The chill outside seeps in through the open window as Jessica and Yan Sun await entry. The sound of activity can be heard just beyond the walls of the compound. A vehicle from somewhere within growls to life. Muffled voices and distant laughter on the other side of the gate are carried by the wind. Jessica wears the tension in her shoulders but, thankfully, they're not forced to wait very long before they're given the 'all clear' from Thomas.
#Traveler'sGorge – July 22, 2020
The gate opens, revealing the outpost beyond it and lending faces to the voices that were carried over the wall by the wind, bustling with activity as people go about their daily activities.
Jessica bids a curt farewell to Thomas, proving yet again to be a master at removing the 'pleasant' from 'pleasantries'. But there's a moment of hesitation as she peers through the windshield, past the Gorge's gate. Despite the painful memories associated with her time here, it's impossible to ignore the significance this place has held for her. It wasn't that long ago that this was the closest thing to a 'home' she had. In a lot of
ways, it still is. She adjusts her grip on the steering wheel as she tries to ignore the lump in the back of her throat and the truck slowly lurches forward.
Yan Sun watches the gate open to reveal the makeshift settlement within, her expression a mixture of curiosity and a sympathetic apprehension born from Jessica's obvious nerves. She returns her hand to her knee to give it another squeeze in an attempt to reassure her just a little as they roll through the gate.
Jessica releases a breath she wasn't even aware she was holding as Yan Sun gives her knee a squeeze and she swallows at that lump in her throat. They continue slowly down a dirt road that, despite being a bit bumpy, is well maintained and kept clear of snow. At random intervals crates line the dirt road, each topped with lantern- currently turned off, of course- to serve as beacons at night and light the way. On their left a farm of
solar panels cover the open ground beyond the wall for a good fifty yards or so. While it might not hold up to the wonders of Hong Kong, it's still rather impressive when one considers how it was all probably patched together on-site with. As one might imagine, the panels require regular attention this time of year to remain clear of snow and debris carried in by the wind and an asari can be seen casually dusting them off with a
broom, seeming to be in no rush. To their right is a canopied tent with a fire pit out front. It's nothing fancy, just a ring of stones with a few chairs and a log around it for seating. Smoke smoulders off of it but the fire seems to have recently gone out.
Yan Sun 's attention wanders across the compound as they slowly roll further in, taking in their surroundings. So very different from what she's used to, and different even to the relative civilization of Freedom Falls. This is a real frontier settlement. Prefabs, tents and cobbled-together tech. Her eye lights up as she checks for extranet access and local networks out of little more than curiosity.
Up ahead on their right is another large, unremarkable, canvas tent. Across from it- just beyond the solar farm- is a long, glass building. Unmistakably a greenhouse. Beyond that is a sea of colorful tents of all shapes and sizes. At least a good fifteen to twenty on each side of the road. Some have canopies. Others, makeshift seating areas. Each oriented in a different direction with little-to-no uniformity. It's like a small village of tents.
People stroll between the tents on their way to whatever tasks await them and children play without a care in the world, but few pay any attention to the truck's arrival. The majority of the Gorge's residences seem to be human from what can be gleamed, but there's a fair share of turian and asari to be seen as well. Beyond the tent village is an open space that's used for vehicle storage. Plenty of custom built trucks- not entirely unlike the
one they're currently in- are parked amongst other vehicles. And past that, in the canyon proper, are a number of prefab buildings, the most eye catching amongst them supporting a large antennae atop its roof. As the antennae implies, Yan Sun's probe returns some results. There is extranet access! Not a strong signal. Hell, maybe not even strong enough to be considered a 'weak' signal. But it's there! A few devices pop up, but it's probably
not all that surprising that there's not much to be found in the way of publically broadcasting networks.
Jessica's attention seems to be mostly occupied by the greenhouse, brow furrowed as she studies it. She seems so fixated on it that she almost entirely misses the large, familiar, bearded man stood out front of it on the side of the road and the much smaller woman at his side.
Yan Sun briefly makes note of the results of her digital prodding, telling her message inbox to refresh but leaving everything else untouched for the moment. As they continue deeper into the Gorge she follows Jessica's attention toward the greenhouse. As soon as she notices Kirill she assumes that's what caught her attention, giving her leg another squeeze before letting go and straightening up a little. She studies the side of Jessica's
Jessica's expression is hard to read, but she looks to be surprised more than anything as they approach the structure. Eventually, as they near, a sound escapes her. An expelled breath that falls somewhere between amusement and elation. The truck barely has a chance to roll to a stop before she's already poking her head out the window to address the pair. "You did it?!" she calls out.
Kirill allows that kind, unassuming smile to cross his face as the truck approaches, offering a small nod of his head in greeting. He seems to be no worse for wear than when they last saw him. The shorter woman at his side, however, looks to be having a less-than-ideal day. Arms folded across her chest she watches the truck with a glare that could rival Jessica's.
Kirill takes a couple of slow steps towards the hulking vehicle as it rolls to a stop. His mouth moves to speak up, but Jessica beats him to the bunch. The question causes him to give a glance back over his shoulder, assessing the structure behind him for a moment before turning his attention back to the woman leaning out of the driver's side window. "Well, we're still workin' out the kinks but-... yeah." he confirms with a set of nods as he
Yan Sun flashes Kirill a small smile and a wave in response to his nod, distracted from pondering the glare of the woman next to him by the exchange about the greenhouse. She listens in silent curiosity, gaze scanning across the building briefly as she tries to figure out what exactly they 'did'.
Amy can be seen shooting some curious glances towards the truck from where she's working inside the greenhouse. She didn't have time to get an answer from Paige on who exactly this 'Jessica' is to garner such a reaction before she and Kirill had left to meet the new arrivals.
Jessica is unable- despite all attempt- to resist the smile tugging at the corners of her mouth as she settles back into her seat, gaze scanning over what she can see of the large building from their position. "You actually did it..." she repeats, this time more to herself than to Kirill.
Paige makes no attempt to approach the vehicle, Jessica's words only seeming to further agitate her as she lets out a pointed, frustrated breath and purposefully looks down the road. A move that doesn't seem to go unnoticed by Jessica.
Kirill lets out a snicker of amusement at Jessica's surprise and reaches up to grip the edge of the driver's side window as he reaches the truck and pulls himself up onto the step with a grunt so he can better see inside the cabin. With Yan Sun no longer obscured from him by the height of the hulking vehicle, he offers her a nod in greeting. "Yan." he offers respectfully.
Yan Sun flashes another smile when the bearded man climbs into view. "Hey Kirill." she says, the unexpected surprise and excitement coming from Jessica seeming to boost her mood even though she doesn't really have a clue what it's about. She looks significantly more disheveled than last he saw her. Close to two weeks on the road has left its marks. Her hair is unwashed and messy under her beanie, her clothes are worn and dirty, and there's
an underlying sense of exhaustion despite the energizing effect of finally reaching their next destination.
Kirill tilts his attention towards Jessica. More specifically, towards the awesome and not-at-all ridiculous hat on her head and the pair of sunglasses affixed to her face. "Guess that answers the question of where those got off to..." he mutters, reaching out to take back his prized hat.
Jessica continues to stare past Kirill in disbelief at the project she never imagined would be finished. It had seemed like such a pipedream. It's only when she sees the hand moving towards her that the smile slips from her face and she tilts back out of the man's reach, protecting her rightfully stolen hat. With her left hand she gives his arm a light swat. "Fuck off. It looks better on me." she informs him matter-of-factly. Kirill
relents, but gives her a bit of a browbeating that causes her to let out an annoyed sigh. "You will get your stupid fucking hat back." she assures dismissively.
Kirill merely gives a shake of his head, her crudeness having lost its shock value on him long ago, but doesn't press the issue. "So-... uhh-... everything alright? You two didn't run into any trouble out there, did you...?" he asks, gaze shifting from Jessica back to Yan Sun- the more likely of the two to give him a straight answer- as he indirectly probes for some kind of explanation for their unannounced arrival.
Yan Sun 's eyebrows furrow slightly as she considers the question for a moment. "Nope, no trouble." she soon assures with another small smile. "The truck's been good to us. And I did manage to change the power cell, just for the record." she says, the final bit added in an attempt to keep things light. She glances toward Jessica, perhaps hoping that she'll chime in with an explanation of their visit since she doesn't really feel like it's
Jessica shifts uncomfortably in her seat, gaze shooting Yan Sun's way as she speaks up. "She was bitching for wanting a shower-..." she's quick to chime in with a dismissive shrug. Worrying that might not be enough of an excuse, she hurries to add, "...And we also were not sure if we are having enough juice to get back to Freedom Falls." In an attempt to further sell her lie, she leans forward and gives the readout on the dashboard a
Kirill gives a nod to Yan Sun's assurance. Her addition about the power cell gets a snicker out of him. "Never doubted ya." he says. As Jessica chimes in, his gaze turns from Yan Sun to the readout on the dash, studying it with a small raise of his brow. It doesn't do much to corroborate her claim, but he learned long ago not to sweat the small things when it came to Jessica, it just leads to arguments and frustration. Besides, at the end of
the day? He's just happy she's here. So he doesn't push the issue. "Uhh-... yeah." he says with a couple of nods, "That shouldn't be a problem. We'll make sure you're good to go." He casts a glance back Paige's way but, as soon as she feels his eyes on her, she pointedly shifts the rest of her body to continue watching down the road. It's enough to let him know she probably doesn't want to join them, so he just gives a nod up the
road towards the area with the rest of the vehicles. "Well, you know where to take us." he says, shifting on the step slightly to get a better grip.
Jessica draws a small breath in through her nose as she settles back into her seat, pleased that he's not about to make a big deal about it. Her gaze turns towards the woman outside that's pointedly avoiding giving her any attention as Kirill adjusts his grip. Soon enough, the vehicle begins to lurch forward once more.
Yan Sun rolls her eyes slightly at Jessica's excuse, briefly trying to catch Kirill's eye from behind Jessica and shoot him a meaningful look, well aware by this point that he probably sees past the bluster. As they start to move again her gaze shifts ahead, remaining silent.
Kirill meets Yan Sun's gaze, giving her that knowing look of his before he turns his focus back on the road. "So-... uhh-... you just plannin' on fuelin' up and heading out, or...?" he asks, attempting to make small talk as they slowly make their way towards the other vehicles.
Jessica keeps her attention on the road, merely shrugging at Kirill's question as if she hadn't considered it yet. "I'm not sure." she says, the fluffy hat atop her head moving slightly as she furrows her brow as if thinking on it. "Maybe we will stay here for the night and leave in the morning...?" she puts out there, shooting a look Yan Sun's way to make sure she's on board with that idea.
A young boy frantically waves a mitten-clad hand to Kirill as they pass the tent-town, a gesture that Kirill is quick to return. In the distance, beyond the prefab buildings and a statue that's difficult to make out from here, the gate at the opposite end of the outpost opens to let a vehicle out.
Yan Sun lets out a barely audible snort and smirks slightly. "Sure." she agrees, playing along to spare Jessica's dignity if nothing else. "Would be nice to get out of the truck for a night." she adds quite honestly, although she has to fight to keep from smiling.
Jessica hums a, "Mmm." in affirmation with Yan Sun when she confirms that she doesn't have a problem with the plan before passing a look back Kirill's way. But, considering her history with this place and the manner in which she left, she's hit by the sudden realization that his words may have just been a suggestion masquerading as a question. After all, why would any of them want her back here? "Or-..." she shrugs, once more looking to
the road, "...Maybe we should just-... get moving again soon." she offers, attempting to spare herself the embarrassment of being forced out.
Kirill casts a brief glance at the woman in the driver's seat, her transparent concerns far from lost on him, before gesturing towards a spot near the rest of the vehicles. "Well, up to you. But it looks to me like the two of you could probably use a good night's rest." he says, well aware of the tolls that life on the road can take on one. "And it'll get ya out of this truck for a bit. Never hurts to spend a day stretching your legs." he
Yan Sun shoots Jessica an encouraging look as she waits for her to respond, silently hoping that she'll accept. Mostly because it's obvious this place still matters to her, and she wants her to have a chance to say goodbye. The very enticing prospect of a hot shower and somewhere to sleep that isn't the cramped cabin of the truck is just a bonus. Really.
Jessica takes a moment to line the truck up in the empty spot before shutting it off, causing the heavy rumble of the engine to die out. The look she's met with as she glances Yan Sun's way garners a roll of her eye and a heavy sigh. "Fine." she agrees, as if doing so moreso for Yan Sun's sake than her own, though the telltale sign of a smirk tugs at the corner of her mouth. "We will stay for the night." she continues, turning her
Kirill allows his own smile to fully manifest. "Sounds like a plan. Tell ya what, why don't the two of you gather up whatever ya don't wanna leave here in the truck and get situated over in the 'guest house'? I'll find someone to get to work on replacin' the power cell-..." he gives the truck's door a hearty pat, "...and then meet ya over there with some fresh sheets and clean towels for the shower. How's that sound?" he asks, looking
Yan Sun smiles brightly once Jessica relents, nodding when Kirill looks her way. "That.. that sounds great. Thanks." she says, smile widening a bit as she shifts in her seat, already collecting some loose items strewn about the truck cabin.