Time: 0400 Hours (4AM)

Location: RT-636 "Mother of Invention"

It was a quiet morning.

The usual early-morning staff went around attending their duties. No Freelancers were away on missions. The Director was actually sleeping.

All in all, it was a peaceful morning...

... Until the Director's alarm went off early.

Seeing the time, the Director had decided the Agents had slept long enough, and instructed F.I.L.S.S to activate the alarms in all living quarters on the ship.

The alarm was... Annoying. It sounded like an old, 21st Century air raid siren, only louder and accompanied by flashing red lights.

When the alarm activated, Freelancer Agent Nevada, currently 24th on the board, shrieked and leaped out of her bed, ready for a fight.

"FILSS, what's going on?" she asked while hurrying to find something to wear more substantial than the tank top and shorts she wore to sleep.

"Wake up call, Agent Nevada," the AI replied calmly.

Nevada froze with her Project Freelancer-issue t-shirt halfway down her head.

"Oh," she said.

Agent Minnesota pulled on his standard issue shirt and sweats, irritated by the fact that the alarm had woken him up. He looked at his now robotic right arm as if it were a tumor. The flesh around the metal had gone red and swollen, and almost seemed like it was an allergic reaction to the metal itself. Of course, the medics assured him it was "natural" and that his body just needed to adjust to the robotics as if it were his old arm...

... and then there was the recent matter of the alarm going off. Wash, who had been recently moved to share a room with North and Minnesota, usually slept with a loaded gun under his bunk. North had managed to wrestle the gun off of him though when F.I.L.S.S informed them of the "wake-up call", but Wash had still put a bullet into North's pillow and most likely freaked out the others with the gunshot.

The alarm continued on as the Director stood on the bridge of the RT-636. He had his coffee, he had his "good" night sleep, and now his crew was awake... Time to get to work.

"F.I.L.S.S, let Agents Nevada, Minnesota, and North Dakota know they are too be in the briefing room by 0500."

"Yes, Director."

The Director looked over the mission he had set out for the Agents, and smiled as one particular candidate came too mind.

"Inform Samantha that she is too meet me in the briefing room immediately."

"Director, Samantha is currently in-"

The Director turned around and the smile was no longer present on his face.

"Just do it, F.I.L.S.S."

"Of course, Director."

With that, the Director began making his way to the briefing room, already knowing what would need to be done.

Nevada continued dressing, blushing furiously at her earlier assumption. It would be perfectly reasonable in most other places, but here...

She shrugged it off. It wasn't her fault the Director used an air raid siren for an alarm clock!

...and yet her cheeks still burned red. Ignoring the muffled bang coming from somewhere in the guy's portion of the quarters, Nevada quickly arranged her short, rat's nest hair into something more practical

"Agents Minnesota, North Dakota and Nevada, report to the bridge by 0500," F.I.L.S.S announced. "Samantha Paladray, please report to the briefing room."

Nevada sighed. She turned to Kentucky, still asleep in the bunk next to hers (she was well-acquainted with loud noises while she slept) and tried to gently shake her awake. She was more susceptible to contact.

"Kenni? Kenni, I'm leaving," Nevada whispered. Her friend grunted in response and rolled away. Nevada pouted. Well, whatever. Kentucky could figure it out on her own.

She headed out of her room, entering the mostly abandoned halls and greeting a few Freelancers who had been woken by the commotion and could not fall back asleep. When she arrived, she recalled the last part of F.I.L.S.S.'s message.

"Samantha, huh..."

North and Minnesota arrived shortly after Nevada did, the latter yawning in his helmet. North looked past Nevada to see a woman with dark red hair, lightly tanned skin, and ice blue eyes. She wore the same suit that the technicians wore, but it was clear as day that a knife had been used to cut a portion out to show some of her cleavage. North shook his head in mock amusement. He knew this woman's game.

"I see your being adventurous as always, Sammy. Tech work keepin' you busy?"

In response, Samantha simply shot him a death glare that quickly shifted from North to Minnesota before finally falling on Nevada. She smiled and walked up to the girl, basically towering over her.

"So this is the standards of a Freelancer these days? Listen kid, why don't you go back to your sandbox and let the adults deal with this."

Samantha looked Nevada up and down before smiling and walking back to stand by the Director, staring at Nevada the entire time.

Nevada frowned, happy for the helmet hiding her reaction. Ok, so maybe she did have the general appearance of a fifteen-year-old, was one of the most childish of the Freelancers and completely flat in contrast to the showy woman in front of her, but still... um...

Well, it's just bad manners to throw that in someone's face. She didn't like this new girl.

"You must be Samantha," Nevada replied calmly, trying for maturity. She couldn't think of anything to come after that, so she decided to leave it. It sounded sort of snarky enough though, right?

North rolled his eyes and stepped up beside her.

"Yeah, that's Sammy alright. Feel free to ignore her. She's just jealous someone half her size managed to beat her out for an agent position."

The Director cleared his throat to speak, impatience visible in his tense form.

"That's enough. We came here for a reason."

The Director pressed a button on the table, causing a holographic city to appear...

... Along with the same building that North, Nevada, and Minnesota wanted to have no memory of. Samantha looked at Nevada and smiled sadistically.

"How's your friends arm, Ironing Board?" North tensed up in an attempt not too lunge at the woman.

It really took Nevada longer than it should have to understand the insult -the 'ironing board' bit anyway. She automatically crossed her arms over her chest, but before she could respond, North spoke.

"Hey, Sammy. I think the Director wants to get on with the meeting," he practically growled.

How cute... She's self-conscious... This should be fun...

The Director finished putting in the codes on the table and a pulsing beacon appeared on the top floor of a building. This situation was all too familiar, and the last time they had walked in completely unprepared, and it had cost an agent their arm.

"A recovery beacon was set off at this location, belonging to Agent Arkansas." North tensed up, knowing the situation already.

"Sir, isn't Arkansas away on leave?" The Director simply nodded his reply before typing in another code, this time bringing up four red dots.

"Agents North, Minnesota, and Nevada are too infiltrate the building from this landing pad while Ms. Paladray sets up for overwatch." The dots quickly moved, with three of them moving to said landing pad and the other moving on top of another building.

"Team A will then continue until reaching the top floor. Once there, you are to discover the source of the beacon and recover any assets of Project Freelancer. This is a stealth mission. You are only to blow cover when absolutely necessary. Do I make myself one-hundred percent clear?"

"Yes, sir," the three agents chorused automatically.

"Don't you have these dogs well-trained?" Samantha muttered before saying, louder, "Yes, sir."

"Good," the Director replied. "You've been here before, this should be easy. Dismissed."

The agents, as well as Samantha, filed out of the room, heading for the armory.

North took a pistol and his sniper rifle, Minnesota took a battle rifle and an SMG, Nevada took a DMR, a plasma pistol... and two LOTUS anti-tank mines which she fit to her back.

"Real stealthy," Sam noted.

"Considering previous experiences, I prefer to err on the side of caution," Nevada replied, taking the silencer offered to her by North and fitting it to her DMR.

"Well, I guess it isn't every mission where you blow your friend's arm off, is it?"

Samantha grinned sadistically. York had told her, and she enjoyed visualizing how it must have looked. She had sent a therapist into an asylum crying for his mother with such a thought.

Samantha allowed the two younger agents to leave first, and as she was about the leave, North held her by the shoulder.

"None of your usual shit, Samantha. These two have had enough bad shit happen to them as it is, they don't need your particular brand of it."

Samantha managed to get herself loose from his grasp.

"I don't keep promises North... Not anymore."

North cringed.

She's still upset about that?

"Look, Sam, I said I wa-"

"That won't fix it, North. You know that"

Samantha quickly walked after the other two with North soon following behind.

Minnesota looked at the battle rifle in his hands, unsure of what to do. These people were his friend... weren't they?

Minnesota had been so caught up in his thoughts he walked straight into the side of the Pelican they were supposed to get on.

Nevada giggled, and grabbed Minnesota's hand to guide him into the transport where 479-er was waiting, arms crossed.

"You better not have put a dent in my ship," she said.

Minnesota just nodded awkwardly and sat himself down on the right side of the ship, Nevada making herself comfortable next to him.

Sam walked in, grinned, and sat down right next to Nevada.

North entered the Pelican and sat across from Samantha, neither making eye contact with the other. About 5 minutes later, the ship took off. Samantha looked at Nevada.

"Still can't believe they let a kid into the Project... But I guess when the Director wanted to test that implantation thing he did need a body that was still developing..."

Samantha lightly tapped Nevada's chest plate, not letting her younger counterpart forget what was underneath the armor.

"Or maybe even underdeveloped?"

Minnesota was quiet. Which wasn't natural for him. He was usually shy, but talkative around Nevada and North, and Sam alone wouldn't be able to hinder that too much...

Nevada slapped Sam's hand away, blushing furiously behind her visor. She was too distracted by Sam to notice her friend's unusual behaviour.

"I am twenty-one," she informed Sam. "I finished with puberty a while ago, thank you." She looked away from the older woman, unwilling to meet her eyes and unwilling to ask North for help.

"How does a twenty-one year old end up with these?" Sam asked, putting both hands firmly on Nevada's chest plating, which admittedly looked a lot more like the men's armour albeit smaller.

Nevada froze and squeaked loudly.

"Come on, Sam. Leave her alone." North looked about ready to stand up and seperate the two women, but didn't.

"Just curious is all North. Who knows, maybe one day she'll be able to wear armor that was actually made for a woman..." The woman got up and made for the cockpit, but stopped when she got too the doorway.

"And North? One more thing." Samantha turned her head so that Nevada and North could see the cold glare she was giving to North.

"If you ever stare at my cleavage again, North, I will do to you what I did to David." With that, Sam entered the cockpit, closing the door behind her. North was glad he had his helmet on...

Nevada deflated as soon as Sam had left the room, relieved.

"Who's David?" she asked.

"Wash," North told her. "That's his real name."

"Oh..." Nevada murmured. Then, "What did she do to Wash?"

North currently had his hands folded over each other in front of him, innocently twiddling his thumbs.

"She... had a training session with him... Wash was a new recruit at that time, so he wasn't very... skilled. Sam... didn't like who the Director paired her up with. She saw him as a twig, and nearly broke him like a toothpick..."

North cringed as he remembered Wash screaming for mercy and how close Sam had gotten to breaking his neck literally under her heel.

"She is not a woman to be messed with... Then again, most of the women in Project Freelancer aren't the kind you want to mess with..."

Nevada shifted uncomfortably. "But she's just a candidate, isn't she? If she was able to beat Wash so easily, why isn't she an agent?"

It was at this moment she noticed a voice that had been conspicuously absent from the conversation.

"And why haven't you been talking?" she asked Minnesota.

Nevada always had issues with knowing what was going on around Project Freelancer. People didn't talk to her about the serious stuff. She was almost always the last to here about anything. And now she was feeling left out again.

"She was supposed to be given the designation of Washington, but Wash beat her too it. After that the only available spot was Texas, which as we all know is reserved. Believe it or not, there was a Minnesota and a Nevada before you two showed up... I just hope you don't meet their fate..."

North looked at Minnesota in regards too Nevada bringing up how quiet he was being.

"Ada's right, your never this quiet. What's up?"

Minnesota looked up from the floor.

"Hm? Oh... I was just... Concentrating... Talking with Beta... She's scared so-" North waved a hand.

"We get it, chill." With that, Minnesota looked back at the floor, and North gave a small shrug to Nevada.

Beta has not been active since the briefing...

"I know, Theta."

He is lying

North nodded as the AI continued to speak in his head.

Another Nevada... ... the current Nevada thought. She ignored her concerns over what might have happened to her predecessor and focused on Minnesota.

Well, if he was just talking to Beta it should be fine. God knew she and Kappa would completely blank from the rest of the world when they really got talking.

Speaking of Kappa...

I guess I slept through the alarm, her AI informed her. By 'slept through the alarm' he meant 'forgot to go online when she woke up'. Her AI wasn't always the brightest.

"Sam got to you didn't she, Nevada?" North looked at the younger agent with concern. Out of all of the freelancer's, he was the most compassionate, always watching out for the others.

Nevada shifted, not entirely comfortable with the attention being directed at her. Then she realized: yeah, Sam had gotten to her. She was usually comfortable around North. He was nice.

"A little," she admitted to him. "But it's really nothing."

North looked like he was about to say something when the intercom came online.

"Hey! You'd better get ready back there! Almost at the drop-off point!"

Minnesota looked up at 479er's "distinct" voice. Amazing what a helmet can do to a person's voice when it goes through various types of filters.

"North, your first! Command left you a gift for the ride."

North stood up and grabbed his gear off the rack it had been placed on, and walked towards the back of the Pelican where four jet packs had been hung on the wall. North tilted his head when he saw them.

Command gave us jet packs?

The door of the Pelican opened, revealing that they were quite a fair bit above the actual target site.

"Hey, wouldn't it make more sense to land- I don't know- closer to the target?"

There was a slight delay before the Pelican's intercom came back on.

"North, Command wants us too enter from up here so it's not as obvious. This is a stealth mission. A pelican would stand out."

North's mind drew a blank. Had Samantha, the one person he knew that made his sister look patient, just given him a logical answer?!

"Of course, we could also lose a few points on the board and do this the fun way by blowing everything up."

Nope, never mind. Same old Sam.

"Well, alright. Where am I landing?"

On the HUD in North's helmet, a helipad near the bottom of the building.

"You'll be hitting a helipad near the bottom and securing any assets on the way up."

North took a deep breath before eventually taking a running start and leaping out of the Pelican, free falling down towards the building.

"Nevada, you're next. The landing point is a balcony in the middle of the tower. It'll be on a floor that is still under construction. Should be marked on your HUD by now..."

Sam came back into the cargo bay and smiled at Nevada.

"If you hit the ground, do us a favor and have your AI detonate your armor so we don't have to get it. Thanks, sweetie."

With that, Samantha took a running start, grabbing a sniper rifle and a jet pack along the way, and jumped out of the Pelican. One the jet pack was on, she began her descent towards the same building Nevada had been on when-

Minnesota rubbed the area of his armor where metal now met skin, remembering the events that had removed his arm in the first place.

Nevada focused on the waypoint on her HUD. The balcony itself was around the corner of the building, so she activated the pack and strafed around the side, free-falling down to the balcony and landing next to a guard on coffee break. Before he could yell out and draw attention, Nevada covered his mouth, turned him around and hit him in the back of the head -using his thick hair to hide the bruise that would show later. She set him down and arranged him to look as if he had fallen asleep on the job.

She crouched low to avoid being seen through the windows, but her motion trackers indicated no one inside. She peeked through one and saw the room before her empty.

"Now what?" she asked over the radio.

As Nevada landed, Minnesota jumped, aiming for the roof of the building.

"I'm in place on the building across the highway. Sat on the North or East sides of the building. I have no visual on the South and West side. Minnesota will be placed on the roof near the beacon's location. He'll be scouting the enemies forces. Nevada, you are going to slowly make your way upstairs on the outside of the building. Same goes for you North. Be careful. Seems our last two stints here got the Insurrectionists riled up. Top floors are crawling with heat signatures."

North looked up the side of the building, seeing several large balconies.

"Job never gets easier, does it?"

North launched himself off the ground and, using his jet pack, leaped from balcony to balcony, gradually making his way up.

For Nevada, however, things were about to get a little more difficult. The area above where she had landed was still under construction and if she listened carefully, she could here the guard making his rounds two floors up...

That, and a second guard had just entered the room too see his buddy unconscious on the ground with a possible assassin. He immediately pointed his gun, albeit unsteadily.

"Sir, put your hands behind your head, get on your knees, and we can resolve this peacefully."

Apparently it was "think Nevada is a guy" day.

Nevada took in the situation at a second. There was nowhere to run, and she couldn't take the guy out without blowing their cover and causing a commotion.

Normal Nevada would've given up here, but she'd already slipped into her combat mode.

The guard seemed... like a nice guy.

She burst out crying.

"I... I'm sorry!" she sobbed, shoulders shaking and voice as high and young as possible.

The guard's eyes widened. "You're a... girl?"

"I... it's just... this is what they told me to do! I-"

"Another one from Freelancer, huh?" the man murmured. "How old are you?"

"Fi-fifteen, sir," Nevada told him, sniffling.

The guard knew the Freelancers had voice manipulation technology, and wasn't fooled as easily as Nevada had hoped. "Take off your helmet, sweetheart."

Nevada did so, slowly. She looked at the man with wide eyes set in a face that could've belonged to a child.

"Oh my God... you really are a kid," the man said, lowering his weapon and approaching. "I never thought Freelancer would stoop so low. Come on, sweetheart, we'll get you hel-"

Nevada dived on him when he was close enough, using the weight of her armor to hold him down. She covered his mouth and nose until he was unconscious.

"For the record, I'm twenty-one," she informed his body.

From inside of Nevada's helmet, she could hear a woman laughing. Then she could hear North.

"Here's another thing too add to the record: You left your radio on."

North continued his balcony-hopping, stopping every now and then too allow his jets too recharge.

"Hey, Flat-Top. If your good enough, there's a service ladder outside to your right that leads up about 5 floors."

Minnesota finally landed on the roof, quickly making his way towards the opened stairwell. He entered and emerged into a large, business meeting like area...

... and the beacon was on the table.

"What's so bad about using my youthful looks to my advantage?" Nevada asked. The part of her that got flustered easily got shut down when she was in battle. "Or are you just jealous that there's something I can do that you can't?"

Nevada made her way out to the balcony, saw the service ladder a few meters off from it. There was a short ledge about mid-distance between the two. Nevada climbed onto the balcony rails, jumped onto the ledge about two meters below, and jumped again to grab the rungs of the service ladder.

Her radio crackled once more, this time with Minnesota. "Uh, guys, we have-"

As if some deity was telling her to turn around, a soldier just so happened to look over the edge as Nevada had almost climbed over the top...

... and proceeded to fall like a rag doll the whole way down. It was then that Minnesota poked his head over the edge and outstretched a hand to Nevada as the ladder gave out creaks and moans under the stress of her armor's weight.

Nevada took his hand gratefully, allowing herself to be pulled onto the balcony. She took a moment to study the service ladder -it would hold for now, but it probably wouldn't hold anyone else's weight.

"I hope nobody saw her on her way down," Nevada noted, nodding towards the edge.

Minnesota pulled out his pistol and put it against Nevada's head. If she had been watching her radar, she might have picked up the dozen or so soldiers behind him, as well as a person in brown armor and an EOD helmet... CT.

"For the record, I'm sorry."

"...Sota? CT?" Nevada asked, wide-eyed and staring between her two friends (well, CT was an acquaintance at least) rather than the gun at her head.

"Sorry, kid," CT shrugged. She didn't sound as sorry as she could be, but she definitely didn't seem comfortable with this. "Sota," she nodded towards him, his cue to-

"That's ok," Nevada replied in a forgiving tone, freezing Minnesota in place. "I don't really understand what's happening, but I'm sure you have your reasons."

Even through their helmets, Nevada knew Minnesota was looking her straight in the eye. "Ada-"

She batted the pistol out of his hands and over the edge.

As soon as Nevada reacted, one of the Insurrectionists, a rather large man, hit Nevada in the back of the head with the butt of his rifle, sending her on hands and knees, before hitting her again three more times. The hits weren't enough to knock the girl out, but enough to keep her down.

CT handed Minnesota her pistol, which he hesitantly took, staring between the gun and Nevada with doubt.

"You said nobody would get hurt, CT..."

"I'm sorry, Neil... But it's too much of a risk too-"

"You promised me that nobody would get hurt..."

CT bit her lip behind her helmet. She had promised him that nobody would get hurt... But Nevada was far too loyal to the Project to turn against them, and was a liability now...

Minnesota pointed the gun at Nevada's head, shaking heavily before he removed her helmet. He pressed the gun firmly against her forehead, shaking. He didn't want too do this. Nevada was his friend. Hell, he had a hard enough time killing people to begin with, but killing people he knew?!

... But Beta was more important to him than anyone, even Carolina and York. She was... Broken, just like him. They found comfort with the other, and trusted each other... and then CT showed him what Project Freelancer was really doing... What the Director was really doing...

And when he learned how Beta, his teammate and best friend, had been created... It sickened him... He wanted to have nothing more to do with the Project... But now...

"I'm sorry, Nevada... I really am... But Beta comes first..."

"No!" a voice neither of them really expected called out. The small, silvery form of Kappa appeared next to Nevada, futilely trying to push the gun away from her, even as his hands passed right through time and time again. "Please, stop!"

Nevada sighed. She was no longer in her combat mode -she was just normal Ada, with one of her friends pointing a gun at her head.

Slowly, she raised her hand, the soldiers around her keeping careful aim, and lightly gripped Minnesota's pistol, re-aiming it to go through her right temple to the back of her head.

"You'd hit Kappa otherwise," she said by way of explanation.

"Ada!" Kappa yelled.

"I just want to know why," Nevada continued, looking from Minnesota, to CT, and back again. "Please."

"The Project- no... The Director is nothing but a criminal. You wouldn't want to know what kind of torture he put someone through to create the AI Fragments."

CT's patience had reached its end. She walked up to Minnesota, grabbed the pistol, aimed-

And was presumably kicked in the chest by Minnesota who not only shoved Nevada's helmet onto her head, but also managed to get her a soldiers shotgun before getting hit with the butt of an assault rifle.

At that time, North arrived, quickly yelling into his radio that their cover was blown and for Sam to move to a better vantage point.

Several Insurrectionists were confused, alarmed, or just unsure if what to do, including the ones previously guarding Nevada.

Nevada wasted a grand total of five precious seconds being shocked before the guards' recovery prompted her to action.

Using the shotgun as a baseball bat, she jumped between guards, swinging and aiming for their heads, then flipping the shotgun around to actually shoot when she was sure nobody would come up behind her.

North had his own issues on the other side of the balcony, his long-distance weapon doing little to help him with several enemies right next to him. He switched to a pistol and lashed out to give himself more room.

Minnesota was currently occupied with fighting the soldier that had hit Nevada in the back of the head with the butt of his weapon. Neither combatant possessed a weapon, and were now fighting it out with their fists. The soldiers on their floor were rookies and grunts, with maybe one or two elites that knew what they were doing (and knew how to actually aim a gun). To make things worse, CT and the guy in charge had fled.

Probably should have tried harder to remember his name if he actually was the guy in charge... Oh well, live and learn.

Outside, Samantha was now in position and was able to see everyone currently fighting on the Agent's floor. Scoping in, Samantha smiled when she fired and made a soldier's head explode. Needless to say, there was quite a mess. She fired again, this time placing a shot through a soldier's chest. The shot went straight through and hit Nevada's left shoulder, piercing the armor and going through the fiber mesh underneath before stopping half-way into her shoulder.

"Hey, runt! Stay out of my shot!"

Samantha went back to aiming, smiling maliciously at the fact that she had purposely lined up the shot to hit the younger Freelancer.

Nevada cried out and fell back with the hit, holding her injured shoulder and staring at the blood beginning to poor through her fingers.

Praying to Heka, Panacea and Bona Dea to heal her just a tiny bit, she stumbled to her feet -but was quickly pushed down again as an elite soldier pushed her.

He tried aiming his gun but she kicked it away, grabbing her own pistol and shooting before he could react.

Ada, according to what I saw it would have been very easy for her to avoid hitting-

I know, Kap, she assured him. And she did. Sam was going to be a problem.

Sam fired at a soldier that had been trying to run away, catching him in the leg. She laughed when she noticed it had blown the dam thing off, leaving him screaming in pain.

Minnesota's fight with the elite soldier was still going, but Minnesota was currently at a... disadvantage. Right now, he was on the soldier's back, arms wrapped tightly around the man's neck in an attempt at strangling him. Beta was literally Iscreaming/I alarms at how close the two were getting to the edge.

At that moment, Sam noticed the fight between Minnesota and the Elite. Smiling she took careful aim, determined to make the shot count.

"Time to fly, Little Bird..."

Samantha fired. The shot went straight through the elite's chest before going out and going into Minnesota's, stopping just short of his left lung.

Then she fired a second shot, going through the elite's neck and through Minnesota's shoulder. However, as it went through, it severed the fuel supply cord of his jet pack. Samantha smiled as Minnesota struggled to stand up. The elite was dead, and Sam had one shot left.

"One shot left..." Samantha waited as everybody was busy fighting somebody, and was eventually rewarded with the 3-for-1 she had wanted. Quickly taking aim, she fired. The bullet went through a soldier's head, sending the result spraying at Nevada, where the bullet just barely grazed her visor, before it impacted Minnesota square in the chest, sending him over the edge with a now useless jet pack. North was too occupied to notice.

Sam chuckled before smiling darkly and calling for extraction.

"Oops, my bad."

Nevada growled as Sam's bullet left a distinctive graze on her visor, but her anger was interrupted by fear as she saw Minnesota go over the edge.

"Sota!" She scrambled over to the ledge, Kappa blaring warnings in her head about the status of his jet pack and their current height.

Nevada prepared to leap over the edge, use her jetpack to hasten her descent and grab Minnesota before he hit the ground. She would've, too. She didn't like losing people.

Her plan was interrupted when a soldier grabbed her arm, spun her around and punched her right in the chest.

She didn't react at all.

Kappa had activated her armour enhancement, a device that allowed kinetic energy to be absorbed and stored in the suit. The soldier didn't know this, though, only that a tiny girl had withstood a very large punch.

Nevada knew there was no way she could get to Minnesota in time now.

The rational, thinking part of her brain shut down and all she knew was rage.

Rage at Sam, but for now, these soldiers would make a decent substitute.

What few people knew about Nevada (and what Sam most certainly didn't know) was that when she got sincerely angry, she would happily beat anyone who she didn't identify as 'friend' into a bloody pulp.

She did this now, as Sam and North watched on.

The remaining soldiers didn't last long, either put to a quick, painless death by North or Nevada, a long and painful one by Sam, or they just simply jumped off the building. By the time that it was only North and Nevada left, he had already deduced what had happened. He walked up the stairs and sat on the edge of the roof, knowing full well that Sam had him in her sights. She wouldn't fire. She never did. Sometimes, that's all it took to remind North that Sam was still... human... But this?

He sighed as he waited for the pelican to come and get them.

Nevada slowly returned to her senses, Kappa whispering various comforting things into her mind.

She was distracted. Her armor was covered in bloodstains despite the fact she had sustained few injuries -besides the one Sam gave her, of course. The bullet wound was seriously hurting, and she knew it would be painful to dig the round out.

But there was something more important to worry about.

She stumbled over to the edge and looked down. She zoomed in.

"Sota..."

North put an arm around her shoulders and led her away, towards the Pelican she didn't hear land.

"Come on, Kid... It's been a long day..."

North was silently grateful that, at their height, clouds were covering their view of the ground below. He didn't want to know what would happen if either of them saw his body...

As they approached the Pelican, Sam was already comfortably seated, smiling at nothing in particular. He would have a long "chat" with her when they got back. As they entered the Pelican, North thought he saw a shimmer in the air move by him, but dismissed it as a sign of exhaustion.

The Pelican took of shortly after they entered, and the trip back to the "Mother of Invention" was relatively quiet. When they boarded, however, The Director was there to greet them, and apparently he had been speaking with Agent Illinois. When North noticed this, he knew the result was not going to be good.

"Addie," Illinois said simply, taking the younger agent in a big, sweeping hug. Sam looked like she was about to make some sort of comment, but a look from Illinois -a look reserved for people who think their children are in danger- silenced her.

Illinois wasn't Nevada's father. They just acted like he was.

The Director cleared his throat and motioned for them to separate, and while Nevada moved away, looking very numb, Illinois made sure to keep a firm hand around her shoulder.

"Well then," the Director began. "Agent North, do explain what happened."

Sam immediately turned to Nevada. "So, who's the boyfriend? He's got some interesting tastes, I'll give him that."

"Massa," Illinois said. A woman appeared from the shadows, wearing a medic's uniform as opposed to her regular Freelancer armour. "Please take Ada to the infirmary. She has been injured."

Massa led Nevada out, but when they turned a corner they stayed there. They could hear exactly what was happening. Kentucky joined them, but looked ready to cut someone.

"C'mon, Sam, just lay of-"

"It's not Sam anymore though, is it?" she laughed. "Minnesota. He used Sota, didn't he? I wonder if I can get a better nickname."

"The mission was... A setup, sir..." The Director raised an eyebrow at this, telling North to explain.

"The beacon was guarded by Insurrectionists, and CT was there. She escaped and... Agent Minnesota was killed by friendly fire-"

"He had betrayed us, sir. He could no longer be trusted and was considered expendable, so I took the shot." Sam held her poker face well, but her eyes burned with malevolence. She turned to Nevada.

"Agent Nevada managed to get shot due to her carelessness." She smiled before turning back to the Director, who was more than aware of Samantha's affinity for friendly-fire.

"That's... Unfortunate. Agents, you are dismissed. Agent Minnesota-" The Director looked at Sam, the new Agent Minnesota.

"You are to report to armor processing to receive your measurements, then you are to report for implantation surgery, am I clear?" Sam nodded, while North looked bewildered. The Director left, leaving Samantha alone with the others.

"You know damn well you don't deserve that desi-"

"I don't deserve it, North?!" North cringed as he immediately realized what he had said.

"I'm in too good of a mood to snap at you, North, so just remember that." Samantha turned to Illinois, eyes burning with some kind of sick determination.

"You... You need to get a better taste in women. One's that aren't as flat as a board." Samantha dragged her fingers across his chest plate as she walked past him, stopping when she saw Nevada.

"You should really try not getting shot, runt. Tends too hurt less. I'd say the same to your friend, but he appears to be incapable of learning that."

"Hey, new girl," Kentucky called. She placed herself between Nevada and Sam -who would only ever be Minnesota to a few people- and crossed her arms. "Where'd you think you'll be placed? Y'know, on the board."

"Higher than you," Sam replied.

"We'll see about that," Kentucky said, approaching the other woman with a glare that would've frozen most people on the spot.

A small hand on her shoulder prevented Kentucky from doing anything.

"Lying and making others look bad will only get you so far," she informed Sam. Despite the grief she was feeling and the rage that should be directed towards the other woman, she spoke calmly. "I don't know what you hope to achieve here. But whatever it is, there are better ways to reach it than what you're doing."

With that, Nevada turned on her heel and walked off. She paused for a moment, "Oh, and for the record, he's not my boyfriend. He's pretty much my dad."

As Nevada disappeared, Kentucky sent an amused glance Sam's way and jogged after her, with Massa and Illinois following them close behind leaving North and Sam alone.

Samantha disregarded what Nevada said and left to do as the Director had told her, first reporting to armor processing to pick up a new set of armor, then too the medical labs for implantation.

Most of the Freelancers were getting ready to turn in by the time her surgery was underway, but that would change. The minute the chip was placed in her neck, Samantha started literally screaming as her weak immune system was painfully bolstered by Bio-Tech implant that had been placed in her neck to strengthen her immunodeficiency along with her A.I chip.

North, who had been enjoying a coffee while having a nice conversation with York (and occasionally Delta whenever he decided to chime in with statistics) when he heard her, slightly cringing as the other Freelancers in the room turned towards the direction of the screaming, wondering what it was.

"Christ, which A.I did she get if it's causing her to scream?!" York merely shook his head.

"Well whatever A.I it is, I hope it calms her down... I don't want to be on the field and have too worry about friendly fire over regular fire." For once, Delta didn't add logic or statistics too his Agent's sentence. He knew exactly which A.I Samantha had received, as the Director had ordered Delta to run simulations to determine compatibility with the unstable woman, and only one A.I had turned up positive results...

Which was also the one A.I Delta had recommended not implanting into Samantha.

Kentucky and Nevada had been friends long before the Project began. So after the bullet had been removed and Nevada's shoulder patched up, Kentucky dragged her friend to their room sat her down on her bed, and glomped her.

"I'm so, so sorry," she cooed as her tiny friend cried silently. Nevada was never good at losing people. She could remember Jem's death all too well...

What Kentucky knew for sure was that the new girl -Sam, or whatever- was the cause of her friend's pain. She would happily fight for her. Illinois, Massa, New Jersey and a few others would too. Sam had made more than a few enemies today.

When a scream pierced the quiet of the halls, Kentucky just hugged Nevada tighter and grinned. She deserved whatever she got.

Hours later, when most of the Freelancers had fallen asleep, Samantha was unsteadily wandering the halls. Blood that had trailed down her neck was now dry. She was wobbly on her feet, and if things went her way, the medic wouldn't notice she was gone until shift change. She tumbled again, catching herself on her door. Quickly opening it, she entered and collapsed onto her knees, doubled over in pain.

Her head was filled with... with voices. None of which were her own,but there were voices. Thousands of voices, promising greater power or salvation. She cringed as they all raised their voices at one time, causing her to claw at the metal floor.

"Get out of my head! GET OUT!" Samantha writhed on the floor, clawing at her head in a futile attempt to silence the army of voices. This continued until finally, they stopped, and Samantha was breathing hard on the floor. In her mind, she could feel- literally feel- something or someone's presence. It felt... comforting, like a long time friend. She wanted to approach it and bathe in that feeling, but at the same time, the presence felt... Corrupting. It felt... wrong, like some sort of evil, twisted demon. Samantha cried out as her head pounded. Black started crawling into her vision from the pain, and it wouldn't be long until she was out.

"What... What are you?"

Iam Zeta. Your new best friend.

Agents Massa, Kentucky, Illinois, and Nevada belong to Ayane458

Agent Minnesota and Samantha Paladray belong to Me

All other characters belong to and are copyright of RoosterTeeth Productions