Lilly lowers the ramp and opens Saffron. She is a little surprised to see the same protoss they already talked to here to greet them. Maybe fleet commander is not as high a rank for protoss as the name sounds. Selendis is shorter than Arudin or Malorn, right around Lilly’s height, and she is not as bulked up as Lendasha. Could I take her? Lilly wonders, considering the commander’s slight frame. Selendis does have a pair of psi-gauntlets and some form of armor, so she is probably not just a push-over researcher herself. Maybe, if I had to, Lilly concludes.
Lilly does not approach this dialogue with weapons in hand. The frying pan laser is stashed under her bunk for now. She has some basic weaponry on her person, just for general safety, but there is no reason to brandish it now. “Permission to disembark, ma’am,” she says from the top of the ramp.
“Permission granted temporarily,” Selendis allows. “So, you’ve brought this protoss with you, who you’ve rescued…” Arudin passes Lilly and Imogen, stumbling down to join his compatriots and vocalizing in some strange language. Lilly cannot understand the words, but she can tell that there is a flood of them. “Calm, calm yourself,” Selendis tells him, extracting her arm from his desperate grasp. She snaps her fingers and orders the guards who step forward to take Arudin aside. “We will check out his story,” she tells Lilly and Imogen. “In the meantime, we wish to verify how you came across him.”
It did not exactly look like they were arresting Arudin, but Imogen is unsure of their footing here. This homecoming is more contentious than she expected. “Do you need to interview everybody separately? Or do you want us just to tell you again? If you’re not equipped to deal with wounded soldiers like him, you could direct us to some other group of your people who would be more appropriate.”
“I’d rather not reveal the location of another protoss colony world,” Selendis says. “How did you find the location of this planet?” Imogen tells her that Arudin directed them here and told them that at the time he went to Antiga, there was a zoological study going on here. Selendis admits that there is, after a fashion.
Lilly gives her straightforward version of events. “We found him on Antiga Prime. I think he’d been there some time. He’d been injured, so we just brought him to the first protoss place we found out about.”
“I’m sure you’d agree that taking him to another terran world wouldn’t be good for him,” Imogen adds.
“How do you know he’s not tal’darim?” Selendis asks. “He could have cut his nerve cords even shorter.”
“Well, he certainly doesn’t behave like any tal’darim I know,” Imogen replies.
“You know tal’darim?”
“I’ve had dealings with them, aye. He seems to have no interest in fighting his way to the top of some pecking order. He just wants to get back to his people. He’s lonely. He misses having his cords. I don’t think he’s been putting on an act among us this whole time.”
“Has he been honorable?” Selendis asks.
“Aye.” At least, as much as Imogen understands the protoss view of honor. Arudin declined activities that he said were inappropriate, like sparring with her, so he was clearly keeping to a code of some kind.
“Yeah, he didn’t kill or steal anything,” Lilly adds.
Selendis does not doubt that these terrans think Arudin was honorable by their own measure. “Maybe you don’t understand. I don’t know what tal’darim you’ve encountered in the past, but they are quite crafty. They’ve managed to steal our technology from us and reverse-engineer it. They’re smarter than they let on with their barbaric culture. He may have stolen from you. I’m going to have to ask—not just for your safety, but for our safety—to search your ship.”
“You want to search our ship? We have other passengers on there that deserve their privacy,” Imogen objects.
“Their privacy is not my concern. The safety of this colony world—of my people—is my concern,” Selendis counters.
“You searching our ship is not going to show you anything that Arudin stole from it. If you think he stole something, then you search him.” Selendis suggests he may have planted something on the ship, but that does not fly with Imogen either. “He didn’t have anything to put there! He’s been marooned on a destroyed terran planet for years.” Imogen completely omits any details about what Arudin was doing there with the psi-emitter, not wanting to get him in trouble or cause more problems than she and Lilly seem to have inherited already.
Lilly gestures over to where Arudin is having a private conversation with a couple guards. Or are they orderlies? “He’s got everything he came with,” she says. “He didn’t have a lot. And he didn’t go anywhere in the ship. He was just standing there the whole time.”
“Arudin was under our watchful eye for the entire flight and never went anywhere other than the central hub,” Imogen clarifies. Protoss sensors might be advanced enough to detect her psi-gauntlet or Lilly’s frying pan or—even worse—Snowball, so Imogen does not want to suggest any sort of sensor sweep. A walkthrough of the main chamber is far more palatable, and Imogen agrees to that on the condition that Selendis not disturb their other passengers.
“I’ve got pets,” Lilly says. “They need their rest, trust me.”
“And the passenger in my quarters also needs his rest,” Imogen adds. She reiterates that Arudin could not have planted anything, but she allows that it is physically possible that he sabotaged something. As the ship’s mechanic, she insists on being present during the inspection.
Selendis does not like it, but she agrees to these terms. She turns to call over a research assistant, giving Imogen and Lilly a chance for a quick hushed conversation. This place is supposedly a research base, but those phoenixes are definitely fighters. Imogen doubts the protoss are just doing zoological research here and would really appreciate Lilly examining the activities with her soldier’s eye. If anything violent is going to go down, it would be good for Lilly to be prepared.