FRAWD Investigators: (Re)Socializing | Scene 13

With Durian on his way over to Saffron, Lilly puts her forgery supplies away in her quarters. Snowball is in his female terran form now and follows her out into the central hub. Just then, there is a knock on the outside of the ship. Lilly tries to quickly coax Snowball back into her room, but another knock sounds. Swearing under her breath, Lilly gives up. She cannot keep trying to hide Snowball from Durian. Particularly if he is going on a mission aboard the ship, she has to come clean. 

Lilly opens up the ship with sweaty palms and finds Durian standing there with a couple small packages. “Hey, I brought a couple MREs. I figured we might be working over dinner. Do you prefer pasta or almost-pizza?”

“Almost-pizza,” Lilly replies without giving it much thought.

“Cool. I could never quite eat the almost-pizza. I’m just like, why almost?” he jokes. Lilly laughs nervously, and Durian misinterprets what she is on edge about. He gives her a quick hello kiss, in case she was expecting one. Given how she returns it, he assumes he must be right. She invites him all the way inside, and he is startled to see someone else waiting there, a medium-height woman with white skin, short blonde hair, and a wide-eyed stare. “Oh, sorry, was I…?” he blurts out, embarrassed. “I didn’t know you had a friend here. Uh, hi! I’m Durian.”

Snowball backs away, agitated and breathing a bit heavily. “There’s something I need to tell you, Durian,” Lilly says, stepping into the room herself and sealing up the ship.

“Uh, okay, um… I’m really sorry… I didn’t know if you were already seeing somebody,” he says, apologetic and crestfallen.

Lilly does not even process his words, too wrapped up in putting together her own. “This is Snowball,” she starts.

“Okay, that’s a cool name.” He looks to the other woman and asks, “Is that a nickname?”

Lilly steps in between the two of them to be prepared to defend Snowball if Durian decides to attack. Of course, it is also possible he just will not believe her. Lilly braces herself and announces, “He’s a zerg.”

“Wait, what? This Snowball person is a zerg? No, c’mon, that’s ridiculous.” Lilly does not immediately respond, and Durian jumps to the next logical conclusion. “Oh, wait, oh my gosh. You mean your friend is infested! Oh, man, I’m really sorry to hear that.”

“No, no. This is a zerg,” she insists.

Durian leans in close to her and drops his voice to a whisper. “Lilly, you’re telling me you’ve got a zerg? You can’t have zerg up here. You’re putting the whole assault platform in danger! We’ve got to turn this over to the Special Containment Unit, right? This thing is dangerous. We both know that; we’ve got the scars to prove it.” He keeps a wary eye on Snowball.

“No, he won’t hurt anybody,” Lilly protests. “And he’s my responsibility.”

“Lilly, you know what the zerg have done to countless worlds.”

“I know, but look—”

“And yeah, the Dominion and other terrans have done some pretty terrible things,” Durian allows, “but… zerg ain’t pets.”

“He won’t hurt anybody,” Lilly repeats. “He can’t hurt anybody,” she adds this time.

“He can’t?” Durian steps up to Snowball and pokes him in the arm. Snowball pokes back, but lacking bones, his finger just sort of squishes into Durian. This weirds Durian out, but Lilly takes some comfort from the fact that he does not draw his sidearm. “Where did you find this zerg?” he asks her.

“On Mar Sara. He was a larva.”

“How long have you had him?! You found a larva?”

“Yeah,” Lilly says quietly. “Yeah, it was dumb.” Durian observes that this in no way looks like a larva, and Lilly reluctantly admits that she has been taking care of Snowball. “I put a catalyst on him, and he turned into a changeling,” she explains, feeling she owes Durian the full truth.

“Lilly, I have no idea what a changeling is, or a catalyst, for that matter. I’m not really a scientist.”

“He can change shapes when he grows up. I think he’s a sort of spy.”

“You’re not making me feel better about this.”

Intending to reassure Durian, Lilly whispers, “He doesn’t need to watch us plan the mission.”

“Well, yeah, that’s probably a good idea! But you’ve got a zerg spy on this platform. How do we know he’s not feeding information back to the Swarm?”

Lilly shrugs. “I just assume he is.”

A startled swear bursts out of Durian. “Lilly, it’s one thing to put ourselves in danger, but that puts the whole platform in danger. The whole army.”

“I know it’s dumb. I’m trying not to. That’s why he stays in the ship.”

“Okay, okay, you keep him on your ship, at least. Has he been off of it at all?”

“Down on the planet, but not on the platform.”

“So he might have seen some of our bases—wait. When did he come down to the planet with us? Oh, your ship went down, that’s right.” Lilly stays quiet, and Durian senses there is something more. “Wait, wait, wait… You were gathering samples…”

“Yeah, he got hit when you shot that zergling.”

“That was a solid hit. I thought I knew when a zerg was dead.”

“Well, he’s not really a zergling.”

“Right, right.” Durian shakes his head at the whole situation. “Look, Lilly, I don’t know if it’s safe to keep a zerg spy on this ship.”

“I honestly don’t know what to do with him. When I found him, he was being controlled and he had tech in his head. At this point, we’re just trying to return him to… someone.”

“Why don’t we just take him back down to the planet and release him?” Durian suggests. “He won’t see anything he hasn’t already seen. Wait, but you said he had tech in his head. What is that about?”

“This one.” Lilly pulls down her collar, and this time she points at her Cerberus tattoo. “Wait a sec.” She ducks into her room and comes out with Snowball’s backpack. She pulls out his neural implant, stamped with the same logo, and shows it to Durian. “When I found him, he had this in his head, so I grabbed him.” 

This is all mind-boggling to Durian, who can think of no good explanations. “Who puts tech in a zerg larva’s head? Why?!”

“That’s what I thought! But it turns out I was probably part of the experimentation on him.”

“But you were resocialized. You didn’t have a choice, Lilly.”

“I don’t remember. I might have! He’s my responsibility.”

Durian sighs, but he thinks he finally understands. “You’re worried you’re the one who did that to him?”

“Yeah. And I took the tech out of his head. And I put the catalyst on him,” Lilly says, confessing all the things that make her need to look out for Snowball. Durian presses for more details, since as a larva, Snowball must have been pretty harmless. Lilly tells him about how she needed an advanced zerg partner to get into the Cerberus research facility on Chau Sara.

“What kind of weird research facility is this place?” Durian marvels.

“It’s one I was in charge of. I have some memories of what I did there, experimenting on zerg.”

“Oh, when you were a warrant officer?”

“I wasn’t a warrant officer,” Lilly admits. “I was a colonel.”

“What?! You were a colonel?” Durian lets out a long whistle. “I never thought I’d be dating an eagle one day.”

Did he say dating? Lilly blushes. He is handling this so well!

“I think we should release him back to the wild,” Durian recommends. “This is a zerg-controlled world.” Lilly argues against this plan; she does not consider Tarsonis safe enough for Snowball. “What world is safe?” Durian asks rhetorically.

“He wants to go back to the queen,” Lilly adds.

“How do you know that? Can you talk to him?” Durian turns to Snowball. “Do you talk?”

“No, he can’t. Somebody told me.” Imogen’s brother Aiden communicated with Snowball on Jarban Minor and then conveyed that Snowball eventually wants to go to the Queen of Blades but needs to gather information first. That spying part does not matter to Lilly. She just wants to deliver Snowball safely to someone who can take charge of him, which Aiden refused to do. “If there’s somebody down there who will take responsibility for him, then okay.”

“Somebody like a zerg?” The very notion of referring to a zerg as somebody rather than something is outside Durian’s experience.


“Do you know any zerg broodmothers?” Durian asks, half-joking. “I sure don’t.”

“No one appropriate,” Lilly says. Snowball did not want to go with Zagara.

Durian sits down heavily on a crate, shaking his head. This is a lot for him to take in.

“I’m sorry, Durian,” Lilly says quietly.

He waves away her apology. “Look, you have a zerg pet. I mean, I… You know that’s not ideal, right? It’s… it’s tough. I thought it was pretty bad that I had a criminal record before I joined the military. I used to steal cars, you know? I was in a gang, even.”

Trying for a little levity, Lilly asks, “Were you smuggling zerg around, by any chance?”

“Nope. I ran away from the zerg. Anytime zerg showed up on a planet, I was outta there, looking out for number one. At least… that’s what I remember. Korhal gangs, those are pretty rough, but this…” He lets out another long breath. “Yeah, I don’t know, Lilly.” She tells him about how she bribes Snowball with candy to keep him out of the way, and Durian mutters, “This is the weirdest zerg. No teeth, no claws, no bones. And somehow it’s a spy zerg.”

“Imogen’s better at communicating with him. I can’t seem to get him to do much of anything. But he can turn into a lyote and a zergling, too. He’s new at it though. Maybe someday he’ll be able to do more.”

Durian suggests the crazy idea that Snowball is some other kind of creature entirely who could make itself look like a zerg larva, but Lilly knows better from her personal experiences with Snowball and at Cerberus. “I get it,” Durian says. “You found him. You feel like he’s your responsibility. If anything bad happens, you feel like it’s on you.”

“I mean, you saw! You can just shoot him. It’s not like he’s very good at defending himself. It was a lot easier when he was a larva. He was indestructible, and you could just carry him around in a backpack.” 

Durian’s next wild suggestion is finding a way to turn Snowball back into a larva, but Lilly has never heard about anything that could do that. Finally, he returns to his earlier proposition. “This planet is crawling with zerg. There probably isn’t a safer place for him. And this platform? Also not safe for him. They haven’t been doing super-thorough infestation checks so far, but they might, particularly as crews start coming back up from the planet. They’re going to be looking for things. They might find him. And most Dominion soldiers will not hesitate for a second to light him up.” Lilly acknowledges that Durian is right. “Now, it’s true that on some occasions terrans and some zerg have worked together,” Durian allows. “Last time we tried that, though, the Queen of Blades kind of betrayed everybody. So I don’t know when that will be happening again.”

“You’re not wrong, Durian,” Lilly says softly.

“I think the safest thing for him is to not be in the middle of a Dominion facility where there are way too many trigger-happy marines who are looking to make their mark. Who else knows about this zerg?”

“Imogen. Nobody else here knows.” Durian nods. Imogen makes sense to him; it would be hard to hide this from a traveling companion for so long. He is relieved to hear Lilly’s next words. “When we go down for the mission, we’ll see if there’s a safe place for him to go,” she agrees. 

“It’s what’s best for everyone,” Durian reassures her. “Then there are no spies, and Snowball gets to rejoin his… his people. But he shouldn’t hear us… You know what? How about he stays out here, and we can plan in your room? Maybe you can bribe him with some candy. Although… that stuff rots your teeth.”

“I don’t know if it’s good for him,” Lilly admits, “but I don’t always have creep.”

The thought of keeping creep on hand sends a shudder through Durian, but he pushes that aside and follows Lilly into her quarters. She shuts the door on Snowball, and they settle down on her bed to eat their MREs and talk strategy.

Lilly places her adjutant in storage, but as she looks up from doing so and gazes around the room, the well-kept train station fades and flickers, replaced by decrepit ruins. She notes all the possible zerg attack vectors. Ghostly zerglings, like one might see through a head-up display, rush in from the left. Could be packs of four or twelve. Looking up, a shimmering mutalisk hovers above a hole in the ceiling through which it could attack. Seldom seen in groups larger than six. The floor is clear enough in some places for roaches to easily burrow up.

The memory resolidifies into the time before the invasion, when Lilly was delivering the adjutant. Even back then, she was eying the possible lines of attack. How can I be attacked? Who are the threats? Where can I shore up? She is well-versed in zerg from all her research, and she plays it out in her head. Hydralisk spines, lethal up to thirty feet, still dangerous up to sixty feet. Her mind is spinning with ballistics information as she considers all the threats.

Durian sees Lilly sort of zone out for a moment. He offers her the almost-pizza packet, and she snaps out of whatever funk she was in.

“Did you say dating?” Lilly asks with a smile.

“Uh, what?” Durian chokes down a bit of pasta. After a cough and a sputter, he asks, “Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. Did you want me to have said dating?”

“Well, how about now?” Lilly asks, leaning in.

They get no battle planning done.