Lilly sets Saffron down at the starport in the ruined militia base. Imogen checks over the life support system to make sure it can handle all the living beings they will soon be taking into space. Arudin’s coordinates are less than a day away, so that should be fine, even if he and Lilly manage to wrangle a bengalaas on board as well. She imagines they would have to cram it in her room, since Lilly’s is already occupied by Snowball. The zerg larva probably does not really need air, and neither does Arudin, for that matter. She is pretty sure that protoss just need sunlight, so hopefully he will be fine with whatever spectrum is coming off Saffron’s interior lighting. With three adult terrans and a lyote in for the whole ride to Korhal, though, she needs to do something. Imogen sets about overdriving the air scrubbers.
Lilly takes Arudin off to look for the bengalaas. The creature seemed to like her last time, either because of lyote scent or meat sticks. She brings a treat along, hoping it will lure him out. Lilly leads Arudin over toward the barracks, and they spend a while tracking the bengalaas from there. They see him briefly, but he is too fast for them to catch up with. The meat stick attracts other wildlife, though, namely Sunshine. “Did you have a good time, girl?” Lilly asks, giving her the treat. The lyote looks like she might have gotten caught in a thicket, but a good brush should clear her coat out. She seems very happy, though. Being cooped up in the ship too much just is not good for her, Lilly knows. It is not really good for anyone.
Lilly and Arudin spend a couple enjoyable hours out in the field together. While they have not exactly fought side by side, going on a hunt is similar to battle. Just a glimpse of the bengalaas has done some good. The experience seems to bring back memories of Aiur for the protoss, and Lilly is glad to see his mood improve.
Arudin distrusts most terrans, particularly those who shot him down on Antiga. However, he recognizes Lilly as an outsider and extends some trust to her. Of course, he is completely unaware that she was on-planet during that whole debacle. From the spotty memories she has, she is pretty sure she was on the rebel side, so she doubts that she would have shot down any protoss ships.
“Are you familiar with that weapon that you were expertly leveling at me earlier?” he asks her as they are heading back to Saffron.
“I mean, I’ve practiced with it a bit,” Lilly tells him. It is not like she could just walk into a shooting range with it. “You can only shoot it so many times before it needs to recover,” she adds.
“It is a powerful tool, but one most templar eschew. Psi-gauntlets are the trusted weapon of our caste. Take care of it well. There are those of my caste who would see you dead just for holding it, but I trust you as a warrior.”
“Cool! I like you too, man,” Lilly replies, slapping him companionably on the back. “You’re all right. I don’t go advertising that I have it, though.”
“That is wise. I’m sure your own government would take far too great an interest in it, given what they did with the psi-emitter that they created. Very, very foolish. Most protoss know enough not to meddle in things they should not. And if they do, well, the Khala finds out immediately… except me…” His mood drops again with this reflection. It’s like a rollercoaster with this guy, Lilly thinks, surprised at how quickly he has grown depressed. They are approaching the ship at this point, so she hopes Imogen will be able to cheer him some.
Imogen has spent the afternoon making adjustments to life support and reinforcing the section of hull that bore the brunt of the recent scourge explosion. She is packing up her tools when Lilly returns with Arudin and Sunshine but no bengalaas. Noting his glum disposition, Imogen asks the protoss whether he needs to recover anything from his own ship or campsite before leaving the planet. He tells her has already salvaged everything he can from his wrecked scout. He lived in caves within the zerg-infested area, and there is nothing of value there now that the psi-emitter is destroyed. With that all out of the way, Imogen asks eagerly, “Did you want to spar at all?” It would be great to get the perspective of someone other than Malorn on the psi-gauntlet.
“What?!” Arudin looks the terran smith up and down. “It would not be honorable for me to spar with you. It would not be appropriate. Cut off from the Khala though I may be, I am still of the templar caste.”
“Well, do you have any pointers or advice you could offer on how to use one of those?” Imogen points at the psi-gauntlet on his forearm.
Arudin wonders why she is asking about battle tactics, but he humors her. “The psi-gauntlet is a powerful weapon when wielded correctly. When wielded incorrectly… If you were facing a young templar, they would probably rush at you and attempt to stab, but in fact even though the blade—” He ignites his to demonstrate. “—looks like flame or energy, it is solid.” He taps it against the side of her toolkit. “It can parry things. Very often, though, when we are locked in brutal combat, we go on the offensive when we can. In close combat with a zerg? Stab, slash. Normally I would have a second, but my other psi-gauntlet has given out. Lack of maintenance,” he sighs. “I had to cannibalize it to keep this one repaired. But two psi-gauntlets!” He holds up his other arm, as if there were a beam of solid psionic energy extending from the wrist. “That is four times as powerful as one, I would say. One can attack in quick succession.” He mimes doing so. “I believe this is what you terrans call a left-right.” The fiery look of the psi-blades is mainly an intimidation tactic. He also advises her that when facing a protoss foe, the energy shield is something to be on the lookout for. He triggers his own, which has had ample time to recover from the EMP. Most weapons can wear it down over time, but the shield does not take long to regenerate. A templar who is forced to retreat (a rare occurrence, Arudin insists) can soon thereafter re-emerge from cover fully-protected again and jump right back into the fray.
It is clear to Imogen that Arudin has a ritualistic attachment to his weapon. On the one hand, it seems like it would make more sense to equip all protoss warriors with frying pan lasers. However, psi-blades can tear into things. The personal shields make a big difference, too. The templars can afford to run straight up to their enemies since they have that protection. And it probably looks pretty intimidating, having a tall protoss charging at you with glowing blades.
Continuing his tactics lecture, Arudin points out his footwear. “These are augmented boots. I can run faster than most other zealots—that is my rank in the templar caste, templars being those who carry these weapons—I can run incredibly fast in these. Faster even than any of your terran ground vehicles, certainly. On the battlefield, you might think you have time before I reach you, but with these, I will be upon you before you can imagine it. Had I not been running on creep, I may have cut you down before you had a chance to get through all your words.”
“So, is the intimidation part of this all just shouting and weapons in the face, or do you actually project fear also?” Imogen asks. “Is it all funneled through the equipment?”
Lilly has been listening to the conversation with interest up to this point, soaking in the information on tactics and appreciating the cool gear, but this fear stuff? Her time would be better spent getting the ship ready for departure. “C’mon, girl,” she calls to Sunshine, and the lyote follows her aboard Saffron.
“Not just your equipment. Your equipment and your fellow warriors. You flow through each other when you are one in the Khala. True templar do not project fear onto our enemies, we strike fear into our enemies through our strength of arms. They may feel fear, but we do not inflict it upon them. That would be dishonorable. But if someone feels fear because I am strong, well, there’s nothing I can do about that.”
Imogen holds back a snicker. Arudin is just as proud as Malorn. From what he is saying, though, it sounds like the templar do not do any kind of psionic attack in conjunction with their fencing. Their weapons are powered by their psionics, but that is as far as it goes. Arudin clarifies that high templar, on the other hand, do directly attack an enemy’s mind.
“Let me try to explain this in the way a terran would understand… Imagine if you got shocked by electricity, but all that electricity is in your head. So it would be real, physical pain that would occur. A high templar is so attuned that they can launch that kind of attack.”
“And this is different from a templar actually throwing lightning bolts around?” Imogen asks. “I’ve seen that happen, I have.” The protoss who was high on terrazine back at the Rose mine on Brontes IV was definitely doing that.
“That is the advanced version. An advanced templar can cause entire psionic storms. That, however, tears apart every living creature within its range. It cannot distinguish between friend and foe. There are some templar who prefer targeted attacks, but most prefer to simply unleash psionic storms against our enemies. They do so carefully, but remember, we have our shields. We can survive psionic storms for a short while, then retreat to allow our shields to recharge. Our enemies do not recharge, but we continue. The zerg regenerate, it is true, but not nearly as quickly as our shields do.” He gives a satisfied nod, and continues in a completely level and non-threatening tone, “So, hope that you do not have to face protoss, but know that if the day comes, I will do battle with you on the field of glory.”
On that somewhat reassuring note, they head into Saffron and leave Antiga far behind.