On their way out of the facility, Lilly sees signs that other roaches have been around, but she and Imogen do not encounter any more of the acid-spitting zerg. They load the good barrel and the best leaky barrel they could find onto the truck and head back to Saffron. As they approach the bridge, Lilly turns the truck around to back across it in order to make offloading the barrels easier on the other side. Suddenly, the vehicle lurches and tilts as one of the tires blows out.
Imogen immediately thinks of the broodmother who sent a spine through Old Red’s gas tank. Alarmed, she looks around for zerg. The truck has no doors or intact windows; another spine could just as easily hit her or Lilly. That shot might even have been aimed at one of them!
Lilly leans out and looks down at the front driver’s side tire. A makeshift spear has torn a large hole through it. That’s dumb, Lilly thinks at first, imagining she drove right over it without seeing it. But then movement catches her attention, and she looks up, meeting the eyes of a ragged figure holding a loaded atlatl. He panics, launching a spear in her direction and then taking off at a run. The piece of rebar with sharp scrap metal bound to the end misses Lilly, but it passes through the truck’s empty window frame and sticks in the leaky vespene barrel.
Imogen jumps down from the truck and runs after the man, shouting, “Stop! Wait! We’re not enemies!” He knows the terrain well, and it is rough going for her; he loses her easily.
Lilly did not anticipate Imogen’s reaction, but she is certainly not going to let her friend run off on her own. She pulls out her shotgun and takes up pursuit as well. The man evades them in the ruins, but not before Lilly gets a better look at him. He is middle-aged and very weather-worn. It is impossible to tell whether he has naturally darker skin like Durian or is an excessively-tanned paler person. His hair is ragged and grown out, and he wears a beard to mid-chest. His clothes are also worn and patched, but he does have boots. And also, sticking out of the top of his large satchel, he has a battery.
Imogen catches up to Lilly as the latter is turning around to head back to the truck. “He has a battery pack,” the soldier declares.
“Well, maybe there are others he hasn’t gotten from the facility yet. Everybody has a right to salvage.”
“Maybe he would trade them for a charge or something,” Lilly suggests.
“It’s good thinking, but I called and he ran. It seems he’s not interested in negotiations.”
“Maybe a trip off this planet.”
Imogen shrugs. “I’d be happy to help him improve his situation, but if he doesn’t want to talk, he doesn’t want to talk. For now, though, we need to deal with what his spears did. If the truck can’t drive anymore, we need to roll that leaky barrel across the bridge to Saffron and get what we can out of it before it’s completely useless.”
They return to the truck, and Imogen assesses the barrel while Lilly looks over the tire. The truck does have a tire inflation kit, but that is of little use considering the size of the hole. There are no spares, and Lilly briefly considers trying to just drive on the rim, but given how hard the truck has been to handle already, she decides against that. It would be dumb to have some stray sparks set off all their hard-won vespene. Maybe the truck is worth something as trade to people on this planet, she thinks, not yet ready to entirely write it off.
Enough vespene remains in the leaky barrel to fill Saffron’s tank. Once it is loaded in, Imogen breathes a sigh of relief. Between that and the backup barrel, they have enough vespene to do what they need to in the Sara system and get back to Korhal.
On-planet transportation is another matter, though. The truck is not going anywhere, so that means they will be hiking back to the Exploracorp facility again. Lilly worries about how secure the ship is, now that they know for sure that zerg are not the only threats around. Imogen points out that they themselves had to break in via the escape pod hatch, which was not a simple matter. “Set some traps if it’ll make you feel better,” she jokingly suggests. Lilly proceeds to do exactly that and puts up a snare line at a height that will still enable Sunshine to return safely to the ship.