"Gentlemen, once again the time has come!" boomed an middle-aged, well-dressed man from the stage of the auditorium. "I can see we have some new faces this year, and I can also see some men who have been coming to this event every year since its inception. A note to all of you old-timers: be careful not to own all the newbs too badly."
The audience of old, rich people laughed—not because the host was funny, but because it was the polite thing to do. Some of the old, rich people didn't even understand what the man up front was saying, but there was no advantage to being the only person not laughing at a joke.
Mr. Ivo Robotnik was sitting at one of the tables partly to the right of the stage, waiting patiently for the host to stop his introductions and get on with the event. Mr. Robotnik had been invited to this highly prestigious event due to his company, Robotnikinin Genes, finally making it into the top twenty most profitable companies in the world. Robotnikinin Genes discovered a patented way of fusing fossil fuels with nuclear ions, boosting the efficiency of fuel by three hundred fifty percent while barely affecting the cost.
Needless to say, Mr. Robotnik was a billionaire in a month.
The host continued, "I am pleased to announce that this is the very first year in which every invited guest has arrived. We thank everyone who has spared time in their busy schedule to come and participate in this exciting event. This has been the tradition of the rich for over a thousand years, and now it is your turn. In just a few moments, the forty-second annual Fox Hunt shall begin!"
This statement was met by a round of applause that sounded rather like the applause of an audience at a political conference that was forced to clap after every sentence just so that they would stay awake.
The host blabbed on. "Along with the regular foxes, we also have, like last year, ten sapient-drones ready for hunting. There are ten different types of animals here, each are larger and harder to catch than the foxes. However, each are worth at least triple points than the largest of foxes, so catching one may make the difference between a loss and a win."
Mr. Robotnik shuffled in his seat. This was getting more interesting.
"Due to complaints from last year, no sapient-drones capable of flying were included in this year's roundup. So, without further ado, let me familiarize you with what we have in store."
On cue, a large metal cylinder was lowered from the ceiling and was placed right next to the host. The front side of the tube, the side facing the audience, had a large plexiglass window so that the guests could see what was inside.
Inside the tube was Tails.
But not the Tails commonly known; instead, it was a Tails that had lost all sense of sapient life. He was rigidly pacing the the small area inside the tube on all fours, his sharp teeth bared in a bloody scowl. His fur was long, unkept and filthy, and his claws were long and sharp enough to slit your throat with ease. Perhaps the most disturbing of all, though, were the demented black and blue orbs that were his eyes. There was no hint of intelligent life behind those eyes, just pure, savage instinct.
Inside that tube wasn't Tails, inside that tube was a wild animal.
He was now an it.
The announcer started speaking again. "This here is a tails fox. This is a very unique type of fox as it has two tails, as you can see." Above the tube, a large, flatscreen display showed a live video feed of the tails fox from every angle, so that even people at the back of the room could see its two tails. "Due to this anomaly, and the scarcity of the species, the tails fox goes for a high price to both collectors and to those on the black market—whichever one is more in line with your business. It will be be worth twenty points for our hunt."
The audience clapped, this time slightly more enthusiastically.
Another tube was lowered from the ceiling, next to the tails fox's tube. The animal inside this tube appeared to be a blue hedgehog, looking just as wild as the tails fox beside it. However, even though this new creature had dried blood on his razor-sharp quills, and patches of fur missing, and its eyes were still devoid of intelligence, it still didn't look quite as rabid as the tails fox was. For example, it wasn't as filthy, it didn't have its teeth bared, and just in general it didn't look like it would kill you if you were less than ten metres away from it.
"This here is a sonic hedgehog. The sonic hedgehog species is known for being the fastest running land-mammal on Earth," proclaimed the announcer with his eyes gleaming. "This is a very troublesome bugger to catch due to its speed. Therefore, it is worth a huge sum of money to those who can find a buyer, and that is why it will be worth fifteen points. From personal experience, I can suggest that you must get up close and personal with it if you even hope to catch it. It is not a fighter, due to only relying on its speed to get by. If you get a good aim on it before it runs away, you're set."
The next ten minutes consisted of introducing each sapient-drone in turn. Mr. Robotnik propped his elbow up on the table and rested his chin in his open palm as the announcer dragged on. The knuckles echidna, with its determined eyes. The blaze cat, with its otherworldly eyes. The cream rabbit, with its empty eyes. The mighty armadillo, with its resentful eyes. It went on and on.
Finally, after ten tubes had been lowered, and after a few bad puns were uttered by the announcer in an attempt to be funny, a new voice over the loudspeaker yelled the words everyone had been waiting for: "Let the Fox Hunt begin!".
Immediately the wealthy business owners were invited off their seats and ushered through into a separate room by the staff. Mr. Robotnik looked back and saw that the rest of the staff were using lifts to move the tubes into another room, probably one that leads to an exit.
Mr. Robotnik's mind was a blur as the preparations began. They were first all given a heavy armor overcoat, then a tranquilizer gun, then a rifle, then a backpack full of supplies. Then they were all given rabid-looking dogs that apparently would lead them to the foxes they were hunting—the leashes of the dogs were all firmly attached to the hunters' wrists for "safety reasons". Finally, they were shooed out through a second door that lead to outside.
The last thing any of them heard from the staff before the door was closed was, "Try not to die, it's bad for business." While appreciating that the comment was supposed to be humourous, it sent Mr. Robotnik into a state of mild terror all the same.
The group of wealthy men found themselves within a forest. Or, rather, a story-book version of a forest, with no grime or mud or bugs or anything to distract the men from the hunt. Surrounding them were beautiful old maple trees—and only maple trees—which's trunk height and breadth of all the healthy-looking leaves created a dense canopy of green, of which the sky could not been seen through. However, it was still very bright on the forest floor, despite the sun's rays being blocked by the trees. It was almost as if the brightness didn't come from any specific source, but rather the surroundings were all illuminated. It was perfect hunting conditions: it was comfortably bright but there was no glare from the sun to disorient them.
Mr. Robotnik had barely any time to think about how undeniably, artificially perfect this "forest" was before he realized that his hunting dog was already charging into the depths of said forest, and he was being pulled along with it. The wealthy man frantically tried to tear the leash from his wrist, but quickly found that it was attached too tightly to get a grip on. Out of options, Mr. Robotnik sprinted after the dog as fast as his blubbery fat would allow him to, not liking the idea of face planting and being dragged through the dirt by "man's best friend".
Swallowing his pride, the wealthy man looked back at the other wealthy men and was about to yell for help...when he saw that every other dog was acting the same way. All the hunters were being pulled deep into the forest in different directions, effectively separating them all. Robotnik would've groaned if it wasn't a waste of much-needed oxygen. And he definitely needed that oxygen. Every pounding step he took following his dog was matched by a sharp intake of breath and a thumping heart beat. If he wasn't in a state of total panic and closing in on exhaustion, he might have appreciated the nice rhythm of the run. It was very on-time for for such chaos; it was perfect, just like everything else in the forest.
The dog started running faster. Mr. Robotnik couldn't run any faster than he was already, so he just gave up and collapsed. For about three miserable seconds he felt bits of gravel cut into his skin, his head bump across random rocks, and all the regular symptoms of being dragged across a forest floor.
After said three seconds were up, he suddenly noticed he had stopped. He pulled his head up out of the dirt to see his hunting dog continuing to charge deep into the forest, half a leash trailing behind. Within just a few moments, the dog was completely out of sight and the sound of mad barking had already grown dim. Weary, the doctor hauled himself off the ground and reeled in the leash to see how it had broke. What he found on the end surprised him.
It was a quick-release cord. It was supposed to break.
Mr. Robotnik had been warned ahead of time by a colleague that the organizers of the Fox Hunt always deliberately set up a scenario—different every time—in which the hunters would be forced to separate from each other and become lost in the vast expanses of forest in the process. Despite this, the Doctor was disgusted at the arrogance and lack of respect the Fox Hunt Committee gave toward their attendees, and was similarly appalled at the brutal and humiliating way the Committee followed through with their plan. Robotnik was almost tempted to radio in his headquarters and unleash his secret robot army upon this place.
Nevertheless, he swallowed his gripes and reminded himself that all the other hunters probably just went though this exact same situation, and none of them had tried to wreck havoc upon this place yet. He wouldn't want to become the first. It would just be embarrassing.
With that, Mr. Robotnik hauled his rifle up over his shoulder and began his meandering hike to try to track down and capture the two-tailed fox and the rest of the sapient-drones.
Only a few short steps later and Mr. Robotnik started to hear some rustling in the bushes ahead of him. Amazed by his luck, Robotnik quietly took a few steps back and took cover behind one of the many maple trees the forest offered him. Twisting his head to the side to take a peek, he saw both a sonic hedgehog and a blaze cat together in the bushes only a couple hundred feet away! Unbelievable! Two sapient-drones together! Fate appeared to be a friendly fellow today, for once. Robotnik had every intent of taking advantage of it.
The hunter reached down and pulled out his binoculars to get a close look at his prey. The easiest shot would be the blaze cat—it was lying on its stomach, claws bared and eyes focused on a distant object that Robotnik was unable to see from his vantage point. But more importantly, there was nothing but some leaves and shrubbery between him and it. Nothing that could deflect or block a well-aimed tranquilizer dart. This would be a piece of cake, as long as the drone didn't move.
Getting at the sonic hedgehog would be tougher. It was behind the blaze cat, looking a bit disoriented and reflexively nibbling on the tip of the blaze cat's ear, an act the violet drone appeared to not even notice. The problem was that the sonic hedgehog was also lying low to the ground, which meant that no matter where he aimed, the blaze cat would be in the way of his shot. He did not dare risk targeting the top of the hedgehog's exposed forehead at this distance—he would most likely miss and shoot the dart into its quills instead, blowing his cover. The only way he could get the both of them would be to shoot the blaze cat first, and then immediately after fire a blind shot slightly above the cat's body, hoping that the blue blur would first raise its head in shock before it tried to escape into the forest. With good timing and luck's blessing, the dart would find its mark in the raised head of a shocked sonic.
Congratulating himself on the brilliance of his plan, Robotnik immediately loaded a double round into his tranquilizer gun and pressed it against the tree, using the bark's rough surface as a crude stabilizer. A shot from this distance, especially considering the leaves and shrubbery partly blocking his view and his own relative lack of experience with marksmanship, would have to be delicate. Shoot straight at the blaze cat's torso: the larger the body mass, the less chance of missing the target. After pulling the trigger, wait a half-second for it to automatically reload. Then raise the gun barrel by one-quarter inch and shoot again, hoping that the sonic hedgehog's head got in the way in time. There was no time to waste. Robotnik pulled the trigger.
To its credit, the blaze cat sensed the dart approaching it before it hit. The feline made a valiant and remarkable effort to dodge the bullet, considering it was moving at the speed of...well, a bullet. Alas, the dart punctured its thigh muscle as said muscle was right in the middle of contracting, ready to jump out of the way. You could see the shock in the blaze cat's eye, replaced almost instantly by emptiness as the tranquillizer sent it into a nice, peaceful sleep.
The sonic hedgehog yelped as it saw its friend fall limp beside it. Showing a grand display of cowardliness rather unlike its sapient counterpart, the blue blur leaped up at inconceivable speed and charged away from the unseen threat, leaving its feline friend to its fate. By the time Robotnik's gun finished its automatic reload—one half-second later—the sonic hedgehog was already a few miles away.
The doctor scowled. What a waste. The blaze cat was hardly worth anything compared to the sonic hedgehog, and now that the hedgehog knew what area he was hunting in it wouldn't be coming back.
Damn, he thought. Well, I guess I shouldn't complain. It was pure luck that I found two sapient-drones in one place at all! Speaking of which, I wonder where all the regular foxes are...the forest is supposed to be filled with them...
Robotnik briskly walked over to the sapient-drone's fallen body, attempting to push the tree branches and trigs out of his way. He reached into his backpack and pulled out a hammer and a large yellow nail engraved with the initials "I.R.", and then picked the animal up by the tail and held it up to a nearby maple tree. Carefully placing the nail in the center of the tail's tip, he picked up the hammer started to nail the blaze cat's tail into the tree. When finished, he let go of the cat and let it hang there upside-down. It would probably be very painful for the blaze cat once it woke up, but for now it was still in blissful sleep. Fox Hunt employees would soon come around and collect all the sapient-drones nailed to trees, using the initials on the nailheads to determine who had caught the drone. A rather cruel system, but it was convenient and it worked.
Robotnik was satisfied. He had already caught a sapient-drone, one of only ten, and he still had a whole day left to try to catch more. He put away his nails and hammer, swung his rifle back over his shoulder, and turned around ready to continue the hunter's hike...
...And found that his way was blocked by the tails fox. What luck! He'd found three sapient-drones within ten metres of each other so far! They must be attracted to this area, for some reason. Fate was a friendly fellow indeed!
The tails fox was standing upright on its bare feet, teeth bared and snarling; a horrendously eager, bloodthirsty look in his eyes. I must be in their territory, he realized. No wonder they seem to be concentrated around this area. No matter, I may have lost any element of surprise, but I could catch enough of them here for it to be worth it. Robotnik grasped hold of his rifle, pointing it straight at the aggressive-looking sapient-drone, ready to shoot at the slightest movement of the animal in front of him.
The tails fox look unthreatened by the gun pointing at its chest—if anything, it looked oddly amused.
"So, you just tried to do it again. You tried to hurt my brother, but Blaze was in the way, again. Isn't doing it once, in real life, enough for you?" the tails fox said, suppressed anger bubbling underneath the calm tone of voice.
What? How could this be? These were wild animals, they weren't supposed to talk! What's going on?
The tails fox laughed; a sharp, harsh intake of breath that didn't sound much like a laugh at all. "So, is that how you satisfied your conscience, Eggman? By thinking of us as animals? As wild beasts that need to be put down? Is that what this dream is, a big metaphorical look at your subconscious? Is this the illusion you created for yourself to satisfy the part of your brain that was keeping you from hurting things that could feel? Well, whatever it was that caused it to happen, you did successfully flick off the switch in your brain that was holding you back, and I have to admit it totally worked. We lost, big time. Congrats."
Robotnik had no clue what was going on. The tails fox was speaking gibberish. Was he supposed to be listening or something?
It continued, a barely seeming to retrain his rage. "At least you've gotten one thing right in this metaphorical dream of yours, Eggman. I'm sure you do have a bunch of murderous animals after you—whatever it was the snapped within you, snapped within all of us as well after what you did. God help you if Shadow was still alive...you thought of that, didn't you? That's why he was targeted first, wasn't it?" The tails fox seemed to get even angrier, if it were possible. "You should PAY for what you did! And yet your life has done nothing but improve since the attack! Where is justice?! It used to be fast, now it's non-existent!"
The tails fox was still screaming incoherent mumbo-jumbo. Robotnik readied himself to pull the trigger, he hadn't any time for this.
"If justice isn't going to be doing anything...well, if you want a job done right you have to do it yourself!"
With that, the tails fox leaped into the air, teeth bared in an expression that suggested that it was preparing to chomp the doctor's head off when it landed on him. Robotnik pulled the trigger. He hoped he didn't miss.
Eggman gasped and quickly sat up from his sleeping position. Weird dream. A quick glance to his bedside table told him it was already eleven thirty in the morning.
Sighing, the obese scientist laid back down on his bed and clapped his hands twice. Immediately four robotic arms, designed by himself of course, grabbed hold of him and pulled him out of bed and placed him into a plastic holster that kept him from moving during the procedure. Quick as a flash, he was sent through a system resembling a car wash which first striped him of his pajamas, scrubbed him from head-to-toe, trimmed his moustache, rinsed and dried him, brushed his teeth, applied deodorant, and then clothed him in his usual getup of red yellow-buttoned top, black skin-tight bottom and boots, glasses, white gloves, and goggles-that-don't-do-anything, and finally deposited him onto his main command chair and the front of his base, looking out to the city of New Eggtopia. It all happened in forty-five seconds flat.
Such is the life of the luxurious/lazy. The type of life only the supreme emperor of the world could be excused for having. Which was exactly what Eggman was.
The Emperor of Earth leaned back in his chair and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He still wasn't fully awake despite not waking up until almost noon—the all-nighters from a few days ago must still be affecting him—but he supposed a lot of work and a stressful life were required consequences of having to govern a whole planet near single-handedly.
Beside him a square panel on his desk slid away, beneath it was a red and black sphere. The sphere hovered out of its holder, the panel slid back into its regular position, and then each of the sphere's hemispheres suddenly popped outward revealing underneath the familiar shape of the doctor's robotic companion, SA-55 "Orbot".
"Good morning, Emperor Eggman. How may I help you?" Orbot asked, using a posh butler tone of voice.
Eggman thought for a moment. "First, you may help me be filling me in on everything that's happened during my sleep."
The robot went silent. Eggman knew it was retrieving the information, and would start talking again in a few seconds as if nothing had happened.
He woke up and began speaking. "Very little has happened of interest. There was a small earthquake in Chun-Nan, but it did not significantly affect factory production rate," Orbot stated in a rather monotone voice. "However, I am pleased to tell you that our fight against the U.F. corporate executives may have finally come to end. Reading through their protests, I found that it really came down to the fact that they were protesting against the large amount of regulations put in place that controlled what they could sell and how they could sell it, despite it being a so-called 'Free Market'. Realizing this, I stepped in personally and renamed the Free Market the 'Controlled Market'. That should remove the justification that legally allows them to continue their protests. Ergo, any further protests on the subject now can be suitably dealt with by the SWATbots. Problem solved."
Eggman gave a little amused chuckle at how easily it was to exploit legal loopholes in his new regime. This would have to be fixed eventually, he figured, if society were to stay stable, but for now it was rather fun to hear about how the latest person got screwed over through stupid means.
"Has the surveillance of the pink hedgehog yielded anything yet?" Eggman asked. Amy was one of the former heroes who had—resentfully—became regular members of (Eggman's) society, too broken and morose to run like Sonic and a few others did. She took up residence in an apartment in Eggman Empire City. Eggman had hoped that at some point Sonic would try and contact her, landing him right in the doctor's hands. Unfortunately, however, Sonic had tried no such thing, which either meant that he was smart enough to know that being anywhere near a city was a very bad idea, or he had contacted her so sneakily that he evaded his twenty four hour surveillance bots. He doubted it was the latter; Sonic may be a lot of things but one thing he wasn't was inconspicuous.
Again, the robot paused as it retrieved the information
He woke up. "As always, there has been no new information concerning Amy Rose or her contacts," he stated in a bored tone, resting his chin on one of his hands. "Doctor, I have never before seen you ask about Rose this early after waking up, before even doing anything else. Is there a reason you're particularly curious this morning?"
Eggman was rather surprised by the question. He didn't exactly know what expression he was wearing on his face as Orbot asked it, but he knew that it must have been pretty revealing as the bot hardly waited for an answer before answering himself:
"Let me guess, you had another dream where your conscience takes the form of Sonic or one of his friends and then blames you for everything that's wrong with the world," Orbot stated, sounding rather patronizing. Stupid robot. "Who was it this time? Shadow, cutting to the chase and killing you with a karate chop? Sonic, threatening to slice you in half with a spindash? Tails, acting crazy and pouncing on you like a wild animal?"
Eggman unconsciously brushed his hand against the scar stretched across his cheek, an injury caused by the foc. While he supposed he had it coming considering all the scars he knew Tails now had, hidden beneath his fur, he still had a grudge against the fox for ruining his perfect face. At least he learned a lesson from it: never go near a caged animal with claws.
Orbot noticed Eggman's action. He always did. "So, Tails this time, huh?"
Eggman was getting rather annoyed at his robot's uncanny ability to read him like an open book. He's tried changing Orbot's personality before, but, barring the time he tried giving him no personality whatsoever, no matter what personality he was given he eventually learned to be sarcastic and annoying all over again.
"It's none of your business," the doctor spat, sounding more defensive than he wanted to.
Orbot looked amused. "But Emperor, everything to do with your well-being is my business," he said, so sincerely and so innocently Eggman wanted to puke.
Eggman sat up from his chair and pointed a menacing finger at his robot companion. "Now listen here, you lousy piece of scrap metal" he spat at Orbot. "You have NO business in my thoughts. If you continue to aggravate me, I will remove your personality chip. In fact, I'll dismantle you entirely! That way at least I won't have to keep on seeing your misshapen face everywhere I go. Is that clear?"
Orbot looked on unmoving, with a blank face.
Eggman waved his hand in front of the visual sensory receivers—the eyes—of the robot. "Hello?" he said.
"Please wait," Orbot said in a monotone.
The doctor knew immediately what was happening. Orbot was going through an information retrieval process, like the ones he went through earlier when Eggman had asked him status questions. In other words, Orbot was surfing the net in order to escape having to listen to Eggman's threats. "How dare you ignore me while I'm speaking to you!" Eggman yelled, banging his fists on the table. "If you have any sense of self-preservation whatsoever you wi—"
"Sector ZZ9," interrupted the now-awake Orbot.
"Excuse me?" Eggman asked, confusion breaking him out of his rant. Oh, maybe he was going through a legitimate retrieval request after all...
"Sector ZZ9," Orbot repeated.
The doctor grimaced. "Yes, I heard you, what of it?"
"They found them. Sonic and Tails," stated Orbot simply, sounding rather shocked.
Eggman's face immediately contorted into something that could be best described as a mixture of incredulity, terror, and joy. "W-what?"
"The surveillance bots that were assigned the task of locating Sonic's whereabouts have discovered Tails and him in Sector ZZ9 of the North Pacific forests; ergo, they found them."
Eggman collapsed in his chair, he couldn't believe it. He couldn't believe after all these months of searching he's finally found them. "Status. What's the status?" he croaked.
"Sonic and Tails had a campsite set up in the wood, they're taking it down now and will probably leave the location within ten minutes. The surveillance bot found them during their sleep last night. Stealth bots have already surrounded the site and are awaiting orders."
Eggman leaned back in his chair. He couldn't believe it, he had almost given up hope. But it was true, Sonic and Tails had been found. And they would not escape his grasp this time. He knew what he had to do.
"Order them to shoot. Shoot to kill."
Orbot started. "W-what?"
"Sonic is the largest threat to my power, my empire. If he were to gather some more people willing to fight back against me, I could lose everything I've fought for, everything I've earned," Eggman explained grimly. "Kill him. Kill both of them. They won't be expecting it, it'll be easy. I will not let my conscience risk the stability of my civilization."
Orbot nodded, but hesitantly. "Yes, Master. Your order has been sent." He paused. "Oh, my, look at the time, it's nearly lunchtime. I'll go prepare something for you."
"Good, you go do that," Eggman said as a panel slid away and Orbot disappeared down a chute.
The Emperor of Earth relaxed and leaned back in his chair, very pleased at the sudden events of the last three minutes. If all went well, soon the thorn in his side that had persisted him for countless years will finally be removed. Maybe he would regret this later, but for now he couldn't be happier.
A grim smile crossed upon his face. "Sweet dreams, Sonic the Hedgehog."
As I assume you can tell, this was my attempt at a psychological, metaphorical mind-screw crack fiction. Each aspect of each dream is a metaphor for something or another, and each one explains and expands upon the "main story" of Eggman taking over the world (yes, even Amy's chapter. The point behind that chapter is stupidly subtle, but it's also the one the entire story is named after. So yeah). I know that no one who reads this could possibly understand every part of it, or even most of it, but... I don't care. This was a fic for me, and I like it, even if no one else will ever truly understand what the purpose behind this is.
Thanks for reading.