When the revelry at the Officers’ Club finally winds down, Durian again thanks Lilly for all she has done. “I’m going to go change out of this,” he says, pulling at his starched collar. “But I’ll catch up with you later this evening, I hope. Don’t leave before I get a chance to talk to you. Please!” he says, his voice laced with concern.
“I won’t,” Lilly assures him. She returns to Saffron and changes into her more comfortable everyday clothes. She checks on Snowball, who is fully recovered in both body and mood. He perks up when he sees her, and she holds out a piece of candy to him. “Here you go, buddy! Hope you’re having a better day than yesterday.” He must be feeling better, since he transforms into his lyote shape and gobbles it down. Then he curls up in the corner, giving her no trouble when she closes him in the room in preparation for Durian’s arrival.
She is ready way too early. With her uniform put away and her knives all sharp, there is nothing for Lilly to do but wait nervously for Durian to show up. She straightens up the central hub and then just starts moving boxes around on the shelves for the sake of it. She even cleans out the fridge. Then she goes to work on her guns.
* * *
After leaving the brig and washing the ink off her hands, Imogen calls Kate Lockwell. From the ambient noises, she can tell that the journalist is on speakerphone. “Ah, Imogen. How are you doing?”
“I’d like to talk with you.”
“Sure! I’m just working on a report. What do you need?” The background sounds of typing barely slow as Kate answers distractedly.
“I’d like to talk with you face-to-face.”
“Uh, I guess I can do that. I am a little busy. I have to get this report out today for broadcast tomorrow.”
“This is important,” Imogen says.
Kate does not take offense at the implication that her own activity is not. Rather, she is intrigued. “Do you have something?”
“I have a lead.”
“Ah! Let me bang this out real quick…” More furious typing. “Does it have to be right now or can it be later tonight?”
“I don’t know how much time we have,” Imogen replies, picking her words deliberately to peak the reporter’s curiosity further. It works. Kate agrees to meet Imogen in an hour. Imogen’s insistence on a secure location does make her a little nervous, though. They settle on Saffron as the best place to discuss a confidential lead.
Call complete, Imogen heads back to Saffron herself. In her mind, she reviews what she saw at the Ruck Sack. Drinking, gambling, gaming, idle chatter… but nothing seedier. Still, it seems a likely place to find drugs. Imogen does not have a fully formed plan yet for how to help Frank, but what she does have so far will require terrazine.
When she breezes aboard Saffron, she is surprised to find the central chamber looking considerably cleaner than usual. The science station is neat, its counter clear. No zerg radios to be seen. Lilly is there, sitting on one of the crates, tapping her boot nervously as she polishes her shotgun. Imogen checks her watch and announces, “Kate will be here in about half an hour.”
“Okay. Uh, Durian’s on his way.”
“Durian? Why is Durian coming?” Imogen asks a bit sharply. Lilly sighs, but before she can explain, Imogen continues, “I don’t know if Durian can hear what I need to tell Kate.”
“Okay. I don’t want Kate to hear what I’m going to tell Durian.” Wait, Imogen doesn’t want Durian to hear something… “Do you want me here?”
“Aye,” Imogen replies without needing to consider. Lost & Found has taken on the job for the Queen of Blades, and the conversation with Kate is part of fulfilling that. Particularly with how the danger level has ratcheted up now that Imogen knows what the Liberation of Tarsonis is all about, Lilly definitely needs to stay informed. “You should hear it. This could all go horribly wrong.” Even if they get Kate on their side, they could still be walking into a world of trouble.
“Okay.” Lilly sets aside her now well-oiled shotgun and pulls out her comm to delay Durian. When he answers, he double checks that she is still on the platform. She assures him she is and asks him not to come over for another hour. Durian grows nervous, wondering if everything is all right. “We just have something else we need to do first,” Lilly explains, though she does not clarify who we is.
“I just want to make sure that you’re not rushing down there right now.”
“No, I’m not,” Lilly insists.
“Okay. I’ve been in the rodeo once or twice,” he says with a chuckle. Sometimes when someone says they will meet you in another hour, that hour never comes. “I just needed to hear you say that.”
“I’ll call you before I leave, if I leave.”
“Look, just try not to act too recklessly. And like they say, just don’t be dumb.”
“I promise I won’t leave without calling you,” Lilly says.
“Please don’t leave without me,” Durian replies in earnest, and he hangs up.
Okay, Lilly thinks, looking at her comm in surprise. We’re about to get him in way more trouble than he ever wanted to be in.
While Lilly makes her call, Imogen quickly flips through Frank’s journals, skimming them for anything more about what he found. They are wild scribblings, scrawled down as quickly as Frank could, and very repetitive since he was trying to beat the information deeper into his own mind through the act of writing. Imogen learns a bit more about his personality, as well as what he considers important to remember.
The full name of Frank the Tank is Frankincense Tankard, and he earned his nickname both because he could drink a lot and take the knocks. Although originally from Tarsonis, he was not on-planet when it was invaded. Like many others raised in the Confederacy, he switched allegiance when the Dominion took over so as not to get in any trouble. He is a capable soldier but was looking forward to finishing up his tour of duty. There is no mention of any family, just a beloved cat still on Korhal. Frequently he repeats his name and address in Augustgrad. He had aspirations to open a bar himself someday. With her special skill set, Imogen could probably learn some of these things just from holding the journals and concentrating on them, but that form of evidence is inadmissible.