The Exploracorp science facility is a large domed structure, cracked in some places and covered by vines in others. Some smaller domes around the edges have their glass completely smashed in. There are no vehicles out front, probably having been taken when people fled. The main door is blocked with rubble. Lilly sets to work with her hands, while Imogen uses the crowbar from her mechanics kit. They haul aside chunks of concrete, avoiding impaling themselves on rebar.
As they step inside, Imogen pulls out a flashlight and shines it around. Sunlight does filter into this first room, but detritus abounds, creating shadows. There are several computer stations here, and every single screen is broken, purposefully smashed in. Behind one, Lilly finds a crude axe made from scrap material. She presents it to Imogen for study. Something like this would not have been made by zerg, certainly, but Imogen cannot tell just from examining the tool how recently it was assembled. It could have been left by survivors long ago or recently. Imogen extends her psionic senses, seeking life, but she can perceive no one other than Lilly in this room.
“I think we should head toward the vespene storage,” Imogen suggests. “Then at least we’ll know what we’ve got as far as that is concerned. Then if we see anything else of interest along the way, we can stop and investigate. But that’s as good a target to start with as any.”
Lilly quietly returns the axe to the floor and pauses, looking around cautiously. She examines the dirt and dust, looking for tracks. The bombed-out floor is uneven, so even when she does find signs of terran footsteps, they are too irregular for her to follow; she can simply note their existence. Lilly also sees markings left by a creature she cannot identify, maybe an animal, maybe a zerg. She stands and points these out to Imogen, then looks further up, in case anything is watching them from atop rubble. Every now and then, she thinks she hears something, but she cannot see anyone. With her senses all on full alert, Lilly realizes she smells vespene. There is some in this facility after all, but if she can smell it all the way here in the first room, there must be a major leak.
Seeing her companion looking around, Imogen reassures her, “There’s nobody else in this room. It’s just us.”
“I smell vespene.”
“It’s not good to breathe it long-term, but hopefully it will be fine for now,” Imogen says her. “Ah, well, we’ve no reason to linger in this room. If the person who smashed everything is still around somewhere, we might have to deal with them, but it’s possible they can be negotiated with. Those other tracks you pointed to, though, I don’t know what those are.”
“Me neither.” Lilly hefts her shotgun. She does not want to risk the frying pan igniting the air in the room and blowing them all up.
They head further into the facility toward the standard vespene storage location in layouts like this building has. There is junk everywhere; the halls are carpeted with rubble of varying depth. Lilly moves swiftly through it, having been on worse battlefields. Imogen struggles to keep up. Something turns under her foot, and she slides a bit, but she catches herself. They pass a few side rooms, but Imogen wants them to press on. If they can find vespene and get it back to the ship, that will be a weight lifted off her shoulders. She does not want to be stranded on this planet.
The smell of the gas grows stronger around them. Imogen begins to grow concerned, not just that the vespene is escaping from containment but also because of the health risk it presents. She kicks herself for setting aside her respirator back on Saffron. Ahead of her, Lilly approaches a doorway, seemingly oblivious to the green mist around her. “Hold up, hold up!” Imogen calls. “It’s getting thicker than I expected. That’s worse than the refinery on Brontes.”
Lilly shrugs and holds her breath, then rushes in, intending to grab a barrel. She finds one that looks intact and tries to hoist it up onto her shoulder, but the exertion is more than she reckoned on. She is only able to get the barrel halfway to the doorway before being forced to abandon it. Lilly ducks low to the ground where the air is cleaner and rolls out of the room. She climbs to her feet and admits to Imogen, “That was dumb.”
While Lilly was making her grab for vespene, Imogen was going through the supplies she has, trying to see if anything could be used to jury-rig a filter mask of some sort. Her attempts actually damage some of the bandages in the medkit. Irritated, Imogen grumbles to herself about just duct-taping their mouths. She looks around the room, seeking inspiration. While she finds none of that, she does see some intact equipment sheltered from destruction by a table. It looks like it would be worth something on the salvage market once cleaned up.
Lilly reports her findings. The air is completely unbreathable from a half dozen corroded barrels. “But there’s at least one that’s not leaking,” she adds.
“There’s no time crunch. Let’s take this back to Saffron,” Imogen suggests, patting the equipment she has brushed off. “We can better equip ourselves for this place. We might even be able to reseal some of those barrels, but not until we have our respirators.”
On the way out, they look in the side rooms they passed earlier and extract a few more pieces of pawnable equipment. Lilly finds another primitive tool that suggests a more recent terran presence. These rooms have significant charred sections, but whether the fire was at the time of the war or later cannot be judged. Imogen finds no batteries, but based on the kinds of racks in these rooms they should be here, along with chargers. She sees no broken pieces though, so they were not smashed like the monitors. Rather, someone has already taken them, perhaps as long ago as the evacuation. Imogen hopes that even if these were taken by a salvager, other batteries might still be farther in the facility in harder to reach rooms. These front rooms have all followed a similar pattern. Everything valuable and intact (other than a few things Imogen has unearthed) has been taken, and everything not portable has been destroyed.