At the landing zone, Durian thanks Lilly before they part ways. He got his entire squad out of there alive and unharmed. “These Fruit Baskets, they did okay,” he says, sounding both surprised and proud. “I thought for a while that Banana was going to be off, but Banana, Apricot, and Carl, they did good.” He lets out a long sigh.
“And we got a signature,” Lilly adds. She throws an arm up and they high-five. “See you on the platform!”
Durian’s squad loads up into Kate’s dropship, and Lilly joins Imogen inside Saffron. Before launching, she checks on Snowball. “How you doing, buddy?” she asks as she pulls back the blanket draped over him. The changeling looks significantly better than earlier. He is still in his blob form, but most of the cuts have healed over. His eyestalks are responsive, and they look at her as she speaks. Since all the creep she dumped in earlier is gone, she opens up the freshly refilled jar and tilts it toward him. His eyestalks perk up even more, so Lilly pours it all over him. He seems satisfied with that, sinking down like he is entering a nice hot tub. Lilly notices that there is one hard lump that does not move and reshape like the rest of him. “Poor guy,” she murmurs. Imogen might have to do some surgery on that later.
For her part, Imogen goes straight to her room. The glove device, as intriguing as it might be at another time, goes into her footlocker for safekeeping. With the damage she has done to herself—her nose has only just finally dried up—and this new Aiden issue, now is not the time to experiment with busted old ghost technology.
When Imogen steps back into the central hub, Lilly is powering the ship up. “Back to the platform?” Lilly asks.
Imogen agrees. She does not want to leave Tarsonis’s airspace until she figures out if Aiden is in danger here. And to answer that, she needs some quiet time to work more on the zerg radio. There must be a way to reach her brother with it.
The flight up is uneventful. The zerg are more interested in shooting things that are coming down to the surface than leaving it. Saffron docks in their assigned berth on Floor Eagle, and Lilly goes out for the evening to have drinks with Durian. With only a little bit of bureaucracy left to make the Special Mission official, Lilly gives a toast to the Endurians, the mercenary company Durian can resume once this is all behind him.
Imogen stays aboard Saffron. Returning to her quarters, she stands in the entryway, torn between her bed and the zerg radio. She should really be clear-headed when attempting to power it. On the other hand, the Dominion is shelling this planet right now; if Aiden is still here, he could be in danger. When articulated to herself that way, Imogen sees there is really no choice at all. She sits down cross-legged in front of the radio, tucking some loose strands of hair back into her braid with one hand as she reaches for her tools with the other. She identifies the antenna-type piece and extends it further. After a bit of tinkering, she manages to tap into the signal again and send some short burst from her end, but it quickly fizzles. That part of the device will need more work.
The music cuts out, and Imogen hears her brother’s voice, warped by the transmission’s limitations and his own transformation. “Oy, Sister, you’re there? Ach, you’re having some kind of problem. Well, you can hear me, though, that’s the important thing. At least, I’m pretty sure it’s you. I’ve been trying to find a safe way to reach you. I hope you didn’t mind the purple goo that came along with this. I’m told that it should be non-toxic and biodegradable.” Imogen cannot help but chuckle. Clearly Aiden has retained some of his ecological principles. “Anyway… I’m losing power here… I’ll have to try again later. But I’ve been able to talk to the queen. She’s… amazing. And she said she might be willing to make a deal with you—” The radio cuts out.
“Ah, that’s good,” Imogen murmurs. The fewer super-powerful people in the sector who want revenge on her and Lilly, the better. But Imogen still does not know if Aiden is on Tarsonis getting shelled or somewhere more secure. His voice was hurried, but that could have been because of the power issues. She will have to work on the device more. Likely she will not get it working until morning, given how exhausted she is. One thing is for sure, though: Saffron is not leaving Tarsonis until Imogen gets more information on this matter.