"Agent South?" Theta said, tentatively appearing in front of the freelancer.
"Piss off Theta," South snapped.
"South, there's something that North -"
"Don't call me South. That implies that there's a North. Call me Dakota."
"North made something for you. A voice recording."
"Play it," she said doing her best to sound uncaring and detached even though she wasn't. Her brother, her twin, was dead. Of course she wasn't. How could she be?
"Hey kiddo," North's voice filled the air and South's eyes filled with tears. "So this is... this is just in case. I mean we don't exactly lead lives that are going to end with us dying of old age in a house out in the country somewhere do we?" He let out an awkward chuckle.
"No, we really don't," she whispered.
"So I thought it would be best to say a few things to you. Just in case."
"What the fuck do you mean the mission was a success!" South shouted during the debriefing.
"While the loss of an agent is unfortunate, overall -" the director began before being cut off.
"We lost my brother! Not just a fucking agent! Not a state name on your fucking leaderboard! My brother! My brother is dead!"
"Due to the fact that he was trying to defend you," the director retorted, striking South speechless.
"He didn't defend her, he protected her," a shy voice corrected. It took everyone in the room a moment to realize that it was Theta who had spoken. Clearly uncomfortable with everyone's attention suddenly on him, the A.I. fragment added "That's what North used to say anyway," before vanishing.
"You get hurt more often on missions when you defend South," Theta pointed out as North winced while removing his armor.
"Not defend, protect," North corrected. "But yeah, I do don't I?"
"What's the difference?" Theta asked.
"Defending is trying to keep something from being attacked, while protecting is trying to keep something from being hurt."
"Those still sound the same."
"Okay, I'll try again. Defending South would be me fighting an enemy so that South wouldn't have to. But South is perfectly capable of fighting for herself. My sister doesn't need defending. Protecting her however is trying to keep her safe. Like -"
"Pushing her out of the way when someone shoots at her?"
"Yeah, like that."
"And stay out of trouble, or try to at least. I know that's a lot to ask considering your personality and the lives we lead, but I'm not totally unreasonable. Just try to avoid unnecessary trouble, alright? Because I might not," North paused and took a deep breath. "I might not always be there to have your back. You know that I will for as long as I am able to, just like I know that you will always have mine. No matter what, I will always be there for you.
" You know the old saying: When you can't run, you crawl. And when you can't crawl, when you can't do that"
"You find someone to carry you," South choked out the words.
"I knew you would finish it," North chuckled sadly. "Dork."
"I hate you."
"No you don't."
"Of course I don't."
"I love you Dakota." The recording ended. The silence was deafening.
"I miss North."
"Me too Theta, me too."