“What is it you wish to learn?” Selendis asks Imogen Owendoher. “We will have our exchange. We will deal fairly, unlike zerg, a lesson that I hope you take to heart.”
The recent discussion of the talisman Raynor was looking at has stoked Imogen’s curiosity about whether objects can actually be imbued with some sort of psionic echo. She asks whether objects have any sort of memory that psionics can tap into to extract information. Selendis tilts her head, mulling over her response, but this time it is not to carefully pick her words but to give an academic topic due consideration. This transition of subject matter seems to have calmed her down.
“It is not that objects have memory; objects are inert. It is creatures, such as yourself even—psions who leave an imprint. You leave evidence of where you have been, what you have touched.”
“Is this related to vespene or terrazine in any way?” Imogen asks, recalling their earlier discussion of how it pervades everything in the sector, psions more than others.
Selendis admits that she does not know the underlying chemical mechanics of it exactly. That is outside her area of study. But she can show Imogen how to focus and to know a little better what to look for, so that she can detect if a powerful psionic individual has interacted with an object.
“Does that mean psychometry is only useful if a psion touched something?” Imogen asks.
“Many living creatures, to one extent or another, have certain limited capabilities,” Selendis says. That makes sense to Imgoen. Some people think they are just intuitive, while others experience déjà vu. Both could be explained by psionic proclivities. “If you were trying to track a ghost, though, that would be much easier than some generic terran. And tracking a protoss would be easier, too,” Selendis elaborates.
With it put that way, Imogen now realizes she must have been psionically littering all over the place. When she asks about how to stop doing so, Selendis’s answer reflects her protoss upbringing. “One does not hide their capabilities.”
Imogen barks out a laugh. “When bad folks are after you, one does!” It is far less safe for a terran to be psionic than for a protoss to be so.
“No. As protoss, we turn and fight or when we must retreat, we retreat. If you seek that kind of capability, I suggest you ask your friend Zeratul. That is not among the schools of thought of our high templar. It is the dark templar who seek to pass without trace.”
Ah, Aiur protoss are warriors, not ninjas, Imogen recasts the explanation to herself. Selendis gestures to the door, and Imogen joins her. They head to the training room, though it is the armory part of it, not the sparring ring, to which Selendis leads Imogen. Axion and Lilly are still there, relaxing on the side with a couple beers. “I already have one of those,” Imogen says, when Selendis stops at a rack of psi-gauntlets.
“You have one from someone,” Selendis says, initially a little scornful because of how Imogen acquired hers. But the scientist in Selendis comes out, and she interrupts herself. “Actually, yes, that will be an interesting experiment…” They work together a while, with Selendis guiding Imogen on what to look for when psionically examining an object. Imogen has done similar things before with people’s minds; this is the same sort of thing, though echoes are more concentrated in people than in materials.
Imogen excitedly shares that during one of her initial attempts to activate the psi-blade, she saw Aiur as it was when the original protoss owner was wielding the weapon in battle. Selendis’s response is grim, as the loss of Aiur was the darkest point in her people’s history. Selendis looks over Imogen’s gauntlet. “Yes, this was from a templar who was defending Aiur, but perhaps his time has passed,” she allows, handing the weapon back to Imogen.
Selendis continues her explanations. The mind is simply the most concentrated place for sensing psionic traces. Just as people leave fingerprints physically behind on objects, they also leave psionic imprints. These concepts make sense to Imogen, and she fits them into the larger picture she has been amassing from all who have deigned to share information with her: Malorn, Neiman, even zerg. The threads are starting to come together into a unified theory.
With Imogen satisfied, Selendis turns to the other terran across the room. “Lillian Washington, is there anything else you desire before you go?”
Lilly was paying the new arrivals no mind, since they were just looking at psi-gauntlets and quietly talking in the corner. Now she snaps to attention, though she has no idea what her partner may have worked out. She looks to Imogen, who frames the question more concretely. “Do you want credits? Or ship parts? Or repairs?”
“Sorry, I cannot release the Aiur blade,” Axion says apologetically.
Lilly laughs at what she perceives to be a joke. “Might cut off my arm next time,” she teases back. Although this would be a great place to get more work done on Sweetpea, they ultimately settle on an upgrade to Saffron as the higher priority. Selendis is disdainful of the terran practice of installing hardware in science vessels that is blocked from use by software. “We figured out the music,” Lilly comments.
“Music is a very important way for people to focus,” Selendis acknowledges seriously. Her base does not have the materials to soup up Saffron’s reactors, but her scientists can unlock the personal defensive matrix. Selendis has fought both with and against terrans who have used such things. In her opinion, it is not so different from protoss shielding technology, though generally inferior, of course, and much more physical.
Imogen has questions about how effective it is against protoss, particularly the vespene resonance attack that Selendis used on her during the last visit. Selendis dismisses that as of little concern. She admits that very few protoss have the capability—or even the desire—to cause resonance at the level required to disrupt Saffron’s reactor.
A personal defense matrix sounds cool to Lilly. She has seen them used in combat before. They are some sort of particle swarm that science vessels can assign to personnel on the ground. It cannot operate on the ship itself, as that is a much larger scale than a mere marine. It is most effective against targeted attacks like bullets, spines, or lasers, reducing them to mere scratches, but because of its particulate nature, it does little to impede area effects like baneling explosions.
“Favored is the marine who receives the blessing of the defensive matrix,” Selendis comments, during their discussion. “Although, they become a target.”
“Well, sometimes that’s a marine’s job,” Imogen says pragmatically.
“Indeed,” Selendis agrees.
Lilly just nods. The shield paints the person who gets it pretty bright, but they can still dish out shots from within, so it is not entirely a bad thing if they draw the enemy’s attention.
Protoss scientists spend a few hours working inside Saffron to enable the capability, grumbling about the irritating terran interface. During that time, Imogen and Lilly hash out with Selendis what future work they can perform for her. Last time they were here, she said she wanted some technology recovered from the tal’darim, who continuously raid her people, but she had not chosen a target. Their Death Fleet, which Selendis admits is quite powerful, is still roaming around the sector, but she suspects it will be heading back toward their space in the near future. They have not yet worked out a good place to hit it, particularly because the tal’darim would be able to detect Selendis’s protoss fleet.
“So let me ask an entirely hypothetical question…” Imogen says. “If, say, we were to find ourselves in the company of some tal’darim that we were taking action against for some completely unrelated reason, is there any particular type of thing we should keep our eyes out for that you would want recovered?” Imogen imagines being able to satisfy Malorn’s revenge, Selendis’s pride, and Li June’s curiosity all in one job.
“They already have psi-gauntlets, they already have personal shields. Recovering those is immaterial. Though certainly, if they have another weapon like your laser rifle, that does not belong to them,” Selendis says. However, what she wants most of all is to keep the dragoon capability out of play for the tal’darim. They have stolen a shell, which is certainly far too big for Lilly and Imogen to recover in their small science vessel. But more important to Selendis is the return of the far more reasonably-sized crystal control matrix. The rest of it is robotics that the tal’darim probably already understand. The crystal, though, is what allows the essence of the fallen warrior from the Khala to guide the robotic assault vehicle. “We do not want the tal’darim to gain this capability,” Selendis reiterates. “We want that when their warriors are dead, they stay dead.” She promises to send word when her people have location information for the terrans to strike against the Death Fleet.
That is agreeable to Lost & Found. Anything else portable that they find they can sell to Li, not that they tell the protoss fleet commander that. Selendis does express interest in recovery of stolen protoss vehicles, though she doubts the terrans could fly them. Lilly shrugs, and Imogen, thinking of the hoversled, starts, “I mean, I’ve never tried, but—”
“I do not recommend it,” Selendis cuts her off.