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A short story by

Valerie Watrous

Perhaps it was the levelness of Aldrion's thoughts, or his easy resignation, but Telbrus could not remain silent. "Maybe you are not entering the code properly. There must be some error!"

"The preservers do not make errors."

"But you do. Selendis sent you here to make a decision, not to abandon the mission at the first opportunity!"

"No one is abandoning anything," Darsiris interrupted, his eyes flashing. "We can contact the executor and receive her counsel. Surely she will have a solution."

"I already have a solution," Telbrus said, brandishing his psi blade fiercely. "We break down the door and get the colossus by force." He was ready to begin his assault when Aldrion dashed forward and laid a restraining hand on his arm.

"Such an act would be immeasurably foolish! Do you not realize how closely guarded this structure is? Even with half of its defenses destroyed, we could all die in an instant from your recklessness!"

"Better than dying from the zerg because of your indecision."

"There are more consequences to my decision than you are willing to see," Aldrion returned darkly. "The colossus can kill more than just zerg. It is not a wise weapon to bring to a troubled people."

"What are we to do then, when the zerg come? Rely on the weaponry of our allies?" Telbrus sneered, glaring at Zoraya, who returned his gaze with undisguised contempt. "The dark templar lost Aiur for us, Aldrion. They watched it burn and did nothing!"

"Ignorant wretch! You would defile the sacrifices of Tassadar and Adun?" Aldrion demanded.

"Nearly everyone I knew died on Aiur," Telbrus replied slowly, and fragments of his memories filtered through the mental link as he became too agitated to repress them. "They tore me from them.... My family..."

The kindly elders of the Auriga, their heads tilted in amusement as they watched the young ones play... a companion's arms wrapped warmly around him in the replenishing afternoon sun... a hopeful novice who loved to hear legends of heroic templar...

"... my friends..."

A sparring partner whose favorite move was a swift overhand jab... a quiet classmate who studied late into the night... a stern teacher and his first recognition of Telbrus's skill in battle...

"... lost...."

The zerg covered their homes like a rushing tide. Longing, straining to save them, but someone held him back.

A dark templar.

Then more of the shadowy warriors came, pulling him away from the ones who needed him most. Empty words filled his head.... Evacuation.... You cannot save them.... Too late.... Retreat to the warp gate.... But the war was already over. He was already dead.

Stunned, Darsiris turned to Zoraya, hoping to offer her some reassurance. But the pilot didn't notice him; all of her energy was focused on a wide crystalline band around her wrist that had illuminated with a warning violet glow. He recognized it as a communicator that was linked with the ship's sensors.

"Commander," Zoraya said haltingly, "I have detected dozens of zerg signals in our proximity. It is not clear how they identified our position—"

"Is there a colony near this system?" Darsiris asked.

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