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A short story by

Valerie Watrous

Darsiris shuddered as the creature advanced, its numerous crimson eyes seeming to center on him through the ship's viewscreen. With a massive groan, the hull began to crack, and all of the zerg rushed toward the opening. They were so close, he could count the teeth between their viciously curved fangs. He felt the ship shake as the damaged sector became depressurized for a few seconds before automatically sealing the breach. Zoraya concentrated on the progress monitor as she counted seconds, half-seconds....


The ship winked into darkness.

* * * * *

Darsiris suppressed his initial disgust as he opened his eyes to see a dark templar's severed nerve cords immediately before him. The cranial appendages allowed the protoss to enter the Khala, but only when they were intact. He knew that the dark templar had chosen to truncate them, but it was still jarring to see the mutilation up close. He would rather lose his life than the link to his people.

He realized that he and the rest of the crew must have fallen in the confusion. Zoraya had scarcely waited for the ship to seal itself before she had warped it away from the zerg. Relaxing, he began to examine her more leisurely. Aside from the cords, her dark features were symmetrical and marked with intelligence. Even beauty.

Wincing, she regained consciousness. Her large opalescent eyes opened to meet his.

"Are you alright?" he asked.

Her brow furrowed, and she seemed confused by his consideration. "I am."

Darsiris tilted his head gently in a protoss gesture of kindness. He saw that Aldrion and Telbrus were uninjured across the bridge.

"What are the damages, Zoraya?" Aldrion inquired, rising to his feet gingerly.

"Part of the hull has been destroyed.... Many of the ship's non-essential systems are not functioning or are working at reduced capacity.... I was able to isolate the compromised portion of the hull, but I do not know how effective it will be, given the damage to the surrounding areas...." She paused to read the ship's latest updates on the control panel in front of her. "The shattered crystals seem to be causing the scanners to fail."

"Can we reach our objective?" Aldrion leaned against one of the banisters that divided the command center from Zoraya's seat at the navigation console below.

"With a few adjustments. It may not be the smoothest ride, but I think it will suffice."

"If only we had a proper ship from Aiur," Telbrus lamented before Aldrion silenced him with a warning look.

"Let us proceed." Aldrion turned back to Zoraya. "Telbrus and I will check the damaged area to ensure that it is properly sealed. Darsiris, keep an eye out for any unusual activity along our course." He quit the room silently, his movement marked by the peculiar elegance native to the protoss.

* * * * *

"You did very well," Darsiris said to the dark templar pilot after Aldrion and Telbrus left. "Do not be concerned about Telbrus; his situation is complicated." Darsiris had seen the Aurigan before in one of the rehabilitation wards on Shakuras. They had not been formally introduced at that time, but Darsiris couldn't help but feel sympathetic toward another injured refugee of Aiur—especially a fellow warrior.

"Indeed," she said stonily.

"None of our ships could have done better in that situation... and certainly none of our pilots."

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