A/N: *crawls out of the crash* Ouch, my spine.
Pen: I wish I still had mine.
For all of you still conscious, we're at the end. This had been exciting, going from an idea for a short story to this. That always seems to happen, huh? We thank you for reading and supporting this so far. For this last chapter, we're going to try to do our best for you. Also, thank you to Sara lovelymusic, TheCopyUniverse, and Katz4 for their reviews. As always, Sonic and all related material belong to Sega. The story, Sword, and Pen belong to me. Please don't use them without permission. Thank you and enjoy.
Sword: Again! Again!
Chapter 22- Adventure on the Horizon
"Our top story this morning," an anchor said, folding his hands and smiling at the camera, "is the capture of many of Robotnik's associates, including the top-level gun, Nack the Weasel." A small video played in the corner of Nack in handcuffs being led into the police station. "In lieu of the police commissioner recently being stripped of his rank and arrested in light of evidence of bribery from Robotnik, a police spokesman spoke in his stead, claiming that 'this is the biggest haul yet'. He went on to say that it effectively dismantled the empire Robotnik had built, adding to the arrest of dozens of officers and city officials taking bribes and the assets from Robotnik's mansion seized last month in a deadly raid. Mr. Bon Carna, the prosecutor assigned to the case, plans to seek a life sentence for Nack."
"Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy," Tails said, half-inside the guts of a car engine.
Cream turned down the television and joined Tails at the car as the anchor turned to a side camera. "The mayor had no comment on the case and his office released a statement this morning, refusing to comment on this situation or the constant accusations that he accepted bribes from Robotnik as well. In other news, a memorial service will be held this weekend for the brave officers who lost their lives in the raid on Robotnik's estate."
"Hey, bud," Sonic said, coming down the stairs and leaning over Tails' shoulder. "How's it coming?"
"Almost done," he said, tightening the battery in the engine. He closed the hood and surveyed his work. It wasn't easy and it wasn't the same in all the spots. The paint was a lighter shade of blue and the engine wasn't as fast as the old car, but he had included a spare seat in the back and made the inside roomier, not to mention thrown in some new gadgets he had brainstormed. All in all, he was proud of the rebuilt car.
So was Sonic. He hopped in, squirming in the seat, and gave a solemn look. "Tails," he said and his face instantly broke into a grin, "I love it!"
"As well you should," Tikal said, bringing a sandwich to Tails. "Cream tells me he's stayed up so long each night that he nods off all the time during the day."
"Thanks," he said, accepting the sandwich. "And I'm alright." It was also pleasant to smell even bologna after hours and hours of oil and his stomach rumbled for the food.
"Is Knuckles still upstairs?" she asked Sonic.
"Yeah," he said, already enjoying his new toy like a kid. Tikal climbed the stairs to the roof and Tails went to his room with Cream, who kept stealing glances at him. They sat on his bed and he savored every bite of his sandwich. He hadn't eaten since lunch yesterday.
Cream scooted a little closer to him while he ate and he maintained a calm demeanor. Inside, his heart fluttered and he pretended to be engrossed in his sandwich.
Picking up a recent magazine, Cream browsed the cover, where Silver and Blaze held hands as they walked in public. Blaze sported a violet, long-sleeved shirt, and white pants, while most of Silver's fur had grown back and hidden his burns. They were staring into each other's eyes, lovesick and happy, and the tagline beneath read FLAMES OF PASSION!
"Why did Amy give up this story?" Cream asked. "She never told me."
"I think she wanted to give them their privacy," Tails said. He had thought that noble of her and Cream seemed to agree, nodding and opening the magazine to the page of the story. "Plus, an exclusive interview for Blaze's next movie doesn't hurt."
Beside his bed was a copy of the Rosy Report with Robotnik's face splashed on the cover in an exposé on his criminal activities. It would also do Amy good to stay out of the spotlight for a while. After she broke the news about Robotnik and his associates, it had caused a lot of arrests. She probably had targets painted all over her back. He didn't point that out to Cream though. No sense worrying her if she hasn't realized that yet.
"So," he put down his sandwich, "how's your mom doing?"
"She's," she paused and bounced her head. Her cap slid off and Cheese tumbled out of it. "She's doing better. Still weak some days. But yeah, better."
"Good," he said. "If you want, you two can always stay with me."
"We'll be fine," she said. Cheese flew into her lap and laid on his back. "I'm more worried about you. Will you be alright here by yourself?"
"I'm not technically 'by myself,' " he said.
"I know," she said, rolling her eyes. "Tikal will own the garage on paper. You've told me. You know what I mean."
"I'll be fine," he said. "Don't forget, Big's offering a lot to help reopen the place and I'll be able to get some new tools."
The loan shark had been extremely generous for their help, even after Robotnik's estate and other properties were searched and they found no sign of Froggy. Big had remained firm on his beliefs though. "I know he's out there." With Big's conviction, Tails couldn't help believing himself that Froggy would turn up.
"Don't worry about me," Tails said. But truth be told, he was scared. He had never been alone like this before and Cream appeared to pick up on that. Some stray tingle in his body or a break in his tone. She sat beside him, shoulder to shoulder, and pecked his cheek. His face flushed red and his eyes jumped around everywhere except to her.
"I know you will," she said. "I'll come visit you every day."
"Thanks," he said. "I'd like that." Strengthening his resolve, he returned the kiss and now she heated up and looked solely at Cheese, who had a knowing grin. "Besides, I may not be alone here for too long."
"What do you mean?"
He hopped off the bed and she fell onto his pillow. He dropped to his knees and pulled out a case from under the bed. Then he popped the latches and opened it. "Remember how when they brought Emeryl's body back, I couldn't repair him?"
"Yes?" she said slowly and crouched beside him.
He picked up a motherboard from the case, cradling it and showing off the many gold circuits etched into it as they sparkled in the light. "I think I'm close to recreating his design."
"It won't be the exact same," he said. "But I think it'll be very close." He fingered the circuits, as giddy as Cream was at the idea.
"I still say you two should fight it," Knuckles said, reclining against the roof's edge, his head lolling backwards and basking in the morning sun's rays. Up here, a gentle breeze swept through his dreadlocks like wind chimes and only the early birds of the city were up and about. The rest was still grooming and preparing themselves for the day.
"Fight what?" Tikal asked, coming up to the roof.
"To get back on the force." Knuckles jerked his head at Vector and Espio beside him. "Since the commissioner's been exposed, whatever his reasons for canning them after Robotnik's will get tossed out."
"But by working for ourselves, we know we can trust each other," Espio said.
"And it gives you a lot of freedom," Vector added. "You get to make your own hours and your own pay."
Knuckles smirked. "That is awfully tempting."
"Does that mean I should find another security guard?" Tikal asked, hiking a leg onto the roof lip and lording over him.
"Nah, I'm good."
"Glad to hear it. They're bringing the Master Emerald back tomorrow and I'll need you there."
He tipped two fingers to his temple and saluted her. "Roger that."
"Where's Charmy today?" she asked Vector.
"Back at the office, I imagine."
Knuckles snorted. " 'Office.'"
He folded his arms and huffed. "It will be. We just need to put in some new lights. And fix the squeaky floorboard. And paint over the crack in the wall. And fix the pipe leak. And get new hinges for the door. And get a new door."
"I wish he wouldn't leave so often," she said.
"At least you know where he is most of the time," Espio pointed out.
"True. Anyway, I need to get back to the bank." She tapped Knuckles' leg and headed downstairs. "Seven o'clock. Don't forget."
"Speaking of people running off," Vector said, "whatever happened to that one girl hanging out with you guys? The echidna?"
"Shade?" Knuckles shrugged and sat up, rolling a crick out of his neck. "Guess she went off to rejoin her group. Why?"
"Well, I was thinking," he nudged an elbow at Espio, "he's kind quiet and mysterious, just like her. Both like to play with sharp knives. Might be fun getting them together."
"Yeah, see which can out-serious the other," Knuckles said, laughing. Vector joined in while Espio cast annoyed faces at the pair.
"I'll be waiting in the car," he said, traipsing down the stairs. "And they're called 'kunai.' "
"Oh, come on," Vector called after him. "I'm trying to set you up!" He turned, the goofy grin settling down. "By the way," he reached into his glove and produced a business card. "Hot off the press." He handed it to Knuckles. It read:
CHAOTIX DETECTIVE AGENCY
No job too big! No case too small!
We'll solve it for you!
Knuckles shook his head. "Cute."
"Hey, it was the best we could afford," he said.
"No, no. It's good. Honest," Knuckles said, tucking the card into his glove.
"I've been trying to convince Mighty to join us. I think he's coming around," Vector said. "How about you? Interested in a little freelance work?"
"Freelance isn't bad." Rouge sauntered out of nowhere up to them and leaned beside Knuckles. "It can pay the best sometimes."
"Rouge the thief?" Vector asked, his eyes widening.
"Sometimes. Other times, Rouge the Bat. Just Rouge is fine for now." She stretched, crossed one leg over the other, and pouted her lower lip. "Planning to arrest me and have your first big bust? Or do I get some leniency for helping out?"
He scratched his head. "Well, the only theft of yours I know of is the Master Emerald. But the police blamed that on Robotnik. As long as you stay out of trouble, you're good."
"Thanks. I'll stay out of sight," she said.
The meaning went over Vector's head. "See you later," he said, bumping Knuckles' fist with his and leaving.
"I give their agency a month," she said.
"You'd be surprised by them," Knuckles said. They were silent for a while as the sun steadily rose and the street grew congested with more commuters. Since she made no sign to begin talking, he said what had been on his mind. "Haven't seen you since the hospital."
"I had to finish some jobs," she said, "before I leave."
"Doing the right thing can be costly," she said with a joking chuckle. "Business had dried up, thanks to word getting around about helping to take down my employer. I figure I can find work in another country. Besides, I'll likely be assigned elsewhere soon enough."
"I thought it was just a few dealings with the government?"
"It's a little more than that. I work part-time for an organization interested in situations like this," she said. "They give me assignments now and then and as long as I complete them, they overlook my," she chuckled low, "indiscretions."
He cocked an eyebrow. "What kind of organization is that?"
She bit her lip. "The kind that disavow your existence if you're caught or killed." She gave him a look that it was something she couldn't reveal the whole truth of. Knuckles pieced enough of it together though. Some top-secret organization with its eye on everyone at all times. He absent-mindedly searched the skies for any hidden cameras or satellites that may be recording their conversation.
"So you were sent to be an inside person?"
"Yes. To spy on Robotnik," she said. "Get inside and gather as much intel as possible."
"And that turned into taking him down?"
She tilted her head with a smirk. "Plans change when you have a laser overhead."
He nodded. "Good point. How come they never came to help?"
"I had only sent them the evidence of the laser the day before the prison. I never could find it and by the time he launched it, there was no chance for them to mobilize. Not even the top government people move fast," she said, earning an amused snort from him. "He had a lot of security watching the controls throughout the day, so I couldn't sabotage it from there either."
She cleared her throat. "Yeah." That effectively ended the topic. Knuckles didn't mind though. He had the feeling she hadn't shared that information with many people, if any, and was proud to have been a confidant. "You may want to think about leaving too. Having to constantly look over your shoulder can really hurt your neck. It also isn't good for my career. I need to focus, not worry about who's lining up sights on me. Better to lose the tail."
"Most of his goons have been rounded up," he said.
"Robotnik's business dealings reached far and wide with many partners. We've made a lot of enemies. Some won't be caught, period. And when others get out—and some will get out— they'll be gunning for us."
"Then we'll take them on," he said, dropping a fist onto the roof edge.
She smiled and pecked his cheek. "Never were one to back down from a challenge."
"I thought you weren't either."
"I'm not. But I know when to escape and steal another day."
His spirits sank and he turned around, bending over the side, his hands hanging limp. "So you've come to say good-bye for good?" he asked.
"For now," she said. "I'll be back someday. I actually came here to spend my last few days in town with you." He jerked his head up and she was walking away. "But if you don't want to—"
He snatched her hand and pulled her to his chest, planting a deep and passionate kiss straight on her lips. She gave a happy purr and wrapped her arms around his neck, wiggling her tongue into his mouth and along his own. He cradled her head and dipped her against the roof edge, pressing himself against her as much as possible.
When they broke, he was almost seeing double. "Going to be hard to leave that," she said. Her ear twitched and she raised her head, looking upside down at the street. Knuckles followed her eyes to Sonic's rebuilt car leaving the garage. The hedgehog waved to Tails, Cream, and Tikal as he headed for the docks.
"Where's he off to?" Rouge asked.
Knuckles only gave a knowing grin and tilted her lips back toward his. "I'll tell you later."
Amy rifled through her purse and found a thin hairbrush. She jammed the end into her cast and scratched her leg. It provided a little relief, but there was an itch around her ankle that she just couldn't reach. She tried and failed and threw the brush back into her purse, then sat back on the crate at the end of the pier, watching the water lap against the poles.
For the past month, she had come out here every day for at least an hour, keeping a weather eye open for any sudden disturbance. There never was one. Nothing but ships coming and going and the open water calling for her to set sail upon it.
Steady footsteps thunked on the pier until Sonic plopped down on the end beside her, keeping his feet to his chest and away from the pier's edge. "Any sign?" he asked.
"No," she said. To everyone else, she had firmly stated that she was confident they were out there, somewhere. However, on a couple days, she had almost given up and believed what most others did. That Robotnik and Shadow were gone for good. "Do you think they're still alive?"
He was surprised for a moment, then held his chin in his palm. "I don't know. Could be." She sighed and he quickly added, "But in my experience, people like Robotnik don't disappear so easily. I get the feeling he'll be back to terrorize Station Square soon enough."
"And will you help stop him again on that day?"
He rubbed his nose. "It's what I live for." They gazed out at a ship in the distance together. "You get to know a lot about a person through racing," he said. "How brave or tough they are. And Shadow was pretty tough to beat. Believe me. If Robotnik survived, Shadow definitely did."
She smiled and the sun sparkled on the water, like thousands of brilliant diamonds pointing her to the horizon, where Shadow would surface in time. "Yeah, you're right."
They sat there for an hour, not really talking, but enjoying one another's company. They had enjoyed that company and talks for the past month, especially while recovering side by side in the hospital, then at the garage.
Eventually, the sun was overhead and Amy grew too hot to stay there any longer. She stood up with her crutch and Sonic had the same idea. He walked her back to his car and opened the hood. "Can I give you a lift back to the garage? Or your place?"
"I'm not sure my place is really safe anymore," she said. "Figure it wasn't wise to print any Rosy Reports since Robotnik disappeared."
"What do you plan to do then?"
"Lie low for now. Wait for this all to clear up," she said. "And you? Have you figured out where to go yet?"
He had one foot in the car and straddled the side. "Not sure. Wherever the road takes me, I guess."
"I wouldn't mind going there," she said. "It'd be nice to take a short break and get out of town for a while."
"Want to come along?" he asked, patting his car.
"No better time."
She only wasted a second of hesitation before throwing her crutch in the back seat. He helped her in and she sat in the driver's seat. He was taken aback, but then grinned, scooching behind her so she sat on his lap. He closed the hood, cranked the engine, and headed for the city limits as Amy curled up in his chest, pressing her nose into his fur.
As he slowed for a red light, he buried his lips into her quills for a moment and she felt a little pressure on the point of her head. In the distance, the city limits were bright and enticing with a road that never ended. And as soon as the light turned green, Sonic bolted for it. The car and both of them quivered with excitement for their next adventure, whatever it may be.
A/N: We're finished!
Sword: Yay! To a hospital!
Pen: I can't move.
Sword: I'll drive you then!
Pen: Hey! Look at that. I can walk! *tries to run away and falls over* Ouch.
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