When Imogen returns to Saffron, Lilly presents the three candidate planets for ambushing Neiman. Imogen’s eyes go wide at the suggestion that they use the tal’darim homeworld. Lilly clarifies that this was their protoss friend’s idea. “Oh, and Malorn’s in,” Lilly adds.
“In what way?” Imogen asks.
“For the ambush,” Lilly replies happily.
“Ah, uh, um…” Imogen is momentarily at a loss for words at the turn of events. “Maybe I didn’t explain my plan in quite enough detail to you. We’re not taking Neiman out ourselves. We’re rescuing Narud and stealing Neiman’s tech. The Queen of Blades is the one who wants to squash him.”
Lilly shrugs. “I think Malorn is good with that. He understands someone else wanting to do the squashing.” After all, that was one of the conditions each time they went after Len’dasha with him. Imogen does not look convinced. “I think he’s really bored,” Lilly shares.
“Ah, okay,” Imogen agrees. “I can understand that people need things to keep their minds occupied.” Lilly is not the only one left at loose ends by the break-up with Durian; Malorn is definitely not going to join the Endurians now.
As far as Lilly has been able to determine, both Cyandor and Stryko II are free of zerg. She shares that the zerg have been to the tal’darim homeworld, but Imogen has already stricken that one from the list. Regardless of how much disdain Malorn feels for his people, she is not going to contribute to wholesale slaughter of them. Lilly is fine with that decision; security would be way tighter on a world full of protoss.
“There is a small Dominion research facility on Cyandor,” Lilly tells Imogen. “Probably no more than a hundred or so people, and all in one spot. Don’t know what kind of research, but there’s no colonists. No info on Stryko II, as far as that goes.”
A confirmed terran presence, particularly Dominion military, is enough for Imogen to rule out Cyandor. Lilly agrees, imagining that a frozen world would be all white plains of snow, making hiding difficult. Besides, it would be really cold there.
Stryko II, it is. With that decision made, there is no longer any need to remain on Hyperion. Lilly preps a course, mapping a somewhat reckless but definitely fast route through an asteroid field. It will get them to the planet in good time, and if all goes smoothly, they will even reach Dead Man’s Rock before Hyperion arrives there to deliver the Xel’naga artifact. Imogen, meanwhile, handles transmitting a message to Narud about which planet to guide Neiman to. When she is done, she sets aside that terran transmitter and powers up Sheila, the zerg radio, so she can similarly let Aiden know where the Swarm needs to go. They can stage themselves relatively near Stryko II, and she will call him again when she has confirmed that Neiman is present and cannot escape.
As for how they keep Neiman preoccupied on Stryko II, Imogen’s plan is to feed into his expectations. Since he is looking for a Xel’naga device, that means an archaeological experience. She and Lilly can rig up a fake dig site or something, preferably a cave they can use to contain him. Imogen was unable to find any papers by Narud in Egon’s database, but she assumes he must be educated in Xel’naga matters for Neiman to have gone after him. The ghost might be expecting this expert to get him through whatever guardians or traps Xel’naga buildings have. Lilly suggests constructing a trap to separate the two of them. That should be a sufficient distraction to hold Neiman’s attention while the Swarm moves in.
“I like that idea,” Imogen says with a grin. It is good to have her partner’s unique perspective contributing to the plan. “That’s clever: trap the ally, not the enemy. You’re so insightful, Lilly!”
“Yeah, so we trap Nimrod, or whoever, and get him to safety. Then we can pick him up later.”
“Aye, but before the Swarm ravages the place,” Imogen says. “I don’t trust their ability to make precision strikes.” Upon further reflection, this plan fits well with Malorn participating. Having a protoss as a temple guardian would be perfect. The only trick to that will be making sure Malorn does not prematurely kill Neiman.
Further details will have to wait until they see what they have to work with on Stryko II. En route, Imogen uses Egon’s notes to try to build a machine that can emit the same sort of signals as that artifact does. It is harder than she anticipates, though, and she settles for simply building her own detector. That will be less useful for this job, but she would love to locate more of these items for her own use in the future. She sacrifices her Umojan stun rifle to the cause, using it as the housing for the detector, and mounting a screen on it so that wherever they point the casing, it will display readings.
Lilly calls Malorn and tells him where to meet them. “Perfect. My psi-blades will taste blood again. You bring the beer,” he tells her, “I will bring the pain.”