Later, once Malorn has emerged, Lilly offers him his pick of high-proof beers Atomic Ale, Stiff Ya’, and Ball-Buster, as well as the old standby, Kick in the Face. Imogen, meanwhile, lays out her plan. “We’ll hail the station and tell them we’ve captured a tal’darim that we want to ransom to them.”
Malorn offers less resistance than he otherwise might, as he is still in a sulky funk. However, he complains, “It is scarcely believable that two terrans would capture a tal’darim.”
“Right, because tal’darim have never been imprisoned by terrans before,” Imogen says sarcastically. She knows this is a sore point to bring up, but that was the start of their relationship with him.
Malorn seethes at the reminder and soaks up more beer. Eventually he asks, “What is the next part of your absurd plan?”
“I believe you’ve said before that you’re some sort of exiled criminal among your own kind. We’ll look to claim a bounty for turning you over. They let us into the station, and then we proceed to steal the dragoon pieces and the warp blade.” Malorn scowls at her, and Imogen glares right back. “Your plan was what? Fly your ship up and then fight everyone?”
“My plan was to enter with you as my terran servants and use that to walk freely. Under your plan, we would—at best—be escorted somewhere for me to be tried.”
“How is it that you think you could walk freely among tal’darim?” Imogen demands.
“Not every tal’darim knows every tal’darim. Lendasha would know me,” Malorn growls. Then he adds a muttered, “Lendasha better know me.”
Imogen throws up her hands again. Once more, Malorn has twisted the truth for his own benefit. “I thought you were an exile, persona non grata. Are there not wanted posters of you? Are you not the Jim Raynor of your people?”
“Who is Jim Raynor?” Malorn cannot help but ask. Then he waves away the question. “Those tal’darim who are in the line for ascendency will know who I am. And many know and even fear me,” he insists, talking himself up.
Imogen laughs at him. “Fear you, but not recognize you?”
“They will recognize my name, but not my visage. That is my plan, anyway. If anyone threatens me, they will learn very quickly. But your plan relies upon tal’darim allowing you onto their station instead of just saying, ‘Exile? Blast the lot of them!’ No, for your plan to work, they need to know that it is me specifically and that Lendasha demand to have my head. They would have no reason to keep you alive. I gather that is something that is important to you? Perhaps less so than it should be, given your pathetically short lives.”
“You’re the one who seems to think you need us.”
“You’re useful in some ways,” Malorn allows. “The same way that a tame bengalaas is useful.”
“With your plan, can you show up in a science vessel?” Lilly suddenly enters the conversation. Malorn admits that he cannot, as it would be a mark against him for using such an inferior craft. “And you can’t summon your ship, can you?”
Malorn grouses that he cannot, and Imogen happily points out, “Umojan ships don’t even need pilots.”
“And Umojan beer doesn’t need flavor?” he counters, dumping out what remains of the now-stale McWeiser. However, he does grudgingly accept their plan. “Very well. Being taken in by a terran stratagem will be even more embarrassing for Lendasha and her crew.”
“If we’ve misread the tal’darim political situation, it’s only because you’ve talked yourself up so much,” Imogen points out.
“You cannot possibly begin to comprehend the many layers of intrigue and violence that permeate tal’darim society.”
Lilly thought they were done with the discussion, but Imogen just wound Malorn back up again. “So we’re going with the kidnapping plan?” she double checks.
“The most realistic explanation is that I have nominally surrendered to you so that at the last minute I will overpower you and take my vengeance.” That sounds like things are settled, so Lilly offers him more beer and then turns her attention back to piloting.
“I wish you to psionically attack me,” Imogen tells Malorn. This should make him feel a little better and give her some practice with what Blight taught her. Since they will be going up against protoss shortly, it seems wise to her to try it out against one.
“Do you have a death wish today?” Malorn glances over at Lilly. “I suppose your plan can be enacted with just your compatriot and I.”
“Surely you have enough skill and control that you can choose not to kill me.”
“I could choose not to, yes.” Suddenly, pain stabs through Imogen’s head, and she gasps. “The first rule is you must always be ready for attack,” he lectures her. “You were not prepared. You were thinking about your plan or your future or whatever pathetic credits you will be paid for the dragoon parts.”
“Or perhaps I was thinking about getting Malorn to agree to psionically spar with me,” Imogen grinds out. She tries to pull up the maze Blight showed her but only gets it barely into place before Malorn strikes again. A haze spreads across her vision, but the pain is not as bad this time.
“Impressive,” he allows. “For a terran. But let’s see how you do when there’s a little more chaos.” He ignites a psi-gauntlet, and Imogen quickly follows suit.
Ah, finally they’re getting to it, Lilly thinks. She had gotten the impression that they were going to spar, but then they seemed to just stare at each other and gripe for a while.
Malorn menaces Imogen with easy-to-parry blows, which is enough to make pulling up her mental maze even more difficult. It is hard to focus with a battle going on, which is itself an important lesson to learn. After several flurries, Malorn relents. “Your psionic skill has some measure,” he allows, “but you are not a warrior. In battle you have to be able to maintain focus. Everything will be crying out for your attention. You have to find the one thing that you are focused on, while not getting stabbed by everything else.”
“So do you have any rules of engagement for us on this one?” Imogen asks.
“Lendasha is mine.”
“Aye, so we’ve heard.”
Malorn’s brows knit together into a scowl. “Other protoss are not my concern.” Just stealing Lendasha’s warp blade and stealing her heart.