Artanis stood on the balcony of the Protoss Hierarchy temple that over looked the new Protoss capital of Shakuras. For four years, the Protoss had worked tirelessly to rebuild their civilization even after the devastation that came upon them. With the fleet shattered by the Queen of Blades at the end of the brood war, they stayed mostly unnoticed by the Terrans and the Zerg as they rebuilt their fleets and improved their technology.
The integration of the Kahlai and Nerazim wasn't seamless even after the Brood War. The vast majority of the Khalai where able to set aside the dissolved Conclave's prejudice of the "Dark Ones" since their first arrival to Shakuras. Others took their time mixing in with the Dark Templar while a few were very reluctant to work with each other. The members of the Ara Tribe, lead by Nahaan, were amongst the most reluctant due to their strong beliefs and ties to the Conclave.
Having formed the new hierarchy, Artanis had his work cut out for him as the newly appointed Hierarch. It was odd being the leader of the Protoss while being the age of 266 human years. In the old Conclave, most Templar and Executers were usually 200 at the least and reached usually to 400 years. The older ones that spanned to 700 years and beyond had the higher roles of Judicators. But because of his heroic actions and display of leadership working with both the Dark templar and the Khalai Protoss, he was the best candidate for this new role regardless of his age.
Standing beside Artanis was Mohandar, the Hierarchy member who represented the Dark Templar. Originally, Zeratul was to be the new leader of the Protoss people but because of the grief and guilt that came over him when he had to kill Razagal to free her from the Queen of Blades' influence, he sent himself into self exile. With Zeratul leaving Shakuras, Mohandar was to take the role of the leader of the Dark Templar and the new Hierarchy. But with Artanis's experience serving under Tassadar, Zeratul, Fenix and James Raynor, Mohandar stood down and gave the position to Artanis.
"Do you believe in what the new leader of the Terrans says?" Mohandar asked him. Because the Terrans' news transmissions was broadcast freely, the Protoss intercepted it and saw the interview of Valerian Mengsk. Because of their society and because of the Khala, the Khalai Protoss received their information nearly instantly while the Dark Templar received word conventionally from each other. The information that the Terrans broadcasted was only one point of view composed together in one presentation that was easy to be altered to deliver the information falsely. For most of the reconstruction after the Brood War, the Protoss paid little attention to the broadcasts. Several of the Protoss who actually listened to the broadcasts were very surprised by the reports on James Raynor. Because of his service to the Protoss people, they knew that the news of his terror campaign was false.
In the recent months that followed the Zerg offensive on the Terran worlds, their observers caught most of the activity from the orbits of the Terran systems. When the Char invasion started, confusion engulfed the Terran public while the Protoss had only little more understanding of what was really happening. They didn't have any active observers orbiting Char with the dense patrol of Overseers that could spot the observers to be shot down shortly after being spotted. In the recent months, with the return of the Zerg when Korhal was invaded, the Protoss received the broadcast of the new leader and they heard what he had to say about what happened during the time between the pacification of the Queen of Blades to the slaying of his father.
"The trend of father and son is a universal theme among any intelligent species," Artanis said. "The Terrans are no exception. So many become like their fathers and mothers whether by choice or unintentional outcome while others do become different."
"That doesn't give much reassurance. The previous leader made similar promises to the people and it was a blinding fog to hide his real intentions," Mohanndar said. "It is common among Terrans as we have seen of them. However, it is curious that he did not say that the Protoss were enemies to the Terrans unlike his father."
"His interest in the ruins of the past my hold truth. Open mindedness is what allowed Tassadar to bring the Kahili and Nerazim and it was open mindedness that allowed the Protoss to become allies with Raynor and his followers."
"That may be, but I do have to say we should not be too quick to trust. Trust is something that is very difficult to truly achieve in this moment in time. Especially since he admitted his collaboration with the Queen of Blades."
When the Protoss learned of the vague information of what happened on Char, they made assumptions about what happened to her. When the broadcast of Ranyor's capture and death was sent, along with the message of the Swarm being defeated by Mengsk himself, they were skeptical of it all. It was shocking that the long friend of the Protoss was announced dead by the man whom he was fighting against to save his kind from him. But the confirmation that Raynor was still alive came more of a shock than relief. The vague video footage of the final stand of the Dominion Palace showed the Hyperion descend down to the imperial sector and unloaded it's forces to fight alongside the Swarm.
"It was foolish to allow her to live after they somehow were able to pacify her and leave her venerable for just enough time to avenge all the deaths of both the Terrans and of our kin."
Artanis looked down. "Raynor did speak of his strong relationship with Kerrigan before that day he vowed to destroy the man who left her to the Zerg. Perhaps it was that feeling that caused him to keep her alive."
"Personal feelings have been known to get in the way of what needs to be done. The Terrans, including James Raynor, have done this in almost every aspect."
"Perhaps Raynor believed that when she had been returned that she could redeem herself. But it would have been hard to convince any of us that it could be done."
"Are you saying that you might have considered absolving her of her crimes on Raynor's possible plead to allow her another chance?"
"No," Artanis said smoothly. "I am only saying that Raynor is a very dedicated individual who fights harder for what he believes than any other Terran in the Koprulu sector. But since we must be take the wishes of our people into account first, Raynor's needs are secondary."
"Well, whatever could have happened, the fact remains that the Queen of Blades has returned with even more power than we have witnessed before."
Artanis expended a mental sigh.
"However, there are many things that are puzzling about what Valerian Mengsk said," Mohanndar said. "How she allowed the civilians of Korhal to escape before she sent her minions to tear the planet apart. And do you believe the story of Kerrigan rescuing Raynor?"
"It is a very confusing turn of events indeed."
"Nahhan has already expressed that Raynor's rescue was only to use him in her final battle against the former Emperor."
"Raynor had expressed his hatred for Arcturus Mengsk a numerous number of times for his crimes against his own race. Perhaps that is what drove him to fight with the Swarm to see the former emperor finally burn. But what of this allowing the civilians to escape before she unleashed her forces?"
"Could be another intention of goodwill to gain trust like when she came to us at the start of the Brood War."
"I might have to agree with you on that subject. The massacre on Kalder might be the proof that it is another trick."
When the Kalder colony last reported in, they encountered Zerg on the planet but they managed to hunt down the leader Broodmother and killed her. But after that, nothing ever got out to Shakuras about their status. The hierarchy sent a recon fleet to Kalder lead by admiral Uran to investigate what happened. When they arrived, they found the entire colony was destroyed and not a single Protoss soul was alive. They accessed the damaged logs from the Nexuses and it reported that the shuttles attempted to depart through the warp conduits inbound for Shakuras.
At first, the recon team didn't know what to think of it. They first assumed that the Zerg the colony had pursued regrouped and overwhelmed them. But when the Terran News Broadcasts reported major attacks on several of the Dominion industrial complexes and the Protoss's own observers reported increased Zerg, it confirmed that the Queen of Blades had indeed returned to power. It was then assumed that Kerrigan had intervened on Kalder and caused the deaths of the colonists.
"It really is a dark and confusing time for our people, isn't it." Mohanndar said.
"It is," Artanis replied. "But it does not mean that we are defeated. We must still keep our will strong if we are to live through this. If we are cautious, we can make it through with minimal fatalities."
Mohanndar nodded as he retreated back into the temple leaving Artanis to observe the people that he now lead.
Valerian sat in his tent and smiled lightly. He felt he did well in his interview. Some things he felt could have gone better but looking back at what he did manage to get across to the viewers was more than he was expecting to get across. Pointing out differences in policy and elaborating on what will happen was a very essential key in swaying the public opinion and he did just that. But details in policy wasn't going to convince people that he would be different than the leader before him. He needed to tell them of his personal story of how he grew up and what he accepted and resented from his father. The theme of the children rebelling against their parents is a very common theme among terrans in general but his father's story of how he rebelled against Angus and ended up like him would be counter the point of the children will be different. But since he was raised by his mother and grew up having more interests in archeology and the mysteries of the past was something that could tell people that he had a different interest than just conflict and war which is what his father went with when he sighed up to become a Confederate officer.
The personal story was the mover especially if you talked about the turning points of one's life. His promise to his mother was a very large promise to make because it would be hard to keep it when they won't be able to see you and tell you if you're keeping the promise. But that feeling of your mother looking down on you and seeing what you are doing, it makes you want to make her proud and strive to be that person not just for her, but for yourself. That is what Valerian believed and he hoped that the majority of the Dominion people could believe that.
The communicator in his tent buzzed indicating an incoming transmission. Valerian stood from his chair and walked over to it. He pressed the button and stood back to see who was calling him. The holo projector activated forming the green hologram. It was Queen of Blade standing right in front of him.
Valerian raised his eyebrows in surprise but only for a moment.
"Kerrigan," He said. "I wouldn't have thought that you would have come to me to talk."
"Well you did have your impressive interview with the Dominion press, so I figured I would say what a decent job you did," Kerrigan said.
"So the Zerg do listen to the United News Network after all."
"It's something that can benefit the Zerg when you have a Terran communicator on board the Zerg command ship. Your handling the fallout pretty well so far. So I can give you a compliment on that part."
Valerian smiled. "I accept your complement and thank you for it. But I know that that's not the reason why you're calling me."
"I'm here to tell you that this truce between the Terrans and the Protoss might need to happen sooner than you expected."
Kerrigan's hologram leaned forward, " You do know why I have left Dominion space in a hurry, do you?"
"I do have a basic idea." Valerian said. "This prophecy that involves you and the Zerg."
"It's something that I and Jim know the most details of. The Xel'naga spoke of the one who'll end all life in the Galaxy and I am an anomaly in that one's grand plan."
"Yes, that is what I know off the top of my head," Valerian said. "But I assume there is perhaps more to this than just you."
"I have seen the power of this force through his servant Narud when I nearly died defeating him. From what I know, I alone won't be able to defeat him."
"So I assume that you're asking me for help? That would be a problem considering that your Swarm reduced the Dominion Fleet to nearly a quarter of its original size."
"No, I'm not asking you to fight with me. I'm asking you to get the Terran's back on their feet. But I also need you to get together with the Protoss when the time comes."
Valerian took a moment before replying. "From what I'm hearing, it sounds like that you're going to send yourself and the Swarm at this 'Fallen One' of the Xel'naga prophecy and leave us and the Protoss to finish the fight afterwards."
"You catch on pretty quick. Do you see a problem with this plan?"
Valerian took a pause. "When you're a leader, you know that there are many difficult choices that have to be made. I also know that personal feelings are strained in the long outcome of leadership. From what little I know about you, your relationship with Jim is strained but somehow you and him are at peace with each other."
Sarah fought back some irritation with her personal relationship. She redirected the subject. "What I'm saying to you is that you need to be ready when the time comes because the Protoss will need help."
"I see," Valerian said connecting the dots. "Because of your uneasy relationship with the Protoss, you don't want to be involved in anything that will happen between humanity and the Protoss."
"I was concerned about what you said about collaborating with me because it will make the Protoss suspicious. If you're going to make a truce with them, you cannot have any connections to me."
"I'll do my best to not to mention anything about our relationship with the Zerg, only that we should be relieved that they won't be a direct threat to humanity anymore."
"Thank you for understanding," Kerrigan said.
"However, there are a few things that I want to discuss with you and perhaps it'll help you with your journey to fight the Fallen one."
Sarah paused for a moment. "I'm listening."
"I know that it's not my place to say, but Jim might want to know about what you are doing."
"I only need him to know that I have to do what I need to do and he needs to do what he needs to do." Kerrigan said. "He is the key for humanity's alliance with the Protoss. The Protoss will not cooperate at all if he has any connections with me. You and Jim will have to work together to get humanity together and fight with the Protoss."
"I understand," Valerian said. "But when you left, I assumed he would have wanted to join you once he helps pick up the pieces of your campaign for a little while."
Sarah closed her eyes for a quick second. "I know he still has those strong feelings for me, but under the circumstances of what I put myself, him and the rest of the sector in, it has to be this way. If I come across him again, I will have to tell him myself. For now don't say a word."
"I understand," Valerian said. "Nothing is ever simple when you're a leader."
"Thank you for understanding," Kerrigan said. "Now didn't you say that you might have something that might help me?"
"When I formed the Moebius Foundation, we did not know anything about the Xel'naga artifact that reversed the infestation of you. But one of my most valuable researchers made the discovery of the theory of reversing the infestation. You might not remember him, but you pursued him when you were your old self when a Protoss preserver was integrated into his mind."
Sarah thought for a minute.
"Oh, so you do remember. Good. He was the one who helped find the artifacts and he has had much research with the Protoss and Xel'naga. If there is anything that I can help you with finding your enemy, Jake Ramsey is the best help I can give you."
"I appreciate the help. But I sense that you wouldn't give me the identity and location of one of your most valuable archeologists without some precautions."
"Whatever you need from him, I only wish that he be alive and unharmed."
"If his usefulness requires him to point directions, I will need to bring him along for that purpose. But I'll make sure my brood leave him alone."
"Very well. After his little adventure with the Protoss Preserver that was infused into his mind, I personally made sure that he would stay hidden from my father and any other enemy that would come after him. But my father found a way to draw him out. He used one of his closest friends, Rosemary Dahl, as leverage to draw him out and return to the Dominion."
"Where is he now?"
"He's on Tyrador VIII. After you overran the planet as your old self, Jake was relocated until the invasion of Char. After that, my father sent him back to Tyrador for a good hiding spot. But now that my father is dead, I have learned about the secret Dominion project he was put into. And I am content in giving you him but only if you promise to make sure he and no one else gets hurt."
"I'll use my discretion. This Zerg skin didn't take away everything that I learned when I had human hair. I'll have him join me and give him livable quarters."
"Thank you Kerrigan. I wish you luck in your journey."
"And I wish you luck to become a better man than what your father was."
The communicator went dark.
Aboard the Leviathan
"Izsha, set a course for Tyrador VIII," Kerrigan said. "Tell the other brood mothers to wait at the rendezvous point."
"Yes, my Queen." Izsha said.
"Why are we heading back to Terran space?" Zagara said.
"There is a Terran that may have information on the location of Amon. If we find him, we will be one step closer to finding our enemy."
"I see," Zagara said. "He has a purpose for the swarm."
"Temporally. But he is not to be harmed when he gives his services to the swarm or after his usefulness is done. We are to release him once he has helped us."
Zagara was about to respond but she stopped herself. Instead she simply said, "Yes, my queen."
"Good," Sarah said as she retreated back into her chambers. As she left, Zagara thought to herself. What was the purpose of sparing the lives of some of the particular Terrans that had come across the Swarm? First the Terran James Raynor was rescued by the Queen and was sent back to his crew that the Swarm had collaborated with temporally? She was puzzled with that instance until the final battle of the Terran capital. The Terrans and the leader had returned to aid the swarm's efforts. They had done an admirable job although it was the Swarm that did most of the fighting through the entire invasion. With the Swarm's numbers, they could have won the battle on their own. But the Queen did mention when they left Korhal that she was caught in a trap and the Terran that she rescued managed to arrive and save her from being destroyed. The Terrans did have their purpose in the battle, but what was the purpose of letting them live in the end? Zagara pushed away the thoughts temporally to focus on the bigger matters that were coming.
Author's Note: This is going to difficult to say because it's something that many writers don't want to admit to their readers.
I'm running out of gas for StarCraft, but only temporally.
I'll still work on bits and pieces in the long run. Since this is my first original long term novel length project, I hope that you can understand and forgive me.
The gas in my tank right now is Mass Effect with a little bit of Avatar again. Don't worry, my Mass Effect fic will be a short story length just like my previous two fics and my abandoned Avatar story "Regret" is about a third done already. Once those are complete, I'll have StarCraft fully back in my tank and I'll get it in gear. I am very sorry and I hope that I'm not disappointing any of you too much. Regardless, thank you for your reviews and support. I don't know if I could continue this fic without any of you. Expect the revival of this story to come in mid July.