The trip back to the apartment is fraught. Imogen stresses about all the uncertainties in what they are undertaking. She rambles, “This is going down in the daytime. Those blood hunters are sneaking in cloaked. We’re not cloaked. If things start to go wrong, we’re the ones who will be blamed. Even if we stop the blood hunters, if we reclaim the weapon after they grab it, it will just be confiscated from us. And ach! Doing these things in broad daylight in an occupied museum! Granted we’ll be in the back, but… I just don’t like not knowing what we’re going into ahead of time!”
Lilly just lets the Umojan talk. The soldier is generally quiet most of the time, but even more so now, as she keeps reviewing her exposure at the museum. As soon as they step inside the apartment, though, and the door is closed behind her, Lilly announces, “They’re planning to test it on me.”
This catches Imogen completely by surprise. “What?!” On the couch, Malorn turns to regard the two terrans.
“I got a look,” Lilly explains. “They have a hydralisk. I saw the weapon, and they were talking about testing it on me.”
“I didn’t realize that was part of the tour…” Imogen mutters.
“So… they may not be quite as concerned about what we’re doing.”
Imogen lets out a long breath. This is even worse than she was imagining on the metro ride home. The researchers might try to blame them for something, or maybe they will claim it was an accident… “All right, Malorn,” she says, business-like, trying to tackle some aspects of the problem. “What do you know about techniques? What do you imagine Lendasha’s going to do here? She’s just going to grab it off a shelf and run? Or is she going to kill everybody inside?”
The protoss sighs in his standard put-upon way as he addresses her questions, whether because Lendasha is annoying or Imogen is, who can say. “I suspect she will cause a substantial amount of mayhem. But ultimately she will prioritize grabbing the weapon over slaughtering people needlessly. I suspect she is going in the daytime because when you are cloaked, you can just follow someone in through a door. Unless someone is watching very closely, they’re not going to see you. Did you see how they stored the weapon? I suspect that if their facility is unoccupied at night, they probably store the weapon in a secure place that is very difficult to crack into.”
Lilly grabs a piece of paper and sketches out the back room of the DORF building. “Here’s where they had the weapon,” she points out. “The hydralisk was chained here.” She describes the other details of the room, entrances and exits, and so forth. “There were three scientists…”
“A hydralisk for testing purposes, that makes sense,” Malorn observes. “Maybe you can set him free to cause some chaos.”
“During the day? When there are families in the front of the museum?”
Malorn is dismissive of Imogen’s concern. “As long as you stop the hydralisk after it helps you deal with Lendasha, that’s not really a problem.” Then he grows more animated. “The hydralisk is not allowed to kill Lendasha, though!”
Imogen is worried about spines shooting through plaster walls, but Lilly tells her the zerg was not in good shape and did not defend himself when the scientists were experimenting on him. Whether he has been de-spined or not, he did not shoot any while she was watching. Lilly pulls out the pamphlet from the museum, which has the full floor plan of the public area and a section marked for authorized use only in the back. The testing room she observed was in that restricted area, meaning there will be some hallways and other rooms in between the hydralisk and the civilian population. Hopefully Imogen’s grim imaginings will not come to fruition.
Malorn asks about things at the compound that could help track Lendasha. They tell him about the sensor goggles on display in the museum section which they were unable to swipe, as well as about the wraith. It is no surprise when Malorn slights it as a primitive aircraft. Despite its age, Lilly’s assessment is that it has enough energy to fly and cloak, though its weapons have probably been taken offline. It is only large enough for one person, so they discuss its potential for getting the person with the frying pan away from the facility. That would also involve flying through a large glass window, since the ceiling of the museum does not open.
“So… what are you going to be doing, Malorn?” Imogen asks.
“I’m going to be going in there and preventing Lendasha from getting that weapon.” This puzzles Imogen, since he has previously said he is not yet ready to take her on directly. He clarifies, “I am not prepared to call her out, but I need to stop her from getting this as a first step towards…” He sighs again, exasperated by his condition or the ignorance of his companions. Maybe both. “In order to declare Rak’Shir, I need certain crimes or faults to levy against her. I can say that clearly she has failed at this mission, so she is not capable of being ninth ascendent; clearly I am more deserving. Particularly because I have been exiled, I need to accumulate these faults for her. Failing this mission would be a good fault.”
Imogen is less concerned with Malorn’s long-term goals than she is their practical application to this problem. “Are you going to be running interference to slow her down or what?” Malorn does not reply with plans for his own participation but simply reiterates that stealing the weapon themselves is a way of stopping Lendasha. “But it seemed to me that you wanted us to do this at the same time that she was planning to do it. Is that part of showing that she has failed to do it?”
“Partially, yes,” he agrees. But then he reveals himself once again to be just as petty and spiteful as many a terran. “I also want to rub it in her face that she’s a failure… Her stupid, smooth face.” Imogen had assumed Malorn’s wrinkles were just a sign of age, but maybe they also signify a certain amount of hard living.
I like this guy, Lilly thinks. He’s so straightforward.
“We’ve got some cream you can use at night,” Imogen offers, trying to be helpful, but as usual, she is rebuffed.
Imogen switches back to business. “Is she likely to be armed with anything we need to be worried about? Just psi-gauntlets?”
“She will likely have the tal’darim version of the warp-blade that dark templar carry. I will admit that it is not as potent, but it strikes more quickly.”
Those are all new terms to Imogen. She only had the briefest glance at a dark templar, not enough to examine his weaponry. “Is that just a type of psi-gauntlet?”
Malorn, rather than describe the technical differences, replies condescendingly, “Yes, it is just a type of psi-gauntlet. It is a dangerous type of psi-gauntlet, let me put it that way.”
Imogen cannot help but laugh. “As opposed to the really safe one that I have!”
“Yes,” Malorn agrees with no humor, “you have an initiate’s gauntlet there.”
“I thought that was from one of the other guys at the mine,” Lilly says. “He was an initiate?”
“Well… the gauntlet is an initiate’s weapon…” the protoss equivocates. “Before he lost himself to the gas, he was seeking entrance into the high templar. But he was always an odd one. He was originally from Aiur to begin with. He did not grow up among the tal’darim, only joined later in life.” He sums up his compatriot dispassionately: “What a fool.” Then he gets up from the couch with a sigh. “But yes, we need to show you how to use that initiate weapon. Because if you cut your own head off, that doesn’t gain me anything.”
“I’m more worried about cutting my arm off,” Imogen says.
“You have a second.”
Lilly pulls out the medkit and puts it down on the coffee table. “Are you going to do more training?” she asks Imogen.
“Aye, unless… did you need something else from me today?”
“I was going to ask whether we wanted to try to rope in Durian or not. ‘Cause I was going to go see what he’s up to, give him a referral…”
“Oh!” says Imogen. “Well, certainly if you want to go hang out with Durian, don’t let me stop you. I think you should offer him the job. We don’t have a way to get him in on the tour with us, but I imagine everything’s going to go to hell, it is, and having Durian nearby on the outside, ready to come in, would be fine with me. Aye, sure, sure, go out! Have a good time.”
“Do you need me to bring anything back?” Lilly asks.
Imogen shrugs. “I don’t think we have enough for the fancy knives, and I am all set with the current knife that I have.” That thought gives her pause, and she turns to the protoss. “Malorn, do you have any weaponry?”
He ignites psi-gauntlets. “Let us begin,” he tells her.
“Beer?” Lilly asks him.
Malorn extinguishes his blades and reaches into a pouch. “I believe these primitive credits are what you use.” He tosses the money to Lilly.
“Or whiskey? What’s your drink?” Lilly continues, making sure she gets the right kind.
“Aye, you might need to bring back one of those, too,” Imogen tells her. “I don’t think kombucha is going to handle this.”
“All right,” Lilly says to Imogen. Nodding at Malorn, she tells him, “I’ll pick out something for you.”
“Thank… you…” the protoss grinds out.