Chapter 10: Time to Set Off

It was deep into the afternoon that Carolina got a message from Siris to come meet him in the main control room. As she stumbled inside she noticed Ken and Chloe already discussing a few things with him. None of them seemed any happier to see her than what their mood was like before. In the back of her head, Church lit up a red flag. Something serious was being discussed, and it was a matter none of them looked excited about.

Siris waved her over. It seems Church's suspicions of the situation were correct. Siris was able to data mine the disk for more hidden data. According to him, it had even higher level protection than the base data they recovered. Carolina stopped to look at the monitors with the data displayed in clear view. "This is…crazy."

"Crazy is a light way of putting it," Ken remarked pointing to the numbers. They were over three hundred thousand. Chloe agreed and said. "To think that they could amass these many numbers, and that doesn't even include the people on the various space colonies."

"There are more?" Carolina felt the gravity of the situation beginning to settle in. The weight was too heavy for her to carry alone. Siris displayed the various locations of the latest recruits and long time believers were stationed at. Many were dormant, waiting for the right moment and the right signal. They were waiting for their calling. She shook her head and let out a broken smile at the ridiculousness of their numbers. "How are we supposed to fight against these many people with this small group? Not to mention, each and every one of these people go through combat training according to the data here."

"The odds definitely aren't in our favor eh?" Ken stepped forward and handed Carolina data pad. Chloe shrugged her shoulder and joked. "When are they ever?"

"Good point," he answered leaning beside her. Siris watched the exchange while lost deep in thought. He pointed to the upcoming meetings on Carolina's data pad. "I have squeezed in an emergency meeting with the whole group to discuss this matter. The numbers here are daunting and quite frankly impossible for us to handle. But this is reality, and we have to face it instead of running away from it."

Later at the meeting, Siris explained the situation calmly to every member. Expectedly there were cries of worry, uncertainty and a growing lack of faith in their abilities. The same feeling of hopelessness that Siris felt upon seeing the numbers now afflicted the rest. But he was quick to rally the troops together. "Divided we fall, united we stand strong together, remember that!"

"That talk is all good but how do you suggest we face against those odds?" one voice echoed the thoughts of many. Siris crossed his arms and shot back with equal force. "That's why we are having this emergency meeting right now. We are here to brain storm and come up with ideas, not whine."

After the voices died down, Ken raised his hand and made the first suggestion. "Well the dormant members are waiting for a signal. What if that signal never comes?"

"What are you suggesting Ken?" asked Siris.

"The data from before mentioned that there is only one person in charge of the organization right now. So if we take that person down as well as any other high ranking individuals that help maintain order in Cradle of Hope," he stopped to catch his breath for a moment. "Then we stand a damn good chance of rendering those large numbers useless."

"What if that doesn't work?" Church appeared from the hologram table upon transferring his consciousness to it. "What would you do then?"

Ken wondered the question for a moment and simply shrugged his body. "I hadn't thought that far ahead."

"Of course you hadn't," Church remarked somewhat bitterly. Humans as it seems to him don't seem too often. This was the one trait Church was never fond of with people. Winging it may have been something acceptable by his older versions, but as he evolved with time he also learned to believe more in the efficiency of a plan as well as mapping for other scenarios well ahead of time. He looked at Carolina who understood the signal via their neural connection. "How about as a contingency we create an army of our own?"

"Where would we get one exactly?" Chloe asked as others agreed. "Yeah, it's not like we can just roll up to the driveway of other militaries on Earth and ask for help. We are a covert agency remember?"

"What about the UNSC?" the orange haired woman proposed. But the suggestion was quickly shot down upon reminder that publicly the UNSC has no military power in the individual countries. The only time they could ever act with such intentions is when things get so out of control from the local government's hands, that the only thing to do is for the UNSC to deploy its forces for damage control. Carolina rested her chin in her hand in deep reflection. "Then how about the police?"

"Hah," Ken laughed heartily at the option. "You would have better luck asking the mob than the police for help. Those lug nuts just go in an infinite circle with their investigations regarding the Cradle of Hope. What makes you think they would be any better in fighting against them? I would stick with organizations that have an actual brain to use."

"As crudely as that was put," Siris smirked slightly. The mentor and the student were similar in more respects than one Carolina thought. "I have to agree with Ken. The police can't even be of help to the general public. Bringing them onboard would bring more harm to us than good."

Carolina was quickly reaching the end of her wits. But one last option stuck out in her mind. An option she was most reluctant to fall back on. I was hoping to let them stay out of this. But if they hear about this opportunity, they might want to come here to help. It seems that there can never be a dull moment for them. She looked towards Church who presented an image of her family. "How about them?"

"Aren't those the reds and the blues who helped topple the Project Freelancer?" one of the soldiers inquired.

"Yes, they are. They are also individuals not bound by any laws should they choose to come here and aid us."

"They are on the UNSC's payroll, that makes them plenty bound," Ken jabbed at the suggestion, but they didn't exactly have other options right now. Carolina shook her head and corrected him. "That is true, but that won't stop them from doing the right thing. They have always pulled through when it mattered the most, UNSC or not."

She pointed to the numbers on the screen of the enemy army. "You look at these numbers and tell me where else can we gather even one more person to help us right now? You don't want to reveal the existence of ATSG to the public, but at the same time want to amass an army of equal footing if not more. How do you expect to do that while being picky?"

One by one they all began to agree to the words that rang the chime of truth. Ken finally gave in and let her handle things from then on regarding the army recruitment. Siris looked around and noted the consensus reached. "If that is what everyone agrees to, then Carolina I will leave this in your hands. You will know what to say to them. Remember, all of this rests on the words you choose."

"So no pressure then," Church added with a sarcastic tone. "Great, I'm so looking forward to this."

Ring! Ring!

"Yes, hello, thank you for calling Blue Base. My name is Caboose and I will be you-"

"Hey Caboose," Church interrupted the blue soldier who perked up upon hearing his best friend's voice. "Church, it's you! How have you been?"

"Oh you know, busy getting blown up, hacking shit and overall getting my kicks from late nights out. How about you? Shot anyone else on Blue team yet, or maybe blown them up with Sheila?"

"Oh well that you know, I don't really do that now because they all said they didn't want my help. So I decided I won't help them!"

"Smart call," Church snickered. "Listen Caboose, I need you to go ahead and gather everyone in Blue base. Carolina and I have something important to talk about. Think you can do that?"

"Sure, I will go gather everyone in Blue base…and then yell surprise!"

"You do that buddy, thanks," Church looked back at Carolina and shook his head. "It looks like he still has a few screws lose."

"When did he have them to begin with?" she asked with a puzzled look on her face. Church found her words to be deliciously insulting, he liked it. "No wonder you and I get along so well sis."

Everyone promptly gathered at Caboose's insistence. Carolina was quick to explain the situation in the hopes of getting a favorable response. But the answers she got were more or less mixed. Washington gave his full support to her, but the others seemed torn between helping and staying. Carolina clamped her hands together and bowed her head. "I know what I'm asking for is a lot. But please lend me your strength. I know how some of you must feel having to leave Blood Gulch again, but please…"

Washington looked behind him at the unsure groans his comrades gave towards the camera. "Carolina, can we call you back once we talk this over on our end?"

She agreed to his terms seeing that he may make more progress on his end rather than have Carolina constantly beg them. He switched off the transmission and turned back to the Reds and the Blues. "I'm surprised you guys have to think about this at all."

"Having to leave home constantly to go on some crazy adventure can really grate a man's mood Wash," Sarge answered with a fatigued voice. The others agreed with Tucker being the most prominent one of them all. "Yeah dude, what good will going to Earth do? I mean we may be able to help with spreading the word and shit, but beyond that we are not exactly looking to take part in their conflicts."

"What about the time when you all went back to help Church and Carolina in bringing down Project Freelancer?" Wash argued hitting them right in their weak spot. But Simmons had a comeback ready just for this situation. "That was different. At that time Church and Carolina were going to face dangerous odds alone. This time they are not alone. You heard just how capable the ATSG really is. By comparison we would be more of a hindrance to them."

"Yeah, we are terrible soldiers," Grif added earning some protest from Sarge. "You mean some of us are terrible soldiers."

"Yeah, preach it big bro!"

"[I don't like the idea of leaving my beautiful tools and daily grind behind either. But the rest of you can feel free to go on this suicide mission on which I'm absolutely not hoping that any of you die.]"

"I know Lopez. It would be a shame to give up my daily routine of sun tanning in favor of getting dirtier in battle. It just sounds all so icky," Donut squirmed at the thought of dirt sticking to his armor. It takes ages to clean my armor until is shining like the sun.

"I don't know, I think it sounds fun," Muffins raised a hand from the corner of the room. The others were surprised to find him here, but Tucker was quick to shut him down. "You are not involved in this Muffins. Go back to hitting on your crew or something."

"I take offense to that my good Tucker," the good Captain answered in his traditional German accent. "I do not hit, I flirt like a gentleman."

"Right, because grabbing the ass of your male colleague in broad daylight is very gentlemen like."

"Absolutely," Muffins nodded his head glad to see that they finally get it, but unaware of the sarcasm flying right over his head. "You must all simply join me someday on the sophisticated groping. It is open butt hunting season right now."

"I'll pass up on that offer," Wash immediately said as his skin crawled at the thought. Caboose stepped forward. "We should go help, because friends help one another."

Oh boy, here we go. Tucker face palmed himself seeing another speech come on. The fragments all appeared beside their respective hosts and agreed. Grif let out a loud moan. "You guys can't seriously be buying into this."

"Sarge, if people are nice to one another then everyone will have a better time together!" Theta exclaimed. "You told me about it before after all."

Eta inched closer and eyed Simmons. "Being alone is scary. Being with everyone else is better."

"To be with everyone together, it is best to maintain good relationships!" Iota stated with his arms stretched out wide into a hugging pose. Donut nodded his head liking the sound of Iota's words. Doc's personality did a sudden switch as Omega let out a most maniacal laughter. "I could do with blowing some fools away. Plus I hear that it's quite tropical in Hawaii this time of the year."

"I agree," Gamma proposed. "We are getting tired of remaining dormant. Even we fragments need exercise from time to time."

"Then go play some virtual chess or something," Grif complained with the cross of his arms. He turned his head away still as stubborn as a mule. Delta however continued to encourage the group. "According to my observations, it would be quite a loss should we leave Carolina to handle this alone. There is a strong possibility of greater casualties."

"All together!" Freckles synthesized through the rifle as the in-built flashlight blinked. The others were beginning to be swayed. They didn't like the idea of losing Carolina either. Losing Church was bad enough, but unlike Church she would not be able to come back. Unlike Church, there is only one chance for her. Caboose raised his arms to hype up the room. "Yeah, so let's go meet with Carolina and throw her a birthday party!"

"You know what," Sarge reloaded his shotgun with a chuckle. "I'm in."

Slowly the others were agreeing as well. Even Tucker who crumbled under the pressure, and worry for letting them go off on their own. Grif however maintained a strong position against leaving. But Muffins had a solution for that as well. "We have banana pudding aboard our ship."

"When do we leave?"

"Aaa…what about the bases guys?" Sister inquired saying the first coherent thing she could in a long while. It nearly brought Grif to tears. I'm so proud of you little sister. Washington looked around the room with a deep contemplative moan and suggested. "What if we left Sister and Sheila behind to look after the bases?"

"Sounds good, that way she can't embarrass the family anymore."

"I love you to big brother!"

Simmons had no qualms about it and neither did the others. Tucker did seem a little saddened by the turn of events though. Great, so this will be another sausage fest. But then again there were those hot pelican pilots...ladies here I come, bow-chicka-bow-wow! They were all in agreement. Muffins was growing excited for their new road trip. "It is a road trip to save Earth that I shall dub, 'The Eight Sexies and the Mission to save Earth'!"

"What a boring name, boo!" Grif cupped his hands around the sides of his mouthpiece but was quickly silenced by Muffins' retort. "I can feel Grif's share of pudding already melting in my mouth."

"What a great name, you go Muffins!"

It wasn't long before they began to take only what they needed for the trip. Tucker made sure to leave none of his sacred stash behind. I'm sure thirty gigs of porn taking up storage space won't make much difference. After all, a man needs some way to release. Caboose ran around blue base talking to Delta and Freckles. "We will make this the best trip ever!"

At Red base, Sarge packed his Shotgun as well as extra ammunition. Donut was in a rush to water his gardens and say his tearful goodbyes to his 'babies'. Grif made sure to pack plenty of things to help weigh his belly down. Simmons stared at the cell phone he had received as a gift from Edwards and safely stored it in one of his pockets. He took one last look at his room and shut off the lights. I will sure have a lot of cleaning to do once we get back, he wondered leaving the base with the rest.

Doc was ready onboard waiting for his allies who slowly walked onto the pelican and took their seats on both sides. Grif looked as the doors closed and shouted to Sister. "Remember, don't burn down the bases!"

"But feel free to do it to Blue base!" Sarge comically added at the last minute. The Pelicans lifted into the air with a loud roar. Lopez looked back one last time at Sheila and waved goodbye.

"Come back home soon and call me!" she shouted waving her rocket launcher arm, making the pilots of the Pelicans rather unnerved. They broke through the sea of clouds and high up into the atmosphere. The UNSC ship was now in clear sight. Muffins clapped his hands and declared. "Ah so she is still floating, good job men. You can all look forward to a well earned visit to my private quarters."

"We will pass up on that sir!" one of the hanger bay operators replied as they opened the doors for the Pelicans to land. "You are all clear for landing."

"Roger that, now aligning with docking lights," the pilots confirmed as they saw beams of yellow guidance light extending from the entrance of the hanger bay. Muffins stood up upon the Pelican's landing and stretched out his arms. "Gentlemen, welcome to Muffins' ship of fun!"

With their mission clear, they soon set off on yet another grand adventure.

A/N: With this chapter, it marks the official return of the reds and the blues into the main story. They will play a bigger and a more pivotal role in this trilogy now. Expect more appearances from canon characters as well as I have been saying since Season 17 fanfic. I hope the wait was worth it for you and looking forward to their adventures.

Thank you for your readership and support!

How are you finding this trilogy so far in comparison to the "New Order" trilogy and as a story on its own merits?

Constructive feedback is always appreciated.

~ Monty