Three days after the Prometheus Incident….
That was a close call. A really close call.
He had clearly underestimated Kerrigan greatly. That one single mistake would have cost him everything. Efforts worth hundreds of thousands of years could be undone within just a single day and it was all thanks to that one little bastard named arrogant.
He should not have made that mistake. What happened on Char was a proof enough to show that the Queen of Blades was not to be trifled with. The energy she released the moment that artefact blast hit her nearly overload and destroy that one hybrid he placed specifically to act as an energy sponge. Her energy was too much for the hybrid to absorb. He had to construct an energy stasis cell on site just to keep the hybrid from collapsing from that much of energy.
Of course at that time he thought that all of the Queen of Blades energy where complete spent and that the Queen of Blades herself no longer exist. What remains was Sarah Kerrigan, a mere mortal human with not so significant psionic powers. Easy to be dealt with. How could he have known that her powers would return to her in such a way that she ended up being more powerful than even the first Queen of Blades? Kerrigan singlehandedly disposed all the hybrids he sent to destroy them. His master won't be pleased.
Deep down he blamed Mengsk's heir apparent and to some extent, Jim Raynor himself. If they allowed him to study Kerrigan before she was brought to Prometheus, he would have been able to estimate her ability and took necessary precaution.
Still, he managed to escape together with the Xel Naga artefact. That should be good enough. He promised the emperor that he will construct for him a weapon based on the artefact that could deal with Kerrigan directly. He intended to uphold that promise, after he had done with it. If he can't kill Kerrigan, then Mengsk will. He can no longer deal with Kerrigan. Hours had grown short. The rebirth of his master is at hand and he has to be there at the exact place and the exact time.
The huge cargo vessel slowed down as it entered Atrias atmosphere. It broke through the cloud cover of the dark planet and began to level itself.
He knew why his master chose that planet as his 'burial' place. Hundreds of millions of years ago, the Xel Naga found the Void together with an entity that lived within it. They had also found Void conduits, located on different locations throughout the universe. Aiur and Shakuras were among the locations. But the conduits found everywhere else were nothing compared to the one found on Atrias. It was much bigger and much stronger that the Xel Naga built a temple on top of it. He had seen it of course. Even walked in it. He did not know exactly the purpose of that temple. His master never mentioned anything about the temple other than his intention of using the temple as his temporary resting place. Of course as a thoroughly loyal servant as he is, he never questioned any of his master's doing.
The vessel began its descent. From the cockpit, he could see the temple loomed ahead, growing larger and larger as the vessel made its approach. On the temple ground right in front of the temple's entrance, their host were waiting.
The ship landed. The ramp went down. An army of his own personal guards went ahead of him and form a defensive arch around the vessel. The Shadow Corps. That was what they were called. His own private army. each of the member was picked after a full consideration of their talent and loyalty.
He was the last one to go down the ramp. Once his feet touched the surface, he immediately made his way towards the greeting party.
"You are late, Narud!" hissed his host.
Narud was not a person that could easily be intimidated with. He looked deep into his host's red glowing eyes and said," Good day to you too Ma'lash, Highlord of the Tal'darim." He then turned his gaze towards the pyramid shape structure behind the Highlord. "Temple of Erris. The last time I've been here was when my master was laid to rest."
Ma'lash somehow at that point was not interested with Narud's reminiscent. "I assume you brought everything that is required."
Narud said nothing. Instead, he turned towards his men and signalled them to bring out the energy stasis cell and the cradle that contains the artefact. His men obliged.
Ma'lash somehow could not stop staring at the energy stasis cell the moment it was brought in front of him. He could feel the violent turbulence of psionic energy within it. The cell itself shook from time to time as it strained under the pressure of holding all those energy within it. "This is the energy of the Queen of Blades?" he asked.
Narud nodded. "Yes it is. I might have underestimated her potential. I thought the hybrid alone was enough to absorb all of her energy. It seems that I was mistaken."
Ma'lash immediately turned towards Narud. "And I trust that she is dead now."
Narud paused. "No," he replied moments later. "She lives."
Ma'lash's anger sky rocketed when he heard Narud's replies. "You were supposed to get rid of her! That is what our master commanded! The Prophecy specifically stated that she is a danger to him! She had to be destroyed prior to our master's resurrection!"
'Circumstances changed!" said Narud. "She is not alone, Ma'lash! She had allies. She is not as foolish as we thought she would be."
"That mistake is still unforgiveable, Narud," retorted Ma'lash. "You have failed him."
"Our master will forgive me," said Narud.
"You assume too much!"
"No," said Narud. "You're the one who assume too much. Once our master lives, he will no longer need to fear the Queen of Blades. Remember Ma'lash. I have been in service with him for thousands of years before you were born. I know more than you do!"
Ma'lash was about to argue further when Narud held up his hand. "That's enough! Do not waste anymore of our precious time," said Narud. "I assume that everything is ready on your side."
Ma'lash was seething but he decided to let it go, at least until come the chance for him to bring that matter up once again with Narud. He looked up towards the dark sky. "The planetary alignment will happen as the current cycle of this planet comes to an end. We are ready."
"Then we have just a few hours to put everything in place," said Narud. "My escort won't be able to enter the temple. Order you people to bring the cell and the cradle into the temple."
Narud ordered his men to stay on guard. He then followed Ma'lash into the temple.
It took the party of Protoss and Narud an hour as they traverse the temple's labyrinth of maze before they reached the entrance to their master's chamber. Throughout the journey, Narud did not feel weak or tired though. The temple's own energy made him stronger.
All of them felt the raw power of the Void the moment they entered the chamber. A huge elaborately carved stone platform was erected at the center of the chamber. Eerily greenish fog surrounded the platform. It is here where planet Atrias's Void conduit is located, right underneath the platform.
The Tal'darim Protoss loyal to Ma'lash brought the energy stasis cell and placed it near the center top of the platform. Narud meanwhile opened the cradle that contains the Xel Naga artefact. He then placed it right in front of him. All they had to do now is to wait for the eventual planetary alignment.
The plan millions of years in the making had finally came to an end.
Amon, the self proclaimed Dark God shall rise again.
Shakuras… A week before the Battle of Korhal…
He hoped that she died a heroic death and did not end up as one of those hybrids. He really hoped for that. She agreed to follow him on his quest when she did not have to and it was all because of the help he gave her. Such a big repayment for such a small favour.
Talis was a young Praetor and a brave warrior who revelled in the glory of the battle. That was the first time he met her. She was much like any other young warrior he had met before. Full of energy, determination and an unquenchable thirst to prove herself.
She was also his guinea pig.
Talis's reaction to his suggestion that the Protoss should work together with the Queen of Blades was exactly what he would have expected. Of course he did not bluntly said it but being a bright young Praetor, he knew that she could catch what he meant when he mention to Kerrigan about the need to wake the Xel'Naga. The idea of the Protoss working with the Zerg once again is unthinkable.
But he feared that his brethren may not have any other choices. They need Kerrigan. They are going to need her very badly.
Planet Shakuras with its twin moon loomed ahead. Its purplish hue dominated the Void Seeker front shield as the small spacecraft slowed down, ready for the re-entry into the planet atmosphere. The spacecraft made its descent and broke through the planet's cloud cover.
It had been quite a while since the last time he set foot on his home world. Pain and grieves pushed him away and forced him to choose exile. He was later found by an unlikely duo of Jake Ramsey and Zamara. Despite the initial hostility, the two managed to knock some senses into his head and thus brought him into another adventure.
Talematros looked different from the one he left behind after the conclusion of Brood War. The capital city of Shakuras was destroyed in that war. It was rebuilt during his absence.
But he was not here for sightseeing.
The Void Seeker landed onto one of the many landing platform strategically placed outside the Citadel. Someone was waiting for him.
The lone Protoss greeted him as he made his exit from his ship. "En Taro Tassadar, Praetor Zeratul. It has been a long time since the last time you set foot on our home planet."
Zeratul knew who he was. "En Taro Tassadar, Vartanil. But lest you forget, Aiur is still our home planet. In fact, you were born there."
"I never forget from where we all came from but Shakuras can still be considered as a home," replied Vartanil. "You are in a great hurry, Praetor. May I ask why?"
"Indeed I am in a hurry," said Zeratul. "Darkness is dawning upon us. I need to see the Hierarch at once."
"My apology Praetor Zeratul, but Hierarch Artanis is not here."
"Where can I find him?"
"Aiur," answered Vartanil.
"Aiur?!" exclaimed Zeratul.
"Yes, Aiur. The fleet left for the planet a few days ago. The Hierarchy considered the time is ripe enough us to retake Aiur," explained Vartanil.
"Then I shall make haste," said Zeratul as he turned back towards his ship.
"You're planning to join the fleet?" asked Vartanil.
"No. I'm going there to prevent the retake."
Vartanil was bewildered when he heard what Zeratul intended to do. "Explain!" he demanded.
Zeratul stopped and turned towards Vartanil. "The Golden Armada is walking into a trap," answered Zeratul. "A trap set out by a foe unseen for millennia until just a few days ago. A foe that is more dangerous than anything we had encountered throughout the history of our civilization. I need to go to Aiur before it's too late. I need to warn them." He was about to board the Void Seeker when Vartanil stopped him.
"Allow me to help you in your quest," said Vartanil.
Zeratul considered him for a moment. He then slowly shakes his head. "No."
"No? But Zeratul-."
"No," answered Zeratul firmly. "You are a brave one but I will need you to stay here. The task I'm leaving you will be no less noble. You are to gather all of our brethrens here and fortify this planet defences. Help us defend Shakuras. It won't be long before the enemy will come. The battle will prove be a hard one. I pray that you will not fall."
"But I am not a warrior, Zeratul. I'm just a craftsman."
"And yet you possess spirits and bravery just like any other. Your deed shall determine who you are," said Zeratul.
Vartanil thought for awhile. "Very well, Praetor. I shall honor your request," he said finally. "En Taro Tassadar."
"En Taro Tassadar."
Minutes later, the Void Seeker went into warp.
Sitting in the cockpit, Zeratul unsheathed his psi blade. He looked at it momentarily before he sheathed it once again.
"Be prepare, Artanis. If I can't prevent the inevitable, I shall turn you into a Dark Templar."
Jim Raynor's quarters, battle cruiser Hyperion post Battle of Korhal…
He sat opposite of his bed, staring at the duffel bag that he placed on top of it. It was full of his clothing and a few treasures he owned over time.
The quarters had been his home for a number of years. And now, he is going to leave it behind. He had no idea on where he will go next.
The deed had been done. The Raiders had achieved what it was established for. Mengsk is dead. There won't be any point for it to exist anymore. The time had come for him to return all of his men and women to where they belong. It is time for them to make something out of themselves. It won't be fair for him to keep them any longer. They are now free.
As for him, he didn't what he'll do next. For many years he lived for a purpose. Now that the purpose had gone, he felt empty. Even useless.
He thought of going back to Mar Sara. He had a house there. He could start all over again. But then, the ghost of Liddy may haunt him for the rest of his life. He did return to that planet once after the Great War. He came out a broken man.
He thought about Haven next. It had been quite a while since the last time he heard anything from Ariel. He assumed that everything is okay. Ariel did promise to contact him if she needs anything. She even asked him to stay. He never gave any thought about it. Getting back at Mengsk was his main priority. Besides, he was still grieving at that time. There was no way for him to settle down at that time. He began to wonder if her offer still holds though. Hell, he could open up a farm there.
Then it hits him. The word Shiloh jumped into his mind.
His mind wandered off towards his parents. Everything that they said keeps on replaying inside his mind. Maybe it's time for him to live up to their expectation after so many examples of disappointment he threw at them. Thanks to the family old friend Myles Hammond, he now owns the deed to Raynor's farm. That is the only thing that he got. He had always considered himself as a farm boy anyway. Maybe it's time for him to act like one.
Shiloh will be perfect for all of it begin from there. He can go back to his home planet and restart all over again. No more fighting. No more war. Just him and the farm. And maybe a newfound love if he is lucky enough to meet one.
He slowly took out a vidsnap from his shirt's pocket and stared at it for a few moments. The lovely face of Sarah Kerrigan smiled at him. He shook his head and put the vidsnap away. They will never be together. It is time for him to lay the ghost of his past to rest and open up a new chapter.
He stood up. It is time for the important announcement. The Raiders shall exist no more after this.
But before he could do anything else, his comm suddenly gives off. It was Swann. "Raynor here."
"Hey cowboy! You awake?" asked Swann.
"Yeah, I'm awake," answered Jim. "What is it Swann?"
"Pretty boy wants to talk to you. Urgent bro. You better haul your ass here fast," said Swann.
"Oh what the hell," grumbled Jim. "Yeah I'll be right over."
Jim turned off his comm and immediately made his way towards the bridge.
Hyperion command bridge a few minutes later…
"What's all the hubbub?" asked Jim as he entered the bridge. "Valerian?"
The new emperor was calling in from the Imperial Palace. Horner and General Jor-el were with him. Someone else was with them as well.
"How are you, Jim?" asked Valerian.
"I'm alive," answered Jim. "Who is he?" asked Jim as he pointed towards the unknown person that stood beside Jor-el.
"Oh. Jim this is General Tabascus," said Valerian. "He's the-, he's the commander of the portion of the Dominion military that defended Korhal from the Zerg and uh-, us."
"Ah, I see. And why is he here with you guys?"
"Please, Commander Raynor," Jor-el cut in. "There's no longer any point for anymore hostilities. General Tabascus joined us at some point during the battle. It's a long story."
"Right," said Jim. He then turned back to Valerian. "Spill it out junior. What's the emergency?"
"I'm sorry to barge in like this, Jim," said Valerian. "It's been a long day and I know you deserve a good rest. But circumstances changed. The orbital platform is currently under attack by an unknown group of assailants. We still have evacuees up there waiting to be transport back to the surface. My men are currently engaging them. But I still need the Raiders help."
Great. Just great, Jim thought to himself. "Any info of who these assailants might be?" he asked.
Valerian shook his head. "No Jim. We don't know who they are and what their motives are. But I can tell you that they're terrans. I have sent extra soldiers to the platform. They'll be arriving shortly. I would be grateful if you could lend a hand."
Jim sighed. So much for early retirement, he thought. "Alright, I'll help."
"Thank you, Jim," said Valerian. "I'm sorry but we're really in a tight situation here. And just so you know, a large fleet of Protoss has entered this system minutes ago. They'll be arriving anytime now."
"The Protoss?!" exclaimed Jim. "Oh hell! Any idea why they're here?"
"Unfortunately no," replied Valerian. "It may have something to do with the Zerg. You have a good rep with the Protoss. We may need your help once again after the situation on the orbital platform is brought under control."
Jim shook his head. "The Zerg left hours ago. They won't find her here."
"Yes I know that. I just hope that they're not intending to start another war. Do you think it had something to do with what my dear old father did?"
"I don't know," said Jim. "But the clock is ticking. I need to get to the platform fast. I need you to hold off the Protoss for now. Keep them at bay. Try to talk to them and don't do anything rash. I'll deal with them when I'm done."
"Very well, Jim."
Jim then turned around and left the bridge.
A lot of thought crept into his mind as he made his way towards the hangar.
So the Protoss came here. But for what he did not know. He doubted that they intend to start another war. There won't be any reason for that. At least based on what he knew.
It may be something to do with Sarah. But she already left. Even he had no idea where she would go. Sarah did not share that little info with him. He can only hope that the Protoss would come in peace.
Valerian was partially correct. He may enjoy a good relationship with the Protoss but thinking that he would have a big sway in their decision making would be just too much. But still he had to try especially when the stake is high. The Battle of Korhal had just ended. They have not started on the rebuilding yet. Right now they were simply recovering. The terran won't stand a chance against the might of the Protoss.
One thing for sure though. If Zeratul is with them, he will demand an explanation of his action. And maybe he will deliver a bullet into the Praetor's head.
That voice woke him up from his thought. He stopped just in time to see Lily jogging towards him.
"I have been looking for you everywhere," she said the moment she arrived in front of him. "There is something you gotta see."
Jim shook his head. "That would have to wait. I have a shuttle to catch." He was about to turn around when Lily caught his arm.
"Jim, wait!" said Lily. "Please. This will take only a moment. Trust me. You want to see this."
"Commander-, Jim please. I really need you to see this," plead Lily as she gripped Jim's arm even harder.
Jim sighed. He began to realize that the medic won't allow him to go anywhere unless he gives in to her demand. "Okay. Okay. Let see what you got."
Lily sighed with relief. Immediately she pulled Jim's hand and forced him to follow her.
Jim recognized to where they were heading. "Why are we going to the medbay?" he asked.
"You'll see," answered Lily. "Just be patient, Jim."
Minutes later they reached the medbay. Lily immediately pushed him inside.
"Lily! What the-." And then he froze.
Lily saw his reaction. She turned towards the direction Jim was looking. She smiled. "It's a miracle, Jim."
Jim turned to face her. "How-?"
"The Zerg sent her back, Jim. They must have found her within the crash site," said Lily. "It's unbelievable. I thought that she was dead but now here she is."
Jim slowly walked towards the bed where a beautiful blonde girl was lying. Jim stared at her face. She was unconscious but very much alive. "Nova."
"I ran every test on her. She's fine, Jim. She was just unconscious," said Lily who followed him from behind.
Jim reached out and touched Nova's cheek.
Maybe it was due to his touch. Or maybe he did that just in time, Nova began to stir. Her eyes opened, blinking into the bright light. And immediately the beautiful green orbs met Jim's. Her mouth opened. "Jim?"
Jim smiled. He held her hand and whispered, "It's okay, darlin'. You're safe now."
Nova immediately leaps off the bed and throw herself into Jim. She sobbed as she cling to his neck and bury her face into his chest.
Lily smiled as she watched the event unfold. She made her exit quietly, leaving the two alone in the room.
His life had been plagued with tragedies. Everything and everyone that he cared about never stayed with him. He had always been left alone, buried deep within his own pain and anguish. But against all odd, the girl in his arm decided to stay and against all odd, he got her back, alive.
Jim tightened his hug as he continuously ran his finger through Nova's soft hair. His thought went to Liddy and Sarah.
This time around, things could be different.
"Liddy. Sarah. Thank you. Thank you so much, for everything."
The dandelion is still in her hand. She kept holding it to herself as she remembered all the things that he said to her. Her tears fell.
She tore her eyes away from the observational window and her gaze fell onto a vial that was now floating in mid air at the center of her chamber.
"Be the dandelion."
A/n: And thus this story had come to its end. I would like to thank everyone who stayed with me throughout the journey of love and lost, of pain and redemption.
Also I would like to use this opportunity to announce my temporary retirement from writing StarCraft stories. There are quite a few reasons on why I've decided to stay from writing SC stories after this. Disappointment is one of them. I'm not sure when I will come out of retirement though. Like I said before, I'm intending to turn my attention to other section of this website. I will of course continue to peruse the StarCraft section, reading stories and giving out reviews.
Anyway, thanks again and Godspeed to all the SC fanfic writers here.