Chapter 39: Escape From The City
Tails steeled himself as he held a thin shard of metal he plucked from Beta’s destroyed body and brought it towards the bullet hole in his right shoulder. Swigging down the contents of the Potion phial he held in his teeth, he took several deep breaths and then he inserted the bit of metal into the wound. He bit back a scream as he twisted the piece of shrapnel in search of the slug and after a few, excruciatingly painful moments he extracted the bullet. It tinkled loudly as it hit the concrete floor.
Moving quickly, Tails broke the top off of another Potion and poured it on the oozing wound to staunch the bleeding. He muzzled a groan as he downed his last Ether and placed a hand on the Restore Emerald on his recovered weapon. Drawing the energy and shaping it with his Mana, he directed it to his injured shoulder and called “CURE!”
The bright green magic seeped into the hole, closed the wound and then grew new, raw skin underneath it. He sat there, breathless for several moments before he gingerly poked the tender flesh and rotated his arm to test it out. “Good, no serious damage,” he muttered to himself as he massaged the feeling back into his shoulder. “Feels a bit sore, but I’ll manage.”
He sheathed his weapon and returned to Beta’s husk. Kneeling down, he extracted the Barrier Emerald that was inserted into a slot on its lower torso and brought it up to eye level to examine it. ‘Robots who use Emeralds… That’s pretty ingenious,’ he reflected. He turned the Emerald over in his hand, stared at it for a moment and then swapped it out for the blue All Emerald in his armor socket. ‘I wish I had the time to dig into its inner workings, but I got no time to spare… At least this Emerald makes up for it.’ He breathed out a longing, frustrated sigh as he stood up and started to make his way back through the building to rejoin the others.
As he trundled down the stairwell to the 69th floor, he saw – to his surprise – that Cream was waiting for him. She was leaning on a wall by the door leading to the elevator bay with her arms folded. Her face brightened and she straightened up as he approached. “Hey,” she called, a gentle smile radiating on her face. “What happened to Kintobor – or Robotnik? Or whatever he wants to call himself?”
Tails pinched the bridge between his muzzle with two fingers. “…Couldn’t finish the bastard,” he grumbled. “He sicced a new kind of robot on me, one that can use Emeralds.”
The rabbit’s brows shot up at that revelation. “Really, Tails?” she said, slack-jawed. “You’re kidding, right?”
“I wish I wasn’t,” he replied exasperatedly. The two made their way to the elevators and Tails pressed the call button.
“We apologize. The express elevators are out of service,” an electronic female voice blared out on the intercom above them.
Tails gave the speaker a cross look, his ears flattened to the sides. “Fantastic,” he muttered sarcastically. He turned to Cream, who gave him a rueful smile.
“Guess we’ll have to take the stairs?” she quipped, taking the lead through the blood-stained halls back to the stairwell. “At least climbing down will be much easier than climbing up, right?” She glanced uneasily at the elevator bank behind her. “I sure hope Cosmo and the others are alright…”
Green XIII stood up from the bench he was sitting on in the lobby. Cosmo and Bark looked at him, perplexed. “I believe we’ve rested enough,” he said to their surprise. “We should probably get out of here.”
Cosmo clenched her hands over the fabric of her dress. “…Yeah,” she acquecised, her head bowed. She had hoped that Tails and Cream would have arrived by now. Letting out a dejected sigh, she raised her head and glanced around the lobby. “I don’t see any other exits… We’ll probably have to go out the front door.”
“Alright then,” Bark said, steeling himself. “I’ll scope out ahead and see if the coast is clear. Wait for my signal.” Grunting, he got out of the seat and cut through the lobby area towards the main entrance.
Cosmo and Green XIII waited several moments in silence. Suddenly, the sounds of gunfire erupted and the two threw themselves to the floor as bullets sprayed through the glass panes around the building’s entrance. From her prone position, Cosmo saw Bark hurry back inside. He took cover by one of the security gates, stuck out his right arm and fired back. “GODDESS-FRIGGIN’-DAMNIT!” he shouted aloud amid the sounds of shots pouring into the building.
After what seemed like minutes, the gunfire ceased, allowing the bear to drop to the floor and slide over to the other two huddled on the ground. “…So, it looks like we’re surrounded,” he said casually as he reloaded. “If it was just me here all alone, then this would have been no big deal.” He looked at Cosmo with fierce determination in his eyes. “But I swore that I’d get you out, no matter what.”
The flower girl felt tears well up inside her, not only at his touching words, but at the ultimate realization that Kintobor would never stop until she was back in their possession. She finally understood why she felt full of dread since she and the others made their escape. It wasn’t Nazo, but the lengths that Kintobor would go to in order to get what they want. They would hunt down and kill anyone that stood between them and her. ‘And I can’t let that continue…’ she reflected, understanding dawning on her.
“You-you don’t need to do this,” she choked out, her lips quivering. She forced herself not to shed any tears. She would be strong. “ All they want… Is me.” She rose up, Bark’s and Green XIII’s heads following her. “You both need to hide.” she said, resignedly. “I’ll… I’ll draw them away from you.”
She strode forward and passed between the two of them, mentally prepared to accept her fate. She suddenly felt a hand clasp around her wrist – it was Bark’s. She twisted back to see his deep brown eyes glaring angrily at her.
“Don’t you get it?” he said crossly. “I’m not letting that happen. You got involved because of Hope and I promised her I’d bring you back. Hell, I promised your mother too! And that’s exactly what I’m gonna do!” He stood up and cocked his Gun-Arm, his vengeful eyes trailing to the entrance. “Alright, you jackasess,” he growled. “Playtime’s over!”
“…Thank you Mr. Bark!” Cosmo exclaimed, a sob escaping from her lips soon after. Her words caused the bear to do a double take.
“Woah, woah,” he said, his arms akimbo and his lips twisted in an embarrassed smile. “Just-just call me Bark, alright? Calling me Mr. makes me feel old… I’m not even through my mid-thirties yet, sheesh!”
“So, old man,” Green XIII commented lightly, earning a glare from Bark. He placed a cool crystal hand on Cosmo’s shoulder to comfort her. “If we’re done gabbing away, may I suggest that we think of a way to get out of here?”
Bark rolled his eyes at the golem. “Pssh, yeah whatever,” he bit back sardonically. His voice dropped to a mutter. “You’re almost as serious as someone else that I know…”
Green XIII cast a suspicious look at the polar bear. “Did you say something?” he questioned, his yellowed eyes narrowed.
“Nope! Not a thing!” Bark answered quickly. His arms then flopped to his sides and his shoulders slumped forward. “So, what are we gonna do?”
Just as the golem opened his mouth, they heard footsteps coming from behind them. Cosmo whirled around to see Cream clamber down the lobby stairwell. Relief swam through the flower girl at the sight of the fighter. She hastily wiped her eyes with the back of her arm.
“Bark! Cosmo! Green!” the fighter called out, a hurried smile on her face. “Thank goodness you’re all safe!”
“Cream! Where’s Tails?” Bark asked as the rabbit reached the ground floor. Instead of moving towards them, she went around the stairwell and headed to the back of the lobby.
“This way, everyone!” she said, earning confused looks from the three.
“Waitaminute! Where’s Tails!?” Bark called as the three followed her to the back.
“He’s on his way!” Cream answered, approaching a teal flatbed truck with a rounded, snub-nosed hood, a two person cockpit and three wheels. She forced open the door, got inside and started to hotwire the vehicle to start. “Cosmo, you’re riding shotgun with me! Bark, Green, you two jump in the back!” she instructed as she got the engine to turn. It rumbled awake with a start.
Climbing in on the passenger side, Cosmo stared wide-eyed at the fighter in awe. “I-I never knew you could do that?” she said, bewildered. Her lips split into an ear to ear grin. “Creamy, you are so full of surprises…”
Cream shot her a wry and sheepish grin of her own, her cheeks tinged with a light dusting of pink. “Well, Jessie taught me how to do it some time ago, said it would come in handy,” she said, shrugging. Her grin faded at the mention of the brunette. “I never thought it would be the day when I had to run from the Kintobor Army with a fugitive flower girl in tow.”
“Hey! We’re on!” Bark shouted over the engine noise before Cosmo could say a word. The truck sagged from the combined weight of the four occupants. “You sure this thing’s gonna go with all of us on it!?” the bear asked nervously.
“I think we’ll be OK,” Cream answered, her eyes on the side mirror. “Now all we have to do is wait for Tails…”
At the mention of the Ex-SOLDIER, Cosmo soon heard the sounds of a revving engine approaching them from the back.
Astride a motorcycle he procured on the lobby’s third floor, Tails bounded down the stairs towards the ground floor to meet with the others. Despite the seriousness of their plight, he couldn’t help but feel elated.
The motorcycle featured a large RINGTEK-powered motor surrounded by a sleek and robust black chassis. Unlike an ordinary bike, Tails found that the handlebars were located on the sides and required him to lean forward and grip the controls vertically. The seat was clad in plush, black leather which the fox felt comfortable in. The motorcycle had a standard size front wheel and an oversized rear wheel, each equipped with a set of high performance shocks that muted the vibrations as he reached the ground floor with a bounce. He tilted his wrists to steer the bike and leaned his body towards the ground as he made a hairpin turn towards the back of the lobby.
‘If I somehow get out of this alive, the first thing I’m gonna do is find another one of these bikes, tear it apart to see how it works and then put it back together again,’ Tails promised himself as he approached the teal, three-wheeled truck.
Bark waved out to him, a playful grin on his snout. “Yo! You’re late!” he said.
Cream opened the window as the fox approached her. “Alright Tails, we’re ready!” the fighter said. Tails peered inside to see Cosmo’s lips curl upwards, relief flooding her face.
The fox smirked back and then settled back onto the bike.“OK,” Tails said, his jaw set. “We’re heading back to the third floor. Let’s go!” He twisted the throttle controls and rode off, the bright, single lamp headlight at the front illuminating his way. The truck trundled behind him as they ascended back to the third floor.
Once they reached the top, they stopped just before the elevators. Bark twisted around to face Tails. “Hey, so what now?!” he hollered over the sounds of the engine.
“Simple,” Tails answered. His grip tightened on the handlebars as he spoke. “See that window at the end? You’ll need to shoot it and the next glass panel beyond it,” he instructed. Seeing Bark’s confused face, he continued hastily. “Look, so this building is designed to look like an egg from the outside, right? An egg is wider around its middle than it is on its end. That means the glass that makes up its exoskeleton is closer to the building on this floor than it is on, say the 30th or 40th floor-” He let out a frustrated growl as he realized he was over-explaining things. “Bark, just-just shoot the glass and trust me, OK?” he finished wearily.
“Alright, whatever you say…” the polar bear said doubtfully. He took aim from the top of the truck and fired a barrage on the thick glass. The shots passed through both panes and formed cracks that spiderwebbed up and down its height.
Tails exhaled, holding the clutch down and setting the gear. He leaned over the bike and twisted the throttle to rev up the engine. The motor roared loudly as he watched the digital gauge in between the handlebars climb higher and higher. Seconds later, he yelled out, “CREAM! FLOOR IT!” and released the clutch.
The motorcycle shot off towards the damaged window, the tires squealing loudly on the polished flooring. He lowered his head as he crashed through the first pane and then through the second that made up the building’s facade, which was separated from the main building by only a few feet. Sailing through the open sky, the bike landed hard on a section of the Megapolis Expressway. Regaining control, Tails swerved around to see the flatbed truck – along with his terrified and screaming friends – land a few feet away from him with a bounce.
Cream jammed the brakes and they slid to an unsteady stop near the fox. He rolled up to them, smirking. “See, Cream? I told you it would work,” he said cockily as she rolled down the window.
“…Remind me never to doubt you again,” Cream answered flatly, giving her friend a level stare. Beside her, Cosmo clutched a stitch in her chest, her eyes wide with a mix of fright and exhilaration.
“Uh… Everyone?” Green XIII chimed in, his raspy voice drawing the group’s attention. He was looking in the direction towards the Kintobor Building and pointed out towards something approaching from the distance. “I think we are about to have some company.”
Tails swiveled around and looked in the direction that the golem was indicating. A deployment of MP’s – all riding motorcycles of their own – were steadily heading towards them. He cursed under his breath and then turned to Cream and the others. “You guys get going,” he said, drawing the Buster Sword. “I’ll hang back and deal with these jokers.” His eyes met Bark’s own. “Bark, I’ll be counting on both you and Green to keep this truck safe. If any get by me, take ‘em out!”
“You got it, Tails,” Bark growled, cocking his gun. A determined scowl crossed his face. “You can count on us to give it to those Kintobor bastards!” Beside him, Green XIII flashed a thumbs up in agreement.
Nodding, the fox then turned to his childhood friend. He looked right at her worried amber-brown eyes. “Don’t worry about me,” he said in what he hoped was a comforting tone. “You just keep Cosmo and the others alive. I’m counting on you too, Cream.”
She said nothing for a long moment, her lips drawn into a thin line. Soon, they curled up into a warm smile. “OK Tails,” she accepted. “Don’t get too in over your head and be safe.” She raised the window back up, set the truck into gear and sped off.
As the soldiers approached, Tails took the opportunity to quickly inspect his blade. The battles over the course of several days left him no proper opportunity to clean and hone his weapon and he saw, with a pang of guilt running through him, the damage that was done to it.
There was a level of wear on the edge and the flats on both sides were scarred from the myriad of bullets and claws he had blocked over the course of the past few days. Dried blood from Humans, Mobians and Mutates mixed with coolant splattered from the numerous Robians and mechaniloids he fought and gave the blade a rusted and discoloured appearance. He frowned at the sight and set himself back onto the motorcycle properly. Adjusting the bike into gear, he held the giant sword in a reverse grip with his left hand . ‘Just stay strong for me, my faithful friend,’ he spared a thought for it as he heard the soldiers approach from behind. ‘When this is all over, I’ll get you fixed up. Til then, I’m counting on you to keep us all alive…’
When they were only a couple hundred feet away, Tails raced off, tires squealing and his weapon held aloft as he made his stand against the riding MP’s while winding through the curves and bends of the expressway.
“Hey! Can’t this jalopy go any faster?!”
Cream grounded her teeth at Bark’s comment as she veered around the empty highway. “Do you want me to stop so you can drive instead?” she hollered back. Only silence met her remark. “I thought so,” she grumbled.
“Creamy?” came Cosmo’s worried tone beside her. Her eyes were trained on the passenger side mirror. “Um… we got bogies tailing us at six o’clock!”
“What?!” Cream glanced at her incredulously. She then arched her head over her shoulder to Bark, while keeping one eye on the road. “Bark! Why aren’t you shooting?!”
“I can’t get an open shot!” the bear hollered back over the wind.
Before she could press further, the reason rolled up to them in a flash of metal, orange fur and twin bushy tails.
Tails gunned the throttle with his right hand and pulled up to Cream’s side of the truck. Flashing both girls a cocky grin, he then pulled the brake and sliced at an incoming MP’s bike behind him with his sword in his left hand. The rabbit watched from her side mirror as the blade cut through the front fork of the dark-coloured motorbike, sending it and the soldier riding it flying and crashing into a heap.
“Cream! On our right!” came Cosmo’s voice beside her, followed by the sounds of Bark shooting. Cream turned her attention away from Tails and to the passenger side where three more soldiers approached, each swerving around to avoid Bark’s shots.
“Can’t… pin… down… these motherfuckers!” the polar bear snarled as he strafed and fired off the last shots on his current clip. A few bullets managed to strike the lead rider, who lost control of his bike and slid to the ground. The two bikes following closely behind then slammed into the leader’s and sent all three rolling painfully onto the asphalt.
Satisfied, Bark hunkered down to reload but then swore loudly. “I’m down to my last four clips!” he shouted, pounding the truck bed with his fist. “This is just perfect!”
“With the luck we’re having right now, I’m surprised that we’re all still alive,” Green XIII commented dryly as he gripped his side of the truck tightly.
‘But for how long?’ came the thought unbidden to Cream’s mind. She forced herself not to imagine the grisly outcome and instead trained her focused back onto the road. They passed through a straightaway and ended up in a curved section that spiraled downwards towards another straight road lined with tall condominiums on either side.
Another soldier creeped up to Cosmo’s side, reared away and slammed into the truck, pushing it towards the left shoulder. Both the flower girl and the fighter let out a yelp and Cosmo threw a hand out onto the dashboard to stabilize herself. Growling, Cream eyed the rider ramming into her as it readied another strike. Timing it, she twisted hard on the steering wheel just as the grunt was approaching and struck the vehicle. The heavier vehicle caused the motorcycle to careene away and collide with the right shoulder, sending its rider over the edge.
As Cosmo pushed herself back onto her seat, her hand slipped and her finger switched the radio on. A catchy rock song suddenly blared out of the speakers. “Oh darn, I’m sorry!” she apologized as she reached out to turn it off.
Cream stopped her just as the song cut off and was replaced by an orchestrated jingle that was familiar to the rabbit’s ears. “Hold on a sec, Cos,” she said as the broadcast began.
“We interrupt this broadcast for a breaking news update,” the announcer said, before switching over to the news.
“This is Scarlett Garcia from KNN,” the female’s voice rang out. “Megapolis suffers from yet another tragedy as Gerald Kintobor, longtime President of Kintobor Incorporated, has died. He was 83 years old. Authorities-”
Another rider sidled up to Cream’s side and rammed the truck as they were listening. Cream fought for control as the vehicle swerved towards the right shoulder. The biker readied to strike the truck again, this time with the hope of forcing it to crash. In an instant, Tails drew up to the soldier’s bike, wrapped his tails around the rider’s neck and flung him off. The bike – now riderless – wobbled dangerously before it crashed to the ground, its metal frame causing bright sparks to fly up into the other MP’s trailing behind. The fox then let off the throttle to deal with the rest of the soldiers and gave Cream and the others space.
Both women continued listening to the broadcast as the group was chased out of the residential ring of the sector and entered the industrial area. The vehicle streaked past factories, warehouses and other, large industrial complexes. “-cause of death is unknown at this time, but it has been determined that it was the work of the terrorist cell, TORNADO, who were responsible for bombing two Energen Reactors and dropping the Sector 7 plate in recent days. Our source has confirmed that all of the remaining members of the cell were recently captured as early as last night.”
There was a pause in the transmission as the truck rounded a tight corner. “Oh! We just received new information, listeners!” came Scarlett’s voice through the radio. “The terrorists have escaped the building and are currently on the Sector 5 portion of the Megapolis Expressway! Kintobor troops are enroute to apprehend them! We will continue to provide more information as the situation develops!”
Cream’s grip on the steering wheel tightened as the news broadcast ended and the music resumed playing. She felt her stomach drop at the reminder of all the lives lost due to her’s and Bark’s vendetta against Kintobor. Before she could dwell on them further, three more grunts approached from the sides and the back. A fourth zoomed ahead, cut in front of the truck and boxed it in. The rabbit gritted her teeth at this predicament as the riders closed in, guns drawn and pointed at the four occupants.
“Pull over and stand down!” one the MP’s hollered out over the rushing wind, his gun trained on Cream’s temple. “We will shoot you if you do not comply!”
“Creamy, what are we gonna do?” Cosmo asked the fighter, her brows creasing and hands worrying the fabric of her white dress.
Cream feigned a response and instead peered at her side mirror from the corner of her eye to see Tails dealing with three MP’s surrounding his ride. Her lips set into a grim line at the sight. ‘Hurry up Tails…’
Tails cursed his luck as he finished off the last soldier with a sweeping slash from his sword. He realized too late that the three riders he had fended off were just a distraction. In front of him, four more motorcycles had surrounded the truck ahead, with three of the riders pointing guns at his friends. In a frantic rush, Tails sheathed his sword, adjusted the gears and gunned the engine, willing the machine to go faster. He could feel the intense vibrations running up his legs as the motor was being pushed to its absolute limit. At the same time, he brought his right hand to the Emeralds on his armor and quickly drew energy from the newly acquired Barrier Emerald he pilfered from Beta’s metallic corpse. Within a few short moments, he caught up to the motorcycle at the back of the truck.
The fox didn’t hesitate as he drew out and brought the sword over to the rider’s back in a sweeping, overhead chop from left to right. The soldier let out an agonizing cry and his blood splattered all about him as his spinal cord was severed. In the same movement, he thrusted his right palm out towards the right side of the truck and called “BARRIER!” A translucent silver-grey beam of energy shot out from his hand and formed a thin screen of light around Cosmo’s side of the truck.
The rider next to Cream twisted his head back as he heard his comrade shout out, giving her the time she needed to bring the truck closer to him She forcefully kicked the door open, which then slammed into the motorcycle on her side, causing the bike to become unbalanced. The rider fought for control as Tails approached from his right and brought the mighty blade down, cleaving the bike in two.
Though it was weak, the Barrier spell was enough to stop the few shots coming from the pistol of the right-most rider. Green XIII sprung up with a bright yellow crystal charge in hand. He pointed it to the motorcycle on his side and called “BOLT!” The chunk flew out and exploded on contact with the bike, sending a shower of electrical energy over it and the MP. The soldier lost control of the vehicle and rammed headfirst into the right shoulder.
At the same moment the golem launched his spell, Bark stood up, leaned on the roof of the truck’s cab and shot at the lone rider in front. The bullet struck the back of the grunt’s skull and he jerked violently. The bike crashed onto its side and Green XIII grabbed the bear by the waistline of his pants and yanked him back down as Cream weaved quickly around the dead biker.
The five reached the end of Sector 5’s industrial ring and were fast approaching the outskirts of the city. Driving into a tunnel, Tails looked back and saw that no one else was following them. The sight would make anyone else breathe a sigh of relief, but Tails instead was wary. He drove up to Cream’s window and knocked on it. “They’ve stopped following us,” he spoke loudly over the wind so that all four could hear them. “But stay sharp! If I were a bettin’ fox, I know they’d never let us go that easily!”
No sooner than he said the words did something large rumble up behind them. Cruising towards the Mobians on six, independently moving spiked wheels was a large robot, its body splashed in colours of deep plum and gun-metal grey. Tails swiveled around to look at the mechaniloid; its main body was folded up, but he could make out features like arm mounted cannons and two large tubes coming out of its back. Jutting out from where its shoulders were located were two, large ducted propeller fan blades that gave the hunk of metal additional propulsive power and allowed it to keep up with the group as they neared the end of the tunnel.
Set upon the top portion of its broad back was a familiar-looking domed head with a yellow shade over cold, unfeeling green eyes. It was the head that made the fox gnash his teeth, his spiteful thoughts directed at the man who created it and its other siblings.
“Damn you, Robotnik,” Tails spat out as they left the tunnel and approached the end of the line. Both vehicles came to a screeching halt at the unconstructed portion of the highway at the extreme edge of the city. With nowhere left to go, Tails, Bark, Cream, Cosmo and Green XIII got out of their vehicles to find themselves between a 100 meter drop to the ground below and the metal monstrosity that was fast approaching them…