The door to the Cerberus facility is set into a rise, suggesting the rest of the compound is underground. On one side is the Cerberus logo, familiar from Snowball’s implant and Lilly’s tattoo. On the other side is a skeletal spiral pattern, rather similar to the design on Jim Raynor’s power armor, which was adorned with creepy imagery evocative of zerg. Lilly steps up to the Cerberus side. There is a place for her to lay her palm, as well as a number pad.
Lilly stands at the door, hand resting on the palm-reader. She looks across to her battle buddy. The large hydralisk has a claw raised and growls a little, indicating he is ready. Lilly punches in her first number, then he enters his. They enter the full code, alternating with each digit, and then the door opens.
Lilly moves into position without comment, leaving Imogen to usher hydralisk-Snowball to the opposite side. The changeling lets himself be moved, not at all understanding what is expected of him. Imogen places one of his claws onto a pad and then moves the other one, using it to tap in the numbers that Lilly calls out. For the first one, Lilly shouts, “Three! Your number’s three!” She adds impatiently, “You always forget!” as though she is talking to someone who should know what he is doing.
The door opens and air rushes out at them. Apparently the air in the facility is maintained at a more comfortable pressure than it is outside. An actual airlock would probably be a good idea these days, but this building is pre-war, so Chau Sara had a proper atmosphere when it was constructed. Lilly hefts the frying pan laser and Imogen has her pistol out and ready as the two step into a long foyer of sorts with a few doors. Snowball follows dutifully. Inside, emergency lighting glows, lighting the space with reds and yellows. The walls are stark metal and mostly bare, except for a few posters. One reads, DBD: Use the buddy system, and shows a ghost and a hydralisk together, both shooting what is clearly some nefarious villain.
Another poster is titled Zerg: Biological warfare! and depicts a Cerberus ship airdropping zerg onto some group of ne’er-do-wells. The Cerberus and the Confederate logo are on a lot of things here; Cerberus was a division of the Confederate military. Imogen regards the poster. “So these fellows were using zergs as weapons against people. Mengsk wasn’t the first to do this, then.”
Lilly shrugs. “Maybe this is where he got the idea.”
The door to outside slowly slides shut. The breath masks indicate the air is fine to breathe now, so they take those off and stow them. With the sounds of rushing air and outside silenced, a scratching noise can now be heard. Imogen and Lilly both grow still, looking around and then meeting each other’s eyes. The sound is coming from beyond a metal door on the left wall. Imogen steps in close and presses an ear against it. Lilly will hopefully assume she is just listening, but in reality, she expands her mind for a psionic reading of what is on the other side. “Sounds like there’s only one in there,” she reports. “But it might be pretty big.” They hear a loud scratch right on the other side of the door. “And it might know we’re here,” Imogen adds.
Lilly evaluates for a moment whether they actually need to worry about this. This is not the only door, and it leads to a deadend, given that the sign above it reads Solitary Confinement. She decides, though, that it is best to secure the area they may need to retreat through. There is a slot in the door, something that meals could be passed through. Lilly steps up and pops it open to have a look inside. The moment her hand starts to move it, a large claw protrudes and rips it open the rest of the way. Lilly is treated to an extremely up-close look at this piece of zerg anatomy. From further away, she might think this was a hydralisk claw, but it is bigger and thicker with three digits that almost form a hand. This is just like what that broodmother who shot Old Red back on Mar Sara had. That zerg talked, which means this one is also likely a smart zerg. Lilly backs up a bit; the claw has complete control of that slot, but a shot from the frying pan laser might make her reconsider. “Stand down, or I’ll shoot your claw off,” she warns the broodmother.
An eerie voice reverberates through the room. “You’re not the captor here! What other foolish terran is taking over this facility? You terrans can’t contain me forever!”
Imogen, who had been evaluating just how secure the door is, speaks up. “We might not be the ones who put you in there, but you’re still at our mercy here. Tell us what you know about who did.”
Oh, Imogen wants to talk. Guess I won’t shoot, Lilly decides. She keeps the frying pan trained on the zerg claw, though.
“It was that perversion of nature, a terran ghost. One of your kind. Taller than you, shorter than her.” The broodmother’s eyes are occasionally visible behind her claw as she bends down and looks out at the terrans while keeping the slot open.
A perversion of nature? Lilly is surprised to hear this perspective coming from a zerg. They seem happy to mutate and take on the characteristics of anything around them. Maybe they have some sort of value system? Or maybe she’s just mad… Regardless, the broodmother is lining herself up perfectly for a laser to the face, if needed.
From what Imogen has seen, zerg are psionically linked in some sense, at least for relaying commands or battlefield observations. All protoss are psionic also. It is reasonable to Imogen that protoss and zerg—at least the zerg who can think—would think it is an aberration for solitary terrans to be psionic, given that they are not on the whole as a species. Or maybe zerg consider psionics to be beyond the purview of terrans as encroachers on this sector of space. It is possible Imogen can leverage the broodmother’s bias against Neiman, since it does not seem like she suspects Imogen of having the same capabilities. This cell is right by the entry, and the zerg seemed to hear Lilly and Imogen come in. She may have witnessed other useful things. “How long have you been held here?” Imogen asks. “Is your captor still around?”
“Yes, the terrible ghost returned about a week ago. I’ve been here for weeks. He perverts zerg! He cannot be allowed to continue!”
“We can agree on that, we can,” Imogen says.
Lilly realizes this must be a reference to the tech like Snowball has in his head. She shoots a look at her little hydralisk. The implant is not visible on him in this form. Lilly cannot tell if the broodmother has one, though. She is in a dark room, and Lilly can only catch glimpses of her head through the slot, depending on what angle the creature looks.
“I will not serve him,” the broodmother continues. “I will serve only the Queen of Blades.”
Sure, just another terran ghost, Imogen thinks, but she knows better than to state that aloud. “We’re here to stop his experiments,” she says instead. “If you know what’s best for you, you’ll keep quiet about our presence.”
“You don’t even know where you’re going. I know; I’ve been through this facility. You let me out…” The idea of thinking and talking zerg is still new to Imogen, but it is not a far step from communication to deceit. This could just be a trick to get them to open the door. Imogen extends her psionic senses again, skimming the surface level thoughts of the creature beyond the door. Imogen has never gotten much from her attempts to read Snowball, but now she finally gets a good look into a zerg’s mind, one far more complex than Snowball’s. It is familiar in some ways, full of complex thoughts like a terran or protoss mind, but it is also quite alien. Terrifying, even. Foremost on the broodmother’s mind right now is imagery of her ripping Neiman limb from limb. There is no doubt that he is the captor in question. Also, though, there are hydralisks in her mind, and the broodmother is ripping the implants from their heads and then shepherding them out of the facility into the emptiness of Chau Sara’s wastes.
Clearly, this zerg has been elsewhere in the compound, and either she has liberated other zerg before or she hopes she will be able to do so. She certainly has not already ripped Neiman to shreds, so she must be thinking about what she wants to do. Most importantly for any further deal-making, there are no imaginings of her ripping Imogen or Lilly to pieces.