Lilly has by now managed to casually position herself near Lieutenant Spearmint and the pile of junk with the battery. He looks at her suspiciously as she approaches, but she is not surprised. He threw a spear at her yesterday, and she chased him with a shotgun; they are not starting off as best buds.
“Hey, I found some of your stuff. We just want to trade it for a battery and go,” Lilly says quietly.
“I don’t know you,” he grumbles back. “What is it that you want? You j-just want to go? I tried to scare you off, okay? You should have left then.”
What does she want? She just told him! But just because he is not a fan of this technology burning does not mean he is ready to mutiny. He might be going along with all this because it is safer to be in a group or because he feels protective of his fellow survivors. And maybe he just does not believe Lilly. Reaching into her bag to pull out one of his things might be viewed as a threatening move, so Lilly just describes some instead. “There was a picture of you and a blonde woman and an older man. Also a nice electric razor.”
Spearmint tears up a bit, long-buried memories resurfacing, and his voice quavers as he says, “It’s all in the past, okay? It’s all gone. We can’t get that back. The best we can do is try to get rid of the zerg. Th-this has been working, okay? We make a little bit of progress every year. Wh-what am I supposed to do?” He starts in a hiss, but his volume grows as he gets more worked up. “Yes, I think it’s dumb to burn technology, but you know what? I’m still alive. There are no hives left. We’re making progress! Do you have a better solution?”
“To killing zerg?”
“I mean, yeah.” Irradiating gas, for one, Lilly thinks.
“What’ve you got?” he demands, eager for solutions but doubting she has any. “Can you call down a Confederate nuclear strike? That would probably help. I’m sure the planet would turn into a radioactive wasteland, but then it would be no good for zerg anymore, so I’ll take it.”
Spearmint does not seem entirely with it to Lilly, and her one little science vessel is not going to solve this planet’s problems. She tells it to him plainly. “Honestly, I don’t really know a viable solution for your situation. It seems kind of… strange. Sure, we can kill some zerg,” Lilly offers. “I’ve battled them before.” Antiga is as far from Korhal as Mar Sara is. Help is not likely to come from the government. “If it were me, I’d probably hire mercenaries.” Spearmint protests that they cannot get calls out, and Lilly offers to bear a message on their behalf. For the first time, Spearmint seems hopeful. Lilly adds, “I know a mercenary band in Dead Man’s Port. We could take a couple people if you have anything to trade.” Saffron’s life support is tuned for occupancy by two terrans, but they could bear an additional passenger or two for a short trip. Particularly if it is just to Dead Man’s Rock or somewhere else nearby.
“We don’t have any credits!” Spearmint leans down and picks up the battery from the heap at his feet. “We just have a pile of junk!” he cries, as he shakes it at her. “That’s all we have!”
“Well, I’d trade for that battery,” Lilly says.
Meanwhile, toward the center of the cluster of people, some of the elders have taken note that mercenaries are yet another possible solution to their problem. Marsha sees her council support eroding and reels herself back in. She realizes she has been ranting. The heat from the fire is making her sweat, but she could look like a raving lunatic to those around her, as her hair has also come loose from some of its bindings. “You know what? Maybe it will be better if you see for yourself,” she tells the Umojan. “Yes, I can give you the coordinates for where the fire goddess rained down destruction upon our world by calling forth the zerg. If you get yourself killed, that’s fine. That will just make it easier to burn all your heresy. And if you can pied-piper the zerg out of here, that will be good, too. But I want proof—”
“Yes, take it away!” one of the other elders says. “Turn it off! Or just destroy it! Yes, destroy it. Don’t bring it back here. That’s too dangerous.”
The coordinates are farther to the east, but not that great a distance. Marsha also provides Imogen with a description of the object, a relatively small beacon with a set of rotating transmission dishes. As her comments about the ghost implied, it is light enough for a single person to carry. That is as much detail as she can provide, though. No one in their community has been to that general area in a long time because it is so dangerous.
Imogen and Lilly will be able to fly out of here, all their technology intact, but there is still the matter of the battery. Imogen looks over at where Spearmint is waving one at Lilly and makes an inquiry about taking any of this other dangerous technology off the survivors’ hands.
Marsha follows the other woman’s gaze and, wanting to be done with this all, just says, “That piece. Take that piece. As a… gesture of goodwill. When you bring back your proof that you have destroyed the device, whatever other technology we have you can take away.” Marsha takes a deep breath and collects herself.
“Aye, we’ll take that,” Imogen agrees. “And we’ll go to this device and turn it off.”
“Destroy it,” Marsha corrects. The Umojan nods, but Marsha does not quite trust her. She looks around at her people. “I will send—”
“I volunteer to go with them as your representative,” Spearmint says. “To make sure they follow through.”
Marsha looks at him with narrowed eyes, wondering what his ulterior motive is, but his actions serve her purposes, so she accepts the offer.