As Saffron approaches the second planet from the star of the Stryko system, Lilly fires up the sensor suite. The world beneath them is mostly water, with islands scattered about. There are no landmasses large enough to call continents. On the dark side of the planet, no lights are visible, which is encouraging. Imogen hooks her new detector up to Saffron’s computer so that they can look for Xel’naga emanations in addition to standard lifesigns. They also sweep for signals associated with terran and protoss settlements. “Oh, no!” Imogen groans. Terran radio frequencies are active in the atmosphere.
Lilly flies her wraith low, way low. Mist kicks up from the ocean she skims as her bottom thruster gets closer to the water. There must be survivors from the battle out here somewhere. The sensors in this craft are not great, but the ship is fast, allowing her to cover a lot of territory. “Negative, negative,” she reports back. Command tells her to return to base and try again tomorrow. “Negative,” Lilly growls, unwilling to give up the search while she still has light. Her tenacity pays off when she spots a crowded life raft.
Alongside Imogen, Lilly studies the sensor readouts. She pinpoints the terran settlement on a small island on the dayward side of the planet. Unfortunately, Imogen’s device is also picking up Xel’naga emanations from that location. Whatever is there is far weaker than what is in Stetmann’s lab, but if Neiman shows up, he is bound to head directly for it.
“I don’t want to endanger other terrans,” Imogen says. “Maybe we can… scare them away?”
Lilly shrugs. “We can at least poke around.”
“Aye, I think we have to.” All the pieces are already in play; Malorn, Neiman, and the Swarm are all en route.
Lilly sets Saffron down on the island. Although it is small, it is still large enough that she can come in low to the water and land without being noticed. “Maybe these people have beer,” she suggests optimistically as she and Imogen make their way on foot closer to the settlement. Lilly cracks her knuckles, and Imogen lets out a sigh. Seeing so much development here throws a real wrench into their plans.
There is no exterior wall, no guard posts. The buildings themselves are fairly shoddy. Some seem to be repurposed spacecraft. Lilly estimates a population of less than a hundred. The tallest structure is the telescoping pole of the radio antenna that hangs above the town. Some people are tilling in the fields, others are fishing along the distant shoreline. Their clothes are as ragged as their salvaged homes. Imogen fiddles with her comm and is able to pick up some old-timey music. Lilly points out what might be a landing pad, but it is cobbled together, at best. Most of the work in the fields is being done by hand, though there is a ratty old SCV suit in worse condition than their own.
“Maybe we can just shuttle them to another island,” Lilly suggests.
Imogen is not sure that will be welcome, given how established the settlement is. Sure, the structures are not impressive, but their farms are growing their food. “They are not going to want to pack up and start over somewhere else just because two toughs tell them to,” she says.
“But the Swarm is coming,” Lilly observes.
Imogen nods slowly, thinking through an approach that could work. She could spin a story about the zerg being interested in a site specifically on this island, making staying here unsafe. If they only had more time, she and Lilly could locate the source of the Xel’naga readings and move it to the other side of the planet, but too much is already in motion.
Lilly can see the stress building up in Imogen as her partner’s shoulders tighten. “It’ll be fine,” she assures her. “When has it not worked out before? We’ll find a way.”
Imogen lets out a breath and smooths her braid. “You’re right. Let’s go talk to that farmer who’s off over there by herself.”