Red vs. Blue: Reconnaissance (Chapter 9)
Posted By: Stelladea<firstname.lastname@example.org>
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.
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? 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?"
"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?"
" 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.
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.