Imogen’s commanding air dissolves into outrage at the news that her brother was taken by zerg before she even reached Umoja. “You… you… you brought him to a zerg-infested planet! What did you think was going to happen?! Who knows what’s happening to him!” Those strange vibes I felt, that must have been infestation setting in…
“Stop already!” Naja says, straightening up to yell back at the Owendoher, all thought of cover gone from her mind. Her gun is still in hand but now hanging forgotten down at her side. “I gotta… I gotta get him back… But none of you can tell Jackson!” she shouts at the room at large, her priorities in all this quite clear.
Naja may have lost it, but Kofi still has his head on straight. He ducks around his cover, taking shots at Lilly and calling her a traitor. She returns fire, and Kofi goes down in a pool of his own blood. Lilly is pleased to notice her shotgun seems all right now. Maybe it was just the coffee that got spilled on it, not Naja’s shot. Whatever the problem was, it has sorted itself out, and Lilly counts herself as lucky. Or maybe Imogen is the lucky one, since she was going to be the one to have to fix it.
From just within the brig, Lief calls out over his shoulder, “Uh, Imogen… You know a lot about zerg, right? Is that a zerg?” In addition to whipping winds, some sort of organic blobby thing is coming into the room through the hole in the exterior wall.
Imogen spares a glance that way. A ramp of zerg bio-matter extends into the brig through the crack. Her eyes track it back to its source, a balloon-like overlord flying alongside the factory with its side open as though it is a dropship. Imogen herself has only been atop and below an overlord—the one that Nieman was controlling—never inside one. But she can see how using them as a transport makes sense, with the tendrils hanging down for lowering zerg into combat. That was how she got off the one on Chau Sara, after all. Are we about to be boarded? Or is this an invitation? “Aye, that’s a zerg,” she confirms to Lief.
He swears under his breath. “You didn’t tell me they’d be that big!”
Lilly is not thrilled by the news. They are already in a tight situation. If they have to fight zerg, too… And Naja is freaking out, making her actions harder to anticipate… Lilly dashes across the room, putting herself between the lieutenant and the Owendohers and keeping Naja covered with her shotgun, just in case.
Naja, though, barely registers the action. Her gun slides from her fingers, and she brings her hands up to cover her face, drunkenly sobbing into them. “I am so screwed! Jackson’s going to kill me! All for this stupid kid. Why did he ever cross us?”
There is a bang down the hall, and two guards tumble onto the floor through the now-open hatch to the cockpit. Imogen has gotten the information she needs from Naja, so she decides it is time to get out of here. With Lilly now moving to cover their retreat, Imogen dashes toward the brig herself. Her journey is given an extra boost by the collision of a Jarban glider with the exterior of the factory. The large jolt sends Imogen tumbling forward into the small room. She smacks roughly into the ground but regains her knees, crawling forward and reaching a hand toward the zerg ramp, hoping the contact will make what she is about to do easier. It extends to meet her, which is both unsettling and reassuring at the same time.
Overlords can relay orders to other zerg, suggesting to Imogen that they are smarter than the typical mindless drone or zergling. She inclines her mind toward the overlord, seeking to glean answers to her many questions. Did I attract it? Does it know where Aiden is? Is it sending zerg to take the ship? Imogen cannot sense any thoughts, but the movement of the tentacle ramp definitely feels like an invitation to her. She climbs to her feet and shouts so her partner in the other room can hear her, “We’ve got a way off.”
Still in the rec room, the enormous shudder knocks Lilly to the ground via the corner of a table. The resulting gash across her forehead does not faze her, though. Gunshot wounds and hits to the head, these I can handle! Adrenaline courses through her system, the rush of combat and the relief of no more talking. There is another lurch, and her stomach drops. It feels to her like the ship is falling. They are not quite at the point of freefall yet, but it is definitely going down faster than it probably should. A crash is inevitable.
Lilly regains her feet. With news from Imogen that there is an exit strategy, she heads into the brig, backing in to keep an eye—and a shotgun—on Naja, even though the woman is a mess.
Booker’s voice blares over the factory-wide speakers, and he does not sound happy. “This is your captain speaking,” he bites off. “We’re going down. I don’t know what the hell you idiots are doing down there, but brace for impact!”
Lief darts in front of Lilly, yanking the door closed between them and the remaining pirates. He jams the lock, and then, eyes wide, turns to Imogen. “What do you mean, ‘way off’? On… on that thing? Are you daft, lass? Are zerg really better than pirates?”
“It’s here for us,” his cousin replies, her words sounding more ominous to him than she may have intended. She begins to carefully make her way up the tentacle.
“I don’t like that! That’s worse! That’s much worse! That pirate said it took Aiden. Let’s not do that. We—well, maybe you two—can take those pirates. And I’ll fly the ship—the building—the factory,” he rambles, holding the door shut against Jan and Marshall’s attempts to open it.
Naja’s wild voice floats in. “Don’t let them get away! We can’t lose another Owendoher; we never got the first one back!”
The overlord is falling alongside the factory, and tentacles can be a little squishy and slimy, but Lilly is not worried about maintaining her balance. If they fall, there are plenty of other tentacles to catch ahold of. She supposes that is how Imogen plans they will get away, just sliding down to the ground. Lilly grabs Lief and drags him along after her. The tentacle ramp begins to recoil as they go, pulling itself back toward the overlord. Imogen has run right inside, so Lilly follows with Lief.
The interior of the overlord is covered with disgusting zerg tissue and is rather dim, lit only by some sort of bioluminescence. The cavity is large enough to hold quite a few zerglings, but right now there is only one figure standing on the other side of the organic room: Aiden. Imogen has been in very close proximity to an infested person before. She remembers the sheen of iridescent sweat across Ted’s black skin as he pleaded with her to leave him behind on Brontes IV. What she thought was just a flu when they first met had blossomed into an uncomfortable transformation. Imogen watches her brother closely now and sees signs of the same. Aiden may not be spewing acid like Ted did, but he is definitely infested.