UNN headquarters has one of the tallest buildings on Korhal. The campus is fancy and well-funded, surprisingly so. It is not as impressive as the Imperial Palace, but it is right downtown in the posh district, a big complex composed of three main sites, all within walking distance of each other. There are huge transmission towers atop the buildings, and their walls hold gigantic jumbotrons displaying the current broadcast. Right now, breaking news is about a zerg attack on Agria, a defenseless colony on the fringes. The report mentions interference from protoss, but thankfully some of the refugees managed to survive. They are being put into quarantine to make sure that the zerg infestation does not spread. In that way, they are doing their part. Are you? is the implied question.
Imogen is admitted into the appropriate building without issue since she is on the appointment list. She makes her way up to Kate Lockwell’s office. Its square footage is modest, but it has huge windows and is a private space, befitting her role as lead reporter. She is actively working at her computer, frantically rushing to complete something, when Imogen raps on the doorframe. Imogen flicks her eyes across the windows in the room, looking at the reflections to see what is on Lockwell’s monitor. She is editing a report on the Agria refugees. Every report Imogen has ever seen by this reporter gets cut off before she can say what really happened. Imogen takes advantage of the opportunity now to let Lockwell give a full story. “So, what was protoss involvement really like at Agria?” Imogen asks as she takes a seat. Is this what Li or Selendis was alluding to? she wonders.
Kate lets out a sigh. “Ugh! It was terrible. They were going to glass the place! Zerg infestation, so they were just going to come in and wipe it all out. It was horrendous. I know the protoss supposedly stand against the zerg, but it’s like they stand against humanity as well, sometimes. It’s awful.” She types a few last things to wrap up her report, and then looks up at the woman across from her. “You are Imogen Owendoher, is that right? You are from Umoja?”
“Excellent!” She pulls out a folder and opens Imogen’s file across her desk.
“I hear you’re looking for a foreigner.”
“That’s not how I would put it exactly,” Kate objects. “What I’m looking for…” She flips through the papers in front of her for a moment and then looks back up. “Picture this. Maybe a veteran, an Umojan, and a reporter—I promise this isn’t a bad joke. The Dominion’s going to liberate Tarsonis, and it’s important that we show all the people of the Dominion—of the whole sector, really—that humanity can stand against the zerg. And not just terrans from the Dominion, terrans from everywhere. We want to make clear that this is a pan-terran effort. And so—”
“Have you got some UED in your pocket, too?” Imogen asks. The Dominion plus Umoja does not account for much terran representation of the galaxy.
“Ugh, we’re not going to talk about the UED,” Kate says, souring somewhat. “That’s just a bad memory for everyone, okay? Look, I know you’re not from here, but they took over Korhal and did a lot of terrible things while they were here. This isn’t about the UED. They’re defeated; we won. This is about the zerg, and the Dominion is the only force capable of defeating the zerg. If we liberate Tarsonis, we show we can push them back. We show that we can stand up to the Queen of Blades.”
Imogen is not sure if Lockwell is just spouting company policy or if this is what she truly believes. The woman is quite practiced in putting on a performance.
“To that end, having an Umojan would be helpful. We need to follow the liberation of Tarsonis and show people what the Dominion’s been able to do. That it’s been cleared. Maybe poke around in some of the ruins, do a bit about the old Confederacy.”
“I don’t have any military experience,” Imogen points out.
Lockwell picks up one of the pages. “It says here you were a member of, uh, what division is it… FRAWD? Surely that’s a military unit.”
Imogen snorts. “What kind of reporter are you? You didn’t do any research, did you?” Lockwell quibbles over terms, insisting that a division is a military unit. “We were continually lectured about going into too-dangerous situations. We were discouraged from it,” Imogen counters.
“Well that just sounds like you had a commander who was looking out for you,” Lockwell says, applying a spin that surely Jefferson Duke would approve of. “Look, this is not a military exercise,” she goes on. “Although it would be good to get some military personnel. One, for security. And two, to demonstrate further support. We’re doing a report; we’re trying to show people what it is like down on the ground during the liberation. We’ve just got to land on the surface, as I said, and explore some ruins. It should already be clear of zerg. It’s a war-time report from the frontlines. Maybe we’ll do an interview with some of the marines.” Lockwell eyes drift off for a moment. “Maybe not. They can be kind of loose cannons.”
“So you don’t have your own security attachment? Are you going to arrange for one?” Imogen asks. This seems an in for getting Durian somewhere safer, as safe as anywhere on Tarsonis is during this operation. “If it’s frontlines, you need something.”
“UNN has sometimes had a reporter embedded with a military unit. But in the past that has not worked out as well, so we’re trying something different,” Lockwell says. The way she draws out her words, she is clearly picking them carefully.
“So, what… you just need me there talking like an Umojan? Wearing an Umojan badge? What actual job is it you think you want me to do?”
Lockwell flips through the pages in front of her. “I understand from your records that you’ve done a lot of inspections of places. So think of it like that. I think they’re planning a landing zone near one of the old rail yards that was a hub of Confederate activity of some kind.” Imogen asks about the length of the assignment, and Lockwell explains that they will spend a night or two down on the surface doing some interviews and poking around. “That’s probably all the time you’ll need to complete this assignment. People in the Dominion aren’t foolish; they’re not going to be fooled by a fake sounding Umojan accent. But they are probably going to get tired of it, and they’ll want to move on to something new. So, a few days. Like a camping trip, right?” she adds brightly.
Imogen is not buying the forced cheerfulness. “Does this completely satisfy whatever my debt is?”
“Are you just like a mercenary, looking to satisfy your debt? This is about—”
“I’m looking to not get called into something even more frontline than this!” Imogen says. “Let’s be honest with ourselves here; there’s a war going on and it’s escalating on Tarsonis.”
Kate closes the folder in front of her and looks the other woman straight in the eye. “Look, it’s pretty simple. The Dominion is the most powerful terran force in the sector. You signed a contract to work for them. This is a way to complete that contract. If you don’t sign onto this, they’re probably going to ask you to do something more ‘frontline-y’ that you don’t want to do.”
Imogen settles back in her chair, satisfied. That is the confirmation she has been wanting to hear. If she can get through this, she will be completely clear of Dominion obligations.
“I know the Dominion isn’t perfect, okay?” Lockwell continues. “But freeing a terran planet from the zerg is a good thing that the Dominion is doing. It’s going to be costly. War is always going to be costly. We have to help give our people the resolve to get through it.”
How many people are going to die here for a stunt? Imogen wonders. “Are there any terrans still on that world?”
“We don’t know. If we find survivors, that would be fantastic. It’s been years since the zerg invaded Tarsonis. It was the capital of this sector before then. That’s a lot of people.”
So far, everything Imogen has heard from Lockwell sounds like propaganda. Is she a real investigative journalist or not? Imogen wonders. “Didn’t Mengsk call the zerg down on it?” she asks, testing the waters.
“What are you trying to pull? I’ve never heard this.” Kate feels like this woman is trying to play her in some way, but what a juicy story that would be! “Where did you hear this conspiracy? If that’s true, that’s the story of the century. If the emperor himself called down the zerg!” She pulls out a notepad, poised to jot down whatever the Umojan has to say, when suddenly they are interrupted by Donnie Vermillion sticking his ridiculous mustached face through the door.