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Strange Company

Chapter Text

June 21st, 1992


“So who all is gonna be at this shindig?” Mobo asked, leaning against the doorjamb. “Sonic, obviously, but who else?”

“Alex Kidd, natch,” Robo replied, straightening his tie. “Harrier, Opa-Opa, Alis Landale, uh, that one dwarf axe guy from Golden Axe...”

“Cripes. Let’s hope he actually eats with silverware instead of his hands.”

“That guy and his girlfriend what starred in Outrun, Joe Musashi, and Axel and Blaze, the ex-cops from Streets of Rage. You remember them, right?”

“How could I forget? They were all right,” Mobo remarked. “For cops, anyway.” 

“Ex-cops,” Robo corrected. “They quit the force for a reason, you know. Anyway, you don’t need to worry. I got dirt on all of these people. You wouldn’t believe what that Thunderhead guy gets up to when he thinks folks ain’t watching.”

“Bro, is that really necessary? We’re talkin’ about a hedgehog and a spaceship with wings, for God’s sake, it ain’t like they’re gangsters.”

Robo gave his brother a sidelong glance. “I just want to be on the safe side,” he said. “That’s all.”

The dinner was held at some trendy Japanese joint in San Francisco. The food was decent and the service was okay, but seeing the waiters and waitresses react to a bevy of weird-looking cartoons crowding into their place was better than both combined. Robo and Mobo got a kick out of it, anyway, but it was pretty clear that a lot of the others were nervous.

“I-I’m not hungry,” Alex Kidd insisted. “Maybe I’ll just have a salad or something...”

“Look at these people! You’d think they’d never seen a hedgehog before!” brayed Sonic, holding up his glass. A few seats away, Gilius Thunderhead growled. “Hey, can I get a re-up, please?”

“Does the new kid ever shut up?” Mobo groused under his breath. 

“No,” Robo replied. “He’s always like this. I heard he’s makin’ a lotta enemies lately.” His gaze roamed over the table, and he nudged Mobo with his elbow as he pointed out two of the other guests. “Hey, see those Outrun folks? I heard they’re on the outs. Look at them,” he snickered. “They’re hardly looking at each other.”

It was true. The driver and his girlfriend were sitting next to each other stonily, barely saying a word as they ate their food.

“Man, this party is dead,” Sonic complained. He glanced over to the Bonanzas, then snapped his fingers at them. “Hey! You guys! The Bandana brothers, right?”

“The Bonanza brothers, actually,” Robo clarified. “And you’re Sonic the Groundhog, right?”

A ripple of laughter went through the crowd, but Sonic himself didn’t seem that amused. “That’s hedgehog,” he said. “Hedgehog. Didn’t you see the ads?”

“Sorry, we don’t watch much TV,” Mobo chimed in. “No need to get prickly, kid.”

Okay, that got a full-on laugh from the Outrun couple, at least, but Sonic’s expression darkened even more. “Whatever. At least I’m actually making conversation. You two have been doing nothing but whispering to each other all night! Share it with the rest of the class, huh?”

“I noticed that too,” Alis remarked mildly, not looking up from her soup. “You two have terrible poker faces.”

“Kinda ironic,” Sonic said smugly. “Considering you two barely have faces at all.”

Ohhh, now that was too much. Mobo glanced over to his brother, who was quietly sipping his water. But--and maybe this was something only Mobo would notice--he was gripping his glass so hard it looked like he wanted to break it in half.

“Um, Sonic?” Opa-Opa said quietly. “That’s not very nice...”

“Yeah, well, they’re not very nice,” Sonic snapped. “But what do you expect from a couple of thieves?”

"Hey, hey.” Joe Musashi held up a hand. “Cool it, Sonic.”

Robo laughed, and Mobo looked up at him. “Thanks, Joe, but it’s really okay. He’s right, you know.” He laid an arm around Mobo’s shoulders, pulling him close. “Mobo and I, we’re just some two-bit bullies from Badville. We’re nowhere near as famous as you are, Sonic. Right, bro?”

“Well, yeah,” Mobo replied, confused. “But, uh, Robo--”

“We’re lucky that way,” Robo said, his voice dripping with fake sweetness. “After all, it ain’t our heads on the chopping block if you don’t bring in those Genesis sales by the end of the month!”

For a brief moment, there was a terrified silence--and then Sonic brought his hands down on the table with a bang, Alis, Axel and Blaze leapt up to hold him back, and Mobo put a hand over Robo’s chest to keep him from lunging at the hedgehog. 

“You take that back!” Sonic shrieked. "You take that back right now!”

"You want me to take it back? Then stop acting like you’re such hot shit!” Robo hollered back. “Laughing it up like you own the company when your game hasn’t even come out yet!”

“Like you got room to talk! What have you got, some console conversion of a ho-hum arcade game?”

Gilius Thunderhead stood up in his seat, and even the normally-chill Harrier looked up. “Hey,” he said firmly, pointing his chopsticks squarely at Sonic. “Them’s fightin’ words, pal.”

"Oh, come on!” Alex Kidd piped up, scrambling up onto the table. “Robo, stop getting mad just ‘cause Sonic’s right about you two!”

Robo let out a spiteful laugh. “Funny to see you agreeing with Sonic for once,” he cackled, “considering he’s the reason Sega threw you under the bus!”

And that just made everything worse. Soon everyone was shouting over each other, banging on the table, and even the other customers were turning around to see the mess. And then, suddenly, a crystal-clear voice rang out over the commotion.

“Everyone, please! Just stop!”

Immediately, everyone stopped in their tracks. Opa-Opa hovered above the table, flapping his wings. “This is wrong,” he said, landing squarely in the middle of the table. “This isn’t what we came here for, is it?”

Slowly, carefully, everyone else at the table shook themselves free. Mobo took his brother out of a headlock, Alis let go of Sonic, and quietly they settled back down in their seats.

“Listen,” Opa-Opa continued, and this time his voice was quiet but strong. “I know it’s been a hard year. I know we’re all really, really nervous. But Sonic’s game comes out tomorrow, and that’s why we’re here. We’re here to celebrate that, and to wish him good luck. Not just for his sake, but for all of our sakes, okay?” 

Opa-Opa turned to look at Robo. "All of our sakes," he repeated. "Right, Robo?"

Robo said nothing, and so Opa-Opa turned to Sonic instead. “Sonic,” he said, “we’re all counting on you. Soon, you’re going to be a big star. I can feel it. You’re going to have to set a good example for everybody. You understand that, right? Everyone’s going to be looking at you, all of the time, and it’s your duty to make sure you bring a smile to their faces.”

The little spaceship turned to look at each one of his coworkers. “That goes for the rest of us, too. Don’t forget why we’re here, okay? We’re here because people love us,” he continued. “We’re here because people believe in us. Because people looked at us, and they didn’t just see a spaceship, or a hedgehog, or a thief. They looked at us, and they saw something worth loving.”

Robo rubbed at the back of his head, and he glanced away.

“So we have to love each other, too. If we can’t do that, then we can’t do our jobs,” Opa-Opa concluded. He walked off the table and hopped back into his seat, then folded his wings back against his body. “Okay, everyone?”

Quietly, everyone else in the restaurant went back to eating their food. After a moment, Sonic raised his head.

“Thanks,” he mumbled. “I’m sorry if I’ve been a real jerk about stuff. I just...I dunno.”

Robo was quiet, and so Mobo spoke up instead. “It’s okay,” he said. “It’s been stressful, right? For all of us.” 

A murmur of agreement rippled through the group, and then, thankfully, Robo looked up. “Yeah,” he added. “Mobo ‘n’ I have been on pins and needles about the whole thing, actually.”

Sonic laughed nervously. “Uh...sorry about that. I thought you just cared about stealing and stuff.”

Robo laughed back. “Yeah, well, we thought you just cared about chili dogs,” he remarked, “so I guess we’re even.”

The conversation went much better after that. The chatter grew warm and friendly, and the hours ticked away, with Sega’s superstars--plus one soon-to-be-superstar--drinking and talking long into the night.