Once Saffron is off the platform, Imogen and Frank emerge from her quarters. His needs will inform where the ship goes next, and right now, he is still fixated on his cat. “We can take care of that before we resettle you,” Imogen assures him, handing him a business card. “We’re Lost & Found, and we are involved in animal recovery and delivery.” She tells Lilly, “Instead of going after a large bengalaas on Antiga Prime, this time we’ll go after a small tabby on Korhal.”
“Do we have a tail?” Lilly asks. “What’s the rush?”
“His leave only lasts until dinnertime today. After that point, people will be looking for him. But Frank doesn’t exist anymore. So, if it’s not too much trouble, Lilly, could you work up an ID like you did for our friend Mal Ornery? Mervin here needs one.”
Lilly agrees and starts the prep work for a jump to Korhal, but the situation around Tarsonis is changing rapidly. Zerg flyers are launching en masse from down below to make a move at the platform, and Saffron is still dangerously close to all that. Imperative is scrambling its defenses, launching wraiths to harry the zerg. Seeing that Lilly intends to act, Imogen pulls up a floor tile and drops down into the reactor area to prepare for an engagement. Frank has some gunnery experience and offers to handle any weapons they have while Lilly performs evasive maneuvers.
“Target any zerg that get close enough,” Lilly tells him. “You might get two shots out of it.” It depends how much power Imogen is able to coax out of the reactor.
Frank lands a hit right on a mutalisk in the middle of a pack. The group splits up, trying to put distance between themselves and the irradiated one, which makes them easier pickings for the Dominion wraiths.
“You can try again!” Imogen calls from down below, her voice partially drowned out by the groaning of the engines.
“Just a sec,” Lilly says, as she whips Saffron around to a better position. From this new angle, she can see that the wave of mutalisks are acting as a protective screen for some massive creature. It is the size of a battlecruiser and headed up toward the platform. Lilly had no idea zerg could be so large. “Target those screeners,” Lilly tells Frank, worried about the unknown threat. Frank’s shot rings true, scattering another clump of mutalisks.
At this point, Imperative’s batteries open fire, targeting those gaps and lighting up the enormous zerg with everything it has. It now becomes clear why the platform was parked in orbit upside-down. Normally a defense platfrom’s main weapon systems are pointed spaceward to defend the planet. But Imperative was retrofitted to be used offensively instead.
Saffron’s calculations are finished for the jump to Korhal, and the irradiator is exhausted. There is not much more the science vessel can do here, but still Lilly lingers. The zerg have not reached Imperative yet, but she is worried about Durian. Ships are actively fleeing the planet and the platform. Lilly takes Saffron in closer in case he needs an extraction. She sets the sensors going, collecting data to feed to the platform just like they did on their initial arrival earlier this week. She calls Durian, who of course starts by asking if she is okay. Only once she assures him of that does he tell her he is scrambling to get his gear together. He has orders to evacuate, and she immediately offers to pick him up, but he declines. He is still responsible for all the Fruit Baskets and must get them to their assigned berths.
“You need to get clear,” he insists to Lilly. “I know you had to leave in a hurry. Just go. We’re on the most well-protected platform in the sector next to Korhal,” he assures her. The sound of an explosion in the background punctuates his claim. “Don’t worry! That was just somebody being dumb. Some things never change.”
“You sure?” Lilly asks.
“Yeah, I’m sure. Korhal. It’s a date.”
“All right.” Lilly cuts the connection so Durian can concentrate on his own safety. Then she feeds the sensor information to the radio tower. The staff there are very grateful, since the Dominion’s own science vessels are only just now launching. Lilly’s information is vital to bridge the intel gap until those ships are in place, but Command requires nothing further of her.
Sparks crackle below deck as Imogen struggles to deal with some overloads. Saffron will need some proper care planetside. They have enough vespene to get to Korhal and then Mar Sara, though, so Imogen is not too worried.
With the all-clear from Imogen, Lilly reluctantly engages the distance drive. Durian may have insisted she go, but she still feels bad about leaving him. Next stop, Augustgrad: cat wrangling and hopefully a date.