Look Out For Our Own


ff_asi_icon.gif nathalie4_icon.gif

Scene Title Look Out For Our Own
Synopsis The pair chat about their troubled group, and their troubled journey.
Date July 8, 2021

New Chicago

Sundown doesn't help making it easier finding people. Asi is relatively certain that when Saffron left, they went off chasing after their mother, which meant Nathalie– wherever she'd gone to– was likely alone. It saw Asi excuse herself and slip out into the night more quickly than the bouncer could call her back to tell her to return the black coin which was supposed to have been returned, footsteps determined as she scanned up and down the row and following streets.

Other venues for food and drink didn't reveal her only passingly-familiar head, and it was hard to tell if that should translate into cause for concern. She opts for calm, and with minimal turnaround due the streets looking different in the day than at night, works her way back in the direction of the vehicle holding yard. If nothing else, maybe Nathalie had gone to seek friendlier– or at least more familiar– faces within the convoy.

New Chicago hasn't been the footloose and fancy free time that Nathalie was hoping for. And it is in this mood of disappointment that she can be found, sitting on top of the bus — of all places — with a gun laid out in front of her. In pieces.

By the look of the greasy rag in hand, she's been cleaning it.

It has the look of meditation to it, but her expression is contorted enough to prove that it isn't working. But at least it isn't anger clouding her face. Not anymore, at least.

Asi almost misses her up there, but for the lighting in the area. Even still, she doubletakes to see her up there, boots startling to a halt in the mud. She blinks, and for a moment, can't say anything at all. She's come all this way to realize that beyond verifying Nathalie's safety, she isn't sure how to engage. Of the others on the convoy, those who came from the Ark she's spoken to maybe less than some of those who came from even farther at this point.

After the long pause where she takes in the way the younger woman meditates, Asi calls up simply, "Leroux." Another beat passes before she follows it up with, "You good?"

Nat glances down when she hears Asi's voice, but it takes her a few moments of consideration before she answers.

"Yes," she says, the word drawing out as if she's not sure that's the actual word she wants to say. "Relatively," she adds, and that seems to satisfy her as far as giving a basically honest answer. Honest adjacent. She looks down at the pieces of her weapon, then back at Asi. "Want to come up? There's plenty of room."

That comes with something of a wry smile. Obviously there's room. It's a bus.

"I mean," Asi replies, and there's honesty in the way the words drag out, too. Does she want to get up on top of the bus? Maybe. Will she, though?

She walks around the side of the bus to open the door by its back hatch, whispering apology to RJ when he's startled. A hand is held up to pair with the words before she reaches out for a handhold and clambers aboard. From there, she's able to scrape her boots off on the bumper before taking them off and setting them aside, leaving her free to climb in socks onto seatbacks and up through the emergency exit on the bus' roof without worry of muddying up the seats they'll effectively live on when they return to the road.

All too soon and yet not soon enough, as far as Asi's concerned.

Once on top of the roof, she takes a second to orient herself and encourage the teen inside to stay inside before making her way to a much more conversational distance between her and Nathalie. Here, she can take stock of the activity she's partaking in at a more direct angle, in a more direct light. "Glad I decided to come back here instead of panicking thinking you got dragged off by the syndicate in charge," she admits with just a hint of levity flavoring the words, and then settles into a seat across from Nathalie, the gun bits like a conversation piece between them. She asides after that in more conspiratorial tones, "I didn't feel comfortable being there either. I'm not…"

Her nose wrinkles, hating the way the words want to come out. Looking down, she instead opts for, "I leave all that to Silas."

As she starts to put the pieces of the gun back together, Nathalie scoffs quietly at the idea of anyone trying to drag her off. "They could try," she says, tone dry. "No one came along to scold me. I suppose I didn't push far enough." She slides a sidelong look to Asi, her expression gentler. "Were you worried about me?"

That idea seems to soften her features, as if she isn't entirely used to being worried over. Or like she's missed it.

As for being comfortable or not, she tilts her head and very precisely and delicately picks up the next piece. "It is very difficult," she says, words just as precise as her hands, "when people try to intimidate you and you know you could put anyone down that you desired. But know that you should not. For the sake of the group." She lets out a heavy breath, as if she'd been holding it in. "I know that's egotistical of me."

To the question of being worried, Asi glances up with only her eyes, elbows perching on her cross-legged knees. "Maybe I came to scold you," she suggests, leaning into the words with a little too much emphasis for them to be actually serious. She breathes short from her nose at the idea, then glances back down to the reforming firearm.

"I don't know how much travel you've done outside… where you came from. Or past the Pelago. But everywhere I've been, everyone with a big stick to wave makes sure others know they have it. Even if the stick might be made out of paper." She fiddles with the the fray of a worn-out spot on the leg of her coveralls. "It's good that we know we could put someone on the ground. There were– what– something like ten of us and one of her, on top of it? I don't know, letting people posture, being nicer than they deserve anyway, it's…"

Asi quits fussing with her pantleg and throws up her hand to dismissively suppose, "Diplomacy," without any real conviction to it. She turns to look at the shape of the skyscrapers in the distance, what little of them can be seen in the last hints of light on the horizon. "And more patient people than me could look at all this steel and see how it might let the 'Pelago last a few years longer, ships and structures alike."

"They cast a wider net than they probably should have, if they were looking for just the 'leader' among us." Her head cants to the side as she snorts and admits with some amusement, "Or, maybe they looked at us long enough to know there isn't a single one here, just … a bunch of strong wills on a single bus, and couldn't figure out which one of them would be willing to talk peacefully."

Tongue to cheek, she lets that sit for a moment and acknowledges, "Knowing when something's not worth everyone's time is hard to judge, especially now when we're–" It's Asi's turn to choose her words carefully. "All eager to get where we're going quickly."

"The biggest stick and the most fragile ego, in my experience," Nat says, which is the closest she'll get to talking about what happened in the Arcology under the ocean. Not to mention the memories of the other lives in her head, many of them with similar experience. "And when there are more lives at stake than mine, I find it prudent not to get into a stick measuring contest, if you will. Prudent, but frustrating."

Setting her gun down, she shifts her position to face Asi more, her hands pressing against the roof. "There's diplomacy, and then there's answering every question they have, letting them know where we're from, who we are, what we need, and not even making them work for it. Or even be civil about it." She looks up at the sky, like there might be someone up there to back her up.

Alas. There is not.

"They wouldn't be wrong, though, if they noticed that we don't have much in the way of a leader. Just a growing list of everyone who thinks they are."

Asi meets Nathalie's eyes while she has them, sympathetic to the very valid concern that she brings up. Reflects that nearly a year ago, she was frustratedly stressing the very same things to Silas when they went on their voyage across the world. Maybe she's become more desensitized to this sort of thing than she thought.

She quirks her head to the side and admits plainly, "You're not wrong. On any of those counts." Her lips purse. "But once Lowe gets involved in the conversation, and I'm sure she will, there will be less of that. And the amount that Silas said– selling the Pelago and its potential uses as a trade partner… that's his job, essentially. The Council granted us leave to go do the same overseas, and I guess habits like those die hard."

"So," her head wobbles and she turns a hand over in something like a shrug. "People like you and me can keep an eye out for when everything goes wrong and let our bullets and blades bring peace… and people like them can try do it their own way right up until that point."

Asi settles back and tents one of her knees, hooking both arms around the shin of it. "I think it's important they get their go at it, if we want to stand any chance of…" She looks off into the distance again. "I don't know, of having anything more than this to look forward to in our collective future."

"It'd be nice, wouldn't it?" Asi mutters.

"It would be nice," Nat says, although her expression turns more distant. Or perhaps more inward. "I just hope we aren't selling it too cheaply. I don't think anyone, especially not Marlowe, would appreciate it if we came out of this town with a yoke around the Pelago's neck."

Which probably speaks to how the… atmosphere of New Chicago has hit Nathalie. With the horrors of the past echoing in her ears and right up through the present.

"Is that what you're hoping to get out of this trip? A better world? All the way to Anchor on that hope?"

"Yeah," Asi lies, and sounds only partway convinced of it. She considers for a moment committing to that lie, but then recalls that Nathalie was present at the early-morning circle the morning after Toledo. The look in her eyes changes and then she reconsiders Nathalie, the way she works through deciding to trust her with her true feelings or not plain on her face rather than hidden away.

Her voice is lower as she amends her answer. "I'm worried we're sunk anyway. That the calamity that's coming for them, the thing they came to our world for– that the greatest irony is we have what we'd need to survive what's going to kill them, but I would bet we just can't use it with the world the way it is. So they've come, they'll take it, and…" She can't finish the sentence due to the building bitterness in her, one that makes her smile and exhale short. "Someone gets hope out of this, though."

She sniffs once. "I know you missed it because you weren't there yet, but the Pelago fought off the Sentinel and their war machines. Whatever this place has?" Asi lifts and casts a hand dismissively where they've just come from. "They don't have a 'yoke' big enough to put around the Pelago collectively. Our problem with having too many leaders is it makes us ungovernable except when we want to be."

"Marlowe won't come back with a bad deal, anyway. I trust her." She looks back to Nathalie, though, sensing her uneasiness even if she doesn't know its source. "It won't be like the Ark or… wherever else you've been." Asi truly doesn't know. "But if you tell me what you're worried about, I can tell you if you're right to or if it'll be nothing."

Nathalie pauses at those last words, her expression pensive. What is she worried about? Digging to the real answer takes her a moment, but she does get there.

"I know that most of the people with us— the travelers and the ones who live here— are here with good intentions. They want to help. Many of them will want to help everyone. However, I also think that many of us are here with cross purposes." Nat spreads her hands, trying to capture a visual of the myriad of motivations at play. "Some more dramatically than others. And I worry that those cross purposes will crash into one another at the worst moment. It's the only time they can."

Her hands drop to her lap, grease stained and dirty. "And I don't know that any leader can help with that. Not avoiding it, not containing it."

Asi wobbles her head at the observation the group does not share a singular common cause. She's not wrong. Some of them don't even know the true reason why they're heading for Anchor with the Travelers, as far as she knows. There really are a small number of people on this trip here to travel to Anchor for Anchor's sake, which… still isn't a bad one.

"You're right," she admits plainly. "It won't take leaders to help with that. It'll take unity. The question is if we trust ourselves enough to get there. To– uncross those purposes, get them running as parallel as possible." She leans on one hip and rubs at the back of her head for a moment, fingertips digging against scalp. Her arms swing back down loosely around her shin again when it's done. "We need a crew."

Much easier said than done, she knows, squinting her eyes at the mere thought of it.

"But… speaking of cross purposes…" Asi swivels a look back at Nathalie, brows lifting. "It beat me why you volunteered for this journey. What are you looking for out of this?"

"Turning this group into a crew? Feels optimistic to me. I'm not sure our purposes can be uncrossed." Nathalie spreads her hands in an it is what it is gesture. "Maybe some. Never all."

The question Asi poses isn't an easy one. Nat's brow furrows, possible answers tumbling through her brain, but none feeling true.

"I don't know anymore," she says, shoulders drooping. "I'm supposed to be dead. Several times over. Even before— the ambush. Richard is family. Tay is family. But I don't know anymore. I might as well be a wisp of oakum blown by the wind. But here, at least, there are people who know me, people I can talk to, even people I care about." She gives Asi a sad smile. "Seems like a frivolous reason to come along, now that I say it outloud."

Thinking about her own motivations, the unsaid of them, Asi assures her quietly, "It's not." She even returns the smile, rubbing at the leg of her pants as she looks away again. "I don't think you're alone in it, I just…"

Didn't know about her ties here. Not to Tay. Definitely not to Richard. She angles one shoulder up in a shrug.

"You're probably right about making this group into a crew. I'm sure the same cynicism will come back for me in the morning, too." She can't possibly know how true that will be, either. "But for now… it's us against the city, or at least it feels that way. 'Til we leave, we've got that going for us."

She takes in a deep breath and slowly sighs it out after that. "Do you need anything before we get out of town?"

"I don't want to be right," Nat says, tone turning sullen as she speaks, "I would very much like to be proven wrong. I just have a sinking feeling that ragtag groups made of disparate parts only work out in the movies." She runs a hand through her hair, fluffing it out in its manic curls. "And I hope you don't, you know, fall into cynicism. Instead, I'll endeavor to fall out of it. Maybe I won't drink so much in the future. Seems to sour my mood."

Looking back at the city they've found here in the dried out husk of the world, she can't help but agree. It against them. "It isn't exactly Oz, is it? More like a mirage in the desert." A false hope.

Her attention flicks back to Asi at the question, and she seems to find it somewhat amusing, because a crooked smile comes to her lips. "Plenty. I'm not sure I want to know what they'd charge me around here, though."

"Oz was a mirage, too," Asi opines. "But it was a city. And it did do some good, even with the mystery man at the helm, who was grander in seeming than reality…" She trails off, thoughtful on that. Was there something similar at play here? Perhaps the man running the city wasn't as terrifying as they worried, even if he was just as effective– and even if his minions were, too.

Her eyes narrow at the daydream, imagining the d'Sarthe leader to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors creating a man bigger than he was, and then she comes back to the present when Nathalie turns to her.

"I think they have their own currency, but I'm sure barter might still be on the table…" Asi supposes, and grins for a moment in return before saying, "And I don't know– a smile from pretty women come from afar could work some prices down, too. It might be out of character for me, but I'm not beneath using what I have to get things on the cheap." Her head cants to the side as she balances her elbow on her knee, and she remarks, "Including offering repairs for radios and such … getting those kinds of things set up can be worth its weight in trade." Elbow goes down onto knee, and Asi comes to a stand on the roof, stretching her arms above her head.

"I don't know," she demures with a sigh as her arms come swinging down by her sides again. "At the very least, maybe we should think about dinner. You want to come?"

"They don't have to know it's out of character," Nat says, her smile widening, as if the idea of getting one over on this town might amuse her. "I can flutter my lashes, too, if it'll help." As for her, she's not entirely sure if it's out of character for her. Once she settles who she is among the myriad, then maybe.

She shifts to stand once Asi does, slipping her gun into the back of her waistband and tucking the cleaning cloth into a pocket. "Dinner would be a good idea. Things always seem a little less dire on a full stomach." An age old truth, as pertinent now as ever. "I'll consider it good luck if they have anything with flavor in this town," she adds as she starts to climb back down to ground level. And perhaps to feel more grounded.

"Small miracles," Asi agrees, and waits for Nathalie to head down first.

In that time, she turns one last time to look at the gloam of the dead city in the far distance, harder to see owing to the brightening of the scrap-made down directly before them. Her stomach tightens as she stands there, knowing the truth that they needed to look out for each other going forward. Not just tonight, not just against the city, but in all ways going forward.

Only time would tell if they could manage to pull this off like the movies, or if unity and forward progress would come at a cost; a whittling down of those with adverse aims until only those of like mind were left.

She hopes like Nat, too, that there's a chance it could come without the latter. Maybe some food really would help with believing in the possibility.

Asi hrms to herself, then lowers herself back down through the roof exit, and shuts the hatch behind her.

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