In Saffron’s control room, Lilly sees from the power readings that one of the engines on Jackson’s Revenge has given out. They should be hitting the ground hard soon. So kind of a normal landing, she thinks. She continues watching the readings, waiting for the right moment to launch the EMP.
Lilly is on the bridge of Jackson’s Revenge charging up the Yamato cannon. Lasers are flying everywhere, people are screaming, Jackson is barking orders. Lilly looks up and sees a huge missile coming directly towards them on the viewport. Lilly is a woman of few words, but “oh” and “shit” are definitely among them. Jackson is alarmed to hear them. He knows that when Lilly says something, it is usually important. “All crews, I want report! Status! We’re being hit!” Everything is engulfed in flames.
Lilly launches the EMP missile just as Jackson’s Revenge hits the ground. When it goes off, the cloak fails, rendering the ship fully visible. She can also tell that the engines have failed completely. Hopefully the Yamato cannon is offline, too, but she knows the turrets, with their very physical bullets, will still be operational. Leaving Snowball to enjoy his creep, Lilly charges down the ramp and hops onto Old Red. Imogen radios in that they will be entering by the port engines, and Lilly heads that way. Her approach takes her past the front of the downed battlecruiser.
As she blitzes toward it, she sees a pair of pirates near the front turret. That gun is usually used for intership warfare, but it looks like they are converting it for anti-aircraft use, setting up to shoot at her airborne allies. If they clear the skies enough, they might be able to take off again, which is outside the mission specs.
The pirates have machine guns, but Lilly has spider mines. She alters her trajectory a bit and comes roaring out of the thin treeline straight for them. The pirates notice her in time to fumble their guns into position and loose a couple bursts at her. Some of them ring true, but so does the mine she releases as she goes by. One of the pirates had looked a bit scraped up already, but now they are both just smears on the side of the hull. Lilly loops back around and deploys the second spider mine to dig itself into the ground in that same area. If any other pirates come out to the turret, they will meet the same fate as their mates.
* * *
Imogen tells Aiden to have his zerglings ready to move on whoever comes out to take a look at the busted port engines. She doubts that the pirates will investigate the factory before seeing to the battlecruiser itself, and she wants to keep terran involvement clouded as long as possible. “If this is a zerg attack and no terrans are involved, then zerglings are the ground troops and would eat anybody they saw.”
Aiden takes exception to her word choice. “Zerglings don’t eat anyone. They might tear them to pieces—”
“I’ve been bitten by one before,” Imogen argues back.
“Aye, ‘cause they’re made of teeth and claws. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the recipe for zerg is: choose between teeth and claws, maybe add wings, optional spines and a hard shell. It’s not complicated.”
“I’m not debating zerg physiology with you. I’m asking you to send some zerglings over there.” She points to the back of the ship, and Aiden nods. As her brother gives his small packs one last mental pep talk, Imogen reflects that his zerg recipe does not seem to fit Snowball at all. A bit of a snowflake, our zerg is. Lilly chose a good name for him. She slips on her psi-gauntlet.
A hatch opens atop the sparking battlecruiser, and two mechanics run back towards the sizzling engine with a toolkit slung between them. They are armed with just pistols. One of them is splashed with blood and holding his ribs, suggesting that at least some of the crew has gotten shaken in the hard landing. From what Imogen saw, their first priority will be to degunk the thrusters.
An explosion and gunfire towards the front of Jackson’s Revenge indicate Lilly’s arrival is imminent, so Aiden sends his zerglings in to feign being the main attack. While they create that distraction, the Owendohers and Malorn sneak to the acid-splashed section of hull just fore of the port engine to begin cutting through the hull with psi-blades. The purple liquid appears to be melding with the hull rather than eating straight through it. As Imogen ignites her psi-blade, she wonders whether this is material infestation in progress.
“Show me what you can do,” Malorn says, his blades still silent.
The psi-blade cuts through the hull like butter, going into the weakened metal easier than it did the flesh of the overlord in the Cerberus base. Imogen does all the work, and then Malorn comments, “You’re finally learning,” as he lights his own psi-blades.
“This is called doing, not learning,” she mutters back, and she cannot help but wonder whether he delayed because he had trouble getting his blades to turn on. As annoying as Imogen finds his excessive pride, the thought that he is not as awesomely effective as he claims is a little unsettling at the very moment she needs him to be so. She is more comforted by her partner’s arrival.
“Spider mine in the front,” Lilly advises everyone with a smile as she joins them at the hull. She has the frying pan laser, which she has decided to name Sweetpea, along with her for this joint terran-protoss-zerg action.
Imogen slips through the opening into an area that appears to mostly be sleeping quarters. Across the open hammock-strewn space, a single scratched-up pirate sits on a crate, working on the engines from the inside. A pistol rests on the table next to him. Imogen deactivates her psi-blade and draws her own gun, shooting his off the table so that it goes skittering across the room. It stops behind some other boxes, well out of his reach. The pirate leaps to his feet in alarm and ducks into a closet, pulling the door closed behind him.
Lilly drops into the room, followed by the guys. Imogen tells her there is a pirate in the closet and steps over to the engines to undo all his work. “Got it,” Lilly acknowledges. She looks at the storeroom door for a moment, considering. “Do we need prisoners?”
“What we need are people left alive to spin the story that the ship is completely destroyed,” Imogen replies. They are here to kill the legend that is Jackson’s Revenge, not to murder non-combatants.
Lilly nods. “We can just trap him in here,” she says, stepping over to a large crate and getting ready to shove it in front of the closet. Malorn, who was ready to slice the pirate to shreds, seems to deflate a bit at that and lose interest, turning instead to the room’s exits.
Lief steps up to assist Lilly, though his slender form contributes little to her efforts. “That’s right!” he shouts through the stack of boxes when they are finished. “That’s what you get when you mess with Owendohers.”
The engines are a mishmash of technologies, some of which Imogen has never encountered before. She does not have the time to dismantle anything completely, but she breaks some of the parts that had previously been undamaged. The mechanics outside, if they survive the zerglings, will need to come back in to fix this before the ship can take off.
A radio crackles, and they all realize it is coming from the closet. An angry voice, distorted by transmission, demands, “I want report! What’s going on back there right now?” They do not hear the whispered response from their prisoner, but it is pretty obvious what he has said, when the accented voice continues, “What! What do you mean we’re being boarded?!”
So much for secrecy.