MARS4 - The Unofficial F*cking Story

Chapter 18

The Battle of Jakuul Fortress

Dunlap had taken down over a dozen of the machines with little more than two magazines. The newest MARS had been firing single shots, bringing down a MOBbot on average of one to two rounds.

Verlos dropped a robot every time they managed to get an arrow in flight. The Wolf had brought a duffel from the transport with spare ammunition, but no other weapons.

They were at the bottom of the staircase, the Robots were choking the entrance at the top, standing there and firing when they exposed themselves.

“They’re getting me timin’ down,” Dunlap told Jerry as they approached. The armor on their shoulder had no more fabric, just blackened metal. “Inconvenient, that,”

“We have to go up,” Chase announced, and Jerry nodded, checking the grenade launcher on his SAS-G.

“Is there an armory up there?” Jerry questioned.

Chase nodded, “Yes, why?”

“Our friend needs a weapon.” the Fox stated, jerking his head to Parcus, “Not everyone around here can bend metal with their knuckles, so, we got to find a way upstairs.”

“Use an explosive device,” Parcus grunted, “Then charge up when their sensors are scrambled,”

Verlos gave Parcus a double-take, frowned, and gave Jerry a sidelong glance.

“I know him, don’t I?” The Wolf asked the Fox.

Parcus looked over Verlos, recognized them, and gave Jerry the same shocked expression on the Wolf’s face to Jerry.

“I’ll fill you in later Three,” Jerry explained, “Right now we got an arrangement, this idea Parcus just gave, sound good to you guys?”

Dunlap huffed, “Beats yer ideas of death’n’glory,”

"How does he know it will scramble its sensors?" Verlos raised the obvious question.

Parcus shrugged, "It works on Badnicks, and they are the most dangerous robots in existence."

“Chase?” Jerry, satisfied with Parcus' reasoning, turned back to his younger sister, “How fast can you run?”

Chase answer came as a widening smile.

The Grenade shattered the first ranks of the Combat Robots in an explosion that filled their heads up display with too many traceable fragments of MOBbots for them to track. This in turned locked up their rudimentary ocular sensors, causing them to shut down and reboot.

Of course, this could have been resolved if they simply covered their sensors, which any other Machine with any form of intelligence may have done. Yet they had no programming for self-preservation even for complete system failure, so why bother with the minor systems?

When one MOBbot was destroyed, they pushed over the debris of their broken comrade to take their spot and execute the order given them, which was to neutralize the intruders. Nothing was said that they had to wait for their ocular and targeting sensors to reboot.

Even as the shrapnel of their robotic brother’s bodies were still bouncing around them, Chase Voxholm Jakuul was on them, screaming her pent up rage and frustration.

The sword they swung cut a wide path through the crowded machines. Every stroke sent metal and parts rocketing after it that would have strewn terror into the ranks of living, breathing Mobians. Not them. They did not even register Chase was there for a second more.

When they turned to acquire her as a target, MARS reached the landing. Two of them had firearms.

A bandana-wearing Fox let loose on full auto while a ragged eared Rabbit fired single shots, both doing horrendous damage to the Robots at Chase’s flank. The explosive tip, anti-badnik rounds over penetrating the small MOBbots and detonating into the ones behind them.

A Gray Wolf stood just behind them, dropping machines just out of Vixen’s reach with precisions strikes of their own, but with arrows. Simple, ordinary arrows. However, the Arrows impacted into the upper chest or head of the MOBbots, causing catastrophic system failure.

Hand to hand combat algorithms, as basic as the ranged combat, booted into existence when the targets were within a specific range. However, even as the last of the MOBbots were finally put down by the Vixen’s crushing blows, not a single one of them were able to land a single melee strike of their own.

The room was cleared in less than twenty-three seconds. The Specialists fanned out from their position, followed by Parcus, who dragged up the duffel behind them.

Chase had stopped on the far end of the chamber, scanning the robotic carnage for something else to hit. Her body still moved with energy to burn, and with oil dripping off her armor and sword, she cut a very intimidating figure.

“Jerry?” Dunlap asked over his shoulder as he inspected the Vixen’s handy-work “Remind me not to upset ye sis eh?”

Jerry agreed with a, “Damn straight,” giving her an approving glance.

“Armory?” Jerry called out towards Chase.

Without having to search, Chase pointed to a side door with her blade, “There, down the hall. Kalm and I spent a lot of time in there,”

Jerry cringed at the implication of his Sister spending any time in the same vicinity with a Jakuul.

“Too much information,” Jerry growled. The Vixen grinned, only to tease her Brother further. “Parcus with me, let’s get you a weapon.”

Leave the bag,” Control instructed the Platypus, and Parcus glanced back over their shoulder suddenly before remembering he had an earpiece. Jerry saw it and smirked. Apparently, he was not the only one who mistook her for being right behind him.

We can use this area as a re-supply point, MARS2 reports that he has dropped off all Civilians save Master Wune, he was not aboard the transport. MARS2 is on his way back with the local Militia as reinforcements,” Control continued on, “MARS0 and 1 are also in route, ETA forty-five minutes. The lead did not pan out and they are closer to you than they are any other possible sightings.

“Where is Master Wune little Sister?” the Fox asked, peering up the door Chase had pointed for him.

“He wasn’t in the Cells, apparently he was taken up to the Throne Room prior to our attack,”

The expression on Jerry’s face darkened at the mention of a Throne Room. His mind filed it away as he tested the lock of the door. Instead of asking his Sister for assistance, Jerry backed up and put a round near the curved handle. The explosive tip bullet tore a sizable chunk in the wood, neutralizing the obstacle.

Everyone jumped, and Control sighed.

There could have been someone there,

Jerry flicked his ear, neither considering it nor did he care. He did, however, mutter his apologies as sincerely as he could make them as he shoved open the door. The hall was short, and there was another door, this one with iron bars. Jerry inspected the other side of the caged door and the lock.

He was on the verge of repeating his method of ‘picking the lock’ but hesitated.

“Anyone in there?” Jerry asked, glancing again to make sure no one was hiding just out of view. No Answer.

There. He asked.

Jerry destroyed the lock, then turned around to Parcus, “Suit up and come join the fun,”

“This won’t take me long,” the Centurion quickly squeezed past Jerry as the Fox returned to his comrades. Jerry could hear the rest of the MARS group engaging more of the machines before he entered the room.

Chase was destroying them at the door, thrusting her sword into the mass of the mecha with devastating results. Dunlap was again dropping machines with more efficiency with the firearm than Jerry ever hoped to obtain. Yes, he enjoyed the advantages of it, but Jerry preferred his steel if he could use it.

The Rabbit, in their short time in the MARS, had apparently drilled themselves with the SAS’s use to a point that they may be able to pull the same sort of shots Verlos was doing with their bow.

Verlos, as Jerry glanced his way, had run out of arrows rather quickly, and was now resorting to using a pistol and sword combination. The weapon they bore had been the same length as the Saber at Jerry’s hip, but it was straight with an odd red twinge to its blade.

The Sword burned through the metal of the MOBbots, leaving bright glowing streaks with a few catching briefly on fire as their combustible liquids touched whatever temperatures the Sword reached.

When there was a small bit of breathing space, Verlos would replace the pistol’s magazine and then repeat the process, reloading at the first opportunity.

Jerry joined the fray, firing short bursts as he approached his own window, then hosed the rest of his magazine into the encroaching horde. When he took cover, he reloaded his weapon, then surveyed the surroundings again.

Laser fire was pouring into the windows where the MARS had been, the stunners doing little more than heating up the stone, but the volume of it foretold that sooner or later, one slip up and a MARS, or Chase, would be hit. Thinking of his sister, he looked to her, spotting bright red marks on Chase’s green armor where stunners have impacted, but the armor was not designed to redirect the energy.

The Voxholm Sister was panting from the heat, and sooner or later, one of those shots would bleed through or find a spot that was not concealed in armor.

Or even worse, the Armor would start melting.

Parcus joined them. They had found their Legion and Armor that had been confiscated from them.

As they came into Jerry’s view, they had a short laser rifle hanging off their chest and gladius bouncing off their hip. They were pulling up their tattered hood just after surveying the situation.

The Platypus did not jump to them, but instead, they started flipping over tables closer to the door he just exited.

“Pull back from the windows!” Parcus ordered, “Force them to funnel in, you are exposing yourselves like that!”

There was a brief moment of hesitation, and then Control came over calmly on their communications.

Do it.”

Jerry was the first as soon as Control’s voice fell silent in his ear. Jerry backed up from his position, unleashing another magazine of fire into the mass of metal, then performed a running leap over a table.

Dunlap followed, then Verlos, both emptying their weapons before turning around.

Chase had been the last. They waited for Verlos to be over the impromptu cover with their pistol raised before Chase made a mad dash to them. The Vixen did not leap, but went around, not as agile as the others.

Before Chase could make it, a stunner cut their legs out from beneath them, and Lost Village’s Guardian went down hard.

“Chase!” Jerry hissed, but before he could move, Parcus and Verlos, the closest to his Sister, grabbed Chase and dragged her behind their cover.

Verlos and Parcus glanced at the other, both neither sure of the other’s intent.

“Get off me!” the Vixen snarled when they had their hands on her armor a bit longer than needed, and they quickly jerked them away. They both looked rather embarrassed before they returned to engage the robots.

“Chase?!” Jerry asked loudly.

His younger sister gave him a sidelong glance and a thumbs up. Chase had been more upset she was pulled away from the fight more than the fact that she was now unable to move her left leg.

The Vixen was fine. Jerry gave her a shallow nod. No smile, no wink, no thumbs up in return. He went right back into the fight without a second thought towards her, which would seem cold to others.

But they understood each other. Battle was in the Voxholm blood and this one was going badly for them rather quickly.

The machines were in the room. No volume of fire was keeping them out completely. When they cut down half a dozen, more pushed their way through the already cluttered floor, though it was rare that any of them were able to fire. They were slow to react, more suited for wide-open battlefields than the confines of a building.

Some of the stunning lasers they manage to fire blacken the surface of the tables. Others had actually stopped their primary programming and started clearing out the debris to allow more of their fellows inside. The air was being choked with the acrid taint of burning plastics and electric fires, mingled with that of burning wood.

It was looking bleak.

It was looking desperate.

Then MARS2, Jeebs, arrived. The spinning of their heavy weapon announced them even as they came up the stairs. That lightly accented voice quietly spoke in all their ears, “MARS2, Engaging,”

Parcus stopped firing his laser rifle to stare blankly at MARS2. They managed to mouth “SWATbot?!” in disbelief before they were dragged down by Verlos. They all covered up behind the table and pressed their hands against their ears. The roar of that rotatory cannon was deafening inside the stone structure, but Jerry smiled broadly.

The tide turned.

The Mobian sized Combat Robots were being annihilated, not by five or six at a time, but by the score. The Room was empty within seconds of anything capable of dealing the MARS harm. Jeebs walked into MOBbots without pause as the shell casings from the cannon clattered behind them as they strode forth.

When the noise became tolerable, Parcus and the MARS rose, following the SWATbot’s lead and fired everything. Chase shifted to stand and found herself using her heavy sword as a makeshift crutch.

And then the Militia from the Village of the Lost rushed up from the prison’s stairwell, wielding staff and blunt swords.

Jerry and Jeebs were the only ones who did not stop their advance as the Militia in their training clothes lept through the remains of the building they were in. The explosive tip anti-badnik rounds had totally devastated the door and window frame. The Laser Fire had blackened the walls and one of the tables had caught fire.

Still, the Militia charged, seeking to engage the robots in close quarters.

The SWATbot stopped firing moments before they passed them, shifting the weight of the weapon up to shoulder it as soon as they were clear of the ceiling.

Jerry followed suit, turning around to peer back at Parcus and the others.

No. Chase noted that his eyes did not sweep over them, but of the robots that lay scattered around their feet.

Jerry was hunting life, his expression cold and the smile on his face chilled Chase to the core. Dunlap cut her view of her Brother, waving to Aila.

“Stunner to’er leg,” the Rabbit told the Healer.

Chase craned her neck, but Jerry was already out of the door with Jeebs. Verlos and that Centurion right behind them. Chase could see their Village Healer, Dr. Hyde looking back at her before they too, disappeared. They were leaving her behind.

“I need to get back into the Fight,” Chase demanded of Aila, still unable to feel her own leg below the knee.

The Wolf Healer frowned, “I need to check for nerve damage and bandage your burns first,”

Chase bit off a growl and looked back down to to the Wolf as they set to work.

“Fine, just hurry,” the Vixen conceded, taking a seat so she can pull at the straps at her smoldering breastplate.

There was fighting to be done, and her blood boiled.

There was so much going on that Jerry had no idea where he would be needed.

As he watched the Twins, the Black and White Lapines who were the Village of the Lost’s top students, tore apart the Mobian sized machines, he did not even know if he would be needed at all. They danced, spinning and weaving around the slower combatants, denting metal with black-furred fist or white held steel of a blunt sword.

The area they were fighting in was square, from memory of a third-dimensional map that Control was able to show them on a holoprojector, they were in the northernmost corner of the fortress. The Fortress itself was square, simple in design and function, making it easy to defend if one had a were a living army.

However, Jerry realized that exhaustion would set in on their part if the marching machines kept coming. The Militia would tire out, and be overwhelmed again. This scene looked so familiar; but as Jeebs lumbered into his view, it was different.

The SWATbot’s armor was smoldered, the paint job ruined and the MARS2 that had been scrawled across their chest disappeared beneath black splotches of heat damage. Jeebs seem to turn their saucer head towards Jerry, nodded to their fellow MARS, then lumbered away, the barrels of that monstrous rotary cannon whining, but not yet roaring.

If they had used firearms against the Overlanders during the Great War; things would have been vastly different. Perhaps they could have lasted longer against Robotnik’s Coup. Perhaps saved more with their idiotic last stand.

MARS, take the South Wall, head inward toward the Courtyard, Chase, get your Militia to head North,” Control spoke into his ear, wrenching him from bad memories and grisly thoughts that had stolen his smile from him.

Jerry’s eyes shifted before him as he listened as if reading her words as she spoke. “If you can take down Kalm you can-oh n-”

It was the sudden end of the command that had turned Jerry around. He could not see what had startled the omnipresent Control, nor see her. Gods why did Jerry search behind him so when he knew she was nowhere nearby?

“Control?” Jerry asked, touching his ear. Then he demanded, the silence instilling a sort of dread in Jerry that he could not immediately explain.

Nothing. Even Parcus stopped what they were doing to peer around as if losing the sensation of the MARS handler being present behind them.

The First Casualty of the Battle of Jakuul had been claimed, and the MARS on the ground had no idea where she was, or what had happened.

Zero to All MARS.” Wade Duckington spoke, but Jerry looked lost among the wreckage behind him as if Control would be there. “End this Fight.”

Parcus took charge again.

"We need to get to the Inner Courtyard,” the Centurion observed over the communications.

Jerry was slow to respond, asking “Control?” and shaking his earpiece. Where was she? What had happened? The events around him seemed meaningless without knowing about Control’s fate.

And then his eyes rested on Chase.

The Guardian of the Village of the Lost bore no armor from her waist up, her chest had been wrapped in gauze and she walked with a slight limp.

Their eyes met, and Chase nodded to him, and he reluctantly nodded to her. The Battle was still on, and as Chase was making her way towards the north end of the square courtyard as Jerry hesitantly moved over towards Parcus and the MARS.

“The ones with melee weapons will head north, the ones with guns will move South, last one into the Central Courtyard cooks the meal,” Parcus stated over the communications, frowning as Jerry came close.

“You fighting fit?” Parcus asked, unexpected concern in their voice.

The Fox had started to limp again himself. The medication that was meant to last a few hours had been wearing off. There was a dull twinge of pain in his side but he ignored it.

“If I can breathe, I can fight,” Jerry stated darkly and headed around them to join the attack.

The MOBbots were being wiped out. Their advantage in numbers vanished as soon as they become packed between the narrow spaces between the battlements. Even with a few of them stationed on the ramparts above them, they were quickly destroyed before they could do any real harm.

As MARS and their makeshift leader arrived at the gate that would lead them deeper into the Fortress, the Machines were spent on their side.

Unfortunately, they would not have the same success if there were more inside, considering Jeebs’ cannon had run out of ammunition during their advance. The SWATbot had resorted to using wrist-mounted lasers built into their forearms that still made the fur on Jerry’s neck stand on end.

Dunlap’s armor had been blacked out and the metal smoldered, the ragged ear Rabbit was suffering more from the heat than anything. Out of all of them, they still had ammo to spare, though the Rabbit had to ditch a few magazines when one of them started to discharge rounds right out of the pouch.

Jerry’s Powerfist arm had more than a few black marks on it. Having no real concern for accuracy, Jerry had no more ammunition and he was not going back for more back near their insertion to fetch more ammo.

Jerry had plenty of grenades, the tired-looking Fox not having a chance to use them just yet.

The Legionnaire, Parcus took a few more stunners than their armor could resist, but Verlos had dragged them to cover. In fact, Verlos was the only one out of the lot of them that had not been hit repeatedly. The Platypus was not out of the fight, however, and was making an effort to keep himself standing despite the numb sensation running through his body.

The Militia suffered heavily, but they managed to carry the day for themselves with Chase at their head. Many of the militia were being checked on by both Doctor Hyde and Aila. None of them had sustained serious injury, the worse had been a broken leg, the poor being having been stepped on by one of the machines while they were already stunned.

The South Gate was open for the MARS, Chase reported that the North Gate was closed on her end.

“It’s a trap,” Parcus announced. “They want the ones with guns in an enclosed place, surrounded, then taken out,”

The MARS group looked to Parcus for orders, save Jerry.

The Fox walked right past Jeebs and Verlos even snatching that sword with the red edge from its resting place on the Wolf’s side, dropping the SAS he bore at their feet. Jerry had seen something that caught his attention, and the rest of the MARS were, for the moment, flat-footed at the archway of the gate.

“Wait!” Parcus shouted, then moved to follow.

Dunlap grasped Parcus’ shoulder, “Wait there lad, he’s got the evil in his eye he does,”

Dunlap turned slightly and gestured towards a stair opposite the gate. It winded up, and as they followed Dunlap’s extended finger, there was a pathway that went from the outer wall to the inner one above them.

“Let’s head up’n’round, see what we can see’o this trap,”

Right then and there, as Jerry walked through the gate, he was no longer thinking in terms of a ‘team player’.

Control was in danger, thus fueling helplessness and rage that was quickly bubbling up to the surface. Having caught a glimpse of one of the Golems that had scarred his Sister only ignited every fiber of his being with a malicious need to kill something.

Jerry felt no pain. He felt no fear. Just the cold, murderous hate.

The Inner Courtyard was round, the stone floor laced with dirt and straw, an obvious place for a training yard.

Jerry did not have to look around to note that there were living members of the Jakuul Guard staring him down with rapiers drawn. Those golden eyes were focused primarily on the Golems, who stood shoulder to shoulder with each other, their weapons before them with their robotic hands on the hilts.

He gave a quick inspection of the sword he took from Verlos. It was not edged, it had an indenture along the length of the blade, a quick flick of a switch on the hilt made it hum lightly, and gave off that faint red hue he had seen before.

Jerry understood the mechanics, he had seen the charred metal outlines on the bodies of the smaller machines. His Father’s sword may not be able to punch that thick armor, this sword he had now would.

Those golden orbs snapped up to the machines as they readied themselves for battle, and Jerry gestured between the two Golems with his free hand.

“Which one of you put a scar on the Guardian of the Village?”

The one to his left pointed to itself as the other pointed to its comrade. Intelligent enough to understand him and to give him an answer. They were not intelligent enough, however, to understand that the Fox had made the very first move with that question.

“You.” Jerry pointed the sword at the one indicated, his face peeled into a menacing snarl. “You will die slow.”

With that, Jerry rushed the massive robots head-on.

Chase had turned on her heel when Parcus stated the flat obvious. The Vixen needed to get in there, that was where the Jakuul Guard would be, as well as the Golems. They operated on a higher level of awareness than their minuscule brothers. They were stronger than her, just as fast as Chase was, and she barely survived.

Then the Barrack on the far side of the fortress to her opened, and out rushed the Power Suits. They were designed for melee combat, in order to overwhelm other Mobians who would, or could have superior strength.

Chase turned around once more to face them, knowing the delay could cost her, but she had no choice.

“Form on me!” the Guardian rallied the Militia nearest her. They were all tired, they were outnumbered and outmatched. But they were there for her, as she had always been for them.

When Chase Voxholm Jakuul charged the power suits, her Militia followed.

The MARS group watched from elevated positions as Jerry made his almost suicidal charge.

“Me call dibs on his steel,” Dunlap grunted indifferently.

They all looked at the ragged eared Rabbit, horrified that they said such a thing.

Dunlap however, did not miss a moment of what came next.

With the Golems pointing at one or the other, they had opened themselves up for the briefest of moments, both having to readjust themselves in order to effectively wield their swords.

Jerry was beneath both of their swinging arcs as he came right up to the one on his left, the Golem’s strike having fallen just behind the Fox, cracking stone and throwing up debris. The other Golem thrust it’s weapon far too late to prevent Jerry from leaping on the thigh of its comrade, it’s weapon crashed ineffectively in the stone as well.

Scrambling over the ridges with just one hand, Jerry made it to a shoulder of one of the Golems while they turned to face each other. Both made an attempt to reach for the Fox to flick him off, yet again they were both moments too late.

Once more there was a flying leap from the blood-red Fox, and like a mixed streak of green, blue and red, Jerry went from one Golem to the other with the Mobian Powerfist cocked back and charged.

The magnified impact from Jerry’s technology encased fist completely dented the ocular sensors of his target, rendering catastrophic damage into its head.

Crouched precariously on the severely damaged machine as it wavered on its robotic feet, Jerry repeated the blow and expanding the Power Fist charges on one machine. The air exploded in sparks and thick smoke as the Golem’s primary circuits crackled and popped from the surge of power from exploding breakers.

The other Golem, now sensing it’s comrade’s doom, raised it’s sword up on high for a two-handed downward stroke. The sword streaked down, passing through the damage wrought by the Fox and quite literally cleaving its dead twin in twain.

However, Jerry had already been mid-flight, again leaping even as the sword came down. This time with the Firebrand had been poised to deliver Jerry’s own blow as he sailed passed the attack. With the last Golem still pulling its own weapon free, the red-edged sword wielded by the blood-red Mobian pierced its armor at the base of its neck all the way up to the hilt.

Still holding onto the Firebrand, Jerry adjusted himself using the Sword as leverage along the breast of the Golem as it reeled, turning himself upside down. With gravity, adrenaline and twisting the edge laser sword in his grip, Jerry threw his weight downward.

The Fox rocketed along the vertical circumference of the large, gray machine, disappearing from view between its legs, the momentum of the movement ended right in the center of the Golem’s back. The Golem staggered silently, clawed at the damage, before falling face-first with Jerry riding down confidently.

When it was still, Jerry yanked Verlos’ sword out of its resting place, though it visibly took him effort to do so. He was tired.

So very tired.

Unceremoniously Jerry took a seat on the Golem’s shoulder. His legs had failed him, his breathing could have been described as ragged gulps of air. His side hurt, his shoulder hurt. Everything hurt.

But he could still breathe. And if he could breathe.

“Right,” the Fox managed weakly, his voice rasping with exertion. Jerry’s predatory gaze sought for someone else, anyone else to come at him. He could not stand, but he held the Firebrand forward and ready.

“Who’s next?”

Steel ripped through armor, circuits, reinforced metal and sent black oil and sparks everywhere. Every stroke was masterfully aimed, rendering each foe the Guardian touch with it crumbling from the shock of impact, unable to continue onward.

However, Chase Voxholm Jakuul shed no blood this day.

The Guardian was at the head of the already dwindled Militia of the Lost Village. Every Power Suit that went down, the Militia swarmed over and made the pilot surrender or beat them into submission. Because of the narrowness of the Battlements, and the bulkiness of the Suits, they were unable to get around Chase, dodge her or avoid her.

By the time the last of the suits realized it was a failed venture to strike at the Militia, it was too late. Chase was on them and she quickly brought them low. Some of the pilots continued to struggle on after they pulled themselves out, though they soon realized it was futile and raised up their hands in surrender.

Chase was not staying. She was already moving at a brisk pace when the call for a Healer was made.

MARS4 was down.

MARS4 was her brother’s designation. By the Gods, if the Golems had slain him, she’d kill Kalm. She would kill him!

The Vixen rushed for the South Gate to find it open, whatever trap had been sprung and it could have been waiting for more victims.

Jerry lay on the broken remains of a Golem, there were Jakuul Guard around him, some with quivers, some with sword sheaths, none of them with weapons in hand.

Standing over Jerry with a fresh arrow notched stood the Wolf, Verlos watching the crowd warily. The marred Red Metal SWATbot, the Hooded Platypus, and Ragged Eared Rabbit stood outside the crowd, looking to her as she came into their view.

The Battle was over. But at what cost?

As Chase made her way to her Brother, one of the Guard heard her heavy breathing and turned. Their eyes grew wide as he looked her over, then turned sharply to shout.

“Make way for the Lady Jakuul!” and the crowd instantly split in twain. Eyes were downcast and head bowed low in both surrender and humility.

Jerry slowly leaned up on his elbow when she was close, his breathing was just as labored as hers.

“What took you?” Jerry asked gruffly. His armor had been removed, revealing sweat-soaked bandages, but she saw no blood on them or the machine beneath him.

MARS4 had pushed himself to collapse.

“Hung up,” Chase said with a light shrug of her shoulder and a sigh of relief. “Stop complaining, we won.”

“Yeah yeah,” Jerry growled as best he could, and slipped back down to face the sky, deep in thought.

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