On Imogen’s way to the bridge, she ponders Frank the Tank’s situation. This whole resoc thing is disturbing. She has seen for herself that memories can survive, can even be coaxed back, but still… The process seems to her like killing without actually doing the deed. Sure, it is better than execution, but as far as ways to rehabilitate someone go, it is definitely cruel. Particularly when one has not committed a crime in the first place.
The brig has an unremarkable door—aside from being upside down—and an antechamber similar to the comptroller’s office. The soldier staffing this station, though, is protected by bars that come down across the front of her desk. Next to her is a secure door that leads to the containment cells. “You checking in?” she asks as Imogen steps up to the counter.
“More like checking out the merchandise,” Imogen replies.
“That’s not normally the kind of trade we do here. ‘Cause we don’t normally do trade at all.” The warden looks Imogen up and down, making note of her clothes and hair. “You don’t look like a soldier.”
“I’m just looking to buy some time.”
“A lot of people want to pay their last respects. It’s a very busy schedule… Sure would be nice if we had some more time to fit into the schedule…”
Satisfied that they understand each other, Imogen places the bottle she has brought along up on the counter on her side of the bars. The gaps between them are close enough to protect the warden from attack but wide enough for a double naggin of whiskey to slide through. “Well, the time will certainly feel like it’s going faster with this.” Imogen nudges the bottle forward.
“I think that can work. However, I do need you to sign the visitor’s log, and you need to relinquish any weapons or contraband you might be bringing in. You can talk to a friend—that’s fine—but you cannot be bringing things in for people.”
As the warden comes out of her protective cage, Imogen is already unholstering her pistol to hand over. She almost forgets she has a knife on her; Lilly makes sure she never leaves the ship without a sharp one. Fortunately, the psi-gauntlet is safely aboard Saffron, locked up in Imogen’s footlocker with the cloaking glove she found down on Tarsonis. Imogen has to sign her true name on the logs, since the warden does insist on seeing ID. She checks Imogen’s signature against her legal alien status card and scoffs, “Getting Umojans on this operation… They can’t even push a button!” She hands the ID back over and unscrews the bottle of whiskey.
Imogen waits until the warden has had a sip or two and then asks, “What makes you think an Umojan wouldn’t be necessary on an operation like this?” This might be another source of valuable information.
“Because Umojans are useless! All they know how to do is shout at a robot to try to make it do something. We had an Umojan try out to be a Goliath pilot once. He’d just say, ‘Walk forward, hey!’ Didn’t work, turns out. You have to, you know, actually push and pull the levers to make it go. Umojans are soft and coddled.” The warden takes another swig of whiskey. “Don’t take it personally. You’ve got it good.”
Imogen lets the insults wash over her. This woman knows nothing about the operation and is herself useless beyond opening the secure door. Which she does now, telling Imogen that Frank is in Cell 3A.
The corridor beyond the door is a little disconcerting, lit only from below. The hefty cell doors are the original ones, upside down with their food slots at an awkward height. They look solid enough to ensure a private conversation, as long as the hallway side is hushed. Imogen proceeds to the third door on the right and raps on it.
“Ugh, who’s there?” a male voice groans from inside. “Is it time already?”
“Who is that?” The voice sounds closer now, as though he is just on the other side of the door.
Imogen slides the food slot open and bends down a little to put her face level with it. “My name’s Imogen. I have some questions for you.” The cell beyond is dim, lit only by a single light in the center of the floor. Backlit as he is, all she can tell of Frank is that he is as big and bulky as Durian.
“What is this about? Look, I’m going to get resoc’d, okay? That’s what’s going to happen. The sooner I make peace with that the better, that’s what they say.”
“Why is that going to happen? What did you see down there?” Imogen extends her mind as she asks the question. Even if he does not voice an answer, she wants to know what thoughts go through his head.
The rattle of chain gun fire, the blasts of siege tanks. Shells slam into the ground too close. Heavy breathing, feet and heart pounding. “What the hell’s this? Oh! There’s a big bounty on this!” The clatter and clank of rubble shifting. Groans of exertion. “I wonder what she’s got to say.” Buttons clicking.
The clipped precise tones of an adjutant’s voice. “Confederate intelligence intercepted broadcast from Sons of Korhal terrorist group.” The date it announces is five years past.
A thick drawl, one Imogen recognizes from news broadcasts. Arcturus Mengsk, a bit scratchy, clearly replayed through the adjutant. A second voice, warmer, though rough with anger here. Mengsk rails a bit at James Raynor, confirming two damning things: Mengsk called the zerg down on Tarsonis and left Kerrigan to die. All worked up, he finally proclaims, “I will not be stopped. Not by you, or the Confederates, or the protoss or anyone! I will rule this sector or see it burnt to ashes around me.”
One thing Imogen has long wondered is why Mengsk abandoned Sarah Kerrigan to the zerg. From his diatribe here, it sounds like he summoned the zerg in order to ravage the Confederacy and he felt that trying to get his own troops to safety would have impeded that. The Confederates intercepted incontrovertible proof that Mengsk used zerg against other terrans. Of course he does not want anyone to know he said that. It is the scoop of the century, as Kate Lockwell once put it. Imogen needs to know whether that adjutant came back up to the platform with Frank.
The man in question has remained silent, lost in his own memories of what has essentially cost him his life. “Soldier,” Imogen says, snapping her fingers to draw his attention. “Where is it now? Did you do your duty and turn it in?”
“Sorry. It’s gone, okay? I screwed up. Should have left well enough alone. But I wanted to know, what’s so important? But you know, it wasn’t that important that I need to lose…” His voice cracks a little. “Basically lose my life, as it is.”
“How is it gone? Did you destroy it? Did you see it destroyed?”
“Wh-what do you care? Who sent you here?”
“What do I care? You cared. You’re not the only one here who wants to know why this is all going on. People are dying for this.”
“Yeah. Yeah, we’ll I’m, um, I’m getting resoc’d over this, okay? So it’s not going to help me anymore,” Frank says fatalistically.
“Do you want that to mean something?” Imogen asks.
“It wasn’t destroyed. I can tell you who took control of it, but you have to take my personal journals. I don’t want to forget who I am. I need you to find me after I get resoc’d and give these to me.”
“How does this work in the middle of a military operation? Will they keep you here and just shift you to another unit? Or will they send you away?”
“Probably they’ll just move me to some frontline meat-grinder unit,” he says grimly. Through the narrow slit in the door, Imogen can see the packet of papers he has. Apparently he was allowed to keep some composition books and a pen.
“Aye, I’ll take them. I might be able to do more. I’ll see what I can arrange.”
“I… I just don’t want to forget. I don’t even know if this is the first time. I think it will be… but how do I know?” he asks, a hint of paranoia in his voice.
“Things can come back,” Imogen assures him. “It’s not all one way.”
“Yeah, easy for you to say; you’re on the other side of that door.”
“I’ve seen it happen before.”
“Has it happened to you?”
“Well…” Frank lets the word hang, his point having been made. For a brief moment, Imogen sees a slice of Frank’s face through the slit: light brown skin, dark brown eyes, and black eyebrows, one of which is nicked by an old scar. Then he backs his face away from the slot and starts feeding his journals through. “Captain Hawke took control of it. She found me when I was listening to the tail end of the message. She made an immediate call to General Davis, but I don’t know what transpired between them. I don’t know where Hawke is right now; she could still be down on the surface, or she might have come back up here.”
Imogen catches a hold of Frank’s hand as she takes the last of the papers and gives it a reassuring squeeze. “I will try to help you. I’ve got your journals, and I’ve got some ideas.” She backs the physical and verbal gestures with a psionic one, attempting to adjust his attitude as Selendis taught her. He is so anxious right now, his mood swinging in a completely understandable way given his situation, and so she instills a sense of calm in him. Imogen is not trained enough to make any kind of psionic copy of his personality, but she will do her best with what she has.
Following the psionic exertion, Frank is more calm than she is. During it she felt something, a ping of sorts. The impression she got is of someone suddenly sitting up straight with a, “What was that?” It reminds her of what she ran into a few times when reaching for Snowball’s mind or Aiden’s. Not that there are any powerful zerg around here, but there could be a ghost. Crap! I need to get out of here.
Imogen slides the stack of journals into the inner pocket of her duster. “I will try my hardest for you,” she tells Frank earnestly.
“Thank you,” he replies. “That’s more than most people do. Good luck.”
“Is it short for anything? Frank?”
“Uh, yeah. Frankincense.”
Imogen nods, then hastily makes her way back to the front desk. A ghost could be on the way here right now, and Imogen Owendoher is written plainly in a ledger for all the world to see. The warden, unfortunately, has some level of self-discipline. She is enjoying a glass of whiskey but has not made much progress on the bottle yet. Her eyes remain somewhat sharp as she returns Imogen’s weapons. Rather than try to alter her name when she signs out, which the warden might detect, Imogen takes a more dramatic approach. She gives the pen itself a quick evaluation and then adjusts her grip and subtly alters the pen’s angle. When she starts to sign the line next to where she logged in, Imogen exerts enough pressure to break the tip and snap the end of the ink chamber. Ink pools out all over her hand and the ledger, obscuring many names, not just her own.
“Agh! Stupid Umojans! You can’t even use a pen!” the warden exclaims. “Oh, c’mon. Just… just get out of here!”
Imogen hastily complies.