Trigger Warning: Child abuse.

Rane groaned and pulled the blanket over her head as the bright fluorescent lights in her tiny bedroom suddenly came on.

"Go away..." Her muscles still ached from the day before—she'd broken her own speed record—and she was not at all ready to wake up.

"Rane!" Her father's voice barked from the intercom. "Get out here! Dr. Robotnik wants to see you!"

The fourteen-year-old frowned at her clock and struggled to make out the numbers. She finally just guessed, going by the general shape of the blurs.

"It's 2:32 in the morning!" She whined to the brushed steel walls. They stared back at her, unresponsive.

"RANE!" The older hedgehog's voice reverberated through the small room.

'He'll be in here in a moment,' she sighed to herself. Hauling herself upright, the emerald-green hedgehog pulled her gloves from the glorified steel box that served as a nightstand.

She heard a click behind her, then a whirring sound as the door leading into the hallway receded into the wall. She didn't even wait for the noise to begin before flattening her ears against her head. Her quills pricked up in annoyance at the barrage of shouting—it was not doubt the first of many she'd receive today.

"What the hell is wrong with you? I called you two times! You're keeping the doctor waiting! Do you have any idea how this makes me look? You're useless! Absolutely useless!"

She tuned out as he launched into one of his lectures. She knew every one of them by heart anyway.

Pushing herself off the bed and onto her feet, she retrieved her sneakers from a corner and stumbled back to the nightstand, pulling open the bottom drawer. Pulling out a clean pair of socks, she dropped heavily back onto the bed and finished dressing.

'What does porky want from me, anyway? I'm sure as heck not going out there naked!'

Of course, 'naked' was a relative term. Rane's 'clothes' consisted only of white gloves, white socks, and her beloved white sneakers with the light green buckles. But it was the principle of the thing.

Finally, she stood and faced her father. He was short, even for a hedgehog, and overweight to the point that it was almost comical. Eli the Hedgehog often made her think of the old adage about pets resembling their masters. He certainly resembled his. Except that her father wore glasses and lacked the stupid mustache.

She clearly got her looks from her mother. Though heaven knew where the green fur had come from—Eli was brown and going gray at the quills, and Mora had been a lovely shade of lavender. Is, Rane corrected herself.

With a frown at the still-tirading hedgehog, Rane started towards the door. Eli followed her, never missing a beat of his lecture.

The young hedgehog shivered as a blast of cold air from the city's massive air conditioning network hit her. Her fur and quills were still somewhat damp from last night's shower, and the cold quickly absorbed down to her skin. She knew that with all the electronics and mechanics in Robotropolis, air-conditioning was essential, but she was certain that this was overkill.

"Are you listening to me, girl?" Eli's voice broke through her thoughts, and she answered automatically.

"Yes, Eli..." She'd stopped calling him Daddy a long time ago. About the time she'd gotten old enough to understand what he really was: a spy for the most hated being on Mobius, and a person who'd sooner sell his own daughter to the devil than have harm come to his own quills. He was so rotten and so crooked that Robotnik had shunted his own nephew aside in favor of the hedgehog—blood ties clearly meant nothing to Robotnik.

No, she corrected herself, that wasn't true. Blood ties meant something to Robotnik. Blood ties were just about the only thing keeping Snively and herself from being robotocized.

Rane walked, still more asleep than awake, toward the command center. To most anyone else, these halls would be a veritable labyrinth, but not to Rane. Having lived here as long as she could remember, she knew every twist and turn by heart. The hallways were blessedly dim, and far easier on her eyes than the bright lights of her bedroom. Several times she closed her eyes completely as she walked, wanting nothing more than to just go back to bed.

When they finally reached the entrance to the command center, Rane forced herself to open her eyes. She shook herself, both mentally and physically, in an effort to wake up, and braced herself for whatever Robotnik had in store. There was really no telling with that man...

Eli pressed the button beside the door, which slid upwards into the wall above them. Following him into the cavernous room, Rane couldn't help but wonder what that fat tub-of-lard of a human could want at this unholy hour.

Dr. Ivo Robotnik slowly turned to face the two hedgehogs. As much as he detested hedgehogs—indeed, he hated all the citizens of Mobius, regardless of species—he had to admire the older hedgehog's cunning. Eli had proven to be most useful in his quest for total control of the planet. Eli's daughter, on the other hand...

He really couldn't stand the brat. He'd given her a home, provided her food and clothing (such as it was); he'd even allowed her to use his computers for her studies. And how did she repay him? By insulting him. By making him look stupid. Oh, she never did it directly. She didn't dare. But she still managed it, somehow.

He really hated her.

And now he knew she'd been lying to him. For months. Possibly years.

He was not happy.

And yet... and yet it might still be turned to his advantage...

Robotnik was making Rane nervous, but then, he always made her nervous. She spotted Snively off to her left; he looked anxious as ever. She had a strange feeling he was trying to tell her something, without drawing attention to himself, but she couldn't for the life of her figure out what.

She cleared her throat to break the awkward silence that had filled the room since they'd entered.

"You... wanted to see me?"

For a moment, the human remained silent, his red-on-black eyes regarding her calmly.

It was the calm that worried her. Like the calm that comes before the storm. This was not a good sign. Not at all. She spared another furtive glance at Snively. Their gazes locked for a moment, and Rane's blood ran cold. Something was very wrong.


Robotnik smiled slightly and turned to the main monitor. "I have something to show you, Rane. Something that I think you'll find most interesting."

Attempting to look nonplussed, Rane raised an eyebrow. What could possibly be so interesting that he felt the need to get her out of bed in the middle of the night? And since when did he care to tell her about anything? The man loved to gloat—at every opportunity—but he'd never made an occasion of it. At least not to where it concerned her. What was the big deal? What in hell was going on?

Eli the Hedgehog looked on in amusement. He stood just behind his daughter, and although he rather wished that he could see her face when Robotnik revealed his 'surprise', he stayed where he was. Shooting Snively a smirk, he slipped the hypodermic out of the compartment it had been hidden in and pulled off the protective cap that covered the needle. His lips curled at the irony as he silently tapped the syringe, watching the trapped bubbles rise to the top.

He could always watch it on the surveillance video later.

Dr. Robotnik tapped a few commands into one of a dozen keypads, then pressed the button that activated the huge screen.

"You see," he continued, "I've been installing cameras in some of the sectors that were previously unequipped. Sectors that I've decided don't hold information sensitive enough to exclude from the surveillance grid."

Rane nodded slowly. Many sectors in the city were deliberate dead-zones, so that anyone hacking into the system wouldn't find—or destroy—various projects the man was working on.

But she rarely visited those sectors. They were and had always been off limits to her. On the few occasions that she had stumbled across one, she had been rudely escorted out by swatbots. So what exactly did this have to do with her? Unless... No, surely not...

Robotnik glanced briefly over his shoulder at the girl. She didn't appear to have figured it out yet. Good. All the more fun when she saw the video.

"While I was at it," he drawled, "I installed cameras in other parts of the city. I hadn't realized quite how many dead areas there were." He pressed one last button and turned around.

All the blood drained from Rane's face as she stared, transfixed, at the giant display.

On the massive screen, Rane could see herself. Running. Jumping. Punching and kicking at various bits of refuse with a startling fervor, if a clear lack of training.

Occasionally a camera would lose her. After a few brief moments, another camera would pick her up—almost impossibly far from the last shot.

None of the images should have been recorded.

None of the cameras should have been there.

But they were.

And now Robotnik knew her secret.

She shook her head, disbelieving. The one thing that was hers, and hers alone, now they knew...

The dictator merely smiled in that incredibly creepy way he had. He had everything under control. "I don't like being lied to, Rane." She heard Snively whimper as Robotnik glanced past her with a nod.

She had forgotten that her father was standing behind her. Before she could work out what was happening, she felt a sharp pain in her neck.

Oh my God, they're going to roboticize me! But why the

But she never managed to complete her question.

Robotnik watched in satisfaction as the teenager crumpled to the floor. He gestured to the pair of swat-bots that waited patiently by the door, then turned back to the monitor.

"Prep her for surgery."