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Futuristic Unlit IC

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"You all fear death rather terribly for people who have just been saved. Its tiresome. You especially."

Adira, for once in her life, took the critique with the military bearing she ought to, and didn't flinch. She didn't care what Eska said - a solution was provided and she wasn't going to defend herself. If wishing to see innocents protected made her a coward then fine. She'd be the greatest coward she could. She stayed quiet where in the past she would have called Eska certain names, and she just bit back any comments: Adira had gotten what she wanted. Nothing more was needed.

As for flying the ship - luckily the base model was one she was actually quite familiar with. She barked orders at Silas on occasion, but for the most part just stayed silent, absolutely zeroed in on their escape. Her burned fingers barely needed to feel the controls under them as they danced between controls. When they finally arrive on the planet she took a huge breath and relaxed her shoulders - her joints audibly cracking from how tense she had been.




Oh, how funny this large universe could be. Silas hadn't thought of his earlier years in what felt like centuries; it was all behind him, simply live exercises to learn from and grow as a result of. The many times he'd torched his hand or caught his beard on fire, the countless books he'd delved into while studying to be an engineer; nothing but old pictures in a waterlogged photo album. Nothing tangible, nothing to hold on to, just memories and experiences to guide his future.

And then, like a hurricane, Hanako landed on the only ship off Tartarus during an invasion - and was only eligible to find a seat on the small ride because of him. Because they knew each other, more than he liked to admit. No, his past was no longer a simple garage he could throw old memorabilia in, shut the door and keep on living. One of those old records came to life and set itself to play.

Silas was able to preoccupy himself for most of the flight to Virama with mechanical work, swearing that 'this circuit needed to be corrected now or else they'd all explode!' or 'the oxygen needs to be cycled or the carbon dioxide buildup could poison them all!' Silas was a master at busying himself, though unfortunately for him, upon landing he was subjugated to nothing but solid ground, a small section of Sine he was allowed to explore, and a blank room with nothing but his shipmate and a ghost. When he'd received the news of his bunkmates, Silas wasn't able to hide the chuckle that escaped his lips. Sidereas really enjoyed wringing people like a towel, huh?

Silas had no belongings to grab, no clothes to switch into, not even a weapon to protect himself from the rife dangers of metropolitan areas. Silas had been the victim of many robberies in his time scrounging by on Bellicose, trying to get by while earning his degree. He'd been such a fish out of water, having come from a planet of almost solely farming and shipbreaking exports. He'd pass more people in one walk down the street on Bellicose than the entire time he lived on Carmin Appoxos A. One of the people he'd pass often just so happened to be his bunkmate for the next few... Days? Weeks? Months? Silas had no idea, but he figured he might as well get comfortable. They had no ship, as the shoddy wreck they used to get here was scrapped as it was a "nuclear threat" and a "danger to ports everywhere should it continue to fly." Hopefully between the handful of them, they'd scrounge up enough to get some kind of vessel. He'd have to look at what kind of ship sales were local to this solar system sometime.

After finally being let go from Waning Stars' facilities, he awaited for Adira to be released; most who had little trouble with customs would all be let go around the same time, he'd been informed. Plus, waiting around gave him some time to think and unbury a lot of deep memories he'd packed away. When Adira made her debut leaving the facility, Silas stood straight from the wall he was perched against. "Hope they didn't torture you too hard in there. I was let off easy, only had three fingers cut off." The engineer gave a cheeky smile, motioning ahead. "Room's are this way, it's not a far walk."

Adira showed Silas a tired but genuine smile and held up her hand, showing the still dark red finger tips. "Don't think there's all that much left for them to take." She would explain more on that... eventually. Right now they just deserved to celebrate that they were alive, to enjoy the calm for once.

"Should probably get that looked at by a doctor whose only motive isn't just keeping you alive," Silas offered as they paced towards the complex. They passed through a rather sparse crowd for modern city, avoiding carts selling various exotic animal meat or synthetic nutrient replacements. "Hope you're not hurt too bad, looks painful."

"Not really... the occasional tingle but no real pain," Adira said lightly. "What about you? How did you fare, all things considered?"

"Well, uh, other than the giant robot psyching me out a bit and Laoise trying to chop my legs off, it wasn't too bad. Kinda wish there was an intermission somewhere in there but, can't really complain. I survived." The mention of Laoise had caused Silas to pause to think on her for a moment. He hoped the smuggler and her walking tank of a bodyguard had fared well. She was smart, and so was Wei, so Silas had high hopes that, had anyone survived the initial invasion, it was the two of them. Waning Stars was probably mounting a full local militia as they spoke, ready to take the fight to the Durians. They'd know the outcome eventually. "Now it's time for some relaxation. Can't wait to sleep for the next three or four days."

Adira smiled at the thought. "Yeah, we could both definitely use it. Man, I could sleep a week. We've jumped from one hellish situation to another for so long... Not sure I remember how to relax." It wasn't much of an exaggeration either; her free time in the mines had been obsessively trying to weaponize the laser picks, after all.

Silas could only nod in approval. His feet weighed heavier than they'd seemed earlier, like someone had strapped cinder blocks to his ankles. Just the mention of the mines flashed hours upon hours of forced labor. He would not think back fondly of that damned planet. Not long after Adira's last statement, they arrived at the outdoor lobby, ice forming tendrils from most of the ledges surrounding the complex. They were lit with the neon signs advertising endless products. Luckily the insulation of the mine garment wasn't all that bad, or else they'd quickly have become frozen statues in the plaza. Silas ushered them to room 04 where, after a bit of jostling to get the door open, they both stepped in and shook off the snow that accumulated on the walk there.

"Hello, Hanako," Silas greeted politely, if a bit too formally, kicking his boots against the shoddy counter to knock off the snow. Silas realized almost immediately there was only two beds, and he spoke before anyone else. "I'll take the floor," He offered, raising his hands defensively.

Adira looked at the one referred to as Hanako and flashed a slight smile of acknowledgement, then frowned and looked up at Silas. "Excuse you, I will sleep on the floor."

"Already called it," Silas responded near-immediately. "See this back? This is a big back! Maybe not Qyilim-big, but that tiny little nook won't do me any good. It's yours."

"No no, I'm used to sleeping on hard surfaces. You'll take up too much space on the ground anyway."

"Okay, I'm not that big - but that's not the point." Silas looked to Adira with just a flash, almost imperceptibly, of... something. "I insist."

Clearing his throat, Silas rapped his knuckles on the countertop. "So, funny running into you back there," The engineer spoke to Hanako. Silas' tact was clearly well developed, his anxiousness was probably completely imperceptible to those around him. Hopefully. "Crash landed on Tartarus too. Crazy coincidence."
 
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The tenderness Chante sensed in Stratton's tone was a complete surprise. She couldn't help that she made so many assumptions about him - after all, she'd spent the last few hours face-to-face with a rotating cast of cold and calculating officers. In honesty, she expected no different from him... she knew little about how to actually accept the gesture, tossing over his kindness in her mind and deliberating whether or not it was genuine. She was well aware of false empathy as an interrogative strategy, but this wasn't an interrogation... was it?

Before she could come up with some other reason not to trust Stratton, she saw some movement out of the corner of her visor. A gun.

Though nothing like a flinch, she couldn't help but turn her helmet a little more harshly than usual, only to find the weapon already completely disarmed. It was right then that she noticed just how on-edge she was still, and she was already beating herself up for making any movement that gave it away. Things were so much easier to hide behind a metal carapace, but evidently not everything.

She recovered smoothly when her roommate began to recount his former years to her. Despite the tension inhabiting her suit, her curiosity still reached back for him as she listened and contemplated in silence. He seemed more than willing to sing the praises of Icarus soldiers. It was all very interesting to her.

When Stratton turned it back around to her, however, she was less sure. His unexpected tact was difficult to digest, and while she didn't like the cold, callous border control, she at least knew how to counter them. She hadn't had to share a room domestically with anyone since... well, since times she'd prefer to remain untouched. He even offered to put up a blanket for privacy...

Though when he went on to talk about Adira, and his relation to her... Well, it reminded her of someone. She couldn't help but tilt her head slightly as he mentioned her, leaving a small space of silence to think. She'd almost forgotten they were even having a conversation.

"... You're okay." she finally began to answer, this time with an intense stare from behind her blank visor. "My blood doesn't fight contagions as it should, and I'm deficient in a few other areas, too. Was also raised an Isonaut, there's some bacteria and viruses that come with space travel. Planets, people, ships..."

"Here..." She trudged across the room after a hesitant pause, bringing back her crate of luggage that she'd made such an effort to keep with her through Tartarus. From across the counter, she laid it down, cracking it open and turning it around for Stratton to see its contents.

Inside, laid neatly, were dozens - probably even hundreds - of clear capsules, containing a rather unpleasant-looking brownish fluid. Each one was just about the shape and size of a sausage, and a small fraction them had been emptied and cleaned out.

"These are heavy-duty supplements. I tailor them to my conditions, myself." She picked a filled capsule out from the case, raising it up to her chest. With a click and a gradual hiss, she inserted the device into her port, allowing it to slowly drain somewhere unseen. For no more than a second, a foul scent could be detected, almost like a faint whiff of rotting meat in the back of the fridge. Of course, that could have just been coming from the actual poorly-kept fridge.

"Long as I keep this suit on and keep taking these, I get to live as normal." She looked down at one of her gloves, splaying the fingers to herself. "... So to speak."

"... So no need for other precautions, but... thanks," she mentioned at the end, almost in a mumble, as she turned the case back around and closed it up.

She knew it wasn't exactly her place to pry, but in truth, she couldn't really help herself. Something about what he said earlier hit a certain mark with her that stayed planted in her mind, and try as she may to hold herself back, the question rolled out from her helmet all the same.

"Adira... she's your daughter?"

Viper Actual Viper Actual
 
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As Chanterelle explained her condition- and even demonstrated her medical needs by inserting a capsule into the medical port on her armor- Stratton watched in a mix of polite and mildly curious silence. In a way he felt sorry for Chanterelle, for living through a suit of armor was no way to live. He'd spent a fair share of time inside a suit of WS drop trooper armor early on in his career though he always had the option to remove his helmet and gloves when the heat of battle cooled down.

That and the fact that at the most he'd worn his armor for a few days or a single week at the most and not all the time like Chanterelle seemingly had to. At the back of his mind a thought lingered momentarily, contemplating just how different his life would've been if the roles had been switched.

What would I have missed in life? The taste of a home-cooked meal? The salted smell of oceanside winds? Grass between my fingers? The warmth of a woman's embrace? What if I had never felt any of this, let alone the feeling of Adira's miniscule fingers burrowing into my back when she hugged me as a child?

Stratton ignored the sudden smell. A part of him thought it rude to comment on it, for Chanterelle could not help it. A hint of sadness was displayed in his face but his eyes revealed the full extent of the feelings which Chanterelle's words had triggered.

He watched the woman speak of normality and as he splayed her fingers his gaze shifted to the gloved hand before returning back to the visor or, rather, what he thought was the visor. Stratton nodded, like an understanding old man and for a moment his eyes were those of someone that had lived through a lifetime of war and death- and whom had survived to tell the tale.

"Adira... she's your daughter?"

Nodding, Stratton cleared his throat. "Yes, I found her on a ship I was assigned to." His expression softened, revealing a slight smirk. "She was a stowaway on a research vessel that I momentarily served on."

Which is true, though I best not mention that it was a military vessel on a secret assignment.

"She was a survivor," said Stratton. "Like yourself."

"When the other marines and I located her she had been hiding in the cargo hold initially before building a nest in engineering to stay warm. We only found her by chance and by then she was half-starved and fought us off with the strength of a dozen men."

Stratton shook his head, smiling. "It feels like a lifetime ago." He looked up at Chanterelle. "We were reunited recently, just prior to crashing on Tartarus. Unfortunately I've been a idiot and I let work get the better of me. Now I only hope I can make it up to her for all the time we lost."

Falling silent for a few moments Stratton eventually looked up and glanced at Chanterelle's gloved hands. He nodded towards them;
"What would happen if you removed one of your gloves? Just for a moment?"

Daisie Daisie
 
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As Stratton told Adira's tale, Chanterelle decided to busy herself, although she still listened closely. It was like second nature to her as she swiped through ingredients of interest, glancing over them before placing them on the countertop. Her intention wasn't to look particularly bored of his story, although she wouldn't be surprised if that was how it came off. No, instead...

She'd begun covering up the fact that every word Stratton said had affected her deeply.

While he pressed on, seeming somewhat fond and melancholic, Chanterelle's mind was abuzz with all too many memories. The comparison he'd drawn between Adira's story and her own was uncannily accurate. Every piece seemed to ring through her helmet for longer than it should have, from the moment he described finding her to his regret of improperly prioritizing his job. The similarities felt like they were wringing out her insides. It stung in ways she didn't truly understand, herself, and while she couldn't help but chastise herself for being so affected...

How could she not, when Stratton seemed so much like him?


Chanterelle coped with many things by cooking. There were few problems you couldn't boil away in a saucepan, and she was darn good at it, too. Despite her inner discomfort, putting up a convincing façade was something of an ability of hers. She slid a loaf of some kind of stale bread across the counter before snatching up a knife and slicing it into small pieces. Was she hungry? No. Was Stratton hungry? She had no idea. All she cared about was the relief that pooled in her chest when she made something delectable. The methodical cuts soothed her anxious mind.

It was when she drizzled some kind of oil over her cubed bread that Stratton pried in a little more about her condition. She stopped what she was doing to look over at him, across the small kitchenette that seemed slightly too cramped for a suit of armor. At this point, nothing could truly help the suspicion that crawled over her.

The metal carapace wasn't just protecting her body; she'd found great use in it masking who she was. The idea of her taking off even a glove, regardless of the risk, was one she couldn't help but find threatening. Sure, he was probably only trying to find a greater understanding her health, but how much did she truly know about his intentions? She already felt just a little too raw. A little too exposed. Especially for having only met a stranger.

"... Nothing good."

It had taken her a moment to say anything, and it took her another to elaborate, ignoring her own strange pauses. "Odds are, I mean. There's a chance I could be fine, but every time this suit opens, there's another chance I'll be infected with something normally harmless."

She brought her gaze back down towards the project in front of her. "Immune system isn't strong enough to put up a fight. Symptoms would be mild or nonexistent, other than a fever... Then I'd die."

Despite her grim words, her voice remained unbothered. There were a few things that disturbed her, and morbidity wasn't among them. While she still perceived Stratton as a potential threat, she managed to share just as much as she was comfortable with.

"Just built differently."

Viper Actual Viper Actual
 
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Chanterelle's somewhat obvious distraction didn't go unnoticed by Stratton and as stopped speaking the veteran tilted his head slightly to observe Chante silently, though with a neutral expression which hinted at a dash of curiosity. He'd seen enough coping mechanisms in his career to know what he was looking at and in a way Chante's sudden urge to cook wasn't all that different from watching a soldier suddenly field-strip their weapon, a veteran re-arrange their desk or Stratton himself as he organized and packed his gear and personal items before missions.

Military or not the need for control was a Human feat shared by all- just to different degrees.

When Chante stopped, looked at Stratton and replied he simply nodded.

"Just built differently."

The last few words earned a faint frown Stratton. He nodded again before straightening up. "I apologize if made you upset, that was not my intention."

He gestured outwards from himself, palms laid out in an open gesture. "I simply want for you to be comfortable. Or rather, as comfortable as one could be living- albeit temporary- with a complete stranger."

"Should you need any space at all I'd be happy to comply and if you want to change topics or if you'd rather not talk at all I'm fine with both options," he finished, eyebrows raised and head slightly leaned forward.

Before Chanterelle could reply however Stratton changed the topic himself, pointing at the pan on the kitchenette. "Who taught you to cook like that?"

Daisie Daisie
 
Eska finds her new roommate situation palatable enough. She's grown up in what passes for barracks on her homeworld, the sort of places you sleep with a gun under your pillow and a knife already clutched in your hand, not to mention less savory sleeping situations in the wilds. A warm room with only one other occupant, albeit one who's speech is so stiflingly formal that she feels vaguely out of place in his presence, is about as good as she's had it in awhile. As often as she is able, she finds an excuse to leave and explore Sine, wandering around the center of the city. She'd seen places like this in holovids and pict-files, but never seen buildings so tall. Home was the rotting hulks of dead ships, crude constructions of wood and salvaged plating that rarely surpassed four stories. Everything here is so big, and she finds herself feeling terribly small as she sits down in a small park sealed inside a dome, perching on the edge of a bench in front of a large tree. She sits by herself, watching the snow whip around the outside of the dome, and wraps her arms tightly around herself as if cold despite the artificial warmth of the space.

This place, the people she's been thrown in with, the strange accents and pungent unnatural scents of industry, are wrong. Everything has felt wrong since the moment they escaped Tartarus, save maybe the first few moments of weightlessness as they broke free of the only atmosphere she'd ever known. None of this is the liberation she'd dreamed of, though she does note to herself that these soft and scarless people are ripe for conquest. They're already used to authority, to bowing their heads to armed men and women in armor and face-masks. The livery, she suspects, doesn't terribly matter, but there are lifetimes ahead for that, hundreds of years to scheme and make war. She could be patient, as long as she found a way to get over this damnable loneliness.

Her thoughts drift to her father, to those she might loosely call friends back on Tartarus, and what her home would look like now that a bundle of nuclear missiles formerly mounted on ships had been detonated in it. That had always been the plan; if invaders arrived, draw their forces into the city and then turn it into a crater of irradiated glass before taking the fight to the hinterlands. The planet was made for guerilla warfare, and her father wasn't above the tactical use of horrible bio-weapons. The Durians, if they could know fear, would be deeply acquainted with it long before her father falls. And that, she supposed, was simply assuming he didn't end up finding another way off-world, finding a cure for his condition, and reuniting with his wayward inheritor.

She snaps out of her thoughts when a ball rolls across the grass and thuds against her leg. A young boy, maybe half her age, runs after it and utters a polite apology. She gives a soft smile, then kicks the ball back to him without rising from her seat. "Playing a little Runth-ball?" She asks, already familiar with the sport from archival footage back home. The boy nods, and she waves him on. "Keep practicing. Natural talent only goes so far, practice makes perfect." She says. He squints, then trots off with the ball.
 
Chanterelle was silent for a few moments more, almost as if choosing her words with care while she sprinkled some spices across her work. Stratton was a tough character not to like - she didn't like jumping to judgment, but she admittedly expected a little less kindness from her roommate. Instead, she found a perfectly accommodating and polite gentleman. It was difficult to gauge just how much information she felt comfortable with him knowing.

"... Father did," She finally answered, gently laying the bread cubes over the pan Stratton had pointed to. As she slid the dingy pan into a countertop oven that may or may not adhere to safety standards, she continued on to the fridge. "Before I had the suit, I had my father and his home. Wasn't ever able to explore what was out there, so he brought what he could to me."

"New spices, meats..." She continued as she worked, but gave a short pause to glance over at the tiny fern sitting on the window behind Stratton. "... Plants."

"After I got the suit and left for work, some coworkers of mine twigged to the fact that I could cook, started paying me for it," Her helmet tilted slightly as she mashed some canned ingredients together in a bowl. "Wasn't much, but I guess you could call it a side business."

While there was no change in her pace or performance, at the same time, there was an odd change in atmosphere as she worked. Some amount of somberness weighed through the air.

"You remind me of him," she mumbled, just a little quieter, with her words short and diffident. She almost seemed apologetic. "My father. When he was younger, that is."

Viper Actual Viper Actual
 
While Qyilim had experienced snow before, he had never truly enjoyed it. It was a hindrance on missions, on training, and often a wildcard on bounty expeditions. Poets and authors adored snow. Qyilim had only noticed the pristine flair and unique beauty when something in the vicinity stained the snow at his feet. Virama was a cold spot on his own journey through space, and he hadn’t made up his mind on it yet. The architecture of the compound was unique in subtle ways compared to what Qyilim had seen of Waning Stars bases before, all built to withstand the weather, or shrug off the remnants of a snowstorm.

His body would have to adjust, though. When he returned to his and Eska’s room in the evening, his muscles ached a tad more. Exertion and cold was a lethal force. To counterbalance the fatigue that threatened to seep in, his body demanded more fuel than normal. His appetite was deep. He had to keep warm and stay strong. He had to adjust, to grow resistance to this planet; who knew how long he was going to be on it?

In order to make up for his constant need for sustenance, and to generally assist the military compound, Qyilim had acquired an occupation of sorts, helping at whatever dock could use an extra body. He turned up, was given something akin to orders, and proceeded to carry out the relatively menial work the dock needed. Most of the time, it was transport of one thing or the other, and anyone knew Qyilim would be an obvious boon there. He worked quietly, and didn’t step out of place: luck had certainly played a factor in his being allowed to work at the dock in the first place, since his record, accessed as soon as Qyilim had arrived and given his name, worked heavily against him.

The downside Qyilim had to endure was a thorough frisking at the end of his shift. He’d been imprisoned due to a botched smuggling attempt, and Waning Stars wouldn’t take a chance beyond what they already had done with him.

It seemed a lot of his companions were enjoying – or trying to enjoy – a bit of peace after their latest traumatic incident. But, just as Qyilim avoided thinking about Tartarus on the ship out, he still avoided it now. Working helped that. The ache of cold in his muscles helped that. He could shrink his perception of feeling to only himself, and widen his awareness of a greater, colder universe simultaneously, and the two created a dual dance of distraction, enough for Qyilim to sleep at night unhindered.

Whether he was melancholic about Tartarus, or whether he was fearful of his own apathy, Qyilim wanted to avoid straying anywhere near working out the answer.

Just work. Just eat. Just jog. Just sleep. And do it all again, perhaps in a different order, tomorrow.



Today, Qyilim stumbled. It wasn’t unusual for a dock worker to discover what they were trying to move, load or unload was slightly heavier than they anticipated, especially if they had been using forklifts or transporters to do all the work up until that point, but Qyilim hated to overestimate himself. He was forced to leave a small, innocent-looking transport box while he delivered its cousins to their bay, then return to it to move it onto a pallet. That, at least, was doable. His left shoulder twinged for his trouble, and he grunted. He’d taken a Caprocetin tab thirty minutes ago, and still pain was coming through. That was only an omen that he’d injured himself much worse than it felt, or the Caprocetin was doing nothing to dull pain anymore. The latter he thought was more plausible: while working on Tartarus, he suspected the Caprocetin just wasn’t able to do its job anymore.

Aiming to rest his shoulder for the remainder of his working day, Qyilim focused on working the machines more. When the time came for him to end his shift, although his shoulder was in the best state it could be at that time, the rest of his body was restless. Even his prosthetics felt eager to keep going, though Qyilim knew that was only in his head.

He’d have to push himself with his jog.

After returning to his room for a brief period to shower and change out of his working attire, he set out towards his usual jogging route around the civilian area of the compound. Usually, he wore enough to keep him comfortable while he warmed up from his jog in the chilly air, but today he opted for only a vest on his top half, and thin tracksuit trousers on the bottom. The cold hit him immediately, almost making him reconsider, but no. He would just move forward, work off his energy, and push his body enough to feel as though he’d earned his next meal.

He began walking away from his room, breathing steadily to combat his initial reaction to the cold.
 
(Collab with 0stinato 0stinato )
Continuing from previous post of 0Stinato

Thankfully, the snow was light that day. The cold wasn’t too much of a problem for Adira, but the snow could be slippery. Her bio-enhancements allowed her to handle prolonged cold exposure, yes, but they couldn’t do anything about misplacing weight on a sheet of ice. Still, it always looked so pretty when it was just falling that even Adira could wax romantic about it just the tiniest bit.

Adira tucked her face down into the high collar of her coat; the same coat she always wore. The one she could turn into a viable air-tight spacesuit with only a few seconds of warning. The one that she had finally gotten clean and back to its pristine white, silver, and black, after the hells of Tarturus. Silas had tried valiantly to convince her to get an actual winter coat, but instead she had compromised with him and bought some sweaters to wear beneath it. This meant he had had to drag her to a store where she mostly bought military surplus but he did convince her to buy one or two nice, new things for herself. She had also taken to wearing gloves almost all the time, but at least she had winter gloves and indoor gloves that she alternated between.

At the moment, the compound was still far enough that she couldn’t see it, but she had memorized this path by now. Even the snow couldn’t obscure it enough for her to get lost. Between going to the WS offices for Tartarus debriefings (which were extremely frequent even still) and having to go to the medical center attached to it, she was hardly ever in her room despite the doctors insisting she needed to rest. Well. Rest and eat.

She had never been very good at either of those things, especially when stressed. Silas had been kind enough to remind her to eat that morning, but that was quite a while ago now. Tartarus had done a number on her, she was thinner than before and hadn’t regained her weight yet, and her skin had hardly any color, but the winds certainly seemed to help and gave a nice rose tint to her cheeks. The streets seemed fairly empty besides a few people going about their days, not bothering her at all, but it was almost nice to see relatively normal people going about their lives. It was almost hopeful.



Despite the cold, Qyilim felt as though he was glowing with heat. His top had the distinct pattern of a good workout. That was the sanitary way of saying it at least. He had to get back inside before the weather essentially freeze-dried his vest, and his skin along with it.

He walked swiftly without looking at much, just feeling his heart gradually calm in its beating until it was nearing its regular rhythm. He would use the walk back as a cool-down, and stretch out his leg muscles as he went. Always better to keep moving. Keep working, keep moving.

As he neared the building he was staying in, he took in his surroundings more readily, and noticed, just about noticed among the grey concrete and white snow, Adira. Her coat was doing a good job of practically obscuring her, with only the black assisting a viewer in puzzling out her silhouette. Compared to Qyilim, she was appropriately attired, but still cold by the looks of things.

In an effort to make himself vaguely presentable, he retied his braids and stretched out his back. She was a woman who knew Waning Stars presentability and, while he doubted she would hold him to it outside of a strictly formal circumstance if her loyalties lay with them, he felt it appropriate to not appear as a ragged, tired man who was slightly pungent with sweat at the moment. It was then that he realised he didn’t even know her last name.

No matter. They were friends, at least somewhat.

‘Adira,’ Qyilim called, allowing himself back into a jog to close the distance between them. ‘I do not usually get to see you walking back. Usually my schedule puts me quite alone from most except Eska. I am not interrupting anything by engaging you, I hope.’



Adira jumped a little bit, slightly startled by anyone speaking to her. Usually people who knew her name were not friendly. She pulled her hand slightly out of her pocket, then looked at Qyi and flashed him a quick smile as she put her knife back in its sheath hidden in her pocket. “Oh, good afternoon. No, you aren't interrupting anything, and you don't need to be formal. I'm just walking back from the offices."

She turned to get a better look at Qyilim and said, "Looks like you've been busy. I heard you have a job of some kind, is that right?"



Being Zirzolan, Qyilim sensed the quick spot of shock he had unwittingly put into Adira. It was a quick emotion, but fight-or-flight - or indeed its softer cousin - was exactly what he was attuned to. It was impossible to distinguish whether someone would fight or fly, though. Whatever she experienced in that moment, Qyilim elected to allow her words their truth and not pursue what could be an invasive apology for his sudden appearance.

He smiled and gestured that they could continue walking before he spoke.

‘Forgive me for sounding formal. My native language is full of contractions, with sometimes more than one contraction in a word, so I find it somewhat easier to separate this language from my own verbally by avoiding shortening words. Though it can lead to sounding out of place in an informal setting. But, yes, I have been working. Simple manual labour tasks at the docks. I have a complicated past with the Waning Stars, but I decided to involve myself regardless. I assume by your mentioning offices, that you also have something to spend the time doing?’



"Forgive me for assuming, then," she said with a huff of a laugh. Admittedly she didn't know very much about Zirzolans, but she had noted he had said 'I hope I am not interrupting anything by engaging you,' which was just very polite in general. Maybe it was just that she wasn't used to that kind of polite.

"I had to go give another debriefing regarding Tartarus and the Durian situation. Things are getting tense and WS is trying to be subtle about getting battle ready, but let's be honest they're as subtle as an engine explosion." She looked up at Qyilim and flashed a wicked smile, "I have a rather complicated past with Waning too." Her account for her whereabouts was only a partial lie. He didn't need to know she had spent the morning in meetings and the rest of the day in the attached medical units.

"You seem to like to keep busy though, so I'm glad you found something to so - and, hell, you can get a bit of pay while you're at it."



Qyilim chucked when Adira mentioned the Waning Stars’ attempt at subtlety, but he knew the laugh was hollow. He knew a battle was probably inevitable with the Durians, due to what had been said down in that wide, cold arena deep below the planet’s surface, but he also knew its supposed ruler cared not for the lives of his subjects. No thought would be spent for them, on either side of the table. But there was nothing he could do - or was that, nothing he wanted to do?

‘It would be improper of me to offer my thoughts on that situation given I am in the position of working at a Waning Stars space port. It has also been a great many years since I was a Sergeant, and I’m sure much has changed. I am nought but a labourer for now. And, truthfully, I exist in a monetary equilibrium: I am not gaining money, but nor am I losing it. I require a lot more food than you would, so I must pay for that with the extra I earn by working. Perhaps I can save a fraction of it over time, but it is not much at all.’



Adira slowly smiled at Qyilim’s comments about not being able to comment. It was smart of him to hedge his bets on the side of the military force he used to work for. However, Adira had long lost that sense of self preservation, and besides, she felt at least slightly comfortable with Qyilim. More than she would with most people, but if she were a cat she would still be watching from the other room.

“It would be improper of me as well given I’m technically a retired Captain for them - still a pilot if nothing else - and yet I am happy to comment anyway.” She flashed a quick smile at her own attempt at humor. It wasn’t great but she was trying. “I just hope to not get caught up in the war that is coming. I hope it’s quick and that as few innocents as possible are caught in the crossfire.

Adira flashed another quick smile and casually said, “I’d offer you half my rations since I don’t eat them anyway, but I feel like that still might not help.” Calling the food they were given ‘rations’ was a little rude since it was rather nice food supplied to them, and credits if they chose to eat something else, but overall it was not inaccurate in that they were all given only a certain amount of credits worth.



Qyilim had heard that word floating around Adira before, but it was only now, as the warmth within his core was bitten away by the outside cold to usher in a harsh new clarity, did he realise what that could mean. If he’d heard her surname before, it was not something he had internalised nor recognised as her second name; it was, after all, phonetically speaking, a common enough human name. But now the phrase Captain Adira had its ending word, offered up by memories that had persisted for over half a decade.

‘My further apologies, Adira,’ he began, turning his head to her. ‘Foolishly enough, despite having known you for months now - even if we did not see much of each other on Tartarus - I have only just worked out who you are. When I pursued HTVs for the Waning Stars, I followed some of your exploits when I considered your tactics could have merit within my group’s strategies. I was incarcerated for three years, so I am ignorant to whatever events brought you to this point, but I apologise that I was equally ignorant of your identity.’



Adira slowed in her pace as Qyilim admitted to recognizing her name. Most people didn't like to bring that up. Even she didn't like to bring that up. It brought back a lot of old feelings as well as newer revelations: how childish she had been, lashing out as she had, playing with fire with absolute disregard for her safety when she was really just scared and angry. Who had she been, trying to have the best of both worlds and be both a WS pilot and a bounty hunter? All that latent anger still never got addressed, but she was managing it better, now. At least now she wasn't going off as some renegade vigilante. She resumed her pace and nodded. "No need to apologize, I'm not someone who should be recognized. My name ended up in the news too many times, but that was… feels like a lifetime ago. I've begun to ah… 'behave' better recently."

What events did bring her to this point? Qyilim didn't ask, but she still felt she ought to tell him. Still looking straight ahead she said. "In short, the ship I was on with Silas got attacked. Obliterated in a single hit. I believe it was Icarus, as they were the only ones with that kind of tech - and I've seen them use it with my own eyes - but the rumors… put things in perspective." She huffed, a dry and humorless laugh, "For all that I was trying to help, I may have done more harm." Did Qyilim need to know this? No. But she felt comfortable enough to say it around him, and she didn't care about hiding it, either. She didn't care about much anymore.



‘Icarus,’ Qyilim echoed under his breath as Adira said the name, his mind shifting gears temporarily to the evaluation of that entity he had always regarded as a threat. He’d learned to distrust and hate without justification, and often found himself counting his exits when he stood near Chante, even though the young woman had shown herself to be an ally to Adira and the others. As for Adira’s theory, it seemed more than plausible: Icarus played dirty.

After she finished talking, Qyilim made no move to answer. He offered a gentle murmur of understanding, but that was all, at first. He just walked beside her, his own pace slower than usual to accommodate Adira's movement speed, until they came to the residential block they were both aiming for. There, instead of continuing, he stopped and turned to Adira.

‘Although there are not many amenities here to accommodate joy, I wonder if you would like to find something to do in Sine with me. You and I suffer from the same defect, I think, even if it has been borne in us through different events. I forget that I am an individual, and consider my worth based on the effect I have had in the grand scheme of things. My defence against emotions that arise as a result of that belief is apathy, and I want to change myself. I fear you may be experiencing similar apathy, because you speak of tragedies and traumas, yet… you project no strong emotions about any of those incidents. If we venture into Sine and find something joyful to do, perhaps…’

Qyilim couldn’t locate the words to end that sentence. His voice trailed off and he broke eye contact, only punctuating the last phrase with a late shrug.

‘If you wish to, I only ask that you wait for me to change into clothing more suitable for this weather.’



Adira thought the offer over. Qyilim was certainly good company so far. He didn’t push or pry but still kept conversation going, and he didn’t require too much energy to talk to. It made her wonder: when was the last time she’d actually done anything with anyone? Anyone besides Silas. He had to be sick of her clinginess by now, and besides… he’d probably be proud of her trying to be social.

Adira looked up at Qyilim with a smile and nod. “That works for me. I’ll get a better scarf, too.”
 
"Before I had the suit, I had my father and his home. Wasn't ever able to explore what was out there, so he brought what he could to me."

"I see," replied Stratton, head slightly bowed down. He regretted using those immediately- there was no way for him to understand how a childhood like that felt. The isolation especially must've been devastating at times, assuming that Chanterelle knew what passed for "normal" that is.

He fell silent once more and adjusted himself in his seat while listening to her speak. His eyes also wandered over to the food being cooked but the smell was more of a distraction than the actual existence of it.

"You remind me of him," she mumbled, just a little quieter, with her words short and diffident. She almost seemed apologetic. "My father. When he was younger, that is."

Stratton nodded silently before tilting his head, speaking with a soft voice; "He still around, your old man? Are you close?"

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"He isn't," Chanterelle's answer was simple as she placed a pot atop a burner, stirring the contents with an almost mechanical rhythm. "He wasn't spry when he found me. Got me the suit when he realized I was gonna be... alone, I guess."

A few more seconds of her silence was broken by the bubbles that began plopping to the surface of her dish, letting loose steam. That second question Stratton asked... "Are you close". That one required just a little more thought. It wasn't one with a ready answer.

"He cared for me deeply," she finally settled on. She couldn't bring herself to elaborate.

When she finally tore her gaze from her pot to cast a glance at him, warm droplets of water ran down across her gray visor. She noted that Stratton looked to have finished cleaning out his weapon, so she supposed this was as a good time as any for supper.

Of course, she'd had no idea if he was even hungry - didn't even occur to her to ask - but nonetheless, a fresh bowl clinked down on the bar top directly in front of Stratton, followed by a tall cascade of what looked to be some variation of a piping hot chili, straight from the pot. Quickly pulled from the oven was the bread, now baked into a sheet of crisp, seasoned croutons, which she gathered and placed in a short, metal cup for his leisure. Steam streamed up from the sizzling bowl like a flame, loaded with heavy, savoury scents.

She set the remaining chili aside, not bothering to serve herself. Instead, she began to clean, the pot sat nearby in case Stratton wanted seconds.

"How'd you get to Tartarus?" Chanterelle suddenly asked. Part of it was to pull away from the subject of her father, but another part was genuine curiosity. Regardless of her pervasive distrust, she'd at least figured that Stratton wasn't an immediate threat. She kept herself guarded, but still... now that the lingering danger of Tartarus had been swept away, she began to feel just a little safer. A little more curious.

"... Assume you were on your way somewhere."

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"I'm sorry to hear that," said Stratton, pausing momentarily. "I'm sorry for your loss, it's not easy."

"It never is." His gaze became distant for a brief second. It can, however, temper us. Make us stronger. Resilient. Defiant. Brave.

When Chanterelle didn't elaborate Stratton knew better than to push and instead set his firearm and its assorted parts aside as his roommate set the table.

Truth to be told he hadn't been feeling hungry but when the colorful and warm food was plated in front of him it sparked something at the back of his mind, a memory of days long past- memories of eating at home with a family.

Strat bowed his head slightly. "Thank you, it smells amazing."

With practiced care and etiquette from days at the officer's academy Stratton filled a spoon and blew two whiffs of air at it before tasting the meal. The reaction was both joy and surprise as a tide of spice and flavour invaded his taste buds.

Stratton raised his eyebrows slightly with a faint 'Mmm' following directly after as a way to vocalize his pleasure.

When Chante spoke up and inquired him about Tartarus Stratton was in the middle of dipping a piece of bread into the bowl.

"It's a long story," he started. "We were on a contract of sorts but we were also helping a friend and a crewmate try and piece together a part of her past when we ended up in the middle of a naval engagement."

"Our ship- the Ambivalence- became crippled by pirates and subsequently boarded. Thanks to a great deal of luck and one crazy bastard we repelled the boarders and seized their vessel, using it to transport our own."

"Unfortunately we suffered some critical blue-on-blue damage from nearby friendlies and- next thing I knew- we were barreling down towards Tartarus at terminal velocity."

Stratton shook his head. "The fact that most of us survived is nothing short of a miracle, though we did lose some good people as well as our home."

He nodded towards Chanterelle. "How did you end up on Tartarus?"

Daisie Daisie
 
Hanako smiled at Silas and the woman. She chose not to press just yet about the bed situation. Silas could scramble and avoid her now. These things always took time, after all.

"I know!" she instead responded, slapping both of her knees from her cross legged position on the bed. "I just can't believe that of all people to run into, it'd be you! Almost seems like fate if you ask me," she winked.

“It’s quite the rarity for sure,” Silas gave an attempt at a lighthearted chuckle while scratching the back of his neck. “Hopefully Tartarus wasn’t so bad for you as it was for us. I had an acquaintance try and cut my legs off. And Adira had to fight a robot god.” He spoke the words more casually than one would probably expect from the topic.

Adira simply nodded in agreement with Silas's summary. She didn't know this girl yet, but that didn't matter much to her.

“What’s kept you busy all these years? Still… making strides in your profession?” Silas asked.

Hanako’s eyes narrowed but she was still smiling. “Of course, babe. You know I’ve never been one to put my work second.” She stretched and threw her legs over the side of the bed. “And you don’t seem to be doing too poorly for yourself either, in spite of the, uh, robot god. It appears neither of us have changed much, eh?” She winked at him.

Hanako hopped up from the bed and walked up to the woman standing next to Silas. She reached her hand out to greet the taller blonde woman. “I’m Hanako. I hope Silas hasn’t spoken too poorly of me.” She playfully elbowed Silas.

Adira took Hanako’s hand and shook it politely, making eye contact and smiling slightly, politely. Why did she call Silas babe? It was definitely odd, since he didn’t seem exceptionally thrilled to see her. Adira got the distinct feeling that Hanako had a lot of ulterior motives for… probably everything she did, especially including how she spoke to Silas. It was just oddly friendly and felt a little too targeted at Silas in a potentially malicious manner. Adira smiled a little more and said, “He actually has never spoken of you. I’m Adira.”

Silas decided to chime in after the handshake had concluded. “Hanako’s a… good friend from a few years back, we met while I was studying for engineering on Bellicose.” Silas looked over to Hanako, wringing his hands together. “Our careers kept us apart for a long while. I’m still reeling over having re-met with her on Tartarus, of all places.”

Silas kept his eyes on Hanako. “Adira was assigned as a crewmate to a ship I was stationed on for a while. When that expedition went south, we both decided to start privateering together. Thus how we ended up on Tartarus.”

“Privateering? A bit adventurous for you, isn’t it, Silas?” Hanako nudged the man again. Turning her attention to Adira, Hanako feigned indignation. “I’m hurt! Wounded deeply to my core. Silas never once spoke of me?” She smiled. “Here I thought I was a heartbreaker.”

“Maybe you were, but I wasn’t about to pry into Silas’s broken or un-broken heart,” Adira said with a little smile. She looked between Hanako and Silas and said, “I’ll be back soon, Silas, I have to go back to the offices, they only have me long enough to check out the rooms. I’ll catch you both later.” She gave them both a small wave and left the room.

“Oh, you’re heading out?” Silas asked, unsure if he should try coming up with an excuse too. He ultimately decided against it. Hanako was just a person. She wasn’t some monster that was going to rip him apart once Adira left. He could handle facing someone from his past, right? Silas offered a wave to Adira as she stepped out. “Have fun, try not to get a papercut!”

Silas then turned back to Hanako, continuing where he had left off. He didn’t even want to imagine what Adira thought of this. “Oh come on, Hanako. Don’t pretend like you spoke about me to all your coworkers since Bellicose.” He gave a smile in return, feeling the awkwardness leave his body if only slightly. It’d been a while since he’d dealt with Hanako’s unique charisma, and it was a joy to experience again - even if the situation was strange. It almost reminded him of his youth.

“I doubt you’d recognize me these days. I’ve been looting, stealing…” He almost mentioned killing, but that just didn’t sound right coming from him. That wasn’t something to boast about, in his mind. “As much as you may not believe, I’m no longer just a run of the mill engineer student. Running this little show has really rounded out my skill set.”

“Well, look at you go!” Hanako exclaimed. “And here I thought you’d be single mindedly focused on your engineering forever.” She turned back from the awkward grouping by the door and plopped back on her bed. She crossed her legs, resting her head in her hand and her elbow on her knee.

“I’ve had my fair share of changes too, believe it or not, Silas. The bounty hunting work’s been going great since we had our little breakup.”

Silas completely brushed over her final comment like the words didn’t even register. “Well, we’ve got time to kill and I have nowhere to be. Tell me about what’s happened since the last time we spoke.” Silas leaned against the kitchenette and folded his arms.

Hanako straightened up and began to gently rock from her seated position. “Believe it or not, until I crash landed, I actually was managing to make a stable living on the bounties I pulled in.” She smirked. “Well, as stable as bounty hunting could reasonably be expected to be.”

“Well, that’s good to hear,” Silas said with a smile. “Glad your risk paid off. Are you still jumping around all over the place for it? Or were you able to stick around in one place for more than a week or two?”

Hanako raised an eyebrow. “Oh ho ho, where did this bite come from, Silas? I thought you favored cold silence to passive aggression.”

“It’s an honest question!” Silas said with a laugh. “I may have been buried in my books, but it was always a coin toss if you were even still in the system or not. I’m not making a dig at you, it’s a genuine curiosity.”

“I follow the bounties where they take me, same as ever,” she responded, a little more coldly than she intended. “You seem to behave similarly now, captaining a crew of, uh, smugglers, was it?”

Privateers,” Silas corrected, matching the tone if only slightly. “We mostly stick to the Porphyrion system. This is the first time we strayed away, and it got us stuck on a planet for a month as slaves to Lord Cavanaugh.” Silas scratched at his beard with a grimace. “I’d call it a happy medium. Go out around town for a bit, be home before dinner.”

Hanako forced a wide smile. “A happy medium, yeah. Sounds wonderful for you Silas, truly.” She leaned back onto the bed but kept her eyes on the man. “It appears we’re back to sharing a room, though!” She relaxed her face and tried to lean back into the flirty exterior she’d nearly perfected. The other woman had left; perhaps she'd be able to shoot for the moon. “You feel like reminiscing?”

Silas raised an eyebrow, unsure if that was the on-the-surface type he’d have asked, or the facade-with-a-hidden-meaning question he’d grown accustomed to from Hanako. She always had something going on behind the scenes, a pretty stark contrast to Silas’ constant lack of meaning between the lines. “Sure, I could grab my textbook and really get back into the vibes of Bellicose all over again,” He joked in hopes to diffuse a double-meaning.

“Funny, funny,” she quipped back. “It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but I’m sure it’ll help me feel nostalgic.”

Silas once again scratched at his beard out of habit for something to do when he wasn’t exactly sure what to say next. He still had no idea how to untangle her right now. What the hell was she even meaning? Was he looking too much into this?

Finally, like the Stars had wanted to give him a way out, a smell suddenly invaded his nose, and it smelled like home. Like a mom who’d just set out dinner after a hard day of working with Pop out in the shipyard. Silas had his out.

“Damn, just realized how hungry I am,” Silas mentioned, standing from his leaning position. “Wonder if that’s one of our guys making that. Come on, you should get introduced to some of the others.” Silas didn’t hesitate for a response, only motioned for Hanako to come with as he pulled on his coat and activated the sliding door out into the cold.

Hanako rolled her eyes. It was ever like Silas to run when the temperature rose too much. Some things weren’t apt to change, apparently.

Rolling off the bed, Hanako bounced up and after the man out of the room. The smell certainly was nice - far nicer than the trash on that hell planet - though she was more interested in meeting the crew who now claimed Silas’s focus.

Silas breathed a silent sigh of relief when she followed wordlessly. Like a bloodhound, he followed the intoxicating smell to the apartment it originated from; luckily for the engineer, it was one of the rooms assigned to his crew. He couldn’t remember exactly who though, but that didn’t matter. Silas knocked twice on the door, hoping it would be answered soon; who knew what Hanako would come up with next in the few seconds out here in the cold.

Hanako caught up to Silas standing outside of a random door and looked up at him in confusion. “Uh, Silas, do you even know these people?”

Silas waved his hand dismissively. “Of course I do. It’s one of the numbers they gave out when assigning us once we were cleared at customs. Just, uh, not certain who from my crew it is. They’re all great people, promise.”

Hanako raised her eyebrow. “Uh huh, sure, sure.” Had he always been this sociable?
 
Chanterelle generally had to think a bit before responding to anything, but this dragged out for just a little too long. This was one of those things she really wasn't sure how much she wanted people knowing about. Her departure into space was definitely a complex situation - she was admittedly unsure how to describe it, even if she wanted to.

"I-"

She didn't even get one word into her explanation before a knock at the door cut in. She startled slightly, gaze darting over with urgency for a split second before her mind could catch up.

Oh, Stars. It was almost certainly another customs officer, here to harass her about the interior of her suit for another few hours. She could feel her annoyance and fatigue oozing from her suit as she told Stratton to keep seated with a gesture, trudging with heavy boots to the door.

Silas and Hanako were greeted by a large, white suit of Icarus bio-armor on the other side. To Chanterelle's surprise, there were 0 customs officers in front of her. While that was relieving, she still wasn't sure what to make of them.

"What?"

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Hanako blinked back and forth between the armored figure and Silas. The, uh, woman, it sounded like, seemed to be staring at them with as much confusion as Hanako felt. The reassurance that Silas definitely knew the room's occupants seemed to fade as quickly as most promises the man made to her.

"Uh, hi!" Hanako said with a small and somewhat awkward wave. She wasn't used to speaking to people who stayed fully armored in their bedrooms. She gestured to the much taller man at her side. "Silas here said he wanted to introduce me to his crew. Though, between you and me," she leaned in, "I think he was just drawn in by the delicious smell of whatever you're cooking." She winked in a futile effort to diffuse her own awkwardness.

"Oh! And where are my manners?" She tapped herself on the head before extending her non-mechanical arm out for a handshake. "I'm Hanako. I'm a bounty hunter and a, uh, former associate of Silas. It's a pleasure."
 

Stratton became aware of the sudden visitors the same moment Chanterelle did and, as she moved her armored figure to open the door, he lowered his spoon and spun around on his chair to face the door proper in a more upright position. Considering their current circumstances any visitors could either be customs officers with follow-up questions or an intelligence officer or two looking for Strat.

When Chante then opened the door to reveal Silas and the woman that had joined right before departing Tartarus Stratton got up and positioned himself at his roommate's side. As she introduced herself Stratton offered Silas a curt nod before extending a hand. "James Stratton, resident old-timer. Nice to meet you, Hanako."

He gestured towards Chanterelle. "This lovely lady here is Chanterelle." Strat glanced at Silas with a smirk. "The chef of this wonderful meal I was just about to praise even further."

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In contrast to Hanako's rapid attempts to please the social tension, Chanterelle remained her unwavering, careless self. After Stratton introduced her and her cooking (To which she was thankful for him), she shook Hanako's hand as well, followed by a couple of seconds of silence that represented an immediate uneasy reception. Chante wasn't exactly fond of the interruption, but considering these were the people she was going to have to share space with for the foreseeable future, she finally coaxed some words from herself.

"... Pleasure."

Well, one word, at least.

As she was taking stock of both people in front of her, she observed Silas - he was the one with the strong beard and the sideburns, she remembered - to have a strange way about him. He lacked the confidence she'd seen him bring forth previously, and a brief glance between the two made her wonder if Hanako had anything to do with it.

Consideration swept through her slowly. She didn't want to let them in, honestly. It had been a long day of hedging her bets with border security, she'd just gotten out of a focus-filled conversation, and she did not feel ready for two more people to keep an eye on around her stuff. She couldn't let them in. That would be ridiculous. There would be no way.

"... You two... want to come and eat?"

Oh, for the love of the Stars.

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Silas responded to each statement with a friendly smile and a nod. He was the most well-acquainted with everyone here; Stratton was a member of his team (even if it was forced by Waning Stars), Chante was the part time medic who'd helped fix his leg after their deadly crash on Tartarus, and Hanako was his old flame from long ago. Introductions were done for everyone else, to which Silas was simply grateful the spotlight was finally off of him for once. No one needed introduction as to who Silas was. He was just there; beard flowing elegantly in the frosty wind. Frosty wind. Shit, it was cold out.

"Yes, please!" Silas took the offer to come inside as soon as it was given. Thank the Stars. He hadn't spent much time in colder temperatures during most of his life, so the chill burned right through the Burns boy. He stepped in, kicking the snow from his shoes as he did so. Silas glanced around as if he wasn't already familiar with the copy-and-paste room.

"I won't steal the food from your mouths, but if you've got extra that'll just go to waste, I'd happily partake. I had no idea you knew how to patch people up and cook." Silas noted to Chante. "Here I thought I was the impromptu chef of the crew. Well, not to assume you'll be staying with us; I didn't mean to - uh, yeah." Silas scratched the back of his neck. "Lovely weather we're having."
 
"Again, it's a delight to meet you both!" Hanako said, beaming, as she shook both of the strangers' hands. Her eyes lingered on the armor-clad woman - Chanterelle - before finding themselves stuck on James, the other occupant in the room. He looked military, what with his careful grooming and the way he carried himself, though decidedly not Icarus. He was too... ugh! She couldn't quite place it. Was he perhaps the man who had them stationed with the Waning Stars?

Damn it. A frenzy of disparate faces and she couldn't place any in retrospection. The stint on Tartarus seemed to dull her professional senses.

Gah! Forget it. There'd be time to worry about that later. She quickly replaced her almost-dazed expression with an even faster smile. Hopefully the man wouldn't have noticed her analyzing him. She looked back to Silas.

"Come on, don't play coy!" She playfully punched him on the arm before wrapping her arm around him and squeezing. "See, Chanterelle, Silas is absolutely ravenous." She leaned in toward the two occupants of the room and smirked. "But you didn't hear that from me!" She winked, still holding onto Silas, before patting him on the chest.

"Come now!" she exclaimed, pulling Silas into the room with her. "We've been offered a feast! Who would we be to turn these nice people down?"
 
"... You two... want to come and eat?"
Stratton was nowhere close to being a psychologist but in this case he didn't have to be one to pick up on Chanterelle's... objections.

Yes, she was polite and had- technically- just welcomed Silas and Hanako inside but it was still pretty obvious that she might've wanted to opt out entirely from the unannounced company.

As Hanako spoke Stratton smiled and nodded while also placing a careful hand on Chante's left shoulderpad. "I'm sure I'll need the help to clear my plate as is," he said with a smile.

He then turned towards his roommate and nodded while also giving her a look.

Now, Chanterelle wasn't Adira but maybe she'd pick up on his signals. I'm not any more thrilled than you are but hopefully it'll be a quick visit.

Hopefully...
 
Despite asking them in, Chanterelle was hoping to herself that the two would politely decline the offer... but she supposed she shouldn't have been surprised. As Silas and Hanako entered in, Chanterelle felt a firm hand against her armor, Stratton just by her side. For a brief moment, she saw him share in her pain, and that was enough to at least amuse her.

As she turned back, though, it was like some small switch inside her flipped. One who'd been talking with her would have questioned whether or not she even had the capacity to sound like anything but a bored bag of sand, but suddenly there was an unusual lightness to her voice. Not enough to be over the top... but enough to exude a subtle and convincing perkiness.

"Well, sit yourselves down then," she offered, turning back to her faithful (albeit scant) kitchen. Gathering two more bowls from the cupboard, she set a couple of places, deciding it may be wise to place them a stool's space between Stratton's. Warm chili flowed into each bowl masterfully. "Sorry it isn't my best. Ingredients here aren't the finest - only so much you can do from the cans."

Subtly closing her box of supplements and stowing it out of sight, she continued. "You mentioned me staying with you and your crew. Wasn't sure how to broach the subject, myself... would I be intruding?"

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Silas responded with his typical nervous laughter as a result of Hanako's... eccentric friendliness. On the surface, he was sure he looked as anxious as he always was, but it was truly nice having an old friend of his around. A face he recognized without wondering all the facts of; he simply knew them. He also knew Hanako was nothing if not brusque, quite the opposite of Silas' non confrontational self. Of course, Silas liked to think of it as a nice dynamic, like a good-cop-bad-cap of sorts. Their extreme ends of the social butterfly spectrum fizzled each other out in a mellow middle ground.

Silas happily accepted the seat he was offered and wasted no time familiarizing himself with Chante's cooking. After just one bite, Silas furrowed his brow, which probably seemed like disgust for a moment. But to Silas, the question immediately clouded his mind; why didn't they have a dedicated chef on the Ambi? What the hell had they all been missing out on for so long? Silas and a few of the others took turns creating crew meals, but mostly everyone would fend for themselves before. He would never go without hiring a full time, live-in chef again. Chante was proof of why he needed one. He immediately continued his crusade in finishing the bowl in front of him as Chanterelle spoke.

He wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve before responding. "You wouldn't be intruding at all. Have you seen the crew? We're pretty much just a collection of vagabonds, vagrants and cutthroats looking for some cash to earn. Well, everyone but Stratton, of course. He's our babysitter." Silas gave a warm smile over to the Waning official. "I don't have a ship anymore, and therefore I don't technically have a crew for it either. But I'm not tapping out. I'll build a damn ship myself and get back out in the Stars sooner or later. I'd be happy to bring along any willing to join me. Yourself included. That offer also extends to Hanako, and Lu Lee."
 
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Kestrel flopped backwards onto the gym map in a spray of sweat. Panting, she grabbed a nearby towel she'd left lying on the floor for just this purpose. A dab here and there got the sweat off her face or at least out of her eyes. Then she rolled back onto her feet in one smooth continuous motion.

It didn't hurt.

It felt like a year or two since she'd crashed on Tartarus, since the Ambivalence crashed, since she crashed through it. The iron carbon composite alloy that'd replaced her bones, her nervous system and some of her musculature had held her together but the flesh had felt it. Still felt it, until now. It'd taken months of recovery on Tartarus before she could manage more than a walking pace. Weeks of relative inactivity, prisoner or 'guest' of her seemingly insane brother. And then that last frantic escape from a doomed planet.

Kestrel strode to the wall and tapped a UI element that toggled the matte-grey surface into a 'window' view of Sine's aerial landscape. A cold world, like the one she'd been stranded on so long ago. Not that she could complain. The aliens had taken her, changed her, ripped her out of time. Here, Waning Stars had the decency to recognize she'd been gravely wounded and give her a full medical workup. Having experimental nanotechnology automatically made her a medical curiosity and she obliged the medical staff's curiosity in exchange for mending scar tissue. This was her first day out of the hospital and she'd just put herself through a full workout in the gym of this small apartment complex.

"Not bad," she said to herself, looking at the softly drifting snow in the 'window', the mobile ricksaws carrying out business, people getting on with their lives like they always did. Speaking of, it was past time she did the same. The tall blonde woman took the stairs instead of the elevator, smirking slightly at the faint creak from each footstep. She massed close to 300 pounds, 'thanks' to the Implant. She'd had a few years to get used to it but sometimes the little things still surprised.

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She knocked once before using the access Waning Stars provided to enter. Kestrel stepped inside, dressed in a pair of athletic shorts and a sports bra, with a white towel hung around her neck to catch the residual moisture from her skin and hair.

"Hey, hope you don't mind, I'm definitely in need of a shower," she called out to her roommate. They'd met briefly back on Tartarus, when the other woman had patched her up immediately after the crash. Now they were reunited in the form of roommates, for better or worse. If Lu was around, Kestrel flashed her a smile before hitting the shower. Ten minutes later, she came out scrubbed clean and shiny, seemingly the perfect picture of health. Of course, given she had an implant that'd converted a chunk of her inner workings into iron carbon composite and couldn't be switched off without killing her, appearances could be deceptive...

"So, haven't had a chance to really catch up with you, Lu," she admitted, as she flopped onto her barstool, making the metal frame creak a bit under the sudden impact. "How you doing? You hanging in there alright, through everything we've been through? What's next for you? I know we don't look like much now but the Captain and the boss, you know, Adira and Silas, they'll pull another ship together before too long. Have you talked to them about signing up? I mean, if you have other offers around here, I can't blame you for taking them. But you seem good in a scrap and we've found ourselves in more than a few, we could use someone with a good head on their shoulders."
 
Chanterelle only crossed her arms and watched as her guests chowed down, taking in their responses. She assumed Silas was a fan simply by the unhealthy pace at which he was shoveling it in. Though it was small and overshadowed by the annoyance of two new people, she did feel a little twinge of satisfaction settle inside her as the lineup of crew members sat at the bar and enjoyed her creation.

Honestly a - as he put it - "collection of vagabonds, vagrants and cutthroats looking for some cash to earn" sounded like not a terrible deal. Chante had a unique situation in that she was completely homeless since her craft hurled itself into the nearest planet. She felt a need for... something. Something that wasn't just sitting around on a planet, or at a station. She craved it.

He'd also mentioned Stratton being their babysitter, which she found interesting. They didn't have children aboard their ship, did they? She didn't understand it, but maybe she'd catch on later.

"Sounds like you have the right attitude. You have a good grit," she finally commented, offering a nod as she leaned up against the counter to the side of theirs. She then brought her gaze to Hanako, curious. "You gonna be staying with us awhile, then?"

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Being addressed by Chanterelle brought Hanako back into the moment. She had to pause the ravenous destruction of the food she was enjoying and collect herself. As she wiped at the corners of her lips with a cloth napkin, she smiled at the woman.

"Oh, yes, that is the plan. I'm not sure Silas's heart could handle me leaving a second time." She nudged him with her elbow before taking another bite of the food. It was good - far better than the slop on Tartarus - and it was obvious how much she was enjoying it. Under normal circumstances, Hanako would be much more aware of the way her appearance could be judged by her companions. Her line of work was delicate, and were she to able to continue playing femme fatale to desperate men, she couldn't risk aversion.

However, these were decidedly abnormal circumstances.

She had a history with Silas. Even if she wanted to employ her normal tactics, she'd feel too awkward openly flirting with strange men she found detestable in front of him. It was a break, in a sense, a, uh, vacation of sorts. Dramatics of their history aside, Silas was comfortable.

Though perhaps she'd immediately gotten just a bit too comfortable.

"What do you say, Silas?"


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