Joey Ray’s Bar is not a happening place, but it has a respectable number of customers. In the corner a big holo-TV is tuned to the Universal News Network, and from it Donny Vermillion looks down at the clientele. The anchor is talking about the emperor’s new initiatives to root out waste. The back wall has a big creepy skull mounted on it labeled “Annual Hydralisk Hunt, 2503.” Imogen hands over her ten-credit signing bonus to the bartender for his top-shelf liquor. She gives two glasses to Lilly and tells her, “Here’s a couple drinks for you to go make some friends. Go talk to some of the workers. Maybe drink them under the table. See what you can find out.”
“All right,” Lilly agrees.
“I’ve got some questions I want to ask the bartender.” Imogen turns away from Lilly, dismissing her. Marcus had mentioned that the bar was looking to get a vespene line installed, and she wants to find out if it is getting vespene via illicit means until that is set up. If the bar has shady plans for vespene, maybe that includes making the drug terrazine. Imogen has no desire to become an addict; she is just looking for a catalyst. From what the lead templar said on Brontes IV and what she saw the high protoss doing, terrazine has the potential to expand her limited psionic talents. It is the only lead she has on that front since she cannot get the psi-gauntlet to work and has no way to contact whoever sent it to her.
Lilly looks at the two drinks she is now holding. I’m not sure how this makes friends, but all right. She downs them in rapid succession and shudders. Then she gives her head a quick shake and takes in her prospects. There is a white man at the bar, mid-forties, face hidden by a curtain of longish brown hair. He looks to have been drinking heavily. She sits down next to him and orders the same cheap whiskey he has. He glances over at Lilly, then throws back his drink and sets his glass down. He looks up at the news report on the TV and snorts, then refills his glass.
“What are you in for?” Lilly tries as a conversation starter.
“Depends who you ask,” he replies.
Lilly asks him about his work. He is not a refinery worker or a marine. He looks tough, like he probably was in the military at some point. He flips the conversation back around to her, wanting to know why she is asking so many questions. She shrugs and guesses he is in the local militia. That seems to hit a nerve. He stops sipping and puts his glass down heavily. “That was a long time ago. Colonial militia, yeah. I used to be the Confederate marshall in these here parts. I was the law, can you believe that? Wild. But, you know, zerg threw a wrench in that. Confederacy threw a wrench in that. Protoss threw a wrench in that.”
“Wait, you were here for the purification?”
“I got out just in time. We saved a lot of people, but we didn’t save everyone.”
“That’s tough.” Lilly listens sympathetically but a bit distractedly. I’m supposed to make a friend… but why? Maybe the whiskey is starting to go to her head.
“Yeah,” he continues, “back then I thought I could trust Mengsk….”
“I feel for you, man,” she says. “You’re a good man.”
“Thanks. What about you? What’s your story?”
She tells him she came to town looking for work. He has a low opinion of refinery work and an even lower one of the local militia, which he describes as under-equipped and liable to get hit by zerg without backup from the Dominion marines. Lilly notices that he seems more sober when discussing military matters.
“Wait, the marines don’t help with the zerg?” she asks. Her drinking partner is of the opinion that the marines just keep the city safe and do not bother about the wastes. This leads Lilly to reflect on the presence of zerg on Mar Sara. “I guess it wasn’t a complete purification.”
“No, it wasn’t,” he agrees. “That’s one of the interesting things. Those protoss are weird fellas.”
“Do you think they just didn’t succeed?”
“I think that zerg are really damn near impossible to root out. Once they take hold of something, you can never really get them to let go.” They talk a little about Lilly’s experience fighting zerg. “Most people don’t survive their first encounter with the zerg…. But then again, most people don’t survive their first encounter with the Dominion, either, so… it’s about the same in the end,” the man concludes bitterly. “You look tough. You got military experience?”
“Oh, don’t call me sir, please. I don’t want any of that.”
“Ah, you’re not a marshall anymore.”
“No, definitely not,” he chuckles.
“What, are you retired?”
He laughs outright at that. “You… you could say that.”
“I’ve been hearing about these raiders. How big a problem are they?” Lilly asks.
He downplays the seriousness of the raider threat, saying they are not as effective as they could be. But it is clear he has a low opinion of the Dominion. “Those raiders shouldn’t give you any trouble. If they do, I want to hear about it.” He gives Lilly a number to call.
“Oh, okay. So semi-retired,” she observes.
He nods. “You know, I’m thinking about coming out of retirement.” He looks at his almost-empty bottle of whiskey. “Yeah, maybe that’s a good idea.”
“Let’s get another round,” Lilly suggests. Imogen told her to drink someone under the table, after all.
“Whoa,” he laughs, “I think I’ve had enough actually. Hey, why don’t I introduce you to my friend Rory? He’s a real sharp fellow. He used to work at the refinery.” He calls Rory over and makes introductions, then leaves the bar without ever giving Lilly his name.