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The Dominion insignia flashed crimson on the screen with the words SECURE TRANSMISSION below it in bold type.
Garr looked directly at the seal, deferential.
Loew wanted to gasp at the bearded face when it appeared. She had seen it thousands of times on currency and on holoboards in the streets, on every Dominion transmission. But it had never been like this: focused yet relaxed, in command but not commanding.
"Colonel Garr," said the emperor in the same clipped and impatient tone that Garr himself had used on Loew. "Enlighten me as to this 'Project Tamed.'"
"I've been convinced of its feasibility, Your Imperial Majesty, for both internal and external applications." Garr's reply was muted sunshine, positive but not gushing.
"Hmmh." Mengsk seemed to be looking at something just off screen. "Complete control. And it'll rob her of primary forces." He smiled at something, his teeth not as white as Dr. Loew had expected. His gaze swept up, locked on her now, as if he had been reading her thoughts.
"Dr. Sandra Loew," he said as an introduction.
Garr tapped her shoe with the sole of his boot, ever so slightly.
"Yes, Your Imperial Majesty?" she corrected.
"We're quite impressed with the potential for your work," Mengsk said with a semblance of earnestness, before sharpening his focus. "Tell me: can Project Tamed remove the Queen of Blades as an external threat?"
Dr. Loew hesitated. He didn't mention the Swarm. Just Kerrigan. It was a daunting thought. She'd considered nests, even hives. But the queen herself?
Then again, why not? She had only to crack the code to fashion PPO carriers for the other species. And that was simply a matter of time. The rest of the Swarm would fall in line soon enough.
"Your Imperial Majesty, if my system is properly enacted, there will no longer be a zerg Swarm, but rather a Swarm under Dominion control."
Mengsk smiled coolly. "Remove the head from the body, and then I will be satisfied." His voice spoke of an unhealed scar inside him, still tender and raw.
His eyes then bored directly into her, burning gray.
"You have earned my support. Do not squander it," he warned. His attention shifted abruptly to Garr. "Colonel Garr: results first, balances afterward."
"By your will, Your Imperial Majesty." Garr's voice was comforting and velvety.
Mengsk looked away for an instant, and the transmission was over like that.
"Good," Garr said, standing straight. "Aside from your terrible etiquette."
"So, where do things go from here?" Dr. Loew asked, head swimming. "When do we begin?"
Garr chuckled. "Ten minutes ago. Requisitions have been expedited, based on running audits of your program. You're being provided with the full backing of the Dominion. Something not every xenobiologist can lay claim to."
Dr. Loew swelled with pride. She had arrived. Her work would go toward saving lives, no longer having to impress ministers and counselors.
"Just ten minutes ago?" she asked with an archness that she couldn't quite pull off.
"Now there's a proper attitude," Garr said.
Loew's remote console chimed with a tone she'd never heard before. It would have been beautiful but for its shrillness.
Her eyes grew wide when she read the message.
"What…?" she mouthed, pride receding abruptly like a slug from salt.
Garr was making ready to leave, glancing back at the screens.
"What is this?" she demanded. "Human-interaction testing starts tomorrow?!"
Garr chuckled sheepishly in reply. "I'm sorry we couldn't get any volunteers here sooner. Is that going to be a problem, O mighty tamer of the hydralisk?"
She shook her head silently.
He snapped his briefcase closed and strode out of the office. Dr. Loew followed him, more out of reflex than anything else. She had to oversee the hydralisk feeding anyway.
"And, Harris, have the files on Thys sent to me as well. Maybe we can finally get some movement from those traitors."
Garr and his assistant were already elsewhere, confident that their attention could move on. Their shoes clattered noisily and echoed too loudly off of the scuffed tiles and bare walls.