Chapter 16: Alpha
“This way!” Bark hissed, hurrying down the reactor entrance walkway. He turned the corner at the T-junction, only to see a contingent of Kintobor MP’s burst out onto the walkway, rifles raised and cocked. The bear skidded to a halt, arms waving akimbo. “Oh shit!” he shouted, surprised.
“Let’s go the other way!!” Cream suggested, heading to the opposite side. She came to a stop and gasped as more MP’s poured out of the other entrance. “What-what’s going on?!” she sputtered.
As the soldiers closed in from both sides, Tails took stock of the situation. ‘The Robian ambush… The lack of security and personnel leading up to and on the manufacturing floor… And now trapped by grunts on both sides in front of a reactor that’s about to blow… No surprises here.’ “As I thought, it’s a trap…” Tails said softly.
The MP’s stopped at the halfway point of each walkway, their rifles still pointed at the three Mobians. From the entrance of the reactor came the sounds of footsteps – thick-heeled Oxford shoes echoing off the dull metal walkway. Emerging out of the shadows of the entrance was the President of Kintobor Incorporated, Gerald Kintobor, his thick, grey moustache curling upwards in a smile as he casually walked out.
Bark’s jaw dropped. “P-President Kintobor?!” he barked out, a shocked look plastered on his face.
Cream’s lips also parted, astonished at the turn of events. “Why is the president here?” she asked, flummoxed.
“Tut, tut, little rabbit,” the Human responded in a mocking tone, waving a gloved finger as he spoke. “I’m here to personally congratulate you for being so dim-witted. Did you really think that I wouldn’t expect a second attack to happen so soon?”
Bark’s left eye twitched at his words.
“You see,” the President continued, his smile deepening. “The moment after Number 1 went up in flames, I knew full well that a second attack was imminent. Thus, I set in motion counter-measures to ensure your capture. I had my men install a little fail-safe that warned if the anti-tampering alarms were bypassed. I deliberately sent my employees at the reactor home to reduce casualties. And I sent some of our strongest Robians to eliminate you.” He began clapping slowly, his lips and moustache twisting into a mocking smirk. “The fact that you survived is a testament to your strength. Bravo.”
“I must admit, your plan to sabotage and destroy the city’s Reactors and RINGTEK Manufacturing Plants was careful – cunning even. However, you animalistic simpletons cannot compare to the genius that is Gerald Kintobor. You took the bait, I sprung the trap and now here I stand, face to face with the infamous terrorist group, TORNADO,” He swept his eyes to each of the three Mobians, his wrinkled brow furrowing. “A pretty little rabbit girl who fancies herself a resistance fighter, a boorish bear with a fake arm and piss coloured fur and… the fox with two tails who quit SOLDIER to join this little ragtag group.” He glared at Tails. “Tell me, traitor, what was your name?”
The former SOLDIER stepped forward, wearing a fierce look of his own. “Tails,” he replied icily.
“Hm, what a forgettable name,” Gerald said, shrugging. “However, if you become another Nazo, then perhaps the name ‘Tails’ would be much more ubiquitous, no?” He looked up to the dark grey clouds overhead, almost pensive in thought. “Ahh Nazo, despite being a Mobian himself, I quite admired his brilliance. Although, perhaps, in the end, he was too brilliant-”
Bark roared, breaking the president’s musings. “That shit doesn’t matter!” he yelled. “This place is going under and it’ll serve you fucker’s right!”
Gerald shrugged once more, disinterested in the bear’s words. “Ah, such a waste of fireworks, just to get rid of un-evolved, unintelligible, filthy Mobian trash such as you,” he said, voice filled with condescension.
“Trash? TRASH!?” the bear shouted, froth spewing from his mouth. His body quivered with rage. “Y’all Kintobor are the TRASH, killing this planet! And you, the high and mighty Human who treats us Mobians like shit, are the king of the fucking TRASH! So you can go fuck yourself!”
The president sighed and regretfully shook his head. “I grow weary of your deplorable words,” he said, pulling out his phone and pressing a button. “I’m quite busy at the moment, what with a company, a military AND a city to run, so, unfortunately, I must take my leave.”
Bark pointed his Gun-Arm at Gerald. “You stay your bald, old, moustached ass right here!” he yelled. “I ain’t done with you yet!”
“Oh?” the president said, the aforementioned moustache curling upwards into a smile. “Well, I’m so sorry about that. As an apology for my abrupt departure, I have arranged a playmate for all of you.” He then snapped his fingers on his left hand.
The soldiers surrounding the Mobians suddenly withdrew from their positions. Shortly afterward, a humming noise emanated from the Sector 5 exit, which grew louder with each passing second.
Cream looked in the direction of the retreating soldiers. “What’s that noise?!” she asked, her eyes narrowed.
Bark moved to Cream’s side and shot a hateful glare at Gerald. “What the hell is this?!” he said as a tall, hovering green robot flew out to meet the group. Cream and Bark pressed up on the edge of the walkway railing to avoid being clipped, while Tails advanced up the walkway in the president’s direction. The robot stopped at the intersection and faced Gerald. The doors leading out of the reactor closed shut, the noise echoing in the silent air.
The mechaniloid’s body was shaped like an hourglass. The lower half was stabilized with three hover engines – two box-like units on either side and a large engine extending at the rear – and a thick, cylindrical roller on its front, used to prevent it from tipping forward too much. A set of machine guns were equipped on its rear to defend it from back attacks. The upper half consisted of a broad, cylindrical canister for a head and a pair of arms, each long enough to reach the ground. Large, gripping pincers were affixed at the ends of each arm. A scope – similar to the one used by the Guard Scorpion – was attached to its right shoulder. A hexagonal, orange lens was installed halfway up the canister and two large, black E’s were burnished in on either side. The very top of the canister was hinged on the back. In its direct centre of the hourglass body were two, red optical cameras recessed against a black plate. Its body, arms and head were decorated with black, red and white stripes and gold accents. A model number was etched on the right side of the canister: It read KI E-SERIES 100 – α.
“Behold,” Gerald announced with a flourish. “The E-100 Alpha: The first in a new line of E-Series robots designed to be the perfect techno-soldiers. Our Weapons Department built him based on my genius designs.” He flashed a wicked, toothy grin. “I’m sure the data he extracts from your dead bodies will prove quite useful for future experiments.”
His SkyTrans arrived for him the moment he finished speaking, its doors opening to receive the president. “Now then, if you’ll excuse me,” he announced, climbing in. The door slid shut behind him and the craft took off into the midday sky.
“Wait!” Tails called out as the president departed. ‘What did he mean when he said that Nazo was ‘too brilliant’’ he mulled as he watched the vehicle disappear into the smog above. ‘Was he talking about Knothole-’
“Hey, Tails!” Bark called out, interrupting the fox’s thoughts. He spun around to see the robot advancing towards the bear and the rabbit, its arms raised and waving about menacingly. “We gotta do something about this guy!?”
“Is this thing from SOLDIER?!” Cream asked, her body set into a battle stance.
Tails zipped behind Alpha and drew his sword, enhanced eyes searching for weaknesses in its armour. “Don’t be naive, Cream!” he said to her, teeth gritted. “It’s only a machine!”
“Look, I don’t give a damn what it is!” Bark yelled, arming his weapon. “I’m gonna tear this piece of shit up into scrap metal!”
Alpha rocketed forward, its massive arms swiping at Cream and Bark, who backed away quickly. The bear fired several rounds at the robot and cursed as he saw that his shots barely made a dent in its thick frontal armour.
Cream drew Ice energy from her wrist and launched the spell towards the left arm in mid-swipe. The blue ball sailed past the pincers on its arm and instead clipped its shoulder, creating a layer of ice over the top of it.
Seeing an opportunity, Bark focused his fire on the left shoulder and punctured the frost-encased joint with a hail of bullets before turning to the right arm to keep it at bay. Behind him, Cream broke into a run and jumped onto and off of the bear’s muscular shoulder as he switched targets, springing herself high into the air in an arc.
On the robot’s rear side, Tails gritted his teeth as he charged up the strongest Lightning spell he could muster. From his vantage point, he saw the robot’s shoulder freeze over, followed by a volley of bullets that tore through the flexible casing covering the joint. As he watched Cream shoot high up into the air, the fox called out to her. “Cream! Get out of the way as soon as you hit that shoulder!”
The brawler – hearing Tails’ voice – somersaulted at the apex of her jump, extended her left leg while tucking in the right and allowed gravity to pull her down towards the Alpha’s shoulder. She landed a solid dive kick onto the damaged joint and then scrambled back towards Bark. The force of the blow dislodged the arm socket and exposed a hole in its side.
Grinning, Tails followed up by pushing out his palms and calling “BOLT!” The thick, jagged yellow beam snaked its way into the torn side of Alpha, electrocuting its innards and causing the robot to shudder violently.
Before he could celebrate his triumph, Tails heard a pinging noise coming from the bottom of the robot’s hover unit: a long spike with a thick wire extending from its body was suddenly embedded into the metal walkway. The warrior cursed under his breath. “Get back!” he yelled, leaping backwards himself. “It’s discharging the Lightning magic into the walkway!”
Cream also retreated away from the machine, but Bark, who was closer to Alpha, wasn’t so lucky. As he continued firing on it, the remnants of Tails’ electrical attack pulsed through the metal. The wave of energy struck him hard and he cried out, halting his attack. Grunting, he tried to move away from the machine but his limbs refused to move. “I-I can’t move!” he said through gritted teeth.
Using its still-functional right arm, Alpha backhanded the massive bear forcefully, sending him flying back towards Cream. Only Bark’s protective metal bands around his abdomen prevented his organs from being damaged from the force of the blow and instead knocked the wind out of him. He lay sprawled off at the midpoint of the walkway between Cream and Alpha.
The robot then activated the scope on its right shoulder. The beam locked onto Cream, who was standing by the sealed exit. “TARGET ACQUIRED. INITIATING COMBAT MODE: OPERATION 1,” Alpha’s speaker bellowed out in monotone. The top of its head opened up like a lid. From inside, a small cannon emerged and quickly fired a round, stubby object at the rabbit.
At the same moment, Alpha retaliated against Tails using the machine guns on its back. Thinking fast, the fox drew his sword and stabbed it into the walkway, the flat side facing him and protecting his body like a shield. He braced himself against it as the guns started firing, feeling the shots rattle painfully on his body as the thick blade absorbed the impact. Tails used his free hand to draw up a small amount of All-Lighting energy from his weapon’s linked slots. He recklessly stuck his palm out and shot the magic at the machine guns, bullets nicking his skin and fur. The energy impacted on the area between the guns, the magic seizing its internal mechanisms and stopping the gunfire. Knowing that he only had moments to spare before it discharged the energy into the ground, Tails retrieved his massive blade and dashed up to Alpha, quickly hacking away at the guns and mangling the barrels before pulling back.
While Tails was occupied with the rear guns, Cream eyed the oblong object travelling towards her, tracing its path. Just as it started to arc downward, she sprinted towards the exit door. The fighter hopped up and walked up several steps before kicking off with her powerful legs and sending her body right towards the munition. She twisted in mid-air and the explosive sailed inches below her back. It hit the floor right next to the exit and caused a large explosion which breached the sealed door. The rabbit landed and looked back at the remains with equal parts shock and awe.
“Cream, watch out!” She twisted around at hearing Bark’s voice to see Alpha in front of her, its right arm poised to strike. A fireball sailed over her head, hitting the robot’s arm and pushing it back slightly, giving her an extra few seconds to get out of the way as the appendage slammed down on the walkway. She glanced back to see the bear’s left arm outstretched, faint traces of Fire energy emitting from it.
The bear hissed in pain from the strike he suffered earlier, but he grinned and flashed the rabbit a thumbs-up as they turned to face Alpha as another of Tails’ Lightning spells struck it, causing it to falter slightly.
Recovering, it repositioned its side hover jets and spun around to face the two-tailed fox who launched the spell. Alpha rushed Tails and swung its right arm at him. Tails easily dodged the swipe, getting underneath the robot’s right side close to its arm and slashed several times at the delicate underside of the socket. The strike severed the joint and sent the arm flying over the edge of the catwalk to the slums below. Tails shimmied backwards to give himself some space. “Bark, how much time’s left!?” he called out.
From his knelt position on the walkway, Bark checked the watch on his left arm. His eyes widened. “Uh… Shit! Three and a half minutes!”
Tails swore loudly as well. He held his defensive position for a moment and then spoke up just as the robot turned back around to face the bear and the rabbit. “Bark! Cream! Full out magical assault!” Cream could hear the strain in his voice as he began to summon more magic. “Hit it with whatever you got left!”
Alpha suddenly opened its top. The optic cameras in the centre of its body started glowing red. “DISABLING TURNING FUNCTION. INITIATING COMBAT MODE: 2,” It said. “BOMBER FAILSAFE MECHANISMS DISABLED. CONFIGURING FOR MULTI-LAUNCH.” The side jets flared off as the robot disabled them and rerouted the excess power to the main cannon on its head.
His breathing hitched and his heart hammered loudly in his chest as he took stock of his surroundings. There was now just under three minutes on the clock before the bombs would go off and their only path to escape was blocked off by one of Kintobor’s deadly war machines. The mocking tone of President Kintobor’s voice echoed in his mind as he stumbled into a standing position to do as the fox commanded, his left arm still wrapped around his bruised side.
“Did you really think that I wouldn’t expect a second attack to happen so soon?”
He shakily placed a hand on the Lightning Emerald on his arm and tried to draw out another charge. He held the spell in his palm before it fizzled out, his heightened anxiety overriding his focus. “I… I can’t!” he forced out. “I-I got nothin’ left!”
“C’mon Bark! We can do this!” Cream cheered from beside him as she poured more Mana into the Ice charge in her hands. Her face tightened due to the mental strain she put on to strengthen the magic. “You just have to dig deep and try again!”
“Bark, we need you!” Tails called out from the opposite side as the robot continued its suicidal reconfiguration. “C’mon!! Don’t let us down, man!”
The bear began to hyperventilate as the blood pounding tremulously in his head drowned out all of the sounds around him. His throat constricted, his stomach churned violently and everything around him seemed to move in slow motion. He suddenly fell back to his knees and resisted the overwhelming urge to throw up. ‘I should have seen this coming…’ he thought, heaving as bile rose into his throat. ‘From the train and the upgraded checkpoints to the lack of security in the reactor and then… this.’
“Did you really think that I wouldn’t expect a second attack to happen so soon?”
‘I thought it was all going well. Biggs and Jessie and Wedge… I thought it was because of their efforts that we got through so easily, but it was all a setup… a trap to draw us HERE!”
“Did you really think that I wouldn’t expect a second attack to happen so soon?”
Kintobor’s words kept repeating themselves in Bark’s mind, beating down his spirit. He hung his head downward, his eyes looking past the perforated pathway beneath him and into the slums below. ‘I-I failed them…’ he reminisced, as his watch beeped, signifying that the countdown to the explosion had reached the two-minute mark. ‘Just like I failed my family and friends four years ago…’
Bark shut his eyes tightly out of distress and shame at the reminder of his past. Beneath the eyelids, he saw the image of his dusty hometown of Anthraton – a coal mining town known for its vast quantities of high-quality anthracite – on the day of its destruction at the hands of Kintobor. He remembered seeing the charred remains of the town’s buildings. He remembered the screams from dying residents. He remembered how he felt upon seeing the blackened bodies of his wife and newborn child, a feeling that had not left him in the four years since that event.
“No,” he muttered to himself, his anger and desperation roiling through him as he opened his eyes. He was dimly aware of the bright, silver bolts of electricity that started to crackle around his body, as though responding to the vortex of emotions swirling within. “This is not how it’s gonna end!” He rose to his feet as a golden aura of energy surrounded him, his jaw clenched and eyes narrowed to slits. He stared hatefully at Alpha as the aura congregated at the end of his Gun-Arm.
“For four, long years, I’ve dreamed of getting my revenge!” he hollered out, his eyes filled with bloodlust, his hackles raised and his mouth frothing. The energy condensed and formed a large, red orb that hovered mere centimetres from the six barrels of the Gatling Gun. “You bastards took everything from me! And now, I’m gonna take everything from you! Starting with the Reactors! The RINGTEK! AND THIS STUPID ROBOT TOO!” He pointed his arm at Alpha, who stared back at him with cold, unfeeling eyes. “You heard that, ya piece of scrap?! Imma take you out with one… BIG… SHOT!!”
The bear let out a furious and guttural roar as he launched the orb. The shot hurtled past Cream and struck the front of Alpha’s thick plated armour. The violent swirl of energy chewed through the metal, into its RINGTEK power source and blew a hole out of Alpha’s thin rear armour. The robot started to shake wildly as surges of electricity coursed their way around its body, its energy source overloading.
“If your masters are listening, tell them two things: First, to go fuck themselves!” Bark said, a savage and satisfied grin plastered on his maw, smoke coming out of the gun barrels. “And second, to tell them that they’re next!”
On Alpha’s rear side, Tails stopped charging his Lightning spell and allowed the Mana to flow back into his body as he heard the bear’s battle cry. He dived just as Bark’s attack pierced through the robot’s body and out of its rear. The orb dissipated after travelling a short distance away from the fox.
Standing, Tails cursed as he saw the machine in its death throes. ‘Shit! Only got seconds to spare!’ “Guys! Get back, it’s gonna blow!” Tails yelled out, leaping as high as his legs could push him. He spun his tails at the apex of his jump and pushed himself to fly faster. He had barely crossed over Alpha’s head when the techno-soldier’s body exploded, taking out the walkway below. Shrapnel of all shapes and sizes was sent flying in all directions.
Anticipating this, Tails quickly held the Buster Sword in front of his body to protect himself. His vitals were spared, but the bits of metal scraped and nicked his arms and legs. One particularly large piece flew past Tails’ blind spot and embedded itself into one of his tails. The fox hollered out, the blinding pain causing his tails to stop spinning. He dropped out of the air like a stone and groped around wildly until he caught a piece of exposed rebar from the remains of the walkway with his free hand. The thin bar bent with his added weight.
Dangling a hundred metres above the ground with blood streaming down his tail, he looked up to see Cream, her arm outstretched and trying desperately to reach her friend.
Bark placed a hand on her shoulder. “It’s gonna blow, Cream! We gotta move!” he said, eyeing the timer on his wrist.
The rabbit glanced back to her comrade, her brows raised and pulled together. “Can’t you do something, Bark?!” she asked, her voice taking on a fearful pitch.
Bark shook his head, his eyes shut. “Not a damn thing,” he growled, his lips pressed together tightly.
Cream turned back to Tails and stretched her arm as far as she could. It was nowhere near the fox. “Tails, please don’t die, you can’t die!” she called out frantically. “There’s still so much that I have to tell you!”
“I know Cream,” was all Tails could say. The shard in his tail was excruciating, but he forced himself to tough it out. He tried pulling himself up with his arm, but the bar only bent further. Any more movement would cause it to snap off.
Bark looked back to the mercenary. “You gonna be aight?” he asked.
The fox shook his head. “Just get yourself and Cream out of here,” he said.
“Sorry about this.”
“Don’t talk like this is the end. I’ll see you later.”
Bark let out a heavy sigh and then grabbed Cream on the shoulder to pull her back and away from the reactor. “Yeah, later.”
At that moment, both bombs detonated, sending the reactor ablaze. The explosion jostled the walkway, snapping the rebar Tails was holding onto and sending him plummeting down to the slums below. Cream let out a wail as Bark dragged her away.
Freefalling, Tails quickly tried spinning his namesakes out of pure desperation in an attempt to slow his descent. He bit his tongue to prevent himself from screaming out loud in agony. Despite his efforts and as the ground grew ever closer, the fox’s strength gave out; his tails stopped spinning and the Buster Sword slid out of his fingers.
The sword fell through a large hole in the roof of an abandoned church and lodged itself into a beam on the rafters.
Seconds later, Tails crashed through the same hole and blacked out before he could hit the ground.