“Oy! Who’s there? The station’s closed!” A rough terran voice hails Saffron as the science vessel finally nears Iceberg Station. Several ships of clearly protoss design are docked on the exterior, as are a couple terran ships. The protoss craft look quite similar to Malorn’s fighter, some even a bit bigger.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Imogen responds dismissively, doing her best to sound like she is from the Dominion. “I’m here to talk to your masters. Put me on with Lendasha.”
“I don’t know one protoss from another,” the voice on the other end grumbles. It grows distant as the owner turns away from the mike. “Oy! Oy! Some lass wants to talk to one of you whatevers.”
The next voice that comes on is as arrogant as Malorn’s but without Lendasha’s distinctive speech patterns. “Why am I being bothered to speak into this wretched microphone?”
Imogen rolls her eyes. “Look, we’ve bagged one of your exiled apostates. We know some of your folks on the station have a particular grievance with this former tal’darim. So we’re looking for some cash.”
“That is an absurd story! What are you, some pirates trying to retake your pathetic station? Beat it, or we will blow you out of our space.”
As Imogen has been talking, Lilly has been busy on the computer with a graphics raster editor. Malorn watches over her shoulder, seething about the ridiculousness of the image as she depicts him secured to a chair with her gun pointed at his head. Lilly giggles as she considers adding a speech bubble, but she sends the doctored image over to the station with no further modifications.
“I can’t believe this!” the protoss on the other end of the line says. “Malorn, you pathetic wretch!”
Imogen turns to Malorn and whispers encouragingly, “See? See, they know who you are.” Malorn simply grumbles.
“Very well!” the disdainful protoss voice continues through the comms. “Bring him aboard and we will find some credits to dispense to you.” The line cuts.
“Okay, that didn’t sound like they’ll shoot us as soon as we come aboard,” Imogen says positively. “Right? He probably doesn’t want to deal with us more than he has to.”
“Seems normal,” Lilly agrees. As per the transmitted instructions, she sets the ship down in the rather empty space that is docking bay 36. A few barrels labeled
VESPENE dot the open space, but not much more.
Malorn believes Lendasha’s warp blade will be either on her person or in her chamber. She will be the highest ranking tal’darim on the station, so she will have commandeered the grandest chambers, likely those formerly belonging to the stationmaster. “I’ll insist we only turn you over to her,” Imogen tells him. “Everyone keep your eyes peeled for signs of the dragoon as we proceed.”
Outside Saffron, they are greeted by a tal’darim warrior wearing two psi-gauntlets—not currently activated—with nerve cords short like Malorn’s. He is accompanied by a trio of terran pirates to further discourage any “funny business.” Two have pistols, while one, wearing a bowler hat, carries a shotgun. Lilly and Imogen are armed as well, to fit their projected image. Malorn, however, is not. He had wanted to just hide his deactivated psi-gauntlets upon his person, but he did such a bad job of it that Imogen berated him over it while Lilly took charge of them for safekeeping. She is at least a warrior, so Malorn tolerates this arrangement.
Imogen plays it cool as they descend and approach the group from the station. She trusts Lilly, but Malorn is a loose cannon. Hopefully he can hold it together until they at least spot Lendasha. He leads the way down Saffron’s ramp, hands loosely bound behind his back and Lilly covering him with Sweetpea. She has chosen to wield this weapon as a gotcha for Lendasha. If it comes down to a fight and laser beams start flying, Lendasha will then recognize the disguised gun as the protoss laser rifle she failed to steal from DORF.
“Ah, yes, Malorn,” Garim goads the new arrival, “captured by terrans. Oh, for the second time, is that right?” Malorn furrows his brow in displeasure but does not deign to respond. “Pathetic, pathetic! Oh, Lendasha, she will want to see this herself!” Garim’s eyes flicker over Malorn’s shoulder at the terrans behind him. “Tell me, how did you capture him? Was he trying to fit in on one of your terran worlds because he does not deserve to live on a protoss world?”
Imogen frowns at him. “Any of you lot could turn on us at any point in time. I’m not going to reveal my protoss-catching secrets to one of you.”
Garim scoffs back, not believing she has any sort of advanced capabilities. “That Malorn is your prisoner here is purely the result of his own stupidity, incompetence, inability, unworthiness.” When he exhausts the list of Malorn’s insufficiencies, he asks Imogen, “What pittance do you require in terms of your credits? Or perhaps you want one of these fellows as a servant for yourself?” He shoves the shoulder of one of the pirates accompanying him, forcing the man to stumble forward.
“Oy!” the pirate cries, startled. He glares back at the protoss and sulkily protests, “Not part of the arrangement!”
Imogen shakes her head. “You’re not the person we’re here to bargain with. Lendasha’s the one who has to evaluate the value of the chattel.” Lilly grabs the binding around Malorn’s wrists as he bristles, just in case he decides to lunge at the other protoss’s neck.
“Very well, I can take you to her chamber, I suppose,” the tal’darim grinds out, sounding much put-upon. “You will of course have to relinquish your weapons for safety reasons.”
“What, are protoss scared of us?” Imogen scoffs.
He wrinkles his brow at her, then reframes the situation to soothe his pride. “Indeed, we have nothing to fear. Just as these pirates could put up no resistance.” He shoves another one of his terran underlings.
The man stumbles but does not object to the treatment as much as his mate did. “Could be worse,” he mutters when Imogen catches his eye.