"I HATE THAT HEDGEHOG!"
Dr. Eggman was busy engaging in his most reviled and yet ironically most frequent pastime; exclaiming just how much he hated that blue little rodent that he would love to eviscerate the second he had the chance. He was sitting back in a chair in front of a rather large computer monitor that was contained within an even larger room. The monitor itself was filled with screens of locations from all over Mobius, ranging anywhere from the Green Hill Zone to the Casino Night Zone, many of which had already fallen under his control. And yet, there was still one little area, not even a whole Zone really, that continued to elude his grasp. And it was that, along with that pesky blue rodent, that continued to cause him to steam up like a boiled egg.
"SNIVELY! GRIMER! ORBBOT AND CUBOT! HERE! NOW! THAT'S AN ORDER!"
In short order, a sliding door opened, revealing a rather small man with just a few hairs on his head and a large pointed noise accompanied by a much taller man whose skin was an inexplicable green hue. Following behind them were two small robots hovering in the air, one red with an orb-shaped head, and another whose yellow noggin was more like a cube. Together, this foursome was ready to do their masters' bidding, even if some of them would prefer not to.
"You called sir?", said the small one, his voice sounding somewhat nasally with a servile if backhanded edge.
"You bet I called, Snively," said Eggman, his orange mustache practically bristling. "How is the labor transfer proceeding?"
"Very well sir," said Snively. "All of the transfers from the Emerald Hill Zone have been shipped out and should be ready for robotization in three days."
"Good," said Robotnik, chuckling as he folded his fingers together. "That's very good. And while we're on the subject, how is the robotization chamber holding up, Grimer? Ready to turn some unwilling volunteers into perfectly willing mechanical subjects I presume?"
"That's one way to put it," said Grimer," cheerfully smiling as he arranged the bow tie atop his lab coat. "The chamber will be ready to robotize a good two hundred Mobians or so by the time our unwilling guests arrive. I believe it should be able to handle all of them, though it's still recovering from its' recent sabotage."
Robotnik's grin suddenly turned upside down into the most frowny of frowns as he was reminded of that most infuriating turn of events. "Do. Not. Remind me."
"If you so wish sir," said Grimer unflappably. "Is there anything that you would care me to remind you of? Or that you would like to remind me of? Whatever you wish sir."
"Suckup," muttered Snively under his breath. Grimer, not unaware of this remark, simply flashed one of the briefest of smiles Snively's way.
"How's the new batch of Swatbots coming along?",asked Robotnik.
"Swimmingly sir!", said Grimer, practically beaming. "By my calculations, their energy usage has been reduced by 30%, and their efficacy has increased just as much."
"Exquisite," said Robotnik. "I knew there was a reason I hired you as my Chief Scientist. Now if you could do the same for the Troopers, it might be enough to make me forget our recent, shall we say, setbacks."
"Do you mean how Sonic and the Freedom Fighters continue to outmaneuver you at every turn?", said Orbot, rather gentlemanly. "I do believe they've thwarted your efforts for the tenth time this year."
"Do. Not. REMIND ME."
"Well, hey," said Cubebot, piping in rather earnestly, "you can't blame him. He's just telling it like it is. Why, the whole thing's kind of funny when you think about it. I mean, you've got this whole big Empire, lording it over half of Mobius, and you've got a bunch of oversized forest animals handing you your kiester at every turn. I mean, I just think it's sort of embarrassing honestly—
All this time, Robotnik was steadily beginning to fume as he slowly clenched the handles of his chair, with Snively and Grimer each attempting in vain to signal the oblivious Cubebot to knock it off ASAP.
"DO. NOT. REMIND ME!"
As the spittle from Robotnik's now gaping maw began to assault Grimer and Snively's faces, Cubebot simply folded his arms and shrugged. "Hey now, no need to start yelling at someone just because they're voicing their honest opinion and all. That's not going to win you points with the general public you know."
After a silence that seemed like an eternity, Robotnik simply stood up matter-of-factly, turned to face his computer screen post hate, and politely told Grimer to, "Take Cubebot for his monthly checkup, will you? And do see that his programming isn't faulty. For I don't recall giving my robots the prime directive of 'telling it like it is.'
"And what's wrong with that?", said Cubebot in a fit of indignation."
"Come along now," said Grimer, picking up Cubebot and holding him in front of him.
"Hey, what I'd do?", said Cubebot, as Grimer started to haul him off out of the Central Command Center. "What I'd do?!"
And within moments, Grimer and Cubebot exited the room, the door shut firmly behind them, and they were gone.
"Uh, sir," said Orbot, "perhaps you were a tad hard on him. He was just trying to—"
"Do you intend to 'tell it like it is', Orbot?", said Robotnik, not even bothering to face him.
"Uh, no sir," said Orbbot. "Not at the present."
"Good." said Robotnik. "Very good. Now, let's get to business, shall we?" He pressed a button on the computer's keypad, and the small screen containing Green Hill began to grow and expand until it encompassed the entire monitor. Let's see just how our friends from Green Hill are doing…"
A large group of civilians — rabbits, cats, what have you — were being escorted to Mobotropolis, the enter of Robotnik's ever growing empire, courtesy of a small army of Swatbots, Troopers, and Eggpawns riding several large motobugs, with a number of Buzzbombers trailing behind them up above. The Swatbots were easily recognizable due to their smooth rounded bodies and their domed heads, while the Troopers were more like actual soldiers with metallic faces, pointed hats, and powerful rifles. The Eggpawns were like small orange knights with lances and shields, ever grinning like braindead idiots, and the buzzbombers were like large black metallic hornets, just looking for someone to sting. Not that they weren't all equally dangerous. The only weak links were the motobugs, bug-like one-wheeled creations that weren't much good for anything outside of providing transportation and being glorified cannon fodder. This was something they often lamented.
The captives had been fitted with electronically locked manacles and forcibly stuffed into a rather large closed pickup truck at gunpoint, and while they had been told they were simply being relocated, they knew better. They had already been living under the rule of Robotnik, but at least they still had their Zone, their way of life. Now, they wouldn't even have that.
"It's going to be alright Cheese," said a young rabbit with two overly large ears to a small blue creature sitting on her lap. "It's going to be alright. The Freedom Fighters will save us. I know they will."
"QUIET PRISONER," said the Swatbot guarding her and the other prisoners in as monotone a voice as possible. "THERE WILL BE NO TALKING UNLESS THE EGGBOSS WILLS IT. ANY MORE DISRUPTIONS WILL ONLY RESULT IN YOUR DEATH. OR SOMEONE ELSE'S."
With that, the girl gulped and did as the Swatbot said. She brought Cheese close to her chest. She was scared out of her mind, though she was doing her best not to show it. However, unless the roofs of the trucks suddenly opened up and gave her ample breathing room, there was nothing she could do. She could only hope that someone would come along to take the burden of figuring out what to do on someone else's shoulders.
Speaking of figuring out what to do, three of the ringleaders in the front of the truck were attempting just that. A rather tall and lanky robot shaped like a Mobian chicken was seated with a sort of small green tank-like robot with drills for both hands and a nose, along with a small red robotic monkey with a lighbulb attached to its' head. At the moment, they were busy playing a rather heated game of rock-paper scissors. Or rather, they were attempting to. It becomes a tad more to difficult to play such a game with three people. Or when one of your players doesn't have any hands. Any intelligent being wouldn't even have attempted such a feat, but despite being built by one of the smartest beings on the planet, they may have been considerably below it.
"HA!", said the green robot with drills. "I win!"
"What do ya mean, ya win?!", said the monkey. "I tells ya Grounder, you can't just lay out your darn hand and say whatever's gonna beat whatever I've got in front you! Heck, that ain't even a hand! That's a freaking poor excuse for a hand, is what that is! Heck, it's not even that, it's a drill! What are you even supposed to do with a drill anyway?! Bore somebody's brains out?! I mean, you'd think if Robotnik wanted us to be his aids and all, he wouldn't have given one of us a drill for a blasted hand! Does that spell 'genius' to you?"
"Hey now!", said the robotic chicken, as Grounder began to bemoan the lack of opposable thumbs. "Need I remind you it doesn't matter who wins this little contest? Because clearly, I'm still the best."
"Oh really Scratch?", said the Monkey. "Because as far as I can see, you're just as much a loser as Mr.I've-got-no-hands here. How many times have you actually beat Sonic again?"
"Like you're one to talk, Coconuts" said Scratch. "You've never even come close!"
"And neither have you!, said Coconuts.
"And neither have YOU!", yelled Scratch.
"Hey, can't we all just get along?", pleaded Grounder in a vain attempt to appeal to their better natures. Not that they had any. And not that there would be a need for them to do so. For just then, a loud, booming, and yet somewhat shrill voice commanded from the driver's seat, "SILENCE!"
The three numnuts were all stunned into said silence as a rather small Mobian stood up on her chair for all to see. It was a particularly short, fury, yellow creature. Almost like a rodent of some sort, though neither of the three could quite figure out just what it was. A chinchilla maybe? Not that they had ever seen one. In any case, she was dressed in a suit much like Eggman's own, only orange instead of red and designed to fit her perfectly. Two metal tubes ran from her wrists and connected her elbows, with said tubes coming out of a metallic power pack on her back.
She pressed a button, putting the truck on autopilot, and then leaped out of the chair, somersaulting in mid-air before landing on the floor like an Olympic gymnast, which considering her form was quite the accomplishment.
"I have a job to do, in case you haven't noticed, and it isn't helped by your constant chattering!"
"Uh, well Thunderbolt—", said Grounder.
"That's EGGBOSS Thunderbolt to you!", said Thunderbolt, puffing her chest and filling the room with her ferocious presence.
"Uh, Eggboss Thunderbolt," said Grounder, wincing. "We're sorry, really! We were just passing the time, you know? We didn't think there was anything wrong in just having some casual conversation and playing some rock-paper scissors. Is there?"
"THERE'S EVERYTHING WRONG WITH IT!", shouted Thunderbolt. "This is my moment to shine, my moment to prove to Eggman once and for all that I deserve to be his second in command over that REVOLTING pinhead of a man who's not even fit to lick his boots! I deserve it, and yet, I'm saddled with YOU incompetent ingrates who, in my not at all humble opinion, couldn't even be trusted to open a can of beans!" A moment of rather awkward silence then passed, during which, Thunderbolt's tirade took a shower as a rather pertinent question began to cross her mind. "Why did he create you anyway?"
"Well," said Grounder, "to be honest, from what the boss told us, he'd been getting pretty darn plastered that night for one reason or another. He was watching some cooking program; something about making grounded coconuts from scratch. And, well, here we are!"
More silence. After which, Thunderbolt's right eye began to twitch, and her fingers began to tremble, and her teeth began to clench, and it was all she could do to keep from screaming bloody murder at the top of her lungs.
"HOW DARE YOU"! she yelled. "HOW DARE YOU EVEN SUGGEST THAT OUR LORD EGGMAN WOULD CREATE YOU DIMWITS BASED PURELY ON…" She then suddenly stopped herself, her rage calming in an instant as she soon said to herself, "Wait, no, that's actually somewhat plausible. WHATEVER. Look. Do NOT insult Lord Eggman again in my presence. Keep that in mind, and I shall let you off easy. But just this once. Do we understand one another?"
"Maybe?", said Scratch.
"Heck if I know," said Grounder blaisly.
"What they mean to say, your imminence," said Coconuts, trying his best to keep himself and the others from being turned into scrapheap, "is they understand you perfectly. They're not just really sure how to express it."
"No matter," said Thunderbolt, clearly getting aspirated by all of this. "As long as they get the message. We have a long ways to go to to the transporter pad. In the meantime, be sure that you keep your mouths shut, and that you do not step so much as a toe out of line. Or," she said, pointing to Grounder's hands or lack thereof, "drills in your case. That will be all." She then nonchalantly hopped back into the chair (which they just noticed to have a booster seat,) and resumed direct control of the vehicle, though not without giving the three dimwits a rather nasty look.
"Nasty piece of work," said Coconuts, scratching his noggin.
"That does it!", whispered Scratch. "We need to get the heck out of here!"
"Pipe down," said Coconuts, bringing Scratch's head down to his level. "Yeah, she's something else alright."
"You got that right," said Grounder, practically quivering. "Uh, why are we still here anyway?"
"Look," said Coconuts making sure that they were as far in the back in the front of the tuck and away from Thunderbolt as possible. "Honestly, I don't know why we're here either. My guess is the boss didn't know just what to do with us aside from having us be talking paperweights."
Grounder practically shuddered. "Geez. I never wanna have to go through that again."
"You said, it" said Scratch. "The next time our Supreme Bozo wants to use me as a bottle opener, I'm walking!"
"You can't," said Coconuts. "Programming would shut you down a minute after you tried. Same with the rest of us."
"Well," said Grounder, "that's not very nice."
"He already told you all of this days ago!", said Coconuts. "How the heck don't you remember?!"
"I remember!', said Scratch. "At least I think so. Was that after the time we tried to kill Sonic with the flying boomerang fish, or when we tried to lure him into a false sense of security with our snake oil salesman routine?"
"SHUT. IT." Coconuts gritted his teeth and clenched his fists. If Coconuts were flesh and blood, his heart would practically be racing out of sheer anger and frustration by about now. "Look. What I'm trying to say is, we need to watch it. The boss ain't too happy with us as is, and pairing us with some halfpint control freak doesn't make things any better. We've gotta keep our cool, and keep our distance. Less you want to end up like Cluck."
Both Scratch and Grounder suddenly acted as if they just saw visions of their future selves as rotting sacks of meat hanging from a meathook. Not that they were even capable of being turned into such a thing, but it was the thought that truly counted.
"Right," said Scratch. "So what, you just want us to act natural?"
"In a sense," said Coconuts, "yeah."
"Well, okay," said Scratch. He then took a moment as if to clear his throat, (even though he never needed to do such a thing,) and began to take his normal behavior to its' illogical conclusion. "I AM ACTING SO NATURAL! NO ONE WILL EVER ABLE TO TELL WHETHER OR NOT I AM ACTUALLY ONE OF EGGMAN'S ROBOTS! ME SO SMART! BWAHAHAHAHAHAAA!"
All coconuts could do was slowly slide his hand down his face as Thunderbolt's hair began to fill up with static electricity and bristle like someone shuffling along on a shag carpet. "WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT KEEPING YOUR MOUTHS SHUT?!"
"Now we're in for it!", yelled Coconuts. Luckily for him, and for the other two members of the unambiguously incompetent trio, fate had other ideas.
At the same time Thunderbolt was set to unleash unholy retribution on the three dimwits like the wrath of God, a rather loud bout of static could suddenly be heard from a speaker next to the steering wheel, followed by the ever monotone voice of a Trooper. "EGGBOSS THUNDERBOLT? EGGBOSS THUNDERBOLT? COME IN EGGBOSS THUNDERBOLT?"
At first, Thunderbolt wondered if she should dignify such a request with a response. After all, she had just about finally put an end to that trio of incompetent ingrates who had dared to continue to sully her presence with their own, and nothing short of Eggman storming in and offering her his hand in marriage should have kept her from that. On the other hand, her just envisioned personal fantasy would never come true if she wasn't the best little Egg Boss she could be. With but a moment's hesitation, she took a deep breath, calmed herself as best she was able, and spoke as though she were doing her best to keep herself from breaking into a homicidal fit. Not that she would have minded.
"Yes?", she said, her teeth nearly gritting. "Out with it!"
"WE HAVE A SURPRISE GUEST. APPARENTLY, A METAL SONIC, A BADNIK, AND ONE OF SLEET'S MERCENARIES WERE ALL SENT TO RENDEZVOUS WITH OUR CARAVAN FOR EXTRA PROTECTION, ONLY TO COME INTO CONTACT WITH A CERTAIN NOTORIOUS REBEL ALONG THE WAY."
"Rebel, you say?", quickly beginning to calm down as she heard the news. "Would you care to tell me just which rebel?
"SONIC THE HEDGEHOG.
At first Thunderbolt couldn't quite believe what she had just heard. "Say that again?"
"SONIC THE HEDGEHOG."
Thunderbolt's lips slowly began to curl into a twisted smirk before she began giggling in ecstasy."Now this might actually be fun!"
Thunderbolt stopped the truck and scampered outside while attempting to look dignified as possible, like a man trying to make his clown getup look like a fancy suit without realizing that such an act would be utterly futile. In any event, she made her way to the front in short order, where waiting for her were, as had been told, one of Sleet's cyborg mercenaries, one badnik, and one Metal Sonic. Though if she were to be honest, this whole scenario was just a tad off. For starters, something about the badnik and the mercenary seemed, in a way peculiar. The badnik appeared to be somewhat squirrel shaped, and since she had known all too well about a certain other squirrel-shaped badnik, she had every right to be cautious. However, the badnik had a completely different yellow and black color scheme compared to the red and silver one she had learned about, so there was still a chance that it might have just merely been a badnik of a different color. Meanwhile, the mercenary simply glowered as Thunderbolt looked them and her over. She was a grey furred rabbit with two robotic legs and one robotic arm, the other being made of flesh. As for the Metal Sonic, what else was there to say? It was a Metal Sonic; mean, lean, and Eggman's wet dream. He was what he wanted Sonic to be, to personally turn him into with his own hands, and in that sense, the Metal Sonics were something special for the good Doctor. Not that Thunderbolt cared too much at the present, as other matters still preoccupied her. Such as their prisoner.
Kneeling before her in chains, battered and bloody, was none other than one big blue hedgehog who seemed to have had the attitude all beaten out of him. He was breathing heavily, seemingly unable to focus on just about anything except his own survival, which appeared to only be achievable through keeping still and just letting his captors do whatever they wanted.
Thunderbolt was understandably a tad skeptic, to say the least. "Normally, I would say I am incredibly grateful for your work and let you be on your merry way, but, and forgive me for saying so, I am not quite sure that this adds up."
"How so?", said the mercenary. If one listened closely, they could hear just the slightest hint of a Southern accent, not that Thunderbolt could tell.
"Perhaps you could start with telling me why the three of you are together in the first place? This isn't quite something that happens every day."
"Fair enough, said the mercenary. "We got word in Emerald Hill that Sonic was around causing trouble, like he and the Freedom Fighters usually do. I was all set to take him out, but Sleet warned me not to get too ahead of myself. It was always a good thing to have strength in numbers, so he ordered a badnick lying around to tag along for good measure. Throw in one spare Metal Sonic that Sleet won off Robotnik in a poker game and you've got yourself a crew."
Thunderbolt looked over the weary Sonic once more, still unable to do just about anything but lay there. She grinned like a madwoman as she callously punted him, further mopping the floor with him when he had already gotten his clock cleaned, like plucking the eyeballs from a blind man. The grin quickly subsidized as she remembered she had a job to do. "Ahem. Very good. Part of me still isn't sure whether to believe your story, but I suppose it isn't too much to worry about." Sparks of static electrify then briefly flashed from her psalms, as if to indicate that something — the mood perhaps— was rapidly becoming more and more hostile. "Toss him in with the others until we figure out what to do with him."
"Are you sure?", asked the mercenary.
"Of course," said Thunderbolt. "I don't know what else to do with him until I arrive back at base, and I'm sure Lord Eggman would want nothing more than to have that blasted Hedgehog in his clutches now that we've captured him at last. Eh, I suppose I can truly give him a shock if it comes down to it. I'm sure he won't mind." She briefly flashed another wicked grin before walking back towards her truck. "In the meantime, make yourselves at home. Or at the very least, just keep yourselves busy until we get back to base. I honesty don't care just what you do."
The mercenary seemed to smile, as if suddenly released from a great burden of some sort, not that it lasted. "Say, you mind if I go check up on the prisoners? I haven't seen them myself, and I'm dying to let them know just who rules the roost around here.
"Thunderbolt raised an eyebrow. "And you are referring to who exactly?"
The mercenary shrugged. "Eggman of course. Who else?"
"Of course, of course," said Thunderbolt, nodding as though all of her fears had for the moment been allayed. "Very well. I don't see what the point will be, but if you wish to check up on them, that's your prerogative. However, just remember one thing."
"And that would be?", said the mercenary.
Thunderbolt eyed the badnik, almost sure that it wasn't what it seemed to be, but unable to tell for certain either way. She then looked at the mercenary, and like a wave of thunder said, "DO NOT CROSS ME. Understood?"
The mercenary immediately straightened up, her fur standing up and her ears erect. "Yes ma'am."
"Good," said Thunderbolt. "Glad we understand one another." She then bounced back into the front of truck and hopped into the drivers' seat, ready to once more get things moving. Finally out of her sight, the mercenary, Metal Sonic, and the badnik all briefly looked at one another knowingly before carefully lifting Sonic and flying him to the back of the truck.
Cream was busy attending Cheese who was doing nothing but quivering in fear, unsure of just what was going to happen to her or the one who took care of her. Cream was doing her best to sooth Cheese and allay her fears, but she wasn't sure if she was trying to ease Cheese's concerns or her own. "Please Cheese," she said, "don't worry. Please don't worry. We'll be fine. Everything will be fine. Just trust in me. Please. Everything will be fine."
"Oh, I'm not so sure about that."
Cream and her fellow captives looked towards the back door to see where the voice had come from, and opening the door and flying through the doorway were none other than the mercenary, the Metal Sonic, and the badnik, all carrying Sonic in their arms. They landed in the middle of the truck, presenting the fallen hero to all concerned. All of the prisoners were agape. "No", some of them whispered. "This can't be happening," said the others. All around, there were whispering and murmurs as the mercenary slowly dropped Sonic onto the floor. The whispering and murmuring continued to grow until, like a perturbed parent who had finally had enough of those damn kids and their newfangled music, the sole Swatbot standing guard near the soundproof door to the front cocked his gun and told the prisoners in no uncertain terms, "QUIET. QUIET, EVERYONE. OR I WILL FIRE!" All of the noises and chattering suddenly ceased, and the captives were suddenly at the mercy of their captor. Or so they thought. For without warning, without any hints of what was to occur, a voice without a care in the world suddenly resounded to the heavens. (Or at least as much as it could while still keeping Thunderbolts and the three stupidheads in the front section compartment oblivious.)
"Yeah, sorry, but I don't think so."
Within an instant, the Swatbots' rifle had been snatched out his hands, and standing in the place of the captive's fallen hero was none other than the true blue hedgehog whose motto was a need for speed.
"SONIC!", cried Cream, practically in ecstasy.
"HALT!", shouted the swatbot. "INTRUDER AL—" But before it could utter so much as another syllable, the badnik decided it had other ideas. With remarkable speed and accuracy, (though Sonic still had him beat,) he aimed a laser on his right fist and fired it at the Swatbot in the time it would take to clap your hands. Before anyone knew it, the Swatbot dropped to the floor, it's half smoldered dome smoking with laser fire.
"Ah, shut your pie hole!", said the badnik.
"Hey," said Sonic, smiling as though this were just a walk in the park, "not that I don't appreciate the help, but I could have taken him easy. Half a second tops."
"I know," said the badnik. "I just really wanted to blast a Swatbot. Helps with my anger management issues."
"Uh-huh," said Sonic, tapping his foot in irritation.
"And it also just felt good", said the Badnik. "So there's that." It then fired the laser at Sonic's cuffs, making sure that it was set at a low enough setting to simply melt through the cuffs without frying Sonic's hands off. Within seconds, the chains were broken, much to Sonic's delight.
"Now that's more like it!" said Sonic, gripping his hands and shaking them in relief.
"It's a shame though," said the Metal Sonic, shocking everyone in the room but Sonic and his contemporaries by doing the one thing no Metal Sonic had ever done; act like an actual Mobian being instead of an emotionless engine of death. That and smile for a change. That it was uncertain if Metal Sonics' were even supposed to have mouths was a question that was best served for another day. "I really would have loved to get some action myself."
"Oh, don't you worry sugar!", said the mercenary, suddenly transforming into the most southern of belles you ever saw. "We'll all be kicking some badnik butt by the time we're done! But first things first!"
"Right," said Sonic, suddenly getting more serious, though without losing his calm and easygoing demeanor. "How's everyone doing?", he said to the prisoners. "Everyone holding up OK?"
"Uh," said Cream, "yes, yes we are. But, uh…"
"Yeah?", said Sonic. "What's up?"
"…uh, if I may ask, and I believe we're all wondering the same thing, just what is actually going on? If it isn't too much trouble."
"Huh?", asked Sonic. "Oh, yeah. Well, if we're gonna make a long story short, we all learned you were captured, so us four Freedom Fighters came to save you all! You all know yours truly, but this is Shortfuse…" he said, pointing to the Badnik…
"Charmed," grunted Shortfuse.
"…that's Shard," he said, gesturing to the Metal Sonic…
"Pleasure to meet you!", said Shard, performing a quick little bow for his audience.
"…and that," he said motioning towards the mercenary, "is none other than Bunnie Rabbot!"
"Charmed!", said the mercenary together with a brief curtsey, who in all likelihood was not a mercenary at all.
"So," said Cream, a bit dumbfounded, "you, Sonic, you were just faking it?"
"Well," said Sonic, wincing as he rubbed his shoulder, "they did have to rough me up a bit. Make it look convincing and all. But what matters is, we made it, and with no-one being the wiser!"
"Yup," said Bunnie. "If we'd just barged in, they might have taken you all as hostages, or worse."
"So," said Cream, pointing at the others, "the rest of you, you're all just wearing disguises.
"Sort of," said Shard. "Me and my buddy Shortfuse here-
"Do NOT called me Buddy," grunted Shortfuse.
Shard merely continued as if he hadn't noticed Shortfuse's rather distinguished remark. "Well, he's a bit on the touchy side, but the point is, we're using layover holograms. The shape's still the same, but our colors and whatnot are different than what they actually are. Or at least that's what she tells me."
"'She'?", asked Cream incredulously. "I don't mean to be rude, but just who is this 'she'?"
"Why," said Bunnie, "she's who's gonna be freeing those shackles you've all got on ya and getting you out of here! Just as I soon as I get her out of my secret compartment here…"
"'Secret compartment'?", asked Cream, as if she didn't know the first thing about subterfuge.
Before Cream knew it, in went Bunnie's furry paw right between her furry breasts, and out came a small portable computer of some sort. A screen lit up, and atop it manifested a hologram of a brown Lynx with short black hair. And she was not amused. "Bunnie," she said. "I may not have been able to physically feel your perspiration, but that was still revolting."
"Eh, sorry about that Nicole," said Bunny. "But how else were we gonna sneak you past the Eggboss?"
"Fair point," said Nicole, easing up as if realizing this wasn't too important at the moment. "We'll talk later. In the meantime, we have more important things to worry about."
"Finally!", said Shortfuse, clearly wanting to get the show on the road, his arms folded to demonstrate that he didn't give two figurative Badnik droppings. (Which was ironic considering his situation.)
"Uh," said Cream, " Sonic?"
"Yeah?", said Sonic, still as chipper as ever.
"Uh, not that I don't mind you rescuing me and everyone else, I really do, especially seeing as my mother must be so worried about me, but…"
"Yeah?", said Sonic, starting to get just oh so slightly impatient as he tapped his foot, but he did his best not to let it show too much.
"…but, could you all just kindly explain who all of you are and what exactly is going on? If it isn't too much of a bother."
"For Gaia's sake…" said Shortfuse, sliding his metallic hand over his mouthless helmet, his red eyes going dark as he tried his best to imitate shutting them in a bout of consternation.
"Put a lid on it Shortfuse," said Sonic. "Nicole, ready to do it to it?"
"If you mean bypassing the security systems on these locks and freeing the prisoners," said Nicole, "I can do it at any time."
"Great!", said Sonic, unfastening what appeared to be a golden Power Ring on his wrist. "You just take care of that while I take care of this."
"Uh," said Cream, "sorry to ask , but what is that?"
"Hey now," said Shard, who was so carefree that he made Sonic look like a stick in the mud. "No need to rush things kiddo! Just let the man take off that ring and do his thing! After Nicole's freed you all of course."
"Of course," said Cream. At once, Nicole slowly lowered her arms as if getting ready to type up a storm, but instead, her hands and eyes turned a bright pink, and her iris' widened. And in that moment, like a great weight was lifted off of their shoulders, all of the locks on the prisoners' manacles were undone, plummeting to the hard floor below. "I hacked into the manacles and undid the locks," said Nicole. "It's rather easy to do when you're a program yourself. Though I still couldn't do too much until I was close enough."
At first, Cream and the other prisoners weren't sure what to think. They slowly turned their wrists and looked at them in amazement and trepidation. One minute, they thought they were all heading towards the rebuilt Chemical Plant for indentured servitude or, worse, robotization, and the next, they were free as a bird. Though of course, that still left one rather pressing unanswered question.
"Uh" asked Cream, " Sonic?"
"Yeah?", said Sonic, still managing to keep up the niceties well enough, but it was starting to wear thin.
"Again, thank you so much for saving us. We owe you our lives. We really couldn't be more grateful if we tried. But there is one little problem."
"Well," said Cream, "you see, I can get down, believe it or not, and your friends can get down I'm sure, but just how are the others supposed to jump off of this vehicle while its' still moving?"
"Easy-peasy," said Sonic, who had at last managed to slip the ring off of his wrist. He then grasped it for a moment, closing his eyes as if he were having the world's worst headache, and then they shot back open. As soon as that happened, the ring floated and spun about in mid-air as if it were dancing on a pin before growing size, large enough for any single person to step through, and within its' confines, a rustic village in the middle of a forest could be glimpsed.
"This," he said, pointing at the ring, "is a Warp Ring. Nicked it off a nutso albino Echidna who wanted to cleanse the world or something. And yeah, there's more than one Echidna, and yes, he's mondo bad news. Anyhoo, a Warp Ring can take you wherever you wanna go, and unlike a Power Ring, you can use them as many times as you want without having to give it another charge or get a new one, the only catch being that there's only so many of them to go around. Moving on, that," he said, pointing through the village, "just happens to be Knothole, our home away from home. Until we can get you back to Green Hill without Eggman trying to find you again and turn you into roadkill, that's where you're all gonna have to stay for a while. Sorry about that."
"Not that we don't mind the company," said Shard. "It gets a bit lonely with only so many of us around. I'm more of a people person myself."
All Shortfuse could offer was a defiant grunt. Unlike Shard, 'people person' he was not.
Cream wasn't quite sure what to make of this. It was if as she were looking at a bright, shimmering painting, only, as she slowly pressed her finger towards it, she could clearly see it pass straight through, and she then knew without a shadow of a doubt that this was no mere painting.
"It is safe, isn't it?" asked Cream?
"Safer than a one-eyed snake sugar!", said Bunnie, winking as if she had just told a joke that only she was supposed to get. "You'll all be safe with all of us protecting you. Don't you worry about a thing!"
"Listen to the bunnie, honey!" said Shard, who seemed to have absolutely no shame at the moment.
"That," said Shortfuse as blunt as he possibly could, "was bad."
"Sorry Shard," said Sonic, "but I gotta agree."
"Same here, said Bunnie.
"Ah," said Shard, folding his shoulders, "you're all a bunch of critics."
Sonic and Bunnie chuckled before getting to the task at hand. "Right," said Sonic. "You all get going, quick as you can. Chances are the swat bots and troopers and whatever else will be marching in here any moment. Once you you're all out here, well" said Sonic, grinning from ear to ear like a blue-spiked maniac, "let's just say we'll be bringing in some extra help."
"Right," said Cheese, picking up Cream and doing her best to arrange the other captives into a straight line.
"Hey," said Shortfuse, "you all better be fast. My sensors are picking up company."
"Right, said Sonic. "Everyone, you all better hop in as fast as you can. We'll be coming in right after you."
"Alright," said Cream. "Oh, and then what are you going to do?"
"Then," said Nicole, her hologram still projecting from Bunnie's computer, "we shall proceed with the second part of the plan."
"Which is?", asked Cream.
"What else?", said Sonic, who then proceeded to smirk like the devil. "Reinforcements."
"Hey, stop me me if you've heard this one before!", said Grounder. "Why did Scratch cross the road? To catch the hedgehog on the other side!" He began guffawing like a mad hyena who was particularly amused at its' own feces, but Coconut and Scratch simply sat next to him with their arms cross, as if they didn't have better things to do then listen to a standup comic who couldn't even stand up.
"It wasn't even that funny ya know," said Coconuts.
"And I didn't even cross the road," said Scratch. "I launched myself over it with a homemade catapult and got broken apart into a million pieces! Can't you ever get that part right?!"
Admist all of this, Thunderbolt, in a rare showing of complete and utter stoicism, slowly plopped down from her chair and began to waddle over to the door that led to the back of the truck like a chinchilla on a mission.
"Hey Thundy," said Grounder, "what's wrong?"
Any other day of the week, Thunderbolt would have fried Grounder like an egg for calling her 'Thundy', but rather than tearing Grounder a new one, she instead continued to move her way towards the backdoor, as if in a trance.
"Hey, Thunderbolt," said Coconuts, "what gives? Usually one of us would be getting shipped over to the repair ship by now. Something going on?"
"I don't like it," she said, not even bothering to look at him. "I'll admit, I was ecstatic that Sonic had at long last been captured and delivered to us on a platter. I was so ecstatic that I was willing to overlook the smallest of details like an amateur. Their story was a load of hogwash, and a trio of that sort is unlikely as my beloved losing weight, but just as in that aforementioned scenario, I was willing to believe it. Except now, I've had time to think. And what I think is this entire scenario is a crock!"
"Sonic being captured and brought here by an unsavory group of rather suspicious and strangely familiar individuals," said Grounder, raising a drill, "or Eggman losing weight?"
"Both," said Thunderbolt, her hand now on the doorknob. "Much as I'm loath to admit it. But in all likelihood, there is at least a chance of this being some sort of elaborate ruse. Isn't that right Sonic?!" She then threw the door wide open, it's hinges swinging as free as could be in what was, much to Thunderbolt's confusion, the emptiest back of a truck she had ever seen. As far as she could make out, no-one could be seen anywhere inside the truck, and for a truck, it was a spacious one. Sonic and the others where nowhere to be found, but for that matter, neither were the prisoners. And all Thunderbolt could do was stand there with her mouth agape.
"They're not here!", said Scratch.
"Score one for Captain Obvious," said Coconuts.
"So," said Grounder, scratching his green noggin with one of his drills, "if they're not here, then where are they?" As it to answer his burning question, a faint shimmer could be heard from outside the truck. Rushing to the nearest window, Thunderbolt took a peek. What appeared to be a giant power ring was opening up in the sky above the truck, which as it so happened was itself beginning to slow considerably. "What?", she muttered, opening the back door and looking at the back tires, only to just barely see a spiky blue blur spin past them, popping them as he went like a sort of serial balloon popper. "That forsaken hedgehog!", shouted Thunderbolt, shooting out a blast of lighting at the speeding blur only to miss by a mile. By now, the truck had just about slowed down to a crawl. "He must have popped the other tires as well."
Outside the truck, the Swatbots and Troopers and motobugs and buzz-bombers all stopped in their tracks, all wondering why the the oh-so-special truck (which contained the megalomaniac chinchilla responsible for giving them orders,) had seemingly ceased to function. This was a bad move on their part. For just as they came to a screeching halt, the ring above began to warp and shimmer, only for a entire throng of unexpected guests to drop down from on high like a heavenly host.
"Scratch?", said Coconuts.
"Yeah Coconuts?", said Scratch.
"You know how you said you'd bet ten bucks against every single one of us losers being screwed?"
"Yeah?", said Scratch, knowing where this was going.
"Pay up," said Coconuts.
The first thing that the Badniks noticed was a rather large and rotund blue and purple object dropping upon them like a giant boulder from on high. Upon closer inspection, they noticed that it was possessed of fur, whiskers, and for whatever Gaia-forsaken reason a fishing rod. Mind you, the sane response would have been to run like there was no tomorrow, but the robots were too flabbergasted at what they were seeing before their eyes to do much of anything before it crashed down upon a cluster of Swatbots and motobugs straight atop an open patch of checkered orange stone. Before it could say, "Sorry Froggy," a small squadron dropped in behind him, though doing their best not to end up right on top of the other. Among this motley crew were the same trio as before, only with the holographic layers off, revealing their true colors and quite literally at that. Shortfuse was silver with occasional red highlights, (including a sort of head ornament at the top,) Shard black and yellow, and Bunnie with bright orange fur instead of gray. As soon as they were through the Warp Ring, they began soaring through the air and tearing a path through the buzzbomber's and whatever else got in their way. Oh, the bombers tried their best, unleashing shot after shot after shot, but against a trio of of one superpowered cyborg, one top of the line badnik, and a refurbished and reprogrammed iteration of a robot that could go toe to toe with Sonic, there wasn't that much they could do.
Meanwhile, the reinforcements kept on coming. One after the other they came, some flying like angels, others landing with grace and finesse, and still others plummeting like a rock. (Much like the big purple blob charitably called a cat.) And in the midst of this downfall of heroes, the blue blur came rushing in like a speeding locomotive, ramming and spinning and slicing his way though whatever lay in his path. All along this trail of destruction, the battle raged on. A trooper aimed his trusty laser rifle at a brave coyote wielding a sleek, elegant, yet still mighty cutlass. Just as he fired, the coyote ducked like a trained boxer and thrust his sword straight through, disabling it in the process before it slowly dropped to the ground like so much dead weight. "So much for you, Mon Amie," he said in a distinct foreign accent, doing his best to turn around to leave only to be briefly startled by a sudden burst of electricity from the remains of the Trooper. Were it not for a level of self-control that took him months to fully develop and master, he would have screamed like a little girl. As is, he merely flinched.
Bunnie was busy blasting more buzz bombers into smoldering rubble from on high, but she took a moment to congratulate her hubbie on a job well done. "Ah yeah! You show them, Antoine sugar!"
Antoine smiled like Prince Charming on the outside while biting his fingernails like a nervous wreck on the inside. He wasn't really sure how he hadn't been admitted to a psyche ward by now. Perhaps his one true love had something to do with that. Without so much as blinking, he flashed her a quick salute and a wink, and he was off to slice and dice his next victim.
Antoine's show of prowess was just the tip of the iceberg. Over to the left, a purple walrus slammed a Swatbot into the pavement, and to the right, a yellow mongoose who also happened to be the second fastest thing alive grabbed a trooper by the arm and dragged him through one of Green Hill's patented loop-de-loops before tossing him into the distance like an Olympic athlete, with said loop-de-loop giving her enough momentum to throw him a good quarter mile. If he survived the fall, he'd still have to manage with somehow getting back in one piece. And elsewhere, a tall lean grey-furred rabbit in a red jacket was busy bashing in the heads of the surrounding Swatbots and troopers with nothing but a double sided metallic mace. (Albeit one that occasionally shot lasers out of its' tips.) More and more kept on littering the field until, at long last, their numbers had finally settled. Though what they had settled on was enough to give Thunderbolt and the trio of idjits pause.
"Twenty Freedom Fighters," said Thunderbolt, almost as if she couldn't believe her own words. "Twenty," she said again, as her fairly formidable array of Badniks continued to be rended asunder and tossed aside like children's playthings.
"I think you said that already boss," said Grounder.
"He's right you know," said Scratch. "I would've made sure to only say it once!"
"Hey!", said Coconuts, tugging on Thunderbolt's pant leg. "Look, I know I hate your guts like I know you hate my bolts, but get it together! You don't do something now, we're all toast!"
"Do something," said Thunderbolt, nodding in agreement. "Do something. You're right. I can't just stand around and do nothing. If I'm going down, then I'm going to down as the chinchilla who took out Sonic the Hedgehog!"
Just then, a gust of wind raised the fur on Thunderbolt's back, and a voice she'd know anywhere made its' presence known. "You rang?"
Like a building storm, she slowly turned around to face her enemy. Sure enough, there he was. Blue quills. Red shoes. Sonic. The. Hedgehog.
"SONIC!", said the three ninnies in unison. All at once Grounder and and Scratch began charging at him while screaming like madbots only to be promptly blown into the nearest wall and rendered inactive, with only Coconuts keeping back as he slid his palm over his face in consternation. "If I could drink," he muttered, "I'd already be dead from alcohol poisoning." However, he also knew when to fold em. "Screw this," he said. "I'm out of here! So long toots!", Justifying this as self-preservation, which was in fact allowed by his programing, he promptly leapt out of the back door of the truck and climbed up the nearest totem pole before leaping onto the tall rocky mountains, soon being out of sight as he retreated into the squared checkered hills.
"Looks like ol Coco's bowing out," said Sonic, still with that stupid grin on his face. "Can't say I blame him." His eyes then turned their attention to Thunderbolt. "So. We gonna do this or not? Because believe me, I really understand if you can't. There's not much that can really take me on. But—"
And suddenly, just like that, Thunderbolt exploded in a radiant burst of electricity with a vengeance. "ENOUGH!" She then began generating a force-field of sheer electricity around her, almost blinding. "ENOUGH!"
Sonic shielded his eyes, wondering if perhaps he should have brought that pair of sunglasses after all.
"THIS IS THE POWER OF EGG EMPIRE CYBERNETICS!", she roared. "UNLESS I MISSED SOMETHING, YOU AREN'T MADE OF RUBBER! YOU CAN'T HOPE TO BYPASS MY SHIELD! HOW IS YOUR VAUNTED—"
"Yeah," said Sonic in the blink of an eye, "we're done."
"—SPEED GOING TO HELP YOU NOW?! Hm?" In the time it took her to blink, Sonic was out of sight, and in his place was a blue blur that began whirling around her at whirlwind speeds. In fact, its' speed was so akin to a whirlwind that that might as well have been one, as a large updraft carried Thunderbolt high into the air, slamming her into the ceiling and keeping her there as if she were nailed to it.
"PUT ME DOWN!", she yelled. "PUT ME DOWN OR FACE THE CONSEQUENCES!"
And just like that, Sonic did what she asked, zooming over to the edge of the truck and proceeding to lean back and take it easy. "Whatever you say!"
Thunderbolt immediately regretted her decision. The second she had finished her sentence, she realized to just what magnitude her mistake had registered on the Richter scale. She then plummeted like stone despite her size and weight, almost as if some sort of universal gravity was bringing her crashing down. Mind you, she didn't exactly crush though the floor of the truck, but she still landed with a resounding thud. A thud just hard enough, accompanied by landing headfirst on cold hard metal, to send her into the blissful sleep of unconsciousness.
"Dr. Eggman…", she muttered, as the world slowly began to blank out around her. "Please. Forgive me…" And just like that, she was out.
"I kind of feel sorry for her," said Sonic. "If she'd just fought me head on, she might have stood a chance. Still, no use crying over it." He then leapt out of the truck and gazed at the battlefield before him. Scores of Swatbots, Troopers, motobugs, buzzbombers, eggpawns, and whatever else had been blasted or torn to pieces. Standing in the wreckage were the Freedom Fighters, most of whom had barely even broken a sweat. Most of them had managed to make it to the battle, and the few who hadn't had darn good reasons for not being there. But there was one who he knew should have been there that he couldn't quite make out.
Sonic should have known. He could hear that familiar whirring like a helicopter at the back of his head even now. He didn't even have to turn around to know who it was, though he still did anyway. Flying straight towards him with those twin tails of his was none other than Tails, the Two-Tailed Fox. And despite still being a good five years younger, he also just happened to be Sonic's best bud.
"Sonic!", he said. "You okay?"
"Why wouldn't I be?" said the hedgehog, chuckling. "Enough about me, not that there isn't plenty about me we could talk about. You okay?"
"Yeah," said Tails, still oh so upbeat, "never better! Though I'm more concerned about your guest here."
"Yeah," said Sonic, turning around to survey his conquest, if he could really call it that. "To be honest, I'm kind of disappointed. She really could have given me more of a fight if she wanted to. But no, she just had to bring up that forcefield of hers right from the start. Had to do it the boring way."
"Well," said Tails, scratching the back of his neck as he began to walk towards the back of the truck, "at least you beat her. And you got the prisoners out in one piece. That ought to make up for not having a fun time, don't you think?"
"Course," said Sonic, completely sincere. "Still doesn't mean I can't enjoy myself. Figure it's the least I can do." He started following Tails, doing his best to restrain himself so that he didn't just bolt for the controls.
"Hey," said Tails, "whatever makes you happy Sonic." By this point, he was at the truck's console room. He reached into a satchel he'd carried around his shoulder and pulled out none other than Nicole.
"I'm still impressed Bunnie managed to pass Nicole on to you so fast" said Sonic. "And seeing as that's coming from me, that's saying a lot."
"Well," said Tails, "you do what you've got to do. And what I need to do right now is get Nicole into these systems so we can download the files and get them back over to Knothole for Tekno to go over. You never know what Robotnik might have on here."
"You got that right," said Sonic, getting serious for the briefest of moments before continuing to act like a laid back surfer. "Though I wouldn't mind just getting a recipe for the world's best chili dog myself."
Like brothers are wont to do, even those not bound by blood, Tails promptly ignored him. "You ready Nicole?" said Tails, pressing a button on the handheld computer before the hologram of the Lynx projected itself once more."
"I believe so," said Nicole. "Just give me the word and I shall do my best."
"Right," said Tails. He pulled out a long cable from his satchel and hooked it up to the console's mainframe before plugging it into Nicole's computer. "Right," he said. "Here we go!"
"Understood!" Nicole's eyes than flashed bright pink and stayed that way for a good minute or so, as small streams of data began crossing through them like a river. And then, just like that, the river stopped, and Nicole's eyes flashed once more. "It is done," she said, as pleasant as always.
"Great!", said Tails. "Thanks Nicole. We're still working on that body for you you know."
"I know," said Nicole. "I really do appreciate it. I couldn't thank you enough."
"Then don't," said Sonic. "There's no need for it. You're our friend, and a Freedom Fighter. That's all that matters!"
"Thank you Sonic," she said, bowing as she did so.
"What did I say about…" he started to say, before figuring it was best not to even bring it up. "Ah, never mind. It's cool."
"We'd better be getting back to Knothole," said Tails. "There's no telling when that Eggboss might wake up."
"You've got a point," said Sonic. Let's do it to it!"
And so, one regrouping and warp ring later, the Freedom Fighters were all on their way back to Knothole, with at last member waiting for them back at home. Meanwhile, back at someone else's home, one slightly insane Doctor was beginning to have a conniption…
"Let's see just how our friends from Green Hill are doing, shall we Snively?"
Eggman wasn't sure what he had been expecting. He knew that nine times out of ten, that infuriating hedgehog and his meddlesome friends would be involved somehow, but he had made sure to compensate. He had sent Swatbots, Troopers, run of the mill Badniks, one of his Egg Bosses, the works. Even the three scrap brains had been sent along for all the good it would do them. And yet, given that hedgehog's track record, the fact that every single one of his robots aside from the idiotic trio had been decimated and that his Egg Boss was lying on the ground unconscious with not a single Freedom Fighter to be seen shouldn't have surprised him. But that didn't mean he had to like it.
"Snively," he said, as calmly as cracking open an egg's yoke, his large back still turned to his ever so unloyal subordinate.
"Yes sir?", said Snively, tugging his collar as calmly as if he were trapped in a sweltering elevator.
"Am I not the greatest genius this world has ever seen?," said Eggman.
"Yes sir,' said Snively.
"So then, are my robots and Badniks not the greatest creations this world has ever seen?"
"Quite right sir," he said.
"In which case, would you say that I could not possibly be at fault?" said Eggman.
"I would say that, yes. Sir," said Snively.
"So," said Eggman, slowly beginning to turn around towards Snively like a tiger waiting for just the right moment to pounce, "if I am not to blame, and my creations are not to blame, then who is to blame, Snively?"
"Your subordinates sir?", said Snively, practically having to squeak the words out.
"YES, MY SUBORDINATES!", hollered Eggman. "BECAUSE IF I AM NOT TO BLAME, THEN SOMEONE IS! By all rights Snively, I should have won! I should always have won! I have the resources, the intelligence, the talent! And yet, over twenty oversized rodents and a couple of glorified scrapheaps continue to thwart me at every turn! So obviously someone isn't doing their job!"
"But sir," Snively began to say, "if I may say so, I wasn't even there! You can't possibly blame me for something I didn't even play a part in!"
"I know," said Eggman.
That was different. "You do?" asked Snively.
"Yes. You have no much idea how I would love to, but no. This is not your fault."
"Oh, well," said Snively, wiping a river of perspiration from his forehead, "that is very good sir."
"It is it not very good!", said Eggman. "The only reason you're off the hook is because I've already got someone to blame it on."
"Oh. Thunderbolt sir?", said Snively.
"Yes," said Eggman, swiveling around back towards the screen. "Thunderbolt. I gave her everything she asked for, yet she still failed me!" He then slumped into his chair like a noodle slowly sliding down a bowl of egg soup. "Well," he said, "I suppose the best thing to do is to cut my losses and move on with it. Perhaps she'll serve me a sight better in the robotization chamber." He turned just far enough back around to send a knowing glance towards his underling. "Wouldn't you say Snively?"
"Uh, yes sir!", said Snively, getting the message. "Loud and clear sir!"
"Good. Send someone in to clean up the mess. God knows there's enough of it. Pray you never join it."
"Yes sir," said Snively, pretending not to be the slightest bit unnerved. "Anything else sir?"
"No," said Eggman, "that will be all for today."
"Very good sir," said Snively. He began to walk as fast as he could without breaking into a sprint towards the door, but just as he was about to open it, Eggman did indeed have something else.
"Oh, and Snively?"
"Yes, sir?", said Snively, standing still as if time itself had ceased to be.
"Do watch yourself on the way out, would you? We wouldn't you falling on that large nose of yours. It's hard to even tell what it's supposed to be sometimes."
As Eggman grinned, Snively simply held his nose up high and marched through the door, slamming it behind him. And as he walked down the hall gritting his teeth, all he could think of was how one day, somehow, some when, he was going to strangle that man.
Cream was standing in the middle of a rather large clearing, which also happened to be in the middle of a rather large forest. Actually, it wasn't just a clearing. There were also houses and homes and huts made out of logs and trees with hay and thatched roofs, and log bridges that connected the houses up in the canopies. It was as if she were in some sort of hidden forest village, kept secret from the rest of the world, which is exactly what it was. That didn't make it any easier to get a sense of just where exactly they were, which was a common sentiment. The rest of her posse was as confused as she was, staring at at their surroundings like wide-eyed children in wonder and confusion, unsure of just what was set to await them. And the only person who could possibly know that was the one who was awaiting them
A tall short tailed squirrel wearing a blue vest came walking out from a rather tall building in the center. It appeared to be a headquarters of some sort, not that anyone could be sure. "Hello there," said the squirrel. "I'm Sally Acorn, and I'm sure you all must have a lot of questions."
"Sally Acorn?", said Cream. "You don't mean that Sally Acorn, do you?"
"The one and only," said Sally, ruffling her brown hair as if it a bit embarrassed.
"Oh Sally," said Cream, "I'm so sorry about your father. About what Eggman did to him. It, it must have been so horrible…"
"That's alright Cream," said Sally, holding up one hand as her own eyes were briefly closed shut, as if trying her best to forget something she didn't want to remember. "That's alright. You've nothing to be sorry for. There's nothing you could've done. Which I suppose is what I keep telling myself every night. But enough of that!" She then clasped her hands as if preparing for a gathering, and her bright smile returned once more. "I'm sure Sonic's done his best to explain the situation by now?"
"Well," said Cream "he tried to. This is Knothole?"
"Yes," said Sally, gazing around at her little village. "All of this and more is Knothole village, one of the last save havens left in this part of the world."
"I've heard about this," said an old dog from the middle of the group. "Isn't this the home of the Freedom Fighters?"
"I suppose you could say that," said Sally. "Fighting the good fight until the day we die, or so the stories go. There aren't that many of us, all things considered, but we more than make do."
"Wow," said Cream. "So then, Sonic and the others must still be back there, aren't they?"
"That'd be correct. Fighting the good fight. Although," said Sally, briefly catching the time on her wristwatch, "I'd say they're due to be back any minute now."
Right on cue, the warp ring flashed over Knothole. Out popped a swarm of Freedom Fighters, many none the worser for wear, though with some scrapes and bruises nonetheless. And coming out first was none other than Sonic the Hedgehog.
"Good work team!", said Sally, after everyone had finally come back home. "I hope it wasn't too rough out there?"
"Define rough," said Sonic, who was evidentially just a tad disappointed that his most recent mission was anything but rough.
"So it all went off without a hitch?", said Sally, pretending to ignore anything she didn't want to hear. "Good to hear."
"Oh, there's plenty to hear," said Sonic, "but I figure you'll want to go somewhere a bit more private?"
"Where did you have in mind?", said Sally, as the two lovebirds were just one step away from holding hands.
"Oh God," said Shortfuse. "Forgive me if I vomit. And considering that I'm stuck in this thing, that's going to be a pain in the arse to clean up."
"Hey Shortfuse," whispered the tall grey rabbit with the baton, "knock it off, will ya? They just finally started going out ya know. The least you could do is be supportive of them instead of nailing them every chance you get."
"Yeah yeah", whispered Shortfuse, "I know Johnny. Just wish I could ever feel that way sometimes."
"Well," said the rabbit, glancing at a rather pink hedgehog in a short green dress who only seemed to have eyes for the blue blur, practically swooning, "you're not alone."
"Uh, Mister Sonic and Missus Sally," said Creamn, "I hate to interrupt, but we were wondering just what exactly you were planning on doing with us. You said something earlier about not being able to go back home?"
"Oh," said Sonic, as he and Sally were startled enough that it was like they were coming out of some sort of trance. "Yeah, sorry about that. You wanna explain it to them Sally?"
"Of course" said Sally, turning her direction towards the former prisoners. "As Sonic's no doubt told you, you may not be going back home any time soon. Eggman's not one to forget a grudge, and now that you've managed to escape him, he'll hunt you to your dying days. Aside from going back to Green Hill, which I honestly don't think is a good idea, you've got three options. Either we can try and spirit you away to parts unknown, to Zones where Eggman's presence still hasn't been felt, or you can stay here in Knothole until it's safe to go home, whenever that may be. Or, and this is only to those willing and able, you could help the Freedom Fighters reclaim all that Robotnik's taken away from us. You wouldn't have to fight. There are plenty of things you could do, from gathering supplies to building houses to helping Tekno in the lab, or any number of things. I can't force you to help of us course, nor can I stop you from trying to go back to Green Hill or doing whatever you want to do. But I'm not going to mince words here. This is a one-sided battle we're fighting. Robotnik has an ever growing army of robots, while our numbers are considerably less than that. Again, I'm not asking you to fight. But we could use all of the help we could get. You don't have to decide now of course. We'll give you all food and a place to sleep for the night. Whatever you want to do, that's something you can decide on in the morning. That said, please, explore Knothole as much as you want! Our home is your home. Free free to let me or anyone else know if you need something. And I can tell you right now, no matter what happens, no matter what you decide, the Freedom Fighters will continue to fight against Eggman and whoever else's attempts to take over the Acorn Kingdom or the rest of Mobius. Because that's what we do. And that's a promise."
Sonic let out a low whistle, honestly impressed. Sally began to walk away from the group, confident that no matter what happened after today, things could only continue to look up. Which upon hearing a sound rather like the flapping of a horde of bats is exactly what she did now. And if she hadn't been friends with a certain two-tailed Fox for some time now, she wouldn't have been able to believe what she was seeing right now.
" !" Against every single law of physics known to animal, Cream had lifted herself high into the air, flapping around like a small two-eared elephant. She was surprisingly rather adept in her aviation, and without wasting a second, she drifted right around Sally and landed straight in front of her feet.
" !", she said. "Please hear me out!"
"Well well Tails," said Sonic, both shocked and amused at the same time. "Seems you've got yourself a rival!"
"Seems that way, doesn't it?" said Tails, already trying his darnedest to map out the sheer logistics necessary for what he just witnessed in his not so little noggin.
"Cream," said Sally, trying her best to act as though this were completely and one hundred percent normal, "just what did you just do?!"
"Never mind that!" said Cream, with an almost spirited fervor. "You're right . Someone needs to stand up to Eggman and and show him that he can't just go around kidnapping poor innocent people and pushing them around! And that's why I've decided that I…"
"Well Cream, spit it out,' said Sally, not sure just what she was going to say. Surely she wasn't going to tell her that—
"…that I want to be a Freedom Fighter!"
The rest was silence.