FRAWD Investigators: Old Red and Saffron | Scene 5

When Lilly and Imogen reach Li June’s outpost, there is not much daylight left, but there is still fuel. Depending on where the science ship went down, it might even be enough to reach their ultimate destination. On their final approach, the sentry turrets mounted on her walls turn to face them. They stop just outside range and wave a strip of gauze around just like last time, although this one is spotted with reddish-brown stains rather than being the standard white flag of parlay. The two turrets flanking the main gate temporarily shut down, and they head inside the fenceline.

Li greets them with glasses of sweet tea, Snowball five yards behind her. “Glad y’all could make it in. Hope you didn’t have any trouble portside.” Imogen confirms that they got the cerebrate tissue through quarantine without it being detected. “That’s fantastic! And you said you had something else, too?”

“Yeah! The tower that Imogen stabbed in the face!”

“Damn, that is mighty impressive. I’m glad you two are all right. I appreciate you getting this extra sample, but you did not have to charge and ride a zerg to get that for me. It’s not that critical.” As she leads them over to her garage, she continues, “That’s a nice ride. Well, it looks like it was a nice ride at one point.” At Imogen’s request, she agrees to let them use the tools in her workshop to give the vulture bike a tuneup. Li is no mechanic, but she does need to maintain her turrets and other equipment here at her retreat.

Once they reach the sitting room, Imogen hands over the sample jars. “In acquiring these specimens for you, we met another researcher,” she tells Li. “Like yourself, he’s a bit shy. I didn’t know if you wanted to be comparing notes with others or if you were working on something quite private.” Li allows that she might be interested. Anyone who is trying to stop the Queen of Blades and keep from being captured by Mengsk at the same time is okay in her book. “He mentioned he’d done some experiments on zerglings and hydralisks and a drone.”

“Experiments? That’s a bit strange. Normally the kind of experiments one does on zerg are about how you can kill them or keep them away.” She throws a glance over her shoulder at Snowball. “Uh, present company excluded, of course.”

Imogen just shrugs. This is not her area of expertise. “I don’t know. It just sounded like maybe he was doing some sort of science like you were.” Li asks about how to contact the other researcher, and Imogen replies that he gave her an encrypted comm. Upon request, she hands it over for examination. 

Li pops off the back and pokes around at the internals. She lets out a breath and scowls. “I don’t know if you noticed, but this thing’s got a tracker in it.”

Imogen’s eyes go wide. “I admit I didn’t examine it.”

“Now, that does not necessarily mean that your other researcher is a bad customer,” Li admits, “but if he’s checking it, he’ll know where we are right now.” She frowns. “It’s a bit of a pickle.”

“Well, he didn’t try to kill us,” Lilly points out.

Imogen is apologetic. She had not intended to jeopardize Li’s safety. “He’ll know that we stopped here, but he won’t know that this is a destination of importance. We could just be camping out for the night on our way somewhere else.”

“That’s true, but I’ll ask you to keep on carrying this.” Imogen agrees that disabling it now would just highlight the significance of where they are. “Did you say he was Dominion, or…?” Li asks.

“No, I didn’t.”

“So he’s not Dominion?”

“He is not,” Imogen confirms. She told Neiman she would not compromise his identity, and at the time she was just thinking he was nervous about people knowing he is a ghost. But now, Imogen begins to wonder whether it is safe to say he was with the folks from Earth. She does not really have a good grasp on the politics of it all. If that whole fleet was wiped out, like he said, is it a problem for Li—who is herself some sort of anti-Dominion criminal—to know that he was with them? Imogen has no idea. She was on Umoja when all that happened and was not tracking those events. 

“Well, that’s probably all right,” Li says. “Probably. And he’s some kind of scientist?”


Li tilts her head, puzzled. Imogen, who is usually so eloquent in her funny Umojan way, is being awfully succinct in her answers right now. 

Lilly does not notice any odd behavior from her teammate, distracted as she is by watching Snowball.

Li sighs. “I understand. Lawd knows I’ve got to stay protected as well. But you be careful around this fella. The only person who has your best interests at heart is you. Maybe your squadmate,” she allows, “if you have known each other for a while and work well together. But you can never really trust most people.”

Imogen asks about how to disable the tracker, which draws Lilly’s attention. The former soldier wonders about if there is a listening device included. Li thinks that is unlikely, given the power and space requirements of such a thing. She points out a couple different wires and explains to Imogen how to cross them to set up an information loop. If done properly, it will cycle through the previous ten locations. Such a modification will likely remain unnoticed for a while, even by someone paying attention. It will not hold up forever, though. She lends Imogen a soldering iron and encourages her to make the adjustment far from her outpost.

With that unpleasant business out of the way, Li tells them she is very happy with the cerebrate sample. “This should give us some insight into why the Queen of Blades is how she is. This creature was closely connected to how she became a zerg. Maybe that’s why she set up some creepy grave around it.”

“And is so mad,” Imogen points out.

“Well, she’s always mad. Ghost conditioning, it’ll mess a person up.”

That catches Imogen’s interest. “What do you know about it?”

“I would say I know less than I want to but more than I’d like to. I never met a ghost who was happy, let me put it that way. They were effective. Maybe they were satisfied. But they were never happy.” She sets down her empty glass and refills it with sweet tea. “But! I believe we had a deal.” She walks over to the sideboard and flips the switch to open the secret door to her command center. As she ushers them in, she continues, “I have information on a Cerberus science vessel that crashed on this planet a few years back.” At one of the computer stations she pulls up a map, displaying it on an enormous wall-mounted monitor. 

Other screens cover all the available vertical space, some showing news, others showing security feeds of the compound. One has what looks like security feeds of a different facility. Seeing this, Imogen remembers something Neiman told her, and she inquires about the defenses on Li’s computer system. “The other researcher we met was at the cerebrate. He told us he had hacked somebody’s system, somebody who knew where the cerebrate was.”

“Really? That’s a pretty small list of people.”

“Did you do that also to find the cerebrate?” Imogen asks. “Or is there a possibility that your systems are not as secure as you think they are?”

Li sourly admits the latter is likely.

“We didn’t mention it to anybody,” Lilly contributes.

“Even the people with whom we arranged to get to Redstone did not know why we were going there,” Imogen says.

“That is mighty distressing.” Li takes a deep draught of sweet tea. “Might be a long night for me, if my security’s been compromised here.”

They turn back to the monitors. One shows some Dominion marines moving around, but neither Lilly nor Imogen recognize the location. Li points out the Cerberus science vessel to the far northeast, but her guests also take note of a region further west, closer to the compound, that is labeled “abandoned base.” Such a location might very well have the sort of fuel that the vulture bike uses.

Li tells them about the ship. “Crashed is such a strong word. Maybe uncontrolled landing would be more accurate.”

“So, a crash,” Lilly says.

“They landed there,” Li points out the location, “several years ago. That was at the beginning of the Great War. But it is definitely a Cerberus vessel. It came from Chau Sara, where the Cerberus Corps was headquartered at the time. Science vessels often have a wealth of information, so I figure it may have something related to your friend there.” She nods her head back beyond Lilly, to where Snowball is positioned. “And the ship might be in decent enough condition for you to access the computers. Or you could pull them out to bring back here, and we can take a closer look together.”

Imogen nods. She is listening, but she is also making plans to divert to the abandoned base first, hoping they can find enough fuel reserves to power the vulture bike all the way to the Cerberus vessel and back here again.

Lilly nods. Old Red will be a good name for the vulture bike. With a new coat, he will be a really sweet ride.

“Any questions?” asks Li.

Lilly pipes up. “Do you have any red paint?”