Lilly and Imogen head out of town, entering the wastes to the east. They have never taken this route to Li June’s compound. When they were last on Mar Sara, they had approached her place from the northwest, and then on their return directly to town they had gotten slowed down by the river east of the city. They do their best, but their orienteering skills are not quite up to the task. After some time hiking and theorizing about the contents of Dominion burgers, they realize they do not know where they are. They redirect toward a mesa, figuring it will give them a vantage point for locating the landmarks they need to get back on track. After they work their way up it, Lilly pulls them up short with a gasp.
Half-buried in the sand is a rusty, beaten-up vulture bike. After the debacle trying to unscrew the support struts on the mining platform, Imogen told herself she needed to acquire some basic tools, like wrenches and pliers and the like, but she has not gotten around to doing so yet. Still, she should be able to do something to get this running again. “Lilly, start digging, and I’ll start examining the parts that are already above,” she orders.
Lilly restrains her enthusiasm momentarily to take a quick look around for threats. There is no skeleton with the bike and no sign of zerg in the area, so she goes over and grabs the handlebars. Imogen jumps back as, with a powerful yank, Lilly levers the bike up. It comes up more easily than she expected, and she falls back, tumbling across the ground a little, but the vulture now rests fully exposed on the surface of the mesa.
Under all the dirt and rust, the vehicle is mostly intact. Imogen props the hood up and inspects the engine. She knocks the air filters together to clear them as best she can and then slots them back into place. Her assessment is that the vehicle was abandoned here. “Good news, Lilly. It doesn’t look like this one crashed.”
“That’s because with vulture bikes, the people who ride them know how to ride them. Not like starships.”
Imogen scrapes some more dust out of various crevices and then flicks the ignition switch. With a sputter, the vulture bike comes to life, hovering ever so slightly above the ground. Lilly’s face brightens with excitement. They take note of the fuel gauge, which is also hovering… just above empty. Bikes like this do not require vespene, just standard dinosaur juice. Where’s a Big Daddy Browder’s Gas & Guns when you need one? Lilly thinks.
“Maybe with some clever driving, you can coast and conserve fuel,” Imogen suggests. She is hopeful that they have enough to get them to Li’s place. Lilly asks Imogen if she plans to sell the bike in town, but that is not what the Umojan immediately has in mind. “We could certainly sell it before we leave the planet. But it would be much easier to get around out here in the wastes using this thing than using our own feet. We’re going to be traveling through a lot of wilderness to find that ship Li mentioned to you.”
Lilly can get on board that plan. She looks over the bike again. There are no weapons, but it does have built-in compartments for deploying spidermines. Sadly, it lacks the high-output ion thrusters and other modifications that Rory’s has, but the bike will still be way faster than walking. Plus it hovers, so creep will not slow them down if they come across any. She is not sure how fast this vulture will go, given its condition, but there is one way to find out. “Let’s hop on!”
As Lilly revs the engines, she cannot help but exclaim, “This is so awesome!” The rocks and sand whip by underneath them as Imogen clings tightly to her waist. Lilly can tell that the handling is a little rougher than it should be, but that is from having the weight of an additional person. She will need to add a sidecar to deal with that. Meanwhile, she starts learning to compensate for the vehicle’s eccentricities.