Saint-Paul stepped off the shuttle, uncomfortably aware of the dozen fedayeen eyes watching him as he walked down the boarding ramp into the shuttle bay of the former Russian vessel and thankful that his sunglasses -however inappropriate on a spacegoing vessel- meant they didn't see the nervousness in his eyes. He didn't have anything personal against the Greater Movement, and politics weren't his thing, but the fervor of the fedayeen was still enough to put an experienced 'lancer on guard. You don't just show your back to someone who believes in something that much, especially when you got just into it for the pay.
The tension lifted, at least enough, when his contact stepped through a hatch and gave a nod to his men, whose suddenly seemed...much more casual. Caitlin (no, wait- Catiline, right? All he knew was too damn many people in Unity and the Free Territories liked to name their kids after dead or nearly dead heroes these days) held his arms out, "Joey! Good to see you made it. I was worried you were never going to find time to see your friends in the Greater Movement."
Saint-Paul shrugged as Catiline(?) led him to a small observation room, sealed and soundproof but well in view of both the Greater Movement men and his crewmates on the shuttle, "What can I say, seizing ships is busy work." He held up a finger as the fedayeen opened his mouth to make a smart comment and continued, "I'm not complaining, mind. The... Burned Woman keeps her word, and the "hazard pay" is good, but most of the other lancers are still laid up in cultist infirmaries after taking that Chinese ship, and it wasn't until then that I had everything you wanted."
C smiled, "Freelancers, the unsung heroes of every war since time immemorial. So, you do have the information, friend?"
Saint-Paul smirked and lowered his sunglasses, staring the fedayeen in the eyes as he leaned in close enough for C to clearly read the "Ray-Band" signature at the top of a lens, "...Is a ChiFed cargo bay full of amazing counterfeit luxury goods?"
They both leaned back and a laughed, as Saint-Paul slipped a tablet out of his coat and set it down on the table between them, "But yeah, it's there, as requested. That's mainly the highlights, of course. When we have our payment, the encryption for the complete file will be sent as well."
C smiled and motioned to a fellow fedayeen outside, who left and returned with several soldiers bringing crates as he picked up the tablet and scrolled through several files, each with a picture attached. "I trust your work, Joey, but I suppose I can always have your men spaced if I don't like what I see." He laughed at the, look Saint-Paul gave him, "Oh, lighten up friend, did your contract with the Burned Woman include losing the ability to appreciate teasing? Anyway, really, your payment is recieved, soooooo-" a small beep sounded "-let's see what we have here."
"Aha, yes I hear this one put on quite the performance during your uprising."
"Oh, yeah, Huang Caiyun I'm guessing you mean."
"Yes. Clean record I see, on the record that is, and an able administrator. She admitted to taking part in smuggling contraband and misappropriated goods by the officers, didn't she?"
"Yes, oversaw most of it that went on in her particular unit- on behalf of her superior officer. I assume you saw the trial earlier: they weren't making that up."
"Readily submitted herself to the judgement of the Burned Woman's followers before the mutiny, and fits right in. She got a promotion to Captain, even, I see here!"
"Yeah, they expected her to be one of the biggest points of resistance, actually. Didn't see the point in even trying to turn her at first, but after we got stranded here... she isn't even close to being one of those who took it the hardest, but it still changed her tune."
"Hm. Being separated from a spouse and family really make you reevaluate your life, doesn't it?"
"You're talking to the man who'd normally be taking his payment in money, man. Anyway, Captain doesn't even tell the half of it. She might as well be the spokesperson and ranking officer of the Chinese soldiers who turned. Hell, even a lot of the Americans seem to look up to her at least a little after seeing the stuff she pulled taking the- the King in Yellow."
"Well, I guess sometimes a woman just has to break through the glass ceiling. Anyway, let's see who else we have. I don't want to keep you too long. You do have the messenger everyone would like to shoot, don't you?"
"Yeah, she's there. Ran Suel-ki, Comrade Baek, The Herald: take your pick."
"I bet she's got quite the story.
"Ugh. If you actually don't want to keep me, mind if I just run through this one? As you can read yourself right there, Major in the Marine Corps of the ChiFed's puppet government of Korea back on Earth. Records indicate that's where she's from, and also that she's even more spotless than Huang, though some people seem to think she's actually from old Heaven, or the People's Republic- especially given she was high up enough to be put in charge of a pretty substantial cell for this operation. Turned almost all of the Korean unit attached to the Chinese force. Despite her devotion to the KLO's cause, there's little doubt about her faith in the Burned Woman: she's a believer through and through. Some think she has contacts with the Interplaneteriál, but no one can really prove the truth of that one way or the other, but she doesn't seem hostile to them, at least."
"Mhmm. Ah, and so this one is?"
"...Yep, that's her. Obviously that's-"
"Propaganda image, yes. It pops up on most low-security outposts, but hell: you see kids posting up stickers of it all over the place in Market City all the time, like it was some sort of game. Probably someone paying half of them to do it. Heh, that how you got into it? How much they pay you, anyway?"
"Ugh, don't even joke about that. They pay good, and they're even taking care of those of us injured in their mutiny, but do you really think that's just it? We're stuck out here, and I doubt we'd get a warm welcome from our fellow men elsewhere in the fleet? No, the cost's sunk, so best to stick with it. Plus I'm not keen on learning what the Burned Woman has in store for contract breaking."
"You sound pretty scared of a woman in another galaxy, Joey."
"Well... Ok, look, you know people have seen her. Not just in recordings either, like seen her. And despite all logic indicating that they can't even all be the same person..."
"You saying you've seen
"I'm saying she's stood in front of me and spoken, man. Looking just like that goddamn poster, and by the way that she talked to me, to everyone, you'd think we were old friends. Like she wasn't someone who supposedly survive being blown up by a goddamn MOAB. Like I wasn't talking to someone who blows up office blocks and gasses people and seizes warships just to prove a point."
"...I'm sure they have tons of people dressed up like her back in Sol to spook working stiffs like us. Hah, it's not like she caught you going through their records and building a file, right?"
"Saint-Paul, the top of the table is not my face, why are you looking at it."
"She gave me that file on herself."
"She just knew! She looked right at me and patted me on the cheek and said to deliver a message for her and I'd have what I need."
They both stared at the table.
"So...what was the message?"
"Scroll down. Audio file."
"Oh, finally finished with your talk? Well, being inquisitive is important. That's why I've always liked you little birds: you really understand that knowledge is power. Anyway, you're curious why I'd send along this information so willingly. To put it bluntly, it's because once again I have to make the first move. If we shared a bed, I'd have kicked you out in favor of the cabin boy a long time ago, dears."
"But really, the Burned Woman has nothing to hide: It's not a trick, I promise! We're going to be stuck here a long time, and it's going to sfeel even longer if we don't start trusting each other. So I've let Mr. Saint-Paul bring you the meaningless faces and names and histories you think you want, as a sign that there are no hard feelings. But next time, really, feel free to just ask nicely. After all, there are much more interesting things we have to tell you. Catiline, sweetie: aren't you still dying to know where your sister disappeared to during that Ghazwa? Ah, well, we have a great deal of time to talk more about that, don't we? But before that, there's work to be done. Goodbye!"
They sat in silence.
"Get back on your ship and the fuck out of my shuttle bay."