The trip into Mar Sara City is swift on Old Red. There are far fewer Dominion marines around than the last time they were in town. At the entrance checkpoint, a couple are on hand lazily waving people in without any thorough checks. Imogen finds this curious but keeps quiet for now. Better to get the latest news from people she is already friendly with than to risk drawing attention. They park at Joey Ray’s. “That doesn’t bode well,” Imogen murmurs when she sees the specials listed on the front board. They include Invasion Steak, Evacuation Salad, and Propaganda Fries.
It is lunch time, but the bar is not terribly busy. Lilly notices a sign announcing a discount for veterans and checks her ID to verify that it applies to her. There are actually no military personnel here at all, which strikes her as strange. When they have been here before at mealtimes there have always been a few around catching a bite or downing some beers. I hope I haven’t been conscripted, Lilly thinks, wondering if she will soon get the same sort of news that Durian got. She mentally shrugs. She got out before; she can get out again.
The television catches Imogen’s attention, tuned to the Universal News Network as it is. An ad, clearly Dominion propaganda, is playing. “The Dominion protects all of humanity, even old Confederates!” It shows some planet viewed from space, with superimposed flags waving around, but Imogen does not understand whatever it is referring to. Probably another corner of history her Umojan education did not cover.
Imogen steps up to the bar beside Lilly. “Mr. Joseph Ray!” she greets him.
Joey looks up from cleaning a glass, a quizzical look on his face. “Nobody’s called me that in a long time. Certainly didn’t expect it from you two. Are you arresting me?”
“Ha! No, definitely not,” Imogen assures him. “When we introduced ourselves before, I’m pretty sure I only told you my first name. But my last name is Owendoher, and I have a box for you.”
Joey raises an eyebrow. “Am I supposed to know Owendohers?”
“Perhaps if I tell you that my parents’ business is Owen’s Doors…”
After a moment he remembers. “Oh! Right. Yeah, I order a lot of things from a lot of people. Can’t be expected to remember them all.”
“I’ve got a delivery for you. I need to know where you want it put. These are ‘high quality goods,’” she adds. Although this is not the final destination of the materials, Joey does want to inspect them personally, so the bar will be the drop-off point, not Raynor’s rendez-vous in the wastes. As they talk, Imogen takes the opportunity to ask Joey, “What’s going on with the soldiers around here? Or should I say, the lack of them?”
The bartender leans in a little closer. “They’ve been pulling soldiers from outlying worlds like Mar Sara. Prepping to make some kind of major move. I don’t know exactly what. I try not to worry about it too much; that’s not my department. I just try to keep our folks in blue well-prepared for what they need to do.”
Lilly has been looking around the room and over the menu while all the chatting goes on. She interrupts now. “I’d like to order a plate of Patriot Wings and the beer of the day.” She flashes her ID for the discount.
Joey scans her ID to verify it. “That’d be Liberator,” he says, stepping over to a tap marked with the beer’s logo. He fills a stein which has silly wings attached to the sides and hands it to her, then calls her order back to the kitchen.
Imogen tells him they will bring his delivery over later that afternoon, and he agrees to make his payment after the inspection. Then, since he brought up the topic of their “folks in blue,” she asks after their mutual friends. “Last time we saw you, you were taking care of someone else’s establishment for a while. Do you know how Rory and Egon are doing?”
“They’re doing okay, actually. They’ve gotten a few more credits coming in, I heard. They did a successful job…” His words trail off into a world-weary sigh. “It didn’t turn out quite the way they wanted. They were able to help a good number of folks, but some folks they just couldn’t save. It’s a bit unfortunate, but they’re doing some good work out there. They’re trying to get some money to get this,” his voice drops even lower, “revolution into high gear, but it’s a hard time.”
“But you mentioned other things seem to be kicking into high gear now, too. Do you have any idea where their front line is to be set up?”
“Well….” Joey glances over at the propaganda ad playing on the television once again. “See that planet? That’s Tarsonis, old capital of the Confederacy. Wiped out by zerg about five years ago. What I can’t figure out is what anyone thinks they’re going to get by invading it. The place is still a hive for zerg. Rumor is that’s where the Queen of Blades was born, in a sense.”
“Maybe they want to investigate whatever did that,” Imogen suggests.
Joey snorts. “That would be assuming a nobler intent to the Dominion than I care to extend.”
“Not if they think it can give them an advantage against her. That’s not terribly noble.”
“It’s possible.” Joey shrugs. “I think it’s a target meaningful to them in some way. Like it will show that they fully control the old Confederacy. I don’t know.”
“Ah, so you think it’s just propaganda for terrans, rather than some advance against the zerg.”
“It’s always propaganda. Whether it’s also an advance against the zerg, that I don’t know.”
That is a sufficient answer for Imogen. She places an order for an Evacuation Salad and a whiskey, then joins Lilly at a table for lunch. When the food arrives, Lilly asks if Imogen is going to eat the Freedom Bread that comes on the side with her salad. Imogen lets her take the empty calories to help with the spiciness of the wings.