Queen of Blades

I’ve had a devoted crush on Infested Kerrigan for over a decade now, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Infested Kerrigan is a character from the computer game Starcraft, and in honor of the release of Starcraft 2 last week, I’ve decided to post a fanfic that I wrote about her.

Title: Queen of Blades
Word count: ~5,700
Content/triggers: This story is surprisingly mild (for me); with the exception of graphic violence and some foul language, it’d be PG-13. No trigger warnings necessary.
Notes: Needless to say, I don’t own the copyright to any of this, all copyrights belong to Blizzard. I’ve had a couple beta-readers (who have never played Starcraft) read it over, and they’ve assured me that the story is explained well enough that it’s easy to follow even if you don’t know anything about the game.


Queen of Blades

by Robin Wolfe

–BEFORE–

I awoke to the scream of the klaxon. My arm scraped the concrete wall as I flailed in disorientation, but that was good; the sharp pain brought me to my senses. A glance at my illuminated watch showed me that less than an hour had passed since I’d crawled onto the cot in the supply room and passed out; we’d been pulling eighteen-hour shifts trying to get the project finished, and I was exhausted.

I groped for my lab coat and pulled it on as I stumbled into the hall. The siren was loud enough to hurt my ears, but the corridor was empty. The absence of the two guards that were usually posted at either end of the hallway was so unusual, it took me a few seconds to process it. I was physically fit, but as I ran for the lab’s observation room I fought for air; the thought of seeing a red light above the door made it difficult to breathe.

A moment later I released my pent-up breath as I saw the light still green. I stared into the facial recognition window and the door opened soundlessly. Simmons and Ellison, my co-workers on the project, turned from the monitors and the sight of their glassy eyes brought the fear back in full force.

“What is it? What’s happened?” I had to raise my voice to be heard above the warning siren as I crossed the room, the metal door sliding shut behind me.

Ellison shook his head, not meeting my eyes, and gestured at the small black-and-white monitors set into the equipment panel. Simmons turned back to the screens again as I stepped between them and looked. The monitors usually showed the activity in the labs and animal rooms, but they could be used to patch into the network of security cameras as well. The scene they showed now was one of unrelenting horror: the inner courtyard of our complex was being overrun by alien Zerglings. The images were grainy and silent, but even so, the sight of our security forces being disemboweled and ripped to pieces by vicious Zerg claws numbed me.

“Three platoons,” Simmons whispered. “Three platoons of Marines protecting the outer barrier, and the swarm took most of them out in less than ten minutes.”

“Why aren’t we in lockdown yet? Has the swarm made it inside?”

“We are in lockdown. It kicked in just after you got here.” I turned around to look at the light over the door; Ellison was right, it was now blinking red. Every door in the complex would be locked shut, even to those with security clearances. “They aren’t inside yet, but you know they’re going to make it in. After all the Marines are dead they’ll just destroy the wall of the building. The Zerg don’t need doors.” He put his hands over his face and after a moment I heard the muffled sound of weeping.

I took over the equipment panel and connected to the security intercom. “DeRose paging security.”

The intercom crackled. “Walter here.”

“Have there been any reports of a Cerebrate around here?”

“No. We’ve had surveillance, we would have seen it if there was a Cerebrate near enough to be controlling this attack.” Walter’s voice became abruptly angry. “We know how to do our jobs, DeRose. If there was a Cerebrate within reach we would have gone after it already.” The Zerg operated with a communal mind, and a swarm could only act under the control of an overlord Cerebrate; destroying the overlord would send a swarm into disarray.

“I didn’t mean to suggest that you weren’t doing your job. I’m sorry.” If it isn’t a Cerebrate… I closed my eyes. There was only one other possibility, only one other creature who could control the swarm. Kerrigan. “Walter, are there escape provisions in the event of a catastrophic attack?”

“There’s an escape transport on the top level, in a hidden hangar in sector D6. We’re working on it already, it’ll be operational in a few more minutes.”

Simmons spoke up, fear and hope warring on her face. “There’s a transport? We were never told of a transport.”

“No. Only the top three security officers knew about it, to reduce the risk of having it sabotaged prior to an attack.”

Simmons started to say something, but I interrupted. “How many can be taken out?”

“There’s room for ten.”

“All right.” I didn’t have to ask if three of those spaces were ours; as the top scientists on Project Geronimo, I knew we’d be among the ten. “Arrange access for Simmons and Ellison to start making their way to the hangar. I’m staying here.”

“What?” Both of my co-workers said it in unison, staring at me in shock.

“If we all leave, we’ll have to destroy Geronimo before we go, to make sure it doesn’t fall into the Zerg’s control.” I stared at my hands. “But if one of us stays behind, we don’t have to destroy it now. If the Zerg overrun the complex then I destroy the project, but I don’t have to destroy it until and unless it’s absolutely necessary. And if something unexpected stops the Zerg attack, then we’d be able to preserve our work.” Simmons opened her mouth again but I shook my head. “You both have families. I don’t. That means I’m the one that stays behind.”

They exchanged a look and I could see their desire not to leave me behind fighting with their knowledge that what I said was true. They knew better than anyone how crucial the Geronimo Project was, and what a difference it would make if we were able to bring it to fruition; it would save many Terran lives. The loss of a human life, especially when it was not their lives, was worth the possibility that the project could yet escape destruction.

Walter’s voice issued from the intercom. “All right, I’ve released the lockdown on the doors between the observation room and the east stairs. Take the stairs to the top floor and I’ll have a man waiting to guide you to the hangar. DeRose, you sure about staying?”

“Yes. Go.” I pushed Simmons gently with my hands and after a couple halting steps she started heading for the door; Ellison followed, as I knew he would. He was a brilliant man, but definitely not an alpha dog.

“May God watch over you, Lia,” Ellison said, as I accompanied them to the door.

I smiled with bitter humor. “He’s sure done a good job watching over those three platoons of Marines. If He exists, He seems to have called in sick today.”

Simmons placed her hand on my arm. “Are you absolutely sure?”

I hugged her briefly. “Yes. Go now, and be safe.”

After they’d left I had Walter re-engage the lockdown on my door and then I sat before the monitors. It was hard to watch the carnage; the alien Zerg were ruthless, and on the monochrome monitors the blood of our Marines had darkened the ground to a pool of solid shining black. Fifteen or twenty minutes later Walter told me over the intercom that they were about to leave, and asked me again if I was sure. I thought briefly of going, knowing that staying was almost certainly a death sentence; but I knew I couldn’t abandon the project. And it wasn’t just that; Geronimo was the biggest reason I wasn’t going, but it wasn’t the only reason.

The transport was a brief silver rocket on the screen as it made its successful escape. I continued to sit and watch. Some time later the Mutalisks arrived, an airborne swarm of massive winged creatures. They began to eject their explosive spawn against the walls of our building, small sacs spouting from the bottom of their worm-like bodies.

I watched the monitors with fatalistic calm as the explosions weakened the wall more and more. Finally a hole appeared as the metal-reinforced concrete gave way. I switched the cameras to indoor view and saw the small Zerglings, each one half the size of an adult human, pouring in through the hole. Due to their size they traveled in packs, and the damage a swarm of Zerglings could do was far out of proportion to their small stature.

I switched from camera to camera as they gradually overran the complex, destroying each door as they came to it, and devouring anyone they found hiding inside. Our complex was large, with three floors below the ground and three above; it would take them some time to find the bottom-most floor where our observation room and labs were, but I knew they would get here eventually.

It took them nearly four hours to rampage through the building. When they reached the floor above mine, I took a deep breath and opened a channel to the building’s intercom system. “This is Lia DeRose. I am one of the top scientists on the Geronimo Project. I have the codes you seek, but I will only give them to the Queen of Blades. If you try to invade the bottom floor without Kerrigan, I will destroy the project instantly.”

There was no change in the Zergling’s behavior, and a wave of despair swept me. I knew my death was inevitable, but to die without coming face-to-face with Kerrigan was a bitter pill indeed. I waited a couple minutes and repeated my message; still the cameras showed the Zerglings tearing through the rooms in their erratic fashion.

I was halfway through my third repeat when the Zerglings suddenly paused, their wild movements halted as abruptly as if they’d been stunned. Hope quivered in my chest  as I quickly switched to the outside cameras.

It took me a moment of scanning, but then I recognized her. I had never seen her in person, but I had seen plenty of pictures from surveillance footage; as the controlling overmind of the entire Zerg species, Sarah Kerrigan was a first-class enemy of the Terran people.

She paused and looked up at the building, but the cameras were too far away to capture the expression on her face. The sunlight reflected off the thin shell that protected her body as she resumed striding through the massed Zerglings, her wings flaring behind her.

The Queen of Blades had arrived.

As she moved through the building I alternated between following her progress on the security cameras, and doing the tasks that needed to be done to destroy the project. My hand shook as I triggered the release of neurotoxic gas in the animal rooms, killing our dozens of experimental animals. The rest of that process was automatic; I knew the ceiling sprinklers in those rooms were programmed to follow the gas with a spray of caustic acid, which would turn their bodies into unrecognizable lumps of charred fat and bone.

Once I’d confirmed that the animals were beyond recognition, I keyed in the commands to wipe all the records of our work. My throat ached with a raw grief as I pressed the final keys. Everything we’d worked so hard for was now being erased, strings of gibberish saved over it, and then the gibberish erased as well. It was now beyond recovery by even the most proficient of computer geniuses. Not everything is gone, I reminded myself. Simmons and Ellison escaped. They can restart Geronimo somewhere else. We’ve lost years of progress, but we can recover. I remembered my impending fate and amended my thought. They can recover.

I saw on the monitor that she had stopped at the top of the stairs that led down to the last floor, and I turned on the intercom again. “Kerrigan.”

Her voice was a metallic rasp, with a strange alien reverberation to it. “DeRose, I assume. Can you hear me?”

“Yes. Thank you for coming to meet with me.”

“I’m not coming to meet with you. You are to come up here. Bring your project files.”

“Are you afraid I’ve booby-trapped the room?” I released the lockdown command and the light above the door turned green.

“I didn’t last this long by being incautious. Come up, or I will send the swarm to fetch you.”

I went to the file cabinets in the corner and began to riffle through the manila folders. They were from the early days of the project, and detailed some of the many dead ends we’d pursued; they would be useless in terms of recreating Geronimo, but she wouldn’t know the difference. “So my death is the penalty of not cooperating. And if I do cooperate?”

“Your agonizing death is the penalty of not cooperating. If you cooperate you’ll still die, but I may show mercy.”

“There are too many files to bring with me.”

“Bring a folder or two. If they’re worth my time, I’ll send Zerglings down with you to get the others.”

“All right. I’m coming up. Promise me safe passage.”

“Your safe passage is assured for the moment. Strip before you come up.”

I paused in mid-step. “What?”

“Take your clothes off. It’s not a difficult command, even for a weak human brain.”

“Why?” Even as I said it I realized the answer: if I was nude, there was nowhere to carry a concealed weapon or bomb.

“Don’t be obtuse.”

I set the files down and slowly removed my clothing, folding each item before placing it on a nearby desk. Something about the action brought tears to my eyes; it felt so normal, so human. Why was I bothering to fold my clothes when I wouldn’t live to see the sun set? But it seemed wrong to just leave them in a heap on the floor. I did the right thing, I told myself again. It was worth the chance that Geronimo might be saved by a last-moment intervention. But still, fear and grief made my breathing difficult. As much as I’d pretended that my death was inevitable, some part of me had really thought that something, anything, would stop the Zerg attack; it wouldn’t come to sacrificing myself. But here it was. I’m only thirty-two. I shouldn’t be dying today. If this has to happen, please let it be quick.

I gathered the folders again, held them to my breasts, and left the room. As I walked the hallway a sense of unreality overcame me, and at the foot of the stairs I paused, then set the folders on the floor. This was the end; why bother to play these games? I ascended the stairs slowly, stood on the second-floor landing, and steeled myself. When I opened the door, I walked through without hesitation.

Had I taken the time to think about it, I would have expected a number of responses to meeting the Queen of Blades. I would have primarily expected to feel fear, even terror; this woman was a mass murderer on an unprecedented scale, and more than eight billion Terrans had died at her command. Cities of millions had fallen at her hands; entire worlds had been leveled by Zerg swarms under her control. Feeling terror in her presence would have been completely reasonable.

I would also have expected to feel revulsion; she had been a Terran woman once, just like me, before she had been captured by the alien Zerg. They had “rebirthed” her into the freakish hybrid that she now was: the shining black carapace that covered her like a jumpsuit and protected her body, the razored claws that tipped her fingers, the bony wing-like structures that arched behind her.

I would have expected to feel hate. As I was a scientist in the military, part of my intelligence training had been to read her case file.  I knew the depths of her capacity for evil. She killed without guilt and took pleasure in slaughter. She betrayed anyone, even her own kind, without a second thought. She had been a trained assassin even prior to her conversion by the Zerg, and what the aliens had done to her had left her a sociopath with enormous power.

I would have expected to feel fascination; from the pictures I’d seen she’d been a striking woman before her capture, and more than once I’d had the passing thought that if we’d been acquainted when she was human, I would have tried to date her. Although she looked very different now, with her pale skin darkened to a shade somewhere between tan and green, her red hair replaced with brown dreadlock-like stalks.

Yes, there were many things I would have expected to feel, and as I looked at her, I felt all of them. But there was also an emotion that I would never have expected, a reaction that frightened me in its intensity.

I wanted her.

There was something beautiful about Kerrigan despite, or perhaps because of, her alien appearance. I knew her ‘wings’, each one comprised of multiple bladelike bones that sprouted from her back and extended down to her knees, were used in combat to kill others; and yet there was a stark grace in their curving lines. The yellow glow in her eyes mesmerized me. She terrified me, and still my fingers tingled with the desire to touch her Medusa hair.

She spared me a quick glance. “Where are the files?”

“There are no files. All of the research is destroyed.”

“You destroyed it.” It was easier to understand her words in person than over the intercom. As she spoke I watched her mouth and couldn’t help imagining running my tongue along her full lips. This is insane. She’s going to kill me and I want to kiss her. She narrowed her eyes. “You must have known that I would make it worse on you for wasting my time.”

“Yes, I know.” Fuck it. I’ll feel whatever I want to feel. Better to spend my last moments feeling desire rather than pissing myself in terror.

Her eyes flashed as she regarded me, a momentary brightening of their glow. “Then why do such a thing? Why invite a more painful death than you otherwise would have had?”

I shrugged. It was too complex to be distilled into a short answer. I shielded my thoughts about the research and left the rest of my thoughts unguarded. “You’re the psionic mind reader here. Look into my brain and figure it out.”

During basic training we’d had our minds invaded by psionics to teach us to shield our thoughts from view, and based on that previous experience, I knew that having one’s mind read didn’t hurt. In fact, one was rarely even aware of it. Yet a sudden pain took over my skull now, a maddening sensation like soldier ants crawling around inside my head. Within seconds the intensity increased until it was unbearable. I raised my hands to my ears and almost shrieked at her to stop, but I dimly realized that she was testing me.

I dropped my hands and breathed deeply, giving in to the pain. I offered no resistance as I felt her probing inside my brain, but after a few more minutes I had to fall to my knees, and then flat on my face. The intensity was too much to allow me to stand or even kneel.

It could have been minutes or hours before the agony stopped; I’d lost all sense of passing time. It ended with the abruptness of someone flicking a light switch, leaving behind only a dull throbbing ache. After a few minutes I sat up, but I was too weak to get to my feet. Unable even to raise my head, I looked at the floor while I tried to recover.

Kerrigan knelt down in front of me, her muscular thighs and chitin-covered feet only a couple feet away. I realized her claws were retractable when she reached out and put her fingers beneath my jaw, because no rapier tips raked my throat. She lifted my chin until I was able to look at her face. A sardonic smile curved her lips. “All that suffering just so I could see that you find me beautiful? Pathetic human. You want to kiss me? You would shred your tongue on my fangs if you tried.”

I shrugged weakly and managed a small laugh. “It might be worth it. I’m going to die anyway, better to die with a cut tongue knowing I kissed the Queen of Blades.”

She laughed in derision. “And why should I grant you any favors after you’ve wasted my time?”

“It must be a long time since anyone openly found you beautiful. There’s nothing flattering in that?”

“I’m the Queen Bitch of the Universe. I don’t need my ego stroked by someone finding me beautiful.”

“How about curiosity?”

“About what?”

“Have you ever been with a woman?”

She threw her head back and laughed, a deep throaty laugh that was bizarre and frightening when combined with her metallic rasp. “You’ll have to do far better than offering to lick my cunt.”

We looked at each other while I desperately thought of anything I might be able to say to sway her. As much as I wanted her, I knew that what I was really doing here was fighting for my life; if she was interested in something I could offer, she would let me live longer. As long as I was alive, there was always the chance that I might be able to escape.

Kerrigan’s fingers left my chin as she crossed her arms. “You’re taking too long.”

“That’s not making it any easier to think!”

Impatience darkened her expression. “You’re moving from ‘convince me why I should play with you for a few minutes rather than cutting your throat right now’ to ‘convince me why I shouldn’t disembowel you this second and leave you to die tangled in your own entrails’.”

“Consent.” I blurted the word without thought, and then tried to figure out what I meant by it.

“What?”

I struggled to put into words a thought I hadn’t even known I had. “Consent. That’s why you shouldn’t… when was the last time somebody consented? You force people to do your will all the time. And I’m sure that’s a rush. But it’s a different kind of rush. I mean, it’s different when you’re just trampling over someone’s boundaries, there’s no restraint there. But when you’re pushing someone’s boundaries, testing their limits with their consent, seeing how far they will go for you. That’s different. When’s the last time you had the chance to explore that?”

“Enough. I could never be interested in something as puny and pathetic as a Terran. I’m far beyond that.”

“Then why toy with me?”

“Your stumbling attempts at coherence amuse me.” Her fingers tapped against her chitin-covered forearm. “No, nothing you’re capable of offering me now could ever catch my interest for more than a few seconds. Yet you did show yourself capable of submitting to a remarkable level of pain while I played in your mind.”

I stayed silent, unsure of the right response. She touched my jaw again and assessed me critically. “Yes. I think you might be appropriate.” The cynical grin crossed her lips again. “But what I’ve got in mind will be more painful than anything you could imagine. It will make what I just did to you feel like a lover’s caress. If you can handle this and still keep your sanity, you might yet draw my interest.”

I opened my mouth to respond, even though I had no idea of what to say. Before I could speak a single syllable, a blaze of pain ignited within my skull, and my vision went dark.

The final Terran memory I have is this: wet heat enveloping my body, my face cool with air, and Kerrigan gazing at me. “Good luck,” she said, her tone strangely kind. “You’re going to need it.” Then there is only a sense of purple light, and the enormity of agony without end.

–AFTER–

I awoke to suffocating restraint. I was surrounded by something that pressed in on me on all sides, and panic rose within me. When I opened my eyes I saw some kind of purple-brown membrane. I began instinctively lashing out with my fists, but that made the membrane bulge rather than tear.

Calm down. Think. Inhaling was a struggle, but I found I could breathe if I concentrated on it. I forced my breathing to slow until the panic receded a little. I cautiously extended my fingers and leaned my weight against the wall, but it just tented under the pressure.

I kicked at the wall to the same effect, then breathed until the panic receded again. Brute force isn’t working. What now?

Something in my brain murmured, Now either you figure out a way to escape, or you suffocate when you use up your air. I stiffened; the voice in my head had not been my own. I knew that I had thought it rather than heard it; there was no sound here, save for my own harsh breathing. But I also knew that the response was not from me. Either it had come from somewhere else or I had gone mad.

Maybe you have gone mad, said the voice. There was something familiar about it, but I couldn’t quite place it. Maybe you’re insane and what you’re really feeling right now is a straitjacket. Maybe you’re sitting in a padded cell somewhere and imagining this – what did you call it? – “membrane”.

No, I thought. I’m not insane. This is real. This feels as real as anything I have ever felt.

How do you know? The voice murmured. Psychosis always feels real. That’s why it’s psychosis. Do you even know who you are?

Of course I know who I am, I’m… my spine flooded with cold as I realized I couldn’t remember my name. I thought frantically, skimming through each letter of the alphabet to see if one felt right. H, I, J, K, L… L! It started with an L. La, Le, Li. Lisa? Lita? It fell into place and I felt myself weeping with relief. Lia. I’m Lia! Lia DeRose. I’m thirty-two years old. My parents are dead and I have no siblings. I live with my roommate Ananda but I rarely see her because I’m always at work. I’m a scientist. I study nanites.

Nanites, said the voice.

Yes. We’ve been working on a nanite serum that could prevent the Zerg from… The thought of the Zerg sparked a chain of associations and I fell quiet as I suddenly recognized the voice. Kerrigan.

I see your memory is returning. I could envision her smirk from her tone.

What have you done to me? Where am I?

Where you are is irrelevant. What matters is that you should work on getting out of there, since you’re going to run out of air soon.

Tell me how to do it.

Figure it out yourself. I felt her presence recede, a psychic absence like someone leaving a room. I sighed and pressed experimentally again, then tore at the membrane with my short-trimmed fingernails instead. I felt something give slightly and tried again, but this time there was no response. A wave of frustration overcame me and I wished I had longer fingernails.

Heat sizzled in my fingers. I gasped and wrung my hands. The burning sensation was overwhelming as I raised my hands and shook them harder. Droplets rained on me and I realized my fingertips were bleeding. Kerrigan! Help me! There was no answer, and I couldn’t sense her. Pain throbbed in my hands and I struggled to see them in the dim dark-purple light that permeated the walls.

“What the fuck,” I whispered as I brought my hands to within a couple inches of my eyes so I could see them. Claws an inch long protruded from my fingertips, which were still dribbling blood. I stared at them as if they would disappear momentarily. They didn’t disappear, and after a few moments I remembered Kerrigan’s warning about running out of air. Think about this later. For now, escape.

This time when I clawed at the wall, the spongy membrane gave way. I tore at it again and again until it fell to pieces around me. As the membrane fell it revealed a vista similar to ones I had seen in pictures, but I had never expected to witness in real life. As far as I could see, the ground was covered in purple as if it were a layer of diseased moss. Freakish organic-looking buildings towered around me, their walls and tubes trembling as if with breath. Nearby were several pools that oozed with a vivid green sludge. Insect-like aliens traipsed across the ground and although none were paying any attention to me, I knew it was only a matter of time before they noticed me. I started shaking. Holy shit, I’m in a Zerg colony.

“Do you think you have something to fear from them?” Kerrigan spoke from close behind me. I jumped and cried out, then whirled to face her. She glanced at me and smiled. “I see the change agreed with you, DeRose.” She reached with her hand and slid her fingers along my cheek. “Green is clearly your color.”

“What?” I whispered.

Her grin stretched wider. “There are no mirrors here, but I’m feeling kind. I’ll show you what you look like through my eyes.”

I gasped as an image appeared in my mind, accompanied by the same sense of invasion that had accompanied her voice in my brain earlier. But the image was more upsetting than the invasion; it was of me, but a version of me I had never seen before. My skin was a dusky green color, my hair thickened into finger-width black strands that drooped from my head like dead snakes. A thin brown layer of chitin covered my abdomen and part of my legs and arms. The glow in my eyes was not nearly as bright as hers, but it was there.

I closed my eyes but couldn’t escape; the image remained in my head. “You… you Infested me,” I whispered.

“Of course.” Her hand caressed my neck and cupped the base of my skull. “You should be delighted.”

“Delighted?” A wild overpowering grief swept me. The life that I knew is over. I no longer have even my humanity. I have become one of them.

“Yes. You’re stronger, more powerful, faster. You can tap into the hive consciousness. You’re better than you could ever have dreamed to be as a Terran. And best of all, you came through it with your sanity and intelligence intact, which is rare. Most of the Terrans we Infest are useless drones afterward.” Her breath warmed my lips as she drew close. “Your existence as a weak, pathetic human is over. Now, you are evolved. Now, you are beautiful and strong. You should fall to your knees before me to thank me for this gift I’ve given you.”

I breathed her breath, my eyes still closed. Despite my pain there was a strange elation struggling to rise to the surface. Everything powerful about Infested Terrans… everything I’d read about their speed, their capabilities… it’s mine.

I swung from emotion to emotion until I couldn’t even sort them out; they were all mixed together, an overwhelming cocktail of horror and confusion and excitement. Kerrigan’s other hand came to rest on my hip and I reached for her, my face wet with tears. She let me hug her, our carapaces clicking together softly. When I pressed my face to her shoulder and sobbed, she pulled free of my embrace and said coldly, “Control your emotions, DeRose. You’re embarrassing yourself.”

My chest hitched as I put my hands over my face and struggled for composure. After a few minutes I forced the tears away and wiped my cheeks with my fingers. “I’m sorry.”

“You still haven’t thanked me.”

I paused to make sure the tears weren’t going to return. “Thank you,” I whispered.

“Kneel and say it.”

It took me a few moments to begin my descent, as the last remnants of my pride fought to keep me on my feet. But finally, slowly, I knelt before her. “Thank you.”

“That’s better.” Kerrigan extended a hand to me and helped me to my feet. “No more tears. Emotions are for the weak. You’re Zerg now.”

I nodded. “Yes, Kerrigan.”

She smiled, then placed her hands along my jaw, her thumbs stroking the skin beneath my eyes. “Do you remember when you were human, and you wanted to kiss me? I told you you would shred your tongue.”

“Yes.”

“Now it doesn’t matter. We heal very quickly.” She pulled me forward, bringing my face to hers; after the briefest moment of resistance I returned her kiss. She thrust her tongue into my mouth, forceful despite my sharpened teeth; within seconds I tasted an acidic bitterness that I realized was her blood. Still, I found that while strange, it was not unpleasant. I gave in to the thrill of kissing her, despite the pain of my tongue against her fangs. Her body exuded a heat that enveloped me and sizzled in every cell of my body.

When we pulled apart we regarded each other silently. I said, “So can you care for me, now that I am Zerg as well?”

Kerrigan laughed and shook her head. “Care for you? No. I cannot care for anyone, Zerg or otherwise. But you can interest me now. I will keep you around, as long as you continue to be a pleasant diversion.”

She turned and gestured for me to follow; I trailed her along the spongy ground as we headed for one of the buildings. “And if I fail to interest you?”

“If you fail to interest me, and I can’t find a more suitable purpose for you, then I’ll kill you.”

“You’re a harsh mistress.”

Kerrigan paused, turned to me, and laughed as she touched the tip of her razor claw to my lips. “Of course I am,” she said. “What else could I be? I’m the Queen of Blades.”