On the flight to Korhal, the Dominion news reports that come in are more propaganda pieces about the Dominion protecting all of humanity, everyone doing their part, and the necessity of liberating Tarsonis. After a few days of travel, Saffron reaches their destination. On the final approach, Imogen gets a call from a number she did not expect to ever deal with again. She steps into her room to not be a nuisance to Lilly while she is flying. “Mr. Duke, to what do I owe the pleasure?” she answers.
“Imogen! I just wanted to make sure you’re still all right. Now, I know you resigned, and that’s all still in the clear, but part of your residency permit through the Imperial Work Visa Program means that the Dominion can call you back in times of emergency.”
I’m being conscripted?! Imogen thought this might happen to Lilly, but she had never considered it a danger to herself. I should have looked at the fine print of that work visa more closely. She finds her tongue after a moment. “What is the nature of the emergency that you suddenly need fraudulent activities investigated?” she demands.
“Now, now, look! Before you complain about it, let me tell you I understand. It’s not with FRAWD. Our division has actually shrunk. We lost the billets that you and Lilly were on, and we have not been able to refill those positions, unfortunately. It’s hard times here, rooting out fraud when there’s so much good work being done in the Dominion.”
A cold shiver goes down Imogen’s spine. They had better not be sending me to some ghost thing. Who found out what? Did Neiman tell anyone? “Wait, what? With what division?” she asks urgently. It is not too late to tell Lilly to turn the ship around.
“Now, calm down. I think it’s actually someone you might get along with. Oddly enough, at Universal News Network, UNN, one of their reporters said they could use a foreigner, actually. They trawled through some of the Work Visa Program folks, and your name came up. I think you would get along with Kate Lockwell, frankly. I’ve seen a lot of her broadcasts.” That name is a bit of a relief to Imogen. The reports she has seen done by Lockwell have at least attempted to cover actual events, even if they do frequently get cut off by the smarmy anchorman. “It should be just a matter of doing whatever gig she needs help with, and then you should be clear to be released, having fulfilled your obligation. Now, you don’t have to decide right now, but you do have to decide very soon.”
“Just to be clear, the decision is between going back to Umoja or doing this?” Imogen asks.
“Ah… The decision is, if you decline, some other part of the Dominion might call you up. And let me tell you, working with UNN is one of the safer things to do. And I think you would find it one of the more upstanding things to do in the Dominion.”
“I see. So you’re saying that as long as I’m in the Dominion legally, I need to fulfill my term of service.”
“Look, you don’t want to be on the run from the Dominion, Imogen. Trust me. You can’t just run away from your problems. I understand that it didn’t work out here with FRAWD, that’s okay. But give Lockwell a chance, all right? I think you might get along with her,” Duke reiterates. He provides Imogen with the necessary contact information. Kate Lockwell is based at UNN headquarters in Augustgrad on Korhal, and the appointment happens to be at the same time as Lilly’s date with Durian.
“I agree that it’s unfortunate things didn’t work out with me and Lilly there at FRAWD. We hope that you being short-staffed does not cause any of the existing cases to founder. How’s that Grom case going? Is Norm being able to pick up the slack?” Imogen asks, figuring this is her last chance to learn anything about the fate of those they rescued twice, once from the Rose mine on Brontes IV and once from Neiman on Chau Sara. Jefferson Duke, however, tells her that since she is no longer with FRAWD, he is not allowed to share any details with her. He appreciates her continued interest, though. “Who knows, maybe I’ll do a report on it sometime,” Imogen says with forced brightness.
“Maybe, maybe. Like I said, it takes time for the wheels of justice to turn. And the Dominion’s got a lot of things going on right now, what with this liberation of Tarsonis.”
“What exactly is it being liberated from?”
“Why, the zerg, of course!” Duke sputters. “I’m sorry. I forgot you weren’t around a few years ago when it was invaded by zerg during the revolution to create the Dominion from the ruins of the Confederacy. The Confederates didn’t deserve that! We tried to do what we could to protect them, but the Confederacy wasn’t strong enough to stand up to the zerg. The Dominion is. We’re going to prove it by taking back the planet. Well, not me, personally.”
“No. No, you’re serving a vital role where you are,” Imogen deadpans.
“Well thank you very much,” Duke replies sincerely before ending the call.
Imogen comes out of her room and proceeds to tell Lilly the bad news in her typical oblique fashion. “It turns out my status as a legal alien in the Dominion is dependent upon me working a certain length of time for them. A length of time that hadn’t quite expired yet when we quit FRAWD. So! I’m also being recalled into Dominion service,” she says with false cheer.
“For how long? Wait—What?!”
“I don’t know all the details. I hadn’t realized the news channels were so politically involved. I thought they were just appeasing the Dominion. I didn’t realize they were part of the whole government structure. Anyway, I’m going to go hear out what it is they think they want me to do and how long they think they want me to do it for. Then I might need you to forge some papers for me as well.”
“If you need me to forge papers for you, I will, but what do they want you to do?” Lilly asks.
Imogen shrugs. “Something tied to this reporter. Maybe it can help with… I don’t know.” Imogen sighs. “I’m just relieved it’s not the ghost training academy,” she mutters.
Ghost training academy? Imogen says all kinds of strange things. “Like, with UNN?” Lilly asks. “Did you get a Special Mission?”
“Aye, that’s what it sounds like,” Imogen says, not hearing the capital letters. “That’s what Duke said.”
“That’s perfect!” Lilly cheers.
“But I don’t even know what the mission is,” Imogen points out. Still, Lilly is confident they can handle it. “I appreciate you backing me, Lilly,” Imogen tells her.
“Let’s get Durian assigned,” Lilly suggests.
“Ah, you think it might be something that requires guards? I’ve got an appointment with a Kate Lockwell—”
“The reporter?! Do you need me there?”
Imogen tells Lilly she will hear out what Lockwell has to say and turns down Lilly’s offer to accompany her. “You’ve got something else more important to do at that time. You’ll be meeting Durian,” she explains.
“Oh. You don’t want to go?” Lilly thought Imogen kind of had a thing for Durian.
Imogen laughs. “No no no. Of course not. You two go, have a good time. Figure out what you’re going to do to make him safer.”