Chapter 23: Demon to the End

Tucker and Grif slowly approached Equal. The New Order leader stared at the alien swords drawn in their hands, and took a keen interest in the one in Grif's hand. That belonged to Truth, oh how bittersweet it is for the past to haunt me. Equal took out his own sword and began to walk in a circular path as the opponents faced one another. Grif took the initiative, he came in swinging hard! Equal avoided the swing and elbowed him in the face. Tucker came in from the left, Equal took the arm Grif held the sword with and swung it towards Tucker.

"Oh shit! Watch it dude!" Tucker complained with Grif saying the same as he narrowly dodged Tucker's sword. Equal kicked Grif away and made contact with Tucker's sword. Sparks flew out from the instant contact, and light flashed before their eyes as the very molecules making up the sword struggled against one another. The two retracted their swords and swung it to the side. Flashes and sparks escaped the point of contact once again, but Equal was on the winning front as with his superior technological strength, he applied more pressure onto Tucker. The aqua soldier looked towards Grif and shouted. "I could use some help here!"

Grif ran into the skirmish swinging his sword wildly. If all else fails, hope for the best! His wild swinging antics however would do no good for them as his swings aimed both at Equal and Tucker. Equal retracted his sword, stored it and kicked Grif on the back of his knee. Held him by his sword arm, he twisted it backwards and kneed Grif in the spine. Tucker could only freeze at the sight. Ouch, that has got to hurt.

Grif got back up pretty quickly however and swung the sword to his right. It narrowly missed Equal, but nearly made contact with Tucker. "Hey, watch it!"

These two are not as well coordinated with the sword it seems, Equal pondered using this weakness to his advantage. The two ganged up on him and managed to bring him down to the ground just as he was gaining momentum. Equal slowly picked himself and kneeled with his head low. His mind felt shaken. Even now he could not get completely used to the disorientating effects of combat. Grif pierced the air with his sword, and Equal bent his head to the right missing the sword. Tucker pushed forward with his left foot and applied a great deal of pressure onto Equal's chest. "Just go down already!"

"Sorry to disappoint you, but I can't do that!" Equal stopped Tucker's swing and bent his elbow uncomfortably. Grif came in from the back, but with a firm grip onto the ground, Equal kicked Grif away on the face. Equal came around and slowly walked towards Tucker. "So Captain, is this what you envisioned all of this amounting to in the end, is this how you thought of ending our conflict?"

"No," Tucker mumbled with his visor facing the floor. "I thought of kicking your ass real good. This is kind of the opposite actually."

Equal could not help but laugh at the humor attempt. "For once I must agree with you."

Equal swung up his leg and kicked Tucker's head off the floor. He took it with his hands and threw it towards the nearby wall. Grif got up slightly bruised and angrier. He ran for the skirmish from Equal's blind spot, but his efforts were not good enough. Equal dodged the sword swings and ducked beneath Grif's arm. He held Grif by the neck and applied hard pressure to the point Grif started to choke. "I bet this wasn't something you had in mind either when you envisioned our fight now did you?"

Tucker cleaned his visor of the built up dust and looked at the struggle behind him. He raised his sword and swung to his side. Equal noticed the danger and spun around with Grif still in arms. The sword made contact and it cut through Grif's armor!

Eh? Tucker was left speechless at the blood that flew out towards him. This was not Equal's blood. It was the blood of his ally. No…oh fuck! Tucker immediately panicked as he saw Grif falling to the ground. Simmons became scattered and tried to get over to Grif's position. But his beaten body would not allow it. "Grif!"

Equal picked up Grif and threw him to the side. "If you want him so badly, then take him back. The battlefield has no use of such weaklings. Fighting is better left up to those who are fit for it after all."

Simmons shook Doc awake and with a pleading tone he begged for the medic to study Grif's injury. Sarge rattled awake at hearing the cries all around him. "Simmons, Simmons, tell me. Has the lord finally heard my prayers?"

"No," Everyone looked at Grif still breathing and well. Sarge was visibly irritated. "Why will he never listen?!"

"It's nice to know you care so much," Grif noted sarcastically before Doc cleared his throat. "It's not a deep cut. Just a flesh wound so to say."

The whole room could hear Sarge grunt in dissatisfaction prompting Grif to shake his head. "Just go back to playing unconscious Sarge."

"Okay, bleh!" Sarge dropped onto the floor. Everyone returned their attention to the two combatants who seemed to be having an intense staring competition. But it was more than that, they were playing this out. They were waiting for the other to make the first move and react accordingly. Much to the BGC's surprise, Tucker actually kept himself well composed.

Yet someone had to be the first to go, and predictably it was Tucker. Equal held Tucker in his spot and lifted him over his shoulders. His legs kicked into high gear applying more strength to the joints to help lift the weight. Equal slammed Tucker's body against the wall and watched it fall lifelessly to the ground. He took out his sword and strode about for a bit waiting for the aqua soldier to stand back up. "Is this your limit Captain Tucker? After all the threats and the damage you caused us, this is all you can manage in a direct confrontation?"

Equal lessened the distance with the intent to deliver the final blow. But Tucker turned around last minute and without a solid sense of direction he swung his sword. It grazed and damaged Equal's helmet causing him to back away in slight panic. Sparks flew out from the damaged areas of the helmet. Equal did his best to retract it, but it could no longer fold up as efficiently as it once could before. Instead, he ripped it off of his face and threw it to the side. "I didn't think you would play dirty tricks of that nature."

"I can play dirty when I need to," Tucker held up his sword and made contact with Equal's. The two struggled against one another's strength. But Equal had it won in the end with his greater strength. Equal kicked Tucker in the shin, elbowed him in the abdomen and delivered a swift uppercut. Tucker fell to the ground, his whole body shaken and numb. Equal could not help but smirk at such weakness in his enemy. "And I can be extremely cruel even towards the weak when I need to."

Equal raised his sword for a decisive blow, but was abruptly interrupted by a flying sword that made a clean cut through his sword holding arm! Equal looked up in horror and then behind him. He saw Grif's hand stretched outward. The sword was Grif's. Tucker took the opportunity to make a clean slice through Equal's legs. Without any pain, Equal fell down to the ground with a loud thud. He looked at his legs shocked to see such damage. Within a matter of seconds he was at a great disadvantage. Equal eyed his sword and slowly but surely turned himself over to reach for it. Tucker noticed such efforts and did his best to hinder the now crippled enemy.

Equal gritted his teeth and did his best to move his limbs. The legs specifically began to malfunction a little at the sudden rise in emotions. The chemical imbalance was too great. What his mind desired was no longer agreeable to what his body did. He began to solely rely on his arms to carry him forward. Tucker followed Equal and further kicked away the sword. "Give up, this is the end."

"I won't!" Equal felt winded after a few more drags towards the sword. He tried to reach out to it with his undamaged arm but that was not good enough, not when he was under the watchful eye of Tucker. His other arm was not cut off as well. He stared in anger, sadness and shock. Tucker retrieved his sword and kicked Equal over. "You should have known shit like this never ends well man."

"Yeah, kick his ass!" Sister encouraged from behind Lopez. O'Malley could not agree more, he too wanted to see Equal broken and defeated for all the things he put them through. The whole of BGC went silent at the sudden laughter from Equal. They could not understand what was so funny, but Equal was more than willing to oblige their curiosity and confusion. "You think you are any better than me for doing this?"

"Let's see, we are basically about to stop a dictator. So yes, we do think we are better than you," Tucker walked around in circles with Equal's body in the center. The enemy could not help but be amused at the ignorance. "And you believe that there will be no consequences for any of the deaths you have caused?"

"What are you talking about?" Muffins inquired getting up and helping his two Privates up. Equal stared all around with a condescending glare. "You are all murderers. You involved people from Sector-D in what essentially became genocide for our people there. Have you forgotten about your actions there?! You are all no nobler than me and monsters all the same!"

The whole room remained silent. The guilt of all those lives lost and many more carried heavily in everyone's heart. Tucker bent down beside Equal and firmly looked him in the eyes. "We haven't forgotten. How could we? But we know that we are better than you. We don't do this for revenge. We do it to free people from your oppressive regime."

"I wonder how oppressive the New Order really is when faced with the corruption surrounding the UNSC and the Earth Government. People there live in constant lies and fear. They are under surveillance everywhere they go and still in danger of being involved in a great terrorist tragedy. So what the hell is the Government even doing there except for spouting pretty words to look good to the people?" Equal took in a deep breath and stopped to consider his next few words. "But we took actions. We did things even if you may not agree with the methods. We unlike the Earth Government took a stand against corruption."

"With more corruption as the driving power," Simmons interjected arguing their flawed methods. "Before I wouldn't have been able to say this but having felt it, I now know what revenge and hate are like. That is what drives your organization and it is nowhere near the things you would want to promote in a healthy society. In the end, your system is corrupt."

Equal understood that he was not getting through to any of them. He rested his head back and closed his eyes. He could feel his mind wander with a heavy sense of guilt in defeat. Even as their leader I could not stand up to them. Maybe I really did underestimate their individual strength, or simply their dumb luck. Whatever the case, it is all too late now. It seems that I have failed my people. I will never be able to keep my promises to anyone now. Equal felt his body numb a little at the light headed sensations he experienced presently.

What is going on? Equal wondered as he saw the darkness absorb his image completely. Out of the darkness, he could begin to see an outline. Horns formed on what was once Equal's head. Wings began to spread out of his back. Claws extended from both his hands and feet. Dark purple scales covered his whole body with a red shroud of fog. But the most disturbing aspect of this new being before him was the creature's eyes. The eyes were one to easily instill fear and fracture one's mind easily. Those eyes were filled with unending hate.

Is this what I have become? Equal wondered suddenly feeling some supernatural gravity acting on his body. It drew him closer to this satanic beast against his will. Like a puppet attached to a string, no matter how hard it would fight it must still obey the will of its master, Equal had to obey the will of his unknown and mysterious puppeteer as it raised his arm up towards the beast. What the hell? Let go of me! Equal pondered struggling so very hard against this force.

This time, the demon pulled Equal to the other side and switched places with him. Funny thing about it was that he did not even bother resisting. But at the same time it was curious for him to not resist against such a demonic force. The demon now stood on the side of the bodies and it's visage of flames began to seep from its body. The crimson flames burned even brighter now with them slowly consuming all. The demon slowly turned to face him with a growl. It was a growl most foul reeking of impurity.

Is this my hate, and is this what it will bring in the end to me? Equal wondered. He watched the flames light a path in this dark void, and yet at the same time it made his mind anxious. Have I been consumed by hate completely to the point of no return? Am I now on this other side still filled with that dark void and completely alone?

Equal heard a set of footsteps behind him. He was afraid, too afraid to turn and look at what approached his way at a moderate pace. No, I have to look. I can't be so afraid! He turned and saw a figure standing before him. The body of the person he thought to never meet again and it left him with a shocking impression. It was Locus. "What…are you doing here?"

"Turn back," Locus answered with a concerned tone. Equal looked behind him, there was nothing there. Turn back to where? He wondered and when he looked back at Locus, the mercenary was approaching him slowly. "You have strayed Equal, turn back."

"I don't understand."

"Is this what you wanted out of your quest to provide something better for the people here?"

Equal shook his head. Locus then continued motioning all around him. "Look at this destruction, all of it is your doing."

"But necessary!"

"No," Locus took a firm stand in this argument as he pointed at the bodies. "This could have been avoided had you given up your fool's errand of revenge! You could have been living peacefully right now. And I wouldn't have had to die."

Equal remained silent as he looked beyond Locus and onto the destruction. Even death surrounded him on this side now. That sense of peace he yearned for was nowhere to be felt. Trying to guilt trip me? He pondered looking down at the corpses of his allies. Equal stared back up at Locus and shook his head in disbelief. "You supported our ideals and goals before you betrayed me. Do you know how badly that stung? You were like a brother to me and even that was taken from me. My peaceful life after the war, my body, you and my sanity…all of it taken by the very bastards I fought the war for. Now you tell me that my ambitions here are nothing more than a fool's errand? You have no right to judge me Locus, especially not when you betrayed my trust!"

"It was the right thing to do."

"It was betrayal, since when has that been the right thing to do?!"

"If done for the correct reasons," Locus looked all around him with a saddened gaze. "Then it is the right thing to do. Your beliefs and mine differ, you know this already and you understand it. What you perceive as the correct course to justice, I perceived that as hypocrisy. What you perceive as truth and reality, I perceived that as nothing more than an illusion to run away into."

"Run away?" Equal pointed to his right at the destroyed UNSC fleet. "We are not running away, we are doing exactly what we intended to!"

"But you ran away from your responsibility of doing the best you could for your people," Locus countered further arguing. "You instead enslaved people, brainwashed them and manipulated the mass consciousness to better meet the needs of your own goals. What you have is nothing more than a dictatorship to serve your own purposes of revenge. Forgive and move on Equal."

"You don't know anything about me, even when I thought you did," Equal felt his anger rise. His mind began to fall into chaos and feelings of grief surged. "To be betrayed by my own brother in arms, it is a betrayal most foul. Just disappear!"

Locus' body began to suddenly implode on itself. There was a singularity forming from within Locus' chest that caused him to crackle and twist into it. Everything around Equal suddenly started disappearing into this eternal darkness that grew with everything it absorbed. A black hole faced Equal. Soon there was nothing left to absorb but Equal. This black hole captured his eyes filled with darkness from that of his mind and his heart. Is there no light left in my life then? He pondered slowly feeling his body tear apart molecule by molecule. Soon, his whole body was consumed leaving no trace of his existence…

That's right, I remember now. That is how that nightmare ended. Equal let out a heavy breath remembering Locus' words of turning away from this path. But Equal felt no remorse. He felt no guilt for making the choice to walk on this path in life, but his actions against the people still haunted him deeply. It was because of his selfish ambitions alongside few others, he caused a greater tragedy than the UNSC. Still, it was a good run I suppose. Equal breathed in deeply and smiled wide. "I don't regret what I did."

Yes, that's how I want to die. I will say that to the end so that my legacy is preserved. Everyone in the room stared pitifully at Equal. He was nothing more than a shell right now. He was harmless as he is but still a threat should he ever recover. But I do wonder if I ever got any closer to achieving our goals. Even if I did a lot of things that I can never repent for, it was necessary in the end. I do hope we achieved something for all the sacrifices I forced onto the people.

Sarge walked over to Tucker and patted the blue soldier on the shoulder. "You know it has to be done Tucker."

"But he is helpless now," Tucker looked at Equal with hesitant eyes. "Can't we let the military deal with him now?"

"And what if he recovers and causes more damage in the future?" Grif wondered as he retrieved his sword with the help of Simmons. Tucker bit his bottom lip. This fucking sucks! He could not believe that they would have to kill him. Tucker already had enough deaths on his conscience as it was. O'Malley raised his rifle aimed at Equal's head. "If you won't do it, then I will."

"Stop!" Tucker diverted the aim and pushed Doc away. "I…I will do it myself. He is a complete dick, but at least he deserves a clean death like everyone else."

Equal looked at the bickering soldiers and pondered with a lighter mind. Is this it then, is this really my end? Tucker raised his sword into the air and aimed for Equal's chest. This still did not feel right to Tucker. To kill this criminal all in the name of justice, surely there must have been some other way. But there was none, not right now anyways. Equal smiled wider at the thought of death. Maybe I will finally be released from the burdening responsibilities that I carry in life. Maybe I will finally find peace.

Tucker pierced the sword through Equal's chest, and without much resistance Equal felt his life wither. His eye lids lost all strength to stay open, his heart struggled to push forward with its beat and his muscles relaxed beyond his awareness. Death came in a black shroud and wrapped its arms around him. With a cold, empty and lifeless embrace his life was ended then and there. Tucker took out his sword and bent down to check the pulse. "It's done."

Everyone in the room gave a moment of silence.

"Holy shit," Grif walked over to Equal's corpse still unable to believe that they won. "We actually did it!"

"Yeah, we kicked his ass good!" Sister shouted from behind Lopez, finally annoying him enough to start maintaining some distance from her. Simmons bent down besides the corpse with Edward's cellphone in his hand and gritted his teeth. I thought seeing you dead would make me feel better. But I guess I thought wrong. Instead it makes me feel the opposite. Elsie, Edwards, does this mean that I no longer have the strength to deal with that hate or the drive for revenge?

"So, what do we do about the sword?" asked Private Buttmunch.

"Oh, shiny!"

Everyone looked towards Caboose and face palmed. Sarge did not feel comfortable in the slightest letting Caboose keep it, but now it was too late. "So who wants to guess that the world will end because of Caboose here?"

"Yeah, we are fucked," Grif took a few steps back along with everyone else. Tucker rubbed the back of his head semi-confident. "Calm down guys. I'm sure I can train him."

"Can you really?" asked Doc. "Because I have done my psycho-analysis on Caboose in the past and yeah, no."

"I'm sure I could…I mean, maybe."

"Gee, you have a way with words that just inspires confidence Tucker," Grif sarcastically noted before looking at Sister. Thank the god she stayed still during the fight. The little sister rushed over to study her brother's injury and inquire about his safety. Lopez from afar recorded everything in his databanks as per protocol, and a means to record the journey of the Reds and the Blues of Blood Gulch Canyon.

Junior flew out into a small Covenant fighter alongside his brothers and sisters and entered the battlefield with extreme impact. Destroying several New Order jet fighters and ships along the way, they were joined in by a squadron of UNSC jet fighters. On their way to the space station, they were met with much resistance. But thanks to their coordination and advanced weaponry, they managed to overcome their enemy. Junior contacted his squad leader requesting to that they begin the hacking procedure to the Sector-C docking doors.

Suddenly they all came under heavy fire from the defense line! But the Covenant cruiser and the UNSC ships came to the rescue with a counter-attack of their own. The dock doors opened and several ships flew past the defense line. The soldiers all braced for impact and a rough landing. Washington and Carolina stared at the open doors suddenly depressurizing the area. They activated their gravity boots with one single looming thought in their minds. What now?

Two Covenant fighters and two UNSC jet fighters flew into the hanger bay and immediately killed their jets. They hovered in one spot and flashed a light towards the freelancers. UNSC Pilot number one took the liberty of informing his Captain. "We have found two individuals from that message we received sir. What are our orders for them?"

"Accompany them to the tower, I am sure they will gladly show you the way to our common enemy."

"Yes sir," UNSC Pilot number two replied and landed his jet. Junior exited his ship and looked at his fellow Sangheili brother who took the liberty of commenting on the two freelancers. "[It looks like we have two Shisnos here.]"

"Hey," the voice of UNSC pilot one came from behind the two aliens. "I heard that! Shisno means something bad doesn't it?"

"Just drop it man," the other UNSC pilot said shaking his head in annoyance. Junior looked back to his comrade. "[Make that four in total.]"

"Now let me see here, I have that recorded," UNSC pilot one took out his translator and transferred the audio file. The translator decoded the message into binaries and rebuilt it into the human language. "I hope them Shisnos know how to shake that booty."

"Wait, that doesn't seem right," the UNSC pilot one wondered with the scratch of his head. The other one took out his translator and tried it on his. "Milk and Cookies! Milk and Cookies! Santa Claus is coming to town Shisnos!"

"That doesn't sound right either," the second UNSC pilot mumbled. "Maybe that's why the UNSC military got these shitty translators for dirt cheap prices."

Washington stared at the Sangheili in aqua blue armor with curiosity. So that's Tucker's kid. Hmm, kind of feels strange to even think about Tucker being a father. The UNSC pilots approached the freelancers offering their aid. But they were just fine on their own.

"We need your help getting to where Equal is sir," said one of the pilots as he displayed their orders. Apprehend and arrest the individual known as Equal, if not viable, then kill him on the spot. Washington helped Carolina along and motioned for the rest to follow. "Epsilon, chart a route to the tower the others went to. We will go there by any spare cars we can find."

In a matter of minutes, they had reached the tower and were shocked to see the piles of bodies in the hallway. Must have been a hell of a party we missed, Epsilon noted through his direct link with Carolina. Washington led the group to an elevator. They were unsuccessful in using it. One of the Sangheilis pointed up the stair well and the others agreed to the idea. Running upwards, with every floor they swore the body count seemed to be rising to an exponential level. One of the UNSC soldiers wiped their forehead and noted. "They must have had a hell of a time getting up here."

"That they must have," Washington poked his head out on the top floor and heard familiar voices coming from within the only office on this floor. They made it safe and sound, I'm glad. The others walked into the office and met the gazes of the others. Several jumped at the new faces and nearly drew their weapons. Washington stepped in between the two groups and told them all to calm down. Junior walked past everyone to Tucker. "Junior?"

"[Dad!]" Junior held open his arms and clamped them around Tucker's tired form. He lifted his father up into the air happily. "It's good to see you to son. Now could you loosen up a little? Feels like you are going to break my spine."

"[Just like he broke the door in between her legs]," Junior's friend noted with Junior confidently smirking. "[Bow-Chicka-Honk-Honk!]"

Everyone from the UNSC gave the father and son questionable looks prompting Grif to answer. "Don't ask, long story."

Carolina shoved past everyone in her way to the very corpse she had once hoped to create herself. Equal lay on the ground with a most gentle and happy look on his face, and Carolina felt satisfied with just that. She no longer felt the driving hate she felt with Justice, it had been suppressed to manageable levels now. With this, the New Order is no more. She smiled under her helmet, something she had forgotten to do ever since Elsie's death. Her mind and chest grew lighter from the worry uplifting. She let out a small laughter prompting others to follow her lead. This was it, this was the end and now all that was left was the cleanup.

"So," Sarge walked towards the UNSC pilots. "What happens now?"

"Well our orders are to escort you all to a ship that will transport you back to Blood Gulch."

Blood Gulch huh, Carolina wondered with a longing look in her eyes. She noticed the sword on Caboose's thigh armor and wondered of all the ways this could go wrong. But also of all the ways their dumb luck may just aid them all with their newly acquired weapons. She leaned against a wall for support, but did her best to not apply any more pressure than necessary on her wound. I wonder if my place is still in Blood Gulch…or perhaps elsewhere now.

"The military will take care of the rest," the UNSC pilots began to leave the room. "If you will follow us, we will escort you to your ship."

"Give me a moment here," Tucker called out Sigma and asked for him to take a picture of Junior and him together. "I gotta get an updated photo. Maybe I will even print it out back at home base."

"Captain Tucker, I am not retrofitted with camera features. Besides, such a thing would be a waste of my potential."

"Don't worry," Donut walked up to the three and activated his helmet's built-in camera. "I got you covered Tucker. Now, smile!"

Everyone looked back at Equal's corpse one last time. They all felt their experiences here weigh heavy on them, but at the same time they felt that such experiences also helped mature them a little. Not only have they taken down Project Freelancer, a war monger, a corrupt military official and a business man, but now a dictatorship as well. Their track record for defying all odds stacked against them to do the unthinkable was growing fast. With the respectful nod of their heads towards Equal and all those they had encountered because of this adventure, they left for the ride home.

A/N: Equal's time has come and gone and so another enemy falls to the might of the Reds and Blues :). What did you all think of the way things played out?

This story is coming to a close soon. I hope you look forward to the end!

Thank you for your readership and support!

~ Monty Mason