Sgt. Rogers, IT Service:
AAR online in 5 minutes, code 00275300, password 00005029
The Commander is going to be present, obligatory attendance for Alpha unit
Agent Rouge, change your name, please.
Agent Rouge 💕:
dress code, Sergeant?
Sgt. Rogers, IT Service:
Agent Rouge 💕:
Newly-qualified agent Jack Partridge nervously tucked his service shirt into his sweatpants. It was his first after-action review since joining Alpha unit, and he actually was kind of glad it was happening online. After double-checking his door and adjusting the headset, the agent finally launched the G.U.N. videotelephony software. It was developed in-house in short order, thus their IT specialists kept demanding reviews after every session, but it looked like today his review was going to be short — everything worked perfectly. While his colleagues were slowly trickling in, Jack was curiously looking through their video feeds. The Commander seemed to be in his HQ office, and once in a while he’d comment on someone’s arrival or greet some people. Many were already present, and their cameras mostly showed empty walls in the background. Something told Jack it was done deliberately. However, one woman — a purple hedgehog that he’s definitely met before, an interpreter or something? — had a pretty wallpaper with constellations printed on it, and he spent a minute or so staring at it and wondering where to buy some. Agent Rouge was one of the people whose camera showed only a mint-painted wall behind her; a few buttons on her shirt were undone which was not according to regulations. Jack hastily switched to another feed hoping no one noticed his blushing cheeks and questioned him. Next feed was... completely black. That is until E-123 Omega made his presence known by saying something, and it became obvious that his feed is a thin line of a visual equalizer on black. Some people were talking, someone was unashamedly drinking tea or coffee, someone’s microphone picked up child’s crying and was swiftly turned off... Having scrolled to the bottom Partridge realised he hasn’t seen Agent Shadow yet. But turned out one had only to think about him for Shadow to show up. The Commander immediately shifted his attention to him.
“Agent Shadow, where’s your uniform?”
The black hedgehog was indeed only wearing his gloves and golden rings. His camera appeared to be quite far away from him as it captured a rather panoramic view of what seemed to be a living room and even the edge of his desk with a piece of paper and a few pencils on it.
“With all due respect, sir, when was the last time you saw me wearing a uniform?” Shadow asked flatly.
“At our wedding, darling!” came unexpected answer in somewhat familiar mischievous male voice outside the camera’s view. A few people at the videoconference snorted or burst out laughing, but turned off their mikes fast. However, some people had this surprised look on their faces, that Jack himself probably sported. Shadow the Hedgehog, the Ultimate Lifeform, the cold and sullen guy that looks down on basically everyone, is married? Really? Meanwhile, the hedgehog in question calmly responded without batting an eye or even turning his head:
“That was a rhetorical question, dear.”
Another wave of people turning off their microphones followed. Commander Tower looked like he really wanted to roll his eyes. Finally he took a deep breath and ordered for Agent Topaz to start.
Jack was listening as attentively as he could, hoping and afraid to hear his last name at the same time. To his pride the agent mentioned him among the latest additions to the unit who did well during their first mission. The chat chimed with a few congratulatory messages. Then they started analyzing the situation Jack wasn’t present for, so he let his attention wander off again. Agent Shadow’s feed captured his eye: the agent was unmoving as a stone, and if not for his slightly turning ears one would think his video froze... Suddenly, he shifted his gaze to the camera and Jack suppressed a shiver, because he felt as if these blood-red eyes were staring right into his soul. “To Chaos with him!” he decided and went back to the speaker’s video.
“Agent Shadow, we would like to hear your report on that Chaos energy anomaly you discovered.”
The hedgehog steepled his fingers and looking at the screen and the camera alternately with half-lidded eyes he started speaking in an uncharacteristically lilting voice.
“—energy fluctuations in that area are similar to the ones found on—”
Almost hypnotised, Jack jumped when he noticed movement in the corner of the screen. A small black paw was softly patting the surface of the desk till it found a pencil and slowly dragged it to the edge. “Is this a cat?” he thought right as a tiny red spiked ball floated into view. A Chao! Jack wasn’t the only one to notice the little troublemaker as Agent Shadow slightly nudged the paw off the desk, then let his hand fall onto the spiked ball and pressed down, then took the pencil Chao wanted and dropped it on the floor — all without looking away from the screen or stopping his report. For a couple of minutes after that nothing happened.
“—it is impossible to confirm whether this phenomenon is connected to the soil composition until we have the chemical data and full-scale bioindication analysis is done. However—”
Tiny red ball showed up on camera again. This time it floated in front of the agent’s chest, who apparently resigned himself to the fate of a climbing frame and didn’t move. Free to do whatever it wanted the Chao climbed into his lap, propped both of its paws against the desk and stared hard into the screen. Little fellow looked exactly like its owner: mostly black, a few red stripes, complete with a frown and downturned mouth. Of course, Jack heard that Chao take after their owners, but he also heard that it means spending a lot of time with them. He imagined the dark agent feeding the Chao, playing with the Chao, petting the Chao, reading the Chao a book, tucking it into bed... A smile crept onto his face of its own accord, and he wasn’t the only one. Agent Rouge was covering her mouth with her hand, but he could see sparkles dancing in her eyes. Even the Commander was fighting a smile. Chao’s stern little face still stayed in view after the floor was turned over to the next speaker. Jack noticed Shadow carefully move his hand on top of Chao’s head to which it instantly responded with a heart and a happy expression. After some time though the Chao got bored and left.
“That’s that. Commander Tower, sir?”
“Just a minute, Agent Topaz. I’d like to address everyone here: while it’s still unofficial, the next few missions are probably going to happen with Freedom Fighters assistance, thus I expect you to be at your best. Agent Shadow, is it possible to talk to—”
“Yes, it is. He is still here, sir,” with that the hedgehog picked up another pencil and for the first time since the beginning of the review turned away from the camera to throw the pencil somewhere to the right. There was a shout, a sound of footsteps and the camera showed Sonic the Hedgehog himself. A checked blanket was draped over his shoulders and clenched in his fist was the pencil, which he immediately poked the other hedgehog in the side with. Finally it hit Jack: this is why the voice was familiar, Jack saw the hero on TV before. But if that was his voice, that means...
Sonic tagged on the loose end of his blanket to stylishly throw it over his left shoulder and beamed into the camera.
“Abraham! How’s life, how’re your kids and grandkids doing?”
“Staying at home as all good citizens should. Let’s get to the point. I’d like to confirm this before we send the official request. Sonic the Hedgehog, G.U.N. needs your speed,” and noticing a glance the blue hedgehog directed at Shadow he elaborated:
“Agent Shadow will be busy with something else at the time, but it is still a joint operation with Team Dark. We need both of you.”
“I’m in then!” he turned to the hedgehog next to him. “We haven’t worked together in ages!”
Only now Jack noticed that Sonic hugged the other’s shoulders almost sitting in his lap, and Shadow wasn’t bothered at all, moreover he had one of his arms around the hedgehog’s waist.
The Commander gave a cough and said:
“Well, with that out of the way... Goodbye.”
Agent Partridge, α unit:
Okay, just in case: Who knew the hedgehogs are married?
• I did
• I didn’t
• wait what
1st Lt. Anasty, Interpretation/Translation Service:
I was invited to their wedding
They’re so cute together, relationship goals 😍
Agent Partridge, α unit:
Did you really just call Agent Shadow cute??
Agent Rouge 💕:
oh, like you wouldn’t believe I have proof
Agent Shadow, Team Dark:
...You do remember I’m also in this chat, right?