I'm a sucker for gushy epilogues, I'll warn you now. Back to Kamakura's point of view!

The things in italics are the thoughts from the Scanner. The things in 'italics and quotation marks' are his thoughts in response to them.

Many thanks to WestAero13 for being my beta. You da best!

THE SECOND GURNEY

Kamakura had been drifting in and out of consciousness ever since Mindbender had given him that final injection. Flashes of thought and awareness reached him through the fog. Needles of pain wracked his body.

He would pledge allegiance to the Commander. He would follow the Commander. Each day he would begin by –

'What? No, I won't!'

He was strapped down, and he could hear Jinx's voice. A heavy weight was draped over his legs, and he was moving very fast.

The Joes were the whorish sword of the hedonistic America. Pitted with rust, trampling the little guy, wallowing in hypocrisy –

'I don't believe that! You're wrong.'

It was dark, and he was lying on something hard and cold, no longer strapped down. A bright light was shining in his eyes. Behind it, he could see a huge blur of red – Lifeline – and on the other side, a patch of darkness that was darker than the night behind it. Snake Eyes.

The ninjas are traitors. Storm Shadow is to be saved to reunite with his beloved Cobra brothers, but first it is important that the murderer Snake Eyes dies. Only then can –

'No! No, no, no, no, no! I will not betray my master! I will not! You're wrong. I don't believe you! I DON'T!'

He was in a helicopter. Lifeline was still there. So was his sensei. Someone was holding his hand; he thought it was Jinx. Lifeline kept talking to him, telling him to stay awake. It was really hard though. Kamakura didn't want to. He was finally warm, and he wanted to sleep. But the voices wouldn't shut up…

Someone laid a hand on his forehead. Against his feverish, sweaty skin it felt like ice.

"Lifeline, he's burning up, you have to do something."

"Jinx?" Kamakura mumbled, trying to hear through the clamour in his head.

"I'm here, Kamakura, I'm here and so is Tommy and Snake Eyes…"

It is important that the murderer Snake Eyes dies.

"Dies," Kamakura sighed, repeating the voice – to challenge it? To acknowledge its superiority? To make it real?

'No! I – Don't – Believe you!'

"No, nobody died."

"Sensei… trouble…" Kamakura turned restlessly against his restraints, his face creasing into a fretful frown. "Don't…"

"Shhh," Jinx crooned, stroking his forehead again. "It's ok, it's all ok."

"My head hurts," Kamakura whispered. "My head… they're all talking at once... Ungh!"

"Lifeline!" Tommy called. "Hurry it up, would you?"

You will kill the Joes. You will kill the ninjas. You will cede dominance to the mighty legions of COBRA!

"NO!" Kamakura began thrashing and struggling. Jinx threw herself over his legs as Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes tried to hold down his arms and torso.

"The hell is going on here?" Beach Head yelled, storming down the length of the cargo plane towards them. "Lifeline!"

"I am working on it," Lifeline snarled, desperately filling a syringe. "Hold him still!"

Kamakura was used to silence – he hadn't trained with the How Was Your Day? Master – but the abyss he fell into after Lifeline gave him another injection was terrifying.


His eyes were open, but it was a long time before he registered that he was seeing things, and even then, the information came to him in bits and drops.

The lights were on.

The ceiling was white. He knew that ceiling well.

He was in the infirmary.

Snake Eyes was next to his bed.

*How are you?* he signed. *Pain?*

"Master," Sean mumbled. Everything that came before would be a tedious preamble to the glory ahead. He would bring light. He would restore peace and justice to the land.

*Sean, how are you?*

Not this nonsense called democracy that the Americans were so proud of. This nonsense of government by the people of a worthless country filled with nothing more than possessions and desires.

"I don't want to talk about it."

*Tell me.*

They had been spoiled now for several generations and they were ripe for the taking.

To his intense shame, Kamakura felt a single tear roll down his cheek. "If I tell you then it means I believe them. I don't want you to hate me. I'm not –" He stuttered to a halt, unable to express himself properly, unable to explain how the fact that the voices even existed meant that he was unfit to be an apprentice. A real ninja would have beaten them by now. A real ninja would have beaten them at the very beginning. He wasn't worth his sensei's time.

Snake Eyes leaned forward intensely. *That will not happen. Whatever you are feeling now is not your fault.* Kamakura looked away and Snake Eyes grabbed his chin, forcing his head back so that Kamakura had to meet his gaze. *What happened was Mindbender's fault. Nobody else's. I will never hate you or blame you for it.*

Deep inside, Kamakura felt hope stir. He took a deep, shuddering breath, and mumbled, "I keep hearing voices, and they're telling me I have to kill you. They're telling me America is evil."

Snake Eyes' body tensed with fear and worry. *Don't listen to them.*

"They won't shut up." Oh god, now he was whining like a five-year-old.

*Neither does Jinx, and you don't listen to her.*

Kamakura laughed. He knew he should be in pain, but he actually felt quite delightful with the burden lifted from his mind. "Yes, Sensei. Hey, Sensei?"

Snake Eyes tilted his head.

"Why am I tied down?"

*I'm telling Lifeline not to give you any more morphine.*


He drifted off again after that. When he resurfaced, Snake Eyes hadn't gone anywhere, but was dozing in his chair.

The morphine was wearing off and he could think more clearly. That wasn't necessarily a good thing; without anyone to distract him, he couldn't fail to realise what had escaped him before.

The voice in his head was that of his father. His biological father. The man who, according to Mindbender, had groomed him to become a Viper.

He wasn't his father. He was a better man… but was he?

Kamakura had killed. He had sabotaged. He had felt rage fill him up until he was ready to explode, and he had experienced deep despair, and he had taken both of those emotions out on others. He had willingly turned himself into a weapon, a human being whose training was aimed at the sole purpose of harming others.

Or, he had sacrificed normality to protect others.

Why did that second argument sound so weak?

He wasn't his father. Surely who your parents were didn't matter?

Except they did. Snake Eyes had accepted him as an apprentice because of who his father was. Now that very loyalty, forged in war, had almost been the source of his betrayal.

"No," Kamakura muttered. "I'm not my father."

Snake Eyes stirred and cocked his head sleepily. Kamakura looked at him and repeated, "I'm not my father. I won't be."

Snake Eyes sigh-yawned and signed, *You're a better man than either father, Sean. I knew them both, and neither could measure up to you.*

"Thanks, Sensei," Kamakura muttered, eyes sliding closed.

The voices in his head were finally quiet.