Chapter 27: Facing the Chaotix
Cosmo emerged to a scene of chaos.
The citizens of the Sector 7 Slums were running around in a panic. Some gathered their most precious possessions from their homes, while others took to breaking into shops and stealing whatever they could. Amidst the pandemonium, the flower girl made her way through the growing crowds towards the bar at the far end. She pushed open the saloon doors and entered Vanilla’s Haven.
The bar was emptied of all of its contents. All the liquor was stripped from the shelves. Chairs and tables were overturned. A pinball machine in the corner was smashed. The cash register was forcefully torn off of the counter, leaving a hole in the rough surface.
Her eyes darted around the raided store as she looked for the child. “Hope!” Cosmo called out, her hands cupping over her mouth. “Hope, where are you?!”
As she rounded the bar and headed towards the kitchen, she suddenly saw a flash of gold poke out from underneath the counter. She quickly raised the piano hinge on the bar counter and found the little girl huddled in a corner, her light blue dress soiled and her messy blonde hair partially obscuring a pair of scared blue eyes, both of which shone with tears.
Cosmo carefully got down to her hands and knees so she could be at eye level with the child. She smiled at her. “Hey, it’s OK,” she said calmly. “I’m not here to hurt you, I’m here to take you away from here.” Noticing the frightened look Hope gave her, Cosmo quickly added. “Cream and Tails, they both sent me here to get you to safety.”
“Cream and… Mr. Foxy Tails?” the little girl said, her lip quivering.
It took every ounce of Cosmo’s willpower not to laugh at that moment.
Instead, she bit the inside of her cheek. “Yes,” she said in a shaky, snickering tone. ‘Mr. Foxy Tails! Oooh, I gotta remember that one for later!’ She took a deep breath and put on a more serious face. “Now, come on, we have to get out of here!”
She extended her hand and the Human girl quickly took it. Cosmo wasn’t sure she gained her trust, but she nevertheless gathered her up and carried her out of the bar.
Arriving at the checkpoint leading to Sector 6 moments later, Cosmo saw that it was torn down by the escaping mob. The mechanism that held the large bay doors closed were smashed to pieces and the doors were wrenched open by the fleeing populace. The Kintobor security force tried in vain to hold them back, but were overpowered by the sheer numbers. Cosmo entered the throng and pushed her way through it, all while cradling Hope protectively in her arms. Above her, the sounds of gunfire rang through the air.
The flower girl soon broke through the crowd and started making her way towards her home in Sector 5. She was the only one going down this path as the rest of the crowd hurried to the safety of Sector 6’s Wall Market. Cosmo did not speak as they traversed the ruined and rugged pathway between Sectors 6 and 5.
As she neared the same mutant house that she and Tails met earlier, the flower girl looked down to Hope. She pressed a finger to her lips, indicating to her that she should be quiet. Holding her breath, she watched and waited behind a mound of junk until the concealed Mutate turned away from them and then sprinted towards the hole in the checkpoint wall that separated the two Sectors. Looking around to ensure that they were no further danger, she turned her attention back to the little girl trembling in her arms. “Okay, I’m going to put you down now,” she announced.
Cosmo slowly placed her onto the firm ground and again kneeled to meet her at eye level. She gave the little girl her warmest smile. “I’m Cosmo, by the way,” she introduced herself. “I sell flowers.”
“Oh!” Hope exclaimed suddenly. She dug into a pocket on her light blue dress and extracted a dried and pressed flower. “You mean like this one?” she said, a shy smile on her face.
Cosmo beamed. “Exactly like that one,” she said cheerfully. Her face then fell into a puzzled expression. “But how-”
“Mr. Foxy Tails gave it to me,” Hope said, clutching the flower tenderly. Her head was bowed and she shuffled on the spot. “He’s a bit scary, but he seems nice.” She looked back into Cosmo’s eyes and her brows creased upwards. “Do-do you think Cream and Mr. Tails and my dad are gonna be OK?”
Cosmo nodded vigorously in response. “Of course,” she said. She didn’t mention that she had no idea who her father was, but instead humored her. “I’m sure all three of them are going to be just fine.” She stood up, held out her hand and flashed her most winsome grin at Hope. “C’mon, we’re going to my place. You’re going to love it,” she said.
Hope smiled and took Cosmo’s hand. They set off on the pathway to Sector 5’s residential district. ‘She must know Tails,’ Cosmo thought, stealing a glance at the human girl as they walked. ‘I mean, it sounds like Tails has been around long enough for her to be familiar with him? So…’
“Hey Hope?” she started in what she hoped was a laid-back tone. “…So, what’s ‘Mr. Foxy Tails’ like?”
“Biggs!” Cream shouted out. She and Tails had only gone about a quarter of the way up the tower when they spotted the raven-haired human lying spread-eagle on one of the landings. His eyes were closed.
Tails moved in closer and kneeled down to inspect his wounds. His body was riddled with bullet holes. ‘He’s not gonna make it…’
Biggs cracked an eye open, hissing as he tried to move his head to face the fox. “So… Tails…” he said, struggling to speak. “You don’t… Care… What happens… To Mobius?”
“Save your strength, you’re wounded,” Tails responded.
The raven haired human let out a chuckle and groaned in pain afterwards. “…Thanks Tails…” he said weakly. “Go… Go help… Bark…” He coughed, blood starting to dribble down his chin. “He’s… still fighting…”
Tails nodded solemnly and continued on. Cream followed behind him a moment later. From the corner of his eye, he could see that her glower had deepened.
Rounding the next several flights of stairs, they ran into Jessie next. She was leaning on a railing and was struggling to stay upright. Like Biggs, she too had bullet holes in her torso. Tails could see that at least one of them was life-threatening. ‘Not her too…’
“Tails… Cream…” she said, a feeble smile crossing her lips. “Glad I… Could see you… One last time…”
“Don’t say ‘last’,” Tails replied softly. Then he added, more to himself than to Jessie, “You’re gonna make it. I know you will.”
Jessie shook her head and gave them both a rueful grin. “It’s… alright,” she said, tears now spilling out. “We… We probably… deserve this… All… All those lives… lost… because of… because of what we’ve done…”
She lost her balance and slumped down onto the stairs. Cream caught her and set her down gently. “Jess…” she said softly, a pained expression crossing her face.
Jessie placed a hand on Cream’s. “Go… Fight…,” she uttered, her strength waning. She took a shuddering breath as she lay on the metal flooring. Her hand slipped off of the fighter’s, who were now shaking.
Cream rose up, a blazing, maddening look in her eyes. She took off without Tails, hopping the steps two at a time in a frantic rush to reach the top.
Tails blinked suddenly as he watched his friend ascend upward. ‘I forgot that they were close,’ he realized as he followed right behind her. ‘Losing her bar, her home and now her friends? That’s rough…’
He arrived at the top just behind Cream. Bark pointed his gun at the stairs and did a double take. “Cream! You came back! Tails! You’re friggin’ alive!” he shouted, half jubilant, half relieved. He pointed his Gun-Arm back toward the large craft hovering in the air. “Be careful! They’re attacking from that SkyTrans up there!” he said, firing shots at it.
The car veered away from the shots and then eased back slightly, allowing the three Mobians a moment of reprieve. “We should check our equipment before they attack with full force!” Cream said. She and Bark swapped Emeralds, with he taking Ice and she taking Lighting. Tails removed the All Emerald and replaced it with an Ice Emerald of his own. He then swapped the Restore on his armour with the Lightning on his weapon. ‘Won’t hurt to have an attack spell on my armour, in case I lose my weapon,’ he reasoned.
The SkyTrans suddenly sped forward, the door on the side opening once again. “Look! Here they come again!” Cream shouted.
The three raced around the platform as a violet furred figure jumped out and landed right beside the support pillar’s monitoring station. He inserted a data stick into a port, which activated upon insertion. “Too late, mates!” the figure boomed out as the three TORNADO members rounded on him. “Once I press this button, it’s all ova!”
Tails recognized the Mobian at the panel. “You!” he shouted. “You’re the one from the church!”
“Indeed I am, ya sod!” Nack said gloatingly. Ignoring the cries from Bark and Cream, he pressed a key on the panel.
An alarm blared out as a computerized voice announced, “Emergency Plate Release System has been activated.”
“And there ya have it,” Nack continued, a wide grin on his muzzle. “Mission accomplished!”
“Don’t be so pretentious!” Tails said, glaring at the wolf-weasel. “All we have to do is beat you and disarm it!”
“Tut, tut,” Nack tsked, waggling a finger mockingly. “You think you can do that, foxy? I’d like to see you try.” He noticed the fighter and the gunner close ranks around the fox. “Three against one?” he said flippantly. Them’s not fair odds, ain’t they? Whaddya say we… even things up, eh?” He turned to the SkyTrans above him. “Come on out boys!”
Two more figures jumped out of the open door of the SkyTrans hovering above. The first that landed on the platform was a large crocodile wearing a pair of yellow and black headphones. He had hard, viridian scales and copper-red spikes going down his back. Cracking his knuckles, which were covered with black and gold cuffed gloves, he chuckled loudly. Tails could see the sharp and pointed teeth through the reptile’s grin. Like Nack, he too sported a navy blue jacket and white undershirt. The top third was unbuttoned which exposed his burly chest and gaudy gold chain necklace.
The second was a bee who flew out on gossamer-fine wings. He wore a black bomber helmet and an orange vest over top of a black jumpsuit. On the vest was a pin, with the letters ‘CX’ emblazoned on it. He hovered to the platform and landed next to his other two compatriots, who were much taller than he was. From a holster on his back, he pulled out a pointed blade with a rod that he extended, transforming the weapon into a spear. He had a wild, manic look about him and grinned widely at the prospect of battle.
“There we go, all Even-Steven now,” Nack said, a smarmy smile crossed his lips as he spoke. He drew out his pistols, cocking and pointing them at the fox. “Now, you’ll see what happens when you get in the way of the Chaotix!” He addressed his two comrades. “Vector, Charmy, let’s kick their asses!”
The two Mobians named Vector and Charmy rushed forward to face off against Cream and Bark respectively, leaving Tails to deal with Nack on his own. With Sector 7’s survival hanging in the balance, Tails steeled himself and prepared for the fight of his life.
Bark let loose a volley of bullets at the bee, roaring furiously as the shots rang out of his arm. He watched as the insect weaved around the shots as if they moved in slow motion.
“Can’t catch me!” Charmy mocked playfully, making a face as he spoke. Suddenly, he zoomed over Bark’s head like a bolt of lightning, doubled back and then dived towards him before the bear could fully realize what was going on.
It was only luck that saved Bark from being impaled. He stumbled as he turned around to keep his eyes on the bee and the spear point cut a large gash in his right shoulder instead of going through his chest. He roared in pain and clutched his shoulder to staunch the blood. The bee rose up once more and then dived like a bird of prey.
However, Bark was ready for him this time. He swung his Gun-Arm upward just as the bee entered his range and swatted him hard. Charmy flew erratically as the strike stunned him. He recovered just in time to avoid another salvo fired from the bear.
Bark gnashed his teeth in frustration. ‘Damn thing moves too fast for me to get a clear shot at him!’ he thought, snarling as the bee zoomed above him again. Realizing quickly that he needed to reduce his blindspots, Bark put his back against the central mast of the monitoring tower and pointed his gun upward, scanning the sky for the small Mobian.
He spotted the bee to his left, who ceased moving and hovered casually. His derisive look suggested that he dared the bear to fire his weapon again. “Aha, aren’t you smart,” Charmy smirked. “Using the tower to stop me attacking you from behind. But that’s not going to help you!” He darted down and swerved to the side as Bark fired again. The bee stopped just outside of his melee range and extended his spear, stabbing Bark in the leg. Charmy then pulled back, flying up high once more and repeated the same action on Bark’s other leg.
The gunner hissed, feeling slick blood slowly dribble out of the shallow wounds on his thighs and shoulder. He looked up and saw Charmy’s grin grew even wider, aggravating him further. “Alright, no more games,” he muttered, doubling over and drawing Fire energy out of the Emerald in his weapon.
Charmy took no notice, stretching his arms in an exaggerated yawn. “You’re supposed to be the leader of TORNADO? You’re such a bore,” he called to the weakened-looking bear. “I should finish you off right now, but I feel like playing a little bit longer-”
Bark rose up, swung his right arm skyward and called “FIRE!” cutting off the bee mid-sentence. A pillar of flames shot out of his hand and struck the insect fully in the chest, burning him. Charmy howled in pain and struggled to keep airborne, his movements were still too inconsistent for Bark to get a proper bead on him.
Instead, the bear dug into one of his pockets and pulled out three Potions. He snapped the tops off each and poured them on his wounds. As he felt the medicine work into his body, he saw that the bee had recovered. His wings were singed, his vest was burned off and he had an enraged look in his eyes.
“You bastard!” he roared, teeth bared. “I’m going to kill you! I’ll skin you alive and-”
But Bark attention wasn’t focused on Charmy’s rants. Instead, his focus turned to the objects he felt in his pocket as he grabbed the restoratives. ‘The grenades! I forgot that Jessie gave me these as we went up!’ his mind raced, fingering the explosives. ‘I wonder what would happen if-’
“Hey! Are you even paying attention to me!?” Charmy hollered, his rage palpable. He placed a hand on the green gem inlaid into his weapon, drew out Emerald energy and gathered it into his index finger. “I SAID if you like the heat so much, then have some on me! FIRE!” he called, pointing his finger directly at Bark. A beam of red Fire energy shot out like a bullet.
“Oh shit!” Bark yelled, barely rolling out of the way as the magic struck behind him and exploded. The heat of the impact singed a chunk of fur on his back and caused angry red burns to form on his right thigh. Growling through his teeth in pain, the bear slapped his left hand onto his armor and drew out Ice energy.
In spite of the pain he felt from the burns, Charmy scoffed. “You think your magic’s gonna hit me!? Your bullets couldn’t even touch me! …Granted, that first shot was a lucky strike, but what makes you think the second time will be any different?!”
“What’s different here,” Bark said through gritted teeth, shoving his hand into his pocket and collecting a grenade. Pulling it out, he saw that the Ice energy enveloped the explosive, and a savage and satisfied sneer crossed his muzzle at the sight. He pulled the pin with his teeth, cooking it as he finished his sentence. “Is that I’m making this up on the fly!” He tossed it upwards and called, “ICE!”
The grenade, encased in Ice energy, rose up and exploded in front of a surprised Charmy, sending a volley of thin ice shards hurtling in all directions. The majority of the shards struck the bee’s body as he tried to retreat, with many of them penetrating through his wings. Overwhelmed by the cold energy and unable to keep aloft, Charmy dropped from the sky before landing hard on the pillar platform. He fell unconscious upon impact.
Bark, to a lesser degree, was also showered by the thin, needle-like fragments. He felt a stinging, cold sensation in his arms and back as he ducked forward and covered his head. Once the magic dissipated, he got into a sitting position and slumped against the monitoring tower’s mast to rest. He panted as he downed his last Potion. “Holy… shit… can’t believe… that actually worked!” he muttered breathlessly in disbelief.
Once he gained control of his breathing once more, he looked up and saw the fallen Chaotix member out of the corner of his eye. Feeling his rage reignite, he pulled himself up, walked over to the body and pointed his Gun-Arm directly at the bee’s head. “Say goodbye, you Kintobor-loving scum,” he growled venomously under his breath.
And then a loud, agonizing roar pierced the air, followed by Nack’s voice. “Like it foxy?!” Bark heard the hybrid cackle loudly.
The gunner faltered. He glowered first at the quarry by his feet and then in the direction where Tails was fighting. He squeezed his eyes shut as he made his decision. “…Shit,” he spat, raising his arm and barreling around the mast towards Tails.
“You’re pretty strong!”
“You’re not half-bad yourself!”
Cream and Vector broke away from their skirmish, both fighters panting slightly as they circled one another. Though the rabbit’s visage exuded a calm intensity, inwardly she was perturbed. ‘His skin is as hard as steel! I don’t know if I’ve even made an impact,’ she mused, tightening her fists.
He suddenly advanced and swung his fist down so quickly that Cream barely got out of the way. However, she couldn’t avoid the subsequent tail swipe that sent her flying hard into the tower’s mast. “OK, that’s it,” Cream muttered, more to herself than to the Chaotix member as she pushed off of the steel wall. The brawler brought a hand up and beckoned the crocodile forward.
Grinning and accepting the invitation, Vector ran up to face her. As soon as he got within range, Cream quickly placed a foot against the wall behind her, kicked off and threw her entire weight into a savage haymaker that connected with the crocodile’s snout. He staggered to the side, disoriented. Cream landed and then followed up her attack by grappling the reptile around the head. She then repeatedly struck his underbelly with her knees, getting in a few shots until Vector blocked an oncoming knee, twisted to get out of the hold and then punched her in the gut.
With his hand still in Cream’s abdomen, the crocodile shoved her hard, his vast strength sending her flying into the platform’s railing. She yelped loudly as her back connected with the cold steel and then crumpled to the floor. She let out a few gasps of pain, before gritting her teeth and pushing herself up.
Vector shook his head in amusement as he watched the rabbit get up. He folded his arms nonchalantly. “For someone so beautiful, you sure do punch hard,” he chortled, before unfolding his arms and settling into a stance. His hand, Cream noticed, was glowing.
‘Ah nuts, I should have known he was charging a spell,’ she thought, her body tensening as she waited for him to cast the spell so she could dodge it. She saw the crocodile grin smugly as the energy formed into a red ball in his hand. Without warning, he shoved the orb into his mouth, which caught the rabbit off guard.
The look of shock she gave him was all Vector needed. With a roar of “FIRE!” he spat the energy ball out. The ball, which was now four times its size, rocketed towards Cream, who could do nothing more than cross her arms in a defensive stance. She bore the brunt of Vector’s Fire spell and cried out as she struck the rail behind her once again. She collapsed onto the metal floor and rolled around instinctively to put out the flames on her body.
“Y’see, I have this neat little trick where if I put magic in my mouth and spit it out, it amplifies,” Vector said in a conversational tone as she lay there. “Yeah, so I risk seriously harming or even killing myself, but… the rewards make it worthwhile.”
The rabbit slammed a hand onto the platform and struggled to push herself up. She could hear him chuckle. “The fact that you’re still moving after that is a testament to your strength,” Vector continued. “It’s been a while since I had a good challenge.” He paused and Cream watched as he turned away from her, his arms again folded. “Regardless of the circumstances… I’d stay down if I were you.” Cream noted a hint of sympathy in his voice. “This fight’s over.”
‘…He’s right,’ Cream admitted to herself as she looked through the perforated flooring towards the Slums below. ‘…It has been a long time since I was challenged like this. If things were different… I would have enjoyed this fight.’ Groaning softly, she slowly rose to her hands and knees and shakily pushed herself back up into a standing position, pain coursing through her body. ‘But he’s wrong in one instance; this isn’t over yet! What he’s doing and what he stands for… I can’t back down and I can’t let them get away with this! I will not let them destroy Sector 7!’
She placed her right hand on the Lightning Emerald in her weapon and drew out energy as she settled slowly into a fighting stance. At the same time, she felt a prickling sensation, similar to what she experienced when she, Tails and Cosmo fought the Aps in the sewers. Her body radiated a golden light and silver bolts of electricity started to emanate from her fists once more. The two mingled with the yellow-white energy in her hand that she was pouring Mana into. “Again!” Cream called out forcefully, cupping the Lightning magic in both hands and placing them by her side, her eyes blazing.
Vector turned around. HIs eyes were closed and he smiled mirthlessly. “Oho, you are a glutton for punishment, aren’t you?” he said, as he conjured another Fire orb in his hand. His expression then changed from light-hearted to serious upon seeing the fierce look in the rabbit’s eyes. “Hm… What’s this?” he commented, his jaw tightening. “There’s fire in you yet, huh? I like that in a woman…”
Cream ignored the comment as she strengthened the spell in her hand. Her body yearned to release all the pent-up energy, but she held firm. ‘Not yet. I have to time this just right.”
Amidst the sounds of fighting all around her, Cream heard nothing but the rhythmic sound of her breath. She waited for the crocodile to make the first move. Suddenly, Vector inserted the energy in his mouth and Cream retaliated by pushing her hands forward. But as the crocodile launched his amplified spell, Cream pulled her hands back and performed a split at the very last second. She pressed her body as low to the floor as she could and the fireball passed mere inches over her. She felt the intense heat radiating from it as it sailed away from the pillar. Without a moment’s hesitation, she raised her upper body, pushed her hands towards Vector and called “BOLT!”
The Lightning magic shot out and struck the bewildered crocodile. The electric current pinned him in place long enough for Cream to get up, her fists now ablaze with silvery-golden energy. She rushed in and performed the same Ki-enhanced five hit combo and somersault moves she used on Aps. When she landed, she then circled around to the still stunned Vector’s back and grappled him around the waist. With a loud kiai, she lifted him up and executed a suplex. Vector’s head connected hard with the metal floor and with a groan, he slipped into unconsciousness.
The rabbit gingerly rose to her feet and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. “Serves you right,” she sniffed at the reptile.
She pulled out a Potion from a pocket in her skirt and downed its contents to recover. She suddenly spat the last bits of it out when she heard an anguished roar from her right, followed by the weasel-wolf’s voice. “Like it foxy!?” she heard Nack cackle loudly. Fear started to envelope her.
Ignoring the soreness she felt, Cream hobbled in the direction of Tails’ screams. “Hang in there Tails,” she mumbled to herself as she fished out and drank another restorative. “I’m coming…”
As soon as Vector and Charmy left to fight his friends, Tails immediately blocked the shots fired from Nack’s twin pistols with the flat of his blade. The fox then pushed forward, his senses helping him to avoid or deflect the bullets that were raining down on him. Once he got in range, Tails swept his blade horizontally. To his surprise, Nack jumped over the blade and fired a shot at his face while in mid-air. The bullet impacted harmlessly on the metal floor as Tails read the path of the bullet and moved his head before the hybrid could pull the trigger.
Nack landed, got in close to Tails and struck his face with the butt of his left pistol. Before he could fire a shot with the right, one of the fox’s tails swung around and lashed Nack’s wrist like a whip. The hybrid yelped loudly as he dropped his firearm, but then struck Tails’ diaphragm with his right elbow.
The wind knocked out of him, Tails stumbled back. He raised his sword just in time to fend off another volley from the gunner, who recovered his dropped firearm. While in his defensive stance, he drew Ice energy and palmed it in his left hand. Honing his ears, which were stinging from the loud gunshots pinging against the sword, Tails blindly charged forward in Nack’s general direction. He heard him step to his right.
The fox slowed down, used the momentum to pivot his body and thrust his left arm in the weasel-wolf’s direction, calling “ICE!” The blue energy darted towards an astonished Nack, his dual pistols pointing at Tails’ head. The hybrid crossed his firearms and let go, backing away as the magic collided and encased them in ice.
Immediately after he cast the spell, Tails raised his sword up and brought it down with a cleave, smashing the pistols into pieces. The blade’s tip swung mere inches from the retreating Chaotix member, who now had his back against the monitoring tower’s platform railing. He gave the fox another unctuous smile, his hands raised up in surrender. “Oh, now this won’t do,” he said, his voice biting. “I liked those guns, ya cheeky git!”
Nack let out a long exhale and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, Tails saw that all traces of his earlier humor were gone. They were the cold, dead eyes of a professional killer.
“Alright, warmup’s over,” Nack growled, his flippant and aloof air giving way to a more sinister one. “Let’s get serious, eh?”
He snapped his fingers and the SkyTrans they arrived in rose up behind him. The spotlight on its undercarriage pointed directly at Tails, who shielded his eyes from the harsh brightness. The fox then heard Nack yell “Oi! Drop the Marvelous Queen!”
His command was followed first by the sound of a gun cocking and then a high pitched whine, which stood out against the low hum of the transport’s mag-lev engines. And then suddenly, all Tails knew was pain.
He felt two small prongs shallowly penetrate his left leg, followed immediately by a high-voltage electric current that coursed through his body. Tails let out an agonizing yell as he felt every nerve in his body being seared by the electricity. It felt as though he was on fire. In the throes of agony, he heard Nack chortle. “Like it foxy!?” he called.
Dimly from his left, he heard Bark shout out, followed by the faint sounds of gunfire. He felt the prongs detach abruptly from his leg and he crumpled to the floor. He took several deep, gasping breaths and his hand clawed for the Restore Emerald on his weapon. Drawing the magic from the gem, he slapped his hand onto his chest and choked out “CURE!”
The restorative magic enveloped him and healed his body from the electrical damage it suffered. He gingerly rose up into a crouching position and watched as Nack turned the curious weapon in his hand towards him. On reflex, Tails raised his sword and blocked the oncoming volley. They pinged harmlessly off of the thick blade, but impacted with such force that the vibrations rattled up the weapon and into the fox’s arm. ‘What the hell kind of bullets are these?!’ he thought as his fingers started to grow numb from the repeated shocks.
Behind him, the sounds of both footsteps and crackling electric energy swiftly found the fox’s ears. He heard the voice – which he now realized was Cream’s – call out “BOLT!” The electric ball streaked over his head and he felt the jarring gunshots cease. Tails pulled himself up onto his feet and saw the hybrid suffer a glancing blow from the magical attack, his arm getting clipped as he rolled away from it. As Nack rose up, Tails finally got a proper look at his new weapon.
It was a large semi-automatic rifle equipped with multiple tactical rails. Coloured chrome silver with bluish-violet accents, the weapon sported a collapsible stock that rested against the weasel-wolf’s shoulder. It had a pistol grip and a curved magazine, which Tails recognized contained high-caliber ammunition. A scope was equipped on the top tactical rail, while a launcher was positioned on the rail underneath the gun’s barrel. A rail on the left side of the gun had what looked to be a taser equipped, the two pronged tips covered in his blood.
On the opposite side of the monitoring platform, Bark, who found cover near the tower’s monitoring panel, slid a grenade over to Nack. Hearing him kick it away, the bear got out of his cover, swung his energy-coated right fist towards the Chaotix member and called “FIRE!”
However, it seemed that Nack anticipated this. Angling his body so that the pillar of flame sailed harmlessly away from him, he pointed his rifle at the bear and pulled the trigger on the launcher beneath the gun barrel. The projectile soared over to the bear, clinked once and then exploded into a field of yellow energy. The expanding energy soon solidified and trapped the gunner in a pyramid-shaped enclosure. “Try gettin’ outta that, mate!” the wolf-weasel yelled as he turned around and drew a bead on Cream and Tails.
The two circled around the tower mast, avoiding the bullets as they pinged harmlessly on the floor. Tails banged a fist on the metal wall, his expression heated. “This isn’t good,” he said to Cream, who was next to him. “Somehow, we need to get Bark free from whatever the hell he’s trapped in.” He looked at his friend directly. “Can you handle that?”
She nodded. “Alright,” Tails replied, hoisting his sword up. “I’ll keep that bastard company. Get Bark out however you can and we’ll triple-team him. The fox slipped out from behind the mast, his sword in his defensive stance. “Hey! Over here asshole!” he jeered, bracing himself against the rifle bullets as he advanced. Hearing the high-pitched whine again, he ran up, dropped into a slide to avoid the prongs and then swiped at the weasel-wolf’s legs with his sword. Nack got a nick in his right calf as he rolled away from the strike. He retracted the taser prongs and pointed the rifle at one of the fox’s tails, but Tails quickly advanced on him and slashed, giving him no room to aim.
From the corner of his eye, Tails saw Cream circle around the structure towards Bark, who was pounding on the walls of his enclosure, his muzzle frothing in rage. Before she could even address the issue, she spun around and came face to face with a revived Vector and Charmy, both looking battered, but still able to fight. The bee pointed his spear at Cream and grinned. Beside him, Vector cracked his knuckles, his eyes set in a glare. Without warning, they both attacked and the fighter struggled to keep up with the onslaught.
Fury roiled through Tails at that moment. He swung his blade recklessly at Nack with one hand while he placed the other on his armour and drew Lightning energy. Backing the Chaotix member again to the rail on the edge of the platform, Tails then executed a desperate gambit: His tails shot forward and wrapped tightly around Nack’s wrists and forced them down, preventing him from using his weapon. He followed up with a shoulder charge which sent the stupefied Nack over the rail, his tails relinquishing the hold they had on his arms simultaneously. Without checking to see if he truly fell, he raised the arm holding the Lightning magic, thrust his palm out and called “BOLT!”
Tails’ spell was not aimed at the two Chaotix members, but instead struck the prison holding Bark captive. The three fighters ceased their skirmish as the energy barrier dissipated. All that remained was Bark, huffing loudly, his eyes narrowed into slits. Golden energy was radiating off of his body and the aura quickly coalesced into a crimson orb at the end of his Gun-Arm.
“You’re mine, you sons of bitches!” he roared, pointing his arm at Vector and Charmy and firing. Cream rolled out of the way as the orb traveled to the two Mobians. Bark watched as Vector jumped in front of Charmy, grabbed him and dropped to the floor, the projectile skimming and burning the scales off his right arm as he did so.
“You should be payin’ more attention to ya surroundin’s mate!” A voice called beneath Tails while he watched the scene unfold. Nack had not fallen, but instead grasped the end of the platform with a free hand and pulled himself up. Flipping over the railing, he drew a knife from his jacket and plunged it into the fox’ shoulder. Howling, Tails responded by grabbing Nack by the lapels of his rumpled jacket and headbutting him. Both stumbled about, stunned from the fox’s impromptu attack.
Before the weasel-wolf could get his bearings, he was ambushed by Cream. Her hands glowing blue from tapping the Steal Emerald, she swiped the hybrid’s rifle with ease and threw it off of the platform. She then subsequently grabbed his shooting wrist and broke it with a twist. Nack screamed and blindly aimed a swipe at the rabbit’s head with his good hand, which she easily avoided. Cream retreated to Tails’ position and they both watched as Nack clutched his broken wrist. They were soon joined by Bark as the Chaotix member backed into the platform railing. He bared his teeth at the three and stared directly at the fighter with pure hatred. “I’m gonna getcha for that ya stupid-”
Before he could finish his sentence, he suddenly heard a series of shrill beeps emit from the watch on his other hand. His eyes widened. “Oi, Vector, Charmy, we gotta go!” he hollered to his teammates, alarm laced in his voice. “It’s time!”
The crocodile, still holding the bee in his uninjured arm, grudgingly got up and jumped over the railing next to him. Nack, still grimacing, followed suit. He breezed past a bewildered Cream and Bark and hopped over the same rail Vector and Charmy used. A moment later, the SkyTrans that was circling the monitoring platform rose up from below and zoomed away from the pillar and up into the city above.
Recovering quickly from her confusion, Cream raced to the monitoring control panel and looked desperately at it, unsure which button or switch would disarm the system. “Tails! Come quickly and help!” she cried frantically.
Pulling the knife painfully out of his shoulder and discarding it, Tails ran over to the panel. He extracted his last Potion and swigged half of it down as he quickly looked over the data on the screen. His face suddenly darkened. “It’s not a normal time bomb,” he said to Cream grimly.
“That’s correct,” a voice called out from behind.
Tails, Cream and Bark turned around to see a second SkyTrans rise up from below. Standing behind the open door was a red echidna sporting long dreadlocks and wearing a full navy suit. He was shirtless and the smallest trace of a white, crescent shaped birthmark could be seen from underneath the jacket. He wore blood red shoes with a yellow stripe and green cuffs on the top – colours which stood out comically compared to the crisp suit. The eyes, Tails noted, were not comical at all. Hued in a deep violet-blue, they were stern, cold and unforgiving.
The echidna crossed his arms and the fox got a glimpse of the long, sharp twin spikes mounted on the pair of gloves worn by the interloper. “It’ll blow the moment some idiot touches it,” he continued, his eyes sliding over and meeting the fox’s own. “But you probably already knew that, huh Ex-SOLDIER?”
Tails narrowed his eyes, seething at the echidna. ‘He sure did his homework,’ he thought darkly.
“Permit me to introduce myself,” the echidna continued. “I’m Knuckles of the Chaotix. I always feel that it’s important to share one’s name before an enemy’s last moments. It’d be a shame to go to Hell without knowing who killed you, right?”
“Please! You have to stop this!” Cream cried, ignoring the comment. But the echidna shrugged and shook his head.
“Can’t do that,” Knuckles said impassively. “Only a Kintobor employee with executive-level clearance can override-”
“Shut the hell up!” Bark cut in, pointing his Gun-Arm at the SkyTrans. “And do as the lady says, huh?”
“Ah, ah, ah,” the echidna tutted, waving a hand dismissively at the trigger-happy bear. “You might make me injure our special guest.” And from within the transport, he grabbed someone by the arm and pulled them forwards into the light.
Tails’ heart sank and his stomach churned at the sight of the flower petal dress, the green jacket, the rose petal hair blossoms and the bright, sky blue eyes that stared back at him.
It was Cosmo.