Selendis escorts Lilly to a common space and then departs with the frying pan laser. The guards there point Lilly towards the door to Imogen’s quarters. They do not insist on going in with her nor do they hover right outside the door, but they are around. Okay, so this isn’t exactly an escorted visit to a jail cell. That’s good. It is a pretty spare room with a simple bed. The array of lights on the ceiling looks rather complicated, but there are no visible switches to control them. They are on a rather dim setting right now. Most importantly, there is one rundown-looking Umojan lying on the bed, proof that Imogen is still alive.
“Hey, Imogen, are you all right?” Lilly asks.
“Aye,” Imogen says, pushing herself up to sitting with a sigh.
“You told the commander about the weapon?”
“The frying pan? Aye. Did she talk to you about that?”
“She did,” Lilly replies. Then she adds with a smile, “I traded her my goggles for an upgrade.”
“Ah,” Imogen acknowledges. That is dispiriting to hear, as the goggles would have given them an edge against any of the UED ghosts they may run into, but Imogen does not have the energy to take Lilly to task over this. Instead, she focuses on business. “So, you’re okay with that kind of job? Recovering their tech?” Lilly says that she wanted to talk with Imogen before deciding, and Imogen expresses her opinion that it is reasonable work for them, provided they are given good intel and can actually pull it off.
That is sufficient for Lilly’s buy-in. “I mean, I don’t want to steal from Malorn, but I don’t care about Lendasha or any of the other ones. They seemed like jerks.”
“Let me ask you this, Lilly… Do you think it is time to resign?”
“From what? The refinery on Mar Sara? Yeah, I definitely think so.” They have not been back to work there for weeks!
“I was fired from that one,” Imogen points out. “That’s not what I meant.”
“Oh, you mean from FRAWD? We haven’t been fired from there yet, have we?”
“Not yet, but we don’t know what we’ll find in our inboxes when we get back.” Imogen went through the boring training slides to get them authorized for telework, but actually completing reports has not been at the forefront of her thoughts since they left Korhal about a week ago. “How much longer do we maintain this charade? On the one hand, we could keep at it until they fire us, but on the other hand, it might be better to not have anything hanging over us. It would mean giving up the apartment and moving permanently into Saffron.” Their FRAWD paychecks just manage to cover that rent.
“It does give us a base and a reason to go to Korhal,” Lilly points out. “But we’re not wanted—yet.”
Imogen lays out her reason for bringing this up. This visit with Selendis has opened up several potential new revenue streams. For one, she is another zerg specimen client, just like Li June. Imogen is not suggesting they take up zerg hunting, but they seem to stumble into enough of them as they do other jobs. Plus there is the protoss technology recovery and the Aiur native species collection.
“The IDs seem to get us in places,” Lilly says, offering a reason to stick with FRAWD.
“But you can just make those!” Imogen replies. Lilly did a great job with Mal Ornery’s ID for their DORF job.
“You’re not wrong.”
“The FRAWD affiliation has helped with some jobs for other people, aye. But I don’t think we need them anymore. We have Li June, Selendis… even Jimmy. With us not being wanted criminals, we can go places and get things for the raiders that they wouldn’t be able. Smuggling, essentially. Saffron’s loaded with stuff for Rory right now.”
“And we could probably do some work for Grom.”
“Maybe investigating the missing witnesses on his behalf. That’s not something that FRAWD will sanction, but Grom could financially back some of that since it does play into his legal case. So that’s four groups aside from FRAWD that could help keep the vespene flowing.”
“I’ll be honest,” Lilly replies. “I kind of forgot we were working for FRAWD. So, sure!”
“Giving up the apartment does mean that if anything ever happens to Saffron, though, we’d be screwed,” Imogen points out. Sometimes Lilly agrees too easily to Imogen’s suggestions, so she wants to make sure her partner has considered all the angles here.
“Honestly, if anything happened to Saffron, probably we’re not screwed because we don’t have an apartment.” Zerg or vacuum would be bigger concerns. “And I’ve got a contact who hires mercenaries,” Lilly adds, thinking of Mr. Hill. “So that’s another option.”
“I’m not exactly mercenary material. I think he made a note that I wasn’t athletic,” Imogen recalls with a chuckle.
“When you think about it, FRAWD’s not really paying us that much. It doesn’t even cover health care! I mean, reports are safer than a lot of soldiering jobs. But I’m not really sticking to that work; I just almost got killed by a bear in a cave.” Lilly grows reflective for a moment. “Protoss health care seems to be better.”
“All right then. We’ll give notice when we get back and say hi to Norm one last time. Maybe he’ll take over the field investigations with us gone.”
With the decision properly made, Imogen suggests they return to Saffron for dinner. “I’m not going to eat these lights,” she comments, pointing up at the ceiling. Protoss may not exactly be plants, but they certainly have a lot in common with them.
Over the meal, Lilly asks a few more questions about Imogen’s private meeting with Selendis. “Did you tell her about Snowball? About the psi-gauntlet? About the catalyst?”
“I only told her about the protoss materials we had.”
“That’s fair. Did she torture you?”
Imogen pauses a moment, choosing her words carefully to answer without compromising her secret. Lilly was a soldier, so she certainly would know that protoss have psionic capabilities, and Imogen decides to stick with that angle. “I wouldn’t call it torture, but she did something with her mind that messed up my head a bit. It’s possible that any tal’darim we go up against might be able to do something like that to us. It was taxing, but it wasn’t really painful. I think it was mostly a demonstration to show that she was serious.”
“Do we have a beef with her?”
“She told me that the same technique could be applied to vespene-powered devices. That it’s something that a strong enough protoss could use on our ship, for example,” Imogen adds.
“She didn’t mention that when she was talking about raiding tal’darim supply lines,” Lilly says with a frown.
“I tried to get what information I could from her for us to know what to expect we’d be going up against. I think when they have a specific target for us they might be more forthcoming. But we’ve got a ship full of vespene, and anything full of vespene is susceptible to that thing. I don’t know what kind of range it can work on, though. Anyway, I don’t have a grudge against her for doing it to me.”
“Understood.” With Lilly satisfied, they finish dinner, and then Imogen returns to the protoss facilities for the night.