All Sonic the Hedgehog characters are copyright the Sega Corporation, Archie Publications, and DiC Productions. This story is copyright Tristan Palmgren, but distribution is rabidly encouraged. Rated PG for language and violence. References are made to characters from Dan Drazen's "Runaway" fanfic. They are, of course, his property.

Questions, comments, compliments, and flames are all more than welcome. Send them to

Author's note: The descriptions of Bunnie's biomechanical limbs are based on her appearance in the satAM series, and not on her (too variable) looks in Archie. The romance angle is also taken from satAM, not Archie. In fact, all continuity data from Archie has been ignored. So I'm a purist, so what?

This is a rough draft; more polished versions will appear sometime in the future.


A Sonic the Hedgehog story by Tristan Palmgren

Timeline: Spring 3235, the latter half of the SatAM cartoon's second season.

The stranger was going to die, of that everyone was certain. The rudimentary medical facilities of under-equipped Knothole village could, at best, only delay the inevitable. Even in the care of the most advanced, state-of-the-art hospitals the like of which existed only in Robotropolis his fate would have been uncertain.

But here it was sealed.

Even more of a mystery then the stranger himself was the question of why, with the last few ounces of energy left to him, he asked to see Bunnie Rabbot.

Bunnie stood outside, shivering in the chilly autumn wind, asking herself this over and over. Ever since discovering the mortally wounded man amidst the rubble of the city, a morbid atmosphere had settled over the ordinarily serene forest hamlet of Knothole. It was at once infuriating and tormenting to have fought so long and hard to save and rescue this man only to have his life snatched away because of a cruel twist of nature.

Bunnie remembered the nights, just after they had discovered the internal injuries that wracked the stranger's body, when Tails had overheard that their visitor was going to die. The kitsune had been terrified. He protested over and over that he was here, in Knothole, so that Aunt Sally could save his life. The idea that there was nothing any of them could do had simply never occurred to him. He had been raised to believe that there was no such thing as a futile venture. When he finally arrived at the concept, he could do little but break down into tears. It had taken all of Bunnie's willpower to not join him.

She paced listlessly in front of the darkened medical cabin, wishing she weren't alone. It was mid-afternoon, usually the pinnacle of activity in the village, but today there was hardly another person in sight. There were only her own raging thoughts to keep her company. She kept asking herself the same questions, finding no answers, and wishing that she didn't have to do this.

Bunnie was glad, then, when the doors of the cabin slipped open, revealing Sally Acorn. She shut the door gently behind her.

"He's ready to see you now," she said softly, voice dropped to almost a whisper.

"Ah- Ah don't know if Ah want to do this. Ah guess Ah don't have much of a choice, though." Bunnie glanced at the cabin's nearby windows. Curtains had been drawn to bar the sunlight's entrance. "How long does he have?"

"No more than a day, now. Maybe less. The internal bleeding is that bad." Sally's hand landed on her friend's shoulder. Her organic shoulder. The stranger had only been in Knothole for two days, and already it was almost too late. "I know this isn't easy for any of us, but be strong in there. For his sake."

Bunnie's eyes softened. "Ah will, Sally-girl."

Sally took her hand away, gesturing towards the cabin doors. "Good luck." Bunnie nodded in silent affirmation.

She opened the cabin doors, taking a deep breath as light spilled across the darkened interior of the medical ward. Bunnie hesitated on the fringes of the door, steeling herself for the tragedy that lay beyond. She had only seen the stranger, this Drizit, once, and that was before anybody could guess at the severity of his wounds.

They had found him almost by pure chance, crawling through the rubble of one of Robotropolis's junk yards. He said he had been hiding there for years before he was discovered. A SWATbot had shot him twice, once in the arm, and once in the chest. He had barely managed to escape when it happened. Ordinarily a few months' recovery would heal the wounds, but Drizit was old and frail enough as it was, and the laser blasts had pushed his fragile organs to the brink of collapse.

Drizit had been overjoyed when the Freedom Fighters found him. He had thought that he would survive for sure, not knowing that the shock and the injuries already were forcing his leaking heart to slow and shut down. Bunnie hadn't heard much from him after that, but Sally had told them all that he was as much heartbroken now as he was enraptured earlier.

Stepping through the doorway was like plunging into a cauldron of swirling darkness, and inky black so thick as to defy the eye to adjust. Drizit, apparently, liked it this way. Coming in from the daylight, Bunnie was nearly blinded. She could see the outline of a bed at the other end of the room, and the unmoving form of a body beneath the sheets, but not much else. Even that disappeared when the door behind her shut, trapping the rest of the sunlight outside.

Complete silence permeated the air. For a dismal moment, Bunnie thought that Drizit had already passed on.

"I apologize for the darkness," the stranger spoke, a scratching hiss. He was clearly trying for all he was worth to not appear pathetic, and not succeeding. He paused for a moment before speaking again, mustering his feeble health. "Princess Acorn told me that not many of you like it this way."

Bunnie nodded, wondering if he could even see her. "That's true."

"I guess living without the company of light for so long makes one accustomed to its absence." He sighed, almost wistfully. "Regretful, isn't it? Spending the last few years of one's life hiding, like a rat, in Robotropolis's sewers. I never thought I'd die being afraid of the sun."

Bunnie didn't quite know what to say. "Um... y'all wanted to see me?"

"That's right. Why don't you come closer? Just because I'm fond of the dark doesn't mean I can see too well in it."

As Bunnie moved towards the bed, and her eyes adjusted to the room, she could just see the dying starling's face. His expression bespoke of an inner strength the rest of his body didn't have. It struck her that he didn't look half as strong when they first found him; as if he now held a purpose that had escaped him earlier.

"Ah... didn't even know you knew mah name," Bunnie confessed. She still didn't know why Drizit had asked to see her, specifically, and the question keep resurfacing in her mind.

"I've know you all for quite some time now. Didn't the Princess tell you?"

"She hasn't been talking much. neither have the rest of us."

Drizit seemed to consider this for a moment. "Understandable. I realize that having me here isn't exactly. easy on all of you."

Bunnie's next words came to her instinctively. "Now, don't waste your time worryin' about us. Please. We're..." she hesitated, "Well, we're not the one who needs it."

"I'm used to worrying about you. Old habits aren't as fragile as my body, I guess."

"Now, don't you ever give up hope, sugar. There's got to be some way to-"

Drizit interrupted her. "Stop right there. Hope's in short enough supply on this world without wasting it on lost causes like me."

It wasn't often that Bunnie actually had to struggle to come up with reassuring words. They usually came to her naturally. "Ah find that, here, there's always more than enough of it to go around."

"But in this case, I'm not the one who needs the most. Trust me." When she didn't answer, he weakly patted the side of the bed. "Sit down. I have something to tell you, and it isn't going to be easy."

Bunnie compiled, taking a seat at the foot of the bed.

"If the Princess didn't tell you about me, I guess I'm going to have to." He sighed. "I thought telling this story once would be the end of it... it's nothing I'm exactly proud of. A decade ago, during the coup, I managed to survive only by taking flight and running downwards, deep in the sewers underneath Robotropolis itself. I hid there for years, knowing that I had to do something to stop Ivo Robotnik, but never having enough courage to go out. I settled for hacking into the city's security system, watching everything through cameras. That's how I first saw you and the other Freedom Fighters."

Bunnie nodded attentively. Drizit seemed to need prompting, so she said, "Go on."

"Ever since you and your friends were fourteen years old, I've watched you. I never managed to get the courage to go to the surface and help you raid the city, though. The most I could manage was cheering for you from my hiding place. Last week, though, I saw something on the cameras, something that I had to get to the surface and warn you about. I was afraid, but this was so big that fear hardly played a factor in my decision. Something horrendous is going to happen, Bunnie."

"Oh mah stars... you went to the surface and got found out, right? That's when-"

"The SWATbots shot me, and reduced me to this, yes. It wasn't supposed to end like that. God, I wish it hadn't. But that's not important right now. I *need* to tell you this." Drizit's hand reached up, taking Bunnie's flesh-and-blood hand and squeezing it.

Bunnie felt a yawning pit open in her stomach, the magnitude of which she thought could only exist in nightmares. It was as if she knew what he was going to say next. Her blood felt icy cold as it pulsed through her veins.

"On the cameras, I saw it. It's the Laurentis nodule, Bunnie. Robotnik's found a way to activate the Laurentis nodule."

She shot straight up, stumbling backwards and away from the bed. Denial overcame her. This was the stuff of nightmares, of unreality. This couldn't be real. The machine, buried dormant within the electronics and moving parts of her roboticized right leg, couldn't be a threat now. Not after all these years.

Drizit shook his head sadly, as if sensing Bunnie's thoughts. "He's finally cracked the inventor's code. When I left, he was busy transmitting random signals, trying to get a response from the nodule." He paused. "He's trying to find you, Bunnie, and he's going to succeed."

A single word managed to escape her seized-up throat. "How?"

"I'm not quite sure. It took him two years to crack Laurentis's design, figure out a way to remote-activate the transmitter. He's just sending out streams of random digits now, but sooner or later he's going to stumble on the activation code."

Bunnie laid a hand on her neck; the skin underneath the fur was warm and clammy. "This just can't be." Memories flashed through her mind's eye faster than she could follow them. Memories, nightmares, it was too difficult to discern between them.

"When that happens... well, we both know what comes next."

"Ah... Ah won't be able to run anymore."

Drizit nodded. "Neither will your friends, if you're here when the transmitter activates."

The world was spinning, but she had to ask nonetheless. She tried unsuccessfully to blink away a tear. "How long?"

"I don't know. Robotnik was still ticking through random codes when I left, trying each one in turn and waiting for a response. For all we know, he could've already activated it. At most, you only have a few days."

"This can't be happening, can it?" Her friends, her family, all wiped out in an instant, all because she had never told anyone. They would have no warning.

"It is." If anything, Drizit sounded more melancholy about this than he did his own impending death.

"Then mah life... is *over*. Ah have to leave here before it happens. At least then they won't get caught with me."

"If the Freedom Fighters are going to survive, then yes, you have to leave now. But." Drizit hesitated, "Please, Bunnie, never give up the hope. Like you said, there's always more than enough of it to go around."

Bunnie looked at him as if he had just suggested that roboticization wasn't such a bad idea. "Don't you git it?" she cried. "If this is true, there is no hope! No matter how much Ah fight it, Ah'm done for!" She turned towards the door, ready to storm out and run, run as far away as possible.

"Wait!" he called. She stopped at the threshold of the cabin, ready to wrench open the doorknob. "There is hope!"

"No... not here."

"Bunnie, I may have been alone and isolated in hiding for most of the years since the coup, but I still had some contacts. I've had access to information not many, not even Robotnik, could hope to have."

Bunnie stood there listening, unashamed of the tears that rolled down her face. "Like what?"

"Laurentis himself is still alive and well, down in Lower Mobius."

"What? Ya mean-"

"You have to find Laurentis, Bunnie. It's not likely that the nodule can be uninstalled from your system, but if it can, he's the one who'd know how. You *have* to find him."

Bunnie shook her head, getting ready to argue but then thinking better of it. "Ah. suppose you're right. But-"

"No buts. If you're to even have a chance of survive the hunt that's going to come, you have to go see Laurentis as soon as possible."

Bunnie looked down at the floor, feeling horribly guilty despite the personal hell the last few seconds had put her through. This complete stranger had given up his life to save hers, and now the only way she could repay him was by leaving while he was left here to die. She walked back to the bed, and took his hand, squeezing it tightly as if it were the last anchor she had to her home. In a way, it was.

"Ah know this is horrible for both us, but. Ah can't thank you enough for doing what you did, even if it wasn't worth the price you paid." She felt him squeeze back.

"Godspeed, Bunnie."


The cargo sled wasn't a very exotic machine, but it was the best the Knothole Freedom Fighters could throw together with their limited resources, and it served its purpose well enough. It was designed to carry supplies and equipment from campsite to campsite, and built from junk scavenged from Robotropolis's numerous scrap piles. There were others just like it parked around Knothole itself, but Bunnie had chosen this one for a reason. It was furthest away the village itself. There was no one around to see her take it, or see her abandon the only friends she had known.

No one around to see her cry.

The passenger compartment was cramped enough normally, but the bulky size of Bunnie's metal limbs made it nearly impossible to fit inside. It was just another reminder of her lost limbs, and the time bomb ticking inside them.

She slipped her hand down past the sled's steering column, and hit the ignition. The electric motor that powered the sled came to life with a reassuring hum. and then sputtered out a moment later.

Bunnie tried the ignition again a moment later. This time, the engine didn't even try to start. The dashboard's lights remained obstinately dead.

Frustrated, she kicked the passenger compartment's door open, and walked to the front of the vehicle. The hood, at least, opened easily, but half of the hastily-assembled gear inside she couldn't make sense of. She didn't see anything immediately out of place, either. Halfheartedly, she fiddled with the things that she did know, and climbed back into the driver's seat. Again, the engine didn't start. With everything that had happened to her already, she didn't need this, too.

She went through the same procedure twice more, each time with the same lack of results. Finally, Bunnie gave up and collapsed on the steering column, shoulders quaking.


Evidently, the hover sled hadn't been parked far enough away from the village. That was Rotor's voice. She looked up to find the walrus leaning into the open passenger's side window.

"Having trouble gettin' the engine to start?" he asked, voice neutral as always. Bunnie took more notice of what he didn't ask: why she looked so forlorn, or why she was even trying to leave in the first place. It was clear that he wanted to, but Rotor was always mindful of his friends' feelings. It was one of his more endearing traits.

It was a struggle to keep her voice under control, but this time she won. "Yeah, that darn thing just won't turn on."

"No problem. I'll take a look for you."

With that, Rotor was gone, circling around to the front of the sled. He was hidden behind the hood for several seconds. Within moments, the hood shut again, and he was back."

"Try it now," he suggested.

Bunnie pressed the ignition again, and the engine obediently started, as if it would have taken offense to the suggestion that it had refused to do so moments earlier. She heaved a sigh of relief. "Thanks, Rotor," she said hesitantly.

"It was just a loose connection, that's all." His gaze fell reluctantly to the back of the sled. "Going out to pick up something?" he asked, carefully innocent.

Bunnie shook her head slowly. "Why d'ya ask?"

"Well... it's just that you don't have any supplies loaded," he hiked a thumb towards the empty cargo bed. "We usually just use these for hauling so I just figured..."

"No, no, it's nothing like that," Bunnie was overcome by a sudden urge to bury her head in her arms again. "Ah just have to... to git out of here."

"What? Why?" Rotor didn't bother to mask his concern this time.

"You won't understand if Ah told you." Bunnie got ready to move towards the gear shift, but stopped when she felt Rotor's hand fall on top of hers.

"Maybe, but the very least I could do is try."

Bunnie was at once struck by the sincerity in his voice. She took a deep breath, and asked herself again if she was really ready to do this. The answer that came back, of course, was no, but choice wasn't really an option here.

"There's something in my leg, Rotor," she said, tapping the hard metal exterior of what had once been her right calf, "Ah'm not too sure how it works, but Ah know enough to be scared. It's called the Laurentis nodule, and it has a built-in transmitter." She sighed. "A couple days ago, Robotnik finally figured out how to remote-activate it. If Ah don't get out of here, now, he's gonna find me, and he's gonna find Knothole." She didn't mention Drizit.

Rotor's face grew more pale with each word.

"And... either way, he's gonna find me. Ah can't hide any longer."

"I don't know what to say. That's- that's terrible!"

"Ah know! But Ah can't do anything about it! Not here!"

"Where will you go, then?" Rotor asked urgently.

"Lower Mobius. Ah think there's someone down there who can help me uninstall the rotten thing," she said, emphasing the 'think'.

"Take me with you."

"Huh?" Bunnie, distraught as she was, was caught off-guard.

Whatever worry he had masked before slipped onto his features all at once. "I wanna help; I can't just stand back and do nothing. Take me with you."

"Ah appreciate the offer, believe me Ah do," she started, feeling extraordinarily awkward, "But... this... Ah can't let ya take that risk. If Robotnik's gonna find me no matter what, if you're around, he'll find you too. It's too dangerous to follow me."

Rotor frowned, looking down. For a moment, she thought that he had run out of things to say; maybe he had. "You almost make it sound as if your life isn't worth the effort."

Bunnie's face crumpled. "If Ah'm doomed either way, it isn't!" Her hand came agonizingly close to the cargo sled's gear shift. All she had to do was slip into drive, and Rotor couldn't stop her from leaving. Yet she couldn't bring herself to do it. "Just go back to the rest of the Freedom Fighters. They need you. They don't need me."

"Don't say that! We do need you," he insisted. "Please. You said yourself that there was at least a chance. Maybe whoever you're lookin' for down in Lower Mobius could use a skilled mechanic."

Bunnie couldn't bring herself to meet Rotor's gaze. Instead, she looked back down at the sled's steering column.

Rotor's hand never budged an inch, still resting atop of hers. "Bunnie... ever since that... day, two years ago, I've looked after you, made sure that your robotic components remained functional. I know your systems better than anyone here, better than ever you." His voice was pleading now. "Let me try."

The walrus had always been there for her, she realized. He had always been the first one on the scene when something had gone wrong, the one who always could make everything better, without fail. Rotor's words had backfired on him, though, being more of a deterrent than anything else. The thought almost came as a shock to her: she cared for him so much that she didn't want to see him die alongside her when Robotnik finally came.

Before he had found her, though, she had been confident that she could leave behind her home, friends and family, of ten years. It wouldn't be easy just driving away, but she though she could do it. Now, though, with an aspect of that family right there, knowing what she was going through, she couldn't bring herself to leave him behind.

"Stars forgive me for doing this but..." she took her hand away from the gear shift, and patted the seat beside her. "Hop in."

Rotor nodded, and took the seat. He hesitated again, the inescapable aura of teenage awkwardness still hovering around him. "Thanks."

"Welcome, Ah'm sure." Finally, she took the sled out of park. Below the passenger cabin, hover engines rumbled a little louder. "And if Ah didn't take you, Ah suppose you'd just run back to Sonic and Sally, try to get them to chase and stop me, right?"

He nodded, without smiling.


"What of the search, Snively? How much progress has been made?"

Snively snapped to attention. For the past hour, Robotnik had been sitting quietly on the throne nearby, broodingly silent. At no time, though, did he ever allow himself to be lulled into a false sense of security. He had learned by now that a silent Ivo Robotnik could perhaps be the most dangerous of all.

Instinctively, he scanned through a list of numbers nearby and wasted no time giving an answer. "Thirty-seven percent of all the possible combinations have now been tested, with still no response from the rabbit's transmitter, sir."

Numbers ticked by on a nearby screen. Each second, the city's powerful transmitters were directing thousands of such combinations outward, hoping to stumble on to the correct code by chance. Laurentis had made sure that his codes were long and completely random, but even they couldn't hope to stand up against Robotropolis's powerful computers for long.

Snively made some quick mental calculations. "If all goes at due speed, and accounting for the numbers we've already tried, there is a fifty percent chance of finding the correct code within the next nine hours."

Robotnik's own roboticized arm scratched his chin thoughtfully. Snively was all but confident that he had slipped into another one of his long silences when he spoke again.

"What is nine hours compared with two years?"

"I'm sorry, sir?" Snively asked, mindfully subservient, as always.

"I've been waiting over two years for this, Snively. Two long years. They've worn my patience *very* thin."

"Well, I'm sorry, sir, but the machines are incapable of trying these codes any faster-"

"I can wait another nine hours, though. Oh, yes, another nine hours will just make finding her just that much more rewarding." Snively made sure to nod at all the appropriate places. "Just think. If we're lucky enough, we might be able to get some of her friends, too."

"It is very likely that she'll be in Knothole when the transmitter activates," Snively confirmed. *But knowing your luck, I wouldn't count on it,* he added silently.

It was as if Robotnik could read his mind. "I just want her, now. The others would merely be a bonus. The rabbit has come to represent every one of weakness: my own technology turned against me. I want the bitch crushed, the business finished." He heaved his massive form off the throne. "Contact me the instant you discover the correct code, Snively."

"Yes, sir. Where will you be, sir?"

Robotnik growled. "Tending the roboticizer."


There it was, just below the cargo sled. She could see wandering villagers moving about, occasionally glancing up at the sled as it flew overhead. Even though the ground grew more and more distant, she could still see ripples appear in the power ring grotto, kicked up by wind from the sled's hover engines. It was difficult to comprehend the fact that this was the last time she would ever see Knothole.

Slowly, the thatched-roof huts slipped further and further away behind them, disappearing behind the thick green canopy of the Great Forest. She tried to concentrate on steering the sled, but kept looking back over her shoulder, trying to catch one last glimpse of her home. It became more and more difficult to see anything of it.

Eventually there were only trees.

The sled shuddered in mid-air, the steering column responding to a trembling in her arm. She took a deep breath and steadied it. Rotor, in the passenger seat, couldn't have helped but notice it, but he didn't say anything.

"How long do you think we have until we reach Lower Mobius?" Bunnie asked.

Rotor glanced out the window. "Without any cargo to weigh us down, we're moving at a pretty nice clip. Maybe an hour, hour-and-a-half until we reach the first access point to the city?"

"Sounds about right," Bunnie nodded. As doubtful as she was about Rotor risking his life to accompany her, she had to admit that she was glad to have at least some aspect of her old home with her. His presence was reassuring, calming.

"We'll find some way to beat this, whatever it is," he said, trying and failing to rally her spirits.

She shook her head. "Y'all don't even know what you're up against, Rotor."

"Why don't you tell me, then?"

"About the Laurentis nodule? Ah- Ah can't." The years-old fear that had been bubbling inside her suddenly grew stronger. She knew from her nightmares that this would be one of the worst parts. Telling them.

"Please, Bunnie. No one will be able to help you fight this if you don't tell anybody what it is."

And he was right, she knew. She came close to hating him for that.