Joey Ray’s is less busy in the middle of the day. While Lilly grabs a table, Imogen tells the bartender that his application has been moved to the top of the pile but that she cannot waive any fees. He confirms that when the application gets approved, he will be in touch. Imogen passes him her number. “When your pipeline gets installed, have your friend call me,” she tells him. Joey offers to be an intermediary, suggesting that his friend is not very socially adept, but Imogen refuses that arrangement. She does not want information about personal experiences with terrazine and psionics getting lost in translation.
The bartender agrees but issues a warning. “You had better be really careful about that stuff. I don’t want to see him getting hooked back on it. A lot of people don’t want to see that.”
Joey Ray’s words imply that his friend is someone of importance, someone with stature. Imogen files that information away and places an order for three Hydralisk Hops and three zergling platters, a combo of fingerling potatoes and poultry nuggets covered in creep sauce. Based on the taste, it is just ranch dressing with purple food coloring. Across the room, she sees a man joining Lilly at a table, so she carries the food and drink over.
As she sits down, Lilly hears a vulture bike pull up outside, and then Rory Swann enters. “Hey, cowboy, how you doing?” he asks as he takes a seat. Imogen comes over, puts the lunches down on the table, and sits as well. Rory grows nervous. “Hey, uh, I thought we were just meeting… Who’s this?” Lilly makes simple introductions, just exchanging names. Rory continues to eye Imogen warily. “Right, so we were going to talk about my garden. You said you knew how many weeds were in my garden.”
“Right!” Lilly agrees. “And I know what kinds they are, even their Latino names.”
“All right, hombre, I got you.”
Lilly then tells him that they are looking to get out to the clinic in the wastes. Rory inquires about the reason, and she tells him it is their own business. She forestalls further questions by saying that it is for feminine issues, and he quickly backs away from that. He is quite willing to give them a ride in exchange for Lilly’s information. Imogen tries to reassure him that they are not interested in his business if he is not interested in theirs. He agrees that that is healthiest for everyone.
Well, I am interested, Lilly thinks, but she hands over the schedule information at Imogen’s nod. Imogen seems to have a plan, and Lilly is willing to go along with it, whatever it is.
Rory relaxes, seeming to be in a better mood now as he pockets the list. They finish their lunches and head out. Lilly excitedly checks out Rory’s well-used bike, which is blue and chrome, rather than the more traditional red. It has the build of a military model, but there are no obvious weapons. None of the parts are standardized, and they look to Lilly like they come from a variety of sources and are held together with custom welding. The bike is showy, with large exhaust pipes and a racing stripe. Clearly, Rory enjoys tricking out his ride. There is even a sidecar attached, which is very uncommon for a vulture.
“You put any upgrades on this thing, Rory?”
“Upgrades?” He chuckles. “Oh, yeah! This thing’s got ion thrusters.”
“It’s fifty percent faster than the standard vulture bike, so you’d better strap in and wear a helmet.” He hands one each to Lilly and Imogen, then straps his own on. “Just hold on real tight, and if you see any zerg, let me know. We should be able to outrun any of them, though.”
In the sidecar, Imogen draws her pistol from its holster and keeps it cradled on her lap. No need to take any chances, she thinks. Lilly takes note and pulls out her shotgun, then climbs onto the seat behind Rory, holding her gun with one hand and his waist with the other.
Along the drive, Lilly stays alert for threats, be they raiders or zerg. She spots zerg tracks and creep but no movement. Imogen tries to pay attention to the pipeline, looking in vain for the telltale puffs of green gas that would accompany any raider attempts to siphon it off in the wilderness. Rory’s vulture goes fast, and the ride is rough. Imogen’s stomach is so upset by it that she spreads some creep dipping sauce across the countryside as they go.