Always Bet on Void
The ship was as dead as the world below it.
There was no taste of death. Or sight, or sound, or touch. If death could be tasted, Selendis didn't know it. But she was a protoss. She had seen death. Dealt death. And now, after teleporting into the interior of the derelict, she could sense it as well.
"Ship is deprived of oxygen," Duermenach said, holding out a sensor crystal into the air before them. "Leave respirators on."
Selendis nodded. The zealots and vindicators spread out. Holding herself in place, she activated her suit's psychic booster.
On the ship. We shall investigate.
Any sign of life?
No. Selendis cast her eyes through the gloom and dust. There's only death here.
And everywhere else. Through the Khala, Selendis could feel Artanis's pain, even as he tried to hide it. Well, see what you can find. And do not take risks, Executor. There have been too many deaths already.
I will. En taro Tassadar.
Selendis shut down the booster while activating her psi-blade. Blue light shone through the gloom. Nodding to her cadre, she led the way.
Artanis was right, the templar reflected. There had been too many deaths. Even now, as the forces of the Fallen One ravaged the galaxy. Only the world before them had been dead long before that. Analysis of the ship they were on was much older than any protoss vessel in existence. And according to scans from the Shield of Aiur, potentially more powerful as well.
Gods willing that it is.
The gods? What are the gods? Selendis heard the voice of Bohdanec in the Khala. Where are the gods besides the one that hunts us?
The gods will save us.
Selendis sent out a spike of mental energy, and her templar fell silent. Constant battle had taken its toll on them psychologically as well as physically. It was why she hoped, prayed, that this vessel could make a difference. That if the xel'naga were gods, and they were merciful, the antithesis of the would-be god who made war on Creation itself, their progenitors had provided salvation.
Selendis stopped. The thought. It wasn't her own. Or any of her fellow Firstborn. The thought felt…almost…
Not like that of the hierarch. Who had contacted her again. Both through thought, and as a schematic filtered over her respirator's HUD, through images.
Scans have revealed an energy source near your location. I want you to investigate.
Selendis kept walking. Her fellow templar followed. And-
I did not lead my people to their home in order to allow their destruction. If the call has come to defend Hiigara then I must do so. It is neither duty nor obligation that drives me; it is simply what must be.
Stopped short. Stumbled. Put her hand to her forehead.
Stroked her nerve endings.
What ails you?
Felt her mind wander at the thought. Her own. From outside.
And she walked. Faster. To the source. The point on her HUD. And reached the blast door.
Our way is blocked, Duermenach observed. We-
The executor thrust both her blades into the frame. Within moments, the door had been cut open.
Could do that, I suppose.
Selendis looked back at her cadre. There was no hiding in the Khala. Their exact thoughts perhaps, but their emotions? Confusion. Frustration. Hatred. For a moment, Selendis wished there were enemies on this ship. Her fellow templar needed an outlet.
"Go," she said. "I will enter."
Nodding, the templar left.
Alone? Why alone?
Is this sanctioned?
In the dark again…zhakul inok.
And left their mark. Selendis nonetheless turned and entered. And beheld the sight.
No, she told herself. The gods had nothing to do with this.
You are alone.
I can take care of myself. This ship is bereft of foes.
No. In the Khala. You feel outside it almost. You…
Silence returned to the protoss's mind, matching the silence in the room. Leaving her alone. Besides the being in front of her. The-
Selendis stared. She supposed the creature was human, though if so, humanity was lower than she once thought. The human was female. And while Selendis's views of terran females had changed slightly in recent years, she had never beheld one such as this. Plugged up to a giant core, resembling their adjutant hardware. And yet also looking like a spirit, virtually transparent. Almost like a Nerazim shrouded in darkness to hide the light. Yet also different. Slowly, Selendis deactivated her blade, leaving her shining eyes the only glow in the dark besides the human herself. Slowly, she reached out to her…
Of course you want to know what it was like.
And she recoiled, her cry of pain echoing through the Khala. The touch. It felt…wrong. Malignant. Like something of the Void.
To be a starship the size of a city, the ghost continued, her lips unmoving, her eyes unblinking, but her mind…like nothing Selendis had ever sensed. To hold an entire race in your hands. To tear time and space apart, to experience pain and potential beyond the grasp of any mere flesh.
Selendis rubbed her hand, searching for an itch she couldn't scratch. The Void was here. It had touched her. Touched this ghost. Perhaps was this ghost.
You know that language can't begin to convey the feeling, but you think maybe it was a little like being god.
And you're right. It was like being some deformed, twisted god, trapped in Hell.
Hell, Selendis thought. A human term, if she remembered correctly, a realm reserved for the souls of the damned. The Void, in her mind.
And then the ghost smiled. Whispered, the Sajuuk is yours. May you live to see your home. Though it wasn't "home," Selendis knew. "Home" was but a translation through the Khala. In her mind, in the ghost's mind, there was another word. Buried deep. Almost beyond reach. Beyond mind. Beyond memory.
And the ghost vanished. And light returned.
The ship. It is activating.
Indeed it was, the executor reflected. It wasn't just the return of light, it was everything else. The hiss of air. The hum of the engines. The removal of the sense of death.
What happened? Artanis asked. What did you do?
I…Selendis trailed off. She stepped forward again, holding out her hand.
And sensed nothing. No Void. No Khala. Nothing.
Nothing, she said.
Nothing. I did nothing.
It wasn't a lie, she told herself. Whatever happened had occurred for…for reasons she couldn't explain. Perhaps never could. But…if that led to productive results…then she couldn't complain. Perhaps shouldn't question.
Selendis, are you alright?
The templar shut down the booster. There would be a time to talk later, she reflected. A time to weep, a time to rage, a time to see home again.
Home…whatever one makes it.
Once more, Selendis cast out her hand. Once more, she felt nothing. The ghost had gone. Perhaps she'd never been here. Perhaps she still was. And so, Selendis spoke.
"Und lara khar," she said. "Anht zagatir nas."
To return to the light.
If there's something that the storylines of Homeworld 2 and Heart of the Swarm have in common for me, it's that both are touched by disappointment because of things that were cut from them in development storywise. Case in point with Homeworld 2, as per my reading of its development docs. Instead of things such as the Dust Wars, the Void, the Ghost/House of S'jet, and the Todani, we get a race of space psychos led by a Vaygr with a messiah complex. Not inherently bad, but...well, suffice to say, I'd have taken Homeworld: Empire over Homeworld 2 any day, especially when the former had a stronger character focus. Still, this is only going by game scripts, so maybe the actual game makes up for it.
Anyway, came up with this as a result.