The Swarm of War
'Why is everything dark?'
James suddenly noticed that everything around him was pitch-black and he couldn't see anything. The only thing he could feel were the gentle rhythmic heartbeat like vibrations that surrounded him. His body felt weird and he could not feel his arms or legs.
Then the heartbeats that surrounded his body quickened and James felt a tremendous pressure all around him. Like squeezing toothpaste, he felt himself ejected from wherever he was and fell down some sort of a slope. He felt his body rolling down a steep slope but he did not feel much pain. It was actually rather fun as if it was a water slide or something.
It was when he hit the ground that he noticed he could twitch his eyelids... or so he thought. His 'eyelids' suddenly opened without warning and disappeared into his body. He felt the thin opaque films being removed from his eyes and his vision clearing.
What he saw shocked him more than anything ever in his moderately short life. He saw a massive structure made of dark purple flesh that continuously squirmed and pulsed with life. James tried to gulp, but quickly found that he could not. In fact he didn't seem to have any saliva glands or anything that produced any sort of such a secretion.
To make matters worse, he found that he couldn't breathe like he used to. His mouth seemed to be doing all the breathing and he didn't have a nose or nostrils. He didn't have a tongue or a set of teeth but he had several small tentacles in his mouth that seemed to be as strong as human fingers.
Panicking, James attempted to move his head, and he felt his entire torso, without any arms, moving. His legs moved, except he felt about four pairs of short, stubby claws that were positioned very much like those of a caterpillar. James shuddered inside as his head slowly twisted and looked at the creature right next to him.
'Oh! Oh... Ah... SHIT!'
These could have been no proper words for the shock he just received. He was right next to a large worm, which was alarmingly similar to the Zerg Larva.
'This must be a dream.'
That particular denial disappeared quickly when something hit him from the side. James turned as quickly as his worm body would allow. He was staring at a Zerg Drone that just burst forth from a cocoon. A piece of that cocoon had hit him.
As James stared, the Zerg Drone moved away, staying above the ground with the help of rapidly vibrating wings. Stunned at the reality that just hit him, James attempted to confirm his dreaded suspicion. He rolled his body and attempted to take a look at his own body. In his eyes, a long worm-like body of a Zerg Larva appeared. Inside the new body, James screamed.
James Raynor was just a nerd.
Well, he wasn't THE James Eugene Raynor, but he always aspired to be... at least while he was playing Starcraft II as a Terran.
James Malcolm Raynor was actually rather pleased with his name ever since Starcraft came out and became so popular. His high school friends, particularly his Korean friends, who previously had called him 'James', started to call him either 'Jim' or 'Raynor', which was gratifying after the unexciting life he led in his young years.
James really enjoyed Starcraft even though he wasn't a South Korean, and he played rather well. His first choice among the races were the Zerg, and he was really fascinated with that race of aliens. The Protoss were slightly humanoid, but the Zerg were something else.
Such bestial and alien appearance of the Zerg has appealed to him so much. Starcraft has opened a new horizon to this nerdy boy who enjoyed playing Magic the Gathering. He didn't like console games and the only PC game he had before was SimCity 2000, which became lame after James got his hands on Starcraft.
Over the years he continued to play Starcraft. Throughout his high school life he played Starcraft and Starcraft only. He didn't play any game made by Westwood, just because he thought that Westwood was somehow a rival of Blizzard, the famed maker of Starcraft.
He also enjoyed Warcraft 3 when it came out. He did play a little of World of Warcraft and Diablo series, but his attention was always on Starcraft. When the news of Starcraft 2's development hit his ears, he was over the moon in anticipation and excitement.
It took a while as he awaited the new game with the utmost patience. He didn't really care for all the storyline made up by the series of books published by some random writers. He wanted to play the game, and watch the cinematics.
He got one of the first copies of Starcraft 2 and immediately began to devour the campaign while enjoying the multiplayer games. He also enjoyed watching the battles played out on Youtube. It was Youtube that sparked the change in his life.
James was going through a series of videos on Youtube when he clicked on a wrong one. That video was a comparison between Starcraft 2 and Dawn of War 2. James did not know about the Warhammer 40K before this video. Surprised and impressed by the Dawn of War 2's graphics and the appearances of the Tyranids, James began to research the Warhammer 40K.
Now, he had two obsessions; Starcraft 2 and Warhammer 40K. Eventually, James decided to buy his first Warhammer 40K models. He used up most of the money he saved over the previous several years, splurging it on the plastic models. James really didn't have a life.
He bought the Warhammer 40K Rulebook, templates, Hobby Starter Set, Codices of Space Marines, Imperial Guard, Ork, Eldar, Chaos Marines and Chaos Daemons and Tyranids. He also bought a Battle Force box for each of the races, and being a fan of the Zerg, he bought several more Tyranid models to fulfill his desires.
James never realized that his obsessions and lack of self-control would cause his end. As he laboriously carried his massive boxes across a crosswalk, he did not see that the green light had turned to red, and a car had just turned the corner. Its view blocked by a van parked illegally near the corner, the car had struck James.
James did not even see the car that hit him.
'So... I was carrying my 40K models, and I was crossing... the road. Huh... so... I died... and... I got reincarnated as a Zerg Larva? Well, that is convenient.'
James had rather quickly accepted the truth of his current situation. After all, he liked the Zerg as a race. Now, he got to be a Zerg, although he did fear mutating into some random Zerg creature that would be thrown aside as cannon fodder.
'Well, I hope I turn into something like an Ultralisk. It would be cool to be an Ultralisk, and I won't die that easily as a huge monstrous creature with massive tusks.'
However, his priority was the sudden pang of hunger he felt within himself. James momentarily wondered what to eat. Then he noticed how his fellow larvae were eating the Creep beneath them.
'Uggh... this looks disgusting...'
Eventually, James gave up and used his mouth tentacles to scrape up some of the Creep. The Zerg Creep was the foundation of a Zerg colony. It fed the Zerg creatures and it sustained the structures, which were also living creatures.
'Actually, it's not bad... a bit like tasting a coin, but the texture is a bit like jelly.'
James began to eat the Creep more actively as his hunger took over him. When he was full, he looked up suddenly, as he recognized the sharp change in the lighting of his surroundings. He remembered it being brighter with a distinctly yellow sun up high in the sky, but now it was evening with the sun nearing the mountains.
It was only then that James also noticed a slight change in his body. He felt heavy and large. Also, he seemed to have eaten a lot of Creep and the area immediately around him was almost stripped bare. He quickly moved away, moving his tiny legs to remove himself from the evidence of his deviancy. The other larvae seemed oblivious to James' actions, however.
James noticed that he now had two more pairs of legs, which was unexpected. He was slightly more elongated than the rest of fellow larvae and thicker as well. He felt strong and full of energy, and also unsettlingly full of stuff. It felt as if he has overeaten himself.
'Could I be one of those special Zerg? Maybe I will become a Hunter Killer! Nice!'
It was the next day when something finally happened to James and its surroundings. In the morning, James saw a large body of the Queen from Starcraft 2 hastily moving toward the Hatchery where James and his fellow larvae belonged. The Queen sprayed green mucus on the Hatchery and James saw four cocoons, which looked like large pus-sacs, growing on the Hatchery.
While the new larvae were forming, James saw that his brother Larva was in a fetal position. It had bit its tail and was being slowly covered by Creep. Then, the Creep that covered it began to bloat and turned into the familiar shape of the cocoon. James became curious about that process as well as becoming increasingly curious about what will happen to him once he is turned into another Zerg creature.
Suddenly, a loud voice shouted inside his head. It was like listening to a large beehive, then the buzzing sound suddenly turning into a voice. James could not translate it into English, but he instinctively knew what the voice wanted him to do. It wanted him to turn into an Overlord. Overlords were the providers of control for the Zerg race. They were like mobile transmitters to maintain strong control over the myriads of lesser Zerg creatures.
Now, James did not want to become an Overlord. He knew that Overlords were useless in combat, particularly if this was Starcraft 2. An Overlord wasn't even a natural detector in Starcraft 2. Resigned to the fate of obscurity and mediocrity, James waited to be turned into an Overlord. Yet, nothing happened.
Another hour or so passed and the voice kept telling him to become an Overlord, but still nothing happened. During that hour the cocoon from the Larva next to him had changed appearance slightly, the metamorphosis inside it progressing. It was then that James understood his power. He could resist the command of the Hive!
'Does this mean I can turn into any creature I want? Wow... What should I become?'
The problem was that he didn't know how to turn into the cocoon to become a new Zerg creature. His mind obviously didn't work like the rest of the Zerg, otherwise he would have already turned into a cocoon. James pondered his options and considered his future. He needed to learn to mutate quickly or the others may notice that something is wrong with him, or some enemy might attack the colony. After all, there were the Terrans and Protoss who would not hesitate to kill him.
James munched the Creep as he thought hard about mutating. Then he noticed how the other larvae mutated. Taking the risk, James coiled his body and grabbed his tail by his mouth.
When James bit his own tail, he was suddenly flooded with incredible waves of information. His vision has changed. It was as if James was Neo after he was blinded by Smith within Bane's body. James could see the pulsating life energy of the Swarm.
James opened his mouth and let the tail go, his vision fading back to normal. He paused as he processed what he just saw. In the vision, he felt as if he was surrounded by tentacles, each representing a Zerg creature he could mutate into. He saw a Drone and an Overlord, and the tentacles that represented them spawning from his own body while the tentacle for the Zergling was coming from the nearest Spawning Pool.
If he had a human face, he would have smiled.
He pondered his move. He could turn into a pair of Zerglings. That path would possibly allow him to have two bodies and some offensive capacity. However, he knew that Zerglings would die very fast if he was against the Protoss or Terrans. Since he had rejected Overlord, he now only had the option of turning into a Drone.
James had then considered the possibility of becoming a Hive, which would allow the construction of every Zerg structure and every Zerg unit. He would be stationary but he would be safe. After all, Hatcheries and their upgrades are well defended by the Swarm.
With that decision, he once again bit his tail. In his vision he chose the tentacle of life energy that represented a Drone, and he saw the genetic makeup of the creature represented by thousands of tiny threads of light. That wireframe of a Drone rushed toward James and James lost consciousness.
'How long was I out?'
James groaned as he opened his eyes again. He was inside a sac, which took a few moments for James to realize was his own cocoon. The cocoon was tight and his new wings and claws were crumpled together. Then before James could grab hold of himself, the cocoon burst apart.
James blinked his new eyes. He now had three pairs of eyes and the two front claws were his arms. It was weird. Also, the Drone was connected differently than the Larva. James instantly recognized that he was now able to know how much mineral and gas was gathered by this colony. The amount was not in the nice clean units seen in the games, but he felt how much there was, and how much of it was filling up the Creep.
Gathering a clawful of Creep, James began to eat it as he spread the new vibrating wings that kept him afloat. It appeared that the Drone's body had some sort of biological anti-gravity generator that kept most of its weight off the ground. The rest was done by the wings. James, quick to adapt to his new body, decided to follow a Drone that just sped past him.
It took a few minutes but James had successfully followed the other Drone to the side of a hill. If James had vocal cords like a human, he would have shouted 'Eureka!' but all he could scream was the sound of a Drone. What he saw was amazing. He saw massive crystals all along the hillside. Some were big and some were small but they were all there in their blue brilliance.
Curious, James approached one of the crystals and tapped it with his claws. The crystal felt a bit like glass. James looked around and saw other Drones mining the mineral crystals. Eager to try it out, James attempted to vomit, which seemed to be the thing that others were doing. Light brown liquid suddenly gushed out and spread over a chunk of the crystal.
James hesitantly tapped the crystal again with his claws, and unlike before, the crystal cracked with sharp sound. The mineral crystal had faults all over the body, and the liquid he shot out seeped into those microscopic cracks and widened them. James gnawed at those cracks and eventually broke off a chunk of mineral crystal. Happy about his first mining experience, he returned to the Hatchery and dumped it there.
Being a Drone, James had access to more information. He was now sharing some of the vision of others, although he had a suspicion that other Zerg creatures could not do the same for some reason. Ignoring the strangeness of that, James began to eat more Creep, hoping he could mutate into a Hatchery of his own. He knew that the Drone's body could contain enough minerals and gas to turn into a Hatchery and then to spread the Creep and spawn a few Drones.
Since he didn't really want to build a Hatchery near the existing colony, he decided to start his own somewhere far enough to not be disturbed yet close enough to call for help if someone attacks him. Accessing the Zerg's shared mind, James was able to locate an area of yet-to-be colonized flatland full of trees but with decent mineral deposits.
It was during this accessing that James found out a couple more things about himself as a Zerg. He could access the Zerg's shared mental links whenever he wanted, and he was on Aiur, the abandoned homeworld of the Protoss. This made James cautious to venture out alone. Although the Zerg dominated this world, the psionic impact of the Overmind's death had scarred the Zerg grievously.
It was only with the recent influx of genetic material and Overlords from the Primary Hive Cluster on Char that Kerrigan was able to exert some influence over the Zerg on Aiur. If it wasn't for that, James could have easily been killed by a random Zergling or something. Fortunately, James was lucky to be reborn at the right time.
Another thing James noticed as he moved about the colony was that he was able to influence some of the lesser Zerg creatures. Obviously he had more individuality and will than a normal Drone or Zergling. It did not work against the Queen or the Overlords, who were obviously more attuned to the voice of the Swarm, but the Zerglings were relatively easy to manipulate.
Eventually he found twenty or so Zerglings who weren't doing anything and convinced them to follow him. He understood that had Kerrigan been on Aiur or her control been any stronger, he would not have been able to this. In any case, he let a dozen Zerglings scout out the surroundings while the remaining ones would escort him to the site for the new colony.
The Zerglings reported no enemy in immediate area. So, James headed toward his Hatchery site. Once at the right location, he buried himself slightly under the ground and lost consciousness.
As a Hatchery, James was able to sense everything in a wide area - almost as if he was actually playing Starcraft 2 as a Zerg player. Another thing he realized was that he was in direct control of his Larvae, and they only had a genetic link to the rest of the Swarm, therefore completely and solely under James' control.
He also found that he could instantly transfer his consciousness to any Zerg creatures or structures of his own. His colony quickly grew in size and number, and in this early stage of the colony, he was able to directly control a dozen Drones without problem.
Feeling mentally taxed after his fifteenth Drone, he spawned an Overlord, which had a little mind of its own, though it was still completely enslaved to James. Through the Overlord, much of the Drones' actions became automated. He no longer had to micromanage the prosperous colony.
Within a couple of weeks from the initial colonization, James was able to spawn and control five Overlords and forty Drones, all dedicated to the gathering of minerals and raw materials. They would even hunt native animals once in a while and dump the meat into the Hatchery. Like a good Zerg player, James managed to create the basis of a good strong economy.
When his fifth Overlord saw six Protoss civilians and two Zealots wading through the jungles to evade the main colony, James had sent the rest of his Overlords to assess the situation. As the vision of the Overlords showed him the status of the surroundings, James immediately changed his tactics.
Previously, he has been operating under the assumption that Aiur was safe for him as the Protoss have all but fled. He was not entirely correct in that as there were still many Protoss who have been cut off from the Warp Gate, including those who would later become the Tal'darim.
James reacted quickly to the presence of the Protoss near his own position. A new Hatchery was built near the Vespene Gas sources and a Spawning Pool and Evolution Chamber. Although the Evolution Chamber was an old strain of DNA, it worked just as well. Also, James had several defensive structures built, although they were old style Sunken Colonies rather than the new Spine Crawlers.
With the presence of the Spawning Pool, James was now able to create Zerglings. After six more Overlords were created, James morphed forty eight larvae into Zerglings over the next two weeks. Letting half the Zerglings guard the Hatcheries and the other half scout the jungles for any Protoss settlement, James began to play the 'game' more properly.
Unlike the computer game, there was no 200 population limit. James quickly developed his new colony into a mighty Zerg Hive Cluster. His first Hatchery became a Lair and he had two other Hatcheries. He had two Spawning Pools, two Evolution Chambers, a Roach Warren, four Extractors, eleven Spore Crawlers, nine Spine Crawlers and six Sunken Colonies.
He had to 'borrow' several wayward Zerg units from the other colony but he was finally able to access the newer strains and DNA of the New Swarm, allowing James to get the new units he saw in Starcraft 2. It was around that time that he encountered the Protoss. The survivors have taken shelter around rock caves in the mountains, but one of their scouts was followed by the Zerglings of the other colony.
Alerted by the Zerglings, the other colony sent four more Zerglings to investigate, and James quickly sent fourteen Zerglings and four Roaches to 'support' them. Then, using Overlords to block out the link of the Queen of the other colony to its four Zerglings, his units ambushed the four Zerglings right before the eyes of the Protoss.
The Protoss civilians and the few remaining warriors were stunned at a force of Zerg units saving them, but James was not interesting in saving them out of his good nature. He had plans for them. While carefully hiding the Protoss settlement from the other Zerg, James carefully expanded his colony. His new 'Brood' quickly increased in size as his minions continued to spawn under his careful guidance. Also, he was able to amass quite a few Protoss technologies and artifacts as well as a considerable amount of Khaydarin crystals both in raw and processed forms.
So, by the time Zeratul had arrived to investigate the corpse of the Overmind, James was already controlling a small swarm of his own. Though Zeratul did not know it, it was James and his Brood who quarantined the area around the Overmind and blocked any Zerg reinforcements. In fact, James assailed several Hive Clusters and removed the more dangerous of the Zerg so that Zeratul would be able to receive the information he needed. This was important for James, since he really liked Zeratul and the James Raynor.
Another advantage James gained by protecting Zeratul, was that James was able to swoop in after the Dark Templar had left and take over the Protoss structures. Zeratul has returned all his forces, including the few Colossi, back to Shakuras and left the planet altogether; all the structures were left behind fully powered. James had so coveted the Protoss Pylons, since his idea of increasing his control over his Brood through the Pylon was correct.
After Zeratul had left, James colonized the area where the Overmind was left slain. He now had over a hundred Overlords controlling over a thousand Zerg minions. Almost two hundred Drones scoured the surroundings areas and gathered any and all resources while several hundred Zerglings patrolled the borders. Hydralisks and Roaches found various chokepoints and ambush locations while Infestors positioned themselves in good positions as well.
However, when an alert from Kerrigan through the collective telepathic link was heard, James realized that he lacked the air units to guard him should he decide to head to Char to avoid any suspicions. Since he had assimilated the entire basic DNA distributed among the outer Hive Clusters as a basic template, he was able to construct Spires and Greater Spires.
Using the astronomical amount of resources he had gathered, James decided to aggressively expand his Brood. Within three weeks, over a thousand new Overlords were spawned by three Hives, five Lairs and eleven Hatcheries. Fully one hundred of those new Overlords were quickly turned into Overseers. Then James began to spawn more and more units, complementing his control through the Protoss Pylons he had placed around his Hives.
By the time Kerrigan recalled every Zerg in the Swarm to head to Char to fight the invading humans, James had formed quite an impressive Brood. He had just under a thousand Drones, fifty thousand Zerglings, six thousand Banelings, a thousand Roaches and eight hundred Hydralisks, a hundred Lurkers, a hundred Ultralisks, four hundred Mutalisks, a hundred Corruptors and Devourers each, twenty Brood Lords and thirty Guardians, forty Infestors and thirty Queens along with ten thousand Scourges.
Not only had James amassed a Brood mighty enough to defeat any single Hive Cluster or Zerg colony on Aiur, he had began a project to give himself a new body. He had taken the idea of Kerrigan and her humanoid body. He had also taken the idea of Zerg/Protoss hybrid. He was trying to form a Zerg/Protoss/Terran hybrid as his new form. In order to do that, he ambushed and captured the Protoss survivors he had kept safe while sending a taskforce to the nearest human world in order to grab some humans.
Meanwhile, James began to experiment with the Zerg DNA as the basis for his 'humanoid-body' project. He decided that he needed an awesome body in the mean time. He experimented with the Ultralisk, Hydralisk, Spine Crawler, Roach, Baneling, Brood Lord, Queen and Drone. Eventually, he created his first 'Ultimate Creation'.
He named it the Terrorlisk. It was not really a creature as such but a massive mobile Hive. It did have the size of a Zerg Hive, but it moved on hundreds of short tentacles and it had the tough carapace of an Ultralisk while being capable of spawning Larvae and explosive Broodlings that were mixed with Baneling DNA. Also, it could root itself into the ground, giving it healing similar to that of Roaches. A dozen spines on its back worked like Spine Crawlers and it spewed Creep Tumors wherever it went.
Moving his consciousness to the Terrorlisk, James organized his forces to depart Aiur. He fully intended to time his arrival on Char so that he could take over after Kerrigan became human again. Although he had left most of the old-style Zerg units back on Aiur and the structures still held some value, the majority of James' Brood began a long journey toward Char.