Reflections of Evil
Jerry’s body mended with the rest and relaxation he was getting. He was able to jog from his home to the village, winded of course, in just under a week. The male participated half-heartedly in training exercises with the Militia. He even sparred with little effort on his own part, with wooden swords against Kalm, who easily disarmed their longtime rival while Jerry’s mind had been distracted.
Chase left the second week, officially accepting the role of MARS7. Her role as Guardian would pass on to one of the Twins, the Black one named Jen, while the white one, Jun, continued her tutelage under Master Wune.
Jerry did not object, he did not even acknowledge much anymore. He constantly thought of Control.
He made the attempt to board the transport when it arrived to pick Chase up, but he was rebuked. An arrangement was made that Jerry would have to battle one of the Twins and at least plant a blow on them before Wade would consider him healthy enough for duty, which infuriated the Fox.
Jerry hated feeling useless. He hated Wade for reminding him of it.
Jerry refused to be useless.
On the day the Kalm was to battle the Twins in Judgment of his crimes against the Village of the Lost. the Villagers had all gathered at a small stone temple even deeper in the forest than the Village itself.
Kalm was there, armored, with rapiers at their sides, kneeling in the center of a sparring circle at the very bottom of the temple itself. Wune stood on the very top of the temple steps, Jerry stood between him and Kalm, having no other place to stand.
Jerry wore his blue hoodie and wore the bandana he favored to keep his hair out of eyes. The Fox no longer needed a cane and felt more than capable of returning back to the MARS Program, but the Twins were not to accept a fight until after this Kalm affair had been settled.
Jerry watched and waited, puffing on a cigarette, and sulking.
“Kalm, son of Morten, you stand accused of violating our rights to peace here in our Valley,” Wune spoke loud and clear. “No words can satisfy the justice desired, so it has been determined that you will be judged through a trial by Combat. Victory and your crimes will be forgiven, defeat, you will be exiled from the Valley, never to return,”
Kalm did not rise from his spot, nor lift his head. “I accept the conditions of this trial,”
Wune slowly descended the stairs, throwing Jerry a wink. The Fox perked, his ears turning forward as he watched and waited. The Old Raccoon was up to something.
“Who here will fight on my behalf?” Wune asked the crowd. The Twins immediately stepped forward, saying nothing, and Wune acknowledged them with a bow.
“And who will fight on the Accused own behalf?”
“I will!” Jerry shouted, quickly descending the stairs before Kalm could rise.
“What?” Kalm blurted, rather surprised, and the Villagers who could understand the language looked startled as well.
“What is the meaning of this?” Kalm demanded, standing up.
Jerry moved to stand beside his Brother-in-Law.
“I will fight for Kalm Jakuul, alone,”
“Accepted on our behalf,” the Twins spoke as one, looking between each other with a smile on their lips. They had already beaten Jerry before. Even if he was healthier now, they were confident they could do it again.
“Jerry, what are you doing?” Kalm grabbed Jerry’s shoulder, but all he got in reply was the cold stare from the Fox. “You can’t take them both,”
“Like you could,” Jerry grinned menacingly as he regarded Kalm. “I won’t let my Niece watch her Father get pummeled before her eyes.”
Jerry nodded towards Edwina, who waved at Kalm excitedly when they looked to her. “Besides, who’s more suited for a brawl, me or you?”
“This isn’t a schoolyard scuff.” Kalm growled impatiently, “This is my life we’re talking about,”
“The life of a Brother, Father to my Niece, Husband to my Sister,” Jerry’s expression became murderous then, as he said as much only to remind himself that Kalm was now Family. Jerry’s eyes became a deadened, chilling stare that numbed the Jakuul to the core.
“No one fucks with my family,”
Kalm did not have an immediate reply. He just stared at Jerry in a mixture of shock and disbelief. “If you lose, Chase will kill us both,”
“If these two don’t kill me, maybe.” Jerry muttered under his breath, “Don’t let Edwina watch, this will not be pretty,”
Kalm’s smile faded, “You are not going to hurt them are you?”
Jerry’s silence as he stepped towards the center of the circle did not fill Kalm with confidence in getting an answer. The Jackal moved to the edge of the ring, reluctantly letting Jerry take their fate in those blood-red hands.
There was no gentlemanly handshake this time. No bow.
Jerry stared between his two opponents with such intensity on his face that the Twins gave themselves a questioning glance. This was no expedition now, this was as serious as the battle they had participated in. The Twins both looked to Wune, who gestured for them with a tilt of their furry head and subtle motion with their cane.
They turned back to Jerry, assuming their chosen stances. Jerry cracked his neck, then spat out his cigarette. He had experienced their skill first hand when he was weak, still wary and worn. Neither had ever seen Jerry at his peak or know how far he would be willing to go in order to win.
When all three of them rushed each other headlong, Jerry was already several moves ahead.
Jen’s attacks he avoided, knowing full well that the Black Lapine had the same bizarre strength his Sister had. Jun tried to fill in the gaps in her Sister’s kicks and punches in order to entrap the Fox in a crossfire of blows, yet she could not land anything either.
Everything Jun threw, it was intercepted with a matching blow, effectively canceling the attacks out.
To the world, it looked as if they were dancing an intricate, planned and complex dance, their bodies twisting and turning on their feet and in the air.
The Twins broke away from Jerry to restructure their offensive strategy, but the Fox pressed on, already knowing exactly what he wanted to do.
He went straight for Jen, the black-furred beauty was taller than him in size, had greater reach and considerably more power.
Jen was, however, slower than Jerry in terms of speed.
The Fox lanced her defenses easily enough, landing three shots into her rib-cage with minimal effect before Jun rushed to her sister’s immediate aid. Jerry launched a kick, yet switched targets in mid-blow. The booted foot meant for Jen, caught Jun instead in the stomach, sending them back on their heels as Jen flustered a swipe meant to the attack wide.
As Jen recovered her footing, Jerry and Jun exchanged a flurry of attacks, both landing solid shots to each other’s faces and bodies.
Unlike her Sister, Jun’s body would not take the same punishment Jen could. It did not mean Jun was frail, she could land blows that could stagger full-grown Mobian as easily as Jerry could.
But unlike Jerry, Jun’s face twisted in pain.
Jerry’s never diverted from the look of pure, unadulterated malice.
Jun tried to pivot away from Jerry as Jen started the motion to throw a devastating punch to Jerry’s exposed flank.
Jun tried and failed.
Jerry snatched her fluffy white tail and yanked her right into the path of Jen’s attack. The impact sent the smaller Sister flying into the crowd, having taken it straight to her chest
The black Rabbit’s face creased into horror even as she attempted to backtrack the blow. Though Jen did not deliver the full force, her Sister was slow to stand. It dawned on Jen a moment too late that she was exposed, and found a blood-red fist beneath her chin, knocking it upward.
As Jen shifted to defend herself, another fist followed the other, connecting with her windpipe
The blow could have been lethal if the black Rabbit had been someone of smaller stature, but the effects were the same. Jen went to her knees, putting her in the unfortunate path of Jerry’s follow up attack.
A heel connected to her skull, sending Jen face first and flat across the ground, throwing up a brief puff of loose dirt. Jen’s breathing was shallow, but it was obvious she was out cold.
Jun managed to rise as Jen fell. Her eyes and arms snapped upward as Jerry fell on her with the same merciless intent. Again a flurry of blows was exchanged, their bodies twisting and turning, yet this time Jerry’s attacks were bleeding through her defenses, and Jun could not keep up.
A fist caught her in her ribs, and she could not keep her footing. As Jun’s knee touched down on the dirt, Jerry’s own knee rocked upward into her face, taking her off her feet entirely. Jun landed on her back atop her Sister after a brief moment of defying gravity.
Jerry produced another cigarette from a pocket in his hoodie even as Jun’s body was still settling. His expression remained fierce as he swept over the silent crowd around him. The male dared them to deny his victory.
He dared them to step forward and fight him.
When they rested on Kalm, the Jackal had his daughter in his arms. She had her face buried in her Father’s neck, apparently having seen the exchange and was frightened. Seeing her like that snapped Jerry’s eyes down to his feet, and then away to the Twins.
Dr. Hyde had moved into the ring and was checking them both over hurriedly.
“They’ll live.” the Doctor announced, mostly to themselves. They looked up to Jerry with their augmented eyes, obviously disappointed in him. “Though they could be dead from what I just saw,”
Jerry’s expression remained as cold as ice. The Fox even went as far as raising a brow, as if to say ‘And?’ but had the sense not to.
All, however, looked to Wune.
“The Trial by Combat is Over,” the Raccoon declared, though he was not looking too pleased himself. “Kalm, son of Morten, is forgiven for his transgressions, and may remain in the Village if he wishes,”
Some clapped, but most remained silent. The Twins had to be helped up, but Jerry made no movement to assist them. He just kept his eyes on Wune.
With a motion for Jerry to follow them up the stairs of the temple, Wune dismissed the crowd with the same gesture. They were slow to disperse, and Kalm stayed behind, shaking the hands of those who rooted for him while still holding Edwina.
The Twins stayed as well, both patting Kalm on the shoulder, and offering their congratulations to Jerry.
He was polite in the brief exchange, but when Jerry started up the stairs, he rolled his eyes. Jerry wanted to leave, right then and there and head back to MARS Command. He had fulfilled the agreement, and not only landed a blow on one of the Twins, but he also defeated them for his Brother-in-Law.
What was Wune going to do? Add to the arrangement? Chastise him for his brutality? Jerry followed Wune up the stairs and was led into the temple. Jerry did not light his cigarette yet, having a feeling it would be frowned on if he did.
“Why would you care about how others feel now?” Wune asked, catching Jerry by surprise after he had entered. The Raccoon emerged behind the Fox, just as Jerry had just lost them in the dim shadows just a moment before.
There was a bemused smile on the old Mobian’s face at Jerry’s shock. The Fox just stared at them as they moved around him and deeper into the confines of the stone. “Come with me, I have a choice for you to make.”
“One for me?” the Fox asked, “Today is filled with those, aren’t they?”
“Yes, it was my choice to place you in that Trial,” Wune explained like a teacher. “Things would be better that way, in the long run, Edwina and Kalm living so far away from the Village would complicate things for Chase in her new profession. He could have won that fight if he did not feel guilty for what he had done.”
Wune paused to make a gesture towards Jerry with their cane.
“You, on the other hand, do not feel guilt, do you?”
Jerry tilted his head to the side, keeping his mind on what Wune wanted for him to choose.
“Yes, you do, just for the other reasons.” the Elder stopped in front of a chest with a statuette with a fox and vixen, both in wedding garb, “A broken sword, the destruction of vegetation, a missed chance to make someone feel better, for jumping to obvious conclusions without thought.”
“You just don’t feel guilty for those you put to death.”
There was a long silence, Jerry said nothing, his eyes fixated on the statuette. It was nothing special, bland, plain-looking. Yet it was meant to represent something.
“Your choice is here.” Wune indicated with his cane. “It is a tradition for a married couple to leave behind something of value from their old lives to start their new ones with each other. It is also tradition to allow son or daughter to reclaim what is in the box, if they so desire, or to leave it.”
“Like, a time capsule if you will.”
Jerry moved closer, peering inside the box.
“This is what your Mother and Father left behind, choose, and choose wisely.” He heard Wune say, but his mind went numb, the cigarette falling from his lips.
Reaching in tentatively, Jerry pulled from the box, a sleek, slender curved blade encased in gold. It was shaped like the weapon Horus had worn, they had called it a Katana he recalled, but had no immediate interest in it.
This one had the Voxholm Family crest at the tip of the gold scabbard, and at the mouth, but there were no Acorn or any significance of the Kingdom the Family had served.
“It is called Haun’s Claw,” Wune named it as Jerry slowly drew the elegant weapon from its housing, “Sword of Voxholm, who swore loyalty to King Alexander Acorn and wielded by a member of the Voxholm bloodline since the founding of the Kingdom of Acorn.”
Jerry body trembled at the finery, the craftsmanship. He had never heard of such a weapon spoken before by his Father, nor read any tales of it. But by the gods, the way the gold shined, the blue wrapped hilt, the white twinge in the blade, it looked freshly forged.
Then the reflection.
The normally deadened, calm expression he had twisted in horror. Jerry’s eyes rounded to the size of saucers and the unfamiliar sensation swept over his body. He dropped the sword and backed from it quickly.
The blade sank deep into the stone, the hilt not even quivering from the sudden movement. What Jerry saw, what was supposed to be his reflection-
-Jerry felt cold fear looking into those eyes. That was not him. Gods that was not him!
“It is said that the weapon can reveal the truth of one’s soul,” Wune explained, pulling the weapon effortlessly from the stone, offering it back to the Fox. Jerry took it reluctantly and quickly shoved the weapon home in its scabbard.
“There are few to match its quality, one such sword rests in the Republic of Acorn, the other you already possess, Morten Jakuul’s Rapier.”
The Katana was a fine sword, longer than the falchion, lighter, Jerry would be a fool to leave it behind. But after what he saw in place of his own reflection?
The Fox placed it aside rather quickly, his eyes inspecting the contents of the box for what his Mother had left behind.
It was an ornate jewelry box. Jerry tried to recall if his Mother wore anything other than the ring on her finger, but could not, for the life of him, remember. He opened it, finding a dazzling display of gemstones in hair brooches, silver, and gold bands, sparkling earrings, and brightly colored ribbons. Pulling some of the contents out for inspection, he desperately attempted to imagine his Mother wearing anything like this.
But the memory was just not there.
“Edwina prized this box, she would wear a hair brooch, an earring, had her hair in pigtails, she enjoyed making herself as beautiful as she could, to stand out.”
Jerry flicked his ear, smiling as he pictured his Mother dressing herself up.
Then he placed the box down, looking between the sword and the jewelry. Wune spoke that he had a choice. A weapon of unimaginable potential, an ornate box of memories that were not his own, or nothing.
For Jerry, there was no real choice to make.
When Jerry descended the stairs of the temple, Kalm was still at the bottom of it with his daughter clinging to his leg.
Little Edwina stared at her Uncle with wide, fearful eyes as they approached, obviously frightened by his display in the arena against the Twins, who she had known longer. The Fox removed his bandana and placed into his pocket before he knelt before her.
“Edwina,” Jerry spoke softly, his ears pressed against his skull as he held his arms out for a hug. “I am sorry for frightening you. Can you forgive me?”
She looked up at her Father, who smiled down to her.
“Go on,” Kalm encouraged her, “He was only helping daddy, give him a hug okay?”
Edwina, unsure, slowly, and cautiously walked to her Uncle and gave him a shy hug. Jerry engulfed her and picked her up, beaming at his Niece.
“You know what, since I was a bad guy and made you all sad,” Jerry started, a genuine smile on his lips, “Your Uncle Jay has something for you.”
Edwina momentarily struggled until Jerry mentioned he had something.
Jerry reached into his pocket, pulling out a single hairpin. Edwina’s golden eyes opened wide and she sucked in her breath, fascinated by the shiny object he presented.
Jerry continued to grin, Kalm chuckled, and Edwina squealed in delight, shifting her hair so she could get a better look at the babble her Uncle gave her.
Wune watched them walk from the temple, holding Haun’s Claw under the crook of his free arm while leaning against his cane. Jerry had taken one simple hairpin from his Mother’s jewelry box and left the rest without looking back.
“For a Murderous Assassin,” Wune said to himself with a smile. “He made a very poor choice.”
“It is the effect of this place.” spoke another in the shadows. Horus the Hedgehog shifted just outside of the temple. “The Peace that flows from the Temple. Kalm would have submitted to it eventually, as all do.”
“But not him.” Wune gestured towards Jerry.
“He would have as well. If the one he loved were here to make him.” Horus replied.
“Pity.” Wune frowned. “Does he know?”
“No.” Horus suddenly frowned as well.
“Will he learn of it?”
“When the time is right.”
Wune turned slowly, looking back to Horus with a disapproving expression.
“You had a glimpse in that mind of his.” Horus gestured towards the location the last of them had departed. “Tell me, Master, what do you expect would happen if he was told the truth of it?”
Wune’s frown deepened, and he gave no reply.
The Transport was en-route, but it did not help his mood any. Jerry was packed, walking back and forth in the field where he had been dropped off. An earpiece was in his ear, and from time to time he flicked his ear impatiently, awaiting word or an eta.
Kalm was there to see him off, as well as Master Wune, who watched him pace.
“Wish I was going with you,”
“No you don’t,” Jerry grunted, half disdainfully, half honest. “You just want to spend time with Chase,”
Jerry offered his Brother-in-Law a sidelong glance as he continued to move around. “You are better off here, defending the Village against the Iron Dominion if they get back. Going to see about leaving you a transport in case you need to evacuate,”
“That won’t be necessary,” Wune smiled, “But we appreciate the concern, but we have our ways,”
Jerry nodded, but again his mind drifted as his eyes did to the skies.
“I hope you’ll reconsider,” Wune spoke up, “About staying,”
“I’m needed out there,” Jerry started pacing again, “I’m a weapon to be used. The MARS Program needs my skills,”
“A Weapon,” Jerry seemed to remind himself. He turned on his heel and started to shift through his duffel bags before pulling out a sword wrapped in cloth. “I do believe this belongs to you, Brother,”
Kalm took the bundle and sucked in his breath. It was his Father’s Sword, Morten Jakuul’s Rapier.
“Jerry, I can’t,” he started to pass it back, “I made my choice,”
“As did I,” Jerry replied, pushing it back, “Take the damned thing and wield it as Morten and my Father had done, in defense of another,”
The Jackal looked to be on the edge of tears. He looked to the hilt of the blade, removed the rest of the cloth and just stared at it.
“You, have no idea what this means to me,” Kalm managed, in awe of the weapon. “I have nothing to give you in return,”
“You made my Sister happy,” Jerry shrugged indifferently, then he warned coldly, “Though if you ever make her cry again, I’ll kill you,”
“And of you?” Wune demanded, raising a brow, “I offered you a gift, and you gave it away to your Niece, how rude of you,” The Raccoon poked at Jerry’s once wounded side, and the Fox grunted at him. “What will you take from the Village of the Lost?”
“The evil that I brought to it,” Jerry frowned in thought.
“My coming here may have been a mistake, bringing things to a head that could have been solved with words,” Jerry nodded to Kalm, “You would have come to your senses eventually,”
“Perhaps he would have, but still, I demand that you take this, and wield it in the same manner your ancestors had done,” the Elder produced Haun’s Claw for Jerry as if summoning it out of nowhere.
The Fox’s jaw dropped, but he quickly recovered, recoiling from it.
“Never,” Jerry nearly hissed, as if he was fearful of it, “I have no use for such a blade, I will not taint it by touching it further.”
“Taint it?” Kalm asked, looking from the Katana to Jerry, “How could you taint it?”
“It is just a sword,” Wune reassured him, but Jerry was not convinced. The Fox could still see that horrific image that was supposed to be his reflection. “You do not have to wield it, Son of Nae, but you do me dishonor if you do not accept it,”
Dishonor. That word stroke a chord and had him straighten. With reluctance, Jerry took it, then hid it from sight by stuffing it into his duffel. He was appreciative of the gesture, but the Sword, even if it was his ancestor’s blade, it felt wrong for him just to touch it.
“Thank you Master Wune,” he turned and bowed to the Raccoon, more so out of formality than genuine appreciation of being gifted that sword. Yet Jerry realized that there had been no way Wune would have been able to carry the weapon all the way here without them noticing it before. “But how?”
“Sneak it here without you seeing?” the Raccoon shrugged in the same manner as Jerry had done a few moments before.
“I wasn’t always a Village Elder you know,” and with that, Master Wune wandered off.
Within Hours, Jerry boarded the MARS Transport, piloted by Jeebs, the male’s thoughts yet again on Control. As if thinking about her, his communicator flickered, and he straightened in his seat.
“I hear you’ve been a lost puppy without me,”
It was her! Her words, though sounding tired and worn, relieved him so much that he relaxed against the chair, cradling the communications device as he produced the largest smile he could manage.
“Oh thank the Gods, what happened?”
“I was, wounded,” she seemed reluctant to reveal, “Had to spend time in Hospital after the Iron Dominion was pushed out,”
Jerry nodded, “Gods it’s good to hear from you, your alright now? Do you need to come to you?”
“Yes Jerry, I’m fine, and no you don’t need to come to me, how have you held up?”
“Miserable without you Control,” Jerry admitted, “Simply miserable,”
When he monitored their transmissions and comings and goings, he knew Jakuul was doomed. The AI the MOBbots were purposely kept basic and dull for that reason. He allowed him the Golems to have further intelligence in order to test their viability against a Mobian with super strength.
Two were downed by Chase, the test subject, and the other two were destroyed by an outside source.
The test was complete, and now Jekel was applying what he learned to other models. When they breached the factory seeking him, Jekel was long gone.
The chance of finding him now, considering he was in a pocket dimension called a Zone; was remote.
In fact, it was the very outside source in which his new mentor wished to discuss. Jekel did not care to talk about others, nor did he enjoy deviating from his work. He also did not care about the circumstances on how they met, but still, one cannot be fussy when they are on the run from the Legion.
A laboratory was a laboratory, and the being he had dubbed ‘the Shade’, was very impressed with his work.
Jekel was in the process of installing the new combat antilogarithms in the MOBbot MKII’s when he caught the less than subtle movements in the shadow.
“Did you see him?” the shade asked, floating deftly over Jekel’s workstation.
There was a skeleton of some sort in there, Jekel could never care to note the specifics. Still, the shade was in all black, from the metal on its skeletal structure, to the rags it wore. Matched with the glowing red eyes of its marred face, Jekel concluded it was a robotic specter of some sort and had left it at that.
“Yes Doctor, I saw him, impressive acrobatics,”
“He was wounded,” the shade pointed out, “Hurt, and still able to perform at such a level, a fascinating subject,”
“There are more suitable candidates, Shadow or Sonic the Hedgehog, perhaps the Master Emerald’s Guardian, I forget his name,” Jekel commented off-handily. The platypus was not sure about his Mentor’s fascination with this Jerry, designation MARS4, but he knew the things this Shade had been doing in its own lab.
He knew what this Shade had in store for Jerry and the World. He rightly did not care who ruled it as long as he could continue his work in his field of robotics and programming. The brown and silver feathered Platypus was free to design the machines to their full potential instead of nit-picking about safety or less than effective features. He could make his machines how he wanted to make them with no restraint.
And the Shade was providing the resources and teaching him things he would never have dreamed of doing. This fixation on that one Fox, however, was becoming rather bothersome.
“Perhaps they are, perhaps they are not, but between me and that rodent, it is a small, personal matter, consider this a test of my own design for those more potent,”
“As you wish Doctor,” Jekel shrugged in indifference, now turning to regard another screen that revealed a string of codes only those literate in the language could understand.
“No need to be formal my dear boy,” the ragged machine started to inspect the Platypus’ work, “For now, call me Julian.”
When they recruit you for the armed services, they tell you glory is at hand. Where honor and righteousness would pave the way for the future.
What they do not say is that every second of combat, someone dies or is horribly maimed. Someone’s son, father, family member or friend is lying in a pool of their own life fluids and waste, staring up at the sky. Many times they are asking why.
The ones who died quickest were the lucky ones. The many who either never see it coming or they are mercifully snuffed out before their suffering could linger. The poor souls who were maimed beyond medical aid were tormented till they finally breathed their last.
Then there are the ones who survived.
Many were scarred, physically and mentally. Many of those would never recover from the horrors they had seen or inflicted. Whole battalions disappearing in a haze of blood and machine gunfire. Beings who could sunder rock with fist being torn in half by some devious ranged weapon. Battlefields strewn with gore circled by carrion birds who sang their song of death and despair.
Then there were the ones who went mad. The ones who just could not take it anymore and find themselves a corner to hide in. The ones who just give up on everything, roll over and die.
Tiberius Jeremiah Voxholm, known as Jerry, was on the verge of being one of them.
The Orange Mobian Fox whipped through the Great Forest as such reckless speeds that he scratched not only himself but his hover-cycle he so cherished. Yet, Jerry did not care. He did not stop to inspect the multitude of cuts, nor the torn uniform nor the dings on his precious bike.
He had to get there.
He had to get there for her.
That was all that repeated in his mind. Nothing mattered. Not the pain of dozens of scratches. Not remorse for the dents. Not the grief of losing yet another of his family to the constant, brutal conflict.
But for her. Jerry had to get there for her.
Soon the Great Forest gave way to a long beach of white sands and azure seas that spanned towards the horizon. Deftly, he dipped the hover-cycle to his right, kicking up a spray of salty water and sand.
Jerry could smell it long before he could see it. But his mind shut it out. She was there. She had to be there. Everything was alright.
It was not.
The smoke curled from the cliffside. The gray stone lashed with black soot and the grass above catching fire from the heat below. There were bodies laid across the sand so burnt beyond recognition they were little more than lumps of blackening flesh.
Jerry brought the hover-cycle to a dead halt, nearly throwing himself off the bike. He crawled from it, his eyes fixated on the cave that disappeared into the cliff itself. Flame spat from it like it was some gaping maw of a dragon, crackling and filling the air with the unmistakable scent of burning flesh and wood.
There was no screaming. No call for assistance. Nothing of this makeshift base moved. Sweeping the shoreline, he could not find a set of tracks leading away from the billowing inferno before him. Looking over the bodies, their weapons, spears, bows, and swords gave them away to being Royal Army Regulars.
There were pieces of armored suits here.
Overlander Infantry Armor.
“Oh Gods.” panic choked Jerry's voice as he shouted for her. “Elizabeth!”
The shouting soon turned into frantic screaming, and he fruitlessly tried to throw water into the inferno. Almost an hour of his pitiful struggle with the raging flames he backed away. Was she even in there? Of course not! Of course not!
“Did one of them live?”
The question startled him.
“Nah, we got them all, no survivors.” said another. “Got to be another group there to see what happened to the first.”
“Check out the bike! That wasn’t there before.” called another.
“Yeah, new meat.” leered the first speaker. “There he is right there. Not even armed!”
“Cook his insides.”
“Wait, search him first, make sure he doesn’t have a message, he has a bike and all.”
Jerry stepped towards them. There were four of them. Standard Overlander Infantry Armor, no helmets. Their hair were wild, brown or green, and they all had laser rifles and knives in obvious places. Six foot tall had been the standard for their race, and these four were no different. While they argued for a moment, Jerry came closer, his eyes fixated on the one who had said no survivors
They killed Her.
At first, his face was horror-stricken. Jerry’s mind to numb to realize that they were surrounding him and pushing lightly around.
“What’s wrong with this one? He's acting like he is one of those stupids.”
“Think he’s still trying to get over the smell of hamburger meat.” came the joke.
It was there that Jerry’s face suddenly deadened. There was no emotion as his head snapped to the closest Overlander, the one who had their hands in the pockets of Jerry uniform. The one who cracked the joke.
Jerry was armed. He was no fool to go without a weapon. It was a dagger that lay against his back, with the hilt just beneath the hem of his uniform around his waist If they had just patted him down like they said they would, they would have found it
Instead, they had to be bullies. They had to antagonize.
With a flurry of motion, he drew and stabbed the patting Overlander in the gut, right between the armor separating their pictorials and stomach.
Even as his victim screamed, and their Comrades were stunned, Jerry drew the first fallen’s knife from their belt and threw himself into the face of the next closest Overlander. The blade slipped into their neck, and Jerry used his weight and momentum to spin his newest victim around, using them as morbid cover. Their comrades opened fired, lasers ripping into the armor and flesh of their already dying comrade.
The now blackened form of the Overlander fell backward, and Jerry rode them down, throwing the knife into the face of the third victim who fell clutching at their mortal wound.
The last one started to backpedal as Jerry charged them, snarling like a savage beast. Leaping again, Jerry was caught by the Overlander mid-flight, the Infantrymen foolishly dropping their laser rifle in their panic. They both fell into the sand, with Jerry on top.
The Overlander had Jerry arms black, he could not swing nor make a grab for their knife. Jerry did not need a weapon. He forced his muzzle against their neck. A ripping wet noise followed, and the Overlander convulsed, gurgling blood.
The gore covered Fox rose slowly, spitting out the blood and flesh he had just torn from the Overlander’s throat. Suddenly, his body partially turned to snap a murderous gaze on the Overlander who had originally made the joke of ‘Hamburger meat’.
They were trying to crawl on their back. Their legs were unresponsive. With the amount of blood they were losing, they would be a dead man if they did not receive treatment soon.
Unfortunately for him, Jerry would not be rendering them the sort of treatment they needed.
Jerry approached them as if savoring in their suffering.
“All of them?” the Fox asked quietly.
“Oh Gods.” was the only response.
Jerry snarled and kicked the Overlander’s arms from beneath them. He hovered over the Infantryman, nearly foaming at the mouth with rage.
“Oh Gods.” the Overlander repeated. “Oh Gods.”
“All of them?” Jerry questioned the Overlander. He reached down and yanked them up as best as his four-foot frame could.
“ALL OF THEM?!” Jerry screamed in their face.
“Oh Gods.” the Overlander pleaded on in disbelief.
Jerry ripped the dagger out of the bloody wound, then rammed it into the Overlander’s face.
Then again. And again.
And then again.
Jerry rose, dropping the dagger and looked around. He could see Wade, a brown feathered duck, heading towards him at the front of a slew of Mobian Royal Infantry.
“Oh my-” Wade started, looking at the scene before him. There was really no reaction of horror on his face. No revulsion one would see on others. More like a look of disappointment that they had missed the activities.
“No. Elizabeth?” Wade asked, locking eyes with the blood-covered Fox.
Wade got the answer with just a look.
Jerry started for his hover-cycle.
“We need to go back, Tiberius.” Wade started, moving to stand in the Fox’s way. Jerry juked around him. “We will bury the bodies later but we’re far behind enemy lines for the moment.”
“I don’t care,” Jerry stated chillingly. “I’ve Overlanders to kill.”
Wade got in front of him.
“Tiberius.” they held up their feathery hands, trying to be reasonable with the younger Mobian by using their full first name. “I’m all for gutting a dozen or so Overlanders any day of the week, but we’ve been ordered to report to the King himself.”
“Fuck him.” Jerry hissed defiantly. “Fuck him. Fuck Prower. Fuck this War.”
Jerry shoved the Duck away.
“We have our orders,” Wade stated, angry at being jostled. “Don’t let him go!”
The Infantry pounced him. Jerry started to swing. Dunlap was amongst them. Lukus. Shelly. Nigel. They all swarmed over him and dragged him down. He screamed for his release. Screamed at them to let him go.
The Overlanders needed to die.
All these furless freaks of nature needed to die!
Jerry rolled out of his bed, snatching for a weapon and swinging wildly at the darkness. The Fox turned too and fro, seeking a target to thrash, snarling at nothing around him. It took several long moments before Jerry realized he had rolled out of bed.
This was not the beach shore.
Moving over to the wall, Jerry struck the light switch. Momentarily blinded, he looked around the room again, only to find the contents devoid of life. This room had been in MARS command. He was panting hard as his eyes shifted from one side of the room to another. He only return just last night, drank his fill of whatever he could get in reach, and ate sparingly.
That had been the ritual, get blind drunk after a good fight and throw himself in bed, wake up with a nasty hangover. Except Jerry’s head was not exploding. Not with pain, not physical at least. Jerry was either building a higher tolerance the alcohol, or-
-the Nightmares were getting worse.
With his eyes scanning the room once more he sought something else. Jerry had kept his things neatly in a corner, and left the previous occupant, the former MARS2, Susan, had left them when she had lived. The sheets, however, were his own. He was not a fan of sleeping in pink covers less there was a warm body there with him.
Unfortunately, Elizabeth was not.
Thinking of her, he scrambled over to a drawer, dropping the weapon he had snatched to pull out a box.
Jerry pulled a ring and chain from it, then kissed it. Throwing it over his head to let it rest on his chest, whatever had induced his panic attack subsided with the presence of the ring..
Taking hold of a pack of cigarettes, Jerry pulled a few of the white objects out by mistake but only kept one as the others dropped. Jamming it in his mouth, he lit the end it with a lighter. With quick, almost desperate puffs, Jerry inhaled the chemical smoke and felt his body relax considerably. Closing his eyes, Jerry shoved the vivid memory back in which it came and focused on another one.
One where he had just gotten off duty and was standing in his home in the City of Mobotropolis. Wade had been there, holding a letter that addressed to Private Jerry Tyson of the 3rd Regiment. Jerry had just gotten a promotion to Corporal just after the War and the 3rd Regiment had been dissolved after the Overlander Siege of Mobotropolis.
He had never gotten a chance to open the letter. Jerry was too afraid to. It smelled of Elizabeth’s perfume, a rosy scent that made his fur stand on end. But it was not her handwriting on the envelope.
And there was a ring in it.
That was the day Julian Kintobor had declared himself Ivo Robotnik, and the World was again, forever changed. The peace untold numbers of Mobians died for; gone in an instant of treachery.
Jerry, like many, had been captured, roboticized and forced to serve his new master. To slave in Robotnik’s affairs. Doing unspeakable things without any sort of control over their actions. Jerry, like many, have no idea what they had done under Robotnik’s command, yet the thought of being enslaved unnerved him.
But it was after, years after, that Jerry returned to the shelled out home in the ruins of Old Mobotropolis that he found the ring in the general area he had left the letter. The parchment had longed burned away, but the ring was left undamaged.
And to him, it still smelled of her.
Opening the box, Jerry peered down at the photograph. He lost himself in those impossibly crystalline blue eyes and the coy smile of Elizabeth Meower.
Elizabeth had to be alive. Maybe she found someone else. Maybe she was right now, thinking about him as she hid from the constant War.
And if Elizabeth was not? Had she been dead because they had burned her alive in that cave filled with wounded? Jerry would kill the Overlanders.
All of them.
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