Calling Li June at two in the morning was dumb, but what Lilly and Imogen decide to do before sunrise the next day is even dumber. Although Li expects them after the daily zerg raid on her compound, they head over a bit earlier in order to observe the event from their science vessel.
Their poor judgment is perhaps the fault of too little sleep. Lilly was woken before six by scratching inside the defiler’s barrel. That’s fair, she thinks groggily. After all, she woke up Li. Fortunately, the barrel is still secure. Other than hissing and scratching, the defiler does not seem to be doing much. Lilly goes about her daily morning routine: knives, pushups, shower. Imogen is roused by the sounds of activity. Curious about what form the early morning zerg attack takes, she encourages Lilly to get the ship up in the air and on the way while she gets herself ready.
The sun is just rising as Saffron nears Li June’s compound. Lilly and Imogen pore over the sensor readings. There are multiple types of zerg involved in the attack, and not just on the ground. Down there are mostly zerglings with some hydralisks in the mix. Unfortunately, up here in the sky, there are mutalisks, and they are headed in Saffron’s direction.
Lilly jumps back over to the pilot station for evasive maneuvers. Imogen abandons monitoring the zerg below and takes her usual battle station: down below the floor platings, monitoring the science vessel’s reactor. Saffron has no defensive systems for the ship itself, just the hull which always seems too thin and fragile once zerg projectiles start flying about. The defensive matrix capability is only good for protecting someone else external to the ship. Imogen begins to wonder, though, whether there might be some way she could invert it. A marine inside it can shoot out, after all. If she could flip the matrix, then they could throw it around one of their pursuers, trapping them within a bubble that shots can enter but not leave. She tears the cover off the defensive matrix equipment and starts examining the wiring. Not confident she can enact her plan right now, particularly not under this sort of pressure, she shouts alternative orders up to Lilly. “Bank over towards the canyon. See if you can get it to shoot itself.”
Lilly would have been happy to just fire at the mutalisk, but she gets what Imogen is going for and instead leads it on a merry chase. The bony missiles launched by mutalisks are designed to ricochet off their targets, inflicting additional damage on enemies clustered nearby. If all goes right, Lilly should be able to use the vertical surface of the canyon wall to deflect the mutalisk’s next attack back at it. Well, you win some, you lose some, Lilly reflects, as Saffron shudders from scraping along the canyon. Good idea, poor execution. The mutalisk’s next attack hits both the science vessel and the cliff face. Rocks scatter, some of which hit the mutalisk, but they only scratch it up a bit. “That was dumb,” Lilly announces.
“It was the best idea I had at the time,” Imogen snaps back, defensive. “It’s a little stressful right now!” Sparks from the reactor fly around her as the equipment struggles to keep up with Lilly’s maneuvering.
Lilly doubts she can outrun the mutalisk with her engines, so she decides to fire the irradiator. She scores a direct hit, which is likely to ultimately be the death of this creature, but not soon enough. It fires another shot in return, and Saffron shakes from the blow. The exterior hull is torn up quite a bit; it is a good thing they are in atmosphere for this fight, not vacuum. Fortunately, the mutalisk does not stick around to finish them off. It flies away, parts of it already starting to peel and bubble from the intense radiation.
Saffron limps to Li’s landing pad. Lilly shrugs off the damage, but Imogen considers the situation more grim. Now she needs to repair the science vessel as well as the vulture bike. The new barrel and the plating from Jimmy will only go so far. I hope Li has some materials I can buy off her. There goes all the money we just earned from UNN.