When Saffron lands, Li June comes rushing out to greet her visitors. “Y’all okay now?” she asks as soon Lilly appears at the top of the ramp.
Li is expressing her relief when Imogen rushes out of the ship to begin examining the external damage. There are a number of gashes sliced across the hull. Thankfully all the important sensors are still intact. “One more hit like that, and we would’ve been toast,” Imogen announces, feeling how deep one of the gouges is.
“Some of it’s from the cliff, isn’t it?” Lilly says, coming down and looking at some scratches herself. “It’s not all mutalisk.”
Li lets out a low whistle. “You took quite a beating there. Don’t see many science vessels try to take on a mutalisk.”
“Well, it tried to take on us,” Imogen points out.
“Most science vessels would try to run in that situation,” Li gently suggests.
“We were trying that. We don’t go quite as fast as the mutalisks do.”
Li nods. “That’s generally why one likes to have an escort. But I understand that you can’t exactly hire a wraith fighter pilot to just guard you all the time.”
“Hmm… maybe Durian could get one,” Imogen muses. It would not fit his skillset—he never had any flying experience during his marine career—but it would fit his supportive personality. She shakes her head, dismissing that idle thought, and returns to the current problem. “We were hoping to use your garage to make some repairs to Old Red here,” she tells Li, patting the vulture bike that was lucky to not add mutalisk damage to its hydralisk scars. “But it looks like I might need to do something about Saffron. Do you have any plating I can buy off you?” She and Li work out the details of the exchange, getting Imogen what she needs while leaving Li enough materials for repairs around the compound. Li is still grateful for the other shopping they did on her behalf and lets the pieces go at cost.
After evaluating the limited resources available, Imogen turns to Lilly, hands on hips. “Saffron is what keeps us alive in vacuum. Old Red is what you take your joy rides on. Which should I fix here?”
“Whatever you think,” Lilly replies. She knows a trap when she sees one.
While Imogen gets started on repairing Saffron’s hull, Lilly fetches the barrel from her room and rolls it down the ramp. She cheerfully presents it to Li with the declaration, “This is Sheila.” The scratching inside has grown more frantic now that Lilly has rattled the occupant a bit.
“It sounds like you got something in there, alrighty. You saying you got a zerg?”
“It’s a defiler,” Lilly says proudly. Li nods, remembering now the blurry conversation from the middle of the night. She acknowledges that the find is indeed interesting, though perhaps two in the morning was not the time to share it.
They now have the tricky job of extracting the defiler without it wreaking havoc. Imogen needs the barrel for some of the repairs, after all. Li suggests her safe room could act as a cell. That gives them an environment they can keep completely dark, which should render the defiler most harmless. They are heavily dependent on the visible light spectrum, unlike many other zerg which key off of vibrations.
Lilly follows Li inside, rolling the barrel along behind her host. When they get to the safe room, Li covers the barrel with her shotgun while Lilly gets it into position.
Rain falls on the marines as they slide the shipping container into position at the door to the containment cell. The xenomorph inside flings itself at the walls, enough to shake the container and unnerve the soldiers. Lilly and her scientist superior oversee the effort to transfer the creature to a holding cell. Suddenly, a bony claw stabs through the metal sheeting, piercing through the armor of the closest marine. Lilly grabs the appendage and gives it a vicious twist, startling the xenomorph. She pulls out her knife with her other hand and slashes down at the most vulnerable point in the limb, slicing clean through it. The creature is stunned just long enough for the marines to finish the transfer job. Lilly looks down at the weird arm in her hand. We’ll have to put this in a specimen locker, too, she thinks.
Lilly gives the barrel a shake, rattling the defiler inside to disorient it further. Li hits the lights, making the whole space dark just in case the creature gets loose. Sure enough, when Lilly pops the top, it tries to leap out. She uses the barrel lid itself as a shield, batting the defiler away from her into the holding pen. She hears the thump of it hitting the floor and no further hisses. Sheila is out cold.