Mira Han’s forces close on Iceberg Station, but Saffron does not stick around to see what becomes of the protoss fighter still at large. “Where are we going?” Lilly asks. Malorn’s ship is waiting at Dead Man’s Rock, but he is not really in a condition to fly it right now.
Imogen herself is going to the medkit, pulling out whatever she can to help Malorn. “Start heading towards Mar Sara,” she suggests.
“Got it,” Lilly replies, not waiting for a rationale.
Imogen continues anyway. “It’s at least a friendly port, and not as sketchy as Dead Man’s Rock.” That is not the kind of medical care Malorn needs. Imogen starts working on the injured tal’darim as she considers their options. Turning to Karax she asks, “Just how much of a caste system do the khalai have? Are you only mechanically knowledgeable? Or do you have a general knowledge of useful things, like medicine?”
“I know a little bit about medicine, but not a ton.”
Imogen sighs. It seems like the most he can be is an anatomical reference. After she has done what she can for Malorn, she sits back on her heels and considers her patient. That is when she realizes her hands and forearms are stinging. Malorn’s blood is as toxic as his personality. “Is this a normal thing?” Imogen asks Karax, holding up her reddened skin for his examination.
His alarmed response suggests not. “I did not know that the corruption of their people was that deep! Why are you working with this… this traitor?”
“Traitor to what?” Imogen asks tiredly. And so begins a philosophical debate about protoss societies and the links between them. “How does someone who was born a tal’darim betray the Aiur society they never experienced? Do the sins of the parents pass to the children?”
“Traitor to what it means to be protoss! And this one was traitor to his own people, too!” Karax adds, basing his comment on what little he has overheard.
“You are in no position to judge things that you don’t know about,” Imogen says in Malorn’s defense.
“But I suppose you’re in a position to judge protoss cultures?” Karax shoots back.
“Do you know why he was kicked out of his people? Because he was captured and taken prisoner. Hmm! Who else do I know here that that has happened to?”
“My people don’t do that! We don’t banish people for being prisoners.”
“How nice for you and your culture. That is irrelevant to treating this patient.” Karax relents, and Imogen settles down. Malorn is in a medically-induced coma right now, but that is not sustainable over the long term. She has stabilized him, but he has lost a lot of blood. “So, I suppose this means a transfusion is out of the question,” she says glumly, looking down at her hands.
Karax agrees. He has never seen any blood like Malorn’s. What they really need is proper facilities, and this terran vessel definitely does not qualify. “I’m sure this is all very advanced by your standards,” he says, looking around, “but it’s just not suitable for treating a protoss.” Imogen inquires where he is from, and though he initially claims Aiur, he ultimately admits to having been more recently a resident of a colony in the Browder system.
“Ah, so you’re with Selendis’s folks!”
“Commander Selendis is the military commander there, yes,” Karax acknowledges with a precision that suggests he does not consider himself under her authority. He would, however, be delighted to be returned there. Unfortunately, the terrans see a few issues with heading there directly.
“What would happen to Malorn if we took him to Browder?” Lilly asks.
“I’d probably have to bargain with Selendis,” Imogen says.
Lilly looks to Karax for his answer. “Uh… look, I don’t know him personally—”
“I do,” Lilly says bluntly.
One catch is how highly placed Malorn might have been in tal’darim society. “Imagine that the worst kind of criminal among your people shows up half-dead on your doorstep,” Karax says. “And there’s a war going on. I’m just saying, it’s going to be a hard sell. Her resources are already pretty thin.”
“You’d think we’d have some credit with Selendis. We got the crystal she wants. We delivered the bengalaases. And we’ve now rescued two of her people on spec,” Imogen says. She would be willing to forego payment for the current job in exchange for treatment for Malorn.
Karax reiterates that he is thankful for being rescued, and he will happily vouch for them, but insists that even if Malorn were to get well, he would still have to stand for his crimes. Imogen does not understand what crimes these could be. For as long as she has worked with Malorn, his ire has been directed at other tal’darim, which is not a crime against Aiur protoss. Karax insists there have been many other crimes committed by tal’darim going back millennia. “You can’t put such old crimes on current people!” Imogen cries, exasperated.
“Do you know how long protoss live?” Karax asks, exposing her ignorance.
“Doesn’t matter. Mar Sara is closer,” Lilly says, leaving the course unchanged.
Imogen agrees. “If we go to Browder, his life could cost him his freedom. I don’t know how I feel about making that decision for him.”
“And they could just kill him anyway,” Lilly points out.
Imogen turns to Karax again, this time for insight into the protoss position on a death penalty. He explains that there is a whole adjudicator caste for making judgments in cases such as this. Then he reiterates that being on the outs among tal’darim does not necessarily make Malorn innocent in the eyes of Aiur protoss. “Look, if you were Dominion and you met some pirates, those pirates are bad people. If you then met people harassing the pirates, does that make them better people? Or is crime among the pirates even worse? What do terrans think about this?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Lilly declares again. “The question that matters is, what do protoss think about this? ‘Cause that’s what we have to worry about.”
Not being an adjudicator, Karax begs off the question. His job is to think about things such as making warp drives faster or improving sensor arrays. Imogen latches onto that, steering the topic from jurisprudence firmly to engineering. Karax opened Saffron way too easily for her comfort, and she wants to know how. After all, Selendis did not really understand much about the science vessel. Karax says he has never studied this particular type of terran ship before, but the whole setup was rather simple. He does not have a high opinion of templars when it comes to understanding technology, but he does not blame them for that. That is not their job. It suddenly dawns on him that maybe the terrans thought their simplistic system was more secure than it actually is. The sort of changes he has in mind cannot be done in space, but they are rather simple to implement. He offers to make them. “That’s the least I can do for you. I do appreciate you getting me out of there.”
Although they do intend to return Karax to Browder, for now they continue on to Mar Sara. While James Raynor or Egon Stetmann might have contacts that could help, Lilly and Imogen plan to start with Li June. They both agree to definitely not take Malorn to the Our Lady of Perpetual Agony clinic.
With that all settled, Lilly brings up another topic that has been eating at her. “Your uniform’s different from what I remember scientists wearing,” she tells Karax. The veterinarians on Browder were not just in loincloths. When he clarifies that this is just his prisoner garb, Lilly invites him to see if any of her clothes can fit him. He settles on the first thing he sees, a wide-brimmed purple fedora and a tacky fur coat.
Although there are certain aspects of protoss technology that Karax cannot reveal, he agrees that he can talk to Li about less sensitive ones. Naturally, he is quite anxious to get back to his people, but he understands Malorn’s pressing health issues come first, and the information exchange will be a form of payment for his rescue.
Li is no doctor herself, but she has compiled a lot of information about forces that have fought terrans. When Imogen calls her, she is amenable to receiving protoss guests. Most of her data is more geared toward incapacitating protoss than mending them, but that is at least a starting point. “You might have to do a bit of a reversal when you’re reading through the manual,” Li advises. “For example, you’ll read, ‘cut this artery to kill them real quick,’ and you want to make sure you don’t cut that one.”
“I think someone already did that,” Imogen mutters.
“Oh! That sounds awful!” Li gasps. Imogen assures her that they have a healthy protoss who can talk tech with her while Imogen tends to the injured one. Li promises to dig around and see if she has any useful equipment. “And I’ll have sweet tea waiting for you when you get here. Is Lilly all right?”
Imogen glances over at her partner, and it finally sinks in that the blood caked in various places is Lilly’s own. “She’s uh… she’s well enough,” Imogen fibs. She hastily says goodbye to Li so that she can begin another round of medical care. Lilly is blasé about it. She has been better, but she has been worse. The psi-blades are pretty brutal weapons, though, and some of these injuries will take a while to heal. She is well enough to fly, and that is all that matters for now.