Outside the refinery, marines stand guard. With their visors down, Lilly cannot tell where they are looking, and she wonders if they have spotted her and Imogen. Then she feels a tap on her shoulder. So much for being stealthy, she thinks. A man in an SCV suit stands behind her. “Excuse me, can I help you with something?” he asks.
“Yeah,” Lilly says. “What is this place?”
He flips his visor open, revealing a friendly face with sharp features and dark skin. He looks at her strangely and states what he considers obvious. “This is a refinery. We refine vespene gas here. Are you looking for work?” He takes in muscles and guns on the woman in front of him. “Or the barracks maybe?”
Lilly looks over at Imogen, handing the reins of the conversation over to her. “Oh, so you work here, do you?” Imogen asks. “Is it a good place to work?”
The laborer, Marcus, tells them it is a decent place to work, one that provides a paycheck so that he can live and eat. He presses them again about whether they are looking for a job. Imogen waves her pamphlet around, claiming that she and Lilly have come to Mar Sara to explore new opportunities. Thinking of their recent mission to Brontes IV, she tells him that they did work at another mining and refining facility, but that it did not last. Marcus seems to want to believe her since there is a referral bonus for recommending new employees to the overseer. He assures her that there are plenty of different types of work available at the refinery, and looking at Lilly’s size, he mentions the militia.
That catches their attention. “So, why would a militia be necessary if there are marines around?” Imogen asks.
“Well, the marines aren’t big on going out into the wastes, and sometimes we need to check on things out there.”
“Then what are the marines for?”
He lowers his voice and looks around before sharing, “There are occasional zerg attacks around here. Their numbers are quite low, but depending on where you start digging, you may uncover a hive.” He tells them that the marines mainly stay in the city to protect it from the zerg, but that in his opinion, they mostly just hassle people. He cites the raiders in the wastes as another reason the marines are around.
“What are these raiders?” Imogen asks.
Marcus tries to clarify that he means Raynor’s Raiders, but that is meaningless to Imogen, who asks him if they are a type of zerg. “Oh, goodness, no! They’re just hard-working terrans, as far as I know.” He tells them that there is some dispute between the raiders and the Dominion, but that he himself is a recent immigrant, so he does not know the full history, just that the raiders were part of Mar Sara before the purification and the terraforming. In response to Lilly’s more tactical questions, Marcus tells them that the raiders do not hit the supply trucks. However, he confirms that they are often found in the wastes, and the pipeline runs through there. He mentions that it supplies vespene to the Dominion factory, a marine training academy, and—way out of town in the wastes—a clinic. With a laugh, he also tells them that the bar is looking to get a line in, though he has no idea what they would want vespene gas for.
He then turns the conversation back to employment, hoping to convince them to apply for a job so that he can get the ten-credit signing bonus. Marcus says he owes a bit to Joey Ray down at the bar, so it would really help him out. Lilly looks longingly over at the trucks, but Imogen nods at Marcus, interested in pursuing this approach. She asks the nature of his work, and Marcus tells them that he is, “in the rear, with the gear.” In his SCV, he loads raw vespene into barrels and brings it out for transport, a type of work he has done on several other planets. He thinks someday he may lay down a new refinery somewhere, but he likes his simple life and does not want it to get too complicated.
From all this talking, Lilly recognizes his accent as being from the Kel-Morian Combine, and he confirms he is from there originally. He tells them that the Combine is usually the first group on a planet to start mining. In fact, they terraformed Mar Sara following the purification, but the Dominion moved in and nationalized the place. Imogen stops him there, asking what the purification is.
“Oof, wow, you are not familiar with Mar Sara, are you?” Marcus asks her.
“Not as anything other than a chicken dressing,” Imogen agrees.
“Oh, that Mar Sara!” Lilly suddenly realizes that while she has never been to this planet before, she has heard of it.
Marcus explains the planet’s recent history to Imogen. “Mar Sara was a Confederate world for a long time. It got overrun by zerg. It was the second, maybe third world the protoss visited, and when they saw the zerg, they wiped the whole planet completely clean. They had a huge space fleet, and they wiped everything. The whole planet became a wasteland, barely had an atmosphere. Well, the war died down for a few years, and the Kel-Morians came back in. The minerals here have some interesting properties from whatever the protoss did, and people are keenly interested in them. Even though the Kel-Morians did the terraforming, the Dominion controls this space, so it’s easy for them to nationalize… I don’t know much more than that; I don’t keep up with politics.”
“Me neither,” Lilly agrees.
Marcus nods. “It’s safer that way, right?” He walks them over to the foreperson’s office, eager to get his signing bonus. Along the way, he reviews with Lilly and Imogen what they should say regarding their past mining experience. “At a minimum, tell Lisa that you’ve worked with a lot of vespene products—because everyone’s done that, right? And you said you’ve been to some other refinery, so multiworld refinery experience. Do you have any references in the mining business?” he asks.
Imogen gestures at her companion. “Well, Lilly here is personal friends with Grom.”
Oh, that’s right, Lilly thinks. She had totally forgotten he was in mining. Another reason to keep her mouth shut and let Imogen do all the talking.
“Of Grom LLC?! Well, I wouldn’t say you’re a personal friend. That might be too close a connection. They might be worried about industrial espionage or something.”
With that, they enter the building itself. This refinery, although full of the gross sulfuric smell of vespene, is in much better shape than the one on Brontes IV was. It is relatively clean, with only occasional puffs of green gas, and no one is getting high. The workers, most of whom are coming off shift, are not clad in loincloths; it seems that everyone is here of their own free will and gainfully employed. A middle-aged white woman glances up from a desk covered with paperwork when Marcus knocks on the frame of her open office door. “Yeah, what is it?” she asks. Marcus says he has people with mining experience who would be good assets, and Lisa Prescott looks Lilly and Imogen over with a critical eye. Lilly has her arms folded, trying to appear tough, while Imogen is distracted by all the papers and computers in the room, wondering what information they hold. Lisa sighs. “You’re gaming the system, Marcus,” she says, as she tosses him a credit chip, “but I’ll try to find something for these two to do.” Marcus grabs the chip out of the air and leaves.
Lisa interviews the women. Imogen says she is interested in vespene, rather than mining per se, and that there is more to the industry than just pickaxes and puffs of green gas. Lilly, on the other hand, tells Lisa that she is more of the pickaxe sort. Lisa appreciates the honesty. Imogen presses for an administrative position, citing her willingness to learn and her diligence. She also plays up Lilly’s physical capabilities and the military training that makes her an obedient worker. Lilly demonstrates her ability to lift a heavy barrel to support Imogen’s claims. The Umojan waves her pamphlet around some more, quoting where it says there are opportunities for all kinds on Mar Sara. Lisa hears them out and agrees to give them a chance starting the next morning, despite their lack of experience.
When Lisa asks if they are new on the planet, Imogen confirms it but asserts that they passed the quarantine checks. Lisa dismisses that, saying, “People on this planet are crazy about zerg, always worrying that something is going to happen, I tell you.” She goes on to tell them about the local Hydralisk Hunt, an annual event taking place later that week. “They see who can bag the biggest hydralisk without being mauled.”
“Is that why there’s a clinic out there? To patch up the hunters?” Imogen asks.
“I’m not sure why that woman is running a clinic out there. They call her Saint Maria, but she ain’t no saint. I don’t know what she’s doing out there, but she is a good customer. Buys a lot of vespene.”
Lisa gives Imogen and Lilly each a ten-credit signing bonus and says she will see them in the morning. In response to Lilly’s, “Thank you, sir,” Lisa explains that while she appreciates discipline, they are not a military outfit. If the zerg attack, they will evacuate, not stay and fight.
Lisa, though, is more worried about the raiders than the zerg because they have been hitting a variety of installations lately, possibly even her trucks. She says they are bad for business and that the city cannot expand as long as people think it has a raider problem. “No one wants to move to a planet with vigilantes. I don’t agree with the Dominion on everything, but we have a business arrangement, and it’s been working out okay.”
As the FRAWD agents leave the office, Lilly comments to her companion, “Hydralisk Hunt? Sounds dumb.”
“Based on what we saw on the last planet, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to go out and do that,” Imogen agrees.
“People are stupid,” Lilly offers.
They see that the shift is over and all the trucks are gone, so they abandon the plan to sneak aboard one for now. Lilly suggests they find a bar where the workers hang out after their shift. Along the way, Imogen explains why she just got them jobs. The office position she has lined up for herself should allow her to go through the refinery records to determine if anyone on the inside is embezzling. And if Lilly can legitimately be on a truck, that is probably better than them getting caught clinging to the undercarriage.