MARS4 - The Unofficial F*cking Story

Chapter 8

When Prototypes Collide

The Battleship had lumbered into view a few minutes ago. Jeebs reported over their communications that they would pull up and dock with it in less than half an hour.

That is if they were not blown out of the air, to begin with.

The SWATbot did not need to mention that, but it was there.

Jerry sat buckled near Verlos, who had become active and attentive with a duffel bag at their feet. Jerry had packed his own with explosives and extra ammunition for his rifle. Verlos seemed to have mimic Jerry in a way, but the bag they brought was larger.

The Fox watched the Wolf shift through clanking material for another minute or so before he grunted. “Alright, I’ll bite, what’s in the bag?”

Verlos, who beamed with that irrepressible cheer of theirs and lifted the bag up into their lap with their only good arm.

They patted the top of it as they glanced Jerry’s way. “This is a bag of tricks. Got some toys in here Wade made to test before I went off and got myself hurt.”

Quickly rummaging through, Verlos pulled out a belt laced with cylinders dangling off of it in an almost precarious fashion.

“These things are called light-grenades, it can superheat metal and ignite combustibles instantly in a ten-meter kill zone.” Verlos held them over towards Jerry.

The Fox just stared at him, his brain only comprehending the ‘superheated metal’ part.

“No?” Verlos went on undaunted, sifting through the bag once more.

“How about this do-hickey here?” Verlos asked, presenting what LOOKED like a repeating crossbow. Jerry knew something about those, those were bulky and considered useless to use during the war. It was as high as technology as they had gotten on their own before Kintobor defected to their side.

“This thing here fires bolts that I-er-” the Wolf shifted through the bag yet again.

“-forgot to pack-huh, oh well-” Verlos muttered, and placed the weapon in the next seat over.

“What else you got?” Jerry asked, his eyes shifting towards the cockpit. Maybe they would have something easy to use, but gods was this boring.

“How about this thing here?” Verlos questioned, nearly thrusting what looked like half an arm to a SWATbot in the Fox’s face.

Jerry cursed in surprise and slapped it away as his attention snapped back to MARS3.

“This isn’t really a new prototype, Susan had hers with her when she died,” the Wolf observed, the memory of the former MARS2 seemed the only thing that temporarily dampened his spirits.

Jerry, for some reason, felt uncomfortable seeing the bigger Mobian frown.

“What is it?” Jerry asked after length, inspecting this so-called ‘weapon’. It fitted on top of an arm, covering it from the shoulder down to the knuckles, white padding lacing underneath while the rest of it was cold metal gray. Adjustable loops and a fingerless glove secured to the knuckles seemed to keep it in place on the arm. There was a black detonator looking device dangling from one of the leather loops by a wire that disappeared into the padding.

Jerry figured by the looks of it, he could use it as defensively as it could be used offensively. Though that all depended on what it did, and how heavy it was. It was hard to tell the weight when the being handling it had manipulated a bag larger than himself with one hand.

“Oh, well, this, Wade called this the Mobian Power Fist,” Verlos started to explain, going at some length in a scientific dribble the Wolf obviously was imitating one Wade had given him

“When you prime it by the trigger with your thumb, the weapon becomes charged for twenty seconds,” Verlos indicated detonator looking device.

“While it’s charged, you hit something with it-” Verlos patted the knuckles, which on closer inspection, the metal extended somewhat over the fingers with odd indentations running down the length of it, “-and the momentum of the swing would be amplified times ten, dispersing the energy into whatever you struck.”

Verlos rested it on Jerry’s right arm, nodding, “It would fit, the difference between this one and the one Susan went with was a recharging pack, this one has to be plugged in, so you got about five good punches in it,”

Jerry raised his brow, clearly irritated, “Why in the hells haven’t I been offered this thing before?”

"You had your swords,” came the ever-present voice of Control, and Jerry shot a glance over his shoulder out of habit.

Jerry growled, snorted, and looked back to Verlos, “Let me see that thing,”


Something was wrong.

A presence was aboard their ship. Warmth, but they could not see it.

But He knew it was there, He, The Bringer of Life and Light to their Cold, Dark existence.

Something was wrong, He could sense it. But He too was blind as his creations to their presence. An aft-air lock had opened without permission and had stubbornly remained so. He had sent repair droids in the company of SWATbots, and all of them had ceased their function.

Something was wrong. And He knew what the cause was. He could not see. But He could hear. Weapons were discharged. Loud, cumbersome, noisy and easy to trace. But once the noise was gone, so were they, and He was left to guess what they were doing. He remembered. He had heard these sounds before, on two separate incidents.

"I need you now, E-X-131-2”

He spoke to his creation, and his creation stirred, EX1312’s eyes opened, its being willed into existence. The room EX1312 was in had beds, many of them, all empty save its own. Why was EX1312 here? Why does it not remember this place? Why does that voice sound so familiar, so friendly, yet, so frightening?

"It would seem your companions to your little group has returned, I can hear their transmissions, but I can’t see through their eyes as I can see through yours. You have the flaw of flesh, bone, and marrow as well as my gifts of perfection," He spoke soothingly into its mind. ”Find them. Show them my generous hospitality,"

Why? Why send me out to dispatch those that I know but not. Who are they? Why do I know them? Are they like me?

“As you Command, Doctor,” EX1312’s voice, it could hear its voice, but it too was wrong to EX1312.

Something was off. Something different. Why was EX1312 questioning itself? What purpose was it to allocate resources to processes that served no purpose other than to distract, to slow? EX1312 had a primary objective, a mission from its creator. All its focus shifted to ending this annoyance for its Master.

In the cold metal bowls of Doom, it stirred.


It was not overly easy, nor was this completely and utterly difficult.

The jamming not only masked them from the Enemy’s Sensors, but it apparently made them invisible to their electronic rendered vision. They could not see the Specialists as they worked. As long as they held fire, the enemy did not even know where they were.

It also meant that they were laying down laser fire so thick one could walk on it when they suspected one of the MARS in their presence. And that was what was making it difficult for Jerry and Verlos.

The Newly christened MARS2, Jeebs, had no problems at all.

When they encountered the patrol to find out why the airlock would not close. Jeebs let rip into them with that large, heavy-looking weapon, destroying them and part of the corridor they were standing. When another patrol altered their path to come in from a different direction, Jeebs wiped them out too.

Now the only way back and forth to the corridor had been through a short chasm of catwalks that connected the outer and inner hulls and utility passages to small for SWATbots to fit through.

The enemy knew they were there, but it was obvious that there was nothing the Machines could do. So it flooded the Corridors with SWATBots but stayed clear of where Jeebs held their position.

Jerry coasted past patrols with little effort. At times, though, he could hear explosions where Verlos simply destroyed whatever they could like a vindictive child. The Fox would do the same, but there had been no sport in it. Destroying simplistic machines, to Jerry, as not fun.

"MARS3 to Four,” Verlos spoke quietly through the communicator.

“Four,” Jerry said after some length, allowing a patrol to go by.

“I’m finished, heading back," the Wolf reported, ”That was easier than I expected,"

“That’s because you got the points closest to MARS2.” the Fox growled, knowing this was going to be some sort of banter.

He hated banter.

"Or you’re just slower then-" a pause, normally foretelling that another Patrol was coming through.

Yet Verlos had gasped in that pause. A shocked sound that had Jerry’s head shifting to the left, towards the earpiece in his ear as if he was standing nearby, trying to see what Verlos was seeing.

Then Verlos said something that had Jerry’s whole body fill up to the brim with ice-water.

Wade?"


They spoke a name that the Cyborg, EX1312 knew. How did EX1312 know? This being looked vaguely familiar but again, the sense of Deja Vu shifted to purpose as EX1312 shut down rogue processes attempting to find out how and why it knew this being.

EX1312’s threat indicator registered the Mobian as moderate, a visual look over it indicated that they were a Canis Lupus, or a Wolf, small for its species. They were built for a perfect balance of Agility and Power, and they were deceptively strong, though not on a super-mobian level. The way it nursed their left forearm indicated that they were already wounded, and thus the Cyborg’s threat indicator shifted the Wolf from moderate to low.

Something else was said, but EX1312 filed it under for later review and raised its hand, revealing a laser lens in its palm. A streak of crimson caught the Mobian in their chest, causing them to fall backward in confusion. They were down and out with a smoking hole in their flesh. The weapon they had used to turn the corridors from gray to charred black discarded and left where it lay.

“Wade?!” they shouted. Again. Unholy infusion of machine and mobian knew that name. Why did EX1312 know that name? Why did this Cyborg know this creature?

"Transmission intercept, there is another one coming, finish this one off quickly," the soothing voice it dreaded drifted into EX1312’s thoughts. The warning was filed as questionable, there was only one other in the MARS program, who could the other be?

Wait. Why did EX1312 know that?

The questioning processes were immediately halted as it continued its current extermination program. EX1312 did not hesitate in its stride as it produced a weapon it instinctively knew how to use, a long, curved blade, ready to finish what should have been a dying opponent.

Instead, Wolf got themselves on their knees, firing at EX1312 with a loud ballistic weapon. How? A quick scan just before something struck it, revealed some sort of armor on the thing’s chest. The Cyborg defended itself by covering the weak flesh parts of its face with its perfect metal hand and marched obviously into the shooting, formulating another line of attack.

When the Wolf stopped firing, the Mobian was on their feet and fleeing before a quick system check noted superficial damage to the Cyborg’s being.

EX1312 fired again, this time, lower, clipping the Wolf along the legs as they rounded a corner. They stumbled and EX1312 heard them crash into the bulkheads with a pained cry, but they were up and moving again before It could contain them.

The Wolf was heading to the cat-walks. That was a long stretch of an airless void. EX1312 silently sent an executable file to the SWATbots in the upper decks to take positions on the catwalk above the one that the Wolf was going toward.

If one laser beam could not stop them, twenty certainly would.


“Wade?!” Mags asked painfully, and she reviewed the brief footage of Verlos calling out the former founder and MARS member just before he was ruthlessly shot.

"Not anymore,” Control observed grimly, “We’re clearly dealing with someone who has a lot of practice in turning beings into monstrosities against their will,”

"So it’s not Wade?!” shouted Jerry over the communications, his breathing hard. They were running recklessly and headlong to Verlos’ position.

“It was Wade!" came the gritted teeth response of MARS3. ”I saw it in his eye, he recognized his name,"

“Wade?” Mags asked again, sitting down as she looked at what was left of her beloved husband.

The tears streamed down the Old Sparrow’s face.

“By the Gods,” Mags repeated Verlos, word for word, “What have they done to you?”

“MARS2, status?” Control asked crisply.

"Engaging,” Jeebs replied without emotion.

“Engaging who?”

"MARS1,”


EX1312 did not expect that.

EX1312 nearly walked right into a stream of hard metal rounds that severely dented and damaged the metal walls it collided with. EX1312 caught a glimpse of SWATbot at the far end of the catwalk prior to seeking cover. Why was it attacking? Why was it protecting the Mobian? Why was not it listed in the registry?

The ambushing SWATbots had been subsequently ambushed by that one and its destructive weapon. Somewhere in the Cyborg’s mind, it made a note to review onboard recordings in order to reverse engineer that design. As soon as the firing stopped, EX1312 stepped outward, discharging its laser at the far target, its target accusation recalling exactly where the weapon would be and disarmed it.

The Rogue SWATbot quickly threw the now useless multi-barreled weapon away from it. It fired again, catching the SWATbot on the shoulder, but the laser simply reflected off, causing no discernible damage, nor phasing it.

The SWATBot, Jeebs, strode forth, returning fire with its own wrist-mounted lasers.

“I dropped the detonator!” the Wolf, Verlos, shouted. EX1312 took note of the location of the device immediately, between it and Verlos.

Jeebs moved past Verlos as they dangled by their paw over the edge, more than likely throwing themselves over to avoid being torn to pieces by the oncoming fire. Jeebs had come considerably closer, and as soon as they bent downward, still firing from their wrist, the thing they called Wade, EX1312, struck.

The SWATbot could not track the Cyborg as it came in low and fast, using its edge weapon to cleave into Jeebs’ extended wrist and quickly punched them away with its metallic arm.

The SWATbot skidded to a halt, leaving a sparkling trail all the way up to where Verlos hung over the side.

The Jeebs’ arm landed at EX1312’s clawed feet.

EX1312 fired its laser again, clipping the treacherous SWATbot in their discus-shaped head. EX1312 sheathed Its sword before leaning down to pick up the detonator device, inspecting it as its target acquisition shifted towards the dangling Wolf.

“Wade!”

This was shouted over the Cyborg’s head. The voice froze it in place. EX1312 had heard that name spoken before and ignored the calls and questions. Yet it had been shouted by a voice that seemed to freeze it in place. Runtime processes closed and open as it shifted through its files as it sought the answer. Why did it stop?!

Why did EX1312 STOP?!

WHY DID I STOP?!

A thick cable dangled down between EX1312 and the two targets, and it simply stood there. Locked in place, still aiming toward the Wolf.

Then another male appeared, dropping from the cable and geared similarly as the Wolf, but not as weighted down with armor. It was Fox, average in height, blood-red fur, cold gold eyes rimmed in darkened fur. It had a rifle slung over its shoulder, a sword hilt jolting over the other, an arm covered in dull metal.

Those golden eyes looked up to EX1312’s. The new target gave it a murderous glare that had the Cyborg’s detectors giving warnings with bold, red letters of THREAT spreading across the bottom of its visual parameters.

“Duckington,” the Fox spoke, low, cold, emotionless.

“Voxholm,” EX1312 responded, its own voice sounded-

-relieved?

How?

How did EX1312 know that name?


Jerry’s fur was bristling, his teeth clenched, and for the moment, in a state of shock. Wade Duckington, this Mobian was a mentor and a Friend, a Father figure. A loving Uncle. A Duck the Fox had murdered Overlander’s in their sleep for. Jerry took his bandana and hid it when Wade retired then ‘found it’ just to keep a piece of the Old Duck around.

Now, Jerry was seeing only a quarter of that very Duck.

The left half of their face was still there. Wade’s beak still there. Their chest still had what was left of the laser-proof armor. Then there was what was underneath the armor. A robotic skeleton that seemed to be comprising what had been the remains of Wade’s body. The right half of their face had a large red lens serving as an eye, and his left arm, and legs were metal and clawed tip.

This was not Wade.

This was an affront to Mobius as a whole.

“MARS2, get Three out of here,” Jerry instructed without turning around.

“But, Wade has the detonator,”

“That’s not Wade,” Jerry growled. His eyes narrowed, his shoulders rotated. “MARS2?”

Jerry heard the SWATbot moving, but it was not saying anything. “Get Three out of here,”

Verlos was arguing, trying to reason to stay and fight, but it was too late. They locked up, they hesitated. Verlos part of the mission was over.

Jerry’s part had changed. He needed that detonator, yes, but right now, Jerry needed to distract this monstrosity.
No. Fuck that. Jerry thought as his teeth bared, barely containing the rush of rage that surged through him. Every strand of Jerry’s red-furred body stood on end. No distractions. No Fun.

Jerry was going to kill it. He was going to erase that thing from this world then strangle the one who did this to Wade with their own entrails.

“Move!” the Fox roared as he charged the creature that resembled a friend, a compatriot.

It, Wade, was still aiming where Verlos had been, but Jeebs had long since dragged the Wolf up with their only good arm and pushed him towards the ship.

Wade fired a burst from its laser, but the shot had been helplessly wide.

Jerry came in dangerously close, landing a punch with his armored fist against its ribs, quickly following quickly by another fist right into the jaw beneath the beak.

Wade seemed to partially recover from their stupor then, realizing they were being attacked. The Cyborg quickly changed the important device from their flesh and blood hand to their metallic claw, hiding behind their back.

Jerry landed punch after punch. Blow after blow in a furious, unrelenting barrage. He did not kick, there had been no room for it, nor did Jerry draw a weapon or seek breathing room to fire the SAS that bounced against the Fox’s body. Jerry was not thinking clearly. Anger and taken over him. There was no smile of enjoyment, no thrill of the battle.

Just pure hate and black rage.

Unable to prevent this Mobian’s rain of blows, and accepting that they were leaving very little in the way of damage, Wade drew their sword and lashed out in a sweeping assault. Jerry literally rolled over Wade’s arm like a dancer, his body only touching the blade along the flat surface before the Fox landed on his own feet. Even as Jerry settled, a foot snapped outward into the thing’s midsection, forcing Wade to stumble back.

Wade offered a thrust with the tip of the Falchion as they recovered trying to keep the Fox at bay, to strategize, yet the stab was little more than a gesture. It did little to deter Jerry who sidestepped it, aiming for the throat in a counter and keeping up a reckless and unrelenting pace.

Snapping the weapon from side to side again, the Fox ducked beneath, rising up and following up with his previous shot to Wade’s throat with another. Both strikes aiming to outright kill someone of flesh and blood.

This thing that looked like Wade, was obviously not.

Apparently, Jerry struck a nerve then, and whatever was holding this thing back evaporated. The abomination was moving at full speed now, forcing Jerry to go completely on the defensive.

Gods it was fast. Faster than Wade had ever moved in life. This Cyborg had speed, but it was using the skills Wade knew. The skills Jerry had taught him. It was following a pattern that Jerry could recognize and keep ahead of each swing.
It may have been the only reason why the Fox was still able to stay close enough to reach out and touch the Cyborg. Jerry was still looking for an opening to keep punching at it, and neither he nor this thing were relenting.

Yet Jerry was weighed down, that weapon coming closer and closer with each step and each swing. Jerry could not keep up with this pace, and he was doing nothing with his quickly bruising knuckles.

Knuckles. The Powerfist! In Jerry’s blind fury he had forgotten about the prototype.

The first opening came as Wade attempted to thrust for Jerry’s stomach once more. Jerry sidestepped the thrust easy enough, putting him up against the rail. When Wade shifted the sword’s weight from one side to the other in an effort to cleave the Fox in two, Jerry deftly lept up onto the rail, using his tail and his left hand to balance himself on the thin barricade that prevented others from simply falling off the catwalk.

The ‘Wade’ did not hesitate to swing horizontally again, trying to strike Jerry off the rail.

Again a miss as Jerry flipped over the blade and landed on his feet, partially crouched with his right arm cocked back for an obvious straight punch. Jerry had depressed the trigger to the Powerfist in the air, every indentation on the weapon flaring a brilliant bright blue.

They both stepped into their attacks, Wade bringing up their weapon for a downward stroke, aiming to punish the punch with a lethal strike.

The World slowed.

Jerry’s eyes were locked on target, the gap right beneath where the rib-cage would end, and just above where the stomach would have been. Wade’s eyes shifted focus towards the arm, recognition, and familiarization playing across Its face.

When time crawled forward once more, armored fist connected with metal followed by an immediate explosive discharge of energy that shook Jerry’s surroundings. The Wade rapidly flew backward through the opening It originally had emerged from, leaving behind Wade’s trademark sword.

But not the detonator.

Jerry struggled to catch his breath for a moment, looking to the Power Fist and flexing his fingers.

“Fuck that hurt like hells!” he snarled as he sought out Wade.

The Fox vaguely remembered that the thing had the Detonator as well, and not seeing the Cyborg, Jerry glanced around for it as well. Not seeing it either, Jerry reasoned it had either been carried off with the abomination or fell from the catwalk.

However, Jerry turned his attention to what the Cyborg did leave behind.

It was a Falchion. A heavy sword that was little more than an extended ax that was meant to use without finesse or restraint. The blade was still remarkably sharp, no damage save the ball that once resided at the end of the hilt, which it always had. The damage made a minor crescent due to it being slightly melted.

This was Wade’s favorite weapon. No way Jerry was going to leave it here.

Jerry removed the falchion on his back and replaced it with Wade’s before taking stock of his surroundings, hoping that the Cyborg would come crashing back at him.

Instead, the Fox could hear shooting behind him. Jeebs and Verlos were fighting.

Jerry stepped closer to the corridor to peer into it. He could see the impact site of where that thing had landed, yet the thing meant to be Wade was nowhere to be seen. Sneering in disappointment, the Fox turned away, heading towards the sounds of gunfire and ripping metal.

“Next time I see you-” Jerry whispered as he moved, though to Control and a silent struck Mags who just witnessed the affair, it sounded like a hiss. He awkwardly rested the spare falchion beneath their arm and glanced back as if that Cyborg had been standing behind him. “-Your head is mine,”

"By the Gods," he heard Mags echo in his ears, ”What did they do to him?"

Jerry caught up with Verlos and Jeebs, both fighting tooth and nail against SWATbots that surged through a newly established bridgehead down the left corridor. They constructed their makeshift bridge when Jeebs moved to assist Verlos against the Cyborg.

However, this surprise did not seem to phase both crippled MARS members, who were recovering from the shock of a lifetime. MARS1 was now the enemy, a few dozen SWATbots were an inconvenience.

Jeebs smashed into the machines with relative ease. The old class Bots did not have the software upgrades that made them a viable melee threat, while Jeebs knew what circuits to rip from their torso’s that would make them nothing more than a wiggling mass of metal.

Verlos fired their pistol off, then used it as a makeshift hammer on the SWATbots that attempted to flank their apparent traitorous counterpart, shouting their anguish and fury. They would swing and fire their lasers-point blank and blind, but Verlos’ armor shrugged off the shots and they were not landing any of their punches or grabs.

Jerry arrived in time to mop up the last few remnants by emptying his SAS into them, surprising Verlos who half-way aimed their firearm in the Fox’s direction, handle first.

Jerry cast them a sidelong glance, noting tear streaks along the Wolf’s cheeks. Their eyes were rounded, filled with horror and disbelief. Jerry could understand, he could sympathize. It was the reason why some nights the Fox would wake up snarling in rage. In pain.

Or just screaming.

Jerry dropped the spare Falchion as he nodded towards the airlock that would take them to their ship. Verlos silently boarded while Jeebs took up an arm from a SWATbot. With a twisting jerk, Jeebs removed their entire damaged arm and replaced it with another.

“Wish I could do that,” Jerry noted morbidly as he boarded the ship ahead of the SWATbot.

“Did you kill it?” Verlos demanded sternly. It was not a tone they took naturally, and Jerry’s ears perked at it. Jerry remained silent however as he peered around the inside of the transport.

“Did you get the detonator at least?” Verlos was still at looking at Jerry expectantly when the Fox looked away to pull over the duffel.

Rifling through it all to gather those precarious-looking cylinders and tossing what did not look like an explosive.

“How do I use these?” Jerry diverted the question with one of his own.

“You’re not coming with us?”

“No,” Jeebs responded as they bypassed them both to head to the cockpit, “He is not,”

Verlos’ joyful enthusiasm that was already drained had immediately sucked away from them as they gazed on Jerry. The Fox did not remember how old he was, but he felt a lot older all of a sudden.

“Are you trying to get yourself killed?”

“Somewhere on my to-do list, sure, but I’m wanting you both off the ship,” Jerry replied curtly, “It’s easier for me to do the sort of work that needs to be done, and what if I die?”

“I don’t have a wife to go home to.” Jerry continued, nodding to Verlos, then to towards Jeebs’ direction, “Jeebs has someone to take care of too,”

“You are hurt and out a weapon, and Jeebs needs to pilot that ship. I’m still breathing, I can still fight.”

“How can you walk back in there after seeing that?!” Verlos pointed towards the ship. “How? That’s beyond us.”

“It’s in my blood,” Jerry replied simply, offering an indifferent shrug, “I’m a Voxholm. Doesn’t mean so much to you, Control knows, Mags might suspect.”

“Doesn’t mean anything now, but Voxholms never backed down. We never surrendered. We’re too stupid to know when we’re beaten.”

“Besides, you guys are going to be hovering around,” Jerry as he looked from Verlos to the bag “I mean you are the one with a fucking deathwish, Mr. Leave Me Behind, if I can get off once the missions done, I’ll get off.”

“You hear me you tine-can?!” Jerry shifted, shouting towards the cockpit. “Don’t you grow a yellow streak and leave me behind just yet.”

Verlos looked relieved, they were suspicious, but they shuffled over to the bag, showing Jerry what needed to be done.


Voxholm.

To hear Jerry admit it had knocked Mags from her stupor. She knew that name, but it was a dull memory of an age that had been overwritten by the opening barrage of the Robotnik Wars.

But it had been something else than thinking about the mangled corpse of her husband shambling within the depths of that ship.

“Control,” Mags spoke the name, and it nearly brought her back to tears, yet she powered through it, “Bring up all relevant data and information on the name Voxholm, search Military, Royal Guard Services.”

Control, understanding the immediate need for Mags to find something else to focus on, started summarizing the data as it appeared on the holographic map.

"Found him under his Father. Rare color photo pulled from what public record survived Mobotrpolis’ Destruction. Photo of the Hero, Lieutenant Tyson Voxholm of the Royal Guard of Acorn, with Family.”

“His wife, the Violinist, Edwina Nae Voxholm, their eldest Hallax Tyson Voxholm, the middle son, Tiberius Jeremiah Voxholm, and the youngest, Chasen Melini Voxholm. Tiberius is Jerry, he is ten in this.” Mags looked confused for a moment, before seeing those golden eyes attached to a scruffy orange creature in rich clothing, beaming from ear to ear.

The old Sparrow did not gasp, she had put two and two together as soon as she saw the eyes, but they were just not the right fur color. Here they were as Orange as their Father.

Now Tiberius, or Jerry as he called himself, had been the color of Blood.

The next image displayed a pair of Foxes, one in dress blues with echelons and ranking marking him an Officer of the Royal Guard, the other had the same golden eyes as Jerry, this one female wearing a comfortable looking sundress. “Tyson and Edwina again, the only photo I have of Jerry’s Parents.”

"At the first battle of High-Low Tower, Tyson led a counter-attack against the encircling Overlander Forces, breaking through their lines and allowing the King, Maximilian, and other units to withdraw. Instead of disengaging, Tyson plummeted back into the fray to fend the Overlander’s off. Tyson’s body had been recovered only days after the War."

"Edwina Nae Voxholm, shown right, had been a well-known Violinist and Pugilist under the guise of Madame Voholm. Apparently, she became wounded at the siege of Mobotroblis, then during General Amadeus’ Charge, Edwina had been wounded again as she aided Soldiers sealing a new breach at the Wall. The Madame did not recover,"

Mags frowned, knowing both. Madame Voxholm had her own musical career prior to the War, but Mags did not know what a Pugilist had been. The Father, Tyson, everyone who had worn a Uniform even before the War, knew that name.

Tyson Voxholm’s stand would become a rallying cry for the Royal Army, as much as Morten Jakuul and the Battle of Mina. “Remember High-Low! Remember Mina!” Shouted out by Amadeus Prower as he led Troops across the churning Hells of the Great Planes. They were names that have been transcribed in parchment with the likes of Warlord Kodias, and even Julian Kintobor, if it had not been for the Robotnik Wars.

Mags looked back to the photo of the children.

“And his siblings?”

"Captain of the Wall, Hallax, the Eldest. Considered by most at the time to be the best Swordsman in the Kingdom, second only to his Father. During the opening salvos of the Siege of Mobotroblis, Hallax distracted the Overlanders while most of his troop got to safety from the battlements. The last they saw of Hallax was entering a Tower. The story goes he was still firing arrows into the Overlanders’ midst as the tower burned.”

The Sparrow remembered that grim story. The Archer and the Tower. She vaguely remembered someone wrote a book about it sometime after the War.

Yet, Mags knew of the Eldest, but the youngest sister?

"The Youngest I do not know of personally, she had been smuggled out prior to the Siege, her whereabouts are unknown, MARS4 has ideas of where she went, but he isn’t telling,"

The Old Sparrow nodded glumly, then it dawned on her why Jerry hated the Republic so much. His immediate family sacrificed so much for the Kingdom of Acorn. They were once known heroes, ghosts of a past immediately forgotten after Kintobor launched their bid for World Dominance. With General Prower’s Treason against the Throne and subsequent formation of the Republic, it was as if Jerry’s Family gave their all for nothing.

Their stories were already overshadowed and forgotten, but their sacrifices were unceremoniously cast aside by someone who should have remembered them.

Another thought entered her head. A Piece missing on this board.

“How does my Husband fit into this?”

"Sargent Wade Duckington became Jerry’s Squad Leader sometime after the Second Battle of High-Low Tower. They participated in several key battles in several Regiments that had been disbanded or rearranged due to high casualties.”

"They were enlisted into a Scouting Force after the Siege of Mobotropolis with eleven others where they simply cease exist altogether. I cannot really tell you much else because the actual uncensored documentation doesn’t physically exist,”

Mags shook her head. What could they have done to turn a smiling ten-year-old into a cold, ruthless killing machine? Which brought out more questions about what her Husband had done. Why did not he talk about any of them? Wade’s supposed squadmates, this Scouting force, what had they done?

What was the former King of Acorn, Maximilian, hiding? Five. There had been Five of them. There was that many in that picture counting Jerry and Wade.

“And the others in the photograph my husband kept?”

Control anticipated the question and was already pulling up information.

"Currently Unknown. The only names I have attached to this Scouting Force are a part of an Infantry Unit who were converted to fill in the ranks of the Royal Guard before the Army was disbanded after the Great War.”

"Five names, Wade and Jerry are included, as well as one Lukus Walrus, Horus the Hedgehog, and Dunlap Lapine. As for them? We have as much information on them as we do Jerry or Wade, which is little,”

"It appears MARS4 is reboarding the Battleship. I am going to abort mission and inform-"

“-No!” Mags shouted, snapping around to glare at the Camera.

“No,” the Sparrow repeated more calmly. “He won’t run, we just read his Family obituary. Voxholms, suicidally brave, the whole lot.”

Mags made a calming motion with her fingers spread out over the board, she had to get even for what they did to her husband. Mags had to make absolutely sure that thing never gets off the ship and mar her love’s good name.

She had no reasons to give outside of petty vengeance, yet for some reason, she knew Jerry would approve of such. Control’s plan was moot without the second detonator, yet inspiration struck her.

“Show me the inside of this thing, I think, yes, I think I have a plan,”


Jerry paused as he put one booted foot on the deck, his eyes snapping back and forth in the corridor to check if it was clear of targets before turning around to look into Verlos’ face again.

The male extended their uninjured hand towards the Fox, and Jerry simply looked at it.

It was an impulse, but Jerry took off the bandana, then with care, removed his Father’s medal. He wrapped the medal with the bandana and clasped it into Verlos’ hand, offering them a weak smile. A genuine one.

A happy one.

“If I don’t make it, Mags knows what to do with it,”

Verlos did not like it, but he nodded slowly, shook Jerry’s hand once, then retreated into the ship, allowing the airlock to close.

The Fox watched them leave, still smiling an actual happy smile.

Verlos reminded him so much of Hallax.

Jerry rotated his neck and brought his rifle up. Weighted down with more explosive than any sane creature would think to use, the Fox headed towards the catwalks again. The Male was determined to stash the gear further into the ship before going to hunt down the ‘Wade’ impersonator.

“Right, round two.”


“Aww, glass jaw?”

The question had EX1312 confused. The Cyborg could hear its master pinging for a status report, but they were still blacked out and unmoving. EX1312 checked the run time processes and found them all in standby mode, so it was not that, nor did they see anything in the immediate surroundings after it booted up.

Where were they?

“Some deep dank hole in the belly of the beast,” came the reply, and EX1312 presented its laser to the corners.

“Oh no, not there, right behind your eyes, yes yes, the reflection, fascinating. I thought I was dead, but apparently, I’m not, well, in a sense I am.” the Voice rambled on for a bit, but the Cyborg Duck simply stood, looking up at the impact spot in the wall.

“Re-engaging Doctor,” EX1312 reported.

"There is only one target, the others have fled, I believe he’s planning something foolish,"

“That would be TJ,” the voice pointed out.

“Voxholm,” EX1312 concurred with the voice as if It knew to agree.

A flood of images flew through its brain. One of the more prominent from its own perspective was a lone orange Fox in a royal blue uniform. They were tearing into the rank and file of Overlanders like a mower through the grass with murderous hate in predatory gold eyes and a smile that could freeze water in a glass.

What is that? An error?

“Error? No no, my boy, much worse,” the voice observed.

“I’m you,” came the ominous reply. Wade. It was Wade. How did EX1312 know that?! “And I know exactly what TJ is capable of doing,”

“Pity really, I was starting to enjoy this ‘outer’ body experience, or is it Inner?” Wade asked, then started to cackle in their shared brain.

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