Lilly leads Imogen to Hyperion’s bar, confident that it will still be open. It is centrally located, so they reach it before long. When they arrive, there are not many patrons. Several grease monkeys in coveralls are in a group together. A few marines, still dressed for fighting, are scattered about. Amid air ducts, a television hangs from the ceiling bearing a note that says, “Do not shoot at screen.” Suspended next to it is a beat-up jukebox with flashing lights. Upon entering the room, Lilly comes to a surprised halt as she recognizes the bartender, Joey Ray. “What?!”
“All right, last round, everybody. We’re closing up for the night,” he calls out. A marine goes up to the bar for one last drink. Imogen steps up to the counter next to him with a grin for the bartender and requests two last drinks. “Imogen! What are you doing here?” asks Joey. “When did you sign up?”
“What are you doing here, Joey?” she counters. “Don’t you have an establishment down on the ground?” She hands one of the drinks to Lilly and then turns back to the bar, propping her elbows on it.
“I do… but they needed somebody real quick, so I’m filling in for a little bit. But yeah, I do need to get back to my bar at some point,” he says absently. “Anyway, we’re about to close here for the night, but I’ll be back in early tomorrow morning. We got a lot of meals to make. These folks haven’t had a decent bite to eat in a long time.”
The marine takes his drink and heads back to his table. Lilly follows him away from all the talking at the counter, taking an appreciative look at his damaged power armor. With the marine out of earshot, Imogen tries to pump Joey for a bit of information. “They must have all been quite busy down on Mar Sara,” she prompts.
“They, uh, were getting into a bit of a mix. A bit more than they used to, I would say.” But that is all he will say on that topic. “So when did you two officially sign up? I must have missed this.”
“We must’ve missed this, too,” Imogen replies. “We haven’t officially signed up for anything.”
“What are you doing on the ship, then?” Joey asks, puzzled.
“We were helping get your boys out of the scrap they were in down below.”
“Yeah, that’s good; I really appreciate that. Do you have some kind of ship? Or a bunch of vulture bikes or something?”
“We’ve got ourselves a science vessel, we do,” Imogen tells him. As Rory and Li did, he expresses pleased surprise. Then, like she herself has, he mulls over the ship’s usefulness contrasted with its expense. Imogen tells him that they found it out in the wastes and acknowledges that although zerg are a danger out there, they guard some interesting things.
“Picking up a science vessel out from under the nose of zerg…” Joey lets out a long breath. “You two continue to impress.”
* * *
“Looks like you took a few hits,” Lilly says to the marine in the damaged power armor. It is hard to judge his actual height, given the armor, but he looks like a pretty fit guy. One has to be, to handle those bulky suits. He has a dusky complexion, and his black hair is in a very short crew cut. His lower face is darkened with more than just a five o’clock shadow but less than a beard. Raynor’s group does not seem to follow full military regulations.
Sergei Dawson looks up from his drink to see a tall woman, both muscular and lithe, standing by his table. She has tan skin and dark hair with features that are unremarkable but generally pleasant. She looks like she has seen some action and is ready to see more, given the shotgun she comfortably wears. Sergei gestures for her to take a seat. “Yeah, I’m lucky to be alive. Those lurkers could have cut us up real bad.”
“Oh, yeah, those looked nasty,” Lilly agrees as she sits down.
He nods. “Thankfully we got a hot tip.”
“Oh! The sensor readings,” Lilly realizes. His voice does sound kind of familiar. Maybe she heard him in all the radio chatter when Imogen was relaying information down to the surface. She was not paying a lot of attention to that, being more focused on flying herself.
“Yeah,” he says. “I didn’t know we had any advanced detection.”
“That was my friend, Imogen,” Lilly explains, pointing towards the bar.
He looks over at the slight woman with the long blonde braid. “She got a science vessel or something?”
“Daaaaang. Did not know she was a pilot. How do you know her?”
“I’m the pilot.”
“Wait, wait, wait. You have a science vessel,” Sergei clarifies, impressed.
“Well, yeah…” Lilly supposes one could look at it that way.
“She just runs the doodads that make things easier to see.”
Lilly decides this guy must think pilots own ships. “We share it,” Lilly explains. “I just drive the thing.”
“Yeah, you make it go. She just stares at screens,” he says. Realizing that sounds a little condescending, he quickly adds, “I mean, we need that, but…”
Lilly saw all the work Imogen put into patching Saffron up. “Oh, no, she made it go. I just pointed it in the right direction and didn’t crash it too much.”
“Hey, the most important part of shooting a gun is where you point it, not pulling the trigger,” Sergei insists.
“That’s true,” Lilly agrees.
“So, you were in the right place at the right time. Thank you very much. You saved a lot of us out there. Let me get you a drink.”
“Oh! Okay.” Lilly tosses back the one Imogen gave her. When the marine returns with the final shot of the night, Lilly compliments his power armor.
“Yeah, it took a few hits, but it’ll be okay. Going to have to get Rory and his crew to fix it up. They’re going to be pretty busy, though.”
“Did you take injury?”
“Not that I can feel,” Sergei says. “At least, not after drinking a few shots, so it must be fine.”
“Imogen might be able to take a look at you,” Lilly offers.
“Oh? Is she a doctor, too?”
“Not really, but we’ve got a medkit.”
“Maybe, you could take a look at me,” he suggests. When she does not immediately respond, he rapidly continues, “Or, or not. It’s cool, it’s cool. We probably have medics… Yeah, we have medics on staff.”
“I could try to take a look, but I don’t have any skill at it. But I have a medkit!” she reiterates cheerfully. “There are medics on this ship?”
I get the message. Purely professional. Sergei throws back his shot to soothe his bruised pride, then switches gears to embrace the shoptalk. “Yeah, we do actually have a few medics who the commander was able to hire. It’s real handy. Going to keep us going a lot longer out there. Pretty hard to stay frosty when you’re constantly under fire.”
“If you’re going toe-to-toe with lurkers, yeah, you’re going to need some medics,” Lilly agrees.
“We’re going to need some siege tanks, that’s what we’ll need. I mean, marines are not what you want out there fighting lurkers. If you know ahead of time, yeah, you can spread out, but you usually don’t.”
“What were you guys doing out there? Were you looking for something?“ Lilly asks. He lets out a long breath. “Oh, you can’t tell me? Need to know?” she offers understandingly, giving him an out.
“Oh, no. No problem. I guess, you being on the science vessel, you weren’t in on this mission. Yeah, we had to recover some kind of weird alien artifact. Kind of set off alarms with the Dominion. And the zerg. We were just trying to hold out until evac came, but they overran our alpha position, so we had to get out of there,” he explains wearily. Then, more brightly, he continues, “But we got the artifact! So I guess we’re getting paid a good chunk of money for that. So that’s good. All the rest of us can get paid, too. And then I can pay my tab at the bar.”
“Good job staying alive on that,” Lilly congratulates him as she finishes her drink.
“Yeah,” he says quietly, “I guess I lucked out.” He studies his empty glass for a moment. “I… I should get going to my bunk. It was nice talking with you. You’re…?”
“Oh! Lilly. And you’re?”
“Nice to meet you, Sgt. Dawson, sir.”
“Whoa! No! No ‘sir.’ No ‘sir’ around here.”
Sergei sighs. Yeah, I was never going to get anywhere with her.
* * *
By way of explanation, Imogen tells Joey Ray that they heard Rory was in trouble, so she and Lilly went to assist, and then in the evac, they ended up onboard. “But we haven’t actually seen anyone in charge, so we’re not really sure what our status is right now,” she concludes.
Joey reassures her, “Oh, I see your conundrum. Yeah, it’s a little bit tricky. But the commander knows you two; I can’t imagine there will be any trouble.” He chuckles, “I highly doubt we picked up any Dominion spies down there.”
Imogen keeps a level expression. She may work for FRAWD, but she does not consider herself part of the Dominion, and nothing that Raynor’s group is doing is pertinent to her job. She does not even currently have an assignment. Nothing she is doing or observing on this ship is the Dominion’s business, that is for sure.
Joey suggests maybe the bridge is where she should go and gives her directions to it, all the way down the hall at the far end of the ship. Then he points out that Rory is back in the armory, which it turns out is the hangar just across from theirs.
Imogen asks if there are any protocols, and the question confuses Joey. “Like challenges and responses,” she clarifies. “This seems like an army, it does. It doesn’t just seem like a bunch of guys who are hanging out at a bar.” Though that may be how it started.
“Well, I’m a guy who hangs out at a bar,” Joey says, “so that’s all the protocol I know. I think the admiral, Matt Horner, he can tell you all the protocols that are supposed to be followed. I don’t know what any protocols would be. Don’t point a weapon at someone? Maybe?” He reassures her again that she is probably fine checking in with Rory or just going back to her hangar for the night.
Imogen takes a sip of her drink and asks, “Did you find a good use for that barrel I gave you?”
Joey smiles. “I did. I was able to get that to the raiders. I think they used it to fuel some of their medical equipment. Having some medics on staff helps their infantry live a whole lot longer.” They chat about that a bit, and then Imogen bids him goodnight. Joey announces to the whole room that he is locking up, and he begins turning lights off.
The technicians in jumpsuits shuffle out, turning down a passage toward the crew quarters. A pale man in sunglasses and clean, well-tailored clothes at a table by himself snaps a suitcase closed and then heads out as well. A marine in power armor clomps away from a table, and Imogen sees Lilly left sitting alone there. She steps up to her and says, “We should just go back to the ship and call it a night. From what Joey told me, it sounds like it’s probably fine, it is.”
“All right. You got it,” Lilly agrees.