A mass of billowing green smoking hurls Imogen back out into the hall, slamming her into the fore wall of the corridor. She wobbles a bit as she rebounds, aching all over. At least the other barrel didn’t go off too, she comforts herself. Then she takes in the bloody scene in the hallway, Malorn lying still on the ground, Aiden clutching a bleeding Lief, Lilly nicked and panting. Malorn’s shield still shimmers around him, and Imogen can feel it as she presses through it to check on him.
“What happened?!” Lilly asks, staring wide-eyed at her partner.
Imogen glances up from her patient. “That engine’s not going to be a problem for us anymore, it isn’t.”
Lief shakes his head clear. “Well, that was something, huh?” he says. These are the first bullet wounds he has experienced, and they hurt, but he is still able to stand on his own.
Aiden releases his cousin. “Are you all right, Sister?” Smoke is rising off Imogen’s jacket, half her face is scorched, and the hallway wreaks of vespene.
Imogen’s only response is, “We’ve got to get Malorn moving again.” She starts applying pressure to one of the worst hits, muttering about not having any stim shots left.
“I’ve got a painkiller,” Lilly volunteers, stepping up wearily. It is one of the ones Malorn brought them.
Imogen administers the shot. Despite Malorn’s claims about differences in physiology, the terran drug cocktail works just fine on him. His glowing red eyes slowly open. “Get to your feet,” Imogen orders. “We’ve got to get out of here.”
“You owe me a Kick in the Face,” Malorn growls at the Umojan hanging over him.
“Oh, we’ve got something better than that,” Lilly tells him with a grin.
Malorn blinks a few times and regains his feet. “Is there battle nearby?” he demands. “Is it over?”
“They’ve sealed off the front of the ship, and we’ve destroyed the engines. I think we need to get out of here before anyone else,” Imogen gestures at their ragged group, “is taken out.”
Malorn looks at the bodies littering the hallway and nods appreciatively. “A satisfactory exchange.”
One of the weapons discarded on the ground catches Imogen’s eye with its sleek Umojan lines. She leans over, a little unsteady herself, and scoops it up. “Weapons deal complete,” she says a little cheekily.
They clamber back out the torn hull in the port engine room, and Lilly reminds them all of the spidermine danger at the front of the battlecruiser. Visibility is limited due to the distinctive Jarban Minor mists, so it is hard to tell what is going on. They hear a low growl, and Aiden, who can more easily communicate with his zergling patrol now that the psi-disruptor is destroyed, assures the group that it is all right. “We’re clear. The zerglings took some hits, but they gave more than they got.”
Old Red is waiting where Lilly left him, but the vulture bike can only hold one passenger at best. “So who needs to ride?” she asks her injured companions. They look dubiously at her through the thick fog, and she decides this is not a good time for a relaxing ride. Better for us all to stay together, anyway. She does power Old Red up, though, so that the bike’s hover kicks in. Lilly keeps one hand on the handle, guiding Old Red alongside them as they start their trek back to Saffron. With the other hand, she cannot help but fiddle with her collar, worried that her resoc tattoos are visible.
Finding their way back to Saffron takes a lot more time than expected. Everyone is moving cautiously due to the low visibility, though injuries and fatigue would keep them slow, regardless. Malorn keeps trying to slice through the mist with his psi-blades, but it is too insubstantial to do anything other than glow eerily in response. Lilly actually giggles at the sight, relaxing more and more as they move along.
Lief eyes Lilly with concern, surprised by the uncharacteristic behavior. Malorn too seems way more chill than before, talking eagerly about quenching the thirst of battle with many a Kick in the Face and Cold Fusion.
Lilly laughs, “Too bad they don’t sell Poke in the Eye!”
Lief looks to his two older cousins, but they are in their own world now, chortling over old capers. It is clear they both know what they are talking about, but their words trip over each other so much that no one else would be able to follow the conversation. Lief does not think either of them has actually completed a full sentence.
“Uh, guys, do you know which way we’re going?” Lief asks, growing alarmed.
“No!” Lilly replies through her laughter.
“No? There’s still a whole pirate ship around here!”
“Oh, but it’s been blown up,” Imogen says, brushing away his concerns.
“No it hasn’t! We just ruined the engines!” Lief protests.
“B-b-b-but there’s a spider mine in the front!” Lilly gasps out, as if that is the funniest thing in the world. “Hope we don’t hit it!”
“Those things are dangerous!” Lief exclaims, hoping they have not accidentally walked around in a circle. The fog is so thick they could stumble upon Jackson’s Revenge without much advance notice. None of his companions seem to mind. In fact, they all seem rather euphoric. “What is wrong with you?” Lief demands. “Oh, I bet it’s all the blood loss!” Then he adds, worriedly, “That’s going to be hitting me soon, too, then.” He tries again, “Where’s your ship?”
“I don’t know!” Lilly laughs.
Imogen perks up. “It’s at Aiden’s building, isn’t it?”
“No,” Lilly admits mournfully.
“Ha! So nobody knows where it is, because clearly Lilly has forgotten!” Imogen laughs.
“It was too—too—too big for the building,” Lilly squeezes out between new waves of laughter.
With none of his seniors taking the matter seriously, Lief determines he has to be the responsible one. “Is Old Red tied to the comms tower of your science vessel?” he asks. The very idea that Saffron would have a full comms tower is hysterical to Lilly. Lief does not give up though. “C’mon, I’ve got to get them all back there safely,” he coaches himself, providing the encouragement that no one else is. “All right, Lief the Lucky, you can do it!” He tries one last time to coax useful information from Lilly. “Is there naught you can tell me about where your ship is?”
“It’s parked next to a cliff. You don’t want to park on top of a cliff, dumdum. We’d have to climb back up! Imogen would fall over!”
That is enough for Lief to work from, and as the mists thin out, he is able to guide them to where Saffron is, not far from where the factory crashed. Everyone sobers up, either because they have shaken off the effect of the mists or because they realize that something momentous is about to be over.