There are a lot of ways this story goes south.

Might be that Kimball's lying. Might be that Locus sits back, takes a good hard look at his prisoners. Might be that Locus gets curious, wants to see what happens next. Might be that Locus pulls a gun.

Might be that the rescue mission finds an empty cell with bloodstains on the wall.

Sure, there's talk of desertion, but where exactly are you gonna go? Your squads are scared kids again and Vanessa Kimball presses that point carefully, ruthlessly. It's their fight. It's your fight. Stay awhile. You got nothing left to lose.

Back up.

Locus doesn't kill the prisoners, because Locus is a tool and Locus is a gun and Locus is a fucking psychopath who thinks he's a machine. Locus follows orders. Time passes slowly in a cell, but prisoners are prisoners and the Feds treat them fair.

Days pass. Weeks pass. Rescue mission stumbles in, bloodied and broken, and nobody meets the prisoners' eyes. Nobody acknowledges the gaps in the ranks. Nobody says the names.

Back up.

Unexpected cerebral hemorrhage. Getting cold-cocked by a rifle's not always something you walk away from. Wash is dead on a slab and Control is gonna be pissed.

Back up.

Training accident. Young soldiers and inexperienced commanders using experimental equipment. Nobody's fault. Everybody's fault.

Back up.

Rockfall, blow to the head. Sometimes you survive, sometimes you don't. Sometimes you're stuck in between.

Back the fuck up.

There are a lot of ways this story goes south. Only one way it doesn't.

Grif's team's got stealth recon. Grif's fucking good at his job: you know exactly where the prisoners are, and you've also confiscated a vitally important store of beef jerky, so, y'know. Bonus.

Simmons has his heavies crash down a door, mow down all opposition. He only stammers like fifteen times while giving the order, and somehow his team's snickering carries over their chaingun fire.

Caboose lights fires and causes distractions and somewhere in all the chaos his team manages to take down the Feds' communications. Considering their communications mainly consist of a lot of confused screaming right now, that's probably not as useful as it sounds, but hey, could be worse.

Your team goes front and center, slipping between the Feds' ranks like a fuckin' well-oiled machine (bow chicka bow-wow?). You make your way down to where the prisoners are being kept, and it's almost disappointing, because you've drilled this so many fucking times by now it's a walk in the park.

Prisoners are in their cells. Prisoners are still breathing. Doc and Donut are running through their daily yoga routine. Sarge is creating an escape-robot out of stolen spoons that, improbably, have Spanish printed on their sides.

Wash looks up. Grins crookedly. "What took you so long?"

"Fuck you," you say. You're grinning back.

So, sure, there are a lot of ways this story goes south. Lots of ways you don't come home. And you know what?

Fuck 'em.