LEAP: An Unlikely Reunion
An Unlikely Reunion
Summary: Elias Gray seeks out Toby Shackleton to discuss the age oold questions of religion and faith. Interesting offers are made.
Date: 06/04/17
Related Logs: None
Toby Elias 
Miner's Bar - Minos
Low end bar, terrible beer, a bit fingy, people mind their own business, cheap.
July 2016

There are several bars close to the workings of the Churchill mine (many of the workings are named after places on Tauran, and many survivors have found themselves gravitating towards their 'home' mine), but Toby generally finds himself frequenting the lower end ones. The lighting is dimmed but not so much as it makes it difficult to see, the beer is pretty terrible but it's cheap, and no one is bothered overly much with the idea of pumping music or tv screens so it's quiet enough to hold conversations. Not that there's many at the moment though, the mood is still subdued following a cave-in a few weeks ago that claimed three miner's lives. The initial report is due out tomorrow, and having been part of both the rescue and investigatory team Toby has found himself a dark corner and a bottle of something not to offensive with which to finally take some time to himself.

A man shows up on the far side of the table from Toby — not a native or ex-Tauron by the looks of him, though his somewhat scruffy appearance fits well enough in this establishment. Elias Gray is now in his forties, bearded, wearing a blue hoodie, denim trousers, and hiking boots, with a full Fleet-surplus rucksack slung over one shoulder. And he's looking directly at Toby with clear recognition. "Shackleton," he says slowly, his expression turning wary as he waits to see how the other man responds.

Toby is pushing fifty now, although he's not quite there yet. He too now sports a beard that while it can't be truthfully described as neat, is at least short. He clearly recognises Elias as soon as he glances up, and while there's a brief flurry of emotions across his features he gets them under control very quickly, offering a similarly wary visage back. He doesn't invite him to sit, but nor does he hook his boots round the chair legs so thy can't be pulled out if the major has the mind. Setting his glass down he considers for a moment, then replies with an almost emotionless, "major." His voice is more heavily accented than before, what with having spoken tauran almost exclusively for years now, "you look like shit."

"Mmm," is all Elias has to say for his appearance, verbally brushing that aside. As for the rest? No punches have been thrown yet, so he'll take it as a good sign. "Just Elias will do," he suggests. "Mind if I sit down? There's something I'd like to ask you about." Despite the way he brushed off Toby's comment, there does seem to be something urgent in the man's manner. He's not just here to have a beer and reminisce.

"Sit," Toby starts bluntly, "don't sit. Stay, go. I don't rightly care which way if I'm honest." Which apparently he is. In fact, he shows how much he doesn’t care by taking up his glass again, uncorking the bottle of rotgut, and pouring himself another measure. Cradling the glass in one hand he looks back to Elias silently for a few moments, waiting to see what he's going to do, although something does stop him from just staring in silence. "You want to talk to me about something? Got to be pretty important to you to bring you to a place like this, but answer me this one thing first." He doesn't stand, but he does lean forward, resting both forearms on the edge of the table so he's close to the former major. "Did you know? Did you know that when you booted me off the ship they'd ban me from Piraeus?" There's both anger and sadness creeping into his tone, so he covers them by knocking back the drink he poured, "did you know I'd never be able to go back to the place I was just starting to call home?"

Unphased by the bluntness, Elias sets down his ruck and is already sitting by the time Toby is pouring another drink. Likely he was not expecting a warm invitation. "It is important," he confirms with a serious look, then tilts his head to hear Toby's condition. And that brings a quick grimace to the ex-TACCO's face. "No," he says. "I spent most of the war trying to deal with what was happening in the moment, Shackleton. Jameson told me to deal with your case. I thought getting you out of there without a Court Martial would be best. Piraeus wasn't even under discussion at the time." It's all very matter of fact and unapologetic, but the slow and deliberate way he delivers the explanation sounds very much like the old Major Gray.

Toby doesn't reply immediately, just stares at the man across from him as he weighs the reply given in his head. Eventually though he leans back slowly, not taking his eyes off Elias, but putting a bit more room between them before he pours himself another drink. "What is it that you want then?" he asks as he leans his back against the wall behind him, "what is it that's brought you down here?" He's mildly curious, but is preferring to put out the front of being disinterested to hide the conflicting feelings this encounter has thrust upon him without warning. "What could possibly be so important that you need me?" Then, as a bitter joke he asks, "not thinking of converting I take it?"

Elias spends the time digging out a rumple pack of smokes and tapping out a cigarette. He produces a silver lighter and flicks it, puffing the cigarette to life. He's steeling himself to answer, taking a long drag on his smoke, when Toby mentions conversion. And this causes the man to snort out smoke in a silent chuckle. "That's not far off," he says once recovered. "I want to ask you about the ghosts. You've probably spent more time with them than anyone I know of." About to put the pack away, he hesitates a second before holding he cigarettes out to Toby. "Smoke?"

Toby gives Elias a faint shake of his head at the offer of a cigarette, smoking being one vice he never took up. "You heard the bit where I said I was banned from Piraeus right?" he asks, although his tone and expression are opening up a little now that the topic has been revealed. "I haven't seen Captain al Yamoha or any of her people since before we liberated Leonis and that's, what eleven? No, twelve years now I think." Not that he's bitter about that at all, oh not, not in the slightest (he's very bitter about it.) The drink is sipped this time, rather than downed before he asks, "why not ask someone on P? Have they hidden themselves away again? Has whatever little uniformed bureaucrat the fleet has put as gatekeeper managed to only approve people they don't like?" Not bitter at all. "Ask what you want, I'll give you what answers I can, but I'd be amazed if there's not someone better qualified to do so now."

Obvious bitterness doesn't escape Elias' notice, and his mouth tightens as he listens to Toby. "There's not much contact with the ghosts since the war, or so I'm told. The planet belongs to the Lines now. The only Colonials are at Sheridan. No one is trying to research anything, as far as I can tell." He puffs on his smoke, then gives a slight tip of his head. "I hope to go there myself at some point, but … I'm not ready. Not yet." Elias exhales slowly, and rather than asking his own questions, tries a different tack. "I can't clear your service record, even if I wanted to, Shackleton. But I might be able to get you smuggled onto the planet. You'd have to keep a low profile, obviously. Is that what you want?"

Toby looks genuinely sad at the news of diminished contact with the Ghosts, it clearly doesn't match up with the happy little image of paradise he's clinging onto in his head. "Not ready?" he asks, not entirely following that bit, but any further questions he might have are lost in the surprise of what comes next. It's clearly not what he was expecting, and he doesn't even try to hide that as he glances round to see if anyone else heard what was just offered. Fortunately, this is not the kind of bar where the patrons pay much attention to anyone else. He leans in though, and replies quietly, earnestly, "I'd say I'd give my right arm for the chance, but in truth, you could have pretty much any body part you wanted and I'd still reckon to have the better end of the deal." Figuratively speaking.

There's a solemn nod from Elias, acknowledging his own unreadiness. "There are too many questions I can't even begin to answer." And he seems largely unphased by Toby's surprise and enthusiasm for the offer, let alone by the idea of doing something as illegal as smuggling someone onto Piraues. He doesn't even seem to care if someone overhears. "I'll ask around. The Lines may be willing to take you. But no promises." Another drag on his cigarette, and Elias tries to shift back to the original topic. "As for my questions — you once told me the ghosts were talking to our dead. That's what I wanted to ask you about."

Toby is somewhat reluctant to leave that conversational thread, having just had hope so abruptly rekindled. "Just let me know what I need to do," he replies firmly, then, after filling his own glass again, he pushes the bottle towards Elias. With the topic well and truly changed he leans back once more, resting against the wall as he nods slowly. "When the Admiral sent me to ask about the protocols for the bunker I had a long chat with Lilah once, business, was concluded." He's sure that the TACCO remembers the mission, so doesn't dwell on the background. "She offered to show me Shepard's death so I saw, as if I was her. Saw, and felt, as she saw and felt. They’d tracked him down, her and her troops, they showed themselves to him, about a dozen of them, but then others started appearing to, on the ridge with the Piraeans. Names I can't give you, but their uniforms were fleet, CMC. Ship patches matching those he abandoned to die. It started out as a few at first, but then more and more, hundreds easily. Thousands. Civilians too by the end, Taurans, most likely Minoans. Then she killed him." He takes a drink at that, it's a powerful memory even after a decade and more has past. "I wasn't sure who's perspective I'd see it from when she offered," he notes, "and some people had spoken of experiencing someone else's death, so I asked her to stop there, at that point, in case it was through his eyes. He's actions had terrible consequences, but it didn't seem right to intrude on that moment." He lets that hang for a moment then adds, "I never saw them talk, but they were there, they watched, they knew what was happening."

"Mmmm," Elias says, unable to tell Toby anything other than 'he'll try' at this point. But he seems genuine about that much at least. Then he settles back to listen, shaking his head slightly to decline the offered liquor. The scruffy ex-Major is quite intent on Toby's tale, absorbing every word. But the moment Toby finishes, Elias launches in with more questions. "Was there anyone you recognized? Any insignia or patches? Did you ask the Captain about them?"

Toby doesn't immediately reach for the bottle again, he's still got some in his glass. "Major," he replies almost apologetically, "I'd never left Tauron before the canners attacked, not even a shuttle up here. Only people I recognised were Shepard, Lilah, a few of her team. Now, give me photos of crew and I might be able to recognises some that were stood close, but I'd never known, or met any of them before." He does pull a notepad out of his pocket and put down a small list though, before pulling the page out and passing at across. "Those are the ship patches I remember, or think I remember anyway. I did salvage work for a bit just after the war, it's possible names might have got confused. When you do go to P though, ask, she might show you too." Draining his glass he then sets it down and shakes his head. "I had other questions for her at the time, if the dead had been able to rest after that. Some did, some were taking longer, but they were starting to be at peace. I didn't ask beyond that."

"I see." There is perhaps a little disappointment for the lack of nameable dead in the vision Toby was shown, but Elias doesn't seem much put off by it. "Mmm." He's quick to take the paper when it's passed over, though he barely glances at what is written there before going on. "Did the Captain say anything about why? Why they decided to execute Shepard themselves? Why she showed you the vision of it?" The final one being the most personal. "Did it help you make peace with it?"

"She showed me," Toby starts, picking the one he has an easy answer for first, "because she knew I'd been hunting for him, Still was at that point, because before then they'd merely hinted that he was dead, implied it. She offered me closure on that point. Did it help me make peace with things? I don't know, it stopped me from wasting time looking for him, and it showed me that seeking to avenge the dead wasn't an endless task, that they were starting to find their rest. So I guess it didn't help me forgive Shepard, but it did mean that I could see that what we were doing was aiding the dead, that they would not be stuck in limbo for eternity." He doesn't explain the tauran belief behind that sentiment, figuring it's well enough known that he doesn't have to. "As to why? Not to me directly, to him she said that they had seen into his soul and that he had be judged. That their testimonies had been heard. Not specific again, but I saw no reason to think she was meaning anyone other than those ghosts."

Elias ashes his cigarette onto the floor, then takes another drag as he listens. "Did you tell her that's what you were doing? Avenging the dead?" he wonders. Then there's a small, dry smile for the notion of judgement. "Hopefully the jury is still out on the rest of us. She didn't /say/ anything about judging others, I take it?"

Toby has to think back for to answer that, it's been so long that he wants to make sure he has things in the right order. "She mentioned him at our first meeting, when we found the raptor and then the ruins, said she'd looked into his heart and feared we were all the same, but then she'd looked into ours and realised we weren't. We'd be talking about finding him before they showed themselves though so how much they overheard I don't know." Before moving on to encounter two he takes a sip of drink, then continues, "I think, best as I can recall anyway, that the second time I flat out said why I wanted to find him so badly. Didn't get much of a chance to talk then though, was with one of the marine brass and one of your underlings, it wasn't til I could speak with her a lone a while later that we discussed the finer details and got to just talking about things. If you're worried about them solidifying out of the gloom and capping us though I don't think you have much to be concerned about. They could have I mean, at any time, but didn't. She spoke a lot about it not mattering so much what you believed in specifically, but it being more about having faith in something, sounds cliché, but there was a lot about basically not being a spineless, treacherous, oxygen thief. But no, nothing about judging the rest of us beyond that it had been done and that she seemed to like us."

"I'm willing to accept that they can read our thoughts and memories," Elias concedes when Toby describes the bit about 'looking into their hearts.' And there's a quick nod for the 'ghosts' ability to become all too real and deadly, though the man does not look terribly concerned. He takes a relaxed drag on his smoke and eases it out. "That was a joke." But then he focuses in on the last bit as the topic turns to belief. Here Elias spends a few seconds in serious consideration before he ventures a response. "I see. Did you discuss faith with the Captain in detail? I'd like to hear anything you can remember about that, if so."

“A joke?" Toby replies, screwing his face up a little, "who the frak are you and what the frak have you done with Major Gray?" That, of course, is a joke too. "Faith? It's pretty much the main thing we spoke about all told." He has to make his own considerations for a few moments as he sips his drink, then starts with a disclaimer. "There's details I can't tell you, not without you actually converting and being accepted by a Pater." Mystery Cults, what can you do? "But I can speak easily enough in generalities. To them the Lords and Ladies mean nothing, although given what was revealed regarding the timelines that’s not going to surprise you I imagine. Kobol was after our paths diverged, so the new religion was introduced to them by us. Their faith though, is much closer to mine then the temple's. Much, much closer. There's the physical symbology," he points to the Sol Invictus tattoo on his arm, "and that Arpay doctor who was onboard knew those words too, from the Efriki themselves. From what Lilah said they have one central God figure in their faith, who stands for concepts to aspire to, strength, endurance, community, integrity. They have tales though, of people who manifest these concepts, who remain unnamed, generic humans, and their theologians would argue if this was because they were a manifestation of their god, or an exemplar of people who stood up and did what was needed. One of those that she had no name for though, the one she identified with most, was Mithras. She knew him as ‘the bull’, but beyond that simple link the stories we shared were practically identical, and I have no doubt that the only thing separating her beliefs and mine is three thousand years and three raptor jumps.”

"My sense of humor was an early casualty of the war," Elias says, matter of fact. He nods to accept the conditions of what Toby can and will say about this own faith, then settles back to listen to the man's story. Another nod for the temporal disconnect between the Piraeans and the Colonial faith. "So … you feel that your faith is the same as theirs? Or that it's based on a part of theirs? Interesting. Did you discuss the events of the war with the Captain? Or anyone else you're aware of? I've been wondering why we hand four of their soldiers joining us, just before Twin Rocks."

"Our faiths stem from the same root, there is no doubt in my mind about that. I don't know in detail how they worshiped, beyond that they didn't celebrate feast days and such, but were more guided in their actions by their beliefs." There's the bare facts, and Toby leaves the barest of breaks to indicate he's now moving onto his personal interpretations. "The way I see it, their Bull, is a manifestation of Mithras, and while I won't go into too much detail there, I don't think I'm spoiling any secrets to note that that’s important iconography to us. She said that particular one was strength, while also tallies. As such, we worship the same God and value the same.." he struggles for the word for a moment ".. characteristics. Now, I'm not a Pater, and there are elements unknown to me, but as I'm sure you can imagine, I've had some long discussions with several these past years, but while our observances may have diverged over the millennia, the fundamental core is largely unchanged." When it gets to the final questions he can only shake his head slowly, "not in any great detail no. I think they recognised us for the long-lost cousins if you like that we are, and with their fight over wished better for us. How much they saw in us, how much they got from the Lines, I can't say." There's clearly something else he might say, but it takes another full glass of rotgut before he actually puts it into words. "Tell me one thing, one more thing, and answer me honestly, I'm not going to judge. Have you ever, since they revealed themselves, had that odd feeling that you're not alone, that someone else is there, even when there isn't anyone? Not in the creepy kind of way, more the feeling that there's someone there watching over you, as a comfort? Some of the wing were muttering about it after the battle in the nebula, and I kinda had a similar thing. I've felt it since though, on occasion when ebbs have been at their lowest. My best guess? It's them, or possibly some of our own dead, passing on that strength when we need it most. I reckon you got those troops because you needed them, or maybe they needed to see, I don't know, I can only speculate, but that would be my guess."

Elias listens closely, making an "Mmm" periodically to show he's following Toby. "It's entirely possible," he allows that the two faiths are the same, or at least have the same root. "Something happened to our people on Kobol. I doubt we'll ever know exactly what, but all indications are that it was … not a positive development. This is simply a guess, but your faith — their original faith — may have been forced to go underground at that point." He looks less than convinced about why the ghost soldiers were along with them, but the ex-Major doesn't dwell on that topic once Toby broaches his big question. This causes Elias to lift his cigarette and take a few puffs before he even tries to answer that. "No. But then I've been a skeptic most of my life. If I believed in anything back then, it was myself." He lets his cigarette butt fall to the floor and crushes it underfoot, then looks up again. "Now I believe there is … something. Something that can violate the laws of physics and probability." And he does not sound troubled by this admission at all. "Whether it's a divine being or not … I don't know."

"I wondered sometimes," Toby states almost casually, "just where the Lords and Ladies fit in, how they became so engrained into our culture. Was it something local to Kobol itself? Was there contact of some sort with some advanced forces who seemed god-like, or perhaps there was some form of local civilisation, and those were their gods which were then adopted for whatever reason." He shrugs faintly, having gone beyond the limit of anything he has any proof for and into complete conjecture. "I suspect that unless we ever find Kobol we'll never know, and even if we do then there's no guarantee it'll be any clearer. Maybe if One hadn't burnt that library…" You had one job Libran, one job. As Elias confesses to never having felt that connection though he offers an almost sad smile, "my advice then, go talk to Lilah. Stop worrying about if you're ready, and just go, talk. She isn't always entirely clear in her answers, you'll have to do a lot of thinking for yourself, probably a fair bit of soul searching, and it won't just be one conversation, but go. Tell her I sent you if you want, tell her.. tell her I'll be there when I can. And, should you ever find yourself wanting to know more of it from our side, well, there's people I can introduce you to."

"Kobol's people were Efriki," Elias speculates, "so it's likely they had the same technology as the Piraens. That life and death were solvable problems for them. That itself is 'godlike' enough for me. If that sort of power were in the wrong hands … it's not hard to imagine things going very, very wrong." The other man's apparent sympathy causes Elias' mouth to tighten briefly, but he says nothing. And then he gives a small shake of his head. He doesn't brush off Toby's suggestion that he just go to see al Yamoha, there is still a definite reluctance. "I need to understand the questions before I can understand the answers. And I'm not even certain it's the right place to look. Not yet." Then he gives Toby a level look. "You're content? With your faith that is — no doubts?"

"Fair point," Toby replies with a slow nod, it's not an angle he'd considered until now, but on first review it makes sense. "Do you think the Lords and Ladies were Efriki who retained that power somehow, while the rest of us lost it somehow?" That's something he adds to his mental list to talk to Lilah about. "You could always ask her, when you go, if the names mean anything to her. It's a long shot, but stranger things have happened in our lifetimes. When and how we lost those abilities is another thing I'd be interested in finding out, I can't imagine that some work hasn't been done in that field somewhere, just imagine what the military could do with incorporeal soldiers, or with the ability to gain intel from the dead. I meant what I said about just going though. Don't get your head up your arse about it having to be perfect, just go with what you've got and see where it leads, you can always think about her answers, refine your questions and go back, she's really quite patient with that sort of thing." The final remarks get a nod though, a firm, of steady one. "There's not much I'm content about, you might have noticed that about me in the past, but yes, I have np doubts in my faith, and what I've learnt on Piraeus has only strengthened it."

"It's an explanation that seems to fit what little we know," Elias agrees. "That some quorom of Twelve on Kobol held onto that power, and eventually our ancestors fled to the Colonies." He pauses, as if suddenly reminded of something, and purses his lips. "At one time I suspected the Lords and Ladies might have been the Lines. That that's where One had originally tried to lord it over us. But the Tens didn't think that fit the data on Libran. It may have been that whatever they got up to on Kobol, that was what pushed One over the edge." He's clearly thinking aloud here, throwing out ideas as they come, and can only give a small shake of his head at the unknowable conclusion. As for the military aspects of that technology, that definitely troubles him. "Honestly, I can't see how it wouldn't be misused. Eventually. Which is why I wanted nothing to do with Piraeus. And I did what I could to steer the Admiral away from any ideas like that. Not that he was so inclined, but if things became desperate enough …" All bets may have been off. There's a non-commital "Mmm" for the repeated advice to just go to the ghosts for answers. He continues on to ask after Toby's conviction. "And what if the universe turns out to be … different than what you thought it was?"

"Forgive me if I say I'm not convinced that while some in the Fleet, or Colonial Government, would think as you did, there aren't others without your understanding of just how terribly it could backfire." Not that Toby is meaning to sound paranoid, but he can't see it not being misused either. He leaves that topic there though, given he can think of nothing more to add. "You mean, what if we find out there's ever bigger badder robots out there, or a race of pointy eared aliens who just want to help, or humans who are dead but can talk to us, touch us? There's always questions, there's always something else to know, or to find out about. I never did get to ask one of the Arpay about their own faith for example, we just managed a brief conversation about the Efriki's once she recognised the tattoo. You've just got to roll with it, accept somethings or keep looking for answers. One Pater once told me that if you're going to be worried every time the universe doesn't make sense you'll be worried every moment of every day for the rest of your natural life. And she was right. Question, seek things out, think and come to your own conclusions, but don't worry over things as big as the universe itself, you'll give yourself an ulcer, and be no closer to an understanding."

"That … is the Lines problem now." Elias is fine washing his hands of the whole thing. "And I have a feeling the ghosts wouldn't talk to anyone with … those sorts of intention." One can hope. As for the big questions … well, that's not so easily let go. "Something like that," he says for the litany of strange things they discovered during the last war. "But … not exactly." And Toby's advice to give up on an 'ultimate truth' only earns the man a wan sort of smile. Elias exhales slowly and looks around the bar, almost as if he just realized where they were. He checks his wrist watch, then he turns back to Toby and shakes his head. "Live a simple life? I tried. It … wasn't for me. But I appreciate the advice." He reaches down to snag his rucksack and starts to rise. Apparently he's on his way. "Good luck, Shackleton. I need to get going. Ship's leaving soon."

"Never said it had to be simple," Toby replies as he watches Elias stand, "just don't worry yourself to death over it. I meant what I said though, go talk to Lilah. That's genuinely the best advice I can give you, and I'm a Mithrean, so you know I'm not lying." Downing the remains of his drink as it's apparent the conversation is over he jokes, "what? You're not staying for another?" Then, more seriously, "you know where to find me," he though isn't so keen on talking people smuggling openly so leaves it there, with just a "good luck finding your answers Major," on the end.

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