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Tell the Truth and Run

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Every step was agony. Pain seared through her gut, threatening to overwhelm her at any moment and make her even more useless in their attempts to move. All that kept her grounded was the feeling of an arm wrapped tight around her; of a hand over hers where she clutched at her wound; and the familiar voice that was cursing up a storm. Everything ahead of her seemed distant and blurry and her consciousness was barely with her, but these three things were clear as day. With every agonising step she forced herself to focus on that voice, just to keep herself afloat. She just had to stay awake long enough to get on the Pelican, that’s it. Just a little further−

Armoured feet against the metal floor of an empty ship made a distinctive sound, loud and echoing in a way that usually struck Connie’s nerves, but that was now a relief. Her knees gave out beneath her within the next two steps, the support and the grounding touches torn away as she stumbled to the ground. Pain radiated up her arm as her free hand flew out to brace for her fall, and her elbow buckled. A weak groan pushed against her gritted teeth and pressed lips, the fall against the floor pushing her arm hard against her wound. Momentarily blinded by the pain, everything became louder. She could hear every drop of blood hitting the floor; every one of her own ragged breaths; her own blood rushing in her ears. It was all so loud and suddenly everything else was distant and hazy and−

Strong hands grasped her, chasing the haze away and helping her up to her knees. Connie’s full weight slumped against her side, her head falling against her shoulder; but even then, she shook her head.

“G-Go, get− get the sh-ship m-move− moving…” Her words trailed off into a muffled groan of pain, shaking fingers digging into the unarmoured parts of the shoulder her arm slung across. It was an effort to lift her head, and her eyes refused to focus enough to see anything more than a purple blur, “S-South… W-We need to get− get out of here…”

A frustrated growl broke past South’s gritted teeth. Tapping the front of her helmet against the top of Connie’s she jumped up to her feet and dashed for the cockpit, every step sending a thundering echo through the Pelican bay. It was hardly seconds later that Connie heard the tell-tale sound of the rear bay door closing, and the engines roared to life.

With what strength she had left, she planted her free hand firmly against the floor and forced herself up to one knee, and then up to her feet. One step at a time she stumbled towards the rear bay door, and towards the med-kit on the wall beside it. Every heavy fall of her feet against the floor sent jolts through her nerves, and every step made sharp, angry pains flare through her gut. When the Pelican lurched off of the ground, her feet slipped from under her and she slammed into the wall; tears welled in her eyes, a pained, choked gasp slipping through parted lips. Yet still she gritted her teeth, pushed herself up from the wall, and tore open the med-kit.

Wrapping a hand tight around the biofoam canister, she braced herself. The burning sensation tore through her, red-hot agony that had her gasping for breath. Her legs trembled, giving out beneath her−she barely caught herself on the wall. Forcing her shaking hand to move she finished applying the biofoam, the canister falling to the floor with a sharp clang. And then her knees buckled, taking away what little support she had left and sending her falling to the floor and−

Arms wrapped around her, guiding her down gently.

“Fucking shit, Connie what the fuck why did you move?! Fucking shit fucking cock fucking−” She trailed into an incoherent stream of panicked curses. Her hands flailed everywhere, not knowing what to do, until one of Connie’s hands reached up and gave one of hers a weak squeeze, drawing all of her attention, “C-Connie, fuck, I−”

“T-Tasha, fo-focus. I-I’m gonna talk you through how to help me, ok-okay?” When she felt South’s stature tense, she squeezed her hand as tightly as she could, “F-Focus, Tasha.”

South gritted her teeth, free hand tearing off her helmet and then grabbing for the med-kit, “I know how to do field medicine!”

Another squeeze.

“I’m going to t-talk you through how to help me.” Because you’re panicking, and you don’t think clearly when you panic.

Cursing, South slammed a fist against the floor. Pulling the med-kit to her side she laid it open and took a deep breath, but failed to steady her shaking voice.

“Fine.”

Connie swallowed hard, trying to ignore the taste of blood in her mouth, “C-Cut my suit so you can get at the wound.”

Heavy duty scissors brushed past her skin−cold, so cold−as they sliced through the already damaged kevlar. Blood made the material stick to her skin, her teeth gritting against the pain of it being pulled away. The numbing effects of the biofoam had finally started to take hold, dulling the more severe pain and clearing her head enough to keep her words straight. And still, she was teetering dangerously close to either a meltdown or unconsciousness.

“O-Okay, now y-you need to−”

It wasn’t pleasant. Connie found herself slamming her open palms against the hard metal floor to try and draw her own attention away from the pain, focusing on the jolts that shot up her arm and the instructions she was giving. Her helmet was throwing up unhelpful warnings about her suit’s compromised integrity and her blood loss, telling her to seek emergency medical attention and abandon current objective. She’d have found them morbidly amusing any other day−as if the Director ever let them follow those recommendations−but now they were little more than a distraction, driving her to pull off her helmet and let it fall haphazardly to the floor.

A hand cupped her cheek, and she flinched at the wet feeling of blood on her skin.

“Connie?”

“I-I’m fine, just− just keep− keep g-going…” She mumbled, leaning into the touch. She could barely feel the pressure against her cheek, only the unpleasant warm, wet sensation of blood. Swallowing despite the taste of iron, her words were breathy and indistinct, “I− y-you just need… need to…”

Blackness crept in at the edges of her vision. She tried to fight it, tried to focus on the pain to bring her back around, but her eyes began to droop. She could hear South’s panicked voice, telling her to keep her eyes open, telling her to stay awake goddammit! She could feel her slapping the side of her face, squeezing her hands, trying everything to keep her conscious, just to keep her conscious, but−

Her eyes slid closed and the world went black.

 

Three Weeks Ago 

“Sooo, when is this dickhead calling again?”

South’s eyes and nose peeped up over the top of Connie’s shoulder, the tickly sensation of Connie’s hair against her nose making it crinkle up. Huffing, she blew it out of the way.

“In about five minutes,” Connie said over the tapping of keys. The PC she had set up in front of her definitely wasn’t one belonging to the project, it was a different make and besides, Connie’s equipment privileges had been revoked months ago. South didn’t know where she got it from, and honestly she didn’t care to ask; Connie told her everything she really needed to know. “And don’t call him a dickhead, he’s helping.”

South snorted, “Just calling ‘em like I see ‘em babe. You can’t deny the guy’s a fucking asswipe.”

Connie sighed softly, reaching a hand back and lacing it into South’s hair. She leant into the touch gladly, burying her face into the soft skin of her shoulder and fiddling with the hem of her shirt. Connie let herself relax into the hold for a moment before patting down South’s now mussed up hair and returning to her typing.

“I guess I can’t. He does seem to have a bit of a problem with boundaries,” She said.

“Now that’s the understatement of the fucking century,” South said. She pulled Connie back against her chest a little tighter, nuzzling against the crook of her neck and letting her lips brush against her pulse. Connie made a content sound. “Look I know I only got in on this whole y’know, espionage−” (“That makes this sound much more sophisticated than it is.”) “−deal since we got back from the fucking scrapyard, but the dude’s clearly a dickbrain who doesn’t know when to back off! You told me your-fucking-self, he tried to get you to leave!”

“I know,” Connie sighed, slumping back and letting all of her weight rest on South.

“So I think I can call him a fucking asshole.”

“I don’t think you’ve called him the same insult more than once this entire conversation,” Connie said, tilting her head back to look up at her, eyebrow cocked and an amused smirk on her lips. South just grinned in return. “You’re hopeless.”

Her words lost a little of their authority when she was muffling them by giving South a lazy, upside-down kiss. They lost even more authority when she let out a quiet gasp as South’s hands slipped up under her tank top, cold fingers against warm skin−

−and the sound of an incoming communication.

Shit!” Connie jerked away, pressing a clumsy kiss to South’s cheek and then shoving her, “Go! Out of view of the camera!”

“I can’t believe I just got cockblocked by this cockmunch,” South groaned, falling to the floor with a thud in her attempts to scramble off of the bed. When Connie blindly flailed a leg at her, aiming to push her shoulder but instead getting her cheek, she was halfway between laughing and swatting back before she shuffled out of the way. Crawling across the floor of her own bunk, how dignified.

Connie barely had time to straighten out her tank top and attempt to look presentable before accepting the communication, barely a second before it timed out. Brushing her hair behind her ear she greeted the man on the other end of the link.

What was the delay, Connie?” He asked immediately.

South made an extravagant gesture of rolling her eyes, flopping back onto the floor.

“Sorry, I had to get rid of a nosy teammate first,” Connie replied, focusing on his brow to give the illusion she was meeting his eyes.

What? Connie, I told you that you need to leave that ship! If they’re catching on−” The leader said, his voice rising sharply. South’s eyes widened, and she pushed up on her elbows to give Connie a pointed look over the top of her screen.

“They’re not catching on!” Connie said frantically, waving her hands defensively, “Jarrett, I told you back in the scrapyard. They know no more now than they did then. No one suspects me. Wash was checking I was okay after my mission! That’s all.”

Fine. But I still say you should have left long before now.”

“I know, but I can’t,” Then, as an afterthought, “Not yet.”

South silently groaned, held her hands up and strangled the air. Connie, luckily having practice both at lying to Jarrett and at keeping a straight face through South’s antics, didn’t react. No matter how much she wanted to.

The rest of the call went smoothly−despite South’s insistence on pulling faces at almost everything Jarrett said, testing Connie’s poker face to its limit−and they organised Connie’s next intel drop. Jarrett signed off with one final comment urging Connie to leave the Mother of Invention and the project behind, and she did her best to dismiss it with a simple ‘I’ll think about it’. Though when the call dropped, he looked far from pleased.

“Dick. Head.”

Connie heaved a breath, letting the unnatural tension fall from her shoulders, “I know.”

South pushed herself up so she was leaning back on her palms, watching Connie close the PC and stow it away somewhere that room inspections wouldn’t catch. Only when Connie beckoned her forward with a ‘come here’ gesture did she get up, clambering back onto the bed and scooping Connie into her lap. Connie shuffled around, hooking her legs over either side of South’s hips and looping her arms around her neck. If South’s hands settled on her ass, she didn’t complain.

“You looked so fucking uncomfortable, Connie,” South said, not stopping when Connie opened her mouth, “Don’t worry he wouldn’t have fucking noticed, he doesn’t know you like I do. You shouldn’t have to play along with that. D’you want me to kill him? I can totally kill him.”

Connie’s tense expression cracked as she laughed, shaking her head.

“Unfortunately we need him.”

South snorted, “Well that’s no fun.”

“I’m a real spoilsport, I know,” Connie said. Twirling a strand of blonde hair around her finger, she pulled herself up a little close to South, “And I’m afraid I’m going to be even more of a spoilsport now, because I have training with Wash.”

South let out a dramatic groan, and Connie burst into giggles.

 

One Week Ago 

Her fists slammed against the bag in rounds of three, forceful and heavy punches that sent the bag flying back. She cycled through rounds without any proper breaks, just seeking out the feeling of hitting something. Something that wasn’t the Director’s fucking face, or the Counselor’s, or someone else who was to blame for this. Feeling the force of her hits and the weight of the bag bruise her knuckles, turning them red and raw, was the only thing keeping her from storming into the Director’s office right now and beating his sorry ass into the floor. Everything about this was his fucking fault, everything that had happened was his fucking fault and−

Behind her, the door slid open. Rapid punches coming to a halt, South slumped against the heavy bag, forehead against the leather. Pushing herself up, she snatched a towel from the floor and wiped her face.

“Any news?” She asked, swallowing hard to wet her rough throat.

Connie sighed, “No change. He’s still under.”

“God-fucking-dammit!” South cursed, throwing the towel to the ground and slamming her fist into the bag once more, “Taking the damn thing out of his head was supposed to help! Not put the kid under for another fucking week!”

“We have no way to know how much damage it did when it…” She trailed off, sighing, “You know.”

“Yeah. I know,” South said, voice low. She turned around, leant back against the bag with her eyes on the floor. She didn’t hear Connie cross the room, only realised she had when both of Connie’s smaller hands took one of hers, holding it up and examining the reddened skin, the scrapes.

“You should have been wearing gloves,” She said, sighing softly and kissing her knuckles, “Come on, sit on the bench.”

South didn’t protest, all of her energy expended. She padded over to the bench that sat against the wall and dropped onto it with a thud, hands laid over her knees. Connie took a med-kit from the wall and knelt in front of her, laying the open kit on the bench beside her and digging out what she needed. South gritted her teeth and hissed as Connie dabbed at the cuts and scrapes with a saline-soaked pad, flexing her hands.

“Stings like a bitch.”

“I know.”

A moment’s pause, then: “Shit’s really going to hell, isn’t it?”

Connie sighed, dabbing the last of the cuts on her knuckles clean and starting to unravel the last of her wraps. Her brow furrowed a little, a look South knew well; she didn’t try to rush her.

“Everything’s… happened a lot quicker than any of us expected,” She said. Rolling up South’s wraps and setting them down on the bench, she glanced out of the corner of her eye at the camera watching the room, “We couldn’t have known what Epsilon was going to do to Wash. Or about anything that’s happened recently.”

“Ha, yeah. Couldn’t have known shit,” South said, hands curling into fists, “Like that Innie nearly shooting you in the damn chest.”

“Like that,” Connie stood, looked down at South. She brushed the dyed tips of her hair−fading, she hadn’t touched them up in a while−out of her face, resting her hand on her cheek, “I feel a little uneasy too, South. But all we can do is keep going. We’re doing the right thing. It’s the only chance we have.”

South huffed, but leant her head into her hand.

She was right.

Unfortunately.

 

Two Hours Ago 

As the night cycle approached, the lights in the locker room began to dull. It had been a long day of rigorous training, for everybody−well, everybody that was conscious. The Director had been cracking down on their daily routine, filling time as if he were determined to leave them the absolute minimum free-time possible. Or perhaps the absolute minimum amount of time to think.

One by one everyone had filtered out of the locker room. Carolina was never there, when the training floor had cleared she’d stayed behind for some more, undisturbed, training. Tex had never even been on the floor. Maine had left almost as soon as they’d arrived, staying only long enough to grab their data-pad from their locker before leaving with their armour still on. Wyoming took enough time to toss his damaged helmet into armour processing, then headed off without a word. North and York were the source of the only chatter in the room, talking in hushed tones as they stripped down to their undersuits, pulled on some colour-coded sweatpants over them, and then left the room in silence to head over to the mess.

Connie sighed, finally raising her head from her hands, “Well, that was…”

“Yeah. It was,” South said, turning around and leaning back against her locker, “He’s working us into the fucking ground, Connie.”

“I know,” Connie said, pressing her fists into her eyes and watching the static and lights dance, “Just… careful, there’s cameras in here.”

“I honestly could not give less of a fuck at the moment. They already treat me like shit, if they think they can do worse they can fucking come try,” South said. When Connie looked at her with a worried brow and her dark, tired eyes filled with concern, she sighed, hand splaying over her visor, “Sorry. I’m just… done, Connie. I’m trying, but it’s fucking hard to hold out fucking hope when everything’s going to hell.”

“I know,” Connie repeated, looking down. So much was uncertain, and tensions were high. Not only had contact with the Insurrection been wavering, but Connie had barely seen Tex around the ship since she realised the drive she’d left in the woman’s abandoned locker had been taken a few days ago. Not to mention the fact that Wash was still bedridden in med-bay, only having woken up briefly in the nearly two weeks since Epsilon had been removed. Before having to be sedated, due to his frantic screaming. Whilst Jarrett had assured her the last time they had contact that things were in motion, it meant very little if the Director managed to drive them all to breaking point before anything came about.

She didn’t realise she’d begun to scratch at her arm through her suit until South’s hand wrapped around her wrist and stopped her. She hadn’t even notice her approach.

“Come on. Let’s get out of this armour and go get some food,” South said, letting go of her wrist to instead take her hand. “I don’t know about you, but I’m fucking starving.”

Connie gave her hand a squeeze, and nodded, “Okay.”

South bumped the brim of her helmet against the top of Connie’s, then stepped back. Connie watched her walk back to her locker, unclipping her helmet and gauntlets as she went, and with a deep sigh went to do the same.

But as a notification flashed on her HUD, she paused.

What?” She muttered, flicking her eyes across her HUD to bring the now active channel up. She was aware of South turning to face her, but didn’t acknowledge her, too focused on listening, “Unauthorised−? Wait, they’re− What?!

“What? What’s happening?” South said, waving her hand when Connie didn’t reply, “Connie, babe, I can’t hear whatever the fuck you’re listening too, what’s happening?”

“I− One second,” Connie went silent again, listening to make sure she wasn’t mishearing, before cursing sharply and jerking to her feet, “South, get your armour back on.”

South grabbed her gauntlets, clipped them back into place, “Connie, what the fuck is happening?”

“That− That was command’s secure emergency channel,” Connie said, tugging her locker open and grabbing her knives, and her back-up of all her data, “There’s an unauthorised docking down in the hangar, at least 5 drop ships. Insurrectionist drop ships.”

What?!” Helmet seals snapped shut. She wrenched open her locker, grabbed her sidearm, “What the fuck are they doing here?! Did they tell you about this?!”

Connie shook her head, “No. They didn’t. I haven’t heard from them in over a week.”

“Fucking shit!”

“Command is still deciding how to respond, we can get down there before they even figure out who to mobilise. Come on,” Connie said, stowing her back-up in her storage compartment and setting her knives on her leg clip.

South clipped her sidearm to her leg, “I really don’t fucking like this.”

It didn’t take long to make it to the hangar. News had yet to leave Command’s secure network, there was no hint of alarm from any of the troops in the halls who parted to let them pass like any other day, nor were there any announcements on the screens dotting the walls. Command were keeping this tight to their chests, at least for now. Connie found herself unsurprised; it was hardly uncharacteristic.

When they arrived, the hangar was on lockdown. So, taking a little extra time to duck around to a maintenance entrance rather than the main hangar doors, Connie overrode the lockdown on one entrance with a code that Command would certainly rather she didn’t have. The door slid open, and together they ducked inside. Taking cover behind one of the project’s own Pelicans, they could hear the sound of bay doors opening and of voices. So late at night, with no missions coming or going, the hangar should have been empty.

Connie held a finger up to the front of her helmet, then stepped cautiously towards the end of the Pelican. Peering out, careful to keep out of sight, she cast her eyes over the five Pelican drop ships that had arrived−no PFL insignia, branded with an identification number that didn’t match the PFL registry system. When soldiers clad in basic UNSC military gear stepped out of the open bays, accompanied by familiar figures dressed in red and black, Connie ducked back. Glancing up at South, she gave a nod. It was definitely the Insurrectionists.

They stayed behind the Pelican, out of sight of the Insurrection and out of their way, on the far side of the hangar. Whilst they couldn’t see what was happening, they could hear the soldiers move up to the hangar’s main doors and start working on opening them manually. When they finally had visual, Connie diverting the camera feed from the cameras above the doors wirelessly to their HUDs, they saw Jarrett stood back with his team, watching. Whatever conversations they were having looked disturbingly casual, all things considered.

“We’re not going to be able to stop them getting through the doors,” Connie said, voice barely above a whisper.

“So what, we’re just going to let them get into the rest of the ship? Where no one fucking knows they’re coming?” South hissed, gripping her sidearm a little tighter, “I don’t see how that helps, babe.”

“We have no idea what’s even going on yet, South,” Connie said, “Not to mention we’re both tired and hungry, and for the most part unarmed. We could probably take them all at our best, but if they decide to fight us now? We won’t win, South.”

“…I hate it when you’re right.”

“No you don’t,” Connie said, elbowing her side lightly, “I say we wait for them to start to leave, and then I walk out and get Jarrett’s attention. It won’t stop all of them going, but it might stop him so we can get some answers.”

Fuck no,” South said, helmet tilting in a way that Connie had come to recognise as a ‘seriously?’, “You are not going out there alone. I’m coming with you.”

Connie took her hand and gave it a squeeze, her voice soft, “Well, worth a shot. Alright.”

Less than a minute later, they got the doors open.

“Alright, move out! You know your orders. Do not confront the agents you’re not assigned to,” Jarrett called out. He thumped Demo on the shoulder as he walked past, laughed a little when Girlie punched him in the arm before he could to the same to her. Grabbing his own weapon, he stepped to follow his team.

Looking at South and nodding, Connie stepped around the Pelican before he had the chance.

“What the hell is going on here, Jarrett?”

For just a moment she thought that her voice hadn’t carried, that he was too far across the hangar to hear her. And then in the next moment his eyes weighed heavy on her, through his visor and through hers, and she had to fight the urge to deny the eye contact.

“Connie, there you− are…” Jarrett’s voice trailed off, eyes flicking from Connie to the purple figure behind her. Noticeably tensing, he replaced his tomahawk on his back and turned to those in his team who’d paused when he had, “Go on ahead. We’ll be through shortly.”

Connie could feel their eyes on her, judging her, before they followed their leader’s order.

“Here I am? Oh sorry, you were expecting me? Funny, considering I know nothing about what’s going on,” She bit back once the room was empty, folding her arms.

“What’s she doing here?” Jarrett said, jabbing an accusatory finger at South.

She has a fucking name, dickhead,” South spat, stuck close to Connie’s side and shoulders squared.

“She’s been helping me, ever since the scrapyard,” Connie said, trying to moderate her tone and failing. Her fingers began to tap against her palm, tap tap tap− “I was− done, with lying to everyone. I couldn’t lie to her anymore.”

“Well then,” The tension in his body language faded. His radio crackled to life, “Girlie, change of plans, since your target’s with me, take mine.”

Got it, Boss.

Connie stood firm, even as her heart began to pound, “You didn’t answer my question. What’s going on, Jarrett?”

“What’s going on is exactly what you wanted− we’re here to shut down the project, Connie. We had enough information from you to finally take action,” He turned his hard stare on South, “We’re here to arrest everyone complicit in the actions of Project Freelancer; every agent and member of command will be apprehended, and taken in. Well−’ his attention returned to Connie ‘−except you, of course.”

Connie reared back, “What? No, that’s not− that isn’t what we agreed on. Our team didn’t do anything.”

“Tell that to the UNSC. The information you gave us speaks for itself, Connie,” Jarrett said, the weight of his gaze heavy on her as he stared down at her, “No one here is innocent. You don’t get to pick and choose who faces the consequences of what they did.”

“That was our deal,” Connie spoke through gritted teeth, with clenched fists and bitterness in her voice, “The information gets to the right people, and the right people get arrested− my team did nothing, no one else knew! Most of us− we were coerced into even joining!”

“You don’t get to dictate the rules, Connie. That’s not how this works,” Jarrett took a step forward, and Connie took one back. Her heart was racing, thumping hard and fast in her chest−this was because of her. Everyone was in danger, because of her. Fingers tapped faster against her palm, tap-tap-tap-tap−

In taking a step back, she pressed herself against South. A little of the panic went away.

That was when the alarms started to blare; flashing warnings on their HUDs finally spreading news of the unauthorised docking, telling agents to report to their stations. The Innies had broken into the main area of the ship; the final straw to make command do something.

“Bit fucking late,” South said under her breath, gripping her sidearm, “Your fucking asshole team doesn’t stand a damn chance against us, you know that right?”

“I wouldn’t be so sure, agent,” Jarrett said, arm twisting behind his back. “Connie, I only have to take her− not you.”

Connie gritted her teeth, stepping between him and South, “Just try it.”

He sighed, “Suit yourself.”

And then his tomahawk swung down− and went right through a hologram.

As the hologram shuddered and flickered, Connie swept his feet from under him. She was behind him before he had the chance to right himself, grabbing the second tomahawk from his back and ramming the heel of her foot hard into his spine. Thrown off balance, he staggered forward, landing hard on South’s knee and toppling to the floor with the wind torn from him. Barely catching himself with his hands he groaned, pain radiating through his back, but then he was up on his feet and running at South.

South blocked his wide, open punch with ease, slamming a kick into the already tender flesh of his gut and grabbing her sidearm. When he came back at her she went to shoot, only for him to grab her arm and physically redirect the shot into the nearest Pelican. Wrenching her arm free she struck him around the face with the barrel, following it with a punch, and another, and another, chaining together hit after hit that had him backing up and stumbling. But all it took was one misplaced punch, swinging past him instead of connecting, for him to jab a fist into her armpit and send pain shooting through her gun arm.

The sidearm went clattering to the floor, sent skidding across the metal seconds later by a well-placed sweep of his foot.

His next three punches connected, her main blocking arm temporarily disabled. Grunting she backed up, giving herself enough space to slam a foot into his knee and send him tumbling−or at least that was the intention, the kick missed and barely grazed him. Momentarily confused by her own lack of coordination, three more punches connected with her helmet, her head starting to spin.

She’d forgotten about his first tomahawk until it was raised and coming for her throat, arms flying up to protect herself−

−only for the blow to never come.

Connie blocked the swing with a knife, countering every hit with sharp, deliberate punches that threatened to graze delicate unarmoured areas with the sharpened blade. When a frustrated swing came for her chest she ducked, another hologram taking the hit as she sidestepped and circled his wrist with her knife−twisting his arm she grabbed his tomahawk by the handle, sending it spiralling to the floor. He countered with a punch, one she ducked with ease only to find her head spinning and−

A foot flew past her head, slamming into his gut again with all of the force South could muster. Using the momentum to her advantage she chained together blow after blow, not giving him chance to raise his fists in defence and exhausting him. But her muscles ached, no adrenaline rush came to fight off the fatigue that had started to plague her senses. Eventually, the chaining failed−and Jarrett got in a lucky punch to the side of her head.

With her defences down, more hits connected−strike after strike until he knocked her feet from under her, and she landed hard on the ground. He stood over her, ready to strike again−and then a tomahawk whizzed past his head, and clattered against the side of the Pelican before falling to the floor.

Jarrett looked between Connie and the tomahawk, then bent down and picked it up.

Connie swallowed hard. The weight of it had been all wrong, it wasn’t like her knives, dammit she should have stuck to her knives−but her head was spinning, and she could feel blood dribbling down her upper lip. If they hadn’t been training all day, if she wasn’t already so tired

Gritting her teeth, she surged forward. All she had to do was split a hologram, take the hit for South, and disarm him. Just like before. That’s all. She’d done this a thousand times, she was known for this, this was what she did. Just split, just−

Jarrett swung, and Connie activated her unit.

She swore she activated her unit.

Connie stumbled, pained gasp caught in her throat as she fell to her knees. Pain blossomed across her stomach, a burning, wet feeling flowering out along every nerve and−

It didn’t work.

Blood dribbled down her lips. A shaking hand rose to her gut, felt the blood−

A cry of her name was the last thing she heard before the world went white, shock and pain and fatigue overloading her senses and−

The next thing she knew, South was holding her.

“Oh thank fucking god fucking− Connie, Connie? Fucking, shit, you were just− just staring, I thought−” She fell into a string of curses, and there was the sound of choked sobs in her words. Connie swallowed, tasted iron. Her vision was blurry, her senses overloaded, but she could see a red and black figure in her periphery−more red than black, now. “Connie, look at me, Connie?”

“I-I’m… okay,” That was a lie, and they both knew it; blood was pooling under her fingers where she held her wound on instinct, and she felt faint, “H-Help− help me up… we-we need… t-to get out of here…”

“You can’t walk like this!”

“S-South, please. H-His Pelican.”

South made a frustrated noise, but hooked her arm under Connie’s armpit and helped her to her feet. Connie held back a pained cry, the wound in her stomach exploding with burning pain and−

“Fuck, fuck, fuck− Hold on, just− Hold on. I got you. I got you.”

She put her trust in South.

She always put her trust in South.