Chapter 20: Awakening
As he slowly peeled his eyelids backwards, the sliver of light momentarily blinded the young assassin. He slowly sat up feeling the sting of the bullet wound. Ken inspected the leftover scar from the surgery to remove the bullet. The doctor came to his bedside and gave him the okay to leave for the day from his cell and muscle regeneration therapy. Just as he wore his shirt, he was greeted by Chloe. "It's good to see the hibernating bear finally awake."
He smirked her way and looked at the casts on her arms. "Still no good?"
She gave an aloof smile with the shake of her head. "It will take time, even with the cell and muscle regeneration therapy, only natural means can heal the bones."
"Well on the upside," Ken wore his armored hoodie. "You missed one hell of a fight."
"I can see that," she replied worriedly studying his shoulder. He gently patted her head and said. "You don't need to worry about this too much. It will heal. At the very least we got their highest ranking General. But-"
"But you didn't manage to find Aria."
"Yeah," he answered with a lowered gaze. "Lord only knows where she is now. What is Siris up to? I need to talk to him."
"I hope this is about getting over your issues the two of you have," Chloe noted earning an impatient stare from Ken. "He is in the main control room. But I wouldn't disturb him right now. He is busy with the cleanup."
"Cleanup? We fought away from the densely populated parts of the city. What type of cleanup could be required?"
"For one thing, the higher ups aren't pleased with the results," Chloe stated. "The lives that were lost would also mean a rather dark stain on our record. Too many were sacrificed for no results."
Ken finally understood the situation. He looked around. "Where is Carolina?"
"In her room, I think. Why do you ask?"
"I have a favor to ask of her," he gently went past her with Chloe following close. Finally on her doorstep he knocked loudly. Carolina looked at the door with a stuffing of cheese in her mouth. In a mumbled voice she spoke. "Come in."
The door swung open to see the ex-Freelancer soldier sitting with a plate full of cheese cubes, and a glass of wine in her other hand. Ken walked in to the strong smell of the cheese and nearly felt the need to retreat. He gave her an unsure look while doing his best to keep composure. "Charming."
"You aren't allowed alcohol down here," Chloe said peeking over from Ken's shoulder. Carolina looked at the glass of wine and replied. "I got permission from Siris, but only for one glass. So I gotta savor every sip and make it last as long as possible. I think he relaxed the rules a bit while we recuperate."
"But why cheese and wine?" questioned Chloe and received a grin from Carolina. "A certain pink armored fellow does this every day. I figured I may as well follow his example and pick up a hobby. The cheese and wine combo is strangely relaxing, even better than beer."
"Well it sure beats dealing with an alcoholic," Church remarked recalling her drinking habits. Carolina in her defense stated. "Sometimes a girl needs to drown her sorrows in a nice cool can of beer alright?"
"As interesting as this exchange is, I need a favor," said Ken stepping forth. Carolina sat up straight and rested her glass of wine on the table. "Easy there. Have you even recovered yet?"
"The doctor said I am free to wander outside of the bunker. My injury won't act up, I promise."
"This favor," Chloe said in a near whisper. "It's not something crazy like going rogue to find your sister is it?"
He turned around to playfully flick her forehead. "Come on Chloe, how many years have we known one another now? Do you really think I would desert ATSG like this?"
"Then what do you plan on doing now that we failed to apprehend her?" Carolina asked out of pure interest. He turned to confidently look her in the eyes and said. "Most likely my sister has been awakened so apprehending her will be even more challenging. But that doesn't mean I will stop. There is only one thing I want to do, that is to see her again."
"Even if she may not want to?" Church interjected earning a semi-dangerous glare from Ken. "You don't know that. Running from this won't give me peace. The fact that I can still fight and face these terrorists with the prospect of meeting her again gives me hope. This is hope that we may be able to understand one another and eventually quit everything. We can then perhaps leave all the violence behind in order to start our lives anew."
Carolina stood up and stretched her arms. She felt the tingle left over from her therapy to repair her torn muscles. While her body had already healed for the most part, it was most definitely not at peak performance. "So, what was this favor of yours?"
"I was hoping you could drive me somewhere," Ken replied with Chloe realizing the meaning of his words. She stepped a little closer and he turned with a smile. She then backed away knowing there was nothing she could do to dissuade him from this choice. Carolina agreed to the favor and jokingly replied. "Sure, but take me out to a nice bar sometime in return. The drinks will be on you."
"Please don't," moaned Church as they all left the room.
On Chorus, the Reds and the Blues were all gathered in a large open space on the military base. Standing before them was a small army, the fruits of their and several other people's labor. Washington could not be happier to see such determination in their eyes. As the able bodied civilians now once again enlisted in the army temporarily for this mission, they retrieved their standard issue armor and weaponry. Many had spent several days on base to once again familiarize themselves with the tool they had happily abandoned upon the end of their previous war.
Washington crossed his arms and disclosed a worrisome sigh. Tucker looked at the ex-Freelancer and groaned. "Okay, I will bite. What is it now?"
Washington ignored the annoyed tone of his voice and divulged the team in his concern. "These numbers are great, but as I mentioned before, they won't be enough. We need a bigger army."
"And how do you plan on doing that?" Grif demanded. Washington turned towards Kimball hoping for more troops, but she had to draw a line on how much they could do. "We can't just force people to join you know."
Wash then had no other choice but to go with plan B. He turned to Muffins and inquired. "Is it possible to get access to the UNSC database containing all the personnel files?"
"Ja, we already have it."
"Good," he looked at Simmons hoping to put the maroon soldier's skills to some use. "Simmons, you have always seemed good with databases. Can you fetch me some data?"
"Sure, but what do you need exactly?"
"I want the location data for every base and planet that houses those from the Red and Blue army."
The others looked at one another starting to see the bigger picture. Washington nodded his head and smirked under his helmet. "We are going to raise an army of unlikely heroes."
In the dark room lit by a few floor lights and the fog that surrounded the stasis pod, sat Adrian hunch backed by a control panel. He looked down to check his watch. Almost time. He turned to look at the pod itself. Her complexion was still just as beautiful as he had remembered it since last they spoke. Her vital signs read a positive result for him. Adrian stood up and slowly inched closer to the window of the stasis pod. "I hope you are having a good dream in there. Enjoy it while you can for reality requires your attention Aria."
Adrian looked at the device in his pocket. It displayed a flat heart rate. It was a delayed notification of the fate that befell Creed. Your death was not in vain Creed. Adrian pondered with some sense of mutual respect and sadness. "While you were still an unwelcomed gear in the grand scheme of operation, at least you served one last useful purpose for the betterment of this universe."
In the outlands from the city, the cool air hit their windshield and spread out to the sides of the car as she drove on the snow piled roads. Carolina followed Ken's directions. Before she knew it, turning left and right, then straight for a few kilometers followed by few more turns that caused them to exit out onto a prairie. Upon Ken's indication, she stopped the car and stepped out. Ken walked off a few steps away from the car with a shovel in hand and a metallic box in the other arm.
He stopped at what were two gravestones. The engravings were of that of his parents' names, the 'Langford' family. He gently set the box to the side and started clearing the snow beside his mother's grave. With force he dug the shovel into the ground and peeled the soil away. Digging deeper into the ground he threw the dirt to the right. The hole was ready, and so was the box. Ken stabbed the shovel into the snow to stand it upright and bent down to open the box. A small smile struck his face as the flood of memories entangled him into a deep undercurrent, inescapable, and full of nostalgia.
Carolina took out her mobile device and saw the picture of her own family. The Reds and Blues, Washington, Elsie and Edwards all looked content and happy towards the camera. She firmly gripped the phone with surfacing sadness in her eyes. In her reality they were gone, but in her mind she so desperately wished for their return. She wanted to see them again. She wanted to take Edwards out to these fields and grant him the joyful experience of playing in the snow as every child deserved to. She bit her bottom lip and closed shut her eyes.
On Chorus, Washington was busy ordering the troops as they were rushing to begin their journey. Many were preparing supplies and loading them onboard to the generously donated ships by the Chorus Military. He stopped to talk with Kimball briefly. The two nodded at one another in agreement, and Kimball left her people in his hands. She waved goodbye to him as he simply gave a relaxed two finger salute. It was time for their departure.
The Reds and the Blues boarded Muffins' ship and strapped down for takeoff. As the ship launched, others followed after it. The hull shook violently during their ascent. The soldiers gritted their teeth and held tightly onto the safety restraints. Simmons held Edwards' gift in his hand determined to destroy any evil he sees on the rise. He would do it not just for Edwards and Elsie, but because he will also willingly act on what the right thing is to do. He will be that great warrior and figure he wanted to be in Edwards' eyes. The ships left the Chorus atmosphere. They were finally off into deep space all jumping to their next coordinate.
Ken stared at the photo of his older sister with quivering lips. He held back the weakening composure from surfacing and squeezed shut his eyes. The next time he opened them, the determination he showed to get her back was there once more. Ken bent down to gently store the picture inside the box and tightly closed it. He rested the box into the hole and began to cover it up leaving yet another grave or perhaps a time capsule in the land.
He stood up and wiped his forehead. As his cold breath escaped him, his gaze intensified onto the freshly buried spot. He tightly held the shovel with both his hands in front of him and lowered his head in respect both for his parents and sister. Even if they were on the opposite side of the fence, they were still family and deserved respect. But the bigger question for him remained to be whether Aria would still consider him family or not. He walked away towards the car as Carolina jumped back into the driver's seat. They soon left the graves alone at the mercy of the cold weather.
Adrian stared at the changing numbers on his watch. It was time. He pressed a few button sequences on the panel in front of him. The bolts on the stasis pod undid themselves as they stretched out from the metallic casing. Few of the locks from the inside unhinged to allow the two parts of the pod to separate. Cold air escaped the unit as it spread out into a mystified steam all over the floor.
Adrian's eyes widened with joy. Her vital signs were reading normal as she thawed. He looked delighted at the working technology and approached the pod. Both of his hands were intertwined nervously for there was still much that could go wrong. The tools are one thing, easily controlled but the human body was another matter entirely.
To his relief, she began to stir awake. As he scanned her body from her feet upwards, he saw her chest rising and falling. Her long black hair moved a few strands with the extremely gentle breeze of the air around them. Her lips quivered from the sudden heat introduced to her cold body. Her muscles flexed feeling what was around them. Her eyelids peeled back revealing a blur through her dark brown eyes.
She took in a deep breath. The bells of war began to toll. Change was on the horizon, whether people wanted it or not. Change must come and the humans must realize their mistakes. She awoke to once again reclaim her role as the leader and the harbinger of a war. War was on the horizon.
~ Fin ~ Red vs. Blue Season 18 (Continued in Season 19)
A/N: So remember that musical suggestion I said I would make throughout the story. Yeah let's just say I didn't listen to much music while writing this. But there is one that I listened to quite a lot when working on the ending. When Carolina and Ken are driving to the prairie to visit his parent's grave, start playing "Mt. Washington" by Local Natives, you can easily find it on YouTube. Keep on playing it all the way to the end of the story. The end of the story is also meant to coincide with the end of the song. Just a little something extra to perhaps help add a cinematic atmosphere to the reading experience.
That is it, it is done. The second entry in the "Cradle of Hope" trilogy is over. Now I will move onto the final entry. But when that will be is something I don't know. I haven't planned anything for it on paper, so there may be quite a bit of break in between as I need time to sort out the plot, structure, themes and any character development that takes place.
Other than that, what did you think of this story?
What do you think about the trilogy so far?
While I realize I shouldn't really do this, but as a means of creating a benchmark to measure this trilogy so far, how do you feel it measures up to the first two entries of the "New Order" trilogy that I wrote last year?
Are you looking forward to the final entry and did this chapter help excite you for it?
Constructive feedback is greatly appreciated!
Also a big thank you to "bob parley" and "MKDemigodZ-Warrior" for always taking the time to read and comment on my chapters. Thank you everyone else as well for your readership and support! :)
Catch you all in the sequel "Red vs Blue Season 19".
Have a great day!