PHD #328: Summit
Summary: Mathers and Cora challenge each other on and off the rock wall.
Date: 20 January 2042 AE
Related Logs: Wager
Mathers Cora 
Elpis Gym - MV Elpis
While not as bright and shiny as the gym on Cerberus, the athletics area on the Elpis is significantly larger. It lacks a pool and more than a couple token pieces of nice equipment, but it makes up for it by possessing a full, regulation-size Pyramid court complete with bleachers and a full-size boxing ring. There is even a climbing wall of sorts rigged up along one of the bulkheads. Beyond these more specialized offerings, it's mostly just free weights and a couple of bikes and treadmills. There are thin rubber mats laid out to cover the decking, a couple areas for stretching, and a small section of lockers for short-term use.
Post-Holocaust Day: #328

It's been weeks since Zane and Cora made a bet in a dark map room. The days and nights have been filled with training operations and preparations for SILENT MASTIFF, and somehow the switch to Condition 3 came and went rather unnoticed. Between a TACCO and a Marine XO, there is not a lot of spare time between them. Finally a rather simple note was left up in CIC for Cora, with a date and time signed simply with a Z. Cryptic or hurried, it's anyone's guess.

Now the man in question is at the gym of the Elpis, stripped down to off-duty gear and instead of his normal combat boots he's wearing a pair of flexible climbing shoes. While he waits, he stretches, pulling his arms across his chest with a hand to aid the loosening of his shoulders. The Erinyes silently scream their protest, the tattooed skin coming to life as it flexes with the movement.

Cora arrives a few minutes later than the time proposed, explaining as she approaches, "Rime held me up at the end of my shift. You have climbing shoes?" She spots them right off, and clicks her tongue jealously, "Lucky you, already aboard with all your things when the world ended." She bends to unlace combat boots, tucking socks inside them and the straightening to stretching her arms above her head. His tattoo gets a glance (how could it not?) but no comment as yet; if she has any of her own, they're out of sight. "I read the most recent report on Silent Mastiff preparations," she comments, "I'm pleased EVA training is on schedule. The deck is currently looking into possible methods of additional recon, I expect you'll be receiving something about that soon."

Mathers turns slightly at Cora's approach, looking at her over the top of his shoulder. There's a slow graze of his eyes down her form, and a quirk of a smile appears at the corner of his mouth. "I won't hold it against you." Presumeably refering to her lateness. He stoops, scooping up something near his gear back. "I'm career. I'm used to living out of wherever I'm stationed. Lucky for me it was the Praetorian, so my climbing gear was in the underbelly in storage." When he turns, he's tossing a small cloth sack in his hands, a puff of chalk clouding out everytime it smacks his palm. "I haven't had anyone drown in the pool, so I'll take that as a win so far. Next step will be to strap them to the hull of the Cerberus."

"Lucky for you," Cora replies, "Mine was all on the Atlas. Probably still is, the bits of it left over Virgon." She smiles, though what little humor is in the expression is wry at best. She bends an arm over the top of her head and pulls on the elbow, then the other, watching him chalk his hands. She shakes her arms out and holds out a hand for the sack as she nods. "Should be interesting. I've always meant to do EVA training at some point, just to have it, but now there's never time to do it just on a whim."

Mathers keeps popping that little bag up in an arc now between his hands, waiting until there is a fine coat of powder to make sure his grip is nice and dry for the wall. "Don't worry. I'll share." He says, just milliseconds before lobbing the bag in her direction. Think fast, Cora. "You're welcome to come by the pool while we still have it set up. I'll strap your ass in a tank and shove it in the deep end." His eyes seem rather intent on her, no qualms in watching her go through her little stretching regimen. If there are others in the gym, they go unnoticed.

Cora thinks fast, as nearly anyone could tell him, and her reflexes match, a hand shooting out to catch the bag easily out of the air with a puff of chalk. She tosses it from hand to hand as he did for a while, and then lifts each foot in turn, chalking the bottoms. "I might if we can manage the spare hour or so to do it," she replies, "But given how long it's taken us to get here, I wouldn't say there's much chance of that. Would you?" She doesn't seem to mind being watched, or she doesn't notice, not visibly reacting to the scrutiny. Fingers are knit, and pushed up over her head as far as they'll go before she nods, asking, "Remind me again what our bet was? Always good to make sure you're on the same page about terms before there's a winner."

Mathers doesn't fidget while he stands there. Once he's through with his preparations, he stands stalk still, arms folded over his chest with streaks of chalk on his bicep. "I win and I get your pillow, a pair of jeans for trade, and you put me and that journal we pulled off of the estate in room uninterrupted so I can study it. If you win, it was grilled cheese, a spa treatment and frilly coffee." His smile ticks at the corner of his lips again. "That about right?"

Cora takes the foot-chalking very seriously, it seems, but then she has to make up for his superior equipment. She nods along as he relates the bargain, looking up to smirk very faintly and nod, "Close. It was truffle-oil grilled cheese, as I recall it. That's key. If it's not gourmet, it doesn't count. Same with the coffee. You call it frilly, I call it having standards." She flashes him a smile, wide and brilliant and very, very brief, before tossing the chalk bag back at his chest and stepping up to the wall, eying the ropes and harnesses already prepared for potential use.

"I just had to pick the one girl with standards." Mathers mutters good-naturedly as the chalk bag smacks him square in the sternum. It slides down an inch before his hand lifts to trap it. "That's a tall order, Nikephoros. At least I chose stuff that was readily available. I'd rethink the stakes, but if we wasted any more time, you'd have to re-chalk." As much as he'd love to free-climb the wall, there is a little matter of setting an example. As such, he grabs one of the straps for a smaller harness and holds it out to Cora to help her in the contraption.

Cora shrugs. "You asked what I missed most. I told you. Your choice to turn it into stakes," she points out. She does not seem concerned with the tallness of the order she has placed. She gestures at his sternum, "You've got a little…." Lips curve into a brief, faint smirk, and then she takes the harness, stepping into it easily, and adjusting the straps and ropes and carabiners, etc. She tests the knots, leaning her weight against the set-up and then nods. "Ready when you are."

Mathers looks down at his shirt, the dark material of the tank now sporting a nearly perfect circle in the middle of his chest. Without thinking about it, he reaches out to press his thumb to her forehead, leaving a print of chalk in its wake. "Now you do, too." He snags a harness for himself, making quick work of stepping into it and cinching it tight. He nods to the spotters to indicate their ready, and then cranes his neck to visually map his path. "Hope you're not as lithe as you look. Because I sure as Hades can't cook."

<FS3> Opposed Roll — Mathers:Rock Climbing vs Cora:3
< Mathers: Great Success Cora: Failure
< Net Result: Mathers wins big.
<FS3> Opposed Roll — Mathers:Rock Climbing vs Cora:3
< Mathers: Good Success Cora: Good Success
< Net Result: DRAW
<FS3> Opposed Roll — Mathers:Rock Climbing vs Cora:3
< Mathers: Success Cora: Good Success
< Net Result: Cora wins.
<FS3> Opposed Roll — Mathers:Rock Climbing vs Cora:3
< Mathers: Great Success Cora: Failure
< Net Result: Mathers wins big.

Cora does not duck away as Mathers reaches towards her, but she does blink as he puts that thumb-print of chalk on her forehead. She's surprised, clearly, but it only lasts a second, watching him prep his harness and checking her ropes once more as she eyes the course above. She nods to her spotter after he does, and chuckles, "I guess you'll have to make friends with the Kitchen staff. Ready?" One of the spotters gives a count-down, and when it ends, she is quick to begin, finding the low hand and foot-holds easily, though it seems to take a moment to get used to being barefoot.

Mathers has an unfair advantage, at least in the sense that his feet have grips thanks to the thin rubber soles of his shoes. He's also taller. His first grip comes after a quick upward lunge, grabbing a handhold a full head higher than Cora. The time for small talk has ended, and his friendly banter has dissolved into grunts of physical exertion. As he gets his feet on the board, he's now pushing with them just as much as he's pulling with his arms. There's quiet clank of their metal fasteners, the jangle of the rope, and the hiss of breath that accompanies their raced climb. "Your pillow is calling my name…"

All sorts of advantages for Mathers, really, but after an initial adjustment period, Cora adapts to the conditions. She's more flexible than he is, and lighter, and those being the only things she really has over the Marine XO, she puts them to the best use she can, taking an unorthodox route up the face that involves a few odd little contortions but is, in the end, shorter for them. She's similarly quiet, focused, just the occasional squeak of chalked digits on wall and rustle of cloth adding to the noise of their climb. "I'm going to enjoy that spa deal even more after this," she replies when he mentions her pillow. She makes a quick grab for a tricky hold, stretching a leg for a high-ish foothold, and, for a moment at least, taking the lead.

There is a grit of Mathers' teeth as Cora gains ground on him, maybe he's a little bit too competative for his own good. The muscles in his shoulders pull tight as he loses his footing and has to rely on upper body strength along to get him back on track. It's a tense moment where he just sort of hangs, and his spotter gets ready for the inevitable fall. By sheer will alone, he pulls himself back to the wall, and find a toe-hold that gets him right again. It's a catch up game now, and he switchbacks up the plastic cups.

To her credit, Cora does not glance back to gloat as she passes Mathers, and doesn't even check his position to see him dangling. Her focus remains wholly on her own efforts, particularly as she reaches another awkward bit of the wall, just before the top. She stretches for a far hold and grabs it, and even manages to pull her legs around, teeth grit and muscles tense as she bends around an outcropping built into the bulkhead. It's a somewhat contorted position and it clearly requires all her strength to maintain it long enough to move on to the next bit. She's only a few holds from the top, powering herself up… and then a foot slips. She scrabbles to regain purchase, but most of her chalk is already spent and her feet slide out from under her. "Frak," she spits in a low grumble.

It's during that last lapse of Cora that Mathers forges ahead, at one point pushing off with his feet to literally make a leap and catch for his next hold. His body slams against the rock wall, but it's not enough to slow him down and he slips past the TACCO during her scramble for purchase. A huff, a puff, and he's finally at the top indicated by the telltale ring of the victory bell at the top. With one hand hooked on the top of the wall, he leans out to look down at his competition who came up just a little too short.

Cora dangles from one arm, and it takes a minute to swing herself into a position to grab another hold and then find somewhere to plant her feet, etc., etc. The end result is she makes it to the top after Mathers has already rung the bell, flipping around to sit on the edge with a grimace. "You're going to be seriously disappointed with your prize," she informs him, lips curving crookedly, "My pillow's fleet-issue just like everyone else's."

Mathers pushes off with a foot, using that momentum and his hooked hand as a pivot to swing around and clasp his free hand on the wall on the other side of her knees, trapping her legs between the faux-rock surface and his chalk-dappled chest. "Maybe. But not all fleet-issue pillows are going to smell like you." There's a slight self-satisifed smirk on his lips, and he falls quiet for one deliciously tense moment as if he's debating something. Finally, he just leans back and bellows down to the spotters. "Coming down!"

Cora doesn't move, except to lift a hand and swipe a stray bit of hair back behind her ear. She doesn't move as Mathers swings around and traps her knees, just arching one slender brow at him, and then laughing briefly at his reply. She watches him head back down, and then turns and pushes off the wall to follow, rappelling easily back down in a few bounds. "You know," she tells him at the bottom, as feet touch down and she nods her thanks to the spotter and starts unhooking her harness, "I only have one pair of jeans that actually fits."

"No." Mathers corrects. "Now you have zero pairs of jeans that actually fit." He reaches out, hooking a finger into a strap of her harness while it still remains, and tugs her closer. "But I'm willing to negotiate." Said finger than flicks one of her clasps open, helping her get out of the same harness he helped her into originally.

"I have one," Cora re-corrects, "I just don't own any, now." Her feet slide for a split-second as he tugs before she can turn it into a quick step towards him, keeping her feet. She ignores his hands on the harness, and watches his eyes, keeping her gaze there. "I thought you might be," she replies of negotiating, "Since if you take them… well. You'll never get to see me wear them, will you?"

Expressive things those are, his hazel eyes, for they hold his laughter in little crinkles at the corners even though Zane tries to keep the smile from his lips. "Well, I can get three cans of coffee for a decent pair of jeans. These Navy girls are practically panting for a good set of civvies for shoreleave. So what is three cans of coffee worth to you? Dinner?"

Cora maintains eye contact, her eyes blue, and observant and maybe a little amused. She's better at schooling her expression than he is, though, at least just now. No reaction at the bit about Navy girls, though she's clearly one of those, as reluctant as she is to give up her jeans. Still, she appears to consider his offer thoughtfully, one shoulder edging upwards in the suggestion of a shrug as she counters, "Drinks?"

There's a little tick along the line of his jaw, Mathers momentarily clenching his teeth as she counters. Maybe he's a man who is used to getting his way. "Breakfast." He lobs back at her, his voice a little steely in it's tenored rumble. The calloused tip of his finger touches at her collar bone, following the line of her chain until it reaches the hexagonal shape of her dog-tags.

The little tick in Cora's expression is around her lips and it's definitely humor, almost certainly at his displeasure. "What?" she replies, keeping a smirk in check as she eyes him, "Don't think you'd be able to turn drinks into dinner all on your own? Not very secure in your," she trails her eyes conspicuously down, and then taps where his dog tags lie beneath his tanktop, pressing metal to skin as she finishes, looking back up askance, "Conversational skills?"

"Oh, you mistake me. I was stating fact, not offering an invitation. I'm quite confident in my…" Cora might tap his dogtags, but he's closing a fist around hers now that he's fished them out. Mathers gives a tug, an insistant tug, attempting to bring her face closer to his. His lips part, allowing that sweet mingle of breath between the two. "…skills."

"Breakfast drinks?" Cora intentionally mistakes his meaning again, "How very like a Marine." There is a brief twinge of a grimace as he tugs on her tags, just a quick flash of something that could turn into anger but is gone in an instant. She doesn't move from the spot he's pulled her head into, watching him steadily even across that shorter distance, even though it's through her lashes. "You know," she says softly, breath warm on his chin as her head tilts slightly, "This is seriously unprofessional."

"Don't worry," Mathers murmurs, his nose bumping hers, "I'll still salute you in the morning." He doesn't quite kiss her, it's just the faintest of brushes of his lips against hers seeming how she's so obliging by staying put for him to do so. There's a tension in his muscles, as if he's exhibiting great restraint during this particular moment. Slowly, his fingers uncurl from the pointed edges of her dogtags, finally releasing thim with a jangle.

Cora's lips purse ever so faintly, but it does not really seem to be for that ghost of a kiss when it comes. "I never salute you anyway," she murmurs back, voice equally low but drier. She does not immediately move when the hold on her tags is released, and when she does it's to lean closer. It seems for a moment like she might now kiss him, but she turns at the last second to instead say near his ear, "Drinks it is, then. I'll wear the jeans; we'll see how the negotiations go from there."

There's a low rumble of an honest laugh deep in his chest, and when it dies away his head is canted so he can likewise mutter to her ear. "Just don't keep me waiting. Or I'll damn well track you down to collect." He lingers for a moment longer, maybe to get the soft scent of her hair in his memory before he steps away abruptly. "I'm going up again." Zane barks at the spotters, tightening his harness back to his frame. Maybe the guy has a sudden rush of energy he has to burn.

Cora smirks and nods faintly, replying, "Assuming work allows." She doesn't move as he lingers, but then steps back as he does, wincing faintly, and turning to say over her shoulder, tone dry again, "You really need to stop shouting so close to my head." It is a fairly good-humored complaint, however, and she heads away to a bench, watching him climb as she wipes off chalk and ties her boots, then heads off.

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