It's late morning on the 11th of December. The day of departure. Aite's companions in the sky are obscured behind endless, light gray clouds, but the wind is thankfully calm. Redrock's base stands emptier than usual with Jason and Vasquez away and others still recovering from the Collector ship.
#RedrockAgency – January 19, 2019
Jasper is already onboard Betsy doing his standard pre-flight check as he awaits everyone's arrival. As far as he knows, Leah, Nathan, Mendez, and Tara are just taking a trip to Linissia.
Leah is stood just beside the shuttle going through her belongings one last time. She's dressed in her usual attire of form-fitting black pants and clunky, unlaced black boots. She has on a light blue winter jacket and a matching tuque in preparation of the weather. She has her wheeled gear crate and a pair of duffelbags. A trio of shovels have already been loaded onboard the shuttle. A fact that didn't go unnoticed by Jasper,
Tara is present as well, dressed in full winter gear. She's been quiet all morning. Well... quieter than usual. But she's helped with packing regardless. Right now she's just sitting in silence inside the shuttle.
Emma walks into the hangar, backpack slung over her shoulder and hardcase bag in hand. She's wearing a sturdy woodland camo hunting jacket, unzipped over a gray fleece. Her pants match the jacket, and, aside from the braid resting on her shoulder, her golden blonde hair is covered by a beanie. She raises a hand in greeting as she approaches the group by the shuttle, saying nothing to explain her presence, at least yet.
Leah stands up from over her duffelbag as she takes note of Emma, returning the wave with one of her own. A friendly, if curious, smile crosses her face. "Hey-... Emma...?" she offers, one big green eye closing in a wince as she tries to recall the woman's name. "...Right?"
Nathan arrives not too long afterwards. He’s dressed in a thick padded jacket, baggy cargo trousers and thick hiking boots. On his back is a large, almost overflowing dufflebag... and another in one hand... another another in the other. Given the context of their trip, it’s safe to say he’s loaded to bare. However, as he approaches and sees Emma, he shoots Leah a subtle look of “What the fuck?”
Emma returns Leah's smile, although her's is little but a brief flash before a serious look overtakes it again. She nods to confirm her recall. "That's right." she confirms. "I probably should have called ahead, but... I heard you guys are going on a trip, and that you might be doing some... hunting." she says, the pause quite obviously deliberate. "I thought maybe I could tag along." she explains, calmly. "Get to know some of
Leah glances past Emma to the approaching Nathan, meeting his subtle look with a not-so-subtle one of her own as Emma explains herself, green eyes widening. "...Oh." she says, and you can practically hear the drop of her stomach in her tone. Eyes remaining on Nathan, she swallows hard. "This is Emma!" she says, with an odd flair of enthusiasm. "She heard we were going hunting and-... and wants to-... to go hunting with us."
she explains despite Nathan surely having just heard as much with a big, out-of-place smile plastered across her face. "....That's-... That's really... uhh.... nice." she says with a glance to Emma. "Isn't that nice, Nate?" she asks, wide eyes locking to Nathan. "...That she wants to-... nice...." she trails off.
Tara looks out from inside the shuttle, eyebrows furrowed as she watches the exchange outside with a hint of confusion.
Nathan slows to a stop and his eyes widen to saucers. This was not planned. Not planned at all. And his is a problem he cannot fix through copious amounts of high explosive. Or... could he? No. He looks to Leah, then back to Emma, then to Leah again. “Oh. Yeah! Yeah that’s great! How nice of you to invite you- great!” He were the bags down carefully and spreads his arms in greeting, a large cheesy grin on his
Emma raises an eyebrow, shifting the strap of her backpack a bit as her sharp blue eyes turn from Leah to Nathan, and back. "I'm a good hunter." she assures.
Leah nods a number of times, first to Nathan. Then to Emma. "Nice!" she decides before clearing her throat. "But-... umm..." she begins, furrowing her brow as if something only just now occurred to her. She stands up a bit straighter and rubs at her forehead, a crinkle in her brow as she considers whatever bullshit she's pretending to think about. "See, we've never actually been hunting... Is the-... heh-... is the thing."
she admits with an apologetic smile, a dryness settling into her throat. "We'd probably just hold you back! Right, Nate?" she asks, shooting a glare Nathan's way as if expecting him to fix things. "Tell her how we'd hold her back. Nate."
Nathan nods and stands besides Leah, a hand on his hip and the other raised into a pointed finger that wags with his words. “Right! Right, we are oh so very bad, so we-we-we shooould go on our own and practice. And, uh, you see-...” He looks at Leah, then to Emma, then back to Leah before he throws an arm around her shoulders and pulls her close. “We! We are going to get some time together. A little holiday!”
Emma maintains an entirely deadpan expression as she watches Leah and Nathan flounder. "All the more reason to bring someone that knows what they're doing." she suggests, her expression quite serious, although Nathan's final addition causes one of her eyebrows to rise skeptically.
Leah leans into Nathan a bit, wrapping an arm around his waist and widening her smile even more, almost suspiciously so. When Emma seems to grow skeptical, she nods her head a bunch of times as if to reinforce Nathan's comment. Uh oh. She's not buying it. Gotta scare her off. Make it awkward. Make it awkward. Make it awkward. Make it awkward. "He means sex!" she blurts out. Too awkward! Too awkward! Too awkward! She
tries her best to maintain her big, bright smile. But it's not long before it has devolved into an almost horrified wince and her cheeks are the color of tomatoes.
Nathan tries to give a genuine smile. But it’s a little too toothy, a little too stretched, and very, very awkward. He gives Leah’s shoulder a firm squeeze and says through gritted teeth, “A little too much information there, Leah.” He gives a slightly forced laugh and shakes a finger at Emma. “Yeah, so... so you know. It’s... um... you... you do not want to come on this trip. It will just be far too
uncomfortable for you! Cause I mean... just... look at this!” He points to himself and Leah. “Sickening, right?”
Jasper was just about to step out of the shuttle but, wouldn't ya know it? The moment he hears Leah he very quickly realizes he hasn't finished his pre-flight check and does a very sharp about-face, destination: far from this conversation.
Emma 's expression twists into what can only be described as bewildered distaste, but she doesn't seem particularly convinced. It's pretty obvious she's aware there's more to their trip. Still, she hadn't quite expected that exclamation. She opens her mouth to speak, but her eyebrows furrow as she finds herself momentarily rendered speechless by their awkwardness. "...good for you?" she settles on, head turning a little to
Leah winces as Nathan squeezes her shoulder, more terror slipping into her features by the moment. She tries to hide the fact that she's dying a little inside by the moment by nodding along to Nathan's words. "Totally grosssss~" she sings along with his words. Emma's comment causes a low, defeated 'Heh' to escape her. "...Very ... good... for us...." she mutters, rapidly losing steam and desperately searching the recesses of
her mind for some way to sell the con and get Emma to move along. She looks up at Nathan, hoping he has some sort of ace up his sleeve.
Mendez arrives through the hallway door dressed in insulated snowpants, heavy, steel toed snow boots, a thick, black winter jacket and a tight-fit beanie covering his mohawked head. One hand is dragging his gear behind him and the other is gripping the strap of the pack slung over his shoulder. As he nears the rest of the group, he sniffs to dispel a bit of the cold and slowly looks about the others. Nathan. Leah. Emma. He
doesn't even seem to think twice about her presence, merely attributing it to Leah bringing someone else onboard. Good. They're gonna need all the help they can get. His voice low, monotone, and about as devoid of emotion as one can get, he asks: "We ready to go kill some slavers?" His gaze comes to rest on Leah, brow furrowing as he takes note of the crimson shade that has taken hold of her, causing him to gesture her way
Jattic is in tow a good distance behind Mendez. He has a much more sleek winter jacket, brown and held shut by a number of buttons across the breast. His winter boots end just below his knees and, similarly to Mendez, he's dragging his gear crate behind him and has a large bag over his shoulder.
Nathan is about to try something else, rapidly running out of cards to place on the table. After all, he can’t exactly tell Emma they’re taking a Redrock shuttle, equipment and people on a personal trip to blow apart a Batarian Slaver house. However, Mendez clearly can. So, that’s that problem dealt with in an unconventional manner. He releases Leah and claps his hands together. “Okay, um, so that’s out
there now... in front of you. And the Security systems of Redrock. You know what, I’m going to get my shit aboard.” With that, he pivots on his heel and plucks up his duffle bags, dashing madly to get them aboard the ship.
Emma slowly gains a dry smile after Mendez' arrival, her gaze remaining on Leah and Nathan. There's a hint of smugness in there, along with amused exasperation. "These two were just announcing their intention to have sex during the trip." she offers to Mendez, glancing his way as she helpfully 'explains'.
Leah blinks a couple of times, expression slipping away entirely as her accusatory gaze falls to Mendez, teeth clenching tightly together. Emma's statement causes the red in her cheeks to deepen, green eyes widening in horror once more. "I didn't-..." she begins, but her gaze snaps to Nathan, nose scrunched up in disgust as she levels her frustration at him. "I am not having sex with you!" she assures now that the cat is out
of the bag, as if weaponizing her statement at him might make it more convincing for the others. On a warpath, she reaches out with one hand and gives Mendez a heavy shove in the shoulder. "She didn't know, dipshit! Great job!" She grumpily blows a puff of air out before finally looking to Jattic. "And what in the hell is he doing here?!"
Mendez cocks an eyebrow at Emma, looking unamused by the information. Leah's exclamation at Nathan causes him to look to him with great disinterest. "Tough break." he offers flatly. The shove from Leah barely even moves the large man, but her outburst allows him to begin piecing things together, causing him to shoot one more glance Emma's way with a muttered, "...Shit." He brings a hand up to his forehead and lets out a deep
breath before addressing Leah's follow-up question. "I invited him..." he admits with a gesture towards Jattic as he passes by. "We need all the help we can get, Leah." he pleads.
Jattic casts a glance between Nathan and Leah as he passes by, gear crate dragged behind him. "I told you she was seeking courtship." he offers in a low, guttural mutter as he joins Nathan in loading his things onto the shuttle.
Nathan loads his bags onto the shuttle, very pointedly keeping his gaze focused on anything that wasn't a living person within the hangar at the moment. He can feel his cheeks burning with red hot intensity and Leah's very loud declaration causing him to wince in equal parts awkwardness and embarrassment. So, naturally, he has to respond to her. "Yeah, well... back at you!" Really nicely done there, Nate, real smooth.
He turns back and shoves the bag a little harder on, before looking at Jattic. "...shut up." He mumbles, the effort half assed. "Just... no."
Emma 's eyebrows furrow as she notices Jattic, gaze following him as he crosses the hangar towards the shuttle, but she doesn't say anything. Instead her attention returns to Leah and Mendez. "You do." she agrees as Mendez speaks, focusing her attention on Leah.
Tara remains very very silent, sitting in discomfort in the shuttle as she watches the others. Her attention turns to Nathan and Jattic as they approach the shuttle, gaze focusing on the former first, big blue eyes watching him without a word.
Leah draws in a deep breath, her frustration slowly burning off. He's not wrong, after all. She tightly shuts her eyes for a moment, offering a sharp, "I heard that, Jattic." as the batarian's utterings fail to slip by her. She brings a hand up to her forehead, fingers massaging at the headache settling in. Nathan's comment gets little more than a slight tilt of her head and a clench of her jaw. Not helping! When Emma speaks
up, she opens her eyes once more and looks to her. "...You don't even know what this is about." she mutters, though there's a hint of desperation in her voice.
Mendez glances from Leah to Emma, offering her a small, almost imperceptible nod. He presses an apologetic pat against Leah's shoulder before stepping past her to begin loading his things up onto the shuttle.
Jattic seems to take Nathan's comeback in stride as he grips the sides of the shuttle door to pull himself into it. He passes Tara only a passing glance, pointedly looking away as he turns his attention back to Nathan and reaches down to assist in pulling all of the gear into the shuttle to stow away. "I do not understand your kind." he grunts, seemingly unwilling to just let the conversation die.
Nathan grumbles under his breath, but finds himself saying, "Neither do I." He sets the bags down and points to two of them, an in a surprisingly firm tone says, "Careful with those ones. They're loaded to bare, if you catch my drift." He hops onto the edge of the shuttle, legs dangling out of the open door as he merely watches Leah and Emma talk, a small frown settling on his face as he stares at Emma in particular,
Jattic pauses, taking a moment for Nathan's implication to catch up to him. "Of course." he agrees, slowing his pace as he carefully stows the bags beneath one of the shuttle seats.
Mendez pokes his head into the shuttle as he reaches it, the faintest hint of a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth as he spots Tara. "How is our snowman doing, little bird?" he asks, his tone far more firm and serious than one befitting the question.
Emma raises an eyebrow at Leah's comment. "I may have overheard a few things." she says with a faint shrug. Her gaze briefly travels to the others by the shuttle, lingering on Tara for a moment before going back to Leah. "Look... I want to help." she says, her tone straightforward. "You will be better off with me."
Leah looks away from Emma, glancing past her as she considers her words. She's an unknown variable. But she is Redrock. And the cold hard truth of it? They've got their work cut out for them. Emma would be another gun on the field. Features hardening, she meets Emma's gaze once more. "What I say goes and not a word of this gets back to Jason or the Chief." she says, an implied question mark following her stated conditions as
Mendez gives a small nod of his head. "Nothing we can't fix." he offers simply. He tucks his gloves into his jacket pockets as he climbs up to take a seat beside Nathan, joining him in watching Leah and Emma.
Nathan passes a cool glance to Mendez, a sharp nod following. If Mendez is paying attention, he can see that Nathan is idly wringing his hands together, a faint shift in demeanour as he watches. Nerves? Perhaps. He just remains quiet, focused on Emma with a hint of distrust lingering in his gaze.
Emma purses her lips, gaze moving off to the side for a moment as she considers her conditions, before meeting Leah's again with a nod. "Works for me." she says simply. There's a hint of curiosity in her gaze, as if wondering why this is happening under the radar, but she doesn't prod.
Thiago eyes lower to the fidgeting in Nathan's lap before he looks back to the pair. "You ready to do what we need to do?" he asks simply.
Tara nods slightly, the corners of her mouth shifting as if to smile but nothing manifests. Her unease is obvious. And it's probably not because of the snowman. She almost seems like she's going to reply, but Mendez' shift to Nathan keeps her from doing so. Instead she waits like the others.
Leah inhales sharply, silently scolding herself. She gives a few small, distant nods. More people means more of a chance for this to get back to Jason and Vasquez. Not that she distrusts them, of course. On the contrary, she's well aware that Jason would probably be armored up before she could even finish asking for help. But after everything she's done, the last thing she needs is to put more of her burdens onto them. She
kidnapped Vasquez. No, this is her problem to solve. Of course, it's not just her shoulders that it's falling on and turning Emma away would be akin to putting more pressure on the others. More pressure on Nathan. Mendez. Apparently Jattic, too. "If everything goes well, we're expecting to be off the grid for three days. Are you prepared for that?" she asks.
Emma offers an unfazed nod of confirmation, shrugging one of her backpack's straps up her shoulder a bit for emphasis.
Nathan bites down on his lower lip as Mendez speaks. He knows that he's more than ready to kill a bunch of slavers. For Hell's sake, it's what he did professionally for a time. That he could easily admit to. But... ready for the possibility that he may have to kill slaves themselves, even if it is a distant chance? That... that makes him uneasy. Sick. He sighs through his nose and glances to Mendez from the corner of
his gaze and gives him a thin-lipped smile. "Yeah." He exhales sharply and sits a little more upright. "I know what I need to do."
Mendez gives a few nods of his head. "Good." he says plainly, placing one heavy hand on Nathan's shoulder and using it to climb to his feet. The weight of the large man makes it a fairly heavy ordeal. Once back on his feet, he begins to assist Jattic in loading up what remains of the gear.
Leah studies Emma for a moment in silence. What choice does she have? Like it or not, they need as much firepower as they can get. She's in no better of a position to turn Emma away as she is to turn away Jattic. "We take off in five. Be ready." she says, sharply turning in place to return to her bags and give her things one last look.
Jasper finally reappears, casting a glance to the large man as he steps away. Jattic's presence causes him to gain a look of discomfort. With a heavy grunt, he slowly lowers himself into Mendez' now vacant seat beside Nathan. "Shovels. A Mantis. Armor crates. One, two, three, four-..." he begins to count before leveling his gaze on Emma with a nod of his head, "...five mercenaries. Ya'll must be huntin' some big game out there,
Ten..." he says, undoubtedly not buying it despite not having been present to hear Mendez spill the beans.
Emma seems pleased with Leah's acquiescence, picking her hardcase back up and heading over to the shuttle to stow it away along with her backpack. She takes a seat by the closed door, gaze briefly wandering across the rest of the occupants. It lingers a bit on Jattic once more again, but onec Jasper appears she looks to him, listening to the conversation.
Nathan grunts under the pressure of a ham sized fist pushing down on him as leverage. He gives Mendez a sharp look, but relents, steeling his attitude a little more. He looks to Jasper and his mood seems to die down a little, the comforting presence of the kindly old man a welcome distraction. The question does bring a measure of discomfort, but he merely shrugs. "Yeah, you could say that...". He doesn't like lying to
Jasper, but it really isn't his place to decide what and what not to share. This is Leah's operation. Her show. He reaches over and claps Jasper lightly on the shoulder, smiling. "Would you expect anything less from us lot?"
Jasper allows a small, if somewhat concerned, smile to come to his face as he watches Leah look through her gear. "No. S'pose I shouldn't." he admits. He adjusts the dirty, grease-stained cap on his head before raising a hand to catch her attention. "She's ready to fly!" he calls out to her. "You just say the word."
Leah looks up from her back, offering Jasper a sharp nod of her head. "Just making sure I haven't forgotten anything, then we're good to go, Jasper!" she calls back.
Jasper returns Leah's nod with one of his own before reaching up to pat at the hand on his shoulder. "Jus'-... ya know. If ya'll need me while you're out there-... huntin'?" he begins, briefly glancing Nathan's way, the look in his eyes more than enough to let the younger man know that he may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night. But he soon enough turns his gaze back to Leah. "Need a pick up or-...
somethin'... Jus' gimme a call, you understand? I don't get much sleep these days. Backs been actin' up, so..." he nods, "...I'll be up. Waitin'. Alright?"
Nathan looks to Jasper and he gives him a nod that answers all of the questions that have been asked or that are swirling around inside Jasper's noggin' that want to be asked. The look in his eyes adds to that, as he smiles a much more genuine smile to the old pilot. "Don't worry, I know I got the best damn pilot in Redrock on call." He chuckles and adds, "Thanks. Really."