You know, at the same time, I love and hate you all. For a time, I was considering just abandoning this story, but then I get reviews and follows and favorites and, ugh!, I just can't stand to disappoint any of you. (Feel free to call me a terrible person for saying this out loud.) But in the end, I finally got off my butt and pulled up the Team Sorority chapter for Slots Avenue. At least I managed to get this in before the end of the year. Sorry to those who were waiting.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended. Last thing we need is another YouTube-esque debacle.
Level Theme: Digital Circuit (Shadow the Hedgehog)
Team Sorority—Slots Avenue
"Well that took longer than it should have," Lenna-Ray said.
"I told you," Alice defended, "the nearest chao is somewhere in this park." Everyone looked out at the nighttime scenery and flashing lights of Slots Avenue. "There was just too much interference to land directly in the park safely. I'm not that good, after all."
"I still could have done without the walking," Lenna-Ray pointed out.
"It was the closest I could get, I assure you."
"If you two are done arguing," Bangs interrupted, "we have a chao to find." Suddenly, Alexica floated down from the sky, chirping to get their attention.
"Alexica. What did you find?" Alice asked. She held he scepter up and concentrated for a few seconds, with Alexica following suit. When they relaxed her stance, Alice said, "This one may be tricky, girls. This park is a maze."
"Now what?" Lenna-Ray asked. "Just keep going in a straight line until something happens?"
"Actually, Alexica should have our path."
"How?" Bangs asked.
"Alexica isn't like most chao. In addition to her spiritual connection with her species, she also has something akin to a photographic memory. She'll lead us to the chao while giving us the best path to follow."
"Is there anything she can't do?" Lenna-Ray said.
"Well, let's just say there's a reason I never have her make her own toast," Alice replied. She turned back to Alexica. "Lead the way."
Alexica floated forward, followed by the trio. It was soon clear that Alice wasn't exaggerating; everywhere they went seemed to be the exact same place they just left. Alice didn't voice her concerns, mostly because she trusted Alexica, but even she had to wonder if the chao was leading them the right way.
Things were not helped at all when they saw Eggman's robots in their path. It wasn't that they were tough (far from it in fact), but whenever they ran into even a small squadron, their sense of direction became skewed. Only Alexica was able to keep track of where they were going, and that was only because she stayed out of the fights; Alice was already worried about the chao they were saving, and nobody wanted Alexica to be among that group. She floated above these skirmishes, allowing her sense of direction to remain mostly intact.
After a while of running, jumping, flying, and fighting, the group came to a structure that acted as a kind of tunnel to one of the attractions. Going by Alexica's indications, the quickest way forward was through that attraction.
"Do we really have to do this?" Bangs asked.
"Too late to turn back now," Alice pointed out. She moved toward the tunnel and was ready to exit the other side. However, she stepped on a platform of glass that completely blocked her from moving forward.
"Alexica, you're sure this is the right way?" The chao trilled an affirmative, though there was confusion in her voice.
"Now what?" Lenna-Ray asked.
Everyone looked around the glass container. Bangs looked down and nearly shouted, "Hey, look!" Several yards below them was a platform that tilted to a decline before leading to a track that twisted and turned like a roller coaster. "That must be the way forward," Bangs said.
"Then what's this oversized window doing here?" Lenna-Ray asked.
"Eggman must not want intruders to get too far," Alice supposed. "At least this means we're on the right track."
"But how do we get on that track?" Lenna-Ray asked.
"Simple," Bangs answered. "We break the glass." She pulled out her cup of paint.
"No!" Alice interjected. "Bangs, you're gonna need that paint for all these robots we keep running into. We have to save as much as possible." She thought for a bit. "Besides, I think I have a better idea. First, a couple spells." She raised her scepter. Alexica hovered closer to Alice. Soon, both were surrounded by a glowing orb; Bangs was also enclosed in a similar sphere. Lenna-Ray also glowed, but no such orb appeared. "This should protect us," Alice said.
"From what exactly?" Lenna-Ray asked. "And why don't I get one?"
"You'll get yours after you throw us at the glass," Alice replied.
Lenna-Ray could only reply with an emotionless, "What?"
"Just throw us at the bottom of the glass. Trust me on this," she added before anyone could object further. "Like I said, these barriers will protect us." Lenna-Ray didn't know what Alice was thinking, but she learned long ago to trust the hedgehog's intuition. She walked and picked up the spheres containing her friends.
"You sure about this?" Bangs asked nervously. Alice could only smile in response. Lenna-Ray jumped up and chucked Alice's orb at the glass floor, following up with Bangs'. On the first impact, the glass started to crack. That crack completely gave way after the second. Bangs fell on through and was followed by Alice and Alexica. Lenna-Ray also started falling, but she started glowing again as she fell. By the time she hit the platform beneath her, another orb surrounded her.
All three were now protected from the fall, but when they hit the ground, they kept rolling forward. The decline of the platform caused their spheres to move into the track. Everyone was now rolling at high speed, and no one showed signs of slowing down. All three spheres rolled along the track for several minutes; all but Alice seemed surprised that they weren't getting dizzy, leading the others to conclude that it was a result of the spell. Finally, the came to the end of the track; it ended above a wide structure shaped like a slot machine. The top had an opening, which all three spheres fell into.
Once they landed, Alice raised her scepter, causing the orbs to fade. Everyone looked up at the wall; three large reels were spinning.
"Now what?" Lenna-Ray asked.
"We get a match," Alice explained, "we move forward. Alexica." The chao floated up to the spinning reels. "Everyone, take a reel. When Alexica gives the word, press the button at the same time as everyone else."
"Is this really the time to be gambling, Ana?" Bangs asked.
"If we miss," Alice said, "we'll have to do the whole thing over again." Nobody argued further and stood at the ready. After what several minutes that seemed longer than they really were, Alexica suddenly shouted. Everyone quickly pushed the button in front of them. The reels stopped. Three rings.
Alice quickly waved her scepter again and all three were back inside their barriers. The floor beneath them opened and they fell once more. The platform they landed on was also tilted like the last one, but it seemed like it was shifting position; as they traveled downward, they started rolling faster, and the track started to form from the bottom. They supposed that their win at the slot machine was what caused the platform to move the way it did. And if Alice was correct, their current path would lead them closer to the chao.
After rolling down the track, the girls landed at a station, indicating the end of the ride. There was a clinging sound next to them; Lenna-Ray turned to find about twenty rings dropping into a dispenser in the wall. She took the rings out.
"Looks like we won't have to worry about tuition next semester," she said.
"Let's keep going," Alice said. Alexica moved ahead, prompting the others to follow.
The twists and turns just kept coming. Although they all trusted Alexica, even the chao was starting to think they might be getting lost. Their mood was not helped by the waves of robots coming at them. Even more distressing were a few flying robots that were constantly moving toward Alexica. Bangs had to either unleash her paint or throw one of the others at any flyers that got too close.
After yet another wave was destroyed, Lenna-Ray decided to speak. "Hey, girls. There's just one thing I don't get. If Eggman's really behind all this, why is he keeping the chao here? I mean, a giant gambling resort isn't exactly inconspicuous or private."
"There may be more to this than meets the eye," Alice said. "I have noticed a strange energy flow around here. And back at the Garden Scape as well."
"What are you saying?" Bangs asked.
"Aside from stating an observation? I have no idea."
"Well, it's no secret that Eggman tends to moonlight as a summoner of the mystic and unusual," Lenna-Ray pointed out. "I mean, do I need to bring up Station Square?"
"This is all too much for me," Bangs said, mostly to herself. "What does all this have to do with the chao?"
"If we're lucky," Alice replied, "we'll never have to find out."
As they continued moving, Alexica floated down and spoke to Alice. "We're almost there, girls," she said. "Alexica says there's only one more obstacle ahead before the homestretch."
"And what's that?" Bangs asked, her voice tired and just a tiny bit concerned. Alice pointed in front of them: the platform they were on suddenly ended, but on the ledge was a cannon of some kind. There was another ledge a fair distance away (though still too far for Bangs to fly, she had noted), and in the air between the two were floating rings of light moving sideways, going back and forth.
Bangs and Lenna-Ray looked at the scene with blank stares. "Let me guess…" Lenna-Ray said, pointing to the cannon. Alice just nodded. Lenna-Ray sighed. "Fine. But you're going first." Alice just shrugged and crawled into the barrel.
Lenna-Ray went to the back of the cannon and tried to move it. However, the cannon wouldn't budge. "Hey, Alice," she said. "You know how far you'll go if I just fire you from here?" There was no answer, but a stream of white light shot out of the cannon into an arc that touched down on the other ledge. "Okay," Lenna-Ray said, "I'll take that."
Still, she waited for a few more seconds before firing the cannon, almost like she was waiting for something. When Alice finally blasted off, she managed to pass through the rings just as they came toward the center.
"Yes!" Lenna-Ray shouted and pumped her fist in celebration. She quickly stopped, however, when she remembered she wasn't alone. She turned to find Bangs' disapproving look. "Hey," she defended, "if she can get away with saying we had to be Mobian cannonballs, I can get away with a little greed."
"That made so little sense," Bangs said. "And just for that, you're going next." Alexica only laughed.
Lenna-Ray saw no way out of this, so she got into the cannon without further discussion. Bangs went to the launch button.
"Okay, on my signal," Lenna-Ray said. "One…!" Bangs pressed the button, shooting the echidna toward Alice. Alexica laughed some more.
"You go on ahead," Bangs told the Chao. "I'll catch up." Alexica stopped laughing and hovered to the other side.
Bangs inspected the cannon and found a timer. She set it and quickly crawled inside. Once the timer reached zero, Bangs was on her way as well. She quickly spun her tails to soften her landing. She shot a smug look toward Lenna-Ray's direction, but the echidna already had a similar look on hers; she was near the ring dispenser.
"You passed through the rings on your way over," she said to her. "Thanks," she added with a smile.
"All right, that's enough, you two," Alice said. "Alexica, where do we go from here?" Alexica chirped and pointed. "We're very close now." Alice and Alexica ran off, barely giving any warning to the other two. They immediately followed.
Eventually, they stopped on a platform bearing a cage similar to the one back in the Garden Scape. Just like that cage, this one was holding another chao. Alexica flew to it and chirped what Alice could only define as words of encouragement.
"Huh," Lenna-Ray observed. "No traps, no bodyguards, not even the fat man himself. I don't like it."
"Then let's get this over with," Bangs said. "The less time we waste, the better." She pulled out her paintbrush, wet with fresh paint, and started sliding it over the bars. Upon hearing the acidic hiss, the chao slunk back and squealed in fear. Alice and Alexica moved to calm it, but everyone heard something that stopped them all in their tracks.
I'll try to write more chapters in the coming months. I make no solid promises, though.
This is CF signing out.