“So what’s your plan, Sister?” Aiden sits next to Imogen downstairs on the couch, listening to her labored breathing beneath the creaking of the factory’s flight. She chuckles in reply; it is a question she has heard many times from him. “You’ve always got a plan,” he says.
“Aye.” Her good humor melts into a sigh as she considers their situation. “We’ll set off the mayday. Probably we’ll need to be monitoring the skies with Saffron so that we know when Jackson’s Revenge comes into atmosphere.” She was so preoccupied with everything going on since Mar Sara that she never got around to messaging him about her ship. He asks her now for details. “It’s a science vessel,” she wheezes out, “so don’t get too excited. Appropriate enough for an Umojan, I suppose. Advanced sensors, but no real weapons to speak of.”
“Sounds pretty handy, though.” Warp-capable ships are not so easy to come by. He would know; he had to swipe the family’s for his ill-fated job.
Imogen considers her brother for a moment and then broaches a new topic. “Let me ask you a question, Brother. Now that you’re all… connected into the zerg pipeline, can you communicate with any zerg that’s on the planet that you want to? Or just ones in Blight’s club?”
Aiden explains, “I can ‘talk’ to any zerg, after a fashion, but most are sentient without being sapient, I’d say. They are driven by very primitive desires. It’s just a matter of efficiency, I suppose. It’s easy to control, easy to direct. That’s what they’ve evolved to do.” Imogen asks about proximity, and Aiden admits that it matters for him, but he doubts it does for the Queen of Blades.
“So, would you have to be standing face-to-face with a zerg to talk to it?”
“More or less,” Aiden replies. “Why?”
Imogen gives her brother a mischievous smile. “I’ll keep your secrets if you keep mine. Just like always.”
“I’ll keep your secrets if I know your secrets, Sister. But if one doesn’t know a secret, there’s naught to keep, now is there? Come now, we keep each other’s secrets, so you know you can share.”
Imogen admits, “We’ve got a zerg with us.”
“Aye,” Aiden acknowledges, thinking of himself.
“No,” Imogen clarifies. “Lilly and I brought one along. Lief doesn’t know about it.”
“Lief doesn’t know?” Aiden laughs. “How daft is he? Who is it? Who’s the zerg?”
Oh that’s interesting, Imogen thinks, he’s already referring to them as people. “Lilly calls him Snowball.” When Aiden asks what type of zerg this is, Imogen explains that Snowball is some sort of spy-type zerg that can change shape.
Aiden has heard of these changelings from Blight and knows they are used to keep an eye on the Dominion. “Was he spying on you and you found him out?”
“No, Lilly has raised him since he was a larva.”
Aiden was not expecting that answer. “You raised a zerg?!”
“Lilly. Lilly raised him,” Imogen corrects.
“You and your mercenary raised a zerg? What is wrong with you? You’re lucky you didn’t get killed.” He looks confused. “How did you do this?” Imogen does not provide much in the way of details, just requests that Aiden help Lilly communicate with Snowball since cannot understand the zerg’s needs. “We’re not pets!” Aiden exclaims, again so very readily identifying with his new group. He rails at her a bit, saying that zerg should not be kept penned up; that is what the Dominion does with them, after all.
“I know! That’s why I think it might be good if you could act as some sort of go-between so that Lilly and Snowball can talk to each other and figure out a way forward. He wants to go to the Queen—”
“Well, of course he does!” Aiden cuts in.
“—but right now he seems more interested in eating candy.”
Aiden grows even more incredulous. “Candy?! Why would he want candy?”
“I don’t know!” Imogen replies. “His drawings are not that good.”
“What have you done to this poor larva?” Aiden marvels. He shakes his head as he mutters, “Raising a zerg…” But he agrees to talk with Snowball.
“And don’t give him a tongue-lashing, neither!” Imogen admonishes him. It is one thing for her brother to take her to task about all this, but Snowball has always seemed so simple-minded.
“Poor, innocent creature… I don’t believe this!” He calms himself down a little. “But it doesn’t matter right now. The pirates, that’s what we have to focus on. Every zerg has his place… Maybe his place is spying on you two…” But this just gets Aiden worked up again. “What are you getting up to that a changeling would want to hang around with you?”
Their conversation is interrupted by the shuddering ship landing with a groan and a splash. It grows still and quiet.