With the exhaust filter installed, Lilly is pleased to see that Saffron is now a zero-emission vehicle. The diagnostics all look good, and the two women can finally take a break for some first aid now that the exostation is far behind them. Painkillers and ice packs take the edge off most of it, but Imogen’s bruising will probably linger for a few days.
Imogen looks over at the changeling drawing up a storm on the floor of Lilly’s quarters. “Let’s take a look at your visa,” she suggests to her partner. “Maybe we can replicate one for Snowball.”
Lilly gives her assessment after some study of her own visa. “Might be doable.”
Lilly is sitting around the ready room table with some of the ship’s officers. The captain of their pirate crew, his accent thick from his UED upbringing, says, “I’m not sure how we’re going to break into Dylarian Shipyards. They have much equipment we could use, but—”
“No, we could definitely get in,” one of the women at the table insists. “But it can’t be a smash job. We’ve got to fake our way in somehow. We need someone on the inside.”
“What if we just had credentials?” Lilly says.
Everyone turns to look at her. “Our gunner can make credentials?” the captain asks, voiced laced with something approaching wonder.
Lilly shrugs, a little nervous at all the attention but confident it can be done. “It’ll be tough. They know all of our identities though, so we’ll have to make new ones, totally fresh. People who just don’t exist at all.” They bend their heads together, coming up with new names, and the activity turns into an entertaining photo shoot, as everyone tries different looks for the pictures they will need. At the end of it all, they have an entire suite of fake identities made from scratch.
Lilly tinkers at the computer for a bit and produces a dubious file. “Anyone who looks too closely will see through this,” she warns Imogen. Lilly’s visa ties her to the Dominion identification system, but Snowball has no ID at all. “It looks good, but I can’t link it to their database. If they look something up…”
“New plan,” Imogen announces. She crouches down next to Snowball, taking a sheet of paper and the tan and pink crayons. She draws her best lyote, complete with pink bow. “Hey, Snowball,” she says with forced cheerfulness, holding up the picture, “can you look like Sunshine? Can you do it?”
“Not a dog?” Lilly asks, wondering if Umojans would be worried about invasive creatures.
“I wouldn’t expect Snowball to change into anything he hasn’t seen, and he certainly spent plenty of time with Sunshine.”
“Pretty clever,” Lilly acknowledges. “Assuming pets don’t need visas.”
“They do not,” Imogen assures her, waving the picture at Snowball to emphasize her request. The changeling studies it and looks curiously at Imogen, perhaps wondering himself whether he can effect this disguise. His female terran shape loses cohesion, and he slumps back into his default blob form. From there, he flows into an uncannily accurate depiction of a lyote. Lilly might be able to tell the difference, but to Imogen, this could very well be Sunshine. Such is Snowball’s level of detail that he even includes the bow. Imogen wonders if he might see colors differently than they do, though, because his is red, not pink.
“I still want him to stay on the ship,” Imogen tells Lilly, “but this should make the situation easier to deal with if anyone senses three lifeforms aboard.” As far as Imogen knows, applying advanced sensors like those the science vessel itself has is not part of standard procedures, but she would rather be prepared.
Once Saffron is again within range of Umoja Traffic Control, the adjutant contacts them to request their environmental certificate and visas for any non-citizens. Lilly hits the transmit button, and Imogen mutters, “Aye, that’s right. There’s just Lilly and Imogen on this ship.” The adjutant inquires about cargo, and Lilly does not report any. Imogen figures they might get taken to task about the vulture bike mounted on their ship, but it is not in driving condition right now, so she will argue there was no need to certify it.
Following Imogen’s instructions, Lilly sets Saffron down at the starport outside the city of New Cardiff. She takes her cue from Imogen on how to kit out: terran firearms only, guns kept out of sight to not upset the natives. For the pistols, that just means holstered under jackets, but Imogen suggests that if Lilly wants to bring her shotgun, it should be hidden in her backpack. “Do you want me to have a shotgun?” Lilly asks, not sure what they are walking into.
“Given that we were already jumped up on the station there…” Lilly does not wait for Imogen to finish that thought; the shotgun goes in her bag. “Umoja is generally a safe place, but I don’t know what they’ve gotten into. My uncle said to bring backup, so I’d feel better if the shotgun was around. Bring the medkit, too, and I’ll grab my tools. I don’t know what we’ll need or where events will take us. I’d rather we had our gear with us.” Imogen sticks her psi-gauntlet in her own bag, but Lilly leaves the protoss rifle hidden under her bed, safe from prying eyes.
“What about the security here?” Lilly asks.
“I think that’s fine,” Imogen replies easily, but maybe she is biased because this is her hometown. The viewport shows plenty of security cameras, and there are certainly guards around. No one would jack a ship under these conditions. Lilly figures any crime on Umoja is likely to be the white-collar type.
Lilly pulls her backpack on, and Snowball looks at her curiously. She points at her room and then at the Power Thirst. Snowball nods, understanding the arrangement, and obediently lets himself be locked back up in her quarters. I’m glad I diluted it, Lilly thinks. That currency is only going to last so long.
The spaceport official who greets them is formally dressed, his white robes bright against his dark skin. “That’s a bit of a strange ship, isn’t it? Haven’t seen one like that before. What is that on the side there?” His voice, accent as thick as Imogen’s, is laced with more curiosity than critique. Imogen assures him that the vulture bike is not drivable in its current state so the environment is in no danger from it.
“It looks like it’s welded to the side of your ship, it does!”
“Aye. That’s why it’s not drivable,” Imogen replies.
“That just seems like a strange thing to do, don’t you think?”
Imogen shrugs. “It was easier than dismantling it.”
“Wouldn’t that make your ship harder to fly? That much weight on one side of it?” He sounds truly perplexed.
Lilly just shrugs. “She’s up for it,” Imogen says. “And in space, it doesn’t really matter.”
“All right, all right. Well, just the two of you lasses, then?” he asks.
“Aye,” Imogen agrees.
“Very well. Welcome to Umoja.”