FRAWD Investigators: DORF Star | Scene 15

At the entrance to the laser testing lab is a large sign saying no mirrors are allowed. Lilly knows she keeps her knives sharpened and polished enough that the blades are quite reflective. Imogen’s too. She idly wonders whether they would be able to parry a laser. Of course, if you did not get the knife into the right place quick enough, it would be a really bad time.

When she steps into the lab, she sees the frying pan laser on the pedestal in the center of the west half of the room, just as it was during her reconnaissance on Monday. It looks just as bulky in person, and the design is definitely protoss, with golden metal and random parts glowing blue. At the other end of the chamber, the hydralisk is chained up, either still or again. Lilly has seen other restrained zerg once or twice in her military career, and they always pulled furiously at their bonds, crazed by their captivity and eager to escape. This one, however, is clearly exhausted. He looks up at her as she enters and then hangs his head again, indifferent. 

Lilly also takes note of Clemmins standing at the bank of computers along the north wall with a few other scientists. She is sure that by now he has told them all that she is a resoc. One of the researchers looks over at her when she comes in, and Lilly can just feel the waves of judgment directed at her. Probably the troopers standing watch in the room do not know, because she figures the scientists would just consider them “dumb guards,” but Lilly’s sense of exposure grows more humiliating with each new person she sees.

When a blur of movement near the hydralisk catches her eye, Lilly gets her head back in the game. There is a cloaked protoss alongside the zerg. He is just a ghostly outline, but she can see that he has a weapon in hand that looks like a scythe. She does another quick sweep of the room as she steps in farther and now sees a second cloaked figure. Her view of this one had been blocked by the oblivious trooper right alongside the protoss. Lilly does not know much about protoss physiology, but Malorn did say Lendasha’s face is smooth and she is shorter than he is. That is enough for Lilly to conclude that all she has detected so far are the goons, Lendasha’s warrior slaves. 

Malorn provided an assessment of their fighting prowess back in the apartment. “Of course they could crush any terran,” he told her and Imogen, “but they are not among the elite of the tal’darim, such as myself and Lendasha. With the exception of the fool who was high on terrazine, my companions at the refinery were all far more capable warriors than Lendasha’s minions will be, but they were not blood hunters. Think of Lendasha’s flunkies as cowardly assassins.” Imogen pressed for details on what exactly blood hunters are, and the best Malorn could offer was to just think of them as cloaked assassins. “Let me put it this way: I have yet to meet a noble blood hunter. Could they exist? No. They are a tool of those who are more capable. That Lendasha has adopted many of their practices is, frankly, pathetic.”

As he follows her into the lab now, Malorn is looking intently wherever Lilly directs her attention, but he lacks the special eyegear she has. Lilly holds up two fingers and then makes a few subtle gestures to quickly point out the targets. Comprehension and frustration move across Mal Ornery’s face. Malorn understands her message, but he cannot see the blood hunters. And Lilly herself cannot see Lendasha anywhere. That is a problem.

Dr. Brine and Imogen catch up. As they enter the room, the lead scientist is saying, “If you want to start with a test right here, we can certainly do that. Not a problem at all! Just make sure you’ve got your safety goggles on.” He taps an arm of his glasses. “Remember, safety first and safety third. Science second.” He continues, conspiratorially, “The trick is, we use zero-up counting, so science is also zeroth. Science, safety, science, safety.” He chuckles to himself. “We try to have fun here, not take things too seriously.”

With a sweep of his arm, he directs the visitors’ attention to the current project. “As you can see here, we’ve been testing out this fantastic new device that we’re calling the frying pan laser on this captured hydralisk that Dominion forces were able to apprehend off-world. Why don’t we demonstrate it on the hydralisk first?”

First? And what’s second? Imogen watches him closely for any tip-off of an attack on Lilly. She wonders how they intend to pull this off with two other witnesses. Are they planning to just murder us all?

“As you can see, we’ve already taken a few shots at it on the low-power setting.” Dr. Brine steps over to the pedestal, displacing the scientist at it. “Why don’t I just show you myself?” He picks up the weapon.

Lilly maintains full situational awareness. The blood hunters remain on alert but make no move to take any sort of action. Brine hoists up the laser to his shoulder and fires it, blasting the hydralisk. The zerg screeches in agony. The entry wound is similar in size to one caused by a standard rifle, but the flesh around it ignites. It burns for a while. The hydralisk writhes at first but then goes still, not having the energy to do anything more. Still, he also does not pass out.

“As you can see, this weapon is quite effective. Our Dominion marines—” Brine’s gaze drifts over to Lilly and Malorn. “You often just get one shot off and then you die, so it’s kind of a waste. But! If you get that shot off and it counts for a while, even if you die, well, that doesn’t matter. You were still useful to the Dominion. Whereas, if you get one shot off and you don’t kill the hydralisk… Well, then they’re going to come invade Korhal! But I know what you’re thinking: zerg aren’t the only enemy. There are other terrans out there who are the enemy… Oh, would you like to get a closer look at this?” he calls over to Lilly. “Why don’t you stand next to the hydralisk, and then you can see just how deadly it is. We can get you the full picture. You had military experience, right?”

Lilly looks at Imogen, unsure of how they should proceed. She knows what is coming. Going into battle is one thing, but standing around waiting to be shot is another. “Aye, let’s go over and examine those wounds,” Imogen announces. She strides across the room, nodding at Lilly to come along. Malorn stays closer to the western door, the side of the room where the laser is. As Lilly comes alongside Imogen, she hears the Umojan mutter, “Sounds to me like an opportunity to release a hydralisk, it does.” Lilly slips a hand into her jacket pocket, fingering the doctored painkiller shot there. They made their own special zerg stim, combining painkiller with some of the creep that Lilly has been keeping on hand for Snowball. It will not solve all this hydralisk’s problems, but it should get him active enough to create a distraction. Once near the zerg’s rack, she steels herself in preparation for being shot. Imogen positions herself a bit behind Lilly, providing a screen to conceal the sleight-of-hand that will be needed to release the hydralisk.

Before Lilly can lay a hand on the physical restraints, Dr. Brine speaks up. “Whoa now! Be careful! That hydralisk could hurt you quite a bit still, I assure you. You wouldn’t want that to happen, now would you?” He chuckles again, and it makes Lilly’s skin crawl. I would have thought he would want me to be right in front of the hydralisk so he could just shoot me. “Now, I know you want to get a good look, though, so you can stay close, just be careful. Now, uh, Imogen, if you could back up for just a second to make the lane clear. Oh and ladies, goggles, please!” She and Imogen are already wearing the safety glasses, but Malorn has not bothered up until this point. He makes the concession of holding them up in front of his eyes.

Imogen responds to Brine’s request with one of her own. “Oh, certainly, I’ll get out of the way. Can you let me take the next shot with it?” This all will go a lot more smoothly if she can get DORF to simply hand over the weapon, rather than her having to steal it.

“I’m sorry, but only someone with proper training should use this. Perhaps later today, when there’s not a hydralisk here, we can have some target practice. Or maybe in a few weeks we’ll have a more portable version you might be able to try.” The weight of the gun has dragged his arms back down so that it is practically resting on the pedestal again. “The slightest perturbation could throw things off. It’s a very dangerous weapon. Normally we would not even have civilians in here, but we’re making a special exception for you. Very well, then!”

With an effort, Dr. Brine raises the frying pan laser back up to his shoulder. As he lines up the shot, he smiles, pleased with his performance and all the little private jokes he has made. The pair of resocs and the foreigner have no idea what is coming. He squeezes the trigger, but his shot misses its mark, cutting between his target and the hydralisk.

The blue beam passes right in front of Lilly as she jerks instinctively away from it. She hears Imogen let out a sigh of relief.

“Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry. Hang on, let me just recharge this for a moment,” Brine says. Aside from the hydralisk, the whole room is staring at him for one reason or another: the FRAWD agents, the troopers, the research staff. 

The tal’darim.

A spray of blood bursts from Dr. Brine’s chest as it rips open. The frying pan laser slips out of his hands and clatters onto the pedestal. Pieces of his body follow, bouncing off of it and falling to the ground, where the only movement is their spreading stains. The follow-through from her upward strike carries Lendasha out of her hiding place crouched behind the half-column, and she is now visible to anyone with the right eyegear.