Sonic Mega Collection Plus Retrospective – Sonic Chaos

Sonic Chaos holds a special place in my heart as a long time Sonic the Hedgehog fan. However, it would be remiss of me to mention that this game is on the bottom end of my list of favourite Sonic games, especially when it’s stacked against some of the best the series has to offer. It doesn’t mean I think of this game any less, not by any means. In fact, Sonic Chaos marks the first time I had ever 100% completed a Sonic game.

The game itself is known as Sonic Chaos only here in the West. In Japan, it was released as Sonic and Tails. It’s notable for being the first original Sonic title for the Game Gear system and was released on November 23, 1993. In this game, Dr. Robotnik has found one of the six Chaos Emeralds and takes it with the hope of finding the other five. However, his actions cause the Emeralds to become unbalanced and they scatter all over South Island. Without the Emeralds, South Island begins to sink into the sea and so Sonic and Tails have to retrieve the missing five Emeralds and recover the final one from Robotnik at his new fortress.

Sonic Chaos was developed by Aspect, the same company that handled the development of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Game Gear. With the success of the 8-Bit Sonic 2 game, SEGA handed Aspect more responsibility for the Sonic brand for the Game Gear and Master System. All in all, they would release several more well-received Sonic titles; not bad for a small and relatively unknown company at the time! 

Taking what they’ve learned from developing the Sonic 2 title, Aspect made many improvements. For one thing, they cleaned up the display to give more viewing room for players to see. Next, they implemented Sonic’s Spin Dash and Super Peel-Out moves – both seen in the Genesis version of Sonic 2, Sonic 3 and Knuckles and in Sonic CD. Aspect even added in some exclusive moves that could only be found in the Game Gear titles, like the Rocket Shoes which allowed Sonic to zoom through the skies! And last but definitely not least, they even managed to work Tails into the game as a playable character who also could fly! All in all, Sonic Chaos was packed with lots of new features in a fun-sized cartridge.

I remember getting this game on my birthday in July of 1995. While I loved it, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Game Gear was frustrating me to no end as I couldn’t find the fifth Chaos Emerald to unlock the final zone! I had gotten pretty good at the game too; I could get through that dreaded first boss fight without too much trouble and Green Hill Zone 3 was a mere nuisance at that point. However, I got bored. I only had one other game for the Game Gear and that was World Series Baseball. So, my birthday rolled around and in one of the presents, I got both a Sonic the Hedgehog comic (by Archie Comics) and a brand new copy of Sonic Chaos.

First chance I got, I slapped the cartridge into my Game Gear and went right to town. I remember being wowed by the visuals – they were so much sharper and vibrant than Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was! When I raced through Turquoise Hill Zone and I first hit the monitor containing the Rocket Shoes, I don’t remember if I was able to contain my excitement at the time! I was flying through the air, collecting tens and tens of rings until suddenly, I was transported away to a Special Stage after I picked up my hundredth. In this new level, I had to use the Rocket Shoes to zoom across an endless sky filled with giant Rings while a timer ran down. In my excitement, I didn’t see the Chaos Emerald at the end of the stage as the time expired and I was sent to the next Act of the level.

It was here I started to realize that I could actually beat this one – I didn’t have to find the Chaos Emeralds within the levels, I could just enter the Special Stages and find them there instead. I never fully beat Sonic 2 for the Game Gear, and I hadn’t beaten Sonic 2 for the Genesis on my own either (my older cousin would do it for me). But Sonic Chaos was a game that I could finally beat on my own! And eventually, I did! I felt pretty proud of myself, overall.

In retrospect, Sonic Chaos was a much easier game than Sonic 2 was. It was also much more bland, with the level design being more simple than the previous game. What did set it apart was its music selection. Gigapolis Zone remains one of my favourite tracks from Sonic Chaos and there were a lot of familiar tunes that were repurposed from Sonic 2, like Metal Green Hills Zone for instance. The variety of items was also a big plus, with the Rocket Shoes being the coolest item ever featured in a Sonic game.

A vivid memory I had with this game was around mid summer 1995, shortly after my birthday. My grandmother was visiting from the States and she was keeping an eye on my brother and I while my parents worked. I remember that I was curled up on an old armchair in the corner of my small living room in the morning. The Game Gear was in my hand and I was playing Sonic Chaos while my grandmother was watching “The Price is Right.” It was simpler back then, when the only worries I had were “What was gonna be my next adventure?” and “Who am I gonna play with later today?” 

Sonic Chaos reminds me of those times. And though it doesn’t crack my list of top ten Sonic games, it’s still a title that I remember fondly. 

This post is part of a collaborative Sonic retrospective based around the games on Sonic Mega Collection Plus. To read more, please head over to the central post!

Sonic Central Recap!

Hey! It’s Ryan for another round of Games with Coffee. You rarely see posts on Thursdays, but today is a special occasion: the Sonic Central broadcast! And though it was way past fast, were the announcements way past cool? Without much preamble, let’s dive in and talk about the direct in detail!


Symphony Orchestra!

Right off the bat, the broadcast starts off with an announcement of a Symphony Orchestra performance, happening on Sonic’s Birthday for free! Guest stars include Crush 40 and Tomoya Ohtani, the latter of which has produced some of the series’ best music in the last 15 years! It’s gonna be so epic to listen to this! I will honestly cry if there is a symphonic rendition of Windmill Isle Day, just saying.

Sonic In Tokyo 2020?!

Or just the ability to dress like him, at least. Tokyo 2020 really is leaning hard into custom avatars, so including the ability to dress like Sonic for these events is almost a no-brainer at this point.

The hilarious part about this is that it’s an adult-sized mascot costume and I can already hear the memes being created because of this haha.

Sonic in Two Point Hospital!

Speaking of memes, this photo of a Sonic-dressed character sitting behind a desk and consulting patients is on-point. I can feel the memes being generated as we speak…

“Good news! You’re perfectly – ah wait, wrong chart, sorry!”

Like with Tokyo 2020, Sega is putting it’s mascot in another popular series, Two Point Hospital. The new add-ons include costumes that your staff can wear as well as new decorations. I’ve never played Two Point Hospital – reminds me a lot of Roller Coaster Tycoon, but instead running a healthcare facility instead of a theme park.

Kinda wish my hospital had an arcade in it…

…I kinda want to try it out though, haha.

Sonic the Fighters Makes A Return! …Sorta?

It seems that games within games is becoming a huge thing nowadays, as in Lost Judgement – from the makers of Yakuza – there will be an arcade machine featuring a fully playable copy of Sonic the Fighters!

Fighters is a way past cool fighting game that I streamed recently through the Sonic Gems Collection.

To end this section, it seems that there will be more collaborations happening in the future, including what looks like.. Minecraft?!

What the?

Sonic Colours Ultimate!!!

Now for the (second) biggest news of the day – a remastered Sonic Colours! Colours is one of the few Sonic games that I haven’t played and so hearing that this was going to be officially released was welcome (if not expected) news. It’s nice to see that we finally get official confirmation of stuff being released, as opposed to relying on leaks and rumors about Sonic news… 

Anyways, Sonic Colours Ultimate is a revised version of the Wii exclusive game that apparently includes some new stuff, like a Jade Ghost Wisp, a rival race against Metal Sonic and other things.

Not only that, but Roger Craig Smith (the previously-former-but-now-current VA for Sonic – it’s confusing, alright?) took the time to speak about a brand new short animation based on Sonic Colours called Sonic Colours: Rise of the Wisps.

Honestly, the animation looks like it’s on point! The fact that it’s fully voiced by the Sonic VA cast is icing on the cake. Definitely looking forward to watching this in Summer.

And yes, I’ll be pre-ordering Sonic Colours Ultimate. I mean, c’mon, I was expecting a game to be released this year, so I prepared in advance! 

New Sonic Collection for Modern Consoles!

Can I say “called it?” Sorta?

A new Sonic Collection called Sonic Origins, featuring Sonic 1, Sonic 2, Sonic 3 and Knuckles and Sonic CD, is coming out! Apparently, it’s supposed to include some added content and features.

And while there are a few (MANY) omissions, at least the classic Sonic experience continues onward! I wonder if these additions and features will have something to do with the Christian Whitehead editions of the Sonic Mobile ports, which contained some new and improved content for both Sonic 1 and 2? We’ll have to see later next year on what that entails…

Though I’m a bit disappointed that they still neglected Knuckles’ Chaotix. It’s also a missed opportunity to release some classic portable titles as well. And yes, it’s confirmed that Sonic 3 and Knuckles will support widescreen format.

Forces, Mania and Team Sonic Racing on Other Streaming Platforms

Sonic Forces, Sonic Mania and Team Sonic Racing are slated to be released on Amazon’s Luna and Sony’s PlaystationNow streaming services. You can pick up Sonic Mania and Team Sonic Racing right now if you have the Luna service, while the three pack will be released for PlaystationNow in June. Sounds way past cool for those who have either of those services!

Events in the Sonic Mobile World!

Now, I don’t play much mobile games, but I do like Sonic Dash. This month, players can unlock Pirate themed costumes for Sonic and Shadow (Of which instantly memeable content has been brought forward haha), plus some other birthday stuff.

“Oh, do what you want, cuz a pirate is free! YOU ARE A PIRATE!”

On top of that, Super Sonic is coming to Sonic Forces (the mobile game). Funny how Super Sonic makes an appearance, considering that he apparently never made one in the console version of Forces… Plus too, a Party Mode is going to be added, where you can race against your friends, which seems pretty exciting! I’ve played this mobile game before and it’s pretty fun. I might get back into it just to get Super Sonic haha.

Later this year for Halloween, Werehog Sonic makes a return to the fore! He’ll be playable in Sonic Forces and in Sonic Dash and it’s nice to see that the controversial transformation hasn’t been totally neglected (though it’s been mocked constantly).

*Jazz music intensifies*

Finally, for Sonic Racing on the Apple Arcade service, Classic Sonic will be playable, along with three new tracks situated in Green Hill Zone.

News about Sonic Prime

Next, we heard from Joe Kelly from Man of Action, one of the show runners for the newly announced Sonic Prime Netflix series. Now, Man of Action has been responsible for quite a few animated series, like Ben10, so hopefully that means Sonic’s in good hands?  

Kelly has touted that this is a series unlike anything seen by Sonic fans and that it takes place within a realm known as the Shatterverse (Shadowverse?)… What that means is anyone’s guess, but it sounds like this 24 episode series will be set in some form of a multiverse (alternate Sonics!?). Also, that new Eggman logo looks pretty dope. 

MERCH!

OH MY GOD I WANT IT ALL!

Ahem, sorry about that. But seriously, this stuff looks awesome! A playset recreating the final battle of Sonic 2, my all-time favourite Sonic game?! Oh man, I already don’t have any space to begin with, where the heck am I gonna put that!?

“Yes this will definitely be purchased for my kid and not for me. Seriously. You gotta believe me.”

I’m not that into hip-hop culture… but I still want one of those Sonic necklaces from King Ice. I was hoping for a ring, but I’ll take the necklace nonetheless.

DOPE A F.

I’ve already pre-ordered the deluxe version of the Encyclo-Speed-ia haha. Thanks to everyone on Twitter who pointed that out to me, by the way!

There’s also a commemorative 30th Anniversary Coin that looks pretty sweet.

Shiny!

And there seems to be an official 30th Anniversary site with more information about merch and other stuff, though it’s not available to access as of yet… I’m sure that’ll change within the day or so.

One Last Thing

Finally, they saved the best (?) for last: the biggest news of the day – A New Sonic Title.

Oooh pixel-ly!

We see Sonic running in a forest. Before long, his body emits what looks like some sorta strange energy before going into a Sonic Boost. He then circles around a grove of trees and the scene changes to a stone background with ancient writing. A thick, bright blue line traces some symbols on the stone and they look to be the letters Z, A and P…

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN????

Could the upcoming title be known as Sonic ZAP? I doubt it… but let the speculation commence, I suppose!? The new title is slated to be released in 2022. 

As for my take, I can’t say too much about it because of how little the tiny teaser reveals… but I hope though that we’re seeing a resurgence of Sonic Adventure-esque storytelling. However, my biggest concerns are as follows:

What’s changed gameplay-wise?

What’s stayed the same?

What’s improved?

What are we gonna see in terms of the story?

Finally, has the last five years since Forces was released been enough for Sonic Team to really and truly nail the speed-based gameplay that fans desired?

Maybe we’ll see more at E3, which is happening in just a couple of weeks time, but this snippet isn’t enough to go by right now. In short, WE NEED ANSWERS, DAMNIT!


And that’s it for Sonic Central wrap-up! They did say within the broadcast that more of these will be coming, which is welcome news after the radio silence we’ve endured since the beginning of March 2020.

So, did you see the broadcast this afternoon? What are your thoughts on this? Was this a Sonic Boom? Or a total bust? Let me know in the comments below!

This has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, reminding you to Believe in Yourself, Live with No Regrets and Chase the Impossible! See you next time!

Sonic’s 30th Anniversary Is Coming!

Happy Saturday! It’s Ryan here, for another round of Games with Coffee. Hope everyone had a way past cool week! I know I did – got my jab, the writing’s going well, streaming is way past awesome and work is ramping up with new challenges in front of me, which I’m pretty excited about taking on. 

Speaking of exciting, this Sunday marks one more month until the 30th Anniversary of the Sonic the Hedgehog series! I know, I aired my grievances on my last post to SEGA and Sonic Team on their lack of merchandise up here in Canada, but I’m still hoping that the 30th Anniversary celebration merch will make up for that. 

Not only that, with SEGA announcing that they’ll be in attendance at several trade shows this summer, coupled with hints about how bright Sonic’s future appears to be, I’m sure we’ll hear some game announcements for the series.

To that end, I want to share what I think we’ll see ahead of the 30th Anniversary celebrations and put together a wishlist of items I definitely want. And we start off with the obvious:


Game Announcements

What’s a celebration of a world-famous hedgehog without info on new games, eh? I do hope that SEGA does announce something, rather than just tease us and say “Hey, we’re doing something, can’t tell you what tho!”

I’ll tell you this – I really and truly hope we see something ground-breaking for the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, and I’m talking “Breath of the Wild” level ground-breaking here. Modern Sonic games have been hit or miss (with more misses than hits, really) and it would be good to see a good Modern Sonic game for a change, like Sonic Generations for example. It would be interesting to see an open-world Sonic, but I can’t imagine how that would look or how it would work? It’s just too foreign in my mind right now. However, I hope they bring back and improve on the parkour mechanics from Sonic Lost World. While the idea was solid, the execution needed some polish and I think a new title has potential to showcase a fluidly moving Sonic to the masses.

With Classic Sonic, I think the right direction here would be to keep him and Modern completely separate. Apparently, putting him in Sonic Forces ended up being a bad move in terms of optics. I understand that SEGA really wanted to force Classic Sonic in for the 25th anniversary, but maybe putting him in Forces wasn’t the best move. Mind you, I haven’t played Forces (A surprise, huh!?), so I can’t say too much on that. As I was saying though, making a Classic Sonic game separate from Modern Sonic would be a great way to both celebrate the classic series and diversify the franchise portfolio at the same time. Maybe we’ll see a Sonic Mania 2 announcement? Or something else altogether?

As far as remakes go though, I doubt we’ll see any mention of Sonic Adventure. However, if the rumors are true, then we may see a remaster of Sonic Colours, which would be way past cool! A rerelease of the Sonic Advance series of games or even other classic portable Sonic games would also be welcome.

Oh, bump that! An Anniversary Collection! Every single classic Sonic title, including portable and obscure adventures, available in one, convenient package! That would mean a re-release of Sonic 3 and Knuckles, as well as Knuckles’ Chaotix! That would be a sweet deal in my eyes!

Merchandise!

Going into merchandise, I want, want, WANT the Anniversary Collection threads available on the SEGA Europe shop! Honestly, the stuff looks so dope! The blue T-Shirt featuring all the different iterations of Sonic’s design over the years has to be my favourite of the bunch. 

I also want this 30th Anniversary Mug, the design is so great!

SEGA of America, get this stuff over here so I can order it for myself!!! Please, for the love of all that is holy in this world, that’s all I wish for, y’know?

I pre-ordered the deluxe edition of the Sonic Encyclo-Speed-ia (of course haha). Just recently, I got this incredibly corny children’s story book about Sonic for my son. I’ve read it twice now to him and he LOVES it. Plus, the stickers on the back look so great! I want to see more Sonic reading material though, so that I can keep reading it to my kid.

Though Volume 1 of the IDW comic series is coming out very soon (which I’m also getting), I want to hear news about any additional volumes so I can catch up with the series! It sounds really good and I can’t wait to start reading it for myself. Will elements from the IDW comics be seen in future Mobius VII works? Maybe? I’ll need to read the comics and see.

I’m looking for a new Sonic hat for streaming. No, the old Sonic hat will not be retired, don’t worry about that, but a new hat to commemorate the milestone is definitely on my wish list. Again, SEGA Europe has a pretty nice looking one.

Speaking of wishlists, I entered a contest about 10 years ago at The Sonic Stadium, where winners were chosen for suggesting the most interesting toy ideas. My suggestion was a transformable Tornado, based on the design from Sonic Adventure. My heart would soar (and my wallet would be threadbare) if something like that were announced, just saying.

Finally, I think enough time has passed from the Sonic Movie’s release for Puma and SEGA to team up again and release a shoe based off of the one in the movies. I know that one model was made, but it wasn’t available to the public. In short – give us shoes like Sonic’s damnit! I have a mighty need for it!

Give us these shoes!!!!!

So, there you have it; the things I expect in terms of game announcements and the things I want for myself to celebrate! What about you guys? Any predictions of what to expect for games? What merch are you looking forward to getting for yourself? And what would be on your wishlist? Let me know in the comments!

With that, and obsessively refreshing my feeds for any breaking Sonic news, this has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, reminding you to Believe in Yourself, Live with No Regrets and Chase After the Impossible! See you again soon!

An Open Letter to Sonic Team and SEGA, By a Disgruntled, Canadian Sonic Fan

Hey guys, it’s Ryan from Games with Coffee.

If you can’t tell from the title, today, I’m addressing this post to the people responsible for all things Sonic the Hedgehog. I’m also cc’ing Sonic’s social media team (@sonic_hedgehog) and whatever merchandising team from SEGA is in charge. I doubt any of them will read this, but after the last year or so, especially the last few months, I have words for these guys and it’s not about the games, or the lack of announcements regarding them. While I understand that they probably have no control over when a new game will be released, if even announced, I do believe they have some control over one specific thing:

Merchandise.

I hope SEGA reads this. I hope that they come back with some answers. I doubt it on both accounts, but hey, can’t hurt to try, right?


To the folks at SEGA, Sonic Team, Sonic’s Social Media Team and SEGA’s Merchandising Department,

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I’m writing to you all because I want to bring to your attention the glaring merchandise inequities that exists between American and Canadian Sonic fans.

If you dive through social media, or even do a search for Sonic merchandise, you’ll find that those in the United States have greater opportunities to purchase licensed Sonic the Hedgehog merchandise than those in Canada, where I live. And even if one such as myself wanted to purchase some sweet Sonic loot for themselves, they face many barriers in order to do so. The first of several examples being the official Sonic store on the Sega Store website.

Now, I know your store holds a lot of great Sonic merchandise; much of which I would love to get my hands on. My only problem is that, after incorporating shipping costs AND converting it all into USD, getting a hold of said stuff as a Canadian means I would have to probably sell an arm, a leg and possibly my left kidney in order to afford it. I understand that there’s exchange rates, tariffs and shipping logistics that all have to be accounted for, but still, it’s very prohibitive for me to buy these things.

Not only is it difficult to procure your stuff from the official site, it’s also extremely difficult to find any sort of Sonic merchandise in stores here in Canada! Granted, we are in the middle of a pandemic, so, there’s that to consider. Even still, I never see places like Wal-Mart or any other big box stores here in Canada have anything Sonic related in store or online(other than the games). Meanwhile, Target (a big-box store operating within the United States) has these giant Sonic Head plushies on sale. To add insult to injury, even the EB Games store – headed by parent company, GameStop – barely has any Sonic related items for sale, making it that much harder for a fan to celebrate all things Sonic. The sad thing is, if you look up anything Legend of Zelda-related on the EB Games website, you’ll find a plethora of Zelda-related items to purchase. 

At the same time, I’ve been pestering my local hobby shop to ask if they have received any new Sonic merch. The owner (who’s also a big Sonic fan himself) has repeatedly informed me that no, no new merch has arrived yet and I feel terrible for bothering him so much about it. However, whenever I’m able to visit his store (despite pandemic restrictions), his place has tons of Zelda stuff! It’s crazy, y’know?

As a huge Sonic fan living up in the Great North, it really hurts that I can’t find anything to show off my adoration for the Blue Blur. It also hurts that it’s easier to be a Zelda fan than it is to be a Sonic fan. (Full disclosure, I am a pretty big Zelda and Final Fantasy fan, but Sonic’s my #1).

So, what would make things better? I’m not sure, but honestly, I’d like to see more merchandising opportunities up here. Make it easier for Canadian retailers to stock up on merch, perhaps?  The fact that stores are stocking up on the anniversary books, like the Encyclo-Speedia and the IDW Comics Collection Vol.1, is a huge plus for me, but I’d like opportunities to see more clothing merch be available as well. You guys had a great campaign with Old Navy back in 2019/2020, and though I only bought one shirt (since I lost my job around that time), it’s a great shirt. I love that shirt. I stream wearing that shirt on my Sonic Sunday streams. I know that you have some t-shirts available at Hot Topic, but purchasing it online is tough because, again, purchasing is only available in USD. Beyond that, there’s nowhere else that sells official Sonic merch to my knowledge (and readers of this letter can point me in the right direction, if they so please!)

I barely see any Sonic toys available as well! My son is starting to become a fan of the series (his favourite game so far is Sonic CD) and so I want to buy stuff for him to play with, but alas… nothing. No action figures, no plush toys, nothing at all. If toy stores worked with Jakks-Pacific to distribute more product up north, maybe that would be less of a problem… but I can’t control how these stores stock up on merchandise unfortunately. I can only highlight the problem.

Other than that, maybe expand partnerships with local hobby shops or something? Or make it easier for suppliers to push product onto these local stores? I’m not sure, but I know for a fact that there are a lot of Canadian Sonic Fans, both young and old. We, as Canadian Sonic fans, all want Sonic to thrive and be the best he can be. We, as Canadian Sonic Fans, all want to show the rest of the country and the world why we’re such huge fans. And we, as Canadian Sonic Fans, deserve the same opportunities to obtain merchandise as those in the United States. Even though the United States has approximately 10 times the population as us – and thus approximately 10 times as many Sonic fans – doesn’t mean we’re no less important.

I’m not looking for compensation or attention on this, I just want to see some change happen so we as Canadian Sonic Fans can let our fan flags fly happily. Heck, I would love to open a Sonic store catered to the Canadian crowd and be the sole provider of all things Sonic the Hedgehog for the whole country. Problem is, I have no idea where to start and I have doubts that there’d even be demand for it. But hey, it’s a fever dream, right?

(BTW, if you guys want to help me start up a storefront for the sole purpose of supplying Sonic merch for Canadian fans, I am willing to sit down and talk about this in detail.)

Anyways, I hope you read this, consider my propositions (or lack of) and provide equal merchandising opportunities for Canadians to celebrate all things Sonic the Hedgehog. I will conclude this letter this with the words I always say, day in and day out: Live with No Regrets, Believe in Yourself and Chase After the Impossible. I look forward to a reply.

Best regards, Sonic’s #1 Canadian Fan, Ryan.


Games with Coffee: Recapping 2020

(It’s been a while since we had a normal post, huh?)

Welcome everyone to the return of Games with Coffee! Mobius VII is done for now, but if you read the previous acknowledgements post, you’ll see that we’re not done yet! We’ve only just started on our journey through this fantastic world! AND I’ve even begun writing notes for the next edition! It’s more worldbuilding than anything else, but it’s a start.

So, while we’re now in 2021 and way past the four year anniversary of the site, I wanted to take some time to recap a few things that happened in that dreaded 2020. Honestly… It’s been readers like you that have been keeping me going through that tough phase, so again, thank you all so much for your support. It means a lot to me that you’re willing to take time out of your busy schedules to come down and check out my content. Much love to all of you!

Anyways, let’s not delay further, shall we?


The Real Pandemic Blues

2020. What a year it has been… And it was honestly one that didn’t start off on the right foot for me especially.

Three days into the new year, I was unceremoniously let go from my field inspection job. After two and a quarter years, the company I worked for at the time decided it was time to downsize the inspection department, which led to my job’s elimination. Luckily though, I bounced right back onto my feet and landed a job at my current place of employment. Here, I’m doing sales of all things, and strangely enough, I’m doing fairly well in it.

Who knew, right?

Anyway, I don’t want to bore you with too much work stuff, except for the fact that 2020 was the first and only year where I’ve worked inside of an office for a grand total of 14 days. The rest of the year was spent home – either searching for jobs during the first two months of the year and then working from home for the remainder. In fact, I’m still working from home now, but it hasn’t been to my detriment, thankfully.

Working from home has brought its own challenges, though. Balancing work with personal stuff was hard. Add in a toddler to the mix and you get a perfect storm of busyness. In a way, I appreciated that – that storm prevented me from getting too bored and lethargic and… well, it kept me sane.

All this time spent at home has helped me tremendously in finishing Book 1 of Mobius VII. By the time you read this, all 42 chapters will have been posted to the blog. It’s been a heck of a ride and I hope you all have enjoyed it as much as I have. As of this time, we’ll get back to a normal-ish schedule of things with new posts releasing every Friday. I found a system that works (relatively speaking), so we won’t see blackouts as we did through all of 2019 haha.

What this year has taught me, overall, is that reflection is good for the soul. No matter what job you have or what situation you’re in, if you don’t give yourself time to process how you feel about things, it can be hard to move on. A good example from gaming I can think of is Shadow from Sonic Adventure 2. Shadow initially wanted revenge on humanity for killing his best friend, Maria. However, after a conversation with Amy on Space Station ARK, Shadow reflected on it and finally remembered Maria’s wish – for him to help save humanity. Which he did at the end of the Final Story at the apparent cost of his life.

In my case, before I started my new job, I wrote a letter to myself to reflect on my feelings during the ten years since I started my career. I poured all the inadequacies, failures and disappointments I felt into words and then sealed it and all the objects and things that reminded me of how much I hated the last decade of my career into a box that I promised I wouldn’t open again for ten more years. I don’t exactly recall what I wrote in that letter now, but I know that I made a declaration on that piece of paper to never let those failures and disappointments affect me again.

Meanwhile, work wasn’t the only thing keeping me busy this year.


Becoming a Streamer

2020 was the year that I decided to start streaming. Back at the end of 2019, my cousin Lee gifted me a wonderful PC rig to use for streaming and gaming. This thing was much more powerful and robust than anything I’ve ever owned. With this in hand, coupled with my contribution to “The Characters That Define Us” collaboration by Normal Happenings, I decided to celebrate my love for Sonic the Hedgehog by streaming a whole bunch of Sonic games every Sunday starting in February. I took all of December and January to tweak my setup, get my equipment in order and create my layouts and heck, it paid off in spades! My consistency with my streams, coupled with participating in a few tournaments and networking with a bunch of great streamers allowed me to reach Affiliate status by July 13th – my birthday! Honestly, that was one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever received!

Now, streaming has become one of my favourite things to do besides writing and I’ve learned so much from the practice. The next post after this one will go into details about those lessons.


Collaborations

As I mentioned in the last section, I participated in a little collab called “The Characters that Define Us.” And by little, I mean over 50 amazing writers baring their souls about the characters that have helped them through thick and thin. Sometimes, these characters helped in small, minute ways. Others have impacted a writer’s life so much that they couldn’t imagine where they would be without them. My piece was about Sonic, of course. Writing about him helped me realize just how wonderful this life really is, even if I complain here and there about certain little things.

I was also a part of the Super Mario Multiverse collaboration set up by The Well-Red Mage in commemoration of Mario’s 35th anniversary. You can find my entry here.

I also participated in a charity stream for Stand Up 2 Cancer (SU2C), run by Andy AKA ProducerBTW. It was a great charity for a great cause. I learned a lot about fundraising and I’m hoping to do more charitable streaming this year. SU2C will be one of those that I’ll be working with for sure!


Patreon-ages

I bit the bullet and became a Patron for Story Mode: The Video Game Podcast. Starring my three good friends: Red (The Well-Red Mage), Blue (Wrytersview) and Ryebread (Retro Game Brews/Beer Ryan), they discuss the gaming news of the week and provide some colourful takes on various topics. They bring up some really interesting stuff and I highly encourage you to listen when you get a chance. The three hosts are hilarious and informative and they may hold differing opinions about certain things, but at the end of the day, they always Agree to Disagree. They are hosted on Buzzsprout, but you can also find them anywhere you find podcasts.


Some Personal Stuff

In spite of the pandemic, 2020 was not a bed of roses around the internet and within the gaming sphere. Toxicity within gaming had reached an all-time high and with people being completely burnt out from all the lockdowns, elections and uncertainty, I saw plenty of falling outs happen among good friends.

Speaking of which, despite being a homebody, I found this past year to be difficult in terms of talking with friends and family. I mean, I’ve been taking this thing seriously. I followed the rules and I’m trying to keep my family safe, but still, I see so many people not taking this seriously and it makes me wonder, are we even doing the right thing here? I dunno. People flaunting the rules, getting together, risking their lives and the lives they impact around them… man, it bothers me a little bit. I get the feeling though that things’ll get better soon. And they better – my mental health needs a bit of relief haha.

Also, right as this pandemic started, Mrs. Coffee had to go to surgery for gallbladder removal. Prior to that, she hadn’t eaten a solid meal in weeks and I was super worried about her… Thankfully, the issue has been fixed and she’s all better now!

If all that wasn’t enough, the calibre of games that were released this year were… mediocre at best? Well, save for a few good and unexpected ones, that is! 


Games, Games, Games

Final Fantasy VII Remake released in March and of course, I had to get it! I didn’t start playing it until the summer though after I completed Book 1. The game started out really strong for me, but the plot direction at the end really threw me off. I’m thinking about giving the game another chance, perhaps when I get a PS5 for the Intergrade upgrade, but I’m flip-flopping about it. I’ll admit, there were a LOT of great things that happened in Remake. The combat system was just flippin’ fantastic and the voice acting was pretty good. While I mained Cloud in most battles, I really enjoyed playing as Tifa. Her techniques are so fluid and powerful and she moves so gracefully! 

Oh my gosh, she’s so gorgeous!

On the flip side, there were a lot of things wrong with it too. The Whispers being my biggest complaint. They were so in-your-face about the fact that “OOOOO you’re ch—-anging the fu——–ture! That’s not allo—-wed!” Honestly, it was really annoying. There were also several awkward moments that, while funny, didn’t really jive well with me. I mean, a dance number? Seriously, I know Cloud is pretty good at most things, but getting up on stage and Bollywood dancing with Andres was not one of those things I was expecting! Especially after the incredibly awkward high-five moment. Despite the alterations, I’m happy that they kept the cross-dressing sequence.

That’s despite the changes they made to the sequence itself…

The moment I was looking forward to the most was the Shinra Tower infiltration… and it was so-so? I liked some of the newer elements, like the detailed break room, but getting through The Drum on the 68th was just weird. Plus, the whole prison break sequence was completely removed and I was a bit disappointed with that. Sneaking around the blood-soaked corridors of the upper floors after being mysteriously released in the original was both terrifying and exciting the first time around. Speaking of blood, the absence of it from JENOVA’s release threw me way off. The purple goop made things interesting, but the blood would have been better.

Icky.

Besides Remake, I played the Sega Ages version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, released the same week as the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, and it was awesome! I wrote a review on both the game and the movie. At this current moment, the game review is unavailable, but give it a few months and you’ll see it up again soon.

On top of that, I played Sonic Lost World for the very first time and I honestly don’t get why it’s so disliked? Sure, the writing was a bit subpar and there were some questionable level design decisions, but the introduction of parkour mechanics felt like a natural evolution on how Sonic is supposed to move. I’m currently writing a review on that game which will be released in a couple of month’s time (due to restructuring on the site that I write for).

So much fun!

In fact, since I dedicated 2020 to be the “Year of Sonic,” I’ve been playing several other Sonic games that I’ve never played before! Some examples include Sonic and Sega All-Star Racing, All-Star Racing Transformed and Tails Adventure.

I also played Final Fantasy XII – The Zodiac Age and Dragon Quest XI – two RPG’s that were phenomenal! I never finished the original FFXII (which I still own for PS2), but the quality of life changes within the TZA edition made it much easier to complete. As for Dragon Quest XI… I love that game! It’s so dense and epic and it pretty much rivals my love for DQ VIII – my all-time favourite entry of the series. I still haven’t finished all of XI just yet – I need to do some grinding and prepare my characters for the ultimate final battle against Calasmos.

In the tail end of the year, I picked up Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse and Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. I only recently started playing them, but oh man, are they a ROMP! Both games have hilarious dialogue and tight gameplay. Half-Genie Hero has tons of alternate game modes to play after the main story, and even includes increased difficulty modes.

One game that I really wanted to play after hearing about it so much was Ghosts of Tsushima. The game itself looks breathtaking – you can visit locales and compose haiku, take photos of beautiful environments, do battle honourably as a samurai or even use less-than-honourable methods to take out the invading Mongol forces. It looks like a treat to play and I definitely need to make it a priority to get this one.

Despite the rest of 2020’s offerings being controversial (The Last of Us 2, Cyberpunk 2077) or just OK (Final Fantasy VII Remake), the standout game for this year, in my opinion, was Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. The story takes place a hundred years before the events of Breath of the Wild and honestly, this era was perfect for a Dynasty Warriors-style game. I’ve only started playing it and I’m having so much fun revisiting the characters and environments that it honestly makes me want to go back and explore the corners of Hyrule once more. What’s more, the combat is exhilarating and mindless! Mowing down hundreds of Bokoblins never felt so good!


So, What’s Next?

2021 is turning out to be a huge year so far. There are so many gaming milestones being celebrated this year alone. Among those include Pokemon, Super Mario 64, Crash Bandicoot and Resident Evil, which celebrate their 25th anniversaries. Street Fighter II and Battletoads celebrate their 30th. Finally, Metroid and Dragon Quest celebrate their 35th!

But there are two anniversaries that are the most important to me. They are The Legend of Zelda, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary and Sonic the Hedgehog, which turns the big 30 this June! To commemorate those milestones, I’ve been playing a plethora of Sonic and Zelda games on my Sunday and Tuesday streams respectively.

Writing-wise, I’ve done at least one collaboration for The Legend of Zelda – I wrote a piece about Zelda II, my favourite in the series. I’ll also be collaborating with a bunch of other writers about the Sonic series and those entries will be coming later this year, post-Sonic’s birthday. 

I’m going to update the site a bit to include links to all my collaborations. I was supposed to do that from time, but I just never got around to it.

Meanwhile, I’m in the planning stages for the next installment of Mobius VII. I’ve started worldbuilding and layout of the plot with the hope that I can start writing the first chapters by around the end of summer. Continuing on the subject of Mobius VII, I’m producing a podcast series on how I wrote the first book. This will be an in-depth discussion on how I framed the plot of FFVII around the Sonic the Hedgehog universe and will include references to various Sonic media and other things. The plan is to have the first ten episodes ready by summer, look forward to more news and progress in the coming months!

There’s also another story here that I need to finish and that is The Legend of Zelda: Black and White – a fanfiction I started on a whim three years ago. It’s a shorter series, with ten or twelve chapters total, so it shouldn’t take too long to finish that one. The layout for it is done, all that’s left is to write the rest of the story out.

As for ongoing posts, I’ll be putting out content every Friday or so. Fridays seem to be the most popular and easiest of days to post, so that’ll be the schedule from now on. Next up will be what I’ve learned from streaming, as I mentioned above.

Finally, in personal news, I’ve been more physically active lately. I felt like my health has been sliding as of late, so I got back into a workout routine and eating right and it’s been a big help so far! I feel a big difference two months in compared to how I started 2021. I’ve also been analyzing and taking notes on several books I’ve read so far this year in hopes to improve my writing. I may be decent right now, but I want to be a better writer for the future! Currently, I’m reading Atomic Habits in the hopes that I can find a way to make writing practise a daily habit. Spur of the moment things are great, but I need to put out stuff consistently while keeping up with other projects.

And with that, we come to the end of this very long update! I promise these posts’ll be shorter haha. How has 2020 treated you? Have you become stronger in spite of the challenges faced over the past year? Let me know in the comments below.

With that, this has been Ryan reminding you not only to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing, but to Live With No Regrets, Believe In Yourself and Chase After The Impossible! See you all next time!


Mobius VII – Book 1: Escape From The City – Chapter 42

Chapter 42: On Our Way



Tails

“…So, how do we get down from here, genius?”

A chorus of groans and scoffs erupted from the other four Mobians as they were bathed in the golden orange morning sunlight. Tails pinched the bridge between his nose and shook his head in exasperation. “Way to kill the moment, Bark,” he muttered. 

Cream wore a wan smile on her face as she turned towards Tails. “But, he’s right, Tails,” she said. “How’re we getting down from here?”

Tails looked around and stroked his chin in thought. His head stopped at a nearby crane. Looking over the boom, he saw that it was long enough to extend past the city walls and into the outskirts below. ‘Perfect.’  “… We’ll use that to get down,” he said, pointing to the crane.

Bark looked at him, an eyebrow cocked upwards. “Uh… Have you ever used a crane before, foxy?” he asked skeptically.

Tails swept a hand over his hair and smirked. “Bark,” he said in a sardonic tone. “I’ve hacked my way through building security systems, analyzed mechanical robots for weaknesses AND had once taken a clunker of a truck apart for a client in the Sector 7 Slums and put it back together again with it running sweeter than when it was first built.” He paused and grinned at the polar bear. “Operating a crane? It’s like taking a nap for me.”

“… I should’ve never asked then,” Bark deadpanned.

The group chuckled, but Tails moved to silence them. “Well, we can’t dawdle around for too long,” he said, catching everyone’s attention as he headed over to the shoulder closest to the crane. “I’ll lower the crane’s chain onto the highway. Once you guys grab hold, I’ll move you to the outskirts and lower you down to ground level.” Drawing his sword, the fox leapt off of the shoulder and spun his tails, taking flight towards the crane.


Bark

Bark watched as Tails flew off. He let out a sigh as a thought suddenly occurred to him. ‘I just realized… If I’m goin’ on this journey, I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to Hope…

He felt his heart constrict tightly at the thought of the little Human girl. ‘I wonder if she’s even OK? I mean, she’s a tough kid, but she’s only four…’ The polar bear let out another frustrated breath as his frown deepened. ‘I wish I could hear her again… I didn’t even ask Cosmo’s mom if she had a number I could call to reach her –’ His head perked up. “Oh shit, that’s right!” he mumbled as he turned towards the flower girl.

“Hey Cosmo?” he started, watching as the Seedrian tilted her head to the side. “Does your mom… I dunno… have a phone or somethin’?”

Cosmo regarded him curiously for a moment. Understanding soon dawned on her and she smiled at him. “Yeah, she does,” she said. “When we find a phone, I’ll give it to you.”

“On that note,” Elias chimed in. “Where are we going anyway?”

The polar bear folded his arms and wrinkled his brow in thought. “Only one place we can go,” he said after a moment. “Mercia, to the north. It’s the closest city to Megapolis.” Bark looked out towards the mountains in the horizon. “… I got a contact there that could help us out. If he’s still there, that is…”

The sudden sounds of creaking metal startled the group. Bark brought his Gun-Arm up instinctively and flicked off the safety, before realizing that he had no bullets left. “Shit…” he cursed, his teeth gritted as he watched for incoming enemies.

“Up there!” Cosmo shouted, her finger pointing towards something in the sky. 

The bear and the others craned their heads upward to see the boom arm of the crane Tails flew to swing towards them. It stopped in their vicinity with a jolt. The reel brake from the crane released with a loud clunk and the four watched as a thick, steel wire slowly dropped towards them.

“Alright everyone, here’s our ride!” Bark shouted, waving his arm to call the other three over. He grabbed a section of the wire. “Let’s get the hell outta here!”


Elias

As the four slowly made their way down the hundred or so meters down to the ground level, Elias found himself thinking about many things. 

He was normal again, something that he thought would never happen after Nagus’ experiments caused his crystalizing skin condition to undergo a monstrous transformation only a day or two ago. Then again, his capture and study of the odd, gem-like lesions that covered his arms would have never occurred had he been discovered by those scientists. 

His mind then went to the Planet observatory on the outskirts of the ruined city of Mobotropolis – his home. ‘Well, not really,’ he corrected himself as they crossed the halfway point towards the ground. ‘It’s more of a temporary residence at the moment. Suffice it to say… It will be good to return and to see everyone again.

Reminiscing about home brought forth another thought: the fox who had rescued him. Ever since their initial meeting in the Kintobor Building, he felt a strange and unsettling feeling about the former SOLDIER. ‘…I don’t understand it… but I get this feeling that he looks familiar…’ he thought as he approached the ground. ‘I can’t place where, but it’s as though he was a younger version of-

And then it hit him.

Elias felt his pulse quicken and the hands he had on the steel wire tightened into a vice-like grip as he recalled an old memory from 15 years ago, back when Mobotropolis and Megapolis were at war with one another. ‘Yes that’s it…’ his mind raced, the pieces starting to link together. Though the face may look younger and he doesn’t have the scars or the eyepatch… that Tails individual could be a dead ringer for the man who cost me my whole livelihood! That’s why I felt so unnerved around him!’ 

His feet suddenly touched the rocky, lifeless floor of the Megapolis outskirts and he quickly let go of the crane wire. He felt his hands tremble – whether it was from holding on for dear life or the realization he just made, he wasn’t certain. ‘One thing’s for sure… I need to know more about Tails and about who he really is. For if he is of direct relation to Amadeus, the one who made it possible for Kintobor to conquer Mobotropolis and the one who stole my family away-

“Gre- I mean, Elias,” he heard Cream call next to him, snapping him out of his thoughts. He turned to face the rabbit, who looked at him with concern. “Are you alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost?”

“Ah, yes, milady,” he replied breathlessly, moving out of the way as Cosmo and Bark dropped behind him. “I am fine… In fact,” he suddenly smiled as the beginning of a plan started to form in his mind. “I’ve never felt better in all of my life.”


Cream

Nonplussed at Elias’ odd behaviour, Cream turned her attention towards Bark and Cosmo. She approached both of them and smiled as they dusted themselves off. “You two alright?” she asked.

Bark flashed her a grin and a thumbs-up while Cosmo nodded, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “Yep!” she chirped.

“Great,” Cream replied, letting out a soft exhale. She then folded her arms and looked skyward. “Now, all we have to do is wait for Tails…”

The four stood around casually as they waited for the ex-SOLDIER to show up. While they waited, Bark pulled out a set of military-issued MRE bars from his pocket and shared them out with the group. “Found these near our stuff. I figured we’d need something for the road,” he said as he sat cross-legged upon the ground and tore open the wrapper. He bit into the brownish bar and his face contorted in a mix of disgust and wonder “Erm,” he grumbled as he chewed. “It… kinda has a strange taste to it?”

Cream raised an eyebrow as she opened the wrapper of her own ration and took a bite. The bar tasted revolting and she forced herself not to spit out the contents. Screwing up her face, she swallowed and then gagged. “Eugh, it tastes like one of my mother’s carrot pies, but really stale and dry!” she exclaimed. “Are you sure these are safe to eat, Bark?”

The bear shrugged in response as he kept eating.

Rolling her eyes, Cream turned to Cosmo to ask what she thought of the disgusting rations when she stopped. Her friend was staring into the distance, her expression crestfallen. “What’s up, Cos?” the fighter said softly, approaching and placing a hand on the flower girl’s shoulder.

Cosmo angled her head, her lips curled into a tight-lipped smile. “Oh, nothing in particular,” she said in a quiet voice. “Just… wondering about the upcoming journey, that’s all…”

Cream frowned. ‘That’s not like her,’ she mused, her nose wrinkled. ‘She seems… anxious? I wonder what I could say to cheer her up…’ Her eyes widened as she remembered something. “…Hey Cosmo?” she asked, a sly grin suddenly crossing her lips.

“…Yeah?”

“I’m sorry… but we got bogey’s tailing us at six o’clock?

She laughed as the flower girl’s face went as red as a tomato. “H-hey!” she cried. “I saw that on a TC show once with my mom! I thought it sounded cool!” She then burst into laughter alongside Cream. 

“Oh-oh yeah!” the rabbit gasped, tears streaming from her eyes as her sides ached. “D-do you still have that camera?!”

Cosmo took a deep breath to steady herself and then placed a hand into her pocket. Withdrawing it, she revealed the disposable camera. “Still got it!” she cheered and then smiled tenderly at it. “Thank the Goddess that they didn’t take this away from me when they caught me…” The flower girl then blew a strand of stray hair from her forehead. “It’s too bad about my satchel though…”

“… Tell you what,” Cream found herself saying, taking Cosmo’s hands into hers. “When we get into town, you and I will go on a shopping spree. We’ll get you a new satchel, and maybe some new clothes while we’re at it!”

And we’ll have Tails be our pack-Chao!” Cosmo added, grinning ear to ear. “That’ll be perfect!”

“Hey!” Bark hollered suddenly, catching both women’s attention. “Look who finally decided to show up!”

Speak of the devil…’ Cream mused as Tails hovered down from above. He fanned out his bushy, twin tails and glided down to their position, landing softly with a flourish.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said as he wrapped his tails around his waist and sheathed his weapon. “I was hiding the motorcycle I procured from Kintobor. It was damaged during the fight.” He then sighed at the flat looks Cream and the others gave him. “Look, it’s a really cool bike! If we somehow make it through this whole thing alive, I want to recover it, take it apart, fix it up and add a few modifications to really make that puppy fly.” He grinned and Cream noticed that something was off about it.

He looks less cocky… and more like his old self… like he was before he left Knothole,’ the rabbit observed, narrowing her eyes. ‘Something about this duality, combined with those fits he’s had over the last few days, is making me more than a little skeptical about him. I’m gonna be keeping a close eye on you, Miles “Tails” Prower…

Because I don’t know if you are who you say you are…


Tails

“How’re you holdin’ up Bark?” the fox asked.

Bark stood up and stretched. “I’m fine,” he said half-heartedly. He then looked down, his eyes downcast. “…Y’know how we told Cosmo’s mom to get out of the city?”

Tails nodded. “Yeah,” he said, patting the massive polar bear’s right shoulder. “Hope’ll be fine. She’ll be safe with Rose.”

Bark’s expression softened. “Thanks man,” he said.

Tails quirked his lips upwards. His eyebrow then rose at the sight of the MRE bar in the bear’s hand. “Are those… What I think they are?”

“Yup, they’re rations,” Bark said. “I found ‘em by our stuff when we were captured.” He held one up to Tails. “Want one? They’re actually not that bad?”

“… I’ll pass,” the fox said, wrinkling his nose. “I’d rather starve than eat another one of those, to be honest.”

Bark shrugged. “Suit yourself, then,” he said, tearing open the fox’s share and wolfing it down.

Elias approached from Bark’s left. “I’ll be travelling with you all as far as my hometown, across the Central Ocean,” he said, a hardness in his voice. “After that, well… we’ll see.” He turned away and stared out into the distance, a frown setting onto his face.

Bark and Tails looked at one another. ‘What was that all about?’ the warrior wondered, quirking an eyebrow up at the enigmatic chipmunk. Deciding not to worry about that for now, he moved away from the two men and approached Cream and Cosmo. 

“…I guess this is the start of our journey,” Cream said plaintively when he stood next to her.

“It’s gonna be dangerous,” Tails replied, folding his arms. “You’ll need to be prepared for anything.”

Cream nodded and then turned to him, a small, hesitant smile on her face. “…True,” she said. “But you know, it’ll be alright, so long as you keep your promise?”

The fox chuckled and then moved over to Cosmo. “How are you doing?” he asked.

“OK, I guess?” came her response. She then let out a long exhale. “You know, I think this is the first time I’ve ever left Megapolis…”

“Really? You worried?”

The flower girl shook her head. “A little…” She then brought a hand up to her lips and giggled. “OK, maybe a lot. But I have you and the others with me, right?” Her brows suddenly raised upwards. “Oh! You know what we should do?!” she suddenly exclaimed, taking out a camera from her pocket. “We should take a photo!”

Tails gave her a flat look. “This isn’t gonna be fun and games here, Cosmo,” he said sourly. “We’re chasing after a madman who wants to take over the world.”

“I know,” she said, shrugging. “But, this is more for me than anything else.” She stepped forward, a hand clutching the pendant on her neck. “…I want to capture these moments and… have something to look back on when it’s all done, you know?”

Tails looked at her blankly and then suddenly smirked. “I get it,” he said understandingly. “Sure, then. Let’s do it.”


Cosmo

“Hey! Gather around everyone!” Cosmo shouted, waving her arms. “It’s picture time!”

Cream grinned and joined alongside her, followed by Bark and Elias, who loped slowly towards the group.

“OK, squeeze in-”

“-Don’t push!”

“-Budge over a bit, please?”

“Here,” Tails cut in, taking the camera from Cosmo’s hands. “I’ll take the shot.”

The five Mobians crowded in together as Tails held the camera lens-first towards them. Cosmo’s lips split into a wide grin. “To new journeys and adventures!” she exclaimed.

“To new journeys and adventures!” the other four chimed out simultaneously.

Tails pressed the button and there was a loud click that sounded out. As the group dispersed, Tails handed the camera back to the flower girl. “…What else is on there?” he asked suddenly.

Cosmo’s body suddenly felt hot. ‘Don’t tell him about the dress!’ “Uh… nothing in particular?” she said, an uneasy smile on her face. Nearby, Cream started to snicker. “Look, don’t worry too much about it, alright?”

“…Sure,” Tails said, rolling his eyes. He then turned to the rest of the group. “Alright, then. Let’s get goin’.”

“We’re gonna need a group leader for our journey,” Bark said suddenly. “I’d vote for myself… but really, I think you should be that leader, Tails.”

“Me?”

“It’s the best choice,” the bear responded, his arms crossed and a pointed expression on his muzzle. “I mean, let’s face it: you’re a natural at this stuff. Sides, I’m old enough to know better than to force myself into a leadership role at this point. So, it’s your show, foxy. Don’t screw it up.”

“I agree!” Cosmo piped in. “It would have to be Tails.”

Bark nodded. “Then it’s settled,” he said. “I told these guys before, Tails, but our first priority should be getting over to Mercia; a city northeast from here. If we take the ring road and circle around Megapolis to the west, we should hit a service station that we can use to get some food or even get a ride to town, if we’re lucky. From there, we’ll hit the Inn and I’ll get in contact with a friend of mine.” He paused, a smile growing on his face. “The inn apparently has some really great food. We honestly deserve a decent meal after all the craziness over the last few days.”

“Hear, hear,” Cream said, a hand on her stomach. “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse.”

“Then, let’s not waste any time,” Tails said, a smile crossing his lips as he strode towards the dusty road ahead. “Let’s mosey, everyone.” The other four Mobians followed suit. 


They were several hours out on their journey and the afternoon sun beat down on top of them as they trudged through the wastelands. They passed quickly around the Sector 7 ruins, still smouldering from the recent Platefall.

As they moved farther and farther away from the city, Cosmo could feel something within her strengthening. ‘Is this… the Planet itself?’ she wondered as she felt her connection with Mobius grow minutely stronger with each step she took away from the city. Along with this strength, however, came a growing sense of dread. She could feel… that something was very, very wrong with the Planet itself. Something that was greater and more terrifying than what Kintobor was doing to the world. 

The five crested a ridge overlooking the city, cutting across a pack of Mutates that congregated on the main road below. At the top of the ridge, Cosmo stopped and took one last look at the place she called home her entire life. 

Suddenly, the sky around her turned a deep, bloody shade of red. Her heart racing at the sudden change, she then felt the wind pick up violently around her, scattering dust and debris hither and fro. Dark, crimson clouds formed above her head and lightning flashed around her, illuminating the city with fierce and jagged bolts of light. 

A moment later, the clouds parted above. It was as though a pair of giant hands stuck through and pulled them apart to form a giant, Megapolis-sized circle above the city. What she saw next caused her to drop to her knees in fright…

A giant, red-streaked meteor descended rapidly upon Megapolis. The bottom half was blown apart, revealing a long, needle-like nose and a pair of three triangular rock formations jutting out from the sides of the half-circle. She once again heard her mother’s voice as the meteor began crashing into the city, the screams of millions of people and Mobians echoing out as it tore through the planet’s surface.

“Remember, Cosmo… You are our world’s greatest hope.”

THE END OF BOOK I


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

Chapter 41: Consequences



Knuckles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“-Why did you let him go, s-sir?”

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

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

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

“What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, I heard.”

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

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

“The Master Emerald…” Archimedes said quietly.

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

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

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

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

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


Christopher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes Master.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“W-what?”

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

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

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

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

“But sir-”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Unless?”

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

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


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

Chapter 40: No More Running



Tails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“BOLT!”

“BOLT!”

“BOLT!”

“BOLT!”

“ICE!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Cosmo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was her mother.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tails

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

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

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

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

“YEAH!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cosmo bowed her head and remained quiet.

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

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

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

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

“And that’ll save Mobius?”

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

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

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

“About the Ancients?” Cream asked curiously.

“…Many things.”

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

“I guess this is goodbye Megapolis.”


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

Chapter 39: Escape From The City



Tails

Tails steeled himself as he held a thin shard of metal he plucked from Beta’s destroyed body and brought it towards the bullet hole in his right shoulder. Swigging down the contents of the Potion phial he held in his teeth, he took several deep breaths and then he inserted the bit of metal into the wound. He bit back a scream as he twisted the piece of shrapnel in search of the slug and after a few, excruciatingly painful moments he extracted the bullet. It tinkled loudly as it hit the concrete floor.

Moving quickly, Tails broke the top off of another Potion and poured it on the oozing wound to staunch the bleeding. He muzzled a groan as he downed his last Ether and placed a hand on the Restore Emerald on his recovered weapon. Drawing the energy and shaping it with his Mana, he directed it to his injured shoulder and called “CURE!”

The bright green magic seeped into the hole, closed the wound and then grew new, raw skin underneath it. He sat there, breathless for several moments before he gingerly poked the tender flesh and rotated his arm to test it out. “Good, no serious damage,” he muttered to himself as he massaged the feeling back into his shoulder. “Feels a bit sore, but I’ll manage.”

He sheathed his weapon and returned to Beta’s husk. Kneeling down, he extracted the Barrier Emerald that was inserted into a slot on its lower torso and brought it up to eye level to examine it. ‘Robots who use Emeralds… That’s pretty ingenious,’ he reflected. He turned the Emerald over in his hand, stared at it for a moment and then swapped it out for the blue All Emerald in his armor socket. ‘I wish I had the time to dig into its inner workings, but I got no time to spare… At least this Emerald makes up for it.’ He breathed out a longing, frustrated sigh as he stood up and started to make his way back through the building to rejoin the others. 

As he trundled down the stairwell to the 69th floor, he saw – to his surprise – that Cream was waiting for him. She was leaning on a wall by the door leading to the elevator bay with her arms folded. Her face brightened and she straightened up as he approached. “Hey,” she called, a gentle smile radiating on her face. “What happened to Kintobor – or Robotnik? Or whatever he wants to call himself?”

Tails pinched the bridge between his muzzle with two fingers. “…Couldn’t finish the bastard,” he grumbled. “He sicced a new kind of robot on me, one that can use Emeralds.”

The rabbit’s brows shot up at that revelation. “Really, Tails?” she said, slack-jawed. “You’re kidding, right?”

“I wish I wasn’t,” he replied exasperatedly. The two made their way to the elevators and Tails pressed the call button. 

“We apologize. The express elevators are out of service,” an electronic female voice blared out on the intercom above them. 

Tails gave the speaker a cross look, his ears flattened to the sides. “Fantastic,” he muttered sarcastically. He turned to Cream, who gave him a rueful smile.

“Guess we’ll have to take the stairs?” she quipped, taking the lead through the blood-stained halls back to the stairwell. “At least climbing down will be much easier than climbing up, right?” She glanced uneasily at the elevator bank behind her. “I sure hope Cosmo and the others are alright…”


Cosmo

Green XIII stood up from the bench he was sitting on in the lobby. Cosmo and Bark looked at him, perplexed. “I believe we’ve rested enough,” he said to their surprise. “We should probably get out of here.”

Cosmo clenched her hands over the fabric of her dress. “…Yeah,” she acquecised, her head bowed. She had hoped that Tails and Cream would have arrived by now. Letting out a dejected sigh, she raised her head and glanced around the lobby. “I don’t see any other exits… We’ll probably have to go out the front door.”

“Alright then,” Bark said, steeling himself. “I’ll scope out ahead and see if the coast is clear. Wait for my signal.” Grunting, he got out of the seat and cut through the lobby area towards the main entrance. 

Cosmo and Green XIII waited several moments in silence. Suddenly, the sounds of gunfire erupted and the two threw themselves to the floor as bullets sprayed through the glass panes around the building’s entrance. From her prone position, Cosmo saw Bark hurry back inside. He took cover by one of the security gates, stuck out his right arm and fired back. “GODDESS-FRIGGIN’-DAMNIT!” he shouted aloud amid the sounds of shots pouring into the building. 

After what seemed like minutes, the gunfire ceased, allowing the bear to drop to the floor and slide over to the other two huddled on the ground. “…So, it looks like we’re surrounded,” he said casually as he reloaded. “If it was just me here all alone, then this would have been no big deal.” He looked at Cosmo with fierce determination in his eyes. “But I swore that I’d get you out, no matter what.”

The flower girl felt tears well up inside her, not only at his touching words, but at the ultimate realization that Kintobor would never stop until she was back in their possession. She finally understood why she felt full of dread since she and the others made their escape. It wasn’t Nazo, but the lengths that Kintobor would go to in order to get what they want. They would hunt down and kill anyone that stood between them and her. ‘And I can’t let that continue…’ she reflected, understanding dawning on her.

“You-you don’t need to do this,” she choked out, her lips quivering. She forced herself not to shed any tears. She would be strong. “ All they want… Is me.” She rose up, Bark’s and Green XIII’s heads following her. “You both need to hide.” she said, resignedly. “I’ll… I’ll draw them away from you.” 

She strode forward and passed between the two of them, mentally prepared to accept her fate. She suddenly felt a hand clasp around her wrist – it was Bark’s. She twisted back to see his deep brown eyes glaring angrily at her.

“Don’t you get it?” he said crossly. “I’m not letting that happen. You got involved because of Hope and I promised her I’d bring you back. Hell, I promised your mother too! And that’s exactly what I’m gonna do!” He stood up and cocked his Gun-Arm, his vengeful eyes trailing to the entrance. “Alright, you jackasess,” he growled. “Playtime’s over!”

“…Thank you Mr. Bark!” Cosmo exclaimed, a sob escaping from her lips soon after. Her words caused the bear to do a double take.

“Woah, woah,” he said, his arms akimbo and his lips twisted in an embarrassed smile. “Just-just call me Bark, alright? Calling me Mr. makes me feel old… I’m not even through my mid-thirties yet, sheesh!”

“So, old man,” Green XIII commented lightly, earning a glare from Bark. He placed a cool crystal hand on Cosmo’s shoulder to comfort her. “If we’re done gabbing away, may I suggest that we think of a way to get out of here?”

Bark rolled his eyes at the golem. “Pssh, yeah whatever,” he bit back sardonically. His voice dropped to a mutter. “You’re almost as serious as someone else that I know…”

Green XIII cast a suspicious look at the polar bear. “Did you say something?” he questioned, his yellowed eyes narrowed.

“Nope! Not a thing!” Bark answered quickly. His arms then flopped to his sides and his shoulders slumped forward. “So, what are we gonna do?”

Just as the golem opened his mouth, they heard footsteps coming from behind them. Cosmo whirled around to see Cream clamber down the lobby stairwell. Relief swam through the flower girl at the sight of the fighter. She hastily wiped her eyes with the back of her arm.

“Bark! Cosmo! Green!” the fighter called out, a hurried smile on her face. “Thank goodness you’re all safe!”

“Cream! Where’s Tails?” Bark asked as the rabbit reached the ground floor. Instead of moving towards them, she went around the stairwell and headed to the back of the lobby.

“This way, everyone!” she said, earning confused looks from the three.

“Waitaminute! Where’s Tails!?” Bark called as the three followed her to the back.

“He’s on his way!” Cream answered, approaching a teal flatbed truck with a rounded, snub-nosed hood, a two person cockpit and three wheels. She forced open the door, got inside and started to hotwire the vehicle to start. “Cosmo, you’re riding shotgun with me! Bark, Green, you two jump in the back!” she instructed as she got the engine to turn. It rumbled awake with a start.

Climbing in on the passenger side, Cosmo stared wide-eyed at the fighter in awe. “I-I never knew you could do that?” she said, bewildered. Her lips split into an ear to ear grin. “Creamy, you are so full of surprises…”

Cream shot her a wry and sheepish grin of her own, her cheeks tinged with a light dusting of pink. “Well, Jessie taught me how to do it some time ago, said it would come in handy,” she said, shrugging. Her grin faded at the mention of the brunette. “I never thought it would be the day when I had to run from the Kintobor Army with a fugitive flower girl in tow.”

“Hey! We’re on!” Bark shouted over the engine noise before Cosmo could say a word. The truck sagged from the combined weight of the four occupants. “You sure this thing’s gonna go with all of us on it!?” the bear asked nervously.

“I think we’ll be OK,” Cream answered, her eyes on the side mirror. “Now all we have to do is wait for Tails…”

At the mention of the Ex-SOLDIER, Cosmo soon heard the sounds of a revving engine approaching them from the back.


Tails

Astride a motorcycle he procured on the lobby’s third floor, Tails bounded down the stairs towards the ground floor to meet with the others. Despite the seriousness of their plight, he couldn’t help but feel elated.

The motorcycle featured a large RINGTEK-powered motor surrounded by a sleek and robust black chassis. Unlike an ordinary bike, Tails found that the handlebars were located on the sides and required him to lean forward and grip the controls vertically. The seat was clad in plush, black leather which the fox felt comfortable in. The motorcycle had a standard size front wheel and an oversized rear wheel, each equipped with a set of high performance shocks that muted the vibrations as he reached the ground floor with a bounce. He tilted his wrists to steer the bike and leaned his body towards the ground as he made a hairpin turn towards the back of the lobby.

If I somehow get out of this alive, the first thing I’m gonna do is find another one of these bikes, tear it apart to see how it works and then put it back together again,’ Tails promised himself as he approached the teal, three-wheeled truck.

Bark waved out to him, a playful grin on his snout. “Yo! You’re late!” he said.

Cream opened the window as the fox approached her. “Alright Tails, we’re ready!” the fighter said. Tails peered inside to see Cosmo’s lips curl upwards, relief flooding her face. 

The fox smirked back and then settled back onto the bike.“OK,” Tails said, his jaw set. “We’re heading back to the third floor. Let’s go!” He twisted the throttle controls and rode off, the bright, single lamp headlight at the front illuminating his way. The truck trundled behind him as they ascended back to the third floor.

Once they reached the top, they stopped just before the elevators. Bark twisted around to face Tails. “Hey, so what now?!” he hollered over the sounds of the engine. 

“Simple,” Tails answered. His grip tightened on the handlebars as he spoke. “See that window at the end? You’ll need to shoot it and the next glass panel beyond it,” he instructed. Seeing Bark’s confused face, he continued hastily. “Look, so this building is designed to look like an egg from the outside, right? An egg is wider around its middle than it is on its end. That means the glass that makes up its exoskeleton is closer to the building on this floor than it is on, say the 30th or 40th floor-” He let out a frustrated growl as he realized he was over-explaining things. “Bark, just-just shoot the glass and trust me, OK?”  he finished wearily.

“Alright, whatever you say…” the polar bear said doubtfully. He took aim from the top of the truck and fired a barrage on the thick glass. The shots passed through both panes and formed cracks that spiderwebbed up and down its height.

Tails exhaled, holding the clutch down and setting the gear. He leaned over the bike and twisted the throttle to rev up the engine. The motor roared loudly as he watched the digital gauge in between the handlebars climb higher and higher. Seconds later, he yelled out, “CREAM! FLOOR IT!” and released the clutch.

The motorcycle shot off towards the damaged window, the tires squealing loudly on the polished flooring. He lowered his head as he crashed through the first pane and then through the second that made up the building’s facade, which was separated from the main building by only a few feet. Sailing through the open sky, the bike landed hard on a section of the Megapolis Expressway. Regaining control, Tails swerved around to see the flatbed truck – along with his terrified and screaming friends – land a few feet away from him with a bounce. 

Cream jammed the brakes and they slid to an unsteady stop near the fox. He rolled up to them, smirking. “See, Cream? I told you it would work,” he said cockily as she rolled down the window.

“…Remind me never to doubt you again,” Cream answered flatly, giving her friend a level stare. Beside her, Cosmo clutched a stitch in her chest, her eyes wide with a mix of fright and exhilaration. 

“Uh… Everyone?” Green XIII chimed in, his raspy voice drawing the group’s attention. He was looking in the direction towards the Kintobor Building and pointed out towards something approaching from the distance. “I think we are about to have some company.”

Tails swiveled around and looked in the direction that the golem was indicating. A deployment of MP’s – all riding motorcycles of their own – were steadily heading towards them. He cursed under his breath and then turned to Cream and the others. “You guys get going,” he said, drawing the Buster Sword. “I’ll hang back and deal with these jokers.” His eyes met Bark’s own. “Bark, I’ll be counting on both you and Green to keep this truck safe. If any get by me, take ‘em out!”

“You got it, Tails,” Bark growled, cocking his gun. A determined scowl crossed his face. “You can count on us to give it to those Kintobor bastards!” Beside him, Green XIII flashed a thumbs up in agreement.

Nodding, the fox then turned to his childhood friend. He looked right at her worried amber-brown eyes. “Don’t worry about me,” he said in what he hoped was a comforting tone. “You just keep Cosmo and the others alive. I’m counting on you too, Cream.” 

She said nothing for a long moment, her lips drawn into a thin line. Soon, they curled up into a warm smile. “OK Tails,” she accepted. “Don’t get too in over your head and be safe.” She raised the window back up, set the truck into gear and sped off.

As the soldiers approached, Tails took the opportunity to  quickly inspect his blade. The battles over the course of several days left him no proper opportunity to clean and hone his weapon and he saw, with a pang of guilt running through him, the damage that was done to it. 

There was a level of wear on the edge and the flats on both sides were scarred from the myriad of bullets and claws he had blocked over the course of the past few days. Dried blood from Humans, Mobians and Mutates mixed with coolant splattered from the numerous Robians and mechaniloids he fought and gave the blade a rusted and discoloured appearance. He frowned at the sight and set himself back onto the motorcycle properly. Adjusting the bike into gear, he held the giant sword in a reverse grip with his left hand . ‘Just stay strong for me, my faithful friend,’ he spared a thought for it as he heard the soldiers approach from behind. ‘When this is all over, I’ll get you fixed up. Til then, I’m counting on you to keep us all alive…

When they were only a couple hundred feet away, Tails raced off, tires squealing and his weapon held aloft as he made his stand against the riding MP’s while winding through the curves and bends of the expressway.


Cream

“Hey! Can’t this jalopy go any faster?!”

Cream grounded her teeth at Bark’s comment as she veered around the empty highway. “Do you want me to stop so you can drive instead?” she hollered back. Only silence met her remark. “I thought so,” she grumbled.

“Creamy?” came Cosmo’s worried tone beside her. Her eyes were trained on the passenger side mirror. “Um… we got bogies tailing us at six o’clock!”

“What?!” Cream glanced at her incredulously. She then arched her head over her shoulder to Bark, while keeping one eye on the road. “Bark! Why aren’t you shooting?!”

“I can’t get an open shot!” the bear hollered back over the wind.

Before she could press further, the reason rolled up to them in a flash of metal, orange fur and twin bushy tails. 

Tails gunned the throttle with his right hand and pulled up to Cream’s side of the truck. Flashing both girls a cocky grin, he then pulled the brake and sliced at an incoming MP’s bike behind him with his sword in his left hand. The rabbit watched from her side mirror as the blade cut through the front fork of the dark-coloured motorbike, sending it and the soldier riding it flying and crashing into a heap.  

“Cream! On our right!” came Cosmo’s voice beside her, followed by the sounds of Bark shooting. Cream turned her attention away from Tails and to the passenger side where three more soldiers approached, each swerving around to avoid Bark’s shots. 

“Can’t… pin… down… these motherfuckers!” the polar bear snarled as he strafed and fired off the last shots on his current clip. A few bullets managed to strike the lead rider, who lost control of his bike and slid to the ground. The two bikes following closely behind then slammed into the leader’s and sent all three rolling painfully onto the asphalt.  

Satisfied, Bark hunkered down to reload but then swore loudly. “I’m down to my last four clips!” he shouted, pounding the truck bed with his fist. “This is just perfect!”

“With the luck we’re having right now, I’m surprised that we’re all still alive,” Green XIII commented dryly as he gripped his side of the truck tightly.

But for how long? came the thought unbidden to Cream’s mind. She forced herself not to imagine the grisly outcome and instead trained her focused back onto the road. They passed through a straightaway and ended up in a curved section that spiraled downwards towards another straight road lined with tall condominiums on either side. 

Another soldier creeped up to Cosmo’s side, reared away and slammed into the truck, pushing it towards the left shoulder. Both the flower girl and the fighter let out a yelp and Cosmo threw a hand out onto the dashboard to stabilize herself. Growling, Cream eyed the rider ramming into her as it readied another strike. Timing it, she twisted hard on the steering wheel just as the grunt was approaching and struck the vehicle. The heavier vehicle caused the motorcycle to careene away and collide with the right shoulder, sending its rider over the edge.

As Cosmo pushed herself back onto her seat, her hand slipped and her finger switched the radio on. A catchy rock song suddenly blared out of the speakers. “Oh darn, I’m sorry!” she apologized as she reached out to turn it off.

Cream stopped her just as the song cut off and was replaced by an orchestrated jingle that was familiar to the rabbit’s ears. “Hold on a sec, Cos,” she said as the broadcast began. 

We interrupt this broadcast for a breaking news update,” the announcer said, before switching over to the news.

This is Scarlett Garcia from KNN,” the female’s voice rang out. “Megapolis suffers from yet another tragedy as Gerald Kintobor, longtime President of Kintobor Incorporated, has died. He was 83 years old. Authorities-

Another rider sidled up to Cream’s side and rammed the truck as they were listening. Cream fought for control as the vehicle swerved towards the right shoulder. The biker readied to strike the truck again, this time with the hope of forcing it to crash. In an instant, Tails drew up to the soldier’s bike, wrapped his tails around the rider’s neck and flung him off. The bike – now riderless – wobbled dangerously before it crashed to the ground, its metal frame causing bright sparks to fly up into the other MP’s trailing behind. The fox then let off the throttle to deal with the rest of the soldiers and gave Cream and the others space. 

Both women continued listening to the broadcast as the group was chased out of the residential ring of the sector and entered the industrial area. The vehicle streaked past factories, warehouses and other, large industrial complexes. “-cause of death is unknown at this time, but it has been determined that it was the work of the terrorist cell, TORNADO, who were responsible for bombing two Energen Reactors and dropping the Sector 7 plate in recent days. Our source has confirmed that all of the remaining members of the cell were recently captured as early as last night.” 

There was a pause in the transmission as the truck rounded a tight corner. “Oh! We just received new information, listeners!” came Scarlett’s voice through the radio. The terrorists have escaped the building and are currently on the Sector 5 portion of the Megapolis Expressway! Kintobor troops are enroute to apprehend them! We will continue to provide more information as the situation develops!”

Cream’s grip on the steering wheel tightened as the news broadcast ended and the music resumed playing. She felt her stomach drop at the reminder of all the lives lost due to her’s and Bark’s vendetta against Kintobor. Before she could dwell on them further, three more grunts approached from the sides and the back. A fourth zoomed ahead, cut in front of the truck and boxed it in. The rabbit gritted her teeth at this predicament as the riders closed in, guns drawn and pointed at the four occupants.

“Pull over and stand down!” one the MP’s hollered out over the rushing wind, his gun trained on Cream’s temple. “We will shoot you if you do not comply!”

“Creamy, what are we gonna do?” Cosmo asked the fighter, her brows creasing and hands worrying the fabric of her white dress. 

Cream feigned a response and instead peered at her side mirror from the corner of her eye to see Tails dealing with three MP’s surrounding his ride. Her lips set into a grim line at the sight. ‘Hurry up Tails…


Tails

Tails cursed his luck as he finished off the last soldier with a sweeping slash from his sword. He realized too late that the three riders he had fended off were just a distraction. In front of him, four more motorcycles had surrounded the truck ahead, with three of the riders pointing guns at his friends. In a frantic rush, Tails sheathed his sword, adjusted the gears and gunned the engine, willing the machine to go faster. He could feel the intense vibrations running up his legs as the motor was being pushed to its absolute limit. At the same time, he brought his right hand to the Emeralds on his armor and quickly drew energy from the newly acquired Barrier Emerald he pilfered from Beta’s metallic corpse. Within a few short moments, he caught up to the motorcycle at the back of the truck.

The fox didn’t hesitate as he drew out and brought the sword over to the rider’s back in a sweeping, overhead chop from left to right. The soldier let out an agonizing cry and his blood splattered all about him as his spinal cord was severed. In the same movement, he thrusted his right palm out towards the right side of the truck and called “BARRIER!” A translucent silver-grey beam of energy shot out from his hand and formed a thin screen of light around Cosmo’s side of the truck.

The rider next to Cream twisted his head back as he heard his comrade shout out, giving her the time she needed to bring the truck closer to him She forcefully kicked the door open, which then slammed into the motorcycle on her side, causing the bike to become unbalanced. The rider fought for control as Tails approached from his right and brought the mighty blade down, cleaving the bike in two. 

Though it was weak, the Barrier spell was enough to stop the few shots coming from the pistol of the right-most rider. Green XIII sprung up with a bright yellow crystal charge in hand. He pointed it to the motorcycle on his side and called “BOLT!” The chunk flew out and exploded on contact with the bike, sending a shower of electrical energy over it and the MP. The soldier lost control of the vehicle and rammed headfirst into the right shoulder.

At the same moment the golem launched his spell, Bark stood up, leaned on the roof of the truck’s cab and shot at the lone rider in front. The bullet struck the back of the grunt’s skull and he jerked violently. The bike crashed onto its side and Green XIII grabbed the bear by the waistline of his pants and yanked him back down as Cream weaved quickly around the dead biker.

The five reached the end of Sector 5’s industrial ring and were fast approaching the outskirts of the city. Driving into a tunnel, Tails looked back and saw that no one else was following them. The sight would make anyone else breathe a sigh of relief, but Tails instead was wary. He drove up to Cream’s window and knocked on it. “They’ve stopped following us,” he spoke loudly over the wind so that all four could hear them. “But stay sharp! If I were a bettin’ fox, I know they’d never let us go that easily!”

No sooner than he said the words did something large rumble up behind them. Cruising towards the Mobians on six, independently moving spiked wheels was a large robot, its body splashed in colours of deep plum and gun-metal grey. Tails swiveled around to look at the mechaniloid; its main body was folded up, but he could make out features like arm mounted cannons and two large tubes coming out of its back. Jutting out from where its shoulders were located were two, large ducted propeller fan blades that gave the hunk of metal additional propulsive power and allowed it to keep up with the group as they neared the end of the tunnel. 

Set upon the top portion of its broad back was a familiar-looking domed head with a yellow shade over cold, unfeeling green eyes. It was the head that made the fox gnash his teeth, his spiteful thoughts directed at the man who created it and its other siblings. 

“Damn you, Robotnik,” Tails spat out as they left the tunnel and approached the end of the line. Both vehicles came to a screeching halt at the unconstructed portion of the highway at the extreme edge of the city. With nowhere left to go, Tails, Bark, Cream, Cosmo and Green XIII got out of their vehicles to find themselves between a 100 meter drop to the ground below and the metal monstrosity that was fast approaching them…


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

Chapter 38: Elevator Ambush



Cosmo

“Tails…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tails… Cream… Someone… Anyone… Help…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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