Li June escorts Lilly and Imogen to the same guest room as last time and bids them goodnight, heading off to check her security logs. Snowball stays behind. Li has mentioned that Snowball does not sleep; he just goes into a state of torpor. Lilly does not know what that means and does not bother to ask. She grabs the blanket off one of the twin beds to fashion a nest for him on the floor. As she fluffs it up and debates adding a pillow, Imogen sits cross-legged on the other bed, attempting to meditate. After what happened with the psi-gauntlet earlier today, she thinks it is important that she begin practicing something along the lines of what Neiman suggested. She has no training in this, just a vague idea that she is supposed to be calm and centered while ignoring the chaos around her.
Imogen senses Lilly and Snowball in the room, as well as Li somewhere beyond the wall. Imogen sits there, reflecting on the events of the day. Li seemed so anxious. Lilly, on the other hand, was even-keeled as ever, calmly issuing orders to a zerg larva with just a hint of curiosity, a vague sense of responsibility. She has such muted emotions. Even now, as she arranges bedding on the floor, it is with an air of practicality.
Lilly adds a pillow to the circle of blanket, and Snowball crawls into the bed and slumps down. She then heads to bed herself, satisfied that Snowball is content. It is so helpful that he is able to communicate that he likes the food he has been given and the arrangements she has made for him, she reflects. He would be so much more of a mystery if he were just crawling around with no way to make himself understood at all. Lilly decides that they are definitely bringing him along in the morning. If he came from the ship, he might be able to help with something there.
In the morning, they awake to the muted sounds of turrets firing. Imogen jumps out of bed, pausing only to grab her gun, and runs out, as does Lilly. They get as far as the front parlor and stop short. Li is sitting there, a mug of coffee in her hand. She calmly waves at them.
“Okay, that’s fair,” Lilly says, lowering her gun.
Imogen runs to the window as another turret fires. “What’s going on? What is it?!”
“What? Oh, it’s just the six o’clock attack,” Li says casually. Then she catches herself. “Wait, six?” She looks at her watch. “Dagnabbit, I’ve been up all night. I thought it was kind of bright out here.” She yawns. “I had to revamp my whole security system. Turns out someone had indeed been snooping on my network!”
Imogen keeps a watch out the window, just in case. “What’s the six a.m. attack?” Lilly asks.
“Oh, zerg like to attack on the regular,” Li explains dismissively, clearly more concerned about a logical breach than a physical one.
“Is this a normal zerg thing?” Imogen inquires. “Or is this what you meant when you were saying they were seeming coordinated?”
Li says the pace of zerg attacks has been picking up lately, but it is nothing her turrets cannot handle. She suggests the possibility that the zerg are culling their own numbers, rooting out the weak.
Imogen asks if Li was able to patch the security on her networks. “I think so. I’m not a computer expert, but I’ve been around the block once or twice. Whoever busted in, they had some advanced methods, I’ll say. Not the kind of operation I’ve seen working around this sector. They were piggybacking on whatever I was pulling in, drawing down a copy for themselves, too. They must have been to this planet before to at least know how to get my data. I didn’t find any hardware, and, believe me, I looked. I would have noticed if someone had tried to physically get into my compound.”
This is sounding a lot like Neiman to Imogen. She needs to get these two in contact with each other, but calling him from here is a bad idea. He may not have known about the tracker; it is possible someone else put it in his gear to track him… perhaps his own superiors, given what he said about governments not trusting their own ghosts. However, even if he is innocent regarding the tracker, it seems probable that he got into Li’s networks. Imogen does not want to play operator between him and Li, though.
Clearly Lilly’s mind is elsewhere. “How do you get supplies here?” the former soldier asks. She’s always so generous with her sweet tea and letting us bunk here, Lilly thinks.
Li explains that she grows a lot of her own food. For bullets and other manufactured goods, she arranges for delivery to a safe intermediate location, and then she retrieves the items from there. She avoids going into town herself.
“We could have brought something from town,” Lilly says. “We didn’t think to call and ask.” They had been awfully busy with their own things there. “Maybe next time.”
“Your breach… it was likely the other researcher,” Imogen admits, after thinking things through. “How can I get you two talking to each other? Somebody has to take a leap of faith at some point, they do, establishing some sort of trust.”
“You’re sure this guy is not Dominion, right?” Imogen nods. “He seems trustworthy? Dealt fair with you?” Li presses.
“Aye. He could have taken our sample by force, and instead he gave us a lift out of a dangerous situation and took only a reasonable quantity. He seems to be operating as a free agent now, and he is not a fan of the Dominion.”
Lilly suggests Li just go with them someplace else to make a call on the comm he gave Imogen, but she does not want to leave the safety of her compound any more than she has to. Li considers a moment and then suggests a way forward. “He sounds like someone I can get behind. Tell you what, you take my number and give it to him. But I want his number in exchange. And I want to know what the deal with this tracker is. I mean, it might just be a precaution, but it’s a little unsettling.”
Imogen agrees to this. “I can confront him about the tracker. Everything else he said was pretty above-board. He wasn’t acting shifty-like when he gave this comm to me.”
After the zerg attack dies down, Lilly mounts the vulture bike with Snowball in her backpack, and Imogen perches behind her. They head out into the wastes.