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4 yrs ago
Current Malfunctioning Space Toilet (favorite death post in RPG) : roleplayerguild.com/posts/4…
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6 yrs ago
Example of a "Character Flaw": roleplayerguild.com/posts/32..
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Ash Holloway
Location: Gaskins Still, Foodmart Exterior
Skills: N/A

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A mild twinge of objection took Ash as he noted alongside their observers that Team B was fracturing. Better judgement might have them staying together as a group, obviously, and he had to suppress the urge to say something, make some suggestion, bark some command that might have kept them operating as a cohesive unit. The problem wasn't that he felt they were going against protocol, like some impotent stickler for all that which was spit and polish, prim and proper; for Ash, this was a simple matter of trying to keep people alive. Their lack of tactic increased the likelihood of tragedy without equivalent potential reward for their risk.

Ash glanced to their observers and then back to Group B, briefly. Was it part of the test for them to act in the best interests of all parties, including the other group? He shook this idea from his head. They were out in the world. He needed to focus on what was best for the people he was with now, not the greater community. "Alright ramblers," he began, a sense of pride forming now that he realized that his group was sticking together like an organized team, "let's get rambling." He noted the suggestion coming from Nigel and gave him a nod. It wasn't a bad idea, whenever they got around to moving farther up the street. This wasn't exactly an urban area and such a practice would give some cover to one side. Not quite the strategy used by his people in The Sandbox, seeing as his enemy there was fond of utilizing Soviet era RPGs which could be used to great anti-personnel effect if the targets were near to a wall detonation. But if the Dead were capable of properly using such a weapon in the first place, Ash figured there was a whole lot more to worry about. Likewise if the living had casual access to said armament.

The erstwhile Captain kept his focus on his task at hand, trusting that the team had their own angles covered. They were assessing a building before entering, and he was keeping to this, advancing with his carbine in a low ready position. Ash took in the knowledge of animated Dead being spotted by others, in the first instance Nigel, and mentally filed this away. Too far out to be an issue right that second, not enough of a threat to fix it with a bullet and draw more attention to themselves. His tactic was fairly simple - being in possession of a weapon with range, if a noisy one at that, he could serve as excellent, accurate backup to the others in case a melee attack went awry, thusly giving two chances to down a corpse and provide cover from any living assailants. Again, noisy. But the lives of his team were worth more than the contents of the list. Maybe next time, he might request the use of a bow or crossbow to round out the group's options.

The convenience store wasn't the only structure in their immediate vicinity. Large, above ground diesel storage tanks lay in front of the main building, closer to the road than the regular gas pumps and the overhead rain shield. An unattended dumpster quietly sat, peeling green paint out behind the store, as well as another low building a little ways off. Ash reasoned that they might give it look when they were done with the food mart. It could likely wait. When they came back around, he quietly mentioned to the rest of the group, "Wouldn't mind finding their transfer pump inside. Give that storage tank a look too, time an' circumstance permitting."

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Thalia Carmichael
Location: Gaskins Still, Foodmart Exterior
Skills: Knife

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Others looked for Zeds, Thalia did too. Keeping one eye on your surroundings, even when one was asleep, was the best way to not die that she'd figured out so far. That and only coming into formerly populated areas when she absolutely had to. To that note, this whole outing seemed like a waste of time except to see if they could function as a group. Perhaps it was a good thing that she spent all of that time with Thana the rest of the "Eden" team. Without this necessary experience working with a group, originally led by a former Naval officer, Thalia might have felt even more out of place with these people. Possibly to the point of taking her quick and quiet leave of these people now that she was well fed, armed, and outside of the walls.

Thalia volunteered for the role of rear guard with this group. It was one suggested by Mr. Army Captain, and this was the key point here - suggested. He didn't order, nor did he specifically point to her to assume a role. This made a difference to her. He mentioned a plan when nobody else seemed to. It made sense, more or less. So Thalia took it upon herself to hang back a little, keeping her eyes on not only the details of the building they were to enter, but to the group's back. She saw the one Zed that Nigel pointed out earlier and mentally started a tally. That was one. Another corner of her brain kept track of exterior doors to the building they were scoping. Front, obviously, with large windows that a metal fist or piece of ammunition could get through. Rear loading door, likely only opened from inside.

Another note was the dumpster out back. It could possibly be useful to climb on top of or stand inside in case of more Zeds than they could handle, as both a defensive measure and as high ground they couldn't get their rotting asses up to. Easier pickings then.

As the group passed around a corner of the building, Thalia remained toward the back, not quite liking the look of a blown over stack of wooden pallets. She couldn't quite put her finger on it until she saw it shift. The ground suddenly became dangerous. Shambling to a crawling stand among the tall, brown grass and scraps of stapled wood was a creature which used to be a woman. Stringy, sparse hair of a now indeterminate color stuck sloppily to a desiccated face, featuring milky, sunken eyes.

That was two. "Got one heah," she announced, stepping to one side slightly to clear a line of secondary fire. The move was not from any military training she had received recently, but rather security protocols from her previous life with the MSS corporation. The memory of that life made her feel conscious of a scar residing below her collarbone, received from a bullet back before Zeds were ever a consideration. She shook it off. From the corner of her eye, Thalia saw the muzzle of a carbine turn in her general direction. She stepped forward, keeping her 9mm pistol at the ready but leading with her metal arm in a defensive posture. Defensive, unless one counted the knife pointed forward in an underhanded grip. It was with this that she struck out, taking one lunging step forward to drive the blade into the eye socket of the former person before quickly stepping back, letting gravity bring the corpse down. It was a funny feeling, using a knife without the telltale sensations in her hand. Foreign, somehow.

First blood to the Edgelord Mestiza from Boston. Back to one.

Satisfied, Thalia regrouped and kept tabs on the Zed farther out. It wasn't critical. She couldn't quite tell if it even sensed their presence yet. But her job now was to watch their backs, and that was definitely worth notation. The once-around the building complete, Thalia's eye caught sight of another one. It wasn't right on them, but might be a problem if Ash wanted to check out the diesel tank like he mentioned. It was partly underneath, seemingly pinned by something or otherwise unable to use its legs. They couldn't see it from the vantage of the street, but from here it was clear as day. And back to two.

"Diesel tank, down low," she intoned, motioning with her prosthetic. Now came the question: Did they handle them before they attempted to enter the building, or after? "Two total."

*****

Hank kept quiet, just as he said he would. He held a woodaxe in one hand, upon which he was precariously balancing a clipboard. Notes were taken. Occasionally, odd facial expressions or an errant head bob every now and again. This turned into something more serious when actual danger came to the forefront, but still, the notes. He looked to his fellow proctor and shrugged, then went right back to his observations.
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Ash Holloway
Location: Bus
Skills: Leadership, Science (Military)

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Ashton kept mostly to himself, giving himself the internal mindset of a man going back out into hostile territory. It was a decent enough approximation of what the world had become outside of whatever security could be carved out for one's self. Being inside of walls for the last number of months didn't serve to make him weaker or more intimidated by the outside world as it might have others in their position. Quite the opposite, he now had even more for which he felt a need to provide, or at least contribute. A much more soldierly version of Ash was asserting itself, still as quiet as ever but taking in and processing operational information from Maddoc as best as he could.

One thing which grabbed Ash's attention was that, despite the fact that there would be a senior officer present, no one was going to be giving guidance or speaking to protocol. In short: these teams, which had not yet been tested in the field together, were flying without leadership. Depending upon people and circumstances, this might not be a huge issue. Then again, for the same reasons this could be very, very bad.

When his name was called, Ash made his way over and was lent the use of a no-frills M4 carbine. Standard since the 90s, and a weapon that he extensively used since basic training. A field knife followed this, which he tucked into his belt. Ash took couple of seconds to inspect the firearm handed to him, going through initial safety procedure before returning to sit.

Ash was mulling over his concerns in his head, debating whether saying something was appropriate, when it occurred to him - the CMB officials were observing. They were trying to see how the groups would function while armed and without oversight. They wanted to see what would happen. In his case, they had already seen that Ash would follow orders with humility and purpose. Maybe this run was partially about something else. Be it possibly a mistake on his part, Ash felt the need to speak. However, someone wound up speaking to him first.

Nigel. He was proposing a deal. Ash regarded him for a moment and nodded, "I'm no expert. But sure, if you like." He leaned forward with a smile, continuing, "Provided we get the okay from brass. And a voucher for ammo." There was going to come a time when once standard, cased ammunition became a relic of the past. It was already a rare cottage industry at best. But if he wanted to learn pistols, great. He could help.

Just now, Ash took the opportunity to voice his concern from earlier. He raised his voice a little and projected mostly in the direction of the team to which he was assigned, but pitched so that the others might also be able to hear if they were trying to listen. "If you've made it this far, you're a survivor. I don't want to insult anybody's intelligence, so, grain of salt, please."

It looked like he was gearing up to say something. "A building to building sweep is nothing new for any of us." It was accurate enough; he'd been part of many of them during his military career and many more since the Outbreak. Anyone who scavenged from once-civilized areas did their own version of this. He took a glance around to eyeball the people that he was speaking to, then nodded and continued, "My intent is this: Scope a building's exterior first, quietly if possible. Then organize into a four-man fire team, fifth takes rear guard to cover our collective asses. Hit one room at a time until the building is secure. After, break into teams of two and three and go down our list. Move to the next building and repeat." He took a second to take in a breath. Either he just did something positive or he overstepped. In his mind, the team needed someone calling shots and keeping people together for the safety of all of them. Not to mention that, if the other team was listening and didn't have a solid idea of their own, there was something from which to build.

"If anyone's got a better plan, I'm all ears. If you're willing to follow mine, I'll kick in the first door."

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Thalia Carmichael
Location: Bus
Skills: N/A

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While the others in the bus were speaking among themselves, Thalia was taking mental note of the direction the bus was going in relation to the gate they had just left. Moreover, she attempted to make out the street signs and general landmarks. Her more observant (mildly paranoid) nature was coming forward and she was already planning on worst case scenarios, in this case having to make her way back to CMB without the aid of the transportation they currently enjoyed.

When "the talk" from Maddoc happened, Thalia was not amazingly surprised. She was not very happy with the situation, seeing as this looked a lot like an unnecessary risk for what was a moderate reward, but she was not surprised. Testing time. Maddoc and Hank were their proctors. It was like college all over again, but with guns, knives, and animated corpses. So, almost exactly like Suffolk University. Go Rams.

When her name was called, Thalia rose and went to collect her weapons for their little outing. Her case became a little troublesome, as her square peg didn't exactly fit the round hole that was their policy for distributing shooting and stabbing implements. A large melee weapon wasn't in her immediate future. Having only one articulate hand made that more difficult than it would be for most. Her skill with a spear, which she might have used one-handed, had been abbreviated and it wasn't in her training regimen to recover that ability. So with a sigh, Thalia took a 9mm Beretta and a knife. It was less firepower than the others had overall, so she might have to make up for this in other, less tangible ways. The first thing she did to make herself ready was to place the knife in an underhanded grip, blade facing outward (because those horror movie slashers were dumb as hell) in her artificial right hand, then compressed her metal fingers around it and locked them in place. It wasn't like her grip would tire.

The Beretta found decent lodging at the back of her belt, shortly after she chambered a round by pressing the slide against the heel of her shoe and making sure the safety was on. While she was most comfortable with a Glock 17, Thalia had to admit that the safety feature on the Beretta was a more ergonomic option. Her initial appraisal of her sidearm out of the way, she settled in to get as much rest as she could considering the circumstances, as Thalia was certain today would be a long day.

Looking around at the people in the bus around her, Thalia realized that she had not been out in the world with any of these people. Thana, Alexander, and Manny were back in CMB. Nigel, while a decent enough sparring partner, was not someone she had gone on a run with ever. The same went for Tatiana. She had been teaching Thalia ballet, for which she was grateful, and they had some interesting psychological qualities in common that she found gruesomely interesting, but again, they had no experience outside of walls together.

In their group, she was the odd one out and she knew it. Wayne and Nigel had history. Ash and Tatiana also had history. Thalia? For all she knew, they were looking at her, wondering if she was going to find a dark corner someplace and screw them all over. Logically, objectively, if one of them was going to, she was the most likely suspect. Sarcastically, Thalia pondered that this was a really fun position to be in. And par for the course for her.

She listened to Nigel's response, taking in the words about finding their place in the group and having a baptism of fire. It sounded colorfully epic, like people who write books about the glory of war, yet did not stick with her heart. To Thalia's mind, either they would do their job successfully, hopefully with all of them surviving, enough timed until something worked out. Until actual trust was formed. It would be a difficulty for Thalia to fully trust someone, though she had no intention of screwing over the others in the meantime. "Yeah," she said simply. This was not a discussion she felt comfortable responding to with overt optimism. "I'm sure we'll be fine." Her words felt hollow.

Thalia was partly glad that the conversation turned away from her and over to Ash. It allowed to to put more of her attention outside of the bus to scan for things which might be useful to her later; more landmarks or even places she might be able to hole up for a night, worst case scenario.

Then without warning, Captain America began to speak again. She wanted to say that he was being condescending, or talking down to the people in the bus as if he was the One Great Authority on doing shit like this. But considering that her assigned group didn't add anything, the people in the other group weren't talking much, and those in charge blatantly said that they were on their own, she was slightly relieved that someone spoke up. Even him. Thalia didn't like taking orders from people she didn't know and trust. Whatever. It wasn't the worst plan ever and she knew that personal factors were probably coloring her attitude. So she added, "Anybody else capable of being quiet?" in a cold voice with a hard edge to it. If she had to pair with someone, she'd rather it be someone who wouldn't immediately give away her position. But, beggars and choosers.
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Ash Holloway
Location: P6, Training Grounds -> Bus

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Ash looked at the exchange between Tatiana and Wayne curiously. She was basically family to him, and her husband was a close friend. Things had been very strained between those two lately and he was not happy to see it. Ash caught a little bit of this after they were able to recover the dainty but badassed ballerina. Something was different. He did not have the same kind of relationship with Tati that Jack did, so he was able to maintain greater objectivity with her despite her changes. There was a little surprise when he noted the familiarity with which she and Wayne conversed. The physical nature of their back-and-forth was not something which Ash approved of, even to the point of taking the start of a cursory step forward before he caught himself. Protective instincts died hard. He knew they were friends.

As for the one-armed lady, she seemed to pay him little mind and so he reciprocated. There was a sort of barrier between the two of them that he couldn't quite quantify. She seemed to be an incarnation of something familiar to him, yet foreign enough that it imposed the social equivalent of the psychological phenomenon known as the Uncanny Valley. Ash knew he just had to get to know her better for this to go away, as a matter of logic. But sometimes the eyes of an older, intimidating man stared at him when he looked at Thalia. And sometimes the words of a woman, to which he gave mercy at the end of a rifle, poured out of her mouth.

Seemingly at the last minute, a final arrival showed himself. Nigel, the Roman guy. Not that Roman Guy was the most flattering callsign, but none of the ones Ash was ever saddled with were anything he wanted to keep, himself. His presence made five. Himself, Tati, Wayne, Thalia, and now Nigel. One number over once-standard minimum preferred for small unit tactics. He nodded to the man then stood quietly while Maddoc went through his speech.

The speech sounded a lot like the standard practical field trial speeches in which he was involved in years past, with the ever so small caveat that he would personally kill them if they became troublesome. This made sense. The only surprising part about this little pep talk was that Hank, of all people, would be taking over for Macsen in the evaluations. The former Sheriff somehow got himself in an advantageous position quickly, from the look of things.

When the bus arrived, Ash filed in and gave brief but polite recognition to the Major, Hank, and Atticus. He then took a seat near to the middle. It would hopefully give him the best vantage for hearing conversation among the passengers as well as carity when receiving instruction from those in charge. And being able to help with the exits, both top and rear, in case of an emergency. After the others arrived, Ash couldn't help but notice that Nigel had mentioned his name. It was talk about him, but not actually to him. Ash declined to throw in his two cents, content to give a polite smile and return to looking about his surroundings. He wasn't wrong in the classical sense - Ash did know his way around pistols and long guns, but he didn't consider himself a specialist. Just one of many who took training in the United States Army and had a rural background which involved hunting. A sniper he was not.

Looking at the team set up for this outing, Ash was rather pleased. Provided that they could come together as a team, this looked positive. He knew what Tati could do and trusted her with his life above anyone else there. Wayne was a wild card but a decent man from what he had heard; a former Detective with good instincts. Nigel was an educated man with a solid frame who was good with a long blade, which made him useful. Thalia (if she was willing to be part of a team), was a quiet, skilled agent with a formidable background. Thana trusted her, which was good enough for Ash. This was a good team. They would do fine. They just had to find their point of synergy.

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Thalia Carmichael
Location: P6, Training Grounds -> Bus
Skills: N/A

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"Exchange of fists and swords". Yes, Nigel had just said that to her. It seemed a little strange that a grown man spoke in the same manner as an English stage actor portraying a Roman Legionnaire, but considering that she had a brother who quoted Shakespeare and/or just said Shakespearean-esque things when asking her if she had an extra roll of toilet paper, this was actually preferable. Hindsight was a thing.

"But for sooth, daughter of our father, wouldst that thy mercy open the way for a hand's grasp of the cylinder-wrapped squares of sanitary deliverance, to slake the septic yawping of mine lower splat-trumpet," or some such bullshit. She didn't remember but it sounded close enough. Or she might have added things in her head. Whatever. Thalia translated English to English and dealt with it.

Thalia filed onto the bus with everyone else. She wasn't especially happy with how close everyone was in the meantime and probably never would be, but this was the life she signed up for. Soldering, or something like it. She recalled the speech that Maddoc gave them, about being tested and the promise of getting killed if they put the rest of the group in danger. Soooo, to her this was every god damned day outside of the walls. If some jackass was about to get you killed, you killed them first. Quietly. Neatly. Then moved on. Things made more sense out on the world sometimes. But no, Thalia wasn't about to "go rogue" or anything remotely that stupid. She used to be a Lone Wolf type. Reality and the influence of friends made her revise this, and it was probably why she was still alive today.

She took the seat across from Tatiana and gave her a nod not unlike the one she had received from her just before entering the bus. If she wanted to talk quietly, Thalia could move over there with her, or get up close to the aisle like back in escuela secundaria. Then she then tried to take note of as many details as possible in this bus - exits, number of people, status of windows, etc.; details that might be important if she had to leave quickly or cover someone else's exit. Her mildly paranoid security rituals and momentary reflection of recent hindsight completed, Thalia looked up to Nigel to respond to his conversation opener. For the fists and swords portion, she wordlessly grunted an quiet, "Nnn," and tilted her head slightly. Concerning the firearms query and Ash's possible proficiency thereof, she kept her words short. "I'm glad someone is. I gaht to relearn stances and reloading for one hand. Naht there yet." It wasn't wholly accurate. She wasn't hopeless, nor even bad. She wasn't at the level she was before losing a hand, and that was irritating her immensely. Like the off and on pain she was feeling at hurting herself with a toothbrush that morning. That was embarrassing. Realizing she was being a downer, and no one needed to come down on a test day, she reasoned (though in darker tones), "We're a group, right? Cover each other's asses. Only way we survive." In theory, anyway.

Elsewhere in the bus, two things happened. Firstly, Ash was rather pleased to hear that Thalia was embracing the idea of the unit rather than the individual. Again, he did not comment. Observation was enough. Secondly, Hank looked over to his hetero-lifemate Wayne and gave a tight-lipped smile. he nodded his head and gave a reassuring, "Hey, my man," in greeting. In truth, he was a little worried about Wayne for this test. There was brimming confidence that he'd be capable of physically passing them, but he also remembered the guy running off into a group of Dead Assholes when it wasn't necessary just to kill as many as possible. There were others nearby that, admittedly, he wanted to protect, but they didn't know how capable (or even ethical) these people were, having just met them. Hank also remembered several times feeling the need to run into danger after him to make sure he was okay. The older man didn't say anything more right then. But he did hope that their time in CMB's care helped even him out some. This was his best friend, after all. And Wayne could accomplish so much good if given a chance.
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Ash Holloway
Location: P6, empty lot next to Enlisted Housing (O)
Skills: N/A

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In a stark contrast to the last few years, Ashton's life was idyllic. Not to mean ideal, as not being in the state of existential perfection. That might have been impossible even in the years preceding dead folks eating live ones. But idyllic, as his present life inspired a level of contentment and simplicity that Ash honestly did not think he would experience again. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew that it would not last forever. Things never did. This was life now. It didn't mean that he would let this inevitability ruin things.

Ash wasn't in charge now, but he did have responsibilities he took seriously. It felt good to more actively ply his skills on a more personal, manual level. There were things which he would always be - distiller, engineer, soldier - though in this instance his experience as a mechanic were called into service. There was even a sense of satisfaction meeting up with Thana after her duties or at mealtimes, streaked with an errant line of grease he had somehow neglected to remove. Simple things. Small things. Things which were worthwhile. Ash was in the best mental health and frame of mind that he had been in for a long while. Having love, purpose, friends and those which he considered family (bloodlines be damned) was highly fulfilling for the grizzled, erstwhile Captain.

The people of CMB even managed to locate and return his Hordebuster, be it in a state of mild disrepair from the bullet holes and almost year of neglect in the elements. One could tell that it needed some love even besides the cracked engine block which was impossible to repair without a facility (or a lot of time that they simply didn't have). Ash had regretted abandoning it. His people were more important. All the same, it was like being reunited with a family member. The Holloways had owned the vehicle since well before the Outbreak, where it served their business needs well, running fine distilled products of ancestral recipe and serving as a home away from home on long hauls. It had immense sentimental value. Certain that he would never see it again, Ash had removed the gear shift knob and carried it with him ever since. It was no surprise that Ash, upon seeing its careworn, utilitarian blue form entering Mexico Beach, he immediately made a dash for his quarters. Ash snatched the knob from its resting place therein and took off at a run, determined to place it where it belonged. If the leadership of CMB did this for the purpose of solidifying Ash's loyalty to the community, they succeeded. Not like they needed to. This was gravy on top. Ash had his Hordebuster back. It even still bore the name "Holloway" on the sides.

Between his appointed tasks, overhauls, maintenance, etc., for CMB's fleet of vehicles, he took to making little repairs and improvements to the Hordebuster, sanctioned, of course. It could be argued that after fixing an engine block everything was a little repair. In this case, touching up paint or knocking out dents, sanding out oxidation and treating it with priming compounds, replacing the seal around the cab's roof hatch, re-establishing base rainwater collection, reinforcing the massive, road-clearing wedge on the front, etc. Small things. Ash wasn't sure if it counted as extra work hours so far as his superiors were concerned, but he really didn't care. So long as his work got done and he had time with Thana, life was good. There was much that he wanted to do. CMB's resources were objectively put to better use in other areas.

One such area was the construction of a (dare he imagine it?) third vehicle, spawned from the original specifications of his Hordebuster. The first such truck was constructed out of necessity, made to save lives and get a convoy of people out of a bad situation. THE Hordebuster. The second was built by CMB based off of his designs which were recovered from the ruins of Newnan. This would be a third vehicle, built for the specific purpose of being bigger, nastier, and more painful. This was not a home, like the original. This was not a supply vehicle. No, this was supposed to be a instrument of intimidation and power; one for which he was asked to be on the build team. Suffice it to say, Ash had ideas. He also had questions.

"Scratch build or existing vehicle modification?" He gathered various drawing utensils and paper lay them down on a large, flat space. Engineering specs were kind of his thing.

"Fire engine base is ideal. Most powerful diesel engine shy of a tank, civilian use. Decent fuel economy, too." He might be able to do something with a personnel transport truck, owing to a greater amount of off-road capability. He kept designing, scribbling notes on margins, and the like. Ash knew that he wasn't in charge of this build, but he was a valuable source of information about the concept and wished to present various possibilities. But one might be able to discern from his very "engineer-y" handwriting a selection of footnotes, including optimal vehicles which did not require a ground-up build:

"M728 Combat Engineer Vehicle, mine plow,"
"M1132 Engineer Squad Vehicle, front blade, dragging trailer,"
"Engineering Purposed Abrams, breach configuration,"
"Terrier Combat Tractor, excavator model, extended track base,"
"Belaz 75710, exterior modification,"

It was a wishlist. It couldn't be anything else. That didn't stop him from wishing, though. Additional designs were in draft form, stacked, with rough notations. Pros, cons, availability of parts, fuel options, and many more considerations were committed to paper. More realistic to his estimation, they were mainly variations of semi-truck and fire engine builds. From the speed of which he was able to put these designs out and the detail presented, one could tell that he had been thinking about this for a long time. He showed his notes, all of them, to both Rosie and Mizrahi, also outlining his full thoughts on the matter. Ash was a Combat Engineer. He was handed requests or obstacles, and gave back practical methods of overcoming them. Then he moved to execute said methods when cleared to do so.

Whatever build they went for, be it one of his or another applicable design from another source, Ash delved into it wholeheartedly.

*****

That morning, Ash smiled briefly to the instantly warming sensation of Thana giving him a kiss. In a different life, such fraternization might have led to very negative consequences in their careers. It was a silver lining of the apocalypse, he supposed, that two military professionals could have an active personal life in addition to their assigned responsibilities. And he did have his own duties to perform. The thought that the would be available for each other that evening just gave him something to look forward to. Ash looked about the room as he more hastily wolfed down what remained of his meal, taking note of the people present. This was his new home.

Ash's presence in Transportation been covered, owing to his plans to take a military position within the community. He had taken part in the requirements thusfar and was determined to see it through, regain his rank in the eyes of CMB, and continue serving in the manner he intended to when he took his oath, years ago.

After he bused his tray and walked outside of the Mess Hall, it momentarily occurred to Ash that he had a birthday in a couple of weeks. He felt it was odd that it crept up on him like that. Priorities had a way of shifting. He dismissed it with a head shake and started off at a jog, moving away from where the vast majority of everyone else was headed. It was a short time later when he found himself in front of Enlisted Housing. Ash slowed to a walk and crossed the road. Wayne was there, commonly known to him as the big fellow who sees imaginary things. To each their own, he supposed, as long as Wayne wasn't a threat.

But Wayne wasn't the person he was here to see. Ash crossed the ground, giving the guy a courteous nod in greeting, and continued on to Maddoc. Ash gave him an appropriate salute, given the circumstances, and gave an almost protocol declaration of, "Ashton Holloway. Reporting for military review, sir." He was sure that the formalities weren't necessary, but he wanted the right foot to be put forward. After anything resembling confirmation of his presence, Ash mentioned, "I'm interested to sign on for teams later on, sir. Commitments just now." It might or might not have been common knowledge that he was part of the massive build team working out of Transportation. Likely that, even if it was restricted knowledge, this guy would know anyway. "Though I stand ready if called upon." The last part trailed out with more of his Virginian accent than he had intended.



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Thalia Carmichael
Location: P6, empty lot next to Enlisted Housing (O)
Skills: N/A

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Thalia's life, on the other hand, was neither ideal nor idyllic. The sudden increase of people around her on a daily basis served to make her feel more isolated. Much of that was her fault. Thalia had a tendency to pull away from crowds of people unless she was using the crowd to camouflage her movements. This, combined with the situation that these people were getting lives of their own now, no longer relying on each other for basic survival, her feelings of usefulness were starting to plummet. Out there, beyond the walls, she had a clearer (if grimmer) purpose. Then again, she also had two working hands for most of that time. Thalia had worn away much of her social skills, what few she possessed in the first place, out in the world scrambling to keep herself fed and sheltered with highly primitive means. Like everyone else, Thalia had killed to survive. Unlike them, she was certain that she was a killer. The distinction there was important. She had remained in CMB because she needed to. Moreover, it was made crystal clear to Thalia that CMB did not need her in the slightest. It also didn't help matters that the one person with whom she made a physical connection had abandoned her, for no reason other than she didn't want to bother trying to live there. Even temporarily.

These realizations didn't come all at once, either. It slowly crept into her soul over the first couple of weeks after Hunter's trial. Having extended down time wherein she didn't have to cover her own ass or the collective asses of her team gave her painful time to turn her thoughts inward. Did she prefer to be alone because it was easier? Better yet, did she deserve to be around people in the first place? Thalia was certain that yes, she was a killer. She did so without remorse during nor with regret later. Nurtured toward this sense of moral ambiguity from the age of ten. It made her strong, yes, but at what cost? Was her soul truly damaged? Was this what others saw when they looked at her? Did this actually bother her, or was it her disconnection from it all? For mercy's sake, she claimed to follow Catholicism but put prayers to a cultural folk saint that was the colorful embodiment of Death. Thalia worshiped Death. Had killed in the name of revenge and cleansing the world of human filth with Dama de la Muerte's mark painted across her face.

Thalia stayed because she was weak. She was sure of this now.

Lucky for her, Thalia possessed the barest sense of introspection that let her know that she was damaged somehow. Her mind wasn't right. While she had no requirement to attend therapy sessions, it was a good idea if she did. Weekly group meetings had open attendance, and damnit, she was going to attend. Maybe she wouldn't share everything, and she shared absolutely nothing the first few of them, but eventually she started to talk. Some of the things she said were shocking. Every time she spoke, Thalia did so with the idea that this might get her restricted in the community or kicked out altogether. And maybe part of her was even aiming for exactly that conclusion. But they never did toss her out.

This did not mean that she didn't participate in some more colorful and benign forms of self-destructive behavior. When she found out that someone in Camp Mexico Beach was a decent enough artist and had access to tattooing equipment, she pulled a few extra hours every now and again to trade out for some ink. Her body was scarred up enough as it was. A little voluntary decoration wouldn't hurt matters any. Like many people who got bitten by the tat bug, she didn't stop at just one.

Owing to a secret like of My Little Pony from when she was a small child (which she might or might not take to the grave), she got her hips tatted with a cutie mark of a black dahlia flower. A flower which marked permanence, commitment, and honesty, yet also carried with it negative connotations including the promise of eventual death. Certain folk tales also described the flower blooming its most beautifully when seeded from a corpse. Also, it was a generous statement to say that they were marked on her hips. Phrasing was important. Thalia's back now bore additional markings as well. Two tattoos were prominently placed, making their way down her shoulder blades; marks which looked very much like she had angelic wings once but they were removed forcibly, leaving the stitched remains of the trauma to attest to her former status. It was an interesting play on the nickname her father had given her. To give more of a thematic image, just below these on the right side was the image of a single feather, inked in such a way as to appear falling from the wounds above.

Yet she did her job. Thalia did so without complaint, or even comment the vast majority of the time. She trained as hard as she could, she took her meals when and where she was directed to, and she kept doing what she did best - surviving in whatever environment she was placed. Thalia continued, if she wasn't sure exactly what the overall purpose was anymore. There were a few interesting spots in the six months since the trial, to be fair. The first such one was from Shears, actually. Thalia had cornered him, having been directed there by the string of notes in some maddening Wild Goose Chase/Worst Scavenger Hunt Ever. This was the last one, and whatever the end result was to be lay in the possession or knowledge of the resident barber. She got her answer. Slowly, carefully, Thalia accepted a cylindrical object and gazed at it for a long moment. Shears had the good sense to begin putting some distance between himself and the uncertain woman in front of him. She didn't notice. In fact, Thalia noticed only two things then. First, it was the object itself. A can. Unswollen, unrusted, but with a little fading on the label, which boldly held the letters spelling out "SpaghettiOs". The other thing she noticed was a note affixed to the back of the can:

I made you work for it.
-Navy

Birds scattered into the skies. Small children looked to the safety of their mothers. The world took in a tense breath and waited for what might happen next as Thalia stood there outside of the Mess Hall and declared, possibly for the first time ever with volume heretofore unobserved in the woman who prided herself on guile, stealth, and a survivalist's mentality, "That ...BITCH!!!" The words echoed from the very walls and brought with it afterward a profound stillness. Thana would get hers. Oh yes, she would get hers. It might take time, but it would be implemented in such a way that, much like Thana, she would not even have to be present to know it happened.

Another interesting event for Thalia during this time was, despite her seemingly oppressively solitary existence, she had made a friend, of sorts - Tatiana. Not that they spoke really. Or at all, most of the time. It was more accurate perhaps to say that they had an understanding wherein they didn't ask much of each other past their presence. The ballet lessons notwithstanding, as Thalia took to this as much as her other physical training. It was nice, though. In fact, this reminded Thalia very much of the relationship between the two older men who came in the same day her group did; two damaged individuals who associated with each other, passing no judgement about the other's level of bent. Tatiana had her own demons. They weren't Thalia's business unless Tati felt like sharing.

Thalia's personal difficulties, while rarely showing up in public except for a tendency to keep to herself, did explode in private. Many an evening she might hypothetically be found ranting to herself, venting frustrations as if she was speaking to someone while alone in her room. The truth of it was that she was addressing the one thing she was allowed to keep upon entering CMB, a yellow rubber duckie in good condition. Thalia would talk to it in a highly accusatory manner, then respond as if it had something pointed to say about it.

"Oh, and don't look at me ahll high and mighty, like you gaht any room to judge. Fucking hypocrite."

"Don't say a fucking word, duck. You didn't even show up until we were almost heah."

"And I'll tell you another gahd damn thing - trying to trip me up at the last minute was a bitch move. Bitch move. You weren't exactly the vision of good decision making, either."

"NO, it was naht for my own good. You don't know what I was doing."

There were evenings where Thalia cried in private. there were other evenings where she seriously contemplated hopping the wall and getting as far away from Mexico Beach as possible. A silly J-pop or J-rock song from an anime, or at least a translation of it, kept popping into her mind. It stuck with her in these months, and sometimes she might be seen humming it as she went along with training or doing her work. The song was "Bad Apple". Thalia didn't particularly like it, but one line among the others made her think: "Will there ever be a place for the broken in the Light?"

Somewhere in her troubled mind, a core of stability remained. She knew that all of these things were long coming, and that she could only hold them back for so long before they had top be addressed. Thalia also knew that, though she was feeling worse, this was a sign that she was getting better. And things did get better. It just took a while.

One of the funniest things that she experienced during those months was when she was selected to be part of Safety. They sent her to the armory and had her pick out a firearm, as duties required it. All of this was happening, and they gave her a gun. They gave her a gun before they gave Thana's Army boyfriend a gun. Before Tati's husband, the former cop. And before Alexander, another soldier who seemed to be in good with the man who ran this camp. To her, this was goddamned hilarious. They had more faith in her than she had in herself right then. But even this was changing. CMB was right to wait. Thalia had a lot of stuff to process. When the time came, she chose a reliable 9mm with good ammo capacity that she could operate with one hand. She had even refined her system for one handed reloading and chambering. It still wasn't as fast as having two working hands, but it was pretty impressive nonetheless.

She was still a girl who appreciated melee stabbing as a preference, if she had her druthers on the subject. This led her over to Tesla during a free moment, where the conversation was short and open-ended, culminating in a request. "You ever watch Fullmetal Alchemist?" The raise of her prosthetic to emphasize her point was a granted gesture. "Tahlk later, okay?" An attachment of the sort would help turn her liability into an asset for the community. This is what Thalia was good for. She might as well own it and be the best she could be. Now that she was on Safety, there was cause.

There was another benefit to being assigned to Safety, and that was her trainer. Now, nothing came of anything to date, but it was interesting as hell to Thalia that Roy was stuck showing her the ropes. Did he request the assignment, or was this just the whim of the dice, as it were? Her brother Joaquin might have just as easily trained her. But no, the guy who she had sized up like she was appraising a steak when she first came to town is now assigned to her, in a supervisory capacity. Again, nothing came of this at first, seeing as she was much more of a mess, but as things began to stabilize, she did finally decide it was a good time to say something. Her extremely direct nature probably worked against her here. With a neutral, almost annoyed tone and a look that was as much inquisitive as anything, Thalia addressed Roy. She waited for an opportunity away from other people.

"Look, I'm naht good at flirting." Admit limitations. Good start. Continue. "And I sure as hell don't want commitment." Ah, a bold, declarative statement to show assertiveness. Capital idea. "But if you'ah interested, and discreet, I'm available." Thalia narrowed her eyes and studied any reaction he might have, tilting her head slightly to one side as if to size him up again. After a moment, she focused on the job at hand. "Ahright, let's get back to it. Station check?" Thalia's actions following were as if she hadn't said anything at all. But she had. It hung in the air, waiting. Overbearing, even.

Eventually, as weeks rolled into months and seasons passed, the darkened Angel got a better bearing of herself. She did not miraculously change the core of her being. That core kept her alive. This was realization and acceptance on a fuller scale. Thalia continued to go to group therapy when she didn't have other things which were more pressing. It was helping. She was getting better.

*****

Thalia and Tatiana had grown to have similarities. Which one of them started in CMB with the traits originally was up for grabs. Regardless, the two of them sat that morning, consuming their meal and keeping an eye on the people around them. Tati's stare might have been to make observations about the people, but Thalia's intent was the same as it usually was, plotting for unspeakable and highly improbable contingencies which generally involved the hypothetical application of violence. Thalia was eating a little slower than she usually did that day, due to some dental issues. Her teeth were fine enough; the issue involved the painful truth that there were some tasks that her left hand simply hadn't adapted to. Put a short blade in her hand and she was fine. A pistol, too. Much of her early training was broad in nature, allowing her to establish a form of weapon ambidexterity common to practitioners of the stabby arts. Adapting to that was not a big issue. But ask her to write something, or in this instance brush her teeth? One unexplained noise on the outside of the window and a head turn later, you'd think she tried to commit suicide with a dental hygiene implement and some baking soda. She might have laughed, but, ow.

The two women still didn't feel the need to say much to one another. Thalia knew where she was going after breakfast, and she was going there with mostly the same intent as Tatiana. The roguish Miss Carmichael figured that she could do more good for herself and Mexico Beach going on runs outside of the walls. Moreover, she needed to step things up by enlisting in their military program. Thalia was not a ready and experienced leader. It just wasn't her. Being given some freedom of movement with goals to accomplish and a wide margin to implement said goals was more her speed. Small unit tactics, mobility, quiet work; these were her strengths. She might make a fine Specialist, Corporal, or even Sergeant sooner or later, but that was it. Hopefully, the people in charge would feel the same way.

After busing her tray, Thalia looked to Tati and nodded her head in the general direction of Enlisted Housing. More specifically, she intended the lot to one side of it. Thalia's day was open past this as she was working the night shift at the Jail, so if she was lucky she could get whatever needed to be done here handled and grab a nap before reporting in. She would know better if this was a possibility only after this was underway, and so made her way from the Mess Hall, up the street, and over to the empty lot to speak to Maddoc.

Thalia expected to see Ashton there. And she knew she was reporting to Navy's uncle to sign up. What surprised her was Wayne. Sure. Why not? Thalia had cleared a lot of cobwebs out over the last six months, why not him, too? All the same, she did retain a healthy amount of reservation and kept her opinion (and potential options) open until information led her in a specific direction about the man. Well, Thalia wasn't here to make personal critiques, she reasoned. Giving her friend a nod, she blew out a breath and walked up to Maddoc. Best to get this done and see what happened after. "Signing for both." It was a simple statement. Military review and teams for assignments outside of the walls. It was time to start pulling that weight.
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Ash Holloway
Location: Education Center (M)
Skills: N/A

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Maybe Thana didn't realize it, but she had generally agreed with Ash's synopsis of executions, public or otherwise. He smiled to her when she gave the terms upon which she would inert a bullet into the back of his head. Or the front, whichever worked best. But mostly, his smile was because he heard her mention aloud and in public that she loved him. Even if it was followed up by threat of imminent death. "If I intentionally screwed over the community, then my execution would have a practical purpose. If you handled it, it'd also be one hell of a symbol," he remarked, referencing what he had said just earlier.

There was an element of pride that Thana likewise took community over individual, objectively speaking. Ash was positive that he would have a harder time making the same call if it came to a question of Thana over Camp Mexico Beach. He suspected that Thana's own objectivity would have her partaking in a heaping spoonful of self-sacrifice in the event of this and Ash would have to go along, respecting her wishes on the matter. It didn't make the idea any easier to swallow. But like she said, this was if she broke the trust of the people. In whatever hypothetical scenario this occurred, a lingering shadow remained in the back of Ash's psyche of the intertwined dichotomy of Ash as a man and Ash as a soldier. That separation which sometimes spoke to him and kept him alive, and on task. He could be just as objective. It was a curse and a blessing.

Ash rose as Thana rose and nodded to Nigel as he left. It looked like the man was mulling over events and he couldn't blame the guy. He glanced to Thana as she popped her neck, slightly impressed at the demonstration. Like her, Ash did not agree with the decision and like her, he was going to continue along without disrupting anything. He agreed to live by the rulings of this community and he would do just that, until he or they decided that he wasn't suited to remain. It would be a shame either way as Ash had fought hard to get here, and to Thana. This is where he wanted to be. Moreover, he genuinely wanted to be an active, involved part of this community. He was a soldier, officer, and engineer, and remembered very clearly the words spoken to him about involvement in their administration, so long as he worked toward it and the governing body gave a nod. He'd do his part and make himself useful.

"I love you too, Thawna," Ash said in a direct, optimistic manner, responding to the beginning of her sentence which ended in his brains being hypothetically sprayed across the landscape. His Virginian twang sounded more than he realized as it was coming out.

Ash watched Hunter being led away and breathed out a sigh. Ash hoped that this was going to work out okay, even so far as to pose the hypothetical question of whether there was something he could do to help him. Or even if that was appropriate. Maybe he'd see in six months. When the door closed behind the security detail transporting Hunter, Ash looked back to Thana. "Would you do me the honor of having dinner with me?" It was time to move on. It was also time to clock out, as much as anyone really could anymore. Ash had a feeling that the next six months in civilization would change them almost as much as the last year and a half out in the world had.

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Thalia Carmichael
Location: Mess Hall
Skills: N/A

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Let it never be said that Thalia's decision to attempt socialization was a good one. Ever. Granted, her initial approach was less than stellar for making friends, and this might even be the last time that she would give it the "old college try" for at least six months, she figured, barring something significant. It was a conservative estimate, to her thoughts. In any case, this had to have been one of the stranger personal interactions since coming into town.

To recap: From Thalia's point of view, she got a rousing success being quiet and sneaky, making her way through an occupied room with open lighting undetected. She needed that boost to her confidence. Something about losing more of her arm than with which she was comfortable, having skills which came naturally to her get backtracked a decade or so, getting abandoned by the one person she let herself get close to physically in a few years, and finally make an utter fool of herself in the Education Center's theater, was making her feel measurably less-than-useful and a little vulnerable. So, making friends seemed in order. Or at least opening a casual dialogue with someone with no expectations past it. Thalia's social skills were never great. Even at her best, she was a tool to be pointed in a direction that didn't have enough fear or chaos in it and/or had an overabundance of breathing people, all of which she stood a good chance of being rectified by her presence. So walking up to practical strangers and saying, "Hi," was kind of a big deal for her. Was she actually feeling lonely? That might have been odd.

What she got was a rather generic yet completely acceptable conversation opener about staring at a lesbian couple and someone's favorite animal. This sounded like it was begging for context and was, again to Thalia's thinking, pretty damn grade-school vanilla. It could be worse. Still willing to work with it. Guy made the corner of her mouth twist to a smile. She took the ninja comment as a compliment. It was something she was shooting for. Thalia even responded to Lisa's question, not giving much thought to the free and easy reference of The Great Fuck Hunt. "Yah, doing great." A little gruff. Conversationally, she was definitely not in her element. But maybe this was how people spoke who weren't eternally in some life or death drama. Though Thalia felt out of place, she told herself that she would adjust. Like a normal person. She shoved the other half of her sandwich in her mouth and destroyed it a little too efficiently to be a novice at the craft. It didn't even have time to scream for help, if it had the ability to do so. She then turned her voracious attentions to whatever remained as whatever conversation was going to develop, developed.

Mid-chew, Thalia stopped and began to stare at Lisa, who had taken the nigh wholesome if a but simple conversation and squeezed it through some kind of a singles-club wringer. Seconds. Literally seconds later; few enough for her to count on one hand (which was convenient as she only had the one), Lisa began eye-humping Guy and making what sounded like open flirtations to him. Thalia knew that look. She gave it to Roy not too long ago. Just a quick sizing up to make him a little nervous. Maybe think about things. He was one of a few to whom she might give consideration, so far as pure stress relief was concerned. In any case, Thalia was staring at Lisa with mild incredulity. The sudden conversational schizophrenia was effective in making her a fifth wheel and she was already done with it. Her hand felt around on her tray, settling on the metal fork thereupon.

Eyes on Lisa, Thalia intentionally hucked the fork onto the floor a few meters away. With deadpan sarcasm, she declared, "Oops. I seem to have dropped my fork. Excuse me." She grabbed up her tray, locking the edge of it down in her metal prosthesis and noped the hell away from the table, pausing only long enough to snatch up her fork from the floor. Thalia didn't look back.

After busing her tray, Thalia made solidly for the door. She thought she might still have time to get back to the Education Center before judgement was passed. Unfortunately, she caught sight of a number of people who were previously there making their way to the Mess Hall. Well, she'd just find out what happened with everybody else. Right then, catching sight of Shears making his way up for supper, Thalia suddenly had bigger fish to fry. She very unsubtly made her way over to the man, stepping around the occasional person like an obstacle to he dodged until she was right in front of the man. A quick, regarding head tilt later, she spoke to him with a sense of directness, "Hey Sheahs. You got something for me." It was not a question, and it was not phrased like one. Whether this was the end of the clue hunt or just another step, Shears was in her sights. The game continued.
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Ash Holloway
Location: Education Center (M)
Skills: N/A

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It was a steady series of nods which came from Ashton, as he heard and agreed with what Thana was saying. He had seen proceedings like this before. One might argue that it could be described as a "drumhead" trial, seeing as a guilty verdict was assured from the get-go. This was more about showing the community how things worked. The main difference between this and an actual drumhead, as the expression went, was that the sentence was not already decided. Nor was that sentence necessarily going to be capital, though apparently it was on the table. It was an odd feeling, being able to openly discuss the possibility of exile and/or execution, after the last year and a half of being on the road, fighting for survival, keeping his group together as best he could while conducting an epic quest for both Tatiana and Thana. He thought that such an ordeal might have changed him back into someone more prone to view each life he encountered as uncompromisingly valuable. It had not. Instead, now that he was back in civilization, it made him wish to maintain said civilization for the greater good of the most people possible while looking out for individual freedom within the ruleset of the governing body. In short, living away from society made him more protective of it. He was probably always going to be the officer he once was. Curse or blessing was yet to be decided. So, Thana's words made perfect sense to him. "Ten minutes," he mused. "Can't wait." A touch of sarcasm perhaps. Nevertheless, he had come this far and was genuinely curious as to how this would proceed.

Further conversation was waylaid by the distracting noise coming from behind them all. Thana's commentary was noted, also agreed with, and looked upon with some element of horror. "Yeah. I thought she was some kind of, ah... assassin type." Not to say Ash believed that she was a professional contract killer; more like an edgy, stealth using, melee enthusiast. At least one of those qualities was NOT on display that evening.

Instead of continuing to give attention to the one armed train wreck, Ash turned back and addressed the comment which Nigel had made just a moment before. "No execution is simple. Trust me there. Sets a precedent that's difficult to walk back from. Any death like that has to have practical and symbolic purpose." He was thinking back to how Leann McCormick ran things prior to her death. It wasn't how he ran things, but Ash had to admit that she had made a compelling point about it sometimes. Hunter, if his death were to occur at the hands of the Council, might require solid reasoning behind it. Or take place away from the knowledge of the rest of the community. So again, Ash's thoughts went toward the only question that made sense to him - was what was best for the individual also what was best for Camp Mexico Beach? To supplement, which was more important? Hopefully, they might find another path which fulfilled the needs of both without stressing their resources. Or toss aside all pretense and commit to Tatiana's course of action. It would wrap things up in a nice, tidy package, but at what cost to themselves? He had his own ideas. All they could do now was wait.

And as it turned out, they did not have to wait very long. A touch of surprise took Ash as he realized what was happening. The General was showing him mercy. More, Ash reasoned, than he might have personally shown in his position. Whether or not it was a mistake on the part of the General, the die had been cast. Presented with the option to stay in the settlement under observation and restriction or leave for parts unknown and distant, Hunter chose to stay. Ash did not personally object; this was the ruling of the governing body, ran by protocol of American military remnants, handed down by a man with decades more leadership experience than himself. Also, Thana's grandfather.

Despite not being total agreement with the decision, ego was not a factor. This was the call, and Ash would support it. Maybe things would work out for the best, and for all parties concerned. If not, summary judgement was still an option. He could respect the show of compassion to Hunter as it was a path he might have chosen only a couple of years earlier. Ash's personal philosophy may have changed due to circumstances. His sense of ethic had not, and it clearly pointed him to the command structure and measured decision thereof.

Ash leaned closer to Thana, quietly speaking to her, "This chapter's done. Let's get back to putting our lives together. What do you say?" He was wearing an expression that, while slight, might have been considered disarming.



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Thalia Carmichael
Location: Mess Hall
Skills: Stealth

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That was embarrassing. More than embarrassing, that was an utter and public reversal of Thalia's best asset, aside from a sense of moral flexibility that had served her well over the past few years. A very open demonstration of how far she had fallen since losing her arm. It angered Thalia. More than angered, it brought a plethora of emotions bubbling just underneath the surface of her skin. There was only one thing which might offset this piece of self-deprecating torture. Well, two. Okay, three, but as she didn't know anybody well enough to know if she could pursue quick-and-dirty physical intimacy with them, that was out. The application of violence somehow wasn't appropriate, given the trial and the lack of people that probably deserved a decent asskicking. That she was personally aware of, anyway. This left option C.

Option C was food. And why not? Thalia was a fan, be it a squirrel stabbed with a pointed stick and seared with a scavenged blowtorch or delicate cuts of sushi grade ocean fish (the memory of which was genuinely invoking something primal, even animalistic within her). So when she graced the Mess Hall with her presence, it was done so with certain predatory instincts. It was like a switch clicked on in the more feral recesses of her psyche, and certain survival traits asserted themselves. Her eyes darted this way and that, perceiving as much of her environment as possible. She took in a deep breath, mentally separating the aromas of the food distribution site so as to determine what might be on the menu. It seemed muted this evening. Like fire was not utilized in the production of the meal to come.

Carefully, Thalia wove her way about the room, ever nearing the food line. She did not take a straight path, instead keeping her profile low and almost mingling with small groups of people, the intent being to remain out of the line of sight of the majority of people in the room at any given time. For every failure, both minor and massive, that Thalia had undergone in the application of her stealth, the cobwebs seemed to have been cleared away and she practically glided from one knot of people to another, keeping her head down and senses open. Her footfalls matched those of the people immediately around her, giving camouflage to even the slight sound of her clothes rustling or shoes touching the floor. In short, Thalia was a figurative shadow, contributing little that drew the eye and even less that might pick her out from a crowd.

Thalia acquired a collection of things which she might wish to consume; sliced vegetables, fruit, and a sandwich of indeterminate ingredients. She gathered them for herself and used similar sneaky maneuvering to weave her way to an open seat at a table. Naturally, she wasted no time in shoving half of her sandwich into her face along the way. A final target was in mind (though truly not for anything nefarious, it was a "just because" scenario), so long as her luck was holding out. And indeed it did. Unobserved by the population of the Mess Hall at CMB in any substantial way, Thalia slid into position directly next to Lisa. The last thing she heard before virtually materializing in the chair next to her was the declaration that "those two are adorable". While the chuckle following the statement subsided, Thalia announced her presence, finally, by speaking smoothly into her ear, "What'd I miss, townie?" The sound of a carrot meeting its demise between her molars cracked in sharp contrast.
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Ash Holloway
Location: Education Center (M)
Skills: N/A

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Ash recognized that Thana held the ethical high ground on this issue. Many of the others had spoken from points of hypothetical situations with varying, if questionably probable, outcomes, mostly drawing from personal experience. As for himself, Ashton had attempted objectivity with the focus being on what he felt would be best for the most people. A little cold perhaps, but as it stood as counterpoint to everyone else's stance, as everyone had uttered an argument to the contrary. Not just that; every argument up to that point had been structured in much the same way. However, the cold logical point Thana made was not only a different approach, but difficult to counter. And Ash agreed with it. Everyone signed on. Everyone agreed. Everyone had the opportunity to leave on more than one occasion if they didn't want to be a part of the community. When she was through speaking and came to sit next to him, Ash read the room (so to speak) and gave her a simple look of admiration and, like her, remained seated with his attention on the stage and those who were upon it.

Following this, subsequent speakers came and went. Nikki's testimony was predictable, and like others was colored by sentiment. Though she did provide an interesting alternative: probation with immediate expulsion upon violation. Perhaps there was some merit. Perhaps not, it was not Ash's place to say. Freedman was up next. His viewpoint (as Ash understood it) might have been the moral side of the ethical coin from which Thana had just spoken earlier. The problem was that they didn't agree with one another. Ash gave consideration to the concept that morality and ethic weren't quite the same thing despite some overlap. Both views held merit and he honestly could not refute either. Still, his own stance on the issue was voiced. If fell closer to Thana's than to Freedman's.

Shakespeare gave his own answer which, while far more histrionic than he preferred, was also rather predictable. The term vanquishment was interesting, translatable from English to English by means of context. Thankfully, his part was short. Experience and the voiced opinions of others told Ash that, literally given a stage upon which to speak, this might have turned into a full, iambic pentameter sonnet.

The big moment came from Tatiana. Not quite a surprise, from his point of view. He knew of the changes which had come over the woman. The more surprising part of this was that she actually voiced her more cutthroat nature in front of others. Moreover, Ash had a few of his own feelings in agreement with Tati. The thought of Richard did come up, though he decided as he spoke that it might muddy the waters by demonstrating specific, subjective motivation. And he did worry that showing this side of herself all at once might also target her by those who sought to assess risks. Her passing words to Ash were noted. When their eyes met, he gave her a mild, barely perceptible nod of comprehension. Ash understood what she was getting at. Richard was a threat, left to his own devices, and he became akin to an infection within their community. The biggest difference from Hunter here was that Richard attempted subtlety when he could. He tried to pretend to fit in, all the while working to his own devices at the expense of others.

CMB had their own way of handling things. If Ash felt that it should be handled differently, it was a matter of working through the system to effect change, barring a sudden change in circumstances or an emergency. He was about to see just how they were going to handle it.

Ash looked to Thana, following the announcement of deliberations. He did not want to downplay what had happened. Simultaneously, he did not wish to address it directly, either. He blew out a breath and shook his head slightly. "Woah," he whispered. Continuing, Ash nodded to the stage, quietly inquiring, "How long do you think they'll be?" It was an important decision to make, but with clear cut parameters. He could see it going either way. If it would be a while, Ash wouldn't mind a temporary change of location. That aside, sticking with Thana was priority. If she was staying put, so was he.

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Thalia Carmichael
Location: Education Center (M)
Skills: Stealth

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Thalia debated holding up a hand for Tatiana to high-five on her way back to her seat, preferably with an utterance of "Damn, girl!" Two things prevented this. The first was better judgement. The second was that the slightly out-of-the-way seat Thalia selected for herself wasn't between the stage and ballerina mom's spot. Mostly that first one, though. Nevertheless, the thought did cross her mind.

Her brother's words were also present in Thalia's thoughts. Less pressing, certainly. This time around, she got the odd impression that between the two of them, they both had a finite amount of words they could share. Maybe that was why she had longish bouts of quiet - Joaquin had already used up everything from their word pool and she didn't have a good selection left. Or perhaps it was the other way around and because of her spartan use of verbiage, Joaquin was forced to compensate by burning through the syllables before the pool could refresh. A mental shrug later, and Thalia found herself giving less of a shit about it in the face of more important observations.

Observation Number One: They were adjourning for a little bit. Observation Number Two: A man's life, quite possibly, was at stake here. And finally, Observation Number Three: The Mess Hall was probably serving supper at that time.

Conclusions drawn from this, thanks to her earlier profession as a Security Specialist - This might be a deliberation that would take some time, owing to the serious nature of the outcome. So there was probably more than enough time to scoot down and grab a sandwich or something and get back. To say that she could eat right then was like saying that the sky was blue or water was wet. Of course she could eat. And she was going to.

Thalia figured that discretion was the better part of valor here, and settled on making a nice, quiet exit from the room, disturbing absolutely nothing and no one in the process. This was the plan, anyway. Reality decided to take a Super Soaker full of kerosene to her and ask her to hold an ignited road flare for a minute or two. What started out as her deftly rising from her seat turned into an interesting vision, mimicking the very best outtakes of "Epileptics On Ice" as her sleeve got tangled around the arm of the chair. Not expecting this, Thalia shifted her weight to prevent a tragic fall, rapidly bending at the waist even as she spun around. Balance being an important thing, she wound up accidentally tapping her favorite head on the seat back, not really doing much in the way of damage except for smacking her as yet unhealed facial laceration. Giving a quick yelp of surprise and alarm, sounding very much like "...gahfuckshit!" she slapped her flesh hand to the side of her face, not knowing how bad the bleeding was about to get. It wasn't actually all that bad, but it took her mind away from the internal pressure that had been building up in her abdomen. Between that and the bowed position she found herself in due to a severe lack of luck, a vicious, goose-barking sound erupted from the back of her borrowed pants, finding just the right pitch and direction to catch the room's acoustics in such a way as to amplify the sound of her gaseous expulsion many times over. It echoed. Angrily.

The decision was made, and quite reflexively, to rise and turn, just to see if anyone noticed. Call it denial. When it was evident that there was no escaping this brand of fresh hell, Thalia simply gave up. "Ah right, then!" she called, "I'm just gonna ...sneak outtah heah... and get me a sandwich. Yah heard me. Sneak." She began walking toward the exit. "Heah I go." It was quite possible that she couldn't actually get embarrassed, but she could be relatively pissed off at failing something so basic when, not too amazingly long ago, it was something she had mastered.

"Β‘La madre que te pariΓ³!" she growled, putting the door between herself and everyone else.
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Ash Holloway
Location: Education Center (M)
Skills: N/A

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Latin. Of course it was Latin. Ash was brought up with English, obviously, be it originally flavored with an Appalachian dialect. He spoke fluent military jargon, befitting a career as an officer in the United States Army, and thanks to his original foreign language training and time spent in AmΓ©rica del Sur, he was passable with Spanish. There was even a little Russian in there thanks to Tatiana. But Latin? Nary a peep. Mild similarities to Spanish, but not enough to get more than the broadest of concepts. That was to say, not even a glimmer of recognition in this instance. Still, Ash looked to Nigel, gave a quiet nod, and refocused his attention on the proceedings.

When the call to speak was given to those assembled, Ash surprised himself by standing. His feet seemed to move of their own accord, putting himself in line to ascend the stage. As he moved forward, Ash caught movement from above in his peripheral vision. Thana was moving to join the line, it seemed. So was Tatiana. Manny, Alexander, others. Curiosity concerning the points they might make danced in his thoughts. He put it aside curtly. Ash would hear their thoughts voiced soon enough. His own words were a jumbled mess which he had to sort out.

The truth of the matter was that he already had something of a speech in mind, if and when he would be called up to share his thoughts. The most recent exchange served to waylay this, however, and Ash found himself unsure how he was going to respond, merely feeling an urgency to stand upon the stage again and be heard. Though his conscious mind did not know exactly what he was going to say, Ash could feel something solidify within him. The man he used to be asserted itself with prominence, like a personal tool suddenly becoming necessary. Stoicism, bred into him through generations of hillfolk custom and nurtured by military pragmatism, suppressed any emotion he might have been feeling, allowing his mind to crystalize around pure logic and lessons birthed of relevant experience. Any personal feelings were devoid of merit, and he spoke as a man of relative objectivity.

"Look at the facts of this case in the cold light of day. Mr. Monroe is a disruption. There is no dispute here. The evidence clearly backs this. The question now stands, is he a threat? Assess this, and take the next logical steps forward. Is this uncertainty about one person worth the time and resources required in terms of food, medical care, and providing special security? Does showing compassion to an individual at the expense of the community demonstrate strength or weakness? I have made my mistakes to this end and learned from them, after paying a hard price for those mistakes." Two incidents in particular stood out in Ash's mind. He felt like sharing neither just then. Experience was a cruel yet effective teacher sometimes.

"Were someone else in this room to take Mr. Monroe's place as defendant, I might be able to speak from a point of familiarity." Ash looked around the room once again, his eyes meeting several people that he knew, and had for a long time. "I could tell you of Tatiana's fierce loyalty and love. Or of Miss Ridgeway's work ethic. Amelia's commitment. I could talk about Jack's unwavering sense of responsibility. I might point to any and all of these things to explain that they were just having a bad time of things. Stress, changes, PTSD. I might request counseling for them, with full belief that they just need to work some things out." Ash's eyes looked weary for a moment with his next words, "Even Dr. Bonheur. I considered him a close friend. I trusted him. I could, with full confidence, say that Victor was a good man who lost his way, and if he were in that seat, I could advocate for him with conviction."

Ash continued, giving a mote of apology for his speech, which was less succinct as he had planned. "Thank you for bearing with me. This is the crossroads of my point," Ash continued, his features smoothing over like carved marble, "Regardless of noble intentions, or compassion, this is a simple question of potential risk. I cannot advocate for Mr. Monroe because I do not know him. None of us do. I have been acquainted with him for the week of Quarantine. Past that, for half a day of a single work assignment. The rest of the time he was in holding." It was the last piece of questioning, and the rant following which ultimately flipped Ash's decision away from a more positive advocation. "Mr. Monroe spent the time set aside to speak on his own defense to instead refer to this place as a prison. Then detailed very specific actions against the community that he would not do. Following that, he criticized policy and made an excuse for being late as an attachment. There was more. We all heard it. What I did not hear in that closing argument was ownership of the charges or apology. He had a week to prepare something. Anything. His final defense was spent saying what he felt was wrong with this place, the people in it, and events of his life prior to now. Nothing to actually defend himself and nothing to take responsibility. I might have personally accepted a simple, 'Yes, I messed up. I do not deny the charges. I apologize and want to fix it,' as a final statement, if it was genuine." Ash shook his head, "But this is not my call to make."

His conclusion was a terse summary of his broader phrasing and concerns. It was also delivered with unwavering purpose. "In the face of potential threat - Does one show compassion to the individual, or to the community? Blind compassion is weakness. Tempered by responsibility, it is strength. Compassion in this instance is served best by showing it to as many people as possible. Considering that, I would choose community. And my question: How decisive does one make it?" The last sentence was delivered with the icy detachment of a man accustomed to asking and answering questions that had a cost in human life. "I thank the Court for its time."

Following his statement, Ash stepped down. His piece was said. It was neither hopeful nor heartwarming. It was an objective series of observations based on the reality of their situation and his experience with similar dilemmas, geared toward the long term survival of as many people as possible. It was an iron statement, cold and barely flexible. Ash was perfectly willing to retake his seat and let the chips fall where they may following this. He did not expect friendly support. Moreover, he did not require it.

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Thalia Carmichael
Location: Education Center (M)
Skills: N/A

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There was no way in hell Thalia was getting up on that stage now. The call for opinions to be expressed washed over her like a spring breeze carrying a touch of something from a wastewater treatment plant; harmless but ultimately unappealing in the short term. She had no opinion of note about what was going on. Anything she had to say would be pointless, or moot, or unsupported opinion with zero bearing on the application of justice. So, hard pass on going up there and drawing more attention to herself. She was more or less satisfied right where she was.

Again, this was about the learning experience. She was picking up a lot of interesting tidbits of information about the people already living in Camp Mexico Beach prior to her arrival. More than that, a lot of things about the ones who arrived the same day as herself. Even a thing or two about her own traveling companions. Thalia supposed that it was human nature to speak in the defense of a fellow human being, when the result of a guilty verdict might mean banishment. Or worse. It was one of the reasons that she refrained from adding any additional dialogue. Thalia preferred to work as directly as possible with questions involving possible mortality. And she was not the public speaking type anymore. And truthfully, she had nothing worthwhile to say. But listen? That was something she could do quite well.

Team Eden got the first two options to represent the overall feel of the crowd, so to speak. Alexander and Manny comported themselves openly and, as best she could tell, honestly. Overall she was a little nervous for Alexander. He seemed to be having a little problem. It looked like he had been having this same problem more often lately. But he pulled it out at the end, and Thalia noted with a touch of respect that he had the strength of character to address Hunter directly when he was done. That couldn't have been protocol. He did it anyway. "Good on yah," she thought to herself. Mugsy was demonstrating class. Maye one day, she'd pick up some for herself.

As for Manny, he went so far as to suggest a course of action, simple though it was, with hope of future improvement. It was optimistic. Thalia missed being optimistic. It had been quite a while since she had partaken of that particular mindset. But for every optimist and every person who hoped, within that community there would always be the need for someone like her. Maybe two or three. It was a concession to her thoughts after reminding herself that she already had a brother here who probably fit that description.

Wonder over what the others, Ballerina chick, Nikki, and Navy, might say when their turns came around, came up briefly but was stamped back down when Navy's boyfriend was next to speak. She could almost see the idealistic, rousing speech coming off of the guy before he even said a word, which is why what he actually said surprised the hell out of her. Putting on her best "what the hell just happened" face, Thalia sat up a little straighter in her chair, not wanting to miss out on this one. His last few words struck a chord with her. An realization dawned on her, reflecting in one internally voiced thought: "Holy shit, Captain America is savage." The part questioning how decisive their compassion should be? This sounded very much like a low-key inquiry whether exile or putting a bullet to the back of his head (for the good of the community) was in question. Maybe she was wrong. Thalia did have a tendency to color situations with her own brand of cliched edginess. She kind of hoped she was wrong. At the same time, Thalia was beginning to see why her cousin Alicia liked this guy. And maybe a little more why Thana liked him, too. And she was a little more glad that she chose not to contribute, staying in her seat, with relative, situational anonymity.

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Ash & Thalia
Location: Education Center (M)
Skills: N/A

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While Ash was no scholar of the human mind, he did have to pass certain core classes back in his Academy days which included both basic psychology and philosophy. To begin with, he had no idea why he would need this knowledge; Ashton was going to be a Sapper officer, and that was that. The more he performed his duties, the more these studies demonstrated their ongoing relevance. In this particular case, he gave note to the method utilized by the Professor which greatly resembled a modified Socratic Method, turned to specific purpose. Not that she called for him to defend a philosophical standpoint by intentionally arguing the counterpoint and requiring explanation, but a series of pointed questions, rallied against his earlier statements made in hopes of cementing her narrative, established in part by eyewitness testimony. In short, she looked to be setting conversational traps which Hunter could overcome readily by keeping his responses consistent. Maintaining his own narrative which did not contradict previous testimony might have sufficed. Or not reacting emotionally. There were some stumbles on Hunter's part; nothing irredeemable. At first.

His response to the last question asked of him did not seem to help matters any. It was an obvious goad. This didn't look like it was about getting a straight answer. That ship had sailed. This appeared more like a test of character. Maybe there was remorse present, or regret, or simple confusion about things and a voiced desire to do better and learn the customs of the community. But Ash didn't really hear any of this. As Hunter gave the last piece of his testimony, Ash's visage remained as stone. The only thing which served to reveal his mindset was a slipped utterance, audible possibly to Nigel, who was sitting right next to him: "Aw, shit... just clam up, kid." He almost felt like facepalming. This was damaging. If he were part of the Council, it might have influenced his opinion in a less favorable direction. Unless other factors were at play which Ash could not personally detect, this had to have been detrimental to his case.

Applying a wholly different mindset to this last line of questioning, Thalia looked on to the testimony with a surprised and curiously entertained expression on her face. She did not comment aloud, nor so much as clear her throat in concern of distracting, however minute a possibility it might be, what was going on in front of her. This was, lacking a better term, surreal. If she had to nail down a favorite part, it would rest somewhere around all of the things that Hunter didn't plan on doing if he was exiled. Nope, he certainly would not (specifically) shoot at the wall, hurl explosives over it, and in no uncertain terms would he lead a horde of Zeds back to bebother their last mortal days. In the moment that followed this detailed descriptor of things that he would not do, Thalia looked closely, half-imagining that Hunter might give an exaggerated showing of a wink whilst nodding knowingly.

Thalia was intrigued at what might happen next, and so quietly slid down in her seat to get more comfortable. She leaned her head to one side and rested her chin on a closed fist, and gave the stage her rapt, near full attention. Surreal.
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