“See if they want another one of these bear things. I’ve got a little one over here who’s knocked out,” Lilly tells Imogen over the comm.
Imogen turns to Mehsir, the protoss who has been assisting her, and relays the question. “Do you need a juvenile ursadon? There’s an unconscious one in a cave a klick west of here.”
“I guess we can take a look. I can’t guarantee that it will be useful to us. But if the storm has passed, I suppose we can go collect your friend.” That is enough for Imogen. The grunts and growls she heard over the comm suggest that Lilly might be injured. She stops by Saffron to pick up the medical kit while Mehsir fetches a hoversled.
Imogen climbs onto the seat bank at the front vehicle. There are no controls, but it starts moving as soon as she is settled next to Mehsir. She cranes her neck around, checking it out. She does not see any exhaust, so she asks Mehsir if the vehicle runs on vespene. Umoja is really big on clean technologies, and she wonders if the protoss have developed a new kind.
“This? No, this is a simple enough device. I suppose if terrans were trying to make something like it, you would have to use vespene to fuel it, but we don’t need to do that.”
“It’s just electronic?”
“No, it’s psionically powered, like a lot of our technologies. I’m making this sled hover right now. It’s trivial for me to do it because I’m connected to the Khala. I can borrow a little bit of the ability of all the protoss who are currently sleeping,” he says matter-of-factly.
Psionic energy as fuel? What does that even mean? Imogen wonders. “Did you have to go through any sort of traumatic experience to learn how to do that?” Both the UED ghost Neiman and the tal’darim Malorn have told Imogen a bit about psionic training in their respective traditions, and none of it was encouraging. Mehsir simply says he was born into the Khala, and Imogen presses for details. “But how did you learn how to apply your psionic power to driving the car? Is it that someone else knows how to drive a car and you are using their skill?”
Mehsir explains that he himself knows how to drive, but he is borrowing psionic ability to help him. He insists, though, that he could lift the sled on his own. The protoss do have schools, he tells Imogen, or at least they had them before Aiur fell. “We learn this sort of thing in school. It’s a normal thing,” he tells her. “Yes, some people show particular capabilities in certain areas, but this is very basic.”
As he drives and she talks with him about the activity, Imogen tries to skim his surface level thoughts, hoping that she will be able to gain some insight into the actual technique being used. Neiman powered his ghost outfit in some fashion… It seems some technology is attuned to psionics in some way, but Imogen has only had her psi-gauntlet to study in that regard. In Mehsir’s mind, Imogen senses confusion at her own lack of understanding. These topics are all second nature to him, and he pities her for being not connected to the Khala, for being unable to understand how intrinsically good the Khala is. Almost all protoss technology is powered through this psionic link.
“Do your warriors use the Khala to power their psi-gauntlets?” Imogen asks. She powers hers all on her own, and the same must be true of Malorn.
“I’m not of the templar caste,” Mehsir tells her. “I don’t know exactly how those work. But we’re all connected to the Khala all the time. We all constantly borrow each other’s strength, applying it toward whatever task we do. Knowledge of how the templars work is… Well, I’m not of that caste, as I said, so that knowledge is forbidden to me. And frankly, I’ve no interest in it.”
“Forbidden to you? That part of the Khala is blocked off against you?”
Mehsir grows a little frustrated by the inadequacies of spoken language. “I don’t go looking for that knowledge.”
“You’re a scientist! Aren’t you curious?” Imogen asks.
“I’m curious about how ursadons and ultralisks are related,” he replies defensively. Realizing he has said more than he should have, he quickly adds, “Uh, that’s just a personal hobby… a theory I’ve been cooking up… uh… Oh, look! We’re there.”
But Lilly is not. Tracks of footprints and blood lead away from the cave. Just inside the entrance, a passed-out juvenile ursadon is slumped forward with bloody claws, but it is alone. Mehsir mutters to himself that it looks like a good specimen, but Imogen is more concerned about her partner. “Lilly, where are you, lass?” she demands into her comm.