During the two-week flight from the Umojan Protectorate back to the Dominion, Lilly and Imogen fill their time recovering from their injuries and making plans for their new company, Lost & Found. Lilly sharpens knives, while Imogen sketches out ideas for business cards. They also workshop ideas for properly attaching their vulture bike to the side of their science vessel. No matter what Imogen ultimately works out, Saffron’s handling will be negatively impacted, but if she can get a magnetic mount installed, at least attaching and detaching Old Red will no longer jeopardize either hull. She is not sure whether the science vessel’s generators can support a super magnet of that kind, but it beats all the welding. Snowball does not contribute anything to these discussions, though he does stare curiously at the terrans during them.
Once back in Dominion space, their first stop is Mar Sara. Since Saffron contains several forms of contraband—smuggled Umojan goods and a zerg spy—Lilly does her best to avoid any notice from the control tower. She brings the science vessel down to the surface over the curve of the planet and then skims along rather low on the approach to Mar Sara City. The control tower’s area of attention only extends a few miles outside the city under cloudy conditions, so her plan is to come in at this angle and assess the weather before deciding where to put down.
The box from Uncle Leo is not too large, but it is extremely heavy. Given that the goods—whatever they are—are hot, Imogen wants to work out the delivery details with Joey Ray in person rather than over the phone. That is the business reason, anyway. But really, Imogen is sick of being in the ship and eating the soy-based meat sticks that Lilly stocks. The fresh vegetables Imogen picked up on Umoja are long gone by now, and even creep sauce sounds more appealing to her than more candy and PowerAde. Imogen’s teeth hurt just thinking of all the crap she has eaten in the last week. And it will be good to get out and move around some.
The flight takes them over a stretch of terrain they have not seen before. Mar Sara still has many very arid regions, as well as a number of zerg hives scattered through its mountain ranges and river valleys. There are also the ruined remains of terran settlements from before the protoss glassed the planet. Lilly runs some scans, wondering if there is anything still worth salvaging. She gets a bit of a talking to from Imogen about over-taxing Saffron’s systems. The sensor suite is very advanced but also very energy-hungry, and Imogen has to cool down some of the overheated conduits as a result.
Lilly does find a promising site not terribly far from Li June’s place. There are some indications of zerg around, so perhaps that is why it has not been picked clean by anyone else yet. She voices the thought that Li might also need things from town, and Imogen takes that as a cue to call the recluse. They certainly do not want to drop in on her compound unannounced. The phone rings a number of times, and Imogen begins to think Li is still too annoyed with them to answer. However, she does finally pick up.
“Now, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard from you. You two doing all right?” There is the sound of ice clinking against the sides of a glass in the background, undoubtedly one full of sweet tea.
“Well, you seemed to need a bit of space after that debacle on Chau Sara,” Imogen says. “But we’re back in the Mar Sara area. We’re looking for a place to land, and Lilly was wondering if you needed anything from town, since we’re headed that way. We wouldn’t mind replenishing our stock of sweet tea, either.”
Li agrees, saying she is running low on a few things and that she is willing to chat a little in person when they make the drop off. Before she hangs up, though, she asks how their “little friend” is doing. “So, we’ve learned a little more about what his purpose in life is. He seems to have some sort of conduit for sending information back to his… superiors,” Imogen answers somewhat obliquely.
“Now, his superior is who, do you know?”
“An old associate of yours who is no longer quite herself.”
“That’s what I was worried about. If he’s a direct conduit to her, I don’t think I want him running around my installation.” Imogen definitely understands and says Lilly will simply keep him locked up when they stop by with the groceries later.
Having finished her scans, Lilly flies Saffron in closer to Mar Sara City. They are in luck with the cloudy weather today, so they are able to put down a few miles from the settlement without being noticed. Lilly finds a decent clearing without any signs of zerg in the area and sets the ship down with no new scratches. Once they have landed, they detach Old Red for the ride into town. Imogen looks over the attachment area, mind whirling with ideas on a more permanent solution. She mentally adds a few parts to her own shopping list.
They leave the cargo in the ship for now. Snowball has been eyeing it curiously, but he has no way to open it. When he notices they are getting the vulture bike ready, he perks up with interest. Lilly shrugs, seeing no problem with him cramming himself into the spidermine compartment if he can assume a workable shape. The notion that a changeling could look like an inanimate object intrigues Imogen. With words at first and then plenty of arm gestures, she coaxes Snowball to try turning into a shrubby tree like those around Saffron. Such camouflage would provide some level of defense if he were out wandering the wilds. His best effort, though, is covered in way too many claws for a piece of vegetation. Imogen laughs at the sight and encourages him to keep practicing. “Perhaps something with thorns would be better, though.”
Lilly thinks Snowball would be safe enough wandering the countryside here, since there are other zerg about somewhere, but attempting to communicate is just too much work. She gives him some PowerAde and locks him in the ship, letting him play guard one more time.