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.”


Mobius VII – Book 1: Escape From The City – Chapter 40

Chapter 40: No More Running



Tails

“Uh, It’s not stopping?! Tails, what’re we gonna do?!”

The fox ignored Bark’s nervous tone and scoured the tank-like robot for vulnerabilities as it quickly approached them. “Get against the shoulder!” he suddenly yelled out to the other four. “Now! It’s gonna attempt to ram us!”

The five Mobians quickly scrambled to the left and right shoulders of the road, barely getting there in time as the mechaniloid came to a complete stop where they stood. It backed up and then started to transform. The small, domed head on its back slid forward towards and into a slot at the top of its torso with an audible clunk. The main body then rose to an upright position to reveal a wide chest and a narrow, tapering waist leading to a six-axis undercarriage. The six wheels – one for each axis – spread outwards in a hexagonal pattern to provide stability to the whole body. It had thick, hinged plating covering its upper chest with six nozzles pointing downwards and circling around the lower portion of its chest. Its two arms unfolded outwards, revealing two, long flamethrower nozzles. The large, ducted fans attached to its shoulders flipped into a vertical position and Tails could see that the bottom ends of the fans were tapered, as if they were meant to fit into something. His eyes narrowed first at the sight of the broad, silver-white stripe against the dark plum paint and the label across the top right chest plate that read ‘E-105 – z,’ before finally landing on the six Emeralds – two pairs of green and blue linked together and two purple ones in single slots, all arranged in a hexagonal pattern – that were inlaid in a spot where the undercarriage and the waist met. 

Black fumes exuded from the two, long pipes from its back as the torso bent forwards and the domed head, which looked diminutive in proportion to its body, angled itself to look down at the five Mobians, who grouped together once more. “IN THE NAME OF MASTER ROBOTNIK,” the robot’s computerized voice boomed out from a speaker just below its head. “LAY DOWN YOUR WEAPONS AND SURRENDER THE SEEDRIAN, OR FACE ANNIHILATION.”

“Tell your master,” Tails yelled out, his teeth bared and sword drawn. “That he can go and shove it! We’re not gonna surrender and we’re never giving up Cosmo!”

There was a pause as the robot considered the fox’s words. It straightened itself back up and loud clicking noises suddenly erupted from the robot’s body as it armed its weapons. “ACKNOWLEDGED,” the plum coloured robot announced. “E-105 ZETA, DESIGNATE: MOTOR BALL. INITIATING COMBAT MODE.”

The green and blue Emeralds on its lower abdomen shone brightly as Zeta brought the arm cannons towards the group and shot fire towards them. Bright orange and red flames licked at the Mobians as they backed away from the monstrous mechaniloid to avoid being burnt. 

“Yeah, let’s go and goad the giant, flame-throwing robot!” Bark retorted to Tails sarcastically as he fired some test shots at Zeta. The bullets pinged harmlessly off of its thick armor. “Great plan, genius!”

“Shut it Bark,” Tails growled, swapping the Fire Emerald out of his weapon and replacing it with the All Emerald. “And avoid using Fire on it. I get the feeling it’s not gonna work!”

“He’s right!” Cosmo called from the back. Tails turned to see her irises flashing with a bright, bluish light as she accessed the power of the Sense Emerald. “It’s got a flame-retardant coating all over it, but it’s vulnerable to Lighting!”

Cream drew a Lightning charge from her own weapon as the robot lurched forwards. “I got this, then!” she said, her brows lowered in concentration as she shaped the magic with her Mana. “BOLT!” she called, launching the ball of electricity towards Zeta, just as it rose an arm to spew flames once more. It collided, sending a shower of electricity all over its body. The spell failed to stun the machine however, and it sent a plume of flames towards the fighter. She rolled away to avoid being burnt to a crisp, but a lick of flames singed part of her arm. She hissed, bringing herself up to a kneeling position and cradled the injured limb.

As Green XIII charged a Lighting spell of his own next to him, Tails noticed something on the undercarriage. A long, thin spike from underneath the robot was buried into the ground, and he realized it was the same tactic that Alpha used in their fight back at the No. 5 Reactor. “Bark! Cream! It has a grounding line, same as from that time at the No. 5!” he yelled out. “We’ll have to take that thing out first-”

Before he could continue passing instructions, Zeta reared back and opened the plates on its chest. Beneath the cavity were a battery of micro missiles, all which shot out towards the five in wide arcs. 

“Back to the truck!” Bark hollered as the missiles angled towards them. He and the others ran back to the vehicle as the projectiles crashed onto the ground and exploded, creating pockmarked craters on the asphalt. Several missiles zoomed over their heads and dropped to the wastelands below. 

One struck the ground near the truck, the explosion getting underneath it and sending the vehicle flying over the edge. The resulting shockwave from the explosion sent all five to the ground in a heap. 

Green XIII was the first to get up, the chunk of crystal holding the Lightning magic still clutched in his fist. His eyes quickly turned to the giant purple robot, its chest plates closing over the missile batteries. “Oh no you don’t!” he growled, his rasp sounding venomous. He thrust his hand, palm out and called “BOLT!” The chunk shot out and squeezed through the coverings just as it closed. The magic charge exploded and caused the plates to blow off. The golem laughed loudly. “See how you like that?!” he shouted out.

Tails rose up and drew Lightning energy out of his armor. “Now! Focus on the chest!” he ordered, shaping and casting the magic. Cream and Cosmo stood up and followed suit with Lightning spells of their own, while Bark launched an Ice spell. The four elemental magics struck Zeta’s chest cavity, the electrical variety short-circuiting its insides while the ice variety supercooled the metal around the missile batteries. Bark followed up by emptying one of his last four clips into it, damaging it beyond use.

Zeta’s body slumped forward as the electrical energy dissipated from the grounding spike below it. Tails kept a wary eye on the machine. “Keep your guard up,” he hissed, his sword held up. “If I know Kintobor – or Robotnik’s machines, they don’t fall over this easily.”

True to his words, Zeta righted itself, its green eyes shone brightly in the night sky as it faced the five Mobians once again. “REBOOT COMPLETE. INITIATING MODE 2 OPERATION,” it announced. The robot’s body suddenly folded forwards, its arms and the turboprop fans tucking into its sides and its head sliding back between the two tubes on its back. The wheels on the front and back moved together with the middle wheel stacking on top of them, causing Zeta to rise upwards. It tilted forward and pointed the tubes at the group. A red and orange glow began to emanate deep inside them.

As it was transforming, Tails and the others were charging up more spells. The fox stifled a groan, the strain caused by a lack of rest plus the constant use of magic over the course of the last 24 hours was taking a toll on his body. Once again, he willed himself to keep going and continued to pour more of himself into the Lightning charge in between his palms. “All together now!” he shouted out to the others behind him. “Aim for those tubes on its back!” He and the others thrusted their hands towards the mechaniloid and called their respective spells.

“BOLT!”

“BOLT!”

“BOLT!”

“BOLT!”

“ICE!”

The four Lightning spells and the lone Ice spell from Bark all travelled into the tubes just as they belched voluminous plumes of flame. The group of elemental spells collided with one another and created a violent explosion that decimated the robot’s back and sent Tails and the others flying backwards. The backs of Cream, Cosmo and Bark struck the left and right shoulders of the highway and each had the wind knocked out of them. Green XIII rolled to a halt at the edge of the highway while Tails soared off of the edge entirely.

In a fit of desperation, Tails thrust his sword out to what he hoped was a structural column that was partially constructed. The blade embedded itself into the concrete and the momentum caused the fox to slam into the support and nearly lose his grip. He let out a few shaky breaths to steady himself before grasping the weapon and placing his feet on the column. Fanning out his tails, he yanked hard on the Buster Sword to dislodge it and then took flight. He rose back to the highway, dropped into an ungainly roll as his namesakes seized up and then landed in a seated position. “Phew, that was close,” he said to himself as he gingerly got back up to his feet. Raising his voice, he called out to the others. “Everyone alright?”

“Uh, yeah, Tails,” Cream’s nervous voice answered his call. “But… I’m not sure for how long!”

The question he wanted to ask died on his lips as his eyes trailed over to E-105 Zeta, who was still operational despite its back being completely obliterated. As the robot unfolded itself, Tails could see that the yellow visor on its head was shorn in half and it lost an optical sensor in the explosion, but the remaining one still shone coldly in the slowly brightening sky.

“-bzzt- ERROR. ERROR,” Zeta spoke out loud. “UNIT HAS SUFFERED -bzzt-  CRITICAL -bzzt- DAMAGE -bzzt-. REROUTE ALL AUXILIARY POWER  -bzzt- TO MAIN SYSTEM. INITIATE ROLLING FIRE OPERATION. ACTIVATE HOVER ENGINES.”

Tails and the others watched in shock as the plum robot detached both of its arms, each landing with a loud crash onto the ground. In the same motion, the ducted turboprop fans rotated and then folded inwards, the tapered slots fitting into the holes where the arms used to occupy. The six wheels then rotated so that the sides faced the road beneath it. Once they were in position, the fans in its arms started to spin, sucking in the air surrounding it.

Bark reacted first, sending shots towards the fans and the already damaged chest area to no effect. “I’ve seen something like this before!” the bear hollered out to the group as he drained his second-to-last clip. “When I used to work in the coal mines, fans like those were used either to bring in fresh air or exhaust hot air, depending on how it’s spinning! I dunno what it’s supposed to do for this thing though!?”

Green XIII attempted to climb up the machine’s body while Bark reloaded, but he was forced back as Zeta’s wheels started to turn. He would have been ground to powder had Cream not grabbed and pulled him back at the last moment. “Ah, thank you milady,” he said gratefully as the two watched the robot’s wheels spin rapidly until it rose up several inches from the ground.

“Tails!?” the fighter called out to her friend, who stood in the middle of the highway. “What on Mobius is happening?!” 

Tails , his brows furrowed as he kept his guard up, made no response. Observing the robot’s behaviour, he quickly surmised what was happening based on the polar bear’s remark about the fans. ‘It’s sucking in air… air is used to fuel fire… and those nozzles on the underside of its chest… Oh shit!’ “EVERYONE! REGROUP! IT’S GONNA RAIN FIRE!!” he screamed out, a vein popping out of his neck. His hand slid from the All Emerald on his weapon to the Restore linked to it and he forced as much Mana into the spell as he could muster in preparation for what was to come.

Zeta, now several feet above the ground, tilted its bottom half upwards with the back wheels facing away from the group and it hovered forward at a brisk pace. The two pairs of linked Emeralds on its lower body shone brilliantly as it continuously angled its hover engine-equipped wheels to circle the five Mobians, forcing them to group together. Fire then spilled forth out of the nozzles on the underside of its chest and the Mobians screamed in agony as the flames poured down on them. The giant machine made two passes in this manner before settling back down on the tarmac in front of the group.

The fox struggled to raise the hand covered in green healing magic into the air. “C-CURE!” he spat out. The magic burst into a wave of soft green sparks that showered the group, which healed and reduced the severity of the burns they suffered. Cosmo, Bark, Green XIII and Cream shakily got to their feet as the remnants of Zeta’s flaming attack lingered around them, but Tails remained down on one knee, his breathing hard and forced. He had put almost everything he had into that Cure spell and was now in the full throes of Mana fatigue. His body was telling him to stop and rest, but on seeing the robot towering in front of them in a motionless state, Tails thought otherwise.

As exhausted as he was, he noticed the soft hand that was suddenly placed on his back. “Cure,” he heard a voice – Cosmo’s voice – call out. Another bright green field of energy enveloped and healed his body. He still felt mentally drained, but he was now able to stand up and continue fighting.

“Thanks Cosmo,” the fox said, his lips curling into a half-smile. She responded with a good-natured grin before charging and administering more Cure spells to the others. 

Getting up and settling into a fighting stance, Tails’ eyes roved the damaged surface of Zeta’s motionless body as he looked for something he and the others could take advantage of without resorting to magic. The fans inserted into the machine’s arms were now spinning in reverse – exhausting hot air instead of taking in fresh air. “It looks like it’s recovering! Now’s our chance to strike back!” he called to his friends behind him. “Hit it with whatever you got left!”

He dashed forwards, leapt up and sliced at the fan on its left shoulder. The blade bit into the thick metal that surrounded the fan, but it could not cleave through it. Wrenching the weapon free, he returned to the ground and struck at the wheels, its chest and anywhere else that he could do any damage to. 

Bark fired at the robot’s chest to no effect. He cursed as he angrily tossed his last clip at Zeta. It pinged noisily off of his head. “I’m out!” he yelled, his hackles raised.

The golem rushed forward, jumped and threw his signature haymaker at the Emeralds on Zeta’s torso. He didn’t expect the robot to move backwards during its recovery mode and he landed face first into the tarmac. Groaning, Green XIII rose up only to be rammed by the spiked wheels. He flew backwards and landed in a heap behind Cream. His front had a long, jagged crack down the middle and blood started to seep out of it. 

The fighter shot out another Lightning spell that she charged as Green XIII slid by her. The ball of electricity impacted on the surface of the right fan. She smiled as the spell caused it to sputter to a halt, but then frowned when it suddenly reactivated. “Tails! Nothing’s working!” she shouted to the fox as she struggled to produce another Lightning charge. “What do we do?!

The fox ground his teeth, his frustration towards the robot and its creator reaching its peak as he hacked away unsuccessfully at its armoured hide. Despite everything they threw at it, Zeta didn’t stop. It was as if willpower itself was keeping the machine alive. He was forced back as Zeta adjusted its wheels to enable its hover engines. The fans on its arms reversed direction and it began taking in air in preparation for another Rolling Fire attack. 

His focus shifted to the other four; Bark and Cream were surrounding Cosmo as she applied healing magic to the downed Green XIII. Beads of sweat accumulated on the green-haired Seedrian’s face as she continually tapped into her magical reserves in order to close the golem’s wounds.

Bark’s out of ammo, Green’s down for the count, Cream looks like she’s tapped out for magic and Cosmo’s probably running low as well…’ Tails analyzed, his face twisting into a scowl. ‘I have another All Emerald… but I don’t know  if my body can handle the strain of healing more than one person.’ Closing his eyes and considering his options, he then brought a hand to the Emeralds in his armor just as Zeta rose upwards on its hover engines and angled itself for its attack. He tapped the Barrier Emerald and forced out what little Mana he had left to shape the magic. ‘I can’t protect all of us… but I can at least do my job as a bodyguard,’ he reasoned. ‘It’s a gamble… but Cosmo’s the best of all of us. I know for certain that she’s got untapped power and that it’s greater than anything we could ever muster… If anyone can take this thing down and save us all, it’s her.’

‘All she has to do… is believe in herself.’


Cosmo

Cosmo had just finished healing Green XIII when she heard the roar of the hover engines coming from Zeta. She watched in fear as the robot charged forward, flames beginning to spew out of the nozzles in its chest. Suddenly, she heard Tails yelling something out in front of her, his palm pointing in her direction. Before she knew it, a rainbow-coloured barrier encased her just as Zeta rained fire down on the group. The barrier protected her from harm but inflicted severe burns on her friends.

Bark, Cream and Tails all dropped to the ground and rolled to put out the flames, each howling in pain as a result of Zeta’s Rolling Fire attack. They then lay on the hard pavement, barely breathing with their fur charred and bodies singed greatly. The flames also rolled over Green XIII’s downed body, heated his stone skin and cooked him from the inside. He struggled to sit up but then collapsed and slipped into unconsciousness, his head lolling to the side.

“W-why Tails?” the flower girl croaked at the fox’s direction, her hands whitening under the intense grip she put onto her staff. “Why… Why did you save me? Why not Cream, or-or Bark, or even Green XIII?! Why me?!”

Ahead of her, Zeta lowered itself to the ground and rolled up slowly to the group, the flames that remained on the highway reflected off of its plum coloured armour and gave it a wicked and hellish look. The fans inside its arms started to spin loudly, exhausting the hot air that accumulated inside the robot’s body during its last attack. It stopped in front of the Mobians. “AUTHORITIES -bzzt- HAVE BEEN -bzzt- CONTACTED,” Zeta boomed, its computerized voice continuing to stutter. It bent forward and its remaining green eye trained its focus onto her. “YOU ARE TO -bzzt-  REMAIN HERE AND -bzzt- -crackle- AWAIT TRANSPORT BACK TO -bzzt-  ROBOTNIK HQ.”

The flower girl sunk to her knees in despair, her rod clattering to the ground in front of her. “This can’t be how it ends… is it?” she choked out softly to herself. A thought crossed her mind and she corrected herself. “No… I’ll be safe, they can’t harm me…” she reasoned, tears accumulating in the corners of her eyes. “But… but my friends…” Her eyes traveled over to each of them.

Green XIII, the strange golem who spoke like an eloquent nobleman. Beneath his fearsome, rocky exterior lay a kind and chivalrous spirit that she appreciated, especially when things got tough during their escape in the elevators.

Cream, the bartending rabbit whose big, caring heart was as strong and fierce as her fists. Despite only knowing her for a day or two, Cosmo felt an instant, sisterly bond with her. It was the kind that she longed for her whole life. 

Bark, the one-armed polar bear whose convictions to end Kintobor’s exploitations of both Energen and Mobians were only matched by the concern he showed to his friends and the love he had for his adoptive human daughter. At first glance, she thought him as a rough and tumble individual who enjoyed the thrill of battle, but realized over time that he did the things he did to protect the people he cared about.

And the final member of their odd crew: Tails, the two-tailed fox, enigmatic former SOLDIER, First Class and the reason she was on this journey in the first place. Though he held the same sword and carried himself in the same manner as her ex-boyfriend, she sensed that there was more to him than she thought. She only wished she had the time or opportunity to ask him more…

Without them, I would have stayed exactly where I was,’ she thought sadly, her eyes downcast. Tears began rolling down her cheeks. ‘…Growing up, I always knew that this would have been my ultimate fate… and it’s why I’ve been running away my whole life.’ She twisted away from Zeta and towards the edge of the city, where the dawn of a new day was breaking. She looked wistfully at the growing orange glow in the sky beyond the mountains in the distance, the rays of light piercing through the haze of pollution surrounding the city. ‘In the end, I’m nothing more than a tool that’s to be used for others’ gain… What a sad and pathetic life this is…’ 

A brisk and warm gust of wind blew by her and she closed her eyes, cherishing its soft caress on her cheeks. 

And then suddenly, her eyes snapped open. She couldn’t tell if it was from exhaustion or wishful delirium, but she swore she heard a voice in the wind. Many voices. All of which were familiar to her. 

She heard them screaming through the earth that she walked in the Slums. Whispering through the leaves and roots of her flowers at the church in Sector 5. Crying out in pain through the Energen that seeped through the cracks in some of the transmission pipes on the Plate. And now here, on this broken highway at the edge of the city, she heard the collective voice of Planet Mobius speak to her once more. What made this moment different from all others was the lead voice that overshadowed the cacophony. It spoke to her in a gentle, but commanding tone that took Cosmo’s breath away. Her fingers trembled as she recognized the voice.

It was her mother.

“Be not afraid of your strength, my child… Tap into it, let it seep through you… Let your feelings and your heart guide you towards your destiny… Take up arms, hold your head up high and fight back against those who would stop you…”

“For you are our world’s greatest hope.”

Cosmo’s breath hitched as she listened. Upon hearing her mother’s voice for the first time in years however, she suddenly felt her heart stir. Years of negative thinking had caused her mind to outright reject whatever the Planet said to her. While those thoughts were quelled slightly during the short time she spent with her ex-boyfriend, they returned full force at the onset of his disappearance. She thought that they would never go away, but today, as she knelt on the battle-scarred asphalt on the edge of the city, Cosmo found a sense of peace and understanding that she had not felt before.

Her mind presented various scenarios of what would happen if she left the relative safety of the city, each more terrifying than the last. But her heart countered each and every idea that sprang up until, at last, it coaxed her anxious mind into silence. All that remained was one burning desire; to leave this place and discover who and what she truly was. Her decision had the effect of reinvigorating her spirit as she was now ready to come to terms with what she wanted in her life. Slowly, her breathing settled, her jaw became set and her eyes turned steely and focused.

Her spirit revived and burning bright, she turned away from the sun-dappled sky, took up her staff in both hands and got to her feet. She faced Zeta and her body shifted into a defensive stance.

“THREATENING ACTION -bzzt- DETECTED,” the purple robot spoke. “CEASE ACTIONS -bzzt- -crackle- IMMEDIATELY OR THIS UNIT -crackle- WILL USE FORCE TO INCAPACITATE…”

Cosmo didn’t hear the rest. Zeta’s computerized voice became nothing more than background noise to the Seedrian. She took in a deep breath and turned her head up to look into the robot’s eye, a determined scowl crossing her face. “Kintobor! Or Robotnik! Or whoever you call yourself!” she called out loudly, her soft voice now acerbic and forceful. “I know you can hear me and I know you can see me! I’m here to tell you that my power doesn’t belong to you! It’s mine and mine alone and I will use it to protect my friends and to leave this city!” She then pointed to the four Mobians, who were roused by Cosmo’s voice and were all shakily rising up to their hands and knees. “Do you see these four here?! They risked everything; their lives, their friends and their families, all for me!”

As she shouted, a golden aura started to emanate from her body and silver sparks began to crisscross all around her. She then felt a wellspring of energy bubble inside of her. Whereas before she would have shied away from it, this time Cosmo tapped into the full extent of power and let it envelop her body, just as her mother instructed her to do. Instantly, her aura intensified. The air around her became supercharged and the rose blossoms in her hair bloomed to their fullest, the red petals shimmering in the golden light of the morning sun.

“These four have shown me how to be brave!” she continued, the radiance around her growing stronger as she spoke. “They’ve shown me how to stand up and keep fighting, even when the odds are stacked against them! And they’ve reminded me of something that someone very close to me once said!” 

In a flash, an image of blue quills, bright jade-green eyes and a cocky smirk across a tan muzzle entered her mind. 

Live with no regrets. Believe in yourself. And chase the impossible.”

Her radiance now rivaling the sun behind her, Cosmo began funneling all of the energy into her staff.

“… ORDERS -bzzt- -crackle- RECEIVED. REINITIATE -bzzt- COMBAT MODE,” Zeta stuttered, its eye locked on to the Seedrian. It straightened up and activated the fans on its arms and began sucking in air while it rotated its wheels in preparation for another assault.

Though her eyes were trained solely on the robot in front of her, Cosmo saw Tails and the others standing up unsteadily from her peripheral vision. She quirked her lips upwards. “Good! I knew you’d all be up sooner or later,” she called to the group in a cheerful voice loud enough for him to hear. “Listen, I know it’s hard right now and you’re all hurting real bad, but we can beat this thing! I know we can!”

“H-how?” Cream answered, her voice quavering from the pain. She clutched the patch of her left arm where a large and angry red burn lay. “Cos… we got nothing left?”

Cosmo giggled as the bright golden light now fully engulfed her weapon. “Don’t worry Creamy,” she answered, a gentle smile crossing her lips. “You leave that to me. You all may have hit your limit. But limits are meant to be broken! And those guys at Kinto-botnik or whatever forgot one, crucial thing.”

“…And what’s that?” Tails asked as the fans on Zeta’s body ceased spinning. Its hover engines on its wheels activated and it began to rise up slowly.

Cosmo gripped the staff with both hands and brought it upwards above her head. “You all have an ace up your sleeves,” she said pluckily. “Me.


Tails

Cosmo brought the glowing, golden staff down to the ground. As its tip struck the pavement, Tails watched with wide eyes as four, thick tendrils of golden energy – like the roots from a tree – dispersed from the staff and snaked its way towards him and the others. The root-like tendril then shot up from the ground and stabbed him in the chest.

Suddenly, the fox felt a tremendous surge of power coursing through him. His body began to glow golden and silver bolts of electricity sparked all around him.  Tails quickly glanced around him to see that the others all had similar glows around them. Cream’s teeth clenched as tight as her fists as she struggled to contain the power within her. Next to her, Bark clamped his hand around his Gun-Arm, which was surging with silver electricity. Green XIII lumbered up next to him, his crystal body alternated between flashing green and silver.

And then it finally dawned on him. He still felt tired. He still couldn’t use magic. He was in pain and could barely lift his sword. But now, as a surge of unstoppable power coursed through him, he truly believed that he and the others could pull off a miracle.

The fox hefted his sword into an offensive stance and faced Zeta, who was now prepared to strike. “Everyone!” he shouted forcefully, the lustre of his aura intensifying as he spoke.  “Let’s not let what Cosmo gave to us go to waste!”

“YEAH!”

Green XIII roared loudly as he charged forwards first. The glow around his body started to pulse faster and faster until only a silver light remained. He crossed his arms, slid underneath Zeta’s undercarriage as it passed overtop and then spread them out to release the pent-up energy within. A brilliant, silvery-green explosion tore off the back three wheels and sent the plum robot toppling forwards face-first into the ground before it could release its flames. Sliding to a halt, it then used the three remaining wheels to push itself up, only to be met by Cream.

Eyes blazing with fury and hands and feet coated in golden silver energy, she approached its lower body where its Emeralds lay and began pummeling the thick armor; first with her five-hit combo and followed by a somersault. She landed back on the asphalt in a crouch before launching into the sky and diving back down with a savage drop kick. Each of her Ki-enhanced blows cracked the surface around the six slot assembly. Landing once more, she ran up to the robot again, jumped and whipped her right leg with such speed and force that it created a shockwave that tore through the air itself. The wave ruptured the armor around Zeta’s belly, causing the Emerald assembly to become dislodged and creating a gaping hole. The six gems each tinkled loudly on the pavement.

“My turn!” Bark shouted from behind. The bear dug into his pocket and extracted a grenade. Pulling the pin off with his teeth, he held onto his hat as his own aura quickly traveled to the tip of his gun, which he aimed at the spot the fighter opened up. What started as a large red orb quickly collapsed into a smaller, dense orb that shone bright white. Bark then placed the grenade into the energy “Hope you like a Grenade Bomb!!” he called to the robot, spittle flecked from his mouth as he launched the incendiary-coated sphere at Zeta. It zoomed into the hole that Cream made and detonated, blowing the bottom half of the robot apart. Zeta’s upper body crashed onto the highway and somehow maintained its upright stature. Its domed head swiveled to see Tails approach it rapidly.

“Cream! Give me a boost!” he hollered, leaping as he approached her. With a hint of her aura remaining, Cream crouched down and cocked a fist back. She launched it at the bottom of Tails’ boot just as he soared overhead. Her fist connected and the fox rocketed forty feet upward, carried by the force of the rabbit’s punch. Tails then spun his namesakes, taking him higher into the sky. At the apex of his flight, he wrapped his tails around his waist, pointed the Buster Sword out and curled up into a ball, his own aura shining like the sun above. He began to rotate and started descending down towards Zeta, his spinning becoming faster and faster the further he fell. Soon enough, the orange and silver buzzsaw of death from above crashed into the E-Series robot, savagely cleaving it from top to bottom. Tails uncurled and leaped away from Zeta as both halves of what remained of its body toppled to the ground with a deafening crash. The smoking debris spread over the width of the highway, separating the group from any of Kintobor’s approaching forces.

Standing upright, Tails swung his sword around with a flourish before placing it on the disk on his back. He crossed his arms and wagged a gloved finger at the now destroyed Zeta, a smirk crossing his lips. “Game, set and match,” he said triumphantly.

“Whew… We did it, Tails!” Cream exclaimed breathlessly, a tired but elated grin spread out on her face.

“Wahoo!” Bark whooped, throwing his arms up in celebration. “Suck on that, Ro-butt-nik!

“I will second that sentiment heartily!” a new voice called out to them from behind. Tails whipped around, sword drawn and ready to strike, but he faltered at the sight of the newcomer.

He looked to be a chipmunk with mussed auburn hair and matted, two toned brown fur. His wide and expressive blue eyes shone out brightly in the rising sun underneath two bushy eyebrows which shot upwards at the threatening sight. “Hey, hey now! ‘Tis I, Green XII!” he called to them, a shaky grin on his lips as he raised his hands up in a non-threatening manner. The star-shaped pendant on his neck jangled at the motion. “No need to strike me down, friends!”

“…You’re really Green XIII?” Tails asked after a few moments, sheathing his sword and staring at him skeptically. 

“Indeed I am, Tails,” the squirrel replied, still smiling. “But please, refrain from using that awful name. I go by Elias.” He bowed regally to the group and Tails could see the numeral ‘XIII’ tattooed on his right arm. “What you see before you is but my true self; the one beneath the stone armour, so to speak.” He breathed out a long sigh of relief. “It feels so good to be back to normal…”

“See? I knew… I knew that you guys could pull it off,” Cosmo’s exhausted voice cut in suddenly. The group of four all turned and surrounded the flower girl, whose eyes crinkled at the corners.

Cream knelt down and threw her arms around the flower girl. “We couldn’t have done it without you, Cos,” she said, squeezing her lightly. “You really saved our skins this time.”

Bark frowned, his arms crossed as he looked over Zeta’s burning remains. “But, what was it that you did to us?” he asked Cosmo. “ I mean, I felt like this before a couple times when things were bleak, but… not like this?

“Indeed,” Elias concurred. “This phenomenon is very common to those who have been formally trained in combat, but I’ve never heard of such a thing happening to four individuals simultaneously.” He looked sidelong at Cosmo. “It must be the power of the Ancients, I suppose?”

Cosmo bowed her head and remained quiet.

Tails, meanwhile, approached the husk of the E-Series robot. He bent down to retrieve the Emeralds that Cream dislodged, when he heard something shuffle inside of the robot’s shell. Prying a piece of metal off near its RINGTEK power source, he discovered – to his horror – the secret that Robotnik teased during their fight on the Kintobor Building roof.

Hooked up to wires inserted into every point of its body imaginable was a small, withered bird – an unevolved critter. It tried in vain to pull itself free from the bonds holding it in place. Tails’ eyes narrowed into slits. “So that’s how he did it,” he muttered to himself, his nostrils flared out. “Sealing living critters into robotic shells and using them as a conduit to use Emeralds… It’s diabolical… but it’s also a genius-”

“Hey, yo! Tails!” Bark hollered, breaking the fox’s thoughts. Casting one last pitiful look at the trapped and dying bird, he collected the Emeralds on the ground and traipsed back to the other four. “So what do we do now?” the polar bear asked once he returned.

Tails let out a deep exhale as he crossed his arms and closed his eyes. He saw a flash of flames, blood spilled on a familiar stump and water tower and heard the screams of innocents. All of this was followed by a cold and chilling laugh that sent shivers down his spine. “…Nazo is alive,” he said after a few moments, opening his eyes and facing out towards the mountains in the distance. “I… I have to settle the score with him.”

“And that’ll save Mobius?”

Tails gave him a sidelong glance. “It seems so?” he answered.

Bark pumped his fist, a maniacal grin crossing his lips. “Alrighty then! I’m going!” he announced.

Cosmo stood up, using Cream as a support. She approached the edge of the highway. “I also want to go,” she said. Her hand clutched the pendant around her neck. “I have… questions that need to be answered.”

“About the Ancients?” Cream asked curiously.

“…Many things.”

“Hmm…” Cream brought her arms above her head and let out a soft groan as she stretched. She then stood beside Cosmo, who was next to Tails. Bark and Elias soon joined alongside them. The sun had finally risen and bathed the group in orange and yellow light. Behind them, the city started to rouse as factories and manufacturing plants started operations for the day, the greyish-yellow exhaust fumes from the stacks wafted into the sky and slowly started to obscure the sun. A new day had dawned on Megapolis. As it did for the five Mobians staring out of the horizon towards lands – and adventure – unknown.

“I guess this is goodbye Megapolis.”


Mobius VII – Book 1: Escape From The City – Chapter 39

Chapter 39: Escape From The City



Tails

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…”


Cosmo

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.


Tails

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.


Cream

“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

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…


Mobius VII – Book 1: Escape From The City – Chapter 38

Chapter 38: Elevator Ambush



Cosmo

“Tails…”

Cosmo halted at the door leading to the elevator banks on the 69th floor and looked back towards the bloodsoaked staircase leading to the President’s Office. Cream, Bark and Green XIII stopped as well and returned to her. “What’s up, Cosmo?” the rabbit asked, her brows creased.

“Well… I just thought of something,” the flower girl said. She faced the fighter with her shoulders slumped and a frown crossing her lips. “I know Tails said to go… But… But what’ll happen to him? What if he’s hurt?”

Cream closed her eyes for a moment and digested Cosmo’s words. Opening them, she inclined her head to the flower girl. “You’re right,” she agreed calmly. “I’ll stay here and wait for Tails. You, Bark and Green XIII get to the elevator.” She then removed the Lightning and Sense Emeralds from their respective weapon and armor slots, placed them into Cosmo’s hand and then put her own on top, squeezing it lightly. “Things are gonna get pretty ugly, I can feel it on the tips of my ears,” she said softly, looking into her eyes with concern. “So, take these… Just in case.”

Cosmo smiled warmly at the gesture. “OK,” she said, pocketing the gems. “You be safe, Cream.”

“Alright then, let’s get goin’!” Bark grunted. He waved to Cream as he, Green XIII and Cosmo headed to the elevators. “You and twin-tail come join us as soon as you’re able to, OK?” 

The three entered the elevator bay. The room was untouched by Nazo’s rampage and so the walls remained pristine and unmarred. Cosmo pressed the call button and the three stood in silence as they waited. A minute had passed and Cosmo had to fight the urge to press the call button again, her eyes glued to the indicator light overtop the elevator doors. She was eager to leave the scene filled with the dismembered bodies, horrifying biological experiments and the stench of blood behind. She could feel her skin crawling as she half expected something to come out and capture her again. Soon, panic started to flood her mind. ‘This… this is all too much… I… I need to get out… I need to get away! I NEED TO RUN AND HIDE-

“Hey,” Bark’s gruff and deep voice snapped her to reality. She looked at him, startled. “You OK?” he asked, his brows creasing. “You’re… uh, lookin’ a little frazzled there.”

It was at that moment that she realized she was hyperventilating. “Y-Yeah, I’m OK,” she replied, taking a few, slow deep breaths to calm herself. “Just… I’m just a little overwhelmed, that’s all.”

At that moment, the elevator car reached their floor. A chime sounded out and the indicator light above the leftmost elevator door flashed from red to blue. “Here’s our ride,” Green XIII said, his rough voice sounding like a pair of stones rubbing against one another. “Let us get on and get going.”

The three entered the elevator and Cosmo pressed the button for the ground floor. The doors closed behind them and the car started to descend quickly. The flower girl looked out of the glass windows overlooking the city and let out a shaky breath that she was holding in. ‘Finally…

Without warning, the elevator car abruptly slowed to a crawl, causing the three occupants to stumble. Bark righted himself and looked around. “What the hell’s going on now?!” he shouted, his eyes bulging out of their sockets.

Outside of the elevator, Cosmo could see two figures descend from above. They were a pair of identical robots, each with an egg-shaped body, a pair of spindly, multi-jointed legs and dome-shaped heads with yellow shades over glowing green eyes. Both machines had a shield-like plate between their legs and a pair of silver mufflers exuding yellowish-grey smoke around their pelvic areas. Attached to each of their backs and on the bottoms of their feet were a set of hoverjets which kept them aloft and in line with the elevator car.

The one on the left had a deep blue colouration that looked inky black against the dark sky. Its arms held two, six-shot revolver type grenade launchers with large silver muzzles. The right one was painted in a bright, burnished orange and was outfitted with two types of guns around an apparatus connected to each of its arms; a long Gatling Gun and a high-powered rifle. There was a grooved slot on the underside of its arms and looked as though something could fit into it. Both robots had white stripes down the middle of their bodies and round searchlights on the left sides of their chests. Painted on the right sides of their torsos were numbers and symbols: ‘103 – Δ’ on the blue robot and ‘104 – ε ’ on the orange one.

The one designated 104 hovered up close to the car, its green eyes flashed yellow for a moment and then backed away. The armaments around his arms rotated to the Gatling gun and it pointed them at the three Mobians inside. The guns started to rotate slowly, picking up speed every second. “INITIATING COMBAT MODE,” it said out loud for them all to hear. “CAPTURE THE ANCIENT. ANNIHILATE THE REST.”

Bark gaped at the guns, a look of understanding crossing his face. “HIT THE DIRT!” he hollered, forcing everyone to the floor. No sooner than having spoken these words did 104 fire the Gatlings at them, the bullets penetrating and shattering the glass around three Mobians. They covered their heads as shards rained down upon them.

Cosmo raised her head to look outside the elevator car. The air around them was warm; caused by the building’s exhaust fumes rising up around the egg-like shell that surrounded the building. The exhaust air vented out through a series of large louvres that circled around the facade at the very top, just underneath the 69th floor.

As the spinning Gatling heads from the orange robot’s arms slowed to a halt, it’s blue companion floated over to it. “EPSILON,” it said in the same deeply male, computerized monotone as its counterpart. “YOU ARE TOO RECKLESS. ORDERS ARE TO CAPTURE THE ANCIENT ALIVE. SWITCH TO NON-LETHAL ORDINANCES.”

Epsilon’s head swiveled to look at his companion. “ACKNOWLEDGED, DELTA,” it responded. “RECONFIGURING TO NON-LETHAL ORDINANCES.” Four clips, two on each arm, immediately ejected and fell sixty seven stories to the ground, some of which clanged on the beams that were connected to the building’s outer exoskeleton. New magazines extended on a rail from its back. With machine-like efficiency, Epsilon began reloading its weapons.

“Now! Strike now!” Bark yelled suddenly, startling Cosmo. He rose up and started firing at 104 as it replenished its weapons. Bark’s bullets sheared through several sections of the orange robot’s exoskeleton. Its companion, Delta, then flew in to intercept the shots, the bullets pinging off of the blue machine’s substantially plated armor.

Delta pointed its arms and fired several canister grenades into the car. Bark’s face drained of colour as eight cylinders flew in and bounced once before coming to a stop at the end of the car. The bear ceased fire and he, Cosmo and Green XIII froze in place, waiting for the ensuing explosion. There was a loud pop and gas instead expanded out of the cylinders, causing the occupants to erupt in a fit of coughs. “N-Not again!” Bark wheezed.

From the corner of her eye, Cosmo watched as Green XIII quickly crossed the large car, scooped up the grenades and started throwing them out. Subsequently, he started charging a spell while Delta was reloading. Once the last canister was jettisoned from the car, the golem stuck his hand out and called “FIRE!” Two chunks of fiery-red crystal shot out, honed in on the two robots and exploded, showering them both with napalm.

Cosmo’s coughing lessened as the updraft from the high elevation evacuated the gas within the car. Her fingers fumbled in her pocket as she retrieved the Sense Emerald Cream gave her and then swapped it with her Poison Emerald. She felt a slight decrease in her mystical abilities and an equivalent gain in stamina as she shakily rose up and tapped the yellow gem to summon its power for her use. She felt time slow to a crawl as she examined E-103 Delta, the Command Emerald helping her to glean its secrets, its strengths and its weaknesses. “It’s weak against electricity!” she called out to the two men beside her, disengaging with the Emerald. “It has some sort of electrical shielding though, but if we concentrate multiple Lightning spells on it, we should be able to fry it!”

“Alright then,” Bark hollered, detaching the Lightning Emerald out of his weapon and tossing it over to Green XIII. “You two are on magic duty! I’ll cover for you!”

At the same time, E-104 Epsilon completed his ammunition switch. “ORDINANCES CHANGED,” it announced. “RE-INITIATING COMBAT MODE.” The weapon apparatuses on its arms spun around towards the rifle attachment and it started firing in short bursts at the Mobians. Beside him, Delta fired another round of canister grenades, this time creating a thick, black smokescreen that obscured the group’s vision. 

“Get down!” Bark yelled to everyone as the blackened smoke billowed around them. From his prone position, he aimed and fired another salvo at what he guessed was Epsilon’s direction. “Try concentratin’ on the orange one first! That guy may have some serious firepower, but its armor’s like paper-EYOUCH!” 

A round of bullets struck him hard on the thigh. Bark rolled onto his back and hissed loudly, rubbing the affected spots. “SHIT! That friggin’ hurt!” he hollered out, tears streaming from his eyes. 

“Sounds like they are using rubber bullets,” Green XIII commented. Keeping his body to the floor, he crawled around to find the smoke grenades and tossed them out of the car one by one. “They mean to injure, but not kill us. Well, I should say not kill you, milady.”

As if you had to remind me…’ Cosmo feigned a response, covering her mouth with one hand to keep from breathing in the smoke. Her weapon placed on the ground, she swapped the Lightning Emerald for the Fire in the single slot. The golem’s efforts, coupled with the exhaust updraft, once again caused the obscuring mists to dissipate and gave the flower girl a clear shot to the robots. Standing up and ambling over to an area by the door, she started charging a Lightning spell. “Bark, give me some cover!” she shouted, pouring more Mana into the spell.

“You-you got it sis…” the bear groaned out. Rolling over and gasping for air, he pushed himself to a kneeling position and started firing another volley at Delta and Epsilon, who weaved around both the shots and the beams jutting out from the building. “Take this, you sons of bitches!” he roared, froth flecking from the corners of his mouth.

Green XIII soon joined beside Cosmo and began charging a spell of his own. “A shame that these Support Emeralds have a cooldown period,” he stated glumly. A bright yellow crystal chunk formed at the end of his right palm. “I digress; you take the orange one, I’ll aim for the blue.”

Cosmo said nothing, but nodded in response. Concentrating, she stepped forward, her weapon floating in front of her as she pushed her hands out, calling “BOLT!” 

Next to her, Green XIII thrusted out a palm and also called “BOLT!”

The two magic spells shot out and struck both robots head on, stunning them for a moment. Bark took the opportunity to rain bullets on Epsilon, the shots tearing through the thin armor covering its arms, legs and torso. The robots soon recovered and pulled back out of the bear’s firing range.

Wasting no time, Cosmo backed away, drew more energy from the Lightning Emerald and prepared another spell. As the glowing yellow ball formed in the palm of her hand, she began to feel the strain of drawing and forming spells back to back in such a quick fashion. She gritted her teeth and pushed through the feeling, knowing that her survival and freedom were on the line.

Bark limped to their position at the back of the car, a pained look on his face. He leaned against the door. “OK y’all, at this point, we’re sitting ducks unless we don’t get rid of these guys,” he grimaced, inserting new ammunition clips into his Gun-Arm. “We’re barely keeping them at bay! We need some sort of plan and fast!”

The golem stood in front of Cosmo, his body erect and his vast arms crossed over his body and head. He turned his stony face to her “Here’s one: I’ll shield you from their fire, milady,” he said calmly. “Though this body is made of crystal, t’will provide sufficient protection until you’re ready.” His face turned to Bark. “Get to the other side of the car and aim for the blue one. Try to keep it from protecting its comrade long enough for lady Cosmo to unleash electrical hell upon it.”

Outside, Delta and Epsilon hovered back down to the slowly descending elevator car. The guns on Epsilon’s arms rotated back to the Gatlings and its barrels began to spin, warming up as the robot pointed them at the three. 

The polar bear glanced back at Cosmo nervously. “Uh, anytime now?” he said to her worriedly. 

“Bark! Fire!” Green XIII yelled out as Epsilon’s Gatling guns fired on the group. The golem roared loudly as the high-velocity rubber pellets struck his body repeatedly. He spread his arms and body as wide as he could to shield Cosmo from the brunt of the assault.

Bark rolled out of the way, righted himself into a crouching position and aimed at Delta. But before he could get a shot out though, four solid rubber cylinders suddenly slammed hard into his upper body. The polar bear let out a startled grunt, spittle escaping from his mouth as the powerful rounds sent him onto his back and knocking him out cold.

From the corner of her eye, Cosmo watched this scene and her eyes widened in horror. Reacting more in panic than anything else, she thrusted her hand towards Epsilon – who continued to empty its entire load of rubber ammunition into the crystal golem – and called “BOLT!” The massive Lightning charge rocketed towards the mechaniloid and hit its mark before Delta could intercept. The impact sent waves of electricity all over its thinly armoured body and soon entered the holes Bark created earlier. The energy travelling within Epsilon’s body shorted out its weapons systems and overloaded the hoverjets on its legs, causing a massive explosion that took out its lower half. Without the jets to maintain its balance, combined with the weight of its weapons, the robot listed forwards before gravity took control and sent it falling to the ground.

“EPSILON!” Delta intoned, diving down to its comrade’s aid and granting the three Mobians a reprieve from the battle.

As soon as the robots departed, Cosmo heard the sound of crunching glass next to her. She turned her head and watched as Green XIII dropped to his hands and knees, his face contorted in agony. He gasped for air and blood was pooling out from his open mouth as he righted into a kneeling position. Cosmo’s jaw dropped at the sight of the numerous fractures that covered the front of his body and the spots of red blood splashed beneath it. ‘By the Goddess…

Green XIII looked towards her, a pained smile crossing his face. “Are… you alright?” he asked in a voice that Cosmo could barely hear.

The flower girl, unable to speak as her eyes roved over the catastrophic damage covering the golem’s body, only nodded in response. She then brought a hand to her armour and tried to extract energy from the Restore Emerald, but she suddenly yelped in pain. Her vision swam and she swayed on the spot as a wave of exhaustion swept over her due to spell overuse. She propped herself against her retractable rod and let out a few shaky breaths before turning towards Bark. Her hands nearly slipped off the grip of her weapon and her heart leapt to her throat at the sight of the unconscious bear lying spread-eagled on his back with his mouth open and his eyes shut. Large black bruises could be seen through the thick fur on his chest, which Cosmo saw move slightly up and down. He was still alive, but barely. 

She hobbled over to Bark, knelt down beside him and started digging through his pockets for something that could help him recover. She brought out a fistful of phials and grenades and frantically sorted through them before her eyes landed on one filled with amber liquid. The label read: Phoenix Down. “That’s what I’m looking for,” she said quietly to herself. Setting the others aside in a haphazard manner, she quickly broke open the top of the phial with her teeth, raised Bark’s head so he wouldn’t choke on the liquid and poured it down his throat. She then grabbed his hat before it flew away from the high winds, knowing how important it was to him.

A few seconds later, the bear spluttered awake. Rising up to a sitting position, he groaned weakly and massaged his sore and bruised chest. “Why does this stuff always happen to me?” he moaned.

“I couldn’t tell you,” Cosmo smiled half-heartedly, brushing off his hat and handing it to him. “I’m supposed to be some all-powerful Seedrian, but I’m unfortunately not a clairvoyant.”

The bear let out a weak chuckle at the joke as he put his cap back on. “That is so lame,” he croaked. He brought his hand to his ribs and winced at the touch. “Ugh, feels like I fractured something…”

“Don’t worry,” Cosmo replied, reaching for the Ether phial on the ground. “I can heal you both after I down this and get a little…”

Her voice trailed off as the three heard the whine of hoverjets slowly approach them from below. Emerging into view was the combined forces of Delta and Epsilon. The latter’s body was fused to the back of the former. It was held aloft unsteadily by two large hoverjets on each side and Delta’s original leg jets. Epsilon’s arms were rotated towards Delta’s front and the blue robot’s grenade launchers were nestled into the slots on the underside of its orange counterpart’s weapon apparatuses. It then pointed the array towards the three. “SURRENDER OR FACE ELIMINATION,” Delta announced, charging all of its weapons to fire.

Time slowed to a crawl for Cosmo as she looked into Delta’s cold, unfeeling green eyes. Fear and dread froze her veins cold as she leaned on her staff and the only thing she could hear was the sound of her hyperventilating. ‘No. No! NO! This can’t be how this all ends!?’ she concluded miserably as she and her friends watched the combined robot power up their fused weapons. Hopelessly, she clasped her hands around her rod, closed her eyes and bowed her head. Around her, the sounds of the hoverjets seemed to get louder, as if the machines were moving closer to them. ‘If… If anyone can hear this…’ she scrunched up her eyes tightly and tensed herself up as she waited for the bullets to fly.

Tails… Cream… Someone… Anyone… Help…

A moment passed. And then two. Cosmo cracked open an eye and saw to her surprise that the sound she was hearing was not the hoverjets, but the wind itself. It roared and swirled all around her body, which she now noticed was engulfed in a golden aura, tiny bolts of silver lightning arcing all over her. The powerful gusts buffeted Delta and sent it careening back towards the Egg Building’s outer facade.

Without thinking, the flower girl straightened herself up, closed her eyes once more and held her rod with both hands in front of her. She tapped into the wellspring of power that enveloped her and began twirling her weapon on instinct. As she did so, the gales swirled around her and started to give off a glow. They soon coalesced into a point at the centre of her rod and formed into a radiant ball of warm, silvery-gold light. Cosmo then brought the rod to a stop in front of her vertically and then spread her arms wide. The energy ball burst and showered herself, Bark and Green XIII with sparks of healing light.

Beside her, Bark stood up and stared out at the robots, his face livid and eyes seeing red. The black and blue bruises covering his chest faded away. “Alright! Time for a little payback!” he grunted, picking up one of the grenades on the floor. Holding it in his teeth, he then placed a hand on his Gun-Arm and tapped into the Fire Emerald that was nestled into the slot. With the energy surrounding his hand, he then grasped at the grenade and smiled viciously as the spell engulfed the explosive.

On her other side, Cosmo heard Green XIII grunt as he stood upright. His crystal exterior was still cracked in many places, but the blood spots beneath it had vanished. The golem wiped the dried blood off of his mouth with the back of his hand, which was now glowing due to the golden aura that now surrounded him. “I agree, Bark,” he said, settling into a fighting stance and placing his left hand on his right fist. The aura migrated to his arms and a large, elongated mass of crystal began to form on the top of his fist. He broke the shaft off from his fist and hefted what looked to be a four-foot long spear in his hand. “Let us finish this and get out of here.”

Outside, Delta and Epsilon had regained their bearings and drifted back towards the elevator car. “PREPARE TO BE ANNIHILATED,” the robots both said as they aimed the fully charged weapons array at the three.

Bark glanced to Green XIII on his left. “Let’s do it man!” he shouted, pulling the spell-coated grenade’s pin out with his teeth. “FIRE!” he called out as he lobbed the device at the weapons array. 

At the same time, the golem roared as he hefted the crystal spear and lobbed it with incredible force at Delta. The shaft sailed through the air and plunged deep into the blue robot’s domed head, right in between its eyes and into its central cortex. Bark’s Fire Grenade then collided with the weapons array and caused a violent, fiery explosion that destroyed the arms of both machines. The sounds of the weapons array scattering to the ground echoed all around them, the various mechanisms making loud clanging noises as they struck the beams connecting to the building’s egg-shaped exoskeleton.

With Delta offline, Epsilon struggled to maintain lift with its own hoverjet booster. Seeing that they were outmatched, it began to back away from the car in a bid for retreat. It barely travelled three feet when it was struck down by a lightning bolt. The electric energy caused the final hoverjet engine to explode, sending both robots down the remaining forty stories until they crashed to the lobby area below, the impact on the concrete shattering their bodies into pieces. 

Cosmo breathed laboriously, the hand that cast the Lighting spell which finished off Delta and Epsilon still outstretched. An empty Ether phial lay by her feet. “And good riddance,” she said, a slight smile crossing her lips. 

The elevator suddenly jerked and resumed its normal operation and the car began to quickly travel down the remaining forty levels to the ground floor. As Bark and Green XIII offered their profuse thanks to her for getting them out of that jam, Cosmo felt incredibly uneasy. In the desperation that she faced earlier, she had inadvertently unleashed some sort of power within her. It wasn’t like talking to plants or having a strong command of magic; this power, she surmised, was the same that Nagus spoke of earlier. It was the same power that she tried to push away her whole life in fear that she would end up dead, just like her real mother. ‘If this is what I can do, it’s no wonder Kintobor wants me so badly,’ she ruminated as the car made a slow stop to the main lobby. 

Bark got out of the car first and headed to a nearby bench to sit down and rest, with Cosmo and Green XII following suit. The bear looked around the lobby with disinterest and cast a disgusted look at the smashed remains of Delta and Epsilon nearby. “Man, I’m gonna be glad to get the hell out of here,” he commented, massaging his neck and letting out a sigh. “I sure hope Tails and Cream get here soon.”


Mobius VII – Book 1: Escape From The City – Chapter 37

Chapter 37: The New President



Tails

“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!!”

“N-N-N-Not q-q-q-quite…”

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.


Mobius VII – Book 1: Escape From The City – Chapter 36

Chapter 36: Trail of Blood



Tails

Tails jolted awake, the cruel laughter he heard while in the Void still ringing in his ears. Shaking himself awake, he stood up from the floor and stretched his whole body to loosen up. It wasn’t until he arched his head towards the door that he noticed that it was ajar. 

“What the?” he exclaimed softly, doing a double take. “The door’s open… when did this happen?’ He poked his head out and peered at his surroundings. ‘No guards… but there’s a smell in the air… Blood?’ He turned quickly towards Cream. To his relief, she still lay on the cot asleep, her breathing light and rhythmic.

The fox then cautiously crept out of the cell and followed the scent of blood. It led him towards the door leading out of the security hold on the 67th floor. Rounding the corner, he came upon the grisly sight of the dead security guard laying on his back. His entrails were spilling out from a large gash crossing from one side of his abdomen to the other. Tails retched at the sight and smell of the body; it appeared that he was dead for less than an hour. He looked around and saw several slash marks gouged into the walls. Mingling with the guard’s blood on the floor was some blackened and rotted-looking organic matter that Tails couldn’t identify. “What the hell happened here?” he muttered out loud. Bending down and holding his breath, he searched the remains until he found the keys to the prison cells. He kept his wits about him as he returned to Cream.

“Cream, hey Cream!” Tails called, rousing her. “Wake up!”

The rabbit sat up, fully alert. “What is it?” she asked, her eyes turning to the open door. “And how’d you get the door open?”

“It wasn’t me,” Tails denied, shaking his head. “Though I wish I could say it was.” He jerked his thumb towards the door. “The guard outside’s dead, but whoever murdered him overdid it. There are gouge marks all over the walls and there was even some sort of biological matter on the floor mixed in with the guard’s blood. I couldn’t make heads or tails of what it was, pardon the pun.”

Cream threw him a rueful smile. “Attempts at humor aside, we should get the others out,” she said.

Tails handed her a set of keys. “Go get Cosmo, I’ll go help Bark and Green XIII,” he said. 

They both left their cell, Cream heading to the left and Tails to the right. The fox opened the door to the cell and saw Bark flat on his back snoring loudly, while Green XIII sat against the wall, his head hung to his chest and lolling to and fro in a state of fitful sleep. Amidst the bear’s wheezing, Tails could hear the golem murmur the word ‘Grandfather’ to himself in his sleep. 

“Hey, get up!” Tails called loudly. 

Bark spluttered awake while Green XIII’s head jerked upwards. Both of them glared sourly at the fox until Bark eyes widened. “Woah, wait, hold up!” he spluttered. “How’d you get in the door?!”

“Look, there’s no time to explain,” the fox replied, lowering his eyebrows into a glare. He started tapping his foot impatiently. “Just come with me. Something’s wrong.” He did an about-face and headed out of the cell door, leaving the bear and golem bewildered. They soon regained their senses and started following behind him. 

Making his way back to the dead guard, Tails forced down the uneasy feeling that was rising up to his throat. ‘Is this related to what I saw in the Void?’ he questioned. Cosmo and Cream soon joined the three men. The group looked on at the macabre scene in front of them. 

“B-By the Goddess,” the flower girl said, her hands leaping to her mouth and her eyes wide like saucers.

“What. The. Fuck,” Bark exclaimed, his jaw dropping. “That… That is gruesome, yo.”

“There’s no way that a single Human or a Mobian could have done this,” Green XIII commented, peering over the bear’s shoulder. He appeared to be unbothered by the scene. “My guess is that another one of Nagus’ experiments has escaped. Frankly, I’m not surprised; this has happened quite often in the month or so I’ve been here.”

“…Then why didn’t whatever attacked this guard come after us?” Cream asked, her head tilted to the side. She looked away from the eviscerated corpse and towards her childhood friend. “More importantly; why did it open our cell door?” 

Tails put a hand under his chin and stroked it. “That’s a good point,” he said, arching an eyebrow at the rabbit. Her questions only intensified his apprehension at the situation, but he forced himself to maintain a measure of calm. “It doesn’t make sense…” His eyes then went to the decaying matter on the floor. “In addition, there’s this stuff on the ground.” He pointed to the putrid mass of matter on the floor near the dead body and then arched his head towards the golem. “You’ve seen this before, Green?” he asked him.

“…It does look familiar,” the golem rasped, tilting his stone-encased head to observe the matter. “But… there’s no way that it could be…” Trailing off, Green XIII stepped over the corpse and opened the door out of the holding cells. He peered down the dimly lit hallway before his eyes settled on the blackish-looking blood on the ground. “…It looks like there’s a trail of it leading away from here,” he commented back to the group. “Let us regain our armaments and then follow it, see where it leads.”

“Lead on then, Green,” Tails instructed. As the golem headed forward, he turned to the women. “You two stay close to me. Bark, can you hold the rear?”

The bear recovered the dead guard’s spare ammunition clips and inserted them into his weapon. He grinned, bearing his sharp teeth at the fox. “You can count on me,” he said confidently. 

“Right then,” Cream said, turning to the fox. “Let’s go Tails.”


Cosmo

There was a heaviness in the air as Cosmo, Cream, Tails and Bark followed Green XIII through the dimly lit 67th floor. While the silence before was oppressive, it now felt stifling and made the hairs and fur on each Mobian’s back stand on end. The group made a quick pit stop to retrieve their belongings and then continued to follow the bloodstained path towards the specimen containment area that spanned half of the floor. Despite there being nobody around, the five had their weapons drawn out as though they expected something to jump out at them.

As they turned the corner into the containment area, they saw more human and Mobian bodies lying in heaps, all suffering fatal and messy wounds. One dead owl in particular was sprawled against the tank Green XIII was in. He had a gaping and bloody hole through his chest, his beak was contorted into a frozen expression of horror and his vacant and glazed stare was focused on the now destroyed containment tank that once held Blakdüm. 

The door looked to be torn open from the inside. A slick pool of blood and black, decaying matter stood outside the tank. Severed body parts were strewn around the floor near it and the stench of death was cloying. 

Cosmo covered her mouth with her jacket to avoid the smell. The more the flower girl saw, the more she had to fight against the overwhelming urge to turn around and run away from it all. She shrunk away from the mess of life fluids dripping off of the twisted metal and her hands were white from holding her staff in a bone-crushing grip.

Green XIII stepped forward and inspected the holding tank, his stony face stark and impassive. Cosmo couldn’t tell if he was alarmed at the sight or not. “…Most interesting,” he commented to the group, his words slow and meticulous. “It seems that the blood originates here. The trail then travels to our cells, returns to this point and then finally goes towards the lift in the back.”

“So, again, WHY did it come to our cells?” Bark asked, tugging on his cap. “And why didn’t it enter? I mean, it’s weird?” Cosmo noticed that his hand was trembling. Whether it was from fright or from adrenaline, she wasn’t sure. 

“… Well, there’s no point in trying to figure this out now,” Tails said after a pause. He turned towards the blood leading to the lift, his brows lowered. “Let’s keep following-“

“I heard something,” Cosmo said in a tiny voice she knew full well that he would have heard. “Maybe… Maybe a few minutes before you left your cell, Tails… I’m-I’m not sure.” 

The fox stopped mid-step and turned around to face her. Soon three more pairs of eyes were on her. Cosmo wanted nothing more at that moment than to wilt away and dismiss her musings as nonsense. Instead, she continued to speak.

“I… I woke up because of the guard,” she said. She felt her hair blossoms tremble as she recalled the guard’s gurgles and death rattle as he died on the other side of the wall across from her bed. “He sounded like he was trying to scream… but he couldn’t. A-After he fell silent, I started hearing footsteps. They were… slow and sounded heavy – like-like boots, y’know?” She turned her head away from the group and towards Green’s old containment tank. “I-it passed my cell and then I suddenly… heard a door swish open. Then I heard the footsteps again and then… I think it stopped by my door.” She felt her stomach churn as she continued. “I… I felt this… this pressure,” She let out a shaky breath and shook her head. “I-I can’t explain it, it was just… a terrifying and overwhelming power. Like something that’s not of this world… And then it laughed.” Her eyes met Tails’ own as she said this. “It was low… but it was cruel, cold and… murderous.” 

Cream reached out and took the flower girl’s hand, her brows creased and concern flooding her face. Cosmo squeezed back and smiled ruefully at her, grateful for the wordless gesture.

Bark took off his cap and scratched his head. “So… what does this all mean, Tails?” he asked Tails, giving him a sidelong glance. 

“…I dunno?” the warrior replied. Cosmo, however, could see that his fur was standing on end and his pupils were dilated – as though he had an idea what was happening. “But… like I said before, there’s no point in trying to figure this all out right now. Let’s keep going.” He turned around and stalked off towards the elevator. 

The polar bear cast a skeptical look at the fox’s back. “‘No point in trying to figure this out’ my ass,” he muttered, replacing the cap and adjusting the fit. He turned to the others. “C’mon, let’s go.” 

The five Mobians piled into the lift at the back of the room. As they passed the halfway point to the next floor, they heard a muffled cacophony of violent shrieks, followed by the sounds of men yelling. “Keep your guard up,” Tails said quietly as the lift stopped and the doors opened to the 68th floor. They clambered out quietly and drew out their weapons.

Unlike before, the lighting in the theater was dimmed. The fixtures above them were damaged as a result of an ongoing battle between assailants that Cosmo couldn’t see. She could, however, hear that the battles were on the other side of the floor, well away from their location. The horrible sounds of flesh being severed and the screams from Nagus’ twisted experiments made the flower girl’s skin crawl. She hunkered down with her companions under the shadows of the control room above, one hand gripping her staff, the other hovering over the Fire Emerald in the weapon’s slot. 

“Sounds like SOLDIER’s fighting ahead of us… Green, can you see the trail?” she heard the Ex-SOLDIER whisper ahead of her.

“Mmm… Yes, I do see it,” the golem responded, his rasp coming through as a hiss. “There are multiple trails, all of them the colour of blood save for one that is black and rotted. That one-” he pointed to a trail leading away from the fighting. “-Leads out of the lab and towards the stairwell we took to get back to the 66th.” 

“OK then, let’s avoid getting tied up with SOLDIER and get-” Cosmo heard Tails pause for a moment before he raised his voice. “Out of the way!!”

Tails’ warning came just as a large figure dashed clumsily towards them, a large, clawed hand raised. The group spread itself out as the monster slashed at nothing. It soundlessly rose up and Cosmo let out an audible gasp. “Isn’t that the monster from before?!” she cried, her eyes widening.

Standing underneath a flickering light was the body of Subject 512. Its head was still severed and lolling to the side, connected only by a thin strand of muscle. The mouth on its shoulder was shut and downturned, creating a garish looking frown. It rose up and shuffled forward in a hunched position, its only working arm swinging wildly. 

“HOLY SHIT!” Bark yelled, pointing his shaking Gun-Arm at the creature. “It-It’s alive?!”

“No,” Tails replied coolly, retaining his calm composure, his sword out in front of him. “It’s definitely dead. My guess is that its body had been reanimated somehow…”

As the fox spoke, the sounds of something being suckled out echoed amidst the fighting on the other side of the floor. Suddenly, the eyes belonging to a pair of smaller, pale-looking creatures peeked out from 512’s back. To their collective horror, the five Mobians watched as the thin, snake-like monsters detached from the felled experiment’s back with a squelch and retracted a set of long, spike-like prehensile tails from its exposed spinal cord. 512 froze in place and then fell forwards to the ground with a loud crash. The monsters then slithered off of the corpse onto the laboratory floor and finally faced the group. 

Under the dim, flickering lights, Cosmo shivered at the sight of the grotesque and writhing things in front of her. At roughly a foot shorter than her own height, the pale, flesh coloured creatures stood upright on thin, coiled spike-like tails and had tube-like bodies that flared out towards their heads. A pair of stunted, purple tentacles erupted out of the tops of their heads in a Y-shaped pattern. They each had two pairs of thin and spindly arms that jutted out halfway up their bodies. On its head section were three pairs of angry unblinking red eyes. In its centre, from the top pair of eyes to just below the second pair of arms, were a line of circular mouths for which rasping, sucking sounds came out of each orifice. Each mouth was lined with a set of sharp, pointed teeth and dribbled purplish-red blood. 

Tails made the first move. He rushed forward and slashed diagonally at the first flesh-colored mutant, who twisted at an awkward angle to avoid the cut. Circling behind him, the second mutant bent forward and thrust the tip of its tail at the fox, striking the top of his arm. Tails gritted his teeth as the needle-like barb penetrated his skin before he wrenched his arm away.  

A low and sickly growl caused Cosmo and Cream to look behind them. They came face to face with an emaciated four-legged creature. It had yellowed eyes and its animal-like snout was gaunt and skeletal. Its nostrils were long and wide and its mouth was wide open, revealing a set of mismatched pointed fangs. It had cropped medium length hair that was a bright, blood red and a discoloured, bluish-white patch on its forehead. Its rail-thin, dirt-coloured body was covered in long, sharp-looking spines. Its front paws weren’t paws at all, but two fanged mouths that snapped as it slinked forward. The rear paws contained eight clawed toes that jutted out in a circular pattern. Its tail stood upright threateningly, revealing the three spiked barbs at the end. It was hunched down, as though it was about to pounce.

It suddenly loped forward towards the two women and jumped at them, the mouths on its front paws opened wide. At the last second, Green XIII intercepted its attack by grabbing both paws in his hand. Grunting, the golem wrestled the beast away from the women, all while the mouths on the end of its forearms snapped repeatedly in his face. As it struggled in the crystal golem’s arresting grip, the patch on the monster’s head started to shine with a dull light. It brought its face up to Green XIII’s chest, opened its mouth and launched a fiery shell into it. It exploded on contact and the impact sent the golem flying. Screaming out in pain, he collided with Bark – whose attention was on the other two mutants Tails was facing – and the two Mobians were sent sprawling across the floor towards where the destroyed supercomputers for the Roboticizer lay.

Realizing that she had little time to lose, Cosmo quick-charged a Fire spell from her weapon and launched it before the monster could regain its bearings. It hit its mark, sending its body ablaze.

“So, that thing’s called a Zenene!” Cream said beside her. Cosmo glanced at her and saw that her irises flashed a bright blue. Her finger was on the Sense Emerald affixed to her armor. “Be careful, it absorbs Poison and Fire isn’t very effective on it!”  

True to her word, the Zenene dropped and rolled on the floor to put out the flames. Cream released her hold on the yellow gem, dashed forward and then clocked the beast in its face as it rose up. She then followed up with a side kick which sent it stumbling backwards. 

Regaining its footing, the creature sprang forward, its forearms outstretched and jaws gaping. However, the fighter anticipated the lunge and dropped into a low crouch. The Zenene sailed over her, but one of the spikes on its tail managed to graze her cheek. Turning around, the Zenene belched out a smoke-coloured gas from its mouth. The mist, combined with the low lighting, obscured the monster. Cream kept her guard up, her sharp eyes roving around and searching for any signs of movement.

As Cream fought, Cosmo drew blue energy from the Ice Emerald she had equipped onto her Four Slot bangle. Her staff floating in front of her at waist level, she brought the energy between her palms and charged it with Mana. She watched the fight and waited for the right moment to cast it.

From the corner of her eye, Cream saw the flower girl prepare her spell. However, that split second switch in focus gave the Zenene the opportunity it was looking for. It bounded forward from its smokescreen into Cream’s blindspot and thrusted a jawed hand into her side. The fangs clamped down and tore a chunk out of the fighter’s left oblique. Cream screeched painfully and threw a kick in retaliation before backing away. She hissed as she pressed a hand against the torn flesh to stem the bleeding.

Cosmo looked on, horrified, but maintained her spell charge while keeping her eyes locked onto the monster. From her peripheral vision, she saw Green XIII rise up in the distance. The golem started lumbering towards Cream and Cosmo, his loud steps briefly catching the Zenene’s attention. ‘Now!’ she thought, pushing the spell out of her hands and calling “ICE!”

The magic raced towards the mutant and struck it unawares, causing it’s joints to stiffen up. Capitalizing on the opportunity, Green XIII joined his fists together as he changed direction and bounded towards the Zenene, brought them up and then, with a roar, slammed the mutant’s head with a hammer blow. The force of the attack shattered its skull, killing it instantly. 

Not waiting to see if the golem finished off the mutant, Cosmo ran up to Cream, her hand now extracting green healing energy from her Restore Emerald. Reaching the fighter, she placed her hand a few inches over the gushing wound and called “CURE!” The magic traveled out of her hand and seeped into Cream’s wound. 

The rabbit watched amazed as the Restore magic halted the bleeding, mended the patch of skin that was ripped out and finally caused fresh cream-coloured fur to sprout out and cover the scar tissue. She threw a grateful look at Cosmo, before it was replaced by one of panicked alarm. “Look out!!” she cried.

Cosmo looked behind, only to be struck face first by a floating, metallic pod. The flower girl skidded and rolled along the floor until she came to a halt by the holding tank. Her face felt like it was on fire and tears formed on the corners of her eyes as she slowly picked herself up from the ground. Getting into a kneeling position, she first prodded her cheek gently to see if anything was broken. ‘OK, good, it’s only swollen…’ she surmised, wincing in pain. She then turned her attention back to Cream. Her eyes went as wide as saucers and she let out a gasp.

Cream’s body was once again enveloped in a golden aura and her normally gentle face was now contorted in a dark scowl. “You’ll pay for that!!” she yelled savagely as the aura now concentrated onto her fists and feet. The fighter then began a relentless assault – first, by throwing the same bone-breaking five hit combo she used on Corneo’s pet back in Sector 6. On the fifth hit, she reared back and somersaulted backwards, both feet striking the pod’s metallic face and causing it to crack. Landing in a crouch, she set her feet, leapt up into the air and descended to deliver a devastating drop kick. The pod creature attempted to back away in an effort to preserve itself as its shell continued to crack open, but Cream wasn’t giving it any relief. With lightning-like feet, she circled around the pod, grabbed it and executed a suplex. 

The abuse the enraged fighter laid on the pod caused its shell to shatter, revealing a disfigured, adult human head on the body the size of an infant child’s swimming around in a pinkish substance. Rage still coursing through her, Cream ripped the abomination out of its protective cocoon, slammed it hard onto the ground and then crushed the head with the heel of her boot. She took several deep breaths to calm herself down and then brought a hand to her lips in abject horror on realizing what she had done. She stepped away from the still twitching body, her face sickened.

Cosmo quickly went to the fighter’s side and carefully placed a hand on her shoulder. “Hey, thanks for that,” she said consolingly, her lips crinkling upward. 

“Do not feel so badly for it,” came Green XIII’s voice from the rabbit’s left side. The explosion he suffered from the Zenene left a large hole in his crystalline carapace that was slowly closing up. Cosmo could now see wisps of brown and beige fur that were once concealed by the thick crystal. He glanced briefly at the headless mutated human near Cream’s foot. “If it’s of small comfort to you, know that many of Nagus’ experiments – like this Brain Pod – yearn for death as opposed to living as atrocities.” His lips quirked into a smile of his own at the rabbit. “You did it a favour.”

The fighter’s expression softened, but the remorse in her eyes still remained. Cosmo took her by the hand and shook it. “C’mon, we gotta help out Tails and Mr. Bark!” she said, trying to stir her from her stupor.

At the mention of his name, the three heard gunshots coming out of Bark’s weapon from the far side of the room, next to the doorway that led to the main stairwell. They cut across the floor to see the polar bear and Tails backed into the wall by the two flesh-coloured mutants. A third soon joined them. Bark fired at each of them individually, but the creatures weaved around the erratic shots as they slithered closer. From behind him, Tails struggled to move. His body looked rigid and stiff and his face was contorted in a frozen grimace. The only parts of his body that were still moving freely were his eyes.

Enroute to their friends, Green XIII placed a hand on his own Sense Emerald on his armour and activated it. “Vargid Police,” he explained to Cosmo and Cream as they stopped a few feet away, his jade eyes flashing bright blue.. “Creatures that can paralyze and even control their prey while they latch on and absorb their victim’s blood from their many orifices. They are weak on their own, but they can be formidable when fighting as a group. We should assist Bark and Tails quickly.”

“No need to tell me twice!” Cosmo stated, preparing a Fire spell in hands. She raised her hands upward to charge the magic and then swept them forward as she called, “FIRE!” A column of flames erupted underneath the middle Vargid Police, burning it to cinders. 

The remaining two mutants whirled around to see Cream and Green XIII storm towards them. Cream had a ball of Lightning magic ready; she halted her advance abruptly, pushed her palms out and called “BOLT!” The spell shot towards the Vargid Police on her left and struck it before it could react, electrocuting and stunning the creature long enough for Bark to finish it off with several shots from his Gun-Arm.  

Green XIII closed in on the final mutant and grabbed the stunted tentacles on its head. The creature let out a squeal and thrusted its needle-barbed tail into the golem in a fit of desperation, but couldn’t get past his thick, stone armor. Letting out a mighty yell, the golem raised up and started swinging the mutant into the ground repeatedly until its shrieking became silent. 

By that point, Tails started regaining movement in his body as the paralysis wore off. He stretched and groaned, massaging his limbs back to life. “Thanks everyone,” he said, a hint of gratefulness etched in his indifferent tone. He stood up and his ears perked amidst the discord on the other side of the room. “Let’s get going,” he said, placing his Buster Sword on his back once more. “The fighting on the other side seems to be ceasing, meaning we’re gonna be next if we don’t hustle!” He turned to the crystal golem. “Green, you said that the trail leads upwards?”

“Correct,” he replied, nodding. He approached and inspected the door leading to the main stairwell. “It looks like the door has been forced open, so we shouldn’t need a keycard to keep going.”

As the group stepped through the threshold and into brighter lighting, Cream winced at seeing Cosmo’s face. “Ye-ouch Cos,” she said, half-smiling. “That thing got you pretty good, huh?”

“Wha- Oh, this?” the flower girl responded, touching the large welt on her cheek. It stung on touch. “Yeah, it’s not too bad…” 

Tails rounded on the two and inspected Cosmo’s face. “Hold on for a moment,” he said, drawing his sword and tapping the Restore Emerald in it. Drawing and shaping the energy with a portion of his Mana, he brought his two fingers to the flower girl’s cheek. Cosmo felt herself flush involuntarily as his gloved fingers hovered above her bruised and swollen cheek. “Cure,” she heard him call softly. 

As the magic worked into her face and reduced the swelling, she stared into his piercing electric blue eyes and suddenly felt a tiny spark within herself. A spark that she thought she would never feel again. ‘W-what’s this?’ she found herself thinking as she felt herself diving into the fox’s eyes. ‘What is it… that I’m feeling?

A second later, the moment ended. Tails abruptly turned around and continued out of the hallway, following the rot-stained trail. “C’mon,” he called to the girls.

“Cosmo?” Cream’s voice broke the flower girl out of her bemusement. She looked at the fighter, who wore an unreadable expression on her face.

“R-right, sorry,” Cosmo replied, clearing the fog out of her head with a shake “Let’s go.”  

As they climbed the stairs up to the 69th floor, the Mobians found that the blackened trail became stained with blood once more. The severed bodies of dead humans surrounded them as they followed the path up one of the plum carpeted staircases leading to the President’s office on the 70th floor. 

The office was as pristine as ever, save for the bloody trail which ended at the foot of Gerald Kintobor’s desk. The group approached it with trepidation, only to find a stunning sight that took the air right out of the room:

Gerald Kintobor, the president of Kintobor Power Incorporated and the de facto ruler of Megapolis, was slumped forward onto his desk in a pool of his own blood, a six-foot long katana impaled through his back.


Mobius VII – Book 1: Escape From The City – Chapter 35

Chapter 35: End of the Line



Cosmo

It’s official: I am part of the weirdest group of Mobians that the world has ever seen.

It was one of many thoughts that ran through Cosmo’s mind as she, the Ex-SOLDIER Tails, the bartender/fighter Cream, the one-armed gunner Bark and Green XIII – a Mobian encased in living crystal and their newest ally – descended the stairs from the 68th to the 66th floor. Half an hour ago, she was certain that she would have been subjected to frightening experiments. Now, with every step she took downward, she felt closer to freedom and it was all because of her new friends.

Friends…’ she found herself lamenting as they approached the door to the 66th. ‘Apart from my ex, I don’t remember the last time I had any real friends, at least not of my age.’ She thought of Viv, the elderly alligator living in Sector 6’s Wall Market. Her mind then turned to her mother and the little girl who was now in her care. Cosmo wondered if they were alright as the group stole through the shadowed hallways towards the bank of elevators leading to their ultimate escape.

Tails jammed on the button to call the lift. “Nothing to do but wait,” he said to the others, who stood idling by the elevator doors. Bark and Cream both looked tense and Green XIII’s crystal face was as impassive as when Cosmo first saw him. Tails soon crossed his arms and began tapping his foot impatiently, a motion which the flower girl found interesting.

Again, just like him,’ she thought, tilting her head curiously at the action. ‘If he weren’t a fox, he’d be the spitting image of-

Her thoughts were cut off by the ding of the elevator. It was followed by a second and then finally a third. The indicator lights above the door of each elevator flashed from red to blue. All three doors opened at the same time with each car revealing a large platoon of soldiers that quickly surrounded them. Flanking them were four very familiar Mobians wearing black suits.

“Well, well,” Vector of the Chaotix whistled. His arm was bandaged and in a sling from the fight back in Sector 7. The lighting above him illuminated the large gold chain around his neck. “I believe you guys are looking to go up, not down.”

On his left, Knuckles scoffed. “I’m sorry to say that it’s the end of the line for you all,” he bristled at the group. He leveled an icy glare at them all. “I’m sure you all had a very fun time roaming around these floors. I’ll give you credit though,” he looked directly in Tails’ eyes. “I was impressed by the hack job you pulled off, fox. Had you not done that, we would have apprehended you before you reached the 62nd.”

Mighty stood by Knuckles’ left side, a dark look cast upon his face. He appeared to be struggling with something, but Cosmo couldn’t care less about what it could be. She recognized Espio, who stood beside the armadillo. His expression was as severe as Knuckles’. As she heard Tails growl softly from her right side, she felt her fists ball up tightly. ‘Why did I not see this coming?’ she thought angrily, her eyes squeezed shut to prevent tears from falling. ‘Knuckles or Kintobor wouldn’t let us go that easily! I should have said something!

“Alright, enough dawdling,” Mighty said after a brief pause. He motioned to the guards. “Round ‘em up, we’re off to see the President.” As the guards surrounded them, confiscated their weapons and Emeralds and bound their arms, Mighty then added. “Oh, and as for the girl in the green and white dress? Take her away separately.”

“No!” Tails called out as Cosmo felt herself being roughly tugged away from the group by two MP’s. 

“Let me go!” she hollered, struggling against their grip. However, they were too strong for her to break free. Helplessly, she watched as her captured friends filed into the elevator, the door sliding shut behind them silently. 


Green XIII

As he ascended the elevator with his escorts to the president’s office on the top floor of the Kintobor Building, Green XIII reflected on the events that led him to this moment. With his arms bound tightly behind his back, all the golem could do at this moment was think.

A mere month ago, he was plucked from his home near the ruins of Mobotropolis and whisked to this giant metropolis on the other side of the world to be experimented on. All due to the fact that one of Kintobor’s scientists accidentally discovered the scaling of green crystals on his arms when he had forgotten to cover them up during a routine visit to the ruins.

That one little careless act had many consequences,’ the golem thought as the elevator they were on stopped at the 69th floor. ‘I wonder how everyone is holding up during my absence? Hopefully they don’t give Grandfather too much of a hard time…’ His train of thought was broken as he was led out by the crocodile and a group of soldiers who were torn between fulfilling their duties and shying away from his hulking stone form. The golem suppressed a sigh as he tramped across the elevator lobby, past the stairwell and out to the main reception area. 

The space was simple, but lavish and looked fitting for an executive suite. On either side of the door were two, elegantly crafted wooden desks, the lights above reflecting off of the polished, dark brown stains. Through an open door to his right, he could see a set of tall filing cabinets. Ahead was a stairwell that curved up to the right and lined with fine, violet carpeting. Its mirror lay on the left side of the floor. A litany of colorful plants were tastefully strewn around the space. The sight – coupled with what he knew of Kintobor’s destructive policies towards the environment – made Green XIII’s stomach twist in a knot. 

The guards had him stop at the desk on his right. “Alright, I can take it from here,” the crocodile said. The soldiers saluted and then turned back towards the elevators. Turning back to his charge, the reptile studied Green XIII. “Man… aren’t you an odd one?” he commented, cocking his head to the side.

Green didn’t respond to the croc’s small talk. Instead, the golem stared out of the windows on the opposite side of the floor. Gazing past the transparent egg-like facade and the illuminated city skyline, he focused on a point on the darkened horizon – towards what he assumed was directly southwest of Megapolis. The craggy extrusions that made up his eyebrows furrowed deeply. 

Will I ever see my home again?’ he wondered.

A moment later, the other three Mobians he became acquainted with only an hour ago arrived, each handled by another Mobian wearing the same navy blue suit. ‘An hour of freedom… And now these three will suffer the same fate as I, I suppose,’ he mused sardonically as he glanced at them briefly.

A brunette woman with tanned skin and a willowy frame soon emerged from the filing room and sat down in a plush, leather chair. She pressed a button on the desktop phone. “Sir, I have the intruders here,” she said into the speaker, her hazel-green eyes narrowing darkly at the group from behind a pair of black, rectangular glasses. 

“Send them in, Monica,” another voice – reedy yet powerful – responded. Green XIII felt himself being roughly shoved up the right staircase and into the president’s office. It was as big as the floor below it, with a high domed ceiling and tall windows giving an unobstructed, 360 degree view of the city. Before the golem could marvel at this, he was pushed towards the enormous, tech-laden desk at the back of the room.

President Kintobor sat in his chair, his greying moustache upturned into a snarl. “When I first met you at the No. 5 Reactor, I didn’t realize then just how difficult you all were to kill,” he said, a vein popping on his forehead as the group came to a halt in front of his desk. “Since then, you’ve escaped the destruction of Sector 7 and even managed to get through this building – MY building.”

He stood up and started pacing behind his desk. Green XIII watched as his hands clenched and unclenched as he spoke. “I would honestly be impressed if I wasn’t so infuriated,” Gerald continued, his voice quaking behind held back rage. “YEARS of genetic research has now been lost, my security systems and armed forces have been made a laughingstock and the central computer for the Roboticizer has been completely destroyed!”

“But all that pales in comparison to the fact that you nearly, NEARLY took off with the company’s most prized asset!” he bellowed, slamming his gnarled fists onto his desk with such force that the noise echoed around the circular room. His glare, hidden behind his mirrored lenses, then centred on the Ex-SOLDIER. “I am going to kill and skin each and every one of you to use as my new personal flooring for this insult!”

“…Where is she?”  Tails responded coolly to the threats, his electric-blue eyes never wavering from the President’s own. 

The President paused to regain his composure and Green XIII arched his head towards the fox once more. An uncomfortable feeling coursed through him – the same one he had when he formally introduced himself to the former SOLDIER and his friends after they had finished off 512. ‘Something is off about him…’ he thought, studying Tails. ‘I get the feeling that I know him from somewhere…

“…You need not worry about her, fox,” the president said, forcing Green XIII to pay attention. The human’s reedy, elderly tone took on a calm, yet venomous edge. “The Seedrian is in a safe place.”

“The hell are you on about?” Bark snapped back, his hackles raised. He struggled in his bonds and was held back by the sour-looking armadillo. 

“Oho, so the vermin knows not of the Seedrians, hm?” President Kintobor responded mockingly, placing his hands on his desk and leaning forward, his jaw jutted outward. Bark snarled at the human and thrashed about, trying to shake the armadillo off of him, but he held fast. 

“I suppose I should tell you, but be not surprised if your limited intelligence cannot comprehend this,” the President continued through gritted teeth as he ignored the frenzied bear. “We two – Mobians and Humans – are NOTHING compared to the Seedrians.” He straightened up and resumed his pacing behind his desk. “They lived thousands of years ago, cultivating and nurturing the planet into what it is today. Without them, we would not exist. Today, they are nothing but a footnote in history.”

“So, the Seedrians do exist after all,” Green XIII popped in, his rough and gravelly voice catching everyone’s attention. “And this lady is one of them? Hm… this is most profound…”

Kintobor stared at Green XIII, though his mirrored lenses prevented the golem from seeing the old man’s eyes. “…Yes, she is the last Seedrian,” the President finally said, his tone more measured and controlled than before. “The Seedrians, or Ancients as they are known, will lead us to the ‘Fertile Grounds.’ I expect much from her.”

“The Fertile Grounds?” The golem replied, astonished. He arched a craggy eyebrow upwards. “Surely, you jest. It’s nothing more than a legend?”

“…Be that as it may,” Kintobor replied, the edge returning to his voice. “The research indicates that the legend may have some basis of reality. And if it’s real…”

“Then there’s gotta be Energen!” Bark interrupted, horror-stricken.

“Precisely!” Kintobor said, a wide grin stretching across his lips. His bushy moustache curled upward, matching his smile. “And that’s where the Energen Reactors and the next and greatest iteration of RINGTEK will be manufactured. The abundant Energen will just flow out on its own, driving down extraction costs and allowing for optimal profits.” His tone became more hurried and excited and he spread his arms out wide, his face the picture of rapture. “And that is where Neopolis will be built, the crown jewel of Kintobor Power Incorporated-”

“Oh fuck that!” the polar bear cut in once again. “That’s never gonna happen! Quit dreaming and wake up!”

The president strode up to Bark and pulled off his mirrored spectacles. He got up close to the bear and stared into his eyes with cold hatred. “Dreaming?” he sneered, grey eyes aflame with malice. “I assure you that this is no dream, but merely a reality that will happen. It’s a shame,” he straightened up and placed his spectacles onto his face. “That neither you nor your friends will live to see that come to pass.” He paused, letting the words sink in before continuing. “Nagus needs new data to restart his research and I can’t think of better candidates than you four.”

Green’s shoulders slumped. ‘And there it is…’ he thought sadly. ‘We’re all doomed, it seems.

“This meeting has concluded. Take them away,” Kintobor ordered, turning away from the group and staring out of the window.

As he was led away from the President, Green heard Bark roar loudly. “Hey! I ain’t done with you yet!” the bear spat as he struggled against the armadillo’s tight grip. “You think you can get away with this?! The blood of all of the Mobians you’ve either killed or roboticized are on your friggin’ hands! The blood of all of Mobius itself is on YOUR HANDS!”

Green missed the rest of the exchange as he was pulled down the stairs to the reception hall by the reptile. They soon joined the echidna and the chameleon by the elevators. Minutes later, the armadillo dragged in Bark – who was still struggling with his bonds – and joined the throng that congregated in the vestibule.

“Alright, lock ‘em up in the holding cells on the 67th,” the echidna instructed, pressing the call button. “Two to a cell.”


Tails

“Tails?”

The fox stared at the door of the cell that he and Cream shared, chewing a morsel of stale bread as he tried to come up with any options for escape. Swallowing, he set the tray of food on his lap next to him and turned to her when she called. 

She lay on the stiff cot to his left, looking up at him. Tails could see the spots on her body where she was either bruised or cut during the several battles spanning the past 72 hours. Despite the battle injuries, her beautiful face still radiated an air of optimism and a glimmer of hope continued to shine in her amber coloured eyes. “What’s up,” he answered quickly, realizing that he was staring.

“So, can we get out of here?” she asked.

He smirked. “Leave it to me, I’ll get us out of here,” he replied, giving her a thumbs-up. She flashed him a smile in response and lay back. 

Inwardly, Tails wasn’t entirely sure if they could get out. Weapon-less and without Emeralds, he didn’t feel as confident as he sounded. He went to the wall on the opposite side and sat on the floor. The back of his head bumped softly against the wall and he closed his eyes. 

We were almost out of here,’ he brooded, his eyebrows knitted. ‘And now… well now, we’re screwed. There’s no way out of this one.’ He sighed under his breath. ‘I wonder how Cosmo is doing?

Just then, he heard a tap-tap-tap on the other side of the wall, followed by a sweet, feminine voice. “Tails?”

“Cosmo?! You’re alright?”

“Yeah, I’m alright,” she replied. 

Tails’ lips quirked. He suddenly felt a warmth envelop his body upon hearing her voice. He didn’t understand this feeling, but he relished in the comfort it gave him.

He heard her shift on the other side of the wall. “I knew you’d come for me,” she said warmly.

The fox scoffed in response. “Of course I would,” he said. “I’m your bodyguard, remember?”

“The deal was for one date, right?”

“Excuse me, but what’s this about a date?” came Cream’s voice. There was a frosty bitterness in it.

Tails suddenly felt a chill in the room. ‘Oh man…

“Wha-! Cream!?” Cosmo exclaimed. Tails could practically hear her do a double take. “Wh-Y-you’re… You’re there too!?”

“I’m sorry for barging in,” she said, not feeling very sorry at all. Her tone then shifted. “But, I do have a question for you Cosmo.” 

“…What is it?”

“Do the Fertile Grounds really exist?”

There was a pregnant pause that loomed in the air before Cosmo answered again. “… I don’t really know,” she answered. “But what little I do know comes from what my mother told me. My real mother.” 

Tails and Cream heard Cosmo stand up. She began to pace around the room. “She told me that the Seedrians were born of Mobius and take root in her soil to speak to her and unlock its secrets,” she spoke. “And… then the Seedrians will return to the Fertile Grounds; a land that promises supreme happiness.”

“…What does that mean?” Cream asked after taking the flower girl’s words in, her head tilted in wonder. 

“Beyond her words… I don’t really know…”

“…Speak with Mobius?” Tails butted in. He folded his arms and furrowed his brows, trying to make sense of it all.

“Just what does Mobius say, anyway?” Cream added.

“It’s too noisy to hear on a regular day,” came Cosmo’s response. Tails and Cream heard her sit on the hard bed in her cell. “There’s too much going on and too many people about. That’s why I can’t hear what they are saying…”

“What about now?” Tails asked

“Well… I’ve only ever heard it at the Church in the Sector 5 Slums,” Cosmo said. “But I’m sure if I leave this city, I’ll be able to hear it better.” She let out a long sigh and the cot creaked as she lay down on it. “Mom – my real mom – would always say that I would leave Megapolis, speak with Mobius and find my Fertile Ground.” Her voice started to crack. “I-I thought I would stop hearing her voice as I grew up, but…”

Silence permeated the space once more. The fox’s gaze went towards his childhood friend, who was staring at the wall separating their cell from Cosmo’s. Her knees were drawn up to her chest, her brows were creased and her lips were downturned. She put a hand on a spot behind her right ear and rubbed it absently. A memory suddenly flashed in Tails’ mind; he saw the reactor on Mount Mobius, where a younger Cream was kneeling by the body of an older rabbit with caramel-coloured hair. ‘That’s right, Cream lost her mother too…’ he recalled.

There was a knock on the opposite wall, causing Cream to snap out of her reverie. “Yo, Tails? Cream?” Bark’s baritone voice called out. 

“You alright?” Tails responded, keeping his voice low so that the guards couldn’t hear him. “And keep it down, will ya?”

“Ah shit, sorry,” came the bear’s response. “Yeah, I’m good. Oh, and our crystal friend is here as well. Say hi man.” 

“…Hello,” Green XIII greeted dryly.

Tails heard the polar bear grunt as he shifted on the floor. “So foxy, what’s the plan?” he asked.

The fox let out a long exhale of breath at the question. “Got nothing yet,” he replied. He tilted his head to the dim light on the ceiling. His vision started to swim as exhaustion crept in. ‘Getting tired…’  “It’s been a long couple of days for all of us,” he continued. “We should all probably get some sleep.”

His suggestion was met with silence. “…Yeah, you might be right,” Bark eventually said. “A couple hours of sleep might give us some new ideas, right?”

“Yeah,” Tails replied, his eyes getting heavy. It wasn’t very long before he fell asleep.


The Void

Tails opened his eyes to see the white expanse of the Void. “Is this gonna be a reoccurring thing?” he asked aloud, repressing a sigh. 

“No, this may be the last time,” a voice answered. In front of the fox was the familiar black garbed figure, his arms folded. The fox could feel the smile beneath his hood. “For a little while at least.” 

Tails tilted his head in confusion. “‘Last time?’ How come?” he asked.

“It’s because of what I told you a few nights ago,” a second voice called from behind. 

The fox turned around in surprise to see another hooded figure. He squinted at the figure for a moment, before his eyes widened. “You… You showed up the night after the first bombing,” he said slowly, understanding dawning on his muzzle. “And you,” he continued, facing the other figure. “You were there after I fell down from the No. 5? What’s going on here?”

The second figure walked past Tails and joined alongside the first and the fox could now see the distinctions between the two. The second figure was shorter than the first and while the colours of their shoes were identical, the patterning was different. The smaller had a two tone style – white in front and red in the back. His companion had a thick white stripe across the top of the shoe. 

“Yeah, OK, so… there’s two of us,” the first one said placatingly. He waved his hands in a calming manner in an attempt to soothe the now perturbed fox. “I know, I know it’s a lot to take in. But it’s really important that you listen to us carefully, little buddy.”

“He’s right,” The second chimed in. Tails recognized the serious tone from their first meeting. “You need to be ready.”

“Ready for what!?” Tails yelled, his patience finally hitting the breaking point. “What the hell aren’t you telling me?!”

“You already know what’s going on!” the smaller one fired back. He clenched his now-shaking fists at the Ex-SOLDIER. “You’re an intelligent being, you can connect the dots, can’t you!?”

“…You told me that ‘It started moving,’” Tails said through gritted teeth, remembering their earlier conversation. “I understand now that you meant Blakdüm-”

“And?” the taller one cut in calmly, a hand against his hip. “What do you think that means?”

“I don’t know what that means!” the fox roared back, his frustration building. “I don’t care if it means anything! And why do I keep coming-”

Suddenly, his mouth clamped shut against his will, cutting him off mid-speech. He tried to pry open his mouth with his hands, but they then snapped to his sides. Finally, his legs froze in place. Tails looked at the hooded figures, his eyes blazing with cold disdain as he stood frozen like a statue. 

The smaller one had his hand outstretched towards the fox, his fingers curled like a puppet-master’s. He turned his head to his companion. “He’s not ready,” he said darkly. “He won’t understand what’s going on here, not in the state he’s in. His claws are in too deep.”

The tall one placed a hand to his forehead and let out a groan. “I know…” he resigned, shaking his head. He then walked up to Tails, who looked utterly bewildered. “Look little buddy,” he said softly. He started to place a hand on the fox’s shoulder, but faltered mid-way, his arm swinging back towards his side. “…All I want you to know right now, is that… none of what happened in the past was your fault. I want you to remember that, OK?”

Tails glared right into the hooded figure’s eyes, which were a glowing shade of bright jade. ‘What the hell are you talking about? What am I not ready for? And who else is here?!’ were all questions he wanted to ask. He felt confused and frustrated at these visits.

“In time,” the figure continued, as if he was reading the fox’s mind. “All will be revealed. You’ll figure out what to do with it all when you do learn. I know you will.”

“We’re running out of time here,” the second figure called back, his voice strained. “That thing’s become aware of our presence.”

What has?!’ Tails mentally shouted as he tried to break free. ‘What else is here?!

The first turned to his companion and started walking away from the fox. “Ah well, can’t be helped, huh?” he replied nonchalantly. “S’OK, I have faith that he’ll pull through. You should too.”

“Hmph,” the smaller of the two grunted. “Fine.” He then relaxed his body and Tails suddenly regained control of his own. 

Roaring angrily, the fox rushed forward, his hands balled into fists. “Who are you?! Who else is here?! Answer me!!” he yelled, lunging towards both hooded figures, his arms outstretched. He passed right through them and collapsed into a heap on the ground. He craned his head back and saw that they vanished into thin air. “Why is this happening to me!?” he hollered out in rage, his fists striking the floor at every word. His chest heaved as he stared at the thin, web-like cracks that formed from his immense strength.

Suddenly, the cracks started to grow. Pieces of the floor started chipping and falling away to reveal a darkness that made his skin crawl. Soon, larger pieces of the floor fell away, which alarmed Tails. “Damnit, the place is collapsing,” he muttered under his teeth. “I can’t leave now, I need answers!”

He got up and started running. He didn’t know where he was going, but he let his instincts guide him. As the Void continued dissolving into nothingness, Tails spotted a door in the distance. It was the same one he saw in his previous visit, when he stayed the night at Cosmo’s house for the first time. 

The Void’s disintegration rapidly intensified to the point where it was disappearing faster than the fox could run. He unwrapped his tails and took flight, pushing himself closer and closer to the wooden door. As he flew, he heard the rumblings of a familiar laughter that chilled him to the bone. It was a cold, rough and deep chuckle that reverberated through every fiber of his being. Just as he managed to get a fingertip onto the brass knob, he felt his stamina give out and he tumbled down, down into the darkness with the laughter echoing through his brain.


Mobius VII – Book 1: Escape From The City – Chapter 34

Chapter 34: The Crystal Golem



Tails

Tails drew his sword and faced down Specimen 512, Bark standing to his right.  The fox angled his head to the viridian creature on his left. “What’s your name?” he asked.

“…Green XIII,” the golem rasped, his voice sounding like crunching gravel. “An utterly nonsensical name that Nagus gave me. You can call me that, or whatever you wish.” He raised his massive, club-like fists into a fighting stance. “Perhaps I will tell you my true name, if we ever get out of this alive.”

“Fair enough,” Tails harrumphed. He then raised his sword and charged at the monster. “Let’s go!” 

Subject 512 became aware of the approaching Ex-SOLDIER and reacted. It swung its massive blob-like left arm to meet the fox’s blade, causing it to be embedded within its flesh. Shrieking in pain, the monster quickly followed up with a swipe of its long claws. 

Tails dipped forward and the claws glanced off his shoulder pauldron instead of striking his chest. He wrenched his blade free and got out of the way as Bark started to fire upon it, the bullets biting into the creature’s thick flesh. Roaring, 512 doubled over and shielded itself from the barrage with its left arm. In its hunched position, it convulsed suddenly as three large bulges appeared on its back.  The skin on its back stretched until it started to tear, purplish red blood dribbling out as the lumps grew.

Bark stopped his assault, bullet casings tinikling on the metal floor beneath him. “What the hell is it doing?!” he yelled to Tails as he reloaded. 

“It’s summoning some friends,” came Green XIII’s response before the fox could open his mouth. He strode forwards, a hand placed on a bangle stretched around its upper left arm.  He quickly slid a hand over two Emeralds affixed to the piece of armor and drew crimson energy from it. Fingers splayed and palm facing the twitching 512, the energy started to solidify into four large, fiery red chunks of crystal. “FIRE!” the golem called, just as three small, round yellow blobs erupted from 512’s back.

The crystal chunks shot out and embedded themselves in their targets. A second later, they exploded violently and showered 512 and the blobs with napalm. The monster shrieked and thrashed from the burns. It lumbered away from the holding tank and towards the circular pad and large array of supercomputers at the other end of the room. 

The yellow blobs remained by the tank. Two pairs of claws sprung out from their undersides. The soft tissues around its body hardened into a tough carapace. A slit at the front of its body opened vertically, revealing a glassy blue eye that swiveled around. They rolled around to douse the fires and then scurried away to different points of the floor.

“Magic is much more effective against 512,” Green XIII called out to the fox beside him as the creatures dispersed. “It’s skin is thick enough to withstand blades and bullets, but starts to weaken when exposed to elemental energy. Try Fire – the burns seem to weaken it better than other magic.”

“You sure do know a lot about this thing,” the fox remarked. He dug into his pocket for the Fire Emerald, swapped it for the Ice on his weapon and then drew energy from it.

“Not really,” the golem grunted in response. “But thanks to this -” he tapped the yellow Sense Emerald in the single slot on his armor. “- I know enough on how to harm it.”

Bark, seeing Tails draw reddish-orange energy, also followed suit. “What are those things, anyway?” he asked Green XIII, inquiring about the small, insect-like creatures that erupted from 512’s back.

“Ignore its minions, they’re a distraction and nothing more,” the golem called, a large, singular Fire charge in hand. He pointed it at the larger monster hunched by the pad, its flames now extinguished. “Focus your attacks on the big one!”

512 rose up from its position and bellowed threateningly. Murky green gas started to accumulate in its mouth as it started to charge towards the three fighters.

Wasting no time, Tails brought the Fire energy in between his palms and then pushed them out. “FIRE!” he called and the energy shot out, zigzagging towards 512. Suddenly, one of the smaller minions jumped into the magic’s path and took it with full force, the flames engulfing its body. The diminutive creature crumpled to the ground, convulsed and then went still. 

The fox narrowed its eyes as he settled back into a defensive stance. ‘What the hell? Did it just… block the attack on its own?’ he thought, racking his brain to comprehend what he just saw. Nearby, Bark and Green also cast their spells. However, none had reached 512 as the other two yellow creatures intercepted the magical attacks and lay dead.

512 came to a halt in front of one of its dead minions. It scooped it up, opened the mouth on its shoulder and devoured it. The sounds of teeth chewing and crushing the dead carcass made Tails’ insides squirm involuntarily as he held his stance, bracing himself for whatever came next. 

Suddenly, 512 doubled over, roaring as a growing bulge formed once again on its back. A few seconds later, the skin burst and a monster identical to the one Tails’ spell struck emerged and skittered to 512’s side. It’s glassy eye swiveled around and took in its surroundings. 

“Oh shoot, I forgot to mention,” Tails heard Green XIII call out from across the room. “It can regenerate its underlings by devouring them!”

Wish you could’ve told us that sooner,’ Tails internally groused as he maintained his guard. He watched with morbid curiosity as 512’s disfigured head and its smaller minion’s eye moved as one. Both eye and head locked onto the fox and 512 pointed in his direction. The smaller monster dashed towards him explosively and jumped forward, its sharp front claws outstretched. 

The fox stepped to the side and easily parried the strike, the claws screeching loudly against the face of the blade. Suddenly, he heard Bark yell out to him. “Yo! Watch out!”

512 had bounded right behind its smaller undering while the Ex-SOLDIER was distracted. Getting up close, it swiped at the fox’s side with its long claws, sending him flying across the room and into the holding tank. Tails yowled as his back collided with the tank, the glass cracking on impact. He slumped to the floor and clutched at his side dribbling with blood; the thick plate across his abdomen protected him, but the claws managed to pierce his side. ‘Great,’ he thought as he brought a hand to the Restore Emerald on his weapon.


Bark

Bark snarled as he unloaded another salvo at 512. The monster ignored the bullets entering its body as it ate and regenerated a second minion. The small monster then charged at the bear. “This can’t get any worse, can it?!” he yelled rhetorically. The bear rolled out of the way of the incoming minion and focused his aim at the larger creature now approaching him. 

512 stopped a few feet away from the bear, opened its mouth and belched. The green gas that had accumulated within spewed forth from the misshapen orifice on its shoulder towards Bark. The bear ceased fire and began to retreat as he tried to cover his mouth with the crook of his arm to protect himself. Some of the gas seeped through and he involuntarily inhaled it, the wretched taste causing him to drop backwards onto his rear. Seconds later, he started coughing violently and saw bright white spots float around his vision. “Th-the hell… is this?” he wheezed as he raised his now trembling arm and tried to aim at 512.

The monster approached the fallen polar bear and raised its massive left arm to pulverize him. Before it could land the blow, it was interrupted by a crystal explosion on its back. It screeched as the napalm burst coated its body with flames.

“Not happening pal!” Green said loudly. Bark watched as the golem bounded forward, jumped and dug his claw-like fingers into 512’s back. The monster emitted another pained screech as it tried to shake the golem off of its back. The two remaining underlings returned to its master and started tackling Green, who dug in deeper despite the painful bodyblows. 

Suddenly, Bark felt his body go slack. He lay back and looked into the ceiling, his vision becoming more blurry as whatever he breathed in was wracking through his body. ‘Is… is this the end for me?’ he wondered as he felt his body shut down.


Tails

Tails stood up after applying Cure magic to close his wounds. He rushed over to Bark’s side and knelt down. The bear stopped coughing, but his muzzle changed into a sickly, pallor definition. His eyes were bloodshot and froth was starting to gather on the side of his mouth. 

Shit, it’s poison,’ Tails cursed, digging into a pocket and extracting a plastic vial filled with green liquid. ‘Thank the Goddess Viv had the foresight to give us a few of these Antidotes…’ “Drink this, Bark,” he instructed urgently, breaking the top and tilting it towards the bear’s mouth. “C’mon man, don’t die on me now…”

Bark drank the liquid and within seconds, the colour on his face returned. He turned over, retched loudly and then started dry heaving. “Agh, Goddess that’s disgusting!” he yelled, his snout twisted in revulsion. He inclined his head towards the two-tailed fox. “…Thanks,” he added, and for the first time, the fox could sense neither half-heartedness, nor sarcasm from his tone. 

Tails helped him up, a smirk crossing his lips. “No charge,” he said, helping the bear up and then drawing his weapon. “Now let’s say we help out our new friend, huh?”

As if on cue, Green skidded towards them, having finally been beaten off by 512’s underlings. He rose up gingerly and both Tails and Bark could see cracks along his torso, up his forearms and down his legs. They then watched transfixed as the cracks started to seal themselves up. 

Green stood up unsteadily and turned to look at the other two Mobians. “What are you looking at?” he grumbled, a pained expression crossing his chiseled face. “While you two were gawking, you both could have been taking that thing down!”

Tails shifted his attention towards the monster and cursed loudly, seeing that it regenerated its final minion. The monster shuddered after releasing the smaller creature from the confines of its back. It then roared loudly and started charging towards the Mobians, its mouth leaking gas. “Heads up!” he yelled as 512 belched another cloud of gas towards them. 

Both he and Bark retreated to avoid the poisonous cloud, but Green instead pressed forward. He passed through the mist unaffected and threw an uppercut at 512’s torso, stopping it mid charge. 512 swung its clawed arm at Green, but he crouched to avoid the swipe as he continued his attack on the monster, pummelling it with repeated blows. The golem used its mass to its advantage, the added weight and hardness of his crystalline make-up increasing the force of each punch. 

Bark suddenly spotted the yellow shelled creatures advancing on Green’s rear. “Yo! Crystal guy!” the bear shouted to catch his attention. “Watch your rear!”

“Wha-” Green XIII started, looking over his shoulder to see the three underlings skittering in a line towards him. That moment of hesitation was all the monster needed to strike. It reared its claws back and thrusted them into the golem’s chest, piercing his thick, stone hide. Green XIII cried out,  stumbled backwards and then tripped over the smaller monsters, sending him back onto the floor. The three then swarmed the fallen golem, their sharp claws pecking at the opening made by their master. 

“Bark, c’mon! We gotta hurry!” Tails called as 512 raised its bludgeoning arm. “Cast Fire on 512 while I clear those things off of Green!” He charged forward and swung his sword like a bat. The flat of the blade collided with the three monsters and sent them flying into the supercomputers by the circular pad. They crashed into the computer equipment, causing sparks to fly out.

Behind him, Bark held a glowing, orange-red orb in his left hand. He swung his arm towards the monster just as Tails swept the smaller ones away and called “FIRE!” A column of flames burst forth from Bark’s fist and arced right at 512, hitting it directly in its chest.

Tails then followed up Bark’s attack and slashed at the tube connecting 512’s left arm and navel. The tough flesh had weakened due to Bark’s magic attack and allowed the massive blade to cut through it cleanly. Blood spurted out from both sides of the severed vessel and the mutant emitted a horrible scream of pain. Its left arm then slumped downward and became unresponsive, becoming nothing more than a useless vestigial limb.

Meanwhile, Bark came up to Green’s downed figure. A trickle of blood pooled out from the slowly shrinking hole in his chest, the crystal growing over to cover the wound. He reached out a hand. “C’mon, get up,” Bark said, pulling the golem up onto his feet. 

The Ex-SOLDIER joined their side, his blade and his uniform were stained with 512’s blood. He handed a Potion to Green XIII.  “You alright?” he asked.

“Yes,” Green XIII replied, breaking the top and downing the restorative. “But this fight is not over yet. Be on your guard. 512 still has many tricks up its sleeve.”

The monster let out another bellowing shriek, causing Tails to wince at the sound. It opened its mouth and expelled poisonous gas over a wide area. The mist started to drift towards the three fighters and increased in size and density as the monster continued to exhale.

This isn’t good,’ Taiis surmised as he and Bark started to back away. ‘Gotta do something about that gas… but what though?’ He carefully assessed the cloud. ‘Perhaps… If we could create an explosion, the force of it could push the gas away. Grenades could do the job, but that still doesn’t stop the source of it all.’ He then witnessed Green XIII standing firm against the oncoming cloud and his eyes widened with realization as he remembered the events of the past few minutes. ‘Of course!

“Green, any chance you got enough Mana to cast some magic?” the fox asked.

“Yes, I do,” the golem responded, his eyes fixed on the poison-spewing creature ahead.

“Good, then I have a plan,” Tails said. He turned to Bark. “Bark, you have those grenades still?” The bear narrowed his eyes at him, perplexed, but then nodded in affirmation. “Alright, hand one over to me. Green, charge another Fire spell. We’re going to use the grenades to clear out some of the gas, that should give you enough visibility to send a charge right down its throat,” the fox explained. “If I’m right – and I usually am – the explosion should both stop the gas from forming and severely injure it.”

“…You sound sure of yourself,” Green commented gravely, tapping into the Fire Emerald on his arm and drawing the energy out. 

“Hey man,” Bark said to Green, his lips curled into a smile. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned after spending a few days with this guy, it’s that he knows what he’s doing. He’s legit.” He turned his attention to the fox and tossed him an explosive, before pulling another one out from his side pocket. “Alright foxy, you tell me when.”

Beneath his stoic exterior, Tails chuckled inwardly to himself. ‘About time he has faith in me,’ he mused. “Right, so on my mark, we toss the grenades and get behind the holding tank behind us,” he explained quickly, his eyes trailing the incoming poisoned vapour. “Once they explode, Green, you launch that down his throat. Bark and I will go in after and finish it off with more Fire spells.”

Both Mobian and golem complied with the fox’s plan. Tails turned his focus back onto the gas, watching it crawl towards them slowly. Behind him. Green held a magic-infused crystal chunk in hand as he waited for the signal.

The mist soon crossed the invisible line that Tails demarcated in his mind. “Now!” he yelled, pulling the pin out of the explosive and tossing it. Bark followed suit, pulling the pin with his teeth. The three then hurried behind the glass tank, with Green situated in front.

A second later, the explosives detonated and the shockwaves parted the gas enough that 512 could be seen, if only for a moment. Green lumbered out of his hiding spot, shot his hand holding his magic charge out and called, “FIRE!”

The projectile launched and sailed straight towards 512’s open mouth. At the last second though, the monster clamped its mouth shut and twisted its body so that the chunk embedded itself instead into its now useless left arm. It exploded, the flames covering the limb, but 512 made no sounds of pain.

Tails and Bark also cast their spells behind Green XIII’s, but they again were intercepted by two of 512’s underlings – both of which survived the crash into the supercomputer equipment. They again fell lifeless to the ground after making their sacrifice. Tails looked on in horror as the monster opened the orifice on its shoulder once again and belched out more clouds of gas towards them. It then started to step towards the three.

“I take back every good thing I said about you just now!” Bark grumbled to the fox, sweat accumulating on his forehead as he eyed the approaching cloud of poison mist. “What the hell happened?!”

“I-I don’t know?” Tails replied, flummoxed. It was the first time that his knowledge had failed him. He knitted his brows and went over what he knew once again. ‘Somehow, it knew to expect the magic attack. And earlier, it used its minions to intercept them as well. So what does it all mean?’ He scanned his surroundings and his eyes lay on the third yellow monster. It was tucked in between two large pieces of laboratory equipment on the other side of the room. It stood still, with its glassy blue eye trained directly on himself, Bark and Green XIII. And then suddenly, all the pieces lined up in Tails’ mind. 

That’s it!’ he thought, his eyes widening and mouth parting. His knowledge didn’t fail him – rather, it was incomplete. “The main body and the smaller monsters are linked!” the fox said aloud to his teammates. “It can see our movements with its minions; in fact, they’re not just minions, but they’re its eyes! That’s how it knows to intercept and anticipate our attacks!”

“So what do we do about it?” Green XIII asked bluntly, still staring into the mist that was slowly approaching them. “If it can see everything we do, how can we kill it?”

“Easy,” Tails said, smirking. A new plan had formed in his mind and he felt confident that this time, it would be foolproof. “We keep the optical monsters busy enough that the main body can’t see. Right now, there’s only one. Bark,” He turned to the bear. “How good is your aim against moving targets?”

The bear’s lips curled into a savage grin. “Pretty damned good, I’d say,” he said, a hint of arrogance in his tone. “Why d’ya ask?” 

“You’re on optical monster duty,” Tails replied. “Keep that one there busy enough so that it can’t focus on us. Meanwhile, Green and I will handle the big bad over there. If for some reason it gets past us and summons any more eyes, can I count on you to take care of it?”

“Yeah, no problem,” Bark answered. He creased his brows at the green fog in front of them. “But how are ya gonna get through the mist?!”

“Leave that to me,” the golem said, stepping up. “I see where this is going: I’m the only one for whom the poison doesn’t affect.”

“Alright then, get to it Bark,” Tails instructed. “Keep on ‘em like flies to shit.”

The bear threw the fox a wry grin and complied with his instruction, aiming and firing his gun at the smaller monster in the corner. It skittered out in a panic as bullets tore through the computer equipment and Bark gave chase to it. “Hey! Get back here you piece of shit!” 

Green XIII turned back to Tails. “So what’s next?” he asked. The mist had started to draw closer to them.

The fox charged another Fire spell in his hand. He started to feel the beginnings of Mana fatigue set it, but he pushed it aside and concentrated on the task at hand. “First, you get in close and stop it from spewing gas,” he said, his jaw set in a firm line. “I’ll launch a spell at the shoulder, which should weaken the skin enough so that you can then start pulling out its teeth.” He saw the golem raise a craggy eyebrow at him. “I need an opening big enough to send another spell down its throat, as I originally planned.” Tails clarified. 

“Ah, I understand then,” Green XIII acknowledged, his fists clenched tightly. “Get ready then, fox.” He turned away from the warrior and then charged forward into the mist towards 512. As he approached, Green XIII jumped up and then threw a haymaker at the monster’s true head. The stone fist collided hard with the disfigured mass that made up its head and sent it reeling backwards. The mouth on its shoulder closed involuntarily, cutting off the gas.

With the gas dissipating, Tails had a clear shot at 512. “Won’t be able to avoid it this time,” he murmured to himself, noting that Bark was keeping the third minion at bay behind him. “Green! Get out of the way!” he yelled as he brought his palms together, poured in more Mana to strengthen the spell and then pushed out, calling “FIRE!”

The energy shot out and struck the monster directly on the mouth on its shoulder, burning the flesh and weakening the muscles beneath it. Green XIII followed up with several strikes to the affected area to loosen the teeth before he started to rip them out. 512 hollered savagely as the bloody teeth, each as long as a human forearm, were thrown to the ground. Green XIII had removed a few before being swept away by the monster’s clawed arm.

Tails charged another spell behind the one he just launched. Between the spell casting, avoiding attacks and his current injuries, fatigue had now begun to set in. His breathing became laborious and sweat trickled down the side of his head. ‘Got to… keep it together,’ he willed to himself, gritting his teeth as he prepared the strongest Fire spell he could muster. ‘Only got one shot at this…

The golem roared and charged back at 512, despite the gouge marks made in his side from the earlier swipe. He weaved around the claw, climbed it’s arm once more and grasped two more teeth in its shoulder. He yanked hard, breaking them away and creating a large opening into its throat. “DO IT NOW!” he yelled out as he was swept away once more. The monster turned to Tails, sensing his presence and started bearing down on him, poison gas starting to accumulate and spill out from the large opening in its mouth.

The Ex-SOLDIER focused on the opening in 512’s shoulder as it lumbered towards him. He pushed out again with his palms and called “FIRE!” The magic shot towards the mouth, travelled into the opening made by Green XIII and into its body. 

512 halted its approach and convulsed violently, it’s claw shakily went to the throat of its true head. A roar – louder, drawn out and more pained than any Tails had heard from it – shot out of the mouth on its shoulder as its internals were blasted by Fire energy. The monster then toppled backwards and landed on the floor with a loud thud.

Tails fell backward onto his rear, panting from putting all of his remaining Mana into his final attack. He uncorked both a Potion and his second-to-last Ether and guzzled both of them down. Moments later, he felt the restoratives kick in. He slowly stood up and, together with the golem, approached Subject 512 carefully. 

Across the room in the control station, Nagus’ assistant burst out in a panic and ran to a door near the station. Tails watched as the trembling Mobian scientist hurried to leave, all the while glancing back at the fighters who felled the monster he unleashed. With a terrified squeak, he got the door open and sailed out, blubbering as he did so. 

Turning back to the monster, he kept his guard up and watched for any sudden movements. Bark soon joined them, having finally killed the last of 512’s minions. The three stopped a few feet away from the body, the chest heaving and the orifice on its shoulder sucking in deep, ragged breaths. Its true head turned towards them, the tendrils that spilled out over where its mouth was were wriggling chaotically.

And then Tails heard a sound coming out of it. It was faint, but his enhanced hearing made it possible to pick up the words coming out of its mouth. He lowered his sword, his eyes downcast and somber. “Hurts?” he said aloud, his brows furrowed. 

Bark and Green XIII looked at the fox with confusion crossing their faces. “That’s… what it’s saying,” he explained. “‘It hurts… kill me.’ It has probably been suffering since the day it was created.”

He approached the fallen monster. Up close to it, Tails could see the face in detail. Sunk into the skeletal eye sockets were a pair of bloodshot, glowing green eyes that looked back into his own. “K… KILL… ME…” he heard it say in a guttural, tremulous voice, the tentacles coming out of its mouth fluttering at every word. “IT… HUR… TS… NO… M… ORE… PLE… ASE…”

Wordlessly, Tails stood over the body and turned his sword so that the point hovered just above its neck. He looked back into its pleading eyes, sympathy for the creature stirring deep inside him. A second later, he plunged the blade into the soft tissue, severing its neck and vital arteries.

“THA…” was all the creature could muster out before dying instantly. The tentacles on its face stopped fluttering and its chest went still.

The fox pulled out his blade and wiped his brow with the back of his arm as Bark and Green XIII approached from behind. The bear let out a grimace. “What in the hell was that about?” he questioned Tails.

Green XIII answered for him. “It – no he – was a former Mobian,” he said, his raspy voice tinged with pity. “Experimented on by Nagus, just like I was. Only, the tests he was subjected to were much more severe and his eventual transformation was far worse.” His eyes travelled to Tails. “I surmise he regained enough of his sanity that he wanted you to end his suffering?”

Before the fox could answer, the doors to the lift on the far side of the room opened up to reveal Cream and Cosmo, the latter fully dressed and sporting a new bangle with four unlinked Emerald slots. They saw the men gathered over the fallen monster’s body and hurried over to them. “Is everyone OK?” Cream said, her brows creasing.

“Yeah, for the most part,” Tails responded, looking back to her and then gesturing to Green XIII with a thumb. “And we have this guy to thank for it.” 

The golem lowered his head and raised a hand in deference to the fox’s words. “Please,” he muttered, a hint of a smile crossing his stony lips. “If it wasn’t for the swordsman’s quick thinking and tactical mind, we would have been in far dire straits-”

“You came,” Cosmo’s quiet voice broke in. They all turned to face her. She bowed her head, with her arms crossed behind her back and the toe of her earthen-covered boot shuffling the floor. “I-I can’t believe you all came… for me…”

“Of course,” Tails smirked, a small grin crossing his face. “Did you think we were just gonna leave you here?”

Cream smiled at her. “Not a chance,” she answered Tails’ question while taking one of the flower girl’s hands into her own. “Like I said before downstairs, we’re friends. We wouldn’t dare leave you behind.”

“Yeah!” Bark sniffed, tugging at his cap and flashing a grin. “I mean, you saved Hope’s life, got her to safety and everything. I couldn’t just sit there and let you rot here? No way!”

“Y-you guys…” Cosmo trailed off, her eyes growing misty. 

Green XIII parted through the throng that surrounded the flower girl and approached her. To her surprise, he dropped to a knee, took her hand gently into his and pressed his lips unto it. He looked up to her now reddening face. “Milady, you must forgive me,” he stated eloquently. “I didn’t mean to frighten you so, but merely played the act for Nagus, you see. T’would be uncouth for a ki-ind of individual such as myself to behave in such a bestial manner, so I must apologize.”

Bark and Cream both gaped at the golem, astonished by his uncharacteristic nature. Tails, however, caught the slip of his tongue. He narrowed his eyes at him. “What are you anyways?” he asked. ‘Or rather, who are you,’ he mentally added as an afterthought.

Green XIII released Cosmo’s hands, stood up from his knelt position and faced the fox. “… I am a Mobian,” he started after a pause, his crystalized face unreadable. “But now, I’m also something else, due to Nagus’ experiments… In a sense, I am what you see right now.”

“OK then, so how’d you get past the poison gas?” Bark asked, his arms folded. “Despite that heavy duty body of yours, you still seem to breathe the same air as us, so what gives?”

The golem paused again to consider his words. However, Tails beat him to the punch. “He’s wearing a protective pendant,” he announced. 

All heads turned to him and the fox continued. “That crystal ain’t fully opaque,” he went on, peering through Green XIII’s body. Beneath the semi-translucent viridian layers, he could see the golem’s true body beneath. He was thin and lanky and stood a few inches taller than himself. His body was coated with dark, matted fur. Around his neck was a small, silver pendant that was shaped like a star. “Look closely and you can see a pendant that must protect against the effects of poison.”

“How very perceptive of you,” Green XIII commented lightly. He looked directly into the fox’s glowing eyes. “Judging from your eyes, you must be from SOLDIER?” 

“Former SOLDER, actually.”

“I see,” Green responded. He continued to look unblinkingly at the fox, who was starting to feel slightly uncomfortable at the gaze. “…Might I ask where you’re from?”

“Hey, um,” Cosmo interjected before Tails could speak. He turned to face her and saw that she had a nervous look about her. “So, while I do enjoy this chat, maybe we should, I dunno, get out of here first and then continue?”

Bark grinned at her sheepishly, his hand rubbing the back of his head. “Ah damn, y’know she’s right,” he said to Tails. “Ain’t no need for us to be in this crappy building now anyway, so let’s get the-” He stopped mid sentence, his mouth in an ‘O’ shape as a thought struck him. “Hey! We should destroy the Roboticizer while we’re here!” he exclaimed, pointing to the circular pad at the far side of the room.

“So that’s what that was,” Cream noted, a finger tapping her chin. “I was wondering-”

“No, It’s too risky,” Tails cut in sharply, his arms crossed. “In different circumstances, I’d be all for it, Bark. But right now, we have to focus on getting Cosmo out of here.” The fox then eyed the smashed supercomputers in the distance near the pad. “Anyway, it looks like 512’s friends have taken care of its brains. I’m not sure what the long term effects are, but we can speculate at what that might be at a later date. The fact of the matter still stands. We have to leave. Now.”

“Question is, how do we get out of here?” Cream voiced. Her finger lingered on her chin as she thought “Besides the lift here, there’s no other elevators on this floor or the one below.”

“If that’s the case, then the only other elevator available to us is the one on the 66th,” Tails reasoned. He started to make his way to a door on the opposite side of the room, the same one that the lab assistant escaped from. A small smile crossed the fox’s lips as he saw that the door remained unlocked. “We’ll take the stairs there,” he continued, opening the door and leading the others through it. “Stay together and keep your guard up; we don’t know what’s gonna come at us next.”


Mobius VII – Book 1: Escape From The City – Chapter 33

Chapter 33: The Wizard of Genetics



Tails

“They were talking about Cosmo… right?” Tails asked.

He, Cream and Bark were crammed into an exhaust duct that connected the men’s bathroom to the conference room, where they watched the meeting through a grate. The ductwork was surprisingly strong enough to support their combined weight and Tails mentally thanked whoever was responsible for putting it in this particular area.

They dipped away from the return air grille as the one named Fiona arched her head upwards, her nose crinkled. “Something stinks…” they heard her mutter as she stared at the grille. Disgusted, she turned her nose and sashayed out of the conference room. As soon as it was emptied, the three resumed their conversation in hushed tones.

“I dunno?” Bark said, shrugging.

“Probably?” Cream interjected, her head tilted.

“Let’s go follow ‘em,” Tails whispered, crawling through the duct back towards the bathroom. He kicked the large, square grate beneath him, sidled out of the duct onto the toilet and exited the stall. He waited for Cream and Bark to follow suit, the former shutting the grate closed as she crawled out last. They left the bathroom and kept close to the walls as they snuck through the empty hallway and around the conference room. Tails peeked around every corner before they proceeded. At the third intersection, just as they passed the elevators and the door leading into the large conference room, the fox brought his hand to halt the group as he spotted Nagus talking to himself near the stairwell. He was fumbling for something within his pocket.

“Nagus… huh?” Tails muttered, his eyes narrowed as he watched the enigmatic man open the door. As they followed him from a distance, Tails couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something familiar about the gnarled scientist. That feeling persisted as they arrived on the 67th floor. The door leading out of the stairwell was left wide open.

“I’ve heard about this Nagus guy before,” Bark said at once, stopping in his tracks. “He’s the head of the Kintobor Science Department. They call him ‘The Wizard of Genetics.’ Rumor has it that his face and arm got mauled by an experiment gone horribly wrong; that’s why he always wears a hood and his arm’s always in that sling.” The bear gave Tails a quizzical look. “Tails, don’t you know him?”

The fox racked his brain to see if he could ever recall meeting him. He saw brief images – flashes of people, places and things – but no real indication of if he had ever seen the hooded scientist. And yet, he felt an odd, unexplainable chill travel down his spine. “No, this is the first time I’ve actually ever seen him,” Tails admitted, turning his head away from the bear. “So… that’s what he looks like…” Clearing his mind of his uneasiness, he then strode towards the open door. “Let’s keep moving; Cosmo might be somewhere around here.”

The silence on the 67th was oppressive. Tails, Cream and Bark crept around the austere and cold hallways, their footsteps echoing on the steel-grey tiles. They passed rooms filled with scientists so engrossed in their work that they barely registered their presence. And while a small part of him wanted to stop and observe the experiments being done on this floor, Tails knew that this was neither the time or place to do so. 

Passing a long hallway that led to a set of containment cells, the three soon entered a large, open area spanning half of the floor. Inside, wooden crates were placed around the room in an disorganized manner. There was a large, glass containment tank in the centre of the room, which Professor Nagus and one of his assistants were standing in front of. 

Tiptoeing to a stack of crates nearby, the three crouched down as Nagus spoke to his assistant – a platypus with bluish-green fur and well-groomed hair. “Raise him to the next floor,” he instructed, his high voice making the hairs on the nape of Tails’ neck stand on end. “He shall meet the mother of his future offspring before we conduct the extraction and fertilization process.”

“Yes, Professor,” the assistant said. They heard footsteps receding to the back of the room. Hearing the scientist mumble to himself, Tails peeked over and saw the creature that he was peering at closely.

It was unlike anything he had ever seen before; a mass of green, polished rock hewn into a humanoid shape. It was lying in a large glass tank, it’s body curled up into a ball.

He couldn’t see Nagus’ face due to the hood obscuring it, but Tails could imagine that he was smiling at the thing in the tank. “Ahh… my precious specimen,” he cooed, his high, clear voice coming out like a hiss. He turned away from the tank and followed his assistant to the back. Tails heard the sound of a door sliding open and closed and took it as a sign that the room was empty.

Emerging from their hiding place, the three Mobians approached the creature to get a better look at it. The fox assumed that the creature was a Mobian; the two triangular ears on the top made it obvious. The rest of its head and face was buried into its arms, which were covered in large, jagged chunks of viridian stone. It had a barrel-chested torso and thick, trunk-like legs.  

Cream got up close to the tank and looked inside. “A precious specimen?” she queried, angling her head back at the bear and the fox. A concerned and sympathetic expression crossed her face. “Is it gonna be used for a biological experiment?” 

“Man, what IS that thing,” Bark commented, folding his arms and cocking his head to the side. “It looks kinda like… a living Emerald or something? Weird…”

Tails turned to comment, but his eye caught something on the opposite side of the tank that made him do a double take. Moving away from the group, he approached the large steel door of a semicircular structure with various tubes and pipes coming out of the top. As he read the sign above the door, he felt his heart leap into his throat. ‘It can’t be…‘ he thought, his fur standing on end. He peered into the porthole and felt the blood pool from his face. His palms became clammy in his gloves and his heart started to pound painfully against his chest. 

The figure inside the structure was a hideously grotesque humanoid that resembled a woman. A large heart-like organ was at its bottom. Above it were two slender legs, a torso and two arms that were drawn towards its back. Vestigial organs and tubes sprouted out of various parts of its body; the largest tube looked like an umbilical cord that went out of its navel and connected to the heart organ on its feet. Two wing-like stubbs were attached to its back. It had two breasts; the right one was bare but its left had an eyeball in place of a nipple. It was blood red with a slitted onyx pupil in the centre. It’s skin was an iridescent shade of greyish-black, while the tubes around its body were blood red and pink in colour. The monstrosity was headless, but Tails didn’t need it to know exactly what or who it was.

“Blakdüm…” Tails choked out, his throat tightening as he stared in horror at the creature. He could have swore that the eye in its breast turned towards him. And then, after a long, drawn out second of it staring at him, the repulsive organism twitched. 

A ringing noise suddenly erupted in Tails’ head. He clutched at it with both hands as a cacophony of sounds and voices viciously echoed inside of his brain. 

…Tails, let’s go…

…Hometown? Must be nice…

…I wanted to join SOLDIER to be like you!…

…a mysterious power?…

…a monster?…

…p-produced?!…

… I’m going to see my mother…

…NAZO!!…

Tails screamed and dropped to his knees. The pain came in waves and he thrashed vehemently, wishing for his agony to stop.


Cream

Tails’ anguished cry pierced through Creams’s heart. She spun away from the stone creature in the tank and hurried to his side. “Tails!? Are you alright?!” she asked, kneeling down and placing a hand on his shoulder.

The fox raised a shaky finger towards the chamber in front of him. “Blakdüm…” he rasped, his mouth dry. “Blakdüm… Nazo’s… so… they’ve brought it here…”

Cream gripped his shoulder tightly. “Be strong, Tails,” she urged, her brows creasing.

Tails turned his head to both Mobians. “D-did you see it?” he asked, weakly.

“See what?” Bark responded, arching an eyebrow. 

“It’s moving… Still alive?” Tails replied shakily. 

Cream helped him to his feet, her eyes never leaving her friend’s face. He looked as exhausted as the day she first saw him again in Megapolis.

Bark looked through the porthole and recoiled at the sight. “What the fuck is that thing!?” he hissed, jumping backwards. “And where’s its fuckin’ head?! This whole thing’s stupid, Tails. Let’s keep going.” 

“…Yeah,” Tails said, finally regaining his stoic demeanor. He shook Cream’s hand off of his shoulder and started moving towards the back of the room where Nagus went. 

He moved a little too quickly in Cream’s eyes – as if he didn’t want to be anywhere near this thing any longer. She glanced at Bark, who met her eyes. They dared not say anything, for fear that the fox could overhear, but the rabbit guessed that they were both thinking the same thing: ‘What is going on with that fox?

They caught up with Tails at the end of the room. He stood by an elevator that led up to the 68th floor and was also holding a Green Emerald that gave off a sickly, purplish-green hue. “Poison,” Tails explained, noticing Cream’s puzzled look. He placed it in his pocket and then turned to the lift in front of him. “It looks like this goes up to the next floor,” he said, his jaw tightening. “If I were a bettin’ fox, I’d say that’s where we’ll find Cosmo.” Without another word, they silently climbed aboard and ascended to the next level. 

The 68th floor consisted of a large, open laboratory theater filled with various scientific devices. To their extreme right was a massive apparatus that spanned a third of the floor. It consisted of a raised circular pad and several large, opaque tubes connecting to a machine above. Cream shuddered at the sight of the imposing mechanism. ‘What on Mobius is that thing?’ she thought. She leaned towards Tails to ask, but stopped short as his intense gaze was focused towards the centre of the room.

Nagus was standing in front of a large, cylindrical glass holding tank, a hand stroking his hooded chin. There was a sunken floor surrounding the tank, as well as a retractable walkway that connected it to the floor proper. Beside him was Cosmo, lying reclined on a medical bed with her arms secured to the sides and legs strapped securely into stirrups. She wore nothing but a thin, light blue gown. 

“Cosmo!” Tails called loudly, drawing their attention. The flower girl’s eyes widened as she watched him advance toward the specimen tank with Cream and Bark in tow. 

“Ah, so that’s her name,” Nagus said, his eyes still trained on the tank in front of him. “And what is it that you three want?”

“We’re taking Cosmo back,” Tails replied, glowering at the scientist. He grasped the hilt of his blade tightly as he spoke.

“Hmmm, how quaint,” Nagus commented, his eyes now finally moving to the intruders. “A trio of outsiders mounting a rescue mission. I must congratulate you on coming this far.”

“Save your breath!” Bark growled from beside the fox. He raised his arm towards Nagus, who arched an eyebrow at the action. 

“Oh, are you going to kill me?” he asked, his high, clear voice taking on a mirthful tone. “Ha! A frivolous gesture that I don’t think you should entertain.” He then pulled out a large syringe and pointed it at Cosmo’s forehead. The tip rested directly on her skin. “Considering that if any of you make any sudden movements, the girl gets a lobotomy,” he continued, flashing a dangerous grin at the trio. “I need only her body for my experiment to succeed, not her mind.”

“Ugh,” Tails groaned through gritted teeth. He released his hold on his sword. Bark and Cream lowered their weapons at the same time.

“Good, it seems someone understands how to think logically as opposed to taking rash action,” the professor commented. He put the syringe back into his lab coat and then raised his good hand upward. “Bring the specimen forward!” he called loudly. 

In a control room on the mezzanine above them, Cream saw Nagus’ assistant activate the controls for the specimen elevator. A circular door at the centre of the glass tank slid open and a lift from below rose up. Carrying it was the creature Tails, Bark and Cream saw in the small cell on the 67th.

The crystalline monster in the holding tank uncurled himself, stood up and stepped off of the lift platform, its face revealed. Standing at the same height as Tails, it had a set of three thick crystal spikes that jutted out from each side of what looked to be a muzzle. There was a triangular chunk of rock placed where its nose would be. Its head was covered in a mass of spikes similar to a swept back hairstyle. Its lips were closed in a tight line and its heavily lidded, multifaceted yellow eyes gazed listelesly from the professor to Cosmo as it stood motionless with its thick, massive arms by its side.

Cosmo’s face whitened and she screamed at the sight of the monster. “Tails! Help!”

The fox leveled a harsh glare at the scientist. “What do ya think you’re doing!?” he demanded, frustration clearly showing on his face.

Nagus leered at the three Mobians. “I could say that I’m ‘lending a helping hand to a pair of endangered species’,” he explained plainly, making air quotes. “But that would just be a lie. You see, I have always been in the pursuit of genetic perfection. These two are the last of their kind; both have abilities unheard of or unseen in any living creature!” A maniacal grin stretched across his shadowed face. “Think what would happen if these abilities could be unlocked and studied further?! Or better yet, if they could be combined into one organism?! I could usher in a new age in genetic evolution!” He cackled loudly, his one arm spread wide while the other, confined in the sling, bounced uselessly off of his body. 

“You’re sick!” Cream yelled, horror-stricken by the professor’s declaration. “Cosmo isn’t some sort of experiment; she’s a living being!”

“You bastard! You’re gonna pay!” Bark snarled, his hackles raised and his fist shaking violently. 

“Bark, shoot the door!” Tails hissed suddenly. Cream turned her head sharply at his words. 

The bear also swiveled his head towards him. “The hell are you talking about?!” he spat, confused.

“The panels on the door there, the blue ones!” Tails answered over the mad scientist’s cackling. “Shoot them! Now!”  

Nonplussed, Cream saw that Tails’ eyes were trained not on Nagus, but the green monster inside the tank. Its head was tilted towards the fox and its own eyes swept up and down in a rhythmic fashion towards the aforementioned panels. Her jaw dropped. “Bark, just do it!” she yelled.

The gunner stepped forward, cocking the Assault Gun. “Alright then, stand back!” he called, roaring as he fired upon the panels.

The gunfire caused Nagus to cease his laughter. His mouth twisted into an expression of abject horror. “No! What are you doing!” he screeched as the bullets penetrated the panels, causing thin, web-like cracks to form on the door. 

The beast inside rose a club-like fist and struck, shattering the door and freeing it from its confines. Without warning, it stomped out of the holding tank towards Nagus, letting out a guttural roar as it launched a powerful uppercut to the scientist’s jaw. The blow sent him flying away from Cosmo and onto the floor. The crystal figure bounded towards the scientist and wrapped its hands around its throat in an attempt to choke him.

As this was happening, Tails and Cream ran over to Cosmo’s side and started freeing her from her confines. Once released, the flower girl shakily got to her feet. “Thanks, you two,” she said, her voice tremulous. 

“Y-you! How dare you all attack the professor!” a voice called out above them. It was the assistant from before. He flicked several switches from his position in the control room, snickering all the while. “Let’s see how you handle… THIS!” he yelled, slamming his palm onto a button. 

“No! You… fool!” Nagus choked out under the golem’s grip to the assistant. “Sample 512… hasn’t been… properly mind-wiped yet!”

Behind them, the circular platform at the centre of the holding tank reopened. Tails and Cream spun around to see a spindly, flesh coloured arm shoot out. Long, grey talons gripped onto the floor and gouged the surface as it pulled itself up. The shoulder attached to the clawed arm was an enormous, purple mass of muscle, with an elongated and horrendous gaping mouth stretching across it and filled with rows of sharp, pointed teeth. Sickly, green gas poured out of the corners of the mouth. The rest of its body slithered out of the hole: a broad chest and back covered in pale, puckered skin, a tapered waist with a tube coming out of its navel. The left arm was a heavy mass of pulsating tissue, to which the tube from its abdomen was connected to. The blob-like ends of the arm had small tentacles that twitched and squirmed independently of the main body. It stood on thick legs which had the muscle fibers exposed and a set of broad, three toed feet. It’s head was skeletal, with numerous tendrils spilling out from where its maw would have been. It stood at its full height, which towered over the Mobians and bellowed loudly from the mouth on its shoulder, a sickened and pained screech echoing through the room.

The rabbit retched at the sight of the creature named 512. Her heart hammered painfully against her chest, the rapid beat tattooing against her ribcage as the monster swayed about in the holding tank, taking in its unfamiliar settings. 

“He’s rather strong. I’ll help you all out,” a rough, deep and gravelly voice called from behind. 

Cream spun around and gaped at the green stone creature, who released Nagus from its grasp. “It talked?!” she yelped, her eyes as wide as saucers.

“Look, I’ll talk as much as I want to, milady,” The golem grunted in response as the scientist shuffled away from them. 

Cream readied a retort, but Tails stopped her. “Cream, I need you to get Cosmo out of here,” he said. HIs focus turned to the monstrosity in the holding tank. It started to step gingerly out of its confines, a suffering wail escaping from the mouth in its shoulder. 

The golem turned to Cosmo. “Your belongings might be in a storage locker on the 67th, by the holding cells,” he said before addressing Cream. “Lady rabbit, you should go with her and keep her safe.”

The rabbit opened her mouth to protest, but closed it after realizing why. “…Alright,” she said reluctantly. “We’ll be back shortly.” She turned to Cosmo and took her hand. “C’mon, let’s go.”

As the two ran back towards the lift leading to the 67th, Cream glanced back to Bark, Tails and the mysterious golem. “Good luck,” she whispered softly, the lift doors sliding shut.


Mobius VII – Book 1: Escape From The City – Chapter 32

Chapter 32: Infiltration



Tails

It was well into nightfall when Tails, Bark and Cream had finally reached the surface of Megapolis’ central structure. The climb to the upper plate took the better part of five hours to complete. They had crossed broken train tracks, traversed over pieces of the plate surface suspended precariously by massive cables and swung over a yawning chasm between a section of the plate and a rail line that had a partially derailed train on it. They had to use a thin, creaking bar that swung between the two sections in order to cross. 

Getting through parts of the crumbling landscape would not have been possible without the two remaining batteries that the Ced, the junk shop owner and former Freedom Fighter, had given them. As Tails stepped out of a service hatch leading to the central part of Megaopolis, he made a mental note to thank the zebra if they ever got a chance to see him once again. Bark and Cream joined alongside him shortly after.

 The three Mobians then turned their gaze towards the Kintobor Building looming in front of them, nestled at the centre of the city like a colossal egg. Spotlights going around the building illuminated the smooth and polished exterior walls, which contrasted with the inky, dark skies above. 

Tails stood in the lead, his hand gripping the hilt of the Buster Sword tightly. ‘This is it, no turning back now…’ he thought. He arched his head back towards Bark and Cream. Their eyes met his own.

Let’s do this.

They ran forward and stopped just in front of the entrance. Bark craned his head up to the top of the egg-shaped skyscraper. “You should know this building well, huh Tails?” he asked.

“…No,” the fox admitted, shaking his head. “Not really. In fact, this might be the first time I’ve ever been to the Headquarters.”

“I heard stories about this place,” Bark said, his eyes still trained on the topmost floors of the building. “Every floor above the 60th is reserved for the execs and top scientists. It ain’t easy for regular employees to get into…” He brought his head down, removed his cap and raked his yellow-white hair with his good hand. “That must be where they took Cosmo.” The polar bear then put his hat back on and peered into the glass at the entrance. “Security seems to be pretty light,” he muttered, taking note of the lack of bodies within the atrium space. He suddenly grinned and cocked his gun. “Let’s go bust some shit up then!”

Cream stood before the polar bear, a glare crossing her pretty face. “I don’t think we should do that,” she countered. “The last thing we need is to draw attention to ourselves! What if they move Cosmo because they found out that we’re here?!” She crossed her arms. “I think it would be better if we sneak in.”

“Hell no! Cream, c’mon,” Bark retorted gruffly. “They might be doing some weird science-y shit to Cosmo if we keep wasting time like this! The front door is right there! Let’s go bust in and demand her back!! And besides,” he waved his arms around. “Where do you see a way for us to ‘sneak in,’ huh? 

“Actually,” Tails broke in, ending the bickering. “Cream’s right; let’s not cause too much commotion. As for sneaking in…” His eyes trailed from Bark’s frowning muzzle to a sign that said ‘Emergency Exit’. “…I think I have an idea.”


“‘Take… the stairs,’ he said… ‘Don’t… wanna cause… a ruckus,’ he said…” 

“Bark, quit your eternal bitching and climb,” Tails groused as they ascended the emergency stairwell. The egress was plain in nature, consisting of solid concrete walls and steps with numbers painted on each floor.

They had climbed the first six floors in silence until Bark broke it with his complaints. “Look, why… the hell… do we… need to climb anyway?” he gasped again as he trundled up the steps. 

“Because I told you, I don’t want security on our asses while we rescue Cosmo,” Tails snapped back in Bark’s direction. “…I doubt that’s possible though.”

A few floors later, Bark suddenly let out a chuckle that Tails could hear. “What’s so funny?” he called back.

“Nothin’” Bark said, huffing loudly. “Just that… I had you figured… wrong I guess… “ 

“What are you talking about?” Tails said, irritation growing in his voice.

“Even you… a mercenary…  would fight for… someone, huh?”

Tails said nothing in response. He heard Cream giggle next to him. The fox was pleased to see that she was keeping pace with him. He arched an eyebrow at her. “What’s that supposed to mean, Cream?

The rabbit didn’t respond, but pushed ahead, her long ears and cream-coloured hair bouncing left and right with every step.

The polar bear chimed in again after climbing several floors in silence. “Hey, this ain’t… one of those… endless stairways, right?”

“Of course not!” Cream retorted. She was breathing harder now and beads of sweat started to form on her head. “Just keep going!”

“… Geez… Just asking…” Bark trailed off. 

Tails said nothing, not wishing to join in on the banter. He kept Cosmo front and centre in his mind. ‘How could I have been so reckless… I should have told her to go home back in Sector 6.’ He recalled the conversation they had as they sat on the slide in the Sector 6 playground. It felt like years had passed since then. 

“Yo, forget this…” Bark wheezed, breaking Tails’ thoughts. The fox halted in his step and looked down to see that the bear had stopped several floors before. “I’ve had… enough. I’m… turning back.”

Both he and Cream went down a few flights to see the winded bear, his organic arm resting on the wall. Cream frowned at him, her hands resting on her knees. “And take just as long going down as you did coming up?!” the rabbit said through gritted teeth. Her face was now flushed and her breathing became laboured. She then looked at the fox beside her with narrowed eyes. “And you… how are you not tired?!” 

Tails shrugged. “SOLDIER makeup, I suppose?” he smirked.

Cream rolled her eyes and turned back to Bark. “C’mon Bark, pull yourself together,” she cheered as she slowly straightened up. “We’re almost there!”

“Yeah, yeah,” he muttered in response. Pushing off of the wall, Bark took off his cap and started fanning himself. “Look, I’m just flesh, fur n’ blood. Well, minus this arm of mine.” He took a couple of deep breaths to steady himself. “I’m no robot, nor am I some ex-member of SOLDIER or something,” he added, casting a dirty look at Tails, who arched an eyebrow upwards in response.

“Well, I’m neither of those things and I’m doing just fine!” Cream said hotly, her lips pursed and her shoulders bunching up. “Look, go down if you wish, but I’m going on!” She stomped up the stairs on her own but stopped at the top of the landing. She spun around to see both Bark’s and Tails’ eyes on her and then suddenly turned a furious shade of red. 

“Yaah!” she cried, crossing her hands over her skirt. “Bark! You go first!”

“The hell!? I wasn’t even… Ahhh forget it,” the bear conceded, hurrying up the steps and avoiding the rabbit’s eyes.

“Tails, you go on ahead too!” she said, glaring at him. 


After what seemed like hours, the three made it to the top of the stairwell. It stopped at the 59th floor. Bark collapsed on the step and took deep, gasping breaths. “F… Finally, muh-made it,” he spluttered, pulling out a Potion and drinking it. “Nuh-Never wanna… see more… g-goddess damned stairs for the rest of my life…”

Cream sat down on the step below and clutched the stitch in her chest while she caught her breath. “Oh… well… this was a good warm up, right?” she asked, trying to sound chipper. She drank a Potion of her own and relished the bitter taste. “Eugh, just what I needed to pep me up.” She turned to Tails, who was leaning on the wall next to the door, his arms crossed and head bowed. “This is it Tails,” she said to him. “We better get ready!”

“Right,” Tails agreed, pushing off the wall. “Bark, get up, we’re going.” 

They waited for the polar bear to get up and steady himself and then quietly went through the door to the 59th floor.

They stood in a large, spacious lobby area dedicated to the upper executive floors. On the wall next to the emergency exit were a pair of elevators labelled for floors 1-59. On the opposite side of the room were another set of three elevators with wider doors. There was also a massive atrium spanning from the centre of the current floor they were on to the first floor of the building. Along the top of the atrium was a half wall that was lined with plush chairs covered in royal blue fabric. The lobby was devoid of people, save for the three armored soldiers standing in front of the elevators leading upward.

Wanting to get the upper hand, Tails drew his sword, jumped across the hole in the centre of the floor and incapacitated the grunt standing by the leftmost elevator using the flat of his blade. Instantly, the other two grunts turned and aimed their guns at the fox. 

“Oh no you don’t!” Bark yelled out, pointing his Assault Gun at the guard closest to the Ex-SOLDIER. He fired a volley of bullets and was satisfied to see them pierce through the thick armor. The guard let out a moan and dropped down to the floor, blood pooling around his body.

The third guard backed away from his fallen comrades and fumbled for his radio. Before he could say anything, the device was mysteriously stripped from his hand by Cream. Zipping behind Bark as he provided cover fire, the fighter tapped into the Steal Emerald on her armour and nicked the radio from the startled guard’s clutches. She followed up by first clocking him in the face with a hard cross to stun him and then throwing him over her shoulder. The grunt’s head connected painfully on the polished floor beneath, knocking him out. 

With the battle finished, Tails quickly roved around the floor. He soon found an unopened storage closet near the elevators. “Let’s put the bodies in here,” he said, before frowning at the mess on the floor caused by Bark. “…We can worry about the blood spatter later,” he added, glaring at the now contrite looking polar bear.

As the trio hastily shoved the guards into the closet, Tails noticed something hanging out from one of their pockets. “Hm, what’s this?” the fox queried as he pulled out a keycard. “This must be what we need to get to the higher floors.”

“Then what the hell are we waiting for!?” Bark shouted out. “C’mon, let’s go!”

After sealing the door with a light Ice spell, Tails and the others piled into one of the large elevator cars, the doors closing shut with a swish. Three quarters of the car was encased in a glass tube that showed the inner workings that made up the smooth, egg-shaped facade of the Kintobor Building. The curved, one-way glass was held aloft by thin, steel structural beams. These beams were connected to another, thicker beam that was then connected to the inner building, like the spokes of a wheel.

“Will ya look at that,” Bark muttered through his teeth as he eyed the structure with disgust. “This building wasn’t really egg shaped after all, it’s just these walls that make it so.” He spat on the floor. “Talk about excessive…”  

Tails swiped the keycard on a touchpad at the opposite side of the elevator. The panel lit up and presented him with only three options: 1, 59 and 60. ‘No choice but to go to the next floor.’ He selected the 60th floor and it started to ascend.

Bark crossed his arms as they rose upward. “This is the real thing,” he said, his fist clenching. “Don’t let your guard down.”

Cream looked at both of them, her eyebrows creased. “I hope Cosmo’s alright…” she added.

Tails didn’t respond, but in his head, he wondered the same thing.

The elevator soon stopped at the 60th floor. Tails and company slinked out to what appeared to be a reception area and made a break towards a secluded hallway on the left. The fox peered out to take stock of the situation. 

“Two guards in front of those eight statues,” he whispered to Bark and Cream. “Four more by the desk at the back. From the looks of things, these guys are the night watch.”

“Hey,” Bark suddenly called in a low voice. He was on the other end of the hall. “There’s a door here marked ‘Security’, let’s check it out?”

The fox’s ears flattened. “Wait a sec!” he growled, annoyed at the polar bear’s recklessness. He and Cream followed along and met with Bark, who stopped right in front of the door. Tails approached the Security room and pressed an ear against the wall. He heard nothing but the dim hum of computer equipment on the other side. “Don’t hear anybody inside, let’s go.”

They entered to see a vast array of security monitors. Tails inspected the console, his eyes lighting up. “This terminal looks to be connected to the building’s mainframe… If I hack into it…” he muttered out loud, detaching his sword and sitting in the chair. He started typing, his fingers dancing rapidly on the keyboard.

“What are you doing?” Cream asked Tails, her eyes on the monitors above.

“Masking our presence,” Tails answered, his fingers dancing around the keyboard as he worked. “ Kinda like what I did back at Reactor 1. I’m disabling and cancelling as many alarms here as I can so that they aren’t totally aware of our presence. I also put most of the cameras on a feedback loop. The only thing I can’t override is the door access controls. Seems like that’s being controlled through a separate server.” He huffed and sunk back in the chair. “We’ll still need a physical keycard in order to advance. And the one we have only goes up to this floor.”

“Damnit,” Bark cursed. “Well, at least now we won’t have to worry so much about the entire army being on our asses.”

After a few minutes, Tails entered a final command on the terminal and then stood up. “Alright, I’ve locked the settings,” he said, satisfied. “They’ll have a hard time trying to sort that out.”

“Now, we just need to get to the next floor,” Cream said. She peeked out of the door to the right of the security monitors. “I can see a stairwell on the other side of this floor. We could probably get to it if we use the shadows of the statues to sneak by the guards.”

Ignoring Bark’s protestations about more stairs, Tails nodded. “I like that plan, I’ll go first.” He sheathed his sword, approached the door and kept his eyes trained on the patrolmen. “When I get to the centre, I’ll start waving you over. Stay by the door and wait for me to signal you.” When the guards were not looking, he stole across to each statue, staying in the shadows until he reached the large reception desk in the centre of the room. Turning back to the security room and monitoring the guards, Tails started waving the other two over.

He repeated this process by the door leading to the stairwell. He felt his heart jump into his throat when a guard stopped in his tracks, noticing the back of Cream’s boot as she stumbled towards the second to last statue. 

“Hm… Must be a trick of the light,” Tails heard the guard mumble. He took this opportunity to wave the rabbit over to the last statue. They then sidled around the wall and into the stairwell. 

“Whew, that was close,” Cream shook her hands and legs as the door slid shut, loosening the tension in both.

“Alright! Time to rock!” Bark said loudly, earning a glare from both Mobians.

“Bark, be quiet!” Cream shushed. “Remember, we’re here to save Cosmo!”

“Hell, I know that!” Bark retorted, rolling his eyes.

They climbed up to the next floor and passed through a door that – to their surprise – was jammed open to emerge at the 61st floor. The three Mobians found themselves in what looked to be an executive lounge. In the centre of the room was a large tree. Surrounding the tree were tables and chairs. There were food and beverage kiosks dotted around the space, along with tele-crates and various comfortable armchairs facing out towards the high glass windows that overlooked the illuminated city. Tails, Cream and Bark huddled in the hallway by the stairs as they watched over the few Humans and Mobians that stayed behind to work overtime.

“Alright, so we need a key to go up,” Tails said quietly as he observed the movements of each employee. “Question is: how do we do that?”

“Could we try stealing one?” Cream suggested, pointing to the Steal Emerald on her arm.

“No, too risky,” Tails replied, shaking his head.

“What about if we hold up one of these corporate slugs and demand a key to the upper floors?” Bark whispered, scratching his chin with his good hand.

“That’s even worse, Bark!”

“Alright then, smartass, what do you suppose-”

“-Uh?” A nasally voice behind them made Tails’ fur on the back of his neck stand up. He whirled around with a hand on his blade’s hilt to face a terrified looking sheep. He wore a simple, buttoned up dress shirt, a pair of charcoal slacks and scuffed dress shoes. He looked flustered and disheveled and his glasses were slightly askew. “A-are you here… for the door?” he stammered, trembling at the sight of the three warriors.

Tails blinked. ‘…Roll with it.’ “Yes, we are,” he answered coolly, loosening the hold on his blade. 

The sheep let out the breath he was holding and wiped his brow. “Oh good, then you must be part of the extermination squad I called for earlier!” he smiled. “The door to the stairs has been stuck like this for a while now; I thought one of Professor Nagus’ experiments might’ve caused it to happen, which is why I called!” He suddenly looked at the three of them in earnest. “Um… by the way, do you mind checking out the floor above us too? My boss is up there, but I’m… I’m gonna hang out here until the coast is clear.”

“Sure, it won’t be a problem,” Tails said, shrugging nonchalantly and ignoring the pointed looks from Bark and Cream. “Problem is, we lost our keycard dealing with something on the floor below us,” he continued, hoping that the sheep would buy the flimsy lie. “Got by with a spare, but it’s only good up to this floor.”

“Oh! Is that so?” The sheep replied, his eyes widening. “Well, in that case, take mine. I have a spare of my own. Check in on my boss, willya? He seems pretty frazzled, especially with the explosion that happened last night.” He stared out at the ceiling and shook his head in disbelief. “Can you believe that a bunch of terrorists dropped the Sector 7 plate?! Thank the Goddess that Kintobor’s search and rescue team were there… Imagine how many more people would have died without them?”

Bark opened his mouth to retort but Tails turned and silenced him with a glare. “Look, we might not have much time, if this experiment is still out there,” Tails remarked to the sheep curtly, turning back to face him. “Hand us the key and we’ll take care of it.”

“Ah! Right,” The sheep said, taken aback by the fox’s direct nature. He rummaged in his pocket and pulled out his card. “Here ya go. And thanks again for your help!” He turned around and returned to one of the tables near the tree.

As they clambered up the steps up to the 62nd floor, Bark was fuming. “Can you believe the nerve of that kid?!” he bristled. “‘Terrorists dropping the plate’ my ass! It was Kintobor who did it in the first place!”

“Bark, we can’t produce any physical proof saying otherwise,” Cream responded. “And besides, Kintobor controls the media outlets in Megapolis. They can say whatever they want and people here will deem it the truth, because no one else will say otherwise.”

“Still,” the bear harrumphed. “That don’t make it right.”

They got out of the stairwell and into the 62nd floor, which consisted of four large rooms arranged in a two by two array and a small office. The floors were waxed and polished and the cream coloured walls gave off a pristine glow from the ambient lighting above. 

“Hey, didn’t that kid say his boss is up here?” Bark whispered as they maneuvered the floor. Each had a plaque by its door that listed one of the four core departments within Kintobor Inc. “I’m just saying, if it’s only the one guy, we can overpower him, take his card and be on our way! I mean, this guy must be pretty high up, right?”

Tails let out a frustrated groan as they turned the corner past a room that read ‘Space Development’ and approached the small office. “Look Bark, you’re right,” he said wearily. “He’s the only person here who can give us the card, but let’s just try to convince him to give it up without a struggle? I’m not gonna remind you again; we need to be discreet until we get Cosmo out.”

Turning away from him, Tails missed Bark pulling a face and mouthing his own words behind his back in a mocking way. The office door slid open on approach and the three entered. 

The room was small and cramped, with a large desk made of polished and stained cedar covering almost half of the available space. There was a flat-paneled Tele-Crate against the corner of the room. Right beside where they entered was a smaller table that was covered with neatly stacked papers. 

Sitting at the desk was an older man with coiffed grey and black hair, a rounded nose, chiseled jaw and lines across his pale forehead. He wore a black suit with a red striped tie and smiled at the unexpected company, showing pearly-white teeth. He stood up from his chair and hailed at them in a deep, orotund voice. “Hello there. And who might you be? Wait, let me guess,” He cut in quickly before the three Mobians could get a word in. “You must be those… terrorists, aren’t you?” 

The room descended into a thick, ringing silence for a few moments. Tails didn’t want to risk bringing a hand towards his sword for fear the human might sound an alarm.

“Hm. Well, allow me to introduce myself: I am Carlo Bulliani, Mayor of Megapolis,” the man spoke without concern. “Well, actually I’m Mayor in name only since the city and everything in it is run by Kintobor Inc.” He made an exasperated noise and looked beyond them to the table covered with stacked papers.. “My real job is to watch over the company’s confidential documents… A glorified librarian is all I am these days.” He turned back to the Mobians, clapping his hands. A smile returned to his face. “I assume you’re not here just for a friendly visit?”

“No,” Tails answered, narrowing his eyes suspiciously at the Mayor. “ We’re not.” 

“I see,” Buliani replied, stroking his chin. “So then… how can I help?”

The three Mobians looked taken aback by the Human’s words. A wan smile suddenly crossed the Mayor’s lips. “Surprised? Don’t be,” he said, his shoulders sagging forward slightly. “In all honesty… I’m tired of this place. I’ve neither agreed with Gerald’s draconian policies towards Mobians, nor endorsed his treatment of those living in the slums. I put up with both because I was too scared to do anything else. But dropping the plate… well, that was the last straw.” He looked into the fox’s eyes desperately. “They need to be stopped. Before they can do any more harm to the people here. And I get a strong feeling that you’ll be suitable for the job.”

“You’re a little too quick to jump in and help us?” Cream said after a brief silence, frowning at Buliani’s behaviour. “So, what do you want in return?”

“Oh, nothing really,” Buliani replied, sticking a hand in his jacket pocket and taking out a keycard. “I just want you all to promise me one thing: Give them hell and make those assholes suffer greatly.” He walked out of his desk and handed the card to the fox. “Kintobor needs to pay for their crimes. I figure screwing them over would be just as nice as seeing the President and most of those Department Heads dead.”

The room fell quiet once more, the only noise being emitted was the Tele-Crate blaring in the background. “We’ll do it,” Bark said solemnly after a moment. His eyes locked onto the man’s own hazel ones. “We’ll make sure they pay dearly for what they’ve done!”

Buliani smiled sadly. “Thank you,” he said, his voice thick as he bowed his head downwards. He took a deep breath to compose himself and then faced the three with an unsettled look in his eyes. “… So, the keycard I gave you will usually take you up to the 65th floor,” he started slowly and with uncertainty. “But… this morning when I got into the office, I noticed that the 66th floor was coded into it for some reason. There’s a department meeting happening tonight and perhaps someone in IT accidentally assumed I would be part of it?” He shrugged and let out a sigh. “I don’t know, but in any case, you three are lucky.”

Tails looked at the keycard in his hands and then towards Buliani. “Yeah, lucky us,” he said flatly as he turned to leave. “Thanks for your help.”

“Woah, waitaminute!” Bark called, causing Tails to halt in mid-step. He turned to see the polar bear address the human. “So, downstairs, an employee of yours asked us to check in on you. Seemed kinda worried, so… uh, you better make sure to let him know that you’re OK, yeah?”

The Mayor blinked. “I’m… Sorry?” he said, a bemused expression on his face. “I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re talking about? My budget prevents me from employing anyone, save for an intern, and I have no one working for me at this current time…”

The colour drained from each of Tails, Cream and Bark’s faces. They then thanked him after a pointed silence and turned to leave. 

Once they were out of earshot of the Mayor’s office, Tails rounded on his two companions. “Something’s off here,” he said to them, his expression darkening. “Why would that sheep on the 61st tell us that he works for the Mayor, only for the very man to say otherwise?”

“And then there’s the keycard,” Bark added, his arms crossed and his brows furrowed in thought. “He said that his car usually went to the 65th, except for today? Doesn’t that seem kinda odd?”

“You think it’s a trap, Tails?” Cream inquired, a worried look in her eyes. “Like what happened at the Number 5 Reactor?”

“…Even if it’s a trap, we’re already here,” Tails commented after taking in both of his companion’s opinions of the situation. He folded his arms in thought. “We’ve long past the point of no return, and sides, we’re not leaving until we get Cosmo out. Trap or no, we have to keep going.”

“Well, then what the hell are we waiting for?” Bark grumbled as he trundled forwards and jammed his finger on the elevator call button.

The car soon arrived and the three entered the elevator. As the doors slid shut, Tails’ eyes were fixated on a plaque labeled ‘Scientific Research’ and he suddenly felt a tinge of regret. ‘I… I wish I had some time to look into these files,’ he found himself thinking forlornly. He shook the thought out of his head as the elevator jolted upwards, earning looks from both Cream and Bark.

Reaching the 66th floor, they piled out of the elevator and again hurried into a secluded hallway as the elevator beside them dinged. Flattering themselves against the wall, Tails, Cream and Bark watched as two occupants got off the lift. 

The first was a vixen with sleek, auburn fur and reddish-brown hair. She wore a sleeveless black dress with a high slit, plunging neckline and matching black stilettos. Beside her was a massive lion, bronze furred with a short, flat-top haircut and a long groomed beard, both coloured platinum blonde. He wore a green military-style duster over black slacks and marched forward on polished combat boots.

“Ugh, I hate this conference room,” the female muttered to her companion, her voice as smooth as velvet to Tails ears. “Would it kill Gerald to hire a contractor and seal off the duct leading to the bathroom?”

“Quit your griping, Fiona,” the lion growled, his bottom jaw jutting out and making his large underbite more pronounced. “I’m already in a bad mood as it is. Let’s just go in and get this over with. I hate these meetings.” 

The three TORNADO members watched as the two Mobians approached a set of ornate, wood paneled doors across from the elevators. The lion brought forth a keycard from his jacket pocket and tapped it on the reader beside the doors. It beeped once, the lock disengaging and the lion pulled the door open to enter the room, the fox slinking in right behind him.

Tails turned to his companions as the door clicked shut. “We need to listen in on that meeting,” he whispered as the conference room doors closed with a faint click. “If I were a bettin’ fox, I’d say that this whole meeting’s all about Cosmo. They might give us a clue as to her whereabouts.”

Cream tapped her chin thoughtfully. “But how are we going to do that?” she asked.

The fox took a moment to think. His ice blue eyes glittered as he recalled the words the scantily dressed vixen said before she and her companion entered the conference room. “I might have an idea,” he said, his lips quirking upward. He beckoned the two to follow him down the hallway on the left hand side of the conference room. “C’mon, we gotta find a bathroom…”


Christopher

Chris entered the 66th floor conference room with a stack of papers in his hand. He took his seat at one corner of the table and started laying them out along the desk. He looked distinctly less disheveled, having travelled to the rec area on the 64th floor and taking a shower for the first time in several days. While his face was impassive and expressionless, inwardly, he felt cold and hollow. His mind had been replaying the sounds of screeching metal and of the plate crashing to the hard earth below with a sickening thud. 

He suppressed a shudder, knowing that both Kodos and Fiona had their eyes on him. They were in the middle of an animated conversation as he came into the room, but then grew silent as he got to his seat. The lion scowled deeply at him, while Fiona shot him a coy look. He acknowledged their presence with a jerk of his head just as the conference room doors opened again.

Coming into the room was a short, wiry man wearing a tan suit. The newcomer had a pale, pointed face, a large hook nose, watery eyes, thin, balding hair and a pencil neck. In his hands was a mug filled with tea. “Kodos, Fiona, Thorndyke!” he called, his high, nasally tone jovial. “So good to see you all! Especially after such a rough night.” He took the seat opposite of Chris and took a sip from his mug. 

Great, Snively’s here…’ Chris thought darkly, giving the little man across from him a hooded look. Snively smiled simperingly at him and then took another sip. He smacked his lips loudly, which only added to Chris’ ire.

After a few moments of waiting, President Kintobor entered the room. The occupants stood at attention as he made his way to the head of the table. “Be seated,” he instructed, lowering his aging frame into the high-backed chair. Gerald turned his head to Chris as he sat down and indicated for him to begin.

Chris cleared his throat. “I have here the damage estimates for Sector 7,” he said, indicating the papers on the table. “Considering the various investments we made in the areas that have now been destroyed – factories, service-based industries and residential development – we expect to see damages in the range of 10 billion mobium.”

He was not surprised to see that his words had no effect on the occupants in the room. Gerald maintained his stony composure, his eyes imperceptible behind his dark, round glasses. Kodos picked out lint in his ear with his little finger, his eyes glazed over. Fiona leaned back in her seat and examined her nails, a bored expression crossing her muzzle. Snively sipped his tea, making loud slurping noises and again smacking his lips to Chris’ dismay. The sounds made the red-haired man grip the underside of the table tightly as he repressed the urge to lunge over and throttle him.

“…The estimated cost to rebuild Sector 7-”

“-We’re not rebuilding,” Gerald interjected.

“What?”

Gerald leaned forward, his elbows resting on the table and his fingers steepling. “We are not rebuilding,” he repeated slowly, ignoring the scandalized look the redhead gave him. “We’re leaving Sector 7 as it is and restarting the Neopolis plan.”

“…Then, the Ancients?” Chris asked, recovering from his shock.

“Yes,” Kintobor finished, his moustache stretching into a cold smile. “The Fertile Grounds will soon be ours.” His gaze turned back towards Chris’. “I want you to raise the Energen rates by 15% in every area,” he instructed. “And raise RINGTEK prices by another 20%.”

“Wahahahaha-hooo!” Snively erupted in a fit of laughter as he slammed his mug into the table, the contents splashing onto the polished wood. All eyes turned to him. “A rate hike! Simply marvelous idea, Granduncle! Now… if you could just include the Space Program in the new budget-”

“-Christopher and Fiona will divide the extra income from the rate increases,” Kintobor said impassively, glowering at his grandnephew.

Snivley wilted under the President’s gaze and fell silent.

“But Sir,” Chris stood up, his shoulders hunched and his hands splayed on the table. “If you raise the rates, the people will lose confidence!”

“Nonsense,” Kintobor waved. “The ignorant citizens will not lose confidence, not after our response to last night’s attack. In fact, I’ve received poll numbers that indicate trust in Kintobor Inc. has risen 25 points.”

“Ha ha ha!” It was Kodos’ turn to laugh. “Kid, we saved Sector 7 from TORNADO! Of course the people are gonna love us!”

Before Chris could make a retort, the conference room door swung open with a loud bang. Startled, Chris turned to see who was entering. Limping into the space was Professor Nagus, his amber eyes shimmering from beneath the hood he always wore.

“Ahh… Nagus,” Kintobor greeted, his moustache twitching upwards. “Good of you to finally join us. How is the girl?”

Nagus brought his left hand to his chin and started stroking it. “I’ve taken several samples from her over the past 24 hours and have analyzed them,” he said, his high, clear voice ringing through the room. “The girl does have similar powers to her mother, but they appear to be inert in comparison. An utterly inferior specimen, in my opinion.” He started to pace the room, his eyes still trained on the President. “The difference thus far is about 20%, but it climbs as I perform further tests.”

“And how long will the research take?” Kintobor asked, a slight edge to his voice.

“Currently, my estimates place it at 120 years,” Nagus answered and quickly continued, seeing the throbbing vein that sprouted on the President’s bald, liver-spotted head. “Luckily, the last sample I took a few hours ago has confirmed my suspicions that she is indeed quite fertile. I believe breeding her with an individual possessing similar powers will reduce that research estimate by about 95%.”

“… Possessing similar powers?”

“Ah, yes,” Nagus acknowledged. He stopped pacing and faced Kintobor. “We came across a Mobian around the outskirts of the ruined Mobotropolis. He would have been unremarkable, save for the odd, Emerald-like growths along his arms. We captured him and I coaxed out his latent abilities, as you already know from an earlier conversation. I managed to gather a reproductive sample from him before his mutation, of course, but he is a rather magnificent-”

“-Nagus,” Kintobor interrupted through gritted teeth. “Enough of that. What about the Fertile Grounds?”

“Ah, forgive me,” he said, bowing. “As for the company’s plans for the Fertile Grounds, it will all be dependent on the mother… She is quite strong-willed, but I believe she can be tamed. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll need to prepare…” He trailed off, wandering out of the boardroom.

Gerald let out an exasperated sigh. “Meeting adjourned,” he said wearily, climbing out of his chair. 

Chris followed suit. He collected his papers and walked at a clipped pace out of the door. As he mashed the elevator call button, he heard Fiona say something, but he paid it no mind. The doors soon opened and he climbed in. He tapped the reader with his keycard and slammed his hand on the 65th floor button. “Screw all of this, I’m getting my robot and going to see my girlfriend…” he muttered, taking out his cellphone as the elevator door slid shut and the car descended.