Lilly runs out of the captain’s quarters, following the bobbing bloody smear that is Lendasha. It is moving faster than she anticipated. As her target gets farther down the corridor, Lilly pauses and raises Sweetpea, carefully lining up a shot. The beam misses Lendasha, and Lilly resumes the chase. Unfortunately, backup arrives. The fighting has not gone unnoticed elsewhere through the station, mostly because it has spread elsewhere.
Lilly hears distant gunfire. “Oy!” crackles out of a nearby speaker, and Larry goes on to declare independence from the protoss. Oh, right, those guys, Lilly remembers. She does not hear any of the psionic orders Lendasha issues to her underling, but Lilly definitely sees the protoss warrior coming at her from a side corridor. He has some sort of fancy footwear that makes him ridiculously fast. A psi-blade passes inches from her face as she dodges out of the way, and he overruns her position. If she gives further chase after Lendasha, she will have him at her back, but what is worse, he will also be between her and the room where her friends are. Lilly gives up on Lendasha, falling back towards the captain’s quarters.
The protoss’s legs are a blur as he charges at her once more, and his dark red psi-blades seem to leave streaks behind him. Again she plays the matador, dodging out of the way through the entrance to the foyer. This time, though, the warrior stops and pivots quickly. Lilly does not anticipate that, and the next slash of his psi-blade cuts deeply. Lilly jerks away from him, firing with Sweetpea. The laser rifle does not let her down.
* * *
“If you’d tell me your name, I’d address you that way instead of just ‘you.’”
“Yes, of course. I apologize. I’m not used to verbalizing things among the tal’darim and your people. It’s very strange.”
“All right, fine, just plant it in my head. That’s okay too.”
“Uh, that would be really rude. I don’t want to do that.”
“I just told you you could!” As the spat continues, Imogen and her current assistant start to leave Lendasha’s chamber. Malorn leaves a dripping blue trail behind them, flecked with some red compounds that Imogen definitely does not have time to identify right now.
Karax, the khalai, carries Malorn, having no interest in or aptitude for defense. He is appalled when Imogen casually asks if he knows how to use a psi-gauntlet. “No! Ugh! Let alone a tal’darim gauntlet! Who knows what that will do to you!” he objects. Imogen thinks of her scarred arm, mangled during her early attempts to wield the device, but she says nothing further on that topic. Karax is eager to get away. Imogen takes the lead, pistol in one hand. She had tried to ignite her own psi-gauntlet, but all she could manage under the current stress load was sparking and fizzling.
Suddenly Lilly dashes back into the foyer, a tal’darim warrior hot on her heels. She takes a nasty-looking hit, but Sweetpea sets the fellow on fire in response. He staggers back against the wall along the side of the foyer. Imogen lays down suppressive fire with her pistol, holding the warrior at bay so her party can reach Lilly. “Just get to the ship, Karax!” she shouts. The khalai grimaces as he steps over the pile of dead tal’darim just outside Lendasha’s door, but he does dash across the room with Malorn. Once he is out past Lilly into the main corridor, Imogen joins her partner at the opposite door. “Just get us to the ship, and we can get out of here!” she tells Lilly.
Sweetpea has not cooled down enough yet for another shot, but the tal’darim who chased Lilly here continues to smolder from the last one. She leaves Imogen to secure the door out of the foyer and takes off at a run. She quickly passes Karax, pausing briefly to check each intersection on the route to the ship. She hears distant sounds of scuffles, and it is unnerving. Lendasha is invisible, she could be anywhere, and she took Malorn down in a single swipe of her warp blade. For now, though, there is no sign of her, and Lilly urges Karax onward.
Imogen hastily forces the door into lockdown mode. She hears pounding on the other side, and then the brilliant red tip of a psi-blade punches through. There is just enough time for her to see it and leap back when suddenly it fizzles out, either because it or its wielder is overtaxed. The warrior pounds fruitlessly at the door, and Imogen does not stick around any longer. She catches up with Lilly at the closed door to the hangar and takes a moment to sense into the room. “There’s at least three other people in there,” she warns her partner. Then she hits the door control and storms into the room, leading with her pistol.
“Oy! What are you doing now?” Larry demands. “Any of those buggers left?”
“Don’t get in our way, we won’t get in yours. That was the deal earlier, and it still stands. We got what we came for, and we’re taking our two protoss with us.”
“Bagged two meself,” Mo brags.
“All right then, that’s pretty good,” Larry congratulates Imogen and Lilly. “But you’d best be moving along. We’re going to clear out the rest. Take your protoss and get off my station.”
Meanwhile, Lilly is scanning the hangar on high alert. Lendasha could be here. She could be anywhere. Protoss do not even breathe. She could be right behind me, and I wouldn’t even feel her breath. I’d just feel the blade slicing through my neck. Lilly adjusts her collar nervously, eying the crates nearby. She kicks over some, just in case they are hiding any threats.
Larry and his cohort are just leaving the room, but he pauses to yell at her. “Oy! That’s our stuff! Don’t be touching that.” He continues on his way, and Lilly crouches down, picking up a splash of credits that fell loose. She is not a thief, but Malorn is going to need money for beer. Or a shrink.
Imogen does not know why Lendasha ran away, but she doubts it was just to set an ambush for them all here. She could have torn them all to shreds just as easily in her quarters. Oh, unless she wants to use our ship to get her out of here. If they open Saffron, the cloaked tal’darim might be able to slip inside. She might even be hiding in Old Red right now, but that would be risky. Protoss can survive in vacuum longer than terrans can, but not enough to make it all the way from here to a planet. “Everyone get to the ship, so we can all board it quickly and shut it up tight,” Imogen orders her companions.
Karax is too freaked out to wait for everyone to gather, though. He races up to Saffron and does something at the control panel before Lilly and Imogen join him. “All right, let’s go!” he calls, as the ramp comes down.
Imogen is shocked that Lilly’s security measures pose no obstacle to him. Maybe he can unlock other capabilities of the ship, she reflects. She joins him and Malorn in the central hub. Lilly backs into the ship, Sweetpea at the ready, giving the hangar one last scan. Then they are all inside, and Lilly starts booting up ship systems. The sensors immediately pick up a protoss ship flying away from the station, having originated at one of the other docking bays. “Can you analyze its flight pattern?” Imogen asks Lilly. “Is it fleeing, or is it getting ready to turn around for a bombing run on the station?”
Lilly looks over the readings. “Oh yeah, that’s coming back,” she acknowledges. Then she returns her attention to the pilot station. They should have enough time to get out into space themselves before that fighter is close enough to launch whatever wild protoss weaponry it carries.
Saffron clears Iceberg Station, and the sensors go crazy. Ship after ship is entering normal space, forming a ragtag armada just ahead of them. “Who is that?” Karax asks. “Is that your backup?”
“I don’t know if they’re friends, but they’re not known to be enemies,” Imogen says brightly, though that may not be the most reassuring thing for Karax to hear. “They’re definitely not Dominion.” Imogen begins operating the comm station, trying to hail the new arrivals. “Flee towards them,” she suggests to Lilly.
As Saffron gets farther from Iceberg Station, the angle of view increases. They can now see some weapons fire from the armada targeting the protoss ships docked around the station. Imogen’s call gets bounced around a few times until it reaches the beat up battlecruiser leading the fleet. The video screen crackles to life, and a familiar glowing pink eye looks at them. “Now who is fleeing from my pirate station?” a woman with a shock of pink hair over a pale white face asks casually. Despite the relaxed voice, the threat of danger is quite real, now that they know Mira Han is at the helm of the new arrivals.
“Just your friendly local postal service!” Imogen replies innocently, hoping to remind Mira of their positive shared history. She does not manage to completely conceal the tension in her voice.
“You are not the one who tripped the alarm… You were not working with these protoss, now were you?”
“No, we’re not the ones who tripped the alarm. We’re the ones who created the distraction that allowed the pirates to trip the alarm. We got what we wanted from the protoss who had taken over the station, and now we’re getting out of here.” They did not actually get everything they came for, Imogen reflects, since Lendasha still has her warp blade. However, Malorn’s original contract with Lost & Found is null and void as far as she is concerned. It was made under false pretenses, like Lendasha not being an object of desire to him. “You’re welcome to have your station back.”
“Very well. Just make sure you do not cause too much trouble. I will be meeting soon with the new station administrator, one Monsieur Larry. I do hope you haven’t dirtied the place up during your visit. I’m hoping to bring dear Matthew here when he has some shore leave.”
She should tell her about the bed, Lilly thinks, but she holds her tongue. The door to that room got pretty messed up, so they probably should not draw the volatile mercenary’s attention to it.