Elsewhere in the train station, Lilly searches for the Cerberus adjutant. What she is going to do when she finds it, she has no idea. It is the shape of a terran torso and head with life-size proportions, not something she can just cram in her backpack. Maybe there will be some key piece I can just rip out, but gotta find it first.
Durian notices Lilly poking around on her own back in the rubble. He glances over at his squad. They seem to be doing all right, so he decides he can spare a moment away from them. “See something interesting over here?” he asks, coming over to Lilly’s position.
“No, not yet,” Lilly says. This touches too closely on her resoc secret for her to be open with Durian about what she is doing here.
Durian gives Lilly a searching look, but she does not volunteer anything further. “Well, we better clear this area, then.”
Lilly adjusts her collar nervously. It seems that Durian has decided to join this search, and this is a part of her past she does not want him to know about. He steps around boxes and piles of junk, weapon at the ready as he checks for zerg. Lilly lets him lead, taking a half-heartedly look inside the boxes as they go.
From outside come the distant booms of more artillery going off. Then there are some not-so-distant ones. The railway station shakes, walls and ceilings collapsing further as an Arclite shell crashes through the remnants of the building roof. Everyone inside is alert enough to dive for cover. Those not in power armor end up with scrapes and cuts from flying debris. There is now a new crater in the middle of the building. And once the dust settles, they see that the entrance they came in through is now blocked.
Durian checks on all his troops and his charges to make sure they are all right. Kate regains her feet, exasperated. She is covered in dirt with a gash across her forehead. Imogen treats that using the medkit that Lilly has brought over while Kate complains, “I can’t believe it. Hit by our own Arclite shells!”
“They’re our shells? Is that what you’re going to say in your story?” Imogen asks.
“I highly doubt that there are other terran forces here who are launching artillery. Unless zerg have taken control of our own siege tanks, which is too terrible to even think about. No, no, I know this sort of thing. I did a report once on friendly fire.”
“You filed all the paperwork for us to come, right? They know not to be shooting here?”
“Yes! They know we’re doing a mission here. The siege tank gunners… their aim’s not the best. They might have been just a bit short. There are zerg south of this railway station, I know. But, yeah, unfortunately, the number two cause of death for marines in the Dominion is friendly fire siege tank incidents.”
“Specifically siege tank incidents?” Imogen asks, appalled.
“Yes!” Kate insists.
Lilly just nods. She knows from personal experience that siege tanks are not that accurate.
With the cuts and scrapes addressed, Imogen turns her attention to the structure itself. The railway station seems stable enough for now. Unfortunately, its northern entrance is impassable, and she sees no way to clear it out without bringing what little remains of the ceiling down on their heads. When the inspection is done, Imogen tunes in to Durian’s not-quite shouting into his radio. He is clearly trying to be assertive, but it sounds like the other side does not care.
“No, no, you don’t understand. We’re under fi—Yes. Yessir. No, no, I hear you, sir. But we’re try—yessir. Yeah. Yessir. Yes.” Durian clicks his radio off and takes a deep breath.
“So are they going to stop shooting at us?” Imogen demands, walking up to him.
“I couldn’t get through to Command.”
“Then who were you talking to?”
“The person below Command,” Durian says wearily. “You want to talk to them?” he asks, not expecting the vehement response he gets.
“Aye!” Imogen calls over her shoulder to Kate, asking whether the journalist has a copy of the forms filed to grant the UNN clearance to be here. Unfortunately, Kate left that back on the ship, seeing no need to carry them around with her. “That’s the only thing some of the people around here understand!” Imogen tells her.
“That’s why we’re doing this documentary to help people understand some of the grim realities of war, as well as our triumphs,” Kate replies, still in propaganda mode.
“I meant the brass,” Imogen snaps back. She snatches Durian’s wrist and flicks the comm back on.
“Dammit, sergeant, I told you not to call this line again!”
“Shut up!” Imogen shouts back.
“Who the hell is this?!”
Imogen ignores the question and tears into the speaker. “We have permission to be here. You can check with the Comptroller’s Office, where I’m sure Vaughan can show you the form that says we are supposed to be here. And we have video recording equipment. If you want to blow us up, we are happy to record it as part of the PR extravaganza that is being done on behalf of the Dominion military. What’s your rank and name? So we can get this properly documented and spread to the whole Dominion.”
“I don’t care who you are,” the officer says, trying to save face. “I’m just telling you, I’m calling the shots here, and I’ve got to make sure we nail those zerg, okay? So you’ll want to steer clear of the Arclite shells. Are you telling me that the railway station is not overrun by zerg?”
“There are no zerg in this railway station,” Imogen confirms.
“Fantastic! Our Arclite shots were successful!” he cheers, spinning this news his own way. “We’ll redirect the artillery elsewhere.” As he clicks the comm off, Imogen hears him telling his underlings to refocus on the northward sector.
Imogen passes Durian’s wrist back into his own control. “Let’s not go north,” she says.
Durian tells her that the siege tanks are at Liberation Point Beta off to the east. “We should be safe if they are shelling north of there.” He turns to his troops and issues a warning to be on the lookout for friendly fire. “You hear a shell coming, you take cover!” The marines, now in scuffed-up armor, nod soberly.
While Imogen is doing all her shouting, Lilly pokes around a bit more. She finds a utility closet and heads inside, hoping to find something useful for their current situation, like hard hats. Ironically, a dislodged brick comes loose and clocks her. Lilly’s vision blurs for a moment and she rocks back on her heels, stumbling backwards out of the closet. Ugh, that was dumb! That’s what I get for trying to follow safety protocols, she groans inwardly.
Imogen rushes over to deal with the bright red welt spreading across Lilly’s temple. Seeing that this is going to take some time, she issues orders to the marines to start looking for a clear pathway to the southern entrance.
Durian bristles at that. “I appreciate that you’re trying to help and that is the right move, but I need to maintain a clear chain of command here,” he tells Imogen. “There cannot be confusion.” Turning to his soldiers, he tells them to start looking using the buddy system. Two of the marines head off together, while the other stays on alert with Durian.
It takes a little while for Imogen to determine that they do not need to worry about Lilly having a concussion. The flash of the penlight in her eyes is annoying, but Lilly endures the treatment without complaint. Imogen tests some of her reflexes; testing her memory is a lost cause. While they have a little privacy, Imogen quietly asks Lilly if she wants to look around some more. “This whole place was just shaken up. It’s possible whatever you’re looking for will be easier to find now.”
“Good point,” Lilly acknowledges. “Thanks, doc.”
“But the decision is up to you. It’s your life.”
“Yeah. I have to find the thing.”
“If you want me to help, I’m going to need something a little more specific to go on.” Imogen knows from the psionic impressions she got that Lilly has been here before, but she does not know what the object of interest is, just that it is somehow zerg-related. “What is it you’re looking for?”
“It’s a silvery blue metallic torso AI thing,” Lilly shares.
Under the cover of looking for a way out, they search together for the adjutant while Kate interviews one Fruit Basket and the others clear a route to the south. When it is time to move out, Lilly is still empty handed.