Day 003: Afterburned
Summary: One pyre, three graves, and three weary souls.
Date: 2 May 2016
Related: Follows Pyre For Two and Bubble Bubble Boils and Trouble.
Hanne Grey Cole 

Grounds, The Camp

With the removal of underbrush and a half-dozen small trees, there is now a tiny clearing around the dropship. It has begun to fill with detritus from the ship, including all of the seating, padding, and removable plates or bulkheads. Several tents have been set up within the clearing, set close together within the confines of the surrounding trees. There are no defenses to speak of, save for the usually-open door to the dropship and the ship's metal walls.

The forest immediately surrounding the camp has been cowed into near-silence, but is still vibrant and green to a people used to stark metal bulkheads all around them.

3 Days After Landing

It is late. Very late. Hanne has been up ever since Asher dragged her out to examine three grotesque bodies. She is bundled up in an emergency blanket and staring into the remaining low burn of the fire. She stokes it now and then with a long stick, keeping the embers crackling and the occasional burst of flame. Her nose is a little red and her eyes are tired. She looks like she is either exhausted or had been crying not too long ago — probably both. She wipes her nose with her sleeve, sniffling softly.

Grey's hands hurt. Worse than they've hurt since… probably since the last time one of his parents hit them. He has one of the camp's makeshift shovels over his shoulder as he drags his ass into the firelight. A couple of other Delinquents follow after him, carrying torches or shovels themselves. Grey goes to the nearest fire and drops down next to Hanne. He stares into the fire a long minute, the shovel resting against his shovel and looking down at his hands, then he glances over to the Ee-Ess geek and inquires, "So we're not all gonna die?" His usually-smooth baritone is roughened by weariness and emotion.

Beyond the one time he had to take over an EVA for another mechanic that died when his suit was punctured, Cole has never had much dealing with death. The burning pyre outside the camp was pretty noticeable for everyone, given how high the fire was. But the techie stayed with the fire, watched it, dealt with the smell of it(burning flesh has a sweet scene to it, by the way), and watching every moment of it. Because someone had to. So looking a bit harried, soot and ash covered and possibly realizing that a good deal of the ash on him was people. The footsteps are slow, uneven, and not bothering to be hidden. He looks like he's been in a coal mine for most of the day. Without a word, he drops down by the smaller fire with Hanne and Grey, saying nothing. Everyone knows where he's been, what he's been doing. Makes sense that nobody else wanted to be out there to watch it.

"Never said that," Hanne replies. She looks over at Grey, mouth thin. "But, there's a lot more that apparently can kill us than Carter let us think." She breathes out a slow exhale that causes her shoulders to slump a bit. Again, she wipes her sleeve against her nose. When Cole joins them, she offers him a weary nod and the smallest of smiles. It doesn't last long, faltering back into a tired line. "I think it was something they breathed," Hanne says after a moment. "I looked in Tide's mouth… it was all blistered in there, all the way down the throat, I bet. They probably asphyxiated. I haven't read about anything that can do that, Grey. I swear, nothing. Air doesn't just cause acid burns." Her throat tightens a bit.

Grey looks up at Cole as the other teen joins the fire, but he doesn't even bother taking a shot at him. He starts to bring a hand up to his mouth, thinks about what he's just been handling, and settles for picking at a blister on the ball of his middle finger, "Burns. Maybe fire somewhere? Think we woulda seen smoke though." It's not the feverish brainstorming that most of the camp has been rife with up to this point, just idle, weary consideration, "Think it's a plant?" He looks over to Cole then, adding in, "Found Tide, Kellie, and Grecco. They're dead. And buried." Hence the shovel leaning against his shoulder. Speaking of, he's without his spears, he must have left them somewhere or given them to someone.

"The other two are burned." is all that Cole says after a moment, giving a long thousand-yard stare at the fire, which looks like a smaller of the larger one that he was looking at. A hand wipes at his face, a layer of ash coming off with it. It makes him frown. "And now I'm wearing them." It's a morbid thought, one that's likely making him think a whole lot. He's not even swearing. No real energy in it. "There are some gases, when put into an aerosol form causes skin burns, sores, burns. Just depends on what chemical it could've been. Maybe there's some caustic swamps nearby. Or a plant, but I wouldn't know anything about that. Or some kind of liquid that turned caustic from…something. Depend on how molecular breakdown of the water occurred. Though can't imagine anything like that happening naturally. Nature just doesn't make acid like that. At least, not to the degree to cause the kind of damage you're describing." he explains, staring at the ash he's rubbing between his fingers.

"The fire would have been hot… very hot… like, hydrazine hot." Hanne frowns deeply, looking into the low-burning camp fire. She shrugs her shoulders a bit. "Could be a fungus, I guess… acidic spores, maybe?" Again, she doesn't sound certain. She shakes her head slightly. "They were heading west, but we gotta go west to get to Mount Weather. So, I guess maybe we will find out what it is on our way." Because that sounds cheerful. Then Hanne looks at Cole and shakes her head. "Could be anything… because let's be honest… there's little we actually know about this Earth now. Nuclear holocaust changes everything. We can't assume anything about nature. Just because it didn't happen a century ago doesn't mean it doesn't happen now."

Grey does his best not to zone out as the talk turns science-y. Hey, he brought it on, and he's really trying since getting to Earth. "So… watch out for glowin' plants while we're on our way to the Mountain." He stops picking at the blister on his hand, grimacing, "Damn it. Why can't people be more damned careful." That's probably the first time in his life that Grey has said that. He seems to realize it too, and chuckles dryly, rolling his eyes at himself, "Stupid Earth. Stupid gravity. Stupid toxic, burn-y, whatever-the-hell it was got Grecco and the others."

"I don't have the answer to that." Cole shakes his head at Hanne. Not a common for him to say, but there it is. Not having all the answers like he suggests that he does. "Silver thinks she might be able to get the bracelets off soon." he says, almost as an afterthought. "If either of you care about that kind of thing."

"I don't know," Hanne says, and a small smile creeps onto her lips now. "I think Earth is pretty smart. It has adapted really fast, and really well. I mean, we're looking at amazing adaptations. We've spent the last 97 years thinking that there's no life down here, and poof… there's tons of life down here." Then she starts to giggle as an idea creeps on her. "Maybe we will find Morlocks!" The little nerd continues to giggle in amusement at the reference, and a couple tears start to well into her eyes. Those laughing tears soon turn to a soft sob. The mention of the bracelets causes her to blink back her tears a bit, and she looks at Cole. "Why… why would we take them off?"

At the mention of the bracelets, Grey moves his right hand over the slim ring of metal encircling his left wrist, only then glancing over to Hanne as her tears of laughter turn to something less pleasant. The ex-Cadet shuffles over on the log set up by the fireside so that he's within arm's reach of the young woman, reaching out to rest his left hand on her shoulder gently. "So that the Ark doesn't know what's goin' on down here. Some of the folks with a whole lot less to lose," it's unclear if he's including himself in that at the moment, which might be odd, "don't want the folks up there to come down here. They think we're dyin', they won't come down. Or if they come down anyhow, we get the bracelets off, they can't track us if we decide to make a run for it. And what in the hell is a Morlock? And does it have anything to do with Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly?"

"What Grey said." Cole says in monotone. "Besides, there's no reason they'd put these things on us if they didn't expect to be thinking about the same issue. Coming down themselves. So some don't want to be found, don't want to go back to prison, or just outright killed. So some want them off. Silver has been working on it. Using the bracelets from the…" he just jerks a thumb over his shoulder to where the pyre is. "Odds are, they're coming down sooner or later, just depend on when that'll be, were I a betting man. "And some just don't like the idea of being geunia pigs from people that don't care about them." Another shrug. "Doesn't matter, we'll likely of turned on each other long before that point."

"It's a book," Hanne says to Grey, and her words go a bit wry. "You know, a thing with words and pictures." Then she looks over at Cole at his explanation, and she rubs a bit at her own wristband. It seems… comforting to her. Like a piece of home. She frowns. "But Jaha said we'd have full pardons." The girl looks suddenly reproachful. "I don't think the Chancellor would lie…" Her eyes pass from Grey to Cole, afraid that her world view is about to be shattered by cold hard truths — or at least assumed truths.

"Skye. From Skye and… shit… his name was… uh… Vic. Victor. I used to call him Vicki 'cause it pissed him off." Grey grimaces broadly, bringing his hand from Hanne's shoulder toward his mouth again to chew on a nail — and then stopping before he gets his gross corpse-dirt-hand in his mouth. "I can read, you know. I just preferred to do it on a screen." Pulling the little braided cord bracelet from beneath his med-bracelet again, he lets his forearms drop onto his knees, "Jackhole Jaha and the Council can go float themselves, for all I care. They sent us down here to die. Just told us we'd be pardoned to get us to work harder to stay alive so they can get more readings. People like me… we're never getting pardons." There's some solid self-loathing there, or self-sorrow.

"In the end, it doesn't really matter. A couple of things could happen." Cole sighs. "Either he was lying, and we'll end up in a prison, or outright killed. Or we'll be rounded and put into forced labor to work off whatever sentence they seem to warrant our punishment because locking up that many people on ground, we'd just be eating up resources. At least as manual labor, we'd be useful. They could also be honest with the pardons. Until that point, it's nothing but supposition and guesswork, and that's a bridge we'll have to eventually cross, but there's no point in worrying about it until that point." he says, sounding all very apathetic about it. "I personally don't care, there's nobody up who actually cares what happened to me. Dad never cared, mom's dead. I got Mika, and that's enough. If anything, I'd kill for a good toolkit. No, I'm more concerned with what can worked on now. Because sitting around worrying about the Ark or the Council, or whatever isn't going to help. Food, water, defense, that matters. That can be changed, and we can affect it's outcome. Unless you got dipshits like Zoe sowing discontent around. Sooner or later she'll get herself sorted when she decides to piss off the wrong person."

Hanne looks rather crestfallen at their assessment of the situation. She had been hoping beyond hope that Jaha had been telling the truth, that she would be pardoned for a crime she thought was for the greater good anyway. She looked at the two on either side of her, and then her entire body seems to slump. Tears fall more steadily now, collecting at the point of her chin before dripping down onto the blanket she has bunched around her. "I'm going to keep mine on," she says softly, drawing her wrist in tighter toward her. She looks up at the mention of Zoe, looking a bit alarmed to hear of the discontent. "I guess I haven't been paying attention…"

Grey reaches over to pat Hanne's shoulder again, once more sort of awkwardly, "Hell, Keats, you just stole something. I'm sure you'll be fine when they come down, if they even do." He grimaces at Cole's words, although he doesn't disagree, at least not entirely. "I dunno. I could see all that, but I think that some of us have to think a whole lot harder than others about the future, Cole. Theft, accidents, political shit… that's one thing. The folks on the Ark come down, you lot have it made. Even if we do get pardons, no one's ever going to forget that I killed my mom. Or that Morgan wants to kill the Council. Or that Thompson beat a guy's head in. So all that matters for what we do about these," he lifts his left wrist demonstratively, "and if people want to stay here or try to strike out on their own." He waves off the mention of Zoe, "She's a selfish little punk. She starts gathering a crew, some of us'll have to wreck it before she breaks up the camp, but until then, she can talk all she wants as far as I'm concerned."

"It's not wrong to hope, Hanne." Cole offers quietly. "I'm just losing it in these…people." he gestures broadly. "Three days, I didn't expect so many people to leave their humanity on the Ark. Maybe I just had higher expectations. I fully expect for every one person that wants to help for the greater well-being of everyone, there'll be at least two who decide to say damn the rules and think that looting, pillaging, attacking and…" he doesn't say the last word on his lips, even he has limits to what he'll say vocally. "I hadn't heard about either until Silver brought it up that Zoe has not been hiding the fact about she's doing. Or what she plans on doing. I think Silver's exact words 'likely to start a riot'. It's something you should at least be aware of. I didn't hear about it until she said something about tonight." He shakes his head at Grey. "The future is all we got left. That's it. The people on the Ark? If they do come down, they'll have to learn that pretty quick too. Because they'll have the same problems we're having right now. They'll just have guns to try and enforce the power structure. If we're going to survive, all of us have to leave those lives behind. Clean slate. The more we let what we did define us, the quicker it'll be to start making the same mistakes that got us in the Box to begin with. We either unite or…" his lips press together. "…more people will die. Whether through starvation or infighting. This world will kill all of us if we try to be an island."

Grey takes umbrage to some part of Cole's quiet words, "Hey man… that out there…" he points to the surrounding fires, "that is humanity. What's that book say, 'to err is human?'" Apparently, he read something sometime. "Humans aren't perfect little robots. Can't think of us that way or you're gonna be disappointed. Me though, I'm glad we're not all perfect Ark droids down here. Is it gonna be hard work? Sure. But no one's starving yet. There's a trip to find the river planned for tomorrow. Day after, we're goin' to Mount Weather. Tents are goin' up. Latrines, a kitchen," ish, "Just 'cause it ain't happening fast enough for you doesn't mean it's not happening."

"To which I'm glad, don't get me wrong." Cole replies. "And I'm not even asking people for perfection either, I know I'm not. Otherwise I wouldn't be here. Or anyone for that matter. Neither is the speed. Maybe I've just run into the wrong people. Maybe my ratio of people who apparently couldn't give two shits about the greater populace is higher than the ones who might give a damn. So maybe I'm only just slightly bitter about the attitude of these people who don't want to do that 'hard work'. And maybe I think the ones that do go out of their way is getting shit on for it. But it doesn't matter." He frowns at the gesturing at the tents. "Yeah maybe, but so far I've seen all the bad aspects of humanity a lot more than the good parts. And that, if nothing else, is just slightly disheartening. Or maybe I really need to wash off the ashes of two dead people and there's no bathroom in sight. Could just be that."

Hanne listens to the two talk while she stares at the low embers. She pokes them again, and the flames burst up again to keep the firepit going. She then looks over at Cole, and she shrugs slightly. "Maybe there's just nothing for people to care about yet." She glances around at the forests that loom around them. "If you think about it, what did we really care about on the Ark? Being a transitional generation?" She frowns. "We were basically supposed to just be a stepping stone, live, make babies, and then die… and that was supposed to repeat for another five generations. We weren't really living for anything. Maybe we're just thinking the same way."

Grey shrugs slightly at Cole, "Then maybe you're comin' off wrong. 'Cause you always seem pissed that people aren't doing more faster. We're damned kids, Cole. They're starting to settle down, at least some of 'em are. The rest will after they've been hungry a little while, or after they get the shits from drinkin' scummy water." He grunts a little bit at Hanne's words, "Maintenance. Sure, we were Maintenance up there, but we were maintaining the human race. I think a lot of people forgot that. We gotta think about what comes after us too."

"Wouldn't be the first time." Cole snorts. "And I was pissed because it seemed like no one was doing anything at all. And now…there's something. It's not a lot, but it's better than what there was. Or it's just impossible for me to shut off. Trust me, I've been thinking about five others I should be dong than just sitting here." The more you work, you don't have think about how bad things are. Keep yourself busy, because to Cole, being anything that be considered sedentary is a personal nightmare. "I won't stop until I'm satisfied with how things are. If that comes off as not being enough fast enough…I dunno. When there's a steady flow of resources and what I can do isn't needed…maybe then. But then I'll just start considering stuff like constructing buildings. As for the rest, I'll wait an see. People have to find a reason to live, other than just being alive. Might of found mine, but I think that question is one that still unanswered for a lot of people."

Hanne doesn't respond to either of them. In fact, there is a soft little snore that emerges from the blankets where she has slumped further down. In fact, she starts to slump to the right, and ends up leaning against Cole as she releases another small noise of sleep. She mutters something, showing she is only half-way there, "Unanswered questions are what we live on." Then she releases a heavy sigh. "I should go to sleep."

Grey shakes his head at Cole's words, but doesn't respond to them directly. Instead, he suggests, "I say you use some of the…" he glances there to Hanne to get the right term, "grey water to wash the Victor and Skye off your face. And if anyone questions you, rub your ashy hands all over them." Hanne's snore-slump-start draws a weary chuckle, "Man, Keats. You're just flat-out beat." He looks around the camp then, "We should all get more sleep, but I don't think anyone's havin' an easy time of that. No one who saw those bodies will, that's for damn sure." And that definitely includes him. "I think for a couple minutes there I wasn't even hungry."

"I plan to. Just don't drink it." Cole remarks glumly, and was about to say something else when Hanne is leaning against him. Unaware of how to handle this, he puts an arm around her slightly, giving a supportive squeeze. "Hey, Hanne." he offers softly. "Go get some sleep, yeah?" he says letting the arm drop. "I think I should go do the same as well. I know Mika is probably wondering where the hell I've been. I haven't slept a full night since we got here. Too busy trying to do…something." he then gets up as well. "And maybe, I don't have to think about what I've got on me. Night, both of you." And he's slinking off to the ramshackle tent area.

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