Let the Galaxy Burn

"Never let them see you bleed."

It had been words uttered by his father nearly three decades ago. Back when he'd been a child, and had been affected by the words of his lessers. Back when his father had still been alive and capable of speech, a trait that few decapitated heads possessed to his knowledge. Course, Angus Mengsk's head had never been found, so for all he knew, his father had been revived and was speaking somewhere within the Confederacy, but he wasn't counting on it.

So, yes, Angus Mengsk was as dead as his daughter, his wife, and the millions of others the Confederacy had taken the lives of when they subjected Korhal to a bombardment of 1000 Apocalypse-class nuclear missiles. Now, standing on the bridge of the Hyperion, a cigar in one hand and a bottle of klava wine in the other, Arcturus Mengsk looked out into the stars that comprised Confederate space. Wondering how many stars he could see if he took the time to count. If his tally could match the souls the Confederacy had reaped.

"General Mengsk?"

He looked around to see Kerrigan standing behind him.

"Yes, Lieutenant?"

"Your contact is here to see you."

"Good. Send him in."

She tried to look impassive, but she wasn't managing. It was clear that something about the contact who'd offered his services bothered Kerrigan, but Mengsk didn't care. He didn't need his XO's judgement of character, and he didn't care if she was bothered by him. People like Sarah Kerrigan were living weapons. Right now, she was a weapon for him. A very useful weapon, one that had taken the lives of his family when acting as a weapon of the Confederacy, but for now, still useful. So she walked out, and he turned to face his contact. The one who'd claimed to be impressed by his stint on Tarsonis, and wanted to offer his services.

"Mister Mengsk," the man said, extending a hand.

"General Mengsk," the head of the Sons of Korhal said, nonetheless taking the contact's palm and shaking it firmly, having put the wine to one side, and extinguished the cigar. "And you would be Mister Morden?"

"Yes," he said, smiling.

For a moment, Mengsk was put off by the smile – no-one should possess teeth that white, or smile so widely. But only for a moment. "Never let them see you bleed." He wouldn't forget that.

"You'll forgive me if I don't offer you anything," Mengsk said.

"I understand."

"Do you?" Mengsk smirked. "Well, quite likely. You understand that it's why we're in neutral territory, that it's why the warp engines are warmed up, and I'm sceptical as to your offer of aid in my rebellion."

"I would have thought you'd have wanted any aid you can take," Mister Morden said. He took a seat in the captain's chair. "After all, that was a former Confederate Ghost that I saw earlier?"

Mengsk nodded.

"The same one who killed your family?"

Mengsk stared at him. How did he…Well, fine, he could play this game. And he'd start by asking not the most pressing question, and not the most pertinent. But a reasonable question nonetheless.

"Who are you?" he asked.

For a moment, Morden's smile wavered. His eyes flashed, as he whispered, "never ask that question."

"If you won't tell me-"

"What I will tell you, is that my associates are willing to help you in your little crusade," Morden said. Mengsk frowned – he didn't like the word "little" there, but there was truth to it. The Sons of Korhal were an army, but a small one. Barely more than a pirate group.

"Fine," Mengsk said. "I can use help. But what are your terms?"

"None," Morden said, that damn smile returning. "Carte blanche, as long as you answer my own question correctly."

"Which is?"

"Simple – what do you want?"

Mengsk stared at him. He then stared at the stars as he walked over to the plasteel that separate the bridge from the vacuum of space. This had to be a trick. It had to be – no-one would hedge support on such a simple question as that, and how he answered it. All he had to do was buy time, and work out what this Mr Morden was really after.

"Well?" Morden asked.

Mengsk looked at him. "Is this a joke?"

"A test," Morden said, still smiling, still standing straight with his hands behind his back. "What do you want?"

"What do I want?" Mengsk repeated. "I…" He sighed – fine, he'd play. "Alright. What I want is revenge. I want to topple the Confederacy. I want everyone who played a role in my family dead. I want the Old Families gone. I want Tarsonis laid low, its cities in ruins, its people broken."

"And then?" Morden asked.

Mengsk shrugged. "Rule, I suppose."

"You suppose?"

"Yes, rule," he said. "I…" He looked at Morden. He looked back at him. He felt…something. Something without. Something within. "Yes, rule. Rule over an empire, or rule over nothing. Rule an Eden, or rule the ashes."

Morden nodded. "I believe my associates can help you with this."

Mengsk smirked. "You'll provide support."

"Oh yes, plenty. You've sold me on your…vision," Morden said, smirking. "I believe my associates will find it quite palatable."

"And why's that?" Mengsk asked.

Morden shrugged. "The Confederacy is stagnant. The sector is stagnant, humanity is stagnant. If the Confederacy falls, and the swamp it created is drained…well, it might give us a little…push, in the right direction." He bowed slightly. "We'll be in contact soon."

"I'm sure you will," Mengsk murmured. He pressed a button on a console, and the door hissed open. A pair of marines walked in. "These men will escort you to your ship."

Morden smiled. "I appreciate the concern."

The men left, leaving Mengsk alone, with only the stars for company. Stars cold and distant, as he himself felt. Morden had brought a chill into the room with him. And seeing Kerrigan enter, de-cloaking…that feeling didn't leave.

"I don't trust him," she said.

"Noted, Lieutenant."

She looked at him. "Arcturus, have you thought this through?"

"Perfectly," he said. He looked at her. Evaluating her. Wondering, for a moment, if he was wrong to spare her. "That will be all, Sarah."

"Sir," she murmured.

She disappeared, and his gaze returned to the stars. The stars of Confederate space. Of his enemy.

It could all burn as far as he cared.