Characters in this post
View character profile for: Cassandra Jones
View character profile for: Jaxx/Bif Biggles (Away)
View character profile for: Evelina Stone (Away)
View character profile for: Dr Jade Black
View character profile for: Jamie Eastlick
Who: Cass and Jamie
When: Just after Jamie saved Cass from the tentacle monster
Where: The jungle
"So. You were calling for Jaxx?..."
"Yeah he's in that pond somewhere" still shaking with adrenaline, Cass scrambled to her feet to gaze out across the subsiding waters "Can you see him?"
Jamie grimaced "If that creature's got him, there's not much we can do other than hope"
"I don’t... Is there nothing!?"
"What? Did you want to go in and try to rescue him?" he raised his eyebrows.
"No" Cass folded her arms defensively and continued to stare out across the glassy, moonlit waters.
"It’d mean our deaths if we did" Jamie grunted and crouched down beside the fire, his hands moving, almost without thinking, to tend to the flames with long practised expertise “Jaxx is in his element down there and he can more than handle himself. We wait”
Her nerves still jangling, Cass paced back and forth, keeping well away from shore. There was nothing to see on the surface of the water now, nor was there anything she could think to do to help, so after a few more minutes she reluctantly turned away to join Jamie by the fireside.
Her back and arms hurt from where she had been hauled over the stones and rocks by the creature, making Cass grimace in pain as she sat down and begin an inspection of the abrasions she had acquired during her frantic fight to stay out of the water.
Ignoring Jamie’s inquisitive stares, she spat on her stinging hands and gently rubbed them together before patting them dry on her trousers.
"Let me see" he leaned forward, around the fire and held out an expectant hand.
"No it's fine" Cass shifted her weight, shying away slightly, her fingers instinctively curling to hide the cuts and scrapes.
"They might need an antiseptic - There's a plant I know..."
"No, really - It's fine"
The exchange didn't get the opportunity to go much further, as Jaxx interrupted them by emerging from the pond; the sudden splashing startling Cass, who skittishly wheeled and pointed one of her pistols at him.
Whether it was this that proved to be the final straw for Jaxx, Cass couldn’t say; but he dropped an assortment of fish in front of Jamie and mumbled some excuse about needing to find Eve, before simply walking off into the darkness, in spite of both her and Jamie's protestations.
"Jaxx!" Cass was up onto her feet to shout after him as he disappeared into the undergrowth "Don't be so fucking stupid. What would Eve say? She'd tell you stay here and... and... Oh for fuck's sake!" she threw up her hands in frustration and turned back to Jamie who was still sat beside the fire "He's a fucking idiot!"
Letting her hands fall, she glanced back towards where Jaxx had disappeared before turning towards Jamie again "What the fuck does he think he's doing?"
Jamie looked up at her, his features thrown into shadow by the flickering flames of the fire "Looking for Eve?"
"Oh, don't be facetious" she sneered as she sat heavily down beside the fire
"Don't be rude!" Jamie snapped, his irritation clearly evident.
"Well..." she gestured vaguely before letting her hands fall "Oh what's the point?"
Satisfied that she wasn't about to make anything of it, Jamie nodded in the direction Jaxx had just disappeared "Should we go after him?"
Cass shook her head "Let's give him a while to get the fuck over himself and see if his psychic parasite can talk him around; if not, you'll be able to track him easy enough, right?"
"Works for me" Jamie nodded and leaned forward to settle his elbows on his knees, his eyes scrutinising Cass in silence for a moment.
"That's just what I was wondering" he murmured deliberately "What happened between you and Jaxx to make him leave like that?"
Cass opened her mouth to tell him that it was none of his fucking business, but thought better of it and instead shook her head, her features hardening into a scowl.
"You shouldn't be so hard on him" Jamie continued, reaching around to toss another branch on the fire
"You know what?" Cass unflinchingly met his gaze "I wasn't"
"Go easy on him. He's trying hard to move on and be a better person at the moment"
"Aren't we all?" Cass gave a hollow laugh and looked away to gaze pensively down into the flames of the fire.
"I mean it"
"Oh, fuck it" she looked back up at Jamie "You want to know what happened?
"Fine, I'll tell you: He finally got around to thanking me for fixing him up, so I thanked him for saving us all and made some excuse for not having done so earlier; to which he says that I didn't have to make excuses, because I apparently 'don't like him much'"
"You do give that impression"
"So? We're all different" Cass shrugged and drew her legs up in front of her "It takes a long time to win my friendship and, given his history, he's starting off with a fucking big handicap"
"All the same" Jamie said levelly.
"Look, I don't dislike him" Cass protested "I'm just wary of him - I told him as much as well"
"Well, that's not going to help matters, is it?"
"I also told him why I'm wary as well - You know me; I tend to keep myself to myself
"So I open up and explain things, and instead of talking about it or showing even the remotest hint of understanding or remorse he just fucks off at the first opportunity, with his 'she said I'm so fucking scary' pet lip on him" she paused for breath and shook her head, her brow furrowing "He's a fucking imbecile"
"I wouldn't call him an imbecile" Jamie said delicately "But you know he's not the brightest button on the coat. Perhaps you should make allowances?"
At this, Cass threw her head back and gave a short, humourless laugh "I make allowances for people each and every single day of my fucking life!"
"All I'm saying is to cut him some slack - He's trying his best at the moment. We don't want him reverting back to how he was, do we?"
Cass wrinkled her nose "I had considered that" she said after a moment and raised a hand to examine the abrasions on her palm and fingers in the flickering firelight. She let it fall "I suppose I was hoping we could be civilised and arrive at an understanding; but that doesn't seem very likely, does it?"
"Well, what are the alternatives?"
Cass scowled "You know as well as I. We'll probably see his behaviour becoming increasingly aberrant, which will eventually result in his termination; and believe it or not, I'd prefer that not to happen"
"Then you're going to have to come to that understanding on your own and act your IQ. He's trying, maybe you should too?"
"Why's this my fucking fault!?"
"I never said that it was"
"Yeah, but..." Cass left whatever it was that she was about to say, unsaid and instead sighed and shook her head "You're right" she said after a moments silence "I've come to all the same conclusions myself. I just don't like it." she lapsed into silence again "I need to think on it. We should go and find him. I just don't like having to -"
Jamie suddenly held up a hand, signalling quiet as he half rose from where he was sat, his ear cocked, listening "Someone's coming" he murmured after a moment, his voice barely audible above the nocturnal buzz of the jungle around them.
Drawing her pistols, Cass was up and on her feet in within seconds and heading away from the fire, into the darkness surrounding them. Jamie held out a hand, staying her course for a moment.
Voices drifted on the night air.
"There" Jamie grunted and nodded in satisfaction "It's Jade and Eve"
"Fucking hell" Cass groaned "Eve's going to be so pissed off that we let Jaxx go"
"Maybe not" Jamie shrugged "In any case, I reckon Frankie will see him right. C'mon - The ladies will be starving and we'll all think better on a full stomach. Give me a hand with these fish, will you?"
If Cass was being honest, she'd admit that Jamie's words had needled her. She knew he was right and as she had said, she'd arrived at all the same conclusions; but hearing them from someone else seemed to somehow validate them and give them extra credence.
Jaxx for all his many faults was trying his best - she could see that; but she was struggling to reconcile this with her memories of his previous, terrifying behaviour; and as she had told him: She wasn't the sort to easily forgive or ever forget - a survival trait of hers that had become second nature over the years.
Perhaps it was time to let all that go?
Here and now was her time, not Brittany's. Why should she cling the the tattered vestiges of someone else's personality when she could blossom and grow into whoever she wanted to be?
She had hurriedly pushed that thought away; preferring, instead, to concentrate on helping Jamie prepare the fish and not to dwell upon how little of her there actually was, when compared with all that was Brittany. But still... the thought niggled and she worried at it as she watched with interest as Jamie gutted and skewered the fish.
She was still dwelling on it, ten minutes later, when a nigh-on perfect looking Eve emerged from the jungle, leading a hot and bedraggled Jade who flopped tiredly down next to Cass by the fire. The fish were just starting to sizzle appetisingly over the flames, and the air was slowly filling with a mouthwatering aroma.
Cass discreetly eyed Eve as she approached, wondering just how she was going to explain about Jaxx and worrying whether she might somehow sense that something was amiss.
As it turned out, she needn't have been apprehensive because, to her relief, Eve just assumed that her husband was being an idiot, and somehow managed to tempt him back in the manner of a dog scenting out a mate.
The fact that Jaxx appeared to have reverted to some sort of feral state when he emerged from the undergrowth, wasn't lost on Cass; but happily this proved only temporary and her concern was quickly replaced by a degree of sympathy for the guy, when she witnessed the treatment meted out to him by Eve.
While she stopped short of actually hitting Jaxx, Eve didn't seem overly concerned about the others witnessing her rather physical chastisement; and there was an awkward moment of nervous laughter around the campfire when she finally let go of his bright red ear and starting demanded gifts.
Thankfully for him, Jaxx had returned with an assortment of fruits and berries, bundled up in his shirt, so he was spared any further humiliation; although Cass noted that Eve was careful to leave the threat of more severe punishment hanging over him if he displeased her again. This very nearly made her say something, but Jade somehow sensed her agitation and had placed a calming hand on her shoulder and asked for help, washing and cleaning the haul of fruit.
"That's physical and psychological abuse" Cass hissed, well out of earshot of the others "My fucking father used to do that shit. It starts off small and then gets worse and worse"
"I thought you didn't like Jaxx?"
"Oh, come on..."
They ate not long after that, the fruit and fishes making for an odd, but filling enough meal. Cass felt the conversation was somewhat muted, although whether anyone else picked up on it was open to conjecture as Jamie took it upon himself to regale them with all manner of bushlore as they ate; explaining what each of the things were that they were eating were and how the Ssala prepared them.
Jaxx, for his part, just sat next to Eve as meek and quiet as a kitten, hardly daring to raise his eyes.
As they neared the end of their meal, a shockwave rumbled through the ground beneath them; the tremor preceding the sound of a distant explosion a few seconds later.
“What the hell was that?” Cass demanded above the screeching and whooping animals that had been startled awake in the trees around them “You don’t think that was...” she trailed off, leaving the words unsaid, but everyone could tell what she was thinking.
Jamie clambered to his feet and brushed off his hands “Give me a minute” he grunted and, rolling his shoulders, walked towards one of the larger trees where he pulled himself up into its lower branches to nimbly climb up into the darkness.
"Can you see anything?" Jade called up to him
“The jungle’s burning. It's about four hours northwest of here” he called down a moment later “I’m guessing there might have been an airstrike”
“We need to check that out” Cass said without hesitation
Apologies for not really moving it on a great deal but what should we do about that explosion, when everyone’s tired and ground zero is quite a trek away?
Options are either:
Wait until the morning – Anyone care to argue Cass around to that, and does anything happen overnight? – there could be anything from flash floods and marauding dinosaurs to squadrons of hunter killer droids combing the area, or something completely different – up to you
Or we could trek through the night to the old Serraco camp – who / what else has decided to investigate the site? – do we find / encounter anything on the way?