“Okay, so we end up on Antiga, and it turns out there are some survivors there,” Lilly tells Durian after they have had a few beers and put in an order for food.
“What!? I coulda sworn people have swung by there and gotten no answer.”
Lilly leans in, slapping the table. “They had a cult of people who were destroying technology!” She goes on to tell him that the survivors were able to take out some zerg hives using just rebar spears.
Durian is impressed. “Dang, I should hire some of those guys.”
Lilly takes another drink. “Anyway, one of the guys came back with us to see if Grom’s interested in mining some stuff and…”
At the mention of Grom, Durian’s cheerful demeanor fades a little. “Oh, Grom. Uh, that’s, um, that’s good.”
“Yeah, so they might need some extra manpower,” Lilly suggests. “They’re sending a survey thing.”
Durian hems and haws. He does not have his own ship, so transport is an issue for him. He tells Lilly he is mainly focused on local work right now. Still, he appreciates the consideration she is showing him, so he asks for the potential client’s contact information. Lilly gives him the number for the burner phone they picked up for the survivor when they got to Korhal.
“His name is Lt. Spearmint. He’s a military guy, not a diplomat or a business guy,” she tells Durian. “He’s just interested in trying to rebuild his planet.”
“And I’ve always got to ask… This is an above-board job? He’s legitimately trying to restore his world? He’s not just some petty warlord trying to take it over?”
“I don’t think so. He’s pretty legit. There’s not enough people there for being a warlord to be worth it.”
Durian thinks it over. “Maybe I’ll give him a call. Transportation is going to be tough and… Well, Grom and I are not on the best terms right now.”
“Oh yeah? What happened?”
“Well, you know, I wanted to move on to other things…” Durian draws out his answer, kind of reluctant to discuss the topic. “The company asked if there were people who wanted to take a buyout package, so it looked like the right time for me to do that.”
“Did that pilot give you trouble?”
“Uh, what, Shreev? No, she’s, uh,” Durian stumbles over his words, not wanting to bad-mouth anyone. He finally settles on, “She’s nice.” Lilly snorts. “No, it’s not her,” Durian insists. “She’s got to look out for her crew. I respect that.” They just had different opinions of who counted as being on that crew… Durian takes a drink and looks down at his beer, muttering, “She did kind of crash the ship, but she was technically in charge.” He clears his throat. “Working security for a mining company isn’t the best thing, anyway. They pollute a lot… No, in my mercenary company, I’m my own man, keeping people safe instead of watching a piece of drilling equipment all day long.”
“So, the reason I thought of you for this job—well, actually it was Imogen—is that they’re looking for help clearing out some zerg. You know, they had a device that was drawing them!”
“You’re kidding me.”
“No. No, Durian! Let me tell you…” She regales him with the story, ending with how they destroyed it. “I wouldn’t send you to a place that they were drawing zerg to without telling you!”
“I appreciate that. I feel like a lot of military units I’ve worked for have done exactly that,” Durian replies. “Oh yeah, go to this planet. There’s nothing there. What’s there? Zerg.”
“I mean, there are zerg there, but about as much as I’ve seen on Mar Sara. Not as much as Redstone. That place was crawling!” They reminisce about how upset the Queen of Blades seemed in her message there.
“So, what are you up to then, Lilly?” Durian asks.
She tells him that they just quit FRAWD. “We’re going to do what you’re doing: go into business for ourselves.”
“Oh? Starting a rival mercenary company?” he asks with a grin.
Lilly laughs. “Yeah, we’re calling it the Lillurians,” she jokes.
Durian gives her shoulder a light punch, smiling broadly. “Real clever, real clever.” Lilly tells him they will be doing a different type of work, and he reminds her that he offers discounts for repeat customers. “My services are always open.”
“Same for you! Once we figure out what our business is…” She and Imogen do some questionable stuff that Durian might not be onboard for. “Right now we’re focusing on collecting zerg samples,” she shares. “Got a couple jobs lined up with some researchers.” Durian offers to hand out her business cards to his clients, once she has some. “Cool! Thanks, Durian. If there’s anything we could use your skills on, we’ll look you up. We’ll try not to get you in too much trouble. Oh, hey…” Lilly fishes around in her backpack for a moment and pulls out the snow globe paperweight she picked up at the ruined Exploracorp facility. It contains a small model of the science facility looking much better than it did when she was there. “Here,” she says, giving it to Durian. “This is from Antiga. You can put it on your desk to hold your business cards down.”
“Aw, thank you. Are you guys going to be based on Korhal still?”
“I don’t know. We’ve got a ship, the science vessel, so…” Lilly shrugs.
“Oh, you’ve got a ship! That’s right. So you’re Captain Washington,” he teases. “You own a ship, that makes you a captain.”
“Yup, I can crash it with the best of them,” Lilly says.
“I doubt you crash anything, Captain Washington,” Durian replies. Their meals arrive, and they klink their beer bottles together, toasting new beginnings.