#TheMonument – May 27, 2019

Malek draws in a breath at Yan Sun's follow-up question, "Uh..." he shifts in his seat and in as he considers the question, reaching back to rub at the back of his neck, "Guess I was just a dumb kid who wanted to see the galaxy." he says through a smile as if it only just occurred to him that, at the root of it all, it's just that simple. "Alliance offered an education and a chance to get out there so-..." he shrugs, "...I enlisted as soon

as I could. Did my time, but-..." he gives a small tilt of his head as if realizing this probably isn't the most captivating of stories. "Well, long story short, the Alliance just wasn't for me." he continues though, despite him downplaying it, it sounds like there might be some bad blood buried in there, "Ended up a bit aimless but, eventually, I got a gig working private security for one of the corporations out here."

Jessica washes a mouthful of food down with another large swig of her beer, a distracted look on her face as she watches the fire in silence while Malek speaks, her mind clearly elsewhere.

Yan Sun seems genuinely interested as she listens to Malek, nodding a couple of times along the way. She shifts around a little in order to stave off the dreaded numb butt, and sips her beer again. "Yeah... I took a corp job to get out here. Been on Aite for a few months now. Wasn't really planning on sticking around this long but then I met this one and..." she nudges Jessica with her shoulder, glancing her way with a small smile that

falters a little in the face of her obviously distant thoughts, a bit of concern entering her eyes. "...yeah. Change of plans." she finishes softly, gaze lingering on the side of Jessica's face.

Jessica glances Yan Sun's way as she's nudged, causing her to lift a brow as she's pulled out of her thoughts and takes a moment to allow her brain to catch up with the conversation. With a glance Malek's way she elaborates on Yan Sun's story. "Mmm, she could not leave. I am very good in bed." she says, seemingly have decided that if she's going to be dragged into the conversation, she's going to be as crass as possible. She

punctuates it with a look back in Yan Sun's direction, holding her gaze as she takes a large swig from her drink. If nothing else, at least she can take pleasure in her torment. It's the little things in life, right?

Malek's smile grows as Yan Sun speaks. When Jessica chimes in, his eyes dart her way but he quickly averts his gaze in discomfort, a nervous chuckle following. "Uhh-... Yeah. That-... " he nods, leveling his attention back on Yan Sun. "That sounds pretty familiar." He gives a soft glance Trace's way but then quickly looks back to Yan Sun, "Uhh-.. what you said, not-..." he stammers, eyes bouncing off of Jessica.

Trace just snorts loudly at Jessica's addition. Neither seem like the easily-offendable type, so Jessica is probably going to need to try harder than that if she's hoping to get under their skin. Malek's stammering causes him to perk a brow and glance his way expectantly. "What are you trying to say?" he asks in a tone of mock offense.

Malek sends an unamused glance Trace's way. "You know what I-... Don't be an asshole!" he settles on which gets a big grin and a snicker out of Trace.

Yan Sun 's mouth turns into a thin line, a choked noise slipping out as her cheeks flush a little. She returns Jessica's look with a half-hearted scowl, but Malek and Trace's exchange provides a welcome distraction from her embarrassment, a hand shooting up to her mouth to muffle the snort of laughter that slips out at Trace's indignant tone.

Trace and Malek live simple lives. A fact that becomes even more clear over the next couple of hours as the beer continues to flow and they share stories about their life on Aite. From Malek's issues getting acclimated to life on a farm to their hopes of snagging a carashan to help supplement the farm's winter rations. From their chance meeting many years ago in the markets of Adrasteia when Trace was offloading their surplus of crops to the

fact that Trace- much like Jessica- knows no other home.

His parents came to Aite as part of one of the many failed corporate farming endeavors on Aite way back when humanity was still trying to figure out its place in the galaxy. Trace was only four or five when the corporation bailed out. They made an attempt but, eventually, realized the constant turmoil of Aite- and the region surrounding Adrasteia in specific- required far more effort than it was worth. Trace's entire family had packed up and

moved to Aite. They put down roots here. So they gave everything they had to buy the business off of the corporation. As must be obvious considering where Jessica and Yan Sun spent the previous night, failed endeavors like that usually result in the corporations simply leaving their abandoned failures behind, so Trace's family's offer was a win/win for them. Some people remained behind. Some left. The farm was downsized, but they made it work.

For Trace, this farm is his family's legacy. It's what they worked hard to build for him. The thought of leaving never comes up in conversation. Why would it? This is home. It's imperfect. It's often dangerous. It's scarred from corporate warfare. It's painful history is a permanent mark on the minds of many, a fact that's impossible to ignore while in the shadow of a monument that represents so much loss. But... it's home.

Jessica has mostly remained silent, merely slamming back their booze. At one point she got up to begin unloading things into their tent with a pointed remark about making sure all their valuable shit was in their tent in case Malek and Trace got any ideas about robbing them. But eventually she returned to the warmth of the fire, silently slipping in behind Yan Sun.

Jessica sits, legs outstretched on either side of Yan Sun, her left arm wrapped tightly around Yan Sun's midsection as her right brings her beer to her lips. She's amassed a small fleet of empty bottles at her side. Trace and Malek have their fair share and are entertaining a slight buzz, but Jessica seems to have drank them under the table. She rests her chin against Yan Sun's jacketed shoulder and quietly stares into the fire, having

far less interest in interacting with the pair than Yan Sun seems to. Her mind is miles away. Years away.

Yan Sun has only had a couple of beers. She's a lightweight and she knows it. Just enough to compliment an evening of chatting by the campfire. She's done more listening than talking, but she's held up the other end of the conversation for Jessica and herself, trading words about Earth, although she dances around the topic of her family's wealth, and about her experience with being new on Aite. She's slowly working her way through another

bottle of beer, which is resting between her legs. As there's a lull in the conversation she reaches up to scratch Jessica's neck, craning her neck to plant a light kiss on her cheek, followed by a murmur of "You okay...?"

The campfire being flanked on every side helps to keep the occasional gust of wind heard but not felt. Aside from the warm glow of the fire, the only source of light is the night sky. Litae, in all of her majesty, is like nature's nightlight. When nobody is speaking, the crackle of fire is occasionally broken up by the distant sounds of carashan. A unique, high-pitched yipping that hasn't raised any concern amongst Jessica, Malek, or Trace.

Jessica merely draws in a breath at Yan Sun's question, head lulling slightly as the kiss is pressed against her. Her response comes in the form of her lazily poking her tongue out and stabbing it into Yan Sun's cheek. A drunken grin follows. "Mmm." she hums.

Trace is sat back in his chair, looking rather comfortable with his current beer held between his thighs to keep it from tipping over as he watches the fire. It almost seems to come out of nowhere but, amongst that buzz he's built up, a look of discomfort begins to stretch across his face and he lets out a deep sigh. "You know, you seem like good people." he explains as he peers through the fire towards the pair. "So-... I just don't like

lying.." he says, casting an apologetic glance Malek's way, "...We weren't exactly truthful with you guys earlier and I just wouldn't feel right if I didn't own up to that."

Malek lulls his head against his seat to glance Trace's way, looking a bit confused.

Yan Sun remains a little uneasy whenever the carashan are heard, but the lack of concern from the others seems to help mitigate it. She scrunches her nose a little at Jessica's breath and seems like she's going to say something else to her, but Trace's words draw her attention, eyebrows furrowing as she looks his way, apprehension quickly entering her expression. "O... kay...?" she says hesitantly.

Trace shifts in place a bit, hand reaching into his open jacket. "We-... uhh-..." he mutters, hand roving around beneath the jacket. Eventually he pulls free a folded Predator, holding it out flat in the palm of his hand. He purses his lips, giving a guilty little tilt of his head.

Malek seems to realize what Trace is getting at when he begins to rummage through his jacket, his confusion slipping away. "They don't need to-..." he begins in an attempt at convincing Trace this is pointless, but he's already got the pistol out before he can finish his sentence, resulting in an exasperated sigh as if he doesn't need to be doing this. He casts a glance towards the pair across the fire. "You just never know who you're

dealing with out here, ya know?" he explains matter-of-factly, clearly not thinking this is that big of a deal and assuming they'll understand.

Trace winces slightly as he glances back at Malek. "I just-... It doesn't feel right lying like that, Mal." he says, seemingly feeling some genuine guilt over being dishonest with them after sharing drinks and stories for the past couple of hours. He looks back to the pair. To Jessica in particular since she has been the more critical of the two. "Just felt like I should be honest with you." A pause follows as he watches her, as if awaiting

her response.

Jessica doesn't look surprised. The booze has taken enough of the edge off that the appearance of the folded up gun doesn't even get much of a reaction out of her. She simply studies the pistol from over Yan Sun's shoulder, then raises her gaze to meet Trace's, brow cocking slightly. "We have many guns." she drawls confidently- if slightly drunkenly- repeating her earlier sentiment as if a reminder. "Pistols. Grenade launcher. Many

guns." she elaborates through a glassy gaze.

Malek furrows his brow, an uncomfortable snicker slipping out as he seems unsure if Jessica is joking or not. His gaze settles on Yan Sun, seemingly in an attempt at getting a read on whether Jessica is trying to be funny.

Yan Sun 's confusion gives way to unease as her eyes settle on the gun, but the tension slowly slips away over the course of the words that follow. She lets out a quiet sigh and nods faintly, seemingly about to say something when Jessica chimes in. "We-... we don't have a grenade launcher." she's quick to clarify, before furrowing her eyebrows as if suddenly second guessing herself and turning her head to look at Jessica. "...did you-... did

you bring a grenade launcher...?"

Jessica merely nods against Yan Sun's shoulder. "Mmm." she hums.

Malek seems a bit taken aback at Jessica's non-chalance about it. It's pretty obvious he mostly just assumed her earlier threat was a hollow warning to keep them from trying anything which would've been more than understandable considering Aite's notoriety. But a grenade launcher? "Gren-..." he stammers, forehead scrunching up as he looks to Jessica. "The fuck do you need a grenade launcher for?!" he asks in surprise.

Jessica just sniffs at the air as she takes another pull from her bottle. "For grenade launching." she says plainly, as if that should be obvious.

Malek blinks. Fair enough. "...And you need to 'launch grenades' because...?"

Jessica shrugs against Yan Sun. "You are maybe stealing our shit, yes? Maybe you are-... are too far for-..." she lifts her bottle slightly, gripping it by the neck and jabbing it forward as if it was a knife, absently spilling some beer on Yan Sun in the process, "...for stabbing. So I will grenade launch at you." She cocks her head drunkenly to the side and peers over the top of her now-horizontal bottle as if aiming down the sights

of a gun at Malek. She mimes a gun's recoil with the bottle, spilling a little bit more onto Yan Sun in the process, and makes the sound of an explosion with her mouth.

Malek falls silent as Jessica explains. Her little display doing little to put him at ease. It's not until Trace begins to erupt into laughter that he seems to ease up, joining in with his own snicker. "Shiiiit." he says with a shake of his head as his gaze turns to Yan Sun once more, "I think-... I think she terrifies me." he admits through his snicker.

Jessica doesn't particularly seem to understand what's so funny, but is nonetheless satisfied that she's made her point.

Trace attempts to take another drink of his beer as his laughter dies down, only to discover it empty. He sets it down and reaches into the cooler. "On that note, I think we could all use another round." he decides before attempting to pass out more bottles.

Yan Sun furrows her eyebrows at the confirmation, listening skeptically to Jessica's explanation. The addition of a beer-stain to her pants elicits a quiet grumble, and the second prompts a "Hey, watch it!" and a light elbow back against her side. The laughter and Malek's comment causes her to snicker. It's obvious from her expression that this is standard for Jessica. "She's more bark than bite..." she says through an amused grin, planting

another kiss on Jessica's cheek before looking back to Malek. Truth is she has plenty of bite when cornered, but that feels distant right now and the joke is easier. "If she actually followed through on her threats of stabbing I'd be long gone." she says, finishing off her beer and leaning forward a little, reaching out to accept her and Jessica's new bottles, probably disturbing Jessica's headrest in the process.

Jessica gives a frown, slumping forward slightly as Yan Sun reaches out for the beers. "I am lots of bite." she grumbles with a bit of a slur to her words. She punctuates her statement by tilting her head to the side and trying to dig her teeth into the bit of skin on the back of Yan Sun's neck that's exposed overtop her jacket when she leans forward. She doesn't have much success, resulting in a drunken snicker. She settles for simply

slugging back what little beer hasn't spilled from her bottle and chucking the empty glass into the night.

Trace settles back into his seat after passing a pair of beers off to Yan Sun and collects a couple more, removing the cap from them before passing one off to Malek. "Yeah..." he snickers to Yan Sun as he watches Jessica's less-than-ferocious attack, "...picked up on that."

Malek is quick to finish off his current beer at the offer of a fresh round, setting the empty bottle on the ground beside his chair before accepting the new one with an appreciative nod of his head. The small peek into Jessica's playful side causes his grin to widen. "If it's all the same, I'd prefer not to chance it." he says through his grin, "I try to avoid stabbings and-... uhh-.... 'grenade launchings' if I can help it." he

snickers.

Yan Sun leans back against Jessica after grabbing the beers, holding one of them out for her to grab before taking a swig of her own. "Probably smart." she concedes with a snicker to Malek, her hand returning to Jessica's neck, leaning her head a little against hers.

Jessica returns her chin to its previous resting place, her beer coming to rest in Yan Sun's lap as she keeps it balanced with her grip around the neck of the bottle with her right hand. She tilts her head against Yan Sun's, floofy hat pressing against her face. She shuts her eyes as Yan Sun's hand presses against her neck. Her left arm tightens around Yan Sun's waist. "You stink." she mutters drunkenly, giving a few exaggerated sniffs

for emphasis.

Yan Sun lets out a quiet snort. "Mm... thanks." she says through a grin, looking down at the fire with a snicker as her hand goes back to scratching Jessica's neck, seeming unfazed by the insult.

Trace sits back comfortably in his camping chair as he takes a swig of his drink and glances out into the blackness as silence overtakes the campsite. The stretched out, distant yipping of a pack of carashan draws his gaze in their general direction. There's not much to see in the darkness, but he continues to watch the distance. "It's nights like tonight when you need to watch out for Durashka and Torish." he muses aloud.

Malek glances in the general direction of the yipping as well, but Trace's comment only garners a small snort from Malek and a roll of his eyes.

Yan Sun blinks, eyebrows furrowing as she looks up at Trace. "Durwhat? Is that-... are those animals?" she asks, inevitably looking off in the direction of the noises as well, a bit of uneasy creeping into her voice.

Trace turns his attention away from the darkness, gaze settling back on Yan Sun. "You've never heard of Durashka and Torish?" he asks incredulously.

Malek leans his head back and draws in a breath. "Ah shit, don't get him started on this again..." he mutters.

Jessica's eyes peel open as Trace says the pair of familiar names, hand working around Yan Sun so she can take a sip of her beer without having to lift her head.

Yan Sun narrows her eyes slightly. "...should I have...?" she asks slowly, a bit of amused curiosity showing at the reaction. She takes a sip of her beer as she awaits a response.

Trace passes a glare Malek's way before bringing his legs in closer to plant his boots flat against the ground and rest his forearms against his knees so he can lean forward. Yan Sun's reaction causes a spark in his glassy eyes as the opportunity to tell the story presents itself. "Long time ago, waaaay back when the first people came to Aite. There was a pair of brothers. Batarian. Durashka and Torish-..."

Malek rests his elbow against the armrest of his chair, propping his chin up with his fist. From the disinterested look on his face it's clear that the two have had many-a-discussions about this. "Urban legend." he interrupts dismissively, seemingly hoping that'll be enough to quench Yan Sun's curiosity. "S'all it is. Just a local ghost story."

Jessica furrows her brow, leveling a glare at Malek and shushing him.

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