“Is it safe to go through? Have you secured the comms tower?” Raynor’s voice crackles through the comms booth. His troops cannot move on the command center until they know no word of it will get offplanet. “We’re waiting on your signal! Weren’t sure if we’d need to send someone else in there.”
“Aye, it’s secure,” Imogen tells him. “No messages will be going out unless we send them.”
“All right, sounds like a plan,” Jimmy replies, and Imogen can hear the smile in his voice. “Raiders, roll!” he shouts as he lowers his radio and cuts the line.
From the height of the Mar Sara starpart communications tower, Imogen and Lilly have a clear view of what happens below. Guns blazing, the raiders move on the command center, quickly quelling any resistance there. The marines storm in, and before long, Imogen sees some of them come back out, hauling a well-dressed man she has never seen before. From this distance, she cannot make out who is who among all the power-armor clad soldiers. One of them steps forward though, pistol-whips the man, and throws him to the ground. Then, execution, pure and simple. Shots right to the back of the head. Imogen puts a hand to her temple and sighs. The soldiers on the ground, though, cheer, firing off celebratory shots into the air.
A moment later, Jimmy’s voice comes back over the radio, an all-points bulletin. “All right, we’ve taken the command center. We’re in control,” he announces.
“Are you?” Imogen snaps, but her words are drowned out by Raynor offering congratulations on a job well done.
He goes through the list of units, and each reports that their position is secure. When he gets to the comm tower, and Imogen confirms, he tells her he will be sending some folks to her location to work out a longer term plan. “All right, we’ve done it, boys. We’ve taken over Mar Sara City,” he concludes proudly.
Imogen looks grimly out into the night. I’ll believe that when I see that it’s still the case a month from now, she thinks darkly. Standing here now, looking down at the city, Imogen cannot help but think of the conversation she and Lilly had on their first trip here.
Imogen grows reflective. “Things were very simple on Umoja. We stayed away from offers made to us by the Confederacy, and we kept our independence as much as we could. It seems like many other planets did not necessarily have it work out that way for them.”
“You mean the Dominion?” Lilly asks.
“Aye. Confederacy. Dominion. One replaced the other, but they seem quite similar.”
Lilly nods. “If you’re a soldier, it’s all pretty much the same.”
Imogen sighs. “I’m just wondering if we’re working for the good guys or not—”
“Probably not,” Lilly interjects.
“—or if there’s just no good guys at all.”
Are there any good sides? Imogen wonders again. I think the answer is still probably no. Are there sides that are less bad? I’m not even sure about that.
“What do we do with these two?” Lilly’s practical question intrudes upon Imogen’s thoughts.
“We don’t turn them over to anybody else until I know how they’ll be treated,” Imogen says with a scowl.
Before too much longer, they see a couple people approach the tower on foot. They get a call over the radio from Daphne and Cletus. “Jimmy sent us to take over operations. Comms tower is secure right? Just want to make sure before we head in. Don’t want any surprises.”
Imogen invites them up. Dressed as they are in functional jumpsuits, they are clearly not marines. Before she hands over the instructional binder to them, Imogen asks, “How do the raiders handle people from the other side much like yourselves, non-combatants?”
“What do you mean, handle them? They’re certainly not going to be allowed to work,” Cletus says.
“Do you treat them like the mayor?” Imogen demands, but neither he nor Daphne know what she is talking about. “Do you just cap them?” she asks more directly. Ross’s eyes go wide, and he protests against the duct tape across his mouth. “Do you have any standards? Any protocols?” Imogen struggles to maintain her cool. This is just like what that crazy Mira Han did, walking into the bar and shooting an unconscious man in the head. Maybe a crazy mercenary captain can get away with that, but such behavior is no way to lead. Maybe I should never have left Umoja. Maybe once I figure this psionics stuff out I should go back. Screw the rest of the sector.
Whether some politician got caught in the crossfire or not, Daphne and Cletus do not know. Their focus is on making sure Dominion reinforcements do not come firebomb the whole city. It is clear to Imogen that they bear no blame for what happened out in front of the command center. She hands over the binder, and Lilly points out the schedule. Daphne thanks them for taking control of the tower. “Action, not really my thing,” she says, “but stringing the Dominion along for a while… These materials will come in handy for that. I don’t know how we’re going to deal with new arrivals coming into town, though.”
“You can always play the quarantine card,” Imogen suggests.
Daphne likes the sound of that. Quarantine precautions might be scary enough to keep people away without actually drawing a full-on infestation crew. She and Cletus take responsibility for the tower and its former operators, leaving Imogen and Lilly free to go.
To go find Jim Raynor, that is.
“It’s true, I don’t know what atrocities that governor may have committed, but I know that that wasn’t a trial. And I know that the raiders are going to leave this planet, and the civilians are going to be stuck behind. Potentially having to answer for that,” Imogen rails as she and Lilly descend the stairs of the comms tower. “Of everyone I have talked to tied to this whole raider rebellion thing, no one has a plan. There is nothing beyond ‘we hate Mengsk.’”
That’s not a bad rallying cry, Lilly thinks.
“You know who else hates Mengsk?” Imogen asks rhetorically. Without pause, she continues, “Someone who has already proven themselves capable of taking over this whole sector. And no, I’m not saying to ally with that person. I’m saying, if you’re not prepared and you create a gap that that person can very easily step into, then you’re responsible!” Lilly shrugs. The Queen of Blades could have taken over the whole sector already if she really felt like it. “Kerrigan may not have forced her will on everything already, but she may yet.”
“And she’s mad at us in particular,” Lilly comments.
“Well, she should be less mad at us now,” Imogen mutters. “Maybe if I have an opportunity to speak with her and learn something about the zerg perspective…” She throws up her hands. Is the Swarm really under Kerrigan’s full control, or would ravenous creatures continue to eat people if she took over the sector? “The fate of humanity in this sector hangs in the balance. The bastion of hope is not Mengsk. It’s not anything I’ve seen so far.”
When she and Lilly reach the base of the comms tower, Imogen does not go to the command center. She already saw enough of what happened there. Instead, she heads in the direction of Joey Ray’s. “I understand soldiers shooting soldiers,” she tells her partner. “What I witnessed was not that. It was an execution. Somebody who doesn’t have a plan for setting up a replacement government does not have the authority to execute people.”
Lilly lets her friend rant. She’s not wrong. There was an execution, and we don’t really know what happened. But Lilly makes no move to educate Imogen on the realities of war. That is not her place. Her place is by her partner’s side, backing her up in case there is trouble. And the way Imogen is fuming, there may very well be. Maybe she just needs to blow off some steam. The bar is the perfect place for that.