Chapter Two: "The Cold and Silence"
" I agree lets get on with it then. Perhaps there may be some things to scavenge on the way or inside."
Cassius looked pensive for a second then replied, "You know what? I did leave the stove on. I was cooking a casserole. It'll keep a few months though so I'm sure it'll be fine."
Squeezing Kota's arm where it rested on his shoulder in acknowledgment of the lieutenant's gesture Cass pulled away from the embrace as they climbed the ramp.
Strapping himself into a seat on the port side of the shuttle he noticed a group of duffel bags in a storage net. Among the relatively uniform olive green tubes was a bag with decidedly more... character. One handle was wrapped with 3mil carbon coated, electrum wire, and the end facing them was crisscrossed with atmosphere retention tape giving the seam a hand in holding the thing together. The corner of one of three specially configured data pads was visable as it pushed against the canvas wall of the bag.
"I see they've brought our stuff. Say, how do you guys get everything to fit so nicely? I've only got four sets of clothes, couldn't get anything else in. And not through lack of trying."
SCFV Dinavar

''Who knows what they wants? I don't know and don't rightly care either way. If we're going to the big black, I'm down.'' the tall, bearded Convict-Marine said. Along with everyone else, he really didn't know where they were going, but mobilisation was all the talk he heard of these days.

''Don't got any questions but for the most important one, sir! Will there be coffee?'' he asked, mustering something along the lines of a 'saluting shit-eating-grin' and no doubt, Matteus would regret making that joke.

Plaza of the Founders

Shino laughed at Cass' joke. ''Classic cass Casserole? Sign me up. I figure, you know your way around electricity so a stove shouldn't be a problem for you. Oh, that reminds me of the time I actually got a casserole from the butcher for my siblings and they thought it was somebody's arm for some reason. It took them five counseling sessions to come to grips with the fact it's not allowed to buy human flesh.'' she snickered, remembering a happier, simpler time.

When Kota squeezed her shoulder, she smiled at him and nodded, a sign she was ready to give it her all. ''Let's get this bread boys. Sooner we're up in the air, faster we get to finding out whether my family's alive or not.'' she said. Although she knew damn well she was going on what would essentially be a secret-ish-possible-suicide-mission, she didn''t care. All she wanted to know was if her family was alive or not, and whether she could get them evacuated or not.

Her bag was full of clothing and a datapad, among other items of interest, including a small, framed picture. Somewhat odd, considering most things were holographic or digitalised. Her father had once told her that in the distant past, when the Initiative was in its infant stages, people still liked to frame physical photos of their loved ones, and somehow... the outdated, romantic notion, had stuck.

''I'm not sure just how you managed to get that much in regardless. I've got only two sets of clothing, some spare equipment, and all the not-quite-contraband-surplus-supplies I could get my hands on. I'm not going to be stuck eating those shitty rations for the first three months of this thing.'' she said, and pulled a face, before nimbly running up the ramp and taking her place.

Taelbern, Aditi System
"Yeah, let's," The other ranger said, adjusting himself on his feet slightly. "Ready to go?" He began to move towards the exit of the small hideout. Beyond the city still smoldered. The sky overhead was slowly darkening. As the trio stepped out, the grizzle-faced man looked towards Cassidy. "You got a look more recently, you want to lead?" He asked, adjusting his rifle across his chest, and looking towards the colonial authority building down the road, past the barricades. The grizzled man began to push forwards, momentarily brushing up against a nearby car, an arm covered in a blackish ooze reaching out to grab at him, causing him to curse and leap back a step.

Plaza of the Founders, Sanctuary
Kota laughed at Cassius' question, "Oh, y'know, practice, and dimensional folding," He said, before pretending to cover his ears and hum loudly at Shino's mention of 'not quite contraband'. "La-la-la-la..." He said, loudly, giving her a joking look. Kota let out a groan as the shuttle jerked it's way skywards, rather suddenly. Sergeant Devin was nearly thrown from his seat where he was still strapping in, the ramp slowly whining it's way closed.

Devin looked towards Shino, grinning, "C'mon, you're gonna share, right, Corporal? I'd hate to turn into one of the Fleet with their food," He grinned at her, pulling himself into a seat, the servos in his arm and leg whining against the strain, though he didn't seem too bothered. "Chose this path for a reason."

A hologram flickered to life between the rows of seats, showing the area around the planet, the path of various ships. One had been highlighted, a little status readout identifying it as the SFCV Dinavar (D13). The shuttle moved quickly, soon enough weightlessness taking over within the shuttle. Kota reached towards a nearby pack, and took out a few small bottles, tossing them to the others. "Drink up," He grinned. "Small celebration. Sadly it isn't booze."

He looked up as an intercom chirped into life overhead. "Stand by for arrival," A calm, collected, almost certain synthetic voice said over the intercom. Kota sighed, "Drink up or save it, up to you guys," He grinned, drinking the clear liquid. For those who did drink it, it had an almost mouth-numbing coldness that wasn't a product of any actual temperature imbued in it, that rapidly turned to an almost alcoholic warmth as it hit their bellies. He coughed, looking towards the hatch as it began to whine open, showing off the hangarbay of a ship. "Hey, this doesn't look like my hotel," He quipped, looking to Cassius. "Yours, maybe?"

SFCV Dinavar
A chuckle ran through the assembled crew, at Matteus' joke, a few daring to glance in his direction. The officer turned his dark eyes on Matteus, and stalked over, until their noses were almost touching. "A joker, hm?" He growled, scowling darkly at him. His eyes ran Matteus over, and he scoffed. "Ah, you, I was warned about you, Private," He said, his tone dropping closer towards absolute zero. "Yes, there will be coffee, and we'll be using your flayed skin as the filter," He said, with a dark chuckle, before it was cut off, as a chirp came on over the intercom.
"Stand by to receive shuttle. Clear the landing bay. Say again, stand by to receive shuttle. The gigantic airlock began to whine, as the outer door opened, before i closed and the inner one whined open. A small shuttle hung in the air, before slowly settling into the center of the bay. The hatch began to whine open, showing a handful of blinking men and women. "Hey, this doesn't look like my hotel," One, in the insignia of a Ground Forces Command lieutenant, with a namepatch saying 'Jacobs' read.

"Yeah, best if I lead. What's wrong? Cassidy brings out his Mark 2 Battle Rifle, finger resting on the side near the trigger ready to fire at a moments notice and looks in the direction of the cursing that came from Grizzly (nickname that Cassidy gave his fellow soldier, due to his grizzly appearance and also partially because he never asked for his name).
Cass watched the display as they rose through the air. Perhaps it was a result of living on something as (relatively) small as Pedras, but watching a planet shrink below him was always fascinating. He accepted the drink from Kota but the liquid never touched his lips.

As the perspective of the hologram shifted to display the space above them Cassius' gaze locked on the rapidly growing smudge labelled 'SFCV Dinavar'.
"I know that shape.." he muttered to himself "It can't be, there aren't any still is, That's A Striker!" This last exclamation came as the shape of the vessel was clear to see. Drink dangling precariously from his grip Cass strained against his harness leaning close to the projection.
"What junk heap did they pull this out of? Look, you can see the light beam navigation domes, and there, those bevels and angles on the plating, you only get those on pre-shield tech vessels, and look at those beautiful engines, truly magnificent." his fingers poked and prodded and caressed the image suspended in the cabin as though it were a model in front of him.

"Hotel?" Cassius replied to Kota as he hastily unbuckled himself, "This is a museum, a living relic."
Jumping from the landing ramp before it had fully lowered he ran to an access panel next to the airlock and ripped it open. "Mechanical airlock mechanism! Strikers were the last model fitted with them. They became obsolete with the introduction of controlled magnetic field servos. And you feel that spring? They didn't have anti-grave back then, it would have been fitted a hundred years later or so. The bulkheads aren't designed for it and shield a little so we're only getting 0.9 standard. THE ENGINE! "Cass stopped his bounding with the outburst, and looked for the exit, finally noticing the shocked faces on the assembled troopers.
"Don't mind me, I'm with them." he thumbed back towards the shuttle. "Just going to have a crawl around your engine bay. You just don't normally get that kind of space around a working reactor. She was built with fusion in mind though, so it'll be cavernous down there. This way right?" With that he half jogged towards the door.
Shino smirked at Devin. ''Of course! We're comrades, after all. Can't have you dying on me on account an empty stomach. I don't even know how these Fleet folks can stomach their stuff.'' she said, wrinkling her nose. Dumping the little bottle in without a second's thought, she made an approving noise. ''Too bad it's not actual liquor. Well, I guess it doesn't mean much else, but my body sure is feelin' it.'' she quipped, having strapped herself in tight and groaning with the movement into orbit.

She didn't mind the jumps to and from orbit, but they weren't always the most comfortable.

''Hotel? This looks like an old stunt model for those retro movies that've been made the last decade? Sweet Ice Wraiths this is going to be a VERY uncomfortable trip isn't it? You'd expect us to go on this mission with something more.. up to date, wouldn't you? I swear this is going to get us all killed before we get actual results.'' she complained bitterly, but didn't really seem too bothered by it all. She had her family to find, after all.

Matteus could only resist yapping back by the fact that suddenly the hatch had started opening, his mouth wide open in childish joy. ''Now that is something I'd happily trade a flab of skin for. Wou'd'ya look at that.'' he mumbled, almost instantly taking a liking to the engineer. Rather than saluted, he gave a little wave at the assembled folks. ''Oh, uh, permission to come with, sir? I'd be glad to learn about engines. Life's a journey of learning and there's no day like the present!'' he quipped, cheerfully.

While mostly dressed the same as everyone else in the hangar, it was clear Matteus wasn't... originally part of the crew. Much of that was reinforced by the sour-faced officer in front of him.

Shino could only giggle. ''Cass, I'm sure you won't get lost but please don't start pulling at cables!'' she reminded him. Like he said, this was a museum. In her eyes, there was no telling just how volatile the ship was and she had no intention of being incinerated or yeeted into space. Besides Jacobs, of course, Devin and Shino both had their respective GFC uniforms -Shino had taken the little time she had to get herself equipped for the real work. Dressing herself in the Senate Security uniform would just be a hassle. The name ''Wolf'' displayed on her patch.

''So... I figured a welcome is in order, the reception's fine... but I feel something's lacking...'' Shino mumbled, looking around the hangar. She clicked her fingers, and made a noise to indicate she knew what was missing. ''Coffee! LT. Permission to go to the break room and get coffee?'' she asked, barely suppressing a mischievous chuckle. With no idea what they were going to jump into, she'd try and get as much fun in as she could -even if it'd come at the expense of a stressed superior.

Taelbern, Aditi System
"Fuckin' ooze," 'Bear' said, looking at the gunk that had begun to inch towards him along the ground. "Dunno what it is still, but it's bad news, ain' it?" He chuckled, though there was no amusement to the sound, more like rocks rubbing together. "Should be careful, too many shots and we'll have everyone's attention, yeah?" He adjusted his own rifle, beginning to move down along the road. Ahead the road opened up onto a large plaza, now choked with debris and destroyed vehicles around the civil admin building.

SFCV Dinavar (D13)
Kota smirked, watching Cassius begin to run his mouth, and he folded his hands together behind his head, with an almost relaxed, parental air about him, "Hey, ain' my museum ship," He said, shrugging. "Guess the fleet is hauling in everything they got in cold storage to try to prep for... whatever the fuck this situation is." He looked to Cassius, listening with a look of half-understanding before looking to Shino. "Yeah, guess it does. Those films were always awesome, though you know they filmed on some old leftovers still out there, yeah?" He laughed.

The Fleet officer in front of Matteus scowled at the newcomers exiting onto the deck. "Welcome aboard, Lieutenant and..." He glances at Cassius, as if realizing he was a civilian. "Yes, very well. You, Rice, go with him. We'll be getting underway momentarily, so keep him out of the crew's way, won't you," The thought of saddling a problem maker with another problem maker seemed to tickle some perverse sense of amusement. He touched at his ear momentarily, his lips moving for a brief second, and the deck beneath them began to rumble seconds later. "We're already underway, so you have time to look over the ship," He said, looking to Kota, Shino, Rice, Devin, and their companions.

Devin shook his head, "Hey, Corporal, think I'll join you for that coffee, yeah?" He chuckled, moving towards the hatch with Shino. "Shit, I hate space."

"At least it wasn't something worse than just ooze, however I wonder what the ooze was from". Cassidy is marking the location of the ooze so we know where to send a researcher, when one is available.  "Let's start heading out again, however let's remain on the edge of the wreckage not straight through it." As Cassidy again takes the lead, keeping an eye it for anything.

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