AWD #467: Messages
Summary: Toby has questions from the Admiral for The Captain. She answer them, anothers besides. It all gets a bit dusty, and someone starts chopping onions.
Date: 01/10/2016
Related Logs: Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers
the-captain Toby 
Enterace tunnel - Command Bunker - Piraeus
See text for @desc
AWD #467

Considering where the orders came from, getting a ride anywhere on the planet to find The Captain isn't exactly difficult. Getting down to the bunker is completely restricted airspace but then again, when the Admiral clears that for the Raptor, there's nothing stopping it. The Raptor touches down outside the tunnel, just slightly off-angle on the entrance. The floodlights come on to provide illumination and the interior can be lit up to reveal the chunks of ceiling that have fallen over time and the sea of something metallic glinting at the other end of the tunnel. Outside, there's grass on the mountainside with a large forest down the slope. Beneath the grass one can tell they are walking on black rocks that don't match the local terrain, though. The air smells of pine and granite, fresh as possible, and carries a crisp note with the cold weather. The sun overhead shines bright as could be.

Toby had been ready to be rather insistent about starting the search for The Captain at the bunker site, but in the end he hadn't needed to press the point. Glad of that he keeps his thoughts to himself as the raptor descends towards the planet, then, once it's landed, he takes a radio that should be able to reach Sheridan and notes to the ECO, "I'll call when I need picking up." It's worth a try right? They might take off and leave him alone for a bit. Without waiting for a response he hops out onto the raptor's wing, then down to the dirt below before orientating himself and heading for the cave.

Worth a try. The Raptor powers down and doesn't seem to be intent on heading anywhere. They might even be filming this. Who knows, though, right? If they are, will it deter al Yamoha? He might appreciate the lights, though. As he walks, he can look down and notice something… the black rock isn't 'rock'. He's worked at mines. He knows what old, broken asphalt looks like. Once he's inside, though, he can make out more detail about the entrance tunnel. At about twenty-five feet high, the elliptically arched construction looks like heavily reinforced concrete. The pavement beneath his feet also reminds him of the kind of quality he's seen on tarmacs at fleet air stations. Load-bearing. Along each wall, and it takes a moment to actually see it because it’s so faded, is a yellow safety line painted at shoulder level that runs the length of the tunnel. There are words painted there, too, some kind of block lettering in a foreign script he's never seen before. Not all of it can be made out, but it looks official.

"Toby." The feeling crept up on him, probably masked partially by the cold. When he looks towards the sound of the voice, he's looking into the darkness down by the blast door laying on the ground. She wasn't there five seconds before. Nor were the two male soldiers standing guard on either side of the entrance. Both of them look solemn and official, as does al Yamoha. "Thank you for bringing your people here." The words are spoken as she slowly begins walking towards him.

Toby keeps on walking, even after the ghosts reveal themselves. It's a touch creepy still yes, but the raptor hasn't left and he wants as much privacy as possible from the crew onboard. "Lilah," he greets with a faintly pleased smile, giving her escort a brief nod of acknowledgement, "I spoke with one that I trust and she came. I'm just sorry I wasn't there myself but I wasn't allowed." He almost leaves it there, but aware of the inference that could be drawn he adds, "for unrelated reasons that is. I'm allowed now though, because the Admiral wants a messenger, and apparently that's to be me."

The Captain meets him as he keeps walking and then moves with him as they walk. They don't have far to do, though. As they get towards the end of the tunnel, it dead-ends at a parking area by the huge blast door that's laying on the ground. It looks like something melted right through the interior locking bolts. The fact that it’s on the ground could have been original battle damage or maybe it was just time. But Toby can also make out what the glinting metal is - shell casings. Thousands of them. Blown down here by the wind over millennia, many of them are rusted and few of them look like they could even be moved without them falling apart. But it’s a testament to just how much violence went on here. "You chose well. Those who came here paid us the ultimate respect. There were many, many of us here watching to see how they would treat our fallen. We looked deep into their hearts and souls. Be proud, my friend." So far the other two soldiers seem to be paying them no mind. "You bring a message or you wish to have one carried back? …Before you go, I also have something for you as well. Something for you to see, if you'll allow me to show you."

"I bring a question," Toby replies as they approach the end of the cave, "from the Admiral himself. He wants to explore this complex, find out what's in the safe?" He phrases it as a question as he's heard there was something about a safe and a code, but he's not entirely sure where that all fits in. "What he doesn't want to do is frak up with regards to your fallen. By which I mean, are there any particular customs we should be aware of, a handy list of do's and don'ts as it were." The shell casings are given a glance, but he resists the urge to bend town and try and retrieve one. "There's talk of designating this what we call a war grave, and I'm sure the Temple priests are already planning services, but that's all very much the fleet's way, not your way, if you get me?" There's a pause for a moment, and he shoes his gloved hands into his pockets, "if I'd been able to find a Pater I'd offer to speak to them for you, as our ways are closer than the Temple's, but as I think I've mentioned before I've not heard word of any that survived." That last sentence is obviously more personal in tone, if most of what he's just said is his paraphrase of the admiral's wishes, that last bit is his own, raw and simple.

Lilah seems to have anticipated something about the safe. "Of course. The contents of the safe are yours in every meaning. That safe was left there and intended for you all to find. Part of our mission with remaining behind is executing the will of our people. Delivering that safe is part of that will. …In some ways, delivering this bunker is the will. But that is still debated." The rest seems to please her, but not in a way that signifies any sort of smugness or victory. Its peaceful. The wind blows at the end of the tunnel and her expression has something new: fondness. "Yes, you are definitely the people we hoped you were." A long sigh, weights lifted from her shoulders. "I think that would be proper - the war grave designation. The only wishes we have are that you leave the bodies in place and do not disturb them more than is necessary. I understand some will want to test them and that's fine, but removing more than is necessary isn't following our wishes." She looks down to the ground, past the rifle, at the shell casings. "If the bodies must be covered, please do-so with a white sheet. If there are wishes to see them all covered, we find no dishonor in that. As for what need be said?" There's a low shake of her head. "We appreciate the sentiment but it would be best if it were left as it were. Our people are at peace and their war is long over. If people must grieve, then they may do so in their own hearts. Nothing needs to be spoken or done."

Toby focuses on her reply to the Admiral's query, making sure he can remember all the salient points in his head before the conversation moves on. War grave, no excessive touching, if moved for tests put back, if covered then white sheets, no formal do. There's a few moments' with of definite concentration on his features as he runs the list round a few times to be certain he's got it, then he nods his understanding. "I suspect," he then starts, "that since those who came here before were unprepared for what they found, that words might be said anyway, to aid them as it were. I'll do what I can to keep it onboard, or at Sheridan if I can't manage that." He's only really spoken to Kelsey about it mind, and he's not sure if she's exactly turning to her gods for comfort, but some of that team might, and of course, some of those to come. "I don't know exactly what the plans are for the investigation," he adds, as he glances back towards the ad-hoc sealing of the entrance, "but I take it as a good sign that the Admiral is at least asking about all this. I'll pass on your reply though, and do what I can to ensure it's understood."

"We saw the pain in their hearts. We cried with them when they found the command floor. If they return we will speak to each of them individually, in our own way. But if they really must in order to find peace, that is allowed. Our goal is mutual respect, not enforcement of our viewpoints." Lilah speaks in the same cadence Knox does, voice still quiet. If the Raptor is recording it would probably be impossible to hear. "Everything else in the bunker is open for removal and testing, save one area. We no longer have use for it. Much of it is too fragile to be of use, anyway. You'll find that there are many things kept. This bunker is an arc to a civilization long perished. But there are barracks in the bunker. Many. Photos, letters, everything you would find in your own. Look at, touch, explore, read, but these items may not be removed. Some souls find peace there, still, because it is in many ways one of the few places left that describes who we were. I trust the weight of that is understood."

Toby gives a slow, solemn nod in reply to the limitations placed on the barracks area. "I understand," he starts simply, "I have but a few tatters of my own culture left, and most of those are in my bunk as well. I give you my word that I will do everything in my power to ensure your wishes are adhered to." He means it too, hell, he'd probably volunteer to guard it were it needed, but this once he seems willing to give the colonials the benefit of the doubt.

Lilah nods and finally looks back to Toby. "I know you will. I wish I had some way to provide you with an idea of just how much my people respect you, personally, for what you have done for us and who you are. You are someone we admire and I believe that when your time comes, Toby, you will be pleased with what awaits. Stalwart hearts and faith have no need of fear for what comes next." The woman holds that kind, fond expression again. But she then removes a glove, "You seek closure in a matter. I told you that eventually I would provide it to you. Sometimes you may have felt strung along and I am to blame. But you have proven yourself a knight and it is time I uphold my word." Her hand extends just in front of her, palm up. "I will show you what you seek."

Toby lets his eyes drop to the hand as it's offered, although he doesn't immediately move either of his. Slowly though, his eyes rise to meet her's and he considers his words carefully. "You mean Shepard." It's not phrased as a question, just a simple statement. "If I'm wide of the mark here, forgive me, but I only really know what you showed Callaghn, so I should probably say straight off that I don't want to experience someone else's death. Show me up to then, tell me what happened, show me your perspective, but I haven't been able to shake the feeling that that moment is deeply personal and I don't think I could take that from someone, even him." As he speaks his hands do move, slowly, although then he finds himself of need of a further comment, "does it need to be skin to skin?" This one a quiet, technical query, "it could be seen as a disrespect to my dead who are not yet avenged. The gloves I mean, they shouldn't come off, I shouldn't.. touch. I could, I guess roll my sleeve up or something though.." He ends awkwardly, not entirely sure what to say or how to say it.

Lilah seems to understand the intent. "I will show you what I saw and felt, right up until the moment. I'm beginning to remember what it was like to be human so its adjusting my own expectations and behavior that has been difficult. Apologies if I have offended anyone." She does nod to skin to skin, though. "An arm is fine. I'll not have you remove your gloves. When you are ready, nod." She moves her hand to hover.

When he does, there's that feeling again. One moment he's in the bunker tunnel and the next he isn't. He can feel the sun on his face and he's acutely aware of the gear he's wearing. The feeling of the gloved hands on the rifle. He can suddenly feel the sheer power of her body and soul. The unbridled confidence in the righteousness of what she's doing. And the anger. God, the anger. She's running up a long ridgeline, moving through dense bush. There's the feeling of her teammates with her. A glance to the side and he can make out others moving with her. They're giving chase. Hunting. The sound of their boots crashing on dry leaves is unmistakeable. After a minute, they break into a small clearing and there's a slight edge to the ridge, a vertical of about four of five feet that falls away ahead of them. And there's Shepard, standing there and looking terrified. He's out of breath, sweating, and thin. He looks like he hasn't eaten much and the look in his eyes is wild. His eyes move rapidly around. The Captain is no more than ten feet from him and he can't see her or anyone else. "SHOW YOURSELVES!" he screams at the sound of the approaching footsteps.
The grip on the rifle tightens in her hands. Fingers stretch and rewrap. Then there's another feeling, as if she were stepping through something paper thin, but still dense somehow. Zach suddenly looks right at her and backs up. The wild eye goes to one of terror and shock. "Lieutenant Colonel Sheperd," Lilah says with contempt. "We have looked into your soul and seen your truth. Judgment has been rendered on your crimes. On the charges of dereliction of duty that lead to manslaughter, we judge you guilty on all of them."
al Yamoha has her group with her. A dozen soldiers. They're in a rough semicircle. But then more fade in. More and more. But they aren't soldiers. These are uniforms Toby recognizes. These are Colonial Navy and Marines all staring at Sheperd. Hundreds. Thousands down the hill. He even spots civilians in the mix, Taurans. Minos. Zach's face goes completely pale and his eyes wide. There is no deeper horror to be found. "Sheperd, their testimony has been heard and your heart has been weighed in response." She releases the rifle from her right hand and reaches to her thigh and draws a pistol. The action is smooth and the nylon whispers with the friction. Three steps taken towards Zach and he starts to scream, likely a protest. al Yamoha has no remorse. The gun comes up right to his forehead and the gun taps skin just as the sere breaks on the trigger. Click. There's the initial energy of the bullet firing..
Then nothing. It goes black. Seconds pass and he finds himself back in the cold tunnel, looking at The Captain, her hand dropping away. "Search your memory, you know the location of his body." About 23 miles from where the Raptor was found. Toby knows exactly where it is.

It's fair to say that as he snaps back into the tunnel, the weight of what he's just seen, experienced, staggers Toby. He instinctively grips her arm with his hand for balance, but keeps that grip for a few moments longer than would be strictly necessary for just that purpose alone. More on autopilot than anything else he does search his memory for the location but his mind is focusing on something other than Shepard himself. Once she drops her arm he keeps himself upright for a few moments, then the weight of all those ghostly faces forces him slowly down to his knees. It takes a while, a long while, but eventually he manages a basic vocalisation, a simply, "those people. All of them. Have they found rest?"

Lilah keeps her eyes on Toby, not objecting to being gripped like that. He can feel her strength in the grip, only moments before in that body and he recognizes the feeling. When he goes to his knees, she takes on beside him and rests a hand on his shoulder. Solidarity. Comfort. "Some of them. Most. Others are still working at it. It can take time. It helps to have family there. It also helps for them to be able to watch and cheer for you all. There is an immense pride for what you are doing with your survival. You are not just living, you are fighting back. The eyes of many are upon you, but even more stand behind you."

"And the others," Toby asks, still quite obviously struggling to process what he's seen and felt, let alone vocalise coherent thoughts, "those lost in the initial attacks.." Tauron. All of it. He's not even thinking of what the raptor crew must be making of all of this, their presence has been entirely pushed from his mind as his brain keeps trying to churn things over. Make sense of them. He's allowed his eyes to drop a little, but then snap back up to her's once more as a thought erupts into his consciousness. "I.. " he starts, a touch uncertainly, "I probably shouldn't ask this, but what about others, from before the attacks, can you find them too? Do they watch? Or just those directly linked?"

Lilah watches Toby while he struggles with it. It's clear that she is remembering more and more what it was like to be alive and human. Or whatever she is. Or was. There's tenderness on her face. "You're right, you shouldn't ask. Anything I say could be gospel and I've no desire to destroy faith in one religion or any. Faith is important. Just know that you're not alone out there, Toby. None of you are. Not here, on the ships, or your colonies."

Toby nods slowly, he's letting his mind slowly declutch so it doesn't burn out trying to comprehend it all at once, but that then has the side effect of giving his emotions the room to barge in and crash the party. "I won't then," he manages, although he's already clenching his jaw really quite firmly in an effort to keep himself together long enough to speak, "but if I could beg one favour, if it's not too much to ask…" His eyes start to drop again as if he's going to cry then he instinctively doesn't want anyone to see it, silly as that is. "My cousin," he finally manages to get out, "he died when I was young." There's a whole lot more that could be said about that, about the rebellion, about fighting against those he now fights alongside, but those words just aren't coming. Not now at least.

al Yamoha nods slowly. "I can do favors. That much I can." But when she hears the question and the pain behind it, her smile gives a little more sympathy. It’s easier to see her as being someone's mother. Somewhere. Somehow. "The hearts that burn with that kind of fire do so brightly, but not long. There is a greater truth. You cousin supports you with fierce pride, Toby. You, and the things you must do." Speaking in present tense. "There is only so much I can say, though. I hope that helps."

There are no more words left in Toby, not for a good while, as he leans a little forward and fianlly just lets himself feel. There are tears, one might even say a flood of them, and he’s no longer trying to stop them, or hide them from others. When they do eventually start to slow though he lifts his head just a faction and asks, shakily, "do you mind, telling them," he tilts his head a fraction towards the raptor, "that I'll be out in a bit."

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