FRAWD Investigators: (Re)Socializing | Scene 4

Imogen heads out for the day, planning to collect rumors around the platform or possibly talk with Kate about filming more footage. Lilly stays behind on Saffron, though. She needs to get her old dress uniform in order and make herself presentable. She spends more time gussying herself up than she normally would and does not admit to herself why. Snowball gives her no hassle about it; he’s still sulking in his box, now with an empty cup of PowerAde.

At the Officers’ Club she finds Durian looking quite fancy in his dress uniform. A bunch of officers are present for the commissioning ceremony, including General Davis. Unlike some other officers Lilly has seen, General Davis does not wear enormous shoulder pauldrons to take up more space. She has plenty of medals, yes, but she also has no need to play up her own importance. Her four stars do that for her.

All of UNN’s Liberty Squad is present except for Imogen. Kate Lockwell is filming and commenting in her practiced journalist whisper. The Fruit Baskets are in full formal dress struggling to maintain posture and decorum while bearing heavy ceremonial flags without the augmented strength of power armor. There is the Dominion flag, of course, but also a hastily fabricated one for the Ninth Dominion Mechanized Infantry Battalion, Five Hundred and Sixty-Fourth Mobile Infantry Platoon. It is adorned with a fruit basket, plain and simple, not even a cornucopia.

“We’re here on assault platform Imperative witnessing the promotion ceremony of one soon-to-be-Lieutenant Breaker who has valiantly assisted the invasion as a key component here. He and his team have been securing Tarsonis’s shores,” Kate says quietly into her camera.

When Durian catches sight of Lilly, he quickly steps over to join her. Taking both of her hands together in his own, he reiterates, “Thank you so much for coming. This really means a lot to me.”

“Anything for you, Durian,” Lilly tells him with a smile. He touched my hands!

Taking her arm, he leads her over to where they are supposed to stand for the ceremony. Due to UNN involvement, the promotion is high-profile enough that General Davis is conducting it herself. She does not look terribly excited about it, though. Still, she performs her part of the ceremony with gravitas. It opens with her reading aloud a summary of Durian’s service record. It includes his original enlistment date and the battles he fought in back then. Lilly recognizes some of them, but she is not sure whether she was there or not. He is noted as being at both the Defense and Liberation of Korhal, as well as the Second Defense of Korhal. All told, his record goes back about four years. His departure a year ago is described as a leave of absence following an injury. His recent return to service is called a valiant reenlistment. The next section, about all Durian’s courageous efforts down on the surface yesterday, does not sound familiar at all.

“The military affirms this record,” General Davis proclaims formally. “We require a second person to affirm his suitability for promotion to lieutenant. Sergeant Breaker, do you have a second?”

“Yes, I do,” Durian says, turning to Lilly and gesturing for her to speak.

Lilly startles slightly, having gotten lost in her cloudy memories. “Oh, uh, affirmative, sir!”

General Davis’s expectant look turns to one of surprise. This is usually the time for long-winded speeches. Some of the other officers also seem relieved. Kate Lockwell is a little disappointed since she was hoping for a vigorous speech. 

Pleased that her time is not being wasted, General Davis nods her approval and continues with the ceremony. “By the power invested in me by His Supreme Emperor, Arcturus the First, I commission you as a lieutenant in the Dominion of Korhal.” Durian salutes her, she salutes back, and then there is a lot of saluting all down the line. Clapping and raucous cheering follows.

Durian spontaneously gives Lilly a hug, thanking her for her support and telling her how much it means to him. The social hour begins, which means plenty of drinks but also so much more saluting, as all sorts of people offer Durian congratulations. The Fruit Baskets pay their respects and then clear out.

“So much saluting now,” Durian groans. “It’s like, if it moves, salute it!”

Lilly chuckles. “At ease, at ease.”

“I gotta work on that. Were you ever an officer, Lilly?”

“Yeah, a little bit. I was a warrant officer.” At least, that is what her Dominion military record states. Warrant officers straddle the line between professional officers and the non-commissioned ranks. Usually no one knows what to make of them, which suited Lilly’s needs just fine when she was hacking her own record.

“Warrant officer! Whoa, pretty impressive. Ah, but now technically I outrank you,” Durian jokes. He quickly backpedals though, not wanting to cause offense. “Uh, but you’re out, so it wouldn’t matter anyway. I shouldn’t even—”

“No, you outrank me,” Lilly laughs. “Sir.” She throws him a salute.

“No, no, I gotta be good. I can’t let the power go to my head, right?” 

They joke around a bit more. Despite all the pomp and ceremony here, Durian is still looking forward to getting out of the military. He wears the formal uniform stiffly, and not just because of how muscular he is. Lilly suspects he just does not like being the center of attention. “Let’s go get you a drink,” she suggests.  

They head over to the bar, and as they are enjoying their beers, General Davis steps up to them. “Now, I don’t recognize you, miss,” she says to Lilly. “When did you leave the service?” Lilly supplies the date inscribed on her ID. “What brings you to this assault platform, then? Are you in a mercenary company? We didn’t bring many mercs on this mission.”

“We do salvage and scans. We have a science vessel,” Lilly explains. Schmoozing is not really her thing, so she forgets to give the company name.

“You’ve got your own science vessel? That is mighty impressive. We of course brought some along with us here in the fleet. You always want to bring a few when you’re up against zerg, but you know that.” Davis takes a sip of her cocktail. “So you’re a scientist as well?”

“No, I’m more the pilot. My partner does the science,” Lilly says. “She’s Umojan.” The general shows no recognition at that; UNN’s project might not be consequential enough for her to have minded its specifics. Lilly is a little uncomfortable with all this attention from a senior officer, particularly since she faked her way out of the military. The general is showing great interest in Saffron’s capabilities, and Lilly is unsure of how to take advantage of that. She wishes Imogen were there to handle this. 

The general asks whether Saffron has advanced decryption capabilities. The ship does not, but the fact that Davis is asking about them stands out to Lilly. Those modules are hard to come by if you are not in the military or a big mercenary company. Lilly is not sure whether having them would be an asset or a detriment for whatever job Davis is mulling over. She gives the general a Lost & Found business card. “If you need anything…”

Davis signals her XO over, and the younger man rushes to join them. The general takes the business card and hands it to him, then waves him off. “Rest assured, if I need anything, I will certainly be in touch. You do take care,” she tells Lilly. “And congratulations again, Lieutenant Breaker.” With that, she leaves.

Durian looks relieved at her departure. “Man, what was that about?” he asks. Lilly shrugs. “I did not think she was that interested in science vessels.”

“Imogen and I were talking about how we could help the war effort with some scans,” Lilly shares.

“I mean, yeah, you could,” Durian allows uncomfortably. “But you really don’t have to go back down there, Lilly. You’ve done more than your part.”

“It’s all right as long as you don’t open up closets,” she jokes, referring to the injury she took in the train station. 

Durian laughs at that but sobers up quickly. “No, you really don’t have to go back down. Take a look at your ID, right? Discharged. You already did your part. And you came back again for this mission. You’ve done way more than your share. You don’t need to go back down there.” 

I kinda do… Lilly thinks, but she stays quiet. She trusts Durian, but he can be kind of naive at times, and he is definitely loyal to the Dominion. He does not need someone as bad-news as she is dragging him into trouble.

Durian must read something on her face, because he runs a hand over his eyes. “No, c’mon!” he says, almost exasperated. “What’s down there? What’s worth the risk? Or is it just the rush?”

Lilly takes a drink, trying to decide how to respond. “No, it’s nothing like that.”

“Did you forget something? Did you drop something when we were down there? We can get you something new.”

Lilly adjusts her collar anxiously. She is not used to being in her old dress uniform, and she worries that her tattoos might be showing. Collars are high on the formal jackets, but she is nervous. She glances around the room, judging how close the nearest officers are. Durian starts to ask her what is wrong but cuts himself off abruptly when she leans in closer to him. “There are things you don’t know about me, Durian,” she says quietly.

“Look, we’ve all done things we’re not proud of,” he tells her. “They read a lot of stuff in that ceremony… That’s not really an accurate recollection of my service record. I… Trust me, I’ve been there.”

“What do you mean? It was exactly like that down on the surface,” Lilly ribs him.

“Look, we’re both soldiers, we know how it goes. I was trying to do my part, do something good. For me it worked out. For a lot of people, it doesn’t.”

“I need to go back down,” Lilly insists.

“Why? What’s down there?”

“I need to find something.”

“Something, not someone; that’s good. Because if it was someone, they’re probably not around still. Are you from Tarsonis originally? Need to break into your old house?”

“I don’t want to talk about it here,” Lilly says, throwing nervous glances at the other officers. “You understand, right?”

“I do, on a certain level. Look, you’re here with your science vessel. I’ll meet you there after all this… whatever… revelry is done,” he says, dismissive of the party, not her concerns. “This place is making me kind of uncomfortable, but I have to stay. You don’t have to stay. You’re certainly free to go.”

“Nah, the booze is good,” Lilly points out. She raises her glass and offers a toast to the Endurians. They clink glasses. A few other officers come up to congratulate Durian, and the conversation moves on.