Oh Dear, Again
I cannot believe I continued this. I have no excuses. The not-at-all awaited and perhaps even dreaded sequel to "Oh Dear," still featuring NiGHTS, Reala, and a smattering of everybody.
NiGHTS and Sonic characters belong to Sonic Team and SEGA. Star Fox characters belong to Nintendo. Any other characters used here are either public domain fan creations, or hopelessly lost in the wrong fic. Poor things.
"Hey Reala," NiGHTS said, suddenly, "does it feel like some five or six years just passed while we were standing here?"
"Well, I'm fairly sure something odd just happened," Reala said, looking around.
They were still in the hallway of some sort of futuristic machine, and there was still a funny frog-man with a hat named Slippy standing in front of them.
He looked a little annoyed.
Somewhere far away in a forest of mushrooms, an aristocratically inclined blue hedgehog and an aerodynamically empowered fox were not in the presence of a red echidna. This state of affairs could be credited to Reala.
Also, somewhere even farther away, Jackle, Claws, and a significant number of monkeys WERE in the presence of a red echidna. This, too, was Reala's fault.
Also also, somewhere in Japan, Kikuchi Masami was mourning the loss of his snack, but Reala had nothing to do with it. Honest.
"Disinterest gap," the frog sighed at a point in the story particularly distant from the last location reference, thus spinning the heads of readers with any sort of sensitivity to narration flow.
"Come again?" Reala said when the spinning had stopped.
"Quex is very poor at continuity. She'll kinda run out on a series for some two years or more, then come back when she's bored. Happens to us all the time."
"To us?" queried Reala, tilting his head to one side. The tails of his hat flipped to the left.
NiGHTS cocked his eyebrows and leaned over to poke the owner of Slippy-the-hat in the forehead.
"How many people do you have in there?"
"Not me," the frog said, brushing NiGHTS away in annoyance, "the crew. I'm not the only one on this ship, you know."
"Ship?" queried Reala again, tilting his head to the side opposite from the side he had previously tilted it.
The tails of his hat flipped to the right.
"Yes. You're on the Great Fox tactical transport, battleclass."
There was some quiet, thoughtful blinking on the part of the Nightmaren.
"Some of those words don't make sense to me," NiGHTS said slowly.
Reala shifted uneasily. Some of the words didn't make sense to him, either, which was unnerving.
He began to wonder, as he often did, whether he could catch stupidity from NiGHTS. If so, was it chronic? Terminal? Was there treatment? A support group?
"You two don't look like the most technologically advanced species around Lylat," said the frog, stepping past the Nightmaren pair to a metal door at the end of the hallway, "so try not to worry about it."
He motioned for the two of them to follow, then tapped a panel on the wall. The door slid up into the ceiling, out of sight.
Somewhere else in the same ironically interdependent collection of life support technology and lethal weapons systems, an aerodynamically empowered orange fox was not in the presence of a red echidna.
He was not, however, the same aerodynamically empowered orange fox-sans-echidna previously mentioned in this story. It might be of interest to particular persons that this fox was conveniently named as such; Fox. His last name was Scottish for some reason. That is to say, of a Scottish origin, not "Scottish."
It also might be of interest to other particular persons, or perhaps the same persons as before, to know that there was a large, blue bird somewhere in the general area of the fox named Fox.
In the common Lylatian language, "general area" is widely understood to mean "refrigerator."
Fox McCloud's ears perked up at the voice of Falco Lombardi, his second in command. He sat up sharply in his chair and shot a quick glance towards the all-go screen mounted on the wall.
"Trouble on radar?"
"No, we're out of peanut butter."
Falco kicked the refrigerator door shut and studied the items in his hands. In his left, there was an empty cardboard tube and a length of string. In his right, there was a bag of birdseed.
Fox folded his arms on the kitchen table and dropped his head in despair. They had gone for three days without a good space fight, and the whole team was languishing with cabin fever. It didn't help much that their main engine's power source was on the fritz, leaving them stranded in a dead corner of space.
It also did not help that Fox's most trusted friend and official team asshole, Falco, had suddenly chosen now of all times to take up bird watching.
"Everything but the gddamned peanut butter," Falco huffed, slumping down in the chair across from him.
"A birdfeeder in space wouldn't have worked anyway," Fox mumbled past his elbows.
"Shut up, I know that."
There was a long pause.
"You were gonna eat it yourself, weren't you?"
Fox felt the cardboard tube bounce off his head and flicked his ear involuntarily to rearrange his fur.
"Thanks for that. Hey, when did Slippy say he was going to finish patching up the arc drive?"
"He'll get it finished sometime before we drift into the next system, he says, but every time he crosses wires to test the thing, weird shit shows up in the swifts."
Fox's ears flicked involuntarily again, but not in response to any cardboard tube harassment.
"Yeah," Falco said, "like the first time he did it, he turned around and tripped over a toaster."
Fox's ears flicked again. (It was just a thing he had.)
"A toaster," Fox repeated.
"It's the little machine that you put bread into and take toast out of," Falco reminded him gently.
Fox sat up straight and thought. Toasters were not enemy fighters, but misplaced toasters were, at least, suspicious.
"Why the hell did we have a toaster in the maintenance swifts?"
"That's what I'm telling you. It wasn't there before, it just kinda popped up," Falco shrugged as though his explanation was completely valid and not at all alarming, "In a toastery way."
Fox thereby popped up from his chair in a toastery way.
"Damnit, things don't just appear like that. Something's wrong down there… what else has materialized while Slippy's been working on the arc drive?"
"I don't know… too much stuff. Slip doesn't even mention it any more. There was a box of Christmas lights, an ugly fedora, and I think he's still looking for folks to take the goldfish."
"No, the actual fish. Hell, I'd have taken the crackers."
Fox crossed his arms and thought hard.
He was pretty sure he'd have taken the crackers, too.
But more importantly, there was something extremely unlikely happening in the belly of his ship, and he wanted to know what threat it posed to the team. Wildcard dimensional anomalies, though rare, were not entirely unheard of in the Lylat system, and the crews that ran across them did not often meet a happy end…
"Gddamnit, now I want Goldfish and peanut butter," Falco muttered.
"Stop being hungry for a minute and follow me down to the swifts, will ya?"
"On the off chance that Slippy's spooked up a better snack, roger that."
"That sounded like a change in hull pressure," said the grey and white rabbit. He was roughly the same size as the frog; maybe a little taller. He wore a green fedora held snuggly in place between his long ears.
For the record, the fedora was not named Slippy.
"That was a change in hull pressure," Slippy the not-hat-but-rather-frog-with-hat nodded, webbed hands buried in brightly-colored wiring. He seemed entirely unconcerned.
"…well, if you're not panicking, guess I won't either," the rabbit said, sitting down on a box of Christmas lights.
As it was a rather large box of Christmas lights, it happened to be hosting two other seated occupants. The rabbit turned politely to them and asked, in an unassuming way, "and who are you two gentlemen?"
Reala heaved a deep sigh, then tiredly introduced both himself and NiGHTS.
"I'm Reala, that one's NiGHTS. We're from a world of Nightmares."
("That's the fourteenth time he's told you that," NiGHTS added helpfully.)
"Nightmares, you say?" said the rabbit, rather taken aback, "you'd better not-…"
"Cause any trouble? No, we won't," Reala finished impatiently.
("You've done that bit fourteen times, too," said NiGHTS.)
"Bite? No. Have a grudge against the Lylatian Federation, no; work for Andross, no; been displaced by the Macbeth Conflict, no; have any connections to the mafia, no; ever smuggled from Zoness, no," Reala sped through the things the rabbit invariably asked him about.
"Did I miss anything?"
The rabbit blinked.
"Do a barrel roll?"
...upon the saying of which, Reala and NiGHTS blinked back.
"Don't get attached to 'em, Peppy," the frog cautioned, "They're going into the goldfish hole as soon as I figure out how to open it again."
Reala didn't like the sound of that. The goldfish hole, whatever it was, gave the impression of being… unsafe. It also sounded very unlike either of the places he wanted to go, one of which was Twin Seeds, and the other of which was Nightopia.
In light of the many events of the day, he was becoming increasingly partial to the later.
"NiGHTS, I don't suppose you'd try making a portal back home right about now, would you?"
"No, I don't suppose I would," NiGHTS replied.
An outburst from Slippy stopped Reala from re-applying his question with physical force.
"NO PORTALS, AT ALL, ANYWHERE."
"NO. HELL NO. You are less than ten meters from the active core of an arc drive. There will be absolutely NO portals, no warps, no wormholes, loopholes, donut holes, et cetera, et cetera, on this ship. You make a portal in here, I will drill a portal through your skull."
"W-why, pray tell?" asked Reala, in a tone he hoped would not be frog-antagonizing.
"Because," came a voice from behind everyone, seeing as everyone was conveniently facing the same way at the time, "any kind of anomaly passing through a ship's arc drive will tear the core right out of it, destroying the ship."
Reala turned around and came noseless-face-to-muzzle with the second aerodynamically-empowered orange fox to grace his day. (Somewhere in Japan, Quex gave thanks that hyphens were a free commodity, and their usage not carefully policed.)
"And especially because this is MY ship," Fox finished smartly.
"Take that thing off, you old fart," Falco muttered in the background, snatching the fedora away from Peppy.
Somewhere in America, Frank Sinatra Jr.'s voice stopped in the middle of a solo.
The air in the Reslee Auditorium was warm and lively, and the audience was terrific. For a few brief seconds, the band happily played on, oblivious to the sudden change in their master's mood.
Then, with one wave of his terrifying hand, the titan of jazz smote the bassist with lightning from on high.
The band stopped as one. The trombone players drew in their slides and the trumpets shrunk down. The conductor absconded his platform in a hurry, taking refuge against the walls of the orchestra pit. He had witnessed more of the master's fits of rage than most in the Sinatra Band, and it was his readiness to shelter that always saved his life…
In the sudden silence enveloping the music hall, the audience of several hundred men and women sat stunned. They mirrored the horror that shone forth from each and every eye among the world's best compilation of jazz musicians, frozen across the stage before them, spellbound by the fury of their master, Lord Sinatra.
And from the dreaded crooner's lips came but one utterance:
"Come on, now, they get to wear funny hats," Peppy complained, gesturing at the Nightmaren pair.
("All funny hats are going in the goldfish hole, T minus five minutes," said Slippy, nonchalantly clipping some bare wires with a rusted cutter.)
"They're... uh..." Falco looked the strangers up and down with a tinge of uncertainty.
NiGHTS was smiling pleasantly at nothing in particular, and Reala was glaring darkly at NiGHTS in particular.
"Well, I'm pretty sure they're retarded, or something."
NiGHTS kept on smiling. Reala retargeted to Falco.
Fox stepped up behind Slippy and peered at the colorful collection of wires spilling out of the ship.
"Slip, stop playing medic to the rainbow spaghetti and give me a status report. What the hell's been going on down here? Falco told me some interesting things about toasters and Christmas lights."
"Alright, keep your shirt on," Slippy muttered, climbing to his feet.
He pulled Fox to one side of the corridor, and, while Falco and Reala got acquainted with one another's style of antagonizing banter, the only even remotely serious part of the story was revealed.
"I say, Clawz, what's that up ahead of us?"
"Mgg fah kee fuu obah fah mumfees."
And with a terrific crash of dehydrated potato flakes, slightly used popcorn, irate primates, two Nightmaren, and one red echidna, the events of the day took a sudden turn for the worse.
Oh, and syrup. There was syrup in that crash, too.
"I said," Claws gasped, finally free of the large jug of Aunt Jemima that had been plugging his jaws for hours, "I can't hear you over the monkeys."
The monkeys swirled around in the chaos like dervishes, snatched up the syrup canteen, and vanished in a flash of dried foodstuffs. They had won THIS battle, but the two Maren knew that the war would continue.
"Sorry. I was asking what this thing previously up ahead of us was, but I can see now that it's a..."
Jackle turned to the dazed figure lying on the grass beside them and paused.
"...wow, I'm not sure what it is, actually."
Jackle and Clawz crept closer to the thing. It was red for the most part, and spiky in some places. It was also a Tuesday ahead of its assigned place in the space-time continuum, but not many people would have been able to recognize that just by looking at it.
It was none of these qualities, however, that caught the attention of the two Nightmaren. Rather, it was...
"Holy crap, chickenfingers!"
Clawz leapt back in shock.
"Amazing," Jackle whispered, leaning closer, "It's... it's like a chickenfinger crown..."
"Stay away from it, Jackle!"
But Clawz's warning was too late. The be-chickenfingered one suddenly awoke, eyes snapping open, catching the caped Maren in it's stare.
"I'm gonna say this quietly," Slippy warned, lowering his voice. "Listen close and don't panic."
Fox gave a sharp nod.
"Okay. There's some sort of anomaly on the ship. It showed up about the time we took off from Papetoon. Remember how we had to ditch that mistaken supplies shipment?"
"Yeah, three tons of popcorn and syrup. I'd love to know what the depot officers were smoking when they packed THAT crate."
"The fact of the matter is, regardless of what was IN the crate, it was still three tons. That's a lot of physical mass. And I think we let go of it a little too close to the Plot Hole."
Fox gasped inwardly. The Plot Hole. A notorious spacial enigma in the Lylat system, the terror of pilots everywhere. It was not so nearly as dangerous as the Black Hole, an almighty gravitational paradox that swallowed whole planets and was responsible for the death of Fox's own father, but it was, at least, very hole-ish in it's own right, and just as scary.
The power of the Plot Hole was that it sucked. In fact, it sucked many orders of magnitude beyond the suckiest thing Cornerian scientists had ever been able to create in laboratory conditions. They tried really hard, mind you, but even the sheer "suck" of things like getting the night shift on a Saturday over the holidays couldn't come close.
"It did vanish off radar pretty quickly," Fox agreed, "so you think it got sucked in, then?"
"Bingo. And now we're getting the payback."
"What kind of payback, exactly, do you think three tons of popcorn and syrup in a Plot Hole would produce?"
Slippy studied the floor, carefully composing an answer. The news was bad, Fox could tell.
"It's... it's a conservative estimate, but..."
Fox held his breath.
"…three tons of crossfiction."
Fox felt his heart drop into his stomach. Crossfiction. Sweet lord of mercy, they were dead men.
"Best case scenario, it's something like we get into a race with Captain Falcon, or we meet Samus and bust up some Metroids. Worst case, we get dragged into a conflict with, hell, I dunno, dinosaurs or something retarded like that, and you fall for some psychic tribal chick with a magic staff and not enough clothing."
"Crossfiction. Damnit. I would have picked anything but crossfiction..."
Slippy tried to fight back the feeling of despair that was already creeping over his captain and pushed ahead.
"I think we can get through it, though. Don't panic. Our current situation is this; we've got some bits and pieces from other series, but no deadlocked plot yet. There are two unidentified beings on the ship, one or both of whom might be retarded, and some kind of alternate version of Peppy."
"Wait. I heard about toasters and I noticed the aliens, but what's this about Peppy?"
Slippy's eyes shifted a little toward the rabbit.
"Did you catch the hat thing?"
Fox shook his head.
"About a minute ago, Falco yanked that stupid hat off Peppy and called him old. What did Pep do?"
"Whined about it."
"What would Peppy usually do?"
"He would have cracked Falco across the beak and taken the hat back…"
"Exactly. He's been repeating himself a lot lately, too... especially the line 'do a barrel roll,' for some reason."
"My god," Fox said, "we have the SF64 version of Peppy."
"Ow," said Knuckles, summing up his day. He had already hit a mushroom, been hit by a tree, and was now recovering from a high-speed encounter with monkeys and junk food.
As his vision cleared, he became aware of a disembodied face and associated cape hovering over him. The face looked horrified. (The cape was pretty snazzy, though.)
Both suddenly vanished from his view with a loud shriek of "OH GOD PLEASE DON'T KILL ME."
"Oh great Bearer of the Chickenfingers, have mercy on us, your poor misguided nightmare children, and grind us not into blue chips and stars..."
Knuckles sat up and turned around. About ten paces away was a large black and red tiger with two sharp projections rising up out of his back like jet wings. The face and cape were twisted into a bundle, cowering behind it and crying.
"OH god oh god oh god oh god oh GOD, Clawz, he's gonna smite us. Smite us like Canada. It's ALL OVER, Clawz! We're dead! DEAD!!!"
But the enormous black cat kept its nose to the ground and its eyes down, apparently in a pose of genuflection. It was muttering praise and something about chickenfingers.
Knuckles got to his feet and dusted himself off for the second time that day.
"Listen, I have no honest clue what's going on or where I am, so let's start there. What's going on, and where am I?"
The big cat straightened to a position of attention and answered immediately.
"Nothing's going on, really, except a low-roll poker game in Mystic Forest and a kegger at Puffy's tomorrow night. You're in Nightopia, realm of dreams and nightmares."
"Okay. Who are you two?"
"Clawz and Jackle, Nightmaren of the second order; at your service, oh Great One."
Knuckles blinked. His delusions of grandeur following a hit to head didn't usually last this long.
"Back up a second. Why are you worshipping me?"
"Your chickenfingers are a clear sign of your deity," Clawz said, bowing low once more.
The bundle of face-and-cape behind him had cautiously uncurled itself and was peering in awe at the echidna.
"Our former lord and master, Wizeman the Wicked, also had chickenfingers on his head," it said, cautiously.
"But he only had, like, ten, maybe," Clawz added.
Knuckles fingered the spines on his head and slowly broke into a grin.
"I have fifteen."
Jackle: Hey. 'Sup?
Reala: Wait a minute, we're not quite done yet at being amazed and disgusted that this storyline was continued.
NiGHTS: Okay, we're good now.
Fox: -sitting in the corner, rocking back and forth and muttering something about crossfiction-
Peppy: -whispering- Did one of you guys remember to take the clip out of his gun?
Falco: -thumbs up-
Slippy: ...and I've got mental health on speed dial if we need it.
Sonic: You so do not have fifteen chickenfingers on your head. You have, like, seven.
Knuckles: GAH, SPINES! THEY'RE SPINES!
Clawz: Hey, I'm making a run to Circle K before the next chapter. Goldfish and peanut butter are on the list, anybody want anything else?
Frank Sinatra Jr: Pretzels, please.