After kicking back a couple cold ones, Lilly and Axion return to the sparring room for another round with the sticks. Lilly wins this bout; she suspects all her knife work has given her a bit of an edge here. The psi-gauntlets look to be more of a punching weapon, so the baton does not really fit Axion’s training.
“Well done,” Axion congratulates her, having enjoyed the fight. “I did not think I would be bested by a terran, but if I must be, I am glad it was by you. May we meet on the field of battle one day.”
“May we fight side-by-side,” Lilly replies to the solemn declaration.
“Perhaps. These are unusual times,” Axion says, and he takes his leave.Selendis enters the room just as Axion departs. On her walk here, she checked in with the Khala to learn what this other terran has been up to. Although she disapproves of the sparring, it is not strictly forbidden. “Your fighting skills are formidable, Lillian Washington.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
“Have you been feeling welcome here? I apologize for the earlier confusion.”
“Yes, ma’am. I know how we came in,” Lilly replies. The blood, the bear-thing, the hoversled-jacking… it could leave a bad impression. Selendis does not dwell on that any further, though. She asks Lilly what she thinks of the tentative agreement she made with Imogen regarding recovering technology from the tal’darim. “The tal’darim?” Lilly echoes, surprised by the turn the conversation has taken.
“Yes, the barbarous, traitorous protoss that I believe you are familiar with.”
Lilly is unsure how to respond. Malorn is her friend, but she was fine doing a job against Lendasha. “What do you have in mind?”
Selendis summarizes how the tal’darim have been stealing from her people to create their own Death Fleet. They would retreat if they detected Selendis’s forces approaching. The terrans would not be expected, though, and after seeing them in action, Selendis feels they have the right skills for a hit-and-run job. She shares that Imogen has already agreed to compensation of interest to her and says they need to agree on something appropriate for Lilly. “I understand that you possess a piece of protoss technology, a laser rifle of some design—”
“I’m not a thief,” Lilly reflexively states.
“We understand it was a gift to you,” Selendis reassures her. “And I do not wish to have back such an inelegant weapon.”
“Imogen told you about it?”
“After some pressing, she divulged this information, yes.”
“Did you torture her?”
“No, she and I came to an agreement after a long conversation.”
Sounds like torture for both of them, Lilly reflects, but she is satisfied with that answer for now. Selendis offers to make improvements to the weapon, and Lilly takes her to see it. Along the way to Saffron, she collects her groggy lyote from the medical center. Selendis waits at the base of Saffron’s ramp while Lilly goes inside to her room. She lays Sunshine down on her bed to rest and then retrieves the frying pan laser from underneath it.
Selendis examines the laser rifle. “I’m not familiar with this exact design, but I recall hearing a briefing about such a weapon.” She tsks. “It’s just not oriented to protoss tactics. Frankly, it suits terrans better, and we may have stolen the idea from you.”
“There’s not a lot of finesse to it,” Lilly acknowledges, “not like one of those psi-gauntlets.”
Selendis brings Lilly back to the sparring room for some shooting practice. She sets up a target across the room, and Lilly launches a bolt of blue energy at it. Selendis admires the shot, which confirms that Lilly knows how to handle the weapon without hurting herself.
“It shoots pretty nice,” Lilly observes, “but see how hot it is?” She holds it out for Selendis to lay her hand on it. From Lilly’s perspective the overheating is one of the rifle’s two flaws. The other is that a lot of people want to get their hands on it, so she cannot just carry it out in the open. “The Dominion would take it. Your people would take it. The tal’darim would take it.”
Selendis has no suggestions on how to redecorate the rifle to not look like a protoss device, but the overheating is a tractable problem. It requires a reconfiguration of the power centers. The problem is that, right now, the laser is constantly trying to charge up. With the changes she has in mind, it will be able to dissipate heat more quickly after each shot. “We could do the reconfiguration after you complete the first job for us, or if you have something you would be willing to trade, we might be able to do it now,” she suggests. Although Selendis would never admit it to a terran, protoss technology has become rather stagnant and it is not well adapted to the current war situation. Having a look at what the terrans have developed could be quite useful.
Lilly does not think she has much to offer right now. There is no way she can trade away their extra barrel of vespene gas, and beyond that there are just the scraps she and Imogen have salvaged. Protoss tech is more advanced than even Umojan, so that stuff is probably not of interest to them. “All I have is terran tech. Well, I do have these sensor goggles. They can see cloaked things,” Lilly says half-heartedly.
Selendis considers this for a moment and then tries them with Lilly’s permission. They are sufficiently intriguing that she agrees to have the laser ready in the morning. Since she is taking such an interest in those sensors, Lilly offers to show her Saffron’s. They return to the ship, and Lilly demonstrates what the science vessel is capable of. She shows how it can detect cloaked things and buried zerg, but what catches Selendis’s attention the most is the EMP. She begins asking tactical questions about its range and area of effect, so Lilly hands her a pamphlet from the Exploracorp facility. The only time they have actually deployed the EMP was on Antiga, when it disabled the psi-emitter and Arudin’s shield. Lilly gets a little carried away about all the cool things the ship can do, but she catches herself before describing the capabilities they have not yet unlocked for the ship. Don’t be dumb, Lilly reminds herself. She does not need to hand away all their tactical advantages.