CHAPTER TWO

Aftermath

Note: This chapter will undergo major revisions later on.

Cho'Nira woke slowly. But she did wake. Smoke wafted off of her skin, and her breathing was labored, feirce. She stood slowly, shaky on her feeble legs. She was often insecure because of her slimness. Only her psionic abilities had allowed her the respect of her people, the inheritance given to her from her Mothers, and only the talon on her arm gave her claim to the throne. Even if the claw was on her left side.

She planted the mass of chitin into the ground, using the bony plate to hold herself up. Her mind was fuzzy, cluttered. Had it worked? How could she tell?

A wind picked up, and the smoke began to clear, the breeze, annoyingly cool, peeling the smoke off of her skin. She hissed at the air, wrapping her arm around her waist, falling to her knees from pain. Her Carapace-where she had carapace, was scorched, and her second effort to stand left stars swirling through her vision.

Her black hair fell in front of her face, and she wheezed through her razor teeth.

She waited for the smoke to clear from the circle, to reveal the largest gathering of Psions in the history of her people, and her breath caught in her throat.

Bodies.

Multijointed legs sprawled on the scorched earth of the feild, bodies strewn with the twisted forms of her own people. Ashes fell from the sky, and whisps of mental energy still drifted from the center of the ring of bodies, filled with the determination of those who had been there.

Cho'Nira's violet eyes widened, and she began to hyperventilate, from mental strain and physical exhaustion.

Her eyes flicked to her left, and she fell onto her side, staring in shock.

An'Durion lay lifeless. The strongest. The most powerful. The greatest elder of the Prototerrans.

Her uncle. Her connection to her Greatest Grandfather. To the Humans.

She fought the weakness in her blood, the sympathy of the Drones. She was the queen of the Terozerg, she couldn't weep! SHe had to be strong.

She strained to sweep her mind out into the world, seeking the network of the Hiveminds, the other Queens, the Birthmothers. None were close enough for her to find the others. Those who were close enough to sense...were as dead as the psions in this circle.

She couldn't hold the weakness back anymore. She began to cry, silent tears dripping down her scarlet face. She couldn't remember anything about the rite, about the effort to move the system. But the sun was beating down on her scorched shoulders, and the hate of their enemies was gone, past the grasp of her mind.

She fell onto her back, chest rising and falling slowly, the panic fading as it was replaced with a blank emptiness. She no longer had the energy to feel, to weep.

Shadows began racing her way, legs folding and unfolding, feet pounding into the dirt. A light grey dome of hair skidded next to her, brilliant blue eyes glancing up at warriors behind her, golden armor gleaming.

Cho'Nira dimly recognized the figure standing over her, dimly recognized the words that came from those thin lips, sharp and commanding.

"Take her back to the conclave. Her people need to know she's alive. Search for other survivors."

Then the brief period of conciousness ended, and Cho'Nira fell into blackness.

Warmth. Surrounding her, encasing her. A gentle touch against her mind.

"Majesty?"

Cho'Nira turned her mind to the presence, recognising it. A hive mind, her distant cousin.

"Yes?" She replied, wanting to tumble back into the blissful sleep, the absence.

The Hivemind smiled knowingly. Or, well, seemed to. Then Cho'Nira tumbled into the Dreaming, standing in the space created by the mind of the structure.

Cho'Nira was surprised to find this hive preferred a feild. Many preferred the comforting warmth of the creep-dilapidated though the merge creep was. She searched for this particular mind, trying to find the elusive form of thought that was the HIve.

It didn't take her long, and she ran forward, her three-toed feet plowing into the soil, carrying her through the long grass.

She stopped next to the figure of a woman, a young drone, picking flowers lazily. Cho'Nira couldn't help but listen to this figure, to watch them, wait for their thoughts to become manifest.

The figure spoke, and while her mouth moved, the words themselves pressed into the young queen's mind.

"Do not worry. There are enough of us."

Cho'Nira bowed her head, then stood taller.

"We have our work cut out for us." She responded. "We will need more overlords."

The Hive smiled, holding out the creation she had made from the flowers, like a child to it's mother.

"I know. Those of us that remain work to birth more. THeir support and strength of will will be needed in the days to come."

Cho'Nira nodded.

"I am in recovery?"

The Hive, as the drone she used to be, nodded. "THe energies that moved this world were strong. The force of the power did much damage to your cells."

Cho'Nira frowned. "But why did I survive?"

The Hive smiled. "Does it matter? We have our queen. You will lead us to strength and glory, alongside our sisters, as your mothers did before you."

Cho'Nira nodded, staring out over the grass.

"How long until I am fit to leave stasis?" THe queen asked, swinging her claw, the remnant of her ultralisk blood, back and forth, like one of the Scythes, cutting a small clearing in the grass.

The Hive smiled at her.

"You are ready now."

Light hammered suddenly upon Cho'Nira's eyes, her real eyes, and she ghasped, throwing herself from the fleshy wall of the Hive. she fell to her knees, eyes flicking around the space, her hoof-like feet clanging softly against the metal catwalk. She found it amusing, how the Terozerg used space. Organism and machine, one combined.

She stretched her mind outwards, and through this hive, sensed the others. They were alive, they were strong. Though there were far fewer than she would have liked.

Then she stretched her body, the burns absent from her smooth skin. She flexed breifly as she stood, making sure that her muscles were properly repaired, bouncing up and down on her toes.

"Is there an escort present?" She asked the Hive. One aspect of her drone Heratage she could appreciate: She was arguably the greatest Telepath known to her people, because of her mixed bloods.

The hive answered affirmative, though not quite with words.

Cho'Nira allowed herself to smile, and strode down the catwalk, emerging into the blazing sunlight of the Cheif City of her people. Lurker-Merges fell in around her, following the young queen across the dilapidated creep secreted by the Hive. Their shovel like talons sank into the fleshy mass of autotrophic cells, and well into the dirt beneath. Cho'Nira made a note to have the engineers outfit the newest lurkers with the drill-clasps the defilers had thought up. They would be able to lead the drones to newer deposites of minerals underground.

She snapped her fingers, and one of the lurkers tore off a segment of creep, handing it to her without a seccond thought. She examined it, and tossed the chunk onto a bare patch of dirt, psionically commanding it to spread. It wouldn't get far, but it would extract minerals, and sustain the buildings.

She stepped up to a large structure, radically different from all the others. It was purely made of metal, with no modifications, and no up-growth from the creep. Not that the creep was shy about the structure-the womb-like material had spread all the way to it, it just was regularly cleared away.

A young prototerran met her at the ramp. His gun was slung over one shoulder, exhaustion clear in his eyes as he spoke.

"Majesty."

His grey skin was paler than Cho'Nira had seen in a while, and she figured that this Prototerran had lost a lot of blood. The common purple sheen to his crest was largely absent.

"I wish to warp to Riosan." The queen said slowly. "To visit Ki'Ana, the elder."

The prototerran actually smiled, and Cho'Nira hesitated, brushing her thick, segmented hairs away from her head. She received a request from an overlord for a Lurker, and she signaled one of her escorts to aid the overlord. She didn't listen to the message too closely, it was from the local overlord, and had implications of "assessing damage/finding buried survivors." She was beginning to get a headache, and it made focusing on the thoughts of the Overlord difficult.

The Prototerran spoke, after the one of her three escorts left.

"Ki'Ana is not currently in Riosan." He informed her. "She brought you personally." He spoke into a comunicating device on his wrist, attatched to the emmiter of his Pulseblade, and almost immediately, the old prototerran she had wished to see stepped out of a small hut behind the Warp Gate.

She wrapped her great-neice in a hug, Her light grey hair bobbing slightly. She had changed out of her Zealot's armor for once, and Cho'Nira wasn't sure how to react to seeing her Great-Aunt in flowing robes. She had been at war for most of her life, and Always, the Terrozerg wore their hides, even after the carapace dropped from looser held places.

"I am glad you recovered." The grey-skinned elder said, smiling widely. "We had feared none would survive."

Cho'Nira grimaced, wincing in pain at the vuagest memory of the event. "We took great losses. Is it confirmed? Is the system in Xar'os'tura?"

Ki'Ana nodded. "You were recovering for nearly a week. In that time, our observatories have confirmed our location. At the least, we are within a foregin galaxy."

Cho'Nira shook her head. "I'm sorry I'm so rude, we should sit down to talk."

In reality, she needed to sit because her head was spinning from the shadow of memory.

The two stepped inside Ki'Ana's temporary living, and Cho'Nira was startled to find that her great-aunt was allowing a section of creep to grow up the wall. It seemed that the old Prototerran was actively encouraging the structure, Cho'Nira could see that it was nearly to the point of deciding how to specialize. Cho'Nira wasn't sure why she was surprised, all of her Aunt's stories of her grandmother had always been affectionate. It was strange for the Terozerg queen to consider the fact that a creature who so closely resembled her mortal enemy...could encourage the creep to develop so close to her.

Cho'Nira spread her mind towards the growing the patch of creep coming through the window, and groaned as a lance of pain shot through her mind. Why did this hurt? She had fully communicated with her commanders only moments before!

Ki'Ana rushed to her side, holding her up as the younger girl's knees buckled.

"you'll be fine." The prototerran whispered, thin lips pursed, "Lie down for a moment."

The Elder set Cho'Nira down on a bed, and the girl welcomed the smell of the mattress.

"How many did we lose total?" The queen asked, praying for her headache to die down."

Ki'Ana grimaced. "Of the forty million we had, we have dwindled to only twenty."

It took Cho'Nira a moment to recognise the significance. She tried to reach out towards the Hive, to get an exact count of their losses...but the pain lanced through her brain again.

She sat up, cradling her head, and Ki'Ana grimaced.

"You are not alone in your agony. Our remaining psions are feeling the effects of the transportation as well. We had three survivors from the ring itself, and all of them are currently incapacitated, though they are recovering."

Cho'Nira hissed through her teeth. A comforting presence drifted from the small patch of creep in the hut, and Cho'Nira placed her hand on it thankfully.

Ki'Ana sighed. "Rebuilding will take months, if not years. Two of our cities were overrun, and demolished. One of our greater Acadamies detonated during the Transport, and most of our losses came from that single event."

Cho'Nira thought back to her discussion with the Hive.

"We have barely enough overlords to communicate." She whispered. "One at each hive, fully half of our hives died-as near as I can tell."

Ki'Ana grimaced. "I wish you smoothe recoveries. Our scouts and carriers are surveying our new home, as soon as we find habitable worlds, we will inform you. "

Cho'Nira nodded appreciatively. "you seem to know us well."

She hesitated, turning to her aunt.

"Ki'Ana?"

The woman turned to her, silvery blue eyes deep, thoughtful.

"Yes?"

Cho'Nira stood. "It's a good sign that I can communicate at all with my people, isn't it? After what we did."

Ki'Ana smiled. "It's more than An'Durion had hoped for when he saved you."

Cho'Nira bowed her head. "Why did he? How did he? We were fully engaged in coercing the Void and Creation to cooperate, where did he find time to sheild me from the release of energies?"

The Prototerran woman shook her head, and shrugged, then left her hut, speaking with the Zealot guarding the warp gate.

Cho'Nira sat in thought for a long time. Then she carefully acsessed her psionic traits, and sent a careful signal to the overlord present at this site.

"Bring me a Shell-Hound. I must see the other Hives myself."

They had survived the Protoss, now she had to lead her people through the aftermath of their escape.

The Merged would rebuild, and they would survive. So long as there weren't worse threats awaiting them.