Chapter 1: The Mute
(The Mute by Radical Face)
For the first few weeks, he spoke because he had to. They discovered each other, had their worlds shattered, and had gone on the run in such a short span of time that learning to love together required speech. But by the end of each day his voice cracked and his throat hurt. He would retreat outside to listen to them bicker and debate each other through the open van door. If either of them noticed his sudden silences they didn’t mention it. Not until the silence went from hours to days to weeks.
Sonic got frustrated quickly reading his written responses. It took up time. It became a liability during tense battles. He refused to take him out into the field and stuck him in the van often as “back up”.
Sonia was just concerned. She would poke and prod him for a reason why. “Was it something we did? Did something happen? Are you sick?” she ask in quick succession whenever the topic was brought up. All he could do was shake his head.
One night a particularly awful fight between him and Sonic resulted in a torn notebook and several thrown pencils. (Manic wanted to help with missions in the field. Sonic thought he was a safety hazard because they couldn't communicate effectively.) Sonia pulled up some jam session videos they had made in the first few weeks. Something in them might give them the guidance they needed right now.
It took a good half an hour or si before she suddenly noticed there was a pattern to how Manic's hands moved with his words. How he used them to fill the cracks his voice left behind in the early mornings and late nights. She didn't understand but she had the feeling it was the key to their problem. She waiting for Sonic to come home, pacing the living space of the van with the video paused.
As soon as he came through the door she grabbed him by the arm and tugged over to the screen. "I found something. Watch his hands as he talks," she said and hit play.
Sonic tapped his foot with annoyance. He really didn't feel like dealing with this right now. He was about to tell Sonia as much when his brain caught up to his eyes. "He speaks sign language," he said, voice soft with sudden understanding.
"So he can communicate with his hands? He should have just told us that to start with," she grumbled. Sonic rewound the tape to watch his brother again. He always stopped himself whenever he realized he was signing.
"I don't think he knows he can. It's a banned language and not really common anymore because of it," he replied. He only knew about it in passing because of Chuck, who had taught him a few basic signs soecific to missions. He played the video one more time before spinning the chair to face the communication panel and begin typing in frequencies for different rebel bases "I've got an idea,"
Sonic used a connection of his to find some books and how-to videos from the vast underground network of hidden libraries. They set up a study plan of sorts and decided to keep it quiet from Manic for now. Sonic also promised to be a little more patient (even if it took a lot of effort) with him.
Several Months Later
Manic sat tapping his spoon against his cereal bowl in a soft rhythm. He was getting anxious. Neither of his sibs had said hello this morning and he was beginning to think they were mad at him for something. They both sat down and he scrunched further into himself, pulling his feet up onto the rickety chair to cross his legs and hunching his shoulders down.
He was beginning to think they didn't need or want him around. Things had been better but not great and they still had fights over random misunderstandings. He even had his duffle bag half full in case he had to bail soon.
Someone tapped the table in front of him to get his attention. He glanced up, then did a double take because both Sonic and Sonia were grinning ear to ear over their own bowls. It was a little jarring to see them so happy after such a long bout of tension amongst them.
Sonic raised his hands with a bit of a flourish. “Good morning, little bro,” he said. As he spoke his hands signed the words flawlessly. Manic felt his eyes widen and he looked at Sonia as though asking her to explain.
“Did you sleep okay?” she asked. Her signs felt a little more stiff and formal. Maybe she had trouble learning? But she had. They both had. Just to talk with him!
He dropped his spoon onto the table with a clatter that made his older sibs jump. His chair toppled to the floor as he stood to pull them both into a rib bruising hug. Relieved laughter broke the long silence and someone sniffled back tears.
No signs, no words, were needed. He knew they loved him.
Chapter 2: High Hopes
(High Hopes – Panic at the Disco)
The acrid smell of singed fur and copper blood stung his nose as Manic quickly wrapped Sonia's forearm in bandages. She sat with her head resting against the brick wall behind her, eyes closed and breathing shallow.
She had taken a nasty fall on her motorcycle when she was hit and he was afraid she had a concussion. They were sheltered behind the remains of a store front in Robotropolis. Laser fire showered the street behind them, reducing the old cracked asphalt to rubble.
Sonic valuated over the wall to join them. He crouched down beside them breathing hard through his nose. If he was winded then they were in some serious trouble. He took a chance break in laser fire to assess the situation in the street.
Swatbots were closing in steadily and they had been cornered in a dead end. “This wasn’t supposed to happen. Blow up the oil refinery and celebrate. That was the plan,” he muttered. They needed a way out. He calculated how long they had before they were found and looked around the shop for an idea.
Manic wasn’t listening. He finished tending his sister and turned to Sonic to check him for wounds. The blue hedgehog gently redirected his attention to the back of the store before he could. A busted door led to a quiet back alley and safety. Together they lifted the dazed Sonia to her feet and beat a hasty retreat.
The van was quiet. Sonia had been given the go ahead to sleep off her injuries. She was tucked away safely in the bottom bunk under their nicest blanket.
Manic was counting their medical supplies. He had them all spread out in neat piles on the floor around him. They were running low and would need to find some more soon. He looked up from his work to tell his brother as much when he noticed his stormy expression and thought better.
Sonic sat glaring at the bandages on his shin. He hadn’t even noticed the laser burn until Manic had made him stop pacing the van interior. He didn't protest against the strong grip on his shoulder and just let him push him into a chair. As he had cleaned and dressed the wound Sonic had grumbled audibly about how much of a disaster the mission was. Now, he looked as though he wanted to hit something.
He tensed, ready to move. Sonic had a habit of hitting the nearest object and he was beside a very expensive computer set up. He didn’t really want to have to replace it. Again. He understood why the blue hedgehog was so angry.
This wasn’t what they expected when they were told they had a prophecy to fulfil. They were putting a lot more of themselves into the rebellion than they ever imagined. Blood, sweat, tears, skin. Sometimes they were alright and then there were days like today. If even the smallest thing had been different they could have lost Sonia. Just as the thought crossed his mind Sonic directed a punch straight at the computer screen.
Manic sprung up and caught his arm by the wrist. He wasn’t sonic speed fast but over a short distance he could easily match reaction times. He held on as Sonic tried to pull away, the strength his powers gave him making it impossible for him to break free.
Sonic swung back his other fist and threw a second punch, this time aimed for Manic. He caught this one as well and held both wrists. He couldn’t sign like this. He felt his jaw protest before he could even form the words he needed. “Ya done? Breaking equipment isn’t gunna help anything, dude,” he said.
His voice caught Sonic off guard. It was the first time he had spoken in a nearly three months. His expression went from rage to guilt; he had almost punched Manic in the face for helping him. He slumped back down into the chair and Manic let go.
“I know, bro, but this is stupid. We’re going to die doing this,” Sonic said. “Is it even worth it?”
Manic looked away from him. Outside the van window a storm brewed. Flashes of lightening promising it to be a big violent one. Sonic’s questioned echoed in his head. Is it even worth It?
A prophecy foreshadowing a prosperous future for a dying nation that fell on the shoulders of children. Abandoned, two of them left to learn things the hard way, then all of them shoved together and told to go on this epic quest with almost nothing to guide them.
They only had Aleena’s cryptic messages to go on. Personally, he didn’t trust her even if he did seem to be her favorite. His siblings did though.
They believed in the future they were supposed to bring. They trusted Aleena to show them how to do it. If he told them how he felt would they give up? Or perhaps it would create a rift between them. They had only just fixed things. He couldn’t go through that again. Choice made, he smiled at Sonic.
“Yeah, it’s worth it. It’s not easy, that’s for sure, but we’re the only ones who can make things right,” he said with as much confidence as he could summon. “People are counting on us, Mom is depending on us, to make this place awesome again. And together we can pull it off,”
He watched emerald green eyes brighten as his brother sat up, hope restored. He always needed a purpose. He was born and raised a hero. “It is. We’re going to stop Butnik and find Mom,” he said. He believed it too. That was all that mattered to Manic.
He sat back down on the floor as Sonic set to work making a new plan to stop Robotnik. His guitar shaped medallion shown bright silver in the dim lights of their beaten up home. To some it was the symbol of hope. He sighed and pushed aside his doubts. He could try to believe just a little longer.
Chapter 3: Cough Syrup
(Cough Syrup by Young the Giant)
Smoke drifted through the still room toward the cracked window. Manic sat on an old kitchen table, joint in hand, watching the van outside for any sign of his sibs. The room around him was full of rusted appliances and broken cabinets harkening back to the days before the takeover. And yet, the faded pastel yellow walls seemed to be hopeful.
He took a deep drag from his joint, held it for a moment, before letting the smoke drift gently out of his mouth. It was quiet out this morning. The three of them had rolled into this spot late last night. It was a decent distance from the city core so patrols were few and far between. Parked at the right angle and with the clever use of a tarp the van couldn’t be seen from above. They were safe for the moment.
Which was good because right now he was so stoned he wouldn’t be able to fight. They had been fighting and fleeing things for the last month. He needed a moment and smoking in the van was strictly forbidden. Besides, if his sibs knew he was stoned they’d have been pissed.
Neither of them understood that being unable to function like a normal hedgehog was exactly the reason he did this. It didn’t just dull the sensory overload he felt 24/7 but dulled everything. It made things soft, fuzzy, and just a bit more hopeful. He didn’t want to give up fighting and go back to processional theft quite as much.
By the time the high faded he’d be back to being Manic the Underground Rebel instead of Manic the Apathetic Mechanic. After all, life was too damn short to not care about anything right? He laid down on the counter, propping his right foot up on the opposite knee.
He took one last drag from the joint before crushing the last bit in his palm. He didn’t feel the heat burn his skin. Never did. From outside, he heard music start up in the van. Judging from the amount of guitar it had to be Sonic.
Eh. They’d notice he wasn’t inside in an hour or so. It didn’t bother him. He’d go back when the high faded and not a minute before.