As Lilly and Imogen pack up their bags to disembark on Mar Sara, Imogen sprays down the jars of cerebrate and spine-crawler with the zerg obfuscation chemical Li June gave them. She sticks the samples in the very bottom of her backpack where she hopes no one will notice them. If someone does, though, she is confident she will be able to talk her way out of any trouble. She and Lilly make their way through the spaceport, noticing an increase in the Dominion marine presence. Likely this is due to the recent raider activity. When they were on the planet earlier this month, raiders hit the refinery, and from what Jimmy said over the comm, they may have done a bit more since.
Approaching the quarantine station, Lilly and Imogen see that the perfunctory technician of a couple weeks ago has been replaced by a trained inspector who seems to be doing a more thorough look at the people who are selected. Still, not everyone has to go in that line. They try to play it cool, but the pair of them get waved over to be interviewed together.
The inspector remarks that they do not look like locals and says that she will need to inspect all their things. Imogen chooses to interpret that as just a request for identification. As she and Lilly present their FRAWD IDs, Imogen tries to butter up the official. “Even though I’m not a local, I have visited your fine city before,” she says cheerfully.
That is met with a frown. “This place is a dump, okay? I was on Char once, and it was way better than this. At least there’s something going on there.”
“I think you’re doing much better than Char right now,” Imogen observes.
“It’s just a matter of time before the Swarm comes for everyone,” the inspector replies grimly. “Now, would you like to declare anything?” Imogen asks what the list of things to declare is, and the inspector grumpily complains that they should already have studied the pamphlet listing this information. “Every time it’s the same stuff: weapons, chemicals, biologicals…”
“Well, we certainly have weapons,” Imogen says brightly. “We can declare those. Lilly here is a weapon.”
The inspector pulls out a pen and begins scribbling on her clipboard. “Okay, your weapon’s name is Lilly…” She looks over at the taller traveler and makes note of the gun she carries. “Shotgun named Lilly. Got it. I see a couple knives… Anything else?”
“I’ve got this pistol,” Imogen offers, pushing her duster back to reveal her holster. The inspector nods. And then Imogen plays her trump card, which she is hoping will distract the official away from what she is really hiding. “And I’ve got a psi-gauntlet!”
“Psi-gauntlet.” The inspector looks back and forth between the two travelers standing casually in front of her. “What the hell’s a psi-gauntlet?”
“It’s a weapon, it is. That’s why I’m declaring it.”
The inspector demands to see this unusual weapon. Lilly and Imogen begin dumping much, but not all, of the contents of their backpacks onto the table. Lilly makes a big show of slamming down all her weapons—the knife, the pistol, the shotgun—keeping the inspector’s mind on that track. Imogen presents the gauntlet, and the official loses all interest in the rest of their things. “Wha?” She stumbles over words until managing to settle on, “Get all the rest of this crap off the table,” as Lilly is adding a length of pink ribbon to the stack of weapons. “Tell me about this gauntlet.”
“Oh, see, if you stick your arm inside, it will bite down on you.”
“So, it’s some kind of trap?”
“You see these scars?” Imogen pushes up the sleeve of her jacket and shows the marks on her arm from when she once tried to activate the gauntlet. “You put your arm in like this—” she inserts it into the psi-gauntlet and then suddenly screams as she inadvertently triggers the same feature as last time.
The inspector regards the Umojan confusedly, trying to decide if this is an act. “What is wrong with you?” she exasperatedly demands.
Tears streaming down her face, Imogen tries to regain some composure as blood begins seeping out the edge of the gauntlet. If she can just get the blade to activate, she can sell this story and they can be on their way. “No, really… it’s… it’s a weapon,” she grinds out. “You said to show you all the weapons.” She tries to concentrate through the pain, but she cannot get the blade to trigger. Maybe Neiman is right, and she needs to practice concentrating in calmer environments first, then building up to maintaining focus under these sorts of conditions. The teeth inside retract, though, and she is able to withdraw her arm.
The psi-blade ignites, both of them do. The remnants of the lush, green landscape are now war-torn with zerg everywhere, all around her on the battlefield. The blades cut through one after another, slicing through their exoskeletons as if they were mere flesh. Her grayish-purple arms—protoss arms—are covered with what look like needle track marks.
“Just get out of here!” the inspector says. “Stop getting blood all over my table.”
Lilly, having packed everything back up, grabs the two backpacks. Her companion stands there, looking down at her arm, blinking slowly. Blood drips onto the floor. “Imogen, are you all right?”
“Um…” The Umojan seems to come back to herself. “No, not really.”
Lilly catches Imogen’s left arm, the unhurt one, and escorts her out of the starport. “Do we have a medkit?” she asks.
Imogen’s fingers are tingling. Come to think of it, she is also feeling a bit lightheaded. There is a trail of red on the ground behind her. Lilly said something… “Aye, we do. It’s in my bag.”
Lilly sits her dazed friend down on a bench and pulls out the kit. She has Imogen show her the arm.
“This is pretty deep,” Imogen comments. “I know you fixed a gauntlet bite before, but… I feel like it went all the way through my arm.”
Lilly sighs. She can easily see that this is beyond her skill level. “Maybe we should take you to the clinic.” Imogen objects, rambling about Maria keeping her limb. Lilly wraps a bunch of gauze around the arm, just trying to slow the bleeding, and then considers their options. Imogen mutters something about some scientist named Egon maybe knowing how to treat injuries, a friend of Joey Ray’s. Lilly has already pulled out her phone and was in the process of dialing the bartender anyway.
“Joe Ray’s! Today’s specials are Dominion burger. We got the marine fries. We got this other thing… what is that? Can’t read my own writing. Oh! Hit of vespene! That’s what we got.”
“Hey, Joey,” Lilly interrupts, “it’s Lilly.”
“Oh, Lilly, how you doing? What are you doing back in town?”
“I wasn’t sure if you’d remember me.”
“I remember people. And Jimmy talks about you all the time.”
Lilly cuts to the chase. “Do you know of anyone who has first aid skill in the town proper?”
“Oh, some first aid skill! You get roughed up a bit?”
“Yeah,” Lilly says, simply.
Joey suggests that she try going to the barracks. The marines have a medic there, which is probably her best bet, assuming she can convince them to provide treatment. Lilly thanks him and hangs up. She finds Imogen listing to one side, staring off into space. “We need to go to the barracks,” she tells her. “You okay to walk?”
“Aye… just not very fast.”
Lilly scoops up both the backpacks and guides Imogen through the city streets.