They were created by the Terran Dominion, secret weapons forged from Zerg flesh and Terran steel. They were the ultimate war machines, unstoppable on the battlefield. They were incapable of questio...
Gregory P. Wong
Chapter 5: With The Gray Shadow Fleet
"I will not tolerate these /things /aboard this ship!" mind-screamed Judicator Ulreathan. Traenid, second-in-command and Assault Commander to Tarthan/Jetok, winced. The vehemence in the Judicator's argument carried on into his speech. The excessive, barely contained force caused twinges of pain to all who "heard" him. Traenid had always known that the Judicator disliked the Executor, but not enough to openly challenge his decisions.
"These are /Zerg/, members of the monstrosities that have desecrated sacred Auir!" the Judicator continued, his orange eyes glowing red for a moment.
As soon as the shuttle carrying the Cyberlisks and the Executor had landed near the ground where the/ Phantasm/ was grounded, the Archon had called for a council of the five main authorities of the fleet. The meeting had begun as they were leaving the surface.
Seated at the impromptu council was Judicator Ulreathan, representing the political Judicators. Grand Master Artisan Rethoj, representing the working artisans and scientists of the Khalai, sat opposite Judicator Ulreathan. Ground Force Leader Esralath, the highest-ranking Dark Templar warrior-and the youngest and most beautiful-was seated at Rethoj's left. Tarthan/Jetok floated at the front of the rectangular table, the two "Cyberlisks", the male "Straas" and the female "Szcraa" stood silently behind the Executor.
Tarthan/Jetok looked at the enraged Judicator and said "You have all... seen... the Judicator's view on this matter. What say the rest of you?"
The Khalai promptly stood up, a shot a look of amusement towards Ulreathan. "The esteemed Judicator speaks the truth: Zerg do not travel with Protoss. However, these Cyberlisks are both un-Zerglike both physically and mentally; I have no objection to letting these Cyberlisks stay."
Esralath stood up.
"These Cyberlisks remind me of the hardships that my brethren have had to endure. We were exiled from Auir by the Conclave, even though we had done nothing erroneous. Times have changed, and we reconciled to each other. While I cannot truthfully say I have no doubts," she shot the two creatures a look, "these Cyberlisks are going to be captured and enslaved again by the Dominion, and I cannot leave them here. As a Dark Templar and a Protoss, I say they be allowed to remain with us," she said, sitting back down.
Traenid caught himself staring at the Esralath... again.
He shook his head, and shielded his mind from the Khala temporarily. No need for everyone else to see what he was thinking.
He stood, preparing to talk. He had not many great opportunities to give a speech, since he himself was also young, only two years ahead of Esralath's 204 years. He had actually attained the high rank of Ground Force Leader for defending a settlement from Zerg invaders on some distant colony world. Only 200 at the time, the Council saw it fit to award him the high rank of Ground Force Leader, which later advanced to Assault Commander at the order of Tarthan/Jetok when he was chosen for the fleet. He was the youngest to ever receive such a high rank, except perhaps for the Praetor Artanis. But Artanis was at least one hundred years older than him.
"As the Khalai has noted, these Cyberlisks are very un-Zerglike, defending innocent civilians from the Zerg. They are great warriors, and may be the thing we need if we do find what we are looking for." He nodded to the pair. "However, do not take it that I only want you here because you are great warriors. You are being pursued by the Dominion, and it would not be right to leave you here to be enslaved again."
"Then it is settled," said the Executor with an air of finality, "The Cyberlisks will stay with the fleet." At that Judicator Ulreathan stood up, glaring at the much taller Archon.
"You are making a very large mistake Tarthan/Jetok," Ulreathan said, his voice dripping contempt and barely contained rage. "If we had not stopped to retrieve these /things/, we could already be in Sawea. This is one offense too many." The Judicator whirled around and angrily made as to exit. He hesitated, and turned to the Executor.
"Remember that, /Executor/." Ulreathan said as he departed the room. After a moment, the Khalai and Dark Templar also exited the room, followed by the Executor. He was alone with the Cyberlisks.
Traenid strode over to where Straas stood, sizing him up. He just a hair shorter than the Cyberlisk, but he was considered very tall for the Protoss race. He smiled with his eyes, the method for the mouthless Protoss. He considered giving them a lengthy speech of welcome. He settled for something shorter.
"Welcome to the Gray Shadow fleet," he said to them.
Straas was beginning to like the young zealot. The tall Protoss was in resplendent armor that was subtly different from the other zealot armor he had seen. A glittering, golden, ornate headpiece was set on his head.
The Protoss had left the room, followed by himself and Szcraa. They stood near some windows, gazing at space as the Phantasm rejoined the fleet. "I've always wanted to see space." He murmured.
"It's beautiful," said Szcraa, who was on his left. Turning to Traenid he asked him a question.
"Traenid, what is the purpose of this immense fleet? I count sixteen carriers, and six Arbiters. Why are they here?"
"The fleet is a mixture of Dark and Light Templar, commissioned by the combined Dark and Light Council. After the scouring of Shakuras by the Prelate Zeratul and the Praetor Artanis, the Council ordered this fleet into being. Tarthan/Jetok was the choice as Executor, but some of the Council members were against him, mostly the older Judicators."
"Why?" asked Szcraa.
"Many of the Judicators still supported the separation between Dark and Light Templars Tarthan/Jetok did not support it. However, all but a scant few of the laws were abolished by the Council; many of the younger Judicators wished to learn more of the Dark Templar. What few laws that were left were abolished by Tarthan/Jetok," Traenid answered.
"An example of a 'separation' law?"
"Hmm. Perhaps a Dark Templar touching something that belonged to a Judicator."
"Was that humor, Protoss?" he asked.
"Some, perhaps. But some of the laws that were laid down before the invasion of Aiur were very strange, to say the least.
Humor from a Protoss. That was something Straas was not prepared for. According to his datafiles, Protoss were '3 meter tall, highly psionic beings with no characteristics common to humans'. The person who had programmed his datafiles obviously knew nothing about Protoss. Or wanted to fit Mengsk's image of aliens. The xenophobic Mengsk probably had that story circulating among the people of the Dominion.
He looked away from the windows, marveling at space. He swiveled his head to the zealot.
"How did an Archon attain this rank?"
"The two Templar who make up Tarthan/Jetok were once Executors themselves; during the invasion of Auir they helped evacuate many of the Khalai survivors through Warp Gates. As an overwhelming force of Zerg was sighted approaching the stronghold, Tarthan and Jetok merged," explained Traenid.
"Interesting. But you still have not answered my very first question: what is such an immense fleet doing here in the first place?" he repeated.
"Later, when the Prelate and the Praetor scoured the Zerg from Shakuras, a Khalai astronomer sighted an immensely powerful energy signature orbiting near one of the habitable moons. It did not match the wavelengths used by Protoss or the Zerg. The Council, perhaps thinking of the weapons that could be developed from the power, dispatched the newly formed Gray Shadow Fleet to find and investigate."
That made no sense to him. Why need such an immense fleet when they could be needed rebuilding Shakuras? He said so to Traenid.
"Yes, many of us thought so too. Then the Council revealed some hidden records of one of our cloaked observers from the moon. The Zerg had kept some support forces on the moon, but when the power signature left, we discovered it had obliterated all the Zerg. A full Zerg Brood."
A Zerg Brood! Szcraa could not believe it. The power and strength it would take to completely annihilate the Zerg was immense, almost impossible. She knew first hand.
She and Straas just stood there staring at Traenid, perhaps thinking it another joke.
She hoped it was a joke.
"I am not jesting. One full Brood," he said, and she knew he was serious.
They stood there for a few moments, and then left the windows. Traenid gave her and Straas a "tour" of the /Phantasm/.
"The Elemental/-class carrier /Phantasm is the first of its kind. It is over 25 of your meters longer than the fleet's other carriers. Also, the Phantasm has a Dark Templar-designed cloaking generator.
"Offensive and defensive abilities?" she asked.
"Normally, a carrier has at the ready seventy-two interceptors to launch. Normal launch capacity is usually eight, but the carrier can launch a maximum of twenty-four; any more than that makes the interceptors hard to control. This ship has the capacity to hold 150 interceptors, and the launch maximum of eighty. The plasma shield generators in the carrier are twice as powerful as the ones in the other carriers, and can recharge three times faster. The armor is the same material, but much thicker."
"Are the interceptors the only weapon of the carrier?" Straas asked as they entered the engine room.
"No. When we... Wait. You were not around during the first Protoss-Terran contact."
"No, we weren't, but we do have datafiles on that 'event'. Your first contact with the human race involved you incinerating a Zerg-infested Terran world to the mantle," she said. She then quietly chuckled when Traenid looked embarrassed.
"Yes, we did cleanse that world of the Zerg--"
"--Plus everyone else," interjected Straas.
"In any case, all carriers possess the weapon necessary to melt a planet. Due to the power of the weapon, and the targeting system used, the weapon can only hit something as big as a planet with any certainty." They turned down yet another corridor.
They were walking down the main hold of the carrier, peering at all the Reavers, zealot encounter suits, and other miscellaneous equipment that was stored there. Szcraa strode over to one encounter suit, and looked at it. Then she looked back at Traenid's.
"Traenid, the psi blades on this armor are different from yours."
"Oh. Master Artisan Rethoj helped me customize these." He raised his arms, showing the custom psionic emitters. "These have the ability to channel my psionic powers not only into enhanced blades, but I can also fire a burst of energy from them." He looked thoughtfully at his arm weapons. "What weapon systems do you have?"
"Well, we do have the upper bodies of Zerg, and with it all the natural tenacity and endurance. Our strength and speed are enhanced by bioengineering," said Straas.
"As you see, we have two powerful shoulder-mounted plasma cannons. We have the ability to fire spines like our upper-body look-alikes, the Zerg hydralisks. However, our Magna Needles are laced with biological explosives, which we can produce in our bodies, with proper nourishment. The-" She was cut off by Straas.
"Speaking of /nourishment/, is there anything for us to eat on this carrier? At least, something that is compatible for us?" The male Cyberlisk asked.
"Yes. Since you possess 'mouths', we had some hunting parties land on the surface and hunt some animals. We took mostly those big, lumbering, horned beasts, about ten of your tons of meat."
"Ten tons of rhynadon!?" Szcraa exclaimed.
"We Protoss gain nourishment by absorbing nutrient fluid through our skins, mainly our hands." Traenid explained. "Which is more efficient than mouths, I might add," the zealot added, after a pause.
"Says you..." quietly grumbled Straas. She snorted, but tried to hide it.
"If you are hungry, I will show you to the eating area," said Traenid, who hadn't heard Straas' remark.
The three of them took a turn down another corridor and found themselves in a hallway lined with many doors. Using her deciphering software, Szcraa read the markings on each door. Apparently the rooms were sleeping areas. The three of them reached the end of the hallway, and turned left. Wondering, she asked Traenid, "Where are our rooms?"
"Oh," said the Assault Commander, turning to look at her. "We have only one room left on the /Phantasm/. It is an officer's quarters, so it will be much bigger than the typical rooms. Perhaps I should show you your rooms first, then I can show Straas where he can find food," Traenid said.
He motioned them to the left corridor. She found a very spacious corridor, lined with fewer doors than before. More glittering jewels and flowing writing decorated the walls.
"Your room will be this one," said Traenid, motioning to a door. The three of them entered, and Szcraa looked into very ornate room. While very decorative, it would be rather small for the two of them. She also noticed that some of the items in the room would need to be changed.
"Traenid, the, uh, beds are probably going to be full of holes if we sleep on them. Kakuru skin is much too thin. Is there something else?"
"We do have tougher ursadon skin, if that is what you would like."
"And would it be all right if we took out the frames? They aren't designed for our physiology."
"You don't want perfectly good metal ruined by our heavy rears," quipped Straas.
"I am sure that would be fine," said Traenid, giving Straas an amused look. "I will have some Khalais adjust the room to your liking before you retire for the night. Now, I had better show Straas to the eating areas before he does something," said Traenid with an eye-smile.
The two left the room. She turned from the door and sat down on the bed, shifting her weight so it wouldn't crush the delicate frame. She thought about what had happened in the last few weeks. The escape, the revelations, the battle for the city, the entrance into the Gray Shadow Fleet. /And that we have grown so close/, she thought with a smile.
When they had found out about their resemblance to Zerg, Straas had grown cold and far from her, not even looking at her. When he had Ignited, as he called his transformation, they had grown closer than before.
She got to her metal feet and looked into one of the large mirrors that were mounted on the walls of the room. She examined her face, the inner- and outer-jaws, the many mechanical interfaces grafted onto her skin, and the neural targeting system mounted over her left eye, her red colored, dully glowing eyes. She turned and sat back down on the bed.
Her thoughts returned to Straas, and her own emotions for him. They had saved each other's life many times already. She felt something special for him, but she wasn't sure of the emotion's name. Shaking her head, she got up and exited the room, still pondering her emotions. /Is my feeling for Straas /love? she wondered as she traveled the corridor of he carrier.
Straas enjoyed the fresh meat. Traenid had said that the rhynadon meat was kept in stasis, to maintain freshness. After his meal, Traenid led Straas to a computer station. The "computers" that the Protoss used worked by transmitting information visually and psychically. He had used his camera to record schematics and maps of the ship, so he would at least know how to get around. The information was now stored in his datafiles.
Traenid departed, leaving Straas to look around the ship himself. Strolling along the golden-and-gemstone corridors of the /Phantasm/, his thoughts took a turn back to recent events. Especially his relationship with Szcraa. Things had changed so much between them.
When he had found out their resemblance to Zerg, he was horrified, and could not look at her; it was not because he was repulsed by her, but because he was reminded that he looked like a Zerg himself whenever he looked at her. When he had Ignited, he had done it to protect her and the Terran civilians. /We're two of a kind, so perhaps that's why we have grown close/, he thought as he stepped around two zealots that were chatting to each other. The duo gave him a look, and made a small but respectful bow. Obviously, Tarthan/Jetok do not want any incidents resulting from... intolerance. He returned the gesture in kind as they walked by.
Ever since that day of the battle for the city, he had felt he had no need for life, but to allow Szcraa to live. He smiled at that remembering what she had said to that. "We will live together or die together, Straas/." During the dismal days before the battle for the city, he had tuned in to local 3DV station, watching countless Terran shows to keep his mind occupied. Among those he had viewed were romantic ones, which kept entering his mind as they were boarding the /Phantasm/. "/I love you" was the line that had made think for so long. His thoughts again turned to Szcraa. They were close now, very close. Many times their lives had depended on each other. His feelings for her had no name... yet. /Is my feelings for Szcraa /love? he pondered as he rounded yet another corridor.