The next hour is spent painstakingly going over the map with Nathan to discuss where the explosives, mines, and other goodies would be most effective. Once locations have been determined, work was split amongst the group. Given that only three shovels were loaded, only three people can dig. Jattic is off on his own using Nathan's plans to pre-dig shallow holes for Nathan's explosives. Mendez and Nathan have been tasked with digging the
#Kalus'Compound – January 27, 2019
grave against the treeline to the north-east. Tara has been tasked with unpacking their things and setting aside their sleeping gear. Emma is walking the perimeter to get a lay of the land and decide where best to set up.
Without anyone keeping up with the compound, the windswept snow is uneven and frustrating to navigate. A few inches in places. Nearly waist-high in others. Massive dunes of white lean against the sides of the collapsed and damaged buildings, threatening to overtake them if the winter is much harsher. It makes shoveling an ordeal, but also means concealing their traps won't be too difficult. It also means that whoever shows up tomorrow is
going to be fighting against the terrain to make any sort of push on the warehouse. The topsoil where Nathan and Mendez are digging is frozen and difficult to break through, but once through the top layer, things get significantly easier. Still, it's looking to be a long, cold night of digging.
The compound looks to have begun decaying long before it was abandoned. Whatever it once thrived as was long ago. Emma's walk of the perimeter is slowgoing due to the snow, but there's plenty of spots a sniper could make use of. Collapsing rooftops that would give clear sightlines nearly throughout the entirety of the compound. How stable any of them are is anyone's guess, however. The hangar to the southwest is certainly the most sturdy
Mendez is, unsurprisingly, a silent digging buddy. Nothing but grunts and breaths as he heaves aside snow and soil. He gains a certain rhythm. Bury the shovel into the hard dirt. Stomp a heavy boot against it to dig in. Grunt. Lift. Heave soil aside. Rinse. Repeat.
Leah has taken a few minutes to give the warehouse the once over before heading out to get a feel for the lay of the land. Short legs do not make deep-snow navigation particularly fun. She steps precariously through the deep snow as she searches about for wherever Emma may have made off to.
Nathan is, surprisingly, a silent one too. Ever since they arrived, the explosives expert has been unusually resigned and quiet, his attention flitting between the schematics and plans to the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions battling one another inside his head. He's wrapped up tightly in warm clothing, a snood brought up around his lower face and a hat drawn tightly just above his eyes. Right now, he's just
Emma is... nowhere to be found when Leah goes looking. At least not for a while. As she's walking along the western perimiter there's a rustle as Emma drops down from one of the trees, brushing some snow off of her clothes after landing. She nods in acknowledgement of Leah. "How are the preparations going?" she asks, having been off on her own since the briefing.
Tara has been keeping busy on her own, unpacking supplies and stowing the sleeping gear away in one of the barracks. Her carry capacity isn't exactly high, but she's getting the job done with surprising speed. She's set up a portable stove on a crate in the main cargo area, and has started prepping some dinner for the others that are outside working. Nothing fancy, of course, considering the circumstances. A pot of hearty pea soup to
Mendez continues to toil away, the crunch of frozen soil and snow mixing with heavy grunts and filling the air. There's an eerie kind of silence over the compound. Only them and wildlife for miles and miles. Physical activity seems to be Mendez' outlet of choice when it comes to working through his shit and, for a while, he seems to get into that zone and find a rhythm. "At the wedding. That was your sister?" he eventually asks
Leah's brow furrows as she hears rustling, tensing up while her hand moves to the Carnifex holstered on her thigh. Plenty of wildlife out here and she's not about to chance it. She looks almost comical as she she stands at the ready, a third of her body buried in deep snow. When Emma drops from the trees like soem sort of ninja, she eases up, studying the woman for a moment. She seems about to say something when Emma speaks up,
causing her to draw in a breath and glance back in the general direction of the warehouse. Her breath turns to steam as she releases it. "It's-... coming along." she decides, hand shifting away from the folded up sidearm. "But it's gonna be a long night. The others are digging, but I didn't bring enough shovels for everyone-..." she continues, her words barbed given the unsolicited assistance, "...so we'll work in
Nathan 's shovel hits the frozen dirt, only buried a few inches when he stops. He pauses and glances over to Mendez in a mix of surprise and confusion to his sudden discourse. He hums softly and nods, turning back to the task at hand. "Yep." He grunts as she shovels a pittance of dirt from the earth, adding it to the small pile gathering nearby. "Visiting from Earth for a short while."
Emma nods again. "I'm ready to swap in when I'm needed." she says, unfazed by the attitude in Leah's words. Her gaze scans the area for a moment. "I'm just getting to know the area, trying to map out promising sightlines. There are some strong trees here, and I could blend well with the foliage, but... at this angle the hangar blocks too much of the central area for my liking." she says, offering Leah her immediate analysis
Mendez nods to himself. Of course, he already knew this, making the question even more curious. "Sofia." he recalls the name before a grunt slips out as he buries his shovel deep into the ground. He wiggles it a bit, stomping his boot against the back of the spade to dig in deeper. "I have a sister of my own." he explains. "She means everything to me." he continues, his delivery just as dry and monotone as ever. It's not quite
clear where he's going with any of this or why the otherwise-quiet man has suddenly decided to spark up conversation. For a moment, he falls silent as he focuses on breaking through some particularly stubborn frozen dirt.
Leah scans across the treeline as Emma talks, heavy breaths escaping. "What about the hangar itself?" she asks with a nod as the building in question. "Like I said before, the report Redrock filed said they faced a sniper who held a position on the hangar rooftop. Sounds like he kept them pinned down pretty well." she suggests. She lets it go without saying that any position held on the west side is suspect. That much should be
obvious to a soldier. Even more so to a sniper whose entire career has probably hinged on analyzing combat situations. Knowing when to pull the trigger. When to show your cards. The further she is from the warehouse, the more likely it is that she'll be cut off from the others. It's a strong play, but it's an all-or-nothing play. "Wanna take a look?"
Nathan glances over his shoulder to Mendez, perking an eyebrow at the hulking fellow. In truth, Nate knew next to nothing about him, beyond he was Leah's friend. And it was surprising that he decided to share these small snippets about himself to Nathan. He continues to dig silently for a moment, before asking, "What's her name?" Something to take his mind off of everything.
Emma nods in agreement, starting to trudge through the snow past the treeline. "I was meaning to have a look. If the other roof is anything to go by, there will be a lot of snow buildup." she comments, having an easier time than Leah with the thick snow, but its still slow going.
Mendez stomps his boot violently against the back of the shovel a few times until he's buried it deep enough into the dirt to deal with the frozen layer. It's slow going. Tiring, even for a man of his size, causing deep breaths through his nose. He allows a few moments to pass after Nathan's question, as if pondering whether to even answer it. "Livia." he says softly.
Leah gives a few small nods, adjusting the edge of her tuque as she falls in line behind Emma. "Some of these buildings look like they might crumble under their own weight, so be careful." she says. She hazards a glance through the dense treeline to the west, having to high step just to get through the snow. It'll be easier with a hardsuit on, but it's looking like the day to come is going to be a grueling one. Thankfully,
The hangar itself is in a better shape than most of the dilapidated, half-standing buildings. But it's still pretty well worn.
Nathan heaves another shovel-full of dirt to the pile, feeling the muscles in his body starting to ache from the strain. But, he keeps going with it, keeps up with this curt small talk with Mendez to distract himself. Better than nothing, after all. "She on Aite?"
Emma casts a glance up the hangar as Leah speaks, continuing towards the large building. "Where is the access point?" she asks as they approach.
Mendez isn't the chatty sort, and there's an underlying hint that he is getting to some sort of point. But he's certainly in no rush to get there. "No." he says flatly. And then more silence as he decides just how much more he needs to say on the subject. And, for a moment, it seems as if that answer is 'nothing' as the sound of wind , grunts, and shovels is all that is heard. "But Leah is." he finally says, shooting a glare
Nathan's way before he buries his shovel into the ground once more. "And it's not a sleight to Livia when I say I love that woman like a sister." he explains, his focus once more settled on the slowly deepening hole they're digging.
Leah takes the lead, rounding the northern side of the building. "This way." she says. She gives the building a wide berth, the natural wind funnels created by the structures causing snow to pile up alongside the hangar like dunes of white sand. Once they reach the door, they're faced with the fun task of forcing the door open without any power. Leah grips the manual handle, legs engulfed in the snow that has accrued by the
door, and begins to attempt to slide it open. She's certainly no Mendez. Maybe not even a third of a Mendez. A fact which becomes clear quite quickly when the door barely budges. But, with a flash of blue, it's a quickly remedied problem. Internal gears screetch and groan as the heavy door is forced open with ease. The biotics display is wordlessly swept under the rug as Leah steps inside of the old building and begins to
Nathan makes a small sound of understanding. So that’s where this conversation was going. He was wondering at what point it was going to be discussed... it just had to be when they were alone, digging a grave in the snow out in the middle of a forest in the ass end of nowhere. Fantastic. Nate buries his shovel into the dirt, before turning to face Mendez. He spreads his arms before letting them fall to his sides,
catching his breath. “And you’re going to beat me with that shovel if I do anything to hurt her, right?”
Emma flinches almost imperceptibly at the sudden biotic display, as if a little startled, but doing a good job of suppressing it. "Handy, that." she comments. "You're Alliance, right?" she asks as she steps through the door, brushing herself off next to Leah.
The hangar looks as if it was once bisected into two rooms by a wall that ran from east-to-west along the center point, but it was either knocked down at some point, or collapsed of its own accord, as only pieces of the wall remain. A ladder against the wall's remains leads up to a small, visible hatch in the ceiling. A larger, closed hatch takes up a good portion of the rest of the northern room's ceiling that once served the hangar's
entry point for whatever was being stowed in here. The ceiling has seen better days. Cracks and small holes pepper it, allowing small piles of snow to dot the hangar's floor. Haphazardly constructed reinforcements seem to mostly be what has kept the ceiling from suffering the same fate as the rest of the compound's buildings. They're probably not particularly reassuring reinforcements for someone considering spending their time on the
roof, but the fact that the heavy ceiling hatch hasn't caused the roof to collapse yet means they must be working.
Mendez jams the spade of his shovel back into the dirt, using Nathan's temporary pause as an excuse to do the same. He rests both of his large forearms against the handle of the shovel as he looks to Nathan and takes a moment to gather a few deep breaths, unimpeded by the exertion of physical labor. "If you're lucky." he says simply, allowing his words to linger for a few moments before he seems to relent, releasing whatever
mounting tension there may have been, and draws in a deep breath. He turns his gaze out over the rest of the compound from the knee-deep hole he's in as if to make sure Leah isn't lingering nearby. "Look, Leah doesn't need me to fight her battles for her, Ten." he admits once it seems like the coast is clear and he can talk freely, attention resting back on Nathan. "She's perfectly capable of beating you with a shovel
herself." he clarifies, and there's an almost imperceptible tug at the corner of his mouth, but like a rainbow, it only lasts for a moment. "I just-..." he starts to continue before shifting against his makeshift shovel armrest. "Just don't fuck with her." he decides bluntly, not one to beat around the bush for too long. "She's been through hell. She doesn't need someone playing games with her."
Leah gives a few more swipes at her pantlegs. A rush of snow that was piled against the door floods inwards as they enter. "Was." she corrects, not bothering to look back at Emma as she turns her attention upward to assess the damage of the roof above them. "This place has seen better days..." she mutters to herself.
Nathan ‘s chest heaves one last time as he lets his breathing regulate after what feels like hours digging goddam concrete. He looks at Mendez for a moment, allowing a small smile to show at the mention of Leah doing it herself. He damn well knew she could. And, as Mendez finished, knew what she had been through. She’s told him as such, at least with recent times. He chews on his inner cheek for a moment before
nodding softly. “I know, Mendez. I know.” He rests his hands on his hips and glances off to the side, inhaling a deep breath. “I care about her.”
Emma accepts Leah's correction silently, dropping wherever she was going with that question, if anywhere, and taking a few steps inside as she looks up at the ceiling. "Seems that way. Snow must be putting some serious weight on it. The ladder earns a skeptical look, considering most of the wall it was attached to isn't there anymore. "I have no issue with heights but the way up isn't exactly confidence-inspiring..." she adds
in a mutter, pondering whether it would be safe to ascend. After a moment's study at a distance she heads for the ladder to give it a shake and get some better data.
Mendez studies Nathan in silence for a few moments, as if assessing whether or not his words are sincere. He puts a bit more weight on the shovel and once more looks out towards the compound. Eventually he gives a few small nods to Nathan's words and straightens up once more, gripping the handle of his shovel as he gets back to work.
The ladder doesn't crumble in Emma's hands. So... there's that. It seems sturdy enough. But it's a high ceiling, made to accomidate whatever aircraft needed to be stowed in here. If something were to go wrong, a fall from near the top would almost certainly result in injury.
Leah places her hands on her hips as she scans the length of the ladder, approaching it beside Emma. With a nod, she reaches out and places a gloved hand on one of the rungs to test it out herself. "I'll go first." she says, shooting a glance Emma's way. "I'm gonna guess I proooobably weigh less than you." she says, sizing the woman up. Her tone and the snicker that follows makes it seem more like lighthearted self
depreciation than a jab at Emma. "Sooooo~ may as well make sure it can hold me before you give it a shot." And, of course, there's an element of truth to that. But the more important factor is that Leah possesses the ability to slow her fall. Drop herself back to the ground like a feather if anything was to go wrong.
Nathan takes the silence as a good thing for once and nods simply to the man. He too turns back to the shovel and starts digging, a little more effort put in now that he’s had a brief respite from it. At least he doesn’t have to worry about being buried here... he hopes anyway.
Emma stands aside, crossing her arms as she watches Leah. "Watch for ice buildup on the rungs." she advices before falling silent to let her focus.
Mendez slips back into digging away at the hard ground beneath them, mind growing preoccupied with just how big of a shitstorm is going to rain over this compound over the next 24 hours. Just how wrong everything can go. And the fact that he's currently standing in what is soon to become an unmarked mass grave. And that's if everything goes well. If that's not a sign that the situation is fucked, than what is?
Leah places a boot against the bottom rung and turns her gaze upwards, nodding softly to Emma's advice. She takes the first few rungs slowly, but without hesitation. When it seems to be holding, she ups her pace slightly. It's not until she reaches about the half way point that she glances back down at Emma. "Seems to be holding." she says, gaze darting back over the rungs she's already climbed. She stomps against her current
rung a few times to test for any weakness, causing a loud CLANG to echo through the old, dilapidated structure. When the whole thing doesn't collapse, she shrugs to herself. "I think it's fine...?" she offers. So confidence boosting. She continues the rest of the way up until she reaches the hatch high above. The hatch is heavy and swings outward. Leah presses a hand against it and gives the hatch a good shove, but
it's a fruitless endeavor. The snow pressing down from above makes the effort more of a courtesy than anything else and the hatch doesnt budge. She brings her other hand up against the hatch above her, leaving her balancing on the rung of the ladder with nothing more than the toes of her boots and the pressure afforded by her hands against the hatch. There's another, small, blue surge that erupts from her and the hatch
above swings outward violently. With a surprising amount of grace she leaps upwards, gripping the sides of the now-open hatch, and pulls herself up onto the roof in one fluid motion before she can lose her balance.
Emma 's eyebrow rises as she watches Leah effortlessly open and ascend the hatch in a manuver that she could never hope to replicate. Well, at least the path is clear... She grips the rungs of the ladder and starts to climb, her movements deliberate and careful, but keeping good pace regardless. Seeking out the high ground is a common part of her job description, so she's experienced with far more precarious climbing than
The roof is an even more precarious up here given the large buildup of snow making it more difficult to see where the holes are and discern where structural integrity is at its weakest. There's a small lip around the edge of the roof, but it's not very high. Certainly not enough to provide cover unless one was to lay down.
Leah reaches down to help Emma up once she reaches the top. She pats her gloves together to clear a bit of the snow and draws in a breath. "Careful..." she says, gesturing to a nearby hole. She gives a full turn, drawing in a sigh. "You'll need to watch your step if you take a position up here. But-..." she gives a gesture towards the east and the wide open view afforded. The entire compound is visible save for the area blocked
Emma accepts Leah's help, taking a look around when she's up. "I like the sightlines..." she says, taking a few careful steps east towards the edge. She's light on her feet, well aware of the trecherous 'terrain'. "This could work well, if I can set up ahead of time." Her gaze goes to the south as she brings up a hand to shield against the glare of the snow. "I will stick out badly from the sky, though." she comments,
glancing around the snow-covered roof now. "I have a tarp in my pack that should provide decent concealment if we cover it with snow."
Leah gives a few small nods, folding her arms across her chest as she takes in the view. "That could work." she muses. A few moments pass as she shifts from foot-to-foot, merely studying the lay of the land. Looking over the position she'll be laying in wait in the coming day. But it's not the fighting that's to come that nags at her. It's something else. The reason she came looking for Emma. "Why are you here, Emma?" she asks
plainly without looking to the woman. "I'm not in a position to turn away help. But I don't think we've exchanged more than a few words since you joined up with Redrock and then, suddenly, you just show up out of the blue. Ready to march into a firefight with a bunch of people you don't know for a cause that you have no stake in. That doesn't strike you as a bit suspicious?"
Emma tenses up a bit at the question, even though she knew it was more or less inevitable. She glances Leah's way briefly before looking out across the compound, crossing her arms over her chest. "Who said I didn't have any stake in your cause?" she asks in response as her gaze wanders across the dilapidated, half-buried buildings.
Leah gives a small smile, not yet looking Emma's way. "You're avoiding the question, Emma." she says bluntly. "I care a great deal about the people here. I know them. I know I can trust them. No matter what happens tomorrow, I know that they will have my- and each others'- back." She finally turns her gaze to Emma, any of the remaining lightheartedness from earlier slipping away as she studies her. "I don't know you. I want
to trust you. But if I do that, it means putting the lives of the people I care about in your hands. I can't do that if I don't know why you're here. So I'm going to ask one more time. Why are you here?" she restates. Clearly and concisely, her tone taking a sharp turn, as if interrogating the woman.
Emma allows her arms to fall down to her sides, sucking in a breath of air as she continues to look out off the roof. The cold bite of the air has rendered her lightly freckled cheeks rosy, and as she exhales the warm air turns to mist, but nothing can be discerned from her stony expression. For a moment after Leah's question there's just a heavy silence and the wind. "I grew up on Mindoir." she says, with a tone that matches
her face. She offers nothing else, at least not yet. Perhaps she hopes that alone will be all that is needed. Her expression is unchanging, aside from a blink.
Leah's expression softens momentarily, clearly not having expected that, but the implication is not lost on her. A soft, "...Oh." escapes her as she falls silent. But the silent doesn't last. Soon enough she draws in a breath and, with it, the focus returns to her face. "That explains the 'why', but not the 'how'." she says. "Outside of Nate and Mendez, nobody knew why we were coming out here. How did you figure it out?"
Emma remains silent until the second question, which causes her to let out a quiet sigh. "I... overheard you two." she says, glancing over towards Leah. "In the Respite." she clarifies, a hint of discomfort crossing her face. "Yes, I know. I shouldn't have been eavesdropping." she adds. "But I heard what I heard, and, well... it sounded like you could use some assistance." There is a faint, hesitant hint of a smile that tugs
briefly at one corner of her mouth as she offers an almost unnoticable shrug, trying to discern Leah's reaction. "If I overstepped by inserting myself into your mission..."
Leah furrows her brow as Emma explains and it's not hard to discern that she is less-than-pleased that the woman eavesdropped on her and Nathan. She's quick to interrupt Emma's final presumed apology as she reaches the tail-end of her statement. "You did." she snaps sharply, holding the woman's gaze for a few moments. But she's unable to maintain any animosity that may have been brewing, and soon enough Emma is met with a deep
sigh. "...But you're not wrong." she admits reluctantly, a bit of concern shining through, "We are-..." she gives a shake of her head to accompany a humorless snort, gaze turning back out to the east, "...We are in the thick of it and I'm not about to turn away another gun." She can't. Tara. Nathan. Mendez. Jattic. Their lives might depend on it. "So..." she glances back towards Emma, drawing in a deep breath and cocking
Emma 's expression tenses a little, but Leah's relenting is met with a relieved nod. She starts to turn, but her gaze lingers on Jattic out in the field preparing for Nathan's explosives. Her eyebrows furrow, but she decides that right after her own presence was questioned may not be the right time to question someone else's, and instead she goes to look over the edge of the roof, trying to determine if there's anywhere where
the snow buildup is enough that it looks feasible to drop off the side safely - it'd be good to have a fast escape later on, should it be necessary.
The snow along the northern side of the building goes pretty high. In some places nearly two-thirds of the way up the building. But there's no real way from up here to tell just how dense it is. If the rest of the snow is any indication, it should be enough to dampen a fall with minimal damage. In a pinch, however, it would certainly beat just taking a nosedive off the building.
Emma makes note of the pile, deciding not to test her plan unless it becomes necessary, instead joining Leah by the ladder, letting her head down first.
During the hour that follows, Nathan and Mendez have made steady, if grueling, progress through the frozen dirt. There's still a long way to go, but they've still got a good bit of daylight left. Leah spent the hour helping Emma set up her position, lay out the tarp, and camo it with snow.
Leah shows up near the grave, taking a position at the edge and looking down at the two men waist-deep in the hole. "Having fun yet?" she asks, the smile that crosses her lips not quite reaching her eyes. "Go take a break. I think Tara was throwing some food together." she says with a glance to the larger of the two men.
Mendez snorts and gives a roll of his eyes as he plants his shovel in the ground and leans against it, looking up at the woman perched along the edge. "I'm good for a few more hours." he says despite the burning that has set into his arms. When Leah gives a small, subtle glance Nathan's way, he gives another roll of his eyes and looks pointedly towards the man, perhaps giving her away. "Maybe I'll go take over for Jattic." he
says, not doing much to sell it. "Let him get a bite to eat. Or something." He steps over to the edge and pulls himself out of the hole.
Nathan has made some decent progress with, no doubt. But if one were to look on the two sides of this grave, they may notice that Nate is lagging behind a little bit in comparison to Mendez. Noticeably so, come to think of it. At the sound of Leah’s voice, he sighs heavily, taking a moment to give his burning muscles a break. He smiles at her, but the exchange between her and Mendez is very hard not to notice. He
watches his digging companion disappear over the edge of the hole, gaze switching to the woman now towering over him for once.
Leah watches as Mendez trudges through the snow. Unlike her, he seems to have little issue with it. It almost seems to get out of his way. Once there's some distance between them and Mendez, she turns her gaze back to Nathan. "How's the weather down there?" she asks. A joke she has, no doubt, been on the recieving end of for much of her life.
Nathan gives her a flat look. “Wow. How long have you been waiting to use that one on me?” He manages to crack a smile before it fades just as quickly. His snood has been pulled down to around his neck, no longer covering his jaw.
Emma has just descended from the roof, having been busy setting up over there. The tarp has been set and concealed, and she's brought up some of her equipment ahead of time, left under the tarp, aside from a case of thermal clips buried in the snow. It's an old trick, and the results are minimal, but an extra shot is nothing to sneeze at under the right circumstances. She's already overriden the necessary safeties to fire
past the overheat treshold. Upon exiting the hangar, Emma starts to make her way towards the main building, but she stops upon spotting Jattic, studying the batarian from a distance without announcing her presence.
Leah gives a snicker. It ends up coming across as a bit tired and hollow given the circumstances and a couple of hours of trudging through waist-high snow. And they're just getting started. But, considering the circumstances, she's in higher spirits than she should be. Working in less-than-ideal circumstances. Pushing through hours- even days- of fatigue is something she's just learned to get used to after the rigorous training
the Alliance put her through. "Got a problem?" she asks as she lowers herself to sit at the edge of the hole, "How about you come up here and say it to my face, short stuff!" she cracks off, seemingly enjoying the role reversal of being able to look down at someone.
Jattic is clearing a large swathe of snow where some of the explosives are supposed to be set. It's only the first half, of course. Later they'll need to fill these gaps in to conceal the traps. There's large snow mounds all throughout the compound where he's done the same thing, working according to the markings Nathan made on the map. Once finished, he rests against the shovel and pulls the datapad from the inside of his
Emma just continues to watch Jattic for the time being, standing silent and immobile with her intense gaze focused entirely on the batarian, her thoughts unknown.
Nathan tries to keep a straight face as she talks, but he finds it a futile battle. He chuckles softly, the smile slipping back on as he walks to the edge of the pit. He jams the shovel into the dirt and then leans forward to rest his arms on her legs, peering up at her with a lazy look. “I could just drag you down here instead,” he muses, canting his head. “But we both know you wouldn’t be able to reach the
Jattic shifts about, finding himself facing Emma's way as he tries to match the terrain to the location detailed on the overhead map. He lowers the datapad and leans more heavily against the shovel with his other arm, all four eyes affixing to the Alliance sniper inquisitively, as if expecting her to address him.
Leah's expression grows unamused as Nathan retorts. "Hilarious." she says flatly as she idly begins to adjust his hat with one gloved hand, her other coming to rest against his arm. "Just... so funny. Really." she continues. But that small, tired smile begins to resurface. The harsh wind has caused a deep red to set into her cheeks and the tip of her nose. Locks of blonde hair spill out from the back of her light blue tuque.
"How is it going?" she asks with a brief glance towards the hole, though it's not hard to tell that her question isn't just work-related.
Nathan ‘s chest rumbles in a small laugh as she adjusts the hat. Marginally enough that it’s now mildly uncomfortable. The fiend! He reaches up to shift it back into place, her latter question causing his smile to flicker hesitantly. He follows her gaze to the ground, chewing his inner cheek as he mills over how to answer. Eventually, he settles on, “I’ve never had to dig a mass grave before...”. He
swallows and shakes his head softly. If tomorrow goes to plan, then this pit will be filled with the corpses of slavers. Scum. Villains. Some of the worst the galaxy has to offer. And it leaves him with a bitter taste in his mouth.
Emma shifts a little when Jattic notices her, remaining silent for a moment as she meets his gaze, focusing on the lower eyes. As the silence grows heavier she calls out: "What are you doing here?", taking a few steps closer into comfortable speaking range, but keeping her distance still.
Leah's smile fades along with Nathan's as it grows clear that all of this is weighing on him. She gives a small nod as she watches him. "...I know." she says. Not 'me neither'. No, because that would be a lie. "I'm sorry I got you involved in all of this, Nate." she sighs, giving his arm a gentle rub that mostly goes unfelt through the thick winter gear.
Jattic draws in a few deep breaths, his fatigue obvious. He casts a glance about, gesturing towards the clearing he has made with the datapad. "Ten requires space to plant his explosives. This will allow us to conceal their location with snow." he explains through that throaty batarian growl of his, not reading much into the question. He shifts a bit to look out over the compound. "There is still much to do, however."
Nathan shakes his head and he manages a somewhat light, “I told you to stop apologising about that.” He looks back to her and he just watches her for a moment, hesitant with his words. “...It’s so alike.” His voice is quiet, strained as he speaks what’s really been bothering him. “I... I just see that day again... I see the bullets, I see the bodies... I-...”. He swallows and he has to gulp down a
Emma lets out a quiet snort, looking over the clearing Jattic gestures to before turning her gaze back to him. "Yes. I'm familiar with the plan." she says, not bothering to sound amiable. "But why are you here? This is not a Redrock mission."
Leah flashes a hollow smile when Nathan scolds her for apologizing. But as he continues to speak, she furrows her brow, a pained expression crossing her face. It's brief, but it's there. Because she brought him into this situation. "...I know." she repeats softly. It wasn't difficult to decipher what was eating at him back at the briefing, after all. She tugs the glove off of her right hand and sets it beside her, bringing her
hand- toasty thanks to her thick winter gloves- to his cheek. A small gesture in an attempt at providing some small sense of comfort- some closeness and warmth amidst the cold, isolating environment. She brushes her thumb back and forth as she studies him from above. "This will be different." she assures him softly, well aware that her words will ring hollow in the face of what he has been through. But that doesn't stop
Jattic's gaze snaps back to Emma as she begins to grow snarky. "You have a problem with my presence?" he asks, though it ends up sounding more like a statement than a question. "I am here because I was asked to be here." he explains flatly, deciding he doesn't owe her any explanation.
Nathan shivers at her touch, the warmth of her skin against the cold of his. But, it does do a little to ground him to the now, to reality. Her words bring a conflict of comfort and more anxiety. Sure, it could be different this time. Different in dozens of ways. Half the team could survive. Half could be dead. They could all live but he die. Maybe he’ll succeed in protecting Tara. Maybe she’ll die in his arms
like Jasmine. But maybe it will all go right. Maybe it will all be okay. But there’s enough there, enough self doubt and loathing to keep him from believing that. Will it stop him from doing his job? He hopes not. “...what if I can’t?” He says aloud, a question both to her and himself. “...you want me to keep Tara safe, but I... I couldn’t-...”
Emma furrows her eyebrows a little, scanning Jattic's expression as she tries to read his alien face. "Of course I do." she says with a small shrug, arms still crossed. "There's a fairly obvious conflict of interest, isn't there? Why would you agree to fight your own people?"
Leah's expression breaks once again as Nathan's worry penetrates the facade of confidence she had tried to display. She uses her hand to force him to meet her gaze. "You will do everything in your power to protect her, Nate." she says. And she very clearly believes it despite the emotion that's beginning to bubble over. "You will. Do you know how I know that? I know that because-... because it's just who you are." Her big green
eyes search his, scanning from one to the other. "Okay?" A few moments of silence pass as she continues to study him. "...Just like I'm sure you did everything in your power to-... for-..." she hesitates and instead swallows hard, trailing off into uncomfortable silence as she tries and fails to breach a topic that carries with it undeniable pain for Nathan. Guilt over a failure that carried with it a heavy price. She's
no stranger to those feelings. After all, someone is dead because she couldn't stand up to Cerberus. Because she was selfish and made a decision that traded one life for another. No. Not just a man. Someone she cared about. And now, here she is again. Putting someone she cares about in danger once again. The thoughts cause her words to sound hollow even to her. "...and-... and that's all any of us can do, okay?"
Jattic gives a snort, glancing off to the side. There it is. He had suspected as much. "I'm not, human." he growls as he looks back to the woman as he stands up straight, attempting to hide just how deep her words cut. Because they shouldn't. She doesn't know him. It's hollow bigotry. Yet her words still find their mark. She is a marksman, after all. "My people? They are here." he says matter-of-factly, holding her gaze
with all four of his eyes. A tried and true tactic for instilling discomfort in other species. "You want to believe we are all the same. It matters little to me. But do so in the presence of someone else because I don't have time for your shit."
Emma 's gaze darts up briefly before refocusing on the lower pair of eyes, frown deepening. She continues to study Jattic, trying to decipher just what the hell he's doing here. "What I want is to make sure that you are not a threat to the mission." she says, finally. "If you're not prepared to give me answers, I will ask elsewhere."
Jattic snorts loudly, taking a couple heavy steps forward. It seems like he might continue walking at her when the silhouette of a large man enters his peripheral, stopping him in place. "As I said." he growls, "Believe whatever you wish. Ask whomever you wish. It makes no difference to me."
Mendez folds his arms across his broad chest, realizing he walked in on something. He silently looks between the two as they size each other up. First Jattic, then Emma before looking back to the former. "Leah said Tara is preparing some food. Go get a bite. I'll take over here." he says simply, not addressing whatever might be going on right now for risk of only aggitating it further.
Jattic remains in place, standing his ground as he continues to study Emma. Mendez goes unanswered for a number of moments until the batarian finally steps over to him and presses the datapad to Mendez' chest before stomping off towards the warehouse.
Mendez clutches the datapad before it falls to the snow and watches as the batarian trudges through the deep, unmaintained snow. "Mind telling me what all that was about?" he asks Emma once Jattic is out of earshot. The combination of his tone and the slow glance he levels her way makes it sound more like an order than a request.
Emma remains in place, pointedly meeting Jattic's gaze as he approaches. She seems about to say something but bites back her reply when Mendez interrupts them, chewing her cheek as she falls silent. Her gaze lingers on the batarian until Mendez addresses her, causing her to shift her attention. Her previous suspicion and restrained hostility fades as she adjusts her stance to look up at the towering man. "I wanted to know his
Mendez tucks the datapad into the crook of his arm. "I asked him to come." he says bluntly as he looks to the woman, staring at her as if waiting for further clarification. It's obvious that it's not that simple. Jattic is a grump, but he wouldn't be up in arms over such a simple question unless there was more to it.
Emma furrows her eyebrows. "Why?" she's quick to ask, obviously finding the decision questionable at best.
Mendez tilts his head slightly, not particularly understanding the point to her line of questioning. "Why did I ask him to come?" he asks aloud for clarification. "Because he's a mean motherfucker and I trust him." he states just as bluntly. Both very important elements. There's a small raise of his brow as he continues to hold Emma's gaze. A silent 'Go on' in his features as he awaits explanation for her curiosity.
Emma doesn't respond immediately, Mendez' behavior seeming to give her pause for a moment. "Do you think that's a good idea, considering who we are facing?" she asks finally, still meeting his gaze.
Mendez immediately responds. "Yes." He continues to study the woman for a moment before pressing. "I'm getting the impression that you disagree. Is there a reason for that or is it just blatant prejudice?" he asks flatly, his cold, monotone nature making it hard to tell if there's even any judgement in his question.
Emma scoffs at Mendez' question, looking off towards the building where Jattic went for a moment before returning her attention to Mendez again. "I'm not racist." she says with an even tone, meeting his gaze. "Slavery is part of their culture. Why would he help kill someone trying to get back their 'rightful property'?" she asks, the last words practically dripping with disgust.
Mendez gives a shrug of his shoulders, his body language lacking any defensiveness to it. "Don't know. Don't care." he says honestly. "Can't even say I particularly like the guy. He's an asshole." he continues, not one to sugar coat things. Considering Jattic is probably one of his best friends, that doesn't exactly say much about Mendez' social circle. "I've watched him risk his life and save the lives of humans- of our
people in the face of-..." he breaks eye contact, the first hint of any sort of emotion behind the large man's eyes as he draws in a breath and lets it out through his nose. "...In the face of shit you couldn't even begin to imagine." he says a bit quieter once he re-establishes eye contact, having little reason to go into detail about what transpired on Di Yu with someone he barely knows. "Perhaps you need a more recent
example? You've read the reports, I presume? About him marching through a Collector ship to help pull the rest of his team out rather than turning tail and running?" he asks matter-of-factly. He gives a small roll of his shoulders as he shifts to better face Emma directly. "What have you done to earn my trust?" he asks, his tone just as flat and even as ever.
Emma listens in silence to Mendez, her frown only deepening as if his words might be riling her up, but the mention of the Collector ship, and the questions that follow, cause her to deflate a little, looking off to the side. She has read the reports. Many times. She doesn't reply right away, silence taking over for a time. Eventually she relents with a nod, still not meeting Mendez' gaze again. "Point taken." she says,
Mendez gives a single, stern nod, seeming to accept her response as reason enough to let it go. He has no desire to convince her to like Jattic, after all. They merely need to work together. "That makes two of us. Sounds like my ass will be hanging out tomorrow, so I'm gonna be relying on you to keep me covered." he says, holding her gaze. If there's any fear over that fact- and there certainly is- he hides it well. There's no
animosity in his tone despite what just transpired as if he couldn't give a shit less about the personal problems she might have with Jattic.
Emma nods again. "You can count on it." she says, relaxing just a little. "Plan is for me to set up on the roof there." she says, pointing up towards the top of the hangar. "Should give me a good flanking position once you've drawn them in, and enable me to cover your retreat if things get ugly." There's not really much of an if about it in her mind, but still.
Mendez isn't quite the outward optimist that Emma is, and he's quick to correct her as he casts a glance back towards the nest she's made. "When things get ugly." he says, a heavy, almost-frustrated sigh following it. "Leah outlined a couple of fall back positions depending on their approach that will allow me to be useful if I'm unable to get back to the warehouse." he says, casting a glance towards the warehouse and drawing
a line with his eyes along the path he's expecting to take tomorrow. "When we're all done tonight, I'm gonna do a few dry runs. See how long it takes me to get back to the warehouse. How long to get to each of the fall back positions. Can't see it being more than forty seconds or so for any of them, but forty seconds in a firefight might just be my ass. So you need to make them keep their heads down." he says, gaze coming
Emma nods in agreement. "I intend to." she assures, casting a glance towards the building they have set up camp in. Food would have been nice, but... probably not while Jattic is there. "Anything I can do to make myself useful right now?"
Mendez reaches out with his free hand, resting it against the handle of the shovel and gives a shake of his head. "Walk the perimeter. Get a lay of the land. Familiarize yourself with the area." he lists with a shrug. "Until someone is ready to give up a shovel there's not a whole lot else you can do. Warm food inside, though." he suggests. "Might as well get a bite and relax until someone needs a break."
Emma glances around the area, lingering on the building for a moment, and then looks back to Mendez and nods. "Copy that. I'll be nearby." she says before starting to head off.
Mendez gives a simple nod as he grips the shove handle and yanks it out of the ground. He rests it over his shoulder as he lifts the datapad and begins to study it, brow furrowed as he attempts to determine the next spot to clear.