Durian pounds down the corridor following the sound of gunfire. He bursts into the research chamber, and the hydralisk immediately catches his eye. “The Endurians are here!” he shouts. “Well, the Endurian is here. Civilians, clear out! I’ll take care of this zerg.” Something with foam dripping off of it comes at him, swinging a staff with glowing blades on the tips. Durian leaps out of the way, and a shimmer surrounds the fleeing figure, who then disappears. He is not sure what is going on with that. The intern, she looks at Durian, looks over at the hydralisk, and then looks pointedly back at him. He brings up his rifle. Zerg, he does understand. “Yes, right away, Ms. Ornery!” he assures her. “Thanks for the tip.”
Both Lilly and a trooper are on the east side of the room shooting at the hydralisk, while Imogen is on the west, Durian’s side. She is kneeling, curled in on herself with blood streaming down her front and some sort of fancy gun in her lap. Durian wonders if the zerg got a whack in at her. He looks through his sight, trying to line up a clear shot. The hydralisk charges a trooper standing near the alarm and rips the poor guy to shreds. His teammate on the north side of the chamber, who has taken a few hits himself judging from all the blood on him, cracks under the pressure. He screams his buddy’s name but does not fire.
“Stand clear,” Durian shouts taking a few steps further into the room. It is way too late for the trooper now in pieces, but the hydralisk is lunging towards some of the science staff. Durian shoots down a light fixture, and it falls on the zerg, tangling it up. “Hey,” he taunts it, “pick on somebody your own size!”
Through the haze of pain, Imogen sees Mal Ornery standing near Durian and surveying the room with a huge smirk on the false face. Malorn has extinguished his psi-gauntlet and looks very satisfied, but their work is not finished; they still have to get this weapon out of here or Lendasha will just come back for it. What they really need, she realizes, is a bunch of terran witnesses to a protoss stealing the weapon. Malorn could make that all happen, if only he would drop his guise, preferably without anyone realizing that he and Mal Ornery are the same person.
“It would be a shame if any protoss came back into this room and took this weapon away,” Imogen says, wondering if Malorn will take the hint. She cannot risk being seen just handing it off to him. Most people’s attention seems to be on Durian or the hydralisk, but there could be cameras here. Malorn does not catch on, though, so Imogen staggers to her feet and heads toward the door, feigning clearing the scene like an obedient civilian. The psionic instruction she has received this past week has mainly focused on reading other people’s emotions, but a more advanced application of that is accessing their surface level thoughts. She knows Malorn can do that to her; if he would just look into her mind, he would clearly see what she needs him to do. Imogen tries again, looking at him pointedly and complaining, “Why does nobody listen to me?” C’mon, Malorn, you, as a protoss, need to be seen stealing this weapon.
At least part of her message gets across, as Malorn drops his guise. With a ripple Mal Ornery reveals herself to be a wrinkly old protoss. “We missed one!” a trooper shouts. Malorn grabs the blood-caked frying pan laser from Imogen’s hands and runs out of the room with it.
Meanwhile, the hydralisk growls, fighting its way out of the twisted metal around it, eyes narrowed at Durian. He keeps its focus on him, shouting at it, “Yeah, right here, buddy!” Durian orders everyone else to get clear. The remaining trooper snaps out of his panic. He is only too happy to foist responsibility off onto someone else and quickly leaves. Durian addresses the zerg again. “Been a long time since Char. I’ve got some payback, pal.”
Lilly can see Imogen standing across the room now, and her teammate is drenched in blood. She takes a few more shots at the hydralisk, maneuvering to put herself between him and her vulnerable friend. Durian’s next burst takes a chunk out of the hydralisk’s side, blasting open a major artery. The creature collapses, bleeding out. Lilly notices that more than just blood is coming out; there is creep mixed in, which is definitely not normal. That’s not our doing, is it? she wonders. The creep cocktail didn’t contain that much. Maybe it’s from the scientists and their experiments.
Imogen catches herself against the wall by the exit. Until someone of authority associated with DORF shows up, there is nothing further she needs to do, other than slide down to the floor again and sit. Lilly and Durian can handle the hydralisk just fine, of that she is sure. She feels cold. From her new position on the floor, she looks down at her duster, noting that it is ruined. Even if she could get all the blood out, there is a rather extensive tear to patch. Though it is quite straight, so maybe a good tailor could do something about that…
Durian takes a few more careful steps toward the thrashing hydralisk. He looks at Lilly. “May I, Ms. Washington?”
He gets down on one knee and aims, his form flawless as he takes the final shot. Lilly admires it. Beautiful. She is not the only one who thinks so. A few troopers have just entered the room from an eastern access point and are also witnesses to the zerg’s defeat. The hydralisk collapses, finally put out of his misery, and Durian stands up. “It’s been an honor serving you, Ms. Washington,” he says.
Lilly lets out a long breath, relieved to have the fight over. Then her eyes fall upon Clemmins, cowering behind a lab bench with Xing and Nkosi. She stalks over to the researchers and grabs him by the collar, yanking him to his feet. “Fix her!” she demands, pointing at Imogen.
“Well, I’m not—” Clemmins starts to object, but the resoc’s pistol is still in her hand, and she did just shoot up half the room. “Uh, there’s a first aid kit here!”
“And be nice,” Lilly orders.
Imogen is vaguely aware of some optics researcher kneeling in front of her, gauze everywhere. Things get a bit clearer after the painkiller shot he gives her kicks in. The kit has a staple gun, like a miniature version of St. Maria’s stitching suit, as well as extra plasma. Clemmins even wipes down the exterior of Imogen’s duster so that she looks fairly presentable. By the time the room is fully secured, Imogen is her old self again, ready to obfuscate and prevaricate her and Lilly’s way out of here.
Durian checks the room for any other threats, then holsters his rifle and takes out a small firestarter. He ignites the hydralisk corpse and advises the onlooking troopers, who have never seen real combat, “You have to make sure they’re dead. If they’re not fully dead, they will come back. They regenerate. Yeah, it might look dead. It may actually be dead. But I want to be sure.” When that is taken care of, he shifts to dealing with casualties, issuing orders as though he is head of the DORF security detail. The troopers are happy to obey this authority figure.
Once that is all taken care of, he steps up to Lilly, who is helping Imogen to her feet. “Are you, Ms. Washington and Ms. Owendoher, safe? And where’s—Oh, no! Where’s Ms. Ornery?”
“She ran away,” Imogen says.
At this moment, though, the tall terran with the long blonde braid comes back down the hall into the room. She is wearing an oversized backpack, which Imogen presumes contains the frying pan. She glares at Imogen, and the Umojan smirks back, pleased to have gotten in a jibe that the aggravating protoss cannot refute.