Mobius VII – Book 1: Escape From The City – Chapter 6

Chapter 6: Bombing Mission



Cream

It’s after 11,’ Cream noted, glancing at the clock above the flat-paneled tele-crate screen mounted on the wall next to her. It was another packed night at Vanilla’s Haven. The bartender kept her mind off of the dangerous mission Tails and the others were on by serving food and drink while making small talk to customers both familiar and new. 

One of her regulars, a man with long, auburn swept back hair, wearing an unopened black leather vest, a thin, white t-shirt and faded black jeans waved her over. He shot a lopsided grin at her. “Hey gorgeous, can I get another round?” he called, waggling his eyebrows.

Cream rolled her eyes at his antics, shook her head and smiled at him. “Johnny, you still haven’t paid your previous tab! I’m cutting you off!” she said, turning away from him. She continued working, serving up drinks and warmed food to salivating customers while keeping the pouting Human in the corner of her eye. After letting him stew for a few moments, she slid a bottle of a particular lager down his way.

The man easily caught the bottle in his hand. He beamed heartily at the barmaid. “Aw, thanks Cream! I promise I’ll pay ya back tomorrow, first thing!” he shouted gleefully over the crowd. He took a pull from the bottle, relished the smooth taste and then continued his conversation with another patron sitting beside him. “So anyways, I was saying…”

Cream turned away from the conversation and was about to queue the next customer at the counter, when she heard a sweet, child-like voice call her name. She raised her hand up to indicate that she’ll be right back and headed to the back hallway leading upstairs. 

Sitting on the bottom step was Hope, wearing a set of pink pajamas that were a size too small and clutching a ratty, brown teddy bear with a missing right arm tightly around her. The little girl looked up to the taller Mobian in front of her. “I can’t sleep,” she said plainly.

The rabbit kneeled down to Hope’s level and looked softly at her. “I know sweetie,” she replied, her lips curled into a gentle smile. “You’re worried about your daddy and the others too, huh?” She then stood up and hoisted the little girl into her arms. “Tell you what; I’ll let you stay up tonight so you can wait for them. Once they’re back though, you have to go straight to bed, okay?” 

“Okay!” 

Cream let out a chuckle as she brought Hope back to the bar area. Placing her on a stool behind the bar, she looked at her in the eye. “Now, I want you to stay here and keep an eye out for anyone suspicious,” she said in mock seriousness. “If you can’t go to sleep, then I’ll put you to work!”

The little girl beamed brightly. “You got it!” she exclaimed, eager to help out.

Grinning brightly, Cream turned back to the crowd. “Alright everyone, listen up!” She hollered, catching everyone’s attention. “Hope here is gonna be keeping an eye on you guys, so you all better be on your best behavior, understand?” She pointed at the little girl sitting behind the counter on the stool, scouring the crowds with a steely gaze and watching for troublemakers.

Stricken with mock fear, Johnny stood up from his stool and looked at Hope, clasping his hands in front of his face. “Oh, please Hope,” he pleaded, a hint of amusement in his eyes. “We’ll be really, really good, honest we will.” He arched back to his fellow patrons. “Right guys?”

A chorus of cheers, acknowledgements and shouts of “We promise!” answered back. 

Hope blushed at all the attention. “OK,” she said bashfully. 

Another raucous cheer broke out and Cream had to bite her lip hard to prevent herself from cracking up. She returned to the counter and apologized to her patiently amused customer for the wait.

Suddenly, the program on the tele-crate was interrupted by a large ‘Breaking News’ banner that flashed across the screen, catching the attention of those nearest to it. A zebra called out to the barmaid. “Hey! Can you turn it up for a sec?!”

Hastily grabbing the remote on the liquor shelf, Cream pumped the volume up to its maximum. The near-deafening crowds quieted to a hum as the brunette newscaster spoke.

“This is Scarlet Garcia, reporting from the Kintobor News Network desk in the Sector 2 studio,” the woman sitting behind the news desk said. “We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a breaking news update: We have reports of an incident at the Sector 1 Train Station this evening. Just after 11:00 pm, several assailants attacked the security detail guarding the station. Whether this has any relation to the ongoing labour dispute is not currently known, but we will provide an update on the situation as this story develops.” The screen then returned to its normal broadcast.

Cream felt her fists tighten reflexively at the news as the bar returned to its normal, boisterous din. ‘So, it’s started,’ she thought, slamming a glass down on the counter harder than she expected. She huffed loudly as a crack formed down the middle of the glass. Giving an apologetic wave to her current customer, the rabbit kneeled down to the shelf underneath the counter to replace the cracked cup. Picking out another highball glass, Cream dropped her bartending facade and took several deep, shuddering breaths. Though she hid it well by keeping everyone’s spirits up, deep down she was worried about the team and Tails.

‘Come back safely… and don’t you all die on me,’ she prayed as she rose up from the floor and set the glass gently on the counter. “Sorry for the wait!” she said once again to the patron on the other side of the counter and flashing a winsome smile at him. “So, what’ll it be?”


Tails

Sticking to the shadows, TORNADO made their way through the winding passages that made up the security checkpoints leading into the reactor, stealthily dispatching the lightly manned security detail along the way. They moved quickly and efficiently, mowing down each Kintobor grunt one by one with sheer numbers. Tails trailed behind, picking off the soldiers the group ignored in their mad dash through the passage. 

You got to give it to them,’ the two-tailed fox observed as TORNADO progressed through the last of the checkpoints. ‘Despite their amateurism, they seem to know what they’re doing. Colour me impressed.’

The team soon emerged onto the wide catwalks leading into the plant interior. Suspended a hundred meters above the slums, the walkways connected the main entrance from Sector 1 to an emergency exit leading to Sector 8, with another catwalk in the middle running perpendicularly into the reactor proper. The reactor itself, a towering mass of metal, was physically separated from the plates. 

Biggs and Bark made a right at the T-junction and hurried into the reactor entrance. Wedge ran to the opposite end to secure the emergency exit leading into Sector 8, hiding in an alcove. Jessie and Tails brought up the rear. “Go blow this place to hell!” Wedge shouted as they passed him by. 

As soon as the fox was through, the woman slammed a button on the nearby wall. A steel door slid into place with a hiss, preventing access from the oncoming security forces that were likely to follow. 

Once inside, the three TORNADO members caught their breath. Tails crossed his arms and leaned against a wall, eyeing his charges as they recovered.  Soon enough, Bark straightened up from his bent position, his massive chest heaving up and down. “OK, the easy part’s done,” he said, rolling his shoulders. “Biggs, go enter the codes.”

“You got it boss!” With a grin, Biggs strode up to the first set of security doors at the far end of the room. Hastily pulling out and unfolding a sheet of paper, the man scanned over the codes before inputting them into a control panel next to the door.

While this was going on, Tails surveyed his surroundings. The interior was stark and industrial, with thick metallic panels covering the floors and walls covered with reinforced concrete. The hallways were filled with an adequate amount of lighting necessary for workers to traverse through. Exposed pipes criss crossing along the walls and ceilings made the space feel narrower than it really was. The fox’s eyes then landed on the Human manipulating the door controls, muttering to himself as he did so.

His gaze was broken by his employer, who walked into his line of sight. “Is this your first time in a reactor?” Bark asked, eyeing him warily.

“No, I’ve been in plenty before. I did work for Kintobor, you know,” the fox replied candidly, running a gloved hand through the fur on his head.

Gritting his teeth at the mere mention of the company, the polar bear continued. “Well I’m sure you know what these things do then. Energen isn’t just a convenient, cheap energy source; it’s the source of all life on Mobius. And these bastards keep sucking it all up with their weird machines and converting them into RINGTEK-”

“Look, I’m not here for a lecture,” Tails cut him off, turning his head away from the bear and raising his hand dismissively. “Let’s just get this over with.”

Fed up with his lack of understanding, Bark snapped at the mercenary, pointing his Gun-Arm at him. “Fine then, I’ve had it with you and your attitude!” he shouted, spittle flecking from his mouth. “You wanna get this over with?! Then do your damn job and lead us to the bottom of the complex! And I’ll be right behind you with a bullet ready to blow your brains out if you try anything stupid!”

“Alright! Code deciphered!” Biggs shouted triumphantly as the security door loudly rattled open. Turning to the others, his face went chalk white at the scene in front of him. “Um… I miss something here?”

“Oh shut it Biggs, and give that here,” Jessie snapped, snatching the piece of paper from his hand. “You’re too slow! And boss?” She said, turning to Bark. “We need to focus; don’t you remember what’s at stake here?”

Bark broke his gaze from Tails at her words. “Hmph, yeah,” he muttered, lowering his weapon before turning his attention again to the fox. “Alright then merc, you lead the way once Jessie breaks through the next set of doors.”

“Fine,” Tails responded, his fingers gripping his folded arms tightly. He had to force himself to keep his cool as he was about ready to pick a fight with the obnoxious bear to set him straight. He took a few deep breaths to relax as Bark and the others headed to the next set of doors barring access to the Reactor and the Manufacturing Plant before following them. Inwardly though, he was a little impressed at Bark’s focus. ‘Huh, despite his temper and his paranoia, at least he has his priorities straight.

Jessie hurried towards the access panel for the second set of security doors. Without hesitation, she riffed open the sheet she swiped from Biggs, pasted it against the wall and started punching the codes listed on them. “Thank the Goddess we were able to get these codes from our sources,” she called back to the group, trying to clear the tense air. “A lot of people lost their lives to get us these, so we can’t let their sacrifice be in vain.” It took only moments before she cracked the code and the doors opened. ”Code deciphered,” she announced.

Biggs walked up to her with his hand held out, his lips set in a grim line as opposed to his perpetual grin. ”Ok, I’m up,” he said. “Hand me the bomb and the signal relays and I’ll head into the manufacturing plant.”

The woman dug into her satchel and handed him several objects; a number of small, black antennas, wireless, RINGTEK-powered signal boosting boxes to connect each antenna to and a bulkier package which was wrapped in brown paper. “Here they are,” she said, piling them into a smaller bag Biggs brought with him. “Install the signal boosters as you go along the corridors; remember that the max radius of each is 75 feet, so keep an eye on your supply and your distance. Once you set the bomb, make sure it connects both to the signal relays and to this router here.” She pulled out a thin rectangular box with a slim profile, mounted it inconspicuously near a stack of crates and switched it on. The device gave off a low hum that matched the din of the reactor. Turning around, Jessie looked at Biggs with concern flooding her features. “Look, be careful with this stuff, it’s all delicate. And… take care of yourself too.”

Biggs raised an eyebrow at her, his lips curling upwards once more. “Yeah, yeah, I won’t forget,” he waved nonchalantly. “And am I not careful as it is?”

Jessie shoved him playfully and beamed at him. “Oh shut up and get going,” she said, amused. “Oh, and don’t forget to use that data device I gave you too!”

The man nodded. “Yeah, I won’t forget! Good luck!” he replied before heading down the corridor into the manufacturing area. He turned the corner and disappeared.

“You two done?” Bark asked Jessie, who stood by the lift going down into the reactor. His eyes were set in a determined scowl and he tapped his foot impatiently. “Let’s get going.”

Appearing slightly mortified, the brunette stepped up to the lift and pressed the call button. The door slid open a few seconds later and the trio climbed aboard. Jessie then pressed the switch leading to the lower level. The lift doors slid shut with a clunk and the car began its descent towards the bottom level.

It was here that Bark decided to give Tails another chance to understand the significance behind this mission and its implications into the future. “Look man,” he addressed the mercenary. “All I was saying before was that sooner or later, these reactors will suck out ALL the life force that’s keeping this planet alive. Once that happens, it’s the end of all of us.”

Tails shrugged off his words and then crossed his arms. “It’s not my problem,” he retorted.

The polar bear slammed his left fist against the car, rattling it. “For fuck’s sake Tails, the planet is dying!” he roared angrily, his whole frame shaking with rage. 

“And I’m telling you that the only thing we should be worried about is finishin’ this job before this place is overrun by Robians and Roboguards,” Tails responded coolly, leaning against the wall and closing his eyes. ‘Well, I was wrong about his priorities,’ he reflected. ‘Too concerned about saving the planet and less concerned about staying alive… Either he’s cocky or he’s an idiot-

“Hey, d-do you think that Robians are really gonna be here?” Jessie asked, cutting through the fox’s thoughts. 

Tails opened an eye, which glowed brightly in the dim lighting of the elevator car. “Positive,” he responded, grateful for the change of subject. “You guys may have reduced the security detail here down to its bare minimum, but the reactor’s here are their stomping grounds. Robians don’t get paid and don’t need breaks. Guarding secure, classified locations like these and prowling the Mutate-infested areas within the slums are their only functions in life now. We’ll definitely encounter at least one.” 

As he finished speaking, the elevator stopped. The panel on the side displayed the words ‘Refinery And Transfer’ and the doors opened to reveal a vast, cavernous area littered with pipes of all different sizes running around the space. Some went upwards into the Manufacturing Plant, but many of them went out of the sides of the concrete walls in the distance. All of the transmission pipes originated from the refinery; a massive industrial plant that stood several stories high.

Gun-Arm raised, Bark peeked out of the car to check their surroundings. He spied the pathway that snaked around the refinery and led further downwards towards the centre of the reactor’s operational control and their primary target – the main pump chamber. Seeing that the coast was clear, he motioned for Tails to take point while he brought up the rear. Jessie was sandwiched in between the two Mobians. She drew a high caliber pistol from her hip and held it steadily in her hand. 

They traversed several staircases and ladders as they winded down the path to the bottom of the reactor. Every now and then, they stopped as Jessie installed the signal relays required to link the bomb they would plant here to the one Biggs would install in the Manufacturing Plant. 

On the climb down the third ladder, Tails’ supernatural hearing started picking up sounds of mechanical rasping that would have otherwise been hidden amongst the industrial noises of pumps and fans operating. They soon approached the door leading into the main pump chamber, separated by a high steel-cladded wall. The fox abruptly halted a few feet in front of the door and brought his hand up to his sword hilt. “I hear something coming,” he said, gripping the hilt of his Buster Sword. 

Bark swung his arm around wildly. “What do you mean?” he asked, aiming at nothing. “I don’t hear shit all. Quit trying to scare –“

With a screech sounding like nails on a chalkboard, three Squirrel Robians dropped from above and surrounded the three in a pincer formation, with two in front of Bark and Jessie and one in front of Tails. What were once normal Mobians were now merciless killing machines, their bodies given metallic form and their free will stripped through the roboticization process. Their lithe bodies were covered with chrome and gun-metal grey plating, they had wickedly curved claws on their hands and feet for gripping onto walls and for rending flesh and their segmented tails were round, bulbous and designed for bludgeoning.

The warrior drew his sword and stared down at the Robian in front of him. It hissed as it lashed its tail out at the fox. Tails ducked down to avoid the swipe, rolled forward to get in close and then threw three, wide sweeping slashes. The first two sliced off its arms and the third lopped off its head. The squirrel dropped to the floor and became motionless, sparks flying from the dismembered portions of its body. 

Tails turned around to see Bark and Jessie attempting to gun down the remaining two Robians. The polar bear roared, firing a volley at the first squirrel as it bore down on him. Its hide was thick enough to prevent his shots from penetrating. The Robian drew near and swung its tail hard, catching Bark on the stomach. He staggered backwards, winded, but not seriously injured due to the protective band around his waist. Claws raised, the squirrel let out a metallic shriek and bounded towards the vulnerable bear.

Upon seeing Bark being pushed back, Tails quickly placed a hand on the second green Emerald on his sword and drew blue energy out of it. Sheathing his sword, he shaped the magic with his Mana. The magic collapsed and formed a ball in front of his chest. Focused on the robot that was steps towards the gunner, he then pushed his hands outward and called “ICE!”

A blue-white beam shot out from his hands, barely scraping the polar bear’s right shoulder, and hit its target. The magic showered the Robian with Ice energy, slowing it down its movements and giving Bark enough time to recover and avoid being slashed by its claws. Rolling out of the way and landing in a kneeled position, he pointed his arm and fired another salvo. This time, the bullets tore through the Robian’s body as Tails’ spell made its armour plating weak and brittle.

Seeing that Bark was able to handle himself, the fox turned his attention to the third Robian. The wild swings from the squirrel’s claws forced Jessie back until she hit a wall. Tails reacted, hurrying towards the woman as the Robian wrapped its tail around her waist. He swung the great blade upwards and cut the appendage just before it could squeeze and crush her. The warrior then followed up by wrapping his own tails around the mechanical beast’s arms and pulled hard, ripping both of them out of their sockets. He then finished it by crushing its head with the flat side of the Buster Sword.

“W-What the hell was that?” Bark cursed. He winced and rubbed at his abdomen as he stood up. Nearby, Jessie wriggled out of the Squirrel Robian’s tail. Her eyes were as wide as saucers and she struggled to catch her breath.

“Trouble,” replied Tails, his eyes narrowing as he picked up the sounds of something skittering along the walls. “And there’s more of it coming!”

Two more Squirrel Robians jumped off and landed in front of them. The one closest to the three lashed out wildly and tore a gash in the polar bear’s left arm. Bark roared in pain and grabbed the robot on instinct. Forcing his Gun-Arm into its mouth, he pumped its insides full of lead and then threw its lifeless husk away from him. 

The Ex-SOLDIER then leapt over Bark and brought his sword behind him. At the apex of his jump, he swung it forward and cut the second Robian in two. Landing in a crouch, the fox’s eyes widened in alarm as his ears picked up the sounds of mechanical legs stomping up behind them. The unknown mechaniloid whirred and a hissing noise blared out. The two-tailed fox recognized what it was about to do. “Sweeper’s behind us, everybody duck!” he shouted, dropping to the floor.

Bark and Jessie hastily followed suit as bullets whizzed past them. Clenching her teeth, the brunette hastily dug into her satchel and produced a grenade from it. Pulling the pin out, she counted to three in her head before lobbing it in the vicinity of the Sweeper. The grenade landed right near its spiked feet and exploded, cutting its barrage short. Tails got up from his prone position, his hand holding a charge filled with yellow-white energy. He thrust the hand holding the magic outward and called “BOLT!”

The spell shot out of Tails’ palm, snaked into the Sweeper’s damaged legs and into its rectangular shell. The lightning wreaked havoc on its internal systems, short-circuiting it and leaving it nothing more than a hunk of scrap in its wake.

Jessie got up first and she shivered at the sight of the mechanical remains. “Ugh, those things give me the creeps,” she muttered, staring at the Sweeper’s metallic grill. Letting out several shaky breaths, she turned to Tails and flashed a small smile to the Mobian. “Thanks. If it weren’t for you, we’d all probably be dead by now.”

The fox shrugged. “No problem,” he said coolly. “Just doing my job.” He looked around and piqued his ears, using his enhanced senses to scan for any more unwanted encounters. “I don’t hear or see anything coming our way,” he announced. “Now would be a good time to recuperate before we carry out the rest of the mission. More of ‘em will show up eventually, but we should be on our way out before they do.”

His left arm soaked with blood, Bark got up and walked over to Jessie. She stuck a hand into her satchel and pulled out some medical tape, along with a thin phial filled with blue liquid. The label ‘Potion’ was stamped on the side. 

Handing it over to the bear, he broke the top off and held it in place with his teeth. With a slow and practiced movement, Bark poured about half of the solution onto his wounded arm and yelped in pain as the liquid made contact. The antiseptic components of the Potion reacted with the blood and formed a paste that sealed the wound. Taking the phial out of his mouth, he downed the remaining contents and retched at the bitter taste before discarding it onto the ground. He then placed the medical tape through one of the barrels of his Gatling Gun and, using it like a dispenser, he bandaged his arm. Tossing the tape back to Jessie, he threw her a thumbs-up and grinned. “Yeah, we’re good to go!” he exclaimed.

Bark strode towards the entrance to the main pump chamber, but stopped as he passed Tails. He arched his head and stared down at him. Tails half expected the bear to berate him once more, but to the fox’s surprise, Bark’s lips curled upward into a slight smile. “You ain’t half-bad Ex-SOLDIER,” he commented lightly. He opened the door leading onwards and beckoned the other two to follow, his lips now set in a tight line. “Alright, let’s move.”


Biggs

After splitting from the group with the second bomb, Biggs snuck past plant operators and light security detail as he headed for the main control room of the RINGTEK Manufacturing Plant. He paused from time to time to install the signal boosters necessary to connect the bomb to the central router at the rendezvous point. Stealing through another corridor, he noticed the heavy use of security cameras, which were all reprogrammed thanks to the Mobian Ex-SOLDIER. Biggs smiled to himself, thinking about the hardened warrior. ‘It’s a damn good thing we have that guy on our side,’ he mused. ‘Without him, this mission would’ve gone south long ago.’ 

He soon found himself in front of the control room, its door wide open. He peeked inside and saw five figures. Three of them were Human; two dark haired men and a blonde woman. The remaining two were Mobians; a canine with long flowing brown locks and a toad with a shock of black hair on his slippery head. Each wore the same uniform: a light blue, short sleeve work shirt, dark blue denim overalls with beige gloves tucked into the front pocket and dark brown work boots. 

Seeing a closet in the corner of the room that he could hide in, Biggs stealthily entered the room. Keeping himself low, he opened the closet door and tucked himself into it. His heart racing and praying that he wasn’t seen, he reopened the door a crack and stole a glance out of the window separating the control room from the main plant.

A litany of machines occupied the large room and all were used to forge RINGTEK batteries of all kinds and sizes. The TORNADO member watched as a thin, ionically charged grey ring was inserted into one of the molds. The molds varied in size, from large fuel cells for vehicles and heavy duty machinery to tiny cells used for personal electronics. Biggs remembered from his own research that the grey ring was made up of various metals that caused slow, powerful chemical reactions with the Energen once bonded. At the end of each ring and exposed outside of the hermetically sealed mold was a socket used to insert the RINGTEK into machinery in order to power it. 

Pipes from below the refinery transported Energen into the manufacturing plant, where various nozzles injected it into the molds. Once filled, the molds were then subjected to supercooled water flowing through a heat exchanger that crossed the doughnut shaped die. The supercooled water caused the liquid Energen to harden and bond with the inner ring, creating the powerful, self-contained battery. Once casted, a mechanical arm extracted the rings and inserted them into specially designed containers to cool the rings further, increasing their durability. The fully cooled rings were then transferred to another department for testing and quality assurance. The entire process – from casting to cooling and transport – took less than a minute to complete.

Biggs stifled a sigh as he watched the RINGTEK being created. “All this technology helped to advance and modernize our world…” he mumbled to himself. “But the cost… it’s way too high.” Feeling that the time to act was close at hand, he then checked the watch on his wrist. The digital display noted the time as 11:29 pm. 

A minute passed and a loud buzzer emitted from a speaker in the wall. Biggs sat where he was and listened to the workers leaving for the break room, all of them complaining about the labour strike that has crippled production. When the last operator left and the door shut with an audible click, the man slowly got out of his hiding spot and quickly raced over to the main control console. Knowing that he only had exactly ten minutes before the workers returned, he quickly extracted a thin, rectangular data stick and inserted it into the terminal in front of him. The programming inside the stick automatically executed its preloaded subroutines. Biggs watched the monitor in front of him as the programming began discreetly searching for and downloading a wealth of critical data. 

Seeing that the operation was in process, Biggs then pulled out the explosive Jessie gave him. It was a carefully constructed rectangular box with an LCD display and several coloured buttons – black, green and blue – underneath the screen. Peering underneath the console, he spotted an area where he could place the package without it being seen. After adhering it to the spot, he installed a thin antenna into a slot on its side and then pushed the black button. 

The LCD screen came to life and displayed the words ‘AWAITING CONNECTION’ in black lettering after a few seconds. Biggs crossed his fingers and then pressed the blue button, hoping to the Goddess that he spaced out the boosters enough. The screen flashed twice before returning a message: ‘CONNECTION OK! PRESS BUTTON TO ACTIVATE.’ 

Biggs exhaled loudly. “Oh man, I was worried there for a second,” he muttered, wiping sweat from the bridge of his nose. He then pressed the green button and activated the bomb. “Done,” he said, getting out from underneath the console and standing to look at the monitor in front of him. The words ‘Download Complete’ came up in a popup in the left hand corner of the screen. ‘And so is this thing too.’ 

Pulling out the stick, he placed it in his pocket and looked at the time. It read 11:38 pm. “I got two minutes left,” he whispered to himself, pulling out his side arm and adjusting his headband. “Time to blow this pop stand.” He crouched down again and slinked out of the room just before the buzzer rang for the end of break time. 


Tails

After hopping over to another platform and climbing down another set of ladders, the three stopped at a wide walkway suspended above a glowing pool of raw Energen. At the very end of the path lay the extraction pump chamber; the heart of the reactor. The entire apparatus consisted of an oblong, twelve foot tall pumping assembly that jutted out of the concrete wall. The main pump itself was massive, consisting of a four-foot tall body and a giant, 2,000 horsepower motor that was anchored in place by several guy wires and hangars. An array of pipes, both thick and thin, sprouted out of the top of the pump assembly, the set spreading out like a web from the current level they were on up to the refinery plant on the next level above. On the bottom, a series of huge pipes led down from the machine and into the pool of gold and silver below. A large hand wheel in the centre of the structure operated the pair of enormous, eighteen inch isolation valves that would halt the flow of liquid in an emergency. Next to it were the main controls for the entire structure.

Jessie handed Bark the second, much larger explosive from her pack and then stood by the ladder. “I’ll wait here,” she said to the two Mobians, her mouth set into a grim line as she watched for incoming enemies.

Bark nodded and motioned the fox to follow him. Tails started, but paused when an object on the floor caught the corner of his eye. It was a tiny, brilliantly cut, hexagonal green jewel, similar to the ones installed into the slots of his Buster Sword. He walked towards it and picked it up. “An Emerald,” he said softly. Peering closely at the gem, Tails saw a soft and warm green light emanating from it, eliciting a smile from the mercenary. “Looks like Restore magic.” He was about to switch it out for the Ice Emerald on his sword when Bark lumbered up, his face contorted into a scowl.

“What the hell are you doing?” he asked roughly, snatching the item out of Tails’ hand. Looking at it in confusion, he kissed his teeth loudly in annoyance and then pocketed the jewel. “C’mon man, we got a job to do here! Once we’re done here, this place is gonna be nothing more than a hunk of junk!” He held out the bomb and Jessie’s instructions to the fox. “Tails, you set the bomb.”

Tails raised an eyebrow, his glowing eyes staring coldly at the bear. “And why should I?” he questioned icily. “This is your show. I’m nothing more than an escort.”

Bark glowered wearily at the quizzical fox. “Just do the damn thing already,” he grumbled. “I wanna see if you’re willing to bite the hand that feeds you. If not, then I know where your true loyalties lie.”

The fox rolled his eyes. ‘Goddess-damned bastard doesn’t give me a break…’ “Whatever, fine,” he huffed, snatching the package. He approached the mechanism with the polar bear behind him, his arms crossed as he watched him keenly. As Tails was about to place the bomb on the central console, he froze as a high pitched buzz erupted in his head, like it was signaling him. Clutching his head with one hand, he suddenly heard a sharp, childlike voice speak out to him. 

“Watch out! Something’s off about this reactor!”

Bark watched the Mobian stop in place for a few moments and then shoved him out of his stupor with his gun. “What’s wrong?” he asked, glowering at him.

“Huh?” Tails blinked in confusion for a few moments as he returned to reality.

The impatient bear growled. “What’s wrong, Tails, hurry the hell up!” he demanded.

Tails shook his head and cleared his mind. “Yeah, sorry,” he apologized.  He set the charge against the central console on the reactor. The main unit consisted of a powerful explosive with a tiny control board mounted on it. Reading the instructions, Tails extended the two, flexible antennae on its side and then inserted a cable from the control board into the service port of the central console. He then pressed a black button on the top corner to initialize the bomb.

Drawing power from the central console, a small, rectangular LCD display on the top left corner of the charge activated. Upon startup, the screen flashed the words ‘AWAITING CONNECTION’. Tails pressed the blue button as per the instructions and waited as the machine transmitted its signal through the boosters Jessie installed throughout their journey. The words ‘CONNECTION OK! SYNCHRONIZATION OK! PRESS BUTTON TO ACTIVATE,’ soon flashed on screen, indicating that all was ready.  

Before Tails could push the green button to arm the device, a klaxon began to blare out loudly and strobe lights flashed red emergency beacons.

Bark furiously pressed his Gun-Arm against the fox’s head at that instant. “What the hell did you do?!” He bellowed. 

An intercom beat out the two tailed fox before he could speak. “Warning! Unidentified tampering detected at main pump chamber!” the female voice announced. “Dispatching Roboguardian designate E-89 ‘Guard Scorpion’ to eliminate threats! Field shall be modified to accommodate!” 

The railing on the walkway suddenly detached and folded underneath it. Next, two thick steel plates slid out from the walls on either side of the chamber. Each plate was lined at the incoming edge with tapered tabs like gear teeth which meshed with strategically placed holes in the walkway to form a single, seamless platform. On the left hand wall, a large, twenty foot tall by fifteen foot wide panel slid open to reveal the Guard Scorpion.

Created to emulate the look of an actual scorpion, the red mechaniloid stepped out onto the platform on its six, segmented legs, each the size of a tree trunk. Atop its legs was a heavily plated, oblong torso. Concealed beneath thick, bulletproof glass on its center was a set of large, mechanical lenses that acted as its eyes. Its head consisted of a round dome with several antennae jutting out from it and a small, pivoting rectangular scope, used by the guardian to obtain environmental and targeting data. In place of pincers were a pair of long, heavily plated crimson arms, each equipped with 20mm Vulcan cannons. By far, the most fearsome and intimidating part of its body was its tail; a segmented, flexible mechanism with an enormous, diamond-like spike at its end. The joints of each leg, arm and tail segment, along with its torso, were covered with a flexible, black polymer shielding. The reflections from the gold and silver pool below casted an eerie glow against the polished steel as it leered menacingly at the two Mobians in front of it. 

The robotic monstrosity vented grey-yellow exhaust fumes out from various ports along its body, before moving towards the intruders, its legs stomping thunderously on the thick metal platform.

Bark turned his gun away from the fox and towards the Roboguardian. “OK, well there’s my question answered!” he yelled as Tails stood beside him, sword drawn. “Head’s up foxy, here it comes!”


Mobius VII – Book 1: Escape From The City – Chapter 5

Chapter 5: Prelude



Flower Girl

Three weeks later…

Silver and gold particles floated up from a broken Energen bypass pipe in a backstreet on the Sector 8 plate. The glowing material illuminated a figure – a green-haired flower girl with red blossoms on her head – who was staring deeply at the pipe fissure, watching the wisps float upwards and disperse into the air as nothingness. 

As she watched the flecks of white and yellow intermingle with each other, swirling about her like fireflies in the night sky, she could gradually hear a sound emanating directly from the particles themself. They were screams of agony, of pain and of suffering, each intensifying the longer she stood there. It was as if a collective voice was crying out for any sort of release from the torment that they endured at that very moment. 

Knitting her brows, the woman placed her pale hand close to the pipe, almost touching it and attempted to communicate. “Hey,” she whispered softly in soothing tones, not wanting to be overheard lest she be deemed crazy. “I’m back. Sorry I haven’t been this way for a while. I’ve… been avoiding you all for the last few weeks.” She paused, thinking about the moment back in the Sector 5 church. “But I’m here now and I’m ready. So long as the agreement stands – meaning I’ll listen and be present and you all don’t show me any weird things – then we’re good.” 

She kneeled into a more comfortable position and continued to watch the sparks float about. After a few moments, she felt that she was ready to dive in. She closed her eyes and let her mind drift off as the wails echoed about her. The flower girl kept herself alert throughout her meditation, in case anyone unexpected tried to sneak up to her.

Though she willed herself not to think of the visions she saw that day, somehow the image of the orange-furred Mobian with two tails kept presenting itself to her as she remembered how the root entered her finger back in the church. ‘It’s been weeks since that day,‘ she thought distractedly, her brows furrowed into a scowl. ‘I’ve had visions like this one before, but never one so invasive.’ 

In the midst of her musings, the anguished cries emanating from the fissured metal in front of her had suddenly gone silent. Startled, the flower girl’s eyes flew open. In front of her, the particles stopped floating upwards and were suspended in front of her face. She suddenly heard a booming echo of a voice inside her head.

“COSMO,” it called out her name, sounding like the amalgamation of thousands of different voices.

Cosmo’s eyes widened into saucers at the sight in front of her. The particulate matter then started to swirl and twist around her. Some bonded together to form words, symbols and even images, all which were instructing her on things that she could not comprehend. As the matter danced around her, she felt her whole body quake. A cold chill crept down her back and though she wanted to free herself and move away, she felt paralyzed by the light show in front of her. 

The wisps swirled around her faster and faster, until finally they stopped and began floating upwards once again. Cosmo found herself able to move as she gulped lungfuls of air amid the sounds of screaming that returned to her ears. It was as if the events that had transpired moments ago had never happened.

The green-haired flower girl scrambled away from the pipe to the wall opposite it. Leaning against the cool brick and panting softly, she placed a clammy palm over her face, closed her eyes and processed what she saw. The image of the individual she saw in the previous vision – a two-tailed fox, she realized – was burned onto her retinas. On his back was a large weapon that looked strangely familiar. Several other figures surrounded him, though they were all hidden in shadow. One of the figures loomed above the rest. It’s cruel and sickly green eyes were illuminated against its spectral form and looked right at her.

A flash of white light enveloped the image and caused Cosmo’s eyes to snap open. No shadows were in front of her, but only the pipe which had shown her the new visions. ‘They’re becoming stronger… More vivid… What does this all mean?’ she wondered fervently as she picked herself up from the ground.

As she dusted off her skirt, she contemplated leaving the sector, going back home and hiding under the covers of her bed until everything blew over. Before she could act on that impulse, she felt the locket bump up against her chest as she straightened up. The feeling of the cool metal against her skin, combined with the nauseous feeling she had in her stomach, triggered yet another memory.

“Listen, Stargirl-” the corners of Cosmo’s mouth turned upward sadly at the reminder of the endearing nickname. “- I-I don’t think you should be running away from these visions. No, I think now is the time that you should face them, head on y’know? That’s what I would do.”

She remembered that time well: it was the last she saw of her ex. They were in the middle of a heated argument at the church about her visions. He was the only person she had ever confided in about them. Cosmo wanted nothing to do with them and yet he tried in vain to convince her to see where they lead. Angrily, she told him to leave and he did just that… and never came back. That was five years ago.

Cosmo looked back at the leaking pipe, her hand clutching the pendant at her neck as she relived the painful moment. The silver and gold particles gently floated upwards. After a few moments of staring and thinking, she let out a long, dejected sigh. “Alright,” she conceded begrudgingly, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “Alright Spikes, you win. I’ll see where these visions lead… No more running, I suppose.”

Her decision made, she walked back to the pipe and picked up the worn, woven basket full of fresh, cut flowers she had brought with her. Walking away from the pipe, she turned a corner and emerged out of the alleyway and into the entertainment district of Sector 8.

It was arguably the busiest area of Megapolis, consisting of numerous nightclubs, bars, shopping malls and specialty stores. On the left side where Cosmo emerged was the Sector’s biggest draw; a massive, elegant theater, showcasing award-winning plays. The flower girl put a smile on her face and made sure that her hair blossoms were opened extra wide as the doors leading into the theater opened up and released the latest crowd for the city’s enduring classical love story: “Look-a-Like.” 

She watched as a particularly large throng of Mobians and Humans meander in her direction. Many of them were couples, her favourite kind of customers. Cajoling them to buy flowers for their loved ones was one of the many things that made selling the flowers she grew worthwhile to her. 

Cosmo beamed brilliantly at a middle-aged Human couple that she accosted. As she plied her trade – to the dismay of the older gentlemen – she dimily noted that the place she stood was, in fact, the first part of the omen she had seen moments ago. Reminding herself to uphold the promise she made to herself and to Spikes, she stayed and waited for the inevitable to happen.


Tails

Wind ruffling through his fur as the passenger train he crouched on sped towards the Sector 1 station, Miles “Tails” Prower, Ex-SOLDIER turned mercenary for hire, reviewed the details of his first big gig in his mind: To aid in the destruction of Energen Reactor and RINGTEK Manufacturing Plant #1.

In the three weeks since Cream brought him to live at her bar, Tails had used the opportunity to rest. Once he recovered, he started doing the odd job here and there for the residents of the Sector 7 Slums as a mercenary, which helped him regain his fighting form. Whether it was taking care of invading Mutates, prowling Robians or even helping the locals with their personal problems, the fox felt both his strength and confidence grow with each passing day. Now, he felt more than ready for whatever obstacles lay ahead of him.

To his left and right, Tails could only see glimpses of industrial scenery as the train they were on sped towards its destination. Craning his neck forward and fighting the wind resistance, he looked ahead to see Bark crouching down on the next car ahead of him, the dim, intermittent lighting obscuring his features. 

Feeling that he was being watched, the bear’s head turned sharply behind him, his reddish-brown eyes glaring darkly at the fox. Tails met his gaze for a few beats before

the other Mobian turned back around. Shrugging to himself, Tails looked sideways at the passing scenery. ‘Just because he hired me on doesn’t mean I should like him,’ he thought to himself.

“Attention, attention. The train to Sector 1 – Energen Reactor & RINGTEK Processing Plant – has arrived at its final destination. All passengers please gather your belongings before exiting the cars. Thank you for riding the Megapolis Railway System, brought to you by Kintobor Incorporated. The time now is 11:00 pm, Megapolis Standard Time.”

The automated intercom voice caused Tails to snap out of his reprieve as Bark started yelling out orders to his three subordinates. 

“Alright guys, this is it,” the polar bear roared loudly, his voice almost drowned out by the rushing wind. “When security notices no one coming out of the train cars, take them out and head for the reactor entrance across the street. Security should be pretty lax tonight thanks to our efforts over the last few weeks, so let’s not waste this opportunity!”


The two security personnel on the platform, a grey feline and an Human, stood near the platform edge, bored out of their minds as the last train arrived at the station, signaling the end of their shift. Each wore the standard Kintobor Army Security Force uniform: Blue jumpsuits with protective coverings around the vital organs to reduce fatal injuries, polished black steel-toed boots and a belt holding a twenty inch baton and a 9mm sidearm. On hand was a standard issue military-grade semi-automatic rifle. A helmet equipped with a visor to protect the eyes completed the look. On the shoulders, they wore a patch with the letters KI in stylized typography. 

The train’s automated systems activated the braking mechanisms upon entry to the station. The feline turned to the Human next to him. “Hey Jim,” the Mobian spoke up as the train came to a complete stop at the wall denoting the end of the line, the engine hissing loudly. “You hear anything new about the labour strike that’s been happening these last few weeks?” 

“Naw Sam, nothing new. It’s a shitshow right now,” Jim responded as the doors slid open to let out passengers. “It sucks that we have to be here as part of the skeleton crew mandated in our collective bargaining agreement…” The human huffed loudly and rolled his shoulders. “…Know what, screw this; let’s go gather the other guys and go for drinks after the usuals come out, my treat. No need for us to be here any longer than we need to be, eh?”

“If you’re sure, buddy,” Sam the guard responded, smiling. “Hopefully you have enough cash on hand, seeing as we still haven’t been paid yet.” He turned his head towards the doors, expecting the few, familiar workers heading for the Reactor to exit the train as they do at this time every night.

However, no one came out. 

Puzzled, Sam drew his baton and walked inside the car slowly to investigate, while Jim stayed outside, rifle raised and cocked. “See anything?” the Human called out.

“Negative, it’s just empty,” the Mobian responded. “Which is weird, why – what the! Hey you! ACK!”

“Sam, Sam! What’s going on!?” Jim cried, pointing the rifle at the car entrance. Suddenly he watched as his partner was thrown out of the car, landing hard on the platform, unconscious. Arms shaking, the Human made his way to the car. “You in the car! Come out with your hands up!” he shouted.

Before he could make it to the entrance, a woman rushed out from her hiding spot between the engine and the first car and promptly delivered a hard kick to the guard’s side. Taken by surprise, he fell to the floor, dropping his rifle as he did so. He scrambled around for his radio, flicking the switch to turn it on when a black boot descended on his head, knocking him out.

The owner of the boot, a raven-haired man dressed in an olive drab tank top, black cargo pants and combat boots waltzed forward into the light of the train platform. Tugging at the red bandanna around his head, his brown eyes swept around the platform, landing on the woman next to him. “Nice kick, Jessie,” he whistled, voice full of mirth.

The brunette tucked a stray strand of wavy hair back and away from her pale face. She wore a blue, short-sleeved shirt with a set of steel mail covering her torso and shoulders and blue jeans. On her feet were brown, leather covered steel-toed boots and on her back was a large satchel containing instruments used for hacking, additional ammunition, healing items and the bombs she designed specifically for the reactor. She too, wore a headband similar to her teammate. “Thanks Biggs,” she responded, her hazel eyes brightening as she gave him a small smile.

Turning away from him, she called out, “Alright! I think we’re good!”

A shorter, portly man appeared from the same car where Biggs exited. He wore a red bandanna, a faded, mustard-coloured shirt and blue overalls with red, plated boots. Clutching a stitch in his chest he panted, out of breath. “Phew… I’m glad that’s all over,” he said in a nasally tone.

“Tch, Wedge, stop being such a wuss,” Biggs retorted jokingly, a wild smile on his face. He moved towards the platform exit leading to the streets and to the reactor entrance. “I’ll do recon and check if the coast’s clear,” he said, all business. “Once I give the signal, Jess can come up to hack into their system. Wedge, you and I are on lookout duty.” 

Biggs ascended the stairwell and peeked out. Seeing no signs of life around, he whistled, giving the signal for the other two to come up.

Bark strode out from his hiding place on the train car as the other two Humans ran upstairs. Turning around, he looked up to the top of the train and motioned to the fox with his Gun-Arm, beckoning him to come down.

Tails executed a one-handed flip from the top of the train and landed neatly in a kneeled position, his namesakes swishing about. His piercing, electric blue eyes looked at the bear, who was clearly not amused at his flourish.

“C’mon merc, let’s get goin’,” Bark growled, gritting his teeth at the show-off. He spun around and bounded up the exit.

Tails rose from his kneeling position, put away his weapon and cracked his knuckles, ready to begin his task. Before he could take a step forward to follow the TORNADO leader, he heard the sounds of footsteps behind him. Two Kintobor soldiers, who answered the call from Jim’s radio, hurried to the north end of the platform and pointed their guns at the fox’s back. “Freeze!” the one on the left yelled out.

Tails slowly raised his arms in surrender. The soldiers inched up to him until they were just right behind him. The Ex-SOLDIER then bent his knees and leapt backwards, arcing over their heads before the MP’s could even blink. Landing just behind them, Tails quickly drew his weapon and performed a sweeping, horizontal slash that eviscerated them from the waist down, killing them instantly. Using the momentum of the swing, Tails’ body spun around and faced away from the dead guards. 

Placing his left hand on one of the Green Emeralds lodged into the slots of his sword, he drew yellow-white energy from it. Sheathing his weapon, he poured in Mana to shape the energy, which quickly formed an orb that appeared in front of his chest and between his palms. Pushing his hands outward, he called out “BOLT!”

A yellow-white beam shot out from Tails’ palms. It zig-zagged down the platform, arced around a stack of crates and struck the third guard who was cowering behind them. The impact sent high-voltage electricity shooting through the hapless grunt’s body and left a singed, blackened mess in its wake.

Not waiting to see if his magic attack hit, Tails swiftly turned around and dashed towards the stairwell leading up to the street. Once there, he spotted the three Humans and Bark near the reactor’s entrance. The woman was hunched over a small, hand-held computer to which she was rapidly typing codes into. The computer was connected to the door security controls. 

Biggs and Wedge were standing close by to her, keeping watch when the dark-haired man spotted the fox coming out of the station entrance. He waved his hand and his face split into a wide grin as he motioned Tails to come over. “Hey, welcome to the party!” he chortled, his tone friendly as the fox approached his side. “You’re from SOLDIER, aren’t you?” he asked, sizing up the slightly shorter swordsman. “I never expected to see a guy like you work with an organization like TORNADO.”

Tails crossed his arms and shrugged in response. He was uninterested in socializing with his charges.

Jessie paused from her work, looking back at the Mobian with wary eyes. “SOLDIER, aren’t they the enemy?” she asked Biggs.

Her comrade shook his head in response. “Nah, not this guy,” he said. “From what the boss told us, he used to be with them but then quit and is now one of us,” he said simply. Turning back to the fox, he kept talking. “You’re name’s… Tails, right?”

The fox nodded robotically, his eyes trained on Jessie’s handheld console. His brows furrowed deeply at the sight of the code on the screen. 

Another genuine smile broke out on the man’s face. “Awesome, this mission’ll be a piece of cake with you around, I’m thinking –“ 

Before he could finish, Tails interrupted, jerking his head towards the talkative man. “I don’t really care what you think,” he replied coldly. “And I haven’t joined up with your little ‘organization’ either. Once this job’s over, I’m out of here. For now, focus on the task at hand.”

Biggs’ grin evaporated instantly. He awkwardly returned to his watch, his pride hurt from the fox’s words.

Tails looked to his right where he saw Bark leaning against the wall barring access into the reactor proper. Once again, the two locked eyes – glaring reddish-brown meeting indifferent electric blue. The polar bear was still skeptical and he was well within his right to do so. The fox knew that he was an outsider; an unknown variable in their carefully crafted plans. He knew little of the full details of TORNADO’s plan, but it didn’t matter. A job was a job and he was going to do his part to make it happen. 

Soon enough, Bark snorted, broke eye contact with the swordsman and pushed himself off of the wall. He turned to face Jessie. “Any luck?” he grumbled, tapping his foot impatiently.

“Almost… There!” she replied, triumphant. The security doors rattled open, revealing the entrance to the reactor.

Tails suddenly walked up to her, arm outstretched. “Wait,” he said to the woman and then pointed to her console. “Give it here.” He could hear Bark next to him toggle the safety off of his weapon. Tails, however, held up a hand to the bear. Still addressing Jessie, he asked, “Did you do anything about the additional security controls? What about thermal scanning? Communications? Masking? Did you take care of any of that?”

“N-No,” She answered, realizing the implications of his question. “I mean, I added a patch to jam communication lines and I disarmed the motion sensors, but that’s it.”

“Then hand it over,” Tails said coldly. Taking the console from her, he started inputting commands on it as the polar bear kept his gun trained on the swordsman. “Did you guys think that it’d be easy to get in with a skeleton crew working at the reactor?” he said while he typed. “If I were a bettin’ fox, I would think that they would add in extra security measures, just in case someone was crazy enough to do what we’re doing tonight.” He smirked upon seeing the lines of code show up on the woman’s terminal. “And I was right.” 

After a few moments of typing, he tossed the controller back to Jessie. “Done,” he said. “Cameras are on a feedback loop. Thermal sensors are down. I’ve masked our presence here by explaining that a training exercise is underway. Comms have also been utterly scrambled. And finally, I’ve bugged the code up in a way that it’ll take a long time to undo everything. And even if they do pull it off, it’ll be far too late.”

Jessie looked at the console, observed the code and then looked back at the fox with awe. “Wow, this is genius,” she said reverently, pocketing the machine after disconnecting it from the panel. She turned to her leader. “Boss… this guy is something else…”

Bark kept his arm trained on Tails for a moment longer and then dropped it. “…Good to see you’re worth every last mobium,” he spat. He walked up to the entrance and peered inside, scoping the premises, seeing nothing out of the ordinary, except a few guards in light-duty equipment. Satisfied, he turned around and addressed his team. “OK, let’s go through it one last time,” he said quietly, steeling himself. “Our target’s the Energen Reactor and RINGTEK Manufacturing Plant #1. Jessie and I will sneak in, head to the main conversion chamber all the way at the bottom of the plant and set the main bomb there. Biggs,” he addressed the raven-haired male. “You’re in charge of getting us to the lift. From there, you get to the manufacturing plant and set the secondary bomb at the main plant line. From our research, it should be easier to get there versus the reactor heart. Once you do, get back to the rendezvous point and stay out of sight until Jessie and I return. Wedge,” he turned to the portly one. “Secure our exit. And as for the Ex-SOLDIER,” he said glancing at the fox from the corner of his eye. “You’re with me.” 

Tails shrugged. “Sure,” he said.

“Alright then,” Bark exclaimed, a grin crossing his snout. “Move quickly and quietly, as we practiced. Let’s do this!”

With that, Biggs, Wedge and Jessie ran inside. Bark hung back and glared once again at the fox. “That was pretty impressive, what with the cameras and communications systems and all that shit,” he snarled, not sounding impressed at all. “But I still don’t trust you.” He then did an about face and followed his team, leaving Tails to himself.

The fox gave him a hooded look, clearly annoyed at his attitude. ‘I wasn’t looking for you to trust me anyway. I’m just hoping you keep your end of the bargain when this is all over,’ he thought.

Tails glanced up at the enormous reactor for a brief moment, before entering and catching up with the others.


Mobius VII – Book 1: Escape From The City – Chapter 4

Chapter 4: The Leader of TORNADO



Cream

While the residential district of the Sector 7 Slums was small, it was the local bar and grille within that made it among the most popular destinations in the lower world of Megapolis. Scores of Mobians and Humans living in the slums would make their way to this haven of relief after an exhausting day full of menial work. 

The building was a medium sized, two storey brick complex with walnut-brown wood paneling on its sides and on the roof. Its construction made the building distinctive amongst the shoddy built and crumbling structures and corrugated metal shelters that dotted the district. The entrance consisted of two wooden double-hinged saloon doors, with a metal shutter behind them barring access into the bar proper during closing hours. The front facade of the restaurant brightly lit from the glowing neon sign just above the entrance. It read “Vanilla’s Haven.”

This simple bar nestled in the pockets of the slum was made famous for two things: the delicious, mouth-watering food and drink and the gorgeous, big-hearted, optimistic and gentle barmaid serving them up.

That very same barmaid led her old childhood friend away from the busy streets and through an alleyway between her bar and a neighbouring house leading to the establishment’s rear entrance. Clutching the paper bag tightly, Cream felt skittish as she glanced to and fro, her eyes and senses alert for any sort of movement. She was frazzled as her impromptu meeting with Miles – Tails as he now called himself – threw her off schedule. She now had to race to both get everything set up for the opening dinner rush and sneak Tails in and keep him hidden until the time was right.

As they found themselves in front of a steel door with a pair of locks at the rear end of the bar, Tails called out to her. “You okay?” he asked.

Cream jumped and nearly dropped the bag of sundries at the sound of the fox’s roughened voice. Her reflexes, gained through years of martial arts training, kicked in and she steadied herself before anything fell out of the bag. “Y-Yeah,” she replied, twisting back to look at him. “I’m just… a bit behind, that’s all.” She turned back to the door, shifted the large brown bag to her other arm and fished through her jacket pocket for the keys. 

I have to make sure Miles – I mean Tails – is out of the way until after today’s rush,’ she planned as she produced the keys from her pocket. Her nose wrinkled at the thought of his friend’s preferred name. ‘Once things die down, I’ll bring him in, introduce him, tell them his story and how he’s interested in working with us. Hopefully that’ll be enough to convince them…’ She picked out a key from the key ring and inserted it into the first lock. As she twisted it and heard the tumblers fall into place, her mind continued to wander. ‘I just hope that Bark hasn’t spotted me –‘ 

“Hey! Cream!” A deep, rough voice boomed out, once again startling the rabbit. It came from the entrance to the alleyway. “Is that you back there?”

Ice filled Cream’s veins and she almost dropped the grocery bag. “Oh no…” she muttered, as she looked to Tails with pinched eyebrows. The fox produced a perplexed stare in return.

Letting out a frustrated breath, she called out to the voice. “Yeah Bark! It’s me!” she hollered, praying to the Goddess that he didn’t notice her companion.

“Oh, OK,” she heard in response. Relief swam through the rabbit’s body, but it was only temporary as the voice returned. “Hey waitaminute! I saw some guy following you to the back just now! And why’re you going in through there anyway? Also, you’re running late and from the day I met you years ago, you’ve always been an on-schedule kinda girl, so what’s going on?”

Crud,’ her mind raced as she began to panic. ‘He noticed.’ “Um, well Bark?” she replied sheepishly. “Um… W-well… The thing is… It’s a bit… Um… Complicated?”

“What the hell?” she heard him grumble loudly. “OK, now you got me curious, I’m coming over there!”

Cream’s eyes widened as she heard footsteps lumbering towards her. She fumbled with the second lock, shakily selecting and inserting the key before unlocking the door. Before she could open it and usher Tails in, ‘Bark’ arrived.

He was a massive polar bear with coarse, yellow-white fur. He wore a worn, brown leather vest which was opened up to expose his broad, barrel chest. On his legs were baggy, green war fatigue trousers covered with pockets of all shapes and sizes and jet-black combat boots on his large feet. Covering his waist and abdominal area was a large steel band that had ribbons of ammunition wrapped around it. His left hand, which could easily cover the rabbit’s face with, was covered with a simple, fingerless leather glove. His right arm, from the elbow down, was missing and was replaced with an unusual prosthetic; a stout, metallic cylindrical weapon with six, snub-nosed barrels. This Gun-Arm was directly fused to his arm and connected to his nervous system, which allowed him to fire on command via his synapses. The ammunition wrapped around the metal band on his waist fed into the peculiar weapon.

His piercing, reddish-brown eyes swept the scene in front of him, his eyebrows knitted in confusion. He readjusted the reversed red and white ball cap on his head and rubbed his snout as he addressed the rabbit. “Cream, what the hell is goin’ on here?” he asked, perplexed. “You’re running late, your jacket buttons are ripped off and to top it all off, you bring home some weird stranger? Who is this guy anyway?” he gestured towards the two-tailed fox.

Cream stifled an exasperated groan. ‘Of all the days that this had to happen, it had to be the one where I ran out of greens for tonight’s special…’ “Well,” she began causally, clearing her throat and sweeping a stray strand of ivory hair away from her face, “Some creep was following me home from Sector 6 and was looking to try something. So I lured him into an alleyway and made him rethink his current life choices.” She glanced at Tails, before continuing her story. “And then, by a strange coincidence, I ran into one of my oldest friends from back in my village. Seeing an opportunity to catch up, I brought him back here to chat while I get things ready.”

Aside, she voiced out in her mind. ‘I was going to introduce you to him later tonight, when things got less busy, but…’ She watched the expression on the bear’s muzzle shift from suspicious to curious. Feeling brave and hoping that Bark wouldn’t cause too much trouble, she continued. “Bark, this is Mi – Um, Tails and he works as a mercenary. I was gonna-”

Bark’s eyebrows shot up at the mention of his title. Eyeing the smaller Mobian, he sniggered and then suddenly burst out laughing, cutting Cream off. “A merc?” he blurted out in between gruff chuckles. “Him? Ah hah hah, that’s a good one Cream!” He turned his back to the fox, who was glowering dangerously at the one-armed bear.

“I mean, look at him, even the SWORD’S bigger than he is!” he howled mirthfully, tears streaming from his eyes. After a while, he calmed down, wiping his eyes and grinning at the rabbit. “Look, seriously speaking, I refuse to believe that this kid’s a mercenary-“

Cream brought a hand to her lips as sharp, cold steel rested against the bear’s throat. She hadn’t even seen Tails move. ‘Twenty minutes ago, he could barely walk… and now… he’s swinging that thing like he’s done so his entire life…’ 

Surprised, Bark gazed downwards to see the broad edge of Tails’ Buster Sword lightly touching his neck. If he so much as twitched, his head would have flown off. He looked past the weapon to see its wielder, glowing eyes glaring menacingly at him.

“Finish that sentence,” Tails dared the larger Mobian in a quiet, commanding tone. Despite his visible exhaustion, he held the blade levelly. He steeled his eyes, waiting for any sudden movements from the gunner in front of him.

Bark tried not to gulp as he felt the edge against his jugular. As he nervously looked at the fox, his eye travelled to the electric blue irises belonging to the shorter swordsman. The polar bear’s own eyes widened at the sight before narrowing in anger.

Seeing that things were about to escalate, Cream crept up and tentatively extended her hand towards Tails. She placed it gently on his shoulder and looked placatingly at him. “Tails, please stop?” she implored.

The two-tailed fox cast a sidelong glance to his old friend, snorted and then eased off. He removed the blade from the polar bear’s neck and sheathed it. He crossed his arms and glared at the offending polar bear.

“Hmph, you’re pretty good, aren’t you,” Bark said coldly, rubbing his throat where the sword had been against previously. “But then again, it’s not every day that a member of Kintobor’s special police force poses as a mercenary to infiltrate my group!” He jumped back and pointed his Gun-Arm at the fox, who, again, unsheathed his blade and settled into a fighting stance.”There’s no way I’ll let you live to tell your SOLDIER buddies ‘bout us back at Kintobor! And Cream, how could you do this to us?” he glanced incredulously to the rabbit beside him, who returned a look of bewilderment as a response. “How could you let the enemy into our base?! Ah, nevermind that, I’ll take care of him and then you and I are gonna have a chat!” Turning his head back towards the fox, he raised his gun-arm, pointing it and tensing his arm muscles, as if he would have balled up his fist if it was still there.

Horrified, Cream stepped in between them. “STOP IT!” she shouted, bringing her arms up between the two in an attempt to stop them from fighting.

Bark yelled in surprise and pointed his arm away from Cream towards a pile of trash on the wall opposite to the bar’s back entrance. His arm still tensed, bullets spewed out from the weapon at a rapid rate, the cylindrical portion rotating with each shot fired. The shots tore through the refuse, shredding it into pieces and leaving smoking holes in the wall behind it. The gunner relaxed, stopping the flow of bullets and turned his head towards the rabbit in fury. 

“WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?!” he shouted at the top of his lungs. “I could have shot you just now! Are you out of your mind?!”

“No, YOU’RE out of your mind!” Cream retorted, equally angry at the polar bear’s declarations. “You honestly think I’d bring Kintobor to our base of operations, which, for your information, is also MY home?! Which I’ve had the good grace to let you stay in, by the way? You seriously have some nerve! And one other thing you should know too,” she jabbed a finger towards Tails. “HE left the army five years ago, when they burnt down our hometown! He wants nothing to do with them anymore than we do!” She then fell silent for a moment and took deep breaths to calm herself down. She felt a stab of guilt course through her insides, which she attributed to the thought of her old home.

“I’ve already told him the gist of what we do and he’s agreed to listen to us.” she continued to Bark, annoyance still in her tone. “I was going to talk to you later tonight after the rush, introduced you to him, explained his circumstances and everything, but… I screwed up on that front, OK?”

The polar bear’s hardened gaze faltered at her words. Cream knew that if it was anyone else speaking to him, he would have ignored them, shoved them aside and resumed fighting. However, she knew that he trusted her level head and sharp intuition far more than any other in his group. He wouldn’t be able to ignore what she said, especially given the severity of the mission at hand.

Staring at Tails for a few more beats, Bark snorted and lowered his weapon, facing his ally. “Fine, he can stay,” he said harshly to the rabbit. “If he’s your ‘friend’ like you say, then I got no problems.” He then turned back towards the swordsman, glaring darkly at him. “But listen, you,” he spat at the fox, his teeth bared in dislike. “If you make any moves or do anything that exposes you for the traitorous son of a bitch that you are, I’ll do that -” he pointed to the destroyed heap of garbage. “- To you. Are we clear?”

Tails returned the glare, his namesakes rising in a threatening manner. “Crystal,” he replied acidly. He wrapped his tails around his waist and placed the sword on the disc attached to his back.

After a few moments of tense silence, the one-armed Mobian jerked his head, motioning for the SOLDIER to get out of here. 

Sighing in relief that the fighting was over and done with, Cream called out to Tails. “Go up the stairwell on the left and head for the room down the hallway,” she said. “ I’ll bring something up for you to eat, you look like you haven’t had anything for days. There’s also a bed in there for you to sleep on. You should get some rest after you eat, you look exhausted.”

Tails looked at her, his piercing gaze softening slightly as a form of acknowledgement and then made his way to the bar’s rear entrance.

“Oh and one more thing,” Cream added just as Tails opened the door. “Once the evening rush is over and we close up shop, we’ll start talking about the job and your payment.” The words left a bitter taste in her mouth as she said them. She then looked at Bark, addressing him sharply. “By the way, when’s the mission starting?”

Bark was taken aback by her cutting tone, but recovered quickly. “Well, phase one has just commenced, so in three weeks time, we make our move,” he replied, training his eyes on Cream instead of the former SOLDIER. 

Tails looked at his would-be employer. “Fine,” he replied without expression, walking inside and upstairs as directed. 

As soon as her friend entered the bar, Cream rounded on her teammate. “Bark, what the heck-,” she started, but stopped when the bear raised his hand, motioning her to stay silent. 

“Hold on,” he whispered. “Wait a moment.”

After a few minutes, he dropped his arm and faced her, a sigh of relief escaping from his snout. “Keep your voice down,” he continued in hushed tones, removing his cap and running his only hand through the thick forest of yellow-white hair underneath it before replacing it on his head. “We can’t let him hear us. Now, what are we gonna do about this? I can’t believe you brought him…” he trailed off, shoulders slumping. “Gah, this is all screwed up.”

“Bark,” Cream started, fingers pinching the bridge between her tightly shut eyes. She felt the beginnings of a headache drum through her forehead. “I know this looks bad, but,” she opened her eyes and looked into the bear’s own reddish-brown orbs. “If you’re serious about going through with this, I’d feel more comfortable knowing that he’s got your back, as well as the others. Think about it: he’ll be a great asset to the mission since he’s worked with them before and all. Plus,you saw how good he is for yourself, didn’t you?”

Bark rubbed the spot on his neck where the shorter warrior’s blade once laid. “Yeah okay, I admit he’s good,” he responded grudgingly. “But, c’mon Cream, are you really sure you can trust him?” he said, his eyes trained not at her face but at her ear. 

“Of course!” She said hotly, knowing what he was talking about. “You really think my memory’s that messed up?!”

“No, no, It’s… That’s not what I mean,” the bear stumbled, arms raised in a defensive, placating manner. “I’m… I’m just worried about you, that’s all. But seriously though, he’s-he’s pretty damn good, I have to agree with you on that.”

“Right,” Cream continued, flashing a small, but brightening smile, thankful for the change in subject. “See, if we’re going to take down Kintobor and save Mobius, he’s our best bet to do so. Please, won’t you just consider that angle when taking him on, at least?”

Bark listened to her words, processing them carefully and then let out a weary groan. “Fine, you win, I’ll consider it,” he conceded. “We’ll talk tonight. I’ll head to the front and open up for ya.” At that he started walking away towards the bar’s front entrance. He stopped at the mouth of the alleyway and turned around, a sheepish look on his muzzle. “Um, hey Cream?” he said, hesitating, his eyes downcast. “I’m… Well, I’m…”

The rabbit fighter shook her head. “Bark, it’s OK,” she replied, smiling once again. “I forgive you.”

Bark returned the grin. “Well then, you better get going, you got a bar to open, don’t cha?” he responded, turning back around and bounding down the alleyway to the front.

Satisfied, Cream took up her groceries and entered the bar. As she closed the door and looked up the stairwell, she swore she could see wisps of white and orange fur escaping her vision from the doorway on the second level. Her hand automatically rose to the back of her head, her finger tracing a jagged scar underneath her hair that went from the bottom of her right ear to the base of her skull as she realized what had just happened.

‘He heard it all.


Tails

Tails awoke to the sounds of a gentle rapping on the door in the room he was sleeping in. “Tails?” came Cream’s voice from the other side. “Sorry to wake you, but could you please come downstairs? I’ve closed up shop. We’re ready to talk.” 

“Sure, I’ll be there in a bit,” he groaned. Hearing her walk away, he lay in the dark space and stared at the ceiling above.

“Man, I sure lucked out,” he whispered to himself, the beginnings of a half-smile forming on his muzzle. “A place to stay and an upcoming job… Well, I better not keep my would-be employers waiting.”

He sat up on the hard mattress and stretched, feeling better than he had in years. He felt the strength course through his body as he flexed his fingers and the muscles on his arms. He sensed that he had somewhat of a basic handle on his acute senses, given how he was able to both listen in on Cream and Bark’s conversation earlier in the afternoon and tune out the loud, raucous crowd below while he slept. He stood up and turned on the lamp on the nightstand, shielding his eyes from the sudden burst of warm light that flooded the room. After waiting for his eyes to adjust, he pulled on the pauldron and his arm guard and then picked up his sword. 

The green gems nestled into the hexagonal slots shone in the dim, yellow light in the room and caught the fox’s eye. Holding the sword aloft, he stared at the Emeralds as a fuzzy memory bubbled to the surface.

He vaguely remembered sitting at a desk in a room similar to the one he was in right now, pouring over several textbooks and writing notes on a legal pad. Someone from behind chuckled, which caused him to jump out of his seat.

“Still studying? Jeez Tails, like you don’t know enough about Emeralds as it is!” the figure behind him chortled, its voice a ghostly echo in his mind. “Tell ya what though; instead of pouring over the books, why not show me what you can do?”

Tails blinked rapidly as his mind returned to the present moment. “‘Show me… what you can do?’ Hmph…” the fox mused to himself over the memory. “Come to think of it… I haven’t even tried using magic yet…”

Deciding that Cream and Bark could wait a few more moments, Tails placed a hand on one of the Green Emeralds equipped to the sword. He felt a surge of knowledge shoot through his body and into his brain when his palm made contact. It instructed him how to bring the magic into being. Removing his palm, he drew forth the energy from the Emerald and began to shape it with his Mana – the current of internal spiritual energy that exists and flows within all living things. He cupped his palm upwards and concentrated until a small orb of yellow-white light formed right in front of his eyes, further illuminating the room. The orb crackled and popped with electrical energy.

A sudden creak caused the fox to jerk his head towards the door in front of him, which opened a crack. The orb in his hand fluctuated in size as his attention shifted to the figure staring at him through the narrow opening. A single, baby-blue eye and strands of flaxen-yellow hair peeked out at the fox, who locked his own electric blue at it. The figure squeaked, backed away and ran off. Tails could hear the pitter-patter of feet clamber down the stairs and into the bar proper. The fox suppressed a sigh as he closed his fist. The Lightning spell dissipated and he reabsorbed the Mana into his body. ‘Guess I should head down now,’ he thought, sheathing his weapon and striding down the hall and the stairs down to the main level.

The inside of the bar had a cosy and warming atmosphere. With the booths, tables and stools placed around the floor there appeared to be seating available for up to fifty at a time. Tails guessed that the number of patrons in the bar greatly exceeded that capacity on a daily basis. The bar area consisted of a simple L-shaped ash counter top with a roughened finish and was complete with a flip-up portion at the end. Behind the counter were shelves stocked up with copious amounts of alcohol whose origins spanned the many regions of Mobius. A swivel door at the far end of the counter, opposite of the flip-up portion, led to a decent sized kitchen that held a sink, a six-burner stove and oven and a large fridge and freezer.

Sitting at one of the round tables were Bark and Cream. The polar bear wore an expression of distaste on his face while the fighter sat upright with her hands in her lap, her expression neutral and businesslike. Hidden behind the massive bear was a small human child wearing a sky blue dress with pale skin, bright blue eyes and golden hair; the very same child that spied him using magic. She buried her head deeper into Bark’s back at the sight of Tails, which the bear noticed. His upper lip curled up into a snarl. “You scarin’ my little cub?” he asked venomously.

Cream tapped Bark’s shoulder. “Bark! Be nice!” she admonished, glaring at him before turning her attention to Tails. “Sorry about that, he’s really overprotective of his daughter. That’s Hope by the way.” She angled over her seat to speak to the little girl, smiling warmly at her. “Hope, this is my friend Tails. Your daddy and I were hoping he could help us out with a little job.”

“Yeah,” Bark added. Though his tone softened when addressing his daughter, his eyes still glared daggers at the ex-SOLDIER. “This won’t take long, little one. Head back to your room and I’ll come read you a story.”

The girl tentatively circled around her father to face him. She looked up at his face with big, expressive eyes. “You promise?” she asked softly.

“Uh-huh,” Bark replied, nodding. His eyes still never left Tails. “Now, get goin’”

Giving the fox a wide berth, the human girl circled around and travelled up the stairs to her room. Once they heard the door close with an audible click, Bark started to speak.

“Listen up, cuz I ain’t gonna repeat myself,” he started, folding his arms and reclining back on the chair. “Cream’s filled you in on the basics, but here’s the real deal: We’re an anti-Kintobor group known as TORNADO. I’m it’s leader and Cream here is second in command. There are three others; you’ll meet ‘em later, should you take this job. Our mission is to sabotage operations of the Energen Reactors and RINGTEK Manufacturing Plants that keep Megapolis powered up at the expense of Mobius’ life. You know about those, right?”

Tails scoffed. “You kidding me? I used to work for them, so I know what they are and what they do.”

“And that’s why we want to bring you in,” Cream chimed in. She leaned forward, placed her elbows on the table and steepled her fingers together. “Your knowledge about the company’s major assets and your strength would be a huge asset to this mission. Like we discussed before, we’ve started up the first phase of the mission. The main ordeal will commence in three weeks time, which gives you plenty of opportunity to prepare and assess what’s to come.”

“So, now that you know the basics, what do you say?” Bark questioned, leaning forwards. “You interested?”

Tails made a show of considering their request, but he already made his decision when he awoke. He sauntered forward and pulled up a chair. Unsheathing his sword and leaning it against the table, he sat down and faced the two TORNADO members. “Yeah, I’m interested,” he answered with cool indifference. “So, let’s talk business…”


Mobius VII – Book 1: Escape From The City – Chapter 2


Chapter 2: A Premonition

Flower Girl

Shadowed above by the massive Plate which contained the upper city, the slums of Megapolis were a dilapidated and often ignored portion of the city which was populated primarily by Mobians. While each sector of the lower city had its pockets of residential areas, only a few were lucky enough to hold communal amenities for the populace to use. 

Over time, the numbers for army personnel charged with community protection in the lower city started to dwindle. This came with increased rumors that circled through the residential hubs about the fearsome Robians – ordinary Mobians transformed into soulless mechanical monstrosities – and the uptick of mutants being sighted around the common paths. The gossip caused the residents to keep to their own hubs and reduce travel to other sectors in fear of being attacked.

A church located beneath the unfinished portions of the Sector 5 plate was once a particularly beautiful building. After being abandoned by the citizens, years of neglect and disrepair caused the building to become a shadow of its former self. The exterior was stained by the dirty air exhausted from the underside of the Plate. The roof was full of holes of various sizes that let rays of sunlight shine through. Inside, the floorboards and pews running from the large double doors to the altar were in a state of constant decay. Several stained glass windows were shattered and those that were untouched were caked with grime. A structural column holding up the vaulted ceiling in the rear had fallen, leaving the rear portion of the building susceptible to collapse. The storage areas up in the rafters above were covered with a thick layer of dust. All in all, it was not a suitable place to live in.

As run down as it was, the spacious interior held something that many in the city would have called a miracle.

Carpeting the centre of the church floor was a field full of beautiful yellow and white flowers . They grew out of a large, round patch that was unearthed by removing the old floorboards. The field started from the altar and took up two thirds of the floor towards the doors. Plants were a rare sight in Megapolis; the lack of sunlight and the nutrient-poor earth were hardly sufficient to grow anything. But the flowers at this church were hardy and their caretaker even more so.

A female Mobian walked around the patch, her dirt-coated, pale hands held a tattered, soft-cover book which she thumbed through. She wore a white, form-fitting dress that went to the bottom of her shins, the edge of the dress tapering into points like flower petals, and a padded, unbuttoned, short-sleeved, forest green bolero jacket that reached above her midriff. Around her waist was a worn, brown belt, which sat snugly above her hips. Inserted in a holster on the back of the belt was a retractable, metal guard staff. Her dirt-caked leather boots made soft, muffled sounds against the old floorboards as she circled the patch. 

The back of her vibrant, lime green hair was tied up into a braid and held up by a pink ribbon, while the bangs on the front framed her oval shaped face and complimented her bright, turquoise eyes. On either side of the top of her head were two, fully bloomed red rosebuds. Circling around the patch, she placed a finger on a sentence of a random page and read the passage from the book aloud to the plants growing in the field. 

“-And then he showed his true colours.

Once the headquarters and the majority of the city were completed, President Kintobor started pushing towards military rule by establishing a massive army supported by RINGTEK-powered war machines. He used his army to crack down on dissenters and rebels who questioned his authority. He ran policies favouring Humans while persecuting Mobians, which only served to increase the existing generation-spanning tensions between the two. He discreetly raised the costs of living for those citizens forced to live in the lower city below. Those who could not pay those crushing fees were captured and subjected to experimental testing in the R&D labs high up in the headquarters, where no one ever returned from. These experiments, coupled with further research into Energen and its applications into living beings, yielded the SOLDIER program: soldiers infused with pure Energen to greatly enhance their bodies for military purposes.

Using his newly created military forces, the president then set his sights towards the rest of the world. His first act was to invade Mobotropolis – the capital city of the Western Continent – and annihilate its Royal Family.  In the two decades since the coup, Kintobor expanded until nearly every region on the planet had an Energen Reactor, save for one; the secluded kingdom of Chun-Nan in the far East. The kingdom was wary of both the company’s technology and the growing influence the conglomerate had over Mobius. They resisted until a bloody war broke out eight years ago. Despite their mastery of magic and their knowledge of the difficult terrain, Kintobor’s vast army, their war machines and their unstoppable SOLDIER forces, conquered the tiny nation in little over a year’s time. That act firmly established Megapolis and Kintobor Inc. as the sole, dominant world power.

After the war, a brand new technology made its debut: Roboticization. This process involved the partial or total conversion of organic matter into a hardier, robotic form. Roboticization could even return missing limbs, which came particularly in handy for the veterans returning from the front. For a time, the innovation was deemed a blessing for the citizens. They believed that no matter what happened to them, be it loss of limb or sickness, Kintobor Inc. would swoop in and help with their wondrous scientific advancements.

That all changed only four years ago, prior to this book’s publication. Rumors abound in the slums, but what I could dig up was that the president discovered that the Roboticization process could transform individuals into mindless, robotic slaves. It is my belief that he began rounding up Mobians in the slums, with the commitment to use the process to remove their ills caused by the rampant pollution in the lower city. He then transformed them which had the effect of completely stripping them of their free will. These Robians were set them loose in the Slums to eliminate the vicious mutants and terrorize the denizens below, and in the Energen Reactors to act as guards against any interlopers either foolishly attempting to dig up company secrets or attempting to sabotage or destroy the reactors themselves as acts of terrorism…”

The woman stopped and snapped the book shut, a wry and bitter smile crossing her lips. She turned towards her flowers and knelt down to the patch. “That was pretty fascinating stuff, wasn’t it?” she asked the plants before her. “This guy, Kirby… he really knew his stuff, didn’t he?” Turning the book around to view the cover, she wrinkled the bump that was her nose. “The Untold Story of Kintobor Incorporated… Well, no wonder the book was banned up above. It’s lucky that I stumbled on one copy that missed being destroyed, right?”

The flowers didn’t answer back to her, but it was something that she was used to. Placing the book down to her right, she began working her hands into the damp soil. She moved around the patch, cutting dead leaves off the younger plants, transplanting seedlings to open areas where they could grow and snipping some of the fully matured bulbs to place in a woven, straw basket. After a good half-hour’s worth of work, she leaned back to stretch and mopped her brow. Tilting her head back, she looked to the holes in the roof above and beyond to the Sector 5 plate. Faint sunlight was streaming through the gaping sections of the unfinished portions. Her lips quirked upwards as she remembered the storm that had passed earlier in the morning. The deluge of rainwater provided much needed nourishment for her garden, which made her feel content.

Then suddenly, she heard the sounds of heavy footsteps just outside of the building.  A deep, cold chill ran down her back and she stifled a gasp. ‘Don’t tell me it’s them again?!’ she thought frantically, hunching over into a bent position. She swiveled around and then crawled on her hands and knees as quietly as she could to a pew close to her and huddled underneath it. She held her breath and waited for the footsteps to pass.

She then felt a sharp sting on her index finger as something needle-like jabbed into it. Biting her lip so that she wouldn’t scream out, she saw that a root from her flower patch extended out and inserted itself into her finger. Her eyes widened into saucers and she tried to wrench her hand away but her body suddenly went rigid, as though she had been electrocuted. 

She then saw visions, all of them moving in a rapid fire manner and many of which she couldn’t understand. The visions then slowed down enough that she could pick out a figure in them; a blue-furred individual wearing a uniform with a large sword on his back. It turned its head so that she could get a glimpse of the face from the side. She saw a single, glowing jade-green eye and a smirk that sent her heart aflutter until the figure disintegrated into wisps of silver and gold. Another figure appeared in his place – an orange-furred individual wearing an identical uniform with its back turned to her. Swishing about were two bushy tails…

At that point, the flower girl regained control of herself. She pulled her hand away and the root slipped out of her finger, leaving a shallow well of blood streaming from the digit. She was breathless and cold sweat matted her bangs to her forehead. Pinching her thumb to her forefinger to stem the blood, she first listened to see if the coast was clear, before crawling out from under the pew and moving towards a nearby floorboard. She wormed two fingers into a hole in the centre and pulled, causing the board to come loose. Placing it beside her, she pulled out the first aid kit lying underneath and set about bandaging her finger whilst mulling over the visions she saw.

The one thing she was able to discern clearly was the blue furred individual who then disappeared in a flood of silver and gold wisps of light. Realization dawned on her and she brought a hand to her lips in shock. ‘No way, It’s not possible…‘ she thought, ardently praying that whatever she dreaded wasn’t true, that the vision she saw was not what she thought it was. ‘He can’t have… died? After all of these years of him going missing, he’s now dead?’ She shook her head to banish the thought out of her mind. Of course not! He couldn’t have died?! The voices are just… lying to me again, that’s all!

Deep down, she knew otherwise. It was now the second time that she saw this sort of vision. The flower girl forced down the memories of the first time as a deep, cloying sadness began creeping into her heart. ‘…If he truly is dead – which he isn’t, I’m sure of it – it must have occurred… during the storm,‘ she reasoned as she finished tying the gauze to her finger.

Suddenly, her vision blurred as tears began forming in her eyes. She screwed them shut and her shoulders trembled as she succumbed to her sorrow and wept. She tried hard to keep herself from sobbing out loud and instead balled her hands into fists with her dirt-coated fingernails digging into her palms. Around her, the flowers seemed to resonate with her emotions; the petals and leaves drooped downwards as though they mourned alongside her. 

It was some time until she finally calmed down. Breathing heavily, she eased herself into a sitting position, brushing stray strands of hair away from her face and wiping the tears from her puffy eyes. As she slowed her breath, her mind then turned to the other part of the vision: the orange figure with two tails. ‘Now, what could that mean?’ she wondered, her brows lowering into a scowl. ‘There’s no way that someone with two tails exists on Mobius… So what’s the deal here? What’s this vision trying to tell me now?

The flower girl let out an exasperated sigh. “What’s the point in showing me these things?” she growled through clenched teeth. “Can’t they just… leave me alone?”

She felt the root that had penetrated her finger wrap around it again, this time in a gentle, comforting manner. The flower girl watched the tendril curl around the digit, a bittersweet smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. It was though her plants were telling her that these visions had to happen and that she could not run away from them any more. 

She scoffed at the thought. “Well, so much for that,” she muttered to herself, her brows furrowing deeply at what she considered. “I won’t stop running, even if the voices and the visions want me to do otherwise… It’s not like they’ve ever shown me anything good anyway…”

The Mobian ripped the root off of her finger, stood up in a huff and brushed off the dirt from the knees of her dress. She felt something softly bump into her chest as she straightened up. She looked down to see her pendant; a simple, hexagonal locket coloured amber-gold with a window to the contents within on the front. Inside was a silver-white jewel. She collected the pendant into her palm, which was as small as her own hand and stared at the gemstone inside. The sunlight from above shone down on it and gave it a brilliant, shimmering glow.

“…I know it’s a little… ostentatious – funny that I know that word, huh? A friend of mine taught it to me. But anyway…  Look,  I know it’s important to you, so I figured… it needed a safe space, y’know? So I thought: What better place to keep it safe than around your neck and tucked into your dress?”

The flower girl made a noise of amusement as she remembered the moment she received the pendant, her lips curling upwards despite her sadness. She clutched it gently with both hands and put it against her heart. Closing her eyes and bowing her head, she said a prayer in her mind to the Goddess and then tucked the locket back into her dress. She then set about to gather up her things. She replaced the medical kit and the floorboard that hid it, picked up the basket full of cut flowers and finally the book that she was reading aloud. 

Heading for the door, she plucked a brown, patchy satchel from one of the pews, stuffed the book inside of it and slung it around her shoulder. Checking to see that her retractable staff was in place, she opened the large church doors a crack to check if the surroundings were clear. Seeing that no one was around, she turned to smile apologetically at her growing patch of flowers before slipping through the door and closing it with a muffled click.


Mobius VII – Book 1: Escape From The City – Chapter 3


Chapter 3: The Childhood Friend

Tails

The distinct scent of the air after a storm, mixed with the pungent odor of pollution.

The sounds of footsteps, large and small, treading on cobbled streets, mixed with the loud whistle of a train engine.

The feeling of the warm, worn soles in leather boots and the individual fibers mingling with the callused pads on the bottom of his feet.

These were just some of the tens of hundreds of sensations that were bombarding the two tailed fox’s heightened senses. He was sitting in an unfamiliar place, his sword by his side and both hands in a vice-like against the sides of his head. Scents, sounds, shapes, textures and colours, all were overwhelming the fox and he slowly began to lose his sense of self. What he remembered prior to entering this strange, new setting was lost to him; all that he could remember now was his name: “Tails.”

In the midst of his suffering, he heard a voice speak out from his right in soft, dulcet tones. “Surrender yourself,” it said. “Give yourself up and sleep and dream…”

The voice was comforting, yet saccharine. Though Tails felt the urge to do as the voice beckoned, he also found himself to be strangely skeptical and wary of it. He gritted his teeth as the environment around him continued to batter his overstimulated mind and he began pounding the back of his head on the wall he was seated against in an attempt to redirect the pain.

Soon, a second, youthful voice called to him from what seemed like his left ear. “Hey! Stay with me!,” the new voice demanded forcefully. “Fight it! Don’t let it consume you!”

The fox pushed off of the wall and went to his knees. He bent forward and brought his head to the ground and began thrashing about, hissing as a blindingly sharp pain erupted from the centre of his skull. 

Sleep… Sleep and dream…”

“Fight it! Don’t give in! You gotta stay awake!!”

As the voices battled on either side of him, Tails started hearing a high pitched, buzzing sound in his ears. He lay face down on the grimy, cobblestoned ground and shook violently. The multitude of stimuli that his brain desperately tried to process soon began tiring him out. The voice on his right and its demands for him to sleep became stronger, as did the urge to sleep. Tails’ eyes started to close as the promise of slumber became too great for him to ignore.

It was at that moment that the buzzing in his head intensified.

He no longer heard the trains, no longer smelt the pollution around, nor did he even feel the stonework beneath his knees. All he could feel now was constant pain erupting from his mind. Tails felt as though his skull was being split into two pieces.

The soothing voice from his right became overpowered by the constant ringing coupled by the second voice on his left yelling the same thing to him over and over:

FIGHT IT! FIGHT IT! WAKE UP!!!

And then, as though struck by lightning, Tails’ body seized up. He rose up from the ground onto his knees, his head was thrown back, his eyes went wide and his mouth opened in a scream he could hear in his head, though no sound came out. 

He felt himself collapse to the ground seconds later, breathing hard, laborious breaths through his dry mouth. The assault on his senses had finally ceased and when he opened his eyes, all he could see around him was white.

C’mon little buddy!” It was the second voice, the one he heard on his left. It spoke in a cheerful tone. “I’m proud of you for not going to sleep, but you still gotta get a hold of yourself! You’re not out of the woods yet!

Tails’ breathing slowed as he calmed down. He could still hear the ringing, but it was not as loud as before. 

Now, you gotta concentrate for me, OK?” The voice continued. Tails felt that he heard it somewhere before, but he couldn’t quite make out where. “Try to focus and rein in your senses, starting off with touch. Close your eyes and breathe in and out.”

Something about its tone made the fox want to trust in what it was saying. He shut his eyes and concentrated as instructed. He tried to feel the ground beneath him as a whole instead of the individual sensations. When he felt confident that he could no longer feel the textured fibers on his clothes, the worn soles of his boots and the individual strands of fur on his body, he then moved onto his hearing. He screwed his eyes tightly and constrained his enhanced auditory senses to hear his immediate surroundings only. Conversations in the far distance soon faded away and all he could hear was the steady, rhythmic breathing from his mouth.

Good, good,” the voice said, clearly pleased with the results. “Just take it slowly.

The fox then moved onto his sense of smell. He exhaled a breath through his mouth and then inhaled, forcing himself to take in the scents directly around him. A pungent odor nearby caused his nose to wrinkle. ‘The hell is that smell?’ he wondered. 

Tails got onto his hands and knees and crawled blindly until he hit a wall. Pushing himself into a sitting position, he slowly opened his eyes to see the source of the offending smell in front of him: a rusted, gray dumpster overflowing with trash. Keeping his eyes on that sight alone, he began training himself to ignore the minute details around his peripheral vision until all he could see was the bin in its entirety. Satisfied, he opened his eyes fully and slowly began to take in his surroundings.

He was sitting in what appeared to be an alleyway between two run-down buildings. ‘Definitely not in the wilderness anymore, I’m certain of that,’ Tails deduced, as he craned his neck around. To his left, at the mouth of the alleyway, he could see people mulling about their own business.

Well now,” the voice in his head commented flippantly, interrupting him. “I suppose you’ve calmed down enough. Now let’s start from the top: do you know who you are?

Tails’ head bobbed up and down as he mulled over the question. His mind, now unburdened, was blank and full of fog. His head wobbled in the same fashion for a few moments until an answer came to him. “Tails,” he replied in a whisper, his voice hoarse. 

Tails?” the entity spoke in his mind, amusedly. “Odd name, how did you get it?

The fox’s head continued moving up and down as he searched for an answer. He saw a word form through the static in his mind. “Nickname…” he replied softly. “It’s a nickname.”

I see,” the voice said. “So what’s your real name then?

Tails put the back of his head against the cool wall behind him as he thought deeply. Try as he might, he couldn’t seem to remember something so basic. He was drawing a blank. “…Forget?” he questioned, his brow furrowing in confusion. He thought he could hear a sigh from the intangible presence in his mind.

OK then, new tactic” it grumbled, clearly annoyed. “Do you at least know where you are?

Tails brought his head back to look upwards. He saw no sky above him, only a ceiling high above him made of metal. Pipes, plates and cables crisscrossed with the steel beams. Looking back to his left and through the alleyway he was in, he could see a pair of large, twenty-five foot tall bay doors in the distance. A security checkpoint, with guards either milling about or watching the citizens going about their own business, was situated in front of the doors. He could hear the sounds of a large engine from his right; a train, he surmised.  

Processing the information in his mind, the fox’s lips parted as he finally recognized where he was at last. “Megapolis,” he answered quietly.

Alright! Well done!” it said encouragingly. “Now, can you tell me how you got here?

Tails closed his eyes and rested his head again on his chest whilst racking his brain to figure out the reason why he was in the great city. With his senses under control, he found that he was able to think clearly. At once, the memories of the past began filling in. He started to remember that he left his hometown – Knothole – and came to Megapolis to become a SOLDIER… just like his hero.

Nazo.‘ Tails’ jaw tightened at the thought of that name. He clenched his fists and felt a burning sensation in the pit of his stomach as the image of the war hero came into his mind. His very presence radiated an otherworldly power unlike anything ever seen on the planet. Nazo was a hedgehog with pure silver fur and long spines on the back of his head that pointed upwards as opposed to sloping down. At over six feet tall – a height that towered over most Mobians – he was best described as a force of nature itself; an unstoppable being of near-godlike ability. He donned an unopened black overcoat overtop his muscular frame with ivory pauldrons adorning the shoulders. A pair of black leather pants, gloves and combat boots, completed the outfit. Tails could remember the cruel smile adorning the almost-silver coloured muzzle and the slitted eyes which glowed pale green. In his hand was the blade that made him legendary – a six foot long katana. Masamune, the fox recalled its fearsome name. 

Anger started to course through the fox’s body as the memories of a particular night came to him in vivid detail. He recalled that his first mission as a First Class SOLDIER was the joyous return to his hometown to investigate reports of Mutates coming down Mount Mobius. It was here that Nazo went insane and declared war on the world; his first act being the destruction of his home. He could feel the flames from that moment sear his arms and legs and his heart tightened in despair and hatred.

He remembered that he chased Nazo up to the Energen Reactor at the top of the mountain and how he faced off against him. But the memories after that moment became very hazy. Tails opened his eyes and stared down at his gloved palms. ‘I survived, didn’t I?‘ he thought, a slight smile on his face. ‘Somehow and in someway, I’ve survived destruction at the hands of a god… but why am I back in Megapolis?‘ 

He rested his head against the brick wall he was leaning against and his piercing eyes peered skyward. A loud klaxon went off without warning, causing the fox to wince from the sound. The alarm ceased and was then followed by the grinding noise of metal dragging against the flattened, packed earth. ‘Something’s opening up…’ Tails noted idly as he scanned the underside of the plate, testing the limits of his enhanced vision.

His eyes stopped at a bright red label on a large pipe that traveled transverse across the plate from left to right. Tails squinted to read the white lettering on the decal. It read: ‘Merc Pipes – a Subsidiary of Kintobor Inc.’

The fox tilted his head to the side as he reread the words. Something about them seemed familiar. As he glanced at ‘Merc’ for the fourth time, something started to form in the depths of his mind. The image of a word floating in a sea of fog.

…Mercenary…

“A mercenary?” he mumbled out loud, angling his head back down to the dumpster. His eyes widened suddenly as a revelation dawned on him.  ‘That’s right!‘ he thought, his body trembling with anticipation. ‘After I somehow survived that fight, I decided I had enough with Kintobor and Nazo. I would go back to the city and start a new life as a mercenary for hire. Big jobs, little jobs, anything for the right price!

There ya go, little buddy!” he heard the cheerful voice exclaim jubilantly. If Tails could see the entity’s face, he imagined it would be smiling. “Now that that’s been established; where do you go from here?

Tails’ look of jubilation quickly turned into a brooding frown. “Hm… Haven’t thought of that,” he muttered darkly.

Tell you what: why not take it easy for a bit?” the entity responded. Tails wasn’t sure where this voice was coming from – or if it was coming from himself. But, he realized, it was speaking the truth. He could use some rest.

The fox reclined back against the wall. For the first time since he entered the city, he felt satisfied, despite the terrible smell coming out of the large grey metal bin in front of him. Looking to the ground on his left, he spied his sword – the Buster Sword – lying close enough to reach with a hand. Lips curling slightly upwards, Tails leaned over, grasped the broad blade’s leather-bound hilt and held onto it tightly. Settling himself against the wall once more, he closed his eyes while keeping the rest of his senses on alert. 

He could still feel the entity’s mysterious presence, though it was diminished. “One last question,,” it said to the resting fox, its voice sounding far away. “What’s your name?” 

“…My name is Miles ‘Tails’ Prower,” he answered in a low, but powerful voice as he drifted off to sleep. “Former SOLDIER… First Class.”


“I have you now sugar!” 

Tails’ eyes snapped open as he heard someone cackling from his right. Pushing himself stiffly off the wall, he craned his head to see two individuals standing in the alleyway.

Standing at its mouth was a raccoon. Though the lighting from above was dim, Tails could make out his dirty grey and brown fur, his rumpled blue T-shirt and brown slacks that were a size too large for him. His pointed teeth were gleaming through a wide, lecherous grin on his muzzle and he licked his lips as though he was going to enjoy a tasty snack. The raccoon’s eyes gazed hungrily at the figure in front, who had its back turned to him. “Make this easy on yourself and don’t struggle, I promise I won’t hurt you,” he said gleefully as he inched forward slowly.

The second figure was a rabbit with cream-coloured fur. She had chocolate brown patches on the tips of her long ears and framing her soft almond shaped eyes, which were coloured in an amber-hazel shade. Her long ivory hair cascaded down to the small of her back and was tied off at the very bottom with a black elastic band. She had a petite nose, lush, full lips and an oval shaped face that was flawless. 

She wore a black, form-fitting overcoat that went down to her knees, exposing toned calves. On her hands were a pair of thick leather gloves and her feet were covered in sturdy, brown leather ankle boots. She was holding a large, heavy-looking brown paper bag filled with sundries.

As the raccoon approached, the woman set the grocery bag down beside her, with her back still facing her assailant. Tails watched as she collected herself and slowed her breathing. Her brows lowered into a scowl and her eyes hardened like steel. Tensing up her muscles, she waited. 

The lustful racoon growled and lunged forward, his arms outstretched and hoping to catch the rabbit off guard.

Instead, the rabbit quickly lifted her left knee and pivoted on her right foot, twisting her body at the same time. Using the momentum from the twist, she extended her left leg outward and executed a devastating reverse side kick. Her foot collided severely with the raccoon’s muzzle, breaking several of his teeth and his nose and sending him flying back to the alleyway entrance. The rabbit then faced her would-be assaulter, her hands up and feet placed in a traditional fighter’s stance.

The raccoon scrambled up to his feet and looked fearfully at the vicious being in front of him before fleeing from the alleyway, his pain-induced wimperings echoed through the narrow passage.  

Seeing that the pervert didn’t bring along any friends, the fighter relaxed and her arms dropped back to her sides. Looking down, she saw that the buttons of her tight jacket popped off, most likely during the spin. “Oh gosh, Jessie’s going to kill me,” she mumbled in a sweet tone that Tails recognised, sighing in frustration. “This was her favourite jacket-” 

Suddenly, she whirled around, her fists raised and her eyes scouring the area where Tails rested. It was as though she felt like she was being watched. “Who’s there?!” She called out, eyes narrowed and flicking to and fro. “Show yourself!”

Tails locked eyes with the rabbit as she edged forwards cautiously until she stood just in front of him. He saw that underneath the jacket, she wore a white, form-fitting tank-top that was cropped at her midriff. Going from her waist to just above her knees was a protective leather skirt, held up by black suspenders. What caught his eye was the long, thin white scar on her exposed, toned abdomen that crossed right to left diagonally from the bottom of her rib cage to just above her hip.

The sight triggered his memories and soon, the holes within them were filled with the image of the gorgeous rabbit standing in front of him. A rabbit that he finally recognized from his childhood…

“Cream Rabbelocke, we meet again,” he said to her softly.

The rabbit’s jaw dropped. Hastily fishing her hand down a pocket on the jacket she wore, she produced a small penlight. Clicking it on and shining it down on the figure in front, her lips broke out into an enormous grin. “Oh my Goddess, Miles Prower, is that really you!?” she cried out, half-shocked, half-jubilated. 

“Yep, it’s me alright,” he replied, smiling, his eyes squinting from the bright light.

Kneeling down, she placed the penlight on the ground and looked him over, concerned eyes roving over his body. “How long has it been since we last saw each other?” she asked in wonder.

Tails suddenly felt a sharp, stabbing pain on the side of his head. He placed a hand on his head, massaging it. “Well, it’s been…  five years since we last met,” he said.

The fighter’s grin disappeared and her lips parted slightly. “Uh, y-yeah… five year’s right? Time flies,” she replied, chuckling half-heartedly. “W-what have you been up to since then?”

“Well, a lot has happened,” Tails answered, not noticing the hesitation in her voice. “After Nazo went crazy during the mission at Knothole, I decided that I was done with Kintobor. So I left, traveled the world and now I’m back in the city as a mercenary for hire. Any job for the right price.”

Cream said nothing for a few moments, as she processed what he had told her. “Miles,” she spoke all of a sudden. “Do you have a place to stay?”

The fox jumped slightly, caught off guard. “No, I just got into the city. Why d’ya ask?” he questioned. 

“Well, I got my own place down here in Sector 7,” she said, a hand unconsciously stroking one of her long ears. “It’s a bar, I own it. If you want to, you can stay there for as long as you like.”

Tails grinned widely at this stroke of luck. “Really?” he said in awe. “You’d do that?”

“Yeah, of course,” she answered back, a tight smile crossing her lips. She suddenly looked away from him and Tails got the feeling that she was wrestling with something. “I-I can even get you a job too, y’know? There’s this group living in my bar right now that could use a mercenary like you.” 

“…Alright, let’s hear it,” the fox replied. Cream checked to see that no one else was around before drawing in close and speaking in hushed tones. She  backed away a few moments later, her fingers fidgeting and her eyes focusing on anything except the warrior resting on the wall. 

“Hmm, TORNADO huh?” Tails questioned, keeping his voice low after Cream finished explaining. He slowly began rising from his spot using the wall and his sword for support. “An anti-Kintobor organization… Sounds right up my alley. Sign me up for it.” He wrapped his tails around his waist tightly before placing the massive blade on the large magnetic disc on his back.

Cream cast a suspicious look at the weapon as though it had offended her in some way. Shaking her head, she collected the penlight, clicked it off and stood up. “Well then, come on Miles, follow me,” she said, going back to the bag she placed on the ground.

“Tails.”

“W-What?” the rabbit exclaimed, doing an about-face back to the swordsman.

“I go by ‘Tails’ these days,” the fox repeated. “Call me that from now on.”

Cream blinked. “Oh, OK then,” she replied, turning back and picking up the brown bag. She stood still for a few moments, her head bowed forward as though she was suddenly lost in thought.

Tails took a few tentative steps towards her. He was still not in the best of shape, but at least he could stand and walk. A few more days of rest and a decent meal or two would help. He could feel the knots in his empty stomach demand some form of sustenance. He stopped next to his friend. “Hey Cream, are we goin’ or not?” he asked.

Cream jumped, snapping back to reality. “Y-yeah!” she spluttered, a blush creeping up on her cheeks. “S-sorry, I just… I can’t believe you’re here…” Adjusting the bag in her arm, she quickly walked back to the main street. “Let’s go M-…  T-Tails,” she called back to him.

The two-tailed fox smirked softly to himself. ‘She’s changed,‘ he reflected, watching the brawling beauty in front of him. ‘But so have I, for that matter. We’re not who we used to be as kids after all…” Putting that thought aside, he followed her out of the alleyway, his movements sluggish, but steadily improving.

“Finally, things are looking up,” he whispered to himself, his lips curling upward as he followed his friend deeper into the slums.


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

Chapter 1: The Price of Freedom



The SOLDIER

A storm was coming.

It was an event that happened rarely in the wastelands surrounding the massive industrial city of Megapolis. Dark clouds intermingled with the ashen, grey-yellow smog emitted from the metropolis’ eight towering reactors and the haze quickly blocked out the sun. 

Whatever organisms that eked a living on the barren lands started to burrow underground or find cover around the large rock formations in anticipation of the tempest to come. Even the larger Mutates – those creatures horribly mutated by the radioactive runoff discharged from the city’s reactors – were forced to seek shelter once the first few claps of thunder erupted, shaking the earth itself. In spite of their primitive intelligence, their basic, bestial instincts sensed that something was amiss.

This storm was unlike any before it.

The threatening air did not stop the blue, anthropomorphic hedgehog from slowly trudging towards Megapolis. He had long, sharp quills coming out of the back of his round head which swept down his back. He wore a dark blue vest and long, baggy wool trousers, held up with thick, brown suspenders. A steel plate covered in worn, black leather was fastened to the top of the trousers to protect the abdominal area. On his left shoulder was a black, battle-scarred leather pauldron and his left hand was covered with a well-worn white glove, soiled and cracked from prolonged use. His right shoulder was covered with a steel, studded pauldron and his upper arm was covered in tarnished, plate armor. An ornate steel gauntlet with a gold band and a red gemstone adorned his forearm.  He wore deep red sneakers with a broad, white stripe crossing the top. Each stripe ended with a gold buckle on the outer side of each shoe. 

The suspenders were bound together on his back by a flat, circular metal disk. Attached to the disk was an enormous, gun-metal grey broadsword, five feet long, with a single, ten inch wide edge. The riveted hand guard was adorned by swirling, golden designs. The base of the blade by the hand guard had straight, angular etchings on either side. The sword had two holes bored into it, near the hand guard. Inserted into each hole were two, brilliant green gems, with a linkage connecting them together.

His clothes were riddled with holes and tears while the rest of his exposed body was covered in a litany of wounds and bruises that were slowly healing. The bottoms and the sides of his shoes were caked in a thin layer of dirt and blood. Wearisome as he was, he still pressed forward.

A sudden, cool breeze flowed through his quills and he stopped in place, his eyes closed as he relished the feeling of the wind behind him. He then felt a frenzied, restless urge coursing through his body all the way down to his legs. It was as if the wind gently pushing on his back was telling him to stop holding back and to let go of all inhibitions.

It was telling him to run.

Before he could act on this impulse though, he heard the crackling sound of thunder above him, followed by a weak moan coming from his left. His unnaturally glowing jade-green eyes turned away from the city looming in the distance and towards his companion, who he had wrapped his left arm around.

Supported by the hedgehog was a 21 year old orange-furred fox. He stumbled about on weakened legs and was unable to support his own weight. He was clothed in an exact replica of his protector’s uniform, with slight differences. The zipper on the vest was down slightly, revealing tufts of white fur underneath. He wore a steel studded pauldron on his left shoulder, which was identical to the one the hedgehog wore. On his wrists were brown and grey gloves and on his left arm, from wrist to three quarters up his forearm, was a studded armlet to use as a guard. He wore brown, standard-issue combat leather boots. On the base of his left ear was a piercing; a single, silver hoop. 

His body was thin and his pointed, white muzzle was gaunt and sunken. His ears lay flat and his nose was dry as he staggered forward, his friend coaxing him onward. His irises were coloured an unnatural, electric blue, similarly to the green that the blue warrior sported. Dragging on the lifeless earth behind him as he ambled were large, bushy twin tails. Beyond his general weakness, the fox was otherwise uninjured. He had no means to defend himself and was relying solely on the good graces of his friend to keep him safe.

Drool was slowly dripping out of his hung mouth and his eyes were staring unfocused on hard dirt beneath him. He let out another quiet moan as a second crack of thunder erupted from the sky. 

The hedgehog bent his head down to look at his friend, concern flooded his features. “You OK little buddy?” he asked softly, wiping the drool off of his lips. 

The fox only mewled in response, his grip on the hedgehog’s arm tightening.

The hedgehog didn’t know what to make of the answer. He shrugged and said cheerfully to the fox, attempting to change the subject, “Look over there! We’re almost at Megapolis! In another few miles, you and I will be safe and sound!” He chuckled to himself lightly. “Heh, heh… Miles. Get it? Cuz your name?”

The fox moaned again.

The warrior shook his head. “OK, I get it, it was a lame joke,” he chuckled. When he heard no further response from his companion, he let out a sigh. “Man, this trip did a number on you…” he mumbled under his breath.

As he trudged on with the fox in tow, the hedgehog barely repressed the frustrated and restless feeling he had inside him. If there was one thing he hated most of all, it was moving slowly. He desperately wanted to feel the wind rushing by him as he ran, but he knew that his usual, blistering pace would be too much for the two-tailed fox to handle. The warrior cursed at his annoyance. ‘I can’t be selfish,’ he thought as he half walked, half dragged his barely conscious companion through the darkening wastelands. ‘He needs my help to get better… After all, I dragged him into this mess in the first place.‘ 

His train of thought was broken as the rain started to fall in small, light droplets onto the duo. The hedgehog stopped to look upwards and frowned at the sky. “Well, this won’t do,” he muttered, looking around for shelter. 

He spotted a cave at the bottom of one of the ridges overlooking the city, straight and to the left of him slightly. “OK Tails,” he addressed the fox by name. “We’re gonna go to that cave over there and camp out til the rain stops,” he said, pointing towards the direction of the cave.

Tails said nothing at first, but then nodded imperceptibly in agreement. 

The hedgehog smiled as he led him to the cavern. “Don’t worry little buddy,” he said as he guided him. “You’ll be alright. We’ll get to the city, find a doctor to help you get better.” He paused, grunting as he started going up an incline on the way. “And then after that, we’ll be on our way to fame and fortune! All you have to do,” he continued as the rain started to pour harder, “is just hang on for a couple more hours, OK?” 

His pace started to slow as the ground beneath him became muddy and slippery, making it harder for the invalid Tails to gain any traction. The spiny swordsman gritted his teeth and summoned up more strength to continue onward, his sneakers starting to make squelching sounds in the mud with every step. 

Tails started to slip further, causing the hedgehog to stumble himself and nearly lose his footing in the process. Against the now pounding rain, he looked ahead to see that the cave was only a few hundred feet away from where he was. The rain started coming down in sheets now. Lightning arced and flashed across the sky wickedly. Thunder boomed loudly in the hedgehog hyper-sensitive ears, causing him to flinch at the sound. 

After a herculean effort, the pair made it to the cave. As they entered its mouth for shelter, the swordsman suddenly heard something besides the falling rain and thunder. Kneeling down and honing his senses, he soon picked out the hum of hover engines and the heavy boots of Humans and Mobians tromping on the wet ground over the din of the storm. He picked out the hoarse voices of officers directing soldiers and the squelching sound of tank treads rolling and bipedal mechanoids stepping on the ever-saturating soil. His ears shot up like arrows and his eyes widened, realizing what this all meant.

“Damnit, they found us…” he whispered to himself. He hoisted up Tails, using as much of his remaining strength he could muster to drag the catatonic Mobian deeper into the cave. He concealed him behind a boulder, propped him up into a seating position and then kneeled down to his level to speak.

“Listen Tails,” he said to the fox, a sad smile crossing his muzzle. “Kintobor’s army has found us and it doesn’t look like they’ll be taking us alive either.” An exasperated scoff escaped his lips and his eyebrows lowered into a scowl. “If I were a bettin’ hog, I’d say that that crazy bat-crab bastard at Kintobor had something to do with this.” He pinched the bridge between his eyes and then drew out the enormous sword from his back. Placed it on the ground beside him to inspect it, he continued talking. “I want you to stay here and be safe. I’ll draw them away from here and hopefully catch ‘em by surprise at the same time.” He paused and then turned his head to the catatonic fox, whose eyes were misted over with confusion. 

The warrior placed a hand on the fox’s shoulder and the corners of his mouth turned upwards once more. “Hey, I made a promise to you, Miles ‘Tails’ Prower,” he said in a warm, caring tone. “I promised that I would get you to the city and help find a way to fix whatever the hell they did to you. Before we get there though, I gotta go take care of these losers first.” His smile grew into a grin as he stood up, placed the blade on the disk on its back and turned towards the mouth of the cave. “Hope they’re fast enough to catch me!” the warrior said cheerfully as he stretched and warmed up.  “Honestly, I could use a bit of a challenge right now.”

The bravado he portrayed belied the uncertain feeling he had in the pit of his stomach. As the storm began to lighten slightly, the sounds of the machines and of boots trampling the ground became more pronounced. The hedgehog ceased his stretching. ‘Oh boy…’ the swordsman mused, his ears flattening as he listened on. ‘That’s a LOT of soldiers and mechs out there… and they’re all out for little ole’ us.’ He twisted his body back to the fox slumped on the ground, his head bowed to his chest. A sickening thought then crossed his mind; he could leave him there and run off. What made him feel worse was that he was considering it.

The warrior shook his head violently and pushed that thought away as far as he could. He would not abandon his friend, not after all he had done to keep him safe. ‘No more running,‘ he thought. ‘It’s time to end this, once and for all.” 

Waving farewell to the twin-tailed fox, the hedgehog turned back and strode out of the cave to face the crowds of soldiers, vehicles and mechs that awaited him. Outside, he bent down into a runner’ starting position, tensed up and then shot off like a bullet in a flash of steel and blue fur through the rocky outcroppings. 

He zipped up to the top of a tall spire that overlooked the area. Keeping low to the ground so that he wouldn’t be detected, he scanned the horizon. From a few hundred feet away, he saw soldiers by the droves marching towards the ridge where Tails hid, each sporting coloured uniforms to denote their rank and status. Blue uniforms for grunts, green for platoon leaders, grey for sergeants and red for the higher ups. They were flanked by tanks and ‘Sweepers’: bipedal machines with large spikes for feet, high-caliber machine guns for arms and small anti-personnel missiles hidden inside the elongated, rectangular body that was parallel to the ground. Attached to the back of the machines was a large motor that exuded greyish-yellow exhaust fumes. The ‘face’ of these machines consisted of a large intake grill with vertical slats of metal that opened and closed to make a frightening visage. The hedgehog squinted his eyes and saw, with remarkably enhanced vision, a model number etched into the burnished metal on the robot’s side: E-25. 

He angled his head to the dark grey skies and saw several egg-shaped transporters above the soldiers, each held aloft with hover engines on either side of its body. On the undersides of each transporter were a pair of large, six barrel rotary machine guns along with a searchlight that roved the ground below, the drizzling rainfall disclosing their location in the air. “Huh, they must be desperate if they’re bringing SkyTrans carriers into the fray,” the hedgehog muttered to himself, frowning at the sight.

He scanned the area between them and located a spot of flat, open earth on another ridge that overlooked the city. It was close to where he hid Tails but far enough that the army wouldn’t circle back and look for him. ‘Looks large enough that I can go to town on anyone who approaches, but small enough that I wouldn’t be completely overwhelmed,” he thought to himself as he scrutinized the plain. ‘Looking at this closely, if I play my cards right, I might actually stand a chance here?’ 

Deep in the pit of his stomach however, he didn’t believe that for a second.

The hedgehog stood up, drew his sword and held it with the gauntlet-covered arm. He took several deep breaths to ready himself. Then he flung himself off of the spire, slid down to the surface and then, with a sonic boom, dashed off to the top of the ridge. The shockwave ensured that he left a trail distinct enough for the army to notice. Without fail, the searchlights on the SkyTranses above picked the speeding hedgehog out and the soldiers and mechs began to give chase. 

The warrior soon reached the ridge and halted right at its edge, followed closely behind by the army. Soldiers lined up, cocked their machine guns and took aim. The Sweepers, tanks and SkyTranses followed suit and pointed weaponry of all sorts at the lone figure.

“You are surrounded!,” the hedgehog heard a grunt shout out. “Turn yourself and the other subject over, or face destruction at the hands of the Kintobor Army!”

“Boy, oh boy,” the warrior said to himself as he smiled and shook his head. “The price of freedom is steep.” He closed his eyes and tightened his grip on the sword, just as the storm above began to gain strength once more. Lightning shot through the sky, illuminating everything for brief moments while thunder erupted, making it sound like the Goddess above was demanding that the bloodbath be started. The sky opened up and the heavy raindrops began splattering loudly on the helmets and metal bodies that surrounded him. 

Live with no regrets. Believe in yourself. And chase after the impossible,’ the hedgehog mentally recited to himself, a habit he picked up over the years. He then scoffed at the thought of the imposing army in front of him. ‘Yeah, this is definitely an impossible situation… But things like this never stopped me before. And ‘sides… I got something to fight for…

And then the warrior opened his eyes, which shined with an unholy light. A golden aura started to radiate from his body and tiny silver bolts of electricity crackled around him, mimicking the tempest above. His quills rose upward and he felt as though his entire body was supercharged for battle.

“Hey, assholes!” he yelled out for all to hear over the sounds of the strengthening tempest above. “I made a promise to somebody very important to me! And you guys should know that a SOLDIER’s word is his bond!”

And, as the last word was spoken, the self-declared SOLDIER threw his sword into the air and curled up into a ball, as any hedgehog would do in the face of danger.

The grunts were bewildered at the move, dropping their guard involuntarily. The general in one of the SkyTrans vehicles above who ordered his surrender actually smiled, thinking that he decided to give up. His face fell when he saw the curled up rodent rapidly spinning in place on the ground. The hedgehog became nothing more than a gold-tinted blue, blurring ball with tiny, silver bolts of lightning arcing around him. The sword thrown into the air lazily reached the apex of its arc and started falling, gravity bringing the mass of metal hurtling to the land.

Just when the sword was about twenty feet from the ground, the hedgehog launched himself, the momentum of his spin dash throwing him forward. He pushed off of the surface and launched himself into the air like a rubber ball hitting the floor, right into the path of his own weapon. He then untucked his right arm and grabbed the sword at the hilt, while maintaining his supersonic rotation. This had the effect of turning the warrior into a spinning buzz saw of death as he flew forwards into the soldiers that were gawking at the sight. 

He struck at the same moment a lightning bolt cracked across the sky. The spinning attack mowed down an entire unit and sent body parts flying in all directions. He uncurled and jumped straight into the next horde, swinging the massive sword, cutting soldiers and mechs indiscriminately and pushing his battle-scarred body to its limits. The aura surrounding him ceased to disappear and instead glowed more intensely as he launched more spinning attacks, one after another. 

Flesh, bone, sinew and machinery flew as the hedgehog fought on. The relentless assault from the opposing army dwindled his strength, slowly, but surely. Pushing himself beyond his limits was a gamble, but he had already admitted to himself back at the spire that he was in a losing fight. Amidst the orders being shouted out loudly, the hedgehog’s focus was on the battle at hand, with his prime objective being to take out anything and everything within his reach and to keep fighting on and on until either they gave up and left or he fell. 

Soon enough, he was barely able to hold the sword upright, but he willed himself to keep fighting. He hacked as bullets entered his body. He slashed even as explosions tore holes in his legs. He couldn’t stop. He wouldn’t stop.

He was going to protect that two-tailed fox who was like a little brother to him.

Even if it killed him.


Tails

Tails awoke alone in an unknown place with a severe throbbing sensation stabbing his head. 

Groaning and rubbing his eyes in the darkness, he groped around his surroundings. His hands eventually patted against the rock he was leaning against and he deduced he was in some sort of rocky cospe. He could not for the life of him remember how he ended up in that small nook with his back against a boulder in Goddess-knew where. However, he did recall a voice speaking to him, telling him to stay here while they dealt with something.

His headache suddenly intensified at the thought. Flashes of memories, from happy to grisly and everything in between, swept through his mind at a speed too fast to process. He turned his head and rested his cheek against the cool rock, his teeth gritted in pain as he was being bombarded with various mental images. He felt like a computer being booted up after a long time being shut down.

The pain subsided after a few minutes, to his great relief. His face still against the rock, Tails opened an eye and caught a glimpse of light coming from the mouth of the cave. Startled, he tried standing up, only to stumble and fall flat on his face. Cursing softly underneath his breath, he forced himself onto his hands and knees and crawled out of the cavern and into the open badlands.

The first thing he noticed was the light rain that was drizzling down to the wet and muddied surface. Above him, faint rays of sunlight started to peer through storm clouds that began to clear up. Blinking from the contrast between darkness and light, he placed a hand on the muddied ground and leaned against the cave opening as he waited for his eyesight to adjust. 

And then suddenly, it sharpened. Everything around him started to come into greater detail. He could pick out the minute cracks in a rock formation several thousand feet away. He could see the tiny organisms crawling around a moss-filled boulder across from him through his peripheral vision. Colours and shapes, both known and unknown, were vividly pouring into his eyes and his mind nearly overloaded while attempting to process all the information.

When he found himself able to manage his vision, the two-tailed fox was then bombarded with the smell of the clearing rain and the putrid breaths of Mutates lurking in their hideaways, followed by the scent of gunpowder and the strong, coppery odor of blood. This particular stench was greatest at the top of a nearby ridge. Tails turned his head towards it and perked his ears up in reflex.

As soon as he did this, he was able to hear creatures emerge from their burrows yards away from his current position. He could hear various animalistic and ambient sounds with extreme clarity. He then picked up the sound of feather-light breathing and a barely heard moan. Focusing on that particular noise only, the fox gritted his teeth and went to his hands and knees, crawling up the ridge.

As he reached the summit, Tails felt his muscles grow stronger, little by little as he moved closer to the scent. He now stood upright and stumbled slowly to the top where the smell of blood was overwhelming.

The outcropping of rock was stained red and dotted with blobs of shimmering gold and silver liquid. Tanks, hover transports and pieces of bipedal mechaniloids were scattered along the ridge with black-charred marks riddled all over their lifeless husks. Tails saw the dessicated bodies of soldiers – both Mobian and Human –  lying on the wet earth with bronze bullet casings draped over their whole or dismembered bodies like garlands of flowers. The remains of a hover transport – a SkyTrans, Tails recalled – was teetering on the edge of the cliff. 

Tails shivered at the sight of the macabre scene. His eyes roved around before landing on the only body barely left breathing; a mangled blue hedgehog whose life force was streaming endlessly through a large hole blown into his chest, a hand clutched in a bone-breaking grip around the hilt of an impossibly massive sword. The fox recognized the uniform he wore as a standard-issue SOLDIER outfit. His shimmering jade-green eyes were starting to fade. 

The fox’s eyes widened at the sight and raced over to the body. In his haste, he stumbled over a dead body and slid on the bloody mud until he came to a stop. He crawled the rest of the way to the hedgehog’s side, his left cheek and face slathered with reddish-brown mud and gasping for breath. He searched the SOLDIER’s body in an effort to save him, but he realized it was a fool’s errand. He was too far gone.

The hedgehog chuckled upon seeing the fox before coughing up blood. He took several shallow breaths before he spoke. “For the… both of us…”

The fox blinked, processing what he heard. “The both of us?” he murmured, puzzled.

“Yep… that’s right,” the hedgehog replied, wheezing. Struggling, he raised his arm and placed it behind Tails’ head. “You gotta… You gotta…” 

“Live.”

The warrior embraced the fox at the last word, his hand dropping back into the mud a moment later. Tails rose up, the hedgehog’s blood mixed in with the mud caked on his face, and nodded in acknowledgement. 

Satisfied, the SOLDIER then raised the hilt of the sword up, his right arm shaking with the effort. “Take… the Buster Sword…” he said, offering it to the two-tailed fox. “Keep going… Keep flying high… For my sake and… for yours as well…”

“Believe in yourself… Cuz I’ve always believed in you… Little buddy…”

Tails took the sword at the end of the hilt with both hands. It was still warm. To his surprise, he found the weapon to be lighter than he thought it would be, despite its size. He looked down at it and then to its owner. Suddenly, like water bursting through a dam, the memories of the SOLDIER washed over him in a flash. He saw the battles, the laughter, the tears and the hardships that bonded them together. The fox felt a vice-like grip squeezing his heart as he finally remembered who the blue hedgehog was.

“I will… Sonic,” he said thickly through gritted teeth, addressing the SOLDIER by name for the first time as he gripped the hilt of the Buster Sword tightly in his hands.

Satisfied, Sonic then took his right hand off the hilt and it too, joined his left on the wet ground. His breathing started to slow as his mouth opened a last time, saying one final thing that Tails almost didn’t hear:

“Take… care…”

He smiled one last time, his eyes glazing over as he passed away.

Tails watched on as the SOLDIER died. On seeing the glassy look in the hedgehog’s eyes, he felt the flames of rage and anger roil around in the pit of his stomach. He was angered that this SOLDIER died for him. And enraged at the faceless enemy who was responsible for the act.  

Kintobor Inc. 

He suddenly tilted his head back and screamed, loud and long as the rain continued to fall on his face. His screams tapered off as his throat became raw and his breathing ragged. Choking back sobs, Tails looked again at the dead hedgehog and though his face was frozen in a smile, he could still hear his voice in his mind…

“Tails, don’t stand still and waste time waiting for something to happen. If you want something really badly, you gotta move forward and chase after it, even if it’s impossible. It’s the only way to live without regret.”

The fox let the words wash over him as he looked towards the city on the horizon. He made the decision to move forward and finish the journey for the both of them. He got up, using the Buster Sword as a support and looked back to Sonic for what would be the final time.

“Thank you,” he softly said to his still body. “I won’t forget. Adios, Sonic the Hedgehog.”

He walked away from his deceased friend, never looking back as he did so.


The Legend of Zelda: Black and White – Part III

Welcome again to another installment of The Legend of Zelda: Black and White.

If you’ve missed the first two installments, you can check them out here:

Last time, Link and Midna discussed about the mysterious Sheik on their way back to the castle, and his supposed discovery of an ancient temple that may hold the key to Hyrule’s victory in the war against Ganondorf.

Sheik instructed Link to see him the following night to go over the full plan in more detail.  Before Link can think about meeting the Sheikah again, he needs permission from the Queen to take extended leave to pursue this quest. And so, he resolves to speak with his childhood friend in the morning, hoping to convince her that this mad scheme could be for Hyrule’s benefit…


Part III: The Queen

I awoke abruptly as one of Zelda’s attendants entered my chambers, opening the curtains to let the morning light in. She proceeded to drop off a basin filled with fresh, warm water and my cleaned chamber pot as I rose out of bed, groggy and exhausted.

I had slept fitfully, my mind racing about the Sheikah I met last night at Telma’s and the conversation I had with Midna afterwards. I knew, deep down that I had to see this ‘Sheik’ again tonight. He held a stick, dangled a carrot in front of me and I wanted it. I wanted to know more about this plan of his, what it entails and to determine if he’s on the up and up or if he’s as shady as Sakon the Thief. To do that, I’d have to convince the Queen and the Council to let me take a break. And honestly, I could use one… I’m still exhausted from the dismal mission I’ve just returned from.

On that note, I turned wearily to the attendant. “Hey, can I get an audience with Her Majesty before the council meeting today? I have updates to share with her regarding the war effort on the front lines.” And to boldly ask her for permission to solve a mystery that may save us all.

The attendant smiled at me. “Ah, what perfect timing Sir Link,” she said to me. “I was instructed to inform you that the Queen has requested an audience with you before today’s war council meeting.” She let out a girlish peal of giggles upon seeing my eyebrows shoot straight upward. “She is already in the audience chamber waiting for you, I will let her know that you will be seeing her shortly.” After delivering the message and shooting one last smile, the attendant left as quietly as she came in.

I sighed, a small smile creeping on my face. Goddess Hylia must be on my side today. I had hoped that this good fortune would mean that the Queen and I would be on the same page once I tell her about last night.

With that, I rose out of bed to get ready. After washing my face, I put on a fresh tunic, strapped the Master Sword and my shield on my back and adjusted my hat. Leaving my room, I headed for the Queen’s audience chamber. It was on the way to the small meeting room where we held the war council.

As I rounded the corner, I picked up the snippets of hushed conversation between two of the castle’s waitstaff. Pressing against the wall, I listened in.

“… you know she was not in her chambers last night? I had slipped in to drop some documents for Her Majesty when I saw that the sheets were not even disturbed,” one of them said.

“Oh yes,” the other one said in a heavy accent. Ordonian. “I saw her in th’ gardens as I was on my way to th’ kitchens to fetch something fer Master Rauru. She looked so forlorn, sitting there on th’ bench,” I heard her let out a tut in what I assume was out of genuine concern. “Oh that poor girl.”

“Hm yes,” the first maid replied, agreeing. “Even though she’s been queen for the last three years, her inexperience still shows… You’d think she would have had more time and opportunity to prepare for the role, but it seems that the Goddess Hylia had other plans, I suppose.”

At that point, I had heard enough. I strode out from the corner I was hiding out of. “Morning ladies, is Her Majesty in?” I asked, a little bite in my voice.

The two biddies separated faster than a pack of Kesse after shooting an arrow at them. “Y-yes Sir Link, she should be ready to see you now,” the first maid stuttered out, flustered at my sudden appearance.

Moving past them without a second glance, I entered the audience chamber. It was a warm and decorative space designed to make visitors feel comfortable. There were a set of cushy chairs in the centre of the room with a small table in between them. On my left was a refreshment table, on which a tray with a warm pot of tea and some cups and saucers lay on top. On my right was a large window providing a stunning view of Castle Town and the surrounding countryside, all illuminated with the orange glow of the morning sun.

Sitting in one of the chairs in straight-backed, regal manner and daintily sipping tea was the Queen of Hyrule and my best friend growing up: Zelda.

She had straight, honey-blond hair with bangs framing her porcelain oval face, a petite nose and piercing, violet-blue eyes that sparkled in the morning light shining through the window. That same morning light highlighted her radiant and flawless alabaster skin. She was wearing her favourite violet and lavender gown this morning with white gloves over her delicate hands. Her crown, a simple, silver band with some ornate designs and a few gemstones, rested on her head. As simple as it was, it suited her perfectly.

A smile graced her lips as I entered, the first I’ve seen on her since I left several nights ago. She was beautiful.

“Morning Your Highness,” I said to her, grinning. “Dressed for a special occasion today?”

She arched an exquisitely shaped eyebrow at me. “Whatever are you talking about Link?” she asked.

“Well, you only wear that dress for one of two reasons,” I said. “Either you’re setting yourself up to make a tragic announcement-”

Her eyes suddenly narrowed. I think I touched a nerve.

Quickly, I continued. “Or, you’re in a good mood today.”

Despite glaring daggers at me, Zelda let out a giggle. “Of course I am, you’re back after all,” she said to me. “And you will be happy to know I do have an announcement to share at the meeting today: I will be revoking your title as Hero of Hyrule-”

“Woah, wait what?!” Now, THAT touched a nerve. She wasn’t finished yet though, her polite smile transformed into a devilish grin, not unlike that of Midna’s.

“-On the grounds that you have an atrocious sense of fashion. I mean, honestly,” she gestured to the hat on my head. “Who wears a floppy green hat?” She made a noise of disgust.

I chuckled, realizing that she was only kidding around. Zelda may look quiet and reserved, but she’s a lot like Midna; feisty when agitated and quick to respond with a witty retort, usually at my expense. “Hey, give it some time, it’s an upcoming trend,” I said, crossing my arms. “All of Castle Town will be wearing floppy hats soon enough, I guarantee it!”

Zelda smirked, her nose scrunching up cutely. I wonder if she even knows that she does that? “Well then, maybe you should change your profession to fashion trendsetter, seeing as you’ll be officially retired from hero duties?”

“Yeah, wouldn’t that be nice. Link: the former hero-turned-clothier,” I snarked. “Please.”

“Do not roll your eyes at your Queen,” she said, testily. Hm, I thought I could resist that urge; eye-rolling is one of her biggest pet peeves. “I can have you exiled for that.”

She and I both knew that she’d never do that. She liked me too much.

I took the seat in front of her and slouched forward, my arms resting on my legs. I saw Zelda bite her lip, resisting the urge to correct me for the hundredth time about my poor posture. I honestly did it both to annoy her and to cheer her up. Damned if she needed some right now.

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, all good things come to an end. After some time, Zelda placed the cup and saucer on the table in front of her and her eyes morphed from playful to serious.  “Your report, Sir Link,” she ordered, her voice level and measured.

I sat up straight – one tends to correct their posture when delivering bad news – and let her know what happened a few nights ago. How our guerrilla party tried to infiltrate one of Ganondorf’s largest camps to put a dent in his invasion force. How they were ready for us, ambushing our group the moment we entered their perimeter. And finally, how they brought out a new weapon that made us retreat, our tails between our legs.

“…I can’t explain it, Your Highness,” I said to Zelda shaking my head. “One of Zant’s followers from Twilight had this device that shot this… bolt at Barnes. The moment it hit him, he started to change, morphing into this horrific beast of darkness. It was then that I made the call to retreat. We all split up so we all wouldn’t be captured.” I sighed deeply. “That’s why I returned alone last night, separate from the other troops.” That, and I needed a stiff drink after barely escaping that fiasco.

Zelda placed a hand on her forehead, massaging the temples with her thumb and index finger. “Link, this is the third failed raid in this month alone,” she said. “And now, it seems that the country’s enemies have a new weapon at their disposal. Based on this, I cannot approve of any more of the council’s raids – I will have to veto the next one.”

I’ll admit, I lit up when she said that. The raids were totally ineffective and I would be glad to never do one of those again. I held my tongue though as she wasn’t finished yet.

“But this presents an even greater problem,” she continued, looking directly at me, her brows creased in worry. “With this new development, there is likely nothing to stop Ganondorf from invading the castle. With little options available to us and more bloodshed expected soon… I may have to consider the possibility of surren-”

“No.” I cut her off. One normally doesn’t cut off royalty, but now was the perfect time to. “I’m sorry to interrupt, Your Highness, but we do have another option available to us,” I said.

And so I proceeded to tell her about last night, the meeting with Sheik, his discovery of the ancient ruins where powerful artifacts may be housed in and the keys required to open the sealed door. The more I spoke, the more I could see the gears turning in Zelda’s head, her mind going over the details, the logistics and the optics. Finally, I stopped speaking and waited for her to process everything.

The wait seemed to go on for hours and the longer the time stretched, the more Zelda’s brows furrowed. I was half convinced that she would call me crazy and disregard the whole thing as a hoax to get her spirits up.

But then she said something that I didn’t expect.

“Let us do this,” she told me, picking up her cup and saucer, taking a sip from the now lukewarm tea and then placing it back on the table. “It is an asinine plan, one built on the unlikely chance that there is anything that we could use to win this war and it is not guaranteed that whatever we find in this shrine will be useful, but…” she sighed, her eyes filled with desperation and a glimmer of hope. “It is likely the best and only chance we have to save our kingdom.”

My eyebrows rose so much they might as well have been stuck like that. “Y-you’re sure, Zel?” I asked her stupidly, still in shock about her decision. I flinched as she gave me the most severe look I’ve ever seen. And boy, have I seen plenty.

“I am sure!” she replied forcefully, the calm veneer of royalty dropping. “I will not be the Queen that allows that tyrant Ganondorf to take over this kingdom! So, yes Link, we are doing this!”

She heaved as her body shook with barely repressed rage, her shoulders bunched up and hands balled into fists tightly against her body. Slowly, her breathing settled, her body relaxed and the calm, neutral expression required of the crown returned.

I however, sat in shock. In all the years I’ve known her, I’ve never seen her this angry. Maybe the fact that she had ascend to the throne following her father’s death, coupled with the war that broke out immediately after has finally taken a toll on her? Or maybe, this ongoing war and our countless losses were finally starting to get to her? Either way, I was starting to get worried for her. I wanted to reach out to her, hold her and tell her sweet nothings, to let her know that things will be OK, so long as we were together. I wanted to tell her how I felt about her, after years of repressing them due to our differences in rank and status.

I wanted to tell her how much I loved her.

I held my tongue however. Now was not the time to express my desires. It was time for action. Romance could follow afterward.

A knock on the door broke my current train of thoughts. A maid entered and curtsied to the queen. “Your Highness, the council is ready for you and Sir Link,” she said.

Zelda nodded. “We will be there shortly,” she responded. “Tell them to give us a few more moments.” The maid bowed and left the room to relay the message. After she left, the Queen turned to me.

“Link, who else is aware of this ‘Sheik’ individual?” she asked.

“Just Midna,” I said. “She was working the bar yesterday when he talked to me. I also told her the whole story.”

Zelda nodded. “Good, let us keep it between the three of us,” she said. “I do not want to bring false hope to the council. Now, you said Sheik wanted you to meet him tonight?” She tapped her chin in thought. “I also surmise that this quest will require some travelling around the kingdom?”

“Yep, to both things,” I said.  “So I’ll need an excuse not to do any missions during that time.”

“Yes, that is true,” Zelda said, frowning. A sudden, sly smirk crossed her face shortly afterward. “And I think I may have the perfect cover story to allow you to partake in this quest.” She rose from her seat, straightening out her gown.

“Come, Sir Link,” she said regally. “Let us go and address the council.”


Disclaimer: Hey! Listen! I don’t own the characters and setting in this story, they are owned by Nintendo!

The Legend of Zelda: Black and White – Part II

Good evening and welcome back to another installment of The Legend of Zelda: Black and White. We last left our hero, Link, meeting a strange, hooded man in Telma’s bar after a long and fruitless mission in the ongoing war between the Hylian Royal Family and the combined forces of Ganondorf and Zant. This man seems to have some information that could turn the tides and ensure victory in the kingdom’s favour.

Naturally, Link is wary of this man’s intentions, but the promise of a victorious end to a losing war is far too tempting to pass up… And so, Link makes the decision to hear him out. Is this a choice that could save Hyrule? Or, is it one that he may come to regret later on? Grab a mug and settle in dear readers for Part II. And remember:

Not everything is as Black and White as it seems…


Part II: The Walk Under Moonlight

What started with me going to the bar for a drink or two and some light conversation with Midna after a long, rough day of battle, turned into a lengthy talk with a hooded man who introduced himself as Sheik. He had just left the bar when Telma started to round up her regulars and send them on their way home. I hadn’t realized it was closing time.

As Midna was wiping down the bar counter, she sidled up to me. “Link, who was that guy? You know him from somewhere?” she whispered.

I downed my last drink of the night and relished the bitter aftertaste. ” I don’t know. I never met him until today,” I said, cocking an eyebrow at her. “You didn’t serve him?”

“No, Telma did,” she said, shaking her head. She then narrowed her eyes and gave me a flat stare. “So, you gonna tell me what’s going on, or not?”

She can be really demanding at times. I dropped my voice down, not wanting to be overheard. “That hooded guy? He’s Sheikah.”

Her eyes widened to the size of saucers. I guess she was more than a little shocked at that development. “Sheikah?!” she hissed, trying her best to keep her voice low. “I thought that the design on his trim looked familiar – standard Sheikan fair for sure. But weren’t they…” Here she noticed Telma drawing closer to the bar, so she leaned closer to me and dropped her voice back down to a whisper. “Weren’t they all wiped out by Ganon’s forces when the war began three years ago?”

Like I said before; Midna’s a shrewd one. “Yeah, that’s what I said to him too,” I told her. “He says he didn’t get them all, though.” I noticed Telma giving Midna a look that said ‘Back. To. Work.’

“Telma’s onto you, Mid. You better get back to closing up,” I said, gesturing to the owner. “We can talk more on the way back to the castle.”

Midna let another impish smirk cross her lips as she moved away to close shop. I honestly can say that she’s the only woman in Hyrule that can pull off that devilish look of mischief and still look gorgeous. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I stood up, buckled up my gear and bundled my cloak in hand. From the window nearby, I saw that the rain had died down and the skies were starting to clear. There was a half moon poking out from holes in the clouds, its pale light shining down on the streets below. The sparse light would make do for us to get back to the castle, I suppose.

I chatted with Telma for a bit and tried to wheedle some more info out of her on the mysterious Sheikah, but she knew exactly what I knew; nothing. He was here in one of the corner booths about an hour before I showed up when she served him. I already knew it was no coincidence; he was clearly waiting for me and wanted to tell me of his wild and crazy propositions to end this war…

A tug on my arm broke my train of thought. “Alright Link, let’s go,” Midna said to me, wearing a thick, black cloak to ward off the damp and chilly night air.

We bade Telma farewell and headed out into the alleyway. After reaching the main street, we turned right and set off northward, side by side. With the moonlight illuminating our path, I started talking at that point. Told her how he was waiting to talk with me, how he and a bunch of other survivors of the Sheikah race recently discovered an ancient temple that may possess a powerful weapon within. It’s sealed with a complicated lock that requires both an old Sheikah artifact and the Master Sword to open. He knows where the artifact may be located, but he needs my help for the second part, seeing that I’m the guy who pulled the sword out of its pedestal a few days after the war started. I didn’t know his angle, but he was fully convinced that I would be the perfect guy for this job.

“If you’re interested in learning more… Meet with me again tonight, in the alleyway in front of this establishment.” he told me before he left. “I’ll lead you to somewhere more private where we can continue our conversation…”

“This sounds like a huge gamble,” Midna said, breaking my train of thought. “There’s no guarantee that there’s something in that temple that will help our side, Link. Are you sure you want to do this?”

I stopped in my tracks and gave Mid a wistful look. She turned to face me, startled at my sudden halt. “Midna, let’s be honest: we’re on the brink of defeat,” I told her. “Ganondorf has our number, no thanks to Zant and I don’t want to lose. I can’t lose.” I spread my arms wide. “Hyrule is my home. I do not want to see it in the hands of a mad tyrant, so I’m gonna do it. I’ll go along with this crazy plan, open that temple and find out what’s inside it, gamble or no. I’ll do whatever it takes to protect my home.”

Midna smiled, but was different; it was more somber than her usual cheeky flair. “He’s right,” she said to me, softly. “You are a true patriot to your home.” Her eyes shimmered in the low moonlight. “This place has become my home as well, over these last few years… I don’t want it lost either, you know?”

I didn’t say anything. I didn’t need to, really; she said everything that needed to be said right there. I just nodded in agreement and we continued on our way.

We arrived at the castle shortly after and entered through the main hall. After climbing up the grand stairwell, we said goodnight and went our separate ways; she going up to the guest chambers while I headed for my own on the other side of the castle.

When I entered my room, a thought struck me: I had to tell Zelda about these events and convince her not to have the council send me on another pointless mission. I resisted the urge to groan loudly; the last thing the war effort needs now is another raiding party for Twili technology. I barely escaped by the skin of my teeth when we were discovered on the last mission…

Although… If what Sheik says is true, then we can kiss these fruitless raiding parties good bye once and for all. Hence, why Zel needs to know what’s going on.

Resolving to talk to her in the morning, I stripped off my clothes and gear and flopped on the hard surface that I call a bed. And as darkness crept up on me, I felt hopeful that things would turn around for the better.

I’d learn soon enough that things were going to be far worse than I could’ve ever imagined…


That sounds ominous… What do you think that means? If you’re curious to know, stay tuned to find out!

Disclaimer: Hey! Listen! I don’t own the characters and setting in this story, they are owned by Nintendo!

The Legend of Zelda: Black and White – Part I

Welcome to the first installment of The Legend of Zelda: Black and White! Inspired by the latest TWRM Mix, this was a sudden, crazy brainchild of mine that I started to flesh out as I was listening to it.

This story takes place in a time when Hyrule was embroiled in a bloody war between the Hylian Royal Family and Ganondorf, who yearns to conquer the land for himself. Ganondorf had joined forces with Zant, a resident of Twilight who overthrew and murdered the Twili Royal Family, save for the last living heir who escaped to Hyrule.

Combining his vast armies with Twili technology, Ganondorf and Zant have pushed the Royal Family’s armies to the brink in the span of three years. Queen Zelda and her war council have tried to stymie the damage as much as they could with the help of the Hero Chosen by the Master Sword, Link, but he is only one man against an seemingly unstoppable force. Despite his valiant efforts, Hyrule’s losses only continue to grow and Link has become disillusioned, convinced that they are only delaying the inevitable.

A chance encounter with an enigmatic individual may change all of that with the promise of a swift end to this war. However, Link will soon learn that not everything is as Black and White as it seems…

I hope you enjoy this with coffee in hand, dear readers!


Part I: The Meeting

The cloud-filled night sky started to open up just as I entered Castle Town. It must have been past midnight when I finally got back as the town was pitch black, save for the few lanterns that barely lit up the cobbled streets. That’ll change once it comes down harder; the lights being snuffed out in the same way my blade snuffs the life out of an unsuspecting Moblin. Heck, I could even smell the acrid scent of ozone in the air. It meant lightning was coming and frankly, nobody would be crazy enough to be out here anyway, unless they were comfortable with flirting with electrocution. Then again, with my shield and the Master Sword thumping on the back as I trudged through the streets, I’m basically a walking lightning rod.

Strangely, death from above wasn’t weighing too hard on my mind. Rather, I was doggone tired and in need of a stiff drink. I was covered in blood and sweat and Goddess knows what else thanks to the latest mission that Zelda put me through. Or rather, that the council put me through. If it was Zelda’s choice, she would have told me to stay by her side, but when you’re the best weapon Hyrule has in a dirty war against Ganondorf with the fate of the land at stake, personal choices have to be put aside. She knew that. I knew that too. But I was still angry about that fact.

Pulling my cloak tighter to ward off the cold rain that was starting to intensify, I popped into a dive named Telma’s, just a ways down a sketchy alleyway that sometimes smelled of raw sewage on Castle Town’s south side. At first glance, it might seem like only the dedicated or desperate would trudge through the foul-smelling streets to come here. In reality, it’s a homey and warm place with a robust clientele and a welcome relief from the dreary weather, the depressingly empty streets and my own dark thoughts. The owner and I go way back and I kept telling her to move to somewhere more upscale and ritzy to drum up a bigger customer base, but she wouldn’t bite. She never told me why she preferred this location, but then again it’s none of my business, so I let it be.

As I enter, I don’t see her manning the bar – probably in the back doing inventory – so I dragged my tired body to the bar counter, removed my cloak and weapons, sat on the barstool with my head resting on my hands and began to brood while waiting for someone to serve me.

A sweet, impish voice snapped me from my reviere. “What can I get for you, Hero?” I felt an small smile break out as I lifted my head to see the speaker on the opposite side of the counter.

Ah, Midna. She’s a real doll alright. Vibrant long hair the same colour as a warm, summer twilit sky, eyes like sparkling red rubies and a killer smile with a frame to match. You wouldn’t know it by looking at her at the first glance, but she’s really a former princess from the realm of Twilight that was usurped by some maniac named Zant and banished here to live out the rest of her days in exile here in Hyrule. That very same maniac had recently allied himself with Ganon and provided him tools to aid him in the war that we’re slowly, but surely losing. Day by day, the losses keep growing and the victories we gained have become more and more hollow. The citizens were starting to be disillusioned with the war effort, but you wouldn’t see any of that with Mid; she always had that devil-may-care smile on her face as she bantered playfully with patrons, all while serving up hard liquor on the cheap. She was a real light in these dark times, irony aside. It’s one of the reasons why I liked her so much.

I knew she was no floozy who liked to serve drinks and flirt shamelessly though. During the daytime, she would be up in the castle, providing information to Zelda about her people’s technology and strategizing with the rest of the council on our next course of action. At night, she was here. It was her way to wind down after another depressing day – she could lose herself in the mundane problems of everyday citizens, rather than worry about her own.

Mid was smart, real smart. Some of the one-off patrons who stop by at Telma’s on a whim underestimated her, thinking that she was just some dumb broad to take advantage of based off her fun and outgoing personality. All it took was a vicious remark to shut down anybody idiotic enough to try and make a move on her and send them packing with their tails between their legs, never to come back. The regulars – myself included – have an ongoing bet to see how many guys she can scare off in a month. So far, I’m way off the mark.

I think I was staring too hard because Mid gave me one of her looks that could cut through steel. “Hey Link, you gonna order something or what?” she said, a little bite in her voice.

I shook my head. Classic Midna. “The usual, please,” I told her. She smirked, turned around and started preparing my drink. As I waited, I noticed someone sliding into the seat beside me from the corner of my eye with a drink of their own in hand.

The figure was small in stature and wore a hooded, navy blue cloak with white trim. On the trim were some red designs shaped like an eye of sorts. Its face was so obscured that I couldn’t tell if this individual was a man or a woman. Normally I would have ignored strangers like these, but something about this one made my skin crawl and not in a good way either.

The hooded figure raised its glass and inclined its head towards me. “Hello Link,” said in a smooth, controlled voice. Definitely male. “Lovely night we’re having.”

I wasn’t in the mood for idle banter. I was tired, I wanted a drink and I wanted to go to my chambers in the castle and sleep. “What do you want,” I asked harshly.

The hooded man wasn’t fazed in the slightest by my rude tone. He took a sip of his drink, placed it on the counter and turned to face me. “I’ll cut to the chase Hero; I have a proposition for you,” he said. “An offer that you’d be a fool to pass up on.”

I glared darkly at him. I wasn’t interested in what he was selling. “Get lost, I’ve no need for this right now,” I muttered.

“Not even if what I offer may ensure Hyrule’s salvation?”

My ears perked up at that. “What are you talking about?” I said, turning to face him.

At that moment, Midna came back with my drink and set it by me. She eyed the hooded man critically and then met my eyes for a moment before leaving to serve other patrons. It was a look that said “We need to talk when you’re done.”

I took a hearty draw from my glass, suppressing a cough from the stinging liquid before motioning him to continue. “Go on,” I said. “What information do you have that can save Hyrule?”

The hooded man chuckled softly. “A patriotic man, through and through. Let me tell you this, then: What if I told you that a weapon exists that can overpower Ganondorf’s armies? Would you seek it out?”

I didn’t hesitate. Hyrule couldn’t bear any more losses in this war. Heck, I couldn’t bear any more losses either, nor could I bear to see Zelda look more and more despondent as the days passed. We needed a victory, a decisive one. And even though something about this guy send my nerves on end, at that point, I thought I had nothing to lose by hearing him out.

“Absolutely. You have my attention now,” I told him.

I didn’t know it at that time, but that decision would come back to haunt me later on. And I wouldn’t realize it until the very last moment.


What do you think will happen next? Find out next time on Games with Coffee!

Disclaimer: Hey! Listen! I don’t own the characters and setting in this story, they are owned by Nintendo!