Shortly after Lilly and Imogen get home to their modest Augustgrad apartment following the events on Mar Sara, they each receive a message from Li June and find that she has wired two hundred credits to each of their accounts to help them equip for the dead cerebrate hunt. The recluse says that she realizes asking them to go to another planet is quite a lot, particularly one as wild as Redstone III. She asserts that she wants them to succeed, and she is willing to back that with credits. A FRAWD salary is just enough to cover rent and basics, so the infusion of cash is much appreciated.
Lily and Imogen discuss the resources they have on hand and make plans for what to acquire in support of their unofficial mission. The next morning, they head down into the congested city streets, neon lights and advertisements everywhere. Lilly points out a shop called the Bunker where she thinks they will be able to find much of what they need. She is particularly keen to get some climbing gear. They look over the ropes and grapnels, Imogen deferring to Lilly on outdoors matters. She is more concerned about making sure they have medical equipment with them, since there will be no convenient (albeit creepy) clinic this time. She also worries about damage to their lungs from the atmosphere and mentions air filters to Lilly. The taller woman, able to see over the shelves, looks around the store and sees a display a few aisles away. She grabs the climbing equipment she likes, and they head over.
The Bunker stocks a variety of breath masks for different environments, some with built-in humidifiers for dry planets, others designed to filter out fungus in moist environments. The women are even in luck; there is a sale going on. A clerk wearing a nametag that says Sinclair takes note of their interest and steps over. “Planning some travel, are you?”
“Aye, we’re going on a pretty warm, potentially toxic vacation,” Imogen tells him.
“Oh, not the beach, then.” The clerk puts away a set of towels he had started to pull out. “Not going to Tyrador IV.”
“No, it’s not the snorkels here we’re interested in. More like something that can filter out sulfur or other noxious fumes.”
“Oh, do you work in a refinery?” he asks. “Is that the problem?”
Imogen starts to answer, “No, this is for…” and sees Lilly nodding yes.
The clerk looks back and forth between them. “Yes? No? Okay…”
“It’s not for the day job,” Imogen clarifies. “It’s for some time out in the wilderness, it is.”
Not much of an outdoorsy person, Sinclair decides. He tells them about the special the store is having on headgear, buy two and get the third free. Imogen is not very impressed with this, given that they only need two. “All of our gear here is of the highest quality,” the clerk insists, “but better safe than sorry. You never know when something might happen to you out there, something might inadvertently—not break! But if something attacked you—you said you were going to a noxious world; it’s probably not that safe—it would be good to have a backup, right?”
Imogen hems and haws. She would rather get a discount than acquire a third mask. Sinclair can feel the sale slipping away and offers them ten percent off the list price but only if they take the display model. “It’s still totally fine, I assure you,” he insists as he helps Lilly try it on. It fits snuggly, and Lilly sees no problem with it. She keeps it for herself and tosses one from the rack to her younger companion.
Imogen looks around a little. “This is an outdoor equipment store, right? Do you have a science section? Is there anything here for specimen collecting?” The clerk looks at her strangely. “Do botanists buy jars here?” she tries.
“We’ve got camping gear… backpacks… I’ve got little hammers for smashing rocks.”
Sinclair suggests a medical supply store might have what she is looking for. She asks if he knows where any are, and he is at first reluctant to provide suggestions, since the Bunker does sell basic medical supplies. Imogen is happy to purchase a couple stims from his store in order to make him more cooperative. He brings the women up to the counter, and they begin to ring up their purchases. The stimpacks are stored behind it, and he pulls some out for them. “These are great. They’re actually military-grade stimpacks. They can heal you—which not all stimpacks do—but they also provide a vital boost when you’re in an intense situation. You’ll be able to react faster, run faster, take a few more hits. They’re good all around in a combat situation… or, in a running-for-your-life situation, if your fishing trip gets out of hand.”
The clerk begins handing them to Imogen, and as he does so, a couple of huge, hulking Dominion marines stomp into the shop cradling their gauss rifles. In their full combat suits they are even taller than Lilly. She admires the armor as they approach. Gotta get a suit, she thinks, though that will certainly take more credits than she has to her name these days.
The clerk is about to hand a third stimpack to Imogen when it is snatched by a marine. “Sorry, that’s Dominion property, nerd,” he says, shoving Sinclair so that the clerk stumbles back away from the counter. The marine raises his voice. “Everybody else out. We’ve got to do some shopping for our unit here.”
Other customers flee the store, but Imogen turns to the marine, appalled by his behavior. “Are you going to pay for that?”
The enormous figure turns to look down at her. “Are you resisting the Dominion military, citizen?”
“This is a military action, now, is it? You just swiped that and said it was Dominion property! So I’m asking, are you going to pay for it?”
The marine takes a step closer, towering over Imogen. That accent does not sound local; this might not even be a citizen. “I’m going to need to see some papers.”
Lilly feels Imogen bristle. “Just show him your papers,” she murmurs. “Show him your ID.”
Imogen pulls out her wallet and shows her FRAWD identification card. She expresses concern that if these marines are not going to be paying for this good citizen’s wares, then this might be something that her office, which specializes in fraud and abuse, might pursue.
The marine looms over Imogen, not even bothering to look at her ID as he snatches her wallet from her hand and throws it back in her face. “If your division mattered, it would have existed before. We’ll see if you exist when the war comes again. Get out of here.” He turns away and stomps further into the store with his companion.
Imogen catches her wallet and puts it away, aggravated at her inability to do anything about this situation. She briefly thinks of the rooftop punks on Mar Sara that she saw throwing milk cartons at the marine down on the street. She understands that scene a bit better now. Resigned, Imogen turns back to the counter and finds Sinclair accepting money from Lilly, who has a bag full of their purchases.
“We’ve got our stimpacks,” Lilly tells Imogen.
“You should just go,” the clerk says, looking nervously after the marines.
* * *
Out on the street, Imogen frustratedly remarks that they did not get a recommendation from Sinclair on where to find a good medical supply store. Lilly suggests, “We can just go to the hospital and ask.” Lacking a better alternative, they head to the pharmacy attached to Augustgrad General.
Along the way, Imogen continues to grumble about the way the marines were treating the shop clerk at the Bunker. “There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about engaging with other businesses. There’s no reason to walk right in and act like you can just take what you want.”
“Yeah. Seemed dumb,” Lilly agrees. Imogen sighs, and Lilly offers, “We could put it in a report.”
They pass giant holo-televisions showing Universe News Network programming with the network’s most famous face, a smug forty-something white man with slickly combed brown hair and an overly-large mustache. “Donnie Vermillion here. This just in from Mar Sara… Dominion saves local outlying clinic and defeats zerg! Vicious raiders prey on the poor! Refinery jobs lost! In the field we have Kate Lockwell.”
The scene cuts to the wastes outside Mar Sara City. A tan woman in her mid-thirties with long black hair holds a microphone to someone Lilly and Imogen recognize. “Here I am at Our Lady of Perpetual Agony with Saint Maria.” There are a few more craters in the ground around the clinic than when Lilly and Imogen last saw it. “Maria, can you tell us how the Dominion did repelling the zerg?”
The grandmotherly doctor looks confused. “The Dominion? What? We had the War Pigs here. They were the ones who fought back the zerg—”
The report cuts back to the studio and Donnie Vermillion. “There you have it folks. The Dominion, once again protecting humanity from all threats, internal and external.”
Imogen shakes her head at the giant screen.
“Well, we do work for the Dominion, so the whole thing’s not wrong,” Lilly points out.
“Didn’t mention our department, though,” Imogen says as they enter the hospital pharmacy. At the counter, she inquires whether they have portable medical kits for sale to the general public.
“We most certainly do. We have the basic portable med kit and also a simple first aid kit. That’s our more popular item, since it’s half the price.” The pharmacist goes on to detail the various drugs that are part of each kit.
“And do you have equipment here that can be used to collect specimens?” Imogen once again puts on her medical researcher persona. “There are a lot of useful organic materials out there that need to be studied for medical applications, there are.”
“Oh, of course! You’re a field scientist! I apologize if I’ve used any jargon. I can tell you’re not from Korhal. Have there been any good conferences out on Umoja? You guys have some of the most advanced technology. I’d like to get out there.”
“We have all the most advanced technology,” Imogen insists.
“Oh, you don’t quite compare to the protoss. But I don’t know what their medical tech is like. Anyway, let me show you some of what we have for sample collecting. It’s not going to be as good as what you’re used to, but a glass jar is a glass jar, right?” Imogen selects a few and pays for them and the med kit, all of which she puts in her own backpack. Without Ted, she seems to have become the scientist of the team.