Title: Mouse Patrol
Word Count: 1487
Summary: A trip down memory lane for young Manic, after he accidentally reveals a bit of his thieving past to his siblings.
Notes: Takes place after episode 3 'Together in Harmony'. Manic makes some very telling statements in this episode. There is confirmation that he was part of a Thieve's Guild under Farrel, and that thief children in the Guild begin their training as part of the Mouse Patrol – stealing food and supplies from Robotnik's depots. There is an OC in this fic - but don't worry. He's not there long. :)
In the Thieves Guild, children learned the 'family' business at a very young age. The very first mission a Guild child was put on, was called Mouse Patrol. 'Mice' were sent to steal food and supplies from Robotnik warehouses and storage facilities.
Manic became a Mouse at age seven, a full year younger then the usual age of eight. Rusty, the old rat who had found him in the alley six years before, had argued that Manic's skills and abilities were well above average, and that made him qualified to run missions. A few key demonstrations, and Farrel had agreed, giving his consent.
Manic's first partner had been Swipes. Swipes was a sleek, orange Persian, a year older than Manic, and the descendant of some of the only Aristocrats to outwardly oppose Robotnik's regime. His parents had hidden him away, moments before Robotnik's Swatbots raided their home. Rusty had heard about the raid a few hours later, and had discovered Swipes hiding among the remains of his ancestral home while doing a scavenging run. He had brought the six year old back to Farrel. Swipes hadn't been his real name, but he'd never told anyone what it had been. Rusty had given him his new one after dodging a lightning fast swipe of the kid's claws when he'd first found him.
Now, normally Mice lived in a different part of Robotropolis, being raised by Guild families, raiding the buildings on the edges of town, further away from Robotnik's guards. It was no secret that the Dictator's security increased steadily as you got closer to the city center, where Robotnik himself held court in his kingdom.
But Farrel had had the unique situation of having young Manic in his charge. He and Rusty had both known the real identity of the young toddler – Rusty had recognized the Queen as she stole away into the night, all those years ago. Knowing that, Farrel decided that it would be best for him to train Manic personally, rather then sending him away to the Guild. When Rusty found Swipes, Farrel took him on as well, citing Manic as being his reason. Manic had been fast approaching the age when he would become a Mouse, and he would need a partner.
Mice worked in pairs. Solo runs meant no one to play lookout, and any more than two simply gave guards a bigger target to shoot at. Swipes had been six, when he had been found, and had required intense training to make him ready to be Manic's partner in less than two years.
Manic and Swipes had worked well together. They were the first Mice in Guild history to raid Robotnik's main headquarters, earning themselves an impressive reputation at a very young age. Manic had the better lock picking and computer hacking skills, but Swipes had made stealth and strategy into art forms, and working together, they amassed a serious amount of information that the Guild sorely needed.
Mice worked together, but also played together. Manic and Swipes' training bonded them, and they became the best of friends, each striving to make the other thee best they possibly could be. It seemed to be working – they became like legends among the other Mice, a symbol of something to aspire to. Farrel was especially pleased with them, as their exploits and accomplishments earned him the highest praise from the other Guild Masters regarding his training ability.
But all good things must eventually come to an end. That was something every street kid knew they could count on.
Manic had just turned ten, and Swipes eleven, when their luck ran out. While making another raid on Robotnik's food trucks, Swipes had caught a glimpse of the truck driver. It had been his father.
Unable to hold himself back, Swipes had dashed right to him, disregarding everything that had been trained into his head by Farrel and Rusty. All he could see was his father, arms open wide, and he had jumped the final few feet, landing in his father's embrace.
Only to cry out in shock when his father's metal arms had closed around him, preventing him from moving. Manic could only watch helplessly as the Swatbots surrounded his partner's father, escorting him into the building, firmly gripping the 'criminal' he no longer recognized as being his very own child. The last Manic saw of his old partner, was Swipes screaming at his father to remember him, tears streaking down his dirty face, leaving dark tracks in his fur.
Manic had waited until the coast cleared before racing back to Farrel's. Rusty left the second he heard Manic's story, but had returned hours later, a sad look on his face. Swipes had been roboticized mere minutes after he'd been brought inside.
Manic had been heartbroken, and furious at the same time. Why hadn't Swipes followed his training? It had been drilled into them over and over again, that people who had been roboticized were lost to them. It was one of the core rules that was covered in every training lesson. If Swipes had just listened – if he had only stayed put, he'd still be there with Manic.
Farrel had explained to him, rather gruffly, that that was the chief cause of death among the Mice. No matter how many times they explained and lectured about it, it was very hard to stop a child from revealing themselves to someone they used to know, particularly if the person they spotted had been family. Did Manic finally understand?
Manic did. The lesson had been painful, but it had been learned.
"That's so sad," Sonia whispered. She reached out and gripped her brother's hand. "You've never seen Swipes as a 'bot since?"
"Nope," Manic shrugged. He hadn't really wanted to talk about his past, but after rescuing Trevor from Robotnik, Sonic and Sonia had demanded to know some of the details of the Mouse Patrol he'd mentioned, specifically what it was, and what he'd done. "Hope I never do, too."
Sonia's grip tightened, and Manic closed his eyes for a second, determined not to break under her obvious concern for him. His free hand twirled one of his drumsticks automatically – it was habit for him to play with his sticks whenever ugly memories reared their heads, and this was definitely no exception. He squeezed Sonia's hand in return, his other hand began tapping even quicker. History had proven that the quick and steady beat of his drums soothed him like nothing else could.
Sonic gripped his shoulder lightly, and Manic smiled up at his big brother.
After another minute, Manic lightly shook off his siblings lingering touches, and stood up. "I don't know about you guys, but I'm gonna crash."
"You sure you're okay?" Sonic asked, eying him warily, as though expecting Manic to lie.
Well, who was he to disappoint? "'Course, dude. That stuffs all in the past. Didn't really think of it much until we did the whole rescue thing – it just brought parts of it back. No biggie."
Sonic and Sonia exchanged looks and then Sonia nodded. "If you're sure then. Goodnight Manic."
"Night bro." Sonic slapped him five. "I'll be in later."
Manic walked into the room he and Sonic shared in their newest safehouse, hopping onto the upper bunk he'd claimed as his own the day they'd arrived. He shrugged out of his vest, and undid his pack, setting it to the side. Then he paused, and his hand hovered over the zipper. Casting a quick look to the door, he opened it up and pulled out a small photo.
It was old, the edges worn and a bit ragged, and a small water stain marred the bottom corner, but you could clearly see a young green hedgehog beaming broadly at the camera, giving the victory sign. Swipes stood next to him, grinning cheekily, giving Manic rabbit ears. Behind them, Farrel stood imposingly, his arms crossed as he smirked at the photographer. Rusty had his back against Farrel's side, reclining lazily, arms folded, feet crossed at the ankles, turning his head to stick his tongue out at the camera.
Manic remembered that after the photo had been taken (by another Guild member), Farrel had moved, and Rusty had fallen to the ground, making him the perfect target for he and Swipes to tackle and tickle into submission.
Not all his memories were of thieving, raiding, lurking in sewers, being cold and hungry and afraid all the time. Manic gazed at the photo sadly, and cursed himself for ever opening his mouth about the Mouse Patrol, the stupid topic that had brought back all the painful memories he'd shoved aside. Still, recalling them brought back the severity of his lessons too, and he stared at Farrel.
I learned my lessons, Farrel, Rusty. I've kept true to them. I'll never forget them. And I'll never forget you either.
With that, Manic tucked the photo back in his pack, and went to sleep.
And in his dreams, he introduced a young Swipes to his siblings, and lived happily ever after.
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