When Saffron reaches Dead Man’s Rock, Hyperion is in orbit around the trash planet already. Imogen’s head is still pounding, and Egon is a more reliable medic than any she would be able to find down on the planet. She hails the ship, hoping they can put in there, and is surprised when James Raynor answers the call himself. “Imogen! You doing all right? Were you able to do the thing you needed to do?”
Imogen replies in similarly vague terms. “Aye, aye. Are you here for long? Have you done yet the thing you needed to do?”
“Yes,” Jimmy replies, sounding quite pleased. “We made it here in good time. The transfer went smoothly. Actually, we just dropped it off a couple hours ago.” Unseen to him, Imogen frowns at the news. The raiders are now flush with credits, so most of them are down below on shore leave. That includes Admiral Horner, who is finalizing the contract with Mira’s Marauders. “Matt’s taking a tour with the missus,” is how Jimmy puts it.
“Is Egon down on the ground? Or is he still up here?” Imogen asks.
“Egon doesn’t seem to understand the concept of shore leave, so he’s still in his lab.”
“I’ve acquired a piece of UED cloaking technology that he might be interested in,” Imogen shares. Raynor agrees that sounds right up Egon’s alley and invites Saffron to come aboard.
Lilly is a little off her game, what with Narud hovering around her, and the science vessel gets a little scraped up entering the hold.
“So what’s this ship?” the scientist asks her. Lilly defers to her partner. Imogen explains that while Narud has been in prison, certain groups have organized against Mengsk, including this one. Narud is not so keen to jump straight into a war, but he does welcome the opportunity for a relaxing meal at the bar on board. Imogen asks Lilly to show him there while she checks in with Egon.
Saddled with Narud, Lilly heads through the corridors of Hyperion doing her best not to engage with the scientist. Cracking her neck does little to relieve the stress of someone poking at a past life she does not remember. “So, how did you come across this huge research trove from L. Washington?” Narud asks her.
“We recovered it on Tarsonis,” Lilly says, giving the barest version of the facts.
“You went back to Tarsonis! It’s awful what happened to that planet. I used to have a townhouse there, back in the days when it could be inhabited. Why would you go back there? Oh! Did you go back specifically for this research?” Narud asks excitedly.
“Yup.” The corner of her mouth quirks up into a half-smile as she remembers the outlandish outfit she found with it—and how ridiculous the protoss engineer Karax looked wearing it.
Mistaking the reason behind her smile, Narud asks, “So you really do know L. Washington?”
“Yup.” Lilly picks up her pace. The cantina is not too far off, and if she can just reach it, she can be free of escort duty.
“You have to introduce me!” Narud calls out as he hustles to keep up with her, puffing due to the poor shape he is in from years at Ten Tines. “I have to meet them. I have so many questions about their research. Look, I’ll buy you whatever top-shelf drink you want,” he offers as they enter the bar. “I just have to meet L. Washington.” From the set of her shoulders, he can see she does not want to continue this conversation. “Wait, are you not on good terms with them anymore?”
The pounding on the door wakes up everyone in the Washington household except twelve-year-old Lilly—she was already awake. One of her parents opens the door and finds a Confederate soldier there. He immediately starts pelting them with questions about whether anyone in the family was in the vicinity of the armory at a particular time that evening. That is exactly where Lilly was, spraying some graffiti—not that her parents know that. They deny it, of course, and the soldier turns to Lilly, demanding to know her age. She pours as much sweetness and innocence as she can into the answer. “You’re old enough, you need to answer for this. I can see paint on your hand! Where were you at that hour?”
“Painting my nails?” Lilly replies, looking down at her messy hands. She has always been a bit of a tomboy, but this soldier would not know that.
“Ridiculous! I ought to haul all y’all in!” he threatens, but a klaxon starts to sound elsewhere. “It’s your lucky day, punk,” he tells Lilly, eyes narrowed. Then he storms off.
“I’m sorry, Momma. That was dumb!” Lilly apologizes as soon as the door closes behind the soldier.
Lilly seizes the explanation Narud has provided. “Yup,” she says, layering a bit of sadness in her voice since apparently she is no longer on good terms with herself.
“Oh, I’m very sorry. They’re a brilliant researcher. I just really hoped to meet them sometime. Did you have any last contact information for them? I can, of course, keep your association with me completely confidential, Lilly. If you don’t want to reconnect with this person, I understand.”
“No. You don’t want to meet her.” Lilly steps up to the counter and signals the bartender. Narud continues prattling on about fallings out he has had with some of his colleagues who ended up in the Confederate weapons program. “There’s a scientist on this ship,” Lilly suddenly thinks to try. “Go ask about Egon.” Maybe that will get him to leave me alone.
“Egon Stetmann?! He was one of my worst students. It figures he’s now operating in some fringe rebel group…”
Having successfully diverted Narud from her own past, Lilly orders a shot of Betty’s Special.
“To former friends,” Narud says beside her, raising his own glass.
Once the alcohol has burnt its way down their throats, Narud asks Lilly what he has missed during the past four years he spent locked up. Made chatty by the drink, Lilly is more forthcoming with her answers than she had been in the hallway. Now it is all power armor, jet packs, and firebats.