#Leah'sHouse – February 27, 2022

Leah offers an equally somber, nearly-whispered, "...Yeah." in turn, a small nod of her head following, green eyes flicking to the batarian rather than meeting the young woman's eyes. She's no stranger to loss. So, despite the biotic's attempt on her life, there's no pride that comes with inflicting that sort of loss on another. A moment passes before she hazards a look Crux' way, frozen fingers dug into the pockets of the

borrowed jacket. "Stay with him?" she asks, indicating RC with a flick of her eyes his way. It's not hard to notice the change in her demeanor. It's a request, not an order. Crux isn't the enemy. Just another case of collateral damage due to someone else's own selfish desire for revenge. "Let me know if it looks like there's any more bleeding? I need to-..." she shrugs in the general direction of the exo-suit, "...check him.

Make sure he hasn't put out any calls to anyone recently. I need to know if I should be expecting more company." she says, an exasperated sigh slipping out beneath her words.

Crux follows Leah's gesture in the direction of the man that led them here. She offers a few small nods, gaze falling back to RC afterwards as she lets out a long breath. Her worry for the batarian remains, but Leah's change in demeanor and the promise of help on the way has eased the tension that permeated her body. She remains silent as she retakes her previous position, planting her knees on one of the jackets that help warm the

unconcious man to keep her legs from freezing more than needed. Her gaze is distant, the calm that's descended leaving her room to try and process the chaos of the last few minutes.

Leah remains for just a moment longer before starting back towards one of the men responsible for all of this, a particularly sharp gust of wind causing her to fold her shoulders forward a little and dip her head down to protect her face. Once she reaches him, she lowers into a crouch, gaze scanning across the exo-suit for any indication of where the man's omni-tool might slot in.

The omni-tool has been hastily attached to his wrist, presumably pried from the armor so that he could use it for his failed last-ditch attack. It's a lower-end combat model.

Crux grabs RCs hand again, squeezing it as her attention shifts between his face and the medigel-coated gunshot wound.

Leah brings her hand to the man's wrist, lifting it so she can remove the device with her other hand. Once free, she gives the omni-tool a quick once over through furrowed brows before activating it. Call history. Messages. Anything that might give her some sort of grasp on the man's activity over the last 24 hours is her goal. Anything that stands out. Gives her cause for concern. Distress beacon during his final moment's of

life. Messages to an extraction team before the operation began. Any indication that there's someone just over the horizon. While she has little reason to distrust Crux, there's no reason to assume the man that lays dead before her filled the young woman in on the entirety of his plan. She, as well as the others, were obviously disposable to the ex-Talons, judging by the way they mercilessly dispatched of the batarian without

a so much as a pause.

The only communications history in the last 24 hours appears to be a set of back-and-forth messages with Crux instructing her to plant a tracking program on Tara's omni-tool after a failed attempt to access Leah's. From the message context it seems that one of the ex-Talons had observed the two of them arriving at the Respite together. There's no indication of communication with an additional force.

Leah frowns as she hastily reads the exchange. Well, that explains how they tracked them home, and what the pair were doing in the Respite. She silently makes a mental note to bring Tara's omni-tool by Renala's office and deactivates the device in her hand, stowing it in the pocket of the jacket she's wearing.

After repeating the process with the turian's collected omni-tool, a bit of breathing room is granted when a lack of troubling correspondances on the device seems to further imply that there's nobody else coming. Sure, it's not an airtight confirmation, but it still feels like breathing room. Leah spends the next couple of minutes securing the battlefield. Collecting the weapons left on the ground- including RC's Vindicator and Crux'

sidearm- and stowing them away on the porch's outdoor couch and doing a more thorough search of the pair of ex-Talons. Once finished she takes a position on the porch, forearms pressed against the railing beside her Carnifex, her omni-tool perched in one hand as the sound of Francois and Tara cleaning up the glass inside rattles behind her. With a deep sigh and no small amount of dread, her finger seeks out Vasquez' contact details on her

device's interface and gives them a tap.

Neither of the disgraced Talons had much of interest on them. Just spare clips.

Crux has remained by RCs side, silent and focused on her friend as she counts the minutes, hoping help will arrive in time.

The call rings out for a while before Vasquez answers. "Chief Vasquez speaking." She sounds a little out of breath. Morning workout?

Leah draws a deep breath in through her nose and slowly exhales it in a puff of steam when any hope that the call might not be answered is dashed. "Hey, Chief..." she begins, her tone decidedly low energy. A stark contrast to her usual demeanor. "It's-... uhh-... Leah..." She rolls her eyes at herself, giving a shake of her head. "Guessing you probably~ already know that. Look, I know this probably isn't how you were

hoping to start your day- it sure as hell wasn't how I expected to start mine~" she continues, a sigh slipping out as she finds herself rambling a little, suddenly wishing she had taken a moment to consider what she would say before placing the call. "...but there's been a-... uhh-... an incident..." The cautious expression can practically be heard in her voice.

Vasquez lets Leah get the rambling out of her system at first, saying nothing, but the mention of an incident is met with an immidate response of: "Spit it out, Mercier."

Leah's bangs fall in her face as she hangs her head when she gets pretty much the exact response she both dreaded, and expected. She sucks in her lips, unsure of where to even start. "Talons-... well, ex-Talons, I guess-..." she quickly corrects before shaking her head at the pointless correction. Not relevant! "The ones that were dealing with House Bar'adon back on Omega." she explains, hoping Vasquez will connect the

dots with previous discussions they've had. Another sigh, deep and heavy escapes her. "They paid me a little visit this morning..."

There's a brief pause, and then a sharp "What? What's your situation? Should I be getting a team ready?"

Leah shakes her head to herself. "No-... no." she assures, "I'm fine. Tara and my dad are both fine. I-... uhh-..." She can't help but pass a glance out across the battlefield before her, looking over the compacted snow where boots trampled it underfoot, leaving a roadmap to the violent dance that too place. To the faded red that stains the powdery white snow. To the lifeless bodies, splayed out. But she steels her focus,

attention shifting back to the railing she's leaning against, "...I neutralized the threat." It's cold, but it gets the point across without going into the gritty details.

A longer silence, and sounds of walking. "Are you sure? I could bring Tara and your father in to HQ, put a team on standby. If there's trouble, I want Redrock prepared to face it." she suggests, no doubt wary of trusting Leah's words after the House Bar'adon incident.

Leah is quick to respond, unable to push back the frown pulling at her features. "I'm sure." she confirms. "I've already gone through their omni-tools. Scrubbed through messages. Call history." she lists, hoping to make it clear that she's not trying to keep Vasquez in the dark this time. "It doesn't look like this extends beyond the people right here. Seems like this was-... uhh-... personal. Not business." A moment passes before

a flustered noise escapes her. The last thing she wants is for Vasquez to feel like she can't be trusted. "I know this looks bad." she admits, "But I give you my word, Chief: When me and Tara escaped that building? I had no idea that this would follow us back here." If she had, she wouldn't have left the Talons breathing when she walked out of that warehouse. "But-... given everything that's happened?" 'Everything'

undoubtly meaning 'Unsanctioned assault against a batarian slaver House'. "I just-... I wasn't gonna keep you in the dark on this." Her voice grows quiet near the tail-end of her sentence, guilt settling into her tone.

A short break, and then a drawn-out sigh laced with frustration. "I want you in my office as soon as possible to go over everything in person. I want to be sure that this isn't going to be a problem for Redrock." It doesn't sound like a request. "...and if there's any uncertainty, the offer to secure your family stands. Don't be stupid, Leah." Don't be stupid again.

Leah hangs her head a little lower, nodding to herself. "Of course, Chief." she offers, sounding a little defeated. "I'll contact Briggs. I know he's been trying to pick up more shifts so I'm sure he won't mind covering for me at the Respite today." she says, obviously trying to keep Vasquez from having to clean this mess up as much as possible. "But it's probably going to be a few hours before I can get to HQ. They-... uhh-..."

she licks at her drying lips, lowering her voice and dipping her head as to not be heard by Crux, "...they brought some hired guns with them. They're barely more than kids, Chief." she says with distaste, sympathy coating her words, "One of them took a round during the exchange. I did what I could to stabilize him, but I've got Halisi en route. But once she gets him to the hospital and I've handled everything here, I'll be

by, okay?" she offers.

Silence descends on the call for a time as Leah's words are considered, and then a tired "Alright.", a little softer than her previous words. "I'll be waiting. Keep me in the loop if anything changes."

Leah nods once more, her gesture going unseen by the person it was intended for. "I will." she assures, allowing another moment pass to ensure Vasquez has nothing more to say before ending the call with a tap of her thumb. As soon as the interface dissipates, she closes her eyes, allowing herself the smallest of reprieves, a plume of steam erupting from the breath she expels into the cold Aite air. But she's still aware that she's

very much in the thick of it. There's no time to rest. Not yet. "How is he doing?" she calls out as her eyes peel open once more and she slips her omni-tool into the jacket pocket, raising her voice a little to be heard by the young woman kneeling beside the batarian. "No change in his breathing?"

Crux looks up at the sound of Leah calling out to her, looking a little disoriented upon being pulled out of her own head. "I-... I don't know. It's really faint. Do you think he's going to-"

There's a steadily growing rumble from the sky as a white-and-green shuttle with blinking lights approaches from the town. It's much sleeker than Redrock's Kodiak. More flying van than armored brick. The hospital's ambulance. Halisi must have called it in right away, it's only been minutes since Leah contacted her.

Crux ' attention is pulled towards the sound, eyes squinting against the bright sky until she spots the approaching vehicle. Her body is tense with nervous energy as she gets up from the ground. "Is that...?"

Leah's gaze shifts from Crux to the shape in the distance, her hand instinctively coming to rest overtop her Carnifex as her breathing slows. She doesn't immediately answer the woman's question, muscles tensing as she tries to identify the approaching shuttle. It's not until it gets closer and the identifiable coloring and blinking lights are visible that she lets out a deep breath. She brings her hand to one of the columns

flanking the stairs and starts down them, nodding her head. "It's from the hospital." she confirms to Crux, relief washing over her.

Crux lets out a breath, a relieved smile crossing her lips.

The ambulance slows as it nears Leah's house, immediately starting to descend once it's above. Holographic projectors activate on the underside, displaying a square at ground level that reads 'LANDING ZONE - KEEP CLEAR'. Since it doesn't rely on scorching thrusters like a military or cargo shuttle there's no snowmelt or gusts of hot air as it makes its landing, just a flurry of snow roused by the gravity bubble, dancing around like it's

caught in a snowglobe.

Leah is quick to wave Crux over to her as the shuttle begins to touch down, her other hand raising to block the disturbed snow from her face. "Give them room to work." she says, making sure to keep clear of both the landing zone and the area directly around the wounded batarian.

Crux nods a few times, casting a glance at RC before taking a few steps back, moving closer to Leah.

The shuttle stops a foot above the ground, the door on the side sliding open. Halisi disembarks alongside an asari paramedic. They rush right for RC with a hover-stretcher - they must have picked him out from the carnage while airborne. The stretcher is placed on the ground and a hasty medical scan of the batarian is performed without so much as a hello to Leah - all focus is on the injured man. An IV rack with a blood bag is waiting in the

ambulance alongside other equipment.

Leah searches out the familiar doctor's eyes when she comes into view, offering only a small dip of her head in greeting, well aware that now isn't really the time for pleasantries. She starts to direct them towards the wounded batarian but very quickly realizes they've already picked him out, causing her to remain where she is. "It looks like only the one round made it through his vest, but I didn't turn him over to look for an

exit wound. Didn't want to risk bleeding." she says, speaking up to be heard over everything. It's information she's already informed Halisi of and the doctor has almost certainly informed the paramedic accompanying her of any relevant info, but it never hurts to cover your bases just in case.

Halisi doesn't reply, instead rattling off a set of numbers and readings from the scan to the paramedic. Whatever she's seeing on her omni-tool has her frowning, but as the scan concludes she gives the asari a nod.

The paramedic nods in return, taking a deep breath as the telltale indigo glow of biotic energy starts to shimmer around her. She takes on a wide stance, both hands rising slowly palm up as the glow envelops RC and he lifts from the ground. He floats perfectly evenly over to the stretcher, deposited gently by the asari.

Halisi takes the time to inform Leah and the unfamiliar girl next to her that "No vital organs were hit, but he's lost a lot of blood and his readings are faint. We're taking him to the medcenter right away." while the paramedic carts the stretcher off into the ambulance. Her gaze lingers on Leah for a moment, unasked questions - about who this is, and about the carnage that sourrounds them - plain to see in her silver eyes, but she

doesn't wait for a reply before hurrying after the asari.

Crux fidgets in place, very much looking like she wants to accompany RC, but her face is full of uncertainty as she hesitates on the verge of calling out.

Leah nods to Halisi's words. There's a forced expression on her face. She wants to explain what all of this is about. To relieve herself of the burden of worrying about whatever Halisi may be thinking. Wondering if she's assuming the worst. But now just isn't the time. Peace of mind isn't worth further jeopardizing RC's life. So she bites back on her words for now. As Halisi begins to follow the asari, she looks Crux' way. It

doesn't take long to register the look on her face and, after the briefest of considerations, she brings one hand to Crux' upper back, urging her forward. "This is a friend of his." she calls out before following Halisi and the asari towards the shuttle, "I-... uhh-... I think that she should be with him." It's an attempt at a simple kindness, no doubt well aware that the next few hours of Crux' life are going to be bathed in

uncertainty. Fear for her friend. Fear of repercussions for her actions. But there's a practical reason as well: "She can probably answer any medical questions you have about him." she explains, shooting another look to Crux, as if urging her to corroborate this theory.

Crux looks relieved by Leah's intervention and she's quick to step up and nod. "Yeah- Yeah, I-... I've known him a long time." she confirms as she moves with the others.

Halisi casts a glance towards the girl, and nods. "Come along." she agrees, Leah's endorsement enough for her to assuage any worries about bringing anyone from such an uncertain and gruesome scene.

Crux flashes a nervous smile and nods again before climbing into the ambulance shuttle - time is of the essence and it doesn't look like Halisi has any intention of waiting around. The young woman mouths a 'thank you' to Leah before the door starts to close.

Halisi shoots Leah one more look once she's in to give her the chance to speak up if there's anything else.

Leah follows Crux along to the shuttle, but remains outside. As soon as Crux begins to climb inside, however, she seems to realize something, hastily slipping the jacket off and collecting her omni-tool from the pocket. She gives a small, almost apologetic tilt of her head. "This belongs with you." she says, pressing the jacket into Crux' hands, holding the young woman's gaze for just a moment. But she doesn't seem to want to

waste any more time than is necessary, and quickly steps back from the door, gaze fixing on the doctor. "I'll prep the rest of the bodies for transport to the morgue." she says, casting a quick glance off to the side, at one of the bodies that's out of sight, "Just-... send a pickup when you get the chance." she adds, meandering back another step, concerned look painted across her face as she watches Halisi.

Crux ' eyes widen a little in surprise, but she swallows hard and nods as she holds onto the jacket, remaining silent, expression an odd mix of emotions.

Halisi nods to confirm that it'll be handled, and adds that "We'll talk later." before the shuttle door closes.

Leah gives a nod of her own in response, continuing to back away from the shuttle. She mouths a silent, 'Thank you' to the doctor as the door begins to slide shut, arms already folding across herself to try and fight back the cold that's once again pressing against exposed skin.

The ambulance rises as smoothly as it set down, and takes off towards the town in a hurry.

Leah winces against scattered snow, remaining in place as she watches the shuttle ascend. Left alone with her thoughts, she casts a glance across the violent scene that decorates her front yard, one hand rising to run through her hair. With things quieting down, the knot in her stomach makes itself more apparent. This was supposed to be a safe place for her father. A quiet place for him to live out his days, trouble free. But,

once again, danger has found its way to her doorstep. Danger she brought home with her. And this time she didn't have a chance to put her father on the first cargo ship off planet. Didn't have time to whisk him out of harm's way. She draws in a deep breath in an attempt to calm her nerves as she turns back towards the humble home, feeling just a little heavier than she did just an hour ago, and starts back towards the front


Tara has been busying herself with helping to clean up after she managed to calm down Zoe, but her own unease has been plain to see, and once the ambulance could be heard outside she was glued to the window, watching the commotion outside. She moves to the door as Leah approaches, waiting just inside.

Francois too, found his way to the window for a spell, but quickly found that it only further stressed him out and soon returned to the task at hand to keep his mind occupied. He's taken a few boxes from the pantry and laid them out across the coffee table so he can tape them together to make a temporary window covering. When Tara moves to the door, he glances up from his seat on the couch.

Leah makes sure to scoop Tara's lost tuque up from the ground as she passes by it. It's a slow, sluggish movement now that the adrenaline has long passed, and it sends another sharp pain surging across the gash in her side. She pats the headwear against her thigh a few times in an attempt to knock some of the snow free and climbs up the stairs. Her head is low when she steps inside, almost startled by Tara's presence so close to

the door. She brings a hand up to wipe the bangs out of her face, forcing a weak smile into place. "Hey." she greets quietly, lifting the tuque up slightly and offering it to Tara, "Think you lost this."

Tara reaches out to take still-snowy hat, looking down at it for a moment before bunching it up in her hand, and then all her focus is on the battleworn woman in front of her. There's a moment of uncertainty, and then she steps closer, both arms wrapping around Leah and enveloping her in a sudden hug.

Leah's arms fall to her side as she's wrapped up in a hug, letting a heavy breath out through her nose and biting down against the discomfort that surges across her side. The gesture nearly instantly causes her eyes to glass up and she sniffs at the emotion threatening to slip out. But she manages to keep it under control, instead bringing her arms around Tara and giving her a gentle squeeze. "You okay, sweetheart?" she asks

quietly, gently stroking Tara's upper back with the palm of her hand.

Francois watches the pair, a somber look on his face as he holds back the questions racing through his head.

Tara nods against Leah's shoulder, squeezing a little tighter when the hug is return, the injury unknown to her.

Leah falls silent, seeming in no rush to pull away despite the pain in her side. Maybe a hug is just what she needs right now.

Francois allows a few moments to pass before voicing the question at the forefront of his mind. "You're okay...?" he asks. The silent nod he gets in response does little to alleviate his concern, but it's something. His gaze briefly falls to the table before returning to Leah, "...And the man? Is he...?"

Leah gives Tara another gentle squeeze before letting go, her weary smile widening briefly in an attempt at calming her concerns as she pulls back far enough to look the younger girl in the face. "He's with Halisi." she finally answers her father's lingering question, green eyes turning his way. "I think he's gonna be okay." she adds. She can't possibly know that. It's just a white lie. But maybe a white lie is what he needs right

now. A little bit of that illusion restored that was so suddenly shattered this morning. The one that separates her home life from the often-times perilous, bloody, harsh career she leads.

Francois gives a few small, distant nods, gaze turning back to the sheet of cardboard laid out on the table, looking a bit lost in thought.

Tara steps back a little as Leah lets go, her arms pulling back against her own chest, holding onto the hat. She doesn't say a word, just listening. There's questions in her eyes, and she's still rattled, but despite that seems more at ease now than a moment ago - maybe she needed the hug too. To feel Leah and confirm to herself that she's okay.

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