From above the base seemed a calm oasis of Terran interrupting the violent Zerg wasteland. The mechanical noise was much greater than the sound of the creep's pulsations, but the busy workers stubbornly refused to quit or even acknowledge the enemy that could put out the base's gently glowing lights forever. In defiance the tiny settlement continued to grow in soldiers and acreage, until it could expand no further without engaging the Zerg.

Raynor's Raiders were set down in a rather fortunate area. It was a valley surrounded by plateaus, filled with four clusters of minerals, and two volcanoes of vespene. Two command centers were already constructed and had attachments, one a nuclear silo and the other a comsat station. Two more were under construction, for the comsat station proved them necessary once the surrounding area was scanned. Nothing but spore and sunken colonies for miles, and much of the jungle in-between held burrowed enemies

"Hey Stukov," Raynor signalled from his position in the main command center. "How are the nukes coming?"

"We still need more command centers," Stukov replied. "but the SCVs have just completed three and continue to build. Two of those three are working on the nuclear missiles, and the last is still working on its attachment. The Zerg won't give us time to make as many as we need, but this is a good start."

"Good." Raynor shifted in his seat, relaxing for a moment. "Thanks for coming, man. You didn't have to be here."

"Are you kidding? I wouldn't miss this for anything. I have done too much damage while I was infested, and now I stand as the last UED soldier still alive. Really, it is I who must thank you."

"That's cool. Mind if I ask you something personal?"

"Certainly."

Raynor paused before asking, "Did it hurt to be infested?"

"Of course. You don't go through something so demeaning without scarring your inner psyche." Stukov's eyes focused out as he remembered. "It's like...like your life is evaluated on an animal level, and anything that does not fit in the perfect plan of 'zergness' must be purged. I would rather not say how, besides that everything I had achieved was torn to nothing.

"As for physical pain, not so much, strangely enough. But still a terrible experience. Throughout the whole process they send this continuous wave of shocks, or something similar, that part I don't understand very well, causing constant pain that increases whenever you think something wrong. After a while, you begin to feel the sensations of not just your own body, but the chrysalis too. This is very terrifying, especially when I was being transported by a drone."

Stukov unconsciously put a hand to his own ribs. "At the end, it is nothing but the chrysalis, and a numbness that...that consumes you..." Stukov shook his head. "That is over with, thank God. But what do you want to know this for? Been thinking of taking up Kerrigan on her offer?" The Vice Admiral joked.

"No." Raynor almost snarled. "Thanks for bringing it up."

"Calm down. I know you could never do that. You're taking this too seriously, Raynor."

"Whatever. But as soon as she's dead I can calm down."

"Very well, then. Tomorrow we celebrate our victory."

"Oh yeah. I'm up for that."

No sooner were the words spoken when a barrage of Zerg came to prove Stukov wrong. From the west side came the hydralisks and a few scattered ultralisks, while on the east arrived dozens of guardians and brood wyrms, ready for the kill. Tanks on the west side fired ceaselessly at the coming beasts, blowing open small holes in the flood. However, the eastern tanks were useless against the Zerg flyers and forced to rely on the busy missile turrets for survival.

Marines joined in. Several were ended by the acidic blasts of the guardians as they tried to take out the hideous crustacean-like critters, despite the medics' best efforts. Many a goliath's mechanical parts polluted the thinly grassed clearing, leaving the operator to also pollute the ground with his broken body and blood. Raynor called in the wraiths, but they too found the brood wyrms to be devastating. Many of the fat things hit the dust with a splat, yet even more managed to remain in the air, forcing the wraiths to join the fallen. On the ground, the hydralisks had made their way inside the base, running rampant through the buildings. As fast as the inner firebats could torch them, the Zerg were replenished with more.

Finding himself immersed in a sea of his enemies, Stukov cloaked. He began to shoot at the surrounding Zerg, confusing several to prevent them from reaching the command centers. The arrival of the overlords made this a futile effort, and thus sentenced the Vice Admiral to death and a trampling from the snakeish hydralisk movements. But this sentence was not without appeal. Several dullahans played advocate for Stukov, granting him at least a temporary reprieve.

Joining the dullahans were several battlecruisers, blasting away the obese wyrms and guardians that had begun to eliminate Raynor's SCVs. Once an area was clear of living swarm members, a dozen dropships arrived, carrying enough reinforcements to empty the settlement of the Zerg inside. The dullahans destroyed the remaining ground forces, leaving none to fight the Terrans. One last battlecruiser arrived, this one larger and more shielded than the rest, also with four wraiths to shelter it. It hailed.

"Raynor," Mengsk said. "do you have any idea how long it took to get Artanis to eliminate the Zerg here? I'm completely surprised that I haven't started a civil war on Shakuras. Now there's no way I could get the Protoss to go along with the idea again."

"Always the diplomat." Raynor replied, bemused. "So sorry I ruined your plans, Mengsk, but I've got plans of my own that I can't let you get in the way of."

"Jim, can't you see this is about more than you killing Kerrigan? I could've destroyed a good chunk of the swarm, taken out all the infested Protoss, and destroyed this 'Queen of Blades' as well. Then you just had to come in and be a problem, as always. What's wrong with you?"

"Hey man, I can't let you just burn Aiur. And it's not just about me. Tassadar and Fenix were good friends of mine, and there's no way I'd back off and let them lose their home. How did you get the Protoss to almost use the cannon, anyway? If they lose what they're fighting for, how can they fight at all?"

"I had almost forgotten how self-righteous you are," Mengsk snidely commented. "how you would rather let your inhibitions get in the way of progress."

"Look, nobody invited you to this party. Feel free to pack up and leave. What's keeping you?"

"What's keeping me, Raynor, is that the Protoss are gone and so is the Irenitar. They had to deal with a conflict at Shakuras, and since we're now allies I had to send my best general and several men along with them. Now you're the only chance I have of getting rid of Kerrigan, and I'm not letting this opportunity slip. Remember, I hate her just as much as you do, so I refuse to leave until she's rotting."

"Very good, gentlemen," Kerrigan suddenly added. "this is going to be a rather nice family reunion. Wow, has it been ten years already?"

"Kerrigan! How long have you been listening?" Mengsk asked, startled.

"Long enough, Emperor. And by the way, I'm going to have to go with Jim on this one. You shouldn't have stayed here. Now there's only one way your poor Dominion boys are going to get off Aiur. Jimmy, did you have long enough to think and reconsider my offer? Well, being as benevolent as I am, I think I'll add Mengsk's little soldiers to it. What do you say?"

Raynor refused to acknowledge her.

"Not talkative today, hm? It doesn't matter, because you know there's only one way this situation is going to turn out for you. Don't pretend you can defeat me. Neither of you. What you've seen before is only a taste of the devastation I can bring."

The Queen of Blades disappeared from their heads.

"What is this deal she's talking about?" Mengsk asked.

A sigh escaped. "She claims she'll let everyone else go safely if I...stay behind..."

"That's the most messed up thing I never wanted to hear. I'm sorry I asked." Mengsk ran his hand through his hair apprehensively. "But alright then, the sooner she's dead the sooner we can repress the memory. Let's get this show on the road."

It was astounding how many soldiers and weapons the small base could train and build, respectively. Because of the avenging nature of the mission, as few as possible buildings went up, to save resources for invasion. As a great general always said, fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man. And so it was that a miniature, compared to the Zerg, flood of Terrans now stood in the clearing. The had no trouble in discovering Kerrigan's location.

Everyone was ready. It was strategy time.

In an instant, Stukov and several ghosts targeted nukes on the surrounding Zerg defenses. In another instant, several lurkers dug themselves up from the ground and ran towards the Terran forces. Marines and tanks killed every single one before they could burrow once more under the soil for their spine attack. With several blasts, the first lines of spore colonies were destroyed, allowing free passage for air units to go over the oncoming cliff wall.

Then Hanna Reiges led the dropships in gathering the ground troops and depositing them on the plateau wall. Raynor, from his vulture, led the forces on from there. Solemnly they marched, out of sight from the Zerg base that lined the northward-going cliff. An overlord ventured over to the Terrans, but was soon killed with a scream. Anticipating greater resistance, the forces continued, growing more nervous with each step. Suddenly the Raiders found themselves surrounded by unborrowing hydralisks and zerglings. Lurkers also began to stab from underneath.

"Jim, have your men pull back!" Mengsk ordered. "Don't argue, just do it! Magellan, I need a detector!"

Magellan moved in above Raynor's attacking units and held place its place as they retreated several yards. Dullahans

A cliff ahead supported a large contingent of the swarm, Kerrigan's protectors. Dullahans and valkeries managed to allow the dropships a space to unload.

"Reiges, continue to bring over as many soldiers that can be spared." Raynor ordered. Signaling Allen, he continued, "McCalla, we need more nukes up here."

"Construction's under way, sir. I'll meet you out there in a minute." the Lieutenant responded.

"No you won't. I don't need to risk you getting killed out here, and somebody's got to protect the silos."

"But Raynor, sir-"

"You heard me, Lieutenant. Stay back." Raynor promptly cut off communication. "Kid has to learn sometime..."

Meanwhile the battle raged on, at a somewhat slower pace than expected. Shortly, no zerg remained to spite the Dominion and the Raiders. It was extremely disturbing.

Mengsk stopped the Norad V above Raynor's vulture. "Where did Kerrigan go? I thought you said she was here."

"I don't know, but I'll get the comsat on it. Hold on."

"I'm still here, Jimmy."

"Crap..."

"Raynor, what is it? What's going on?" Mengsk reacted, getting no answer.

"You made a bad choice, so now it's too late. None of you will escape my wrath, not even the ones I select for my own. Since you don't seem to understand that, I thought I'd help by letting you see everyone you care about, and a few you don't, die in the most violent way you can imagine. This is the last time you may resist my will."

"Oh no..."

With that, the skies blackened and the horizons fogged with the multifarious zerg waves. All light, besides the light of the machinery, vanished into the already darkened air, leaving astounded soldiers to despair for their lives. Few times before had this sight, or lack thereof, been beheld by any. Mengsk and Raynor were helpless to maintain control of the now spooked forces, who began to fire into the darkness almost blindly. Surprisingly enough, several zerg fell in this inaccurate manner, due to the sheer numbers. However, these deaths were drops in a bloodthirsty ocean of the swarm.

But Raynor had only vengeance on his mind. Knowing there was little point in going after the slaves, he searched for the master. James had prepared for too long to let the past decade go to waste. Years of psionic training he had accumulated did not give him any sort of telepathic ability, but still allowed him to trace the emanations of all nearby psionic creatures. There was just one signature he needed to trace, and it was not hard to find.

The engine of his vulture stirred into a roar, gunning it. Deftly it dodged the bullets and bodies strewn everywhere as Raynor intently concentrated on keeping up the chase. A direct hit from a guardian wrecked the vulture, turning it over as it rushed at top speed. Raynor sliced out of his seat restraint with his knife and dived away while his lost vehicle exploded in flame, casting its shards over three zerglings.

But Kerrigan was still ahead. Transport or not, she had to be found. Raynor had a feeling he could find her without the bike's speed anyway.

Fortunately the zerglings were too upset from their burns to pursue the Terran as he ran off over a scattering of rocks and boulders. Or perhaps it was another reason, because none of the zerg seemed interested in him. Too confidently vengeful, Raynor did not give a thought to the fighting swarm, instead pulling out his revolver with his right hand and steadily bearing his knife in his left.

For a moment, James lost track of Kerrigan. Quietly he marched on, halting every few feet to recover the lost emanations. Suddenly a strange thought emerged in his head, and he turned towards his men. Before his eyes, as if a deja vu, the dropships fled under attack, having recently returned with reinforcements.

The largest of the dropships, Hanna's, was bombarded by devourers. The acid pulled apart the vessel's hull, revealing a short woman also hit by the destructive liquid. She painfully ejected from her lost dropship, getting struck by one of the metal pieces flung in its explosion. Though this left a bloody gash in her already acid-scarred forehead, it did not knock her unconscious, allowing her screams to further disturb the distraught landscape.

Even though Hanna was a large distance away and blocked by several zerg, Raynor could see her death as if he was an overlord gazing indifferently upon the scene. Once she hit the ground, Hanna fell prey to a hungry hydralisk who most ungracefully went straight for the crotch. A leg was torn off as its gleaming teeth bit into her flesh. A nearby zergling seemed annoyed at Reiges's shrieking, so it bit right through her throat. Sickeningly, a moment of gasping air from her lungs ran its way to the place her vocal cords formerly were positioned, gurgling against the escaping body fluids. Hanna Reiges was no more.

Knowing he should not have been able to see the spectacle, Raynor tried to shake it off. But another vision soon took its place, one of the swarm closing in on the base while McCalla fired madly.

"Stukov!" Raynor yelled, hoping he would be heard. "get the nukes ready!"

His mind continued to show McCalla's struggle, but it had to be ignored. Raynor knew it was simply a trap for his mind. She wanted him to feel regret, to fall vulnerable to her violent ideas. And to possibly distract. Concentrating against the noises of devastation, successful for a fortunate moment, he detected the low emanations.

"One more thing, Jim. Mengsk brought up a good question. Why did you stop them from burning Aiur? Don't even pretend that your Protoss friends were the reason; it was a very pathetic excuse. The truth is, you did it for me, and for me alone."

With a swift turn he was able to raise his knife above and shield himself from infested Kerrigan's dive. The blade struck her shoulder, running itself through her as she landed on and clawed her target. Without too many scratches, Raynor flung her away. She slammed against the pillar of rock she had earlier cast herself from, giving James an opportunity to shoot her repeatedly. More quickly than seemed possible the Queen of Blades charged, mostly unaffected by the bullets lodged within her.

A grunt of pain from Raynor and a flying handgun signaled the renewed vigor of Kerrigan. She ripped apart the body armor as if it were nothing and began to shred his lungs before Raynor could get the knife, still in Kerrigan's shoulder, and twist it mightily. Though he sliced off one of her dorsal claws and rendered her left arm useless, she did not indulge him with any vocal admittance of suffering.

Instead Kerrigan grabbed the knife by the point and broke it in two, throwing the halves aside. Then three times she struck Raynor with her the remaining claw on her back. The first would have sliced through his eyes, but he blocked it, resulting in a deep tear in his right hand that almost severed his fingers. A second strike dug straight into his chest, narrowly missing his heart. Yet the third blow found its destination. The claw ripped Raynor's neck, hitting and rupturing a carotid artery. Gasping, Raynor tried to maintain his balance, failing. He only managed to stay up for a moment before collapsing to his knees. One malediction later, he fell backwards and remained still.

Victorious, all Kerrigan had now to do was enlist a drone to take him away from the battle and begin infestation, making certain to revive Raynor as he began his stay in the chrysalis. Then she would have exactly what she wanted, and no longer would his presence be a threat to her existence. But she hesitated.

"So much anger...such bitterness..." she murmured, reflecting upon his last emotions.

Kerrigan walked over to Raynor and knelt down. She touched his still warm face, contorted in hatred and failure. She gazed on his handsome features, placing his head upon her knees for a closer look. The hazel eyes still shined, even if weakly, their special glow that made Sarah melt on the inside. Kerrigan knew he would die quickly without medical aid, and that she would soon be free from his bitterness, from his revenge, from his influence on all of her decisions. He could no longer be loved.

But suddenly, it did not matter.

"How...how could I have done this to him...?"

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Author's Notes:

- The violence was too much, wasn't it? Ugh. I was a weird kid when I wrote this. You know how you're a teenager, and you're going through that period where you're all dark and emo? It's so refeshing to become a twenty year old and realize that the world isn't as horrible as you think. And you stop liking violence as much. Becoming mature makes violence seem cheap, and once life itself looks beautiful, death itself is just plain boring. It doesn't mean anything anymore. Well, except for the whole leaving everybody part. That kinda sucks. As much as atheists don't want to believe in God and insist that they're right, it's seems a pity that death is just the end. I like it better as being the beginning of a new life. I mean, heck, would they rather be right or happy?

- I really like writing arguments between Raynor and Mengsk. It's one of the reasons Mengsk's bland portrayal in SC2 was so offensive to me. He's supposed to be Raynor's secondary antagonist, or first if you don't see Kerrigan that way. Valerian is cool, but he's just not Raynor's proper antagonist. Bah.