The Holy Host assembled, and soon the Great Work would begin.
With every pulse, Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps resonated amongst his fellows, their life radiating out in great waves of expectation. His brothers and sisters flared back, resolute to do their justified violence, to fulfil the expectations set upon them by the Enkindlers millennia ago. Their lights flickered. Their tendrils twitched.
The drell sat silently together or between their masters, clad in flexible exoskeletons that did little to hinder movement, much to enhance strength. They clutched large rifles in their armored hands, stocks braced against the bottom of the craft. Most sat with eyes shut, deep in battle sleep. When battle was joined, spirit and body would fight as one. But for now, the body rested.
The Tal'Darim burned in the far distance, like angry suns. Their worldships shone with righteous energy, the soldiers aboard them utterly certain in their duty. Few strode amongst their allies, but that was their way. They could claim an inheritance even more ancient than the hanar's; it was said they were the first the Enkindler enlisted in this war. The Last War.
And then there were the hybrid, the first awakened. Even thinking of them sent a shiver down Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps's tentacles. Where they trod, he could feel nothing at all.
Well. Perhaps yawning hunger.
Further inside the craft, Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps's companions lit up. The Enkindler. So many names, so many titles. God Slayer. Duran. The Amon. They mattered little. They were not even his oldest name. And from now forward, he would wear only one name, only one face, and see the Last War to its conclusion.
Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps let out a hum of happiness, his skin turning a light blue. In moments, the Amon would stand before them, and give his final blessing to his chosen. Theirs was the last craft, and with good reason. The Tal'Darim would call them Khundelar, tip of the spear. Their words would be the first to breach the stunned ears of the Citadel's residents, to spread truth and fear.
The Amon's metal boots clanked against the craft. His bare hands slid down tentacle after tentacle as he passed, the hanar reaching out just to touch him. His four eyes darted this way and that, scanning his Holy Host with obvious satisfaction. The drell woke at his passing, spirits electrified at his immense presence. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps trembled with fervor and anticipation, the culmination of his life standing before him.
The Amon stopped before him, all four eyes directed to the visor on his battle suit. He folded his arms behind his back. A chill went through Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps, colder than any trench on the homeworld. His skin stopped breathing. He quailed beneath his maker's burning gaze.
"You are the commander of this unit?" The Amon's voice, low and melodious, flavored by an empire long dead. "Yes … I remember. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps."
He remembers me. He remembers my true name! Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps glowed fiercely, the light shining through the visor and joints of his battle suit. The other hanar looked on in red envy, their flesh taking on low hues.
"This one is pleased to be worth remembering by the Amon." Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps kept his voice even. "This one is also pleased to confirm the Amon's suspicions. I am the battle chaplain of this unit."
"You are of sufficient worth today, I think, to refer to yourself in the first person." Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps's skin warmed even further, a deep radiance building within himself. "I am diverting you from the Presidium. There is a matter that requires my attention, and I need the best of my troops to handle it."
"This o – I am pleased to count this unit among that number." Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps tried to keep the translator from broadcasting anything more than the calmest of voices, even as his tentacles twitched and his skin burned. Have I dreamed of this happening? Have I ever dared to even dream of this? "We await your command."
"C-Sec HQ. High value target. I assume you would know the Spectre Sarah Kerrigan on sight, yes?" The Amon's deep voice took on a remorseful tone. Oh, how he tortured himself over what must needs be done. The agent, Miranda Lawson, was only the first of his friends to be sacrificed for the Great Work. The Last War. "Red hair. Currently imprisoned for the manslaughter of Garrus Vakarian, and attempted murder of Aldaris."
"Thi – I know her face. A strong psionic." Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps rejoiced at the nod the Amon gave him. "What would you have us do?"
"Subdue her. And bring her to me. You will have Tal'Darim support." The Amon's long fingers flexed. His face contorted momentarily in pain. "Successful or not, I will see you in the Citadel Tower. You will be among those to bear witness to the first in a long line of the Reapers' disappointments. I intend to see Harbinger reduced to silence."
"I am honored by this invitation." Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps's translator trembled at this, but the Amon did not appear to notice. He extended his right hand. One of Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps's left tentacles snaked out of the gap between suit and weapon, reaching for the closest finger. It brushed the Amon's skin with the lightest of touches. It felt leathery and warm to the touch, but alive with an undercurrent of searing electricity. Blessed. I am blessed.
"Raise your voices together in harmony, and sing of our enemy's destruction." The Amon lifted his hands before his people, whose skin glowed in joined reverie. "Begin the battle chant. Prepare your sermons. Do not fall silent until the last foe falls silent. The first notes of the song now creep from the depths on Kahje. It will not cease until the war ends."
The Amon's words now echoed within all of their minds, his proclamations carrying to all corners of all fleets. Soon the galaxy would shake. Soon the fools would burn. The Reapers would come … and one by one, they would fall at the Amon's hand.
"Whatever happens in these coming times, whatever setbacks we experience, do not judge yourselves too harshly. All of it was my doing; these were my mistakes. I tried to avert the worst of our current situation, and I failed." The Amon lowered his hands, fists balling at his sides. "Take heart that when I look to you, I do not see the same primitives I stumbled upon millennia ago. I see strength. I see anger. I see the downfall of our enemy."
The Amon shut all four eyes, breathing heavily.
"Go forth. Begin the Last War, and end any illusion of peace in this galaxy."
"The Holy shall triumph. Blessed are the Enkindlers. We shall bring truth to the galaxy." All hanar shone with these words. Even some of the drells' lips moved silently at these words. The Enkindler turned his back to Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps. The hum of the ship grew louder.
"Bring up C-Sec Headquarter overlay." Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps's visor lit up with improvised schematics; the actual layout of C-Sec Headquarters was not readily accessible to those outside of the organization, but drell never forgot anything they saw. The only flaw in these blueprints was the slightly unsteady hand of the one who had penned it. Assuming optimal flight path … yes. "Coral team, storm up left stairs and secure the elevator. Suppress targets from the balcony. Monsoon team, take descending steps dead ahead and eliminate all resistance. Hunter team, with me. We are bound for the brig."
"We will bring fire. We will bring thunder."
The radios crackled above. High clear notes came through, interlaced with the background noise of a roaring ocean. They sing from Kahje. Others took up the music, raising the appendages on their suits in joyous triumph. The ship shifted almost imperceptibly beneath them.
The captain did not have to tell them when they would jump. The chorus approached.
And yea, did we weep at the war's coming, in joy at the end of wait, in sorrow that so much suffering must be shared.
In name of peace
In defense of good
For falsehood's cease.
In Javik's name
Halt only in death
Let fools cast blame."
The ship shone and stretched at the promised mass recall. The burning coals on the horizon, Tal'Darim and hybrid alike, faded into simmering afterimages. Within their assault tube, brother locked with brother, sister with sister, minds and tentacles joined together. Even if one of them fell, they would be remembered by this one last joining. They shone together in the dark of between places, wondering if their names, true or otherwise, would one day be inscribed on the shining coral beneath Unhur, or chanted in the deep places not even the Enkindler could visit?
Perhaps. It all depends on our victory today.
It is fortunate that all is as foretold.
"For the future."
Space and time reassembled themselves, and both hanar and drell let limbs drop. The tube clanked into place, the exit locking itself in preparation for launch. With a slight grinding sound, the tube inched forward, then slightly to the right. A final click prompted the countdown.
The speakers still blared music from Kahje, but no one spoke or shone. The drell now sat up, bodies awoken. The countdown reached its Terminus. Time seemed to stand still for a moment.
With a whoosh of air and released pressure, the tube launched itself from the belly of the hanar Temple Ship, one of hundreds descending on the Citadel. All wards. Every inch of the Presidium. Like the shock of a tsunami breaking on an inhabited coastline, so shall we break on the Citadel. When we pass, it will still stand … but it will be filled with us, changed forever.
The tube jolted forward with a scream of metal on metal, the inertial dampeners working full force to soften the impact. Within the craft, Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps barely twitched. For a moment, all that could be heard were the moans of a broken Citadel activating its environmental stabilizers and the soft hissing of broken pipes. Then, alarms. Alarms and calls to arms.
The end of the tube popped open, and Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps slid out, the first among their number. His tentacles gripped the triggers within his battle suit firmly, all four gauss rifles finding different targets as his computers did their work. The tentacles need only squeeze, occasionally shift and adjust. He was ready. A pylon hummed overhead, promising swift and brutal retaliation if left alone.
"Surrender and be spared!" bellowed Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps, loudspeakers blaring from the shoulders of his suit. "We do the Enkindler's work, the work of the Amon! Lay down your weapons and accept his wisdom!"
"Unidentified hostile! Perimeter breach!" The first responders, pulling side arms and shouting for him to surrender. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps turned a faint orange. The first mass effect round pinged into his barrier.
All four gauss rifles went off simultaneously, spitting death to four separate corners of the lobby. Severed limbs spiraled into the air, training blood, and the air filled with screams and smoke. The computer re-targeted. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps did not release the trigger, the casings piling at his feet. The rest of the unit began to drop from the tube.
"His voice is fury! We are his clenched fist!" Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps stepped forward, rifles steaming, refilling with rounds as the suit completed an auto-reload. "All teams, to positions."
The drell hurried past, their lithe forms like liquid death. A brother came to Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps's side. Another. They stepped forward through fire and chaos.
"Get a fire team into position. Who the fuck are these people? Where are the spirits-damned protoss?"
A heavy figure burst through the smoke, blades burning through the dark.
"Khassar de templari!" The zealot's gaze fixed on the hanar line. Armored figures came to its side, the first of the power armored C-Sec defenders. Coral team wasted no time.
The C-Sec officers staggered as Widow rounds sheared through barriers with the sound of shattering glass. The zealot roared and charged, shield lighting up as Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps's entire fire team lit him up, shield fading in moments. Sparks flew from his armor as he made it to the first hanar, whose guns retracted in favor of psi blades of his own, glowing a fierce green.
It was true that no hanar could ever withstand a Firstborn in close combat, even assisted by their technology. But it was also true that no protoss carried four weapons as the hanar did. As the protoss sliced through barrier and armor, the hanar's own blades whirled in impressive arcs, two coming down overhead to be caught by the protoss's waiting weapons, the other two sneaking in under to catch him in the sides.
The zealot grunted as blood blossomed all over his torso, but still managed to throw his foe's weapons aside before bringing the blades inward and pulling them out to the side. With a gush of blood and water, the hanar fell into two halves. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps became louder.
"Where one falls, another avenges! One wave recedes, to become the basis of another!" The protoss finally cried out, his suit flaring. His body vanished in a flash of light. Still the hanar advanced.
"Damn it, they're not stopping!"
"Getting reports, they're hitting all wards, all sectors! And they've got-"
"And so we stand on the Citadel. At last."
Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps turned to look at Coral Team, some of whom now parted from the balcony. Two Ascendants stared down at the chaos with red eyes and folded arms. One pointed a long and taloned finger. Screams and lightning erupted forth from the gesture.
The Ascendants descended the stairs as if this were a religious ceremony rather than a battlefield, full of pomp and purpose. Their feet did not touch the ground. Where they floated, the dying choked and fell silent, and the living paled and weakened.
Two more zealots charged into the fray, pausing only momentarily as the languid enemy protoss regarded them. They did not stop their gentle advance.
The zealots let forth a mental roar and charged. The Ascendant turned aside the first cut with a flick of the hand, the second likewise. At the third, he caught the zealot by the wrist and brought him in close, face to face. The other hand grabbed him by the throat. Tendrils of smoke rose where the fingertips met neck.
The other Ascendant likewise choked the zealot. Neither radiated anything except calm. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps led his hanar forward, not bothering to watch the spectacle any further. Two unarmed asari huddled beneath an overturned desk and watched their passing with wide eyes, clinging to each other in fear. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps passed them without a word.
A turian C-Sec gurgled his last, eyes wide as the blue flowed freely from the holes in his chest. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps threw one glance back to the Tal'Darim behind him, who now lay two unconscious zealots on their sides.
Mercy. There were far better deaths than to have the last dregs of life leeched by Tal'Darim. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps angled one rifle downward and fired a final shot between the turian's eyes, sending blue in all directions.
Drell scattered all over now, rounding up civilians and surrendering C-Sec alike. The Ascendants merely floated serenely over to the pylon floating above it all, which sparked and shook from the damage taken. They laid their hands upon it.
It was like watching the water drain from their battle suits. The blue stone lost its vibrant hue, becoming cracked and gray. It began to tip, gradually, as if losing its sense of balance. Finally, it fell with an almighty crash to the floor, splintering in all directions. The Ascendants emerged from the thrown dust whilst saying nothing, hands glowing a faint red.
"Target below us." The hanar marched on borrowed feet down the steps to the brig. Two drell filed in behind him, followed by the rest of his fire team.
"Hostile." Rounds ricocheted off of floor and ceiling, and Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps buckled as a warp struck his barriers. A brace of blue grenades quickly followed.
The grenades burst, sending Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps backward into a wall, which buckled at his weight. Stars graced Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps's vision momentarily as he right himself, keeping three guns primed for the hostile while he used the fourth arm to push himself up. A glowing blue figure came flying through the settling smoke and dust.
A turian, clad in unfamiliar armor that defied their sensors, sent a drell sprawling with a biotic punch, before drilling him three times between the eyes with his rifle. The first broke barrier, the second armor, the third skull. Another wave breaks over the first! Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps let loose a free burst at the turian.
The turian twisted into a blue stream which terminated in a burst back at the cells. A hanar cried out as Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps guns ripped into him, spraying water and blood everywhere.
"Regret. Regret. Regret." Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps rounded his guns back to the brigs and fired in short bursts, trying to suppress his target, whom he had since lost track of. The other hanar followed suit, covering the floor and visible walls of the room in deep cherry-red rents.
As Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps approached the doorway, the turian rounded the corner, first glowing. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps caught the first punch and held steady, body rocking slightly as he absorbed the blow. The second punch came to the abdomen. His barrier broke and he doubled over, armor crumpling.
The surviving drell darted through, aiming a quick snap kick at the turian, whose barriers deflected it. He grunted, moving in closer to the drell and aiming a flurry of biotically powered bunches at his assailant, who nimbly darted aside. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps tried to bring his guns to bear, but the turian sent another warp into him, nearly knocking him down. The suit began to hum a funeral hymn as his vitals went haywire, sending a thrum of anxiety through him.
Not the first battle, no! I have so many others to survive. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps twitched his gun upward at the turian, who turned aside three swift punches from the drell. Behind him, the other hanar struggled to get a shot around Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps suit, which blocked most of the doorway. The edges of Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps's vision turned a bright red.
The turian grunted as a backhanded blow caught him across the face, sending him reeling. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps went with his instinct and fired a short burst. The turian's barriers broke in a crescendo of breaking glass and a single round caught him in the side, sending a spray of blue. He fell to a knee, gasping in pain as he planted a firm hand on the wound. The drell leveled his pistol at the turian's head.
"I would see this one's face." It felt so strange to refer to himself as "I" in the company of his men. Yet Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps rose to his full height, body quivering inside his suit, acting on a suspicion. "I think I know this one's face."
The drell ripped the helmet free. Saren Arterius stared up at them, defiant.
"Yes. There are few biotic turians. And this one fights like a Spectre. Bind his hands and keep him with us." The drell produced omnities, binding Saren's hands behind his back. "Treat that wound."
Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps turned his attention to the rest of the room, his suit slowly restoring his vital signs to what they should be. He felt a jet of cool water hiss into his tank, and he was not ashamed to admit he wriggled with satisfaction.
The security desk glowed faintly from the innumerable massive rounds that had made it unrecognizable. The door to the cells beyond it stood noticeably ajar. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps looked to Saren, feeling a sudden gray of anxiety. Did he…?
Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps strode into the cells, guns ready. Prisoners called out to him, asking who the hell he was, what was going on, what was he? Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps ignored them all and moved to the solitary cells, where they kept Kerrigan.
It likewise stood open. To the right, an open vent. The gray anxiety deepened.
Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps returned to Saren, whose defiance began to enrage rather than depress. He pressed a gun under the turian's chin.
"Did you free her?"
"Said you were coming for her." Saren spat a turquoise gob on the ground. "She wouldn't lie to me … and I don't want you people, whoever you are, to lay hands on her. So she's gone. Follow, and she'll kill you."
"We must hasten the Citadel's exodus." Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps motioned with a free gun. "To the Presidium, then through to the Tower. Assist as we are able."
"You with the Reapers?" Saren spat the word out with such hatred that Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps noted the tone for future usage. His translator could surely translate it. "UED? Rogue protoss? Kerrigan said she felt … hanar."
"Yes." Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps snaked one of his tentacles out through the gap between gun and suit, let it grace Saren's face. The revulsion he expressed in his eyes felt deeply satisfying. "I am Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps. I have been deemed worthy."
The drell brought Saren to his feet and pushed him forward. The hanar made their blessed way to the elevator that would take them to the Presidium. The alarms went off on all floors. Monsoon Team now huddled the civilians into the corner, while Coral Team waited by the elevator, several fresh corpses at their feet. Apparently, C-Sec had people coming down when the fighting started. A bad way to go, seeing your death through clear doors and knowing it was too late … but they could always have surrendered. Of the Tal'Darim, Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps saw no sign beyond a stretch of blackened bodies terminating at his own tendrils.
"Beneril, Tulam, with me." The two hanar joined him in the elevator while the others waited. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps pointed to Saren. "He will come with us. He may explain to the Amon himself what he did. And he may be of use, should the Amon find mercy within himself."
The four of them stood in the elevator as it shot to the Presidium, Saren panting, staring up occasionally in disbelief. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps thought he heard the turian gasp as the doors opened to the Presidium, in one of its upper level shopping centers.
A flaming C-Sec patrol car went spiraling by, bound to bury itself in some dark corner of the Citadel to be picked over by keepers. A C-Sec Goliath's chainguns steamed from a balcony, firing at some unseen target. On a level above it, C-Sec officers in power armor faced down a hybrid reaver, calling it a biotic ultralisk. It lowered its head to charge.
"Forward." They did not have time to watch the carnage. Weapons fire could be seen emerging from every balcony, every terrace. Saren moved forward with a prod from an errant gauss rifle. A gleaming purple tentacle emerged from below, attached to some unfathomable hybrid creature the Amon probably had yet to name. With a crack like a whip, it speared the Goliath and pulled it below, out of sight.
Above, the C-Sec officers backed up frantically as a screaming salarian fell cleanly in half on either end of the creature's scythes. The reaver distorted as if surrounded by heat, pulling them closer with its psionics. What followed warranted the ensuing frenzied screaming, and Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps felt a strong desire to look away.
Ascendants floated across the Presidium with a disconcerting ease, crimson cloaks fluttering from the fluctuations in the air rent by distant explosions. Their shields only rarely flared from any impact. Where they landed, smoke and ash swiftly obscured them from view. Where they landed, life withered in their wake. The song of Kahje, carried boundless through so many suits, did little to ease Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps's nerves. The Reapers will find the Tal'Darim frightful foes indeed.
They found no resistance on the direct path to the Tower's elevator, but plenty of resistance around them. In the distance, a pylon exploded as another hybrid tentacle pierced its heart. When the smoke faded, no trace of it remained.
Two more C-Sec cars flew by, the air distorting at their passage. Beating wings followed from above, as well as ethereal cries that sounded like mutalisks if they had been planted deep underwater and given several additional sets of lungs. Unnatural shadows flitted momentarily over a nearby balcony, but vanished just as quickly. The song of Kahje grew louder. A fireball, just out of sight, marked the end of those two patrol cars.
"What hell have you unleashed?" Saren stared, dead-eyed, at a level below them. Dark Templar and Blood Hunters clashed in a flurry of hidden blades, visible only at each sword strike or parry. Neither side seemed to have an edge. "How…?"
"Up this elevator." Tulam pushed Saren forward. A direct access to the Tower, the panel already hacked. "Soon, all will be explained. To everyone."
The second elevator ride gave them a sickening view of the destruction below. Hanar and hybrid fought side by side to bring protoss low. C-Sec officers fell back to rally point after rally point as the last fortifications went up in flames. Many sound found themselves up against a wall, and died there, the Ascendants watching their final moments with subdued glee. Drell snipers crawled from balcony to balcony, picking high value targets and ending them just as quickly.
"You will answer for this." Saren sounded like he meant his words, but Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps only chuckled. "This is madness."
"We are answering like with like. Soon you will understand what we fight, and why we do this." Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps felt sure of it. "Perhaps, soon enough, you will even agree. It would be … terrible, if you did not."
"Always knew there was something wrong with you jellies."
The lighting went from faux daylight to deep violet. The doors opened to steps drenched in blood. Blackened corpses ran all the way up the Tower, some protoss, some turian, some asari. At its apex, they waited.
"Ah, good. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps." The Amon did not turn to them, fiddling as he was with the central console. "And…" He paused, looked over his shoulder. The Amon usually wore a frown while in his true form, but Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps did not like the way it deepened. "You are not Sarah."
"You are not … who … what are you?"
The question was addressed to both the Amon, the hybrid above, and the Tal'Darim that floated at his side. The protoss looked down at Saren with bemusement. The hybrid only watched with eyes wracked with a ravening madness.
"He is the answer to the Reaper's question, fool. Tread lightly; the Forged have been unleashed to test this galaxy, and have found it wanting."
"You knew me once as Samir Duran. We have a mutual friend in Jim Raynor." The Amon stepped back from the console, which lit up with unfamiliar symbols. "I take it you were unable to secure Kerrigan?"
"This one freed her, and she escaped into the Citadel's underbelly." Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps shoved Saren forward slightly. "I thought it best to take him alive, to either answer for the inconvenience or serve us."
"It was not your decision to make, hanar." Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps shivered as the protoss addressed him. "You were told to bring the Spectre. We wanted the Spectre."
"This one is a Spectre." Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps felt endless reassurance as the Amon said this. "You did what you could. Now … we must bring this to a close, both to capture Kerrigan, and end the loss of life on both sides." The lights in the room flickered. The console shone with sudden light, broadcasting an image. It took a few moments to form. The hybrid turned in place, directing its maddening gaze at the solidifying object.
A Reaper stared down at them, its very image immense. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps felt cool pressure at the edges of his mind, as a titanic entity felt out the room. It finally fixed on the Amon.
"You know me on sight?" The Amon spoke with venom. "Good. We're ahead of schedule."
"Your presence has long been felt." The Reaper commanded all attention. Even the Highlord Alarak seemed smaller before it, although the hybrid remained undiminished. "The Koprulu Sector. Your doing."
"The Koprulu Sector, yes … and so much more." The Amon burned with fervor, with hate. He stood before the Reaper without a trace of fear. "I am here for you, Harbinger. I am here to draw you out."
"Unlikely." Some of the Reaper's inner tendrils curled in, as if folding its arms in an unimpressed fashion. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps had seen both terrans and turians do this to each other. "You are living on time borrowed on xel'naga technology. We need only wait. The galaxy believes us defeated. Soon, you will die. Then the protoss will fade. Society will march on. The word "Reaper" will only be repeated by historians, with your crusade a footnote. Then, that too will disappear from memory. We have millennia. You have scant decades. By doing nothing, you are defeated. The harvest will continue in peace."
"Will it, now?" The Amon's face drew back in a savage smile, glinting teeth exposed. "Your plan would work … were it not for the last legacy of the xel'naga. Look upon him. Maar. My hybrid."
"Your…" Harbinger fell silent for a moment, the cool pressure easing somewhat within Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps. The attention directed itself elsewhere, staring into an abyss more total than could be readily comprehended. "There is … an imbalance."
"The ferocity, numbers, and reproduction capabilities of the zerg. The psionics and physical strength of the protoss." The Amon shivered as he said this. "The last resort for the last war. They feed on sunlight, psionic energy … and flesh. The galaxy is filled with all of these."
"You would curtail our gentle harvest by using these beasts?" Harbinger spoke with a bass that set Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps quivering in his tank, but he sensed uncertainty. Shock, if he felt generous. "They hunger. We can feel them, even through the Void. They are an unsurpassed emptiness."
"You have two weeks to meet me here, in the field of battle." The Amon stood in the face of an angry god, and did not cower. "If you choose to remain in the cold outside the galaxy, I will unleash them. I will unleash them on all species. They will feast, they will breed, and they will spread. The psionic races shall be the first to go, what is left of the protoss and zerg. Then the sapients, the Council races, psionic or no. Then the developing races. We shall fall across every world like a ravenous shadow, as the zerg once did."
"This is madness."
"You inspire madness." The Amon's fists balled. "When, at last, you elect to emerge from your hiding place, you will find an army unlike any you have ever encountered in your cycles. I will be long dead, yes, but my hybrid, my Tal'Darim, my hanar, they will live on. You will fight. But the outcome will not matter, for, when you reach the galaxy, the worlds you sought to harvest will be dead. The species, gone, not to return. The harvest will be over. Victorious on the field of battle or not, the war will be long lost for there will be nothing – nothing – left for you to pervert, subvert, or convert any longer."
"Perhaps I am mad, yes, but it is to be expected when one has seen the end of all things as I have, when the only way to look on the face of my people … is to look into the mirror. And even then, not always."
"You cannot hope to threaten us."
"I am not threatening you. I have outlined what will happen based on your actions." The Amon stared, eyes burning like the heart of a dying star. "I am the Avatar of Vengeance, the embodiment of it among my people. There is no length I will not go to. You have two weeks. Starting from this moment. This exchange is over."
Harbinger vanished into the console. The cold pressure faded from Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps's mind.
"How…" Saren looked to the Amon in part wonder, part horror, part disgust. The Amon waved it off.
"No time. Highlord – they will come for the Citadel. They will not find it."
"Good. I tire of this place." Alarak raised his hands in triumph. They shone a bright crimson.
"All units." The Amon spoke through their minds, all their minds. "Commencing mass recall. This Citadel has been a trap for too long. It is time to reinvent it."
Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps raised two tendrils, which glowed as he pushed what psionic power he possessed to its edges. Tulam and Beneril followed suit, their minds joining with his. All over the Citadel, the fighting ceased to the astonishment of what was left of the defense forces. Hybrid paused mid-slaughter. Ascendants stopped mid-flight. Hanar and drell alike contributed what they could of their might.
A corona of blue energy formed above, spreading downwards to every inch of the Citadel, enveloping everyone inside it. Somewhere, doubtless, Sarah Kerrigan felt the onslaught of psionic energy and panicked over its meaning. Somewhere, doubtless, the Daelaam feebly pushed back against the Amon's intentions, sensing they were about to be placed far from hope or help.
The Amon lifted his own hands. Many kilometers below, the bottom of the Citadel glowed a faint blue. Deep in empty space, a friendly consciousness reached out. Burns-Within-Cool-Deeps clasped it eagerly. The Citadel shifted as they began to tug.
"At long last," breathed the Amon, eyes more alive than in recorded memory. "The Last War. The War in Heaven."
Another tug, firmer this time. The Citadel tilted. Then, with a great sucking gasp, time and space bent.
With a soft pop, the Citadel vanished from the Serpent Nebula into parts unknown. After a few more frantic moments, the strange fleets that had attacked so suddenly likewise vanished leaving only confusion and a gaping, ominous silence in its wake.
A/N: Schedule is going to be exceedingly erratic, but first three chapters and a good chunk of the fourth are pre-written. Will also be posting on SB and SV. Posting two days earlier than originally planned so I don't have to worry about getting this out during a school day.A big thank you to Kaoupa and NewAgeofPower for previewing these first few chapters.
I do hope this will be worth the wait.
Next Chapter: Amelia