Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Cybermaxx
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Smith's Rest | Transit Station
January 16th, 2677

Megafauna and marauders, that was what they'd been hired to protect New Anchorage against. Those were the typical threats a settlement could expect, ones Mara was intimately familiar with- she'd done a hundred jobs just like this one back at Black Steel. Only difference now was the extended stay in a new environment and the lack of oversight. She could see her brother shifting uncomfortably out of the corner of her eye, though she hadn't a clue why.

Another question was thrown the commander's way, this time from a young woman with curious accent that Mara couldn't place. She had to wonder why so many people from so many parts of the world had come to a place as small and insignificant as this. The pilot wanted to know everyone's favorite question:

Where was the line?

Now it was Mara's turn to shift uncomfortably, bouncing on one foot and then other in the interim period between the question being asked and Graham answering. Mara didn't come all the way to the edge of the world to be reminded of what she'd left behind. The journey had been too long and the cost too great to discover Graham was no better than the Company.

The cold wind kissed her cheeks the moment the door opened and they all stepped outside. Alaska was something of a frozen hellscape, Mara had come to learn. Just taking a walk without the proper winter gear was liable to get you killed. Add on top of that the monstrous wildlife, terrible weather and crazed raiders? It somehow managed to be worse than Europa. She had to steel herself for the simple act of walking to the other side of the base.

It didn't do much when it came to Graham's little speech, however.

There was a noxious coldness to his words. They brought memories of her father impaling through her chest, so sharp and vivid that she could've sworn she was standing before him again. Good and evil was a child's fantasy. Empathy was weakness, all that mattered was discipline. More than one mercenary she'd encountered had held a similar sort of philosophy. Pretty much all of 'em were just assholes looking to twist their assholishness into some kind of leadership skill.

They thought it made them stronger or something. Never did 'em much good when Mara put a beam through their cockpit, though.

'And here I thought this place might be different. Stupid.'

He was trying to scare them, intimidate them. It was easy to tell by the way he was looking at each and every one of them like a buzzard checking if its prey was dead or not yet. Mara could hide her gritting teeth behind pursed lips from him but not the redness in her cheeks. Maybe he'd mistake it for the cold, but even if he didn't?

'I'm not leaving,' Mara told herself. 'I've dealt with way worse than anything this guy can throw my way.'
Hidden 7 mos ago Post by DruSM157
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Smith's Rest | HQ Tram Station
January 16th, 2677


Good and evil. That was a humorous thought indeed. Enough years in the wastes were enough to show anyone that when put into a horrible, deadly situation, good and evil are replaced with rationality and barbarism. And every idiot with a gun, an NC or a sharp enough stick thought they were sly enough to be as barbaric as they wanted. Those were the kinds of folks Graham mentioned; raiders who preyed on any kind of scrap they could get. But something else seemed odd; and in the pit of Alan's gut, he had a strong feeling that was why he was out here at the ass-end of the world. This guy was corporate through and through. His dress, his words, his stance. Everything reeked of professionalism. Which was hilarious to Alan, who was about as professional as a dishcloth.

"The fact that you're not promising us a share from every corpse we loot at least means you're less of an asshole than some of the job posters out there," Alan smirked. "But then again, this all smells way too professional to be a rinky-dink out of the way settlement. The fact that they have someone like you-" Alan nodded to Graham, "trying to organize a bunch of mercs and scavvers into some kind of military is interesting." He looked around at the pilots. They all came from various walks of life, he could tell by the gear they wore, the dirt on some of their faces. "Is that what you want out here? A military to protect a bunch of snow and scrap?"
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Hidden 7 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Inkarnate
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PART III: Perspective


“Interesting perspective.”

Graham reached into his pockets, retrieving a pack of synthetic cigarettes from their casing. As he continued to lead the group from the transit station his eyes met those of other key staff members and pilots that were going about their duties. The veteran commander pondered what Alan could mean, as all eyes came to him. The raven-haired Denver-Vegas native looked back at the would-be pilots. He still wasn't sure about any of them, even if he more-or-less had been tasked at vetting them for the greater good. A greater good he did not particularly believe in.

The best answer he could make was pragmatic, though he knew he had to pivot to bring questions to Alan's perspective. To see how he and the other pilot's would react.

“Do you just see snow and scrap here? I think while you were busy looting corpses out beyond the trenches of Mississippi you lost the onus of what we are supposed to be doing out here in this world we have inherited.”

A curt, “And what is that, exactly?” came from one of the pilots. It didn’t matter to Graham which one.

“Building something.” Graham smirked, unabashedly full of confidence. “New Anchorage is trying to build a coalition. The big corporations like Fairbanks and Paragon don’t really care about what’s out here in Alaska, so I’ve been tasked here to build infrastructure. You might all come from rough situations and are strapped for cash, but you should be able to see that this is going to be a whole lot better than wondering if your buddy is going to shoot you in the back of the head when the job is done.”

Graham may have never flown as an independent, but he knew what the life was like. Officially, he hadn’t been a combat pilot in over-a-decade, and unlike some of his peers he had never moved away from Denver-Vegas for his entire life. He had never stepped in the mud of Georgia or in the rust-laden graves of the Midwestern Territories. He had never wondered when his next meal would come or if his best friend thought he’d be better off killing him for a bigger cut of the money offered by some fledgling settlement with no real corporate sponsorship. That was a life he had only seen from the other side of the fence.

Sometimes he wondered if he had the right choice staying behind for as long as he did. He discarded the thought instead of dwelling on it as he continued to appraise the pilots.

“I've read all of your information. I know you want to be here. Let's get you settled and see if you can make the final cut.”
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Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by DruSM157
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Smith's Rest | HQ Tram Station
January 16th, 2677


“Do you just see snow and scrap here? I think while you were busy looting corpses out beyond the trenches of Mississippi you lost the onus of what we are supposed to be doing out here in this world we have inherited.”

Alan clenched his fist, and fought the urge to roll his eyes as Graham rambled on about the inheritance they were beholden to. The world they inherited was full of monsters, both human and beast. It was full of war, of violence, of liars and cheats. And this fucking asshole, this cocksucking Company Soldier was going to lecture them on what they should be doing out there. Had he ever crawled through burning detritus, holding a parent’s charred limb in their hand? Had they ever listened to children die over the radio? Screaming, crying for their mothers?

Calm down. He needed to be here. There was a purpose for him at this place, this far away in the wastes. Graham and New Anchorage was an opportunity. It was a chance to finally get what he truly wanted. “Alright then,” Alan broke the silence of Graham’s cold words. “Why don’t we get the grand tour started then?”

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Hidden 7 mos ago Post by Cybermaxx
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Smith's Rest | HQ Tram Station
January 16th, 2677

Another pilot was sparring with Graham, asking questions along the same line Demetrius had earlier. Everything about this whole operation felt off. Not sinister, but off; like somebody had stuck a bunch of jigsaw puzzles in the same box and none of the pieces quite fit together. Demi gave the questioner a sidelong once over. He was rough, to be diplomatic about it. Worn down by time. His clothes were ratty and dirty, and his face looked like it'd been bashed in by a lead pipe one too many times. The way he talked about the job gave Demi a pretty good idea where he'd come from.

There was a strange, twisting feeling in his gut as he thought about every waster he'd ever encountered. Few of them had faces or names, and fewer still had been met outside of firefights. Times like these acquainted a person with strange bedfellows, Demi mused, as he took in the rest of the confrontation. It burned short and hot, with the commander getting under the waster's skin and the man being forced to hold back his anger. Wasn't hard to see he was angry, either, the way he was clenching his fists.

Demi waited until Graham turned back around to lead them away before he moved. He was strangely graceful in his step and just as quiet as he slipped through the small crowd until he was padding along beside the waster.

"He's a real treat." He muttered. The boy had a voice like a mouse, and a cadence that made an answering machine sound charismatic by comparison. Reaching into his pocket he produced an unmarked pack of gum, offering a piece up to the pilot with nary more than a grunt to earn his acknowledgement. "You got a name?"
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Hidden 7 mos ago Post by DruSM157
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Smith's Rest | HQ Tram Station
January 16th, 2677

He kept stewing, but did his best to swallow up that anger as much as he could. He’d been stupid and brash-arguing with the man in charge meant questions, meant distrust and that meant he’d either be riding the train back into warmer wastelands or he’d be buried somewhere under six feet of snow soon. "He's a real treat." The sudden interruption by another voice made Alan flinch a bit. Apart from one other companion who’d served with him on multiple missions, Alan hadn’t spent much time in the company of others that wanted to talk. Kill, drink, smoke and fuck, those were the usual predilictations of waster pilots."You got a name?"

The questions continued. “Yeah. Name’s Alan Fouren. I’m a pilot from the wastes. Dead Springs; the city that everyone loves to use an example on why it’s so hard to go indie.” Go indie and wind up with charred corpses. Go indie and die. A nice message from the Corporate Lords who were of course, completely innocent in the tragedy. “Little place north of the Atlanta Megacity. Fairbanks territory. So who are you? You’ve got an accent that I can’t really place.”

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Hidden 7 mos ago Post by Cybermaxx
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Smith's Rest | HQ Tram Station
January 16th, 2677

Demi shrugged as his offer was ignored and flicked the gum stick into his mouth, pocketing the rest of the pack. Minty goodness flooded his taste buds, disguising the fact that he hadn't been able to properly brush his teeth in seventy-two hours. He wagged his head from side to side as he walked and listened to Alan Fouren introduce himself, the ball of gum sliding between his cheeks in concert with the movement.

"...the city that everyone loves to use an example on why it’s so hard to go indie."

There was an awkward shift in Solon's gait upon hearing that, like he'd gotten lost in thought and almost tripped over his own foot. He was all too aware of why 'going indie' was shorthand for suicide. Any discomfort he might've felt was brushed over after a moment of silence that could've passed for him thinking of what to say next.

"Can't say I've heard of the place," he confessed at the mention of some little town named Dead Springs. It wasn't much of a surprise; he'd never been as far south as Atlanta. Hell, he and Mara only ever went as far as Seattle before starting the trip up to New Anchorage. They didn't cross the ocean to sightsee. "Sounds like its got a helluva sad story, though. You'll have to tell me that one sometime."

"I'm Demetrius, or Demi, either works, n' I'm from all over. Originally, though? A quaint lil' place called Saxony on the other side of the Atlantic, in Paragon's core. Flew for an outfit called Black Steel." Solon said, craning his neck to get a look at where they were going over the shoulders of the person in front of him. "What brought you up to the frozen ass end of nowhere?"
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Hidden 7 mos ago Post by Mcmolly
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Smith's Rest | Hangar
January 16th, 2677


She had not yet gotten used to looking at Blur. It wasn’t the sight of the mech that unsettled her, nor the looming size—despite that it was, comparatively, among New Anchorage’s smaller models. It was the very act of looking.

Being in the cockpit was a singular experience for Eli. It was unifying. Calming, yet, bittersweet. For a brief, precious time, it brought harmony to a dissonance within her that was harsh, and ever-present, and yet it was something she had only come to recognize since she’d become a pilot. It had simultaneously revealed and treated a crippling flaw in her psyche, and though she didn’t pretend to understand Polaris Shifts as the settlement’s doctors did, she knew herself well enough to see that she was beginning to lean on her synchronization like a crutch.

That feeling of unity, that relief. It was the closest she’d ever come to feeling…real.

Looking at Blur was like looking into a strange, arcane mirror. Was it showing her who she was, really, or what she wished to be? How long would it be until she lost sight of which side of that mirror she was on. Until she didn’t know whether she was the watcher, or the reflection?

Eli blinked.

Why had she come here?

"You know I didn't mean to zap you-"

Right. Moore.

Saying that she trusted him was a…generous stretch. He was a mess, with next to no experience—not that she was one to judge—and he was, more often than not, entirely incompetent both in and out of the cockpit. But he was also well-meaning, and genuine, and she had seen first-hand his potential as a pilot.

And he was a fellow native. That was most important. He had a personal stake in the well-being of New Anchorage, and if she couldn’t yet trust him to do what was best for his home simply for the sake of it, she could trust him to care for sake of his daughter.

He was meddling with one of the mechanics, a man she didn’t quite recognize, who didn’t seem to appreciate his ‘assistance.’ As she drew closer though, it sounded like they were amicable, perhaps even friends. That was good, she didn’t have to feel as embarrassed for him if the man already knew what to expect.

“Moore,” she said stiffly, nodding towards the hangar's thoroughfare. “Can we have a word?”

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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Inkarnate
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Smith's Rest, New Anchorage | Facility Exterior 🠒 Facility Entrance


“You say a lot for a suit.” Ryn commented, her hands still buried in the pockets of her coat. “Hope you're telling the truth.”

The comment was strong from the fire-haired fourteen-year-old, but it was a sentiment that many of the group of pilots likely shared. Commander Graham was struggling with being overly stern and welcoming, it was clearly a struggle for him to be the voice of New Anchorage no matter how much he tried. The young teenager obviously saw the cracks in his platitudes so anyone older and more perceptive would’ve seen it more easily. The red-haired couldn’t have known Graham’s dance between strict company man and voice of the people in Smith’s Rest was a way to gauge reactions, though. If there was anything the Midwestern pilot was bad at, reading people was on the top of the list.

She took a light breath as Graham ignored the retort, though her eyes caught that two other pilots were in hushed conversation.

One particular person caught her eye in the crowd, as he had done earlier. For one reason or another she decided to push her shoulders forward into his body as she moved forward at a quickened pace in an attempt to catch the front of the line. There was a reason for it, but only two people in the crowd knew why. A few pilots shot a glance toward the scene, though they probably wrote it off as the case of an impatient child rather than intentional malice.

How wrong they were.

Soon enough, Graham led them into the main facility, the large metal doors seeming like something of a fantasy for Ryn. She had spent so much time outside in the snow and mud, sleeping underneath her NC outside of various settlements in the northern wastes rather than any sort of hangar or facility. She had only been to a megacity twice in her life and both times had been so long ago she barely remembered it. The fourteen-year-old thought back, feeling as if four years ago felt like a decade. Her eyes looked around the corridors, curious yet annoyed. If she passed the physical and whatever else Graham wanted to administer, was this going to be her home for long? Could she finally find a feeling of family here? She mulled over the thought as she twiddled her thumbs in her pockets.

The last time she had thought she had found a new family they had abandoned her as soon as it became inconvenient. This was just a job. She had to remind herself of that. Seeing old faces didn’t help ease her anxieties.

“The process going forward will not be like other jobs in the past for you.”

Ryn’s attention snapped forward, realizing she had trailed off for a moment. Graham was beginning another branch of dialogue, another time to remind the pilots that they hadn’t actually made it. That despite flying their mechs out to Alaska, with their own credits, there would be more to the process. Ryn had figured out that much. By this point in Black Barrow she had already signed on the proverbial bottom line.

“Mm. Yeah?”

The commander continued his march. The tour as Alan had called it.

“First of all, I need for you to get the approval of my medical staff and pass a out-of-suit exam. I'm hiring you on not as pilots, but as independent contractors for a length of three-hundred days.”

“And we will not be reimbursed for our credits should we not pass?” Asked one of the other female pilots.

Ryn took a look at her. She was foreign. Thick accent. She wasn't smart or worldly enough to know what kind of accent. She had spoken before in a language she didn't know. As the reality hit her, Ryn looked back toward the man who had been conversing with the one she had pushed aside to get to the front of the line. He sounded off, too. How many foreigners had New Anchorage gotten interest from? How much credits did they waste just for this opportunity?

Ryn looked back toward Graham as he spoke again. His comment was one that made Ryn wonder what would happen next.

“Unfortunately not. New Anchorage doesn't have that kind of income. I hope it'll inspire you to succeed.”

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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by DruSM157
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Smith's Rest | HQ Tram Station
January 16th, 2677

The younger guy was from Saxony. He’d heard of that before. Was it from his books of old poetry? Something about a Holy Empire and lots of knights. It wasn’t as engaging as his arthurian tales, but he’d never been one to shy away from any surviving holo-novels of the old world. He remembered one character from the poems, a young knight named Roland. He eyed Demetrius up, wondering if that would be a good nickname.

"What brought you up to the frozen ass end of nowhere?"

Damnit. These kinds of questions were always the worst. It was always the needling, trying to uncover more about you, trying to sense up who you were or what weaknesses you held. ”Just looking for good work. My mech requires a lot of fine-tuning, some long stretch of regular work with a dedicated mechanic staff will do wonders compared to the kinds of rigging I usually have to do when I travel.” A half-truth was easier to explain than a simple lie. It was true that the Wolf constantly needed TLC, and he’d always been one to perform such tasks. He’d had the frame since living Dead Springs, and if he had his choice, he’d die inside of it as well.

Graham began to drone on and on about tests and doctors, and Alan fought the urge to complain about having to undergo tests when he’d called them. More hoops to jump through, but he was planning on jumping through every kind of hoop possible. He had too much to do up here. And here came the shoulder check. Goddamnit Ryn. He let the girl’s aggression go unchecked. There was no reason to get violent with a kid. Especially one he’d patched up more times than any. Since the moment he’d seen her again, his heart had started racing, and his stomach and been tied up in knots. Of all the places for her to show up…

He didn’t find her company disagreeable. It was the opposite. He felt comfortable around the girl, and that was reason enough to stay away. The moment you start getting chummy, talk about teaming up or staying together for the long haul-when you let them in, that’s when you leave the biggest weak spot open for anyone to take advantage of.

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Hidden 6 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Ladypug
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Smith's Rest, New Anchorage | The NC Hangar
January 16th, 2677 (Before the New Pilots Arrive)


Percy had followed Zach to a proper dead overhead light, and was holding the ladder for him so he could climb back up into the ceiling. There was a tense halt to the conversation they'd been having - or was it just Percy that thought it was tense? Zach seemed pretty nonplussed, according to his observations. Then again, the guy was kind of hard to read in general, even after living with him for years. Not that he didn't have his own expressions, obviously, but his two default faces were a calm half-smile and an angry-looking neutral face. Like, maybe he was just focused; or he could be stewing in a quiet anger, pissed off that Percy took Ana from him. Maybe Zach was thinking about what he was going to do for dinner when he was done with this work. Maybe he wanted to make the job take as long as he could make it take, to avoid going back to a house devoid of the little girl he'd considered a daughter. Maybe Percy was thinking entirely too hard about what was going through Zach's head. Maybe it was just plucky elevator music in there. Maybe he was thinking about something funny he'd read, his hands going on autopilot as he did his engineering- or would it be electrician?- thing.

"Moore," Eli said, yanking Percy back to reality.

"Jesus, Eli," Percy gasped, his hand firmly placed on his chest, "You scared me."

She seemed unphased by her startling of Percy, stiffly gesturing away from Zach and towards the open space of the hangar instead. "Can we have a word?"

Now there's only two ways this could go. He could take that request for "a word" for what it was and say Oh, yeah, of course, just give me a second to make sure Zach's gonna be alright by his lonesome, or he could take that in the way that's far more entertaining.. For him, at least. To hell with anyone that didn't find it funny.

"How's about... discombobulated?" Percy replied with a lopsided, toothy grin. "That's a good word, I think. Haven't found a use for it myself, but I'm sure you could."

Both pilots could hear Zach snort from above them. They didn't hear the soft "Fuck's sake, Percy," that followed, though.
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Inkarnate
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Smith's Rest, New Anchorage | Facility Entrance 🠒 Medical Offices


“Hm. I see.”

It may not have looked like to others on the outside, but Taraneh Marno, the Iranian prospect, was on the verge of a panic attack.

She had come to Alaska for a new opportunity and to finish unfinished business. However, despite fully being aware of her personal goals this was the best chance she had to dig around without throwing off too many alarms. Her last job had been in the ruins of Lilongwe. The people there had called it The Forgery; or, well, that was the rough English translation of the Bantu phrase at least. She had found a few clues, a broker of information who gave her information about the target she had been chasing for years before she was inevitably chased out of Africa by Tshwane. Evidently, they had been still livid that she had taken down a few of their profitable assets. If not for a friend of hers she would’ve probably been dead and her vengeance incomplete.

Taraneh crossed her arms, peering into the back of Graham’s skull as he moved through the facility.

He was a company man. He walked like one. Talked like one. Admittedly, he was honest and Taraneh couldn’t quite figure him out. There were so many mixed signals. Was he the kind of company man who hired wetwork teams to prey upon people who were barely making ends meet? or was he the type of company man who didn’t cross such blurred lines? He had said he wouldn’t condone illicit actions, but he also said he didn’t believe in good and evil. What kind of person couldn’t have morals in the world they lived in where the rich gained more and more power while the poor took a shovel to the dirt to dig their own graves? He was trying to inspire them despite these questions. He was a veteran of some kind of war. Taraneh could tell that much.

The Iranian woman tapped her leftmost fingers on the forearm it rested on, a tic she had picked up over the years, as she thought on Graham, New Anchorage, herself, and the two tests she had to pass. A medical examination and an out-of-suit exam. She supposed that was basic in the corporations. She had worked for a few once before as a proxy asset, so she knew that much. An out-of-suit exam meant that you could not only climb your mech without aid of ladders, but also showcasing your physical athleticism and durability. There were many old world devices that used the neural network for security and access. Defense turrets, power systems, data archives. The list went on. Being compatible with the neural network wasn’t just about being able to access super-weapons like NC’s but also pretty much anything predating the war that forced humanity to go underground or survive the effects of nuclear fallout.

She looked back behind her, catching the eyes of one of the pilots who had been talking. His accent was slightly different than Graham’s, but it was still the same. There was something about him that made her want to strike a conversation, but for now she was trying to get a read on the other pilots rather than make friends with them.

There were a lot of pilots. Mostly Westerners, but also foreigners like her with their own reasons for being in Alaska. If Graham accepted all of them, no matter what he said, he would most certainly have an army. She doubted New Anchorage could afford up-linking all their NCs in their hangars, paying them, and hoping they’d all behave. She wondered where the red line was for pilots? Obviously your run-of-the-mill mercenary wasn’t it. They needed people who wanted to be here and had little options. Only Allah knew how she would survive if she didn’t make the cut. She had used the last of her credits to get out of Africa and to Alaska in the first place. Shipping NCs across the Atlantic wasn’t cheap and doing it without paying lip service to the corporations and regional warlords was difficult enough.

She just hoped she could succeed. Failure was not an option.

By the end of her thoughts, Graham moved the various pilots into a waiting room where they were told to wait around and converse among themselves while the medical staff would call them forward one at a time. The first to leave was a woman who sounded like she was from Southeastern Asia. Australia or New Zealand. She honestly could not tell the difference. So she was left with her own devices, surrounded by pilots from various backgrounds. Her thoughts remained on succeeding and making sure her and her father could have a good life here while she hunted down the bastards that killed her mother and brought ruin to her family.

“Aya divaneh hasti?” She muttered to herself underneath her breath.

It was a question she asked herself before every venture.

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Smith's Rest | Medical Offices
January 16th, 2677
Music

It's been a while since I had a doc look at me. Alan sat in a plastic chair against the wall, casually holding his hand up, rotating it by the wrist, looking at various callouses and scars that marked his limbs. How many scraps had he been in by now that had left some memento? The worst was his facial scar, which dug into his left cheek. Metal debris had flown into the cockpit when he was cut open by an enemy NC outside Dead Springs. Time had caused the scar to fade in color, but the shallow recess on his face remained.

A memento.

Voices echoed throughout the hallway and a klaxon sounded, the sound of countless men and women rushing down metal hallways into hangars. A deep voice came in over the intercom, but he couldn't make out what was being said. Only the feeling of dread over what was to come. A door opened, revealing a large hangar of pristine NCs, ready to be deployed and-

Alan blinked. His head throbbed. He ran his left hand over his face, putting pressure over his eyelids and rubbing the bridge of his nose. Anything to keep these...flashes at bay. How many did this make this year? Three? Now four? It was only around a year ago that the flashes really started happening. The idea of the frequency increasing, the idea of being lost in one of these dreams, and not knowing reality from fiction; that frightened him deeply.

Don't be obvious about it. He wasn't the first with feedback from a PS, and he wasn't going to be the last. Still, if these were going to be an issue, he was going to need to speak with a medical professional about this. And that could hurt his chances of making the grade for Graham's little army.

He scanned the room. He glanced Ryn, then the Saxon-boy and the girl he had arrived with; there was the foreign girl as well. Some deep, lizard brain part of his psyche wanted him to go over to Ryn, to explain things, to talk to her. But he knew all too well that would just lead to what, getting slapped? Punched? Cursed out? No reason to drag something like that out in the middle of the damn medical office.

So instead he clipped the datapad from his belt loop and brought it up. His library was still packed with literature he hadn't finished reading yet. Something short, maybe a collection of short stories would do until they called him up. Maybe a book of poetry. Anything but thinking about talking to Ryn.
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Smith's Rest | Medical Offices
January 16th, 2677

The waiting room was smaller than Mara would've liked. There were too many pilots crammed in there and barely enough space to accommodate them all. She walked passed the tiny, spartan chairs and instead chose to stand, back resting against the wall. From her vantage point she was able to get a good look as the group as a whole, and she found herself cracking a grin.

They were as motley a bunch as any she'd seen before: wasters, company men and guns for hire, all trapped in uncomfortable proximity. No sane person could gather people like this and think it would work. Graham had thrown together a powder keg just waiting to go off. Without some mastermind to stitch all its parts together, she hadn't a clue how their outfit would sustain itself.

'Here's hoping the commander's the genius he thinks he is,' She thought to herself. 'I didn't come all this way just to watch it all burn.'

Maybe it was her optimism showing, but for reasons only God could know, she had faith in Graham to get it done. And if he couldn't? If it all came crashing down around her ears? It'd be a heckuva show, and she could rest easy knowing none of it was on her shoulders. After all, she was the best pilot here- just factually speaking, really- so if everything went sideways, it couldn't be her fault.

Not everyone shared her self-assuredness, of course. Mara kept glancing out of the side of one eye at one of the other pilots: a woman not much older than her and seated nearby, muttering nervously under her breath in a language Mara didn't know. She recognized the sound of it as similar in structure to Hazaragi, but she couldn't place it exactly- maybe if she'd bothered to learn it when they in Hazaristan, but...

"Never much liked goin' to the doctor myself," She said to no one in particular, her head back against the wall and her gaze turned up to the ceiling. "The lights are too bright, its always freakin' cold, and the needles? You do not want me to get started on the needles." She shot a look over to Taraneh, a twinkle in her eye. "Socked my poor company doctor in the jaw the first time he stuck me with a syringe full'a nanobots. Thankful for him, seein' as he saved my leg, but man, I do not like needles."

Out of the corner of her vision she spotted her brother rolling out of his chair and rising to stretch. Demetrius gave a quick look around the room before marching toward the hallway, earphones pumping synthetic garbage into his skull as he wandered off. Mara had half a mind to go grab him, but she thought better of it. She wasn't going to miss her evaluation because she was busy covering for that little gremlin.
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Mcmolly
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Smith's Rest | Hangar
January 16th, 2677

Eli stared at him, waiting. He hadn’t given her an answer; she wasn’t sure what it was he’d given her, but it wasn’t an answer. A joke, maybe, Percy did that often and never subtly, always with a grin or a nudge of the elbow.

“Percy, this is important,” she said. “It’s about the new pilots. Have you seen them? Graham’s brought in nearly half a dozen and they’re all…outsiders. I don’t think any of them are even Alaskan. One looks a raider, Percy.”

Again her eyes went to the mechanic, and her mouth screwed shut. The worry had gotten to her for a moment, she’d nearly forgotten what was and wasn’t safe to say around nonessential personnel. It was one thing for her to voice distaste in Graham’s decisions to comrades, it was another for site employees to hear dissent from the pilots.

She sighed, and this time she chose her words a little more carefully. “It could be something worth discussing with one another.”
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Smith's Rest, New Anchorage | The NC Hangar
January 16th, 2677 (Before the New Pilots Arrive)


"Oh come on, that was funny, Eli," Percy insisted as she'd continued to be silent. He waited a second to see if she'd admit it, but she stayed quiet. "At least kinda funny. Just a little?" Sure, he figures that it doesn't matter if anyone else thinks he's funny, but being the only one laughing was really uncomfortable... and no, Zach laughing doesn't count. They've known each other for multiple years and have absolutely demolished each other's senses of humor.

But then Eli insisted that what she had to say was important, that she had worries about these new pilots Graham was bringing in and how none of them were natives - none of those issues Percy really cared about, it didn't really affect how he'd operate. But then she'd said that "One looks like a raider." That was what made Percy's stomach go into a knot. He already didn't really like Graham all that much, but.. employing a raider? Employing the same kind of person that got Laura killed and tried to steal his daughter away? It made Percy want to barf. Fuck Graham. He then saw how Eli's gaze shifted upwards to Zach and how her lips had tightened shut - like she didn't want to talk about it in front of him.

"It could be something worth discussing with one another."

Percy glanced up to Zach as well. While the guy seemed pretty preoccupied with the light, Percy knew that if the roles were swapped - with Zach being down here and him being up there - he'd definitely be listening in..

"Yeah," Percy said, "Yeah, I'll be with you in a-"

"Go ahead, Pierce."

Well. That confirmed two things. One, Zach absolutely was listening like Percy had guessed; and two, Zach would probably be fine on his own for a bit, if he was urging him to hurry up and go. Something about Zach's tone made Percy wonder again, though. He sounded.. Fed up? Irritated? Generally upset - which in this point in time would finally make sense. Of course he'd be upset about a potential raider being anywhere near Ana right now. Of course he'd be worried. Percy found himself reaching out to him, to nudge him enough to get him to look down and just give a little bit of reassurance, but Eli's eyes boring into the back of his neck made him not do that.

"Alright," Percy said, taking a small step backwards and throwing on a grin, "Don't zap yourself, alright? Please?"

"Yeah. Sure."

One more moment of hesitation, and then Percy finally turned around and went off with Eli down the thoroughfare. The two only took a couple steps away before Percy got fidget-y with one of the two rings on his fingers, waiting for Eli to maybe start them off - he only had one worry on his mind, but he wanted to hear her out first. Like, maybe she had a good reason to believe these new pilots not being native was a bad thing? Honestly, the more he thought about it the more he realized that y'know, yeah, it might be bad that they're not from here. He didn't want Ana to be exposed to some kind of weird disease, or for her to get snatched up again, or so many other horror scenarios they kind of blended together, now- Ah, fuck, alright! Alright. If she won't elaborate, then he'll give her something to elaborate on.

"Sooo," Percy started, twisting the silver band around his ring finger, "uh.. what's this about a raider, again?"
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