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There are days when Tex really hates Church.

Today is one of them.

This is his fault, that asshole, if he hadn’t been so desparate to keep her alive that he’d just let them both fucking die when Washington had set off the EMP, they might not be in this situation now.

Or, to be more precise, he wouldn’t be locked in a box, and Tex wouldn’t currently be stuck in another robot body (she hadn’t bothered to ask the guy’s name before she kicked his programming’s ass and took over, but it wasn’t Lopez this time) and racing towards the Vault.

It wouldn’t be long before Gene noticed she was missing, and Temple would probably be able to guess where she was heading. She’d tried to rescue the others from the Vault before. She’d just never succeeded. And every time, there were more firewalls for her to break through, more tricks, more traps, more everything.

Temple changed the code, but that doesn’t even slow Tex down. She’d never risked grabbing a body before—Temple isn’t aware she has this trick, which is why she’s not on complete lockdown like Alpha, but out of all of the rescues, she needs this one.

Because the Reds and Blues are here.

Because this is Carolina in the Vault.

And Washington too.

But her friends are in this base, under Temple’s control, and she needs to get Carolina and Wash out of there, she needs to get them lose so that even if they pull her back in, they can save the Reds and Blues.

The room is full of the dead that Tex failed to save, but there is no time to pause, no time to mourn, because Carolina and Wash need her help.

Overriding the armor lock is going to take time.

“What do you want?” Carolina demands. Her voice is strained. They’ve been down here for over two days now.

“Lopez?” Wash asks, vaguely hopeful. But she knows he’s seen the blue visor.

“Sorry,” she says, and she grabs Carolina’s helmet with her hands, allowing her to interface with the armor directly. “Wrong AI.”

It’s her voice, they have to recognize it.

But Carolina immediately stops reacting. “You’re dead,” she says, and it’s a condemnation, a curse. “Go away.”

“How long have you been hallucinating?” Tex demands, worried. If Carolina’s already been hallucinating, they’ve been down here longer than Tex realized. Damn, Loco is getting good with locking her out. She hates this, hates that she’s right in front of them and can’t help them, because she doesn’t dare go near Temple to try to get the remote, so instead she’s just trying to reset the whole damn system. If Church was here, he could do it, but he’s locked away, and there’s nothing Tex can do for him, but maybe she can do this for Carolina.

 “I’m not going to talk to you,” Carolina says. “This is just like the test.”

“I don’t care if you talk to me, I just need you to stay alive, damn it,” Tex snarls. “They need you, okay? They’re in danger—”

Washington is silent. Tex thinks he passed out. She can still sense a heartbeat, but it’s slow. She thinks he was trying too hard to move when she came in.

Tex has finally hit the code, and she smashes through it, searching for what she needs to pull Carolina loose.

The proximity alert she set starts to go off. They know she’s here.

She finds the metaphorical button she needs, and hesitates. Carolina’s in no shape to fight. Not right away.

“You don’t think I’m real,” she says. “But I’m sorry. And I hope you find him, at least.”

She sets a program to delay the release of Carolina’s armor, and quickly pulls out, pretending to be still fighting the firewalls.

“Damn it!” She yells. “Work, you stupid thing—”

“Texas,” Temple sighs. “Really. I thought we were past this.”

Tex lets out a wordless scream, pivots, and charges Temple.

He puts the body down first, and then he holds out the capture unit.

Tex grits the teeth she doesn’t have, and fights the grip it has on her, but she can’t fight this.

A chance.

That’s what Tex gave Carolina.

In two hours, the armor will come unlocked. Tex doesn’t know if she’ll be able to free Washington or not, but it doesn’t matter.

“Tex, Tex, Tex,” Temple shakes the unit, as if it could do anything other than make her mad. “Really, what are we going to do with you? You’re not useful like Alpha is. No fragments out of you.”

He’d tried. But Tex wasn’t like that, wasn’t like Church, you can’t split a shadow.

“Not even any good as bait,” Temple snorts. “I bet if we’d let them know we had you, they wouldn’t have come, would they?”

Tex doesn’t care. They’ll get Church out. Carolina will survive. She doesn’t matter. Her survival hasn’t mattered for a very long time.

“You know,” he said. “Maybe we’re just not trying the right way to split you. I bet you’d crack if we started killing those idiots of yours. Hey, Bucky?”


“Why don’t you go get… oh, let’s start with Donut, shall we?”

Two hours, Tex thinks, desperate, as the knock-off Tucker slinks off.

Carolina’s armor comes undone in two hours.