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#MSVJackOfDiamonds – December 4, 2017
Elena lingers on the walkway at the bottom of the ladder after Leah brushes her off and resumes her climb. Her gaze wanders around the cargo hold, chewing idly on a gum as she continues to wait for Jason's return trip to the module.
Jason descends the ladder, one heavy, armored boot at a time after leaving the quarters Ilyna and Halisi are resting in. As he reaches the bottom, he barely even registers Elena's presence, his mind wandering in a hundred different directions.
Leah would find, on her arrival on Deck 1, that the door to the bridge is still open. Lucy has brought her guitar into her lap, plucking at the strings as she tunes it. The galley door is also open. The galley itself is one of the larger rooms on the ship, with a kitchen on the port side, complete with all one might expect, and a large table on the starboard side, with many chairs, as well as a long corner couch. Behind both
Elena pushes off from the railing when she hears Jason descend, moving into his path and raising her mechanical hand in a 'stop' gesture in front of his chest.
Leah passes a glance towards the bridge, but her gaze doesn't linger. She moves on to the galley, well aware that sleep won't come easy tonight. She makes her way towards the couch, taking a position beside the viewport and just... staring.
Jason halts his progress. A less-than-pleased expression crosses his face as he slowly looks from Elena's eyes, down to her hand, and then back to her eyes. He doesn't say anything, but he probably doesn't need to. The look on his face doesn't need a translator to be understood. It's the universal 'get the fuck out of my way' glare.
Elena grunts, lowering her hand as she speaks. "Yeah yeah, I get it. You're the big bad merc boss and I'm on your shitlist. It ain't gotta be like this, man. I'm doing my best here, but you're not making it easy. I vouched for you guys. And now our ship's full of angry mercs, armed to the teeth? Captain don't see the risk that is. Too much on her mind. I do. We want the same thing, yeah? Or we gonna have a problem?"
The galley is empty, and quiet, as far as spaceships are ever quiet, anyhow. There's the faint hum of the engines, felt throughout the hull. The occasional 'glug' of the water pipes, and every now and then a hiss of steam near the heat sinks. Soon the sounds of Lucy playing her guitar breaks the silence however. It's a somber, brooding melody.
Jason furrows his brow, only seeming to get angrier by the word as Elena speaks. "No. You're right. It doesn't have to be like this. Know how it could be? See, I could be at home with my pregnant wife who I've been married to for all of-..." he leans back slightly, lifting a gauntleted hand and projecting his omni-tool display briefly as if checking the time, "...just about a day and a half. I could have a full day ahead
of me of hanging out with friends and family. Preparing for my honeymoon. My friend? She could be at home sleeping, her daughter safe and sound in bed. My wife could be resting rather than sitting up, worried sick that she'll never see me again. Yeah." he nods a couple of times, "...But? You and your friends decided to kidnap a helpless little girl and hand her over to a psychotic cultist that worships a bunch of ancient
Leah is thankful for the solitude. She folds her arms across her chest and leans her head against the wall, peering out into the void of FTL-distorted space.
Elena crosses her arms, briefly glancing off to the side and sucking in her lips. The additional details that Jason piles on causes her to lose her momentum, to say the least. She nods a few times before looking back at him. "Y-... yeah. I know. We fucked up. Bien hondo. But I'm trying to make it right. Can't do that if you keep blowing me off. And I need to make something clear, alright?" She gestures up at the
ladder, allowing her other arm to fall to her side. "The people on this ship? They're my family. I gotta know what we're getting into here. And I gotta know you people aren't just gonna decide you don't need us alive to get where you're going. Most of the crew, they had nothing to do with this." Her determination faulters slightly and her gaze briefly falls as she draws in an uneven breath. "Not realizing
something was off sooner? That's on me. Not them." she says as she meets Jason's gaze again. "What happened to the girl? It-... it's on me. So... don't take it out on anyone else..." Her voice turns quieter towards the end, almost trailing off. Her point seems to have gotten lost and shifted somewhere partway through what she was saying. She steps aside, keeping her gaze on the metal grid of the walkway and
Lucy continues to play the guitar, humming joining the somber tune after a while. She's good, even with a good bit of whiskey in her, there's no doubt about that.
Jason bites down, clenching his teeth to keep himself from interrupting Elena as she speaks. His anger only seems to worsen at the implication that Redrock might harm her people and take their ship. But he finds himself reeled back in from the edge of the Chasm of Anger a bit by Elena stepping up to take responsibility. It's obvious she wants to protect her people. He glances to the side, nostrils flaring as he pulls in a deep
breath. And that's where his gaze remains for a number of seconds, just staring off to his side. Finally, with a nod, he looks back to Elena. "They're your family?" he asks, "Well, Redrock is mine. So, yeah. I'm pissed. I'm pissed that your incompetence is putting them in the crosshairs." Saying it only seems to rile him back up, but he's quick to temper himself, sucking in another deep breath. "And yeah. Your
people are in danger." he admits with a small nod, "Everyone on this ship is. But it ain't from me or mine."
Leah passes a glance back towards the door as she finds herself focusing on the music. It does its part to give her something to focus on. Something that wasn't what was to come. Something that wasn't Di Yu.
Elena lets out a heavy sigh, but meets Jason's gaze when he looks back her way. She makes no attempt to protest what he has to say, rather nodding a few times. "Tell me what we're up against. Tell me-... tell me what this is about. I'm ready to fight. Make this right. Save your people and mine. But I need to know what we're walking into here."
Lucy keeps on playing, her humming turning to singing soon enough. "...you hold your every breath... but life is for the living... in the water... you feel that you should run... but where are you to hide... in the water..." Her singing matches her playing. It must be something she spends a lot of her downtime on during the long hours of FTL.
Jason breaks eye contact as Elena expresses her desire to save her people. A hand moves to his hip as he glances downwards, at odds with himself. This woman was one of the reasons they're in this situation. The reason Li is in danger. Still, is bad judgement worth a death sentence? What would all of the people of New Longhai have to say about that? With a sigh, Jason gives a nod of his head. "You have somewhere we can talk?"
Elena furrows her eyebrows, and, after a moment's thought she nods, starting towards the ladder. She climbs up a deck, opening the door to the gunnery room and stepping inside. Lucy's guitar-playing can be heard from above when in the ladder room. The room is pretty much empty aside from the torpedo tube and weapons consoles. Just metal surfaces and a couple of hatchways to access the guns.
Leah shuts her eyes, head pressed against the wall beside the viewport as Lucy continues her song. The temporary distraction helps to alleviate some tension.
Lucy continues, channeling the her own overwhelming tide of emotions and worries as she sings, seeking distraction and release both at once. "Against the tide we struggle, with the skin we're in, skin we're in... against the tide we struggle, to keep... our heads above the water... and our hearts above the lie... above the lie.." Her singing seems to trail off, the guitar's melody continuing for a while longer
before being interrupted rather abruptly as her hand moves from the strings to her mouth, but not fast enough to muffle the sob that escapes her.
Jason follows closely behind Elena. Once on the next deck, he brings a gauntleted hand up to run through his hair, his gaze briefly rising when the melodic tune fills the air. His own team barely believed him, what was this stranger going to think of what he had to say about a story about 'monsters', as Nathan had called them. He gives a glance around the room they stop inside of, seemingly making sure nobody else is around
before speaking. But even then he remains silent for a number of seconds, considering his words before finally speaking. "You've seen the vid, yeah?" he asks, deciding it's best to start with something tangible. Something provable. "Horizon?"
Leah's eyes snap back open as Lucy's sobs replace the music. It's true what she had said to Jason. Her husband is already dead. It's just fact. But that fact doesn't bring her any enjoyment. Her gaze moves back to the viewport as she swallows her emotion.
Elena furrows her eyebrows, her gaze focusing intently on Jason as he speaks. She offers a nod, crossing her arms and waiting for him to elaborate.
Silence fills the galley once more, somehow more prominent now that the music is gone. Lucy's manage to muffle her crying enough that it's not heard outside the bridge, staring out into space as she does her best to calm herself, guitar still in her lap.
Jason gives a nod of his own in turn. "That's what we're up against." he sighs, "Collector tech." He finds himself unsure of where to go from there. Does he tell her what he knows? How he knows it? As has become far too common for him, his mind jumps to the Evening Star- where it all started for him- but he quickly dismisses it. It's something he rarely speaks about to those he loves, let alone a complete stranger. No, Elena
doesn't need the details. She only needs to know what pertains to her. "That little girl you took." he decides, folding his arms across his chest as he shifts uncomfortably in place, "...Li. We rescued her from a cultist compound on some backwater planet. Bunch of people had set up in a-..." he shakes his head, the details of the entire ordeal still hazy for him, "...I don't know. Research facility? It was old. Asari
old." He looks away from her as he recalls Di Yu, his attention focusing on the wall beside her instead.
Elena 's frown deepens as she listens. "Cultists...?" she says quietly, recalling Ilyna's words. And her not believing them. She goes quiet for a moment, closing her eyes as a sigh escapes her. "They worship those things?" she asks, returning her attention to Jason.
Jason gives a distant nod. But it's not long before he questions it himself and gives a shrug of his shoulders. "If I'm being entirely honest? I don't have a fucking clue. All I know is-..." he trails off, sighing as he realizes this isn't going to be quite as simple as giving her the cliffnotes. He gives a glance towards the door, lowering his voice before speaking again. "Look, it's not the first time I've come across tech
like that. Information is sparse. We've found mentions of machine cults and other vague, cryptic shit like that. Hell, it wasn't until that vid of Horizon started going around that we even connected them to the Collectors."
Elena 's frown remains. She's obviously paying complete attention to Jason's words, but she has little to say. "You have experience with this stuff? The shit in the Horizon vids... reminded me of the geth offensive. Didn't see action, but we all heard a lotta cosas locas going around."
Jason gives a single, distant nod in response to Elena's first question. He remains silent as she continues. This isn't the first time he's heard the geth connection. "Yeah..." he says, "The geth seemed to be a pretty common thread when I was looking into this shit. But, like I said, it's all vague, cryptic shit. Rumors. Hard to really pin anything down. I have a feeling people have been working their ass off to keep this shit
Jason gives a humorless snort. "The Alliance." he says. It's clear from the tone of his voice that he's none too happy about it. After a moment's hesitation, he gains an almost guilty look. "A part of me even understands it." he admits. "This tech? It's dangerous. I'm talking shit-your-shorts terrifying." he elaborates.
Elena 's frown returns, and she almost looks offended for a moment before seeing his expression. "If they are... they must have good reasons. Reasons like... cultist locos...?"
Jason rests his hands on his hips as his gaze moves to the ground and he gives a few nods to himself. "They're scared." he says simply. After his discussion with Agent Lessard, it was the conclusion he came to. It certainly doesn't excuse it. They're supposed to protect humanity. Fight for them. Instead they hid the truth while colonies went missing. Jason has certainly had his fair share of restless nights dwelling on it. He
believed in the Alliance. To find out they had been trying to sweep all of this under the rug felt like a personal sleight. A betrayal. But none of that matters right now. "I'm not going to pretend to know what they're doing. I mean-.... Shit, I gave the Alliance ten years of my life. Do I want to believe they're out there kicking ass and making this right? Of course I do. But-... But right now all I care about is
Elena 's expression darkens as Jason's focus shifts, and she nods. "So what can you tell me that'll help achieve that goal?" she asks, studying him closely.
Jason lowers his gaze as he considers the question with a sigh. "This woman you helped?" he says, briefly meeting Elena's gaze as a small bit of that previous frustration flashes in his expression once again, but it immediately slips away, "Considering what's been said about your crewmate-..." he stammers, an uncomfortable look immediately crossing his face. "...James?" he corrects, finding himself feeling the need to use the
Elena nods slightly. "So... you think she's using their tech to... control him? I-... I know James. Fuck, I'd trust him with my life. Have, more than once. What he did? What he wanted us to do? That's not him."
Jason's gaze remains low as Elena speaks, simply nodding along slowly. "Yeah... That's what it does." he says softly. "Their tech... It changes people. I don't-..." he shakes his head with a deep sigh, well aware of where this conversation is going. "We have no idea how any of it works. But the results are pretty fucking clear. Some people just... act differently? Teammates drawing weapons on one another out of the blue.
Others? For others the effects are much more obvious. Just... empty shells. Their bodies completely overtaken by cybernetics out of nowhere. And it's like a-... like a virus? An infection...?" he lists, unsure of how to classify what he's seen. "One attacks someone else and then they change. And on..." his voice grows distant as the Evening Star once again invades his thoughts, "...and on..." and Oogafau, "...and
on..." Di Yu. He licks at his lips as he finally meets her gaze again. "And there's no cure." he finally adds, almost apologetically.
Elena 's expression quite suddenly shifts to one of shock and anger, a sharp "What?!" escaping her immediately as she stares at him.
Jason swallows hard. He opens his mouth to speak, a simple: "I'm sorry..." is all that comes out, barely more than a whisper.
Elena 's hands clench into fists, her head turning to the side as she looks away from Jason. She draws in a deep breath through her nose, looking back at him with an intense glare. "Are. You. Sure?"
Jason takes a deep breath of his own before answering. "Am I sure? I'm not sure about anything. Like I said, we don't have the slightest fucking clue how this shit works. But I have seen it in action. I've seen teammates turned in seconds. One moment they're fighting at your side, the next they're charging you down. I fought my way through a mining station where a hundred and twenty four people-..." he lists, that
number still branded into his memories, "...One-hundred-twenty-four! Turned and tore one another apart before anyone could get it under control. So am I sure there's no cure? No. But I am sure it's far too dangerous to chance it."
Elena 's glare softens as Jason relays his horrifying experience with the tech in question. A troubled frown covers her face as she listens, turning silent once he's done. "So-... so... what? James is just... fucked?" she starts, her voice trembling slightly before she falls silent. She opens her mouth to speak several times, but no more words come. Eventually, however, she shakes her head several times, her glare
returning as she grabs a hold of the collar on his chestplate with one hand, jabbing the index finger of her other hand up in the direction of the deck above as she pulls him closer. "Roja thinks she's going to see her husband again. Do you even fucking understand that?" she snarls, barely able to keep herself from shouting. The anger is certainly misplaced, at least in part, but it's there none the less.
Jason's hands clench into fists, but he makes no attempt to fight Elena off. The reaction doesn't even catch him off guard. It's expected. He doesn't look away as she speaks, showing her- and James- the respect of maintaining eye contact. Doing his best to show her that he understands the weight of what he's saying. "More than you could imagine." he says softly in response to her question. He slowly raises his hand to his
collar, gently gripping it around Elena's and urging it away. "Which is why you need to make sure you're good and ready to do what you need to do. Because she won't be." he says. It's not a judgement on Lucy's strength of character. It's projecting. Because he knows damn well that if it was Vasquez out there he would be taking her in alive no matter what anyone else had to say.
Elena withdraws her hands with a huff, letting out a resentful chuckle as she shakes her head, stepping away from Jason. "So... that's it? Whole thing's fucked?" she says as she turns back towards him, with some distance between them now. "What the hell are we doing out here, then?!"
Jason bites his lip, his gaze finally dropping slightly now that Elena has stepped away. But as she finishes, his attention snaps right back to her. "What are we doing? Did you not-... We're saving my friend's daughter!" he says, looking and sounding downright furious that Li seems to have been forgotten by her despite her crew's involvement. But that, too, fades, replaced by an almost embarassed expression for his outburst.
"You said you want to make things right? This is how you do it. I'm sorry about James but it might not be too late for Li. I'm not asking you to take one step off this ship if you don't want to." he continues, giving a stern, understanding shake of his head, "You wanna sit back? That's fine with me. You get us there and my team will take care of the rest."
Elena bites her lips, staring at Jason as she struggles with her words. She certainly hadn't forgotten about the girl. "S-... so you think she can still be saved? The-... the girl?" Her voice breaks slightly as she speaks, a tenative, almost guilty look on her face. She studies his expression closely, hoping to discern what he really believes. Hoping that maybe, just maybe, she hasn't resigned an innocent girl to
Lucy enters the galley, a distracted look on her face. She doesn't notice Leah right away, but when she does she lets out a quiet sigh. "Don't mind me. Just gettin' some water." she says, heading for the kitchen and opening one of the cabinets to grab a glass.
Jason's gaze lowers. It's not like the thought hasn't crossed his mind. He's done his best to push that fear away, but it's difficult to keep from dwelling on it. "Does it matter?" he asks, brow furrowed, "I have to try." With a sigh, he brings a hand up, running his gauntleted fingers through his short hair as he explains, "They didn't change her back at their compound, so I have to believe there's some kind of sentimental
reason for that." He once again meets Elena's gaze as he repeats himself: "I have to." giving away that this small detail is the only thing giving him any semblance of hope for Li's safety. "And-... And if we're too late...?" he continues, his voice breaking slightly as he pulls his gaze away from the woman, "...Then I guess I need to make sure I'm good and ready to do what I need to do... Because-..." he
Leah merely looks Lucy's way, remaining silent. She doesn't even respond to the woman, simply turning back to look through the viewport. It's not until Lucy is nearly done that she finally speaks up. "That was you?" she asks, eyes still focused on the distortion outside of the ship. "The music?"
Elena gains a look of understanding as she listens to Jason, studying him closely. She gives the faintest of nods at his final comment. She doesn't say anything right away, her gaze wandering across the room as she processes. For a moment her gaze falls down to her chest, her hand briefly brushing across the visible petals of the rose tattooed over her heart. Eventually she looks back to him, however. "Then... I'm
going with. Yeah?" she says, her voice quiet. "From the sound of things... you guys'll need all the help you can get. And... I... gotta make this right. I gotta." she says, drawing in a long breath as she does her best to keep her composure.
Lucy turns the water off, moving her now-full glass away from the faucet as she looks over at Leah, seeming a little surprised. "Oh." she says, not having realized she'd been heard. "Yeah... just... somethin' to occupy me, y'know? Hope I didn't bother ya..." she says apologetically, far from her usual self thanks to the troubles that weigh on her mind.
Jason's mind continues to linger on his own words, worry setting in that it might come to that. Worry that he might not be able to 'do what he needs to do' if it does. Worry that even the slightest of hesitations could cost someone their life. "...Thanks." he says softly, giving a hollow nod despite the sincerity of his words. "If you want me to talk to her-..." he gestures upwards, presumably implying Lucy, "...I will. I
was planning on breaking the news to her tomorrow anyway." he admits. With a shake of his head he continues, "Just-... hell of a thing to tell a person."
Leah's eyes scan back and forth across the viewport. She, too, was far from her usual self. And she felt for this poor woman whose life was about to be turned upside down. "It was nice." she says without looking to the woman.
Elena closes her eyes, pushing back her own emotions at the thought of losing someone she's lived and laughed alongside for two years. She was far closer to Lucy than James though, and whatever she was feeling it'd be a hundred times harder for her. "She deserves to know." she says quietly as her eyes open, her gaze moving from the faint blue glow of the torpedo rack to Jason. After a moment's thought, and a sigh,
Lucy offers a faint, weary smile. "Thank ya..." she says, studying Leah in silence for a moment. She takes her focus on the viewport to be a deliberate gesture, and sips her water before turning to head back to the bridge with a quiet sigh, seeing little point in disturbing her.
Jason gives a few silent nods. Another conversation he isn't looking forward to having. "Tomorrow." he agrees before turning away and starting out of the room.
Leah's focus on the viewport is a deliberate gesture. She shifts her weight a bit, leaning a bit heavier against the wall, but makes no attempt to prevent Lucy from leaving. The last thing she wants is to find herself trapped in a conversation with this woman considering what she knows about her husband.
Elena climbs up the ladder after Jason leaves, shooting a long glance at Lucy who's just retaking her seat on the bridge, before stomping off towards the galley. She goes right for the fridge, barely seeming aware of Leah's presence, and grabs a beer bottle, using the thumb of her cybernetic limb to pop the cap off and take a long swig, leaning back against the counter with a heavy sigh as she closes her eyes, hands
Jason continues on his way back to join the rest of his team and finally begin peeling off his own armor plating.
Leah suppresses her sigh, suddenly finding herself rethinking the galley as her choice for her sought after solitude. She gives only a passing glance Elena's way before turning her focus right back to the viewport once more.
Elena only now notices Leah, pushing off from the counter as soon as she notices her. She leaves the galley while taking another long swig of her beer, heading for the hatch to her cabin.