One day after Bowser's arrival…
"This is the general plan agreed upon," Elias said as everyone stood outside the city, "Since Ixis Naugus was defeated and Robotnik's most recent plot thwarted, there are only two Chaos Emeralds actively in-world. Princesses Sally, Daisy, and Peach, with Antoine, Bunnie, and Luigi as support, will go with Team Dark and the G.U.N. Commander to recover the Chaos Emerald there. Commander Tower has convinced the city officials to release the Emerald into our care to return it to the Special Zone, as well as leave the Pearl there."
"Seems a shame to return it," Rouge said, staring longingly at the Pearl, "It's SO pretty..."
"Don't even think about it," muttered Bunnie and Daisy at the exact same time. Rouge giggled.
Sonic nodded. "And us?" he said, gesturing to himself, Amy, Tails, and Mario.
"You four will enter the Special Zone and inform Feist of the situation. According to what Rouge told us, Feist will force a challenge on anyone who enters to get access to a Chaos Emerald. We don't know how much progress Bowser and Eggman have made since yesterday, and we need to move quickly," Elias said.
Princess Peach nodded. "It's a good plan, your Majesty. And thank you and the council again for providing accommodations for our group."
"Our pleasure, Princess. Your coming here may prove a godsend," Elias said.
Peach smiled weakly. "We'll see, I suppose."
The two groups parted ways, each setting out on their own mission. Commander Tower called for a transport via Nicole, who created a landing strip for it. The Overlander soldiers ignored the fearful and resentful looks the Mobians gave them, waiting for their commander.
Commander Tower, with Team Dark, Sally, and the Mobian/Mushroom delegation behind him, came up and saluted his men. "We'll be giving transport to the Princess and her two guards, as well as the two human princesses and their guard."
"Hiya," Luigi said, waving cheerfully.
The soldiers gave a curious look to the much shorter human, frowning. Luigi gulped and grinned nervously. Daisy patted him reassuringly, and they all got onto the transport, heading for Station Square.
The trip in and of itself was uneventful, Peach, Daisy, and Luigi taking the time to admire the ship, asking questions on how certain devices worked. When they got over the city, however..
"We're under attack!" screamed one of the pilots. Peach looked out, spotting familiar winged birds throwing all-too-familiar explosives. Flying next to them were drone machines she didn't recognize that were providing them with covering fire.
"I don't recognize the machines," Peach said, "But the birds are Albatosses. They're throwing Bob-ombs."
"The machines are Eggman's," Omega snarled, "I will shoot them out of the sky for daring to exist at the same time as me."
"Let's-a not lose our heads, here." Luigi said, "You got-a any defenses other than the gun-crazy robot?"
The pilot shook his head. "Just some gatling guns," he said, "This is a fast transport ship, not meant for prolonged battle. The Egg Flyers are too fast."
Bunnie smirked, forming her arm cannon. "Don't worry about it, sugah. Me and flappy flap here can handle the Egg Flyers."
Rouge nodded in agreement. "And Omega should be able to shoot down the birds from the hatch."
"I can help-a too," Luigi said.
Everyone looked at him, although only Peach and Daisy seemed to understand. "Super Leaves?" Daisy asked.
Luigi nodded, pulling out a small brown leaf and eating it. A raccoon tail and ears appeared on his body, the Mobians looking at him in confusion. "Um... Monsieur..." Antoine started.
Luigi grinned. "Trust-a me. I know what-a I'm doing."
Antoine frowned. An explosion rocked the ship, sending everyone stumbling about. There was a brief rush of wind as the exit hatch opened. "Whatever you're gonna do," Tower shouted, "Do it fast! Those bomb things the birds are throwing are starting to tear this heap apart!"
Antoine sighed, and give Luigi his sword. "I am trusting you, Monsieur Luigi. I am trusting you to keep my lady safe."
Luigi nodded, accepting the blade. "Don't-a worry. I can save-a the princess just as good as-a my brother," he said, heading for the gate with Bunnie and Rouge, muttering, "...I'm just not-a crazy enough to pick a fight-a with the kidnapper every single time like-a Mario..."
Rouge gave Luigi a confused look. "You sure that you can keep up with us in the air, big man?"
Luigi snorted. "Sure. The Leaf's power will keep me in the air, I just need a running start. Plus, while Mario got-a the jumping skills, I got-a the jumping HEIGHT..."
Bunnie just shook her head, shooting an Egg Flyer out of the air. "Ah'll take your word for it, sugah. Now c'mon!"
One of the soldiers passed Rouge a sidearm as she lept out, catching the wind on her wings. Bunnie's foot jet's fired up, and the cyborg rabbit flew out as well. Luigi took a deep breath, and dashed out the door, spinning his raccoon tail rapidly. To the surprise of the Mobian natives, after a moment of falling, Luigi began to rise, quickly catching up with the others.
"Oh I see," Shadow said after a moment, "It's like how my double's friend can fly..."
Omega snorted. "I'm still trying to logic out how that works," he rumbled, planting himself in the open hatch and opening fire.
Sally sighed, and turned to Antoine. "That was a noble thing to do, Antoine, loaning him your sword."
Antoine grinned weakly. "I could zense it. He acts brave, but he is the zame as me, Mademoiselle. Ze fear is in his heart. But he has learned to conquer it, and cultivate it to his advantage..."
Daisy grinned. She liked this Antoine fellow already.
Rouge and Bunnie flew among the attackers, firing away. Their attackers faltered, and started to scatter, the Egg Flyers the first to recover and return fire. They dodged and weaved through the gunfire, holding their own for the most part, the support fire from Omega helping out greatly. They were a little surprised to see Luigi flying with them, cutting through an Egg Flyer.
"...Sure, fine," Rouge muttered, "As if the helicopter-tailed fox wasn't confusing enough."
"Whatever works, flappy flap!" Bunnie said, blasting a Bob-omb that an Albatoss was holding, the bird squawking in fear and flying off. "Wish I knew where these dang birds keep getting' bombs."
Luigi yipped, a laser beam just barely singing his rear. "What in blazes was-a I thinking?" he muttered. He turned to Bunnie and said, "They're Bob-ombs, a race from-a my world! They can regenerate."
Rouge blinked, shooting a Bob-omb and exploding, sending another Albatoss into retreat. "Wait, these things are a race? Are they mechanical?"
Luigi yelped, ducking an Egg Flyer and slashing wildly at it, sending it careening into a few others with a massive explosion. "Not-a really sure, honestly. They're really nice folks-a, when they aren't-a working for Bowser."
Bunnie and Rouge, still fending off the Egg Flyers and Albatosses, gave Luigi a confused look, when Bunnie felt a Bob-omb hit her in the chest. She grabbed it and looked at it, the Bob-omb, to her surprise, having an apologetic expression on its face.
"DROP IT! DROPITDROPITDROPIT!" Luigi shrieked.
"I'd follow his advice, ma'am," the Bob-omb said, "I'm very high yield."
Bunnie yelped, startled, dropping the Bob-omb, which fell and exploded harmlessly beneath her. "They TALK?" she said, pointing in the direction the Bob-omb fell.
Luigi chuckled, slashing at an Albatoss. "Lot's a stuff on my world does."
Bunnie shook her head, continuing the fight. After a few minutes, the last of the Albatosses flew off, Omega shooting down the last of the Egg Flyers. Luigi breathed a sigh of relief as Bunnie and Rouge traded amused looks.
"Not bad, flappy flap," Bunnie said, smirking.
Rouge sneered. "Not so bad yourself, flop ears."
"Can we save-a the fighting? I'm-a tired and the Super Leaf's effects are about-a to wear off," Luigi said.
"Fine by me," Rouge said, the three of them flying back to the ship. Shadow just nodded to them as they entered, keeping his eyes on Luigi as he went back to sit with Sally and the other two princesses.
"Puits rencontré, mon ami," Antoine said as Luigi handed back his sword, "You fought well out zere."
Luigi chuckled weakly. "Panic-dodging. The best kind of evasive-a maneuvers."
Antoine nodded. "Ah, oui,"
Luigi sighed. "Wish I had-a my magic back, though. It's been way too long since-a I've been without it..."
Daisy smiled and hugged him. "You did fine, hon. And don't worry. Once we find all the Chaos Emeralds and get all the Order Pearls, we'll be back at our butt-kicking best once again."
Bunnie chuckled. "Y'all sound like quite the spitfire, Daisy."
Peach giggled. "She's Sarasaland's very own butt-kicking flowergirl," she said.
"Approaching Station Square," said the pilot, "And none too soon, we took way too many hits."
The ship landed in port, Team Dark and the Mushroom delegation disembarking. Commander Tower led them through a series of high tech corridors, ending at an office where a tired-looking human sat at a desk, the city skyline framed behind him.
"Princess Sally," he said, "It's good to see you."
"As it is with you, Mister President," Sally said, bowing slightly. "And I thank you again for your cooperation in this."
The President sighed wearily, leaning back in his chair. "This Bowser character defeated four of our best as if they were rookies. I'm willing to put aside any problems I may have with New Mobotropolis to help out."
Commander Tower's face remained impassive, although looks varying from annoyance to embarrassment to anger passed over Rouge, Shadow, and Omega's faces.
The President shook his head at them. "I'm not disparaging your skills, I'm just saying that we were all caught off guard. Which brings me to the main point: Information. Judging from the crowns, I'm guessing you two are a royalty as well?" he said, addressing Peach and Daisy.
Peach nodded. "I am Princess Peach, heir apparent to the Mushroom Kingdom. My associates are Princess Daisy, my cousin and heir apparent to the throne of Sarasaland, and Luigi, one half of the greatest defenders of our kingdom."
"Hiya," Luigi said, waving.
The President just stared at Luigi, the green-capped plumber's grin fading. Daisy frowned, and said, "He doesn't look like much, but he's helped stop Bowser from conquering our Kingdoms or outright destroying them several times."
The President sighed, holding up his hand. "I'll take your word for it. Right now, we have business to discuss. Princesses, if you will be so kind as to give me as much information on this Bowser person as you can? Your guards are free to explore the building's rec areas as they choose."
Bunnie frowned. "We were told to take care of the Princesses..."
"Don't worry, flop ears," Rouge said, "We'll keep them safe. You give the plumber here the lay of the land."
Sally turned to Bunnie and Antoine, saying, "We'll be fine. This is the President's office, so it's bound to be the most well-protected place in the city. Plus, Team Dark aren't slouches themselves."
Luigi frowned. "I still don't-a know," he said.
Daisy grinned, and kissed him on the forehead, gently ruffling his hair. "Relax, love. We'll set things straight quick enough."
Bunnie, Antoine, and Luigi headed back to the elevator that took them there, and headed down the tower towards a floor that Rouge recommended. They emerged into an area that looked to be halfway between a training area and a mini-mall. Restaurants and shopping areas dotted the walls, while various arenas with combat simulations were set up. Soldiers and office workers milled about, relaxing and generally enjoying themselves.
Bunnie's attention was drawn to a training course that was attached to the ceiling, a grin coming to her face as she watched the flightpack wearing soldiers fly through the various traps in ever-increasingly difficult stunts. "An air course? Oh ah gotta try this," she said, "You boys gonna be okay bah yourselves for a sec?"
Antoine chuckled. "By your leave, mon amour," he said. Bunnie giggled, and kissed him on the nose.
"See y'all later, sugah! Ah'm gonna see if ah can beat the best time on this little ol' thang..." she said as she dashed off to the lift that led to the aerial course.
"Quite a woman," Luigi said, nodding appreciatively.
Antoine nodded, "Indeed, monsieur. Your Daisy is no slouch herself, eh?"
Luigi chuckled, putting his hands behind his head as he and Antoine went over to the window The other humans and Overlanders in the room gave them odd looks, but payed them no mind otherwise. "You should see her when she really gets going. She's one of the toughest women around," Luigi said.
Antoine chuckled. "I can imagine..."
The two of them stared out over the skyline. "It's-a... hard, sometimes..." Luigi said after a moment.
Luigi sighed. "...I put-a on a brave face... But I'm always-a so scared... Mario, my brother... NOTHING phases him. No matter what monsters Bowser throws at him, he just goes right in and stomps them all into the ground."
Antoine chuckled. "He and Sonic should get along just fine, zen," he said.
Luigi grinned. "From what I've-a seen of him, I wouldn't-a be surprised." He sighed, leaning on the window railing. "Mario, Sonic... They're both-a heroes. Nothing in-a the world could stop them. Meanwhile, I'm following a step behind, shaking like-a leaf... Always thinking, always wondering... What could be out there? Will Bowser's monsters finally kill us today? Will we mistime a jump and fall into a deathtrap? Will I lose an item's power at the wrong time?"
"What new robots will Eggman throw at us? Will zomeone figure out how to take command of Nicole again? What if zat last lucky shot comes that strikes me down? Will I be unable to protect zose I love? Will ze magic-users out there brainwash my comrades and use zem to kill me?" Antoine added, sighing, "Believe me, I know how you feel. There are dangers everywhere..."
Luigi nodded. "And those pasta-brained heroes just take it as a challenge... Mama mia..."
Antoine shook his head. "It's as if zey don't even realize the risks..." he said.
Luigi and Antoine traded amused looks, feeling a kinship develop between them.
"Heh..." Luigi said, "Looks like we've-a lived the same kinda life..."
Antoine chuckled. "Possibly, Monsieur Luigi. We both carry fear in our hearts... And yet we both carry on, doing what we must..." Antoine looked out over the skyline again. "I once did not, though... I nearly let my fear get ze best of me on zo many occasions, bungled so many missions because of how afraid I was... Looking back on it now..." He clenched his fist tightly.
Luigi nodded. "Me, I used to rely so heavily on my brother. When Daisy's kingdom was-a invaded by the alien mercenary Tatanga, it was-a my brother that saved her, not-a me. We had only just-a met, and I was so-a scared... It wasn't until much-a later, when Bowser got the idea to try kidnapping-a Mario a few times and I had to-a rescue him, that I got-a enough courage to start courting her... I'm still amazed she even gives-a me the time of day..."
"Love works in strange ways, mon ami," Antoine said, nodding, "At first, Bunnie had a crush on Sonic. The best moment of my life came when Bunnie and I first fell in love. Our wedding was a close tie..."
Luigi and Antoine both sighed. After a moment, Luigi said, "Y'know what I think? I think-a our fear makes us the sensible ones. We can save the day, but we're sensible enough not to dash into things without-a thinking."
Antoine smiled, looking up to watch Bunnie having a ball as she raced a hotshot young flier through the air course, both of them getting cheered by the onlookers. "A pleasant way of thinking, Monsieur Luigi. Once we get back to Mobotropolis, we shall toast the thought."
Then the building shook.
Luigi's head drooped. "Naturally," he muttered.
Antoine looked down towards the city. "What is... MON DIEU!"
"MAMA MIA!" Luigi shrieked, both he and Antoine falling on their butts and scampering away from the window as a massive mechanical gorilla climbed up into view. The hulking beast roared, firing missiles from shoulder launchers that shook the building again. Soldiers began evacuating the office workers, several staying and firing at the massive machine, to no effect.
Bunnie flew down from the course, looking over the creature. "What the hoo ha is that?"
Then the cockpit came into view, revealing an irritated-looking Snively. "Oh good, Freedom Fighters. Something to take out my frustrations over that overgrown lizard ordering me around on."
"W-What do you want, Snively?" Antoine said, shakily drawing his sword and facing down the massive mechanism.
Snively sneered. "The same thing you're wanting, I'd wager. The Chaos Emerald stored here. Now stand down, fools. Or I will happily use the Egg Kong to crush you all."
Sally's voice came over Bunnie's comm-link. "Bunnie! What's the situation?"
"Snively's here in a new gizmo. He's after the Chaos Emerald!" the cybernetic rabbit said, keeping her arm cannon trained on Snively, who had begun to climb again. The building shook once more as the Egg Kong punched through a wall, minor tremors from the hand shifting about inside the floors above them.
"Blast it..." Sally said, "All right. Try to keep him busy, or defeat him if you can. We're all right up here, but the exit has been sealed by rubble. Once we can get out again, we'll send Shadow to back you up."
"Right!" Bunnie said, flying out through the shattered window and attacking.
"Anuzzer reason to work past our fear," Antoine said, chuckling softly, "With women like zat around, 'ow can we call ourselves men if we do not rush to fight with zem?"
Luigi smiled, nodding in agreement. "I don't-a see how we can get up to help her, though."
There was little need to worry about climbing, as Snively had apparently already found the Chaos Emerald. He leaped down from the tower, landing on another building to catch himself, shattering some buildings.
"Antoine! Luigi!" Bunnie said, "He got the Chaos Emerald from the lab. Ah'm gonna fly after him! Catch up when you can!"
"HOW!" Luigi asked, but Bunnie, ever the hot-blooded adventurer, had already flown off. "Mama mia..."
Antoine, however, was looking at the wreckage. The way the girders were positioned, they almost looked like... "Luigi, I zink we can grind along these rails, follow the path of destruction to catch up with Snively."
"Rail grinding? You gotta be-a kidding me! We don't have-a any skateboards, and I don't-a know how to skate anyway!" Luigi shouted.
"You don't need them," said a nearby soldier, wincing a little from a piece of rubble that had hit his shoulder. He tossed them a pair of metal covers, "There's a rail grinding track over on the south end of the room. It's mainly for Shadow, but Commander Tower has been having the rest of us learn as well. Put those over your shoes, you should be fine. I had the same thought, but protocol says I have to stay here and help the civilians. You two hold help the cyborg hold him off, we'll be there when he can."
"If you haven't beaten him already," said another soldier, "I may not like you fuzzies but you got a great track record against Robotnik's machines."
Antoine grinned weakly as he put the grind heels on over his boots. "Technically it is Sonic who has ze excellent track record, but I do appreciate ze vote of confidence..."
Luigi mumbled. "We're gonna need it..."
Antoine stepped up onto the broken window. He looked at the distance between the window and the first rail, and gulped nervously. "Well, into ze breach..." he said, and power-leaped out onto the rails, Luigi following behind. They landed roughly and began sliding, nearly slipping off, but once they got going, they made quick time in catching up with the slow-moving Egg Kong.
"This is not so bad," Antoine said as they slid along the track, "I can zee why Sonic likes it zo much."
Luigi grinned weakly. "I'm fine so long-a as I don't look down. Just because I can get better-a height on my jumps than Mario doesn't mean I like bein' so high in-a the air."
"Speaking of looking," Antoine said, spotting Bunnie and the Egg Kong up ahead. The cybernetic southern belle seemed to be doing well, the massive arms of the Egg Kong slow and clumsy. But sometimes, all one needed was a lucky hit. Snively proved that when he managed to strike a solid blow to Bunnie, sending her crashing into a nearby building.
Antoine's blood froze. Drawing his sword and ducking down to pick up speed, he leaped into the air and power dove towards the back of the Egg Kong. As the mechanical ape moved to pound Bunnie flat, Antoine landed on it hard, his blade slamming into a neck joint.
"AGH!" Snively screamed as his systems began to short circuit. He began to divert power away from the damaged areas as Antoine wedged his sword out and ran to help Bunnie, landing roughly as he dropped off the Egg Kong.
"All you all right, ma cherie?" he asked, gently taking her robotic hand.
"Ah think so, sugah. I've taken worse wallopings, and... LOOK OUT!" she said, grabbing Antoine and moving him out of the way as the Egg Kong brought its fist down in a massive punch, shattering the ground beneath them.
Luigi landed next to them as they recovered. "Mama mia..." he muttered, "I hope-a you got any ideas how to beat this-a thing. All I've got left in the way-a of items is some more Super Leaves, and a couple Fire Flowers and Ice Flowers. I don't-a think they're gonna be much-a help against it."
They dodged again as Snively tried to punch them. "This Chaos Emerald is mine, you wretched creatures! I shall prove to Dr. Eggman and that overgrown turtle that I do not need their guidance in getting something done!"
"Y'all need help findin' y'self a hair tonic, Snivles!" Bunnie taunted, prompting a scream of rage from Snively and another wild volley of punches. Bunnie grabbed Antoine, letting him ride on her shoulders and carrying Luigi from her arms as they dodged through the Egg Kong's punches.
"Why in blazes did you get-a him angry?" Luigi screamed, yelping as a punch just barely missed him.
"Look at the way he's fightin,'" Bunnie said, moving out of range of the Egg Kong's punches, "Y'all noticing something?"
Antoine and Luigi both stared at Snively, at the way he was fighting as he lunged for them again and again. Antoine realized it first. "He iz only using ze one hand..."
Luigi blinked, his eyes widening. "Then the Chaos Emerald is..."
"...in the other hand," Bunnie finished.
"How do we get to his other hand?" Antoine asked, "Because I do not zink he is going to let us get zat close."
"The shoulder couplings are weak, ah noticed," Bunnie said, "Ah think if we can damage them enough, the arms'll break right off."
"How, though?" Antoine asked, "Neither of us are Sonic, so we cannot just go around doing le spin dashes and ze like."
Luigi gulped nervously. "I think I have an idea on how to damage the shoulder couplings... But we need your help."
Bunnie nodded, moving out of the way of another attack. "Anything y'need, sugah."
Luigi sighed, trying to calm his nerves. "Get me above-a the arm holding the Emerald," he said, rummaging in his pockets, "and then drop me. I'll-a take it from there. You're gonna have-a to keep him off of me as best-a you can." He pulled out an Ice Flower, giving it to Bunnie. "Eat it. It will-a let you shoot-a ice for a little while."
Bunnie and Antoine traded worried looks. "If you say so, sugah," she said, eating the blue blossom. She shivered, a wave of cold going through her as blue streaks appeared in her fur, her cybernetic arm reconfiguring itself, gaining a missile launcher.
"...That's never happened before," Luigi admitted.
Bunnie grinned. "Looks cool, if'n y'all will pardon the pun, whatever it is. Let's go, sugah!" she said, firing her jets and racing back towards the Egg Kong. She let Luigi go just above the shoulder of the arm holding the Chaos Emerald.
"Fool," Snively sneered, grabbing for Luigi. But as he did, Bunnie fired a missile from her new arm launcher. It struck Snively's hand and knocked it back, freezing it to the ground.
"WHAT?" Snively screamed, "This is IMPOSSIBLE!" He began to try and tug the Egg Kong's trapped arm free.
"HOT DANG!" Bunnie said, laughing. She looked over to Luigi, who was flailing his arms, whimpering as he descended. Having doubts, she turned to catch him, but as she did, Luigi whirled in midair, powerdiving butt first onto the shoulder coupling. The entire arm shook, Luigi being thrown off and back to the ground.
Antoine gulped, suddenly getting an idea that terrified him. "My love," he said, "I cannot believe zat I am zaying this, but I think you should let me try the zame thing on the other arm."
Bunnie blinked. "You sure?" she asked.
"Absolutely not," Antoine said, "But it seems to be working. If we can do zis enough times, we may be able to knock ze arms loose."
Bunnie frowned, but shrugged. "If y'all say so," she said, tossing Antoine
"WAITICHANGEDMYMIND!" he wailed as he fell towards the shoulder of Egg Kong's trapped arm. Whimpering, he tried to remember how Sonic did his homing attacks, and curled up into a ball, spinning himself downward. He crashed hard into the Egg Kong's other shoulder, and bounced off hard.
"How does Sonic do zis every time?" Antoine moaned, staggering about.
"It's-a working, though," Luigi said, "The arms are weakened!"
Antoine looked up, and saw that Luigi was right. The arms looked a bit loose in their sockets, and Snively's furious expression said he knew it.
Bunnie came down again, "Ah think there's enough rubble for y'all to get up on the shoulders y'self. Ah'll keep distractin' them while y'all take out the arms and get that Chaos Emerald!" The three of them dodged back as Snively fired a barrage of missiles, scattering them. He tried to grab at Luigi and Antoine, but Bunnie began firing at him again, coating the Egg Kong in patches of ice. Antoine looked to Luigi, who just chuckled weakly and shook his head. As Snively, frustrated beyond measure, took a wild swing at Bunnie, she dodged out of the way and fired another missile which froze the hands to the side of the building again, leaving him vulnerable.
"NOW, SUGAHS!" Bunnie called. Antoine and Luigi began clambering up the nearby rubble, Luigi having an easier time of it due to his jumping ability. He was the first to get up to the Egg Kong's shoulders, doing a butt stomp on the one he was closest two. Antoine barely managed to get up in time to do another attack, cutting into the wires that held the shoulder together.
Snively, screaming in frustration, tore his way free from the ice, scattering Luigi and Antoine again, Bunnie picking them up and moving them out of harm's way as he tried to pound them again. A pair of gatling guns appeared, and he fired, both Luigi and Antoine wailing in fear and scattering.
"Zis is intolerable!" Antoine screeched, wildly dodging the bullets.
"How in-a the world does Mario do this every-a day without having a heart-a attack!" Luigi whimpered, leaping and dodging as best he could.
Bunnie couldn't help it. She had to laugh. It was just so silly, watching these two heroes running around in a panicky manner. She didn't laugh for long, though, focusing her attention on the gatling guns. As Snively, his face a mask of rage, fired at Luigi and Antoine, she took aim with an ice missile and fired, taking out first one, and then the other gatling gun. Snively snarled, and tried to fire them to break off the ice, but the guns just exploded, damaging the shoulders further. The free arm went limp, and fell off of the Egg Kong, Snively roaring as if he himself had lost an arm. In a rage, he grabbed a nearby piece of rubble with the hand holding the Chaos Emerald and chucked it at Bunnie. The cyborg yelped, and barely managed to duck out of the way.
But even as Snively threw it, he realized his mistake. "NO! THE EMERALD!""
The Emerald, having been thrown with the rubble, fell in a tinkling arc towards the ground. Snively, Luigi, Antoine, and Bunnie all watched it fall, frozen in place.
The instant the gem hit the ground with a tiny clink, Snively, Bunnie, Antoine, and Luigi all dove for the gem. Luigi and Antoine were the closest, both grabbing the gem at the same time.
"GOT IT!" they called.
And then the second Event happened.
A shockwave burst from the Chaos Emerald, slamming into Bunnie and the Egg Kong enough to remove Bunnie's Ice Flower powers and knock the other arm off of the Egg Kong. The pulse of magic triggered every one of Eggman's sensors, Sally, Shadow, and Peach sensing the release of energy as well.
"...They got it," Peach said, sighing in relief, "Luigi and the others have retrieved the Chaos Emerald..."
Sally, stunned by the feeling going through her, nodded in agreement. "I know... I can feel it."
Rouge blinked. "Feel what? All I felt was the shockwave..."
"Something is happening to Luigi and Antoine..." Sally said softly.
Shadow frowned, for the first time noticing the Chaos energy in Sally. He began to wonder... and sat down, concentrating, focusing on the Chaos energy flowing through the battlefield. Everyone looked at him curiously.
"Shadow, what are you doing?" Commander Tower demanded.
Shadow shook his head, frowning. "I think... I can sense them... Lately, I've felt more attuned to the Chaos force than before... I think I can tell what's going on in the battlefield."
Everyone traded worried looks. Commander Tower nodded, and said, "Keep us informed. I want to know everything..."
At the battlefield, Luigi and Antoine floated into the air, in a trance as Peach and Sally were before. Luigi's skin darkened, his eyes glowing green, an aura of electricity forming around him, as Antoine's fur turned bright gold, his hair turning long and jagged and... it astonished her to associate this word with Antoine in ANY way... rather badass looking.
"Oh mah gosh..." Bunnie whispered, "This is what happened to Sally-girl..."
"THE COVENANT HAS BEEN MADE. THE SECOND PATH OF ORDER HAS BEEN SET UPON. AS HEALING AND SPEED HAVE BEEN UNLEASHED BEFOREHAND, SO TOO HAS THE POWER OF THUNDER AND THE SWORD," Luigi and Antoine chorused, "LET THE SECOND PATH BE REVEALED."
Energy from the Chaos Emerald, floating in between the two of them in the corona of power than encased them, lanced out and reached into Luigi's chest. Slowly, a smooth Order Pearl was pulled out, the same color green as Luigi's clothes.
The Order Pearl floated forward, Luigi grabbing it tightly, Antoine grabbing the Emerald.
"THE SECOND PATH HAS BEEN REVEALED," the two of them chorused, the aura fading and the two of them crashing to the ground. Bunnie immediately flew over to Antoine to check on him, having enough sense despite her worry to scoop up the Emerald and Pearl first before a furious Snively could grab them, scooting off to a hiding place, leaving Snively to rampage around, screaming challenges.
"Antoine! Sugah! Are y'all okay?" Bunnie asked, cradling her husband gently in her flesh and blood arm.
Antoine giggled slightly. "Strangely good, actually..." he said, "Well rested, like I've slept for ten hours straight and had nozzing but pleasant dreams."
Luigi staggered to his feet, feeling dizzy. "Mama mia... Whatta rush..." he said. He felt a familiar feeling and concentrated, his fists crackling with electricity. "My Thunderhand powers..." he whispered softly.
Luigi grinned. "Let's-a go. This battle just-a got interesting..."
Antoine, feeling much more confident than usual for reasons he couldn't explain, got to his feet with Bunnie's help. "Yes, mon ami. Let us take up our swords and..." he gestured grandly, to emphasize his point, but as he did, a sword of pure energy formed in his hand, startling all three of the assembled heroes.
"...Zat is new," Antoine said after a moment.
Bunnie went wide-eyed, suddenly realizing. "Thunder and the sword... Ahm guessin' that electricity was youah magic, Luigi-sugah... But the sword..."
Antoine blinked. "Vat do you mean?"
"When y'all were in the trance, y'all said somethin' about 'thunder and the sword' bein' revived. Ant, y'all got powers now!" Bunnie said excitedly.
Antoine looked at the energy sword, and then looked at his regular sword, which had fallen to ground beside him. He picked it up and sheathed it, turning to Luigi.
Luigi smirked. "What do-a you say, Antoine? Want to show Snivles here how-a the cowards kick butt?"
Antoine snickered. "Indeed, Monsieur," he said. Bunnie grinned, morphing her arm. The three of them jumped out, revealing themselves to Snively, who began gloating again.
"Ah, so that's where you were hiding," he sneered, aiming the Egg Kong's remaining weapons at them. "Know this, vermin. I, Snively Robotnik, shall not be so easily GAHAG!"
Snively was cut off as Luigi threw an electrical orb at the Egg Kong, sending electricity all through the device. "What in blazes was thaGAH!" Snively screamed as Luigi shocked him again, leaping astonishingly high into the air and throwing more electrical balls. The beak-nosed man panicked, trying to amp up the remaining force-fields on the Egg Kong, but before he could, the cyborg rabbit picked up the coyote, who seemed to be holding an energy blade of some kind, and threw him. As the coyote flew towards him, he slashed with the blade, cutting off one of the Egg Kong's arms in a single stroke, the rabbit flying around to catch him, shooting Snively's canopy with her arm cannon and shattering it.
Bunnie set Antoine down near the Egg Kong's legs, Luigi landing next to him. Antoine began slashing holes in the Egg Kong's armor, Luigi throwing balls of electricity into openings, the Egg Kong sparking and jerking about like it was doing a dance. Bunnie picked up the severed arm and starting smacking the Egg Kong with it, damaging it even further.
Finally, the Egg Kong just fell apart, the damage done by the three of them too much. Snively, in an Egg Pod, snarling and ranting at them at the top of his lungs, flailing his arms wildly.
"How dare you do this to me! Do you know what I've been through ever since that damn turtle showed up! You miserable wretches! I will make you suffer! I will make you..." Snively went dead silent as a single strand of hair fell out of his head. Because he had so few left, it was distinctly noticeable for all those watching.
Snively's scream of fear and rage echoed across the entire city, Snively clutching the hair tightly and flying the Egg Pod out at speeds that would impress even Sonic.
Bunnie snickered despite herself. Antoine rolled his eyes. "Philistine. Tried to cook escargot with margarine just to torture me... He dezerves to go bald..."
Luigi blinked in confusion. "All that over a hair?"
"Sugah, he has tracking devices attached to those hairs," Bunnie laughed.
Luigi frowned, still not getting it, and turned to Antoine. "...You were-a tortured by someone-a cooking escargot with margarine?"
Antoine scowled, pointedly poking the air to emphasize his point. "It is a basic rule of cuisine zat you MUST use REAL BUTTER to cook escargot. It is practically a LAW."
Meanwhile, back at the base, Shadow relaxed. "They're okay. They beat Snively and recovered the Chaos Emerald and Order Pearl. The new powers Antoine manifested and the powers Luigi got back helped," he said, standing up.
Sally sighed in relief. "That's good. I was worried," she said. After a moment, though, she noticed Shadow staring at her. "What's wrong?"
Shadow frowned, looking over at Omega, who was busily moving rocks away from the blocked exit, careful not to cause any more collapses. "When Luigi's powers were reawakened, Antoine got abilities too. I am wondering if you got powers when Peach got her abilities back as well," Shadow said.
Daisy grinned widely. "Another power princess? Awesome!"
Sally blinked, looking at her hands. "I don't FEEL any different... Maybe a bit more energetic than usual, but nothing I didn't feel before when I was linked with the Source of All..."
Shadow thought for a moment... and attacked. "H-HEY!"Sally yelped, defending herself as best she could, blocking and parrying each attack.
Peach, Rouge, Daisy, Tower, the President, and Omega were caught completely off-guard by it. They started to react, to try and stop the two of them... and quickly realized they couldn't.
They were moving far too fast.
Both Sally and Shadow were a blur, rapidly kicking up a small windstorm as they fought around the room.
"COOL IT, THE BOTH OF YOU!" Rouge snapped, bracing herself against the desk, caping her wings so she wasn't accidentally blown into the air.
Shadow stopped, smirking a little. Sally, panting, didn't drop her stance. "What was that about?"
Shadow just dusted himself off. "I was right. I knew I sensed it the moment I saw you after the release of the first Order Pearl, and even moreso after the Chaos Emerald awakened Antoine's abilities. You have superspeed now, Princess Sally."
Sally blinked. "What are you talking about?"
"I attacked you at full speed, Princess. I'd put you at a little slower than Sonic, but that may be due to the confined space here," Shadow said.
Rouge facepalmed. "Great. Another runner to deal with," she muttered.
Daisy laughed. "Cool!"
Peach chuckled. "It seems you'll finally be able to keep up with that hedgehog boyfriend of yours."
Sally blushed, but decided not to argue the point.
Omega looked at all of them, made a minor note of Sally's new abilities, and went back to work trying to clear the entrance. Soon after, though, GUN soldiers broke through.
"Commander!" shouted the young woman leading the group, sighing in relief. Tower looked, and nodded in approval.
"Ah, Agent Topaz. Good work, all of you," he said, helping clear away the last of the rubble. "Sitrep," he said.
"The only major damage is to the building, and even then it's not that bad. The elevators are still safe and working. In terms of casualties, we got cuts and bruises, a few broken bones here and there, and other than the Chaos Emerald lab, nothing important is damaged enough to be dangerous," she said.
"Good," Tower said, turning to the princesses. "You three good to meet up with your agents and head home? If you head to the airfield, we can provide transport again. I'll radio ahead. Team Dark and I will stay here to coordinate recovery and keep things in order."
Peach nodded. "We are, Commander. And thank you for your hospitality. We apologize for the mess," she said politely.
Tower waved it off. "If anything, it's my own damn fault for not realizing Snively or Eggman would do something this brazen," he said, exiting to start coordinating the rescue troops.
Rouge nodded curtly. "Take care of yourselves," she said, hopping up on Omega's shoulder. Shadow, you mind escorting the princesses to the elevator?"
Shadow nodded, and led the three women out, passing the soldiers as he led them to the elevator they came in through. "I better stay on this floor, see if Tower needs me for anything."
Daisy nodded. "Take care of yourself, Shadow," she said, smiling brightly. Shadow just nodded, waving to her and going back to join the rest of Team Dark. Daisy then sighed, leaning up against the elevator. "Gaah, I'm so jealous. You and Weeg get your powers back, and Sally and Ant GET powers? I feel practically useless."
Peach shook her head. "Your strength of heart is invaluable to me, Daisy," she said, smiling warmly, "This has been a trying time for us all, and I need to rely on your spirit at times to keep us going."
Daisy blushed, scoffing. "Aw, schucks. Make me feel needed, why don'tcha?"
Peach chuckled. "You'll get your powers back in time, cousin. Don't worry."
Sally just looked at herself, trying to wrap her head around the concept of having superspeed. She allowed herself a grin as she imagined the look on Sonic's face when he saw that she could finally keep up with him now. She also started thinking about ways that she could use it strategically. And the fact that Luigi and Antoine were connected...
"Peach?" Sally said after a moment of silence, "I was wondering. If you and I were connected enough to awaken an Order Pearl, and Luigi and Antoine were connected enough..."
Peach nodded, understanding where she was going with this. "...Then there must be others connected with the rest of us."
Daisy gagged, realizing the implications. "Oh ick. That means someone's connected to Wario, Waluigi, and Captain Syrup."
Peach grimaced. "I do not envy whomever they are..."
Sally shook her head. "However bad they may be, we still have to deal with them. Is there any way to make it easy to work with them?"
"No," Peach and Daisy chorused. After a moment of thought, Peach said, "Although Wario and Waluigi can be bribed into cooperating. They change their price every time, though, so I never know what they're going to ask for..."
Sally frowned. "And Syrup?"
"Captain Syrup," Daisy muttered, "It's better to get used to calling her Captain Syrup. Wario's the only one who can get away with just calling her Syrup, and ONLY because he's more violent than she is."
Sally sighed wearily. "Wonderful..."
Peach shook her head. "We'll deal with them when the situation comes."
They got down to the hanger, where a pilot was waiting for them, along with Bunnie, Luigi, and Antoine.
"Howdy y'all," Bunnie said, holding up the Emerald and Pearl with a grin.
Sally smiled. "Good, you're all right. And you got the gems back, excellent."
Antoine sighed. "Yes. Ve have succeeded. Can we go home now?"
Luigi shook his head. "I'll-a second that..."
Peach giggled. "We're done here for now. Let's go home."
Sally nodded, and started towards the ship, when a thought came to her. Well, why not?
"Actually," she said, turning towards the open gate, "I think I'll just run back. Bunnie, would you fly with me?"
Peach and Daisy grinned, while Luigi, Antoine, Bunnie, and the pilot traded confused looks.
"Run?" Bunnie asked, confused.
Sally grinned widely. "Shadow sensed Antoine getting new powers when the Pearl manifested. He also sensed that I got something as well."
And with that, she took off, vanishing in a blur of brown fur, Peach, Daisy, and Luigi having to hold their headgear to keep it from blowing off. After a moment, Bunnie laughed and took off after her, firing her jets at maximum to catch up with her.
Everyone just stared after the two of them, Peach and Daisy amused while Luigi and Antoine remained stunned. Peach simply smiled, and said, "Shall we be off?"
Luigi and Antoine nodded numbly. After they got on the ship, Peach and Daisy explained things, although they didn't go into detail about Wario, Waluigi, and Captain Syrup.
After they were done, Antoine said, "Zis is going to get ztranger and ztranger before it gets better, yes?"
Daisy shook her head, chuckling. "Honey, you gots no idea."
Mario, Sonic, Tails, and Amy stood before the Star Posts as Nicole and Rotor calibrated the signals. Sonic was fidgeting, tapping his foot, impatient to begin.
Mario frowned. "You okay-a?"
"I'm just... worried, is all. About Sally. We had a rough time a while back," Sonic said.
Mario shrugged. "She seems like-a the tough sort. Plus, she has-a my brother and those other two with her."
Sonic just shook his head, tapping his foot.
Amy sighed, idly twirling her hammer. "We... had a lot of troubles recently. There was the Iron Queen mess, which resulted in Nicole being mind-controlled by her technomagic. That got a lot of people scared of her. Then Ixis Naugus came along and made people's fears worse, nearly causing a riot. Especially after he made a claim for the throne. And then there was Eggman taking advantage of the coup attempt by attacking with the Death Egg. Nearly killed Sally in the process," she said, silently keeping to herself that she almost wished Sally hadn't survived, a thought she was bitterly ashamed of, "I'm still not sure how we managed to drive them off, but after we did, most of the Chaos Emeralds were taken back to the Special Zone, and a lot of people left New Mobotropolis, too afraid of Nicole to stay."
Mario frowned. "Afraid? Of Nicole? She seems nice enough."
Nicole shivered. "I appreciate the thought. But you have to understand, I have absolute control over everything in the city. 99% of the city is composed of nanomachines that are guided by my will. When the Iron Queen took over my mind, I turned the city against its citizens. When I managed to free myself, and protected myself against her taking over me again, I stayed on as a mole, helping where I could... but fear is hard to get rid of."
Mario frowned. "...But your okay now, right? And she can't take you over again?"
Nicole nodded. Mario shook his head. "Then there's no point in being afraid. Only be afraid when you aren't in control of the situation, but never stop trying to get control regardless."
The Freedom Fighters traded amused looks, liking Mario's philosophy. After a few more moments, Rotor and Nicole finished the calculations. "Okay," Rotor said, "We're all set. Just be careful."
The Star Posts flared to life, creating a swirling portal of energy. Mario shivered, feeling a familiar energy. "Yeah. This is-a how Bowser got through to-a your Zone. There's a gate to the Special Zone in-a our Zone as well."
Tails looked interested at that, but decided to ask about it later. They had to focus on getting Feist to take back the Emeralds and guard them, along with any Pearl that manifested as well. He turned to Nicole, patting his robotic companion. "You linked into T-Pup?" he asked her.
Nicole nodded. "I will monitor you through T-Pup. And... be careful, please."
T-Pup barked happily, as if saying that he'd take care of his creator. Tails chuckled, and picked up the little robot as he and his companions entered the Special Zone.
Almost immediately, the four of them realized something was wrong.
That the landscape was twisted and warped was not new. Sonic and Tails, who had been here before, and Mario, who apparently had experience with the place as well, were not thrown off by the unusual gravity and overall skewed perspective of this particular Zone.
(Amy, on the other hand, was weirded out tremendously. She clutched her hammer close, and had to reorient herself frequently, but otherwise managed to keep herself in check.)
The fact that the landscape looked like a war zone, craters and smoldering wreckage everywhere, however, was new.
Mario was the first to realize. "Bowser and Eggman... They beat-a us here!"
Sonic growled. "Let's go! Find Feist!"
The followed the sounds of the explosions, eventually finding the godlike ruler of this bizarre world in the midst of a battle with both Bowser and Eggman. Eggman was wearing a power of high tech gauntlets, cables that seemed to be siphoning power out of Feist and venting it as green flame wrapped around the panda as Bowser beat the crap out of him, the dragon-turtle's massive fists pounding Feist over and over, his face bruised and bloodied.
"Lowly scum," Feist snarled, Bowser just smirking and punching him again.
"Let him go!" Mario shouted, charging Bowser and drop kicking the lizard in the stomach. Bowser whoofed and fell back, snarling as he noticed Mario there. At the same time, Sonic did a homing attack right in Eggman's face, the coils of his gauntlets retracting. He glared at Sonic, adjusting his glasses as Tails came up to aid the hedgehog, Amy going over to back up Mario.
Bowser just smirked at them. "Oh look, Doctor, the cavalry is here."
Eggman chuckled. "Oh dear. Oh curses. We shall be thwarted yet again," he deadpanned.
The heroes traded worried looks, concerned by the nonchalantness of the villains. As they did, Feist staggered to his feet, badly drained by Eggman's gauntlets. He gestured, and began to summon the remaining Chaos Emeralds to try and restore himself. When the two villains began to grin, Mario frowned.
"HEY!" he said, "Don't-a move!" Mario snapped, flames forming around his fists. "My magic-a works here, Bowser! I can and-a will turn you into-a barbeque turtle!"
Bowser snorted. "If you had the raw stones for that, you would have done it years ago."
Eggman laughed. Sonic sneered. "I'm stronger here too, Eggbreath," he snapped, "Don't you forget it."
"True..." Eggman admitted, "But I'll always be smarter."
The moment that Feist started to link with the Chaos Emeralds, Bowser and Eggman whirled, Eggman firing a massive energy beam from his gauntlets, Bowser shooting a massive fireball. Before any of the four heroes or Feist could react, the blasts struck the Chaos Emeralds. The energies went wild, exploding with intense force, enough to literally knock everyone out of the Special Zone, the Chaos Emeralds flying in all directions, two back with the heroes and two villains into their reality, three into Mario's.
Nicole screamed in pain, clutching her head as her link with T-Pup was overloaded, the four heroes roughly being flung back through the Star Posts, slamming into the control box.
Rotor, groaning weakly, picked himself up and checked on the others. Tails had gotten the least of the blast, but mainly because T-Pup had jumped in front of him. He was already up on his feet, taking T-Pup over to a still-intact workstation and downloading T-Pup's memory and personality core into a storage device before the robot's shattered body broke down completely. Amy had landed on Sonic, but found herself in too much pain to fully enjoy it, and let Rotor help her up.
Sonic and Mario picked themselves up, looks of frustrated failure on their faces. "Well, that could have gone better," Sonic said, coughing and clutching his chest, his ribs bruised.
Mario dusted his cap off, looking over at Nicole, who was recovering from the overload. "Is there-a any way to track-a the Emeralds?"
Rotor and Nicole traded worried looks. "Why?" she asked.
Mario sighed. "Because we-a screwed up. Badly. Eggman and Bowser were already-a there, and scattered the Emeralds."
Sonic nodded. "We need to know where the remaining ones are, and which reality they're in. This is gonna get bad, and get bad FAST," he said.
Eggman and Bowser were launched roughly into Eggman's underground fortress, landing in a rough heap near a monitor. Bowser had retreated into his shell, which spin wildly for a few moments before coming to a stop. Eggman landed upside down, but with a pleased expression on his face. His experimental power gauntlets had survived almost completely intact.
Bowser, once he stopped spinning, poked his head out of his shell, chuckling. "Well, that was interesting," he said.
Eggman stood up, straightening out the crick in his back, and turned to his monitors. "It's as you expected," he said. "Four went to your world, two landed in mine."
"We'll get those first, then," Bowser said, picking himself up.
At that moment, Snively ran in, sobbing about his hair. "Doctor Eggman! Doctor Eggman! My hair... my precious hair!"
"No one cares, runt," Bowser snorted.
"Indeed," Eggman agreed. "What about your mission?"
Snively gulped nervously. He was angry that his worries about his fallen hair were ignored, but he wasn't about to do or say anything with Bowser there. "I... they got the Chaos Emerald, sir. The cowardly coyote and the skinnier plumber also manifested a Pearl."
Eggman grinned. "Excellent."
Snively stared at them incredulously. "W-What? But..."
Bowser patted Snively condescendingly. "Now now, don't you worry your balding little head about it, pipsqueak. Now shoo. The adults are talking," he said, roughly pushing him out of the room, ignoring his indignant sputters. He shook his head as he walked back to Eggman. "I swear, I don't know how you put up with him," he said, one taloned hand rubbing his temple.
Eggman snorted. "He makes me laugh. Especially when he tries to betray me. It's so cute, as if he actually stood a chance of usurping me."
Bowser laughed. "True, true... But you're gonna need more competent minions than Sniffles there. I have my kids, backstabbing little tykes, but we need support if we're going up two sets of heroes. Especially to carry out our overall plan."
Eggman sighed. "I do have a group of eight in mind," he said, "But they wouldn't be minions. More allies... and only if I can convince them or intimidate them into joining." He called up the files.
"...Interesting," Bowser said, "Especially that one woman... You sure you can convince them? According to these dossiers, several of them hate you."
Dr. Eggman just grinned. "Some will be easier than others, I admit. Lien-Da, for example, already works for me. But I think I can manage to gather them all for this."
Bowser grinned viciously. "An alliance of evil. I love it."
Eggman nodded, idly stroking his impressive mustache. "And once all the Pearls have been made manifest, we will claim them, the Emeralds, and all the powers they possess, for ourselves."
TO BE CONTINUED...