Heart of the Swarm

Understanding

Chapter 2

"I see you've been busy Tosh," Raynor spoke as he entered the command deck of his battlecruiser. "But you missed the biggest fish out of them all," he finished with a smirk as he lid one of his cigars.

"Oh? And who slipped through my Specters' net?" Tosh asked in curiosity but the hint of anger still seeped through his thick Jamaican voice.

"Nova," Jim replied and was instantly rewarded with Tosh's eyes lighting up in an excitement.

"Mengsk's top death dealer has been captured? By you?" Tosh growled in laughter.

"Yup," Jim replied while taking a powerful puff that showed his satisfaction. "She currently resides in cell block Zeta-Charlie."

"She will make a fine addition to my Specters," Tosh replied as his right hand played with his golden ornate butterfly knife.

"I am sorry Tosh," Jim responded calmly as he leveled his stare upon the heavy man. "But I have other plans for our ghost visitor."

"What? You can't do that," Tosh yelled in his anger at refusal of receiving one of Mengsk's most powerful ghost operatives for his Spectre program. "We made a deal that every ghost will be turned over to me."

"We did," Jim agreed and rolled his cigar in between his thumb and index finger. "However, I require her services as a ghost and not as an indoctrinate brain washed Spectre."

"I will not stand for this," Tosh spat in fury and stormed out, leaving the command deck in the process.

Silence filled the deck as every abled pairs of eyes were locked onto Jim Raynor. Sighing, Jim turned to his best mate and captain of his ship. "Alright say it Matt, tell me that I will regret this at some point later on."

Matt Horner rubbed the back of his head and sighed in defeat as he leaned over the star charts in front of him. "There is no need," he finally let out softly and poked several buttons on the hologram console as he flew from star system to star systems that were in the Hyperion database. "Why tell you something that you already know? Besides, I am sure you'll handle it."

"Ouch!" Jim muttered in reply at Matt's stinging reference to their earlier confrontation within the hangar deck upon Jim's return from Char with a transformed Kerrigan. "Listen Matt… I…"

"Save it Jim," Horner stopped his commander and long-time friend. "Deep down, I can actually understand your feelings, at least a little but I still think that this is practically suicide. We can't trust her and I am sure we'll see her real self, return sooner or later.

"It was Zeratul that helped me in capturing Nova," Jim revealed as he wanted to change the topic in order to avoid another confrontation with his best friend. "He appeared pleased and spoke more cryptic warnings for the future."

"Is that so," Matt replied dryly as he looked at his commander. "He didn't by any chance mention where we should go to in order for repairs and supplies?"

"Haven," Jim replied with a smile as he watched Matt's shocked expression.

"You can't be serious!" Horner blurted out. "Do you really think that is a wise idea? Haven has nothing to offer, true the planet has plenty of resources that we can harvest and we should be able to get minor repairs out of the way but otherwise that jungle world is literally in the middle of nowhere. Besides, it's at the edge of Protoss space."

"I know," Jim answered and pulled up the coordinates to the Haven star system. His eyes briefly wandered towards the view screen and he watched the stars whisk by as they were traveling through hyperspace. "Zeratul suggest it and he has been correct so far… Captain, lay in a course to the Haven star system."

"Aye Sir!" Matt Horner replied and immediately turned to his subordinates. "Drop out of hyperspace and change the new course towards Protoss space and the planet Haven."

"I'll be in my quarters Matt," Jim said as he suddenly turned. "I am in some desperate need of some shut eye. Ping me if something happens."

"Will do," Matt replied and clasped his hands behind his back as he watched his Commander leave the bridge of the Terran battlecruiser Hyperion.

XXXXX

Kerrigan was running through the destroyed streets of New Gettysburg, her gun barrel stuttered another round of her vastly depleting ammo and watched in satisfaction another Zergling drop dead. The wind blew violently through the streets as plumes of smoke rose angrily into the sky and cast the entire city that had become a warzone into an ominous darkness.

"Boys what happened to that pick-up I had ordered?" She spoke into her microphone again as she tapped into the Brotherhood of Korhal network. "Mengsk do you copy? Arcturus?"

Unbeknownst to her, however, her allies were abandoning the planet with the full intention of leaving her behind. A screech and hectic chatter drew Kerrigan's attention away from her believed communication problem and she quickly peaked through a hole that was next to her head as she sat huddled against a partially destroyed concrete wall that once had been a barricade.

Her eyes widened as she witnessed a powerful Hydralisk crash through yet another barricade, its lethal spines already shooting at her cover. Kerrigan quickly dived out and heard the spines rip apart the concrete wall she had just been sitting behind. Rolling out of her dive, she raised her trusted ghost rifle and fired a quick burst of three rounds towards the Hydralisk.

Screeching in fury and pain, the large Zerg fighter spun around its axis as Kerrigan's .50 caliber bullet impacted the Zerg carapace until the final round silenced the Hydralisk altogether. Without hesitation, Kerrigan's blood started pumping as she released another round of controlled adrenaline into her blood stream. Her powerful legs, trained to perfection, offered her the speed and control to quickly vanish from her latest engagement with the Zerg.

Buildings rushed passed her as she ran for her life through the alleys and streets of New Gettysburg. Without realizing, her gun flared alive whenever a Zerg came too close and as she dodged through the streets, she repeatedly called for evacuation but was only met with further silence.

Running out of breath, she stopped once more and slumped against another barricade. She slammed her fist against the concrete in frustration as she put her right fingers against her ear once more in an attempt to hail her allies. "Damn it guys, where are you? It's getting very ugly down here."

Again, Kerrigan was disappointed and only received static over the network. Frantically flipping through the different command channels, she froze when she tabbed into a feed that made her blood freeze in her veins.

"Damn it Arcturus!" Jim Raynor's angry voice drifted into Kerrigan's ears as she listened in on the verbal fight between her lover and the man that had freed her from the Dominion ghost program, one Arcturus Mengsk, leader of the Sons of Korhal. "You can't do this. You can't leave her down there!"

"It is done Mr. Raynor," Mengsk's gruff voice echoed over the communication channel. "The fleet is pulling out, we have achieved our objectives, and our presence is no longer needed here."

"NO!" Raynor furiously yelled. "I will not leave her down there!"

"You will do no such thing," Mengsk barked back and Kerrigan was surprised at the ferocity and malice Mengsk's voice had turned to. "I will have you flocked for disobeying my order. Pull back now Mr. Raynor!"

"In your dreams," Raynor spat with all his venom in his voice and the line suddenly turned to static but not before Arcturus Mengsk's dark voice muttered.

"It is already too late for her anyways. She has already been surrounded… good bye Kerrigan."

"No," Kerrigan hushed as the line went dead with static. Violent screeching caused her to pull down her special ghost optical mask and her heart threatened to stop as she made out hundreds if not thousands of Zerg encircling her. She ripped the goggles off her face and stood in utter shock and defeat. Her feeling of betrayal turned to anger and her hands let go of her rifle as she looked skyward and tried to reach for the traitorous Mengsk with her limited mind but failed.

She let out a painful scream of white fury as she closed her eyes and waited for the inevitable fate of being ripped apart by the Zerg around her. She was expecting the painful hot burning sensation of being sliced, mangled, and torn asunder any moment but when the chattering and screeching Zerg suddenly fell silent, she dared open her eyes and her anger turned to a terrified helplessness as she found herself nose to nose with a low rumbling Hydralisk.

She could feel the hot stench of rotten eggs brush over her as the Hydralisk exhaled in front of her and she tried to slowly step away, only to find herself surrounded by the smaller Zergling hounds. She suddenly found herself cast under a massive shadow and her head moved upwards and her eyes widened as she watched a massive flying Zerg unit that was an Overlord hover above her. His slimy tentacles lowered and coiled around her. She screamed in panic and fear, as she felt herself lift high into the sky by the alien tentacles and struggled to get free when some form of an organic pocket opened on the underside of the Overlord and swallowed her whole.

Kerrigan found herself being dragged into the inside of the Overlord and her screams of fear refused to die out as she felt the warm and slimy stench of the Overlord sac enclose her being. However, all her struggles turned fruitless as she felt her eyes suddenly grow heavy with slumber and the former Ghost fell asleep but not before an ancient yet devious voice spoke within her mind, "Fear not my child for I am the Overmind. I have come for you and will reshape you in the image of my command and together, we will destroy all those that stand against my might, for I am Zerg."

Kerrigan's eyes snapped open and held a panicked look as she awoke from her dream. It took her a few moments to realize where she was and her heart calmed as she realized that she was still in the medical room that was occupied by the mysterious pink haired woman.

Kerrigan stood from her chair and walked over towards one of the observation windows and looked at her reflection. Taking in her alien yet human appearance, she briefly closed her eyes and mentally sighed as she relived her nightmare again.

The door to the room hissed silently open and Jim Raynor stepped into the room and his eyes immediately fell upon her. She was able to see his reflection and watched as he walked towards her and came to a stop behind her back. Kerrigan studied his calm face that had aged tremendously over the past four years and his brown eyes held so much pain and self-doubt that made her question her own involvement in causing such pain to the one man she had truly loved.

"Are… are you alright?" Raynor softly asked her, which pulled her out her thoughts.

Surprised, she briefly studied his eyes in the reflection and saw genuine concern. She turned and offered a soft yet reserved smile, "I think I will be. I… I just had a," she paused thinking back at her nightmare and wondered how to explain it to him and wondered if deep in her subconscious she was blaming her for her fate into becoming the infamous Queen of Blades.

"Nightmare?" he offered her, which only surprised Kerrigan. Jim Raynor chuckled seeing the shocked expression and he sighed as he fingered with a cigar, "I've been having that nightmare for the past four years. It's been a constant reminder of my failure in protecting you Sarah. I am sorry, I… I should have never let you go down New Gettysburg by yourself. I failed you."

"How did you know? How did you know what I was dreaming?"

Jim chuckled uneasily, "Ever since you called out to me when you were captured and being turned by the Overmind, I've been able to see your dreams Sarah. I have no idea what this means but… I think I am the only one besides yourself that truly knows how much you had to suffer. It is also the reason why I could never kill you. It was because of these dreams that I knew that the real Sarah Kerrigan was still inside in that monster that she had become."

"Jimmy," Sarah choked and flung into him. Her hands clawed against his white cotton shirt as she pressed her face against his muscular chest. "T-thank you, thank you for believing in me Jimmy."

Sarah Kerrigan felt his arms slowly wrap around her delicate waist and felt and heard him inhale her scent that caused goose bumps to spread across her back and he whispered hoarsely into her ear, "For you, I would go straight into hell Sarah."

"Thank you," she responded and felt her eyes moisten as her thoughts swirled around her past and her future as she was debating what to do. The Zerg swarm was still chattering madly in her psyche but it no longer held the insane control it once had and finally Sarah Kerrigan had options she hadn't believed she had only days ago, when she was still carrying the grotesque form of the Queen of Blades.

A small cough pulled her out of her thoughts. The gentle loving embrace she was in was released and she felt as Jim Raynor turned partially away from her to see who had interrupted their private moment. Kerrigan eyed around his frame to see the doctor stand in the open doorway of the room holding an amused expression.

"I am sorry to be interrupting," the doctor responded mischievously. "But I do have a patient in this room and I would be interested to hear if dear Miss Kerrigan was able to gleam any information from our mysterious patient here."

Kerrigan slightly frowned, "How would you know that I gleamed any information Doc?"

"Sarah, may I call you Sarah?" The doctor asked as she stepped into the room and let the door slide shut. After receiving a curt nod, the doctor continued as she walked to the bed in which the pink haired woman lay in. "I know you, or rather I know the type of person you are Sarah. I certainly don't know if you have always been the curious type but certainly ever since the Zerg influence has taken a hold of you, it is in your genes so to speak that you are a curious person. It probably stems from the need to seek out potential new genes into the Zerg gene pool to strengthen your race, so I simply assume that you have used your psychic abilities to gain information from our patient here. Now am I correct my dear?"

Seeing the all-knowing smile on the older woman's face, Kerrigan sighed loudly and simply offered a nod. "Indeed I have."

"Splendid. Now what have you learned?"

"Her name is Sakura and surprisingly they speak an ancient language that has died out on Earth millennia ago. I believe it is a derivative of the modern Japanese that is still being used. I am, however, not entirely sure."

"Interesting…" the doctor nodded in thought and was looking at her patient. "Do you believe they come from Earth then?"

"No I do not." Kerrigan responded and stepped closer to the bed as she studied the sleeping face. "From the little I could see, their technology level would be considered at stone age level compared to the currents standards. They also appear to possess some form of energy manipulation and she also has some crazy mental defenses, some I have never seen before."

"Very interesting," the doctor responded as she jotted down multiple notes on the medical file. "Would you hazard a guess to their origin and method of travel here?"

"Honestly," Sarah began as she thought about the interesting circumstances of their arrival, especially about the male one that is called Naruto and his special abilities. "Perhaps their race once came from Earth. At this point I would guess that they were moved from Earth to an unknown star system and experimented on. This certainly has the feeling of the Xel'Naga behind it."

"What kind of special abilities do they possess? What do you mean they possess the abilities to manipulate energies?" Jim Raynor cut in.

"They appear to be a warrior race," Kerrigan answered in thought. "At least that was the impression I received. And I have no idea how to explain their abilities. It is something straight out of a movie."

Raynor frowned as he studied the pink haired sleeping face, "Are they dangerous to us?"

"I doubt it," Sarah responded and was surprised to actually believe it. She also caught herself thinking that she would love to get their DNA and add it to the Zerg gene pool. Her eyes studied the face and narrowed in concentration as she tried to enter the woman's mind again. A sudden gasp escaped Kerrigan's lips as her right hand went up to rub her temples.

"What's wrong Sarah?" Jim asked in concern. "What did you see?"

Kerrigan shook her head and breathed heavily as she rubbed the sudden pain spike out of her head. "She is awake, has been awake for the entire time we've been talking about her. Listening and surprisingly… learning," Sarah finished in awe.

"Impossible," the doctor muttered and looked at all the machinery the woman was attached to. "The machines would have shown brain activities."

"Trust me doctor," Kerrigan began and placed a hand on the woman's shoulder, "She is awake and aware."

"Sakura," Kerrigan spoke the woman's name. "We know that you are awake. Do not pretend."

"W-what did you tell her?" Jim asked Kerrigan as he was unable to understand the weird language Kerrigan had spoken in.

"I used her tongue to tell her that we are aware that she is awake and told her to stop pretending. I will ask her if she allows me to push our language into her brain, so it will be easier for us to communicate with her."

XXXXX

"Sakura," an unknown voice called her name. "We know that you are awake. Do not pretend."

Sakura's eyes snapped open and she had to immediately shut them again as her eyes were assaulted by bright white lights. Sakura was able to hear several people speak in a language she was not familiar with and as she slowly edged her eyes open, she carefully studied the three people that stood around her bed. Her eyes darted quickly from face to face and took in her surroundings. She immediately knew that she was in some kind of a hospital as she was able to identify the sterile smell that ironically came with all hospitals', however; the machinery she was hooked up to was as foreign as the language the three people were speaking.

"Where am I?" Sakura rasped and tried to fight from showing the panic that was clawing its way to the surface.

"Fear not," that unknown voice said against and Sakura was able to place a face to it. "You are safe here. We found you and the doctor," the woman that spoke was pointing to an older woman that wore a white uniform "was the one that operated on you and made sure that you would survive your wounds."

Sakura studied the alien woman – for that was the only way for her to describe the exotic looking woman. "Thank you for helping me," Sakura said and tried to sit up but was quickly pushed back down by the doctor, who was apparently scolding her in that foreign language Sakura didn't understand.

The alien woman chuckled, "the Doc requests for you to not move until she has been able to check your stomach wound. You must know," the woman stopped as she listened to the doctor say something to her. "The Doctor says that you almost died from your wounds, and most likely would have, if not for that strange tattoo that you have over your heart. She asks if you would be so kind as to explain that one?"

Sakura frowned as she studied the doctor and slowly shook her head in a definite negative. The alien looking woman got her attention again by calling her name.

"Sakura, I would like you to lower your mental defenses so that I may teach you our language. It will be a painful process but it would make things more convenient. You have to understand that besides myself, nobody else speaks your language and the only reason I can, is due to my… well it's mainly thanks to my condition and abilities."

"Define painful," Sakura questioned the woman and narrowed her eyes in suspicion.

"You'll experience a pressure in your mind as the process happens and at most you'll suffer from a case of a really bad headache. The entire procedure is only going to take a few hours." The alien woman responded.

Sakura knew she had to agree; besides it would give her an advantage to being able to understand this foreign language. However, she still had reservations behind the woman's ability to teach a language such a way, let alone in such a short time. Yet if she were to go by the level of technology she was able to gleam from the room she was in, she wouldn't be too surprised if these people were highly technological advanced to her own village.

Finally nodding in agreement, Sakura closed her eyes and slowly lowered her mental defenses she had learned to create with the help of Tsunade and Ino. Sakura felt the soft touch of the woman's mind and was surprised how familiar it felt to the way Ino would enter Sakura's mindscape in order to have a private conversation with her best friend. And as Sakura felt herself relax, she was suddenly assaulted with images, words, and meanings and how they stood in comparison to her own language.

XXXXX

"She agreed for me to teach her our language," Kerrigan said as she pulled a chair over to the bed and sat down as she took one of Sakura's hands into her own. "This is going to take a few hours and she will most likely be exhausted and will require sleep. I suggest you check on your other patients' doctor. I will make sure someone will contact you the moment I am done with this woman."

"You do that," the doctor responded and quickly left the room.

"Are you going to be fine by yourself in here Sarah?" Jim asked cautiously.

Kerrigan smiled as she glimpsed at his surface thoughts that worried about her, while at the same time not wanting to give her the feeling of being helpless. "I'll be fine Jimmy. Nothing will happen to me or anyone else. Now why don't you go back to your bridge and ensure that we safely arrive at Haven."

A look of surprise crossed Jim's features, "How did you know we were en route to Haven?"

Sarah chuckled, "Jimmy I am… well was a Ghost. I knew when Zeratul helped you capture Nova Terra and I also know that you wish for me to remove her neural inhibitors and remove the re-soc she is under."

"And, will you?"

"Ask me again later," Sarah responded with a hint of a smirk. "Now get going."

"Sarah there is something else," Jim said as he had already turned and walked towards the door but had not hit the button to let the door slide into the wall. His voice was heavy with remorse but also held a hint of fear and Sarah gave him her full attention.

"What is it Jimmy? Just say it."

"It is… it is about your current situation, appearance… damn it Sarah it's about everything. These past four years, you… we… I don't know Sarah. Are you still you? Or are you the Queen of Blades? What happened to you Sarah?"

Sarah Kerrigan knew that this conversation was bound to happen but had secretly hoped that perhaps she and Jim could skip it. She sighed and lowered her head in thought. "Jimmy… Jim! I don't think I have answers for you, at least not those that you would like to hear."

She briefly paused as she collected her thoughts but was pulled away from them when she heard Jim's pained voice, "I see."

"Jim wait," Sarah quickly called and was glad that his hand hovered over the door button but had not yet activated it. She quickly got up from the chair she had occupied and approached him. She gently placed a hand on his shoulder and nudged him to turn around. "Jim, I am Sarah Kerrigan but I am also the Queen of Blades. Jim, look at me," she said as his pained eyes briefly studied her alien features but he was unable to make eye contact with her. "Whatever has been between us, it was wonderful, it was pure bliss. But so much has happened ever since that day on New Gettysburg. I have changed Jimmy, for better or for worse I do not know. A few days ago, I would have probably killed you but now… I am confused Jim. I no longer have the grotesque features of the Queen of Blades but deep down, I can still feel that beast within me. She is as much a part of me as is Sarah Kerrigan, the Ghost that you fell in love with. Sarah Kerrigan and the Queen of Blades are one and the same. Do you understand? The Sarah in me still loves you, while the Queen of Blades wants to kill you for betraying her on New Gettysburg; however, even the Queen of Blades has feelings for you Jim Raynor. Not necessarily those of love but they are a form of lust, a lust that stems from Sarah Kerrigan's love and your uncanny ability to escape from practically impossible situations."

Sarah paused as she studied Jim Raynor's face and she closed her eyes as she laid her head against his chest. "I don't think I was completely aware of all of this until just now but I love you Jim Raynor. I always have and always will but I can still hear the Zerg swarm in my mind. I can still hear my children communicate with themselves and with my queens that I have left in charge. I can feel the Swarms confusion in having lost contact with their Queen, their mother. I can feel my own daughters' rebel against my command because I am currently refusing to communicate with my children. Jimmy, I fear, I fear that our time together will be limited. I will have to return to the Swarm, I have to take back control of my Brood. The Zerg DNA within me is too powerful to ignore the call to dominate and control my children but know this Jim Raynor, I will always love you and your sacrifice on Char has given me the options of walking a different path from the one I had been walking on before. I no longer see a path of utter destruction in front of me, instead I see one of revenge but only against Mengsk and I wish and hope that you are able to stand aside this time and let me do what I must."

"Sarah you know I cannot," Jim responded as his arms had pulled her closer to him. "You know that the Zerg swarm needs to be contained."

"W-what if I promise you that I will keep civilian casualties to a minimum?"

"Don't promise something that we both know is impossible," Jim responded gently. He pulled her face up and lowered his own to hers and they shared a brief passionate kiss.

"Know this Sarah, I will wait for you and I will always stand in your way when I have to in order to protect the innocent. Zeratul had a vision, one he had shared with me about the return of the Xel'Naga. Zeratul made sure that I understood that the war against the Xel'Naga cannot be won without the combined forces of the Terran, Protoss, and the Zerg. Only together Sarah, do we stand a chance against the Xel'Naga. I will put my life into your hands and I will love you, no matter who you are. Now do what you had planned to do with our guest and we can talk some more after."

Sarah stood in the middle of the room for several seconds, her thoughts still whirling around the kiss she had shared with Jim Raynor, as well as her revelations behind her changes. She had been unaware of most of the things she had just tried to explain to Jim but as she opened up to him, she knew that every word she had said were true and unavoidable. The brief glimpse she had received from Jim of what Zeratul had discovered and shared with him gave her even more to ponder when she would return to her rightful place as the Queen of Blades but one thing she knew for certain and that was that she would never give up on her man.

"I promise you Jimmy," Sarah whispered to the empty air. "I promise you that when I return to being the Queen of Blades that I will ensure that Mengsk will suffer a quick death. Once I have accomplished that, I hope you will join me as I take the Zerg swarm far away from this sector in space."