§ 2022-12-30 17:42:36
[17:44] The dictionary took Saira's mind off their situation, but Jason was less lucky. Valcen-za took to speaking with him, leading him into the room with the Torunyema, talking at great length about the circumstances that had brought it about.
Valcen-sha meanwhile remained with Saira, presenting himself for the occasional question she had – and there were many questions, especially regarding the grammar of Kendaneivash and Naya, both which proved mercifully simple. The glyphs used as the Naya and Kendaneivash alphabets were easy to learn, though they would take some time to get proficient with. He sounded out some of the words for her. Others she recognised from her interactions with the two species so far.
They were invited to sleep with the kavkema if they wished. Jason declined, not bothering to elaborate on his reasons, and Valcen-za led him back to the room that had been furbished for the humans, passing a clean and opaque cloth to him as a make-shift blindfold.
Saira had at least honestly considered the offer before declining. More exposure to the cultures of Nekenalos was a good thing if you wanted to learn their languages. But deliberately separating from Jason was a bit too high a price to pay, even if it was probably pure superstition to assume something might happen to either of them in consequence.
And so she, too, took a crude blindfold to sleep in the room with the light.
Either way, they slept. Saira's dreams were full of corridors and glass walls and giants trying to find her and stitch her flesh to the sheets of her bed, but even those nightmares couldn't keep her from getting rest in the comparatively soft bed after the long travels.
When she awoke, it was to Jason gently nudging her. There were two options if one of them woke before the other, of course – depleting the batteries on their solar-powered gear to review and amend mission notes or staring at the wall, or wandering out of the room and leaving their partner to wake into solitude. Neither seemed like a good idea.
It turned out that Jason had opted to about half an hour of staring at the wall before waking her, proving that he was rather more patient than he sometimes acted.
"Once Greg comes back, I want you to try and find out if you and Greg can get out of here without raising suspicion," Jason whispered – not out of fear of being heard by their non-English-speaking captors, but much more likely because he knew fine well what he was implying and that ESA wouldn't like it.
§ 2023-02-01 19:11:52
[17:02] Awoken from terrible dreams, Saira was grateful for the reprieve when she saw Jason's face. Shaking off the nightmares, she rose and tended to her morning needs before Jason told her furtively and in quiet what he wanted her to do. Startled, she looked at him, her expression both confused and concerned. "But what about you?" she whispered in return. But she could already guess. He was going to wait for Samanta's arrival in Katal, since their hosts seemed to be rounding up the Terran party. Frowning, she shook her head. "First of all, if we flee, it might make it more difficult for -you- to get out. And they know where our craft is. We can't split up -again-. Look what happened now!" Her voice was an urgent whisper-hiss, trying to convince their head of security that it was safer to stay together. The linguist didn't fancy trying to get Greg out, who was no doubt hopefully convalescing at this very moment.
[21:54] There was a hardness to Jason's expression, the oxymoron of stubborn resignation. For a moment, it looked as though he might not speak at all, leaving it to her to piece together his silent thoughts, even if they were harrowingly obvious as they were crystallising out of his body language. Shattering the last of the ambiguity, he said in a stern tone that discouraged disagreement: "I want you to not worry about me."
§ 2023-02-15 20:05:07
[15:09] Frowning at Jason, one could practically hear the internal grumbling about his very insistant, very specific instructions that she was supposed to follow because he was their security officer. It brooked no argument, though, she would've very much liked to have argued with him about leaving him behind. He might be waiting to see if they somehow rounded up Samanta, but getting those two out if she and Greg fled when he was well seemed very unlikely. "I don't like this plan," she said to him then, as if this would somehow change his mind and convince him to see things the way she saw them. "We're stuck here until Greg is well enough to travel. Maybe by then, we'll have a better plan than this..." A helpless gesture was made in return, meaning of course the idea of her and Greg fleeing. A long, drawn out sigh could be heard over their comms as she tried to gather the courage to pretend to do as he said.
§ 2023-04-08 17:48:03
[17:58] "Greg is going to be well enough to travel very soon and you need to be ready when he is," Jason said.
Evidently he didn't think that the Nayabaru or Valcen would use his health as a bargaining chip to keep them here longer, which was a reassuring implication. It meant he saw no strategic value in a deception like that. It also meant he assumed the Nayabaru were thinking strategically, but given everything Valcen had said, and everything they knew about Terenyira, at least two powerful players were doing exactly that.
"Put distance between yourselves and me," he continued. "Put distance between yourselves and this... place. Then, even if they still make you guilty by association, you don't need to suffer the consequences."
This was bad. If Jason was planning to stage some kind of intervention, diplomacy went down the drain. Clearly he thought he could make it matter. Valcen, then, and his technology?
[18:16] "You're mad, Jason. We can't... We can't just leave. Samanta is still out there somewhere, and they're going to bring her here. We should at least be reunited before we make any crazy plans to escape... and we certainly can't leave you here..." Saira argued with him, though it felt like they had this same conversation the night before. Frustrated, she looked at him with a severity that was rarely seen in her face. "We're not gonna sacrifice you just to get out of here... And besides, why are we even running right now anyways?"
[18:26] Jason closed his eyes, inclining his head lightly. If he'd instead given her a manic chuckle, it would have been more soothing. This Jason, here, right now? This Jason was calculating. "I believe these Nayabaru and Valcen when they say they mean us no harm," he said, coolly. "I believe that leaving should be about as easy as walking out of here. Maybe you'll need to ask nicely. Make up some sob story about how it's claustrophobic in here." He stared at her with a palpable intensity. "No, we're not running. You're leaving. You're leaving, because you don't want to be associated with me in the near future."
[18:59] "What are you planning, Jason?" she demanded, staring hard at him. They'd not had any real close relationship, colleagues that had performed on their mission admirably. She knew full well that this was his job, his task, keeping the others safe. "Are you going to act on this genocide??" It was probably safer for Saira to not know what he intended. She glanced around for recording devices, unusre if she'd even recognize them if she spotted them. Frowning, she continue to observe him. "What are you going to do?"
[19:06] For a long moment, it seemed as though he might simply look at her in response, maintaining his silence. Then, finally, with a certain tightness to his facial features, he said: "Do you think it's wise to ask?" There was no particular inflection to the question – no threat, no levity. If she wanted an answer, she could get it. She just had to reaffirm.
[19:16] "Probably not... but I can't just let you walk into a dangerous situation..." Like there was anything that Saira could do to stop him. He was not only stronger than her, but combat trained... and he would do as he pleased regardless of her input into such subjects. So she sighed, a heavy, deep thing that just looked at him like she was losing a friend. "Why, Jason? Why this? You're not going to change anything. Did Valcen talk to you or something?" That was the only plausible explanation that she could come up with at the moment.
[19:31] The soft, single syllable of a chuckle was more visible as a tiny ripple through his body than it was audible. "You could say that," he said, not quite managing to keep the bitterness from his voice. "The little devices we know he has? He has machinery here he calls 'less crude'.
"I've seen it, because he kindly gave me a tour while you were reading. The thing that made Baishar. The thing that made... whatever he's done with his existing female assistant." Saira dimly recalled that Valcen had promised introductions of 'Ryrha', then never made them. "They strap people to it." Saira could hear the barely restrained rage in Jason's voice.
He was going to burn this place down. Not literally, for lack of accelerant to do it with, but close enough to count.
[19:42] "And what do you think you could reasonably do, Jason? Do you think you'll buck the system? A lone human man ona tear to destroy every injustice within this damnable city?" Saira was trying to make him see reason, that whatever plans he had for the laboratory after the others had fled, that they would just come to ruin and imprisonment. Surely they wouldn't kill him out of hand, but there was no telling what the repercussions might be for whatever he had up his sleeve right now. Frowning, almost glowering, she knew she had to be the voice of reason. "You intend something dangerous that could put us all at risk, even Earth itself. We can't simply run amok because our emotions dictate that we must..."
[19:46] "Pretty sure they're not going to blame it on you," Jason said, with a tone of scathing indifference. He'd had all night to think this through. He was their military strategist. If he thought he could pull it off, he probably could. No wonder he was so focussed on sharply minimising everyone else's involvement. A lot hinged on that they could brush him off as a rogue element.
[19:52] Saira fell silent, realizing finally that she couldn't talk him out of this course of action, despite wanting to. Despite needing to, but it was just as she had said, her emotions running amok, attempting to dictate their actions... Frowning, she shook her head. "This is madness..." But that's all she could say on the subject... He wouldn't be swayed, and she was wasting breath trying to convince him otherwise. Sighing finally, she said nothing else.
[20:16] Jason shrugged dismissively. "And sitting by idly isn't madness?" he asked, but there was barely any fire in his voice. For a moment, it seemed as though he might leave it at that gentle riposte and let their conversation end, but something in him rebelled against the thought. "Have you seen her?" he asked, softly, making no effort to disambiguate, hoping the context was enough.
[20:32] Her. He meant the female assistant. She shook her head. Saira had been busying herself with the primer and had blocked out everything else. A coping mechanism for the terrible position they were in. "I'm suggesting doing more recon work before making hasty decisions... We shouldn't do anything before Samanta is with us. They're looking for her, aren't they? She'd be stuck here if Greg and I were to run when he's well." Still, she couldn't help but feel like Jason was making a grave mistake with consequences that would ripple out of their control like a rock thrown in a still pond. "Is there nothing I can say that would stir you from this course?"
[20:44] A flicker of hot anger flashed through Jason, making him ball a fist and smack it against the wall beside them; they weren't at the best angle for it, making the gesture slightly awkward, but not awkward enough to soften its sting. "We have had days of reconnaissance," he said, bringing his hand around, scissoring two gloved fingers apart and pointing at his own eyes illustratively. We have eyes, we have ears. We can see the injustice. "That... woman? Have you ever worked with mentally disabled people before?" His voice was a little louder now. "They're not even denying—" His jaw set for a moment. "I don't give a rat's ass if you think what I'm about to say matters for a foreign culture – she's got the mental capacity of a child with developmental disability, and they are using her for procreation."
[20:52] Saira visibly recoiled from what he was saying. It was reprehensible and she understood why Jason wanted so desperately to do something about it. She couldn't fault him for that at all. And the more he talked, the more it sounded like a good idea. Disrupt their little operation here... "Fine. But we wait for Samanta..."
§ 2023-05-06 17:26:25
[17:33] Jason shook his head slowly. "Once you're outside, it'll be easier to contact Samanta. If she's not here yet, I don't think they're having any luck in finding her. As long as she doesn't try to come after us – and you can dissuade her from that if you manage to contact her – that's not going to change," he said, with a calm air of authority.
[17:41] It was clear that Saira was not happy about this plan. The what ifs were too numerous, and the possibility that he might cause some diplomatic incident with a technologically more advanced culture than humanity was too great. Still, he had his reasons, and they were good ones, though not ones that she agreed with in the least. With a loud, defeated sigh, she just nodded. "If that's what you think is the best course of action is, Jason..." It was clear that she did not believe this was wise, splitting up further, leaving him behind... "So how long do you think it'll take for them to make Greg well enough to leave?"
[18:03] A shrug; Valcen hadn't given them an estimate and even if he had, Jason had expressed scepticism before – believing the Nayabaru thought themselves capable of handling Greg's malaise and wanted to cure him, but considering them overconfident. "I'm willing to wait a week," Jason said.
It was a deadline, then. If Greg wasn't better in a week, the course of action was to write him off. It wasn't anything anyone wanted to do, but letting the Nayabaru use Greg as a de-facto hostage for an indefinite amount of time was foolish even if the hostage situation was unintentional. If Greg couldn't recover, he couldn't recover. Human medicine was on the other side of the sun, many months and many resources away. Their training covered this.
[18:11] It was all she could not to blanch at the thought of leaving Greg behind. Leaving Jason behind as well. Saira wasn't confident that she could outrun the Nayabaru in a foot race, especially as she would have very little in the way of resources. Finding her way back to their shuttle should be easy enough, homing devices and the like that were designed to keep the team from getting lost in their explorations... Frowning at him, she just nodded, unable to speak the unfortunate words that were agreeing to leave behind members of the team. Earth needed to be appraised of what they found here, the unexpected of Valcen speaking English and all of that. It was clear she was unhappy with that frustrated-frowning expression, the way she almost pouted, though she tried not to be petulant. "If you think this is best...." It was obvious that she didn't agree, but she was done trying to talk him out of it. She couldn't, and she had to accept that.
[18:21] Something in Jason's eyes promised that it was only professional discipline which was keeping his air both calm and firm as he said: "What would you do?" It was a tone that tried hard not to be an accusation, but failed.
[18:22] There was no good answer for him. Shaking her head, she just admitted, "I don't know, Jason..." Another sigh. "Any 'solution' is liable to be no good for us..." As a team, that is. "I'm sorry I'm not happy with this, but... You can't really expect me to be okay with this? I'll do it... but... i'm not happy about it."
[18:29] "Oh, so you're more okay with us just idly sitting by while our gracious hosts routinely sexually abuse someone who can't consent? While they build machines that tear the minds of their enemies apart?" Jason asked. Acerbic or not, their team dynamics were tried and tested – Saira knew that, if she said "yes", he would accept her opinion, albeit with the same deep unease and upset that she was feeling now.
[18:37] "Of course I'm not *okay* with that... that's... it's all so reprehensible, real inhumane shit, Jason. I get that. But I don't think that we can do much to disrupt or change that, realistically." That was the problem. They were definitely dealt a shitty hand, and there were no good plays. "I don't know what we should do..." she admitted after a few moments. She had been the one to get in Valcen's face and yell at him, manhandling him even if mun remembers correctly. "There are not *good* options here."
[18:46] "Exactly," Jason said. "So I'm taking the one that compromises the least with my moral code and I'm making it so you're not hanged by association." A pause, filled by a deep, frustrated exhale. "Unless I'm very lucky, I won't make it out of this, but you can, effortlessly. Take it. You can make friends with these 'Nayabaru' once I've taken away their toys."