“So, supplies are low, are they? Have other scientists come by and you’ve loaned out all your extra gear already? When they crashed on your unsteady shores up above?” Imogen asks her escorts.
“Ma’am, we do not disclose whether or not we have any visitors,” comes the monotone reply. “Look, you need to just find the parts that you require, make your repairs, and be on your way.”
Eventually, Imogen reaches the workbench she saw in the warden’s memories. A beat-up old angle grinder sits on the wooden surface. Imogen lays her hand on the workbench, and her eyes unfocus. Days strip away from the room, and then Neiman is there, a week or so ago. He has not left a strong signature; he did not linger here. But he was in this room, working on some sort of optical device. Imogen is not sure what its purpose was. It might be related to cloaking or advanced holograms. Or perhaps it performs something as mundane as video projection. If it is an energy-based weapon, it is like none Imogen has ever encountered. Why was he working on that here? Imogen wonders. She picks up the angle grinder and idly turns it over in her hands. The UED logo is stamped on the underside; the tool is salvage from the recent war. Perhaps he was just homesick. Imogen lets out a breath. Neiman was definitely here a week ago, but she still needs to find out whatever he did.
The door to the workshop creaks, and the sergeant barks out, “Hey! Where were you?”
Lilly stands in the doorway. “Bathroom?” she says innocently.
“Look, you can’t go wandering off, okay? Jeez! Don’t be dumb.” He turns back to Imogen. “Did you find whatever you needed to find in here?”
“You don’t have a jack,” she says with disappointment. “We’re definitely going to have to shift the ship, fix its angle. Maybe… You know, many hands make light work. Do you have any people around here who maybe wouldn’t mind being exposed to the deadly chemicals up on the surface there? Who might be able to push the ship around a little bit? That might get us out of here faster,” Imogen suggests, hoping the guards will view such manual labor as a good punishment for the prisoners. That way, she and Lilly can verify the condition of the ones Matt Horner needs to set up his new government. “Of course, it might be dangerous. Things might fall when the ship slips. The ground was a little unstable up there.”
The sergeant narrows his eyes at her, but he calls in the request to the warden. This plan does appeal to her base instincts. “All right,” he reports to Imogen, “we do have some extra help who can get your ship righted. And then you’ll need to be on your way. Do we make ourselves clear?”
“Oh, aye!” Imogen says, all wide-eyed innocence. “Once the ship is fixed.”
The guards lead Lilly and Imogen out of the workshop. Lilly has a moment of near-panic when she sees that the box where she told Stevenson to leave her phone remains empty. He is still talking on it. Fortunately, the guards are in front and do not see her hastily grab it from him as he whispers his farewells to his family, assuring them he will see them soon. If Lilly had any confidence at all in his ability to keep things together, she might leave the comm with him. It would be great to have an inside person leaking information to Jimmy. The jittery Stevenson is not that person, though. Lilly gives him a nod and catches up with Imogen and their escort.