Targets for the Dominion's ordnance. Resocialization hadn't allowed him to think of them as anything else.

PFC Shane had taken on the infested in more battles than he cared to remember. PFC Shane had won.

He saw no reason to switch sides.

"We accept," the marine repeated.

"You didn't accept them; you killed them," PFC Shane said.

"You killed them," the marine said. They meant it literally. PFC Shane had personally gunned down many of the abominations.

"They were dead before I ever saw them."

"No."

"You turned them into... you," Shane said.

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