Imogen bangs on the door to Egon’s lab. Through it, she hears Egon fretting about something. “Oh no! Crap, crap, crap, crap! Bad! This is bad! Real bad, real bad, real bad!”
“Egon,” she shouts, “open the bloody door!”
“Uh, it’s not locked,” Rory says, and he pushes it open.
If there were zerg legitimately on this ship, Imogen is confident that they would be Egon’s responsibility. Perhaps one of his experiments has led Snowball astray. She marches straight up to the scientist, demanding, “What is so bad? What have you done? What is going on here?” He pays her no heed, looking around frantically, dashing here and there, rambling about consoles and tools not working. Imogen recognizes it as a panic attack and softens her approach. “Egon, Egon, look at me,” she says, interposing herself between him and the next station he is headed for. She puts her hands on his upper arms to try to corral him and make eye contact with him.
He looks at her, eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep. “Uh, yeah, Imogen. Sorry, no time to talk now. Remember to stay off the terrazine.”
Ah, so he does recognize me. “Egon, whatever the problem is, we can help you with it if you can let us understand what’s going on here.”
“Oh, it’s real bad, real bad. The commander wanted me to contain a sample of some zerg DNA that we had, so I put it in the containment tank and the containment tank was holding it and everything was great and I thought maybe it was just acid eating away at it, so I put some duct tape on it and I thought it would be great and I could just seal it up proper later when we got enough power but we don’t have enough power to seal it up proper and I turn away from it for a second and I wake up—I must’ve fallen asleep. I’ve been working too hard, way too long. Oh, gosh, it’s terrible. And I look around, and it’s gone! It’s gone! Oh, gosh, the zerg sample is gone. It broke out. I let it go. There’s a zerg loose on the ship.” The words come out in an avalanche and leave him gasping for air.
* * *
As Imogen pounds on the research lab door, Lilly scans up and down the hall, checking out the ductwork. For just a moment, she sees a snout of some kind stick out of a vent further down the corridor. Lilly quietly slips towards it.
Lilly is sneaking down the dark hall of an enemy facility on reconnaissance, weapon in hand. Peculiarly accented Earth Directorate voices echo down the concrete hallway. They have come to invade and take over this sector, and she cannot let them find her. The Dominion is the only force that can keep terrans safe; it is the last hope for humanity. She turns a corner and sees some UED civilian scientists working on a variety of zerg in pens. These zerg do not have any technological implants that she can see, but the scientists seem to be controlling them. What these scientists are doing looks so wrong, but she has firm orders not to engage. Her job is just to observe and report back, so she makes note of this and continues down the hall.
When Lilly reaches the vent, the snout is gone, but she hears scratching coming from within the duct. She is confident it is not Snowball, but the skittering is not distinct enough to even be sure it is a zerg. At this point, there is nothing further she can do, so she rejoins the others. As she enters the research lab, she sees Rory standing around uncomfortably and Imogen questioning a rattled Egon.
“What type of zerg was it?” Imogen calmly asks.
“It was just a raw sample of zerg DNA. But it was definitely alive; it wasn’t dead.”
“Egon, can you tell me about these things? You were working on them; you’ve had them here to study. What have you learned about them? Are they mobile on their own? Would they be able to fit into the air ducts, for example?” Imogen tries to focus him on his work, the only thing that she knows to be important to him.
“Look, the commander had found some unusual types of zerg and zerg bits and pieces, most of it dead. But I thought, if I put it in a nutrient solution, some of the zerg might thrive, and so I did that,” Egon points to a glass column. “And I’ve been studying it, and I noticed how hard the zerg carapaces are, and I’ve been wondering if we could integrate some of the same techniques—certainly not the carapace itself—into some of our bunkers to make them a little more sturdy than standard neo-steel. At least, that’s what I’m studying right now, but the zerg blob, it’s been evolving. I think it’s been trying to escape.” He points out some weaknesses in the holding column.
“It was growing?” Imogen asks.
“It was definitely growing. I mean, I put it in a nutrient sludge, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised…” His voice drifts off.
“And, was there just one?” There were definitely two non-Snowball presences in the hangar.
“I mean, there’s one blob. But you know how zerg are. It could maybe have split. I don’t know enough about zerg.”
“You know more than I do,” Imogen encourages him.
“Well that’s not much,” Egon replies, despondent.
Imogen crouches down to examine the damaged areas of the large glass tube in which the sample was kept. It looks like it was smashed from the outside. “Somebody on the outside helped this thing get out.”
“It wasn’t me!” Egon protests.
Imogen looks up at him and continues her line of questioning. “Does anyone and everyone have access to this lab?”
“Well, I mean, the door wasn’t locked,” Egon waffles, “but I was in here all night. I heard a smash at some point, but I thought it was the blob—the creature—the sample trying to get out.” Imogen asks if it was still in captivity earlier in the evening, during their first visit to the lab. She has no memory of it, her eyes having been only for the xel’naga artifact. “Yeah, it was here then.” He plays down the leaks, saying, “There were just some cracks forming on the interior of the column. That’s why I thought it was trying to get out. I intended to reinforce it.” He points out where he applied duct tape, which is at a different part of the tube than the bashed-in area Imogen was just examining.
“So, sometime after Lilly and I left,” not that Imogen remembers that, “is when this happened, and you were in here the whole time. But you said you fell asleep?”
“I-I-I must’ve fallen asleep. Yeah, okay, I was trying to… I needed to do a lot of research, so I was up really late.” Egon begins pacing again, wringing his hands. “Commander Raynor wanted to get these new bunkers online. And I knew if I just studied the sample a little bit longer, I could make that happen…”
Lilly breaks in, “I just saw something in at the vent, but I couldn’t catch it.” All eyes turn to her.
“This is getting to be a pattern,” Imogen says. “Two zerg have been kidnapped or rescued or whatever you want to say. You didn’t let Snowball out, Lilly. Somebody must have gone into our ship. There’s no way Snowball could’ve gotten out on his own. And somebody smashed into this tube and got this zerg… blob? Is that what you’re calling it?”
“Uh, yeah,” Egon says. “Blobolisk isn’t quite the right… I don’t think it’s deserving of that name yet.”
“A blobling?” Lilly suggests, and then she returns to a more actionable topic, expanding on her report. “I saw something like a dog snout, that size, peek out of the vent. It could have been a zergling, maybe, but I just didn’t get a good enough look before it pulled away from the vent. I heard scratching. It could have been a zergling,” she reiterates, “but I don’t know for sure.”
“So,” Imogen addresses Rory and Egon, “does anybody else on this ship have a zerg?” Rory shakes his head with a look on his face like this is a ridiculous thing to ask. “Are you the only one, Egon?” she presses.
“This is the only zerg sample that we keep, and all the samples come to me for research purposes.” Egon’s voice grows more frantic. “Wh-why? Is the ship infested?”
From his position a bit back behind Lilly, Rory nods vehemently, pointing at the tall woman. At this point, Imogen insists Egon conduct the blood test that looks for traces of the zerg mutagen so that they can put that worry to rest and get Rory to stop freaking out. Egon agrees, but his hands shake nervously as he gets out the needles. Imogen pushes back her left sleeve to offer a vein. No reason to show the right forearm that has been scarred by the psi-gauntlet. As her thoughts drift to the protoss tech and her attempts to engage it, she absentmindedly stretches out her senses and detects another presence. It is above and close; it must be in the ducts. It is moving away, across the hall.
“What’s across the hall?” Imogen suddenly demands. Egon’s needle gets torn from her arm as she rapidly spins in that direction. Someone says it is the cantina, and Imogen does not even register who. She is already running that way. You’re not getting away this time, whatever you are.
Lilly does not wait for Egon to reach her with a needle. She takes off after Imogen to provide backup, whatever the plan is. This is taking too long, Lilly worries. When she found Snowball, zerglings were trying to take the tech out of his head. Who knows what the zerglings aboard this ship will do!