A/N: This story takes place over the course of SatAM Season 1, including the pilot episode. It includes depictions of official parts of the show as well as events I've made up in-between.
I have assumed that Hooked on Sonics (the episode where Antoine single-handedly tries to capture Robotnik) took place right at the very beginning of this story, before the pilot episode. This is because that episode was absolutely perfect for starting this story. Otherwise please assume that the order of the SatAM episodes is intact, although if you don't know what the order is, it doesn't matter.
I have also ignored the fact that in Season 2 Antoine seems to become very emotionally unstable. I have not written Antoine's character development in this story with that emotional instability in mind as the final product. Rather, it is a story in which Antoine meets and fights his own personal demons.Prologue Part 1 Incorporating Hooked on Sonics, written by Randy Rogel
Five Mobians crouched on a wooden platform cantilevered to the side of a tall tree. The Mobians were there because it was a good place to watch the battle between Sonic and the bird-legged machine while also being high enough to keep them hidden from the machine's sight, and it is fair to say that all of the Mobians wanted these two conditions. But there were also differences between the hiding Mobians' wishes. Curiously, despite the fact that they were all there for the same reason and witnessing the same event, internally something quite unique was happening for each of them.
Sally Acorn was intensely invested in the outcome of this battle for a variety of reasons. That is to say, she both wanted the machine to lose (because it was destroying her home and endangering people for whom she felt very responsible as their princess apparent) and she wanted Sonic to win (because not only was he her friend and comrade, but she had what many Mobians might call 'feelings' for him, although those same Mobians, when pressed, might become less certain of precisely what they meant by this). She also had an investment in Sonic's victory because she had very private, and very serious doubts that she could hope to win the war against Robotnik without a huge amount of support from Sonic.
Tails' investment in this battle had many key similarities to Sally's, except that he didn't feel responsible for the welfare of the village. Generally he felt very upbeat about Sonic's battles against Robotnik. His reasons for feeling this way were best known by himself but it may be tentatively suggested that Sonic's string of victories against the dictator represented a political freedom Tails had never known but desired, or perhaps that Sonic represented a father, big brother or other leadership figure Tails had also never known, and therefore idealised. The fox cub only tended to feel like one of the helpless villagers at times of relatively strong fear. His fear levels fluctuated during this particular battle so that sometimes he felt helpless and sometimes he felt excited about Sonic's victory.
Rotor's wish, also, was that Sonic would win. Interestingly, although he was of similar age to Sonic, he too drew a strong sense of parental security from Sonic's presence, perhaps beyond an age-appropriate degree. He was very open and spontaneous in his showing of this sentiment.
Bunnie Rabbot's feelings were similar enough that we need not go into them here, and we can most likely accurately guess that if she had her own thoughts to add then she would, if she'd had knowledge of this prologue.
Antoine D'Coolette watched Sonic fight the bird-legged machine with as much suspense as his companions. It is curious to note, however, that his feelings were by far the most negative. He disliked Sonic's flamboyant show of derision for the machine, and disliked even more Princess Sally's appreciation of this flamboyance. It is not that Antoine was a villain. Far from it. He was, in fact, far too frightened by events to be villainous, both in an immediate and an ongoing sense. But still, he tried to regain a sense of strength in the situation by judging, and therefore would have admitted to feeling hostile towards Sonic.
It is strange that he would feel and behave like this because surely, nothing worse could happen to Antoine in this scenario than Sonic's death and Robotnik's resulting unrestricted destruction of the Great Forest and it's inhabitants - including Antoine's amour, Sally. Sonic was much more useful to him alive than dead, and yet his behaviour at least partly suggested otherwise. It is the fact that Antoine felt and thought this way that prompted this story.
A fan of Sonic SatAM may already be aware that Sonic won his battle against the bird-legged robot, and that Knothole village as a whole decided celebrations were in order. It should be noted that Knothole celebrations almost invariably involved Sonic himself telling the story of his own recent victory, even if the villagers had witnessed the affair.
Antoine didn't want to hear Sonic's relating of his victory. However he turned up anyway, so his motivations may have been more complex than first appears. The coyote scowled, sometimes raised a skeptical eyebrow and made the occasional comment to himself and anybody who might perchance overhear him (although notably he was never direct enough to attract another villager's attention before speaking, except for one occasion when he asked some nondescript transient what Sonic had that he didn't, and even then he didn't wait for an answer). Usually he would show exasperation about what he considered to be Sonic's attention-seeking behaviour and sometimes questioned his intelligence. It was, in fact, difficult to determine whether he was part of the celebrating group or not.
And then came the event that precipitated the whole of the rest of this story: Sonic and Sally kissed.
Antoine's reaction to this might have been described as typical, but on the inside something more extreme happened for the coyote. For Antoine it was a kind of landmark event - one that brought home to him a lot of truths, not all of which he would be able to identify, at least not with the knowledge and resources available to him at that time. But we can learn which element felt most important to Antoine if we listen to a conversation he had with Rotor later that evening when Antoine came to relieve the walrus' ring pool watch duty.
"What's up Antoine?" Rotor asked. It would be interesting to know whether he understood he'd been manipulated into asking this question. Antoine's demeanour strongly suggested he wanted to be by himself, and yet he'd decided to allow this to show at a time he had to be seen by his talkative friend Rotor. This was a somewhat passive-aggressive act and it might be guessed that Antoine wanted Rotor to reach out to him with concern, which all sentient beings very reasonably want and need from time to time. Whatever the level of his awareness of the situation, this is precisely what the walrus did.
Antoine answered. "Nothing is up. It is what is down here (he pointed to his heart) that is so terrible." Which, it is fair to say, did not really answer the question.
So Rotor pushed for an answer. "Like what?"
"Like the love of my life is crazy for a fool." Antoine had almost certainly never referenced his love for Sally before, especially not to a third party, so saying this this may have been a significant event in itself.
"A fuel?" Rotor asked, misinterpreting Antoine's accent, and also taking an opportunity to divert from the real conversation.
At this point a pattern began to develop, one with which Antoine may well have been familiar. His mispronunciation of the word 'fool' meant that instead of getting the sympathy an observer may have guessed he wanted, Antoine instead took a tangent with Rotor about the English language. Again, the fact that Rotor colluded with this is intriguing and raises the prospect that Rotor either wasn't very insightful or didn't want to have the conversation Antoine apparently intended to have and was trying to distract the coyote's attention away from it.
"Yes, a fool, a fool! Why is this word so difficult to understand?" Antoine's habitual pattern came to fruition as he took an opportunity to get angry with someone - on this occasion, Rotor. A reader might wonder what response an angry Antoine might have wanted and whether Rotor's look of curious bafflement was it. Certainly it didn't prompt fear, an apology or a change in behaviour to something more desired, which is what most people want when they feel angry. "A fool is a stupid person."
"Oh, you mean a fool!"
"That is what I said: a fool." And with that, the conversation resumed, still with little suggestion from Antoine that talking directly about the problem may solve it. "Ah, the princess. She is not even noticing I am alive."
"Well, Sonic is a tough act to follow. You'll have to do something major to get Sally's attention."
"For instance like what?"
"Well, I don't know. Capture Robotnik and bring him back to Knothole! That'd do it." Rotor's laugh was his way of indicating that he was joking, but as any SatAM fan knows, his suggestion wasn't taken as such. "Well, see ya, Antoine."
And with that, Rotor left Antoine to his thoughts - and his watch duty.
To call Robotnik 'insane' may or may not have been accurate. It is true that much of what he did with regards destroying the hedgehog was not sensible and that his frustration over The Freedom Fighters' repeated victories tended to be more extreme than might be deemed healthy. But to label any sentient being as insane is to make a judgement and perhaps, to commit oneself to a viewpoint that may later turn out to be wrong.
There is always a grain of truth at the centre of any so-called madness and perhaps it would be more useful to look for that.
We may be puzzled, for instance, by the way he bullied, beat and bloodied Snively over failures in Robotnik's own hedgehog-destroying schemes. But to Julian himself, this direction of blame made sense. And he continued to use his nephew in his plans despite Snively's track record.
A viewer may puzzle over why Snively stayed for this unwarranted punishment, but that is a story all of its own.
So to return to the current point: Robotnik was furious and held Snively responsible. "The hedgehog did what?! You have failed me for the last time."
Snively quaked in his boots. Sometimes Robotnik found this satisfying, sometimes it wasn't enough... "We tried to stop him sir, but he destroyed the Shredder and..."
The dictator rarely accepted explanations from Snively. Either they got in the way of his need to blame or they were flawed - in which case, he went as close as he ever did to accepting, which was to acknowledge by threatening Snively until the conversation ended (usually with Snively losing his power of speech) or by moving on with the plan or initiating a new one. Something like this, in fact:
"How can a puny hedgehog destroy a two hundred and fifty ton machine?!"
"Well, sir, he made it reverse direction and..."
"Shut up! I want that shredder rebuilt. The Great Forest must be destroyed, and every ounce of life force energy sucked out of it! Do you understand?"
Snively, of course, had no liberty to say anything other than yes. And to watch his dictator the way a mouse watches a cat, too paralysed by fear to do anything other than look out for its own survival.
It is interesting to note that while waiting for the power ring that would be part of his plan, Antoine allowed himself to fall asleep. It is more interesting still to realise that he didn't quite sleep, but he almost slept. As a result he only noticed a ring lift out of the pool just as it began to fall back in, and he almost lost it, succeeding in retrieving it only by using a stick.
All of this is interesting because Antoine had more than one solution available to him to stay wide awake at this time but chose not to take any of them: no standing and pacing around, no splashing his face with cold pool water. As a freedom fighter who necessarily depended on his own conscientiousness to be a safely functioning individual and who was engaged in a plan to gain something he very much wanted, this was an odd set of choices.
In light of this, his not-quite-but-almost failure to achieve several goals was all the more interesting. An observer might suspect Antoine liked to risk failure.
Nevertheless, there is a story to be told and much more time later to dwell on these mysteries. No sooner had Antoine grabbed the power ring than he set out alone for Robotropolis, perhaps assuming that Rotor knew he was there and that that would serve for back-up.
He turned out to be wrong. Almost, in any case.
Robotropolis was full of dangers - like SWATbots - and things that could precipitate danger - such as surveillance bots to alert Robotnik of intruders, lengths of piping to trip noisily over and much more besides.
Antoine successfully negotiated these - only just, as as we are beginning to discover was his usual pattern. The existence of robotic rats in the city, as careless as Antoine was clumsy, unwittingly saved him from discovery.
A surveillance bot flew by and he saw that he had his chance. For a few moments he stood quaking in front of it, unable to move for fear. Then he reached into the pack on his back and pulled out the ring. He showed it to the camera. "R-r-robotnik, I have a power ring! If you want the ring, please to meet me at the city limits in one hour."
The camera was able to transmit sound in both directions so the coyote heard Robotnik and Snively's conversation about sending SWATbots. And this was where Antoine found a little more courage.
"Ah-ah, no SWATbots. You must come alone."
Whether what happened next was a true accident or not is left up to the reader's judgement, but perhaps it is significant to note that, having insisted on his own terms with Robotnik himself, Antoine made another blunder. He dropped the ring and it fell almost out of reach, leaving him very vulnerable with his eyes down and, it is fair to say, rather humiliated in front of the admittedly debonair dictator.
True to form, Antoine survived this encounter without meeting Robotnik's robot soldiers by something most people would call luck.
Sonic could easily and almost accurately be said to be happy as he went to take over Antoine's duty at the ring pool. Easily, because most of Sonic's emotions were some variation of joy. Almost accurately, because that joy had a few twists and contaminations to it that meant his happiness was not always pure. Whether Sonic's gleeful taunting of Antoine came from fear or anger or something else, only Sonic might have been able to say, but it is reasonable to suggest that if he'd been feeling entirely happy about Antoine's existence he would not say what he said:
"Yo, Ant! It's my watch! You can go get your ugly sleep! Ha ha! Too cool, too cool."
Perhaps he was also pleased because his watch wouldn't be the important one of the night. He knew that the night's ring would already have been retrieved so all he had to do was take it from Antoine and guard it and the site for the rest of the night.
"Where ya at, Ant? Under a rock, sheddin' your skin?"
He expected to see Antoine sleeping. It was rare for Antoine to sulk so Sonic began to feel concerned about the coyote's lack of response. If Antoine wasn't here, where was the ring?
When he found the stick, he knew something bad had happened.
Who knows whether an hour was the right length of time for Antoine to tell Julian? But he ended up huddling against the cold and wind as he waited. When Robotnik's hovercraft appeared he went to meet it.
"Do you have it?"
"B-b-but of c-c-course."
It seems only reasonable that Robotnik found this whole situation odd. "Tell me, why do you betray your friends?" he asked as he approached.
Antoine held up the ring. "T-take this and you will understand."
Robotnik grinned at the wickedness of it all. Such power in the ring such as could divide friends. Now that was power! He stepped forward; what was going on in his psychological process regarding the risk of accepting the coyote's invitation we will never know. Perhaps he expected a booby trap. Either way, he fell into one. "Aargh! You little fool."
Antoine felt his confidence increase, and it is fair to suggest he felt satisfied with this outcome. "I am not a fool. You are the fool."
Robotnik's calm question should probably have raised alarm bells. "And what will you do with me?" But Antoine had already demonstrated a dangerous problem with acuity regarding his own safety.
He strutted back and forth as he answered. "I bring you to the freedom fighters, where you will stand the trial for your terrible crimes. I will be a large hero, and win the hand of the princess."
"A nice dream," conceded a dictator who already knew he had won this battle. "But dreams are meant to be broken."
Antoine, it appeared, hadn't considered the possibility of Robotnik having jet boots. Or laser guns built into his fingertips.
"Now give me the power ring, you pathetic little rodent."
The switch-up was as swift as it was dramatic, leaving Antoine as shocked as he'd ever been in his life.
Sonic may have had his own set of character flaws but keeping emergencies to himself wasn't one of them. Before long he'd called the other Freedom Fighters for a talk.
"Antoine's history. I've looked everywhere," he said, having checked the whole village.
"Are you sure?" asked Sally, more as an alternative to 'Oh dear, that's bad news' than to cast doubt on Sonic's thoroughness.
"Yep," he answered anyway because his intuitive sense told him it hadn't been a question about his conscientiousness at all. "I found this stick at the grotto. Looks like he used it to fish out a power ring."
Before anybody else had time to wonder over what Antoine would do with a power ring Rotor had a pang of guilt, which in true personal style he was honest about. "Uh oh. I think he might have gone after Robotnik." In fact, he felt ashamed enough of his part in Antoine's decision that he protected himself by turning away.
Sonic didn't buy this at first and flat-out denied it, thereby adding weight to the idea he was a little more of a parent figure to Rotor than was ideal. "No way. That's too stupid a move. Even for Antoine."
Rotor explained anyway. "Well, he wanted to impress Sally, and I said that if he captured Robotnik, well, that would impress her."
Sally, whose mind was already racing, found herself thinking about the implications of this. The idea of teenagers taking unnecessary risks to impress each other was a potentially dangerous dynamic in the all-teen Freedom Fighters. But before she went too far down the track of thinking about that she pulled herself back to the present. She would most certainly think about how to manage this problem later, though. And come up with solutions. Perhaps too many and too thorough, but that was Sally.
"I was only jokin'." Of course, Rotor hadn't wanted this to happen and the threat to Antoine and everyone else was enough to make him feel very much like a small child.
Sally gasped. "Sonic, he could be in danger!"
"So?" retorted Sonic. He knew that he'd end up going after Antoine either way so had a brief argument with Sally over it. It felt good to have a dig at the coyote, who he'd sensed as a rival in Sally's affection. For let's not forget that Sonic still had an intuitive sense even if it didn't get shown very often. In fact, his intuition had saved his life too many times to count.
Sally took the bait, because too much of her attention was on her responsibility to Antoine to care about avoiding being duped. "So?! He would come after you, if you were in trouble!"
Sonic didn't need words to answer.
"Okay, maybe not. But if Robotnik gets that power ring..."
Perhaps Sonic saw the logic here that would make him go after the coyote. But he'd already placed a stake on not going after his bitter rival and argued using the first words to come to mind. "Nah, it can't do him any good. The power doesn't last long and no one can use it 'cept me."
"Yes, but you know Robotnik. He could uncover its secret. Right?"
Sonic never liked to be defeated, but all credit to him, he took this one on the chin. "Yeah, you're right, Sal."
Bunnie had a practical point of her own to make. "But there won't be another ring for twenty four hours."
"Then I'll have to take on Robuttnik without one."
TO BE CONTINUED...
DISCLAIMER: "Sonic the Hedgehog" and most other characters and situations in the following story are copyrighted trademarks of Sega Incorporated, Archie Comics and/or DIC Productions. Permission to reproduce this specific material may be granted by the author so long as you email first. Words and Seahorse character © 2013 Velvet D'Coolette/Hayley Deakin.