Once Lillian Washington has left the conference room, Selendis looks back at Imogen Owendoher. “I must know everything that you know about this artifact. Any kind of xel’naga technology is incredibly dangerous.”
“They were collecting pieces of it and only had some so far when I was there,” Imogen tells her.
“What is the nature of the artifact? What does it do?” Selendis is insistent. “Surely it is not just a museum curiosity to them.”
“I don’t know how much they know about what it does…”
“Well how much do you know?”
Imogen tells Selendis that the artifact, even in its incomplete state, gave her a flash to Char. Selendis’s eyes grow brighter upon hearing this. “I saw the Queen of Blades, and she looked maybe a bit more like her old self—I never met her when she was just Kerrigan. But she saw me, and she looked at me. That knocked me out.”
Selendis slaps a four-digit hand down on the table. “That does not bode well.”
“They were collecting pieces of that, and I think there was something else going on that might have been related to it. You might not like to hear it, but there was a nerazim involved,” Imogen adds. In a carefully controlled tone, Selendis asks who. “His name was Zeratul. He had some sort of artifact himself, which he gave to Raynor. It was supposed to provide some sort of clarity about paths ahead, like some sort of divination tool.” Selendis makes a low noise, like a cross between a growl and a sigh. Imogen keeps going. “It held Raynor entranced. We were there on the deck, doing distracting things. Horner was yelling at us; Sunshine was loose and running around. And Raynor just stood there staring at the thing in his hand the whole time like nothing was going on around him.”
Selendis stands up and paces a bit. “Zeratul is revered among all of the protoss of Aiur, all of the nerazim. He is a hero of the previous war. But he… also…” She is clearly choosing her words carefully. “He exists outside any proper authority and takes matters into his own hands perhaps more often than he should.”
“So, like Raynor then,” Imogen observes.
“After a fashion, yes. They do share some similarities. It has gotten him in trouble on at least one occasion and—” She pauses for a moment, deciding how much to share. “On occasion, other protoss have paid the price for his recklessness.”
“Do you have a sense of what these things might be, then?” Imogen asks.
Selendis sighs. “Only a very limited sense. The ways of the nerazim are, quite literally, foreign to us. We are technically allies; we are sharing a homeworld right now. But it is, at times, an uneasy alliance.” Imogen asks some questions, trying to nail down the relationships between the different protoss factions, and Selendis explains that the nerazim were exiled from Aiur before the Khala formed. “They rejected the way of the Khala. But as our homeworld has been taken over, we have taken refuge on their world.” Getting back to the matter at hand, Selendis tells Imogen that even among his own people, Zeratul is considered a renegade. “However, since he is a war hero, I will take no action to oppose him,” Selendis concludes.
“Well, he seemed to be fine with whatever Raynor’s plans were,” Imogen tells her. “He gave him some sort of divination thing, after all. Is that really a thing? Divination?”
“Zeratul and other dark templar purport to possess powers not commonly seen among other protoss. Their ways are entirely different from ours, but we’re taking advantage of what opportunities we now have to better understand them. Few are the protoss who can both embrace the Khala and understand the nerazim.”
“So, have you done any studying into how the zerg psionic network works?” Imogen asks.
Selendis is a little surprised by this change in topic and looks quizzically at the terran for a moment. Then she nods. “Yes, we’ve done some research.”
Imogen muddles her way through explaining what she understands so far. “One of my protoss associates said that the Khala is kind of like everybody’s all there, but with the zerg, it’s more like a hierarchy kind of thing. When I try to interact with your people, I am confronted with a wall. With the zerg, it’s more like I’m getting a door slammed in my face.”
“I’m actually surprised you can even find the door,” Selendis says, but it is not the usual protoss put-down of terran abilities. “Not that you are too weak to do so. We have been unable to even communicate with zerg on the same psionic level. They are somehow completely orthogonal to how the Khala connects us.”
Imogen shrugs. “I don’t know, but maybe it’s related to Kerrigan. She’s certainly injected some terranness into them. Maybe that’s what makes it a little easier for me.”
“Perhaps a terran stubbornness,” Selendis says sourly.
“And the zerg incorporate infested terrans into their own ranks. Do they not do the same with protoss? Do you not have infested protoss?” Imogen asks. Selendis insists protoss and zerg DNA are completely incompatible, so such things do not happen. They have done studies in this area, and for protoss it is more a matter of infection than infestation. Such exposure kills protoss, without any chance of the conversion that can happen to terrans. Selendis explains that this is the only outcome, despite what Zeratul claims he has seen. Imogen raises her eyebrows at that, but Selendis drops the matter there.
Imogen sees no reason not to share what she has experienced of zerg psionically. “I’ve listened in on a broodmother’s thoughts,” she says. Protoss can belittle her all they want, but she is capable, and clearly this is something she can do that they cannot. But I need to learn so that I can do it better!
“Really? What kind of thoughts does one of these queens have?” Selendis asks. “We have often wondered how truly sapient they are.”
“They are definitely sapient, the broodmothers,” Imogen insists. “She was angry, and not in an animal way. She was concerned about her people. They were being used in terran experiments, and she wanted them back where they belonged.”
“So these creatures can feel a sense for revenge,” Selendis says, downplaying their cognitive and emotional depths.
Imogen shakes her head. “I would also say for fair play. We made a deal with her, and she stuck to it.”
Selendis pounds on the table, looking down at Imogen. “You made a deal with a zerg?” Her eyes remain blue, but their intensity grows. “Are you mad? Do you know what the zerg do to worlds?”
“Aye, this deal was made on Chau Sara. That whole planet was destroyed. But I make deals with zerg when I have to. You can.”
“You are all the more foolish for it,” Selendis says wearily, sagging back into her seat. “Let me tell you a simple story…” She gets more worked up as she goes on, leaning forward as she relates how a great protoss warrior named Fenix made a deal with the Queen of Blades before she was in charge of all the zerg. The plan was for them to work together to destroy the forces from Earth that were wreaking havoc in the sector. There was some proto-Overmind forming that the UED had control of and were using to enslave whole zerg broods. “That is one way to work with zerg,” Selendis says grimly. “Terran ingenuity, you might call it. But as for Fenix, he worked with the Queen of Blades back before she acquired so much power. For a time, it seemed to go well. They kicked out the UED and retook Korhal. And then, at the very moment of victory, she betrayed them all. She went out of her way to slaughter not only Fenix, but other terrans as well. Those of the Dominion, like General Duke. I believe he was a hero among your people. And that is why you do not make deals with zerg.”
“Was Fenix or your people involved in anything that led up to her becoming the Queen of Blades?” Imogen asks. “‘Cause certainly some of the terrans were, and she seems to hold quite a grudge.” It may not excuse Kerrigan’s behavior, but it does explain it.
“We were at Tarsonis to destroy the zerg when a terran force intercepted us,” Selendis tells her. “We believe there was a powerful terran ghost among that group. She was able to force us back but could not save herself from the zerg. Was that Sarah Kerrigan? Maybe.” That description certainly sounds like Kerrigan to Imogen. “But we were trying to save her own people!” Selendis says, harking back to the UED war. “And what kind of thanks did we get?”
“Just like there’s not just one type of protoss, there’s not just one type of terran,” Imogen admonishes the protoss fleet commander. “You protoss fight amongst yourselves, and we terrans fight among ourselves. It’s the same among all life forms.”
“Are you satisfied with your payment?” Selendis asks in a huff.
“No, I’m not. Because you haven’t taught me anything,” Imogen snaps back.