Story 171: Crisis on Infinite Mobiuses Part 6: A Special Encounter

Ugh I feel like I just fell out of the sky…

Royal Fighter tomboy and no-nonsense tough woman MandyMouse immediately began thinking that as she finally came to and began to slowly sit up. She felt terrible but it would soon wear off and she'd feel alright again.

The time rift had sucked up the whole of the New Mobotropolis Royal Fighters and thrown them across the multi-verse, various members ending up on various different worlds that ranged in shape, size, appearance and feature. Mandy had been dumped onto this world and had been out for half an hour before finally waking up from the terrible experience. The purple-furred mouse hoped dearly that it would never happen again, the time rift was too horrible to experience a second time. She could easily imagine what Sonic felt like when he had gotten sucked up by the one that had dumped him on Mobius Nega. Had he been dumped there again by the time rift that had just sucked her and the others up now? Mandy had no idea. One thing she did know was that she wasn't on Mobius Prime anymore. As Mandy rubbed her eyes better and had a good stretch, she tuned her senses to focus on what was around her and where she was. Her vision had cleared up luckily so Mandy was able to get a proper look around. Her jaw dropped at what she was looking at. Mandy knew she would be on a different world but never did she imagine she'd be on a world THIS different! She was sitting on an enormous chequered sphere that seemed to be trying to pass off as a planet only it was far too small to be a planet. It was more like an oversized football only with a chequered design on it that made it look like a spherical, purple chess board. There was an endless sky all around that seemed to swim through different colours ranging from bright colours to dull colours and the patterns were almost smoke-like in appearance. There were other spheres floating around that looked smiliar to the one Mandy was sitting upon and strange yellow track-like structures snaked and looped all around this weird scene before her. Mandy had no idea how to describe it. Was it a surreal dimension of colourful proportions? Was it Wonderland? Was it something indescribable? Mandy didn't know but all she did know was that it was a weird, yet somewhat wonderful looking place. The colours gave it a somewhat nice feel and Mandy had to admit, it was pretty cool looking to some degree.

"Wow…" she breathed out the single word in a single gasp of admiration "This is amazing…what kind of world is this?"

The fact that she received no reply made Mandy feel suddenly alone and isolated. She got up to her feet and started looking around the chequered sphere she stood on.

"Am I alone here or did any of the others land here with me?" she asked herself "Oh I hope my Wilson is here too. I can't bear to think of him alone and afraid on some other universe…"

Her ears drooped back in worry and she gripped her tail as she began to fret over her husband's well-being. If there was anything in the world that scared Mandy at all, it was losing her husband. Wilson was the most precious thing in her life since her sister was dead* and she sure as heck didn't want to lose Wilson too. She prayed with all her heart that he was on this world too. Much to the mouse's over-whelming relief and delight, she spotted Wilson lying on his side just a few paces away from her. Mandy ran over to Wilson and knelt by his side. The dog seemed to be sleeping, a quite natural looking sleep as if he'd merely fallen asleep rather than been knocked out by the time rift and then dumped here like garbage. He snored quietly and a stream of drool trickled from the side of his lip. Mandy smiled weakly. She knew Wilson was a very good sleeper when he wanted to be so this was a sign he was alright. She shook her husband's body slightly.

"Wilson? Honey? Please wake up." she said.

Wilson murmured sleepily as he slowly began to come around.

"Huuuuurm…I love you too my ravishing rodent…" he slurred sleepily.

Mandy blushed with pleasure. She loved it when Wilson called her that. It made her feel wonderful when he called her that. Wilson slowly sat up, his eyes still firmly closed and he stretched as far as he could, making loud grunting noises as he did so. It was as if he was trying to make his bones come out of his body. He then rubbed his eyes and smacked his lips.

"Hey Mandy…can we have pancakes for breakfast this morning?" he mumbled again, wiping the drool from his mouth and opening his eyes.

He was pleased to see that upon opening his eyes, he saw Mandy kneeling next to him and he hugged her happily.

"Oh Mandy thank goodness!" he cried "After we got sucked up by that time rift, I began fearing we'd be separated! Thank goodness we're not!"

"Thank goodness indeed." said Mandy, hugging him back and grinning from ear to ear with relief "I couldn't bear to be on another world without you. I'd feel so lost and alone otherwise."

"Another…world?" blurted Wilson as if Mandy had told him a stupid joke.

He then released his wife and looked around to see where he was. He soon realized that Mandy was being quite literal when she said they were on another world. The time rift had brought him and her to a surreal place that didn't seem to make much sense and looked strange yet wonderful at the same time with its mix of colours and chequered spheres dotted all around like wishful balls wanting to be planets. Wilson gaped and he stared at Mandy, his hands gripping her shoulders tightly.

"Am I still asleep?" he asked.

"I've got that feeling too." murmured Mandy "But I think we're awake. I wonder where this is and what kind of place it is?"

"There's something special about it that's for sure." said Wilson "In the strange kind of way…wonder if anybody else is here too or if it's just us?"

He soon found the answer to that question for a little Mobian came out of nowhere and plodded sleepily up to them. It was Ruben the Water Panther, the honourable yet low self-esteemed young Royal Fighter who's power came purely from a purple collar he wore around his neck. Ruben had just woken up and he was walking towards Wilson and Mandy. He still seemed half asleep though, his eyes half closed as he wandered across the sphere to them. Wilson and Mandy were pleased to see he was OK and Ruben waved at them as he approached the two.

"Hi guys…what a weird dream it was I just woke up from." he mumbled, yawning loudly as he stretched "I dreamt I was being sucked up into some colourful light in the sky."

"It's no dream kid." said Mandy "It was real. This is all real now. Wake up and have a look around."

Ruben didn't know what Mandy was on about but he did as he was told. He looked around groggily but when he began to drink in the scenery around him, his eyes fully opened and he soon became fully awake and aware of what was going on. He noticed the strange scenery all around him and as he stared in disbelief, he pinched himself to try and wake himself up. To his dismay, he was already awake so this was clearly not some kind of surreal dream he was experiencing. He jumped in alarm and his tail stood up straight behind him in fright.

"Good watery heck!" he gibbered "What the heck is this weird place?! Where the heck are we?!"

"I wish I could answer that Ruben." said Mandy, pulling Ruben towards her and hugging him comfortingly "But I can't. I don't know where we are. All I know is we're on some kind of alternate dimension or something."

"Given how Sonic ended up on another version of Mobius, that is likely." said Wilson "I will say, this Mobius differs greatly from ours doesn't it? There's nothing remotely the same about this world and ours!"

"I do hope Sora's OK, wherever she is." said Ruben, clutching Mandy's vest in worry "I can't bear to think about her in danger…"

"I'm sure she's fine…wherever she is." said Mandy softly "Right now, how do we get out of this place?"

Then suddenly, a terrible voice boomed through the skies above and the chequered sphere the three Mobians stood on began to tremble as if an earthquake was coming from nowhere and striking it. The trio clutched each other in terror as the voice spoke.

"MORTALS! HOW DARE YOU TRESPASS IN FEIST'S ZONE?!" thundered the voice.

The voice was soon accompanied by two ominous glowing yellow eyes that looked demonic in appearance and made Wilson, Mandy and Ruben scream in horror at them. The eyes were soon followed by a head and then later an entire body materialized before their very eyes. The three Mobians were gobsmacked at what stood before them now. An enormous panda-shaped creature stood, looming over the chequered sphere which the Mobians stood upon. It had a white torso and head and black arms and legs. Its only item of clothing was a silver steel belt that was wrapped around its waist. The creature looked Mobian to some degree but clearly wasn't Mobian given his ability to appear out of nowhere and his gargantuan size. He also didn't look as cuddly as panda bears are generally considered to be, he looked just as ferocious as the ones that resided in Chun-Nan. His teeth were clenched and he now held the sphere in his hand as if it were merely a ball for a game of some kind. He glowered at Wilson, Mandy and Ruben, the three backing away from him in fright as his eyes glowed over them, throwing streams of yellow light over their bodies.

"THE SPECIAL ZONE IS FEIST'S DOMAIN AND FEIST WILL NOTABIDE TO IT BEING INFESTED WITH VILE MORTAL BEINGS!" bellowed the panda "FEIST WILL SMITE YOU ALL!"

"No wait, please wait!" begged Ruben, shaking like pennies being rattled around in a moneybox "We're sorry about this! Honest we are!"

"We came here by accident Mr.-Giant-Panda-Dude-Thingy!" shrieked Mandy "Please don't hurt us!"

Wilson was too scared to speak, he was clutching Mandy as if his life depended on her and her alone and his face rained with sweat. He looked as if he might be in need of clean underpants very shortly. Feist, the apparent name of the gigantic panda creature, raised an eyebrow of suspicion but he raised his head away from the Mobians. He put one hand on his hip, his other hand still firmly gripping the sphere he now held.

"YOU MORTALS CAME HERE BY ACCIDENT?" mused Feist. Even when speaking softly, his voice still boomed around the world and made the floor shudder beneath the Mobian's feet "CLARIFY HOW THAT CAME TO HAPPEN THEN."

Mandy wiped sweat off her forehead and she forced herself to relax so she could tell him everything. Standing shyly forward, Mandy explained everything.

"We're from Mobius Prime and we were brought here by a time rift. You heard of them?" she asked.

Feist put a finger and thumb to his chin and stroked it in thought.

"HMM…YOUR STORY RINGS A BELL. FEIST RECALLS OTHER MORTALS WHO ENDED UP HERE TELLING HIM THAT STORY." he murmured aloud "THESE TIME RIFTS MUST BE A PROBLEM IF SO MANY MORTALS HAVE BEEN BROUGHT HERE OVER TIME."

"So we're not the first ones to end up here?" asked Ruben nervously.

"NO, FEIST HAS HAD MORTALS FROM ALL OVER THE MULTI-VERSE END UP IN HIS ZONE." Feist exposited "NEVER BEFORE HAS FEIST HAD THE HONOUR OF MEETING PRIME ZONERS THOUGH. YOU THREE ARE INSTANTLY AN AMUSING CASE FOR FEIST."

"I bet we are talk, dark and insanely creepy." said Mandy "So who are you and what is this "Special Zone"?" she asked with a gesture to the scenery they were occupying.

"FEIST HAS ALREADY GIVEN HIS NAME." boomed Feist "FEIST IS A GOD OF GREAT POWER AND FEIST IS IN CHARGE OF THE SPECIAL ZONE. THE SPECIAL ZONE IS A ZONE THAT HAS NO OCCUPANTS OTHER THAN FEIST AND FEIST IS FREE TO SHAPE THE ZONE TO HIS LIKING AS MUCH AS HE WANTS. FEIST LOVES AMUSEMENT AND MORTALS WHO HAVE ENDED UP HERE THANKS TO THESE SO-CALLED "TIME RIFTS" HAVE GIVEN FEIST MUCH AMUSEMENT INDEED."

"Story of my life." muttered Mandy "So if other people have ended up here…where are they?"

"BACK IN THEIR ZONES." explained Feist "FEIST HAS THE POWER TO SEND MORTALS BACK HOME TO THEIR HOME DIMENSIONS."

"Really?" said Wilson excitedly, forgetting that he was scared of Feist a moment ago "So can you send us back to Mobius Prime? You see, we need to find out what's causing the time rifts and save our world from destruction."

"NOT SO FAST MORTAL!" roared Feist, the sphere trembling as he spoke "FEIST DOES NOT JUST SIMPLY GRANT A PORTAL HOME LIKE THAT, YOU HAVE TO PLAY FEIST'S GAMES FOR YOUR TRIP BACK TO YOUR ZONE!"

"Feist, we don't have time for this!" protested Mandy "Our world is coming to an end thanks to the time rifts and we NEED to get home and fast before we lose everything! Please send us home now!"

"IF YOU WILL NOT TAKE PART IN FEIST'S GAMES THEN YOU CAN STAY HERE FOREVER." said Feist coldly "NO GAMES, NO PORTAL HOME. SIMPLE AS THAT."

Mandy sighed in annoyance and she ran her hand down her face exasperatedly. She didn't half hate it when people was as stubborn and obstinate as she could be at times. Especially since the doomsday clock was ticking away the seconds to disaster and they had to get home now before Mobius Prime fell apart. But if taking Feist's challenges was the only way to get out of the Special Zone and get back home then like it or not, she would have to take them. Sighing, Mandy looked back at Feist.

"OK Feisty boy, we'll accept your stupid games." she grumbled "But you better promise that when we win them, we WILL go home to Mobius Prime or we don't play!"

"FEIST GIVES HIS WORD THAT THE PUNY MORTALS WILL BE TAKEN HOME SAFELY SHOULD YOU WIN HIS GAMES." boomed Feist "FEIST HAS KEPT THAT PROMISE TO ALL THE OTHER MORTALS WHO HAVE ENDED UP IN THE SPECIAL ZONE AFTER ALL."

"Good." said Mandy "So what do we have to do then?"

"THE THREE OF YOU WILL TAKE PART IN ONE CHALLENGE EACH." explained Feist "IF EACH OF YOU WIN YOUR CHALLENGES, ALL THREE OF YOU WILL GO HOME AS FEIST PROMISES. FAIL…AND YOU STAY HERE FOR THE REST OF YOUR MORTAL LIVES. DO YOU ACCEPT?"

"Sure thing fatty." said Mandy "And since I'm desperate to get back home, I'll go first."

"VERY WELL." said Feist "PREPARE FOR YOUR CHALLENGE FEMALE RODENTMORTAL."

Feist let go of the chequered sphere and he then held his hands up. Mandy, Wilson and Ruben just watched with disbelief as Feist began to form something completely out of thin air. He is a god after all so this was easily in his realm of power. As Feist waved his hands around and then stretched them apart, something began to form between his hands and form a shape. A huge, rocky track-shaped structure began to form out of the planet and expand across the void of space as Feist formed it. At the end of the track was another sphere that had a huge ring at the end of it. This was clearly the goal. The track expanded several yards and stone pillars stood on each section of the track. There was more to this course than met the eye but Feist intended to let Mandy find that out for herself. Mandy studied the track and had an idea on what the challenge was.

"OK I get it, is this a race to the finish?" she asked.

"IT IS INDEED MOUSE WOMAN." boomed Feist "YOU MUST ADVANCE THROUGH FEIST'S OBSTACLE COURSE AND LEAP THROUGH THE GOAL RING WITHIN TEN MINUTES. IF YOU SUCCEED THEN YOU WILL BE GRANTED AN INSTANT PORTAL HOME AFTER THE DOG MAN AND THE PANTHER BOY COMPLETE THEIR CHALLENGES."

"Sounds fair to me." said Mandy, getting down onto her hands and preparing to charge off down the track "I'm ready to get this race started. Let's bring it on!"

Feist clapped his hands with delight.

"HOW DELIGHTFUL! SUCH EAGERNESS AMUSES FEIST!" he boomed happily.

"Well I am the kind of girl who was born ready for anything." snickered Mandy.

"THEN LET US SEE IF YOU ARE READY FOR THIS." said Feist with a rather dark smile on his enormous, semi-plush and cuddly face "ON YOUR MARKS…GET SET…"

Mandy breathed in deeply as she prepared to go. The stone pillars ahead would make the course tricky to get across but Mandy knew what to do about them. It was time to put Tails's new weapons for her to the test. She glanced down at her new knuckle attachments and smiled at them.

"OK girls, time to see what you're made of…" she whispered to herself.

"GO!" the single word thundered out of Feist's mouth like an erupting volcano.

Mandy was on her feet faster than anybody could blink and she charged down the track as fast as her legs would let her. Ten minutes, nothing but stone pillars in her way to try and slow her down, a ticket back to Mobius Prime was the prize that awaited her at the end of the course. Mandy knew she could do it. She had been through much worse than a measly obstacle course before. She had been abducted by Brawn and his gang of rats the other week and survived so this was nothing for her. Mandy cleared the distance between her and the first pillar in twenty seconds exactly and she drew her arm back. Screaming a loud battle cry of fury, she punched the pillar and the steel knuckle attachments broke through it instantly as if it were merely sand. The pillar crumbled to the ground after a web of cracks formed from the terrific punch she'd launched at it. Mandy knew that Tails had made her some amazing knuckle attachments but she had no idea they were THAT powerful! Feist watched with amusement and he grinned at the power Mandy contained in her new knuckle attachments. This was clearly a mortal like no other and considering she was from the Prime Zone, that wasn't saying much. The Prime Zone was the supreme, ultimate zone of the multi-verse after all so Feist had high expectations for Mandy, Wilson and Ruben. Mandy ran over the broken pillar and she came across the second pillar. Drawing her arm back, she aimed at the centre of the pillar and she punched through it. One single punch mark and a mass of cracks was all the pillar could take before it crumbled to pieces like a house being demolished. Mandy smirked confidently. This was pathetically easy thanks to Tails's new weapons he'd made for her. She could hardly wait to try her knuckle attachments on any of Mobius Prime's villains once she got back there. Mandy ran across the track and to the third pillar. But then came the other surprises that Feist had inserted into the track without Mandy knowing. Hiding them behind the pillars was a good idea from the start since Mandy wouldn't expect it. Mandy punched through the third pillar and then nearly had her head taken off. She ducked down and felt something whiz over her ears. It was a sphere the size of a basketball and armed with axe blades that spun around it lethally. Mandy would have been cut to pieces had she not reacted quick enough. Mandy just sighed at the bladed ball. She had been an idiot to think it was going to be this easy. Mandy ran over the broken pillar and was pursued by the bladed ball. Mandy threw herself onto the floor and waited for the sphere to pass over her. It did so and it crashed into the pillar, its blades getting stuck in the rock and trapping it right then and there. Made punched the sphere to pieces and then punched through the pillar. As the pillar crumbled, she instinctively threw herself down onto the floor in case anything tried to chop her head off again. She had been right to do so for two large spheres with spikes on them lunged out at the space she had been in a split second before she ducked. Mandy had to wonder if Feist was trying to kill her rather then give her a challenge to do. Maybe surviving was part of the challenge and Feist had decided not to tell her just to shock her. Mandy had a nasty feeling that Feist might not be what he made himself out to be and that any of the previous people who had ended up in the Special Zone hadn't indeed won the challenges and gone home and rather got killed just trying to win. She was not going to fall to Feist's twisted game though, she was going to win and no panda-god was going to stop her. Mandy picked herself up and she grabbed a fallen piece of pillar. She threw it at the spiked balls and the hard stone smashed them both to pieces. Mandy turned around and scampered off to the last pillar. She punched through it and ducked down, expecting something to try and skewer her. Instead though, nothing happened. Mandy stood back up and was suddenly ensnared by tentacles. The last pillar had concealed a tentacle monster that was tall and lanky with red warty skin and clearly had more tentacles then it knew what to do with. Mandy was wrapped from head to toe in tentacles and she struggled furiously. Wilson and Mandy watched with concern as Mandy tried to break free from the monster. The monster held on tight and began to squeeze Mandy as hard as it possibly could. It was trying to constrict her. Mandy grimaced as she felt the air in her lungs being squeezed out of her. In a last desperate attempt to survive, Mandy wrenched her head free from the tentacle wrapped around it and she bit one of the monster's tentacles. The monster yelped and Mandy proceeded to bite another one, chomping down as hard as she could. The monster let Mandy go and clutched its tentacles in pain. Big mistake though. Mandy punched the monster squarely in the face, the heavily enhanced punch throwing the monster clean off the track and sending it on an endless plummet through the Special Zone. Feist boomed with laughter.

"AMAZING WORK FEMALE!" he bellowed "YOU ONLY HAVE ONE MINUTE LEFT TO REACH THE GOAL THOUGH. WILL YOU MAKE IT?!"

Mandy could hardly believe her ears. How had nine minutes passed so quickly?! Mandy threw herself down onto her hands and feet and she scampered across the track as fast as she could. She looked like a natural mouse running through a maze. On all fours, Mandy was much faster then ever before. It made her wonder why she didn't run on all fours more often. Mandy panted and gasped as she traversed the track and hurried along towards the goal. Her heart hammered and her head poured with sweat. Would she make it in time? She hoped so, she was not willing to have another go at Feist's challenges to try and get home. Once was more than enough. Feist began to count down from ten as Mandy neared the goal ring. Running fast and willing herself to move faster and faster with every second, Mandy closed her eyes and made a frantic leap for the goal ring. With two seconds to spare…she passed through the ring and rolled to a stop on the other side. The ring disappeared and track extended back towards the purple chequered sphere. Gasping for breath, Mandy put a hand over her chest and wiped beads of sweat off her forehead.

"Good god…I thought I was going to lose…" she panted.

"Well dear, you won." said Wilson, hugging Mandy in congratulations "You'll get to go back home to Mobius Prime after me and Ruben win our games."

"Indeed." said Mandy, hugging Wilson back "I've gotta say, I don't think I'll be doing that again…"

"I hope our challenges won't be so lethal." Ruben gulped, his face the embodiment of horror and worry at what he had just seen.

Feist's voice boomed around them once again as if to remind the Mobians that he was still here.

"DELIGHTFUL, SENSATIONAL, WONDERFUL!" he thundered with joy "YOU HAVE COMPLETED THE CHALLENGE MOUSE GIRL! YOU ARE EASILY THE MOST AMUSING MORTAL FEIST HAS SEEN IN A WHILE!"

"You know chubby boy, you could have at least WARNED me the course would try and kill me!" shrieked Mandy crossly "I nearly died because of that!"

"FEIST FINDS IT MORE AMUSING TO SHOCK THE CONTESTANTS." retorted Feist "NOW DON'T YOU TALK TO FEIST IN THAT TONE OF VOICE OR FEIST WILL…"

"I don't give a damn what a big, creepy, overbearing, ill-tempered, bad-humoured, egotistical, badger-panda-giant thing has to say!" shouted Mandy "We don't want to play a game that can get us killed! We want to get home for a very good reason so we can do without you trying to…"

Then suddenly Feist waved his arm and completely out of nowhere, a stone cage formed around Mandy, trapping her inside and startling Wilson and Ruben. The cage was thick, stony and looked very tough. It would easily contain anybody, maybe even Sonic. Mandy tugged on the bars of the cage.

"Oy! Let me outta here!" she demanded.

"DUE TO YOUR OBSTINATE ATTITUDE, FEIST WILL NOW PUNISH YOU." sneered Feist "AND THAT PUNISHMENT IS YOU WILL BE A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS FOR THE NEXT CHALLENGE. AND DON'T BOTHER PUNCHING YOUR WAY OUT OF THE CAGE, FEIST HAS MADE THE CAGE INDESTRUCTIBLE JUST TO CONTAIN YOU."

"Oh big fat whoop-de-do." muttered Mandy furiously "I'm supposed to be saved by somebody like some helpless princess locked in a tower. What a big insult to my honour this is." she moaned.

Feist ignored her and looked over at Wilson.

"YOU THERE, YOU ARE TO GO NEXT." said Feist "YOUR CHALLENGE WILL BE TO MAKE IT ACROSS A FIELD OF BOUNCING BALLS AND TO THE MOUSE'S CAGE. YOU HAVE TO FIND THE KEY THAT WILL UNLOCK HER CAGE ON THE WAY THOUGH AND IT WILL BE CONCEALED IN ONE OF THE BALLS YOU BOUNCE ON. YOU HAVE TO COMPLETE YOUR CHALLENGE IN TEN MINUTES OR YOU WILL NOT BE GOING BACK TO MOBIUS PRIME. DO YOU ACCEPT?"

"Course." sniffed Wilson "Nobody locks my wife in a cage and gets away with it!"

"VERY WELL…" said Feist with a dark grin as he began to form the next challenge for Wilson.

Feist held his hands out and out of the blue began to materialize a bunch of yellow spheres that seemed to form a path across the void of space. Mandy's cage was lifted off the chequered sphere and carried over to the end of the path of yellow spheres. The cage hovered in place but Mandy couldn't help but feel nervous at being positioned over pretty much nothing. She daren't imagine what it would be like if the cage fell. She forced herself not to look down and instead stare straight at Wilson. While hoping he would win this challenge, she also hoped that Wilson wouldn't come across anything that could potentially kill him. She did not want her husband to die in this whimsical world they were in. Wilson observed the path of spheres. There were five rows and there were about fifteen balls per row. It looked simple enough, just jump across them all and get to Mandy. Trouble was, Mandy's challenge looked very easy and yet she nearly had her head taken off. Wilson would be more vigilant in this case. Swallowing hard, he looked at Feist, the giant panda standing by with his arms folded and waiting for the fun to begin.

"So I just have to bounce on those balls and get to the cage at the end?" he asked "While also trying to find the key that will unlock it?"

"CORRECT MORTAL CANINE PERSON." boomed Feist with a sinister grin on his face "AND LIKE YOUR MOUSE FRIEND, YOU HAVE A TIME LIMIT OF TEN MINUTES TOO. CAN YOU FIND THE KEY TO HER CAGE AND MAKE IT ACROSS BEFORE TIME'S UP?"

"I sure hope I can…" muttered Wilson nervously.

Ruben could only watch and pray that Wilson would win. Otherwise poor Mandy would be going home without him and he did not want to imagine for one minute what that would be like for her. Wilson got down into a starting position and he was ready to spring into action.

"ON YOUR MARKS…GET SET…GO!" thundered Feist.

Wilson's legs activated before his brain had time to tell them to do something. He sprang into the air like a frog and he landed on the first bouncy ball. Feist wasn't kidding when he said they were bouncy. The moment Wilson's feet sank into the ball, he sprang straight off as if the ball was throwing him off for jumping on it. Wilson was taken aback by how springy it was and he found himself flailing about crazily in a comical spin as he hurled through the air and landed on another bouncy ball. This of course led to him being thrown into the air again. Mandy fought hard to keep herself from laughing at Wilson as this happened. She squeezed her lips together tightly and tried to repress herself. She failed. Ruben on the other hand didn't even try to resist. He just started laughing a very hearty laugh as Wilson was thrown from ball to ball like he was doing some crazy trampoline exercise. Even Feist was laughing at the poor dog, his booming laughter echoing and rumbling through the zone like a thunderstorm. Wilson cried out as he landed on another ball and bounced up into the air, fighting to control himself.

"Stop laughing at me you lot!" he yelped as Mandy and Ruben shrieked with laughter at him "It's not funnyyyyyyyyyy!" he was catapulted yet again into the air as he landed on another bouncy ball.

As Wilson spiralled through the air, he had just the idea to control himself. He whipped out his spinning blade weapon and he deployed both blades. He aimed the bottom blade down at the next bouncy ball he was heading for and the blade plunged straight through the ball like a knife through butter. The ball didn't bounce Wilson back up into the air for he was holding his spinning blade and the weapon had impaled itself into the ball. However, it ended up titling backwards and Wilson found himself hanging upside down while holding onto the ball and his weapon. He quickly righted himself and he pulled out his weapon. He sheathed it and put it away.

"OK, I bet I wasted a lot of time doing that." he muttered "Now to concentrate now I'm not bouncing so much. Before I reach Mandy, I need to find the key to her cage. Feist said it was concealed in one of the balls. I know just what to do about that..." he smiled deviously as a plan formed in his head.

He looked over at the new weapon Tails had given him, the spinning blade gauntlet. What was it he had said about it again? Wilson remembered, it would attack any enemy in its radius and wouldn't come back until it had hit them all. Maybe he would use it on the bouncy balls? Wilson reminded himself to keep one row intact so he could bounce his way over to Mandy. He clenched his fist and he thrust his arm forward. The pole whizzed off of the gauntlet it sat upon and its two blades deployed. It boomeranged through the air like a shuriken only much longer and more lethal. The spinning blade cleaved through a row of bouncy balls that ran down Wilson's right side. No key was concealed in any of them. It spiralled back around and cleaved through another row of balls. Still no key. Then it did a U-turn and sliced through a row of bouncy balls that was the second row from Wilson's left side. As it sliced the balls to pieces, Wilson saw the unmistakable shape of a key with a glowing golden aura suddenly appear as the row was destroyed by his spinning blade. He'd found it! Wilson held up his arm and the spinning blade returned to the gauntlet, blades sheathed upon re-entry. Wilson took out his normal spinning blade and he bounced off of the ball he was on and onto the next row. He bounced softly so that when he landed onto the next row, he only bounced up and down a little bit before coming to a stop. Now he was still, Wilson reached out with his spinning blade and he managed to edge the key towards him. He grabbed it and stood up straight, slipping the key onto his belt for safe keeping. How much time did he have to reach Mandy? As if reading his thoughts, Feist informed him.

"TWO MINUTES LEFT MORTAL, HURRY UP UNLESS YOU WANT TO LOSE!" taunted Feist.

"No way am I staying here while my wife goes home." retorted Wilson "We can't live without each other."

Wilson bounced off of the ball he was on and he landed perfectly onto the next ball. He had much better control of himself now as he landed on the next ball and bounced gracefully into the air. He bounced so high that he cleared five balls in a single leap! Only ten more to go and he was there! Wilson landed down on the sixth ball and he bounced up into the air, spiralling around as if doing some kind of dance routine. Mandy watched with awe, wishing she could join Wilson in this since it looked kind of fun to her. It would be a lot better than being stuck in a cage that's for sure. Wilson landed on the tenth ball and then he sprung up into the air. He cleared the last five balls but he had bounced too hard so he flew straight over the cage! Thinking fast, Wilson swung his spinning blade down and he just caught the edge of the cage with one of the blades. This made him swing down and he shot up one of his hands to grip the edge of the cage. He nearly fell but his will to hold on just managed to keep him holding on. Feist then started to count down from ten. Damn it! Wilson only had ten seconds to unlock Mandy's cage and free her! Acting fast, Wilson pulled himself up onto the cage and he scrambled onto the roof. He leaned over the top and just as Feist got to two, he plunged the key into the key hole and twisted it just as Feist said "one". The door of the cage opened and Mandy climbed out of the cage and onto the roof. Excited, she hugged Wilson eagerly.

"You did it! You won!" she cheered "Now we both go home together!"

"Thank bloomin' goodness I did win!" gasped Wilson, his hand over his heart "I would not want to spend the rest of my life trapped in here without you my lovely Mandy."

That earned a kiss on the cheek from Mandy. Now the challenge was over, Wilson and Mandy were warped back over onto the chequered sphere and Feist loomed over them once again. He didn't look too pleased to see another winner for some reason. That made them feel nervous. But then Feist's face eased up into a smile. A friendly one? Not really.

"CONGRATULATIONS MUTT, YOU HAVE WON YOUR CHALLENGE." boomed Feist "YOU CERTAINLY GAVE FEIST MUCH ENTERTAINMENT INDEED IN THAT ONE."

"I aim to please." said Wilson modestly.

"NOW THEN, IT IS TIME FOR THE LITTLE PANTHER BOY TO HAVE HIS CHALLENGE." said Feist, his illuminated yellow eyes fixed on Ruben who only stared back at Feist nervously "ARE YOU READY CHILD MORTAL?"

"Um...I think so." said Ruben shakily "I h-hope my challenge won't be d-deadly at all."

"IT IS UP TO FEIST IF YOUR CHALLENGE WILL BE LETHAL OR NOT." snarled Feist "BUT FEIST WILL BE LENIENT ON YOU SINCE YOU ARE A CHILD. CHILDREN AREN'T SO AMUSING TO WATCH WHEN THEY GET KILLED. HERE IS YOUR CHALLENGE!"

Ruben braced himself as Feist began to form something else with his great and godly powers. The water panther was worried. Was Feist just toying with him when he said he would be lenient towards him just because he was a child and actually, would make a very deadly challenge? Or would he make the challenge not so lethal and keep to his word? Ruben dreaded to find out. But never in his worst nightmares did he imagine being given a challenge such as this. Next to the chequered sphere, a huge, rocky pillar began to materialize out of thin air, expanding to great heights as Feist formed it. Wilson and Mandy had been placed on top of the pillar before they could even realize what was going on. They clutched each other tightly, wondering what was happening. They were now twenty-five feet above the ground and looking down at Ruben. Despite how tall the pillar was, Feist still loomed over them. The pillar had a lot of knobs sticking out all around the pillar. Ruben gulped and stared at the giant pillar. He had a nasty feeling that he knew what Feist would order him to do. The panda-god glowered at Ruben, his eyes bathing him in a golden glow as he stared at him.

"YOUR CHALLENGE IS TO CLIMB UP THIS PILLAR AND REACH YOUR FRIENDS." boomed Feist "IF YOU CAN CLIMB TO THE TOP THEN YOU WILL GET TO GO HOME WITH THE HOUND AND RODENT MORTALS. IF YOU FALL...THEN YOU LOSE, SIMPLE AS THAT."

"But-but-but I c-can't c-climb!" stammered Ruben "I'm a hopeless climber! Please Feist, give me another challenge! I can't do this one! I can't climb!"

"YOUR CHALLENGE HAS BEEN GIVEN AND FEIST WILL NOT CHANGE IT!" bellowed Feist "FEIST'S WORD IS FINAL! NOW DO THE CHALLENGE OR YOU WILL STAY HERE FOREVER WHILE YOUR FRIENDS GET TO GO BACK TO THEIR MOBIUS!"

Ruben looked like he wanted to weep. Fighting back fear, he stuck his nose into the air and marched over to the pillar.

"Fine, I'll do it." he muttered "Besides, I have a sure fire way of getting up there without climbing..."

"AH, AH, AH! NO CHEATING!" snapped Feist "YOU ARE TO CLIMB THE PILLAR USING ONLY YOUR HANDS AND FEET! NO POWERS, NO TOOLS, NO WEAPONS! ONLY YOUR LIMBS! ANY ATTEMPTS TO CHEAT WILL RENDER THE CHALLENGE LOST AND YOU WILL NOT LEAVE THIS ZONE WITH YOUR FRIENDS!"

Ruben cursed under his breath in Chinese. He had been planning to just propel himself into the air using his water powers but Feist wouldn't let him. He had to do this the hard way. True Ruben had been given climbing lessons over time by Sora but he'd barely progressed. He was still useless at climbing, he still needed lessons. Right now, Ruben was wishing Sora was here to cheer him on. She was the confidence he needed when he tried climbing. Gulping and sweating, Ruben grabbed onto the rocky knobs that stuck out from all around the pillar. He held his breath and he pulled himself up using all his strength. He raised his left leg and he rested his foot onto the first knob. He pushed himself up and he reached for another knob. His fingers closed around it. Wilson and Mandy watched from where they were and they began to feel afraid for Ruben. Would he make it? They knew he was hopeless at climbing so they feared that this challenge was sure to beat him. They hugged each other and prayed for Ruben's sake. Ruben fixed his eyes onto Wilson and Mandy, knowing they would be praying for him to succeed. Despite only being a couple of knobs up, he was already sweating like a man on a hot summer's day. Ruben pulled himself up to another knob and he grabbed hold of it. His foot felt around for another knob. He brushed over one as he felt for it and he rested his foot on it. He pushed himself up and grabbed hold of another knob. His heart was hammering and he was already panting despite having only just started. Why did Feist curse him with this challenge?! Did Feist somehow know he was useless at climbing and did this challenge just to torture him? Why couldn't he have had Wilson's challenge?! At least that looked fun! Ruben swallowed hard and he pulled himself onto another knob. His foot slipped and he found himself dangling precariously by his fingers. He forced himself not to panic. When climbing, panicking is the worst and probably stupidest thing you can do. That was what Sora had told him. If you lose a footing, DO NOT panic, just try and find it again. Ruben felt around frantically for the footholds with his scrambling feet. He could feel himself losing strength in his fingers. If he didn't balance himself now, he'd fall! Ruben's foot found a knob and he pressed it hard down onto the knob. Gasping for breath, Ruben wiped his forehead and he looked back up at Wilson and Mandy. He'd barely even made it a foot off the ground! What hope did he have of making it to twenty-five feet?! But Ruben knew what would befall him if he'd failed. He couldn't bear the thought of being stuck in the Special Zone forever. He'd never get to tell Sora he loved her if that was the case. Ruben then put on a serious face. He was going to succeed, he was NOT going to let Feist have the honour of watching him fail. He WAS going to win and show Feist that he couldn't beat him! Ignoring his worries, Ruben pressed on. He reached up and grabbed another knob and he pulled himself further up the pillar. Slowly but steadily, Ruben began to make his way up the pillar. It was as if new strength had come to him at last and he now had the power to make the climb. Wilson and Mandy were astonished. Ruben seemed to be doing much better now. What had suddenly come over him and made him more able than before? Was it simply a case of finding the skill he never knew he had before? They watched on as Ruben cleared a few feet without stopping. The truth was, it was his determination to get home and see Sora again that made him carry on and try as hard as he could to succeed. Not to mention Ruben was sick and tired of being unable to climb. This time, he was going to show that he could do it. And right now, it seemed he could do it. Ruben cleared several more feet and he looked up at Wilson and Mandy. They suddenly seemed much closer now. His heart leapt excitedly. He was going to make it! Ruben kept on climbing, pushing and pulling himself up and up until he was just a few feet away from Wilson and Mandy. But it seemed his luck might run out. He grabbed onto a knob and suddenly, it came free off the pillar and ended up in his hand. Ruben jerked back slightly and he found himself hanging by one arm onto a knob. The knob that had come out fell down to the ground. Ruben looked down and suddenly realized how high he was. He had climbed twenty feet! The water panther suddenly grew scared again. He closed his eyes and whimpered.

"H-help! P-please! I wanna get down!" he screamed.

"Ruben, hang on! You're almost there!" cheered Mandy "You can do it little dude! Come on, just a bit further!"

"Come on Ruben, don't give up!" Wilson cried supportively "You can do it, I know you can!"

Ruben took in their supporting words and he found the power he had a moment ago once again. He breathed slowly to himself. He could do it, he WOULD do it. Ruben felt around for some footholds with his feet and he placed them onto the footholds. Now he was balanced, he trekked to the side and found another knob to grab onto. He grabbed onto it and he pulled himself up. He pushed and pulled himself up the knobs until finally, he came to the top of the pillar. He gripped the edges of the pillar and he pulled himself on, grunting with effort. Now he was on the top of the pillar with Wilson and Mandy, he gasped with relief and then jumped up and down with joy.

"HALLELUJAH! I DID IT!" he screamed with joy "Oh my sainted ancestors, I did it! I finally managed to climb something and win!"

Wilson and Mandy hugged Ruben delightedly.

"Well done kiddo!" cried Mandy.

"Sora would be so proud of you." said Wilson.

Ruben swelled with pride upon hearing that. That was by far the nicest thing anyone had ever said to him. He could almost imagine what Sora would say when he told her what he'd accomplished. Then suddenly, the pillar began to shrink back down into the chequered sphere and Feist loomed above the Mobians once again. Now the three of them had completed his challenges, he didn't seem so threatening now all of the sudden. Maybe it was because in a way, they had all beaten him.

"FANTASTIC INDEED! YOU THREE HAVE ALL SUCCEEDED IN YOUR CHALLENGES!" boomed Feist "I KNEW YOU PRIME-ZONERS WOULD BE ENTERTAINING!"

"Flattered." said Mandy dully "Now do we get our portal back home like you promised?"

Feist suddenly had a very nasty smile on his face. It was the kind of smile that only the devil himself could manage.

"ABSOULTELY NOT." crowed Feist.

Wison, Mandy and Ruben all stared in disbelief at the giant panda as if he'd just shown them something disgusting.

"WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT!" they all screamed incredulously.

"But you promised!" yelled Ruben "That's dishonourable of you to break your promise like that!"

"FEIST NEVER PROMISES, FEIST ONLY DECIEVES." snorted Feist "FEIST NEVER REALLY HAD THE POWER TO SEND PEOPLE BACK TO THEIR OWN ZONES. FEIST ONLY SAID THAT TO MAKE YOU ALL COMPLY ANYBODY WHO ENDED UP HERE REMAINS HERE FOREVER. AND FEIST DOES WITH THEM WHAT HE PLEASES. YOU THREE ARE SO ENTERTAINING THAT YOU WILL ALL BE FEIST'S PERSONAL PLAY THINGS! YOU'LL ENTERTAIN FEIST UNTIL THE DAY YOU ALL DIE!"

"Over my dead body!" screamed Mandy, snatching Wilson's spinning blade off of him and deploying its blades.

"No Mandy don't!" protested Wilson, trying to hold Mandy back.

When Mandy lost her temper, nothing could restrain her. It was like fighting with a lion only this lion was able to stand on two legs and had hands and more durable features. Mandy wrestled out of Wilson's grip and she threw the blade directly into Feist's eye. Despite being a god, Feist was not immune to pain. The blade skewered him in the eye and Feist bellowed a thunderous scream of pain. To add insult to injury, Ruben stepped forward and threw water into his other eye. As useless as it was, the two just wanted to show to Feist that they weren't scared of him. Feist rubbed his eyes better and be bellowed in rage.

"Oh great! See, now you made him angry!" shouted Wilson angrily "We're all dead now!"

Mandy and Ruben stepped back. Maybe this hadn't been such a good idea after all. Feist's body disappeared into nothing, leaving behind only his eyes and they both glowered at the three Mobians. The scenery all around began to turn into a storm of black colours as if reflecting his furious mood.

"HOW DARE YOU ASSAULT A GOD IN HIS OWN DOMAIN!" he roared "FEIST WILL SMITE YOU ALL FOR THIS! YOU WILL REGRET EVER ASSAULTING FEIST LIKE THIS!"

Wilson, Mandy and Ruben all hugged each other fearfully as they prepared for the worst to come to them. Would Feist kill them all? If so, how would he do it? Horribly and painfully? Would he make them suffer terribly? They would never find out for out of the blue, a white portal appeared suddenly behind the three, catching Feist by surprise and making the eyes back away.

"WHAT IS THIS?!" Feist blurted in surprise.

Wilson, Mandy and Ruben looked behind and they saw the white portal that shone brightly behind them.

"Hey, what the heck is that?" asked Mandy.

"Dunno, but I bet it leads somewhere better than here!" cried Wilson.

"And what if it doesn't?" asked Ruben nervously.

"I'm not gonna stay with tall, dark and plushy." said Mandy "I'm willing to take that risk. Come on guys, let's go through that portal!"

With that said, all three Mobians darted through the portal before Feist could grab them. The portal vanished, leaving Feist all alone in the Special Zone. He had lost his most entertaining victims. Feist could do nothing more than bellow furiously in anger, the entire zone shaking and shuddering as it felt his rage...


Footnotes:

*We're going back a while in Sonic the Hedgehog: Tales from Mobius. All the way back to the first arc to be precise…


Well that was one heck of an adventure wasn't it?! And what is it with Mobius and having evil pandas? Who knows...

That's it for this chapter. Next time, it's time for Knuckles, Shade, Amy, Cream and Sora to take the spotlight as they end up on a World of Brawl...