The protoss in the xenobiology lab have the most friendly demeanor she has encountered today, so Imogen decides to broach the subject of Arudin here. If the khalai do not know what happened to him, maybe Axion does, even though Arudin was not really fit to continue military service. “When we were here recently, Selendis said Arudin was doing better. Have any of you all seen him? Do you know how he’s doing?”
Her audience recognizes the name. One of the scientists shares that Selendis and the doctors all saw to Arudin, but unfortunately, there is no way to reconnect him to the Khala. “But apparently, and mind you, this is just a rumor… A nerazim ship came to visit. We think he left on it. Scuttlebutt says he’s joining their ranks.”
“And Aiur protoss are okay with that?” Imogen asks.
That question is met with hemming and hawing. “We are trying to be a united group,” the other vet shares. “Our ways are very different, though, so we maintain a certain amount of separation. They welcomed us to Shakuras, their capital world—what they might consider their homeworld. They were kind enough to take us in as refugees there after the fall of Aiur. Even though some zerg followed us there, we were together able to cleanse the planet of the foul infestation.”
Imogen raises an eyebrow at that choice of words. “Not the same sort of cleansing as Mar Sara?”
“No. We did not have the Golden Armada,” he replies sulkily. “We’re just now starting to come back out into the sector. Anyway, we owe them a great debt. There was a lot of bad blood between our people, but we’re starting to come around.”
Axion adds, “Yes, our great hero Tassadar helped bridge the gap between our two peoples. He was able to channel the power of both Aiur and the nerazim, and he used that to defeat the Overmind.”
This is news to the terrans in the room. They are of course aware that the Overmind was defeated, but they have never heard any specifics. “I thought Kerrigan had something to do with that,” Lilly says.
“Ah, the Queen of Blades. She was a slave of the Overmind at the time, I believe.” Axion grows reflective then, continuing, “Maybe she still is an agent of the Overmind in some sense.”
“Oh, so it was you guys who killed the Overmind then.”
“It was Tassadar, truly,” Axion tells Lilly. “Many protoss from Aiur helped clear the way, yes, but he gave up his own life to destroy the Overmind. He channeled both the energies of the dark templar and of the high templar. Almost no protoss can master both.”
“What are these energies?” Imogen asks. She has never heard anyone talk about psionics this way before. Protoss have their approach, terrans have theirs, and the zerg do something related, yes, but no one has ever mentioned drawing from different pools. Axion’s answer does not clear anything up. It is filled with exactly the sort of mysticism that Karax accused templars of espousing. Imogen concludes that he has a limited understanding of his own capabilities and probably even less understanding of other protoss abilities. She realizes that she really lucked out having her initial conversations on this topic with Malorn and Selendis.
Turning to the scientist who spoke earlier, Imogen says, “Now, you said Arudin was cut off from the Khala and that couldn’t be reestablished—”
“Yes. Very sad.”
“But protoss didn’t always have these long nerve cords, and you didn’t always have the Khala. So…” These things were established once in the past. Why can they not be established again? she wonders.
“There was a dark time in our history, it’s true, back before the Khala.”
“But where did these things come from?” Imogen presses.
“We adapted them into our physiology.”
“You mean you genetically altered yourselves?”
“If you want to think about it that way, yes,” the khalai responds noncommittally. “Without the Khala, we are destructive. Barbaric. Take a look at the tal’darim. That is what we might be.”
There are so many questions swirling in Imogen’s head. How did they create the nerve cords? Were they some separate organism, a symbiote? Was grafting involved? She tries broaching the topic, but now even the scientist grows mystic in his response. “This was all created by the greatest among us, Adun. He saved us from the Aeon of Strife. He created the Khala. He created the templar and the khalai. He, in a sense, created what we see here.” The researcher makes an expansive gesture.
Imogen is left unsatisfied. Was Adun a real protoss figure? Or is this just their founding mythology? It is not clear at all. She has herself seen pre-Khala protoss in a vision, but she has no sense of the time-scale involved. They are speaking of the Khala as though it were something invented, but at the same time, it is a psionic phenomenon. Imogen herself can only skirt its edge, and Arudin is cut off from it without his nerve cords. That suggests the tendrils are some form of psionic organ. Where is the line between science and mysticism here? Imogen wonders. And how does that fit with what terran psions are capable of?
Lilly rolls her shoulders as the pain relief from the shot finally kicks in. “All right, let’s fight!” she declares. Axion is eager to get at it as well, and the history lesson ends there.
In the sparring room, the Aiur blades come out again. Lilly performs impressively—she does not even stab herself in the back this time. For his part, Axion is quick on his feet, perhaps too quick. Whatever new technique he is using in his charge, be it psionic or just equipment-based, he has not yet gotten used to it enough to fully capitalize on it. It is a good, solid fight, but ultimately, Lilly bests him. On the ground, with Lilly’s weapon in his face, Axion is forced to yield. “If I’m going to lose to a terran, I’d like to lose to you, Lilly Washington,” he tells her.
Lilly laughs as she helps him to his feet. “Thanks for sparring with me!” They compliment each other’s moves, and Lilly observes, “You’ve gotten faster!”
Axion acknowledges that the bout was a good opportunity to test his new augmentations in a field situation. In his opinion, they work better with psi-gauntlets. The Aiur blade is a weapon for strength, not finesse. He sets the pair of them back on the wall racks. Even though she is the victor, Lilly is not allowed to retain one. She does not mind; it was just fun to try it out again.
Their business on Browder complete, Lilly and Imogen board Saffron. Next stop, Korhal and Ten Tines Prison, a simple reconnaissance job for Jim Raynor and for the Queen of Blades.