Author's Note: Before I begin, I just want to give a very special thanks to Jamie "SwiftRunner" Lee for beta reading this fic for me. I had written this one-shot a while ago, but never put it up because I knew that, between Bunnie's Southern accent and Antione's French flair, I had royally screwed up everyone's dialects. Fortunately, Jamie was kind enough to read over the fic for me and help me make the corrections, so everyone sounds as they should. Thanks a million, Jamie!
I used to love the water.
Heaven knows how much time of my young life I spent swimming. The water washing through my fur, my ears streamlining back as I propelled myself forward with my legs... It was an experience I always enjoyed whenever I got the chance. I even vaguely recall my mother having to pull me out of the grand fountain in Mobotropolis' main square. I wonder why I don't swim anymore?
Oh, that's right: If I go in the water, I rust.
That is, if I don't short-circuit or get dragged to the bottom of the lake first.
So instead, I sit here by the Ring Pool, looking at the water I love but can't go in. Soon, my focus shifts from the water to the placid reflection it's casting back at me. As I look at my image, I am reminded once more of what I hate about myself: Those horribly transformed legs and robotic arm, courtesy of Dr. Robotnik.
I always notice the shock in people's faces when they are first introduced to me. It's always a sort of contorted smile, doing a painful job of masking their obvious discomfort. After the initial astonishment washes over, they try to hold a conversation with me, treating me like I'm some sort of mentally retarded child.
First, there's the sympathizers: "Oh, it must be so horrible having that happen to you. It must have been really traumatizing. Well, I feel your pain. If you ever need me..."
Then, there's the pitiful optimists: "Well, it can't be all bad, right? I mean, you must have super-strength now! And you gotta have all sorts of cool gadgets hidden in there!..."
But the absolute worst is the ones who don't even seem to get it: "What? Why are you so upset over it? You just have a few artificial limbs. It's not that big of a deal. It's not like you're dying or anything..."
No big deal? Is it no big deal when you wake up in the morning, panicking because you can't feel your legs, only to remember that you haven't done so in years? Is it no big deal when you once again manage to crash through the floor of a wooden stage because it wasn't built to hold your extra metallic weight? Is it no big deal that something may add some cool things, like extending limbs or an arm-mounted blaster cannon, but takes away the things you love, like swimming, foot massages, and pretty much your very life?
If that's 'no big deal,' then I'm a long-eared rat.
I look up at the sky; It's almost sunset. Sonic and Sally should be back soon. They're busy trying to shut down another one of Robotnik's robo-factories. Trying to save others from the same fate I faced, I suppose.
I would've gone to, but Sally deemed it too risky. A few months ago, Robotnik managed to get the serial number on my robotic parts and now he has it encoded in his radar systems. If I do so much as set a foot in Robotropolis, he'll know exactly where I am. We learned this the hard way the first time and we only made it out 'cuz I managed to detach my limbs (one of the many odd 'quirks' of being half-robotic, I know) and hide them all over the city, throwing his radar for a loop. Of course, since I didn't have any feet once I did that, I had to be carried out of the city as fast as possible. Sonic ran back in the next day and got 'em back for me, but he nearly got caught in the process. If that happened, he might as well have kept those limbs: he would've wound up being the one using them.
Rotor says he can scramble the number out of the parts so that Robotnik can't trace 'em, but until he figures out how to exactly, my ability to be tracked so easily would make any mission too dangerous. So I'm stuck here, essentially playing babysitter for Tails.
Not that I mind hanging around with that kid. God bless his little soul. I remember the other day that he told me that he wouldn't mind if he got half-roboticized himself.
"Now, why on Mobius wouldn't ya'll mind!?" I asked him, "Gettin' roboticized ain't no fun at all!"
"'Cuz, Aunt Bunnie," the little tyke replied, giving my robotic arm a huge hug, "then you wouldn't have to go through this alone!"
It took all my willpower to excuse myself so I could get back to my hut and bawl until my face was red.
How sad is that? A child has more strength than I do.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to get my arm and legs back. However, I always find myself hitting the same roadblock: I honestly can't remember what it was like. I have hazy recollections of what I did, but not how it felt. What it was like to actually be able to feel the grass between my toes or to warm my hands by the fire (at least I still have one hand that can do that). I wouldn't even mind if the first thing I felt was pain. To be able to feel anything is to be alive.
Then I wonder about what it must be like for those who have been fully roboticized. They haven't just lost their senses, they've lost their wills as well. They're just trapped in metal boxes, forced to observe the terror done by their own hands and unable to do anything about it. When I think about that, I find myself siding with the ones I originally thought didn't get it. Why am I complaining? I have it much better off than other roboticizer victims do...
Rotor keeps trying to build a reverse-roboticizer to help turn the Robians back to normal. Usually, I'm the lab rat for those experiments, since failure doesn't run the risk of me fleeing back to Robotropolis and telling Robotnik where Knothole is. Sometimes we reach some semblance of success, but most of the time we don't. Once, all the machine did was make me lose all my fur. Rotor promptly got rid of the 'chemo-izer' before anyone else tried it out, but I had to spend the next four or so months looking like a naked mole rat.
Lupe said it was a cool look the first time we visited her after that, though, but I think she was just envious because a huge heat wave had just hit The Great Unknown. Although it was useful there, I still prefer styles where you don't start shivering at any temperature below fifty degrees, thank you very much.
Suddenly, I hear a loud boom; a sonic boom, undoubtedly. Quite honestly, that is usually the first sign that our latest mission was a success, since it commonly marks Sonic's triumphal entry back into the village. I turn to my right and see, only slightly to my surprise, the hedgehog standing right there, a huge grin on his face. Sally's there, too, but her smile is one of more quiet confidence than sheer excitement.
"Hey, Sugar-hog..." I greet, "Welcome back! How'd the raid go?"
"Way past cool, Bunnie!" the Blue Blur replies, "Another one of Ro-butt-niks' robo-plants has bit the dust!... My dust, to be exact."
"Yes, Sonic, but not before you managed to get twenty SWATbots on our tail," Sally reminds.
"Hey, what's a mission without a little excitement? Boring, that's what I say!"
"Sonic, this isn't a game!"
"Yeah? So? I can't make it one?"
"Not if it puts people in danger!"
"'Danger' is my middle name."
"So is 'Careless', apparently."
"Careless? Moi? Hardly!"
"You need to grow up."
"And you need to lighten up!"
The two walk off, still bickering. They've always made a cute couple.
"Say, Sally-girl," I call out, "ya'll think Ah might go on the next mission?"
She turns around and faces me again. I already know what the answer will be, but I figure I might as well try anyway.
"Uh... I don't know..." Sally ponders "Robotnik still has that radar up, and I don't think Rotor's got that serial number thing figured out yet... I think Sonic and Dulcy will be fine for tomorrow's mission."
"Assuming she doesn't crash again!" Sonic adds, "I'm still picking pinecones out of my fur from last time!"
I let out a sad sigh. I knew this was going to happen.
"Bunnie..." Sally begins, trying to sound sympathetic, "I'm sorry, but it's..."
"Ah know, Ah know..." I interrupt, "Cain't risk bein' a big ol' target fer ol' Ro-butt-nik... Ah just wanna get back out there'n kick some SWATbot tail again, y'know?"
"Yeah... I'm sure Rotor will figure out how to fix your robotic parts so Robotnik can't trace them soon enough!"
I let out a small, hopeful, smile. Satisfied with this reaction, Sally and Sonic walk off again to go get debriefed on their last mission.
"Yeah..." I murmur, "That's what he said two months ago."
So here I am again, alone by the Ring Pool, with nothing better to do. How long was this going to last? Another two months? A year? The rest of my life? Granted, I certainly hope we manage to 'dethrone' Robotnik long before then, but what if we don't?
I remember when I first got these awful limbs. It was a mix of elation that I just managed to dodge a terrible fate and terror that I was now foreign to myself in my own body. Having these robotic parts always has and always will scare me, but at least they were manageable before. They had their awkward moments (like nearly crushing people's wrists when I shake with the wrong hand) and got in the way at times (like when I round up stuck to some device Rotor made that used electromagnets... from thirty yards away), but at least I could still function as a Mobian being. I could still do what I wanted to do, mainly make Robotnik pay for what he did to me, but now... Now I was just a handicap, a disabled girl who sat around Knothole all day with nothing to do. When I was out on a mission, I could forget for a moment the horrible condition I was in, since I was actually doing something. Now, even that luxury was taken way. Without those missions, all I can do is lie around and wonder... Why?
Why did it have to be me?
Why couldn't someone else, preferably someone who deserved it, get half-roboticized instead?
Why can't they find some way to reverse it?
Why did Robotnik have to wind up getting those serial numbers, as if I didn't have enough to deal with?
Why does this have to leave me with nothing to look forward each day, except more dillydallying?
A single tear falls from my eye and lands in the Ring Pool, creating a ripple effect consisting of perfect circles. I ask myself these questions all the time, even before I lost my missions. I run them through my head so much, and every time, I can come up with no answer. None at all. Try as I might, I cannot explain it.
Once I tried asking some of the others around Knothole what they thought. Sally said it was just because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Rotor suggested bad karma, but had no idea as to what I did to deserve it. Rosie believes someone upstairs is giving me this as a trial to see how strong my faith is. Dulcy was out like a light before I even finished asking the questions. Tails, in all his childhood innocence, took the questions literally and simply asked, "Isn't the reason you're like that because you got stuck in a roboticizer?"
I liked Sonic's answer the best, though: "It's because Ro-butt-nik's a jerk! What more do you need?" It didn't exactly get at what I was looking for, but at least I had a good laugh.
I think that was the last laugh I've had in a long while.
While I am lost in thought, I hear someone else sit down beside me and let out a big sigh. I turn to look at them. Oh great... It's Antoine.
I don't mean to make fun of Antoine (really, it's too easy), but ever since I've been stuck here, I've gotten a lot more irritated with him than usual. I always want to go on the missions; he tries to get out of them. I stand my ground when I face confrontation; he runs away. I fight for my freedom; he wants to as well, but he's too scared to do so. We're complete opposites, but ever since Robotnik set up that radar, we've become trapped in the same situation: me by fate, him by choice.
When you look at it, it doesn't matter my ambitions or hopes or dreams: When it comes down to what I've actually done, I'm now no better than that whimpering, scrawny coward.
"Hey, Antoine..." I grumble as a welcoming.
"Oh, wee... 'Ello, Boonie," he replies in that ridiculous accent of his, "'Ow are 'oo doeeng zis fine day, eh?"
"If 'oo are not minding ze sayeeings zat is mine, 'oo are not... ahem... sounding too fine."
If there's one thing I can give Antoine credit for, it's that he's pretty good at seeing through facades... When he bothers looking, that is.
"Sigh... No foolin' ya'll, ain't there?" I mumble, "Sal won't let me go on the next mission since ol' Robotnik can still trace me throughout Robotropolis."
"Well... Zat is ze good thing, yes?" he suggests meekly, "'Oo are not 'aving to do all ze scahry stuff with ze SWATbots and such, correct?"
"No, Antoine... No it isn't."
He looks at me confused. He doesn't get it, does he?
"But we are to be goeeng through ze same zing, right? 'Oo and moi with ze stayeeng 'ome, yes? I am zinkeeng I know what 'oo are goeeng through..."
I glare at him. Did he just claim he knew how I felt? How dare he say that!
"Ya'll don't know nothin' 'bout what Ah'm goin' through, Antoine," I hiss, "you stay here and let us risk our lives while ya'll just cower at home. You try'n get outta doin' missions because yer too scared'a make any kind'a sacrifice for ya'll's kingdom. I..." I hold up my metallic fist a few inches away from his face, "Ah made my sacrifice, and Ah kept goin' on afterwards, no less. Ya'll wanna know why? Because, unlike you, Ah ain't afraid of payin' the price fer freedom. Ah want to overthrow that there lard-butt Robotnik and ain't nothin' he can do'll stop me. And now... And now, for the sake of everyone else willin' to make that sacrifice, Ah have to stay here. Here, where all Ah can do is sit around 'n wonder why the hoo-haw Ah'm the only one who pays the price every single day with no source of relief! Sally-girl knows her papa's safe after all these years, Sonic managed to save his uncle, but I... Ah cain't even save mahself! Halfa me ain't even me! N'now, that's keepin' me from doin' what Ah always wanted to do!"
I've almost completely lost it. I bury my face in my hands and begin to cry uncontrollably.
"N'now you come along'n tell me ya'll know how Ah feel!? Just 'cuz you sit around at home 'cuz yer too much of a yellowbelly to fight fer ya'll's own freedom!? Ain't no one knows how Ah feel, Antoine! No one! 'Specially not you!"
I cave in and simply continue to cry; I can say no more. With Antoine right there, I bawl for a good five minutes. My fur is soaked with tears, my cheeks are puffed up, my eyes are bloodshot, and I have completely run out of tears. As I sit there, a sobbing mess, constantly grabbing huge gasps of air, I hear Antoine whisper something to himself.
"À cœur vaillant rien d'impossible"
"Huh?" I sob, trying to figure out what he is saying.
"'For a bwave 'eart, nozing is empossibal'," he translates, "Boonie, I know I am beeng no 'ero. I can claim no courage. 'Eck, I am still needeeng to be sleepeeng with ze lights on, but I am knoweeng what we are fighteeng for. I watched my muzzer and fazzer be roboticized before my own two very eyes, my fear keepeeng me petreefied and unable to do anyzing. I could 'ave stopped eet... if I had ze courage..."
Now, he takes his turn to look down at the Ring Pool and be on the verge of tears.
"I am knoweeng ze price for my cowardeece... Eez what took my parants from moi. Eez ze fear zat it weel 'appen again zat makes me decline ze misshuns... Fear zat someone else weel pay my price. No, zit is my battle alone."
He pauses to let out one sob, just one sob, before continuing.
"But 'oo, Boonie... I 'ave seen ze courage 'oo 'ave. Ze courage zat is a zouzand times biggar zan mine. Even weeth 'oor debt paid 'oo are to be throweeng 'oorself inzo ze fire, willing to geeve everyzing 'oo have left for all of us... For me."
Another pause. Another sob.
"I am knoweeng what we are both fighteeng for. 'Oo, to recovar ze life 'oo once 'as. I, to 'ave ze courage to fight for friend and country. Eempossebal task? Maybe, but for 'oo, 'oor bravary will overcome all obsteecals, zat I am sure of. As for moi... I am not knoweeng..."
He gets up and walks over to me. I quickly turn my face away in guilt. How could I have been so dense? I'm not the only one suffering, even if I am the only one with physical signs of our fight. Sally may have found her father, but he's still trapped in another dimension. Sonic saved his uncle, but he's still a robot, a complete robot, unlike me.
And Antoine... I never knew. I never knew you lost your parents before your very eyes. I never knew your cowardice was your greatest fear. I never knew that... You had that much faith in me.
He holds out his hand. His left hand, fully eyeing my robotic arm.
"But maybe ze courage 'oo 'ave weel rub off on moi."
"Oh Antoine..." I sigh, turning noticeably redder even under all my fur, "Ah'm sorry Ah blew up at ya'll like that. That was horrible of me."
No response. Just a smile. A kind, loving smile from a man I never knew cared so much about me.
"You know, ya'll should prolli hold out yer right hand," I suggest, "m'left hand's... Y'know... Cold."
"Mains froids, cœur chaud," he says, "'Cold 'ands, warm 'eart'."
Unable to counter him once again, I grab his hand—gently—and hoist myself up.
As soon as I do so, I hear the sound of tiny footsteps racing towards us. I turn and see Tails, running up to me at full speed.
"Aunt Bunnie! Aunt Bunnie!" he hollers, "Rotor says he figured out a way to fix your legs! He wants you to get over to the workshop right away!"
"Aw, alrighty, little guy!" I reply, patting him softly on the head, "I'll go'n check it out."
I turn back to Antoine, who simply motions towards Rotor's workshop.
"I believe 'ee iz calleeng 'oo."
I nod and walk off, watching, with more respect for him than I ever had before, the Frenchman turn and march back to his hut.
As I continue to walk, I think back to what had just transpired. I know I may have these limbs forever, and that I may never be cured. I know I may have to ceaselessly deal with certain oddities that normal people wouldn't. I know I may never again get to enjoy the life I once had. But will I let that stop me? Will I simply give up? No, I will not. I will keep up the fight like I keep up the fight for Mobius' freedom. Because I have the bravery to keep going, no matter what the odds are. Because impossible is nothing for me if I have the courage to stare it in the face.
Because I have the hope that, someday, I can love the water again.