Scept resisted the urge to tell Thomas he had no fear of him, but simply the people he might be connected to. The situation could be a bit intimidating at times, though; being surrounded by three strangers all with a disturbing attentiveness to him was more than bothersome. It made him want to get back out of the vehicle and run in the opposite direction of them. No, that would mean going East, and he simply could not do that now, though he wasn't quite sure why that was the case.
Rolling his eyes to mask any other feelings, Scept spoke snidely, "How about we just try and keep our ovaries under control and get where we're going?"
Aya turned halfway in her seat to glare back at Scept. "Careful, kid. Remember I've killed more people than you've probably met."
Vesper shook her head, "But Robert wants us to help Scept, so threatening him won't do any good."
Aya growled, still giving Scept an icy stare. "It might make him shut up."
Thomas sighed deeply. "And our peace lasted for a whole three minutes. Aya, stop threatening the kid. Shutting up would be your best choice, right now. Else I'll send you to Ulv and let you freeze for a six month tour."
Aya winced and sat back in her seat. "Fine, just tell the kid to not be so lippy."
"You kidding?" Thomas questioned wryly. "He seems to fit right in with you."
Scept grimaced; they were doing it again. Openly disagreeing about him while in front of him sent his mind for another loop as to wondering what their intentions were. They all seemed to have a different angle on it, and he couldn't seem to figure out what exactly that might be. The best thing to do would probably be to keep up the banter. It seemed to get him into trouble on a regular basis, but it still hadn't stopped being the most attractive option yet. Snickering audibly, he responded without looking at her, "Is that so? Hell of a mother you probably make. I'm surprised they didn't take the kid away for his own safety."
He'd never known his own mother; he'd only heard things and been blamed largely for her death. It was a sour topic for him to say the least, though he did indeed wish he could have known her. Unfortunately, though, the boy had no love for mothers left in him, and he'd spare Aya insult if he could help it. After all, he figured it probably would make him look stronger for it.
Aya squirmed in her seat, obviously furious with Scept. Thomas desperately wished he could have brought along a different soldier. Obviously, telling her about her husband's mission had only been a very brief respite. She'd been quietly reserved about the Outcasts' latest operations, and that combined with her worry for her husband and her innate distrust of outsiders was driving the woman hellbent into a confrontation with the nearest object of her distaste. Which appeared to be Scept.
He glanced into the mirror for a moment and caught Vesper's eye. She was constantly glancing back and forth between Scept and Aya, her expression saddened. She was one of those people who, even though they knew better, always half-wondered why everyone just couldn't get along.
And knowing her, she'd try to fix things, as a healer, that's how she probably saw all the snide remarks bouncing back and forth, a wound to be healed. He groaned inwardly, her trying to fix it would only make things worse. So, time to focus them on the mission.
"Alright, enough, Aya. Think about this tactically, for a moment. He's a mage, and we're low on them right now. The Outcasts could use another friendly mage, unless you actually like spending time with Hell legion mages. They're a bunch of arrogant snobs."
"Alright, I get it, Omega. We need the kid." She replied icily.
Thomas nodded, "It's standard practice, we're helping each other. Our destination is the Lightning Temple . . . "
She cut him off with a groan, "Great, so what . . . another three hours of this kid?"
He continued without missing a beat, "And you'll be on overwatch, seeing as you and Scept get along about as well as a Korin and a Paragon. After this mission, we'll have to head to a different location, and I'll throw in a vidcom to your kid, how's that sound?"
Aya looked curiously at him. An actual vidcom to the headquarters was hard to come by out in the field, as it required specialized equipment normally only located in an Outcast office in one of the larger cities. The offer was a generous one, and one that hinted at her being replaced on the mission. "It would be good to see him." She stated softly, her tone slightly placated.
Behind them, Vesper grinned at Thomas' offer, it was slightly unexpected from such a hard man as he. But like all the Outcasts, he understood the importance of family, and he knew when to dangle out the carrot. She glanced over to Scept, wondering what he must think of them. A subordinate arguing with a commanding officer was most likely not leaving a good impression. And yet . . . she half-smiled, it seemed so very natural for the Outcasts. Off the mission, they bickered and argued like a giant family, though they always pulled together when danger threatened. "I'd bet a large sum of money that you think we're all crazy." She stated softly to Scept, the half-smile still in place.
Scept cracked a grin of satisfaction at Aya’s frustration with him, almost smiling when Thomas shut her down completely. Throw the woman a bone and she seemed to just scamper off complacently, it seemed. Out of consideration for Thomas, though, Scept held that particular comment back; Aya was amusing at best, but Thomas… Perhaps he had grown a shred of respect for the man. For the first time, though, Scept wondered how much any of these people wanted to be here, doing this with him. He heard a lot of their leader wanting it, but never that any of them did. It confused him, to say the least; why would someone do something they didn’t want to?
He’d talked to this great leader of theirs that they all seemed to follow without a second thought, and even Scept could see a bit of the character in him everyone seemed so fond of. Robert had seemed utterly convinced that this teenage mage who was more or less a reject of the Taron Magi was somehow essential to his little operation, but it still didn’t make any sense to the boy himself. Either they were just stupid, or they knew something he didn’t, and that put him on edge more than anything else.
They claimed they were just looking for another battlemage, but they were willing to truck him all the way across the world to win him over? It seemed like there was something more at stake, and Scept didn’t buy it for a moment that these people just wanted to have “close-ties” with each other or something. People simply didn’t do that. Then again, these people seemed to do a lot of odd things. Why didn’t Thomas just break this woman’s jaw and leave her on the side of the road already? Scept figured the same treatment might as well apply to him, even. Yet still she talked like she had every authority to do so. Vesper’s comment was so well timed, though, that Scept actually let out a good-hearted laugh. Crazy? Maybe not. Up to something? That sounded much more likely.
Turning his head and hanging his arm out the window, he responded with a bit of a resigned passivity, ”Yeah, something like that." He wasn’t going to figure this out just yet, it seemed.
Vesper grinned at Scept's response, at least it wasn't a snide remark. So it was progress, she thought happily. She glanced 'round the countryside visible through their windows and sighed dreamily, mind already racing with thoughts of this land she'd once called her home. "I've missed Zailleon." She remarked wistfully. "Spent too much time away, in the mountains. And then that awful boatride up to Cyra."
Aya, also slightly more relaxed, groaned once. "I hate Ulv, that base is possibly the most boring place, ever."
"Least your husband was the one who got us there. So you had some good company. And Robert seemed to think the meeting went well." Vesper remarked.
Aya shrugged. "He thinks that entire operation is going well, and he's throwing truckloads of money at it."
To the side, Thomas mulled over in his mind whether he should steer them away from their current line of conversation. He didn't trust Scept, not yet. And he had a feeling the boy would use any advantage he could get when dealing with the Outcasts.
But on the other hand, the conversation had definitely taken a dramatic turn for the better, now that Aya was placated. So, best not to interfere too much. "Ever been to Zailleon before, Scept?" He questioned casually.
The boy tried not to take too much concern over the subject, though any inquiry about himself was bound to set off alarm bells in his head. He didn't doubt these people already had a sizable amount of information on him, and inquiries would mean one of two things. One, that they didn't know but wished to. Or two, that they did know but were trying to draw something else about it out. He didn't like either alternative, so he was going to do his best to be on guard. Trying to respond casually enough, he responded to Thomas, "No. What's it to you?"
"Seeing if we have anything in common, that's all." Thomas replied easily, trying to keep Scept talking, and hopefully the conversation in the car pleasant. "Vesper and I are both natives, though we haven't been back in a while. Aya's from Cher Plek, as I recall. Though again, she was mostly raised in the Outcasts, so while she's seen a lot of the world, Zailleon hasn't been a big part of it."
Cher Plek, was it? Maybe that's where that temper came from. Scept glanced in Aya's direction wondering if she was going to find a reason to explode. After a moment, though, he responded to Thomas, "I'm sure. No, I've lived on the other side of the ocean my entire life; no reason to leave it until now." He paused, wondering if he should bother to go further than that. He'd resigned himself to not figuring these people out just yet, but maybe he could find something if they talked for long enough; that tidbit about their operations might come in hand later, and there might be more information he could get to try and puzzle all this together.
"I'm surprised to see you putting up with such diversity, then. I've always heard Zailleon was just a bunch of racists who want to burn down the jungle," he said, not sounding surprised at all. He didn't really care how diverse or not their group was, but it was a little bit refreshing to be able to loose your tongue about the Empire a bit. Treasonous speech could be punished harshly, even if it wasn't in most places, but knowing he was outside the company of Empire supporters was one of the first comforting things he'd realized this entire trip.
Thomas shrugged and grinned. "Eh, the Outcasts are literally just that, we're outcasts. It's a common theme amongst our unit. So we're naturally diverse."
Vesper's voice grew quiet as she added on. "The Emperor might want to burn down the jungles and all those within, but most of the citizenry just want to live their lives quietly in the cities. I would have been the same, if not for Robert offering me a job."
Thomas chuckled. "So, instead of taking a job at some nice hospital where you'd only occasionally have to deal with really bloody wounds, you decided to join a merc unit that's seen heavy fighting on at least three different occasions?"
Vesper smiled back, her eyes thoughtfully locked on the back of Thomas' head. "Well, the pay is enough to send my siblings to college. And I like the company." She replied softly.
Aya snorted, "Diversity, we have to be diverse to deal with challenges, isn't that how the Alpha likes to put it? He does so enjoy taking in strays." She said evenly, her final words seemingly directed at Scept.
"And he raised you for most of your life, as I recall." Thomas shot back wryly.
The boy couldn't help but agree mostly with Vesper. Especially living in Allondell his entire life, the war had always seemed like an incredibly far-off thing. In the city of wisdom, most people were worried about themselves or their studies. Even the Taron Magi, directly connected to the Empire's war effort was largely aloof about the whole thing, feeling more like their contribution of mages was more a tax than anything to the war. Scept certainly had no interest in the whole thing, though it would be a pain wading through some of the territory on this side of the ocean. He didn't know for sure yet, but the documents he had suggested they might be entering Cher Plek after this; maybe he'd get a chance to see Rogueport while he was down there...
Aya's comment brought his mind back though, and he nearly grinned once more with satisfaction at Thomas' immediate arrival on the scene; it was certainly becoming amusing, watching him defuse one situation after the next. So that's what he was, though, then? A stray? He could put up with that, for now. He had no desire to be fostered into some new family like all these people did, but it might prove useful for the time being. He'd heard stories of people trying to tame wild animals as babies, only to be killed by them when they fully matured. A stray indeed.
"That he did, Thomas." Aya smiled over at her commander. "That pretty much makes me the boss's daughter, eh?"
And here Thomas saw an opportunity to shut down the woman's worry for a significant period of time. "Pretty much, yeah. So why're you so worried about your dear husband, may I ask? Robert does treat you like a daughter. Do you think he'd really send your husband into something that dangerous?"
That brought Aya up short. The woman opened her mouth to reply, clearly taken unawares by his sudden question. She closed it again a moment later. And then finally spoke softly, her tone sick with worry. "Some of the stuff he's been doing, Thomas. That . . ." She shuddered, "That thing, that he went to meet in Cyra. Why do we need her?" She jerked her head backwards, indicating Scept. "The kid . . ." She rolled her eyes and clearly made an effort to soften her tone when talking about Scept. "I mean 'Scept'. Him, I understand. I see why Robert wants to help him, it's classic Robert. Planning for the future."
She shrugged uncertainly. "But why do we need that little demon and her friends?"
Vesper spoke up, "I found her rather charming, actually. In an off-beat way. Besides the secrecy of the meeting."
Aya cocked her head backwards to give Vesper a stern look. "I'm accepting of most creatures, Doc. You know that. I even get along with the Twins back at base, and just about everyone finds them creepy. So why is it that I'm the only one who gets chills when I think about what we've made a deal with?"
Thomas sighed again, his play had only somewhat worked. It hadn't so much shut Aya down as it did bring her worry to the forefront. "Robert knows what he's doing, Aya. Trust him, he's practically your dad. He gave me a new eye, he's helped thousands of people in one way or another. Trust him, and know that he wants us to be here, right now. Focus on the mission, eh?"
Aya sighed and nodded, still worried. "Alright."
"And try not to bite Scept's head off anymore, 'kay?" Thomas added on jokingly.
He wanted information? He'd certainly gotten it. Not that it was interpretable at all, though. Something about Cyra? Other partnerships that made the woman uneasy? He had no clue what they were talking about, but if it managed to make her uneasy about an alliance, Scept wished he knew what it was; maybe he could learn something from it and these people would just leave him alone. Did he really want that, though?
Of course he did. Just... once this was all over. They seemed to have forgotten he was right there in the car with them, though, which was just fine with him. Perhaps if he stayed silent enough they might keep going, and he could make sense of it then.
They drove several more minutes in weary silence, until Thomas sighed and spoke. "And to answer your question about why we need her, isn't it rather obvious, Aya? She's got mages. And not just any mages, she's got a boatload of them, all of them ready for combat. Some with hundreds of years combat experience. That sort of firepower might be necessary."
"And the little beast is just going to lend them to us?" Aya questioned, shaking her head.
And that was when Vesper spoke up, "Guys, as much as I love to debate the morality of business partners. Now is not the time, especially when Scept has no bloody idea what's going on, and I sincerely doubt you want to read him in on the whole thing." She glanced around the vehicle for confirmation before looking to Scept. "No offense meant, Scept. But I know it can be frustrating, listening to people talk about something that makes sense only to them."
Last Edit: May 3, 2012 1:27:45 GMT -5 by Steinerman
"Oh no, don't mind me," Scept responded to her sarcastically, "I've got my window to keep me interested, see?" He made a gesture to the large expanse of nothingness that extended as far as the eye could see. Ever since their conversation had begun he'd taken a very keen interest in the landscape outside, doing his best to catalog all the information they let free. The whole thing had quickly passed beyond him, and all he could now was try and keep up as best as possible, hoping it would all fit together later.
Sometimes these people seemed completely clueless, but other times as sharp as could be; it was strange, but mostly it just made his life difficult. Why was he getting so caught up with these people, anyway? Once he had what he wanted he'd just get out of there, and that would be that. They had no idea what he was going after, and they certainly did not know how difficult it would be to keep a grasp on him once he finally had it.
A voice somewhere in the back of his head suggested that maybe it wouldn't be so bad to stick around for a little while after, though, just to see what was going on, of course. However, that was quickly shut down by a more familiar voice that reminded him the point of this all. If he could have named the voices in his head, though, he could have sworn it was the same one that told him to go west all the time. He shrugged the thought off uncomfortably; best to keep with what he knew best.