They have been away from Saffron for most of the day and are pleased to find the science vessel is just fine when they return to it. Lilly secures their prisoner to Old Red outside the ship and then opens the hatch. Imogen catches Lief before he can go inside. No need for him to know the whole Snowball story just yet. She tells her cousin to help her up onto the roof, where she will tie her handset into Saffron’s communication network. Lief is happy to do so, excited by the chance to learn more about the protoss. This leaves Lilly and Aiden free to go meet with Snowball on their own.
Lilly leads Aiden inside and opens the door to her quarters. They are met by a zergling with a pink ribbon tied around one claw. Lilly sees no sign of a lyote, and given the decoration on this zergling… “Aiden, this is Snowball. What are your intentions?”
“To make sure he’s been getting proper treatment,” Imogen’s brother replies.
“And to make sure you haven’t done anything to hurt him. Although, that’s a bit difficult to tell with a changeling, of course, since they’re so blobby.”
“I’ll be honest,” Lilly tells him, “we do the best we can, but I don’t really know. We took some tech out of his head…” Aiden is surprised to hear this, since Imogen left out those details. Lilly gives Aiden a rundown of what happened. “I found Snowball as a larva with an implant that was controlling him in some way. I changed him into a changeling. And once we were pretty sure it wouldn’t hurt him, we removed the tech.”
Aiden is further shocked to hear that Lilly herself made Snowball into a changeling. “Where did you get a changeling catalyst?”
“It came with the ship.”
“It came with the ship?!” What has my sister been doing? Aiden wonders. Lilly tells him they found the ship on Mar Sara, but he does not know anything about that planet. “What did you do with the tech?”
“Gave it to him. He keeps it in his little bag, I think.”
“Well, I appreciate you freeing this poor creature.”
They talk for a while about the care and feeding of zerg. Lilly explains that she gives Snowball creep now and then, when she can get it. “He likes sweet tea. And—” She stops herself from saying PowerAde because she does not want Snowball to get too excited. “And P-O-W-R-A-D.”
“PowerAde?!” Aiden blurts out.
Snowball perks up. Lilly is back, so that means treat time. He did what she asked and stayed in the room, after all. Lilly gives him a hard candy, which he tears into in zergling form. Lilly explains her worries to Aiden that all the sugar jazzes Snowball up quite a bit.
Aiden informs her that creep itself has an almost sugary quality, full of nutrients as it is. “You feel better on creep, you know? Maybe you don’t. You feel safer, energized, ready to go.”
“I mean, he seems to like creep,” Lilly observes, “and it seems more natural to give it to him when I have it, but it’s not so easy to get a hold of. And it’s not always safe to let him outside.”
“You keep him penned up in here? I suppose, since he’s a changeling, he’s not really built for taking hits. He’s better at hiding. He is pretty flimsy, after all. One blast of your shotgun could end him, unfortunately. I appreciate you taking care of him.”
“Look, I know he wants to go back to the Queen of Blades. And I don’t know if different zerg, like the broodmothers, can control him… I’m not looking to get him sent into war,” Lilly says. She has been a soldier; she knows what war is like. She does not want that for Snowball.
“His mission, his driving force, is to be a spy, to find information for his Queen. I can sense that much from him,” Aiden tells her. “He’s still gathering that information, so it wouldn’t be right for me to take him away. Every zerg has a part to play. He’s got his part which is apparently, right now, still learning from you two. It’ll be good training for him for later, when we send him into the Dominion. He’s not going to hurt you; I don’t think he has the capability. What can he turn into?”
“I’ve never seen the zergling before, so I don’t know where he got that. The pink ribbon, I used to always keep on my dog. So he can do a lyote, like her. It seems he can only be so big, so he does a small hydralisk. And he can do a small human, like Imogen-sized.”
“Interesting. How good a…” Aiden’s voice trails off, and he stares silently at Snowball for a moment. The zergling creepily reforms into his natural blob-like state, and from there Snowball assumes his standard terran guise of a woman who is something of a mash-up between Lilly and Imogen. “He’s got some capabilities, but he’s still got some learning to do,” Aiden observes. “Don’t worry, pal, you’ll get there eventually,” he assures his fellow zerg.
Lilly says, “We haven’t tried so much. I don’t know if it takes a lot of energy for him to do it, and since I wasn’t sure about feeding him… I’ve been hesitant to ask him to change too much.”
Aiden cautions her against experimenting on Snowball but assures her that the transformations are not overly taxing for changelings; it is what that type of zerg was expressly adapted for. He advises her that creep remains the best food, but he can see that sugar is also a good motivator from which Snowball can derive nutrition. “But I recommend you don’t keep him penned up. He’s got to see the world. Since he can take this terran form, take him around wherever it is safe… ish.”
“Well, you know, we’re not necessarily looking to serve the Swarm,” Lilly tells Aiden. “So there are some things that I don’t think he should see with us helping him. I mean, I want what’s best for him, but I’m not going to show him everything, ‘cause I don’t know how I feel about that.”
Having fully embraced his own metamorphosis, Aiden misunderstands Lilly’s tactical concerns. “The Swarm isn’t interested in your personal lives. But if you go back to Dominion space, take him out on a Dominion world so he can see how the Dominion operates. If there’s Dominion military about—”
“Oh, he’s been there,” Lilly laughs. “He’s seen that.” The whole implant program was a military operation, after all.
“—or if you’re fighting protoss, that would be another good thing for him to see, so that he can catalog that and report back.”
It is clear that Imogen’s brother is firmly in the zerg camp now. Lilly has said her piece, and she is sticking with it. Enabling zerg espionage does not sound like a good idea to her; she does not trust the Queen of Blades. “Understood,” is Lilly’s sole reply.