Felix knew better than to underestimate potential threats. It was hard sometimes, since he was just so awesome that very few others could ever compare. More often than not, something he perceived as a potential challenge didn’t live up to his expectations. It was disappointing in the end, but another day, another dollar as the old saying went.
Felix was disappointed when the freelancer ended up on the wrong side in the conflict at the crash site. Everyone had heard the stories, and he was excited to see Washington in action. The reds and blues, though, were a mystery.
Tucker was too distracted to keep his guard up, and held Felix’s interest for some time. Tucker had a lot of potential. Felix decided that Simmons’ personality must be genuine, because no one with any self-awareness would act like that to mislead someone. If Grif wasn’t so fat, Felix would be certain that his apathy was a ruse. He had his doubts, so he listed Grif as number two potential threat, no matter how unlikely. At least Simmons was open about his skill set. Grif must be good at something . He must just be keeping that information to himself. Surely, they all helped somehow to take down Project Freelancer. Felix couldn’t get a fair read on Caboose, which is how he got himself into his current situation.
Felix had manufactured some nonsense excuse to do a patrol to one of the nearby gas stations between the rebel base and Armonia. He sent the kids to do an outside patrol while Caboose and Felix would clear within. Felix’s vision involved chatting up Caboose, asking questions about whatever he could get him talking about, to really feel him out for once. If his idiotic behavior was a facade, he would be able to get a sense of it, Felix was confident in that.
Now they were locked inside a shitty gas station bathroom with no windows, and the new republic kids weren’t due back for an hour.
“Oh, Felix!” Felix growls to himself, teeth clenched and jaw aching. “Let’s go on patrol with him solo. That will bring light to everything . What could go wrong?”
Next to him, Caboose lets out an animated gasp. “I found gum!”
Felix clenches his hands against the weathered bathroom counter, while Caboose has plopped on his ass on the floor. The gum he finds is under the counter, and with surprising dexterity he peels it off with his armoured hands and sticks it to the outside of his helmet visor. He groans with disappointment.
A chunk of the tiled bathroom counter snaps off under Felix, and the two of them watch it fall. “Oh, my god!” Felix screams.
“D’aw, it’s okay, Felix! I know the waiting game isn’t very fun, but what makes it special is that you can play other games at the same time! Two games for the price of one!” Caboose’s voice is full of animation and joy. Felix wonders for a moment if this was planned. “Like this one: I spy with my little eye something that is… blue!”
Instead of responding, Felix grabs the door handle and pulls as hard as he can, the door rattling in its frame. “LET ME OUT!!!” He shrieks.
“Do you need a hint?” Caboose offers.
Felix draws in a slow, deep breath, and an opportunity dawns on him. This hour alone with Caboose is his chance to really crack open the sim trooper’s shell and find the truth. No one could keep up that farce for an hour, he’s sure of it… and maybe he can even find out something interesting.
Felix turns to face Caboose, who looks up at him from the bathroom floor. Felix imagines the face underneath the helmet grinning with malicious wiles. Two can play this game. “Is it you?”
Caboose sputters his surprise. “You didn’t even need a hint!”
“Okay, it’s my turn right? How about this.” Felix crosses his arms over his chest. “Truth or dare?”
“I know this one!! But you’re supposed to start with ‘I spy with my little eye’.”
“What?” Felix barks. No! No, he has to keep his cool. He has to outlast this. “No, it’s a different game! Truth or dare?”
“Oh! Yes, okay. Um.” Caboose shifts so he’s sitting with his legs folded in front of him. He puts a hand to his helmet as if it’s his chin, and doesn’t react when he sticks it in the gum. “Truth!”
Felix smiles under his visor. Everything is going according to keikaku (keikaku means plan). He has to be sneaky about it though, or else Caboose will see right through him. He starts slow. “How did you help to bring down Freelancer?” Everyone knows about that, and has a right to be curious about it.
“Me?” Caboose thinks, but his mind derails for a moment when he pulls his hand away from his helmet and gum sticks a string to it. No, maybe he just wants Felix to believe that. “I just followed my best friend Church!” As he speaks, Caboose increases in volume. “Oh, and I fought a bunch of taxes!”
Felix stares at Caboose as he tries to pick the gum off of his helmet and smear it on the floor. Was taxes some kind of code? Was he talking about some kind of evasion they discovered?
“It’s my turn now!” Caboose announces, leaning back on his arms with some grey-pink gum still stuck to his visor. “Truth or dare!”
Negotiation is about give and take, after all. “Truth,” says Felix.
Caboose considers his question with a lot of vocal humming and hawing before settling at last on “when was the last time you wet the bed ?”
“You could ask me anything, and you ask me that?” Felix barks before he gets himself under control. “I don’t know, Caboose. I don’t remember.”
“Well it’s okay. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about! It happens to everyone.”
The two soldiers stare at each other in silence, and Felix is beginning to wonder if he’s going to let Caboose win this one. “Truth or dare?” He asks.
“Truth!” Caboose answers instantly.
Felix supposes this is fine, since he would rather find out more information anyway. “What about Captain Grif? Does he have any skills?”
“Oh! Sleeping!” Caboose squirms in place, like he’s excited -- like he’s awaiting praise for the correct answer.
“Is that it? He must be better at more than that.”
“Eating!” Caboose shouts, spouting out words like this is charades. “Napping!”
“Okay, I’ve had enough,” Felix declares, and looks around the room for any alternate means of escape.
“Is it my turn now?” Caboose asks. He watches as Felix hops up on a toilet seat to scrutinize a ventilation grate.
“Sure,” Felix says, voice flat. “Knock yourself out, kid.”
“Truth or dare?” Caboose asks.
Felix punches the grate until it pops off the vent. “Truth.”
Caboose gasps and his voice goes low. “Do you have… a best friend ?”
“Yeah sure,” Felix says as he hops into the vent. With his armor, he can only just fit. “And it’s me. ”
“I am so happy for you!” Caboose declares behind him. He says some other stuff, too, but Felix can’t hear him over the sounds of his armour against the steel ventilation shaft.
The gas station isn’t very big. There are no mazelike ducts to navigate - just a straight line with several offshoots, but he almost gets stuck turning a corner toward sunlight. Felix begins to feel a tremor of claustrophobic panic set in before me manages to wriggle himself free. Imagine if Locus had to come carve him out of the gas station, he would never hear the end of it.
The grate leading outdoors pops off easily when Felix hits it. Squirming out of the building is a whole new ordeal itself, until he supermans it, wiggling out with his hands in front of him and dropping to the ground head-first. The wind is knocked out of him when he lands, spouting a comedic “ oof! ”, and he lays with his arms splayed out under the sun.
He is free at last.
Caboose’s blue helmet appears over him, cutting out the sun. “You should get advice from Grif on how to play hide-and-go-sleep. He is much better.”
Felix stares up at him. He has the distinct feeling of his soul leaving his body. “Caboose. How did you get out of the bathroom?”
“I opened the door!” Caboose announces. “You were pulling it, but it said ‘push’.” With that, Caboose dropped into the grass next to Felix. After a few minutes, he began snoring.
About three things Felix was absolutely positive. First, Caboose was an asshole. Second, there was a part of Felix that would never be certain that Caboose wasn’t just fucking with him. And third, Felix unconditionally and irrevocably hated him.