By Darren McRoy, “RedFox”
There was no way out. No attack in Sonic’s vast arsenal could smash through the glass tube he was imprisoned in. Below him he could see complex machinery – the machinery that soon would reduce him to a mindless robot. This was, finally, the end.
Outside, Sonic could see the six other tubes, in a circle, each holding one of his comrades. They had fought Robotnik for how long now? For years they had been eluding his traps, destroying his machines of death, defeating him at every confrontation. Yet here he was, laughing, sneering at the seven trapped figures in front of him, with his midget lackey nephew Snively at his side. How Sonic hated them both!
Behind Robotnik was a intricate-looking control panel, but one could easily see the purpose for it. Seven black levers with red knobs protruded from the panel. It was relatively obvious that each of those levers pulled would result in a Freedom Fighter robotized.
Robotnik seemed beside himself with joy, and Snively didn’t look that displeased either. The Freedom Fighters had caused their plans for world dominance to go haywire countless times. Without them, the only defense was Knothole’s Secret Service, and, while they might hold out for a short time, it was likely that they would all soon be robotized too. Already they had lost a few members, and the rest were relatively weak. Sonic was almost glad for a millisecond. The leader of the Secret Service, Geoffrey St. John, had never quite gotten along with Sonic; even though they were both on the same side, they often ended up fighting.
Sonic knew he would never have to worry about that again.
Robotnik turned to the panel, and, savoring every second, slowly pulled the first lever. Sonic watched as, on the other side of the room, a ray of light engulfed the tube with Bunnie Rabbot inside. The procedure went quickly, as Bunnie was already half robot. When the light vanished, Bunnie’s robotization was complete. What had once been living flesh was now metallic plates, internal organs were circuits. Sonic found the idea fascinating… but why did the one with the power have to be so tremendously evil?
Robotnik was very pleased. He had captured Bunnie before, but Sonic had rescued her in the middle of the robotization process. All he had succeeded in doing was giving Bunnie immense power in her left arm. Now, finally, that job was finished.
Robotnik yanked lever number two, and light engulfed the figure lying on the flood of the next cylinder. Antoine D’Coolete had been very close to Bunnie, and seeing her robotized was too much for the somewhat cowardly coyote. He had passed out. When he awoke, he would be a robot, and would have no memories remaining.
In the third tube Rotor, a mechanically minded walrus, simply looked sad. He did not show any other emotion, did not scream or cry, only stood still while the beam of light passed over his body. The process took a good deal longer than it did for either of the first two Freedom Fighters, as Rotor was very large. Finally, the light disappeared, and a metallic walrus stood in Rotor’s place.
Rotor had always loved machines. He would have halfway enjoyed being a robot – except he no longer had any interest in machines. He now had no interest in anything except doing Robotnik’s bidding.
Tube number four held Knuckles, a confident and headstrong echidna. He didn’t look extremely confident now, however. He didn’t look scared, either. Like Rotor, he looked sad. Like he had failed. In a sense, he had. Knuckles was supposed to have been the Guardian of the Master Emerald on his home, the Floating Island – but now, all that would remain between Robotnik and that incredible article of power would be the Chaotix. Like the Secret Service, they would probably not be able to hold out for long.
Knuckles wasn’t officially a Freedom Fighter, but he was usually on their side, and occasionally worked with them. This, however, was not always the case. When he first met Sonic, on the Floating Island, Robotnik had tricked Knuckles into thinking that Sonic was attempting to steal the island’s Chaos Emeralds. There was no doubt who the evil one was now. A red robot stood in the former echidna’s tube.
Robotnik looked delighted now, as he was about to eliminate the heir to the throne of Knothole. Snively cackled evilly at his side. Princess Sally Acorn refused to show any type of emotion, but Sonic could see a defiant fire burning in her eyes. A futile defiance, Sonic knew, but Sally would never go down in despair. Robotnik’s robotized left hand rested on the lever, and Sonic knew that he was prolonging the robotization in an attempt to break Sally’s spirit.
Sonic loved Sally, and she returned the feeling. There had always been qualms about their future, however, as he was merely a commoner and she a princess. He had forever held the hope that love would find a way. Now, that hope was about to be thwarted forever.
Robotnik eventually got bored with his game and slowly pulled the lever, relishing the moment. As the blue light passed up Sally’s body, she turned and looked straight at Sonic. It gave him the chills. The gaze was frozen on her face in metal. Just one more robot squirrel for Robotnik’s armies.
To his left, Miles “Tails” Prower was going hysterical. Tails was the youngest member of the Freedom Fighters, and emotionally second to Antoine. He was screaming and crying and shouting insults at Robotnik. The ten-year old double-tailed fox suddenly stopped yelling, and turned to Sonic, pleading for salvation. There was nothing Sonic could do.
Tails had always been Sonic’s best friend, and Sonic couldn’t take it. He turned away from the panic-stricken fox, and tried his best to block out the frenzied screams of his comrade. The walls might be bulletproof, but they weren’t soundproof, and Sonic couldn’t even shut out the noise. When it stopped, he looked, and tears came to his eyes to see the robotic fox next to him.
Now Robotnik looked positively euphoric. He and Snively had always hated Sonic more than any of the other Freedom Fighters, and Robotnik looked like he would like to savor this moment forever. Sonic stared him straight in the eyes. He was going to go down rebellious; it matched his character.
Robotnik didn’t even try to break Sonic’s spirit; he knew it was useless. His hand rested on the red knob… rested… rested… pulled.
Sonic the Hedgehog woke in a cold sweat.
Sonic’s tossing and turning had woken Sally long before his screams did. He was sitting straight up in bed, breathing hard. Sally put a hand on his shoulder. “Are you all right?” she asked.
Same stupid nightmare again. No matter how many times it comes, it never ceases
to scare the hell out of me…”
Sally knew how it was. She had had nightmares too, horrible, ghastly nightmares of those days of fighting Robotnik, of having to make life-and-death decisions in the heat of battle, of having all the pressure on her shoulders. Regardless of how many times they reminded themselves that Robotnik was fifteen years dead, that they no longer had to fight for mere survival, and that their responsibility was to the kingdom of Knothole, not the entire planet of Mobius, the terrible memories of what did and could have happened still consistently showed up in their dreams.
“Dad?” It was their daughter, Sabrina. “What happened?”
Standing at the doorway of their bedroom, Sabrina was virtually a carbon-copy of Sally when she was twelve. This had originally somewhat disappointed Sonic, until it was discovered the Sabrina had Sonic’s incredible speed and spinning attacks. Not that she had ever really needed to use them. She practiced them often in what she thought was private, but there really was no keeping secrets from the King and Queen of Knothole.
Royal titles. Sally knew that Sonic had never married her because he wanted to become king. Quite on the contrary, that was the major downside in their relationship. Sonic hated every restriction that came with kingship, right down the his title of King Sonic. Some in Knothole had even wanted Sonic to use his birth name, which he absolutely loathed, and would never have put up with. Yet he still went through with everything else, because he loved Sally. If there was any more blatant sign of love, damned if Sally could see it.
Sally didn’t mind being Queen – it had been drilled into her from childhood - but Sonic had never been much cut out to make any type of important decision. Thus, Sally ran the kingdom. When a problem was brought to Sonic, he would retreat to the bedroom to “think about it”. What he did was ask Sally, and, owing to all of Sally’s years of training and generally magnanimous principles, Sonic became one of the most praised rulers in Knothole history.
“Nothing, honey,” Sally said soothingly. “Daddy just had a bad dream. Everything is okay. Go back to sleep.”
Sabrina grimaced. “He seems to have a lot of bad dreams for a king.”
Sonic looked as if he was about to say something most un-kinglike, which would be nothing new for him, but Sally cut him off with an elbow in the ribs. “Before Daddy was King, there were many bad, scary times that we all went through, and…”
“You don’t have to talk to me like I’m still five, you know.” Sabrina said with a hint of anger. “Rotor and Miles have told me everything about those times, and I bet that I almost know them better than you do. I only wanted to make sure that everything was okay in here.”
“Better than us, huh?” Sonic interjected, apparently wanting to know if this was really true. “So tell us how Robotnik was finally defeated once and for all.”
Sabrina didn’t even pause for a second. “Robotnik launched his super-powerful satellite, the Hyper Death Egg. With the power of the Master Emerald, the Egg was capable of robotizing all Mobius in one fell swoop. You, Miles, and Knuckles managed to get aboard the satellite, but had to fight through an army of SWAT-bots to get to Robotnik’s control room. But it was not you or Knuckles who got through, it was Miles. He reprogrammed all of the computers, saved both of you while escaping the ship, and managed to find the escape capsule that got you back to Mobius.”
Sonic looked stunned, probably because he didn’t remember it that well. Sally, however, had known that Sabrina could do it. She had Acorn lineage, and two great teachers. Miles had not given her a biased version of events either; Sonic and Knuckles had gotten stopped by the SWAT-bots, but Miles had managed to save all Mobius by flying over the SWAT-bots and using the computers to launch Robotnik’s death machine on a crash course with a faraway star.
“Well, honey, you seem to be doing very well in your history lessons,” Sally said, “but don’t forget, you have a math test tomorrow. I don’t want you coming back with another ‘B’. You need your sleep.”
“I was sleeping, until you woke me up.” Sabrina muttered under her breath as she left their room.
Sonic sighed, and lay back down. “That’s the third time this month that I’ve woken up screaming. I’m not being too much of a king, am I? Your father never woke up screaming like an eight-year old.”
“Says who? He was terrified of making some huge mistake. He had his share of restless nights too. I was once just like Sabrina, asking my father if he was okay. How much she reminds me of my youth…”
“Don’t go nostalgic on me, Sal.”
There was about two minutes of silence, where king and queen both attempted to fall asleep. Neither one succeeded.
Sonic didn’t know it, but under Sally’s calm exterior, she really was worried. Sonic had had an extremely stressful month, with strange occurrences popping up all over the place. The worst was a bevy of Caterkiller Badniks that had somehow managed to find their was into Knothole, and were causing terror everywhere. Sonic had deployed Antoine and Miles to stop the swarm, but before they could find them all, the Badniks had done a considerable amount of damage. Only one creature was wounded, a young ocelot named Ozzie.
Badniks hadn’t been seen in swarms since Robotnik’s downfall. It was assumed that the swarm had been hiding underground, searching for Knothole.
Sally decided to test Sonic. “Is there anything I could do for you, dear?” she said in her most suggestive voice, snuggling close to him. If he was really insecure, he would accept the invitation. If, however, he had his head on straight, he would remember that he had an early council meeting with his advisors tomorrow morning, and really couldn’t afford to miss any sleep.
“Sally, it’s killing me to say this, but I really think that I need to rest. You know, with that meeting tomorrow and all… can I put that summons on “hold”?
Sally smiled to herself. Sonic had grown so responsible.
Miles Prower loved his Tornado. He had had it for almost twenty years now, and Sonic had owned it before that. Yet it was still in perfect condition, no matter how many times Miles had crashed it doing some crazy stunt.
It was a good thing he was Knotholes’ best at plane repair, or he’d be buying a new one every month.
Miles executed a simple roll, then followed it up with a loop. Ahead of him was his favorite grassy meadow. Often he came here with Fiona. But for flying, this meadow had a special purpose.
Miles pulled the throttle back, gaining altitude. Just before he reached the field, he reversed the throttle, heading directly downwards. He watched as his speedometer began to climb… two seventy…two eighty… three hundred miles per hour!
To any observer, it would have looked like a kamikaze attempt. But they wouldn’t have known who was behind the controls.
Then, a hundred feet from the ground, Miles yanked the throttle back up. The Tornado started to level out, breezed ten feet above the grass, and started to gain altitude again.
Scared? Miles didn’t get scared. He had done that trick three hundred times, and hadn’t crashed doing it in five years. The adrenaline boost was amazing, but Miles was a natural behind the controls. If Sonic tried one of his stunts, it was ten to one that Knothole would need a new king.
The air was Miles’s home. Whether in his plane, or rotor-flying with his tails, he probably spent more of his waking hours off the ground then he did on it. Acrophobia was alien to him. He sometimes felt sorry for the others, for the most part, they were permanently grounded.
Miles thought about doubling back and repeating the trick; then remembered his true purpose out in his plane. He wasn’t tutoring any of the kids now, which meant that he was on his other job: Royal Surveyor. The job was his to, each day, fly over the vicinity of Knothole and search for any disturbances. Usually there were none, which left him plenty of time to mess around.
However, with everything that had been going on lately, Miles thought he should look slightly more closely today. Especially in the region of Robotropolis, where a number of strange things had been cropping up lately. Yeah, he would go there. Miles kept on his southwestern course, and let his mind wander slightly.
What were all his friends doing now? Sonic and Sally were cooped up in some meeting about agriculture. Antoine and Rotor would be with them. Bunnie would be home playing with her feisty teenage children, Adeline and Randall. The former had Antoine’s coyote genetics; the latter resembled Bunnie.
Fiona… what would Fiona be doing? Probably telling little Tails not to fly so high, to come back where she could see him. Of their family of three, only she could not take to the air. It was eternally frustrating to her; a single tail could not provide sufficient lift to get her off of the ground.
While they had been waiting for their child, Miles and Fiona had often wondered whether the cub would have one or two tails. Only once, purely in jest, did Miles suggest that perhaps the cub would have three tails, by some strange genetic code. When Tails was born, it turned out Miles’s quip had been fully correct.
Miles “Tails” Prower Jr. could outfly his father at the age of seven. His three tails provided so much power that he could soar for three quarters of an hour and not get tired. Unfortunately, on the ground, the nine-year old fox was pitifully slow. So, for the most part, he kept to the air whenever he had to go someplace.
Young Miles inherited his father’s childhood nickname. To avoid confusion, everyone tried to remember to call the older Prower Miles, and his son Tails. It wasn’t easy, as Miles had done all of his greatest deeds under his original epithet. Whenever young Miles wasn’t around, Sonic always called the older fox by the pet name of his youth.
The tall spires of Robotropilis below him jerked Miles back to the present. The city was no long ruled under the reign of terror imposed by Robotnik’s robots, but the citizens still chose to keep the name he had so long forced upon them. Miles spun off to the right, thinking that he would check the perimeter first, and work his way in.
However, Miles was soon bored. There were no Badniks, no strange occurrences, not even anyone being mugged. Everything seemed to be perfectly normal, so he turned around the plane and started to fly home.
Suddenly, Miles stopped. On his right, he saw something he had never saw before. It was almost invisible… but it was there: a small pass in one of the mountains surrounding the city.
Probably nothing of importance, Miles thought, but he still had an hour and a half before he had to be back at Knothole. He pushed the throttle forwards and started to turn the Tornado on its side, as to fit through the passage. He was probably the only pilot on Mobius who could execute this; the sides of the mountain were six inches from his wings.
Miles blew out into the open and did a complete double take.
Crap, Miles thought, there must be five hundred. Five hundred Crabmeat, Coconuts, and Caterkillers. Five hundred Grounder, Spikers, Slicers, and countless other types of helpless animals turned into death machines. And that wasn’t counting the hundred or so SWAT-bots and Combots that held no trapped animal, but were still as deadly as most any Badnik.
Miles pulled out his binoculars and scanned the ground. What he saw made his heart stop. He threw the binoculars down and raced for the exit.
At the same time, an intercom rang out: “SHOOT IT DOWN!
The voice! It belonged to that same figure on the ground. Even with the metallic twinge, there was no mistaking the high pitch that the Freedom Fighters had heard so many times.
Miles shot out the entrance as fast as he could, clipping one of his wings accidentally. Chancing a look behind him, he saw eight Balkiry soar out after him: flying death machines with one red plane as a target.
So they wanted a chase? Miles could give them a chase.
Miles hit the throttle and started speeding back towards Knothole, dodging blasts of energy coming from the Balkiry behind him. He dove and looped with a single purpose: get back to Knothole alive.
Suddenly, his right wing was gone.
Simply gone. He saw it falling to earth, and at the same time, he felt the plane go into a whirling dive. Miles struggled to control the Tornado, but there wasn’t a chance. Miles struggled to find the ejection button… where was it? He hadn’t used it in forever, and the ground was rushing up at him…
Pressing the button a second before his plane hit the ground, the blast threw Miles back up into the air, where he had already begun to whirl his tails. He was bruised, beaten, and bleeding from the head. However, the Balkiry had flown away, satisfied that they had destroyed their target – the plane. Miles thanked Robotnik for having made his Badniks so stupid.
Twice Miles stopped to rest, but he didn’t stay for long. Any second, another fleet of Badniks could come after him after their master discovered that the target was not one hundred percent destroyed. Whirling at top speed, Miles flew on towards Knothole.
From above the lush forest canopy, it would have been impossible to find Knothole for anyone who didn’t know their way precisely. Miles, fortunately, did. He had lived here since he was two, when his parents had disappeared. Landing and using the secret tree-stump entrance, Miles descended into Knothole and raced for the castle.
Knothole Castle was diminutive, as the village was not large. It was still sufficient to the needs of the royal family, guard, and advisors. The castle lacked moat, drawbridge, or any other means of defense; Knothole had never been attacked, because it had almost never been found.
Miles raced into the castle now, on his feet. Antoine tried to ask him what he was doing, but the orange blur was out of sight before he could get out the first word. Pulling to a screeching, panting halt, Miles opened the door.
All eyes turned towards him. It was terrible misconduct to interrupt a royal meeting without huge news. Miles had some.
“My God, Tails… what happened?” The King, of course – everyone else had gotten used to his real name.
“Badniks… near Robotropolis… hundreds…” It was getting hard to think.
There was a long silence, interrupted by Sonic.
“Badniks?! But… but how?”
“The question is not how,” Sally said, looking around at the pale advisors, not one of whom was under forty-five years of age, “the question is… who?”
Miles managed to get it out. “Snively…”
Then everything went black.
Hope leapt in Snively’s circuits as he watched his video monitor from inside the dugout. The red plane spiraled towards the ground, crashing in a huge explosion. Could he finally be rid of that pesky vulpine once and for all?
No, not yet. Flying away from the wreckage was a little orange dot. Snively zeroed in on the wounded fox. He wanted to see the two-tailed pest’s elimination from the best vantage point possible.
Yet… what was wrong? The Balkiry weren’t shooting anymore. In fact, they were flying back, and the fox was going free! What had happened?
“Damn!” Snively’s monitor had just reached maximum range.
It didn’t take long for Snively to figure it out. He had dispatched the Balkiry to shoot down the plane, and they had done so. The fox was indifferent to them. Snively’s uncle would have had the Balkiry dismantled for that, but Snively was wiser than him. The Badniks were only following instructions, and Snively needed every robot he had on hand.
Snively had always hated the Freedom Fighters, but sometimes he had hated his uncle more. So, occasionally he had helped the animals, eventually even rescuing their village in favor of eliminating his uncle. It had not worked, however, as a more powerful version from another cosmic universe, RoboRobotnik, had transferred dimensions and, calling himself Dr. Eggman, resumed Robotnik’s original vendetta against his enemies, especially Sonic the Hedgehog.
Eggman’s main power had been a robotization Midas touch. In an attempt to trick the Freedom Fighters, Snively had allowed himself to be robotized. The trick failed, but Snively was left with a robot body and some three digit multiple of the physical power that he had previously possessed.
Now that no Robotnik remained in this dimension, the robotic Snively had taken over the job of trying to control Mobius. However, though quite intelligent, he knew that he could never match his uncle’s fantastic mechanical ability. Luckily, Robotnik had left many of his old machines and machine plans in secret locations. Sonic and the others had destroyed most of them, but a few remained intact, and using these Snively had been able to create a crude robotizer of his own.
He had recreated Robotnik’s original Badniks for lack of imagination to create his own. However, his robotizer was very slow, and it had taken all of a decade to create the army of six hundred and seventy eight various Badniks that were swarming through his secret hideout today.
The fact that Miles had discovered his hideout was of no significance. Badniks were already at work sealing the entrance he had discovered, and nearly a dozen remained, the farthest being fifteen kilometers from the first one. All were far better concealed than the primary.
He thought about sending a search team to follow the fox, and perhaps discover Knothole, but he knew it was too late. He could not launch his mass attack until two things happened, and the first was that he had to find Knothole. Wherever the place was, it was far out of his video range.
Snively knew that the Freedom Fighters were far from invincible, but somehow Robotnik had never quite been able to capitalize on their flaws. That situation had changed now. There was one great way to discover Knothole’s location, and it lay in the greatest flaw a superhero can have – those who are close to him.
Thus Snively had hit on his plan. It was wild and crazy, but if everything went right, it would work. He had spend six months developing a single bot that, when he finished, didn’t look like a bot at all. The bot held no animal; it was fully computerized. At the same time, diggers in deep mines who had been working for five years finally unearthed their treasure – a Chaos Emerald.
The Emerald would give the robot the intelligence it would require to complete its assignment. Robots were usually perfectly idiotic unless equipped with some type of artificial intelligence. This particular mission would require that the robot to a perfect impersonation, something a normal Badnik would not even be able to comprehend.
The second part of the plan was that a power source was needed. Snively’s current Badniks were far weaker than the originals, and there was more than one case of the animal inside totally throwing off the mind control and revolting. When that Badnik was smashed, the animal could slip out and go free. Luckily, all rebels so far had been stopped before they could bring news of Snively’s hideout to the outside world.
The power source that Snively had in mind would make every one of his Badniks just as powerful as Sonic himself. When the pesky vulpine had interrupted, Snively had just been assembling forces for his first attack to obtain the source. It was a kamikaze mission at best, as only twenty Badniks were being sent. The guardians should shut them down in no time. The freed animals would not be able to tell anyone anything that Miles didn’t already know. However, there was a good chance that the attack would discover the location of the massive power that Snively required.
“Commence Operation Master Search,” Snively said into his intercom. He could hear the effect of his words on the chosen Badniks. A buzz of activity could be heard outside his private hollow.
The power source was the Master Emerald on the Floating Island.
The robot looked exactly like Princess Sabrina Acorn.
The sun was shining, the sky was clear, and Knuckles the Echidna had shade and a bunch of grapes in one hand. It really didn’t get much better than this.
Espio the Chameleon and Mighty the Armadillo were situated under neighboring trees, sharing a joke that Knuckles couldn’t quite hear. Ray, a flying squirrel, was somewhere else on the island, and Charmy Bee flew overhead, squinting at something far in the distance. Knuckles reasoned it was a bird.
On the Floating Island nowadays, life was pretty carefree. There was a food surplus, plenty of water supplies, and no pesky jerks trying to get their hands on the Master Emerald. This had been the case for ten years now, ever since the Dark Legion was finally defeated, and Knuckles hoped it stayed that way.
He had once been the prime guardian of the Chaos Emeralds, but they got joggled around from person to person, hero to evil dictator, and sometimes back to Knuckles himself so much that nobody really had any clue where they were now. Messengers brought news from the mainland, however, so the Chaotix would soon discover any misuse of the sacred objects.
Now all that Knuckles, Espio, Mighty, Charmy, and Ray had to worry about was keeping the Master Emerald safe, and at the moment, it was perfectly so, hidden in a deep underground chamber known only to the five of them.
Of all the Chaotix, only Mighty had had any luck with the female gender, though he and Jackie, a jaguar from the other side of the Island, had no children yet. Charmy’s only relationship had ended in a bad split-up. Ray and Espio never even got off the ground, and Knuckles lost any interest in love when Julie-Su, an echidna he had very strong feelings for, disappeared without a trace during a battle.
Julie-Su was only presumed dead; Vector was confirmed so. Knuckles didn’t like to think about what had happened to his old friend; it was too painful. Vector had sacrificed himself to save the rest of the Chaotix in the heat of the final, decisive battle against the Dark Legion. They found his body seven days later, and a minute of silence was observed all over the island for the crocodile hero.
Charmy broke Knuckles’s thoughts. “Hey, Knux, come look at this.”
Tossing the grape stems aside, Knuckles climbed the tree he was sitting under, and emerged to find Charmy pointing out over the edge of the Island, which they were only a hundred yards from. “What do those look like to you?”
Knuckles squinted into the distance. All he could see were some specks that didn’t look like much at all. “You’re the eyesight in this group, Charmy.”
“Eyesight? You mean eyesore?” asked Espio from below, earning a laugh from Mighty.
Charmy peered at the dots, which were now visibly coming closer. “They would almost appear to be – but no, that’s impossible.”
“Spit it out, buzzbrain.” Even after fifteen years, Espio still didn’t get along with Charmy.
“Well… I was going to say… they almost look like Badniks. But that’s totally impossible.”
Mighty laughed again. “That’s for sure. Badniks haven’t been seen here, or on the mainland, for a decade and a half.”
“Not true,” said Ray, gliding in. “I’ve just been to see the mainland monthly messenger albatross. She said that there was a small attack on Knothole by a group of Badniks, but none escaped to tell its location. No other Badniks have been spotted, however.”
“Oh yes they have,” said Charmy, flying down. “Guys, I seriously hope that you’ve been staying in shape.”
Now Knuckles could see them. Twenty BuzzBombers, in attack formation. He jumped down from the tree and exclaimed “Twenty? It’s an insult? I could have taken twenty of those things by myself when I was fifteen! Are they crazy?”
“To attack us? They gotta be.” Espio was getting geared up. Knuckles, too. It had been a long time since he had had an opportunity to put his fists to a robot or twenty.
The first BuzzBomber dove at Knuckles, shooting blasts of energy. He rolled out, and then leapt at the BuzzBomber, missing by ten feet. At the same time, an energy blast from another Badnik caught him flush in the stomach, knocking him backwards into the dust.
Huh, Knuckles thought, maybe I am out of shape. Another BuzzBomber was diving for him. This time his spinning jump hit home, busting the metal shell. A small blue bird flew away. This always made Knuckles feel good.
Two other metal shells lay on the ground, courtesy of Espio and Ray. Suddenly, the BuzzBombers turned and fled to the inner regions of the island. This strange action made all the Chaotix stop still for a second.
Then Mighty suddenly gasped, and raced after the BuzzBombers, leaving Knuckles, Charmy, Espio, and Ray even more confused. Espio, with his usual grace, cried “Hey! Mighty! What the hell are you doing?”
Mighty turned around, and his normal friendliness had vanished. “Don’t you see? Don’t you get it? After guarding it for almost two decades?”
It hit the remaining Chaotix hard. This wasn’t an attack team; it was search team. And the object in question was undoubtedly the Master Emerald.
For the next two hours, Knuckles, Mighty, Charmy, Espio, and Ray raced all over the island, searching for the BuzzBombers. Innocent civilians were terrified; most had never seen a Badnik before. How Knuckles wished it could have stayed that way!
Finally, they held a rendezvous at their original spot. Mighty claimed to have taken out four Badniks total, and Espio, to his great annoyance, confessed that he had only destroyed three. (“Two got away because I had to help the residents.”) Charmy and Ray scored a pair apiece, and Knuckles had won their unproclaimed contest with a grand total of eight.
It didn’t take a genius, which Espio most certainly was not, to notice that the math didn’t quite work out. Espio was, however, the one who voiced it. “Hey, there’s still one left!”
They were about to set off again, when Charmy cried out. A BuzzBomber was making top speed for the edge of the island, which could only mean one thing. It had discovered the location of the Emerald, and was about to deliver the message!
Charmy went speeding after it. Five minutes later he returned, looking grim. “I got it,” he proclaimed, “in midair, but… but this one didn’t have a bird. It had a rabbit… and I couldn’t get there in time…”
Even Espio was silent.
The Chaotix held a meeting, and it was determined that Knuckles would go down to the mainland and find Knothole. It was clear that if Badniks were returning, something needed to be done. Luckily, the Floating Island would pass over Knothole in two weeks, and Knuckles could glide down.
Knuckles wasn’t too happy. He would enjoy seeing the Knothole Freedom Fighters again, and he was quite up to the long glide. The problem wasn’t even that he was leaving his home island, that he was facing up to another tough adventure, or that he was out of shape.
It was just so damn annoying to have to get back up.
Whoever designed the Tornado must not have been thinking plural.
This was Antoine’s thought as he gripped the red wing of the biplane. The plane had once had a passenger seat, but Miles had taken it off. He complained that it reduced his air speed or put too much weight on the back of the plane, or some other aeronautic bull like that.
It was for this reason that Antoine would spend the duration of this trip perched perilously atop the plane wing, constantly running forward to keep his balance. Miles would have to fly super-slow, as Antoine was nowhere near as fast as Sonic, who was the expert at wing-walking.
During takeoff, however, Miles would need to get speed. So one certain coyote with a slight French accent was going to have to hold on for dear live as the wind rushed in his face at eighty miles an hour during takeoff. Antoine had suggested strapping himself in, but then he would not have been able to get up after takeoff.
Why the hell was he doing this?
He knew the answer, of course. It had been a fortnight since Miles had returned with his shocking news about Snively’s hideout. However, he was the only one who knew where it was, and he had not been in a good shape to go looking. After he had recovered, and somehow turned the pieces of scrap metal that some townsfolk retrieved for him back into his beloved Tornado, Sonic suggested that a member of the Royal Guard accompany him on his mission to scope out the base. Antoine, in a fit of foolish bravery, volunteered immediately.
He looked around, and for a second thought he saw Princess Sabrina in the bushes. What was she doing out here at this time? She should be in lessons! Antoine thought about saying something, but at that moment Miles came flying down.
Settling into his cockpit, Miles asked, “Ready, ‘Twan?”
Antoine gave a grim nod.
The rush! The total rush of air in his face! And the strain on his fingertips! Antoine just barely managed to keep his hold to the wing. He shut his eyes; debris was blowing into his face, stinging spots unprotected by fur. It was wise of him; a second later a twig hit him in his closed eye. Had it been open…
Antoine felt the plane lifting off of the ground. This, however, did nothing for his situation. He didn’t know how much longer he could hold on, but he knew Miles couldn’t hear him until they were flying normally.
His sword was still secure at his side; only a specially applied force could unsheathe it. At the moment, he would have traded anything, even his sword, for an end to this torment.
Then, suddenly, Antoine felt the pressure ease. He stood up on the wing, and began to run forward, pacing himself.
“Was it rough?” Miles asked.
“I think I’ll survive.” Antoine said, trying his hardest not to revert to his old accent, which most of the other Freedom Fighters found hilarious. It also took a good deal of his effort not to be angry at Miles, who at most had gone through the tortuous experience of having his ears pop. “But only barely.”
Miles laughed. “Well, at this speed, we’re in for a nice long ride. So kick back, relax, and keep on running.”
Easy for him to say! Antoine tried his hardest not to lose his breath too soon. He knew that if he had to take a break, he could lie down on the wing and hold on, but Miles wasn’t going to lose any time. If Antoine was going to lie down, Miles was going to speed up, and Antoine really didn’t care to go through that wind-in-the-face thing again.
So, he kept moving, and chatted with Miles about various things, some jocular, some more serious. An hour and a half into the flight, they were almost halfway to Robotopolis, and Antoine really was tired. He convinced Miles to let him lie down on the wing for five minutes at the same speed.
As soon as he was back on his feet, he was struck by sudden inspiration. Dolt! Why did he ever need to get up? He certainly couldn’t hold on for the whole ride, but if he had strapped himself in at the beginning, then he could have just stayed that way for the entire trip. How he wished he could have thought of that back at Knothole!
Then Antoine began to think of the negative aspects of his belated brilliance. Suppose he got an itch…
Miles shouted, too late. Antoine felt the collision, and then himself falling. Something had knocked him off of the wing! The ground was a good five hundred feet away… he was going to die… a little splatter of blood on the ground far below. He screamed as the earth rushed up at him.
Antoine had the wind knocked out of him as he landed stomach-first on the plane wing. Miles had managed to execute a perfect loop and catch him in midair. Antoine mentally thanked him; at the moment he couldn’t breathe. How did Sonic always land feet-first?
To an outside observer, the situation must have looked very comical. Miles was fighting to control the careening plane, which had far more weight on one side than another. Antoine was gasping and babbling in French as he held his sword at the throat of the echidna who had knocked him off the wing. The echidna himself was desperately trying to make his identity known.
“Hello? Antoine? Knuckles here. K–N–U–C–K–L–E–S. You know, red spiky guy wicked cool… hello? I would really appreciate it if you would take your sword away from my neck. That sort of thing can get to be disturbing after a while.”
“Toi? Oh – je suisdesole.”
“Yeah, whatever. Just put that thing away.”
Antoine slowly sheathed his sword, his eyes never leaving Knuckles.
Miles had to break the tension. “Um – hey Knux. We haven’t seen you in almost thirteen years – since you came down for Sonic and Sally’s wedding. We heard about the Dark Legion’s defeat, though, and guessed you probably played a big part. What are you doing off of the Floating Island?
This monologue seemed to snap the other two animals out of their stressful encounter. Knuckles needed the question repeated, and then he told the entire story of what had happened on his home island.
A long silence followed his tale. Antoine realized that that was because Sonic wasn’t around to say make some angry comment, and Miles had long grown out of his childish fashion of stating the obvious. So Antoine decided to be the one to say the first thing. “The Badniks – zey’re no renegade band. Snively has returned – he’s got twenty-five score of them hidden in ze mountains. Miles found an entrance – that’s why we’re here, we’re on a search mission.”
Knuckles paused, presumably to multiply twenty by twenty-five in his head. When he finished, he gave a low whistle. “Five hundred of those things. Five hundred. That is not good. What the hell are –”
Miles interrupted him. “I should have known. How stupid!”
The other two looked at him quizzically. He had his binoculars out, and was looking at a mountain off to the left.
“The entrance I found – it’s blocked. We haven’t exactly been stationary, you know. We’re pretty close to Robotropolis. I can see ahead where I found the opening, but there’s boulders in front now, and probably three or four cement or steel plugs behind that. Even if we cleared those boulders, we couldn’t get in.”
Knuckles asked if Miles could gain altitude. When questioned, “I’m gonna glide down and look for any alternate access from above. Miles might do the same from longer range – you have those binoculars, right? – and Antoine –”
However Knuckles was not to finish his plan. They had been cruising right over where Miles said the hideout was, and a large missile somewhat disrupted their conversation, shooting abruptly out of the mountain straight at the plane. Miles jerked the plane left, and avoided it with ease, however Antoine, not ready, tumbled off the wing.
It was only a twenty foot drop until he hit the steep mountainside, and for the second time in less than a half hour had the wind knocked out of him. He rolled down the steep slope, finally crashing on top of a boulder. He didn’t know what was worse, the excruciating pain or the fact that he couldn’t breathe.
A minute later, he looked up. The plane was nowhere in sight, but he could hear the echo on the other side of the mountain. They were going to leave him there? Furious, Antoine smashed his fist against the rock – and surprisingly, heard a hollow echo. He lightly pushed on the large stone – and felt it give way.
Knuckles unexpectedly appeared beside him. “I took out the automated defense system,” he said matter-of-factly, “or at least the one that shot at us. Are you okay?”
“Somewhat less zan “okay”, Antoine grunted, standing up, “but I think – I think I may have found another entrance.”
Miles zoomed beneath them. Knuckles grabbed Antoine and glided over the Tornado, then dropped him. And for the third time in an hour, Antoine found himself gasping for breath.
Two hours later, all three animals were back in Knothole. Sonic wanted to hear a full report from Knuckles, but Antoine and Miles were getting restless. Neither had seen their mates all day. Thankfully, Sally caught on and dismissed them before they would have to listen to Knuckles’s story a second time.
While Miles flew off towards his house, Antoine only had a hundred yard walk to their family’s cottage, right outside the castle. He opened the door, but before he could say a thing, he was hit in the chest hard by a brown furball. Antoine crashed backwards and fell in the doorway. Not a good day for the old diaphragm, he thought.
Sharply, Bunnie said “Adeline!”
The little coyote pup looked at her mother sheepishly. Nobody could ever have guessed that these two were mother and daughter; a more common guess would have been young predator and adult prey. Adeline whipped off a quick apology and darted away. She had the energy level of one of Rotor’s machines, and she never seemed to tire.
Bunnie reached down with her robotic arm to help Antoine up. The rest of her lower body had been fully derobotized, but she kept the arm, as it was useful and in no way inhibiting to their marriage. He grasped the cold metal and was instantly on his feet. Bunnie had extreme strength in that arm.
Of course, Bunnie insisted that he tell her the entire story, and he was more than happy to oblige – as long as he could ice every joint in his body while he was telling it. It had been a rather painful experience; unfortunately, it looked like this was only the beginning.
The plan was perfect.
0417F knew this, of course, because it was playing the highest role. There would be no problems, no unexpected setbacks, because it was the smartest robot ever made. With the power of a full Chaos Emerald working primarily on its mental system, and a built-in robotizer in its right arm, 0417F was sharp enough to know exactly how the mission was supposed to go.
The robotizer was imperfect, taking almost five minutes to complete its job, but effective. The problem was that it meant its target had to remain still while going through the process.
The master was upset about the BuzzBombers’ failure on the Floating Island. Fools. Those robots were imperfect; they fed off of the life energy of living animals imprisoned inside them. They were not true robots, only the pawns of a vast military. The master was no pure robot either, having been robotized from living form, but 0417F kept its opinions on that to itself. It was pure, and that was enough.
The robot had three missions, and they were simple ones. The first was the hardest – it had to locate Knothole, something that the master and his uncle had been trying to do since they began their vendetta with the animals of the town. That portion of the assignment could take upside of a week, as it only knew the position within a thirty-mile radius. Fortunately, 0417F was a patient robot, and knew no boredom. The fulfillment of its mission was more important than anything else.
Anyone walking along the road at that time would have wondered what Princess Sabrina Acorn was doing out on her own in the middle of the night. 0417F was designed to be a perfect copy, with joints that didn’t move jerkily and a shell that felt like flesh to the touch, unless it turned that setting off. Then it would become a war machine, with a bulletproof covering almost capable of resisting a spin attack. The master had intended to add a final coating that would increase 0417F’s defenses even more, but the need was ever-present. With the discovery of their hideout, it was only a matter of time before those stupid living creatures who called themselves “Freedom Fighters” managed to do something to the base.
Turning on its super speed, which was fine-tuned to mach Sabrina’s own, 0417F raced towards the forest. Arriving about two hours later, it immediately began to methodically search for the hidden town.
Fortune was with the robot. A day into its search, 0417F heard the buzzing of a plane engine not a hundred yards to its left. Sprinting over, it was just in time to see the fox and coyote take off towards Robotropolis. Hopefully, Snively was watching and would be able to finish them.
0417F raced into the small clearing. There was nothing there except for plane tire marks. This was obviously the Freedom Fighter runway, but where could the village be? The robot was confused, but far from discouraged; it retreated into the woods to think for a moment.
Suddenly the stump directly in front of the robot opened like a hatch on a hinge. A furry head poked out and looked around, and shouted, “Miles? Antoine? Are you still there? I have something to ask –”
The sentence was never completed. 0417F had slammed one very hard robotic arm into the creature’s skull, and it collapsed. Quickly, 0417F grabbed the figure and flipped it over. It was Princess Sabrina. Nothing could have been better. Knothole was found, and the princess was out for the count. Mission parts one and two completed.
The robot put one hand on her head, and concentrated fiercely. It absorbed all of the girl’s thoughts and memories. It now knew what she liked, how much she knew, and her normal daily habits.
0417F could have just robotized the girl there, but that would have been a waste. She would make an excellent hostage later on. The master would be extremely pleased.
After trussing and gagging the unconscious Sabrina, the robot opened up a small container of powder. This would keep the girl unconscious until tomorrow morning. 0417F carried the unconscious figure back into the bushes, so that the fox and coyote wouldn’t see her when they returned.
The hatch was still open, and the robot stepped in. It slid for a short ways, then dropped out into Knothole Village.
The robot marveled at the town’s phenomenon. Underground! Why had they never thought of that before? There were even small skylights to illuminate the town, but 0417F guessed that these were just as well hidden as the entrance. No wonder Knothole had never been found!
It was still early morning, but the king was probably already awake. Too bad. That just meant that 0417F would have to play the part of a twelve-year old princess for a day, before she could complete the third part of her mission – robotize the King. With her thoughts firmly implanted in the robot’s head, this would be a cinch.
It was. In fact, Sabrina didn’t even have lessons that day, so there was no trouble with knowing slightly more than the princess. It was unlikely that she could calculate the number of molecules in a person’s body with a half a glance. Heck, she probably couldn’t even figure out sines and cosines without her little computer, Nicole, at her side. Nicole had been passed down to her from Sally, and could easily detect that 0417F was a fake. But that was no problem at all; as soon as 0417F reached Sabrina’s room, she shut the portable workstation off.
0417F then simply had to play with the little fox brat, Tails, all day. His father had been the cause of Robotnik’s final defeat, and the master held a measure of gratitude for that. It mattered little that 0417F acted perfectly like Sabrina all day anyhow; Tails had as little chance of guessing his playmate’s true identity than him outrunning the king in a foot race.
However, 0417F marveled at the nine-year old fox’s aerial abilities. His three tails seemed to keep him in the air endlessly; it could be an hour before he had to rest. He had serious potential as a dangerous threat. If it got the time, 0417F would robotize him as well.
That night, long after midnight, 0417F crept silently towards the royal bedroom. The door was closed, but the robot could easily open it silently. 0417F stepped into the room inaudibly, began to walk over to the bedside…
Suddenly there was a roar, and a dark figure leapt at the robot, pinning it down and growling with menace. 0417F had erred! It had forgotten entirely about that damned robot dog, Muttski, that the king had had since childhood. The mutt would have been long dead by now, but it had been robotized imperfectly, and kept its free will.
“Off, Muttski! Off! Bad dog!”
The king was up and trying to pull the dog off of 0417F, who in turn was doing its best to look and sound terrified. “What’s going on, Daddy? What happened? I was just coming in to see you – I got scared. He’s never been like this before!”
It knew why, of course. Robots knew each other. It was part of the programming. Muttski had acted to protect his master, like any good robot should. 0417F couldn’t condemn the robot for what he did, but mentally it was furious. The damned mutt had screwed up its plans in a huge way.
“We should have had him derobotized a long time ago,” the Queen was saying, “but he seemed so happy as a robot… I mean, he could do things he never could have done before. Except swim. I wonder if the mind control is taking over again. It’s quite possible, with all that’s been happening.”
0417F had recovered. It walked back to Sabrina’s room, dejected. Now she would have to play the part for another full day. Not that it really minded, but it would have to go back topsides and use the rest of its powder to keep the princess asleep. Damn that dog!
The Minister of War was an old stag, and as he stood up to make his presentation, Rotor shifted in his seat and took out a small notepad. He wanted to catch all of this, to be positive that his plan would indeed work out better.
A village meeting was being held, and it seemed that all Knothole had turned out – at least the adults. Through the small skylights, the sun was just beginning to come up, and all of the children were most likely still asleep. Rotor felt half-asleep himself; but the King had ordered that the meeting should happen at this time as not to disturb the normal daily schedule.
the Minister would be quick; it was likely that Rotor’s plan was far superior
“The plan involves a large attack through the single vulnerable point that we have discovered,” said the stag, “and the chance of success is high. We would be deploying our small militia, who, as you know, is extremely well trained in combat.”
Rotor knew. He was a member of that militia, as well as Miles, Antoine, and numerous other friends of his. Sonic would have loved to race directly into the fortress and start bursting Badniks, but he was to be denied. It simply was not allowed for the King to participate in an operation like this.
“The militia would subdue the robots,” continued the Minister, “free their hostages, and do away with the leader. This plan would be efficient, humane, and could be carried out by the end of today. The quicker that we are through this danger, the better.”
Rotor raised his hand.
be the potential for loss of life?” he asked.
The Minister flinched, but was required to answer truthfully.
“The possibility, naturally, is ever-present. Our small combat team with be fighting forces far larger than their own. However, that is one risk that will have to be taken in any situation. I suppose you have a plan that will eliminate that chance entirely?
Standing, Rotor smiled and took the podium. He had not yet been called, but this would be a powerful shot. He had left his note cards back at his seat; he would not be needing them. The plan was clear in his mind. The stag looked shocked at this breach of custom, but retreated to his place in the audience.
“You say that your plan could be achieved within the day? Well, I tell you that mine could be completed within the next two hours. It calls for the placement of a derobotization torpedo strategically placed at the single entrance that we have discovered. It will derobotize everything inside the fortification. The torpedo is already prepared, and I have asked the Surveyor to place it, if this plan is approved.”
The Minister of War looked very surprised, but decided to challenge Rotor just as Rotor had challenged him.
“There must be some, err, drawback to this plan. It seems too good to be true. All the robots and the leader, defeated, just like that?”
“There is a drawback. We have discovered that Snively – I will not euphemize by calling him ‘the leader’ – is using a different, cruder type of robotization than Robotnik ever utilized. Such methods foil all of our current derobotization techniques, except for one. However, this one requires such a rare material that over the last thirty years, since the discovery of the substance, we have only obtained just enough to carry out this plan. Besides for this, there is no setback.”
After the meeting, the King and all of his advisors consulted. It didn’t take them long to approve Rotor’s plan. The essential substance had no other use, so the loss would not be a large blow. As long as nobody in Knothole fell victim to robotization, there would be no consequences. He immediately deployed Miles to go place the weapon. It would be detonated from Knothole after he returned by remote. Then all would celebrate, the children would probably have the day off from school, and normal life would go on. It almost seemed too easy.
Walking back to his hut, Rotor caught a glimpse of Sabrina. That was strange. Sabrina was the deepest sleeper in the world; it would be impossible for her to get up this early. But, watching her movements, Rotor thought that it looked like she was trying not to be seen. She was headed for the topsides exit. What was she doing? She knew she wasn’t allowed to venture outside of Knothole; that explained her stealthy behavior. But what could she possibly want up there?
As well as a fully-grown walrus could, Rotor followed her. However, there was no chance of him being able to see what she wanted without her noticing. He needed somebody else, someone who was stealthy and sly. Sly as a fox…
But that couldn’t happen; Miles was out placing the torpedo. Rotor thought about Antoine, but the clumsy coyote would hardly be able to do the job better than Rotor. He couldn’t go to the King for something as trivial as this, even if it was his own daughter. So who?
Not Miles, perhaps, but might his mate be even more suited for this job?
Fiona first met Miles about three months after Robotnik’s defeat, when he was thirteen. She had been sixteen at the time, but still took a liking to him. However, when her friend Nic the Weasel found out that Fiona was spending time with Miles, she tried to kill him in a fit of jealousy. Horrified, Fiona left Nic forever.
Tails, as he was then called, had been strangely shy to her, and the truth eventually leaked out: he had once fallen in love with a robot duplicate of herself on an island far out to sea. The robot had been working for Robotnik, however, and almost led Tails to his death. This enthralling story did nothing to discourage Fiona’s feelings towards him; after that they were closer than ever.
Before Fiona met Miles, she had been a complete bitch, and she knew it. She still held a small old grudge against Sonic for putting her through a terrible ordeal when fighting Robotnik; but for the sake of the close friendship between him and her mate, she said nothing about it. Miles’s gentle nature had eventually placated her attitude for the most part, however, and today she was a vixen in the literal sense alone.
She didn’t know why she was up this early, but Miles was away at the meeting and he had mentioned a possibility for duty. He had assured her that he would be safe, but she still felt a twang of concern. Knothole had not been in a state of war for fifteen years. She just hoped that everything would be okay.
Tails wouldn’t wake up for another hour, most likely, and Fiona had already eaten breakfast. The house was clean, and her kit’s breakfast couldn’t be cooked yet. She was just pondering what to do when the problem was solved for her.
Opening the door, Fiona was surprised to see Rotor. His meeting was not supposed to have ended this early.
“Rotor! Come on in. Would you care for breakfast or something? How was the meeting? Do you know where Miles went to? He was supposed to come back right after the convention.”
A quick smile flashed across Rotor’s face. “I’ll answer your questions in order. One, no thanks, I’ve already eaten. Two, the advisors accepted my plan, which brings us to three – he’s out enforcing that plan.”
Fiona jumped in surprise. “Enforcing? Is he in danger? Why didn’t he come tell me? Where is he? What is he doing?”
Rotor almost laughed. “You sure do ask a lot of questions. He’s in very low danger, Fiona, no more danger than he is ever in on his daily rounds, except that he’ll be flying close to the fortress. I’d love to inform you of the entire plan, but I didn’t come to chat. You appear to be idle. Would you mind doing something for me?”
Anything that would relieve the tension and boredom, Fiona thought. “Sure.”
Two minutes later she was following Sabrina, and it appeared that the princess didn’t have a clue that Fiona was there. Sabrina seemed deep in thought as she climbed the steep entrance slope. Fiona had to be exceedingly silent at this point; there were no trees for her to take cover behind. Sabrina came up into the open sunlight; behind her, Fiona did the same.
Now for some reason Sabrina seemed nervous. She looked left and right, and tried to listen for any noises. Fiona, in the brush less than fives feet from her, kept perfectly still. The brush was dark red, with smaller black bushes growing from it, so even at a close glance, it would be hard to spot the fox hiding in the bushes. She knew something was very strange; she just had to wait it out.
Then, when satisfied that she was alone, Sabrina walked out through some bushes at the other end of the small clearing. Fiona followed her, silently. She blessed her almost feline ability to do this; even Miles might have had trouble here with two large tails to get caught in the brush. Knothole’s population mainly consisted of canines and rodents; though a small family of ocelots did live somewhere amongst them, and there was an old crabby cat somewhere who rarely came out of his house. It was possible that Fiona was the best in the whole village for this task. Well, Rotor had made a good choice then.
What she saw next made her rub her eyes and look again. She was certainly not seeing double. Sabrina was lying on the ground, bound and gagged – and Sabrina was standing in front of her, opening a small packet of powder. Which one was real? Who was the imposter? It wasn’t extremely hard to tell. Why would the real Sabrina have tied up an imposter and not told anyone?
Fiona always carried around a dagger; she liked to take caution. She had polished it two days ago, but hadn’t used it for purposes other than to slice food for almost seven years. She was also talented in martial arts; though not extremely strong, she could put up a fight. The question was whether to attack or run back down and tell someone? Fiona thought about this for a minute, and decided to handle this one herself. The charlatan couldn’t possibly be much older than the real princess.
Within three seconds, Fiona was out of the bushes with her dagger at the fake Sabrina’s throat.
Very strangely, the imposter began to laugh.
Fiona knew that she must have just made a huge mistake.
The blow could never have come from any twelve-year old hybrid squirrel-chipmunk. Even glancing, it sent Fiona flying back ten feet and she was almost knocked senseless. It was not flesh that had struck her either; it had been metal. Cold, hard metal. The pretender was a robot!
Then it was on her, throwing punches left and right. It couldn’t let her survive, now that she knew. Fiona did her best to evade the powerful hits, but the robot was too fast. It would all be over in another five seconds.
Suddenly the robot was off of her, and Fiona didn’t waste any time. She didn’t know what had caused the robot to suddenly stop, but she didn’t bother looking. Fiona made a mad dash for the tree stump, and slid down as fast as she could.
Two minutes later, all past rancor was forgotten and Fiona was racing through an explanation to Sonic, who in turn had to rapidly make a decision. Sally was monitoring the derobotization plan to make sure that everything went smoothly, so it was up to Sonic. The cold war had quite suddenly turned hot, and nobody was prepared.
Fiona felt herself losing consciousness. Sonic was just not up to the task of making this choice. He didn’t even have any clear options. This was really bad.
Then Knuckles, who had been talking with Sonic before Fiona arrived, spoke.
“I’ll go. Give me a partner, and we’ll take out this thing. There is no way that we can afford to halt the plan. And I think I know the partner that I want.”
Fiona smiled. Somehow Sonic always managed to escape decisions.
Then she collapsed.
Adeline would be up any second now. Bunnie couldn’t believe that the Board of Education still wanted children ready to attend school on an day like this. Wasn’t there a war going on?
The fruit basket was on the other side of the kitchen. Bunnie reached twenty feet with her extendable arm and grabbed an apple. She was very glad that she had decided to keep this arm robotized; it was extremely useful in many situations. Anytime that someone in Knothole needed something really heavy lifted, they would hire Bunnie. Who in turn usually didn’t charge very high fees; it was always a small thrill to be able to lift a half-ton boulder.
Adaline appeared in the kitchen and vaulted herself into her chair. Sometimes Bunnie could not believe how much energy her twelve-year old daughter had. She could run for three hours straight and still be up for two more, She might not be the fastest creature in Knothole, but did she have endurance.
“How’s your brotha’ doing up there?” Bunnie asked.
Adaline shrugged. “I dunno. I didn’t see him.”
Bunnie gave Adaline her breakfast, then went to the foot of the stairs. “Randall?” she called. Usually the fourteen-year old was the first of all three of them to awaken. Bunnie felt a twinge of concern when, two calls later, there was still no reply.
Upstairs, Bunnie looked in both rooms. Their house had a large bottom floor and a smaller top floor, where the two children slept. But Randall was nowhere to be seen.
Adaline had somehow already finished eating and was now hurrying back upstairs to do whatever she had to do. Bunnie looked around on the bottom floor of the house as well. No Randall. This had never happened – Randall was the absolute epitome of conduct. It would take something very strange – or very important – to pull him out of the house like this.
The doorbell didn’t even ring; Knuckles just knocked it in. “C’mon, Bunnie, hurry! You’ve gotta come! This is important; I’ll explain later! Just come!”
Bunnie hesitated. “Does this have anything to do with Randall?”
The echidna paused as well. “Who?”
“Mah son. Ah can’t find him anywhere; Ah don’t know what’s happened!”
“There really are far more pressing matters at hand at the moment, Bunnie. Like the fate of the world as we know it. Come on!”
As they ran, Knuckles began to tell Bunnie what was happening.
“…so Fiona followed her, and discovered something shocking – brace yourself – the Sabrina that we’ve know for – well, nobody knows how long she’s been here – I should really say “it”, shouldn’t I, they don’t really have a gender – but –”
“What did she discovah?!” Bunnie cried, losing patience.
Knuckles managed to finally tack on the end of the sentence. “She’s a robot, Bunnie. No, she hasn’t been robotized; the real Sabrina is still up there, but she’s tied up. We have a robot duplicate on our hands here, who probably has Sabrina hostage. But we’re it, Bunnie, we’re the commandos now. Our mission is to put that machine out of business as fast as we can, and get back down here to celebrate when that bomb goes off.”
Strangely, the severity of the situation didn’t sink in at once. The two were now climbing the steep exit topsides as quickly as possible. Now Bunnie wished she had her robotic legs back; she could be up there in a matter of seconds. All thoughts of her missing son were momentarily driven out of her head; Knuckles was right, this was more important now.
Breaking out topsides, the pair saw absolutely nothing. The silence was eerie.
Bunnie cocked one ear to listen closely. There seemed to be a high pitched whine in the air; thought from which direction it was hard to figure out. Knuckles also seemed to be listening to the hum. He was standing stock-still, trying to get a bearing on the direction.
“You heah it too, sugah?” Bunnie asked.
“Yeah. And I think its from – that way.”
He pointed with one gloved hand towards a particular region of the surrounding forest. Bunnie had already began to run towards it, readying her robotic arm for combat. Damn, it had been absolutely forever since she had last had to fight a robot. She hoped that Knuckles wasn’t as scared as she was; but she saw him next to her; charging straight through the bushes with her. He still wasn’t quite his normal arrogant self though; battle always altered one’s personality.
Quite suddenly, they broke out into a clearing.
Sabrina was standing in the middle, back turned to them, pointing at something on the ground. Quickly shifting for a better look, she almost screamed out loud. Another Sabrina was lying there, tied and unconscious, and Randall was there on the ground with a green light passing slowly over his body. The robot – for that was obviously what the standing Sabrina was – was shooting it at him from her arm. Bunnie knew that light. It meant something awful beyond belief.
Knuckles launched himself at the robot with a roar. It turned and lashed out with an arm; not jerkily like a normal robot, but perfectly fluid. Knuckles just managed to evade it; then came in again.
This time he got in a punch; but it was costly. As his fist struck the robot’s head, it simply dropped a fist directly onto the crown of his head. Bunnie watched him go out like a light. She was all that there was now. And luckily, she was always prepared.
“Hey there, sugah! Ah’m thinkin’ right about now of givin you a taste of this here cannon that Robotnik once so graciously gave me. How dare you do that to Sabrina – an’ mah son…”
The robot looked directly into Bunnie’s cannon – and laughed.
“You can’t do it,” it said, “you know you can’t possibly do it. I’m the king’s daughter – or, at least, a pretty damn good copy. It’s foolish mortal nature; you and your stupid consciences.”
With horror, Bunnie realized that it was right. She knew what the figure in front of her was, all it would take was one flick of the trigger, but she simply couldn’t. To her eyes, it was Sabrina who stood in front of her, and her eyes wouldn’t let her hand finish the job.
The robot was now advancing slowly; and Bunnie knew that it was over. It would knock her out, then robotize her, Knuckles, and finish the job on Randall. All because she couldn’t pull a trigger. Bunnie stared directly at the robot’s face, trying, somehow, to get a shot off.
Suddenly, Bunnie saw something. Knuckles’s punch had not been entirely ineffective; a small loose circuit was protruding for the robot’s forehead. Concentrating as hard as she possibly could on that circuit, Bunnie tensed and tried to keep her focus as the robot came closer. She kept all concentration on that one little wire – the one thing that gave her eyes the go-ahead to fire.
Once again, the robot laughed, a cold, sinister laugh. “My name is 0147F. And it’s the last name that you’re ever going to hear, bunny rabbit.”
Through gritted teeth, Bunnie very quietly and very coldly managed to get six syllables out: “That’s Bunnie Rabbot, sugah.”
She didn’t fire; instead she slammed her robotic fist directly into the robot’s face. An expression of shock was the last thing that she saw before her fist connected and reduced 0147F’s countenance into a mess of wires, broken circuits, and smashed silicon chips.
The robot slowly toppled, but Bunnie was already next to Randall. She was crying freely; his entire lower body and left arm was reduced to metal. He was exactly as she had once been, except fully unconscious and unaware of his plight. He had been spared the revulsion of seeing himself go through the procedure, at least.
Bunnie suddenly realized with horror that the derobotization bomb was going to be set off in less than five minutes. Any chance of Randall’s being derobotized within the next decade would vanish. She blessed her arm again as she effortlessly picked him up, along with Knuckles and Sabrina, and sped back towards the town.
She was carrying three people though, and could not move very quickly. At the end of the long slide down to the town, she lost her grip and all three of her comatose passengers were scattered around. Quickly, Bunnie picked them all up and continued to race for the center of town.
When she arrived, all Knothole was turned out. Miles had already returned, and Sonic held a large red button in his hand. The crowd began to count down from thirty. Twenty-nine. Twenty-eight. Twenty-seven…
It was Miles, who noticed Bunnie racing towards them. The crowd parted and formed a circle around Bunnie, who lay down Knuckles, Sabrina, and Randall. Collective gasps went up from everyone around as they noticed Randall’s plight. Sally, standing next to Sonic called out to the extremely perturbed crowd for silence.
“In face of this casualty, the plan must be abandoned. We shall immediately carry out our alternative plan. Minister, if you should call together your troops –”
But nobody was listening; all were staring at Randall. Children hid behind their mothers’ legs; people whispered to each other, and, in the middle of it all, Randall suddenly began to stir.
“Wha – what is… what happened?” were his first words. Then he stared at his legs and stopped dead. Slowly, he moved one leg, then the other. His arm too, he flexed and stared at as if he simply couldn’t believe this could possibly happen to him. It brought tears to Bunnie’s eyes, though she had already been crying. Antoine suddenly appeared next to them, and was speechless. Everyone in the crowd was completely silent for a moment.
“It’s okay.” Bunnie said into the void of sound. “Everything’s going to be okay. We’re calling back the bomb; we’ll have you derobotized befo’ you know it…”
“The bomb?” Randall asked, looking confused. “The bomb… the derobotization bomb… the meeting this morning… no!”
And before anyone knew it, Randall had stoop up and leapt at Sonic, who was in the act of disarming the controller. Bunnie watched as her son ripped the controller out of her king’s hands and pressed the button as hard as he possibly could.
There was complete and total silence for almost thirty seconds.
Randall turned to Bunnie with tearing eyes. “Just like you were, right Mom?”
“Yes, honey,” she said, hugging him with their tears mingling together. “Just like me…”
It was a devastating blow. Miles returned the next day with the report that hundreds of small animals were returning to their natural habitats and the cave was entirely empty. There was no doubt about it; the victory was complete.
That same day he flew Knuckles back to the Floating Island. The Chaotix were repairing all damage done there by the small attack, and Knuckles wanted to help. He stayed around just long enough for the celebrations of the ending of the short war.
Sabrina was alive, though very weak and traumatized. Knothole’s best doctors were working on helping her and Fiona both recover. Neither were in critical condition; both were expected to have no lasting effects.
Antoine resumed his position as a member of the Royal Guard and was given a medal for his services in location the entrance to Snively’s fortress. He was somewhat surprised. Rotor, Miles and Bunnie all also received awards for their different contributions to the cause.
It had been so quick, Sonic reflected. Life was totally normal again. It was the second quickest war in Knothole’s history, having lasted only slightly over two weeks since the original sighting of hostile forces. Somehow it seemed like it should have lasted longer, or have been harder, or something.
That evening, Sonic was sitting in the royal bedroom, still in thought. He had done almost nothing throughout the entire conflict except pretend to give direction and reassure the populace. Was he truly only a figurehead, or could he be more? As a teenager, he had been the first into any conflict, leading the charge and usually coming out the hero. Were those days over?
Sonic made a mental resolution. If there ever was another war, if Knothole was ever thrust into another conflict, he would take no less risk than anyone else. After all, wasn’t a king expected to be an example for his subjects? He simply did not feel right about letting his buddies doing his job for him. He was Sonic the Hedgehog, and nothing was going to stand in the way of his duty. Especially not a crown.
“Sonic?” Sally broke him out of his complex thoughts.
Sonic closed his eyes and shook his head. “Did I do anything right, Sally? Anything at all? Miles found the stronghold, Rotor came up with the plan, Bunnie was the one -”
“Maybe you didn’t do anything spectacular, Sonic, but how about thinking of it a different way. This may have been the first time that you didn’t do anything wrong on a mission.”
Sonic chuckled, but soon frowned again. “I just feel like –”
Sally kissed him. “Did anyone die?”
“Was the mission accomplished?”
“You seem to be under a bit of stress, King Sonic Hedgehog. And I could have sworn that I gave you a rain check for some… stress relief.”
Sonic smiled and closed the door.
It was a clear night over Robotropolis. The moon shone softly on the tops of buildings, but in an alley deep in the city’s bowels, darkness prevailed. A small figure clenched his small human fists. He gritted his human teeth. He swore one thing forever against all who were now peacefully resting far away. A single guttural word left his fully human throat.
This story was created using characters from SEGA and Archie Comic Publications. Any other characters that appear in the story were created in the mind of the author. Please ask me before using these any of these characters. My e-mail is email@example.com. Also e-mail me if you particularly enjoyed this story, or have any suggestions for my writing.
Special thanks goes out to MTP for his continued support, as well as to Sonic HQ for information on characters.
This story takes place in a hybrid universe combining the universes of SEGA and Archie. For example, SWAT-bots are the main minions of Archie, while SEGA’s “enemies” are a wide variety of robotized animals. Both are mentioned in this story.
I hope that you took pleasure in reading this story. I intend to continue writing fan fiction, especially a sequel to this tale. I do not know when it will come out, but I am working in much of my free time, so it should not be too long.
Thanks again for reading!
- Darren McRoy “RedFox”, November 2002