Well, it's a little late this time. It's been somewhat turbulent, so I beg your pardons on that. However, I've tried to work hard and bring the next chapter of Faust.
Anyway. This reminds me. I could use a little help with the story description that everyone sees before reading. I'm not terribly good at them, and I figure that if I could get a good one, it might entice more people to read, y'know? So, if anyone has any good ideas, please PM or review with them. Thanks!
Anyway, time to start the third (and last) part of the Games At Midnight.
Chapter Thirteen: Games At Midnight (Part Three)
Rouge looked at the Doctor warily. There had to be a trick somewhere. How could Eggman give her Omega's plans and a Chaos Emerald, just for some documents on Faust? It was too good to be true. As she eyed him, she noticed the thick wrinkles starting to form around the Doctor's forehead and eyes. He was getting old. Dr. Ivo Robotnik might try to rule the world, and he might have gotten close from time to time, but he could never rule time, and it was catching up with him. The many defeats, the stress of the battles, the countless hours toiling to build robots…It had all left its mark on Eggman's face.
"Well, Rouge. I suppose it's time to do the exchange." Eggman said. The lines around his face creased and sagged as he spoke.
"If you say so, Doc. How are we going to do this?"
"Walk towards me. Slowly. I'll give you the plans and the Emerald first, and then you hand over Faust's data."
A flicker of suspicion shot across Rouge's face for a moment. Why was he offering to exchange first? It didn't make sense. Did he have a trap in wait? Or…Was he double-bluffing? Tempting her to take the emerald and the plans and run? Had he prepared for that? Was it a test of trust? Knowing that if she hesitated any longer it could compromise the deal, Rouge started walking. She and the Doctor were about ten paces apart. At about the seventh pace, Rouge had to stop for a second as her heel got caught in an ill-placed manhole cover. Pulling it out and looking angrily over at Eggman to see if he was laughing, she resumed her walk. As she drew closer, the Doctor smiled and withdrew a disk from his right pocket. Rouge smiled. Omega's plans. She reached into her own pocket, which blended seamlessly into her tight pants to avoid pickpockets. From it, she took her memory stick, complete with Faust's plans on them. She hadn't bothered to dummy them out, although she had removed Tails' other documents from the disk. Once she did that, Eggman brought out the real treasure. A grey emerald, with a sombre shine that lit up the night. The Chaos Emerald. Rouge licked her lips. It was so beautiful.
"Well, Doctor. Hand over the emerald and the plans, if you please." Rouge smirked. To her surprise, the Doctor complied almost instantly. With only a single farewell look at his emerald and not even a glance at Omega's plans, he pushed them into Rouge's hands in a resigned manner. Rouge smiled. It looked like the Doctor was going to play by the rules this time around. She tipped the memory stick into the Doctor's awaiting palms. A grin lit up Eggman's face. Goodness knows what he wants those plans for. He seems excited, though…Rouge thought, her natural wariness once again airing its voice. She brushed it away. It wasn't any of her concern. Whatever the Doctor was going to do with Faust's plans, they could deal with it when the time came. And by then, she'd have thought up a tasty alibi.
"A pleasure doing business with you, Doctor." Rouge winked, turning abruptly and beginning to walk away. She had what she needed, and she'd even gotten a Chaos Emerald into the bargain. It seemed that she was getting very good at persuading men to hand over their treasures. Maybe the surgery wasn't a waste after all…
As she walked away, her heel got stuck once again in the manhole cover. She cursed in irritation. This was getting embarrassing. Sure enough, as she bent down to pull her heel from the cover, she heard Eggman laughing that obnoxious laugh of his. At once, she turned around to shout at him. She locked eyes with him just as he pushed the button his remote control.
Instantly, Rouge doubled up in pain. Or, she would have. But she couldn't move a muscle. She felt her fur stand up on end as the electric shock passed through her. It had been a trap. The manhole was a fake. Eggman hadn't been double bluffing after all. Another surge went through her and she started to see stars. She tried to scream, but couldn't. It was all she could do to keep breathing.
"Ohohoho! Silly bat-girl! You didn't really think I'd hand over one of only two Chaos Emeralds for some stupid plans, did you? It's a shame, really. If you'd only been asking for Omega's plans, I might have played fair!" the Doctor laughed, sauntering towards her. She tried once again to move, but she only earned another laugh from the Doctor.
"Hah! That gizmo works on hedgehogs, it works on echidnas, it worked on the Gizoid and it sure as hell works on you! Serves you right, bat girl!"
Still laughing, Eggman prized both the Emerald and Omega's plans from Rouge's hands. Then, he grabbed her chin roughly, and forced her to look at him.
"Hmph. I'd be tempted, if you were human. Don't worry. The damage isn't as bad as it feels." the Doctor laughed. He then started to stride away as Rouge watched helplessly.
The Doctor was pleased with himself. He'd gotten something for nothing, and brought that pesky bat down a peg or two in the process. Now, he decided, it was time to head back to his lab and analyse those plans. He wasn't sure what he'd find, but he had a fairly good idea, from the research he'd been doing. And, if he found out the things he needed to…Eggman shivered at the thought. The world's Chaos Emeralds could be his.
As he plodded on, absorbed in his own thoughts, Eggman didn't notice that his shadow was following him in a decidedly odd manner. He didn't hear the near-silent footfalls of an attacker. He didn't sense the tiny heat source behind him.
Coming swiftly from the side, the bat's blue-tinged fists caught the doctor on the neck in a flying clothesline. Instantly, the doctor was launched into the alleyway opposite. Rouge's ears picked up the sound of a remote clattering onto the ground, and then the sound of a heavy boot coming down on it. At once, the electricity stopped. Rouge opened her eyes to see Faust dashing into the alleyway after Eggman. Pulling her heel from the fake manhole cover, she set off in hot pursuit.
The Doctor's long legs- plus the distance Faust's punch had sent him flying- had given him a considerable lead on the bats. As soon as he'd hit the floor, the Doctor was up and running. But Faust was hot on his tail, and Rouge was bringing up the rear. Faust's quicksilver run brought him ever closer to Eggman, and it was obvious that the Doctor was beginning to sweat. With one last lunge and a flap of his wings, Faust crashed into the Doctor's legs and held tight, sending Eggman's lanky frame crashing to the ground like a felled tree. Two disks and an emerald were catapulted into the air. Instantly, Faust was after them. Soaring high across the moon, he snatched a disk out of the air and dropped down to the floor. As Rouge caught up to him, she heard his dusky voice curse. It was the wrong disk. Rouge's memory stick, with Faust's precious data, was still pinwheeling through the air. Faust shot after it, but he was too slow. It clattered to the ground- and the Doctor snatched it up like a pirate snatches a gold doubloon. Then Eggman was off running again.
Faust cursed, and erupted into a dash. But, sadly, as a military weapon, he had never heard the old adage 'what goes up, must come down'. And the grey emerald did come down, like a falling meteorite. It smashed into Faust's head, knocking him to the floor. The grey emerald bounced and clattered once, twice on the stone streets. Faust got up and started after Eggman again, but something smashed into the back of his head, knocking him straight back down again. As he scrabbled back onto his feet, he knew that Eggman had gone.
Rouge's hand went up to her mouth as the emerald bounced again, before finally coming to a stop behind Faust. Then, it started to shudder like an engine being revved, before shooting back at the bat's head, seemingly of it's own accord. Faust turned and tried to swat it away, confused. Rouge took to her wings and grabbed the emerald, but still felt it straining towards the government weapon.
"Faust! What are you doing here? Did you get the disks? And what did you do to my emerald?" Rouge asked, firing off the questions like bullets.
"In order? I was passing by when I heard you and Eggman talking about your little deal. I got one disk, but it's the wrong one. He's got my data. And I have no idea. What's the deal with that thing?" Faust growled in reply.
"Huh…I don't know. Chaos Emeralds don't usually react this way…" Rouge mused.
"…Chaos Emerald? That's a Chaos Emerald?" Faust's golden eyes widened in surprise.
"That explains it." the bat said, pressing a bandaged hand to his head. "Chaos Emeralds are attracted to each other like magnets. I'm a fake chaos emerald, with all the properties of a real one, but scaled down…So, it's attracted to me."
"Wow…I wasn't expecting that." Rouge muttered, avoiding Faust's eyes.
A silence came between the two. Faust glared at her, accusing her with his eyes. Rouge couldn't meet them.
"Why?" Faust spat, breaking the silence at last.
"Why what?" Rouge asked innocently.
"Don't play dumb."
"…I need those files. No, Omega needs them. Once he has those plans, he won't just be a robot anymore. He'll be a person. Plus, the emerald was a nice bonus. We can always use more emeralds." Rouge muttered.
"So, giving a robot life was worth sacrificing mine?" Faust asked, disgust engraved into his voice.
"Sacrificing? How is giving him your plans sacrificing anything? All he can do is find out about you." Rouge asked defensively.
"And do you know how much he could find out? My plans specify every detail about me, right down to the length of my eyelashes. I'm just lucky that the ones you gave him were my biological plans."
"…Biological plans? …What?"
Faust grimaced. "I'm half bio and half weapon, Rouge. I have plans for both- plans for my organic components and plans for my mechanics."
"I see…And why is it a good thing we gave him biological plans?" Rouge asked. She was starting to get lost.
"Because if he had mechanical plans, he'd have data for all the chips in my body. And he could write a virus to wreck them all, or control me, or…the possibilities are endless, Rouge." Faust said gravely.
Once again, silence fell between them. They hadn't realised quite how loud their voices were.
"I'll get you for betraying me, Rouge. Somehow, I'll pay you back." Faust spat, looking at Rouge's face with disgust. Rouge said nothing. Somewhere, some part of the femme fatale's tiny conscience was telling her she deserved it.
Faust began to walk away, swiftly slipping into the folds of the night. Shortly after, Rouge herself disappeared.
Five stories above, Cream lay awake, her sensitive ears burning with the things she'd heard.
The next morning, when the whole 'crew' (to quote Sonic) arrived at Tails' house, there was a small sense of tension. And most of it was coming from Faust. With deep, heavy bags under his eyes, and eyes set in a concrete glare, the bat was stomping around the house like a petulant child, all the while juggling at least five breakfast related tasks that he wasn't any good at. Sonic had returned from yesterday's 'date' with Amy, and he had a couple of new bruises to prove it. Tails was in the lab, analysing Knuckle's emerald. Shadow had, of course, appeared from nowhere, with good news about the Chaotix detective agency. They were just waiting for the girls to arrive.
The first member of the fairer sex to open the door was Amy. Sonic rolled his eyes at Shadow when she came in and sat besides him, putting her hand in his (burnt, as Faust was cooking) jam toast. Sonic and Amy's relationship was about the same as it had always been- a constant tug of war between a girl with a love for a guy and a guy with a love of freedom. Realistically, it wasn't going anywhere. Sonic would always strain to be free, and Amy would always strain to keep him in her arms, and that was that. Shadow and Amy's relationship hadn't changed much either- Amy was obsessed with Sonic, but Shadow was a dark horse in the race for her heart. Although, that was a race it seemed neither Shadow nor Sonic were interested in.
The next through the door was Cream. She seemed a little tired, with none of the usual pep in her step that she usually had. In truth, she was still pondering the events of last night. Having such a great sense of hearing wasn't always a boon, and she was beginning to look at Faust in a new way.
"Faust? Are you okay?" she said, as the bat balanced another stack of burnt bread on a plate.
"I had a bad night." Faust muttered. Cream frowned. A normal person would have just said yes. The part of Faust that couldn't lie was becoming a window into the sense of turmoil he was experiencing.
"Oh…I'm sorry. I hope you cheer up in the day." Cream replied, smiling her biggest smile.
"Don't count on it." Faust muttered quietly.
"Great…A bio-weapon that gets up on the wrong side of bed. Station Square's really safe now." Shadow said sarcastically. Faust sniffed, and handed Shadow a plate of very burnt toast.
It was at that moment that Rouge chose to walk in. Instantly, the tension in the room trebled. Faust was looking at her with pure venom, and the rest of the team noticed that something was very wrong indeed.
"Eh…So, what, Faust? No toast for me?" Rouge asked sweetly, plastering her face with a huge false smile. It was the physical expression of 'nothing to see here, move along'.
"No. We just ran out of bread. There's a few failed attempts in the bin if you're that concerned about your three square meals." Faust retorted, his voice full of acid.
"What's up with him?" Amy whispered into Sonic's ear. Sonic shrugged, and decided to speak up.
"Hey, uh, Faust. You sure you're a guy?" the blue hedgehog asked jovially. The silence echoed through the whole room like a thunderclap, and someone dropped a fork. Suddenly Sonic realised that this wasn't the best idea he'd ever had.
"Yes. Yes, I'm quite sure. Why?" Faust answered through gritted teeth.
"Well…Uh…I was just thinking…If you were, well, a woman…It might be…Y'know…that time of month…" Sonic carried on sheepishly.
Faust said nothing. He just clenched and unclenched his fists a few times, before walking over to the table.
"Shadow…You're my friend, aren't you?" the bat asked slyly.
"…Is that a trick question?"
"I'm going to have to ask you to punch Sonic. Because if I do it, I'm going to get carried away and kill him."
"Hmph. I love the smell of violence in the morning." Shadow grinned.
"Sir. Sorry for waking everyone, but I have some news to report." the Head of Intelligence said, shuffling his papers. He always shuffled his papers. It was like a facial expression to him. Nervous? Shuffle the papers. Angry? Shuffle the papers. Sad? Commit suicide. Or so Goriah wished. Of all the things Dr. Goriah had been accused of, being a morning person was not one of them.
"Go on." the President nodded, lifting a cup of coffee to his lips.
"Shadow has enlisted Team Chaotix's help. He's paying them to investigate us." the Head said. Shuffle-shuffle went the papers. Goriah tapped his fingers on the desk.
"How did you know that?" Oswin asked, swigging decaffeinated espresso from a hip-flask.
"Well, we give Chaotix a job every now and then. Usually, we make it out as a woman who's afraid her husband is cheating on her…And it turns out to be a poker night. When our decoy is in their office, she puts a bugging device somewhere in the vicinity. It's usually disguised as something worthless, so they often get thrown away- which is why we need to keep replacing them. However, between Vector's phone conversations and some of the shadier clients, it's a good way to keep our finger on the pulse." Shuffle-shuffle-shuffle. Would it ever end?
"Wow. That's amazing." Oswin said, in what could pass for a genuine tone.
"Well, that's why I'm head of intelligence." the man smiled. Shuffle-shuffle-shuffle. Why was it that whenever Goriah had to spend any time with the Head of Intel, he wished he had a gun?
"Goriah. Do you have any news?" the President asked, as if he knew what Goriah were thinking.
"Yes, but it isn't good. We've discovered some defects in three of the Faust 25 models, which will take a day or two to fix. However, the other four are operational."
"Which four are they?"
"25 Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Omega."
As Oswin looked around the circle, a plan started to slot itself together in his mind.
"Sir." he said, standing and saluting. "I propose that we use the newly-formed Team Bravado to distract or harm Chaotix. With that accomplished, we can deploy the four operational Faust units for a strike against the Sonic Team. If we can deplete their numbers, the rest of them will be easier to destroy."
"Aha. Divide and conquer. I see. Very well then. We'll commence the plan tomorrow." the president sighed. "Meeting adjourned."
"So, anyway. What are our plans for today?" Sonic winced, rubbing his kidneys. Shadow could pass for an amateur boxer any day of the week.
"Nothing. We're at a stalemate. One side needs to make a move to break it, but we don't gain any advantage in doing so. We'll wait for them to make the first move." Shadow shrugged.
Cream looked around the circle. It was a strange collection. Sitting directly opposite each other were Shadow and Sonic, who were as different as night and day. One a carefree hero, the other a calculating weapon of war. One was an honourable and resilient fighter, the other was an irresistible force with his chaos energy and gun-toting antics. And yet, here they were, sitting opposite each other with a common aim, making jokes and chatting. They were pretty much opposites, and yet there they were.
On the other hand, there were Faust and Rouge. In Cream's eyes, they were actually very similar to each other- not counting the fact that they were both bats. Faust was a government weapon who saw the truth. Rouge was a government agent who stole secrets. They both flew in the dead of night, and they were both (kind of) members of Team Dark. They both moved with that strange, silky motion, and they both attacked viciously when provoked. And yet, they hated each other with a passion few could match. Faust hated Rouge for betraying him. Rouge hated Faust for humiliating her on their first meeting. And yet, they were so similar.
Cream's reverie was interrupted when Amy elbowed her gently in the ribcage. "Hey, Cream. I see you noticed it too." the pink hedgehog whispered.
"Noticed what, Amy?" Cream asked innocently.
"Faust and Rouge." Amy winked conspiratorially.
"What about them?"
"Shh…I'll talk to you about it afterwards. " Amy giggled, going back to her blackened toast.
"So, weapon. What will you do today?" Shadow asked gruffly.
"Hff." Faust huffed. "I think I'll hang around with Tails for the day."
"Suit yourself. Rouge, you and I will be heading back home. We need to check on things." Shadow carried on. Rouge nodded, her eyes fixed on Faust's.
"Well, uh…I'm going for a jog. See ya, guys." Sonic said, practically upending the table and rushing out of the door before Amy could stop him. Amy just sighed.
Shadow stood up and walked out of the room. Everyone knew he was checking on Omega. Omega was still recharging, and Tails was performing minor repairs on him in the meantime. However, the fox was finding it difficult, having no real knowledge of Omega's framework.
"Shadow…You go on ahead. I need to talk to Tails." Rouge said, her voice dropping. Shadow nodded. Then, with a 'fwip' of his cloak and a flash of light, he was gone.
Faust grunted as the others made their way out of the kitchen. Rouge looked at him critically.
"I'm not doing this to make you uncomfortable. If you must know, I'm giving the Chaos Emerald and Omega's blueprints to Tails for the moment." Rouge sniffed.
"So you won't be telling him how you got my files from his computer, I wager?" Faust asked slyly. Rouge winced. He'd hit the nail straight on the head, and now he had something to use against her.
"What do you want me to do, Faust? I can't undo my mistakes, no matter how good I am." Rouge hissed. "Besides, you said it yourself. Those plans weren't too important."
"I'll tell you what I want you to do." Faust said, rising to his full height and stretching his wings. Rouge noted how much bigger he looked.
"Well? I'm waiting. And you can quit trying to make yourself bigger. You're a runt no matter what you do." Rouge smirked.
Faust moved quickly- too quickly- and then, he was standing there, his face mere inches from hers, his great, golden eyes looking straight into hers. His hands closed around her wrists like vices.
"From now on, Rouge, I want you to stay close to me." he said in his dusky, floating voice. That voice that was so much like Shadow's…
Rouge blinked for a moment. "Sorry, but you're not my type."
"Laugh it up, traitor. I want you where I can see you." Faust hissed. "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right? If so, I want you very close indeed."
"And here I thought romance was dead." Rouge quipped, rolling her eyes. Faust's jaw set in a stubborn frown- like Knuckle's when he ground his teeth. "Fine then. I'll stay close, Romeo. Just watch I don't stab you in the back."
Faust released her wrists, and stepped back quickly. Then, his face rearranged into a wry grin.
"If you stab me in the back, Rouge, I'll be sure to let all the silicone out of your chest." Faust laughed, beginning to run like a bat out of hell.
"So, Amy. What did you want to talk about?" Cream asked, taking another lick of her ice-cream cone. Subconsciously, she knew Amy was trying to butter her up with ice-cream, so whatever it was, it couldn't be good.
The pink hedgehog looked back at her rabbit companion and winked. Instantly, Cream's blood froze. Amy winking was never, ever a good sign.
"Weeeeeeeeeellll…You saw Faust and Rouge this morning, didn't you?" Amy said coyly.
"Yeah. They were…Upset with each other." Cream said, remembering what she had heard the night before. Faust and Rouge had chosen not to reveal it, and they must have had a good reason not to. But it was annoying to have to keep it a secret.
"Not quite, my dear Cream." Amy smiled. "If you looked closely, it was Faust who was upset with Rouge."
"…Where are you going with this, Amy?" Cream asked politely. In truth, the hedgehog had totally lost her. How could that be of any significance?
"Well, I'm just thinking…Faust may look as old as we are, but actually, he's only been alive for a few days, right? And this morning he was having a tantrum, just like a little kid. Maybe that's what he is, on the inside."
As weird as it seemed, Cream had to give Amy credit for making a theory with some actual evidence behind it. Cream had noticed it too- at times, Faust was a military weapon, melancholy and distant. At others, he looked around with wonder, like a child. Her mind reached back to the incident two days ago. If he was a military weapon, and a stealth weapon at that, why would he make such a fuss abut wearing a disguise, even if it was a disguise that made him look like a woman? Somehow, Faust was a little more childish than he appeared.
"Well, yeah. Maybe. But what has that got to do with anything?" Cream asked.
At that point, Cream saw the twinkle in Amy's eyes that usually signalled something truly disastrous. From the first time she had seen it, it had scared the life out of Cream. As much as Cream hated to admit it, some of Amy's plans were less…Well, sane, than others. Cream was too polite to say it, but there were some times when Amy was truly crazy. And that little twinkle was usually a sign that one of her less rational plans was coming up.
"Maybe, Faust is still a kid romantically, too. You know…The old hate equals love thing from school? Sonic does that too, y'know." Amy giggled.
"….Amy, I don't think that's the case-"
"Of course it is! My heart never lies, Cream! Those two are into each other!"
"Amy, no. No, no, no. They don't like each other. They hate each other. More than you know. They detest each other." Cream said, her brown eyes becoming huge as she finally realised where the conversation was going. But, with a shudder, she noticed that Amy wasn't listening.
"Come on, Cream! We've got to think of a way to get those two together!" Amy said, starting to walk off. Moments later, Cream ran after her.
(A/N: At the risk of spoilers to the story, NO. I am NOT going to do an Original Character x Official Character match up. It's just Amy being crazy. And the consequences that result from that. Plus, Sega has kindly already provided a love triangle for Rouge, and I don't particularly feel like making it a love…square.)
Well, originally this chapter was going to be a little longer, but I decided not to push it. It's been a hard chapter to write, and I apologise about the delay. Also, to those kind people who reviewed me, I apologise for not replying. To be honest, I didn't really know I had any. I forgot the password to my email, and I only checked yesterday. I'll try and reply to you as soon as possible- I value your support and criticism. On a side note, rejoice! I've finished all my exams, which means I can focus on my writing more.
I hope you like this chapter, and I also hope you'll like the next one- Chapter Fourteen, The Assault Begins! See you next time!