FRAWD Investigators: Fallout | Scene 5

Not too long after the loud noise, Lilly rushes into the camp, followed by Sally and Rosé. She sets down a large metal item and then spins around, gun at the ready, and scans the horizon behind her. Imogen comes over to join her. “What progress have you—oh! A fusion reactor!” Imogen’s mood improves greatly. “That is progress. I can try to get that into our SCV. Did you see any signs of vespene out there?” she asks eagerly.

“Yup! Stirred up the bugs a bit, and they’re mad.”

“So are we going to be able to get close enough to use the vespene you found?”

“I think so. I blew the thing bigger so there should be more to go around, but they really like it! We’ll just have to be careful. As long as they don’t get the jump on us, we should be fine. A shotgun can take one out.”

Imogen wonders why these animals would care about vespene. It smells horrible, and it is toxic for terrans to inhale much of. Maybe they’ve mutated to tolerate it better. Or it could be messing with their nervous system. Unfortunately, she does not have the time or equipment for veterinary pursuits. The scantids are just another victim of a lack of environmental foresight. Imogen checks her watch. They still have a few hours of sunlight left for her to build a makeshift refinery. “All right, well, let’s drag what equipment we have over there,” she tells Lilly. “You can go scavenge for more supplies while I finish fixing up the SCV suit. Rosé and I will work up a refinery plan. Sally can keep watch over us in case the scantids get too excited while you’re away. Take Lady Belvedere with you for another set of eyes.”

“Okay.” Lilly happily accepts her marching orders.

“Hopefully you can find—”

“Oh, yeah, and there were marines,” Lilly suddenly thinks to share. In her mind, the problem was dealt with already, so mentioning it was not a priority. But it is the sort of thing Imogen would want to know.

“Well, there was one marine,” Madame Rosé interjects. “Emphasis on was.”

“Yeah,” Lilly agrees, “the bugs attacked him and his troopers.”

“All right, well, does anyone know anything about Dominion military strategy?” Imogen raises her voice and turns to the whole group with this question. “How large an area would a particular patrol be assigned? Is it likely that there are multiple patrols in the same area?”

The consensus is that it should be a while before another team crosses that zone. But they should probably be extra careful traveling to the vespene geyser. Standard team size is generally one marine and two or three troopers. Lilly figures she can keep Belvedere safe from something like that. She can be pretty stealthy when she is not triggering grenades.

Lilly and Lady Belvedere do not find any patrols out in the wilderness, but they do find some old ruins. There are enough salvageable girders and old flexible piping there to make this wild plan work. The wheelbarrow they find is a nice bonus, as it ensures they will be able to get all the materials back to Imogen before dark.

Imogen’s group also evades detection, though there are distant sounds that suggest another patrol is off beyond one of the other ridges. Sally halts the group just before they reach the vespene geyser. She peaks up over the ridgeline to assess the scantid threat, then waves Imogen and Rosé forward. Imogen chooses their refinery location and gets to work. The scantids pay her no mind. Maybe they can sense that she did not eat any of their meat earlier in the day. Or maybe Lilly’s alternate vent plan was really effective. At any rate, they pose no threat to the current terran project.

While Sally keeps watch, Imogen and Madame Rosé talk over a blueprint for the refinery, now that Imogen has seen the lay of the land. They finish up the repairs as they discuss the best approach. Then the SCV waits for Lilly to give it life. Rosé has no experience using one, and Sally’s memories of her own time in a Goliath are too fraught for her to climb into the similar construction suit.

After marking out the ground, there is little more Imogen can to do prepare for the project. Madame Rosé begins spinning fanciful ideas. “If we can gather enough supplies, we could get some basic field manufacturing going. It’d take a little more time, but might be worth it. Provided we can draw up the right plans.”

Imogen will be pleased if they simply produce usable fuel. Three-dimensional printing is way beyond her expectations. “What are you thinking of, making weaponry? We don’t want to have to fight our way out. Hiding is much better.”

“Right, I hear ya, I hear ya. We might be able to make some basic sensor equipment…” Rosé continues on, listing other things that could be extruded from the right mineral base.

Imogen shakes her head. Jimmy said to go to ground, and that is what she is going to do. This is no place to construct a secret outpost. It would not be secret for long enough, not with the Dominion hot on their heels. Imogen comes from a family of smugglers; she recognizes wheeling and dealing when she hears it. Rosé is looking for profit here. “We’re not setting up a business out here,” Imogen tells her.

“Well, not right now… but you never know.”

“And what were you in there for?” Imogen asks. So far this engineer has said nothing politically-minded, and she was not on Horner’s list.

“Trumped up charges,” Rosé replies without a moment’s thought.

“That’s what anyone would say. But what were they?”

“That’s what everyone was in there for!” Rosé sidesteps the question completely. “And that’s not important right now. We need to work on getting out of here. You’re right; we’re not starting a business right now. I just like to keep an eye out for opportunities. And if it turns out we have to hunker down here for a long time, we might need a little more development. But we’re not there yet. Maybe in a few days your friends will get here, and it’ll be all taken care of.”

When Lilly and Lady Belvedere show up with the salvage, Imogen sorts through the recovered materials, organizing them for the work ahead. She mutters to herself as she works and then casually asks, “Oh, Lilly, do you want to try out your new suit?”

My new suit? “Yeah!” Lilly says, though she is not entirely sure what Imogen means. A lot has been going on lately.

“There’s a fully functional SCV right there. Just needs someone inside it.”

“Oh, sweet!” Lilly climbs in and gets comfortable with the controls. It is a little sluggish at first, but once her muscle memory kicks in, it works pretty well. It has got a good turbo boost and a functional fusion welder, too. Imogen fixed everything—even the logo. It used to say Mar Sara Colonial Militia, but she has used the ink from Lilly’s pens to replace that with Lost & Found.

As dusk sets in, work begins in earnest. Lilly handles the physical side of the job, using the SCV suit to perform the actual construction as directed by Imogen and Madame Rosé. Sally and Lady Belvedere keep watch. It is fully dark by the time they have finished. With this ridiculous amount of tubing Lilly found, though, they can pump the refined vespene directly back to Saffron, rather than needing to carry a barrel at a time across the landscape. Imogen smiles at the thought of them essentially building a pipeline across the wastes. We’ve really come full circle, she reflects, thinking of the first job they did on Mar Sara.

Lilly smiles too, but because this will be enough vespene to refuel Old Red. She even has the silly thought of opening up a gas station right here—maybe her own Big Daddy Browder’s franchise. Durian would probably be more supportive of that than of her current job. Lilly’s grin fades, and her hand drifts toward her phone. Then it stops. Imogen made her turn it off. Seeing just how much Durian is willing to forgive will have to wait a little longer.