Sonic read the newspaper from cover to cover but there was no news of his homeland. He couldn't even deduce what was happening over there from the condition of nearby worlds. He hoped this meant that nothing interesting was happening back home – which meant nothing had gotten worse. Either that, or the reporters had lost interest in his homeland entirely. He threw the newspaper onto the table in disgust and returned to his bunk. Staying occupied with one task for long enough to read an entire newspaper was mentally exhausting.

Just then, the door to his cell swung open. Assassins, he thought, jumping back so he couldn't be seen from the doorway and bracing himself for a fight. He relaxed when he saw Diddy Kong stood in the doorway, holding the key in his tail. When Sonic opened his mouth to demand an explanation, the young chimpanzee chirruped softly and put a finger to his lips. The hedgehog shrugged.

He followed Diddy Kong down the corridor as silently as he could as the monkey bounded away. He heard the soft whirring of R.O.B's servo-motors but he was already darting down a side corridor before the maintenance robot could stop him and ask him what he was doing outside after curfew. He also kept a cautious eye on his rescuer and scanned the shadows in general. While Diddy Kong himself wasn't the type to be an assassin, he could easily have been bribed to gain Sonic's trust by freeing him, then lure the hedgehog to his death. The naïve chimp probably had no clue what he was involved in. He probably only cared about how many bananas he was getting out of it, or proving that he could perform a perfect jailbreak using only his tail.

Sonic yearned for freedom but he never, ever let his guard down. There were only enemies, all around him. He would never win his freedom unless he became the champion of the arena, or some miracle granted his people a sudden turnaround in the war and they marched victoriously in and freed him.

They soon found themselves in some abandoned area of the Stadium, full of old computer equipment and deactivated ROBs. He was amazed by how effective the route was that Diddy Kong took. The chimp knew the Stadium backwards. He had been a regular of the Tournament, fighting alongside Donkey Kong, and although they never won, the duo was a firm favourite with the audience and they were always invited back.

Diddy Kong chirruped and pointed to an office door. Sonic shrugged and walked in. He found Donkey Kong playing on a swivel chair, dressed in a tie, bowler hat and briefcase. Where he had found these objects in the correct size for an adult male gorilla, Sonic had no idea.

"Oh, hi there, I was getting bored waiting for you." he said.

Diddy Kong chirruped and pointed at Sonic.

"Nice work! No trouble with the guards, I hope?"

The chimp shook his head.

"The bananas are in the briefcase. You've earned them." Donkey Kong threw his briefcase across the room. The chimp jumped up, grabbed the case by the handle using his tail and disappeared up onto the rafters.

"Um... thank you both for freeing me..." Sonic said hesitantly, still looking up at the ceiling. A banana skin almost fell on his head, "But why did you do so? You're highly respected among Nintendo's elite. Aren't you worried about your reputation?"

"Before I answer that question, Sonic, you answer one of mine." said the gorilla, folding his arms in that way of his that made him look like a gigantic hairy Mafia Don, "Why are you out here in the open where it's so much easier to assassinate you? Don't look at me like that, I'm not planning on it. I'm a monkey. Monkeys don't assassinate people."

"I'm not afraid of assassins. None of them have come close to killing me yet." said Sonic, "And I need to go home. I can't stand it here, and my home needs me - it's a mess. I don't know what the hell's happening there. I don't even know who's in charge - that's if enough of it is still standing for someone to be in charge. For all I know, someone bad could have gotten into power in the confusion and they could have sent the assassins after me so I don't come back."

"That's an interesting theory. What makes you think that?"

"Last week's attempts were made by Ganondorf, Wolf, Snake and Wario." said Sonic, "If this was just about politics, Wolf would have charged enough money to retire for the rest of his life, and yet he's still fighting in the Tournament and he only does that to win money when he's broke. Snake would have been ordered by his own Government to stay out of it – they're nothing to do with this. Wario would have told me on purpose to annoy Mario. As for Ganondorf, he's friends with all the final bosses back home, they have some sort of guild,I don't think he would lash out at me just for being from Sega. For being a main character, more likely. Whoever's behind this, it isn't Nintendo."

"You've been thinking this through a lot."

"I know. Its sickening." Sonic looked genuinely disgusted with himself, "I'm supposed to be a man of action. Yesterday I wrote a poem. A really bad poem. To the tune of Goldark's theme from Dragon Force."

"Sonic, I can get you across the border." said Donkey Kong, "I can't guarantee your safety – if you fail, you'll probably be killed – but I can at least get you close enough to give you a chance. Just ignore any large explosions, don't touch any barrels and don't stop running."

"I repeat," said Sonic, "Why are you doing this?"

"Simple. Mario owes me a favour." said the gorilla, "I told him time and time again, Diddy Kong and I are not a comedy act. We would like to be treated with respect. We want an end to the endless monkey jokes, we want to write our own script, we want equal pay and we would like to run for Governor in this year's elections. We shouldn't be denied these things just because we're monkeys."

"I agree entirely."

"I thought you would. Hedgehogs, monkeys, anyone can become a hero." he laughed out loud at his own joke, "Almost makes me want to defect. Oh, Sonic? I would also like you out of the Tournament. Promise me that if you leave, you won't come back and you won't try to re-enter the Tournament."

"Why is that?"

"Because one less Contender makes me more likely to win. You're good, Sonic, I don't relish the thought of fighting you."

"If I go, they'll just bring in Roy to replace me." Sonic shrugged, "But I don't really care. I can't promise never to return to Nintendo but I can promise it won't be to re-enter the Tournament."

"Throw in a bunch of bananas and its a deal. You know where they keep them at night."

"The kitchen's near the phone. I have calls to make anyway. I'm sure it won't be too much of a detour. Although I don't know where it is from here."

Donkey Kong pointed down the corridor to the right, snatching a falling banana skin from mid-air. Sonic thanked him.

"The world outside is not our own, its the world I lost, the one I abandoned long ago." Sonic sang under his breath, "This controller is not my own, its small and its white and... oh hell, this poem is bad, did I really write this?... hm... over, Game Over, hand over the controller to me, the sky is growing dark, so cold and so dark, the sun won't rise again over Radaxian..."