#Mallory'sHomestead – August 13, 2019

The sun has long set by the time the truck reaches the coordinates given by Trace. Driving at night out here is a far cry from trips beneath Hong Kong's bubble of light pollution. It would be pitch black if it wasn't for the stars in the sky and the large, ever-watching orb reflecting its light back on Aite. Well, and the bright head lights of the truck that washes the color out of everything it touches. Still, it would only take one

particularly deep embankment coming out of nowhere or rocky outcropping on the backside of a hill hit at the wrong angle to put the truck out of commission, meaning traveling at night requires a substantially lighter touch on the gas. Thankfully there has been no sign of a cannibal preacher anywhere to be seen, but that hasn't stopped Jessica from trying to spook Yan Sun about it.

Unfortunately, nothing immediately pops out to them once their red blob meets with the pulsing blue blob on the map. Just more trees. More hills. And more snow. Though it seems as if the region hasn't been hit quite as hard by the snow recently as further east. It's mostly just a thin layer of the hard, crunchy stuff rather than the thick dunes of white fluff they passed through further east. The wind seems to be much more active out this way,

though, and the occasional gust is enough to be felt even inside the cabin of the hulking truck. It's another few minutes of driving before the first sign of life calls out to them. A lone light in the distance filters out through a window. It's hard to make out much in the cover of night and the bouncing on uneven terrain doesn't help, but there seem to be faint tire tracks ahead.

Jessica has finally decided to sit up as they scour the countryside for an idea of whatever they should be looking for. It's taken a good portion of the day and a whole bunch of junk food, but she seems to have finally managed to shake off the hangover. "Oh shit! What was that?!" she asks, thrusting a finger across Yan Sun to point out the driver's side window. The same tactic she has used about 10 times since the creepy broadcast to

try and scare Yan Sun.

Yan Sun 's focus has turned more and more to her driving as their surroundings grew darker and they got closer to their goal, moving slowly and lacking confidence in her driving. She fell for Jessica's spooking the first time. And the second time. ...and maybe one or two after that. By now she's just ignoring Jessica completely, her eyes scanning their surroundings as they creep forward across the dark countryside in search of the

farm, silently hoping she didn't screw up by suggesting they detour here. There's a subtle flinch as Jessica exclaims loudly, but she manages to make her reaction almost imperceptible, pointedly ignoring her and focusing on trying to follow the tracks that she thought she glimpsed.

Jessica gains a slight frown at her tricks growing transparent. With a sigh, she settles back into the seat beside Yan Sun and peers out through the windshield. Squinting, she leans forward to try and get a better look at the light that catches her eye. "This is where we are going...?" she muses aloud, casting a glance to Yan Sun, then to the map emitting from the dashboard.

The tire tracks break off to the right, but they seem to be either coming from or heading in the general direction of the light which is still a good distance away. The headlights pass over a low, fence ahead on their right. Wooden. Looks to be hand made. Just a line of waist-high posts in the ground with a pair of horizontal planks between each. It's certainly not going to keep anyone out. The truck would probably make it look like a marathon

runner sprinting through the finish line. It's only dark shapes that give away the fact that there's a second structure up ahead, just outside the reach of the truck's headlights.

Yan Sun slows even more as the fence comes into view, not exactly wanting to accidentally run over the property of their hopefully-host. She opts to continue alongside the simple fence, driving along the old tracks in the direction of the light. "Sure hope so..." she says quietly, eyes heavy and eager for sleep as she blinks. She fails to suppress the yawn that follows, not looking Jessica's way for fear of interrupting her focus.

The tracks continue alongside the fence which abruptly ends after about 30 yards, a final plank sitting diagonally against the final post, the other end buried in the ground. The truck's headlights are able to reach out towards the dark structure as they near the end of the wooden fence. It's a prefab. Not all that different from the abandoned home they stayed at a couple of nights ago. That same slanted-roof design to keep the snow from

amassing. This one, however, is in much better shape. Not only is it well maintained, but it even seems to have a few custom additions built onto it. The side of the building facing Jessica and Yan Sun- as well as the fence- has a wooden structure built right up against it with a similarly slanted roof and a single door on the front of it. It looks like some sort of shed. The second addition is much more substantial. It looks like an entire

add-on to the house has been built onto the front of it, a hard line showcasing where hard plastic and wood meet. A spacious porch is built onto the front, complete with a table, chairs, and a futon that looks like it would probably be a relaxing place to spend a warm summer day with a cold drink. All of the cushions have been brought inside for the winter, but given the care and upkeep, it's pretty clear that someone lives here.

Jessica flaps a hand at Yan Sun a few times as she looks towards the unlit home, as if flagging for her to stop. "Maybe is this one...?" she asks in confusion before turning her gaze back towards the lit structure in the distance. She draws in a frustrated sigh before turning to Yan Sun. "Why you didn't ask him for better directions?!" she scolds. "Oh, maybe we just drive around for hours in the dark looking

for it. Is fun! Maybe some fuck even shoot us for going on his land!" she continues, putting on an annoying nasally voice as she, presumably, imitates Yan Sun. "This is you, kitty cat." she confirms.

Yan Sun slows to a stop as Jessica gestures, leaning forward a bit in her seat to peek at the dark structure. Her gaze travels between it and the distant light, eyebrows furrowing as they go back to the nearby house. She seems about to reply when Jessica speaks again. "Wh-... I didn't know there'd be more than one place around here!" she complains defensively. "They're not gonna shoot us!" she exclaims, sounding... somewhat

confident in her assertion. "I'm sure Trace would've mentioned it if the neighbors are that trigger happy..." she reasons, continuing to study the house. "What do you think? Maybe we... check here first?" she asks uncertainly, clearly not quite sure how to handle the situation.

Jessica sighs and shoots Yan Sun a frustrated glare. "Fine." she grumbles, reaching out to open the glove compartment and collect her sidearm. "If they shoot us I am using you for a shield." she threatens in a mutter.

Yan Sun seems a little uncomfortable at the sight of Jessica's pistol, but doesn't mention it, instead she leaves the truck to idle as she slips her jacket on, digging her beanie out of a pocket and putting it on as well before opening the door and stepping out into the snow, looking towards the building partially illuminated building. Her implants light up, a flashlight shining from the palm of her left hand as she raises it to scan

Yan Sun along the fence in search of an opening. Not that it'd be hard to hop.

Jessica sets the pistol on her lap as she slips into her boots and slings her jacket back on, muttering grumpily. The floofy hat hasn't yet left her head. She bites down at the cold that floods the cabin when Yan Sun opens the door and it's the jolt she needed to get a move on. She keeps the pistol unfolded and slides it into the back of her pants once she's joined Yan Sun outside of the truck, keeping the firearm concealed beneath the

Jessica back of her jacket. She glances about, hands balling into fists and tucking them into her pockets to generate a little warmth. "We are not in Hong Kong, kitty cat!" she continues in hushed tones as the pair approach the porch. "I know this asari when I am having-..." she shrugs, not particularly finding the details important right now, "...sixteen years? I don't fucking know. This is how she get shot."

The fence doesn't impede their approach to the house. There's a pair of steps leading up to the open porch and each one, of course, creaks loudly as any amount of weight is put onto it.

Yan Sun 's unease only grows with Jessica's warnings, looking a little disturbed by the brief anecdote, tension entering her movements as she walks slowly up the creaky stairs, crossing the wooden porch toward the door. "It'll be fine! Nobody's getting shot." she says, although she sounds less-than convincing thanks to Jessica's words. She turns off her flashlight before reaching out to knock on the door, straightening her back. Her

Yan Sun implants remain lit up.

Off to the left of the door is a couple of windows, both dark. The sound of creaking persists even when the pair stop, though whether it's due to someone else moving around inside or just the sounds of an old house are unclear.

Jessica doesn't seem to see any point in explaining how the asari was there to rob the house. Instead, she steps over to the window and leans forward, floof of her had pressed up against it as she cups her hand around the right side of her face to try and see inside. "I can't see shit." she whispers.

Yan Sun barely has time to knock before the door swings open and she finds herself facing down a bright flashlight. The dramatic click of a safety is enough to let her know that there's probably a gun to go along with that flashlight, but it's mostly just piercing white light in her face. "Back! Back!" sounds a woman's voice in English. "Unless you're lookin' for another hole to breathe out of, back!" she continues, unwilling to give the

potential intruder a chance to speak. Her words are tinted with a hint of that same accent commonly heard across many parts of Aite, though it's not very thick.

Yan Sun startles as the door opens far sooner than she expected and she's blinded by the bright light, jumping back a step. "W-woah!" Her eyes strain against the white, lifting her hands palms-forward. There's a tense wince stuck on her face, speaking through gritted teeth. "Sorry! Sorry! Pleasedon'tshootus!" she blurts out, head turned slightly to the side, struggling to face the light directly.

The woman follows, stepping through the door when Yan Sun jumps back. "Stop!" she growls, having deemed Yan Sun 'back' far enough apparently, her voice deep and hoarse as if she eats rocks for breakfast. "Don't you fucking move!"

Jessica is quick to turn her attention towards the door when the shouting begins and her hand moves to the back of her pants at the sight of the woman, but the light is on her before she can reach her sidearm.

When the woman swings her weapon towards the second intruder, she begins to back away to keep both intruders in front of her, putting her on the opposite side of the door from Jessica. "Nah ah ah!" she warns Jessica. With the light off of Yan Sun, she'd be able to see that the woman is old. Very old. Wrinkles-on-wrinkles old. She's wearing a pair of red house slippers and a worn down brown winter jacket has been thrown over her nightgown that

matches her slippers. Her grey hair is no more than a few inches long. "Wouldn't do that if I were you."

Jessica freezes in place, wincing as she finds herself shutting her eye to withstand the white light in her face. "Gah-... See?!" she barks- likely to Yan Sun- as she shows the palms of her hands. "Put down the fucking gun, you old bitch!" she barks.

The woman casts a look to Yan Sun to make sure she's not trying anything, gun still fixed to Jessica. She gives a loud, humorless snort. "This old bitch still has enough life in her to put a couple of no-good thieves in the ground, so I suggest you keep your hands where I can see 'em!" She cocks a glance back behind her sharply to look past the porch's railing for other intruders. "How many more are with you?!" she asks.

Yan Sun most definitely isn't trying anything. Still straining against the glare of the flashlight, she remains frozen in place, although her gaze lands briefly on the old woman when the light leaves her. "We're not-... just us! It's just us! We're not thieves!" she exclaims loudly, heart beating a mile a minute as she tries to think clearly. "W-W-We're just-... Trace! We're friends of Trace!" she tries, the words awkwardly blurted

Yan Sun out on the verge of panic.

Jessica scoffs loudly, "We are not thieves!" she adds over the cacophony of shouts. "If you don't stop-..." she tries to open her eye only to see that the flashlight is still pointed squarely in her face, causing another frustrated, "Gah!" to slip out, "...pointing this shit at me I am going to make you eat it!"

The old woman tsks at Jessica's hollow threats. "Keep runnin' that mouth and you're gonna make me mess up that pretty face of yours." she taunts sarcastically. The pair's bickering comes to an abrupt stop when Yan Sun mentions Trace, as if the woman has just been short circuited. "...How come Trace didn't call?" she asks skeptically as her gaze turns to Yan Sun, a little bit of the fight seeming to ease from her. Both the rifle and flashlight

remain fixed to Jessica. The rifle looks to be your basic run-of-the-mill hunting rifle. No bells and whistles. Probably an integrated cooling system rather than thermal clips, meaning it likely couldn't get off more than a couple of shots without needing to cool down. She has a flashlight pinned against the bottom of the rifle with her left hand, enabling her to shine the light wherever she's aiming the weapon.

Yan Sun lets out a breath as the shouting stops, her shoulders dropping slightly as a bit of the tension lifts, but her hands remain raised. "He-... he said he was gonna send a message." she scrambles to explain. "We met on the road. Him and Malek. Said we could stop for the night here." she adds, having assumed they have the right house by now. She studies the old woman cautiously, continuing to stand frozen in place with her hands

Yan Sun awkwardly raised.

Jessica mutters a soft, "Bitch." under her breath as if to get the last word in, scowl plastered across her features as she glares at the old woman. She remains cooperative for now, however, since it seems like Yan Sun has begun to disarm the situation.

The old woman catches Jessica's quick barb, causing her to adjust her grip on the flashlight to make sure it's right in her face. After a few moments of silence, she lets out a deep breath that turns into mist in the winter air. "Dumb as a bag of rocks, I swear..." she mutters. Finally taking the flashlight off of Jessica, she holds it in the crook of her neck against her shoulder. It causes the beam to fall, but provides enough ambient light

to keep the porch from falling into darkness. With her left hand she reaches into the large, pouch-like pocket along the left side of her nightgown. It leaves her holding the rifle with one hand, an impressive feat for what seems to be an old frail woman. Even more so that the gun barely seems to shake. Left pouch was a bust, so she reaches across herself to pat her right, unwilling to lower the rifle from Jessica. Nope, nothing. Finally she

reaches into the pocket of her jacket and pulls free an omni-tool. She holds it out to give Yan Sun a heads up before softly underhanding it to her. "Find the message." she instructs, not wanting to risk lowering the rifle to do it herself until she's sure their story checks out.

The omni-tool is an old model and doesn't look to see a ton of use.

Yan Sun blinks, not expecting the request, but she goes to grab the omni-tool when thrown. She... fumbles the catch, and it nearly slips out of her grasp before she gets a solid hold on it. She brings it around to a proper grip without a word, activating the interface to start looking for new messages.

The message is right there at the top of her inbox. Sender: Trace - Subject: VISITORS! PLEASE READ GRANDMA! IMPORTANT! There's a theme to her inbox. The only two names that show up without scrolling are Malek and Trace. And they all have similarly themed titles. Plenty are unread and are followed up by identically titled messages.

Jessica is finally able to stop squinting against the light when the flashlight is no longer in her face.

The old woman doesn't let that last for too long, however. As soon as she has passed the omni-tool off to Yan Sun, she reaches up and pulls the flashlight from the crook of her neck and shines it right back in Jessica's face. After all of Jessica's mouthing off this seems to be more about irritating her than keeping her illuminated.

Jessica lifts her hand slightly to try and block the light. "Gah! Stop!" she growls.

Yan Sun pays no mind to Jessica being blinded as she navigates the omni-tool. The faintest of snorts sound as she spots the message, and for the briefest of moments there's almost a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth as she fails to shake the familiarity of the situation. Well, minus the gun. Or the snow. Or... well, any of the context. She brings up the newest message and uses her index finger to flip the interface around to

show it to the old woman, extending the hand holding the omni-tool a bit as she does. Despite still being a bit spooked she hazards a faint, friendly smile, suddenly feeling a bit more confident.

The woman leans forward, her aim faltering as her attention turns to the flipped omni-tool interface which grants Jessica a moment of reprieve from the blinding light. The woman's lips move as she silently reads the message. "I told those assholes to stop sending me these messages and just call!" she grumbles. As she steps back and lowers the rifle to her side as she looks the pair over. When she looks over Jessica, she makes a point of

flashing the light in her face once again.

Jessica lowers her hand and shoots a glare Yan Sun's way but before she can speak up, that light is right back in her face. She just closes her eyes and bites down hard, doing her best not to reignite the arguing after things have died down. It is the dead of night, after all. If they're told to take a hike, they're not really in a position to set up the tent. It would be another night in the cramped truck. Likely on the outskirts of

a pissed off old woman's property who has a gun.

After her brief assessment, she shuts off the flashlight and stows it away in the pouch-like pocket on her nightgown and reaches out to snatch up her omni-tool. "And you two must be dumb as they are!" she scolds, "Just prowlin' around on someone's property in the dark? That's how you get yourself shot out here!"

Jessica mutters a soft, "Mmm?" to Yan Sun. A silent 'I told you so'.

The old woman stuffs the omni-tool back into her jacket and uses her now-free hand to pull it closed, as if only just now realizing how cold it is outside. "What? Ya couldn't have asked for my contact info? Ya just-... show up unannounced to people's homes all the time?" she asks with a shake of her head as she starts back inside, seeming a touch slower than she was when she thought she was about to be robbed. She gestures for them to follow

her with a nod of her head. "C'mon, ya morons. Gonna catch a cold out here."

Yan Sun 's brief burst of confidence is undercut as the old woman echoes Jessica's criticism. "Sorry..." she mumbles quietly, offering a sulky look and a shrug in response to Jessica's mutter. She's quick to start following, forgetting that she left the truck running in her eagerness to get out of the cold, and still a little bit rattled from the chaotic exchange.

Jessica finally lowers her hands. "I will shut off the truck." she announces, but it has that tone that includes an implied 'because you forgot'. "I will get our stuff." As she turns, she meets Yan Sun's gaze and gives a lift of her brow and looks towards the old woman, attempting to silently warn Yan Sun to keep her eyes on her.

As the woman enters the front door, she reaches to her left and the lights flicker to life. "And leave that gun out there!" she instructs. "Yeah, I saw you reachin' for it. It ain't comin' in here."

Jessica cocks a look towards the old woman. She silently flips her off since her back is turned and stomps off towards the truck.

The front door leads into what seems to be a dining area. The area right by the door seems to be for gearing up to head outside as numerous pairs of boots are lined up against the wall and a bunch of jackets and winter gear hang from hooks along the wall. The entire room has an old fashioned look to it, with a wood finish. Off to the left of the front door is a rectangular table- also wood- with six seats around it. To their right is a wall

with a door set in it that leads to a room out of sight. There's a large wooden plaque that hangs on the wall opposite from the front door that reads 'LOVE IS WHAT TURNS A HOUSE INTO A HOME'. It, too, seems to be a home made project. It seems they like to handle things themselves. From wooden shelves and knick-knacks to the curtains that cover the windows, most of it seems to have a personal touch in it. Guess you've gotta keep yourself busy

out here somehow. Given the look Yan Sun got from the outside, the wall with the plaque must be the original front of the house, but custom-built wood paneling all but conceals that. The only thing that might give it away is the generic, sliding door and electronic panel that was once the front door. It's wide open and there's a slight glow emanating from the otherwise dark room, the soft voices that spill from the room imply a television was

left on. "Shoes off." the old woman instructs.

Yan Sun winces slightly as she realizes her mistake, flashing Jessica an apologetic smile. "Thanks, Jess!" She doesn't seem all that worried about Jessica's silent warnings now that things have settled down. Her gaze wanders around the interior once she's through the doors, taking in her surroundings. She comes to a quick stop when she's addressed, letting out an awkward noise and reaching down to unzip her boots, pulling them off

and setting them among the others. After a moment's hesitation she slips her jacket off as well, stuffing the beanie back in a pocket before hanging it on a free hook. "Sorry about the confusion..." she offers, the last remnants of the earlier scare starting to fade from her voice in the face of the welcoming feeling of indoors.

The old woman kicks her house slippers against the floor a few times to make sure no snow got on them before removing her jacket and slipping it on a hook. She places the flashlight on a small shelf beside the door. A place for everything, and everything in its place. She holds onto the gun, though. She draws in a breath, bringing a free hand up to run through her short hair, looking a bit rattled now that everything has calmed down. "You two

just about scared the piss out of me." she says with a shake of her head. Even standing by the open door, it's nice and toasty inside. There's a few pictures on the wall to the right. Some of people unknown, but one that stands out is of Trace and Malek, one on each side of the old woman, arms around one another's shoulders. Framed by a field of grass, it looks to have been taken during the summer. It looks recent, judging by the fact that they

don't look much different than they did when Jessica and Yan Sun ran into them. Maybe a little less bearded.

Yan Sun winces slightly at her words. "Sorry..." she repeats a little awkwardly. "We thought you were expecting us." A small smile briefly crosses her lips as her gaze runs across the picture. She shakes her upper body a little just to rid herself of the lingering tension. "Don't want to impose or anything..." she adds, feeling compelled to politeness after the chaotic introduction. She hopes silently that they won't actually be

turned away, the thought of a night indoors more than a little enticing. Doubly so when contrasted with the cramped truck.

The old woman draws in a heavy breath, a small smile crossing her lips as she follows Yan Sun's gaze to the pictures. She doesn't directly respond to Yan Sun's concern, but she also doesn't seem to be in any hurry to throw her out if that was her intention. "So how are they holdin' up?" she asks, canting her head to the side to look Yan Sun's way. "Be a lie if I said I wasn't worried about them bein' so close to the city. What with the news of

the Collectors and all... Imagine there's probably a whole lot of folks out lookin' to cause trouble..."

Yan Sun stuffs her hands into the pockets of her hoodie as she turns her gaze to the old woman. The mere mention of the Collectors is enough to make her mind drift briefly to the data she went through, but she pushes that unsettling memory from her mind. It wasn't something to worry about anymore, thankfully. "They'd just come from the city when we met them." she explains with a small smile. "Seemed... fine." she assesses, shrugging.

"We shared a campsite. Mentioned we were headed west, so Trace suggested we should stop by here."

Jessica comes storming in and quickly closes the door, teeth chattering as she retreats from a particularly loud gust of wind. She has a pair of bags over her shoulder that she quickly tosses to the ground.

The old woman snaps a glance Jessica's way. "Shoes." she says simply. Yan Sun's words cause her to turn her attention back to the picture. The stock of the rifle thuds against the wood floor as she holds it by the barrel like an explosive cane. She gives a few nods as Yan Sun explains how they found themselves out here. The message explained as much anyway. "They're good kids." she says softly before adding, almost to herself, "Maybe a little too

friendly for their own good."

Jessica steps on the back of each of her boots and, since she didn't have them zipped, they're easily removed and kicked to the side. She glances about uncomfortably and, realizing the others have done away with their jackets, shrugs her own off and puts it on the same hook as Yan Sun's. She makes sure to transfer her omni-tool from her jacket pocket to the pocket of her cargo pants.

The old woman studies the picture for a moment longer before taking a step back with a sigh. "So, here is how this is gonna go." she says, turning towards the pair near the door. "I don't know the two of you from a hole in the ground. But-..." she shrugs, "...it sounds like you gave my boys a warm spot to rest on a cold night and I'm not gonna let that go unrewarded." She briefly looks back through the open electronic door, "We've got ourselves

a spare bedroom that the two of you can share." As if to make no presumptions she adds, "Hope that's not a problem. If it is, I can bring in some spare blankets and one of you can take the floor. But when I settle in for the night? I'll gonna be locking all the doors. You gotta use the bathroom in the middle of the night?" she gives a small nod, "That's fine. I'll leave it open. But if I catch either of ya tryin' to get into one of the other

rooms..." she doesn't finish her sentence, instead lifting the rifle an inch or so off the ground and letting the stock clack against the wood paneling once more. It's less of a threat and more of a warning, something she hopes won't come to pass. "Besides. Nothin' worth stealin' in here anyway." she adds, a slight smile crossing her lips. After a moment's consideration, she concludes on: "Are we on the same page?"

Yan Sun smirks slightly as she listens to the assessment to Trace and Malek, but remains silent, listening to their host as she lays down the rules. She's quick to give an eager nod. "Yeah, that's-... that sounds good!" she agrees, shooting Jessica a glance, silently hoping she's not going to make any trouble.

Jessica is silent as the old woman lays down the rules. It's not until both eyes are on her that she looks between the two women. "Wha-... Yes, fine!" she scoffs, as if offended that she has to confirm she's not going to steal anything. She draws in a deep, frustrated breath as she gives a glance around the room, looking for anything worth stealing.

The old woman levels a stare on Jessica for a moment before taking a step back. "Alright..." she sighs, "Well, how about you two go take a seat-..." she gestures towards the dining room table with a nod of her head, "...and I'll go make a pot of coffee?"

Yan Sun gains a smile, nodding again. "Sure! Yeah." she agrees, her relief pretty obvious. She takes a step towards the door before hesitating for a moment and thinking to add: "I'm Yan.", shooting another quick glance Jessica's way.

The old woman continues on through the door, raising her voice to be heard as she works on making coffee in the next room over. "And Jessica." she's quick to intercept before the woman can speak for herself. "Yeah, it was in the message. Mallory." she introduces herself.

Jessica furrows her brow, not at all amused at being talked over by the old woman. She shoots a glare Yan Sun's way as she begins moving over towards the dining room table. "What I say to you?! Mmm?!" she whispers, eager to make sure Yan Sun knows she was right.

If one were to listen closely they'd be able to hear that, unsurprisingly, the TV in the other room is broadcasting news about the Collectors. It's probably gonna be at the forefront of news for quite some time.

Yan Sun goes to take a seat at the table, shrugging in response to Jessica. "It worked out!" she half-whispers in response, resting her lower arms against the edge of the table as she looks around again, listening to the news broadcasting in the background.

It's hard to make much out through the doorway and the relatively low volume of the broadcast, but what can be heard is an Alliance representative refusing to answer leading questions speculating about the size and danger posed by Cerberus considering their ability to stop the Collectors.

Jessica doesn't look convinced. "You know... they are sometimes saying that followers of Old Erik will invite people in for getting out of the cold." she says, leaning to her side to speak right into Yan Sun's ear so she can keep her voice as low as possible. "Is usually someone you would never expect. Like-.. a grumpy old bitch." her good eye flicks towards the open door. "Then. In the middle of the night, you open your eyes, but your

eyes do not want to open." She pauses, a poor attempt at dramatic tension, "Because they were been eated!" She struggles with the tense once again and that very quickly seems to draw her attention away from the attempted spoops. "Eat-... ated...?" No, that doesn't sound right, "Is eated, yes?"

Mallory raises her voice once again, "Cream? Sugar? How do you two take your coffee?" she calls out, possibly just trying to keep tabs on them since she's only heard soft whispers since leaving the room.

Yan Sun rolls her eyes at Jessica, not dignifying her words with a response until she gets hung up on the grammar. "Eaten." she offers with a small, amused grin, hand reaching over to give Jessica's knee a squeeze under the table. The question draws her attention to the open door. "Uh... yeah, lots of both, please!" she replies. She's not big on coffee, so anything to mask the bitter flavor is welcome. She gets her caffeine from

energy drinks, and when it comes to hot beverages she prefers tea.

Jessica tilts her head back in her seat. "Black!" she calls out, sounding more as if she's trying to make a statement than making an actual request. Her right hand reaches under the table to place it over Yan Sun's, the rough skin of the palm of her hand felt on the back of Yan Sun's.

Mallory gives a hum of confirmation to Yan Sun. Jessica's request is met with a muttered, "Big surprise there..." A few moments pass before she speaks up with a follow up question. "You two have anything to eat tonight?" she asks, probably moreso out of obligation to Trace than due to the kindness of her heart. "Don't have anything fancy. But there's some leftovers from earlier-..." her voice changes in volume as she moves about the kitchen

and the refrigerator door can be heard opening, "...Just some rice and beef with vegetables."

Jessica looks to Yan Sun and reaches up with her left hand to grasp her own throat, tongue lulling out of the side of her mouth as if to imply that Mallory might poison them. In the name of Old Erik, of course.

Yan Sun shoots Jessica an exasperated look, on the verge of rolling her eyes again, but her hand remains beneath hers. "Uhm... I mean... not really." she admits, sounding a bit worried about coming off as rude, but more than a little tempted by the prospect of getting something else in her belly than the dried varren meat and chips that have made up most of the day's provisions.

Mallory can be heard clanking things together as she pulls leftovers from the fridge. "Well, like I said, it's nothin' fancy." she repeats, "But if you're gonna be stayin' the night I can't send ya to sleep hungry." The sounds from the coffee maker, silverware against dishes and, soon, the stove make for a busy kitchen.

Jessica sits up a bit straighter in her seat to cast a glance around the room at the numerous knick-knacks lining the homemade shelves along the walls. With a furrowing of her brow, she nudges Yan Sun and nods towards a particular shelf that gets her attention.

Many of the shelves in the dining room are lined with little wood-cut knick-knacks. Painted animals. Comforting sayings. But the one Jessica points out seems to be decorated by a plethora of small, plastic pyjaks. Each has a different color or a different theme. One is riding a varren. One is armored. One is wearing a frog costume. Someone in the know might recognize them as the short-lived line of collectibles called 'Pyjak Buddies' that were

all the craze for the better part of 2180 and forgotten about by 2181. There's a wide assortment of them available and it looks like she has a good number of them across her dining room shelves.

Yan Sun can't help the surprised snort of laughter that slips out as she spots the collection, muffling it with her free hand. "What are those...?" she wonders quietly in another half-whisper.

Jessica gives a soft uttering of, 'Pyjak Buddies!' as she casts a glance over towards the door before slipping out of the seat, releasing Yan Sun's hand in the process. The sound of clanking lets her know that she's in no danger of Mallory returning and she skulks over towards the shelf.

Mallory continues to work in the kitchen, the news broadcast entirely drowned out as she gets to work on reheating the food. "So what are you two doin' out this way, anyhow?" she asks, "Pretty sure you're not from around here." she continues, seemingly confident in her knowledge of the other inhabitants of the region.

Yan Sun furrows her eyebrows in confusion as Jessica slips out of her seat in pursuit of what is, apparently, a collection of 'Pyjak Buddies'. Mallory's question soon draws her attention, however. "Uh... yeah, not exactly." she admits, glancing back toward Jessica. "We're on our way to the coast."

Mallory is silent for a few moments, seemingly considering Yan Sun's answer. "What in the hell would ya wanna do that for?" comes her response. "Nothin' out there but-... well, the coast." she snickers. "Just snow and wind this time of year."

Jessica pays Mallory no mind as she begins to pick through the collection of plastic pyjaks. She lifts a few up in her hand, turning them about as she examines them, facing away from Yan Sun. When she picks one up, a big smile crosses her lips.

Yan Sun seems caught between concern and amusement as Jessica starts picking through their host's things. Her attention is drawn back to the door before she can decide whether to scold her or smile at her enthusiasm. "Uhm..." A quick glance back to Jessica, hoping that she'll interject. Nope. No help there. "It's-... we just want to see it. We're... leaving the planet soon, and... yeah."

Jessica turns about, prize in hand. She holds it up and gives it a little wiggle. "Is you!" she mouths in a whisper. Sure enough, the one in her hand has a coif of blue hair atop its little head. Though rather than a sideshave it's sporting a spiky hairdo, resembling the outside of a pineapple. It looks a bit dopey, big googly eyes crossed and tongue hanging out of its snout. Its large ears are pierced and it appears to be trying to

play its own tail like a guitar. She continues to wiggle it, as if it's walking in the air by leaning from side-to-side.

Mallory falls quiet for a moment as she focuses on fixing up the coffee while the leftovers heat up. "Fair enough. I guess." she says, not quite caring enough to question their motives for heading west, though the tone of her voice makes it clear she doesn't understand why anyone would want to head to the coast. "You from back east?" she asks to keep the conversation going. To keep tabs on them.

Yan Sun assesses Jessica's finds for a moment before shooting her an unamused look, eyes narrowing before she extends her tongue. She's working hard to suppress a grin as Jessica wiggles the stupid thing. The conversation with Mallory once again draws her attention away, although her gaze remains on Jessica this time. "Sort of." she says after a moment's consideration. "We came from Freedom Falls. But I'm from Earth, actually." she

elaborates, just trying to make small talk. Seems she doesn't want to speak for Jessica.

Mallory clangs a few things together as she works. The sound of the coffee machine dies down and it sounds as if she's beginning to pour food onto plates. "Adds up. Most people out here wouldn't shit their pants and turn white as a ghost at the sight of a ninety-six year old woman with a gun." she says, sounding adequately amused at the situation. "What about your friendly friend? She from Earth, too?"

Jessica continues to make the pyjak do a stupid little dance until Mallory mentions her. The nature of the sarcasm bothers her far less than the fact that she knows she can't fire back without risk of getting them thrown out. At first, she merely glares in the general direction of the woman's voice as if- should she stare hard enough- she might be able to bore a hole through the wall and the brittle old woman behind it. But she relents

with another glance towards the little plastic collectible, lifting it up to give it a quick kiss. She shoots a glance to Yan Sun after doing it, small smile returning to her lips. "Here." she replies simply, deciding against forcing Yan Sun to answer for her.

Yan Sun lets out a small, slightly embarrassed snicker at Mallory's assessment of her, growing into a brief laugh as she watches Jessica continue to goof with the little pyjak figure. She seems relieved at not having to answer for her, relaxing a little in her seat and shaking her head in response to her antics.

Jessica holds the figure up, looking it over as if giving a critical assessment. It's only when the sound of clanking is replaced by footsteps that her eye widens and she quickly sets the pyjak back down and suspiciously brings both hands down in front of her, pretending to just look over the collectibles.

Mallory only gets a single step into the room before coming to an abrupt stop when she sees Jessica. "Don't fuck with my Pyjak Buddies." she warns as she passes her by. She has a plate in each hand and, as mentioned, it's a dish of basic rice with some chunks of meat and meat sauce over them and what appears to be chopped up peppers mixed in. She sets the plates side-by-side, one in front of Yan Sun and the other in front of the empty,

pulled out chair beside her.

Jessica furrows her brow. "I'm not." she lies, looking offended that the woman would assume as much.

Yan Sun can't help the quiet, amused snort that sounds as Jessica tries to look innocent. She's not convinced she'd be capable of it even if she was. As her gaze comes to the food she sucks in her lips a little, the appeal of the simple leftovers reinforced by their half-baked travel diet. "Thank you so much." she says with a polite smile. Maybe it's their host's age that has her feeling extra compelled to be polite.

Mallory gives a small tilt of her head at Yan Sun's appreciation. "Well, don't thank me until you've tried it." she jokes and turns on her heels to go fetch the coffee and silverware. She finds herself looking over Jessica's shoulder at her collection of pyjaks as she heads towards the kitchen and that's when it catches her eye. "Gel'by." she exclaims, shooting a glare at Jessica as she moves over to her side to fix the misplaced

collectible- apparently Gel'by- and return him to his rightful place. She gives Jessica that knowing look before continuing on her way to the kitchen.

Jessica shrugs her shoulders dismissively and feigns confusion. As with most of her lies, she doesn't sell it very well. When Mallory steps out of the room she returns to the table and falls into the chair. Casting a glance Yan Sun's way, the smile returns to her face. "Gel'by." she whispers.

Yan Sun snorts quietly, shaking her head at Jessica as a small grin crosses her lips. She sniffs the food, shifting a little in her seat as she waits eagerly, suddenly more aware of her hunger.

Mallory returns a moment later with two mugs of coffee and a pair of forks that she sets down in front of her two guests. Black coffee for Jessica and loaded up with cream and sugar for Yan Sun. She takes a seat at the chair at the end of the table near Yan Sun. No food or coffee for her. "Would've been fresh if you two had shown up a few hours earlier, but it seems like you two prefer prowlin' around in the night, so-..." she shrugs,

"...reheated is gonna have to do."

Jessica doesn't respond since she's trying to be on good behavior and, as such, silence is almost always the more pleasant option for her. Instead, she reaches for her fork and begins to dig in to her meal.

Yan Sun licks her lips, grabbing the fork. Mallory's remark prompts a slightly embarrassed snicker. "Yeahhh... kinda... underestimated the travel time, I guess. Was hoping to make it before dark." she explains a little apologetically, before having a taste of the food.

The scent of the food quickly fills the room. The soft lighting from the single source of light in the center of the ceiling is a step up from the bright light that was only just recently shoved into their faces. Even reheated it's the sort of meal that you just can't get out of a microwave. The kind that makes you think of home.

Jessica gets her first bite down and draws in a deep breath, as if to savour the scent. She licks at her lips and digs her fork back in for a second one. The food seems to revitalize her spirits enough to get her to chime in. "I say to her that we should just keep going, but she is always whining about sleeping in the truck for the whole trip."

Mallory gives a dismissive little wave of her wrinkled hand as if to let it be known that she's just making a show of it being a bigger deal than it is, the band on the ring finger of her left hand catching the light as she does. "Don't worry about it." she relents. "If I'm bein' honest, it's kind of nice to have a little company while those two idiots are out getting drunk in the woods."

Yan Sun is feeling increasingly relaxed amid the smell of homecooked food and the comfortable warmth of of the unfamiliar home. She's most definitely enjoying her leftovers, although for her it would be a lie to say it made her think of home. Growing up, meals were handled by their private chef - one of the perks of owning a multi-billion credit company. Delicious and varied - not that she got to pick much. But it had felt off to her

since early on. Maybe it was just the knowledge that it wasn't normal. Maybe it was that even though they all ate together there was never a sense of family over the meals. It was... impersonal, just like the dining room. She'd always thought it was too large, too barren. Too much empty space between her and her parents. The table she's at is a sharp contrast in that regard too. Warm. Cozy. Lived-in. The thought makes her

rest her knee against Jessica for a bit. As she got older she took to eating in her room a lot. The only place in the penthouse she was really comfortable in. Noodle cups and frozen meals snuck onto the grocery lists. Not like anyone ever taught her how to cook. Once she got kicked out things changed. None of the Little Dragons were expert chefs, exactly, but they made do. Visits to cheap noodle places, hacking (or busting,

when Changying was the one handling them) vending machines, street food, and on occasion, firing up the grill in the Den and improvising, when they had the right supplies for it. She blinks as she's brought out of her distant thoughts, attention turning to Mallory. "It... must get lonely all the way out here." she says. "Are they gone a lot?"

This house is a far cry from Yan Sun's upbringing. A little cluttered by knick-knacks, perhaps, but certainly- as the wood plaque states- a home. It's not hard to envision her, Trace, and Malek eating their meals together here at the well maintained-but-certainly-used dining table.

Jessica scoops another bite of food into her mouth as she listens. She doesn't comment on the food, but it's not hard to tell when she's enjoying a meal. It's in her posture. The way she leans forward slightly so she can get a better angle to shovel the food into her mouth.

Mallory gives a small shrug of her shoulders as she shifts against the cushioned wooden seat. "Naw." she decides. "It's a bit of a drive, so they only head into the city when we're gettin' low on supplies. Every few months or so they take a few extra days to try and get some huntin' in." she continues. A smile crosses her lips. "It's hard work keepin' this place runnin', so I figure they deserve a little time to themselves every now and

then. I know they worry about leavin' me here ever since Charles passed-..." she gives a small shake of her head, realizing they have no idea who that is. "My husband. He passed back a couple years ago." she explains. A moment of silence passes, but she seems to think better than to lay her personal burdens onto the shoulders of a pair of strangers and quickly moves on. "Anyway-... I know they worry, so I try and encourage 'em to get

out there whenever we can spare 'em. Besides, it's not so bad. Got the Olsens just down the way-..." she gestures in the general direction of the building they saw the light coming from, "...and then the-..." she pauses, eyes turning up as she considers and, for a moment, the tough, weathered lady actually looks her age. She mutters to herself briefly, bringing a hand up as if to align herself with a landmark in her mind to get her

bearings. With a confident nod, she gestures towards the back of the house twice, "Got the Webers out that way and then Moore and his wife." Presumably all people who help keep the farm running. Their own little community. She gives a small shrug as she faces the pair once more. "So it's not like I'm out here on my own. Just... gets a bit too quiet for my likin' in the evenin'." she snickers, missing her chats with her boys.

Yan Sun continues to eat as she listens to Mallory talk, gaining a small smile as she rattles off the names of the neighbors, inadvertently answering her not-yet asked question about the light they saw. She offers a couple of polite nods as she listens, to make it clear that she's listening. The final comment causes her smile to grow a little. "I'm still not used to how quiet this planet gets." she admits with a little chuckle,

having a sip from the coffee, thankful for the plentiful cream and sugar. "This is really good." she comments off-handedly with a gesture of her fork as she scoops up another bit of food.

Jessica actually takes the time to agree with Yan Sun's final sentiment in between shoveling food into her mouth, little more than a hummed, "Mmm."

Mallory allows her smile to grow a tad as praise is leveled on her cooking. "You get used to the quiet." she says, bringing her elbow up to the table to prop her chin up in her hand. "Takes time, but you get used to it." she assures. "I'm not saying there's nothing to miss about Earth. There's plenty of things that I miss. But the noise is not one of them." she snickers.

Yan Sun snickers quietly, offering a few faint nods. "Still... adjusting, I guess. Where did you come from?" she asks with a bit of casual curiosity before scooping up another mouthful of food, mostly just chatting as they eat.

Mallory draws in a breath, brows furrowing. "Well, that's a tall order." she says through a snicker. "Suppose it's easier just to say UNAS. West coast. Been all over the place, though. Granted my travels mostly kept my feet on Earth up until that big ol' bombshell was dropped on us back in '57." She nods knowingly, as if it needs no clarification. She seems to realize her mistake a moment later and quickly gives context. "That we weren't the

biggest fellas on the block. Alien life. Was workin' for a company back then-... Maysten Industries.." she clarifies, not that the name should ring any bells, "...and they were doin' some big 'Agricultural Initiative' with some-... some other-..." she waves it off, deciding the details and the buzzwords aren't important, "...What it comes down to is that they had money on the brain and everyone was losin' their mind. Thought that the

big bucks was out here. Securin' contracts where others wouldn't. Bringin' a taste of Earth to the outer colonies." she recalls, cutting through the bullshit for her guests' sake. The old memories and the excitement she can't help but recall from those days causes her smile to widen slightly.

Jessica lifts her head from her plate, actually seeming to give the old woman her attention as she speaks, fork idly poking at a piece of meat near the edge of her plate.

Yan Sun 's listening grows more attentive as Mallory talks about her past, her eating slowing a bit as she wonders briefly what it must be like to live more than half your life back on Earth in the old days, and then come out here. To live all that change first hand. She nods a couple of times, wary of interrupting.

Mallory gives a small shrug, apprehensive about talking too much about herself, lest she bore her guests. "They offered me a spot out here so me and Charles packed up our things. Annie-... that was my daughter." she clarifies though, despite Trace and Malek's story, there seems to be no sadness when she brings up her daughter. Just a brighter smile. Maybe it's true what they say. Time heals all. "She had just started working for the company

I-... I got her the position." she tries to work through the details, taking her eyes off Yan Sun as she tries to recall the important bits. "Managed to talk them into bringing her into my unit and, by the end of '59, we were on a ship for Aite. Was me, Charles, Annie and her husband, Derek, along with a whole bunch of other folks." she recalls.

Jessica idly pushes the piece of meat around, watching it glide through the meat sauce on her plate as she listens to Mallory talk.

Yan Sun 's expression wavers a bit as she recalls what Trace and Malek told them, but as she keeps on talking her smile returns and she scoops up the last of her food. She's only had a couple of sips of her coffee - she mostly accepted it out of politeness in the first place. "I never realized things moved so fast..." she comments with interest, a small shrug following. "I... was born in '63." she adds with a slight chuckle, not

wanting to dwell since Mallory doesn't seem to. "I mean, we read about the first colonization waves in school, but... they never really talked about the Terminus."

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