Chapter 13: S.O.S

"Is everyone here?" Washington looked around the circle of his gathered allies. He crossed his arms and let out a heavy sigh. It was a sign that the discussion was going to be heavy. "So I have gathered you all here to discuss our next move."

"Our next move, did we even make our first move to begin with?" Grif asked earning several agreeable nods all around. Washington was inclined to agree to a certain degree as well. "Then let's call it our first move. The important thing is that we need to come up with a plan. Right now we are just floating through space blindly."

"I gotta agree with that point," noted Sarge as he looked out the windows. "But it isn't so bad."

"If that were our objective," Wash contested as he pressed a few buttons on the holographic display table. "Guys, we need ideas on how to gather the support required to combat Cradle of Hope."

"How about just asking Junior in the alien embassy?" Tucker suggested initially earning several nods all around. But Washington saw this from another perspective. "That won't work."

"Why not?"

"You haven't thought about the political consequences have you?" Wash inquired only to earn silence. He knew he was right. "Imagine if an alien fleet comes into Earth's atmosphere without any prior warning. Not only would it destabilize relations between races but also falsely lead governments on Earth to see it as a sign of aggression."

"Ja I see now," Muffins agreed with the bob of his head. "Undocumented aliens coming to Earth can be seen as a sign of terror which could spark another war."

"Exactly, this is a problem for humans to deal with," Washington affirmed their predicament once again. "We can't rely on outside help other than human colonies perhaps."

"How about try talking to them with a nice gift of candy apples?" Donut asked only to get questionable stares. Lopez remained quiet watching the 'monkeys' work out a solution to this problem. He knew he had a sensible answer, but he also understood that he would be misunderstood only leading to further frustration which he wanted to avoid. Sarge rubbed the back of his helmet and looked intently at the holographic projector of the enemy numbers. "How about placing a call to 1-800 Vengeance?"

"I need some serious answers here guys," Wash admitted with a tired voice. Tucker just laughed it off. "Dude, when ever have we given serious answers? We just tend to wing it, it's how we roll."

Washington let out another heavy breath and closed shut his eyes. Think Wash, where can we go to even the playing field? It was then that his head jerked upwards with an ah-ha moment. "What if we go to Chorus?"

Everyone in the meeting but Muffins was shocked at the idea. Just hearing the planet's name brought back the memories of the betrayal, sacrifices and the corruption known as 'Malcolm Hargrove' they rooted out. Everyone went quiet with the exception of Muffins who was understandably confused at the change in atmosphere. Washington nodded his head taking their silence as an agreement to the plan. "Then Chorus it is. They may be rebuilding over there, but they are as good a starting point as any given our current position."

Bep! Bep! Bep!

Everyone turned their attention to the communications panel on the bridge. The operator worked fast to answer the hail. "Captain Muffins, we seem to be picking up a S.O.S signal from the nearby ice planet."

"What does it say my cute communications man?"

"Erm…it's encrypted so we are working on it sir," the soldier replied shifting uncomfortably in their seat as they leaned away from Muffins' direction.

"Who the hell encrypts a S.O.S message? That's stupid!" Grif said thinking who else besides his sister would be dumb enough to do something like that. Washington walked over to the soldier and leaned in close to the monitor. "Does the UNSC database have any information on this planet?"

"No sir."

"This is seriously like something out of a horror flick, like that movie 'Alien'," Tucker noted with the uncomfortable thought of becoming impregnated yet again by another alien. "I say we ignore it and get the fuck out of here."

"I second that," Grif raised his hand wondering when he can get back to demanding his pudding.

"But what if it's new friends waiting for us down there?" Caboose inquired n an innocent tone. Everyone looked at him and envied the mindlessness of this blue soldier. Oh how easy and simple life must be as Caboose. The communication soldier just then informed everyone that the message finished decrypting. Wash looked back to the soldier and motioned towards the keyboard. "Play it."

"…Hello, can anyone hear me? My name is…we are trapped on some ice planet…help…we need help!"

Just before the message finished Wash heard something familiar, but strange. "…Hey, top five things you want to do once you are rescued, go!"

Those voices, I'm sure I have heard them somewhere before. He looked at the monitor deep in contemplation. The feeling of familiarity persisted, but he just couldn't put his finger on it. Muffins ordered for a small crew to be dispatched via a Pelican to the source of the signal. Washington felt eager to go as well. He figured it would be a good change from being stuck on the spaceship.

The pelican launched. The crew inside held onto the safety bars tightly upon turbulence from entering the planet's stratosphere. The pilot flicked a few switches as breaking past the stratosphere. They began running scans for heat signatures. "Jesus, how could have anything survived out here? It's all snow and ice."

As the pelican stabilized, Wash undid his safety restraints and walked into the cockpit. "Do you have a fix on their location?"

"This cold weather isn't great for our equipment, so it will take some time."

Washington walked back into the seating area. He took out his rifle and studied it to ensure it was up to par. The other soldiers were equally as anxious as him to find out those responsible for the message. They only hoped that they were in time to meet such individuals. The Pilot got a reading on their scanners. "Heads up, I have something here. We are going down."

The pelican landed with a gentle bump from the shock absorbers. The bay door opened and the pilot exited the cockpit. "Alright boys, lock and load. Make sure your helmets are on snug and tight. You don't want any heat escaping."

"Yes mom," one of the soldiers said with an exaggerated voice earning some chuckles. The pilot did not find it amusing. "So you are a funny guy eh? Maybe I should leave you here when the job is done, then you can crack all the jokes you want to."

"Alright, everyone on me," Wash was the first to exit leading the expedition. They noticed a large base. The lights were lit up. I guess that answers how people would survive down here. Washington told the others to be on guard and be ready for anything. They have no prior knowledge of this planet and are essentially going in blind. They climbed over a bank of snow to the metal surface of the base. "Keep an eye on your scanners."

Washington motioned for two from the group to lead the charge into two sides of the base. The two went ahead for recon work. But as soon as they stepped into the base, one noticed music. It was someone singing very poorly. So poorly in fact that they just wanted to rip their own ears out. "Um Agent Washington, we have picked up three people on our scanners."

"Understood, we are on our way."

Wash led half the group into the base, while the other half went into the other side of the base. Wash noticed the armor signatures. These are similar to Project Freelancer's. No way, it couldn't be them. Suddenly he heard an explosion and the frustrated cries of a woman coming from what looked like a kitchen. "God dammit Iowa, how do you even blow up the microwave from just touching it? And that's the third time today!"

Iowa? Wash rushed into the kitchen with his gun raised. "Freeze!"

"Ah, we surrender!" shouted Iowa curling up into a ball on the floor. Washington lowered his gun and motioned for the others to do the same. "Iowa, as in the ones from Project Freelancer?"

"Wait, Agent Washington? Oh cool you changed your armor color. Blue for the win." Ohio stated both relieved and happy to see another face in a very long time. Wash instantly recognized Ohio and was shocked to see them alive after all this time. "How is it that you guys are still in your armor, I thought you dropped out?"

"Dropped out? Is that what they told you?" Ohio stated with an irate tone. "Typical, never trust the higher ups, they are almost always dicks."

"Ah hah, surprise motherfucker!" Idaho screamed jumping down from the ceiling towards Wash. But before he could get the upper hand, the ex-freelancer agent side stepped his assailant. Idaho landed with a loud crack to his legs. Ohio squirmed in her spot. "Ouch…are you okay Idaho?"

"Uh yeah, I'm alright," he spoke locked in his bent position. "Except I can't really feel my kneecaps, is that normal?"

"Probably not," Washington remarked. "But then again, knowing you Idaho, it probably is for you."

"Oh hey Wash!" Idaho suddenly stood up with his kneecaps suddenly snapping. D- Did they just snap back into place on their own? Wash pondered. That should not be physically possible. Iowa walked up to the rescue party and asked. "So I guess you guys heard our message?"

"That we did," one of the party members replied. Wash stepped away from the group upon receiving a transmission from the other half of the rescue party. "Sir, we have three individuals here who tried to ambush us upon entry. They apparently claim to be with three more individuals."

"Ohio," Wash motioned for her to come closer. "You wouldn't happen to have three more people in this base would you?"

"Yeah, they are ex-Charon soldiers who were dumped off here just like we were."

"They are not hostiles," Wash answered to the other team. "Bring them over here."

"Yes sir."

"Oh hey, I just thought of another one," Idaho slowly stumbled his way to a nearby table for support. "List five things that you to eat for dinner once we get out of here?"

"Well eating anything besides ice spiders and not sucking on icicles would be a good start," Ohio retorted. Iowa suddenly became alert. "Ice spiders? Where are they?"

"Hah…they are not here Iowa, I was just making a point about our eating habits."

"Wait," Iowa suddenly dropped his head deep in thought and felt his stomach act up. "You told me those were really skinny ice tigers."

"Uh yeah," Ohio back peddled to Idaho and whispered. "Help me out here."

"I got nothing."

"Great, appreciate the team effort there Idaho."

"Ohio!" one of the ex-Charon soldiers came rushing in. It was a female and seemed to be the leader of the group. "Are you okay, they didn't do anything to you did they?"

"Girl please," Ohio joked in an aloof voice. "They wouldn't be able to do anything even if they wanted."

"Right, you have a feather on standby for Iowa," the woman responded smugly. She turned to face Washington and the rest of the rescue party. She seemed a little tense. However Ohio was quickly able to put her at ease. "Sherry, Darryl and Terrill, let me introduce you two to Agent Washington. He is from Project Freelancer just like me."

"Was from Project Freelancer," corrected Wash as he explained the events that transpired and the fate that befell the project. The triplets looked at one another and for once slowly began to gain a greater appreciation for being abandoned. The Charon soldiers were also shocked to learn of the fate that befell its CEO. "Once the project was disbanded, I guess you can say I found a new family in the Reds and Blues who accepted me and chose to stick with me."

"You mean the simulation troopers?" Iowa inquired.

"Yeah, some of the worst soldiers right?" Idaho added earning a nod. But also a counter point to their remarks. Washington had experienced their teamwork and conviction first hand and if anything, since then he had always questioned the worth of skills alone over teamwork. No matter the situation, they always found a way to come out on top. "These guys are different. They are not your conventional soldiers, but they are the type who will get things done together."

"Kind of like us in a sense I guess," Sherry said looking around to her comrades. She stood especially close to Ohio who didn't seem to mind it. Wash found it somewhat strange but didn't pay too much attention to it since Ohio was visibly comfortable with the physical contact they were having. He motioned out the base. "We have a spaceship. You are all welcomed aboard it."

"Oh sweet, kick ass!" Darryl replied ecstatically. Their team didn't exactly have many options dropping by every day. Hence they took whatever he had to offer. Terrill turned around to head to their side of the base. "Let me go pack up the booze for the journey. A man's got to keep his throat satiated after all."

"Hold your horses," Washington stopped everyone in their tracks as they faced him. Sherry immediately took notice of the serious posture he had and nudged the others to stand completely still. "We can take you on board but expect to be involved in fighting. We are on a mission for which we can explain the details to you later. But expect there to be conflicts in which you will be involved in."

"What kind of conflict?" Iowa questioned looking around apprehensively at his teammates' skills. Wash thought of the best way to say this, but honesty was the best policy to let people make informed decisions. "War."

Without a second though, they were all onboard. Idaho raised his rifle and looked around. "Yeah, I can't wait to finally shoot stuff again."

"You mean miss like you did with the practice dummies?" Ohio jabbed at him much to his chagrin. But he could never bring himself to argue back against her. The others giggled under their helmets only to earn scornful looks from Idaho. "Laugh it up. Let's see how the rest of you do when we get down to the battlefield."

"Oh um, I'm sure we will be fine…I hope," Sherry noted looking away with the tap of her foot. Wash motioned for the group to follow him back to the pelican. Everyone fastened into the seats. Wash noticed how close Sherry and Ohio seemed as the two held hands. I guess time changes everyone, even these guys. The pelican took off with the shake of its hull. The nose of the ship rose up in the air and blasted off into the atmosphere. They broke through the stratosphere until the spaceship was finally in sight. Washington looked to the new crew and said. "Welcome to the Blood Gulch Crew."

A/N: So how was that for a surprise?

I'm guessing some of you weren't expecting the triplets and Charon soldiers to make a cameo appearance in this story now were you? :)

How was the chapter overall?

Thank you reader for your time and support!

~ Monty