MARS4 - The Unofficial F*cking Story

Chapter 11

Pain and Promises

The ship lurched forward, the autopilot screaming warnings with one overlapping the other. Jeebs, with the ungodly focus of a Machine, finished pulling both the tumbling pair Specialists into the teetering transport.

Without stumbling, the SWATbot returned to the controls, the metal hands surging over the various klaxons, attempting to adjust for each.

There was no hope for the ship. The blast wave had taken what little life the GUN Transport had left, and it was sinking steadily towards the treeline.

“Brace.” Jeebs calmly informed Verlos, who struggled to get a still unconscious Jerry to a safety harness.

Verlos had finished fastening Jerry into place when the Transport started sliding through the outstretched limbs. The crackling, snapping pop of the wood put a sensation of fear in Verlos. They were not going to make it. After all that fighting. After everything, they had been through.

This was the end.

Verlos reached up and grabbed a handle just as a resounding crack of impact reached his ears. The world seem to turn over topsy turvy. The sky was now at his feet in the opening of the transport, and it was the roof the trees scratched at like claws.

Just as the transport righted itself, it smashed into those trees, tail first, slamming the front of the ship hard against the ground at an absurd angle. Verlos found himself thrown forward towards the cockpit, sailing directly towards the shattered glass.

Jeebs reached out and caught the Wolf, the momentum carrying the Mobian right into the SWATbot’s chest. Hugging the Mobian protectively, Jeebs kept a tight hold on Verlos until the ship started to slide.

Verlos, unaware of what was going on with his face pressed into the armpit of the SWATBot, could make out the screeching sounds of metal being torn beneath them. Suddenly, Verlos found himself being thrust away from Jeebs just as hard as the SWATbot embraced them, just in time to witness Jeebs become impaled on an extended branch.

The Transport settled with a sad shudder. The panels were still flickering. There was a snapping hiss of a conduit still live and producing sparks. With a quick flick of their hands, Jeebs killed the engine, and the Transport powered down.

Verlos was on his feet a second later. “Jeebs?!”

“I am fine.” the SWATbot announced, reaching out to break the branch. “I do, however, require emergency maintenance. How is MARS4?”

Verlos patted the SWATbot on the shoulder and quickly turned to discover the fate of their somewhat suicidal companion.

Despite the unnatural jarring, Jerry still clutched that Falchion with an iron grip.

Reaching up to check their pulse at the neck, Verlos glanced back to the Jeebs as the SWATbot approached. “He has a heartbeat, it’s weak.”

“My transponder is out of action,” Jeebs noted, pointing to the gaping hole in their chest. “I cannot transmit an Omega Notice.”

“Let’s get him patched up first, then I’ll start broadcasting to whoever will listen.” Verlos grunted, “He looks bad. Really really bad.”

They carefully placed Jerry on the floor of the transport, stripping them of that ruined armor they wore. They had to pry the sword out of the Fox’s hand, and once they did, Jerry made a weak swipe at Verlos.

“Jerry?” the Wolf questioned, but just as sudden as the Fox lurched, they collapsed back against the floor. The blood-soaked mobian looked like they were having a nightmare. Jerry’s eyes snapped rapidly beneath bruised eyelids, hunting something only they could see.

Jerry’s fingers twitched, and they jerked but offered little outside of shallow breathing.

Verlos gave a worried look to Jeebs before tapping his communications. It was still active. He still had tactical data filtering across his eyepiece, though it was fuzzy and inter-midden.

As Jeebs worked to treat Jerry with their basic medical kit that survived the crash, Verlos stepped outside the transport.

“This is MARS3 requesting emergency medical assistance. I repeat this is MARS3 requesting emergency medical assistance.” Verlos announced on an open frequency.

The response, however, had been static.

Verlos checked on Jerry. The Fox was twitching less, the rapid eye movement was slowing, and the breathing was barely audible. Verlos took Jerry’s pulse again, before slipping out to repeat his message to anyone who would listen.

It was not long before a friendly voice erupted painfully into his ear.

"Control to MARS3, assistance has been dispatched. A small transport has acknowledged and is making haste to your position.”

“Thank the Gods, MARS4 is barely alive out here,” Verlos reported, looking back to their unconscious Jerry. “MARS2 has staunch the bleeding, but MARS4 is out cold and fading fast.”

"Assistance is on its way, just keep him alive for a bit longer."

“Who is coming? What am I looking to signal down?” Verlos asked, his eyes up to the skies.

"An old friend of Jerry’s.” Control replied. ”That was all we could get out of Wade."

“Wade?” Verlos asked, confused. “Like, the AI Wade right?”

"Not exactly." the Duck’s commented on their own behalf, sending chills down Verlos’ spine. ”The experience is fascinating, to say the least."

Wade had died on that ship. They had become a twisted, nightmarish thing. It had nearly killed Verlos, the Wolf still had a telling mark where a laser burned into his armor.

They watched Jerry behead the thing that had once been MARS1 not even ten minutes ago. Was it ten minutes? Verlos checked his wrist and realized he was missing his watch somewhere.

“What is the contact’s name?” Jeebs questioned. There was no confused tone in the Machine’s voice. Just acceptance.

"Horus." Wade answered. ”Horus the Hedgehog. He should be there any minute.”

Pain. Darkness.

Funny. When they said Jerry’s soul was damned for all those sins he committed, he had figured the place he would go to would warmer.

And it would hurt more.

Well. It hurt. But it should hurt more than it did now. This pain was irritating. If Jerry was not in that awful place others kept saying he was going, where was he now? It was dark, that was sure. He tried to open his eyes but they just would not. He tried to move his hands but they did want to budge either.

Lovely. I lived through that crap and I’m crippled. Open, damn you. Open!

Blackened lids fluttered open, revealing oculars of gold. His body ached and screamed for him to stay where he was, but he refused. Those eyes darted around, finding whitewashed walls and blurry objects that made funny noises with squiggly lines.

Jerry’s head turned, gods it took everything just do to it, but he willed his neck to move. He could see, just on the other side of a glass window, a gray-furred blob with green eyes peering in at him, then motioning to someone or something behind the wall.

His eyes failed him again. Cursed things closed just before the light flicked on, and he heard the heavy footfalls of metal on the floor. Who was it?

“Jerry?” at first, the voice sounded familiar. But he had a distinct, vague feeling Jerry should be hearing that voice over his shoulder and not right at his face.

“Jerry can you hear me?” the feminine voice asked again, tentatively.

“C-contr-” he tried to speak her name, the call-sign he knew her by.

Control. The mysterious voice had a mysterious body now. He did not know her real name or knew of her appearance. Gods Jerry tried to pry open his eyes once more, just to get a glimpse of her.

The Fox managed a brief glance, a blobbish image, before his eye shut again and refused to open. He was panting hard.

“-Jerry, stay still, don’t move, you’ve been out for a long time, you were hurt bad,” Control instructed gently, but Jerry just refused to do so. He could feel himself moving, he was forcing his legs and arms to work, tested his fingertips and toes.

They moved, but they were stiff, sore,

“We had to sedate you when we got you in here. You nearly took MARS3′s arm off,”

“He could never keep still in a Hospital,” said another voice.

I know that voice!

“Sa-Sa-” he tried to say Sarge, as in Sargent Wade. Wade was alive?! He was truly, honestly alive?! Yes! Jerry remembered!

“-We can sedate him again and call for Alia, it would be best that way,”

“N-no. F-fine,” Jerry managed, trying to open his eyes again. He could barely make out Control’s shape. She was female alright, and those eyes, gods those eyes were inspiring! “I-I see c-ca-”

The Fox could not form words. Struggling, he finally forced out. “-Thirsty.” before relaxing again on the bed.

“Yes, you would be, I suggest you call Mags and tell her the good news, she can pass it on to MARS2 and Three, then go back to your lofty perch on high,” Wade spoke, apparently dismissing Control.

Jerry managed to get an eye open to see her shape run halfway through the room before his view dimmed again.

“Wa-Wade,” he said, struggling a moment to catch his breath.

“Yes my boy?” came the question, and Jerry thought he could feel a cold hand clasps his. It was odd, but it was comforting.

“Co-control,” the Fox stuttered, forcing a smile on his lips, “S-she has a nice ass, yeah?”

Jerry heard Wade’s laughter, loud and rich, just as he remembered it during those long nights on the front line as he drifted off to sleep.

It was a nightmare that woke him again.

Jerry sat abruptly, though regretted it soon after with a dull, deep ache through his whole body.

The nightmare was one of many he has had. They seem to haunt Jerry’s dreams whenever he seemed to be at peace. This time around, it was of the last mission Jerry ever participated in the Great War.

It was also the last time he had his original fur color. Jerry inspected his arms for a moment, checking his fur in the soft light. When it happened, the pain was so bad that he could not scream at first, yet that did not last. Jerry had to be sedated for days, and the Doctors were not even sure if he would ever be able to have fur again. It took weeks for the fur and hair to start to cover his body.

Yet it was never the same color as Jerry was before that mission. Now it was red, blood red, his hair a shade darker brown.

The burning sensation, the pain, for the briefest of moments, he had felt it, it was what woke him.

There was something else. Jerry shifted his hand over his left eye, frowned at the result, then once more inspected his surroundings, squinting his eyes as he did so. MARS' Infirmary, one of the isolated rooms.

He was awake and breathing, time to report back to the Fight.

After collecting his thoughts Jerry started to peel off the sensors from his body. Some of the machines he had been hooked up to made sharp beeping noises then a long one that was quickly irritating him.

The clanking of metal feet on the floor had Jerry’s ears perk. The light turned on and revealed a silver robot that resembled a duck, shortly after, the beeping noises stopped. The Fox’s first instinct was to growl low and threateningly, but he soon realized who he was staring at, and relaxed.

“I’m getting up, Wade.”

“You’ve been out for a month,” the metal duck spoke. Its bill did not move, but Jerry noted that there was a flash across a screen that lined the edge of where their beak would have been. Jerry’s ears flicked, and he again inspected himself.

“That long?” the Fox asked. He smacked his lips, his eyes settling down on a glass of water on a nightstand nearby. Jerry picked it up, taking a sip before regarding Wade once more. “How did I survive?”

“MARS2 and Three managed to catch you before you hit the ground, they crashed soon after but kept you alive with what they had,” Wade answered, keeping a healthy distance away from the gown covered Fox. “We had to contact outside help so Aila could put you back together, but it was those two who saved you. You will thank them both, Jeebs deserves it especially, when, of course, he returns from his current affairs.”

“He has it,” Jerry replied without hesitation, drinking deep from the water before putting it aside.

“You made him Wade, I didn’t like him at first, but I can respect him,”

Until recently Wade had been flesh and blood with brown feathers that had started to gray out. Wade had failed a mission and died. Their remains and brain were used to make a Cyborg by Julian Kintobor, otherwise known as Doctor Ivo Robotnik.

Somehow, Wade’s conciseness became digital and they accidentally sent himself to the MARS Command room while Jerry was fighting for his life against the Horrific Cyborg.

Jerry looked over Wade after finishing his water and stubbornly put his feet on the floor. At first, Jerry’s legs did not want to support his weight, but he willed them to move as he stumbled some towards Wade.

The Robotic Duck’s face was unreadable, their body was ornate and he even wore the same unbutton shirt Wade loved to wear when not on duty. The Duck also had their head wrapped in an aged, faded black bandana, hiding a shiny dome.

When he was close, Jerry put his hand on his former Sargent’s shoulder, looked them over, then snorted some as he shifted to a chair near them. “You’re getting better looking with Age, Sarge,”

Wade chuckled, the sound alien to Jerry with that odd technological ‘lisp’, yet the Fox genuinely smiled up at his former leader.

“Robian?” Jerry inquired, casually rapping his knuckles on Wade’s arm.

“No, SWATbot made, though if I made Jeebs, and Jeebs made me, does that mean I made myself by proxy I wonder?” they asked themselves more than Jerry.

“Yeah, you haven’t changed,”

Wade looked to him with those empty, glowing eyes. If they could raise a brow, Jerry imagined they would.

“I am not a fool TJ,” the duck stated, “I don’t like what has become of me or what has happened to my body, granted this is the most fascinating experience in my life.” Wade summarized as they talked rapidly, just as they would if he had been flesh and blood. “But, I am no fool. For all intents and purposes, the Wade you knew is very much dead, I have no idea what I am now.”

There was an awkward moment of silence before Wade proceeded.

“Well, that is somewhat untrue, I am Zero now, MARS0. I am responsible for keeping the Armory up to spec and running this base.” Wade folded his robotic arms behind him as he regarded Jerry, “Mags took over my slot as MARS1. She is your new Field Commander if Control cannot contact you.”

Jerry frowned but slowly nodded. It took him a moment more before he realized that the feminine voice had not chimed in or made herself known.

“Speaking of which, are you there?” the Fox questioned, peering around the room.

“She’s busy, she will be here later, and when you are up to it, you will report to me in my office.” Wade noted, “I have things to discuss, official things so we can get your status as a MARS out of the way.”

“Status?” Jerry frowned deepened. “I am MARS4.”

“Not until I approve you,” Wade remarked sharply, and Jerry’s ears flattened to his skull, his expression deadened to an emotionless state that matched Wade’s metallic face.

There was another awkward pause, and Wade slowly shook their metallic head.

“Fate is fickle, but rewarding,” the Duck commented, “Yes you are MARS4, for now, but after what you’ve done, what we’ve done? Can either of us trust each other doing what MARS is meant to?”

Jerry remained silent.

“Yes, when you are able, come see me in my office,” Wade said after length and headed out right then and there.

Jerry kept his seat, and stared after them in silence, unsure of what was going on. Why was Wade angry at him? What did he do?

Wade was in his office, a massive garage near the very bottom of the Faculty. It was where he designed and made most of the equipment for the MARS program. It had been sealed away when he ‘died’.

Since Wade was now up and about, he had reopened the garage and resumed tinkering with new weapon systems and technologies.

There were workbenches with current generation G.U.N. Assault Rifles, gutted near another bench that had a much shorter variant. There were different sizes of the MARS armors against the wall. Some looking as if it had been wrought by ancient smiths more than the simple vests worn by the Specialists. There was even one suit, a standard suit of Overlander Infantry Armor used in the Great War on display near them.

It was extensively damaged, but the helmet was intact.

Sketches of vehicles sat near models of G.U.N. transports scattered about on tables. There were even older, pale yellow parchments that had odd shapes and numbers near models as well.

Then there were the actual manufacturing machines, smaller than the more giant-sized mecha found other places where ammunition and equipment were churned out on a grander scale. MARS may have had the most advanced designs in armor and munitions, but it took forever to stockpile them.
Yet as the displays adjusted and machines stirred, Wade’s Robotic Frame settled at the end of the room, leaned over the Desk, plying pen to parchment like an ancient monk. He shifted, as if disturbed by whispered words, though did not turn fully to investigate.

“Good morning Control,”

Did I give myself away?” asked the omnipresent Voice of Control, a secretive being who had kept their identity masked by interacting with the Program with just their voice.

Control provided MARS with ‘in the field’ intelligence and observation through a network of satellites, scanners, and an uncanny ability to hack whatever she can get a connection too.

Control also provided MARS with assignments to complete, and though Wade may claim that it was his Program and his Specialists, it was Control who ran the show.

“I felt your connection,” as he spoke, his voice echoed about the room. Wade was still getting used to this new ability, and he has found that he can interact with machinery in a ghostly manner. It felt odd, but freeing all at the same time. "You announce yourself every time you come here."

I know,” Control replied, offering no excuses. The being seemed distant, inattentive.

Wade knew that Control was distracted. He also knew why.

The Iron Dominion was closing on Mobotroplis, the Capital of the Republic of Acorn. There was going to be a Siege, however, the City itself had some of the most advanced defenses in the world, thanks in part of the AI, NICOLE.

But one of the greatest the Defenders, Sonic the Hedgehog, was nowhere to be found. Everyone on Mobius was looking for them.

Even MARS.

“If you had asked Jerry,” Wade continued, now settling into his body. He moved his arms first, then his eyes blinked on. “He would have done it simply because it was the right thing to do,”

Telling him that he was expendable appealed to him, Wade. I needed him, he didn’t look or sound the sort to doing the job because it was the right thing to do,” Control replied evenly. ”The Admiral was the one who gave me the Idea."

The Duck chuckled softly, “No need to be offended dear if you look hard enough beneath Jerry’s tarnish, there is a Knight somewhere under there.”

A Knight?” Control asked, now she seemed her full attention right back to Wade. “Not an Assassin?

The response Wade gave immediately had been unintentional. The screens that had statistics on different weapons and new armor blanked out, replaced immediately with the word ‘NO!’ The lights died out, the automatic assembly shut down, and the door leading into the armory slammed shut. Wade found himself staring up at the ceiling, silent as he tried to contemplate a response, unaware of what he had just done.

“An Assassin?” the Metal Duck finally asked. “My word Control, whatever lead you to such an idea should be dismissed-”

Wade’s almost Fatherly response slowly started to grow stern.

“-or deleted or destroyed, am I absolutely clear?”

Wade then pointed towards the Camera, as if pointing directly to her, his tone taking on an authoritative nature.

“Or I will make my own call to the Admiral.”

Then, not waiting for a response, Wade turned around to regard the statistics that were now playing themselves up on the screen once more.

I see,” Control murmured thoughtfully before she observed, “Your wife has been looking for your Military Record, your real one.”

“Let me handle my wife, and you,” he said, shaking a metal digit over his head, “You keep your assumptions and your accusations to yourself young lady, there was and never shall be Assassins associated with the Acorns. We were Scouts and anything saying otherwise burned in nuclear fire.”

He stopped a moment, glancing back towards the door, “As for Jerry, there is nothing you should worry over with him, he will stay if given the choice.”

I need to apol-,” Control began but Wade interrupted her in mid-sentence.

“-He will not accept an apology,”

May I ask why?

“I think he likes you.” the Duck chuckled.

And as if they were summoned, the Fox limped into Wade’s office. They used a cane, the Fox too proud to use crutches. They wore a Royal Guard of Acorn’s Uniformed, clean and pressed, medals hanging off their left breast.

Jerry also had their Father’s sword belted to their hip. Their hair, dark brown and limp, simply hung about their face, a muzzle poking through giving them some viability to where he was going, but not completely.

The Fox stopped a respectful distance from Wade, placing the cane in front of them to lean on it. Jerry’s ears were also folded against his head, his eyes, or what could be seen of them, were focused squarely on Wade.

“Forgive me if I don’t stand at Attention, Zero,” Jerry spoke formerly. The metal Duck waved that off, standing up to approach the Fox.

“No no, I’m sorry about before my boy,” Wade spoke, removing the bandana from his head. “Here, this belongs to you I think, no point for me to wear it,” Wade emphasized by tapping his own metal head.

Jerry took it, shifted the cane so they could lean against it, and affixed the bandana to their own head to get the hair out of their eyes.

“I still do not understand how you can keep your hair like that, though I suppose it’s shorter than before,” Wade observed, taking a quick inspection of the Fox before turning away. “Your fur is also starting to even out again I see, good good,”

“What did I do to upset you?”

Wade stopped for a moment, partially returning to face Jerry. For a moment, they were shocked. Jerry did not swear at him. The Fox was demonstrating their best behavior.

They wanted something.

“Yes, your status, I am quite upset my boy, that you were recruited.” the Duck started, “When I questioned Control about why I should keep the staff minimal, I had no intention of asking for you or any of the others from our little group as it were.”

As the metal Wade spoke, he placed a hand behind his back, then started rubbing self-consciously beneath his chin with the other.

“I did not want us to practice our old habits, we do not do that anymore.”

“I understand that the need had been desperate, but understand three things TJ,” Wade folded his arms over his chest, then discovered he was not comfortable like that either. It showed in the way Wade’s shifted on his metal feet.

“Firstly, MARS are not Expendable. Second, we are here for the entire Mobian World, Humans, and Overlanders included. Last of all we do not practice the tactics we had mastered during the Great War.”

Jerry showed no reaction, mentally he was disgusted that Humans and Overlanders were even mentioned. Jerry hated them.

Overlanders for the horrors they had inflicted.

The Humans because they looked just like them. But Jerry said nothing as his former Squad Leader continued to address him.

“If you can stomach knowing that sooner or later, you will interact with a Human being or an Overlander in a non-hostile manner,” Wade had continued on, sitting back in a leather chair that looked comfortable, but the duck no longer needed such comforts. “I will consider re-activating you as MARS4, it’s time to Forgive and Forget.”

The Fox shifted some, his face twitched as he offered his reply. “Forgive them for every village they burned, every child they orphaned, every life they snuffed out without mercy?”

Jerry let the question linger for a moment before he snorted in contempt.

“I will never forgive them for that, did you?”

The Duck shifted in that seat, and slowly nodded,

“No, I did not.” Wade admitted after length, “But it was not all Overlanders and Humans TJ, you can’t hold them all accountable.”

“Fine,” Jerry growled, one of their eyes twitching in an uncontrolled show of disgust, “But don’t expect me to hold their hands or make nice,”

“Fair enough,” Wade nodded again, “Now, on the subject of forgiveness,”

The fur on Jerry’s body stood on end, assuming he knew exactly where this was going,

“I will never forgive Prower,” Jerry said with such intensity he had spittle drip from his lip. The reaction provided an awkward silence that lasted a very long time.

Wade broke it with a dismissive wave.

“I am not a fan of this Republic either TJ, I was speaking more about Lukus.”

Jerry relaxed, frowning darkly at the name of one of his oldest and closest friends. That friendship was questionable now, as far as Jerry was concerned, when Lukus and others in the Barracks attempted to subdue him. They failed to stop him, but they did slow him down and keep him from sinking a sword into Amadeus Prower before the truce had been called. The last time he had seen Lukus, they had bandaged their face.

They had nearly lost an eye to one of Jerry’s swords.

“He is up in the Bar, running it for me, he arrived two weeks ago,” Wade offered with another gesture, “He brought his family here, wife, child, his things,”

“And yours I might add, on that old Hover-Cycle. Elizabeth.”

Jerry perked considerably. Mostly because it was his Hover-Cycle Wade had mentioned.

“Lukus was on your side, Jerry.” Wade explained, leaning forward in that chair, “They had orders to stand down from the Princess, and you defied those orders and assaulted, injured and incapacitated nine Guards, including Lukus to try to interfere where you were not wanted.”

“If they were loyal-” Jerry started to argue, again growling.

“-Your blind rage is exactly why I didn’t want you here in this program boy!” Wade snapped, the lights dimmed for a moment. When the lights came back on again, Jerry’s head turned to the side, his ears again pressed against his skull, looking shamed at the chastisement.

“Your sister disappears, last seen with that Kalm Jakuul boy, and you instantly disown her, Dunlap called your Mother’s attempt to help the Soldiers hold the breach foolish on her part, we had to pull you off of him before you strangled him to death,”

Jerry kept silent, he did not look up as Wade continued to berate him, “And your own best Friend tries to calm you down and prevent you from disobeying a direct order from the Princess of Acorn, the same one, I remind you, that we, all of us, guarded her door. You disobeyed her and you nearly blinded Lukus!”

The Fox looked up, frowning even more than before, “Are we done?”

“No we are not,” Wade huffed, or it sounded like a huff. Jerry was not sure, but his ears shifted forward, honestly surprised. The Duck was giving more and more reasons why he shouldn’t be in the Program. What else did Wade have to say?

“I didn’t want you here because I was afraid of what you were capable of doing when you are angry. However, Fate has been fickle with me, to our great fortune it seems,”

Wade paused, they did not need to breathe, but Jerry knew they were ‘sucking in’ air to continue speaking, so kept himself quiet.

“Your ruthless efficiency, your inability to back down from a battle, and, finally, your sense of duty and self-sacrifice stopped a major threat from surfacing in Mobius’ time of need.”

With a slow nod, Wade extended a hand, as if gesturing to the floor and held it there. “You understand that there are no medals I can offer, and no one will ever know of what you have done.”

The words struck a chord in Jerry, and he smiled sadly at them. He had heard them before once, a lifetime ago. His answer would have been the same, word for word, as it had been then.

Yet the Fox slowly started to scowl. He shifted on the cane, leaning forward on it further as he spoke. “I would be your Armor, your shield and your sword, Wade, however, I promised Control so long as I was in the Fight she could wield me even in the scabbard,”

“To put it bluntly, MARS0, I am her Weapon.” Jerry added, suddenly realizing a card he had in his sleeve, “I don’t give a flying fuck about your permissions, I am here because of Control, not you,”

“As far as I am concerned this is just a courtesy, but I will respect the Chain of Command, and your wishes,” Jerry conceded with a slight nod, “So long as Control wishes me to abide by them,”

Wade tilted their metallic head a moment, studying Jerry long and hard. If Wade had been offended by the statement, neither Jerry nor Control could guess.

With a dismissive gesture, however, Wade partially turned away, “This Sword is yours Control,”

Giving me a dull blade?” Control inquired, stabbing humorously at Jerry’s condition in order to cut through the tension. As Control spoke, Jerry fought the urge to turn around. “I have nothing for him currently. I do feel he has earned time to recuperate his strength, do you not agree?

As the metal Duck nodded, Jerry returned to a more relaxed posture, “Just have someone send me some scotch to my room,”

“Oh no,” his old Sargent said, their voice hinting to a grin Jerry could not see. The Fox raised a brow at him. “You are not staying here TJ, you sir, are going Home.”

“Home?” Jerry asked confused. “My Home is here.”

For some reason, Jerry could imagine Wade smiling broadly. Shaking his head, Jerry turned to leave as if he was dismissed.

“A moment more TJ,” Wade called, and Jerry partially turned again to face them.

“I have pictures of Elizabeth and you, if you’d want them.”

The name alone was painful to hear. Not that it was attached to his Hover-cycle. It was a name for someone else altogether. Jerry’s ears folded against his scalp once more, and he limped away towards the door as he replied sullenly, “I have one already, I don’t need more,”

Wade reached out to Jerry for a moment, then simply turned around to look at the photograph they had offered the Fox.

With an odd, mechanical sigh, Wade tucked it away into the folds of a very large, black book that sat predominantly on a desk they settled beside.

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