The first to okay the plan was Abigail, who seemed thrilled that her job was to run around and then stay in the bus. “Sort of.” Ellen replied. “You shouldn’t have to high-tail it back to the van to tell people because I should be able to do that more quickly.” She held up her hand for a moment to pause the youth, anticipating that Abigail would remind her that she was faster than Ellen. “What I mean is, my body won’t be running down to scout. Since it is staying here, I should be able to tell everyone faster. Instead, I want us to split up and peek into the windows of their different vehicles. You take the farther white one and I’ll take the closer, but we’ll both do wide loops.” Even with her power, Ellen wasn’t going to be faster than Abigail, so it made sense to her to tell the youth to take the farther vehicle, though it meant she would have to run farther to get back to the bus, as well.
“You’ll have to try to stay quiet. I can’t make noise in that form… But if you have any difficulty or get spotted, just blast some of that purple fire at them and then run like hell.”
Abigail's smile dropped. "Now hang on, missy-" she said, sitting bolt upright. "I'm fast, but I ain't faster than a bullet. I thought that the plan was...well, I ain't too sure about the particulars of yer ability, but I thought I'd just be lookin' after your body while you go on ahead."
Of course it couldn't go that smoothly. Ellen frowned as Abi elaborated and clearly misunderstood what Ellen was planning for them to do. "Sorry for not being clear. I think you and my eyes will go around and try to peak in through their windows. If you find it first, you wave at me. My body will stay up here and I can then tell people what I've seen and anything you can pantomime with me. When we've gotten the info we can, you come back and hide out." Ellen paused to give Abi time to process and follow up with any additional questions.
Abigail stared at Ellen, then back at Brooks and Billy. She rubbed her nose on the back of her arm. "I mean...if everyone else is okay with it…?"
"Hey, what you do isn't up to everyone else. If you don't want to, then don't. Stay here and I'll go scope things out myself." Ellen did not want to force anyone to do something against their will, especially something dangerous.
"Sure, but I ain't no pussy. But I also ain't stupid." Abigail pulled a face. "I'll keep an eye on your real body while you go take a look around, how's that sound?"
Ellen considered the proposal for a few moments before nodding. She had intended to leave her body all the way up here, but she honestly wasn't sure about how far she could go with this ability anyway. If she went down further before using the magic, she would be more likely to actually be able to scope out the vehicles. And if they didn't need to put the kid in danger, they probably shouldn't.
"Sure. Yeah. I should probably get closer before using this anyway. We will go down together to a spot closer to them but with hopefully decent cover. I'll tell you the important stuff and you get back up here to these guys." Ellen recapped. At least she would have that extra gun, since no one else had claimed it.
Angeline had some suggestions about Zephyr’s ability use, and it was a fair point. Ellen had been hoping to save his abilities for other things, but she didn’t know how much he was capable of, or if he was willing to call Time Out for the express purpose of getting the edge to snipe them. “We can leave it up to Zephyr, then.” Ellen suggested. She didn’t love the idea of sending him in just to get attacked. She hoped instead that she and Abi could be sneaky, and then the fog would make it difficult for them to attack any of the party. She wasn’t intending to make anyone in the party into cannon fodder, and everyone had a say in what they did.
On the plus side, Angeline wasn’t complaining about her own role in any of this.
Brooks was the final one to weigh in. He declared that they weren’t FOE, and agreed that using Abigail and herself as scouts might be a good way to get information on the coolbox. Maybe Ellen could even spot their weapons, and whether or not they were being carried.
"Well, no point in waiting any longer. Abi, you ready to head on down there? Ellen asked. She threw her hair up in a ponytail and looked over the group. She did NOT feel ready for this, but people needed these supplies, and no one else was going to swoop in and save the day. They only had each other… so she would just have to fake it until they made it. When Abi was ready, Ellen set off in a direction a bit off front the camp down the hill. After all, they didn't want to be spotted before they could do any scouting.
The trail they made down towards the camp was a reasonably straight one, cutting between shrub and brush to conceal their movements until they eventually came to rest between one especially dry dead tree and another. At their first look up towards the bandits, however, it became apparent that circumstances had already changed.
Two of the criminals - a short, stocky woman carrying a hunting rifle over her back, and a man with a slightly bizarre ratty face - had turned and started walking towards the defunct red van. Their comrades, one of them carrying a pistol in a holster, and the other carrying a pistol tucked into the front of his pants, were otherwise still occupied standing around the final member of the gang, who was lying still on the floor.
The thieves split up while Ellen and Abigail were getting into a nice spot, which would make it harder for Ellen to keep an eye on them without being spotted. She had to make a choice of where to focus. For now, she wanted to try to check the two white campers, since the coolbox wasn't in either the green or blue pickup truck. It could have been in the broken down red van, but if they pulled medical supplies out of it, Abigail might spot it before Ellen could.
"This is precisely why I ain't going in," Abigail pointed out the two going to the van. "Seemed to me your plan involved 'em standing still, and not having eyes. If any of 'em spotted your... double, big whoop. But if any of 'em spotted me..." She trailed off, grimacing.
Ellen sat down against one of the trees, her attempt at keeping cover for her body. She hadn't ever used this ability when it really mattered, but now was as good of a time as any. Ellen took the gun that she had gotten from Hans and lay it on the ground beside her right hand. She wanted to know where it was in case they were in danger as soon as she returned. Silently, Ellen looked at Abigail, gave her a nod, and then closed her eyes to focus.
A few moments later, a figure appeared beside the sitting woman. She looked identical. Abigail scratched the back of her neck and went for an awkward "howdy," unable to muster up a more appropriate response. Ellen looked down at her sitting body, smiled at Abigail, and then moved towards the hideout, checking for the positions of the thieves as she silently moved towards the white camper on the far side of their position.
Abigail hunkered down into a squat, watching the second Ellen wander off. Her expression twisted into one of disgust - borderline contempt - at the sight of a mage in action, but she knew better than to start complaining about it.
There was silence for a long minute, then a brief chuckle. "Y'know," Abigail muttered, "when I didn't wanna go to school, my folks used to sometimes have me sit out on this rise all day and keep an eye on our generator - make sure nobody's stealin' our 'lectricity." Abigail shifted her weight. "Basically the same idea here, 'cept the stakes are higher, and we're the ones doing the stealin'."
"We only stealing back what was already ours." Ellen replied to Abi, perhaps surprising the youth. Granted, Ellen had no idea how 'legally' Goodnight bootleggers had acquired the goods in the first place, but she doubted they came from these guys.
"A sin's a sin, no matter which way you wanna sugar coat it. 'Thou shalt not steal' n' all that." Abigail lifted the brim of her cap, watching the two furthest from Ellen's double with the belief that the woman was keeping an eye on the more immediate threat.
The other thing Abigail had said was that she preferred watching a generator over going to school. She wasn't old enough to be talking about college, and Ellen was stuck with the sudden realization that this poor kid would never be able to finish high school… not that it sounded like she had stellar attendance before all this anyway. "Why did you stop going to school?" She asked. Yes, it probably wasn't the ideal time for chit chat, but it was sort of nice to keep her mind split on two different things instead of solely focused on the dangerous mission.
Ellen approached the farthest white vehicle, looking for uncovered windows on that side to peak through.
"Started shootin' purple fire n' hid in the back of a truck," Abigail responded flatly. After a moment, she decided to actually answer. "School wasn't an obligation. We moved around too much for it to matter…'sides, some of the stuff the government wants you to believe is bullshit. I'm keeping an eye on the fellers furthest from you, by the way."
“I can’t hear them, so if you can let me know if any start getting close, that’d be great.” Ellen said, addressing what was definitely the more important part first. “The truth is often determined by the victor, I agree. But at least if you learn the stuff, you can make up your own mind about what you believe.”
Ellen knew that sort of mindset. She heard it loads of times on the boat. Mostly it was people pissed about regulations on what size crabs they kept and the laws about tossing back pregnant female crabs. They said how could men who hadn’t ever caught a crab say which ones the fishermen could keep? They’d rant and rave and complain about regulations--but were the same ones to take the tax breaks and discounts when offered.
She paused for a few moments, wondering if she wanted to voice the next thought on her mind. If nothing else, it was good to hear Abi to know that the kid hadn’t abandoned her body. “Who was it that made up your mind about the government’s bullshit?” She asked.
"I did. There's three people you should always trust - God, yerself n' yer family." Abigail decided against telling Ellen she wasn't on speaking terms with two of them. "Math n' geometry...I got all that. There's proof of that. But I tuned out when they started tellin' me we used to be monkeys, lizards n' fish."
As Ellen's double made its way over to the far camper, the two thieves who had made their way over to the red van produced a shovel from somewhere inside it, and one of the others who'd stayed around the fire turned to head back towards the trucks.
"I see, well I was raised Catholic so if you ever want to-- Shit." Ellen interrupted her train of thought with a curse as she investigated all of the windows on the outside and found that they were covered from the inside with something shiny and metallic looking. Aluminum foil, maybe?
"I can't see inside at all. The windows are all covered." She got down to the ground and looked for the feet of the thieves. When she was sure they were all looking away, she shifted over to the back of the caravan and peaked around the corner to the back door. It was shut. "I can't open doors like this." Ellen said to Abi, and started to crawl under the caravan. She inched forward to get a better view of where the thieves were, and hopefully the front of the other caravan.
Abigail cocked her head to the side. "Well don't get caught tryin' to open it," she responded. "Just figure out where everybody's at n' come back. Once the others gun 'em down we'll have all the time in the world to open doors n' shit."
"Got it." Ellen replied and shifted to a play by play of what she could see them doing. She said she saw two get shovels from the red van, and looked at the one laying on the ground, wondering if she could see any movement of his chest to indicate breathing.
The guy who’d wandered over to the pickup trucks opened one of the passenger doors and began rummaging inside - though neither Abigail nor Ellen could see precisely what he was doing - and the two who’d gone to grab shovels paused by the open slide-door of the red van to talk. Even at the distance she was, Abi could just about make out the words “... fucking idiot…” being used more than once in that conversation. If it weren’t for the weird accent, it might even have made her feel more at home.
As Ellen focused more on the laid out body, it became gradually clear that she wasn’t quite close enough to get a good bead on whether or not they were breathing - but their eyes were closed and they didn’t seem to be moving even slightly. Ellen felt the beginnings of dread starting to pool in her stomach - the instinctual response to looking at what you think is a dead body.
After another moment they were both roused by the sound of a car door slamming shut, as the bandit who’d gone to the trucks returned with a four pack of beer and started to distribute it.
Ellen watched the group for a few moments before reporting back to Abigail. "I think the guy on the ground is dead and they are about to bury him." She voiced. One less guy they had to take care of…And it was less likely that he was some advanced magic user doing something similar to Ellen. Still didn't explain how their supplies were found, though.
"We need to get moving, and with them shoveling, they won't be hearing as well… hopefully. Do you think you should report back to the group?"
Ellen probably wouldn't go back up behind her. Her body was already close. She could instead try to flank with the weapon from the same location her presence was currently. She didn't have a lot of ammunition, or great experience, but with them focused on digging instead of on their weapons, it was going to be their best chance… maybe.
"Not until you're whole again, sunshine." Abi picked her teeth with her nail. "Last thing I wanna do is turn my back on ya and find out you got spotted. What'll you do from here when the guns start firin'?"
Ellen began to crawl back from her position and head quickly back the way she came to rejoin Abigail and her body. "I going to take my gun and head back to where I was. Even if I don't hit anything, I will be on the opposite side as the rest of our guys and that might spook them." She figured if they turned two different directions to fire, Hans and the other competent marksman would be much more likely to hit their targets quickly.
Ellen made it back to her body relatively quickly. She actually wasn't sure if she HAD to make it back or if she could just 'shut off' the power, but it was jarring enough even without extra physical distance. She took a few deep breaths and began to stretch and roll her shoulders.
"Sounds sensible," Abi agreed. Once Ellen was back in her real body she could see that Abigail's expression was...strange, slightly angry. She clapped her hands together once and stood up, stretching. "I'll get back to the others."
Abigail couldn't do much, but by god.
The kid can run.
After a careful glance down the rise to make sure she wouldn't take a bullet, Abigail took off in a dead sprint. Her gangly legs hit the grit and sand, shifted, twisted her foot slightly and pushed off like a professional and closed the gap in a startling amount of time. "Ellen says they're burying one of their dead buddies," she said, still stumbling to a halt behind the Billy bus. "There's two of them coming back from the red van, can't see into the trailers though. She's staying where she is and shooting from behind. Says you should advance when they start diggin'." She pushed a clump of greasy hair out of her face, looking up at Brooks for an answer.