As Imogen comes aboard Saffron she is flipping through a giant sheaf of papers. “What happened?” Lilly asks, eyebrows raised.
Imogen pulls out the form Lilly told her they needed. She throws the rest of the sheets on the counter of the science station with a dismissive, “Those are for Sunshine’s litter box.”
“Ooookay,” Lilly says, a little confused. They have not had the lyote aboard for weeks, but she does not question Imogen. Instead, she gets to work, examining the current honorable discharge form. Unfortunately, there are more security features built into it than she was expecting. After trying way too long to produce something that can pass visual inspection, Lilly lets out a sigh. It has been a while since she forged her own paperwork, and she has gotten rusty. “This isn’t going to work,” she says, tossing the sheet aside.
Imogen digs around through the pile of extra forms for a moment and then produces the medical discharge form. “We need this to be plausible. Can you work in something about him having nerve problems? He’s a terrazine addict; I saw his tremors.”
Lilly scans the form. The medical release has different requirements than an honorable discharge, and some of these fields exceed their knowledge of Private Tanner. “What else we got?” Lilly asks, looking through the stack of forms herself. “KIA? Hmm… he’d also need a new ID then…”
“How many credits do you have?” Imogen asks.
Lilly fishes out her wallet. “Thirty-seven.” Imogen groans. Even between the two of them, they are still several dozen credits short of Tanner’s asking price. “You need cash?” Lilly asks. “When’s Kate paying us? Wasn’t it going to be a thousand credits or something?”
Imogen blinks wordlessly at Lilly for a moment. What with Aiden’s radiolisk and Frank’s resocialization, she had completely forgotten about that revenue stream. While Lilly starts messing around with the Killed in Action form, Imogen logs into her bank account to check the balance. It is as empty as her wallet, so the funds have not come through yet. Time to give Kate a call.
Imogen starts the conversation by carefully asking if the reporter has any news on their “mutual acquaintance.” Kate must be in a private location because her answer is far less cagey. “I’ve done some digging, but Captain Hawke doesn’t have a very long file. That’s a little unusual, actually.”
“Sounds spooky,” Imogen comments, wondering if Hawke is the ghost she sensed.
“Yeah. That made me a little nervous. She’s gone up and down from the planet multiple times. She was on board the platform yesterday, but she already went back down today.”
“Did you find out anything about her motivations? Is she a super-patriot? Or someone who wants to blackmail Mengsk?”
“She’s not part of the Propaganda Ministry or anything like that. Doesn’t do a lot of bureaucratic work. I was not able to get a direct interview with her, but as far as I can tell from talking to other folks, this is her first campaign actually on the record but she’s definitely been in the service longer. So, yes, spooky is the right word. Those who have met her say she’s very reserved.”
“And she was on the platform yesterday evening?” Imogen double checks. Kate’s confirmation lends further support to Hawke being the ghost. “Do you know anything about where she went down to today? Back to the area she was working before?”
“Yes. She only directly oversees a small squad, but I couldn’t get any information about them.”
“All right. Well, when I have further information for your exclusive, I’ll let you know.”
“Much appreciated. This is a big deal, you know.”
“In the meantime, since the operation on the ground that we were originally here to do went so well, do you think you could forward us at least part of the payment?” Imogen finally asks now that Kate has been reminded of how valuable Imogen is.
“Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. That shouldn’t be an issue. I can transfer half of it right now. You and your friend Lilly did great. It was super good to have you and a great idea to get the Fruit Baskets. The rest of it should be along in just a day or two. It just takes a little bit of time to go through the payment processing. But you work for the Dominion; I’m sure you know how it is.”
“Aye. Thanks very much, Kate. I’ll be in touch.”
While Imogen talks with Kate Lockwell, Lilly ruins several more forms in her attempt to forge something believable. There have just been too many security upgrades to these things since she last had to deal with them. She is in the zone now, though, and after giving up on discharge paperwork, she proceeds to the next potentially useful thing, a fake ID. Pulling out her laminator and exacto knife, she sets to work. Lilly is still fiddling ineffectively with her forgery tools when Imogen leaves to go pay cash for terrazine. What does make her stop, though, is a call from Durian that he will be by in about an hour for their battle-planning meeting.
* * *
Seething internally at how much of the day has been wasted, Imogen makes her way from the ATM to Private Tanner’s quarters. The Delta Squadron barracks reek with all the worst smells of humanity. A lot of people are crammed into not too much space, and discipline here is lax. In some ways, it is not so different from the Ruck Sack, given the amount of smoking, drinking, and arm wrestling.
When Imogen finds Tanner, he looks really anxious, and his bunk space is rather barren compared to some of the others nearby. Catching sight of her, a nervous pile of words tumbles from his mouth. “Ah! You got what I need? Per our agreement? You got it? It’d be great! If you don’t, please let me know right now and I can finally relax.” Possessing terrazine and not partaking of it seems to have been weighing upon him.
“I’ve got what our first agreement was, but I wasn’t able to work out the revised agreement,” Imogen says, careful to not say anything too incriminating with potential listeners around. She is prepared to pay more than his original asking price, given that he may have sold some of his equipment already.
“But I’ve already gotten rid of half my stuff! I can’t just get it back! I convinced myself this was happening, and I was looking forward to getting out! I’m not getting out anymore? Fine, just give me my money, take this, and get out of here.”
Imogen hands over two hundred credits and receives a vial of shimmering purple gas in exchange. She is not sure if it is just because of the lighting in this room, but the color looks slightly off from what she administered to Lilly. She hopes it is not too impure to be useful. On her way out of the Delta Squadron barracks, she comes across the dealer from yesterday’s poker game. “Oh, hey,” she asks casually, “do you know where they reassigned Frank the Tank to?”
“Frank? He’s in Epsilon Squad now. They’ll be eating dinner in the mess hall adjacent to the Ruck Sack if you want to catch him.”
Looks like I’ve got dinner plans that don’t involve Vaughan, Imogen thinks.