Plans

The adventures and misadventures of Jay Capistrano.

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Samiyah Zayn
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Plans

Post by Samiyah Zayn » Sun Dec 30, 2018 8:41 am

November 21, 2018

Somewhere in the cramped, worn townhome a clock ticked. It actually ticked. Who had clocks that ticked anymore? It was the middle of a Wednesday afternoon and she was sitting on the peeling linoleum in her kitchen listening to a clock tick.

“I can’t be a mother. I’ve never had a mother. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

The words were out of her mouth before she realized she was speaking. Still the fucking clock ticked. She realized she’d been speaking the words to the little black and white ultrasound photograph sitting before her on the linoleum next to a scuff mark that she was certain came from those boots of hers that Jay warned her were scuffing up the floor.

She was still the girl that wore boots in the house that scuffed up the floor. That girl couldn’t be a mother. That girl couldn’t be responsible for something so small and so delicate that it had to have an arrow and the word ‘baby’ pointing to it in a photograph.

“Seriously, you’re going to have to pick up some life skills really fast because I just don’t know if I can do this mom thing. Are we clear?”

***

Sami was twelve, sitting on a bunk in Stick’s dojo. Her world was ending, her world was beginning.

"Did... did you buy me?"

Stick sat back on the floor, pushing away to lean against the next bunk over and create space. "I suppose that depends on who you ask. That scumbag fatass who I gave the even bigger scumbag wizard's money to would say yes, I did buy you. I say I only bought safe passage out of there for both of us. You're not a slave. You can leave whenever you'd like, if you want to."

The accurate, venomous description of Leon -- the man who had for all intents and purposes "owned" Sami -- became Sam's first real proof she sat with a kindred spirit. She smiled, a small one, but it came easily to her lips. "This is a school? You are its teacher? And where do I fit in?"

"You're pretty smart." The smile was returned. "No wonder you survived in a place like that for any amount of time at all. Yes, this is a school. I teach Shishi Mesu Do. You fit in wherever you'd like to fit in."

A decision placed in her hands? It was a strange feeling. She pushed it aside for the moment. "I like the beds."

"I'm glad. If you decide to stay as a student, you'll learn to appreciate them a lot more. If you stay. You don't have to. You have free will to do as you wish. But you are welcome to stay."

"I have no money."

"Have I asked for any?"

"If you don't ask for money from your students how do you pay for all of this?"

"I don't know. I don't have any students yet." Stick chuckled, watching the girl, wondering if that would come as a surprise. "You'd be the first. But I own the building, and I have ways of making enough money to eat and keep us warm, so there shouldn't be any problems."

Sami cautiously waded forward. There had to be a catch. "So... I'm free to leave here whenever I want, I have a bed, you're going to teach me to fight, I get food and all of this is completely free?"

"In terms of money, yes." There was the catch.

The reply caused her to shrink into her suspicions, carefully wording her next question. "In what terms will it not be free?"

"While you're recovering, you owe me nothing. I purchased your freedom, and I feel a responsibility towards nursing you back to health."

"And after that?"

Time for the full truth. "After you're well, you have to decide whether to stay as a student or leave. If you stay, you are going to &*@#$&@ *work*, make no mistake. I won't mistreat you, although it may feel like it physically at times. You will be a martial arts student under a very hard teacher. You are going to learn to do things very few women are capable of, and you won't have to pay a dime, but you'll earn it through sweat and blood, the same way I did. I may send you on errands that help make money for the dojo, but I will not force you to fight or do anything truly dangerous. And if you get tired of it, you can always leave. You are a free person now, don't ever forget that, but with that freedom comes the responsibility of learning how to care for yourself. Are we clear?"


***

“I don’t know if Jay will stay.”

Her stomach twisted with dread as soon as the words were out there. She stared down at the black and white image of her insides and the foreigner living within them. Part of her, part of him with a beating heart pumping away.

She breathed in and let the thought fester for a moment. “It’s not you. It’s me. I’m not Candy. I never will be. Thank fucking God, by the way. She’s nuts. I’m not just saying that because I’m jealous. I’m saying it because she’s fucking nuts. Or was. She’s probably dead.”

Her back pressed against the wall, straightening her spine from the lean forward that was causing her shoulder to ache. A weighty exhale was released from between pursed lips. “Nobody chooses me. I’m a hanger-on. One of those people you can’t get rid of.”

***

"Talk to me, Samiyah."

The anger was irrepressible. Sami was thirteen. They weren't in the dojo this time. Instead, she stood holding Stick’s hand in a hospital room unable to focus on anything -- not her pain, not Stick’s pain, not this feeling of helplessness, not this feeling of hopelessness. "What, you call me by my real name now? Practicing for when the baby's growing up and you want to yell?"

"What?"

"That's what parents do, right? So they know you're serious?"

"Some, I guess."

"I'm Sami, okay? I'm not your... whatever."

"My what?"

"Whatever."

"Say it."

"...I'm not your fucking practice daughter."

"My what? My practice.. oh god, Sami..."

"It doesn't matter. You're getting your miracle, right? It's a good day."

"Why would you think I see you as... practice?"

"I am, right?"

"No!"

"You got me out of that place because you wanted a kid. You took care of me because you wanted to be a mother. And that was okay, right? Because I wanted a mother too, and you could teach me how to fight, which was even better, but now he's coming. Him, the Wonder Baby, and you don't care anymore. I'm still here, but I'm just kind of your student now. You have him."


***

“You know what Koy would say?” The question was asked of the little photograph again. It was just a shadow swimming in a little black hole. When no answer came, she continued. “Koy would tell me to stop letting the voices in my head drown out the voices that surround me. Koy chose me. Matt chose me. Harris chose me in his own way. And…”

Her voice broke and a shaky exhale was released. Her left hand, cool from resting against the linoleum, reached up brushing away tears from her cheeks. “Stick chose me. Stick chose to be my mom.”

***

Stick’s voice broke the silence again. The memory of that hospital room in the maternity ward came flooding back. "I'm still not very good at the close emotional stuff. Plus, being pregnant really messes with you, so I didn't want to go say anything and have it feel all weird. I didn't know how'd you react. Hell, I wasn't really sure if I understood it myself, what it meant to be a mother. But I'm here now, I'm going to have this baby, and I know how it feels. I know how I feel."

"What are you talking about?"

"I love you, Sami. Like a mother loves her daughter. It's been rough these past few months, and everything's going to be different now, but you are as important to me as this child. He's special, yes, because of what had to happen for him to come into this world, but that doesn't mean he's better than you or more worthy. Maybe I'll pay more attention to him than you sometimes, but don't ever think I'm favoring him. You just don't need someone to clean up after you because you piss yourself."


***

Her gaze shifted from the photograph to her midsection. Her left hand fell to rest over the spot that the little nugget of him and her was situated, safe and snug. She sniffled and gave a nod. “I choose you.”

“I love you. I choose you and I will keep on choosing you.”



((The bits and pieces of Stick are pulled from old play with love!))
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Re: Plans

Post by Samiyah Zayn » Tue Jan 01, 2019 1:31 pm

December 2, 2018

There hadn't been much down time for Sami and Jay once they had returned to Clovely and full-time employment with the Rhovnik Foundation. Spending nearly a month without two of their internexual aid workers had backed up their relief efforts in several hotspots. The two had begun debriefing and training to deploy to the balkanized country of Tushaila, in the troubled world of Svijetjia. The Rhovniks, trusted as they were throughout the realms, were being tasked with providing food and medicine to the breakaway republic of North Tushaila, while ensuring that said aid did not include any military assistance. It was a tough tightrope to walk, but Sami had done it many times before, and many of those with Jay in support.

Unfortunately, a week into their preparations, Sami had partially separated her right shoulder during routine training exercises, and the Rhovniks had quickly pulled her off the mission and assigned Ronnie to take the lead with Jay. He'd only had a moment or two to be disappointed, before he'd forced himself to hunker down with the additional challenge of learning to work with a new partner. Eventually they found a rhythm that, although not quite as smooth as his usual team-up, felt comfortable enough that Jay was sure the mission would be successful.

The beauty of packing for these trips was that everything he needed was prescribed by his superiors. Navy blue fleece jackets with the Rhovnik shield emblazoned on the breast and the organization's name across the back. Khaki cargo pants. Camouflage t-shirts and paint for exposed skin. One pair of dress khakis and one pair of black trousers, along with a striped blue button-up shirt for any formal occasions that might arise. It didn't take him very long to get it all neatly folded into a canvas military duffle bag, although his pace slowed some when he tried to track down his travel toothbrush. "Hey, Sami, have you seen my little shiv toothbrush?"

Sami sat lotus-style in a chair in the corner of their bedroom watching him prepare to leave her for weeks. Her hands were settled on her knees, and the pink nail polish had begun chipping at the ends of her nails. A frown had settled on her features. Deployments could be dangerous. Jay had the right to know her secret before he left. "Under the sink. There's a little blue kit with some of your stuff in it. It's in there."

"Thank you." He ducked into the bathroom, opening the cabinet door under the sink with a squeak that had him wincing and folding his ears back as much as he could. Right beside a large container of bleach and toilet bowl cleaner was his dopp kit: a small tube of toothpaste, dental floss, deodorant, shaving cream, razor, comb, and the aforementioned toothbrush. He took the last item from the kit, shut the door with another squeak, and walked back into the bedroom. He unzipped the duffle bag and placed his travel toothbrush in with the toiletry kit he had already packed there. He crossed back over to where Sami sat, pressing a kiss against her cheek as further proof of gratitude.

"So, Jay, it looks like I'm not going to be able to deploy for a while." She forced the statement out, knowing that once it was she would have no choice but to explain the rest.

"What, because of the shoulder?" He barked out a laugh at that. "You weren't hurt that badly, were you? I mean, it looked like it sucked, but it looks like you're doing pretty good now."

"No, no. The shoulder will be fine. I've been good about my PT exercises." She paused a breath before continuing. How were they back here again so soon? Another secret to spill, another one she should have told him sooner. "When I saw the doctor for that, though, they found something else."

"The human/not-human thing?" He shrugged his shoulders. "I kinda thought they already knew." He trekked back to his bag and zipped it up.

"I'm pregnant. Eight weeks and a couple days. I'm due in July." The words spilled out of her mouth in a breathless rush and the silence that followed sounded deafening to her ears.

Their bedroom, which usually felt small and cramped, suddenly felt cavernous. He couldn't decide if he wanted to stay on the opposite side of the room, or crouch down right in front of her, so he compromised and walked halfway across, still standing. "What? But I thought you were on birth control..."

"I was," she replied carefully, resisting the urge to pick at the chipping paint on her fingernails. A steadying breath was released before she continued. "Evidently I was told when I got Vlahos Fever that they weren't sure how the antibiotics would react with my birth control given that... I'm not human. I don't know. Maybe I remember Dr. Conescu saying that. I was just upset about everything. I forgot. I just simply must have forgotten."

"Okay..." And as fast as the room had seemed to expand, it just as quickly contracted. The ceiling felt like it was pressing down on him, like the weight of the world was on his shoulders. "Okay...what are we going to do?"

Silence roared in her ears for several pounding heartbeats and then a stillness settled in. The answer was clear. The woman who responded wasn't the upbeat, cheerful woman who went along with the flow. Instead, she was suddenly the fierce, sometimes terrifying woman she could be when pressed into a fight.

"I am going to do more than what was done for me. I am going to be a mom. What happened to me will never happen to my child."
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Re: Plans

Post by Capistrano » Thu Jan 03, 2019 10:42 pm

December 17, 2018
3 kilometers from Aldeia da Liberdade
Disputed Tushaila/North Tushaila Territory

The Rhovnik convoy drove slowly down a one-lane dirt road that was nearly overrun by barrigonas, palmitos, and rubber trees. They formed a canopy over head that block out nearly all of the early morning sun. Even with the day barely begun, the temperatures already touched 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity was almost as high. Droplets of water splashed down on occasion from the tree leaves, necessitating sporadic use of the windshield wipers.

Most of the time, the Foundation preferred running larger convoys through more open, developed areas. Paved highways meant they could move goods faster, and more of them in semi-trailers instead of Sprinter vans, Jeeps, or pick-up trucks. It also made it easier to keep an eye out for unsavory elements: bandits, pirates, and other thieves who might prefer to make a profit off of someone else’s food, bottled water, and medicine.

That wasn’t an option for this mission. Aldeia da Liberdade sat just north of the disputed border between Tushaila and North Tushaila, deep in the rainforest and connected to the more developed parts of those two countries by a slow, winding river and that one-lane dirt road. It couldn’t support the weight of a semi, and less than a thousand people lived there, so a whole trailer filled with goods would have likely been superfluous. But when Jay and Ronnie had heard their aid commander offhandedly mention their desperate need for water purification tablets, malaria vaccines, infant formula, and other basic supplies, they had both insisted on running a small shipment of aid to the village.

Three vehicles inched down the path towards Aldeia da Liberdade: two humvees, painted in jungle greens to better blend in with the environment, with a cargo van sandwiched between them. They hadn’t bothered to camouflage the van, and so the vehicle still bore its original chipped blue paint, shield logo, and “RHOVNIK FOUNDATION” across both sets of sliding doors. All the seats had been stripped out of the back to make more room for goods, leaving the occupants of the three remaining front seats -- Ronnie, Jay, and Jameak -- feeling a bit cramped.

“Jay, I really wish you’d roll that damn window up,” Ronnie shouted over the noisy engine. Jay turned and flashed her a mischievous grin.

“If I have to smell that diesel all the way to the village, I’m gonna barf, and that’s gonna smell worse.”

“Your mom never told you to roll the windows up when the air conditioner’s running?”

Jay laughed as he held his hand over one of the vents. “I don’t even think it’s working.” Still, the lukewarm air rushing out was cooler than the air outside the vehicle. Jameak leaned forward and twisted a knob, directing more of the flow his way. Jay playfully slapped at the half-orc’s hand. “C’mon, dude, no hogging the A.C.”

“If you don’t think it’s working, you should let us have more of it.” Jutting half-tusks accentuated the sharp smile on his face.

“Fine, fine.” Jay waved it off, sticking his head outside of the window to take another of his periodic sniffs at the air. Even RhyDin couldn’t compare with the abundance of odors outside. The Wolf yipped in his head with each newly discovered scent. That one smells like a rat! A venomous snake! A poisonous frog! Jay chuckled at the enthusiasm, focusing on the overall melange of smells. It burst with life, green and vibrant and pollinated and wet, but death and decay, sweet and rotten all at once, lurked deep within the accords. Everything grew from the remains of something else.

A frown crossed Jay’s face as he kept sniffing. A new scent tickled his nostrils, one out of place among the flowers and vines and trees. “We’ve got company.”

“Really?” Ronnie asked, her head turning just enough to catch sight of Jay. Jameak nodded in agreement with him.

“The Tushailans always drink that nasty coffee with the butter in it.” He began snapping his fingers as he tried to recall the precise term for it. “What do you call it?”

“Bulletproof coffee,” Ronnie and Jameak said together. They might have grinned at the coincidence, if not for the seriousness of the situation. Tushailans in the area, unseen, in disputed territory, did not bode well for them.

“And now we’ve got trouble.” Jay inhaled deeply again, double-checking his nose. “Gunpowder.”

“Shit.” Ronnie grabbed the two-way radio and spoke into it. “Sergeant Aimsley, Sergeant Thomas, be advised there are hostiles in the area, possibly en route.”

“Where?” A deep male voice crackled through the speakers. “I can barely see through this-”

It almost sounded like a gunshot, except when the rocket propelled grenade struck the front humvee, it blew up with a roar that threatened to deafen them. Jay could hear a voice on the other radio, a strangely commanding soprano, ordering a gunner onto the machine gun and directing the other two fire team members to opposite sides of their vehicle. A second report echoed through the air.

“Get out of the-”

The RPG struck the front end of the van, and it immediately burst into flames.
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Re: Plans

Post by Samiyah Zayn » Sat Jan 05, 2019 8:34 am

December 20, 2018
Dragon's Gate, Rhydin


“He’s coming back, Sami.”

One of Sami’s favorite parts of Stick’s dojo was that the various bunkrooms and offices and sitting rooms and training rooms were around the edges of the square two-story brick building. The center though was hollow. Standing on the floor in the center of the dojo, one could look up two stories to the skylights above. Punching bags, rings, training dummies, weapon racks dotted the landscape like familiar friends.

The hallway on the second floor was open looking down upon the ‘heart’ as she called it. Stick just referred to it as the ‘main gym’. An iron railing circled it for safety reasons. Though, Stick’s son, Stefan, had certainly tested the boundaries of those railings a time or two. Today, Sami was seated on the battered hardwood floors, her feet dangling over the edge and her chin resting on a cool bar of the railing.

“He’s coming back,” the voice repeated. Sami looked up as the voice ripped her from her thoughts. Stick leaning against the railing. Sami was unsure how long she’d been there.

“He hasn’t called. Not once. At least he hasn’t called me. When he does get back I am making it very clear to him that I expect nothing. I expect nothing. I want nothing. I will figure this out on my own,” Sami replied evenly as her eyes slid back down to the gym floor below. It was empty except for a teenage girl working out at a punching bag. Her ponytail bounced with every move.

Stick sunk down against the railing, facing away from the gym with her back against the railing in contrast to Sami. “That would be a pretty shitty way to welcome him home. You don’t know why he hasn’t called.”

“This is all my fault. Everything. I pushed him into dating me then there was the fake marriage that was never rectified and now I’ve forced him into having a baby with me,” Sami replied in a hushed rush, shaking her head in frustration.

“Well, damn, Sam. Did I not clearly explain to you how creating babies works? He had a pretty equal hand in that, I’m sure.”

“That’s not funny. None of this is funny.”

A sigh was exhaled and Stick’s long legs were stretched out across the hallway. “I like Jay. No matter what slightly hair brain thing you’ve done, he has been there since you were a teenager to help you find your own way out of it. But the two of you have this awful pattern. Something serious happens which deepens your relationship. He then allows it to appear he is forced into taking that step with you when he is actually completely happy with the fact that he is taking that step and the illusion of being forced means he doesn’t have to deal with the emotional weight of consciously taking that step. While it allows you to take the blame for it and continue the constant orphan theme in your life because, although it makes you miserable, it is your comfort zone.”

“I really can’t stand when you start psychoanalyzing me,” Sami grumbled down at the gym below.

“Well, stop being such a pain in the fucking ass. You’re not going to stay here and hide from your husband when he gets back. Seriously. You’ve got a kid to think about now.” Stick shoved herself back to her feet with the same grace and dexterity she’d had fifteen years prior in the height of her career.

A thought struck Sami suddenly and her features twisted in thought as she looked up at Stick. “Where’s Marta?”

“Who?”

“Marta Jenkins? You know… your head instructor,” Sami prompted, lifting a concerned brow.

Stick waved dismissively with a frown. “I had to let her go. She’s no good.”

The response caused a groan from Sami. “Stick, you can’t keep firing instructors. The students liked Marta.”

“The students liked Marta because she didn’t make them work. I need an instructor who makes these people work their asses off,” Stick said firmly as she turned to looked down into the main gym, her eyes drifting over the sole girl working.

The girl reminded Sami of herself. She wondered if Stick felt the same way. And if so, was it Stick herself she saw down there or was it Sami? Sami didn’t ask. “I’ll teach classes for you today but you need to start looking for a head instructor who shares your teaching style because that person sure as hell isn’t me.”

“Yeah, I’ll get right on that,” Stick said less than convincingly as she pushed away from the railing to head for her office. “And, remember, my dojo is not a Jay-free zone.”

The door rattled shut in its frame as Stick closed it behind her, leaving Sami alone to watch the girl below.
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Re: Plans

Post by Capistrano » Sat Jan 05, 2019 6:39 pm

Field Agent Jay Capistrano
December 17, 2018 R.S.C.
2028 hours
Unknown location, disputed Tushaila/North Tushaila territory

Report follows:

At approximately 0800 hours, our aid convoy of two HMMWV (humvee) vehicles and one cargo van came under fire from unknown assailants. Assumption is combatants are Tushailan in nature, but I have no evidence to confirm. The humvee commanded by Sergeant Aimsley was struck by a RPG and destroyed. Sergeant Aimsley, Private Goulden, Private Ashbern, and Private Wranwyrm are missing and presumed deceased. The current status of the fire team led by Sergeant Thomas, with Privates Alvarez, Siratyami, and Uriel, is unknown.

Field Agent Kouris-Smith activated her Experimental Transportation in Emergency Situations (ETES) beacon before our van was struck by another RPG. Vehicle and all aid within is presumed destroyed. Our food, water, and logistical supplies are limited, but Corporal Korr has been invaluable in preparing us for evasive maneuvers in presumably hostile territory. He knows how to gather supplies, set up shelter, hide our tracks, and identify potential traps.

The ETES appears to have had some unforeseen side effects. Field Agent Kouris-Smith appears to have lost memory of her training. We have been fortunate enough to convince her that we are her friends, but that essentially leaves us down a man.

Our primary goal beyond our survival is locate other Rhovnik Foundation soldiers or team members in order to return safely to FOB Juliett. Our secondary goal is discover what happened to the members of the fire teams escorting us to Aldeia da Liberdade. Our tertiary goal is to determine who fired upon our convoy.

Report transponded by METRE

***

Field Agent Jay Capistrano
December 18, 2018 R.S.C.
1958 hours
2 kilometers south of Aldeia da Liberdade

Report follows:

Good news and bad news. First, the good news. Field Agent Kouris-Smith has regained some of her memories --- everything up through basic training. I remember --- first ----

Apologies. The Mental Transponder & Recorder (METRE) works best when mental dictation is done in a singular emotional state. Shifts in emotional state disrupt the transponding and recording process.

Anyways, Field Agent Kouris-Smith is a little more useful to us now. Corporal Korr was able to, through our maps and environmental study, pin down where the ETES sent us. We are relatively close to Aldeia da Liberdade, but travel through the rainforest is made difficult by the Rio Claro, the thick vegetation surrounding us in every direction, and the presence of traps. Again, given this is disputed territory, we are unable to determine who placed these.

Additionally, Sergeant Thomas and Private Siratyami located us. It will be nice to have more firepower than the pistols --- carries. They each have M16 rifles and Beretta M9 sidearms. We have not run into the enemy yet, but better safe than sorry.

Bad news. Sergeant Aimsley, Private Goulden, Private Ashbern, and Private Wranwyrm are confirmed KIA. Sergeant Thomas’ fire team drove off the assailants but was unable to save them. Privates Alvarez and Uriel were sent back with the humvee to contact FOB Juliett. Only two-way radio communication is up -- all radio communication with FOB Juliett and Clovely has been lost.

Privates Alvarez and Uriel were given instructions to return to FOB Juliett with coordinates for our extraction. Without communication, we will just have to trust they made it back securely when we arrive at the extraction point tomorrow.

Report transponded by METRE

***

Field Agent Jay Capistrano
December 19, 2018 R.S.C.
2037 hours
FOB Juliett

Report follows:

Evac occurred without incident. The lone bit of good news on the day.

Intelligence confirmed that the Tushailans were responsible for the attack on the convoy. We have been unable to communicate with their government to receive an explanation. Worse, it appears the Tushailans have cut our access to Svijetjia’s ley lines. We cannot communicate with other OBs or FOBs on Svijetjia or Clovely. We have also lost access to the portal back to RhyDin, so we are unable to bring in reinforcements or return --- base is on high alert.

Captain Krajnic is concerned that, if this turns into full-on war with the Tushailans, that we do not have the manpower to match them. We most likely still have a technological advantage, even without full access to our magical technology, but we would be better served with asymmetrical warfare, and the Tushailans almost certainly know this territory better than we do. Safe to assume technicians in Clovely are working on fixing the portal and communications, but we don’t have many people on the ground here for that. This’s a peace-keeping and humanitarian aid mission, not combat.

Field Agent Kouris-Smith’s condition has not changed, but she’s under medical supervision so I think she’ll be all right, eventually. I’m hoping we all will be. Sit tight, let the Clovely people do their job, and get us home safely. Hurry up and wait.

Report transponded by METRE

***

Field Agent Jay Capistrano
December 20, 2018 R.S.C.
2102 hours
FOB Juliett

Report follows:

---

---

---

Nevermind, I can’t do this right now.

***

Report transponded by METRE

Field Agent Jay Capistrano
December 21, 2018 R.S.C.
1302 hours
FOB Juliett

Report follows:

Fuck it. They can reprimand me later when they go through my logs for not going into a calm, relaxed state for this report. For letting my true emotions form the baseline for the METRE. I don’t care.

The Tushailans have spent the last couple of days doing hit and run attacks on us, testing our defenses. They haven’t killed anybody yet, but Private Atchison is almost certainly going to lose his lower left leg because we do not have the medical equipment here to fix him up. He’ll live, but it’s going to take a while for him to recover. Add him to the casualty list with Sergeant Aimsley, Private Goulden, Private Ashbern, and Private Wranwyrm. I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse if we don’t get our communications or our portal back.

And the hits keep coming. The full moon’s tomorrow. Jamie and I have been talking more and more since it grew more and more likely that I’d be stuck here during that. The worst part is, Captain Krajnic told me they were planning on sending us back early. Today. We have to figure out a way to convince him to get as far away from FOB Juliett while we’re in the middle of a combat zone. Or I just need to go AWOL. They can discharge me, I don’t care, I just don’t want to hurt them when I turn.

I’m afraid right now. I really am. I mean, it’s not just the usual fear you sometimes get when you’re in a dangerous situation. This isn’t the most dangerous situation I’ve ever been in. I had Echyae Rebels pointing guns in my face, holding me captive. But I had some control in that situation -- I’d helped them before, so I felt pretty confident they wouldn’t kill me. This’s different.

I wish Sami was here. She’d help me live in the moment, focus on what we need to do right this very second to get to the next one, and the next one, and the next one. Without her I feel like I’m drifting in all the thoughts of the future, all the shit I was worried about even before this happened. I’m afraid it’s going to overwhelm me, and getting overwhelmed gets you killed out here.

You’re pathetic, you know that?



Hush, you. I’m afraid I might die without ever seeing my kid. I’m afraid I might not even get back to RhyDin, and everyone will think I’m dead, but I’m still here and alive and having to live with the knowledge of all that. I’m afraid I’ll never see her again.

I want her to know that every day, I chose the lily. I chose her.

Report transponded by METRE
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Samiyah Zayn
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Re: Plans

Post by Samiyah Zayn » Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:32 pm

December 21, 2018
Clovely, 45 minutes north of Rhydin


The grocery store frequented by the Rhovnik officers in the company town of Clovely was… well, in a single word, ridiculous. Everything was artisanal or organic or farm fresh or sustainable or pasture-raised. Sami wasn’t entirely sure what any of those words meant but everyone else seemed to think it was vitally important to buy products containing those phrases so she didn’t ask.

She’d grown up bartering with vendors in Rhydin’s Marketplace or trying not to get swindled in the fish market of Icecrest. A high end grocery store where prices were set and even melons could be obtained in the dead of winter for a reasonable price was hard to accept.

It was the sushi counter, though, that always caused her mind to come to a grinding halt. A sushi counter. In the grocery store. Just… why?

“Sami, it’s so good to see you.”

Oh, God. Speaking of pretentious…

A smile was forced onto her lips as she turned to find Mike Smith standing there by the sushi counter with a matching green grocery basket. Neither of them had a need for a cart. Mike’s wife, Ronnie, was deployed with Jay. His house was as empty and quiet as hers. If it were anyone else, she would have found solace in their shared misery. However, as much as she loved Ronnie, she couldn’t stand her jackass of a husband.

“Hello, Mike. How’re you?”

“I am very well. I was just promoted to senior HR consultant. I told Ronnie that means it’s time for a bigger house,” Mike replied with a proud grin. “How about you? I haven’t seen you about.”

“I heard about the promotion. Congratulations. I’m well. I just got back from a couple weeks of leave. I’ve been helping teach some martial arts classes for my former guardian,” Sami replied even though she was pretty sure he’d stopped listening after she’d congratulated him.

A frown marred Mike’s face as he looked over the refrigerated display of sushi. “I cannot imagine that someone would buy sushi from a grocery store when Masa of New Haven is less than an hour’s drive away. I would only eat sushi prepared by a true itamae.”

She and Jay had been to Masa of New Haven once when he was being wined and dined by a potential sponsor in his dueling days. They’d been on their best manners at the restaurant but as soon as they got home discussed their mutual sticker shock over the menu prices. It was only one of the most pricey restaurants in the most pricey district of Rhydin.

Sami found herself reaching out to grab a couple of the pre-packaged boxes of sushi before she could stop herself. She could hear her doctor in her head. Raw seafood may contain parasites or bacteria including Listeria that can make a pregnant woman ill and could potentially harm the baby. All seafood dishes should be cooked to 145 °F. She didn’t have the money to be buying sushi just to get home and throw it in the trash but here she was doing just that. “Oh, really? I think sushi in the grocery store is fantastic!”

Mike shot her an askance look before drilling down to the point of this forced interaction. “Listen, Sami, I was hoping to run into you. I wanted to know if you’ve heard from Jay recently.”

The boxes clattered against the box of cereal in her basket and her dark eyes lifted to the man beside her. After a hesitation, she responded the only way she could -- truthfully. “No, actually. I haven’t heard from him this deployment. I’m sure he’s incredibly busy and we knew communications were going to be troublesome.” She was even more angry with Jay for having to make the admission in front of Mike.

His lips thinned in what she assumed was judgment. She and Jay were not as tight as he and his Ronnie, obviously. How had she not punched this man in the face before? “Mm. Well, Ronnie was calling me once a week but I haven’t heard from her this week and they’re overdue,” Mike murmured.

“I’m sure she’s fine. Deployments run long all the time. You know that. And maybe Ronnie used her call this week to call her sister,” Sami reassured with a thin smile. She just wanted this interaction to end so that she could see if she could slip the sushi back into the display without him noticing. “Well, I should finish up my shopping. It was nice seeing you, Mike.”

“A pleasure as always, Sami,” Mike called as he strolled past her towards the extensive wine offerings. His smug smile was displayed to the woman handing out samples and Sami could only imagine the pompous manner in which Mike would critique the wine.
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Re: Plans

Post by Capistrano » Sun Jan 06, 2019 11:06 pm

December 22, 2018
0800 hours
Rhovnik Forward Operating Base Juliett


“Field Agent Capistrano!” The sharp commanding voice of Captain Krajnic cut through Jameak and Jay’s murmured conversation at the playing card table. Jay’s heart immediately sank when he heard his superior. He knew exactly what prompted this. Still, he tried to carry an air of calm with him when he walked over to the captain.

“Yes, sir?” Captain Krajnic’s intimidating nature was well known across the Rhovnik organization. He stood a couple of inches taller than Jay, with nearly as much muscle. And while he didn’t have facial scars or ice blue eyes like the duelist did, his red cheeks, permanent scowl, and shaved head made him the stuff of many soldiers’ nightmares.

“Would you like to explain to me why Field Medic Cuandarien tells me that you requested to be anesthetized today?” A vein in the captain’s forehead throbbed as he raised his voice. “What the hell even possessed you to ask such a thing? Have you lost your mind, like Field Agent Kouris-Smith?”

A pang of guilt suddenly stabbed at Jay, even though he knew deep down that wasn’t his fault. “Sir, with all due respect, leave her out of this. This’s between you and me.” He paused, looked back over his shoulder at Jameak, and then back to Captain Krajnic with a nod. “And Corporal Korr.”

“Corporal Korr? What does that green skin have to do with anything?” Jay glanced back at his friend again, knowing that they could both hear their superior officer’s racist insult. Jameak calmly shook his head. “Corporal! Was this your idea?”

The half-orc sighed and walked over to where Jay and the captain were having their discussion. “No sir, but I support him in this 100%.”

“Are you two both trying to get court-martialed? You face a little adversity and you wanna run home crying to mommy? Well, in case you numbskulls haven’t noticed, the fucking portal’s down, so you’re stuck here, and if you’re stuck here, you’re sure as shit going to be conscious for the duration of it!”

“Permission to speak freely sir?” Jay hesitated, then gestured towards the door. “And in private?”

“Oh, hell. Fine.” The trio stepped out of the magically cooled shipping container into the blast furnace of a Tushailan summer morning. They nodded to the guard standing just outside the door with an assault rifle, then took a few steps away from the man so that they were alone. “All right, I’ll bite. What’s so important that you can’t say it in front of the rest of the troops?”

“I’m a werewolf.”

“...Repeat that again?” Captain Krajnic made a point of exaggeratedly cleaning out his ears with his fingers.

“I’m a werewolf. Tonight’s a full moon. As soon as the sun sets and moon comes out tonight, I’ll transform, and when I’m like...that, I’m not in my right mind. You’ve got enough problems worrying about the Tushailans attacking us, you don’t need me going on some berserk rampage through the FOB.”

“...You’re shitting me. Corporal, is he shitting me?”

“No.” Jameak paused for a long moment, before spitting out his next word. “Sir.”

“Prove it.”

“Prove that I’m a werewolf?”

“I think you’re full of shit, so yeah, prove it.”

“Fine. Jamie?” At that, Jameak pulled out the chrome-plated revolver he kept in a custom holster. He popped the cylinder lose from the frame and spun it a few times, then took one of the bullets out. The sun bounced off of the silver and nearly blinded the three of them. Jameak held the bullet in his hand, and Jay pressed the tip of his right index finger against it. After a few seconds, he held his hand up for Captain Krajnic to examine. A red welt had begun to form where he touched it, in contrast to the rest of his fingers.

“So he’s allergic to silver.”

“Jamie, you’ve got wolfsbane?” The half-orc grunted affirmatively, and retrieved a few dark purple petals from his satchel. Jay instinctively stepped back, his lip curling, then relaxed as Jameak approached him. He brushed the flower delicately against the back of Jay’s hand, and the trio watched as hives broke out on his skin. “See?”

“Of course the goddamn aid department hired a werewolf and didn’t tell us. Shit. What am I supposed to do?” Upon hearing that question, Jameak rustled through his bag again and pulled out a laminated sheet of paper. He tried not to smirk as he handed it off. The captain read through it, the vein in his forehead throbbing more and more as he made his way down. After he was done reading, he flung it back in Jameak’s face. “Fine. The aid department gets to keep this a secret, and I get to brainstorm a way to keep my men safe from a goddamn monster in less than 12 hours.”

“Tell them we’re doing a reconnaissance mission tonight,” Jameak said, gathering up the confidentiality agreement nonchalantly. “I can find a spot far enough away from the base to keep you safe and I can keep us from tipping off enemy forces as well. I fought in jungles like these for years -- we’ll be fine.”

Captain Krajnic dug his fingers into his scalp, massaging it roughly. Finally, he about-faced and headed for the container. “Fine. Try not to get any of us killed.”
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Samiyah Zayn
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Re: Plans

Post by Samiyah Zayn » Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:08 pm

December 22, 2018
Clovely, 45 minutes north of Rhydin


A stifled sob shook her shoulders. Her shaky fingers scrolled through her phone contacts but tears blinded her past making out the names. Safe in the confines of her and Jay’s old, battered SUV with the deer size dent in the driver’s side quarter panel that had been made long before they’d even purchased the vehicle, Sami finally began to catch her breath and realize where she had blindly driven herself.

Past the windshield was a tall snowy hill a couple miles from the main estate that was used as training grounds during better weather. Sami had dragged Jay here last winter with sleds for an afternoon of very cold fun. By midday, they’d been joined by a host of children all seeking the same thrill.

Today, she was alone here. The snow on the hill lay undisturbed. The day was still and silent and gray.

Sami’s eyes fell to the phone again. Her fingers trembled over Stick’s contact information in her phone. It felt selfish. She would be calling for herself. Her first call should be about Jay. She should tell his family. But, she’d never spoken with his parents or his siblings. Perhaps their contact information was in some file buried in the spare room of the townhouse. However, t wouldn’t be who Jay would want her to call first. His parents and his brother and sister weren’t his family.

But Jay did have a family. They needed to be told.

A contact in her phone was chosen and she lifted the phone as it rang. It only rang a couple times before the call was answered. “Hello?”

Sami exhaled weightily. She took a breath to refill her lungs but it hitched. Every breath felt like work. “Maria.”

“Sami, what’s wrong?” Maria’s voice was instantly concerned. “Where’s Jay?”

“He was on deployment. Something went wrong. There was an attack. He’s missing. Evidently he’s been missing for a couple days. They’ve been keeping it a secret because they didn’t want to make his unit more of a target and--”

Maria’s voice evened, dropping to a calm, reassuring tone. A mom voice. “It’s Jay. He’s tough and stubborn. He’s got Jameak with him, right?”

Guilt shuddered through her. Jay. The baby. Nothing else had mattered to her when the news had been delivered. She had forgotten entirely that Jameak and Ronnie were missing as well. “Yes. Yes, Jameak was with him.”

“Alright. Good,” Maria replied across the phone line. Her panic and concern was contained for Sami’s sake but it was clearly there, bubbling under the surface. “Listen, Sami. I’m out of town at an appearance right now. I’m going to pack up and leave now but I’m not going to be able to make it back in town until the morning. Where are you now?”

The truth felt weak. She had no idea how she’d gotten here or why she’d driven to this field. “I just left the office. I’m in my car.”

“Ria is in Rhydin and I’m going to call her now. She’ll probably be at your house in an hour. Go home. We’ll come to you.”

They would come to her. She wouldn’t be alone. She would be with people with people who loved Jay, who believed in Jay. “Okay. Okay. I’m going to go home.”

“Be safe, Sami. I will see you soon.”
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Re: Plans

Post by Capistrano » Wed Jan 09, 2019 10:17 pm

December 22, 2018
1935 hours
Disputed Tushaila/North Tushaila territory

“Jamie, you should go back. Please, go back.” Jay pleaded with his friend as they cut their way through the thick, green vegetation, their eyes both turned towards the sky they could barely see through the palm fronds overhead. The diminishing sunlight, and the increase in animal calls that accompanied it, made it clear they were out of time. At any moment, Jay would turn. He would turn, and there was nothing Jameak could do to control him.

“Nonsense, Jay. I’m here for you. Always have been, always will be.” The two-way radio on Jameak’s belt buckle crackled, and he picked it up, holding it to his mouth. “I don’t copy, over.”

Sergeant Thomas’ voice only barely cut through the din of machine gun and rifle fire in the background. “I said, the Tushailans are mounting a head-on assault on FOB Juliett, over.”

“Copy.” Jameak frowned. For days, they had sending small squads to test the Rhovnik defenses, and now they were putting all their resources into an all-out attack? He looked at Jay, crouching and leaning against the trunk of a kapok tree. His muscles rippled like waves, and Jameak bit his lip to force himself not to turn away. “You’re going to be alright.”

“I...know…” Jay said, between gasps. His tendons tightened, his skin stretched, and his bones felt like they were being bent to the breaking point. Even through the early stages of the transformation, he found the energy to sniff at the air. “Jamie...go...six men...some kind of...explosives or missiles…”

“Where?”

Jay answered with a howl. Gray fur grew rapidly over his body, his face twisted in a wolf’s visage, and his clothes shredded as his muscles fully grew. Soon after, a barrage of gunfire came whistling at their position. Jameak dove behind the giant roots of another nearby kapok tree, while Jay began galloping in the direction of their attackers. The shooting grew sporadic, joined with confused shouts and the rustling of branches overhead, and Jameak used the breather Jay provided for him to go prone and prop up his assault rifle against the tree. The lack of clouds in the sky and the moon overhead provided enough light to see through the scope, though the undergrowth made it impossible to get a clear shot off. Jay’s olfactory observations had proven spot-on. Six men skulked through the trees: four of them carried AK-47s and formed a loose wedge formation, while the other two stood a little ways behind them. One of the stragglers carried a Stinger missile launcher, while the other looked through a pair of binoculars and spoke into his own radio at regular intervals.

Bright pink petals swirled in the air as Jay swung down from a nearby ipê tree and crashed into the front man in the wedge. The other three leveled their guns on him, but he leaped back into the brush and scrabbled up another tree. The formation broke, as the three upright riflemen rushed to where they had last seen the werewolf, while the dropped squad leader croaked out a warning for the missile operators not to retreat. Bullets ripped through palm fronds, adding green to the pink already on the ground. They fired until their magazines emptied, then rock-paper-scissored to see who would confirm the kill. The back man in the wedge lost. He drew a pistol from a holster on his hip and sauntered into the thicket.

Something impossibly strong flung the man’s body back at them. Bullets dropped to the dirt as one man attempted to reload his rifle, while the other drew his sidearm, but it didn’t matter. Jay pounced on the reloading man, slashing his claws across his throat. His partner had only enough time to pop off one shot before Jay palmed his head and flung him into a rubber tree. The spotter and gunner began frantically loading the launcher, while the werewolf slowly circled the three remaining combatants, licking his lips. Blood dripped from bullet wounds pocking his torso, shoulders, and legs. He seemed unfazed.

The spotter shoved the gunner out of the way, sending the soldier crashing to the ground with an awkward cry. Jay kicked the spotter in the ribcage, knocking him backwards into a creek with a splash. Before the gunner could recover, Jay ripped the launcher out of his grip and began beating him with it.

Jameak tried to keep a clinical, soldier’s eye on the carnage Jay unleashed. Years ago, he’d rescued the duelist after he’d been attacked by another werewolf in Battlefield Park, but this was his first time actually observing Jay as a werewolf. A shiver crept up his spine, despite the heat. I should probably - no!

The blood lust had fully taken Jay, leaving him unaware of what was occuring behind him. The squad leader, the first man incapacitated in their skirmish, had pulled himself onto his stomach and drawn his handgun. He waited for a moment when he could see Jay’s head clearly to take his shot.

Jameak took his first. A three-round burst of semi-automatic fire carved through the night, driving what few animals remained in the area away with a chorus of squawks and screeches. Two of the bullets struck the prone gunman, pitching him face first into the dirt. The third skipped past his shoulder and near Jay’s feet. He turned, dropped the launcher, and howled, before breaking into a sprint in Jameak’s direction.

“Jay! Stop!” The werewolf skidded to a halt just in front of Jameak, near a large kapok tree root. He sniffed the air, growling. Many of the bullet wounds he’d suffered earlier had already healed themselves. Realizing the rifle was useless, Jameak dropped it and held up one hand. The other hovered over the chrome-plated revolver at his side.

“Jay, it’s me. Jameak. Jamie.” The lifted hand dropped, and flipped so that his palm faced up. He stretched out towards the werewolf, hoping he would take the hint and sniff him. And not rip his arm off. “I’m your friend. Please. Please don’t make me do this.” His last word came as a whisper, even as he stood his ground, his hand within reach of the only weapon that could stop Jay. “Please.”

Jay lowered his head, and Jameak extended his hand further to pet the beast. Just when the half-orc’s fingers were about to touch his fur, he suddenly reared back and howled. Instinctively, Jameak clapped his hands over his ears, and that was all that Jay needed to take advantage.

The werewolf bolted past Jameak. He whirled around, considering giving chase, but a voice on the radio kept shouting his name. “Corporal Korr, do you copy?”

“I copy.”

“Base secure,” Sergeant Thomas’ voice rang out high and strong. “I don’t know what the hell happened in your neck of the woods, but things are under control here, over.”

“Copy. I’m heading back, over and out.” He clicked the radio back into its case on his belt, casting one last look at the impossibly dark forest.

Jay was gone.
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Maria Graziano
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Re: Plans

Post by Maria Graziano » Wed Jan 09, 2019 10:27 pm

December 23, 2018
Clovely, 45 minutes north of Rhydin


Maria arrived at an unGodly hour for a Saturday morning and found the weight in the shabby town home in Clovely to be palpable. Ria had spent the night cooking because that was what Ria did. After filling every available storage container, including some she brought from home, and labeling each while Maria put them all in the freezer, Ria headed to a nearby bed and breakfast for some sleep.

Maria stood in the doorway, watching Ria’s car rumble down the road before she closed the door. The dark clouds that had settled in were even more noticeable without Ria here. Even if she hadn’t known what was happening, she would have known just by the air of the house that this was a home in mourning.

This place felt like Jay. But, then again, so had the upscale apartment he’d had in New Haven when he’d dueled for the Crew. This town house was far more modest. The couch was threadbare, the television old, the hardwood floors beat to hell. But there were pieces of Sami and Jay everywhere. Intricately woven reed baskets and eclectic ceremonial masks hung on the walls as souvenirs of their work-related travels. There were framed photographs of them on various adventures. An abstract acrylic painting that Maria recognized as one of Sami’s was centered over the sofa. A blanket that Adie had knitted them for Christmas one year hung over one of the chairs.

The steps creaked and complained as she moved up them to the second story. She and Ria had left Sami with toast and tea an hour before but she realized neither had been touched as she stepped into the bedroom. Sami was seated on a window seat, looking down at the street below as if Jay might come walking down the sidewalk at any given moment.

A clock was ticking somewhere in the house but it was otherwise eerily silent. Maria settled her hip against the doorway, crossing her arms over her chest. She was unsure if Sami even knew she was there until the woman spoke. “He’s my best friend, Maria,” she murmured numbly.

“He knows that,” Maria replied softly before straightening from her lean. “Go get in the shower. When you get out you can wrap up in one of his shirts. You’ll feel better.”

Sami sniffled and gave a nod, her bare feet fell to the floor from the cushion of the window seat and she started towards the connected bath, leaving a pile of kleenex on the window sill. Maria found herself rooted in place for a moment after the bathroom door closed on Sami. The shower turned on in the bathroom but still Maria remained in place.

He couldn’t be dead. Right here, right now, it felt like he could walk up behind her at any moment and ask if she’d made the lasagna or if Ria had (because he preferred Maria’s baked sweets but Ria’s cooking). He wasn’t dead. He just couldn’t be.

A picture caught her attention on top of a tallboy in the corner. She moved towards it, a smile drifting to her lips. In a ceramic dish on the top was a sharp men’s dress watch that he’d gotten as a gift from the Crew management team for participating in one Warlord Tournament or another. Just past it was a photo in a simple black frame, she lifted it to study the snapshot.

The photo was from the Thanksgiving before last. The whole gang was on the stairs at her and Tical’s house. Someone had set a camera on a delay so they could get a photo of them all together. Her entire family was there. Jay was standing with Tony on one side of him and Sami on the other. Maria’s youngest, Noah, was on Jay’s hip and the pair of them were grinning at one another rather than looking at the camera. Maria huffed out a soft laugh as she reached out to set the picture back down on top of the tallboy.

That’s when it caught her eye. A simple square of flimsy paper. She knew it was invasive but she couldn’t help herself. She reached out to lift the ultrasound image off the tallboy to soak it in. There in the left hand corner were the words ‘Capistrano, Samiyah’ and just beneath ‘6 weeks, 2 days’. Her eyes quickly found the date. November 26, 2018.

The math only took a moment. 10 weeks and 1 day. Sami was 10 weeks pregnant.

“Oh my God, Jay,” she whispered, unable to resist the sudden burn of tears. She set the image back down where it had been, half-tucked under that frame. A quick step was taken back from the tallboy as if burned by the news.

“Jesus Christ. You have to come home. You have to.”
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Re: Plans

Post by Capistrano » Wed Jan 09, 2019 10:50 pm

December 23, 2018

Meat? Water. Water. Frog. Edible frog? No, not edible. Poison. Or venomous? Remind me again?

...Poisonous. Venomous animals inject their poison into you. Poisonous animals poison you if you eat them, but only that way.

Ahh. How nice of you to drop in!

Yeah. Sure. Look, you gotta let me back now.

NO!

C’mon, you know that’s how this works. You get full control the full moon nights, I get it the rest of the time.

But you didn’t let me have full control! We got to kill all those soldiers, but you spared one.

Jamie.

You stepped in, and look what it got you. Shot full of holes. We heal fast, but not that fast. If we shift back, you’re going to be in no condition to keep fighting.

I don’t want to keep fighting. I want to go home.

Smell the air. Smell it!

….

They’re still out there. We have to kill them. Kill them all!

We have to avoid them. That group had a missile launcher. What if we run into a humvee? A tank? A dozen men with guns? I don’t want to test how fast we can heal.

And how do you plan to do that, Jay? We smell better like this. We run faster like this. We fight harder like this. You draw on me all the time. Everything has a price.

….

What?

You’re right.

I am?

Sort of. We need each other. I need all that stuff you mentioned. You need my brains, my logic, my calm.

No I don’t!

...and my maturity… Look, we can stay like this a little while longer, until things settle down. That sound fair to you?

...Fair. Good. Good deal.


***

December 24, 2018

….

What are you thinking about?

Oh, you’re interested in something other than death and destruction?

Yes. Always have been. You just make me the enemy to feel better about yourself.

What are you interested in?

You should know. We’ve got no secrets from each other.

It’s different. I bleed into you-

-And you bleed into me. Yes, yes, you’ve told me this a thousand times.

….

Don’t be like that. Tell me! I want to know. And in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s no one else around.

I think it’s Christmas.

The holiday?

Yeah. I was thinking about what I got Sami this year. Like, it’s never anything super big but it’s usually stuff I think she’ll like. A coffee mug with some clever or cute saying on it. That scrapbook for concert tickets and movie tickets and things like that. Those cherry stud earrings she not at all subtly said I should get for her when we were walking through the Marketplace.

And?

I made her a mix CD of some Earth pop songs. I always do, but she never complains, so I must be doing something right. One of those ultra-light down jackets you can, like, ball up and stick in a bag. One of those bangle bracelets made out of, like stainless steel. It’s pretty simple looking but she doesn’t really wear expensive things -- but I still wanted her to have something nice for when we go out? I don’t know…

You could always go bring her Charles’ heart.

Yeah, I don’t think that would make her happy.

...I was kidding...sort of.

Yeah. Anyways, it all seems kinda pointless now. You know what she used to do, to keep my gifts hidden from me?

The smelly paper, the-

The dryer sheets, yeah. She stuck dryer sheets all over everything, then wrapped them up. Drove me crazy sometimes, but she liked it better when I was surprised. I’m not really good at faking that with her.

You could just unwrap them and rewrap them.

Yeah, I kinda suck at that. She ends up wrapping all the stuff I get for the Grazianos and the rest of the Crew folks. I usually go to a booth in the marketplace to get her stuff wrapped.

...You want to get her a different gift.

Well, I can’t.

Tell me.

Tell you?

Still just us, here.

...Fine. Another scrapbook, but for the kid. You stick, like, baby photos and grade cards and like those pieces of paper with the little ink hand prints. My mom used to have one for me -- for me and Garrett and Jane. Haven’t thought about it for a long time.

...I’ll get us home. You’ll see Sami again. You’ll see your pup.

....Thanks.
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Re: Plans

Post by Samiyah Zayn » Fri Jan 11, 2019 8:29 pm

December 25, 2018
Clovely, 45 minutes north of Rhydin


Sami hit the red button on the screen of her phone, making sure it was secure where it was propped up on some books on a side table before she took a step back to sink into a chair.

“So… hi, Jay.”

“I was lamenting the fact that you’ve missed a giant portion of your kid’s life so far and so Sapphire told me I should make videos every day so you can experience it with me.” There was a moment’s hesitation before she gave a nervous laugh. “And I just realized that you have no idea who Sapphire is. She’s from some alternate future where Jewell and Harris had a kid…. Which is bizarre and terrifying. I suppose that describes Sapphire but throw in a heaping amount of fabulousness and joy. Harris never told me about her but, then again, Harris isn’t acknowledging her existence and I’m not usually acknowledging his so…”

A heavy exhale was given and she offered a smile. “I’m rambling. Anyway, in this alternate universe I was a major part of Sapphire’s life. An older me. I feel like know her. I can’t explain it. She's been here for me and I'm so glad she has. But, the point of this is that she suggested I do videos to keep you up to date with the baby.”

“Today is Christmas. Everyone offered to be here or invited me over but I've really just wanted to be alone. I’m ten weeks and a couple days pregnant. The baby is the size of a prune. I always find it weird that they compare babies to fruit. There has to be some other relative scale that can be used, right?”

Her hands lifted, fingers tucking her hair behind her ears. “Ria and Maria spent a lot of time here and left a ton of food. I was getting really nauseous but Sapphire and I realized that if I keep something small on my stomach I seem to do better. I’ve also been really tired but I don’t know if it’s because of the pregnancy or because I’m just….”

“Sad. I’m sad. I just don’t want to get out of bed.” A shaky exhale was released. “I miss you, Jay. You’re supposed to be here. You’re supposed to be here.”

“I’m sorry.”

She stretched out a hand tapping the button to end the video.
Last edited by Samiyah Zayn on Sat Jan 12, 2019 9:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Capistrano
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Re: Plans

Post by Capistrano » Fri Jan 11, 2019 8:57 pm

December 26, 2018
FOB Juliett
Disputed North Tushaila/Tushaila Territory


After the Tushailan attacks on the Rhovnik aid convoy and FOB Juliett, things settled into an uneasy detente between the Tushailans and the Rhovniks. The diplomats on world tried to protest the attacks, but the Tushailan government claimed they were justified in preventing illegal military aid from the Rhovnik Foundation from reaching the “illegitimate government of so-called North Tushaila.” When pushed about the base attack, their mouths clamped shut, and remained shut for days.

In the meantime, the Foundation managed to re-open communications with Clovely and the rest of the bases on Svijetjia (although the portals remained down) and so additional troops and military hardware already on the world were sent to FOB Juliett. In fact, the base itself was picked up and moved further into North Tushailan territory. If the Tushailans were going to actively war with the Rhovniks, it made sense to be closer to a potential ally. In addition, they brought in another shipping container, this one filled entirely with state of the art military surveillance technology, staffed 24/7 with multiple intelligence officers. They set up a laser-driven sensor array around the base, hung Boomerang gunfire detectors from the trees, and sent autonomous surveillance drones to patrol the skies above the forests with thermal cameras. They had been caught by surprise twice already -- it would not happen a third time.

And the Foundation would not be caught without proper fighting gear. They replaced the barbed wire with gabions stacked two high, wrapped in Kevlar, and filled with dirt. They brought in drones armed with missiles, so they could be used for more than reconnaissance. They placed machine gun nests around the base. They added a safer, stronger Joint Light Tactical Vehicle to their fleet of humvees. The Rhovniks came to Svijetjia with carrots to bolster trade and broker peace on the world, but there were plenty of sticks available to them if the Tushailans decided they would rather fight instead.

Jay perched on a dipterocarp branch, high in the canopy layer, sniffing at the air and trying to pluck sheepburs out of his gray fur. The unusual drought plaguing the region for the last week and a half had ended with a vengeance, soaking the werewolf down to his skin. It did little to cool him off -- the 10 degree Fahrenheit drop in temperature came with 100% humidity and his thick coat made things even hotter than usual.

He’s out there, I just...can’t pin it down. There’s too much to smell out here. The rain’s going to wash out the scent soon too. Dammit! He punched the tree trunk, sending bark chips crashing down to the forest floor.

What’s the smell?

Jay couldn’t tell if the Wolf was asking because he had forgotten, or if he was trying to keep him from getting further frustrated. Either way, he indulged the beast. Cologne. He’s been wearing it since we ran off. It smells like cinnamon, mandarin orange, fig, and musk. I think he wants us to track him, but we’re going to lose him!

Jay’s head suddenly whipped around, a growl trickling out of curled lips. The insistent, almost imperceptible whirring sound overhead suddenly cut out, replaced with whining and clipping. A quadcopter, descending through the emergent layer into the canopy, had brushed up against leaves. His nostrils flared, as he took in the scent of plastic and steel. A red light blinked over a camera lenses as it zoomed in and out.

***

“Listen up, men.” Captain Krajnic leaned over a cheap white particleboard desk covered in maps in the makeshift office they had carved out of the second shipping container. Jameak and a trio of privates recently called in from the main operating base stood at attention. “One of our surveillance drones spotted a werewolf 2 kilometers north of FOB Juliett this morning. I think we can all agree this sumbitch is Field Agent Jay Capistrano, missing since December 22. Unless you know of any other werewolves on this God-forsaken world?” He waited a beat for them to answer, and when they said nothing, he continued. “Good. You’ve all signed the necessary paperwork, waivers, etc. etc. etc. So you know this mission stays between you, me, the top brass, and whatever God or gods you may or may not worship. You also know that even if you get cold feet -- and I hope to Christ you don’t, because it was a pain in the ass enough to get them to sign off on this -- you cannot breath word of it to anybody, unless you enjoy being drummed out of the Rhovnik Foundation faster than you can say ‘lycanthropy.’ So anyone? Speak now or forever hold your peace.”

Captain Krajnic waited and stared at the four men in silence for a solid 30 seconds. They matched the quiet, their gazes somewhere just above their captain’s head. “Good. Your primary goal on this mission is to bring back Field Agent Capistrano for debriefing. Given the fact he has apparently spent four day in this form, you may find you have no choice but to meet the secondary goal: neutralize him. Our task mages and munitions experts have worked together to create wolfsbane-infused smoke grenades. Do keep in mind these are as poisonous to us as they are to him, so remember to put your gas masks on first before throwing them. If for some reason those do not work, Corporal Korr insists that he has a weapon that can eliminate the threat.” The way the captain rolled his eyes, though, seemed to suggest he doubted that very much. “If neither seem to work, I would suggest aiming for the head and praying to whatever higher power it is you believe in. Any questions?” This time, the captain barely waited for his words to fade away before barking a sharp “Dismissed!” at his troops.

***

“Corporal?” The youngest of the three humans assigned to Jameak’s strike team rested a hand on his shoulder as the half-orc double-checked the silver ammunition in his revolver. His bright green eyes, clean-shaven face, and ramrod straight posture marked him as a new recruit, not even out of his teens. With a deft flick and spin, Jameak tucked the cylinder back into the frame.

“Yes, Private...I’m sorry. Remind me again?” The private seemed to shrink back as soon as Jameak spoke.

“Private De Cormuz, sir.”

“Private De Cormuz. What is it?”

“Permission to speak freely?”

“Granted.”

“With all due respect, why are you leading this mission? I’ve read the briefings. I know what the regs are for missions like this. You have a personal connection to Field Agent Capistrano. How can we trust you’ll do the right thing for the Rhovnik Foundation?”

Jameak snorted as he holstered his revolver, then turned his full attention on the private. The half-orc pulled himself fully upright, and suppressed the urge to grin when the man shrank back further. “Because none of these assholes knows as much put together as I do alone about dealing with werewolves. I’ve been Jay’s bodyguard for six and a half years. I’ve fought other werewolves.” Private De Cormuz opened his mouth to interrupt, but a stern glare and raised finger shut him up immediately. “I wasn’t finished. You should know. I’m loyal to him first. He’s the godfather to my children. He’s my best friend. I’ll do my best to protect you, but he comes first. It’s in my contract.” He rubbed at his half-tusks, smiling faintly. “Got that?”

Private De Cormuz ran a hand over his buzz cut, frowning. “Yes, sir.” He turned around and walked over to the other team members, whispering. With a smile still on his face, Jameak watched them as he cleaned and oiled his conventional sidearm.
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Samiyah Zayn
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Re: Plans

Post by Samiyah Zayn » Mon Jan 14, 2019 7:52 pm

December 26, 2018
Clovely, 45 minutes north of Rhydin


Sami hit the red button on her phone and then sunk back into the old cream colored armchair in the corner of their bedroom that was covered in navy fleur de lis. Her hands settled in her lap and after a breath she remembered to smile.

“It’s Boxing Day. You’re going to be pissed when you get back to realize you missed it. There’s all the usual festivities. All the restaurants and bars have great specials and there’s soccer on all the screens. There’s going to be ice skating at the lake and a big bonfire tonight. I was thinking about how much fun we had last year. Do you remember how drunk Josh Turner got? He stood on that table in Iron Horse Tavern singing ‘Blackbird’ while the rest of us laughed so hard we cried. You eventually pulled him down and took him home.”

Her smile faded as the memory passed. “I guess even if you were here and we were going then I wouldn’t be drinking this year. I was reading that the baby’s bones and cartilage are forming this week. Little knees and ankles are forming. Seems like a pretty important week for him or her. Although, I suppose there are a lot of those when you are literally becoming a human.”

“Everyone around Clovely is so upbeat that all of you will be found. There are prayers said before a lot of the events and people are coming around constantly. The Foundation has asked the Crew not to officially announce any word but the Crew management has offered any resources they have to the Foundation. The doorbell rings a lot. Maria or Ria or Sapphire typically answer so I don’t have to. I just don’t feel like talking to anyone. I just don’t feel like being upbeat for them or listening to them be upbeat for me.”

“Is it too much to just be allowed to be miserable?” She huffed a soft laugh, peeking at her phone across the room to offer a smile. “Shut up. I know you’d make fun of me for that question.”

A breath was drawn in and then released slowly. “I didn’t forget there would have been a full moon but I’m confident. I believe in you and Jamie. I know you two would have a plan.”

“Alright. I’m going to get moving. I should shower. I love you.”
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Re: Plans

Post by Capistrano » Tue Jan 15, 2019 11:35 pm

December 27, 2018
0018 hours
North Tushaila Rainforest


Jameak’s fire team moved in column formation through the dark, rainy forest. Even in the early morning hours, the jungle seemed to spit heat and steam everywhere. He paused, looked over his shoulder and watched as Privates De Cormuz, Onidrel and Papp came to a halt He nodded at each man in order, turned back around, and continued walking through the jungle.

The whole scenario felt like a warped mirror version of his insurgency days. Both campaigns had taken place in rainforests, and both feature long odds of success. But while his guerilla warfare past was full of makeshift weapons, asymmetric warfare, and poorly trained fighters, the Rhovniks were the complete opposite. He didn’t have to scrounge parts for his assault rifle from fallen combatants. Hell, he didn’t even have to get wet. Rhovnik task mages cast water-wicking spells that kept all rain and even mud from touching their camouflage uniforms. The night-vision goggles and special-made wolfsbane grenades were just icing on the cake.

They went to the site Jay had last been spotted and began searching for tracks, Jameak a little less eagerly than the rest. He knew the truth of this mission. If Jay wanted to be found, he would be found. Otherwise, they could spend a thousand years hunting through the trees and the undergrowth, finding neither hide nor hair of the werewolf. Instead, the half-orc watched his group carefully comb through thick fronds, muddy divots in the earth, and rain-slicked kapok tree trunks. Private De Cormuz seemed to look back at Jameak as much as he looked for signs of Jay, but the corporal betrayed no signs that he’d noticed the glances. Private Onidrel, a lanky and bronze-skinned elf with intricate geometric facial tattoos, and Private Papp, a squat and bearded human who appeared far older than his actual age, spent more time searching than staring at Jameak.

Jameak listened to the droning drip-drop of of rain on leaves and dirt, straining his ears to catch even the quietest rustle from Jay. C’mon, Jay! Just come out. We can get through this. Together. Something swished nearby, and Jameak spun to face the source of the sound.

“I don’t suppose you’ve got a steak somewhere on you?” Private De Cormuz appeared, gesturing at Jameak’s loaded utility belt. It held a two-way radio, two pistol holsters, a Ka-Bar knife sheath, and a handful of those special smoke grenades.

“No.” He grunted, as if to signal the conversation’s end, and Private De Cormuz starting wandering in another direction. “Wait. Hold still.”

“What?”

Shhh.” The downpour almost -- almost -- covered up the sounds of something hurtling through a nearby thicket. He heard something click, and then every other sound got swallowed up by a roaring explosion. Jameak instantly lifted an arm to block his face, as chunks of bark and branch flew out from the blast, but his fellow soldier wasn’t as fortunate. He looked over to see a small cut on Private De Cormuz’s cheek trickling blood and smearing his camouflage greasepaint. The half-orc took several steps back from the source of the explosion, gesturing for the private to follow, and shouted in a voice that even made him wince. “Soldiers! Form up behind me!” Privates Onidrel and Papp sprinted over to the clearing with the others, rifles at the ready. A howl erupted from the brush, and Jameak saw his team members shiver from the sound. Something thrashed at the bushes, yelping and whimpering with each move it made, until it finally emerged.

Jay’s drenched werewolf form dwarfed even Jameak, even with his injuries doubling him over in pain. Patches of gray fur had burnt out in places all over his body, and Jameak couldn’t even count the number of lacerations on his right side -- the side that must have taken the brunt of the blast. Half-way down Jay’s right shin bone, Jameak could see the muscles, wet and shiny, and his right foot, mangled and bloodied, dragged uselessly behind him. He must have stepped on a land mine - it probably would have killed any of us. “Weapons down!” The corporal heard the shift in his men’s posture, nodded, and took a step towards Jay.

“I’m here. I’m here. Don’t worry.” As authoritative and gruff as was with his men, he turned soft and soothing when addressing his friend. “You were looking for me, weren’t you?” He thought he saw the werewolf bob its head, but he couldn’t be sure he wasn’t seeing what he wanted to see. Still, he took another step, and held his hand out again. “It’s okay. We’re here. We’re here to bring you home.” Jay sniffed, whined, and limped away from Jameak before dropping to the ground on all fours. Jameak eased forward, sitting on the ground next to Jay with his legs tucked underneath him. He patted his lap, once, twice, three times. “It’s okay. Take as long as you need.” Jay settled his snout on Jameak with an exhaled whuff, just as a trio of clicks sounded behind them.

“I’m sorry, Jameak, but we’re going to have to ask you to give us your gun.” Private De Cormuz’s voice shook as he spoke. “The chrome one, with the silver bullets.”

“He’s gonna turn back, you know.” Jameak’s gaze remained on his friend.

“It’s been four days. He’s not. Just give us the gun, and we can all go back together.”

The half-orc looked over his shoulder at the rest of his fire team. He could see Private De Cormuz’s arms shaking, despite the fact that he was leading this mutiny. Private Onidrel held his rifle steady, his expression blank. Private Papp yawned and itched his back side as he levelled his weapon. Jameak grunted. He might have even laughed, if Jay hadn’t been in such bad shape.

“You think I didn’t see this coming, Pierre? The captain puts together a strike team where everyone else but me comes from outside FOB Juliett? He should have just tried to steal the gun while I slept. Wouldn’t have worked, but wouldn’t have ruined your careers too.”

“Don’t make me do-”

“Pierre? Peterke? Alyan? You’re not doing shit. Sergeant Thomas?” The branches rustled, and four figures in ghillie suits dashed into the clearing pointing M16s at the rest of Jameak’s team.

“Drop your weapons!” Sergeant Thomas’ high-pitched voice rang out, brooking no dissent from the soldiers. They looked to her, then the barrels aimed at them, and laid down their arms.

“The captain’s going to hear about this. You wouldn’t dare shoot us.” The quaver in Pierre’s voice betrayed his attempt at bravado.

“Of course he will,” Sergeant Thomas replied, as her team gathered up the guns and placed them into a bag of holding. “But so will Chase.”

“Ch-Chase? Rhovnik?”

“Did your captain even tell you about the confidentiality agreement?” Jameak massaged Jay’s scalp as the werewolf’s eyes half-shut. “I’m here because Jay’s here. Jay’s here because Sami’s here.” He paused to scratch his half-tusks. “I mean, he’s here because Chase owes Sami. Also, Sergeant Thomas, I hope you brought a medic because Jay tripped a mine, I think.”

Sergeant Thomas nodded, flicking a pair of fingers forward, and an elvish woman dressed in camouflage fatigues and a white armband with a red cross rushed forward and knelt by the two men on the ground. The medic gestured for Jameak to roll Jay onto his back, and he did so, carefully.

Nan aear a geil!” Her surprise lasted just a moment, as she assessed his injuries. “He looks worse than he is. The rumors about werewolves healing themselves appear true. Still...all I can say is he looks stable. I know nothing about werewolf anatomy. Can you transform him back?”

“I’ve talked to him a couple of times,” Jameak said, shaking his head. “I’m not sure- Wait.” He snapped his fingers, then looked to the medic. “What’s that oath you swear?”

“The Foundation makes us swear the Hippocratic Oath.” She wrinkled her nose.

“The hippo oath, yeah. Well, you, uh, might want to look away.” Jameak drew his chrome-plated pistol, spun the cylinder out, and took one of the silver bullets from the chamber. The panicked look on her face slid away when he didn’t fire the handgun, although she did seem concerned. Eventually, she nodded and did as she was asked, standing and walking a few steps back. “Sorry.” Before Jay could react, he pressed the bullet against the exposed muscle. Jay howled and thrashed, striking Jameak in the nose with an oversized hand, but there was no force behind the blow. The howls soon shifted to screams, as Jay’s muscles, tendons, and bones snapped back into their normal sizes and positions. His back arched and then collapse as he lay there in the mud, naked, bloody and battered. Each breath came with a pained gasp. Confident in her safety, the medic knelt again beside Jay.

“We need to get him back quickly. You two-” she pointed at two members of Sergeant Thomas’ team. “-I need some sturdy branches and fabric.” They saluted her and ran off. “How are you feeling?” She touched his forehead, then his wrist, trying to get a quick feel for his vitals.

“J-J-” His voice cracked, his head turning toward the half-orc.

“Shh. It’s okay.”

A sliver of a smile crossed his lips, the predator’s ice almost entirely melted from his eyes. “...Thank you.” He felt a pinch in his left arm, a spreading burning sensation through his veins, and then his world turned black.

((Elvish comes from http://tara.istad.org/sind-phrases.htm))
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