Pristine blue skies hung over the rolling range of the Great Smoking Mountains of the planet of Mobius offering a playground to the eagles and hawks that soared through the clouds unchallenged. Standing watch over the Great Forest the arching snow capped peaks had remained constant sentinels over the eons separating the mainland from the coast. Habited only by winged wild life and adventurous mountain goats the cliffs and ravines had resisted becoming cultivated lands discouraging enterprising sentient life-forms from developing within. Silent and majestic the landscape had avoided the chaos inducing war that had been fought between the Mobians and Overlands which had left much of their territory in disarray.

Untouched by the conflict the creatures went about their day unaware of the change of power that had recently happened in the city of Mobotropolis and the repercussions that where now radiating out to encompass the whole world. While the fighting had come to an end peace was far to follow for the inhabitants of the planet Mobius. The Minister of Science Julain Ivo Kintobor, now known as Doctor Robotnik, had staged a coup and taken control of Mobotropolis renaming it Robotropolis. Enslaving the population through robotization the Evil Doctor now reached out to claim all that he laid his eyes on.

Fleeing from the city a number of survivors had made it to the Great Forest and other cities that had yet to fall under the tyrant's rule. Among the throng of desperate and deposed civilians a group of aircraft ferried the multitude to safety while the remaining soldiers held off the dictator's troops. Dropping its refuges off in a clearing of the forest a battered explorer craft leaped back into the sky intent to draw off the pursuing robot fliers that had chased it from the city. One vixen holding her newborn son to her chest looked back over her shoulder as her savoir and friend took back to the skies leading the robots into the mountains and wondered is she would ever she her again.

Inside the cockpit the pilot, a light brown female bear, wrestled with the controls putting her craft into a sideslip causing the laser barrages aimed at her to miss wide. Sighing with relief as all of her pursers followed her away from the fleeing survivors the bear rolled out to the east hoping to loss the fliers in the mountains. Leaving behind her husband to hold off the legion of robotic monsters as she ferried the others to safety had left her breathless and cold inside. The sight of his fighter plane dodging three attackers at once as his last panicked transmission ordered her to leave him behind and save their son flashed through the bear's mind over and over.

As the aircraft dived into the shadows of the mountains weaving in and out for the robots sight a small cub crawled in from the passenger section and held on for dear life. Twisting passed an outcropping of boulders jutting into the pass the aircraft plummeted as it lost lift to pass underneath. A small yelp emitted from the cub as he felt the loss of gravity thought the maneuver announcing his presence in the cockpit. "Kit!?" the pilot gasped as she looked back at her son, "What are you doing here? You should have gotten off with Rosemary!"

"I couldn't leave you mommy!" The cub whimpered as the craft was bounced by laser fire again, "I couldn't leave you like daddy!" The four year cried as the mother turned her attention back to flying. Growling as warming lights indicated engine failure she order her son back to one of the seats to strap in. "Honey you need to strap in! It's going to be o.k." Grabbing the mike from the control board she yelled into it as Kit climbed into a chair, "Professor Morgan! I need you to see to the engines. They have to hold together until I can get rid of those fliers!"

"I'm on it, Captain Cloudkicker! The Rings are holding for now but we can't take another hit like that." The Overlander called back from the engine compartment. Reaching into control junction box the aging human spliced new routing lines that had become damaged from energy surges. Without proper control the energy matrix run by the Power Rings would overload and tear the aircraft apart. Fighting to keep the Mobian pilot and her son alive would have seemed odd for an Overlander but the Professor owed them his life.

Behind them the enemy robots hounded the explorer craft tiring to force it into the rocks so they could take the survivors into custody. Waiting for one to close within ten meters the pilot smiled grimly and cut thrust as the automaton made its move. Flashing passed the fleeing aircraft the flier grated into the wall of the canyon sparking as its metal armor flew off and collided with another of the pursuing robots. Both craft fell to the ground exploding on contact leaving a smoking crater which the last flier zipped through.

Pulling up over a ridge the escaping aircraft angled for an approaching thunder cloud. "Nate, can you do anything to mask our energy signature?" The pilot called back to the human, "I'm going to try and lose this last one in a thunder storm." Hauling himself up from the access port Nate looked over the console and though it over. "I can send out a wave pulse from our com antenna to over load its sensors." He offered a solution, "But Sara it will fry out our own receiver as well. We won't have anyway to communicate until I can repair it on the ground."

"It will have to do." Sara yelled back, "I'll put us down on the other side of the mountains once we finish with this last bot!" Rolling up on her side the explorer craft slid seamlessly into the turbulent cloud cover as a fork of lightning split the sky. Following its basic programming with didn't leave room to ponder its own safety; the robotic flier flew blindly in after them. Yanking out the safety breaker for the com systems and wedging a bolt into it Professor Nate Morgan signaled Sara he was ready, "On your command Captain!"

Waiting until she saw the angry red bolts start to fly at her craft once again Sara ordered the Professor to activate the pulse, "Hit it!" Pulling the switch on the command counsel sent a high frequency wave shimmering out from the explorer craft causing all sensors to rely static for the duration. Turning as sharply as the craft permitted Captain Cloudkicker changed course straight for the flier and accelerated with abandon. The emitter fried out just in time for the flier bot to register the approaching aircraft before they impacted sending the bot plummeting to the ground out of control.

Fighting with the stick to regain control as gauges exploded from the collision Sara Cloudkicker leveled off and turned back east and gained altitude to prevent her own craft from being clipped by a mountain top. Inside the engine compartment Professor Nate Morgan forced a ruptured conduit line back together and placed a quick tact wield on it. Then stumbling back up to the passenger compartment he gave a quick reassuring smile to Kit and poked his head into the cockpit. "That should hold for now, but the quicker we can get down the better." The scientist told his companion.

"Once we get passed this range we can set down for repairs." Sara nodded in relief, "There aren't any settlements on the other side so we should be safe for a bit. After we refit we need to hook back up with the others and regroup." Nodding in agreement the human took a seat beside Kit who still looked pale and gripped the arm rests in desperation. "Looks like we're out of the worst of it kid." Nate spoke in an uplifting tone, "Don't worry it can't get any worse then this."

Just as the fateful words left his mouth a strange green glow enveloped the explorer craft momentarily blinding all aboard and sending them rocking. "By the Ancient Walkers what was that?!" Sara blurt out as she leveled the craft out. "I don't know but the engines sound off." Nate yelled as he got back up and moved to the engine compartment once more.

Under closer inspection the Ring drive was ramping up at an alarming rate that was not being slowed by the consumption of the thrusters. "Sara, something is wrong with the Ring drive!" The human called out in alarm as the gauges spun past their presets, "Their working their way up to critical mass. I don't think I can stop them." Up in the cockpit Sara was trying to lock down unresponsive systems. "Do what you can Nate." She yelled back, "I got massive system failures up here too."

Clearing the clouds the aircraft shot over the foothills of the mountains and skimmed over a small city. Looking out the view ports Sara frowned at the buildings that should not have been there then turned back to fighting for control of the ship. "Nate, I can't hold her for much longer we're going to have to abandon ship." The pilot called out to the scientist who was now hip deep in the wiring looking for an answer. "You'll have to set the auto control so the ship can move far enough away so we're out of the blast range when the drive lights off!" He yelled back giving up on the hopeless engines.

Turning the aircraft so it pointed away from the city Sara attempted to lock down the auto flight controls. As the system cycled the new instructions a surge blasted across the control panel sending sparks flying across the cockpit. Looking down in dismay revealed the controls for the auto pilot burnt to a crisp. "How far does the ship have to be so we're safe?" Sara asked as a last ditch plan floated up in her mind.

"It has to be at least a mile!" Nate called back as he started to spray fire retardant foam on a panel that had erupted into flames, "Any closer and we'll catch the trailing edge of the explosion and be blown away." Closing her eyes Sara knew what she had to do to save her son. "Nate, get up here and get yourself and Kit into an emergency lander and get out." She ordered as she tried to put more distance between them and the city.

"What about you?" The scientist asked concerned, "Can't you lock down the auto pilot?" Another surge rocked the ship and blasted part of the armor off. "Can't do it the systems fried." The pilot informed her companion, "Just get out. Get out now!" Scrambling to his feet the human forced his way into the passenger compartment and pulled the emergency lander out of the closet. Grabbing Kit out of his seat he moved towards the hatch. "Come on kid time to go."

Looking back into the cockpit where his mother sit sat filled the small cub with dread. "Wait!" He cried, "What about mom!?" Trapping the distraught cub to him with a safety strap the human lifted him out of his seat. "Kit go with Professor Morgan!" His mother called out from the cockpit, "I'll be right behind you." Choking out the last part Sara's vision blurred with unshed tears as her son called for her. "No! Come now! Please!"

The hatch flung open as Professor Morgan lifted the handle letting the air scream in thought the air craft blocking out any response. In forced silence Kit watched his mother mouth the words 'I love' before he was dragged out of the ship and began to free fall away. As them plummeted to the ground the Professor activated the lander creating a crescent shaped airfoil which they rode on towards the ground. Looking back as tears streamed down his face Kit watched as the explorer craft wobbled off back towards the mountains trailing smoke.

Once the aircraft passed back into the clouds and out of Kit's sight a brilliant flash of light lit the sky a golden hue and then was chased away by a bone rattling blast of sound which left a ringing in their ears as the last tribute to his mother.

Jerking awake as the echo of the thunder clap danced through the room Kit Cloudkicker sat up shacking and panting. Looking out the window of the room he shared with Baloo displayed the flickering lights of an approaching thunder storm making its way over the cliffs. Rubbing a fist over his eyes to clearer away the lingering sleep and bad memories of the nightmare he had just woke from, the young navigator took a few deep breaths as he slowly stopped shacking. As rain started to patter across the roof the older pilot rolled over with a groan. "Kid, close the window would ya?"

As Baloo rolled back over Kit gave a sigh and climbed out of bed to pull the window pane shut and locked it down. Turning back to his bed the twelve year old cub sat down and hugged his pillow to this chest. Another flash of lighting and a peel of thunder caused the fur on his back to stand on edge and his legs to start trebling again. Getting up and crossing to the door as quietly as he could, Kit walked out and into the bathroom shutting to door behind him.

Turning on the light and running water into the sink the cub splashed water onto his face trying to chase away the remaining fragments of his dream. "It not real," he whispered to himself, "It just a stupid dream." Sitting down with his back against the door the cub pulled his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them as he rested his chin on top. Rocking back and forth Kit willed away the dream trying to focus on the promise of summer vacation at the end of the week and the promised two week run he was going to make with Baloo into the mountains.

Soft footsteps approached the door to the bathroom shortly followed by a knock as Baloo checked on his navigator. "Kit, you o.k. in there?" the grey bear asked worried after the boy failed to return to his bed. Have shown little fear of flying through tropical storms while cloud surfing or hanging out the window with a flashlight after the Seaduck's headlights burned out had shown the boy wasn't afraid of thunder storms. "I'm fine Baloo," Kit's muffled voice called back; "It was just a nightmare."

"You want to talk about it?" Baloo asked offering what comfort he could to the boy. "No." Kit replied firmly, "It just stupid." Leaning against the wall Baloo sighed as the kid clamed up once again, "Well try to get some sleep you don't want to fall asleep your last few days before break." After a mumbled o.k. form the cub Baloo turned back to his room with a sigh and sat heavily on his bed wondering what could be troubling the boy so much.

About ten minutes later Kit emerged from the bathroom and crawled back into bed. "Night Baloo," Kit whispered as he pulled the covers over his head and settled down. "Night Kit," Baloo answered and waited until he was sure the kid had fallen back to sleep peacefully before finally closed his own eyes and returned to dreams of flying, boggy woggy, and fruit drinks.