Yan Sun has taken a seat by the fire, her back to the tent. She's relaxed a bit now that the initial uncertainty has faded. This would be a pretty weird way to do banditry after all. She shakes her head at the question. "Uh, no, I'm-... I'm from Earth, actually." she says, flashing a brief smile and glancing Jessica's way.
#TheMonument – May 24, 2019
Malek remains near the tailgate, mostly watching the pair. Most likely continuing to try and get a read on them. Yan Sun's response prompts a furrowed brow as he looks her way.
Trace takes a knee, absently packing away their hunting rifle. Yan Sun's response gets a bit of a surprised, "...Oh." from him. As he looks up from the truckbed, his gaze shifts to Jessica, as if awaiting her response.
Jessica just continues to glare at the man as she sits atop the base of the monument, her hard look only slightly undercut by the floofy hat-beanie-thing atop her head that is adorned with Kirill's sunglasses across the short bill. Like a steel trap, it's clear that Trace isn't getting much out of her.
Trace nervously averts his gaze from Jessica when it's obvious she's not planning on sharing much and turns his attention back to whatever it is he's going through in the back of the truck. "...Long way from Earth." he muses, briefly glancing Yan Sun's way with a restrained smile as he feels things out. "What brought you out to our little nugget of paradise?" he asks with a small snicker as he turns his attention back downward.
Yan Sun looks back to Trace a little awkwardly after Jessica declines to answer. "Came out here for a job... and, uh..." Her gaze lingers on the fire for a while before glancing Jessica's way with a shrug. "Well, ended up staying longer than I'd planned." she explains. A small smile tugs at the corner of her mouth and she returns her attention to Trace. "Uhm... what about you two? Local?" she asks, feeling a little like she needs to
Trace shrugs a duffelbag onto his shoulder as he listens to Yan Sun. He stands up and uses his boot to slide something across the truckbed towards Malek. "That obvious?" he asks, his words submerged in that local, harsh accent despite his seemingly kind nature. "We're from a farm out west." he confirms before shrugging and glancing back Yan Sun's way. "Well, I am, Malek is-...." he begins to explain, shifting his gaze to the dark skinned
man who hits him with a cautious glare that quiets him down. "...Uhh... not." he settles on with an apologetic look to his friend.
Malek holds Trace's gaze for a moment as he collects the items slid towards him. A pair of folded up canvas camping chairs. He tucks them under an arm and reaches up to take the duffelbag from Trace, but the man waves him off. He shoots another wary glance Jessica's way as he starts towards the fire, eager to return to some semblance of warmth. "Figured you might be from Adrasteia." he says.
Yan Sun furrows her eyebrows a little as Malek wordlessly silences his companion. His assessment causes her to shake her head, although she can't help casting another glance Jessica's way. The bounty inevitably enters her mind for a moment. "Oh yeah?" she asks as her attention returns to Malek. She leans back, stretching to reach her hand through the tent opening and tug her bag within reach without leaving her seat, attention split between
Malek and her bag as she tries to work the zipper with her outstretched arm, too lazy to actually get up.
Malek gives a few nods, smile slipping away when Yan Sun reaches back into the tent. He continues to watch Yan Sun as he begins unfolding the chairs, a slight tenseness as he continues to try and get a read on the pair. Whether or not he recognizes Jessica is unclear. "Yeah..." he says flatly.
Trace crouches down, grasping at the handle of a cooler to drag it with him to the tailgate before hopping out. "We just came from there, actually." he says as he shifts the duffelbag on his shoulder and gets a firm grip on the cooler before lifting it off of the tailgate. "Supply run. Whole place is a madhouse right now." he snickers as he lifts what seems to be a heavy cooler with a bit of effort and begins to awkwardly waddle towards the
Yan Sun manages to get the zipper open, and digs around for a little before pulling out a bag of Jessica's varren snacks. Her prize acquired she turns back to the others as she opens the bag. "What do you mean?" she asks, eyebrows furrowing a little in confusion. She pops one of the snacks into her mouth as she studies Trace.
Malek seems to relax a bit when he sees what it was Yan Sun was digging around for, that friendly smile returning to his face. He fives one of the chairs a pat and glances Trace's way. "Your throne." he teases.
Jessica shifts against her hands, brows furrowed as she waits for Trace to answer Yan Sun's question.
Trace rolls his eyes at Malek and drops the cooler beside one of the chairs. "The whole city is out tonight. Celebrating." he snickers. "Fireworks. People in the streets. It's crazy."
Malek slips into one of the seats and begins to open the cooler. Jessica's question causes him to look up from the cooler, brow furrowed as he studies her for a moment. His gaze shifts from Jessica to Yan Sun. "You haven't heard?" he asks, apparently clued in by the look on their faces. He passes a glance back to Trace before turning his attention back to Jessica. "The Collectors are gone."
Jessica seems to momentarily forget just how suspicious she was of these two merely moments ago and quickly sits up. A confused, shaky, "What...?" slips out, as if unsure if she just heard him right.
Yan Sun blinks, freezing in the middle of reaching for a second bite of dried varren. "Wh-... really? What-... when? How?" she blurts out, sitting a little straighter, a look going Jessica's way again before returning to the pair with obvious interest.
Malek gives a small shake of his head. "Details were still coming in when we left but, from the sound of things? Seems like Cerberus gave 'em an asskicking while the Alliance sat on their hands." he says. Jessica and Yan Sun's interest seems to help take a bit of the tension out of the air for him, too.
Trace scoffs at the mention of the Alliance. "Big surprise there..." he mutters as he reaches into the cooler for a bottle of beer. It lacks any sort of label. Just a golden brown liquid, bottle catching the light of the fire. "Now we get to thank a bunch of terrorists for pulling us out of the fire?" He gives a small shake of his head and lifts his drink in a mock toast, "Thanks, Alliance!" There doesn't seem to be any real animosity. Just
Jessica doesn't seem to care too much about Trace's opinions on the matter, speaking over-top of him. "You are sure?!" she asks, gaze fixed to Malek as he's the one who delivered the information. "How you are sure they are gone? Mmm?" she asks, her tone almost accusational.
Malek looks from Trace to Jessica, giving a small, uncomfortable snicker. "I-... uhh... I'm not?" he admits. He lifts a hand, palm outward in a playful defensive gesture. "Don't shoot the messenger." he says, sensing the sharp edge in Jessica's tone. "Just relaying what we heard. It's all over the news right now. Footage and everything. As far as anyone can tell?" He gives a shrug, "It seems legit."
Jessica turns her attention from Malek to Yan Sun, gaze turning distant for a moment as she presses her tongue against the inside of her lower lip. After a few moments she sets the batarian blade aside and begins digging through her jacket pocket. The orange glow of her omni-tool bathes her in a warm light as she begins to frantically swipe through the interface. But it doesn't take long before whatever questions she had are answered
Malek's eyes shift back to Yan Sun as Jessica's frustration boils over, sensing some kind of story behind the reaction but having already gotten enough of a read on Jessica to know better than to ask.
Yan Sun 's eye has already lit up, only to be met with the same notification. No surprise there, but she couldn't keep from trying. Her attention splits between Jessica and the strangers. "敗家了, that's... that's huge!" she manages, ending up seeking Jessica's gaze after a glance toward Malek.
Jessica looks, for a brief moment, as if she might chuck her omni-tool off the hill but seems to restrain herself, only meeting Yan Sun's gaze for a second before climbing to her feet to pace a few feet away from the fire, head low.
Trace takes a moment to work the cap of his bottle off with the bottle opener he had clipped to his pants. "It sure is." he agrees with a nod. He takes a quick sip of his drink before reaching down to set it on the ground and giving the bottle a small twist to create a divot in the earth to keep it from falling over. He leans over to his side to reach into the cooler beside him and produces a couple more bottles that clank together as he
Trace lifts them. He grips them by the neck as he leans forward in his seat, attempting to pass the bottles around the fire to Yan Sun without having to get up. He seems far less invested in the Collectors' defeat than Jessica. Of course he is. He didn't just fight for his life to escape a Collector ship. He's far removed from most of the danger associated with the Collectors. "No fireworks." he jokes through a kind smile, "But there's no
Yan Sun is only half paying attention to Trace, continually looking off toward Jessica with a distracted frown. The offered drinks cause her to turn more of her focus to him, reaching out to accept them. "She-... she fought them. Recently." she offers quietly in way of explanation as Jessica steps away from the fire.
Trace furrows his brow as he settles back into his seat. He seems unsure of how to even respond to Yan Sun's statement. What it even means. He passes a glance to the man seated at his side.
Malek looks equally confused, gaze snapping towards Jessica who is only barely in the ring of light put out by the fire. Another glow begins to emanate from her direction as she frantically tries her omni-tool again to what is sure to be disappointing results. He looks back to Yan Sun and leans forward slightly to speak across the fire. "What do-..." he begins before lowering his voice to match Yan Sun's, seemingly understanding that she's
Malek rather Jessica didn't overhear them. Not hard to tell why even after only a few minutes around the woman. "What do you mean, 'fought them'? She Cerberus...?" he asks, "...Alliance...? I thought-... they just come outta nowhere and grab you, right? Nobody just fights them..."
Yan Sun glances back towards Jessica again, a concerned look in her eyes. Malek's questions cause her to look back his way. "What?" A quiet scoff and a soft smile. "No, it's-... it was a rescue mission. They almost got grabbed, but... they made it back. She made it back." Her gaze falls a little, dwelling briefly on the flames before looking back towards Jessica, a faint frown on her face. Watching Jessica fight her omni-tool prompts her to
Yan Sun get up, cautiously heading over to her and resting a hand on her lower back as she looks over her shoulder at the screen. "Hey... you okay?" she asks softly.
Trace and Malek fall silent, neither quite sure exactly what Yan Sun's words mean. Hushed whispers surround the campfire when Yan Sun leaves to join Jessica.
Jessica flinches as she feels the hand on her lower back and the glow from her omni-tool's interface- promptly displaying a 'No Connection' once again- dies out. "I am fine." she lies in a grumble, lifting the small, useless device between her thumb and index finger and tapping it to her forehead a few times. Her fingers curl around it and she gives the omni-tool a squeeze as she draws ice cold air into her lungs and shoves it back into
Jessica her jacket pocket. She turns around to face Yan Sun, the glow of the fire far enough away that it's difficult to really make out any details. A short silence passes before she speaks up again and, when she does, the words are almost choked in her throat. "They are not coming..." The hint of emotion in the phrase carries an honesty with it. That, even if she would never admit it, she was concerned for the only home she had ever
Jessica known. Concerned that Jason may have been right. Concerned over what may happen to Aite if it found itself caught between Redrock and the Collectors.
Yan Sun lets out a single breath of a laugh, a soft smile crossing her lips, the emotion in Jessica's voice not lost on her. Her left hand has shifted to Jessica's side after she turned around, and her right seeks out her hand to give it a squeeze, before almost immediately pulling her into a hug, her distraught state after returning from the Collector ship fresh in her mind.
Jessica hesitantly brings an arm loosely around Yan Sun's waist when she's pulled into a hug, her mind clearly elsewhere at the moment. For a few moments she just remains like this, her chin gently coming to rest on Yan Sun's shoulder. Her fingers dig into the back of Yan Sun's jacket as the slack leaves her arm and her grip tightens. A deep breath is exhaled through her nose as she allows herself a moment to close her eyes and take in
the information. What it means. For her. For Aite. When she opens her eyes once more, the two men watching them causes her to sniff at whatever emotion may have been bubbling up and shrug Yan Sun off. "You leaved them alone!" she scoffs, doing little to lower her voice, "What if they just steal all of our shit? Mmm?"
Malek merely forces a smile, lifting his beer slightly. "Wasn't planning on stealing all of your shit." he calls to them calmly. "Or any of it, really."
Trace shoots a glance Malek's way and nudges his friend's chair with his boot to urge him not to push his luck.
Jessica scowls as she steps away from Yan Sun. "Good! Because we are seeing you even when we are not looking!" she says. It... might be a threat? She lifts a hand and points to her eyes before pointing at Malek and Trace. Yep, definitely a threat. She passes a glare Yan Sun's way before stomping back towards the campfire. "And where is my booze?!" she growls.
Trace seems to think better than telling her he already gave a couple of beers to Yan Sun and, instead, collects another beer from the cooler and holds it out to her.
Jessica promptly snatches the bottle out of Trace's hand and returns to the monument before he can even offer his bottle opener to her.
Yan Sun steps back as Jessica shrugs free of the hug, letting out a snort and glancing back towards the two men. "See? Nothing to worry about..." she chimes in after Malek speaks, only to be shut up by Jessica's glare. She follows her back to the campfire, retaking her seat by the warmth of the fire only for Jessica to head back to her brooding-spot at the base of the monument, prompting a brief frown. She shifts her attention to Trace,
Trace refocuses his attention on Yan Sun when she holds her hand out, smile re-emerging as he leans forward to place it in the palm of her hand. It looks to be homemade. Or, at least, the handle of the bottle opener is. A wood carved handle in the shape of some sort of creature, long legged with a rack of antlers that extend outward and branch off like the limbs of a bare tree in the fall. Many of the antlers are broken off from years of
wear and tear and there's little knicks here and there. His gaze shifts to Jessica, wincing as he watches her pry the cap off with her teeth. "Plenty more where that came from." he says as if it's some sort of an olive branch, hoping to help chill the rather aggressive woman out. "We're just-... uhh-..." he glances to Malek, shifting in his seat slightly, "...happy to have a warm safe place to spend the night. Right?"
Malek offers a small smile that falls a little hollow, as if he's not entirely convinced of just how safe it is yet. But he doesn't say it out loud. "Yeah." he agrees instead. "Never know what you're gonna come across this close to the city." he explains, gaze shifting briefly to Jessica.
Jessica spits the beercap onto the ground as she shifts to put her back against the statue, bringing both legs up onto the monument. Rather than respond to either of them, she continues to drill holes through them with her eye.
Yan Sun turns the bottle-opener over in her hand, studying it for a moment before cracking open her beer. She glances over to Jessica briefly and lets out a quiet sigh before turning her attention to Trace and holding out the opener. "Thanks." she says, flashing a small smile, once again feeling compelled to counterweigh Jessica's hostility.
Trace accepts the bottle opener back with a smile and clips it back onto his pants. "No problem." He passes a brief glance Jessica's way but seems to have deemed her a conversational dead end by this point and returns his attention right back to Yan Sun. "So, what brought you two all the way out here if you're not from Adrasteia?" he asks, seemingly trying to make small talk to keep things from getting awkward. Well, more awkward. "You...
do know what this place is for, don't you?" he asks, casting a glance up and down the statue, its featureless face drowned out in the blackness of night by this point.
Jessica cocks a brow when Trace's attention slides down the statue and rests on her, bottle still pressed to her lips as she tilts it back. She gives a small, but almost pointed, movement of her head. A tilt to her left as she maintains her scowl as if it should be enough to answer his question. The reach of the campfire's light is only enough to faintly outlines the scars that trace along her cheekbone.
Trace doesn't allow his gaze to linger on Jessica for long and, whether he picked up the implication of her subtle movement is unclear as he looks back to Yan Sun while he awaits a response.
Yan Sun takes a sip of the beer, following Trace's gaze towards the statue after lowering the bottle back to her lap, a bit of discomfort entering her expression. "Oh-... I-... yeah. Yeah, we do... we're just stopping here for the night..." she says, looking Jessica's way for guidance, clearly not wanting to divulge her personal business.
The beer is, thankfully, not nearly as strong as some of the stuff Jessica has convinced Yan Sun to drink. But it is still beer. Nothing fancy.
Trace gives a few small nods, once more settling his attention on what he can see of the statue. "It's a-..." he trails off, giving a small shake of his head as he seems to try and consider what to say. "Well, it's a shame is what it is." he sighs. He continues to study the statue for a few more moments before nodding to himself, as if that pretty much sums up his opinion nicely.
Malek glances the statue's way, but doesn't seem to have anything to add, instead turning his attention back to his beer.
Yan Sun goes silent, not really sure how to reply and getting no help whatsoever from Jessica. She just lowers her gaze to the fire, studying the flames as an awkward silence takes root, eventually sipping her beer again.
Trace continues to study the statue as silence takes hold, but there's not a whole lot to see. A monument to a yet another black spot on the violent history of his home. Eventually he turns his gaze back to the fire and takes a long pull from his drink.
Malek eventually speaks up when the silence grows a little too loud, pre-empting his words with a small shrug of his shoulders. "It's terrible... But things have changed, haven't they?" he asks as he glances to Trace. Judging by the gentleness in his voice it seems like Jessica probably isn't the only person that the subject hits close to home for. "I mean it's not perfect, but it's a whole lot safer out here now than it was a year ago,
Jessica doesn't speak up, but the hard looks she sends Malek's way is probably enough for Yan Sun to know what's going through her head.
Yan Sun looks up at Malek, a less-than-friendly frown on her face. "Who cares? That-... that doesn't make it okay." she blurts out with a whole lot more emotion than someone from Earth probably ought to have about local history.
Malek looks a little taken aback by Yan Sun's reaction. Apologetic even as both hands grip his beer tightly. "No I-..." he begins but trails off and taking a breath. "I'm not saying it does but, shit, there was violence here long before that." he says with a tilt of his head towards the statue that Jessica is seated against. It looks like he has more to say but, perhaps, realizes he shouldn't given Yan Sun's response. Instead, he looks to
Trace. "You know that better than anyone..." he says, his words soft as if well aware that he may be speaking out of turn.
Malek settles back into his seat. It seems that perhaps he was expecting Trace to say more but he, respectfully, doesn't press it. Instead he looks across the fire to Yan Sun. "I'm just saying that back when I first came to Aite? This region was tearing itself apart. And now? Well now-..." that apologetic look crosses his face and he gives a glance Trace's way, his gaze lingering on the man as he stares into the fire. "...it's not perfect,
Jessica only seems to grow more perturbed by the conversation, jaw bulging as she bites down. She slams back a large swig of her drink.
Yan Sun swallows hard, looking down at her bottle and rotating it in her hand. She doesn't say anything, the tension obvious as she lets silence return, looking over towards Jessica with a concerned frown, part of her wanting to head over to her.
Jessica rests both forearms against her knees, gripping the bottle of her beer by the neck as she glares at Malek. "Is better? Fuck you!" she spits, cutting through the silence, "Better for who? Mmm?" she asks. "Say this to all of the people we are standing on."
Malek winces, bringing a hand up in an attempt to wrangle the situation. "I'm not-... that's not what I'm-..." he tries but trails off, looking to Trace as if expecting him to bail him out.
Trace finally pulls his gaze away from the fire when he feels his friend's eyes on him. He glances his way, expression softening slightly as he draws in a breath and sits up a little straighter in his seat. "We-... uhh-... the farm..." he clarifies, gaze shifting between Yan Sun and Jessica, "...used to get pretty regular visits from Adrasteia. Just-..." he shakes his head, "...you know. Had to turn over part of our crops. Make
'donations' for protection. You know, same shit everyone around here had to deal with." he concludes, a small smile returning to his face as if to not make a big deal out of it.
Yan Sun winces slightly as Jessica lashes out, but her expression is one of sympathy. Her gaze turns towards Trace when he speaks, and she listens in silence, but discomfort lingers, and she takes a long swig of her beer, her gaze turning to the bottle afterwards, watching the light of the fire reflect in the glass with a frown.
Jessica seems to have had enough, scoffing loudly. "Oh! I am sooo sorry that someone take your foods!" she starts, scooting to the edge of the monument and bringing both boots down to the ground. She leans forward, looking between her legs, past the bottle dangling from her fingertips, towards the ground. "You are hearing this? Everyone tell them that you are sorry you did not burn quick enough for their foods to not be taken!" she
shouts. "If only someone had come sooner to murder all of you! Yes?!" she asks, casting her gaze back towards Malek as if that's what he wants to hear.
Malek furrows his brow, a scowl of his own leveled on Jessica when she begins to shout at them. "Yeah, took their food until someone- somewhere along the way- got the idea that they had more than they were letting on." he says. There's a brief pause as he shoots an apologetic glance Trace's way.
Trace winces at the shouting and shakes his head as Malek begins to speak. "Mal, c'mon, it was a long time ago..."
Malek seems to immediately be calmed by Trace's voice and the hand that comes to rest on his forearm, causing him to settle back against his seat. The aggression drains from his voice as he continues. "These people- bandits is what they were- came demanding credits that they just didn't have. So when they couldn't pay, the bandits lined a bunch of them up and-..." He doesn't finish his story, instead merely looking back to Trace. It's
Trace glances down at his beer as he brings his hand back from Malek's forearm and takes a long swig, nodding a few times. "Mom. Dad. Brother. Sister. Few of the others on the farm..." he says with another nod. He brings his left hand to his side, resting it there for a moment where an old wound resides. "Hell, only reason I survived was cuz I ran before they got the chance to put one in my noggin." he admits with a forced smile and a dry
Trace snicker, the shame in his words lost to time. "When they shot, I went down like a sack of dirt and pretended to be dead." He looks from Yan Sun to Jessica before resting his gaze back on the fire. With another sigh he qualifies the story apologetically, "...It was a long time ago."
Jessica seems to, at the very least, be silenced by the story. But she doesn't say anything. Instead, her gaze just turns low again as she takes another drink of her beer.
Malek allows a bit of silence to permeate the air after the short bout of shouting. "I wasn't-... I'm not saying it's right. I'm just saying-..." he pulls in a deep breath, attention turning to Jessica. While he may not know exactly what it is that makes this topic so personal for these two strangers, it's not hard to see that it is. As he looks back to Yan Sun, he gives her an apologetic shrug of his shoulders. "...I'm just saying it needs
Yan Sun winces and glances Jessica's way as she speaks. The story that follows causes her to look over toward Malek and Trace. A sigh slips out, pulling her legs up a little and resting her arms against them, bottle dangling between her legs. She avoids meeting the gaze of either of them, eyes shifting between Jessica and the fire. Part of her wants to say something, acknowledge Trace's loss, but too much of her is focused on Jessica.
Malek falls silent when Yan Sun doesn't respond, merely shifting against his seat as an awkwardness settles in. He passes another apologetic look Trace's way, a bit of guilt slipping through at putting his business out there.
Trace doesn't seem to be upset with the man for digging up old ghosts. As a matter of fact, he silently reaches out to grasp Malek's free hand with his own, their fingers intertwining.
Jessica brings the bottle to her lips once more and drains the rest of the bottle. She lifts it up, peering at the fire through the empty glass to make sure there's nothing left in the bottle. That telltale scowl remains on her face, but she doesn't press her point any further. Of course she won't be the one to extend an olive branch, either. That would be admitting defeat and she's never wrong. With a lazy swing of her arm, she sends
the bottle hurling through the night and the sound of a bottle clashing against frozen ground rings out from the darkness. Her gaze turns to Yan Sun briefly before turning right back to the fire as she catches her looking back at her.