FRAWD Investigators: Moving Forward | Scene 2

It is a long surgery, and Lilly and Li eventually retire to the sunroom to let the others do their job. The sun is setting by the time the procedure is finished. Along the way, Malorn does get a small blood transfusion from Karax to replace some of his lost plasma. In the normal course of life, protoss absorb the moisture that they need from the air, but that is insufficient for Malorn’s current needs. To restore the rest of his missing fluids, Imogen has the majority of his tendrils sitting in glasses of water. She finishes washing up, and just as she dims the lights, Malorn’s eyes flash open. A terran patient might gasp in a huge breath, but this protoss one just clutches the edges of the table on which he lies.

“I’m alive.” 

The observation comes out as a growl, and Imogen cannot quite read the sentiment behind it. “Is that a problem?”

“No… No, it’s not. I remember… Lendasha—ugh!—cutting me down.”

Imogen catches Karax’s eye and tosses her head, encouraging him to back off far from Malorn’s line of sight. He was cowering under a blanket when Lendasha attacked Malorn, but there is a slim chance the tal’darim will still recognize him. Best for Karax not to be within arm’s reach of Malorn, just in case.

Malorn’s eyes roll around, but they do not pick out the Aiur protoss in the shadowy corner. “I’ve wasted so much… on her! On the tal’darim!” He tries to smash a fist down on the table, but he does not have the strength for more than a light tap.

Imogen moves to his side and places a hand on his arm in gentle restraint. “Don’t over exert yourself,” she tells her winded patient. “You should still be sleeping.”

“Sleep? Ugh! Why bother? What am I going to do now?” He looks around now in alarm. “Where are we? This is not your ship.”

“No, we’re at a friend’s house.”

“It must be nice…”

“Having friends? Or having a house?”


Imogen shakes her head at how little he understands. “Well, you have at least half that.”

“Where are my things?” Malorn asks. He is clad only in the slitted skirt that is his bottom wear, and his weapons are nowhere nearby. He starts to get up, shrugging off the hands of the weak terran who tries to restrain him.

“No, stop. You’re reopening your wounds,” Imogen protests, seeing blue spots appearing on the bandages. Malorn ignores her, insisting he needs to get back to his ship. “You’re not going to be able to walk there. We’re not on that planet.” Clearly, his mind is still foggy, because he asks about the space station, and she has to reiterate that they are at a friend’s place.

Now upright, he looks around again, taking in more of the space. “A terran house?”

“Aye,” Imogen tells him. “Most of my friends are terrans.”

“I suppose that makes sense.” He remains seated on the table, doing whatever passes for gasping among protoss. “I have a terrible headache, too.”

Imogen chuckles. “That could be a hangover, or it could be from loss of blood. You just had major surgery.” Malorn ignores her, pushing himself off the table and stumbling toward the door. Imogen raises her voice, calling Lilly back in from the sunroom.

“Hey!” Lilly greets him, as she blocks the door. It swiftly turns into a more concerned, “Heyyyyy,” when she registers how wobbly he is. “Malorn, you’re up!” She lifts her hands, to be ready in case he should suddenly crumple.

“Lilly Washington. I need to… get to… my ship.” He motions for her to get out of the way.

“He’s supposed to be resting!” Imogen tells Lilly.

“Nope! Doc says you need rest,” Lilly echoes to Malorn. She lays a hand on him to corral him, but even in his weakened state he is strong enough to shake it off. When he steps into the sunroom, though, the brighter lights stop him. An unknown terran is here as well.

“Is he all right then?” Li asks, looking past the injured protoss to Lilly, who is hovering behind him.

“I guess.”

“Good evening to you, sir,” Li greets her guest.

Imogen comes bustling out of the room, seeking to regain control of her patient. “Malorn, c’mon, listen to me. We will get you back to your ship, but it’s not on this planet. The only way you can get there is for us to take you on Saffron. And we are not going to do that until we’re sure you are safe to travel. So you need to at least sit down.”

“Yeah! Friends don’t let friends drive… uh… too injured,” Lilly adds, trying to be helpful. “Or drunk. And we’re all kind of buzzed right now, so nobody’s going anywhere. Just lay down on the couch.”

Though he will not admit he is winded, Malorn collapses onto the soft cushions. “Very well,” he mutters. “I will deign to be taken back to my ship when we have paused our revelry.”

Imogen nods. “Right, the drinking,” she says, voice laced with sarcasm. “That’s the only reason you’re not in any condition to travel.”

“Yes, yes,” Malorn says tiredly. Then he looks back to Lilly. “How did the rest of the battle go? You two are alive.”

“Yup,” she acknowledges, settling down on the couch next to him. Her own neck and shoulder are wrapped in bandages.

“That is good,” Malorn states with a satisfaction that borders on affection.

“So this one was Lendasha,” Lilly says, showing off her injuries. “And this other one was from some new guy who showed up—”

“Which? Which guy?” Malorn straightens up, suddenly energized. Just as quickly, though, he wilts again. “No! It doesn’t matter. I don’t care about that. It doesn’t matter who her lover is.”

“He was just backup, I think,” Lilly tells him. “But I shot him pretty good with Sweetpea. I shot at Lendasha too, but I didn’t get her. She was invisible.”

“Bloodhunters are very difficult to track. It’s not worth it.”

“Well, I got my blood on her,” Lilly adds.

“So, did we have to retreat then?”

“We had to keep you alive,” Imogen reminds Malorn. “Or else there was no reason to be doing anything. But I think you might be in a position to agree that that particular mission does not need to be picked up again.”

“No, it does not,” Malorn admits. “That was a waste. A fool’s errand. I should never have—Argh! A lifetime wasted. And now I am an exile with no home. What do I do now?”

“You’ve got a ship,” Imogen points out. “You don’t have nothing.”

“Wait, weren’t you already an exile?” Lilly asks, thinking maybe she misunderstood something before. 

“Yes, but I was trying to get back in,” Malorn clarifies. Then he comes clean, to himself and his companions. “Okay, I was just trying to get to Lendasha. I was foolish.” He groans again.

“Well, you’ve got us,” Lilly says. She pats Malorn on the knee encouragingly.

Malorn grinds out a response. “I must conclude that being in the company of such terrans is an improvement over the failure that is an entire society of tal’darim fools.”

“Now you get it!” Lilly says brightly.

“You know, you were wrong about the tal’darim,” Imogen points out. “Perhaps you are wrong about terrans being useless, as well.”

“Terrans are weak but not useless,” Malorn allows.

“Terrans may be weak in some ways that protoss are strong, but we’re stronger than protoss in other ways,” Imogen counters. “I’m not a slave to a caste system, for starters.”

“Tal’darim society is ridiculous. Martial. Brutal. Cruel. But it does not have a caste system. The strongest, whoever they are, can ascend by whatever means they are capable of. Not like those pathetic Aiur protoss. They have a ridiculous caste system.” While Imogen sees the distinction Malorn is drawing, she maintains that terrans are more flexible than protoss. “Flexibility? Is that inherently a good thing?” Malorn questions.

“It’s a useful thing. Just like protoss strength is a useful thing.”

“Hmm… I suppose that has utility at times. And that, in itself, is one way to measure strength. Yes, perhaps the rigidity of various protoss societies makes things difficult for them. And, too, the flexibility of terran societies at times makes things difficult for them. How many terran societies are there, again?”

Imogen dismisses Malorn’s leading question. “I don’t care about the societies. That’s not what I’m talking to you about.”

“So you’re an exile, too? Are we all exiles here?” he asks, looking around at the others in the room.

“Oh, yeah, sugar,” Li says. “I mean, by choice. But absolutely.”

Malorn’s words strike Imogen in a way he had not intended. She grows reflective. Can I be considered an exile? If so, from what? She mulls this over and then answers, “Maybe not an exile, per se, but certainly an outcast of sorts. Everybody here stands apart from the society they came from in one way or another, whether they were forcibly exiled or willfully stepped apart. None of us quite belong where we started.”

“I suppose that is true,” Malorn grants. With another protoss sigh, he demands, “So what do I do now? Suppose I get my ship, where do I even go?”

“I think healing up would be your first step, Malorn,” Lilly tells him.

“There is wisdom in your words,” he grudgingly admits.

“There’s beer to be had. We’ve got to get you propped up for that.”

“Maybe when I wake up… or maybe right now.”

“All right, but limit your consumption a bit,” Imogen warns. “Don’t be dumb.”

Lilly goes and grabs a few cans of Middle of the Road. At Malorn’s request, Imogen fetches his belongings. There will not be any need for psi-gauntlet combat here, but she understands it will make him feel better to have them close by.

The exhausted Malorn zones out, tendrils in a beer, and Li speaks up, asking Lilly what she and Imogen are going to do with him. “Whatever he wants,” Lilly answers matter-of-factly.

“Seems like he doesn’t even know what he wants.”

“Well, you saw how good I was at stopping him when he’s like this. Imagine when he’s healed up. I dunno.”

“I hear you, sugar.” Li takes a sip of her sweet tea, having long since abandoned the concoction Lilly produced. “I’d hate to be around this fellow when he’s fixing to do something particular.”

“He’s all right,” Lilly assures Li. “He’s a bit more bark.” Lacking a mouth, he cannot have much bite. “Although he is pretty badass. I’ve seen him fight. He’s a… whaddya call it? A templar.”

Li is not sure whether Malorn will work out as an information source, given his ornery personality and warrior bent. Lilly shares that she and Imogen only just recently met Karax, but that she thinks he is an engineer of some kind. That sounds more up Li’s alley. They chat a little about what happened on Iceberg Station, and then Li asks, “Did you find what you were looking for there?”

Lilly shrugs. There was a lot going on once the fighting started. “I dunno.”

“Well, it’s getting late, so I will wish you a good night. You’re welcome to the guest rooms if you don’t want to sleep on your ship.”

“All right. You want me to make you some more Lilly’s Island Iced Tea tomorrow?”

“Uh, you know… I… uh… I think I’m good. That was…” Li finally cannot contain it anymore. “That was awful, Lilly.”

Lilly does not hold this against Li. She laughs. And she agrees to do a supply run for the recluse tomorrow.