#Spaceport – October 26, 2018

It's a cloudy morning in Freedom Falls as Vasquez drives through the spaceport gate. At least its not snowing. She's wearing her usual winter wear, and doesn't seem in a particularly talkative mood, perhaps because she's still waking up. They slowly head around the quarian encampment and the central landing pads toward the hangar number they've been given.

Jason attempted to wash away his hangover with a cold shower to little effect but what was shaping up to be a day where work would be forgotten took a sharp turn upon spotting Riley's message. Living out in the Terminus has forced him to recall a skill that was learned during one of his many tours out in the Traverse. A skill he almost thought he'd have no use for once his career with the Alliance came to an end. Cutting his own hair.

Riley's message prompted him to clean up as best as he could, give himself a quick trim, and chase off the facial hair that had started to accumulate during the past couple weeks. Old habits die hard and something deep inside of him seems to be nagging at him that he needs to put his best foot forward in front of the Alliance. Still, he's certainly looking the part of mercenary this morning. His usual attire of black military

pants, combat boots, and a thick brown jacket overtop his white long-sleeved shirt. At just the right angle or when the wind catches it just right, his unzipped jacket gives a view of the folded up Phalanx magnetized to the snugly fitted shoulder holster. The gash across his forehead has mostly healed, compliments of the miracle of medi-gel but, unfortunately it can't do much for the bruising that still covers a large portion

of his torso. Deep purples have diminished to light browns but, without the numbing comfort of booze, the occasional pained wince probably doesn't go unnoticed when he turns the wrong way or brushes up against something. Vasquez' silence goes unnoticed as the pounding in his head is plenty loud enough to keep his attention. He balances a thermos of coffee against his knee as he looks out over the quarian encampment. "Had to be

today. Had to be the morning." he mutters grumpily.

Vasquez offers no response to Jason's complaints about the timing of Riley's arrival. She's made her feelings on the subject known, and she's not in the best of moods herself, albeit for different reasons. Long workdays with improper eating habits and a body in tumult frequently makes for unpleasant mornings. She wordlessly pulls in front of the hangar and parks the car.

The hangar door is open, and an unmarked Kodiak sits inside, its side door open. Riley is inside, sitting on a fuel drum. She's wearing a worn, but sturdy, olive green jacket with reinforced cargo pants and combat boots, and she's chatting with a large, similarly dressed man sporting a buzzcut, sleek HUD glasses and a an armor vest of the sort pirates and scavengers often wear. Atop the shuttle itself sits a woman with short, purple hair and

an intense gaze that Jason might recognize as the biotic of Riley's team. Her attention is immediately on the car as it pulls in. Her attire is similar to the others aside from her choice of tight-fitting black pants and decidedly non-regulation piercings. The large man is the only one that's visibly armed, the block shape of a compacted Locust SMG hanging against his hip.

Jason scans the group through his brow from the comfort of the warm vehicle's window. He takes a quick sip from his coffee and sets it into the holder before passing an apprehensive glance Vasquez' way. "Let's do this..." he says. There's a bit of concern in his voice. Riley seemed the good enough sort. A career soldier. The sort of person he fought alongside most of his career. But the monkey banging symbols behind her team brought

some uncertanties to the table. And uncertanties make him uneasy. Lessard made no effort to hide his disappointment over Redrock's involvement in what took place on Di Yu.

Vasquez raises an eyebrow as she studies the group inside the hangar. "That's them?" she asks as she turns the car off, reaching for her doorhandle - they're not exactly advertising their affiliation, and she was unconcious during their return to Aite.

Jason is prompted to glance towards the team of N7 operatives by Vasquez' question. With a sigh, he looks back to his wife and nods. "That's them." he confirms. The cold Aite air that greets him when he opens the car door helps to shake loose a bit of that hangover fog still hovering over him. His exit from the vehicle is slow and meticulous, the combination of his aching body and the effects of last night's bender forcing him to play

it safe. Despite the cold he doesn't zip his jacket. Best that they see the holster. They're trained operatives, after all. Hiding the weapon from them wouldn't work anyway- they'd spot the telltale sign of a weapon bulge through his jacket the moment he got close- and it might just come across as downright suspicious.

Vasquez exits on her side of the car. She's carrying her Shuriken openly on her hip as she usually does when leaving the safety of their home. Despite his somewhat... impaired state, she lets Jason take the lead. This is his contact, after all. There's also an inescapable piece of discomfort in her mind brought on by the circumstances that these people are associated with. Cerberus. The Barn. They'd only seen her as a brainwashing

victim that had to be rescued.

Lee ends her conversation as Jason and Vasquez approaches, jumping off the barrel and turning to look at them. She extends a gloved hand as they start to get close.

Jason puts on that friendly lopsided smirk of his despite the dull throbbing in his head and extends a synthetic hand Riley's way. Grumpiness can wait until he's not in front of a team of highly trained special forces soldiers. "Morning, Captain." he offers as he takes her hand and gives it a shake. "This is my wife, Gunnery Chief Linda Vasquez." he introduces with a gesture to Vasquez as he releases Riley's hand. It's an obvious

attempt at conveying she's also ex-Alliance. Something Riley surely already knows, but a reminder might help to dissipate any tension there might be over having her present.

Lee shakes Jason's hand with a nod. "Morning." she offers, before doing the same with Vasquez. She doesn't seem surprised by her presence. "Captain Lee Riley." she says for Vasquez' benefit, although it's little more than a formality. "This is Abergel and Bonik." she says with a nod to the man next to her and the woman atop the shuttle respectively. The latter maintains a casual stance, but in her eyes it's obvious that she could

spring to action in an instant if she needed to. The large man next to Riley offers a friendly smile and a nod. "Let's talk in the shuttle." Riley offers with a gesture back to the gray Kodiak.

Vasquez pushes down her own discomfort, putting on a professional expression as she shakes Riley's hand. She sees little reason to butt in to the conversation just yet.

Jason makes a show of looking to each of Riley's teammates and offering a nod their way as they're each introduced. The captain's suggestion is met with a nod as well. "Sounds like a plan. I apologize for the weather, Captain. You're not seeing Freedom Falls at her best. I promise it's not like this year 'round." he says in an attempt at small talk, his own comment prompting him to tuck his hands into his jacket pockets as he makes

his way over to the shuttle. Old comforts and habits that still haven't been broken.

Lee steps into the shuttle, take a seat on one side and gesturing for Jason and Vasquez to have a seat opposite her. "Yeah, no worries. Reminds me of home." she snickers. Abergel stops just outside the shuttle, and remains there as the door closes behind them, joining Bonik in keeping watch.

Vasquez sits down, taking a brief look around the shuttle before turning her attention to Riley.

Jason gives a quick glance around once inside of the shuttle as well, silently hoping there's no smug agent waiting in the corner. He breathes a sigh of relief when it seems they're alone and takes a seat beside Vasquez. "Well I'm still getting used to it." he snickers, keeping the small talk going to combat the discomfort, "Didn't see weather like this back where I'm from."

Lee gives a brief smirk, starting to fiddle with her omni-tool. "Read your dossier. California, right?" she asks while interacting with the interface.

Jason's smirk grows a bit more genuine upon hearing his home state. "That's right. Warm weather all year. Beaches. And the only snow you're gonna find is in a cone." he says fondly, hands leaving his pockets as he leans forward, resting his forearms against his knees. "What about you?" he asks as Riley gets to work, taking the opportunity to keep things light while he can.

Lee 's smile returns. "Alberta." she says, soon looking up from her omni-tool. "This is going to be recorded." she says, gesturing with her omni-tool. "Hope that's not a problem."

Vasquez glances briefly Jason's way before shaking her head. "Wouldn't expect any different." she offers.

Jason's smirk slips away, Riley's statement meaning it's time to get down to business. He takes a breath through his nose, returning Vasquez' look before turning back to Riley. "Yeah..." he agrees, "...That's fine. Just-... like I said: I'd like for this to stay off the record. Nothing identifiable in the reports. I don't want my team getting harassed by assholes in suits and-... well, Agent Lessard seems to have enough of a hard-on

for me as it is, so the last thing I need is my name crossing his desk."

Lee gives a serious nod. "I've got you covered. We just want your intel. Collectors are on everybody's mind right now. Brass will be happy with anything we can give them."

Jason gives a few, short nods. It's not hard to see he has concerns. Not even so much over whether she's being honest. He's well aware that it might not even be in her hands. He casts another uncomfortable glance Vasquez' way. "So-... uhh-..." he stammers, suddenly feeling a bit self conscious over the whole thing now that the recording is going, "...Should we just-...? Where should we start?"

Lee maintains a patient expression. "Start at the beginning. How did you come in contact with the Collectors?" she says. The omni-tool glows orange around her left hand, a spinning circle indicating the running recording.

Vasquez meets Jason's gaze when he looks her way, offering a reassuring look and placing a hand on his knee.

Jason swallows, his own hand coming over Vasquez' as he looks back to Riley. A humorless, nervous chuckle escapes. "Bit of a loaded question. Which time?" He doesn't commit to that thought process, though, sitting up a bit as he shifts gears. She's here for specific intel. The Collector ship. "It was November 28th when we recieved a call from Il-..." he comes to an abrupt stop. No names. "...Uhh-... one of our employees. Middle of the

night. She was pretty shaken up. Said some people had broken into her house and kidnapped her daughter." He winces slightly, suddenly realizing just how much of a mess all of this was going to be to untangle. "Her-... uhh-... Not her daughter, daughter. She's a little girl we rescued during our last encounter with the Collectors. Hell, that was before we even knew the Collectors were the Collectors..." he continues, his

voice lowering as he nears the end of his statement. 'Simpler times' hardly seems fitting, but it does feel like so long ago after the few weeks he's had.

Lee furrows her eyebrows slightly as she listens, but nods for Jason to continue.

Jason clears his throat, perhaps interpreting Riley's expression as confusion. "The little girl was-... It was a cult. They worshipped the Collectors. Had their technology. We didn't know what it was all about back then, but we knew it was dangerous. We-..." he sighs, that feeling of being in front of Agent Lessard returning to him. Admitting to just how active their hunt for the Collectors has been suddenly begins to feel

incriminating. "...Look, we were just trying to do the right thing. They had dangerous tech. So we were-..." he swallows again, briefly glancing off to the side and straightening up. It doesn't matter. He doesn't need to justify his actions. "...The cult attacked. We defended ourselves. And it left the little girl with nowhere to go." he finally settles on, almost coldly so in an attempt at distancing himself from that guilt he

associates with Di Yu, assuming Riley will catch his implication. "So one of our employees took her in." He nods a few times, pleased with that summary. "She's a good kid..." he adds, his tone growing softer.

Lee nods again. She knows things are different out here. There's no Alliance. No Council to enforce the peace. It's fend for yourself. And she's certainly not here to pass judgement. "So the kid was being raised in the cult?" she asks, raising an eyebrow slightly.

Jason looks to Riley, giving an apprehensive nod. "She was." he admits. "You already know what happened with the tech we came across, so I'll save you some time and skip that part." he says. His hand gently squeezes Vasquez'. The gesture is reactionary. But possibly serves as a subtle hint that the last thing he wants to do right now is dive into how his wife was subjected to Cerberus tech, forced to do their bidding, and turn her gun

on him. No, that's too personal. They don't need all of that. Vasquez doesn't need that. A moment passes before he hits the restart button now that context has been provided: "So, November 28th." he repeats. "We knew we couldn't waste any time letting the kidnappers get out ahead of us, so we put a team together as quickly as we could-..." he passes a brief glance Vasquez' way, "...sorted through our intel, and pursued."

Lee takes the hint as Jason switches tracks, and whether by her own discretion or instruction from above she doesn't push.

Vasquez 's grip stiffens a little as they talk of Di Yu, but she retains a netural look on her face. There's a hint of concern as Jason continues, but she seems to approve of his handling of the intel sharing so far, and remains silent. She wasn't there, so there's little she can add right now.

Jason draws in a deep breath before taking a moment to collect his thoughts and continuing. "We tracked their ship to a refueling station orbiting Zhurong. They were already gone by the time we arrived but the station was in a bad shape and broadcasting a distress call. Venting atmo. We did what we could to rescue any survivors." He gives a small shrug as his gaze lowers, his mind suddenly pulled to that broken station. "Then we

recorded a message to warn anyone approaching and continued our pursuit. We could see that the ship was damaged during their exchange with the station, so we knew they couldn't have gotten far."

Lee nods, listening in silence. She seems to make note of the location of the refuelling station.

Jason satisfied that Riley doesn't seem to have any questions, continues his recounting of events. "We managed to catch up with the ship they escaped on. I thought we had wiped out the entire compound of those Collector worshipping freaks. Turns out we must've missed one. It was-..." his gaze lowers, hand rising to rub at the back of his neck as his discomfort grows, "...It was the little girl's mother. Not-... not really." he

instantly corrects himself, giving a small shake of his head. He seems to dwell on that thought for a number of moments. He has had plenty of sleepless nights. Plenty of tossing and turning. Nightmares. But few things have bothered him as much as the memory of Mingxia. He chews at the inside of his cheek distantly for a moment, eyes distantly scanning back and forth across an arbitrary spot on the floor as he considers those

events. And then he looks to Riley again, meeting her gaze. "I'm sure you've seen the vids, but I don't know what kind of contact you've had with these things, Captain. But what I saw wasn't a person anymore. It was just-... it was something else..." he trails off. His mind wanders for a moment as he considers just what kind of control that creature had over Mingxia. It was along for the ride, that much is clear, but... it came

for Li. It just seemed far too personal to assume that Mingxia wasn't doing some of the driving. And that thought has plagued him ever since that encounter. Did it just thrive on a mother's desire to see her daughter? Did Mingxia know what was going on? Did she get to make peace with letting her daughter go before they cut her down? He blinks away those thoughts for now. They can be drowned in a bottle later. "We've seen it

before, too. Calls itself 'The Revelator'. Some kind of Collector general or-... I don't know." he admits with a frustrated shake of his head. "You'll see it. I had one of ours put together some footage from our field cams. It's scrubbed of anything that could come back to us, but-..." his hand returns to his pocket, fishing out the a small drive before he leans forward to pass it off, "...there should be plenty for the

eggheads to go through."

Lee 's expression changes as Jason relays what happened with Mingxia, listening even closer to every word about the supposed Collector leader. She glances down at the flash drive and takes it with a series of small nods. "I'll pass it on." she says, swallowing as she process Jason's words. "Can you-... can you elaborate? This... Collector entity was acting through the surviving cultist?"

Vasquez swallows hard, squeezing Jason's leg slightly and looking his way as he speaks, studying his face from the side with faint frown.

Jason settles back in his seat and gives a few nods. He pointedly avoids Vasquez' gaze, as if she might see through his attempt at keeping his shit together and catch sight of all of the emotional baggage behind his eyes if he looks her way. "That's correct." he says, using the direct response as a chance to regain his composure. "My working theory is that-..." once again his gaze drops to his free hand, a dry smile crossing his lips

as he lifts it in front of his face. He rotates it at the wrist, opening and closing it a few times for Riley's sake. "Well, I'm not sure if you've noticed, but I'm not exactly working with stock parts." Humor, sarcasm, and a nice smile. His armor of choice. "During our engagement, the creature was able to take control of my cybernetics." A nice direct delivery, the best way to mask just how horrifying it was to lose control. To

ignore that feeling of helplessness he felt as he nearly turned his gun on a friend. "Another member of our team had a similar experience. And Min-... the cultist- also had a fuck ton of cybernetics and that seems to be par for the course with these things. So, I could be wrong, but I think that's the link. How they can control people." A forced, humorless snort follows and he gives a shrug of his shoulders. "We're being

invaded by a race of hacker cockroaches."

Lee listens intently, her gaze briefly moving to Jason's hand before returning to his face. "Shit..." she mutters. She doesn't really acknowledge the final comment. "I'll leave the 'hows' to someone that knows more than I do..." she says, motioning for him to continue.

Jason allows a genuine snicker to slip out at her remark despite the weight on his shoulders. "My team managed to take her down. That seemed to clear up whatever control she had over my hardware." he continues, "And that's when they came. Swarm of insects-... I'm talking thousands of the fuckers just filled the ship. We fought 'em off for as long as we could but it only took one bite-... one sting-... one-..." he draws in a breath

through his nose before giving an exasperated shake of his head, "...One whatever it is they do. And we were out. Paralyzed. And-... umm-..." he swallows hard, once again looking away from Riley. This time to Vasquez. A flood of emotion washes over his face, but he's quick to try and reign it in, his eyes meeting hers for only a moment. "And I don't remember much of what happened after that." he admits quietly. "Next thing I

know I'm being pulled out of some-... some pod. Containment unit-... thing by my people onboard a Collector ship. My team is already in the middle of a firefight so-... so I grabbed my gear and I-... uhh-..." he nods a few times- more to himself than to anyone else- and clears his throat before concluding on: "...I got to work..."

Lee raises an eyebrow. It's clear she has a question, but she waits a moment to let Jason collect himself. "Do you have anything you can pass on of what your team encountered while you were out?" she asks.

Vasquez ' expression changes as Jason meets her gaze, and when Riley speaks she's quick to reply. "I've compiled the relevant reports on the drive, and there's helmet cam footage from the rescue team." she says in the hopes of taking a bit of the pressure off of Jason.

Jason gives Vasquez' hand a squeeze, jaw clenching as his mind replays the events on the Collector ship. The temporary reprieve is a welcome one, but he came here to pass on what he could to the Alliance. So once Vasquez says her piece he turns his attention back to Riley. "I didn't find out until later, but they only took the humans among us captive." he says in an attempt at keeping Ilyna out of any potential spotlights. It's not

their business. "Seemed like they were going to execute the rest, but my team managed to fight back, infiltrate the Collector ship, and pull our asses out of the containment units. As for what we encountered...?" he shakes his head, unsure of where to even begin. "Shit... They threw the kitchen sink at us, Captain. The Horizon vid doesn't even begin to cover it. Hordes of those cybernetic-... creatures. Twenty deep-...

thirty deep. Packed into hallways. Filling rooms..." Empty, hollow blue eyes. Gaping mouths. "They just kept coming. So we just kept shooting." Until our bodies were in traction from the recoil. "And the Collector general." he recounts, brows furrowing as he lets a tired breath out through his nose, "We'd put it down and it would just-... just take over another of those bugs and keep on coming."

Lee 's serious expression remains, but it's obvious that she's genuinely impressed by the fact that they managed to fight their way off of a Collector ship. She doesn't seem surprised by the presence of husks or the notion that the Collector leader would take control of the drones. First-hand accounts from Horizon has no doubt relayed as much. Of course, it's hard to tell what else she may know. "You shot your way out of the Collector

ship?" she asks with newfound respect. First the Barn and now this. Redrock were certainly survivors.

Vasquez entangles her fingers with Jason's, returning the squeeze as she watches him with silent sympathy.

Jason gives a few distant nods to the Captain's question, unable to muster up any display of pride. His cybernetic fingers curl to grasp Vasquez' hand, returning the gesture. "We got whoever we could out of the nearby pods and pushed our way back to our ship." he confirms. "But that ship was-... it was big. Less of a ship and more like a floating-fucking-city with an FTL drive slapped on it, Captain. Bodies were just-... just

littering the ground. Guns and clothing and-... and people's shit all over the place..." Discarded like trash. Once again his voice begins to quiet. His free hand returns to his pocket once he trails off and he leans to the side a bit to pull free an object from his pocket. It should be familiar to everyone in the shuttle. A simple dog tag. They all have one. "All of mine made it out of that hellhole. Somehow. But not everyone

was so lucky." he says, holding the trinket up and allowing the tag to dangle in front of him. It wouldn't be discarded. He takes one last look at the name engraved on it before extending it to Riley. "Make sure it finds its way back to his family."

Lee listens in silence, Jason's obvious, underlying distraught state not lost on her. She's seen her share of horrors. You don't make it to N7 on backwater patrols. The dogtag surprises her, and she reaches out to take it in her hand, reading it before looking up at them again. She gives a sharp, serious nod. "I'll make sure of it."

Jason gives a couple more nods of his own. "I didn't know him." he admits. He wouldn't even know the man's name if it wasn't for Elena's quick thinking. "Just a soldier we pulled out of a containment unit. But one of mine is alive because of him, so I figure the least I can do is try and make sure his family get a chance to grieve..." He shifts a bit in his seat as he comes to the tail end of his story. It's not hard to see that the

ordeal has taken its emotional toll. There was plenty more he could say, but Vasquez' report and the footage would be enough to fill any gaps in his recounting of events. "Like I said in my message, we've got some time-sensitive material that's on ice in a nearby ship. I'll let the crew know to hand it off to you, but I'd appreciate it if you'd let them be. They've been through hell and the last thing they need right now is

someone picking their brains."

Lee nods. "You've got it." she says softly. "No spooks on this boat, just my team." she adds with a small smirk. "You mentioned civilian survivors. We're prepared to escort anyone with Alliance citizenship to Sol. If there's anyone else that wants the ride, they'd have to face a refugee hearing on arrival, but... it's an option."

Jason's smirk makes a brief return upon hearing the Captain's assurance. Her mention of civvies causes him to raise his free hand, palm outward, and give a shake of his head. "I can't make that call for those folks. That's something you'll need to discuss with them, Captain. We set up anyone who needed it with a room at a local place. I can let you know where it is and what their room numbers are and you can take it from there.

Whatever they're willing to share once they're in your care is on them, but I'm still expecting you to hold your end of our agreement." he says before clarifying: "Any names or anything that could be traced back to Redrock, me, or my team? Leave it out of your report."

Lee nods. "You'll have your privacy." she assures, although she reaches over to pause her recording. "What are you worried about, Wolfe? I get wanting to stay out of the spotlight, but I'm getting the impression it's more than that."

Jason watches as she reaches out towards the omni-tool. His gaze remains there as he contemplates her question, a sharp shake of his head is his only response at first. "We've got enough on our plate without a bunch of assholes coming around trying to squeeze information out of us, Captain. Or worse... You saw how shit went with Lessard calling the shots. So I asked for you because I trust you. You need anything clarified? Any

questions answered? I've got no problem dealing with you. But I don't have time to be pulled into some official investigation." he says. And, for the most part, it's true. After the Barn and his confrontation by Lessard, it's a very real concern. So he lets his other concerns go unspoken. Like the people working for Redrock with warrants hanging over their heads in Council space. Or the Ardat-Yakshi in their employment who

happens to be looking after a human child that she has no real grounds to claim custody for. Or the operation his wife threw together while (unwillingly) working for a known terrorist organization that resulted in the destruction of an entire human colony. Or maybe the aftermath in which they knowingly attempted to deliver a powerful alien weapon to the Shadow Broker. "Simple as that."

Lee doesn't push further. It's expected for any Terminus PMC to have some dirty laundry, and there's little point in alienating a helpful contact. "Simple as that." she agrees with a nod, resuming the recording. "I'll take some time to review the data on this..." she says, gesturing with the flash drive. "...and collect the cargo. Make sure you send over the address for the civilians. I might be in touch with some questions after I

looked over what you have, alright?"

Jason gives a stern nod. "Not a problem." he says. He lets out a deep breath as it seems as if their meeting might be winding down and he'll soon be out of the headlights. But an uneasy look crosses his face soon enough as he looks over Riley. He seems torn between keeping his thoughts to himself and voicing whatever is on his mind. "My people are shaken, Captain." he finally says, settling on the latter. "The galaxy is shaken.

Colonies are being swallowed up overnight by a race that- until that Horizon vid leaked? Few even believed actually existed. A decorated Alliance soldier that was declared KIA is suddenly popping up with allegiances to a bunch of human supremacists. And I looked a monster in the eye who wore the face of one of our people and told me that I was only 'delaying the inevitable'." Merely repeating the Revelator's words is

enough to send a chill up his spine. "And the Alliance remains silent. Now we have to meet with our people to let them know what in the hell is going on and I don't have the first clue what in the fuck I'm gonna tell them." he continues, an exhausted, humorless snicker accompanying his words. It's little more than a puff of air forced between his teeth. His gaze hardens as he meets Riley's eyes. "On the record? Off the record? I

don't give a fuck. Soldier-to-soldier-... what in the hell is this all about, Captain?"

Lee 's expression shifts, doubly so with the mention of Shepard. "Think you know as much as I do." she says with an apologetic shrug and a sigh. "Alliance can't send the fleets into the Terminus. You know that. There's been outreach programs. Militia training, AAA installations. But going out in force? Much as I'd like to, can't happen. Minute those fuckers come into the Traverse? You know we'll hit them. Hard."

Vasquez listens in silence, doing little to make her feelings known outside of a silent stare focused on Riley.

Jason bites down, doing his best not to let his frustration show through. But he's unable to keep the disappointed sigh from slipping out as he passes a glance Vasquez' way. Of course they'll walk away empty handed. He knows how it works, though. Even if she does know something, she's probably not at liberty to say with that Alliance-shaped muzzle. "...Yeah." he says in little more than a mutter. He gives his wife's hand a squeeze

before releasing his grip on it and rising to his feet. "People are depending on the Alliance, Captain. They believe in you guys." he says, offering his hand to Riley once more. "I believe in you guys." The words don't come easy. They're sincere, but strained. He lets that linger for a moment, the weight of his career- all the years he gave- hanging on that statement. "Don't make me regret it."

Lee stands as well, shaking Jason's hand. "I know." she says. Sincerely, but heavily. "Thank you for your help. Hopefully it'll help us make a real difference." she says, looking from Jason to Vasquez, shaking her hand as well before opening the shuttle door for them.

doesn't comment further, merely giving a nod of his head before stepping through the door and starting towards their car. It certainly could've gone better. He was hoping to leave with something to tell the others. Could've gone worse, too. At least they didn't have to deal with that smug pencil pusher. But Riley's words didn't inspire a whole lot of confidence. 'The minute they come into the Traverse we'll hit them hard.'

Jason There's no doubt she meant it and, hell, maybe the Alliance would even follow through on it. But by the time they made their move it might already be too late for whichever unlucky colony finds itself the target of the Collectors.

Vasquez follows after Jason, remaining silent until they're in the car, at which point she lets out a sigh, hands resting on the wheel as she studies the group inside the hangar. Once Jason has taken his seat she looks his way, but waits for him to speak first, studying his expression as she tries to get an idea of how he's doing.

Jason stares out the window towards the motley crew they just came from. What little of his facade remained slips away as the seconds pass by and beneath it he looks... tired. Downright worn out. Feeling Vasquez' eyes on him only seems to encourage him to keep his attention on the N7 operatives at first. But he can only maintain that for so long before looking to his wife. A somber smile crosses his lips. "I'm fine." he assures

dismissively when he spots the concern on her face. No, he told her he wouldn't lie to her anymore. "I'll be fine..." he corrects.

Vasquez turns a little in her carseat and reaches for his neck, brushing her thumb across it gently as she studies him. She nods in response to his correction, offering a soft smile. "It was a good call, reaching out. If there's a chance our intel will help, it's worth it, right?"

Jason shuts his eyes, leaning into Vasquez' touch. She's right. That's why he reached out to them, after all. But it's hard not to be disappointed when he's walking away empty handed. No big revelation. No confirmation that operations are going on behind the scenes to put an end to the threat. No master plan. Just a hope that there little slice of 'home' can survive long enough for the Alliance to step in. And that disappointment

shows through. "Of course." he agrees softly with a nod, only now giving attention to the dull throb in his temple. "We did our part. All we can do is hope they do theirs."

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