Astraea recruits Kell for moral support in trying to visit home. Things don't go well. At all.
Location: Tybarre, Scorpia
Related Scenes: None
Scene Number: 1569
With people getting 48-hour passes off-planet, securing a Raptor for a day’s use wasn’t too difficult. It’ll make the trip to Tybarre quicker, as well as the return. Neither Kell nor Astraea have to finagle any extra time off on top of the very light hours they already have. Thus, it’s with a full day off and no early bell for either of them the next that they’ve set off. Astraea at the primary controls and Kell to the seat next to her. She’s got civvies on under her flight suit so she’s not walking around overtly obvious for ‘what’ she is once they land.
The woman has been full of a nervous sort of energy since they set off and now, as they near to landing at what’s really a glorified landing pad near the shore… it’s worse. Tybarre shows shades of a former tourist town. A few decades ago, it was probably very popular. Now, however, it’s been vastly overshadowed by the city of Argentum Bay. Buildings lie in disrepair; crowded and dilapidated. The vehicles on the streets are all at least a decade old and some look like they haven’t been moved in months, if not years. The beach is largely empty -- with its quiet, gentle waves from the mainland -- and the boardwalk host mostly to ‘adult’ establishments.
Astraea looks sheepish, almost, as the thrusters flip to vertical thrust as she angles in for a landing. “Shit compared to Libran, I know.” Not that she’s ever been to Libran, but she’s seen it in photos and on holovid.
Can’t blame Kell for choosing the overtly obvious though. With Astraea at the controls, he has chosen his usual duty blues, cleaned and pressed to standard. He certainly wears the uniform well, as it was tailored for people like him, almost a second skin. With his eyes mostly looking outside as they fly, as if to pick out and remember certain landmarks out of habit when flying in an area he doesn’t know, the Libran has been pretty quiet.
When Tybarre comes into view, Kell can’t help but furrow his brows slightly when he sees the conditions of the buildings and the vehicles present. He didn’t come from Caprica where everything was modern and high tech, but Libran wasn’t obsolete or outdated like what Tybarre looks like. When he hears Astraea’s comments, Razor does try to hide the slight discomfort at what he sees, shaking his head, “Libran has her areas that are the same.” Which may be true, but it is obvious that Kell did not live in those areas.
Once they touchdown though, Kell will of course assist Astraea with the procedure of shutting down the Raptor, even if he isn’t in a flight suit. Even while on ‘leave’, he has his standard issued sidearm with him, as he considers it part of his uniform.
It’s a visual explanation as to why Astraea gets so awkward and uncomfortable about the more rich pilots in the wing. Why she had such a hard time comprehending people who live in manors and estates. Tybarre is the sort of place one claws their way out of- if at all possible. It may explain, too, reasons beyond the inter-clan war that she grabbed so quickly at the chance to be labeled a refugee and go to Caprica, for Academy.
Caprica, just as crowded, but far cleaner and more technologically apt. Virgon, then Leonis abandoned Scorpia and places like this are the result.
“Does she? Guess they don’t show those on th’ vids.” Just like they don’t show places like Tybarre.
Once the Raptor is powered down and settled on the pad, she begins stripping out of her flight suit in the main cabin. Beneath, it’s just jeans and a tee. She does, however, have her sidearm; tucked into a holster at the small of her back, shirt dropped over it. “Jax’ll meet us at a cafe in town. I.. dunno if we’ll see anyone else. Ain’t sure I’m ready.” She’s hesitant, even, to open the hatch.
“It’s not a long walk.” The words are almost for her own sake rather than Kell’s and when she does step out of the plane, she just stands there for a moment, staring at the boardwalk nearby and the town arrayed beyond.
Shaking his head as they disembark from the Raptor, Kell says, “No, they don’t show vids of the less fortunate places. I’m pretty sure no colony would, if they had a choice. Not exactly the best advertisement showing the slums instead of the resorts and luxury residential areas.” Waiting outside the Raptor, he is surveying the surroundings again, as if getting the lay of the land in mind and once again, marking any unique landmarks in his head in case it is needed in the future.
When Astraea comes out of the Raptor, Kell shifts his attention towards her and nods understandingly, “If you want, we can check out the café from a distance, to see if there are others with your brother. If there are or if you don’t feel comfortable, I can head in and just give him a message or something.”
There are unique landmarks. The boardwalk itself. A tattoo parlor with a tall, neon-lit sign. There’s landmarks for those looking. Without? One can tell the place would be a maze. Astraea steps away from the Raptor after closing the hatch behind them. She takes in a deep breath, closing her eyes for a moment. “Thank you,” she says finally. “That sounds like a good plan.”
After a brief check of the sidearm at the small of her back, she begins walking. Just enough ahead of Kell to lead the way, but not so far as to leave him trailing. The wood of the boardwalk creaks and sags in places. Bars open up to it. An arcade. A bodega or two. There’s a number of closed buildings, too. She turns up a street so narrow as to be an alley once it opens up, glancing up at slips of balconies and windows open to the weather above. Homes, above the storefronts below.
She’s quiet as they walk, taking it in. When they near the town square -- notable for being more open, loud with community, and a bit nicer -- however, her steps begin to slow. Anxiety etches itself into her features and body language.
Once Astraea starts walking, Kell follows suit, eyes still looking about. It is obvious he stands out in a place like this, as one who doesn’t fit in. Not one to break the silence, he is still looking about, left, right, left, continuing to survey his surroundings, a likely result of military action they’ve been facing. A regular civilian may just walk on and be oblivious to their surroundings, but with military training and having to be wary of threats until they’re on leave, habits develop.
When they turn into a narrow street, Kell can’t help but pause for a second as he looks down the street. Part of it screams caution but when Astraea walks on, the Libran follows suit and catches up before matching her pace. When they approach civilization and people, Kell actually appears to relax, quite the opposite compared to Nova’s reaction. “Astraea, let’s just take a walk around the area first if you want, we don’t have to go near the café until you’re ready.”
“This was…” Astraea’s voice is thin and she takes a slow breath to steel herself. “This was where th’ simulation ended. Center of town.” She never told him that part, did she? All that’s been revealed of what she went through was that he was somehow involved. Her hands flex at her sides as she steadies herself. “But… but it wasn’t this one.”
The last is loud enough to hear, but definitely said for herself. The Raptor pilot looks over to Kell, tilting her head in a small nod. “Alright,” she agrees, pointing to the left. “Start there an’ we can circle around.” It takes a few, long seconds before she’s finally able to propel herself forward. There’s a wide nature to her eyes; reminiscent, almost, of a cornered animal. She’s afraid, but she’s facing that fear.
When Nova mentions the simulations ending, Kell glances at her with an arched brow, not making the connection initially. However, after two or three seconds, it registers that she was talking about what happened while she was captured. “So whatever you saw was not real then, Astraea. Nothing matches what’s here.” So she can separate reality from the Cylon simulation, that part he doesn’t mention, letting her make that connection herself.
When Astraea is on the move again, the Libran follows suit more to her side to make it seem less awkward. Though his duty blue uniform would bring enough attention as it is, whether or not he is acting awkward or not. “I take it that a lot of things have changed from what you remembered before joining the service?” The question asked, casual, as if trying to keep her mind occupied.
“Some things match,” Astraea says, lowly, her eyes going to a couple store fronts. She walks slowly, though some tension does bleed out of her when Kell falls in at her side. It helps, having him there, even with the awkwardness that has built up between them. She glances to him when he poses his question, then to the town square as it spreads out before them. The Scorpian woman is quiet, for a time, as she considers.
“Th’ simulation was… based on memory, I s’ppose. Th’ cars were older. When I last saw it-” she points, “th’ fountain was still being rebuilt.” Now it’s wholly intact and spilling water. Not an overly fancy construction, but a working one nonetheless. “Th’ cafe, there-” Nova points again, “was still Mallard’s, a Leonese restaurant.” She bites at her lower lip. “It’s strange, seein’ it all now. After six years. After… after th’ Cylon tried to reconstruct it in my head.”
There is still a sense of anger beneath the calm demeanor that Kell possesses when Astraea’s capture by the Cylons is the subject of discussion, but it isn’t as visible or sharp as the one that was displayed when they were in the sickbay that day. Just a slight tightness in his expression. “They can’t predict the future, Nova, which I’m sure we are all thankful for, and they can’t create or change your memories with what’s current if they have never been here. What they did to you is inexcusable, tacked on to the list of what they’ve done to the colonies so far and we will make them pay for it.”
There is a glance around the square before Kell asks, “Do you see a store or place where you frequent when you use to live here?” Perhaps an attempt to ease Astraea’s mood before the fated meeting with her brother, or just to have her visit a place that she can relate to in a positive manner, to help her overwrite in her mind what the Cylons did.
For Astraea, the anger is buried somewhere beneath the fear and sense of violation that comes from such an experience. That loss of identity and self and need to find her grounding again. It's clear she'd have likely not made it this far without Razor by her side.
“There,” she says after looking around for a moment. Where she's pointing is a small shop. The sort that sells candy, trinkets, and cold treats. “I used to take some of th’ kids there. Same as my brothers an’ cousins took me.” She starts a few steps, then freezes save for reaching out to grab his arm.
“It's…” Her lips press into a thin line as she stares at the narrow alley (proper alley unlike the narrow street they're on) next to the shop. There's no one there, but she's staring as if there were.
When Astraea gestures to the small shop, Kell nods his head and says, “Let’s take a look, if you want, we can buy a few things to give your brother to pass out when he goes back.” The Libran was starting to walk in that direction when he suddenly feels her grabbing his arm. Seeing staring out at one direction, Razor follows her gaze to an empty alley, “What is it? Who did you see?”
The idea to buy a few things to send on is a good one and she had been nodding agreement. But then she'd frozen, hand on his arm.
Astraea's fingers tighten against the sleeve of his duty jacket. Her breathing has picked up and she doesn't answer him for a long moment. When she does, her grip slackens, but doesn't release entirely. “I ran away,” she says in a low, somewhat shaky voice. “In th’ simulation, I knew somethin’ was wrong. You weren't… you. So I ran, to get away. I made it here an’… You, th’… fake you stepped out from that alley. It's when I knew-” The word is said vehemently. Like she's reminding herself anew. “...that things weren't right, but it was all so real, Kell.”
She turns slightly to look at him, hand finally falling away. “It wasn't like a holoband. It felt real in every sense. The smell of th’ air. The way th’ wind twists through the streets. Even th’ bed I woke up in at th’ start was my bed, in my room.”
Unfortunately, Kell is no psychiatrist or doctor so he has no idea what the right answer would be to what Astraea is telling him. He can only listen, looking from her to the alley where there is nothing there. No fake Kell, no Cylon, nobody. Razor doesn’t know what the correct next step is and that troubles him, “So… what would you like to do, Nova? Do you want to go to that alley just so your mind can stamp out that it was just a fake memory, not something that was real?”
“I don’t know,” Astraea admits, a touch breathless. She closes her eyes, inhaling slowly. After a few breaths, some of the tension eases away. “Let’s go to th’ shop. Havin’ a gift to send home would be nice.” She starts to take a few steps, then pauses to look over at the Libran pilot by her side. There’s a small, but genuine smile for him. “I couldn’t do this alone. Thank you for comin’ along.”
Then she’s circumnavigating the plaza to head to the shop. There’s an added tension in passing the alley and she does her best not to look directly at it before through and into the small storefront.
It smells sweet inside. Very much so. That intermingling of chocolate, sugar, and the fruity flavors used in candy. There’s various toys and a few lingering tourist-style knick-knacks because for all that Argentum Bay proper claims the most tourists, it doesn’t face the gulf and some people still yearn for those pristine, shallow waters versus the surfable waves.
When Astraea suggests moving on, Kell is more than happy to leave that alley behind, heading to the small shop that she had pointed out earlier. As for her thanks, he answers with his own small smile, the best he could usually manage, “Don’t mention it, just like flying missions, you can’t fly alone against the Cylons.”
The smell of sweets certainly hits Kell, but it is a pleasant experience, as if he was back being a kid again. But only for a brief moment before he gets himself grounded once more. “Best choice would be the same kind of sweets you bought the kids back then. Even if they are grown up now, I’m sure there are more around at that age that would enjoy it.”
“Good thing I’ve got my favorite wingmate along then, yeah?” Astraea flashes Kell a small smile in return. She hovers a few paces inside the shop, taking it in. She scans the shelves, bins, and displays before angling off to a unit with various boxes of candy. She starts sorting through, picking out a couple along the way. One is put back, another is claimed. There’s a methodical nature to it. Like she’s sorting through childhood memories as she goes, trying to remember what was preferred and what wasn’t.
“Would you like anythin’?” There’s a look to the other pilot. “My treat. Least I can do for you, comin’ with me like this an’ all.” A glance towards the back of the shop. “A shake, maybe?”
While Astraea picks and chooses at the candy, Kell remains where he is, not too far from the entrance, just taking in the interior with his eyes. When Nova asks him if he wants candy, he answers easily with a shake of his head, “No thanks. I’m good. Take your time.” It appears it is a phase of his life that he has fully grown out of, one he has fond memories of but a place where he does not feel the need to return to. His focus is clear right now, his purpose in life.
There’s a glance over to Kell, then back to the candy on offer. Astraea swaps out one of the boxes she holds for a bag of brightly colored gummies. “What do you like to do for fun?” There’s no look with the query, but there’s no one else she could be speaking to. She gathers the chosen items in her arms and turns to head for the register. “Like… actual fun. Not related to your career.”
When the question is directed at him about his past, Kell arches a brow as he shifts his gaze back to Astraea, “Fun? Hmmm.” A moment of hesitation so he can ponder on the answer, not exactly expecting to answer something like that on this trip. “Well, back home, I played a good amount of cards, since there weren’t any Cylons to blow up. Enjoyed going out with my school buddies out drinking and stuff, you know, the usual. Did a bit of mountain climbing at higher elevations back home too.” A slight shrug accompanies the answers, as if to say that that’s it and it wasn’t a big deal.
Packing her purchases into a bag once paid for, Astraea arches a brow at Kell. She studies him in silence for a moment as she steps away from the counter and angles towards the door. At least she’s no longer so on edge. Keeping away that discomfort may be the cause for the question, at that. It’s a topic of discussion and one that takes away the focus from her current state and the discomfort that weighs on her at almost every turn.
“Cards?” It’s a single word to start when she finally speaks again. “How come you never play on th’ ship? I’d play with you. I like a good game.” She leans her shoulder into the door, heralding their way back onto the street. She gets one look at the square before twisting enough to look more at Kell than her surroundings as they walk. “I get that you’re too stuck-up now to drink, but why not a few hands of Triad now an’ again?”
It is Kell’s turn to give Astraea a look as if she asked a silly question, “Time is better spent doing something else, Nova. There’s never enough time to try to sharpen your skills as a pilot, especially right now when we’re against such a relentless opponent.” Following her outside, he shakes his head, “On full leave, I’m willing to drink. Just don’t see the point of doing so in such excess that some of the others do. Then you run into problems like we did back on Caprica.” As for Triad, the Libran shrugs his shoulders again, “Well, if you do get a game running with others and I’m free, I may be willing to swing by.”
“To an extent,” Astraea replies, turning a measure to have a better view of Kell, even if it means she’s largely walking backwards. At least she’s taking it slow, but she is a pilot who has often flown in reverse so her backseater has a better chance with the rear-firing cannon. Walking slowly in reverse is simplicity in comparison. “But we’re taught an’ we teach to relax an’ breath when firin’, whether it’s a firearm or th’ munitions on our plane. If you don’t take time to relax, you’re gonna to build up more tension an’ stress. It’ll ultimately have a negative effect on your performance.”
She flashes him a smile in the wake of the lecture. It’s allowed sometimes. She does have a bit more time than he out in the field. And certainly more in the face of war itself, but she (understandably) talks little about her time fighting in the clan conflicts. Even as she’s walking through evidence of some of them. A city that’s had its heyday torn forcibly from its grasp. “A shot or two on a night off ain’t gonna ruin your whole game, Razor.” She shifts her grasp on the bag, slowing to a stop. “We’ll play Triad sometime soon.”
There is an amused expression on Kell’s face as he hears Astraea’s concerns, his head nodding as if he is agreeing with her, “You are definitely right, if a person doesn’t relax, he will certainly wind themselves up like a top and spin out of control. But I guess the way I relax isn’t the same way as the way you relax, or how others relax. We all have our own preferences.” An easy counter on his part, perhaps polished over time with other people making the same statements. He then looks over to the café, “So what’s the plan, do you feel like heading there to check it out? See what the situation looks like?”
“Watching guncam footage doesn’t count,” Astraea points out, nose wrinkling. “You’re still caught up in th’ dogfight. Worse if it’s one where we lost someone. You’ve gotta detach completely now an’ then, so you can reset.” She shakes her head slowly. “I don’t wanna see you burn out, Razor.”
She follows his gaze to the cafe, taking a deep breath. “Might as well just head on in. He’s… prob’ly waitin’ for me.” She scuffs a foot against the pavement, still looking uncertain. There’s a few long beats of hesitation before she nods, once, firmly. “Alright. C’mon.” And she starts walking; shoulders squared as if someone off to trial. And in a sense? She is.
Kell can’t help but laugh hearing that, once more nodding his head, “No, that doesn’t. It does get tedious and as you said, one more difficult missions like that, it does take a toll. But I enjoy my time at the gym, firing range, reading manuals, articles, and books written by former pilots on flying techniques and their experiences. I guess it in a way helps me make up for the lack of mine. If I feel like burning out, I will let you and the others know. And we have plenty of more experienced veterans, Captains, that know the warning signs of someone being burnt out.”
As for Astraea’s decision to just head in, Kell nods his head and is ready. Before they depart though, he does offer a suggestion, “If you want, you can give me a signal if you feel yourself not wanting to be there but not being able to say anything. I’ll say that we don’t have time to stay and have to return to the Dauntless so we can leave on our terms. If that makes you feel more comfortable.” A safety net.
“You’d better say somthin’,” Astraea notes to Kell, studying him for a moment. “I don’t wanna see you burn out. I also don’t wanna see you get shot down or worse ‘cause you were too tense. I hate seein’ you get shot down as it is.” She’s frowning, still, but looks back to the cafe. There’s a few breaths taken as she steels herself.
“That’d be good,” the Scorpian pilot admits softly. “I’ll… nudge your leg or somethin’.” The cafe’s tables, like most, aren’t very big. And it’s easy to assume they’d be sitting next to each other. Nova bites at her lower lip, briefly, before pushing through into the place itself.
Her eyes are still adapting, so it’s the man at a table about midway down the length of the establishment that sees her first. The place is modestly appointed; white tables, blue walls, and tasteful decor to match. There’s a family resemblance to the man who seems a few years older than she. He has plenty more tattoos and a few scars of his own. “‘Straea,” he calls once she nears. His focus is, initially, on her. But Kell is taken in soon after.
When they step into the café, Kell takes a quick look at the area and soon enough spots the man that is focused on them. As they approach, the Libran inclines his head respectfully to the man who is waiting for them, speaking only after the question is asked, “I’m Lieutenant Kell Draygo, I fly with Astraea in the Colonial Forces. Pleased to make your acquaintance.” A hand is extended, the usual cordial greeting being offered by the Viper pilot.
Once the gap is closed, Jax pulls Astraea into his arms in a fierce hug. When he releases her, he leans around to accept Kell’s hand after giving the Libran a once-over. “Jax,” he offers, simply in return. He’s got a similar accent to Nova, but it’s rougher. Hers has been softened in her years away and likely trained out of her somewhat in her time at the Caprica Academy. “So,” he says, looking from Kell to Astraea before moving to the table he’s got. “Colonial Forces, eh? Didn’t quite believe it when I got th’ letter.”
Astraea sets the bag of candy on the table as she slides into a chair. She runs her tongue over her lips, smiling. It’s a faint, uncertain smile, but she’s making the attempt. “Yeah,” she ventures, hands on the bag. “I, ah, went to Caprica when I left.”
“Shit. All this time we thought you’d died in that frakkin’ explosion and here you are.”
Nova winces, just a bit. “I know. But I-”
“...th’ Assamars woulda gone after you, I know.” Jax shrugs, picking up the glass he had while he waited. “Prob’ly still would.”
With Kell wearing his Colonial duty blues, it seems to help solidify that Astraea is indeed in the Colonial Forces. Taking a seat after Nova does so, the Libran does what he does best, remains quiet and just listens to the conversation between brother and sister. Some of the her background, he knows, but the details are being filled in, a much clearer and more defined picture is being painted.
Astraea is quiet for a long moment. In that span, a waitress stops by to take their order. Nova just goes for a coffee; no food or anything fancy. Just coffee. When the woman turns to Kell, the bag is pushed towards Jax. “For everyone at home. I don’t get leave often, so I ain’t got time to pick up anythin’ fancy. I’m sorry.”
There’s a glance in the bag and her brother laughs. “This is fine. My boy’ll be happy with it.”
“Your boy? Did you an’ Kara…?”
“Nah, Kara went off with some guy from Crossguard. I finally gave ‘Nell a chance.”
This gets a more genuine, broad smile from Nova. “She had a crush on you for th’ longest time.”
Jax shrugs, looking sheepish. “Yeah, well, it worked out. We’ve go a son-” he digs out a phone, pulling up a photo so Astraea can see. “Lionel. He’s three now.”
There’s a sadness in Astraea’s mien, but she smiles all the same. “That’s great, Jax. What about everyone else? How’re they?”
Jax starts to answer, hesitates, and looks out of the cafe towards the square. “‘Straea, when they didn’t find a body…”
Nova frowns. “What do you mean?”
“Assamar’s been convinced ever since that you turned on them. They told everyone you tweaked th’ charge an’ ran off with Crossguard.” Before she can protest, he lifts a hand. “We know, but it’s…” He lets out a long breath, looking down at his drink. “Maybe you shouldn’t’ve come back.”
Kell orders a coffee as well, with cream and sugar, but then lapses back into silence as he watches the treat being offered. There is a relaxed demeanor when the picture is being shared between brother and sister of a nephew that Astraea did not know about until now. However, when the subject changes back to her disappearance and what Nova is being blamed for, the Libran’s expressions shifts from relaxed to a touch concerned. He certainly doesn’t like where it is leading to.
“It’s been years, Jax,” Astraea says, carefully. She’s on edge now, too.
Her brother looks off to the square again. “It has,” he agrees. “Years where th’Assamar have continued to lose ‘gainst Crossguard. You know how they get…” When Jax looks back to his sister, there’s an apologetic cant to his expression.
Nova picks up on it and leans back in her seat somewhat. “What’d you do?” She hisses the words as an accusation. “Jax, what did you do?”
“I’ve got a family now,” her brother says in a rush. “A kid. I don’t want him growing up in this shit and they’ve been on us ever since you disappeared.” He looks pained, to his credit. “You left, Astraea. You left us. You abandoned th’ family an’ we’ve done what we gotta do. We’re doin’ what we gotta do.”
And this is the side of Scorpia the military doesn’t see when they’re on leave. Crossguard does a very good job of keeping Argentum Bay proper safe and clean for the most part.
By the time her brother is done speaking, Astraea has reached out a hand to grab at Kell’s arm. She’s staring at Jax as she does it, but her words are for her fellow pilot: “We’ve gotta go.”
Kell is smart enough to puzzle out what Jax is saying when he starts on how he has a family, as if he had no choice. The Libran’s eyes narrow but it isn’t one of hate or accusation, instead he asks in a serious tone, a direct question. “How much time do we have?” He has already risen to his feet, forgetting about the coffee that was ordered. It looks like he is ready to go as well, but he wants that bit of information, his mind already planning on the escape route. If they have no time, they can’t take the most direct route back to the Raptor, if they have time, they could risk it.
Jax’s features go to apologetic and pained. “I’m sorry,” he says lowly. “If you’d come alone-” But even as he admits it, he winces. “You were just gone so long, ‘Straea. You don’t know what it’s like.”
“I know exactly what it’s like,” Nova hisses in return, angry now.
Her brother looks to Kell, then nods towards the back. “Not long,” he says lowly, looking past them towards the square. “Go out th’ back. I’ll try to stall.” He doesn’t sound very confident of his odds.
Nova doesn’t wait. She just moves past Kell with a slight tug to his sleeve. Through the cafe, her steps are fast, but measured. Once she hits the kitchen, however (after a glance to make sure the Libran is behind her), she takes off; shoving past a couple employees to hit the door out into the alley beyond.
That answer was the only thing that Kell needed, going out the back was just a bonus and he will take Astraea’s lead. It is her old stomping ground, the best he can do is keep up and be an extra pair of eyes. When Nova breaks into a run, Razor follows suit and stays on her six, starting to regret wearing his duty blues. It is only slightly restricting but it certain catches people’s attention. For now, his personal sidearm remains holstered and at his side, the last thing he wants to do is start an incident on Scorpia when the Timberwolves were just in one on Sagittaron, Caprica before that, and his friendly fire incident back on Canceron.
As they break out from the alley, there’s shouting from the cafe. Indecipherable at this distance, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine it’s because of them. “This way,” Astraea says, a bit breathless as she turns up another street. It’s vaguely in the direction of the boardwalk, at least. Her clothes are more suited to it, even if she’s already sweating herself. The islands are not a good area for running all out like they are.
It’s one turn, then another, before she stops suddenly. The Raptor pilot is breathing heavily as she does, turning slowly in a circle. “I don’t remember any of this,” she admits, looking apologetic and still mildly panicked all in one. “Th’ boardwalk oughta be that way-” she points to where… the alley is walled off. It doesn’t cut through. The construction looks different from the surrounding buildings. As if it were built a fair period of time after them.
The sound of disturbance back at the café has Kell turning his head to look over his shoulder for a moment, but that is all he spares. Instead, he follows Astraea as she leads them, beginning to sweat himself but he is not out of breath, constant training while in the Colonial Forces has him in pretty good shape. When they end up stopping though, Razor begins to frown as they are a little lost, “Let’s take a moment, if we went the wrong way, maybe they didn’t follow us since they would expect us to go another way back to the Raptor.” Kell does begin looking around and up, to try to find any landmarks he may have spotted on the way into town from the Raptor. As if to place himself in the rough, mental map he had drawn up in his head, to gage the proper direction.
It’s not like Astraea is terribly out of shape. If she is, it’s only barely. She likes her sweets, after all. And even then, that’s ‘out of shape for a pilot.’ Most of her breathless state comes from fear driving her body into a greater adrenaline response. She closes her eyes as Kell speaks, trying to ground herself. “If we go back out on th’ street an’ up another block, it should cut through.” She doesn’t sound entirely certain. Not after they got cut off this way.
“That’s if they don’t got other people ‘round th’ city. Or people lookin’ for me.” Astraea takes a slow breath, reaching back to check if her sidearm is still there. “We should be ready for resistance at th’ Raptor.” She starts a few steps towards the alley entrance, then looks over to Razor. “I’m sorry.”
When Astraea offers the direction of heading back to the Raptor, Kell nods his head, “Let’s do that then, we shouldn’t out right run unless we are spotted and chased, but just walk fast. Maybe we will blend in with the crowd.” Probably not since he is in uniform. As for her concern about resistance at the Raptor, Razor can only smirk at that, “We’ll deal with that if it comes up. Let’s go.” No need to delay the inevitable.
There is a look over Kell when he mentions blending in with the crowd. Astraea gestures at him: “Gimme th’ jacket. You’ll stand out less.” And a duty jacket over her jeans and tshirt won’t stand out so much. It’ll help, a little. She does make her way towards the edge of the alley, looking out to the street as vehicles -- mostly older models -- pass by. There’s people out and about, but none adopting any sort of search pattern.
“Th’ Assamar won’t move against th’ Fleet, but if they can get me…” She sighs, looking back to Kell. “Somethin’ happens, get outta here so they at least know I didn’t abandon my post, yeah?” And invariably to save his ass, but she knows better than to use that reasoning.
When the suggestion to pass over the duty jacket is made, Kell pauses and arches a brow, as if he is reluctant to take it off. Of course, reason overrides personal preference and soon enough he begins unbuttoning the jacket. Removing it, he hands it to Astraea, then also undoes the top button of the shirt beneath it. If he’s going to go casual, might as well go all the way, with that extra button. Quite the game changer.
As they leave the alley and begin heading towards where they landed the Raptor, Kell nods his head when Nova explains about the Assamar and their intentions further, “That’s good, that was what I was hoping for. The Fleet will shield me and the Raptor, we just need to impress upon them that /you/ are also part of the Fleet.” As they proceed, he does keep an eye out for any people who may looking at them for longer than comfortable or any that stand out.
It’s the fear and focus on the situation that keeps Astraea, for the moment, from really reflecting on the jacket. There might be a flash of it somewhere in her mind -- perhaps based on having that familiar scent of him so close --, but overall she’s too deep into what they have going on. So Kell’s jacket is put on as they head out onto the street. She keeps a quick pace, without running again. Her gaze is kept around them, surveying the lay of the land (as it were).
“Ever wonder why we don’t have more Scorpian pilots?” Astraea talks as they go. “Ain’t just ‘cause it’s expensive to get off th’ colony an’ to an Academy. It’s also ‘cause getting away from th’ clans ain’t easy. If you have skill, they wanna keep you around.” She does turn to look back over her shoulder, then forward again. There’s a hand lightly to Kell’s elbow: “Five o’clock. I think they’re trailin’ us.”
And indeed, there’s two men who seem more focused on navigating the street and watching the two than they do any shops or partaking in an afternoon stroll.
“I’m sure most military forces on each colony is like that, perhaps not to the same degree that Scorpia has. I know the Libran Armed Forces didn’t allow my parents to transfer to the Colonial Forces, because of that.” Kell answers as he looks towards Astraea briefly. That conversation is shut down though once she spots the two that are trailing them, “I see them, let’s just keep moving though. They know where we are going so them trailing us isn’t a surprise, if they get closer though, we can make a run for it.”
“Least you ain’t worryin’ ‘bout servin’ on th’ same ship as your parents?” To Astraea, this seems like a bonus. But then, Kell now has personal insight into her family and clan dynamics. She tilts her head just enough to watch their pursuers out of the corner of her eye. There’s a considering expression on her features as they walk. “Next block up, we’ll take a left. We might wanna run once we get there. They may not be so restrained once we’re off th’ main street.”
Ahead and on the left is another alleyway street, like the one they approached the square from. With signs of apartments and a few more stores, it’s unlikely to be blocked off like the previous one. It also cuts in the general direction of the boardwalk.
There is only a slight nod from Kell at Astraea’s suggestion to make a run for it once they turn the corner and are temporarily out of sight. And that’s what he does, once the round the corner, a quick, “Let’s go,” is said and Razor begins to run. The focus is now to place as much distance between themselves and those that are trailing them as possible. There is no motion at all by the Libran to go for his sidearm or even preparing to.
There’s only a sharp nod in answer to those two words and Astraea is taking off as well, doing her best to keep stride with the taller Viper pilot. The alley is, indeed, open to the next street beyond. They’re on enough of a rise that they can somewhat see the tangle of a couple streets yet to go before the boardwalk. It is, at least, in sight and with a clear view (for a few seconds) of their path to get there.
Running was a good plan because there’s soon a couple of shouts behind them as their pursuers turn into the alley in turn.
As they break through to the next street, there’s a shot. It cracks through the facade of the building up and to the right. A very wide shot. These aren’t professionally trained men and running makes their aim even worse. Even so, Nova swears and ducks briefly out of reflex. “This way,” she calls, cutting to the left on the next street. It keeps them from being a straight shot and puts -- with some quick weaving through slow-moving traffic -- a few obstacles in the way.
When the shot rings out, Kell also instinctively ducks his head even though the round was nowhere close to where they were. He does glance over his shoulder for a moment, to make sure the pursuit is still pretty far away, “Whatever you do, Nova, do not pull out your weapon if you have one.” Then they cut left on the next street, still running. He is looking for a good chance to cross the street, and also put any vehicles between themselves and the alley they came out of. “Can you make it all the way to the Raptor?” He asks Astraea, as if trying to decide if they should double back and shake the pursuit so she can catch her breath or if they can make it all the way to the Raptor.
“Are you frakkin’ kiddin’ me?” This is Astraea’s initial response to his telling her not to pull out her sidearm. She hasn’t yet, but the temptation is clearly there. “If they keep shootin’ at us, you bet your ass I’m gonna shoot back.” There’s room between the vehicles in the fairly stop-and-go traffic and she weaves between a van and a couple small cars, trying to keep low to make herself less obvious. People do stare as they go past, but no one shouts after nor does anyone else join the pursuit.
One of the men after them does jump up and clamber across a car’s hood and roof.
“I can,” Astraea says, chancing a look back and flinching. “Just keep goin’. Right after that flower shop.” It’s a small florist, with plenty of flowers displayed at the open storefront. Beyond it is another street and one that should take them straight to the boardwalk.
Nova’s response wasn’t surprising but Kell does have his reason, one he doesn’t say until they round the corner of the flower shop and make that right down another street. “You open fire..” He says in between breaths, “You will end up… writing a report on… why you discharged your firearm.” A longer pose as he continues to run at a fast, half fueled by adrenaline at this point, “They will investigate…” That is all that the Libran says for now, as if hoping that Astraea will connect the dots herself. When he nears the end where the street will end up opening to the boardwalk, Kell does begin to slow down, as if just in case something is waiting around the corner and to give himself a chance to survey the new area before just running full tilt into it.
It does show that the old Astraea is still under there. The hot headed woman whose sense of justice often overrides self-preservation. Her jaw clenches as Kell explains between strides, but for all her expression and body language hint at protest, she just huffs in understanding. No sidearm, then.
She slows too as they round the corner. The street angles down towards the boardwalk and beach beyond. Once on the boardwalk, it's home stretch to the landing pad. Astraea takes a few deep breaths: in through the nose, out through the mouth. Both to calm the burning in her lungs and the adrenaline coursing through her system.
She's about to say something when shouts ring out behind them. It's all in Scorpian, but Nova understands well enough; grabbing at Kell's arm before taking off again. They still have a bit of a lead on their pursuers, but it is narrowing by bits and pieces.
As long as Astraea doesn’t protest or draw her sidearm, Kell lets the matter drop. When he hears the shouts of Scorpian coming from behind them, the Libran was about to look back. However, Nova is already pulling on his arm and off running again. He doesn’t delay either, quickly following suit and off on a run, the home stretch. Instead of looking over his shoulders, his focus is on the front arc, first trying to find the landing pad and their Raptor, and also to see if there is anyone waiting for them on the way there, ready to intercept. No reason to look back now, if they are going to get caught, they will get caught.
Another shot does ring out and this one clips a parked vehicle just as they’re tearing past it. It’s almost too close for comfort and Astraea flinches sideways into Kell. Not enough to hinder either of them, but it is definitely a sidelong nudge as reflexes drive her away from the point of impact. Fortunately, the men are off running after them again rather than continue to shoot into the general public. Once on the boardwalk, there’s even more people around (and thus less likelihood of being actively shot at). It does take more maneuvering to get around some of the clusters of people out enjoying the day, but that means the Assamar men are also slowed down.
The Raptor looks to be in the clear. Same condition they parked it in. No one hovering around. There is, however, a vehicle approaching it from the beach side. A trimmed down beach buggy; mostly frame, tires, and engine. With the changing landscape of crowd and adrenaline of the chase, it’s hard to tell who is at the vehicle, but it is definitely aiming for the landing pad.
“When we get to the Raptor…” Kell says and stops when another shot rings out, causing him to duck and also rebalance his steps when Astraea bumps into him, “Get inside and prep it for launch, I will buy us time.” It almost sounds like an order is being issued by the Libran, his tone basically stating that there will be no argument on that.
Weaving through the crowd and towards the landing pad, Kell is relieved to see that there isn’t a group of armed men waiting for them there. However, the sudden appearance of a beach buggy does have him worried, but now, they have to make it to the Raptor at all costs. “Go! Quickly!” He urges Astraea, running at a dead sprint now for their ride home.
“Copy,” Astraea responds on reflex. She’s never had aspirations of leadership. Or she’s just never considered it. She’s a jig and has had a fairly powerful deathwish for quite some time. Reaching that point of being ‘a leader’ is far from her mind. Her breathing is a big ragged; torn away from her by the sense of panic and fear. She’s been in ground combat situations (more than even your average Raptor pilot), but she’s still more comfortable with the metal of her plane around her.
Especially since she isn’t drawing her sidearm.
When Kell urges her onward further, she looks sharply to the side to see the buggy. “Oh, frak,” the Scorpian pilot manages to gasp out. It’s enough to give her that extra burst of speed to the Raptor itself. And by the time she’s clambering up onto the wing to grab at the hatch, that vehicle has bounced its way over the sand towards them. Closer, there is someone in the passenger seat with a rifle. However, as they near, the buggy cuts around sidelong; between them and their pursuers. A single shot cracks, echoing off the buildings lining the boardwalk. People scatter and one of the men drops.
Astraea doesn’t even notice; she’s too busy stumbling into the Raptor to start the drive spinning up.
Kell can’t help but rest his hand on the grip of his sidearm, the clasp that keeps it securely fastened still locked though which also helps prevent him from drawing it. His attention has definitely shifted from the pursuit group to that faster moving buggy that is on quick approach, especially since the passenger is equipped with a much stronger weapon than your average pistol.
When the buggy makes the cut though with the passenger being on the other side of where he is, the Libran suddenly looks puzzled and also when the rifle shot rings out, at the pursuit. One to not look a gifted horse in the mouth, Razor shouts to the interior of the Raptor, “Nova! How much longer!” Then his attention returns to the buggy and the pursuit group, if they are still even pursuing.
There’s a flinch from Astraea within the Raptor when that rifle shot rings out. She hesitates, briefly; frozen in the fear of ‘What if they hit Razor?’ But when he shouts, she relaxes and gets back to work. “Almost!” It’s not a specific time frame, but she’s too busy actually getting the bird ready for takeoff that she’s not calculating timeframes. Even so, she’s sat enough Alert-5 and Alert-10’s that she is quick about it.
The other pursuer does hesitate, leveling his weapon at Kell. He doesn’t fire it and even drops it when that rifle cracks again, spraying up sand at the man’s feet in a classic warning shot. He shouts something in Scorpian at the two in the buggy before turning to take off. The buggy itself propels into motion again, coming nearer the Raptor.
Once within shouting distance, the driver lifts a hand in salute: “Crossguard sends its regards.” Then it, too, begins to head off. It’s a sedate pace and in the general trajectory that the fleeing man took. Perhaps to ensure he remains ‘fleeing.’
With a weapon leveled at him, all instincts inside of Kell tells him to draw his weapon, the only preventing him is the assistance from the buggy and when the rifle shot rings out again, the Libran is glad he didn’t act. The Viper pilot knows enough from briefings, especially every time before they leave for Scorpia, about the truce that is between the Clans and the Colonial Forces.
When the buggy approaches and the driver offers a salute, Kell returns one as well, not a proper, parade salute but one with respect for the duo that came to their rescue. With the threats gone, Razor turns around and climbs into the Raptor, pulling the bay door closed before heading to the cockpit to take up the co-pilot seat. “We’re clear.”
By the time Kell joins her, Astraea has everything up and running. He’s barely to his seat before the Raptor begins moving vertically. She does look over as she gets them aloft; confirming for herself that he’s alright. Some of the thudding of her heart in her chest slows to see him, yes, intact. She lets out a long breath, looking forward again.
“What happened out there? I heard a rifle.” As she asks, she’s leaning to watch below them as they ascend. Just in case.
Strapping in and making sure the safety buckle is securely fastened, Kell also starts looking over the systems as a proper co-pilot would do since he knew that Astraea was in a rush to get the Raptor flying. At her question, the Libran doesn’t look up as he continues the systems double check, but he does answer, “The Crossguard Clan showed up to enforce the truce. They dissuaded our pursuit.” A pause as he checks a couple more systems before finally looking over to Nova, “No reports on this, we went down, met with your family, returned to the Dauntless. No one needs to know about the extra-curricular activities.”
The systems are in good order for simple transport. Nothing necessary for, say, combat is running. The Raptor is operating simply for getting them back to the Dauntless. It’s not the proper precaution they’d take on an occupied planet or during combat operations, but it’s perfectly suitable for a trip out to the islands for the day. “Crossguard?”
Astraea hasn’t strapped in yet, nor does she right away once they’re well up towards the cloud line. “Someone must’ve tipped ‘em off. They’ve been tryin’ to get Hyacinthe from Assamar for years. They’re th’ main ones Assamar’s at war with. They want to take th’ islands from ‘em.” She’s wriggling out of his duty jacket. “Assamar’s a mainland clan, but they want th’ islands. They’ve got Tybarre an’ us,” Hycainthe, her clan, “an’ keep tryin’ to get more territory from Crossguard. Crossguard’s been tryin’ to get us from ‘em.”
She shrugs as she offers Kell’s jacket over to him. “Most of my people would be happy with Crossguard, but…” She leaves it unsaid. How hard it can be to make such moves in a powder keg of a political environment.
Accepting the jacket, Kell appears to be trying to process all this new information on the intricacies of the clans but doesn’t appear to fully grasp the political nature of it all. “I’m just glad that they came when they did, I don’t think us being in the Fleet gave the Assamar any pause. Crossguard can take them all if it means peace and good relations with the Colonial Forces.” That last bit may have been spoken out of ignorance or just lack of understanding, a broad brush painted to simplify the situation. “At least your family knows you are alive and safe.”
There's a long moment of quiet from Astraea as she considers. “Scorpia is… tricky right now, Kell. Th’ Virgans an’ th’ Leonese had us split up in their territories. They fought usin’ us. They tried to get rid of our culture, our language. Then they… just left. We're all just tryin’ to remember who we are while also gettin’ back to…” She trails off, affecting a sad sort of shrug. “Who knows. They frakked us an’ everyone's still in that same pattern. Fightin’ over territory.”
She gets them over the clouds and kicks in the thrusters harder to break atmosphere and the planet's gravity. The Raptor largely compensates for the pull of forces after an initial shudder and pull. “I had no plans on reportin’ anyhow. You were right. I can't have anyone lookin’ too close at it all.”
Nova looks over to the other pilot. “I know it's prob’ly hard for you, keepin’ my secret. Thank you.”
Kell can only remain silent and have a sympathetic expression when Astraea explains further the Scorpia history and about her people, what they had to go through. He has no further words on that subject, probably not wanting to push his foot further into his mouth. As for her thanks, Razor nods his head understandingly, “You’re a good pilot, Nova, and we can’t afford to lose you. Just keep flying and flying well, that’s all we can ask for.” Kell also knows that any deeper investigation into Astraea’s past could be risky for her, so he is more than willing to let it lie. He is just glad that they are returning to Dauntless now as the carrier appears visibly.
“Flyin’s all I’ve got, Razor. I stop an’ I’ve got nothin’.” Her family may know she’s alive and well, but he’s now seen that she can’t go back. Not anytime soon, at least. Not without fighting for her life and potentially putting others at risk. Their career is important to a lot of them, but it’s practically vital for her. She fights for the right to live.
They left too fast for her to put her flight suit on, so she has to lean for the in-cockpit comms to alert flight control that they’re coming in. The all green comes back as she angles her way in. It’s a smooth landing, but then… she’s had enough combat landings by now that a standard flight should be and is second nature. There’s a quiet sort of introspection to her demeanor as she goes through the post-flight checklist. It’s not a calm or content thing, but more of a turbulence beneath the surface.