The lyotes glare at Imogen and Lilly as the women pick their way out of the room, but they do not make a move to attack. Once out of the lyote lair, they are now in the center of the ruined barracks. Imogen knows this was as far as she was able to reach earlier so she tries to reach out psionically again, but she cannot make sense of what she perceives. Given that they just encountered four lyotes, she thinks it is unlikely that this Spearmint fellow or any allies of his are in here after all. He probably only went as far as the first room of the barracks, just to take shelter for the night. But since she and Lilly are so far into the structure now, they might as well see if there is anything worth recovering here. With that in mind, they continue on, Imogen wrinkling her nose at the stench now floating around Lilly.
They enter another section of the barracks, this one along an exterior wall. It has a partially-collapsed ceiling that opens the room up to the sky. Lilly inadvertently steps right into a beam of light, and a blur of purple and orange fur leaps down on her, smashing into her shoulder. The impact of the collision knocks her shotgun out of her hands, sending it skittering into rubble as she recoils from the creature. What is this, a zoo? Lilly has no idea what this ball of fur is, but she hopes that when she blunders into the bird sanctuary next, it is less dangerous.
“A bengalaas? What’s that doing here?” a startled Imogen says from her shadowed position closer to the door. “Those are from the protoss homeworld.” Bengalaas are native to Aiur. Seeing one in a zoo on a protoss world might make sense but not on a terran world. Sure, there are ways one could have gotten here, but those involve either a protoss coming here or some terran actually visiting a protoss world. The creature is not wearing a collar, so it does not seem to be a pet. Bengalaas are sort of tiger-like predators, but not normally very aggressive—at least not compared to zerg. Either Lilly has stumbled into another creature’s home, or this one is very hungry… Or Lilly smells tasty, covered as she is in lyote scent. Antagonizing the bengalaas does not seem like a good idea to Imogen, but maybe they could just toss it some food.
A large cat paces back and forth in front of Lilly, sizing her up like he might pounce at any moment. Animals, she can handle. At least they are not squaring off against more zerg. Lilly doubts her pistol would take this big cat down, but her shotgun is in the unfavorable position of being on the ground between them. Really though, there is no need to kill the creature. There is enough fighting in this sector without throwing animals into the mix, too. The cat did not even draw blood yet, he is just licking his fangs in anticipation. She could try to scare him away with the sound from a pistol shot or maneuver herself into a more defensible position, but there is Imogen to worry about. She cannot have him going after her teammate. He might be bigger than a lyote, but Lilly goes for the same approach. She runs forward to tackle him.
“What’re you doing, Lilly?” Imogen shouts. “Don’t be dumb!” Her partner has a paw in each hand and a knee up near the bengalaas’s face, keeping all the sharp bits away from her. However, it has more limbs than Lilly does, so this does not seem like a winning prospect to Imogen. She steps up and yanks one of Sunshine’s meat sticks from a side pocket of Lilly’s backpack. She waves it around, but the bengalaas now feels like it is locked in a battle for its life and has no attention to spare for a treat. “Lilly, I think you smell like a meal to it,” Imogen says.
“That’s fair.” This thing, whatever Imogen called him, is definitely stronger than a lyote. Lilly thinks he might go for the treat once she stops restraining him. She lets go and backs away, trying to keep herself between him and her partner. It is tricky though, with Imogen reaching her arm forward and waving it around like a deluxe meat stick. Fortunately, when the animal lunges forward, Imogen tosses the treat at him and yanks her arm back just in time.
The bengalaas looks totally engrossed with the meat stick. It probably feels like it had to hunt for its prey and is now getting a delicious meal out of it. Either that, or whatever Lilly bought for Sunshine actually has a similar taste profile to something from Aiur. Whatever the case, it is no longer paying attention to Imogen and Lilly. “Let’s get out of here,” Imogen suggests.
“Nice,” Lilly says, pleased with how they handled that scuffle. As they slip out, they hear the growling and gnashing of the big cat tearing the treat to pieces. Lilly is glad she got the kind that includes rawhide and bone; some animals like to really work at their meals.
The rest of the facility is mostly just full of smashed debris. Barracks are not really places with much value to begin with, and the two women leave with Lilly only having acquired bruises and Spearmint’s belongings. And an understanding of why Spearmint never recovered his own stuff.