#Kalus'Compound – February 8, 2019

Another couple of hours pass as everyone settles in after the backbreaking day. Getting anywhere inside of the old warehouse requires omni-tools, and the barracks is lit only by a small lantern brought by Leah. Without any power to the building, that means there's also no heat. And, while the walls do a good job of holding back the strong wind outside, there's only so much they can do about the cold. It's not going to be the most

comfortable of sleeps. Winter gear, hats, and boots will likely be the sleepwear of everyone this evening.

Jattic has taken a position off by himself inside of the barracks, most likely spurned to do so by a desire to be as far from Emma as he can be. His long winter jacket is still on- though unbuttoned- and his nearly-knee-length boots are still laced tightly. He seems to be dealing with the cold well. As well as one can be. But he also doesn't seem the sort to complain if it was bothering him. He threw together a small sleeping

space beside him- just some blankets and pillows laid out- and he's seated against the wall going through his omni-tool.

Mendez has been a bit restless, back against the wall and large forearms perched against his knees, a blanket draped over his lower body. He's a large man and, as tends to be the case with large men, requires a fair bit of sustenance. As such, he's dipped into the leftover soup a few times. A half-eaten long-cold bowl is sat beside him.

Leah is nowhere to be seen inside of the barracks, having long since set back out towards the storage room after having a small bowl of soup.

Nathan hasn't left his ramshackle workshop since Jattic departed after their discussion. All the grenades have been completed and neatly organised on the workbench, separated into non-lethal and lethal respectively. For now, the demolitions expert has dispersed a rug across the floor and has placed his own personal weapons and armour across it. Lil' Lucy lies dismantled before him, Nathan painstakingly cleaning and

tweaking every part in an effort to make sure it'll perform flawlessly for the coming day. He's still bundled up in his winter clothing, merely shedding the gloves for to work with a finer touch.

It's almost peaceful inside of the old warehouse. A far cry from what the compound is sure to be in the coming day. But for tonight, despite surrounded by a minefield of explosives, things are quiet aside from the occasional whistle of the winter wind outside. Some of the heavier gusts can almost be felt as the old building braces against the wind, boards rattling before fading into the background once more. Eventually, a soft clanking

begins to sound out from the storage room outside of Nathan's workshop. There's no rhythm to it. Just a steady, even clank.

Nathan actually takes a minute or two to even notice the clanking, his focus and attention absorbed in the now reassembly of his grenade launcher. When he does catch on to the repetitive clanking, his gaze flicks up to the door and a small furrowing of his brow takes hold. He cleans off his hands with a cloth, pulls his gloves back on and walks over to the door, carefully opening it to seek the source of the noise

with the aid of his omni-tool's flashlight glowing dimly in the dark.

Leah is seated at the edge of a large, abandoned crate, her gear spread out atop an even larger crate in front of her that she's using as a table as she works by the glow of omni-tool. Similarly she's still in full winter gear, sans gloves. She doesn't seem to notice Nathan until the flashlight shines her way, causing her to glance his way through tired green eyes and offer a small, exhausted smile his way. "Hey..." she says

softly, almost in a whisper as if afraid the echo of the large building might carry her voice and disturb the others.

Nathan breathes a breath that he didn't realise he was holding. Who else could it have been, after all? "Hey," he responds as softly, lowering the torch and dimming the glow down to a warm orange hue. He approaches and his eyes flit down to the gear occupying the table. "Heh... similar idea to me," he muses with an ounce of emotion, thumb idly jabbing back to the workshop. He turns his gaze back to her, taking a

moment to examine her expression, her exhausted smile, the tired eyes.

Leah's trusted M-96 Mattock is disassembled with each lightweight part neatly laid out. Sound moderator near the barrel. Stability damper. An ammo block beneath the reciever. Underneath all of that is a disassembled Carnifex with a white, winged sword imprinted on the side. It's sporting a bit more wear and tear than her immaculate Mattock. A second ammo block is placed beside it. A column of thermal clips- that very well might

be perfectly spaced apart from one another down to the inch- occupy the space along her left-hand side of the crate. Atop the column of thermal clips is a small weighted knife. Simple and sleek and designed for close-quarters combat. The rest of the large, makeshift table is occupied by her hardsuit. Her undersuit is neatly folded up with armor plating assembled around it like some sort of jigsaw puzzle in accordance to

where each piece will be placed on her body. It's been a long day- for everyone- and her expression shows as much. She brings one boot up onto the edge of the crate she's seated atop and folds her arms over her knee, resting her chin against her forearms. She gives a brief glance in the direction Nathan indicates, small, restrained smile remaining. "I don't think I'll be getting too much sleep tonight anyway, so I

figured I might as well give everything one last pass." she shrugs. Her gear crate is laying behind her, serving the role of a makeshift backrest. Her gaze turns back to the neat and tidy assortment of weaponry and gear laid out before her. Everything in its place. Sorted. Seemingly as much attention paid to the spacing between objects as to the position of them.

Nathan takes a step forwards, eyes returning once more to the neat, regimented layout of her weapons and armour. His focus sets upon the Carnifex, the weapon standing out most. He dare not disturb any of the parts with curious fingers, as if he might disturb them from a non-existent rest. Instead, after a moment more of professional examination, he turns once more to Leah. A smile, muted and hiding lingering traces

of fear, appears on his face. "Yeah. A good idea...". The words feel... forced. As if trying to mask the underlying worry and troubles that plague his mind, harrying him as soon as his brain allows a moment of respite from the tasks ahead. Oddly, though, this whole scenario is making him miss the company of Sandbeck and how well adapted they would be for this fight, for minimising risks and casualties and for

steadying his nerve. Instead, here they all are, miles from any real support in a decrepit building in the middle of a freezing winter, preparing to fight a batarian slaving house's leader and his bodyguards. He shakes the thoughts from his head, mentally scolding himself for allowing them to creep in once more. Instead, words fall from his mouth as it shifts from the deflecting smile to the true, pained

expression. "...I'm scared. It-it sounds stupid since we just fought and survived the fucking Collectors, but... I'm scared of what may come tomorrow." He looks away in shame, a shuddering sigh escaping him.

Leah keeps her big green eyes trained on her equipment, chin digging a bit deeper into her arm as she listens to Nathan speak. "I know, Nate..." she says softly. It's not much of a departure from her own thoughts. That underlying fear that everyone might not make it through the day to come. That others may sacrifice their lives for her cause. This is what she was trained to do. Face overwhelming odds. Hit fast and hard. But

she's not here with a similarly trained team. An Alliance sniper. A runaway slave. An ex-college football player. A demolitions contractor. And-... and a batarian. They're not exactly the tip of the spear she was used to working with for this sort of thing. But improvising is a part of the job. Her instinct is to shut down that fear. Tuck it away until the job is done. Remind him that they have a solid plan. That they've

prepared. That everyone knows their role. And she has every intention to do just that when she looks his way once more. But when she opens her mouth, all that comes out is a soft, "...me too." She lets a breath out through her nose and immediately looks back towards the weaponry laid out, idly tugging at her lower lip with her teeth. To the Carnifex. The wear and tear on it. The history etched into it that wasn't left by

her.

Nathan strangely finds comfort in her simple admission. Those two simple words that reflect the human behind the stoic and professional mask of the soldier. From the corner of his eyes he sees her gaze fall upon the Carnifex and its winged sword etched into the side of the venerable hand-cannon. The history is lost on him, only able to glean that it means a fair deal to her. And if he really wanted to, he could do a

bit of thinking to connect the pieces together and determine who it at least came from. But at the moment? It wasn't a priority. It wasn't a focus. He finds himself stepping over to her and shedding a glove, laying his hand over hers and sliding his fingers around to grasp it softly. His thunderous, stormy grey eyes look to her. "But I'm... not without hope," he says scarcely above a whisper. "Because... we've

been through hell and back in different ways. Each of us. All of us. We're all scared. Even Jattic, he's just... you know, grumpy so it hides well." He gives a faint smile before continuing. "We know what its like... and we know that if we can survive it once... we can do it again." He nods softly. "We can do this. We can win. We'll make it back. All of us. Not because its a well thought out plan, or we're

well prepped. But because this is personal for all of us in one way or another. These are our demons, our devils that we're fighting. This is our cause. And we're kick their ass straight back to hell."

Leah's gaze remains fixed to the sidearm, only turning it away when she feels the hand over hers. She studies their hands as he speaks, a small wary smile returning to her face as he speaks. He's not wrong. This isn't just a job. It's not just a by-the-books operation like the many she planned during her time with the Alliance. No matter how much she tries to ignore it, this is personal. For all of them. She doesn't say as

much, but she acknowledges his words with a small nod of her head. While the large man might not say it, she knows Mendez- knows what he's endured- well enough to know just how personal this is for him. She didn't need to hear Emma's story. The name 'Mindoir' told her everything she needed to know exactly why the woman was here. Jattic may keep to himself and play his cards close to his chest, but it's not hard to see

that there's something troubling him beneath all of that. It's in the way he looks at Tara when he thinks nobody is watching him. With sympathy in his eyes. With guilt. And then there's Nate. A kind soul who she would have been willing to accept that his presence was nothing more than someone trying to help- someone trying to do the right thing. Because that's just the kind of man he is. But she knows his past. She knows

the scars he carries with him. Just how close to home all of this must be for him. It makes his presence that much more important. The thought causes her to tilt her head forward, pressing a soft kiss against the back of his hand. Of course it's not nearly as personal for any of them as it is for Tara. A sweet young girl who had her entire life taken-... stolen-... ripped away by these monsters. It would have been so

easy to convince her to stay home. To anxiously await Leah's return. Hell, it wouldn't have even taken any 'convincing'. Tara would've listened, whether she wanted to or not. Because she's conditioned to. And it would have been a huge weight off of Leah's mind. But, more than anyone else here, these are her demon's they're facing. Her devils. She deserves the chance to look them in the face one last time before Leah and

the others strike them down. And then... then there's Leah herself. Her gaze shifts back to the Carnifex and she draws in a deep, heavy breath, a bitter smile spreading across her lips. But she doesn't let herself entertain the thoughts that are sure to follow. She can't. Not here. Not now. "...Dad says when I was little that I spent more time organizing my toys than playing with them..." she says softly with a small

snicker instead, scanning across her gear.

Nathan 's smile flickers a fraction wider at the gentle kiss and the small smile and snicker she offers. "Really?" He asks, gaze falling to her regimented gear and disassembled weapons. "Never would've guessed." He breathes the smallest of laughs, the fatigue settling on him as the seconds tick by closer and closer to tomorrow. Yes, this does hit close to home. Painfully so. And where it any other scenario, with any

other people, he might've just abandoned it all for the sake of his sanity, to lock away his fear, his ache, his pain. But with these people? With Leah, Tara? He can't run. He won't run. He'll face these slavers down, he'll help Tara rip her freedom from the cold, dead hands of these bastards and in turn crush the shadows of his past, to finally stand against them... to finally do something right. They're

going to win. They have to. "When this... is over. When we get back with Tara's freedom... we should have a proper holiday. A few days to ourselves. Crappy movies, junk food and quiet. Just... a normal few days." A goal. Something so mundane for them to do, but also monumental in stature because of the simple fact it would be a day of a normal life for Tara and her new found freedom.

Leah gives another tired snicker as Nathan assesses her gear. It's a welcome change of focus. She pointedly avoids the Carnifex, willing herself to keep from falling into that dark hole again. There's nothing there for her but skeletons and despair. It won't help her to fight back the whirlwind that tomorrow is sure to bring. Nathan's suggestion causes her bitter smile to grow a bit more genuine, sincerity showing through her

tired expression. "...I'd like that." she says softly. Feels like they've been running on empty for too long. Barely processing one horror before jumping feet-first into the next. It adds up. Takes its toll. Wears one down. "I'm sure Tara would, too..." she adds in a mutter. Amongst all the fatigue and worry, she still seems to take notice of the fact that her sound moderator is sliiiiiightly off-kilter. A fact that

seems to nag at her more than it should, causing her to reach out with her free hand and adjust it without comment so that it's perfectly in-line with the barrel it's laid out beside.

Nathan nods softly, his smile growing noticeably. A few days to destress. To relax. Explore normalcy. To refill their tanks and ready themselves for whatever horror comes afterwards. But that's for the future. For the now... they have a battle to win and demons to conquer. Her little spark of OCD causes him to chuckle as she shifts the moderator into line with the rest of her gear. A little bit of her shines

through. "It's something to look forward to." He squeezes her hand and, with his free one, reaches over to take her over and shift it back to between the pair of them. "And I'm sure Pixel misses you and Tara."

Leah gives another snicker at the mention of Pixel. As she shifts atop her crate to better face Nathan, she brings her other clunky boot up and adjusts so she can sit cross-legged. "Pixel~" she attempts a squee, but the fatigue causes it to come out as little more than a low whine. "...I promised Tara we would look at pets." she says under her breath, almost as if a mental reminder to herself. The fogginess of exhaustion

keeps her a step behind, only now seeming to notice that Nathan's chuckle was in response to her bout of organized obsessiveness. The realization causes a self conscious scrunch of her nose and she casts a glance back towards the gear momentarily. "I'm not a control freak." she assures when she pointedly meets his gaze, sounding almost defensive as if sure that he must be considering such an allegation.

Nathan is not really surprised she's entered defensive mode for something he hasn't said and/or even considered. But what surprises him is the fact she hasn't gone into motor-mouth mode. Counter point is that she is incredibly tired and likely wound like a coiled spring for the day to come, so he can understand. Instead of getting into a bout of teasing and jabs, he merely says, "I've met some proper control freaks.

Trust me, you ain't one of them." A pause. A consideration. "Maybe." He just had to slide some sort of jab in there, it's in his nature. "You just like things... neat?" He tries, already prepping his defence and deflection for the possible counter attack by the biotic. "Annnnyway... we should... probably try to sleep. It'll be worse tomorrow if we don't."

Emma has spent no shortage of time inspecting and tending to her own gear after choosing the kitchen as her workspot. Both her rifles are very well cared for - the process is really more of a formality than anything. She did however take the time to tweak a number of things after getting a better look at their environment, and measuring the most likely engagement distances. Targeting VI settings, kinetic coil strength, heat

sink safety parameters. It might not make a great deal of difference, but every bit counts. She knows that. After finishing her work, she's retired to the barracks, seeming just as interested in Jattic as staying on the opposite end of the room. She's brought a well-insulated military sleeping bag that does a good job of dealing with the cold. Certainly better than loose blankets. Her weapons are by her side, within

arm's reach. If she's fazed by the upcoming fight, she's doing a good job of not showing it.

Leah gives a raise of her brow as Nathan doesn't exactly do much to put her at ease with his 'Maybe'. "I'm not!" she insists overtop of him. "Like-... I'm not going to freak if your house isn't neat, orrrrr-..." she trails off, as if searching for an example. "...Or tell you where you should keep your shoes or something!" she continues, falling off into a bit of a ramble. "Keep your shoes wherever you want!" she adds,

though the look that spreads across her face is one of annoyance that seems to worsen the longer she considers her own statement, causing her to eventually relent with a scoff. "Okay, shoes are a bad example! Obviously you're going to keep your shoes by the door. That's just efficient. But-... but-..." she frowns, that crease across the bridge of her nose returning as she glances out over her workspace, frantically

searching for a way to prove that she's not weird. She pulls her hand closest to the makeshift table free and reaches out- having to lean slightly to do so- and grabs one of the perfectly-spaced thermal clips, turning it 90 degrees and perpendicular with the rest of them. She looks back to Nathan with a smug expression. "Doesn't bother me at all." she lies, shooting a glance at the out-of-place clip from the corner of her

eyes. "Sleep." she finally agrees with a stern nod, as if trying to keep the conversation on her side before Nathan can pick her apart. She reaches up with her now-free hand to swipe at a lock of blonde hair that has fallen free from her light blue tuque. "Yes. Uhh-... Right." she continues, "Go. Get some rest. I'll just-... be there soon." Right after I fix this thermal clip.

Nathan flicks his gaze back and forth between her monologue and the thermal clip she has just purposefully twisted. And for a moment, his smile grows exponentially, the worries briefly vanishing from his face to merely enjoy Leah's motormouth/rambling moment in her attempt to counter him. Sometimes its best not to use a counter. Instead, he merely reaches out to the thermal clip, turns it back so its in-line with the

rest of them, then folds his arms across his chest with a faint, smug look. "Alright. I'll head there after I reassemble my own gear." He pauses for a moment in consideration before he shrugs faintly and leans over to place a very quick, soft kiss on her lips, rocking back onto the balls of his feet. He smiles and turns to head back to his workspace. But as he does so, he says, "Of all things, why did you pick

shoes?"

Tara is still very much awake. She's still in full winter garb, obviously feeling the cold. But she doesn't complain. She never does. She's been taking care of their dishes, washing them in a bin of heated water in one of the other rooms. Maybe it's partly just to keep busy. An echo of the others' combat preparations. A way to feel useful. Upon returning to the barracks she's quick to notice Mendez' half-finished bowl of soup,

approaching with a cautious look on her face. Her gaze darts between him and the bowl, trying to judge whether he's finished.

Leah frowns as she watches Nathan fix the nagging thermal clip, his silent way of letting her know- that he knows- that it bothers her. She opens her mouth to speak, but finds herself silenced by the lips that press against her lips. Whatever she was about to say- surely some longwinded ramble that probably wouldn't have gone anywhere- is quickly forgotten. She leans forward slightly, green eyes closing. It's such a simple

gesture but, in the moment it's enough to make her feel weightless. To get the butterflies in her stomach flapping their wings. As Nathan departs, she sucks in her lips and begins to idly adjust her tuque as she watches him. His question brings her back to the present and is quickly met with a scoff. "I-... What's wrong with-... I don't know, fuck you." she decides on with a tone of mock-grump.

Mendez remains seated, head leaned back against the wall with a blanket spread out over him. Tara's approach causes him to roll his head against the wall to look her way. The slightest hint of a smile tugs at the corner of his mouth. "It's fine, little bird." he assures her. "I'll put it away when I'm done." His gaze remains on her. He might be the size of a krogan, but it's not hard to see that all of the digging took its toll

on him. "You should try and rest. We have a long day tomorrow." he says simply.

Nathan breathes a laugh and gives her a wink before turning and disappearing once more into the workshop. Although this time, he goes in with a little more of a peaceful mind. The fear still nags, no mistaking that. But there was something therapeutic and focusing about that small, but meaningful moment with Leah. He begins the lengthy process of reassembling his gear once he returns to the strewn out weapons and

armour, instinctively combing over each piece to ensure that it is, in fact, in as good condition as it was the last time he checked. So, yes, maybe he's also a little meticulous about his armour and weapon maintenance as Leah.

Tara gains a faint frown, hesitating a little, but eventually she nods. With her goal of more chores having been shut down she finds herself aimless, standing in place for a moment, hand rubbing at her arm idly as she looks around, unsure where she is even meant to sleep.

Mendez passes a glance towards one of the beds with a mattress still on it before settling his attention back on Tara while she looks about aimlessly. He specifically took the floor to leave it open for her. "You can take the bed." he offers before giving a shrug. "If you want." he qualifies. "Just make sure you cover it first. No telling what kind of nasty motherfucker used to lay in it." he adds matter-of-factly.

Tara looks a bit uncomfortable with the thought of taking up one of the only matresses, her gaze following Mendez' towards it and then falling. The 'If you want.' gives her pause, eyebrows furrowing, and after a moment she brings a blanket and pillow to the wall next to Mendez, taking a seat and wrapping herself in the blanket.

Mendez shoots a glance to Tara as she joins him, scooping his bowl up to keep it out of her way. He rests it in his lap, deciding to take the opportunity to shovel some cold soup into his mouth. It doesn't seem to bother him. Food is food. "Keeping warm?" he asks.

Tara is little more than a tiny ball of blanket next to Mendez, only her tuque-clad head sticking out. "It's... very cold here." she admits in a quiet sigh. Aite has been a big adjustment for her climate-wise, and this trip is the first time she hasn't had the comfort of ending the day in Leah's house. Maybe she's actually gotten used to the comfort of a warm bed, because it certainly would have bothered her less a year ago.

Mendez gives a small snort as he sucks down another spoonful of soup. "...It is." he agrees. He doesn't bother asking how she's managing. Were the shoe on the other foot, he certainly wouldn't want some nosy asshole prodding him with a hundred questions. This whole ordeal is difficult for him to deal with, so she must be a twisted up mess inside. But that's her business. He brings the bowl to his lips to drink what remains

in it before setting it to his side opposite of Tara and leaning his head back against the wall, his tight-fit beanie serving as a comforting barrier between his head and the cold surface. After a moment's consideration, he rolls his head Tara's way again. "I brought extra blankets..." he says, putting it out there without outright offering.

Tara blinks, looking over towards Mendez with a bit of hesitation in her expression. After a moment's silence, eyebrows furrowed in thought, she asks: "No one is using them...?"

Mendez gives a shake of his head. Of course, his plan was to eventually use them when he's ready to sleep. But he's a big guy. He's got plenty of thick clothes. He'll manage the cold. "Not unless you want them." he sniffs, already leaning to his side to reach past his bowl and grab his pack. Lifting it with one arm, he sets it in the space between himself and Tara and unzips it. Inside are a few neatly folded blankets packed

away, as well as a handful of differently flavored energy bars. He nudges the pack towards Tara.

Tara frowns a little, once again hesitating for a moment, but the cold wins out, and she grabs an extra blanket, leaving the rest. "Thank you..." she says in a near-whisper, a faint hint of a smile crossing her lips for a moment, gaze low as she tilts her head a little after adding the blanket to the one she already had.

Mendez gives a dismissive shake of his head as if thanks isn't needed and shifts in place to get more comfortable against the wall, gaze turning towards the wall opposite of him as he continues to play through the plan for the coming day in his head and everything that can go wrong.

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