Part 15: Before a Festival
Sonic stretched out in the chain and fabric hammock on the sky deck of the Gold Star, yawning. The hammock was positioned behind one of the tall fins of the ship, so most of the cross wind missed it, but there was still enough that caught it to rock the mesh. It was why Sonic had insisted it be made of stronger stuff than the ones he lounged in on the ground. Further out on the deck some of his robots carried out general maintenance on the fins, using their prehensile cable tails to cling to holes built into the design as hand grips. He had returned to the air ship alone, and had spent a lot of time back there, repairing the programs in his robots and making modifications to various mechanics that he couldn't write down for the Coconuts to carry out.
"Sonic, my boy."
"Zip it Eggman, we discussed that." Sonic turned his face to look at the scientist.
"Now now, temper!" Robotnik stood confidently on the deck, unsupported by his robotic guards, though the oversized rabbit robots were nearby. "I was merely going to suggest that you take a break from your repairs."
"What does it look like I'm doing?" The hedgehog rolled back to his previous position, getting comfortable again in the hammock. He waved a hand dismissively at Robotnik. "Besides, don't you have somewhere else to be? Like your stupid factories and whatever other crap you feed that gullible lot?" The wave turned to a finger pointing down towards the deck, indicating the Mobians below.
"Oh come now child, you'd think we'd have overcome this misunderstanding by now!"
"Sonic." Robotnik reached down and jabbed the hedgehog's shoulder with a flabby finger. "You have friends down there, shouldn't you go and play?"
Sonic swatted the hand away, growling. "They're fine. I'll go see them in my own time. Besides, since when do you care about my friends?" Sonic sat up, glaring. "What are you plotting now, Eggman?"
"I assure you, my boy, I am not 'plotting' anything." Robotnik shook his head sadly. "When I said I'd take responsibility for you, that meant for your personal well-being, not just for your actions. And you have been cooped up in this ship for weeks, you could use a nice long run to keep those legs of yours in shape."
"Feh, that's what treadmills are for."
"You know they cannot compare to real ground for training."
"Yeah yeah, you lectured me about the forces on my body and blah blah blah before." Sonic mimicked a mouth with his hand, before sweeping it back through his quills. "I managed just fine before your 'help'."
"Suit yourself boy." Robotnik handed him a palm sized computer. "Here, Jonathan sent you a message, something about a party."
"You reading my messages again?"
"Of course not, young Lightfoot spoke to me over the video system and asked me to relay it to you." Robotnik turned to start heading towards the nearest door that lead into the ship, after Sonic snatched the screen from him. "Of course, no one invites me to parties."
"That's because you're a jerk with no friends because you're only ever around these robots or shut away in your factories."
"Yes yes, good good. Well you have fun, my boy, I have to make my way to Metropolis for an important meeting. I trust you can handle the Gold Star without my assistance?"
"Dude, it's MY ship! I bloody well hope so!"
Sonic glared at the back of the scientist's head as he vanished back into the airship, and turned his attention to his screen. Emerald eyes scanned it for a moment, looking at the frozen image of the grey rabbit on it, before he pressed play. The video was slightly static, where it had been sent over the considerable distance to the ship as it flew above a place Sonic had never heard of and didn't particularly care to find out the name of; some beach on the eastern coast of some random continent. Sonic had flown over the unnamed beach in the Tornado once; there were large, round, stone columns precariously balanced on this strange one, and scattered boulders blocking almost every path; as if it had been ruined decades ago, as opposed to South Island's white sands and emerald palm trees. Sonic, on the whole, preferred the Emerald Hill's beach to the ruins the Gold Star was flying over. Johnny's face on the screen was cheerful enough, and behind him Sonic could see several people, including Porker, dashing around carrying boxes. Sonic had to perk his ears forward to hear the voice from the tinny speakers on the device, but the rabbit sounded calmer than the rest of the cacophony behind him.
"Hey Sonic, I asked Doctor Robotnik to pass this on to you, so don't be so paranoid if you have it!" Johnny laughed, motioning behind him. "You can see we're all busy down here-"
"Yeah, and you could be helping mister!" A strange voice interrupted him, Sonic thought it was probably a girl but it was hard to tell through the bad speakers.
"Yes, I'll be there in a moment!" Johnny smiled at someone off screen, then turned his attention back to the camera. "We're setting up for a big party down here, it's a festival celebrating one of the biggest legends about South Island that the Emerald Hill has kept for centuries. It's hard to explain over this thing, so you should totally come along! Pretty sure you'll like it, and believe me, you'll fit right in!"
"That better not be a joke at my expense, Johnny." Sonic muttered.
"Not to mention I think it's a story you'll be interested in. And there'll be food and drink too, so yeah. It starts tomorrow, so you might wanna start heading back if you wanna come along!" Johnny nodded, and reached forwards under the camera to what Sonic assumed was the keyboard. "So we'll see you here I guess! Right, I have to help with the preparations so I better go. Bye Sonic!"
The video cut off, and Sonic tucked the screen into the hammock beside him. What was this festival Johnny was on about? He couldn't remember if the rabbit had mentioned it to him before or not, but it sounded interesting, if he would 'fit right in'. Sonic shook his head. Unless it was about rainbow coloured animals being normal, he was pretty sure he'd never fit in. But he did love a party. And Johnny had said something about food.
Sonic looked up as the nearby door slid open again, and Robotnik walked out, followed by his bodyguards, which were carrying large boxes in their short arms. Sonic raised an eyebrow at them as they bounced down the deck, and his Coconuts robots had to scatter out of their path. One day, he decided, he'd dismantle the huge machines and find out how they worked. He looked back at Robotnik as the scientist strolled past after the Splats robots.
"Oi, you better not burn the deck again when you take off in that thing." Sonic pointed at the red and black jet at the end of the deck, it dwarfed the Tornado. Or it would have, if Sonic hadn't moved his biplane to the front of the Gold Star and out the jet's way.
"Remember, my boy, I've installed the blast plate now. It should be fine."
"You're taking those creepy rabbits with you?"
Robotnik chuckled, which made his moustache quiver. "Of course I am. I cannot take the risk that you would bore yourself and take them apart." He said, as if he'd read Sonic's thoughts.
"I could put them back together."
"We both know you would not. Do not treat me as a fool, Sonic." Robotnik patted the top of the hedgehog's head, brushing the blue fur into order, and Sonic stiffened, his quills bristling at the contact. "I shall see you soon, my boy. Do enjoy yourself in my absence."
Robotnik made his way over to his jet, and Sonic shook his quills back into a disorganised mess. If Robotnik had got some loose spikes in his hand from the effort, he hadn't made a show of it. Sonic grumbled at the thick gloves he knew the human wore. He watched the jet's engines warm up, and slouched back in his hammock as the aircraft rocketed away from the Gold Star, the raised plate behind it ensuring the flames from the engine were sent backwards; the jet was facing towards the side of the ship, so the flames were blown to the rear instead of back over the plane again.
Sonic waited for it to vanish into the distance, before he grabbed the screen from beside him and rolled out of the hammock. He made his way along the sky deck, to the entrance nearest the bridge. A simple trip down an elevator Robotnik had installed let him directly into the bridge, where Sonic dropped into his chair and spun it around, taking in the room.
"Coconuts! Take us to South Island!" He said dramatically, while inputting co-ordinates manually on his console and getting to his feet to dart over to the controls. "I got a party to get to!"
Johnny waved the next morning, as Sonic landed the Tornado in a field a short distance from the village. Porker was standing next to the rabbit, concentrating more on the imposing shape of the Gold Star floating overhead. He tapped a finger on his chin thoughtfully as Sonic jumped from the cockpit of the Tornado and tackled Johnny to the ground.
"Hey there fluff butt! Where's the party?" He grinned.
"Hi Sonic. How about you get off of me and we can explain about it?"
"Hmm," Sonic mused, "okay then!"
"Sonic?" Porker mumbled. "H-have you thought about how much f-fuel that ship uses when hovering like that?"
"Uh, yeah?" Sonic let Johnny get to his feet, while he stood between the two taller Mobians. "You explained it when we were designing it. And helped come up with a fuel that doesn't pollute and stuff, remember?"
"I know th-that... But it takes a lot to make it and-"
"And you worry too much, Porker!" Sonic reached up to pat his arm. "I have a small refinery on board and it's worked out fine so far!"
"I still don't think you sh-should keep it up there s-so long."
"It'd take more fuel to take it off from a standstill, you know." Sonic shrugged and looked around. "Anyone seen Tails this week?"
"Afraid not, Sonic." Johnny said, shaking his head. "No one's really seen him since you went back to the Gold Star. What have you been up to up there anyway?"
"Just lots of maintenance, and making sure Eggman keeps his mitts off my stuff." Sonic snorted.
"Come on, we'll go to my place, there's still stuff to do and Amy will kill us if she catches us just standing around." Johnny laughed as he started to walk back towards the village.
"Just a bossy girl who likes to pretend she's in charge here. You'll know her when you see her, she'll probably shove a box into your arms right now."
"Sh-she can be pretty scary..."
"You're scared of everything Porker."
"Not t-true Sonic!"
Soon enough, the trio were sitting around a table, with a selection of brightly coloured masks laid out before them. Sonic picked one up and turned it over; an elegant eye mask that would have looked like something from a super hero comic book, were it not painted gold and adorned with fake red gemstones and two blue feathers. The hedgehog jumped up on the table, putting the mask over his face and bowing extravagantly at his friends. After drawing their chuckles and applause, he took the mask back off and dropped back into his chair, grinning. Johnny held up a similar one; a longer one that had a point which would taper over the nose, with green feathers and false diamonds on it. Porker didn't pick the third one up, preferring to prod at the keypad of his hand-held computer.
"So it's a masquerade?" Sonic flipped his mask into the air, before catching it again.
"Mhmm, not just any either, it's a huge attraction! It's why Emerald Hill's so busy."
"Yeah, I can't say I've seen so many people here before, what's the big deal? Don't they have their own festivals?"
"Well of course they do." Johnny tried his own mask on as he spoke. "But still, what better excuse to see a new place than a festival?"
"I think a lot of them are from S-Soleanna."
"Where?" Sonic raised an eyebrow at Porker, who hadn't looked up from his screen as he spoke.
"Oh, just a floating city across th-the other side of the w-world." Porker turned his palm computer around so Sonic could see the screen. "See? It's g-got canals and everything."
"It's nothing like the L-Labyrinth Zone... It's all above water. It's just canals."
"Still water." Sonic stuck his tongue out in disgust. "But why would they come all the way to South Island?"
"Well, their Solaris festival isn't for a-another few m-months. They don't c-celebrate Chaos over there."
"Really?" Sonic took Porker's computer from him and flipped through it. "Huh. I said it before, I'll say it again..." he passed the machine back to the pig, "... humans are weird."
Porker turned the computer off and put it down on the table, finally picking up his own mask and trying it on; a disc shaped mask with grey feathers and blue stones. Sonic giggled slightly, provoking him to take it off again in a hurry. Johnny bopped a fist lightly on the hedgehog's head, and smiled reassuringly at Porker, telling him he didn't look bad. Sonic rubbed the top of his head and nodded, grinning as he apologised. He looked over to Johnny, who twitched his ears towards him as he spoke.
"So what's the festival about?"
"Ah, well, it's celebrating the Chaos Emeralds!"
"... Oh?" Sonic's interest perked up. "Oh really? Why? And why haven't I heard of it before?"
"Well, it's not held very often, something like every fourteen years or so."
"Ah. So if I ever went I'd have been too little to remember it?" Sonic frowned as Johnny nodded. "Well why then?"
"It's to do with the amount of times an Emerald has been s-seen in Emerald Hill." Porker pointed out.
"So I might find one if I look?"
"Nope." Johnny chuckled. "The Emerald's only been seen fourteen times in recorded history."
"But I had seven the other year-"
"-Wait, you had the seven Emeralds?" Porker blinked, and Sonic nodded. "There are only six!"
"You didn't tell us..." Johnny raised an eyebrow, and Sonic shrugged.
"You didn't ask."
"We'd have thought-"
"You'd have thought wrong. I'm allowed one or two secrets now and again." Sonic chuckled, balancing his mask on the tip of a finger. "So? When does the party start?"
"Hmm." Johnny rolled his eyes at the sudden change in topic. "Soon. After sunset, you'll see."
"Well, that's when lights and fireworks show up the best."
"True!" Sonic was grinning madly at mention of fireworks. "How many do you reckon will be there?"
"Lots. People tend to camp out in the Zone somewhere."
"A-and come into the village for when i-it starts." Porker added to Johnny's sentence. "I-it's not got any h-hotels, as you can see."
Sonic dashed out of the door, leaving his friends at the table, and circled his way around the house, before jumping up to the roof from a nearby tree. He stood there in the afternoon light, letting the light breeze blow through his quills, as he looked out over the hilly fields, searching for glimpses of these foreign visitors. But something else caught his eye instead, and he whirled around, perking his ears forwards though it was far off in the distance.
"Sonic! Come back in and get..." Johnny stepped outside, calling up towards the roof, but stopped. "... your dinner... Oh man, now where's he gone?"
Sonic had left the village, with only the rush of wind whistling overhead telling the rabbit how close he'd been to catching him.
The hedgehog tapped his foot impatiently, with his arms folded, as he stood atop one of the giant stone loops. He could've sworn he'd seen someone here, but once he'd got to the hill the ring stood on, they'd gone. Sonic scoured the area with piercing eyes, looking for any sign of the person, until something hit him in the back of his head and knocked him off balance. He flailed madly on the edge of the loop, wind-milling his arms until he regained it, before whirling to glare accusingly at the girl rolling on the grass in fits of giggles. He opened his mouth, ready to snap an angry retort at her, but stopped.
"...Whoa..." he said as he dropped off the loop, forgetting about the uncomfortable object in amongst his spikes. He stepped up to the hedgehog in the grass, blinking. "Did you give me a concussion or are you actually pink?"
"Wahahah! Oh my gosh you looked so silly! Do that again!" The girl sat up, smiling light-heartedly. She was, indeed, a bright, rose pink, and her jade eyes were dancing with repressed laughter as she tried to speak. "And yes, yes I am, thank you for noticing~!
"Why are you pink?"
"I dunno, born this way." The girl shrugged. "Not as interesting as why you're blue, Sonic!"
"... hmph." Sonic didn't bother asking why she knew his name. Most Emerald Hill Zone residents did. Instead he reached into his quills and pulled out a toy arrow. "Is this yours?" He glared.
"Yup!" The girl waved a small bow in the air. "Good shot, wasn't it?"
"You could have got me hurt." Sonic said, coldly, as he tossed the arrow back to her. "Bye."
"Ah! Wait!" She got to her feet and dusted her orange skirt down. "You're coming to the party later, right?"
"Well, you gotta help us out! We still have some decorations to put up and stuff, and with the way you can jump it'll make things much easier!" She giggled again as Sonic pouted. "Oh don't look at me like that, I saw you get up on top of that!"
"Who are you?"
"I'm Amy Rose~"
"Oh, you aren't the girl Johnny warned me about?"
"Johnny warned you about me~? Aww, that's so sweet!" She skipped over to him and wrapped her arms around one of his. "So, aren't you going to escort me back to the village~?"
"Ew... Leggo!" Sonic yanked his arm free, bristling at her. "Don't touch!"
"Aww, why not?"
"I just don't like to be touched!"
"Are you scared of little me?" Amy smiled playfully, clasping her hands in front of her and shuffling a foot. "I don't bite, Sonic~"
"Yeah, and I don't do being touched!"
"Well, are you going to help out?"
"I guess, maybe, just... no more touching!"
"Oh okay, I guess..." The pink hedgehog put a finger to her lips thoughtfully. "So... what kinda girls you into~?"
Sonic spluttered, face flushing red. "W-what?"
"You heard me!" Amy put her hands up either side of her head. "Or are those sails not very good at catching the wind?"
"Sails?" Sonic flattened his ears back indignantly. "Hmph! It's none of your business you nosy kid!"
"Hey, you're not much older than me!" Amy smiled, as if pleased she was getting on his nerves.
"Grr... I... Whatever! I'm outta here..."
Sonic turned to face the village again, jogging on the spot. As his legs got up to speed, he glanced over at Amy, and was rewarded with a sucker arrow stuck to his face. It threw off his concentration, and he tripped over his own shoe, landing face down in the grass. Amy giggled nearby, before running off in a patter of feet as Sonic propped himself up on an elbow. He pulled the plastic dart from his eyebrows, and scowled at it. He cast his mind over the other hedgehog's colouring or a moment, before deciding his next mission would be to ask around about it.
After all, he needed something to get her back for that mouthful of dirt she just gave him.