Imogen steps into her room away from the unusual outpouring of words and sappy emotion from her partner. Durian is still spouting nonsense about escaping, and she tries to assure him that there is nothing she and Lilly need to get away from. “We’re fine,” she insists.
“Are you sure? Because it didn’t sound fine out there.”
“Lilly is quite drunk, and Malorn… he doesn’t know how to properly speak politely.”
“How did this Malorn guy capture you?”
Imogen rolls her eyes. “We’re not captured.”
Durian clings to his ridiculous interpretation of events. “I understand it might look that way, but it kind of seems like he’s captured you and maybe even started to drug you.”
“No! Look, Lilly got into my whiskey. She was pretty upset earlier, but I’m not sure what happened,” Imogen explains. “It’s not really my place to pry when she doesn’t want to talk about things.”
“That’s probably a good idea,” Durian agrees. He is not going to betray Lilly’s trust by sharing what she told him about her tattoos getting exposed.
“But we’re definitely not captured. We are the ones taking care of Malorn.”
“How do you know this Malorn guy?” Durian presses. “How do you know he’s trustworthy?”
“Lilly must’ve told you about how we met Mr. Grom.”
“Uh, yeah. That was one of your early missions when you worked for FRAWD, right?”
“Aye. Malorn was also a captive at that facility, same as Grom. His group helped fight off the guards so we could get people out of there.”
“All right. Is he trustworthy, though? I mean, you were clearly allies at the time. But he kind of sounded a little crazy just now.”
“He’s…” An acquired taste, Imogen thinks, but now is not the time for Imogen to air any of her own grievances with Malorn. “He’s from a different culture, so he’s a little rough to interact with, but we’ve done a few jobs with him. It’s actually about work that I wanted him to speak with you. But perhaps he’s not his own best representative.”
“Uh, maybe,” Durian agrees.
Imogen starts making her case for Malorn by reminding Durian that his current options for jobs are limited by his lack of a ship. He shares that he has a new local contract starting up soon on Korhal that will be lasting a few weeks. Still, he acknowledges that more options are always better. Imogen ignores the sounds from the central hub: Lilly’s current pleas to go to Korhal right now, Malorn’s loathing of the planet. She reminds Durian of their assistant Mal Ornery from the DORF job, explaining how Malorn has a holographic disguise to conceal his protoss nature when in places only terrans should be. That is not as good a selling point as she had hoped though, since Durian worries that Malorn could appear as anyone, anywhere.
“Let’s start over,” Imogen suggests. “I feel like perhaps we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot here because of your misunderstanding of what Lilly was drunkenly saying. Malorn is a capable warrior.”
“I think if you had heard what I heard, you would have drawn the natural conclusion that he was trying to ransom you two,” Durian insists, not quite willing to let bygones be bygones just yet.
“Perhaps that’s the case,” Imogen allows. Trying to get things back on track, she continues, “But in fact he was looking to get a job with you, if you’re interested in hiring a capable warrior who has his own ship.”
That is appealing to Durian. And he is coming around to the idea of the holographic disguise. Imogen warns him that the voice for it could use some work. “Maybe it’s better overall if he stays quiet, if that’s the way he talks,” Durian says, referring to the earlier confusions. “And we’re going to need to come to some sort of understanding. But if he’s as capable a warrior as you say…”
“What sorts of things are you thinking about when you say, ‘come to an understanding’? I might need to translate that into terms he’ll understand.”
“As the owner of a business, I have a duty to make sure that the business succeeds. We’re a mercenary company; we’re going to be following a military hierarchy. And in that hierarchy, I’m the one who has to bear the burden of command. I have to make the decisions. However they go, that’s on me. He’s going to have to understand that. And if he’s bringing a ship, he’s in charge of taking care of it. So the logistics of that are on him. And if he’s going to be some ornery protoss fellow, maybe I should be the one arranging the jobs.”
“I think he would definitely agree that you would be the one to interface with customers,” Imogen confirms.
“He’s not going to want to do jobs for protoss against the Dominion, is he? I will not take contracts that act against the Dominion,” Durian says firmly.
“I don’t imagine that he’ll be bringing any customers to you, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“Just the wrong kind of customers. I know a lot of people have a lot of ideas about whether the Dominion is good or bad, but it’s stable.”
“It’s the current law,” Imogen observes.
“Yeah, that too. And I live on Korhal, you know?”
They decide to wait until Durian’s upcoming job is over before making any introductions in person. “Is it just some sort of guard duty type thing?” Imogen asks.
“Yeah! It’s nominally a Dominion contract, but it’s privately negotiated. They need some extra support at one of their facilities, so I’m going to be providing that.” From his description, Imogen wonders if he is talking about DORF. The staff there was very impressed with his earlier work. Durian shares that the recognition he got for that certainly helped him land this job, but no, he will be at a different facility. “But I don’t need to bore you with all those details. So, yeah, you tell your… friend, I guess, that we can meet and talk things over in a couple weeks.”
“Okay. That’s quite reasonable,” Imogen agrees, satisfied with how she has salvaged this.
“Can you put Lilly back on? Away from that guy?”
“I can try. She’s pretty sauced right now, she is.” Imogen steps out into Saffron’s central hub just in time to prevent yet another round of beer from coming out. “I think that’s enough now for everyone, considering it’s not even zerg o’clock yet,” she tells Lilly, stepping between her partner and the fridge.
“Zerg o’clock? Aw, man. No, no you’re right. Imogen’s always right. You’re so smart. She’s so smart, Malorn.”
“Lilly, here’s your phone. Why don’t you take it into your room and say goodbye to Durian.” Imogen places the comm into Lilly’s hand and ushers her into her room, then closes her partner’s door and lets out a sigh. Lilly can assure Durian of Malorn’s trustworthiness and gush about how his fighter can turn on a dime. Imogen has more important things to do right now. She starts snatching up partially-filled cans of beer and stuffing them into the fridge.
“Your associate is most suspicious, leaping to wild conspiracies,” Malorn complains.
“I straightened things out with him, and he’s interested in meeting with you in a couple weeks to see if you might be able to work on some things together. But he did have a few stipulations. That your ship’s your own responsibility—”
“Of course. I certainly would not let him fly it.”
“That he be the one to interface with the customers—”
“And that, when a call needs to be made, as the owner of the company, he’s the one who makes it.”
“What form of call? If I determine that someone needs to die, then I have made my judgment.”
“If you’re fighting, then aye,” Imogen agrees. “But if no scuffles have started yet…”
“If I’m not fighting, then there are no decisions that have to be made,” Malorn declares.
“If you’re going to work with someone, Malorn, you have to work with them,” Imogen lightly admonishes him.
“He can make whatever administrative decisions he so chooses. I do not care to involve myself in such tasks. If I am killing for credits, then that is what I will do. If I am in a battle, I reserve the necessary right to strike any who threaten me.”
Imogen shrugs. The details of who is in charge of what is something Durian and Malorn can hash out together when they meet. “If it doesn’t work out, there’s not hard feelings on either side,” she assures Malorn. “This is just a possible way to keep you busy until you figure out what it is you want to do. This isn’t something you’re doing for me. This is something you’re doing for yourself.”
Malorn dismisses her so that he can return to sleep. Imogen closes up the fridge, unplugs it, and slides it out from under the science station. Then she hefts it up onto a small hand truck and sets the remainder of her whiskey atop it. She rolls it all into her room and closes the door behind her. Nobody else is drinking today.