Vaughan is already at the Officers’ Club when Imogen arrives. She is wearing her same outfit from earlier, her collared shirt, leather duster, slacks, and boots. Vaughan, though, has changed his uniform. Imogen figures this must be his dress uniform, since it looks more formal than the other one, has shiny medals on the breast, and makes his shoulders look broader. The room itself is better cared for than some of the others on this upside-down platform. Although there are some tables affixed to what is now the ceiling, many have been positioned properly on the current floor, and the lighting has all been moved above. There is even a full-service bar staffed by someone in a tuxedo.
“How did you get tickets to this fancy place?” Imogen asks Vaughan when he comes over to greet her.
He pulls out a chair for her to sit in and then takes his place across the table. He explains a little haltingly that a raffle was held but not that many people put in to win the tickets, so he lucked out. Imogen gets the sense that he is talking around something and presses for more details, wondering if this was actually part of a bribe. “Oh, no one who comes to visit you in your office ever gives you things like this because you’re such a helpful person?”
Vaughan laughs at the very thought of that. “No one gives a bureaucrat anything. You can’t even get the time of day! That’s why it’s so great that you’re so interested in paperwork.” He does admit that he himself was responsible for advertising the raffle, and perhaps did not do as thorough a job as he could have. No one else bought tickets at all, guaranteeing his selection for the prize. “The raffle announcement was posted on the back wall in our office for a week. If people checked there, they would have known,” he says with forced innocence.
Still wondering how Vaughan’s connections might be of further use to her, Imogen asks how he got such a boon to be donated for the raffle. “Oh, I just sold tickets to the raffle, I didn’t organize it. DWARF handles that.” At Imogen’s raised eyebrows, he expands the acronym. “The Dominion Welfare And Recreation Fund.”
“The Dominion has such ridiculous names for things,” Imogen comments. “That’s barely different from DORF.” He asks what DORF is, and she tells him it is the Dominion Optics Research Facility.
“Well, that says exactly what it is, doesn’t it?” Vaughan argues lightheartedly. “Are you telling me that on Umoja you don’t have silly names for things?”
“We don’t have acronyms.”
“You must take forever to say anything then!”
“But we save so much time with our automation, so we have plenty to spare,” Imogen says dryly. Vaughan does not realize she is speaking in jest and continues to prod at this issue, pointing out how much more space Umojans must need on their forms for unabbreviated names. Imogen dismisses his concerns about how many more trees would die for that. “I told you, the computers hold all the files, so it doesn’t matter how much space it takes. It’s all just ones and zeroes.”
“But what about the electrons? Aren’t you killing electrons?”
Imogen reaches across the table and gives his arm a condescending pat. “Electrons aren’t alive.”
They place their orders, and soon their food and drink arrives. Imogen is not aboard the Imperative to spy for anyone, but she is curious about what is going on here. This whole push on Tarsonis seems motivated by something, and there is a chance she could find out about that at this dinner. Durian has implied that they were really scraping the barrel with the new recruits in his unit. Vaughan might not be as strong as Durian or Lilly, but he seems able-bodied enough that he could fulfill something more physical than a bureaucrat role. “Are you going down to the surface as part of whatever’s going on here?” she asks him. “Or is comptroller work what your whole entire Dominion service has been?”
Vaughan brushes off the question. “Aw, you know, I’m not at work now, so let’s not talk about work.”
Imogen adopts a new tack, the medals on his chest. She holds out a hand, asking if she can see them. He explains that unpinning them would put him out of uniform, which would get him in some kind of trouble. Reading some disappointment on her face, he works out a way to uphold the letter of the law, if not the spirit. Since they are sitting at table, he removes his jacket and passes it across to her so she can inspect the still-attached medals.
Imogen brushes her fingers across the well-shined surfaces, sensing into the medals as Selendis taught her. They glow with pride and accomplishment. She notices the judging glances being directed at Vaughan across the tops of martini glasses by various superior officers in the room. They can tell the couple does not really belong here, and Imogen’s foreign accent only highlights that further. She can read discomfort in her companion’s body language, as well. Having gotten what she could with her psychometry, she hands the jacket back. “I realize these are very important to you, and I don’t want to put you in an uncomfortable position, so please put the jacket back on. I just wanted a closer look.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Vaughan assures her. He slips it back on and continues nervously, “I’m just not normally in the Officers’ Club. Sometimes some big names come through here.”
Imogen knows so little of Dominion politics. “What, like Mengsk?”
Vaughan’s eyes go wide. “The Emperor himself? Do you think he would come here?!”
“Well, what other big names are there?”
A hush falls over the room. Even the music stops as in through the door comes a woman in full dress uniform with elaborate pauldrons and more medals that one can easily count. She is tall, though not as much as Lilly, and looks to be in her mid-fifties. Her white skin is wrinkled, and her straight gray hair is in a short bob. She scans around the room briefly and simply says, “Continue.” Everyone relaxes, but the tone is muted compared to before. People resume eating with an air of alertness they did not previously express. The new arrival steps to the bar.
“Who’s that?” Imogen asks once the music starts back up.
“You don’t know? That’s General Davis,” Vaughan answers quietly. “She’s in charge of the whole liberation. She and the Emperor go way back, is my understanding. Pre-Dominion.”
“Oh, was she part of the whole rebellion thing?”
Vaughan looks at the Umojan incredulously. “You mean the revolution.”
“Aye, aye,” Imogen says with a wave of the hand that dismisses the importance of the distinction.
“We had to overthrow the corrupt Confederacy. I understand it’s kind of complicated. From the outside it might look differently. But, yeah, she and Mengsk have really put together a lot. She’s one of the drivers of the Dominion. So I’m so psyched that she’s running our mission here. She’s super good.”
“So was Davis involved in, what was it, the retreat from Tarsonis?” Imogen asks, wondering if this is another person that the Queen of Blades wants destroyed. Tarsonis is where Kerrigan got left for dead and was infested by zerg.
“Retreat!? No, no, that was the pivotal battle where the Dominion was essentially born and we defeated the Confederates. It’s a shame that many Confederate citizens died from the zerg, but we tried to protect them. As best we could, anyway.”
Imogen purses her lips for a moment. She has heard this all described quite differently. “Were you at that?”
“Uh, well, no, I was not. There were not nearly as many people in the Dominion security forces at the time. Almost all the Dominion forces were arrayed against the Confederacy here, though, so Carolina Davis probably was here. But I don’t know if she had the same rank then as she has now. General Duke, of course, was leading that charge.” Imogen nods in understanding; that is a name she does know. Vaughan continues, “Supposedly there were some other colonial conscripts who were helping out, but there are too many names for me to keep track of. I’m really good with names, but they’re just not mentioned that much in the histories.”
Imogen figures that is a reference to James Raynor’s militia. Given that they are viewed as terrorists now, it is not surprising that they would be written out of their earlier “noble” acts. “I used to work for his nephew, you know, General Duke’s.”
“You worked for Jefferson Duke? Wow. I’ve never met the guy, but I’ve seen some of his early work. He did some impressive things in his time.”
Ah, yes, I can see the bureaucratic attraction there, Imogen muses. “My work for Duke was to ensure that proper policies and procedures were being obeyed at various Dominion-related facilities,” she shares.
“What?! You used to be part of FRAWD? The Fraud, Retaliation, Abuse, and Waste Division?” Vaughan gushes. This is the most alluring thing this woman has said to him all day. She confirms with her charming Umojan aye. “That’s amazing! That is so cool! What’s your favorite auditing code?” he asks excitedly.
“Ah, well, there was an intern who took care of all those things,” Imogen admits. When he misinterprets her statement to mean she was a manager, she clarifies that she did fieldwork. “Someone has to visit the facilities, you know.”
“Couldn’t you hire a mercenary to go do that?”
“They’re not as well budgeted at FRAWD as you might think.”
Vaughan tells her that FRAWD was actually number two on his dream job list, but since he secured a post with his ideal, the Comptroller’s Office, he did not end up applying there. “Everything runs through the Comptroller’s Office. I just felt like I could do more there,” he explains. “And be exposed to even more varieties of recordkeeping.”
Her salad now finished and some small bit of useful information extracted from her companion, Imogen ends the night. “Well, this has been quite interesting, but as I have an operation tomorrow morning, I need to get going.”
“Oh, that’s a bummer. Are you sure you didn’t want to—”
“I actually have to go down planetside, so…”
“Oh my gosh! Make sure you stay safe, please.” Concern shows through in Vaughan’s now-calmer disposition, as he advises, “And absolutely make sure to file your flight plan. That’s one of the most important forms you can file.” He makes one last attempt to keep the date going. “If you want, I can help you put together your flight plan tonight.”
“I have a pilot to do those sorts of things,” Imogen says, letting him down gently. Then she departs. Vaughan may be disappointed, but the night has been a success for Imogen. She gave Lilly alone time with Durian, learned a bit more about the Dominion, successfully tried out her new psychometry technique, and ate better food than she otherwise would have.