A/N: We've had this idea in our minds for a while now. But it had to go through several changes before we thought it was acceptable enough to write. We credit a certain picture we saw for the inspiration—which we will link to anyone who wants it—as well as Stephen King's Pet Semetary and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Sword: I'm a bit scared.
Pen: As you should be. None of your sickening, overly-romantic plot this time. Tails and all related Sonic characters belong to Sega. The story, Sword, and, unfortunately, myself, belong to the author. He asks that you please not use this without permission.
Chapter 1- The Seed
How does one lose a gaining pursuer? Tails figured the answer was to fly faster. But that brought him to another conundrum. How does one fly faster than the fastest thing alive?
The young fox dared to look over his shoulder. A blue hedgehog, slobbering and growling in the moonlight, was closing the gap between them. For the past twenty minutes, he had followed Tails nonstop, even when the fox flew higher to lose him for a moment or two.
Tails knocked over some garbage cans, but the hedgehog leapt over them easily. He searched the street, trying to find his friends or anyone he knew, someone he could help or who could help him. Please let there be someone. There has to be someone, he begged. Yet there was nobody apart from the shambling, mindless Mobians of the city, their empty lime eyes following him and slack jaws groaning, calling all of the city to Tails' presence.
Turning a corner into an alley, Tails was attacked from a dark crevice. A violet weasel with a cowboy hat jumped for him, opening its mouth wide. Tails kicked it away and it crashed into a fire escape. Then his pursuer caught him, tackling him in his back. They fell to the ground, tumbling and rolling over until Tails was pinned down.
"Sonic, no! It's me!" Tails pleaded. But the hedgehog's blank eyes were like everyone else's. A trail of mint-colored drool plopped onto Tails' nose as Sonic's jaw stretched wide, roaring. He punched Tails' head, beating on the top of it. Then he wrapped Tails in a chokehold and started to drag him toward the street, where a long, coiling, snake silhouette was rising up and facing them. "Help! No!" Tails fought and kicked Sonic's stomach, but the hedgehog held firm.
Suddenly, someone kicked Sonic hard in the side of his head. He sailed into a brick wall of a building. Shadow was standing above Tails, pistol in hand and a dead-set expression on his face. Like Tails, his black fur was ruffled and several cuts were scattered on his body and face. He aimed the pistol at Sonic.
"No, don't!" Tails said, standing up wobbly. He pushed Shadow's gun aside. "Don't shoot anyone. You'll kill them!"
"That is how guns usually work," Shadow said.
"But we'll lose them forever. I think I can fix this," Tails said.
Behind them, Sonic growled, baring his sharp teeth, and lunged for the pair. Shadow jumped and spun, delivering a kick to Sonic's cheek. The hedgehog soared down the alley and collided with an open dumpster, crashing inside it.
"We need to get somewhere safe," Shadow said. Tails bent over and put his hands on his knees. He was feeling very woozy and his vision split in two before coming back together. He gingerly touched his head and hissed when he hit a sore spot. "Are you going to be alright?" Shadow asked, his finger still on the pistol's trigger.
"Yeah, I'll be fine for now," Tails said. He picked out a dried, yellow glob from behind his ear. Guess I still have some in my fur. He straightened up and quelled his uneasy stomach. The snake shape was slithering toward them. Tails blinked hard and nodded at Shadow. "Lead the way."
Together, they exited the alley and ran down the street, avoiding any contact with the people. "Rouge should be around here," Shadow said as they neared the city park.
"She's here too?" Tails asked.
They ducked behind a building as a large mass of people passed by, shuffling along with no particular direction. "Yes," he said, his gun held ready. "We've been hearing reports of riots, destruction, and zombies. We came to find out what was going on." He glanced at Tails. "What is going on?"
"They're not zombies, I can tell you that," Tails said as the group headed further away. "Not in the sense you're thinking of. These things don't kill so far as I've seen. They infect and control. And they're still very much alive."
There was a gunshot from down the road. "Rouge," Shadow muttered. They dashed toward the park. Beside a marble fountain, they found the white bat shooting warning shots at an enclosing circle of people around her and a young, cream-colored rabbit. The rabbit was hunched over, protectively guarding her head. "Rouge!" Shadow shouted.
"About time you showed up!" she yelled.
"Are you crazy?" She backhanded one dog who came too close. Her head whipped around when Cream cried out. The little girl had disappeared among the people. Shadow and Tails rushed in, pushing and punching the growling Mobians. In the center, Cream was on the ground with a person on top of her. Shadow knocked the man aside and helped Cream up.
"Are you hurt?" he asked, checking her.
She sniffed and clutched her chest. "N-No," she said.
An earth-shaking tremor rocked the ground and knocked them off their feet. The fountain split in two, its stone crumbling apart, and the circular pool of water at the bottom opened wide for a deep pit. A tall green pod burst forth, enveloping what was left of the fountain into the folds of its pale bulbous base that ballooned and deflated in various spots. Attached to the pod were several of the snake-like creatures, covered in leaves and ending in little tips that opened up to make hissing sounds like someone inhaling sharply. Rows of yellow-green thorny teeth lined each of the snakes' inner tips.
Two of the snakes wrapped around Cream's legs and started to pull her to the pod. "Help!" she cried.
Tails leapt to her and grabbed her hands. He dug his feet into the dirt, struggling with the pod. He didn't see the cat come up behind him, sharp claws held high, until she slashed his scalp. Tails dropped one hand and covered his head. The cat raised her claws again, but Rouge punched her. Then she helped Tails pull Cream.
The pod continued to drag the girl to it. Its body opened wide, displaying a mass of ugly white innards and gooey secretions. Tears poured down Cream's cheeks. "Please, don't let me go!" she begged.
"We won't!" Tails assured her. He looked around for something, anything to help. He spotted a stone nearby and picked it up. Tails reached over Cream and bashed one of the snakes, squashing it between the stone and the ground. It trembled, as if in pain. With the opposing force lessened, Rouge let go with one hand and reached for her gun. She fired at the last snakes and it hissed, untangling from Cream and whipping back and forth.
"Cream, Cream. Are you okay?" Tails asked, helping her up.
She only sniffed and buried her face in his chest. "Thank you, thank you."
"Shadow!" Rouge called. He appeared from the crowd of Mobians. "We can't stay here!"
"You don't say." He shoved a badger into several others. "Let's get somewhere safe!"
Tails looked around. In the distance, the Sutherland Hospital rose above the trees. "Shadow! The hospital!"
"Alright, everyone run!" They took off, Shadow zipping between the people while Tails flew slightly overhead. Rouge and Cream rose higher into the sky.
"Hey, come back down!" Tails told them, narrowly missing someone grabbing his foot.
"Why?" Rouge asked. A large shadow passed overhead and they all looked up. A great flying creature in front of them circled around and aimed straight for Rouge and Cream. The girls zipped down just as the beast passed overhead. "What was that?"
"Later! Just get to the hospital!" Tails said.
Soon, they were at the hospital's entrance. The windows were darkened and it seemed to be nearly abandoned. They rushed through the front doors and ran into a handful of slavering doctors and nurses. While Shadow and Rouge quickly fought them off and threw them outside, Tails and Cream scavenged for anything to block the doors with. They turned up a soda machine and a couple of desks.
As Shadow knocked out and tossed the last of the doctors outside, Rouge and he helped Tails and Cream push the soda machine in front of the glass doors. They lifted the desks on top of it and then backed away from the entrance. "Let's hope it holds," Shadow muttered.
They waited for a couple of minutes for anyone to smash through the entrance, but nobody came. They breathed a little easier and turned to each other. "Okay, it's probably not a good idea to stay on the first floor. Let's go to the second. We'll have easier access to the roof and fewer exits to cover," Tails said.
"Unless one of those flying things comes in here," Rouge said. "What on Mobius was that thing?"
Shadow faced Tails. "I think we should ask him."
Tails eyed them all and nodded. "Okay. I'll tell you. This is all my fault."
"What did you do?" Shadow asked, growling low in his throat. "Why did we just have to take down everyone we know? Why is everyone out there after us?"
Cream was sniffling and latched onto Tails' shoulder. "Mama. Sh-She was taken and came after Cheese and m-me. Cheese saved me, but he —" She burst into tears and buried her face in his back.
Shadow lorded over Tails and glared at him. He was thankful the hedgehog flipped the pistol's safety on. "Start talking. We're gone two months and this whole place goes up in flames."
"Okay, but we should move away from the doors," Tails said. They started to walk down the hall, stopping by a security office. Shadow entered and searched for flashlights. "Did either of you find a Chaos Emerald on your journey?"
"Afraid not. Just another wild goose chase," Rouge said. Shadow came back and handed each of them a flashlight. He flipped his on and kept it close to the ground, mindful of any windows. There was loud groaning outside the building.
"That's a shame. We could really use it right now."
"How about you just tell us what we're dealing with?" Shadow said tersely. They checked the rooms one by one as they walked down the hall, giving each one a cursory shine of their flashlight.
"Okay, it started two months ago, after the Metarex incident," Tails said. "Remember that seed Sonic gave me? The one after Cosmo…" He trailed off and Cream patted his shoulder. He held her hand there and sighed deeply.
"Yes, we remember," Shadow said.
"I tried to grow it for two weeks, taking care of it as best as possible. Unfortunately, it refused to even sprout. I was getting more and more frustrated each day."
Tails frowned at the potted soil on the window sill. He poured another liberal helping of water onto it, willing the seed inside to poke through with even the tiniest stem. A stack of books sat to the side, all gardening tips that he had read cover to cover over the past two weeks. Not one had helped. There didn't seem to be anything covering alien derived seeds and what they needed to thrive either. Although, he hadn't expected such from the books, but wished there was something that would work.
Setting the water pot down, Tails flopped into a chair and gripped the armrests. Every day since Cosmo's death had been long and hard. He had done nothing except dwell on how he failed her, how he killed her. It had been a constant cycle of dread, where he feared going to sleep because he only had dreams of her death at his hand, but hated the day because he was awake and reminded that the dreams were true.
He barely ate or slept at all and refused his friends calling on him most days. Sonic and Amy had been over once or twice when he allowed them. Otherwise, he was isolated from everyone else.
Tails leaned forward and clasped his hands together. He pointed his fingers at the seed. "Please grow," he begged. He pretended Cosmo was inside, listening to him. Maybe she was waiting for the right time? But why leave her seed behind then so Sonic could entrust it to Tails? It made no sense.
Perhaps she was waiting inside for him. Perhaps some offspring of hers to carry on her name was destined to grow. Whatever the seed's fruit, Tails had vowed to grow it, as it was a part of Cosmo and she deserved that much. At the very least, he owed her that much.
By Sonic and Amy's observations when they visited, his care bordered on fanatical. He was only following the advice of the books: water daily, use good soil, talk to it or play soothing music, and give it plenty of sun. He also waited on pins and needles, watching the seed for hours, willing it to grow. He slept in the living room's sofa where he could see it and refused to leave the house unless absolutely necessary.
"That's not obsessive," he had argued with them. "This is an alien life form. Who knows what sort of attention it might need?" It was a chance for life and Tails would not be callous with it.
But today, he had to leave, as he was out of food and needed more fertilizer. Reluctantly, he stood and headed out the front door. He locked up his workshop and house, then started to fly toward town. Yet he lacked the energy and will to do so. Sitting around most days had really sapped his strength. After a few minutes, he landed and walked the rest of the way to town.
At the store, when he visited the gardening section, there were rows upon rows of healthy, lush plants growing big and tall. Tails looked over them and sighed before he grabbed some fertilizer. "Anything I can help you with, sir?" an employee nearby asked.
"No," Tails said. He stocked up on microwave dinners and ready-to-make food, paid, and left.
The sun was setting on his way home. He cut through the suburbs, where many were coming home for the day. He passed an old badger in one yard, raking up leaves and wearing some beige gloves. "Evening," the badger greeted. "Doing a little gardening?" He pointed at the fertilizer poking out of Tails' grocery bags.
"Yes," Tails said, slowing down. "Can't seem to get it to grow." He didn't know why he was telling this man what was wrong. Maybe he thought he was wise and experienced in all kinds of agriculture. His house did have a beautiful selection of flowers in front of it and as he examined the badger closer, he noticed his gloves were gardening gloves.
"Ah, that can be difficult," the badger said. "I'd recommend changing the soil. Could be bad."
"I already have," Tails said. In fact, he had changed the soil yesterday.
"Could be a bad seed then. Might have to start with a fresh one."
Tails shook his head. "Can't do that."
The badger shrugged and continued raking. "Well good luck with that, son. You'll need it, I know. Always had a blasted time with seeds like that." Tails shifted his grocery bags, tightening his grip on them. "Only ever knew one kind of soil that did the trick."
"Really? What kind of is that?"
The gardener stopped his raking and shook his head. "Ah, me and my big mouth. Wife always did say I talk too much. It's not important, son. You just run on home and tend to your seed. Get that fertilizer on it quick."
Tails came closer. "Please, tell me where I can find this soil."
The badger appeared to be worried and mopped his brow with a handkerchief. "Listen, it's best you forget about what I said. You don't want nothing to do with it."
"Yes, I do," Tails said. He set down his bags. "Tell me."
"No, you don't. That soil is cursed!" The badger slung his rake over his shoulder and headed toward his house, leaving behind a half-finished pile of leaves.
"Wait, cursed?" Tails stumbled and caught up to him, walking backwards in front of the badger. "But you said it could grow seeds."
"That it will. It'll grow any seed. But the plants that grow there are corrupt and twisted. I'd dare say evil."
"Evil or not, I have to know." Tails dropped to his knees, blocking the badger's path. "Please, I need to do this for someone. Please."
The gardener's face softened and he patted Tails' shoulder. "This person must mean a lot to you, huh?" When Tails nodded, he leaned closer. "Then take my advice: leave it alone. It's not worth it."
Rouge quietly opened a patient room door on the second floor and checked inside. "All clear," she said. They crept in and she set to work looking for bandages. When she found a roll and some alcohol swabs, she helped Tails into a chair and placed the flashlight between her teeth. She started to clean his head.
"So what happened?" Shadow asked.
Tails sucked in air as Rouge dabbed his head. "You're lucky it's not worse," she said. "It's pretty deep as it is."
He grumbled and faced Shadow. "He refused to tell me where I could get the soil. I returned the day after and the day after that, but he wouldn't budge. I did some digging on the guy, asking his neighbors who he was, and found out he used to be a gardener for some rich family, who owned a mansion years and years ago where the forest is now, back when it wasn't as large. According to the newspapers in the library, something happened to the mansion and there were claims that people were seriously injured or worse. It was a little unclear and there seemed to be stories missing, but they quoted the gardener, who said that a plot of the mansion's garden was cursed."
"And you decided to go looking for it," Shadow surmised.
"Yes," Tails said, nodding. Rouge held his head straight.
"Anything to bring Cosmo back, no matter the consequences."
"I didn't know. I thought he was just some superstitious old man."
"What happened next?" Cream asked.
Snap! Tails whipped his head around. Was someone following him? He peered through the dense foliage all around and sighed. It's alright. You're alone. The wild ravings he had read in those newspapers were making him jumpy. The testimonies of others and that badger, so convinced in his interview of this place's evil, that Tails was starting to believe the curse too. He pressed on, following the map he had drawn up where the mansion should still be. He shouldered his backpack of supplies higher and hoped he was close.
The woods were thick and the trees stood tall, with low-hanging branches, as if crossing their arms and glowering at his intrusion. They stayed silent and allowed him passage. Tails maneuvered around thorns and knee-high brush until he saw a flash of white through a patch of branches. He hopped forward and ducked low under a fallen tree and arrived at the mansion.
Time had not been kind to the house. Its white paint was chipped and fading and several windows were broken as vines wormed their way in and out of the jagged holes. The forest seemed to be doing its best to swallow the house whole beneath branches, bushes, and moss.
The front door was nailed shut with wooden planks. So Tails circled around to the backyard, where rows upon rows of dirt were. Many of the plants overtaking the house, like trees and thorny bushes, appeared to originate there. Various flowers were scattered among them, but were being strangled by weeds.
Tails found a patch of dirt that was devoid of any other plants. He set down his backpack and dug out shears and hedge clippers. As he cut through stalks of leafy plants, he had a suspicion of some sort of anger directed at him. He looked up, meeting the menacing growth that bared its barbed teeth and dark, hateful eyes resting between masses of branches. Tails shrugged off the feeling. I'm spooking myself. It's all my imagination. There's no curse.
When he finished clearing the area around the dirt, he took the seed's pot out of his backpack. He dug around in the soil and retrieved the seed. Tails studied it, brushing off the flecks of dirt. He could almost see Cosmo inside, waiting to be regrown. "Please work," he whispered. Then he grabbed a spade from his backpack and scooped out a nice hole in the ground. He dropped the seed in and covered it up.
After he watered the seed with a small water pot, he sat back on his knees and tapped his legs, waiting. Tails didn't know what to expect now. He had wondered if the seed might suddenly sprout, but as the minutes ticked by, that hope faded. Eventually, the sun started to set in the distance and Tails gathered his supplies. He was reluctant to leave though. The seed hadn't been out of his sight since he first received it.
I could take some of the soil with me, he thought. But if the seed was to grow, it couldn't be confined to a pot. He would need to find a large space for its roots to spread out eventually. This garden was as good as anywhere else.
So with a heavy, wishful heart, he left the seed for that night. He returned bright and early the next day and the day after that. For several days, he continued to come and tend to the seed, hoping for one tiny indication that the soil was working.
On the fifth day, Tails got his answer. As he approached the dirt, he saw a hint of green. He dropped his backpack and scrambled for the soil, falling flat on his stomach next to it. It's growing. The seed's growing! It's really growing! Tails' insides exploded like joyful fireworks. The old badger had been right on one point. The soil was working its wonder on the seed.
For a few hours, Tails sat beside the seed, watering, talking, and tending to it. "This is unbelievable. I mean, from a scientist's perspective, I can see a species' entire life cycle." He leaned down and rested his chin in his hands. "But more importantly, we can see you again. I can see you again. We're all waiting for you to be with us. If that is you in there." He touched the tip of the stem, rubbing it with his thumb. "If it's not, then I promise you, Cosmo, I'll take care of whoever it is. I give you my word."
An troubling thought entered his mind. What if nothing came of this plant? What if instead of a new Seedrian, the final result was only a flower? Tails hoped that wasn't true, but the fear gripped his heart tightly when he looked at the stem. "Please, be in there." He closed his eyes. "Please, come back to me."
Tails soon had to leave. The worry stayed with him and he was frustrated that he wouldn't have his answer for several weeks. However, he figured he could wait that long for Cosmo. Even if it was a small chance she came back, it was still better than nothing. He shouldered his backpack and left the plant, trekking through the forest and heading for home.
The next morning, Tails was up bright and early like always. He grabbed his gardening supplies, slipped on his backpack, and took a cereal bar to eat on his way to the forest. He locked his front door and headed toward the edge of town. On the way, he passed by Amy's house and decided he should stop by on his way home. She and Sonic were concerned for him and he wanted to alleviate them. Sonic hadn't been seen for days though. Everyone assumed he was off on another adventure and would return shortly.
When he reached the garden, his jaw dropped and his heart rate quickened. Where the stem had been yesterday, there was a blooming flower that stretched a head above his height and spread itself wide with white, violet-tipped petals. It fanned at him in a cool breeze and Tails tossed his backpack on the ground. He ran to the flower and examined every inch of it.
This can't be real, he thought, running his fingers over the soft petals and the nearly black center. But they felt real and there was no sign of the little plant he saw less than a day ago. He ran a hand up the stalk and looked around. How could this happen? Had someone tampered with his seed? Maybe his original plant had been stolen and the thief left behind this flower.
"Hello?" Tails called out. "Is anyone there?" He mentally smacked himself. As if a thief would stick around here. He turned back to the flower and rubbed a petal between his thumb and forefinger. If this was the seed, then that meant this was all there was to it. No life, no Seedrian. No Cosmo.
Tails sighed and hung his head. All that work, all that care, and this was the result. His eyes welled up, but he squeezed them shut and held himself firm. The sensation soon passed enough so that he could look at the flower again. He sniffed and wiped his nose on his arm. He would take care of this flower, for Cosmo's sake.
He froze. That voice, like a choir of angels on high to him. Soft, lithe, and saturated with the kind-heartedness of its owner. Tails knew who it was, but he did not dare believe it until he slowly, carefully turned around. Standing there, in all the glory and splendor he remembered of her was the girl of his dreams, with her green petal hair, white dress like an upside-down tulip, and shimmering sky blue eyes.
A/N: Whew. That was a difficult beginning.
Sword: I wonder what will happen. I hope it has a happy ending to it.
Pen: *chuckles darkly* Oh it'll have a happy ending. For me.
How about you two worry about finishing the rest of the story first? Hope all of you readers enjoyed it so far. Please, let us know what you think of it.