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A short story by

Valerie Watrous

Zoraya glanced up at him in surprise. The zealot was young, and she supposed that his time on Shakuras had altered some of the traditional prejudices. "Thank you. Sometimes I worry that reunification has only widened the gap between our two peoples."

"But here we are—a mixed crew—on a vital mission. Maybe change is upon us."

"Yet I am the only dark templar."

Darsiris shifted uncomfortably. "The executor is not overly fond of your people. But she will learn in time."

"Like Telbrus?" Zoraya remarked unhappily.

"The executor appointed Aldrion to lead this mission. He has fought beside the dark templar with dignity and honor in many missions."

"He is one of few."

"Maybe that is why she wants him to decide whether or not we will reactivate the colossi, starting with this one," Darsiris said. "Though in his heart, I think Aldrion would rather leave them all at rest."

"Perhaps his wish will be granted. Any number of disasters could have occurred since the Kalath Intercession."

"That is true, of course," Darsiris replied, privately amused that his pilot companion would think of such technicalities. "The craftsmanship of our people was unequalled even then, but time favors the unexpected."

"The colossi's destructive power was enough that they were sealed away for centuries, and yet they may not even be operational now."

"You feel our mission is in vain?"

"No. My people have always loved Aiur. We share the devastation of the refugees on Shakuras. A weapon that can help us fight the zerg must be investigated, no matter how dangerous or uncertain it is." She lowered her head gently and met Darsiris's gaze. Her strange appearance had made him uncomfortable at first, but conversing with her was proving to be deeply interesting. "Besides, there is a certain excitement in uncovering a weapon after hundreds of years."

Darsiris was pleased with her answer. "Who knows what the Conclave would think if they saw us here, desperate enough to reactivate what they forbade?" He stared up into the ship's oval viewscreen, brilliant with the light of distant galaxies. It reminded him of an old childhood dream that the stars themselves were an ancient code, cut into the dark parchment of the sky by the creators and then gradually forgotten over time....

* * * * *

"I do not think Executor Selendis could have found anyone who would worry about this more than you do," Telbrus said, staring at his commander. The ship's corridors were littered with debris, requiring the two warriors to walk single file. Aldrion was quick to take the lead.

"I think that is precisely why she found me," Aldrion replied. The ship's ongoing journey seemed to be aggravating some of the damage on the vessel, and the ceiling rumbled in periodic despair. When he focused on the noise, he felt sure that it was getting louder.... "Wait, Telbrus—"

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