Chapter 6: This is not so Bad

"Hey Simmons look, I made this when I was ten!" shouted Edwards causing Simmons to nearly jump. He stopped the kid in his tracks and told him to use his quiet voice. Grif grinned under his helmet noting. "Yeah, we wouldn't want the resident nerd to have panic attacks every second."

Simmons turned around and held up a middle finger for Grif when Edwards wasn't looking. Grif's hands unfolded themselves in surprise and he was left to wonder, so that's what that feels like. Simmons followed Edwards around the streets of their village. Everywhere he looked, the buildings lacked color as rightly noted by Donut before.

"They are all just so bland. I'm thinking maybe adding a bit of blue, red, cyan, vermillion and a few other bright colors should liven up the place," said Donut as he studied every building inch for inch. Sis was too busy drooling over Edwards and Simmons, seeing them together made her childish heart flutter. The maroon guy is so hot, Edwards is too cute and why are my hands tied up like this in such a crucial moment?!

Moments before, everyone deemed it was a wise idea to tie up Sister's hands so she could no longer do questionable things to Edwards. Simmons bent down to take a look at the tablet. Wow, this is quite advanced. Nowhere near what we can actually get from command but still, impressive for a kid his age. "You said you fixed this?"

"Yup, I found the parts for it myself as well."

"That's so amazing," Donut glossed and showered Edwards in praises as he patted his head. The young boy couldn't help but be embarrassed and hide his face. Sister did her best to break out of the restraints unable to hold back her squeals. "Eyyaah! Too cute!"

"Amazing for sure," Simmons verified and shut down the tablet. "But if you see here, the boot up and shut down time is quite long."

"Hmm, I did wonder why that was," said Edwards scratching his head. He hit a brick wall like always when thinking of possible answers. They soon reached Elsie's and Edwards' home. Entering the young boy's room, they saw several electrical components and creations lying around on the floor. He grinned widely while rubbing the back of his head. "Sorry for the mess, I didn't have time to clean up."

Simmons turned the tablet over and opened it up. He looked at the internals and was astonished to see such a clean build on the inside. The wires were neatly tied around various components, each color coded with no excessive waste present anywhere. He really is a genius of sorts, thought Simmons but took notice of some loose parts. But I guess that can't be helped since he is a kid after all.

Simmons took the closest parts to him and fixed the loose components. Next he looked at the actual hardware used for the tablet and found it to be somewhat underwhelming. "There is your problem, look at the outdated CPU you are using. New ones have come along in this line with far better performance data."

"Okay, I'm out," said Grif with his hands up in the air. "If anyone else wants to stay here for the nerd talk, have fun."

Grif took one look at Sister however and dragged her out with him. To the very end she went out crying like a child. "This must be like a crime or something to keep the hunk and the cute away from me! Bully!"

Donut looked at his two remaining friends in the room and decided he would only be in the way. Yeah, I think Simmons will be able to handle it no problem. I think I will go ahead and come up with some plans for the interior redecorating, this place practically is begging for it.

Just as the door shut, Edwards burst out in excitement exclaiming. "Wow! You are so knowledgeable about this stuff Simmons."

"Oh well it's nothing much."

"But about the CPU, I couldn't find any other so I had to make do with the one Walters gave me."

"Who is Walters?"

"He is like the village's well known architect, engineer and crafts person as he said it. He was the one who taught me about this sort of stuff in the first place. I can still remember the days he would be so stubborn to teach me at the beginning," said Edwards with a wide nostalgic grin. He looked to his side and held up an old looking phone towards Simmons. "See this? This was the very first thing I built together with him."

"Does it work?" asked Simmons pressing a few buttons. Man the world really has progressed in the way of technology, thought Simmons studying the keypad on the phone.

"Well um…," the answer was clear from Edward's hesitation. Simmons didn't push any further as he simply took the phone and in an impressed tone said. "That is amazing!"

"Not as amazing as your knowledge though. I want you to teach me more!"

"Heh, it's not that amazing," Simmons replied and for once he felt he was being very frank. Compared to what Edwards already knew, Simmons wasn't sure on what he could teach the young lad. "But how about we go in search for a better CPU for the tablet first?"

"Okay, we will go to the junkyard on our hunting adventure!"

Carolina sat at the edge of her bed. Her grip tightened on the bed sheets as she took in a deep breath. From afar Ben watched her hopeful of a speedy recovery. Here we go, she thought as she applied pressure and strength to her muscles. Slowly, but surely they caused her to rise. But just as quickly as she rose, she fell back down to the bed.

Still too soon then huh, the good doctor pondered walking to the table between Carolina's and Wash's bed. He placed down the grey soldier's helmet and looked to his right with an understanding smile. "That was a good try. Why not give it another go?"

Yeah, please do. I would much rather be out of here sooner than later, said Epsilon in her head as she smirked. It has been quite suffocating in this bed lately hasn't it? She wondered as she again tried to stand up. Beside her was Elsie, constantly worrying about Carolina falling again. As Elsie reached out for her to have her sit down and rest again, Carolina stopped her midway. "I'm fine mam, really. Please, I need to do this."

Elsie simply backed away understanding the seriousness in Carolina's tone. As Carolina slowly arose, this time she could feel something different about herself. The pain she experienced before eased up. She held her ribs and felt little to no pain at all much to her surprise. Epsilon, did you do something? She questioned. Hmm? Nothing much, just thought to give you a little helping hand, the fragment replied displaying the running healing unit on her HUD.

Carolina smiled gratefully thinking, I really am helpless right now. Thank you, Epsilon. She finally managed to stand up straight with little pain feedback from her body. Both Elsie and Ben were delighted to see the progress. Ben walked close to her and gently placed a hand behind her. "Try walking."

"Right," said Carolina slowly taking a step forward. She nearly lost her balance and fell, but Elsie quickly reacted to hold the soldier upright. Carolina felt that she couldn't thank Elsie enough for all the kindness she had shown to her so far. But Elsie was at the same time happy to show this kindness as in a world of dread, everyone needs a dose of happiness. Carolina stood upright again and began walking again with some assistance from Ben and Elsie. Pretty soon she was able to walk on her own again, albeit quite slowly, but still walking on her own.

Elsie clapped her hands together. "Well done Carolina!"

"Yes, well done indeed," said Ben making more notes on Carolina's medical forms. He was relieved to see the soldier up and about again. "I would say that you are good to go, I will start the discharge procedure."

"Discharge, isn't this a little too soon Ben?" asked Elsie with a concerned look. The good doctor smiled back putting her at ease. "Don't worry, as long as she gets her rest and doesn't strain herself too much, she will be just fine."

Elsie thanked Ben for his utmost care towards his patients and aided Carolina back down into her bed. Elsie scavenged her bag for a plastic box and placed it on a tray. Carolina looked at it curiously just as Elsie placed the tray on her lap awaiting a response. Carolina opened the box and found a stew inside. "I- Is this for me?"

"Yes it is," Elsie replied with a wide smile on her face. She took out a spoon and mixed it a bit for Carolina to enjoy. "I'm sorry that I couldn't bring anything else but we don't get to eat luxuries food ourselves here. I thought the best I could do was make a little extra for you all at least. It should still be warm, so eat up."

Carolina's mouth dropped open from her kindness. She really is too kind. Carolina stared at the stew with a solemn look on her face causing Elsie some concern. "Is everything alright dear?"

"You said you don't get much luxurious food to eat, is this really alright then?"

"Don't be silly," Elsie said back with a wave of her hand and a gentle laugh. "If we don't remain kind to one another and help one another when we need to the most, how can we ever hope to continue both as a species and society?"

Carolina felt touched by her words. But there was guilt in her heart to eat the food that she knew Elsie and Edward were limited on already. She took a sip of the stew and her tongue nearly melted in the delicious flavors. She felt her heart rate increase causing Epsilon to question her health. This stew, it tastes so familiar. It's like I have had this before.

"How is it?" asked Elsie and saw a tear drop down Carolina's cheek. "Carolina?"

"It tastes is so close to the one like my mother used to make for me as child."

"Oh my," Elsie replied taking out a napkin and wiping Carolina's eye. Like her mother used to make? Elsie pondered sitting back down and gently rubbed the back of Carolina's armor. Even though she couldn't feel the touch, Carolina could still feel the motherly feelings piercing through the armor like a sharpened arrow and into her heart. "I know, how about once you are out of here, you stay with me for a while?"

"Um, wouldn't that cause trouble for the whole village?" asked Carolina getting a hold of herself. "Plus, don't the people here hate the UNSC as well?"

"Many do, but what they hate more is the New Order. As long as they know that you are with me and that I trust you, they will protect you by never letting the New Order know of you and your friends here to them."

"I see," said Carolina feeling a worry lightened off her load. She took another sip of the stew and smiled brightly towards Elsie. The old woman felt her heart brighten as well. A smile suits you much better than a sad look. Carolina took the whole case and drank it down causing Elsie to burst out in a gentle laughter. "My, my you must have been famished."

Carolina wiped her mouth quite embarrassed at the display. She set the tray aside hiding her face, which Elsie found to be a cute gesture. "Thank you, it was very delicious."

"Ugh, what is with that commotion?"

Elsie and Carolina turned to look towards Wash who was stirring awake. He turned to look at the two thinking, Carolina? We are still alive? He looked down at a cast on his leg that prevented him from moving it too much. That's right, my leg and some of my ribs. Suddenly Wash felt quite naked noticing the yellow tint of his vision to be missing. He looked at the table between them and there sat his helmet, completely repaired. When he looked at it, there was no sign of damage at all and looked brand new.

Wash slowly sat up with some help from Elsie who quickly introduced herself. He looked at Carolina who gave her affirmations and so he decided to trust her judgement. He thanked her and put on his helmet, the ever so colored view now became a much more comfortable sight for him. He looked at the cast on his leg and found the restrictions to be very annoying, but necessary. He touched the bed sheets and couldn't believe it still. We managed to make it through that hell and still live. I wonder if there is an angel watching over us. "That's right, what happened to the rest?"

"Don't worry, they are all safe and sound," said Elsie as she noticed Ben approaching the group. He quickly introduced himself and made some notes on Wash's medical papers. "After we get you up and walking Agent Washington, I should be good to start your discharge. Agent Carolina, I have completed the forms for your discharge so you are free to go."

"Thank you doctor," she said as he left to get a crutch for Washington. Washington sat on the edge of the bed and felt some pain, though not as bad as he thought it would have been. Guess the doctor was doing his job then. He looked out the window and found the dreary mood already to be the first of many positive signs that he would enjoy his stay on the planet. "Here we are."

Washington looked up to Ben who was holding out a crutch towards the soldier. Fastening it around his right arm, Wash was helped up by Elsie and Ben and soon even Wash was up and walking about. Elsie clapped her hands together exclaiming. "This is wonderful."

"Yup, two more free beds now and as long as you two follow my instructions down to the letter, then you will recover just fine. Agent Washington, you shouldn't need the crutch for more than three days and since Carolina seems to be doing well enough already, just remember not to strain yourselves. I hope to meet you two when you are both completely healthy and running about," said Ben storing away his glasses with a considerate smile. Elsie thanked Ben for his hard work as did the two soldiers and he bid them due. Elsie turned to the two and told them to decide a time to depart from the hospital. At that time she will gladly come and escort them to their lodgings.

"Thank you again for all your help mam," said Carolina earning a gentle slap on the back of her head. "Don't call me mam, call me Elsie."

"Alright, thank you Elsie."

Edwards walked happily in front of Simmons with their sought after object in his hands. Simmons was happy for the boy unable to contain it himself. "It should be exciting seeing what happens with the tablet after we put that CPU into action."

"Yeah!" exclaimed the boy. Simmons saw Edwards adjusting the collar on his neck and asked. "If it bothers you that much, couldn't you find a way of taking it off?"

"There is a way already, but no one would dare."

"Why not?"

"There was an adult who took it off, but the moment he unlocked it he was killed."

"Let me guess, by the New Order?" Simmons ventured a guess and confirmed his thoughts to be correct. Edwards looked down at the ground with his lips quivering. "Ever since then, no one even dared to take their collars off. Whenever we were given an order, we all followed it without question if we knew what was good for us."

"That still doesn't seem right though."

"As grandma says it, it's not but that is our way of life. Unless we could somehow change it, nothing will ever change. But sometimes I wonder what can a kid like me do aside from fixing up old broken tech?"

Simmons patted Edwards on the head causing the boy to look up in question. Simmons retrieved his hand and said. "Don't worry. We can all do things only within our capacity. Who knows, someday your ability to fix things may come in handy for someone."

"Hmm…I would much rather be a badass space warrior like you though. I mean imagine flying out in the stars finding bad guys and defeating them to save the day!"

Simmons felt a little blushed at the remark but honestly answered. "I'm not as badass as you think I'm. Also, where did you learn that word from?"

"Grif taught it to me."

Guess I will have to have a little chat with him later, Simmons pondered as they reached the hospital building. They saw Elsie exiting the building and Edwards ran up to her with his arms wide open. He went in for a hug and she replied with one of her own. The old woman looked up with her everyday warm and caring smile at Simmons. "Thank you for looking after Edwards, he really has seemed to taken a liking to you."

"It was no problem mam," said Simmons bending down to Edwards' level. "After all, us techies gotta stick together right?"

"Yeah!" Edwards replied high fiving Simmons. Elsie laughed at the boy's gestures reminding her of when her daughter was alive and was the same way. "Well, come now Edwards, we best go home. It is nearly dinner time, will you help me prepare?"

"Sure!" he replied waving goodbye to Simmons who did the same. Maybe I'm the one who seemed to have taken a liking to him. He stood still in the middle of the street deep in thought and looked towards the hospital doors. "It wouldn't hurt to ask."

He walked inside to see Carolina and Wash up and chatting away. "Hey guys, it's great to see you two up already."

"Simmons, you are not with the others?" asked Wash surprised to see a lack of Grif around Simmons. The maroon soldier rubbed the back of his head as if embarrassed in a good way to say this. "Yeah, I am kind of stuck looking after Edwards during the day so the others decided to split."

Split, that lingo definitely doesn't suit him. I wonder if he picked it up from Edwards, Carolina pondered. Simmons took a seat and faced Carolina. "Um I was wondering if I could ask you for a little favor."

"You want a favor from me?"

"Yeah, you see I was hoping that you could give me some training to be a little more like a badass space warrior."

"Woah, what brought this on?" Wash asked nearly jumping in his bed. "Also where was this attitude for training when we were back on Blood Gulch?"

"Well you see, Edwards said I looked like a badass space warrior so…"

"I see," Carolina mused finding Simmons tone to be rather amusing. "You don't want to disappoint the kid. Once I'm out of here, I think I can spare some time Simmons."

"Really? No strings attached?" he asked quite wary of the freelancer. After all, he knew how freelancers worked. Nothing ever came for free from them. She grinned herself causing him to gulp nervously. "No strings attached, after all you will also naturally be my sparring partner as part of your training."

He again gulped feeling his body loosen and melt away. Mr. Comfort, I bid you goodbye. Hello world of pain, how do you do? He wondered frozen still. While still confused about the whole situation, there was one thing Wash was still clear on. This should be entertaining to watch.