Ten Tines Prison is clear on the other side of the planet. It does not take Saffron long to reach its location, but the trip does take Lilly and Imogen over new territory. Outside Augustgrad and the other cities, much of Korhal is desert of one form or another, including some radioactive wastelands. The protoss never glassed the world—no, this was done by terran nukes. As they fly over empty sand, Imogen shakes her head at the readouts. “Why was this chosen as the capital planet? This place is totally stripped down.”
“It’s not as luxurious as Mar Sara,” Lilly agrees with a straight face.
“Even Tarsonis was in better shape than this!” Imogen complains, getting a laugh from Lilly.
They pass over the sprawling factories of a small city built around a small patch of green and blue being polluted at an unacceptable rate. “What is this place?” Imogen asks. “Mengskgrad? Mengskberg?”
“No, that’s O.C.,” Lilly tells her. At Imogen’s look of confusion, she elaborates. “Oasis City. One of those places that you hear about, but you don’t really go. Lots of stuff is made there.”
They continue onwards, crossing an ocean and reaching another continent. There is more desert here, though with a bit more mountains and dunes than what they flew over earlier. When they get within sensor range of their destination, Lilly continues on. Imogen does not start up the scans yet, not wanting to risk detection until they are much closer. The facility is underground, so every meter matters. They are definitely in the right area, though. In addition to signs on the ground, a beacon continuously broadcasts, “Warning: This is a toxic area. Stay away.”
“Excellent! That’s what we’re looking for,” Imogen says brightly. For her role here, she is exaggerating her accent, which ups the pitch a bit.
“We have filter masks,” Lilly points out, suggesting more material for their ruse.
“Science vessel, sample jars… We’ve even got business cards that say we do sample collection!” This cover is perfect. They have so much that supports it already, just with their regular gear. The best lies always rest on a bed of truth.
“By order of the emperor, no trespassers,” the beacon intones.
Imogen brushes it off. “We’re not trespassing; we’re here for a purpose. Oh wait, or is that loitering? I didn’t understand their thick Dominion accent.”
Lilly chuckles, amused by Imogen getting into character even before they have a proper audience. She takes Saffron down low, carefully avoiding places where rock suddenly juts out. Imogen runs the sensor station, getting a set of initial scans. They provide rudimentary floor plans and an idea of how much staff to expect. There is a large central space, probably a common area for the staff. The access from the surface leads down to there. North of that is a region that Imogen does not get much readings from; either it is better shielded or it is less occupied. The entire southern part of the facility is probably the more heavily secured area, based on all the power going there. That includes the central room and an area off to the west that they cannot get much information on. That is likely where the prisoners are kept.
“Wow, there are a lot of guards in this place,” Lilly murmurs, glancing at the glowing dots on Imogen’s screen. A dozen people in cells does not seem like they would warrant an equal number of troops.
Not wanting to take any chances, Imogen quickly downloads all the findings onto a thumb drive. Then she pries up a floorboard and stashes it deep in Saffron’s underbelly, just in case the ship gets searched. The panel rattles annoyingly after Imogen puts it back. She knows it will be silent when the ship is grounded, but right now, it really grates on her nerves.
“Unidentified vessel, you’re in restricted airspace. You need to set down immediately.” The voice that sounds over the ship’s comms is definitely annoyed, though maybe not quite angry just yet.
Imogen scrambles over to the radio. “Oh, this is Saffron. That’s our ship’s name,” she offers helpfully, responding to the first part of the message and ignoring the rest.
“Frankly, I don’t care what your name is. You’re in restricted airspace. If you don’t want to get blown out of the sky, you’re going to set down and answer some questions.”
Imogen motions with her hand for Lilly to take the ship down as she continues seeding their story. “This toxic gas is explosive, is it? I’ll add that to our list!”
“Well, it might become explosive…” the other party growls.
That sounds like a credible threat to Imogen. She looks over the readings they have taken so far and identifies a few likely places for weapons emplacements. They are not visible to the eye right now, but missile turrets can flip up from those positions when needed. She silently points them out to Lilly, in case evasive maneuvers are called for. This will also be useful information for Jimmy and Dear Matthew when they come calling.
Lilly sets Saffron down quickly and as close to the facility as she can justify. They land near rusting double doors set into a rocky stretch of ground with what looks like abandoned ruins around it. The terrain is rough, though, and when some of the loose sand gives way, the science vessel lists to one side. “Well, now we have a reason to stick around,” Lilly observes. Though Saffron has suffered no real damage, it is going to take some effort to right the ship for a safe takeoff. Lilly glances over her shoulder at her partner, worried that the rattling might have hurt her, but Imogen is just fixing her braid. This landing was nowhere near as rough as that one time on Dead Man’s Rock.
Ten meters from the lopsided science vessel, the bulkhead doors surge open and a squad of heavily armed guards rushes out. One of them bangs on Saffron’s exterior and demands that they come out.
“So are we shooting our way in?” Lilly asks, considering her small armory.
“No. Right now we’re just environmentally-conscious researchers,” Imogen reminds her. She hefts her backpack of tools and medical equipment and then grabs a satchel of sample jars for extra measure. “You can bring your gun—it’s a dangerous world out in the wilds here. Just don’t point it at anyone yet.” Lilly tosses Imogen a filter mask, and they each slip one on before lowering the ramp and stepping outside.