Chapter 2: Birth of the Swarm
Night made his way through the shrubbery that concealed their cave and made his way into the forest. Their cave was located in a mountain on the outer edge of a large forest.
Half of this planet was occupied by a single super-continent. On that continent, three quarters of it was covered by forest. Because of the Hellites, the deep forest was the forbidden zone; no one entered the deep forest and survived to tell about it.
Still, night made his way through the trees. Behind him, he was aware that Dawn was following him, begging him to come back.
He continued on until he came to a large clearing. Acting completely on instinct, he walked to the middle of the clearing and placed his hands onto the grass. He felt a wave of heat leaving his body and flowing into the ground, leaving him cold and exhausted. Inside his head, the Overmind's Bio Energy dropped from a hundred to zero.
As soon as he staggered away from the center of the clearing, a bluish fleshy cocoon sprouted from the ground. Within five minutes, the cocoon swelled up to fifty feet, growing to occupy the entire clearing. He could see through the outer membrane to the churning red liquid inside.
With the appearance of the cocoon, his head cleared considerably and he began to wonder what the hell just happened. He felt Dawn tugging at his shirt.
"What's that, big brother?" she asked, staring wide-eyed at the cocoon.
"I…I'm not sure," he said.
The cocoon looked suspiciously like the incubation state of a Zerg's hatchery, a race in one of Nathan's favorite game series—Starcraft. But that was ludicrous, wasn't it?
Whatever the cocoon was, it was going to take twenty hours for the hatchery to complete. He wasn't sure how he knew that; he simply did.
Not knowing what else to do, Night took Dawn back to the cave. The rest of the day was relatively uneventful. Their mother did not return. Without food, both of them went hungry for the day. The hunger did not bother them; they were used to it.
Civilization on this planet was comprised of a handful of cities and a number of outpost towns occupied by a little less than twenty percents of the human population. The other eighty percents took their chances out in the wild and the chances were never good. Compare to Earth, it was a cruel system but it was born of necessity due to the lack of living space within the protective walls of the limited number of cities and outpost towns.
On this world, power decided a family's status. A family could only live in an outpost town only if it possessed a level three Force User or a level one Magic User. To live in a city, a family group needed a level five Force User or a level three Magic User. The difference between the two combat types was due to their destructive power. A Magic User was more frail than a Force User but with adequate protection from Force Users or placed on the wall of an outpost town or city, their destructive power far exceeded that of their Force Users brethrens.
Night and Dawn's father was a level three Force User. Instead of taking their family to an outpost town, he had instead abandoned his wife and children to seduce a female member of a large clan from a distance city, living their mother to raise their two children in the wild. Dawn was three months old at the time. Afterward, Night had erased most of his memories of his father by sheer force of will.
The next morning, Night awakened to the sound of his sister crying softly.
"Dawn?" he whispered. "What is it?"
The little girl sniffled. "I'm hungry."
Her words cut through him. As used to hunger as they were, a full day without any food was still too much for a four years old girl. He searched his mind for a way and found that there was some new information in his head.
Spawn Larvae (500 per twenty-four hours)
Spawn Creep (radius of three miles)
The hatchery must have finished when he was sleeping.
Beside the information about the hatchery, there was also an update to the information in his mind.
Collective Evolutionary Stage: 1
Overmind's Bio Energy: 10/500
Collective Stored Bio Energy: 5
Requirement to Evolve Collective: 5000 units of bio energy
Much of the information seemed to confirm his suspicion that the hatchery was a Zerg hatchery, though there were a few lines of information that didn't exist within the game. The Overmind's Bio Energy has increased from a maximum of one hundred to five hundreds. He also felt stronger. The hunger remained but he felt as though he could rip a tree out of the ground if he wanted to.
Pushing away his confusion for a later time, Night left the tunnel with his sister, only taking with him a small pouch of hide containing clean water. As soon as they stepped outside, they saw that the ground outside was already covered with a light purple carpet. Night identified it immediately as creep. He knelt down and touched the carpet. It wasn't slimy. It was smooth and spongy, reminding him of the gummy candy of earth.
A thought occurred to him and he tore a handful creep from the ground. The creep around rushed in to filled the hole as though it was water though the texture remained a gummy solid. With a little hesitation, he tasted the creep. There was a gentle sweetness to the gummy mass, and as soon as he swallowed, he felt his hunger abated somewhat. Elated, he tore out another chunk.
"Here, Dawn, eat this," he said, holding it out to his sister.
The four-year-old took the creep and swallowed it without hesitation. Night wondered if it was because she trusted him implicitly or if she was simply too hungry to consider to possible outcome.
After the first mouthful, Dawn's eyes widened. She immediately knelt down and tore chunk after chunk of the creep from the ground and stuffing it into her mouth. She looked at him with a look of joy and satisfaction.
Night hid his grimace. He knew that the creep was not supposed to replace regular food. It was akin to coffee on earth. It gave humans a boost of energy but barely provide any nourishment. He could survive on creep alone but Dawn couldn't; her human digestive system couldn't extract the necessary sustenance from the creep.
He started when the thought appeared. Human digestive system? Then what was he?
He shook the thought away. He would contemplate such thing later. His most immediate concern was that he needed to find some food for Dawn.
"Don't eat too much, Dawn," he said. "Let's go."
The four-year-old stood up and wiped her mouth though she still looked longingly at the creep beneath her feet.
Sighing, Night led his sister to the clearing the day before. Occupying nearly the entire area was his first hatchery. The appearance of the structure was near identical to that in the game: five tunnels leading into a deep red fleshy volcano, with five fang-like protrusion between the entrances of the tunnels. Crawling around the immediate area around the hatchery were dozens of bugs that resembled roly polies.
The minute he saw them, information popped into his head.
Genetics Information Available: Queen, Overlord, Zergling, Drone.
With the new information came the solution to their lack of food problem. Neither of them could hunt for Hellites but the Zerglings could.
He concentrated on Zergling and information popped into his head.
Zergling: Basic ground combat unit. Cost: 1 unit of bio energy.
By now, Night had guessed that he was the Overmind of this specie. According to Starcraft's canon, the Zerg's Overmind was the ultimate authority of the Zerg swarm, the singular consciousness that govern this entire race.
He didn't spend any time contemplating how he became the Overmind of what was supposed to be one of the most destructive races in science-fiction universe. Consuming his thoughts was the desire to survive and take care of his family.
From the information in his head, he had fifteen units of bio energy available to him. Learning from the event of yesterday, he walked forward and placed his hand onto the hatchery. He thought to order the larvae to mutate into Zerglings but before the words left his mouth, he felt a wave of heat leaving his body. Fifteen larvae simultaneously rolled up and morphed into fifteen fleshy cocoons.
He startled and realized that the Zerg Collective did not need vocal order. There was a psychic connection between him and the swarm, and they would response to his every whim.
Starcraft's canon did mention that the Zerg's Overmind possessed tremendous psychic power, powerful enough to span the distance between planetary bodies. Did he develop these powers when he became Overmind?
Seemed there was much he needed to discover about himself.
Half an hour later, the cocoons burst apart and the Luminous' Zerg swarm witnessed the birth of their first group of Zerlings, fifteen deep red dog-like insects the size of golden retrievers with teeth, claws, and a pair of scythe-like limps protruding from their back. As soon as they were born, they converged around Night and his sister. They surrounded the two and prostrated upon the grown, an instinctive act of homage to their Overmind.
"Wha…what are those?" Dawn said, trembling and hiding behind him.
"Zerglings," Night said. "It's alright. They're here to protect us." He could feel their minds. The Zerglings were empty of all thoughts. There was no fear, no confusion, no desire. They were simply waiting for an order from their Overmind.
Night kept five of the Zerglings at the hatchery for protection and ordered the other ten to scout the surrounding area. The ten Zerglings disappeared into the forest with barely a rustle from the bushes.
Though he felt them getting farther and farther away, his telepathic connection with his Zerglings did not weaken. Closing his eyes, Night found that he could see through the eyes of any Zergling he chose.
On a whim, he projected his mind to a Zergling to the north. He wasn't sure how he knew how to do that but it felt as easy as breathing. The primal consciousness of the Zergling retreated without resistance, surrendering control of its body to his mind, and he suddenly was the Zergling, seeing what it saw, hearing and feeling what it heard and felt.
Captivated by his new ability, he wandered aimlessly around the forest in the body of the Zergling. It was strong, fast, and seemingly tireless. After ten minutes, he felt a tug on his mind. A Zergling to the southeast had found a living creature.
His mind jumped from one Zergling to the other. Even though the two creatures were miles apart, the transfer was instantaneous. The scenery before his eyes changed. Through the shrubberies, he could see what looked like a furless, gigantic brown bear with a lion head but without a mane. From its maw, two large fangs extended beyond its chin.
Night recognized the beast. The first thing that children in the wild learned was not reading or writing but how to identify various species of Hellites and the signs that marked their territory.
The beast before his Zergling was a Fanged Behemoth, a level three Hellites. It was a creature strong enough to shatter stones, with a hide so thick that it could turn away a level one Force User's sword. Beside its immense strength and durability, the Fanged Behemoth was famous for its ability to cause earthquake in a small area, knocking any creature in the area off balance, creating an opening for the creature to deliver its killing blow.
Keeping the Zergling hidden, he sent out a telepathic call to the rest of the swarm. Though taking on a level three Hellite was quite dangerous, Night wanted to try. It may be reckless but he felt a measure of confidence. Within the Starcraft Universe, the Zerg swarm was the scourge of the stars, feared even by the super advanced Protoss.
Inside of five minutes, the Zerglings arrived. The Hellite looked up at the rustling sounds of the bushes around it. Night knew that the window of a surprise attack was closing. With no time to reconsider, he sent out an attack order.
The result stunned him.
Nine Zerglings swarmed onto the Hellite within half a heartbeat. The Fanged Behemoth barely had time to react before its head and three of its limps were torn off. The battle was over before Night knew what happened. It was barely five seconds for a level three Hellite to be torn to pieces.
From Nathan's memories of playing Starcraft, he knew that the Zerg was a brutal and vicious race but it was an entirely different thing to see the Zerglings ferocity firsthand. More than that, the entire thing felt surreal. Up until this moment, any Hellite higher than level one was a symbol of fear and a herald of death to his family, but now, he had caused the death of a level three Hellite with a single thought; the different was jarring.
With a last thought to the Zerglings guard their kill, Night mind returned to his body. The first thing he heard was his sister's tearful voice.
"Big brother! Big brother!" She was crying and calling him.
"What?" he said. "What's wrong?"
"You…you just froze...you weren't saying anything…" Dawn stuttered before bursting into tears.
Night startled. Of course if his mind was occupying the body of a Zergling, his body would be left without a governing consciousness.
He knelt down and pulled his little sister into his chest. "It's ok, little sister. I'm sorry."
"I was so scared." Dawn wept. "You just stop moving. Momma hadn't come back yet. I don't want to be alone. Please don't leave me alone."
Listening to the crying four-year-old, he wanted to smack himself. He was so consumed with playing with his new power that he'd completely forgotten his sister.
"I'm so sorry," he said, clutching her closer. When Dawn's crying faded to sniffled, he let her go and held in front of him. "You want to hear a secret?"
It took a moment for the little girl to nod.
Smiling, Night sent a command to one of the Zerglings guarding them. The creature got up on its hind legs and tried to dance. Within two seconds it toppled over and fell onto its back. It got the desire effect however. A giggle burst out of Dawn.
"I can control all of these creatures," Night said. "I can also see and hear everything they do. As long as one of them is with you, I am always by your side."
Dawn sniffled once more before hugging him, slightly clinging to his neck.
When she finally let him go, he stood up and offered her a reassuring smile. "Come on, let's go have breakfast."
With a five-Zerglings guard, they made their way into the forest. They had little trouble making their way toward the site of the Fanged Behemoth's demise. Dawn stared in wonder at the enormous body of the Hellite. Up until now, their mother had only brought them smaller Hellites for food. It was the first time the four-year-old had ever seen such a big Hellite.
Night ordered one of the Zerglings to tear out a chunk of meat from the Hellite. He started a fire and began to roast the meat. Their meal was relatively uneventful saved for the separated arrival of a level two Hellite and three level one Hellites who were drawn to the scent of blood. Their uninvited visitors were quickly torn to pieces by the Zergling swarm.
As they ate, Night sent out ten Zerglings to search the forest for his mother. She had been gone for a day now. It wasn't unprecedented but it was very rare. He was worried. In the past, whenever she was absent for this length of time, she always came back injured.