Lilly is enjoying herself at Saffron’s controls. So far, the skies have been relatively clear and the flying smooth. Good thing, too, because the bundle of nerves over with Imogen could become a real problem at any moment. As the ship approaches the river, clouds do start to move in, denying Lilly a clear visual on the target area.
On the other side of the pilot station, Spearmint quietly mutters to himself, “To start, just take out the emitter, okay? That’s what we have to do.”
Imogen assures him that even if the anti-Mengsk raiders would have no interest in Antiga, there are certainly mercenary groups out there who could be hired to help clean up the planet if there are still things of value around that could be pawned. Any money that existed before the zerg is probably inaccessible, either erased from computer banks or in worthless Confederate specie. But if there are any resources leftover that used to belong to the part of the population that was wiped out, using it to restore the planet seems fitting to Imogen. Spearmint seems to only half-follow her suggestions.
“Is this thing electric?” Lilly calls out.
Spearmint looks confused for a moment but then realizes she must mean the beaconing device. “Yes. I don’t know what powers it exactly… maybe a microfusion cell of some kind.”
Lilly looks around the piloting column at Imogen. “EMP?”
That sounds like a good idea to Imogen. She pulls out the pamphlet Lilly picked up from Exploracorp and flips through it. It does say the EMP can knock out any electronic equipment unless it is specifically shielded against. And it was advertised as being particularly useful against ghosts, so if this has some sort of moebius reactor like Neiman’s suit did or a power source that a ghost was required to activate, it will probably be susceptible to the EMP.
“Can you tell us anything about the location?” Imogen asks Spearmint. “Will we need to go into a bunker?” He tells her it was triggered outside of the Confederate headquarters, in front of their command center. Spearmint’s group had to fight their way to the spot. Of course, there is no knowing whether it has been moved since, or if the zerg have built anything around it. Still, they should be able to confirm the situation with their sensors once they are close enough. If the beacon has not been moved, then maybe they will not even have to land. Lilly can just hover above it and fire the EMP.
Imogen steps over to the sensor suite to take a look at the latest readings. Aside from the whole issue of the device they need to destroy, she wants to make sure no flying zerg are in the area now that they are farther east. Her stomach drops at what she sees. Sure, these zerg seem to simply be patrolling right now, not coming straight for them, but that is still not good. The only protection Saffron has right now is thin clouds. “Same type as before: flying exploding suicide zerg,” she warns Lilly. “Ground here is covered with creep, too. Not a good thing to land in.”
The base itself is just beyond their prime sensor range, but from the radar ping, it looks at first like it is mostly intact. However, once they are a bit closer and a higher resolution scan comes in, they see that creep is all over and through the buildings. They are warped, looking more like zerg structures than terran constructions. There is a factory, a barracks… but definitely zerg-infested.
Lilly has a number of ideas on how to handle the scourge between them and their destination. There is a pair of them, and they are bound to notice the science vessel before too long. Having them smash into each other would certainly be satisfying. Imogen asks about doing an up-and-over maneuver, but Lilly knows that most zerg are hardened enough to handle thin air, low pressure, even vacuum. High altitude is no safer than their current trajectory. The irradiator did well enough last time, the main drawback being that it takes a little while to really work. The scourge are fast and could cause real damage to Saffron in the meantime. Not being noticed seems the best option.
“Maybe fly lower,” Lilly suggests. They could skim the surface, maybe get the scourge to crash into something along the way, just like how they handled that spidermine with Old Red. The readout Imogen gets on the ground below is not promising, though. There just is not much interesting terrain. “Evasive maneuvers, it is,” Lilly decides, angling Saffron above the plane the scourge occupy and plowing ahead.
A sudden downdraft comes out of nowhere, slamming the science vessel lower than Lilly’s plotted course. The scourge take notice and race in. One of them smashes directly into Saffron and explodes. The force of the blast jars the ship’s occupants, rattling everyone around. Spearmint panics. “We’re under attack. Fire back! Fire back at them!” he screams at Lilly. “The Confederates are attacking us. Those wraith fighters will blow us out of the sky.” While Imogen shushes him, Lilly cracks her neck and lines up a shot with the irradiator on the remaining scourge.
Lilly stands on the bridge of a battlecruiser at the gunnery station, looking out into deep space. The captain shouts, “All crews, report in!” He has a UED accent, but no one on the mismatched crew minds; they all have pasts. Lilly looks over at him; he is dressed just as casually as she is. “Fire when ready!” he orders. She turns back to her station and brings targeting online. The reticles light up on a freighter of some kind. The weapon powers up, enormous rotary cannons unloading at the target. It is not enough to penetrate the armor, though. “Forget that,” the captain says. “Fire up the Yamato gun.” He steps over to another station, key in hand, and Lilly joins him with hers. Their synchronized turns enable the massive weapon. The reactor readout shows a spike in output, and through the viewport Lilly sees energy coalesce in front of the battlecruiser. Then the strike launches, and the directed nuclear explosion annihilates the freighter. “Oh, crap,” the captain murmurs beside her, as the afterglow fades, “now we can’t loot it.” Lilly agrees that that was dumb.
“Lieutenant Spearmint,” Imogen addresses the shaken man, “you need to remember your training. You were a soldier before, and your planet needs you to tap back into that. You need to stay level-headed here. That’s the only way we’re going to get through all this.”
His eyes focus on her and he nods. “It’s our only chance… Right…. Right.”
Imogen gets him quiet enough that he is no longer a distraction for Lilly. Her partner, meanwhile, fires the irradiator. Lilly’s blast hits the remaining scourge, but the zerg continues barrelling towards Saffron even as it sheds hide and flesh to the green cloud clinging to it. Imogen steps back over the sensors and braces for impact. “Went above us!” she warns Lilly, who then guns Saffron straight at the zerg. There is no outrunning these creatures; they are just too fast. She can, however, play chicken with it, juking out of the way just in time. The scourge overshoots them, and she smiles in satisfaction at her own successful maneuver. The zerg disintegrates as it tries to turn for another approach, and pieces of it crash to the ground.