A/N: I do not own Starcraft or any of the units portrayed within it. Starcraft is the property of Blizzard Entertainment, I only own my original creations. This is a work of fan fiction, existing entirely outside any canon material.
Chapter 35 – Evolution Dreams
Standing silently at the clearing intentionally carved into the forest by the swarm for just these kinds of meetings, Lily waited patiently for the messenger to cover the short distance. She knew the man was a minor adept, sure-footed and agile fellow who seemed best suited for messenger duty or scouting rather than actual fighting. It was still wiser to limit what he would get to see, and she agreed with the Patriarch's decision to leave the actual meeting to her.
Finally the young man stepped to the edge of the clearing, escorted by a pair of zerglings and a hydralisk. She narrowed her eyes watching his steps, his own eyes already roaming over her form, her crossed arms seeming to draw his attention to her chest, but she stood quiet for a moment to see if he would remember his duty or not. After half a minute passed she spoke up seriously, though trying to keep a friendly tone to her voice. "Greetings, Messenger. I have been expecting you, do you bring news from Ravenrock?"
The man blinked and hurriedly opened the bag he was carrying to fish out a letter sealed with wax, and then pull out a tightly wrapped package, showing them to her. She nod and held out her hand, but the man shook his head, sneering at her. "I was told to give these to the Lord Patriarch himself."
"I think the attitude the previous monarch left behind will take a while to purge." Her mental whisper was answered briefly by the Patriarch. "Faust has to work with what he has, the changes will take time. I agree with you though." She felt more amused by their shared thoughts than annoyed at the refusal.
"The Patriarch will receive it as it is, but if you try to move further into Swarm Territory you will find the guards there take their duty very seriously. I am Lady Lily, and I am one of the Liberators from the battle of Ravenrock." Her smile remained polite, but her cold eyes sent chills down the man's back and she could see her words had an impact. Especially as one of the zerglings stepped ahead to brush its head against her leg, causing her to scratch her nails along the ridges of its head.
"Be that as it may, my orders-" he began to say, before she raised her hand up and silenced him, glaring at him.
"Lord Patriarch trusts me or he would not have sent me here. I would prefer to receive the message, the package, and return to my other duties rather than stand here to be leered at." Her patience would last a lot longer but he was acting in a manner that she was not going to tolerate. Ravenrock had to change, and this man would need to learn that certain kind of behaviour would cause trouble.
"Look I don't care what kind of courtesan he sent but-" The strong hiss from the zerglings and hydralisk made the man jump slightly and shiver, looking around, suddenly realizing just how many eyes seemed to glow in the dark, strong forms approaching slowly. Thick-plated roaches, slowly drooling zerglings clacking their jaws aggressively and waving their scythe blades, and the hydralisk hissing and yawning widely to show its impressive jaw as well.
Nearly pissing himself in fright, the man shuddered in place while Lily walked ahead, and pulled the letter and the package from the man's hands and looked at him with contempt. "Run back to Ravenrock and tell Faust that because of your actions we want nothing to do with Ravenrock for the next two weeks. Anyone that tries to come in that time will be considered a foe. Insulting one sent by him is a quick way to get on his bad side."
As she turned to walk away the circle of zerg made way for the man to leave, rushing out through the cleared path, though he found himself chased by zerglings and forced to run as fast as he could from that point on. While the swarm knew not to kill the messenger, scaring him out of his wits was fair game now that he had proven himself worth little respect. Faust would hear about it later, and it gave a good excuse for them while waiting for the evolution to finish.
Idly looking at the letter and the package, Lily began to hum ode to joy while walking back towards the hatchery site, a smirk playing on her lips. While she was curious, she would know in due time. Besides, her own orders had been clear. The man was not to enter their territory, and the Patriarch had not stopped her at any point as she gave the arrogant messenger a warning.
= XXX = Changing Times = XXX =
The hatchery had been covered by a translucent skin that had began to expand and harden soon, filling up with swirling liquids and pulsing with life as the grounds around the hatchery were taken up, and the larva on the ground were absorbed by the expansion as well. The sheer amount of bio-energy directed at the expanding complex was making it a nearly religious experience for Dain and the other members of the Swarm family.
Though the Swarm respected and followed him faithfully, the sheer complexity of life and possibilities unchained by the process of so much bio-energy being directed at a single focal point was something the swarm had not quite prepared for in advance. Sarah was watching quietly besides Dain, Vera was hugging on his arm and staring curiously while Gem was off calming down the residents of the small 'tent village' still living above ground, though a lot of them had relocated to the safety of the Warrens in anticipation of the evolution that Dain had already spoken of.
Lily remained a little aside from the others, her focus on making sure none of the patrols reported anything threatening approaching the primary hive complex while their first lair was being hatched. The hatchery's changes would allow them to use far more complex varieties of strains and permit them to move closer to the dreams of spreading through the vast existence, to claim the worlds sleeping in the void, and allowing the family to prosper. Yet those dreams would fall apart if they were caught off guard, and though she wanted to be there to witness it, she knew she could relive Sarah's experience of it later. Doing her duty was more important for now. Constant vigilance was required so that the protoss would not get the jump on them.
"It is time. I can feel it already. The lair does not have to be fully ready, and its evolved enough to lend itself to allow us to change. Once everyone that wont evolve is down in the warrens, we shall begin. It is time for us to evolve further. Recall the swarm, and prepare for the dreaming." Dain's orders were quickly followed, and as the last of the 'family friends' had retreated to the warrens the passage behind them sealed, while Dain, Sarah and Lily could feel the ground rising to embrace them. The creep moving to coat them and form the shell needed for their evolution, while the others sank into the creep burrowing within it, and the overlords cocooned in the sky their tentacle arms touching down on the creep just enough to connect themselves to the flow.
At each of the hatchery sites the change began simultaneously, and Dain could feel the many minds entering a state of hibernation, to allow their bodies to change while being slightly disconnected. He felt his own body numb, and the connection fade leaving him to dream among the minds of the swarm, the two strongest ones of Sarah and Lily remaining 'close', as was the first among his overlords and the zergling he had taken up calling Scar. They brought comfort, allowing him to ease into those dreams and let the changes begin.
= XXX = Path of Zaos = XXX =
Dain felt like he was surrounded by mist, slowly clearing away, but the colors of the world were dulled, sensations fleeting, and he saw through his own hands while floating in the air. Slowly, the sounds of battle began to arise, growing stronger. The fog began to lift, and allowed him to see what was concealed a mere moment ago.
Huge explosion rocked the ground as several of his zerg flew in the air, some torn apart, others landing with little more than scorched surface which mended in mere moments before they rejoined the charge. Countless waves of zerglings with thin wings on their back seemed to fly short distances over obstacles and descend on the defending forces further away. Countless roaches with thick green crystal-like thorns emerging from their hides spat thick streams of acid at the enemy lines, and the sight of the skies above gave him a wave of a thunderstorm and the winged zerg doing bombing runs over the enemy fortifications, allowing living bombs to fall off their serpentine bodies.
Spells flew off the walls to hammer the grounds like artillery blasts, and skilled heroes sought to defend the countless archers and spearmen on the tall stone walls from his forces, but it was obvious that they were just fighting the inevitable. Each time a zergling died, five more took its place. Each soldier thrown off the wall by a zergling leaping high onto them seemed to take a moment longer for the enemy to replenish.
The same repeated itself all over the lands. Creep covered most of the world, and the towns and cities were drowning in the endless hordes. Sitting quietly on a throne formed of the living flesh of a large flying zerg creature, Dain looked at an older version of himself. Gone were the human clothes. Gone was the spark of empathy in his eyes. Gone was the smile he used to show his family. Instead this Dain had carapace forming a bodysuit fitting a muscular warrior physique, and eyes glowing with psionic might.
"This world shall burn. All of you who took my first family away shall pay the ultimate price for your betrayal, and your judgement has come. I deem you unworthy of joining the Swarm, and this world is only for the Swarm. Perish in agony, and know your lineage has fallen. This world belongs to the Zerg!"
Dain felt a chill as he watched his older self, but looking at the battlefields far and wide he realized something. Fighting among his creatures were a few familiar figures. Lily and several sisters of hers stood there, leading them into a charge, all clad in carapace armor that looked like it was grown on. It probably was. Each of them seemed to phase through defenses and struck right at commanders and mystics, becoming incorporeal for a second or two and reaching their target, ripping one apart with bare arms.
Elsewhere, Sarah was chanting with countless Praetorians who were encased in thick armor that looked enough to deter even ultralisk's kaiser blades defending against what seemed to be a huge migration force of beasts, the lightning storm above landing huge bolts searing hundreds of beasts. The other queens around her were feeding Sarah more and more psychic might, while the eradication continued.
"Purification class psychic strike! Starfall!" She shouted, and the skies poured forth bombardment of lightning, and balls of fire carrying fiery rock down to bombard the ground with meteor rain. "Vengeance for the ones lost forever far before their time!" She growled, though brief sorrow showed in her face at those few words.
= XXX = Path of Aeos = XXX =
Dain felt a shiver run through him as he awoke again in the mist, this time hearing the familiar voices speaking somewhere near. Their words were muffled, but those voices he could recall. Lily, Vera, Gem. Faust and Meiri. There were others too, but he did not recognize any of them. Dain waited silently until the voices began to sound clear again and the fog slowly lifted.
"-to happen, but the Swarm has made its decision. The Patriarch may not be here, but he lives still. We shall set forth and find him, and return him to the Swarm." Vera. It had to be her. Yet she sounded older, a fair bit more stern, and powerful.
There were twelve people gathered in a large room with thick stone pillars supporting the dome roof above, the view of mountains all around them, cold wind whipping around, and the snow blowing just beyond the reinforced glass gave him a chill down his spine even as an incorporeal presence. Yet it was those twelve people that deserved his full attention for now.
"I am not denying that the possibility exists that the Patriarch survived that somehow, I have seen how strong the Swarm is, but would he not have returned already if he could? The fact you do not know for sure exactly where he is doesn't make it any easier." An unfamiliar voice spoke with both respect and yet resentment carrying over in that tone. It was an old man's voice, that much he was sure of.
Lily, Vera and Gem were all wearing dark purple bodysuits that seemed a little too form-fitting, with a faint glow in their eyes. Dain felt his heart skip a beat as realization struck him. All three of them were zerg. Granted, Lily was the one pure zerg born of the swarm, but the two others had become members of the swarm since then. They looked stunning though, albeit he wasn't that pleased to notice that some of the others, particularly a few of the men, were eying them in a manner he would have wanted to correct in a painful manner had he been present.
"These three know him best, and though I can understand the doubts some people hold, I don't doubt the Patriarch wishes to return. He will return. These three simply wish to go after him, and I see nothing wrong with wanting to be with their family." Faust. That was Faust, and he was speaking of getting Dain back? Clearly something was wrong here, Dain thought to himself with a groggy feeling and a headache. Perhaps because he wasn't near himself, but near others looking for him.
Faust and Meiri stood side by side, wearing more regal clothing which bore the symbol of a black raven emblazoned on a blue shield, with two swords crossed behind the shield. The golden crowns they carried were fairly simple, and far from the elaborate designs that some of the others carried, but a lot more sturdy.
The others he did not recognize but he looked them over, somewhat briefly judging the remaining seven people. Four of them were men with less than pleasant gazes on their faces. One of them was as young as Dain, but the other three ranged in age from old enough to be his father to old enough to be his great-grandfather. Yet every one of them radiated power.
"This is unacceptable, if the Swarm starts to create something like that the remaining towns will consider it a weapon against them, and war will spill over the lands again! Hell, our people will think its preparations for war, too! I cannot agree with this, the permission to create Leviathans is denied, absolutely." The same stern male voice spoke up again, a grandfatherly figure dressed in fine blue suit shouting now, with his hand stroking his whitened beard. Dain glared at that man with unveiled anger, but turned his attention to the last people in the room, that had remained silent so far.
The three women were similar in the feeling of power emanating from them, but unlike the men who came in wearing formal court clothes, these ladies wore a long robe without much decorations, but their hair was finely made, their faces seeming immaculate with a thin layer of makeup and serious care having obviously gone in their appearances. Yet the brilliant minds he could feel behind the masks they wore in serious expressions warned him that underestimating any of the people in the room was dangerous.
"Lord Faust, Lord Wulfric, despite what you may think neither of you has any business on saying what the Swarm can or can't do. They are polite enough to warn us about what they are doing, and doing it openly. They are not here to seek permission. They are letting us know, and given their loyalty to the Patriarch I believe that you may cause more trouble yourself with loose lips and accusations like that." The lady who spoke seemed to look around the room, getting approval from all but the now seething old man, smirking triumphantly before looking at Vera.
"Please return with the Patriarch. In the meanwhile, we shall keep things stable here."
= XXX = Aftermath = XXX =
Other dreams followed, some of them mere whispers at the edge of Dain's mind, others soft conversations that he could not recall when he awoke, not right away at least, and yet as he began to feel that haze of dreaming ending, he also felt the power burning within. He needed to get more used to the new found strength, and then he could begin sorting through those dreams. The conversations might be mere imagination running wild, but if they were not, there were other sentient branches of the Swarm out there. Different families standing up on their own, scattered among the stars, perhaps among the very realities that divided them. He could not tell, not yet at least, but the feeling was there to tell him that there was more to those dreams than mere imagination playing tricks on him.
The chrysalis shattered around him, showering the grounds around him with hardened carapace as well as the fluids he had been covered in during his evolutionary slumber. He could hear other shells shattering, with his forces starting to break free. Toughened carapaces, stronger claws, more powerful muscles for both spitting acid and shooting spines, his forces had grown stronger, and at the same time he felt his mind flood with possibilities. The swarm had truly stepped past a border where little skirmishes like taking down Ravenrock seized to really matter. He would have to expand and exploit the land, explore and exterminate those who stood in his way.
Specializations would require dividing his forces into different broods, allowing one to evolve lurkers while another could evolve impalers. He knew both were advanced forms morphed from his hydralisks, but one brood could not carry both sequences required for them. The swarm could evolve more options by allowing diversity among the broods, but that would take more land and require more control.
Human kingdoms seemed far less intimidating, and he had a feeling that it would take a greater beast to threaten his swarm in any way. Minor or lesser beasts would be trampled under his swarm if necessary, but that did not mean they could not inflict some losses. Yet the most immediate threat were the protoss. He wanted to march forth leave only burnt ruins covered in creep when he left the protoss base, but at the same time he recalled the weird dreams, of the two paths that lay open. He wasn't convinced they were truly real, but nevertheless they did serve as a reminder that his family meant a great deal to him. Enough that he wanted to bring them into the Swarm, eventually. Yet he had not seen his mother in either dream, which chilled him inside, awakening his suspicions of the state of her mind and soul after her torments.
He would know soon enough, he though to himself, before looking down his own form. Gone were the shreads of clothes he had worn, replaced by a carapace armor reminding him of a modern combat suit, except it was organic and grafted onto him. Heavy plating combined with more flexible material allowing him ease of movement, but also a fair bit of protection. He also felt internal changes had taken place, including a more noticeable increase on his body's renewal rate. He had a feeling he could take a sword to the chest and walk away from it without really stopping.
A small chill went through him at the thoughts he had. So many ways he could improve himself, but at what point would those 'improvements' and pursuit of 'efficiency' actually start to erode away his humanity? Had it already began to do so? He wasn't sure if he could call himself a human being, possibly a transhuman of some form, perhaps even posthuman. Yet such debates would have to wait for more peaceful times.
Extending his senses with the hive-mind allowing him to touch each member of his swarm, he grimaced at what he found. The hatchery built on the plains had been attacked during his slumber, and torn to shreds. Beasts had also struck against his other hatchery near the castle, shredding the creep around the place and doing some harm to the chrysalis there, but not having managed to do enough harm to destroy the complexes. Yet it was the attack at the plains that worried him.
The overlord watching over the site confirmed his earlier suspicions. Plasma-burns were scattered everywhere, and the scorched lines in the ground spoke of weaponry that only faction on this world would posses. Protoss had attacked him. Thoughts of negotiations and attempts at peace began to flee from his mind as he remembered the earlier attack, and the annihilation of that secondary colony. His overlords also reported a party of zealots flanked by dragoons and some other warmachines were approaching the forest, and his primary hive site.
If they had hoped to catch him off-guard during his evolution and burn him to the ground while he was defenseless, they had clearly overestimated the time that the evolutionary step forward would take. They would pay for their choices, and the swarm would crush them. Mentally commanding the Warrens to open and allow fresh air to the tunnels, he figured they had some time before protoss arrived, and he could see his first family before he would go to war with his second one. The swarm was going to have to pound those protoss bastards to the ground, and leave none of them alive.
Once more, the swarm prepared for war. Only this time it was not to depose a ruler, this time it was to exact vengeance on a whole protoss outpost. He would give a chance to any other protoss he might encounter, but the ones on this world would face annihilation. Brief thought occurred to him that made him sigh and add a mental amendment to that command. 'If they have civilians on this world, we shall seek to capture them without undue harm. Any armed protoss is to be taken down, in pieces if necessary.'
== XXX OOO XXX ==
A/N: It has been a while. This story and the other stories I have will continue to update, I had an offer to have a beta help me out with the chapters but I am undecided on too many things, and this is still pretty much writing practice for me, even though I have a lengthened story in mind still.
I've had some talk with people of doing some 'cross over' event of shared dreams and 'chats' occuring during them, but prefer to not too much of those. The two 'visions' in this chapter are simply options I considered for later chapters of this story, towards the end, but a lot of things are in the air and Dain himself is evolving and growing as a personality written on the paper. I am beginning to wonder on his insights to the swarm, the choices ahead, and how things will turn out. Right now, its at the point where I'll start adding more, with the swarm ready to deploy more advanced forms as mentioned.
Thinking about the 'lack of inspiration', I am simply saying I have too many ideas going on in my head at once. I have to cut down on the number of them, or I would have 20+ stories on this site already with 2-5 chapters each, and no more coming because I've already leaped onto something else.
Yet I have taken several 'open ended' tales to work with, and I intend to continue them with time. None of my tales are abandoned (though the 'Chaosium' serves as a repository for a few ideas that I have not began to work on more yet) and I simply need to quiet my thought on too many other ideas to focus on what I have.
Its not helping I got an alternate idea in mind even now, about this... and that... ooh and what about... yeah, I have felt too many 'good ideas' pop up in my head at once, and its distracting. I keep coming up with ideas while trying to take care of things in real life, while working on these stories I have going on means sitting down and returning to the thoughts of the tales in progress and letting the tale continue to flow. So little ideas occur as random snippets along the days, and it takes peace and quiet, and a particular mindset to write in, for these tales to continue at least somewhat loyal to the way I began them.
I figure people wouldn't want me to start an Alternate Swarm Story on Mass Effect systems with a second ruler of some form starting to build a swarm there. I have hinted of the concept of entering Dain into some 'side story' after I get Dain off-world from Prime, but honestly Dain's tale has been set in an AU, and dark voice, Kerrigan, James Raynor and others have not made any appearances, and its questionable if they will. They might not exist at all in this tale's universe.
Nonetheless, thought the idea of Mass Effect & Swarm somehow played together amuses me, I think it would work better as a separate story. Yet if I begin something like that now, I would probably have to drop out a story I am already writing.
It would probably mean dropping the X-Com story (One Sci-Fi tale for another Sci-Fi tale... and honestly, I began X-Com before the expansion to the newest XCOM game was out, and after seeing that some of my earlier ideas got wrecked), and I am not keen on letting stories drop when I feel they have a spark to keep going and someone might be enjoying them.
As for my Overlord & Dungeon Keeper tales, all in fair time. If push comes to shove, DK is interesting yet can be put down on hiatus with possible revival later. Overlord story has its share of ideas waiting, its been a matter of rewriting some of the next chapter due to having decided to discard some of my wilder ideas I had earlier struggled with.
Nonetheless, more Swarm Patriarch chapters will follow, but may take some time to get together. Thank you for everyone following this tale, and hope the tale has been interesting enough to follow.