Red vs. Blue The Freelancer Archives
Episode Two: Meet and Greet
The Rookie had left the Turtle with Girlie and Archer at least an hour ago. Wherever they were going was obviously secretive if the Turtle had to be left miles and miles away. But he didn't complain, he just sat alongside his two allies as the small motorboat blasted across the ocean. An Insurrection soldier had been steering the motor, Girlie was standing at the front with her helmet on and looking for land. Archer and Rookie sat across from each other seated on the floor of the boat.
'What the hell do you want?' asked Archer.
The Rookie hadn't realised he'd been staring at him.
'What? Huh, oh, ah nothing. Sorry.'
'Well quit staring, you're freaking me out.' Archer said.
'Would you guys quit it!' interrupted Girlie. 'We'll be there soon.'
About three hours before they'd left the Turtle the Insurrection named 'Sleeves' had departed. Rookie hadn't seen Sleeves yet, but apparently he was the biggest and deadliest of the Insurrection. Thinking of the future and what it might have in store for him he laid his head back and shut his eyes. All his energy left his body as he noticed sleep had come for him.
The boat rocked violently and woke the Rookie up. He panicked before realizing that meeting with this Insurrection wasn't a dream. He had also forgotten that he had changed armor. He recalled wearing the greens and greys of the UNSC, now he was wearing the same armor as Archer and Girlie. He wore armor with a red primary and black secondary. An ODST helmet covered his head.
Looking around him he noticed that the boat had come to a stop. It had docked at a pier off a large abandoned shipyard. This must have been the 'Longshore' that Girlie had spoken of on the Turtle.
A meeting party arrived to greet the Insurrectionists. There were three more of the average Insurrection soldiers, among them three more leaders dressed in red and black. The first was tallish and wielded a shotgun. A bandolier with shotgun shells crossed his chest. The second was the same size as Girlie and seemed to wield similar blades to her. The third was a large and muscular leader, he had thinner and sleeveless armor.
Rookie remembered Girlie explaining that each of the Insurrection leaders had a rank. Girlie was number three, Archer was number five. She had also said that if the single head of the Insurrection accepted the Rookie, then he would be number twenty.
'Is this him?' asked the man in the middle, the one armed with the shotgun.
'Yes Red ,this is him. You think I'd bring a random to our base?' Girlie replied smugly.
'Don't push me, Girlie. The boss wants to see him.'
He held out his hand for Girlie and pulled her out, Red then did the same for Archer. When it came to the Rookie's turn he simply refused to offer and hand and made the new recruit crawl out on his own.
'So what should we call you?' asked the large sleeveless man.
'Call me Rookie.'
'Okay, I'm Sleeves.'
Rookie strolled behind as Red led Girlie, Sleeves and the other soldiers away. The second of the welcome party stayed behind and waited for Rookie to pass. As he did the man swung his arm around the Rookie's neck.
'So Rookie, right?'
'Yeah, what should I call you?'
'Call me Blades.' He said as he began walking.
'What's your rank, Blades?' Rookie spoke as if making fun of his name.
'One a lot higher than yours. Number seven. Sleeves, he's six. And Red, well he's number three.'
Blades pushed Rookie forward and nearly made him trip. Girlie turned around and broke her conversation with Red.
'Hey hurry up, we ain't got all day!'
As the two (Blades and Rookie) began walking again Blades cut in, whispering. 'And Girlie? She's my Girlie, so if I catch you making goo-goo eyes at my girl again, I'll cut your balls off.'
'Goo-goo eyes? Not me.'
'Bull.' Spat the man Blades.
Entering one of the warehouses they passed more soldiers. The warehouse was poorly lit but Rookie, turning to his left, noticed a small symbol on Blades' chest. He remembered seeing that Girlie had a pair of lips within a heart. What was Blades'?
He sped up a little and looked back towards Blades and noticed a Spartan Helmet over the top of two medieval swords, the image painted onto his chest plate. In front of him Red, Sleeves, Archer and Girlie all turned at once to see how far away Rookie was. Red had a black skull with a red crossbones in the background, Sleeves a black hourglass shape with a red fist in the foreground and Archer a red arrow sticking out of a black target.
Soon the warehouse row came to a close. Rookie began to wonder what kinds of things had been concealed within all the wooden crates that lined the warehouse's walls. At the back was a throne, one made entirely out of discarded crates. Another red and black leader sat atop it. To his left another pile of crates shaped more like a mountain than a throne, but seated high atop that was another Insurrection leader.
Atop the mountain of crates sat an Insurrectionist with a black crosshair on his chest. A sniper's visor shielded the front of his ODST helmet, and a Sniper Rifle sat in his hands. The man seated within the chair had a black Eagle's head with a red eye and red star painted on it located on his chest.
'So you're the one she chose.' Said the man on the throne.
'Yeah, Rookie. What should I call you?'
He sat back. 'I go by many names. I go by leader, king, boss-man, Crowe.'
'Crowe suits you.' Rookie judged.
A click was heard to the Rookie's right, as he looked in that direction the perched sniper loaded his rifle.
'Deadshot, back off.' Ordered Crowe.
The sniper nodded and placed the rifle beside him on the piles of crates. Deadshot and Crowe.
'What do you want with me?' Rookie asked at last.
'Help,' the leader began. 'You are the key to our victory against the Covenant in this war. It grows tiresome, this war I mean, and we lose more people than we bring into this world. The UNSC try their hardest to fight against the aliens but fail time and time again. Its branches have all broken off and begun fighting the war their own ways. Unity is what we need to win, the UNSC can win the war but only if its branches unite. We've already lost two of the UNSC's strongest branches of military: Shadow Corps and Phoenix Clan. We tried to unite but we failed. So we're taking advantage of this segregation and finding a new way.'
Rookie was so confused, he could barely understand the situation at all.
'I know this is hard for you to take in, but we need your help. We will be your family. We can get you to fight the war sooner at no cost to you–'
The large metal doors of the warehouse screeched open. Rookie had barely noticed they'd even closed, but now they announced their openings quite horrifically. All turned and about fourteen or fifteen Insurrection soldiers entered. Most were covered in blood and others carried in wounded allies on stretchers or over their shoulders. Entering through the centre of the door were three more leaders. The first, a man with a pill symbol on his chest. Beside him on his left and right were an Insurrectionist with a crossbow with a black arrow-tail printed on his chest. On the other side a massive Insurrectionist with heavier armor plating, a row of sharp teeth painted on his ODST helmet and a large flamethrower in his hands. A symbol of a flaming hand in the 'Rock' gesture on his chest.
'Bowman, Hawke, Sharkface. What is wrong?' a concerned Crowe said standing up from his throne. Deadshot leapt from his piles of crates, somewhat startled by the number of dead and dying soldiers in his presence.
'The Covenant, Crowe.' Began the man in the middle with the pill on his chest. 'They've taken the Western Fort. We barely managed to make it back.'
'Hawke, he's number two.' Whispered Archer to Rookie.
That meant that Bowman was likely the Insurrectionist with crossbow and the flamethrower soldier was likely Sharkface.
'Deadshot is number eight, Bowman is number nine and Sharkface is ten.' Archer continued.
'Will you shut up!' Rookie jumped. 'We've got other things to worry about.'
Suddenly the warehouse suddenly fell quiet, the groans and moans of the wounded shut up too. The leader stepped towards Rookie, stunned.
'We? We have got other things to worry about?' Crowe turned to Girlie. 'He's perfect.'
Mother of Invention
The locker room was silver, just like everything else in the ship other than the bridge (which felt black) and the docking bay (which felt grey). Lockers lined in rows and American state names were engraved in small metallic plates on the doors. There should have been fifty but one was missing from one of the rows.
Which one was it? Rhode thought to himself. Then he noticed that one of the lockers was marked 'Carolina', not north nor south. 49 states. Rhode wondered why there was only one Carolina. Looking around he had noticed a North and South Carolina, and a Virginia and West Virginia – but why only one Carolina?
When the others entered he asked Carolina, 'Hey Carolina, why is there only one of you?'
She turned, confused. 'I don't follow.'
'Well there's a Virginia and West Virginia, but there isn't a North or South Carolina. Only one single Carolina.'
Carolina turned around and stared at York for a moment, as if she knew something.
'Carolina?' Rhode continued. 'Do you know something?'
She stuttered, Carolina didn't want the others to know the truth. She'd already told York on Reach but she didn't want everyone to know. What if they thought the Director would favor her?
'I- I, uh. I'm the Director's daughter.' She said at last.
'Oh cool.' Utah spoke.
'But that doesn't explain it.' Said Alaska. 'Why is there only one then?'
The question stunned her.
'I don't really know. I was born in South Carolina and my father was born in North Carolina. Maybe that's the significance.' Carolina concluded.
'Well whatever it is, it doesn't matter.' Wyoming said as he entered. His British accent catching the others off guard. Oddly Alaska's accent didn't feel so jarring to hear.
'Yeah, Wyoming does have a point. What's in the lockers?' Utah asked.
The agents spread out in search of their lockers.
'It's in chronological order!' Iowa pointed out as he found his locker first.
Inside was a piece of paper, a small ten by ten centimeter white square. Printed on it was a small image, a symbol.
'What's this?' he asked to himself out loud.
Virginia continued looking around. 'What have you got there?' he asked Iowa.
'My emblem.' He stared at it for a few moments. 'A black ninja's head on a golden flame.'
'A black ninja?' York seemed oddly confused. 'I thought ninjas were Asian.'
'The symbol is black, Jesus York.' Iowa laughed.
One by one the other Agents looked into their lockers and searched for their corresponding emblems.
'A cyan hawk.' Carolina was next. 'Holding a lightning bolt in one foot and three arrows in the other.'
'A cyan skull on a cobalt criss-cross.' Rhode was the next to find his image.
'Huh,' a sigh of disappointment from Utah. 'A yellow shield within a grey hollow hexagon inside another solid brown pentagon.'
'Wow, I have an dark olive colored Lion with a brown mane.' Virginia spoke.
Then Alaska found hers. 'A cyan lightning bolt with cobalt outlines on some kind of grey or black arrow thing. Looks like the energy symbol.'
Iowa left his locker and searched for York's. He had taken a liking to the guy, he seemed kind and funny a bit like how Rhode acted around the other male agents.
'A diamond.' Wyoming said.
'Any particular kind of diamond?' Iowa asked on his way to see York.
'Yeah a pointy one. It has a white upper half and black lower half.' Wyoming also seemed disappointed by his assigned emblem.
Iowa reached York at the same time as Carolina. The khaki colored soldier picked up his small sheet of paper just as they arrived. A brown boot with black laces, on a grey oddly shaped background.
'Do these symbols mean anything?' asked the Australian Agent Nevada.
'Dunno,' York replied. 'What's on yours?'
'A white ancient Spartan's helmet with the brown feather brush on top. It's on a blue diamond background.'
York thought for a moment. 'Means nothing to me. Any ideas?'
'Well, I'm kind of a ninja.' Said Iowa.
York chuckled, 'Yeah right. Sure you are.'
'I have a shield.' Utah continued. 'Am I good at defending myself?' his voice came from the next row of lockers.
'Nope, they mean shit.' Rhode concluded.
Once the Agents had settled into their locker bays and filled it with their luggage they packed (what little of it they had been allowed to bring), they met in the centre of the locker room and began to relax a little. Their social life was suddenly interrupted by a booming female voice.
'Good morning Agents, I assume you are fitting in quite well?'
It was F.I.L.S.S. the Mother of Invention's personal artificial intelligence.
'Everything's going cool, F.I.L.S.S..' Said York.
The group sat back on the benches that ran in between the rows of lockers. Rhode lay on his back while Wyoming sat on the ground with his back against another locker. Others stood against the walls and others sat on the benches. They were all quite bored. For a military program promising them infinite possibilities, they had provided not a single one just yet.
'If you are not having fun, I can always come up with solutions.' F.I.L.S.S. continued.
Virginia laughed. 'Well this'll be a laugh.'
'Our facilities around the Galaxy have several warehouses and training rooms, however none can match the awesome size and top-of-technology used in the creation of the room right here in the Mother of Invention.' She suggested.
'Tell us about the training room, F.I.L.S.S..' Carolina opted.
'Our training scenarios come with many customizable skirmishes for teams to take part in. We offer a series of categories and battle types such as Capture the Flag, Hand-to-Hand Combat, Paintball, Domination and Last Man Standing. These are just five of the forty game types we have stored. I can schedule a match to begin sometime soon at your request.'
There was a quietness in the locker room. 'Anyone up for a fight?' asked Alaska.
Without answer all of the Agents jumped from their spots and left the room. The Mother of Invention's first official training session would begin.
Training Room, Mother of Invention 1300 Hours
'A new challenger has arrived. Today's match-up is agents Carolina, Nevada and Virginia versus agents Wyoming, York and Rhode.' Spoke F.I.L.S.S.
As Utah wandered into the Observation Deck he familiarized himself with his surroundings. There was a black electronic screen set up to display the training scores. There was a long row of windows which looked down on the agents below. Looking out through the glass was Iowa and Alaska.
'Beginning hand-to-hand combat. Round begins in three, two, one, begin.' Announced F.I.L.S.S.
At one end of the empty space arena below stood York, Rhode and Wyoming. The three stood in a triangle with Agent Rhode in the front. At the other end stood agents Carolina, Virginia and Nevada who began to split up and make their way around the outside of the arena.
Carolina had stayed where she started as Nevada and Virginia circled around. Rhode led the charge with his three agents in Team Two in a sprint towards Agent Carolina. Rhode threw the first punch, his fist caught by Carolina. She ducked as Wyoming tried to kick at her head. York threw the next punch but his attack was blocked by her raised arms.
Caught off guard and completely distracted by Carolina, Nevada and Virginia (who had now outflanked Team Two) ran in. Nevada struck first kicking the back of York's knee and making him collapse. Virginia simply swung the palm of his hand at the left side of Wyoming's helmet. Wyoming felon his side. Wyoming was out.
Nevada booted the back of York's head and threw him into the ground next. York was out. The rules to hand-to-hand combat were simple. Once completely on the ground, that player was out of the round. Luckily for the near defeated Team Two only one round of Hand-to-Hand was placed in the schedule.
Rhode swung his right fist towards Carolina's head and expecting her to duck continued to spin around behind him. Carolina ducked, and Rhode's fist collided with Nevada's chest. Nevada, winded, fell back and struggling to stand collapsed onto his back. Nevada was out.
At this stage it was just Rhode against Virginia and Carolina. Then she did it, the awesomest jump-kick move that Agent Utah had ever seen. She leapt upwards and in a back flip kicked Rhode in an uppercut. Rhode too fell into a back flip, though his was uncontrolled and he collapsed head first into the ground. Rhode was out.
'Round One over. Hand-to-Hand Combat Training, complete. Point awarded to Team One. The Current Score is Team One: 1. Team Two: 0.'
Up in the Observation deck all the agents were stunned. None had realised how each other had fought. Considering all they had done is talked it was normal to assume that each one was as skilled as each other – but they were crazy wrong. Agent Carolina was a beast.
York had begun panting, the battle had been intense. He wondered if the agents in the Observation Deck could feel the intensity that they had been feeling. One thing was for certain, he was glad there was only going to be one hand-to-hand combat exercise. He hoped that the six Lockdown Paint Scenario exercises were going to spin in Team Two's favor. York looked back and saw Team One had returned to their side of the arena too. Then his vision became blocked when large vertical rectangular pillars arose from the ground in the centre of the arena. Cover.
'Now resetting for Lockdown Paint Scenario.' Spoke F.I.L.S.S.
At each end of the arena Iowa noticed a table ascend from the floor. Rested on each table was an assortment of ranged weaponry. From the angel he was standing, Iowa could tell that each of the weapon had been minimally customized and altered not to receive ammunition but to take something else.
From the observation room above Iowa, Alaska and Utah could see everything. They could see that all six of the agents below had grabbed standard issue handguns.
'Round Two, in three… two… one. Round begin.'
Each agent hid behind the pillar that was closest to them, none were eager to move unless it could be assured they would not be hit. F.I.L.S.S. had told them it was a paintball scenario, yet still the agents feared getting hit. Paint wouldn't hurt, especially if it hit the armor.
'Why are they so worried?' asked Utah.
'It'd be suicide to move out of cover, any second you're out of cover everyone can see you.' Iowa clarified.
'I know, but it's not like they want to get hurt.'
'Non, but it would be a tactical disadvantage.' Spoke Alaska.
All the agents in the observation deck turned to her.
'The round ends once all three are out, point goes to the team left standing.'
Below Team One had begun moving out of cover. Carolina began moving forward, and Nevada beside her. Virginia stood back in the open and covered them. Team One received no resistance. On the other side of the map York dove out of cover before sliding behind another pillar to his right. From above it looked as though they were trying to outflank Team One.
'York, you there bro?' whispered Rhode.
'Yeah, any ideas?' York replied with no knowledge of where his ally was.
'No, have you seen Wyoming?'
'I thought he was with you.'
'Shit.' Rhode cursed. 'No he moved forward and inwards to the left.'
A few clicks were heard, as if from a silenced pistol. Interested York called back for Rhode.
'Rhodey, was that Wyoming?'
'Rhodey? Was Wyoming hit?'
'Uh oh.' York said as he broke from cover and sprinted forwards.
The second he moved Agent Nevada entered where York had just left and began firing at him. But York was too quick. He took cover again behind a pillar. He couldn't tell where he'd left Nevada, or where Virginia and Carolina were hiding. He'd lost his bearings when he began to move out. He peeked his head around a corner. No Wyoming.
He peeked his head around the other corner to the left of the pillar. There was Rhodey, he seemed to be frozen or paralyzed. He had dropped his gun and appeared to be cowering, shielding his helmet with his hands. A large blob of pink slime surrounded his arms and had solidified. But why was he paranoid?
He turned the other direction, to the right again to look for Wyoming.
Bam! York felt himself fly backwards as the heavy paintball hit his helmet. The paint oozed and covered the visor of his helmet. It was so cold, violent electrical currents seemed to course through his face where it impacted. And a second later the shocks had ceased. York wanted to rub his face, clear the paint. But he couldn't his mind wanted him to but his body had become numbed and wouldn't move. He couldn't move.
More clicks, and Wyoming heard them all. It was obvious that the guns they were firing weren't silenced, they weren't the right models. Handguns didn't come equipped with silencers. Two sets of clicks, two allies down.
Wyoming hid behind the pillar, watching the motion sensor in his helmet's Heads-Up-Display. Nothing. It was likely that F.I.L.S.S. had blocked the use of motion sensor's in training. So he listened for footsteps. Nothing. A few seconds earlier he had heard footsteps running, then silence followed by the second set of clicks and a deep groan.
Wyoming had watched as Rhode was hit, but he hadn't stayed behind to watch what happened to him. How had the Director ensured those who were hit remained out of play? More footsteps. Heavy, limping. Likely Virginia's, he had a solid build and being cooped up in that cell for six months likely caused all kinds of bodily problems.
Wyoming considered for a moment firing blindly around the side of the pillar, but it was likely that Team One didn't know his position. So instead he stopped crouching, placed his left hand atop the pillar and vaulted over the top. He was sure he'd made no sound.
The fact was though, he had. Immediately Virginia and Carolina, who had turned away, swiveled and looked at him. Wyoming managed to fire one blast from the handgun before his left hand was hit. He fell to the ground, but on two feet. He fired one more from his right hand. Two more shots, this time from Virginia hit his helmet.
Wyoming used his left hand, coating in a cold and sticky ooze to pull his helmet off. Pair seared his skin, it's was cold but left his nerves burning. He wanted so bad to chop his hand off but understand he could be in shock, or just delirious. His left up began to seize up from the elbow downwards. With his helmet off all the other agents (aside from York and Rhode) could see his face. His stubby yet large brown moustache, thick brown hair. He fired two, then three more shots from his handgun, all barely missing Virginia's torso. In that same second Carolina fired.
The paint wrapped itself around Wyoming's neck forcing him to choke. It was so cold, and he couldn't breathe. But the paint was short as his body seized up and F.I.L.S.S.' voice, like God's, boomed throughout the arena.
'Point Team One. Having 2 rounds, the score is now: 0, 2 advantage Team One.'
A light 'psshhhhh' could be heard. From the ceiling, the four corners of the room a white mist began billowing out like steam from a kettle. Wyoming felt the paint crystallize, becoming lighter as it came into contact with the gasses. The paint cracked, and fell to the ground before forming into a liquid and evaporating.
Rhode felt the effects of the gas arrive and wear off instantly. He felt so much lighter, and his muscles stopped straining. He began to follow York to the table when Wyoming approached them. A large purple bruise had already formed across the length of his neck. His helmet was under his arm. Why did he have to take off his helmet, Rhode wondered.
Wyoming dropped to his knees.
'Shit, you alright?' Rhode asked, running to his aid.
'Sorry chaps. But it looks like you'll have to sub me out. I- I'll…'
'Say no more.' York laughed. He turned to the Observation Deck and called up, 'Hey Iowa! Get down here, you're subbing for Wyoming.'
He saw Iowa salute before disappearing from the window.
Minutes later the two had swapped positions. Iowa presumed that Wyoming was being tended to be a medical team in the Observation Room. Below, Iowa was going to join York and Rhode in Team Two. The score was Carolina's team with two points and York's with none.
'A new challenger has arrived. Agent Wyoming is being subbed out for Agent Iowa. Point deduction granted to Team Two.' F.I.L.S.S. announced.
Rhode celebrated. 'Alright! Now we're only one behind.'
In return York slapped his forehead (or what would have been his forehead had he'd not been wearing a helmet.)
'No, we are being deducted. It's now 2 to 0 you moron.'
'No,' Rhode thought confused. 'I'm pretty sure we're being granted it.'
F.I.L.S.S. interrupted the conversation. 'The scores are now 0, 3. Advantage Team One. Round three begins in five… four… three… two… one! Round begin!'
Iowa hadn't even realised he'd picked up his armaments, around him York and Rhode had done the same. The three sat in cover and waited, listening in for a sound to show that they were being hunted.
On the other side of the battlefield Carolina was coordinating her men.
'Virginia I want you to move up through the middle.' She said and Virginia nodded. 'Nevada, I want you to circle around the left but not along the boundaries. You'll cover Virginia if it's needed. You'll be exposed but I'll be circling around the left on the outside providing cover fire for you.' Nevada then nodded too.
In a second the three parted ways heading their unique directions. Carolina was proud of her men, they were responsive and subordinate. She just hoped they would carry their loyalty into the battlefield. First impressions meant everything to her, and they had impressed.
Making her way around the perimeter she tried to be as quiet as possible. The positive about having light armor and being thin in her build, she was quiet. Every few seconds she would lose sight of Nevada as he slipped into cover. Every few seconds she would catch a glimpse of Virginia who was slowly maneuvering his way through the centre of the arena.
She was halted.
A click told her that a gun was being pointed at the back of her head. She stopped thinking quickly about her next approach to the situation. She couldn't cover her men like this, she was being suppressed.
'Shit! Oh Caro–' Nevada's voice. Silenced by the ping of paint hitting armor.
Could she swing back and knock the gun from his hands? No, surely whoever it was would deflect the attack and use it to their advantage. There had to be a better option, but what was it? There was no time left to think.
'Nevada? Nevada where's the cover!' she could hear Virginia yell. 'Nevada! Carolina! Where the hell ar–' and then he was shot.
There was no time left. There was no reason for her to be kept alive. Was it York? She swiveled on her back foot and launched a fist in her captors general direction. But the man stepped back. Agent Iowa continued to aim the gun at her and pulled the trigger. It clicked, as if it were empty on ammunition. The delay was something she could take advantage of.
She lifted her right leg and tried to kick him in the face but again he jumped back. Iowa had agility similar to her. Iowa desperately hit his gun. It had jammed and the paint wasn't being fired. Carolina pulled the handgun forward to face him. As if in slow motion, Iowa looked up from his gun and she could imagine that beyond his visor his eyes had widened and his jaw was dropping. She pulled down on the trigger hard and fast. The paint pellet his Iowa in the chest and knocked him on the ground. He was paralyzed.
Behind her she heard York and Rhode celebrate.
'Wooh! Point to us!'
They obviously assumed that the shot that Carolina had fired must have come from Iowa. That she had lost. They were wrong.
Back at the ammunition table the two celebrated. York was fist pumping and facing away from her towards Rhode. Rhode however, was facing her. She watched. Rhode noticed her and was about to grab York's attention when she fired and hit Rhode in the knee. The blast knocked him back. York in shock and surprise turned next. He was the next to fall.
One shot hit him in the left ankle, another in the left hip and a third on his right shoulder. The space marine froze standing upright.
'Point Team One. Having 3 rounds, the score is now: 0, 4. Advantage: Team One.'
Again the hiss of the paint removal steam filled the arena. The Agents were wounded but managed to climb up and take their positions at the arms tables again. Back at her table she met with Nevada and Virginia.
'What the hell happened?' asked Nevada frustrated.
'I got clipped.'
'You? You got clipped? But how? You said the whole thing was flawless.'
'When did I say that?'
'Right after you… oh, well I guess you didn't.' Nevada said embarrassed.
'Come on guys. Let's just take this again. Who cares if we got hit? We won the point.' Virginia announced.
The three loaded up again on paintball pellets. The round would bring Carolina's team a total of five points. Wyoming was going to arrange for it to be first to fifteen, but Carolina assumed that after another two victories York and Rhode would likely give up. But Iowa, Iowa was something else entirely. He was an elite fighter.
By the time F.I.L.S.S. had started the round Iowa had already come up with his next plan. He had suggested that all three of them outflank around the right side of the arena. It was a ridiculous move but would likely work. The three would make their way towards the enemy team's ammunition table and outflank them as they pushed their way forward. Rhode loved it, an abstract idea that could be manipulated for success. And York just wanted a change of plans, one that wouldn't let him get shot.
While he had ultimately failed in shooting Carolina, he still proved himself. There would be no worry, there would be no hesitation. Agent Iowa would win the team their game. The round had started and it was time to show his honor.
The three began to move around the outside of arena. They kept pillar weaving to a minimum. The longer the periods of times that they could see each other, the more they could ensure that they wouldn't lose sight of each other. Covering the man in front of you was an essential part of victory.
Gunfire broke out, oddly none of the paint pellets had come from his own men. Odder still, the pellets were fired and impacted away from the men. Carolina must've been getting edgy, she would let her guard down and allow for York's team to strike.
'Psst,' whispered York. 'I think we've got them.'
Before Iowa or Rhode could answer another voice was heard. 'You think so?' it was much more harsh and deep. It was Virginia's.
York turned and hit Virginia in the arm with a paint pellet. Carolina threw a punch and knocked Rhode over before fire but missing him. Nevada must have been trying to forge a distraction. Unfortunately it had worked. While Virginia had been shot, he was not out of the competition. He managed to push through the pain and fire his gun from his left arm.
Iowa was shocked that the rules weren't based around one shot one kill. A firefight broke out in front of him as Nevada arrived. As far as he had seen, none had been knocked down yet. Then Carolina turned to him, charging and squeezing the trigger. Two pellets missed. Iowa managed to fire off one before Carolina punched the magnum out of him hand. The shot had missed.
In return Iowa grabbed Carolina's right arm, instinctively she reacted by straightening it. This left both her elbow and ribcage unguarded. If Carolina was a real enemy, Iowa would be forced to snap her arm by shattering her elbow. But Carolina was the enemy, and Iowa knew the difference between his enemies and his friends. So he punched an uppercut to her ribcage. She dropped the handgun.
Someone this had changed from a paintball scenario back to a hand to hand combat war-game. Carolina threw a punch, but Iowa merely caught it in his right palm and used his left hand to push her right past him. The momentum she had gathered from the charge tripped her when she realised she hadn't actually hit him at all.
As Iowa turned to pick up the gun arms tightened around his neck and torso. This suppressed both of his arms as well. Carolina had moved and begun holding him in a headlock. Like a child, Iowa stopped using the muscles in his knees and dropped to the ground. Carolina couldn't hold him, she was light but this meant she wasn't strong.
In a fashion he'd learned at school he spun on his back, as if break dancing, and kicked her off her feet. Both were on the ground and crawling for the gun. Desperate to win. Desperate to survive. With each meter they pulled their bodies closer to the gun a punch would be delivered and a punch would make contact. As they crawled Iowa would hit Carolina, usually on top of the helmet if the blow was landed successfully.
He slid forward and picked up the gun before firing one pellet up at Carolina who had just lunged on him. She dodged it, and in doing so was forced to give up on her aggressive strategy. Instead she grabbed the nozzle of the gun with her left hand and caught Iowa's finger with her right and squeezed until he let go. She grabbed both of his shoulders and he spun around to see Agent Rhode aiming a gun at Carolina. Then he realised that he was the human shield. Rhode fired a blast before realizing what he was doing. The paint pellet hit Iowa's right hip.
The paint stung like a bitch.
Carolina then yanked the gun free from Iowa's hand, from the crippled fingers. And fired that gun a few times at Rhode. One of the pellets hit him in the right side of the helmet. It blinded half of his visor, but he could still see. Like himself and Virginia, he could still move despite the effects of the paint. Iowa pulled forward his arm before elbowing Carolina in the gut. She gagged, winded, the gun flying across the battlefield. Both fell to the ground, weakened. They were back where they had just been seconds before.
In a moment of adrenalin Iowa leapt forward and caught the handgun before standing up. He aimed the gun at her. – but he hadn't realised he had been hesitating. To him, he was victorious and he needed to cherish the moment and bask in the glory. She got to her knees and stood upright holding her hands above her head.
What should he say? Should he say: not this time, as he fired shots at her? Or maybe no mercy for the weak, or would that be a little dark. Crack! Iowa lost his balance and fell forward. He was so dizzy he'd begun to hallucinate and felt as though he was falling forever before finally landing in a dark pit. His face felt numbed and pained. Had he fallen into a meat locker? The next thing he noticed was the overwhelming coldness and then a voice. A male's. An Australian's.
'Sorry 'bout that youngfella.' The voice chuckled.
An ear piercing whine was heard and interrupted the coldness. F.I.L.S.S.' voice ended the confusion.
'I am sorry Agents. But it appears my skirmish settings to not match those set up in the ship's databanks and archives. According to protocol when an anomaly such as this turns up I have no alternative but to end the training session prematurely.'
Had F.I.L.S.S. just knocked him out? Suddenly he could see again. And he was wrong. Agent Nevada stood over him with a handgun held within his grasp. The Agents all headed towards the exit. The pillars began to retract and descended into the floor below. Carolina offered a hand. Iowa took it and was helped up.
'After four rounds the game is now over. The score is 0, 5. Winners Team One with Agents Carolina, Nevada and Virginia. Congratulations.' Announced F.I.L.S.S.
Iowa followed the others up and into the Observation Deck. As he entered Wyoming had already left. Alaska and Utah waited for him.
'So how was it?' asked Utah excitedly.
'Yeah, intense.' He said slowly, still distracted by Wyoming's disappearance.
'Come on, come on. Tell us everything.' Alaska pleaded.
The exit burst open again.
'Come on guys, give the guy some breathing room. Let's check out the Mess Hall, I could do with a bite to eat.'
Iowa followed York, Rhode and Carolina out. Only Utah and Alaska were left.
'What gives?' Utah exclaimed.
'Ah, do not worry, mon ami.' Alaska assured him. 'We will be able to fight in time. You'll see.'
Mother of Invention, War Room
The room was dark. According to the schematics the War Room wasn't far from the Bridge. In the centre was a large glowing table that projected holograms depending on the mission details. There wasn't any missions available at the moment so the table merely glowed a light blue.
'Agent Iowa? Is that correct?' F.I.L.S.S. asked.
'That's right F.I.L.S.S.'
'You seem unsure of yourself, Agent Carolina.'
'No I am certain. I just- if any of the others found out I was doing this…'
'I understand Agent Carolina. But I must assure you that this isn't a negative thing. The intel you are providing me will help in further missions. I appreciate your cooperation. I suggest you return to the other Agents so that you lack of presence does not come suspicious. You should enjoy what free time you have.'
'I will, thank you F.I.L.S.S..' Agent Carolina concluded before leaving the dark room.
She had first felt in when she arrived on the Mother of Invention, and she had noticed it again here. F.I.L.S.S. was a person, maybe it was because her name sounded Human. In the war room she was alone, but she didn't feel alone with F.I.L.S.S. talking to her. It was interesting.
Mother of Invention, Mess Hall
Half the Agents had already received their meals when Rhode had finally reached the canteen. The lunch line wasn't very long, but the Mess Hall was full. Scores and scores of soldiers sat at their tables quietly. All acted surprisingly friendly around him. Rhode wasn't used to getting friendly treatment from people. But York, York and Iowa seemed really nice.
He turned to his left and watched as the cafeteria lady delivered a spoonful of grey slop onto Agent York's food tray. None of the Agents were wearing their armor anymore. The Director had suggested the agents wear it as much as possible to allow them to get used to it, so it would act like a prosthetic. York was already used to it, he failed to hide his disgust in the slop.
He gagged and left Rhode to deal with it alone.
'What's in this?' Rhode asked pointing to the slop.
'Meat. Grime. Marrow. Heck if I know what else.' She spoke seriously.
'Oh that's too bad. I'm a vegetarian.' He lied.
'Oh, no. Well don't worry. This slop doesn't really have meat in it.'
She dropped an extra big spoonful of what could only be described as duck vomit onto his tray. As Ryan walked away sadly, Utah was next and began laughing maniacally at Rhode's attempts.
At the table sat Virginia, York, Nevada, Alaska and Iowa.
'…so maybe cow's can talk, uh, Virginia.' Stuttered Iowa. 'Maybe it's just because, nobody taught them how to. Yeah.'
'Alright are you talking about me?' Rhode started.
'Non, but we can if you want to.' Pushed Alaska.
'Oh but you do.' She pushed further. 'What's your story, Agent Rhode.'
'Story? I don't have a story.'
'Oh course you do. Everyone has a story.' Virginia said.
'Yeah,' Iowa jumped in. 'like my whole family was butchered by ninjas, Virginia was locked in a cave for six months, York and Carolina met on a nightclub and fought off rapists, Alaska was shot in a hunting accident and Nevada cheated in a high stakes poker game!'
Utah arrived and sat down.
Iowa continued, 'and Utah was shot in a bar robbery!'
Rhode thought for a moment. 'A douche bag had sex with my girlfriend so I beat him up.'
There was silence followed by a quick and sharp sigh from Iowa. 'Yeah, you were right, you've got no story.'
Rhode took a mouthful of slop. It was scolding hot and burnt his tongue. Small chunks of half thawed meat rested disturbingly within the puddle of duck vomit.
'So where's Wyoming and Carolina?' Nevada asked.
'Oh, right. Wyoming's with the Director and Carolina says she's got something she has to do.' York answered. 'Actually, I've gotta do something to.' He said, getting up and leaving.
He left the slop at the table.
'Hey, York! If you didn't want to eat your slop there was probably a better excuse!' Rhode yelled looking back at the slop again. 'Come back! I think… I think it's looking at me!'
Mother of Invention, Docking Bay
She continued to push the crates into the Pelican, and Wyoming continued to do the gentlemanly thing and help her out. Some of the crates were large, others were small, some where heavy and some… were so heavy he thought his spine was going to shatter into a thousand small pieces under the weight.
That was a thought.
'Hey, thanks again for the help.' She said pushing the second last crate up the ramp.
'It's no problem. It's good getting to know the others here.' Wyoming said pushing the last crate behind her.
She stepped to the side as Wyoming pushed the last crate into the Pelican. Both jumped off the ramp and she slapped the side of the ship twice. The Pelican's pilot waved to the two and retracted the ramp before ascending and flying off, out of the Mother of Invention's hangar.
'So ma'am what should I call you?' he asked.
'I don't have a name.'
'Bollocks.' He laughed.
'But you can call me 479er.'
479er, she was the Pelican pilot who had brought Wyoming and the other recruits to the Mother of Invention. Truth be told, Wyoming sort of fancied her. Curiously he hadn't even seen her face yet. And she hadn't seen his, he was still shielded behind his white armor.
'My warmest regards. I am Agent Wyoming, but if you would prefer you can call me Reginald.'
She laughed and began heading towards the DockingBay exit, Wyoming followed.
'Well, chappy, I would love to. But the Director doesn't want me calling Agents by their real names.'
'Please, I insist.'
'So do I. I don't want to lose my job.'
She wasn't warming up to him as much as he would've liked. It was a shame, he wanted to get to know her.
'Look, I can see you're a nice guy, but…'
'Could I buy you a drink then?' Wyoming suggested.
She looked at her feet.
'I just don't think–' a beep began to sound periodically, emitting from her wristpad. 'Shit, Director's paging me.'
Wyoming sighed within his helmet. Another chance lost. He watched as 479er walked away, leaving Wyoming behind. She turned back to him and called.
'Hey! You know I'm expecting you to fulfill your drink offer tonight, Reginald!'
Mother of Invention, Armory
He made his way slowly up the hallway. He wandered past the rows of guns and swords and vehicular equipment. A rectangular glass case sat at the end. Within, a set of khaki space marine armor. He was alone, and therefore in no danger of being caught.
'I am Agent York.'
Those words sounded so foreign to him. He would have to say them enough times for them to not sound so alien. He needed to be what the Director wanted him to be. It was his duty.
'I am Agent York.'
He placed a palm on the glass and slid it horizontally. A smudge in the shape of a hand and detailed fingerprints were left behind. He lined himself up with the armor so that his head was in line with the helmet. The armor was so much bigger than him. He could never get used to it.
'I am Agent York.'
'Yes you are.'
'JESUS!' York panicked turning around. In the doorway was a soldier in silver. Clearly possessing a woman's figure.
'Oh, god. I'm sorry.' She apologized. She waved her arms as if trying to calm him.
'Who are you?'
'I'm the pilot, remember? I flew 479er? I'm here to let you know the Director wants to see you.'
York stabilized himself by placing an arm on a wall. 'Why didn't F.I.L.S.S. let me know?'
'She's busy running some tests. Are you coming?'
'Yeah, I'll be there in a minute.'
'Director expects you to show up to briefings in uniform.'
'Uniform?' he said confused. 'We don't have uniforms.'
She nodded past him. York turned, she was looking at the khaki armor. It was more than just armor, the armor helped represent him. It would be Agent York.
Mother of Invention, Mess Hall
'…and that's why we aren't allowed to eat cheese in UNSC ships anymore.' Concluded Virginia.
The others were all in shock, intrigued even.
'Fuck me,' Nevada murmured. 'I didn't even know that you could use cheese like that.'
'Well clearly it's got its perks.' Iowa laughed, slowly, and awkwardly. 'For one, obviously you can shove it holes of any shape or size.'
'Any hole.' Utah repeated.
'I shall be honest now, Virginia,' Alaska began. 'I don't think I can look at you the same way ever again.'
'I think I'm going to be sick.' Gagged Utah upon thinking about what he'd just heard.
There weren't many soldiers left in the Mess Hall but Rhode expected if there had been, they'd all have circled the table to listen to the story. Or nightmare, depending on how you looked at that event. One soldier entered, he recognized her from the Pelican that delivered him to the Mother of invention.
'Hustle up! Get in your armor and rendezvous at the Bridge!' she called.
Mother of Invention, War Room
F.I.L.S.S.' voice rang through the room as she addressed both the Director and the Counselor.
'Agent Carolina has successfully reported back to me, Director.'
'What did she find, F.I.L.S.S.?' Dr. Leonard Church replied.
'Agent Iowa, sir.'
'He is the first one you should look at. Carolina has reported that he is an expert in hand-to-hand and close quarters combat. She recommends that he be the first to undertake the mission.'
'We'll see, I'll place him with Carolina for the training operation.' The Director smiled. 'I look forward to seeing him in action.'
Mother of Invention, The Bridge
'Good evening Agents. I assume you are all fitting in quite nicely.' Began the Director.
'Yes sir!' all the agents saluted.
'Perfect, the Counselor and I have gathered you hear to deliver your first mission briefing. Don't get too excited however, it is only a training mission.' He turned to the Counselor. 'Counselor, take the board.'
The Counselor stepped forward. 'Yes, Director. Around the Galaxy we have access to various Simulation Bases. These bases serve as training for our agents. The simulations are to be treated as real warzones. Each simulation scenario contains two team: Red and Blue. The two teams have been led to believe they are at war. Hostility that can lead to death is allowable when you are fighting in these scenarios.'
'Who are the soldiers, sir?' Carolina asked.
'Do not worry, these assets are entirely expendable.'
'But who are they?' Wyoming opted.
'They are soldiers who performed poorly during military knowledge tests. They were chosen because they would not be missed by their families and they would be put in situations where they would never second guess that what was going on around them could be a hoax.'
The Counselor stepped forward and pressed a few keys on his datapad. 'The Agents to partake in this mission are: Agent Alaska, Agent Carolina, Agent Iowa, Agent Utah and Agent York.'
'If I may,' Nevada jumped in. 'What are the rest of us supposed to do? Wyoming, Me and Rhode have got nothing to do.'
'Continue exploring the ship.' The Director offered. 'You'll find there is much to do here.'
The Counselor continued. 'Each of you will be brought to the simulation bases and serve the team you have just joined. There you will complete the objective that your team has assigned for you. Upon completion contact the pilot 479er and she will fly you home.'
The Director stepped forward.
'Agent Utah and Alaska, the two of you will serve as Freelancers for the Red Team. You will be fighting at Sidewinder.' He announced.
The Counselor stepped in. 'Agents Carolina and Iowa, you will team up as Blue Team members. You will be fighting the Reds at a place we call Valhalla.'
'Yes sir.' Iowa acknowledged.
York stepped forward, closer to his superiors. 'And me, sir?'
The Director smiled. 'You, Agent York will be fighting for the Reds. You will be fighting at our Simulation Base at Blood Gulch.'