Chapter 37: The New President
“He-he’s dead…” Bark said haltingly, a bewildered chuckle escaping from his lips. “The President of Kintobor Inc is dead!?” He then erupted into a fit unbridled laughter. “I-I can’t friggin’ believe this!? What a stroke of irony!”
As the bear guffawed at his sworn enemy’s demise, Cream circled around the desk, her eyes latched onto the massive blade in the human’s back and a look of horror etched into her face. She inspected the blade closely and then shot Tails a wide-eyed look that made it seem like she saw a ghost. “Tails… this sword-”
“Yeah, it’s Nazo’s,” he finished, glowering at the offending weapon. Hatred coursed through his veins as he spat out the name and a fire started burning in his chest at the thought of the elite SOLDIER. “Only he could use a sword like that.”
Cream’s low voice snapped him out of his reprieve. “N-Nazo is alive?” she said shakily, backing away from the body. Tails again saw her right hand go to the back of her ear. ‘What is up with that?’ he questioned to himself, narrowing his eyes at her behaviour. ‘When this is all said and done, I should ask her-’
“Well, whoever did it, I’d like to buy him a drink!” Bark said loudly, breaking the fox’s thoughts, a triumphant and self-satisfied grin plastered on his snout. When he saw or heard no cheers of celebration, he eyed them all incredulously. “What the hell, guys? Don’t you know what this means?!” He spread his arms widely. “Kintobor’s toast! They’re done! It’s the end for them!!”
The group turned to the direction of the voice, their weapons drawn. Cowering from behind a decorative vase on the far side of the room stood Snively Kintobor, the head of the Space Exploration division and Gerald’s grandnephew.
The diminutive, needle-nosed man stood out from behind the large vessel, his body trembling. His fearful and wide eyes travelled from the Mobians in front of him to the door leading outside to the large balcony. He suddenly made a break for the door, wailing pathetically as he ran. He only got halfway across when he was caught by Tails and Bark, both of them grabbing his arms and lifting him off the floor. He kicked and twisted in their tight grasp as they brought him back towards the desk. “P-p-p-please, don’t kill meee!” he squealed as the two pinned him against the desk.
Tails levelled a harsh glare at him. “What happened,” he demanded coldly.
“Na-Nazo. He-he came. Nazo came,” Snively spluttered out as shaking intensified.
“Did you see him? Did you really see Nazo?” Tails pressed, his grip around the man’s arm tightening. He could feel his blood turn to ice in his veins.
“Y-Yeah I saw him!” Snively replied incredulously, wincing under the SOLDIER’s grip. His eyes kept wavering between Tails’ sword and Bark’s Gun-Arm. “I saw him with my own eyes!”
“You really saw him? You’re absolutely sure?”
“Would I lie to you at a time like this!?” Snively shouted, his high and nasally voice shrill and hysterical. “And I even heard his voice too! He said something about not letting us have the Fertile Grounds.”
Cream had returned to the group, still shaken from the sight of the daunting blade in the former President’s back. “So what does that mean?” she asked Tails furtively. “Do the Fertile Grounds truly exist and that Nazo’s here to save it from Kintobor?”
“So… he’s like a good guy, then?” Bark inquired, his head turning to Tails and an eyebrow piqued.
Tails looked at the two, white hot fury coursing through him at the suggestions Bark and Cream put forth. “Save the Fertile Grounds? A good guy? No way!!” he denied vehemently, his mouth twisting into a snarl. “Nazo is anything BUT a good guy! I know him! He has a different agenda and it’s not a good one, that’s for-”
In a desperate act of self-preservation, Snively suddenly twisted his hand in the middle of the conversation and pulled, freeing himself from Bark’s grasp. Startled, Tails involuntarily loosened his grip, which allowed the small man to finally break away from his captors. He stepped several feet away from them and sucked in deep breaths as he glowered at the five Mobians, his brows furrowed and his teeth bared. “H-how dare you lay your filthy hands on me!” he screeched, spittle coming out of his mouth. “Do you not realize who you are all dealing with?!”
Tails and the others looked at the little man, all of them completely nonplussed. ‘What is he going on about?’ the fox wondered, his eyes narrowing at Snively. ‘And when did he get so brave?’
Seeing their befuddled looks only angered the little man more. He stamped his feet in a petulant manner and he looked as though steam was coming out of his ears. “You fools!” he sneered. “With my granduncle dead, I am now the President of Kintobor Power Incorporated! Me! Snively!” His sneer then turned into a twisted grin. “And as YOU all killed the previous President, I’ll make sure that you all are thrown into the deepest, darkest pit in all of Mobius for your heinous crime!!”
“… You and what army,” Bark deadpanned. He leveled his Gun-Arm at the human. “Cuz I don’t see anyone else here, do you guys?”
Snively paled as he watched them all shake their heads in response to the polar bear’s question.
The corners of Bark’s lips turned upwards. “I thought so,” he said, cocking his weapon at the trembling human. “Since we already ‘killed’ one President, there’s nothing wrong with offing a second.”
Before he could fire the trigger however, the sounds of a loud hover-engine blared out from the outside. The five Mobians turned around to see a Sky-Trans land on the massive overhang. In the confusion, Snively slipped away to the door leading outside.
“Alas, you’re too slow!” he announced, chortling as he opened the door. The sounds of rushing wind echoed through the President’s office. “You should have killed me when you had the chance!” The door slammed behind him just as Bark fired a shot. It pinged loudly off of the metal surface.
Growling, the bear charged towards the balcony door. “C’mon you guys! We can’t let him get away!” he yelled. Tails and the others followed behind him.
Just as they clambered through the door and rounded the corner to the balcony proper, the five saw Snively disgracefully fall onto his backside, his hand cradling his left cheek. In front of him was another, taller man who leered down at him.
The man appeared to be a younger duplicate of Gerald Kintobor. He had the domed bald head, the long nose and wore the same type of mirrored pince-nez glasses as Gerald had. His mahogany moustache was even groomed in the same exact style as the dead President. The similarities to the two men ended there as the younger man wore an extravagant, high-collared crimson coat with white, textured trims going from the shoulders and down the sleeves to the golden yellow cuffs at each end. The coat had a set of four square golden buttons, two on each side of his chest, with a pair of white bands circling around its back. Down the centre of the coat was a wide silver zipper. The hem of the coat ended halfway up his round body and had four long flaps – two on the front and two on the back – that trailed towards his legs. The two flaps on the front had large silver buttons on the end. The man sported a charcoal bodysuit that hugged his rotund frame and wore jet black boots with silver circular plates on the ankles and square plates running up the length of his shins.
“Ah fuckin’ hell,” Tails heard Bark swear loudly over the wind as the five skidded to a halt. He spat on the floor. “Ovi, I forgot about that bastard!”
“Who’s that?” Cream asked him.
“Vice President Ovi Kintobor. The President’s grandson,” was his answer. He cast a dark look at the human across from him “I heard he was sent away to deal with the aftermath of the war against Chun-Nan. Didn’t realize he was in town.”
“It so turns out that I was in the neighbourhood,” the man said, butting into the conversation. His gruff tone was light and conversational but Tails could pick up a sinister air in his voice that instinctively caused him to grab the hilt of his sword.
“I was going to pay a short visit to my dear grandfather to let him know of our progress in the East,” the man explained, his hands moving as he spoke. “Imagine my surprise to find him dead at his desk, impaled by no other than Kintobor’s favourite war hero who was presumed dead for the last five years, Nazo.” He smirked and then turned his head towards the distance, a wistful expression on his face. “To be killed by the very weapon he created… there’s a delicious irony in that.”
His focus then turned to the rest of the group, an eyebrow piqued in genuine curiosity. “Now… who are all of you?” he questioned, folding his arms.
Tails stepped forward, his hand still on his sword’s hilt. He gripped it tightly and glared furiously at the man as he spoke. “I’m Tails, former SOLDIER, First Class!”
“Bark, the leader of TORNADO!” the bear followed, his good hand resting on his Gun-Arm.
“Cream! A bartender and member of TORNADO!” Cream said, her fists tightening beside her and brows furrowed.
“Cosmo. …A flower girl from the slums,” came Cosmo’s half-hearted response.
“Green XIII,” the golem said, scowling in disgust at the name “…A research specimen.”
The man clapped slowly, his lips twitching into a wry grin. “Hmm… What a crew,” he said. He then stroked his grand moustache. “Well, permit me to introduce myself. I am Dr. Ivo Robotnik, genius scientist and President of the newly-renamed Robotnik Corporation.”
Bark looked taken aback. “The hell are you talking about!? Aren’t you Ovi Kintobor!?” he shouted in disbelief. “And you’re only President because the old man died!”
“Oh, I discarded that old name ages ago,” Robotnik responded, waving his hand dismissively. “I never liked the family name; it speaks too much of antiquity, tradition and legacy. My legacy as a genius and now as President would be attributed to my family name and not my own merits.” He grinned malevolently, his stache stretching upwards as he did so. “And thus, I sought change so that I may bask in my own victories, released from the shackles of my family’s lineage. And by reversing my name, I seek to also reverse the fortunes of this company and steer it into a new and grand direction. And speaking of new directions…”
Robotnik then aimed a kick at Snively’s stomach. He dropped to the ground, clutching his abdomen and cowering at the new President’s foot. “I didn’t appreciate you trying to claim my rightful position as head of this company, Snively,” he sneered. “But because you were so frightfully shocked at the sight of Grandfather’s death, I’ll let this transgression of yours pass.” He bent down, grabbed the lapels of Snively’s suit and raised him up so that he was level with his long nose and spoke through gritted teeth. “See that it does not happen again.”
“Y-Yes sir, of-of course, sir,” Snively stammered, his eyes looking everywhere but at Robotnik.
Disgusted at his craven behaviour, the new President dropped him unceremoniously to the ground. The little man scampered away and into the SkyTrans. Robotnik faced the group once more. “Now, where was I,” he said, tapping his chin thoughtfully. He suddenly snapped his fingers and grinned. “Ah yes! I was workshopping my appointment speech.”
“He likes to make speeches,” Cream muttered to Tails under her breath as Robotnik cleared his throat. “Like grandfather, like grandson I guess?”
“…Grandfather tried to subjugate the world in two ways: spending money on the people and subtle discrimination against Mobians,” Robotnik began. “It’s no secret that after an undisclosed incident, his dislike for your kind had skyrocketed to the point where he would love nothing more than to either roboticize or induce mass genocide to them all. However, he couldn’t do that.” He walked up to Cosmo as he spoke. “Unlike him, the populace generally accepts and tolerates Mobians and the last thing he needed was any sort of backlash that would start a revolt, so he went subtle: higher taxes, lower wages, steeper penalties, the quiet roboticizations and the plate being out of reach for many, to name a few examples. But even then, those little things can spark a rebellion. Which led to you all.”
He then meandered over to Cream, who glared defiantly back at him. “With the rest of the human population and even some of those privileged Mobians, Grandfather turned to money. It seemed to be working. The people thought that Kintobor would protect them.” He smirked at this, one part of his moustache rising upwards. “Work at Kintobor, get your pay. If a terrorist attacks, the Kintobor army will protect you. It was a very nice and convenient system.”
Robotnik made his way back to the SkyTrans. He turned to face the Mobians, his nostrils flared and brows lowered. “But I? I do things differently,” he said, his tone becoming ominous. “I’ve no major compunctions against Mobians and I couldn’t care less about my fellow humans the same way my Grandfather did. Instead, I’ll control the world with fear.”
Tails felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up as Robotnik elaborated. “You see, fear doesn’t discriminate between man or beast. Fear can control the minds of both common people and Mobians and lead them to live peaceful lives, guided by my hand. Fear can quash dissent and quell even the smallest embers of revolution. Their fear of me and the rebranded Robotnik Corporation will preserve peace and stability throughout this world and save this company both money and time. There are no reasons to waste either of those on the community at large, when they can be channeled towards accomplishing bigger things instead. Things like attaining the Fertile Grounds, for instance.”
His eyes leveled towards Cosmo, who took a step backwards, her eyes wide with fright. Her hand shakily went to her lips.
Tails stepped forward, finally having enough of the man’s declarations. He drew his sword and his lips curled into a snarl. “Bark, you and the others get Cosmo out of here,” he growled, his eyes blazing with fury.
“W-what?” Bark spluttered at him, taken aback by the fox’s sudden behavioural shift.
“I’ll explain later!” Tails yelled, glancing back to the bear for a split second before going back to Robotnik. “If you’re so gung-ho about saving Mobius, you’ll know that this guy here represents the real crisis for the world!”
Bark faced Tails with the look of complete and utter bewilderment crossing his snout. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?!” he shouted back angrily.
Tails twisted to look the bear in the eye while keeping his senses honed in case Robotnik tried to make a move. Despite the doctor’s flippant tone and attitude, the fox knew deep down that he wasn’t above pulling any dirty tricks. “Look, Bark, you have to trust me,” he said levelly. “Take my word for it. Go, get outta here. I’ll join you guys after I deal with him.” He faced the human once more, his weapon at the ready.
The doctor watched the exchange, the menacing grin on his face stretching his moustache upwards. “‘Deal with me?’ Oho-ho-ho-ho!” he laughed, throwing his head back. “This ought to be interesting…”
With the Mobian and the Human facing off against each other, Bark and the others retreated and ran for the door leading into Gerald’s office. “Go kick his ass, Tails,” the bear said, shutting the door behind him.
The two stood alone on the grand balcony overlooking the brightly lit city, each sizing the other up. Robotnik quirked his lips into a sardonic smile at the fox. “Why are you so intent on fighting me?” he asked.
“Because you seek the Fertile Grounds and Nazo,” Tails answered, maintaining his guard while pointing a finger at him threateningly.
The human sniffed. “How perceptive,” he said mockingly, his hands on hips and lips curled into a contemptuous smile. “Next, you’ll tell me that Nazo is an Ancient, which I already knew about. What other nuggets of information do you wish to share that I don’t already know?”
Tails’ ire at the rotund man grew the more he spoke. “…It doesn’t matter,” he said darkly. His leg muscles tensed as he readied himself to strike him down. “I won’t let you or Nazo have the Fertile Grounds!” He then sprang forward, his weapon behind his head and ready to cleave him in two.
As his blade came down on Robotnik’s head, it was stopped by a silvery, translucent barrier that formed around the human. Tails looked on in shock at Robotnik’s smirking face. “Well, I guess this means we won’t become friends,” he jeered.
Tails jumped back and created space between himself and the President just as another figure emerged from the shadows of the SkyTrans’ interior. It was a sleek, egg-shaped robot standing on a pair of spindly inverted legs with multiple points of articulation. Connected to the back of each leg was a medium sized black wheel. It had two cannons, one equipped onto each of its long arms. Its oblong shaped torso had a wide, white vertical stripe down its middle and a round searchlight on the left side of its chest. A shield-like plate and a pair of engine mufflers – all silver coloured – were attached to its pelvic area. The mufflers spewed yellow-grey smoke from its ends, away from the robot itself. Its head was as small and dome-like as its master’s, with a yellow shade covering over glowing green eyes. It’s body was painted jet black with silver accents around the joints and parts of the casings around its armoured limbs. Painted on the front of its body were the numbers ‘101’. A Green Emerald was nestled into a slot just below its number. It stood beside its master, its cannons pointed at Tails.
“Allow me to introduce the first of a new evolution in elite, mechanical soldiers: E-101 Beta,” Robotnik said. “Do you remember when you fought my grandfather’s poorly designed E-100 unit in Reactor No. 5? What you see before you is my complete and total overhaul of his shoddy work! Beta and his siblings are the first of their kind: sleek, efficient killing machines that can equip and utilize Emeralds in the same way we use them! It’s quite the marvel isn’t it?”
“…How is it using Emeralds?” Tails questioned, scrutinizing the robot. He had to wrap his mind around the concept of an inorganic machine being capable of using magic.
“That’s a trade secret,” the man answered coyly, shrugging. He crossed his arms and leaned towards the fox, inspecting him with a raised eyebrow. “You know, I did my homework on you.” He smirked once again. “You disrupted security systems and bypassed critical networks to cover your tracks, your knowledge in machinery is well above average and you also have something of a tactical mind for battle. Very impressive for a former member of SOLDIER.”
As Robotnik spoke, Tails covertly charged a Lightning-All spell from his armor. ‘That’s right, keep talking,’ he thought, sliding a hand behind his back and shaping the magic with his Mana. Two points of light formed on the ends of his fingers. ‘These’ll be the last words you ever speak!’ He then pushed out his hand and called, “BOLT!”
The points of lightning shot out and zigzagged towards Robotnik and Beta. The first struck the machine dead-on and showered it with electrical energy, but the second hit a rainbow-coloured barrier that surrounded Robotnik. The energy spread across the shield before dissipating into the air.
“Mwahahaha!” Robotnik cackled, a wide and toothy grin spreading out on his lips. “Ah, you are a crafty one, aren’t you? But as you can see, it’s no use! These physical and magical barriers that Beta erected can protect me from just about anything!” He turned towards his machine. “And with a potent insulating material under his exoskeleton, along with an overcurrent protection device, Beta can withstand a great deal of electricity. All part of my genius!” He stared smugly at the bewildered fox. “Now, Beta, attack!” he ordered, gesturing a hand towards the fox.
“INITIATING COMBAT MODE,” Beta said in a deep, male-sounding monotone voice. It pointed its twin cannons and fired on Tails. The fox reacted quickly, strafing around the rapid gunfire and making a beeline to the wall on his right as the machine gave chase.
As he ran, he drew more Lightning energy from the Emerald on his weapon. He stepped up the wall, kicked off, twisted in midair and thrust his palm out, calling “BOLT” The beam of Lightning magic shot out and hit Beta between the eyes, knocking it backwards and showering it again with electricity.
Tails landed and charged forward to slice Beta. Suddenly from his right side, a shot rang out and the fox could feel a bullet slam into his unprotected shoulder. Screaming out in pain, Tails stumbled and dropped his sword, giving Beta the opportunity to recover. The robot rose up and landed a powerful blow to the fox’s face with one of its heavy cannon arms. He sailed backwards, landed onto the ground and then slid to a halt. Tails coughed as he rose to a kneeling position. His eyes travelled past the robot towards Robotnik, who shouldered a collapsible rifle.
The doctor grinned malevolently, clearly enjoying himself. “I suppose in another life, I would have been content to sit back idly and let my machines fight for me,” he commented lightly. “Personally though, it’s much more fun to be involved, don’t you think?” He cocked the gun and took aim. “And now, this short, but entertaining game is over.”
“Yeah,” Tails admitted through clenched teeth. Small silver bolts of lightning arced around his body and his fur began to give off a golden hue as he started to stand up. His injured right arm dangled limply and blood dribbled out of the bullet wound in his shoulder and down the limb. “The game IS over… for you!” Standing upright, he stood erect and revealed a large, shining yellow charge of Lightning energy that he concealed in his left hand. “Let’s see if that shield of yours can handle a focused burst like this!” As he continued to pour a dangerous amount of Mana into it, he saw Robotnik’s face grow pale as he squeezed the trigger.
In a split second, Tails twisted his body to the side as the rifle shot rang out. The bullet zipped past his cheek and took out a tuft of white fur on his muzzle. The Ex-SOLDIER righted himself, pointed his hand directly at Robotnik and called “BOLT!” The massive charge burst from his hand and hurtled towards the doctor, who looked on dumbstruck.
At the last second, Beta stepped between its master and the spell, crossed its arms and took the entirety of it. The intensity of the magic overloaded the electrical protections within its body and caused an explosion that resulted in both of Beta’s arms being blown off from its body. The barriers around Robotnik faded and he received a deep, long gash on his right arm from the shrapnel. He stumbled away to the side and placed a hand on the bleeding wound to stem it.
The golden hue now concentrating on his namesakes, Tails burst through the smoke of the explosion toward Beta, pivoted and whipped his tails around with such speed that it cut the very air between himself and Beta’s body. The supersonic swipe created a shockwave that sliced through the robot’s thick armor and its internal mechanisms. The top half of the body slid off and crashed into the floor with a loud clunk.
His determined eyes turning towards Robotnik, Tails dropped to a knee as he strained out every remaining drop of his Mana to charge a final Lightning spell at point-blank range. He raised his hand towards the human. “Without… your guard dog, you won’t be able to… avoid getting fried!” he spat out, teeth bared in anger.
Next to Tails, the robot’s flat head slowly rotated towards Robotnik. The human looked back at it impassively. “Hmph,” the doctor sniffed. “I had such high hopes for you Beta. You should have shot the creature while it was still down, but instead, you just watched on. I’m disappointed. I should have enlisted your brother, Gamma, instead.” With his left hand, Robotnik aimed his rifle and shot Beta directly in the head. The robot’s green eyes dimmed and it ceased movement.
Tails watched the exchange with baited breath. ‘Can’t… hold it… much longer…’ he stressed as the charge flickered and then suddenly died in his hand. Gasping for air, he glared defiantly at the human and waited for him to finish him off.
To his eternal surprise, Robotnik stepped backwards towards the SkyTrans and holstered his rifle. “Heh… I think that’s all for today,” he said, a smug smile crossing his lips, despite the blood dripping down his arm. He turned around and walked towards the SkyTrans. Midway, he looked over his shoulder to Tails. “Oh, I do hope your friends aren’t taking the elevator,” he said, a sadistic grin stretching his face. “If they are… well, they’re in for a nasty surprise!” With a wave and a cackle, he boarded the vessel. “Adieu, until we meet again, my friend!” Robotnik shouted over the wind as the SkyTrans soared off, leaving an utterly surprised and furious Tails on the balcony.