Beyond the collapsed ceiling and walls is the main room where Imogen and Lilly originally entered the facility that morning. Only one section remains unexplored behind another pile of rubble to the north. They both step up to it, but before shifting anything, Imogen concentrates on her psionic senses and detects a zerg presence. “I can hear a zerg in the next room,” she warns Lilly with a slight lie. Does she believe me, that I simply heard it? Imogen wonders, inadvertently leaning on those same senses again and skimming Lilly’s surface thoughts. Lilly is so even-keeled, and her psionic presence is almost bland, like it is tempered in some way, smoothed over. Imogen tries to pull back but finds the mental landscape to actually be more like quicksand. She cannot withdraw and gets sucked in further the more she tries. Beneath that calm surface, the waters of Lilly’s mind roil with uncertainty about her own past. There are things she does not remember, things that she needs to know about where she has been and what she has done. Lilly was in the military, and she certainly must have experienced some traumatic things. Rocko from the War Pigs once told Imogen that in the business of war, forgetting things is the only way to stay sane. But maybe Lilly feels she has forgotten too much. This puts the whole investigation of Snowball and Cerberus into a new context for Imogen.
“I can hear a zerg in the next room,” Lilly’s friend tells her. Lilly listens for a moment and nods in agreement. There is definitely some scratching, some movement on the other side. Just one zerg is not that big a deal, so Lilly begins clearing rubble. She hefts some large chunks aside on her own, but after a while, she needs a rest. This doorway is more tightly blocked than the last one they cleared, and Imogen is not helping. Lilly sits down for a moment and takes a drink. She thinks about maybe shooting the blockage, but when she looks up to assess that plan, she finds that Imogen is in the way, still standing by the rubble, unmoving. This is not like her. She might fiddle with some technology while Lilly is doing physical work, but she would not just stand idly by. And Imogen is silent. Usually she is talking, giving advice or encouragement or orders, saying something.
Imogen seems to be looking past Lilly, so she turns to glance over her shoulder. There is nothing there. Is she listening for something? Lilly wonders. She concentrates. There are still some scratching noises from that zerg, and outside, off in the night somewhere, canines of some sort howl. Sunshine is having a better time than I am, Lilly thinks. “Imogen, what is it?” she whispers. There is no response. A new possibility comes to mind. Is this what she was like before she passed out in Egon’s lab? Maybe Imogen has fits of some kind. “Imogen?” she says, a little louder. Lilly steps up to the Umojan and takes hold of her shoulders, not to roughly shake her, just to rouse her.
Imogen startles at the physical contact. The room comes into focus again. She blinks.
“You all right?” Lilly asks when she sees Imogen’s eyes focus on her.
“Aye…” Imogen tries to pull her own thoughts together, now that she is no longer lost in Lilly’s subconscious. But as usual, her partner requires no explanations.
“All right. Stand back.” Lilly pulls out her shotgun and lifts it, then pauses. “No. Wait.” She dashes through the halls they have already cleared, pulling her filter mask up as the air worsens. When she reaches the vespene storage room, she grabs a barrel, then swiftly returns to where she left Imogen.
Lilly runs back into the room with a leaky vespene barrel and a crafty smile. “Let’s blow it,” she says.
Imogen quickly puts on her own breath mask and then assesses the rubble, determining the best location for an explosion to clear a way through. Lilly places the barrel, and they both move back, taking what cover they can. Imogen pulls her pistol out to be ready for the zerg she sensed earlier.
“Too bad I didn’t bring the frying pan,” Lilly says as she once again raises her shotgun, but she does not get a shot off at the barrel. They have generated so much noise by now that the roach in the next room has become aware of them, and it has grown impatient. It bursts out of its burrow and into their room. Lilly jerks her gun in the zerg’s direction right as she is squeezing the trigger. The creature howls as the bullets tear through it.
Imogen takes her pistol in both hands and carefully lines up a shot at the barrel. It explodes, blasting both the rubble and the roach. The smell of vespene is now joined by the unpleasant odor of burning zerg. The sound is painfully loud within the confined space and could certainly be heard outside. We’ve wasted enough time, Imogen thinks, and who knows what else that might attract.
Lilly takes in the destruction and says, “Nice,” but her companion is not finished. While Lilly admires the view, Imogen jumps through the flames into the next room. “Whoa.”
Imogen’s eyes burn from zerg ash and vespene fumes. She blinks them clear and looks around with her flashlight. There are no batteries in this room either, and she holds back a string of frustrated curses. A large bulky item, mostly buried under rubble, catches her attention, and she wipes the grime off a placard near it.
Essential upgrade. Escape pod.
Saffron could certainly use one of those. Two, really, but one is better than none. Imogen calls Lilly in, and between the two of them they manage to dig out the pod and get it out of the building despite all the debris. The pod is large enough that they need to carry it together, one at each end. Once they are outside, Imogen tapes her flashlight to its side to serve as a headlight. She finds that the pod has a location beacon that can provide additional light, so she turns that on as well.
The trek back to the ship in the dark laden with the pod takes longer than any of their previous transits. Discouraged and eyes still burning, Imogen grumbles along the way about how there were places in the facility where batteries should have been, but they were all gone. “We definitely need to track down that fella. We’re lucky this pod is so rugged, or someone might’ve smashed it in, too.”