FRAWD Investigators: The Ambush | Scene 11

Lilly sees Imogen pick up a key from the middle of the stone altar. She must have a plan, Lilly thinks. She slings the detector and brings her own gun back up to bear, ready to point it at whatever door Imogen wants open. To her surprise, Imogen tells her to pick up the first key in the line, the one that Lilly initially reached for.

“There’s a pit trap in front of the first door there that your key will trigger,” Imogen announces.

“And we want to… trigger it?” Lilly asks tentatively. She trusts her partner but she certainly does not always understand her.

“I’d like to see how it works,” Imogen says. “You might want to stand to the side, though. Maybe this is a way we can get Narud away from Neiman.”

Studying the trap and setting up their own fills the next several hours. Prior to Lilly triggering the pit trap, they closely examine the floor in front of the door to locate the seams. Xel’naga are much larger than terrans, so it is hard for Lilly to be close enough to turn the key in the lock while also staying clear of the trapdoor. To make sure nothing untoward happens to her, she dons the harness from her climbing gear and preps Imogen to belay.

“How long does it stay open?” Lilly asks as they are setting up the ropes.

“It didn’t snap closed right away,” Imogen replies after a moment’s thought. That knowledge is there in her mind, but she cannot summon the mental image of those past events. She leaves her answer at that.

Lilly does not press for details. Sometimes Imogen phrases things funny with her Umojan accent, and she figures this is one of those. When all is ready, Lilly balances herself carefully and turns the key in the first door’s lock. The door opens to nothing, just a wall. Meanwhile, the floor slides open, revealing a steeply sloped shoot. Lilly walks herself down on the rope, everything growing clammy around her as she descends. She hits water twenty feet down. In the distant past there might have been a pit down here, but over the centuries, the water has risen and it has brought seaweed and algae in with it.

Based on what Imogen heard from the guards at Ten Tines and the hologram of Narud that she saw, he is an older man and rather sickly, whether from age or from mistreatment. He might not be fit enough to keep his head above water in this underground lake, so Lilly and Imogen rig up a net to catch him when he inevitably falls down the slide. They include handholds so that he can move around the corner and out of view in case Neiman looks down to see what has become of him. Hopefully all the UED ghost will see at that point are broken old vines. Lilly spray paints a message for Narud down there, “This is a rescue—pretend to be dead.”

As for how to make Narud fall down the pit trap, that involves some creativity up in the key chamber. From Imogen’s conversations with Neiman before they were enemies, he did not seem to be an expert on protoss matters. He is much more a soldier than a scientist. Presumably, that is why he needed to go through all the effort of snatching Narud from a high security prison. Based on this assumption that Narud knows more about Xel’naga and protoss lore than Neiman does, Imogen and Lilly decorate the doors with an elaborate array of protoss runes and glyphs. Narud will understand that the first door leads to freedom and allies, while Neiman will be none the wiser. At least, that is what they hope. Without an expert to consult themselves, they do the best they can. Lilly tries to call Malorn for his input, but she gets no signal down here in the temple.

Before they leave, Imogen wants to determine the source of the readings that led them here. She does not want Neiman to get his hand on an actual Xel’naga power source. No, she would much rather get her own hands on one. Prior to using the proper key on the proper door, though, Lilly reinspects the area in front of the doors, now that she knows a bit more about the types of traps to expect. Indeed, there is another tile that looks like the entrance to the pit trap, as well as some ceiling tiles that look suspect. These are likely smashing columns, the opposite of a pit. Lilly is really curious to see one in action. With a swift, “Stand back!” to Imogen, she snatches a key at random from the table and uses it. A column slams down right where she expected it to. Even with that foreknowledge, it clips her knee as she jumps back. “That was dumb,” Lilly scolds herself. But it was also kind of awesome. After a few moments, an old worn gear ratchets the column back up to the ceiling.

At Imogen’s encouragement following that excitement, Lilly approaches the correct door with the correct key. She is on high alert as she does so, since a column smasher is located in the ceiling in front of this door. “With that key, I don’t think that column will come down,” Imogen assures her. And indeed, it does not, though Lilly jumps back in anticipation as soon as she turns the key.

The door opens to reveal a short hallway ending in a small austere room. It too is shot through with the crystal conduits. Some of these lead across the floor and up the central pedestal, upon which sits a small rod. Nothing is illuminated, though; the room is lit entirely by the flashlight. Lilly throws Imogen a questioning glance and then points the detector at it. The readings are high, generally speaking, but as she brings it right to bear on the rod, she maxes out the dials.

Imogen watches the display from next to Lilly. The signal is similar to what Egon’s artifact emitted but not identical. Imogen eyes the rod greedily, wondering aloud, “If we take it from here, will there still be a signal to attract Neiman?” They conduct an experiment, but the findings are discouraging. Additionally, they determine that this rod is a battery of sorts, but an almost empty one. It certainly does not hold enough power for Neiman to contact Earth. And so, disappointed, they leave it be. Malorn can act as its guardian, slowing Neiman down further if he makes it this far. Toying with a terran ghost should be delightful for the sour tal’darim.

As they pass back through the key room on their way out, Imogen gives it one last review. It is a bit of a mess, and their markings on the doors look too fresh to her eyes, but it will have to do. If nothing else, Neiman will be kept busy down here for a little while trying to unravel this fake mystery.

There is one last hurdle to face, though, and that is leaving the temple. From this direction, it is possible to remain out of the stone guardian’s line of sight longer, decreasing the distance of the heart-pounding sprint to safety. Imogen makes it across quickly, but Lilly is slowed by the bruising her knee took earlier from the column trap she deliberately triggered. The vegetation at the foot of the stairs flares up into a wall of fire when hit by the guardian’s laser. Lilly janks to the side to avoid the flames, but unfortunately the lasers are now homing in on her, one on each side. Deciding that getting hit by one is better than getting hit by both, Lilly puts on a final burst of speed and leaps for the stairs, taking a searing burn for her troubles.

“Let’s not do that again,” Imogen suggests as she helps Lilly to her feet.