Malorn buzzes the infested research facility. He does not fire his lasers, but he definitely gets closer than he needs to, just to make a point. Then he sets down in the open space between it and the ruined factory.
Lilly cracks a grin. “Look at that sweet piece he’s flying!” she says to Imogen, her previous concerns temporarily forgotten. She bounds over to check it out. In addition to its dual laser cannons, there is some other device mounted on the bottom that seems to have nothing to do with thrust. She is not sure what that is about. Imogen accompanies Lilly in looking at the ship, curious about the advanced technology. The fighter is exceedingly fast and highly maneuverable, but the wings themselves might only be decorative. Lief joins them, gaping in amazement. It is not often that Umojans encounter technology that can impress them.
The canopy retracts, and Malorn leaps out in full warrior armor, definitely in good spirits. This is the most cheerful Lilly and Imogen have ever seen him. “Well, I can see why those zerg aren’t much help with your problem,” he declares.
“I told you we were allied with them,” Imogen sighs. “There was no need to antagonize them.” He needs the same talking to that Aiden got.
Malorn scoffs. “They have no right to stop me, but they were never going to catch me, anyway.”
“That cost us two scourges who were going to help us with our problem! You just reduced our resources.”
“Yes, well, now you have me, so relatively speaking… Those two scourges would probably have gotten in the way.” He is in such good spirits that Imogen’s words do not sink in at all. “They killed themselves, even!” He sounds delighted.
Lilly cuts in, “It’s good to see you, Malorn! Nice ride!”
“Indeed. The Death Fleet is more comfortably equipped than your Dominion military.”
“What is that? Whoa! Wow! You know this fella? This is the coolest ship ever, it is!”
Malorn turns to stare at Lief. “Who is this whelp?” Imogen says he is her cousin, and Malorn sourly replies, “I can hear the resemblance.” His good mood appears to deflate. “Very well… you have some bodily malfunctions?”
“Ever get blown up by a D8 deuterium bomb?” Lilly cheerfully asks.
“Ah, deuterium, a primitive explosive source.”
“When you are not properly shielded, I would imagine so,” Malorn observes.
“I was not,” Lilly acknowledges.
“Well, then who’s fault was this, really?”
“Oh, it was mine,” she plainly admits.
“It’s good that you accept this, that you are terran, that you are a lesser being.”
Lilly does not mind Malorn’s attitude. “Look! It got me here and here… knocked me clean out!”
He opens a case and distributes painkiller shots that he claims he recently acquired from a Dominion vessel. Lilly jabs herself with one right away, and it soothes the sting of the burns and cuts on her arms and face. Imogen puts one in her bag in case of emergency later; simply numbing pain will not help her lung issue. “I do not understand why you do not simply absorb oxygen through your skin,” Malorn gripes. “It’s much more efficient.”
Imogen has a much lower tolerance for Malorn’s attitude than Lilly does. She and the protoss snipe back and forth at each other a bit regarding inferior terran physiology and science, as well as protoss arrogance. But Malorn is still good for what he agreed to provide. He produces a piece of technology equipped with a respirator definitely designed for terrans. Imogen thinks it looks promising, but Lilly is a bit weirded out by Malorn’s statement that it comes from protoss brethren who were doing research into terran physiology. It makes her remember the zerg research that Selendis’s group was doing, and she pictures a terran in the same situation.
Malorn helps Imogen fit the mask over her face, making sure to belittle her need for a nose a few more times. “Now, if you could possibly sit still and sit quietly for a brief while—I understand this will be a great source of strain to you—I can run the diagnostic and see if we can clear out your weak lungs.”
While he operates the device, Malorn offers some more permanent solutions to her problem. “Have you ever considered sacrificing your mortal body to be reborn as a dragoon? Some protoss do this when a warrior dies in battle but their social contract to defend their people has not yet been fulfilled. We put that body, still with most of its memories intact, into a robotic shell, and it continues to fight as a great robotic warrior.” Lilly nods like this is reasonable, but Imogen is flabbergasted that the protoss stick dying comrades into warmachines.
Malorn pulls off the mask and asks Imogen how she feels. When she reports no change, he comments, “Then you only have yourself to blame.” He groans in frustration and considers for a moment, then complains, “I should never have trusted this primitive technology!”
That confuses Imogen. “Didn’t you just say this was developed by protoss?”
“By other protoss. Do you not see these markings? This belonged to the daelaam, the Aiur protoss, who are known to be weak…” He gives a heavy sigh. “Very well. We will do this properly. Stay still.” Malorn places his hand on Imogen’s shoulder, and his shortened nerve cords float up in the air a little bit. His eyes glow.
Is he doing something psionic? Imogen wonders. She extends her own senses, trying to psionically listen in on what is happening. With Malorn actively using his powers on her at this very moment, she has unprecedented access to him. She senses resigned frustration, which is no surprise, but also his excitement about the upcoming battle. Over and over, like a mantra, she hears in her mind, Purge, purge, purge.
The air is forced out of Imogen’s lungs, but she also feels painful movement in her chest. She chokes and gags and then throws up. When the retching stops, she gasps and sucks in air, pleased to be able to draw in a lungful.
“Never trust to technology that which a psionic link can solve,” Malorn declares.
Imogen uses that new air to mince words with him. “Half of the things you do psionically are aided by technology!”
“One uses the technology to augment, but the technology is nothing without the ability.”
“Are these missile bays?” Lilly calls out from alongside Malorn’s ship, where she had wandered during the medical treatment.
Malorn looks over in her direction with a scowl. “Don’t touch that! You’ll disrupt the graviton beam.”
“Whoa,” Lilly says, hands raised slightly. She was only looking; she knows not to touch another man’s ride.
Lief, not so much. “What’s a graviton beam?” he asks. Lilly turns to see him reaching forward. She lunges at him to grab his arm, but she is not fast enough. When he touches the device, a blue beam shines forth from it. It encircles Lief and hoists him up in the air, where he seems contained by a bubble of light. “Oh! What is going on? Oh my!”
Malorn lets out a sigh of exasperation. “Is he needed?”
“Are you certain? Is he needed in good health?”
“If you want any hope of ever getting Lendasha’s warpblade, you’ll keep him safe,” Imogen tells him.
Malorn insists that he does not need the terrans’ help for that project and only wants them involved to further embarrass his archrival. Despite this, he walks over to his ship and presses some buttons, lowering Lief unharmed to the ground.
“Wh-what was that? Do it again! That was incredible!”
Malorn narrows his eyes at Imogen. “Do control him. Keep him on a tight leash.” He is impatient for the pirates to arrive.
Lilly and Imogen give him a rundown of the plan so that he will know what to expect, and then Lilly asks him, “Do you have anything that’s good for traps or ground ambush?”
“The best ambush is a psi-blade right to the face.”
That’s a yes then. “All right. Understood,” Lilly says.
Then, having prepared as much as they are able, they set their plan in motion. Lilly will take care of the sensors and the EMP. Meanwhile, Imogen will set off the mayday and then play denmother, keeping everyone else from killing each other while they wait in position on the ground.