Interfacing with Grom LLC is Lilly’s area of responsibility. Imogen assumes Lilly calls ahead to arrange their meetings, which is why she is perpetually annoyed by the amount of hassle they always face at the front desk. Particularly with the anxious Spearmint to corral, the amount of time they waste with the receptionist Dwight is aggravating.
Lilly walks up to the front desk, resolved to do things the smart way this time. “Hi! I’m Lilly Washington, and I would like to get an appointment with Grom, Senior.” When the receptionist hesitates a moment, she throws in, “Requesting appointment, sir!” When Dwight questions her purpose, she tells him it is about a business opportunity.
“I’m going to need a little more than that,” Dwight tells her. “His schedule is full up on business opportunities and lunch.” Lilly throws in that they have to follow up on their previous appointment, too, and Dwight tries to foist her off onto Grom’s general audiences for public questions. Lilly insists that Grom is a friend, leading to the usual discussion of how they know each other: the Rose Mine. “You’re not here to capture him again, are you?” Dwight asks.
“No. That would defeat the purpose of rescuing him.” Lilly does not like to brag, but this guy seems to have a bad memory. “We were part of the rescue.”
“Oh! You’re that Lilly Washington. Sorry, I didn’t recognize you. Did you change your hair?”
“Yes.” Sometimes the best way to get through an obstacle is just to agree with it. Dwight becomes more cooperative, but he asks for some additional details. There is a note in his books about her previous meeting, saying that the business opportunity was investigated and declined. “We have a representative from Antiga,” Lilly tells him.
Dwight’s demeanor changes from patient but accommodating to alert and almost affronted. “Wait, wait, wait. What do you mean, Antiga? That place is crawling with zerg. I escaped Antiga. What kind of setup is this? Did somebody dupe you?”
“It’s not that crawling,” Lilly says. “We were just there.”
“Are you saying Antiga is open for business again?” Dwight asks hopefully. “Is it safe to go home?”
Imogen has been keeping Spearmint a little further back, as the whole environment is overwhelming for him. At this point, though, he leans forward and confirms. “It is. Well… almost. With your help.” Lilly looks to Dwight, hoping that is enough.
“I’ll put you down for his lunch meeting today,” the receptionist says, “because I want this to work. But Mr. Grom is not in the best of moods, I should caution you. He does have a note here that he followed up on a business opportunity with you last time, on some Redstone place. Apparently the final reports back were not very good.”
Imogen speaks up. “Is that what’s put him in a bad mood? Or have there been problems with the trial that’s supposed to be going forward?”
“I think that’s probably also part of it,” Dwight acknowledges.
“Nobody’s tried to get him again, have they?” Lilly asks.
“Not that I know of, but they haven’t been very open about that. Understandably so. We have to present the company as though everything is just fine: he’s back and in charge.”
“So pursuing business is good! That should help, right? But no. The final report from the crew that went with you to Redstone was not positive.”
“Antiga isn’t quite as infested as Redstone was,” Lilly tells him. “And there are survivors.” Dwight perks up more, not having initially realized Spearmint is such a one. Lilly turns to him and asks how many were in his group. Spearmint, voice still low and cautious, says they had about fifty in total. That is not much, given the planet had a population of around a million when it was a thriving colony. “They’ve been working on clearing out the zerg, too,” Lilly adds.
“Spearmint’s enclave eliminated all the hives in their area. It’s just a matter of whittling down the rest of them. They’re the only group we dealt with, but there could be others holed up in various places,” Imogen encourages the receptionist.
Despite Dwight’s warnings, Grom is actually in a good mood when Lilly and Imogen enter his office at midday. He greets them by name and asks who their new friend is. Spearmint awkwardly offers his hand to shake, and Lilly looks to Imogen. The Umojan provides a formal introduction, but Spearmint insists ranks do not matter anymore.
“Ranks in the colonial militia might not matter anymore,” Imogen allows, “but the fact is that you are a fighting man with experience on the ground, which is important. Because we are here to talk to you, Mr. Grom, about interest that you might have in Antiga.”
The mining executive knows Antiga was a prosperous colony once and never glassed. Grom is willing to hear Spearmint out. He cautions, though, that zerg are always a big deal and mentions no longer having the same security forces as he did when they went to Redstone. Since Lilly and Imogen are not personally invested in the outcome, just couriers in this matter, Grom excuses them from his initial conversation with Spearmint. He offers them a free lunch down in the cafeteria. Before he gets rid of them entirely, Imogen tells him they are interested in hearing if there is anything further he needs from them regarding what is going on with the trial. Grom agrees to meet up with them after lunch and dismisses them.