StarCraft® II

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A short story by

Robert Brooks

"Yes. We accept," they said.

"Bastards. You..." Shane stopped talking. His earlier words echoed in his head. They turned them. "They didn't switch sides. They didn't choose. You captured them and changed them." His stomach roiled.

"They chose."

Shane barely heard the marine. His mind had finally made the connection. "So you must have captured me, too," he said. His voice trembled only a bit.

The zerg marine with PFC Shane's face didn't respond.

"Where am I right now?" Shane asked. No response. "Have I been captured? Wake me up. Let me see."

"No."

I have been captured. Shane kept himself calm. The infested humans he had seen were deformed. Unrecognizable as humans but for two arms and two legs. The zerg were somehow keeping his mind underwater, trapped in his memories while they did god knows what to his body.

He might already be one of them. But maybe not. Shane clung to that thought. It might not be too late. He needed to escape. If they kept him buried in memories, asleep, escape would be impossible. He needed to convince them to wake him up. "Let me see," Shane said.

"No."

"Yes."

"Not until you let us help."

"No," said Shane.

The marine stood silent for a moment, and then that familiar pressure returned to Shane's mind. There was only the faintest hint of a headache, nothing like the sheer agony of before. The pressure seemed to lurch and twist, unable to find a grip, sliding over his mind with numb fingers.

Shane smiled. That was nothing. He could handle that forever. "Uh oh. That's not working anymore, is it? How strange. It kind of feels like you don't have anything left to hurt me with."

The marine didn't answer, and Shane grinned broadly. "Can't hook into my brain without a little ragged resocialization to work with? You can keep me down here, but you can't tear me apart again, can you?"

"Let us help," the zerg marine said.

"You dumb bastards. That line don't work no more. Is this how you break marines? Push 'em to the edge of insanity and wait for them to panic?" Shane stared down his doppelganger. "I bet all that pain of scraping away resocialization works as a pretty good motivator. And then you're right there waiting, offering a hand in friendship. 'Let us help.' Go to hell."

The marine kept silent. That was fine with Shane. He was just warming up. "You almost ripped my brain apart. You almost killed me, but I threw you out and rode the whirlwind myself." Sarcasm crept in. "Is that unusual? Does that make me special?"

The marine finally responded. "No. Others proceed that way."

"Need our cooperation, right? Can't just squash us flat? It does too much damage, doesn't it? You need me to let you in." Shane laughed. It felt good. Finally, an advantage. "Guess what? I won't cooperate down here. Ever. You lost your chance and now you can't pin me down. Kill me, or let me wake up and then we can talk. I don't care either way."

The marine looked down at the floor. He—they—seemed to be thinking. A long moment passed. Then the marine's glowing gaze rose again to meet Shane's.

"There is no escape. We could force you if we wanted."

"If you could've, you would've," Shane said.

"We still could." The inhuman eyes bored into his, and Shane heard the marine's voice, his own voice, turn alien and cold. All pretense of humanity evaporated. "But we don't need to," they said. "You may stay as long as you wish."

The marine vanished. Shane was all alone in the whitewashed room.

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