Visitors In The Night


bf_cassandra_icon.gif elisabeth_icon3.gif wf_emily_icon.gif wf_squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title Visitors in the Night
Synopsis Liz and Cass come across a couple of unusual scavengers.
Date December 10, 2017

Out in the Rubble

It's the wee hours of the morning — in the old days, they used to call that 1am time frame 'the witching hour' because the vast majority of the world was finally sleeping. And the same holds true even now in many ways. Humans are creatures of circadian rhythms. The early-morning hours tend to see fewer people out and about, which by extension means that generally speaking there are fewer hunters and drones running loose looking for those aforementioned people who actually sleep. But there are some for whom the pre-dawn hours are the most useful and productive time of day. For the two women who came from literally two individual other worlds this is their first chance to really get out together into the wasteland itself so that Elisabeth can get the lay of the land out here. ANd it's frigging COLD.

Climbing around the hulking pieces of concrete that block the alleyway they're traversing, Elisabeth bitches under her breath. "You know… now is when I wish we'd dragged Ygraine along with us." She didn't because the other woman was going to be of far more use to Felix in the world they just left… but she misses her longtime companion immensely. And right now, she misses the other woman's gravity manipulation effects even more than her person!

The brunette pauses at the corner of the building, holding up a hand sharply. "There's a fire ahead, under the marquee of the old theater." Where it wouldn't be visible from the air. Makes sense. "Anyone you recognize from here?" Liz asks Cassie.

Sleep is something that comes only when utterly required in this wasteland world. Most, if not all of the refugees sleep during the day, starting to stir during the setting of the sun, the dark of night offering respite from the heat and ever present dust. It also means that patrolling things that might see movement during the day as something to be investigated with high-explosives could be avoided more easily. "You know, I never got to experience her ability." Cassandra responds, her voice muffled by a painter's dust mask that has been repurposed to keep the grime out of her lungs. She clambers up a sloping chunk of fallen concrete, peering down the street at the destruction surrounding them. "I watched her and Rory play a couple of times. Rory /loved/ being stuck on the ceiling and looking down at everyone. Watching her crawl around up there was amazing. We considered putting it on Youtube…"

The hand rising has Cassandra stop, silent, her rifle still stowed on her back but easily able to be pulled forward. She inches closer to peek around the corner of the alleyway they're in, using a battered pair of binoculars she picked up from somewhere. "Hard to tell from here." She wipes the lenses with a thumb before peering again. "There's movement…probably…two? Maybe three? The light makes it hard to make out any more than that." She offers the binoculars to Liz. "Want to go check them out?"

Some nights, you just can't sleep, even when it's not your turn on the watch. It's with a weary sigh that Emily approaches Squeaks, well-worn crutches mutedly announcing her arrival before she's in eyeshot. She has her leather jacket shrugged on to stave off the chill in the night, unzipped for now. "Hey, Squeaks." she murmurs, looking out into the dark to see how her vision's doing this evening. The headache keeping her up means it's all one black-blue blur to her, past a certain point. Even though it's the dead of night, her aviators are fixed to the top of her head, ready to be pushed back down when she walks past the fire.

"You get enough to eat earlier?" she asks softly so her voice doesn't carry. Far, at least. Emily leans against a concrete barrier that's long since stopped being useful in whatever it was blocking off.

Keeping watch is borderline boring. Just staring out into the darkness, watching and listening for all the sounds that could mean danger. But Squeaks doesn't mind. She's good at keeping her mind alert even when there's small distractions, like being sleepy or hungry. She's perched herself on a swath of rubble that was probably part of a building at one time. All crouched and still, in the darkness she's probably not much more than part of the debris herself. And entertainment comes in the form of clicks and squeaks, way too quiet for just anyone to hear, but like a little human-shaped radar she's keeping an up-to-date lay of the land.

The younger girl moves when she hears Emily's approach, shifting out of her crouch to wander over to the old barrier. "I wish we had marshmallows," she replies conversationally. The treat would be most best right now, with the teeny fire. "But I'm good. I can wait until breakfast." She climbs onto the crumbly barrier, her back to the glow, and clicks again to check her mental maps.

Elisabeth slants a Look at Cassandra in the darkness. "Because I'm going to know anyone here?" she points out wryly. "And by the way, I still blame the both of you for the fact that the child literally has no fear for her own personal safety when it comes to heights.Being audiokinetic means nothing carries beyond them in terms of footsteps… but it may also delineate their exact location to the girl she doesn't know to expect — the subtle ping of echolocation finds a dead spot of sound where Liz has the two women encased in the bubble.

However, that aside, what she sees out there is a low fire, a couple of people, and not much else. "Looks like a couple of other scavengers. The apartment building we raided on the way still has some stuff left that wouldn't fit in my pack — maybe they can use some of what we have and we can make a second pass through there?" She looks up toward Cassandra from her position, and then smiles. She figures she already knows the other woman's answer, so she's moving to step out toward the low fire even as Cass opens her mouth.

"That's what I saw. Don't recognize them, but chances are they're just as hungry as we are. Not knowing anyone is a good point." Cassandra concedes, taking back the binoculars once they're used, tucking them away where they'd be safe on their travels through the wasteland. "We got lucky with that pantry." A fallen wall blocked a pantry that held a nice supply of canned and dried foods that had been overlooked by other scavengers. She nods to the suggestion. "I don't mind sharing the wealth a little. Lead the way."

Swinging her gun around to be ready, just in case, Cassie slips off of her perch by the wall and follows along behind, flanking Elisabeth, being watchful for anything that may require a response.

Emily lets out a knowing tut at Squeaks as she says she's good til morning. If she'd have known, she'd have shared some of hers. It's a little late for that now, though. Letting her crutches balance against the wall either side of her, she rubs her face with both hands. "Marshmallows would be phenomenal." she mutters into her palms, visions of a toasted, burnt marshmallow she could peel the layers off of now dancing before her eyes. "Oh, man." She shoots a glance aside at Squeaks. "I can't even remember the last time I had a smore." And boy, does the thought of one sound phenomenal, if highly unrealistic.

A grin starts to form at the thought of marshmallows and s'mores. It's been a really long time since anyone has had something even close to those treats. But the grin, and the memory, are interrupted with a finger jabbing into the darkness. "Empty," Squeaks states, head tipping to one side. In the pause that follows, she's narrowing in on the dead zone in a frequency that even Emily can hear like a buzzing of faint humming, for just a few seconds until she wobbles like she might fall off her perch.

"I can't see it." The younger girl's voice holds some urgency, but it's probably more to do with the wave of dizziness and sudden clamping of hands over her own ears. There's a vaguely pained look on her face as she continues squinting in the direction of blankness. "I don't know what it is."

As they approach the low fire, Elisabeth is cautious as well. And given that they have no idea who they're approaching, the caution is more than justified. But she pitches her voice and enhances it enough to carry to the people around the campfire. "Ahoy the camp. Could we have permission to approach? WE have a few things to trade for a little time near the fire."

She's carrying a weapon, certainly. But then again, she is a weapon, so she doesn't for this moment feel the need to do more than keep her rifle slung in its carying position. It might strike some as odd that she uses the nautical version of hailing the camp, but Elisabeth used to do some sailing and the call-out comes more out of instinct than thinking ahead what she'd say.

Cassandra remains back and to the left, within a few meters certainly, but not near enough to get hit by an errant burst of gunfire that might be aimed at the speaker. It's not that she doesn't love and trust liz - it's that she just has learned, the hard way, that being near people in combat situations sometimes isn't the best thing. Since she's not a weapon, her gun is drawn but safe, finger not on the trigger, ready to go but not ready to send rounds downrange. She makes each step slowly, letting her weight transfer from her back leg to her front, slowly moving in a crouch, ready to spring /away/ if the situation calls for it. "Just two wandering scavengers, same as you." she adds, glancing over to Liz before turning her attention to the fire.

The young girl's behavior elicits a raised eyebrow from Emily, her hands coming away from her face as she looks over at her, for the moment unalarmed, though hearing her make a noise to try and amplify her ability causes the half-formed smile from before to start slipping away. She can't see it?

Auditory interference capable of disrupting Squeaks' ability? Machine or human, that didn't sound good. Emily's easygoing attitude vanishes in an instant as she leans away from the barrier, her hand going for the gun in her waistband. She takes a step forward, putting her between the younger girl and the direction that she'd pointed at. Never mind that her vision is blurry at the moment. She holds the gun with both hands, safety off.

The voice that calls out does little to cause her to lower her guard. "We're a bit far from the nearest ocean, lady." Emily points out, her voice still soft. It's mostly a comment to herself, anyway. The outline of the two figures approaching become clearer to her, one actively armed. Potentially not good.

She'd be happy to point the two well and away from here … but they said they had something to trade? She hesitates, neither raising an alarm to the rest of the small camp, nor sending them away. Her eyes narrow, not lowering the handgun just yet. "Wandering scavengers, huh? Where'd you come from?" she lifts her voice only enough so it just carries. "Put your weapons down. Then you can approach."

Those hands on her ears press slightly harder, like rubbing is totally going to help the temporary overload of her ability. It's already dissipating, so it must be working, right? Squeaks cautiously lowers one hand, then the other, and gives her head a quick shake just in time to realize that Emily is talking to the dead spot. Only it's people that are answering back?

While the older girl is doing the talking, the younger drops off the backside of the cement block to ghost closer. Being small has those advantages of being difficult to notice, so hopefully it holds true this time also! Squeaks picks her way around the rubble to find a point that she can get a better look at the two, coming to a stop somewhere between a rusted out old car and the side of a looted-over bodega.

Elisabeth glances at Cassandra with a brow raised. The silence field is lifted — it's perhaps more familiar to Squeaks when it happens, because her full attention is on it. It's not dissimilar to someone else the teen knows. Liz calls back, "Nah — not really. Just a couple miles thataways. But as to where we came from… not inside the walls where the assholes live. Is that a decent enough answer? I'm definitely not disarming — but if you don't want to share a quick bite in return for a little light and heat, it's totally your call. We'll go on our way without bothering you more." She's showing zero signs of aggression.

There's a rustling sound as Cassandra's rifle, still pointing down, is shifted, the woman looking over to Elisabeth with a brow raised. She shuffles over closer to Liz to show that, yes, they're two people and yes, they're pretty much what is shown on the package, save for the whole 'silence field' thing that was going on just a second or two ago.

"We have chocolate." Cassandra offers as a quiet asterisk to the conversation. "Like three bars."

Had they overheard the conversation about s'mores a minute ago? AWFUL convenient to be offering chocolate. Emily had heard Squeaks shift and move off behind her, so a she's little more emboldened in negotiating with them, knowing that the younger girl is not directly in these women's sight. She trusts Squeaks to go raise the alarm if anything goes wrong here, too.

"Really not interested in letting you come closer if you don't at least put them away." Emily returns back to the two strangers. "I get wanting to have someplace warm to stop by for the night, but you're going to have to meet me in the middle here."

As soon as she's pressed herself against the crumbly car body, Squeaks tries again. She can visually see the two women that the voices appear to belong to. But with that blank spot, maybe there's more hiding out there in the dark. The squeaking begins anew, though with the lower sounds that don't bring back the finer details. It's almost a surprise when the blank spot is not there anymore, so much that she even chirps a vocal, "What?"

It's curiosity that prompts the younger girl forward, to slip out of her hiding spot and creep even closer, because that sudden disappearance of blank spaces is like what Lance does. And there's still plenty to hide behind, and she's small enough that most of it works for cover. While she's moving, her ability continues to work, like a little mobile sonar, while she closes in on Liz and Cassandra.

She considers the request and although her own is still on her back, it's well away from her hands. She nods to Cassandra. "You can leave it propped there or sling it off your back away from hands. That's fair." She smiles a little. "Too bad there's no code phrase between groups out here. 'Chesty' and 'Bulldog' or something." It's an old reference, and one that will go entirely over Cassandra's head, Elisabeth is sure. She calls back. "That's fair. They're both slung. We're coming closer so you can see that there's no weapon pointing your way or anything." She boldly steps toward the small campfire and the young woman aiming weapons at them.

"Glad you're being careful," she tells Emily quietly, realizing as they approach closer that the sound she'd picked up on was crutches creaking subtly. "Let your backup know, please, that we're not a threat? I'd like not to get stabbed in the back if they panic." Because she has no idea who is coming up and around them, just that there's a heartbeat circling. Both her hands are held out from her body so Emily isn't threatened. "Name's Liz. This is Cass."

Cassandra blinks at that, glancing from the campfire to Liz and then back again, straightening from her crouch as she slowly shifts her gun from where it's ready to back along her back, still pointing it down. "I don't know what you're talking about at all, Liz." she says with a soft smirk, walking along behind so she can see what they're walking into.

Drawing closer to the nimbus of light surrounding the campfire, she slows, scanning the area for anything that might be considered a danger and, finding none, relaxes slightly. Like ten percent, maybe, as she gets closer.

"Hi." Cassandra says, lifting a hand to wave a greeting. "Not often we meet people out here. Funny thing, how a war zone isn't good for impromptu get togethers, huh?" A poor attempt at humor, but there it is.

As the human shapes take on a bit more clarity, Emily's arms hesitantly lower, the gun still held in her right hand. She runs the left through her hair, careful to mind the aviators perched on top of her head. Her hand is trembling by the time it falls back by her side, and she lets out a slow sigh as she looks Elisabeth and Cassandra over. "Liz. Cass." she repeats back, her head inclining ever so slightly to acknowledge the shortened names.

"Em." she says about herself, then asks aloud, "Squeaks?" as she's not entirely sure where she's snuck off to. She looks off toward the cars, wondering.

Cassandra's comment causes her to let out a quiet, dry laugh. She looks back toward the older woman with a forced smile that says, 'well, you tried.' "No shit. It's almost like between the government and shitty opportunists, you have to treat every person like they'd kill you as soon as greet you."

The smile's pleasant enough as she looks between them both, brow raised as she leans back to rest against the concrete barrier again, left hand resting on top of it while the gun is still held by her side. "I'm really hoping you have something else aside from chocolate to offer."

"I'm really hoping there's chocolate." That's from behind, where Squeaks has matched step for step to follow the two women the remaining distance to the campfire. Being back near the glow of the fire, she slinks out from behind and in the shadows to more openly get a better look at the pair of strangers. "I'm Jac, but everyone calls me Squeaks." And she likes it that way, her tone says.

She cuts a shallow circle back to the fireside where she drops to sit criss-cross and just watch Liz and Cass. Her chin rests in her hands, fingers tapping cheeks thoughtfully.

Now that more friendly relations are established, Liz moves all the way forward. "Well, the chocolate's pretty sketchy," she admits. "But the place we found had a couple bags of rice, a couple bags of dried beans, and some canned goods we'd be happy to share." The shrug is slightly. "Haven't got much water to rehydrate either the rice or beans with, but maybe between us there's enough."

Slanting a look back toward Squeaks, watching the girl as she moves, Elisabeth's heart clenches. These are just kids. Jesus. "Nice to meet you both," she says. "You guys makin' out all right?" Everyone's barely scraping by, but it's not in her to let anyone go hungry. Her Italian Nana would lose her mind.

To her credit, Cassandra doesn't squeak, shout, jump, or shoot at the voice behind her. The only sign of her shock at the silent approach from behind is a quick jerk of her head and a widening of her eyes and nostrils as she steps aside to let Squeaks pass. "it smelled okay. It's the dark stuff, and was in tupperware so…we might have gotten lucky." Cassandra shrugs off her pack and moves closer to the fire, staying close to Liz and keeping an eye on Emily and Squeaks as she crouches by the hearth. "Pretty much just canned stuff. The boxes of cereal and whatever else was in cardboard had been gotten by rats ages ago. The stuff we found was in plastic or cans." She unzips her bag to reveal a nice collection of stuff - apparently Cassie's the pack mule in this expedition, since Liz is the more offensively-powered of the two - and pulls out a can. "Chef BoyarDee Beef ravioli in meat sauce…." the can is set down, along with a few more labeled as such. “Oh, pineapple. Forgot we had pineapple.”

A feast in these troubled times.

There's a look leveled at Squeaks as she lets out that she hopes they brought chocolate. It's a look that says chocolate's a luxury, and if they're trading, they should probably trade for necessity. As the group moves over closer to the fire, Emily leans forward off the concrete to replace the gun back to its hiding place, then shimmies her arms down around her crutches. She follows after them at her own pace, aloof as she listens in.

She comes to a pause before the fire, fingers rolling around the worn grips of her crutches as she adjusts her weight. She's turned to face Liz and Cass better, standing between them both and where Squeaks is crouched. The phrase 'pretty much just canned stuff' has elicited her full attention, and the sight of the ravioli being deposited next to the fire draws her eyes with it. She doesn't even like ravioli. But discovering a can of it out in the wild is a find. It doesn't even look dented — minimal risk of botulism.

Emily's brow ticks upward in quiet appreciation. Then more cans come out - and beans and rice were mentioned, too. Seeing all the food come out lowers Emily's guard considerably, as Cass and Liz really do seem to want to give them all this in exchange for a place to be for a few minutes. "You normally make a habit of sharing your food like this?"

The look that’s given to Emily in return clearly states the younger girl isn’t concerned about what’s luxury and what isn’t. Chocolate was offered! But it’s done with a grin and a flippant, You’re not my real mom mouthed at her.

Squeaks scoots herself to one side, so she’s not so much shielded by Emily and can see all the goods being laid out. She’s definitely impressed, eyebrows raised as her wide-eyed gaze goes from the canned foods to Liz and Cass.

Elisabeth shrugs slightly. "Not always. We don't usually come across enough to share quite this much," she admits candidly. "And some folks might decide better to kill us and take it all, yeah?" The brunette is just as watchful of the teens as they are of her — you cannot be too careful. But her tone is quiet and easy. "I figure if you come across a luxury and then you happen upon a couple of ladies hunkered down in the wild…. then you're meant to not act like a shit." She shrugs. "What the fuck are we out here for, if it's not to help one another survive and stay out of the hands of the assholes?"

This world is doing a number on her; this is not the woman Cassandra knew for years. Or… perhaps she just never knew the Liz behind the singer's face. The one who knows this world in ways that seem … far too familiar. She's too easy with harshest of the things they do sometimes. Like she's done it before.

As if sensing her companion's gaze, Liz rummages in her bag and brings out some plastic silverware — yet another luxury they found in that apartment's pantry. "The cans, at least, we can put straight into the fire."

The cans and the like are situated nearby, with two ravioli and the pineapple left out, the rest save for a bag of beans packed back away for transport to wherever she and Elisabeth came from, for whatever purpose they had. It seems that she and Liz are going to share this bounty for time around the fire. Apparently it’s dinner time.

The scavenged can opener comes out - pop-top cans would have spoiled long before now - and the tops of the ravioli are taken off, a spot in the ashes near the coals cleared with a bit of metal that’s placed to the side to act as tongs to retrieve the cans when they’re warm enough. A quick sniff and a nod conveying that these are still good to Elisabeth without words follows before Cassie puts the cans into the ashes to start warming through, using a spoon from her backpack to stir carefully.

“There’s enough hell in this world for everyone already. No sense in making up any more.” Cassandra says softly, sitting cross-legged by the fire. “If we have enough and we find decent people who don’t, it’s common decency to share. A little less hunger in the world is a good thing. Besides,” Cassie looks up to her companion, reaching up to squeeze her hand. “If we can give a memory that helps people to forget, for just a moment, then it’s worth it, to me.”

These ladies aren’t raiders. They aren’t killers. They aren’t trying to cause harm. Cassandra has quickly found herself slipping into the same modes that Liz has - not as easily, since it’s learned, but slipping nonetheless. There have to be hard decisions made to survive and this one, it seems, isn’t that hard of one to make. The logical choice would be to leave and take what they have already, to not share, but even the months in this world can’t excise the humanity entirely from the pair.

From the outside pocket a familiar shape is withdrawn - a brown package with silver letters, rectangular, approximately ten inches long and three inches wide. Dark chocolate. Hershey’s.

“Here.” Cassie offers it to Squeaks. “We’ve got plenty of this. It’s good trade fodder, and smells okay. I had a bit earlier. Take a square or two, if you want.”

Emily's polite enough as she looks over the two women, even if internally she wonders how in the hell these two have survived traveling alone with a mentality like that. The world was a dark place, and getting darker all the time. Maybe these two were just trying to have one last bright moment before their stars burn out.

In either case, she's not going to look this gift horse in the mouth. Silence is the best way to do that. As the can of ravioli goes down on the fire, she gives another glance back to Squeaks, brow ticking up again as she gives the younger girl a nod. You get first dibs. this glance says. No hard feelings about the jab at trying to encourage her to be more shrewd.

"Don't." is Emily's sharp warning that comes as soon as the chocolate's passed over. She starts to sit down, grunting as she gets her legs underneath her, bringing them in so she sits cross-legged. Her crutches are still standing up, the poles of both held in a single hand as she looks severely more at Squeaks than Cassandra.

"Not until the other food." is what she finally says. Even if she harbors intensive doubts about the integrity of the chocolate, there's probably no stopping the younger girl from eating it. Getting sick on the road due to some spoiled chocolate would suck, but the risk probably feels worth it to her. Emily's hand slides up the crutch to grasp it just under the handhold, and it's pointed down toward Squeaks. The mom stare is turned on high. "Also, if you get the runs, I can't say I didn't warn you."

Afterward, she turns to look at Elisabeth and gives her a curt nod, as if none of that had just happened. "Thanks for picking us to come share your food with." She's looking forward to the food being warm, even if she'll complain about the sauce and the mess. It'll be something different — a taste of a different time.

“We’re out here, because in there is not good.” The question was probably asked without expecting an answer, but Squeaks gives one anyway. And it’s true, outside in the wasteland it might be dangerous, however it isn’t trapped. At least, that’s how she sees it. Scooting onto her knees, the younger girl gathers a few smaller sticks to add to the flames, because it’ll help with cooking. It shouldn’t make things too much brighter, though maybe a little warmer.

The chocolate offering is met with a grin and a sly look at Emily’s harsh tone. Still not Squeaks’ mom, sorry. A couple of squares are broken free as she makes an exaggerated show of eyes rolling and head shaking. Totally immune to the mom-looks from the older teenager. There’s bigger things to worry about than an angry tummy from some bad chocolate. And it’s something to hold her over until the other food is ready.

As they all hunker down around the small fire with its cans, Elisabeth moves to sit cross-legged and studies the two girls. The older one can't be much younger than Cassandra herself… upper teens, perhaps? The little one, the brunette would normally peg her at around 10 or so. But Elisabeth suspects hardship and hunger have made the slight figure look younger than she may be chronologically. She herself, on closer inspection by the teens… doesn't look nearly as slender as the lean conditions in the wasteland suggest she should be if she's been alone for a while.

"Are you two en route to somewhere?" Elisabeth asks quietly. "Or are you regulars to this area?" She holds up a band and offers a faint smile. "No details required. I'm just curious about whether you're headed someplace perhaps a little safer than out here."

Cassandra is a little leaner than Liz might be. Sure, she’s still got muscle and yes, even a little little bit of fat here and there, but life in the wasteland does a wonderful job of stripping away all of that unnecessary stuff. She’d be a perfect model for Calvin Klein back home, with the skinniness, but that’s not something that’s beautiful here. Food in cans, warming through on the fire, is enough to set her stomach to growling. She turns the cans with her metal rod, careful to not knock them over and waste the precious contents, the labels burning off in the heat as steam starts to rise from the tomato sauce. Back home, this is considered cheap food, but here, it’s something to fill the belly and is probably worth its weight in gold.

She sits quietly and listens to the questions, glancing from Squeaks to Emily and back again, removing the now hot food from the fire and placing it nearby to cool a little bit, some of the plastic delivery silverware placed close by. “Be careful.” she says softly to no-one in particular. “It’s hot.” She rummages around in her backpack for a bottle of water - the label long gone, the plastic crinkled from age, but still holding. “And can you tell us about this place if you’re from here? Places to go, places to avoid. Tourist destinations? Sights to see?” More teasing, but seriousness there, too.

“We’re regulars,” Squeaks supplies without giving the answer too much thought. It may or may not be far from the truth, given her and Emily’s appearances. Besides, she’s busy nibbling on the chocolate, torn between making it last and just indulging without care, to come up with a more elaborate answer. It does taste alright, maybe slightly dusty, as older chocolate is likely to do, but definitely still edible.

She watches Liz and Cass’ as she battles against inhaling the tiny treat, picking out the finer details that the firelight chooses to highlight. They’re a curious pair, now that the younger girl thinks about it. Especially with the sharing — not that she’ll ever complain about that, food is hard to come by sometimes — but also the questions. And the one doing the cooking gets a confused frown at those questions.

“You don’t normally come out here for the tourist destinations,” Squeaks points out. There’s a touch of caution in her tone, and a guarded look is angled toward Emily. She falls silent instead of explaining further, looking ponderous as she gazes, not at the strangers but beyond. Once again those clicks and squeaks, too low for normal human hearing, begin to map out the surrounding ruins.

There's a resigned sigh as Squeaks ignores the advice to NOT down the chocolate immediately. She's going to end up eating too much of it and not get to enjoy the ravioli. Fine, then. Dibs is totally sacrificed.

Emily scoots closer to the steaming can, waiting patiently for it steam a little less powerfully. "Not unless the tourist destinations you're looking for happen to be slaver camps." she intones to no one in particular, eyes on the fire.

She feels the glance but says nothing, playing it cool for now, and hoping Squeaks will do the same. Who the hell are these two? she begins to wonder to herself, heart beating faster than it was a moment ago. Sharing all this conveniently-got food, talking about how everyone should be nice to each other, and now asking for tourist destinations?

She leans back, hands propping her up, and starts thinking on a plan. If they're snatchers, were they fishing to learn where more people were? If they're spies from the Outer District, is there any worth in trying to take them captive? Could they? Cass and Liz were armed, too. Shoot them and move on? Shoo them off and move on?

Emily looks over to Squeaks with a reassuring smile. "Got room left for real food?"

Well aware that they're not exactly the norm for this area, Elisabeth is watching the two. She's doing her own version of monitoring the area, and her head tips slightly because although she's listening primarily in the ranges of human hearing and just expanding her distance, the high-frequency sounds are certainly pinging her senses. Focusing on them is giving her a minor headache because they're more powerful than her own use of them, but they're familiar. If only because Elisabeth herself uses them — it's how she found the unraided pantry in the first place. She's not expert enough at using the sounds to do more than kind of map out her immediate vicinity, though, so when she pauses to expand her awareness it's a jumble of information that she can't process. She can feel the immediate barriers and sense their proximity. Sort of. Some of the spaces beyond it. Sort of. But the range of what's being used is far and away beyond her skills. And a faint frown pulls her brows together as she looks out over the ruins past the circle of light the fire throws.

"She's kidding about tourist destinations. She thinks she's funny," Liz comments idly. Dismissing Cassandra's sense of humor on that, because clearly Emily doesn't find the comment amusing and Squeaks either isn't registering it or she's not following it. Or just plain ignoring it. Liz isn't sure. "You don't have to answer any questions. We shouldn't be asking too many anyway, since we're not exactly in position to answer yours either." She glances back at Emily. "I would like to know what you can tell us about the walled areas, if you don't mind. We came in from upstate, so a lot of what's down here is pretty fucking mind-boggling. How often are patrols from the hellhole coming through?"

Wow, tough crowd. Cassandra rolls her eyes a little and sighs, making a mental note to try and keep a less humorous bent to the conversation from here on out. The second can of ravioli is carefully taken out of the fire, the first less volcanic now that it’s had a few minutes to cool, the metal rod tossed aside in the dirt, aimed away from anything that might cause a clank. She places another of the plastic forks by the second can and sits back, glancing to Liz for a second. “I try to make people laugh. It’s my defense mechanism after everything….” She trails off, running a hand through her hair, trying to dissipate the frustration that’s built up after all of this. “Sorry.”

“That said, we’d rather not visit any of the slaver camps.” She nearly adds on ‘as lovely as that might be’ because that could be insensitive. These two might be refugees, or have people they know in there, locked away or worse. Liz and Cassie don’t have that link to this world, and being flippant about potential war crimes that may be affecting those they meet isn’t very wise. “Is there anything in the ruins we should watch out for? Any routes that are less dangerous than others or ones that are more watched?” The cans are pushed closer to the pair, an obvious ‘here, eat’ underlying while she gets out another can for herself and Liz.

Emily's hand goes up to wave down Cassandra with a furrowed brow, wondering why she's getting out another can when there's already two perfectly good ones open and mostly untouched. She doesn't even know what to say. Was she trying to be wasteful? Despite Elisabeth's attempts to smooth things over, she's definitely feeling something off about these two. Casually as possible, she pushes herself to her feet, taking the first can in her hand as she goes. Shuffled steps take her around the fire to be directly next to Squeaks now, offering the can down to her.

"From upstate?" she echoes back conversationally. Her balance grows unsteady, so she takes a step back to be more behind the young girl at her side. If she loses her balance entirely, she'll at least not be right in the fire at this point. Her crutches are left over by Cass. "Well, the first thing I can tell you, is to stay away from the Outer District unless you've got a deathwish. You don't immediately seem like the sort to go running to them with open arms, exactly, so you're better off just avoiding them entirely." It's a little pointed, maybe, and Emily's skepticism about the two shines through for just a moment.

"Mind for drone patrols. The closer to the city you get, the more active they are. And if you're Evo? Don't travel in groups. The scanners …" she lifts her shoulders in a shrug, the information appearing to be obvious from that point on. "Where exactly are you headed?"

Squeaks looks up when Emily moves into her field of view, not appearing startled at all to be interrupted from whatever wonderings she might have been in. And at the same time she moves, that clicking and squeaking stops suddenly. She gives the older teen a grin and takes the can, since there’s nothing out of the ordinary that she can find. Other than the two strangers sharing the fire.

“I think one of them is,” the younger teen says as she picks out a ravioli. It’s not an accusation, but simple observation. She’s not asking who, either, and that seems like the who doesn’t matter because she shrugs. “Scanners know who’s Evo. And if they catch you, you go somewhere else forever. They put drugs in you so you can’t ever use your ability and then you die.” It’s a grim warning, delivered far too seriously for supper conversation.

“Better to stay away from the Outer District. Far, far away.” The small girl looks at Liz and Cass to make sure they’re understanding the far far away part. “And if you see the machines, run.”

Elisabeth slants a look at Cassandra, subtly shaking her head on the third can being opened. Cass knows better too, but both of them come from a place where they've had more… so it's hard to not share and just assume more is to be found. "I've definitely heard that about the Outer District," Liz agrees in a quiet, grim tone. She takes the can that's still on the rocks near the fire and shares it with Cassandra. "Do people escape the District much?" The question shouldn't be that strange. "Some of the people I've come across lately here… they keep fighting back, but it doesn't seem like it's getting far." She sounds saddened at the thought, her eyes dropping to the food. She and Cass haven't eaten since mid-yesterday either, so she's hungry enough not to let hot food go to waste.

"As for where we're headed?" Elisabeth shrugs. "There's really nowhere to head, is there? Just more awful, everywhere you go, it seems like." She wipes the back of her hand across her forehead, noting the stopping of the high frequencies underlaying the conversation, but she doesn't bring it up. She's just grateful that it's not something she's doing or something that will herald a machine incoming.

Thankfully, can three wasn't opened, so Liz’s glance is seen and the ordeal is stopped, the can and opener tucked away in her pack with the rest of the discovered bounty. “We've been lucky. No encounters with any machines yet. How large of a group can the machines detect? Less than five? I heard from a lady in a bus that five was a good number to have in a group.” She glances to Liz again after a second and takes up the most recently warmed can and offers it to the older woman with the fork poking out of the top, letting liz take a few bites before she takes a few of her own.

As far as where they're headed, that gets another glance, a bit of stick tossed into the fire, Cassie adding to the explanation. “I guess we're just trying to find somewhere that's not been blown to hell. A sailboat to sail away to a country that's not ripped apart by war. Somewhere safe, like down south around Louisiana, where my family was from. See if any are still….y’know.” The can is passed back to Liz. “If it is safe. You know, the usual stuff.”

At the question about how safe a travel group size is, Emily only shrugs her shoulders. "Better safe than sorry." she intones, sounding approving about the number five. She doesn't touch the subject of the Resistance's stalled efforts against the DoEA.

She stays standing by Squeaks' side, less certain than before about the need to draw on the visitors, but still cautious about them. "I know it's not like international news comes in a constant feed, but … it's not like there's a paradise to run away to." she feels confident in advising. "As far as I understand it, the drones are a worldwide problem. You can run away from them here, or you can run away from them in another country."

"… See if anyone's still out there." she finishes Cass's statement distantly, and lifts one hand to adjust the aviators sitting on top of her head. Everybody's lost family, between the virus and the war. If she lost the family she had left, she wasn't sure what she'd do. She equally wasn't sure what she'd do if she lost contact with him. "Yeah…" she says to fill the air, slowly coming back down into the conversation.

"Follow the Hudson down until I-84. Head west as far as you can before cutting south again. Like 'way out in Pennsylvania' west." she suggests, reaching down to Squeaks to gesture for a bite of the food before the younger girl eats it all. "Might be your best shot."

The can is handed over, still some raviolis left. Squeaks licks the sauce off her fingers and then brushes her hands off on her jeans. “It’s dangerous trying to break out of the Outer District,” she fills in. “They’ll send you away for that, too.” And her tone implies that probably no one will ever see you again, much like her earlier explanation of things. Looking off past the firelight again, she’s okay with letting Emily do most of the explaining.

For her, there’s questions she’d rather ask. But first, there’s that sound again. It doesn’t last as long as before, but it’s still not something most anyone would hear.

“Where’d you come from,” the younger teen asks. Again, the sound cuts off abruptly, this time when she speaks. “If you don’t know about the Outer District or things.” Because, doesn’t everybody know at this point? Unless they’ve been living underground since forever. Squeaks looks from Cass to Liz, face scrunching a little bit. “And asking about tourist places? That’s weird.”

Liz smirks faintly, sharing the can between herself and Cassandra. "I suppose it is weird," she agrees. "Cass came from out west … she had a job out there but a lot of friends here. She only got here a few months ago. Looking for people she knew before all this happened. I grew up in the City but …. I was quite a long way away when everything went sideways. So it's taken me a long time to get here to find out what's happened." It's the truth, or at least generally speaking it's close enough. Telling people you're from an alternate fucking reality seems a surefire way to get yourself killed right quickly.

The brunette gives a heavy sigh, raking a hand through her dark hair. Glancing up at Cassandra, she murmurs regretfully, "Sorry — based on that info, lady, a trip South is just off the table for me." As if they'd been talking about really doing that anyway. When she looks at the two teens, she tilts her head. "I really hope you two have someplace safe to hole up. Gonna be dawn soon." And she and Cassandra are going to be heading back to base camp.

Cassandra was never very good at telling the tale of where she really came from. It all still sounds crazy, no matter what the reality actually was. Eve and the Party Bus knew, sort of, where she came from, since Eve spent a week driving out to an abandoned dome in the middle of Colorado just to pick her up, but telling other people? That’s just an invitation to be looked at as a crazy person. She very nearly said ‘searching for a way off this world’ when she was speaking, but thought better of it, instead offering platitudes about somewhere safe and a sailboat. All could be considered noble goals and, just like Liz’s explanations, technically the truth.

“Asking about tourist places was me trying to make a joke, Squeaks.” Cassandra explains, looking over to Liz at the movement of hands through hair, nodding. “And I figured the heading south would be out of scope for this trip.” If she did make it down there, and she discovered her family was still there, could she leave? Or if she discovered that everyone in the world related to Cassandra was dead, could she even take it? That’s the stuff nightmares are made of - several of which she’s had since arriving here.

A small notebook and a mechanical pencil is withdrawn from Cassie’s backpack, Emily’s directions scribbled down on the back of the third page in her small, neat handwriting. “Patrols closer to the outer district….” she murmurs. “Hudson until I-84, then south…”

Taking the can and glancing down into it to fish for the fork, Emily shoots Squeaks a glance like 'Really?' but with zero surprise behind it. Good thing she asked for her turn when she did. Can in one hand, she flexes the fingers of the other before poking the fork down into the depths of the can. Getting through this WITHOUT getting red sauce all over her would be ideal.

She lets out a sigh, the balancing act wearying, but necessary. She'd rather be on her feet if they needed to move quickly. She really wasn't buying their story.

"Yeah. We'll hunker down around here for a while yet." Emily says after swallowing a bite of the warm food. (Red sauce hatred aside, it tasted luxurious.) She's lying through her teeth, because there's no way they're staying put after this strange encounter. "If you mean to head on out, you should probably get going."

“But if you’re from anywhere on this planet,” Squeaks points out with all the knowledge of a child, “then you’d know that there aren’t tourist places here and your joke doesn’t make any sense.” She’s also immune to Emily’s looks, obviously, because the newest one isn’t acknowledged either.

She presses her chin into her hands and stares at Liz and Cass over the fire. One eye squints while the other stays open, like maybe that helps figure out what they’re really all about. If they’re all about something. It’s still possible that the two women just lived underground for a really long time, like since the bomb, and they really for reals just don’t know. But Squeaks isn’t quite convinced that’s it. There’s just way too much weird in their stories.

Eventually she looks away again. It’s probably only just a few seconds that she was staring, just long enough to maybe become uncomfortable. And when the younger teen looks away again, she starts studying the landscape, accompanied by those clicks and squeaks.

There's a quiet chuckle from Elisabeth. As if she's thoroughly amused at the fact that the teens are suspicious. She has no need to keep at them. It's not like they're making friends and influencing people. "You're right — we've a little way to go to get back," she agrees easily. Moving to stand, she pulls her backpack up off the ground and settles it into place. "Good luck, girls."

Her blue eyes trail over the two teenagers, a sadness flickering briefly in her expression that is rapidly quelled. This is so not the world any of them were fighting to give these kids. "C'mon Cass … it'll dawn soon. I wanna be back before she wakes." Aurora, of course. Liz waits only long enough for Cassandra to also get herself geared back up before heading back out into the darkness beyond the firefight, her power expanding once more to listen for anything that's not supposed to be there — machine or biological.

The can cleaned out of its contents, the sauce shared out and licked from fingertips dragged over the smooth interior, Cassandra nods and shuffles back from the fire, shouldering her pack with the objects inside rattling a little as they’re repositioned. “Yeah. She’ll be glad to see us and what we found.” There’s a moment taken as Cassandra looks over the pair, then a quick glance at the can of pineapple left on the ground nearby, seemingly forgotten before she looks at the pair again. “Take care of yourself, ladies.” Cassandra pulls the straps taut over her chest, positioning it high on her back and tight where it moves as she does easily, checking her weapon to make sure that it’s not fouled, jammed, or otherwise unable to be used. Looking back at the small campfire and the pair sitting there in quiet misery, she pulls her dust mask over her face and salutes, turning to follow along behind Elisabeth, the crunch of her footsteps fading into the distance before Elisabeth’s silence field surrounds them both.

As soon as they're out of sight, Emily drops the now-empty can with a clatter, moving around the fire to pick up her crutches. "We start waking the others up, get moving before daylight and find better cover." she suggests quietly but firmly, glancing afterward to the direction the two had initially appeared from. "I don't know who the hell they were or where they REALLY came from, but I sure fucking hope they won't bring any trouble in their wake. Let's not give them or it any chance to catch up."

There's a look back to Squeaks, one that seeks agreement. The way Emily sees it, the strangers are almost guaranteed to have others behind them. Either because they really were spies or slavers, or just by virtue of being entirely clueless about the way the world works. Really didn't matter which, ultimately.

Even though she watches them leave, Squeaks doesn’t say goodbyes or anything. Her real time map stays in place until that blank spot shows up again. This time there’s a curious tilt of her head, like a puppy that’s heard a noise that’s never been heard before. “There’s no one else there,” she determines. She has been keeping watch over things all night, and she’d know if there was anyone else hiding. Probably.

“I have a better idea,” she tells the older girl. And she gets up onto her knees to help clean things up and douse the fire. As the camp it snuffed out, all traces of life hidden as best they can be, she hashes out a plan for Emily to tell the others of the strange encounter and Squeaks to follow the strangers to see where they go. There’s some mild disagreement, there would be of course given the dangers of the wasteland, but in the end it was settled. If grudgingly.

Under the cover of darkness, Emily would go back to the camps with news of the visitors and Squeaks would follow in hopes of learning a little bit more.

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