After lunch, Lilly and Imogen hit the shops, resupplying on MREs, sweet tea, Power-Ade, candies, and all the things Li June requested, including a ridiculous amount of cleaning agents. To make transport easier, they rent a hover-cart to hitch up behind Old Red. The price is reasonable, but the salesperson does ask the mandatory question of will they be transporting any illegal goods with it. “No, no, of course not,” Imogen answers smoothly, as Lilly looks innocently down at the load of groceries in her arms.
“Okay, good,” the clerk says, and then laughs. “It’d be really dumb to answer yes to that!”
“This sweet tea is pretty good, but I wouldn’t say it’s illegal,” Imogen jokes back.
They hook the cart to the back of the vulture bike, and Imogen rides there with the groceries, rather than perched behind Lilly. She requests that Lilly try to restrain from driving Old Red as fast as possible. They make one last stop in town where Imogen burns through a chunk of their savings on a hyper-electromagnetic clamp setup compatible with Saffron’s reactor. As Imogen lays the money on the counter, she looks to Lilly. “The vulture bike is worth it,” she says. It will be a relief to no longer worry about damaging the science vessel every time they need ground transport.
“Yup,” Lilly agrees. “We’ll just have to do some more salvage here.”
The ride back to Saffron is smooth and controlled; Lilly does not even break any eggs. They open Saffron to load all the goods and find Snowball and Uncle Leo’s crate pretty much as they left them. Snowball may be interested in the box, but he lacks the fine manipulators or strength to do anything about that. And now with exciting new groceries on hand, his attention is drawn to those. He recognizes the logo on the sweet tea, and Lilly gives him a little bit as a reward for good behavior.
Loading the smuggled Umojan goods onto the hover-cart is more difficult than they anticipated. The crate is really heavy. They manhandle it out of Saffron and to the ramp, but it gets away from them, sliding down to the ground with a jarring thud that pops the lid open. It turns out to contain a bunch of metal ingots and a material data safety sheet, which Imogen scoops up to read. This is neo-steel catalyst, the material needed to convert regular steel to a much more durable form of high value for armored vehicles. Each ingot weighs twenty-five pounds, not a problem for Lilly, but a real chore for Imogen. They go through the tedious process of removing them from the crate until it is light enough to get onto the cart, then placing them all back inside. Concerned about her family’s professional reputation, Imogen double-checks that the bars are all accounted for and back in place before asking Lilly to help her reseal the crate.
They mount up and head out, Imogen with the crate hovering behind the vulture and Lilly at the controls. The extra weight in the back actually lends Old Red some stability it normally lacks, and Lilly cannot help but let the throttle loose a bit and have some fun. The guards at the entrance to Mar Sara City were not checking people closely before, so Lilly does not even bother slowing for the checkpoint. She blitzes through it, the sound of shocked shouts quickly lost behind her.
Before long, she hears the sirens of local law enforcement. Lilly decides to try to lose them, figuring that if she cannot shake them, Imogen can talk their way out of any resulting problems. She guns the engines, racing hard and using the added weight to her benefit as she whips into turns that the pursuers just cannot match. They overshoot the alley she picks, and then smash into each other as they circle back around, cursing up a storm as she races onwards to Joey Ray’s. As she nears the rear, someone is raising the loading dock door, and she spins just right, swinging the cart right up against it. Momentum sends the crate sliding onto the loading dock, while Imogen hangs onto the cart for dear life.
Joey himself has just stepped out with the trash, so he witnesses the arrival. “Whoa! So that’s how you do deliveries, then?”
“Twenty minutes or less,” Lilly jokes back, a huge grin on her face. That was so fun!
Imogen tucks wisps of hair back into her braid and steps up to Joey offering a business card. “If you need any other deliveries, I do work for more than just my family.”
Lost & Found
Salvage — Item Recovery
Pest Removal — Specimen Collection
“All right, interesting,” Joey says after he looks the card over. “You want me to hang onto this myself or post this on the board in the bar for anyone who’s looking to hire?”
“Sure, sounds good!” Imogen agrees, happy with the idea of it acting as a flyer.
We have business cards? Lilly marvels. Neat!
Joey examines one of the ingots, hefting it. “Yeah, these are going to come in real handy,” he says with satisfaction. “I really appreciate you bringing these. Egon’s got some designs for a new fortified neo-steel bunker, so he needs this stuff. Should be able to stand up to siege tank fire for a little longer, keep our folks alive.”
“Cool,” Lilly says, always interested in hearing about new military tech.
“So, are you going to be talking to him anytime soon?” Imogen asks.
“I can try to put through a call… Why?”
“I have some technology he might be interested in looking at, but I know he and his friends are not always in easy-to-reach places. It’s not something that I would want to try to ship. It’s something that I would want to meet with him about.” Joey agrees to play the middleman, to see if there is a safe-ish place that could serve as a meeting ground. “Whenever is fine,” Imogen says agreeably. “You can just let him know it’s something from my home.” The Umojan stun-rifle she recovered from Jackson’s Revenge could be of some interest to the Raiders. And with Imogen’s brother potentially on the other side of whatever conflicts are in Raynor’s future, having more non-lethal weapons in play sits more comfortably with Imogen than the alternative.
Joey pays them the delivery fee and although he acknowledges that their business plans sound good, he asks them, “Any interest in signing up more formally?”
“I think Lilly already did her service,” Imogen answers.
“I understand,” Joey says with a nod. He drops off the trash, then heads back inside, securing the loading dock.
Alone in the street with just the vulture bike for company, Lilly says to her partner, “I think he meant the rebellion.”
“Aye, I understood that. But it’s still a war. Did you want to go back to just fighting things all the time?”
“Good point,” Lilly acknowledges. Maybe she has already fought in that rebellion, anyway. She does not remember. Something else suddenly springs into her mind though, that they are about to head to Li’s place. She heads inside the bar to get a dinner order to go. Their reclusive friend probably does not get a chance to eat at Joey Ray’s very often. And if it turns out she does not want the greasy food, Lilly will be happy to eat it.
The TV is now running a breaking local news story. “Local police flummoxed by mysterious ghost rider. Contradictory reports on color and make of vehicle.” That would’ve been cool to see, Lilly thinks. “Possible protoss intrusion? Full report tonight!”
When Lilly steps back outside with Li’s supper, she gives Old Red an appreciative pat. “Good job, old boy,” she murmurs.