Getting back to their hangar turns out to not be so straightforward. After half an hour, it is clear that Lilly and Imogen have made at least one wrong turn. They reach a door labeled Research Lab, and Imogen raps on it, hoping someone inside can provide directions. “Maybe somebody will be home. And if not, maybe there’s a computer that actually has a proper ship map on it.”
They hear a hesitant, “Uhhhhh,” through the door. There is some frantic banging, followed by, “Crap, that’s right, the intercom is off.” The door opens ever so slightly, and a vaguely familiar nasally voice asks uncertainly, “Uh, who’s there?”
“We’re a little lost. Is there anyone in there who can tell us where we are?” Imogen asks.
The door opens a little wider, and Dr. Egon Stetmann’s pale face and wild dark hair poke out. “You’re Imogen, right?”
“I didn’t know you were on this ship,” he says. He cranes his head back. “And your friend. Hi.” Imogen introduces him to Lilly. “Wow. You’re really tall.”
“Lilly, this is Egon, the scientist I was telling you about.”
Lilly does not remember that at all, but she can still be polite. “Nice to meetcha, sir.”
“Whoa! No, no, I’m not—definitely the civilian part of the workforce here! The only rank is PhD; it’s the only rank.”
“So you weren’t involved in that action to recover fancy tech, then, were you?” Imogen asks, knowing a bit about Egon’s interests. Perhaps he will reveal something.
“I’m going to be studying that really cool artifact.”
With the door further open now from the introductions, Imogen can see into the lab. Something is suspended in a stasis field in the middle of the room, rotating slowly. It looks to her like a broken-off piece of a column of some sort. “Oh, what’s that?” she marvels, brushing past Egon and into the room. “Is it protoss? Zerg?”
Still standing in the doorway, Egon turns, nervously muttering, “Um, maybe I shouldn’t be showing this to everyone…” Then he hurries into the room, taking up a position on one side and gesturing up at the illuminated item in the center. “This is from the, uh, most recent mission. And we have to keep these things very secure.”
Imogen pulls her eyes away from the artifact for a moment, taking in the room as a whole. She realizes she recognizes it. “If you’re worried about your lab being secure, maybe you shouldn’t make video conference calls from it.”
“Well, I didn’t know you’d be on Korhal!” Egon shoots back.
Imogen returns her attention to the strange object, the likes of which she has never seen before. The way the spotlights directed at it play off its surface is mesmerizing, and it brings to mind something she read about, some ancient people that pre-date the protoss but are connected to them. Some protoss legends speak of a creator race called the xel’naga.
Lilly enters the room also, automatically sweeping it with her eyes, checking for threats. She notices that Egon is very deliberately standing in front of a large glass container, trying to block their view of it. From the vantage point her height gives her, Lilly can see just fine that it is leaking from a crack. “Imogen has duct tape,” she tells the scientist.
Egon looks back over his shoulder and rambles, “Yes! Yeah, duct tape. That would be… Do you have it on you? I can just borrow some. I’ve just got a couple cracks. You know, we took some hits…”
Imogen has no idea what this artifact is for, but given the protoss use of psionically-active devices, she wonders if one could interact with it on that level. She clumsily reaches out with her untrained powers, and it goes about as well as could be expected.
The planet Char, like Redstone III, is a roiling mass of volcanic activity. The entire surface teems with hives, the only notable organic matter the zerg themselves. The Queen of Blades steps out of one of the hives and looks around. For just a moment, her appearance flickers, and Imogen sees her as she was when a terran ghost, sees Sarah Kerrigan. But then she is the Queen of Blades again, and she turns, staring straight at Imogen. She swipes out with a claw, and Imogen recoils from the blow.
Lilly turns away from the broken glass cylinder to ask for duct tape and sees Imogen stumble back away from the railed center display area. The Umojan crumples to the ground. “Imogen!” Lilly rushes over and crouches by her friend, shaking her to try to rouse her.
“Oh my gosh! What happened?” Egon asks, nervously wringing his hands and peering over Lilly’s shoulder.
“I don’t know. You’re a doctor.”
“I’m a doctor of science. I’m not a, a medical doctor. Different kind of doctor!” Lilly looks at him expectantly. “Uh… uh… I can take a look,” he finally grants.
Lilly slips Imogen’s backpack off and lays her down flat. There are no visible injuries, other than some minor cuts and scrapes that she has had since the evacuation. Lilly starts digging out the medkit.
Egon takes Imogen’s pulse, puts a hand on her forehead. “Uh, I think… She’s still breathing. She seems okay. Is she just really tired?”
Egon offers his theory. “She was probably just standing up against this rail, deep in thought. I know I sometimes stare at this, wondering what wonders are going to be revealed by this artifact… And, well, she nodded off to sleep.” It happens to him often. “I’m surprised she won’t wake up though.”
Lilly shakes her again. “Imogen!” She is out cold. Lilly looks around for something more comfortable than the floor, a cot, a chair, anything. The lab lacks anything of that nature; like Saffron’s central hub, it is a place intended for standing workers. “Where’s a good place for me to put her?” Egon mentions the crew quarters, and Lilly clarifies that they are staying in a hangar that they have lost. “I don’t know which one. It was full of empty boxes.”
“Wait, wait, that sounds familiar.” Egon mutters to himself, thinking half-aloud. “Empty boxes… carry the two… Not the minerals. Other stuff, other stuff… hang on. Yeah, yeah, that’s hangar 3A. Across the hall is hangar 3B, Rory’s workshop. Oh, excuse me, he calls it the armory.”
“Ha!” Lilly laughs. “We were right across from Rory!”
Egon offers directions in exchange for some duct tape. Lilly happily provides it, lightening Imogen’s backpack a little. She really shouldn’t be carrying all this stuff around. Egon offers to carry a backpack, and Lilly gives him her own, which is not as heavy as usual since Snowball is back at Saffron. Lilly puts on Imogen’s bag and then scoops up the Umojan, taking care to exit the lab without knocking her head against the doorframe.
Egon leads the way to the hangar, mumbling about the weight on his back. Lilly is now confident that she will be able to find the cantina and research lab again on her own when necessary. She thanks the distracted scientist, who seems antsy to get back to his lab, and then boards Saffron. She pulls off Imogen’s boots and duster, then tucks her in. Given how tired Lilly herself is, she thinks probably Imogen just needs to rest. Lilly closes Saffron’s main hatch but leaves the rest of the internal doors open so that she can hear if anything goes wrong with Imogen.
Then Lilly heads to her own quarters. She checks on Snowball, who is nestled up in his own corner. She leaves him alone, figuring she can just feed him tomorrow if necessary, and goes to sleep.