A word describing a moment when thoughts coalesce. When your mind connects the dots. When you finally understand what the universe is so desperately trying to tell you.
Centuries ago, there was a Protoss who would one day be known as Khas. He was the first in an aeon who looked beyond the petty rivalries that tore his people apart. Along with his student Temlaa, he left his tribe to discover the mysteries of the universe. Together, they found a cave full of Khaydarin crystals and used them to rediscover the psychic link now known as the Khala. In time, they shared what they had learned, bringing an end to the Aeon of Strife and changing the Protoss people forever.
Lassara, scientist of the Furinax tribe, had always wondered what it would feel like to know something that significant. To have an understanding that she needed to share with anyone willing to listen. Now, riding in the Void Seeker, she wished she never knew. Knowledge can be a double-edged sword and Lassara came to the realization that no one would want to hear what she had to say, no matter how important.
The Protoss once believed a great many things. For one, they had grown to believe that their people were invincible. While there were many who saw that as hubris, most had simply taken it as truth. After all, why wouldn't they? The Protoss ruled the stars. They were smarter, wiser, stronger, and more advanced than any race they had encountered. They had no enemies, baring the evil Dark Templar that had been obliterated by Adun's hand. The Judicators would guide their nation, the Templar would protect the people, and the Khalai would build cities, ships, and works of art that made their people second only to the gods themselves. The Protoss empire had no weaknesses or failings. Change was unnecessary, because the teachings of Khas was infallible and eternal.
And then the Zerg came to Aiur.
The monstrous Swarm came without warning. No declaration of war, no statement of intent. In days, they swatted aside the homeworld's defenses and set foot on a planet that had never before been invaded by an alien army. The Judicators sat back and debated while the people died by the millions. The Templar fought heroically, but couldn't stem the tide. The great cities, ships, and works of art, symbols of the millennia of Protoss civilization, were reduced to ashes within weeks. Then, when it looked like the Protoss race had met its end, the Dark Templar came and saved them all. They instructed Tassadar in their ways, showing him how to destroy the Zerg Overmind once and for all. When Aiur was beyond saving, they allowed the Khalai to seek refuge on Shakuras. The same people that the Protoss had once tried to destroy ended up saving their species from oblivion.
For the first time in her life, Lassara's faith had truly been shaken to the core. The Protoss weren't invincible. The old ways weren't perfect. The teachings of Khas, or at least the current interpretation of them, had to be reassessed. When she tried to share her newfound understanding, Tabrenus, the leader of the Furinax tribe, sent her to lead a 'critical scientific expedition to recover lost technology'. Lassara was excited at first, until she realized where he was sending her to: Kaldir, a moon with a climate so cold and hostile that nothing, not even Protoss technology, could survive for long. Like a good member of the Khalai caste, though, she followed her orders in spite of their futility. She and her team worked there for what must have been years finding nothing but ice, ruins, and eventually, Zerg.
The templar dispatched to deal with the infestation claimed that they would have the entire planet clean within weeks. All Lassara had to do is get her people to stay inside and activate the psionic dampener they brought with them so the Zerg wouldn't find them. Everything would be fine, they said, and the scientists believed them.
And then the templar were butchered to the last, their ships destroyed, and Lassara's team discovered when one of those damnable infested Terrans ran into the wall of her dwelling.
The corrupted human, Cain as he called himself, promptly force-marched her entire team to the nearest Zerg hive so they could meet Sarah Kerrigan, the dreaded Queen of Blades. A being whose very name had become synonymous to evil in the minds of the Protoss. Most of her team was terrified, but for reasons she barely understood, Lassara could only feel anger. Anger at the Zerg, for obvious reasons. Anger at the templar for failing to protect them. Most of all, however, her anger was directed at Tabrenus. He must have known that her mission was a waste of time. There was nothing they could possibly hope to recover on this forsaken ball of ice. Lassara couldn't help but wonder if her leader had sent her here, beyond the range of the Khala, just to stop her from stirring up trouble. She relieved her frustrations by verbally lashing out at the infested Terran, who simply laughed it all away, making her even angrier.
She should have been afraid, but for some reason, she wasn't. Imminent death tends to do that to people. Why worry about your predicament when there was no hope to survive anyway? The Queen of Blades wasn't known for being honorable to her prisoners.
Imagine Lassara's surprise when the Queen of Blades not only spared her, but ordered the Zerg to take care of her and her crew, much to Cain's displeasure. The queen had promised the Protoss that they wouldn't be harmed, and actually kept her word. The Swarm's ruler even allowed her to walk around their hives, with supervision, of course, showed her that there was something worse in the universe than the Swarm, and eventually allowed her to return to Protoss space unscathed. It seemed so…out of character. The Queen of Blades was supposed to be evil. Her very existence and the threat she represented was one of the few things keeping the fractured Protoss tribes united. And now, suddenly, she wasn't a threat anymore. She had changed, physically and mentally. At least, so it seemed to Lassara, who knew that if it weren't for the fact that the former Terran was surrounded by Zerg, she wouldn't have been able to tell the queen apart from another human anyway.
Lassara wanted to believe it was all some sort of trap. In fact, she did believe it was all some sort of trap, right up until the point that she found herself on a Terran ship and saw Kerrigan, James Raynor, and Zeratul standing in the same room, not trying to kill each other. The sheer impossibility nearly broke her mind.
She desperately wanted to believe that Kerrigan was still the enemy. Life would be so much easier if it was. Try as she might, though, she couldn't. Not after what she had seen. She was a scientist, first and foremost, and the evidence speaking in Kerrigan's favor was overwhelming. Worst of all, however, was the thought that there probably wouldn't a single Protoss alive who'd be willing to believe her. They'd rather rip the location of the Swarm's stronghold from her mind and throw their fleets at it in an attempt to destroy the Zerg and lose the only protection they have against the real enemy when the Zerg ripped their ships apart.
Lassara needed to talk about it with someone, anyone, before it drove her totally mad. Seeking out the one person on the ship with the wisdom and experience to understand her, she found herself on the Void Seeker's bridge, looking at ancient Dark Templar guiding the ship in solitude.
"You have left your quarters." Zeratul said, coldly. Then again, those not of the Khala always sounded like that. The prelate hadn't spoken to her or any of her team since they came on board. It didn't surprise her much, all things considered.
"I have. Do you wish me to return?" Lassara replied. When the Dark Templar didn't answer, she continued: "You do not trust me."
"I dare not." The reply was quick, calm, and yet, surprisingly revealing.
"You think I am under her thrall."
"A being wiser and more powerful than either of us had fallen victim to her schemes. Corrupting you would be child's play for an entity of her power." It wasn't an admonishment. It was simple fact. Several years ago, the Queen of Blades managed to enslave the Dark Templar's matriarch to her will. If someone like that could fall, anyone could. "Whatever that creature calls herself, she is still more than powerful enough to control you."
In Lassara's mind, however, something didn't add up. "I question my thoughts. I question my identity. I do not know if I have fallen under her sway. Yet, that doubt seems to be evidence that my mind is still my own. If I were truly under her control, would I be able to question it?"
"Perhaps. Perhaps the queen is more cunning than you give her credit for." Zeratul answered in the same unnervingly cold tone.
"She spared my life, and that of my people. She has only attacked those who struck her first. Moreover, she allowed us to walk freely amongst her hives, to study her defenses."
"Yes, she allowed you to gather information, but you must ask yourself if that information is truly of any use to the Protoss."
Lassara sighed in frustration. Why was he making this so difficult? "I know where their throne world is and that a frontal assault will be suicide. I know what weapons they wield and that they can eradicate the Golden Armada should we ever choose to attack. That knowledge may save thousands of lives."
"And ensure that the more cautious elements of our people will never support an invasion, guaranteeing Kerrigan's survival in the short term. She is a canny one, Lassara. Never forget that."
The scientist lowered her head. She realized that anything she said could easily be interpreted as yet another trick.
Zeratul looked at her, curiously. "Tell me, why are you arguing on her behalf? Considering all that she has done, why would you want to be her advocate?"
"Because the Zerg claimed that the Queen of Blades is dead."
"Which probably is…"
"…another trick, I know." Lassara interrupted, exasperated. "But what if it isn't? What if the Queen of Blades us truly dead and we are trying to punish someone who is as much a victim as the rest of us?"
"Even then, it would be for the best if she answered for her crimes."
"And what does that say of us? We have always seen ourselves as the stewards of the younger races. We took up this mantle because we believe ourselves to be wiser than the others. How can we still make that claim if we condemn an innocent to death in the name of petty revenge?" Zeratul looked at her inquisitively as she said the words. In that moment, she knew she that every part of her mind was being studied. Part of her wanted him to stop, but she knew that that would make her seem even more suspect. Lassara knew that he didn't trust her, but she also knew that if there was anyone who could convince the Protoss that the Zerg had to be left alone for the moment, it would be him.
"Yes," the prelate finally said "perhaps you can convince them."
Lassara blinked in confusion. "I do not understand."
Zeratul nodded, understanding her bewilderment. "Contrary to what you believe, I am not your enemy. Indeed, I am part of the reason Kerrigan still draws breath. You need not fear me, but the Hierarchy may not be so understanding as I am."
The scientist understood. It was relieving to know that at least someone seemed to believe her. "You have more reason to hate her than most. Why did you spare her?"
"Whatever our leaders may say, the Swarm is not the greatest threat of our existence. While I do not believe that the Zerg can ever be trusted, I know that the Protoss must find a way to fight alongside them and their queen if we are to survive the coming darkness."
Recognition dawned on her face. "The hybrids…Kerrigan has captured one for study on her travels. She showed me that…thing and claimed it was not her creation." Lassara remembered the hybrid. She remembered the pure, unmitigated evil that seemed to reek from it. Yes, there were worse things in the universe than the Zerg. She had seen them with her own eyes.
"Indeed. They are our true enemy and are laying waste to the Terran worlds as we speak. There are hundreds of them and they have enthralled a massive host to do their bidding. This is why I need Kerrigan alive. Without her, the Swarm will completely fallen under hybrid control and we would stand alone against the innumerable hordes."
It sounded similar to what Kerrigan had been trying to tell her in spite of her best efforts to ignore anything the queen had to say. "Then the Zerg were telling the truth all along."
"In part, at least. Now, it will be up to us to enlighten the others before they do something we will all regret."
"Yes. Us. I cannot persuade an entire civilization by myself." The Nerazim admitted. "While it is a dangerous leap of faith, considering your experience, I must ask you to assist me, Lassara of the Furinax tribe."
Zeratul asked her for her help. Lassara could scarcely believe it. What could she possibly do that the prelate of the Dark Templar and one of the greatest war-heroes the Protoss had ever known couldn't do himself? She chastised herself for the thought. The Protoss were at war, whether they realized it or not. However little she could do, she would be damned if she sat on the sidelines. "I will."
"Very well then. Let us begin…"
A/N Ladies and Gentlemen, my loyal audience, IT'S SEQUEL TIME!
As a note of warning: this story is a direct continuation of Her Body's Plaything. If you haven't read that, stop right now and read that first. This story won't make any sense if you don't.
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