Smoothie finished, Imogen heads back into her room and looks down at the zerg radio. Lilly has way more experience with zerg than she does, but Imogen is certainly not going to intrude on her call to Durian. There are probably other zerg experts on this platform, but interacting with them would raise questions Imogen does not want to answer. Contacting Egon Stetmann is also out of the question. He did not like receiving a call from Korhal; probably one from a Dominion base would be even worse.
Imogen studies the hybrid device a little longer on her own and determines the problem. Without sufficient power, it cannot transmit messages. The zerg heart it came with is not up to the task, having given out last night. Imogen considers trying to massage it back to life, but the thought of zerg CPR is stomach-turning. In her mind, she runs through the resources on hand. They got a backup battery for Snowball’s implant but never really had to use it. Maybe she can use that implant to interface with these organic parts… or Snowball himself. She does have those alligator clips, though the implant itself would probably be a better bridge, since it was designed to interface with zerg biology.
Imogen scoops up the radio and passes through the central hub. She needs to check on the changeling’s medical condition anyway. “Checking on Snowball,” she tells her partner, but she does not wait for permission to enter the quarters. Lilly is lost in thought right now, comm to her ear and a distant look in her eyes.
Imogen finds Snowball’s sleeping box open. He perks up for a moment when she comes in, but then slumps back down when he realizes his visitor is not the treat-giver. Imogen shows him the zerg radio. “I know you can’t understand anything I’m saying, but does this look like anything meaningful to you?” She holds it out, turning it so his eyestalks can see it from all angles. “Do you have any idea of how to use this thing? Does it call out to you in any way? Can you hear it?” Snowball eyes it for a moment or two but then loses interest in the non-food.
“Some spy you are,” Imogen admonishes Snowball. She sets the radio down and digs through his backpack for his cranial implant. Despite her soothing tones, Snowball recoils from anything involving him and this mad scientist plan, so Imogen abandons that approach. She scrapes together a handful of creep from the remnants of what Lilly dumped on Snowball earlier and returns to the central hub.
At the science station, Imogen looks over their supplies. She is just hoping for something to excite the zerg heart enough for a short conversation. They still have two catalysts: hydralisk and drone. She decides that if anything goes wrong, it is better for it to be drone-related. As Lilly hangs up her call with Durian, Imogen dumps the drone catalyst on the radio. There is a definite reaction. The heart’s surface bubbles as though burnt with acid, but the organ resumes pumping. “Aiden, can you hear me?” Imogen calls into the device. “Aiden? Aiden?”
After a few moments, she gets a response. “Aye! Aye, Sister,” he replies, a bit breathless. “Sorry, a bit exhausted… It’s a long story.” He does not go into details, but Imogen wonders if it has anything to do with how “awesome” the Queen of Blades is.
“Are you on Tarsonis?”
“What? No! No, I’m on Char. We found out you were headed to Tarsonis and—”
“How’d you find that out?” Imogen demands.
“We have sources,” Aiden says vaguely. “I mean, the zerg pretty much run the whole sector. The Queen is—her words, not mine—Queen Bitch of the Universe.”
And we’ve got a zerg on board, anyway. “So, is she still mad at us?”
“Mad at you? You had wanted to talk with her. She said she might be willing to treat with you, but she wants something from you first.”
“Does she want the cerebrate sample back?” Imogen asks. The material that started this little feud is long gone.
“I don’t know anything about a cerebrate sample,” Aiden says, sounding confused.
“That’s what made her so angry with us,” Imogen explains.
“Oh, that’s news to me,” Aiden says. As far as he knows, cerebrates are not terribly important these days. “Anyway, what she’s interested in is what’s the Dominion doing trying to invade Tarsonis?”
Did the Queen of Blades forget we exist? Imogen wonders. Is she not mad at us at all? Have I just unwittingly drawn her attention back to us? She sounded so furious on Redstone. An equally likely possibility is that the queen has not taken Aiden into her confidence on this matter. Maybe I should have given him more details back on Jarban Minor, Imogen thinks, though she is uncertain what better deal he would have been able to broker with more information. Negotiations are more her area than his, judging by how he stuffed up his arms deal with the pirates. Or maybe Kerrigan’s not as all-knowing as she likes to seem. Maybe she does not know Lilly and I specifically are the ones who took the cerebrate sample.
Spying on the Dominion makes Imogen a little nervous. Lilly has been doing her best to shield Snowball from useful intel. And while Imogen has no particular loyalty to the Dominion, she does not want to help the zerg go to war against anything. On the other hand, though, can she really gamble on not mattering to the Queen of Blades? Lost & Found cannot operate under the constant threat of her sending the Swarm after them. Imogen lets out a sigh as she grapples with all this.
“Look, Sister, she just needs to know why Mengsk is wasting so many lives throwing these Dominion men and women at Tarsonis.”
“I can tell you what they’re telling everybody else about why they’re doing it, but it sounds like maybe you want something more.”
“Aye, she can see UNN as well. We do get that on Char, believe it or not. They have excellent broadcast range.”
“Oh, well, then you can let me know how telegenic I am when the special airs,” Imogen jokes.
“You get a new job, Sister?”
“Finishing the old one,” Imogen replies, her mood soured again at the thought of FRAWD intruding into her life just as she and Lilly were getting their business started.
“Ah. Well, anyway, there’s got to be some reason why Mengsk would bother wasting lives on something like that. Is it just retribution against zerg? Is it a test of his military? Or is he after something from the Confederacy?”
“Maybe he’s after something from the zerg.”
“That’s a possibility,” Aiden allows, “that we can look into. But because of where you are, you have access that we don’t.”
“I know the Confederacy was doing research on zerg here before everything went down,” Imogen shares. Lilly’s memories have confirmed that much.
“If there’s something specific that they’re looking for and you can find clear evidence of that, it’d be very helpful, Sister. I also want to make clear that the Dominion does not have the forces to take Tarsonis. They’re not going to win. The Queen has allowed them to land to better understand their purpose. Any victories that they think they have accumulated are fleeting.”
“So as soon as she knows what they’re after, then she just closes in on them?”
“She’ll certainly reject them from the shores of Tarsonis. Unless she finds a better purpose. Is the Dominion just going to hang out there for the next year? Great, then they’re not at Korhal,” Aiden says ominously.
Lilly holds her tongue while Imogen speaks with her brother. She knows Aiden. As far as she is concerned, he is a lost cause. Brainwashed, converted, call it whatever. There is no point in trying to convince him of anything. Lilly has no interest in leaking information, but trading it is a different matter. Loyalty to the Dominion is not an issue for Lilly; she has worked for multiple sides. She does not trust the zerg and she does not trust Aiden, but she trusts Imogen. She is interested to see what her partner does with this. Imogen can make this decision on their behalf.
Imogen sighs again from the weight of this decision. A zerg flotilla showing up in the middle of them doing a protoss job would be awful. As long as Snowball is aboard Saffron, it is completely reasonable to think that the Queen of Blades knows where Imogen and Lilly are at any point in time and just has not bothered to deal with them yet. But she could change her mind.
Not fully understanding his sister’s position, Aiden tries to reassure her. “Look, this would be useful to the Queen. And then if you need to clear up some misunderstanding, I’m sure—” He stops himself from saying she will be understanding. The Queen is many awesome things, but that is not one of them. “I’m sure you can work out an arrangement where she can forgive you.”
Kerrigan has been betrayed before and has betrayed others. Imogen does not know if she can be trusted to hold to a deal. Kerrigan might feel like she does not have to be trustworthy because other people betrayed her. “You’ve got to look out for me here, Brother,” Imogen tells Aiden. “You know I’m good for my half of it. Can you make sure she’s good for hers?”
“Aye, Sister. Look, I know the Queen’s got a bad reputation. It’s well deserved. You don’t get to being in charge of the sector without making some enemies. But I can tell you from everything I know, she’s dealt fair with me. Was this the best outcome I could have had? No, but it’s better than a lot of other outcomes, frankly. And I’m getting to see things I wouldn’t normally see and experience things that I definitely wouldn’t normally experience.”
“I don’t need the details,” Imogen says, teasing her brother a little.
“I’m not even sure I could describe them if I wanted to. And I don’t think I do.”
“All right. So I can reach you via this… radiolisk?”
“Aye. And if you have some sort of solid evidence, not just hearsay, that’d be really helpful.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“Stay safe, Sister.”
“Stay safe, Brother.”