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Prologue

They were the highest competitors in Project Freelancer, except for Wash of course. Number one, number two, and number three on the leaderboard. Wash was of course the worst Freelancer, but he survived, didn’t he?

Despite Carolina and York having been together, their relationship was destined to fail. She was always meant to be with Wash. They are soldiers.

Tex may have been forgotten by Church, or Epsilon, or whoever you want to call him, but there was always that extra copy of her that he forgot he made in case the first had failed. She sits lonely, realizing what Epsilon is doing, and she thinks her best friend is also gone. After all, he died for her, didn’t he?

York misses Delta, but he is happy to have room to think for himself. He had to betray Delta in order to search for her. He realized Carolina was meant for the battlefield, so they would have never lasted. He is looking for someone mean and scary but also sweet and trustworthy. He is looking for Tex.

York’s Search

York knows he will never be able to find her if he deliberately looks. She will come to him if anything. He decides instead to search for Carolina. Despite his doubts he does still love her. His best friend will find him, and he will try to save what little bit of love still exists between Carolina and himself.

Tex Knows the Secrets

Tex feels a strange sense of relief and anguish as Church makes his last memory in the world. She had loved Church but not enough for it to last. She knows she has to find her best friend before she collapses and gives up. Without having anyone that cares about her, why should she live? Everyone already thinks she is gone. She walks into the old Freelancer locker room and looks in her locker, hoping to find a trace of any of the others. Looking up, she sees white X’s on most of the lockers. Two of them had something but were repainted to the original color. They are Wash and Carolina’s lockers. She looks in them. Carolina has a stack of pictures in the bottom of her locker. They all contain her and York. The only other thing is a Magnum with her name engraved into the side. Tex heads over to Wash’s locker. His skateboard still leans against the back. His swirly straw rests on the top shelf in front of an unmarked box. A picture of himself, York, and North is taped to his locker door. Tex pulls down the box, carefully, so as not to disturb any other items. She removes the lid and finds multiple pictures and empty ammo cartridges for a Magnum and a Battle Rifle. She pulls the first stack of pictures out and finds one of everyone except herself. Tex even recognizes Florida, Georgia, Utah, Ohio, Idaho, and Iowa. The second stack is thicker and more taken care of. As Tex flips through them, she notices one common thing: they all have Carolina in them. She puts the pictures back in the box and goes back to Carolina’s locker. She had assumed all of the pictures were of Carolina and York. As Tex removes the top layers of pictures, she begins to see more and more of Wash. Most of them appear to have been rushed, consisting of blurs and cut off body parts. Everyone had their secrets; Carolina was just the best at keeping them. Tex looks over at the last locker on the right side of the room, York’s locker. Unlike the others, its open. York’s old busted helmet rests on the middle shelf of the locker. Multiple magazine clippings litter the bottom of his locker. One remaining picture clings to the door, but this one is of Carolina. A small stack of papers rests on the top shelf. Tex pulls them down. They are all letters that were never opened and marked “return to sender”. As Tex turns to leave, a black envelope, half-buried in the bottom of York’s locker, catches her attention. She pulls it out and the only thing on it is “TEX” in big silver letters. Tex opens it and finds coordinates to a Pelican hangar and a base on Chorus. Looking at the last paper in the envelope, Tex drops everything and runs to the vehicle hangar.

Carolina’s Crash Landing

Carolina fights against Hargrove’s forces, slowly backing away from their fire. She takes one more step and backs into Wash. He quickly glances over his shoulder, “Hey Carolina!”

She doesn’t even turn to see him; her face is red under her helmet.

A soldier throws a grenade at them from Carolina’s side. “Wash! Watch out!” She pushes him out of the way. The blast sends them flying farther in the direction they had been falling, and Carolina is pulled into Washington’s arms in an attempt to shield her from the explosion. Wash lands hard on the ground with Carolina on top of him. He groans as she quickly rolls onto the ground beside him. The explosion has ended up killing the soldiers in all the irony. Wash lays in pain while Carolina gets up.

“Carolina!” he yells, quickly grabbing his Battle Rifle and firing in her direction. She ducks and a body thuds behind her. Her love for York had finally run out. Somehow she had to tell Wash how she felt.

Wash’s Motivation

Wash couldn’t help but smile to himself as he backed into Carolina. With her at his back, he could ensure she was safe. He turns around, and Carolina is shoving him to the ground. He sees the grenade on the ground and pulls her into him. “I can’t lose her,” he thinks. When they land on the ground, he finds it painful but pleasant. Who knows what would have happened if he hadn’t grabbed Carolina. The explosion had wiped out all the soldiers, or so he thought. One stands up and stumbles towards Carolina, raising his gun. Wash reacts on instinct. He screams out her name and shoots the soldier down as fast as possible. The fear that shot through his heart perfected his aim. He didn’t want to rush Carolina, but York was dead and he has always been there for her. Washington knows he is about to make a risky move.

The Thief

Sneaking into the Freelancer facility had been easy. York was a thief and an expert locksmith. He just hates holographic locks. York had gone straight to the locker room and left his letter for Tex. Carolina had never opened his letters. He had looked in her locker while he was there. Seeing all the pictures of her and Wash had hurt him some, and he pulled down all the pictures of Carolina and himself. He had to find out if she still loved him. York’s love for her has started to fade as he starts to long to see Tex more and more. He is on his way to Chorus in the broken down ship he hijacked. As he enters Chorus’ atmosphere, the ship finally quits. York is headed to the ground in a fireball. He frantically searches for a jetpack. He only finds one as the ship starts to fall apart. The shaking knocks him to the floor, and he cuts his hand badly. York manages to get out of the ship, alive, before it explodes in mid-air.

Letters

The words of York’s letter echo in her head as she drives to the Pelican hangar in a Warthog. “I’m still alive,” it had said. She shakes off the confusion and focuses on driving. “I’m looking for a resolution,” he had also told her. Her head is flooded with thoughts, and she suddenly blacks out.

Halting the Mission

Carolina reaches her hand out, and Wash takes it. She pulls him to his feet. “Come on Wash, let’s go find the others!” Carolina orders as they head towards the temple. Carolina has her Magnums handy and shoots any remaining oncoming soldiers as they rush up to where the ship is crashed. She feels a sense of relief with Wash covering her back. They finally reach the ship, and Carolina goes to step into it.

“Wait, Carolina!” Wash grabs Carolina’s hand.

She freezes. She is unable to sort through the words in her head and instead just looks at him. She finally manages just his name, “Wash?”

Loving the Leader

He doesn’t know what provoked him to grab Carolina’s hand, he just did. Now he has to tell her, if it isn’t already obvious. “Carolina --,” he starts. He can’t get the words out. She steps down and towards him. He sighs, “He’s gone Carolina, but I’m not.” He’s not expecting Carolina to do what she does. Instead of getting mad at him, she hugs him. He slowly encloses her in his arms. “I love you Carolina.”

She looks up at him, “I love you too Wash.”

Technical Malfunction

He is spiralling towards the ground as he struggles to get the jetpack to turn on. The blood dripping down his hand and arm is the least of his concerns. If he doesn’t get the jetpack to work soon, he really will be dead. In a last attempt, York smacks the button with his injured hand. Blood splatters across his tan armor, but the jetpack finally activates. He navigates toward the ground and lands safely. Taking off the jetpack, York curses it and throws it away from himself.

Becoming or Unbecoming

Tex wakes up to see doctors standing over her. She jolts trying to get up and run, only to find that she is locked to the operating bed. She still struggles, hoping her strength will enable her to break free. She is weaker than before, and she feels pain from her struggles. “Hello Agent Texas,” says a familiar voice, Tex can’t seem to place it. 479er steps out from behind the others. Tex freezes when she sees her.

“What do you want with me? What did you do to me?” Tex demands.

“Relax Texas. I’m here to help you. In fact, if you promise not to hurt any of my men, I’ll let you up.” Tex realizes its her only chance to even attempt an escape.

“Fine, I won’t.” 479er nods to two of her men, and they begin to unclamp Tex.

“Do you notice anything different, Agent Texas?” Tex glares at her. “I think you’ll find it benefits you in your current state of mind.” 479er walks up to Tex as she gets up, “You’re human again Texas.” The doctors grab Tex before she falls to her knees.

“Why? How is this going to benefit me? Who am I?!”

479er laughs, “As an A.I. you are nothing but a computer program; therefore, we can see your thoughts.” York is the first thing Tex thinks of when she hears this. She looks straight at 479er. “That’s right Texas, you can go find him now.” It’s as if she read Tex’s mind.

Tex still insists on her last question, “Who am I?” 479er pulls a mirror over to Tex. Tex takes off her helmet.

“You are who you used to be.”

In the Ship

She finally pulls away from Washington’s embrace. “I always thought you were just a nice guy,” she tells him. Washington laughs at Carolina. She smiles knowing that he loves her. Carolina finally climbs into the ship with Wash right behind her. He would always have her back now.

“Do I really seem like a ‘nice guy’ kind of person?” Wash finally asks.

Carolina laughs, “Most of the time.” A spark shoots out from a wire next to them, and Wash jumps out of the way. “This ship seems awfully quiet,” Carolina says, searching the walkways above them.

They come to a door at last. “Does it open?” asks Wash. At that moment the door activates and slides open. The sound of gunfire is now deafening. Carolina jumps back to the left of the door, Wash goes to the right. Carolina peers into the other room and is amazed by what she sees.

“Its the Reds and Blues! They’re fighting Hargrove’s forces!”

Flying Colors

“Well we can’t let them have all the fun now, can we?” He charges in and runs along the wall taking out soldiers.

“Wash! What are you doing?!” Carolina screams, horrified by his rush in.

He speaks between Battle Rifle blasts, “I’m -- saving -- my -- friends!” He has cleared half the room as he makes his way to the Reds and Blues before Carolina comes charging in. She flips and kicks three soldiers in a row down. Washington continues to fight along the sides as Carolina fights in the middle.

As the crowd thins, the Reds’ and Blues’ voices can be heard.

“Look! It’s Carolina!” Simmons shouts.

“I can see Agent Washington!” Caboose yells.

“Tell ‘em to get in here!” Sarge growls.

“Aw, man, is that why we were winning?” Grif groans.

“Ha ha ha! We don’t need them!” Doc O’Malley declares.

“I think we really do,” Donut adds.

“Hey! Wash! Carolina! Get in here, we need you!” Tucker orders. Wash shoves through Hargrove’s soldiers and grabs Carolina. He pulls them into the room with the Reds and Blues.

“What took you so long?” Grif asks.

Needing to be Saved

He runs alongside the wall of a cliff, hoping to find the base or any building that may contain medical supplies. York takes off his glove to see how bad his situation is. He has to find help within the hour. If he can’t find the base, hopefully Tex will be on the planet to find him very soon. He has to sit down and rest for a while. York doesn’t want to fall asleep, but he doesn’t have the energy to stay awake. As he starts to dream some twenty minutes later, he only sees one person: a girl named Tex.

To a Former Life

A girl with red hair and brown eyes stares back at Tex. She can only wonder what poor soul gave up their life so that she could have hers. “There’s a ship fueled and waiting for you with the coordinates for your trip already set,” 479er tells her.

Tex looks over at her, “Thank you.” She puts her helmet back on and rushes to the ship. She waves to everyone as she starts up the ship and flies away, deep into space. Tex activates the hyperdrive in order to get to Chorus as soon as possible. Despite her calm demeanor, she can’t wait to see York. She deactivates the hyperdrive, and the ship appears right before Chorus. She descends to the surface and opens the door to the ship.

The first thing Tex sees is a burning crash, not far from where she landed. “York,” she thinks. Tex runs in the direction she assumes he would have gone but not before gathering as many medkits as she can carry. It’s not long before she finds York passed out along the side of a cliff, slowly bleeding to death.

Confusion

Carolina witnesses Washington moving at light speed to pull them both safely into the room with the Reds and Blues. “Wow, Wash,” she says, amazed. Her and Wash completely ignore Grif’s question.

“You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do, especially when it comes to you,” Wash says to her.

“Um, Grif, I think you just got your answer,” Simmons turns to him.

“There’s no time for lolligagging, we’ve got a war to win!” Sarge yells, shooting down the last soldier with a blast from his Shotgun.

“You think we don’t know that?” Wash yells at him.

“Calm down Wash, it’s just Sarge, not worth wasting your breath,” she tells him.

“Come on! We’ve got to find Hargrove before he can escape!” Tucker yells to them from all the way down the hall. Everyone looks down at him.

“When did Tucker get the new armor?” Carolina asks.

“Church gave it to him!” Caboose yells.

“Where is Church?” she asks.

“It doesn’t matter, we have to go,” Wash grabs her hand. They run through the halls in pursuit of Tucker, followed by the Reds and Blues.

Carolina starts to get annoyed by the party noises from Caboose’s gun. He keeps pulling the trigger while he’s running. “Caboose!” she yells at him.

“Not my fault! Tucker did it!” he yells.

“I’m up front, you idiot!” Tucker yells back to Caboose.

“Freckles can you please stop the noise?” Carolina pleads.

“AFFIRMATIVE,” Freckles replies. They continue out of the ship in silence.

Meet the New Crew

Wash helps Carolina out of the ship. “Where’d Tucker go?” Carolina asks as Wash pulls her down. Tucker fades into existence.

“He’s testing out his new armor enhancements,” Wash sighs. He steps out of the way for Carolina. “Tucker, how are you even running the equipment in that suit?” he asks.

“Oh, right! Meet my new friends. Come on out guys.” Delta appears first.

“Delta! You’re alive!” screams Caboose.

“Technically I was never alive,” Delta responds.

Sigma appears next. Wash and Carolina back up. “How do you have Sigma?” Wash yells, alarmed.

“Don’t worry, he’s cool now,” Tucker shrugs.

Eta and Iota come out next, dancing around. “Hey, Carolina, it’s your old A.I.s!” Wash is excited to see them. Carolina shudders at the memory, and he holds her close. “I won’t let anything happen to you,” he says to her. She nods and rests her head onto his shoulder. “Is that it?” he asks.

“Wait,” Tucker orders, “Come on out little guy.” Theta peers out from behind Tucker’s foot.

“Hey! It’s Theta!” Wash says excitedly. Recognizing Agent Washington, Theta steps out into the open.

“Hello Agent Washington,” he waves.

“You can call me Wash,” he tells Theta.

“Cool!” Theta replies, happily. Theta moves out of the way as Gamma appears.

“‘Sup Gary!” Tucker calls.

“Hello Captain Tucker,” he says in his robotic voice.

“His name is Gary?” Wash asks.

“Yes,” Gary and Tucker reply.

“Gamma is Gary,” Grif interrupts.

“Shut up dirtbag,” Sarge melees him.

“Okay then,” Washington turns back to Tucker.

Omega finally appears. “Hey, it’s O’Malley!” shouts Doc. He changes to his O’Malley personality, “That’s me you fool!”

Omega-O’Malley turns to Tucker, “We can kill him.”

Wash swats at him, “Woah! That’s enough! Goodbye all of you!” They all disappear.

Dark Angel

She’s the first thing he sees when he starts to wake up. “Damn, am I dead? Because I see one hell of an angel.” Tex turns from the empty medkits she was stacking and sees York stirring. She runs to him and hugs him. “Hey Tex,” he says.

“Oh my god, York, you’re alive!” Tex sobs into his shoulder.

“You know me Tex, always seeming to be dead and then surprising you by surviving,” he smiles at her. His helmet had been removed when Tex was working to save him. Tex removes her helmet to wipe the streams of tears that had formed down her cheeks. He reaches up his injured hand and brushes the loose hair out of Tex’s face.

“I thought you were dead!” she cries out.

“Shh, it’s okay Tex, I’m here, I’m alive,” he attempts to soothe her. Tex collapses down beside him and rests her head on his shoulder, trying to stop her chest from heaving as she calms down.

“I love you York,” she says to him.

“Okay, I love you Tex.”

Waiting on Forever

She moves closer into York now. Tex is exhausted from the long journey and all her worry. “Rest if you need it Tex. We’ve got plenty of time,” York tells her.

“You do need it,” she tells him.

York pulls his arm out from behind her and pulls her closer, “I know.”

Tex closes her eyes but waits for York to fall asleep before she finally gives into the pull of the dark. She lays next to York, sitting against a cliff in the middle of nowhere, on Chorus. She can only wish for her forever.

Previous Attachments

“Can I see the twins again?” asks Carolina. Tucker nods to her, and they come out again. They wave to Carolina, and she waves back. She takes off her helmet to make sure they are real.

“The yellow one is Eta, and the blue one is Iota,” Tucker says to her.

“I know who they are,” she says to him. Eta and Iota chase each other in a circle while they are in the middle of the group.

“Well, yeah, they were your A.I.s for a while,” Tucker shrugs.

“Eta? Iota?” she calls out their names. They stop and walk over to her.

Their voices are like whispers, and they speak together, “Hello Agent Carolina. Do you need anything? We are sorry to have hurt you.”

She manages a small smile for their sympathy. “No. Thank you. It is kind of nice to see you again,” Carolina tells them. They are filled with happiness at her words and start dancing around her. Her smile grows into one of genuine happiness. Eta and Iota’s laughter fills the space around her, and she puts her helmet back on.

“Alright guys, time to come back,” Tucker sighs.

“Awww. But we want to travel with Carolina!” they complain.

Wash walks over to Carolina and wraps his arms around her, “I don’t think she quite wants A.I.s back in her head.”

She steps out and Washington’s arms drop away from her. “It’s alright, they can come with me. If I wanted to, I could have them just in my armor. I did have Church before, remember Wash?”

Eta and Iota cheer.

“Oh yeah. Where is Church now?” Wash asks.

“I asked the same question earlier,” Carolina says.

Lost and Found

The crowd goes silent as they realize what happened. Tucker shifts nervously from foot to foot. Caboose hugs Freckles. Grif looks toward the ground. Simmons puts his arm across Grif’s shoulders and looks at him. Sarge messes with a Shotgun shell on the ground. Donut shakes his head. Doc goes completely silent and still. Carolina holds her breath to hold back the misery. Washington glances around at all of them with a certain heaviness in his heart. “I actually let him in my head for a while,” he breaks the silence.

“He was my best friend!” cries Caboose.

“He was a pretty good cellmate,” Grif states.

“He called me C,” Carolina sobs. Washington is surprised that her normally serious demeanor is broken by Church’s dissolve.

Tucker finally speaks, “He was an awesome friend and a pretty good leader. He taught us all a lot. I have a recording he left for us.”

Delta appears in front of him, “Would you like me to play the recording Captain Tucker?” Tucker nods to Delta.

“Wait! Have you seen it already?” Wash asks.

“No,” Tucker replies. Delta starts the recording and everyone’s eyes are focused on the last image of Church. They watch him give his speech, and now even Wash has a tear in his eye.

“Are we still heroes then?” he asks. No one answers.

All the A.I. gather around Tucker and whisper to him. Tucker nods to them. “What are they talking about?” Wash wonders out loud. The A.I. converge into Tucker’s armor and a minute later reappear with a light hidden behind them. They move out of the way and Church is left standing in the middle of them. “You made a new Epsilon,” Wash gasps.

“Hey Church,” Tucker says, amazed.

Church turns to him, “Hey buddy. Wait! What?!” Church looks around at the rest of them. “Tucker, I can’t run your suit this way!” He stops when he sees all the other A.I.s out together. “I didn’t call them out, how are they here?” Church asks Tucker.

“They kind of made you,” Tucker tells him.

Church walks to Carolina and Wash, “Am I really back you guys?” Carolina nods and lays her head back on Wash’s shoulder.

“Yeah Church, welcome back,” Wash says.

“Looks like I missed some big things while I was gone,” Church says, pointing at Carolina.

“I guess you could say that,” Wash tells him.

First Stop

He wakes up and Tex has slid down to be laying on his lap. He realizes he can’t move without waking up Tex. “Hey Tex? Tex? Can you please get up?” She shifts at the sound of York’s voice and opens her eyes to see the ground. Tex reaches out and pushes herself up. “Oh man! I think my legs are asleep from you laying on them,” York groans.

“Sorry,” Tex mumbles, finally starting to wake up.

“You okay?” he asks her.

“Yeah, it’s just been a long time since I’ve slept,” she tells him.

“What do you mean?” York asks Tex.

“A.I.s can’t exactly sleep.”

York stumbles to his feet, “You’re not an A.I.! You’re a person!”

Tex shakes her head, “I’m really not.”

He laughs at her, “You can’t be serious.”

The Truth in Tex

“York, I’ve been an A.I. the whole time you’ve known me. I’ve ‘died’ and come back a lot of times. This is only the second time I’ve had a human body.” She hates how it sounds, but Tex tells York the truth.

“I love an A.I. in someone else’s body?” York asks her.

“Yes. They manage to find someone who looks like the real me every time,” she answers.

“Who was the real you?” York asks her.

“I was Allison, Allison Church.” Tex winces at her own words.

“The Director’s wife?” York stumbles on the words. Tex can only manage to nod. “And that makes you--” he stops, seeing the pain on Tex’s face.

“Carolina’s mother,” she finishes for him.

“Well that explains why I thought I loved Carolina; she gets all her good traits from you,” York says, trying to lighten the mood. Tex manages a small laugh. York walks over and looks into her eyes, “It doesn’t matter though, I love you.”

Tex smiles as the aching in her heart stops, “ I love you too. I always will.”

Back on Track

Church makes his way back to Tucker. Carolina waits for Eta and Iota to transfer into her armor. Eta and Iota stand above Carolina’s shoulders. The rest of the A.I. disappear. “Ready to go guys?” Carolina asks the twins. They jump with excitement and disappear from sight.

“Where to now?” Wash turns to Tucker.

“Hey Church, you wanna help me out?” Tucker asks as Church reappears. Church brings up a map of the area.

Carolina points to a location on the map, “Looks like Hargrove’s forces are gathered here.”

Church shrugs, “That’s as good a place as any to start.” Tucker takes point with Carolina and Wash in tow. The Reds and Blues trek behind them.

Catching Up on Conversation

Church turns to Carolina and Wash: “So what have you two been up to?” Carolina laughs at him.

“You were just here some hours ago!” Wash complains.

“Looks like I missed something in those hours,” Church says smugly.

“He’s talking about us,” Carolina tells Wash.

“That’s not too much of a change really,” Wash says, turning red under his helmet.

“Hey Church, are you navigating or having a conversation back there?” Tucker interrupts the three of them.

“I’m coming,” Church groans, disappearing back into Tucker’s armor.

“Well that’s a relief!” Wash sighs.

Carolina laughs at him, “You’ll be okay Wash.”

He looks at her, “Yeah, you’re right.”

High Maintenance

He pulls Tex in and holds her close. “It doesn’t matter who you were; it matters who you are,” he tells her. Tex stays silent in York’s arms. They both have everything they ever wanted right now. “We need to find that base,” he says finally, breaking the spell of their love.

Tex nods to him: “Yeah, let’s go.” York takes a medkit that Tex gives him and attaches it to the back of his armor. Tex puts the extra she has on her back.

“I guess I’m high maintenance, huh?” York smiles at Tex. She shakes her head and puts on her helmet. York puts on his helmet at last, and he picks up their guns. He has his Shotgun, and he hands Tex her Assault Rifle.

Path to Follow

Tex looks out at the horizon and sees the darkness of night starting to creep up. “We’ve got to go. Now!” she says to York. He follows her gaze to that navy line in the distance.

“Well what are we waiting for then?” he says to her. Tex can’t help but smile at him. She jogs in the direction of the base, York at her side.

They started on their journey a little late, and night’s blanket of stars covers them and their path. When it becomes too dark to see, Tex activates her flashlights. She has to stop and help York due to his bad left eye. “Damn that left side,” he mumbles as Tex takes off his helmet and turns on the lights for him.

After an hour in the dark, Tex and York reach the base. Soldiers patrol the outside of it. “Who are they?” York asks.

“How the hell am I supposed to know?” Tex snaps back. They slide down alongside the cliff wall, and Tex grabs her Sniper Rifle to try and figure out what the soldiers are up to. She spots the Charon Industries logo on the building and their armor. She pulls the rifle away from her face, “Charon?”

York looks up at her from where he had laid out, “What?” Tex hands him the Sniper Rifle.

“It’s Charon. Look,” she tells him. York decides to see for himself and shares Tex’s reaction.

“What could they be up to?” he asks her.

“I don’t know,” she looks at York, confused as what to do next. Gunfire suddenly erupts on the on the back side of the base. All the soldiers run in the direction of it. “Here’s our chance!” Tex yells, taking off toward the base.

“Wait! Tex!” York yells, getting up and running after her.

Red Vs. Blue

Carolina had already started to devise a plan of attack when they reached the base in the dark. “I think that me, Wash, Caboose, and Tucker will hold them off while you guys head into the base,” she starts.

Church appears: “At least one of you should head in with the Reds and Doc. We can’t have all our best guns on the outside.”

Tucker agrees with Church’s objection: “One, they can’t get the sword. Two, they can’t get Church and everyone else. And three, we can’t let them have their armor back.” Everyone glares at Tucker. “What?!” he asks.

“Everything you just said means that you need to be protected,” Church tells him.

“Oh. Guess that means I’m going with the Reds,” Tucker shrugs.

“Doc could stay out with us then,” Carolina revises her plan.

“No to Doc. Otherwise, let’s do it!” Wash decides.

“We don’t get any say in this?” Grif asks.

“Yeah! How come you Blues always get to tell us what to do?” Simmons adds.

Carolina looks at Church and Tucker. “Do you even have to ask?” Tucker asks them.

“We’re better than you guys, so we always make the plans that won’t fail,” Church explains.

“Dirty Blues! I’ll show you who’s better! I’ll take down Hargrove, that dirtbag, myself!” declares Sarge.

“Don’t go making rash decisions,” Carolina tells Sarge. He mumbles to himself about the Blues but listens to Carolina. She is satisfied with her persuasive wisdom.

“Let’s get out there!” Wash yells. She follows him out toward the base, smiling to herself.

Shattered

He opens fire on Hargrove’s forces, shattering the quiet of the night. Carolina shoots from his left side, Caboose comes in on his right. Freckles controls Caboose’s Assault Rifle, creating an automatic targeting system that guarantees no misses but also prevents Caboose’s infamous team-kills. Washington forms point of the group and advances towards Hargrove’s men while the Reds, Tucker, and Doc sneak into the base.

The soldiers outside the base are eliminated quickly, and Wash follows Carolina and Caboose into the base to find the others. They stop and find the group stuck outside a door. Simmons is messing with the keypad next to it. “Simmons, what are you doing?” Wash asks. Simmons turns around, and the door opens. Tex and York stand on the other side of it. Wash turns to Carolina and finds exactly what he was expecting. She’s staring straight at York. “Carolina? Carolina, are you alright?”

Problems Occur

His hand is intertwined with Tex’s as she enters the passcode to the door. The door opens on her third try. York sees colorful soldiers, Wash, and Carolina when the door opens. He drops Tex’s hand and can’t seem to turn away from Carolina. He knows Tex sees them too. He can feel her staring into the side of his helmet. York can’t decide what he feels worse about: being with Tex without officially leaving Carolina or seeing Carolina with Washington. He is almost angry with her, and he knows that he definitely loves Tex now. York doesn’t know how he’s going to explain it all to Carolina.

Stay With Me

She finally gets the door to open. The Reds and Blues appear before her along with Carolina and Washington. York drops her hand, and she turns to look at him. She follows his gaze to Carolina. Tex looks back at York, but he won’t turn to face her. She loves York, and she doesn’t want him to fall apart since they found Carolina. She reaches for his hand and to her surprise, York grabs her hand.

Right and Wrong

Why had the door to darkness opened? She wished that she did not see him standing there with her, of all people. Carolina thought that York had died, and at the cause of the one who stood beside him. She had an intense anger for Tex, and now Tex had Taken York from her three times!

Carolina’s anger subsides as she stares into York’s soul once again. She would not turn away, just as he would not. She had lost any emotion for him and heard Wash’s voice calling out her name. She was glad she finally chose to be with Wash. He would never leave her. Carolina finally breaks from her gaze and turns to Wash, “Yeah, I’m fine.” She moves in closer to him and hugs him tightly. It is partially for spite and partially because she needs it. As Washington’s arms close around her, she finally lets go of all her anger toward Tex. She realizes what Tex did for her; she helped her make the right decision.

Broken

Carolina told him she was fine, but he doesn’t think so. He opens his mouth to speak, but he doesn’t get out a single word before she pulls herself into him. Wash closes his arms around her, knowing how she must feel. He had never experienced pain like Carolina, but he was beginning to understand it.

He watches York look down at Tex, then back to Carolina. Wash nods in greeting to York, and York nods back. He is glad that York doesn’t appear to be upset with him. He sees Tucker walking away from the confused crowd and wonders why. The little cobalt light of Church catches his eye.

Church didn’t believe what he was seeing and couldn’t help but collapse to his knees when he saw that Tex loved York. She hadn’t even looked at him yet. Washington felt bad for Church but saw that York was pointing him out to Tex.

In Greeting

He grabs Tex’s hand, not even realizing it. He finally turns to Tex and is relieved that she is still looking at him. He turns back to Carolina quickly and sees her in Wash’s arms. Wash nods to York, so he nods back, trying not to ruin the friendship they had. He looks again at Tex and sighs. He hugs her, and feeling her presence within his arms, he feels ready for anything.

Alpha to Epsilon

York finally looks at her but quickly looks back to Carolina. Tex sees Washington and Carolina together and feels better about how Carolina may react to her. She watches as Wash and York greet each other from across the room. York, once again, turns back to Tex. She doesn’t have a second to think before he hugs her. She folds her arms around him as well, breathing in his warm embrace. He finally lets her go, and she manages to speak, “Are you okay?”

He nods to her. “Of course I’m okay, I have you.”

Tex spots Tucker leaving and doesn’t know why. “Who’s that A.I. in the middle of the room? He was staring at you and then just collapsed,” York points to the little cobalt A.I.

Tex turns, it’s Church. She looks at him; he is so hurt and walks away toward Tucker, not realizing Tex had finally seen him. “That’s Church,” Tex says softly. Church hears her and stops where he is. He doesn’t turn around.

“You mean, like the Director?” York asks her. She nods but doesn’t speak. Church turns to look at Tex.

“Forgetting me was the best mistake he ever made,” Tex finally says, turning back to face York.

Church turns and runs toward Tucker. Tex hears Tucker’s voice, faint down the other hall, “Did you have to wait to get your heart broken again?”

Carolina unexpectedly walks up to Tex. Before Tex can say anything, Carolina says the most shocking thing, “I’m sorry Tex.”

Forgiving Enemies

Carolina couldn’t take it anymore. She weaved through the crowd to Tex and forgave her. She turns to York now: “Why her? Why Tex?”

He turns to her: “Let’s not do this. It doesn’t have to be this way!”

She can’t hold back the sadness any longer, “It was just a question. I realize this is better. I’m happy now! You’re happy now! The funny thing is you chose her a long time ago.”

Tex moves towards Carolina and puts a hand on her shoulder, “Hey kid, I was never trying to hurt you. I’ve always been here to protect you,” Tex gestures to everyone around them, “All of you.” Carolina surprises Tex and York by pulling them both into her. “I’ll always be here for you kid,” Tex whispers to her.

“Thank you Tex,” Carolina closes her eyes, finally feeling complete.

Outrage of Epsilon

Carolina breaks apart from him: “I need to say something.”

He smiles at her, “Go, I need to find Church and Tucker.” She  heads towards Tex and York.

Wash turns down toward the hallway where Tucker and Church disappeared. The first thing he sees is a red glow. The only other time he had seen that glow is when Epsilon became furious and grew as big as the room.

Wash hears Church yelling out his pain to Tucker, “She said forgetting her was a mistake! And she was happy about it! I thought I did what was best for both of us!”

Wash finally steps into their sight: “Church, maybe this is better.”

Church goes into an outrage: “Easy for you to say! This works to your advantage! You have Carolina now! You don’t have to worry about York!”

He sighs, “Church, I think you need to let her go. She’s not coming back. She moved on a long time ago. I know it’s not so easy to let someone go for the third time. You have to do it though. If you keep focusing on what she’s doing, it’s going to hold you back.”

Tucker decides to chime in, “Church, don’t you think its weird to always go chasing after her anyways?”

Church laughs at him. “Kinda like you and Grif’s sister?”

Wash defends Tucker, “Woah! Leave Tucker out of this. He’s not a Freelancer, and he’s not an A.I.”

No Escape

York is still slightly upset due to Carolina’s questions, but he hugs her back anyways. He doesn’t need to explain why he chose Tex, if he even could. The three top Freelancers step back from each other. “Carolina, we can still be friends. You knew this was going to happen, and I saw your locker. I’m sorry that I disappeared for so long, but it was the only way to get out of this,” York tells Carolina.

“You’re still a soldier though! I thought you were the one who wanted to just live a normal life. You are still in the war, even though you tried to get out,” Carolina counters.

“I do want to have a normal life, staying with Tex and having you guys as friends without meeting in armor, but once a soldier, always a soldier. Some of us are just better at it.” He extends his arm out to Tex, and she gladly takes position at his side.

“This is what I live for York. I can’t quit now. That’s why I have Wash,” Carolina explains.

“I understand, but think about it,” he looks down at Tex, “I know I have.”

Goodbye

Choosing sides isn’t exactly what Tex is best at, but you can’t argue with York’s logic. He must have learned some things from Delta. She accepts her position at the side of her love. “York, where would we go if we weren’t soldiers?”

He turns to face Tex: “I would gladly go wherever you want.” Tex shakes her head at him. “Really. I promise,” he laughs at her.

“You would even stay in Blood Gulch at the bases?” she asks him.

York smiles at her: “Anything for you.”

Tex looks at Carolina, “Was he always this way?”

Carolina shakes her head: “No. Just for you.” She cocks her head to the side as she turns to speak to York, “So you never really loved me.”

He is surprised at Carolina’s comment, “I did love you at one point, or I thought I did. You were just too serious. I like to joke around. Tex accepts my humor.”

Tex steps between them: “Please don’t argue. It’s over! Carolina, you have Washington, and I’m with York. Sometimes we don’t make the best decisions. You should know that Carolina. All I really have to say is, don’t say goodbye,” Carolina joins her in what she has to say, “I hate goodbyes.”

Not Again

She doesn’t know how Tex knows her mother’s famous quote, but it strikes her deeply. Carolina looks for Wash, hoping that she can get him to join them. His shadow is splashed on the wall in the hallway, surrounded by a red glow. She knows that it’s Epsilon’s furious light. She’s seen it before. “Oh no,” she thinks out loud.

“What’s wrong Carolina?” Tex asks. Carolina continues to stare out as the shadow moves vigorously.

“Carolina?” York calls out her name.

She turns to both of them and sighs, “Church has lost it again, and Wash is over there. He’s not a very good negotiator, especially when it comes to A.I.s.”

Tex grabs Carolina’s shoulder as she starts to head towards Wash. Carolina jerks to a stop. “You mean Church has done this before?” Carolina nods to Tex and carries on her way.

Issues

“He has all the A.I.s! He might as well be a Freelancer! And who invited you anyway? I was talking to Tucker to begin with!” Church counters Washington’s statement.

“I came to help you. I don’t exactly have the best history with A.I.s, especially you. Despite that fact I’ve helped you so many times. Yes, I helped cause Tex’s death once, but I didn’t know what the Meta was doing. I’m sorry if you feel like part of this is my fault. And to be honest, I thought York was dead. How do you think Delta was recovered? When a Freelancer is seriously injured, it sends out a beacon for recovery. They have to be dying. Protocol states that the equipment must be removed and the armor incinerated, by explosion. I guess he had removed his armor and left Delta behind. I understand if you’re mad at him, but not exactly me.”

Carolina walks up to their crowd. Washington turns around to see her: “Wash, are you okay?”

He looks at Church before turning back to her, “Yeah, I’m fine. Church is the one who needs help. I don’t know what to do.”

Carolina sighs, “I know you don’t. Sorry Wash, but you’re terrible with A.I.s.” She walks past him and up to Church and Tucker.

“That’s fine by me,” Wash smiles.

She looks behind herself at him and smiles, “As long as you’re not terrible with me.”

Tex and York come running up behind Wash. “What are you guys doing here?” he asks them.

Church shrinks back down to his normal A.I. size when he sees Tex. “Apparently you belittle Church,” Tucker says to Tex.

Everything Gets Better

He can’t figure out why Tex was suddenly the peace keeper. She had at least saved him from any more misery than what had already occurred. After Carolina leaves to help Wash with Church, York turns toward Tex and finds her distracted in her thoughts. “Tex, you okay babe?”

She looks up at him, “What am I going to do York? Church is so stubborn! He never moves on.” He can tell her anger is starting to get the best of her.

York comes up with an idea, but he’s waiting to see if Tex can think of it on her own. “I have an idea,” she says at last.

“What is it?” York is curious to see if she thought the same thing he did.

“Maybe I should just go talk to Church,” she groans at the thought, “No. It’s a terrible idea.”

York smiles at her under his helmet with a beaming radiance, “It is not a terrible idea.”

She sighs, “Only if you say so York.” He pushes her forward, and they begin to run towards Epsilon’s glow.

“Its going to be okay,” York thinks to himself. “I hope.”

Alpha and Beta

She still thinks its a terrible idea. They go through the crowd, the same route as Carolina. Tex stops behind Wash and York right at her side. She gets insanely nervous looking toward Church. She goes to take a step but is frozen in place. Then, Tucker speaks. Tex can’t believe the words that echo throughout the room and straight toward her. “No,” is all she manages, lowering her head.

“Why is he here?” Church questions, staring straight at York.

York raises his hands in offense. “Woah! I haven’t done anything wrong. I don’t even know you! I only know what she’s told me,” he gestures to Tex.

“I bet you don’t know that she’s not even a real person!” Church shouts out in his fury.

“But I do,” York replies, stepping forward, “I only came over to support her. She’s the one who has something to say.”

Church turns his attention towards Tex now. Tex turns towards York, trying to get away, “York, I can’t do this! I told you it was a terrible idea.”

He grabs her hands. “It’s not. Just talk to him like you would anyone else.”

Tex turns around back towards Church, only to find that he is baffled by her nervousness. “Hey Church,” Tex starts.

“Tex?”

She laughs nervously, “Yeah, it’s me still.”

The Broken Family

She doesn’t understand why Tex would voluntarily put herself in danger, let alone York. Carolina stands puzzled after the bitterness between two people, or rather A.I.s, that were once so close, and close to her. As Tex tries to get out of the cold zone, Carolina realizes who Tex is. She remembers Church calling her mother Texas to her father, who was the Director, Leonard Church. Tex is an A.I. based off her mother. The bitterness fades away as Tex finally attempts to talk to Church. Before Church can say anything, Carolina interrupts them, “I know who you used to be. Both of you.”

Church and Tex look at her, then each other, and back at Carolina. “Carolina?” Wash starts to get worried.

She continues: “You don’t have to be who you were made to be. That’s why Tex chose York. Church, you need to break the cycle. Let her go. My mother was Allison, just like Tex. I noticed that my father never let her go after she died. He never moved on. He had every chance! Instead, he focused on bringing her back and tortured himself in the process. While torturing himself, he had an A.I. based off himself, the Alpha. He tortured that A.I. too, because it was him! Church, you get called the Director because that’s who you’re based off of. I am not your sister, I am not your daughter, but I want to be your savior. Let Tex go. Tex, let him be. He has to go on without you. Every time you try to help him he just gets attached to you all over again. Both of you can still be friends and care for each other, but you have to move on with the lives you’ve been given. Maybe one day there will be someone in both of your lives to fill the pain the Director caused.” Wash catches Carolina as she collapses to the floor with the weight of her past.

Everyone in that side hall is left awestruck after her heartfelt speech. It shakes Church to the core, and he can barely stand to look at Carolina in her current state. It seems as if everyone he cares about gets hurt by him when he is hurt. Despite Carolina’s statements the three share a story that none of them can deny.

Let’s Go to War

Wash sees her trembling from her pain within. Not a moment too soon, he finds himself at her side, as she collapses into his arms. Eta and Iota appear, circling the two Freelancers. “We are sorry Carolina. Are you okay Carolina? We should have helped you Carolina,” their tiny voices whisper. The more worried they get, the faster they spin around Carolina and Washington. Wash starts to get dizzy trying to keep up with them.

“Guys, can you calm down? I’m here. She’s going to be fine.”

The twins stop, “Are you sure Agent Washington?”

He looks from Carolina to them, “ It’s my job to make sure she is.” The twins nod in agreement towards Wash. They vanish back into Carolina’s armor. Wash helps Carolina back to her feet. They need to focus on the mission.

“Thanks Wash,” Carolina hugs him one more time.

Tex steps up next to them with York ever at her side, “Wash, Carolina, thank you. You’ve shown me what it means to truly be human. And to be with someone you love.”

Wash grabs his favored Battle Rifle off his back: “Don’t thank me yet. We still have a job to do.”

First Friend

Everyone has a duty to someone. York felt that his duty was to stay with Tex and keep her safe. He guides her back to the crowd of the Reds and Blues. A soldier in orange armor stops him: “Hey, who’re you?”

York smiles at him and extends his hand, “I’m Agent York, you can just call me York.”

The orange soldier shakes his hand. “I’m Grif, Captain Dexter Grif.”

York starts walking back to Tex after meeting this new soldier, but Grif calls out to him. “York! How do you know Tex?”

He chuckles, walking back over to Grif. He stops in front of Grif: “I’m a Freelancer.” Grif steps back. “Relax,” York continues: “And Tex is my girlfriend.”

Back on Track

The group is heading farther in the direction that they intended to head. The Reds, Blues, and four Freelancers pass the doorway that she and York had entered. They were now part of everyone else’s mission. Tex had forgotten what it was like to be part of a group where everyone looked out for each other. When Tex saw York talking to Grif, she didn’t even care if Grif said anything about her. She knew York would take her side over some Sim Trooper. Then again, the Reds and Blues were no longer just ‘some Sim Troopers’. Tex is called up to the front of the group when they finally reach their destination. She walks up to the door to the room where the enemy is harbored.

Simple Plans

Despite having two A.I.s again, Carolina can now think more clearly than she has been able to since the night she met York.

“Tex, behind that door is the enemy: Malcom Hargrove.”

“The Chairman of Charon Industries?”

“Yeah, he’s caused us some serious trouble. You can use your camo and sneak in.”

“Any way I can help, ladies?” York places a hand on a shoulder of each girl. Carolina shrugs him off.

Tex swipes his hand off a second later adding: “York! We’re working here!” No one can see his beaming smile under his helmet.

“Why aren’t you going in?” Tex asks Carolina.

She smiles to herself, “Who says I won’t be in?”

Rise

“Carolina? Are you sure about this?” Wash asks worriedly.

“I’ll be fine.” He doesn’t feel very reassured by Carolina’s answer. A lot has changed in this one day. He knows the stars will soon clear the way for the sun to stretch its arms though.

Wash watches Carolina and Tex continue to talk, planning their methods of attack on the current mission. He is amazed that Tex had agreed to help her former comrades. Wash was still paranoid about the whole event but not as much as he used to be. He didn’t like being surrounded by all the A.I.s though. He would never admit it in front of all these soldiers. Especially hardened soldiers like the Freelancers he stood alongside.

The sun was starting to turn the sky to a fuschia color as it dreadingly slowly crawled its way above the canyon walls on the horizon line. Wash knew they had to make a move now or never, today was a new day. Today Chorus would be free from the tyranny of Malcom Hargrove.

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