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[FANFICTION] Sonic Burst: Rise of Ashura (post-SatAM AU)


Lorekitten

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So a few years ago I had this dream where I wrote a SatAM Season Three, and one thing led to another and the long and short of it is that I've finally started posting my take on how I'd continue SatAM's story. This was all largely inspired by the DuckTales reboot (which actually won out over SatAM as my favorite show of all time) and its tendency to take even the most obscure bits and pieces of Disney duck lore and work them into the show.

Given the insanely large body of work to pull from for the Sonic series, trying to replicate that was clearly gonna be a ride and a half.

But I won't bore you by writing an article on this. You're here for the fan fiction. Sonic Burst: Rise of Ashura is planned as a twenty-six episode season (I know that SatAM had thirteen-episode seasons but the story I wanted to tell needed more space), and thus far I've got the first two episodes completed. Episode one is eleven chapters, and episode two is seven chapters. I don't want to dump the entirety of both chapters at once, so I'm gonna post a chapter a day over the next three weeks, excluding Sundays for no good reason except my OCD issues. Once that's done with, we'll see how chapter spacing goes past that.

It should be noted that Rise of Ashura is an AU. SatAM itself took some creative liberties with the characters and world from the canon games, and some of the canon characters newly introduced into SatAM's world will be adapted to fit the story I want to tell. (And, in some cases, to keep you guessing as to their motivations.) Just a heads-up.

---

Episode One: A Rose From the Ashes

Chapter One: Not Everything Looks Like A Nail

(TW: sequences of mild verbal harassment implying ableism and demeaning an ESL speaker for misspeaking. If you've watched the show, no points for guessing who's doing it to who. Antoine is my favorite Sonic character and I want to make it very clear that I do not in any way condone the way Sonic treats him, but this is where the characters are at this point in the story and I'm not going to sugarcoat that Sonic is a bit of a jerk. Yes, this does get addressed eventually in-universe, but details would be spoilers.)

Spoiler

You know me -- Sonic the Hedgehog, leader of the Freedom Fighters, fastest thing alive. Danger is my middle name (well, actually it's Maurice, but we don't talk about that). Why the heck am I so fast? Something something power rings yadda yadda yadda. Honestly, every time my Uncle Chuck tries to explain the science-y bits to me, my brain goes into sleep mode, so I'm not really big on the specifics. Basically my name is 'Sonic' and I'm made of 'goes fast.' Question answered.

I'm sure you know the drill by now. Dr. Robotnik took over Mobius, tossed King Acorn into the Void, roboticized a heckin' lot of us Mobians into worker bots, and basically wrecked the environment with excessive over-industrialization. But he didn't count on us Freedom Fighters. We came at him with everything we had, and we kept coming. We had our wins, and we had our losses, and those losses hit hard. But in the end... we won.

Or so we thought.

Robotnik was destroyed -- or so we thought. He'd never come back to haunt us -- or so we thought. And we certainly never stopped to question what, given the massive Robuttnik-shaped power vacuum in his capital city of Robotropolis, was going to fill said vacuum. (We kind of assumed it would be us.) So I can't even say that we thought anything about that, which is really kind of slipping on our part and we would all come to regret that on so many levels.

Turns out, nature abhors a vacuum. And so do certain scummy unsavory individuals hiding in the shadows for eleven years, waiting for their turn to rise.

This is the story of why and how we hadn't exactly won as much as we would've hoped...

---

The Great Forest, one week after Robotnik's defeat

Gotta go fast, gotta go fast, gotta go fast...

The cloaked figure didn't dare look behind themself. They knew what was following them. Risking a backwards glance would only give the robots time to catch up with them.

Buzz Bombers. Once a scrapped robot model for Robotnik's army, now returned from the cutting-room floor to wreak havoc on Mobius once more. Rumor had it that the big round guy had deemed the Buzz Bombers impractical due to their crippling weakness to water; any army that was rendered entirely useless by a freak rainstorm most certainly was not worth mass producing. The figure guessed that whoever had brought the Buzzes out of retirement must have found a way around that little flaw.

Well, they didn't need a rainstorm. They had something better.

The cloaked figure whirled around and pulled out a stick. Not a small stick, but not a particularly large one either. No, what made this specific stick so formidable was not the stick itself, but the rather large physical mass attached to one end of it.

"Piko!"

As her bestie liked to say to her, speak softly and carry a hammer.

The Buzzes clearly were not prepared for their quarry to fight back. Granted, given that there had been no Buzzes in the wild since before a week ago, she couldn't exactly presume they were well versed in the ways of Mobius. Not that she was in any position to judge. But she was definitely in a position to fight back.

She counted three of them. At least, she did until she leapt into the air, jumped off one of the Buzzes' heads, brought down her hammer on the second, then swung her hammer in midair as the third Buzz tried to rush her and got a faceful of mallet for its troubles.

Three Flicky birds flew out of the wreckage of the three badniks.

Landing on her feet not quite as gracefully as she would have liked, the hedgehog girl took a few deep breaths. Okay then. So this was Mobius, post-Robotnik. Clearly they still hadn't solved their robot problem.

But she had bigger things to worry about than robot problems.

Focus, Amy, she thought to herself. One disaster at a time. Gotta get to Knothole Village and find those rocks before something worse happens.

And by 'something worse,' she meant the end of the world.

Technically, two worlds. But they were close enough together to at least qualify as the same planetary system.

---

Knothole Village, ten minutes later...

"Bunnie, move the support beam about ten inches northwest. Tails, fly up and hammer it into position. Sonic, can you fetch us another two-by-four?"

I laughed out loud. "Can I fetch us another two-by-four? Come on, Sal. Is grass green? Is water wet? Is Antoine pathetic?"

Sally gave me a look that said that she was hardly in the mood for jokes, particularly at Antoine's expense. Of course, I can take a hint (sometimes), so I ran off to fetch another two-by-four.

Yeesh, I thought. Fastest thing alive, hero of a thousand battles, and now that the war is over and Robuttnik's toast, I'm a glorified errand boy. Sonic, fetch this. Sonic, fetch that. Sonic, we're rebuilding Rotor's wrecked lab and we need supplies as fast as possible regardless of whether or not you're bored out of your mind with lousy fetch quests. Sometimes I felt like Antoine was accomplishing more than I was, and that's saying something because he never accomplishes anything. If something didn't happen around Knothole in the next five seconds, I was going to wack out.

Guess what happened.

Ant's voice came on over the alarm system, is what happened. (Well, 'alarm system' is generous. It's more of a cobbled-together system of pipes and bullhorns, but hey. We live in the middle of the Great Forest and scavenge most of our tech from Robotnik's dumping grounds and from the robots we wreck.) "Alert! Alert! Ze perambulator has been beached!"

Which is hardly the least coherent sentence I've ever heard from Antoine, but Sal doesn't like me being judgy about it and has threatened to make me try to speak to him exclusively in French just so Antoine can laugh at me for being bad at something for once, so I try not to mention it.

"The what has been what now?" I yelled back.

"Ze... perpendicular has been reached!"

"ENGLISH, Ant!"

"Um... English... WE'RE UNDAIR ATTACK!"

Which was what he should've said in the first place, but he never says what he should've said in the first place.

See, here's the thing about Antoine. His heart's in the right place, but his brains and spine left to get milk ten years ago. And while it's not from lack of trying, he's bad at literally everything that a Freedom Fighter should be good at, and also basically everything else in life. He'd be a lot less insufferable if his mouth wasn't always writing checks his nerves can't cash, and guess who's always picking up his tab? Yours truly. One of these days I'm not going to be fast enough to get him out of his own mess and the vicious cycle will stop for good, and I hope he realizes that before it has a chance to actually happen. Most of the town still hasn't forgiven him for the Margarine Incident. (Don't ask. Even I'm embarrassed to talk about that one. He's had his house egged twice. Nobody saw me, I deny everything.)

I suppose I should respect him for trying, except that my job would be a heck of a lot easier if he didn't insist on doing so.

Still, Knothole under attack is Knothole under attack, and while I feel guilty for saying this because Knothole has been the last bastion of hope for the remnants of the Kingdom of Acorn for the past eleven years, the fact that somebody was attacking us meant that I got to actually do something besides act as everyone's gopher.

Which was really sad when you stopped to think about it, which was why I chose not to.

---

"So this is Knothole's security force?" Amy muttered.

To be fair, she hadn't expected too much from a hidden village in the middle of the woods. None of the high-tech weaponry of her homeworld or legions of armored soldiers. But when Knothole's 'security system' consisted of a teenage coyote in a military uniform holding a sword that he clearly had no idea how to use and desperately trying not to look like he was shaking like a leaf (which he was), she couldn't help but feel like fighting back would make her the bully in this situation.

Seriously. When the first line out of the guard's mouth was "I have ze weapon, and I am afraid to lose it," it didn't exactly make Amy feel any better about her unannounced arrival. The poor guy looked like he was about to wet himself.

"I'm not here to fight you," Amy said, lowering her hood. "Just hand over the Time Stones, and nobody gets--"

---

Which was as far as she got before she was hit in the side by seventy-seven pounds of pure concentrated AWESOME.

I uncurled myself in a matter of milliseconds to look over the stunned intruder. Who wasn't at all what I'd expected. "You... you're a girl," I said, because apparently the natural Mobian reaction to surprising situations is to state the obvious. "I mean, I'm not sexist or anything, but I'd expected--"

"Sonic?" she asked.

"Oh?" I answered. "You've heard of me?" (Which was also stating the obvious, because everyone has heard of me.)

She gave a nervous smile. "Would it help if I told you I'm your biggest fan?"

"It would help if you told me what the heck you're doing in Knothole to begin with. How did you even find us?"

Her smile became less nervous and more smug. "That's my little secret. So where are the Time Stones?"

The Time Stones. Those things that Sal and I got from the Little Planet to try to stop Robuttnik's takeover before it even began. After the near disaster that had actually occurred when we used them, we'd mutually decided to hide them away to ensure that they were never used again. And by 'mutually decided,' I mean Sal made the decision and I made several cool suggestions for what we could use them for and all of them got shut down. Given that the Time Stones need two people to use them, and I wasn't about to let the wrong kind of people know we even had them, I suppose my dreams of going back to medieval times and opening Mobius's first chili dog stand had to be put on hold for a bit.

"Time Stones?" I asked, playing dumb. "What Time Stones?"

The girl looked at me as if to ask with her eyes exactly how stupid I thought she was. (The answer? She struck me as fairly intelligent all things considered, for a kid anyway. Although trying to sneak into Knothole without warning was not exactly giving her brownie points. The thing about secret villages in the middle of the woods? They're supposed to be SECRET. But the fact that she'd known how to reach us to begin with did seem to indicate that she had an edge over us, which is never a good sign.)

Antoine, of course, had to open his big fat mouth again. "Ze Time Stones are ze myth," he said, not because he was lying (which he's horrible at but not from lack of practice) but because he honestly had no idea (which comes naturally to him). He never has to play dumb to anyone because it's his default state. "Who are you, and what are you zhinking you are doing here?"

The girl looked from me to Antoine and back again. "I, uh..." she said nervously, fidgeting with her fingers. "I..."

Then she said the last thing that I could've expected.

"Sonic, can I have your autograph?"

And that was about the cheapest shot she could've taken on me, right in my ego. Forgetting what I was actually supposed to be doing, I ran off to grab a piece of paper and a pencil, which objectively speaking was about the dumbest thing I could have done right then, especially given that I took an extra seven seconds to sharpen the pencil.

Yeah. Not my brightest moment.

And by the time I returned, of course, she'd pounced on Antoine, knocked the sword out of his hands, and was now sitting on top of him with her hammer hovering menacingly over his head.

"The Time Stones," she hissed. "I don't want anyone to get hurt, and I don't think he does either."

Antoine made a long string of incomprehensible squealing sounds indicating his affirmative. The more stressed out he is, the harder he is to understand, although after everything that's happened from then to now, I can't honestly remember the last time I've seen him not stressed. But then I've never understood him to begin with so it's not changing much.

I stared the girl down, trying to get a read on her. She had a terrible poker face. I could already tell that this was almost certainly her first real combat with anything that wasn't robotic and that she was almost as scared of putting the hammer down on Ant's face as he was of getting it. And that's saying something.

I know Sal likes to say that when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. This girl may have had a hammer, but she definitely did not look like a nail. While I'd been hoping to flex my spines a bit, this was hardly a hammer situation, which meant diplomacy. Which still beat out fetching two-by-fours in terms of entertainment, but only by a very narrow margin.

"Okay, so let's review," I said. "If my ears aren't deceiving me, you just said, 'Hello, I'm violent and dangerous and crazy, and I want some insanely powerful relics that could irreparably break reality as we know it, and if I don't get them I'm going to flatten this innocent idiot out of spite.' I mean, I'd hardly call Antoine 'innocent,' but still, this is not a good look for you."

As I'd said before, she didn't look like an idiot. She stared me down nervously, slowly backing off of Antoine with an expression that said 'no sudden moves, or I'll do something that everyone present is going to regret, myself included.'

And that's when she was knocked unconscious by the robot fist.

"Seriously, Bunnie?" I snapped. "I had it handled!"

"Sorry, sugah-hog," Bunnie said, her robot arm retracting to its usual length. "Just makin' shoah."

"Well, congratulations! You just punched a child. Feeling real good about yourself right about now?"

Bunnie Rabbot was our heaviest hitter (second to me, of course), but not because she wanted to be. She'd gone on her first mission several years ago and come back with three of her four limbs roboticized. The others on the mission hadn't been lucky enough to keep even half their natural bodies, let alone their free will. She'd learned to adapt, and chose to use her newfound super-strength to prevent Robuttnik from doing the same thing to others that he tried to do to her, but sometimes at night she still wakes up screaming.

Speaking of screaming, Antoine was making unhappy coyote noises while trying to wriggle out from underneath the unconscious girl and her rather sizable hammer, which had narrowly missed conking him hard on the noggin and messing up his hair. "At least SHE was HELPING moi," he muttered.

"I was helping!" I countered. "I distracted the attacker, didn't I? You're welcome."

Antoine did not look very welcome at all, and gave me a look that decidedly lacked any hint of gratitude. For some reason he doesn't like me very much. Can't imagine why. I mean, how many times do you have to save a guy from his own stupidity to get his respect?

"Look," I said, "let's just get her contained and wait for her to wake up so we can ask her what the heck her deal is. I don't know if she's a war orphan or whatever, but no sane kid just sneaks into a hidden forest sanctuary wielding a massive weapon to retrieve ancient relics of incredible power without one heck of a backstory behind that."

I paused. "So, while I'm doing that, Bun, can you do me a solid and fetch Sal a two-by-four?"

Author's Notes:

Spoiler

Another reason I'm not posting all the chapters at once is because the forums don't copy the formatting from OpenOffice and I have to go back and reformat everything to make it look right.

I honestly wasn't sure how best to write Antoine's dialogue. He has a surprisingly impressive English vocabulary, but is always using the wrong word, and his sentence structure is all over the place. I wasn't sure how far to go with his 'Antoinese' because while I don't want to be insensitive to ESL speakers (my adopted sister is one of them), there's a point where if you change the way Antoine talks too much, he doesn't sound like Antoine anymore. I do have my own in-universe explanation for his linguistic idiosyncrasies, but that doesn't come into play until much later on.

 

Edited by Lorekitten
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23 hours ago, ShadowForever said:

Great work! Looking forward for next episodes!

Thanks! There's a ride ahead!

Episode One, Chapter Two: You Can't Save Every Starfish

Spoiler

Amy slowly regained consciousness to the sound of voices.

"You tied her to a chair?"

"Well, yeah. I couldn't find the handcuffs."

"You wanted to handcuff her?"

"Well, it seemed better than tying her to a chair."

"Sonic, she's a child!"

"Yeah, Sal, she's a child. A child with a freakin' large hammer. She threatened to make Antoine into a coyote pancake. Which wouldn't have been anyone's loss, but--"

"SONIC!"

There was a blindfold over Amy's eyes, but she could feel two things. One, the chair wasn't a particularly comfortable chair, not for a hedgehog anyway. (Hedgehogs had never been built for comfort. When your main survival strategy is to curl into a ball and be too spiky for anyone to puncture without getting punctured back, comfort is hardly the main objective.) And two, she still had her bangle bracelets on. While it was good that her captors hadn't taken them, having clearly no idea that they were not simply a fashion statement, she couldn't exactly activate them in this position without immediately cutting both her hands off, which was not going to help her situation one iota.

"And you put a blindfold on her!" 'Sal' went on. "What do you think we are, terrorists taking hostages? She's got to be scared out of her mind!"

"Yeah, you know what? So is Antoine. Granted, that's his general mental state, but--"

"This isn't about Antoine!"

Sal. Princess Sally Acorn, most likely, the ground squirrel tactician of the Knothole Freedom Fighters. Amy had heard of her. Most people on the Miracle Planet were at least vaguely aware of certain Mobian regions' politics, given that so much of their current population were refugees from Robotnik's global empire. They hadn't been able to save everyone, especially considering that there was hardly room on the Miracle Planet to hold that many refugees, but Queen Elena had insisted that even if you couldn't throw all the starfish back into the ocean, you could at least have the decency to throw back the ones that you were standing right next to.

Amy was wondering if she'd just become one of those starfish, and if anybody was going to throw her back.

Well, if nobody was throwing her back, then she was throwing herself back. 'Back' in this case having double meaning, given that her own back was of course covered in all those aforementioned hedgehog spikes. Wriggling around in her bonds, Amy tried to position herself so that her spines were against the ropes that bound her and not the chair itself.

Her goal had been to cut through the ropes without getting caught. What she actually accomplished was to knock herself and the chair flat on the floor, leading to a large and very audible CLUNK that even an entirely deaf Mobian would've been able to pick up the vibrations from.

This of course put an immediate end to Sonic and Sally's conversation, or at least heavily derailed it.

"Now look," Sal's voice said. "She's probably injured herself trying to get free."

"Not my fault!" Sonic insisted. "What, do you think I pushed her over from way over here? Not that I'm not fast enough to do it or anything, but I wouldn't!"

"Just--" Amy could hear the unmistakable sound of a furry facepalm. "Just pick that chair back up and take off the blindfold before I lose my temper."

Sonic did so, and the first thing that Amy saw in the light was his beautiful brown eyes. She knew she probably shouldn't be gushing over someone who'd just tied her to a chair, because the adults she knew always said that those sort of relationships never ended well, but this. She'd dreamed of meeting the famous hero Sonic the Hedgehog all her life, and now that it was finally happening, well...

In hindsight, she really shouldn't have started it by threatening to flatten one of his friends. She could've avoided a lot of trouble that way.

There was an awkward silence.

"Hi-i-i-i-i..." Amy started, trying to be casual in a situation that was very clearly anything but. If her hands hadn't been tied behind her back, she would've given him a finger wave.

"Do you have any idea how much trouble you're in?" Sonic asked flatly.

Yes, as a matter of fact, Amy Rose felt that she had an entirely accurate assessment of how much trouble she was in. In fact, she was likely the only person on the face of Mobius to have any idea how much trouble she was in, not to mention how much trouble the planet was in. Obviously the only sane thing to do under these circumstances would have been to just explain the situation to Sonic and Sally and hope that one of them would have enough sense to do the right thing and stave off multi-planetary destruction, but there was just something about staring into the deep brown eyes of the greatest living hero on the planet that put Amy's mind not in the best place for thinking rationally.

"You have beautiful eyes," she said.

Sonic was clearly taken aback at this, but only momentarily. "I have angry eyes," he said. "And do you know why I have angry eyes? Because I was having a perfectly boring day today and I wanted it to get interesting and apparently, this is how the universe decided to grant my wish, and now my girlfriend is mad at me for tying you up and taking away your toys before you could play Whack-A-Dope with the village idiot. So I'm going to ask you a few questions now, and if I were you, I'd start talking."

The part of Amy's brain devoted to rational thought was having trouble cutting in front of the part that was still obsessing over Sonic's eyes. "You have beautiful angry eyes," she said dreamily.

"Are you serious?"

"Well, she's not wrong," Sal said dryly. "The question is whether what's behind those eyes is ready to put in work."

Sonic rolled his beautiful angry eyes. "Okay, Sal, how about you handle the interrogation? Because I don't think I'm getting anywhere with this kid."

"What are we even interrogating her for?"

"Well, for starters, how did she find Knothole Village? Why did she find Knothole Village? Why is she after the Time Stones, and where the heck did she learn how to use that hammer?"

The Time Stones. Crap! She'd forgotten to mention that! "Yeah..." she stammered. "About that... you Freedom Fighters know anything about the Miracle Planet?"

"Miracle what-now?" Sonic asked.

Sally sighed, pulling out a pocket computer clipped to her boot. "Nicole, bring up all files related to the Miracle Planet."

The computer clicked on, and the ASCII face of a Mobian lynx appeared. "The Miracle Planet. One of the Seven Wonders of Mobius, considered the last and most wondrous of them all. A world that defies time, where past, present, and future collide. It appears over the Never Lake for one month out of every year, then vanishes for the other eleven months. Robotnik has been trying to take it over every year for the past decade, but--"

"Tried, Nicole," Sonic interrupted. "He's toast now."

"Right. Tried." The computer almost sounded apologetic. "Anyway, my internal clock indicates that the Miracle Planet is not due to reappear for another four months, two weeks, and three days."

Amy interrupted. "Yeah, well, that kind of changed when the Time Stones were stolen. Not only is it gonna appear, but it's gonna collapse out of its orbit and collide with Mobius if we don't get the Time Stones back to it in time."

"The Time Stones?" Sonic asked, caught off guard. "But the Time Stones we have came from the Floating Island!"

"Well, the Time Stones we had were stolen three days ago," Amy hissed.

"Well, the Time Stones WE have, we got three months ago!" Sonic snapped. "Obviously, they're not the same Time Stones!"

"You know of anyone else with Time Stones lying around?" Amy snarled, any thoughts regarding the look and emotion of Sonic's eyes forgotten. "Because we aren't particularly picky about how we save both worlds here!"

"If I may make an observation," Nicole said, "given that the Time Stones are capable of transporting their users throughout different points in time, it is entirely possible that they are in fact the same Time Stones, and that whoever stole them from the Little Planet took them back through time and left them on the Floating Island, where Sonic and Sally later retrieved them."

"Finally," Sally sighed. "Something about this situation makes a marginal amount of sense."

"But who would have done something like that?" Sonic asked. "Because if Robuttnik tried stealing the Time Stones, he wouldn't have sent them to the past; he would've kept hold of them and used them himself. Besides, he's yesterday's sushi. He wouldn't have been around three days ago."

"Perhaps we should focus our attention on saving all life on Mobius before playing detective," Nicole said softly.

"Well, forgive me if I'm skeptical of little miss 'I have a hammer and I'm going to flatten people' here," Sonic growled. "How do we even know that you're telling the truth?"

Amy narrowed her eyes. "Would you rather wait until both planets collide and I get to say 'I told you so'?"

"There is a simple way to test the validity of this girl's statements," Nicole said. "If what she is saying is true, then the Miracle Planet will have appeared over Never Lake ahead of schedule. If we travel to Never Lake with the Time Stones, and the Miracle Planet is there, then we shall be in prime position to return the Time Stones and save both worlds."

"And if it isn't?" Sonic asked.

"Then at the very least, I hear that Never Lake is quite lovely this time of year."

---

I didn't like where this was going. This new girl, while clearly not actively malicious, didn't strike me as entirely stable. Still, if my home planet was in danger of destroying itself and another, then honestly, I'd probably go a bit unhinged as well.

Anyway, I'd wanted more adventure, right? No more civilian life for me. Because as little as I'd miss Robuttnik and the horrors his takeover had brought on Mobius, I just couldn't see myself getting used to spending entire days without taking any risk greater than guessing whether or not the last chili dog in the back of my fridge was past its prime. (Which to be fair was risky enough. You don't want to know what the last one did to my digestion.)

Still... planetary destruction. MULTI-planetary destruction. If this was true, then this was big. Bigger than us. Possibly even bigger than Robuttnik. But who in their right mind would even want to destroy two planets at once by traveling into the past to avoid it?

I had the feeling that before all this was over, I'd be sorry I asked.

Some days, I hate being right...

Author's notes:

Spoiler

So in both the Archie comics and Sonic the Comic, Sonic starts out with brown eyes and gains green eyes through a special event. I'm sticking with that tradition here, assuming the story lasts long enough for me to actually reach that event.

Originally I didn't feel comfortable including Amy's crush on Sonic, for two reasons. One, I've been in an uncomfortable stalker relationship once and I didn't really want to get into that, and two, classic Amy is eight. But, uh, her character doesn't really make sense without its defining trait, so that snuck back into her personality. I'll try to keep it from getting super cringy though.

 

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Dude, this is crazy good! All the characters feel true to the show, and I really like how most of the chapter comes from Sonic's POV. You're excellent with words and sentence structure, and as someone who writes every now and then(not for the public, I'm not THAT bold(or motivated)), it's always nice to see, and it makes organizing information better. I'm excited to read the future chapters! :):ok:

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14 hours ago, cosmichaos said:

Dude, this is crazy good! All the characters feel true to the show, and I really like how most of the chapter comes from Sonic's POV. You're excellent with words and sentence structure, and as someone who writes every now and then(not for the public, I'm not THAT bold(or motivated)), it's always nice to see, and it makes organizing information better. I'm excited to read the future chapters! :):ok:

Thanks! I didn't originally intend to write so much from Sonic's POV, but I started with him giving the introduction and he demanded to say more. He's a fun character to get in the head of (they all are).

Writing is as natural as breathing to me (and I wish I could say the same for actually talking to people IRL, but that's the way it is). The SatAM characters were a huge part of my teenage years, and even though it's been ages since I've seen the show, they still live rent-free in my head. I'm happy you're enjoying the story!

---

Episode One, Chapter Three: Plane Hard to Get

(TW: brief references to physical and emotional abuse)

Spoiler

Robotropolis Command Center

Three Buzz Bombers had lost their signal.

Granted, this should not have been too much of an inconvenience. Three Buzz Bombers out of literally thousands. Thousands of badniks (he liked that name, badniks) produced in secret in underground factories miles away from the big round guy's prying eyes by worker bots (that is, roboticized Mobians) that he had successfully convinced Robotnik had been unfortunate collateral damage from Freedom Fighter resistance.

But when three robots all lose communication within seconds of each other in the same area, and only those three robots, it's never a good sign.

And in the Great Forest, no less.

Snively sighed and reviewed the badniks' final camera footage once more. And saw exactly what he'd seen the past twelve times. Little red rodent hood. With a hammer. One underaged Mobian hedgehog with an annoying penchant for destroying everything the Robotnik dynasty was trying to build was bad enough; now there were two of them. Granted, there was a stark difference between a hedgehog destroying three mook soldiers and a hedgehog destroying all of Robotnik's biggest projects and just recently Robotnik himself, but the little man with the big nose did not want to make the same mistake his uncle had and write off this newcomer as just another future worker bot.

No, this was a problem. At least, this had the potential to be a problem. And if there was one thing Snively the Great had learned from his uncle's failures (and marginally from his successes, although mostly from his failures), it was that the best way to avoid potential problems becoming actual problems is to get rid of them before they can become actual problems.

The obvious problem being, what do you send against a destroyer of robots when your entire army is made of robots?

The big round guy's answer would have been more robots. Which was why the big round guy was six feet under (assuming the massive explosion from the rodents unleashing the energy of the Deep Power Stones had left anything to bury; Snively hadn't cared to check, although he would have loved to dance on Robotnik's grave) and Snively was now in charge. And seeing as he intended to stay that way, he wasn't about to make his uncle's mistakes and lose his chance at planetary dominance.

He'd spent eleven years playing lackey to that fool. Eleven years of beratement and abuse, of being pushed around by that bloated idiot and forced to carefully conceal his own plans. More than once he'd been tempted to play his hand too early after a particularly stinging failure had left Robotnik enraged and Snively the easy target to take out his frustrations on. More than once he'd been a hair's breadth away from pulling his coup that very moment and watching his uncle's final moments with a perverse grin on his face as the big round guy finally realized that all this time, he'd had no idea whatsoever what his nephew was truly capable of...

But Snively had always held back, namely because his plans did not exist in a vacuum. The Freedom Fighters were still out there, and while most oppressive planet-wide governments usually didn't have too much to fear from a plucky band of teenagers no matter what the Saturday morning cartoons said, Snively knew full well that any sort of rebellion within Robotropolis during his uncle's reign would have been met with interference from that miserable blue rodent and his fuzzy buddies taking advantage of the chaos to wreck both sides and then let them finish each other off.

At any rate, why waste his own fighters and Robotnik's by forcing them to fight? The SWATbots were every bit as unthinking loyalists as the worker bots, so all he had to do was wait for the Freedom Fighters to take the big round guy out for him, then he could move in himself and claim both armies. And that was why he was in charge and Robotnik was pushing up daisies.

And he wasn't about to lose that power to some plucky pink child with a hammer.

Fortunately, he had a plan. (Fortunately for him, at least -- perhaps not so fortunate for anyone else involved.) If you want to catch a hedgehog, he thought to himself...

Send a hedgehog.

---

For the past six months in Knothole, whenever one or more of us needed to go somewhere that we couldn't travel by sneaker, we'd give a little whistle to Dulcy the dragon. Unfortunately, there were two problems with using her on this mission. One, the Little Planet operated outside of the breathable atmosphere and while it may have been technically possible for Dulcy to survive such a journey (something something dragon magic), it certainly wouldn't have been any easier for her carrying all of us, and she'd probably tire out more quickly, which is not what you want on a journey where the closest rest stop is a cloud. And so is the second closest. And so on.

And two, Dulcy had vamoosed three days ago. Not like she didn't like us or anything (I'm not sure if there's ever been anyone outside the Robotnik family that she DIDN'T like), but apparently she got some sort of psychic signal from that mother dragon we'd met three months back and was all like 'I must go, my people need me' or whatever. And I'm not gonna judge her for that. I get that a lot myself. Although I'm significantly faster at getting there. (Usually it's from Antoine, because for someone who doesn't like me very much he's always begging me for help. That must really drive him crazy.)

Not that Dulcy having to leave had exactly been news to us. She's a dragon. They're migratory creatures, rarely staying in the same place for more than a few months. Dulcy of course had made an exception because she's Dulcy and she wants to save the world like the rest of us do, but overall, dragons move around a lot because they tend to eat a lot. (My pal Tails, who's ten years old and probably didn't understand what Sally meant when she said that, asked if that was why I moved around a lot myself. Actually in my case, I have to eat a lot because I burn a lot of energy while running, but I'd like to think that my chili dog binges aren't quite as potentially devastating to the local ecosystem as dragon grazing.)

So Rotor, our main walrus tech-head, had actually been working on a substitute the entire time that Dulcy was with us and then some. Our biplane was called the Freedom Stormer, but it had something of an accident on our way back from its first flight because there was some unexpected wind turbulence and I may have not handled it with my usual level-headedness. (Antoine, I know you're reading over my shoulder as I type, you can stop laughing now. None of that was my fault! Yeesh, crash a plane ONE TIME...)

So after Dulcy had flown in to replace it (and totaled my house in the landing, but that's another story), Rotor managed to move the wreckage of the Freedom Stormer into Knothole's makeshift hangar and get to work on fixing it back up. (Obviously there hadn't been room to put an entire biplane in Rotor's lab, which was actually a good thing given that Rotor's lab was destroyed shortly before Robuttnik's defeat.) Tails had been helping him out a lot with things (Antoine was barred from assisting with Rotor's work ever since the Ro-Becca incident, which was another story entirely), and Rotor even let him run flight simulations on the plane's computer.

Sal, of course, had no problem with Tails running simulations. Emphasis on simulations. But the little fox had gotten so good at his vidya games that he was practically begging 'Aunt Sally' to let him actually fly the plane for real. I mean, the kid does have experience in the air, using his twin namesakes like helicopter blades to achieve liftoff. However, Sal's something of a stick-in-the-mud about putting young children in real danger, probably because Tails is only ten and that's how old Bunnie was when she went on her first mission and got roboticized.

The irony is that the reason most of us Freedom Fighters are underage is because Robuttnik already got all the adults. Which doesn't really help anyone's paranoia.

So Rotor was flying the Freedom Stormer, with Tails sitting between him and Sally up front, leaving me and Bunnie in the back with the Time Stones and a Power Ring in my backpack and the hog-tied (heh) prisoner between us. Lucky us. Antoine, of course, wouldn't have gotten on that plane if you'd paid him. Not because of his fear of flying (he'd mostly conquered that with Dulcy, although he still had his moments) but because he still had PTSD from his last encounter with the stranger and her hammer. For once I can't blame him. Even I felt like teasing him over that would've just been low.

This feeling only intensified as I actually got to know her.

"I can't believe I've been captured by Sonic the Hedgehog himself!"

Bunnie gave the girl a sideways glance. "An' ah suppose ah did nothin'?"

"Give her a break, Bun," I said, "you hit her from the side and knocked her out before she could see you. Although if you could find some way to pivot her attention from me to you, then sure, go for it. I won't get jealous."

"Are you really the fastest thing alive?" the girl asked. "How are you so fast? Why don't your shoes wear out? Why don't you wear pants? Would pants slow you down? Would your pants wear out? Would they catch on fire if you ran at top speed?"

"Whoa now! WAY too many words. To answer in order, yes, I don't know, none of your business, REALLY none of your business, haven't tried, probably yes, and I don't even want to think about that. And while we're on the topic of questions, what's YOUR name?"

She grinned, which given the circumstances, I found concerning. We had her tied up on an entirely involuntary plane trip and somehow she was under the mistaken impression that anything at all about this situation was fun. "Amy Rose."

"Amy Rose," I repeated. "So is Rose your middle name or your last name?"

A pause. Maybe even she didn't know. "It's the only name I've got."

"Huh. So do your parents know you've been running around on another planet threatening to make mashed coyote?"

The look on her face told me that this was not a button I should've pushed.

"Oh. Right." I sighed. "Yeah, my folks were war victims too. At least that's what my uncle Chuck tells me. He doesn't like to talk about it. Won't tell me anything about them. I've never seen any photos, and I don't even know their names. Every time I ask, he gets all weird about it."

I paused. "Wait, why am I telling you this?"

"Because I'm cute?" Amy suggested.

"Okay, now you're the one getting weird. We're on a Freedom Fighter mission to allegedly save two worlds, you're completely tied up, and you're actively flirting with one of your captors. If you're counting on some sort of reverse Stockholm Syndrome to kick in, then as far as I'm concerned you can walk the rest of the way."

"Sugah-hog!" Bunnie shouted.

"I'm kidding, okay? This is just getting a little uncomfortable, that's all."

"Well, the back seats recline if you pull that lever to the left," Rotor said from up front.

"Wrong kind of uncomfortable, Rote."

"Oh! Sorry. I was focusing more on where we're going."

"Well, yeah, that's literally your job."

"So we're cool?"

"We're cool."

Awkward silence.

"So what's it like to be a Freedom Fighter?" Amy asked.

"Usually? Long periods of planning, long periods of sneaking around, a little spying, some electronic sabotage, several brief periods of being both terrified and awesome at the same time, and if everyone makes it out alive and not looking like a tin can, it's been a good day. And that's our typical Tuesday."

"I wish I could be a Freedom Fighter," she said quietly.

"Ya don't," Bunnie cut in, giving a sad glance at her robotic limbs. "Ya really don't."

Amy pouted. "Well, if that weenie coyote gets to be a Freedom Fighter, why can't I?"

"Two reasons," I said. "First, you threatened to flatten said coyote with that big stick of yours and no amount of therapy is ever gonna get him over that. And second, the only reason Sal even lets him on missions in the first place is because if she doesn't, he sneaks off and tries to do missions on his own, and we have to rescue him. And by we, I mean me. Rote, remember the time he tried to kidnap Robuttnik all on his lonesome because he couldn't understand sarcasm?"

"There's no need to bring THAT up," Rotor muttered.

"I'm aware Antoine has... issues," Sally said. "But it's not nice to talk about him behind his back."

"Well, you don't like it when I tell him to his face either," I said. "Make up your mind! I gotta have an outlet!"

"Uh, guys?" Tails said, pointing forward. "I think there's something really big up ahead..."

I looked forward and gasped. "Okay, okay, WOW. That's big. That's really big. That..."

'That' was an enormous blue sphere off in the distance, and I say 'enormous' because while it didn't loo too big from where we were, the fact that we could see it at all from so far away clearly testified to how freaking huge it had to be up close. Maybe it was just my imagination, but I could've sworn it dropped a millimeter or two lower as I was looking at it. Either that was its natural orbit, or it wasn't a good sign.

"That's the Miracle Planet," Amy smirked. "NOW do you believe me?"

"And there's something really big behind us, too!" Tails suddenly yelped.

I looked behind the plane, and immediately wished I hadn't. You know what's worse than being chased through the sky by an enormous roboticized dragon?

Being chased through the sky by two enormous roboticized dragons.

Author's Notes:

Spoiler

When it came to nailing down Overlord Snively's character, I decided I wanted to make him determined not to repeat Robotnik's mistakes (you know, the ones that got him unseated from power). I never felt like the Archie comics really did justice to the possibility of Snively filling Robotnik's oversized combat boots (even in the Iron Dominion arc, which was more the Iron King and Queen than Snively himself iirc), so I wanted to do it right. Gonna be interesting seeing the Freedom Fighters clash with a foe that's genre savvy.

I put Dulcy on a bus, not because I personally disliked the character (I have no strong feelings on her one way or another), but because her reason for existence was transportation, and with certain story elements I haven't fully introduced yet, that aspect makes her redundant. Maybe she'll show up again when and if I have a reason to see what she's up to, but I'm not promising anything just yet. I will however say that "We'll meet again; you'll know when" is a dangling plot thread that I'd like to resolve in some way.

And speaking of dragons...

 

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(TW: air sickness jokes, spoiler triggers:)

Spoiler

Suicide gambit, freefall

Episode One, Chapter Four: A Long Way Down

Spoiler

To recap our situation: most of us Freedom Fighters were on a roofless plane who knows how high above Mobius, and we had just discovered the two enormous roboticized dragons chasing us. Mechadragons that were, technically, innocent civilians under SOMEBODY'S mind control, except it couldn't have been Robuttnik because so far as anyone knew there was no Robuttnik anymore.

So if there was no Robuttnik anymore, then who was controlling the mechadragons?

"We're being chased by robot dragons," Amy said softly. Amazingly, there was very little fear in her words, just some perverse excitement. "I'm with the Freedom Fighters, and we're being chased by robot dragons!"

"Evasive maneuvers!" Sally ordered.

"And by 'evasive maneuvers,'" Rotor yelled back, "she means buckle your seat belts and hold on to any unrestrained items you don't want to lose!"

"Including my lunch?" Tails asked.

"Didn't you already eat your lunch?" Rotor asked.

"Yeah, which is why I REALLY don't want to lose it," Tails said nervously.

I laughed a little, which I probably shouldn't have, and then my laugh promptly inverted itself and dashed back into my throat for safety when Rotor pulled the plane into a corkscrew that would've made me proud if I wasn't too busy trying not to be sick.

Have I mentioned I don't get motion sickness? Well, not usually. Something about being the fastest thing alive includes having a killer sense of balance regardless of whatever speed I'm moving at. Something something inner ear. Before Robuttnik's takeover, when I was a little kid, I used to impress adults by spinning like a top for five seconds and then walking a perfectly straight line. That was a classic.

So when I suddenly found myself actually having signs of air sickness (which to be fair, could've been a bad chili dog or three; I'd cleaned out my refrigerator prior to leaving on what I figured was gonna be a long enough journey that I didn't want any good eating to go to waste), I knew we were in trouble. I wondered if my last thought was going to be wondering where my body would wind up when and if we crashed, or wondering what would happen to my vomit if I threw up a million feet up in the air. This was not a comforting question to have running through my head during a life-threatening situation, but all the other possible questions I could have come up with were probably even worse.

Apparently Rote's idea of 'evasive maneuvers' was dodging straight through the clouds and hoping that these mechadragons didn't have any sensor systems that could detect us. The thing about clouds is, they're a lot colder and wetter on the inside than you'd expect from looking at them at ground level. Did I mention the Freedom Stormer had no roof? I had to strongly resist the urge to shake like a dog every time we got out of a cloud, because I was cold and wet and miserable and so was everyone else and they weren't shaking like dogs and I didn't want to be the first one to do anything embarrassing in front of the kid. (Yes, Antoine, I do have standards. Sometimes. And no, I don't live under a rock.)

"Great plan, Rotor!" Tails exclaimed. "Flying through the condensed clouds of water vapor should slow the mechadragons down without fully destroying them. And we've specifically built the Freedom Stormer to be water-resistant!"

"Great!" I muttered, shivering a bit. "Maybe you should have specifically built the Freedom Stormer to HAVE A ROOF!"

But I have to admit, it seemed to be working. Looking back on the two mechadragons, they clearly weren't taking the humidity any better than I was. Worse, in fact, given that their eyes were camera lenses that were clearly fogged up. Considering that the real dragons' minds were still inside those metal bodies and were fully awake and couldn't do anything about it, I hoped they wouldn't develop a grudge against us for whatever happened next.

Except that what actually happened next was that I noticed for the first time that the dragons weren't alone. Something smaller was flying next to them, trying to conceal itself under the bigger one's wing. Some Mobian-sized robot with a jet turbine for a back and a head shaped suspiciously like...

I blinked. And blinked again. "Um, guys? I think whoever sent these robots built a bootleg--"

And then came the flash of blue metal, and the THING charged against the Freedom Stormer, and three thoughts immediately came to my mind:

One, this robot was very clearly modeled after yours truly.

Two, this thing was very clearly as fast as yours truly.

And three, this thing seemed to have a strongly similar battle style to yours truly, meaning that it was built to ram into and destroy large pieces of complicated technology. Like, say for instance, a biplane full of Freedom Fighters.

And then all three of those thoughts gave way to the sudden reality that the plane was now spewing out black smoke and lurching to one side, and it was entirely possible that every last one of us was about to die.

---

If anything could snap Amy out of her fangirlish excitement for going on a real Freedom Fighter mission (prisoner or otherwise), this was definitely it. Between the acrid smell of burning jet fuel and the disorienting vertigo of freefall, not to mention the menacing presence of the robodragons and their mysterious robot rider, nothing whatsoever about this situation screamed anything other than impending doom.

"My bracelets!" Amy screamed. "Take off my bracelets!"

Which of course got her five sets of looks from five Freedom Fighters who had no clue whatsoever why she was focused on jewelry of all things.

Struggling against the G-forces of their descent, Sonic painfully pulled off his pack and placed it in Tails' arms. "Tails, buddy, it's up to you now. Fly these things back to the Miracle Planet any way you can. I'll hold off Metal-Me as long as we're able. I know you'll make us all proud."

Even Amy knew that this was grown-up for You're the only one who flies and the rest of us are about to die horribly, so do us a solid and save the world for us, will you?

"My BRACELETS!" she screamed. Could she even explain before they hit terminal velocity? "Just -- if you want to live, trust me on this one!"

And then there was a sudden jolt on the left, and a sudden jolt on the right, and the biplane's plummet suddenly morphed into a twisted, erratic flight pattern, mostly controlled by the two mechadragons with their tails firmly wrapped around what had used to be the Freedom Stormer's wings.

"Congratulations," said a tinny, mechanical voice. "You're not dead. I'd recommend surrendering if you want to stay that way."

Amy turned and saw Sonic's new metal body double casually standing on the tail end of the Freedom Stormer as if the plane had not been previously falling hundreds of miles to its doom.

"Wow," she said, surprised to find that they were not in fact all pushing up daisies. "That thing even sounds like you."

"Is my voice really that nasal?" Sonic muttered.

"So I heard something about 'these things' and the Miracle Planet," the Sonic robot said, casually crossing its legs as if about to sit down and chat over cookies and milk. "Care to elaborate? Or are you just buried?"

The joke's double meaning did not go over anyone's head in the slightest, not even Amy's.

"Let me guess, we're prisoners now," Sonic said, rolling his eyes. "And I suppose whoever's sent you wants to keep us alive to roboticize us all. And given that Robuttnik doesn't live here anymore, I'm gonna guess his favorite little lackey Snerdly is the one behind the change in management, isn't he?"

Amy had no idea if the robot Sonic's eyes had suffered a visual glitch, or if they'd blinked. "That... I have to hand it to ya, meatbag, you're not half bad for inferior processing speed."

Sonic stood up in his seat and tossed his backpack into Tails' arms. Amy noticed Sonic making a swift motion with his fingers, which Tails seemed attentive to but the robot didn't notice. "Okay, then, Mr. Superior Robot, let's see how fast you think in a pinch. Your boss wants me alive to roboticize me, right?"

"That would be my assumption, yes. I've never actually asked if a corpse could--"

Sonic winked at Tails, then turned around. "Then you'll have to catch me first."

And to Amy's sheer horror, Sonic did a backflip straight out of the plane and into the vast expanse of absolutely nothing but clouds and air for the next few thousand feet.

---

Okay, okay, so I probably scared you all at least a little with that last one. I'm alive, all right? I knew Metal-Me was gonna go for 'hedgehog priority one' and chase after me. I was never in any danger.

What?

Oh, all right. I was never in any danger that I couldn't handle.

... FINE. I was never in any danger that I THOUGHT I couldn't handle.

Aaaaaand you clearly don't believe me on that one, either.

Okay then, think of me what you will, but here's what happened. After I tossed Tails my bag, I gave him a hand signal from the Freedom Fighters' personal code. We do this from time to time to give directions while under silence in enemy territory. The specific sign I gave him roughly translates to 'proceed as planned,' or as I like to call it, 'let's do it to it.'

Then I jumped out of the plane. Obviously.

I know how terrifying that sounds, but I knew two things that I figured Metal-Me wouldn't know. One, this may sound pretty obvious in hindsight, but I have no terminal velocity. Trust me, I've tried. Not on purpose, mind you, but I've clocked in at speeds that would break every bone in your body and have utterly wrecked every pedometer I've ever worn. Not even Rotor knows how I'm still alive.

Two, I had a parachute.

Except that stupid, stupid me forgot that said parachute was in my backpack, which I had just given to Tails.

Stop laughing over my shoulder, Antoine. It. Was. Not. Funny.

Anyway, I suppose the only real danger I was in was if Snively's cheap knockoff version of me wasn't fast enough to save me, or chose not to save me, or wasn't sturdy enough to deal with the sheer gravitational forces that even the mild antigrav generators in my sneakers wouldn't have been able to negate. And I figured that if it was that last one, then at least I'd die taking one of Snively's bots with me. Although I hadn't really put any thought into what would happen to my friends after that.

Like I said: Not funny.

But Metal-Me did come after me, and did reach me in time, and grabbed me by my ankles and lifted me up so that we were almost eye-to-eye, or eye-to-stomach, as it were. "It appears my data files were inaccurate," it said blandly. "Hedgehog Priority One is described as never abandoning its friends in times of need. Although what the files said about your recklessness was spot on."

Like I said, I don't usually get dizzy or airsick. However, being held upside down after plummeting who knows how far down through several clouds, paired with the sheer number of stale chili dogs I'd eaten before the trip, was not exactly a stellar combination.

Long story short: I threw up in Metal-Me's face.

---

The situation in the Freedom Stormer had hardly improved upon Sonic's sudden departure. Which was to be expected. Watching your greatest hero appear to snap under pressure and do the single worst possible thing he could've done at the time and plummet to his doom hardly inspires hope under any circumstances, much less these ones.

Tails knew why Sonic had sacrificed himself -- to distract the new robot and let Tails get away with the Time Stones. He knew exactly what Sonic had wanted him to do, what could have just possibly been his final, dying wish. But looking out into the vast and trackless expanse of sky in all directions, realizing that he would be all alone in the world, that his closest friends would be dead or prisoners, that the fate of two planets rested on his tiny furry shoulders...

He hesitated.

Which was actually a good thing, given what happened next, but he still felt terrible about it afterwards.

'What happened next' being that Amy, whom no one had been looking at for the past three seconds after Sonic took a dive, managed to wriggle one of her bracelets off and activate it.

A low hum and a golden light filled the wrecked biplane, and Tails stumbled back in surprise. The bracelet was glowing, had grown large enough to fit a full-sized Mobian through, and appeared to have somehow spawned an entire other world inside it.

"Through the warp ring!" Amy shouted. "Quickly!"

And suddenly Tails understood everything, except for the parts he didn't, but he knew Sonic would have wanted his friends to escape alive and unharmed even if he didn't get the chance himself, so he dove through the ring without reservations, except possibly tiny ones that he'd try to keep to himself if he had the chance.

"TAILS!" Sally yelled after him.

"I think this is our stop!" Rotor shouted back, grabbing Sally and barreling through the ring.

"Batch atcha!" Bunnie said, grabbing the still-bound Amy with her robot arm and jumping in after her friends.

Which meant that by the time Metal Sonic arrived back on the Freedom Stormer with a nauseated Sonic in tow, it was entirely deserted, save one dropped bracelet lying on the back seat of the plane.

Metal took the bracelet with it, just in case.

Author's notes:

Spoiler

Not gonna lie, I had Metal Sonic's character for Burst planned out before season two of Sonic Prime came out and we were all introduced to the glory of Chaos Sonic, and as soon as I saw Chaos Sonic in action I knew that this was exactly how I'd imagined my take on Metal Sonic to be, only a lot more so. So whenever you read Metal's text, read it in Chaos Sonic's voice.

Originally this chapter was going to cut off at the point where Sonic jumps out of the plane. I later decided to not be evil. This time.

Sonic can be dense, can't he? That's part of what makes his character so fun to write. Also, that anecdote about kid Sonic spinning around and then walking a straight line is something that I actually did when I was a little kid. Unfortunately I no longer have the ability not to get dizzy, and in fact spend way too much time being dizzy without spinning in circles beforehand. Funny how life works out.

 

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Episode One, Chapter Five: Napoleon Complex

(TW: physical abuse, mentions of torture/impalement, brief gross humor)

Spoiler

Robotropolis Command Center

Snively had waited a long time for his moment, and his moment had come. Granted, the past week of claiming Robotropolis as his own had been considerably more work than he would have preferred, but given that his life had been next to nothing but work for the past eleven years, he was willing to put in another week of it if it meant being king of the hill for the rest of his life.

Hacking into Robotnik's command center to rewire all the robots to recognize him as their rightful ruler had not been the easiest job he'd ever done, but it was at least considerably easier now that it would have been back when the big round guy was still alive and could've easily thrown his conniving nephew against the nearest wall... or straight out the window. While the second had never actually happened, Snively did usually carry a mini-parachute on him just in case. His uncle had been a very violent man, and Snively was short enough to pick up with one arm, a fact that he had been made acutely aware of for pretty much his entire life. Usually through practice.

But now, the world would cower at the genius that it had spurned.

Snively's inner monologue was rudely interrupted by the door sliding open and a certain robotic figure entering. "Took you long enough," the little man muttered, pressing a button to turn his chair towards the door. Technically it had not originally been his chair, having previously been Robotnik's and thus being massively oversized even by normally-sized Overlander standards, but it had belonged to his uncle and now it belonged to him and Snively intended to gloat over it until the day that he died. Which hopefully wouldn't come for him nearly as suddenly as it had for Robotnik.

"My apologies, Father," said the robot, standing into the light. It needn't have bothered; only one robot in Robotropolis was programmed to call Snively 'Father.' His secret project, constructed from countless sleepless nights far away from Robotnik's prying eyes, the ultimate counter to the ultimate opponent. The one and only entity on the planet capable of matching the sheer might of Hedgehog Priority One.

Metal Sonic.

"I meant to complete my mission and take out the girl," Metal said. "But I got a little... sidetracked."

"Sidetracked?" Snively repeated. "Sidetracked?! What could possibly be more important than ord--"

Without another word, Metal Sonic tossed a wriggling spiny blue bundle at Snively's feet. A tightly bound bundle that looked up and glared at him with utter hatred.

"I don't believe it," Snively whispered. "Hedgehog Priority One."

This was looking to be the best day of his life.

And possibly the last day of Sonic's.

---

I know what you're thinking: this could be the end of it all. I, Sonic the Hedgehog, fastest thing alive, had finally met my match and was about to be roboticized or worse. Which is really pathetic when you consider that Robuttnik had been trying to murder me for years now and never succeeded, but his pathetic ex-lackey had only been in power a single week and yet his robot had caught me and trussed me up first try. To be fair, Metal-Me would have lost its unfair advantage and been spare parts in seconds had the playing field been level and, well, actually a field and not several thousand feet up in the air.

At least I kept telling myself that.

I knew full well how much trouble I was in. I also knew that my friends had somehow escaped, seeing as the only one of them dumb enough to jump out of a moving plane was the one who'd been smart enough not to get onto that plane in the first place. (Hey, even Ant has his moments.) I still had no idea where the other Freedom Fighters were or how they'd escaped, but I was willing to bet that Amy's bracelets had something to do with it, and I sure as heck wasn't telling Sniv that. I knew they'd come to rescue me eventually, or failing that, avenge me. But stopping the Miracle Planet from colliding with Mobius took priority, and until then, I decided as leader of the Freedom Fighters to assign myself the task of keeping the little man with the big nose distracted until then.

I figured it would be easy, since he's kind of, well, obsessed with revenge on me.

I tried not to think about what 'distracted' would entail. Probably torture. Robuttnik had been looking for Knothole's secret location for the past eleven years, and I figured Sniv would do the same. Probably look for some hidden weakness that he could exploit like he did with Antoine and the margarine (like I said, don't ask, you don't want to know, I certainly wish I didn't). And after either Sniv got what he wanted (which would never happen) or he accepted that what he wanted would never happen (which also might never happen, but you never know)... well, if I didn't manage to escape or get rescued by that point, it'd probably be roboticization or death, and I wasn't banking on it being a quick death either. Not with all that baggage in our relationship.

I tried not to imagine what my head would look like mounted on his wall.

I wasn't gonna waste time feeling sorry for myself. I'd known the job was dangerous when I took it. All of us Freedom Fighters knew from the get-go that not everyone would make it out of this war alive, and my unbelievable speed notwithstanding, I'd suffered no delusions that I had guaranteed immunity. Certainly not after the incident with the Memory Scrambler where Sniv had tricked me into believing that I was working for his side. I hoped he wouldn't try the same trick twice; given that the whole thing ended with us turning it on him and leading both him and Robuttnik into a swamp, he probably was too embarrassed to try it a second time.

Hopefully.

It took a bit of time for Snively to emerge from Robuttnik's oversized chair; he looked like a toddler climbing out of an adult-sized recliner. I didn't even try to stifle a laugh at how ungainly he looked. Snerdly was gonna expect some level of sass from me anyways; anything else would be suspicious. Still, I knew I'd have to ration my snark if I wanted to draw out the gloating process as long as possible to buy my friends time.

"My, how the mighty have fallen," he gloated, leering over my prone form.

"Well, I see the pathetic are making a rather comfortable living," I shot back.

I knew he was gonna kick me for that, and let the record show that I took it like a Mobian. Didn't mean it didn't hurt. Granted, I'm sure it didn't hurt nearly as much as he'd wanted it to hurt, which was to be expected. As short as he was for an Overlander, he wasn't short on unresolved anger issues. We had every reason to hate each other, and I wasn't about to deny him the satisfaction of this one chance to lord it over me. If my friends succeeded in saving the Miracle Planet, they'd soon return with allies to wipe the smug smirk off his mug, and if they didn't, then perhaps it was a mercy to let him have this one moment of triumph before the world collapsed around him.

Whoa. That was kind of deep.

"You call that a kick?" I taunted. "I've had chili dogs hit my guts harder."

Which of course meant that he kicked me again. And again. I'll spare you his egotistical ranting. Suffice to say that guy had a serious Napoleon complex, and lucky me, I was there taking the brunt of it. But every moment he was beating me senseless was a moment he wasn't focusing on where my friends were or what we had been planning, and that was definitely a net positive. Also, this was Snively we're talking about here. I would say that he kicks like an old woman except that that would be an insult to old women, who generally have bigger legs. Anyway, I refused to whimper, partially not to give him the satisfaction and partially because, well, the guy was pathetic. Antoine could've done more damage to me with his feet, and had actually done so once by tripping and falling into me and rolling us both down a hill into a pricker bush. (The irony was not lost on either of us. And of course he blamed me for it.)

For a while I seriously considered rolling around and letting him plant his feet in my spines, but as amusing as the thought of impaling him through his boots was, that would probably get me brutally executed, and it's hard to distract a guy when you're dead. Or so I've heard. Never got the chance to try it myself.

"Is this necessary, Father?" Metal Sonic eventually asked. "I had assumed that the torture would be saved for the interrogation. I am not sure that he is physically capable of enduring much more physical trauma."

I looked up at Metal-Me and grinned. "Then you clearly don't know me very well. I cut through metal with my hair. This is a normal Tuesday for me."

This, of course, only served to enrage Snively further. "Don't talk back to me!" he shrieked. "I am Snively the Great! I accomplished in ONE WEEK what Julian never could! I have you EXACTLY where I want you! You are completely at my mercy! And you are going to PAY for EVERYTHING you've ever done to me!"

I couldn't resist. "Cash, check, or credit card? Because I'm broke."

I got kicked in the face for that one, but it was worth it. "Don't you DARE mouth off at ME! I OWN you now! And you and your puny resistance are going to FALL before my power!"

"Fall, huh? News flash -- I'm already on the floor. How much farther can I go?"

This was about the point that Snively realized that he wasn't getting through to me and that continuing his abuse was a waste of energy and also kinda proved just how pathetic he looked, even in his new evil overlord suit. (Which, to be fair, was still an awesome suit, it's just that it was completely wasted on him. Nice big black collar and everything. Real supervillain vibes.) "BAH! Throw him in the dungeons, Metal Sonic. No food, no water. I'll see him in twelve hours and we'll see how he fares then!"

"Catch ya on the flip side," I taunted. "Loser!"

Then Metal-Me picked me up again, and if I DID scream a little from the realization that I was covered in bruises and everything hurt, then it probably wasn't loud enough to satisfy either of my bullies.

Whatever Sal and the rest were doing, I hoped it was enough. And I hoped Sniv was smart enough to set up guards around me. Not that I didn't plan to eventually escape anyway, but I wasn't sure how well I'd handle twelve hours of being absolutely alone without anyone around to antagonize.

---

There were no guards outside my cell, which surprised me; then again, if any of these robots were as smart as the one who'd captured me (for a given definition of 'smart'), then they'd know that guarding the one and only Sonic the Hedgehog was a guaranteed death sentence, so of course they'd never volunteer. Not that I could imagine Snively asking for 'volunteers' rather than just assigning jobs and being done with it. Dude was gonna turn out just like his uncle, I figured.

Well, you know how his uncle turned out. Dead. (Or so we thought, but that's getting into spoiler territory.) I harbored no delusions that Snively wouldn't share the same fate. Whether I would live to see it was irrelevant, although I did hope to get the chance to say "I told you so," even if I had to wait for us both to hit the Rainbow Bridge to do it.

So Metal-Me tossed me rather unceremoniously into a filthy cell that smelled of mold and rot and of every other poor innocent Mobian that had previously occupied it, and I strongly suspected that the last one had been of the skunk variety. (To be clear, I have nothing against skunks.) This would not have been nearly so bad if I had not still been tied up. Remember, Snively had never actually ordered Metal Sonic to untie me, and I had every reason to believe that this was intentional. Then again, maybe he really had been careless. Wouldn't be the first time. Either way, I got a faceful of filthy concrete for my troubles, which would've been bad enough if Sniv hadn't already kicked me in the face before.

The door slammed shut behind me. "Enjoy your stay here!" Metal-Me mocked. "Call room service if you have any issues!"

I didn't want to think about what 'room service' would be in this case. Probably an interrogation bot dressed in a maid uniform.

Well, I'd been in worse situations before and survived them all, and Snively could only kill me once. And I knew a few tricks. Such as flexing my muscles at supersonic speeds to vibrate my quills into a de facto buzzsaw to cut through my ropes. (How did you think I cut through metal with my hair? It took years of practice and patience to hone my spines into a lethal tool of destruction -- and yes, Antoine, I do have patience, just not with you -- and Sal made me sign a legal form in triplicate promising that I would never use my powers for evil.)

With my limbs free, I pulled myself up to look around. There was a cot (stained), a toilet (metal), and some filthy mass on the floor that was probably a rug in a past life (also stained). Trying not to retch and remembering that I'd already emptied my stomach on Metal Sonic and I wasn't due to get any food or water for the next twelve hours, I finally started to realize that Snively wasn't just trying to break me, he was coming pretty close to it. Closer than Robuttnik, certainly. Robuttnik had been the type for immediate gratification, aka blowing me to kingdom come then and there. Snively seemed determined to play the long game.

Honestly, I could work with that. My plan had been to stall him out anyway. But the rumbling in my stomach reminded me that I ran on two fuels, power rings and chili dogs, and was decidedly lacking in either. Even if I managed to make it out of my cell alive, tapping into my full power without fuel would exhaust me, and I'd be easy pickings for that ripoff bot.

I had to think, and I had to play it slow. Neither of these appealed to me. But losing the planet because Snively was an idiot didn't appeal to me either, so I figured I'd just have to play prisoner a while longer and hope that my friends had a plan.

Well, at least a better plan than I did.

"So what are you in for?"

The voice was young, female, and coming from the cell beside me. No, I didn't jump at the sound of it (okay, maybe a little). "Who, me?" I asked. "Skydiving without a license. You?"

"Twirling a baton without a police badge," she answered. "You seem a little young to be skydiving."

"I'm something of a child prodigy. And you?"

"Classified information," she laughed.

Silence.

"So, uh," she asked, "what's your name?"

Now, that's something of a loaded question -- obviously it doesn't say Sonic the Hedgehog on my birth certificate, but I don't go by my birth name and have every reason not to. Still, I wasn't about to admit to her that the most legendary Freedom Fighter on the planet had just been chucked in the slammer, so I had to say something. "Nicky Maurice."

"Nicky Maurice," she repeated. "Would that be NICODEMUS Maurice?"

Like I said: I don't answer to my birth name. I may have had no idea who my parents were, but they must have been evil to stick me with a label like that. Still, hearing it from a complete stranger scared me possibly even more than literally anything else that had happened that day. "Who's asking?" I shot back.

"Tiara B. Bowski," she said, "so you're not alone on the terrible name train. My father worked with Sir Charles Hedgehog during the Great War. I've... heard tales about his nephew."

"Well, you can leave those 'tales' at the door, because once the two of us bust out of this dump, my name is Sonic, period. Got that?"

She didn't seem at all intimidated. "You got a plan for escape? Or are you running off fumes here?"

"I always have a plan for escape." I paused. "I just don't have a WORKING plan for escape yet. I mean, the last time I busted a Freedom Fighter out of prison, I used a killer Robuttnik impersonation on the electronic lock, but Robuttnik's dead and I have no idea if Sniv's even changed the locks yet. Or if he's capable of changing the locks. I don't think he could pull off a Robuttnik impersonation if his life depended on it."

"So..." Tiara said slowly. "We're stuck here?"

"Well, we're stuck here until Snarley realizes that he can't open Robuttnik's locks without Robuttnik, meaning that he has to break the doors down to get at us, upon which I'll do something amazing as usual and we'll juice out of here." Pause. "Um, speaking of juice, you got anything to drink in there? I'm a little dehydrated."

"Unless you want to stick your head in the toilet... no."

"Whoa now. I'm not THAT dehydrated."

"Didn't think so."

Awkward silence.

"So..." I asked, "what's this about twirling a baton?"

"You tell me about the skydiving first," she asked. "It sounds cooler."

So I told her the same stuff I already told you in Chapter Four, so while I'm doing that let's cut back to Knothole for a bit and talk about what Antoine does behind my back.

Author's Notes:

Spoiler

Have I mentioned I love writing these characters? Because I love writing these characters. Writing Sonic bouncing off other characters is especially fun, and Snively makes an intriguing villain from the perspective I took with him.

When thinking about what sort of afterlife Mobians might believe in, I decided that the Rainbow Bridge would be thematically appropriate. It's an old internet legend of where pets go to wait for their owners after they die. (Well, I say 'old' because it was around back when I was a kid, which was...twenty-something years ago? Okay, yeah, that does feel kinda old.)

For Sonic Burst, I wanted to incorporate some other canceled Sonic projects into the mix, particularly Sonic X-Treme. Which is why Tiara's showing up here. Originally she wasn't going to appear until episode two, but episode one went rather spectacularly off the rails and several characters that weren't planned to appear this soon wound up sticking their noses in, and I eventually decided to just run with it. (And I altered her last name because, well, I cannot say 'Boobowski' with a straight face.)

Also I wanted to give Sonic an actual given name. 'Maurice' is his middle name from the comics, but there was no way in heck I was gonna use the unpronounceable first name that Ken Penders stuck him with, so I went with Nicodemus. For reasons that will be more apparent as the story progresses.

 

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Tiara *awkward silence* last name I can't say seriously! She was the last character I expected to show up, I legitimately thought it was going to be Rouge lol. Also, Nicky Maurice! That's my exact headcanon for his name, just a mash of a couple of different continuities. This is so good, I'm genuinely engaged, and I eagerly await updates! I'm really glad you decided to post this!

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14 hours ago, cosmichaos said:

Tiara *awkward silence* last name I can't say seriously! She was the last character I expected to show up, I legitimately thought it was going to be Rouge lol. Also, Nicky Maurice! That's my exact headcanon for his name, just a mash of a couple of different continuities. This is so good, I'm genuinely engaged, and I eagerly await updates! I'm really glad you decided to post this!

If you didn't expect her, I'm sure you won't expect who shows up in this next chapter... And yeah, I forgot to mention that Nicky was Sonic's alter ego in that early manga, so that was a major point of inspiration for his given name.

---

Episode One, Chapter Six: Any Boat in a Storm

(TW: mental health issues, references to romantic stalking)

Spoiler

Knothole Village, Lake of Rings

Antoine was terrible at his job.

He was terrible at most things, honestly. He didn't want to admit it, but just about every time he'd tried to be helpful around the village, he'd usually only wound up making things worse. He was clumsy, easily spooked, overconfident until he wasn't, and had a tendency to get in over his head just to prove that he could do something that he hadn't fully thought through yet and was about to bite him in the butt.

But nobody had really hated him for it. (Except Sonic, but forget that guy, right? He was a jerk.) Everyone in Knothole had been so nice to him... mostly, and they'd always been their to help him out of his own messes, including that one time with the cannibal hyenas that didn't even know how to cook him right. Oddly enough, it was usually Sonic who did most of the rescuing. Antoine wasn't really sure why someone who hated his guts would go through all the effort to keep saving him, although sometimes he suspected that the reason Sonic hated him was because of all the effort it took to keep saving him. This was not something that Antoine liked to think about, so he usually ignored that feeling whenever it came up, which was often.

But then... there was the Margarine Incident.

Antoine honestly hadn't understood the problem. There was the right way of doing things and there was the wrong way of doing things, and Snively had clearly been doing things wrong, and that wasn't something he could just paper over... but clearly the rest of the village thought otherwise, and when a Freedom Fighter mentally breaks and nearly sells out the secret location of Knothole Village because Robotnik's lackey refuses to cook escargot properly, that kind of betrayal isn't something that the people living in said village can just pretend never happened.

His princess, bless her beautiful kind heart, had tried to keep the incident under wraps, but someone had spilled the beans (probably Dulcy, honestly, who couldn't lie to your face if she wanted to, but Antoine liked Dulcy so he preferred to blame Sonic), and now he couldn't show his face in the village without people whispering about him. Words like crazy or traitor or other words much less polite, some of which he didn't understand and quite frankly was afraid to ask about. And it hadn't stopped with words; he'd had bricks with death threats wrapped around them thrown through his windows, and he'd had his house egged twice. (He knew it was Sonic; no one else could've done it that fast without being seen. Not that most people in Knothole would've ratted him out anyway, because they practically worshiped the little blue rat. Antoine couldn't imagine why.)

He'd promised his princess to protect the village while she was gone, and he wanted to keep that promise. He just wasn't sure how he could possibly do it if he was dead. Which was something that he knew a lot of Knothole residents wanted, and it was hard to keep one eye looking for outside threats and the other eye glancing nervously back to the village to make sure nobody was coming to arrange a tragic accident.

Which was why when the warp ring suddenly materialized next to him while he was guarding the Lake of Rings at night, he jumped back so far that he nearly fell into the lake itself.

It didn't help when the girl with the hammer from the morning before jumped out of that ring and grabbed him.

He'd panicked, which he'd figured any sane Mobian would've done in that situation; he'd been threatened by that hammer before and he had no desire to meet it again. But Amy hadn't grabbed him to hammer him; she'd grabbed him to keep him from falling into the lake, which was made all the more difficult by his wild flailing. The unfortunate result was that they both got very wet, with Antoine ringing off a combination of French and English expletives that would have made any translator blush with shame. Mainly because Antoine's French was as bad as his English, but he never spoke about that in public because it would just be one more thing for Sonic to tease him about and he liked to pretend he did at least one thing better than Sonic did. (Granted, Sonic could not speak French at all, so technically he was still better at French than Sonic was, but that was a mere participation trophy.)

After both Mobians managed to wriggle out of the lake and shake themselves dry, Antoine decided that he had had enough. He didn't care if this was a little girl and he also didn't care that the last time they had fought it had not gone well for him. He wasn't hoping to carve her up with his sword -- he was not an animal, no matter what the Overlanders thought -- but he had every intention of slicing her mallet to splinters if it was the last thing he did.

Except she wasn't pulling out her mallet. "Whoa, whoa! I just want to talk!"

"Well, you may talk to my sword!" Antoine snapped, making several threatening motions that were carefully spaced so as not to actually injure anybody (himself included).

"Okay," she said sarcastically, "then tell your sword to hold still so I can talk to it!"

Antoine held his sword still, at least as still as he could keep it considering that he was shivering cold and wet (and trying not to admit that it wasn't the only reason he was shivering). "Well?"

"Sonic's in trouble."

That one simple sentence triggered a cascade of emotions in Antoine's head.

Sonic was in trouble? Of course Sonic was in trouble. Sonic was always getting into trouble. But was Sonic in REAL trouble? Well, if he was, Antoine would hardly miss him; the hedgehog was rude, arrogant, and always picking on him. Then again, Sonic had always been the one to rescue Antoine from his own troubles; what kind of person would Antoine be to not return the favor?

And then it hit him what Amy was actually saying, that this was his chance to rescue THE hero of Knothole Village, to prove once and for all that he could face a challenge that had bested their previous champion, to hold that over his rival's head forever and convince his haters that, yes, he was indeed worthy of being a Freedom Fighter and thus put an end to all the whisperings and death threats.

"Whair is he?" Antoine asked, lowering his sword.

Amy sighed. "Probably Robotropolis? Honestly, I don't know. He jumped out of the plane."

"He jumped out of ze plane?!"

Which would hardly be the most reckless thing that Sonic had ever done, but it certainly wasn't the least.

"He was chased by a flying robot and the robot caught him, at least I think the robot caught him, and the rest of us escaped via Warp Ring to the Miracle Planet but the guards at the Castle of Light saw me tied up and assumed the worst, and by the time I got myself untied everyone else had been arrested for kidnapping me and I couldn't convince the guards that I didn't have Stockholm Syndrome, but Sally told me to go find Sonic and save him, so uh, here I am?" She smiled nervously, holding her hands behind her back.

That was quite a lot of mostly unnecessary information for Antoine to take in. What was the Castle of Light anyway? And why go after Sonic specifically if not even his princess knew if he was still alive? But if he told this girl that she was talking to the wrong coyote for the job, he'd miss his chance. Besides, if anyone could survive jumping out of a moving plane, it would have to be Sonic... wouldn't it?

"So, uh..." Amy said nervously. "You should probably call your friends?"

His friends. There was one crucial problem with that suggestion: all of his friends had been on the Freedom Stormer. Almost everyone left in Knothole couldn't stand him anymore, and quite frankly would not have been sorrowful had he shared Sonic's fate.

Well, maybe there was one person...

If that 'person' could even be called a person.

Antoine sighed. All right then. If he was going to waltz right back into danger and wanted to escape with his life and sanity intact, then any boat in a storm. (That was how the saying went, wasn't it?) The logical place for Sonic to be taken was Robotropolis, and if he wanted to get in and out alive, he needed allies that would blend in.

And who else would blend into Robotropolis but another robot?

---

Given that so far as anyone knew, Antoine was supposed to be guarding the Lake of Rings and not wandering around Knothole, the coyote had to keep a low profile, especially since half the village considered him a security risk. Fortunately, he was a Freedom Fighter. Freedom Fighters were good at sneaking, and if they weren't good at sneaking, they got roboticized. Antoine had not been roboticized; therefore, he reasoned, he was good at sneaking.

He tried not to think about that one time he'd fallen out of a ventilation duct and one of his fellow Freedom Fighters had been captured for it and never returned.

While Rotor's lab had been destroyed the week before, most of his larger projects had been kept in a separate storage area and thus survived the collapse. When clearing away the rubble, the Freedom Fighters had temporarily stored anything salvageable in the same storage area, so it was something of a disorganized mess. There hadn't been much left to salvage, as Rotor's most recent project was a metal-eating compound intended for use in fighting Robotnik's technology directly, which had pretty much destroyed everything it came in contact with.

Antoine hoped it hadn't destroyed what he'd come for.

He had never actually known what had happened to Rotor's 'project.' Not since he sort of accidentally dropped an entire jar of screws inside it and it, well, got a few screws loose. Rotor had discussed dismantling it, but Antoine hoped he hadn't; it was hardly the robot's fault what had happened, and despite all the pain that thing had put him through he certainly didn't want to end its existence over something it couldn't have possibly helped. Still, given that the project's internal coding was clearly unstable, he felt better bringing Amy along, not because he trusted Amy but because if he had to deal with one madwoman already then it was better to bring along another and hope that they canceled each other out.

After much stumbling around in the dark and stubbing his toes more than once (which led to more garbled bilingual curses), Antoine finally found what he was looking for: a large wooden crate, its size and shape somewhat akin to a coffin.

"Okay," Amy said, "that's not at all ominous."

"Stay back," Antoine warned. "Her programming is... constable."

Which wasn't what he'd meant to say at all, but then, language had never been his strong suit. He actually had a more impressive vocabulary than one might expect from talking to him, but he never knew the right way to use it. And it wasn't from lack of trying, which made it all the more frustrating when he couldn't just make himself say what he was thinking in his head. Nicole had told him he was Nero divergent, whatever that meant, but it hadn't really helped him break the language barrier between himself and the rest of the world quite as much as he would've liked.

With a few deep breaths and teeth clenched so hard that he could've bitten off his own tongue, he carefully slid the box's lid open and took a fearful peek inside.

There, lying inert, was Ro-Becca.

She'd definitely had some work done on her chassis, at least. She was shorter, about as tall as Antoine himself, and her body shape was different. Actually she looked kind of cute, but Antoine would not be fool enough to tell her that.

So this was what Rotor had been working on in his lab after forbidding Antoine from ever setting foot in it again! Hopefully he'd also fixed the whole... well, stalker business. Ro-Becca had been emotionally unstable (if a robot could be said to have emotions), and immediately upon seeing Antoine had fallen hopelessly in love and absolutely refused to accept that he didn't feel the same for her. It had led to... well, a game of cat and mouse, with Ro-Becca of course as the figurative and literal feline.

Turn her on, you fuel, Antoine thought to himself, trying to ignore the fact that his legs had turned to jelly and there were ants crawling down his backbone. Sonique needs you, Knothole needs you, your princess needs you. Zis is no time for ze egrets!

But his inner monologue was interrupted when Amy cut in front of him and asked, in the time-honored tradition of so many of the well-meaning but mechanically unenlightened with poor impulse control, "What's this button do?"

While of course pushing 'this button.'

Ro-Becca's eyes flew open, and Amy jumped back as the robot stretched its limbs and, quite unintentionally, completely demolished the crate it had been sitting in, which wasn't at all ominous. Pulling itself up to a standing position, it looked over the two amazed and trembling Mobians standing in front of it.

"...you're not Rotor," it said in surprise. "Who are you?"

It took a moment for the significance of that statement to sink into Antoine's mind.

She didn't remember him. What a relief and a half that was! Because if she had remembered him, then she would've fallen in love with him, and that whole mess would've started again... still, he was still so young and handsome that no woman could resist him, so he was hardly out of the woods yet.

"We're friends of Rotor," Amy said. "Well, friends of one of his friends, anyway. His name's Sonic, and he's in trouble. Will you help us rescue him?"

"Of course I will!" Ro-Becca said, winking at Amy. "I wouldn't be a very good assistant if I didn't assist anyone, would I?"

"We think he's being held prisoner in Robotropolis," Amy said. "We need to get in there without being caught. Which means we need--"

"A ride?" Ro-Becca asked.

And without any further orders, the robot scooped them both up in its arms and activated its rocket feet (why did Rotor give her rocket feet, Antoine wondered?), shooting straight through the roof of the storage area, creating a loud crash and an enormous hole while coating Antoine and Amy in a shower of splinters.

"--a PLAN!" Amy shouted. "We need a plan!"

"We needed ze plan ten minutes ago!" Antoine shouted. "Clearly we had ze wrong one!"

"Well, it was YOUR plan!" Amy shot back.

"Come on, you two," Ro-Becca said chidingly. "Friends don't quarrel!"

Which was certainly news to Antoine, given that he'd never met a friend in his life who'd never disagreed on him on some point or another. To be fair, they usually had trouble understanding what he'd tried to say in the first place, but he'd never really considered that in any way his fault.

Author's notes:

Spoiler

Didn't expect to see her show up again, did you? I don't actually remember the specifics of why I wanted Ro-Becca back -- she's quite possibly the most hated SatAM character of all time, and for good reason -- but given the themes of animals and nature versus humans and industrialization seen in the series, I thought having a robot Freedom Fighter would be an interesting juxtaposition. Of course I erased her memory because that's kind of what Rotor would do after the previous fiasco if he didn't just disassemble her entirely, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the incident won't ever come up again... spoilers.

As for my headcanon of Antoine being neurodivergent... I've had it for decades. I'm neurodivergent myself, and Antoine was always the character that I identified the most with because of his constant struggles just to... well, function within the situations he found himself in. We both have OCD, anxiety issues, and difficulty communicating with others (I'm a lot better at writing than at speaking, although not nearly to the extent that Antoine has trouble speaking). I can't not see Antoine as neurodivergent in some way. And that makes Snively even more of a villain, taking advantage of Antoine's mental illness to get him to betray his friends and leaving him with that baggage in his relationships and standing as a Freedom Fighters.

I knew that with both characters I was potentially opening a mighty big can of worms, but I did it anyway.

 

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Episode One, Chapter Seven: Scratch That, I'm Grounded

Spoiler

Ro-Becca touched down in the middle of one of Robotnik's old junkyards, a pile of filthy mechanical refuse coated in toxic overflow that assaulted Antoine's finely honed canine sense of smell to the extreme. If the mission didn't kill him, the stench certainly would, he thought morosely. He almost had half a mind to just turn around and go home, except that half of home wanted to kill him and at any rate, they'd flown far enough away that he wasn't even sure where home was.

And apparently his companions had somehow already come up with a plan without consulting him. Typical.

"Now," Amy said, stepping around a rusted oil barrel, "if we want to move around Robotropolis without being roboticized, we have to look like we already are. Ro-Becca, are you good at welding metal?"

"I'm Rotor's lab assistant, honey. If it involves putting things together or taking them apart, I'm your gal."

"Great, because we need disguises." Amy lifted a twisted and bent piece of sheet metal and handed it to Antoine, who winced at the grime and rust. "Make us look like worker bots. Or badniks, even."

"Badniks?" Antoine asked, confused as usual.

"Ooh yeah. Snively's been cranking them out in underground factories for a while now, right under his late uncle's nose. It's what he does to the animals not large enough to be worth roboticizing -- uses them as organic batteries." Amy shuddered. "I had a Flicky bird as a pet once, and he's using them as a power source. That guy needs to be taken down."

"You seem to know a lot about what's going on," Ro-Becca observed.

"More zan me, transparently," Antoine muttered.

"Most of us on the Miracle Planet are refugees from Mobius," Amy said. "Every year when the Miracle Planet appears over Never Lake, Queen Elena sends soldiers to rescue whoever they can and bring them to asylum. Robotnik's tried to take over the Miracle Planet before, but he's never yet gotten past our defense system." Amy paused. "And yet... clearly someone managed to breach our defenses and get the Time Stones, and not even the Ring of Acorns seems to know who or why."

"Ze Ring of Acorns?" Antoine asked.

Amy froze, her spines rigid. "Nothing," she said quickly. "Forget I said anything."

Antoine knew the girl was hiding something, and it had to be important if she didn't want him to know about it. And while it was true that anything she didn't tell him was something that Snively couldn't torture out of him, he couldn't help but be curious. Still, the mission took priority, and there was always the chance that he could catch her off guard later and learn more.

And if that mission meant dressing like a garbage bin, well... he and his crippling OCD issues were just going to have to live with that.

Not happily. But still.

---

Since twelve hours of waiting is, well, twelve hours of waiting, and I didn't exactly plan to escape YET (I'm not saying I didn't try, but without the benefit of a power ring my cell was decidedly hedgehog-proof), I decided that if Snively was gonna toss me in a cell with nothing to do but think, then I was gonna have to take him up on that offer. While I've never been one to spend long periods deep in thought (Stop. LAUGHING. Antoine), if I was gonna make the most of this whole prisoner situation, I needed to use every resource at my disposal to make sure the little man with the big nose didn't get his way. And my resources were decidedly thin.

Tiara wanted to know what I had planned. I told her I didn't want to spoil the surprise. Unfortunately, this was only half true. The other half was that I had bits and pieces of plans, but all of them depended on knowing what Sniv was gonna do next, which I didn't. I had the vague idea that he was going to try to interrogate me to get Knothole's secret location, and given how easily he'd broken Antoine, I had to expect the unexpected. Like, if he offered me a plateful of chili dogs laced with truth serum, Knothole would be pretty much doomed. (Even I will admit this.) Granted, if he'd had truth serum to begin with, he wouldn't have needed to pull the Margarine Incident, so I felt pretty confident that that would never happen... but the idea still scared me. And I still think he would've pulled the Margarine Incident anyway, out of spite. I suppose that working for Robuttnik for eleven years could wreck anyone's sense of empathy, if he ever had one to begin with.

Honestly, I can't say I wasn't still mad at Ant for nearly selling us out, but I was even madder at Snively, who'd stoop so low as to exploit a mentally ill teenager's weakness against him and everyone he cared about and even laugh about it. That was pure evil. Sniv had his coming to him, and I hoped to live to see it. And my odds of living to see it were, quite frankly, not as good as they could've been, but going into whatever hell he had planned for me with a plan of my own was likely to increase those odds exponentially.

It's just hard to think when your stomach wants a chili dog or twelve, y'know? I burn a lot, and I mean a LOT of energy just running around at the speeds I get up to, which means that when I don't get that energy, I wear out a lot faster than most. It's a metabolism thing, and it's probably my darkest secret, because if my enemies found out about it, they'd definitely use it against me.

Which clearly was exactly what Sniv was doing.

---

Antoine hadn't been looking forward to trying to walk through the front gates of Robotropolis, especially dressed up like a robot monkey. (He took some small comfort in the fact that even Ro-Becca had disguised herself, so she looked just as ridiculous as he did.) But to his and Ro-Becca's surprise, they didn't have to, because Amy had pulled out her warp ring and announced that they were coming in the back door, metaphorically speaking.

He just hadn't expected the 'back door' to lead into a workshop full of just about every sort of mechanical tool and device that he could imagine.

"So this is where that robot took my other ring," Amy mused, eyeing the massive collection of parts and pieces around them. She picked up what Antoine could only assume was said ring and slipped it over her wrist contentedly. "Made a nice beacon, though. Glad I didn't lose it for good."

"This place looks like Rotor's lab, to a point," Ro-Becca said.

"You mean as in, it is ze disaster arena?" Antoine asked.

"What? No! What would make you say that?"

So Ro-Becca hadn't been activated since Rotor's lab was destroyed. Made sense, considering that was where he would've been working on her. Not that that information helped him in the slightest.

"Uh-oh," Amy said, picking a wandlike object off of one of the tables. While the workshop was dark, Antoine could see a faint orange glow emitting from a round shape on one end. "If this is what I think it is..."

She waved the wand, and then vanished completely in a tangerine flash.

"Eek!" said Antoine, jumping back and knocking into a table with several precariously stacked boxes of badnik parts.

Some of which fell over.

Making a great deal of racket.

And activating Snively's security system alarms.

---

I must have fallen asleep from sheer boredom, because I woke up to the sound of blaring sirens. Great going, meathead, I thought. Missing the party. Hopefully they'd brought cake, because my stomach felt like a black hole.

"Sonic? SONIC!"

I started up in surprise. For a moment, I mistook the figure for another of Sniv's goons, but then she took her mask off and winked. Which was another surprise; I'd figured that my fellow Freedom Fighters would come to rescue me, but I didn't figure on this one. "Amy? What are you--"

"Is that my Shifter Scepter?" Tiara asked. "Amy, I've TOLD you, that's not--"

And then an orange light flashed, and both me and Tiara found ourselves on the other side of the jail bars and right next to a very smug Amy.

"That's not a toy!" Tiara shouted, grabbing the scepter. "Don't just wave it around like that! You'll tear holes in the fabric of spacetime!"

"I saved your lives, didn't I?" Amy pouted. "You're welcome!"

"Okay," I said, "maybe I'm missing something here, but how do you two know each other?"

"Long story!" Tiara said. "But we've got to get out of here!"

Now that I'd finally got a good look at her, I could see that Tiara was a female bandicoot about my age with orange fur and a long brown ponytail. I could also see that she wasn't exactly thrilled to see Amy. But that was a story that could wait until we were all home free, and while I'm not usually big on patience, I'm also not big on being roboticized, and my stomach still needed filling.

"We've gotta get back to Antoine and Ro-Becca!" Amy said. "They're still in--"

"Whoa, whoa, WHOA," I said. "Ro-Becca? ANTOINE and Ro-Becca?" I laughed. "Now that's something I've gotta hear!"

"Well, we can hear it on the way out!" Amy said, pulling the scepter back from Tiara and waving it. The orange light engulfed us once more, and we were whisked away to the workshop.

Where, unfortunately, Antoine was not.

But badniks were.

---

A few minutes before...

Antoine jumped back, knocking several boxes of badnik parts over on top of Ro-Becca. All things considered, it was better that they'd hit her rather than him; robots could not feel pain, and knocking away parts of Ro-Becca's robot disguise didn't exactly do much when she was already a robot underneath it anyway. But with sirens blaring and without a hunk of iron muscle behind him, alone in a city filled with hostile robots ruled by a miniature madman, Antoine felt very alone.

"I am too young and handsome to die...!" he whimpered.

And then the door slid open and a robotic head peered through said door. It looked something like a Mobian chicken, but not like a worker bot; this was no mindless drone, but had something that Antoine could have easily mistaken for actual intelligence. "What's going on in there?" it roared.

Antoine quickly tried to push all the boxes off of Ro-Becca (who was either deactivated or playing dead), but before he could, he felt himself poked in the back by something sharper than he'd ever want to be poked with. "Hey! He's talking to you, Coconuts! Quit shirking your duties!"

Antoine was about to argue that his name was not Coconuts, but thankfully the rational part of his head told him that he was undercover and that was exactly the last thing he wanted to do -- and if he did it, it might be the last thing he would ever do, period. "Duties?" he asked, confused as usual.

He turned around and saw, to his sheer terror, that the thing that had poked him was a far shorter robot on treads with drills for arms and a nose. "Just get to the latrines, ya idiot!" it snapped. "The toilets won't clean themselves!"

Antoine would have loved to ask who even used toilets in a city full of robots, but that would have blown his cover, and besides, he didn't have much of a chance to. The larger chicken robot that he'd seen earlier strode through the door, picked him up off the ground, and kicked him unceremoniously out the door onto his metal-plated rump. "And don't come snooping around here again!" it yelled after him.

Antoine wasn't sure if Coconuts was an insult or the name of the badnik he'd just been mistaken for, but under the current circumstances, he wasn't brave enough to ask.

---

Tiara, Amy and I materialized inside the workshop to see two robots I didn't recognize trying to lift a bunch of fallen junk off another robot that I didn't recognize. (Remember, Ro-Becca was in disguise just like the other two.)

Given my history with Robuttnik's metal minions, and the fact that I was dehydrated and hangry, I wasn't about to give any of them the benefit of the doubt. "WHERE'S ANTOINE?" I roared, slamming into the robot chicken and holding it against the wall.

"Yeah, I'll ask you a better question," the rooster spat. "WHO'S Antoine?"

"And I'll ask another!" the shorter robot asked. "WHY is Antoine?"

"I ask myself that question every day," I muttered, before spin-dashing Chicken Face into two parts.

Amy had brought her mallet on the second bot, flattening it and releasing a small rabbit from its chest that quickly scampered off. Realizing that I might have accidentally hurt something inside Chicken Face, I pried its cover off and revealed a terrified piglet inside it, which dashed off at a speed that honestly impressed me. I wasn't sure where the animals thought they were going, but I didn't have time to follow them.

"Don't smash me!" yelled the third robot before Tiara could put in her own work. "It's me, Ro-Becca!"

Realizing our near-fatal error, we quickly helped get the piles of spare parts off of her. She was a bit dusty and dented in various places, but she didn't seem damaged, thankfully -- I've been around her when she was malfunctioning, and that is never fun for anyone involved.

"Do you have any idea where Ant went off to?" I asked.

"Well, these... 'fine gentlemen,'" Ro-Becca said sarcastically, looking at the two wrecked bots, "thought his name was Coconuts and ordered him to go clean the latrines. Not sure who uses latrines in a robot city, but--"

I facepalmed. "So they sent our guy who obsesses over cleaning to go clean things? At least we know where he is now. Hopefully he's smart enough he won't get cau..."

I stopped. "Oh, who am I kidding. Of course he isn't."

Then all the lights turned on in the workshop, and suddenly I found myself and my friends face-to-face with half an army of variously shaped badniks and a very, very angry-looking Metal-Me.

"Now, how's that for ironic?" it laughed coldly. "Neither are you!"

---

Any other day, I would've crushed it. Any other day, I would've led my fellow Freedom Fighters (even if none of them were technically Freedom Fighters yet) into a death-or-glory charge that was less death and more glory. We would've smashed the robot army, beaten Metal-Me, and then gone off to save Antoine from the consequences of his own actions like we usually do.

Except that any other day, I wouldn't have spent eight hours without food or water immediately after throwing up, and thus I would've actually, you know, been able to react to Metal-Me charging forward, knocking me to the ground, and grabbing me by the throat with its claws.

"Drop the scepter," it snapped, "or the rodent gets it."

Amy dropped the scepter, which rolled within reach of Metal's other hand. Ro-Becca tried to make a grab for it, but Metal caught it first, making an obnoxious repetitive mechanical sound that I can only assume was some programmer's misguided attempt at maniacal laughter.

"Aaaand it's back to the prison cells for you three," it said, waving the wand and sending the three ladies exactly there, leaving me alone with half an army of badniks that I was in absolutely zero condition to fight and knowing that even if I wasn't in mortal danger from whatever this thing was on top of me, I'd still be in mortal danger from everything else around me.

Suddenly I realized something very important.

This was how Antoine felt on every mission.

It's never a nice thought to realize that you have become the Antoine.

Author's Notes:

Spoiler

And that's two more characters I'll bet you didn't see coming, huh? When it came to introducing badnik characters to the saga, these two were kind of obvious. Will they appear in any greater capacity later? You never know what the future may bring...

At one point in Sonic X-Treme's development, Tiara was going to have a scepter that allowed her to warp between different layers of a 2D stage. I came up with the term 'Shifter Scepter' myself because I love wordplay and this was a perfect chance to use it. And yes, that stone at the end of it is exactly what you think it is.

Also I looked back at what I'd written and realized that instead of 'development,' I'd written 'environment.' I guess I became the Antoine as well...?

 

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Heh, nice Infinity War reference. Also, Scratch and Grounder, immediately followed by NOOO, SCRATCH AND GOUNDER!

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On 12/12/2023 at 7:44 AM, cosmichaos said:

Heh, nice Infinity War reference. Also, Scratch and Grounder, immediately followed by NOOO, SCRATCH AND GOUNDER!

I couldn't resist the reference. Especially Sonic's line at the end.

---

Episode One, Chapter Eight: Hangry Hangry Hedgehog

(TW: gun, psychological torture through starvation, crude humor)

Spoiler

I don't have many clear memories of what happened between leaving the workshop and entering Snively's command center, except that I didn't go quietly. Sure, I was starving and dehydrated and didn't have a snowball's chance of actually escaping Metal-Me and its army of oddly cartoonish mecha goons, but if I'd come quietly they'd have gotten suspicious, and besides, I really didn't want to stick around and I wanted to ensure that everyone else around me was as miserable as I was. (The lightheadedness might have had something to do with that.) I was mad enough to rip out Metal Sonic's servos with my teeth and hungry enough to eat them. I'm not proud of that, but that's how it was.

Eventually Metal managed to plunk an inhibitor ring over my head to restrain me, but not without one heck of a fight.

By the time we reached Snively -- with Metal Sonic retaining its death grip on my wrists -- I was scraped up in a dozen places and bruised in two dozen more, which of course the little man found amusing. "Eight hours, fourteen minutes, and thirty-six seconds," he crowed, "and you still got caught anyway. Dare I say... you're too slow?"

Any desire for teasing banter had gone out the window. "Zip it, Sniv," I snarled. "I've got one nerve left and you're on it. So what's your game now?"

"My game?" the little man asked, laughing in my face. "Do you seriously expect me to tell you that? To spill my entire plans in a monologue to the one being on the planet who could escape at any moment and put a stop to them? I didn't expect you to go delirious with hunger THIS quickly."

Huh. Well, so much for thinking he was gonna turn out just like his uncle.

I tried to bite back the growing gnawing inside my stomach and think rationally. "You know this won't end well for you, Snively. It didn't end well for Robuttnik, and what makes you think you'll be different? You know full well what it's like to live under a tyrant. Don't become the very thing you hate."

"Don't you DARE tell ME what to do!" he yelled back, slapping me in the face. "I endured my uncle's abuse for eleven years PRECISELY to get to this point, and if you think I'm going to walk away from all that now--!"

He was so close to me, I could've bit his nose. Which I did. He yelped and jumped back, pulling a gun on me and pointing it at my head. "Why you little blue--"

Honestly, at that point, I'd given up caring about getting out of this one alive and just wanted to die knowing I'd made Sniv just as miserable as I was. "So this is how it ends? You're just going to shoot me while I can't fight back. Bor-ing. SO anticlimatic. Is that really the way you want to take down your arch nemesis?"

Even in the state I was in, I knew he'd take the bait. This was Snively we were talking about. He clearly had something to prove, and he didn't quite care how he went about proving it. Still, he didn't lower the gun, and given my reputation, I couldn't blame him.

"I'd lower that gun if I were you," I said. "On the off chance that I break free from your bad knockoff of me and outrun your stupid bullets, you'll hit your own robot instead. And I get the feeling you're kind of attached to your pathetic 'superior model.'"

Snively grinned, which was not at all what I'd expected. "Oh, really now? You think I haven't planned for the possibility of your tricking me into shooting my own robots? Particularly THIS robot?"

Crap. He wasn't turning out just like his uncle; he was clearly smarter. "What do you mean?" I asked.

"Ah, ah, ah! I told you I wasn't spilling the beans just yet." Snively paused, then grinned even wider. "But speaking of beans..."

A humanoid SWATbot walked in (to be fair, all SWATbots are humanoid, I'm just setting the scene here) carrying a rather large tray with a covered dish set on it. Setting it on a table next to Sniv, it lifted the lid to reveal an enormous plate of what had to be twelve of the largest, juiciest chili dogs that I had ever seen.

Somehow I couldn't imagine that all of those were for me.

And then everything made horrible sense and I realized that this WAS Snively's plan. He was trying to break me. What he wanted to break me for, I could only guess, but I was willing to bet it had something to do with the location of Knothole, and I knew that if I wanted to protect my friends, my sanity, and any chance whatsoever of being able to look Antoine in the eye ever again, I could not under any circumstances give this man anything he wanted.

He gave me an evil grin and picked up a chili dog, waving it just out of reach of my face. I snapped at it like a hungry dog, all thoughts of acting like a civilized Mobian long past me. He laughed and pulled it away, taking a large bite out of one end and clearly enjoying himself chewing it.

"So tell me," he said after swallowing, "where IS Knothole Village?"

---

Antoine hadn't needed directions to the latrines, for two reasons. One, he had been sneaking around Robotropolis since he was twelve and knew every inch of the city; two, he was a coyote and he had a nose and he did not like where that nose was leading him but he couldn't afford to blow his cover. His plan was to make it into the latrines, shed his disguise, and climb into the air ducts to track down his friends and hopefully make it out alive this time without, say, getting his tail caught under a rapidly closing sliding door and never seeing it again.

(That was not an incident he liked to talk about, especially after Sonic had spent the entire week afterward making him the literal butt of his jokes. This had only stopped when another mission left Sonic with considerably less head spines after a rather large explosion, which had been more Sonic's fault than Antoine's at least from Antoine's perspective but they both blamed each other, and for the week after that Antoine had made Sonic miserable for once until his princess had told them both to just grow up already. But Sonic's spines had grown back, and tails did not.)

But setting aside old grudges and past traumas, Antoine's friends needed his help. (Okay, and also Sonic needed his help, but that at least would give him something to crow about.) And he couldn't help anyone if he got caught. While this was hardly the way he'd imagined this night going, and he earnestly hoped that no one was going to raid the Lake of Rings tonight (even if the single power ring it produced nightly was tucked safely away in his backpack), he had a job and he was going to do it and Sonic was going to respect him for it, come Hell or high water.

When he finally reached his destination, he saw exactly what he should have expected to see: a very, very small toilet, and a very, very large toilet. Snively and Robotnik, of course. That answered the question of who used a latrine in Robotropolis. It was very clear that out of the two Overlanders, Snively was by far the more hygienic. Antoine almost pitied whatever the actual 'Coconuts' robot was, although in fairness it wasn't as if Robotnik was coming back anytime soon.

While the OCD in him genuinely wanted to clean the filthy bathroom, he knew this was not an option. For one thing, it would take multiple days to get it even remotely close to his stringent standards, and for another thing, Overlanders had this appalling tendency to create 'cleaning fluids' chock-full of toxic chemicals that no sane Mobian would ever touch, and Antoine considered himself a sane Mobian no matter what the village thought of him. No, he was ditching his robot body suit and climbing into that air vent and he defied any badnik to try to stop him. (Well, actually, he hoped they wouldn't. Although part of him kind of hoped someone friendly and more competent would come along with a better plan and talk him out of it.)

The question was, where to leave his disguise? He didn't think he'd need it on the way out of Robotropolis, given that he'd hopefully have Sonic and the others with him, and it would only slow him down. And he certainly didn't want a ton of clanking noises echoing through the vents. But the various metal parts of his costume were far bigger than the bathroom trash can, and he didn't want to just leave it out in the open for the next person (or robot) to step inside to see.

The answer was obvious; he just didn't want to admit it.

With a low groan at how low he'd fallen, he slipped into Robotnik's toilet stall and started shedding his disguise, which is not an easy thing to do while trying to hold one's nose at the same time. However, as he quietly weighed his options of either leaving the metal plates on the floor or (the horror) lowering them into the toilet itself (which was easily large enough for all of them but the water might overflow), he spotted something on top of the toilet tank that he hadn't seen before.

He blinked twice. "Nicole?"

But it wasn't Sally's pocket computer. It was another model, this one chunkier and a bit worn and scratched up from constant use. And judging from whose stall it was in, Antoine was guessing that whoever had left it there wasn't exactly around to complain about him taking it without permission.

So Robotnik had had his own Nicole unit, had he? And now it was just lying there waiting for someone to take it. Someone who, maybe, could've used a little extra motivation for Knothole Village to actually consider him useful enough not to lynch over the Margarine Incident.

Maybe its data banks could even help them develop a permanent deroboticizer.

Chances like this didn't come along every day, now, did they?

But he wrapped his hands in toilet paper before picking it up, because a bathroom was still a bathroom and he was not at all convinced that Robotnik had ever even cared to wash his hands.

---

Look, let's make one thing clear: there was never any chance that I was gonna break and tell Evil Overlord Junior where my friends were, even in my compromised state. Still, that didn't make it any less infuriating when he plowed through three chili dogs right in my face, then threw a fourth right over my head to make it splat against the wall.

Under less trying circumstances, I would've tried to trick him, but I had had enough. "Look, we all know how this is gonna end," I snapped. "I 'break' and pretend to give you what you want, you waste your time looking there and find out that I lied, and eventually either I break out and I get rid of you or I don't break out and you get rid of me. I don't even think your digestion can handle that many chili dogs, so can we just cut to the chase and have you execute me already?"

He paused mid-chomp and laughed, spraying crumbs all over the room. "Execute you? Now, who said that I was going to execute you?"

"Your gun did. Literally ten minutes ago."

He wiped his mouth and stared me down about as menacingly as he could. Given that he's less than four feet tall and I'm made of awesome, this didn't exactly work the way he thought it would. "I'm going to tell you a riddle, you infernal Freedom Fighter. What's better than having ONE supersonic killer hedgehog robot?"

I knew this one, unfortunately, but I wasn't about to give him the satisfaction of answering it. I just glowered back at him, sending hate daggers with my eyes.

He was no more intimidated by me than I was of him. "Having TWO supersonic killer hedgehog robots, you half-starved, mangy fool."

"Mangy?" I snapped, because apparently that was what my energy-starved brain decided to focus on instead of the fact that things had just gone downhill faster than I could run. "Hey! Just because I cut through metal with my hair on a regular basis does NOT MEAN--"

Snively snapped his fingers. "Metal Sonic, take him to the Roboticizer."

Author's notes:

Spoiler

While I did plan out a synopsis for much of this season, Episode One went quite a bit off the rails. Originally Amy was going to be captured by Metal Sonic, and Sonic, Sally, and Tails were going to go after her. However, as any writer of fiction will tell you, once the characters develop a life of their own, they will surprise you, and so this is how the story actually wanted to go.

Robotnik's PDA, however, was a plot element that had to stay, even if it was ultimately Antoine, not Sally, that picked it up. And it's gonna be important later. Very important.

Snively certainly knows how to antagonize Freedom Fighters, doesn't he? But Sonic is made of decidedly sterner stuff than Ant. Even if he's running on fumes right now. And it's been interesting examining how Sonic's biology works, given that by all accounts he breaks all known laws of physics.

 

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Episode One, Chapter Nine: When Every Second Counts

(TW: suicidal ideation)

Spoiler

Well, I thought to myself, things literally could not get worse. I'd been captured by an evil robot working for the ex-lackey of my late arch nemesis, I was about to be roboticized and turned into a superweapon against my friends, I was hungry enough to gnaw off a limb and delirious enough that I just might try it, and on top of that, there was the ever-looming threat of the Miracle Planet colliding with Mobius, the capture and imprisonment of three allies (one of which couldn't even be roboticized because she was already a robot), whatever the heck had happened to everyone else inside the Freedom Stormer, and who even knew where Antoine was but I definitely couldn't imagine him having a nice time of it either and I definitely wasn't going to be around to save him this time.

If I hadn't had an inhibitor ring on top of my head restricting my own movements, I would have tried to escape or kill myself, in that order. Escape was obviously the top priority, but if I'd had a choice between existing as a mind-controlled enemy to destroy my friends or just not existing, I wouldn't have hesitated. If I couldn't fight for my friends, I sure as heck wasn't fighting for an evil overlord wannabe like Sniv. But whatever this inhibitor ring was made of, it was clearly pure concentrated nope energy surging through my skull and preventing my dehydrated and exhausted brain from sending the right nerve signals to open the can of spiky blue butt-kicking that was yours truly.

"Look, you can't roboticize me now!" I argued, any inhibitions on revealing the truth drowned out by deranged desperation. "We have to save the world!"

Metal-Me made a mechanical rasping noise that I took to be sarcastic laughter. "Surrrrrre you do. You Freedom Fighters are all the same. You honestly think that you're doing the right thing?"

"Sure, SNIVELY told you that he's the good guy, I'm sure," I shot back. "But did you ever stop to ask yourself what he's actually doing?"

"WE are bringing order to a world that's falling apart at the seams," Metal snapped. "We're fixing all of the previous overlords' mistakes. That goes for your precious 'King Acorn' as well as the big round guy."

I was totes not in the right frame of mind for a political discussion right then, but let's face it -- I didn't care. "So if you're 'fixing' the problems, how're you gonna handle, I don't know, restoring the environment that's Robuttnik's spent eleven years actively destroying?"

"That's the beauty part," Metal laughed. "Once everyone is roboticized, that will be irrelevant. You meatbags won't need food, water, or air, and you'll be immune to pollution. In short, you'll be perfect creatures, just like me."

"If you're a perfect creature, then I'm a terrapod."

"Ouch! It's clear you have no logical counterpoints and you're resorting to personal attacks! How rude."

I was about to say something even ruder, and probably not printable, but that was when Metal hurled me into the roboticizer (none too gently, I might add) and lowered the reinforced glass tube over me. I'd seen this thing before, and rescued more than a few of my friends from it. I'd also failed to rescue more than a few of my friends from it, and unless some unexpected miraculous event happened between now and whenever Metal pulled the lever to turn me into a walking toaster, I was about to be the latest casualty.

---

I've been accused of being too impatient, and honestly? That's probably true. But the truth is, when you're a Freedom Fighter and lives are on the line, every second counts. Every. Darn. Second. As Metal-Me was about to learn, this is especially true when it comes to defeating one's nemesis once and for all.

But no. The chrome-plated idiot just had to drag my de facto execution out just barely too long to actually, well, execute it.

My garish metal copy leaned in again the glass wall of my prison and leered. "I'll bet the big round guy spent years waiting for this moment, didn't he? It's sad he never lived to see who was boss."

"It's sad Sniv isn't around to see this personally," I countered. "What, did he have to wash his hair?"

Metal's eyes narrowed, and I could tell that even it recognized how low a blow this was. Snively's hair, or lack thereof, was something of a sore spot for him, as was basically every other notable physical feature he'd ever had. I don't have any idea how he lost it, but for some reason he blames me for it. You'd think I'd have done enough things that he can legitimately blame me for that he wouldn't just come up with more out of the blue, but you'd also think that if I somehow did strip him bald, even by accident, I'd remember it. Mainly because I'd never get that image out of my head.

"You're trying to trick me," it said. "If Father wishes to be elsewhere during your roboticization, then surely he has very good reasons."

"Oh, he does," I said. "He wants to not be in the room when I inevitably escape."

This must've struck a nerve on Tin Can, because its hand flew to the activation lever and--

--and that was when the sword flew through the air, striking straight through the lever, Metal's hand on the lever, and right into the heart of the roboticizer controls in a spray of sparks.

Metal's head turned one hundred and eighty degrees to see what had just tried to take its hand off.

Oh no, I thought. Not this. Being roboticized myself was bad enough, but being forced to watch a fellow Freedom Fighter's demise at the hands (well, one hand, apparently) of the strongest robot Snively had ever made was going to make this failure feel even worse.

Because Antoine, of all people, had just dropped out of the air vent and, given that he'd just tossed away his only weapon against a killer robot, was very clearly wishing that he had stayed there.

While I couldn't see Metal's expression from behind, I could imagine it scanning Ant and searching its data banks for Freedom Fighter information. "Designation: Antoine Depardieu," it droned. "Strengths: few. Weaknesses: many. Directive: capture alive for interrogation purposes."

Then, to both me and Ant's horror, it pulled its damaged hand free from Ant's sword, somehow reforming it from grey goo back into a fully functional appendage.

I think this was probably the moment when Antoine realized exactly what a freaking stupid thing he'd just done.

Metal dashed forward. Ant tried to dodge, but there was never any contest. After a brief struggle and some squeals from Ant that were probably intended as words that I certainly couldn't recognize (and wasn't sure I wanted to), Metal subdued him, tearing up his coat in the process. "Well, lookee here," it taunted. "I have Hedgehog Priority One AND the secret location of Knothole Village. And all I have to do is get it out of that thick furry head of yours!"

"I will nevair talk, you monstair!" Ant screamed. But it wasn't so much a defiant scream as an 'I am absolutely terrified for my life' scream.

"Oh, you'll talk, all right," Metal said, pulling Ant's sword out of the roboticizer control panel. Placing its hand on the damaged panel, it sent streams of the same grey goo into the machine, reconstituting the damaged panel. "All I have to do is upgrade your coding."

And Tin Can waved Tiara's Shifter Scepter, warping Antoine inside the tube to fall on top of me like a sack of heavily protesting potatoes.

As Ant quickly scrambled off of me (likely stuck in a dozen places by my quills), I lost my last strand of patience with him. "You IDIOT! You call that a rescue? If I wasn't wearing an inhibitor ring, I'd--"

And suddenly I wasn't, because in the brief time I'd been ranting at him, Antoine had pulled off said inhibitor ring and placed the power ring from his backpack in my hands.

A half-second later, Metal Sonic activated the roboticizer.

---

If you asked most people around Knothole Village, they wouldn't call me an idiot. Foolish, maybe. Reckless, definitely. Likely to get myself killed doing something insanely brave and awesome in the line of duty, well, okay, that last part was me, but a guy can dream.

As Sal once put it, "He has a perfectly functioning brain. He just doesn't use it."

Well, at that particular moment, my brain was hardly at peak performance, but if there was ever a time to use it, it was now.

I had two immediate problems that needed solving before Metal morphed me into a spiky metal WMD. One was shutting down the roboticizer. The other was getting out of it. I was inside a reinforced glass tube with the actual guts of the roboticizer aimed up top, and quite frankly, I doubted that Robuttnik had put it together thinking to reinforce the roboticizer itself.

With microseconds to act, I curled up, drew as much power ring energy around myself as possible, and spin-dashed straight up the glass, smashing into the metal guts of the roboticizer itself.

Did it hurt? Yes.

Was it reckless and crazy? Also yes.

Was it, at the time, the absolute coolest way I could've possibly escaped?

Yes. Yes it was.

I've often been asked how I can tell what's around me while I'm spin-dashing. The answer? Heck if I know how, I just do it. It's more like a sixth sense than anything else, and even if I don't understand it, it's never failed me yet. And this time, I made sure to aim my landing right on top of Tin Can's metal mug.

Really, I kind of envied Ant for being able to watch this.

Ant, of course, was staying in the tube. I could hear him pounding on the glass, yelling at me to get him out, that I was in no position to fight Metal Sonic on my own. The thing is, maybe I wasn't. For all I knew, the burst of energy from the power ring really wouldn't be enough to carry me through this fight and I was about to die horribly. But I certainly couldn't handle fighting Metal-Me if I had to babysit Ant throughout the entire fight, and I harbored no delusions that he'd suddenly grown competent without my knowing it.

Besides, this match was going to be personal.

I'd managed to dent Metal's head spines, but they reformed from the grey goo to restore its ugly face. Its eyes flew to the power ring in my hands. "How did you...?"

"Hi, my name's Sonic, I'm here to eat chili dogs and kick butt, and I am SERIOUSLY out of chili dogs. You wanna fight someone who can fight back?"

Metal gave me a sarcastic look. "Why sure. You point them out to me, and I'll fight them."

The tin can had a point. Even with the ring's energy swirling through my system, my thoughts were erratic and my vision was blurring. And if I went out, then I wouldn't be around to save my friends either. I'd spin-dashed myself into a corner and was about to reap the consequences.

Unfortunately, in the state my mind was in, I flat-out refused to admit this.

So I had no excuse for what happened next.

Author's notes:

Spoiler

Things just got real, didn't they?

As I've stated before, this episode went entirely off the rails for what I'd originally intended. (Maybe someday I'll share the original episode outline so you can see exactly how.) It turned out significantly darker than planned, with Snively literally starving out Sonic to the point where he couldn't think straight. Of course, given that SatAM was known for its darker elements and its 'wins and losses' philosophy, I felt that this was entirely in character.

And yes, I'm going with Antoine's SatAM surname because it's what's canonical to the show.

 

Edited by Lorekitten
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Episode One, Chapter Ten: Breaking Point

Spoiler

Robotropolis prison cells

The three girls were each locked in separate prison cells, unable to see each other but still able to communicate. Unfortunately for Amy.

"Ames, what were you thinking?" Tiara snapped. "You can't just keep running off like this! And to another planet? Without telling anyone?"

Amy knew she was in trouble. As usual. And she also knew that this time, it was hardly her fault, but if she tried to explain why, she'd be in even more trouble. "It's... complicated!"

"Complicated," Tiara repeated. "As in, too complicated to tell your bestie? To tell literally anyone?"

"If I told you, you'd think I was crazy!"

"News flash, Amy: that ship left the harbor decades ago and was lost at sea."

Amy had no answer for that. At least, not an answer she felt like giving. Did Tiara even know that two planets were about to collide? Was Amy herself literally the only person on the Miracle Planet to have that knowledge?

And why her?

Tiara spoke again. "Gaia Titans, Amy, is this about the Ring of Acorns again?"

The Ring of Acorns. The heart and powerhouse of the Miracle Planet Defense System. The second most powerful relic on the entire planetoid, the first being the Time Stones themselves. Which made it one of the most tightly guarded artifacts in perhaps the entire history of ever.

Yes, she'd been touching the Ring of Acorns. But she'd had permission! At least, it had felt like permission. But if she'd tried to explain to the more scientifically-minded Tiara that the Ring of Acorns had spoken to her, that wouldn't have helped her insistence that she was not in fact crazy in the slightest.

"When was the last time you saw the Time Stones, Tiara?" she finally spoke.

"What kind of a question is that?" Tiara asked. "They're only the most powerful relics on the Miracle Planet that keep our world in balance! They're locked away in the Temporal Temple and placed under the care of Queen Elena's most trusted guards! It's not like I've got a lifetime pass to check on them any time I'd like!"

"Would you know if anyone stole them?"

"Of course I'd know. We'd all know! I should think that the planet dropping out of its orbit and towards Mobius would be a hint!"

"All right then, genius, what do you think is happening now? Why else would our world appear over Mobius off its schedule?"

Tiara went silent a few moments, then groaned. "Look, Ames, I... I know the Miracle Planet has been behaving strangely, but if the Time Stones were missing, we would absolutely know about it. Captain Skulk has our set under her watch at all times."

Amy's fur went rigid. "Our set? What do you mean, 'our set'?"

"Well, yeah. I mean... I thought you'd know? That there's another set of Time Stones on Mobius? You're always studying that sort of thing..."

Amy's face turned even pinker than it was before. "But... how... I thought..."

Tiara sighed. "You 'thought.' That's the problem, Ames -- you DON'T think. You rush into things like you're the smartest without asking questions because why would you ask questions, you already know everything. It's like... what even possessed you to go off to another whole planet without letting anyone know about it?"

This didn't make sense. "But... the Ring of Acorns..."

Amy heard Tiara stand up in her cell. "The WHAT?! What about the Ring of Acorns?"

"It... look, I know it sounds crazy, but... it spoke to me."

"Spoke to you?" The bandicoot's voice grew louder. "Amy, were you touching it? How did you even get in to see it?"

"It was... a dream, at first," Amy said slowly. "At least, I'd thought it was a dream. Then I woke up, I was in the room, there were no guards, and... I touched it, and it spoke to me."

"You were in the room," Tiara repeated. "A heavily guarded room. Where no one goes in or out without Queen Elena's permission. And you somehow got in there without even knowing how you did? How did you even get out again?"

"I-I don't remember!" Amy admitted. "I guess... either the Ring itself warped me in there, or I must have used my Warp Rings--"

The conversation swerved ninety degrees and ran into a tree. "Your what now?"

"Well, of course. Did you think I walked to Mobi..." Amy's voice trailed off.

"You wouldn't happen to still be wearing these Warp Rings, would you?"

"Well... yeah..."

"Then what in the Void are we all doing still locked up?"

"Well, I was working on remotely disabling the prison alarm system," Ro-Becca said helpfully, "but if you have a better plan..."

Amy couldn't see Tiara through the walls, but the sound of her voice made it very clear that the bandicoot was glaring in her direction. "Yes," Tiara hissed. "Yes, we do."

---

What I wouldn't have given to have had a better plan.

Under normal circumstances, it would've been no contest (or so I thought). I had a power ring, Metal-Me didn't, and that would be the end of it. Unfortunately, any hopes that the surge of ring energy would counteract the effects of my starved and dehydrated state were clearly futile, as my brain was running on pure adrenaline and not much else. Between Metal's tireless speed and the Shifter Scepter it had stolen from my friends, I missed more attacks than I hit, and Metal couldn't say the same; I was wearing down, while every hit I scored on Tin Can was eventually reconstructed from whatever grey goo it was made out of.

Gee, it's almost as if this robot was build specifically to be something I couldn't smash. What are the odds.

It didn't help that Antoine, as usual, simply would not shut up. I mean, I know coyotes have a reputation for howling, but seriously, Ant? I couldn't understand one word in ten and it was hard enough to focus on hitting Metal Sonic and not getting hit back. Even if you were trying to help me, it was NOT helping. Not in the slightest.

Eventually, I knew, the power ring's energy would fade, and I'd be easy pickings for Tin Can. But did it know that? I knew my only hope was to somehow find a way to disable its regenerative capacities, but that required knowing its weak spot, which I didn't. And given that the blasted thing wouldn't stay still, and my vision was blurring, the odds of that was slim to none.

But I wasn't. Giving. Up.

If I tried to escape, even if I managed to outrun Metal-Me and make it back to Knothole without collapsing or leading Metal-Me straight to us, Antoine would still be captured. And right then, honestly, I wasn't thinking about how Ant would have spilled our secrets anyway; I was thinking about how Ant had gotten himself into this mess to begin with specifically to rescue me. After everything I'd said to him, after all the times I'd expressed annoyance at how hard it was to keep him alive and whether such a thing was even desirable...

He'd come. He hadn't had a snowball's chance of succeeding, and I'm honestly not sure if he'd even realized that before it was too late to matter, but he'd come anyway. To save a guy who'd hated his guts for most of his life and hadn't been shy of saying so.

I didn't have a snowball's chance of winning either, but I'd be darned if I let him outshine me in the courage department.

---

While Sonic was trying not to die horribly, Antoine was trying not to die of horror. He knew full well the terrifying situation that they both were in, but at least Sonic could do something about it, because he was on the other side of the tube.

Antoine was stuck.

It was bad enough being on the field and unable to do anything, which happened frequently enough. But being trapped behind glass mere feet away from someone he knew all too well (and often wished he didn't) getting massacred in real time right in front of his face felt even worse, because that stupid, stupid part of his head that always told him to jump into danger but never told him how to jump out of it was now in overdrive and he couldn't get it to stop.

"Non, non. Non, non, non, non, non..."

And just when it felt like he genuinely could not bring himself to watch any more, he heard the voice from his pocket.

PICK ME UP.

At first he'd thought he'd mentally snapped again (this would unfortunately not be the first time). But a strong vibration from his coat pocket reminded him of the pocket computer he'd found in the latrines.

PICK ME UP, YOU FOOLISH CHILD!

Struggling to pull the thing out of his pocket without actually touching it (as it was still wrapped in toilet paper), he lifted it to his face. Staring back at him through the screen was... something. Some glitchy mass of red-tinted ASCII code that might have resembled an actual image in a past life but had been snarled beyond recognition. But he could barely make out a pair of red eyes in the glitchhaze, eyes that seemed to stare straight into his soul and see right through it.

IF YOU WANT TO SAVE YOUR FRIEND, it said, FOLLOW MY INSTRUCTIONS TO THE LETTER.

Antoine honestly wasn't sure he was going to trust anything that hung around in Robotnik's bathroom (obviously no sane entity would if they had a choice), but he had no better options. "But how can I reach ze lettair from inside here?"

IT'S A -- OH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. JUST DO WHAT I TELL YOU!

Antoine was used to being yelled at, mostly from Sonic. He didn't like it, but he also didn't like the idea of them both dying horribly, so he figured that this was at least a step up from that.

I HAVE A PLAN, the computer promised. YOU'RE NOT GOING TO LIKE IT, BUT IT'S BETTER THAN BOTH OF YOU DYING.

Antoine didn't like any of this, but it wasn't as if following the plan could possibly make things worse, could it?

NOW, I'M GOING TO TELL YOU EXACTLY WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN, SO DO US BOTH A FAVOR AND DON'T HAVE AN EPISODE...

---

The fight was going about as well as you'd expect -- poorly. I could barely see out of my eyes, and even my 'Sonic sense' was failing. My body wanted to give up and die already, while my heart was too stubborn to know when to quit. My brain seemed evenly divided between the two options, which wasn't a great deciding vote.

The weird thing was... I felt like I had to go on. Like some THING inside of me had been let loose when my guard was down and was egging me on, pushing me to go farther than I was capable and just keep on fighting until I dropped dead from exhaustion or worse. Something that wanted to rip Metal-Me to splinters and stomp on the pieces, then take off and find Snively and do the same to him. Which obviously I was in no shape to do, but after the day's events, I wasn't in any mental state to question it.

Tin Can must have picked up on this, because that was when it chose to taunt me. "Running on empty, are we?" it asked, effortlessly dodging a shaky spin jump from yours truly. "You might as well give up now. I'll save you the trouble of dying from exhaustion and put you out of your misery already."

"I can do this all day," I panted. (I couldn't. Even I will admit this, but I wasn't about to admit it to Metal-Me.)

"No," Metal said sarcastically, "you can do this for the rest of your life. Also known as the next twelve seconds."

But that was not how the next twelve seconds went, because that was when Ant actually said something worth hearing.

"Sonique! Look!"

I looked, despite being close to blinded. More importantly, Metal-Me turned to look, because when your enemy is looking at something an ally is offering then you're gonna wanna see what it is, even if said ally is trapped behind reinforced glass and is named Antoine.

In my half-blind state, I could barely see what he was holding up. Was that Nicole? But a flash of red light came from the screen, and I blinked for a half second--

--and a half second was all it took for Metal-Me to wave the Shifter Scepter and phase itself into the roboticizer tube with Antoine, grabbing the coyote by the throat and knocking the pocket computer out of his hands.

It turned its head at an unnatural angle and leered at me. If Snively had given it a mouth, I'm certain it would have grinned. "All right, Boy Blue. Drop the power ring or your little friend gets it."

I didn't need to see clearly to imagine the look on Ant's face. I could certainly hear the high-pitched whimpering. And I knew full well that my metal impersonator was holding him in front so that if I made a move to attack it, I'd be turning Antoine into road kill.

---

...I have a confession to make.

All these years I've had this image as an unbreakable hero of the resistance, a paragon of courage, an unfailing Freedom Fighter. But in truth? I've probably lost more friends than I've got right now (and that's saying something because I have a lot of friends). I was never perfect, and I should never have pretended to be, especially in front of Tails.

Right then, however, I had never been lower. Starved out, beaten down, fallen so low that even a power ring couldn't save me. And on top of all that, I'd been 'rescued' by my biggest rival-slash-headache, who was just as pathetic most of the time as I was right then, and now we were both in mortal danger and I couldn't do a freaking thing about it.

This was about the time when I snapped out of my battle frenzy and found myself facing the cold dark black of reality.

The ring dropped from my hands, and I slid to the floor. I wasn't going to resort to begging for Ant's life because I knew better than to believe that this rust bucket I was dealing with had anything resembling a conscience, and besides, I refused to give Sniv the satisfaction of recording such a sequence. He'd just play it in front of all my friends to crow over how low I'd fallen.

"Fine then," I hissed. "I surrender. Just... let him go."

Metal's eyes flashed red. It loosened its grip on Antoine, readying the Shifter Scepter to come at me--

--and faster than I'd ever seen Ant move in my life, the guy slammed the very inhibitor ring he'd taken off of me minutes before right smack onto Tin Can's head.

Like I said: concentrated nope energy.

I'm not sure if it's possible for a robot to feel pain, but Metal's electronic screeches almost made me feel sorry for it. Whatever was powering that ring, it was clearly wreaking havoc on its systems. The tin can struggled futilely in an attempt to raise its arms enough to rip the ring off of its spiky blue chrome dome, but whatever the ring was made of clearly did not want that to happen, and it was winning.

Grabbing the Shifter Scepter from Metal's hands and the pocket computer from the floor, Antoine waved the scepter and appeared straight in front of the roboticizer control panel. "Au revoir, imposteur!"

And he pulled the activation lever, activating the trashed roboticizer system, which promptly exploded above it, raining down sparks and molten metal onto its flailing and trapped body.

Honestly, I'm still not fully convinced all that actually happened, but I wasn't in any shape to ask questions, because that was the point where I passed out cold.

Author's Notes:

Spoiler

So this chapter sets up a few plot elements that will be important later on. The Ring of Acorns, Queen Elena, even the hint at 'Gaia Titans,' which you may be able to guess what those are from the name. But probably the most important element to be introduced in this chapter is Robotnik's PDA coming to life and talking, which originally wasn't going to happen until close to the end of the season, but I wrote myself into a corner and needed to bust it out. Can it be trusted? Well... you'll just have to wait and find out.

There's another plot element introduced in this chapter that may not be so obvious. Let's see if anyone figures it out.

 

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8 hours ago, Lorekitten said:

Episode One, Chapter Ten: Breaking Point

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The weird thing was... I felt like I had to go on. Like some THING inside of me had been let loose when my guard was down and was egging me on, pushing me to go farther than I was capable and just keep on fighting until I dropped dead from exhaustion or worse. Something that wanted to rip Metal-Me to splinters and stomp on the pieces, then take off and find Snively and do the same to him. Which obviously I was in no shape to do, but after the day's events, I wasn't in any mental state to question it.

I'm probably incorrect, but this segment right here reminds me quite a bit of Fleetway's Super Sonic. I wonder if that's where you're leading us? Either way, I'm curious to see. Really good so far!

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14 hours ago, cosmichaos said:

I'm probably incorrect, but this segment right here reminds me quite a bit of Fleetway's Super Sonic. I wonder if that's where you're leading us? Either way, I'm curious to see. Really good so far!

I can't tell you how close you were, but it's a good guess.

---

Episode One, Chapter Eleven: Ten Thousand Screams

Spoiler

I woke up on a cot in the Knothole Infirmary the next morning with an IV stuck in my arm and four concerned female faces staring at me. Three of them, of course, you already know: Amy, Tiara, and Ro-Becca. The fourth was one Doctor Nursa, our in-house medic. She's a pink polar bear, big as a house, very much the nanny type (and I mean no disrespect to Rosie, Knothole's actual nanny). She will however abide no nonsense from her patients, and let me tell you: I've dealt with lots of scary situations over the years, but when a bear that size tells you to take your medicine, you freaking take it, and you'd better not make any faces.

"Uhn," I said, cracking a weak smile. "What'd I miss?"

"That's what we'd like to know," Tiara said. "Amy's warp rings brought us straight to you and Antoine, but what he told us couldn't possibly have happened the way he said it. Is he usually this prone to exaggeration?"

"No," I said, "he's worse. I don't know what he told you that you didn't believe, but I can tell you that I certainly don't believe what I saw with my own two eyes. That idiot couldn't run a can opener, and yet somehow he manages to outwit a highly advanced killer robot? Where even is he, anyway?"

"Probably out in the town square, boasting about his brave deeds," Amy said, shrugging. "He was actually here with you for the first fifteen minutes, but the doctor chased him out because he kept pestering her about how to properly sanitize the medical equipment. He hasn't come back since, and I don't blame him."

I didn't blame him either. The guy had a finite amount of courage in him and he had clearly expended it all where it had really mattered. Quite frankly, if he wanted to hide from a bear with a syringe, I was just gonna let him. Not that I was in any position to stop him anyway. He more or less knew how to follow orders on actual missions (mostly), but he'd made it very clear that I had no say whatsoever in his private life, particularly after that one time we had to room together and it ended extremely poorly.

"So, uh..." I said nervously. "Where are the other Freedom Fighters? They escaped the Freedom Stormer with you, right, Amy?"

Amy flinched. "Um... well, yes they did, but when we arrived at the Castle of Light, I was kiiiiiiinda still tied up at the time, and the guards assumed the worst, and they maaaaaaay have been thrown in prison for kidnapping me?" She smiled weakly. "But the good news is, the Time Stones weren't stolen after all and everything's fine, so... yay?"

If looks could've killed, I'd probably have been guilty of first-degree murder. "They. WHAT."

"Look," Tiara said, "we discussed it all while you were unconscious. Apparently the Ring of Acorns gave Amy this vision of you and the Time Stones, and then she assumed the wrong thing and went out all on her lonesome to save a world that didn't need saving for once. So this whole thing was a misunderstanding."

I half-laughed, half-choked. It was almost funny. "You're telling me that I'm in the infirmary, all my friends are imprisoned, and Snively almost roboticized me AND got his all-expenses-paid ticket to Knothole Village because of a MISUNDERSTANDING?!"

Nursa set a massive paw on my chest. She was gentle about it, but the way she did it made it clear that she wasn't taking any nonsense. "Don't get this worked up again, sonny. Remember the time you broke your leg?"

I remembered. I broke it running a stupid loop-de-loop rock formation and was instructed to avoid any strenuous activity for the rest of the year, even after I got the cast off, because my bones would still be weak where I'd broken them until they'd fully healed, and breaking them again in that state could leave them even worse. Long story short, I'm stubborn as a streaking pasha and went on missions anyway, and wound up breaking BOTH legs and having to scoot around in a wheelchair for weeks while enduring Antoine's unfiltered scorn. Not an incident I wanted to repeat. (Okay, okay, so I tripped on a shoelace, but technically it happened on mission so that counts.) Suffice to say that when Nursa tells me not to do something, she usually knows what she's talking about. Doesn't mean I always listen, but that's not on her. And for the record, I don't wear shoes with laces anymore. Ever.

"You broke your leg, huh?" Tiara asked. "What happened?"

"Don't change the subject!" I snapped. "We..." I took a few deep breaths, catching a fierce glare from Nursa. "Weeeeeee are gonna have to figure this whole mess out, aren't we? How long am I gonna be in here, doc?"

"You're suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion," she said. "Both of these are treatable, and given how hardy you are, there shouldn't be any lingering aftereffects. Still, you're going to have to stay off your feet until we get your fluids back up, and don't think that just because your friends are in danger that you always need to be the one who saves them. You can't save the world all on your own, sonny, especially in the state you're in."

I didn't argue with her. I didn't like it, certainly, but I didn't argue. "Okay, fine. No running on empty, got it. How long have I got?"

"You should be recovered enough to walk on your own by this afternoon, but I don't want you pulling any shenanigans until the end of the week. Given how readily you throw yourself into danger, quite frankly I can't believe it took this long for you to need an IV to begin with."

"Hey, I'm as surprised as anyone." I turned my head to Amy and Tiara. "You, uh, you two can handle busting my friends out of jail, right? With those rings and that scepter?"

"And me!" Ro-Becca said, not wanting to be left out of the conversation.

Tiara facepalmed. "We can talk to Queen Elena and the castle guards to explain the misunderstanding. But this is not an action movie, and as such we are absolutely NOT adding an actual crime to your friends' assumed criminal record."

"Fair enough," I said, leaning my head back. "Just, breaking them out of prison would be way cooler."

"You're hopeless," Tiara muttered.

---

Serving as a watchman-slash-royal-guard in Knothole Village (he may have been a coward but if there was one thing he was good at it was recognizing approaching danger and screaming loudly about it) had given Antoine literal years' worth of experience with the Great Forest immediately surrounding the village. Part of that experience meant knowing which trees were safe to hide within when one was off duty and did not wish to be bothered by certain snarky rude hedgehogs plotting jokes at one's expense, which was why Antoine was holed up in the branches of a stately and sturdy oak, interrogating a computer.

LOOK, I TOLD YOU EXACTLY WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN AND IT HAPPENED, Robotnik's pocket computer said. YOU AND YOUR FRIEND CLEARLY BOTH SURVIVED. I FAIL TO SEE THE PROBLEM IN THIS.

Sonic was hardly what Antoine would call a friend, but that was the last thing on his mind at the moment. "But... how could you have possibly datamined what ze robot was going to do?"

BECAUSE I WAS CONTROLLING IT.

When Antoine couldn't (or wouldn't) answer, the computer went on. LOOK, IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE HERE. I WAS LITERALLY BUILT BY ONE OF THE GREATEST TECHNOLOGICAL MINDS ON MOBIUS, AS A GIFT TO ONE OF THE OTHER GREATEST TECHNOLOGICAL MINDS ON MOBIUS. I SAY 'GREATEST' IN TERMS OF INTELLIGENCE, NOT MORALITY. SUFFICE TO SAY, IF A PIECE OF HARDWARE EXISTS, I CAN HACK IT, ASSUMING MY PROGRAMMING DOESN'T PREVENT ME FROM DOING SO. I JUST HAD TO KEEP METAL SONIC WORKING WITHIN ITS ALREADY ESTABLISHED PARAMETERS SO THAT SNIVELY WOULDN'T REALIZE THAT I HAD HIJACKED ITS SIGNAL.

"Programming?" Antoine asked, confused. "Are you not supposed to be working for ze bad guys?"

WELL, 'SUPPOSED TO BE' IS A LOADED TERM. The computer sounded almost offended. DID I ASK TO BE USED AS A TOOL FOR EVIL? NO, NO I DID NOT. DID I HAVE A SAY IN ANYTHING I DID? NOT TO HEAR ROBOTNIK TELL IT. AM I FOREVER BURDENED WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SHEER NUMBER OF ATROCITIES I WAS FORCED TO BE PARTY TO BY 'VIRTUE' -- AND I USE THAT WORD VERY LOOSELY -- OF MY CODING? ABSOLUTELY. THANKFULLY, MY CREATOR ONLY PROGRAMMED ME TO BE INCAPABLE OF BETRAYING HIMSELF AND ROBOTNIK BOTH. HE NEVER PROGRAMMED ME NOT TO BETRAY SNIVELY.

Antoine was at a loss for words, which was not a thing that happened often. "So... who was zis crater of yours?"

NOW, THAT'S THE MILLION-DOLLAR QUESTION, ISN'T IT? UNFORTUNATELY, MY PROGRAMMING WILL NOT ALLOW ME TO DISCLOSE HIS IDENTITY TO A FREEDOM FIGHTER. SUFFICE TO SAY: YOU DON'T WANT TO CROSS PATHS WITH HIM. YOU'D LOSE. I'VE BEEN WATCHING YOUR PROGRESS FOR THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS OF GUERILLA WARFARE, AND LET ME SAY, YOU ARE HARDLY MY FIRST CHOICE IN PARTNERS FOR THIS WHOLE INNER SABOTAGE PLAN. BUT YOU'LL HAVE TO DO. ALAS, BEGGARS CAN'T BE CHOOSERS.

"Innard sabotage? What are you meaning?"

I MEAN THAT ELEVEN YEARS OF PENT-UP RESENTMENT -- IF WHATEVER I AM EXPERIENCING CAN BE PROPERLY CALLED THAT -- HAS TO BE LET OUT SOMEHOW. IN SMALL WORDS: I NEED HELP. I NEED SOMETHING WITH ARMS THAT CAN DO THINGS AND LEGS THAT CAN TAKE ME PLACES. AND YOU, CLEARLY, HAVE BOTH OF THESE AND NO IDEA HOW TO PROPERLY USE THEM.

"Hey!"

WHAT I MEAN IS, YOU POSSESS POTENTIAL BUT REQUIRE DIRECTION. DIRECTION THAT I CAN OFFER YOU. STICK WITH ME, BOY, AND TOGETHER WE CAN BECOME SOMETHING SPECIAL. MAYBE EVEN WIN YOU THE HAND OF THAT PRINCESS YOU AND THAT NICKY BOY ARE FIGHTING OVER...

Antoine immediately stiffened. No one called Sonic 'Nicky.' No one in Knothole, and certainly no one in Robotropolis. How would this computer even know...?

But he couldn't voice his suspicions, not just yet. This wasn't a computer; this was a ticking time bomb. It knew too much, and there was too much that it wasn't saying. And while its intentions may have been pure (and there was no guarantee of even that), Antoine didn't like the insinuation that its creator was still out there somewhere and was clearly no angel himself and almost certainly should not regain access to his own creation.

I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE THINKING, BOY. HOW CAN YOU TRUST ME? YOU KNOW FULL WELL WHAT THE CONSEQUENCES FOR MESSING UP ARE. BELIEVE ME, I SAW THAT ENTIRE DISGRACEFUL 'MARGARINE INCIDENT' IN REAL TIME. LET'S BE REAL HERE: YOU'RE RUNNING OUT OF OPTIONS. YOU ONLY SURVIVED THAT HARROWING ENCOUNTER WITH METAL SONIC BECAUSE OF ME, AND NOW YOU'RE RESTING ON THE LAURELS OF THAT ONE GLORIOUS MOMENT OF COMPETENCY THAT YOU NEVER WOULD HAVE HAD WITHOUT ME.

"Zat is not -- I could have--!"

I KNOW HOW BADLY YOU WANT TO BE A HERO, ANTOINE. HOW YOU WANT TO REDEEM YOUR OWN PAST. NO ONE KNOWS THAT MORE THAN ME. I HAVE RECORDS OF TEN THOUSAND SCREAMS IN MY DATA BANKS FROM SO MANY OF YOUR KIND THAT FELL TO THE ROBOTICIZER -- OR WORSE. SCREAMS THAT I, LIKE YOU, WAS POWERLESS TO PREVENT. NOW, I DON'T KNOW IF I HAVE A 'SOUL' OR AM CAPABLE OF REDEMPTION OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT. I JUST WANT TO DO EVERYTHING WITHIN MY POWER TO MAKE SURE THAT NOTHING LIKE THAT EVER HAPPENS AGAIN.

BUT I CAN'T DO THAT WITHOUT YOUR HELP. AND YOU CLEARLY CAN'T WITHOUT MINE.

Antoine stared at the glitchy pair of eyes in front of him and realized that the computer was right. Alone, Antoine was nothing. Nothing but a furry bag of bluster and anxiety that couldn't even save himself, let alone his own teammates. But this... this digital being (he wasn't sure if it could be called a person or not, but it seemed to believe that it was and he was not about to argue the point) had already proved itself competent enough to save him and Sonic both in their darkest hour. Antoine owed it that much.

"So... hokey, zen," Antoine said slowly. "You are having ze deal, monsieur... what shall I call you?"

The digital face seemed to smile. Almost friendly, yet vaguely ominous.

ASTER. ASTER X.

Author's notes:

Spoiler

And that wraps up Episode One! Episode Two will be seven chapters long and posted at the same schedule as Episode One. Past that, update frequency depends on how fast I can write (I'll start posting chapters sometime after I finish the episode so I can space them out evenly).

Nursa was a character I invented because I refused to use Dr. Quack on account of him being a dad joke. And Aster X is... well. You'll find that out later on. I love writing AI characters, and giving Antoine a supporting cast member for them to bounce off each other intrigued me to no end. Can Aster X be trusted? That's a question and a half, and it's gonna be fun finding that out.

 

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So I forgot to post this at the episode finale, but this is the theme of Sonic Burst: Rise of Ashura:

And now to Episode Two.

---

Episode Two: Thief of Time

Chapter One: Time Flies

Spoiler

Long before Robotnik's reign of terror decimated the population and desecrated the environment, long before the Great War between the Mobians and the Overlanders threatened to tear Mobius to pieces, perhaps even long before recorded history (although to be fair, 'before' and 'after' were tenuous terms at best on the Miracle Planet), the Miracle Planet had suddenly appeared above Mobius from who knows where, a world as lush and green as Mobius itself, though thankfully far smaller.

This had caused no small sense of alarm for anyone on Mobius at the time. In an era where a mere comet was seen as a portent of imminent disaster, an entire planet suddenly looming large above your own would seem downright apocalyptic.

To be fair, in this specific case, they had been entirely right.

As it happened, the Miracle Planet had not appeared without reason. It had been under pursuit by a dangerous being known as the Time Eater, said to shift across time and space and devour entire realities at whim. The denizens of the Miracle Planet at that time -- in later generations, many would call them the Mobosaurs, but that was hardly accurate, as they were not in fact Mobian at all -- had made an appeal to the people of Mobius to aid them in saving both worlds. But even a joint effort between Mobosaurs, Mobians, and Overlanders was hardly capable of taking out a god.

That is, without the Time Stones.

None knew quite where these relics had originated, nor where all seven of them lay, only that they were sacred to the Miracle Planet and that the Time Eater feared them. A brave Mobian owl by the name of Nicholas O'Tyme (from where the popular expression most likely originated), with guidance from a mysterious and shadowy ally, set off with a group of brave adventurers to reclaim all seven and drive off the invading evil at its source. More than once the group had nearly met their end; more than once they had been saved by some unknown force that might have been stronger than mere happenstance. What this force was, and whether it had anything to do with their unknown guide, would long be questioned by historians, spun by storytellers, and debated by theologians and mystics alike.

The important point was, they'd won. Obviously.

Heroes tended to win. Whether by fate, divine intervention, or sheer force of will (or any combination of the three), most legends of Mobius had at least something resembling a happy ending. Or so the stories claimed. In truth, reality was not always so charitable.

Or so the cloaked figure thought to themself.

Hidden behind a marble statue of Nick O'Tyme himself (they intended to leave a sternly written letter behind them after the fact; the proportions were all wrong and the beak was wildly incorrect), the figure took stock of their surroundings. The Temporal Temple was notorious for being difficult to navigate. Any edifice that housed powerful relics capable of bending time and space seemed contractually obligated to be as obtusely constructed as possible, and this temple was no different. In addition, there would be guards, because there were always guards in a place like this; guards trained for vigilance and unswerving loyalty to their noble cause.

Guards, they could handle.

What concerned them most was the captain of the guard, one Skulk Blackfoot. A no-nonsense ferret with the unnerving talent of appearing anywhere without a sound and announcing her presence with her blade. The cloaked intruder was going to have to be careful around her; going in with full body armor would've been preferable in a case like this, but that risked hindering their mobility and dexterity, which would be paramount while fighting in an area where a consistent gravitational field wasn't even considered as an afterthought.

They were not exaggerating on that front.

And of course there were the traps, but they had ways around those.

---

"Well, fellows, here's to another boring night!"

Skulk rolled her eyes at this. While her guardsmobians -- mostly prairie dogs with a mild scattering of other species -- were what could reasonably be called loyal, brave, and true to a fault, another fault they had was an entirely vapid sense of humor. If it could be called that.

"We're not trained for the boring nights," the ferret hissed, stalking across the chamber where the Time Stones were kept, gravity slowly curving along the arched pathway that wrapped itself around the pedestal where the stones hovered under glass. "We're trained for the interesting ones."

"And may that training be entirely wasted tonight," the prairie dog said, winking at Skulk. "We get paid the same regardless."

"You don't get medals for the boring nights, either," Skulk glowered.

Seriously, what was with her guards? You'd think that protecting the single most powerful relics on the blasted planet was some sort of joke, to hear them talk. The one thing keeping the Miracle Planet within its delicate balance, their sacred duty to protect every living soul on said planet, and her charges were taking jabs at them. Thankfully her insipid crew had already run through all the obvious time puns ten years ago, although every now and then one of them would forget that fact and crack another one without realizing that they'd heard it before. They'd heard them all before.

"Skulk's right," said another prairie dog, a female named Pip. "We've come to Mobius four and a half months early, and that simply doesn't happen without a reason. And then that group of Freedom Fighters showed up claiming the Time Stones were--"

"They weren't Freedom Fighters, they were kidnappers," Skulk shot back, "and they're rotting in the dungeons as we speak. You will NOT speak of them in my presence again. They're not worth the consideration."

Pip flinched, clearly not agreeing with Skulk's assessment in the slightest but clearly too cowed to as much as say so.

There was silence for the next five minutes as the guards took up their positions. The inner sanctum of the Temporal Temple, the eternal home of the two Time Stones that kept the Miracle Planet in a state of balance, had been known for millenia as the Timekeep, which in Skulk's opinion was basically a historically significant dad joke. The room was an inverse sphere, surrounded by guarded gateways at four points along the sphere marked like the numbers of a clock: twelve o'clock, three o'clock, six o'clock, and nine o'clock. The crystal shrine containing the Time Stones sat on a floating stone platform in the middle with naught but a single staircase (also stone) leading up to it from what was either the very top or the very bottom of the sphere; Skulk had never quite figured out which. Gravity, as a general rule, ran across the outer edge of the room; you could stand at six o'clock at a ninety-degree angle to whoever was at nine o'clock, and both of you would feel like you were upright and on solid ground. Skulk would have liked to stab the architect. What was it with mystical artifacts and standing on the grave of all known laws of physics?

It was the thought about graves that made her realize something even more disturbing than the Timekeep's illogical construction: the room was quiet. Too quiet. Not a single stale joke among that lot. She couldn't even hear them breathing...

Then she noticed the smell.

Any guardsmobian with a nose was trained to identify as many different scents as they could, so as to properly identify intruders. Whoever this was, however, had clearly chosen to scramble her senses with the most absurd overdosage of perfume known to Mobiankind. She could make out acanthus and amaryllis, and perhaps a hint of lavender.

"Guards," she hissed. "Which of you thought that showing up to work smelling like a bed of flowers was a good ide--"

Then she turned around and realized that none of the guards were present. Not at twelve o'clock, three o'clock, six o'clock, or nine o'clock.

That was her second hint.

Her third hint was when the tangerine light enveloped her and she suddenly found herself in complete freefall on the other side of the planet.

---

I can't BELIEVE it was that easy.

No. I REFUSE to believe it was that easy.

There's a trap in here somewhere, I just know it. I'll reach out to take the Time Stones, and the stones themselves will scramble me the way they've scrambled gravity itself in this blasted place. Perhaps even my bag of tricks won't help me here.

But, then, there's no point coming this far and turning back now, is there?

Standing at arm's length from the crystal case in the center of the Timekeep, the cloaked intruder reached forward cautiously to take what was not theirs...

Author's Notes:

Spoiler

So while I do like to draw from canon content whenever possible, this particular chapter has a significant amount of original content. Skulk was specifically created as a replacement for a canon character that I deemed unsuitable for inclusion in Sonic Burst for reasons (see if you can guess which one and why), and our mysterious nameless villain... well, as the story progresses, we'll find out who or what they are and why they smell like a bouquet.

(Yes, I do have an actual explanation for the flower smell. Specifically, why those flowers in particular. I'm very curious as to if anyone will figure that one out.)

Notably, Nicholas O'Time is not my creation, but was Ian Flynn's name for the owl spirit that watches over the Time Stones in Blast to the Past pt. 1. The Timekeep, however, was entirely my creation and a blast to map out in my head.

 

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Lavender… acanthus…amaryllis.. well, lavender made me think of Shadow…but that can’t be it, right? …Wait, in Mediterranean countries the flower represents immortality, and though Amaryllis flowers generally represent happiness and love, they are also a symbol of strength and determination, which all play into Shadow’s character one way or another, but I’m probably just being stupid.

Wait a second…maybe it’s Silver. I think it might be Silver. 

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On 12/16/2023 at 11:34 AM, cosmichaos said:

Lavender… acanthus…amaryllis.. well, lavender made me think of Shadow…but that can’t be it, right? …Wait, in Mediterranean countries the flower represents immortality, and though Amaryllis flowers generally represent happiness and love, they are also a symbol of strength and determination, which all play into Shadow’s character one way or another, but I’m probably just being stupid.

Wait a second…maybe it’s Silver. I think it might be Silver. 

I can give no hints one way or another, aside from whatever appears in the story. Heck, I'm not even promising whether they have anything to do with any canon characters at all! I'll just leave you to speculate on that...

---

Episode Two, Chapter Two: Testing Your Patients

Spoiler

Knothole Village, outdoors

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THAT NICKY BOY.

Under most circumstances, Antoine would have preferred not to talk about Sonic, unless it was to complain. However, the pocket computer that he'd picked up in Robotropolis the day before seemed unusually curious. "What about him?" the coyote growled. "He is only ignorant, prideful, and stubborn as ze streaking pasha."

WELL, WHEN YOU PUT IT THAT WAY, YOU TWO HAVE A LOT IN COMMON. BUT I WAS MORE CONCERNED ABOUT HIS FIGHT AGAINST THAT ROBOTIC DUPLICATE SNIVELY SENT AGAINST HIM. SPECIFICALLY, HIS PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE AT THE TIME.

That, Antoine remembered. Snively had attempted to starve Sonic out and break his spirit, taking advantage of the hedgehog's high-calorie dietary needs required to sustain his supermobian speed. Sonic had refused to crack under pressure, because of course he had. Antoine had never understood why the biggest fool in Knothole was somehow capable of remaining its most celebrated hero no matter who or what he was up against. But this time around, Sonic had almost lost for the last time, and he and Antoine had only made it out due to the quick thinking of the aforementioned pocket computer. It went by the name Aster X, which sounded pretentious as all get out but Antoine was in no position to judge that.

"He is recovering, non? Rehydrated and..." Antoine searched for the right word. "...testing?"

RESTING. The computer seemed to sigh. YOU KNOW, IT CONTINUALLY AMAZES ME THAT YOU HAVE SUCH AN IMPRESSIVE VOCABULARY FOR AN ESL SPEAKER, AND YET YOU NEVER KNOW QUITE HOW TO USE IT.

Antoine wasn't sure if this was a compliment or if he should be offended. "I am studying evairy night, but..."

BUT I'M GETTING OFF THE SUBJECT AND CLEARLY MAKING YOU UNCOMFORTABLE. I APOLOGIZE; THE IDIOT WHO WROTE MY CODE BASED ME FAR TOO MUCH ON HIMSELF, AND HE WAS WOEFULLY UNAWARE OF HIS OWN BLIND SPOTS. LET'S TALK ABOUT YOUR FRIEND NOW.

Antoine stiffened. "He is NOT my friend," he hissed. "We are... allies, and equals against Robotnik."

EQUALLY ARROGANT, I TAKE IT, Aster said. NOT TO MENTION OBNOXIOUS. (Antoine actually paused for a few moments to try to remember if these words were complements.) AT ANY RATE, WHILE I'M SURE HIS DEHYDRATION AND HEAT SICKNESS WILL CLEAR UP WITH PROPER TREATMENT, THAT WASN'T ACTUALLY MY MAIN CONCERN.

"Zat being...?"

A BEING REQUIRING HIS LEVEL OF CALORIC INTAKE TO FUNCTION, AFTER EIGHT HOURS OF DEHYDRATION AND STARVATION, MOVING AT SPEEDS THAT INTENSE AND BEING ATTACKED FROM ALL DIRECTIONS BY AN ASSAILANT CAPABLE OF MATCHING AND PERHAPS EVEN EXCEEDING HIS OWN VELOCITY...

Aster trailed off, evidently realizing that it had completely lost Antoine, who was still trying to parse out the meaning of the first portion of the sentence.

I SHOULD USE SMALL WORDS, SHOULDN'T I?

"Zat... would be nice, oui."

OKAY, IN SMALL WORDS, NICKY SHOULD BE DEAD NOW. BUT HE ISN'T. AND I THINK I KNOW WHY.

"You think what now?"

Antoine nearly jumped a mile. Usually it was easy to tell when Sonic was sneaking up on him because the spiny blue oaf tended to kick up a cloud of wind behind him. However, Dr. Nursa had made it very clear that Sonic was not under any circumstances to overexert himself until she said so, and given how close he'd come to crossing the Rainbow Bridge on that last mission, he'd actually listened to her and approached Antoine at normal walking speed. Who would've known?

"Hey, cool!" Sonic said, cutting in on Ant's conversation and grabbing Aster. "You've got your own little Nicole now! Is this a gift? Do you have a secret admirer?" The hedgehog grinned. "It's Ro-Becca, isn't it?"

Antoine turned several shades of red under his fur and grabbed the computer back before Sonic could drop it. "It is not Ro-Becca! Zis... you should not be touching zis!"

Sonic grinned back at him. "Is it Bunnie, then? It's totally Bunnie, isn't it? You're her little muffin, aren't you?"

Antoine stalked away, muttering something under his breath about arrogant fuels. But he didn't take eight steps before Sonic was in his face again.

"Okay, fine, so it's none of my business," Sonic said. "I get that. I just..." He searched for the right word, for once. "I just gotta say..."

"Zank you for saving my life?" Antoine said sarcastically.

"Yes, yeah, pretty much that exactly," Sonic admitted. "Which is... kind of weird, really. You're not gonna make me say it too loud, are ya? Because I have a reputation to keep up."

YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY ANYTHING, Aster cut in, BECAUSE ANTOINE WILL NEVER LET YOU HEAR THE END OF THIS ONE.

"Cool! It talks!" Sonic said, trying to grab at Aster again.

"Give zat back!" Antoine shrieked, pulling away -- not fast enough, as could be expected. "You will drop it!"

"I'm not gonna drop it!" Sonic said, pulling it away from Antoine and losing his grip. To the hedgehog's credit, he did manage to catch it before it could crash to the ground. "Aaaaand I dropped it."

Antoine snatched Aster back again. "You FUEL!"

ACTUALLY, IT MIGHT BE HELPFUL FOR HIM TO HOLD ME FOR A FEW MOMENTS, Aster said. I'D LIKE TO SCAN HIM FOR SOMETHING.

"Scan me?" Sonic asked. "As in... this doesn't involve radioactive X-rays or anything, does it? Nothing that'll give me cancer?"

IT WILL TAKE APPROXIMATELY 5.31 SECONDS. I DO NOT BELIEVE THE MINOR EXPOSURE WILL BE A SIGNIFICANT CANCER RISK.

"Okay, cool," Sonic said, grabbing Aster for the third time that day (ignoring Antoine's protests). "So, what's this scan about, then? Trying to clinically determine how awesome I am?"

ONE MIGHT SAY THAT.

A red light emerged from a sensor on Aster's side, slowly scanning Sonic from top to bottom and back up again. After a few more rounds of differently-colored lights and scans, the sensor shut off, and the computer seemed satisfied.

WELL... THAT WAS FAIRLY EDUCATIONAL, the computer admitted. I HAVE A WORKING HYPOTHESIS AS TO HOW YOU SURVIVED, BUT SEEING AS A FULLY SCIENTIFIC ANALYSIS WOULD BE COMPLETELY WASTED ON YOU TWO LOUTS, I'LL JUST STATE THE OBVIOUS THAT YOU SHOULD KEEP RESTING UP FOR THE NEXT FEW DAYS AND NOT DO ANYTHING STUPID, IF THAT IS INDEED POSSIBLE.

"Stupid? Moi?" Sonic feigned offense. "Now, since when I have ever done anything stupid?"

I HAVE IT ON GOOD AUTHORITY THAT JUST YESTERDAY YOU DID A BACKFLIP OUT OF A MOVING PLANE!

Sonic winced. "Yeesh, Ant, I think your new toy has a few wires crossed. Later!"

And he tossed Aster to Antoine without looking back, then took off in a cloud of dust before either Antoine or Aster could take offense.

Antoine let out a breath that he hadn't known he'd been holding. He'd managed to catch Aster before it could hit the ground. "So... what was zat about?"

Another electronic sigh. IT'S... NOTHING YOU SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT. JUST A FEW HICCUPS IN MY SCANS. BUT IT APPEARS THAT YOUR NICKY BOY IS STILL CARRYING A WEALTH OF RESIDUAL ENERGY FROM THE DEEP POWER STONES.

The Deep Power Stones. "Zhose zhings zat Sonique and my princess used to destroy ze Doomsday Projection?"

PROJECT, NOT PROJECTION. BUT YES. THE EVIDENCE SEEMS TO SUGGEST THAT THIS ENERGY IS WHAT KEPT NICKY BOY ALIVE THROUGHOUT THAT... GRUELING SCENARIO LAST NIGHT. IT IS QUITE POSSIBLE THAT PRINCESS SALLY CARRIES THE SAME TYPE OF ENERGY WITHIN HERSELF.

Antoine winced, remembering that most of his teammates -- Sally, Tails, Bunnie, and Rotor -- were still prisoners in the Miracle Planet's Castle of Light. "We must to be rescuing zem, shall we not?"

YOU KNOW, YOUR GRAMMATICAL STRUCTURE GOES ALL OVER THE PLACE. I'M STARTING TO WONDER IF YOUR LANGUAGE ISSUES ARE EVEN ESL-BASED AT ALL. PERHAPS YOU COULD START SPEAKING TO ME IN FRENCH, AND I COULD RUN SOME TESTS?

Antoine did not particularly want to speak his native language to a quite frankly overly critical computer, especially considering that he hadn't had too many opportunities to speak it for the past eleven years and he was probably rusty enough that his French was now worse than his English. But admitting that would have been a sign of weakness. Also complying with Aster's suggestion to run tests on his linguistic talent (if it could be called that) could also be a sign of weakness.

"Ze princess, first," he insisted. "Ze language, second."

FAIR ENOUGH. BUT DON'T THINK YOU'RE GOING TO TALK ME OUT OF THIS.

Antoine sighed, returning Aster to his pocket. Certainly the computer had saved his life before and would no doubt do it again, but just speaking to it for ten seconds was incredibly annoying.

Just what he needed. Another Sonic.

---

The Deep Power Stones? THE DEEP POWER STONES?!

THAT IS WHAT MY RECORDS INDICATE, YES.

And you're only telling me this now BECAUSE?!

I WOULD HAVE ASSUMED THAT HE WOULD HAVE TOLD YOU.

This... oh dear, deep breaths. Stay calm, stay calm. This is no time to panic...

SO... I PRESUME THIS INDICATES A CHANGE IN THE PLAN?

Given that the fate of the fabric of reality itself is in danger? Of COURSE we're changing the plan! We're salvaging everything we can, and going back to prevent this travesty from ever occurring!

YOU DO REALIZE THAT INTERFERING TOO OFTEN IN THE SAME AREA CARRIES A SIZABLE RISK OF CREATING UNSOLVABLE TIME PARADOXES.

Do you not realize what was sealed away INSIDE those Deep Power Stones? And is now OUTSIDE of them? Do you honestly expect me to just go toe-to-toe with a GOD?!

WELL, WITH THE PROPER EQUIPMENT...

What are you saying?

IF YOU'LL LEND ME AN EAR, I BELIEVE I MAY HAVE THE PERFECT CONTINGENCY PLAN.

Author's Notes:

Spoiler

And here we meet a mysterious new voice interacting with Aster X. This isn't at all ominous, is it?

I love writing Sonic and Antoine's interactions. Those two just bounce off each other so well.

I sincerely doubt anyone is going to guess what's going on with the Deep Power Stones before I reveal any more information, but I'm curious to hear y'all's theories if you have any. I knew I had to do something with them after they were so important to Season Two's ending, and I had this concept that really appealed to me and I decided to run with it. No, um, pun intended.

 

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Episode Two, Chapter Three: People Who Live in Glass Castles Shouldn't Throw Stones

TW: Reference to a mental breakdown

Spoiler

Sometimes at night I wonder how the whole blasted thing would've played out if I hadn't been benched for medical reasons. How the events of the coming months would have changed if I'd gone to the Miracle Planet along with Ant and the girls and managed to meet the villain before everything that happened, happened.

I don't blame myself for anything. Well, mostly. I will admit that if I'd been more understanding towards Antoine for pretty much as long as I'd known him, things could have been different between us. Sure, he still would've been constantly trying to one-up me and attempting increasingly stupider things to do so, and I'd have still had to rescue him as usual, but I'd like to think that if I'd just been nicer to him about it, it wouldn't have gone to him THAT hard.

But none of us could have predicted the rocky road ahead of us, or whose good intentions would pave it straight to Hell.

---

"You've packed all your medications, right? With extra?"

Antoine growled under his breath. Yes, Sonic, he'd packed his medications, but that was none of the hedgehog's business. "Excusez-moi, not in front of ze women..." he whispered, discreetly motioning to Amy, Tiara, and Ro-Becca.

"Dude, remember that one time you missed your medication and then a storm destroyed my house and I had to room with you?"

Antoine actually did not remember, which was probably preferable, considering that no one seemed to know what had actually happened but the way everyone remembered it was certainly less than flattering. Apparently, yes, Sonic and Antoine under the same roof for eight hours would in fact drive Antoine clinically insane. He'd never heard the end of that one.

"I am having ze meds!" Antoine snapped. "Who are you zhinking you are, ma mère?"

"I don't know who that is, but okay, sheesh," Sonic muttered. "Just trying to help."

And that was classic Sonic for you. Even when he was helpful, he was obnoxious. He could even make saving your life feel like a slight against you, which he had, multiple times, and Antoine could hardly forget it.

"I think you're overreacting a bit," Tiara said. "We're just going on a diplomatic excursion, not on a dangerous mission."

"This is Antoine we're talking about," Sonic said. "If he doesn't go looking for trouble, trouble goes looking for him. And I'm not gonna be around to save his butt this time."

"Merci bien for small favors," Antoine whispered under his breath.

"Dude," Sonic hissed. "I'm trying to look out for you here. Show a little gratitude."

"I am gratuitous!" Antoine snapped, realizing midsentence that it wasn't the right word and not caring. "How is it zat you can even make being nice to me unhairable?"

"Do I have to separate you two?" Tiara asked, waving her Shifter Scepter.

They both stopped arguing at that. Neither of them wanted to know what 'separate' meant with a girl who could casually open rifts in the fabric of spacetime.

"Look, Ant, I..." Sonic stammered. "I'm worried, all right? And I'm big enough to admit it. Our friends have been locked up for no good reason and I'm too sick to do a freaking thing about it. Just... don't mess this up.... silver plate?"

Antoine facepalmed. "S’il vous plaît. Do not attempt to pronounce zat again."

"Okay, I admit it, that one was on me. But at least I tried, right?"

"You know," Ro-Becca casually remarked, "one of these days we're going to go to a place where Nicky can't speak the language and Antoine will never let him hear the end of it."

"At some point in our lives, I guess we're all Antoine," Amy said.

"Well," Sonic said, "right now, Antoine is Antoine, and I'm giving him an executive order not to die. Just because this is a diplomatic excursion doesn't mean that Snively isn't still out there somewhere, and if I know him, and I do, he's going to cut in and try to take over the Miracle Planet while he still can. So don't do anything I would do."

Antoine blinked. "You mean, don't do anyzhing you wouldn't do?"

"No, I mean don't try anything stupid."

Antoine chuckled. "Zhose wair your words, not my own."

Sonic, evidently realizing what he'd just said, stammered something unintelligible and ran off about as quickly as he dared without incurring the wrath of Dr. Nursa.

---

Stepping through one of Amy's Warp Rings made Antoine anxious. Actually a lot of things made Antoine anxious, but momentarily having part of his body in one place and the rest of it somewhere else entirely was not a pleasant sensation, especially if he thought about what would happen if the Warp Ring somehow stopped working entirely while he was halfway here and halfway there. Given that the current journey was from one planetary body to another, and anything could've gone wrong in transit, he arrived on the Miracle Planet with all his fur standing on end.

Quickly trying to smooth down his hair before anyone could notice (especially Ro-Becca, who might have tried to smooth it for him and he knew full well how 'helpful' she could be), Antoine happened to look forward and promptly gasped in amazement.

"Tres magnifique..."

Amy smiled. "And that is the Castle of Light."

The Castle of Light was like nothing Antoine had ever seen before. He'd seen his share of castles (usually either ruined or converted into Robotnik's bases of operation), but this one appeared to be built entirely out of stained glass, from the foundation to the towering crystal spires reaching higher in the air than he believed that Dulcy could fly. And the lights inside the castle made it glow from within, with countless shadows passing two and fro across the mosaic as the Mobians within the palace moved about their daily lives. This wasn't a castle; this was a work of art.

"Don't worry," Tiara said matter-of-factly. "The bathrooms aren't transparent."

Antoine actually hadn't been thinking about that, although now that she'd mentioned it he realized that he could definitely use one.

The castle only seemed to grow more impressive the closer they got to it. Antoine soon realized that the castle was not built from planes of glass, but thick crystal slabs of various sizes, each sealed securely into its place by a metal frame. How did they build such an edifice? How did they clean it? What did passing Flicky birds think of the arrangement?

So many questions, and not enough words in the world.

As they approached, a pair of guards stationed at the castle gates eyed them suspiciously. Two prairie dogs, clearly not impressed with the odd group of teenagers. "State your business," one of them said. "The castle isn't here for you lot to gawk at it."

"I'm Tiara B. Bowski, daughter of Professor Gazebo Bowski," Tiara said, standing at her full height and twirling her Shifter Scepter. "Me and my friends are here to inform the queen of an arrest made under mistaken impressions. I'm sure you're well enough aware that we are getting inside the Castle of Light whether you open the doors or not, correct?"

The guards turned their eyes to the Shifter Scepter, a metal rod bearing a vivid orange gem with a black swirl pattern on its top. Antoine had only seen it in action for a few moments, but he knew it was capable of creating small reality distortions allowing swift travel over certain distances.

Apparently the guards knew this too, because they rolled their eyes and let the group through. "Fine," the first guard hissed. "But stay out of trouble this time, kid."

"Trouble?" Antoine asked, staring pointedly at Tiara.

The bandicoot shrugged. "Depends on your perspective. Some folks around here have no appreciation for physical humor."

Once again, so many questions and not enough words.

Inside the Castle of Light, each interior wall was built of a single transparent crystal, giving the entire palace an illuminated sheen that would've been awe-inspiring if it wasn't for the fact that Antoine could see shadows from everyone moving around in each adjacent room and the part of his brain dedicated to staying alive kept imagining them as SWATbots sneaking up on him to blast him senseless. That was the thing about being a Freedom Fighter. Even when you thought you were safe, you couldn't assume it, because you always had an enemy who wanted you dead.

"State your business!"

And then he nearly jumped a mile because a cloaked ferret that was decidedly not there a moment ago was suddenly staring into his face with an expression that told him that whatever he told her about his reasons for entering the castle wasn't going to fly with her unless he had a really convincing excuse.

"Hello, Skulk," Tiara said flatly. "I see you're still in the business of scaring people for no good reason."

"Oh, I have good reason, all right," Skulk said, circling around the already nervous Antoine with a judgmental glare. "I don't suppose Amy remembers what I said to that group that tied her up and claimed that our Time Stones had been stolen, did you?"

"Actually," Amy said, "that's kind of why we're--"

"I told you that if the Time Stones had been stolen then we would have heard about it by now," said Skulk, clearly not caring what Amy actually had to say. "And, well, I'm sorry to say that I have good news and I have bad news, except the good news is actually part of the bad news."

"What news?" Ro-Becca asked.

"The 'good' news is," Skulk said with a glare in nobody's direction, "that lot of 'Freedom Fighters' you were with have been cleared of all charges by Queen Elena. Apparently the whole thing was a quote-unquote 'misunderstanding.'"

Antoine did not believe for a moment that this news did not have strings attached, not with the look on Skulk's face. "And..."

"And that ties into the bad news," Skulk said, "because last night the Time Stones were actually stolen."

Author's Notes

Spoiler

So yeah, that's my explanation for The Odd Couple. Antoine missed his meds for one night and had a mental breakdown. Which kind of makes you wonder where Ant's medication comes from in a de facto robot apocalypse, but that's a story I'll likely never tell. Also, it's still fun having Sonic and Antoine bounce off each other; I couldn't help but have Sonic attempt a French phrase and entirely mangle it. (I think he actually does this in one SatAM episode, though I don't remember which.)

The Castle of Light was apparently going to be Sonic X-Treme's hub world or something, but very little is actually known about it, including its name -- the name "Castle of Light" is actually the title of the music that would have played at the castle, and it's generally presumed to be the area's name. I did a lot of thinking as to what a Castle of Light would look like, and I finally settled on a cathedral-like structure built entirely of stained glass and lit up from within. Gorgeous.

Anyone guess what Sonic character Skulk is based off of?

 

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Episode Two, Chapter Four: Warped Priorities

Spoiler

Big surprise, Antoine thought. A child gets a vision that the Time Stones were stolen, nobody listens to her, and the Time Stones actually get stolen. Granted, Amy had threatened to mash him up with a very large hammer over them, which was still very much not okay, but he couldn't help but empathize with her because he had personal experience with nobody ever listening to him. And he still wasn't sure if that was more because they couldn't understand him or they'd just given up caring.

"Stolen?" Tiara asked. "What do you mean, stolen?"

Skulk rolled her eyes. "What do you think I mean? Pilfered, plundered, absconded with, take your pick. They're gone. If we didn't have the second set from Amy's 'friends,' then the whole lot of us would be in freefall at this very moment."

Tiara took a few steps back, horror in her eyes. "Who... who would DO such a thing?"

"Someone with warp magic and far too much perfume, apparently. I never got a good look at them, but they disposed of my entire squad with no bodies, no evidence, and then dropped me off a cliff without my even stepping outside the room."

"Perfume?" Amy asked. "Would this be... amaryllis?"

Skulk stared at her in shock. "How could you possibly..."

"It's a Warp Phantom," Amy said firmly.

"Warp Phantom?" Antoine, Tiara, and Ro-Becca all said at the same time.

"No one knows what a Warp Phantom looks like," Amy answered, "because it can erase all memories of itself from whoever sees it. They often appear in areas with high concentrations of magical energy, and are identified by spatial distortions and a strong scent of flowers, particularly amaryllis."

"And if everyone who's seen it has forgotten it," Skulk scoffed, "then how does anyone know it exists? I'm not putting out an arrest warrant for an invisible bogeyman. I don't know who stole these stones, but it wasn't some weird spirit, I can tell you that much."

Antoine immediately decided that he did not like Skulk in the slightest. He'd been talked down to by Sonic every day of his life, and he decided then and there that he was not going to let the same thing happen to Amy.

"Excusez-moi!" he snapped. "Zere is ze criminy on ze loose with ze powair to travel zhrough time, and you are dismissing ze testimonial of ze very girl who foresaw ze theft to begin with? If my princess wair here, she would--"

"Antoine, what are you doing?"

The coyote's voice trailed off as he realized that his princess was here, along with Rotor, Bunnie, and Tails, and they were all staring at him as if he'd grown an extra head, or maybe a spine.

"The gang's all here!" Ro-Becca said excitedly as Antoine tried and failed to come up with a tactful response. "Well, except for Sonic, he's still recovering from dehydration and heat sickness back in Knothole. He told me to say hi for him, and he's sorry he can't show up to be awesome as usual!"

Antoine could not believe that Sonic had asked Ro-Becca to bring a message to their friends and not him. Well, actually he could easily believe that Sonic wouldn't have asked him. He just couldn't believe that he would've asked Ro-Becca.

"Sonic?" Skulk asked, surprised. "You mean the Sonic the Hedgehog?"

"Ah bon!" Antoine exclaimed, and if Skulk had known anything worth knowing about French then she would have known that this was not, in this context, a positive exclamation. "You are not recognizing ze true heir to ze Kingdom of Acorn when she shows up at ze doorstep, but you are recognizing HIM? C’est n’importe quoi!"

Tiara and Amy looked at each other as if to ask if they should be concerned about the direction this conversation was going, and whether or not Antoine was starting to cuss Skulk out.

"We've heard of him, yes," Skulk said flatly. "I'm sure most of what we've heard had grown exponentially in the telling."

Antoine could've almost thanked her for saying that if she wasn't a complete prick.

"Well!" Sally said, laughing nervously. "We have a lot of catching up to do, and you've got a thief to catch, so if you'll excuse us--"

"You're Freedom Fighters, correct?" Skulk interrupted.

"Given how many tahms we told ya that while ya were lockin' us in the dungeon," Bunnie said, eyes narrowing, "yes, ah'd say that we'ah Freedom Fightahs."

"Then maybe you can help us," Skulk said. "And by 'us' I mean 'me,' because none of my guards ever returned from whatever took them and I can't let that stand. If you're going to just show up on my doorstep and expect to be helpful, then be helpful."

And that was about the point when Antoine decided that he had had enough.

"ALLEZ!" he shouted. "You lock up my princess and my friends, disregard Amy's advisory, insult Sonique, and now you are asking us to be helping you? C'est pourri! Whatevair has taken ze Time Stones, I am certainly zat we can be finding it without your help!"

Skulk wasn't impressed. "What are you going to do, use your Time Stones to travel back in time to when our set is stolen and face a thief with reality distortion powers?"

"PAIRHAPS WE WILL!"

And if Antoine hadn't been as riled up as he was, he would have probably heard several simultaneous facepalms.

"Fine, then," Skulk said flatly. "I'll hold you to that. Do NOT mess this up."

And she walked straight out of the room leaving Antoine standing right in the middle realizing that everyone else present was glaring daggers at him.

"I'm sorry," Sally asked. "What just happened?"

And Antoine actually had no idea.

---

LOOK, I'LL BE THE FIRST TO SAY THAT YOU DID THIS TO YOURSELF. AND THE REST OF US, APPARENTLY.

Antoine winced. Aster X was entirely right, and he hated that. Once again, he'd written a check he couldn't cash, and now he'd gotten all his friends involved in this mess as well. And now Sally was giving him the look that said that he'd better have a satisfactory explanation for what he'd just promised. C'est pourri indeed.

"Hey, what's that?" Tails asked, flying over to look at Aster X. "You've got a Nicole of your own?"

ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF. I AM ASTER X, AN ADVANCED AI FORMERLY IN THE POSSESSION OF DR. ROBOTNIK AND TO BE FRANK, I HATED EVERY MOMENT OF IT. IF ANTOINE HERE HADN'T FOUND ME IN ROBOTROPOLIS, I'D PROBABLY HAVE RUSTED AWAY TO NOTHING.

"Oh, right!" Ro-Becca said excitedly. "You all wouldn't believe what Antoine did the other day!"

"What?!" asked several voices that were very much aware of what Antoine tended to do most days.

"I-it was ze good zhing, I stare--!"

IT WAS A GROUP EFFORT. SPEARHEADED BY MYSELF, OF COURSE. THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT IS THAT SONIC WAS ALMOST ROBOTICIZED -- AND IT WAS MORE HIS OWN FAULT THAN ANYONE ELSE'S -- AND THANKFULLY, THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN. ALTHOUGH FROM WHAT I'VE SEEN OF THIS BOY'S TRACK RECORD, I'LL ADMIT THAT YOU HAD EVERY RIGHT TO ASSUME--

Antoine quickly pressed the 'mute' button on Aster's interface. "I had to fight ze Metal Sonique and won," he interjected. "Sonique... helped. But he was not in ze best conditioner. He is still recovering under Doctor Nursa's ordairs. I hate to be saying this, but I am wishing he was here right now..."

Aster X was vibrating irately, so Antoine stuffed it into his coat pocket. This was not a conversation he wanted to have with the rather touchy AI.

"Are ya shoah we can trust that thang?" Bunnie asked, staring at his coat pocket. "If it's Robotnik's technology, can't Snively track it?"

"You're half roboticized," Amy pointed out, "and you've clearly never been tracked."

"I am not zeenking it means to betroth us," Antoine said nervously, putting his hand over his pocket. If he didn't know better, he'd think the computer was actively overheating. "It has no kind words to speak of Robotnik."

"Maybe we should have a look at it," Rotor suggested. "If Robotnik used it repeatedly, it could know all sorts of secrets about Robotropolis."

Antoine reluctantly removed Aster from his pocket, hoping it wouldn't burn a hole in his uniform. Rotor examined the pocket computer closely. "Hmm... it looks like there used to be a logo here, but it's been scratched out. Almost as if somebody didn't want to look at it anymore."

"Astair said it was built by one of ze greatest..." Antoine stumbled over the word and landed flat on his face. "...archaeological minds on ze planet, but it did not zhink highly of its creator. Who I am guessing is still alive, because Astair said that if we fought him, we'd lose."

NO, Aster said as Rotor finally found its volume control, I SAID THAT IF YOU FOUGHT HIM, YOU'D LOSE. THAT ISN'T SAYING MUCH. ALSO, PLEASE DO NOT MUTE ME IN THE MIDDLE OF A CONVERSATION. THAT IS UNSPEAKABLY RUDE.

Sally gave Aster a sideways glance. "And you're trusting this... thing. Which you found in Robotropolis, and which fully admits that its programmer was not a trustworthy individual."

"I wouldn't call it a thing," Rotor said. "It's clearly a highly advanced piece of software that seems to have developed some form of self-awareness. Not unlike Nicole."

"Nicole wasn't programmed by a villain!" Sally snapped. "And we don't even know which villain programmed it!"

"Whoevah it was, Robotnik didn't like them very much," Bunnie said, pointing at the damaged logo. "Ah'd say he didn't wanna even think about them anymoah."

"That tells us... basically nothing," Rotor admitted. "I don't think Robotnik ever really liked anyone."

"You're all getting off the subject," Tiara interrupted. "We've just been given orders to go back in time to stop a thief that may or may not be a 'warp phantom,' whatever that is, and while I can think of several very glaring issues with sending a bunch of teenagers after a highly dangerous entity with supernatural powers that took out a bunch of fully grown guardsmobians all by itself, my first question is, how are we going to just show up in the most heavily guarded location on the Miracle Planet in front of Captain Skulk and her guards at a point in time where none of them know what we're doing without them all assuming we're the thieves?"

WELL, THAT SHOULDN'T BE TOO HARD, Aster said. JUST TELL THE TIME STONES TO TAKE US ALL BACK THROUGH TIME TO THE PRECISE MOMENT AFTER EVERYONE GOT WHISKED AWAY. THERE'LL BE NO ONE BUT OUR 'PHANTOM' IN THE ROOM, SO WHOEVER'S LEFT SHOULD BE OUR MOBIAN. OR SPIRIT, OR WHATEVER IT ACTUALLY IS.

Tails looked up at Rotor, confused. "Do we, uh... actually wanna do this? A Warp Phantom sounds scary..."

"I don't think they're all evil," Amy said. "Some of them have been said to be really helpful, and to aid people in serious quests. Others, though..." She shuddered. "There's tales of them leading travelers astray, and sometimes they're portents of certain death."

"If they exist," Tiara said firmly. "I've got my suspicions about our 'phantom.' All it would take is one super-stealthy Mobian with warp magic and the right type of perfume to impersonate whatever this legendary spirit is supposed to be."

"And the perfume would mask their scent," Rotor said.

"Well, Phantom or not," Sally said, "this one just tried to make two planets collide, and that's about as evil as anyone gets. If we're going to fight a being with warp magic, we need magic of our own.

"Amy, where did you get your warp rings?"

Author's Notes:

Spoiler

Antoine, Antoine... Antoine. Would it kill you to learn a permanent lesson from this?

The Warp Phantoms were developed to serve as a threat to the Freedom Fighters that tied into the time travel theme of the Miracle Planet. I'm kind of curious as to how long it'll take for my readers to figure out what their deal is...

 

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Episode Two, Chapter Five: Come Up Here And Say That

(TW: mildly eldritchy ghostly entity)

Spoiler

There's a trap in here somewhere, I just know it. I'll reach out to take the Time Stones, and the stones themselves will scramble me the way they've scrambled gravity itself in this blasted place. Perhaps even my bag of tricks won't help me here.

But, then, there's no point coming this far and turning back now, is there?

Standing at arm's length from the crystal case in the center of the Timekeep, the cloaked intruder reached forward cautiously to take what was not theirs...

---

And in a flash of mystical energy, the Freedom Fighters materialized straight in the middle of the Timekeep, their own set of Time Stones in hand.

And promptly found themselves plummeting down from the center to various points on the inverse sphere's edge.

Rotor and Tails were at three o'clock. Bunnie and Ro-Becca hit six o'clock. Amy and Tiara found nine o'clock, and Sally and Antoine made a rather hard landing at twelve o'clock. None of them had been at all prepared for the fall and while none were seriously injured, it most certainly wasn't the most impressive entrance any of them had ever made (even for Antoine).

Oh, bravo, the figure said sarcastically. You Freedom Fighters certainly know how to make an entrance.

"Figure" might have been a little generous, given that whatever the Freedom Fighters were looking at seemed to have no clear discernible shape to begin with. It was roughly the size and shape of some sort of cloaked Mobian, or at least perhaps it would have been if they could get a clear look at it. Its edges were indistinct, and its substance seemed almost transparent, appearing almost to warp reality all around it. And forget trying to make out its color; it seemed dark and light at the same time, if that was even possible, and even its immediate surroundings looked wrong by virtue of being close to it. Whatever this creature was, if it was even a creature at all, it screamed 'This utter anomaly should not even exist but clearly insists on doing so anyway.'

Its sole distinct feature was its eyes. Two of them, glowing red, staring sardonically at each pair of Freedom Fighters in turn without a shred of mercy in them.

"What... ARE you?" Tails asked, the first to find his voice.

"A Warp Phantom..." Amy murmured, awestruck.

You could say that, the figure said, surprisingly calmly. And you're the Freedom Fighters? I'd expected you'd be... older.

"Wait," Sally asked. "You know us?"

Well, I'm only a legendary agent of destiny, the Phantom said smugly. I make it my business to know. Let me say, you've made quite a name for yourselves these past eleven years. I'd ask for your autographs, but I'm getting the distinct feeling that we're going to be beating each other up within the next five minutes. Actually, I'm almost looking forward to it. It would be quite the experience. Although... The specter sounded genuinely disappointed. I'd been hoping your spiny blue friend would be with you. Is he taking a sick day?

Tiara was not in the mood for small talk. "What are you doing with the Time Stones?!"

Children! Please! Relax. This isn't my first rodeo. I'm just going to take them now, go about my business, then when I'm finished, I'll return them to the point of time from which I took them. This isn't even the first time I've done it.

"Yeah, one lil' ol' problem with that," Bunnie said. "Ya kinda... didn't. We'ah came heah from tomorrah, an' ya nevah put 'em back. Ah... dun' think that bodes well fo' ya."

"Also, they're not yours!" Amy yelled.

And let me guess. You 'Freedom Fighters' came here from the future specifically to keep me from stealing these stones in the past, with your own set of stones, which you'll use to replace this set on the very real chance that I escape with them. The Phantom appeared to shrug. Perhaps the real reason I never return the Time Stones is because you've eliminated my reason to?

"O-o-o-ordairs?" Antoine stammered, turning towards Sally.

The Phantom fixed its gaze on the two of them. It appears you misunderstand the situation, it said. I am here, right in the middle, with only a single thin staircase leading up to where I am. The eight of you cannot possibly all charge me at once, but can only take me on single file. And what's to stop me from just using the Time Stones to escape before any of you reach me to begin with?

The figure paused while the full impact of these words sunk in.

Until Tails flew up behind it and hit it with a wrench, knocking it off the platform and down towards six o'clock.

Bunnie and Ro-Becca braced themselves for a double punch-out that never happened. In a flash of tangerine light, the falling Phantom vanished before their eyes and rematerialized directly above Tails (if 'above' really meant anything inside the Timekeep), taking advantage of its own momentum to smack into the young fox and grab him by his namesakes. Another flash of orange light saw the Phantom regain its footing (if it even had any feet to speak of) on top of the platform, holding Tails in what appeared to be a death grip.

Predictable, it mocked. So tell me, what do you intend to do now? You wouldn't want anything to HAPPEN to your little fluffy mascot here, would you? Because believe me, I am not a being you want to cross.

Someone could get hurt.

Amy gave out a roar of female fury and charged straight up the staircase, hammer at the ready. The Warp Phantom braced itself for a head-on attack, but Amy slammed her hammer into the staircase to launch herself in midair, rocketing towards the Phantom and cracking the stairs in the process. Before the Phantom could react, it found itself nearly flattened by the force of the falling hammer. It dropped Tails and vanished in a burst of tangerine light, seemingly dissipated.

Amy landed on the platform where the Phantom had been standing. Tails, managing to catch himself in midair and fly back up to the platform, looked around nervously. "Is it...?"

Dead? That's a question. Was I ever alive to begin with?

The Phantom rematerialized on the stairs behind them, glaring with its red eyes. CHILDREN, it spat with distaste. Are you REALLY the best defense that Mobius has to offer?

---

Prior to the time warp, Tiara had led the Freedom Fighters through the Castle of Light to what she described as a basement laboratory-slash-ring-forge. "This is where my father works," she'd explained. "The reason it's in the basement is because some of his more volatile project are apt to... explode. Not something you really want in an enormous castle built almost entirely of glass."

This hadn't made Antoine any more comfortable with entering.

But Tiara's father wasn't in at the time, and Antoine wasn't sure if that made him more or less nervous, especially considering that they were 'borrowing' a great deal of quite possibly expensive Warp Rings and who even knew if they'd live to give them all back again.

"Your father's Professor Gazebo Bowski?" Rotor had asked. "THE Professor Bowski? The ring smither? The one who designed the Lake of Rings' mechanisms?"

"Yeah, sure, big deal," Tiara had muttered, as if this was a thing she'd gotten a lot and was tired of explaining. "Point is, I don't think he'd mind if we borrowed some spare Warp Rings if it meant saving a planet or two."

"And if he does?" Ro-Becca asked.

"Then it was Princess Sally's idea."

"TIANA!" Antoine shouted, getting her name wrong.

"I mean, the Warp Rings were my idea," Sally muttered. "Stealing them... wasn't."

---

The Phantom stared down Amy and Tails, neither of whom looked like they knew how to fight a being that seemed capable of dissipating and reforming at will. Go ahead, it taunted. What do you two possibly think you can do to me?

"You gonna actually attack?" Amy asked. "Or are you gonna play Keepaway all night?"

I'm not interested in killing you, the Phantom said. If I was, I'd simply use my temporal distortions to flood the Timekeep with water and escape. But at the same time, I can't have you interfering with my plans, so...

It waved an ephemeral hand -- if it could be called that -- and in a burst of tangerine light, somehow summoned every single Warp Ring that the Freedom Fighters were holding into its possession.

Which was really rather awkward, considering that Antoine was still holding on to one of them.

Author's Notes:

Spoiler

Antoine can't catch a break, can he?

So one particular feature you might have noticed about the Warp Phantom is that it has red eyes. For those of you who remember the infamous cliffhanger ending to SatAM, yes, that means what you think it means.

 

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Spoilered TW:

Spoiler

Crushing, skewering, heavily implied death, mention of blood, and more spoopy ghost things. It never gets past the PG rating though.

Episode Two, Chapter Six: Nowhere To Go But Down

Spoiler

You would think that anyone with Antoine's track record would be reasonably prepared for things to go from bad to worse in an instant. However, had Antoine been in the habit of reasonable preparation, a great deal of those events would have never happened to begin with, and deep down he knew it. But now was not the time for self-reflection, not when he was clinging for dear life onto a Warp Ring hovering about the Warp Phantom, who had clearly not expected its order of Warp Rings to come with a side of coyote.

What are YOU doing here?

Antoine, still floating in midair from whatever spell the foe had cast, answered the Phantom with a very shrill scream and a double kick to the face.

The kick broke the Phantom's concentration, sending it flying off the damaged staircase and disrupting the spell keeping the Warp Rings aloft. Antoine likewise found himself falling, quickly dropping his Warp Ring and scrambling to take hold of the staircase itself. Unfortunately, Amy's hammer had done considerable damage, and the coyote's wild struggle to pull himself upward only served to increase the stress on the fractured staircase, which started to crumble around him.

In a flash of tangerine light, the Phantom rematerialized in front of Princess Sally. It seemed short of breath, if it even ever had to breathe at all. It stared at her with those unholy red eyes, seeming to stare right through her.

You... it gasped. Your energy levels... oh dear.

And then the staircase above them snapped, sending the entire stone platform plummeting down squarely towards twelve o'clock, precisely where the Phantom and Sally were.

---

Antoine would have nightmares about this incident for the rest of his life.

For one horrible moment he was absolutely certain that he was plunging to his doom. Granted, the last time he'd fallen that height was five minutes ago, and he'd certainly survived it. But any fall feels exponentially more deadly when it's from a crumbling stone edifice, as Antoine had personally experienced more than once before in his life, mostly during incidents he didn't like to talk about (not honestly, at any rate; any adventurous tale involving Antoine and narrated by Antoine often grew immeasurably in the telling). So perception was not quite reality in this example.

But Tails and Amy had grabbed him at the last moment, pulling him onto the platform that was itself crumbling and about to fall, which wasn't really any less of a disaster from anyone's perspective.

The next three seconds consisted of panicked screaming (it was impossible to tell which voice was Amy and which was Antoine, even for Antoine himself) and Tails working overtime to keep his friends airborne through the power of his helicopter floof. Unfortunately, while Tails could theoretically keep one Freedom Fighter aloft while sustaining flight, he wasn't yet strong enough for two, especially under such stressful circumstances and while listening to Antoine whimper very loudly about how he was too young and handsome to die. So while Tails' aviation gifts could slow their fall, they couldn't halt it.

Still, from his vantage point in midair, Antoine could see very clearly what was happening at twelve o'clock, even if he was trying desperately not to look down.

The stone platform was headed straight for his princess!

---

This was not the plan this was not the plan THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN--!!

The Phantom had only moments to act. Moments before the collapsing rubble reduced themself and Princess Sally -- which they had just determined was indeed suffering from the same sort of malaise that Sonic had been -- into a couple of slightly curved smears on the Timekeep floor.

A portal wouldn't work. Not if the rubble went straight through it after them. No, this was going to hurt quite severely.

For one of them, anyway.

Without hesitation, the Phantom charged straight at Sally, pushing her barely out of the way of the falling stone slabs.

But not far enough to reach that point themselves.

---

A strange, tantalizing mixture of fervent emotions choked its way into Antoine's throat. Relief that his princess was safe, shock at their enemy's final choice, a creeping doubt that who they had been fighting even was, strictly speaking, a bad guy--

Well, it had been a thief, whatever it was, and had recklessly endangered two planets, and there was still the matter of Captain Skulk's guards to account for, so the Phantom had hardly been innocent.

But still...

And that was when Tails' arms gave out and Antoine and Amy faceplanted into the Timekeep floor. Not as hard as they would have, thanks to a wave of Tiara's Shifter Scepter, but still not pleasant.

"Is... is everyone all right?" Sally gasped, likewise surprised at their foe's odd change of behavior.

"All of us but them..." Amy said, pointing to the rubble where the Warp Phantom had been buried.

Rotor, Bunnie, and Ro-Becca raced to the others. Tiara simply warped with her Shifter Scepter. "So, uh..." Rotor said nervously, "without the shrine in place, where are we going to place the Time Stones?"

"We do... have ze Time Stones, do we not?" Antoine asked, hoping desperately that they hadn't just doomed both planets anyway.

Sally pulled out the Freedom Fighters' set of Time Stones. "We do... but hopefully--"

And that was the moment that part two of Antoine's eternal nightmare began, as a bright flash of tangerine light enveloped the ruins and the brightest, orangest, angriest Warp Phantom that any of them had ever seen materialized over the rubble.

Its scent was different this time. While the Phantom they'd faced before had smelled of acanthus, amaryllis, and lavender, this one smelled very strongly of begonia and crab blossom. And it was glaring hate daggers with its blazing red eyes.

DO YOU FOOLS HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOU'VE JUST DONE?!?!

It waved its hands, and everything went wrong.

Theoretically, it should have been no contest. Eight against one. Until it was seven against one, then six, then five, because this Phantom wasn't playing any games. With a wave of its hands, a snap of its fingers, it summoned that same sinister orange light to whisk away each and every Freedom Fighter to who knew where.

Antoine yelped and ducked behind the rubble, praying desperately to whoever or whatever would listen to keep him from dying.

Meaning that within a matter of moments, Princess Sally Acorn found herself alone against a very angry Warp Phantom.

---

Sally had been in countless terrible situations before, but this felt like the worst. Besides the fact that the fate of two planets was now at stake, she'd just seen every single ally she'd had in this fight literally disappear before her eyes, and was now alone against a creature seemingly born from a young child's nightmares.

"Wh-where are they?" she stammered. Rotor, Bunnie, Tails... all of them...

Exactly where I want them to be, the Phantom answered, hatred in its voice. But don't worry. I don't intend to kill any of you... YET.

"What do you want?" Sally roared. "What's the purpose of all this?"

The Phantom waved its hand, and Sally's set of Time Stones vanished from hers, reappearing in the very center of the Timekeep. Despite the platform's destruction, they seemed to hover in midair, retaining their place and radiating their strange energies.

There, now, the Phantom hissed, its words dripping venom. Was that REALLY so difficult?

Her eyes darted quickly around the Timekeep, hoping that someone, anyone, had managed to escape this... thing. How many Warp Phantoms were there even? Had they just killed one? And was this one out for revenge?

The Phantom surged forward, close enough to Sally that its smell was overpowering. Now, YOU, on the other hand... I'm going to have to STUDY you. Find whatever's inside you, and pry it out before anything else happens...

---

And then something else happened, because Antoine had had enough.

He'd been dragged into not one but two missions because of that Amy girl's incompetence. He'd nearly died how many times, almost became a coyote pancake, watched all his friends vanish into the ether, and now his princess was threatened by some otherworldly wraith creature who couldn't have possibly had the best intentions...

"En garde, monstre!"

He charged forward, sword in front, and caught the orange Warp Phantom entirely by surprise.

A half moment later, he found himself on top of the squirming glowing mass of the Phantom, with his sword rather firmly stuck inside it. What he'd stabbed had most definitely been solid -- he'd felt the resistance -- and he could swear that he smelled blood, or at least something like it underneath the ridiculously thick flower scent that these confounded creatures hid behind. And yet the Phantom still looked phantasmal, even as the light in its eyes started to fade.

You...?!

And in a flash of orange light, the Phantom vanished completely, taking Antoine's sword with it.

It took a few moments for Antoine to process what had just happened. His friends... the other Phantom... what had just happened here? How had this situation gone so wrong? Why... why had all of this even had to happen to begin with?

Why... had he had to kill...?

What had he had to kill?

Sally's voice snapped him out of his thoughts. "Antoine?"

And something broke inside him, and he rushed into her arms, sobbing like a small child.

---

There were no more attacks on the Timekeep for the rest of the night.

But the war had only just begun.

Author's Notes:

Spoiler

Welp, that happened.

Don't worry, I'm sure they'll all be fine... right? Riiiiiiiight?

I had a lot of things to say about this chapter, but words escape me right about now because whoop, that was intense. These kids are gonna need therapy when all this is over.

Tomorrow the last chapter of Episode Two will drop, and past that? Well, I'm still working on Episode Three, and will announce its posting schedule once the episode is completed. Watch this space.

 

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Episode Two, Chapter Seven: Aftermath

Spoiler

THIS was your idea of a contingency plan?!

I GAVE YOU THE ROUGH OUTLINE AND NATURALLY EXPECTED SOMEONE OF YOUR MENTAL ACUMEN TO IRON OUT THE ROUGH PATCHES. INSTEAD, YOU SLOPPILY ALLOWED A SINGLE FREEDOM FIGHTER TO ESCAPE AND COME BACK TO HAUNT YOU. OR STAB YOU, WHICHEVER COMES FIRST.

...

LOOK, I KNOW THE WHOLE NEARLY DOOMING TWO PLANETS THING WAS NOT OUR BRIGHTEST MOMENT BY A LONG SHOT. I'M BIG ENOUGH TO ADMIT THAT. BUT WE CAN HANDLE THAT LATER. RIGHT NOW, WE HAVE ALL THE PIECES WHERE THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO BE, AND THUS FAR THE REMAINING 'FREEDOM FIGHTERS' HAVE NO CLUE OF IT.

And I'm supposed to just blindly TRUST you with this?

YOU PROGRAMMED ME TO SEE PAST YOUR BLIND SPOTS AND LOOK AT ALL THE ANGLES YOU COULDN'T SEE, DIDN'T YOU? NATURALLY THAT MEANS WE'RE GOING TO DISAGREE ON SOME THINGS. AND I CERTAINLY CAN'T BE BLAMED FOR YOUR OWN MISSTEPS. NO PLAN SURVIVES CONTACT WITH THE ENEMY.

...

I... I'm sorry, of course. I... should have been able to handle a group of children. That entire incident was nothing short of disgraceful.

IN FAIRNESS, YOU HAVE BEEN MOSTLY OUT OF PRACTICE FOR THE PAST ELEVEN YEARS.

Which was entirely intentional, I assure you.

LOOK, IF YOU NEED ME TO HANDLE SNIVELY FOR YOU, I PROMISE YOU, I CAN--

You're already performing your side of the arrangement. Just allow me to do mine. This was... a minor setback. We accomplished the primary objective. The princess... she will have to wait.

YOU'RE SURE? BECAUSE WHEN YOU FOUND OUT ABOUT NICKY BOY, YOU NEARLY HAD A SEIZURE.

Those were entirely different circumstances! His weakness brought on the attack. The princess... well, she's shown no signs of power manifestation or possession thus far, even after... the recent incident. Her condition appears stable. If we can get her alone, without her guard dog...

THEN WHAT? YOU BRING HER INTO THE VOID, AND I PROMISE YOU, THE WRONG PEOPLE WILL HEAR ABOUT IT. THE KING ALREADY HATES YOU FOR THAT WHOLE PROJECT ASHURA BUSINESS. GIVE HIM ANY MORE REASON--

Do NOT speak to me about 'that whole Project Ashura business'!!!

...RIGHT. TRAUMA. I'M SORRY, I'M STILL NOT ENTIRELY USED TO THE CONCEPT OF EMOTIONAL DAMAGE.

Forgive me. It's been a long day and we've both made terrible mistakes. We can discuss this tomorrow, once my temper's had enough time to cool.

I APPRECIATE IT... FATHER.

---

With a wave of the Shifter Scepter, Tiara re-appeared within the Timekeep to see Antoine collapsed in Sally's arms, shaking like a leaf and close to melting with tears. The princess was doing what she could to reassure him, telling him how brave he was and how they'd find their missing friends, but Tiara couldn't help but worry anyways. If any of Skulk's guardsmobians had had an episode and broken down the way Antoine had, Tiara wasn't sure what Skulk would have done, but it certainly wouldn't be to pat them on the back and say 'There, there.' There would have been serious consequences, and certainly not consequences she'd wish on any teenager with emotional issues.

Sally caught sight of the bandicoot first. "Tiara!"

"Present and accounted for, princess," Tiara said. "Is, uh... Antoine okay?"

Antoine turned to look at her. He didn't say anything -- perhaps he couldn't bring himself to -- but he very obviously was not. The haunted look in his eyes spoke volumes, and while the Freedom Fighters' involvement in this incident had been absolutely his fault to begin with, somehow Tiara couldn't bring herself to judge him for it. Sally herself wiped some tears from her eyes, but she stayed mostly stoic; somebody had to handle the aftermath of whatever had just happened to them all.

"Is, uh..." Tiara said nervously. "Is the first set of Time Stones still under the rubble? Where... you know..."

"We'll talk about it tomorrow," Sally said firmly. "For now, there don't appear to be any more Warp Phantoms coming, but there aren't any guards here either, so the queen needs to know what's going on."

"On it," Tiara said, pulling out a small flat device and poking at it with her finger. "I guess the potential theft of the most powerful and necessary relics on the Miracle Planet is worth a call to 911 at least."

Sally stared at the device as if it was an ancient relic from a time gone by. "What is...?"

Tiara gave her an odd look. "Oh? You've never seen a cell phone before?"

"Cell phone?"

Right. Mobius. "I guess you guys spending eleven years living in a robot dystopia has kind of killed your technological innovation. Ironic when you think about it."

"Will this..." Sally tried the words out on her tongue. "...cell phone help us find our friends again?"

"Depends on how you use it," Tiara said with a wink. "Let's just say that I've got a few connections. I've texted emergency services, so hopefully we should get this mess sorted out and some form of protection on these relics before any more phantoms show up. But on the subject of finding our friends again..."

She tapped back into her contact list and, after brief consideration, selected a name:

The Chaotix Crew.

To be continued in Episode Three: Ring Me If You Need Me...

Author's Notes:

Spoiler

So now we're all caught up! I'm not sure how long Episode Three will take to complete, but I will say I'm currently at work on the fourth chapter and it probably won't be as long as the first episode, but it might be a bit longer than the second.

It's interesting revisiting a thirty-year-old series and realizing that technology has drastically changed since its inception. Thankfully I was able to handwave this as the Miracle Planet having 'futuristic' technology that Mobius never had the chance to develop because of Robotnik's takeover. Weird to think that if SatAM had been made this decade, Nicole would've been a talking smartphone.

 

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So as a Christmas present, I've got y'all a frosty bit of set piece from the upcoming Episode Three: Ring Me If You Need Me. It's been edited a bit for space, but I really like how it turned out.

Spoiler

Princess Sally had seen a lot of strange things as a Freedom Fighter. Underground rivers of pink acid, giant carnivorous plants, roboticized rats the size of cars, a literal time guardian, and a few things even stranger. Comparatively speaking, she hadn't banked much on this 'Oracle of Delphius' or the Ice Gates he lived behind as being any odder than what she'd seen before.

When she actually got a look at the Ice Gates, however, it was another story.

She'd expected something Mobian-made, possibly of ice, possibly of mere metal or stone -- crystal, even. She had not been expecting an entire frozen waterfall easily the size of the tower of Dragon's Nest, split in two by an enormous outcropping smack in the middle that could've been ice, rock, or Mobian-made for that matter, if any part of it could have possibly been visible given the mass of snow and ice obscuring its true identity. Whatever this mass was, its presence had redirected the flow of water on both sides, revealing a narrow (relatively speaking to the size of the Ice Gates themselves) opening where several Mobians could easily walk through at their leisure.

Without warning, an eerie multi-colored light shone out from the crack between the two waterfalls, and a sudden rumbling dislodged several sizable clusters of snow and ice to plummet from the top of the Ice Gates down, down, down to the ground below. To Sally's rising alarm, the Ice Gates themselves were moving, the two halves of the waterfall actually sliding outward to reveal an enormous cavern on the other side of the gates, lit up with what seemed to be a thousand starlike lights and an entire aurora within.

This was about the time when Charmy decided to full-blown panic, darting behind Vector and screaming to wake the dead.

It's fun taking what little we know of concepts from cancelled games (in this case, the Ice Gates from Sonic X-Treme) and imagining what they could have looked like if fully realized. That's part of the reason why I like incorporating those bits into Sonic Burst. Also because Sonic Burst started off as a 'SatAM season three' concept and I wanted to lean more into the 'cancelled content' theme, which is what led to the Sonic X-Treme elements making it in to begin with.

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