Anonymous Review Replies!
Free Bird: Heart-rending pain hand-delivered to you by Taranea, Inc.! : D
Guest: Would I, now? ;p (Though of course you could be right, usually it's Tails and/or Chris who bite the dust, but...) heh, you'll have to read on to find out! :3
NovatheHedgehog3: Thanks! Glad you like it!
FanfictionAir: Eeeyup, he totally did. Can I help it that I've got a weakness for pirate lingo? XD Though you've gotta admit, Shadow taking on that reaper was a very similar scenario to Captain Jack taking on the kraken, so I believe I can get a pass for that ;)
Chapter 13: A Pressing Need to Save the World
"Rose! We need to get going! Please!"
Rose whirled around, tearing her gaze away from the spot where Shadow the Hedgehog had just thrown himself into the maws of a Reaper, both hedgehog and reptilian creature disappearing in a screech and a flash of red, temporal chaos. For a moment, she could feel it all happening again, the overwhelming helplessness when someone was torn away from you, taken by something you had no chance of opposing...
"The parts! Right!"
Tails' shrill voice snapped her out of her daze. She needed to focus. The Doctor was still fighting, somewhere. And he asked you to survive for him, a voice in her head said, reminding her of Shadow's last words. Without another word she turned and was at Tails' side in an instant, looking down at the mess of electronic parts the kit was surrounded by.
"Alright! What do we need to take with us?"
The little fox threw his hands into the air.
"This way! No, wait! This way! No, wait!"
The Doctor had to admit, trying to follow a supersonic hedgehog that wasn't quite sure where they were supposed to be going was just a little bit exasperating.
"Is there any way we can go?"
"Working on it!" Sonic called over his shoulder as he rushed past the Doctor again, almost letting the Time Lord drop the lens of the roboticizer he was holding. They had been steadily making their way upwards again, Sonic dashing back and forth into all possible corridors, trying to ascertain which way they could go without running into more reapers.
"Dammit, Doc, I'm sorry, but this is like a nest down here-!"
"Sonic! Doctor! Over here!"
Their heads flew around toward the source of the scream and they saw Tails and Rose hovering with frantic expressions at the end of a corridor leading up another case of stairs. Both of them were precariously loaded with technical debris threatening to spill out of their arms at any moment.
"Tails!" Sonic shouted. He ignored for now the still less-than-welcoming body language of the younger fox as both him and the Doctor raced toward the other two. "Where's Shadow?"
"They caught him. I'm so sorry-!" Rose began, but by then, the hedgehog and the Time Lord had reached them, and she to had break off as all four of them had started running again toward the laboratory exit. Behind them, a reaper screeched loudly enough to let their collective blood curdle.
"No worries. If we can get inside the TARDIS we can still fix this - don't stop, RUN!" the Doctor shouted, just as they had burst out of the laboratory and into the meadow, the police box only a few dozen yards away. Tails and Rose, straining under their load, had slowed down as soon as they had emerged outside and the Doctor coming up behind them nearly barreled into their backs.
"They're still coming! Don't stop!"
Even as he spoke, one of the monsters launched itself out of the door in the rock face, its scream tearing across their ear drums. Tails and Rose gasped, starting to run again, Sonic, the last one in their party, whirled around to face the reaper that would surely have caught up to their group before they ever made it into the safety of the TARDIS. The hedgehog squared his shoulders, preparing to launch himself at the monster even at the cost of his own existence, didn't care what would happen if he could at least get this final act right-
"Don't you dare touch them, you Jurassic Park reject!"
And then the blue hedgehog stared in amazement for a second as a red-and-yellow giant hammer soared over his head and caught the reaper squarely into its toothed chest. The monster vanished with a screech.
"Amy!" Rose called out happily, crossing the last few metres of the meadow and stumbling into the TARDIS whose door the pink hedgehog was holding open and from where she had thrown her mallet to take care of their pursuer.
"Good aim," the Doctor commented, the second-to-last to dash over the threshold, followed closely by Sonic zipping back in after him.
"Thank you!" Amy curtsied happily, but then frowned. "Wait. Where did you leave Shadow?"
"He...he didn't make it," Sonic said, lips a thin line, but in his eyes a world of hurt. Amy gasped.
"What?! Then you gotta fix this mess, Doctor, please!"
"I'll do what I can," the Time Lord said grimly. "Tails, lend me a hand?"
"Right," the little fox said, at once beginning to dig through the mess of components the four of them had brought into the TARDIS. He started to wire them up and, together with the Doctor, connect them to the console in ways neither Amy, Sonic or Rose could even begin to comprehend.
Sensing that there wasn't much she could do for the time being, Rose instead turned to the pink hedgehog. "Hey, I just wanted to say...thanks for the save back there." She gave a tentative smile. "Were you alright with Robotnik here?"
Amy gave her a huge grin. "Oh, right as rain!"
"Yeah?" Rose asked, her lips threatening to twitch despite the dire situation. There was something about the enthusiasm of the residents of this planet that was hard to resist. But then something else occurred to her and her forehead creased up in a frown.
"Wait. Where is Robotnik, actually?"
"Oh, he's resting," Amy replied casually, pointing to something on the other side of the console that had previously been hidden from Rose's line of sight. It appeared to be the red-and-black lump of the wannabe dictator, and he was currently lying on his side, clutching his face and back and groaning.
"Uh...Amy, what happened here?" Rose asked.
"Oh, nothing much," the girl waved a hand, "He was just being silly and fell against the console, 's all."
Rose looked at Robotnik again. The man who had tried to kill Sonic three times today was now sporting a swollen lip, a black eye, a bleeding nose, a serious bump on his egg-shaped head, one of the coat tails of his red jacket was torn off as if he had been trying to flee from something having a hold of it, and his glasses were cracked. Rose shot Amy another look.
"Did he, now."
"He...fell against the console several times?" the hedgehog girl tried innocently.
"You...can try whatever you want...nothing is going to stop this miserable planet's demise now..." Robotnik groaned at this point, apparently having heard that they were talking about him, and turned around on the floor.
"Eggman, I thought I told you to shut it," Sonic's voice came from the door, cold and sharp. The hedgehog was peering out at the landscape outside their space craft, and what he saw would probably have turned the stomach of anyone not used to worlds where physics had gone 'screw it' and left the playground to chaos and nightmares.
The world outside was missing bits.
There were actually several chunks of it already gone, like surreal holes torn into a canvas. The light outside was getting steadily dimmer and more reddish, as if even the sun was dying. Reapers were swarming around outside in the air like a murder of crows looking for carrion, and they kept darting downwards, tearing into reality like vultures into a flayed corpse. The rip in the sky had widened, spewing out more and more of the creatures until every last bit of firmament seemed to be covered by wings and claws and beaks; an army come to devour a world.
So far, none of them seemed to be have been able to come closer to the TARDIS than a few yards, but over half of the bit of Green Hill Zone that they could see through the open doors was already gone.
"Doctor?" Amy tried very timidly. "Is...is this the end of the world?"
The Time Lord shot her a brief glance, only perfunctorily looking up from the machine he and Tails seemed to be assembling. His tongue was wedged between his teeth.
"In short, yes," he said. "I'd wager by now close to all of Mobius has been sterilised. This, and perhaps a few more places like it are all that's left of this world's population." He carefully set another lens into place. "We might hold out for a while in the TARDIS, but nothing can stop those creatures. They'll get through in the end." He didn't look up again, but even as he spoke, features of his face hardened, once again echoes of another time seeming to creep into his voice as he continued.. "There used to be laws stopping this kind of thing from happening. My people would have stopped this. But if we can't finish this now, we'll all go the same way as them."
"And good riddance, too," Robotnik snapped from the other side of the console, having sat up now. "The gods know why I ever bothered to try to improve or conquer this world."
Rose sat down heavily next to Sonic; there wasn't much she could do to help now, except hope that Tails and the Doctor would be able to complete their machine to repair the TARDIS in time. The transparent hedgehog was sitting in the open door of the police box, morosely staring out at his world being torn apart. For a moment the blonde girl feverishly cast her mind about whether she couldn't come up with something to distract him, and then finally settled on something she had been wondering about ever since they had entered that godforsaken laboratory.
"Hey," Rose managed. "Um. Tell me if I'm being rude, but...wanna explain what happened between you and Robotnik? I know we only saw his earlier self like for one second, but he looked pretty different. Is it true you and him were friends once?"
Sonic briefly looked at her, green eyes filled with a mixture of anger and pain at first, but also a sadness that seemed palpable – before the entire hedgehog then simply slumped even more and his gaze dropped toward the floor again.
"Yeah. It's true," the hedgehog said dully. "I was an orphan. I was bored. One day I buried into Kintobor's base sort of by mistake and he made me his," Sonic swallowed, "assistant." The way the hedgehog uttered that last word sounded like he wanted to be sick and Rose felt a stab of guilt for having opened that topic. As far as she could tell, though, she wasn't the only one in the control room who was listening to the story now...
Sonic, apparently unaware of his audience, shrugged. "Then - I caused an accident. I never quite understood the mechanics of it, to be honest, but I made Kintobor trip over a cable to a machine that had been...extracting the 'evil of the world' out of the Chaos Emeralds or something. There was a short circuit and an explosion and when I came to, my friend Kintobor had turned into that," he said, fixing Robotnik behind the console with a baleful glare, before he turned to stare out of the door again.
"Before that, though, Kintobor had helped me achieve my first sonic boom. That's what turned me from brown to blue and fused my quills together," Sonic swallowed bitterly. "So I guess you can say that we actually created each other. Probably deserve each other as well, too," he added, though that had been said a lot more quietly and Rose wondered whether the broken hedgehog had meant it to be heard at all.
"Sound waves turned you blue?" the Doctor piped up at this with raised eye brows, seemingly more honestly curious than the situation warranted. "You know that doesn't make any sense, right?"
"That's what I said at the time," Robotnik cut in. "In my opinion this rodent simply wasn't made to make sense."
"Shut it, you." Amy commented scathingly, and they had the satisfaction of briefly seeing the evil scientist flinch at her admonishment.
"So you...you really were friends," Tails said, and now the young fox' voice was also trembling again, pulling a screw into place. "You worked with the man who invented the roboticizer that killed thousands, including my family. That wasn't just a lie he tried to make up."
Sonic turned to gaze over his shoulder, to catch the gaze of his younger brother, and now he suddenly also looked very tired.
"Tails..." Amy began, biting her lip and stepping up to the fox, the conflict between wanting to defend her hero and comfort the hurt kit visible in her eyes. Sonic started speaking again before she had reached him, though.
"Yes." He swallowed. "We were friends. But Tails, the roboticizer was meant for good," he tried. "And the day Kintobor became Robotnik...it was the worst day of my life. You gotta believe me, kiddo," he said, and now he almost sounded so helpless, it near broke Rose's heart. She licked her lips.
"Tails..." she also tried. "I don't think I told you, but my dad died, too, you know?"
Outside, the winds from the rift were howling and the reapers screeched as the planet lay dying, she knew, and she knew time was running out, but if the Doctor had taught her one thing, it was that sometimes, it was the little things that were important, the little things that you simply had to make the time for...
Tails looked at her now, somewhat curiously where this was going, and she continued.
"The Doctor can do the most impossible things, but even he couldn't save him. He says..." she briefly faltered a little, but then kept going. "He says there's points in history you can't change."
"Yes, but..." Tails started, the hurt you only felt when you thought your best friend in the entire world had just betrayed you still riding on his words. And Rose felt the anger washing through her and rose to her feet.
"Tell him it was your fault!"
"What?" Gazes snapped around to watch the 19-year-old girl, who had stalked around the TARDIS console in two, three quick strides and was now furiously staring down at Robotnik. The older human had drawn himself up into a sitting position against the column and was staring up at her irritably. "What business of yours is any of that?"
Rose's fists were clenched. She had seen the pain of the eyes of the Doctor often enough. She had seen how he suffered whenever something was indirectly his fault, no matter how minor his contribution was. Sonic was so much younger than the Time Lord from Gallifrey. He needed his friends. And if Robotnik thought he could take that away from him-!
"Amy," Rose said sweetly. "Can you come here with that hammer for a moment, please?"
"Hold it!" Robotnik held up his hands preemptively before the pink hedgehog could even take a step. He drew himself up slightly higher. "You don't have to threaten me. I wouldn't let that two-tailed runt go on to think I am no better than a programmed monkey, anyway." He turned his head.
"Y-yeah?" Tails managed, staring into the two black, partially cracked lenses of the scientist's dark glasses as if he was hypnotized. Robotnik curled his upper lip in distaste.
"Remember when I teamed up with you during that fiasco aboard the ARK? Acted near selflessly like one of you, ahah, heroes?" he asked with a hacking cough as he drew himself to his feet. The stances of all three Mobians immediately became noticeably more tense, but the scientist only looked weary and annoyed, and less than threatening now. He waved a dismissive hand in Tails' direction. "That was my own choice to join you and do something 'good'. It was also my choice when I attacked Emerald Hill Zone where your family lived and my choice to let the whole thing burn," he said, at the same time stepping closer toward the little fox, who now appeared rooted to the spot, like a rabbit in front of a snake.
"Robotnik. Cut it out, or else," Amy threatened, putting her arms protectively around the smaller vulpine. "You're a bigger monster than those reapers."
Behind her, Sonic had also stepped up as the evil scientist had advanced, and, while his usual energy seemed to be seriously lacking, there was still a warning presence emanating from him, that told anyone that touching the two younger Mobians would be their last mistake. And behind him, finally, the Doctor had also risen, the Time Lord even taller than Robotnik and his aura at the moment far more menacing.
Robotnik halted his progress, eyeing the sudden triple threat in front of him warily. "Protective of each other until the very end. How charming. But I'm a condemned man, so the least I can ask for is for you to listen - because I refuse to die with anyone thinking I'm nothing else than a product of that rodent's mistake. I have that much pride left." So saying, he turned again, fixing a trembling Tails with a tired glare. "You should be glad you made it out alive and got the spiky pest to take care of you." His moustache quivered dismissively. "If it wasn't for him and all the blood he's spilled on the drills and blades of my machines you'd be dead or roboticized by now, too," he hissed, before abruptly turning away, and then there was only silence, for one, two seconds, before -
"Umph! Hey, kiddo-"
"Sonic, I'm sorry!"
Tails had flung himself into his brother's arms again, hugging him tightly and pressing his face into the hedgehog's chest.
"Naw, Tails, it's okay, I'm sorry for not telling you about this earlier," Sonic managed, but the relief was visible in every part of his transparent body and the way he had wrapped his arms around the younger fox like he was cradling the most precious thing in the world. "Sorry for not telling you either, Ames."
"Not bad," the Doctor commented, raising an appreciative eye brow at Rose, who had stepped aside a bit to give the Mobians some space. "Before you know it, we could have you working as an intergalactic diplomat. Mind you," he said with a cock of his head, "The hammer threat was maybe a bit much."
"It's his fault the reapers got Shadow," Rose replied. "I think he deserved it." She looked down at the mess at her feet. "Is this thing working now?"
"Should be. And not a moment too soon," the Doctor exhaled. "Hey! Tails!" he called out, and the fox extracted himself from the hug again. "Ready to save the world?"
"I – yeah," the fox replied, nodding and stepping over to the assembly of wires and bits and pieces in front of the console. It looked a bit like an exploded vacuum cleaner to anyone neither a mechanical genius nor a Time Lord, but both fox and Gallifreyan looked fairly pleased with their work.
"Is that the finished deroboticizer, then?" Amy asked, peering at it curiously, and Tails nodded.
"Yeah! The Doctor and me only need to switch it on and it will fix the TARDIS and then he can save the planet!"
"Nice. Great work, you two," Sonic said, giving the Time Lord a thumbs-up and ruffling the fur on the young fox's head, pride rolling off of him like waves, and the kit was positively basking in it. The Doctor couldn't suppress a smile, and then also couldn't resist throwing a last, amused smirk at Robotnik.
"So how do you like them apples?" he asked, dusting off his hands before he put them on his hips. "Or should I say them hedgehogs? Hah!" He twirled his screwdriver. "Stealing my TARDIS was impressive, I grant you – 'course, it would have been more impressive if you had actually listened to me and not managed to make yourself a rather sizeable snack for the reapers, but..."
Robotnik glared at him from across the other side of the roboticized TARDIS console.
"Yes. You and the blasted rodent foiled my plans again. No need to gloat about it."
"Oooh, but gloating is fun," the Doctor protested. "But, then again, maybe we should get going before the last bit of Mobius is entirely gone, so-" he turned toward the wiry mess again, bending down and grabbing two wires, apparently intending to connect them together, when-
"But the one mistake that you made," Robotnik interrupted him, slowly, pleasantly, as he let one of his hands descend onto the roboticized control panel, "was letting me anywhere even close to one of my mechanized creations."
And then his hand slammed down on one of the console's buttons before anyone could have reacted and the entire roboticized TARDIS shuddered like a man with a seizure.
"Self-destruct sequence initiated," a mechanized voice sounded from the speakers. "Please evacuate premises immediately. Self-destruct in 30 seconds. 29. 28..."
"What?! Are you mad?" Sonic whirled around to stare at Robotnik. "You just sentenced us all to death, you lunatic! Yourself as well!"
Robotnik just shrugged. "It makes no difference to me." He stared coldly at the Doctor. "I had time to look into the records of his travels in the databank of his ship. I have seen what he does to those who lose to him."
The lights in the TARDIS had started to dim as he talked and now they were throwing the face of the Doctor into hard-cut shadows, the Time Lord suddenly having gone very still and expressionless as Robotnik spoke. The human scientist almost idly flicked a hand over a button and a holo-screen flashed into life, the eyes of the Mobians widening as, all at once, pictures of explosion and carnage, green-skinned monsters and rolling metal mini tanks, pictures of an entire world, burning, all with a single man in the middle of it, danced through the air like visions of a bad dream.
"The fate of the Daleks. The fate of the Sycorax. The fate of the Slitheen. The fate of his very own planet," Robotnik counted them off smoothly as the screen mercifully disappeared into nothingness again. The human scientist looked at Sonic in a curious mixture of contempt and almost grudging appreciation. "Contrary to you, Sonic, your new friend has quite the body count. I would not have walked away from this."
"No!" Rose protested desperately. "That's not-!"
"If I have to die, I prefer it to be on my own hands. And most importantly," Robotnik gave Sonic a smile that had no warmth in it whatsoever, "Taking you with me."
"You-!" Sonic began, but Amy cut him off, staring at Tails and the Doctor with wide eyes.
"What are you doing! Don't just stand there! Initiate the de-roboticizer before it's too late!"
Tails shook his head, eyes wide, and desperate, even as Amy's scream had apparently shocked the Doctor out of whatever paralysis Robotnik's words had induced him, and he whirled with a muttered 'right!' back to the console, even as Tails was proclaiming the futility of it.
"It wouldn't work!" the fox wailed, "The process would need at least a few minutes, maybe even-!"
"Doctor!" Rose shouted, the Time Lord the only of them who outwardly still seemed to have retained some semblance of calm, staring down at the console with thin lips and intensely focused eyes, as if he were trying to solve a 600-sided Rubik's cube in his mind. The TARDIS was shaking now, the universe outside of it in its final fits and the core of the engine about to tear itself apart in a self-destruct, the lights inside flickering wildly and going out one by one. And one by one the Mobians fell silent, staring at the Time Lord in front of the console, brown eyes as old as centuries roving over the machinery, while an intellect none of them could even begin to comprehend tried to come up with a solution none of them could, something so smart and impossibly brilliant that would allow them all to survive...
"Amy," the Time Lord said.
"Yes?" the pink hedgehog gasped.
"I need you to hit the console very, very hard with your great big hammer."
"DO IT!" Sonic, Tails and Rose yelled in unison - and Amy struck.
They never heard the number zero, because instead, light poured out of the console so bright it was blinding.
To be continued...
Yatta! Another chappie, another cliffhanger. :D But this time the update didn't even take a year, so...that's good, right? XD Thanks again to petite-dreamer for her beta-skills! (Also, incidentally, open call for anyone who wants to help me write horribly cringey 'Australian' dialogue for Marine in an upcoming fic *coughLifecouldhavebeensodifferentsequelcough* It's not much, and it won't be for a while, but if there's anyone of you who feels like they've got superflous 'Strewths!' and 'Crikeys' flying around in their vocabulary, feel free to pipe up in the comments :) Other than that, hope you liked, and if you read, please review! :3