FRAWD Investigators: Aiding Aiden | Scene 5

Imogen peeks up over the bank of the creek to assess the situation. It took a little while to deal with Lief’s ankle, so she has lost track of the sentries. From this closer position, Imogen can now tell that the pirate outpost is indeed a simpler version of a vulture factory. It stands on stumpy struts with a ramp lowered. If it had the right materials to be making stripped-down bikes that is probably where they would roll out. The structure is not in the best condition, but if it retains any of the materials for its original purpose, it could have some parts for fixing up Old Red. That would be a nice bonus to get out of this whole affair.

It has been a bit of time, and Lilly has still not come out. Imogen is not the sort of person to just sit by and let someone else rescue her brother, but she sees that Marshall fellow and his companion patrolling around still. The creek bed cut down the distance to the outpost, but there is still open space to cross. Imogen drops back down next to her cousin, who is muttering about his ankle feeling funny. She is just about to ask him if he remembers anything from class about how long the day/night cycle on Jarban Minor is, when she feels a cold chill and a gust of wind. Then one of the planet’s peculiar mists suddenly manifests. 

A dark cloud, like a large, low thunderstorm, covers the area, but rather than slate gray, it is bluish-purple. Imogen remembers Mr. Banda talking about it in his Year 9 climate class. One of the oddities of Jarban Minor is the naturally-occurring iridescent fogs. Scientists don’t know what causes them, because we don’t want to disturb the planet too much. We don’t want to impede the fogs with terran development. The mists were there first, and they have a right to continue existing. And it’s true, we don’t know what the long term effects of the mist are on terran health. Our scientists have only encountered them sporadically, and they were certain to have filter masks on hand at all times. All we can say conclusively is that they are not acidic; they don’t burn the skin. The filter masks are back on Saffron; Imogen had not considered one necessary on this verdant planet.

“We’ve got cover now,” she tells Lief, hoping the mists are innocuous. “Let’s get to the outpost. Head for the side, not the front ramp; we might be able to slip underneath.” Her cousin deftly hops up and slips into the fog. Imogen follows. She cannot hear Lief, but she does hear Marshall again somewhere nearby.

“Oh, no, the mists! C’mon, c’mon! How am I going to see whatever that thing is?” Imogen smiles privately: he is still worried about her water-zerg. She hears crunching up ahead, and as she ducks beneath the factory, scrambling across noisy scree, she sees Lief already there, farther under. Marshall has heard all this, too, it seems. “No… There’s something… There’s something in the mist! We gotta get out of here! Lift off! Lift off! Everybody on!” Imogen hears the clanking of one set of footsteps on the ramp and then another. 

Lift off? she wonders. Then she remembers that, like so many Dominion quick-fab buildings, these factories are capable of slow, low-altitude flight. That realization comes just as one of the engines above her starts to fire. She quickly rolls away from it toward Lief’s safer location, narrowly avoiding the smokey blue flame billowing out. “Grab on!” she orders her cousin as she hooks an arm and a leg around a pipe and pulls herself up into a sitting position.

Lief just manages to get a hand hold. His legs dangling below him, he shouts at her, “Do you think this was a good idea?”

“You’re the one who said you wanted to do something interesting!” she reminds him. They can feel the building rising, but with the mist, it is impossible to tell how high they are getting. “Look for a hatch!” she tells him, craning her neck around. It will not be as easy as when she first broke into Saffron, but she will work with the conditions that present themselves. Lief points out a hatch that he can see from his lower vantage, and Imogen scooches along her pipe over to it. There she wraps one arm around a vertical strut to secure herself while she fishes out her wrench with the other. “Well, we’re not getting in this way,” she mutters when the hatch refuses to open even after she has gotten the handle to turn. But then she notices that it has been sealed with some sort of foam. She taps the sealant with her wrench and finds that it is pretty hard. “Ah, but maybe it’ll burn,” she mutters to herself. 

The engines are still firing noisily around them, and Lief agrees, “Aye! Don’t get burned!”

Imogen slides the wrench back into its loop on the side of her backpack and unzips one of the small compartments, pulling out the spritzer she assembled for Arudin. It did not work as a delivery device for getting a maimed protoss drunk on Kick In the Face, but it should work here. She gauges the ship’s movement, waiting for the flames to change direction slightly, and then she sprays the high-proof stout. Flames leap from the engines over to the hatch, and the foam melts away. The entryway springs open. “After you, Cousin,” she says. Lief zips along the undercarriage of the factory as if it were a set of monkey bars on a playground and easily swings himself inside. He holds down a hand for Imogen, and she tries to climb up through, but the sides of the hatch are still too hot, so she has to flip up like he did.