The central hub of the science vessel is dominated by a large computer column in the middle of the room. Around the outer edges, in addition to three doors marked with the Cerberus logo, are various instrument banks and work spaces. Imogen dismisses the doors, presuming one to lead outside and the other to lead to a crew quarters with another missing escape pod. She inspects the panels, one of which has a bunch of monitors and a variety of controls. Imogen recognizes this as the pilot’s station, though she is surprised by the lack of seats. Tubes and cabling cover the ceiling, some of it long enough to pull down. Things are in disarray; the glass of smashed beakers litters the floor. The room is dimly lit and resonates with the hum of the machinery still powering up. One of the monitors is on and bears a message.
Welcome to the Confederate Computer Network. System booting...
While Imogen is taking in all the equipment in the technical hub, Lilly moves swiftly to the door on the right. The one on the left leads to the main entrance to the ship, but behind this one is another room that could contain threats. With the power on, the door opens easily into what appears to have been the engineer’s quarters. As in the other room, the escape pod is long gone. Under this bed, Lilly finds a hefty toolkit. She picks it up and steps back into the main room. “Imogen?” Lilly holds the kit out with a shrug.
Imogen glances up from going through the materials left on a laboratory workbench and sees what Lilly has. Just on the top, she notes a wrench, a hammer, and a soldering iron. “Oh! That should certainly help!” she encourages her companion. If nothing else, it will make fixing the vulture bike easier.
“Do you want me to carry it?” Lilly asks, hefting the bag.
“No, your bag is full of Snowball. I can carry it.”
“Okay,” Lilly says and tosses it to the slighter woman. She then lets Snowball out of her own bag. There is no reason to keep him cooped up, and maybe he will find something he recognizes.
Imogen catches the kit and staggers back a step but resolutely transfers it into her backpack, making note of all the duct tape she now has available. Some of these tools are extraneous, but now is not the time to weed through the contents. The tools stowed, she returns to her task. Somebody programmed some zerg to guard this place, and she is looking for similar technology to what she saw embedded in that hydralisk and in Snowball.
On the workbench, Imogen finds an older piece of technology that has some more recent modifications and looks similar to what was on the hydralisk. However, it does not have the Cerberus logo. Come to think of it, Imogen is not sure the one outside does, either. She was preoccupied at the time and did not specifically look for it, just assuming it was the same as what Snowball has. The item now before her on the table looks partially assembled. She wonders how long ago the crafter got distracted. Maybe they just didn’t get around to etching on the logo? Imogen hits a switch by the third door, and it opens to a vestibule. A small door on the side leads to the restroom. Imogen leaves that alone for now, opening the main door and heading outside.
* * *
Confident that there is nothing else to find in these crew quarters, Lilly returns to the central hub. The main hatch is open, and she hears the clanging of Imogen’s boots going down the ramp. Lilly steps up to the opening, thinking to keep watch over her companion, and sees the younger woman crouch down over the hydralisk that they tricked. Something catches her eye within the hub, though, and she realizes the computer is finished booting up.
Confederate Computer Network. Greetings, Colonel. Enter login.
Lilly pales. Is this when the ship takes control of me? The cursor blinks. Imogen and the hydralisk outside are forgotten for a moment.
Lilly is sneaking down a dark hallway in the enemy facility, accompanied by marines and a ghost, their tech-person. Her squad is supposed to blow up this facility, and they need to hack into the computer systems to do that. The group is ambushed as they round a corner, and the other side must have advanced sensors, because her cloaked ghost collapses near Lilly, riddled with bullets. “Shit, Carson’s down,” she yells, as she returns fire. “Grab him,” she orders one of the marines. With the opposition quelled, they press on. Lilly pulls the credentials off Carson and steps up to the computer terminal herself. “All right. Gonna have to figure this out,” she mutters, starting to work on the computer.
The system warns, “Countdown: 60 seconds to ion cannon overload.” Her work done, Lilly shouts for her team to get out of there with Carson. She brings up the rear, but the last door closes just before she reaches it.
Lilly steps up to the terminal and begins typing. She lets out her breath in a puff, pleasantly surprised that the Cerberus computer has let her in. But then she swears in alarm as the screen resolves.
IFF transponder recognized. Welcome, Colonel Lillian Washington. Last login: 1457 days ago.
Lilly navigates the system and finds that most of the files are corrupted. However, enough remains that she can tell for certain that this is a Cerberus ship. She finds mention of catalysts, including a numbered list and a reference location indicating a shelf in the ship’s central hub. The keyboard feels oddly comfortable under her fingers, and the menus are intuitive. The sense of familiarity makes her wonder if she would be able to find any of her personnel records here. Even though she thinks computer things are more up the Umojan’s alley than her own, she holds off on calling Imogen inside to look at this. First, she searches for information on herself, but this computer is clearly no longer connected to a wider network. She breathes a sigh of relief. It recognized her, but it has no further records on her. Excellent. No danger of Imogen using all her computer skills to uncover anything on this network about me being a resoc. “Imogen!”
* * *
Imogen jogs across the creep back to the dead hydralisk. Along the way, she notices more feral zerg activity in the distance. Three zerglings are taking on a hydralisk, and none of the creatures appear to have implants. Imogen pulls out some tools from the kit Lilly just gave her and starts prying back some of the hide that has grown over the implant in the carcass before her. She can find no sign of the Cerberus logo. With this closer examination, she realizes that the style is rather different from the implant Snowball has. The larva’s tech is more polished, as if it was manufactured, whereas this one appears a bit slap-dash.
She hears Lilly calling for her and returns to the ship. As she comes up the ramp, even before she is inside, she starts telling Lilly about what she has discovered. “There isn’t a Cerberus logo anywhere that I can find on the dead hydralisk and—Oh! You’ve got the computer working!”
“Yeah, it’s Cerberus,” Lilly says. Imogen asks if she found anything about what they were doing or what is in Snowball’s head. What did I find? “There’s some cata—ooooooh. Catalyst!” Lilly turns and points to a shelf labeled 3B which has slots for four items. Three large vials sit upon it. As they pull them down, they examine the labels, which read drone, hydralisk, and unknown. Lilly loads them into her backpack, while Imogen goes over to the computer. Lilly leaves her to it, distracted by thoughts of her RFID implant. She has certainly heard of electronics that help identify people, it just never occurred to her that she would have one herself. Hopefully that is all it does.
Imogen begins searching through the computer records for further information on the catalysts. She determines that the missing one is for an overlord. Next she starts reading through a few research files, trying to figure out what she can about the cerebral implants. She is hoping to find technical schematics to complement the chemical information that the catalysts will provide. Too many of the files are corrupted, though. Then Imogen notices the most recent access dates on some of the files are within the last few weeks. Imogen growls, “It’s not just us looking at these things!” The logs indicate the administrator is the only other recent user of the system. The screen starts to flicker, so Imogen hurriedly looks around for any other information of value. Before the computer system crashes completely, she uncovers the last docking coordinates of the science vessel, a Cerberus command bunker located on the cleansed world Chau Sara.