Arkansas-Centric. Arkansas has been looking for answers for a very long time. Now, a source has given him possible information on his family. Eager, he travels to Earth to the Keyes Memorial Retirement Home for Respected Soldiers. To see who? Well, the original California, Joshua Griffin.
Written by III Cypher III.
Arkansas eyed the address on his slip of paper, glancing up from his civilian warthog. Across the street stood a rather medium sized building, colored a dark brown with a sign in front of it: The Keyes Memorial Retirement Home for Respected Soldiers, created in honor of Captain Jacob Keyes after his death.
The freelancer frowned and tucked the paper away in his jacket pocket before climbing out of his vehicle. According to one of his sources, a man who lived here at least knew his parents. And also had connections to the first Freelancer Project. It was going to be an interesting experience, talking to this man.
Ark padded quickly across the street, boots resounding off the wet ground. The weather hadn’t been the best recently, and only stopped after he waited in a hotel for at least a week. This made it harder to sit, as with each passing day, the old man was more and more likely to die. And Ark didn’t want that.
He pushed the door open, stepping into the waiting room. A couple chairs were lined against the walls, with a table in front of them and a stack of virtual magazines. The receptionist held up a finger as Ark approached, holding a phone close to her ear. Her eyes were closed and she nodded occasionally, slowly writing down whatever was being said. The sniper idly rattled his fingers against the window, glancing around out of boredom.
“Can I help you?” The receptionist asked, looking up at the man before her. He looked down at her and smiled. Instantly, her face was tinted with pink.
“Uh, yes,” the man, now obviously English of origin, said a bit bashfully, “can I see a Joshua Griffin?”
“Y-yes, of course,” the woman muttered in response, calling over one of her fellow employees, “Mr. Griffin should be in the Resting Wing. He never leaves there.” She added the last bit on at the last second as the helper gestured for Ark to follow. The secret freelancer waved and bid a thank you with a farewell before vanishing down the hallway. The receptionist blushed a little bit more, before quickly attempting to rid herself of her plight. She didn’t want this to be used as black mail.
“Interesting fact,” the helper, identifying himself as Zack, began as the pair traveled down the hallway toward the Resting Wing, “you’re the only visitor to come to see Mr. Griffin in all the time he’s been here.”
Arkansas raised an eyebrow at that. Certainly he had some family or friends to come and visit. Or was he that much of a crabby old man that no one wanted to be around him, and dumped him off here the first chance they got?
“Really?” Ark questioned.
“Yes,” Zack responded, stopping in front of one of the doors, “he even said he probably wouldn’t get any, but he didn’t elaborate.” He paused and glanced at the door before grinning nervously at Ark again. “Be careful…he’s a little volatile, even for his age.”
Zack cleared his throat and slowly touched the pad next to the door. It slid openly smoothly, and Ark managed to get a clear view of the room.
It was pasty white with a single bed and a sink. Another door probably led to the restroom. The sole occupant sat in a wheel chair, back to his visitors, staring idly out the window.
“Um, Mr. Griffin? You have a visitor.” Zack announced, still mildly nervous. The reason was pretty obvious, as the words “Mr. Griffin” used next were anything but polite.
“Don’t fuck with me, shit-bag. I never get any goddamn visitors. No one to fucking visit me!” A harsh, ragged, old and scratchy voice responded. The wheelchair slowly turned around, its driver glaring at the attendant of the retirement home.
The old man was bald, but not naturally. His head was definitely shaved by his own hand. His brown eyes were set into a harsh glare, his jaw locked tightly and mouth curved into a frown. He wore slippers, a white t-shirt and matching pants. Overall, the man Ark needed to talk to was definitely unpleasant.
“I-I’m not lying, Mr. Griffin.” Zack barely whispered, stepping aside so Griffin could see Ark. The old man raised a single eyebrow before grunting in response, turning back toward the window.
Ark raised an eyebrow before frowning. He wasn’t going to let this old man boss him around.
“I-I th-think it would be for the best, Mr. Reed.” Zack said, looking a little scared at Ark. The sniper shook his head and crossed his arms. Zack gulped and quickly shuffled away, secretly ready to wet himself. Griffin was definitely a man who could probably still snap your neck if you pissed him off.
“I’m not going Josh.” Ark responded, stepping defiantly into the room and closing the door behind him. The old man stopped mid-turn and looked over at Ark, eyebrow raised again. “I’m here to talk about Project Freelancer, and my parents.” That made Griffin completely stop. Both eyebrows shot up into his hairline, his frown morphing into an expression of shock which was also expressed in his eyes. Then he chuckled and slumped.
“So, have you been sent to kill me? I was hoping the Grim Reaper would hurry his lazy, boney ass up and take me already.” Josh muttered.
“So you were apart of Project Freelancer?”
“Once…long time ago,” The old man then frowned again and looked up at the sniper, “so you’re not here to kill me…” Ark shook his head. “Why are you here?”
“I’m Agent Arkansas,” John responded, “a member of Project Freelancer: Rebirth.”
“I didn’t think anyone would be fucking dumb enough to restart that train wreck.”
“What do you mean?”
“The original program was doomed to failure. A board which pitted everyone against one another, AI that could twist your thoughts, armor enhancements which could cripple you if used wrong….among other things.”
Ark sat on Josh’s bed, arms crossed over his legs as Josh carried on reminiscing of his days as a Freelancer. It was all pretty interesting, if not familiar. An orphan at the young age, no one to turn to, eventually finding a way out of their own hells by joining the UNSC before eventually being offered a position in Freelancer. The pair’s pasts seemed to almost mirror one another.
“What happened to your AI?” Ark eventually asked. Josh snorted and looked away.
“She terminated herself to protect me. A rogue agent was hunting down Agents for their AI’s.”
“Yeah…I guess I grew attached to that little orange mirage.” Josh chuckled again before turning toward Ark. “Anything else?”
Ark scoffed and stood, crossing his arms as he looked down at the older man. He was definitely a former freelancer, having been places that the sniper had aspired to go to before. Maybe he knew something else.
“Yes,” Ark replied, shrugging a little, “I was hoping you knew something about my parents.” Josh shook his head.
“I don’t know your name, and only know that you’re apart of a program that seems to be following the history of my own. It doesn’t really instill a lot of trust in a old warrior like myself.” Josh responded, narrowing his gaze at Ark.
“Right…forgot to introduce myself as my real name…I’m John Marshall Reed.”
Josh seemed to grow silent after that, numerous emotions flickering across his face. Shock, Anger, Sadness, all the major ones were there. Eventually he wheeled himself over to the window again and stared out at Ark's vehicle.
"Yeah...yeah I know your parents." The old man finally said, looking down at his lap. Ark readjusted himself on the bed.
Josh took a deep breath and turned toward Ark, cracking a small, sad smile.
"You're my grandson."
Silence filled the air afterward, with Ark feeling all the same emotions Josh had just moments before. He kept opening and closing his mouth, trying to think of words to formulate, trying to sort out how he felt.
"Y-...you're serious, aren't you?" Josh nodded.
"Yes. Your mother, Isadora Alejandra Marquez-Griffin was my daughter. Your father was an englishman by the name of James Reed. I'm sad to say but...they died roughly a week after you were born."
Grandfather and grandson sat in silence once again, the former letting the memories flow back into his tired mind. Ark was conflicted, all the information just coming too fast. He had a feeling that they were dead, James and Isadora, but there was always this hope that, maybe, they were out there somewhere, regretting leaving their son behind and wondering if he was looking for them. Instead, the former was the truth, learned from the sole relative he had. One who probably wouldn't be alive for another year.
"How did they die?" Josh sighed with sadness and guilt, lowering his head further until his chin touched his chest.
"Gunshots, one to each of their heads...they were killed because of me," Josh paused while Ark looked at him in confusion. "I was Agent California of Project Freelancer. I got a few enemies, some who were hellbent on finding me, making me suffer. I managed to elude them, and thought I was free of their torment. I settled down, started a family...everything was fine, until your mother met your father."
It was obvious from Josh's tone that he despised James Reed, Ark's dad. For whatever reason, it must've been a good one.
"He didn't like the idea of your mother living close to me, knowing my previous career. He insisted they leave with you, back to Britain to live safely...it was that choice that got them killed," Josh then looked back up at Ark, eyes hard. "You were only spared because they didn't know you existed...I'm afraid to think what they would've done if they found you..."
Ark silently stood and approached his grandfather, before kneeling down and wrapping his arms around him. Josh was shocked, but slowly reached a hand around to his back, patting it. Ark lost it then, and let the tears pour down.
"Thank you, grandpa...for everything..." Josh didn't say anything, just kept on patting John on the back. "I'm...glad I found you.."
"I'm glad you found me...before I pass on. It's humbling to know that...I still have someone in this world..."
Ark hummed happily as he reassembled his sniper rifle, having just recently cleaned it out and upgraded the parts. He had gotten back the night before, and it felt like the weight of the world had been taken off his shoulders. Before he left, Josh had shown him where James Reed and Isadora Alejandra Marquez-Griffin were buried, where they paid their respects, hoping the pair could hear them.
The sniper didn't looked up when Nevada leaned onto his work bench, resting her head on her arms and looking up at Ark curiously.
"Hey there, Ark, whatcha doin'?" The woman asked. Ark's smile grew.
"Fixing my sniper."
"Why are ya smiling?"
Nevada frowned and she pushed herself to her feet before crossing her arms and narrowing her eyes. She hated it when Ark played these games, mostly because they ended with him nursing a wounded limb. But something about him seemed...different. Like he was more happy.
Then she got an idea.
Grinning evilly, she stepped away and looked down, putting her hands behind her back. Ark paused and looked over at her curiously. She'd never done this before. Suddenly, her head snapped back up and Ark's jaw dropped. Her eyes were wide, cute and watery, filled with mock sadness.
"Pwease Ark." She murmurred, her eyes digging into his soul. She had done what no one had thought she'd ever do: she was using 'puppy dog eyes'. Ark was a sucker for those.
Sighing, he pushed himself away and stood, stretching before smiling over at her.
"Alright, alright I'll tell you."
Nev pumped a fist into the air in victory before taking Ark's former seat. Groaning in annoyance, he stepped back and smiled again.
"I found my family."
AN: Thought I might invest some time in a story centric on Ark, and his connections to California and what happened to his parents. Sure it takes away some of the mystery surrounding him, but Ark hates secrets.
Ark: You know it!