The view is of a jungle world, but there are not enough details for Imogen to recognize it as Aiur. She is inside a factory. A protoss with full-length nerve cords and a slighter build like Karax’s picks up the newly completed gauntlet. He glances around briefly, furtively. With no one in view, he ignites the gauntlet. The blade springs forth, and then he hastily turns it off. It was blue, which strikes Imogen as odd—the blade is red nowadays.
Time passes; Imogen has no way of knowing how much. The gauntlet is now worn by a protoss warrior of some kind, presumably of Aiur, given the length of his nerve cords. A massive battle rages around this warrior. The foes are all protoss, but their blades are red in contrast to his own blue one. The wielder of the psi-gauntlet is cut down, and the device transmits the pain of the past brutality all the way to Imogen in the present.
A crowd surrounds two protoss in the center of a fighting ring. No one here has the long nerve cords of Aiur protoss. Imogen recognizes one of them. He is shorter and less wrinkly; this must be adolescent Malorn, though who knows what age that corresponds to. Neither of the combatants has a psi-gauntlet; they fight with a mix of holds, throws, kicks, and punches. Malorn lays into his opponent. The other protoss tries to yield and faces a wave of derision from the audience. There is no yielding. Someone hands the psi-gauntlet to Malorn. He ignites it and slays the weaker protoss.
What comes next is a flurry of scenes during which the blade becomes more and more red. Every single creature this psi-gauntlet has killed flashes before Imogen’s mental eye, though not necessarily in chronological order. Countless zerg, protoss, terrans. Even a few wild animals, including an ursadon. Malorn has no need to hunt for food and does not do so for sport; these are just dangers he encountered through his long life. She gets a brief glimpse of Lendasha, adjacent to some other kill, telling Malorn to move on, get lost. The high templar from the Rose mine, the one who was intoxicated with terrazine—he was killed by Malorn, not by the terran guards there. From the surroundings, that killing does not even seem to have happened on Brontes IV, but rather after the breakout. Imogen sees Malorn’s opponents on Jackson’s Revenge. And Malorn fights his way through a mess of tal’darim, following his sentencing for the crime of being captured by terrans. Almost all the killings are part of some larger battle; there are no grisly murders in the dark or planned assassinations. Nor is the blade used for any casual violence.
Malorn’s and Imogen’s hands are both on his psi-gauntlet as all of these images flash before her eyes. Malorn experiences a similar rush of memories, though the ones he sees are brought on by the proximity of the subdermal Umojan identity chip on the inside of Imogen’s wrist.
The 3D printer spits out another unit, and the medical worker carries the chip through the hospital to one of the patient rooms. Inside, two white-skinned terran adults with blond hair wait. One of them is holding a squirming toddler, while the other has a newborn bundle. With a quick procedure and a little bit of crying, the ident-chip is embedded.
The scene changes. The smaller bedroom in the modest Umojan apartment holds both a crib and a cradle. Right from the start of her life, Imogen forms a strong bond with her older brother, one on a deeper level than just emotions. The link between them is psionically augmented, and the ident-chip is witness to it all.
Terran youth are noisy, disgusting creatures. After being subjected to that for a while, the next scenes of interest Malorn sees are those of Imogen and Aiden sneaking around, getting into trouble. Imogen mostly serves as a lookout. She and Aiden get into scrape after scrape together. Although their parents try to live an upright life, the children sense that something is being hidden from them. Eventually, their persistence pays off. A terran referred to as Uncle Leo catches them trying to break into a warehouse. Imogen insists that there must be more than doors behind its door, and Aiden rails at her for having told him that the coast was clear. Uncle Leo takes it all in stride and slowly inducts them into the family business, though this remains a secret from their parents.
Over time, Imogen becomes aware that she can sense some things that other people cannot—including Aiden. She tries to discreetly research the matter, but in a society where one straight-up asks computers to do searches, this is quite difficult. From what little she can discern, elsewhere in the sector simply expressing interest in this matter is dangerous. But the only information she can find points to those very places. In the Dominion, at least there is some knowledge of psionics, though it is likely all controlled by the government. With the threat of the impending blockade, Imogen makes the difficult decision to leave Umoja immediately, before travel is shut down.
Imogen and Aiden exchange a tearful goodbye as she tells him there are opportunities for her in the Dominion that are not available on Umoja. She says she will write when she can and advises him not to get into too much trouble on his own. Aiden assures her he will be all right, but Malorn knows how that turns out. Imogen grabs a few posters off her wall and a backpack of clothes. She catches the last ship out before the blockade.
The ship arrives at some minor Dominion planet, and the customs agent asks to see her visa. Lacking one, she enrolls in the Imperial Work Visa Program. After a lengthy and boring series of irrelevant training courses, she begins her work with FRAWD. This takes her to Brontes IV, and her first encounter with actual users of psionics, the protoss imprisoned there.