Chapter 19: The Chaotix
Tails stared down at the sloppily dressed, fedora-wearing weasel-wolf who stood nonchalantly at the church entrance. “I don’t know who the hell you are, but you better get lost,” he said.
“Hey, hey, chill out for a sec here, mate?” the stranger said, his arms raised and a disarming smile crossing his face. “Don’t wanna be makin’ any idle threats now, unless you wanna see the pretty girlie there get hurt? Catch me drift?”
‘Who does this guy think he is?’ the fox thought, his eyes narrowed at the stranger.
“You know who he is, little buddy,” a voice suddenly responded in his head, startling him. He shortly realized that It belonged to the hooded figure he kept seeing in The Void. “Look closely.”
Heeding the instructions, Tails looked over the hybrid’s dishevelled appearance, his eyes quickly sweeping up and down at the navy-blue slacks, the matching jacket and the rumpled white shirt. A flash suddenly went off in his mind as he recognized the uniform and its importance.
“I know who you are,” the fox said as his expressions darkened. “Oh yeah, I definitely know…” Tails narrowed his eyes. “That uniform…”
The intruder cocked his head to the side and arched an eyebrow, bemused at the fox’s behaviour. “Well, guess the jig is up,” he said flippantly, before snapping his fingers.
Three MP’s entered behind him each holding onto a leashed, mutant mutt. Each of the animals was covered in coarse dark-blue fur. The mutts snarled and barked at the two Mobians as the soldiers fought to restrain them. The long, tentacle-like tails jutting out from the base of their necks rose threateningly into the air.
The stranger threw a lopsided smile towards Cosmo. “Oi sis, this one’s a weirdo, innee?” he said to her.
“Shut it, Kintobor spy!” Tais exclaimed, scowling.
One of the soldiers turned his head to the stranger. “Nack, do you want us to take him out?” he asked.
Nack removed his hat and idly started spinning it around on his right index finger. His eyes roamed around the space, taking in everything except the SOLDIER and the flower girl in front of him. “Hmm, not sure yet,” he said, smirking. “I’m leanin’ towards-”
“Hey, could you not fight here!” Cosmo huffed crossly, interrupting Nack as she snatched up her retractable staff from the pew next to her. “You’ll ruin the flowers!”
“Love, I think you need to-” Nack paused as his eyes trailed over to her and the fox. He froze suddenly and his jaw dropped. “W-wait a tick…”
Before he could act, Tails felt Cosmo seize his arm. Taking advantage of Nack’s surprise and inaction, she pulled him towards the back of the church. “Hurry, the exit’s back here,” she said, leading him through the door and barring it behind them.
Nack continued to stare in disbelief at the spot the fox once occupied. Placing his hat back on his head, he walked forward absent-mindedly and his eyes trailed towards the door at the back of the church.
One of the MP’s shifted uncomfortably, tugging the leash as his mutt strained to chase after its prey. ”Sir? Shouldn’t we -”
“Did you lot see his eyes?” Nack asked, cutting the soldier off. “Those were Energen eyes…” ‘And I’ve never heard of anyone in SOLDIER with two tails? There’s something odd about that bloke,’ he added mentally. ‘Somethin’… familiar.’
He shook his head to clear his thoughts and faced the soldiers. “Hmm. Yeah, alright you sods, back to work now,” he called out as he moved towards the rear door. He stopped, turned back around and added, “Oi! Don’t step on the flowers, eh!”
“Uh, Nack, sir? You’re stepping on them.”
The hybrid looked down to see his feet beneath the delicate yellow and white plants. He swore vehemently as the guards behind him jeered in tandem with the barking mutts.
“Oh man, you’re dead!”
“They’re all ruined!”
“You’re gonna catch holy hell!”
“Here, you better hold on to this.”
Tails handed Cosmo the Fire Emerald that was in his pocket after moving through the back room of the church and up the stairwell leading to the upper balconies and rafters.
Cosmo wordlessly extracted her staff and installed the gem into the single slot of her weapon, her mouth set in a grim line.
Tails took the brief opportunity to observe his surroundings. The walls were in bad shape due to years of neglect and were stained from the pollution of the skies below. The roof was pockmarked with holes of various sizes caused by waste and scrap dropped from the top plate. A large pillar that should have acted as one of the main supports for the back half of the church partially lay atop the stairs leading up to the second level and stretched all the way into the basement. Tails and Cosmo had to veer around the broken support and scramble up the stairs that were undamaged to quickly reach the upper floor.
From their vantage point, the fox had a clear view of the attic space and the vaulted ceilings above. He looked up and noticed the sizable hole he made in the roof when he fell from the Sector 5 reactor. Right next to it was his sword, which was embedded into one of the ceiling joists.
“Look,” he said to Cosmo, pointing out to the opening on the other side of the church. “I bet we can escape through the hole I made earlier.”
Her eyes brightened at the suggestion. “Yeah, that would work,” she said. “There’s a huge mountain of waste surrounding the church. We could lose those guys by climbing over it and back down to the main path.”
Tails nodded. “Alright then, let’s move.”
They circled the left side of the upper level and made their way to the set of stairs that went up to the rafters. As they crossed the walkway towards the landing, Tails’ ears suddenly pricked at the sounds of splintering beneath him as his weight bore down on the rotting wood. At the halfway point, he heard an audible snap as the planks started to give way.
“Cosmo, get back!” he yelled as he jumped towards the landing. The wooden boards he had stood splintered and cracked into two pieces, the nails securing the boards on struts at either side barely holding them in place. The fox swore softly to himself and then turned to the flower girl, who stood on the opposite side. “You’re gonna have to jump it,” he said. Noticing her hesitation, he stretched a hand out to her and urged her on. “Don’t worry, I’ll catch you.”
Cosmo gave him a slow, but curt nod and backed away to give herself some space. Just as she broke into a run, however, Nack, the three MP’s and their mutts broke through the back door.
Quickly observing the situation, the hybrid pulled out two concealed pistols from the inside of his jacket and fired several shots towards Cosmo’s position. The bullets shattered the support struts on the piece of the balcony where the flower girl stood. Cosmo stumbled as the floor beneath her gave way. She shrieked as she plummeted onto the large pillar and slid down into the basement, where she landed in a cloud of dust and debris.
Nack twirled the pistols and holstered them with a flourish. “Damn, I’m good,” he goaded loudly, smirking. He then turned to the soldiers behind him. “Alright mates, make away with the Ancient. If that twin-tailed wanker gets in the way, ice ‘em. And don’t rough her up too much!” The soldiers dispersed and released the mutts from their leashes.
One of the blue-furred creatures jumped down a floor and landed right in front of Cosmo, who rose with a pained look on her face. She turned to the snarling beast and the MP who soon joined it and started backing away slowly, her eyes widening. “Uh… Tails? A little help here?!” she called out to the fox three flights above her.
Cursing, Tails looked around and explored all of his available options. ‘In my condition, any magic use would do more harm than good… And even if I could fly, she’ll be captured before I could reach her… There has to be a workaround here, think Tails, think!’ His eyes went skyward and they caught the sight of several barrels on a platform in the rafters, near the back wall of the building. He then peered over the thick wooden beams and started running calculations through his head. A smile slowly formed on his muzzle. ‘…This ought to do it!’ “Cosmo! Keep moving slowly towards the wall behind you!” he hollered, thundering up the stairs and towards the platform.
Picking up one of the heavy barrels with some difficulty, he carefully but hurriedly walked onto one of the large beams. He fanned his tails outward to provide stability as he positioned himself just above the soldier and his mutt and dropped the barrel. The heavy object landed on both animal and soldier simultaneously and knocked them both out.
Cosmo looked upwards and beamed. “Thanks, Tails!” she said, moving past the two unconscious bodies and up a set of stairs to return to the main level.
As he watched the flower girl progress, Tails stole a glance at Nack. He languidly stood by the doorway leading into the church with his hands shoved into his jacket pockets. The fox narrowed his eyes as he spared a thought. ‘It figures that those guys’ll let the soldiers do all of their dirty work.’ Breaking his gaze, he turned towards Cosmo, who was stopped again by another mutt and its handler.
He headed back to the platform where the barrels lay but stopped suddenly. His ears shot straight up at the sounds of mechanical claws skittering on the ceiling. He gritted his teeth and turned towards the stained glass window at the back. ‘Ah shit, not now…’
Three hedgehog Robians burst through the glass and landed on the opposite end of the platform. Each was a head shorter than the fox with several long and sharp spines jutting out from the back of their round heads, large black eyes with ruby-red irises and a pointed spike for a nose on their mouthless muzzles. Their bodies and spines were painted a faded burgundy and their thin arms and legs were coloured in a tarnished, gun-metal grey. The bipedal machines stood poised to attack, their sharp claws raised and pointed towards the fox.
The sight of the hedgehog Robians caused Tails to freeze in his tracks. He stared at them with a slack jaw as another flash went off in his mind. This time, he saw a blurry image of an individual’s face. The fox could only pick out two details from it; its fur was coloured cobalt blue and it had glowing jade green eyes…
The flower girl’s voice caused the fox to snap out of his furore just as the first of the three Robians got up close with its claws outstretched. Letting his instincts guide him, Tails ducked under the thrust, grabbed its arm and threw it over his shoulder. The hedgehog crashed into a set of barrels set against the wall. The swordsman then turned around, vaulted over the other two before they could crowd him and ran to his sword. “Cosmo! You’ll have to fight them off!” he said as he reached his weapon. “Use that Emerald I gave you!” ‘And please don’t bring this place down on us…’ he added mentally as an afterthought. He plucked the Buster Sword out of the joist and faced the three Robians.
The machines spread out into a V formation with each one standing on a separate beam. The Robian that Tails threw stood on the same beam as him. It bounded forward, leaped up and then curled up into a ball at the apex of its jump. Tails flipped over to the beam on his left as the hedgehog’s spiked carapace smashed into the wooden joist. He was then accosted by the second hedgehog who swiped wildly at him with its claws. Tails blocked the first two slashes and then countered with a quick horizontal cut of his own. The blade sliced through the hedgehog’s paper-thin armour and penetrated the oil pump in its chest. The Robian spasmed and then toppled to the ground below.
Tails then heard the sound of Cosmo’s voice as she loudly called out “FIRE!” From the corner of his eye, he saw a bright, orange-yellow glow illuminate the wall behind the flower girl. The shrieks of pain coming from both the mutt and the MP soon followed afterward.
Tails paused, keeping his sword in a defensive stance. ‘Hm, she’s not half bad?’ he mused, surprised at the woman’s control of magic. His thoughts were interrupted when the other two hedgehog Robians landed on either side of him. The one on his left lunged out at him, with claws outstretched and aiming for his jugular. The fox easily blocked the strike with the flat of his blade. He then used the flat to push back and create space between them and followed up with a diagonal slash that cleaved the bot in two. He then rounded on the final bot.
It – like the ones before – lashed out wildly with its claws at the swordsman, who was able to block most of the strikes. An errant claw, however, found its way onto one of Tails’ injured namesakes and the fox hissed loudly as the scratch hit close to the bandaged wound. Growling, Tails held his stance and watched as the hedgehog jumped upward and curled into a ball. As the spiked sphere sailed towards him, the fox turned the blade and brought it upward in an arc over his head. The slash connected and split the hedgehog in two. The halves then veered away from either side of the swordsman and crashed into the walls behind him.
“Tails! I could use a little help here!”
Ears pricking at Cosmo’s plea, Tails quickly sheathed his sword and ran back to the platform with the barrels. He spotted Cosmo dashing up the main stairway leading to the second floor with the third MP and mutt following close behind. Picking one up and carefully maneuvering in position, he dropped the barrel. “Cosmo! Move out of the way!” he called out as the heavy barrel plummeted.
It landed between the flower girl and her pursuers with a thud and started rolling down the stairs. The MP managed to get out of the way by hopping over the banister, but the mutt was unable to react in time. The animal howled as the barrel crashed into it, breaking its forelegs and sending it sprawling at the base of the stairwell by the fallen pillar.
Out of the corner of his eye, Tails saw movement from Nack, who withdrew one of the pistols from under his jacket. Vaguely hearing Cosmo yelling out her thanks, the fox bounded back to the barrels, picked up the first one he could lay his hands on and hurled it in the hybrid’s direction.
Nack barely had enough time to react. He ducked as the barrel sailed over his head and crashed into the wall behind him. As he stood back up and stepped forward, his foot went through a rotting floorboard. “Ah damnitall, me leg’s stuck!” he cried out as he struggled to pull his leg out of the hole.
Taking advantage of the distraction, Tails returned to the second floor just in time to see Cosmo run towards the gap in the floor at full speed. She jumped and sailed over, but the gap that Nack made with his shots made it too far for her to land. Her arms flailed about in an attempt to catch the edge. Anticipating this, Tails reached out, grabbed her arm and hoisted her up before she could plummet once more.
She smiled gratefully at him. “Thanks, Tails,” she said, her eyes twinkling prettily in the dim lighting.
Ignoring the strange and warm sensation he felt in the pit of his stomach, the fox turned around and started climbing back up to the rafters. “Let’s get out of here,” he said.
The pair carefully walked along the thick beams until they reached the hole in the roof where Tails fell through. The former SOLDIER climbed out first and then hoisted Cosmo up onto the gabled roof.
Nack watched the two get away as he freed his leg from the rotting plank he stepped through. He holstered his weapon and looked back down to the two remaining grunts, a scowl marring his features. “What the hell are you lot gawking at?!” he yelled. “Gerrout and fossick through the surrounding area for her! She can’t have gone far!”
One of the MP’s shuffled nervously. “Wh-What about the-”
“Forget ‘em,” Nack interrupted coldly, ignoring the piteous whines coming from the mutated animals and the burnt MP. “They’re useless to us now. Focus on the fox and shoot to kill. But remember to keep the lady alive, you hear?! Now getcha asses movin’!”
The two soldiers quickly marched out of the back room, eager to get away from the seething hybrid.
As he watched them leave, Nack pulled out his cell phone. Activating the screen, he quickly sent a message and then pocketed the device. He shook his head ruefully as he recounted the text in his head. “The things I do for a friend,” he mused, his scowl morphing into a small smile. He then adjusted his hat and sauntered out of the church to follow the soldiers.
“Haha, they’re looking for me again,” Cosmo chuckled as she and Tails watched the soldiers leave the church from their spot on the roof, Nack strolling out behind them. Hunching low to the roof’s shingled surface, the two Mobians watched them comb through the surrounding area.
Tails turned his head to her and arched a brow. “Wait a minute, again?” he asked, puzzled. “You mean, this isn’t the first time the Chaotix have been after you?”
She blinked at him, opening her mouth to respond but a thought crossed her mind. ‘Play dumb and pretend you don’t know anything and he’ll eventually open up to you!’ “The… Chaotix?” she asked after a brief pause.
The fox nodded, not noticing her slight pause. His eyes were trained on the Nack, the hybrid marksman. “Yeah, Kintobor’s all-Mobian special forces, espionage and tactics group,” he said. “Their official job description is to scout out for and recruit future SOLDIER talent, but in truth, they get involved in things Kintobor would never dirty his hands with. Like rounding up Mobians for Roboticization, murder, kidnapping…” he paused, trying to find the right word to summarize what they do. “…You know, spy stuff.”
Cosmo giggled. “Spy stuff?”
Tails scratched the back of his head. “Yeah,” he said, looking at his side. There was silence for a moment before he spoke again. “So why are they after you? There must be a reason?”
‘Oh yeah, there’s a pretty big reason alright,’ she mused “…No, not really,” Cosmo replied after a pause. She looked at the fox and grinned. “Maybe they think I have what it takes to join SOLDIER?”
Tails smirked. “Maybe you do,” he said. “Ever thought of joining up?”
Cosmo let out a tiny smile, while her sarcastic side ran wild in her head. ‘Yeah, sure, let’s join the very same organization Spikes was in! Somehow, maybe I too will go missing on a routine job and then pass away unexpectedly. Sounds like a fun time!’ “I don’t really know… but I do know I wouldn’t want THOSE guys to recruit me!” she said pointing to the soldiers and the Chaotix member prowling about. “Seriously, the way they were acting, it was like they were trying to kidnap me or something…”
“Then let’s get out of here before they get that opportunity,” Tails said, turning towards the mountain of junk behind the church. Keeping low, he made his way across the roof and started ascending the massive heap, taking great care not to disturb the pile as he climbed.
Cosmo’s eyes lingered on the fox for a moment. ‘I could ditch him. I could ignore the voices and the signs that have plagued me these last few weeks and continue my merry way. I could keep running. I should keep running.’ She stood up and followed after him, climbing up the junk at a slower pace than the warrior. ‘But… I can’t. I can’t run away this time.’
‘The more I look at Tails… the more I see Sonic. Somehow, I get the feeling that they knew each other… which now gives me the best lead to finding out what truly happened all those years ago.’ She cursed under her breath as she trudged over a broken refrigerator, a realization blossoming in her mind. ‘In the end… the voices – no the Planet gets exactly what it wants…’
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