A raid, and learning about Freelancer
The first thing I was aware of was the fact that I wasn't alone. I was in bed, cuddled up to a warm body, who was incidentally cuddling with me.
The next thing I knew, I was opening my eyes just in time to watch as Rand's eyes open. We looked at each other in shock for what seemed like an eternity, and then I cleared my throat. We blinked, unsure of what to do, so I cleared my throat again and opened my mouth.
"Don't say anything." She said threateningly.
I raised my eyebrows.
"Don't say it!"
I closed my mouth. I'm pretty sure my amusement was clear on my face, though it's only partly because of her scoff.
"I'm getting up." She said.
"Tha's fine with me." I said. I tried, but I couldn't quite wipe the grin off my face.
"Shut up!" She yelled right before a towel hit me in the face. Aparently she saw my face.
"I wasn't going to say a thing." I said, stretching. I sat up, listening to the shower as it started up. I thought about life for a moment, and the sort of rumors this was going to spring on us. We didn't sleep together. That much is obvious to me. But, the important thing was how to deal with it.
A thought struck me and I glanced over into the bathroom. What I saw raised an eyebrow. Lace?
Then another thought struck me that made me snigger. 'I'm such a perv.'
Which is pretty far from the truth where it doesn't concern Church.
The smile on my face faded a bit. Nothing serious, just a case of missing boyfriend.
Okay, it's serious. You know how I know? It took Rand slapping me in the face with her wet towel after she'd already gotten dressed.
I shook my head, trying to focus. "Sorry. Gotta get my mind out of the gutter." I pushed against my back untill I heard a popping sound and then stood up. I looked at Rand and, ignoring the questioning look on her face, I lead the way out of the room. After a few tense seconds, I decided to break the ice. "So how was your shower?"
She shrugged. "It was okay." She was tense. You wouldn't know it if you didn't know her. Which begs the question, how did I know she was tense?
"How 'bout this: how are you?"
She looked at me oddly. "I'm fine. How 'bout you?"
I shrugged like she had earlier. "Same, mostly."
Suddenly, our stomachs decided to protest the lack of food. Loudly. In unison. I looked at her. She looked at me. We tried, but we ended up laughing anyway.
I smiled at her. "Let's go grab some grub, shall we?"
She smirked at me. "Well, if you feel up to it."
I matched her smirk for smirk. "Of course."
A few feet later, with the cafeteria door in sight, there was a small explosion and suddenly, the floor wasn't the floor. It was the wall.
And because we were oh so conveniently
standing on the middle of the wall, gravity had a slight bone to pick with us. Understandable, but not appreciated.
I scoffed as I pushed myself up. "Well, getting beat up by a wall isn't on my list of favorite things anymore."
I knelt down to grab Rand, who muttered almost too quietly for me to hear, "Almost wish I were Spider-Man."
I chuckled. Then I looked at the wall-that-was-the-floor. "Damn. Now I can't get my coffee." Then I looked at Rand, who was looking at me strangely. "What?"
"The floor is the wall, and you're moaning about coffee?" She asked, deadpan.
I nodded. "Well yeah! I don't need to worry about any straight up rumors from your group, and all the foodstuffs in the mess are gonna be messed up until after this is straightened out. And that's ignoring the pink elephant in the room known as the fairly obvious problems caused by the change in gravity." I looked over at the mess and cocked my head to the side. I moved over to it and put my hand through it after kneeling next to it. What I felt confirmed what I saw. Gravity is different in different sections. Those in the mess hall were dancing on the ceiling, so to speak. I stood back up and looked at Rand. "Where's the Gravity Drive?"
She looked surprised at the question. "I don't know!"
I raised an eyebrow. "You don't know what the layout of your own assignment?"
"Well, how was I to know that I'd need to know about the Gravity Drive?! I'm not an engineer!" She yelled. "And those that do go there already know where it is!"
"What if someone hijacks this boat?" I shot back calmly. "Or if you need to infiltrate a ship of similar or identical build because of revolutionary or Covenant action? Knowing your own ship can be the thing that keeps you and your friends and family alive. Sometimes the only thing." I finished my little speech softly, memories of failures coming to the fore.
It made an impact on her, and she lowered her head, blushing.
I lifted her head to look into her eyes. "Just focus on what we need to do for now and be ashamed later. I'll help you fill in the blanks after this, okay?" I spoke softly, ignoring the fact that every second I spent on this was one second less to deal with the crisis. I needed to do this, because her professionalism and ability in combat might be worth exactly jack-shit in something like this, and I needed her confident until there was no need for 'strength'.
After a moment, she nodded and fell in behind me as I began our trek to find the Gravity Drive and someone to fix it, Rand giving us direction to the general area of the engineering 'sector'.
After slamming into different walls a few times (floor, ceiling, floor, wall, opposite wall and almost through a door), I decided to get smart. I pulled out my service pistol and ejected the magazine. Ignoring Rand's look, I pulled out a few bullets and tossed them. When they changed direction, that's when I knew the gravity changed. After a couple more changes, I was out of bullets, but at least we were there.
There was a good amount of carnage all around the engineering area. A few dead bodies, and a larger number of injured scattered along all the walls. We used those to figure out where the gravity shifted, and to replenish my bullets, as we walked along.
Suddenly, I got the feeling that I really needed to go into one of the doors, so I did, halfway ignoring Rand as I went. Before I hit a wall or any equipment, I hit the floor, sliding a little. The floor as in, 'Floor' floor. I wandered a bit in the room before finding a sparking piece of equipment and an injured man in a yellow civilian suit. I gently shook him awake. "Are you an engineer that works with the Gravity Drive?"
"Good. Since you're in absolutely no shape to fix it, I'm gonna need you to tell me what to do."
He and Rand, who'd obviously followed me in, snorted in near unison. "You can't think you can actually fix it." He said incredulously.
I shook my head. "Nope. Just put a patch on it until we can get replacement parts. And if you think it can't be done, then I'll just tinker with it until I either get what I want from it or it kills me with an electrical explosion." I stood and went over there, fully intending to do as I said I would, and stopped when he sighed.
"Alright, fine. Get me up and I'll help you."
I nodded, and with Rand's help, I got him standing.
I watched with pride as my girlfriend managed to peacefully threaten the mechanic into helping her fix the Gravity Drive. As weird as I am, I could watch her work while Cortana couldn't. I'm not entirely sure why I
could watch her, but I was sure why Cortana couldn't. Not because of my interference, that's for sure. I was just an observer, watching, and nudging here and there in a few places. Not much, but a little.
Of course, almost getting my girlfriend, her new friend - and possible teammates -, and some of the best soldiers to ever enter the UNSC Navy killed is not in my plans.That
particular plot twist was someone else. I couldn't tell which person or side because, for some odd reason, I couldn't hack into their ship. Nor could I see it.
I really need to spend time with my girlfriend when she knows I'm actually there. I actually said "Nor" in a sentence, correctly, and as the beginning to a sentence, too!
Unfortunately, I don't know how to get laid.
I gave a section of pipe one last twist and suddenly, gravity returned to Earth normal, probably thoughout the ship if the thuds and grunts were anything to go by. I cocked my head at the piece of technology before me, silently appraising it. Well built, largely intact, and seems to be running properly. Sure it could be about to blow on me, but I didn't really think so. I nodded at it, then looked over at where Rand was holding up the engineer. "Get him to the infirmary. I'll find out what the hell happened."
She shook her head. "Nuh-uh. I am not leaving you."
"Yeah, that may be so, but he doesn't look too good. Even ignoring the disarray the ship is in now, the Drive could break and he might turn out to be the only engineer who knows it well enough to fix it. Unlikely, yes, if the recruitment was done right, but possible nonetheless. And besides, I'm only going to find out what happened. It'll probably be nothing more than a slight maintenance error." I paused, considering. "But, it could also be because we're under attack, and if that turns out to be the case, I'll come and find you."
She gave me a disturbed look. "When did you lose your emotions?"
I raised my eyebrows, then looked over my recent behavior. I sighed and closed my eyes. "Sorry. It's just that I'm trying to be confident enough to keep you going without self-doubt and making sure that we all survive, acting and reacting like a tactician. I know it disturbs you the way that I'm acting like some heartless perfect creature, since it's disturbing me too. I'll try to keep from seeming emotionless for you in the future. But for right now, get him to the infirmary." I gave her a warm smile. "And besides, while I may not have aything bigger than a pistol, I'm pretty good with it, and when I run out of bullets, I can simply charge them when they're not looking."
Concern flashed over her face, so I decided to let her in on a little secret.
"Well, let's just say that in another life in another time, I would've been an amazing thief. When I wanted to sneak out of the house, then no matter how many security measures my family put up, I could always sneak in and out however many times I wanted to with no one the wiser."
We gave each other wry smiles and left for our respective destinations.
When I reached a computer terminal, I turned it on and typed in Cortana, what happened?I don't know. One second I was watching you leave the marine's room with her, the next, the Gravity Drive is gone, and so are all communications and sensors.
I raised my eyebrows. So, in other words, you can't see or hear me or anyone else, and you can't call for help in any way except through the terminals?Sort of. Many of the other terminals don't work, and the main computer core is in disarray. I've been distracted by trying to get them back in order.
I nodded. So I see. Does the striaght up PA system work? Not the intercom, but the 'Address everyone at once without the ability of gaining a verbal response' system.No. I tried after the explosion. No inter- or intra-ship communications or internal/external sensors.
I made a face. That's gotta suck.
I paused for half a second, then continued typing. I'm gonna go and check out the various corridors. Just in case this is a raid of some sort. (Probably is.) I'll check in through other computers later.
I stood, pulled out my pistol and left the terminal, getting my sneak on. I snickered to myself quietly at that thought, then hid behind a corner, peeked, and then moved like a thief in the night to the next corner. *Snicker*
A few turns later, I began hearing loud voices.
Once I got close enough to be only around a corner, I cautiously poked my head around the corner. From the way they were bunched around a group of captured soldiers and engineers, I'd say they were mercenaries. Untrained civilians probably. I know the type. I was
one of them once.
A thought struck me and a grin began to spread across my face. Maybe I should show them why I was feared throughout the world before I gained a fiancee. I holstered my pistol and pounced.
The first one went down after I punched the back of his head. The second one didn't notice the magazine I threw at his head until it hit. The third one took a spinning kick to the face while trying to raise his weapon to shoot me. The fourth and final was just staring at me stupidly, so I just shook my head at him and went over to punch him. He collapsed bonelessly.
That's 4 mercenaries in less than a minute without making a sound. Simple.
I stooped down and picked through the mercenaries' pockets, looking for weapons and ammo like a carrion feeder looking for the best meats. Once that was done, I looked around for a good place to stash them, noticing a maintenance hatch. I piled the bodies on my shoulders in a fireman's hold, two per shoulder, and motioned for the hostages to follow. Then I opened the door, traveled inside for a little bit, and dumped the bodies. Nice little hiding spot in my opinion. Then I handed out a few guns to the others there.
"Keep an eye on 'em for me would ya?" I waited for their nods, and then left.
I kept my pistol holstered because I'd picked up something slightly better, for the moment at least. However, I kept it at my back on the strap just in case I wanted to do any more sneak attacks.
Isn't that Rand's hair?
Do it, or don't?
No question: Do it!
I snuck up to her, stood up calmly, and then yelled in her ear "BOO!" as loud as I could.
She jumped and whirled around, ready to kill, and relaxed when she saw who it was. "Jesus Tex! Don't do that to me!"
I gave her an apologetic smile. "Sorry, couldn't help myself." I shrugged. "Besides, now we know exactly what caused the explosion."
"Three guesses: hired guns, raiders, or Innies." I paused to think before adding, "Or people from Project Freelancer."
She looked confused. "What do the Innsurrectionists have to do with this?"
I unslung my rifle from my back and handed it to her. It was a .308 Caliber Light Machine Gun, also called a "Confetti Maker". While it was a fairly formiddable weapon, due to the reason for it's namesake, the ability for it's larger bullets spent at a high rate of fire to rip the enemy into confetti, it wasn't used by the UNSC anymore due to the capability of the MA5 series, or specifically of the MA5D Individual Combat Weapon System, to do the exact same thing with far better accuracy. Since it's a fairly good gun and readily available on the black market for it's numbers and disuse by the military, it counts as a prime weapon for the rebellious factions of humanity.
I watched her puzzle through our current situation quickly and efficiently before giving the gun back to me, and we began to move out. After a few turns, I told her about the little stash of hired guns I put into a maintenance tunnel, and then I asked her what she knew about Project Freelancer.
"Oh, nothing much." She pointed her gun down a hallway and followed my lead on down the main hallway. "They're just some shadowy war project made to help defend Humanity's interests. They were made for the Innies at first, just like the Spartan projects. It's about as much as anyone outside it knows, really. Why do you ask?"
I shrugged as I checked down another hallway before moving on. "Well, that's about as much as almost anyone inside
the project knows either. There's all these simulations out there to prepare their main warriors, the Freelancers, for real war, not that it really helps, especially since a number of them ended up as barely anything more than mercenaries contracted by some ghost named The Director acting as spies for him."
Rand stopped. "Wait." I stopped. "How do you know that?"
I shrugged. "To be honest, I'm a reincarnated AI fragment."
"Oh, bullshit." She said.
I shrugged again. "Suit yourself." I aimed my gun and opened fire on the group of hostiles down the hall. All dead, damn. "Course, it's not like I knew
about that. Not until I passed out after cryosleep. I was pretty damaged from what happened before that, so that might be why the memories came to mind."
"How do you even do that?"
Once again, I shrugged. "You got me. Let's just focus on the mission for the moment, how 'bout that?" I began walking off.
We fell into a grudging silence and we continued on our self-given mission of finding and subduing every invader on-ship. Sure, most of them got killed, but it was self-defense, automatic reactions.
Until one corner where they got lucky.
Several bullets ran straight through the pathetic armoring of the civilian suit and rammed through several bones on the way out of my body.
I passed out for a few seconds, which was enough for the battle to end and for Rand to get worried and over to my slumped body, snapping her fingers in front of my nose to get my attention. "Hey, hey, come on Tex. Come on, focus on me, okay?"
I tilted my head as I looked up at her. "Why the long face?" I asked weakly before coughing. Yeah, I was delirious. Blood loss obviously.
She looked worried for a moment. Then she said, "Tell me about Freelancer."
My head resumed it's precarious angle, in confusion this time instead of analyzation. "Why?"
She smiled weakly and wryly. "You mean that you think you can just dump this big revelation about one of the biggest secrets of the UNSC military projects on me and expect to get away without telling me more? Nuh-uh, you don't get any wiggle room, okay?"
I looked right into her eyes, and sighed at the determination in them. Well, she's right. I brought this on myself. "Alright, but I'm only bringing up the basics because there's a bit too much to say all right now. And I don't exactly trust the others around here to not listen in.
"In Project Freelancer, they were setting out to make super-soldiers, just like the Spartan projects. But, they were making them like, super-spies instead of super-soldiers, so that they could do anything, not just kill things. One of their main goals was to experiment with the usefulness of Smart AI's in combat situations. However, rumor had it that they could only get the one. So they did the best they could. If you had checked the logs, you'd notice that there are 'logging errors', saying that multiple different people used an AI at the same exact time. I'll let you come to your own conclusions on that."
"Why not tell me?"
"Because at the moment, I don't know." It was getting hard to breathe. And is it just me, or am I getting a little loopy?
"It's not just you." Rand told me.
Oh, I didn't realize I said that out loud.
"Well ya did." She smiled at me. "But for now, let's focus on Freelancer, okay?"
I nodded. Where was I again? Oh yeah. The AI. "Now, as to how they would test them, they had this secondary set of soldiers. They had two 'armies', named according to their armor colors as provided. Red, and Blue. Think a First Person Shooter multiplayer team game or something like that." I looked into her eyes. "Got that image in your head?"
She nodded. "You know, I'm kinda surprised you're so lucid."
My eyebrows came together. "I'm not Lucy, I'm Shego." Something touched my breast and I whacked at it, or at least tried to. "Shoo, I don't like being touched there unless it's by Kimmie or my doc." I paused to think. "Which are typically the same person."
"Tex, you're in the infirmary." Rand said gently. "So you're being touched by a doc."
I turned my head back from it's lack of focus back to her. "I don't care. He touches me again, he's losin' his bits!"
She was struggling to keep from smiling, even through the tenseness of the situation. "He's a 'she'."
I blinked. I blinked again. I blinked a third time as the information made it through the CO2 fog in my brain. "Oh." I blinked a fourth time for good measure.
"You mentioned the super-soldiers of Project Freelancer." She said. "What were they called?"
I blinked at her, as if it was the stupidest question I'd heard all day. "Freelancers of course. And when they weren't on missions for the Director, they were being sent to check out a live simulation where they'd try to kill people from either army. Sometimes both sides. One notable example, Maine, he went after a few 'simulation troopers' once. An idiot actually got off a lucky shot and shot straight through his trachea. No more voice box for him. He was actually a bit of a nice conversationalist to his friends before that."
"And where did you fit in?"
"Officially or unofficially?" I asked sarcastically. "Lie is, I was a new recruit who somehow had that magic 'stuff' that qualified me for the reserved codename of Texas. I was the best damn recruit the program had ever seen. Bu' there was so'm' wrong wit' me." Oh boy, I'm starting to pass out. I leaned in close to her to finish off my words. "I weren't nottin' budda two-bit sparkle queen!" I finished with a grin before my eyes rolled back in my head, leaving me unconscious as the docs finished whatever they did to me and Rand nervously awaited my revival.
"It's not the size of the switch, it's how you flip it." She said it with a smile in her voice.
"Did you fall on your head when you were a child?" I asked. "I mean, I just gotta know."
She shook her head. "Sorry ghost-boy, but I'm completely concussion-less. Which is kinda sad because if I weren't, I'd probably have been more able to survive." She looked around. "So, Valhalla. It's kinda depressing right now."
"That's because the only people here are you, me, and the bodies of Private Donut, Lopez, and that body that belonged to Beta before she was erased."
"Why don't you call her Tex?" She asked, genuinely curious.
"Are you fucking kidding me?! Beta was not Tex. She was this... echo, this- this fake! She was this pitiful part of me that was doomed to fail every time she ever tried to succeed, even after she was killed that first time in the Gulch. I'm glad Beta is erased."
She nodded. "So that she doesn't have to deal with that hell."
"Exactly. And plus, Tex is alive."
She turned her head to me. "She's alive?"
I nodded my hologram head. "Just like me... sort of. She has a real body to inhabit. Her stasis pod was picked up by the UNSC and opened by an idiot, which allowed her to wake up in her own body. She's currently gallivanting around a bit in this ship with the Smart AI Cortana."
"And Cortana is that AI that likes the Master Chief, right?" She asked.
I nodded. "Yep. She's in good hands. That means that by the time she's in trouble, she'll be ready for it. Trained." I paused. "Of course, that doesn't mean that she knows everything. I mean, she only remembers what she was, before Beta was revealed to be an AI, and her biology wouldn't be very conducive to her figuring out that she can do things that I can do too."
"Since she's biological, rather than cybernetic." She said, understanding.
"Exactly." I paused as I looked around, watching her move through the mostly empty base. "Look, Francine-"
She cut me off. "I already told you, call me Frank."
"Alright alright already. Fine, Frank. Look, what exactly are we doing, anyway? I mean, we aren't helping her, and we aren't really doing anything except for moving around in stolen military property and collecting a few things that technically belong to Project Freelancer."
"Well, right now, we're being glad of the small temporal cracks and hoping that they don't get bigger because we're taking advantage of them. And we already know that this is going to happen."
"Because of that little fragment of video that's causing a pre-destination paradox." I said uncertainly, parroting her words back to her.
"Yep. Besides, she deserves this. She deserves a little rest and a bit of nostalgia, even if she might not remember, or it might bring up bad memories. Aha!" She picked up a small box, containing a back-up of a certain robot, no doubt.
"You know, it's a little scary, seeing you smart like this." I observed.
She pulled off her helmet to smirk at me. "Would you rather me be a complete and utter gutter-mind of an idiotic gay man?"
I shook my head vehemently. "No thanks. I had enough of Franklin Delano Donut back in the Gulch, thank you very much."
"Well then, Mr. Leonard Church, shall we?" I nodded as she put her helmet back on, smirk still solidly in place. Then we went out to the shipwreck.
There was one last thing we needed to do in this particular piece of time-space.
A/N: Sorry about the long wait, but I hope that you like the chapter. Please review and tell me what you think!
Oh, and P.S.: I was inspired by Down Periscope and Titan A.E., two very great movies, in the changing gravity part.