Chapter 24: I Need to Grow

The BGC looked all around at their rather comfortable accommodations with relief. They all needed the rest. They remained seated as per the instructions of the flight crew. Outside, they were travelling through a warp pathway. The various colors that coated their eyes from the exterior established a sense of relaxation and wonderment in them. It truly was a spectacle to see what humans have created and how far they have come as a species, but at the same time quite saddening because of their violent nature.

Clack!

Everyone turned to look at the flight crew member that approached the red leader and asked for him to follow. It was time for the debriefing. "I'm sorry to disturb you like this on your trip back home sir. I know you must be tired, but orders are orders."

"That's fine."

The attendee knocked on a metal door and slid it open. Inside was darkness with a single bulb light over a table and two chairs sitting opposite to one another. On one of the chairs sat a man in a captain's uniform, proudly displaying the many medals he has earned over his years of service in the military. He looked up at the two and greeted them to enter. He took of his cap and fashioned his hair quickly. "My apologies for this display gentlemen. Due to the recent events, it would seem that I have been neglecting my sleep a little too much."

He quickly combed his grey hair and beard, rubbed his eyes to provide better clarity and motioned towards the chair. "Please, take a seat."

The Captain looked towards his crew member and dismissed him. "I am sorry for this sudden debriefing, but as per the UNSC Military rules, I have to do them. So let's begin with your name. According to this report so generously written and donated by Captain Muffins, your name is 'Itchy Trigger Fingers', correct?"

"You said that report was written by Muffins?" the red leader shook his head in thought. No wonder he got my name wrong. "My name is Sarge."


Itchy Trigger Fingers (aka Sarge):

"Please forgive the misunderstanding Sarge," the Captain wiped his forehead and rummaged through the report. "I wonder how much of this will be accurate."

"If I were a betting man, I would say it has a chance of being accurate at about two percent."

"You have that little faith in Muffins?"

"You will have had to see the things he did to believe my words," Sarge waved his hands in the air frustrated with some course of actions Muffins took in the past. "I don't think I have met anyone crazier than that."

"Right," the Captain brought out a few documents and placed them before Sarge. "Can you please confirm whether you were responsible for all the deaths in Sector-D or not?"

"The what now?"

"Do you not remember?" The Captain was rather shocked to hear this. But then again the first impression the group has made on him so far stays in line with this type of behavior. "Your little stunt caused thousands to lose their lives when you needed to board the station to rescue Private Tucker."

"Er that," Sarge shifted in his chair before speaking again. "That was Muffins' idea. We warned him not to do it, but he did it anyways. If it were up to me, I would have preferred the good old fashioned approach of going up to our enemies and kicking them in the keister. Either that or maybe go up to them and ask nicely to come in, and then turn the tables with a good shot gunning. But all I can say is that they got Sarged…hard."

The Captain reached for the intercom with a heavy sigh. This is going to be a long day. "Send in the next one please."


Resident Nerd (aka Simmons):

"So according to this report you are the 'Resident Nerd', also known as Dick Simmons," the Captain looked up at the Maroon soldier who agreed. "I hope you can be a little more enlightening than your Sergeant from before."

The Captain flipped a page and pointed out to a passage in the report. "It says here that with the help of your allies, you were able to defeat a high ranking officer of the New Order in one of their factories. Based on the reasons cited, revenge is one of them. Tell me Private, what could have prompted such desire for revenge?"

Simmons remained quiet and his head low. You know the answer, and yet you still ask me. What is this, some sick mind games crap? The Captain cleared his throat still waiting for an answer, but a few minutes later he gave up and pointed out another section of the report. "Do you think you could talk about your interactions with the folks of the planet and the space colony in detail?"

Simmons lowered his head even further. Just thinking about the planet brought back the memories, and the guilt. He balled his hands into fists resting on his knees, and gritted his teeth. The sooner I answer his questions, the faster this can be over I suppose. He looked up with slight hesitation but mostly determination. "It's a long story, so get comfortable."


The Lazy Slob (aka Grif):

"How is your wound son?" The good Captain pointed towards Grif's chest. The Orange soldier shook his shoulders. "Meh, it will heal."

"Well it's good to see you high spirited, if only your stomach was not as active right now would have been grand."

"Tell your crew to not leave the pantry unlocked then. If it's open, then it is open season," Grif crossed his arms in self-defense. The Captain removed his glasses and let out a heavy sigh of annoyance. "Private, is it true that you sometimes encouraged your sister's habit of raiding our medical camps?"

"I don't see how that has anything to do with the debriefing."

"But is it true?"

"Depends," Grif thought about it for a minute. "Was the overall outcome good or bad?"

"It was very bad every time," the Captain leaned closer with a very stern look on his face. Grif shifted a little farther into his chair. "Then I respectfully choose not to answer."


Senor Spanish Man (aka Lopez):

Why would they even send a Spanish speaking robot in here? I don't even speak Spanish! The Captain looked at his helper with irritated eyes. These sessions were quickly becoming rather tiresome for him. While the BGC soldiers were exactly what he expected, the level of stupidity surrounding them was unknown to him exactly. "Next!"

Lopez got up to leave with a sense of satisfaction in this quick session. Captain held out his hand towards his helper and said. "Also get the man some headlight fluid! The report said specifically to get him some headlight fluid!"


The Penetrator (aka Tucker):

The Captain slumped his shoulders and rested his forehead in his left palm. How did we get from talking about the New Order incident to this? Someone help me, I am going to die of stupidity.

"You see, everyone else ended up getting a sword so now it's all become a sword measuring contest. But the difference between them and me is that I make this look good. Am I right or am I right? Also there was this hot chick back on the space station. I should have totally gotten her number and hit her up, before she got blown out into space that is," Tucker crossed his legs and confidently waved his arms.

The Captain could not help but mind numbingly agree. With that Tucker was escorted out of the room and the Captain was left to weep in his own misery. Why do I always get the stupid and the crazy groups to debrief?


Totally Hot but Scary Lady (aka Carolina):

"Agent Carolina, I apologize for bringing you in while resting. I realize everyone would like to rest up as much as they can after what has happened, but protocols are protocols."

Carolina remained quiet, her aura was grim and so was her body posture. The Captain wiped his forehead wondering whether she will be of any use or not. "I was hoping you could clarify your relationship with two names mentioned in this report quite a lot asides from all of you, Edwards and Elsie."

Carolina gripped the sides of her chair and smashed it into pieces. The Captain jumped back and quickly motioned for his assistant to take her back. I see why Muffins calls her a scary lady.


Secretive Secret Agent Man (aka Washington):

The Captain stared at the grey soldier's visor. Wash looked him back in the eye. Good posture, neutral aura and a man who looks like maybe sane in this group of loonies. The Captain cracked a considerate smile thinking that this may just be his big break in these stress inducing investigations. "I am hoping you are able to shed more light on these matters than some of your other colleagues."

"I will try my best."

"You have no idea how glad I am to hear that," the good Captain let out a small laughter while trying to keep his composure. He gathered his documents together and began the briefing process. With some time and an in-depth conversation, Wash's information proved to be more than just worthy. It was exponentially valuable with every verification and detail he added to the report. The Captain was more than happy with the results and after an hour or two, they finally wrapped it up. "Well, well, it seems as if we over ran on the time here. But it was worth it. Thank you for your cooperation Agent Washington, I appreciate you making my life easy."

It went that bad huh, Wash wondered with a wide mischievous grin under his helmet. He nodded his head in respect and stood up to leave. The assistant opened the door and guided Washington to the area where the others were.

Inside the interrogation room, the Captain rubbed his beard in deep thought. Most of the interrogations barring the ones from Private Simmons, Agent Washington and some of what Agent Carolina said seem useless. It is quite a wonder that this group has managed to survive this long on a battlefield. He wrapped everything up and began to leave. I suppose I should go have some words with Captain Muffins about this report.


"Here we are sir, enjoy the rest of your ride," the attendant turned around to leave the way they came from. Wash looked at the lot before him, most were already snoozing with their legs and arms spread out wide on top of one another. Wash cracked a wide smile. Rest well, you guys have earned it. He noticed one person to be missing from the picture however. The grey soldier decided to take a short walk in search of her. It would be better than sitting down again, especially after that painful hour of non-stop interrogation.

He walked up a level and came across an observatory with a huge window looking out into whatever greeted them. On that same level he spotted her. She stood quietly in the corner doing her utmost best to not get in the way of the ship crew. Washington approached her from the back. She did not notice. How strange, she is usually the first to draw her weapon in this situation. He tapped her on the shoulder making her jump in her armor. "Sorry, did I surprise you?"

"Wash…," Carolina shook her head and looked back out at the multitude of colors surrounding the warp pathway. Wash gripped his waist from both sides and took in a deep breath. "It's pretty, isn't it?"

Carolina remained quiet. He eyed her from the side of his visor and wondered what she was thinking about. "How did your debriefing go? Mine went on for a good hour before the Captain let me out."

She remained quiet. He turned to her with concern reflecting in his eyes, not that she could see it anyways. Epsilon materialized in between the two and motioned towards Carolina. "She has been like that ever since we got off of the space colony. I have been trying to convince her but she is as stubborn as a mule. It's starting to get on my nerves actually."

"Stubborn about what?"

"Wash," Carolina called out in a quiet voice. Her tone indicated deep thought was put into this and that this was a very serious conversation he was about to have with her. "I am…thinking of leaving."

"Leaving?"

"Yes," she nodded her head while staring outside at the various rainbow colors. "Ever since my fight with that woman, Justice, on the space station, I have been thinking about this quite a lot. I have been thinking about her words to us, to me and that how right she was. I am nowhere near the best I used to think I was."

"What are you talking about? You are the strongest of us all, and the smartest."

"That's sweet of you to say," Carolina submitted with a happy smile. "But, I really am not."

"See what I meant by stubborn?" Epsilon again interjected and slumped his shoulders in defeat. "I have been trying to say otherwise to her but she will keep on moping around with this talk of going on a journey. See if you can get her to change her mind Wash, because at this point whatever I say just gets flushed out of her ears."

"Carolina, what is going on?"

"Justice was right about me losing myself to my hatred and the thirst for revenge it created. If I were really strong, I would not have so easily given myself over to such a desire. Instead I did give in and I was more than happy to do so," Carolina lowered her head in self disappointment. "I am weak. I need to grow, become stronger against such desires and negative emotions. I let you have that sword because I can't trust myself with it. I am no true warrior. I am just a woman empowered with these abilities and technologies, but deep down inside I am like any other fighter operating purely on emotions in the heat of the battle."

"We are all like that Carolina," Washington crossed his arms and looked outside. "It is only natural. We are only human after all. And for whatever reason, we were wired to think with emotions whenever we are in a fight or flight situation, or something bad happens to us. We have all been dealt several bad deals in the past. I wouldn't blame you for using hate as a means to a more positive end as we saw with the New Order."

"But I didn't fight for that," Carolina admitted balling her hands into fists. Her hands began to tremble with fear. She was scared of the person she became when consumed by the hate. "I fought because I wanted revenge for Elsie, Edwards, Ben, Walters and everyone else who died because of us. Even if we achieved nobler goals in the process, I never fought for any of that. Even now I wonder if I was right to have fought them as I was."

Washington was at a loss for words. He found it to be very frustrating as it was a trend he had been experiencing an awful lot lately. His inexperience in life was starting to show, but even so he would do his best to help. He noticed her take out a photo. It was the one that Elsie gave to her. He could hear a slight disturbance in her breathing. Is she crying? He reached over and rested a hand on her shoulder armor. Even the strongest have their moments of weakness.

Carolina gently placed the photo back into her pocket and removed Wash's hand. "Thank you Wash, but I guess once we reach Blood Gulch, that is where we will depart. I should get used to handling my grief in my own way and alone."

"But you won't be alone," Epsilon again appeared between the two. She smiled under her visor with gratitude. "Are you sure you want to stick with me Epsilon?"

"I was given the responsibility of looking after you," he explained with a confident tone. "And I intend on seeing this through to the end."

"Thanks."

Wash was not sure what he could do or say that would make this situation any better for the whole group. "Are you sure you want to leave? I mean the others will be saddened."

"But they will get used to it pretty quickly," Epsilon noted at which the two Freelancers had to agree with. No matter what anyone would like to say about their weaknesses, adaptability was not one of them even if they did like to complain a lot. Carolina let out a worried sigh. "I would be lying if I said I was worried about leaving them. But they are in your care, so I will be happy with that knowledge. Plus, I have to do this. I need to conquer my own negative emotions and become the strong warrior that I really want to see myself as. I want to finally become the warrior I believe is worthy of one of these alien artifact swords."

"You do know that once it's attached to me, there are no take backs?"

"Yup," Carolina agreed with a loud and aware tone. "But if there were so many obtained by the New Order, I am sure that there are more out in the universe. If I can't find any, I am sure we can always duke it out to the death for yours."

Washington backed away a little, scared and not so fond of the idea. Carolina let out a hearty laughter bringing some relief to Wash's worried mind. "Don't worry Wash. That was just a joke."

"When do you plan on telling the others?"

"I haven't decided on that, but it will probably be when you guys are being dropped off in Blood Gulch Canyon."

He nodded his head and chose to respect her decision. This was something she really wanted to do, and he figured that neither he nor anyone else has the right to restrict her freedom. Just before leaving, he patted her on the back and said. "When you get back, drinks are on me. And be sure to bring back some interesting tales."

"We will see, we will see," she noted before he left for his own seat. She stared out the window again and agreed that this was her path now. This was where she wanted to go in life. I will become stronger. I will conquer my negative emotions, and become a warrior of in-corruptible ideals. I will grow so that I can come back stronger and protect you all.


A/N: Heads up, next chapter is the last one that will finish of this whole trilogy. I hope you have all enjoyed the ride so far in general. What do you think of Carolina going off on a journey to improve herself and grow as a fighter and an individual?

Thanks for your support and readership!

Please look forward to the final chapter! :)

~ Monty Mason