Chapter 8: Where do we go now?
"So wanna explain the storming out?" Pandora asked, her form being projected in the cockpit over a small pedestal, "I know it's not from my little jibe," she said, looking worriedly at the spartan as he looked out the cockpits window, "...Sam?"
"It's just…" he gestured towards the rest of the ship, "We were ready to take down Project Freelancer, we knew what we were heading into," he pulled off his helmet tossing it into the copilot's chair.
"And you're worried that you'll get them killed if ONI catches wind of what we're doing,"
"I'm not afraid to be a leader….even if I think John made a better one than I ever could….but these are ordinary soldiers, used to small battles with ordinary opponents, they're not ready for the things that ONI can and will do," he ran a hand through his hair, "If they were Spartan-IIs I could let them watch my back…but taking care of them while dealing with whatever ONI will send our way…I don't know if I can keep them alive," he muttered getting a chuckle from the A.I.
"Well good thing you have me then," she said with a grin, "I happen to be very good at multitasking,"
"And if ONI finds out about you? Finds out I'm alive and AWOL" Caboose asked, "They're already looking for anything to pin on Halsey," he leaned back as the A.I sent him a glare.
"Then we go down swinging," she said, voice full of conviction, "It's both our jobs to look after each other….so we do that till the end," Caboose could only look her in the eyes for a couple of seconds before breaking out into laughter.
"Hey, you could at least wait a minute to laugh at my cheesy words," the red A.I said sounding embarrassed.
"So...sor...sorry," Caboose said as his laughter died down, "You just reminded me of a mix of Doctor Halsey and John," he said with a wry grin, smiling when Pandora merely rolled her eyes as they enjoyed a comfortable silence.
"Shouldn't we wait for him to co-" Washington tried to say only to watch helplessly as the others left the room, leaving him alone with Ash, the Huragok, and uncomfortable silence.
"This is fucking awkward," Church said popping up on the holo table, making Wash jump and Ash laugh.
"So you're the Alpha A.I?" Ash asked, making Church shrug.
"Before today I would have called anyone who said that fucking stupid," He said looking at the Epsilon unit still connected to its terminal, "but, after spending time with that guy….I might be," he said with another shrug.
Tex appeared next to him, looking him up and down before letting out a sigh, "You're remembering...aren't you?" She asked, Wash and Ash sharing a look.
"Bits and pieces," Church said, hand rubbing his head sighing as Tex gave him a worried look, "Don't worry I'm not going to fragment again...I think," he said, confusion in his tone as Tex sighed.
"Just get someone if you think it might happen," Tex said, getting a nod from Church before he looked at the three others in the room.
"Well I'm gonna leave you suckers to your uncomfortable silence," he looked back at Epsilon, "I'm gonna go back to helping him," he said, nodding to Texas both their forms disappeared again, leaving Ash and Wash looking at the holo table.
"So you had one of those things in your head?" She asked, filled with curiosity as Wash sighed in response, the Huragok letting out a trill as it looked at him with just as much curiosity.
"How are you holding up Carolina?" York asked, wincing at the glare she sent at him as they made their way into one of the empty
"It's over...the project...my father….everything," she said, her glare being replaced by a tired look as he sat her down on one of the bunks, wisely choosing not to comment on the fact her hand was clenching his as she leaned back.
"Little unbelievable isn't it?" York asked with a chuckle, squeezing her hand as she looked him in the eyes, "I mean it's just…" he rubbed the back of his head, eyes darting around the room before he sighed.
"York?" Carolina asked, voice softer than before, a tone she used only when they were alone. Her eyes widened and she stiffened as York pulled her into a hug, her face buried in his neck as he held her close.
"Sorry," he said, a hint of humor in his tone as he felt her relax, "it's just with everything going on…..I just want to say…" he paused eyes fixed on the video screen in the room showing the words 'tell her you, idiot'. Shaking his head and flipping off the screen pulled back till they were face to face, a wide grin on his, "Welcome Back Lina," he said, a smile widening as she rolled her eyes and tightened her hold on him.
"Idiot," she muttered, pulling him down with her, moving them around till her head was on his chest.
"But your idiot right?" He asked, just getting a smirk and eye roll from the redhead, her hand trailing softly over the scar on his face before she pulled him towards her and moved forward her lips meeting his, as Delta silently locked the door, Theta questioning what was going on in the background.
"South, you're not going to kill him," North said with a sigh, leaning against the wall and watching as his sister stared at Maine.
"This fucker nearly killed you," she said, getting an eye roll from her brother.
"Because his A.I went batshit insane and filled his mind with more holes than Swiss cheese, " North said as his sister let out a growl before she threw one of the medical trays around the room.
"He betrayed us!" She shouted, moving towards him only to be met with a disappointed looked from North as he stood in front of Maine's bed.
"No, we ignored the fact that he was having problems with his A.I," North said, looking at his former friend.
"Me, York, and Wyoming ….we got implanted first, we should have noticed something...hell Wash noticed his headaches and we ignored it because of the goddamn leaderboard," North said, anger seeping into his tone before evaporating as quickly as it appeared. Letting out a sigh, North ran a tired hand through his hair as South gave him a brief look of worry.
"Hey," South said, drawing North's attention, "Like everyone's been saying, it's the Director's fault...quit being a moppy little bitch," she said, trying and failing to keep the worry off her face, a small smile forming on North's face at his sister's attempt at a pep talk.
"Bitch," he said, her eyes widening before she smirked.
"Asshole," she said, a relaxed atmosphere filling the room as the siblings looked at Maine before their eyes widened.
"Shit! Wyoming!" the twins shouted.
"Hmmm….yeah I'm gonna have to remove the bulk of armor enhancements," Pandora said, Caboose sitting in one of the chairs in the armor workstation closest to the cockpit.
"Too exposed?" Caboose asked, getting a nod from the A.I.
"I mainly wanted to see if I could move it onto another set of armor while letting it keep its….'unique' modifications," she said bringing up a hologram of his MJOLNIR armor and Meta's armor.
"So I was a guinea pig?" Caboose asked eyebrow raised, getting a head shake from Pandora.
"I ran the test long before you put the armor on, right after I grafted the modifications onto it….but, the components are too exposed," she changed the hologram to show a second plating of armor that would go over his MJOLNIR armor. "I recommend removing them till I can reinforce your suit….though I lack sufficient materials...I've already listed potential locations to acquire….'recovered' Spartan tech" she brought up a map of the galaxy, most of the marked points being in the outer reaches of it.
"Would that Spartan tech include stuff to improve our friend's chances if we run into ONI?" He asked, getting a grin in response.
"Why Spartan Caboose are you suggesting that we break protocol and supply classified UNSC technology to former members of a debunked military program?" She said with a smirk reminiscent of Doctor Halsey when the Spartans had first been given their MJOLNIR armor. "Well make a smuggler out of you yet," she said, getting an eye roll from the Spartan-II.
"When did I agree to be a smuggler?" He asked with a humorous grin as the A.I started work on removing the armor enhancements.
"Well, you did steal an illegally created smart A.I and promised her a good time involving raiding tombs and dodging a shady government organization, " she answered as Caboose shrugged.
"More like you begged to be taken off the...what did you call it? Armpit of the galaxy was it?" He asked, getting a stuck-out tongue from the A.I, a relaxed atmosphere filled the room before the ship's intercoms went off, Delta appearing over a small pedestal in the room.
"I believe we have a problem, " he said as Caboose made his way out of the room, Pandora using the ship's systems to arrive in the meeting room, finding a pissed looking Tex and South yelling at each other, just as Caboose arrived in the room, a tired sigh escaping the Spartan-II.
"So, let me get this straight," Caboose said, watching as Tex and South glared at each other, the others in the room watching the two with weary eyes, "You caught Wyoming when you guys went and retrieved Gamma and tied him in a storage closet?" he asked disbelief in his tone, "And not only did you forget to mention that, you also forgot to mention that he had Omega in his head?" he looked at the calm, yet embarrassed looking twin who let out a cough.
"In our defense, we felt if Gamma knew he wouldn't have been so willing to help us," he said, nodding towards Tex, "And she would have probably killed him," he got a glare from the A.I for his comment.
"Wouldn't Omega have escaped when you guys used your radios to contact Tex?" Wash asked leaning back in his chair, getting a head shake from North.
"We went radio silent the moment we left you guys," North said, gesturing to Tex," She suggested it, so once she left to get Alpha we retrieved any weapons left behind at the power station and encountered Wyoming….I think Omega recently took control of him because he was out of it," he said getting a nod from South, "Seemed quite disorientated and was muttering about Tex, so South cold-cocked him and we tied him up,"
"And if Omega escapes?" Tex asked, sounding like she was barely restraining herself from trying to kill them, Church appearing behind her and placing a hand on her shoulder, being met with a glare.
"We removed his helmet and comms," North said, "Omega has no way of leaving him without those,"
"So what do we do about this?" Ash asked, everyone in the room looking at her, "I mean wasn't he helping this Omega A.I?"
"He did have Gamma forcefully removed," Carolina said, rubbing the back of her neck, "I know what it feels like to have an A.I ripped from your mind...I think the pain could drive anyone insane,"
"No argument here," Wash said.
"We have the cryo pods...we could put him and the Meta on ice," South said getting looks from the others in the room, "What?! I have good ideas too...assholes," she muttered.
"It would lower the number of resources we'd need for a while," Pandora said, pulling up a graph, "Though if any more than four of you want to say we need to seriously discuss our little 'business' opportunity," she said looking around the room from her spot on the holo table.
"How about we discuss that after we get Omega?" Tex said, getting everyone's attention.
"Yeah, since ONI's going after the director I wouldn't be surprised if they started searching the bases and locations of the project," Caboose said, looking around the room, "We'll retrieve Wyoming and Omega, then plan forward from there," he said, getting nods from the others.
"Let's go," Tex said.