FRAWD Investigators: The Ambush | Scene 8

Lilly is only too happy to go fly. That is much less stressful than talking with people. She takes Saffron on a quick circle of the planet, looking for suitable islands at the same latitude as the original one and with similar plant life. She feels bad that these people are losing their home to zerg that she and Imogen brought, so she wants to find them a really nice place to resettle. She picks an island with a bit more space, one with some real room to grow. It is dark right now, being on the opposite side of the planet where it is night, but from Saffron’s sensors, it has everything they need.

The scouting trip takes a couple hours. When Lilly returns to the settlement, many people are feverishly packing, only too eager to get away from a potential zerg encounter. However, Imogen is still talking to one holdout, the operator of the radio station. Roger complains that he is tired of running. “I’ve run from zerg before, run from the Dominion. Even ran from protoss once. I don’t want to run no more. I’m tired! If my time has come, my time has come.”

Imogen is appalled that he would make such a decision for his children, two teenagers standing just inside the door behind him. “That is a lazy answer,” she snaps, taking him to task. “We’re providing you with a new island. This is not you running; this is you going to a safer location. It’s a strategic move. You wanted to establish a home to raise your kids in? Well, this relocation is part of providing that for your family.”

The children come to their father’s defense, echoing his sentiments. “We’re tired of running too. We’ll deal with this somehow,” the younger one, maybe sixteen, says. “Maybe we’ll just hide out in the jungle. But we’re not going to run.” Imogen frowns at that. The overgrown area that is the source of the Xel’naga emanations is exactly the wrong place to hide from the coming zerg.

The older teenager, perhaps eighteen, cradles a shotgun. “Any zerg come close, they’ll get what’s coming to them. We’re tired of running.”

“It takes a lot of energy to fight zerg, a lot of resources,” Lilly says, having come up to her partner’s side. “Even if you win, you’re going to use up a lot of those bullets.”

“Why would you put yourself in danger this way!?” Imogen demands in frustration. “You’ve run so much, maybe you haven’t seen up close what the zerg will do to you. What is it you think you can’t rebuild?” Roger’s eyes momentarily flick up, and Imogen sees her opening. “Is it the radio station?”

And it is, indeed. The man’s pride in his broadcasts is as large as the tower itself. Imogen offers to help relocate the antenna. Given that the new island is bigger than the current one, she also provides mechanical support to increase the strength of the transmission, guaranteeing that even folks out in fishing boats with weak receivers will be able to listen in to Roger’s talk shows. The set-up is a horrible mish-mash of salvaged materials, but Imogen is no stranger to those working conditions. It reminds her of some of her early hacks on Saffron. This project is another cobbled-together solution, and part of the circuit boards that go into it are from the remains of Imogen’s Umojan stun rifle. In some ways, she has gotten more use out of that weapon on this job than she ever did previously.

The evacuation is well underway when Malorn’s dart-shaped fighter flashes past overhead. A brief panic ensues, as some people fear that the protoss will glass the world. Denise in particular grabs Imogen’s arm in terror. “No, no,” Imogen assures her, “that’s not the protoss—plural—coming. That’s the protoss—singular, an ally of ours. You need not fear.”

That calms Denise down, but Imogen sees another settler lifting a shotgun and firing a blast up at Malorn. She shakes her arm free of Denise and dashes over to the man, worried for him, not the protoss. That buckshot is unlikely to have even touched Malorn’s ship, but it could very well earn the man his wrath. She steps in between him and the fightercraft, bringing her comm up to her lips with one hand while she frantically waves the other arm. “Malorn, take the higher road here. They’re just scared of you!” she shouts as soon as he answers.

“I hope I’m not late for the ambush!”

“No, but maybe Lilly didn’t give you all the details. These are not the targets!”

“What are you talking about? They are terrans; they have weapons. Maybe I’ll take out that antenna…”

“These are not the targets,” Imogen reiterates. “These are poor terrans trying to scrape a living out of the ground. Look at the quality of that tower. We wouldn’t have needed to bring you in if this is what we were facing,” she says, playing upon Malorn’s self-importance. “These are just innocent bystanders. We’re trying to clear them out of here so that the field is open.”

“You would be concerned about innocent bystanders,” Malorn says disparagingly.

“Aye, I am!”

“Then let us clear these terrans out of here. Is there anything we can do to make them move faster?” Malorn demands impatiently. Remembering the blue light that levitated her cousin Lief, Imogen directs Malorn to use his ship’s graviton beam to help move the settlement’s bulkier cargo. He is able to move some homes—housed in inoperable vehicles—wholesale. Lilly radios him the coordinates for the new island, and he immediately sets to work. This approach is far more effective than trying to load anything into Saffron for transport.

With the move thus handled, Lilly and Imogen can turn their attention to the Xel’naga presence on the island. Malorn has told them about the possibility of traps and stone guardians, which sound like large, fire-resistant robots of some sort. Unfortunately, none of the terrans have any more information to share about the ruins. One of their compatriots never returned from exploring it, and that was sufficient to warn the others all away.