As the group heads through the wintry weather toward one of the crystalline structures, Axion falls in beside Lilly and leans down to say, “We still need to finish our bout. We can’t end on a tie; that’s not honorable.”
“Yeah!” Lilly says, grinning widely. “It’s good to see you, Axion!”
“Have you fought many great battles since last we met?” he asks.
“I did a little bengalaas wrestling,” Lilly tells him. It is a noble pastime, according to Axion. When a warrior comes of age on Aiur, they are sent out on a hunt. Nominally, they are alone, but of course the Khala is always with them. Some among the more foolhardy choose to hunt the bengalaas. Axion tells her he hunted the kakaru. “Oh, the bird-thing?” Lilly asks.
“It is like a bird,” Axion grants. “A bird the size of an ursadon.”
Now Lilly’s interest is fully piqued. She saw herself how large the kakaru is and wonders how he took it down. Axion describes the combination of warrior speed, strength, and cunning that he used, leaping off a cliff down into its nest to catch it unawares. Lilly pumps him for details, and he supplies them. After wrestling with the kakaru a while, they ended up rolling down the cliffside together. He secured it and showed it to his tribe, then returned the creature to its nest. That surprises Lilly, as she had expected them to feast upon it. Axion’s response to that is one of disgust, and she remembers then that protoss mostly just absorb light for food.
The group enters the warm facility, and Axion straightens back up to resume his guard duties. “When you are ready, we shall finish our duel,” he tells her.
“I don’t have the sticks anymore,” Lilly says apologetically. Those were Sunshine’s. “We’ll have to find something else.” Axion assures her he will look into what might be a suitable weapon. He thinks for a moment and then asks her how she feels about axes. Lilly shrugs. “Never tried it, but yeah!”
“Very well. I shall procure some.”
Meanwhile, Imogen has been at the front of the group, talking with Selendis. She asks after Arudin, and the protoss leader glances sideways at her before carefully choosing a response. “Arudin is being cared for, trying out something new. He is not your concern. If he wants to contact you, we will arrange it.” Imogen lets that topic drop there, simply relieved that from the sounds of it they did not euthanize the disfigured warrior. She wonders if he has become one of those dragoon robots that Malorn mentioned.
They enter a conference room, and a couple guards step into position outside the door. Selendis takes a seat and invites her guests to do so as well. Then, with no preamble, she asks, “Have you ever worked with Commander James Raynor?”
Imogen hesitates to answer, not sure of whether a positive response will be taken well. It is hard to read Selendis; she does not have a nose or a mouth, and her glowing eyes lack pupil or iris. Taking her cue from the environment then—they are not in an interrogation cell this time—she answers in the affirmative. “We’ve delivered a few things to him.”
“He’s an impressive military commander, though sometimes I question his choices,” Selendis says.
Imogen is wondering what this has to do with her and Lilly. “Are you looking to pair up with him, or have you already done so?”
“No, I am not. Not under current circumstances. He is unwilling to do what must be done sometimes.”
“So… why are you bringing him up?” Imogen asks, then quickly adds, “We’re not going to do any actions against him.”
“I would not ask you to do so. He is an honorable man; he does not deserve to have any actions taken against him. I was just curious how else his work affected others.”
Selendis seems annoyed with Raynor but still respects him. Imogen just cannot figure out what she is driving at. “If you’re not planning things against him and you’re not working with him… Are you just bringing him up because you’re curious? I might be able to answer some more questions about him if you answer some questions for me,” she offers. Selendis certainly knows tons of things Imogen wants to know. If she can use her own small knowledge about the Raiders to gain access to some of that, it is a trade worth making. She and Lilly have never formally signed up with Raynor’s crew, so they do not owe him anything.
Selendis tilts her head slightly, agreeing to a fair exchange of information. She wants to know if Raynor is planning to interfere any further with the fleet movements she is undertaking to contain zerg. “I can’t necessarily say yes or no to that,” Imogen admits. “But I do know that lately they’ve been taking jobs to collect pieces of a xel’naga artifact. Any combat engagements they had that I’m aware of were adjacent to that. They were gathering multiple pieces, and it was a job for someone, though I don’t know who. It sounded to me like they were not in a position to intentionally go off fighting zerg.”
At the mention of the xel’naga artifact, Selendis leans in, and now there is no doubting the surprise and intense curiosity of her body language. “Tell me everything about this artifact that you know,” she says. It is not a question.
Imogen suddenly feels much better about her bargaining position. “I’m happy to discuss that at length with you, but…” Imogen shoots a surreptitious glance over at Lilly, who is so bored with all the talking that she is examining the paint on the walls. “I’ve run up against a few walls in my recent travels that weren’t just the Khala. I’d like to talk with you about what more I can do about that.” Blight may have outed her psionic capabilities in front of her partner, but Imogen is still not comfortable talking directly about them in front of Lilly. She has seen no indications from Lilly that she understands the situation completely, so she is reluctant to parade it about.
When last the terrans were here, Imogen Owendoher refused to discuss psionic matters in front of her partner. Selendis takes the cue now and provides the necessary space they need to be frank with each other. Straightening up, she says, “I think this may get to be a more involved discussion. Lillian Washington, I believe one of my warriors, Axion, wished to spar with you further. If you do not wish to sit through these tedious negotiations, you may be free to do that.”
It sounds to Lilly like Selendis wants to have a private conversation with Imogen. There was some bad blood between those two before, so Lilly looks to her partner. Imogen seems comfortable, not worried. That is all the confirmation Lilly needs. “Yes, ma’am,” she says, and she is out the door in a flash.