By Darren McRoy, "RedFox"
Thanks to everyone who reviewed!
"You have interesting theories." – dr-sipp
"This is good, even though I don't normally read anime fics." – Izzi the Guardian Angel
"I was just blown away by your beautiful characterization, of Sonic and Sally." – Orin
"I like how all the characters' strengths were put to good use the fic; the entire story flowed well." – Yuzuriha Nekoi
"You scared the holy hell out of me the first chapter... damn, the rest was great!" – Grand pikachao
"The characters have shown their maturity, change, and still keep their personalities." – anime-angel
"…the first "second-generation" Freedom Fighter story that I've ever liked." – NetRaptor
"Extremely good… I was extremely impressed." – Amethyst Echidna
"You are a very good writer." – Srol
"Shows a deft touch for humor with very good characterizations." – Bryon Nightshade
"You have an interesting writing style which doesn't go stale like three week old cookies." – Sonic Rose
There was no way out. No attack in Sonic's vast arsenal could smash through the glass tube he was imprisoned in. Below him he could see complex machinery – the machinery that soon would reduce him to a mindless robot. This was, finally, the end.
Outside, Sonic could see the six other tubes, in a circle, each holding one of his comrades. They had fought Robotnik for how long now? For years they had been eluding his traps, destroying his machines of death, defeating him at every confrontation. Yet here he was, laughing, sneering at the seven trapped figures in front of him, with his midget lackey nephew Snively at his side. How Sonic hated them both!
Behind Robotnik was a intricate-looking control panel, but one could easily see the purpose for it. Seven black levers with red knobs protruded from the panel. It was relatively obvious that each of those levers pulled would result in a Freedom Fighter robotized.
Robotnik seemed beside himself with joy, and Snively didn't look that displeased either. The Freedom Fighters has caused their plans for world dominance to go haywire countless times. Without them, the only defense was Knothole's Secret Service, and, while they might hold out for a short time, it was likely that they would all soon be robotized too. Already they had lost a few members, and the rest were relatively weak. Sonic was almost glad for a millisecond. The leader of the Secret Service, Geoffrey St. John, had never quite gotten along with Sonic; even though they were both on the same side, they often ended up fighting.
Sonic knew he would never have to worry about that again.
Robotnik turned to the panel, and, savoring every second, slowly pulled the first lever. Sonic watched as, on the other side of the room, a ray of light engulfed the tube with Bunnie Rabbot inside. The procedure went quickly, as Bunnie was already half robot. When the light vanished, Bunnie's robotization was complete. What had once been living flesh was now metallic plates, internal organs were circuits. Sonic found the idea fascinating… but why did the one with the power have to be so tremendously evil?
Robotnik was very pleased. He had captured Bunnie before, but Sonic had rescued her in the middle of the robotization process. All he had succeeded in doing was giving Bunnie immense power in her left arm. Now, finally, that job was finished.
Robotnik yanked lever number two, and light engulfed the figure lying on the flood of the next cylinder. Antoine D'Coolete had been very close to Bunnie, and seeing her robotized was too much for the somewhat cowardly coyote. He had passed out. When he awoke, he would be a robot, and would have no memories remaining.
In the third tube Rotor, a mechanically minded walrus, simply looked sad. He did not show any other emotion, did not scream or cry, only stood still while the beam of light passed over his body. The process took a good deal longer than it did for either of the first two Freedom Fighters, as Rotor was very large. Finally, the light disappeared, and a metallic walrus stood in Rotor's place.
Rotor had always loved machines. He would have halfway enjoyed being a robot – except he no longer had any interest in machines. He now had no interest in anything except doing Robotnik's bidding.
Tube number four held Knuckles, a confident and headstrong echidna. He didn't look extremely confident now, however. He didn't look scared, either. Like Rotor, he looked sad. Like he had failed. In a sense, he had. Knuckles was supposed to have been the Guardian of the Master Emerald on his home, the Floating Island – but now, all that would remain between Robotnik and that incredible article of power would be the Chaotix. Like the Secret Service, they would probably not be able to hold out for long.
Knuckles wasn't officially a Freedom Fighter, but he was usually on their side, and occasionally worked with them. This, however, was not always the case. When he first met Sonic, on the Floating Island, Robotnik had tricked Knuckles into thinking that Sonic was attempting to steal the island's Chaos Emeralds. There was no doubt now who the evil one was now. A red robot stood in the former echidna's tube.
Robotnik looked delighted now, as he was about to eliminate the heir to the throne of Knothole. Snively cackled evilly at his side. Princess Sally Acorn refused to show any type of emotion, but Sonic could see a defiant fire burning in her eyes. A futile defiance, Sonic knew, but Sally would never go down in despair. Robotnik's robotized left hand rested on the lever, and Sonic knew that he was prolonging the robotization in an attempt to break Sally's spirit.
Sonic loved Sally, and she returned the feeling. There had always been qualms about their future, however, as he was merely a commoner and she a princess. He had forever held the hope that love would find a way. Now, that hope was about to be thwarted forever.
Robotnik eventually got bored with his game and slowly pulled the lever, relishing the moment. As the blue light passed up Sally's body, she turned and looked straight at Sonic. It gave him the chills. The gaze was frozen on her face in metal. Just one more robot squirrel for Robotnik's armies.
To his left, Miles "Tails" Prower was going hysterical. Tails was the youngest member of the Freedom Fighters, and emotionally second to Antoine. He was screaming and crying and shouting insults at Robotnik. The ten-year old double-tailed fox suddenly stopped yelling, and turned to Sonic, pleading for salvation. There was nothing Sonic could do.
Tails had always been Sonic's best friend, and Sonic couldn't take it. He turned away from the panic-stricken fox, and tried his best to block out the frenzied screams of his comrade. The walls might be bulletproof, but they weren't soundproof, and Sonic couldn't even shut out the noise. When it stopped, he looked, and tears came to his eyes to see the robotic fox next to him.
Now Robotnik looked positively euphoric. He and Snively had always hated Sonic more than any of the other Freedom Fighters, and Robotnik looked like he would like to savor this moment forever. Sonic stared him straight in the eyes. He was going to go down rebellious; it matched his character.
Robotnik didn't even try to break Sonic's spirit; he knew it was useless. His hand rested on the red knob… rested… rested… pulled.
Sonic the Hedgehog woke in a cold sweat.
Sonic's tossing and turning had woken Sally long before his screams did. He was sitting straight up in bed, breathing hard. Sally put a hand on his shoulder. "Are you all right?" she asked.
Same stupid nightmare again. No matter how many times it comes, it never ceases
to scare the hell out of me…"
Sally knew how it was. She had had nightmares too, horrible, ghastly nightmares of those days of fighting Robotnik, of having to make life-and-death decisions in the heat of battle, of having all the pressure on her shoulders. Regardless of how many times they reminded themselves that Robotnik was fifteen years dead, that they no longer had to fight for mere survival, and that their responsibility was to the kingdom of Knothole, not the entire planet of Mobius, the terrible memories of what did and could have happened still consistently showed up in their dreams.
"Dad?" It was their daughter, Sabrina. "What happened?"
Standing at the doorway of their bedroom, Sabrina was virtually a carbon-copy of Sally when she was twelve. This had originally somewhat disappointed Sonic, until it was discovered the Sabrina had Sonic's incredible speed and spinning attacks. Not that she had ever really needed to use them. She practiced them often in what she thought was private, but there really was no keeping secrets from the King and Queen of Knothole.
Royal titles. Sally knew that Sonic had never married her because he wanted to become king. Quite on the contrary, that was the major downside in their relationship. Sonic hated every restriction that came with kingship, right down the his title of King Sonic. Some in Knothole had even wanted Sonic to use his birth name, which he absolutely loathed, and would never have put up with. Yet he still went through with everything else, because he loved Sally. If there was any more blatant sign of love, damned if Sally could see it.
Sally didn't mind being Queen – it had been drilled into her from childhood - but Sonic had never been much cut out to make any type of important decision. Thus, Sally ran the kingdom. When a problem was brought to Sonic, he would retreat to the bedroom to "think about it". What he did was ask Sally, and, owing to all of Sally's years of training and generally magnanimous principles, Sonic became one of the most praised rulers in Knothole history.
"Nothing, honey," Sally said soothingly. "Daddy just had a bad dream. Everything is okay. Go back to sleep."
Sabrina grimaced. "He seems to have a lot of bad dreams for a king."
Sonic looked as if he was about to say something most un-kinglike, which would be nothing new for him, but Sally cut him off with an elbow in the ribs. "Before Daddy was King, there were many bad, scary times that we all went through, and…"
"You don't have to talk to me like I'm still five, you know." Sabrina said with a hint of anger. "Rotor and Miles have told me everything about those times, and I bet that I almost know them better than you do. I only wanted to make sure that everything was okay in here."
"Better than us, huh?" Sonic interjected, apparently wanting to know if this was really true. "So tell us how Robotnik was finally defeated once and for all."
Sabrina didn't even pause for a second. "Robotnik launched his super-powerful satellite, the Hyper Death Egg. With the power of the Master Emerald, the Egg was capable of robotizing all Mobius in one fell swoop. You, Miles, and Knuckles managed to get aboard the satellite, but had to fight through an army of SWAT-bots to get to Robotnik's control room. But it was not you or Knuckles who got through, it was Miles. He reprogrammed all of the computers, saved both of you while escaping the ship, and managed to find the escape capsule that got you back to Mobius."
Sonic looked stunned, probably because he didn't remember it that well. Sally, however, had known that Sabrina could do it. She had Acorn lineage, and two great teachers. Miles had not given her a biased version of events either; Sonic and Knuckles had gotten stopped by the SWAT-bots, but Miles had managed to save all Mobius by flying over the SWAT-bots and using the computers to launch Robotnik's death machine on a crash course with a faraway star.
"Well, honey, you seem to be doing very well in your history lessons," Sally said, "but don't forget, you have a math test tomorrow. I don't want you coming back with another 'B'. You need your sleep."
"I was sleeping, until you woke me up." Sabrina muttered under her breath as she left their room.
Sonic sighed, and lay back down. "That's the third time this month that I've woken up screaming. I'm not being too much of a king, am I? Your father never woke up screaming like an eight-year old."
"Says who? He was terrified of making some huge mistake. He had his share of restless nights too. I was once just like Sabrina, asking my father if he was okay. How much she reminds me of my youth…"
"Don't go nostalgic on me, Sal."
There was about two minutes of silence, where king and queen both attempted to fall asleep. Neither one succeeded.
Sonic didn't know it, but under Sally's calm exterior, she really was worried. Sonic had had an extremely stressful month, with strange occurrences popping up all over the place. The worst was a bevy of Caterkiller Badniks that had somehow managed to find their was into Knothole, and were causing terror everywhere. Sonic had deployed Antoine and Miles to stop the swarm, but before they could find them all, the Badniks had done a considerable amount of damage. Only one creature was wounded, a young ocelot named Ozzie.
Badniks hadn't been seen in swarms since Robotnik's downfall. It was assumed that the swarm had been hiding underground, searching for Knothole.
Sally decided to test Sonic. "Is there anything I could do for you, dear?" she said in her most suggestive voice, snuggling close to him. If he was really insecure, he would accept the invitation. If, however, he had his head on straight, he would remember that he had an early council meeting with his advisors tomorrow morning, and really couldn't afford to miss any sleep.
"Sally, it's killing me to say this, but I really think that I need to rest. You know, with that meeting tomorrow and all… can I put that summons on "hold"?
Sally smiled to herself. Sonic had grown so responsible.