#Traveler'sGorge – July 16, 2021

The conversation naturally shifts from the wonders of Aite to the work that they're trying to do. 'They' meaning the Children of Aite, of course, even if the name is never said outright. It's something they talk about freely, perhaps eager to let Yan Sun into their little slice of the galaxy. To let her know why they decide to call this little mountain pass 'Home'. But they keep the conversation light. Focusing on the cooperation with the local

homesteads. The give-and-take two-way support that allows this place to exist. It's obvious that this is a point of pride for Kirill. The focus of his efforts. But anyone who has done even a quick search of the Children of Aite would know there's more to it than that. Violent clashes with local authorities. Guerilla attacks on invasive corporations until they have no choice but to abandon their operations. They have their fair share of blood on

their hands. But that's not discussed. Perhaps that's a part of this life that Kirill would rather forget. They speak with a passion that befits just how personal this is to all of them, eager to bring Jessica up to date on the going-ons of local projects and efforts that were transpiring when she left. The greenhouse, and all it involved. Deals made with local farms (Though the Jackson deal is left unmentioned for the sake of Amy's comfort).

As well as a particularly harrowing few weeks while they struggled to figure out what was wrong with their water pump.

Whatever it is that Jessica feared in coming back here is nowhere to be seen. They're a warm group, and her unmentioned transgressions seem to be water under the bridge. Paige and Thomas are the talkative sort while Gaz is the type to fade into the background, her presence often little more than a snicker or quick interjection as she works on her crafts. Caelus seems to be more Kirill's speed. Quiet. Soft spoken. But kind. Welcoming. Glen is

the first to call it a night. He has a whole outpost relying on him to have egg and cheese sandwiches (With a slice of fresh tomato, care of their new greenhouse!) ready by breakfast. Always an early start to the day when you're the cook. So much so that it's rare for him to join the others for their regular hangouts around the firepit. But tonight was a special occasion. Saying goodbye to an old friend. He doesn't depart without incident,

springing an unwelcome hug on Jessica with assurances that he'll be present in the morning to see her off. Much to Thomas' indifference, the pot of stew is left behind on a small heating pad in case anyone wants a second helping.

Yan Sun has listened with genuine interest as the others talk about their work and their life out here - oh so different from her own, but there's something shared at the core - a spirit of cooperation and desire to live free that she knows well. She's certainly done her share of extranet reading, but she doesn't mention what they don't - she doesn't know this world and the struggles here well enough to judge the darker side of the Children

of Aite, and she knows all too well how easy it is for those in power to twist the truth for their purposes. Or to provoke well-meaning people into lashing out. She's largely settled for listening so far - this is Jessica's evening, not hers, and she's happy to learn more about the Gorge and its people. Her beer ends up emptied fast as she uses it to wash down the stew once hunger overcomes disgust. A second helping is looking

unlikely now that she's no longer starving, however.

Amy hasn't said much, a quiet and slightly awkward presence around the fire, but she seems happy to be included. She's been nursing her beer, seeming in no rush to finish it.

Yan Sun listens with genuine interest as the others talk about their work and their life out here - oh so different from her own, but there's something shared at the core - a spirit of cooperation and desire to live free that she knows well. She's certainly done her share of extranet reading, but she doesn't mention what they don't - she doesn't know this world and the struggles here well enough to judge the apparent darker side of the

Children of Aite, and she knows all too well how easy it is for those in power to twist the truth for their purposes. Or to provoke well-meaning people into lashing out. She's largely settled for listening so far - this is Jessica's evening, not hers, and she's happy to learn more about the Gorge and its people, although she did chime in with the briefest of anecdotes about the struggle to storm-proof the 'place she used to live'.

Apparently it was located on the roof of an old apartment building and often got hit hard by rough weather. They had ended up modifying a mass effect device meant to reinforce the city's skyscrapers. She hasn't elaborated on where they got said device, or who the friends she lived with were. Her beer ends up emptied fast as she uses it to wash down the stew once hunger overcomes disgust. A second helping is looking unlikely now that

she's no longer starving, however.

Paige drops into her seat once she's passed out another round of beers to those that need them. There's a soft alcohol-induced redness to her cheeks as she peers across the fire at Yan Sun. The small slice of insight into Yan Sun's life was met with great interest from her. Something that she seems eager to return to. "So... what is it like?" she asks, elbows on her knees and leaned forward slightly. "Where you're from, I mean." she's quick

to clarify. "I mean, I've-... seen pictures and vids, but-..." she explains before trailing off with a bit of a sheepish shrug. "There's... a lot of people, right?" she asks, sounding a bit unsure of her question, as if worried that it may sound stupid.

Kirill allows his smile to grow a bit wider at Paige's question, but he remains quiet. It's not often that the young girl seems her age. The sort of things she's been through age a person. But it's nice to know that the wide-eyed inquisitive young woman still exists somewhere beneath all of that neurosis.

Jessica had a slow start. Given her rocky history with this place, on top of her usual guarded nature, apprehension was a given. But it was short-lived. Ushered away by the warm welcome of those she once considered the closest friends she had. It's a silent assurance that maybe she's more than just a stranger to them. More than just the secrets she hid from them. The alcohol certainly helps, and a grin is present as she takes a sip from

her third beer once Paige passes it her way. The question causes her to look Yan Sun's way with exaggerated, feigned interest, having tossed her own fair share of similar questions Yan Sun's way since their chance meeting.

Gaz seems to perk up a little as Paige turns the focus onto their guest, the intermittent sounds caused by her tinkering temporarily halting as she looks Yan Sun's way.

Yan Sun seems a little amused by the question, a snicker slipping out, but it's not meant to be condescending. The smile on her lips is a bit sad as she considers the question. "Yeah... there's... a lot of people." she confirms. "About 15 million in Hong Kong itself. Closer to 90 million in the entire megacity." she elaborates, taking a sip of her new beer before continuing. "It's, uh-..." A slightly awkward chuckle, eyebrows furrowing. "I

don't really know how to explain it to someone that's never seen it. It's almost the opposite of here, I guess. A lot of skyscrapers. Other areas where buildings have layered over the last few centuries, although a lot of those have been getting torn down. It's, uh... never quiet, and never dark. Nothing's ever far away. With that many people, there's always things happening, no matter the time of day, and there's always skycars and

drones buzzing around, ships coming and going from the port. Between the haze and the light you can never see the stars. Not... not like here." she says with a glance at the night sky once more. "But the city is pretty in its own way. It's by the ocean, and... the rainbow of lights from all the holography - ads, traffic, that kinda thing - hitting the water can be... pretty cool." She turns a little quieter towards the end, something

almost like longing in her voice, and her gaze flicks to the fire again before she takes another swig from her beer.

Amy leans forward a bit in her chair, her curiosity obvious as Yan Sun speaks - she's captivated by the idea of something so alien to her. The kind of place she's only heard about as hives of sin and corruption in her parents' cautionary tales.

Paige's eyes go wide at the numbers thrown her way. "90 million?! Shiiiiiit!" she exclaims in disbelief, which actually gets something not far from a cackle from Kirill, whom she shoots a quick scowl. But as Yan Sun continues, her disbelief is replaced by a sheepish smile. "I used to go with my dad to Adrasteia sometimes-..." she begins but trails off. It's a badge of honor that she's probably brought up in conversation with everyone

around this fire at one point or another. A feather in her hat to show just how worldly she was. When your whole world is homesteads and frontier towns, it felt like a point of pride when she used to brag to the others her age about her trips to the city. But in the face of Yan Sun's experiences it feels almost silly. Her gaze flicks downward towards the fire as she gives a shrug. "...But that's-... uhh-... not even close to the same

thing..." she snickers.

Jessica brings one hand back against the bench so she can lean back a little as she listens, Paige's reaction garnering a snort out of her, recalling a similar interest from Paige. Even once she opened up about being from Adrasteia. To Paige, that was the big city. "Mmm." she hums as she takes another quick sip of her beer, leaning a bit so her shoulder bumps Yan Sun's, "This sounds like my sort of place. Who is needing to see stars

when there is clubs?"

Kirill has barely touched his second beer, thumb gently tapping against the neck of it. His playlist of music continues, falling to the background as discussion drowns it out. "How would ya like to figure out food for a place that size?" he teases Paige.

Paige's eyes widen once more, cheeks puffing up with air before sputtering it out. "Noooo thanks. This place is enough of a pain in the ass!" she chuckles.

Gaz has a chuckle of her own. "Ma'Shah-..." she begins before promptly elaborating, "Where I grew up? Less than one-hundred people." she snickers. Her English is good, but heavily accented. Batarian. It's an accent that Yan Sun has probably heard many times during her stay on Aite, if not quite so thick. With a glance Jessica's way she adds, "No clubs." as if there was ever any question, which gets another round of chuckles from the others.

Yan Sun stops in the middle of another sip of beer in order to avoid spilling as Jessica nudges her, a snicker slipping out. "Yes, we'll go clubbing, I promise." she teases with a small smirk before Kirill and Paige's exchange draws her attention, and a quiet laugh. She's a little surprised when Gaz chimes in, turning her head to glance her way over her shoulder. "It's hard for me to imagine growing up in a place like that. Or... like this,

I guess." The last bit is added with a look around the Gorge before settling back on the group around the fire. "That's-... I don't mean that as a bad thing!" she adds, as if worried she's going to offend them. "I'm just... soooo not used to being this isolated. So... far away from everything. Having to worry about wild animals and growing your own food and stuff. Relying on a..." a gesture in the direction of the little comm

tower. "...single, homemade antenna for connection to the rest of the galaxy. Back home, you're always online, and if I got hungry, I'd... grab something from a vending machine or whatever."

Jessica gives a pleased hum at Yan Sun's response. "Lots of clubbing." she corrects through her grin, a quick snicker slipping out at Gaz' addition.

Rafe gives a dismissive gesture with his hand as Yan Sun speaks. "Nah. I get it." he assures. "Hell, to be honest? This?" he continues, giving a quick, sweeping gesture to indicate the Gorge as a whole. "It took a bit of getting used to for me, too, and I've spent most of my life on Aite. But-... there is a certain charm to it. A certain-..." he stammers, searching for the right words.

Caelus is quick to finish Rafe's sentence for him, the word already on the tip of his tongue. "Peacefulness." he says, to which Rafe is quick to nod.

Gaz gives a small shrug, gaze briefly turning to the project laid out on the table in front of her. "It is difficult to consider a life outside of what you know. I-... think it is the same for everyone." she says with a considered hum as she turns her attention back to Yan Sun once Rafe and Caelus have said their piece. "For me? This is all that I have known. It is familiar. Our House grew our own food. Worked the land. It was how we

survived. How we lived. We ate what we could grow or trade for with the neighboring settlements." she explains. "But when I went to Adrasteia? It was like going to another planet. So many options! So many people!" she recalls the sensory overload through an audible smile. "And what you describe?" she shakes her head to herself, friendly smile from ear-to-ear, "I would not know where to begin! How do you even decide what to eat?!" The

laughter that accompanies it isn't meant to be offensive. Moreso at her own expense, well aware that her lifestyle and ideologies must seem so strange to someone from so far.

Paige chirps in once Gaz finishes, tilting forward in her seat. "You eat everything! All of it!" she responds wistfully to Gaz' rhetorical question through a chuckle, which gets one in turn from a few of the others around the fire. "I would never eat the same thing twice!" she continues, places like Adrasteia and Hong Kong sounding so far away through her lens. So far removed from the people that come and go through Freedom Falls'

spaceport on a daily basis.

Thomas chuckles alongside the others before giving his mostly-empty bowl of stew that's sat on the ground a prod with his boot. "I sure as hell wouldn't touch this shit ever again, I'll tell you that much."

Yan Sun smiles a little as Rafe speaks up, glad they understand what she means. She sips her beer again before Gaz voice makes her look over her shoulder, the final comment making her laugh too - louder with Paige's and Thomas' additions as she turns back to the fire. "I do miss the food." she admits. "The streetfood, the noodle shops, the restaurants... barbequing on the roof, when it's sunny."

Amy is still listening closely, quiet fascination on her face. Jessica's interjection makes her eyebrows furrow a bit, but the conversation moves on before she can muster the courage to speak, although her curiosity is obvious. She's a little comforted by the others chiming in - she's not alone in having a lived in a tiny bubble all her life. Paige's enthusiastic reply to Gaz draws a loud snort of laughter from her that causes immediate

embarrassment, and her gaze falls to her half-empty beer bottle, looking down the neck of it.

Gaz has a chuckle at Paige's response, but her eyes briefly slip shut as the others continue to talk about food, a sound of longing escaping her as she recalls all of the food back in Adrasteia. "I miss the pastries..." she admits a bit sheepishly. They don't get much in the ways of fresh pastries out here.

Paige whines in turn as Yan Sun snaps off a list of options.

Kirill has another hearty chuckle. "Sounds like you're considerin' tagging along with them..." he teases Paige, gesturing towards Jessica and Yan Sun with a dip of his head in their direction.

Paige rolls her eyes at Kirill. "I wish..." she mutters. "But we both know this place wouldn't last a week without me." she says, mostly in jest, but there's a hint of that responsibility behind her words, far too grand for someone her age.

Kirill gives a dip of his head. "You'll get no argument out of me." he admits modestly, bushy beard doing little to mask the smile beneath it.

Jessica shifts a bit heavier against Yan Sun as she talks about Hong Kong, her smile tempering into something a bit softer. With Yan Sun on her right, she's unable to look to her face without it being quite obvious, so she merely glances down at her leg for now. The exchange between Paige and Kirill gets a small snort of laughter from her, as well as a reminder that it won't be too long before Aite is in her rearview mirror. Something

she tries not to think about too much. Instead, she glances back across the fire towards Paige. "Don't worry. I will be eating enough foods for both of us." she taunts. "And I will be sending you pictures of allll of them." she adds with a small lift of her brow, just to rub a bit of salt in the wound.

Paige does her best to level an unamused look at Jessica, but it doesn't fully manifest, tarnished by the admission that Jessica actually plans to keep in touch beyond tonight.

As another bout of laughter escapes those around the fire, a voice slips from the darkness behind Jessica and Yan Sun. "Sounds like I'm late for the party." it says. Male. Familiar. Even to Yan Sun. That unique blend of accents- French, warped by a local batarian dialect.

Yan Sun snickers at Jessica's taunting, although the implication isn't lost on her either, and the smile that follows is... pleased? Proud? There's an encouraging look in Kirill's direction. Her attention is immediately diverted by the voice behind her, startling a little against Jessica and spilling a bit of her almost-full beer. "Gah!" she exclaims as she looks over her shoulder. Her eyes narrow as they settle on the man behind the log.

"Youu-... are way too quiet." she says, pointing... accusingly...? ...at Jean-Luc with the hand holding her bottle, their previous encounter fresh in her mind.

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