Lilly flips a few switches to start the engines heating up and runs through the preflight checks for space voyages. Imogen, meanwhile, continues interacting with Snowball. The changeling may not understand many words, but he demonstrated he can understand visuals. Imogen points to the cranial implant in his hand and then points to her own head. “Do you want it back on your head? I can reattach it,” she offers, holding up a screwdriver. Snowball shakes his head emphatically, giving a definite no. At the same time, he seems keen to keep it with him.
“Saffron’s got a backpack,” Imogen reflects, thinking of the vulture bike. “Now just Snowball needs one.” Fortunately, in all the kitschy odds and ends Lilly picked up in Augustgrad, there is something that can serve that purpose. Snowball does not have bones, so he has no internal scaffold to really support carrying anything heavy, but he can handle a small bag holding just the tech, an MRE, a jar of creep, and a thermos of sweet tea. When the latter comes into visual range, Snowball grabs for it. Some things have not changed with liberation, and now he even has hands to more easily get at the drink. His motor control is pretty weak, the terran fingers just being for show, but he manages to handle the thermos with the dexterity of a terran toddler just learning to use a sippy cup.
“You’re not going to be able to order him around so easily now that he’s a moody teenager,” Imogen teases Lilly. She is just about to suggest a return to Antiga Prime, when her phone starts ringing. Glancing down at the very long-distance number, she hastily steps into her quarters and closes the door behind her before accepting the call.
“Ahhhhh, Imogen,” a familiar voice says. “Haven’t talked to you in quite a while. Surely you don’t forget your old Uncle Leo.”
“What’s this about, Uncle?” Imogen asks levelly. It has been more than a year since she left Umoja, and she has not been in touch with her family since then.
Her uncle keeps his tone light, almost nonchalant. “We’ve been missing you back home. There’s some news you should hear, but these weak Dominion comms, they really can’t get the message across. You should get home, soon as you can.”
“How important is this?” Imogen runs some mental calculations on the amount of vespene they have and how far the trip would be. They have enough to get to Umoja, certainly, but it will take all their reserves. There is also the matter of the zerg aboard Saffron. As far as Imogen knows, zerg have never been to Umoja, and she is not overly keen on showing off her homeworld to the Queen of Blades by way of her latest recruit.
Leo takes a moment to answer. “Well, sooner rather than later would likely be helpful.” His composure cracks a bit. She can hear that he is under some strain.
“Who’s in trouble this time?”
“Well, you know how your brother gets into things…”
“What’s Aiden done?”
“It’s better if we talk in person.”
Imogen sighs. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“And, ah, bring some backup, if you can,” her uncle advises.
Lilly has never expressed any curiosity about Imogen’s family, but she is sure she will come along, no questions asked. “I’ve got that covered.”
“Aye. Take care, will you.” Her uncle cuts the connection.
Imogen puts away her phone and steps out of her room into the central hub. Lilly is perched on a crate—there are still no chairs in this place—sharpening all their knives. “I’ve got coordinates for us,” Imogen announces.
Sure enough, Lilly simply replies, “All right.” She puts the knives down and takes her position standing at the helm to enter them in. Imogen heads to the shower.