It was Sonic who dragged her away from the collapsing roboticizer. She only learned this later, of course. At the time, she couldn't feel anything at all.


So it was done with. The Laurentis nodule, and its blaring beacon, had been extinguished, and with it any hope that Bunnie would ever be able to use her robotic limbs again.

The thoughts crept through her mind like dripping molasses. Where and when she thought them, she didn't know. She didn't have the presence of mind to even ask herself that. She was mired in eternal blackness. Unconscious, yet at least able to think to herself about some things; almost like a dream. For all she knew, each one of her thoughts could have taken over an hour of real time to actually connect across her neurons. She didn't know where she was, and she didn't really care, either. That she could even have a physical body at this point was a concept that never occurred to her.

Bunnie had finally done what she'd gone to Robotropolis to do in the first place: plucked the Laurentis nodule right out of her leg.

She never forgot what Griff had told her in the doomed city of Lower Mobius. Ordinarily, removing the nodule like that should have provoked an overload strong enough to kill her, but the glowing edge of the Laurentis blade had kept that from happening. It was the tool Griff originally intended to use to interface with the nodule. When the blade glowed, it transmitted instructions to the nodule to gently shut down. It allowed its possessor to adjust the nodule without running the risk of a fatal overload.

Instead of adjusting the nodule, though, Bunnie had used the blade to obliterate it entirely.

In addition to hosting the beacon, the nodule also housed the power distribution processor for all three of her robotic limbs. It distributed energy from her power supply to the motors that controlled the movement of her metal legs and arm. Without the processor, there were no motors and no movement. She couldn't move her left arm or either of her legs.

She wasn't just a freak and an outcast anymore. She was triplegic. She was a cripple, and she was useless to the Freedom Fighters.

Though she certainly didn't deserve his attentions, she'd have to ask Rotor to uninstall all three robotic limbs with this was over. That way, she'd at least be able to crawl and scratch through what remained of her life without having to deal with the extra burden of those three useless limbs.

That was, she'd have to ask him, if she survived. She didn't know where she was or if she still breathed. Griff hadn't sounded too certain when he said that she'd survive without the Laurentis nodule, even if the proper shut-down signal had been transmitted via the blade. If the rest of her body was metallic, certainly she wouldn't have survived. Her heart would have been shut down, and so would her brain. She had a living heart and a free mind, though, and that had been what had kept them from shutting down with the nodule's destruction. Yet there were still tangential variables that gave her pause. It was quite possible that she hadn't survived. She knew blood pumped through her metallic legs and arm (the veins sealed themselves whenever one of her limbs was removed) but she didn't know if it would cease flowing entirely once the limbs themselves had been deactivated by the nodule's demise. A deactivated limb could stop blood flow in just the wrong fashion. Veins blocked or sealed improperly would leak. It would've been exactly like bleeding to death. All of her efforts to save herself could've bought her nothing more than an extra few minutes of a slow, gasping death; laying in a congealing pool of her own blood at the floor of the roboticizer chamber.

Ordinary, these thoughts would have given her cause to shudder and feel nauseous. She didn't have the temperament fit to handle such hideousness for long. They felt right at home now, though. The past few hours had been nothing more than an unending stream of it. She felt like she was a different person than the one she'd woken up as this morning.

A worse person.


"Monitoring electrical output; voltage, amperage, steady."

A beat.

"No reaction from her nervous system."

"Check. Increase battery output. Decrease the variable resistance by another twenty ohms."

"I thought we'd already hit the bottom."

"No, we can lower it a little more. I wasn't sure we could before, but the walrus showed me how. Go ahead and do it."

"The machine isn't letting me."

"Here, let me show you: increase fluid salinity by about another three parts per thousand. That'll help it carry more amperage."

"That could have adverse effects on her nervous system, doctor."

Another beat.

"Negligible. Do it."

A wrenching pain forced a gasp from Bunnie's lungs, bursting straight through the fog of semi-consciousness. Her muscles involuntarily spasmed. She twisted on her back, fighting the strong hands that were suddenly holding her down... wherever she was. This is what she imagined that stabbing through her leg should have felt like - a blunt, brutal knife sawing through entire nerve clusters.

"Definitely an adverse reaction!"

Bunnie flopped uselessly on her back, unable to bear so much pain. Karma had finally caught up with her; she'd landed in a torturous and eternal afterlife.

"Let it ride its course. It shouldn't last long."

Almost as soon as the voice spoke, the pain began to subside. Bunnie felt herself relax back into the cushions of whatever surface she'd been laying on. The jolt of pain had forced her to collect enough of her senses to realize that it felt like a cot.

"Breathe easy, honey," Bunnie felt a hand brush off some of the sweat that had collected on the fur on her forehead. "Just breathe easy."

"I think... it worked," the other voice said. "We did it. She's conscious, too. What's her spinal EEG look like?"

"Her artificial nervous system showed a definite reaction. We strained her batteries, but her power supply is steady."


"Her heart rate's fast, but it's slowing to normal. She's out of it now."

Bunnie wasn't a doctor; she had no idea what the two voices were talking about. It took her a moment of consideration to even realize that they were talking about the conditions of her health.

"The saline solution was a little rough on her, but it was just the jump- start she needed," a third voice joined the other two. "Good job."

Bunnie's eyes fluttered open, and against the burning glare of midday light streaming in through the windows, she saw two Mobians she didn't recognize. One was male, the other female. The third voice, the one that had been ordering the other around, was coming from outside of her field of view.

The male asked, "Would you like a sedative? We didn't expect you to come out of it right now. The pain was probably a little much. You don't have to stay with us if you don't want to."

The pain was no longer an obstacle. Most of it had faded anyway. Feebly, Bunnie shook her head.

"Ordinarily, this is when I'd start closing her up," the distant voice said. "But this is far beyond my ken. This calls for a mechanic, not a doctor. Isolde, if you please?"

The female looked back at Bunnie for a hesitant moment, and then pulled back. "Of course, doctor." She snapped a thick rubber glove over her right hand. Bunnie saw that a great deal of the glove had already been covered with the thick, dark grime of motor oil. Bunnie's first impression of her had been that she was a nurse. Of course she wasn't, though; who'd ever want a nurse when dealing with the likes of Bunnie? This woman was a mechanic.

Bunnie heard the noises of metal scraping against metal as the woman dug around in the guts of her mechanical leg. Then there was a pause, followed by the squeak of an poorly-oiled hinge, and the clang of an access panel closing shut.

The fact that she didn't recognize either of the Mobians she had seen was really starting to unnerve her. Even though the Freedom Fighters network had grown in size recently, for most of her life she'd lived in socially restrained conditions, where always she'd known everyone she'd ever interacted with and seeing new faces had been rare, at the very least. As such, she hadn't been raised to be very sociable around strangers.

"Who... who are y'all? Ah don't recognize yah..."

"We're from Lower Mobius," the as-yet-unknown male said. He was examining computer-generated images on a display monitor mounted by Bunnie's side. "Don't worry, you're safe here."

"Lower Mobius!" Bunnie tried to struggle to a sitting position, but was held back by the male's arms. It was probably just as well, too. Blood began rushing through inflamed veins in her temples at the slightest motion, resulting in a supremely powerful headache. "But I thought that-"

"Like I said, you're safe now," the male explained smoothly. He rattled off detail after detail very calmly. "We're not in Lower Mobius right now, of course. We're inside one of our emergency ambulance hover vehicles. We're with the rest of the convoy that evacuated the city, just parked out underneath the cover of some shrubs out in the Great Plains. The hover vehicles are still our best shelter out here."

"But how did I get out here?"

"Your friends brought you here," he said. "As well-equipped as you Knothole folks are, you still don't have any full time doctors on call. We do."

"So, Sonic and Sally... and Rotor, they're all safe?" Bunnie asked, wide- eyed.

"Yes," he answered, smiling. "They're all still here with us. So is Griff, and the dragon that brought him here."

Bunnie fell limply back into the bunk cushions, feeling tension cascade out of her shoulders. Her life was over - whether she was physically alive here in this hospital or not - but at least it had ended on a good note.

After a quiet moment, the doctor said, "You took a mighty shock to your system. Standing partially inside a roboticizer beam was bad enough, but you tried to use a knife to play around with your physiology the painful way. With the way you're... um... hardwired, messing around with that nodule was almost as much of a shock to you as, say, doing the same thing to your heart would've been." He slipped a pill into her left hand. "Here, take this, it'll help cushion your system's response."

Bunnie froze. For a long time, she wasn't entirely sure what had just happened.

After she didn't do anything for a moment, the doctor said, "Well, are you going to take it? You don't have to if you don't want to, but I'd recommend that you do; otherwise you'll be extremely uncomfortable soon." Bunnie didn't pay him any attention.

The doctor had placed the pill into her left hand.

She had *felt* it.

Slowly, expecting the metallic mass of her roboticized left arm to coil up and strike her like a snake, she turned her head and stared at it. The pill was right in the palm of her hand, exactly where she had felt it.

Her metal fingers curled around the pill as she ordered them to do so.

"Ah don't understand..."

"Well," the doctor started explaining, "the pill will help your body regulate the receptor chemicals in the autonomic areas of your brain: the areas that control your breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure, and so on. The disruption from removing one of your roboticized leg's artificial glands disrupted-"

So she was either dreaming or this was the afterlife.

"Not... the pill..." she hissed, teeth clenched. The doctor started at the sudden aggressive change in her tone. "Ah... mean mah arm."

He stepped in front of Bunnie, and for the first time, she saw his face.

"What about it?" he asked. "Is something wrong? If there is, I can call another mechanic down here, quick, and--"

The name spilled out of Bunnie's mouth before she could help it.


A fresh bandage was wrapped around the buck's head, but otherwise he looked much better than the last time Bunnie had seen him. He must've had access to the time and the facilities to bathe, because most of the blood had been washed out of his fur. He looked almost nothing like that sad, crumpled body Bunnie had hauled out from underneath the wreckage of a Lower Mobius cabin.

Thaddeus - Doctor Thaddeus - gave her a quizzical stare. He was silent for a moment, and then said, "Did someone tell you my name?"

"Don't... Don't ya recognize me?"

He shook his head. Of course he didn't recognize her, she realized a moment later. He had been unconscious the entire time they'd been together before. She scolded herself to think next time.

Bunnie let it go. She knew that if she told this man what she'd done for him, he'd try to thank her, and she didn't feel worthy of any praise right now.

"Just do me a favor, and ask Gail next time ya see her."

Thaddeus looked even more confused upon the invoking of his wife's name, but he sensed that his patient didn't want to talk about it anymore, and obliged her. Besides, he seemed to have other things on his mind.

"I was told that the damage to your leg was self-inflicted," he said. "Is this true?"

"Yeah... Ah suppose." Bunnie said it reluctantly, because she wasn't sure whether she had had any choice in the matter. "Wut about mah legs? How are they workin'-?"

"Well, you took a very foolish risk," he interrupted. "Your knife sliced right through the object that was your leg's power distribution node. Without that node, no power could be distributed to anywhere in your robotic limbs. You almost lost them."

Bunnie stared at him in bewilderment, wondering why he felt he had to explain this to her. Then it struck her that he knew nothing about what had happened. He actually thought that she didn't know about the Laurentis nodule. He didn't think that she had even meant to destroy it.

"It was a very rare and meticulously assembled object, built to handle thousands of minute power flow adjustments per second," Thaddeus continued, oblivious. "There was nothing that would even remotely serve as a backup in stock. We thought you'd lose the use of both your legs and your arm when your friends brought you to us. We only had one other object that could regulate a power flow that complex, and we thought it had been destroyed with the power crystal in Lower Mobius.

"Fortunately, Dirk scavenged it before it blew... he was the one who suggested this, you know. Have you met him?" When Bunnie nodded, 'yes', dumbfounded, he went on. "I can show you what he did, if you want."

He helped her up into a sitting position (working arms and legs or no, she still felt terribly weak), and then he indicated the panel on her right leg. The panel was scarred, of course, with the gash Bunnie had torn into it with the blade, but some clever mechanic had welded shut the worst of the damage. Underneath the panel was the space where the Laurentis nodule had been. Thaddeus flipped the panel open.

Bunnie blinked against the glare, nearly blinded by the light source. She raised her mechanical arm to shield her eyes.

The light source was the broken half of the Power Stone, formerly of the Knothole grotto, then the Lower Mobius power crystal, and now embedded firmly inside her leg.


The scar would never fade, of course. Metal didn't heal or regenerate, and the medical team didn't want to risk replacing too many of her parts. The gash that the Laurentis blade had torn, and the scar of the welding that had sealed it shut, would stay on her leg for as long as she'd kept it.

The reason Thaddeus and the other medtechs didn't want to replace that leg panel was the same reason that worried them sick about replacing the destroyed nodule with the power stone. And that was deroboticization. The nodule and the panel both had originally been parts of her body, once, even when she was flesh and blood. When she'd been roboticized, her real limbs had just been changed - they hadn't been replaced. Ergo, the scarred panel and the Laurentis nodule both were just as much a part of her as they had been they day she'd been roboticized.

The deroboticization process was just a simple reversal of the original deroboticization. If the nodule and the panel had been a part of her when she was first roboticized, it was possible that to deroboticize her, she'd need to have them. The Laurentis nodule had been permanently destroyed; there was no recovering it.

The medtechs weren't sure she'd ever be able to be deroboticized now.

Nothing was certain, but logically it made sense. The panel scar was bad enough. From everything that was known about the deroboticization process, if she tried it with that panel like it was right now, a gash of similar size would probably appear on her flesh-and-blood leg afterwards. Welding scars and all.

That might have been tolerable, but the missing Laurentis nodule was something else. The matter that had composed the nodule had been culled not just from replacable skin or muscle, but from bone marrow and the fibers of her nervous system... things that could never be replaced. If her legs and arm were to form as flesh again, without a replacement for the matter that had the dead nodule, it was likely that they simply wouldn't work. Her legs and arm would die within days. Even worse, they might even be a threat to her life.

Of course, the medtechs had told her time and again that they weren't sure that this was the case. The deroboticization process was just as much a mystery as ever. It was possible, although unlikely, that the deroboticizer would just replace the Laurentis nodule's missing mass with other material scooped from more nonessential parts of her limbs. It was also possible that the deroboticization process followed a preset plan for replacing everything, and that the missing nodule wouldn't matter at all.

Before today, she had known with certainty that if a deroboticizer was ever found, it would instantly work. Now it was, at best, a gamble. She had lost something very special to her.

"Remember, you haven't lost the most important thing," Rotor said to her. "You haven't lost hope."

She and he sat by the edge of the ring pond. Her feet were near the edge of the water, but she still didn't dangle them into the pool - the fear of rust had been her constant companion for years, now. She regarded it wistfully, wishing she could stretch out and kick the surface.

It was a cool evening; her first back in Knothole since the disaster of the past few days. It was late enough in the springtime that a few loose mosquitoes hovered in clouds above them. Bunnie's ears occasionally twitched to swat them away. Furless Rotor was having the roughest time, but if appearances were any judge, he didn't seem to mind too much.

"Oh, Ah appreciate the thought, honey, but hope won't fix me... it won't make things go back to the way they used to, either."

There was a pause of several moments before he answered, but the wait didn't seem out of place. It was so quiet and peaceful here. It was gentle sensation of laziness, cast against the backdrop of war though it was. She knew to cherish it. Seconds seemed to drift away meaninglessly here; whereas just yesterday, seconds had been all that had been between her and death.

Finally, he said, "You know no one hates you for what happened. Lower Mobius wasn't your fault. Two years ago, if we'd all been given the same choice... I'm not sure anybody would have handled it differently."

Bunnie looked down at the water, gamely scratching her organic arm. "Well, they may not hate me... but they shure do blame me."

"No one blames you, either-"

"Oh, bull pucky, Rote," Bunnie interrupted. "When they welcomed me back, ya saw their expressions as clearly as Ah did. Even Sally-girl was more distant ta me, though she tried ta hide it. Her eyes were... they were cold." She paused. "She had the same expression Ah saw on you, when Ah first told you about the Laurentis nodule."

"All right," he said, "so they do blame you. You said yourself that they have a right to. You made a decision two years ago not to tell anyone about the transmitter. It happened to be the wrong one. Now you have to cope with the result."

She looked up, and met Rotor's gaze. His eyes were crystal clear. For a moment, she was afraid that they were going to harden against her, but instead they remained as warm and soft as they had been a moment ago. His voice was less forgiving, but he still cared. He went on.

"You were a teenager then, but you were still a Freedom Fighter. Everybody trusted you to look after their safety before your own... and, once, only once, you broke that implicit confidence. They may not hate you, but you did lose a lot of trust. You're going to have to start over; go back to two years ago. You're going to have to earn that trust again. This may be over, but... I'm sorry, Bunnie, but you're going to have to deal with the consequences."

"That's all right, Rotor. If there's one thing Ah've learned recently... it's that everything has consequences."

It was a consequence of the slip-up she'd made two years ago - not double- checking the back alley for surveillance devices - that had resulted in her roboticization, and everything that had led up to the disaster of the past few days.

The consequences of not telling anyone that she suspected her leg held a transmitter hurt more right now, though. It had cost Drizit his life. It had cost Lower Mobius. It might not have cost her friendships, but it had come damn close. It would take time to heal the wounds.

Griff had his own problems to deal with, and he'd earned them just as much as she had. The consequences of his earlier life, as Laurentis, had given Robotnik valuable information on how to use and abuse Sir Charles' roboticizer. He'd lost his city. He'd lost the confidence of his people. He hadn't lost enough for them to lose their faith in his leadership, and they hadn't planned to disavow him, but he'd stepped down anyway, just a few days after Bunnie had been released from their medical care. He'd been insistent about it, even over the protestations of his closest supporters. Dirk now led the Lower Mobius refugees in his absence.

It had been a consequence of Bunnie's actions in saving Doctor Thaddeus's life that had led to her leg being patched up under his supervision. He was the only one who would've been able to figure out how to use the Lower Mobius power crystal as a replacement for the destroyed Laurentis nodule. It was a consequence of her friends' unwavering faith in her that they'd arrived in Robotropolis in time to save her life.

Not all of the consequences were necessarily bad ones.

She felt Rotor's smooth palm slip around her organic hand. She curled her fingers around his, and gave him a gentle squeeze.

It had been a consequence of their trials under pressure that Bunnie and Rotor had been able to voice feelings that they hadn't even realized they'd possessed.

"It'll take awhile," she told him, brightening, "but Ah think Ah can do it. Ah'll prove mahself all over again if Ah have to... Ah hope Ah won't have to, but Ah will if Ah do. Things won't evah be the same again, but Ah know Ah can win their trust back."

"I'm glad," he said, smiling back. "So how long do you think it'll be before we get the old, optimistic Bunnie back?"

"Optimistic?" Bunnie felt like chortling. "Seems like it's been forever since Ah felt like that."

"Well, you were as bright and cheery as ever just a few days ago," Rotor said.

"Yeah, b-before..."

The smile dropped off of her face. She stared out at the placid surface of the power ring pool, and for the first time she was struck by just how much she'd changed since then. The world seemed so much darker now, and so much brighter back then. So much more ignorant back then, too. No, that wasn't true. She'd known about the Laurentis nodule and what it had hidden even then... for two whole years, she'd just deceived herself of the reality of it.

"All that time Ah felt cheerful and warmhearted before... Ah wonder if the only thing Ah was ever doing was fooling mahself."

"I don't think you were," Rotor said. "I think that those things are really a part of you, and that's only a matter of time until they're back."

After being drenched in so much misery and self-pity ever since Drizit had came, she didn't think she ever could feel as happy here as she'd used to before. She didn't know how she could feel genuinely warmhearted again. Maybe Rotor was right, though. Laurentis nodule or no, those things had always been a part of her character. Maybe it was only a matter of time.

He said, "In fact, I'm certain they will be."

Bunnie looked at him. "What makes ya so sure?"

"You've been so downcast over these past couple days. You've felt so miserable and dejected and unhappy with yourself. You've called yourself worse names than I've ever heard you describe anyone else as. You've convinced yourself that you're the worst person's who's ever been born... all because you made one bad decision two years ago. I know that you're not as awful as you think you are. You're one hell of a good person, and nothing you can say about yourself will change that."

"Rotor, please don't try to..."

"You've told me that throughout this entire event, you've felt as though you didn't have a choice about anything you did." Events flashed past her mind's eye. He was right. Leaving Knothole, saving Thaddeus, traveling to Robotropolis, ejecting Griff and Rotor from the hover car, stabbing herself - she hadn't felt like she'd had any real choice to make in any of these events, and she'd told him so. "You said you felt like the world had forced you to do what you did.

"You're wrong, Bunnie. You did have a choice all along. Any other person would have handled it differently; definitely not as well as you have. You didn't have to leave Knothole. You didn't have to save me, Griff, or Thaddeus. You did make those decisions. You just didn't feel you had any choice because the answers were already built into you. You felt you had to do what you did because... well, you're Bunnie Rabbot. You're a hero."

After all the serious and earnestness of the past few days, Bunnie only had a single response for that.

"Rote," she grinned, "if Ah'm all it takes to qualify for a hero, then the rest of the world's in pretty poor shape!"

He raised her palm to his face, and kissed the fur on the back of her hand.

The mosquitoes no longer seemed like such a bother. Even as they lay back against the grass, the power ring pool was as sedate as ever. There wasn't another power ring due for at least another two hours, but Bunnie and Rotor were content to just laze there and wait.