#TheMonument – May 26, 2019

Yan Sun 's gaze falls down to her bottle again after briefly meeting Jessica's, and she takes another sip of the beer. Not really her preferred drink, but she's not about to complain, besides it's something to occupy her hands. She can't help looking across the fire toward Trace afterwards, eyebrows faintly furrowed, chewing absently on the inside of her cheek as she studies him. A quiet "Sorry..." slips out, a stilted expression of

sympathy.

Trace offers a sincere, if somewhat embarrassed, smile at Yan Sun's sympathy. He wasn't really prepared to drop such a nugget of information to a pair of strangers. But he wasn't about to let Malek drown in his own poor choice of words. "Not necessary." he assures as he looks her way across the fire. "Really, it was a long time ago-... uhhh-..." he begins to repeat before furrowing his brow as if just suddenly realizing something, "...Don't

think we got your names."

Jessica doesn't offer her own sympathy. She merely broods and watches the fire, gaze returning to Yan Sun when she's addressed by Trace.

Yan Sun blinks, not having realized that they never introduced themselves. "Oh!" she exclaims with an awkward half-laugh. "Right, I'm Yan, and thiiis is..." she trails off with a gesture and a look towards Jessica, clearly hoping that she'll chime in and introduce herself by the way she draws the last part out.

Jessica gives Yan Sun a short glare before looking Trace's way. Trace's story and her exchange with Malek- as well as the large statue looming over her- makes it impossible for her mind to stray too far from her family. How can she possibly express sympathy for someone else's losses when her own are right there slapping her in the face? "Thirsty." she huffs in a non--answer as she climbs to her feet and takes a step towards the seated

pair, hand out. It's probably the closest to an olive branch as one could expect out of Jessica.

Trace gives a small nod of acknowledgement to Yan Sun before his gaze drifts towards Jessica. Her words cause a small snicker to escape and he slips his hand free from Malek's to lean over and collect another bottle of beer to slap into Jessica's palm.

Malek brings his hand back to his beer, cradling with both in his lap. "Yan." he repeats, giving her a small nod as he commits the name to memory before glancing up to Jessica. "Thirsty." he says, small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth as he attempts to mend bridges over whatever accidental transgression he may have leveled against the two women. "Again-..." he begins, shifting his attention back to the more amicable of the two,

"...thanks for letting us stay here. We-..." he passes a quick glance Trace's way which elicits a small smile, "...try not to make a habit of setting up camp this close to the city, but-... well, we weren't planning on leaving until the morning. But with everything going on, we-..."

Trace snorts. "I." he corrects, seemingly taking the blame for what might be perceived as a poor decision.

Jessica returns to her seat to bite another cap off and nurse her beer while pretending not to listen to whatever the two men have to say.

Malek's smile widens slightly. "...He didn't think it was a good idea for us to stick around in case things get a little out of hand. We were planning on driving through the night until we saw the fire up here."

Yan Sun 's arm drops with a quiet sigh as Jessica refuses to give a real answer. She reaches into the bag to grab another snack, munching on it as she listens to Malek, his words elicit a faint smile, but it's tempered by Jessica's brooding and the knowledge of where her mind no doubt is, another careful glance shooting her way during her listening. "No worries, it's nice to meet some friendly people out here." she assures, even if it's

pretty obvious Jessica doesn't share the sentiment.

Trace gives a couple of small nods. "Likewise." he says before taking a swig from his beer. He stretches his legs out in front of him, watching the fire for a moment before looking back across it to Yan Sun. "So where are you heading to?" he asks, doing his best to make small talk.

Jessica is, unsurprisingly, in no hurry to respond. She's just a sentry at the base of the monument, as if silently daring the pair to try something as she nurses her free beer.

Yan Sun takes a sip from her beer, frowning slightly as she glances towards Jessica again. She shifts a little, moving the unrolled camping mat she's on to the side a little to make more room next to her, a silent offer for Jessica to join her by the fire instead of sitting off by her own. Her attention turns back to Trace at the question, folding her legs and resting the bottom of her beer against her shin. "Oh. We're... we're headed west."

she says with a bit of hesitation.

Malek furrows his brow upon hearing Yan Sun, looking a bit surprised. "West? Really? Nothing out that way but farmland."

Trace gives a nod to Malek's words before taking a sip of his drink. "Good hunting, though. That why you two are heading out there?" he asks, a bit of a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth as he seems to assess Yan Sun. She certainly doesn't look like a hunter. That much is clear.

Jessica passes a bit of a glare Yan Sun's way but, reluctantly and with a roll of her eye, rises from the edge of the monument to meander Yan Sun's way. "We are going west because this is where we are needing to be going." she says in a pointed attempt at shutting down Trace's questions, left arm across her waist, bottle dangling from the fingertips of her right hand as she brings it to her lips.

Trace gives a stern nod as if he understands. No more questions. "Well, we're headed back out west ourselves." he begins to explain, hoping to perhaps alleviate Jessica's concerns a bit if he does the talking rather than the asking. "Nice little hunting spot about a half a day west from here." he explains. He lifts a hand up and lines it up vertically against the landscape, peering overtop of his thumb as if plotting his course to show them.

"We try and get out there a few times a year."

Malek only briefly looks Jessica's way as she approaches the fire, seemingly knowing better than to allow his gaze to linger on her for too long. If Yan Sun is the good cop, then she's most certainly the bad, moody, grumpy cop. "Our vacation." he jokes, though it's probably not far from the truth. They're certainly not traveling in luxury. They're not driving some fancy skycar. Just a bulky, hulking junkheap similar to Kirill's with what's

likely to be most of their worldly possessions strapped to it. Their clothing is thick, padded winter gear, stacked on in layers. Their facial hair is a tad bit unkempt, Malek sporting a few days of untamed growth along with his goatee and Trace with just a full, natural brown beard. These are two people used to living off of the land. So, unlike for Yan Sun, just hopping on a ship and getting some vacation time away from Aite probably

isn't in the cards for them. This is their life.

Yan Sun seems a little surprised when Jessica actually starts to head her way, a small, soft smile briefly crossing her lips. Her attention turns to the others as they speak, sipping her beer idly while listening. "I'm, uh... I'm not really a... hunting... kind of... person..." she admits with a small smirk, scratching her neck.

Jessica pauses as she reaches the mat. She peers down at Yan Sun, giving her hip a nudge with the toe of her dirty boot. "You are not really a do anything kind of person." she grumbles. She steps over the mat and settles back onto it, reaching down with one hand to cushion her drop.

Malek gives a chuckle. "Yeah. Neither was I when I got here. But it's grown on me."

Trace snickers at Yan Sun's response, having already assumed as much. Jessica's teasing causes his grin to grow slightly. "Still can't track worth a damn." he says with a glance Malek's way, grin widening. It garners a playful eyeroll from Malek which gets another snicker out of him. "It's not for everyone." he decides with a shrug as he looks back to Yan Sun. "But, for me? There's nothing better. Just... us..." he passes another, small

glance Malek's way, "...Litae..." his eyes turn upward, "...and a cooler full of beer." He caps his words off with a swig from his drink.

Malek seems to take that as a cue to take another sip of his own drink. "And it gets us away from your grandmother for a few days." he adds, which gets a louder, more genuine laugh from Trace.

Yan Sun takes Jessica's grumbling in stride, grabbing the bag of dried varren and holding it with the opening towards her. Trace's words cause her to gain a faint smile of her own. "It is beautiful out here..." she comments as she leans back a little, the hand gripping her beer pressing against the matt for balance as her attention turns to Aite's ever-stunning night sky. Still hasn't gotten old. Malek's addition prompts a muffled snort of

amusement and a questioning eyebrow towards Trace.

Jessica folds her legs and reaches into the bag to pluck a handful of snacks that she drops into her lap to pick at, crumbs be damned. She doesn't seem to have much interest in getting involved in the conversation, suspicious gaze still leveled on the pair of strangers.

Trace gives a none-too-serious scoff as he catches Yan Sun's look, causing him to look between her and Malek. "Okay, maybe she's a little bit-.... hard." he admits.

Malek snorts loudly as if that's a massive understatement. "Hard?" he asks. "A stone is hard. That woman is-..." he relents as Trace glares at him as he awaits whatever insult Malek has for his grandmother. "...is absolutely lovely." he decides, his smile widening and turning into a snicker as he lifts his beer up for another sip.

Trace just shakes his head, his smile returning as he turns his attention back towards the others, watching them through the fire.

Yan Sun lets out another quiet snort, a faint grin briefly crossing her lips as she listens. She takes another sip from her beer after placing the bag next to her. "You're not from around here either?" she asks as their banter dies down, her attention on Malek.

Malek rests his beer against his knee as Yan Sun levels a question at him. He gives a small shake of his head. "Nah." he admits, as if his accent- or lack of a local accent- wasn't enough to give him away. "Been here for-... what's it been, five...?" he asks, shooting a questioning glance Trace's way.

Trace gives a deep nod. "Just under five years now." he confirms.

Malek whistles as if it's been a while since he actually stopped to consider just how long he's been here. "Five years." He gives another shake of his head and takes a sip of his drink to reflect on that fact. Seeming to realize that probably wasn't really at the heart of the question he looks back to Yan Sun. "Was a colony kid." he says with a fond smile. "We're both a long way from home." he snickers.

Jessica idly picks at the snacks in her lap, popping a few in her mouth as she sets her beer between her legs and leans back, keeping herself propped up with her other hand and looking far more interested in the food and beer than anything Malek has to say.

Yan Sun seems to have resigned herself to carrying their side of the conversation on her own. She turns her beer bottle in her lap as she listens, the parallels inevitably drawing out a small smile. "How did you end up out here?" she asks, another swig of beer following. Her pace is slow compared to Jessica's, of course, but there's not too much left.

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