Disclaimer: Obviously, I own nothing here. Everyone and everything here is the explicit property of Sega, Archie, DIC, and lord only knows who else. This is strictly for entertainment and not profit, though the story itself is mine, so please don't steal it (other story thieves will pity you if you do, trust me).
Note: The setting utilized here is an Alternate Universe based upon the SatAM and Archie Comics Sonic continuities. While a lot is similar to the source material, it is not an exact copy of either of those settings, as liberties have been taken with the world used and characters involved (some more drastic then others as you'll soon see). Also, this is indeed a story about a character who is regarded by many as something of a blight upon the fandom (and not wholly undeserved at that), so I ask that anyone who does read this keep an open mind and leave constructive criticism behind rather than flames.
A Difficult Road Traveled
Chapter One: Unrest in the City of Genocide
The skies darken as an endless metallic shapes swarm above the city, the hum of their hover engines signaling their approach and numbers not unlike the buzzing throb of a hungry cloud of locusts…
…there is fire now, fire and death and screaming as buildings, old magnificent buildings and new strong ones reaching to the sky crumble and fall before the march of an infinite numbered legion of metal beasts, their feet clanging and their eyes glowing almost as if in anticipation, weapons raised and ready…
… lights are flying through the air, bright and beautiful, bodies burning and bursting upon impact. People are screaming and fleeing, even as the machines surround them and cut them down as they run, brave defenders fighting valiantly if futilely against the ceaseless horde, one by one they fall until they are nothing but blackened bones crushed underneath metallic heels and vehicle treads…
…screaming, a woman is screaming… mother! You, mother, father and grandfather were running, running for the military bases, running to escape with your lives. If you can reach the ships, you'll be saved, if you can reach the ships and escape the monsters, you'll get to live. The crowds are panicking like a human herd, mother gets cut off, and she is screaming for help. Father pushes you to grandfather and runs to grab her and you yell for him and try to join in, but grandfather's hand holds firm to keep you back…
…mother and father are re-united, he's pulling her over, everything will be fine, they're gonna escape, they're gonna live…!
…Now grandfather yells in anguish, and you can only watch in stunned horror as the lights strike mother and father, their bodies bursting into flame as they fall before you, their own looks of shock etched into their faces forever as they plunge to the ground and stare into you even though they are dead. A hulking metal form looms over them, a blood red visor glowing as it marches impassively onward, and you can see the blood from dripping from its hands and feet as it gets closer, and you know in your heart of hearts that YOU ARE NEXT….
Chris's scream echoed throughout his small room, his panicked eyes darting about with a feverish glint as he sat up in his bed, body tense and ready to act upon the fear fueled adrenaline coursing through his body, droplets of sweat gracing his forehead. He put a hand to his chest, forcing himself to return to a state of calm. Assess the situation, Thorndyke… you are not back in Mega Central, there are no Swatbots, there's no one here but you, he mentally recited to himself as he observed his surroundings, sighing heavily as took stock the reality of his situation; he was laying upon his uncomfortable cot, under a moldy old blanket, in the same plain, small bunker that he'd made his personal room for the better part of a year. The blue eyed young human hung his head slightly, brushing his reddish-brown hair out of his eyes as he took in a breath and let it out as he returned to a state of calm. "Still dreaming of home… you're losing it, Chris old boy," he murmured to himself as he set his covers aside and stepped out of bed, giving his body a quick stretch before beginning his morning exercises, mentally reciting each and every movement as he carried them out with perfection.
With his morning ritual finished, Christopher would later head for the shower area, bracing himself for the cold water to hit his body as he cleansed himself and fondly recalling the days when it'd been at least lukewarm. In the back of his mind he knew it was absurd to insist on cleaning himself like he was right now, given that he was the only person around for miles, but he had heard somewhere that routine helped to keep one sane in times of crisis. That and the simple fact of the matter was that he enjoyed feeling clean, even if the water was cold as a corpse nowadays. The shower was under a minute long, thirty seconds longer then his usual time, but without any of his superiors around to enforce shower time anymore he decided he was allowed to splurge a little. His shower finished he reached for a towel and dried off quickly before heading back to his room to dress himself.
Opening his locker, he methodically placed the garments contained upon himself in the same order as he had done for what had seemed like an eternity; undergarments first, then socks, then the somewhat baggy grey military vest and trousers, followed by the black combat boots and the black tactical gloves, and finally the black balaclava (he opted to push it down around his neck and allow his head a bit of freedom since there was yet no need for it to cover his face). Next came the military gear, donned with the same kind of precision as his uniform; first the dark grey torso armor and shoulder guards, then the silvery-grey leg guards clipped over his boots, the similarly silver grey arm guards latched on over his gloves, metallic knee and elbow pads, and finally the dark grey utility belt around his waist. The last thing to pull was a out dark grey helmet, which he tucked under his arm as he silently headed out of the locker room.
The next order of business was breakfast. It was easy to located an M.R.E to start off his day (a chicken flavored one even), and he sat on his own in the base's mess hall as he ate. As he chewed on his 'chicken flavored' meal he recalled with some melancholy fascination how the mess hall used to sound just over a year ago; the comforting cacophony of casual chatter held between the various troopers and base personnel, the occasional laughter that would grace his ear and picking up the various bits and pieces of the others lives as they strove together to survive against the horrors unleashed by Robotnik. Chris frowned, mentally berating himself for letting his mind wander down memory lane again, and instead chose to focus his attention on something else as he ate. His eyes wandered up to the banner that hung over the mess hall, one of the constant reminders of what he and his comrades had been fighting for; the flag of Overland.
The stylized golden phoenix displayed with its wings proudly spread against the grey backdrop of the flag, a single black diagonal stripe going from the upper right corner down to the lower left corner, represented many things. In literal terms the phoenix was regarded as something of the personification of human spirit and of Overland's ultimately undying nature; for through every disaster and catastrophe to befall Overland and her children, humans would always arise from the ashes of the past to blaze forward and forge a newer, stronger future for themselves and their descendants. The more abstract meanings of the flag were just as myriad… power, dominance, hope, loyalty, strength of will, progress, unity; all these things and more were what commonly came to mind in the eyes of most humans. Christopher himself was no exception to that, but he found that over the course of the last year the flag's effect on his spirit had lessened, until by this point all he could regard about the flag on any meaningful level was that it looked like it was starting to get cobwebs. It certainly beat ruminating about the past, at any rate.
The past… if there were ever a textbook representation of the phrase 'how the mighty have fallen', Christopher Thorndyke of the House of Galileo's photograph would've been right on the cover. His family was of old stock, one of Overland's great houses; his father was a financial genius who'd brought his family great prosperity and greater prestige, his mother was a beloved actress, his grandfather an eminent scientist and his uncle a courageous vehicle tester for the army. Christopher's early life was one of privileged prestige, with a bright future ahead of him and the promise of endless opportunity. Even in the aftermath of Overland's defeat at the hands of the Kingdom of Acorn, Christopher could count on having a decent enough life… then came Dr. Ivo Robotnik's coup over the Kingdom he'd saved, and his eventual conquest of the rest of Mobius. His parents did not survive the initial assault, and Chris had ended up in this place courtesy of his grandfather and a single surviving family butler, both of whom would eventually join the rest of his family in the afterlife. Leading to the present scene of a single, solitary young human eating in a deserted mess hall under a slowly decaying flag, the last living link the world had to a bloodline that had produced many truly gifted individuals.
Chris finished his meal, depositing the plastic container in a waste basket as he headed out for the armory.
Chris was aware that by this point there was perhaps little reason to arm himself for the coming trip to the city; he'd not spotted an active robot or living human in that city in what felt like an eternity, nor did any of the slowly resurfacing wildlife that began to roost there posed any kind of significant threat. Still, he reasoned, it never hurt to be cautious. Opening the door to the armor he entered, setting his helmet down on a bench as he regarded the walls and walls of weapons before him, hands on his hips. "Let's see now, who do I bring with me today, hmm?" he asked out loud, tapping his chin almost thoughtfully as he leisurely made his way down the rows of varying grades of military hardware, stopping over by the rifles. "Hmm, lead based or plasma based, which one of you gets to go out today…?" he leaned forward a bit as he looked lover the different models of assault rifle; to his left an SD-83 rail gun, and to the right a KNL-Alpha plasma rifle. Both offered unique advantages and disadvantages, and in the end Chris went with the plasma gun. "Terribly sorry, maybe next time," he jokingly apologized to the gun that had been denied the possible chance to see action today.
The aged beyond his years nineteen year old's habit of talking to his equipment was not borne out of madness or a misguided sense of care towards them, but rather to simply hear himself talk. It comforted him, being able to hear a voice speak out words out loud, even if he himself was the source of that voice. The echo-effect the armory had helped things quite a bit in that regard; anything to lessen the fact that he was utterly alone. Having selected his primary weapon for the day, the rest of his equipment followed without much need for contemplation or one sided conversation; he holstered a pistol in his belt (a kinetic based one with explosive tipped bullets for variety), slid a knife into a holster on his boot (weak joints on robots made knives rather useful in close quarters), and placed several EMP grenades into his belt after placing a plasma cartridge bandolier over his chest, attaching it to his rifle. Pulling his balaclava over his head and nose so that only his eyes were left exposed, he donned his helmet and pulled the combat goggles tied to it over his eyes. He was ready now, for Genocide City.
He took a simple military van in his trip to Genocide City. In the earlier days of his isolation he would leave nothing to chance, heading into the city with nothing short of an assault mech to guarantee his safety when venturing into the city. Since those days he'd loosened up to the point where a crude but reliable jeep would be all that was needed for his daily excursion. The road from the base to the city was a lonely and dangerous one, but then that was the point; the twisting paths would make it difficult for enemy ground vehicles (or robots) to travel up towards the well hidden base located in the nearby Krakarov Mountains. The base had never had a nickname or designation other then "The Base" or "Home Base" as long as Chris had been there, nor was he aware of it possessing any special kind of name even back when it was one of the many hidden military bases Overland kept just in case of invasion, such as the one by Robotnik's machine legions. It always struck Chris as a bit odd that there never was any kind of special designation for the place… it was human nature to name things, and leaving something so personal like the place where he and so many had lived nameless struck him as somewhat unnatural.
Up ahead, a ruined city came within his sights.
Metroside City had not been a great city, but it had been a good one, a well sized metropolis and a decent center of economic progress in Overland. Many who'd fled from Mega Central ended up here thanks to the mountain base's proximity to the city becoming known on certain civilian channels that grandfather Chuck had been fortunate enough to hear about. The city itself was already in the process of being ravaged when Chris and what remained of his family arrived at the base, and it showed in the skeletal remains of once proud skyscrapers that covered the city, like the shattered ribs of a giant's corpse facing upward to the sky. The city would develop an appropriately corpselike smell, over the years. Chris was thankful for his balaclava being able to block away the worst of the city's odor, otherwise he'd doubt he would be able to even stand down wind of it much less enter it. As he came closer, he stopped his car in order to gaze up at a half destroyed billboard that none the less seemed like an adequate metaphor for the dead city. For reasons he himself never fully understood, something about the ravaged advertisement fascinated him, particularly that out of all things in the city it had survived the conflict surrounding it.
The sign was faded and decayed, with large holes in it, and at one pointed had said "WELCOME TO METROSIDE CITY: WHERE PROGRESS RULES" in great bold letters against a stylized backdrop of a prosperous looking industrial city. That had been before the Swatbots came and slaughtered those members of the population that couldn't escape in time. Afterwards some vandal had proceeded to spray-paint a few choice alterations over the once uplifting sign; "M" became "G", "S" became "C", and "TR" simply became a large "N", and "PROGRESS RULES" had been replaced with "EVERYONE'S DEAD". Just to complete the picture, a leering skull had been painted underneath the maliciously warped text. Outrageous and disheartening as it was, the name had stuck, and forever more did it come to be referenced as "Genocide City" by the people who now lived in the base. His moment of contemplation done with, Chris proceeded into the city.
He parked his van in an alleyway near the edge of the city, committing the spot to memory, before he began to make his trek further into the dead place. Where it not for the fact that the base was decaying and in need of various replacement parts for key sectors and pieces of equipment, as well as a personal project of his, Chris would likely have never entered the city again. Even when there had been others with him the city always bothered him on a primal level, something his comrades would not have berated him for. Anyone would feel a tad rattled, walking in a city littered with bones. Robotnik's forces were not programmed to make considerations for what to do with the corpses of those they killed; lacking organic senses or any kind of will of their own or morality to dictate such things, they simply let the corpses of those they slew to lay where they'd been shot and decompose away until they became an inconvenience. As a result of that, littering the city streets were always a wide variety of human skeletons, gazing without eyes into the air… Chris at times felt as though they were somehow staring into him, judging him for having the audacity to still be alive.
And this had been before the big battle. In the aftermath, human skeletons nestled in combat gear would be added to the ocean of bones, along with the rusted shells of destroyed robots and a quietly creeping amount of plant life growing over the remains of both man and machine. The sight was miasmic to Chris as he walked through the starkly silent streets of the city, hands clasped tightly around his rifle as paranoia prompted him to be prepared for anything that might happen. The paranoia was something that helped Chris by in this city, for while he had yet encountered any danger, he at least had something to focus on rather than his memories of the battle, the final conflict between his resistance group and the robots occupying the city.
For the better part of a decade, this city had been the entire focal point of Chris' resistance cell. Under the command of Commander Hugo Brass, Chris and countless others fought side by side in the hopes of ousting Robotnik's forces and reclaiming the city in what would surely be a tremendous blow against Robotnik's hold in Overland. The years dragged on, child soldiers grew into adult soldiers over the course of the conflict, and the bodies on both sides piled up. When the humans managed to obliterate the robot production plants that kept the machine forces able to sustain their numbers, it should have ended the conflict right then and there. Machines cannot feel desperation, but something drove their actions and granted them the kind of success that only the desperate could achieve. The remaining robot forces at last uncovered the resistance's headquarters and sent in an attack force to storm the base. Many died, and those who remained joined Commander Brass in a final, desperate strike to reclaim the city and wipe out what was left of Robotnik's army there.
Chris survived. Nothing else did.
The lone human made his way down the streets, consciously aware of the crinkling noise made by the grass and rotted fabric swaying against the soft, chilling breeze that picked up. His eyes twitched at the sound of bits and pieces of metallic debris that managed to be pushed around by the winds, and he had to force himself to not instinctually shoot at the source of the ultimately harmless sounds. As he trod through the city he kept his eyes peeled for any signs of technology that was well preserved enough to be of some use to him. He was near the city square when he came across such an object; a downed hoverpod, ground support model. He'd come across them before, but only rarely was it one that still had the engines intact. The green-grey vehicle's front was crumpled into the dirt and blackened by plasma burns; it was truly miraculous that the thing hadn't detonated on impact. Venturing towards it he located the door at the side and was relieved to see that it'd been shaken open during the crash, making his task of entering and inspecting the engine all the easier.
Pushing the door further open he made his way inside, jerking in shock at the sight of a metallic figure hunched over the dash board of the pilot's seat. The rifle was already up and his finger halfway squeezed over the trigger before he realized the machine was long since deactivated. Cautiously he took a step forward to further inspect the robot, realizing its size and shape was not that of a Swatbot, but rather that of a short canine of sorts. He frowned in realization of what it really was; one of the oddly Mobian looking worker bots that Robotnik kept in his legion to act as cannon fodder and a labor force. Rumor had it that they had once been actual Mobians converted wholesale into machines thanks to a device called 'The Roboticizer'. Chris had often wondered if that was really the case, for if it was, then why did Robotnik not seem to bother with capturing humans to be converted into workers; humans were larger and stronger after all… they'd have made for better slaves then Mobians. A morbid thought to have, but the implications behind Robotnik's lack of interest in his own kind somehow made his actions even more disturbing.
Chris pushed aside the contemplation of the Mobian-like machine and turned around, focusing his attention now on the engine room. Disconnecting his backpack from his torso armor he swiftly removed his toolkit from it, and headed into the dark depths of the pod. Taking a flashlight from his kit he was able to quickly locate the access panel covering the engine, heading towards it and attempting to remove it. The panel was jammed tight shut, but Chris was undeterred, taking a laser-cutter from his toolkit and setting to work carefully slicing through the paneling to remove it. With that obstacle gone he now shined his torch upon the engine. Under his balaclava he smirked triumphantly. "Jackpot," he murmured to himself with a grin, the engine was completely undamaged. "Finally, something going perfect," he muttered as he set about removing a few key components from the unblemished engine, pieces that would prove crucial to his project back at base. Gathering up the parts and placing them in his pack along with his toolkit, he would head out of the hoverpod… and hear the distinct sound of something moving amidst the debris.
For the second time in that day Chris raised his gun and came within a hair's breadth of opening fire without thinking. Rather than machine or man, the source of the sound was instead a small herd of streaking pashas… one male, several females and their foals. He lowered his gun and let out a visible sigh of relief as he did what he could to keep his trembling at bay. The creatures were not an uncommon sight by this point, having grown bolder and bolder over the past year in their excursions into the city due to the overgrowth of vegetation that was slowly consuming the otherwise lifeless burg. Chris paused a moment to look over the odd scene, noting how strangely pristine and pure the animals seemed against the dark and decayed backdrop of the city. After only a moment of this, he headed out to resume his journey through the city, leaving the pashas to graze contently in the midst of the makeshift necropolis.