Sonic the Hedgehog
Out of the Ashes
By Lucky_Ladybug

The skeleton of the old building stood out like a sore thumb. It had been two months since it had unexpectedly gone up in flames, exploding from some still-unknown cause . . . but probably by the work of a terrorist group.

It had been two months since the Dark Legion had gone on another rampage. They had blown up several buildings, but so far, no one had been able to link them to this building's destruction, which had definitely been deliberate.

Two months since a motorcycle gang known only as the Whipped Cream Avengers (!!) had rode into town. The newest member of the gang, and the toughest, was a purple-and-white weasel. He wore his hair in a buzz cut. One lone earring dangled from his left ear, which was torn from a past scuffle. His red eye gleamed wickedly. He wore an eye patch over his right eye, and no one knew exactly why, not even the other members of the gang. It was never clear whether he wore the patch to look even more menacing, or whether he had lost his right eye and wore the patch to hide where it had been.

He wore spiked cufflinks around his wrists, always carried a spiked ball on a chain, and was always adorned in black leather.

And there was something about him that was familiar to all who met him—his long fang, reminiscent of yet another purple-and-white weasel, a bounty and treasure hunter called Nack.

Nack had never been very well liked by anyone much . . . bounty hunters generally are not. There were a select few who had seen beyond his tough facade and had come to know the real Nack, but they weren't many in number.

Whether the people liked Nack or not, they were all shocked to hear that he had been killed in the explosion two months ago. His body was never found, but it was a known fact that no one could've gotten out of the building once they were in, not once it had gone up in flames. And Nack had been in there, for reasons unknown. And now they never would be.
The bright neon lights of the all-night '50s diner by the highway flashed through the rain. Inside, a beautiful, tomboyish weasel was slowly stirring a cup of hot chocolate at the counter.

Dinah the waitress, a pretty brunette-furred Persian cat, leaned over and spoke to her. "Honey, you look pretty down. What's wrong?"

The weasel looked up, brushing her long bangs out of her eyes. "My brother died," she replied with a soft Texas accent, then continued stirring the beverage. "Two months ago. I just found out."

"Really?" Dinah's eyes registered shock. "Oh, honey, I'm sorry. That must be a terrible blow."

The weasel shrugged. "We weren't close."

"Well, but still . . . To find out he died . . ." Dinah shook her head. "If you wanna talk, I'm here."

The weasel mustered a smile. "Thanks."

She sat in silence, stirring the mug and occasionally taking a sip. Dinah went about cleaning up the tables from the dinner rush, and looking over at her.

She seemed to be in her twenties, but with her downcast expression seemed much older.

She wore a hat like the kind highway patrolmen wear, but somehow Dinah got the feeling that she wasn't a member of the highway patrol. Her long lavender hair trailed down her back in a braid. Over her off-white tank top she had a dark-blue sleeveless jacket. She also had a red skirt that came to her knees, with a bandanna to match around her neck, almost as an afterthought.

The strangest part of her attire, though, was the gun belt around her waist. Obviously she was in some line of work that involved guns. But what?

Dinah was in her forties. She had worked in this roadside diner for most of her life. She longed to get out and get to a big city—moving to Los Angeles had always been her dream—but somehow could never quite bring herself to leave. She had enough money to perhaps take a bus to L.A. and get settled in a cheap place, but she had never done it. She enjoyed seeing all the people who came into the diner. Some were regulars, others were one-time customers. If they had a problem, or looked like they had one, Dinah always wanted to help in any way she could. Some of her coworkers said that she was a busybody prying into people's business, but others insisted that Dinah was a great listening ear and always the person to go to with a problem.

The weasel looked up from her mug, a half-smile on her face. "You know, you're right. We weren't close, but . . . now that he's . . . gone . . . Well, I feel awful for treating him the way I did. And . . ." She laughed slightly. "I never thought I'd say this, but . . . I miss him. I really miss him."

Dinah sighed. "Ain't that always the way. We take 'em for granted while they're here, and we don't say 'I love you' enough, and then one day, they're gone."

"You sound as if you're speaking from personal experience," the weasel observed.

Dinah nodded. "My sister, Pauline. We had about the same relationship as you and your brother. We barely tolerated each other. Then one day, Pauline wasn't there. She had been killed in a car crash on her way to work."

"I'm sorry," the weasel said softly. She paused. "Our mother was killed in a car crash when we were eight. Daddy up and walked out on us, and now Nack's dead. . . . I don't have any family left now. Not any *real* family." Slowly she got up and walked to the door.

"Surely you ain't gonna go out in this weather," Dinah exclaimed.

The weasel smiled weakly. "Oh, I'll be fine."

"It's rainin' cats and dogs out there!" Dinah protested. "Honey, I insist you stay here until it stops."

The weasel laughed. "You're really very kind, but . . ."

"No but's! Come on now." Dinah gently led the weasel back to the counter. "I've gotta clean up in here, but you stay and we'll talk. You look like you need to talk."
"Well, thank you. I s'ppose it would be nice. . . ." The weasel sat back down and resumed stirring her cup.
Princess Sally Acorn looked out her window, shaking her head in disbelief. After two months, she still couldn't believe it. Nack the Weasel was dead. It couldn't be true . . . it couldn't! She remembered when it had seemed that Sonic was dead . . . How firmly Tails believed that he was still alive, and how badly Sally had wanted to, yet she knew it wasn't possible . . .

And yet it was. Sonic wasn't dead. Was it at all possible that Nack wasn't, either?

But no. The circumstances were a lot different in this explosion as opposed to the one Sonic had been in. Of course, she tried to reason, they hadn't found Nack's body, so maybe . . .

Sally shook her head angrily. "Get a grip, Acorn," she told herself. "Nack's dead and you'll just have to accept it."

Not that she was in love with Nack or anything, but they had been friends. She had never told anyone, not even Sonic (or maybe *especially* not Sonic), about the time Nack had saved her life when she was about five or six. She knew Nack wasn't the bad boy Sonic insisted he was, and the news of his death had hit her hard.

She looked out the window at the gray skies and falling rain. "Nack," she whispered, "if you're out there somewhere . . . I want you to know I miss you." She turned away, wiping the tear from her eye. Now she would go out that door and act as if nothing in the world was bothering her while she conducted a meeting of the Freedom Fighters.
Two days later the ghost reports started to come. Various townsfolk claimed to have seen a familiar purple-and-white weasel prowling around what was left of the building he had been killed in.

"I tell ya," one old-timer said, "ol' Nack's come back to avenge his death!"

The county law enforcement went out several times to investigate the clarity of the reports, but they had never caught so much as a glimpse of the weasel's ghost . . . except for tonight.

Deputy Remington turned to Deputy Strate and sighed. "There's nothing to see out here. Either the rascal's cleared out, or people are just seeing things or prank-calling us."

"Wait, wait!" Deputy Strate gasped. "Have a look-see over there!!"

Remington whirled around. He could clearly see the figure highlighted by the moon . . . and it was, indeed, the deceased bounty hunter.

"Well, I'll be . . ." He shook his head in disbelief, then called, "Hey! You there!"

Nack's ghost slowly turned to face the deputy, then bolted away.

"After him . . . it . . . Whatever!!" Remington tore across the field, with Strate hot on his heels.

They looked around. "Where'd he go?" Strate asked. "He just . . . disappeared!"

"He's a ghost . . . What would you expect from a ghost?" Remington sighed and shook his head.

"Well, hey, cheer up," Strate said. "At least we found out that it's not just some kid prank-calling us."
Nicolette came to a standstill in front of the frame-like remains of the building. "So this is where you met your end, Nack," she said softly.

She sat on a nearby rock and just stared at the building for the longest time under the moonlight, thinking. She remembered her childhood with Nack. As soon as they'd turned eighteen, they had gone their separate ways, not to see each other for five years. They had been equally shocked to discover the other was a bounty hunter. They had tried to work together a couple of times, but they had always wound up getting in arguments over petty things.

The last time she had seen Nack was about a week before his demise, in Brooklyn. After another argument, they had both stormed out, Nicolette taking off for Canada, and Nack . . . To this small town on the Utah/Nevada border, where he . . .

Nicolette could stand it no longer. She got up and walked away.

When she got back to town, she noticed a group of cloaked figures over near an office building. "Now what're those varmints up to?" she asked herself, slowly getting closer. Hiding behind a telephone pole, she could hear everything they were saying.

"Ah, now to make our next point," one of them laughed wickedly.

"Pity we had to lay low for so long, but that's the way the boss wanted it," another added. "I wonder what made him change his mind, anyway?"

"Aw, why worry about that?" a third chimed in.

"That was a good point we made last time," the fourth cackled. "And we rid the world of that troublesome bounty hunter!"

Nicolette gasped. So these were the barbarians who . . .

"Come on, you guys, hurry it up!" the first one growled. "Set up the bomb and let's get outta here!"

Suddenly an eerie voice echoed throughout the area. "I know what you did last summer!"

"Aw, come on," the second one laughed, "whoever you are, don't try to scare us with dumb movie puns."

"I'm serious," the voice replied. "I know what y'all did." A round of gunfire ensued.

"You know," the fourth one gasped, "I think he is serious!"

"You're not gonna let him scare you, are you?" the first one snapped.

The other three looked at each other, then back at the other one. "YES!" they all exclaimed in unison. Frantically they tried to run away, bumping into each other as they went. Suddenly a stack of crates came out of nowhere, hitting them all on their heads. They crumpled to the ground.

Nicolette had to laugh. "Y'all deserved that!" she crowed.

The one cloaked figure left standing shook his head in disbelief. "Idiots," he muttered. "Miserable cowards." He turned to the bomb. "I'll just have to set this up myself."

As he prepared to, a gloved hand shot out from around the side of the office building, smacking him right on the cheek. He whirled around angrily. "Who did that?" he demanded.

A cackle came from behind the building.

"Oooh, just you wait till I get my hands on you, you . . . you . . . annoying little . . ." The cloaked figure ran behind the building, and suddenly shrieked. Then Nicolette could hear the sound of fists flying and connecting. Then she heard another sound, almost like a gunshot, and the figure staggered backwards, clutching his chest. Then he fell forward on the ground.

Cautiously, Nicolette came out from behind the pole and walked over to the guy. "Well, well . . . I do declare . . ." Nicolette folded her arms and leaned against the building.

Suddenly she noticed several cop cars pulling up, lights flashing. Quickly she darted out of sight. Deputies Remington and Strate got out.

"Well, well, well. What do we have here?" Remington mused.

"Looks like this guy's been shot," Strate replied. He went over to look, and pried his hands away from his chest. A strange expression came over him. "Hey, this guy wasn't shot," he exclaimed.

"Huh?" Remington gave his fellow deputy a funny look.

"No bullet holes or anything," Strate continued.

"That's odd," Remington remarked. "Over on the other side of the building, there's three more of these guys, dressed the same way. It looks like they were knocked out with some crates that're laying on the ground."

"Well, well, lookey here," Strate announced suddenly, pointing to the bomb. "It looks like they was planning some mischief."

Remington looked shocked. "Call the bomb squad!" he ordered.
Nicolette had gone back to the building where her brother had died, puzzling over the odd things she had just witnessed. What the heck was going on??

Suddenly she heard a cough. She wasn't alone. She whirled around, only to see nothing. She put her hands on her hips, looking suspicious.

Slowly, a purple-and-white weasel emerged out of the shadows, looking around furtively. He twirled the gun he was holding and then replaced it in its holster and pushed his battered Stetson hat back on his head.

Nicolette shook her head in disbelief. "Nack?" she whispered.

The weasel turned to face her. "Nic?" he asked.

Nicolette gasped. "It is you! But you're . . ."

"Dead?" Nack supplied. He grinned ruefully. "Yeah, I know." He paused. "At least . . . That's what everyone thinks, right?"

Nicolette pinched herself. "Are you trying to tell me you're alive??!"

Nack's grin turned mischievous.

"But how?" Nicolette demanded.

"It's a long story," Nack replied.

"Well," Nicolette said, folding her arms, "I sure as heck ain't plannin' to go anywhere."

Nack plopped down on a crate that had only partially burned in the explosion. Nicolette sat on the same rock she had before. "Okay, let's take this from the top.

"I was hired by this guy to find out what the terrorists in the area were up to," Nack began. "He was afraid that someone was going to start blowing up his buildings. He thought it was maybe the work of the Dark Legion.

"Well, to make a long story short, it's a group of copycat terrorists that blew up this building here. I did get caught in the explosion, but I was near an open window and got thrown clear out." Nack rubbed his head, as if the memory brought back pain. "I came to quite a few feet away. The building was still burning and I realized that everyone must think I had been killed in the explosion." He grinned. "What better way to spy on the copycat terrorists than when they thought the one who was tailing them was dead and gone?"

Nicolette shook her head in disbelief. "You've been playing dead for two months?"

Nack grinned. "Oh yeah. And I impersonated their boss. I told them to come out and set off that bomb at the office building. I wanted to catch them in action. And I recorded their confession of my attempted murder."

Nicolette nodded slowly. Her expression turned mischievous. "Was that you knockin' them on their heads with those crates?"

"The one and only," Nack replied.
Sally Acorn was awakened by a knock on her door the next morning. "Sonic, I told you not to knock this early," she said sleepily.

"It ain't Sonic, sugar," Bunnie's voice floated through the door.

"Bunnie?" Sally climbed out of bed and made her way to the door. "What's going on?"

Bunnie handed Sally a copy of the morning paper. "There's somethin' in here you might wanna see," she replied with a wink.

Sally took the paper and and leafed through it curiously. "Hmm, well, thank you, Bunnie. I'll check it out."

Thoughtfully Sally closed the door and went over to the window to read. After several pages of uninteresting stock market news and such, she found an article near the end that Bunnie had circled in red ink.

As she read, she began to smile. Nack the Weasel, the rascal, had cheated death yet again! And he had singlehandedly subdued the terrorists who had tried to murder him. According to the reporter, Webra Walters, the terrorists confessed to several other bombings that the police had originally credited to the Dark Legion.
Sally had to laugh when she read that the leader had apparently been shot with a blank but had passed out, thinking he had been shot with a real bullet. According to Nack, after firing a few bullets into the sky to scare the terrorists, he didn't have any left, or else he would've shot the leader.

"Nack, Nack," she said softly, "what did I tell you about being so rough and tough?" She had a sneaking suspicion that Nack might not have shot the leader anyway, but just was trying to tease him and scare him a little.

As she walked out of her room, Sonic saw her and asked, "What's up, Sally? I haven't seen that smile of yours for a long time!"

Sally set the paper down on the table. "Oh, just thinking about an old friend," she replied.