Church never got the hang of possessing someone and looking through their memories. It was always high pressure situations of on the spot jumping into someone else’s skin, intense focus, and no time to wonder about their name or their family back home or when their first kiss was. But when he jumped into Wash, in those last few minutes, the Freelancer’s memories opened up like a book. It could have been force of habit, but Church got the feeling that Wash was *showing* him, like a proud child.
Connecticut wasn’t a surprise, really, although the vividness of the memories coupled with Wash’s uncaring affect was. Church thought ‘this guy actually got a girl once?’ and ‘naming them all after states was the hokiest thing that old man ever thought of but it does have a ring to it’, and ‘dude, it’s crowded in here’. Wash’s mind seemed to shift. Never a stable landscape, it showed pictures and feelings that almost overwhelmed Church. Maybe this was why Wash was so OCD on the surface. But there was also that pride in his mental landscape, a straight-shouldered kind of demand to be heard.
All Church said was, “You know I can see why you didn’t want anyone else in your head. Got some pretty heavy stuff going on there.”
“Don’t touch anything,” Wash said firmly.
“Finally got the place how you like it, huh?” Church said, the new experience still grating. Through the waves under his feet came the waves of memories, bombarding his mind, glowing fondly as they showed the other agents, his friends. Glowing fondly with happy images, vivid memories, instances Wash cherished to keep for himself.
Next came the wave of feelings associated with the scenes. If Church still had a body, he would have staggered back at the sudden dump. It had been like that since he came through, but, still, every time it caught him by surprise. Under that current of apathy Wash had built up lay a carefully laid out web of vibrant emotion, probably inaccessible even to Wash’s conscious mind. It was there for a second, long enough to wind the breath Church didn’t need or shouldn’t have been holding out of his body, and it was gone again, just as quickly, just as violently.
He supposed it was normal for the agent to give himself so completely to any mental intruder. A reaction hammered into him by the Director, a habit he never had to break because he never thought it’d come up again. (Or maybe it was a remnant of a defeat, a lack of fighting in a battle that Church wasn’t even aware of, despite being the attacker.)
“Something like that,” Wash said.
Epsilon wasn’t here any more, although part of Church instinctively looked for him. The memory unit had left scars, as visible to Church in this mental space as if someone had scarred Wash’s face in the real world. Church didn’t want to examine those further. First of all it was boring. Dead memories were dead. Second of all, though, Epsilon now was only something dark and rotten and scabbed over. A ghost of a ghost. It was hard enough for the living to deal with that, but in the mental space, Church could have been lost in it.
So he controlled it instead, took stock of himself, and kept talking. “You’ve got all of this in here because of me?”
“Not because of you.” It’s hard to tell what someone’s movements are when Church isn’t actively trying to possess them, but that straight-shoulder impression gets more foreceful. Wash is walking out of the vehicle bay. “Because of the Director.”
“Yeah, but, he’s me. Or he was, anyway.” Church’s mechanical voice is almost sarcastic. “He put Epsilon inside your head, and we’re meeting up with him to…get Epsilon, or something? I get a little confused when nobody’s talking about me.”
“We’re going to kill the Meta.” Wash is jogging now. “Do you really want to take credit for what went on inside my head?”
Church doesn’t answer that. Instead, he says, “So, if I’m the Alpha - which I am still not sure about, by the way - shouldn’t I have some sort of magic ghost power over the other AI?”
“They want you,” Wash said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have any power.”
Church cackled. “Doesn’t necessarily mean - yes it does! They want me. I’m like the messiah to their enslaved peoples, the freaking moth to their flame.”
Wash paused to think about this, the idea that his passenger was a messiah, paused to reflect how utterly sad it all was, and was promptly reminded of the lack of privacy in his own head at the moment.
“Hey, I’d make a fucking good messiah,” Church said defensively.
“They should all be thankful your holy weapon can’t possibly be a gun,” the agent said with a forced smile, a forced joke, a forced lightness to the situation to distract him from the fact that Church was in his head, that someone else was hearing his thoughts, that privacy was once again long gone, and yet more secrets had taken its place.
“It’s a sniper rifle,” Church said, crossing his arms in Wash’s head with such gusto that Wash slowed down his running and almost repeated the gesture. “Oh, fuck you too, buddy.”
“I didn’t say anything,” Wash said defensively, picking up speed again.
“You didn’t have to, I felt it, man! Your entire mind rang with laughing and disbelief.” He said this and Wash could hear the childish pout, so out of place with the memory of the last time this voice had been in his head. “I can hear it, you know.”
“Can’t we turn it off or something? Can’t I just be a quiet passenger and not have a first class pass to your…you?”
“Sure, Alpha. You start being quiet, we’ll call that step one.”
Church looked around as he became aware of the tiny amount of glee giving this snarky command inspired in Wash. “It’s Church.”
“Don’t just fucking ‘right’ me, man, it’s my name.” Church was starting to get used to the sensation of being a passenger, or invader, or whatever he’d qualify himself as. Intruder. That’s what Wash’s mind supplied, easily, and Church realized he also wasn’t alone in his brain. It made his not-technically-existent neck itch. “I call you Wash.”
“David,” Wash supplied in a flash of insight about name association and it suddenly became very important for Church to call him David where Epislon and the Director himself had always called him Agent Washington, where all his old friends always called him Wash.
“Fine, David, but don’t you start calling me ‘Leonard’.”
“Right, right, because that the Director. And we’re going to kill him, or something?”
“Don’t sound so confidant. I can tell what you’re thinking, remember? You want order because chaos is freaking scary to you.”
“What I’m scared of doesn’t matter.” Wash pulls his rifle a little bit closer to his chest, but that might be more because they’re nearing the round-topped buildings that are their destination than because of any emotional distress. Church can’t quite tell. There’s a difference between reading someone’s mind and reading their thoughts. Personal history was easy, especially when Wash opened up like he had, like somebody proudly showing off battle scars. But the pride had been a quick reaction that was almost gone now that Church had threatened to make the scars worse. Church was feeling disorientation again, like when he’d possessed Lopez and not been able to understand the words coming out of his own mouth.
Wash’s voice was very flat. “I thought you could tell what’s in my head. Don’t you know whether or not you’re right?”
“I’m pretty sure. But it isn’t exactly a road map in here. Did Epsilon cause all this mess, or is it just you?”
Wash said, “I don’t know.” He had slowed his pace but the building was still getting closer anyway. Church thought about the EMP that they had come here to activate. He was going to die for this war. Again.
“So I’m going to die for a cause neither of us understand. Great.”
Then the pride came back. For a moment Wash showed him, with a practiced sort of mental shrug, the Freelancers lining up in front of a glowing blue board.
“No,” Wash said. “I think you understand it perfectly.”