In the morning, after showering off as much zerg dandruff as they can, Lilly and Imogen bid farewell to Li and Snowball. Lilly picks their way across the wasteland back toward the capital. It takes several hours, and then they have to reroute to get around a deep river on the eastern edge of the city. Lilly is annoyed. “I forgot about the river,” she grumbles. “That was dumb.”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself, Lilly,” Imogen encourages her. “This isn’t the route that we took to get to Li’s. We were coming from the clinic then.”
It is afternoon when they finally reach the city, and they pass the refinery on their way to the starport. In addition to the puffs of green gas they expect to see, dark smoke hangs above the area. I guess that is what the sound was when I was talking to Raynor, Imogen reflects.
Lisa Prescott waves them down when she sees them. “Lilly! Are you okay? I can’t believe those damn raiders! They hit us directly last night. I just want to make sure everyone is all right. If anyone got hurt, we can bill that back to the Dominion for their inferior security. Even you, Imogen. You were technically still on our rolls, though I understand it didn’t work out.”
“Could we be reimbursed for fees paid to the clinic?” Lilly asks, a little anxious about lying.
A young Lilly, not yet into her full growth, shifts nervously on a vulture bike, a marshall standing beside her with arms crossed. “Now, look, you definitely jacked this,” he says. “I know this isn’t your bike.”
“No, man, it’s my friend’s. He loaned it to me!” she insists.
“Oh, yeah? Who’s your friend?”
Lilly looks around, searching for inspiration. There is a guy going into a grocery store. There is a woman coming out of a bar. There is…. Ah! “He went in that building over there. My friend’s a marine.”
The marshall looks over at the recruiting office and grimaces. “All right,” he grumbles. He lets her go, muttering, “You soldiers, you get all the perks.”
As she rides away, Lilly says to herself, “If that’s the case, maybe the army wouldn’t be such a bad job….”
When Lilly snaps back to the present, she is a little surprised to find herself talking with the refinery overseer, who is reluctantly turning her down for something. Lilly notes Imogen’s attention is on a barrel of vespene rolling behind Lisa. The overseer tells Lilly to take the week off and storms away to deal with the mess that is the refinery. The barrel remains behind. Imogen tilts her head toward it and lifts an eyebrow.
“I’m not a thief,” Lilly insists.
Imogen goes to pick up the barrel herself but can barely get it off the ground. Lilly steps over and takes it from her. “But I’ll carry it. Where are we taking it?”
Imogen leads her to Joey Ray’s and has Lilly wait by the alley door in the back with the barrel while she herself goes into the bar. She finds the bartender in a good mood. “I hope those hydralisk hunters helped out yesterday,” he says.
“Our goals were achieved,” she acknowledges. “We’ll be heading off-world soon, but I have some unfinished business with you, I do.”
He perks up even more at that. “Oh? Got something for me?”
She nods her head toward the fire exit. Joey glances out the small window, then opens the door to admire the barrel Lilly is guarding. He affirms to Imogen that he can set up a meeting for her, but he insists it will have to be remote. “My friend’s a little bit paranoid. He’s got a right to be paranoid, of course, but some of it might be the terrazine effects on his system. Still, as agreed, I will connect you with Dr. Egon Stetman. He’s probably going to be pretty busy here in the near future,” Joey says as he pats the barrel, “but I’m sure he can spare some time to talk to you.”
Then he frowns. “But I’m going to warn you again: you should not get involved in that stuff. You think it’s about feeling good? About getting power? It will just mess you up. I mean, heck, look at the Queen of Blades. She’s probably the most powerful person in the sector, but she is really messed up.”
“What does that have to do with terrazine?” Imogen asks levelly.
“Nothing. At least, I don’t think she takes terrazine… The point being, the paths to power come with a price.” He thinks a little more. “Of course, not like she had a choice…”
“Did you know her, too?”
“I knew of her,” Joey says. “I don’t think I met her, but you never can be too sure with ghosts.”
That’s pretty grim, Imogen thinks, talking about her like she’s dead.
* * *
On the way to the starport, Imogen tells Lilly, “We need you to talk to Grom and cash in on the favor.” Sure, his children paid them for rescuing their father, but the man himself should feel like he owes Lilly for getting him out of slavery in a Rose mine.
They discuss potential cover stories for returning to Mar Sara, assuming that they obtain the cerebrate sample. They plan to convince Jefferson Duke that they will need to do a follow-up trip to review the vespene situation. And they never did meet with the current magistrate in Mar Sara City, so they owe him a courtesy call.
At the starport, security is notably lower because so many marines were diverted to the refinery and the clinic. Lilly is a little nervous about passing quarantine, given all the time she spent with Snowball in her arms. Imogen gets through just fine, and as Lilly’s blood is about to be drawn, some marines start shouting, “I think I see Jim Raynor over there!” Things grow chaotic, and the passengers are all quickly ushered onto the departing Space Greyhound for Korhal.