Vasquez lowers her gaze to the table for a moment as she takes a moment to process this new information. "We'll... look into it." she repeats with a glance towards Jason, before looking out across the room again. "For now, let's... resume. As has been explained, our previous encounters with the Collectors, or... more specifically these... husks, have been either incidental, or, in the case of Di Yu a-... a move on our part to try
#RedrockAgency – November 17, 2018
and end the threat posed by... what we at the time believed to be limited in scope to the machine cult." It's... not entirely a lie. It had certainly been the motivation of Jason and those among the others that weren't there for the paycheck. It hardly seems the time to tack on 'I was knowingly sending you to your death in a haunted hellhole so that I could deliver a dangerous artifact to my dead terrorist mother'. Who
would still trust her leadership if they knew? Of course, there are those that already know part of the truth. Enough to call bullshit? How much did Jason share? She suddenly finds herself wishing she'd asked him for more details as her gaze rests briefly on Zaylus, and a moment longer on Steve. She forces herself to turn her attention to the projection, which shifts into grainy, static-filled footage of the tunnels of the
Sacrarium on Di Yu IV. Of a twisted asari silhouette floating through a dark cavern filled with rusty walkways and shimmering, eezo-laced water. "Many-... many of you faced hell down there to put an end to this threat." she manages, stumbling a little on the words, her voice losing most of its authority as her gaze lands on Leah for a moment. She finds her mouth dry and mind distracted as mud and rain and blood and a dark
pit of concrete and death fills her thoughts, and she finds herself looking over to Jason, silently pleading for him to step in for a moment before bringing a hand up to her face, shielding it partly from view as she rubs her temple with her thumb.
Zaylus shrinks under this part of the discussion, partly in some visceral response to the footage and partly due to the shame of not having been there himself. He holds his breath like a piece of prey trying not to be spotted, but still manages to catch a look from Vasquez herself. He pretends not to notice, looking intently into the projection.
Oxaris remains silent as she listens to Vasquez, a talon tapping at her chin as she considers the words said. Her gaze drifts to Zaylus over the screen and she perks a brow as she sees him seem to shrink into himself. She sighs softly, then turns her attention back to the meeting.
Ilyna looks at the projection as Vasquez talks, the memories of the mission coming back to her. Walking into the dangerous underground bunker knowing full and well what kind of dangers were down there. Clearest of all right now is Vasquez' betrayal at the end before their escape from the doomed colony, which she suspects is the reason for her faltering voice. For a moment she speculates if she likens Ilyna's
condition to how Cerberus directed her actions down there, but she pushes that back to focus on the projection. "We failed," she says with a sigh. "The husks overran the colony, and we don't know how much of that has spread to other worlds by now."
Steve rests his gaze on Vasquez, but otherwise remains silent. He's brought up the Barn during talks with her in the past, but if he does hold any opinions beyond their previous chat, he's not letting on.
Leah doesn't meet Vasquez' eyes, her own attention firmly fixed to the asari projected before her. Those moments down in the Sacrarium are still fresh wounds to her, and the origin point for so much pain over the past year. There's a line that can be drawn from that horrible night right to Damien's fate. She seems to be in no rush to speak up, however, and eventually her gaze shifts to the table.
Mendez wasn't down there with them during the mission to Di Yu, but he's read the reports. More importantly, he's spent plenty of time playing armchair therapist to Leah in the months since. He looks her way, offering his silent sympathy with a glance as he reaches out to place a hand on her arm.
Jason meets Vasquez' gaze, causing him to clear his throat and sit up a bit straighter. Di Yu left its mark on plenty of people at this table. Some physical- he's reminded by the lack of sensation brought on as he grips his coffee cup with a cold, unfeeling hand. But some much deeper than that. As much as he'd like to remind her that none of what transpired on Di Yu was her fault, he knows this isn't the time. Instead, he reaches
out with his free hand, placing it over hers in a show of solidarity. Plenty of the people at the table know she was behind the attack he suffered on Di Yu. But they also know the reasons behind it. Cerberus' involvement. As far as he's concerned, that's as good of an explanation as they need. Pulling in a deep breath, he gives a glance around the table to the others, his attention settling on Ilyna as she chimes in. Her
words cause him to sigh and give a small nod. "And unfortunately, despite our best efforts, that thing is still out there." He gestures towards the projection with a nod of his head. "The Revelator." he says with another look towards the others, a name that many have already become well aquainted with. "We keep killing it, and it keeps coming back."
Gage furrows his brow, his grip on the backrest tightening as he tries to get a better look at the figure projected. "...An asari?" he asks in confusion.
Senya 's good eye watches the projected image with a morbid fascination as she wonders silently about its nature and origins.
Emma continues to pay close attention to the briefing, a serious but neutral look on her face. Her gaze lingers on Vasquez for a moment as she stops speaking and the others take over.
Nathan glances around the table, his hand clutching his coffee-cup tightly. He wasn't there. Hell, at first he didn't even believe anyone here when they told him. But after what they saw on that Collector vessel, all the death and their close escape, he was certainly as firm a believer as any of them here. Nate notices Leah's gaze fall to the table and his own hand twitches to give hers a comforting squeeze. But that
can wait for now. He looks back to the projection and he takes a moment to consider it all. "I'm guessing not," he says in answer to David. "That thing takes over bodies, makes them insanely powerful. It's also an arrogant prick," he adds with some venom to his voice.
Halisi looks over to Gage, adding onto Nathan's words. "No. Not... exactly. I believe that the asari encountered down in those ruins was just a... host, or avatar, much like Mingxia, the... surviving machine cultist we pursued during the recent mission." Going into the fact that Mingxia is Li's mother doesn't seem relevant for Gage. "Somehow the extensive cybernetic augmentation of these individuals has allowed remote control by this
Nathan raises a hand. “Wait, didn’t this thing also control the Collectors too? They didn’t seem very... well, everything else we’ve seen possessed by it looks to be pretty covered in cybernetics, but the bugs looked mostly just organic.”
Halisi shakes her head. "The... specimens we kept showed signs of extensive, and highly advanced cybernetic augmentation. Most of their internal organs were entirely synthetic. It's... bizarre. I... couldn't begin to speculate as to whether that's the case for the whole species or just these individuals." she offers. "To my knowledge I am among the first to have the... privilege of dissecting one of those things."
Leah passes a small, appreciative smile Mendez' way. The sort that doesn't have much behind it and is meant more as a way of dispelling others' worries. Not one to feel sorry for herself, she doesn't linger too long on the destruction that resulted from Di Yu once the conversation continues. "Okay... So then that pretty much confirms the theory, right?" she asks as she searches the faces of the others, her attention resting on
Halisi, the one most likely to have the answers. "Cybernetics are the key here. It shuts down mine. Hijacks Jason's-..." she gestures towards him with a glance, "...But-... I've been wondering why, if it has the ability to do so, it wouldn't just... I don't know-... Hop into each of us and make us put our guns to our own heads." She doesn't allow the morbidity of her question to slow her down. "If the Collectors
Gage's attention is pulled from one person to another. It all sounds like a bad horror vid to him. And, maybe a few months ago he wouldn't have believed a word of it. But he saw the Horizon footage just like everyone else. And he's seen the look on Vasquez' and Jason's face as they've discussed it with him. "So you're saying you don't have the right hardware for it to.... to body snatch you?"
Gage furrows his brow and gives a shake of his head. "It's hardware. It's the-..." he lifts one arm off the back of the chair to idly gesture, "...You know... physical stuff to-..."
Jason definitely isn't following and only looks further confused. "Preeeettty sure she means hardwa-... I mean software." he says overtop Gage.
Leah blinks as the two bicker over something neither of them have any knowledge about. "It doesn't matter!" she interrupts. "It doesn't matter. All I'm saying is it makes sense why they use Dragon's Teeth. Why everything we encounter is covered in cybernetics. They can't just-..." she lifts a hand, snapping her fingers, "...and hop into someone. It must require the right conditions."
Halisi covers her face with her palm as she listens to Jason and Gage's exchange, not bothering to interject. She nods in agreement with Leah, however. "Yes. While... it seems clear that the artifacts that we have encountered can have some sort of effect on even an unaugmented mind, direct control by this 'Revelator' is something that seems, judging by what we have seen, to require extensive cybernetic augmentation.
Oxaris chimes in. "Mercier's point makes sense, and only adds to what T'rea said earlier. It must only be able to exert control over its own designs and augmentations."
Vasquez silently runs a fingertip over the neural compensator that sits in her left temple, eyebrows furrowing.
Jessica frowns as the others speak. Having already lost points once during this meeting, she's on good behavior and avoids making any lewd 'hardware vs. software' jokes. "So? What does any of this mean?" she asks pointedly, "We are talking of shit we don't even understand. All that matters is who is this fuck and how do we kill it?"
Zaylus loses his concentration under the technical talk, gaze noticably drifting as his mind veers off the tracks. Jessica's blunt interjection shakes the cobwebs loose. Practical. Violent. He finds himself nodding in comradery.
Ilyna listens to the others connect their observations, not having any to add herself that she hasn't mentioned already. "It should be T'Iavay's highest priority to understand and prevent this from happening again," she says. "We cannot afford any reduced capacity if the Collectors decide to come here."
Vasquez clears her throat as the discussion starts to derail. "We don't know." she responds simply to Jessica's question. "What is clear is that it was being worshipped by the machine cultists, and that it has command of Collector forces. We know that the Collectors have been abducting people and... turning them into husks. We also know that the geth employed the same technology in the past. How in the hell all this fits together
I don't have a clue. We have no way of finding this 'Revelator' and it is very clear that we don't even come close to having the capacity of winning that fight even if we could. We're on the defensive here, there's no doubt about that. And we need to be ready to defend ourselves. The fact our people were singled out for an attack is... concerning, and we need to be prepared for the possibility that it wasn't the last time.
It's possible that our actions have... caught their attention." she admits, hiding just how unsettled that possibility makes her behind a focused frown. "But it also seems likely that what happened was a result of the motivations of the surviving cultist, Mingxia, and not the Collectors or the Revelator."
Jason's attention is pulled to Jessica as she finally speaks up, but Ilyna and Vasquez chime in before he has a chance to address her questions. He nods along as they speak. "We're not here to gear up to go on the offensive." he agrees, "Just pooling whatever knowledge we have to try and-... and dig in and prepare in the event that they come here before the Alliance can get this under control."
Steve snorts. "Ain't tryin' to be the downer here, boss, but it don't exactly sound like we have much 'knowledge'. Not actionable, anyway."
Jessica's gaze only briefly turns from Ilyna to Jason, sitting up slightly in her seat, something each of them said seeming to have caught her attention. "You are really thinking they will come here? To Aite?" she asks, sounding more invested in the question than she'd like to let on.
Jason gives a small shrug of his shoulders, swallowing hard as the thought gets caught in his throat. "I-... I don't know." he answers honestly. "We've been a thorn in their side for a while and-.." his gaze turns to Nathan. He was there, face-to-face with that creature that wore Mingxia's skin. The way it addressed them directly. "...Like Linda said, it seems like things may have gotten a bit personal. I hope it doesn't come to
Leah gives a few small nods to Ilyna's suggestions. "Keeping us in the fight- if there's a fight to be had- is what's important. And that means keeping our cybernetics functional and-..." her gaze turns to Halisi, "...figuring out how in the hell to fight off that paralysis. At the end of the day, I'd like to know the 'how' and 'why' of it all as much as the next person. But being able to defend ourselves is what matters right now."
Nathan seems to shift uncomfortably as Jason looks his way, the words now on a feedback loop in his brain. He settles back into his chair and downs the last of his coffee, even though it's still a modicum too hot for that kind of motion. Credit to him, he hides the searing discomfort well in the form of sucking in a sharp breath. Hopefully that's interpreted as more of a reaction to the debrief that his own idiocy.
Halisi nods in response to Leah. "I will continue to analyze the samples collected during the last mission. Hopefully, with time... it will yield something we can use. I wanted to ask about utilizing the resources of the Syranis Foundation. Their research facilities could support more extensive testing if I were to go to them for assistance." she suggests. "I believe they would be interested in having a look at the samples."
Oxaris has keyed in her own message, but not to any of the leadership. No, instead, it's sent to Zaylus. "You're slouching. Sit up and focus." She sets her omni-tool down and her mandibles flick in thought. Even in a hospital bed across the town, she's still letting some of that military discipline seep in.
Nathan seems to shift uncomfortably as Jason looks his way, the words of the Revelator now on a feed loop in his brain. Yeah, that wasn't an easy thing to forget. He downs the rest of his coffee in preparation for what he is about to suggest, but it's still a smidgen too hot. He sucks in a sharp intake of breath in an effort to cool his scalding mouth down, trying desperately to cover up his idiocy there. Once it has
cooled down enough, he clears his throat and sits a little straighter. "On the topic of asking for help... maybe we should broaden that a little? I've already mentioned it to Jason, but it might be worth us sharing this footage with Sandbeck too? They're good people, with a large array of resources and contacts."
Zaylus turns from the coffee shamed human as there's a faint flicker from his omni-tool. He subtly peers under the table to read the message, the indicator having notated the sender as priority. He frowns at the virtual scolding, looking pointedly at the security camera and sinking even further into his chair. He quickly taps a response, "This shit is too much."
Jason looks from Halisi to Nathan as they voice their suggestions. "I-... uhh-..." he stammers in discomfort, his gaze briefly turning to Vasquez, perhaps silently giving away that, when it comes right down to it, she's the shot caller, before looking back out towards the others. "I mean, this isn't just about us. The Collectors are a threat to the entire galaxy. The more people that have that footage, the more chance it might
help..." The more chance it gets connected back to them, too, which could bring with it a whole lot of unwanted attention. With a sigh, he turns back to Vasquez. "What do you think?"
Vasquez ' gaze lingers on Halisi for a moment, and then turns to Nathan. "We'll... take it under consideration." she offers. "This is-... it's potentially dangerous information. It could do more damage than good in the wrong hands, and... it has the potential to bring a lot of questions. We've shared it with a trustworthy Alliance contact. Beyond that... we'll have to think about it."
Nathan wets his lips and nods. "Alright. Just... let me know what you decide and I can set up a meeting with one of their higher ups. She's a friend of mine." Ish, he adds to himself.
Oxaris frowns at Zaylus's response but, rather than risk getting him in trouble by distracting him with more messages, she merely settles for talking to him later. She returns her focus to the meeting, talons folding on her lap.
Zaylus , not recieving a response to his frustrations, closes his messages and lets out a long, quiet breath. With his good hand he pulls himself back up to proper sitting posture, avoiding the motherly gaze of the security camera. He is perhaps more present now, but still has no information to share.
Jason gives a small nod to Vasquez' words before turning his gaze back to Nathan. "You got it, Ten." he says softly, well aware it probably wasn't the response the man was hoping for. But Vasquez isn't wrong. They need to be careful to make sure it doesn't end up in the wrong hands. He gives a glance around the table to the faces that are probably no more informed now than when they first walked through the door. "Well, I think
Jessica seems to shrink back into her seat, the responses doing little to ease whatever concern may have been bubbling up.
Vasquez returns Jason's look and nods as he looks out across the group, letting the projection fade away for the time being. "We're going to be doing everything we can to prepare for the eventuality of another encounter with these things. We're not getting caught off-guard again. And... if there are questions or concerns, speak up. We want everyone in Redrock to be prepared and informed about this threat and our past with
Nathan shakes his head. He'll let the others take the forefront in these questions. He's pretty sure he's had all his concerns and questions answered along the way. That, and he's given all he can think of at the minute. All he knows is he is going to be going through the armoury with a fine comb and making sure every single damn gun they have is operational and maintained to perfection.
Zaylus straightens his back reflexively when Vasquez's gaze travels over him. Despite the swimming mess of questions and concerns he has, or maybe because of them, he can't muster anything to say, and simply looks down.
Jattic has remained silent during most of the chatter. His expression mostly unchanging. Focused. He has survived multiple encounters with the Collectors. Enough to know just how serious of a threat they are. But any questions he has are ones that he's well aware Redrock won't be able to answer.
Mendez takes a deep breath as things seem to wind down. As usual, he's practically a stone sentry showing little emotion. "We've survived them before. If it comes to that, we will again." he says simply, probably the most encouragement he can muster.
Steve gives a few shallow nods to the big man's words of encouragement. He was there on Di Yu. And Ogofau. He's got enough sense to know that if the Collectors come to Aite, even if they somehow manage to weather the storm, there's gonna be losses. There always is. So long as it isn't him? He'll work through it.
Emma shakes her head faintly to indicate she has nothing to say. She's mostly just here to listen in and learn, she has no experience with this threat.
The crew of the Jack remains silent, as they have been for most of the presentation. It's not hard to tell that it's been hard for Lucy to sit through, but nonetheless they'd wanted to be present and learn about the enemy that had tossed all of their lives into disarray.
Ilyna nods to Vasquez, and also casts a few glances around the table at the others. Her expression is distant with an undertone of sadness as she considers their options. She's feared this ever since discussing it with Jason on the ship, but what can she do about it? She has Li, Ehanis, Halisi, Jason and everyone else that's become part of her second family. If she occupies her every waking minute with this,
what will she have to fight for? Or worse, what valuable time will she have lost if this were to be the final days, months or years she spends with them?
Leah tugs idly at the edges of the stolen beanie atop her head, fixing the locks of blonde hair falling from beneath it. Mendez' words causes her to look his way, the uncharacteristic optimism causing a small smile to cross her lips. "No questions here, Chief." she says.
Jasper looks to Vasquez as she opens the floor for questions. "Uhh-... I know we talked a lil' 'bout it in the past. But I jus' wanted ta' go ahead and remind ya that it wouldn't be too much work to get ol' Betsy back in fightin' order, Chief. Got some contacts that could put the hardware in our hands fer pretty cheap." His gaze turns from Vasquez to Jason, then back to Vasquez. "Jus'-... somethin' ta consider. What with all
Oxaris shakes her head and then, remembering she can't be seen, softly sighs and presses the push to talk key. "Nothing here, ma'am."
Vasquez nods to Jasper. "I have plans for several potential upgrades to our arsenal, but quite frankly our last mission was a drain on our resources, and we need to secure new contracts before we can look at making new purchases. I'm working on that right now, and I'm hopeful that we'll have some new jobs lined up soon."
Gage shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot, not particularly feeling comfortable voicing whatever questions he may have in front of a group of people he hardly knows. Whatever he needs answered can wait until he has Jason's ear in private. "Plenty of concerns, Linda." he says with a small chuckle of disbelief at everything dumped in his lap. A shake of his head follows. "But that can all wait. I appreciate you guys letting me sit
Jason offers a sympathetic nod to his old friend. Been years since he first encountered the Collectors and it's still a lot to wrap his mind around. "Then I guess that's that." He passes glances around the table, scanning over their team. Plenty of whom he has come to know as family. Close friends. People he can count on. "I know this last trip was rough, but nothing has changed. Redrock is still going to keep doing what we do."
he says, forcing a small, lopsided smirk into place. "But Freedom Falls is our home. So if those winged fuckers decide they want to come out here to settle up? You bet your ass we're gonna be ready for them. So get rested up. We need everyone back on their feet and ready to put boots to asses if it comes to that."
Vasquez looks to Jason, a faint hint of a tired smile crossing her lips briefly as he speaks. She turns to face the others and nods in agreement. "Redrock owes a debt to everyone that risked their lives out there to bring Li back. That girl has a future because of you, and that won't be forgotten." she says, her gaze turning to the camera in the ceiling. "As do the people you saved from that ship." she continues as her gaze
wanders across the table again. "They're on their way to Council space as we speak, given a second chance at life. Don't forget that." She glances in Ilyna's direction, in case the asari has something to add to the group about Li's rescue.
Zaylus flinches briefly with the realization that of the survivors returning to their families, one in particular would be left behind, the thought tarnishing the otherwise uplifting sentiment.
Ilyna nods, and follows her gaze to the ceiling. "These memories are not a burden a child should ever bear," she says. "I don't expect her to forget, I don't expect her to get over it tomorrow, but... I believe that she will put it behind her one day." She looks around the table again, but she doesn't try to force a smile. "I owe a personal debt of gratitude to everyone that answered my call for help that
night." Ilyna opens her mouth to speak again, but she refrains from it, drawing a slightly uneven breath again. As hopeful as Ilyna sounds about Li's future, she is still very terrified that things might not turn out this way.
Nathan looks at everyone, passing a quick smile to Leah besides him. Despite how... traumatic it all was, in the end they gave people a chance at life when, really, they wouldn't have. In his eyes, that's worth a couple of months of sleepless nights.
Leah allows a genuine smile to manifest at the mention of the survivors. As she meets Nathan's gaze, she follows through on her earlier plan and reaches beneath the table to find his hand and give it a squeeze. She draws in a deep breath, holding it for a moment until it's clear that a lightning bolt isn't going to strike either of them.
Jason looks Ilyna's way as she begins to speak. He gives a small shake of his head as she comes to a close. His immediate reaction is to remind her that she doesn't even need to ask. Her and Li are family. But he's done enough of that and plenty of people at the table went above and beyond. Put life and limb at risk to help one little girl. "I think it goes without saying that I couldn't have asked for a better team behind me." he
says, doing his best to meet the eyes of each and every person at the table. "People are alive because of what you guys did out there. Plain and simple." His gaze comes to a rest on Lucy. All of his came home in one piece. She wasn't quite so lucky. "Be proud of that." He passes a glance up towards the camera and gives a stern nod towards the face on the other side, well aware that he might not even be here right now if it
Oxaris smiles and, even though they can't see, she salutes the screen. "We won't let you down, sir," she says, hoping she speaks for everyone there when she says that. And she genuinely believed it. She won't be here with them forever, but for now, she'll protect them like they're her own. It's the least she can do.
Nathan grasps her hand and gives it his own squeeze, before he looks across to Jason and nods, giving him a thumbs up.
Vasquez takes a deep breath, looking around the table. "Alright... if there are no more questions or comments I guess that's it for now. We'll be keeping everyone updated if we learn something new, and there'll be new assignments soon for those that are ready for them. The rest of you, rest up and listen to the doctor's orders, alright?" she says, shooting a glance at the camera which garners an approving nod from Halisi.
Jessica brings her hands under the table as Vasquez mentions doctor's orders, doing her best to conceal that she did away with the annoying splint.
Steve lifts his casted arm. "Just about ready to get outta this thing." he says to Halisi, "So you lemme know as soon as you got the time, doc. Itches like a sonovabitch."
Ilyna doesn't show any outward reaction to her hand being touched, but she doesn't pull it away either. She nods along with her after Vasquez' order, though; Halisi is busy enough as it is.
Zaylus absently touches his talons to the medical sling, his gaze distant as the briefing comes to a close.
Halisi doesn't seem to have noticed Jessica's missing splint - saved by sitting on the same side of the table. Steve's comment elicits a faint smile and a small nod. "Of course. I apologize for the delay, it's... been a very busy week." she offers, her smile fading as quickly as it appeared, a tired look returning to her face.