Faced with the prospect of falling through more floors or being ambushed by more animals, Imogen suggests they suspend poking around and simply try to draw their quarry’s attention. If the fellow is still around, maybe he will hear them and be willing to talk now. She would prefer to shout from a high point to better project her voice and have increased visibility, but her attempts to do so are thwarted by her lack of physical training, even with Lilly giving her a boost. She is not helped by how crumbly and rusty everything is around here, either. The roofs on these buildings are likely no more safe than the floor Lilly has already fallen through. Imogen settles for walking around, shouting, “Lieutenant Spearmint! We just want to talk to you!” through a rolled-up paper serving as an impromptu megaphone.
Lilly and Imogen walk around the compound, looking for more signs of his tracks as Imogen yells. They are confident he spent the night in the first room of the barracks, but picking up his trail beyond there proves difficult. The terrain is just too rocky. What tracks there are suggest he headed off into the wilderness to the east of the ruins. However, he has the advantage of knowing the area far better than they do and could just as easily have circled back around later. Or since the Exploracorp facility is eastward and a little south, he might have headed there. They presume he is the one who smashed that place up, though, and the job was pretty thorough. On the other hand, he might think there are areas newly accessible since Lilly and Imogen have opened them up.
“We’ve got vespene now. Let’s just go somewhere else for batteries,” Lilly suggests.
“The only other lead we have is Tarsonis,” Imogen objects. “That’s a far worse planet than this is.”
“You think this guy’s our only shot?”
“It’s the only shot we have the information to exploit right now… But we could poke around at these ruins since we’re here… See if there’s anything else useful… Or maybe find other signs of him or places he likes.”
“Well, he attacked us,” Lilly observes.
“Aye,” Imogen acknowledges. “And I don’t know why.”
“Right? Unless that was his favorite truck?” Lilly shrugs. “If we can figure out why he attacked us, we could just do that again.” Imogen laughs. That is such a Lilly solution. “The other option is to try to use the sensors to find out where his base is. ‘Cause it’s not here.”
“Agreed, but first let’s look around here. If we find anything useful, we can drag it back to Saffron and then use the sensors.” Lilly makes a joke about it being too bad she did not find his journal. Imogen reflects to herself that it would certainly be useful to be able to get psionic vibes off regular items, like she did from her psi-gauntlet that one time.
Their tour of the factory is not as eventful as their time in the barracks was. In keeping with the good side of her luck in these ruins, Lilly finds more information about Lt. Spearmint, though. Specifically, it is an invoice sheet indicating he was a quartermaster. At some point before everything went to hell, he requisitioned a Crucio siege tank and two vulture speeder bikes. Lilly slips the paper into her backpack with his other personal effects, a smile crossing her lips at the thought of finding the vulture bikes.
Imogen, meanwhile, frowns as she looks around at the waste. Just like in the science vessel facility, all the display panels here are smashed. Anything small and accessible is gone; anything large and accessible has been wrecked, either by a bomb or a crazy terran with a scrap-made axe. One such broken implement lies deep in the rubble here, but there is no sign of recent passage. “Was this all just for spite?” Imogen asks.
“I think he’s burning the fields,” Lilly replies.
“Zerg are not going to use computers,” Imogen points out.
“Other humans? Maybe this place was more secret than we know.” Lilly definitely remembers terran-versus-terran fighting on this planet. Two groups? Maybe three? She fought the Confederates somewhere around here, she is pretty sure, but it is kind of hazy. Maybe Spearmint recognized her and that is why he attacked them. “Maybe he went nuts,” she suggests.
“That sounds very likely,” Imogen agrees. “If he’s the sole survivor of this area and he has been on his own for a long time…” As she pokes around, though, she finds some evidence against that theory. There is an abandoned campsite within this building that was definitely used by multiple people. Spearmint is not entirely on his own, but whether there are separate groups of survivors or not remains unclear. “You said the military withdrew,” Imogen says to Lilly. “They probably abandoned a fair amount of people on this planet. He could just be angry.” She thinks back over everything they have seen smashed so far and presents another hypothesis. “Or it’s not the military that they’re angry at, but the technology that failed them.” Imogen shakes her head in frustration. “He better not be taking those batteries somewhere to be added to a luddite shrine.”
“Maybe not angry. Maybe just not wanting anyone to access the information in the systems,” Lilly suggests, still thinking about the rebellion that she probably had a hand in.
“That’s possible,” Imogen allows. She continues mulling it over aloud, “If they don’t want to be detected, they could be trying to stop any technological emanations.” She frowns again. “He walked off with battery packs. He could have just smashed them. Is he going to use them for some purpose?”
“You think there’s more than him?” Lilly asks.
“At least at the time this facility was destroyed.”
“He was a quartermaster,” Lilly shares. “He would know where all the good stuff was. And he was a soldier. He’d be able to take care of himself.” Unfortunately, that does not clarify the issue of whether or not Spearmint is currently operating alone.
“Let’s go check out the starport. See if they’ve ruined it too much for us to be able to do anything,” Imogen says gloomily.
The starport is the same story as far as being a complete mess. However, the actual landing area is not as badly damaged as it could be. Underneath all the vines and shiftable rubble, there is a legitimate landing spot for Saffron if Imogen and Lilly just take the time to clear it. The payoff seems worth the investment for them, as it will raise Saffron enough for Imogen to try more elaborate repairs. And they will no longer need to worry about crashing down on rough ground following a sensor sweep flight. After some manual labor, Imogen pulls out her toolkit and primes the landing struts while Lilly runs back to last night’s parking spot to fetch the ship. Lilly brings the science vessel straight down with no problems at all. Either she is finally getting the trick of this whole pilot thing, or landing pads are just that much better than wasteland. When she comes out, she finds that Imogen has even gathered together a pile of salvaged materials to help with repairs. Fortunately no one felt the need to dent every bit of sheet metal or slice every spool of wire.
It is already midday, so they take a break, giving Lilly time to shower and change into clothes not smelling of lyote dung. Imogen organizes her new supplies, but the repairs themselves will wait until later.