The guards soon present their work crew to Lilly and Imogen: five new prisoners, plus Stevenson and the broom guy. The warden looks unhappy though and has firm words for the guard who just brought the prisoners out. “No, we couldn’t rouse the guy,” he tells her. “He seemed to be sleeping. We banged on the door quite a bit, but nothing. You know he’s pretty old.”
“Is somebody not well?” Imogen asks, inserting herself into the conversation. “You know, I am a doctor; I’m not just a research scientist.” She brandishes her medkit against the annoyed sighs she gets in response. “These are Umojan painkillers. High quality stuff!”
“Your services are not required,” the warden intones.
Undaunted, Imogen cheerfully replies, “It’s the least I can do, considering how helpful you’re all being.”
Lilly reflects on what a great performance this is. Seldom has she seen her partner so chipper. This is bordering on downright silly. “Yeah, she’s real good,” she pipes in. “She’s patched me up a lot.” It is certainly not that far-fetched. Given how Saffron landed above, these guards probably assume she crashes the ship all the time.
The warden relents. “Very well,” she agrees. “Escort them,” she orders the sergeant. “And we’ll have these fools right your ship.”
Lilly now notices that the jumpsuits have the prisoner’s names printed across the back. This group includes all three of the ones Dear Matthew is interested in—though Von Heel Hauken’s name does not fit all the way and Belvedere’s toponym is omitted entirely. There is also an Adams here, and something about the young black woman stirs a memory. Most of the other prisoners have a couple decades on her. Sally! What is my friend Sally doing here?! The papers Lilly and Imogen found in the Cerberus facility on Chau Sara indicated she was presumed eaten by a hydralisk years ago. Sally Adams does not show any sign of recognizing Lilly. And indeed, if Imogen had not found the graduation photo of Sally and Lilly together, Lillly would likely not have recognized her either. So much has been lost to resocialization. Sally being here now changes the game as far as Lilly is concerned. She really does not want to leave Imogen alone in the prison facility, but Sally needs help. She looks as ragged as all the other prisoners being herded toward the stairwell. “I’m going to go to the ship,” Lilly tells Imogen, raising her pitch just a hair at the end so it could be interpreted as a question.
Imogen waves her off, unconcerned about splitting up. “You don’t need us both; I’m the doctor,” she tells the warden. Rita nods. The sergeant takes two squads of three guards each along with him as he escorts Lilly and the work crew above ground. Imogen, on the other hand, heads further into the compound. A guard leads her through the western door and down a dark hallway. It winds around a bit and then reaches the cell block. Along the way, she peppers him with questions about the patient’s known medical conditions and regular exercise regimen. Old, that is the guard’s diagnosis.
When they reach the central monitoring station of the cell block, an additional group of guards is standing around there. Even before she hears his voice, Imogen recognizes Durian from behind. She groans internally. Ach, I can’t believe this is his job! Durian is facing away from her, and she has a brief moment to decide what to do before he sees her. There is really no decision to make, though; she has to press on with the job. She is here under her own name and ostensibly to perform a task that fits with Lost & Found’s charter. There is nothing untoward about all that. Moreover, she definitely does not want to implicate Durian in anything by approaching him first. If he wants to acknowledge her, then she will react accordingly.
Durian is in the middle of humbly answering questions about his UNN appearance. The guards are paying more attention to him than they are to the security feeds on the wall. Those show a bunch of empty cells, plus one with a sleeping form on a bed. That monitor is labeled Narud.
Hearing an Umojan accent, Durian turns to see who is approaching. The incongruity of seeing a friend in this out-of-the-way location strikes him speechless for a moment. Durian is not the only person staring at Imogen, though. It is quite unusual to have visitors back here. The escort assures everyone that the warden has approved this doctor to check on Narud.
“When is the last time any of you checked on this person’s health, anyway?” Imogen asks. The escort lets her into the cell, and immediately she can identify the problem: this is a hologram. From her earlier vision, she knows exactly what to look for. Neiman’s projector is attached to the bed frame. There is no hiding this; the guards will know Narud is not here the moment she tries to physically examine him. Instead, Imogen plays it boldly, as if she really is just an Egon-level self-absorbed scientist. “Well, here’s your problem right here,” she declares, snatching up the projector. The hologram of Narud vanishes. “It’s not that he’s not well, it’s that he’s not here.”
The guard swears and slaps a hand to his headset. “We’ve got an escaped prisoner! We’ve got to lock down right now!” Alarms start going off everywhere.
Oh, crap, Imogen thinks, realizing she is now trapped in the facility herself. Well, at least I know Neiman was here for Narud. Guess I just need to figure out what Narud knows. While eyes are elsewhere, she slips the holographic projector into the sample bag on her hip.