At first, Agent Washington could see nothing but black, but felt…cold. The former Recovery Agent wondered if this meant he died and somehow ended up in Purgatory. If he did, he had hoped that everyone from Blood Gulch managed to defeat the Meta, that the Red sergeant knew what to do when he gave him the tow hook from the busted Warthog Jeep before he succumbed to his injuries.
Then, spots of light came into his view, starting as a big black blur into a white blur. He saw hundreds of snowflakes drifting from the sky and onto the visor of his helmet. He could see his motion tracker with bright yellow dots glowing on his heads-up display and his health monitor in the red. The cold feeling that he felt moments ago became juxtapositioned with a burning ache he could feel everywhere on his body.
As the fog in his mind cleared, a hand holding what looked like a pistol came into his view and, on instinct, he grabbed its wrist and placed a knife against his assailant's throat.
"ACK! Please don't kill me!" his attacker pleaded.
It wasn't until his vision cleared completely that Wash realized the "handgun" was actually a medical scanner and his "assailant" was Doc, the medic who he traveled with when tracking down Epsilon.
He was alive.
In a lot of pain and almost half-buried in snow, but alive is definitely good.
Noticing that he still had his knife out, Washington put it back into his sheath and quickly apologized to the medic. "I thought you were going to kill me."
That would be embarrassing. A Freelancer killed by a pacifist.
"Um, it's okay." The medic in violet armor said to him, running the scanner up and down Wash. "Anyway, you shouldn't move until I'm done scanning."
The scanner beeped, signaling that it finished its scan. Doc read the report for a few seconds before he let out a low whistle. "You've sustained severe physical trauma, Wash. I don't think you should move for a while."
No shit, Sherlock.
"It's okay. I'm pretty sure I'll be…ARGH! God damn it!" Washington cursed in frustration as he tried to sit up. He clutched his abdomen and stared down at the blood trickling out his armor and onto his hand.
"Don't try to stand up." Doc warned. He scanned over the report again. "I know you may get this a lot, but you're lucky to be alive. Any normal person would be dead already."
"Then it's a good thing that I'm not a normal person." The Recovery Agent grunted. Then he remembered Agent York's healing unit. "Hang on a second."
Washington reached the back of his helmet and pressed a button. Something in his armor clicked and made a whirring sound as his healing unit kicked in. Wash felt a slight sting and winced but then let out a sigh of relief. The aches subsided as painkillers flooded his veins and a foamy substance entered his abdomen, sealing the wound and stopping the bleeding.
"Alright, I think that did it." Washington said, as the healing unit closed the wound.
"Still, I wouldn't recommend moving a lot while your healing thing is active, Wash." The medic advised him.
However, Washington slowly stood up on his feet and simply stared at the medic, his expression hidden from the visor.
Doc nervously laughed. "Um, but, then again, what do I know about Freelancer physiology and equipment? I'll just…go…check on the others."
At that moment, the memories of everything that happened up until now flashed inside Wash's head. Tex's ambush, the fight with Maine. Alarmed, he chased after Doc.
"Wait!" Washington reached out and grabbed the medic by his arm, "What happened to the Meta? And where's Epsilon?"
"Oh, um, the Meta was sent over the cliff, so yeah he's dead." Doc said quickly before trying to walk away, but Wash yanked him back.
"Doc, where is Epsilon?" Wash demanded, tightening his grip on Doc's arm in a panic.
"Ow, Wash, you're hurting my arm…" Doc whined.
"Answer the question!" He shook the medic, demanding an answer.
After a few moments, Doc gathered his courage and said, "I'm sorry, but he trapped himself in the capture unit. We told him not to, but he didn't listen. He wanted to find Tex and, well, he went in to find her, but the unit went dead. He's…gone, Wash."
Wash stared down at the snow and released his grip from the medic.
"Wash? Are you okay?"
"I'll be fine." Wash said, but didn't sound very assuring, "Just go check on everyone else."
"Okay, if you say so."
As Wash watched Doc leave to examine the Reds and Blues, he stood and stared at the ground, lost in thought and hopelessness. He had worked so hard chasing Epsilon, trying to get a clean slate from the Chairman, a way out of prison. He even went so far as to team up with Agent Maine, even if his former comrade was insane, homicidal and obsessed with finding an AI. He survived being slammed by a Warthog, an explosion involving a shotgun and crates of unstable materials and the ambush Tex had planned on Avalanche. He did everything that he could. In the end, what did he have to show for it?
His former best friend turned on him the moment he got his hands on the capture unit and tried to kill him. His AI, Epsilon, the only one who could give him that clean slate, had disappeared into that very unit and trapped itself before it went dead. At the end of the day, he would face the Chairman, hear the harsh debriefing, go back into his cell, and rot in prison for the rest of his miserable life.
A feeling of overwhelming despair came over Washington, something he hadn't felt since his first days in Project Freelancer's psych ward, since Epsilon was first implanted in his brain and tore his mind apart with memories of Allison.
He saw his sidearm next to him and picked it up. The wheels in Wash's head began to turn as he thought about what to do with it, but then spurned the idea and quickly threw the Magnum away. He wouldn't go down that road again. Not ever.
Running was the other option that presented itself, but he quickly rejected that one too. How would he get off Avalanche when the only ship was down in a deep, frozen chasm along with the Meta?
"Damn it." He cursed, "What the hell am I supposed to do now?"
His train of thought was broken by the sound of crunching snow as if someone was walking towards him.
"Uh, Agent Washington?"
Washington looked up to see Caboose, the Blue Team's rookie in regulation blue armor, holding what looked like Epsilon's helmet. Caboose seemed hesitant and nervous as he fidgeted with the cobalt piece of hardware.
"Caboose?" Wash crossed his arms, not wanting to know what the rookie had in mind. "What do you want?"
"Um, if it's alright with you, would you like to join the Blue Team?"
Wash simply stared at Caboose, tilting is head in confusion. "What? Why?"
"Don't worry about it. I've already asked Tucker and he said it was okay!" The Blue soldier said, giving Wash the helmet, "I had to ask him a lot of times though. I lost count around five."
Washington stared down at the helmet in bewilderment. He had noticed the yellow stripe painted on top of it..
"Oh, and I put the yellow stuff on there so we know it's you." Caboose said.
Washington stood in stunned silence as he saw his reflection in the visor.
He didn't understand. Why would they want him to join their army? A highly trained soldier like him would feel out of place with a bunch of idiots. What's worse, he had done terrible things to them.
Well, mostly to the Reds.
He tried to find words to say when Tucker came up behind Caboose with the rest of Epsilon's armor, the shoulders painted with the yellow trim. "Wash, you have to put this on, quick! Those guys from the Recovery Force are going all over the place in an hour and they'll expect you to be dead."
"What? Wait a second. Why am I dead? What are you going to tell them?" The Recovery Agent asked.
"That we killed you along with the Meta and Tex." Tucker answered
"You can't be serious." Wash let out a humorless, sarcastic laugh, "You guys could barely stand up against the Meta. What makes you think that they'll believe you?"
Caboose gave it a lot of thought (literally) and said, "Um, well, they weren't here when we, uh, destroyed that mean guy. So, I'm pretty sure they'll believe whatever we say."
The Blue rookie then rubbed his temple, as if he had a headache, "OW! It hurts…"
"That's what you get when you think too much." Tucker quipped jokingly.
"What about our faces, our voices even? My voice filter got busted during the fight and the Chairman knows what I look like." Wash stated.
"They've never seen us with our helmets off." Caboose said with a wistful smile hiding underneath his visor followed by a slight painful groan. "OW! My head…."
Tucker added. "We'll just switch your armor with Church's. It's just that easy.
Washington stared at Caboose and Tucker and then back at the light blue helmet. They were considering helping him by faking his death, an option he didn't even think about. However, he shook his head and threw Epsilon's helmet onto the ground. "No."
"No?" Tucker said in confusion.
"No, you can't do this." The former Recovery Agent explained.
"But, Washingtub, you'll go back to the big house!" Caboose cried, back on the verge of tears
"You don't think I know that!" Wash snapped at the rookie, before turning on Tucker. "If you help me, the consequences are serious. Even if this works, the Oversight Committee will find out that I'm alive eventually. When they do, The Chairman will come after you for harboring a felon and would most likely kill everyone here. I know you guys have good intentions, but you can't risk your lives on my account. I'll just hide somewhere and fall off the grid."
Silence and a hint of tension filled the cold blowing air as Caboose picked up the helmet.
"But you don't have anywhere to go." The Blue rookie said sheepishly.
"I never thought I would say this, but Caboose has a point, Wash." Tucker quipped, "Also, I highly doubt you want to go back to prison. You said so yourself."
"Also, if you fell off the grid, you'd hit your head." Caboose added stupidly.
Feeling the discomforting sting of truth (or maybe it was the healing unit), Washington stared down at the ground and grumbled. Despite being idiots, they were right. He had nowhere to go and would be captured eventually if he ran.
The Recovery Agent looked at the light blue helmet again and back at the Blue Soldiers. He let out a long sigh. Somehow, some way, he was going to regret this. But, between the Blood Gulch crew and prison...
"Son of a bitch..." he grumbled.