At the science facility, the first order of business for Lilly and Imogen is to load vespene onto the back of the truck. They put on respirators, and Imogen grabs the duct tape for quick barrel repairs, leaving the rest of her equipment under the dashboard of the truck. When they get to the vespene storage room, she focuses on assessing and mending the leaking barrels. Lilly is strong enough to move a barrel of vespene on her own, so this seems a wise division of labor.
Lilly’s new sensor goggles are pushed up on her head. She does not wear them over her eyes all the time because it is a weird way to view the world and they have no reason to believe cloaked targets are around. But right now, as Lilly steps up to the intact barrel, she reconsiders. Something feels off in this place, and she made a mistake earlier brazenly going in without lung protection. Don’t be dumb, she tells herself, lowering the goggles. As she rolls the barrel into the adjacent room, the atrium, her foresight pays off. The goggles give her an edge, and she detects the heat of a zerg burrowed under some debris. Lilly pulls out her shotgun and fires at the creature through the rubble.
A chitinous zerg the size of a small car bursts from the rocks. It has two impressive pincers and is only vaguely similar in appearance to a hydralisk. This zerg, a roach, skitters about on four legs, and rather than shooting spines, it sprays acid from its huge mouth. Lilly ducks out of the way of the stream, moving farther into the room. Her new position is unfortunately more exposed, so she wastes no time in firing off a second shot that costs the zerg a leg.
Hearing the sounds of fighting, Imogen pulls her pistol and spins around. She fires off some shots above the zerg, dislodging a broken pane of glass. She was hoping it would impale the creature, but instead it crashes to the ground in front of it. The zerg dives back into the rubble, tunneling away. Lilly tracks its movements with her goggles and gives chase, firing through the broken pieces of floor and crumbled ceiling. The creature stops moving, and Lilly wrenches back some of its cover to find it dead. She quirks a smile and reaches into her backpack for a sample jar. She has never seen a zerg like this one before, so maybe it will be new to Li June, too.
From her location in the vespene storage room, Imogen tries to detect psionically whether there are other zerg underfoot. She senses nothing. Satisfied that the threat is gone, she returns her attention to the barrels. Unfortunately, the damaged ones are too far gone for her to simply patch a few holes, at least not in a way that she can be confident they will not leak more aboard Saffron. Done with the roach, Lilly returns to the one whole barrel. “We should stick that one on the back of the truck and then move on,” Imogen tells her. “It’s not safe to take any of these other ones. With how bad the air quality is in this room here—and this is open to atmosphere—there’s no way it would be safe to travel with barrels like these inside Saffron,” Imogen concludes, discouraged. So much vespene, so close, and yet also out of reach.
“But could we just pour it into Saffron?” Lilly asks.
“Oh!” Imogen brightens up. “That’s good thinking, Lilly! We can use one of these leaky ones to top off Saffron, and then we have your good one there as a backup for later.”