“Hey, you two!” How’s it going in there, gals?” Donnie Vermillion blathers. “Hey, are you the new foreigner who’s going to be the meat for our grinder? Ha, ha! Just kidding!” He looks from Kate Lockwell’s visitor over to the reporter. “Kate, is it really safe to have her here? I heard foreigners from Umoja were infectious. Is that true?” He looks back at Imogen Owendoher. “Do you speak terran?” Smiling broadly back at Kate again, he asks, “Can she understand what I’m saying right now?”
Imogen applies the thickest, most ridiculous lilt to her voice that she possibly can. “I cannae unnerstan’ a word yer sayin’!” It pains her a bit to do so, but if it gets rid of the creep, it is worth it.
“Oh that’s going to be perfect! No one will have any idea what she’s saying. It’ll be good to do a follow-up piece on the dangers of Umoja and how they need to sign up under the Dominion. Anyway, you gals have a great day!” He breezes off.
Imogen steps to the door, closing it behind him. Lockwell thanks her and gives a drawn-out sigh, wearied by the UNN anchor. All serious now, Imogen says, “I’ll take you up on this. But I really think you should consider using whatever sway you have to get a unit assigned to you.” Lockwell agrees it would be a good idea but admits that she is not well-liked among the military. That gives Imogen the perfect opening to recommend a specific unit of her own choosing, Durian’s.
“The Fighting Fruit Baskets?” Kate says incredulously when she looks up the Ninth Dominion Mechanized Infantry Battalion, Five Hundred and Sixty-Fourth Mobile Infantry Platoon.
“Look, if you want to show that there’s goodness in humanity, then these are the soldiers you want.”
Lockwell says she will look into it. She also says she will check the pay rates for this line of work and shares the unfortunate news that medical is not covered. Imogen is not surprised, and she makes no move to fight for it; she has learned a thing or two about treating scrapes and punctures herself by this point. Lockwell’s crew is leaving tomorrow for Tarsonis, where assault platform Imperative is already in position above the planet. When the time comes to reach the surface of Tarsonis, they will use a military dropship, but working out those details is a problem for a different UNN department. “The Dominion has commissioned this piece,” Lockwell mentions. “It’s not a piece we’re just choosing to do.”
“How often does that happen?” Imogen asks.
“I’d say that about fifty percent of pieces are commissions of one form or another. Or there’s some grant to do a piece of a particular type.” Kate tilts her head. “You looking to get into the reporting business?” she asks, her tone brightening.
“No, I was wondering about truth in advertising,” the Umojan replies grimly.
“Look, as I said, the Dominion’s not perfect. But it could be a lot worse. Look at the UED. The Dominion is not that. There are flaws, yes, but—”
“Are we going down to that planet to tell a story or to report what happens?”
“We’re going down to that planet to tell a story about what happens,” Kate counters. “People need to see what’s going on down there. But we have to bear in mind who is commissioning this piece. If somebody hires you to dig a ditch, you don’t build a wall.”
Imogen lets that matter drop. UNN does not have any ships large enough for a landing bay, so she asks if she can travel separately in her own vessel to the assault platform. When Lockwell expresses surprise that she would want to take her own ship down to the surface, Imogen laughs. “I’d feel safer in my ship than in yours!” she says. The discussion moves on to the topic of clearance codes and paperwork, and Imogen obtains everything Saffron will need for a rendezvous on the platform, including permission to have her own pilot along.
Although Kate has no problem with Owendoher using her own ship, she is surprised that she has one. “Are you actually a rich Umojan who is just doing this for fun? Working in the Dominion, I mean, not being conscripted to help out with this.” The woman clarifies that she co-owns a ship with her business partner and hands Lockwell a business card. “Lost & Found? Hunh. Salvage, inspections, item recovery… uh, sample collection? This is a pretty diverse set of business activities.”
“There’s an underlying theme,” Imogen says.
“I see that. What kind of samples have you collected?” Lockwell asks, picking up her notepad again.
Imogen starts listing off zerg types: hydralisks, mutalisks, broodmothers… Lockwell asks a few more questions, and Imogen clarifies that these were not live samples. They are not zerg hunters, but if a zerg attacks them, they deal with the problem and they collect the sample. “We have gone to other worlds specifically to obtain requested items,” she adds. “It’s all completely aboveboard.” It’s just our customers who are not… Lockwell advises her to double check on some of these areas, as they may be doing illegal things without realizing it. Imogen keeps a level expression.
When Lockwell starts mulling over how to frame their initial scenes landing on Tarsonis, Imogen inquires about the camera crew. Rather than describe staff, Lockwell shows her the automated equipment she uses, saying she has had bad experiences with camera operators in the past. She tosses the device, and legs extend, setting up the unit on the side of her office. Imogen asks if it has a drone mode, and Lockwell says she has not worked out anything more than selfie mode. Imogen snatches up the device and starts fiddling with the settings, trying to figure out the device’s capabilities.
“Hey, that’s very sensitive!” Kate cries, annoyed but at the same time impressed at the ease with technology that Owendoher has demonstrated. She takes the camera back. “This is experimental. We’re trying them out because too many camera crew were getting shot. Or too many were resocialized marines, and bad things can happen. It’s very unfortunate.”
That piques Imogen’s interest. She has only ever heard about resocialization from Lilly. “What sorts of bad things?”
“I had one cameraman who was holding his camera, everything was fine, and then a gunshot went off in the distance, and he lost it. He pulled out a gun from somewhere and ran off in another direction. He lost the camera, but worse, he killed three people. Then he got shot. So, yeah, we’re trying not to do that. That’s part of why I don’t have a good reputation among the Dominion military, things like that. But I will do what I can to get us this platoon for an escort—”
“And you’re blaming the resocialization for that incident? And not whatever PTSD comes from being a marine?”
“Look, resocialization is not perfect. It is a treatment for a number of disorders, for people who have committed a number of atrocities in their lives, done terrible crimes. Resocialization helps, but there are a lot of relapses.”
“And by relapses, what do you mean?” Imogen presses. “Do you mean people remembering what they were before?”
“I mean episodes like this where, to put it bluntly, someone goes bananas. It happens. I’m sure some Dominion scientists are working on better resocialization techniques… But what’s the alternative? You just lock everyone up forever?”
“Forgive me,” Imogen says, “we don’t have resocialization where I’m from. But we do have bananas, so I think I understand you now.”
Lockwell gives a quiet snort of amusement. “It’s good to hear bananas are alive and well on Umoja. Maybe one day I’ll do a report on your planet.”
“Maybe you can cover the economic problems caused by the Dominion blockade,” Imogen says.
“That one might be hard to push through.” Lockwell tries a potential headline. “Umoja on the Brink of Failure; Dominion Blockade Effective? Maybe.”
“I’m not going to help you with that one,” Imogen mutters.
“Fair enough. But! That’s not this job. This one is Pan-Terran Effort Standing Against the Zerg. I think we can do it; I think we can beat the zerg. I really do,” Lockwell says. “All right! I will see you on the assault platform Imperative. Be there in a week.”