FRAWD Investigators: Intrigue at Iceberg Station | Scene 5

Lilly and Imogen do not detect the arrival of Malorn’s ship with Saffron’s sensors, but eventually an oddly generic white woman of decent height with a long blonde braid approaches the area where the science vessel is hidden. “I guess he got through the control tower without any proFblems,” Lilly observes. She lowers the ramp and heads out to greet him, Imogen in tow.

“I suppose you could not have chosen a more disgusting planet for this,” Malorn complains.

“Nope!” Lilly says brightly. “It’s good to see you, Malorn!”

“Indeed, I see you. You see only a false depiction of me. Let us go inside your ship that I may drop this loathsome ruse.” As soon as they are within the science vessel, Malorn dismisses the hologram disguising his true form.

Imogen goes straight to the minifridge and pulls out a McWeiser for him. Lilly grabs a can of Old Mar Sara. “Hey! I got this special for you!” Lilly says excitedly, but Imogen snakes in front of her with the Umojan IPA.

“Wait! He has to earn that one,” Imogen says, pouring her brew for Malorn.

“He does?” Lilly murmurs, confused. Her previous run-in with the brew has left her memory of Imogen’s plan a little fuzzy. Oh! Right, this is from Li June.

Malorn ignores the glass of pale gold that Imogen puts in front of him, his mind clearly elsewhere. “Our timing is going to be almost ideal. They won’t be there too much longer, but we should be able to intercede before they head out. They should be a little bit disorganized preparing for that.”

“What do you mean?” Imogen asks.

“They won’t stay in one place for too long, and I have heard that they are planning to move on soon. Come now! If you were a superior being, you would not want to stay in some lifeless hellhole of a roach station, would you?”

“Presumably they had a reason for wanting it,” Imogen points out. “Was it just so that they could use the terrans there?”

“Perhaps. Or perhaps just as a show of strength to demonstrate their nominal superiority over that pathetic group of terrans. Although that’s hardly worth any credit.”

“Tell me, Malorn, do you know why they went there? Do you know what they hoped to gain?”

Malorn narrows his eyes at Imogen’s tone. He does not like her implication that she knows more about what is going on with the tal’darim at Iceberg Station than he does. “I believe it was a convenient staging point for some raids on some other protoss technology. It was an easy place to refuel. That there were some terrans in the way was but a minor inconvenience.”

“Do your ships fly on the same fuel as ours?” Imogen asks.

“That is a disgusting way to put that—”

“That you need vespene just as much as terrans do?”

Malorn counters, “That you terrans eat the same food that a—what do you call it?—that a lyote eats.”

“I mean, we do,” Lilly observes as the verbal sparring continues.

“That beer is a drink just like water! That is what it is like,” Malorn declares, pleased with this imagery. He picks up the glass Imogen set before him. “This is the tal’darim.” He points at the bottle of whiskey sitting above the science station. “That is the other protoss.” Then he indicates a wet rag draped over the faucet of the sink there. “That is terrans.” Finally, his eyes light upon Sheila. “And what is that even-more-disgusting-than-normal thing?!”

“In your analogy, that would be the zerg,” Imogen tells him. The radio belches out some foul-smelling gas. Imogen makes sure there is no incoming call and then kicks on the exhaust hood.

Malorn finally samples the beer Imogen gave him, dipping his shortened tendrils into the glass. His brow crinkles in distaste. “What is this?” he demands. Apparently the probiotic brew does not work for him.

“Well, we have something better, but I don’t know if you would want to sully yourself with it,” Imogen begins.

“Oh, do you have zerg beer now? Is that it?”

Imogen actually laughs at that. “No, it’s a sort of offering from someone who is interested in talking with you.”

“And why would I care that someone wants to talk to me? Unless that person is Lendasha, I don’t.”

“But there are folks who can further embarrass Lendasha on your behalf by putting her technology to inferior terran uses,” Imogen says, trying to lean on Malorn’s personal obsession for her own purposes. Or rather, for Li’s.

“This is good stuff,” Lilly assures Malorn. “It’s Confederate.”

Malorn looks at her, confused. He can tell by her tone that her words have some significance, but the meaning escapes him. The beer, like all the others, is simply terran. Regardless, he folds his arms and refuses the offer. “I will deign to consider such things, but only after we have stolen Lendasha’s warp blade. But right now, we have one singular purpose.”

Imogen abandons that plan for now. “Well, great,” she says, speaking briskly as if they have all agreed to her chosen approach. “Lilly, you can take us up then, and we can get started right away.”

“Oh, no!” Malorn cries, misunderstanding Imogen’s words. “You are not flying my ship,” he says, pointing at Lilly. “I know you have some strange obsession with protoss technology and ships. You can’t keep your hands off of them. But you will absolutely not fly my ship. Just as I would never want to fly this hunk of junk! I would sooner ride in your ship than have you fly my ship.”

Imogen smirks. “Do you even know how to fly a terran ship?” 

“Does a terran know how to build an anthill? Such things are beneath me.”

“So he’s saying he can’t. Why don’t you show him how to do it, Lilly?”

“Sure, you got it.” Lilly steps up to the piloting console and moves swiftly through the pre-flight checks. She cracks her knuckles and then sets to work extracting the ship from its trash nest. They blast up into the atmosphere.

“Yes, you can pilot your own ship. Very good.” Malorn’s voice drips with sarcasm. Lilly simply smiles and shakes her head. That is just the way Malorn is, cranky until he has had enough beer. “Now, let us resume,” he goes on. “Return this pathetic piece of metal, and we can take my far superior vessel.”

“Ah, it’s too late for that. We’re already underway,” Imogen claims.

“Tell me, how fast is your ship?”

“Fast enough for what my intelligence about the station indicates.” Based on what Selendis told her and Lilly, they have ample time to get there in their own ship.

“My ship is distinctly faster,” Malorn argues. “You are going to be cutting corners very close by taking your science—Science is not even a word that this vessel deserves!”

“Yeah!” Lilly agrees. She is uncomfortable around scientists and does not need to be reminded of that every time she boards her own ship.

“The only reason to take this soothsayer craft would be to haul off some errant piece of technology,” Malorn concludes. “Who else are you working for today? Or is it for your own greedy terran hands.”

“Those two things are pretty much the same,” Imogen says, content to entertain this topic. The more they talk, the farther Lilly gets them from Dead Man’s Rock. “When we work for people, our greedy terran hands get credits put into them.”

“Who’s putting credits in your greedy, greasy, disgusting polydactyl hands?” he demands.

“You’re not the only protoss who scrapes the barrel to work with us. Turns out terrans are good for something.”

“Ugh! I suppose I should be glad that other protoss also have to deal with the likes of you.”

“Besides, won’t it be more embarrassing for Lendasha when she loses the things that she actually got that station to acquire? In addition to her own personal warp blade?”

“And just what did she care to acquire with that station, if you know so much?”

“Dragoon parts.”

Malorn is dismissive of this technology now, though in the past he had suggested it for Imogen when she was injured. She reflects now that maybe that was actually a sign of his disdain for them. “Bah! If a warrior cannot survive on the battlefield they don’t deserve to keep on living.”

“It seems to me that Lendasha and her crew do a lot of things that you don’t think are worthy,” Imogen observes. “So why should it surprise you that she wants to immortalize her dead soldiers?” Malorn’s actions make no sense to her. “Why do you want back in? You seem to hate everything about tal’darim society.”

“Yes, I hate it, but no, you don’t understand. I have to—Argh!” Malorn clenches his few-fingered hands into fists. “I need to embarrass Lendasha. I need to show her! And then! Maybe then I can get my place back in society, a place next to her.”

Imogen stares at him a moment. “I thought we were doing all this so that you could fight her to the death. But… but you’re just keen on her?!”

“Well, I would fight her, yes. To prove that I am worthy. And I would grant mercy to her when I defeat her. And clearly then she would understand that I am a worthy tal’darim warrior.”

Lilly glances over from the piloting station, surprised at the turn the conversation has taken. Maybe he should just offer her a beer.

Imogen cannot believe what she is hearing. “This is all just because you’re sweet on her?”

“What? No!” Malorn protests, realizing that he has revealed more than he intended. “That’s, that’s ridiculous! I will slaughter her with her own warp blade!”

Imogen throws up her hands. “Primitive protoss mating rituals!”

“This is absurd,” Malorn declares. Saffron is not very large, but he storms off anyway, seeking solitude in the bathroom.

“It’s like pulling pigtails or stealing a backpack,” Lilly says. Malorn is just trying to get Lendasha’s attention.

“Well, well, well… Now his comments about her ‘stupid, wrinkle-free face’ make a bit more sense,” Imogen observes. “And why he didn’t want us to accidentally kill her at DORF. All this talk about needing to defeat her in battle and take her place…. He just wants to take her to some place.” She shakes her head. “Are protoss even sexual organisms?” Imogen asks Lilly. “You spent time with Axion.”

“We didn’t do anything like that.”

Imogen laughs. “No, I just meant he might have told you about a girlfriend or something.” The protoss they have met have employed male and female genders in conversation, but whether that has anything to do with how they reproduce, neither she nor Lilly know. “Ah well. When he’s finished his sulk, we can tell him about how we’ve captured him and are turning him over to his beloved.”