Imogen tries the handle of the first door and finds it stuck. Rather than trying to force it open, she moves to the second one, 2A, as Lilly checks out the third door. Imogen opens the door, and as she moves past it into the office, she realizes there is a dusty name plate on it. When Imogen wipes it clean, she sees that it says Col. L. Washington. The computer on the desk has gotten smashed at some point, but the damage does not look recent. Another zerg biological warfare poster decorates one wall. Imogen starts opening desk drawers, looking for anything that may shed light on what Lilly’s involvement here was. She finds blank memo pads with the heading From the desk of Col. Washington, Director, Cerberus Program. “Director?” Imogen breathes out. Lilly is always looking to Imogen to make decisions; it is surprising to find she was ever in charge of anything.
Another drawer holds a proposal for attempting to control zerg using non-psionic partners. It is a loose outline, but the initial arguments include a bit of a diatribe about ghosts. There are not enough of them to use with the program, and anyway, one cannot trust them; one never knows what they are going to do. Trained soldiers should be capable of partnering with zerg. They have fought against them in the past, but the paper proposes that they can be trained to fight alongside instead. Knights trusted their warhorses; the same concept can apply here. The entire proposal fits on a single page, making its points with the concise language Imogen is accustomed to from Lilly.
Imogen also finds a letter addressed to Col. Washington informing her that her proposal for non-ghost partnering has been denied. It orders her to report to General Duke for reassignment. Imogen wonders whether that is just a euphemism for resocialization.
Finally, there is a picture of Lilly graduating from the Confederate Academy. It is much like her Dominion Academy graduation picture that she kept on her desk at FRAWD headquarters, as far as the flag, posture, costuming, and hopeful outlook. Lilly is not alone in this photo, though. There is another newly-minted officer, a shorter woman with black skin and a radiant smile. She looks about the same age as the Lilly in the picture, definitely a few years younger than today. A message is scrawled on the back of the photo in black marker. “Good luck in the Cerberus Corps.” It is signed with just the name Sally.
Zagara steadily clacks past the doorway. Imogen hears Lilly call her, so she stuffs all these pieces of memorabilia into her bag and leaves office 2A. The broodmother is not trying to get in Imogen’s way, but she does take up a lot of space. Imogen tries to slip past her with muttered politenesses, but finally points out, “Probably it’s better for everyone—you as well as us—for our people to see us first.”
“Very well,” Zagara allows, her eerie voice reverberating. She moves aside enough for Imogen to get by.
Imogen arrives at the doorway just as Elaina is sticking her head out. Unfortunately, she is not fast enough to prevent the other woman from seeing the broodmother unprepared. Imogen gently pushes the freaking out Elaina back into office 3A, pulling the door closed behind her.
“What? What is that?! It’s some kind of creepy zerg. What is going on?!”
“That’s a broodmother,” Imogen states calmly.
“What’s it doing here? We’ve got to let the commander know we’re under attack!”
Lilly holds the laptop high, making sure it is out of Elaina’s reach. “We found her in the first room,” Lilly says. Elaina admits to having heard scratching from there, and Lilly tells her yet again that there is no witness protection program. That is the first Imogen has heard of this scam, and Lilly foists the laptop off onto her partner, telling her that it controls some of the zerg.
Elaina protests, but Imogen takes the device. She holds it in front of her and says, “Turn off the zerg,” but of course this non-Umojan computer cannot understand voice commands.
“Abdul might be in the room with them,” Lilly adds.
Imogen is appalled. Abdul is no soldier. “Are they practicing fighting terrans?” she demands of Elaina.
“They’re practicing against dummies!” Elaina insists.
“They’ve told Elaina that’s what’s happening, but they’ve also told her that this is witness protection,” Lilly observes.
“It is! It’s a Dominion witness protection program. We’re just also helping the war effort.”
“No,” Imogen tells her. “No! That is not what’s happening. All the witnesses for the trial against Rose are missing except Jefferson Grom. No one on Korhal knows what has happened to you all. You’re supposed to be testifying in court, and no one can find you.”
“Well, if someone knew, it wouldn’t be a very good witness protection program, would it?” Elaina counters, still clinging to the lies she was sold.
“Abdul was taken against his will,” Lilly says. “Did you talk to him? Or did they tell you about him?”
“No, I haven’t personally—”
“He was dragged off leaving a trail of his own blood,” Imogen adds. “I don’t know how it’s done in the Dominion, but on Umoja, the people who would be calling you to testify would be the ones who would know that you were in witness protection.” Elaina seems to slowly be coming around to accepting the truth, so Imogen presses on. “Someone wanted you out of the way, and this is what they’re doing with you.”
“Oh, gosh, did I just get enslaved again!?”
“Pretty much, aye.”
“Oh, no! But wait, what’s the deal with that zerg outside?”
Lilly lets Imogen handle the talking. She herself tried to explain the alliance to Li June, and it did not go over so well.
“They’re doing research on zerg here. That zerg outside agreed to help us get you all out—”
“Time out,” Elaina declares. “How do zerg ‘agree’ to anything? They’re murderous killing machines.”
“But you heard her voice, didn’t you?”
“That doesn’t mean she’s not a murderous killing machine.”
“That’s how she agreed, by talking with us,” Imogen states more clearly. Allowing Elaina to draw conclusions is clearly not the approach to take here.
“And we’re still alive,” Lilly points out.
“Zerg who can talk are not very common, I’ll grant you that,” Imogen says. “Besides, there are plenty of terrans who are also murderous killing machines. Sometimes, you have to work with what you’re given, and not with what you want. And right now, Lilly and I are trying to get you and the others out of here.”
“Well, can we just go then? Do you have a ship? Can we get out of here?” Elaina’s voice grows more hysterical the more that reality sinks in.
“Not until we’ve settled the situation. You’re not the only prisoner here.”
Imogen’s words are more scolding than comforting, and Elaina finally cracks, mumbling to herself that she is going to die. She backs away from Lilly and Imogen and slides down the wall, huddled behind the desk and holding herself. It is not an ideal outcome, but Imogen figures that is probably the safest place for Elaina right now.
With that handled as well as it can be for now, Imogen takes a closer look at the computer interface, trying to figure out if it represents a wargame of terrans versus zerg. There is no help icon, and Elaina does not even have a sticky note of useful reminders, so Imogen is on her own figuring it out. There are several zerg highlighted in yellow that presumably Elaina could move around, and a stationary terran shape that could be a dummy. Another group of zerg are outlined in purple and have different labels, suggesting Elaina would not be able to control those. Imogen turns her attention to the chat box as a way to gather information on who else is actually in the facility.
Elaina: Hey, who’s controlling zerg 1B?
Commander: Reminder, radio silence enforced in this simulation.
Elaina: Oh, sorry!
So much for that. Imogen hopes her tacked-on apology will keep everyone believing that Elaina is still at the keyboard.
Zagara finally reaches door 3A and sticks her head in. “This is one of yours, yes?” she asks. Elaina cowers.
“Aye,” Imogen confirms. “You have one of yours, and we have one of ours.”
“Then we should move on,” the broodmother says impatiently.
“We’re going to keep her here for safety,” Lilly says. “She’s not to be harmed.” She turns back to Elaina one last time. “You stay here. We’ll be back. I promise.” As she steps out of the room, she pulls the door shut behind her. No need for the frightened woman to see the rest of their zerg parade.