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4 yrs ago
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Ash Holloway

Location: L11 (Beach, Bar -> Area in front of Stage)
Skills: N/A

Such as anyone could enjoy a piece of the world that used to be, Ash was letting himself live in the moment. The tiny voice in the back of his head (metaphorically this time) that told him to remain vigilant, that no one was safe, ever, was still present; it was muffled enough for Ash to enjoy himself. Everything could come to a crashing, screaming halt any minute now, but that was highly unlikely. And honestly, the opportunity for some actual R&R was worth the risk. It had been a while. A long while.

Ash thanked Alexander and Manny for stopping by, even though they very likely just came over to give Thana a touch of accolade and he stepped into it with his own agenda, benign as it was. He needed to try to branch out and get to know people as more than personnel assets. For instance, the old guy was also an Alice Cooper fan. This was progress. They could talk music later. It wasn't his responsibility to tally assets, personnel or otherwise, anymore. Hell, all he had now was the responsibility of keeping Thana happy. No problem. As best he could, anyway.

Speaking to Thana's claim that she had done a cover of "Paint it, Black", Ash gave her a studious look, a nod, and then said, "That's something I would like to hear sometime, Thana." The thought kept with him for a moment as his mind drifted back to the video of her from Quarantine. "Live, I mean." Did she know that video was in there? He raised his glass and smiled behind it. The smile retreated a little bit when she changed the subject over to Riley. It had been another long while since he had heard her sing, too. "She's the real deal, all right. Never really listened to her stuff back Before, but the girl's got talent. Maybe I ought to leave something in a suggestion box about it." He shrugged uncertainly. Doubt lingered as to whether there was something along the lines of a suggestion box, but that was hardly the point. "Still want to catch you belting out 'Stones." He smiled. Some might find it roguishly charming, others might believe that he was trying to dislodge something from his teeth, unaccustomed to smiling as he had become up until very recently. He did somber up a little at the toast, downing his second with the intonation of, "Absent friends." They probably deserved more than a shot, but Ash wasn't out to get sloppy drunk this evening.

The sudden shift to a slow song had Ash looking to Thana with renewed interest in dancing, a sentiment that she beat him to verbally. At her insistence that he sweep her off her feet, Ash dropped an arm behind her and, with stalwart, confident grin, whisked her from the ground entirely to hold her in the traditional "crossing the threshold" position. As he stepped nearer to the area in front of the stage, Ash answered her question about dancing. "Learned a little at VMI, formal ball stuff. I was okay, but I'm a little out of practice, so..." It wasn't highly encouraging, but for Thana, he was going to give it a good attempt, so long as it didn't put her in any danger. She was still healing, and was supposed to be taking it easy. "I'll know enough," he assured her, carefully lowering her feet to the sand. He maintained a simple, appreciative look as he stared into her eyes, and began moving in a passable slow dance, supporting her as best he could. "Offer to carry is still on the table," he whispered in reminder. It had been a long time since he had danced, and was glad it was with her again.

Thalia Carmichael

Location: L11 (Beach, Fire Pits -> Bar)
Skills: N/A

Thalia regarded Mizrahi silently as he cryptically answered her question. The training began whenever she asked. Okay. It seemed a little free and loose for a Marine training regimen, but if they already had a system for it then great, she was game. The thoughts of how to stage it around Tatiana's routines dancing gave her a piece of consideration; she did not want to drop the ballet lessons. It would mean layering two physical disciplines on top of one another, in addition to her work duties, whatever they might be. She would be forcing herself to exhaustion just to get through the day, and her recovery periods would be hell. Oh, and lest she forget her physical therapy for the use of a prosthetic limb. If she didn't break herself first, she was going to walk out of this beast. Ok, a beast who knew how to pirouette.

The food preparation around her seemed to snatch away her quiet time with the fire. While they had made no indication that she should move on, and in fact quite the opposite as conversation was broached, Thalia knew that the relative quiet of her fire-staring experience was done. The first part of that occurred when Morales, whom she was actually glad did not use her fashion advice from earlier, made a crack about her brother Joaquin. Thalia observed the man for a second, the thought " speedo..." escaping her mouth at a whisper, mostly covered by the crackle of the fire. She nodded satisfactorily at the thought, just as the guy received a whack from the back of a spoon. In an odd way, the exchange reminded her of some of the big gatherings back home, where the abuelitas got everything together and ran the kitchens like a boss, while you either helped out while holding on for dear life or, more wisely, got the hell out of the way.

In this instance, she stayed out of the way. Being that as it may, Thalia attempted to employ something akin to manners, looking around at those immediately present and saying flatly, "Save my spot, please. I'll be right back." Actually saving a spot standing around a firepit was kind of ludicrous; it was more an indicator that she wasn't leaving because she was being rude nor that they were annoying her. She still felt like she needed to stay on guard a little, but logically understood that it was because she didn't know these people. Thalia was a roughhewn as of recent years, not intentionally rude. Usually. In any case, she was trying to open herself up to the idea that this was a party. Glancing over to the bar, she noticed that Thash had left the area, with only a couple of preexisting locals remaining.

Thalia sighed, mumbling, "Interacting with people. Nnn..." while walking over. She didn't bother making small talk, instead resting her arms, metal and flesh both, upon the bar and looking over the options available. Losing her senses was not the goal. She wasn't so comfortable here that she wanted to dull her ability to think or fight, if need be. At the same time, she really was trying to be a part of the festivities. "Hey, um," she began, a little unsure of herself, "Can I um, ...hmm. Beer?" She noted the people present around her. At this second, aside from Adelaide, another local woman she hadn't met yet was leaning against the bar. She took note of the woman's posture and demeanor, a habit birthed from earlier days of threat assessment. Satisfied, Thalia's overt attention returned to the objective.

Ash Holloway

Location: L11 (Beach, Bar)
Skills: N/A

Ash couldn't help but smile as Thana leaned in and kissed his cheek. "Yeah..." he said quietly, his tone colored by both his smile and his Virginian accent, "I miss the peach stuff, too." Spurred on by her mention of counting down from sixty, Ash recognized the intent. The last time he had peach moonshine was the night of the wedding; the night that he and Thana shared a perfect evening together.

Ash noted the old man with the prosthetic leg sauntering up, so much as he was able to saunter, persay. He was part of Thana's group, when they had split up last year. Ash didn't recall offhand seeing the man with a fake leg then, much like the familiar looking girl had both of her hands back then, too. They must have had a hard time of it. In any case, far be it for Ash to get in the way of the old man - Alexander, yes that was his name. He returned Alexander's nod and make a token show of gesturing toward Thana, indicating his lack of problem with the interruption. The mention of Eden definitely got Ash's attention. He hadn't heard much of the story about what went down there, only that there were heavy losses and the result was that Eden was just as demolished as Newnan. Ash still wished that he could have been there. He had trained for it, only for him to be denied by the earth itself, splitting open while he was on the wrong side of the chasm. "Thank you, Alexander. I said something to Thana, and your angry one-handed friend, but it was all of you. You finished the mission I couldn't. You saved lives. Thank you."

It was then that he noticed Manny. Also in Thana's group, though if memory served he mentioned back in Quarantine that he was a rescue from Eden. Another life saved by them, and he probably returned the favor often enough. It was how people survived anymore. He gave Manny a polite nod. They hadn't talked very much, he and the dentist/apocalypse doc. Maybe he'd strike up a conversation after he and Thana had their words. It occurred to Ash that the Eden group were keeping relatively close together, in comparison to his people from Newnan. They were integrating or sticking to themselves, while Thana's team had more of a shared identity. In the Mess Hall, too. He found it interesting. Alexander's mentioning the Rolling Stones gave Ash the barest hint of a smile. "For the record, I'm an Alice Cooper fan, too. But he never did 'Sympathy of the Devil'."

The mention of music seemed to cue the actual tunes on stage. It him a little by surprise. It wasn't his kind of music, but any music, this day and age, was a blessing. Ash poured two more shots, one for him and Thana, and slid her glass over to her. "Two to get things rolling, then I'm slowing down," he promised. Whether anyone knew it or not, that was a sign that he was loosening up in a fundamental way; a habit going back before the Outbreak. But what really got him was the song selection as the eclectic group of CMB dwellers began to belt it out. "Hey, I think I know this song," said Ash. "Yeah, James used to play it in his truck..." And with that, he just made himself sad. James was a good man who died right in front of him, the same day Newnan fell. He was a good friend and marvelous barbecue-er.

Still, Ash chose to smile. He looked to Thana and tilted his head to the side, inquiring, "Want to wait for a slow one, or would you like to dance?" He smiled a little bigger. "Long as I'm with you I'm good, either way."

Thalia Carmichael

Location: L11 (Beach, Fire Pits)
Skills: N/A

It was impulsive. Not really the kind of thing that Thalia did, just go up to one of the main people in charge of an installation and make a request like that. Too much of a presumption, too much of a risk. For all she knew, that would have been a one-way ticket to garbage patrol for the next five years or so. Thalia felt the weight of that when Gunny crossed his arm and shook his head. Great. Dumpster duty, here she comes. She narrowed her eyes and looked at him for a half second before realizing that he was actually pointing her in the direction of the man who led the team that picked them up outside the walls. Okay, so there was something in place for just such an occasion.

And something else: Thalia instantly and internally scolded herself for feeling bad about the more direct nature of her speech. No, this was exactly the kind of thing that she would have done. Doing so in a larger social setting was what initially threw her off. It was still something that she would have to get used to. She wasn't in the wilderness anymore, she wasn't with a small group either, and she sure as hell wasn't with her Shieldmaidens in their primitive, log-walled village. It was an adjustment, like eating left-handed.

Mizrahi seemed talkative. Four or five words were more than she had heard the man personally say, so any sort of encouragement on his part seemed misplaced, as if Thalia herself had donned a cheerleading outfit and began rooting for the local baseball team. Not that she couldn't pull it off, metal arm aside. She had excellent physicality and she wasn't even back to her fighting best, yet. And one might be able to hide a blade behind a pom-pom. In fact, that might be one hell of a decent ploy, back in the day. But to the present, Mizrahi mentioned that there were others like her, missing limbs? No, she didn't want the frigging Special Olympics version of soldiering. She wanted every piece of the obstacles that a normally able person would have to overcome. To hell with abbreviated training. Or maybe she was reading too much into it. Anger was her comfort zone sometimes. Maybe Maddog had a good setup without pulling punches, or helping them adjust to combat and the like with fierceness. That would be more like her.

"Looking forward to it," she said simply, still staring into the fire. She would have to move when the real cooking got started, but for now she had a fire to meditate with, and it was all good. "Do yah know when he takes on new recruits?"

Ash Holloway

Location: M10 (Beach) -> L11 (Also Beach, Bar)
Skills: N/A

"Counting down from... ?" wondered Ash aloud. He was sure that he knew what Thana was talking about, but it just didn't click with him immediately. A second later it hit him like someone offered a ballbat to the back of his head. His eyes got wide as clarity was knocked into him, indicated by a slightly elongated, "Oh..." A blush flashed across his cheeks. Yeah, he knew what she was talking about. With so much else happening that evening and then the following day, the return of that detail was a blessing. He slipped an arm around Thana's waist out of a sudden urge to be closer to her. Ash's smile, a rare thing in recent times, seemed infectious.

The idea of a drink and a place to sit worked well for Ash. Not so much the sitting part as he wanted to get about and familiarize himself with his new surroundings, though his want to stick close to Thana was greater. He had spent quite enough time away from her as it was, and besides, enough to drink and he wouldn't have a choice in the question of sitting, anyway. Not that he expected to be allowed enough flammable libation as to snuff out his sense of balance, of course. And if offered, acting in that manner wasn't who he was generally. This might be especially true on the first day of freedom from Quarantine, out into the greater areas of Camp Mexico Beach. It might be an apocalypse and he might have no actual rank nor authority anymore, but in his heart Ash was still an officer and a man of principle. One or two wouldn't hurt, though. Raised on the stuff and being in good health, celebrating a little wouldn't kill him. It might even do him some good.

Introductions with the other alcohol aficionado in town seemed a little chilly. It could be said that Adelaide was busy at the time, though Ash suspected there might be another factor involved. In any case, as the unlabeled mason jar of clear liquid found itself in front of Ash he voiced a simple, "Thank you." Courtesy was still an important thing, situation permitting. He did as Thana suggested and cracked open the jar, inhaling the escaping vapors of its contents. He knew what this was. He was raised around it from the day he was born. This was uncasked, barely aged whiskey, young enough that a discerning individual versed in boozecraft could still pick out the ingredients that comprised its initial mash. This was 'shine. Ash poured some of the contents into each of the shot glasses and, with a sideways nod, tipped the contents back in a relaxed manner.

It was decent stuff. Not produced in the manner of the Holloway Distillery, but very good quality. Ash motioned to the other glass and then to Thana, remarking, "This is not bad. At all." It was an excellent continuation to their evening. "You're next, Thana." He raised his empty glass in the direction of Adelaide, helping Lisa at the other end of the bar. It was a sign of respect from one distiller to another. His attention otherwise was only for Thana.

Thalia Carmichael

Location: L11 (Beach, Fire Pits)
Skills: N/A

There was something about a fire that Thalia had come to appreciate since the world decided to eat itself. She couldn't quite appreciate it Before, being as she was a city girl primarily and the only open fires she saw with any regularity were around Christmastime. Even then, it was the broadcast dubbed the "Fireplace Channel" by her and her friends. Real, natural fire was awesome. There were many nights that Thalia would set up on rooftops and build fires in bowl shaped objects and barrels, having secured her surroundings from Zed incursion and just stare into the warm, dancing light. She had become more comfortable in time being alone in the woods or in the hills, having dug out a dakota style fire pit and surrounding her position with crude spears or other bits of bushcraft. She would sit and allow the quiet fire to bring her to a meditative state, ears open to the sounds in the darkness around her. Thalia hadn't done that but sparingly as of the last year. Being with a group meant that her tactics had to change for the betterment of all people involved. This meant taking different shelter. Less fire. Changing survival strategies. Re-entering social dynamics.

It was funny how staring into a fire could center Thalia. Even in the company of others with whom she was not personally familiar, in this instance. Those two most immediate to her location were Thana's father and the guy who had her back when she went back out into the world. Navy trusted these men, and so Thalia did, enough not to raise the more guarded of her behavior around them for the time being. She remained as polite as she could muster, giving Gunny passing eye contact as he spoke before turning his attention back to the fire. She was surprised when the older man spoke again, paying her a compliment unless she was mistaken. Or at least relaying one. So Navy spoke highly of her? Curious. Did Thana start the story when they all met? Perhaps when Thalia painted her face as a skull in preparation of multiple murders. Or dispassionately blew that cult leader asshole's brains out of the back of his head. Or any of the number of times she'd seen Thalia revert to her more primitive survival instincts, like a feral dog. Well she wasn't going to call the man a liar - Thalia had good things to say about Thana as well, if she ever felt like sharing. And they did keep each other alive. Mugsy, too. And Manny. And Beatrice.

To the complimentary relay, Thalia gave Gunny a monosyllabic, "Nnn," followed by a quiet and flat, "Thanks." After a contemplative moment, she looked to the man with a serious expression. Thalia weighed her words carefully before inquiring, "Marine, yah?" her mouth parted slightly and she nodded her head, "Can you teach me?" He wasn't sure what that might or might not entail, but it would be a hell of a thing for her to be the first post-apocalyptic Mestiza Assassin Shieldmaiden Survivalist training as a ballet dancing Marine. Hell, she couldn't make this up if she was writing a comic book.

Ash Holloway

Location: M5 (Front of Officer Housing) -> M10 (Beach)
Skills: N/A

Ash was rarely the type to use unnecessary personal attacks, even at inanimate objects like PA speakers, but he was sorely tempted to do exactly that. Or to whomever was making the announcements. Either way, the circumstances of the moment had stolen a kiss from them, and he wasn't feeling exactly festive about it. In a way, this was an indicator that the Post Apocalypse Founding Fathers of Mexico Beach ran a tight ship. And thinking rationally on it, he and Thana had time for each other now. And a social event - the social event, to hear of it - to attend. Like normal people might. Life did not suck. At her insistence that she not play the role of 'human backpack', Ash was a little disappointed but understood fully. He was there to help, not to make her dependent nor delay her healing time. "Gotcha," he responded, moving out of her way so she could get her sandals. "Offer's still there whenever you need me."

Okay, so missed opportunity for extended alone time could be readdressed later. Ash kept to Thana's heels, making more not to crowd her on the way down and out of Officers' Housing. Hallway, stairs, door, and now out onto the streets of the Camp. Ash had the briefest thoughts of worry. He had felt relatively secure inside of the walls of Newnan. Hell, it was a sweet setup that worked for their mismatched little group of survivors, the biggest fly in the ointment being Eden, whose people seemed to be able to enter and leave their community at will regardless of precautions or armed watches, snipers, etc., but that problem had a solution in the works. Point being, there was a sense of permanence with Newnan that was shattered. Ash had that feeling here for a moment, only to have the memory of everything crashing down around them rush to the forefront. He shook it away as best he could. If nothing else, Ash was an engineer. Civil, mechanical, combat. These people were his people now. He would do whatever he could to make it work for everyone. A man like him, while not irreplaceable in the least, was useful in a community.

Ash looked to Thana as their feet found paved ground, and he smiled at her. She might not be the only reason that he was here, but initially she was the most important one. He offered his hand as they walked, not to help but just because he wanted to hold her hand as they sauntered along the uncrowded streets. As the sun began to set on the quiet little Florida settlement, Ash took the moment to enjoy his surroundings. "Beach party, woman I love, sunset in the tropics. There's a lot worse ways to spend an evening." he gave it a little thought, "Experienced most of them too, I think..." He shook his head. Those evenings were not this one, and this one was the only one he had to worry about.

The buildings parted as they reached the the beginning of sand and the uncluttered sound of water reaching shore. It was a pretty sight. Ash looked around at the festivities set up for them. "I'm the new guy here, so... what do you want to do first?" He raised inquisitive eyebrows at his lovely escort, plainly up for just about anything so long as it involved her.

Thalia Carmichael

Location: L8 -> L11
Skills: N/A

The thoughts in Thalia's head didn't turn to the completely dark, but they did serve to isolate her more than she had intended to. Even walking down the street in was was supposed to be a safe territory, she felt alone. More than she had in a long time. The last year had sucked royally, and out loud. Like, "fat guy enthusiastically eating an overripe peach" kind of a loud, sucking sound, which was horrible because Thalia actually liked peaches. Well, when that mental image left her brain, she could go back to liking peaches, because fuck that noise. Anyway, this wasn't healthy for her, and she knew it. But opening up to total strangers, many of which would have no idea what she had gone through? What any of them had? Her thought process told her that she was better off in the fringes, like usual. Away from people. Helping them maybe, but apart. Nothing else made sense.

No, Thalia just needed to find her niche, learn to be a soldier (or something like it) here, and add it to her repertoire of badassery while getting herself back in top form. That was the plan. Move beyond the loss, because everyone else lost people, too. Work with the missing hand, because it could have been worse and now she was part robot, goddamnit.

It didn't stop her from feeling open and exposed when she made it to the beach. This piece of sand was larger than she had anticipated. The reeds and grasses that naturally provided some separation from buildings and beach didn't really help much. Nor did the water, actually, it made it somewhat worse. Logic stated flatly that deep water was a good thing, so far as protection from Zeds went. Not flawless, but good. And the walls, same thing. And the people that would be here, many of which would be armed. But it was all so open. Thalia shouldn't have wanted to hide, but she did. She really wanted to have that level of control over her situation, as her survival instincts kept pinging inside of her skull. This was not good. Her fleshy left hand began to move to where she used to keep her backup knife, purely out of habit to comfort herself. But it wasn't there. Of course it wasn't there.

Just when she was about to turn back and sit in her new room with the lights off, a flicker caught her eye. She knew what that was, and in truth missed it more than she realized. Steadily, one foot on front of the other, Thalia made her way to one of the fires. She stared at it for a moment, feeling its healing warmth and the crackle of its orangey life making music with the ebb and flow of the tide further out. Okay, she was okay. Thalia took in and blew out a deep breath, then looked around with keen eyes, noting a familiar face who shared a set of authoritative eyes, if even less of a conversationalist than herself: Gunny. "Thana's dad, yah?" she noted in mild Bostonian, albeit in the form of a question. "Easy to tell up close." Her eyes went back to the fire as she continued, if distantly, "Raised you a decent lady."

Ash Holloway

Location: M5 (Officer Housing)
Skills: N/A

Again, Ash was a little weirded out that no one seemed to remember and/or care that he had a strong grasp of the Spanish language. He tried not to react to the way in which he was being casually discussed over shouting distance about matters of mid-coital pursuits, though a corner of his mouth was trying pretty hard to curl upward. Luckily, he kept the red from manifesting on his face. Those two women had history; Ash saw the them the day their paths crossed, and then nothing else of either or them for a long time. They would need some time to themselves eventually, to work out whatever they needed to work out. But that wouldn't be right now. Maybe it was selfish of him, but Ash wanted to keep Thana all to himself for a while more.

As soon as they were back in their quarters and Thana was on the bed removing her shoes, Ash sat down next to her and lovingly ran a hand along her hair. She spoke of his unexpected and surprising presence upon her return to Camp Mexico Beach. This was something that he could relate to, considering the nature of her return. It had been a shock for him as well. A big one. "I thought you were dead. I was braced for the worst, and when your father... Well, I thought you were dead." Ash held her gaze evenly, the details of his expression reacting with a shadow of the emotion he had previously worked so hard to restrain. He remembered the drama that happened directly after the news was dropped. He still had a mark on he side of his face from where Tatiana decked him and her wedding ring had gouged a hole. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing wen you stepped out of that truck." So, it was the tiniest amount of deception. After all was said and done, Ash didn't care. Life was suddenly a lot better.

When she held her hand out, Ash reached out and took it in his, moving in and kneeling in front her. He shuffled closer, until their faces were mere centimeters apart. He glanced toward the door, almost a reflex to make sure that it was locked, and looked back into Thana's eyes. "So, how long do we have until the party?" he inquired, still fully aware that Doc recommended against vigorous activity. While he wasn't planning on any, the guy had said nothing about a little personal, reaffirming affection while they had some time.

Thalia Carmichael

Location: L6 -> L8
Skills: N/A

Thalia gave a sarcastic chuckle that looked very much like a mildly amused huff. "...come up for air..." she mumbled aloud. It was a strange habit to have, occasionally verbalizing thoughts. Or at least it was for someone whose survival strategy included not being seen or heard easily. She let the thought wash away in the stream of stimuli around her. Though there didn't seem to be a lot of people around her right now, the presence of other living, breathing individuals was apparent. No telltale sound of wildlife, even the scurrying of insects was silent. On the other hand, if she listened close, there were snatches of conversation echoing along the hard surfaces of buildings around her. As she was walking past housing, Thalia could swear that she saw curtains ruffle every so often or catch movement out of the corner of her eye. This was not something she was used to anymore, being around groups of people. Even at a distance. The guys out on the road were different. They were all out there together, surviving amid chaos. Even it was something she had to adapt to. When she did, and began acting as part of a small unit (emphasis on small), Thalia could see the advantages. Maybe she'd find those here, too. As long as it didn't make her weak.

It took her a couple of moments to realize that she was instinctively walking toward the beach. Why was that? It had been a while since she had seen the ocean. Since Boston, or back in her previous lifetime, as she had come to refer to the time before the Outbreak. She missed the ocean a little. Was she going there because here were people there, and would be more later? That was unlike her, anymore. You need people to survive, but getting too close to people opened you up to manipulation. Maybe part of her wanted to be involved in something again, even if she did stay to the margins. These were deep thoughts that really didn't do anything for her except to distract her from her surroundings.

Mugsy had a home now. Great. Manny might have himself a purpose that didn't involve amputation. Or less amputation. Whatever. Thana... found her Knight Errant. Good for her. And Beatrice? Maybe she'd get a good answer one day, but today she felt a little abandoned. Again, whatever. She'd lost people to death before. Lots. Lola... she saved Thalia's life the day that she died. But this was the first time since all this happened that she lost someone by their choice. It felt strange. Depressing, even. Thalia continued walking down to the beach, these thoughts rattling around in her head.

Ash Holloway

Location: L5 (Mess Hall) -> M5
Skills: N/A

Our place. Ash did like the sound of that. True, it was not the spacious digs that he had back in Newnan. Two thoughts sprung from this. The first one was that he only used a portion of those spacious digs the vast majority of the time, and the other being that his Newnan home was in a sinkhole. And more importantly, he was living with Thana. Even if the house was right in front of him and in perfect condition, a hovel next door would be preferable if it contained Thana. Okay, three things. Her quarters were simple yet adequate, and had a great view. What could be seen outside the window was nice, too.

While carrying a someone piggyback, one of the risks involved was a sudden outburst from the carried party, seeing as they were right next to your ear. Thana was more courteous than most, but it was still taken as a surprise. One of the reasons for the surprise was that Ash's attention was placed on the one-handed lady who was yelling something about a Speedo. Not knowing much about her but being familiar with her family, she seemed to take after her cousin. The return, a lamenting call from Thana, made Ash really wish he never learned Spanish. He suppressed a scoff, not wishing to be involved in the slightest with any of the indigenous personnel and a Speedo. Likewise, he listened to the woman's retort with nary a raised eyebrow. Yeah, Ash was NOPEing out of this one with a bullet.

The order was issued to transport his precious cargo away from this place before uber-revealing European men's swimwear was brought up again. Or rather, so that no more visuals were deposited into Thana's mind unbidden. Well, he wasn't a miracle worker, but he was a set of broad shoulders to lean on and functioning legs with which he might carry her away from this place and its dank, repetitive mention of Speedo related topics. "Yeah, I second that," he agreed, and made a beeline in the direction of the nearby Officers' Quarters. Ash paused at the door to Thana's - check that - their quarters and he asked politely, "Shall I, or do you want the honor?" He gave a little smile. It was an expression that was not commonly seen on him in recent years, though more lately he'd been freer with it. "If you do it, I can carry you for a few more seconds," he added with mirth.

Thalia Carmichael

Location: L5 (Just Outside Mess Hall) -> L6
Skills: N/A

The sudden suggestion about the Speedo was slightly out of character for Thalia. She had been guarded and even a little standoffish for the entirety of her time here at CMB. Hell, she was still pissed about something, but it wasn't yet an appropriate time to address the issue. Maybe it was because she saw Thana exiting the building and knew that she would back her up, like they did out in the world for the past year and more. Or it could just be a rebellious stab against her usual nature to withdraw, easily noticed and easily forgotten. As to the former, it looked like Navy was a different person than when she was out there. Yeah, and why not? She belonged here. It was very possible that Thalia didn't. The only reason she was here and not back on the road with Beatrice was her brother. Admittedly, it was a compelling reason.

She didn't quite catch the response that The Goat made, if any, though the response from Thana could be considered direct. Thalia gave a faux derisive smile in her direction (atop Ash) and responded with, "Cuando termines de hacer tu asalto anfibio con tu CapitΓ‘n del EjΓ©rcito, quiero hablarte sobre algo1." She eyed Ash for a moment, then back to Thana, "Okay? Later, Navy." She took a deep breath and began to quietly walk down he road perpendicular to her position, toward general housing and in the general direction of the beach. Thalia wasn't sure where she wanted to end up that hour, who she might want to end up with (if anyone), nor what she wanted to do when she got there, but she did want a little time to process the realities of her new situation and both the pros and cons therein. A portion of this was trying to figure out what this place had to offer aside from regular food and relative safety. How would this place make her stronger? Maybe, Thalia figured, she would have to speak to a few of the residents. She wasn't so good at social, sadly.

One foot kept being placed in front of the other as she continued to slowly make her way down the street, taking in details that she might have missed on the tour. This was a big place. Far larger than the number of people needed for living and work space. There had to be some generally unused corners of the great civil enclosure that was CMB for her to make herself unseen, and even useful to her own rehabilitation and physical conditioning.

Caesar Gonzalez

Location: Soulless Fade Between
Skills: N/A

Though his interests and cares leaned away from the goals of the people present, Caesar had to admit that he had just received the best deal he was likely going to get from the guy in the stupid hat. He stared into the man's eyes and gave him a wordless nod. So long as they were in the same group, sure. If his scenery suddenly changed again, there was no point in either of them helping each other unless he came along for the ride. But for now, so long as they were together, an agreement could be reached. The one man in the vintage clothing made his cursory search of their surroundings in a manner that reminded him of a fellow investigator, giving Caesar a sort of a buffer; if one man was already trying to harvest clues in a place that he had little interest in anyway then he didn't have to, nor give up anything about himself other than what he wanted to let slip. Great. Less for him to do, more mental allotment to focus on the task at hand. Caesar had a name and a place, even if he had no idea how to get there from his present location.

Then the woman started to speak. She seemed to like to talk. Not as much as the tall Circus guy, but enough. Both of them talked about creatures of shadows and sulphur, like it was a common thread between vastly different groups. Not much of a joiner except under certain circumstances, the older Mexican weighed in, "We took out one, too. Creature you were talking about. I shot it with this. Twelve gauge. Solid slug. It just knocked it back. M'hija got it with an improvised explosive." He looked around at the people in his immediate vicinity. The secondmost talkative one seemed to know something, even if it was a story or something from a history book. The Russian claimed that he engaged one in combat and one of his own was able to destroy it by other means. There was another investigator. Caesar himself was a walking arsenal with decades of experience with violence. And they all had a language in common. The smart call, he figured, was to stay together - so long as everyone was on task and didn't put him at risk. Unless this place has a map or supplies, I have no use for it. Chthonic Groves. Proserpine. If no one knows where, higher ground is priority." Caesar looked down at his boot. He was glad to have them, standing in this water, and glad that he kept them in decent condition. Without another word, Caesar hefted his shotgun to the ready and flipped his machete to an underhanded grip, then began to stride cautiously toward the exterior door. This place might have been a church at one time, but right now it felt like a tomb.

Ash Holloway

Location: L5 (Mess Hall)
Skills: N/A

"Agreed," remarked Ash, trying to blink away the thought of Wayne approximating Boomhauer. Except in his mind, somehow he was also wild-haired, smoking a cigar, and calling people "Bub". Dang ol' Bub... Well, that was weird. The thought of the older men of Camp Mexico Beach lined up in an alleyway, sipping cans of domestic from a cooler, and Wayne living the free-and-breezy life as a strange amalgamation of Wolverine and Boomhauer was a little off, even if it was just a product of an active imagination. What was worse - he was a trained Engineer, whose brain was wired to see an problem or obstacle and immediately begin calculating a fix. This resulted in him thinking what materials they had on standby which he might have seen during the tour for the creation of an alley framed with backyard privacy fencing, preferably someplace beer adjacent. Barring that, a location that upheld the overall spirit of am assortment of middle aged guys standing about at leisure. Perhaps fishing. But no, speaking with her about it was a big no-no. He could feel part of that cringe. It was real.

It also didn't surprise him when she moved to bus her tray after fighting to keep her food down at the image of Waynehauer doing his thing. Ash had experienced combat before the word went to hell, same as her. It still didn't prepare you for horrors like that. But Ash quickly finished his plate, or near enough, and moved to follow Thana toward the exit. By the time that Thana had looked back to see what the score was with him Ash was definitely ready to 1) follow her, and already crouching a little so that she could 2) get a lift. "My pleasure, of course. Hop on up. Point and I'm going that way." Ash had a good idea where she wanted to go. Still, it was good to get that confirmation before carrying away the indigenous personnel. "...shower..." he softly said aloud, unaware that he had done so until it was already out there. Yes, he was a disciplined man of action, a credit to the Army he once served, and a sharply intelligent person. But he also had a lot of time to make up for, and some of the ideas along those lines leaked out into the verbal with minimal prompting. Ash was sure that he'd have a better handle on himself in that regard shortly, but for now, he was going to piggyback the object of his deep affection someplace where a lather might be worked up. Priorities.

Thalia Carmichael

Location: L5 (Mess Hall) -> L5 (Just Outside Mess Hall)
Skills: N/A

Thalia set her ferrous right hand down upon her napkin and scraped it off of her tray, then slid it over in front of herself. There was a little more in the way of citrus juice on the table, and even if Thalia was a person lacking in the recent application of table manners, she wasn't inherently a slob. Even among the trees and hills, within which she had she had become more comfortable than air conditioning and new sheets, one could not afford to be overly messy. It attracted the wrong kind of attention. And she still technically felt like a guest, even if she was supposed to be one of the locals now. It was best to make an effort.

Most of that effort was geared toward the shards of fruit in front of her. As light discussion was made, be it more backtracking than anything else because it wasn't anyone's business what they were talking about other than the two of them. Personal stuff, and the like. It was rare that Thalia had an unguarded moment, and holding a short personal conversation while her eyes scanned the room for potential threats was the closest thing to an unguarded moment that she could hope for. Thalia's contribution to the conversation was another monosyllabic, "Nnn," in Alexander's direction, a kind of muted attempt at a "what he said" phrase wrapped up in the least amount of verbalization necessary, and only this after ripping the last bit of pulpy fruit from the rind and depositing the whole mess onto her tray. She gave Alexander a light bump on his shoulder with her right hand (at least she thought it was light, she was still getting used to the prosthetic) and moved to bus her tray.

It was probably a good time to let herself be seen by people here. Yeah, there was the whole beach party that they were doing, but that was something that sounded like it might last into the night. For now, broad daylight was best, she thought. As soon as she stepped outside, Thalia noticed the kid named Hunter and their younger guard, the blonde one who she might have been able to babysit for back in the day, if that was her thing. Spoiler Alert: It wasn't. Nikki, that was her name. She said something rather unflattering about the guy with the cart. No problem.

"Oye, Morales!" she began, calling to The Goat in perfectly accented Nuevo Leon Spanish, "Esta chica dice algo sobre ti en un ...'Espeedo'. ΒΏQuizΓ‘s meterse con ella en la fiesta de esta noche, si tienes una?1"

Vladimir Alexandrov

Location: Soulless Fade Between
Skills: Fal'shbort (Passive), Tretiy Glaz (Passive), English

The heavy and accented eyebrow of Vladimir rose nearer to the brim of his fine hat as the man with the strange clothes and damaged nose made inquiry as to what he should call him. And after an introduction such as that? True, not his absolute best introduction ever, but much could be said for his situation. Snatches of conversation among the others in the ruined church led him to believe that they were in a situation similar to his. The confusion was still apparent on their faces. Perhaps that was why the man who used a strange dialect of English (or one with which he was not overly familiar, in any case) needed to know is name again. Preoccupation. It was okay. The Great Bazhooli was nothing if not gracious, especially with those who were going through their own crises. Though the crack about the Czar dying was irksome. Disrespectful, even. Though if their grand, noble, and farsighted leader of the largest Empire of their age had fallen to forces beyond the control of his velvet gloved iron fist, then the capable and patiently formidable Grand Duchess Elizaveta would ascend to the throne, gripping the reins of power and guiding the Empire toward further greatness. It was all good. And the man did return to apologize for ...something, but hey, it was a positive, right?

It would be more of a positive if he had his people with him. Even Violin Guy, though he kind of snuck in there at the very end. Still, pissing random new people off was counterproductive to whatever they were supposed to be doing, and if he flew into a rage and stabbed each and every one of them to death (too messy for his liking, and highly undignified unless under orders of his Grand Duchess or the type of party had shifted) then no one was getting answers of any kind. Being alone was a bad idea in a strange, new place, especially considering the dangerous entity that they had dispatched just prior to coming here. That was a sobering thought. Perhaps one that these others needed to know about, if they had not done their own dispatching prior to coming here. But first!

"No, no, good and strange sir! Is no needing for apology. Now, as you did not catching name first time," Vladimir motioned in front of him, subtly replacing the knives in their sheathes before flourishing his hands to show their new emptiness. He swept his tall hat from his head and held it in front of him, and filled his lungs with the damp, church air. With measured and level tones, Vlad rolled out baritone, Russian accented words, "I am Vladimir Dmitrievich Alexandrov, Master of Bazhooli Sem'ya and Great Bazhooli of generation, first heir to Baron Alexandrov." He bowed his head slightly, seeming to take on the appearance of a man walking someone else through an introductory exchange. "Master Alexandrov, Great Bazhooli, Vladimir; may call me vhat you vill," he leaned forward a bit, his voice lowering to punctuate his words with a serious aspect, "but vith respect. Da? And I vill endeavor to do same."

There was an immediate change in Vladimir's demeanor, returning to a lighter, less intense version of himself. Be it genuine or just for show, he even put a smile on his face. With bright eyes, he responded to the question put to the room. Why a church? Well, "Vhy not church? Church is good place. Church of Elsevhere, for maybe? Hmm..." He gave a moment of consideration, "Church vas vhere ve vere, vhen ve destroyed monster. Cast Gologramma, during and after battle in church. Took us here. Vas not supposed to do this, the Gologramma. Not for travel. Ah, but you should have seen monster! Vith bigness, long ropy testic- tentacles, tentacles; creature of solids and shadows, stink of burning sulphur. Strong vomens in battle, powerful, beat monster to half death vith skills most exquisite, most brutal, hmm, terrifyingly beautiful - but Grand Duchess purified, fell to dust."

The summary of Lauren came with a little head tilt from The Great Bazhooli, acknowledging her words and presence past her words describing the injuries she didn't want to receive. He didn't address it directly, but he did throw in, "Ruins? Egypt, da. So, nothing vith big scary sulphur monster. Is good." He flashed a smile in her direction. Then he looked to the very, very armed man who asked a question, "No! Am not having idea vhatsoevers. Nothing vith Groves, nothing vith Proserpine. But! But, I am liking your comfortableness vith things sharp and pointy. Is also good. Very good. For you, I make deal. Help vith Great Bazhooli's qvest, I help with your grove and local girl, if I am able."

"So! ...vhat is doing first?"

Gilbert Summers

Location: Plains Between River & Cave
Skills: History

There was a pause from the tall Emendator as Ludwig rambled off whatever it was he likely intended as passing along information, and/or making observations of the world around him. It was funny, Gilbert probably fluently spoke more languages, modern and ancient, than any single entity that had existed (to the breadth of his experience), yet when this man opened his mouth, complete gibberish seemed to pour forth like a syllabic gargoyle throwing rainwater away from the roof of a cathedral. At least he seemed to know what he was talking about, if no one else did. Probably how his people kept lore safe. There was no better cipher than confusion.

The lady in the Londoner attire, though he did not quite place the exact decade, seemed to know him intimately. Or at least personally, and surprised enough at his presence for them to not have arrived in this place together. Then, at length of the first round of introductory conversation, she introduced herself. "Your name is Crypt? I know of your bloodline well." He turned to Andromeda, who had likewise just finished introducing herself in response. "Recall, please, the stately woman who shared a drink with me. Pale, garbed in black, assisted in your training. The first, Belladonna. She is the progenitor of the Crypt line. This is her descendant." He returned his gaze to young Virginia, "It is a pleasure. I am called Gilbert Summers, The Hat. You might know of me in London as Gray Hawkins, a professor of history and philosophy. I have been called many other interesting things, though I was born to the name Gilgamesh." He scanned the area around him, then looked in the direction he felt Nancy's pull just earlier. "It has been an interesting day."

Faith's summary wasn't, in an odd twist of irony, something that gave him a lot of faith. Though it did point out that Evelina, the one that they knew and not a maybe far altered-by-time version of her was sighted and present up until very recently. It seemed that the explanation was going to be highly abbreviated, so Gilbert decided to open himself up to one of he most useful skills he possessed by pure qualification of being an Emendator to try for more direct and fulfilling answers: His ability to compress and experience human history. He shut his eyes for a moment, as if there were a mental barrier that prevented his instant ease of access, then soon opened them, a look of contemplative clarity beaming across his face. "That... explains so much. And yet does not..." he mused aloud. A single chuckle emanated from The Hat, and he looked to Faith with wonder and amusement. "It is amazing what can be realized with a change in perspective, Faith. You need to consider those words very carefully. For right now, listen to me. I do not know how much time we will have together."

"I looked into the history of this place, and saw nothing. Not blankness, not garbled impressions. Literally nothing. I saw no past, and I saw no chance at a future timeline that had already come to be. My ability to do so has not been compromised; I can still feel the edges of human history as I open myself up to the lines. This place is beyond it all. History is made by those who live and struggle and experience. This is a place where living souls go after they are done experiencing life. We stand, almost all of us, as Paradoxes inside of a Paradox. This is an afterlife, yet we are not dead, you and I."

He removed his hat and motioned toward Faith, continuing, "Evelina left you here. We took her place, is this correct? My arrival, and as such my departure from where I stood last was not voluntary. I would guess the same was true of her. Faith, I believe that there is so much that can be determined in this place. Please, walk me through everything you can remember about your time with The Dice. Exact words she used. Where she went. How she looked. What she did." His words were imperative but kindly, as a teacher might use with a pupil who was on the verge of understanding.

Gilbert turned his head suddenly to look at Ludwig. What he was saying seemed to crystallize in Gil's brain, between his words and what was discerned in the attempt to embrace history here. "And you... know things, do you not?" He seemed to be right about something, and self assured. While waiting on a fuller recap from Faith, Gilbert opened himself up to another Emendator ability in hopes of gathering more direct knowledge for himself. It seemed that this jump might prove very fruitful indeed.

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