Mobius VII – Book 1: Escape From The City – Chapter 41

Chapter 41: Consequences



Knuckles

Knuckles had to fight to prevent himself from smiling as he got out of the elevator onto the 69th floor. The plan had worked perfectly. Or as perfectly as it could, given the circumstances.

On Archimedes’ suggestion, he instructed the Chaotix to subtly aid TORNADO in Cosmo’s escape. He ordered Honey to hack into the employee access mainframe and subtly changed Mayor Buliani’s security clearance to include the 66th floor. He also had Nack sneakily jam the stairwell door on the 61st and had a plant standing by with another keycard at the ready. Ray organized the recovery efforts in Sector 7, which kept most of the security forces – including a large contingent of SOLDIER operatives – away from the building. Finally, once he, Espio, Mighty – relieved that the echidna was finally taking some action – and Vector finally ‘captured’ the motley crew of Mobians, Knuckles would have had the feline hacker bust them out of the holding cells and stealthily lead them out of the building.

The fact that the fox initiated a hack on the building security systems to further disrupt things within was the icing on the cake that was his grand scheme. Not only did it make it harder for the remnants of Kintobor’s security forces to track them down, it also gave his team additional cover to work behind the scenes. ‘We could say that the Ex-SOLDIER worked his way into the internal systems and that we had no idea what was going on until it was too late,’ he thought as he passed through the blood-stained corridors. ‘The company will never realize that it was because of us that TORNADO got through the building with such ease. I’ll have to remember to thank Archy for that clever suggestion when I see him again.

The only thing that bothered him was the fact that the planned prison break ended up becoming a slaughter that concluded with an impressively long and familiar sword in their former president’s back. Despite feeling pleased overall, Knuckles still resisted the urge to massage his temples as he strode up the stairwell towards the 70th floor.

All that effort to prepare the jamming devices to aid in her escape… What a total waste,’ he ruminated as he ascended the last few steps. ‘…Not only that, we have a new president to deal with… one who’s slightly more unstable than his grandfather…’ 

Arriving at Gerald’s old office, he stopped at the top of the stairs and gaped at the complete and ongoing transformation of the space.

Several human sized robots worked on the floor, transporting and installing a litany of mechanical lab equipment. They were coming in from the large SkyTrans sitting on the balcony outside of the office proper. They were burly, muscular-looking automations, each with a domed head and a thin, red horizontal visor crossing where their eyes would be. Their bodies were covered in an inky, dark blue armour. 

The oversized desk that the former president used was removed and replaced with a more sleek and sophisticated terminal. Knuckles couldn’t see much of the computer equipment as several of these mysterious, shadow-coloured robots surrounded it, but he was able to see eight massive screens arranged in a 4 x 2 grid. ‘By the beads of Athair, Ovi works quickly…’ the echidna thought as he watched the busy scene in front of him

“-Why did you let him go, s-sir?”

Knuckles turned to the sound of the stammering, high pitched voice. It came from the centre of the room. Snively – the head of Space Exploration – was there, cowering before a man who looked to be the exact duplicate of Gerald Kintobor, albeit younger. He wore an elaborate, red coat with gold and white trims overtop of skin-tight black bodysuit. He had a pair of goggles over his eyes.  

Knuckles’ eyes narrowed. ‘Well, if it isn’t Ovi, the new president himself,’ he found himself thinking.

The tall and lanky man stooped before a pedestal, where a red, egg-shaped robot stood on. It had a domed head with two beady eyes that sat under a yellow shade. Its thin, rail-like arms were removed from the body and lay on the pedestal by its multi-jointed legs. A panen on its back was opened, revealing its internal circuitry. The moustachioed look-alike held a soldering iron as he bent over and worked on the robot’s internals. “Simple, Snively,” he said, his gruff, yet sinister-sounding tone causing the hairs on Knuckles’ neck to stand up. “I see that there is a bigger picture afoot. If I merely killed the Ex-SOLDIER, the trail would have gone cold, so to speak.”

“What?”

“…They’ll lead us directly to the Fertile Grounds, you moron,” the man snapped at him, selecting a pair of pliers from the worktable next to him before returning to panel. “I’ve deduced that Nazo and that fox have some bad blood between them. If we track and follow them both, I guarantee they’ll lead us to the prize! All we do then is swoop in and take it under their noses! A brilliant plan, if I do say so myself!”

Guess I should say something… before he goes into a self-indulgent monologue,’ “Ahem, Mr. President,” Knuckles addressed.

The man turned away from Gamma’s chassis and faced the echidna. “Ah, good, you’re here,” he said, standing up and placing the tools on the table. He removed the work goggles from his eyes – revealing the same style of pince-nez spectacles his grandfather wore, but in an inky shade of black – and then turned to Snively. “Get out of my sight. I want to talk to our guest in private.”

Whimpering, Snively backed away from the new president and hurried down the steps. The taller man sneered at his departure and then looked back at Knuckles. “It’s been a while, Knuckles,” he said, smiling. “Good to see that you’re still alive and whole.”

Knuckles scoffed and crossed his arms. “Always a pleasure to see you too, Ovi-”

“Ah, ah, ah,” the man cut in, wagging a finger playfully. “I’ve ceased to be known by my old name. I go by Ivo now.” He turned to look out of the window closest to his massive computer terminals and spread his arms widely, a broad grin stretching out from beneath his impressive moustache. “Dr. Ivo Robotnik, scientific genius and president of the newly renamed Robotnik Corporation!”

Changed the name, huh?’ Knuckles wondered, ignoring the bellowing laughter coming from the new president. ‘A pity that his megalomania hasn’t changed as much.’ “… So, what can I do for you?” he asked as Robotnik ceased his laughter. “Permit me to be frank, but I do have a team to lead and an Ancient to reclai-”

“An Ancient that you let get away?” the man interrupted, his tone cold and soft. “An Ancient that escaped… with your help?”

Knuckles felt a chill go down his spine. ‘W-what? How… How does he know?’ “I don’t… understand what you mean, sir,” he said, fighting to keep his voice level.

“Oh, I think you’re well aware of what I mean, Knuckles,” Robotnik said. He was no longer smiling. The man spun around and retrieved a portable terminal from the worktable next to the robot he was working on. He walked across the floor and handed it to the echidna. “I did a bit of digging in my first hour here,” Robotnik continued, activating the screen. A diagnostic of the entire building’s network infrastructure showed up. “Ran a few traces here and there to see exactly what that meddlesome fox and his friends did to prevent themselves from being discovered. And I found something… interesting.”

Knuckles looked up from the screen and saw the man’s expression darken. He could feel cold sweat suddenly form on his back. 

“Despite the damage done, those three shouldn’t have been able to go past the 61st floor,” Robotnik continued. “But somehow, they were able to get to the 62nd with the help of an unwitting employee… who’s not even in our internal records. Even then, Buliani’s card only goes up to the Urban Development floor… except for the fact that his card’s permissions were modified this morning to go up to the conference floor.”

“I thought it was too much to be a coincidence, so I reviewed the card permission history and found that the modification… was traced to here.” Robotnik pointed a finger to the 50th floor. WIth his other hand, he placed it on the echidna’s shoulder in a friendly gesture. Knuckles fought the urge to cringe and pull away from his touch. 

“I don’t know about you, but it seems that someone on the inside was helping TORNADO out. What do you think, Knuckles?” He stared down at the echidna through dark pince-nez spectacles and his lips and moustache curled upwards into a cruel smile. He was clearly enjoying the effect he was having on the Chaotix leader. “In fact, the majority of my traces do point to your team’s floor as the originator, after all.”

Shit, I thought Honey would have used a VPN to cover her tracks… So how was he able to trace it back to her?’ Knuckles thought. He did his best to maintain a stoic expression, knowing full well how perceptive Gerald’s grandson was at reading emotions. “Well, I can’t offer any explanation besides-”

“-The question I had moments before your arrival was why?” Robotnik interrupted. “Why go out of your way to free the Ancient and her friends? But then I thought, you know, it doesn’t really matter.” The man released his hold on the echidna’s shoulder and then walked towards one of the curved, domed windows in the office, his back to Knuckles. “No, it doesn’t matter at all that your actions have cost this company its president, have sent share prices plummeting dramatically and that the whole city is now in an upheaval. No,” he stopped in front of a window that faced Sector 8. “Because if that didn’t happen… I wouldn’t be standing in this office. I wouldn’t have been able to claim that which was ordained to me since my father passed away.”

Knuckles paled as Robotnik faced him once more. His hands were behind his back, his head was angled forward and he glared menacingly, his long, hooked nose obscuring his mouth “Given all the evidence… I should have you and your team roboticized, or even executed for their actions.” The echidna felt himself trembling as Robotnik paused. The human raised his head upwards and his lips suddenly split into a malevolent grin. “Instead… I’ll just look the other way and let you all live,” he said, unexpectedly.

Relief washed over the echidna. Before he could open his mouth and say anything, Robotnik brought up a finger once again. “Ah, ah, don’t think you’re off the hook though!” he said. “Kodos, it seems, has done a terrible job in managing this team. Therefore, you will all report to me, as of today.” He turned back towards the robot on the pedestal. “Have all your members abort their current missions and tasks and return to the building. I have an important job for your team to start immediately.”

He paused here and turned back to face the echidna, whose shirt was now sticking to him from the copious sweat that trickled down his back. “Oh,” Robotnik added, his brows lowering into a scowl. “One more thing to sweeten the pot: don’t worry so much about the results. Unlike my grandfather, I don’t see the point of ending one’s life due to failure. But if I see any ounce of distraction or an indication that your mind is elsewhere… say, on trying to find your people, for instance-” Knuckles visibly stiffened, which seemed to only further excite the human. “- I will drag your whole team here and have you watch as I roboticize each and every one of them before your eyes. Starting with the pink-furred one-”

“You will not lay your filthy hands on Julie-Su!” Knuckles yelled as he ran forward and grabbed Robotnik by the front of his coat. He cocked his fist back threateningly and his heart thudded heavily in his chest as he spoke those words.

Despite the hand on the left lapel of his jacket, Robotnik let out a gruff chuckle. “Heh, heh, still a Guardian to the end, hm?” he said in an I-know-what-you’ve-been-up-to tone of voice. 

Knuckles faltered, giving Robotnik the opportunity to extricate himself from the Chaotix leader’s grip. He stepped back, dusted himself off and flipped the goggles on his head back onto his eyes. “You have your orders, ‘Guardian’,” he called as he turned back to the robot on the pedestal, picked up the soldering iron and returned to his work. “And remember! Try not to be distracted!”

His earlier good mood deflated, Knuckles lumbered down the stairwell to the 69th. On reaching the bottom step, he halted and his head shot up as he suddenly heard a high, droning, whistling noise pierce the air around him. He turned to Monica – Gerald’s former and only surviving aide – who, despite looking visibly shaken at the sight of the dried blood covering the floors and the walls, didn’t notice the shrill sound. ‘…It’s a high-frequency signal that only I can hear… It seems to be coming from the elevator lobby… ’ he thought, his heart quickening. ‘And I know exactly who’s sounding it.’ Acting as nonchalantly as possible, Knuckles crossed the floor, travelled past the stairwell and entered the elevator lobby.

The noise was emanating from one of the windows furthest from the left most lift. The echidna sat down on the bench covered in turquoise-dyed leather and watched as the smog emitting from the reactors and factories began coating the morning landscape in a thick haze. The whistling sound stopped a moment later and Knuckles saw a puff of opaque purple smoke appear on his left. Emerging from the cloud was Archimedes. 

As Knuckles opened his mouth to speak, the ant raised a finger to his mandibles to silence the echidna. Quickly, the insect clambered up Knuckles’ arm and into his dreadlocks. He felt him rustle around for a moment before reemerging onto his right with a small, spherical device in his hands. To the echidna’s eyes, the three-legged device was the size of a pea.

Settling down onto the bench once more, Archimedes opened a tiny panel on the miniature device. A minute later, he removed a microchip that was the size of a speck of dust from its innards. Setting the panel back into the device, he then crushed the chip in his hands. “All set now, Knux,” he said in a soft whisper. He then turned to look at him critically, his middle pair of arms folded. “What’s goin’ on? It’s not like you to forget to sweep for bugs?”

“…We’ve been compromised, Archy,” Knuckles responded, his face sullen as he looked out the window to the city below.

“Oh, I heard.”

Knuckles turned sharply to regard him, an eyebrow arched upward. The ant smiled at him. “Hey, a magician never reveals his secrets,” he chortled, answering Knuckles’ silent question. The smile faded and he cast a hard look at the Chaotix leader. “But what now, though?

Knuckles pinched the bridge between his eyes and took a deep breath. “…We have little time,” he said in a quiet voice. “We can’t abandon what we’re doing… but I can’t risk everyone getting roboticized for my own personal vendetta…” The echidna fell silent as he sat on the bench and racked his brain. He parsed through every situation, every probable outcome and every pro and con before coming to a decision. “…Archy, you’ll have to go it alone for a little while,” he said. “From what you’ve shown me earlier, this is a lead that we – no, I – can’t pass up on. We need to find my people so that we can storm Angel Island and reclaim my birthright.”

“The Master Emerald…” Archimedes said quietly.

“Yeah,” Knuckles said, nodding. “I get a good feeling that Robotnik doesn’t know of your involvement in all of this. Still, we’ll have to come up with a new method of communication-”

“-Check your coat pocket,” Archimedes interrupted as he snapped his fingers, his mandibles clacking happily.

Knuckles then noticed the slight weight in his inside coat pocket. ‘That sneaky devil…’ he thought, some of his humor returning. Fishing inside, he pulled out a black flip phone. “A burner?”

“Yup,” Archimedes said, tipping his hat. “I’ll message you on that when I find something. Don’t keep it on your person though.”

“Alright,” Knuckles said, nodding. He stood up from the bench and held out a gloved hand. The ant clambered onto his shoulder. “Let’s get going. You have a plane to catch and I have to brief the team on this development.” ‘Perhaps… there’s still hope, yet,’ he added as an afterthought as he pressed the call button on the elevator. 


Christopher

Chris stood in the ascending elevator car and stared out beyond the large glass facade towards the city that was bathed in morning light. His mind was still in a stupor from the events that had unfolded over the previous night.

Barely six hours ago, he was sitting to the left of the president in the main conference room presenting the costs to rebuild Sector 7, which was done at Gerald’s own request, no less. Chris’ frustration grew as the elder statesman disregarded his numbers and announced that both the Neopolis plan – a stretch goal by any measure – and the research into the Ancients were back on the books. 

At the instant the meeting was over, the red-haired executive all but ran out of the room and left the building, wishing nothing more to put distance between his lowly self and the company he began to despise so very much. He stayed at Helen’s apartment that night with a fully built Emerl by his side. He confided in her all the terrible things that had happened over the past week and all the secrets that he kept from her over the past few years. To his eternal surprise, she had not rejected him as he initially feared, but instead embraced him, as she finally understood his struggle. She comforted him and reminded him why he did what he did. What was more surprising to him was the fact that she was in awe of his robotic assistant. 

As he passed the 66th, Chris smiled wryly at the memory of when Emerl used its nanomachines to perfectly replicate Helen’s wheelchair – required as she was unable to use her legs due to a severe illness as a child. ‘Heh, her reaction was priceless,’ he thought, imagining her pretty face contorted into surprise at the sight of the copy. ‘More importantly, Emerl’s copy abilities are getting better and better. He was able to mimic even the slightest imperfections and was able to replicate by touch… Simply astounding for something that was barely active for over 48 hours…

His mind then wandered to the moment he shared in bed with the blonde-haired woman that he loved, staring into her crystal-blue eyes as he whispered to her about the vacation that they were going to plan for starting the next morning. He felt content that, despite the horrific loss of life he witnessed over the past week, everything was going to be alright.

Then, he received the call at four in the morning. 

Gerald was dead and his successor, Ovi Kintobor, – who now went by the name, Ivo Robotnik – took the helm and began the work of restructuring and rebranding the company. The new president requested a meeting with each department head individually in the morning. When he pressed for details, his colleague spoke in hushed, halting tones, as though he feared being overheard by whatever committed the atrocities.

TORNADO has murdered the President… Broke out of their cells after the Chaotix captured the last remaining members… Security forces thwarted a greater plot to kill off all heads of the company…

…If I was still there that night, I probably would have died too…

He shuddered and his body felt cold and numb at the thought. Then, his face darkened and a searing hatred for the terrorist group bubbled up within himself. ‘Someone needs to stop them…

The elevator car finally stopped off at the 69th floor. Emerging out of the car, Chris was suddenly stopped by Knuckles of the Chaotix. Chris had to do a double take when he saw what looked to be a six-inch tall ant standing on his shoulder.

The Mobian gripped Chris’ arm tightly as he passed, the other hand holding the elevator door open. “Thorndyke,” he said in his cool, deep tone. “Whatever you do, don’t trust that man. He knows more than he lets on,” he paused here and his brows pinched in thought for a brief moment before he continued. “A word of advice: Robotnik might also have knowledge of any special interests or under-the-table projects you’ve undertaken, so it’s best to be honest and forthcoming about it. Don’t give him any power over you.” 

Before the Human could even react to the cryptic words, Knuckles and the ant entered the car, the door sliding shut behind them. Chris stood alone in the elevator lobby in stupefaction as he processed what the echidna said. ‘…So, Ovi knows about Emerl?’ he thought to himself. ‘If he knows, then he may try to use it against me… Or even get rid of me…

Chris’ expression suddenly darkened. ‘No. No more. I will no longer be cowed into submission. I will find a way to gain an advantage from this, no matter what!’ 

His mind made up, Chris fished his cellphone out of his pocket and dialed his work extension, knowing that his robotic assistant was waiting within the room. “Emerl,” he said in a hushed voice once the line connected. “Grab my spare cardkey in the top drawer of my work desk and come up to the 69th floor. Quickly!”

Hanging up, the redhead paced nervously as he waited for his creation. After an agonizing five minutes, Emerl soon arrived, its bright green eyes standing out in the dim lighting of the elevator hall. “I am here,” it said, head tilted to the side. “Did you need something, Master Chris?”

“Yes,” Chris replied, his voice coming out shaky and nervous. He could feel the sweat form on his back at the sheer insanity of his plan. “Stay by me and don’t stop moving, not even if someone else tells you otherwise.” He paused. “Unless I do, that is. Understand?”

“Yes Master.”

Nodding his head, Chris then stalked out of the lobby and into the reception area, with Emerl trailing close behind in a steady gait. Brushing past Monica, who called after him, he bounded up the steps to the 70th. Pausing momentarily to observe the radical changes to the massive space, both Human and robot crossed the floor, passed a red, egg-shaped robot standing on a pedestal and over to Robotnik, who sat at a desk that was much more minimalist than the previous president’s.

“I’m here, Mr. President,” Chris said as he stopped at the head of the desk. He stood tall and tried to project an air of strength and confidence. The office around him was abuzz with activity as large, sable-coloured humanoid robots carried and installed various laboratory equipment within the room.

The president waved an arm at him after he spoke, his attention on the screens in front of him. “Hmph, it’s about time you showed up,” he said grumpily. His tone then changed to a more pleasant one. “But it’s good to hear your voice again, Thorndyke. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

“Six years,” Chris answered, his right fist tightening as a memory drifted into his head. “…My father’s funeral.”

Robotnik typed something into the terminal and folded his arms. “Hmm, yes,” he said, a hint of sombreness in his voice. “…How has your mother been?”

“She’s alright,” Chris said. “Still acting in Sector 8, still mourning Dad’s death, but she powers through nonetheless.” ‘Why all the small talk?’ he added mentally.

“Good, good,” Robotnik replied. He still hadn’t turned around to face him; something that annoyed Chris. “Let’s cut to the chase, Thorndyke,” Robotnik continued after a few moments, his voice now taking on a growling tone. “I’ve been running doing some audits here in the scant few hours I’ve been here and I’ve noticed something… odd.”

And here we go…’ “Oh? What’s so odd?” Chris said, trying to keep his voice level.

“You see,” Robotnik started, spinning his chair around to finally face him. “I’ve looked over the numbers for the Weapons Development budget and I’ve noticed that a vast majority of components have not been accounted for-” He stopped speaking as he came face to face with both Chris and his robotic companion. “-And now I see the reason why,” he said after a long pause, his voice growing cold.

Emerl stepped forward and raised his hand. “Hello,” it greeted the president in its mechanical-sounding voice. “I am the Enhanced Mechanical Robotic Lifeform, or EMRL for short. I am quite pleased to meet you.”

“This is my assistant, which I’ve built myself,” Chris chimed in quickly before Robotnik could utter a word. “Your predecessor’s continual budget cuts within my department had left me with barely any personnel to work with. I couldn’t keep up-”

“Stop right there,” Robotnik spat, his brows furrowing as he stood up from his chair and rounded on Chris. “Are you telling me that half a million mobium of equipment from the Weapons Development department was used to make this… this shoddy piece of crap?!” 

“W-what?”

“It’s crap!” The taller man clarified, his jaw jutting outwards. “The build work on the casings are terrible, the joint reinforcements are improperly sized and the skeleton looks like it could fall apart at any moment! What in the hell were you thinking?!”

“I assure you sir,” Chris responded, his voice and his temper rising at the jibe. “This robot is anything but a piece of crap!” He turned to Emerl. “Replicate the ball in your database!”

Emerl brought its left arm out with its palm facing up to the ceiling. Within seconds, the nanomachines within its body constructed a perfectly spherical, silver ball, which rested neatly in its hand. “See what it can do?!” Chris said, his arms spread out as though presenting something. “It has a nanomachine drive that can perform wonders-”

Robotnik folded his arms, his face twisted in disgust. “-So it can make a ball, big deal,” he cut in, his tone dismissive. “That doesn’t explain why you wasted valuable corporate property on a vanity project!”

“But sir-”

“BUT NOTHING!” Robotnik yelled. He pointed at two of his worker robots. “You two, take this thing away and destroy it! It offends my senses.” He then turned to Chris, his teeth gritted into a snarl. “As for you, this little stunt of yours is gonna cost you. I’ll be garnishing all of your wages until you pay off your debts!”

“Mr. President, sir! You can’t do that!” Chris spluttered, his face paling in shock. “How will I live?!”

“You should have thought of that before stealing company property!” The new president fired back. “Be glad that I didn’t either fire or kill you for this!”

Chris hung his head in defeat, his body shaking from the shame he felt. ‘What was I thinking in trying to take him on?’ he thought miserably. ‘I… I can’t stand up for myself or my beliefs, even if I tried to…’ He raised his head towards Emerl. “I’m so sorry, Emerl,” he said in a low voice, doing his best not to choke up as two of the large humanoid robots approached his creation.

“…Threatening actions detected,” Chris heard Emerl say in a calm, computerized manner. The robot suddenly lowered into a stance as a pair of burly hands approached. “Engaging in countermeasures.”

Emerl suddenly shot its left hand out and grabbed one of the bot’s arms. A bright flash of aquamarine suddenly emitted from the yellow robot’s body, which was then followed by the replication of the larger bot’s arm overtop its own right arm using its nanomachines. In a split-second movement, Emerl raised the arm, revealed a wrist-mounted laser cannon and fired it on the bot to his left. The beam struck through its chest, destroying the power core and sending the deactivated machine to its knees.

Chris gaped as he watched his creation jerk to the side to avoid the clutches of the second robot. Righting itself, Emerl aimed and fired a beam directly through the second bot’s domed head. The force of the impact sent it flying backwards into the ground. The yellow robot then turned towards Chris and he could see that his bright green eyes were suddenly tinted in a shade of blood red.

How… how is this possible?!’ Chris wondered frantically as he trembled at the sight of the destroyed robots his own left in its wake. ‘I-I never provided him a way to weaponize his nanomachines!! How on Mobius was he able to do this?!!

His eyes trailed from Emerl – whose arm and eyes returned to normal – to Robotnik. Like him, he also wore a stunned expression on his face. “…Remarkable,” the president said once he recovered from his shock. “… I take back what I said earlier, Thorndyke. While it may be poorly constructed, the nanomachines do indeed perform wonders…” He suddenly grinned and Chris could feel a chill go down his spine. “I could use something like this-”

“No,” Chris found himself saying suddenly. His heart thudded loudly in his chest as he picked himself up and stared into Robotnik’s mirrored pince-nez. “Over my dead body will you be using Emerl as a weapon!”

“…That can be arranged!” Robotnik replied, snapping his fingers. All the worker robots in the office ceased movement and turned towards Chris, their arms raised and cannons aimed right at him.

Despite the threat, Chris suddenly felt a calmness overcome him. Sure, he was unaware how Emerl learned to fight back – he’d have to ask him that at a later date if they both survived – but seeing it stand up for itself when all he did was give up… It inspired him to do the same. 

“Well, you could shoot me,” he said, eyeing the red dot sights that pointed directly into his chest. “But then, all of the secrets that I’ve gleaned about nanotechnology would be lost with me. For you see, I never wrote anything about it down anywhere.” Dimly, he realized that he kept his notes in his apartment. Nonetheless, he chuckled. “So go ahead and kill me, because even through your own infinite genius, you will never understand nano-tech better than I could.” Chris paused here, letting the tension stew for a brief moment. “Unless…”

“Unless?”

Chris swallowed. ‘It’s time. All or nothing, Chris… You can do this!’ “Here’s the deal: I will let you study Emerl and help you understand the technology. In return, I live, Emerl is to be used for non-military operations by the corporation and you restore the full budget and staff of the Urban Development department, plus an additional 25% to be taken from Weapons Development. What do you say?”

He watched Robotnik’s brows furrow into a scowl as he processed what he heard. The president then waved a hand to his robots. “All Shadow Bots are to disengage and return to work,” he said out loud. The black-armoured machines retracted their cannons and resumed their duties. The president then walked up to Chris, his hands behind his back and he leered down at him – he was a good foot taller than the redhead was. “…10%,” he said. “And I get to assist in building a better chassis for your creation. Finally, while I can acquiesce on the non-military operations, I would like to propose an alternative use for it to further the goals for our residents. We will have a discussion about later today… but it involves TORNADO. And getting vengeance for their crimes”
The loathing he felt for the extremists returned at the mere mention of their name. “So long as your modifications don’t affect Emerl’s internal systems,” Chris replied, his lips curling upwards, his thoughts now turning to how much pain he can inflict on the group. “And that we get this formalized in writing… Then we have ourselves a deal.”


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