The mood is tense back at Saffron. Now that it is pitch dark, everything seems a bit scarier. Imogen and Lilly quickly set to work, as the Dominion will likely have advanced sensors in place come first light. Imogen’s first priority is the message on the holographic projector. It is their only lead on Neiman, so they need to review it before risking the equipment in their escape plan. She hands the device over to Lilly. As her partner works on it, Imogen flips through Dr. Narud’s manifesto with her flashlight. They will not power anything up until they are ready to make their next move.
Lilly has no trouble accessing the information on the small drive. It is barely even encrypted. “They didn’t even try,” she says with a laugh. “Looks like it was a rush job. Timestamp is a week ago. Here, look,” she says proudly, sharing the decoded file with Imogen. It holds instructions for messaging Narud through the device.
That fits with what Imogen had learned of the device’s capabilities earlier and what she has since learned from Narud’s frantic scribblings. Most of the papers are a rant about how terrible the Dominion is. The truly interesting section is the addendum scrawled on the back. “This UED idiot is breaking me out, but he is no better. He’s looking for an artifact in connection with the Queen of Blades. I’ve got to get away from him. If you find this, you have to help me. This UED ghost seeks some sort of ancient Xel’naga or protoss artifact. He thinks it will help him. It’s ridiculous! He doesn’t know where to find it yet. I can stall him, but I could have a ‘breakthrough’ at any moment. Feed me a location, and I’ll get him there. Then you can ambush him.”
Imogen lets out a long breath. “I’m still worried that if I try to overclock this projector to conceal all of Saffron, I will destroy the functionality it currently has. It’s our only lead. There is nothing in these papers about any Cerberus facilities that they might have gone to. We were wrong about that. Neiman needs this Narud for an artifact hunt. Can we really sacrifice what we need for the next job, just to not be caught right now?”
“Can we just pull out the transmitter?” Lilly asks. That way, if the rest of the projector gets overheated, it will remain unharmed.
“That’s a good idea. There’s some risk in that too, but we’re not going to be able to do the job for Kerrigan if we get caught by the Dominion.”
Lilly leaves Imogen to work on that and goes out to the firepit to prepare the next scantid meal. When it is ready, she slips a plate next to Imogen, who absentmindedly chews on her meat strips as she works. Soon the transmitter is successfully disentangled from the holographic projector and the real work can begin. With that worry off Imogen’s shoulders, she dreams bigger regarding how large a hologram to create. “Once this is in place, can you fly us low and slow back to the refinery?” she asks Lilly. “Then I can expand the field to conceal it as well. We’ll be in just as much trouble if the refinery gets discovered.”
“Sure!” Lilly says. Flying lights off, close to the ground, with a hose of vespene attached to the ship should be a fun challenge.
Imogen has kept the science vessel powered down as long as possible, but the time to turn it on is now. Hooked up to the tube from the refinery as it is, power consumption is of no concern. Holographics is much easier than cloaking, Imogen reflects, once the system is up and running with no personal cost to herself other than some anxiety. The image she chooses to project is a pile of boulders. That will fit in with the rocky terrain and also visually make sense if some bird decides to land atop Saffron.
“All right, Lilly, floor it,” she says, once everyone is aboard.
This time, Sally gets to cling to the ship’s exterior while Lilly operates the controls. She hauls up the vespene hose as Lilly slowly guides Saffron across the landscape to the geyser. It is close to midnight when the ship finally sets down next to the refinery. Imogen spreads the holographic field wider and lets out a sigh of relief.