From her vantage point on the porch, Imogen sees Lilly pull back into Li’s compound. The light is dim, but it looks like there is a fresh new stain of blood on the shoulder of her jacket. Imogen hastens to Saffron to check on her partner. When she catches up with Lilly in the central hub, there is no question about the provenance of the spine protruding from her shoulder. “Another hydralisk?! What happened to you?” she asks as she grabs the medkit. “Let me get a look at that.”
Lilly does not say a word. She stalks into her room and slams the door. Well, as much as she is able to slam a ship hatch.
Surprised, Imogen carefully approaches the closed door and raps on it. “I’d be happy to leave you alone, but I can’t do that while you’ve got a hydralisk spine in your arm,” she tries. “You need to let me treat that, and then you can have the night to yourself. I’ll give you space, but I need to do something about your arm first. You’re still recovering from the warp blade.”
Lilly considers just ripping the spine out of her arm and hurling it out the door at Imogen. But that would just be another dumb thing on top of a whole pile of dumb things today. Instead, she slides the door open. Then she sits down on her bed, still silent and glum, eyes lowered to the floor.
Imogen quietly performs a quick surgery, extracting the spine, cleaning the wound, and stitching the area up. Even without psionically prying, though, she can tell Lilly is more than physically hurt. Whatever is going on, it is about more than just being shot by a spine. “Did something happen in town?” Imogen asks gently.
That is even more taciturn than usual for Lilly. Imogen tries again. “Do you want something to take your mind off it? Or do you want me to just leave you alone with it?”
“I’m going to bed,” Lilly declares.
Imogen nods to herself, packs up her things, and gives Lilly space.
After Imogen pulls the door shut behind her on her way out, Lilly rolls over on her mattress and faces the wall. She does not go to sleep, though. She just keeps reliving the day over and over again. Several hours later, she emerges into the darkened central hub intent on pulling a beer out of the fridge. She opens the small door under the science counter, and the light that pours out reveals Malorn sprawled across some crates with his IV bag hanging above him. Lilly turns her attention back to the fridge, but then her eyes drift upwards, all the way to the highest shelf of the science station where Imogen’s Umojan whiskey is. Her partner might need a step stool to reach it, but Lilly is able to easily pluck it off the shelf right from where she is standing.
Lilly is not overly careful as she pours herself a glass of whiskey, and Malorn stirs at the sound. She unceremoniously clears off the top of a nearby crate and then slumps down on it. She throws back the glass, downing the shot in one gulp. Whoo! Imogen gets good whiskey, Lilly thinks, as the warm glow of the smooth drink spreads quickly through her. Skipping two meals probably contributes to the effect.
As she splashes more whiskey into the glass, she hears, “Awfully early to be getting up, even for you, isn’t it?” Lilly startles, having already forgotten Malorn was there. But she likes him. He does not care that she is a resoc. He does not judge her. At least, not for anything other than being terran. She passes over the glass bottles of Stiff Ya’ and instead grabs a canned beer from the fridge. Then she stumbles over in Malorn’s direction. He catches the can when she tosses it to him. It opens with a crisp pish, and he carefully lowers a shortened nerve cord through the opening. “What has you up so early, anyway?” he demands.
“Couldn’t sleep,” she answers tersely.
“Is this common among your people?” Malorn asks. Lilly shrugs. “Some say protoss do not truly need to sleep, but I find that is ridiculous,” he shares, having dropped some of his former posturing. “It is the one release that a tal’darim has from our vicious society, a few hours of respite at night.”
“That’s rough, dude,” Lilly says, loosening up after another shot. She hands Malorn the empty glass so that he can more easily soak up his beer. She is fine with just the whiskey bottle herself from this point on.
Malorn has absorbed a fair amount of alcohol in the past day and is still low on fluids. Being as socially lubricated as Lilly, he is more chatty than he otherwise might be. “Imogen says that you have a contact with whom I might be able to make some sort of mutually beneficial arrangement. This Durian fellow we worked with once?”
Lilly grins. “Yeah, Durian,” she says, ending in a giggle. Things are beginning to look up for her, hanging out here with her buddy Malorn, having some drinks, thinking of Durian.
“I don’t remember anything about him. Tell me, is he a capable warrior?”
“Yeah. And so, so hot, omigosh,” she gushes.
“Do his enemies tremble before him?”
“I don’t think his enemies see him coming.”
“Interesting… Wait, he’s not a ghost, is he? He doesn’t use pathetic cloaking technology?”
“No, he’s just a fast shot. And he has power armor.”
Malorn does not pick up on any romantic subtext. “I suppose that would be required for a fragile terran,” he muses. “And he runs a mercenary company of some sort. Is that right?”
“Uh-huh. But he’s not fragile!” Lilly insists drunkenly.
“Well, that is good to hear. Then our arrangement can hopefully be long standing.”
“Wha? What are you going to do with Durian?” Lilly slurs.
“We are going to do some fighting together—on the same side,” Malorn clarifies. Alcohol makes him magnanimous. “In addition to transportation, he clearly needs some up close and personal military support. And by support, I mean that he is going to support me. I’ll earn the bulk of the—what are they called, credits? Things that Imogen was saying you need in this sector.”
To Lilly, this collaboration sounds like the coolest thing ever. “Wait! Wait, wait, wait!” she cries as Malorn drones on to himself. She fishes out her phone. “I’ll call him!”