When Imogen emerges from the double doors on the ground, she sees some guards watching the group of six prisoners. All three have shotguns out, but one of them wears a pistol and is standing a bit back. Imogen figures he must be the squad leader. “Did you find the prisoner or not?” he calls, looking toward Saffron. The rest of the guards must be behind the ship. There is no sign of Lilly, though.
Unaware that Sally Adams is missing and that an EMP went off up here, Imogen assumes they are asking about Narud. “Oh, it turns out he was dead. Don’t worry about it; it’s all taken care of,” she assures them.
The three guards all look over at the new arrival, confused. I know Narud’s not dead. I saw him just an hour ago, the squad leader thinks, wondering what kind of trouble the Umojan scientist is trying to cause.
Stevenson knows rescue is imminent, but he is too timid to act on his own. However, when Rosé, another middle-aged prisoner, makes a grab at one of the distracted guards near her, that is enough to fuel his courage. Soon all three guards are being jostled about, two prisoners grappling each of them. With the prisoners crowding them, they cannot bring their guns to bear, not that they are authorized for deadly force anyway. The guards club at their attackers as best they can.
Imogen is as surprised as the guards are when the prisoners jump them. They must be upset to hear of Narud’s death, she figures. With the prisoners trying to escape and Saffron right there, this is too good an opportunity to pass by. Okay, we’re doing this now, are we? Imogen spins around to the stairs she just came up. She kicks the rusty doors closed and drops down to jam them that way. The guards up here cannot have backup. If this revolt is stopped, it will be way harder for Jimmy to get the political prisoners out, now that Neiman has set the whole place on high alert. She and Lilly simply need to take them all and run before someone with a welding torch gets up the stairs. Imogen just hopes the missile turret covers are as poorly maintained as these bulkhead doors, or Saffron could get shot out of the sky.
The guards and prisoners are still struggling when she finishes with the door. Imogen scans the area for any advantage she can find. All she has on her is medical and mechanic gear, plus the knife Lilly gave her. What she needs is a pistol, and she spots one lying along the drag marks between her position and a scorched area near Saffron. It must have belonged to the burnt guard she treated downstairs. Imogen snatches up the weapon and points it at the struggling group in front of her.
“Oh, so it’s not so fun now, is it?” she snaps at the guards. “Not when you’re the ones who are outnumbered and being manhandled about. We can escalate the violence levels here if we need to,” she threatens, “but only if you make us. They might not have guns in their hands right now, but you can see that I do.”
Saffron’s main door opens. To Imogen’s surprise, the woman that steps out onto the ramp with a shotgun is not Lilly, but rather someone in a bright orange prison jumpsuit. She levels her gun at the struggling mass, too. She does not fire, though. There is too much of a risk of hitting her fellow prisoners.
The squad leader wrenches himself away from the prisoners. His fellow guards are starting to flag, but he figures he can cow these pathetic wretches if he takes out the instigator. As soon as he gets enough clearance, he takes a shot at the Umojan. A spray of buckshot hits her, peppering her with many small wounds. If she had been closer or taken the hit straight to her center of mass, it likely would have taken her down.
“Get on the ship now!” Imogen cries at the prisoners, some of whom seem more keen on beating their jailors than making an escape. “We need to be out of here before downstairs is organized enough to stop us.”
As if on cue, the double doors in the ground rattle as someone tries to force them from below. The prisoners rush toward the science vessel, and as soon as she has a clear shot, Sally blasts the guards with Lilly’s shotgun. The squad leader collapses in a bloody mess. The other guards put their hands up higher.
Lilly comes around Saffron, a shotgun in each hand. Jogging toward the ramp herself, a blood-splattered Imogen gestures her up onto the ship. They have to get out of here now.