The first stop for Lilly and Imogen out in the wastelands is their rendezvous with James Raynor a few miles southwest of Li June’s compound. If not for the vulture bike, this would be a real inconvenience, but the vehicle makes the miles go by quickly. They arrive first, and then an armored personnel carrier rolls up. Jimmy is accompanied by a small cohort of marines, all in full battlesuits, as if prepared for a war.
Lilly smiles. “Oh, nice!”
Imogen is a bit taken aback. She had not realized Raynor led an army. Jimmy pops out of the vehicle, clad in the same type of suit as his troops. On a battlefield, however, there would be no question of who the leader of this group is. His suit is not blue like those of the rest of the crew but rather entirely black. The visor has an image of a skull, and a stenciled skeletal zerg is curled up on the left shoulder. That’s kind of creepy, thinks Imogen.
“Sweet,” Lilly breathes.
“I believe you had a delivery you wanted to make, for one ‘dear Matthew’?” As Jimmy asks the question, the marines do their best not to let their chuckles be heard. Imogen hands over the letter with a reminder that he is not to read it and that it is to be delivered to Matthew Horner as soon as Raynor sees him. In reply, he cautions them to stay away from the factory, and indeed the entire town, today. Imogen tells him to be careful, and he replies, “Oh, we’re long past being careful.”
These raiders are clearly planning an attack on Dominion resources in Mar Sara City, but Imogen and Lilly just let them go. Treason is not fraudulent, after all, nor is it wasteful. Imogen supposes it might be considered abuse, but they have not been assigned to deal with this situation. Perhaps, she reflects, I’m just as corrupt as everyone else, I am, letting personal acquaintances do as they please.
As he hops back on the troop transport, Jimmy says to Lilly, “Nice bike.”
“Thank you, sir,” she replies and then returns the compliment. “Nice ride!”
“Eh, it gets us where we need to go. All right, raiders roll!” Raynor’s Raiders trundle off to the south.
* * *
Lilly and Imogen head north to the abandoned base where they hope to find additional fuel for Old Red. Lilly, more used to the vulture bike now, has no trouble handling it as they wind their way through canyons and up switchbacks to the mesa where the old structure sits, though the engine does sound like it is working hard on some of the inclines. Imogen does her best to keep an eye out for dangers along the way, but she sees no zerg.
As she drives, Lilly regrets not asking Li if she had any spare spidermines sitting around. Could’ve loaded them into Old Red.
Lilly is on her vulture bike in uniform, weaving through some canyons along with her platoon. One of the other bikers looks over at her and shouts, “Hey, we almost there yet, ma’am?” He is in uniform, but just barely, a very sloppy soldier. His goatee could use a trim, too, and those are not regulation sunglasses. The Cerberus Corps patch on the shoulder of his uniform is askew.
She has the coordinates right in front of her; they have almost caught up to the target. “Yeah,” she says. Their special spidermines, adapted to latch on but not explode, have affixed themselves to a zerg, and the platoon needs to capture it alive. They should be right on top of it before long. “Remember, in and out. It’s a grab and bag.”
“Yeah, I read you, ma’am. Oh, excuse me, colonel.”
Lilly’s memories are interrupted by Imogen. “Do you hear some sort of chittering? It doesn’t sound like a zerg.”
Lilly janks the bike around a rocky outcropping that suddenly looms before her, and with the change of angle, she notices that they are being followed by a spidermine. They must have activated it by proximity. These things are bad news. She is not surprised that they tripped one; they bury so far into the ground that there is no way to detect them without special sensors. If she and Imogen had been on foot, they would be dead by now, but they have been going too fast for it to get close enough to explode. If they can lose it or blow it up at a distance, they will be fine. Or maybe she can get it to collide with something else while it chases them. Spidermines have notoriously bad friend-or-foe determination. It is not uncommon for zerg to set them off, then charge towards a bunch of marines, using the spidermines to take out their enemies as well as themselves.
“Bogey on our six,” Lilly announces, jerking her head towards the spidermine to alert her companion. “Gonna lose it.”
Imogen turns and sees the spidermine skittering rapidly across the rough ground on its four spindly legs. She lets go of Lilly’s waist with one arm and draws her pistol. Holding her breath, she lines up the shot as carefully as she can on the shaking vulture bike, but the jarring ride sends her shot astray. Lilly jerks the bike around a tight corner and revs the engine, pushing it just to the limit but not over. Old Red makes it around the bend, and behind them they hear a loud explosion as the spidermine fails to negotiate the turn and runs into the cliff wall.
“That came out of nowhere!” Imogen marvels.
“Yup. Let me know if you see any more.”
* * *
They continue north, Imogen on even higher alert. No more spidermines crop up. Eventually they start to encounter creep. The vulture bike can hover above it, so they are not slowed down by the goo, but its presence does not bode well. They do not see any zerg right now, but that does not mean they are not under the ground.
Once they are over the creep, Snowball pokes his head out of Lilly’s backpack. “Do we need to stop for him to eat?” Imogen asks.
“Is there a good place to set down?”
“Well, there’s creep everywhere, so no.”
Lilly slows them down a bit, and they look around for a dry spot on which to land so that Snowball can have a snack and they can collect a sample. When they see a zergling pop out of the creep, though, they revise their plans. It takes note of Old Red and begins heading their way. Snowball is alert, having also detected the bogey.
Lilly kicks the speed back up, and Imogen keeps an eye on the zergling, planning to take a shot if it gets too close to them. Unfortunately, as the zergling nears, it triggers another spidermine, which takes up the chase. “Kneecap him,” Lilly advises.
“Hold her steady,” Imogen calls back, as she tries to aim at one of the zergling’s legs. Lilly guides the bike around to a flatter stretch of terrain, leveling out the ride. Imogen’s shot knocks the zergling for a loop. It collapses into a high-speed roll, slowing down just enough for the spidermine to catch up to it. The sound of the ensuing explosion catches the attention of other zerg in the area. They are too far off to be a concern right now, but the activity is enough to encourage Lilly and Imogen not to return this way.