Chase had been digesting the information with some skepticism, but she wanted to know, he told her everything. From the day Jerry was recruited to the day he woke up in Medical, MARS4 told her everything.
Chase, however, was still upset that Jerry would not talk about the Great War with her.
It is not like he did not want to. Jerry just could not.
Edwina was sleeping again, and Jerry was at the door to the cottage with it open so he could hear her stir. The little Jakuul was not disturbed at all by the ruckus her Uncle had caused this morning and simply played around the house till she collapsed for a nap on a rug.
Chase had gone to the village to fetch her sword and armor if it still was there, leaving Jerry to his thoughts.
He had fetched a bow and arrows from the house’s armory. It not only held the weapons he had brought along but also an impressive display of finely oiled weapons that were kept neat and orderly. Most, if not all of them, were blunt in some form or fashion.
Swords, even here, were unwelcome.
Jerry painted a crude target on a round piece of wood and propped it against the fence. He had already put two arrows into it, low and to the left, and was attempting to compensate with the third, his tongue thrust out, eyes focused on the bulls-eye.
“Afternoon Horus,” Jerry announced, letting the arrow loose. He was still off, this time he struck the right side.
A brown Hedgehog descended from the roof of the House with a light jump. They unceremoniously moved to stand just behind Jerry, off to the side. “How did you know it was me?”
Jerry glanced back at his Eldest Brother’s Oldest Friend with a quirky smile.
“Your two buddies in the grass gave you away,” Jerry noted with a nod in their direction before turning back towards the target to drew back another arrow. “One upwind of me is wearing that incense you loved so much, the other one is wearing something green against yellow grass.”
“Your mind is still sharp,” the red kimono wearing Hedgehog smiled. They had a touch of gray along their cheeks, they had a thin, curved sword at their hip with a fan thrust into the sword belt.
Horus’ quills were also in this weird leaf pattern, but it was always like that. Horus was the only member of the Scout Force who never returned to the Kingdom of Acorn after being derobotized.
He was also the only member of the forty-two Royal Guards who did not suffer the shame of being robotized in the first place.
“Yours must be slipping,” Jerry stated the obvious, “Especially when you’re in arms reach of me.”
“Why was I not robotized with the rest of the Guard?” Horus asked, unafraid of Jerry’s subtle threat.
It was the question on Jerry’s mind ever since he learned that Horus was running around doing whatever Horus did.
“Freedom Fighters bombed the Facility shortly after I awoke, I managed to escape with little difficulty,” Horus moved to adjust Jerry’s stance. Jerry did not fuss let the Hedgehog maneuver the Fox’s arms and legs.
When Horus was finished, the Fox again let loose with another arrow. A Miss, but he was far closer to the bullseye now than he was a moment ago.
“Hallax would be disappointed that you have let your archery skills slipped,” Horus noted, though still smiled warmly. Horus then waved their hand over Jerry's left eye.
The Fox did not flinch. Instead, he carried on as if Horus had not invade his personal space. “He’d be equally disappointed in you, would he not?” Jerry asked, glancing towards the Hedgehog before walking away from the target. Jerry put the bow and arrows to the side of the door frame.
“Perhaps, but I made sure you were in one piece before I returned home,” the Hedgehog replied, following after, “I could not bring myself to kill the lot of you.”
“I never had the guts to do that,” Horus observed slowly. Jerry’s ears flicked at that, and they paused in mid-motion at the blatant and targeted statement. The Hedgehog was probing.
“So, what now, why the appearance?” Jerry questioned, now moving to softly close the door “I sure as hells don’t want an apology from you, it’s good to know at least one of us got away.”
Jerry lied. He was angry. The question nagged him as much as why Chase did not return sooner. Why did Horus not come back to the Royal Guard after Robotnik had been defeated?
“You are on a road I never thought I would have seen you walk on, Jerry, or is it MARS4?” Horus asked, they saw through the attempt, Jerry was not a natural liar, “I am impressed.”
“Good for you, why are you here?” Jerry snorted, folding his arms across his chest.
“To check up on you.”
Jerry laughed sharply, “You have checked up on me already Horus, or one of your friends.”
“I noted two. You’ve more out there don’t you?” Jerry accused. They were not here for the Fox’s benefit. They were here to Protect Horus from Jerry.
That did not have to be said. But if they were here to protect Horus, the Hedgehog knew they would need more.
That had been the only response. Which pretty much confirmed Jerry’s suspicions. The Fox mulled over the information, then it dawned on him.
Horus had been keeping tabs on them all.
“You knew what was going on here and set this all up, didn’t you?” Jerry said, turning to face Horus. “You manipulated MARS to come to the Lost Village,”
Jerry rolled his eyes, “Come in, tell your Friends they can stop squatting in the grass, Chase will be gone for a bit longer.”
Horus followed Jerry in, and the Hedgehog grinned at the sleeping little girl near the door.
“She is precious,” the Hedgehog noted, then frowned, looking as serious as one could be with that ridiculously looking quill style, “You haven’t been sneaking her candy yet have you?”
“And the Princess turned out fine, didn’t she? Lead the Freedom Fighters to victory, yes?” Jerry shot back quietly. “You wake her up, I’ll kill you.”
“I’ve heard that said before, but to a Royal Palace Guard.”
“They did not like us at all,” Jerry grinned, then his expression became serious.
“Why are you here?”
Horus sighed, clasping their hands before them. There was no use for formality with a Voxholm who knew there was more to it than a simple ‘how are you’ visit.
“To honor a family member,”
Jerry shook his head some, looking back up to Horus, “What does this have to do with me?”
Horus shifted on their feet, obviously, they had been prepared for this mentally.
“I’m sure you have learned that not all of us have the luxury to throw ourselves about on a whim,” Horus pointedly glanced back towards Edwina. “The Lost Village weren’t the only ones taking in refugees. When I came out of my meditations, I took in stray shinobi and well, I have my own little clan now.”
Jerry nodded, making a hand motion for them to get to the point.
“We have been nameless for three years, there has been discussion, debates, I finally put an end to it all, I want to name the Clan after my Sword Brother.”
Jerry laughed softly, “You want to name this ninja clan, Hallax?”
The Fox shook his head with a weak smile. He was smiling. He was smiling more here in the last few days then he has ever had to smile outside of putting fear into someone’s gut. And this was about Hallax, honoring his Brother.
That was a clear win for Jerry.
Then the thought occurred to him, and he frowned. “Will you be doing anything-”
“-Nothing like the War,” Horus said in a commanding, flat tone that made it definite that there would not be a discussion on the subject. “We perform the same tasks other Clans do, information, observation, we defend life, but we do not take life.”
Jerry nodded again, secretly disappointed.
“You never needed my permission, to begin with.” Jerry stood up and gave Horus a court like bow, “It would be an honor.”
“Thank you.” Horus bowed somewhat, “I will take my leave.”
“Not before you sit down, have a drink with me,” Jerry said sternly, pointing towards the table.
“And bring those pajama-wearing fucks in here, they can have one too,” he looked around, the table was already set for other guests, but the male did not think they would mind.
“If you insist,” Horus smiled. They spoke a sharp word in that Dragon Land lingo that was making Jerry’s fur stand on end.
There were five heavily clothed and armed Mobians in Ninja-like garb, though their masks were lowered as they bowed respectfully to the Fox. There was one, however, the one in wearing green, who neither entered the house or removed their mask.
Their loss though, Jerry thought.
Those inside had a single drink of liquor before they departed, Horus had two and chatted quietly with Jerry for a moment longer.
They spoke of the happenings of the Valley, which Jerry took a special interest in. They spoke about the long years Horus spent in isolation, meditating. They even spoke about Republic, which did seem to be struggling, much to the Fox’s grim satisfaction.
Then Horus stood to leave.
“They never found Hallax’s bow,” Jerry noted loudly.
Horus paused at the doorframe. They did not have to say anything on why they both knew they never found Hallax’s body either. Jerry’s Brother was in charge of the Archers on Mobotropolis’ walls during the Siege. They were ordered off by Kodas in order to avoid unnecessary casualties from the opening barrage. Some of Hallax’s troops became pinned by an advanced force of Overlanders.
Hallax Brother did not even hesitate. He showered arrows into the Enemy, forcing the Overlanders to focus on him. Hallax managed to get into a Tower and continued to rain arrows on the Overlanders even as the tower burned around him.
They never found his body, the heat was so intense that it melted the stone of the Tower, and it later had to be completely torn down and replaced.
“The bow I was using,” Jerry said, gesturing to the door, “Take it, say it was Hallax’s,”
“That would be a Lie,”
“No, it’s a Voxholm weapon, it has our families’ crest, if Hallax was alive today, that weapon would his,” Jerry summarized, finishing his shot glass before pushing it away. “Take it, I have no use for bows.”
“Not with the likes of the Sally Acorn Special about,” Horus grinned, bowed, and departed, taking the bow with them.
Chase arrived a few minutes later, carrying that large, heavy sword, and battered armor that obviously needed repair.
“May I ask why your drinking Mother’s good brandy?” They questioned as they stepped into the door.
“I had an unexpected guest Chase, Horus was here,”
“Was he?” Chase looked down to the three-year-old pup on the rug. She nudged her with the toe of her boot, and Edwina whined, yawned, and rolled over. Chase smiled at that. Simply watching her Daughter do anything right now put her in a better mood.
“Yes, well, Horus wanted to name a Clan he had founded after Hallax,” Jerry stated as he put the stopper in the Brandy Bottle. “He was asking me for my permission,”
“He did not need anyone’s permission for that,” Chase settled in the seat near Jerry, “Why would he ask you?”
“Horus is funny like that,” the Fox covered up rather quickly.
“Always asking for permission, permission to eat, sleep, beat his head against the wall,” Jerry shrugged, “I let him name the clan, I even gave him the old bow in the closet,”
“That was Father’s bow,” Chase frowned in disappointment.
“Are you using it?” Jerry asked with a raised brow.
Chase shifted up in her seat and rolled her eyes.
“Hallax was the Archer,” Chase admitted, then moved to scoop Edwina off the floor.
“So was Horus,” Jerry whispered to himself as she walked away, his mind going back to the old days. The bad days, and the good ones.
The night went uneventfully at the Voxholm cabin. Jerry and Chase woke up and prepared their equipment for the coming fight. Jerry pocketed new magazines in the pouches on the armor, even added bits that would protect his exposed arm. Chase took a few moments to strap on her own, though the way she wore it, it was like a second skin despite its bulk.
They were ready when the MARS Transport, formally a G.U.N. ship, landed in the field close the House. It was a new variant that the other that Jerry had nearly died in, but yet it still looked old and worn. Second-hand equipment or junk Wade managed to get working for MARS’ benefit.
Jerry nearly laughed at Chase’s reaction to the bright red chassis of a Generation Two SWATbot coming out of the side hatch.
“It’s a Robot!” Chase hissed in the same manner as Jerry had done to the Legionnaire serving as the Village Healer.
“She must be your Sister,” Jeebs noted, their voice had a slight accent to it, but their manner was more than disarming at times. Jeebs was a machine, yes, but Jerry had been trying to respect the Mobian Made SWATbot, mostly because they were a Comrade, and had the determination to fight against impossible odds.
“I can see similarities in your eyes and the fact that her tail is as fluffed out as yours had been when you saw me."
Chase simply looked at her Brother with raised brows.
Verlos was next, and the Wolf gawked some at Chase.
“Tall,” the Wolf announced a, blinking at the Vixen, “This is your LITTLE sister?”
“Jerry is the shortest one here.” Jeebs observed unnecessarily, “He has to exaggerate to overcompensate for that fact.”
Verlos laughed and bowed to Chase, “Good to meet you, ignore Jeebs, his still trying out his humor, I’m MARS3, Jeebs is MARS2,”
“Part of the same group as Jerry then,” Chase noted, looking Jeebs over and seeing a crudely painted MARS2 on the SWATbot’s chest “Who gave that to you?”
“I did,” Jerry stated, nodding towards Lukus as they emerged from the transport, “Caved in and jumped the shark I see?”
“Nah man,” Lukus said, shouldering an impressive looking axe. They wore the dress blues of a Royal Guardsmen, the same dress in fact, that many wore into battle during the Great War.
“I heard my best friend needed some help, what kind of fucking friend would I be if I just let these guys take off without me?”
“Then, you’re MARS5?” Jerry asked Aila Swiftwulf, Verlos’ wife and the MARS Healer slash Doctor, who stepped off the Transport and gravitated towards her Husband.
“No,” Aila smiled, shaking their head. Aila wore a laser proof vest but bore no weapons. She was taller than her Husband but not as tall as Jerry’s Sister. “I’m here if my medical skills are needed,”
“Then who is MARS5?” Jerry asked, shifting to look into the transport.
“Hold onto yer bloody horses, me a commin’,” came a thickly accented Mercian voice. Jerry’s ears perked up, his eyes widened, and if it was possible, his jaw hit the ground.
The Mobian was a Rabbit, though the long ears had been raggedly cut short. Their fur was a creamy white save their right hand, it was the same blood-red as Jerry’s fur. They had no hair, and their eyes were a soft blue.
They wore the same heavy suit of laser-proof armor that Verlos wore, but green while Verlos was a tad darker than their gray fur. The Rabbit wielded a SAS similar to Jerry’s, but this one had a scope where the iron sights were and a hand grip where grenade launcher would have been.
“Dunlap?!” Jerry demanded, genuinely shocked and surprised. “What the fuck are you doing here?”
“Yeh ain’t the only bloody fellow not pleased with that Republic stuff,” the Rabbit huffed, his face stayed impassive, “Figured since ye left, me would resign too, took up with with the Temple for bout a week, lookin’ for a sign,”
“Oh some Centurian’s of the Legion come busted in, started shootin’ up the Temple,” Dunlap shrugged, “Killed them quick. High Priest wasn’t too happy, ranted on about blood on the floors and sacrilege and stuff,”
“Me walked right out, headed for Wade’s Place, looking for a brawl or two, found Lukus there,” Dunlap nodded to the Green Walrus, “Talked to someone named Control. Wade wasn’t thrilled me wanted to be in the Fight again, but me figure, we ain’t bloody well doing the same thing we did as the Scouts, then what be the problem?”
“How long you’ve been in the Program?” Jerry asked, furrowing his brow.
“Active for ’bout two weeks.”
The Fox placed his hand on his face. Was that the reason Wade had been displeased when Jerry woke up from that coma? Dunlap had forced his way into the Program?
“Yeah, thanks for that,” Jerry snorted, nodding to Dunlap, “Glad you’re here, Dunlap, Chase, my little Sister,” Jerry turned, gesturing towards the Vixen.
“Dear Gods boy,” Dunlap blinked, though that was all the surprise they had gotten from the Rabbit. “That ain’t bleedin’ little,”
Chase shifted uncomfortably at the scrutiny she was under, and gave them a dismissive response Jerry was known for.
Jerry just grinned. Dunlap Lapine was to knives as Jerry was to swords. The Rabbit had a belt of them around his waist where ammo pouches would have been. Dunlap was somewhat religious, forgiving, but also like Jerry, so bluntly honest that he came off as offensive at times.
They also had a sorted history with each other. Jerry had replaced a long-dead Friend of Dunlap’s as the Bully of the Academy when they were younger. The Rabbit, even Lukus, and Kalm, were victims of Jerry’s Tyranny until they graduated, leaving the younger Fox behind for a short period of time.
Somewhere in the War, Dunlap had been folded into Wade’s Squad as reinforcements after recovering from wounds they had received at the Six Day Battle of Mina. The Wounds being his ears had been blown off by Overlander Fire.
Though Dunlap and Jerry had never been Friends, the Great War molded a bond between all the members of the Scout Force that was still strong, even now. With two of their own still fighting against the odds, Dunlap felt obligated to stand by them. Lukus, who supposedly said they were done, was also here, but only because they considered Jerry like a little Brother.
“So, we have a plan here?” Dunlap demanded as they glanced around, “Or are we gonna say sod it all and blow up the place?”
“No casualties,” Chase stated flatly. All eyes turned towards her again. “If we’re going to attack, nothing living in there can be hurt more than they need to be,”
“You heard the Lady,” Control said over their communications, and Jerry tilted his head at her voice. She sounded, drained.
“Is MARS1 available?” the Fox asked for their Field Leader, Margaret Sparrow Duckington, wife to Wade Duckington. She was better known as Mags. The aging bird and given Jerry a sound plan that brought down a Battleship and destroyed a base in one fell swoop.
It nearly killed Jerry, but he was not the sort to complain about that.
“MARS0 or 1 are tracking a possible lead to Sonic the Hedgehog in the Dragon Lands, somewhere West of your location,” Control responded. ”Neither of them are available for the moment. However, I will advice against a direct assault."
"All they need to do is surround you with those MOBbots and you are done."
“Jeebs is practically laser proof,” Jerry nodded to the SWATbot, “What if he could draw them out and we sneak in?”
“I do not see how,” Control noted, “If you could do that in the middle of the day, then I am open for suggestions.”
“There is a secret passage in the rocks near the Fortress,” Chase threw in rather hesitantly. They all looked to her again, “It leads to the Dungeons.”
“Ye mean ye could’ve ended this at any time lass?” Dunlap grunted, “Great, we use the entrance, go’n’slit some throats,”
“Dunlap!” Jerry uncharastically snapped, it even surprised him, and it took him an awkward moment to elaborate on the ‘no casualty’ policy. Jerry glanced about at the rest of them, “Normally I’d say fuck it all and kill anyone brandishing a weapon.”
“And we know you would,” Lukus noted offhandedly.
“But” Jerry ignored Lukus, turning his gaze back to Dunlap. “Today? No. Casualties.”
“Manner’o’speakin’ is all,” the Rabbit shrugged, genuinely indifferent at the chastising.
“Now that we are done bickering,” Control interjected, sounding annoyed, “Let’s get to Work,"