Lilly breaks off the bantering when she sees Jimmy and Imogen pick up their drinks. Jimmy looks appreciatively at his after a sip, but Imogen spits hers out. When Lilly walks up to them, Raynor is joking about it being important to secure Mar Sara for Joey Ray’s critical alcohol resources.
Imogen glares down at her shot glass in disgust. “If he has any alcohol, it’s certainly not here.”
With the business all done, it is time to call it a night. Lilly tries to hoist the vespene barrel up onto her shoulder, but it is way heavier than she expected. She and Imgoen end up toppling it over onto its side so that they can roll it back to Saffron. The way it handles is very strange, like something is shifting inside. Once they have it at their ship, Imogen hooks it up to Saffron, but no vespene flows. Puzzled, she asks Lilly to pop open the barrel, and they find that all the vespene is gone. In its place is a strange zerg, high on all the gas it has consumed.
“Well, that sucks,” Lilly observes. The creature flops out of the barrel. She covers it with her gun, but it makes no aggressive moves. In fact, it barely seems aware of the terrans. It is the same length as a zergling, but shorter and flatter. The size is off, but it looks much like one of the xenomorphs Lilly read about last night when going through her adjutant’s database. “It’s a defiler,” she tells Imogen.
“Is this a sufficiently unusual zerg that Li June would be interested in it?” her partner asks.
Lilly shares what she knows. Defilers do not attack terrans directly. In fact, they consume other zerg as a power source. But the acid they spew can cause widespread damage to equipment as well as organic matter. Of more concern for a marine on the ground, defilers can create a creepy sort of fog that obscures both vision and sensors. They were never a very common type of zerg, and they have been getting more rare lately. This particular one is unusually small.
The defiler takes a step or two and then slumps over, eyes unfocussed. Lilly scoops it up and stuffs it back in the barrel, then reseals the lid. She looks to Imogen for guidance, and her partner raps the metal barrel.
“Its material could be useful for plating repairs to Old Red or Saffron,” Imogen tells Lilly. “We can take the zerg to Li to see if she wants it. Then I could borrow her garage to make repairs to your vulture bike,” she suggests. Lost & Found did get some useful payment for their part in the liberation, after all.
That sounds like a plan to Lilly. Without thinking, she pulls out her phone and dials Li’s number. The older woman is not thrilled to get a call at two in the morning. “Oh! I’m sorry to wake you. Were you asleep?”
“Well, I was—”
“We found a suspiciously small zerg defiler. You want it?”
“Zerg def—What? Listen, are you in trouble? Or can this wait until morning?”
“Hmm… Well, he’s subdued right now,” Lilly says. She glances over at Imogen for input. “Do we need to do this now before he sobers up?” Imogen shrugs.
“Look, I’ll deal with it in the morning,” Li says, her fatigue making her sound cranky. “This is going to sound crazy, but try hitting it with your EMP. It’ll suck away the biological energy that these sorts of zerg blighters rely on for their dangerous abilities.”
“Roger that,” Lilly says. Imogen brightens up a bit. What Li has just shared makes the defiler sound like a prime candidate for powering Aiden’s radio.
“Now y’all have a good night. And not before six. After the morning zerg attack, how about y’all come by then?”
“Half-past zerg attack. Got it,” Lilly agrees. She lugs the barrel away from the ship while Imogen extracts one of Saffron’s EMP missiles. Lilly opens the barrel and drops the missile inside, triggering it right there. The creature squeals and throws up. “Sorry, little guy,” Lilly apologizes. She rolls the sealed barrel up the ramp and then into her quarters. The defiler should be out all night, but this way Lilly will wake up from the noise if something happens. Hopefully she can resist giving the creature a name before morning, or Durian might again be displeased with her choice of pets.