05.28.3013: Steel of the Desert
Summary: Augusta meets with Cynan and Helena to discuss the ongoing preparations on Inculta.
Date: 28 May 2013
Related: None
Augusta Cynan Helena 

An Office, Detritus - Inculta
An office inside the central Dalton holding in Detritus.
28 May 3013

Hostiles haven't been sighted here on Inculta, not yet, but one wouldn't realize that from just a cursory inspection of the fortifications. Dozens of soldiers are scattered around the area, nearly every one of them on the alert. And for those who aren't, well, the presence of a Knight strolling about is enough to wake them up in a hurry. That would be Sir Cynan Dalton, dressed simply in a brown robe, sword hanging at his side. His pace is quick, his eyes point straight forward, and he barks the occasional one- or two-word command at a lounging sentry.

She is neither soldier nor knight, and yet Helena moves with the brisk pace of a woman on a mission. The doctor is a common enough sight on the grounds that she encounters no more than a cursory once-over and a scan of her identification via her small PDA unit that she replaces in her pocket as she walks. Her destination is the residential wing to visit her aunt, but the sight of a familiar face calls for a detour. "Lord Sir Cynan!" The tone of her greeting carries with it a subdued sort of cheer, as if she were aware that too much happiness at this moment in time would be quite inappropriate.

The greeting also snaps Cynan out of his single-minded focus in a hurry. His attention turns in Helena's direction in a heartbeat, and a momentary look of confusion is quickly replaced by a toothy grin. "Lady Helena." There's a tilt of his head toward one of the sentries before he makes his way over to greet her, and while his response is likewise a bit subdued, he seems genuinely happy to see her. "What brings you all the way down here? I'd have expected them to have you quite occupied on the Ring."

"I hate to sound as if I am stroking my own ego, cousin, but the medical unit on The Ring has been prepared for just such an incident," Helena replies to Cynan. She falls in beside him and gestures him to continue forward, willing to follow wherever his business is taking him. "Ever since the discovery of the pods, I had an inkling that our services would be required sooner rather than later. Supplies are tripled and in order, staff has been well versed in protocol, and we've put in a requisition for more emergency medics. I am just waiting for approval. Money, you know."

Clasping her hands behind her back, Helena takes a moment to look about and marvel at the construction of the central 'fortress' of Detritus. "And you? I hope you are finding time to sleep and eat. I am sure you are far, far busier than I will ever be."

"Now and again." That brings a smirk from Cynan, and though he falls back into his pace around the fortress, his gait is substantially smoother and easier. "You're most likely quite right, of course. Pods were discovered here on Inculta not long ago - you heard, surely." A pause. "Lady Dalton had already instructed us to prepare the defenses, but we've been on high alert ever since the incident. If… no. No if." He comes to a stop, turning to one side to look for a moment out over the desert. "They're out there. We are ready for them."

Tilting his head back to Helena for a moment, he adds, "It's good to hear that the medical facilities are prepared as well. I imagine many of our men will be in need of your assistance soon." Another smirk, though this one's much less mirthful. "Don't be surprised if you see quite a bit more… or less, as the case may be… of me in the near future."

Helena pauses beside Cynan, turning to follow his gaze out over the sprawl of Detritus that extends before them. For her, despite growing up nearby, the sight is still a breathtaking one. She admires it in silence for a few seconds before casting a glance sideways at Cynan. The right corner of her mouth quirks upward into a rueful half-smile of understanding. "I heard, and I will be the first to admit it was chilling. The realization of what draws near has finally hit. One would never imagine it to happen in their lifetime, but — we knew, of course. Still, I suppose it was wishful thinking and desperate hope that has kept me from thinking upon the impending war. Until now."

When talk turns to the frequency of their meetings, the doctor has enough presence of mind to frown and break eye contact. The subject is an uncomfortable one, although there is little else in her posture that speaks to this. "You had better be in one piece every time I see you, Cynan. I mightn't forgive you if — something — happened. Is Aunt sending troops to the outlying settlements or ordering citizens to evac to Detritus and the surrounding cities?"

"Inculta is beautiful this time of year, is it not?" Cynan is silent for a long moment, his eyes drifting back over the desertscape for a long moment. Softly, he replies, "It is curious how much even preparing for war can distract one from the prospect of war itself. On the one level, I suppose I am lucky. I have trained for this for quite some time." Lips curl upward in a mirthless smile. "In all honesty, however. I was in the presence of a living Hostile just weeks ago. And I believe I was as unsettled as anyone."

Abruptly, Cynan turns on his heel and resumes his walk around the fortifications, a touch quicker this time. "I will try to remain whole. After all, there is only so much I can do to defend Inculta while I am bound to a bed in the hospital." Or a slab in the morgue, he doesn't quite add. "We have patrols watching over the outlying settlements," he replies. "No evacuation yet, but plans are in place to do so at a moment's notice."

"Mm, it is," Helena murmurs in agreement, casting one last look upon the view before the conversation draws her attention back to Cynan. She studies his expression, and his feigned smile does nothing to fool her. "If all you can say is that it unsettled you, cousin, then I would say you fare far better than some. No amount of training can really prepare a soldier for the true test of mettle, the face-to-face with an enigma as the enemy. Perhaps if we were fighting something with a human face, or perhaps if we understood them more…" She allows her observation to trail off unfinished, although the 'it would be easier' is easily implied.

The doc only has time to blink as Cynan departs, and she has to jog a moment to catch him up. She dodges the unspoken idea that her cousin may, in fact, wind up in a morgue long before his time, and instead she falls into place beside him. Her shorter legs must do twice the work to keep up with the knight. "And you will be here the whole time? There isn't a chance orders will take you to an outlier?"

"Hrh. To be fair, the one I met was in stasis. The functioning one that was received from the incident in Arboren." Cynan isn't feigning a smile anymore, but his expression isn't an upset one, either. Just… neutral. "If I had encountered a mobile one, I imagine my reaction would have been entirely different. Less unsettled and more…" He doesn't quite say 'afraid,' nor does he say 'angry.' His expression makes it clear that there'd be some measure of both, though the proportion is unclear.

"I will go where I am assigned," he responds, slightly louder, his pace slowing down again. "But until I am told otherwise, my place is here, protecting our home. Once Inculta is secure, then we will see what can be done." His eyes flicker over to rest on Helena's for a silent moment. "It is good, in a way, to not have to think about it. Makes the uncertainty of wartime easier to bear."

Helena manages to catch her breath as Cynan mercifully slows his pace. Despite being well-versed in the benefits of exercise, it is obvious the doctor does not enjoy it. She is hardly what one would consider to be 'in shape.' Blowing air through pursed lips, she places her hands on her hips and bends at the waist in a melodramatic gesture as if she has just finished a half-marathon. It was, perhaps, five meters of power walking at best. "I wish I had half of your confidence, Cynan. I have dealt with trauma, so I am no stranger to wounds, to blood, to stress, to everybody else's hysteria, but I will admit that I am afraid my skills will prove futile to far too many good men and women."

Helena pauses, having finally caught her breath, and she straightens to stare at her cousin with a hardened expression. "And if you tell anybody that the word 'afraid' passed my lips, I will deny it and spread rumors that you have a pet feline named Snookums." The threat is empty, meant to be humorous, but it is delivered in the tell-tale deadpan that accompanies so many of her jests that fall flat. Her features soften, and she shoves her hands down into her pockets. "My brothers have refused to take their families on an extended vacation to visit Lady Augusta. In truth, it is probably wise. She will be too busy to have so much family underfoot. I, however, am unhappy beyond words."

Eventually, it seems that Cynan notices that his cousin is just a bit out of breath. His pace slows a little more, and then stops entirely, motioning to a bench set against a nearby wall. It's presently occupied by a less-than-diligent sentry, but a quick glance from Cynan has him on his feet and yielding the seat to the lady in a hurry. "I have confidence in my training," he replies, "as you should have in yours. In myself?" He forces his shoulders to move up and down in a shrug. "It will be a test. I try not to dwell overmuch upon it, even as I prepare thoroughly for what is to come." An impressive feat of doublethink, that, if he can pull it off. The furrows in his brow indicate that it's not necessarily successful.

There's a polite laugh at Helena's joke, and his reply is likewise deadpan. "And if you tell anyone that I am nervous, well. Don't expect me to interrupt my walk for you again." It's not a threat, per se, nor is it accompanied by laughter. "Wise, indeed," he replies, dipping his head in a little nod. "But no less frustrating for us. What have we to lean on in these times, if not family?"

The Dalton woman tries not to look too grateful that Cynan both observes her physical distress but also stops to allow her a rest. Truly, she should not indulge in such laziness, but it would be awfully rude to turn down such chivalry. She flashes a brief smile to the sentry who abandons his seat for her, and she claims the bench with a happy sigh before leaning back against the wall. Crossing her legs, she rests the ankle of her right foot atop her left knee and clasps her hands together behind her head in the laziest of poses. "Oddly enough, coz, I understand you completely. Prepare, but don't dwell. It's a difficult mental battle."

Her lips curve upward into a grin that echoes Cynan's laughter and even farther as he returns the jest. "We have ourselves, our families, and our compatriots. And the constant presence of our duties, too. But all this doomsday talk is raising my cortisol levels, and that's never good. When is your shift over?"

Cynan stops to consider for a moment, fresh furrows forming in his brow. Finally, he beckons the lazy sentry to return to his side. "Sergeant," he says, "Do inform Lieutenant Gransom that I will be taking a brief respite." As the soldier scurries away, he turns to settle onto the bench beside Helena, letting his sword hang over the side and folding his hands in his lap. "There are advantages to overseeing the fortifications, after all," he remarks. "I have some degree of control over my own schedule."

That being done, he turns his full attention back to Helena, visibly relaxing, if only a hair. "Then let me endeavor to keep your cortisol down," he replies, though the little smirk curling his lips indicates that he has only a passing understanding of her meaning. "Your brothers, their wives and their families are quite well, still, I take it." An eyebrow quirks upward. "And yourself? Still as consumed by your work as ever?"

Naturally, Helena is delighted when Cynan dismisses his duties for a time to keep her entertained. It does, perhaps, prolong the wait before she must face Lady Augusta and whatever extra charges the woman is bound to lay at her feet. For a moment, the dread distracts the doctor enough that her gaze wanders away, but the word 'cortisol' pierces the daydream and she whips her attention back to her cousin. "Hmm? Oh, yes, thank the Light they are all of them in good health, safe and sound for now. I am going to be grateful every time I can say that." Sighing, she heaves herself up from the bench and nudges Cynan with an elbow. "Thank you. Can I enlist your services as back-up when I have to go see Aunt? I have imagined a million differen duties she is willing to heap onto my overburdened shoulders. Anyway, how is your family faring with all of this?"

"Ah. I am so very glad to hear that as well, Helena." Cynan is more than happy to keep her entertained, at that. It's a welcome respite from his own duties, not to mention the ever-looming dread that comes with patrolling the fortress. "My brothers and sisters are doing quite well as well, of course. They've chosen to relocate to the fortifications for the time being, which I find entirely wise." As she gets to her feet, he does as well, hands on his knees. "I would be more than happy to do so. Perhaps we should head inside now?" He tilts his head to one side. "Even if she is not available, it will be good to get out of the sun."

Helena is less eager to escape the pressing heat, but she submits to Cynan's request with a silent bob of her head. Taking advantage of the moment, she leads the way toward the looming doors that lead into the building proper. "I can never quite get enough of the sun, am never quite warmed enough. I absolutely hate that about The Ring. The artificial light gives me migraines, and sometimes I feel so stifled. I don't care how fresh they insist the recycled air to be, it is not the same as a morning breeze that carries the acrid scent of desert. My colleagues have accused me of being a homebody, and I am no longer offended by that. In fact, I find it most complimentary."

As she approaches the doors, they are opened for several people in a group to pass through. She pauses while glancing back to check on Cynan's location, smiling, and clasps her hands behind her back once more. "You make me talk too much, Cynan, and I know how you feel about home. Tell me truthfully - do you wish you were in The Vale instead of here?" Helena's tone is carefully neutral in an effort to not sound accusatory.

"So intriguing, is it not, that we always wish to be wherever we are not." Cynan lets out a low chuckle. "I find the recycled air on the Ring to be comforting, sometimes. It is clean, and it is fresh enough for my taste. The sun here on Inculta can be… overpowering." Lips quirk upward in a small smile. "But I would not want to dwell there for too long. I do not envy you, cousin, at least not for your location."

The latter question is met with only silence for a long moment, and he comes to a brief stop, letting his eyes rest on Helena's, unblinking. "You know that I remember my time in the Vale very fondly. When I was there, it was a very, very good time to be there." Eyelids flutter closed briefly, and then he whispers, "But truthfully, I can tell you, my place is here." Arms hang loose at his sides as he resumes his walk inside. "And today, at least, I have no particular desire to be elsewhere."

Cynan and Helena have just entered the fortification of Detritus, and are strolling leisurely — because the latter with her short legs has set the pace. She reaches up to push back the ever present curls from her face, tucking them behind her ears. The gesture is futile, as within mere seconds they spring back into place in the most annoying fashion. When Cynan stops, so does she, turning her head to meet his gaze. Her thin eyebrows arch upward in surprise at the somber undertone to his words, but she presses her lips together in a thin line to bite back the quip that rises unbidden to her tongue. Now is not the time to make light of another's feelings.

Helena resumes walking beside Cynan as he moves forward, and their steps carry them toward the main stair that leads upward to the floor above and the office wing. Perhaps it is likely that Lady Augusta will be there tending to business. "Today, and any other day, I can sympathize with you, coz. I love my work, but I love my home as well. My nieces and nephews feel differently, and I find it remarkable the amount of wanderlust that has affected the newer generation. Perhaps I am merely an old soul."

"Believe me, I know wanderlust quite well. But at least for the moment, I have had my fill of travel." Cynan's smile is a somber one, and his pace slows markedly as his eyes flicker around the area. "Especially when our home needs to be protected, there is no better place for us to be. For all of us."

In due time Cynan walks with Helena up to the office ring, and he peers around a corner before coming to a stop. "It would seem, that Aunt Augusta is here as we hoped." Accordingly, he motions for her to go on ahead into a nearby office, adding, "I will be with you as requested, Lady Helena." Even if only for the moment, the attitude of casual banter between cousins is gone, replaced by the stoic face of a Knight in service to a lady.

The office in question where the two find Lady Dalton, is a large circular space. The ceiling appears open to the sunny sky above, even though it is a holographic illusion as this is one of the more secure locations in the palace. In the center of the room is a massive round table, about twenty feet in diameter, that projects a 3D holographic representation of Inculta spinning slowly, with various information on it indicating cities and settlements.

Augusta is standing at the table looking up at the image of her planet, her arms folded in thought. Her shoulder high walking stick resting nearby. There are others in the room, a couple technicians, some military officers and a Servant of the Light. She does not yet notice the arrival of her two relatives.

As the two draw near to the office, Helena's back straightens. Her hands drop to her sides and she spares a glance for Cynan as he gestures her to precede him into the office. Of course he would. This is her meeting, is it not? Steeling herself by donning the formal air required in public, Helena enters the room and pauses just past the threshold, giving the others within time to note her presence and identity.

Those lingering about Augusta are unfamiliar to the doctor, but the sight of them does not stop her from approaching the table. Naturally, her sharp gaze is drawn away from the Lady Dalton toward the rotating image of Inculta. The information displayed for everybody's benefit is of less interest to her, so after a few seconds her attention returns to her aunt. "Lady Dalton," she greets quietly before falling silent lets she impede even further upon the woman's thoughts.

It's Helena's meeting, of course, but Cynan walks about as close as he can while still technically being behind rather than beside her. Having already adjusted his demeanor to one of proper formality, he's confident by the time he enters the office, and his eyes rest on Augusta alone.

Having served in the fortress for some time, the Knight is, of course, familiar with Augusta's guardians, but he pays them no particular heed. Rather, he gives a polite bow of the head in his aunt's direction and intones, politely, "Good day, Lady Dalton." Then he likewise falls silent, eyes flickering over to Helena.

Augusta's head turns and she looks at the two. Her face brightens on seeing Helena, "Ah … Helena my dear." She steps over and takes her shoulders as she leans forward to give a peck on the young woman's cheek before leaning back. "I am so pleased to see you back on Inculta. How are things at the clinic?" She gives a sort of idle waves towards those nearby her and the technicians and officers sort of recede to stations farther away from the family members. The only one that remains nearby is the Servant, standing stoically a few paces away. Trained not to intrude on family, but also unwilling to leave the Lady's side with the Hostile incursions.

Helena's first response is a soft, affectionate smile, and some of the rigidity in her posture dissipates. She relaxes when Augusta takes her shoulders, returning the kiss of greeting in kind. Her hands reach up to touch Augusta's arms briefly, and dimples appear on her cheeks as her smile widens. "I am happy to be home for however long I can manage it, my lady. The clinic fares quite well. I was just telling Lord Sir Cynan that I took the initiative to bolster our supplies and request an increase to our staff some weeks ago. Everything is in order inasmuch as we can make it. Nerves are running high, and the younger ones were starting to make me jumpy, so I escaped for a few days."

Helena falls silent, allowing her gaze to dart ever so briefly to the Servant. Their presence is one with which she is quite familiar, so naturally her gaze slides away and around to focus on Cynan. The glance is a silent invitation for him to join them. "And you, my lady, how are you faring? I cannot even begin to imagine the duties that have been heaped onto your overflowing plate."

Again, it's Helena's meeting. Cynan stands just a little bit back and to the side, clasping his hands behind his back, and waits for the doctor to finish her report before offering his own. "Allow me to add that I have been working tirelessly to prepare our fortifications, especially in light of the Hostile pod sightings out in the desert. If they come within a mile of the city, we will be ready." The Knight's eyes narrow. "Protocols are also in place to defend and, if necessary, evacuate the outlying settlements at a moment's notice."

He, too, falls silent, with nothing in particular to add to the more personal questions. There's just the slightest hint of a nod as Helena speaks and his eyes turn from her back to the Lady Dalton.

The elder Dalton listens to both and nods. She says first to Cynan, "I have been reading the reports and am most pleased. Evacuation procedures look good, however we need to make sure all of the Light Temples, even the outlying ones are secure. In a full scale invasion, a plan needs to be put into place where we are able to shut down those which may be overrun and consolidate our forces into the primary Temples. Maintaining power to the Ring is absolutely our highest priority. We can, in an emergency evacuate the civilian population to the Ring and maintain an guerilla force of desert-knights here."

Augusta then looks to Helena, "I am afraid, my dear, that I may need to recall you more permanently to Inculta for the time being. Our medical centers need to be updated and prepared for an invasion and your abilities in that regard are most needed. While it is a lot that has come onto my plate …" She peers at the holographic representation of her planet, "I have prepared for it all of my life. The family has been prepared for it."

Helena listens in silence as the two discuss tactics that are well outside of her scope of practice. Her gaze wanders to the slowly rotating holo of the planet, and she falls into a silent musing about what the future may have in store for all of them. So it is with a jolt of surprise that she is drawn out of her thoughts and back to the present by Augusta's voice. What she hears causes her eyebrows to arch upward in a most startled expression. "Recall me back to Inculta?" Surely she should be more pleased by this revelation.

The doctor pauses, licking her lips, and glancing sidelong to Cynan. This should not have been unexpected, but it is; an oversight on Helena's part. Once her mind has caught up to her, Helena offers Augusta a slow nod. "Of course, my lady. I have prepared the clinic on The Ring to the best of my abilities, and will do so here at home as well. I can start on the outermost settlements big enough to boast a medical facility and work my way inward." She falls silent again, bowing her head in understanding of the years of preparation that have lead up to now.

"The Light Temples, of course, have been among our highest priorities." Cynan's reply to Augusta is cool, almost terse. "But I will do everything possible to make certain that they are properly defended, and that we are able to keep providing power to the Ring no matter what the Hostiles throw at us." Quirking an eyebrow upward, he adds, "I will see to it that the possibility of your emergency proposition is also explored. We know how to survive in the desert, to be sure."

As the conversation continues, his eyes drift over to Helena again, and his expression darkens considerably. "Perhaps…" he whispers. "Perhaps it will be best to focus on the innermost settlements instead. If we lose one of the outlying villages, your work on a clinic will be wasted." His shoulders heave up and down in a forced shrug. "Conversely, the Ways make it easy enough to travel to the more defensible settlements, even for the wounded."

Augusta listens to both, then speaks to them both, "I trust Helena's decisions on the matter. You determine where are supplies are best apportioned and how best to consolidate our medicial facilities." She then pauses and considers Helena for a moment, "I am not interfering in your plans with my decision, Helena? Please, speak your mind fully."

There is much for Helena to chew on. Cynan's whisper causes her to blink and frown. It is not within a doctor's forte to sacrifice anybody, but he has made an important point. "I — let me think on it, coz. I can arrange something, I know it. Spur of the moment doesn't suit me outside of the surgery." She worries her lower lip between her teeth and looks back to Augusta, eyes widening as she is bid to be honest. "N-no, actually — no, you are not, my lady. My loylaties lie here first and foremost, and I have done the extent of my duties as is required on The Ring. I will need to inform my superiors that I have been recalled; many others have, so they will understand. It is a reason I put in for more help."

Helena pauses, exhaling between pursed lips. She pushes her hair back from her face again, twisting her ponytail about her fingers and looking from Cynan to Augusta and back again. "Our outliers will need something, my lord, if naught more than an hour with my checklist. I will save supply requisitions for the innermost and instead set up protocol for evacuation in case of emergency."

"Something, certainly. We cannot leave any of our people without access to proper care, certainly not with an attack imminent." It sounds as though even Cynan does not quite believe what he's saying. "But… the lion's share of your effort, I think, should be focused on locations where the clinics will be able to continue their healing work throughout the war. More lives, in time, will be saved in that manner."

There's a long pause as the Knight's eyes flicker between his aunt and his cousin. He's silent, but briefly it looks as though he's about to speak… and then, thinking better of it, he takes a step back, folding his hands behind his back. "I will be present if you are in need of anything else," he says, softly, and his eyes slide half-closed as though he's lost in thought.

Lady Dalton looks back at the large hologram of Inculta and considers, "Than you are officially appointed Director of Civilian Emergency Services in the War Office, Helena. I will make the proper announcements tomorrow." She looks back at the Servant near her, "You will assign two Servants to Lady Helena as her personal guard. She is to be accompanied at any time she is outside the capital." The Servant nods and remains silent. Augusta steps up to Helena and places a hand gently on her niece's arm. "I am sorry to place on your young shoulders these burdens, my dear. But all the years you have been under my tutelage have lead to this. This, sadly, is what it was for. All of the training House Dalton endures is for this moment. It is our burden as masters of Inculta."

Helena watches as Cynan offers his last advice before withdrawing from the conversation, and for a brief moment the woman feels left adrift. But she shakes it away with a quick bob of her head and returns her gaze to Augusta. Naturally, she is thrown for yet another loop as the Lady Dalton settles upon her a grand new job title and a far heavier burden than she felt upon The Ring. It is a struggle to remain completely straight-faced as she listens to Helena ring out the commands and order a pair of Servants to guard her when necessary. Despite her station within the family, it is quite an unfamiliar and peculiar feeling.

Rather than gibber like an idiot, however, the doctor bows her head to Augusta once more in deference to the lady's wisdom. "Of course, my lady. I have understood keenly, at least in the back of my mind, that this is where I would be when the time was upon us. I will endeavor to serve you and Inculta with as much skill as possible and the hope I can scrape together a modicum of your wisdom." Once she has dispensed with the formalities, she raises her head and offers Augusta a small smile, reaching up to clasp her aunt's hand. "Thank you for trusting me with this."

"It is well founded trust, my dear." Lady Dalton smiles then gives the slightest nod. Those who had stepped away begin to return to the table and she looks at her two young relatives. "Now I must return to my meeting. I will speak to you both again soon."

Cynan snaps out of his pondering for just long enough for a final gesture of respect toward his aunt. "Thank you for seeing us, Lady Dalton," he replies, dipping in a short but polite bow. "I remain, as always, at your most humble service." A glance over to Helena. "Please let me know if you are in need of any assistance with your duties, cousin."

"Of course, my lady, and thank you. Soon." Helena offers Augusta a bow to match Cynan's, and as she turns about to depart she pauses by his side. Reaching out, she touches her cousin's arm briefly and smiles. "You shall be the first I impose upon, my lord." The doctor, now nearly overwhelmed with thoughts of her new duties, wanders out of the office.

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