by K.M. Hollar
Copyright info: Sonic the Hedgehog and related characters copyrighted by Sega, Archie, and DiC. Used without permission. This story and all original characters copyrighted 2009 by K.M. Carroll.
Chapter 1: Abduction
It was an hour after sunset. The Floating Island rested in the water alongside hundreds of other small islands, dwarfing them, and yet blending in.
Three figures dressed in black rowed quietly across the channel from the nearest island. Their oars were muffled, and the oars rose and fell slowly, making as small of splashes as possible.
Each figure was a black fox with four tails. They carried small, oddly-shaped handguns at their waists, and in the bottom of the boat was a four-foot-wide contraption like a metal box strung full of wires.
They reached the Floating Island's beach and pulled their boat up on the sand. The three of them lifted it and hid it in the brush, then stood quietly to listen and watch. All was quiet. Their leader unhooked a pocket scanner from his belt and activated it. He studied it a moment, and his companions waited, silent in the twilight.
"A mile north," breathed the leader. Scanner in hand, he set off up the beach and entered the trees. His companions followed.
They walked through trees and swampy forest, trying to move silently. The warm woods were full of insect song, and their passing scarcely disturbed it. Sometimes their boots squished in mud or splashed through shallow water. It had rained earlier in the day, and the Floating Island retained an amazing amount of water. The kitsunes could feel the throb of chaos power that held the island's ecosystems in check. Such a small amount of power, yet the Master Emerald was capable of so much more.
What did the idiot Guardian use it for? To make an island float. The lead kitsune, nicknamed Soot for his color, allowed himself a smile. If the kitsunes possessed the Master Emerald, they would rule the world.
Soot led his companions toward higher ground. The trees thinned, and patches of dim purple sky appeared. He halted and peered out. In the distance he saw the cheery yellow lights from the Guardian's house. He had made no attempt to hide it. And why should he? The Guardian had few enemies these days. Possibly he had forgotten the old blood feud with the kitsune race.
The kitsunes had not forgotten.
Silently they spread out and ringed the house, keeping to the shelter of the trees. They blended with the darkness like shadows, almost invisible. The house was large and rambling, and looked as if the Guardian had added on to it several times. How many people lived on this island, anyway? Soot looked worriedly at the places where his companions were hidden. Maybe he should have had more hunters assigned to this mission.
He waited until his foxes were in position, their guns covering the front door. Then he stepped up on the porch, drew his gun, and opened the door.
His limbs froze. He gasped for breath, but his lungs could hardly move. He flew up into the air and crashed into the ceiling, then fell to the floor, still frozen in the same position. The door slammed behind him.
His searching eyes found a white hedgehog with spines that stood straight up. His eyes were locked on Soot, and one hand was outstretched, pointing at him. He was telekinetic! Soot had not anticipated this!
The Guardian stood beside him, a burly red echidna with huge fists and long dreadlocks. As Soot crashed to the floor, the Guardian strode forward, grabbed him by the shirt and snarled, "Who are you and why are you here?"
Soot could not speak while under the telekinetic paralysis. The Guardian motioned to the white hedgehog, who squinted. Soot's head suddenly could move, but the rest of his body was still frozen. "If you kill me, you two will die where you stand," he snarled.
The echidna punched him in the face. It was a leisurely sort of punch, as the Guardian hardly put effort into it, but it still knocked Soot against the wall and left his ears ringing.
"I'm not too worried about your buddies," said the Guardian. "By now my wife will have taken care of them. I want to know about you." He kicked Soot's fanned-out tails. "You're a kitsune. What does a kitsune want with me and my island?"
Soot managed a short laugh. "You have the largest focal point of chaos energy on the planet here on this island. I'm surprised the whole world hasn't come after you. Let us be the first."
The Guardian stooped and pulled the gun out of Soot's frozen hand. He turned it over and looked at it. "Nice. Uses a chaos drive. I think I'll keep it." He folded his arms. "So, somebody wants the Master Emerald and they sent kitsunes. Who are you working for?"
"Kitsunes only represent Kitsunes," said Soot, managing to put pride into his voice, despite his throbbing snout. "Kill me now, because you'll get no more information than that."
"I don't think so," said the Guardian. "I think I'll turn you over to the Mobian government instead. I think the Senate will be very interested in your claims."
Light flickered over Soot's body. He laughed as he felt the telekinesis's hold on him slip. He laughed as his body turned transparent. Then he vanished, still laughing.
Knuckles cursed. "He teleported! Silver, couldn't you hold him?"
The white hedgehog shook his head. "No, once he started going, there was nothing for me to grasp anymore. He's gone."
Knuckles crossed the room and picked up a radio. "Zephyer?"
"I got two of them," said his wife's voice. "I didn't mean to kill them, but I think the Master Emerald picked up my anger. It toasted them as soon as I spotted them."
"Just as well," said Knuckles, suddenly weary. "Are there any more invaders?"
"Not that I've found. I guess they expected to find you alone."
"Good thing I'm not," growled Knuckles. "Come back to the surface, Zeff. I get to clean up kitsune ash."
As soon as the kitsunes had set foot on the island, Knuckles and Zephyer had known that there were intruders. Zephyer took the new baby, Talon and the chao to Hidden Palace, while Silver and Knuckles remained in the house as decoys. It was pathetically easy to trap the kitsunes. But one had escaped, and next time they would send an army. Knuckles thought that it was time to move the Floating Island.
About five thousand feet straight up.
That same evening, Tails was tinkering with the Tornado.
The Tornado was a small machine that had started out as a biplane. But Tails had modified it so it could transform into a a mechanical walker with two legs and a tail-mounted laser. He had also added a boat mode so it could float, and along the way had integrated a nanite brain. The Tornado was now a sentient robot with a pleasant personality, for it had imprinted on Tails.
Tails had recently installed a thrall sphere; a strange glowing crystal ball that he had found on the Floating Island. It transmitted chaos energy as sound waves, and it could hypnotize Tails if he listened to its melody too long. It also needed constant recharging from a chaos emerald.
Tails had worked around this problem by hooking the sphere up to the Tornado's batteries, insuring that the sphere always had a power source. His latest project was hooking up a sensor array so the Tornado could use the thrall sphere as radar.
He stooped over the Tornado's nose. The paneling was peeled back, and the sphere lit the inside of the engine housing with a warm orange glow. "How's this?" Tails asked, pressing a sticky rubber cup against the sphere.
"Noise," said the Tornado.
Tails moved the suction cups around. "I am picking up harmonics," said the Tornado. "But I cannot process it."
The orange fox kept moving the suction cups and checking their readings, his two tails twitching with concentration. When he used the sphere, he had to move his bare hands around on it until he reached the perfect note, rather like rubbing a finger along a crystal wine glass. The suction cups did not play the sphere as well as hands did, and the thrall sphere's sound kept turning into a discord.
Tails straightened up, stretched and rubbed his back. "Man, I'm getting stiff. How long have we been doing this?"
"Forty-six minutes," said the Tornado. It had two blue eye-lights on either side of its nose, and these followed Tails as he walked around his workshop. "Perhaps you should call it a night. You have school tomorrow."
"I already finished my assignment," said Tails, opening drawers in his workbench and pawing through their contents. "All I had to do was wire a circuit. Big deal."
"Sixteen is very young to enter college," the Tornado pointed out. "It will grow more difficult."
"I hope so!" said Tails, standing up, eyes alight. "You should see the machine shop! The teacher has a ten-foot walker with treads that he built himself! He told me that he's trying to get some chaos drives in for us to experiment with next semester." He rubbed his hands together and practically giggled.
The workshop door opened and Sonic looked in. "Hey Tails, care if I come in?"
"Sure, Sonic," said Tails, clearing off a dusty stool.
Sonic perched on it and looked around. "Hi, Tornado."
"Greetings, Sonic," said the plane.
"How goes the thrall sphereing?" asked the blue hedgehog, grinning at Tails.
"Not so well," said Tails, pulling a tangle of wires out of a drawer and inspecting it. "The sensor pads I'm using to tune the sphere just don't conduct sound right. I'm thinking of something metal."
Sonic frowned, thinking. "You know, when the Mecha bots have used emeralds, they always had little pointed metal dealies attached to it. Really small surface area, you know?"
Tails gazed at Sonic, suddenly thoughtful. "Hmm. You know, that may be what I'm missing. The suction cups have too large of an area ..." He trailed off into mumbling and rummaged around in the drawers under his workbench. He emerged with a handful of probes with wires dangling from them, salvaged from some other machine. He selected one, stripped the plastic coating off its wires, dashed to the Tornado and began unhooking one of the suction cups. He rewired the probe onto the sensor wire and touched it to the thrall sphere's surface.
"That is a much clearer signal," said the Tornado. "More focused."
Tails fiddled with the probe, thinking aloud. "If I built a rig that let you control the contact points, you could tune it yourself ... that would be more accurate than me trying to do it."
He stepped back, turned around to face the workbench, and vanished.
"Uh, what?" said Sonic, not believing what he had just seen. "Tails?" He stood up and looked around the room. "Tails?"
"Scans detect Tails nowhere within three miles," said the Tornado. "Addition: there was a small pulse of chaos energy just before he disappeared."
Sonic swallowed, trying not to panic. "Okay. So he chaos controlled. Without an emerald. Maybe somebody else teleported him?"
"Perhaps," said the Tornado. "However, if such an ability exists, it is unknown to us at this time."
Sonic left the workshop so fast he almost sucked the Tornado out the door.
"Tails has never had a very strong signal," said Sally. "I do have his signature, though."
"How long will it take to find him?" asked Sonic, tapping one foot.
Sally Acorn was in her hut, all the window shades drawn and the door locked. On her desk in front of them was a strange little machine with a radar dish that was plugged into Sally's handheld computer, Nicole. The machine was the most powerful chaos tracker in the world, built by Rotor and Tails, and kept dead secret.
Nicole's screen showed an outline of West Mobius in green, sprinkled with green dots of varying brightness. Each dot was the personal chaos aura of a random Mobian. Most Mobians had a chaos aura, some stronger than others. Sonic's aura was a flaming inferno of energy from so much contact with the chaos emeralds, and Sally had had to filter him out.
"Well, this is all of West Mobius," said Sally, running a hand worriedly through her auburn forelock. "And he's not here."
"He's not on the continent?" asked Sonic in disbelief. "That was one heck of a teleport!"
"How strong was this pulse of chaos energy?" she asked, turning to look at him. "Did you feel it?"
"No," said Sonic. "The Tornado said it was small. And usually I notice the energy when somebody teleports. It takes a lot of energy to move mass around like that. But if he's not even on the continent anymore ..." Sonic had to lean against the wall for support. "What in the world are we dealing with?"
"Nicole, scan the northern hemisphere," said Sally. "Time estimate?"
"Time estimate: six hours," Nicole replied.
"Sal," said Sonic in a low voice, "what if we can't find him because he's dead?"
Sally stared at him a moment. "No," she said. "No, he's still alive. He was only teleported, Sonic. To put it another way, he was kidnapped. It's only been a few minutes, and it would take longer than that to kill Tails." She stood, lifted the tracker and Nicole, set them inside her rolltop desk, and closed the cover.
Sonic looked at the desk as if she had just closed the lid of a coffin.
Sally put her arms around him. Sonic was rigid and cold, breathing fast. "Calm down," she told him. "Tails is all right. You'll see."
"I can't stand around and do nothing," Sonic whispered. "I've got to ... got to go run. I'll be back later."
Sally let go and watched him dash out the door. It was completely dark by this time, and she lost sight of him at once. She stood in the doorway, gazing after him, mind racing. Who would kidnap Tails? And why?