Flesh Wound

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I only see it when I'm up

that this down is what I need sometimes

It's only here that I realize

I can't do it by myself ...

I fall down

I fall down

And when I fall down

I see the dust that I come from ...

--Fleshwound, by Massivivid

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All characters in this story are copyrighted by Archie or Sega. The few minor fanchars in this story are copyrighted by K.M. Hollar. This story is based on a SatAM episode, but this story itself is copyright 2003 by K. M. Hollar.

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I've always wanted to write a pure-SatAM story, using just the Freedom Fighters. A long time ago I wrote a little fanfic based on the SatAM episode where Sonic races the robot cheetah. I recently found it and decided to rewrite it, and here it is.

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"Remember, this is a recon mission," said Sally. "No heroics, Sonic. We get in, we get out, zero residual presence."

"Aw, c'mon Sal, you take the fun out of everything," said Sonic.

Sonic, Sally and Tails were crouched bend an empty fuel drum. Beyond it was a refinery, with steel towers and pipes stretching up into the smoggy sky, the towers belching forth stinking black smoke. The reddened sun burned down with summer intensity, turning the tortured city of Robotropolis into a furnace.

Tails was panting, for he could not sweat under his thick orange fur. "When do we go, Aunt Sally?"

The squirrel was holding Nicole in her hand, gazing at the green lines on the computer's tiny screen. She was scanning for enemies, of which there were many, dotted about at the entrances. "Two minutes," she said.

Two minutes crept by. The three Freedom Fighters crouched in their hiding place, the sun beating down on them. Sonic fidgeted. He hated staying still, especially when it was this hot--running was not only much more fun, it created a cooling breeze. He glanced at Tails, who looked miserably hot, and nervous. The young fox had been on a few missions before, but he was still in training, and had not yet become used to Robotropolis' alien atmosphere. He noticed Sonic's eyes on him and gave him a thumbs up.

"Time's up," whispered Sally. "They're changing shifts. Go!"

The three scattered, Sonic dashed to the right, Sally to the left, and Tails flew straight up. In the confusion of robots leaving their posts and new robots marching in, they went unnoticed. In another two minutes, the shift was changed, new SWATbots stood at their posts, and the refinery went about its business. They were unaware that three spies hid in their midst, investigating the refinery with three tiny cameras clicking.

Sally was the first to return to hiding behind the steel drum, panting and winding the film in her camera. Sweat beaded along her upper lip and trickled down her face, over her fine fur, but she paid it no notice. She peered over the top of the drum, eyes narrowed, looking for her teammates.

Tails crept to the rendezvous from a different quarter on foot, his own camera also full. "Sally," he whispered, and she turned at once, looking relieved. "Tails! How did it go?"

"Fine," said the fox, his tongue hanging out like a dog's. "Nobody saw me. I got up inside the first complex and got pictures of the equipment. There's enough hazardous stuff in there to blow up this whole block." He tucked the camera into a utility belt buckled around his waist. "Where's Sonic?"

Sally took a small flask of water from her own belt and drank deeply. "He'll be here," she said when she finished. "Here, take a drink." Tails accepted the flask gratefully.

Sally's communicator light flashed, and she clicked on the speaker. "Sal, I'm out," came Sonic's breathless voice. "I'm a block over, I can't get to you without attracting attention. Can you come to me? I got a full roll." He sounded smug. "Roger," said Sally, and turned off the communicator. She nodded to Tails, and the pair slipped out of hiding and inched around a corner of a warehouse, keeping out of the SWATbots' range of vision.

* * *

"Freedom Fighters detected near the oil refineries," announced Snively. "Should I send out a patrol?"

Dr. Robotnik sat in his throne-like control chair, gazing at three of the control room's eighteen screens, which displayed views of Sonic, Sally and Tails. His brow furrowed, but he said nothing.

"Sir?" prompted Snively. He wanted to catch the pesky Mobian terrorists as much as his uncle did, but only for the reason that he would be given the day off as a reward. He had not had a day off in two years.

"Let them go," rumbled Robotnik, watching the three race out of the three screens and reappear on two others. "But track them and record the exact trajectory Sonic takes when they enter the Great Forest."

"Yes sir." Snively entered these unusual commands into the spybot controls and transmitted them. He risked a glance over his shoulder at his massive uncle, and was relieved to see Robotnik was deep in thought, instead of angry. He was curious as to why they had let Sonic and the two others escape, but he knew better than to interrupt Robotnik's thoughts. The warlord would tell him when he was ready. In the meantime, Snively busied himself about the control room. There was a city to run and robot squadrons that needed directions.

A creak from the chair told Snively that Robotnik had arisen, and he looked up to see him bent over a computer console, reading the information on the screen. Sonic's trajectory had been calculated and recorded. "Snively," said Robotnik quietly, "what is our current supply level of fossil fuel?"

Snively checked. "Twenty thousand tons of coal, five hundred thousand gallons of crude oil--"

"By harvesting the Great Forest, we could increase our coal level by a thousand percent, couldn't we?" said Robotnik.

Snively gazed at his uncle, the same plan forming in his head. "Harvest...? If we harvested it ... we would uncover anyone living in it..."

"Exactly." Robotnik looked at Snively, a smile curling his mustache. "Not only would it be exceedingly profitable, it might also uncover ... other benefits." He straightened up, ordered Snively to begin construction on several thousand trucks for hauling lumber, and walked down the hall to his prototype room. He would need to design a robot with blades and saws to efficiently cut down and process timber.

But first he called up a schematic of a robot he had been toying with for some time. It was modeled after a cheetah, and computer simulations had tested its speed at somewhere around Mach 4. As of yet he had no use for it, but somewhere in the near future it might come in handy. Such as running down Freedom Fighters.

He sent the schematics to his robotic assembly plant, and sat down to design some saw-type robots.

* * *

Knothole village was home to the Freedom Fighters, a surprising small group of refugees from Robotropolis. It was hidden eight miles within the borders of the Great Forest, next to the river, in a natural cavern underground. The entrance was an underground shaft that led to a rocky area above ground where a few huts stood among the trees, and a waterwheel dipped and churned in the river.

Sonic was the first to arrive, as usual. He dove through a hollow stump that served as a door, slid down a shaft, and landed with a soft flump on a pile of musty hay. He laughed and stood up, and Tails and Sally slid down after him. He helped them up, paying particular attention to Sally. "Well? Well? How'd I do? Say it!"

"It was a good idea to bring Tails along," said Sally, smiling and ruffling the fox's headfur. "The best idea you've had in a long time. Wait. It was the only idea you've had in a long time."

Sonic pretended to punch her, and Sally dodged his fist and walked, laughing, up the underground corridor toward a room at the end. Tails tapped Sonic on the shoulder. "Did I do okay?"

"You did fine, little bro," said Sonic, tweaking one of the fox's ears. "I'm fried, let's go swimming."

They entered the main cavern room, where Sally was laying out the three cameras and jotting something down in a notebook. She looked up as Sonic and Tails climbed the ladder to the outdoors. "Where are you two off to?"

"The river!" exclaimed Tails.

"Don't go out in the current," warned Sally. "Sonic, can you tell Rotor to come down here? I'd like to get these developed."

Sonic gave her a thumbs up, and he and Tails climbed out of the cave's coolness into the stifling humidity of the Great Forest. They met Rotor as they walked down a path toward the waterside. The walrus was wearing a utility belt full of tools and a grubby baseball cap turned backwards. "Oh, hi Sonic," he said in surprise. "You guys are back already?"

"Yeah," said Sonic, jerking a thumb toward the cavern entrance. "Sally wants you, needs you to develop some film."

Rotor nodded, and Sonic and Tails continued down to the river. Knothole was quiet at this time of day, and the only sound beside the rush of the river was the buzz of cicadas somewhere upriver, where the foliage was less dense.

Sonic and Tails took off their shoes and socks, and waded into the river where there was a wide place with a sandbar ten feet out. Between the sandbar and the shore was an area of shallow, calm water where the villagers swam. Beyond the sandbar, the river flowed swift and deadly. Everyone knew about the current, and Sally had forbidden anyone to try to swim in it (mostly Sonic). But Sonic was in no mood to dare the river today. He relaxed in the cool water as Tails breaststroked the length of the pool, his fluffy tails floating behind him.

"I hate Robotropolis," remarked Tails.

"So do I," said Sonic. "But I hate Robotnik more."

"Yeah." It was a familiar conversation opener. After a moment, Tails asked, "Are we going to blow up that factory?"

"Probably." Sonic turned over to float on his back. "Depends on how bad it hurts Robotnik. Sally might decided to blow up something else."

"Oh." Tails ducked under and resurfaced a moment later. "Does Robotnik scare you?"

"Me? Naw," said Sonic. Then he looked thoughtful. "Maybe a little."

"He scares me," said Tails, shaking his wet head. "Because I know that if I ever see him, the next thing I'll see is the robotizer."

"No, you'd see a cool blue hedgehog coming to save you," said Sonic. "I'd never let that jerk hurt you."

"I know," said Tails, smiling. "I'm just glad you talked Sally into letting me go. She still doesn't think I'm old enough, does she?"

"Nope," said Sonic. "You owe me." He splashed at Tails, who splashed back. For a moment they had a splash-fight, then Tails dunked Sonic, who dunked him back. Tails escaped Sonic's hold and swam to the sandbar, where he crawled out and lay in the sun, his fur plastered to his body. Sonic crawled up beside him and stretched out. "Ahh," he sighed, looking up at the blazing blue sky. "This is the life."