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A short story by

Cameron Dayton

The second and third beacons had been set without incident and without zerg interference. The enemy had not been able to predict Teredal's pattern.

Yet. After three points, they see only a triangle. The fourth will reveal the pattern, making the fifth and sixth beacon locations more predictable.

Teredal leapt over the boulder that sat astride his path, landing in a roll that maintained his momentum, and then was up and running again. Now three beacons remained attached to his belt, and less weight meant that he could afford more speed and more agile maneuvers to avoid going around obstacles. He had gone from morning until midday with only two quick stops: setting the second and third beacons. After the first beacon, the western point of the circle, he had hit the northwestern and then had run south to the southwestern point. This next stretch would be the longest straight shot, between the southwestern beacon and the northeastern—a distance equal to the entire diameter of the circle. If Teredal could keep this pace, he would reach the fourth location by sunset.

Teredal had learned to trigger the beacons and then follow the prime number countdown as he ran, stopping to put up his defenses for a few seconds to avoid the worst of the blast. He regretted having to interrupt his pace but, after being knocked off his feet by the first psionic klaxon, considered the risk of injury during a fall to be worse than a slight delay.

The zealot ran as sunlight poured clean and undiminished through the thin atmosphere of Saalok. The warmth on his skin brought renewal, beams from Aiur's solar star, which had nurtured his kind for aeons. The protoss were creatures of sunlight, creatures who had used their cleverness and speed to hunt across the great plains and jungles of Aiur long before language and civilization ever began. To run under this clear summer light, this was what it meant to be protoss.

There had been no zerg encounters yet, although Teredal kept to the cover of dunes and boulders whenever it wouldn't pull him too far from his path. Once he thought he saw an overlord floating in the distance, but he stayed low until it was out of sight. Teredal had noticed with some assurance that the creature seemed to be moving in the direction of his last beacon.

As the sun began to set over his right shoulder, Teredal sensed an intangible bond stretching across time to his ancestors. His mission was clear, his death certain, and the zealot felt a strange peace that syncopated his steady footfalls. He bowed his head as he ran and traced a circle on his chest.

According to Teredal's calculations, the location for setting the fourth beacon was up ahead. He slowed his pace as he drew near.

This is where the three points become four, where the triangle begins to take the form of a circle. Every step from this place will be shadowed by death.

The sun had almost disappeared behind the chalky ridge at his side. Teredal stretched his arms in the fading light, bade farewell to the golden orb his people had worshiped in a forgotten age. The remainder of the run would take place in darkness, with none of the rich, warm sustenance that had kept Teredal fueled throughout the day. Already his chest ached, and the zealot's wounded arm trembled as he knelt and set the beacon in the sand. Teredal tried to put his concerns aside. There was no time to rest. At dawn, the fleet would be here. He triggered the beacon and then ran into the growing shadow.

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