Back on Brontes IV, Imogen saw just how upsetting the psi-disruptor was to her infested colleague Ted. With that in mind, she asks Aiden if he can feel anything different now that whatever has been blocking interstellar zerg communications is nearby. “Aye,” her brother tells her, “it does feel stronger. It’s more difficult for me to send messages out. I can’t even contact Blight now.” He cannot sniff the device out like a bloodhound, but he does think he will be able to at least tell whether to go left or right at an intersection.
Imogen herself feels nothing, but as far as she knows, zerg do use some form of psionics for their communications. She calls across the room to Malorn, “Can you feel it at all?”
Malorn is at the base of one of the two sets of stairs leading out of the room towards the fore of the ship. He has chosen the steps closest to the outer hull to make sure no one can come at them from behind. “Feel what?” he replies. “The rush of battle?”
Imogen is certain he knows what she is talking about and is just being snarky with his answer. Fine, so protoss can’t feel psi-disruptors, and I guess neither can terrans.
“We should have killed that pirate,” Malorn continues.
“Go for it,” Lilly says, as she steps past him into a long hallway running to starboard. From what she remembers, this is the longest straightaway in the ship. Through one of the portholes, she notices that the strange bluish-purple mist is rolling in. That will not matter so much inside the ship, but it should provide some additional protection to the outside zerg forces, as well as help conceal her planted spider mine.
“He’s not a worthy opponent now!” Malorn complains.
“Well, go find one who is,” Imogen tells him, gesturing for him to proceed.
Meanwhile, Lilly sees a pair of pirates farther down the corridor in front of a closed door. She lines up a shot with Sweetpea, and the blue beam of light from the protoss laser burns straight through both targets. They collapse, still. Lilly hears a frustrated growl from Malorn as he runs past her. “Clear!” she calls back to the others. She spies a rusty old first aid box mounted to the wall and thumps it with her fist to pop it open. It is not well stocked, but there is a painkiller shot left. Lilly grabs it and jabs it in her arm in one smooth motion. She has already taken some hits today, and they are unlikely to be the last ones. Might as well get ready to get shot.
The Owendohers take the starboard door into the hallway, coming out into the hall ahead of where Lilly and Malorn started. The hallway does not remain clear for long, though, as another group of pirates shows up at the end of it, possibly coming from the starboard engine area. They advance down the hall with a bit of care, ducking behind side pillars in the corridor. “We’ve got them!” they shout confidently. “They’re pinned in the middle of the hallway!”
Leaving Lief and Aiden behind, Imogen rushes to the body of one of the pirates that Lilly downed and stoops to snatch the radio off the corpse’s belt. As he comes beside her, Malorn asks, “Do you feel it? The thrill of battle?”
“You’re talking to the wrong person,” Imogen replies.
Back behind Malorn, Lilly says, “Yeah,” agreeing with both his and Imogen’s sentiments.
The door next to Imogen slides open, revealing a new set of pirates who fire shotguns at the imposing protoss with dual psi-blades, rather than the crouching terran with a radio. Pellets hit Malorn, piercing some of his battle armor. His eyes glow an angry red as blue blood trickles out of his wounds. Dude needs a beer, Lilly thinks, reminding herself that she has a can of Cold Fusion for him later.
Imogen straightens up, speaking into the radio as she brings her pistol up at the pirates who just shot Malorn. This crew has no comms security, so her words are broadcast throughout the ship. “You should’ve just stayed in Dominion space. We’ve got zerg. We’ve got protoss. You’re messing with Umojans now, not backwater Dominion pushovers. Your ship’s never taking off again. You should just surrender now.”
“There weren’t supposed to be other Owendohers,” one of the pirates on the other side of the doorway mutters nervously. Since surrender does not seem forthcoming, Imogen squeezes off a few shots at these pirates, dropping one of them and nicking the other.
Malorn growls. “Pathetic fool! I am not some weak protoss. Not even the tal’darim can handle me.” He does not rush forward with his psi-blades but rather raises one hand. From his palm, red lightning crackles forward, immolating the remaining pirate. Just a pile of ash remains.
“Huh,” says Lilly, impressed.
Imogen’s eyebrows shoot up. From what she observed on Brontes IV, she thought only drugged-out protoss were able to shoot lighting. “Been hitting the terrazine?” she asks Malorn. “Lightning bolts from your hand?”
“There are many things you do not know about protoss,” he spares a moment to reply, before shouting down the hallway, “Come, cowards! Meet your inevitable death!” From their covered position, cowering behind columns, these pirates take shots at Malorn, peppering him with more bullet wounds, but he continues charging at them. Imogen does not want Malorn to get hurt, but she cannot help thinking with a little satisfaction that his protoss shield technology is not as impressive as his boasting had indicated.
From the intel Kofi provided, their target is likely further forward in the ship, so Lilly moves through the doorway that Imogen and Malorn just cleared. She immediately sees another pirate toward the middle of the long room near some giant humming device pulsing with energy. He is clad in simple armor and carries some weird sort of rifle, a bruised cheek the only sign that he recently endured a crash landing. Lilly rolls her shoulders, cracks her neck, and brings Sweetpea up for a shot at him. His armor helps him out, and although he gets a nasty burn, he is still on his feet and able to return fire. Strange circles of bluish energy come at Lilly, but the pirate’s aim was jarred by the hit he took, so they miss her. The lighting fixture next to her is not so lucky. It crackles and flickers from whatever this weird ray gun does.
Lilly ducks away from the sparks for a moment, and when she brings her eyes back up, she notes that her enemy has sought cover behind a really large metal crate stamped Dominion Munitions/Spent Uranium Slivers. In addition, she sees that someone in full-on marine power armor has entered the room from the far side carrying a grimy gauss rifle. Compared to that, an additional pirate in light armor with a ray gun who she now notices is of only minor concern, even though he throws a grenade at her. It turns out to be just some kind of smoke bomb, not D8. From where it lands in the corner when she dodges away from it, fumes billow forth, obscuring her view of her enemies but not actually harming her.
Aiden catches up to Imogen and looks through the door Lilly just went through. “Aye! That’s it!” he says, indicating the strange device just before the smoke from the grenade spreads through the room. He wades through the obscuring clouds towards it, and Imogen hears the scratching of his claws on its metal.
Lief moves to follow Aiden, but Imogen catches her younger cousin by the arm. “Stay behind Malorn and take shots at those fellas tearing him up,” she orders. It would be good for him to provide further support to the protoss ally, but really, she just wants to keep him back as far from all these weapons as possible. It is bad enough that she will have to tell her parents that Aiden is dead; she does not want to have a similar conversation with Lief’s. The younger Owendoher obeys, firing his small gauss pistol at the pirates hiding behind the columns. One of the pirates takes a nasty hit, but much to Malorn’s pleasure, he remains standing long enough to be ripped to shreds by psi-blades. Malorn wades through the pieces and slices the next foe, continuing to swing his blades long after the pirates have ceased breathing. Lief goes a little green. This is the first time he himself has actually shot a person. To then have that experience be so rapidly followed by witnessing the brutality of Malorn’s strikes is a bit more than his stomach can handle.
Imogen follows her brother into what she now knows to be the armory-vault Kofi told them about. She shouts at the pirates to draw attention away from Aiden’s activities. “Did you not listen to me? Did you not just see your friends die? Listen now, will you, and you’ll hear the scraping outside, the scritch-scratch of the zerg tearing up your hull. Soon they’ll be tearing at you. You can’t hide behind smoke. The best you can do is lay down your weapons and run. Then you’d at least have a chance of surviving. Maybe they were pushovers back in Dominion space, but you’re up against the Owendohers now.” She shoots at the pirate ducked behind the large crate. The shot clips his temple, and he brings a hand up to the wound, stunned. She sees him stumble backwards away from his cover, but he disappears into the smoke.
Inside the smoke cloud, Aiden smiles to himself. He has been on the receiving end of many a tongue lashing from his sister, and it is oddly encouraging to hear one directed at his enemies. He continues tearing into the device, using the acid from his new glands to weaken the metal casing so he can rip off panels and get at the still-humming innards. He hears a door opening and closing on the far side of the room, either reinforcements arriving or enemies fleeing his sister. That is followed by the whine and screeching of a gauss rifle.
At the edge of the smoke cloud, Imogen is struck by dozens of sharp tiny metal slivers. Her leather jacket does not slow them down at all. The humming of the psi-disruptor grows louder, and for a moment she thinks maybe this is her brother’s handiwork. Then, through the haze, she sees him hurled back across the room. He collides with the wall near the doorway, clutching his head in agony. The volume of the device continues to grow. From the corner beyond him, Imogen hears Lilly shout, “Hey!” Then the blue beam of the frying pan laser lights up the psi-disruptor, burning out the device completely.
Imogen falls back from the hail of gauss rifle flechettes, grabbing her brother and dragging him out of the room. With the disruptor offline, Blight will be happy, but there is more Imogen needs done to remove the threat to her family. “We still need to deal with the engines,” she calls back to Lilly. “Cover us.”
“Got it!” Lilly shouts as Imogen’s bootsteps recede into the distance. Seeing through the smoke is difficult, but Lilly is pretty sure the only opponents left are a pirate in light armor at the large device she just toasted and that marine farther back. She hopes her actions have focused their attention on her.
After hitting the mouthy Owendoher, the marine acquires a new target for his gauss rifle, the mercenary with a laser gun in the corner. He pulls the trigger of his old Confederate gun, and the front of the barrel explodes. That new Dominion ammo they looted is not exactly rated for this weapon, and his first set of shots jammed up the works. The resultant blockage and explosion has rendered the rifle useless. “Awww hell,” he mutters. “Damn Dominion munitions.”
The pirate who had ramped up the psi-disruptor output prior to Lilly’s shot now leans out from around the pillar of technology and fires at her with another one of those strange ray guns. The blue circles of energy come at her, and as they strike her, she feels sapped of energy and somewhat lightheaded. The room spins a bit, but Lilly keeps her feet, ready to keep fighting on.