When the system diagnostics complete and the radio comes fully online, it belches out a cloud of vespene and then sucks it back in. The whole setup looks disgusting, but fortunately it does not smell up the ship’s main cabin where Imogen has set it up at the science station. Li excuses herself, giving Imogen privacy to speak with her brother.
After some pulsating and more belching, the device finally emits the sound of static. “Are you there, Brother?” Imogen says into it.
“Aye! Aye, Sister.” Aiden sounds almost startled that the radio has come to life on his end. His voice has a strange reverb to it. Imogen is not sure if that is because of the speaker organ or if that is just what his voice sounds like now that his infestation is further along. “Ah! You’re able to get through!” Imogen’s first question for him is whether he is safe. Aiden laughs at that. “Aye! You may not believe it, but I’m in the safest place in the sector right now, I am.”
“Your queen’s arms?” Imogen asks wryly.
“They’re not arms?” Imogen teases.
“I’m just saying, did you ever feel safe on Korhal?” Aiden presses.
“Only when I wasn’t thinking about it,” Imogen admits, sobering up.
“Now Char, practically unbreakable.” Before his sister can protest, Aiden hurriedly adds, “Sure, it’s been invaded a couple of times—what planet hasn’t, around here? Are you safe, Sister?”
“Aye, aye. And we found what Mengsk was after.”
Aiden lets out a relieved breath. “You pulled through again, Sister! I can’t thank you enough.” Imogen offers to play him the recording, though he assures her that the Queen will want to hear it for herself. At the news that Imogen does not have the adjutant itself, he shows no concern. The Queen wanted the intel, the confirmation of Mengsk’s motivations. “It’s not like she’s going to make a legal case against him,” Aiden points out.
“No, just an invasive case. Like everyone else,” Imogen says glumly.
“If anyone deserves it, it’s probably him, though, right? I don’t know, I’m not really that plugged into Dominion politics.”
“But surely, as they touch upon zerg politics, they matter to you now.”
“You’re talking about someone who has killed and betrayed millions—billions!—of not only zerg, but also terrans and protoss. Pretty much everyone in the sector. And then launched a blockade against Umoja! The guy’s bad news.”
“Aye,” Imogen acknowledges, though except for that last part, his words could have described Sarah Kerrigan just as easily. She plays the recording for Aiden and then adds, “Maybe you already know this, but when we were on Tarsonis, the tide was turning. The Dominion was packing up and moving out. Maybe he realized he wasn’t going to recover the adjutant.”
“Could be. Or we just decided he’d been on Tarsonis long enough,” Aiden says with the zerg bravado he has lately adopted. The Queen allowed the Dominion onto the planet to see what Mengsk was up to, but then, as though they were an uninvited house guest, forcefully nudged them out the door. “And when an uninvited visitor brings big guns, you have to be a little bit more forceful, unfortunately,” he concludes.
Imogen asks whether Aiden can bring the Queen of Blades to the radio for a listen, but he says she would rather meet Imogen and Lilly in person—on Char. He assures his sister that they will be safe, on his honor.
“Does that have any value there?” Imogen asks.
“Sister!” Aiden chides, offended.
“Is there honor among zerg? I don’t know!”
“Arguably, zerg are the most honorable. The only time one zerg has turned against another is when the Overmind was shattered and there was—”
“Really, Brother?” Imogen cuts in. “Because I just dissected a zerg that eats other zerg.” She and Lilly have also encountered numerous cases of zerg in-fighting.
“Aye, on occasion there are zerg who sacrifice themselves for the greater glory of the Swarm. And some other zerg make use of that. As opposed to the killing that happens among terrans which, let’s be honest, is utterly pointless. Everything the Swarm does has a purpose.” Imogen sighs at how deeply Aiden has embraced zerg propaganda. “But you cut open a zerg today?! What did you do that for?” he demands, sounding offended.
“To be able to talk to you, Brother. Your device is powered by them. How did you think I was going to get it to work?”
“I figured you were smart and you’d figure something out.”
“I did. And a zerg sacrificed itself for the good of the Swarm.”
“Well, there you go!” Aiden says brightly. He cannot hear Imogen’s eye-roll. “See? It all works out, Sister.”
Imogen shakes her head, but lets the topic drop. “You haven’t run into Ted, have you?” she asks, wondering about the other infested terran she knows.
“I’m not rightly sure, but I can ask around and see if he’s on Char. If you come to visit, I’m sure we can arrange a little reunion.”
“I’m just curious how he’s doing. His… conversion was not as smooth as yours.”
“Well, people come to the Swarm under different circumstances, shall we say. But I’m sure I can find him. Are you keen on this fellow, Sister?”
“No! He wasn’t well, and he saved our lives.”
“Ah, all right. It’s just, you asked about him twice, so I wanted to make sure.”
Aiden always had a girl on the mind back when they were teenagers, and he never understood that Imogen just is not that way. “He didn’t want to change,” she states clearly. “It’s viewed as a death sentence. Everyone I talk to says you don’t exist anymore.”
“Well, maybe they just don’t understand,” Aiden says, getting defensive again about his decision.
At least he got to make a decision, Imogen thinks. “If there’s a way to come back for those who didn’t want the change, they should have a choice,” she insists.
“This isn’t the time for this conversation, Sister,” Aiden tells her, as if they are at a family dinner and he does not want it to get awkward.
“Then I’ll take it up with her when I arrive,” Imogen shoots back.
“You’re welcome to do that,” he says, though the way his voice cracks, he probably intends to be nowhere nearby when it happens. “Uh, I’m sure when she gets to hear this recording in person, she’ll be… ‘delighted’ is perhaps too strong a word. Very interested.”
“Further enraged?” Imogen suggests.
“Productively enraged. It’s a harsh memory for her. As you said, some people didn’t have a choice, aye. When the Overmind was in charge, nobody had a choice. We do what we can, make the best of our situation. I’m sure whatever disagreements you may have had with her before, she’ll be willing to overlook, seeing as you helped out with this.”
“I’m pretty sure she said death was too good for us.”
“She’s a very emotional person, you have to understand. She’s got a lot on her mind trying to run the sector and all. It’s very stressful,” Aiden says, coming to the defense of his Queen. “Look, I don’t fully understand what you did or didn’t do. That’s not really my business. I don’t want to pry into that.”
“What is your purview? Are you just going to zerg school now?”
“Uh, I’m, um, just trying to understand the situation, get the lay of the land, so to speak…”
Imogen shakes her head at Aiden’s constant scheming to avoid work. She cannot contain a sigh. “Brother!”
“I want to understand where I best fit in, and that takes time, you know? You can’t rush these things.”
“I told you where you best fit in! You best fit in making sure that zerg and terrans can live together peacefully without innocent bystanders getting killed in the process,” Imogen lectures Aiden.
“Oh, what’s that, Sister? You’re breaking up!” Aiden says overly loudly into the radio.
Imogen can hear the smile in his voice, but she remains serious. “Don’t you remember? I’m the one with the plans, and you’re the one that does the job.”
“Aye, Sister. Aye, Sister,” Aiden relents, though he adds, “And it’s probably occurred to you that I don’t always like hearing your plans, even though most of the time they do work out.”
“If I didn’t make them, you’d never do anything. Look at how your plan turned out!”
“Could be worse.”
“Ma and Da think it is.”
“Aye, and I do regret that, but that is for the best.”
“You’re not on vacation. We’re adults now.”
“It’s not a vacation, aye, but it’s not the drudgery that I understand a lot of the folks in the Dominion have to do. Working day in, day out for nothing. It’s not like that at all. No one’s out to get me here. And I won’t say it’s a perfect collectivist utopia—I obviously don’t have full understanding, and the Queen is very much in charge—but I want for nothing here, and I help out where I can.”
Imogen feels like Aiden is not hearing her at all. “There’s more than just you,” she reminds him again.
“Aye. I’ll see what I can do,” he says with a sigh, his fun spoiled by her earnestness. She may not have undergone a biological transformation like he did, but she has changed in the years they were apart. “It’ll be good to see you again, Sister. I do miss you.”
“Aye, I miss you, too.” She agrees to come to Char and checks on whether any sort of passcodes are needed to travel safely through the system. He is already familiar with Saffron and assures her that the vessel will be recognized when it gets close enough. He advises her, though, to make sure there are no Dominion stowaways aboard. “We don’t even have Snowball anymore,” she tells him. This is news to Aiden; clearly he has to get better at listening in on the zerg grapevine.
One ship the size of Saffron is not going to generate any Dominion interest heading to or from Char. Any Dominion monitoring of that system is focused on Are the zerg leaving?! Is it time to panic? Given the travel time from Mar Sara to Char, Imogen figures she and Lilly can fit in the visit before the rendezvous with Malorn. She tells her brother they will be there in a few days.
Aiden gives Imogen the coordinates for a relatively safe landing site. It is a rocky, volcanic world with almost no plant life. “I do miss the greenery of Umoja, but you get used to it,” he says, trying to stay optimistic. It is a bit warm, but he has adapted to the heat, on multiple levels. “What is it they say, over and out?”
The call ends, and foul smells pour out of the zerg radio. Coughing, Imogen grabs her respirator and rechecks the device to make sure it has not burnt itself out. Then she pulls some tubes down from the ceiling and activates the hood above the science station to start clearing out the air.