Ash HollowayLocation: P6, empty lot next to Enlisted Housing (O)
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.
Thalia CarmichaelLocation: P6, empty lot next to Enlisted Housing (O)
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.
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.