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Red vs. Blue: Reconnaissance by Stelladea

Red vs. Blue: Reconnaissance (Chapter 1)
Date: 21 August 2011, 9:12 pm

All was calm and quiet in Blood Gulch — not a soul crowded the green plains, and the wind blew gently.

"Command, Agent 11 here," I said into my radio. I expected to hear my normal feminine voice say this, but instead, a harsh, grinding tone came from my helmet. It was disorienting not being able to use my own voice, let alone the voice of a man.

Command finally responded into the chaotic fuzziness of my radio. "Agent 11, please state your location."

"Location, Blood Gulch Alpha. The portal was successful."

"Copy that. You know your mission?"


"Very well. Keep us posted. Over and out."

As my radio clicked off, I made a quick scan of the area to make sure no one was around, and then adjusted my armor. Not only was the voice-changer in my helmet making me feel like a guy, but the sticky covering on my armor made me look all wrong — I felt like a zebra covered in leopard spots.

Usually, I had the privilege of picking my own armor color; it was one of the perks of being in the CIA. However, since I needed to appeal to both the Reds and Blues, I needed to cover my normal color with this gross, bright red rubbery stuff that was supposed to come off when peeled, like a bumper sticker. Somehow, as I struggled with the red rubber, I felt as if it wouldn't be that easy.

Finally, satisfied that all my regular armor was covered up, I walked toward the Red base. As I approached, I saw a yellowish-orange Private leaning casually against the base, doing nothing in particular. I decided to watch him for a while behind a nearby rock before making contact. He yawned widely into his hand, stretching his arms and legs. Didn't the soldiers here have any training to do? I decided that a tactful negotiation would be the best option here; I didn't want to resort to violence. I took a deep breath and walked out from behind the rock, praying that I wouldn't need to use my gun today. The yellow soldier saw me coming, jumped up, and pulled a handgun swiftly from his belt.

"Who are you?" he demanded, pointing his weapon at me. "What do you want?"

I rolled my eyes, ignoring the weapon. "CIA," I said, showing him my ID.

He didn't lower his gun. "Really."

"If I were you, I'd put down that gun, Private." I was surprised at how terrifying my own voice sounded. The soldier's hand shook, but he didn't stand down.

"Don't threaten me, asshole!" he yelled. "How do I know you're not a spy for the Blues?"

"How do you know I am one?" I asked coolly. "I showed you the ID, genius. Plus, in case you're color blind, I am actually wearing red here."

"Watch who you insult! My sister's color blind!"

I rolled my eyes. "I don't have time for this," I told the soldier, frustrated. "I need to speak to whomever's in charge here, and it's obviously not you." I attempted to pass him, but he blocked my way. "I'm warning you, soldier, if you don't move out of my way, I'll move you myself." My grinding tone even scared myself, and I was surprised he wouldn't move. I pulled out my gun.

"Prove you're on our side!" he said, his voice about an octave higher than it had been before.

"Fine," I said heavily.

And I punched him.

"That was a service to the entire Red team," I said to his unconscious body when it had crumpled to the ground.

"Holy shit! Grif!" The voice came from another Red, but this one was more maroon. He came running at top speed, and I wondered if this guy would be upset at me for hurting his comrade. I imagined what he saw: a random red soldier standing over the body of his teammate. I grimaced and realized this was a terrible start to the mission.

The maroon guy reached me and bent down to Grif. After a moment, he straightened up and faced me.

"Is he dead?" he asked.

"No, I just knocked him out," I explained. Then I added quickly, "He was being difficult. I had to."

"Dammit, you should have blown his brains out!"

I laughed and pulled out my ID. "I'm from the CIA. May I speak to someone in charge here?"

"Any enemy of Grif is a friend of mine," he said. "Follow me. Sarge should be inside. I'm Private Simmons."

"Agent 11."

Red vs. Blue: Reconnaissance (Chapter 2)
Date: 28 August 2011, 11:44 pm

We headed toward the other side of the base, where a bright Red Sergeant was giving orders authoritatively to a brown robot. It seemed to be trying to fix a large black car that looked somewhat like a big cat. Maybe a puma.

"What in Sam hill is going on, Simmons?" the Red chastized. "What was Grif shouting about now?"

"He wasn't trusting this CIA Agent that showed up, sir," Simmons explained.

The Sergeant sighed. "Diabolical." He turned to the brown robot. "Keep up with that, Lopez. I've got to go see what this is all about."

The robot replied with a "Si" and continued repairing the car.

"So, where is that son of a Ben and Jerry now?" asked the Sergeant.

"I knocked him out," I said uneasily. "He was being extremely difficult."

"You knocked him out?" I winced and waited for the worst. "I've been trying to do that all day! All my life, come to think of it. Nicely done, Agent! They should award you a medal for that!"

I stared, astonished, at the leader of the Red team. Did no one like the yellow-orange soldier?

When we entered the Red base, I began to recite my story, wondering if they'd actually believe me. I didn't need any more crap—that Grif had stretched my nerves enough already. "Sergeant, I am here from the CIA on a special mission." It seemed as though Simmons were about to interrupt me, but I rushed on before he could say anything. "After the crash of the Freelancer project, many of the innermost plans were lost, and we require further information so we can form a proper warrant for the arrest of the Director. Because all of you were involved in the project's downfall, I'm going to have to ask that you all cooperate—it will be quite simple. I will need to speak to each of you privately about what you know. If everyone works with me, it will be a simple and easy debriefing."

"Debriefing?" piped in a high voice from the next room. A pink soldier appeared from the kitchen. "Can I help?"

Simmons sighed. "Not that kind, Donut! He's an Agent. He needs information."

"Oh," Donut replied, sounding disappointed. He entered the room wearing a flowery apron. "Care to stay for lunch? I made quiche!"

I stifled a giggle—it would have seemed very odd with the voice-changer. "No thank you, soldier." He ambled back into the kitchen, humming something I couldn't recognize.

"Well then," said the Sergeant enthusiastically, trying to divert the attention away from the pink Private. "The fine Agent that you are, I suppose you'll want to start your investigating right away. We'll go in order from the most important to the least important. I'll be first, then Simmons, then Donut, then Grif. If he's conscious by then, anyway." He sighed happily. "Simmons, why can't you be more like this Agent? He actually gets things done around here!"

Simmons looked down and said nothing, and I could tell he was exceedingly upset. Wonderful.

The Sergeant and I left to one of the back rooms of the base where we would get some peace and quiet, and we sat on opposite ends of a square cement table. I finally began my interrogation.

"Please state your full name."


I waited for more, but he said nothing. I decided not to press it—there were more important matters to attend to.

"All right then, Sarge," I said, making sure the recording device implanted in my armor was working correctly. A small red light on my arm activated, giving me the go-ahead. "You were present at the Freelancer Agency the day it collapsed, correct?"

"Yes, sir." That was weird too. Being called "sir."

"Please describe your experience there."

As he began to talk, I realized with horror that he really didn't know anything at all about what happened there—at least, nothing more than Command already did. The only useful piece of information I received was that it was them who had erased all the files on the blue team… and all this time Command had been blaming it on a computer crash.

After he was done with the story, I was about to dismiss him, but he insisted on telling me what a superior "soldier" I was and how honored he was to have me here with them. Grif must have been a complete idiot.

After I was done with Sarge, Simmons came in, saying immediately that he hadn't introduced himself properly and that he was Private Dick Simmons, the second-in-command. He emphasized that last part almost warningly, as if cautioning me not to get any ideas just because Sarge thought I was so great.

I asked Simmons to describe his side of the story, and it seemed almost exactly the same as Sarge's. He didn't really know anything useful either.

I took an instant liking to the pink Private (who insisted that he was of a lightish-red color) after that. His Freelancer story involved a lot of sand and a blue guy named Tucker, but I knew that Command was already informed of this incident and had been looking into it for weeks.

He and I finished our session, and I asked for Grif. I had not long to wait; he was already conscious and limped furiously into the interrogation room, showing no signs of cooperation. I sighed; this was not going to be pleasant.

After dragging his full name out of him, he clamped his mouth shut and refused to say another word. Only after threatening him with another K.O. did he speak, saying that he had been with Sarge and Simmons the whole time. That was all I needed. I knew he hadn't seen anything different. He was too stupid (or maybe not stupid at all) to lie to me like that.

He finally left, and I sat back, exhausted. I was already halfway done with my mission, and had received no useful information. After speaking briefly with Sarge, I checked all of their computer databases, but all they had were plans for attacks on the Blues, made-up insults for them, and computer games. What kind of army was this?

Red vs. Blue: Reconnaissance (Chapter 3)
Date: 4 September 2011, 3:54 pm

I later left the Red base unwillingly — I was tempted to try some of Donut's quiche, but there wasn't any time to waste. As I walked off, assuring them I would come back sometime, Grif muttered that I was just going over to the Blues to report all their plans and laugh at them.

He was half right. I was going to the Blues, and I would laugh at him, but I wouldn't just give away their plans like that. What kind of Agent did he think I was?

I headed to the other end of Blood Gulch. As I left the Reds' line of vision, I started trying to pull the red covering off my armor, but just as I suspected, it stuck fast. It's a good thing no one saw me stumbling over to the Blue base. I looked almost comical, walking along, trying to tear off my own armor. I sighed and continued to wrestle with the gross stuff, hardly paying attention to where I was going. Before I knew it, I had reached the entrance to the Blue base, still looking very much like a Red.

"Cheese!" someone said behind me, and I turned to see a royal blue Private pointing a gun at me.

"It's 'freeze,' buddy," I corrected him.

"You should not tell me what to do!" said the Blue. "I have the gun. Because I am supposed to keep watch for any Red intruder."

"I'm not a Red," I explained. "I'm actually—"

"Shhh!" he interrupted. "You are a Red, and so you will lie to me! Like they did! They said they would give me cookies!"

I decided this guy just wasn't worth it. I pulled out my tranquilizer gun, but before I could say anything else, he ran away, dropping his.

"I'm leaving now!"

There was something seriously wrong with the soldiers at Blood Gulch.

I decided to follow him, but before I could round the corner two more Blues popped out of the base and started running toward me.

"A Red!" the pale blue one shouted. "They're as stupid as they look! He just waltzed right up to the base!"

They began firing at me, but the light blue one had a terrible shot—one strike from his sniper would have killed me, but he just couldn't hit his target. The aqua soldier had a stun gun which I was much more wary of. However, he seemed to be having trouble shooting it.

"Tucker! Would you shoot him already?"

The aqua one called Tucker began panicking. "I can't, Church!" he cried. "It's stuck or something! It won't work!"

I ended up hitting Tucker in the leg, and he went down easily. For some reason though, I shot Church about four times, but he just would not fall. I couldn't understand it. Every time I got him, he'd double over for a second, moaning and cursing, but then he would get back up and continue his absurd sniper firing.

I finally got him in the neck and he fell to the ground, motionless. I decided this was the time to get the information I needed from their computers—screw the stupid interviews!

I ran into their base and loaded up the first computer. I scanned their files and was just about to open the first folder, when—


Church held his sniper right up to my forehead, the tranquilizer dart still stuck into his neck, not bothered by it at all. Tucker staggered into view right behind him, panting heavily and holding his injured leg where I had shot him.

"Yeah… freeze…" he gasped.

"I don't have time for this," I said threateningly. "Let me get what I need. This doesn't have to be hard."

"Bow… chicka bow wow."

I rolled my eyes under my helmet as the light blue Private told the other to shut up, setting up my gun again and pointing at Church's forehead.

"Hasta la vista, Private."

He panicked, firing at me, but I jumped out of the way just in time, and his shot bounced against the Blue base's walls. The two Blues yelled and ducked for cover as I flipped over the both of them, but unfortunately, my plan didn't quite work out.

Just as I was in the air over the other two, Tucker stuck his stun gun into the air with fright, trying to protect his head with it, but I heard a shot ring out and a sharp needle stick into my thigh.

I collapsed to the ground, cursing, and my mind began to fade.

The last thing I remembered was Church cheering, and Tucker:

"Maybe I should try not to shoot people more often… then I actually might hit them."

Red vs. Blue: Reconnaissance (Chapter 4)
Date: 10 September 2011, 4:27 pm

I woke up in another room, extremely disoriented. Moaning, I tried to rub my head, but I found my hands were locked in handcuffs, and I was tied to a chair. The room was dark; I couldn't see a thing.

"Shit," I said. Thankfully, my voice-changer hadn't broken.

"That's right, Red!" a voice said from the darkness. "We got you now!"

The light flipped on and the two Blues who had shot me were standing there smugly, their arms crossed.

"Sucks to be you, doesn't it?" Church said, laughing.

"You idiots," I said. "Let me out of here! I'm—"

"Just another Red trying to break in," Tucker cut in. "We know, we know."

"Yeah, it's time for you to cough up," Church said. "Tell us what the Red's plans are."

"Like I know them," I spat. "I'm not even part of the Red team."

"Oh, really?" Tucker asked sarcastically. "So what's the color of your armor? Green?"

"Even if I told you, you wouldn't believe me."

Church laughed. "You don't even have a good explanation! It just shows how stupid the Red team is!"

"All right, I'm getting tired of this guy," Tucker said. "Let's see who we're really facing."

He walked up to me, grabbed my helmet, and I panicked.

"No! Don't—"

In one swoop, he ripped off my helmet and my long hair flew out in front of me.

The two Blues stood there, shocked.

"There, you happy? See my face clearly enough yet?" I yelled. "Now let me out of here!"

The two Blues, too stunned to say anything, undid my chains and I showed them my ID.

"I'm from the CIA, you cockbites!" I growled. I was happy to see that my voice seemed much scarier without the voice-changer, and was much more effective with the Blues.

"Now," I said, my anger pulsating through the entire base, "I am here to gather information about the Project Freelancer. Stop the effing nonsense and show me to my room. I've been told to stay with you."

Without a word, they left, and I followed along behind them. They were completely silent, and I wished I knew what they were thinking -- were they truly scared of me, or were they just pissed? Well, their anger was nothing compared to mine. My fury was not to be trifled with at the moment, and the Blues weren't foolish enough to test it.

"Here," Church said finally. "This will be your room. Once you get settled in, you can let us know what you need."

They turned and left before I could say anything.

What a terrible day.

I entered my room, and encountered a standard-issue sleeping area. One bed, one window, one desk. I even had my own bathroom.

I sat on my bed and sighed, my anger slowly slipping away. What had they been thinking? Well, I supposed that they hadn't been thinking at all -- but then again, I had looked like a Red.

That reminded me that I still had the stupid red crap all over my armor, and began clawing at the stuff. Just like before, it just would not budge, and I began to really work at it.

Just as I forced one piece off of my shoulder, I heard a voice.

"Well that sucked."

"What?" I asked, tensing. "Who's there?"

"Totally," another voice replied. "We really screwed up there."

I stood up, looking around my room, but no one was there. The voices seemed to be coming from above me, and I ended up finding the vent right next to my door on the ceiling -- I could listen to the Blues' conversations from my room. I supposed this vent went to their main living area, and I continued to listen eagerly.

"I know." I thought the voice sounded like Church. "We are really losing it."

I heard Tucker speak as well. "The one chick that comes to Blood Gulch hates us the first day she's here. She must think we're idiots." He sighed. "And she's staying with us! I just can't believe our luck."

Church said nothing, so Tucker continued. "Do -- do you think we, you know, we should say something? To her?"

"Like what?"

"Like, I don't know, sorry or something."

"Ugh," Church grunted. "I suppose we have to. Especially if she's going to be here a while."

They said nothing more, and I continued my struggle with the red rubber. After I had peeled about half of it off, I heard a knock on my door.

"Yes?" I called.

The door creaked open. "Can I talk to you for a second?" Church asked boldly.

"If you must."

He walked into the room and cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Well. I just wanted to say that I realize that we acted harshly. It was a mistake… and I also want to ask what you've come here to do."

"As I said, I'm from the CIA," I replied frostily. "I'm Agent 11. Command sent me here to find out more information about the Freelancer project so we can set up a proper warrant for the arrest of Leonard L. Church." A sudden thought occurred to me, making me forget my anger. "Wait a second, are you the Director's original AI?"

"Yes… but you aren't going to arrest me, are you?"

"Well, maybe for the attack of a CIA Agent," I said dryly. "But no. I just need to know what you know. That's all. And then I'll leave."

For some reason, Church looked uncomfortable. "Listen, I don't think I can do that."

I smiled grimly. "I'm willing to wait. I've got my own room now, don't I?"

"I'm serious. I just can't talk about it." He frowned. "You'll have a long time to wait if you're going to."

"Fine." My expression was emotionless. "I will."

"Well, ok. I mean, I'm not trying to be rude, but I just can't talk about it."

I said nothing, but he knew I wasn't about to change my mind. He turned around to go, but just as he was about to leave, he stopped.

"I -- I'm sorry," he said, and walked back down the hallway.

I looked back down at my armor, and wondered why he hadn't said anything -- I looked like a half red, half blue psycho. I laughed a little and persisted in removing the red covering from my armor.

I finally, finally removed the last speck of red stuff, and sighed with relief. My mood not only improved, but I felt like myself again. I had my original color armor back and my normal voice again. There was no point in using the voice-changer now that the Blues knew I was a girl.

I gazed fondly at my own armor. A clear robin's egg blue, it matched the color of the sky -- darker than Church's powdery blue, and brighter.

Happier, I lay back on my bed, watching some alien-bird-looking things flying peacefully in the sky. Just as I was about to doze off, I heard another knock at my door.

"Come in," I said.

Tucker hesitantly walked into the room. He jumped when he saw me, and reached for his gun.

"It's me, Tucker." I pointed at the floppy red rubber now lying on the floor. "See?"

He relaxed a little, and put away his gun. "Uh, listen," he began nervously. "I don't think I introduced myself properly. I'm Private Lavernius Tucker."

We shook hands. "Agent 11."

"What, you don't trust me to say your real name?"

"Should I?"

"Well, not now, I guess. But you should later."

I laughed. "Right."

He relaxed a little more, now seeing that I wasn't about to rip his head off. "Uh, well," he began uncomfortably. "I just… I think it's… I've got to say… I'm sorry."

"Don't worry about it," I said. "It's a war, right? You're supposed to be on your guard."

He smiled faintly. "So, what are you doing here? I mean," he backtracked embarrassedly. "Why did you need to come here?"

I explained my mission for the third time that day, and Tucker's reaction was the same as Church's. "There's no way I can tell you anything," he said apologetically. "But you're just going to stay here anyway?"

"Yes. I have to," I replied. "What would I do if I came back to Command with no info?"

"That sucks. You're stuck here. With us."

"It won't be so bad, I don't think," I said. Then I added, "Once you guys stop getting on my nerves, of course." He laughed, and I decided it was his turn to answer questions. "Well, now that you know what I do, you should tell me your job here. What's your specialty?"

He smiled coyly. "I'm a doctor."


"A doctor of love! Certified Ph.D. of seductology and feminine charming. No chick can resist me!"

"Where are all these girls, Dr. Tucker? I don't see any hanging off of your charms..."

"Well, they would, if any did live here. I'm sure of that. Care to set up an appointment?"

"Nice try. I'll pass -- I'm strictly here on business."

"That's good, because love is my business!" I raised an eyebrow at him, and he pretended to be upset as he slumped toward the door.

"Well, I like real girls, anyway," he said teasingly.

"What's that supposed to mean?" I protested, but he sped out the door, laughing.

"See ya, Agent Ells!" I heard from down the hall.

I rolled my eyes. "It's Agent 11!"

Red vs. Blue: Reconnaissance (Chapter 5)
Date: 25 September 2011, 7:13 am

Later, I decided to take a walk outside, just to see if I could find anything useful around the base. I walked toward the vehicles and encountered the royal blue Private speaking… to the tank.

"Sheila," he was saying. "I am going to go now. It's nap time. Then it will be food time. And I will make you a muffin."

"Thank you, Caboose," the tank (Sheila?) responded. She tried to sound sincere, but I could tell she was just annoyed. "Please go, now."

"Okay!" He promptly walked away from the talking tank and began to walk inside, but saw me. He ran over excitedly. "Hello, rookie," he said. "Have you come to give us back up? To back us up?"

"I—what?" I asked. "I'm not a rookie."

"Yes you are," he said. "You are wearing blue. And you are new. So you are a rookie."

I figured this guy needed a little more help than most, so I decided to be patient—or attempt to be.

"My name is Agent 11," I said slowly. "I came here to find some information. I work for the CIA."

"You are an Agent?" He finally seemed to be understanding. He suddenly became very excited. "Like… like… Jackie Bond?"

I decided not to bother correcting him. "Yes… like Jackie Bond."

"We are going to be best friends forever," Caboose exclaimed. "You will show me all of your gadgets, and we will fight the Red team, and we will win! And then we will have a party with everyone. I hope Lopez can find us a piñata! I love candy!"

I had absolutely no idea what to say to this, so I decided to change the subject.

"Uh, Caboose, will you please give me your full name?" There wasn't any reason I couldn't question him out here, where he was probably more comfortable.

"My name is Michael J. Caboose!"

"Right. Can you please tell me what happened to you on the day Freelancer City collapsed?"

He told me all about what happened with great detail, and though it seemed a bit obscure, I already had heard the story. After a while, he went on a rant about something called "Pepsi-con" and I had absolutely no clue what he was talking about. I figured he might be getting his daily soft drink intake and his mission data mixed up in that small mind of his, so I decided to drop the subject and move on. My interrogations didn't seem very effective at all.

"So do you like it here at Blood Gulch now?" I inquired.

"Oh, yes. Come on! You should see it!" He dragged me away from Sheila excitedly and brought me into the base.

"This is where you play with us." He pointed into a large living area, where I supposed I had heard Tucker and Church talking about me. There was a large tv, a couple gaming systems, DVDs, two squishy couches, and an armchair.

"Wow," I said, impressed. "You guys really live the life here, don't you?"

"Yes, we do live the life," Caboose said seriously. "Because we are alive. And not dead."

I stifled another laugh and followed him into the next room.

"This is the kitchen," he explained. "We have food in here. I like ice cream."

I barely caught a glimpse of the kitchen before he towed me away down the hall.

After visiting the weapons area, computer room, exercise space, and various other rooms, Caboose brought me back to the living area.

"So do you like it?" he asked, sounding genuinely worried. "Are you going to stay? Don't leave yet!"

The look on his face seemed so anxious, I felt bad about needing to leave at all. "Yes, Caboose. I like it."

"Good. Now let's have cookies!"

I began to have a soft spot for Caboose. He was so childlike and innocent, it was hard to be serious with him. He would come up to me at the most random moments, saying the most pointless things. This seemed to annoy Church and Tucker when it happened to them, but I grew used to it—I even looked forward to the entertainment.

However, as I came to like Caboose, I realized how dangerous it was to have a companion here. I couldn't start any kind of friendship… I could ruin the entire mission. How would I explain it if I grew attached to him, and an enemy found out? We would all be in danger, and I couldn't risk it.

Despite these feelings of foreboding, my friendship with Caboose blossomed, and led to the toleration of the other Blues as well. This had not been my planning—up until then, I had found Tucker and Church rather irritating—but we grew used to each other in Caboose's presence.

At first, I had only hung out with Tucker and Church upon Caboose's request, and did so grudgingly. I liked Caboose's carefree personality much more than Church's irritable one; Tucker seemed girl-crazy, and that was annoying as well.

As we spent more time together—watching movies, exercising, practicing shooting techniques—I came to see that the others weren't really so bad. Perhaps Church was a little cocky and aggravating, but under all the strutting and cursing I could see that he had a good heart. Caring, even. I just didn't know what (or whom) he cared about.

Tucker, on the other hand, cared way too much. Always cracking dirty jokes and talking about chicks, I got annoyed by him very quickly; not only would he do that, but he always called me "Ells" or "Agent Ells." I cringed every time.

However, once I started to hang out with him more, the subject of his vulgarities turned away from me and onto other girls. This made me more comfortable with him, and I could consider him a friend. I even let him get away with my stupid nickname once or twice.

But wait. I wasn't supposed to be making friends here. I was supposed to be doing work. I needed the information for Command, and I just couldn't find any of it.

Church invited me to use all of the computers in their labs; any information I could find there I was welcome to. However, everything I found reminded me a little of the Reds' computers: games and plans to kill the opposing team. I was beginning to get frustrated; I had already been there plenty of time and had found no worthwhile information.

However, before I could really start to worry about Command, the Blues announced that they had a break from work coming up. A vacation in the middle of a war seemed a little odd to me, but I had already encountered the weirdest here, so I was prepared to handle anything.

On the first day of the vacation, Tucker announced that the Reds were coming over to watch the Superbowl.

At first, I thought he was kidding… but of course, I was wrong. That evening, the Reds showed up at our Blue base entrance, chips and sodas in hand, ready to watch the game.

It caused quite an uproar when the Reds saw me—they at first thought that this whole thing was a trick to ambush them because the Blues had gotten "a new recruit." I had to show them my red rubber remains to prove them otherwise, and they calmed down, but not for long.

The second shock—of course—was that I was a girl. This made Grif like me less and Simmons like me more, while Sarge just stood there, basking in my brilliance. Donut… I don't know. I think he seemed disappointed. Whatever.

Everyone finally calmed down and we headed to the living area, laughing and joking.

Of course, the Reds and Blues supported opposite teams during the game, but I had to side with the Red team this time. I received good-natured boos from Tucker and Church, while Sarge beamed proudly at me. Grif grumbled.

The game was extremely exciting, and we spent the whole first half cursing at each other in good spirits, each team fiercely loyal. By the third quarter, it was a tie, but I had to escape to the bathroom after drinking one too many sodas.

Right when I was about to leave my room, I heard voices through the vents say my name. The boys were having a conversation—about me.

"It's not effin' fair!" I heard Simmons complain. "Why do you get the chick?"

"'Cause the Blues are better, that's why," Church bragged.

"Man, I am so jealous." I cringed and wished they would stop, but they didn't. Of course.

A gross sound came from someone's throat, and I figured it was Grif. "Wow, Simmons. She's so ugly."

"She's my girlfriend."

I almost laughed out loud as I recognized Caboose's voice. There were gasps of astonishment.

Caboose cracked under the pressure of their stares, however: "Well, she does not know that yet."

Everyone must have rolled their eyes, because there was silence. Before it got awkward, I decided it was time for my return. I walked into the room to encounter their guilty faces, pretending not to notice at all. I slumped onto the couch and turned up the volume on the TV.

"What's the score?"

They all immediately began to talk and joke about the game, but I could tell they looked sheepish. The only person who did not seem to share this was Sarge, who came out of the kitchen carrying a steaming tray of nachos. The boys dug in, and I sat back, watching them. So this was what happened when you hadn't been in contact with a girl for months.

I sighed. Guys were so stupid.

Red vs. Blue: Reconnaissance (Chapter 6)
Date: 7 October 2011, 10:16 pm

As the vacation ended, the boys went back to cleaning their weapons and planning attacks on each other. I was allowed to go and talk with either side, which I did; for some reason, no one had a problem with it.

Once their fighting really ensued, I realized how much time had been wasted. I had found minimal amounts of information regarding the Freelancer project. Most of the guys really didn't know how much went on during the fall of the Freelancers—big surprise—and those who did never wanted to talk about it, least of all Church. I could tell it pulled at him emotionally, though why was a mystery to me. Tucker also seemed to know more about it, but avoided the subject as well; I supposed this was loyalty to Church. Of course, Caboose had no idea what he was talking about.

I decided it was time to call in for some backup. Command had informed me that they'd be sending a Freelancer in after the holiday to assist in my search, and I was grateful for that. Part of me wished that the new soldier would be a girl, so the attention would be diverted away from me.

It was frustrating. The drama was even worse than a sitcom. Caboose not only crushed on me, but loved the talking tank, Sheila. Meanwhile, Sheila and the Reds' robot Lopez were a couple, and Caboose couldn't get over that. After that, I thought Donut might have had some difficulty with his sexual preferences, as it looked as though he hit on Caboose, but then again, he said he liked me as well. However, I suspected that he pretended to like me just to tease Simmons, because Simmons obviously had feelings toward me. I could barely go over to the Red base without his starting up a conversation, but perhaps this action, too, was just another way to piss Grif off—the yellow-orange Private couldn't stand me. If I were to choose the one who I thought would get the most involved, though, it would be Tucker. Surprisingly, he stayed out of the circle of drama, though each day was peppered with myriad racy jokes and comments. I knew these were simply for kicks, however. He really wasn't interested in me- after I had rejected him that first day, I was sure he had decided I was a lost cause... after all, he had said he liked "real girls."

The only ones who didn't get involved were Sarge, who was in love with Angelina Jolie, and Church. I knew there was something hidden behind that pale blue shield, but if he couldn't talk to me about the fall of the Freelancers, he certainly wouldn't reveal anything about his personal life. Well, that was fine enough; I didn't need any more of the drama. I felt like a freshman in high school all over again, except I was the only girl for miles and miles around. Everyone acted as if they'd never seen a chick before in their lives.

So, when I called for backup, I hoped against hope that it would be another girl. I needed to get away from this and actually do my job.

The others seemed uncomfortable with the idea of a Freelancer's coming to the base. Whenever the word "Freelancer" was spoken, Caboose would run from the room, and Church and Tucker would look at each other uneasily. I figured their experience during the fall of the Freelancers left a black spot in their memories—a black spot they did not want to revisit.

I even received a surprise from Tucker—the day my backup was supposed to arrive, he wanted to speak with me in private. We decided on conversing in one of the back interrogation rooms. When we settled there, Tucker looked as though he were preparing himself to speak. He took off his helmet, shook out his shaggy hair, and took a deep breath.

"Ells, you're just staying here until you get the information, right?"

"Yeah. And don't call me that."

He ignored me, appearing to struggle to find the right words. "Well, you've been with us so long, it's probably time we told you some stuff Command doesn't know. But you have to make me a promise first."

"What is it?"

"Don't let Command send in the Freelancer."

I frowned. "Are you serious?"

"You don't know what it was like dealing with them," he answered. "They just can't be trusted. We've decided that we can't hold this info in any longer, but we don't want it in the hands of a Freelancer. We need to tell you now, but only if you cancel your backup."

I contemplated. No backup, but perhaps a lead. "Deal."

"Okay. But…" He paused, but then added quickly, "But you shouldn't just leave right when I'm done."

"Why not?"

"Because… because you still might be able to get more information. Like out of Church. He knows more than I do."

I watched him carefully, but he wouldn't look at me. I wasn't sure what to think. "Well, all right. I won't go just yet."

"Okay," he said. He sat silently for another minute, then began his story.

"You already know this, but I wasn't there during the collapse of the Freelancer project. When I came back, Church had to tell me all about it to fill me in, but I think he told me more than he originally planned." He paused, as if waiting for me to say something, but I remained silent, only nodding. "He told me that he went into the deep tunnels of the building before Freelancer Washington helped disable it—that's where he found out that he was the Director's original AI." I had heard all of this before, but I waited patiently for Tucker to finish.

He continued nervously. "Church and Caboose took this big… thing. An AI. Epsilon. We have it here—it's the one that contains all the memories of the other AIs."

I was stunned. Epsilon."Pepsi-con." That's what Caboose's rant had been all about! All this time, I had all the information I needed right in the base!

"But… I don't understand," I said slowly. "Why couldn't you tell me this before?"

"Well, I was all right with telling you," Tucker explained, "but Church has a harder time trusting people. Plus, he has bad memories about that time… it makes him really upset."

I wondered why. "Thanks for telling me this, Tucker," I said. "So… can I see this big thing you were talking about?"

"Bow chicka bow wow."

We let Church and Caboose know what Tucker had told me. I had a feeling that this had all been planned, as they both didn't seem at all surprised. After I contacted Command to let them know I didn't need the Freelancer, all three calmly led me to the basement. Church flipped on the lights.

A simple object lay in the middle of the room—about the size of a shotgun, purple metal, green lights.

"That's it?" I inquired. "That's Epsilon?"

"This is what stores it," Tucker said. "Epsilon is actually inside." I could hear a faint buzzing coming from it, and stepped forward to get a better look.

"What would happen if one came out?"

"Well," began Church. "It would communicate us through an image—or I suppose, a memory—of any given AI. That's all we know… or all it's cared to tell us."

"May I?"

Church gave the go-ahead ("Just be really, really careful with it!"), so I went forward and touched the green button on the side slightly. I was thrown back by a spray of neon sparks, and Church's image showed up on the screen.

"Hello. I am Epsilon. How may I be of service?" the Church in the machine asked.

"How come you're not more like that?" Tucker whispered, but the real Church elbowed him.

"Epsilon," I said clearly. "Do you have any memory of the Director?"

"Why yes, the Director is me. I am the original AI."

"Yes, I know, but do you know anything else?"

Epsilon thought for a moment. "Scanning memory… memory scan complete. No further files on Leonard L. Church."

"They must have erased that part of Epsilon's memory," came the real Church's voice from behind me. "I don't think he knows anything else."

I sighed. Were we just back to square one?

"Thank you, Epsilon," I said politely. I turned to the others. "Come on, let's go. Church is right—there isn't anything else here."

Back upstairs, we half-heartedly decided to try and forget about what a waste the day had been (in my opinion, at least). After popping a frozen lasagna in the oven and digging in the DVD cabinet for a comedy, we started a movie. However, we hardly got through the previews when the entire base flickered and went black. After trying and failing to get the power back, we abandoned the movie idea and went to bed. It was a rough day already, and having no power wasn't exactly the cherry on top. Hopefully, it would be better in the morning.

Red vs. Blue: Reconnaissance (Chapter 7)
Date: 22 October 2011, 4:57 am

When I woke up the next day, I found the base still had no power. We figured that the Reds had somehow hacked into our electrical system and shorted out all of the energy sources, draining us of light and heat. Admitting that they had gotten the better of us this time, Church left to go make sure the Reds weren't attacking in our time of weakness. Meanwhile, I attempted to reconnect the system, Tucker and Caboose trying to save the food in the fridge—the former eating it and the latter panicking.

After a day of reconnecting wires, rummaging around for spare batteries, and fighting over the wire-cutter, we finally had the electricity up and running again. Our success didn't last long, however: over the next few days, we had constant blackouts and needed to repeatedly repair the blown fuses.

The power outages happened constantly. I couldn't help but get irritated when they occurred, as Caboose would run around in a panic before Church and I could hunt him down and drag him to the kitchen, which became our meeting point when the lights went out. Then, we would encounter Tucker complaining about something, and when we tried to settle that, Caboose would freak out again because Sheila was off at the Red base flirting with Lopez.

This was not what I signed up for.

During an abnormally long period of having power, the Blues and I decided that we should check on the Epsilon device again to make sure it hadn't been damaged during all the blackouts. When we headed downstairs, the AI lay in the same spot it had been in when I had first encountered it.

"It is glowing. I like glowing things." Caboose was pointing at the green button I had pushed to turn it on the first time I had spoken to it. For some reason, it was giving off a neon green light—it hadn't done that before.

"Do you remember turning it off?" asked Tucker.

"What? You didn't tell me I had to turn it off!"

"I can't believe it didn't run out of energy or battery or something," Church said. He bent down and pushed the button again, but it didn't turn off—in fact, we weren't sure at first what happened.

A blinding light blasted us all back into the basement wall. I heard some indistinct yells and curses, and I found that I had landed on someone once we collapsed to the ground.

"Eleven! You're on top of me!" came a muffled voice from below me. It was Church.

"Sorry!" I gasped, rolling off of him. The white light had temporarily blinded us, but I could have sworn I heard a "bow chicka…" from Tucker before Caboose sat on his head again.

When my sight returned, I could see that Epsilon was still on, but an enormous, life-size image of the Omega AI (otherwise known as O'Malley) stood just above it, staring down at us.

O'Malley waited patiently for us to regroup, his armor shining a bright purple. His arms were crossed and he stood in a very confident stance that was nothing like the other AIs'—it was too conceited, too proud. I had a very bad feeling about this. The AI chuckled darkly once we all could see him again.

"Epsilon," I said cautiously. "What's going on?"

I expected to hear the obedient response from the device, informing me of some technical problem, but what came next was far from what I imagined.

"Wouldn't you like to know," he said, an evil laugh escaping his lips. "But, my dear, I would like to thank you for bringing me back to power. You were most helpful."

Everyone looked at me, and I frowned. "What are you talking about?"

"Oh, I suppose you'll be able to figure it out."

And with that, O'Malley stepped out of his image.

His entire body solidified as he walked out from above the Epsilon device—I couldn't see through him to the other basement wall anymore. He stretched out his limbs and neck, the clanking of his boots on the ground sounding extremely real. At that point, I realized we weren't dealing with a memory anymore.

I tried to reach for my gun, but before I could point it at O'Malley, he swooped down and jammed his finger into the wall. He sighed contentedly while I screamed—all the light bulbs in the basement exploded, showering us with sparks and broken glass.

"Again, thank you all so much for your help," O'Malley said, bowing. "It seems as though you are all quite shocked—excuse my pun—so I won't kill you this time."

His evil laugh echoed through the basement, and he was gone.

"Is everyone all right?" I asked, fumbling around on my armor. "Everybody turn on your lights!"

I watched pale blue and teal glows appear next to me. I flipped mine on as well.


"I can't see me."

I sighed and walked over to him, turning on his light.

We all turned on our armor lights to full power and scanned the dark basement. The Epsilon device, still in the middle of the room, lay motionless like an empty shell.

"Come on, we'll take Epsilon—or whatever's left of it—back to the living area."

Upstairs, I wasn't surprised to see that the entire base had lost power. I also had a funny feeling that no matter what we tried to do, we wouldn't be able to get it back this time. I didn't even attempt it; we had more than enough light shining in through the windows.

"Okay, so what the hell was that?" Tucker asked, but none of us seemed to have a good response for him. We were silent and I picked up the Epsilon machine.

It was completely dead. No lights, no buzzing, nothing.

"Epsilon is gone," I murmured, running my hand over the empty metal corpse. "All the memories… everything."

Church took the shell and examined it closely. Once finished, he sat back in a sort of resigned hopelessness and buried his face in his hands. I could almost feel his remorse. But why?

"How did it escape?" inquired Tucker again. "We had it down there the whole time—we didn't expose it to anything."

"Maybe that was the problem," I said, struck by the idea. "We never watched it, so we couldn't know what was happening."

"But what was there to happen?" Church interrupted, breaking his silence. "I mean, the only thing we did differently was that we forgot to turn Epsilon off… and while the Reds kept stealing our power, it didn't seem affected by it at all!"

I contemplated a moment. "You know… I don't think our power outages were due to the Reds at all. I think it really was—"

At that point, we heard a large blast from the other side of the canyon. I told Caboose to grab the Epsilon shell and we ran at full speed out the door just in time to see an enormous explosion coming from Red base.


Red vs. Blue: Reconnaissance (Chapter 8)
Date: 13 November 2011, 8:34 pm

We jumped into our tank and drove over to the Red base at light speed. I saw Sarge jumping inside the Reds' vehicle, and I called him over.

"Sarge!" I screamed, waving. "Over here!"

He saw me and drove over—in the back of my mind I wondered whether he had ever owned a license.

"Eleven!" he yelled. "One of our fuses shorted out and blew up part of our Base! There's a fire! Come on, we gotta go get the others!"

Leaving the horrified Blues behind, I leapt into the Warthog and we sped off, looking for the other Reds. We saw Donut first, trying to douse a fire in the kitchen with the tap water from the sink. I shouted at him to get in the car, and he didn't hesitate just as another small explosion took place. Simmons found us at the front of the base and hopped in next to me, but Grif was nowhere to be found. We circled the base countless times (at my request—Sarge wanted to leave him), calling his name and spraying the various fires with the limited water supply on the Warthog.

Just as I was beginning to lose hope, I heard a terrified yell from inside the base. Before I could explain myself, I jumped out from the moving vehicle. Ignoring the protests from the others, I ran into the blaze.

"Grif!" I shouted, my helmet hardly protecting me from inhaling the dense smoke. "Grif! Can you hear me?"

"Over here!" The sound was coming from down the hall in the living area. I dodged the various flames licking at my ankles and rounded the corner.

"I'm trapped!" Grif gasped, his voice cracking. "This pole—I can't stand—"

I stepped closer and saw through the smoke that a large metal beam, formerly a support for the room, had tipped over onto the yellow-orange Private's legs.

I heaved against the giant metal rod, but it didn't budge. There was no way one person could lift the entire thing off of Grif, whose breathing had become more ragged.

"Hold on!" He could just barely reply, but I shut him up. "No! Don't speak! You need to conserve your energy!"

Just as I said that, I saw a wild electrical wire flailing on the floor. As if I needed one more thing to complicate things. The sparking wire flopped around like a land-stranded fish, all the while inching closer and closer to one of Sarge's older rifles. It had clattered to the floor and now spilled a pile of gunpowder mere inches away from the pole covering Grif.

Then, I had an idea.

"Grif, brace yourself!" I warned. "This is going to be a big jolt, so be ready to get out from under that pole!"

Recklessly, I grabbed the live wire and stuck it deeply in the pile of gunpowder. I had only half a second to get away, but that was enough.

The explosion went off, flinging the metal beam into the air as if it were a plastic straw. I was thrown back against the wall—that seemed to be happening to me quite a lot—but opened my eyes in time to see Grif scramble away from the pole just as it collapsed back down again.

"Let's go!" He grabbed my wrist and we sped out of the base, coughing heavily. Finally stopping at a small hill a good while away, we inhaled the sweet, fresh air greedily.

"These… helmets… suck." Grif was still panting and sounded like a chain smoker.

"They're standard issue," I said, and chuckled at my own voice. I could have gotten away with pretending I was a guy again. "We should file a complaint."

We finally caught our breath as the others finished up taming the fire. When they had killed the last of the flames, we stood up and headed back to the Warthog.

The guys were busy inside the base when we got there, shifting through the wreckage. The damage didn't seem too terrible—of course, the worst of it had been inside the living area. Just as I was attempting to help Grif get inside the Warthog, I heard a yelp and my name.

"Eleven!" Sarge hurried over. "What the hell was that? We thought you had gone inside the base!"

I shifted uneasily. "Well, I did, but then I came back out."

"Ah, what a shame, Grif didn't make it out." He didn't seem sad at all. "Well, let's go."

"I'm right here, Sir," said Grif as he popped out from the Warthog.

"Grif! What are you doing in there, you lazy ass? Get out here and help us clean up!"

"Sarge," I said quickly. "He just inhaled a crapload of smoke from that living area. Give him a second, will you?"

"Eleven, I'm the Sergeant here, not you!" It looked as though he were about to say something else, but he sighed instead. "You aren't the soldier I thought you were. You should have left him where he was—it would have made it easier for all of us."

The next thing I knew, I was tackled by a lightish-red blur.

"Oh my God! Eleven! Are you okay?" asked Donut apprehensively. The other Reds and Blues had heard the commotion and made their way to the Warthog. "We thought you—"

"Ells, what happened? How did you make it out of there alive?" It was Tucker, looking just as tense as he had when O'Malley came back to life. "I was—I mean we were—so worried!"

"I had to go in there. Grif was trapped."

"You saved Grif?" Simmons sounded shocked.

"Yes. I did."

Simmons didn't say anything back.

"Now," I said, taking a deep breath. "We've got to move forward if we want to catch Epsilon, or O'Malley, or whatever it is. Reds, we're going to need your help. This fire explosion was no accident."

"What do you mean?"

"We don't know how, but an AI, Epsilon, has sort of evolved. It has come back to life in the form of O'Malley. I know you're familiar with him." The Reds groaned. "We figure he can control the electricity, so he blew the fuse, but we don't know how he actually escaped. The AI O'Malley didn't have the ability to self-transport, so he could still be here somewhere. Our job now is to find O'Malley and stop him, no matter what the cost."

"Why?" asked Tucker. "I mean, why do we care?"

"Because," I began with a smile. "We know that only one person had access to Epsilon before we did. Therefore, this one person could have planned this whole uprising as a sort of rebellion in case Freelancer City fell. If we find the right proof, we can arrest the Director."

Red vs. Blue: Reconnaissance (Chapter 9)
Date: 20 November 2011, 9:06 am

Back at the Blue base, we all crowded around the Epsilon device. We filled in the Reds of exactly what had happened—much to Church's discomfort—but we needed any help they could provide. After the explanation, we all fell silent, staring thoughtfully at the empty metal shell.

"I'm going to go down to the basement and check out the scene again," said Tucker when the silence became awkward. "Maybe O'Malley left some sort of evidence we can follow."

The others decided to stay upstairs and brainstorm, but I volunteered to accompany him. It was dark and difficult to see—we had only two armor lights, as opposed to four.

I started checking the area again, flashing my light on the broken pieces of glass and stepping gingerly around them.

"Ells, look at this."

"How many times do I have to tell you not to call me that?"

Tucker was standing on the other side of the room, staring at the wall. I crunched my way over and saw an outlet right at the spot where O'Malley had rammed his finger into the wall.

"Eew… what did he do, electrify himself?"

I examined the floor again, but this time saw something powdery that looked nothing like glass.

"What's this?" I asked, bending over.

Tucker crouched down as well. "It's… sand."

"Sand? Are there any beaches around here?"

"None," he said thoughtfully. "I wonder if… if he just transported out of here. To another place. Somewhere with sand."

"That doesn't seem physically possible," I replied, frowning. "The only AI who had the ability to transport without a portal was the one paired with Agent Idaho. O'Malley belonged to that one Freelancer, Tex—I just figured he turned invisible, like he used to be able to."

"Then how do you explain the sand?"

"Search me."

"What's going on down there?" came Sarge's voice from up the stairs. The rest of the crew came loudly to the basement, talking and bickering. "Any leads?"

"Well…" I looked at Tucker. "We're going to the beach."

After many talks, debates, discussions and tantrums, we finally persuaded everyone to jump through the portal.

"Gahh, why does this always happen to me?" Tucker complained, as he had been the only one to walk out of the portal charred and black. He turned to me and smiled. "You wanna rub it off me?"

"I will!" Donut volunteered, saving me a sarcastic remark.

I looked around for the first time. Beside the coastline lay a small stretch of grass, and then an enormous castle-type building—the perfect place for an evil lair.

We snuck up to where we could see the entrance, and stopped. The doors were guarded by two gigantic purple aliens. I sighed in relief; this would be easier than I thought.

"All right," I told the others. "This is what we'll do. Sarge, Caboose, Church, Donut, you sneak around to the left of the entrance, over there. Grif, Tucker, Simmons and I will stay here, and when I give the signal, we'll attack the guards from either side. They're outnumbered. It'll be over fast."

Much later than I had hoped, we were inside the fortress. As we all panted heavily, I realized what a mistake I made with the group assignments. Church and Sarge missed my signal because they were arguing, so Donut and Caboose were the only ones who ran out at the aliens when I told them to attack.

After that, there was complete pandemonium. Grif disappeared, so Simmons had to take care of the first one. He went down relatively easily, but the other was larger and quite a bit tougher. Donut and Caboose were almost clobbered, but Sarge regained his bearings and took an especially impressive shot, saving them at the last second. We ran inside quickly, praying that no one had heard the commotion, but Grif was already mysteriously there. I decided not to press the matter, but glared at him through my helmet once we were all safe.

"Okay, everyone, shut up," said Church. "We need to find O'Malley. I'm sure he's here… I can feel it."

It must have been one of those AI things, because nobody questioned him.

"All right, we need to split up," said Sarge. "But different groups, of course. Sorry Eleven, but that wasn't your most graceful move."

"I won't deny that," I replied, shrugging. "Why don't you pick the groups?"

"Right, turds, listen up. This is a pretty big place, so we'll go in groups of three." He cleared his throat. "I'll go with Grif down this hallway. Only the smartest and best can watch him to make sure he doesn't do anything stupid... but even with those precautions, the worst will probably happen." Simmons laughed, but managed to disguise it with a cough. "Church and Tucker can head up those stairs. There's an elevator there for Donut and Caboose, and Eleven and Simmons can go down that passage there."

Groups of three? I rolled my eyes.

"This is not a good idea," muttered Simmons as we went in our different directions. "Splitting up gives us no advantage. We're going to be killed, caught, or worse—fired."

"Well, first of all, if we were going to be caught, that would have happened about ten minutes ago with those aliens. Secondly, you seriously should reconsider your priorities."

"You really shouldn't be talking."

I stopped. "What do you mean? All I've been doing is what I'm supposed to: collect information so we can get that warrant."

"Oh really?" he asked, crossing his arms stubbornly and frowning. "I know why you're really here. I see the way you look at Grif."

I let out a laugh that should have gotten us killed. "Are you serious?" Apparently he was—he didn't say anything. "I could never have feelings for him. He's so cocky and lazy. Those are my pet-peeves, to be honest."

He looked up hopefully. "Really?"

"Really. So you're off the list as well."

"I'm not cocky!" he insisted, and I raised an eyebrow at him. "Okay, so I'm not the most humble guy in the world. Is that really such a big deal? It's not my fault I'm so smart, or so favored."

"Oh, so it's not your fault you're a kiss-ass?"

"Come on, don't you find my power and status attractive?"

"When Sarge marries Grif."

We continued to bicker quietly as we passed the hallways. After a while of scoffing and irritation (the former by me and the latter from Simmons), we heard muffled voices coming from nearby. My heart thumping, I ran to the closest doorway and listened to the conversation on the other side… but it sounded more like an argument instead.

"You assholes, let us through!" said the first voice. It sounded familiar, and continued to let out a stream of curses.

"Seriously," the second voice piped in. "You never know what hot chicks could be on the other side!"

Simmons and I looked at each other and thought the same thing: Church and Tucker.

Before the situation got messy—which it was bound to be at some point—Simmons and I decided to intervene. We charged through the door and pointed our guns.

Just as we suspected, Tucker and Church were arguing with someone, but I had no idea who the other two soldiers were. They certainly weren't part of our group, but something about them struck a nerve in the recesses of my memory.

The first was rather tall, with army-green armor; the second rather short, a dark navy armor covering his body. They were guarding the door defensively, and I figured they were a couple of O'Malley's henchmen. A click went off in my brain.

"Indiana? Michigan?"

These were other Freelancers Command had told me about—another two who hadn't received an AI.

"Wh—what are you doing?" I spluttered. "Why are you here? Freelancer City is down!"

"Exactly," the navy one said. I was reminded strongly of Caboose. "We get to choose our own side now!"

"So you resort to helping thieves?" Simmons asked, bewildered.

"We had nowhere else to go," said the army-green one reasonably. "We didn't think Command would trust us after we'd been in the Freelancer project."

"That just shows how much you know, Michigan. You just had to ask!"


I nodded and the two guards just stood there, completely dumbfounded.

"Hold on," I said, realizing something. "How are you working for O'Malley?" It didn't make any sense. "He's only been here for a couple hours."

"Well, before he came back to life, he used to talk to us like a normal AI would—in our armor." I opened my mouth again, and then closed it. I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. Before I could ask another question, however, Tucker spoke up.

"So, are you gonna let us through or what, now that you know we aren't the bad guys?"

"Well," Michigan said, clearing his throat. "We've decided to let you pass… but only because of undisclosed reasons. We're gonna head on out of here."

I snorted with laughter. "What, because you just realized you could choose your employer?" I smirked again, but Indiana shushed me.

"What are you going to do now?" Simmons asked.

"Do you really think we wanna be around when you get O'Malley pissed?" asked Michigan. "We're getting out of here, then going right to Command to apply for a job."

They headed down the passageway, and were on the verge of disappearing, when Indiana turned around for the last time. "Oh, and would you mind not telling anyone we worked here? That might ruin our credentials, if you know what I mean."

And they were gone.

"Well then," Church said. "That was…"

"Extremely odd," I finished for him. "Come on, let's go. I've had enough weirdness for today."

We faced the doors that Michigan and Indiana had opened for us; inside, everything was completely black. I was reminded strongly of a gaping mouth, and I shuddered.

"What's inside?" Simmons whispered. "I can't see anything."

"Neither can I," replied Tucker nervously. "Can we just get this over with?"


The others looked at me.

"What are you talking about?" asked Church.

There was something wrong with this. I could feel it. The large doorway stood there, its square metal frame looming menacingly at us.

"We can't go in there all at once. Something's not right. Someone needs to check it's safe in there."

"It's just a stupid door," Church said. "Let's all go."

"No, you guys, seriously. One person needs to check first. I just know it."

They just stood there disapprovingly, their arms crossed identically.

"Oh, come on!" I said, frustrated. "You said it yourself—it's a stupid door! I'll just go in there and turn on the lights!"

"No, Ells. I won't let you." It was Tucker, and I turned to him, glaring.

"Do you want to get this job done or not?" I asked, my patience running out. "You guys will be right behind me. I'll be fine."

With that, I turned and walked into the shadows before they could stop me.

The dim light from the hall could hardly make it into the room. I scanned the area tensely, but there wasn't really anything to scan, since I couldn't see anything.

"I think it's all right," I said slowly. "Okay guys, come—"


The streak of light from the hallway disappeared as the door closed with a metallic crash, and I was enveloped in darkness.

Red vs. Blue: Reconnaissance (Chapter 10)
Date: 2 December 2011, 10:05 pm

"Tucker!" I yelled frantically, blinded by the stark absence of light. "Church! Simmons!"

I couldn't even hear what was going on the other side of the door; so dark was the room that I could feel the weight of it on my shoulders, silent and oppressive. I would have reached for my gun, but the fog-like obscurity prevented me from pointing it anywhere useful. Instead, I fiddled with the buttons on my armor, making sure all the features were working properly and—

"Good afternoon."

The voice rang out from somewhere behind me, and I spun around.

"Who's there?"

An evil chuckle reverberated against the walls. "You'll find out soon enough."

Light flooded the room suddenly. Squinting, I saw a high metal ceiling with fluorescent lights rise above me. Below that lay an enormous technology system that could have belonged to Command—movie-theater-sized computer screens, a dozen desktops, and countless buttons and dials, all flashing, blinking, flickering.

Had I not scanned the enormous, machinery-filled room twice, I would have completely missed the figure leaning casually against the wall, his purple armor shining and a finger stuck into the wall.

"O'Malley!" I snarled. I raised my gun, laid my finger on the trigger, but didn't get a chance to shoot.

What happened next should not have taken me by surprise, but it did. At first, I thought the explosion I heard was the blast from my shotgun, but I was sadly mistaken. An electrical spark flew down from a ceiling light like lightning, hitting me square in the chest.

The pain was unbearable.

A thousand knives cut into my body. Piercing every inch of skin, every vital organ, I thought my whole body had caught fire… this was much worse than the flames I had faced at Red base… but then it was gone.

Breathing hard, I realized I had crumpled to the floor. My limbs were still twitching from the electric current that had just run through my body, but I gained control in a few moments and stood up shakily. O'Malley stood there, laughing evilly at me.

"That should teach you to try and shoot me," he said, amused.

Knowing I couldn't try to kill him again, I checked to make sure I had my gun anyway, but it wasn't there. O'Malley held it before me, fingering it lovingly. Another laugh resounded in the room.

"Well, my dear, I feel it is only appropriate to begin this lovely conversation by introducing myself properly. I, of course, am the strongest and most powerful AI, Omega. Or O'Malley, if you wish."

"Thanks a lot. Why don't you start by telling me things I don't know?"

"Ah, you're a feisty one, I see," he mused. "What is it that your tiny human mind hasn't figured out yet? Everything?"

I glared at him. "Practically, thanks to you."

"What a shame. Now, before I tell you anything—I forgot to mention this—you won't ever be leaving this room again, so I have to make sure it will stay that way."

Another spurt of electricity shot through me, slamming me against the wall—I was really getting tired of that—and chains sprang up, binding themselves around my arms and legs.

"Let me go!" I fumed, writhing against the metal. "You dirty bast—"

"Now, now, let's not get hasty," O'Malley interrupted casually. "You said you wanted facts, but there's always a price to pay for knowledge."

I didn't say anything, and he chuckled again. "See? That's a good girl. You need to behave."

I could have exploded with fury, but I restrained myself. The more information I could obtain, the better—and it wouldn't have been a good PR move to screech curses at him.

"How did you come back?" I spat instead.

"You haven't even figured that one out? Dear me, I am disappointed." He attached my gun to his armor and stuck his finger into the outlet again. The lights above flickered dangerously, but he ignored it and inhaled contentedly. "Dr. Leonard Church is quite the genius, isn't he?" he asked. "Once he realized his Freelancer program was doomed to failure, he made a plan B… a sort of rebellion, if you may.

"He created Epsilon, a memory AI, to keep all his files lest he be caught. He tweaked it so that if it were left on, it could feed." He looked at his own finger in the wall and smiled. "Feed on electricity."

"You caused the power outages." It wasn't an inquiry; it was a statement.

"Quite right. You aren't as dull as I imagined after all."

"But how did you take the electricity? The Epsilon device had no power cord."

"That's the beauty of it, isn't it?" O'Malley replied. "Dr. Church's technology was quite superior to the rest of humanity's. So, it is all thanks to you that I am back. You are the one who left me on in the first place, so I grew strong, gaining energy from your base's power. But I've already thanked you graciously for that, if you don't remember."

I ignored that horrible piece of information—the entire ordeal had been my fault. "Why did Epsilon come back as you? Why couldn't it have come back as someone else—like Delta, for instance, or Theta?"

"What, resentful?" he chortled. "The Director made it so that only the most power-hungry, only the strongest AI could present itself and come back. I made the cut; the others didn't. Happy?"

"Not really."


"I still don't understand. How did you escape?" I remembered the disappearing and the sand. "There's no way you could have run out of the base that quickly."

"Of course. You think I would lower myself as to run from the base." I didn't say anything, so he continued. "After knocking out your electricity, which had been easier than I thought, I decided to have a little fun and blow the Reds' fuse as well. Then I just transported myself here."

"You're lying!" I yelled, my cry echoing across the room. "Only Freelancer Idaho had the AI who did that! You just turned invisible and ran."

"You're sure?" O'Malley vanished and instantly reappeared not three inches away from me. "Obviously you don't know the extent of Dr. Church's project. You see, to preserve all the work he'd done, he decided what whichever AI was strong enough to take the electricity and come to life in its own form also should have the privilege of owning every special ability the AIs had. In short, I'm invincible."

He turned away so the reality of this statement could sink in.

"That's how you could communicate with your guards, even without a body," I said quietly.

"Yes. Now, down to business." He sighed as though he were upset about something. "Unfortunately, you have not only stumbled upon my lair, but found my Operations Room. I'm afraid you and your little friends have little time left at all."

He strode over jauntily to his array of computers and began switching a number of dials and switches. About twenty different areas of the lair appeared on his computer screen, but he maximized the ones where I could see the others.

Tucker, Church, and Simmons were still trying to break into the room, but were having no luck at all. I watched as they threw a grenade at the door, disappeared for a moment while it went off, and returned to find the door still intact. It looked as though the rest of the Reds and Caboose had met up with them and were now attempting to assist in the rescue mission.

"This is vandalism, you know," said O'Malley as another bomb went off. "But you'll help me encourage them to leave me alone."

"I'll never help you!" I snarled.

"Oh, but you will."