“Lass, lass, you know the family. We don’t get our own hands dirty. That’s just not how we do things,” Leo protests to Imogen.
“That’s not entirely accurate,” a new voice says. From behind a large potted plant, out leans the freckled white face of Imogen’s cousin Lief, a few years her junior. His voice is a bit deeper and he is a bit taller than when last she saw him, but he is still just as gangly.
“He is too young,” Leo declares.
Turning to Lief, Imogen says, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that.” She has heard enough nos in her time, but they have not dimmed her ambition. Let Uncle Leo be dismissive of Lief’s abilities if he wants, but Imogen needs all the information she can get right now. “Do you know anything about what Aiden was up to? Did he tell you anything? Or did you see anything?”
“Aye, that I did. He did get his hands on some weaponry, but just one box. It couldn’t have been worth a million credits. He was doing most of his work offworld though, so I didn’t get a chance to see much. I don’t know who these pirates are, not really. But I know he got access to the weapons here, on Umoja, and he took the box offworld. I don’t know how he managed to smuggle it off; I wanted to learn that from him, but he was very secretive about it.”
“Did Aiden have his own safehouse somewhere on the side? Did you follow him anywhere we can go check out for clues here in New Cardiff before we head out?”
“He didn’t have any kind of warehouse of his own, not that I know about. I saw him fly out with the shipment—he borrowed the family ship. When he was loading it up, I saw the one open crate. It was stamped with the Umojan military’s insignia. I just don’t understand why our weaponry would be so valuable. We don’t fight in that many wars; surely our military equipment isn’t that good. I mean, the Dominion fights in wars non-stop.” He looks over to Lilly. “You must have been a soldier. Isn’t the Dominion military insanely powerful?”
“Compared to…?” Lilly prompts.
“Compared to us! I mean, sure, we have fancy marines, but…”
Lilly shrugs. “Everybody wants weapons.”
“Hmm, good point. I suppose the pirates are probably in that same boat… ” Lief’s reflective moment is soon overrun by his excitability. “But hey, I’ve never been to Jarban Minor. Sounds like a great place! Except for the zergs. I could do without the zergs. I think. I’ve never seen a zerg. Have you seen a zerg?”
“I’ve seen plenty,” Imogen replies.
“Imogen stabbed one in the face,” Lilly says and then goes on to relate the story to the thrilled Lief. Leo, not interested in this foolishness, makes his farewells.
After Lilly has answered Lief’s questions about his courageous cousin’s actions, the topic returns to investigating Aiden’s. “He must have made some contact in the Umojan military or research. We could try to track down who that was to find out more about what he was shipping out. Maybe if we could get a proper shipment, that would be sufficient.”
“Did he have an apartment?” Imogen asks. If they are lucky, he might have left behind a computer for Lilly to hack.
“Aye. He got tired of living with your folks and helping with the door exporting business. They’re very nice doors here, though. I have to give Aunt and Uncle credit. They tried to make it work, they did. I just don’t think there’s that much money in exporting doors.”
Before Imogen leaves with Lilly and Lief to check out Aiden’s apartment, she steps over to her parents. They are still sobbing in the corner as chaotic arguments swirl around the room. They tried to run a legit business; they tried to raise her and Aiden right. They have tried so hard, and look at where it has gotten them. They are gladdened to see her safe, having feared that something terrible might have happened to her in the Dominion. “You never write,” they chide her, though they themselves have not done so, either. “We were so worried about you, especially with what’s gone on with your poor brother Aiden. He was such a good lad.”
“Don’t write him off,” Imogen tells them.
“But what are we going to do? We don’t have a million credits,” Ma moans.
“I don’t think a million credits would solve this problem,” Imogen says, far more worldly now than she was when she left two years ago. “And if we gave them it, they would ask for more.”
“So we need more than a million?” Da asks, drawing the wrong conclusion.
“No. We need to stop them, and that’s what I’m going to go do.” Imogen turns and leaves their cries behind her. She is not going to fail her brother.