While Lilly is off learning her boyfriend’s hobbies, Imogen is still working. If Durian and the rest of the military are back, that likely means the UNN contingent is, too. Setting aside the remains of her avocado toast and kombucha dinner, Imogen calls Kate Lockwell. The reporter must recognize Imogen’s number, because she answers her phone without delay. “Are you okay?” she asks right away. “Things were… hectic there at the end.”
“Aye,” Imogen says. “Are you back on Korhal?”
“I am. Did you find what you were looking for?”
“This is a conversation better had in person,” Imogen points out.
“Meet me in the alley outside the Broken Clock Café at ten o’clock,” Kate tells her.
To prepare for the rendezvous, Imogen disguises herself in the outfit that Lilly picked up on Tarsonis. She does not see Snowball when she lets herself into Lilly’s room. The changeling and Imogen do not always get along, so she makes no effort to locate him. Let him sulk under Lilly’s bed, she thinks as she settles the purple fedora with the white feather over her blonde braid and grabs the fancy jacket. Imogen closes the door to Lilly’s room and tapes a note to it saying where she went and when, just in case anything goes wrong. She lets Frank know she is going out but provides no further details. She tosses her duster aside on one of the crates and shrugs on Lilly’s fur-lined trenchcoat. During the flight to Korhal, Lilly made two copies of the adjutant’s memory core backup. They are not as high quality as the original, but the voices are still recognizable. Imogen slips one of those into her pocket, then gives her pistol a final check before heading out.
The Broken Clock Café is in a nicer part of town but not as central as UNN’s location. At this late hour, the streets are not terribly busy. The victory parades are happening elsewhere, thankfully. Imogen sees the occasional stumbling drunk, but no one gives her any trouble. Imogen arrives early and takes up a position where she can have an eye on the alley to watch for Kate, just in case the journalist is followed. The chances are slim, but when there is a ghost involved, extra caution is wise.
Five minutes ahead of schedule, Imogen hears the clack of Kate’s heels approaching. The reporter is not disguised, but she too has a hat pulled down low. Kate’s eyes pass over Imogen’s location. They make brief eye contact, and she steps into the alley. The rest of the street remains clear. If anyone is watching them, they would have to be cloaked. That is not entirely outside the realm of possibility, though. Imogen extends her other senses and picks up nothing other than Kate. It takes effort—too much effort—as so often happens. Not wanting to start this meeting with a bloody nose, Imogen tries to redirect the energy. Sure, she succeeds at not doing herself physical harm, but instead she accidentally causes psionic reverb in her own mind. It is not as bad as what Selendis did to her, but it is enough to make her back away from psionics for a while.
Confident that they are safe to proceed, Imogen slips over to the meeting point. “Did you come alone?” Kate asks from under the brim of her hat.
“So what did you get?”
“I have a copy of the recording, but I couldn’t get the adjutant itself.”
Kate draws in a hissing breath through gritted teeth. “Copy is good. Certified adjutant would have been better, even a Confederate one.”
“Unfortunately, Captain Hawke was not willing to give it up,” Imogen tells her.
“That’s understandable. It’s a pretty valuable thing,” Kate allows. “Did you find out why she wanted it? Did you talk to her? Or just take the recording from her?”
“She was looking to move it herself. She was meeting with some Kel-Morian mercenaries.” That new angle piques Kate’s interest even further. She fishes out her notebook and flips it open. “Hammer Securities,” Imogen tells her.
“That’s interesting. They’re a big merc company,” Kate says. “Rumor is they’ve been trying to get Dominion contracts. This story’s got a lot of angles. Can I hear the recording?” Imogen pulls out a small player and with the volume turned low, lets Kate listen. “Yeah, that’s definitely the emperor,” Kate says afterwards. “The quality is going to make it a little tough to sell, and I’m not going to be able to move on this right away. I’ve got to be really careful over this.”
“If there are things you need to corroborate, I understand,” Imogen tells her.
“There’s going to be some. I’ve got to follow up with Hammer. And I gather that you yourself don’t want to be associated with any of this. Is that correct?”
“I don’t know that it would help you.”
Kate nods. “That this information came from an Umojan immigrant would only stir up the pot even more.”
“Aye, it’s a Kel-Morian/Umojan conspiracy then. Well, how about this? The information came from a Dominion employee. I was still working for your government when I got it.” Mengsk’s rule could be the ultimate FRAWD case.
That works better for Kate, though an inside source could prompt a witch hunt. “We’ve got to be careful how this is played. I don’t have that much authority. Particularly for something that is as seditious—however true—as this.”
“Let me caution you,” Imogen says. “The story might break itself, if you don’t break it soon.” Seeing Kate’s frown, Imogen continues, “There are other people who want to hear this, and they might have the military backing to do something about it.”
Kate cannot believe what she is hearing. “Are you giving this to someone else, too? I thought I was getting the scoop here,” she says, frustrated. She put her neck out gathering information about Captain Hawke back on the assault platform. “How many people know about this?”
“Mengsk’s isn’t the only voice on that recording,” Imogen points out. She hits play again.
Kate gives it another listen, concentrating. “Is that… what’s his name? James Raynor? The do-gooder outlaw?” While it is true that he recently helped evacuate a planet that was under assault by zerg, he is also a wanted criminal. “He used to be part of Mengsk’s inner circle. Then there was some sort of betrayal or backstab or whatever. I don’t know the details, but it sounds like this may be it. Raynor’s group was also responsible for destroying the ion cannon on Tarsonis, which some say is why we lost control of the planet completely to the zerg.”
“The zerg that Mengsk sent,” Imogen points out.
“That is what it sounds like, yes. I’m just putting out there the kinds of questions that skeptical people are going to ask. They’re going to say things like, Mengsk probably had control of it until James Raynor ruined it. That’s why I need to check more leads, get more information. So don’t expect a report next week, is what I’m saying.”
“And I can’t control what Hawke does with the original.”
Kate reins in her annoyance. “I appreciate that you recovered this. This is a big story, so it’s going to take time for me to put together a report carefully… in a way that doesn’t get me disappeared. Plus, I’m just generally busy with all the ‘victory’ reports. You know, the victorious retreat.”
“You did not ask me to get this information. I was going after the adjutant regardless of your interest,” Imogen says plainly. No need to mention that it was because of a contract with the Queen of Blades. “I brought it to you because I thought that if anybody was able to get it out through journalistic channels, it would be you. But I don’t need for that to happen. That is icing on the cake. If it is too hot for you, fine. I’m not trying to get you disappeared. But the sector needs to know this, and there are other channels. This information will get out.”
Kate sighs. “You’re right. I understand you didn’t have to share this. You put a lot on the line to get it. I will do what I can to get it out.”
Imogen hands over the recording.