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A short story by

Hugh Todd

The bridge of the Purity of Form shuddered.

"Shields holding!" called out the damage-control officer, his psionic voice projected for all to hear.

"Request air cover from Command," Feranon ordered. The bridge crew had been instructed to speak in a public form of telepathic address so as to accommodate both khalai and Nerazim. As commander of one of the protoss' newest ships, Feranon had a duty to make sure that the recently integrated groups worked well together despite their differences. In these dark times, those who followed the Khala and those who rejected it would need each other if they were to survive.

Feranon himself thought that the reintegration would bring strength to all protoss. This attitude, and his stellar record as a leader, might have been why the Hierarchy had given him command of the Purity of Form. He was proud of his posting and would prove to his superiors that they had made the right decision.

From his perch in the commander's chair, he admired the bridge, larger than any to which he had previously been assigned. Protoss worked at rows of terminals, monitoring the mechanisms that caused the void ray to be one of the mightiest ships his race had ever created. These terminals radiated out in concentric circles from his chair, giving him a clear view of all personnel. Filling the air close to his seat were semitransparent holographic screens, affording him summaries of the various stations' output.

The bridge was not just efficient, but it was beautiful as well, reflecting the aesthetics of the whole ship. Feranon was impressed with the remarkable abilities of the protoss who had designed it. The Purity of Form was graceful for such a deadly weapon. Of course, this ship's conception would not have been possible without the close teamwork of khalai and Nerazim. Together they had achieved a pinnacle of both science and art. Astonishing!

"Air cover arriving," reported a communications officer. Feranon could feel the crew member's satisfaction through the Khala. It would have been more economical for all of the bridge crew to be khalai, as they would have instantly known the feelings and thoughts of the others without the need to form words. However, just as the ship had been designed by the two groups working together, so would it be crewed. The Purity of Form would be stronger for the amalgamation.

Feranon watched on a floating screen as phoenixes ripped through the flock of zerg mutalisks that had been harassing the void ray.

"Excellent. Continue to our attack point with all haste."

Without the zerg forces to hinder it, the Purity of Form quickly arrived at its assigned location.

"Commander, target within range."

Feranon studied a screen showing a line of ultralisks lumbering down a stark hillside. Data detailing everything from their disposition to the very composition of their skin streamed around the zerg outlined in front of him.

"Bring the prismatic beam online. Deploy one flux field projector," commanded Feranon. Crew members moved to comply. The Purity of Form vibrated with the energies funneling through its frame.

"Fire on the ultralisks as soon as the weapon is online."

The vibration intensified until it attained a pure tone. The bridge was bathed in the blue light of the energies that arced to the main crystal. From this crystal, positioned at the mouth of the void ray, the prismatic beam leapt to the figures below.

On-screen, Feranon observed an ultralisk staggering as the beam slammed into it, but remarkably, the zerg continued on, unhurt.

"Commander, their armor is too dense. The prismatic beam will not be able to break through it."

Feranon reviewed the data but didn't contradict the technician's conclusion.

He swiveled his chair, turning to the area behind his command post. There, at the back of the bridge, lay a couch. Heavy cables spread out from the head of the bench, and behind it, beyond thick transparent walls, the prismatic core glowed like a living cauldron of power. Lying on the couch was a young dark templar. An ancient protoss stood at the side of the recumbent figure. Feranon inspected the teacher for a moment.

Theromos was the oldest protoss he had ever known. His dress did not match that of the younger Nerazim Feranon had met. Even the stylized designs on the clamps that capped his shortened psionic appendages were distinctly archaic. When Feranon had first learned about the assignment, he had asked other Nerazim about Theromos. Every one of them had told the commander of the great respect that they held for their previous mentor. Many had remarked how his teachings had changed their lives.

Feranon turned his attention to the young Nerazim. The commander spoke softly. "Althai, we need to bring a second flux field projector online."

Before the reclining protoss could answer, the telepathic voice of the elder at his side rang out. "My pupil is not ready. He does not have the discipline to handle a second projector."

Feranon focused on the older protoss. "I understand that students usually have more time to learn how to manipulate the void ray's power, but we are in a difficult situation. There are enough ultralisks down there to rout our ground forces. We were commanded to eliminate them, but a single projector cannot break through their armor."

Theromos fairly growled his frustration. "Your second projector may give you what you need to destroy the zerg, but you run the risk of killing your crewman."

Althai interrupted before Feranon could respond. "Commander, activate the second projector. I will try to keep it under control."

Even though the dark templar were not a part of the Khala, Feranon could sense the trepidation in the words of the young Nerazim.

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