Before bothering Kate Lockwell, Imogen decides to glean what the rank and file have been told about the Dominion’s purpose on Tarsonis. Maybe she can even find out why the platform is upside down. The arrangement is sufficiently weird that it might be tied to the current operation. The best place to pick up that kind of information is whatever passes for a bar around here. Imogen asks around and ultimately finds herself at the Ruck Sack, though judging by the graffiti around the sign, that was not its original name.
This is where the enlisted crew unwind, and it is worlds away from the Officers’ Club where she had dinner with Vaughan. A haze of smoke hangs near the ceiling—originally the floor, of course. A barrage of sound assaults Imogen’s ears, coming from TVs, raucous laughter, drunken discord, and loud belching. Whiskey in hand, Imogen moves past the table with arm wrestling—that’s more Lilly’s style than hers—and stops at the one covered with poker chips and cards. The ten credit buy-in is a price she is willing to pay for information.
“You know the rules, Umojan?” the dealer asks.
“Oh, just take it a bit easy on me, will you?” Imogen replies.
“Well, we’ll take your credits easily,” one of the other players mutters.
Imogen does not really care how the game plays out. Credits are tight these days, but there are no pressing bills to pay right now. What she can learn from these fellows is more important. They do turn out to be sharp players, none too far into their cups. Imogen goes out pretty quickly.
“I thought you Umojans were supposed to be smart, huh?” the fellow on her left jibes. “You’re no better than the rest of us resocs.”
Imogen offers a backhanded compliment. “If you’re this good at poker, you must not be spending much time on your actual jobs. What’s your real job? Are you just up here polishing the decks, or have you actually gone to the surface and seen action? And if you’re just here doing maintenance work…” Imogen takes a sip of the rotten whiskey they stock here and tips her chair back to gaze upwards. “I should let you know that your platform’s upside down.”
“Look, the only real job is staying alive, okay? That’s the only job that really matters. The longer I can stay up here, the longer I can stay alive,” her neighbor replies. Now that the hand is done, he has downed his beer. His words are starting to slur a bit. “I know a guy who went down, and he didn’t make it.”
The dealer chimes in, “Now, now, Frank the Tank’s not dead. He’s just getting resoc’d, and it doesn’t sit well with him.”
The front legs of Imogen’s chair land with a thump as she leans forward. “What, resoc’d here?”
“Yeah. I mean, it’s a big assault platform, right?”
“But, in the middle of a war?” Imogen asks. “I thought that was just for people who were arrested, that they get resoc’d and put in the military.” The rest of the table laughs. “We don’t do this on Umoja,” she says in her defense.
“Oh, no, you don’t have wars on Umoja. Everything’s perfect there,” grouses the drunken fellow. “In Umoja I bet you… you…” He struggles to come up with a witty quip.
The jaded dealer inserts, “Yeah, Frank did the damn fool thing of making a name for himself, and so he’s getting resoc’d for it.”
“Making a name for himself?” Imogen echoes, confused.
“Standing out. Doing anything productive.”
“Did he find something?” Imogen asks. Oh… “Did he see something he shouldn’t have?”
The drunk player shrugs. “That’s what you get for being a hero.”
Glancing at his watch, the dealer adds, “Should happen some time later tonight. He’ll forget all about it.”
Elbows on the table, Imogen tucks some loose strands of hair back in her braid. “Where’s the brig?” she asks with forced casualness. She needs to find this Frank before his mind is wiped.
The dealer’s eyebrows shoot up. “You really want to go to the brig? I suppose if you knew Frank you could pay your last respects to him before the new version comes out.” He supplies the directions.
On her way out of the Ruck Sack, Imogen buys a bottle of whiskey, hoping the jailkeeper will be dishonest enough. And if not, well, then she has more antiseptic for the medkit.