The door the hydralisk was guarding is not locked. It opens to reveal a long hallway with standard office doors. There are no windows in them, but they are labeled with letters and numbers. Li has only reported one terran presence in the area, and Lilly heads straight to door 3A to check that out. She does not even register that Imogen has opened 2A and stepped inside it. Their zerg followers are not as swift and are still making their way through the staging area.
Laser at the ready, Lilly throws open the door, startling the occupant, a middle-aged bronze-skinned woman with black hair done up in a French twist. Elaina is sitting at the desk inside working on a laptop. Above her is a shelf with books on genetics and neuroscience. She turns to see who has come in. “Who are you?” she asks at first. Then something clicks, and Lilly sees recognition cross her face. “Wait, Lilly? What are you doing here? Oh! You’re in the witness protection program, too. Of course! That makes sense.”
“No, there’s no witness protection program,” Lilly says matter-of-factly. “You’ve been kidnapped.”
“What? No, no, no. I’m in the witness protection program because Rose might try to kidnap me.”
Lilly quickly scans the other woman for weapons but does not see any. “Do you know where Abdul is? Or Shelley?”
“Yeah, they were in the back helping with some of the simulations. It’s great they found some interesting ways we can still help the Dominion out in this program.”
“What are you doing?”
“Running simulations. See?” Elaina turns her laptop so that Lilly has a better view of the screen from where she stands at the doorway. “I just wanted to get out of the big room. It’s a little too hectic in there,” Elaina rambles casually.
She’s got no idea, Lilly thinks.
“Look, there’s this little simulation. We can issue commands to these little… Well, technically, in the simulation they’re zerg.” The screen shows a digital representation of a large room with a handful of zerg. They might be hydralisks, but it is hard to tell with these graphics. “It’s to help the Dominion refine our battle tactics,” Elaina goes on. “In this case, we’re controlling the zerg. I’m still getting used to the interface myself,” she says. “There’s just a lot of things going on at once. Many places you need to click to get them to move and such. They can attack the training dummies.”
As Elaina explains, Lilly quickly looks over the screen. The controls do not look intuitive. Lilly snatches up the laptop despite Elaina’s protestations. “Where did you say Abdul was?” she asks again.
“He’s in the big room, watching the simulation in person. This is all really taking place, but we’re controlling the zerg. The Dominion has some amazing technology!”
“This isn’t a simulation,” Lilly tells her. “This is controlling real zerg.”
“Well, I saw that’s what it looked like, but I thought those were just animatronic zerg.”
“Like the guy that was patrolling the hall?” Lilly prods, incredulous.
“I thought that was just a really fancy Dominion robot,” Elaina says. Lilly shakes her head no. “How do you know it’s not?”
“Because I’ve fought zerg!” Lilly replies. “We shot the tech in his head.”
Elaina looks quizzically past Lilly’s shoulder. “What’s coming down the hall? That doesn’t sound like a hydralisk.”
“She’s with us,” Lilly says, but her attention is more on the computer, so she misses Elaina’s confusion about what ‘she’ Lilly is talking about. “So what can you do with these things?” Lilly asks. “What can you command them to do?”
The question distracts Elaina from the strange noise. “Well, I’m still learning a lot, so I can only tell them to move around. Once I get a little bit more training I should be able to tell them to attack targets, take cover, and so on. If we can get the right resources, the whatever-he’s-called—commander or something—says we might be able to manufacture some new zerg.”
Lilly does not see a phone or an intercom in the room, but with Zagara on the way, she needs to make sure Elaina will not sound an alarm. “How do you call for help if there’s trouble?”
Elaina seems perplexed by the question at first, as though she can think of no situation that would warrant needing to do so. “Well, there’s a chat window to talk with other people watching the simulation…”
That sounds like there is no panic button under the desk. Good to know, since Elaina is probably about to freak out. “Imogen!” Lilly calls, computer still in hand.
“Imogen’s here too? Oh, of course, she was also—”
“Yeah, we’re here to rescue you!” Lilly asserts.
Elaina gives Lilly a grin. “I’m in the witness protection program, Lilly. I don’t need to be rescued. I really appreciate it, though.” A strange voice sounds out in the hallway. Elaina cannot make out the words, but it sounds creepy. “What was that?” Elaina asks.
“She’s with us,” Lilly reiterates, but that is not sufficient for Elaina. She gets up and heads toward the door.