[ New York City Metro - Blue Line ]"Great. One's a poet and one's a singer."
John couldn't help but scoff softly underneath his helmet. The mercenaries with them were hardly grizzled veterans. Their fear, anxiety, it bled out of them like an open wound. John didn't know much about any of them and didn't quite care to. They were chatty, uneasy, eyes alert but never seeming to look past the surface. At least not to him. He couldn't help it, the years spent noticing flaws, discrepancies. It ruined him. For hours he could stare at a painting, ignore the imagery, the beauty, and see only a crack in the fault line, a slight discoloration where the painter had made an all-but-unnoticeable mistake. To never see beyond that, appreciate the painting for it's message: that was John's punishment.
As the group walked, John's movements seemed to finally settle into a gait comparable to his own outside the hazmat suit. His muscles moved themselves while he was lost in thought, working far better together than his own mind could do. The weight of the suit wasn't a hindrance but a factor, one that was dealt with accordingly. Whatever it was, in those brief moments of unconscious control, John had forgotten he was wearing a suit at all.
At the front of the group, Marvin was once more speaking with the head Paladin. But this had to be more than just business: they had just gone over the map minutes earlier-- least what felt like minutes. But now she was offering her hand to shake. Trying to read the body language of someone wearing Power Armor was about as effective as shooting it with a BB gun. All he could see were the layers of steel and pistons, the curved features of the helmet, somehow dispassionate, yet wrathful. Nevertheless, her action said enough, an attempt at acclimating herself. No doubt, the Paladin was smart enough to know just how the Brotherhood was viewed by the others, and was probably attempting to actively change that image, first with Frankie, then with Marvin.
Though, immediately going for the token teenager and Ghoul of the group seemed rather on-the-nose, least in John's mind. But, if that was on-the-nose, then what was he? "Starting to turn hypocrite, old man. Losing your touch."
He thought to himself with a bitter humor.
Finally leaving his thoughts be to focus on the mission at hand, it had settled in just how...quiet everything was. It was a twisted irony: nothing around, no Raider, or Ghoul, or even a Radroach scuttling about, yet the air was somehow more tense, a palpable sense of unease. John felt the fingers at his right hand twitch, an unconscious muscle response to impending danger, usually would happen right before he went for his gun. Damn it all, it was affecting him too.
The group finally came to the sight of a massive tunnel collapse, one that stopped them dead in their tracks. Now, they had two options: either head above ground, or send a poor, lost soul or two inside the tunnel to scout it out. A test of altruism, then. John said nothing to the Paladin's subtle request, instead leaning his back up against the tunnel wall in a half-resting position. He'd watch what would play out.
Almost immediately, one of the mercenaries from the trio volunteered himself. Looks like they found their hero. Then someone else volunteered to accompany him. Jesus, had they snuck into the group? This person, this voice, it was unfamiliar. He hadn't remembered seeing them in the tunnel before moving past the Wall. Either she was that good at hiding, or he was
losing his touch.
With a mere shrug of response at the possibility of either, John's attention immediately turned to one of the other mercenaries: the red-headed one from earlier...at least, he was 90% sure it was that one - Christ, he hated these suits.
There was a tear in her suit, at the right leg, immediately causing her to take notice and grab a patch. Torn this early in...never a good sign. But then she stopped, froze, like locking eyes with a wild animal. Then she cried out, a different language, John couldn't have told you which, prompting him to shoot up from his place against the wall.
John grimaced under his helmet as the woman seemed to recover and get back to her feet, trying to blend into the group as she had once before. But something told John that wasn't going to be possible. Whatever that was, whether nerves or...something deeper, John wasn't exactly fond of it. No, these mercs weren't
grizzled veterans, that much was now clear. Too human to be that.