Copyright information: The beginning of this story written as a NetRaptor(.)org fanfiction contest teaser. It is not copyrighted, and may be modified as the author sees fit. Any fanfiction written with this teaser may be freely distributed. The Sonic characters are copyrighted by Sega.
All minor characters are copyrighted by Tylec Asroc and may not be reproduced without author consent.
The Dissonant Harmonies
-Written by Tylec Asroc-
. You keep watching from your picket fence,
You keep talking but it makes no sense.
You say we're not responsible,
But we are.
You wash your hands and come out clean,
Fail to recognize the enemies within.
You say we're not responsible,
But WE ARE!
--We Are. Ana Johnsson
Vector the crocodile wandered through the electronics store, drooling at the racks of headphones, stereos and CD players. His own CD player was scuffed and dusty, and had developed a tendency to skip and click during play. He had twenty dollars in his belt pocket, and was shopping for a new player.
He picked up one player the size and shape of a CD, put on the sample headphones and popped in his CD. The sound quality was stellar compared to his old setup, and he cranked up the volume and listened in bliss.
After the first song was over, he read the card that listed what was included in the package with the CD player--ah, rechargeable batteries, just what he needed. Too bad this one was beyond his price range. He reluctantly removed the headphones and his CD, and shuffled down the aisle, looking at price tags.
He discovered a cheaper player and tested it out. He didn't turn the volume up quite as loud as before, but the sound quality was nearly as good as the first player. Maybe it was the headphones that made such a difference.
As he stood there fiddling with the controls, he became aware of voices talking on the next aisle. Vector didn't mean to eavesdrop, but the secretive tone of their voices made him curious. He lowered the volume and cocked his head.
"What time? Did he say?"
"No, just sometime this evening. Bring your tools. Six o'clock, I'd say."
"What about the police?"
"They've been taken care of. There'll be no interference until eleven. Three hours is plenty of time."
"This isn't the place to talk about this. Let's get out of here."
Vector began bobbing his head to his music, pretending to hear nothing else. He heard the footsteps of the two crooks as they passed the end of his aisle, but he ignored them and acted totally immersed in his music.
As soon as the store's door closed, he switched off his music and picked up the CD player. This was the one he wanted. And it seemed he had also picked up a new job for the Chaotix Detective Agency.
The city nightline hummed with a calm serenity. Four months, but finally the people of Corvalis had grown accustomed to the nightly intrusions on their sleep, their senses dulled to the continual throbbing of airborne robots.
Above the twinkling city of silhouettes and streetlights, blanketing the stars like a swarm of locusts, hovered the mechanical legions of the Guardians of the United Nation. Hoverpods, to be specific. Flying camera nodes that buzzed through the air, their red "eye" sensors giving a neon tinge to the night sky and prop-fans emitting all the noise of a flock of helicopters.
Deployed above every major metropolis after the chaos that arose with the scarring of the moon, the metal sentinels served as a precautionary defense for a world still recovering from direct exposure to hatred and destruction. Every month, a phantom laugh seemed to crow victory over the incomplete face in the sky.
Down at the Corvalis harbor, Vector firm abhorrer of any mechanical beastie with a brain fixed his snarling jaws at the concrete stars daring to reassure him that the world was in secure hands. Typical of those noodle-heads up at G.U.N. jumping to the rescue and playing hero after the ordinary shmucks saved the day!
The half-sized chameleon at his side shared his sullen grumbling, but that was nothing new. It took a lot of effort for a guy like Espio to look cheery, what with a horn sticking out of his face.
The helmet-headed lizard scowled once again. "You sure this is the place?" Faith was no longer a strong virtue of Espio's. Not after the years they'd worked together.
"Nat teh worry," grinned the eternal optimist. "I followed those suckers fer a good hour this is where they're meetin'!" The crocodile had stretched his surveillance skills to their limit in order to trace the suspicious sneaks, ducking behind streetlamps, peeping out of mailboxes and masquerading as a water-spouting cherub atop a water fountain.
A distant whine, like a high note warbling on violin strings, descended upon the duo, and a tiny honeybee in an absurd flight helmet and goggles accompanied the shrill music with a buzzing nosedive into their faces. Espio made a punctual sidestep from the crash site.
The little bug smashed into the croc's face and keeled him over like a bowling pin.
"Vecter, vecter, vecter!" he yipped like a little puppy dog, hopping on the toppled 'dile's snout like it was a diving board. "I found 'um Vecter! They're here, they're here!"
"Whoa, whoa! Slow down Charmy!" But the sugar-kid just babbled on about how he'd spotted a van pull up, and how another guy met the truck and how he pointed the driver to a warehouse and, and, and
It was not so much the volume of the croc's voice, but the stink of his breath that shut the kid up. A nauseous Charmy wobbled and plopped onto Vector's chest as though sprayed with pesticide.
Espio administered some smelling salts (he dunked the kid's head in the river) and soon he and Vector followed the report of their impromptu, eye-in-the-sky recon agent: Two strong men matching the profiles from the music store had driven a black van into the harbor, where they'd unloaded a third man, dressed in black, before hiding the truck.
The third man rendezvoused with an oily rat who zipped about on a motorcycle. After a short dialogue, the newcomer was pointed towards a warehouse where the black van had parked inside.
Vector asked the little kid if there was anything else he noticed.
"Ummm " Charmy buzzed over the question. "Oh! Oh yeah the bad-guy on the motor-psycho,"
"Motorcycle," Vector intervened.
"Yeah, well he wus carrying a guitar case." To which Vector jumped with a pouncing "AHA!"
"What?" Espio asked irritably.
Vector explained his revelation. "I knew these punks were bad news the minute I laid eyes on 'em! They're obviously packin' a machine-gun in that case! I tell ya boys, were onta something big here!"
Espio puzzled over the overblown logic of the senior detective. "Hiding guns in a guitar case?"
"Okay Charmy this warehouse they went inta. Did it have any skylights?"
"Then you know what teh do Espio."
Vector just smirked back. Espio was such a pessimist the chameleon just didn't have a nose for success like he did. "Okay boys, this is it. Charmy? You stick close and stay outta trouble, y'hear? Espio? On my signal, hit 'em fast. These guys are probably nothin', but we gatta be careful"
And while Vector droned on with his pep-talk, Charmy Bee slipped away to his own private reality, from whence he released a long, relaxing
A green snout mashed up against his button nose with an accusing snarl. "You were yawnin'!" the croc' declared condemningly.
Charmy's eyes bugged out and he hasted to prepare a defense. "Wus not!" he pouted.
Vector was beyond angry he sizzled and fumed like bacon left too long on the griddle. "We hadda deal, kiddo! I take you on a job; you take a nap!"
"I didn't need a nap!" Charmy fired back. "I I " he paused to yawn again; jaws stretching like a snake, to the point of detachment. When his peepers peeped open again, Vector was staring him down as though the bee held a flashing neon sign reading I'm a liar! Ask me how!
"I'm not tired!" Charmy reiterated with baggy eyes. Espio crossed his arms and shook a disapproving glare.
Vector slapped his forehead and cringed. "Yeesh, what've you been doin' all day? I bet you were playin' those stoopid video-games again!"
"Yeah? Well Espio wus playin' with me!"
To which the aloof chameleon froze like a record stuck on the turntables. "Umm umm"
The croc whacked him on the noggin. "Y'keepin' the kid up t'play games? Look at 'em he's ready t'fall over!" To which Charmy promptly straightened up his tired face.
"Y'nuthin but a bad influence on t'kid, Espio!"
"Yeah, Espio, you're a bad infloozence!"
"You traitor," the lizard hissed while nursing his new bump.
The reptilian duo chased after their bite-sized scout to a dilapidated, barn-like warehouse at the far side of the harbor. The surrounding shacks kept quiet, listening to the slosh of water and the buzz of hoverpods, but this creaky ancient had fired up with activity. Broken windowpanes warmed with yellow light and glowed mischief in the abandoned hours of the night.
The chains binding up the doors had been cut, and the entrance left casually ajar. Through the small opening, Vector could hear voices.
And screaming. Vector darted his snout around the corner.
The measly rat who'd rode in on the bike was tied up to a chair. The burly humans from the store mean brutes with ugly crew cuts stood guard behind his shoulders while the man in black interrogated.
"Where is she?" he repeated, cold and to the point. The battered rat panted, but kept his mouth shut. The leader motioned for another beating.
"A set-up," Espio frowned. "We're in the middle of some sort of mob-war." The captors were obviously high-ranking professionals, judging by their practiced efficiency at torture.
Vector's tolerance for the renegades had reached its limit. "I don't care who these guys think they are they ain't beatin' up that kid!" He was growling like a hungry predator. "Espio get up there naw! You know the signal."
"I'm on it!" The chameleon got down to business, scaling the walls like a leathery spider. Charmy's gaping eyes followed the neat-o trick, and he might have floated up like a balloon to track the wall-crawler if Vector hadn't nabbed his foot and yanked the kid down to reality.
"What do I do?" Charmy asked, excited to join the game.
"I don't care," Vector snorted. "Just stay outta the way, kid. If you get shot or lose a leg, don't come cryin' teh me."
"They won't catch me!" Charmy declared, and snapped on his goggles for battle. His eyes were immediately magnified to ludicrous, nerdy proportions, like frosty black hockey pucks.
The quick wink of a flashlight confirmed Espio in position, creeping though the broken skylights. Vector drew his revolver - a little electric pop-gun that delivered a nasty, non-lethal shock down the fired cord - and held it ready. Now all he needed was a little music to set the mood ...
Inside the warehouse, the three mobsters gave a collective pause to their interrogating.
"You hear something?" grunted one of the muscled goons, cocking his ears to a deep thumping.
"I feel something," the other replied, sensing the vibrations that rippled and shook his body.
"It sounds like "
" a bass line?"
The warehouse doors exploded under a dynamite kick and slammed into the walls. Heavy dust whisked into the air like fog-effects at a rock concert. Barging through the archway on the floodwaters of pounding rock music, his silhouette alone coursing fright through the crooks, there strutted a lime-green crocodile wrapped in gold chains and posh sneakers, tapping his tail to the obnoxious beat and daring them to take him seriously.
"ALL RIGHT, FREEZE, SLIME-BALLS!" he crooned with a Jersey accent. "THIS IS A RAID!"
And when the loony little bee with the preppy blazer, the lucky ladybug badge and the nerdy coke-can goggles buzzed over the croc's shoulder like a parrot, shouting, "YEAH! SLIME, FREEZE-BALLS!" it was probably just the sharp canines and the outstretched gun that kept the mobsters from acting on the impulse to snort and laugh.
Something sharp whizzed through the air, and three bad haircuts turned at the pop!Hisssss of a flattening tire off their black van.
"That," growled the horned lizard dematerializing from the walls, "was a warning shot. Don't move." His next knife was cocked over his shoulder, ready to throw.
The newcomer's hard eyes burned with yellow sunfire; his leather boots bore angry metal studs and his gauze-taped gloves jangled like spurs with the clink of concealed projectiles, but nevertheless, his body still hung precociously on the borderline of cotton-candy-pink, so he didn't seem all that scary.
The criminals and hostage spent some time sizing up their assailants, a trio so odd; so bizarre, that the only natural habitat all three might share would be a bus stop.
The leader in the black suit snarled on behalf of his group.
"Leave. This doesn't concern you."
Vector stepped forward and made sure they could see his gun. "Shoot us, and you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," warned the leader.
"Shaddup! Hands in the air," Vector commanded.
"Yeah! Hands in the air," Charmy parroted.
The man in black smirked and motioned to his underlings that they should humor the request. Like robots, they obeyed instantly, arms above their quickly blanked faces. Espio tensed, sensing some plot afoot.
"Might I inquire as to your intentions?" the leader asked with an intellectual poise. "Are you going to 'mug' us? 'Stick us up' and relieve our wallets of currency?"
"Sounds like poetic justice for these crooks."
The leader snorted and took a bold step forward. "Crooks? You renegades have no idea what you've interrupted."
"Looks teh me like we busted some bullies pickin' on the runt, there. Now turn around, an' keep those hands up!"
"Of course," the leader nodded drolly, while Vector moved to secure him. Espio covered the goons, who watched their commander closely. Charmy hovered nervously and the beaten rat watched the scene vaguely with his ragged, half-conscious breathing.
Vector reached a hand to pad for weapons. The human spun with whirlwind reflexes and slapped the gun from his grip.
"Hey! You little"
A lethal sidekick slammed into the croc's gut and pitched him to the floor.
Espio spent a second too long reacting, and the twin goons rushed with pile-driver punches.
"ESPIO!" Charmy's eyes nearly popped out of his goggles, and he zipped behind the tied-up rat to hide and watch the fight unfold.
The human bruisers rushed Espio again, but the chameleon proved far too skilled, hopping to the air like a rising crane and slamming karate-kicks into their chests. The goons crashed into the concrete with an approving cheer from Charmy.
The black-suited leader took a ready stance as Vector righted himself, then charged to pummel the croc's soft underbelly with kidney punches. He quickly learned from Vector's toothy smirk and his throbbing, raw hands, that crocodile hide was immensely tough, even in so-called 'weak spots'.
They tussled and spared to the beat of hard rock, brutal martial arts against basic thrashing and smashing, but there proved no competition against the leathery muscles of the green wrestling-machine. Vector thwacked black suit with his tail; then threw a right hook that beaned the nut in the jaw. K.O.!
The cool croc immediately retrieved his sidearm and hit a stance that covered all the goons with his outstretched gun. Espio back-flipped to his partner's side, flanking in a crouch with weapons at the ready. Both grunted affirmative to see all three bozos out for the count. Charmy rejoined above their heads, punched the air and completed the pose with a little dance.
Vector lowered his gun and nodded at the justice served. "Before you boys start anuder fight, better know who yer messin' with! WE'RE THE CHAOTIX!"
To which Charmy added, "SHA-BOOM!"
From the moment he regained consciousness to the minute he was untied, the rat couldn't stop thanking them. "Thank you, thank you," he panted in fearful worship. "I owe you guys. You won't regret this. Grinder repays his debts honest!"
Grinder, as he was dubbed, wore bleached jeans and bad, black leather to match his motorbike, but the clothes hung far too loose on the kid to produce any menacing effect. He shuffled under pant-legs that flopped and swallowed his feet like woman's skirts and constantly pushed back the long and loose sleeves of his jacket to wrinkly scrunches at his elbows. The gray-furred rat seemed about Espio's age, but the dangling clothes and jittery demeanor made him look like a child caught playing dress-up.
"They blackmailed me," he replied quickly to their pestering questions. "They, uh, said they had my, uh, sister down here. That they'd hurt her if I didn't come."
Even Charmy could tell the mouse was lying, but he checked to make sure.
"Psst! Vecter!" he whispered, forgetting that to whisper, one had to be quiet. "Is he lying?"
Espio just groaned.
"Quite the story," Vector nodded, ignoring the honeybee and eyeing the guitar case that had aroused his suspicion. He made a jaunty stroll for the instrument container. "But of course, if you're absolutely innocent, then why did you bring this?"
His tail lashed out and unclipped the latches. A guitar was inside. A nice, red, electric guitar.
Espio slapped his head and kept groaning.
Grinder rushed quickly to protect his instrument. "They called me just after I got out of band practice," he explained, swiftly closing the case. Vector couldn't sense any fabrication, but maybe he was too busy shuffling awkwardly to notice.
"I see" he coughed.
Grinder dug into his pocket and broke the tension. "Here." Espio received a small business card for a downtown music shop. "I work there. You ever need a favor or anything, you know who to ask for."
"Don't move," Espio snarled, sensing the fleeing instinct. "We're gonna call the cops; you gotta stick around and give a testimony."
"He's right," Vector chimed in. "Plus, we aught a look at that eye."
Grinder touched his puffy, squinting eye, noticing for the first time it was swollen shut. "Oh," he startled, slinging on his guitar case casually. "I I think it'll be fine."
"But those bad-guys just beat you up!" Charmy pointed out.
"Siddown," Vector ordered to the wobbly, bruised-up mouse. "We gotta get you teh the hospital."
Grinder sighed and relented. "Okay, I guess you're right." The team sighed as a whole.
The mouse chewed his lip and flicked his good eye around nervously in the ensuing silence. "See ya!" he chimed and dashed outside.
The Chaotix tried to follow, but ended up squashed at the door and fighting to get out first. The kid was gone by the time they all tumbled out the narrow slit like gumballs from a candy machine.
"You won't regret this! Grinder pays back his debts!" they heard him shout over the din of his departing motorbike.
Espio clenched his eyes and commenced groaning. No one heard him underneath three-hundred pounds of crocodile.
"911 Dispatch. How may I direct your"
"Police division," Vector interrupted, and paused for transfer. "This is the Chaotix Detective Agency; got a citizen's arrest teh report. We picked up a mob operation at Pier 52 at the south docks. Send a few squad cars, willya, sweetheart?"
The woman at the other end gave funny pause probably unaccustomed to the breach in etiquette. "Pier Fifty-Two" Her muttering stopped. "Pier Fifty-Two?" she repeated with an undertone of urgency. "Sir, may I ask who's calling?"
"Call me Vector. I'm with the Chaot"
"VECTOR!" Her voice blasted through the receiver with bug-eyed panic. "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh you're that maniac crocodile everyone keeps talking about! BETH," she hollered to someone on the other end.
There was some shuffling, and the phone exchanged hands. "Vector?" a familiar voice inquired.
"Beth! Hey, haven't heard ya fer a while how ya doin'?"
"Shut up, Vector! Oh my gosh, don't tell me you're down at the piers!"
"You betcha, honey! Me an the boys just busted some kinda kidnappin' operation or somethin'."
"You did what??"
"That's right, Beth. Couple o' mobsters grabbed a kid an' tried teh beat 'im up! Well, we showed 'em a thing 'r two, an they'll have few bruises teh remember us by."
Beth was now speaking with the other lady, but it came over the line, quick and panicked. "Did you send out that dispatch? You sent it out!!" To the crocodile, "Vector: get out of there! If you do one intelligent thing with your life, I'm begging you, leave!!"
"What? Ohh no ya don't Beth. I ain't missin' out on any reward! Gotta go!"
click. Vector closed up the nifty cell phone borrowed off one of the crooks, all three of which were tied up in a bundle and subject to pokings with a stick by a dopey little bee. Ah, let the kid have his fun. He'd been so excited to join a case; the poor kid spent all his time cooped up in the apartment, or whatever it was he did all day. Vector had never cared to ask.
"Good work, boys! A job well done!"
"Yeah!" Charmy chimed in agreement. "We rocked! We kicked their"
A pity the kid ran away, but who could blame him, beaten and terrified as he was? Oh well, they'd track him down for a statement and check-up soon enough. They were detectives, after all.
Espio busied himself by fishing through the supply van, coiled tail poking out the back doors. His voice hit a worried note. "Uh, Vector? I think you'd better take a look at this "
The brains of the detective agency plodded over to inspect Espio's findings. "HOLY CANOLI! These guys musta been heavy inta spyin': Look at all this stuff radios, radar screens, computers! It's like a military base in here! We musta busted a major operation!"
"Uh Vector, I think these guys are"
"We've hit the jackpot this time! Hoo boy, there's gonna be a big reward for pullin' in these scum!"
"Hey Vecter! Look at this!"
The little bee had managed to pry a juicy wallet from black-suit's pocket, much to Vector's annoyance. "Charmy! What did I say about handlin' evidence?"
"But Vecter, you gotta see this cool, shiny credit card! It's from..." he squinted, channeling all his attention to decipher the letters, "It says it's from G U N That spells gun!"
Vector toned down the volume on his headphones to be sure he caught that. "GUN?"
"Yeah, it's in that wallet the bad guy was carrying! " There came a quick flash of Eureka. "Hey, wow Gun! This guy's credit card has the same name as the army!"
His innocent, child-mind processed an irregularity in logic.
"Hey Vecter if they're bad-guys, how come they've got a credit card from the good guys?"
With a click of a button, the music stopped, and the warehouse dropped into dead, dumbfounded silence. Vector looked at the humans, two of which sported square, short crew cuts like those given to army infantry. He checked the van to be sure he'd seen right. Computers. Hi-tech radios. He turned with a very worried face to Espio for support. The chameleon just plucked the identification card from Charmy and submitted the findings.
Guardians of the United Nation:
Agent Derek Smithson
Level 5 Security Clearance
Even Charmy had pieced the clues together, judging by the very pale, worried look on the little guy's face. Vector swallowed back his worries with a trembling gulp and just managed to whisper, "Oh no"
Espio curled his lips and confirmed the discovery with a grave nod.
Vector jumped into a boisterous outrage. "The noive of these guys! Pickin' on a little kid! They're military! What happened teh honour and duty?"
boiiing. Charmy's nervously-clenched antennae snapped loose in a miniature explosion of tension. They beat up army men! Good guys! Well, technically he'd just watched, but he was still accountable as a spy and an accomplice. By some keen intuition of childhood, he understood that he was gonna die.
About that time, police sirens came into hearing and Charmy and Espio exchanged doomed looks while Vector continued to ramble about the responsibility and decency expected of the armed forces. Both them made themselves very quiet, very discreet, and took large, backwards steps from the trio tied up on the floor.
" Well, I fer one say we stay here and face em down. Yeah, they might be military, but that's no excuse teh pick on an innocent little kid in biker colours!"
Flashlights and handguns jogged into the warehouse and took offensive positions around the scene. "Boys, boys," Vector shushed, "Put down the guns everythin's been takin' care of here."
"FREEZE! HANDS UP, FURRY!"
Vector's snout dropped with offended exaggeration. "Furry? I'm Class Reptilia and proud of it, bucko!"
The rush of helicopters whooshed over the scene, and the blinding searchlights of Hoverpods lashed at Vector's eye. Black trucks pulled up outside, dwarfing the police cruisers and unloading black-suited agents. There seemed to be some dispute regarding command, but the robot and human peace officers both kept their guns trained on him.
A familiar voice pounded over the chaos of unloading troops. "Vector, you imbecile!" The Commissioner? "Chucky?" Vector asked.
The old, mustached human was spitting in his face. "You nitwit! Do you realize what you've interrupted here? The military has been working this sting-operation for weeks to capture that informant! Where is he?"
"Informant?" Vector fired back. "Only guy the Big Boys caught was a a" He caught himself, thinking back to the squirmy rat, the quick liar and the quicker runner. "Oh "
Wait a second. "They were torturin' him!" Vector rebuked. "How's that for proper an' legal conduct! My boys saw everythin', right Esp"
Espio? To his left, he could hear the soft pad of invisible footsteps up the wall.
Charmy? To his right, the distant whine of ascending flight.
"Far as I can see," the commissioner snorted, "You're in this alone."
The old friend would say no more. The commissioner spat on the floor and left the crocodile to the S.W.A.T. teams. Police officers in riot gear quickly surrounded the crocodile and read his rights. "You're under arrest for assault and battery of a government officer. You have the right to remain silent"
Vector hung his head shamefully and offered his wrists for handcuffing. He did not resist. It seemed he had also offered a new disgrace for the Chaotix Detective Agency ...