FRAWD Investigators: Antiga Antics | Scene 15

Whoever these people are, they have pyres burning that are visible for miles. “They’re not hiding their presence,” Imogen observes. “We should just walk up. Diplomatically.”

“Sounds good.” Lilly puts away the medkit and readies her shotgun.

“So please don’t point your gun at them,” Imogen adds. “Having it out in a guard position is fine. Whatever it is you soldiers do.”

“Got it.”

Imogen brushes the dust from her jacket and strides around the base of the cliff confidently and warily. The pyres are still too far off for her to judge whether they are for funerals or some other ritualistic purpose. Before long, she and Lilly see a pair of guards who have not yet spotted them. The two terrans are dressed in similar sorts of rags to what Spearmint wore when he attacked their truck. They also have spears made of welded metal and rebar like he did. It definitely looks like they are on sentry duty, given their stance, but their attention is directed westward, toward the fields of creep and zerg between here and the ruins. Lilly and Imogen are approaching them from the north.

Lilly adjusts her grip on her gun and rolls her neck, relaxing her muscles a bit and reminding herself that she is armed. Two spears are nothing against a shotgun. 

Imogen hails the guards as she and Lilly approach them, so that they will hear her speaking before they see her. “Hello, there!” The guards turn quickly, spears dropping into ready position as they demand to know who the intruders are. Imogen makes polite introductions. “I’m Imogen, and this is Lilly. Who am I speaking to?” The two guards exchange a look and shoot uncertain whispers at each other, so Imogen presses on. “Are you survivors of the Antiga militia?” Imogen holds Spearmint’s name in reserve, uncertain whether these guards are on his side… whatever side that might be.

“Yeah, I mean, that was before,” one of the men answers. “Before the invasion, before everything. Look, I don’t care if you were Confederate, or Antigan, or Sons of Korhal. It doesn’t matter who you were anymore.”

That sounds fine to Imogen, but the other guard hisses to his companion, “Now you shut up, Charles! These have to be the two people they told us about.”

“I don’t know, Larry. There could be other people!” the first guard replies defensively.

“So do you work with Lieutenant Spearmint, then?” Imogen asks.

“There’s no ranks like that anymore, okay?” Charles says. “But, yeah, we work with him sometimes. He’s good at what he does. He’s killed a few zerg.”

Lilly mutters under her breath that she and Imogen have killed a few zerg, too, but Imogen does not bring that up at this point. “Did he tell you we were coming?” she asks instead.

“He mentioned there were some infidels out there. Is that you?” That is a new one to Imogen. She has been called foreigner and outsider plenty of times, but not infidel. “We’re going to have to bring you in then,” the guard named Larry continues. He looks over at Lilly and her shotgun. “I’m going to have to ask you to hand that over.”

Lilly looks wordlessly at Imogen, who continues diplomatically, “Perhaps you can tell us what the problem is here. We’re not looking to cause any fights, and we’re happy to leave you all alone if—”

“If you’re not looking to cause fights, then you shouldn’t be bringing that dangerous technology around,” Larry counters. “That’s what stirs up zerg.” Each woman now has a spear clearly pointed at her and one guard’s full attention.

“Everything stirs up zerg,” Lilly states.

“The less things that stir up zerg, the better!”

“I think just being terran stirs up zerg,” Imogen points out, trying to just bluster their way past the guards, “which you’ve already got covered yourselves.”

“We need to take you in,” Larry reiterates. “Charles, just go tell them, already!” he orders his companion, who runs off around the corner of the cliffline, towards the pyres. Then Larry orders the strangers to put their weapons on the ground.

“No,” Lilly states bluntly. Imogen offers to just leave her pistol holstered, as it is right now, and holds her hands up at chest level, showing that they are empty.

“No, we can’t—Those are dangerous—Look, it’s not just that they’re weapons that could be dangerous, you know,” Larry stutters out unsteadily. “It’s that they’re dangerous technological artifacts that attract the zerg!”

“My pistol’s just as mechanical as your spear is,” Imogen counters. Goodness knows she has taken it apart and put it back together enough times to know. “There’s nothing electronic in it. Just powder and bullets.” She keeps her cool outwardly, but this obstruction is beginning to annoy her. They just want to talk to Spearmint, after all. 

Larry turns to Lilly, who antagonizes the man, growling, “I’m not giving you my gun.” 

“I’m going to ask you one more time,” he says. “I know you look big and tough, and I’m sure you are, but it doesn’t matter how tough you are when there’s a spear sticking through your heart. I’ve taken down a lot of zerg and hydralisks; I can take you down, too. I don’t want to do that. It’s just a simple question.” He grinds it out, “Do you have any electronics on you?”

Lilly looks at Imogen and shrugs. She is pretty sure she could shoot him before he could reach her with that spear.

Imogen restrains herself from throwing up her arms in frustration. “It’s just a shotgun! It’s just bullets, and it’s just powder! She’s not carrying anything more advanced than that.” Nevermind that they have comms, and the sensor goggles are propped up on Lilly’s forehead… Imogen pulls her own respirator from her bag, holding it out to the guard. It has electronic components, so maybe it will satisfy him that they are being compliant to some degree. She does point out to him, however, that burning plastics like his people are doing makes the air unhealthy to breathe. It is a price he says he is willing to pay, confident that the burning is somehow keeping the zerg at bay.

The guard looks back over at Lilly and points to her head. “Those goggles, they aren’t just binoculars. I can tell.”

Lilly looks at Imogen again, wondering why they do not just walk away. Or shoot the guy.

Imogen keeps chipping away at the guard, though. She cannot let those batteries just burn; she needs to get to someone she can really talk to. But the sensor goggles are just as important as the batteries; she and Lilly will need them when dealing with Neiman or that other UED ghost who is working for Rose. She asks about the fate of the items they turn in. Larry expects they will all be burned, as that is safer than individually assessing each piece. He, however, is not the one who gets to make those decisions, that is someone named Marsha. Finally, Imogen feels like she is getting somewhere. “Fine, then we’ll turn them over to Marsha.”

Larry lets out a long, slow hiss. “How do I know you won’t use them to summon zerg? Do you not get it? Do you not understand? Things like that attract zerg from across worlds.” He points at Lilly’s forehead again. Lilly keeps her mouth shut, but this guy has no idea what they have got. These sensor goggles are nothing; there is a zerg fused with technology sitting in their ship at this very moment! “Why do you think our planet got invaded in the middle of a war?! Too much high-end technology in one place.”

Imogen gets that he believes what he is saying, he is just wrong. “They’re turned off,” she insists. “We won’t use them. We don’t need them.”

“How can I trust you? Spearmint said you were stirring up zerg. You were poking around in the science facility.”

“Yeah, we killed all those zerg,” Lilly says.

“Aye,” Imogen agrees. “And that’s good for you, right? That we killed those zerg?” She takes a couple steps toward him and his spear, closing the distance so that this can continue more like a normal conversation. He does not seem on the edge to her—just a little unhinged—so she does not think he will run her through with his spear. Once she is nearer, she stretches with her mind, trying to sense anything useful from him that she can tap into, since so far her arguments have fallen on deaf ears. Or maybe he is paying more attention to Lilly’s posturing than to her own words. 

Larry allows that since the women are not from around here, they might not understand the full situation, but he insists that it is for their own safety that they turn over their electronics. “Maybe Marsha won’t want to destroy them. Maybe she’ll let you leave, make you go away,” he suggests. Imogen senses that is not an option for him though; his mind gives off longing to reclaim his home from the zerg. This is not a man to whom they should offer a ride off the planet, that is for sure. “Personally, I think that would be fine. It would get rid of the dangerous, dangerous technology.”

“Taking the dangerous technology off this world is exactly what we came here to do!” Imogen tells him agreeably. “We can lead the zerg away from your planet.” That is a bit of a stretch, Imogen knows, but she is relieved when she sees him nod in acceptance.

“We’ll let Marsha decide,” he finally acquiesces. “Just turn them off.”

Imogen looks to Lilly, holding out her hand for the goggles.

“Sure,” Lilly says, handing them over. She trusts Imogen. Worst case scenario, they get burned. They are great goggles, but whatever Imogen says goes. That guy cannot burn them, but if Imogen needs to, okay.

Imogen makes a show of flicking every switch she can find on the respirators and the goggles. Larry prefers not to even touch the technology at this point, so Imogen just carries it along as he takes them to his leader. Along the way, she assures him that they will be happy to take away any other technology that his group does not want endangering their planet. 

Larry makes one final request of Lilly, that she put her weapon away at least. Only once Imogen asks, “Would you be okay holstering it?” does Lilly secure the shotgun. She does not mind; she still has knives within easy reach. And this guy has not seen Imogen run up the face of a zerg and stab it. He has no idea how dangerous we are, Lilly thinks.