Tucker winced as April prodded at the tattoos on his arm yet again with some odd metal baton that pulsed electricity at random intervals. April ignored his discomfort.
It's not like she had anything against him. She understood why he saw A.I. that way, since most people in the universe did indeed think that way. But ignorance can lead to hurt, and Tali sure was hurt by what he said.
By no way did Tucker believe Tali's behavior to be fake, that April knew. He just didn't know how A.I. from Freelancer truly work, despite having experience with them. He didn't know, and she couldn't keep anything against him.
She'd just have to convince Tali of the same thing.
The last she saw Tali was dozing on the couch curled in a ball, which was disconcerting since she had a room of her own. Said room contained the man that hurt her and made her feel special all in one, so that was why… Gosh, this was worse than her slip up with Grif. At least she didn't broadcast the word hybrid around him like it was the regular, but oh no, around the Blues she became even more of a loose-mouthed idiot!
This… this was her fault. And Tucker was being ignored for it. Was being pushed away for it.
"So what's the verdict?" Tucker asked through a strained voice as the metal baton prodded his flesh yet again, unpleasant tingles going up his arm more than likely. April huffed in thought.
"This is just what you thought; a side effect of the pregnancy," She placed the baton on the table, to his immense relief, "As far as I can tell, it doesn't hinder you in any way. It's just a slight rewrite of DNA due to the alien presence. However, if you feel a rather intense emotion, your eyes may change to a different color."
"That's one thing off my mind then," Tucker mumbled in a very un-Tucker like way, causing April to frown. Her fault.
"Hey…" She stopped him from standing by placing a hand on his bicep, "You had no way of knowing about Tali's… feelings toward the subject of A.I.'s. Nor did you know mine."
Tucker scoffed, "You two know more A.I.'s than the number of people in this damn canyon. I should've figured that shit out before opening my dumbass mouth. Now not only does Tali think I'm a prick, but Tex is probably going to kill me with her collection of knives or some shit."
April nearly winced at that comment, not too sure if Tex would actually do that or not, and said, "Tali doesn't think that, you should know better."
"Then where is she?"
"Passed out on the couch," April replied flatly, flicking her hair to one side, "She was fighting a Freelancer after all."
Tucker merely pursed his lips, looking rather dejected and not himself at all, something that April found both heartbreaking yet endearing. He was like this because of her sister. He cared!
"You know what I think?" April began, "I think that you should bring her to bed, let her sleep a little bit, and be there when she wakes up to pamper her like a princess. She deserves it."
Tucker furrowed his brows, "Why me?"
April let a sly smile grace her lips as she gathered her equipment, "Well, she may not say it, but I think she'd be much happier if you were the one cuddling her instead of me."
He looked skeptical for a moment before smirking a little sheepishly, impulsively wrapping an arm around the brunette and holding her close for a second, "Thanks April."
"Anytime," April hugged him back before shooing him away, "Now go and get your girl!"
Tucker's eyes went wide and he shushed her, which made April laugh at the normally cocky and confident soldier. Oh, how Tali has changed him.
"One question though," Tucker stopped at the doorway, "Church said that Tex was her best friend. How'd she even befriend her in the first place?"
She shrugged, looking off to the side as she tapped the side of her head, "All up in here. Being partners since the beginning does have its effects… and Tex is far more than just her friend. I'd say she's closer to an extension of herself. Y'know, there's no Tali without Tex and all that."
"But being from different projects and constantly fighting for the better ranking… that's gotta be a pretty big hurdle to jump over."
April smiled strangely, tapping her fingers on the table she was leaning on, "I guess you could say she's had more experiences with Tex than she lets on."
Tucker chuckled then, amused, "You Church's are weird ones… but the good kinda weird."
"Yeah… we get that a lot," April smiled sheepishly, "Thanks Tucker."
He left then, presumably to get Tali, and April grinned a little to herself. She hoped that she helped Tali out by encouraging Tucker, despite the green haired woman's adamant denial of her emotions. Ignoring them would do no good, and if Tali needed her little sister to play Cupid, then so be it!
Packing up the rest of her possessions, April went to head back to Red base and… well, try to quell Grif's suspicions toward her. She may have forgotten that fact until now…
Nevertheless, she had to return to base to at least get her armor, so she set off, only to be stopped just outside by her robotic brother.
"Leaving already?" He asked, and April could detect some sadness in his tone.
"Yeah, but no worries. I'll visit you," She grinned as she sidled up to him, blinking rapidly as she did.
Church laughed, grabbing her and pulling her into a hug, "No getting kidnapped by crazed Freelancers on your way back, okay? Actually, lemme walk you."
"You don't need to–"
"I know, but I want to," Church said openly, which was rather out of character for him, and they began to walk to the other side of the canyon, "So how's Tali doing?"
"She's okay. Tired and a little pissed, but okay," April shrugged, looking off to the side as she mentioned the little bend of truth, "She's very… passionate when it comes to the topic of Artificial Intelligence."
"Considering she's had one in her head, I understand that," Church brushed off Tali's actions, focusing more on another aspect of it, "I'm more concerned about California being so adamant in catching her. I mean, I don't even remember that guy!"
Uh oh… I'm dealing with an amnesiac Alpha, aren't I? April thought as she glanced at him from the corner of her eye. She chewed her lip, saying carefully, "Well you don't exactly have the best memory, Church…"
"I think I would remember that, April," Church shot an unimpressed look at her, kicking an unfortunate rock he walked by.
"Oh yeah?" Time to play dirty, she thought grimly, "When is my birthday then?"
April knew he wouldn't know this question. He simply wasn't around when she was created, she was merely a last minute imprint in his information processing by FILLIS. Yes he knew of her, but all his interactions with her before Blood Gulch were simulated, not reality.
She tried not to think about it too much, about how she never really was able to build that relationship with her brother like Tali and Libra did. It just simply was.
"Uh… motherfu– what's wrong with me?!" Church slapped himself upside the head, growling in pain afterwards. April forced a light chuckle.
"No worries, big brother. Our sisters and I are used to this," She joked, skipping a little as they walked along.
"No no no, I remember Libra's. We share the same birthday since we're twins… Tali's is in the following month… Scorpio's is two months later…"
April resisted a small frown. Scorpio. The sister she never met. Tali and Libra told her little about her beyond the purple figure she adopted and the timid personality she had before CT decided to go AWOL with Scorpio in her port. What was her shortened name? Oh, right. Scout.
She would never admit it, but April really wanted to see how similar the Director made her and Scorpio. The prospect of her being just a replacement for a lost property sickened her, and in a way, she was glad that Scorpio was taken if it meant she would be created.
She hated that greedy part of herself.
"Don't worry about it Church, really," April said, shrugging, "You weren't exactly around at the time."
"I still should know."
"Don't beat yourself up over it. Onto other topics…" April pondered for a moment, gasping suddenly at a thought, "Oh. Oh! Don'tcha think Tali and Tucker would look sooooo cute together?!"
Church palmed his visor, "Aagh, can I not step away from that for a while!" He whined, "It's fuckin' weird."
"It's cute," April persisted, "They're just so emotionally constipated it's frustrating!"
"You're not around them all the time, April. It's torture," Church said gravely, then poorly imitated their voices, "'Oh Tali, you're so sexy but I'm too scared to make a move! Insert bad joke, HAR har, Bow fucking whatever'! 'Tucker, I will break your fingers one by one if you keep making pervy jokes, but don't stop because I secretly like it!' GAH!"
"…Okay then," April blinked.
"That wasn't even a dramatization. That's basically all their interactions," Church stated frankly, flailing his arms after a moment and adding, "And I'm so fuckin conflicted because she's my sister, and…GRAH!"
"Calm down with the noises, bro."
Church whirled around on her suddenly, pointing his finger in her face, "You better not be causing this kind of drama at Red base, April! I mean it!"
"I… uh… no?" April replied with some caution. Yeah, having a weird 'I know you but I don't know you' tension between Grif totally doesn't count.
"That didn't sound very convincing," Church grumbled.
"Well Church, this is just what happens when you're the man of the family. You get to deal with all the lovely gooey girl stuff," April shrugged, giggling a little.
"Oh, quit your whining! And get back to base, I have to check in with the guys at Red base!" April shooed him away, breaking into a jog towards Red base, "I'll contact you guys later!"
:Can't you just let this go?:
:Uh, no? Who the fuck does he think he is, judging us without even understanding us? And he didn't even feel bad!:
:I don't even–:
:Tali, just stop, okay? You're working yourself up over this for nothing, because believe it or not, yes, Tucker doesn't know the truth behind A.I., he only knows what he's been told, and what he was told is exactly what he said.:
:But to… to be reduced to an unfeeling thing? And after what he said…:
:Wait wait, 'what he said'? The hell did he say before?!:
:I-I mean… that's not the point, Tex–:
:Tali Taurus tell me.:
:Grr… FINE! Can you come to the rec room, I passed out on the couch.:
:…Uhm… I'm in the rec room:
:Wait, we've been having this conversation all the while you've been staring at my sleeping body? What the hell, Tex!?:
:No, you're not in here.:
:I'm not? Where the hell am… I… oh FUCK THIS– OH GOD:
And that's when she realized it. So consumed in her rant with Tex, she didn't realize what exactly was going on around her, didn't realize, thanks to her selective attention, that someone had up and moved her and was still next to her.
Don't open your eyes it's not real—
She opened them.
:Tali, what the hell is going on? Where are you? Oh fuck did California pull a Hannibal Lecter? I'm gonna rip off his balls and feed them to him–:
:Damn it I should've known your little plane trick wouldn't have worked! I should've gone after him, stupid stupid–:
:ALLISON, CALM THE FUCK DOWN AND SHUT THE HELL UP:
Need to deal with the problem right in front of her right now… not the problem shaped in an overprotective blonde who was amused with ball smashing and castration. Oh man, all her friends are insane.
:WELL DAMN CAN I GET A YAY OR NAY ON YOUR SAFETY?:
:I AM FINE:
:THAT'S NOT A–:
:ALRIGHT, YAY, HAPPY NOW?:
:Okay, then shut up and let me deal with something:
Tali waited for a good five seconds, making sure that Tex was really, officially done with fussing over her, and nearly sighed in relief. Nearly, since there was a rather prominent problem that currently has her… well, trapped.
Very cautiously, she tried to pry the arms around her away, but found them locked in an iron-grip, keeping her within the personal bubble of one Lavernius Tucker half on top of her. Wonderful.
:Such sarcasm you have. Do you always narrate this much in your head?:
And she left the link open. Again, wonderful.
:Tex, just shut up.:
It was bad enough that she was in bed with the exact same man that she purposely tried to avoid, but on top of Tex giving her little side comments, Tali was slowly becoming more aware of just how comfortable his embrace was and how his body heat warmed her naturally cool skin. Not good.
:Tali, for all that is good and holy, and I am being blunt here, stop being such a pussy:
:What the– TEX:
:No no, don't you 'Tex' me! You know what this is? This is exactly what happened with me and Wash, and guess what? Tables turned, bitch!:
Tali went to angrily retort, only to stop and really think, blinking before gasping, :Oh my god, you're right. I'm you!:
:And she sees the light!:
:It's pretty funny. You easily get flustered:
Tali sighed out loud this time, and felt a disturbance from the man beside her in response.
:HE'S WAKING UP!:
:What do I do?!:
:Dunno. Just do it:
:You are absolutely no help:
:Karma's a bitch, ain't it Tali?:
A foreboding feeling washed over her as she watched helplessly as his eyelids fluttered, struggling to open with the tantalizing tendrils of sleep latched to him. She knew she should say something, do something, but she couldn't think, and just laid there with her head on his chest, chin tilted so she could see his face with wide, unblinking eyes. The hand on his chest unintentionally curled its fingers, bunching the teal fabric up.
His eyes shot open at that, golden iris' zoning in on her green eyes and his body going rigid. He shot a lopsided grin that was too awkward to trick her that he was completely at ease, and her mind just went blank.
She could hear Tex facepalming.
"Hi," Tucker replied with some uncertainty, the word more drawn out and less like a high pitched yelp hers was.
Yeah, that… that's all she's got.
:Oh for the love of god…: Tex mumbled over the link, :Just kiss him you socially awkward nugget!:
:…Did you just call me a nugget?:
With Tucker's unsure look, Tali was pretty sure the annoyance she felt for Tex right now was showing on her face, and he began to scramble for his words, "I just… y'know, I wanted to talk to you before and you seemed pretty upset and–"
Going for it, Tali stated in her mind, throwing all her reasons not to do this out the door and changing the entire damn lock system because by the sun, moon and stars what was she doing pushing away this man, what was she thinking–
And she kissed him.
It was awkward on the account that she had absolutely no clue what she was doing, but she didn't particularly care. He was kissing her back now, his lips were soft and warm, and the sudden closeness she felt sparked something warm throughout her body and it felt so good since she never realized that she always felt so cold.
Pulling back, she opened her eyes to look at him, willing to cast away her anger as she said simply, "Don't worry about it."
It took a moment, but his face split into a grin, "So, you… uh…"
"Yeah," Eugh that was really breathless sounding…
"Huh. Same," Tucker replied with the same tone, and her self-berating dried up.
:Well this sure is a productive conversation:
:Don't ruin my moment, Tex. Get out:
Tex's insertion hardly phased her. The way Tucker was looking at her right now was new, and the way his fingers gently brushed a few green hairs that dropped in front of her face behind her ear felt so tender and intimate and she felt tingles all over her face.
Tali looked to the side, "Sh-Shut up."
She saw him smirk from the corner of her eye, "You look cute."
"I'm not cute."
"Alright, sexy," Tucker corrected smoothly.
"Alright, I'm leaving," Tali jolted to her feet, somehow escaping Tucker's death grip, and righted her clothes as she walked to the door.
"Aw, c'mon baby, you can't shun me for speaking truths–"
"Tucker," Tali stressed, not quite managing to eliminate the amused tone from her voice and not quite able to ignore the voice in the back of her mind saying she really did like it when he showered her with those comments.
She reached for the control panel on the door, hearing Tucker stand and stomp determinedly towards her, and she didn't even have a chance to press the green button when a hand hooked onto her arm and whirled her around.
She tilted her head to the side and raised a brow at Tucker's sheepish look, "Yes?"
Tucker rolled his eyes, and she thought for a second she saw a flash of blue in them, but it was gone as soon as it came. He cupped her cheek, smoothing over the skin and cracking a grin, leaning in closer as Tali slowly got more and more red in the face.
"You're as red as a tomato," He chuckled lowly.
Tali scowled a little, "Shut up, Lavernius."
Aaaaaand cue the door opening, "Hey Tucker, I– oh for fucks sake!"
They both looked sharply to the intruder, somehow drifting closer rather than breaking apart, and both yelled, "Church!"
The man himself was flailing his arms crazily, gesturing to the two of them, "What the hell is this?!"
"Well, when two people like each other–"
"Shut it, sis!" Church jabbed a finger in Tali's face, "Don't do this shit around me!"
"You're the one that barged in here," She retorted flatly.
Church growled, something that Tali rolled her eyes at, and simply turned back to Tucker, "So you were saying?"
He grinned yet again, winking playfully at Church before breaching the gap and kissing her, Church's noises of disgust ignored.
"Really? Hey, Tali, didn't you make the comment that he was probably a minefield for STD's a while ago?"
Tali merely blindly gave him the middle finger while her other hand snaked up into Tucker's hair, determined to make her brother as uncomfortable as possible so he would leave, and also tried not to melt into a puddle of goo when Tucker slipped his tongue into her mouth because holy shit he was a good kisser–
"Alright, I'm leavin'."
"Good riddance," Tucker mumbled to the best of his ability.
"Hm? Oh hey, grey girl! What's up?" Sister greeted animatedly, waving.
Tali and Tex shared a look, and Tex began slowly, "Does anyone here seem… familiar to you at all?"
Sister thought for a moment, rocking back on her heel before replying, "Nah, everyone here kinda looks the same. My memory hasn't been the best these days either, so…"
Tali frowned, brows furrowing as she crossed her arms. Sparing a glance back at Church, Caboose and Doc, she leaned towards the yellow Freelancer and said lowly, "Chi?"
"Is that like a yoga move or something?" Sister asked cheerily, "I don't know much, but I can show you my ping pong trick!"
:Yeah, Chi's definitely in there: Tali relayed to Tex with some disdain, sighing, :When one is dealt with another has to turn up:
:At least Chi isn't as powerful or as much of a dick as Omega is:
"What's your thoughts on everyone here so far?" Tex asked politely.
"Meh. Church is boring, Caboose is dumb, haven't talked to Doc, and Tucker's kinda hot."
:Ohhhh some competition for you there Tali:
"Tucker's also taken," Tali retorted bluntly, "But you didn't know that, so I'll let it slide."
Tex chuckled softly at her slightly aggressive tone, but she ignored it. She had to admit that she was still floating on cloud nine after what happened with Tucker, but she dreaded what would happen should her A.I. side be revealed. Now though, she was more focused on how to get the A.I. out of there without hurting her like Church and his horrible aim did to Caboose.
:Couldn't you just, y'know, jump in?:
:Dunno… I mean, Chi has less power, and is only a fragment:
:He's gotta be weak with the amount of processing he has to focus on keeping Hawaii in check:
:…He's controlling her?:
:Yeah, I noticed it during the Project but I didn't have time to help because of the break out:
:Damn… alright, I'll try it. Just be ready to pull Chi on my say:
"What do you think of us then, Sister?" Tali questioned while preparing to jump.
"You two seem pretty cool… kinda scary. But that's cool, it's kinda hot!"
"You've said that before," Tex pointed out.
"Oh, right," Sister nodded her head, shifting on her feet, "So, is there a real reason you pulled me aside? Oh, are we planning a party here! I am great at planning a little fiesta!" She leaned in conspiratorially, "I know a guy!"
"Uhm…" Tex leaned backward, "Gotta wonder what's going on in your head."
"Oh-ho believe me, you'd like to," Sister said cheekily.
"Alright, you convinced me," Tali grinned as she pulled off her helmet, knowing that Chi would recognize her once her eyes began to glow. Sister stiffened as Tali turned to the girl in black, "Tex?"
As Tali collapsed, Chi tried to scream as his host's mind was penetrated.
Red base was a ghost town.
April took the time of fixing herself a meal, taking a shower, equipping her armor, and cleaning her weapons with no trace of the guys, and it was starting to spook her a bit to be honest.
"Anyone here? Sarge? Grif? Simmons?" April called for the fifteenth time, to no response.
With a huff, she flipped out a locator to see if they were showing up on radar, and frowned when four pulsating, healthy blips were shown within the canyon. To be more specific, underneath the canyon floor.
"That doesn't make any sense…" April mumbled, face screwing up oddly as a memory tried to fight to the surface.
What did Tali say before… oh… OH GOD.
"They could find the communications center!" April exclaimed to herself, running outside of the base to spy something peculiar.
A gaping hole dug in the ground with a discarded shovel to the side was off to the side of the base, a crude stone placed beside it with letters scratched on with black marker. As April got closer, she vehemently denied what it very much looked like, and that was, unfortunately, a headstone.
While hyperventilating and wondering who the hell died while she was gone because the Reds sure as hell didn't attack the Blues while she was gone, and silently cursing herself for leaving her glasses inside, because she could not read simple lettering up close for shit, yet for some reason if she was asked to peg a target as small as a dime, she'd be able to do it in five seconds flat. Screw you, eyeballs!
Stepping to the edge of the grave, her eyes widened at the absence of a brown dirt floor, or, y'know, a corpse, and instead took in the gaping maw of a huge cave. Yep, they definitely went down there.
Huffing a sigh, she checked that her plasma rifle was clipped to side and the plasma pistol to her hip, and did one of the stupidest things ever, of all time. Ha, she just channeled her inner Wash.
And as she fell, she took in the jagged rocks and the darkened glow and the actual length of the drop, wondering to herself if the air of this place was what made everyone idiotic.
"This is gonna suck," She said to herself in resignation, tucking into a ball as she activated the armor lock, becoming a ball of light as her body slammed into various objects and the white, translucent swirl around her intensified. It was synonymous with the pain she felt, since on the inside, she was screaming.
Eventually she hit the floor of the cave with a thud, water spewing into the air since she landed in a puddle, and deactivated her armor ability with a groan, arms weaving to cradle her stomach for a moment.
"Why would they make an armor ability that felt like a million needles were stabbed into you by a Serial Killer?" She whined, forcing her grey eyes open and stumbling unsteadily to her feet.
Another look at the radar showed them all together, walking the exact opposite direction of her, and the exact direction of the video feed, which definitely had warning bells and red alerts going around in her mind.
April attempted to reach out to Tali, only finding static, and she rolled her eyes. Every time!
"Please don't get there before I find you," April prayed as she sprinted after her team.
She should have thought more about what she would be seeing when she jumped into Hawaii's mind.
"Long time no see, Tau! How's everything going?"
He was exactly as he was before. The charming smile, wavy brown hair, the scar…
She didn't think, just surged forward and suffocated him in a hug. All this time stuck in that canyon, away from them all… she missed them so much.
York tensed for a moment before wrapping his arms around her, petting her hair as he asked softly, "Hey, what's going on? You okay?"
"I–yeah, I just–" Tali abruptly pulled back, face reddening as she realized she wasn't this touchy-feely back in the Project, and shrugged, "I missed you a lot. I miss the others. Where are they?"
As soon as she said that she knew it was a mistake. If she stayed for too long, she wouldn't be able to leave.
And then suddenly Wash was behind York, peering at her. Maine was to his right, grinning lopsidedly at her, a smile rarely seen and only for her. The watery smile came against her will.
"Tau? Haven't seen you in awhile," Washington smiled kindly at her, innocence radiating off him, "You can finally share the pain of the knock knock jokes."
"Oh, I've had a healthy dosage of that," Tali shot back with a light chuckle, fist bumping Maine, "Hey Mountain. How's the weather up there?"
The brute Freelancer scowled at her remark, grabbing her and lifting her into the air all the while ignoring her protest of the fuck are you doing you crazy albino and smirking when she kicked her legs to try to get down.
"Alright alright, it's seventy-five with a slight wind, put me down now would you?" Tali crossed her arms and scowled at Maine, who took pity on her and set her gently on the floor.
"So what brings you here, Tau?" Washington asked curiously.
After a jolting reminder that this wasn't real, they weren't there, she schooled her expression and said, "I'm looking for someone. An A.I.–"
"Big surprise there."
Tali whirled around, seeing the familiar cyan blue and fiery red crown, the soft green that was only glaring to her and Tex, and she tried to squash her annoyance toward a dead woman, "Carolina. It's been a while."
"And I wish it was longer," Carolina snarked, and it took all of Tali's willpower not to smash her into a wall, "Don't you have enough A.I. to sustain you?"
"Speak for yourself, bitch," South strutted up the ramp, arms crossed. She looked at Tali as she gestured to the redhead, "Crazy bitch decided her pretty little head needed two A.I. since it was so fuckin' complicated up there–"
"South," North's parenting voice rang from a ways away.
"Oh, spare me North!" South snarled back without bite.
Tali cracked a grin, shaking her head at the lilac and green Freelancer, "Just be thankful Carolina hasn't blown a Pelican up with you in it yet."
"Yeah, har har, I'm still angry about that Tex!" South shouted to someone across the way.
"OH GET OVER IT, BUTTERCUP!"
"STOP CALLING ME BUTTERCUP!"
"I believe I could assist you on the whereabouts of this A.I., sister."
Tali jerked her head around to the voice, seeing a flaming orange figure on Maine's shoulder, and nodding, "Thanks Sig. I'm looking for Chi."
She tried to clamp down on the uneasy feeling she felt from seeing Sigma again. After Omicron planted that small seed of doubt about one of her brothers, she couldn't help but stress over it. It's what she does.
"Yes, he is in here. He wishes to trap you in here so he can continue to control Agent Hawaii."
"Well that's not gonna happen," Tali said with determination, "Location?"
"I can assist you, but the structure of this place is ever changing. I would need to be with you to show you the way exactly."
"Alright then. Maine, help me out for this?" Tali asked her fellow agent.
:You don't even have to ask: He growled in response, directing his attention to the other Freelancers, :Who wants to join?:
"Well," York slung an arm around Tali, much to her amusement, and replied, "I can't just let Libra's baby sister run off into danger without me now can I?"
"Count me in!" Washington nodded.
"Hell yeah, let's bust some heads!" South piped up, North imputing a more calm 'we're in' from beside her.
"Are you guys crazy?" Carolina yelped from the ramp, hands on her hips, "Tali just pops up and you all file in behind her?"
"Hey, what can we say? She's team leader," South drew out the title to provoke the number three, Carolina clenching her fists tightly in response.
Wash jolted and looked to his left, asking to thin air, "Tex?"
"I've always got your back, Tali," Tex materialized in front of her, a grin on her face as she cocked out her hip.
"I'm in," of course Carolina would change her tune.
Tali only nodded, flashing a small smile of gratitude in her direction. Carolina remained stone faced.
"Lead the way, Sigma," Tali urged, and they set off.
"What the hell is going on down at Blue Base?"
"I dunno, it looks like– oh hey, look! A Grif sleeping on the job! That's a surprise."
"Hey, isn't that Tali with her? Aw man, they must be besties now! Girls get to have all the fun!"
"Shut up, Donut."
Well, she was too late.
April jumped over a mound of rocks and dashed across a walkway, slowing to a stop as Red team came into sight with Sarge and… a red flag. And who the hell was singing?
"Uhm… should I even ask?" April questioned, taking in the maroon soldier hypnotized by a green monitor and Sarge preaching about the Blues while Grif and Donut just looked passively at him.
Grif noticed her arrival, and said casually, "Hey guys, April doesn't have a top on."
"Good googily moogily!"
Sarge and Simmons both jumped and whirled around to find April, seeing her fully armed and armored, and let out disappointed sighs. What the fuck?!
"Alright, I guess that means I'm committing treason in a second," April threatened as she lifted her plasma rifle.
"Please don't kill me!"
"My god… you really do have a illness from Grif! Oh no, oh no! A GRIFNESS!" Sarge wailed, "April, if you have any sane bone in your body left, shoot Grif! I will allow the treasonous act for the good of humanity."
"Wow. Thanks Sarge," Grif mumbled.
"And seriously? You don't even know what I look like, let alone try to imagine… that!"
"I know what you look like April!" Donut said knowingly, turning to the others, "And she is very gifted, I'll say that!"
"The fuck?" Grif yelped in disbelief, "I didn't… uh…"
"We-We're not!" April shook her head vehemently, "Donut is just being… well, Donut."
"That's some great reasoniiiing woahh what's going on there?" Simmons suddenly refocused on the green tinted screen.
"How long have you guys been down here again?" April wondered, "Oh, and nice to see you alive, Donut!"
"Aw, thank you!" Donut squealed before glaring at the men, "You're the only one that bothered!"
"...Anyway," Grif coughed awkwardly under Donut's death glare, "We were trying to figure out a way to Blue base since they're attacking ours."
"But I say again that's a preposterous idea! They have tanks, machine guns, and Freelancers–"
"Their base is fucking empty… SIR!" Grif yelled.
"Oh. Excellent point then, Simmons."
Grif groaned in exasperation. The whole interaction had April scratching her head.
"I am so confused."
"And you should be! Where the hell were you all this time?!" Grif suddenly yelled at her angrily, throwing his arms out.
April furrowed her brows behind her visor, answering, "California caught me before I made it back to base… Tali and I just escaped a couple hours ago."
"California? You mean the guy that tried to kill that York guy Tali mentioned before?" Donut asked.
"That's the one," April said tiredly before perking up a bit, "On the bright side, Tali managed to run a plane into him, so I'm ninety-nine percent sure he's dead."
"…What about the other one percent?" Simmons questioned.
"Just covering my bases in case he decides to rise from the dead and become a radioactive zombie or something."
"…That's specific," Sarge commented after a moment, "And completely probable! Excellent strategizing April!"
"How is that strategizing again?" Grif asked.
April sighed. Back to the grinder, it seemed.
Seeing the other Freelancers fight again, joke again, had her lost for words.
It was like she never left, like she was always there on the Mother of Invention, listening and joking and fighting and laughing with them. The Freelancers shared with her information of the Project that Hawaii could remember offhandedly, and it left her wanting to know more.
Unanswered questions of how the implantations went, of how the break in went. Of who this Meta was. She just wished she knew how everyone else fared on that fateful day.
Tali tried not to focus on Freelancer though, since worrying over something that has already happened wouldn't do her any good. She just focused on finding Chi and freeing Hawaii.
Sigma led them all directly to the yellow A.I., and an all out assault was launched on Chi's little bunker. Carolina and Tex were trying to find a weak spot in the bunker to slip inside, North was scanning the area diligently with his sniper rifle, and York was down on one knee, working on the damn lock while Maine, South, Wash, and herself formed a protective shield around him.
"And here I was thinking you might've improved in your lockpicking," Tali sighed dramatically, hoping to get a rise out of York.
He spluttered in response, "Hey! I've picked some locks successfully!"
"Without triggering an alarm?"
"Ye– uh… well…"
"Agent York's lockpicking skills have developed over the years exponentially," Delta appeared, hovering over York's shoulder, "But with his improvement, there are also improvements established to the locks themselves."
South snorted a laugh, "Dude, I think he just burned you."
York sighed, "Thanks for the support D."
"I do not mean to offend. I was merely stating factual data–"
"Yada yada yada, I know, I know."
Tali chuckled at the interaction, winking at the green A.I. right before he logged off, and tapped her foot, "You think it would be faster if I just punched it?"
"You and Tex are a hive mind, I swear…" York mumbled.
"I mean, I guess it would be. Wouldn't it set off the alarm though?" Wash mused.
"Fuck it, I'm doing it," Tali pushed York out of the way and drew back her fist, aiming at the door panel as she swung her arm forward–
Only for the door to slide open, and for Tex to receive the punch instead.
"Augh, the hell is wrong with you?!" Tex reeled back and cupped her chin, shaking her head as Carolina jumped back in surprise.
"Uh, sorry! I was just gonna smash the door open when your… face got in the way," Tali ended lamely, shrugging.
"Wonderful," Tex muttered as all the Freelancers filed inside.
"How'd you get in anyway?" Tali questioned, sauntering in with her hands on her hips.
"Weak point in the back wall with a little encouragement from explosives."
"Wouldn't expect anything less from you, Tex," Tali smiled in amusement before schooling her expression and looking around. The room was fairly blank, the familiar running code in green and lining of objects in cobalt present. A holographic table was stuck in the center of the room, curved chairs that looked as if Tali would slip off it if she tried to sit formed in a circle around the table.
"This looks kinda…plain," Wash spoke as he went towards the chairs.
"Yeah, too plain if you ask me," York muttered, gravitating toward the holographic terminal.
Maine kept close to Tali as she ran her fingers along the creases of the wall, eyeing how the code rippled and cracked. Chi was here somewhere. Where, she had no clue.
:What're you thinking?: Maine growled in his disturbing yet decipherable tone, and Tali felt his hands land on her shoulders, as he usually did.
"Chi has to be up to something. He wouldn't just leave this place unattended for no reason at all," Tali frowned, "But… I can't really pinpoint his location well when I'm in this form. Physically I can find him just fine, but not in code."
Maine stilled, thinking for a moment, before he squeezed her shoulders in reassurance and replied, :No matter what Chi tries, we'll beat him like we always do:
"Thanks Maine...I've missed you," Tali smiled a little, and Maine pat the top of her head affectionately.
"Uh...Tau?" York suddenly called, "We've got a small problem."
Tali narrowed her eyes before marching over to York, who was peering out of one of the small windows, "What is it?...Oh, shit."
Once they were all inside, Chi must have activated some sort of shield that encompassed the base, and the greenish glow was ominous to say in the least. Tali immediately went to the front and ran towards the barrier, hoping that it wasn't solid, but her body was thrown back once she made contact with it.
"Well fuck my life."
Hi there. I'm sorry for taking so long, I just don't have a lot of time to write for fanfiction anymore. Updates aren't going to be as fast as they were anymore, that's for sure. I'm sorry if this disappoints anyone!
Okay, questions in the reviews:
To all that ship the Twin T ship: Are you satisfied?
To all that ship April x Grif: Alright, what's the pairing name for them you creative bunch? Cause I ship them too! :D
And to all that sent praise: Thanks to all of you beautiful people, knowing that people are enjoying my work is a great morale boost! Hugs to all of you!
Iron-ninja: Tali was kidnapped off-screen, mostly because, I'll admit, I wasn't too sure how to write that scene. I tried to explain it through April's POV the best I could. Sorry for confusing you! But as for the time she was out, Sister was already with the Reds when Tali was searching, and once the Reds left, they went through with the burial of Sarge and Simmons' leadership. As Tali and April were escaping, Sister joined Blue team and then Tex showed up shortly after, and that is when their stories combine yet again. I hope this helps!
Kilo8: Aw thank you, this review made my day! I'm glad you like it, and I will keep going with this story, I promise!
13TheAce: I'm glad things are making sense to you so far! And thanks for reading! :)
The next update may not happen for a while...and it might be shorter than usual. I know what I want to happen, but I'm having trouble putting pen to paper, y'know? Writers block sucks X(
If any of you have any questions for me, either drop it in a review or pm me, I'll answer it if the answer doesn't reveal spoilers!
Happy writing and Lonessa out!