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A short story by

Matthew Maxwell

His name was Garr, and he was dressed up like a military man. Loew couldn't tell whether or not he was just a dress-up soldier, as were most of the ministers and counselors she'd met.

The adrenalin from the demonstration had faded away, leaving her feeling small and not a little ashamed of her performance. In moments she'd gone from underdog to mistress of contempt and then back to nearly begging for Dennis's life.

She broke the silence first. "We've been able to tame hydralisks so far. The PPO seems uniquely suited to adapting to the hydralisk base species."

"So you chose hydralisks because of the ease of taming?"


"And not because they're a highly versatile backbone force for the zerg?"

She paused, looking as if that had been the farthest thing from her mind.

Garr sighed. "You can make more, yes?"

"Yes, whatever we can capture and infect. The tamed zerg themselves carry the pathogen and pass it along to new recruits."

Garr blew smoke out of the corner of his mouth.

"What about contingency planning? What happens when they don't follow orders?"

"That's impossible with successful PPO infection," she said with a dismissive wave of her hand.

"You seem terrifically confident."

"There are several safeguards in the system. Constant signal integrity and feedback regulation. Plus there's a fail-safe called Somnus. When Somnus is engaged, the parasite lobe on the brain puts out a cascade of irreconcilable neural signals, resulting in death in seconds."

Garr considered things, watching the zerg march in mock military formation on the office's screens.

"You'll need a bigger facility," he said. "And more resources."

"It's a successful pilot program, and in time—"

"Nonsense," he interrupted as thoughtlessly as he breathed. "Harris, how's our window? Is His Imperial Majesty available?"

His assistant came to instant attention, standing in the doorway. "We've been granted one minute of tele-audience."

"Very well." Garr turned to Dr. Loew and pointed at her. "Emperor Arcturus Mengsk is about to speak to you," he said, as if she were about to be spoken to by the Creator himself. "You will not address him unless addressed. You will answer any questions directly and succinctly. You will not waste his time."

Loew reeled. She had thought she might get the attention of a deputy science minister at most. She couldn't speak.

"Calm down, Dr. Loew," Garr said with a reassurance that was so easy it drifted into meaninglessness. "The emperor only punishes failure."

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