Chapter 16: Return to Chorus

Muffins rubbed his chin at the familiar blue planet. The last time I was here, it was to pick up my hommies ja. Now I return again. He turned to Buttmunch and demanded that Washington be called to the bridge. Washington rushed up as soon as he could. His jaw nearly fell down. He gripped the bars on the command control platform tightly and leaned forward unable to believe what he saw. We are really here. It really is Chorus.

Muffins activated the ship wide speakers. "Attention my cute little crew members. We have arrived at our first destination. We will be commencing atmosphere entry thingy, or whatever the official military term is, who cares? Just strap in tight because it might get bumpy. I sure would hate for any of you to bruise such perfect bums."

"Erm," Boyscout held up the second microphone unit and said. "I think what the captain is trying to say is that get yourselves somewhere safe during the descent process."

"Yes and that all of you have a sweet ass," he eyed the communications officer on deck. "Yes, even you Steve."

Steve suddenly felt an unwelcomed chill travel up every strand of his hair. He shifted his seat a little further away leaving Muffins silent for a moment. He threw up his arms and smashed his right foot on the ground. "Why won't you just accept my advances Steve? Don't you see what we can be together? We can be perfect!"

"Sir, that's harassment of the crew," Buttmunch interjected stopping Muffins from making any further advances. "Should you choose to continue, I will have to-"

"Do what Buttmunch, report me?"

"No, I was going to say hang you up by your balls for public display but I guess reporting would be the more professional approach."

"Easy there tiger, I think the Captain's been rubbing off on you a little too much," Boyscout noted concerned for the mental well being of his friend. One of the pilots looked back and informed the higher ups that they were at entry point. Muffins waved his arm to the operations officers and said. "Bring down the windshield covers. Activate the external cameras and bring up the ship's shields to full power."

"Ship's shields?" Wash looked to his right towards the mad Captain who laughed in agreement. "Wonderful no? Now our enemies cannot so easily scratch this ship. And should there be a need to crash it into something massive like before, we have a higher chance of keeping the ship intact this time around."

"By that you mean completely fuck it up right?" Grif noted standing with everyone else on the bridge. Wash looked at the guys in surprise and face palmed. "You did hear the announcement right?"

"Yeah, cool beans," Tucker answered. Wash gripped the bar behind him tightly. Just calm down Wash, you don't need to go to the doctor to get pills for this. You can deal with this like a civil adult…I wish I didn't have to adult today. "So then why are all of you here right now?"

"We couldn't miss seeing this," Donut answered recalling fond memories of his time on Chorus. But at the same time, not so fond memories surged in their minds. However, all in all they were happy to be able to witness the entry first hand. The ship's nose downed towards the planet and felt the full brunt of the stratosphere. The flames began to build up from the friction, expanding from the front of the ship all the way to the back. But thankfully the ship's shield kept their boat operating a maximum efficiency.

They broke through the stratosphere, however now they entered the atmosphere where the real bulk of the disturbance amidst the hull began. Grif nearly fell over, but was quickly saved by both Donut and Simmons. Everyone activated their gravity boots to help maintain balance. Muffins however was flying around the room hitting everything with his head along the way. Some places he even left a splatter of blood proclaiming. "The janitors will have a fun time cleaning that up. Oh, I think I left that one in an interesting spot. Wunderbar, it's like a game of hunt the Easter eggs, but instead of eggs, it's blood stains. So it's a mature version of Easter egg hunt now proclaimed by your lord and ruler, 'The Crimson Stains Hunt'."

"Would someone just get him strapped down already?" Tucker shouted in agitation. Grif added a small quip at the end. "Yeah, and preferably with men in white coats all around him."

"I love the color white, only second best to blue, and coats!" Caboose exclaimed. Sarge looked back and said. "Then you would fit right in that kind of place Caboose."

"I believe that would be counterproductive to our mission Caboose," Delta popped up behind him with all the AI's appearing around their brother. Theta rolled around on his skateboard trying to pull off some tricks. "Eh, I don't know, it might be a fun experience."

The AI fragments all blinked and pixilated worrying the others. Washington pointed at them with his mouth dropped open. "Did you all just make a backup of yourselves?"

"Possibly," Delta noted with caution. This was ground he had already treaded once, and would prefer not to do so again. Washington shook his head. "Leave it to you guys to have some faith in us eh?"

"Faith is one thing Agent Washington, but having assurances does not hurt either," Sigma said with his signature smile. Tucker looked at them all and exclaimed. "Dude, no matter how you look at it, that is still a dick move."

"If you want, I can make it up by telling a knock-knock joke to lighten the mode," Gamma inquired only to be quickly turned down. O'Malley placed a hand on Tucker's shoulder armor and said. "If it will make you feel better, I can always give you another concussion. I know it will help relieve some stress for me, how about it Tucker?"

Communications suddenly reactivated as the static from the entry subsided. "- UNSC ship, identify your purpose here. There were no scheduled entries for today."

Muffins took the microphone in his right hand and cleared his throat. "This is the galaxy ruler and the sexiest man alive know as Muffins and we have come to-"

Washington took the microphone out of his hand corrected. "My name is Agent Washington leading the troops of the Red and Blue program. We are here on personal business and request entry into the city housing Vanessa Kimball."

"Vanessa Kimball, you mean the military diplomat Kimball?"

Diplomat? I guess she would take up that job to make sure relationships remain stable between Chorus and other organizations. Washington confirmed their questions. They went on radio silence for a few minutes before finally agreeing. They were led to a fully militarized base, something they never thought to see again on Chorus for several years. But even in times of peace, there was always that small necessity to keep an army ready. The pilot of the UNSC ship slowly landed it into a large docking area. Over the radio the soldiers instructed the important crew members, namely the Reds and the Blues to exit the ship without weapons and offered to take them to Kimball.

Outside the ship doors, the Reds and the Blues found several of Chorus soldiers, all outfitted in a different armor from what they had last seen. Many of the soldiers looked stunned, but quickly threw up their hand to the side of their head in a salute. The BGC Crew looked from side to side uncomfortably, however Sarge relished in this attention. Washington noticed two approaching soldiers who saluted them. Washington was also a little freaked out by this sudden behavior. "What's going on?"

"It's really an honor to finally meet you sir," one of the two soldiers wearing a green striped helmet spoke up. The other with red stripes on his agreed. "To think that we would get to meet the heroes who saved Chorus is really quite the opportunity. I'm so glad we could take the job of escorting you to Diplomat Kimball."

"Heroes huh," Grif repeated with a devious tone in his voice. "I wonder if they will finally let me have second helpings in the cafeteria."

"Please follow us," the red striped one motioned for them to walk in their footsteps. The BGC left the ship behind under the watchful eye of the Chorus soldiers and looked around clearly impressed by the strength of this small military base. Wash could not help but be even more impressed by the order around the base. It hasn't been long since we left Chorus, probably three or so months at best, but they already have rebuilt so much. I wonder how their cities are doing.

"At ease men!"

Every Chorus soldier stopped doing what they were doing and suddenly stood up straight to salute. Kimball, the dark brown haired and eyed woman walked between a row of soldiers. She had lost much of her well built physique ever since the end of the war, and at best was now at an average build. Washington nearly gasped at the change he saw on her body, but managed to hold himself back. She finally reached the ex-Freelancer and held out a welcoming hand. "Agent Washington, it is good to see you again. Although I must say that seeing the blue on you is rather different."

"Because blue team rules!" Caboose exclaimed earning a smile from Kimball. Sarge booed the man-child soldier. "Blue team sucks bluetard, red for the win!"

She motioned for them to walk behind her as she led them through the various halls of the base. From one they could see the large crater left behind by Hargrove's ship. While the planet was forever scarred because of it, the inhabitants had learned to make use of that land to creatively build their military installations. As far as they could see, a few operational factories were hard at work producing the goods needed for their everyday life. Workers flocked from their workplaces, in and out.

The weather was nice, and the skies while still somewhat affected by the smog of war were mostly clean. To Kimball and the rest, it was good to be able to once again breathe in the fresh, cool and breezy air without the fear of an ongoing war. Kimball eyed Washington and the others and said. "You know, I am surprised that all of you still chose to remain in the army. After everything that has happened, I would have thought that all of you would retire and kick back."

"Meh, I have made it my mission to already do that as much as possible," Grif replied with Donut adding to the conversation. "And what a pro you are at it Grif!"

They turned a corner and exited to a very familiar sight. It was the base of the now defunct New Republic army that Simmons, Grif, Caboose and Tucker had first arrived in. Aside from a few minor changes to help strengthen the architecture, most of the surroundings remained the same.

"This sure brings back memories," said Simmons. Tucker walked in close. "Yeah, like that time we all gave stupid speeches to see who would lead the rescue team for the others."

"Good times," Caboose exclaimed. "But I never got my Kool-Aid fountain. I still demand my Kool-Aid fountain!"

"Here we are," said Kimball as she stopped to point inside a building. The BGC looked inside and gasped. "Isn't this-"

"Yes it is," Kimball verified with a nostalgic smile. "Your old quarters from when you were here, you will find that most of the room has been left as it was before. So get settled in because I imagine there will be quite the party thrown in your honor later tonight."

"We didn't come here to party," Wash said bluntly killing the mood. He earned a few glares from those behind him but quickly added. "We are on sort of an urgent mission, it is very time sensitive."

"Come on Wash, it can wait!" Tucker said throwing up his arms in the air looking forward to the celebrations. Sarge for once agreed with the idea of holding a party. "It was a long journey on that ship, it will be good to let go a little. Who knows, I may even accidently let go too much and fulfill my lifelong desire of putting Grif down for good."

"Ugh, fine," Wash turned to Kimball. "But we will need to talk after the celebrations are over. This isn't something we can put off. Our enemies won't just sit still waiting around for us after all."

Kimball left with the assurance that she will make the time to meet with him regarding their mission. Just as the BGC were getting settled in, they saw a strange head pop in. It wasn't someone they recognized. But as soon as the man spoke up, Tucker's head dropped low shouting. "Oh god damn it."

"It really is you guys!" said Charles Palomo as he walked into the area with Katie walking behind him hand in hand. Simmons nearly jumped at seeing her with her swelled belly before everyone finally realized the situation. Palomo held out his hands with a marriage ring on his finger and proudly said. "Guess what guys? I'm going to be a father! We are having a kid!"

Tucker looked from Katie to Charles and breathed out yet another irritated sigh. He even had the luck to get laid, where as I have been the one to get knocked up, and not in a good way. How is it that he gets the ladies? I am calling bullshit on that one. "I have been back on Chorus only for like thirty minutes and you are already showing me up. I hate you Palomo."

"I love you to Tucker!" he shouted in response trying to hug the blue soldier only to be walked around. Another soldier walked in from the Chorus army and held up a proud salute towards Caboose. "Admiral John Elizabeth Andersmith reporting sir!"

"Hello Agent Smith, how goes it?" Caboose asked looking up at the ceiling. Andersmith was rather happy to see nothing had changed with his ex-CO. "Very well sir, thank you for asking, sir. I hope you bestow me with more wisdom during this visit, sir!"

"Oh hey, did you guys bring any food?" Bitters poked his head in the room with an armful of fries and burgers. Grif's mouth immediately began to water as he slowly strode his way towards the seductive aroma. "Bitters…mmhhmm…give…"

"No, it's my food!" he quickly ran back around the corner. Grif chased after him screaming at the top of his lungs. "Food!"

"Good to see that Antoine hasn't changed a bit," Andersmith noted with a wide smile. Simmons looked at the two playing hide and chase and asked. "So since when did Bitters put on so much weight?"

"Oh he did that after he became a food critic," Matthews announced nearly giving Simmons a heart attack at the sudden appearance. "As for me, I became a motivational speaker. So turn those frowns upside down because I'm going to shape up those minds of yours gang. You can achieve anything if you believe hard enough!"

"[So then I can finally stop them from being splendidly stupid if I believe hard enough]," Lopez asked staring at Sarge. "[If only, if only...]"

Later that night, the festivities and everyone's spirits were high in energy. Many soldiers sat around listening to entertaining songs played by those on base while drinking beer with one hand, and eating food with the other. Some danced around while others sat down to chat in groups. It was a time for relief and joy. Many of the soldiers around the BGC encouraged them to take center stage to share a few words. Everyone elected Wash to speak on their behalf much to his chagrin.

He walked into the center of attention waving to everyone along the way. He heard their growing cheer. But he wondered what he could say right now that would better serve this mood. He didn't know anything other than the truth. He looked to his comrades who waited patiently for his speech. He cleared his throat and tapped the mic. A cringe worthy screech echoed from the speakers. He leaned in close and said. "It has been a while since we have been back here. For those that might not know me, I'm Washington from the Blue army of Blood Gulch. I feel that I have something important to talk about here, but let me first thank Kimball and the others for organizing such a massive event on a short notice for us. I hope you are all enjoying yourselves."

He heard a few cheers. He took it as a sign to continue. "But what I wanted to talk about was the reason why we are here on this planet. I figure it might be a good time since we have quite a sizeable number of soldiers here."

"Uh oh," Simmons whispered to Sarge. "Should he really be doing this right now?"

"Let's let him handle it for now."

"Now for why we are here," he took in a deep breath under the curious gaze of all the eyes in his direction. "I know Chorus is still recovering, but we are here to request your aid in fighting a new threat that has risen all across the galaxy as well as on Earth."

"Um…what?" one of the voices from the crowd asked confused at what this speech was exactly supposed to be about. The others agreed with a similar sentiment as the once happy mood died down and concerned murmurs arose. The fear of another war was still very much fresh in everyone's mind. They had just attained peace, and for the first time in their long lives they could finally go about their peaceful days now. Kimball understood these feelings of the people well. To further stop the deterioration of the situation, she stepped on stage and took the microphone. "Come on everyone, don't worry yourselves with this. Tonight is a night for enjoyment. You guys let me handle this, and enjoy yourselves!"

She looked back to Wash and signalled for him to follow. As the rest of the BGC were to follow, she stopped them in their tracks. "I would like to talk to him alone please. You guys go ahead and enjoy the party. If the guests of honor are missing from their own party, then there would be no point in having one right? So take it easy and try to keep their minds off of fighting. We may have a military again, but we all know that everyone deserves a long overdue break for many years to come."

She left with Wash guiding him to her office. She unlocked the door and swung it open. As Washington walked in, she closed the door behind them and sat down at her neatly organized desk. "Seems familiar, no?"

"This was your office from during the Chorus war."

"Yes it was and still is," she answered with a nostalgic smile of all the times she had soldiers counsel with her or simply seek her out for advice. "So that was quite the speech."

Wash looked down at the floor admitting his fault. "I was just trying to be honest."

"Direct honesty isn't always good Washington. Sometimes you have to ease people into things before dropping the big things on them."

"Yeah, if it's one thing I wish I could learn naturally after all this time in the army, it would be this."

"Heck, I'm surprised you still are in the army. I figured you would be one of the first to retire."

"I still consider it from time to time, more often now days," he replied. There was something about his voice that left a slightly serious impression on her. "But there is always that little something holding me back."

"Well if that time ever comes, consider retiring on Chorus," Kimball smirked motioning to the stacks of documents on another nearby desk. "I could put you to good use here."

"Wouldn't be much of a retirement then would it?" he laughed and added his desire to retire somewhere tropical perhaps, probably on Earth. Kimball could see him just lying back on a beach bathing in the sunlight. However she noticed that she had yet to see his face. "You are in a safe place Wash, you can lose the helmet."

"The day that happens will be on the day of my retirement," he quickly replied. "That will be some day I imagine, where I no longer need this armor."

"Kind of like how it was for us," Kimball noted recalling the very day she removed her combat armor. "But now you are asking us to go back out on the battlefield."

Washington could see the answer in her eyes already. "We have our reasons."

"As do we for not wanting to go out on that hell again, especially on one that doesn't involve us."

Wash shook his arms out. "I'm sorry if my sudden request was a shock to you all. But we have no one else to turn to."

"No one else to turn to is something we should be saying," Kimball argued as she activated a holographic screen. "Look at these pictures. This is what we have been able to build so far after the war. But this is still not enough. The hardships that come with cleaning up after a war are nothing compared to what we experienced in escalating it."

Washington studied the various villages, all of which seemed to be outdated in technology and architecture. They were vastly different from the city of Armonia. Kimball pointed to a graph showing various values about the economy. "See this? Our economy suffers to recover due to how focused we all were in our military division, and effectively ignored every other industry. The people are also another factor. I have spoken to many and they suffer from psychological issues thanks to that bastard Hargrove's selfish and corrupt actions."

Kimball motioned to the cities and the villages. "While our cities are beginning to flourish after so long, the villages in the rural areas still suffer. How can you expect us to help someone else when we can't even ensure the basic necessities for our own people yet?"

"Hasn't the UNSC done anything to help?"

"The UNSC?" Kimball laughed at the idea. "What they have done is basically left us pinned into a corner. The only way they would help us is if we surrender all power to them and become incorporated into their organization. My people fought long and hard to achieve this independence and freedom and I will be damned if I let the UNSC take it from us."

"Then how about a deal?"

"What kind of deal?"

Washington leaned forward on the desk and said. "The captain of the ship we arrived with has some very influential contacts within the UNSC. If we wanted, he could most likely get you the help you need without having to sacrifice anything on your part. The only thing that would be asked of you is to maintain positive relations."

"Of course," Kimball stated bluntly. "That's why I took up this role. But as I said before, the UNSC hasn't exactly been very accommodating to us. How can you guarantee this aid you speak of?"

"I can't," Wash admitted rubbing the back of his helmet. "But you will just have to take my word for it."

"But only if we help you I take it?" she crossed her hands and rested her nose atop them. Wash leaned back from the desk and nodded his head. "Sorry to make it sound so odious after all the time we have known one another. But there is a threat on Earth in the form of a terrorist organization called the 'Cradle of Hope'. They are threatening the peace on Earth, but that's not all. They also seem to have dormant agents throughout the galaxy. If we don't handle this right now, then someday Chorus may become affected as well. And since the UNSC isn't willing to take any actions on Earth, we are the only ones adequately informed to do anything about it."

"Alright, pass on any data you can about this to me," she finally nodded her head. "But I will need time to think about it."

"That's fine, but we can't stay for long. I would appreciate a response soon."

Kimball then posed the question. "What will you do if Chorus can't help you?"

Wash smirked under the helmet and shrugged his shoulders. "Honestly, we haven't thought that far ahead. But I'm sure we will figure something out, we always do."

Kimball felt reassured by the confidence, it was the same drive that she saw in the BGC during their time on Chorus when things seemed lost for them. She leaned back in her chair and let out a tired breath. "You know, I really want to help you, but convincing the people is another story as I can't speak on their behalf without actually getting their consent."

"I know," Wash said holding up a hand. "I know that you are only doing your job Kimball. The only thing we can all do in our jobs is give it our best and believe in the kindness of others. That's all we can really ask for now at this point."

Kimball agreed and looked down at her desk deep in thought just as Washington left the office. I can't wait to see how this goes over with the Chorus Council tomorrow. It was going to be a long day for her tomorrow, and an even longer one for the BGC who would patiently anticipate a hopefully positive result. For now, the lights on the base started to die down, and the soldiers slept peacefully like babies to wear down the effects of the alcohol and the party.

Wash walked out to the area the party was held and stretched his arms. That was intense. I never thought it might be this easy. He turned to look at some garbage on the ground and threw it in the nearby trash can. But then again, we have yet to truly obtain the support we need. He crossed his arms. "Here is hoping to that army we need."

A/N: So how was that chapter and the surprise I spoke of in the last chapter?

I hope that this chapter has gotten you excited for what is to come with the final entry of the trilogy (even though this is not the last chapter). Some of the things I mentioned in here will be important so keep it in mind readers :).

Thank you for taking the time to read and support this story, it is appreciated!

Constructive feedback is always welcomed.

~ Monty