Imogen and Frank clear the railyard and continue west. Their agreed upon goal is to physically extract the adjutant so that they can get it into the hands of people who can see that its information is made known. “Think of the moment you found the adjutant,” Imogen coaches Frank. “What were you doing just before? Hear the sound of its voice in your head. What visual stimulus is tied to it?”
Based on Frank’s shaky memories, their destination is only about half a klick away, around where Imogen saw Dominion forces on Saffron’s sensors. The terrain is rough, punctuated by derailed train cars and other rubble. It makes the going slow, but it provides them some cover from any terrans or zerg around. Just past the third such car is the rockslide in which Frank says the adjutant was buried.
Before they approach that close, Imogen pauses them. There is a chance they will get caught, and if that happens, Hawke could very well recognize Frank. If Imogen had gotten any sleep last night, she might have been clearheaded enough to think of this back on Saffron, where there is actual makeup. But out here all she has to work with is dirt. Frank’s head was recently shaved, so at least they have that change going for them. Hawke was not part of his chain of command, so she might not remember many details about his appearance. Imogen messes him up a bit to improve their chances. Frank accepts the dirt smudges and fake bruises without protest. “Right, right. Gotta stay hidden. Don’t want them to know. They can’t know,” he murmurs. Imogen remains uneasy though; if they get caught, she does not have a believable story fully thought out.
As they make their final move toward the third railcar, a shuttle descends just ahead, right where the knot of Dominion soldiers are. It bears no Dominion insignia, though. Rather, it has a large KM for the Kel-Morian Combine and the emblem of Hammer Securities, a mercenary company from that part of the sector. They don’t usually take Dominion contracts. What are they doing here? Imogen wonders.
She peers around the edge of their cover to watch the scene unfold on the ground. The shuttle ramp extends, and two heavily armed mercenaries clomp down it in expensive-looking power armor, each a couple feet taller than Durian is when fully decked out. Waiting for them is a guard detail of three marines kitted like Frank. They stand around an officer who fits the description of Captain Hawke: a pale white woman with a shaved head in light armor. She steps forward to greet the newly-arrived mercenaries. As she is extending a hand, however, she stops suddenly and turns in the general direction of where Imogen and Frank are silently hiding. “I know you’re there,” she announces.
With a quiet swear, Imogen jerks back around the edge of the railcar.
* * *
The other zerg in the train station continue to look around in alarm, none making any move to help Spikey. He is clearly trying to push himself up, but he is under too much weight and remains pinned by the beam. Beside Lilly, Durian checks his gun and lets out a long breath, psyching himself up for combat. Lilly ducks back down and looks at him. “The hawk’s my friend,” she says almost apologetically.
“Wha? What do you mean, he’s your friend?” Durian exclaims. “He’s a hunter killer!”
“Well, I, um, I guess he’s moved up,” Lilly says quietly.
“How long have you known this guy?! Wait, wait, wait, wait… This is your changeling? No, Snowball is right there.” Durian remains boggled. “What is your history with a hydralisk?”
It is early in the morning, the day after they ran those UED fascists off Korhal. The sun is not even up yet. Lilly’s head is still fuzzy from her beer party with Spikey last night. This is way too early to rise, but something is poking her insistently. She pries her eyes open and sees Spikey, right there in her room. “What?” she groans. He grabs her and practically drags her out of the barracks. She stumbles after him, not sure where they are going but able to read the insistence in his body language. They get outside, but he just keeps leading her on. She dimly notes the beautiful sunrise filling the eastern sky. Finally he stops and pushes her to sit on a piece of rubble, gesturing with his claws for her to stay there. She turns to look back the way they have come. The zerg down below have turned on the Dominion forces, betraying their pact. With the UED gone, so is their tenuous alliance. But Spikey pulled her out. He saved her life.
“We fought together at the Liberation of Korhal,” Lilly tells Durian. “He saved my life. I can’t just leave a battle buddy pinned. He looks injured.”
“Yeah, I hear you,” Durian says, exasperated but understanding. “But these other zerg are not friends of yours, correct?”
“No. But I’m not sure why they’re not helping him. They might be from a different brood. Watch my back!” Lilly dashes out, heading toward where Spikey is trapped.
Durian swears under his breath but quickly gets in position to take shots with his rifle if any other zerg notice her. Just before she gets into cover again, the other hydralisk spots her and lets out a shriek.