Chapter 11: Growing Bonds & Family

Simmons attached the last set of cables into the computer and tested to make sure they were securely fastened. He looked at Edwards who was already standing with the case cover in his hands and motioned for him to go ahead. "Alright, put the cover on and let's fire her up."

"Yes sir!" Edwards said hopping over to the computer and putting the case over the frame. He slid the case back to lock it into place and once they both heard a click, they began to lift up the computer into place. Simmons brought the computer monitor, keyboard and a mouse and quickly hooked them up. He held out a USB drive containing the OS and hoped for the best. Here is hoping this works, if not for my sake then at least his.

Edwards plugged in the power cable and attached the USB to one of the ports. Simmons gently pressed the power button and saw that the computer's fan got to work already. But just as quickly as the noise of the fan arose, it died down as well and the systems seemed normal. Simmons went into the BIOS of the computer and changed a few settings to have it boot off of the USB. They restarted the machine and already Simmons could tell Edwards' excitement was growing by the seconds. Heh, reminds me of myself when I was his age.

The machine detected the stored OS on the USB they had managed to get their hands onto thanks to Walters. Edwards rubbed his nose with a wide grin. "I knew you could count on Walters for this type of stuff!"

"How come he didn't help you build your own computer all this time then?"

"Well he always said something about not wanting to go to the junkyard, that it would be dangerous for him."

That does make sense. The area is off limits after all, thought Simmons as he calibrated a few settings in the initial setup. Finally finishing the setup he saw a new glimmer in Edwards' eyes. The computer was up and running. Simmons sat back to see Edwards already playing around with the OS, trying to get himself acclimated to the digital environment. Simmons turned towards Carolina and asked for Epsilon.

"Hey, what's up?" the fragment appeared besides Simmons. The soldier pointed towards the computer and said. "Church, do you think you can help him out a little with understanding the basics?"

"Aren't you supposed to be good with computers 'tech buddy'?"

Simmons turned away in embarrassment as he said. "Well, I don't know much about Linux."

"Seriously dude? That is like the most accessible OS in history and you are telling me you suck balls with it?"

"I never said I sucked with it," the maroon soldier replied crossing his arms as he felt a little vulnerable. Epsilon just shook his shoulders and finally said. "Fine, whatever, but if he goes all geek on me then you are on your own."

Carolina smirked under her helmet thinking, that definitely sounds like Church…I wonder why he left those recordings for the new Epsilon to adopt his personality? Was it because he was afraid of leaving us completely, or because he didn't want his existence to be gone completely? But then again, this is not the Church we knew. She shook her head and looked at the fragment interacting with the young boy. Carolina had come to find a certain liking for Edwards, almost like that of an older sister to him. But for Simmons, I would say that he is much more like a father than a brother to Edwards.

Carolina walked in on the fun the three were having and pulled Simmons aside. "What's up Carolina?"

"Don't forget about our training later today," she reminded him with a gentle tap on his shoulder armor. Simmons slumped his shoulders and lazily said. "Yeah, I remember. I wonder how sore my muscles will be after today."

"But you have grown stronger in the one week we have been training so far, haven't you Simmons?"

"I guess that's true," he replied raising his head in thought. She looked back at Edwards who was peeking a few glances every few seconds towards them. She looked back at Simmons who was already waving to the young boy and grinned. "It looks like someone is having a good time."

Simmons suddenly became self-conscious and lowered his arm. Carolina laughed lightly telling him to calm down. "Don't worry Simmons, I was just teasing you. But I'm happy that both you and Edwards get along so well together. Almost like a father and son."

Simmons looked at her with loss for words. Like a father and son? I never thought of it that way all that much, especially not since my dad ran out on me as a young child. So how could I even act as a good father figure to begin with? Simmons turned towards Edwards and felt his mind drown deep into thought. Father and son…I wonder if he really sees it like that as well, it that is the case then I guess it isn't so bad. Wait, what? Why am I thinking like this?

"You are wondering about what I just said aren't you?" Carolina tugged at his arm getting his attention. He admitted that he was. She let out another light hearted laughter. "Don't think too much on this Simmons. Just enjoy it for what it is. After all, in our line of work we never know what tomorrow may bring."

Just enjoy it for what it is, Simmons pondered as he turned to look back at Edwards and nodded his head. "Yeah, you are right. Let's all just enjoy what we have right now instead of thinking too much into this."

Elsie was busy setting up a tripod in the main room, and just as she struggled with a lock on the tripod, she found Carolina's help to be momentarily available. The freelancer unlocked the tripod leg for her and helped set up the stand. "What is this for?"

"Oh you will see soon enough," Elsie replied with a giddy tone. "Could you please bring those things on the table over here dear?"

Carolina went to the various objects and picked up a few at a time. She noticed they were plants and various other ornaments, most of them were handmade. She brought them over to Elsie who directed her to set it up at various spots in the ground. Carolina stared at the objects setup and thought about what these could be for. There is a tripod here, and these objects, what is she planning?

Carolina smirked under her helmet. She found this mysterious side of Elsie to be always fascinating. But at the same time the warm surprises such a side would bring also gave her little bouts of comfort. I suppose I should accept this relationship on how I really feel it is like. Carolina looked at Elsie with a wider smile. It has been a very long time since someone came along who reminded me of my mother to this extent. Elsie the step-mother…jeez, now I know I'm going crazy from all this haha.

"Wunderbar it's all set up ja!"

Carolina quickly found her smile fade away and a heavy sigh escaped her at the familiar voice. The good Captain Muffins walked forward eager to participate in their planned event. Carolina observed Elsie and Muffins getting along quite nicely. They were in on this together? Knowing Muffins this could go south real quick. If it does, breaking a few of his bones wouldn't be a bad thing now would it?

Soon the whole group appeared alongside Ben. Grif seemed quite cross from the sounds of his tone. "Okay, let's just get this over with."

"Aw come on Grif, it won't be so bad," Donut commented in an effort to comfort the orange soldier. Grif scoffed at Donut's words. "Says you, do you know how awesome of a dream I was having before you jerks woke me up?"

"Did it have me and Simmons together in it?" Sister asked all excited.

"What? No, why would I dream about that?" Grif answered grossed out at the prospect. "Weirdo."

"Oh right, and that's coming from the brother who left his sister to drown in a frozen lake for three hours," she replied looking away with her arms crossed. Guess she's mad, oh well, thought Grif as he walked to the makeshift set and said. "Okay, grab the others and get this over with."

Carolina approached Elsie and tapped her on her shoulder. She whispered into her ear a question. "What are we doing?"

Elsie clapped her hands with a wide smile and said. "We are going to take a group photo."

"A what?!" Carolina exclaimed with the idea taking her by storm. Elsie tilted her head and asked. "Does this not suit you dear?"

"Oh no, it's not that, it is just that I was surprised," Carolina looked at the camera in Elsie's hand that Edwards once showed to her before, one of his creations so to speak. Elsie walked on over to the tripod and set it up. Donut went to call the Edwards and Simmons. Carolina leaned in close to Elsie and asked. "What made you want to suddenly take a group photo?"

"I figure that now is as good a time as any since soon you will probably be leaving us."

"What makes you say that?"

"Walters was telling me that the ship for your escape is near completion. So I imagine you will be leaving us soon," Elsie's expression turned quite lonely as she looked towards Edwards' room. "But I'm sad to know that Edwards will be getting very lonely soon as well."

Carolina couldn't say anything. She knew that them needing to leave the planet was necessary to meet up with the others. They couldn't let their comrades be alone up in the station to fight a tough battle. They are family after all. But so are these two now aren't they? The kindness they have shown and we will just up and leave like that. Carolina let out a sigh and looked at the three figures exiting Edwards' room. "Elsie, I will stay here with you and Edwards to the very last second I spend here before launch. Other than that, I can't do anymore, I'm sorry."

"I don't have the right to ask for anymore either," Elsie replied with a content smile. "As long as Edwards and everyone else here have a fulfilling time for that period, I will be a very happy woman."

"Come on Simmons!" Edwards said pulling Simmons along by the hand. He guided the soldier to the middle spot in the whole group causing him to wince in pressure. I hate being the center of attention. But he couldn't say anything at seeing the happy look on Edwards' face. I guess I will bear with it for his sake.

"I nominate myself to stand beside the hot freelancer woman!" Muffins declared with his hand up high in the air. He moved besides her causing her to cringe a little. She did her best to smile, but found that no matter how hard she tried, the best she could do was a crooked smile. She saw him trying to wrap his arm around her waist and quickly smacked his hand. Smacked it she did, to the point where Muffins felt like his bones shattered into pieces. "Touch me and you won't be touching much of anything for a good three months."

"Okay, I no longer want to be beside her."

Carolina let out a sigh and moved herself. She stood by Elsie who was besides Edwards. Elsie raised her arms to get everyone's attention and said. "Okay everyone, look towards the camera!"

Suddenly multiple flashes went off and the camera printed the pictures right then and there. Elsie hurried over to the camera to study the pictures and was delighted to see the end result. She went around the room showing the pictures to everyone and held out two additional pictures for Carolina and Simmons. The two soldiers looked at one another and then back to Elsie as Simmons asked. "You are giving these to us?"

"Yes, I would love it if you would keep a memory of our time together."

Edwards also held out the mobile phone he had first worked on with Walters. Simmons looked at the offerings quite speechless. Carolina was taken aback by this gesture as well. Simmons took the mobile phone and opened it up. If only this worked, he thought looking back to Edwards. Then maybe I could have used it to call you. He bent down at the boy's level and ruffled his hair. "I promise to take great care of it, thanks."

"No problem Simmons, we are tech buddies after all!"

"Yeah," Simmons confirmed also taking the picture from Elsie. "Thank you for everything mam, I appreciate all your help and kindness towards us who were simply strangers."

"Yes," Carolina agreed. "Such kindness is rare these days."

"Oh don't be silly," Elsie said back with the wave of her hand. "If we people don't help one another then who can we expect help from in our time of need later on?"

Simmons was then soon led away by Edwards to his room again to check on the computer. Carolina looked at the two leaving the main room and thought, I will miss this sight when we leave this planet. She looked at Elsie who was clearing the set on her own and decided to go ahead and help her. I will miss these mundane activities as well. So until the time to leave comes, I will make the best of these precious moments.

A/N: Hey everyone, hope you are enjoying this fanfic so far. I thought to ask of you, what are your thoughts so far on this fanfic both from a red vs blue perspective and a general story perspective. Would appreciate any feedback you maybe able to give.

Thanks for reading and your support!

~ Monty