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#RedrockAgency – December 9, 2017
It's the evening of November 28th when Gage steps into the lobby of Redrock Agency. Dressed in his navy blue cap, a pair of jeans, and work boots, he dusts off the shoulders of his thick, grey jacket, causing a flurry of snow to fall to the floor.
Gage stomps in place a few times to clear the snow from his boots as he glances around the lobby for any signs of life before stepping over to the desk.
Fergus materializes behind the desk as soon as Gage enters the building, now displaying his usual fur-lined winter armor rather than the fancy tunic applied specially for the wedding. "Greetings, ser. How can I help you?" he asks with a bow of his head.
Gage rests one hand against the desk, tugging at the collar of his jacket with his free hand, a chill having set in from his time out in the snow. "Hey, Fergus." he says- seemingly having far fewer qualms conversing with a VI than Jason initially did- as he cranes his neck to the side to glance down the hallway a bit, his expression showing the slightest bit of concern. "Is Jason around?"
Fergus shakes his head. "I'm afraid not, ser. He's currently on a mission. Would you like to leave a message?"
Davind furrows his brow as a bit of confusion sets in. Jason hadn't told him anything. And just days after his wedding? "A missi-..." he begins, but decides against it with a shake of his head, "Is Linda around?" he asks, deciding any questions he has would be better served directed at her.
Fergus takes a second to process the change of question, and nods. "Certainly. She is in her office. Would you like me to notify her of your presence?"
Gage gives a couple of short nods, bringing his hands together to warm them up. "Yeah, if she's got a few minutes to talk."
Fergus disappears for a moment - just a matter of politeness. He is of course omnipresent within the building. He soon reappears. "You may see Lady Vasquez in her office." he says, with a gesture down the hall.
Gage gives a nod of his head as thanks. "Appreciate it." he says simply as he tucks his hands back into his jacket pocket and starts down the hall. As he reaches the door to Vasquez' office, he pulls one hand free and buzzes the door's interface.
Vasquez is sitting behind her desk as the door slides open. She's wearing her gray camo military pants and a white tanktop, as well as a matching gray jacket with the Redrock logo on it, to shield from the cold that seeps through the window behind her. She hasn't gotten any sleep the night before judging by her face. Her damp hair and wrinkly fingertips point to a recent, and very long shower. Her knuckles are bruised and
with broken skin in a few places, but no longer bleeding. She's wearing her stripped-down Kuwashii headset, and on her desk is a number of datapads, one of which is broken. She appears to be, unsuccessfully, trying to piece it back together with her omni-tool when David enters, causing her to look up, blinking a few times as if her focus isn't quite there. "Gage." she says with a small nod when she realizes who it
Gage nods as he steps into the room, giving a quick look about as he pulls his cap off. "Hey." he says as his gaze falls back to the woman behind the desk and the state she seems to be in. His attention falls to her bruised knuckles, which only causes his concern to worsen. "...Me and the team have been trying to get in touch with Jason all day but he hasn't been answering calls. We were planning on getting a few drinks and
thought you two might want to join. Jen said she hadn't heard from him all day either. Realized that I didn't have your contact info to touch base with you, so I figured I'd stop by and see what's going on..." A crease forms across his forehead as he cocks a thumb back over his shoulder towards the door with his free hand, "Fergus said something about a mission...? Is everything alright, Linda?"
Vasquez nods a few times, bringing up a hand and running it across her face. "Yeah. Yeah, it's-..." she starts, sounding exhausted. "No." she says suddenly, letting her hand fall down against the desk with a thump, a shake of her head following. "It's, uh... it's not. Jason is... gone. Off-world." An unamused chuckle follows, turning into a sigh halfway through as she shakes her head again.
Gage's concern shifts into a frown as he takes a step forward and slips into the seat across from Vasquez, bringing his cap to rest in his lap. "...What happened?" he asks. Despite his lack of knowledge of the situation, he knows Jason well enough to know he wouldn't just leave out of the blue without so much as a message if it was avoidable.
Vasquez props her elbows up against the desk, intertwining her fingers and resting her head against her knuckles, her head turning to the side as she lets out a grunt, thinking over what to say. "Emergency. Ilyna T'Rea. You met her during the bachelor party, didn't you? Employee and a friend." she explains, her voice sometimes shifting into something near a mumble. She continues to stare at an arbitrary spot on the wall.
"Someone kidnapped her daughter. Fled off-world. Jason's taken a team to rescue her. That's, uh... that's Jason. Always charging off to the rescue." she says, letting her hands drop as she turns her head back toward Gage, looking first at him and then down at the desk as an empty chuckle escapes her.
Gage mutters a soft: "Shit" as he shifts to one side, leaning far enough to fish his omni-tool out from his pocket. "Li?" he says, remembering the little girl from the wedding. "Why didn't he ask us to-..." he begins but trails off as he begins poking at his omni-tool. The interface expands before him and he shifts his attention from the holographic glow to Vasquez. "When did this happen?" he asks, already starting to run the
numbers to figure out how much of a head start Jason might have. "We've got our gear with us. If you know where they're headed we might still be able to find someone down by the spaceport willing to give us a lift so we can provide support." he explains. To him, Redrock isn't even a part of the equation. Jason is one of his. And if one of his needs backup, he's going to do everything in his power to provide it.
Vasquez lets out a heavy sigh, shaking her head as she looks up at Gage again, watching him take out his omni-tool. "I-... I don't." she says, her voice breaking slightly. "I don't have a fucking clue where they're headed. The storm... it was messing with the comms all night. I-..." she trails off, shaking her head again. "I haven't heard shit since they left atmo. Either they're still in FTL or... they're outside the
Gage gives a sigh of his own, his fingers coming to a rest against the holographic interface. "Well... shit." he says in a deep breath. His frustration is a more calm, restrained frustration, but it's present nonetheless. "He has to know we would've come with. Why wouldn't he have said something about this to me?" he asks with genuine confusion as the interface dissipates and he's left looking to the woman opposite of him,
completely ignorant that he just answered his own question. As he settles back into his seat, his thumb moves to the wedding ring on his left ring finger, idly rotating it around his finger in a nervous habit he developed long ago.
Vasquez studies Gage for a moment, her gaze going to his wedding ring, which causes her to reach for her own ring, closing her eyes for a moment and taking a deep breath as she composes herself. Her worry is obvious in her expression, her exhaustion having drained her ability to keep it under wraps. She almost looks a little pale up close, sick perhaps. Sweating. "I put the team together. It-... it wouldn't have-... it's a
Redrock matter. Wouldn't have been fair to drag you into this." she says with a shake of her head as her eyes open.
Gage opens his mouth to protest, but resigns himself to a small nod. She's right. Despite his urge to protect his people, the fact of the matter is that this didn't involve him or his team. "...Of course." he says, "I'm not too concerned about what is and isn't 'fair' when it comes to my team..." he admits, once more making it clear that he still considers Jason a part of that 'team', "If we can help. We will. But it doesn't give
me the right to stick my nose where it doesn't belong. I apologize." His frown deepens as he studies Vasquez from across the desk. Her obvious concern causes him to slip his omni-tool back into his pocket and lean forward in his seat, elbows to knees as he folds his hands "...Hey, now. Jason is one of the best damn soldiers I know. Don't go worrying yourself sick. That's the last thing he'd want."
Vasquez faintly shakes her head again, briefly running a hand across her forehead as she looks down at the desk. "I should be there with him. This isn't-... I don't even know where he is, or if-..." she closes her eyes. Deep breath. "You have no idea what he's getting into." she mutters, a slight grimace following as her stomach rumbles audibly. She stares down at her hand as her eyes open, focusing on the ring on her
Gage gives a few silent nods. "No... No I don't." he agrees with a sigh, "But I do know that whatever is going on, sitting around worrying yourself to death isn't going to help anyone." His tone is soft. Kind. He's seen more than his fair share of deployments. Despite his lack of knowledge on the actual situation, he's well aware of the difficulties brought on by distance. Especially in their line of work, when danger is
constant and nobody is assured a ticket home. He forces a small smile as he cocks his head to the side. "Have you even had anything to eat since they left? Not to brag or anything, but I make a mean peanut butter and jelly sandwich..." he offers lightheartedly.
Vasquez scoffs quietly, looking off to the side again, but she's unable to suppress a groan at the mention of food. "Nothing that's stayed down." she comments with a glance back at Gage, pursing her lips. She's not particularly keen on interacting with anyone at the moment. She shakes her head. "I don't need-..." she starts as she pushes back her chair, standing up. She immediately realizes just how long it's been since
she's eaten when a wave of light-headedness washes over her and she stumbles slightly, gripping the desk to stabilize herself as her face contorts in pain. "Fu-... ugh..."
Gage's smile slips away as Vasquez attempts to stand up. He's quick to rise from his seat and round the desk, not immediately offering any assistance but remaining on standby just in case. "Hey, take it easy." he says. He's also seen his fair share of pregnancies. "Should probably try to get off your feet for a bit. How about we get you upstairs and I get you a glass of water? How long have you been at it, anyway?" he asks, giving
Vasquez waves Gage off with a grunt, pushing off from the desk and blinking hard as she tries to clear her head. "Water..." she mumbles. "Yeah..." She nods slightly, walking past him without answering his question right away. She's still a bit lightheaded, and it shows in her expression as she navigates toward the doorway. "He left... at 2AM..." she says, as if that answers Gage's question somewhow. She stops in the
Gage gives a deep sigh as he follows behind Vasquez, tucking his hands back into his pockets but remaining close enough in case she needs assistance. "Might be time for a break..." he says, doing his best to mask his concern and tow the line of trying to be helpful without getting under her skin. It's not like they know one another too well, and the impression he's gotten of her isn't of one who accepts help easily. She's proud.
Vasquez takes a moment in the doorframe before pushing off and continuing. A grunt is her only response to Gage as she starts heading up the stairs. She's walking slower than usual, no doubt a bit dizzy, but she makes it up fine. She makes no further attempt at conversation, letting silence settle in as she heads for the rec room.
Gage doesn't attempt to interrupt her silence as he follows behind. He lags behind for a moment as he pulls his omni-tool back out and types out a quick message. "Just shy of nineteen years." he says with a humorless snort as he enters the rec room a few moments after Vasquez. He raises his hand, palm towards himself as he shows his own ring to Vasquez. Perhaps he's just trying to make small talk. Trying to keep her talking. Keep
Vasquez glances back at Gage as she enters the rec room, furrowing her eyebrows slightly. "They out here with you...?" she asks, already pretty sure the answer is no as she thinks back to the wedding. She makes her way to the kitchenette, grabbing a glass and starting to fill it with water. She fumbles, cursing quietly as she drops it. She picks it up from the sink without comment and resumes filling it up with water.
Gage slowly crosses the room to join Vasquez at the kitchenette, a sigh escaping as she asks her question. "Yeah.... no." he says with a shake of his head. "Was hoping to make it to twenty years. Just-... seems like a special number, ya know?" he gives an embarassed chuckle at his own sentimentality before giving a dismissive shrug of his shoulders to accompany another long, drawn out sigh, "...But shit happens." He reaches for
the fridge handle, his hand resting on it as he glances back to Vasquez. "You mind...?" he asks, making sure to get permission before just going through someone's fridge.
Vasquez frowns, turning the faucet off as she glances over at Gage. "Oh... shit. I'm... sorry." she says quietly, a sigh of her own following as her gaze lingers on him for a moment. She pushes off from the counter and nods at the question before heading toward the couch. "Yeah, sure..."
Gage gives an appreciative nod as he tugs the fridge open. A small smile briefly crosses his face as he spots Jason's half-empty jars of peanut butter and jelly. He collects the ingredients along with some bread and sets them on the counter before glancing back and finally addressing Vasquez' condolences. "Appreciate it, but I brought it on myself." he admits. A somewhat sad smile crosses his face briefly as he fetches himself a
plate and butter knife and begins to get to work. "It's this life." he continues with a shake of his head, "It can just-... wear a person down. The kids? They understood it." he nods with a brief glance Vasquez' way as he spreads peanut butter across a slice of bread, "To them I'm like a superhero, ya know? Dad is out kicking ass and saving the galaxy." He gives a short chuckle, but it's not long before the smile fades. "But
Vasquez looks over at Gage, her frown lingering as she studies him, but she sits down rather than saying anything, a sigh escaping her after she sips the glass of water. "You ever think about giving it up?" she asks, gripping the glass in both hands as her gaze wanders across the room distractedly. "Try for a normal life?" There's a lot of weight to her words even though her expression seems distracted. Her gaze ends up
Gage continues to focus on the sandwich on the plate in front of him as he spreads jelly on a second piece of bread. "Of course." he says with a nod to himself. "All the time." With a sigh, he shrugs his shoulders and presses the pieces of bread together before cutting the sandwich from corner-to-corner, a habit instilled in him from his children's insistance. "Every deployment was an emotional rollercoaster. Trish was always a
mess when I'd ship out. But then I'd get out there and-..." he stammers, unsure of how his words will land. He gives a shake of his head, "...And I knew that's where I belonged." He steps away from the counter, moving towards the couch to set the plate on the seat beside Vasquez. If he doesn't offer, she can't turn it down. He then turns back to go prepare one for himself. "Maybe that makes me a shitty father. Hell, I know
it makes me a shitty husband." With another shrug, he sets a second plate out on the counter, "But I'm a damn good leader." he says. It's clear from the tone of his voice that it's something he takes pride in. Something that he feels matters. It's something important. "If I'm not at home? Maybe my wife is lonely. Maybe my kids miss their father. But if I'm not out here? If someone else-... someone less qualified takes my
place? People die." Or maybe it's just what he's convinced himself to justify he's own views. Either way, he speaks with conviction.
Vasquez lets out a heavy sigh, burying her face in her hands, her elbows propped up against her knees as she goes silent for a time. "It used to be so much easier." she finally says, dropping her hands but remaining hunched forward. "Used to be there was always the option of both of us going. We... were in it together. And it was... just us." She shakes her head slightly, drawing in a long breath as her gaze turns to her
reflection again. "Now I'm... forced to the sidelines, and I'm just waiting... waiting for him to come home. Waiting to see if he's coming home." Her voice breaks on the final sentence, a pause following as she tries to blink back the tears forming in her eyes. She has little luck controlling her emotions in her exhausted, starved state. "Don't know what the fuck we've accomplished out here. Feels like we've done
more harm than good." She bites down on her lips, a muffled, drawn-out sigh slowly escaping. "Jason's the same way... he needs this. And... he's good at it. No one I'd trust more to lead our team in the field..." she admits. "Used to think I needed it too, but-... I don't know. I don't even know what the hell we're doing anymore. Raising a kid? Here? In this life?" She looks back over at Gage for a moment
before leaning back in the couch, running a hand over her face again and glancing down at the sandwich with a sigh. "I don't know..."
Gage stops his sandwich-making as Vasquez speaks, choosing to look her way instead. He gives a couple of nods as she talks before burying his attention back in his sandwich. "I wasn't trying to fish for sympathy or make you feel bad." he explains with a shake of his head as he works on his food, "The point I was trying to get at is that-... Well, you've gotta know where you stand. Both of you. Talk to him. I know this is what he
loves to do. Believe me." he says with a humorless snort. "He's got a chip on his shoulder and more heart than brains." he adds, though it's quite clear that he means it in the most endearing way possible. "That's probably why he fit in so damn well with the rest of us." he adds with a snicker, "He's the kind of guy who'd rather be out there fighting so someone else doesn't have to." He takes a moment to slice his own
sandwich in half before looking back to Vasquez with a nod. "But I also know he loves you. Even if he didn't rant and rave about you all the time, I can see it. So just-... just talk to him."
Vasquez draws in an uneven breath, nodding a few times. A quiet half-sob, half-chuckle escapes her at the mention of 'more heart than brains', a sniffle following as a faint smile crosses her face for a brief moment. She props one elbow up against the backrest of the couch, leaning her head against her hand as she listens. Toward the end she nods again, glancing over at Gage before looking away across the room again,
lifting her head. "Yeah..." she says quietly, a brief pause before she adds: "I just-... I just need him to come home.", her voice breaking once again. Frustration crosses her face as she realizes what kind of an impression she must be making. She shakes her head, wiping at the tears that have started to roll down her cheeks and finally reaching for one half of the sandwich, turning it over in her hand but not
Gage gives an understanding nod of his own as he scoops his plate up and brings it over to the table, taking a seat so that he can face Vasquez at the couch. "He will." he says confidently as he takes a sandwich-half in his hand. "I don't know what has you so worried. And I get the impression that you probably wouldn't tell me if I asked, so-..." he forces a small smile, giving a shrug of his shoulders, "...I won't. But I can
tell you I served with Jason for years. I've seen what he's capable of. And you know just as well as I do that it's gonna take a force of nature to keep that man from coming home." He gestures to Vasquez with his sandwich, "You can count on that."
Vasquez continues to look at the sandwich in her hand, nodding faintly. "Yeah..." she agrees quietly, but somewhow that doesn't seem to bring her any comfort. Perhaps because what he's facing might as well be a force of nature. She swallows hard, lifting the sandwich and taking a small, tenative bite. The taste barely registers in her distracted mind, and her empty stomach rumbles in protest, but she manages to keep it
Gage falls silent when it's clear that his words didn't really alleviate Vasquez' discomfort. It causes his own concern to show through once again, if only briefly. It's not like Vasquez is a civilian, worried about her husband going off to fight a war. Vasquez was a soldier, too. She understands the way it works. Her and Jason have been doing this a while. For her to be so rattled is... unsettling. But he pushes that thought
aside for now, cramming it back behind a bite of his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. There's not much he can do one way or another. "I still wear the damn thing." he says, just trying to keep the conversation going in order to keep Vasquez' mind from wandering. He lifts his left hand, examining the ring with a small smile. "Been months since she served me with papers but-..." he shakes his head, "...You have something on
for so long and it just sort of feels like a part of you, you know?" With a sigh he shrugs his shoulders, "...Should probably get used to the idea of taking it off."
Vasquez continues to take slow, small bites of the sandwich, reaching for her water every now and then, not particularly wanting a repeat of her previous attempt at eating. Every bite is a reminder of just how hungry she is however. She looks over at Gage, sucking in her lips and saying nothing at first, resuming her eating, but eventually she nods slightly. "Probably." she says. "Don't think anyone can blame you for
holding on to the past though." She certainly couldn't. A sigh follows. "How... old are they? Your kids."
Gage examines his ring for a few more moments once Vasquez has finished. The question about his kids causes his sad smile to shift into something a bit more genuine. "Jonathan is 15." he begins, shifting a bit in his seat. "He's my oldest. Just started playing football, actually." he tosses in as an aside. "Lizzy is 13. She-..." he sucks in a deep breath, holding it for a moment before slowly releasing it with a shake of his head,
"...She's too smart for her own good. Thinks she knows everything. Billy is our youngest. Two. He's-... He's a handful." With a sigh, his smile begins to fade. He doesn't mention how his marriage had been on rocky terms long before his most recent deployment. Or how their youngest child was practically a silent agreement at attempting to reignite their relationship. A failed attempt. "...They're good kids. They can be-...
Okay, I'm not gonna lie to you." he props his smile back up as he leans forward a bit more, focusing on Vasquez once again, "...You're gonna have days where you're just-... our of your mind with frustration over the little animals. But-..." he gives a snicker, followed by a small, but sincere, nod, "...But then you'll have your days when it's all worth it. When your-... your daughter comes home bragging about the A she got
on her science test and you just sit there and think.... I created that. I made life. And then you ask yourself how in the hell did she get so smart?" His shoulders rattle with laughter as he finishes. Despite his less-than-ideal presence in their lives, it's impossible not to see that he loves his children.
Vasquez listens in silence, a frown briefly crossing her face as she notices Gage's smile fading, and ponders the gap between Lizzy and Billy, but as he goes on a faint smile of her own manifests, and the final comment actually causes a brief, faint chuckle, her free hand moving to her belly for a moment. She doesn't respond right away, chewing silently on a bite of the sandwich as she studies him. Her expression changes
as her mind inevitably drifts back to the current situation, her gaze drifting to the window, and the snowfall outside. "Li, she.... Redrock rescued her. Situation she was in, it-... well, it wasn't good." From the tone of her voice that's a major understatement. "She's... about seven, we think. Ilyna, she took her in. Been doing her best to give her a normal life. We've all done what we can to pitch in." She
chuckles slightly as she adds: "She's really taken to Jason. He's good with kids." She pauses, a heavy sigh escaping her as her amusement fades. "She's a great kid. And now-... now she's in danger. Because it's not safe out here. Part, uh... part of me wanted to tell Jason not to go, you know? And-.. and I feel like shit about that. I mean-... Li, she's-... she's just a kid. A great kid. Hell, she's practically
family." she pauses to swallow, fresh tears escaping despite her best efforts. "...but I just kept thinking... Jason goes out there without me, what if he doesn't come back? What if I'm stuck doing this on my own? I-I-I can't do that. I don't-... I can't." She sounds increasingly panicked as she continues, her pitch changing as she stammers out the last few sentences.
Gage takes the opportunity to bite into his sandwich as Vasquez speaks. But he listens. And as she nears the end, he looks back to her once again. "That's nothing to feel bad about." he says plainly, giving a short, dismissive shake of his head. "Wanting to keep your husband safe? Being selfish isn't being selfish anymore. You've got a child to think about now and you just want what's best for them. I get it. Doesn't make you a
bad person. Hell, probably just means you're a damn good mother. But Jason is-..." he winces, suddenly feeling the slightest bit guilty over talking about his friend without his presence. "Jason is-... I'm guessing I don't have to spell it out for you, Linda. The man has lost a lot. You're saying this little girl is family and she might be in danger? Hard to really expect him to just stand on the sidelines, you know? I'm not
even saying that he's making the right choice. I'm just saying-..." he sighs, trying his best not to sound too judgemental of her, "...You know the type of guy Jason is. You knew that when you married him. Right...?"