The FRAWD agents give the clinic’s gas meter a cursory examination, just for show, and then follow the pipeline toward where Lilly saw the small vespene cloud. Lilly keeps her shotgun out and ready. She saw creep in the wilderness on the ride up, and she does not want to take any chances. Imogen takes note of this and keeps her pistol in hand. The pipeline continues a little way beyond the clinic. They walk a quarter mile or so along it through the waste. Lilly points out creep to the north and tells Imogen that it means there is a zerg nest somewhere nearby, not just wandering solitary creatures.
Here, at the end of the pipeline, Imogen smells vespene in the air. The pipe looks different, and at first she thinks maybe it was patched. Upon closer examination, though, she concludes that someone has set up a jury-rigged tap. The seal is not perfect, and gas occasionally leaks out in puffs. There is vespene theft going on, after all. That is why the clinic seems to be using more.
While Imogen studies the pipe, Lilly studies the ground, looking at the multiple types of tracks around the area. She identifies zergling tracks: prints the size of a large dog’s but with vicious claw scrapes as well. The other tracks are intriguing. In addition to scorch marks around the zergling tracks there are extremely large bootprints, the size of a marine combat suit or something like it. A mech suit needing vespene she can understand, but she wonders why zerglings would want vespene. Do they use it to get high or something? Lilly points out the tracks to her companion. “There’re zergling tracks there and some bootprints. Looks like one of the marine suits. And looks like scorch marks there.”
Imogen is alarmed by the evidence of zerglings. “They get this close?!” She examines the tracks, trying to tell if the zerglings and the boots were there at the same time. “Does it look like a fight to you?” she asks Lilly. They assess the evidence and conclude that the booted person was attacked by the zerglings while at the tap, but that the zerglings ran off after taking fire damage.
“We need to find out who this person is,” Imogen says, standing in an enormous bootprint. “If we just shut down this valve, they could turn it back on.”
Lilly is more attentive to the scorch marks. “Is vespene flammable?” she asks.
“Aye,” Imogen says immediately. “Remember? Ted didn’t want us to use it to blow up that other refinery, but we eventually got him to see the light… of the explosion.”
“But what made these burns? These scorch marks are so near the vespene pipeline. They’re lucky the fire didn’t catch and go all the way back down the pipe.” With the soot and the giant bootprints, something clicks in Lilly’s mind. This was likely done by a firebat, a heavily-armored marine with twin flamers. Those types of soldiers have a bad reputation as far as safety is concerned. Lilly can totally picture one swinging flames right around a vespene tap.
Imogen starts to wander to the north, walking along the marine’s tracks. Lilly follows along, shotgun ready. They hear clanging over a ridge, accompanied by what sounds like claws scratching metal. Imogen takes off at a run to investigate, and Lilly soon speeds past her. Beyond the crest, the landscape is covered with creep. The sticky purple mess clings to the terrain, and no trees have survived its encroachment. Imogen and Lilly see the firebat at the base actively chasing a group of zerglings that are trying to evade the flames. A burnt out zergling husk lies on the ground near the powered suit.
“Looks like he’s got it covered,” Lilly says, as she turns to catch a hold of the younger woman near the top of the slope. “What are we doing?”
Imogen points out a second zergling pack moving in. “Earning some good will. We still need answers.”
Lilly nods. “All right.” She resumes her run. Imogen picks her way more slowly down, not experienced with moving through creep.