Candlelight Cookout


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Also featuring:

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Scene Title Candlelight Cookout
Synopsis Large gatherings have been iffy things with knowing that Evo-seeking robots are in the area, but the community needs to stand unified and stronger than ever in the face of the aggressive militia just beyond Providence's borders. To that end, some of the Remnant have been adamant the tradition of community dinners shouldn't fall by the wayside. They've insisted arrangements have been made to ensure safety, emphasising any resident who wants to come should do so, regardless of their SLC-E status. They're so confident it will be that they're hosting the dinner themselves.
Date June 21, 2019

Just because the Factory is declared safe doesn't mean everything outside is. Pickups ferry families and small groups from town, mindful of the mix of Evolved and non-Evolved in a group. The drivers know their way in the dark, navigating off-road as cleanly as they do pockmarked pavement. The path taken between the trees is meandering and serpentine, even doubling back on itself at one point, all for the sake of avoiding wartime mines that remained hidden away in the dirt.

And when the truck arrives, there's nothing to indicate the building is any different from other abandoned sites in the Barrens, save for the faint flicker of candlelight near some of the windows, the number of people milling, and the spit-roasting boar over a firepit a distance away from the building.

That, and its sheer size which can be appreciated even in the dark. Few buildings in the region are taller than two stories.

Sunken Factory, NJ Pine Barrens

June 21, 2019

8:56 PM

The lower floors of the Factory were breached by water, giving it its Sunken moniker, but not all are. The sublevel closest to the flooded interior normally goes dark, unused, and the scent of the river carries up from below. Tonight, though, strings of lamps powered by generator brighten it for use, coupled with an odd assortment of folding-style and patio tables and chairs that allow for seating.

More importantly, there is (as advertised), food. A long table is set aside providing a buffet of options— potatoes (roasted and saladed), greens, chicken, and slices off the roast boar from outdoors. Bread sits in a basket, teas, water, and alcohol beside that. Someone's put in a lot of effort to make sure there's just as much here now as there would be for any other community potluck.

Definitely not guilty of that is Kara Prince, standing near the stairwell and looking out over the group of people that have already arrived and had a seat. She's looked marginally relieved since the space started to echo with conversation rather than distant drips from below. Still, she stands arms folded in a zipped black running jacket and worn jeans, not so much as shifting her weight in her coffee-colored hiking boots. She's not the best at joining in.

Despite that, Morales looks up from his table and yells silently with a wave of his arm and a jerk of his head toward the food to indicate she should hurry up and partake already, and Kara does find her mouth quirking into a small smile, lifting her head to acknowledge him. Maybe soon. Once everyone else has had their first round.

Not soon, maybe now?

"Karaaa." At her- approximately?- elbow. Rene seems to appear out of nowhere behind her, eyes tipped up and hand on her arm. "Are you doing the reluctant thing again?" Whatever that is. He's looking as nice as casual gets, hair clean and down his back, jeans, a black, printed shirt half-tucked in. "You'd leave the last cupcake if you thought someone might want it, wouldn't you?"

Rene makes a playful attempt to start down the stairs and tug her with him. Stop being so unselfish and stuff! It's hard! Of course, he's tiny and she can probably toss him off no problem. Boldness.

The promise of free food was more than enough to prompt Clara Winters to clean herself up and get at least marginally presentable for interacting in public, as it were. She’s a very food motivated kind of person — it’s probably the main reason she’s here tonight instead of hiding away in the wilderness like she normally does.

In turn, Clara is definitely not the type who would leave the last cupcake for someone — she'd be the one snatching it up greedily. Because, you know. Cupcakes. Her plate is piled almost ridiculously high, especially for someone so small; she is, in fact, just finishing off by throwing a few rolls on top of her plate, a small grin on her face.

Once food is served, the tiny skunk whisperer turns, dark gray eyes skimming the crowds; spotting Rene and Kara, her expression lightens even further and, munching on a roll as she goes, the tiny girl makes her way over to the two.

Something about Kara must attract the shorties. The shortest yet steps out from beside the stairway, thumbs hooked into belt loops that support one of three belts, the other two slung at opposite angles loosely around her hips. Sophie dark lips hold a knowing smile as she watches Rene give the eagle-eyed Kara a friendly tug towards the heart of the gathering. "All work and no play makes Kara a dull girl," she teases agreeably.

"You said this'd be fun. So, I expect you to enjoy yourself, too." Sophie brushes a few buoyant green spirals away from her face with the back of her hand. She gives Rene an encouraging lift of her chin before turning to acknowledge the approaching Clara with a little wave.

And there's Kara, a giraffe in a herd of zebras, so to speak. She picks up her elbow to try and politely shake off Rene's attempt to drag her along with him to the tables, nose wrinkling at him. She'd probably get away with it if not for Sophie's appearance at her other side. "I haven't seen you fix yourself a plate yet," she points out to the both of them.

"So what happens when I refuse until you do? Is this one of those immovable-unstoppable things?" Rene sidles up beside Sophie, since they're in this together now; he raises a brow between her and Kara, the latter familiar with being swooped on by agrokinetics. The silent greeting that Weasel gets from the curly haired woman gets Rene to pivot his attention away.

"Heeey, squirt." Because she's younger, not because she's small too. "You need to teach this one a thing or two." Rene informs her, sliding away. Okay, food, right. "I'm too hungry for this, on second thought."

The next to approach Kara's position, Reena comes with a plate in each hand. One for herself, but the other is held out toward Kara. It's clear she isn't really giving the woman a chance to say no. Especially since a decent portion of the food here came from Reena's farm.

It would be insulting not to take it. Obviously.

"You look hungry," she says in the tone of every mother who has told someone that they're too skinny. It doesn't matter that she's no one's mom. She's their momfriend.

“Okay, no, you get one of each thing you want, Pipsqueak.” Nicole’s voice carries through the space, firm but gentle as she helps her daughter fix up a plate. “If you’re still hungry after that, we can get seconds.”

“But Mom,” the seven-year-old protests, “she’s got more than one roll.” Pippa points over to where Weasel stands with her towering plate of food. Nicole lifts her head and follows the line drawn by that finger, gently wrapping her hand around it and lowering the girl’s fist back to her side.

“It’s not polite to point. And what have I told you about comparing yourself to others?” The mother’s brows lift, patiently waiting for the answer.

Pippa sighs softly. “Okay.” But she looks positively glum that she isn’t being allowed to load up on bread. Her mother knows, of course, that after one roll, the girl is going to feel fuller than she expects to.

“That’s my girl.” Mother lays a hand on daughter’s blonde head and smooths it down over her curls, patting her shoulder finally. “Okay. Do you think you can carry your own plate so Mommy can fix one up for Daddy?” The little girl nods enthusiastically and Nicole hands her the plate carefully. “Awesome.”

Much like Kara is tucked away, so is Ryans…. Kinda. He has been set down — more like ordered — by Nicole to sit at a table they managed to find off to the side. In a sense, saving it for the family while they get food. He had honestly tried to duck out, but Nicole made a good argument and there he was. At least he doesn’t have anyone at his back, that always makes the spot between his shoulder blades itch.

Benjamin has never been one for socializing, or at least as far as he remembers. So he is content to lean back in his chair and watch everyone else socialize and mingle. He watches each interaction with interest, but a complete lack of emotion on his face. It is the way people flock around Kara that he watches at the moment, with the occasional check on Pippa and her mom when the crowds allow it.

A finger taps lightly against the scarred wrist of his other arm as he watches. Clearly, Kara might be someone he will need to have a few more conversations with, but not tonight. This evening was about community and the agents watching to see the bonds that held it together.

With a grin and a wave of the half-eaten roll in her hand, Clara takes a few steps up the stairwell that Kara has positioned herself next to and settles down to sit on one of the steps. “Hey Rene, Sophie, Kara,” she greets, nodding to each in turn, before taking another large bite of the roll. “This is great,” she points out, clearly speaking of the entire party.

Reena is offered a look-over, and a cheerful wave of greeting; in turn, Pippa pointing out her plate is met with an amused grin and a wave of the roll — Weasel understands the girl’s plight, though is too far away to offer much in the way of support. Instead, she finishes off the roll with a small smile. “Haven’t had this much good food in a while,” she adds.

Rene's lead on this little Kara committee a smile, Sophie's head tilted away to give the expression a friendly toying quality. Toward Kara, she raises her open empty hands in front of her shoulders. "Never said you had to eat, just have fun," the shortest of the short teases back.

In short order, Rene has flitted away, Kara is properly fed, and she's welcomed Clara in with a little pat at the young girl's shoulder. It leaves Sophie with a new opportunity to consider the crowd. The easy manner of her smile is joined by a quick rise of her dark brows. Something has caught her attention. "'Scuse me," she comments with a distracted air and glides away.

Sophie seems to melt into the crowd. Next anyone seems to really notice, she's sliding into an empty spot beside Ryan's. She doesn't look at him directly, but folds her hands on the table and considers the crowd with a thoughtful slope on the corners of her lips and an agreeable nod that bounces her frizzy waves. "Seems to be a good group of people…" It's ambiguous, almost a question, and certainly invites room for additional intel and idle chat. Her profile reveals a warm smile regardless.

It's a losing fight, trying to resist being told to mingle, but being provided directly with a plate leaves Kara with a bit of dignity about the matter. She inclines her head to Reena, using one hand as a tray while the other adjusts the fork on the plate. After taking a small, initial bite, her brow arches in a sign of approval.

"Glad you could make it out, Reena. It's been a while since we've all been together." She squints one eye in thought before glancing the other woman's way. "I think I still owe you that night on the town. Weather's even better for it now, too." It'd be a grander affair since there was a 'thank you' now implicitly involved in it, too.

In the midst of another bite, she catches Rene's parting comment and looks over her shoulder at Clara on the stair. "Mm?" Kara asks, half-turning that way. "What is it you're looking to know, Kit? Spit it out."

As Kara mentions Reena’s name, a look of recognition appears on Clara’s face. She promptly waves one hand briefly as she finishes chewing her roll, then smiles to the woman. “Oh, you’re Reena! My brother, Paul, works for you.” She doesn’t mention the fact that Paul told her that Reena is totally hot — that’s between him and his boss. Though she certainly agrees. “Thanks for being good to him,” she adds, nodding to the woman. “He seems really happy here.”

Grey eyes find Kara again, the girl pausing in the middle of grabbing a spoonful of potato salad. “I want to help out around here more,” she replies, beaming. “Rene told me that you could use some help on patrols, so…if you’re still in need, I’d love to help out.” That being said, she shoves a rather large spoonful of food into her mouth.

“Scrawny little kids don't belong on patrols.” Chris’ opinion comes out of nowhere. He's been ghosting around, mostly watching and not saying much. He's helped himself to some of the food, too, but has no plate in his hands when he makes himself known. “You want to help, put your hands to choring until you're older.” Because he has so many more years on her.

A look slides to Kara first, then to the rest of the entourage whether departing or lingering. “More hands make less work,” becomes his own parting words, a beat later. Chris picks his way through the gathering, returning to whatever haunts he's about tonight.

It's a good thing that Rene's not still around them when Chris comes sniping out of nowhere, or there would be words. Lucky day, pal. But, he isn't. He's making a partial beeline towards the setup, weaving around a couple of intrusive elbows on the way.

Where does he even start? It's his first thought when he gets to hovering around the mismatched stacks of plates. With his eyes wandering a little too far, a pivot nearly bumps him right into Pippa— though he freezes before he bowls into a child which he would never live down and probably be murdered by mom who is right there

"Ah! Sorry, sweetheart," is what Pippa gets instead when Rene dances around her, a hand hovering out.. At least he looks graceful doing it. He totally saw her. Yup. "Sorry, maman." And his next words are for Nicole as he slips around to her other side, crystal blue eyes giving her a (much too long) study, landing on a passively friendly comment. "And You— must be a …recent transplant."

"Paul is such a big help to my farm," Reena says to Clara, "I'm lucky to have him. Don't tell him that, though. I wouldn't want him to get a big head about it," she says with a wink in the girl's direction. It's a joke, because she tells Paul he does a good job all the time. "I'm glad he's happy."

When she turns back to Kara, there's a bit of sheepishness in her expression. "Yes, we still need to do that. Probably worse than ever. I took your advice, but I think I did it wrong."

This might be an understatement. By how embarrassed she looks, it probably isn't even hard for Kara to guess how it went wrong.

It isn’t very often that people sneak up on the old man, but he is so interested in watching what is going on near Kara that he misses the arrival next to him. That or he’s just getting that old. Even though he startles, it doesn’t really show in more then a glance her way and a narrowing of his eyes. There was something familiar about this…

The dam…

“Sophie,” Ryans finally offers warmly. “All grown up now,” he notes after a moment. The last he saw of her, was at the dam. “I’m glad to see you made it.”

“Sorry!” Little Pippa calls out, pulling her plate closer to her chest, nearly getting potato salad on the front of her blue and white polka-dotted dress. A quick hand of Nicole’s creates a barrier between the clothing and the food.

“It’s alright,” is a response to both Pippa and Rene. Nicole offers a smile to the latter. “That’s right. We came here not that long ago. Have a house out…” She squints her faintly luminescent blue eyes, orienting herself before pointing a finger in the direction she thinks her home is. “Yonder.”

Kara is cut off from addressing Clara's request immediately due to Chris's interjection, and she takes that moment to take another bite and think it over. Her gaze slides to meet his, waiting until he's gone off on his next drive-by before she looks back to the comparably tiny young woman.

"Hm." appears to be all she has to say about it, after all that thought.

Any additional thought is stunted by seeing that look in Reena's eyes. Kara stabs her fork back into the plate, her expression falling a step. "Oh, you didn't," comes away from her slowly, like that might help rewind time and fix it. Things don't work like that, though.

So she sighs, resisting the urge to shake her head. That wouldn't help matters now, would it. "Sounds like a conversation over drinks later," Kara opines to Reena first. Her head swivels to Clara next. "And that sounds like a talk for another time. A long talk."

She lifts her gaze for a moment to the ceiling, like she's listening for something, but even if there were movement outside, they surely wouldn't hear it underground like this. Other things might carry, though, like the sound of gunfire or shouting, so she seems satisfied with the state of things when she looks back over the room. "Glad so many came out," Kara thinks aloud.

A look of irritation crosses Clara’s features at Chris’s driveby remark. “I’m at least twenty. If I’m old enough to join the US military, I can help with patrols.” She hisses most of this under her breath, but it can’t help but be heard by those near her, her gaze darkening briefly as she glowers after the guy who can’t have more than a year or two on her. “Bet I’d kick your ass in a sparring match,” she calls after him in a challenging tone.

A smile replaces the scowl, though, as she turns to nod once to Kara’s suggestion at having a talk later on, then ultimately her attention lands on Reena. “Seriously, don’t give him too much praise. There might not be room for anyone else in Providence if his head got any bigger,” she replies jokingly, laughing a bit. “Thank you for taking him in. It’s really good to see him doing so well,” she adds on a more serious note.

Then, the tiny girl is tucking into her plate, putting the food away with remarkable speed and ease.

There's a portion of his relief reserved solely for Nicole not being the type of mother who flips her lid. Rene gives her a crook of a smile when she points in a vague direction; as he starts to help himself fix a plate, Nicole is still getting a considerable sideways look. It's not so clear why.

"I'm ah, that way." Rene jabs a thumb more accurately in the direction of his stead. It's not at a too distant angle from where she pointed. Yonder. "You seem so familiar." he decides, head tipping and one hand at hip while he waits for the pair to move. Forgoing the offer of a handshake thanks to plates, the blonde's smile flashes a touch further."We haven't met before, have we? Name's Rene."

There are strange shadows presiding over the evening’s festivities. Moths, drawn to the glow of lamps, flicker against the glass and cast exaggerated silhouettes like something straight out of a pre-war art instillation. If Nicole squints, maybe she can pretend, even if it’s only for a few moments, that she’s nursing a glass of wine at a gallery opening on Daniel Linderman’s dime. If she breathes in deeply enough, she’ll smell the summer air wafting off the Hudson River — and not whatever slow, serpentine monster carves its way beneath the floor under her feet.

She isn’t the only one who still remembers what the world was like before fear tore it apart. There are others who do, and who can’t shake lingering feelings of trepidation as they watch it being rebuilt one brick at a time. Eileen Ruskin — or Gray, depending on who you ask — has given both Nicole and Ryans such a wide berth since they arrived in Providence that tonight marks the first time she’s seeing them with her own eyes.

The Englishwoman’s silhouette is small and unremarkable, set apart from the gathering by a rickety length of wrought-iron catwalk that would creak if the sound of conversation and clattering dishware didn’t already dominate the room. Her gloved hands rest light on the railing, fingers relaxed, arms posed like the wings of a bird at rest. The placid expression she wears on her face betrays little about what she might be thinking, except that she’s relatively at ease from her present vantage point: up high.

A closer study of her eyes and the darkness lurking behind them suggests otherwise.

This is beginning to feel a lot like Pollepel Island.

Her guest would know nothing of that, though.

Charles Sharrow comes not at Eileen’s side but a few paces behind her, measuring his slow steps carefully with the interspersed touch of an old wooden cane needed to walk long distances. His tired eyes follow not Eileen’s back, but the spaces around which she walks.

But while Sharrow is unfamiliar with Eileen’s sentimentality about Bannerman’s Castle, the people gathered here aren't entirely unfamiliar with him. Weasel, Nicole, and Kara have all spoken with him, but his presence has not been a secret. Rumors of the reformed Vanguard traveling with a small paramilitary detachment are easy to come across.

Sharrow comes to stop beside Eileen at the railing, angling a look to her as if he were one of her birds. Save that he has much more a mind of his own. Though, he doesn't offer whatever’s on it.

“Glad to see I made it?” Sophie’s grin is toothy and bright. “There were whispers through the grapevine that you were still walking about, but… Look at you!” A little hand comes up and makes a sweeping gesture over Ryan’s frame. “In the flesh and not looking a day over 70.” Her wink is visible despite a poof of springy dark and green curls intruding across her visage. She rests her hands on the table and uses them as an anchor to lean back, smiling still. “How’s life treating you? I figure you’ve earned some good karma, am I wrong?”

Reena makes a face at Kara's guess. A guilty face. "It started as just talking," she says, because it really is Kara's fault, if you really really think about it. Obviously. Maybe when you think about it for a little too long.

"So many drinks," is her concession. Drinks and more privacy than this. A place without children in it, especially.

Looking up affords Kara the ability to note those who linger on the catwalk above, on one form or another. Her expression hardens at something she sees up there, gaze lingering before she comes back down to earth.

Well, below it, such as they are.

She claps a hand on Reena's shoulder in solidarity, no real comment to support her earnest agreement for that need. Kara does tip her head in Ryans' direction, though, voice low under the din of those taking dinner. "You heard anything about that one?" Her gaze, heavy as it is, doesn't linger long. She looks back down at her plate, movements speaking intentions that she means to eat more of it. "Still trying to figure out what I make of them."

The appearance of Eileen and Sharrow isn’t missed by Benjamin. The only hint of emotions is the brief tightening of his jaw at the memories that plague him. He knows better than to stare, attention returning to Sophie.

“It’s alright,” Ryans admits to her, with the barest hint of a smile. “Trying to get used to the retired life.” Though it sounds like it doesn’t really agree with him. His attention shifts out towards the room, his head nodding towards Nicole and Pippa. “Followed my family out here… thought maybe this place would be a better fit.”

Watching his family, Ben asks Sophie, “Have you been out here all this time?” Finally, eyes shift to look at the young woman. He jerks his chin towards Kara. “You know about that one?”

Not one, but two plates are placed with little ceremony in front of Nicole and Pippa. The latter of the two is laden more with the goodies than with the actual food, but the former has its share of desserts amongst the more hearty selections.

“There’s plenty to go around.”

Chris drops himself onto a chair across from the mother and daughter pair, but he’s sending bored looks over his shoulder. Just keeping an eye on things. Like Eileen and that guy that’s also been lurking. More lurking than that other guy, Ben. His eyes find that old man too, amongst all the faces in the crowd.

"Is someone like you ever really retired?" Someone like him. Someone like her. Someone with the drive to make a difference. By the way Sophie watches Ryans' face, it's much more than a rhetorical question. He is, for the moment, a mirror of her possible future - should she manage to survive as long as he has.

She turns her face back towards the gathering. "It seems like a good group," she adds thoughtfully. She's seen a few. She should know, right? "Not long. Got a little restless so…" She makes an open palmed gesture to wordlessly finish the remark: here I am.

"That one?" A look at Kara has Sophie's dark lips drawn up in an unabashed, goofy grin. "She's a tough nut. But, a good one. Not a rotten bit about her." She tips her head Benjamin's way. "You saved my ass once. She's saved it several times thereafter. She's got brains and heart and I wouldn't cross either for her wrath is just as impressive." Sophie gives Ryans' forearm a little pat-pat. "You can trust her." She leans in conspiratorially with a mischievous smile. "But, don't tell her I told you about the 'heart' thing."

The tiny skunk whisperer has contented herself with sitting silently on the staircase and devouring the plate full of food, gray eyes darting about as Clara simply…people watches. At random intervals, she will hold a piece of meat up to the pocket of the jacket that’s wrapped around her waist; the action is always met with a tiny weasel head popping out from underneath and snatching up the meat before retreating back into his haven.

After she’s about halfway through, the small girl decides to wander into the crowds and mingle. Mainly, she makes her way over to Sophie, reaching out to gently touch the back of the other woman’s arm to announce her presence without interrupting any conversation; Benjamin Ryans is offered a small, friendly smile.

“I’m Nicole,” the mother offers.

“And I’m Pippa Allyn!” the little girl at her elbow pipes up, causing her mother to smile fondly.

Grabbing the last of the food for the plate in her hands, she turns and starts toward the table Ryans is sitting at. “We’ve only just gotten here a bit ago.” What’s a couple months in this place? “I don’t think we’ve met yet, but it’s possible you’ve seen me around. I’ve done some target practice with Miss Kara over there.”

Excusing herself to go set down across from her partner, she slides the plate in her hands across the table to him with a genuine smile. “Here,” she says gently. “Eat.”

Pippa plops down next to her mother and looks up when more plates appear in front of them. “You’re the one with the pony!” the girl exclaims when she looks up and sees Chris.

"I haven't heard much," Reena says at Kara's question. She's not the most social of butterflies around here, so she's only caught the same story everyone's heard. "But I do find it strange that someone like Nicole Ni— Varlane would end up in a place like this." It isn't the nicest of places, after all. Which is what she likes about it, of course. But it's clear that suspicion hangs over the newcomers. "Makes me wonder what she's running away from. And if it's gonna follow her here."

She gives Kara a look there, one that speaks to her already accepting that her safe haven isn't really that anymore.

There is only a bit of a grunt, to indicated that Benjamin heard what Sophie said, before people seem to descend on the table. Weasel and Chris only get a bit of a look, before his attention is pulled by the smell of food and the movement of it being pushed across the table at him.

His lips press into a bit of a line, hadn’t he said he didn’t want anything? Blue eyes drift up to the woman across from him and their daughter, because he was pretty sure he did. However, he knows better than to refuse, sighing and pulling the plate the rest of the way. “Thanks,” he offers.

He points to his family across from him and, as he eyes the food in front of him, rumbles out a gruff introduction. “Sophie… This is my friend Nicole and this is Pippa. Pippa is my daughter, Nicole is her mother.” He explains the little girl to Sophie, that neutral exterior softens some talking about his youngest. To Nicole he offers offers an equally gruff, “This is Sophie. I worked with her father, watched her grow up really.” Like most of the Company kids.

"Good to meet you girls." Rene's words are as much for Pippa as they are meant for Nicole. As much as he can be testy, good children don't trigger it. "No one better to teach you." Blond hair frames a small, knowing smile up at Nicole, as polite as it is the smirk of a rogue. She's known his type before. Old lives, and so on.

He crunches into a slice of a celery stalk as Nicole excuses herself, eyes following her as he picks at the plate in his hand. A quick study of her, one more time. Pippa. Ryans, in all his vintage. Sophie, engaging with him. Chris being Chris. Dumortier takes his mental notes, swiping a couple small things on his way towards where Kara commiserates with Reena. Rene almost doesn't wait until his mouth isn't full of carrot. No need for strictly manners here, right?

"They seem… ah… nice." The snip of another one between teeth punctuates Rene's commentary up at Kara and across to Reena. Re: Varlanes. He's still deliberating the finer points, clearly.

On the catwalk, Sharrow sets one gloved hand on Eileen’s shoulder. “This is their night,” he says in confidence to her. “In days past, Kazimir would choose not to make an appearance when you all were bonding. A bond is important. We old bones needn’t interrupt.” He smiles, that small and grandfatherly one that harkens back to brief meetings and expensive gifts when Eileen was a young woman.

“Let us give them their night,” Sharrow says as he moves his hand to Eileen’s elbow, “and we will find our reminiscing elsewhere, to delay the coming dawn.” It is with that bit of self-indulgent prose that Sharrow and Eileen slip out sight unseen from the goings on below the catwalk, disappearing into the dark as quickly as they came. Sharrow was right about one thing.

This was a night for bonding.

“You're a smart one.” Chris’ tone still lingers close to sarcasm, but he's likely not teasing Pippa. Not now anyway. He turns a bit in his chair, setting a look on Ryans then casting it out over the rest of the gathering. Just staying watchful of a houseful of people.

Or something.

“You talk your mom into letting you meet him yet?” The conversation continues, far more mild than it might if Chris were talking to any of the other residents. “He's got a mind of his own, but he doesn't bite with teeth.”

And so goes similar conversations as well. The interactions that play out, the bonds forged and bonds renewed ensure that those who leave the cookout do so with a stronger sense of community. In the dark, there's little that can be gleaned from the factory setting aside from the impression the Remnant mean to give their guests … but they're successful in it.

No harm comes to the large group of gathered individuals. The noises of machines don't haunt the surrounding area with the telltale crack of underbrush giving way to the octopod's many feet.

The visitors are blessed with a pleasant night, and the Remnant are blessed with the knowledge that whatever they used to ensure it … works.

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