The cantina is open, despite the early hour. Joey Ray prepares the food for the day, slicing piles and piles of bread. He is focused on his work, but not so much that he does not notice customers arriving. Without looking up, he begins rattling off today’s menu. “Specials of the day: Raiders Roll, Yamato Burger, Artifact Slushie.”
The other person present is the forty-ish pale man in the tailored outfit with sunglasses and a soul patch who was there the night before. He is just setting up, popping open his briefcase as Imogen bursts into the cantina. Her eyes are directed up at the ceiling, searching for the ducts. Lilly follows her, shotgun in hand.
“Whoa! Everything all right?” Joey asks as he registers the attitude of the newcomers.
Imogen leaps up on a table and launches herself at the duct work, grabbing onto a section and letting her body weight pull it apart. Lilly tracks the movement with her gun, alert for threats. Imogen comes crashing down on the table where the man with the shades is sitting. His eyebrows shoot up, and he snatches the briefcase out of the way with a startled exclamation. Then Imogen hears him mutter, “So, not the most athletic,” as he scribbles something on a notepad with a frown.
Above Lilly, the creature’s rear hangs out of the duct as it scrabbles to keep its hold and not follow Imogen down. Those furry hindquarters do not belong to any sort of zerg Lilly has ever seen, and she relaxes a bit. This is some kind of dog, and a female, looks like. Lilly jumps up and grabs onto the hind legs, yanking the creature out.
“Whoa!” Joey says again. “Glad this ain’t my bar.”
Imogen recognizes the animal tussling with Lilly as a lyote; she has seen some of these scavengers in the wilds of Mar Sara. She climbs to her feet, casting an eye in the direction of the man with the briefcase. Even with Snowball missing and now this lyote issue, she spares some attention for him. Something is niggling at her, and she is still not sure what. From her new angle, she sees flyers for various mercenary companies in the case. One of them is for the War Pigs and bears a stamp indicating a purchased contract. An ad for the Devil Dogs says that they are fifteen thousand credits to keep on retainer. This man’s scars and partially-visible military tattoo suggest he used to be out on the battlefield himself, back before he switched to hanging out in bars in expensive clothes.
The lyote lacks a collar or tag and is clearly a wild animal, one terrified right now by its predicament. Lilly avoids getting impaled by the horns and spines as she grapples with it. Rory enters the bar more slowly, calling out that Lilly still needs to get checked out. When he sees the ventilation shaft dangling down, his concerns change. “What are you doing to the ship?!”
Lilly frees up one hand, feeling around for her knife. “Are pets a thing on this ship?” she asks, just to make sure.
“I have no idea!” Rory says. “I don’t keep track of animals. I keep track of machines.”
The lyote bites down on Lilly’s arm. She pulls it free and reaches back again, but instead of grabbing her knife, she pulls out a length of pink ribbon. Lilly wraps it around the lyote’s mouth, binding it shut. Although its teeth are sharp, the creature’s jaw is relatively weak, and Lilly has it effectively muzzled. One less scratching creature on the loose. She looks around. The man with the shades is writing more notes. “What do I do with this gal?” Lilly asks the room.
“Good wrestling, cowboy,” Rory unhelpfully compliments her. “You got yourself a lyote, there.”
Egon, standing nervously in the doorway, disputes the pronunciation. “I think technically they are lyotes,” he says, giving the word a third syllable. “That’s what they’re called…. It’s not a zerg. I don’t know, just put it down? We can’t really… I guess jettisoning it off into space would be kind of silly.”
“Was this what you heard?” Lilly asks her friend. When she gets no response, she prompts, “Imogen? Are there two of these things?”
Imogen is slowly turning, taking in the full room as she intensely looks around, trying to determine what she can only feel the edge of. That creature in Lilly’s arms, it does feel familiar, like something from the hangar. But it is not enough. The bar just holds Joey, Rory, Egon, Lilly, the lyote, and that other fellow, and they are all on the main floor. The upper balcony level is empty, but, then for a brief moment, Imogen thinks she sees someone there. She does not sense any other lifeforms, but something is weird here. She looks down at the creature that Lilly has bound. “It might have been one of the things that was in the hangar, but there’s no way that this opened up our ship.”
Imogen heads upstairs to the balcony-level seating area, worried that there is someone cloaked in the room. Maybe, even if she cannot see them, she can corral them somewhere. She moves as quietly as she can, concentrating on her sense of hearing. She doubts she would be able to see the shimmer in this setting, but perhaps they will give away their position with an ill-timed shift of weight. She walks the length of the platform and encounters nothing. No one is up here now, though from the look of things, someone was earlier. Imogen finds a little charm that looks to have come off someone’s bracelet or necklace. She picks it up, confused. Was I just sensing an impression of someone who was here before? She has never been able to do anything like that nor has she heard that it is even possible.
The power cuts out, and the bar, which was pretty dim to begin with, would be pitch black were it not for the decorative lighting of the jukebox, which apparently has an independent power source. The song currently cued up is rather creepy, adding to the ambiance.
The lyote takes advantage of the darkness to wriggle out of Lilly’s arms. “Dammit, Sunshine!” Lilly calls, but she has lost track of the creature. She feels around for the shotgun that she dropped when she grabbed the lyote.
“Oh, was that your pet?” Rory asks. “Is that what you meant when you said you had a zerg larva?” Lilly hears him bump into a table. “Could somebody fix the lights?” the engineer calls out.
Lilly grabs her gun and stands up, trying to match a direction to the scratching sounds of the lyote finding another vent. Up above on the balcony, Imogen is also listening hard, trying to determine if there is an additional creature in the ducts. She is sure she sensed two presences back in the hangar. She hears Joey mutter, “Uh, I got a flashlight here someplace. Hang on.”
The door to the hallway is still open, and from that direction, another noise sounds faintly off and on, something like a wisp of wind or like a vacuum being filled with air. Imogen hears it multiple times, its location changing with each recurrence. She moves down the staircase, calling to the scientist by the doorway, “Egon! What’s that noise? It sounds like vacuum, sounds like atmosphere being released, it does. Can you hear it?” When she reaches him at the bar entrance, he says he does not hear anything. She looks out into the dark corridor, and then the lights start to slowly come back online, beginning from the fore of the ship, the direction of the bridge. The strange air sounds are heading aft.
The illumination spreads down the hallway, and when the bar brightens up again, Lilly sees that another vent has been torn open, this one in the floor. Sunshine is gone. The ducts below the floor look large enough for an adult terran to squeeze through, but pursuit just does not seem like a good idea to Lilly. Sunshine can escape; it’s Snowball I need to find. Besides, Imogen is over by the door, ill at ease, looking back over her shoulder at Lilly.
“I think I heard something moving towards the back of the ship,” the Umojan says.
“Through the duct?” Lilly asks.
“No, I don’t…” Imogen seems uncertain. “I don’t think so.” She turns back to the scientist. “You really didn’t hear anything, Egon? You were right here.”
“Sorry, it was really dark!” he replies.
“Ears, Egon, ears!” Imogen yells, losing her cool.
Lilly turns to Rory and points at the vent. “Sunshine went down there.”
He looks back, puzzled. “So your dog is loose on the ship, too?”
“It’s not my dog!”
“But you named it Sunshine?”
“It’s okay to have a dog,” Rory tells her. “That’s not a problem. Having a larva is kind of a problem, though.” When Lilly does not immediately agree with him, he prompts, “Right, cowboy?” But she is gone, following Imogen down the corridor, towards the rear of the ship. Rory shakes his head and steps up to the bar for a drink, motioning Egon over for one, too. “You need to steady your nerves, cowboy.”