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Page 8 of 10
A short story by

Matthew Maxwell

What passed for daylight on Thys broke, a weak and pale pink that slopped over everything. Countless broken bodies, mostly zerg, some human, littered the field in front of the mining facility.

Garr's gleaming transport gingerly set itself down before the colony's gates precisely fifteen minutes after the last zerg had been reported dead. A private detachment of guards stepped off well before him, forming a defensive barrier. Other Dominion transports made their way down, confident that if Garr could debark, then they could land as well.

Most of the counselors had chosen to appear in business suits, as if they were attending a formal meeting and not a field demonstration in a war zone. They delicately stepped around corpses so as not to get blood on the cuffs of their trousers.

Garr stood commandingly in a brushed gray uniform, insignia shining on his breast like a target. "Muster your troops," was all he said.

Loew's gauntlets were smeared up to her elbows in zerg blood, the doctor having tried to patch up some of the wounded. Too many Tamed had died, and watching each one fall had gotten easier but never easy.

She was worn and drained, standing only because she'd locked her legs when she saw Garr approach. She thought of possible improvements just to give her brain something to do other than shut down. Maybe she could spend time re-engineering the Tamed's armor growth; maybe that would have saved some of them.

"Loew. Muster your troops," came Garr's crushed gravel growl.

After an instant, she snapped back to the battlefield. "What did you think of the demonstration?" she asked sharply, not caring what he actually thought.

He sucked on a cigar.

"I'll let you know when it's over."

It took a moment, but the reality resolved itself, pulled into focus. "You always meant this, didn't you?"

"Just get them over there."

The Tamed shuffled over, ragged and torn but still ready to fight. They were poised behind the remaining Lost Wolves, awaiting orders. The Lost Wolves were in stim-low, sagging in their armor.

Garr licked his lips as he looked at the open gates. Smoke issued slowly from crushed bunkers.

"Begin your advance. Take the facility. Kill anyone who prevents it."

"Understood." Loew's fingers danced across the scratched and smeared surface of the remote console, then stopped. The Tamed twitched to attention. Dennis was carefully watching a fixed point just ahead of him.

The wind whistled low, mean.

"Attack now," Garr said to Loew with a voice like a glacier cracking. "And you bastards will back us up, or I'll tell them to eat you—"

"Done!" Loew shouted. She entered a command sequence without looking. New targets, new priorities.

The hydralisks clenched and leaped over the Lost Wolves, exploding into the Dominion regulars and the counselors and scientists they protected.

Arm-scythes cleaved into chests and severed limbs from bodies. Sharply pressed silk was no protection at all, but not even battle armor would have been.

Tears streamed down Loew's face. She knew she should feel sick, but she didn't. She would not call off her zerg. Not for anything. They were hers. If Garr wanted them to be used against humans, then that was what she would give him.

The Tamed went wild, ripping into Garr's stunned guards, who had expected to stand there and look dangerous while their boss went on his rounds. Only a couple of them were able to get a shot off before the hydralisks ravaged them.

Garr went pale with terror. He was fumbling for his sidearm when something passed through him with a snap. He was sliced from shoulder to opposing hip, tumbling apart slowly.

She wouldn't call off the zerg, but neither could she make herself watch, turning away before more blood flowed. Garr's body hit the flat stones with a liquid slap.

The Lost Wolves came to sudden attention but were unsure what or whom to attack. Some dashed to cover at the sound of spastic and useless gunfire.

Unlike the prolonged chaos of the previous battle, this assault was executed with a precision that bordered on surgical. In less than thirty seconds, the Dominion regulars, counselors, and scientists were dead where they stood, with no losses for the Tamed.

The transports had closed their deployment hatches and were attempting to escape. What was supposed to be a spectacle had become audience-participation carnage.

Loew let the ships go.

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