Wrapping a large towel tightly around her, Cass tucked the leftover corner in just above her bust and turned to push the bathroom door open. The rush of cool air that greeted her from outside made her skin pucker and she involuntarily shivered as she emerged from the bathrooms steamy warmth, out into her quarters.
The place, she noted, was beginning to look like a tip again. There were at least two partially dismantled robots scattered across the floor, several pieces of which were littering the counters of the kitchenette, along with her latest, disastrous attempt at cooking.
Glowering bad temperedly at the mess, Cass padded barefoot through the apartment and into the bedroom where she made her way towards the wardrobe with the intention of finding some clothes to wear. Her reflection in the mirror on the wall caught her attention however and she paused in front of it for a moment, her eyes narrowing as they drank in what she saw.
Skinny. Wet hair. Tired-looking.
She frowned and leaned in close to the mirror while she ran her fingers back through the spiky mess on top of her head.
There was definitely more grey in there than there had been twelve months ago and it was beginning to piss her off. Perhaps she should start dying it again she mused as she turned away in disgust and hauled the wardrobe door open to begin searching for clothes suitable for a trip to Fernando's.
Fucking place.
Briefly turning to scowl at the planet, looming large on the main monitor dominating the room behind her, Cass irritably returned her attention back to what to wear.
Given the choice she reflected, as she rifled through her underwear drawer, she'd rather not revisit Fernando's. There were too many bad memories there and, perhaps more pertinently, in her opinion they were woefully under-prepared for this latest fool escapade, and if she were honest, she’d admit that it had her worried.
She had managed to win a little extra time for preparations after they had made the Q-T jump by insisting that the near exhausted crew should give it at least twelve hours to get some rest while Holly scanned the planet beneath them. Jay had argued against any longer delay out of concern for Plisken, even in spite of Cass pointing out the numerous holes in their rather threadbare plan - which on the whole just amounted to investigating the various locations that Holly identified where Plisken might be held.
Holly swam into view on the main monitor as Cass picked out some appropriate underwear and began searching for a matching pair of socks.
“’Orrite dude”
“Hey Hol, what’s up?”
“I've got Jay on the line - He wants to know when you’re going to be joining him and everyone else?”
“Bollocks” Cass hissed in exasperation, and gave up her search, settling instead for a pair of socks that were similar enough to bear casual scrutiny “Tell him I’m on the way, alright?”
“Pull the other one mate – You’re not even dressed!” the AI bobbed on the screen wearing a knowing expression “You’re going to be ages”
“Just tell him I’m on the way” Cass suddenly snapped, her apprehension at returning to Fernando's bubbling over into irritation.
“Whoops” Holly nipped off one side of the screen, leaving the monitor to return back to its view of the planet beneath them, while Cass briefly closed her eyes and exhaled a long, low sigh.
That was uncalled for.
Snatching up a bra, she stomped across the room and tossed the articles of clothing down on the unmade bed while she peeled the towel from around her to finish drying herself off.
"Can you give me a tactical analysis of your scans please Hol?" she asked a couple of minutes later as she rubbed the towel through her hair
"Oh, right - You've calmed down already, have you?" the AI smirked as it shimmered back onto the screen “What’s bugging you this morning?”
"Oh, cut me some slack" Cass wrinkled her nose "I didn’t get a great night’s sleep"
True enough, by the time they had finished with the preparations and execution of the Q-T jump last night, she had found that she had gone well past sleep and had instead tossed and turned in her bed for more than an hour before finally rising to listlessly prowl the deserted corridors of the ship.
"Bad luck" Holly nodded “So what caused that?”
"Urgh - I'm just a little stressed" Cass tossed the towel down onto the floor and began dressing "I nearly died again yesterday, and I don't want to go back to this fucking stupid planet. Anyway..." she shook her head and sighed "What of these scans? - Did you find anything?"
"Well, there's a fifty kilometre wide flux zone down on Fernando's where the damping field has been nullified" Holly retreated to a corner of the screen as a map ballooned into view "This seems to be centred around the signs of human activity that I spotted"
"Just... How? Where?"
Dressed in just her underwear, Cass stared incredulously at the display as a multitude of markers blossomed across the map
"What the actual fuck?" she breathed in wonder "What do those represent? What's down there?"
“All sorts" Holly replied "We’ve got the one main base and dozens of smaller outposts, lots of vehicles running around... Looks more like a military installation than anything. It looks like it's been here ages”
"Fuck's sake" Cass slowly shook her head "How did we miss this?"
"Dunno. The place was nothing but jungle the last time we were here"
"Time travellers?" Cass shrugged "They could have established themselves in a paradox - it would explain why we missed them. They're not STCP are they?"
"They don't appear to be"
"Brittany doesn't suffer organisations like this... I suppose it's too much to hope that they might be friendly?"
"I haven't tried contacting them. Do you think I should?"
"Dunno. Odds are that they'll already be aware of us. What's Jay saying about this?"
"Same sort of stuff as you: That they're likely aware of us and that they should be treated with great caution"
"I can't believe that we used to think we were the last humans left alive in the universe" Cass grumbled as she retreated across the room to pull a long sleeved top and a pair of baggy cargo pants out of the wardrobe "This place is crawling with them!"
“Well I don’t know about crawling” Holly bobbed on the screen "I'd guess at a couple hundred at most"
"Has there been any sign of Plisken?" Cass asked
"Not yet, but I'll keep scanning - It's an iterative process"
"Haruk activity?" Cass scowled at the creases wrinkling the top; she missed Bedge sometimes
“There’s a city near the edge of flux zone”
Cassandra's scowl deepened
"If it weren't for all the slaves down there, I'd turn the fucking place into... into..." she petered out with the realisation that she was talking like Brittany again "Aw, shit" she sighed, her shoulders sagging "What's going on with me?"
"You expressed concern for the Ssala slaves" Holly said gently "You had a bad experience with the Haruk before. You're not all bad"
Cass gave her creation a sad kind of smile
"Thanks Hol" she murmured and pulled the top down over her head and smoothed it down with her hands "You know... You can be remarkably perceptive sometimes"
Sitting down on the bed after that, she hurriedly pulled on her trousers and grabbed a pair of boots from beneath the bed to finish getting dressed; the drone crouched in watchful silence there, skittering out of her way as she extracted the footwear.
After quickly stuffing a few extra essentials into a rucksack, Cass was out of her quarters and on her way down towards the shuttle bay where Jay was holding court a few minutes later.

"Good of you to join us" Artemis said, rather too archly for Cassandra's tastes as she hurried into the shuttle bay where Jay was concluding his briefing.
"Fuck yourself" she snapped back
"Cass!" Jay warned, but she wasn't in the mood for a fight and instead shook her head
"Holly already appraised me of the situation" she said "What's our plan?"
"We were just discussing that" it was Jay's turn to shake his head "We don't know how advanced this organisations technology is, so broadly our options are to either land two or three days treck outside the flux zone or go in hard and fast"
"A jungle trek isn't anything to be afraid of" Jamie interjected "There's a good chance we'll meet allies on the ground who can fill us in on what's been going on down there"
"Whereas I was favouring hard and fast" Jay shrugged "I can outfly any defences they might have down there - We can be down on the ground before they even have chance to react and we can wing it from there"
In spite of herself, Cass couldn't help but smile - That plan was so typically Jay it was ridiculous
"I'm not a great fan of either option" she grumbled "I'd vote for giving it another week or two, to analyse and formulate a more detailed plan, but like you said earlier - There's Plisken to think of"
"He did help with your rescue last time we were here" Jay said pointedly
"Yeah, I'm well aware of that" Cass retorted peevishly "I'd be staying here if that weren't the case"
"We don't -"
"Leave our own behind" Cass finished for him "I know. I'm just not happy about going back to Fernando's"
"Why don't we try a compromise between going straight in and a long treck?" Jade suggested
"I was just going to suggest that" Cass nodded "Fly into the flux zone, see what happens and be prepared to either retreat or take the 'bug down fast"
"Egad, that's brilliant!" Artemis yelled "Why didn't I think of that!?"
"Good question" Kenneth said dryly

So it was agreed
Half an hour later, the crew were making planetfall in one of the Starbugs, expertly piloted by Jay.
"You okay?" he asked Cass, sat up on the bridge with him at her usual seat on the science desk "You're quiet"
She glanced sharply across at him
"I just don't want to be back here" she said after a moment
"I get that" Jay nodded "I - Whoops. We've got a lock on us..."
He banked the Starbug sharply to the right
"No, wait" Cass spoke up "We've got more - two, three, five... multiple inboud..."

Anyone fancy sorting this out for us?
I only tagged those mentioned in the post, but just assume you're there if you want to be

apologies as well for being quiet of late - on holiday at the moment and the wireless is a little spotty

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