The call is shrill. Insistent. It worms its way beneath his blankets and into his skull, echoing like a thunderclap in the hollow space between sleep and waking, and even the pillow pressed too hard across his face does nothing to dim the onslaught. His pulse pounds in his ears with perfect time to the stars that burst behind his eyelids, a tidy thump thump thump that matches the knocking on his bedroom door.
One of them gives, either hardheadedness or the hydraulic seals, and there’s a moment of cool air and blessed silence before the voice picks up much closer this time.
“Andrew!” Neil presses cold hands and a cold nose to all the places where his shirt has rucked up in sleep, knobby knees stabbing into his hips like knives, and it’s only the fact that Neil has always been louder than him that swallows up the yelp he lets out in response. “Come on, get up! We’re seventeen minutes out!” As quickly as he appears, he retreats just the same – this time he opens Andrew’s closet and begins throwing the pieces of his EVAC suit across the foot of the bed. He’s dragging the netting bag of his own behemoth of Nomex and RCC, helmet tossed carelessly onto the dresser, and wearing only his threadbare pajamas.
Andrew doesn’t want to look at the clock, doesn’t want to know what ungodly hour of the morning it is, but he does all the same. “Neil, it’s 5am.” It’s five in the morning and he’s only gotten to bed after 0230, exhaustion scouring like sand at the corners of his eyes. “Can’t we do the later one?”
The heavy clamps of his PPLS land uncomfortably close to the delicate rise and fall of his sternum, and he rolls over to see Neil’s unrepentant smile. “Nope.” Next comes the thick tread of his boots, all thrown with just enough accuracy to have him out of bed from self-preservation alone. “Deimos won’t be anywhere close by lunchtime.”
It is their three-thousand-and-sixty-first eclipse together on Mars, but the first double.
He gets up, and he gets dressed.
Sixteen minutes and forty-eight seconds later, perched on a craggy outcrop just beyond the PMAC dome, they watch as two smudges of moons tumble across the path of a burning sun.
“Look at that,” Neil’s voice is both too loud and too soft, a confusing echo across their matched radio frequency, and Andrew follows the direction of his gaze to the ever-present expanse of stars behind them. “Someday I’m gonna go out there.”
Earth isn’t even visible from where they sit, nothing more than a distant memory and an occasional speck on a long-range scanner, but it’s in their DNA as sure as any other traits. “Neil,” he laughs, “you are out there.”
“I mean out of system. I mean leaving.”
They both know he never will, but it’s far too cruel to point it out. Instead, after the thirty seconds of solar eclipse, they sit out in the desert until their PPLS gauges beep a warning.
It’s harder for Neil, the rest of them think. He’s the only one of them who wasn’t born out here, who doesn’t have red sand ground all the way down to his bones, who knows even a little bit of life beyond the dome or outside MDC-17’s regulation tan walls. He might only have been four when he was brought here, but he’s the only one of them who has ever seen green grass. Blue skies. Fresh water. Has ever felt a true breeze, not just the pump of recycled air through the ventilation systems, has ever felt the sun on his skin. The rest of them know there’s an entire solar system out there, an entire universe, but Neil—
Neil is the only one who has seen it.
“Our house had a lawn,” he always tells them stories, or the happier ones, of his life before Mars. Baltimore is as alien to them as anything out of system, for all that it’s one of the oldest human settlements that remains, and they hang on every word of their genetic homeland that he can give. It doesn’t matter, that his memories are those of a toddler. It doesn’t matter that most of them are bad. “A big lawn, bright green, and it stretched all the way to the pond. In the summer, we had ducks that swam with us.”
Their group of peers – all lanky, underfed children around their age, some as young as six, all the same rust and tan colors as the settlement – hang on the stories like something akin to the human religions of old. It’s only Andrew who knows the truth.
“My father used to take day trips,” he tells Andrew under the pink-brown sky of Martian midnights, sometimes over the clicking comm lines of their PPLS while the desert stretches before them like a universe all its own. “Outside the dome. He never let me go with him, and I always thought—” The world beyond the confines of the DMV Habitation Zone must have felt, to a young child, like Earth to the children of Mars – something mythical. Magical. Some great land of promise, of potential. He would have had no way of knowing, not at four, that the domes existed for a reason. “Those people were dying long before my father took them,” he admits, and Andrew nods what he’s already known. “He just made it faster, is all.”
It’s harder for Neil, Andrew thinks. He’s the only one of them who truly knows there’s nothing to go back to.
Eight years later, Andrew turns seventeen and the warden informs him he’s no longer a ward of the MDC and that the complex cannot, unfortunately, afford to keep the orphans once they age out. She gives him a month’s wages on a credit stick, a polite handshake, and she books him passage to the nearest space station.
Two months after that, when it’s Neil’s turn, it’s a UEU secretary and a ramrod-straight sergeant from the UAM who inform him that whatever home he’s made on Mars is no longer his to keep, and that he can buy out the rest of his family’s sentence by serving in the Infantry.
Neil is assigned to cohort FX-1 under a woman called Wilds, who looks him up and down (and down, and she’s slight thing herself but she’s still a good two inches taller than he is) before welcoming him into the barracks hall they’ll be sharing for the duration of their training. There are three sets of metal bunks, cohorts usually numbering six members, but she shrugs when he asks which of the remaining will be his. “Doesn’t matter,” her voice is strong and clear, dripping in confidence, and he can understand why she’s been placed as their leader. “It’s just the five of us.”
The other three are Boyd, Reynolds, and Gordon. Neil himself is now Josten, because their training base might be a good hundred and fifty leagues from the DMVHZ but his father’s reputation is far-reaching, and while the UAM might have purchased him solely to populate the battlefield with one more warm body, they apparently want to protect him enough to get some use out of him later. “So,” Reynolds asks the room at large; she’s beautiful in a way that doesn’t immediately read Infantry, and Neil wonders if maybe he’s not the only one here not entirely by choice. “What’s your story? Where are you from?”
“I’m from Mars,” he tells them with his gaze locked onto Boyd’s, because he thinks of all of them the man with the familiar rust-and-tan skin might understand; the only people actually from Mars are the native human hybrids and the prisoners exiled there, and given his assignment it’s obvious which one he is not. Boyd blinks both sets of eyelids and takes in the way Neil does not, and he nods.
“Must be from the Eastern face,” he says to explain away the fact that they look nothing alike – Neil’s coloring is a far more human sort of rust and tan, warm instead of washed out – and he extends a hand for Neil to grasp in greeting. “We gotta stick together though, we got all these Grasswalkers to look out for.” He winks at Wilds as he says it, like it’s not meant to be the insult it is back on Mars, and grins. There’s a subtle nod of his chin that Neil only notices because he’s looking for it, an acknowledgement that, for now, at least, Boyd won’t tell the others the truth of his background.
Gordon, he learns next, is from a neighborhood just outside the Southern Gulf Habitation Zone. He’s one of a series of brothers, all UAM officers running the ranks from pilot up to a rear admiral, and he joined the Infantry because, as he tells them wryly, “the enlistment office said I was too useless for anything else.” It says a lot toward her ability to fill her position, the way Wilds’ lips thin at the insult like she’s set to disprove it, and Neil can feel his lips tug into a matching expression of distaste – he knows what it’s like, outside the domes, knows how hard it must have been for Gordon to survive long enough to even make it to the age of majority to join up.
Reynolds herself is from Northern Orange County, and other than the way she looks just a little bit too put together in her uniform and a little bit more too uncomfortable in their barracks, she’s got no ties to the UAM at all. She’s not a soldier, nor is she descended from one – there’s a hesitant moment where Neil meets Boyd’s gaze, and then Wilds,’ and knows that each of them is wondering why she’s here. And then, later, she tells them that she’s not trying to live up to a legacy – but she does have one, she stresses – so much as she is earn one. Her mother, she admits quietly, has a seat on the UEU Council and her grandfather was one of the Germans aboard the Verity. She was originally assigned elsewhere but fought for FX-1.
It doesn’t escape their notice that their cohort is one man down and entirely human. The designation FX – which is actually an old shorthand for Front Line Infantry, Cross Trained – is generally joked to stand for ‘Fucking Expendable.’
His first night of rec leave, Neil scours the directory and the UA registers for Andrew Doe. He doesn’t find any results.
He doesn’t stop looking, either.
FX-1, fondly referred to by first their cohort and later others by the call sign Fox-1, survives basic training and is immediately sent to the Charon E-R Station for further assignment. It’s not unexpected – they’ve known since they first arrived that they were designed for the planetside battles, and while there hasn’t been terrestrial fighting in their Helios System since First Contact, there’s a few planets at the far reaches of UA space that are still under Corax control. When the E-R Bridge closes behind them and leaves them at their new, for as long as it lasts, home of UAM Outer Base 4A, they’re met by the broad shoulders and stern face of their new commanding officer. “Which one of you is Wilds?” He asks, voice rough and tired like the entire base seems to be, grizzled and halfway forgotten.
Dan steps forward, shiny new Lieutenant Commander bars bright at her collar, and salutes the famed Captain Wymack. “Fox-1, reporting.”
The craggy exterior breaks into a tiny grin, and he returns her salute a little bit sloppily and a whole lot warmly. “Welcome to Gant, Fox-1,” and he gestures the wide expanses of grey and tan that extends even through the viewports, the entire planet the same shades of cloudy and dreary as the rundown base that looks as though it was never meant to be a permanent structure.
There’s nothing here. It’s not even that the base is operating on a skeleton crew, or that the army sent to defend it seems to be a handful of other cohorts on top of their five – the base is something between failing and falling apart, but it doesn’t appear to have the tell-tale marks of a blaster battle anywhere on it. There’s no hum of a security shield in the back of their awareness, no off-tempo beep of a scan in place. Gant is empty and grey and bland, and—
“Let me guess,” Dan shifts out of parade rest into something a little closer to the steel-spine and sarcasm they know her for; not quite a challenge, but something close to one. It’s a test, or maybe an attack, and Neil watches how the Captain reacts to it. “4A is the last line of defense, should the Corax try for a UA homeworld through this small and mostly uncharted system, and every cohort here has at least one member the UVC wants to disappear.”
Any semblance of military regulation falls from Wymack’s face when he claps her on the shoulder; Dan is only a bit taller than Neil but she’d been top of their year in unarmed combat and he’s watched her flip men larger than Matt over her back without breaking a sweat. Wymack’s gesture knocks her forward, barely an inch, but it’s enough. “Got it in one,” he crows, and a few of the dreary grey soldiers in the background laugh along with it, a dusty, croaky sort of sound. “Welcome to The Hold.”
Basic training was four years – Fox-1 had been fast-tracked through in only three and a half, but they had also been operating on shortened leaves and had, for the three and a half years in full, been confined to the training base. It wasn’t unheard of, especially for FX cohorts. FX units might have a high mortality rate, might be thrown generally into the worst of the fighting, but their specialized training, a cross between regulation UAM combat and local guerilla tactics for whichever system they were based out of, was something of a commodity in planetside missions. The only reason they ended up out here on Gant, which is probably the only reason they survive their first six months of active duty, is most likely because of Allison’s listing on their roster.
“So,” Matt drops onto Neil’s bunk, right across his legs; he’d informed Neil in their first week of training that they were partners now, or maybe brothers – that it didn’t matter that Neil was from Earth, not anymore, not when his file listed his planet of origin as Mars, like Matt’s. “How does it feel to have been officially disappeared?”
Considering the last time he’d been disappeared, when he had been shipped off to Mars arguably for his own safety but instead of protection he’d been given a serial number and the remainder of his father’s sentence, it’s not entirely terrible. “Food’s better,” he shrugs, because for all that he’d hated the situation he hadn’t hated his time at MDC-17. “View is worse.”
“Ugh, I know,” Matt agrees, and rolls over to stare at Neil’s face – tan and rust. “I miss colors.” Gant is grey and white and beige, muted shades of each, a similar spectrum as their uniforms and the barren landscape outside the viewports; it feels like a memory, or a dream, something intangible and easily forgotten. A far cry from the red and pinks of their childhoods. It looks like it should feel cold, or that the atmosphere should be heavier than he’s used to, but he knows from the readings that it’s actually fairly similar to Earth’s rainforests out there.
The following morning, or what passes for it at 4a, Captain Wymack joins Fox-1 at their table and asks a similar question about how they feel about their present assignment. He doesn’t use the phrase ‘disappeared,’ but they’ve used it enough amongst themselves that they understand the euphemism. “If I can ask,” Neil starts, but he’s not actually waiting for permission; he understands why Fox-1 would be sent to a place like Gant, but mostly he’s trying to wrap his head around why Captain David Wymack was. Usually the expression ‘he wrote the book on it’ is meant to jokingly denote someone’s expertise in an area but, in this case, Wymack literally wrote the book on planetside organization tactics. They studied him during training. “Why did they disappear you?”
Wymack doesn’t look offended, but he looks a little bit regretful. “I was given a choice, dishonorable discharge or... this.” He waves a hand casually at the mess around them, at the thirty soldiers that are more suited to research positions that anything, at the grey and boring world beyond the grey and boring walls. “Been here twenty years now. It doesn’t get better with time.” He must see the question on Neil’s face, or else he just really doesn’t mind talking about it, because he offers freely the reason for his exile. “I had a romantic and sexual relationship with a member of my unit.”
Neil blinks, and nods, and then shakes his head. “And that’s... bad,” he doesn’t quite ask – he can assume it is from the fact that Wymack is out here. It’s just that, aside from him, his entire cohort has been sleeping with each other in various groupings for the past three years at least. “Right.”
He was so sure his eyes didn’t flick over to the others, except that Wymack follows the motion with his own; he grins that same craggy grin he always does when one or all of them completely ignore regulatory protocols, the one that feels like the only time he every truly approves. “I don’t give a fuck about them, just like I don’t give a fuck about—” and when he gestures at Neil, he wonders what exactly was in his dossier that Wymack is meant to not give a fuck about. “They hate you enough to send you out here, so that makes you my people. The only rule I got is that we look out for each other, and we keep one eye out in case anything comes by.”
In twenty years, nothing has. Gant is more of a prison than Mars was.
Their first six months passes in one long, long drawn out stretch of grey skies and empty schedules, of basic base upkeep that’s run mostly between the same handful of people, and of always having at least one of them near the scanner. Just in case. In those same six months, there’s not even a blip of anything in the system around Gant.
Until there is.
The upper atmos proximity alert goes off, and before they can even react to it the lower atmos does as well – something is coming, something big, and it’s coming fast. There’s not even time to try and corral the thirty-odd soldiers who have been moldering here for god knows how long into any semblance of a response before the first of the explosions hits; it rocks the storage bay of the already dilapidated base, bringing half the barracks down with it. The next is a direct hit to the center hub. “Corax battlecruiser,” Seth calls out when he slams open the door of their barracks, startling them further into the clothing they were already rolling out of their bunks into. “We’re at 20% base integrity and 15% surviving crew.”
Matt does a moment of brief, bleak math. “So... us.”
His entrance into the room is slowed by the weight of whatever he’s dragging, half-draped across his shoulders. “And Wymack.” The older man is alive, bleeding slowly and sluggishly from a spiderweb of marks at his temple, and more freely from somewhere in the vicinity of his gut; Seth rolls him off his shoulders and into Matt’s grip, who more easily hefts him across his back. “There’s about a cohort and a half trying to get the E-R Bridge open, but comms are failing fast and apparently it can’t be activated from this end.”
Of course it can’t. Of fucking course.
It’s maybe the only saving grace of this entire god forsaken system, the fact that it exists solely to disappear people. If the E-R Bridge stays shut, the Corax ship will have to make a run on UA space the long way. “We better get down there,” Dan snaps the last of her Nomax plates into place, her voice shifting smoothlessly to their private comm line when her helmet locks into the collar ports. “And make sure it stays shut.”
There’s nothing quite to fight, in their fight across the remainder of the base – there’s wreck and ruin, sure, and mostly the parts where the life support has failed entirely and left them open to the pull of the atmosphere, of the dense gravity that sits over Gant like a ton of metal pressing down. But the fact of it is that all of their training is useless here, and it’s only the way they’ve learned to work together and trust each other that keeps them alive; they adjust their formation as needed, to keep Matt and Wymack surrounded, and they’ve only just reached the last door to the E-R Platform when a finally explosion sends them crashing to the floor – this one hasn’t come from above, but from within.
“They must have blown the platform,” Dan’s voice is tinny and dull now, and there’s a crack in her helmet viewscreen that shouldn’t be there. Their suits are meant to withstand the vacuum of Zero-Space, but only if they remain intact; with Gant’s dense atmosphere all too quickly leaking in, smashing through the remains of the old base like one of the rampaging creatures that used to be native here, hers will fail far too quickly. “Rather than risk the Bridge opening.”
The door, and the surrounding bulkhead, are mostly intact. It points to the explosion from within being something far more localized than a strafing battlecruiser would be capable of. There’s another low rumble of an airstrike, this one muted by the encroaching atmosphere that is too pressing to even allow sound to carry as it should, and then the off-time, failing beep of the lower atmos alert shutting down. They wait a moment of time, no more than three of the heartbeats that pound out from exertion and lack of oxygen, and the upper atmos shuts off as well. The battlecruiser, finding the Bridge Platform destroyed, has left Ganti airspace.
The base, or whatever remains, is too damaged to even give them a report on the extent of it all; Dan taps half-heartedly at the central panel outside what remains of the Platform, and all that it manages to bring up is a flashing, generic alert screen.
“Is anyone alive down there?”
The voice that breaks into what they were sure, until now, was a close-range, closed communication between their unit radios is somehow both soft and strong at the same time; it’s only their years spent in a UAM training facility that have them recognizing the clicking lilt of a Radirin, which explains how she got into their line. Neil wonders, briefly, in this moment between life and death, why the old Earth religions ever bothered trying to portray angels as human beings, because the voice crackling to life on the other side of the line has clearly been sent by whatever god watches over this corner of the universe.
Dan double-taps the side of her helmet to open the two-way feed. “This is UAM Lieutenant Commander Dan Wilds, designation FX-1.” She opens her closed fist and extends two fingers; they have no choice but to trust the voice on the other side, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be stupid about it. Matt and Seth both take positions to the sides, guns primed. “I’ve got myself and five of mine down here, we could use a hand if you’re offering one.”
The voice confers with another off-radio for a moment before returning; this time the voice that cuts through their touch-and-go reception with knife-sharp precision is familiar in the way of red dust and tan walls and pink midnights. “Fox-1?” it asks, and Neil wants to cry. “You wouldn’t by any chance have a Neil on your roster, would you?”
His hand slaps against the side of his helmet before he can register the motion, wrenching open his own access to the channel faster than he would have thought possible for their two decades out of date equipment. “Andrew,” and he hates the way his voice sounds ragged, thick with stress and memories and what he is ashamed to think might actually be tears. “What the fuck are you doing out here?”
Another pause, and then Andrew grumbles a reluctant response. “You gonna read into it if I said I was looking for you?”
Smiling feels like a vast desert and an endless night sky, feels like two smudges of moon finally converging in orbit. “Kinda hard not to.”
Dan’s voice is sharper now, but it’s not from anger. She winks at Neil as she cuts them both off, face soft, but the rest of her is rigid as steel – the base is still failing, and Wymack is still bleeding out beside them. “If you’re done flirting,” she snaps, but winks again, “we would very much love to not die down here.” Flirting, Allison parrots beside her, proudly, and offers Neil a thumbs up that he ignores.
“Your house had a pond,” Andrew’s voice is detached. Distracted. There’s a whine over the radio that doesn’t sound like it’s coming from either end in particular so much as it just is the air, and it’s familiar in a way that feels almost as forgotten as Gant used. Neil’s so busy trying to place it that he almost doesn’t pick up on the words being said. “You still trust me, right?”
He doesn’t even hesitate – Mars was only home for so long because Andrew was there. “Of course I do.”
It’s all the warning they get before the world explodes around them.
When the ringing in their ears finally dies down and the flashing sunspots on their vision finally fade, they’re standing in the hold of a frigate and Andrew does not look happy to see them. And then, when the door slides open to admit – a second one, or maybe a first? It appears that at some point in the last four years Andrew has found need for a Holodroid – the newest one barely does either. It’s a sharp contrast from the lightness of his voice over the comm the way he stands rigid and drawn, squaring off against them over the two meters of flooring that separates them. Neil rests one hand against the blaster at his hip as Andrew shifts his weight, both arms crossed, fingers brushing the handles of knives barely visible beneath his sleeves – Battle stances, both of them.
“Andrew,” he manages the word casually. Flatly.
His voice is the same, but naturally. “Neil.”
Like a blink, like a magic trick, both of them fall into the easy creases of familiar smiles; Neil reaches one arm out to tug Andrew into a hug and he goes easily, knees and elbows knocking together like they used to. The second – first? – Andrew makes a frankly appalled noise that a Holodroid shouldn’t be capable of, and Andrew sneers a grin back to it in greeting. “Aaron,” his voice is the same distanced, distracted drawl as it had been when he was powering up his ship’s weapon, “this is Neil.”
Neil blinks, cataloguing the familiar scar above Andrew’s eyebrow and the unfamiliar one across Aaron’s knuckles, and thinks he would have preferred a Holodroid. “Please tell me this is a cloning situation.” The only other option, the one that must be true by the way the not-a-clone snarls a ‘Fuck you’ at him and the way Andrew’s grin turns sunny and bright in the way it always does when he’s hurting, is too cruel to consider.
“Alas no,” Andrew laments, voice gone as far into false cheeriness as his face has. “Turns out the warden knew where my family was the entire fucking time. They were waiting when I touched down on Ceres Platform.”
Interruption comes as Matt carefully, but altogether unceremoniously, lowers Wymack to the floor beside them. “That fucking sucks,” he tells Andrew, a stranger, with genuine emotion behind it – it’s the same instant bond he’d forged with Neil, the unspoken brotherhood of the children of Mars that didn’t matter that neither of them were actually such outside of their circumstances. “Is he a doctor?”
Andrew shrugs. “When he wants to be,” but Aaron is already hurtling for the medbag and snarling things at both Andrew and, apparently, Wymack in three different languages and it’s suddenly so easy for Neil to see the relation. The door slides open again as a Radirin, who must be who they spoke to over the radio, and a taller man of at least partial Caractu heritage descend the lift. The man helps Aaron pull Wymack back into it, waving before it ascends back the way it came, as the woman takes up a position to Andrew’s left side.
“Fox-1,” the Radirin click-trills in greeting, voice familiar, “welcome aboard the Exulans. I’m Minyard’s First Officer, you may call me Renee. I would like to ask that, as members of the UAM and agents of the UVC, you relinquish any and all weaponry on your person before I allow you to broach the rest of our vessel.” Dan surges forward like she’s about to very vehemently refuse, Neil and Allison and Seth all instinctively moving to follow, but Andrew waves his hand in another of those casual gestures.
“Don’t bother,” he tells Renee, and a little bit Dan. “They’re not going to arrest us.”
Allison removes her helmet to eye him shrewdly, one hand still at her waist, though the opposite side as the holster she wears. “Because you saved our lives?”
“As if you cared about those,” he turns back to her with his too-bright, achingly false grin in place. “Because half of you are already criminals, and the other half hate the UVC as much as we do.” Allison nods like she agrees as Seth shrugs, and Dan meets Neil’s gaze like she’s answered a question she’d been asking herself for quite some time now; the only surprise is from Neil. Somehow, in the course of things unfolding between the five of them, he hadn’t realized until now that Dan had managed to avoid mentioning her past or where she had come from.
They might be criminals, or half of them at least, and they might hate the UVC almost as much as it hates them – but they are also, as it stands, the only living entities who know that at least one Corax battlecruiser is on its way toward UA controlled space. “Drew,” he starts, and stops immediately when Andrew groans.
“Of course it’s you,” his voice is the gruff, frustrated fondness it is when he’s not trying to hide himself, the one that sounds too rough to be anything but authentic. The smile drops from his face as well, and it might be four years since they last saw each other but they both clearly never stopped looking, and even that pales in comparison to the fourteen years before it. “My money was on Wilds.”
Renee’s laughter sounds a little bit like metal clanging and a lot like plastic melting, and the rainbow of colors that ripples through her fur is a kaleidoscope of her joy. “He is a good man, Andrew Minyard,” she scolds him not like a mother would, but like Dan might – like family that is not defined by blood, but by an unspoken bond. “You need more good men in your life.”
The expression on his face is sour, pinched, but the tips of his ears turn the red of the planet they grew up on together, rust and pink and familiar, and Neil can’t help the smile that tugs on his lips at the sight. “So,” Andrew turns to the tired, half-uniformed member of Fox-1, and rubs his hands together. “What’s the plan?”
Their confusion has his attention turning back to Neil and Renee, and he rolls his eyes to the ceiling when he catches their gaze in a moment of familiar childhood petulance. “Don’t make it my idea,” he all but pleads, but the corners of his mouth quirks up into a smile when he sees he has Neil’s full attention. “I have a reputation to maintain.”
“Alright,” he smiles back, and then turns to include the others – his friends. His family. Fox-1 is everything to each other, or was, or still mostly is. “Let’s save the world, or whatever.”