Authors Note; Sorry if the pacing is a little off, I had originally intended for this to be a one-shot but once I had finished it I felt like it was a little too long for that so I split it up into two chapters at the best pause I could find.
The sunlight shone around him like an aura, and glinted off his golden brown hair. Then he smiled down at her, until now Sgt. Calhoun of Hero's Duty saw the short little man only as a necessary annoyance, since he refused to be left behind. But there was something about the entirely unconventional way that he had just saved them both from the nes-quik sand that stirred something in the stone cold sergeant that she could not quite place. They were carried up to safe ground, or in this case a branch made of candy, like everything else in this ridiculous place.
He had big expressive eyebrows, and bright, sparkling eyes. Calhoune noted the curve of his flushed cheek and wondered what was making him blush so. They were once again on sure footing but instead of moving ahead with the mission, the good sergeant found herself strangely entranced by that endearing smile of his.
Then her gaze shifted behind his head to the vines of taffy. What the fun were they doing? Singing? She looked around to see the heart they were forming around the pair. It made her painfully aware of feelings that she usually worked very hard to suppress.
"Ugh." then she did what she usually did, suppressed them harder and then shot something, in this case the air. BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM she fired four angry rounds up above her head. "Alright enough with the goo goo eyes we've got work to do, let's go." she marched back to solid ground and pulled out her bug sensor, looking down at it she groaned, "we lost the cybug, come on we'll get a better view from the air," she gestured behind her and looked back at Felix, "you think you can fix that shuttle?"
"Can do," Calhoun allowed herself the smallest of smiles at Felix's self-assured answer. She then buried it under a scowl of concentration as she marched toward the fallen escape pod.
When they reached the shuttle the sergeant let out an irritated sigh, "this thing is like a rain slicked mountain after a mud slide, I'm sure it's going to take a while to fix."
"I wouldn't be too sure on that one ma'am." Felix grinned confidently with his hammer at the ready. As he got to work, Calhoun could hardly believe her eyes. She had seen what the hammer had done for his face and that was miraculous enough, but what would have taken her engineers a few days to complete, Felix fixed in a few seconds. He had never seen this shuttle or it's schematics before yet he brought it back to perfect working order maybe even better than her engineers could have.
"Well," Calhoun began inspecting the escape pod, "you do good work Short-stack," she said, impressed.
Felix smiled "well fixing is my middle name... or rather my last name, heh. Fix-it that is, not fixing that would be a weird last name wouldn't it? Oh jiminy-jaminy I'm rambling aren't I?"
Calhoun was climbing up into the cockpit, "uh, huh" she looked over at the short repairman with a raised eyebrow, "are you coming or what?"
"Oh! Right, of course!" he hopped up with an audible BLING and landed right next to Calhoun in the one seat shuttle.
The sergeant placed her cybug sensor on the dashboard and locked it into place. With a mechanical roar she started up the engine and took of into the air. The pair rose high up above the brightly colored landscape and rocketed of in a random direction since the sensor still wasn't giving any readings. They flew in silence for a short while. As they traveled, the expression on the handyman's face got dopier and dopier. Calhoun could guess what this must mean, she wasn't stupid. A small part of her actually liked the attention but she certainly wasn't willing to address the issue, not directly.
"Your face is still red, you might want to hit it with your hammer," she commented.
"Oh that's not blunt force trauma, Ma'am. That's just the honey glow in my cheeks." Felix leaned forward slightly as he spoke.
"Okay," maybe she shouldn't have said anything at all, she really didn't want to have this conversation.
"Ma'am I just gotta tell you... you're one dynamite gal"
Dynamite gal. The words echoed in the darkest, most pain filled corners of her code, the same corners that she tried so hard to keep guarded. Normally she was fairly successful but for some reason the pint-sized handyman was able to breach the wall she put up.
This was not okay.
Calhoun banked hard to the right and landed in a patch of sugary forest that surrounded what looked like a large castle. She hit the lever to open the hatch, "GET OUT!" she barked.
Alarmed and confused Felix responded, "all I said was you're a dynamite gal."
"I said get out!" her voice cracked, she hated to hear the sound of it, hear the weakness in it.
Felix hopped out of the shuttle and turned to say something else, but she hit the lever again to close the hatch. She couldn't risk lowering her guard and letting him back in, which she just might if she let him continue speaking.
She sped off, up into the air again and hit the throttle like a flyaway baseball hitting a stained glass window. The sergeant scowled down at the sensor as if she could force it to read a signal by sheer force of will.
She'd just have to circle around in a search pattern until something showed up. This could be a long day. Calhoun tried to focus on the task at hand but she found her mind drifting back to Felix. She had not handled that situation as well as she could have. He did not deserve so harsh a rejection, but she had panicked, and panicking was not a reaction she was accustomed to. She coped with it poorly, she was ashamed to admit, and as a soldier of her station she should have done much better.
Especially since he had been so courageous in the face of this whole catastrophe. He had barely flinched when they first met, even when she'd had the barrel of her rifle up his nose. She smiled at the memory. Then he'd said her face was amazing. She didn't want to admit that she'd liked it but she did. That was the most frustrating thing about this whole situation. Since she had lost Brad... well, she couldn't take the risk of letting anyone in again, even if Felix did cut a heroic figure.
A beep from the dashboard interrupted her internal struggle. "There you are!" she snarled and banked to land in the middle of a field of what looked like licorice of all things. Sgt. Tamora Jean Calhoun of Hero's Duty dropped down into the waist high stalks of theater candy after swiping the cybug sensor from the dashboard. She was all business as she prowled towards the indicative dot on the screen in her hand. She pulled out her side-arm and continued forward, her emerald eyes carefully scanning the landscape.
"Come on, I know you're out there" she looked back down at her sensor, it should be right in front of her. The signal abruptly dropped out, leaving her as lost as before. With a frustrated snarl she whacked the device a few times. "Saccharine-saturated nightmare." she was getting far too fed up with this sickly sweet game.
In response to her "technical tap" the cybug sensor flared to life with multiple readings densely packed in the immediate vicinity. She quickly surveyed the area, gun at the ready, but nothing could be seen. "But... where?" There was a rumble beneath her feet and a sudden sinking sensation then the ground simply gave way.
Calhoun scrambled for something to hold onto and found sanctuary in a licorice vine. She looked down to be confronted with a horrifying display. Sickening rage bubbled up in the sergeants throat. "Doomsday and Armageddon just had a baby and it is ugly," she snarled to herself.
There were too many of the deplorable monstrous cybug eggs she couldn't fight these things alone. If they had been back in her game all she would have had to do was fire up the beacon and they would destroy themselves.
But that wasn't and option here, and without it there was nothing she could really do. She had brief flashback to another time when she was powerless to save someone, to the day that should have been the happiest of her life, but had instead ended in an empty ammo belt from her Gatling gun. She involuntarily thought of Felix and felt her heart rise up in her throat and her vision grew wet and blurry.
She would not let that happen... ever again. She swallowed hard and blinked away her tears and heaved herself back up to the surface. She may not be able to save this game but she could save it's people if she could evacuate them in time. And get that pint-sized fool back to his game where he would be safe. Then she'd blow this whole flying place up beyond all recognition and take every last stinking cybug with it.
She rushed back to the shuttle and sped off to the one place she was most likely to find the civilians of this game, the race's starting line. She just hoped she wasn't too late.