A/N: So this is a little departure from the norm for us.
Pen: No romance? Finally.
It's sort of a reimagining of Robotnik's origins. So without further ado, Sword?
Sword: Robotnik and all other characters and material belong to Sega. Me and Pen belong to the author. Now let's get it started!
Chapter 1- Last Chance
The chirping of Flickies outside roused Robotnik from the edge of his sleep. Yet it was the delicate brushing of fur that fully awoke him. He opened his eyes slowly, coming face to face with an orange tabby cat. It stared at him and meowed. Then it rubbed its head under his chin.
"Good morning, Tesla," he said, stroking the cat's back. Underneath the fur, where there should be warm skin along the spine, there was cold metal. The silver lining continued all the way down the cat's length, encompassing the tail fully. In fact, the tail was nothing more than metal pieces linked together that clicked! and clacked! with each swish.
Tesla meowed again. "Alright, alright," Robotnik said. "I'll get you some food." He yawned and sat up, scratching his sides. Then he headed to the kitchen, Tesla in tow.
Waiting for the pair was a yapping basset hound, its front legs encased in iron molds that looked like paws. It bounded up to Robotnik, jumping to his knee height. He smiled and scratched the hound's ears. "Morning, Copernicus. Hang on." He filled their water bowls and food dishes.
But unlike Copernicus, Tesla did not eat. The cat sat on its haunches and stared at Robotnik, continuing to meow. "What is it?" he asked. Then he examined the cat closer. Its tail was crooked and off-balance. "I see." He placed Tesla on the dining room table and retrieved his tools.
Holding his cat still, Robotnik used a screwdriver to tighten a few screws running along Tesla's back and tail. When he finished, the cat walked forward and came back. It purred and allowed Robotnik to pet it. "Feel better?" he asked, chuckling. Then Tesla hopped down to eat.
He checked his mail slot. Bill, bill, bill, junk, bill, he thought, shuffling through the letters. He opened a couple, daring to look at the exorbitant, demanding amounts that he simply did not have. Robotnik sighed. He angrily stuffed the mail into a desk drawer brimming with pink slips and final notices. He scowled at the unwanted papers flooding his life.
On the wall near his front door, hanging next to one of his doctorate degrees, was an old, faded photograph of his grandfather, Gerald. Standing beside the prestigious doctor was Robotnik's cousin, Maria. Robotnik smiled at the photograph. I'm almost there, Grandfather. I'll make you proud today as a scientist.
He fixed himself a bowl of cereal and sat down to eat. But the doorbell interrupted his meal. Robotnik answered it. There was a young brunette standing there, hands behind her back. "Hello, Ivo," she said.
"Hello, Clarissa." He waved her inside. "Follow me."
They entered one of his back rooms where several animals of all kinds were, from snakes to hedgehogs to squirrels and more. Despite being the largest room in the small house, it was cramped with all the animals' food bowls and living areas. Robotnik had a little trouble squeezing his rotund figure inside, bumbling into a cage or dish here and there.
Against the wall was a bird cage housing Flickies. A green one chirped delightedly from it saw the two. Robotnik opened the cage and it hopped onto his outstretched finger.
"Now there's a couple of things I should tell you," he said, displaying the Flicky to Clarissa. "Petey can still fly, but his wing moves a little awkwardly. So don't let him fly for too long." He lifted the right wing, showing the silver plating beneath the bright green feathers. "Also, try not to press the plating as it could damage it. Other than that, he should be right as rain."
"Thank you so much," she said. Much to their surprise, Petey flew onto her shoulder. They enjoyed a good laugh as the bird nipped at her ear. "How much do I owe you?"
"Er, well," Robotnik said, scratching his scalp. "Don't worry about that."
She crossed her arms. "Ivo, don't be like that. I'm going to pay. Now how much?" She started to pull out her money, but when she added up all she had, it was nowhere near enough to cover the labor and materials. Being her neighbor, Robotnik knew her income was worse than his. Although she only had to provide for one animal. Even though she had declared she would scrimp and save to pay for Petey, there was no chance she could hope to come close to the real cost.
Therefore, Robotnik twirled his mustache and said, "Just two hundred. That'll be fine."
She looked skeptical, but handed over half of the money. He thumbed through it. Should be enough to cover the food for another month. For me and the animals, he thought. But the rent and other bills- he glanced at the front door where he had left the mail. I hope something comes up.
"Thank you again, Ivo," Clarissa said, scratching Petey under the chin. "Without you, Petey would've- well, I'd rather not think about it." She hugged him and left, letting herself out the door.
Robotnik heaved a heavy sigh and gazed at the various animals, all sporting a custom, hand-built prosthetic of some kind to aid them. A few of the animals were staring up at him as he ran a hand through his nonexistent hair. It's not fair, he thought. He tended to the animals, straightening their living areas and checking their dishes. No money, no one recognizes my talent, and all my effort to shelter these poor creatures is rewarded with monetary demands. He stopped just short of blaming Clarissa too. No, no. Pull it together, Ivo. It's not her fault. She paid what she could. Acts of kindness may be returned greater. You can do it, Ivo. Today's your chance.
His beady eyes roamed to a particular cage where a hedgehog laid. The brown little creature was snoozing on a blanket until Robotnik picked him up. In the room's light, one could see that where its appendages should be, there were stubs wrapped in bandages. "Good morning, Gregory."
Gregory yawned softly and opened his eyes. Robotnik carried him to the kitchen and set him on the table. Like many of the homeless and defenseless animals Robotnik had taken in over the years, he had tried to replace Gregory's arms and legs as best as possible. Each time ended in failure.
But recently, he had created the perfect vessel for Gregory to use. He set his creation on the table next to the hedgehog. Gregory sniffed the round case, large enough for a small creature to sit in. The black, red-trimmed case had two rounded arms on its sides that could only move in up and down slicing gestures. The entire thing balanced on a single wheel.
Robotnik slowly lowered Gregory into it. He would be lying if he said he was not nervous. Gregory was, to put it mildly, excitable. Loud noises, flashing lights, or anything unexpected could frighten him. Robotnik had tried his best to calm Gregory's nerves when using the device. He had been able to acclimate the hedgehog to using the vehicle without being scared, but Robotnik still wished another animal, any animal, was in need of it.
Gregory sat in the snug seat. "Please behave today, Gregory." Then at Robotnik's commands, the hedgehog moved around the table. Robonik praised him with each order he obeyed. "Very good, Gregory!" He smiled, encouraging the hedgehog. He turned on the television, switching over to the news. A woman was reporting on the recent deeds of their newfound hero, Sonic the Hedgehog.
"The hostages were reunited with their families safe and sound. As for the pair that tried to rob the bank, well, they've learned there's a new hedgehog town. From all of us, we thank you, Sonic."
"Maybe someday, you'll be there saving people, Gregory," Robotnik chuckled. He scratched him behind the ears. Then he ran the hedgehog through the rest of the routine. When they finished, he clapped his hands. "Great! Now do it just like that today and everything will be fine." Robotnik lifted the hedgehog out of the mobile device and set him on his stomach. He ate his cereal as Gregory sniffed his clothes. Robotnik eyed the desk drawer with the bills. "Everything will be fine," he said, his hand trembling a little.
When he finished breakfast, he bid farewell to the animals. Then he gathered up his device into a bag and Gregory into a cage. Robotnik locked the door to his little home once outside and strode to the sidewalk. Although usually shrouded in dark from overhanging trees, his house's atmosphere appeared bright and sunny today. He took that as a good sign and briskly made his way to the bus station.
He arrived at work shortly before his shift started. He entered the building's laboratory, waving greetings to his co-workers. One was standing near the vending machines, wearing a hideous orange shirt with fish-print patterns underneath his white lab coat. "Good luck today, Ivo," he said through a mouthful of cookies. He scarfed down a handful of his snack.
"Thanks, Bruce," Robotnik said, waving back.
In his laboratory work space, he set aside Gregory and his device. Then he slipped into his own lab coat and a pair of white gloves. "So, Dean," he said, turning to a squat man with a pointed nose, "has Mr. Tindell arrived yet?"
"Not yet," Dean said, peering into a microscope. He adjusted the knobs on the side with his long, slender fingers. "Why? Oh, today's the big day, isn't it?"
"That's right," Robotnik said. He patted Gregory's cage. He glanced at a clock on the wall. "Well, Mr. Hughes said he would let me know by ten when to come in." He wrung his hands together nervously.
"Calm down," Dean said, jotting on a notepad. "You're too high-strung."
"I can't help it," Robotnik said. "This is my big chance. My last, big chance."
"Well, do you need help practicing? Want to run through it with me?" Dean asked.
"Oh, would you?" Robotnik beamed. "That would be perfect!" He dug through his bag and pulled out a set of index cards. Then he set out the device next to Gregory. "Ready?" he asked.
"Ready when you are."
Robotnik cleared his throat. He shook his head. "Stop, stop," Dean said. He reached up, his hands only touching the taller man's hips. "Loosen up a little. Relax. Relax. You're going in there to give a demonstration, not perform surgery or something. Dial it down a notch. Just breathe deep. Okay?" He inhaled slowly, lifting his hand to his chest. Robotnik followed suit. "Now out." He puffed out, lowering his head. Robotnik's shoulders fell as he copied. "Again, in, deep breath. Now out. Better."
"Okay, thanks," Robotnik said. He cleared his throat again, feeling very relaxed. "Ladies and gentlemen of the board, it is an honor to meet you. For years, while we have advanced the area of prosthetics for humans everywhere, animal prosthetics have been sorely lacking. Little help is available for our dear friends and pets everywhere, if at all. In some extreme cases, that help is either too expensive or unavailable. Until today that is. I present to you the Ball-Mobile. The first prosthetic of its kind. Using its technology, animals too old or with damaged limbs could easily move around with the slightest impulse. The device reads their desired movements through the body-"
"Wait," Dean said, holding up a hand. "You'll need something more attention-grabbing than the 'Ball-Mobile'."
"What do you suggest then?"
Dean scratched his five o'clock shadow. "I don't know. Looks kind of like an egg to me."
"The Egg-Mobile?" Robotnik laughed. "That sounds like a breakfast vendor."
A man with large ears and a toothy smile stuck his head into the laboratory. "I hope you're not laughing about me," he said good-naturedly.
"Oh, hello Mr. Hughes," Robotnik said. "No, we weren't."
"Alright then," Hughes said, straightening his tie. He stood very tall above the two and was forced to duck to enter the lab. "I just came down to let you all know that Mr. Tindell has arrived. He'll be touring the building today, but don't worry." Hughes held up his hand to some of the frightened faces. "He's interested in what everyone's working on, that's all. No need for alarm. Carry on." Then he exited.
"Mr. Hughes," Robotnik said, following the man out of the laboratory.
"I was wondering when I might be able to demonstrate my invention," Robotnik said.
Hughes cocked an eyebrow, then snapped his fingers. "Oh, your invention. Of course, of course. I can't rightly say. Mr. Tindell's schedule is up in the air at the moment." He patted Robotnik's shoulder. "I'll do my best to squeeze you in when I can though, okay? So be on your toes."
"Thank you," he said. "For everything, I mean. I know I haven't been here long and I'm sure a blacklisted doctor wasn't your first choice."
"Ivo, Ivo." Hughes smiled. "Think nothing of it. Sure, you've had some misfortunes in the past, but that's because you're passionate about your work. You're a genius. We need that passion and intellect here." He guided Robotnik back to the laboratory. "Why, with your goodwill and creativity, I'm sure you will go far in this company. And today will be your first step."
Robotnik's chest swelled with pride. Hughes was right. This was a momentous day for him. If he could convince Tindell to approve the funding for his project, it would be the first of many accomplishments. He would receive a raise to pay his impending bills and support to help the animals at his house. Then Robotnik could render assistance to all the suffering pets and creatures worldwide. He would finally earn respect for his grandfather's name. It was everything he could have dreamed of. Everything would be brought to fruition by his demonstration.
"Thank you again," he said, shaking Hughes' hand vigorously.
"No problem," Hughes said. He waved farewell and walked off. "Just be ready for the demonstration."
The rest of the day dragged out for an eternity. Robotnik could not keep his eyes on his work. He continued to watch the clock, counting down the hours and hoping the following one would bring Hughes. When Tindell toured their laboratory, gazing through the windows, Robotnik nearly rushed out there to show his invention. But he restrained himself, patiently biding his time and reworking his pitch with Dean's help.
When only an hour was left in the day, his stomach began to tie itself in knots. He fretted that he may have been forgotten. He shrugged off the notion. Hughes had promised to fetch him when the time was right. Yet as the clock's hands inched closer to quitting time, his doubts grew. With half an hour left, Robotnik could no longer concentrate on his work.
Maybe they have forgotten, he thought. He wondered what he should do. Should he interrupt the tour? Remind Hughes that he was still waiting? It may be considered rude to do so and going over Hughes might be seen as inappropriate. Yet when his gaze returned to the clock, he set his mind to taking matters into his own hands. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
He excused himself, gathering Gregory and his invention together. He took the elevator to the upper offices and found Hughes coming out of a room full of people. Tindell was among them.
"Ivo?" Hughes asked, shutting the door.
Robotnik waddled up to him, clutching his invention and the cage to his chest. "I'm ready to show Mr. Tindell my invention," he said. He set down the cage and took Gregory out.
"Ivo, I'm afraid there's been a change of plans," Hughes said. He laid his hand on the shorter man's shoulder. "Mr. Tindell doesn't have time today."
"W-What?" Robotnik asked. "But you said-"
"I know." Hughes nodded. "I know. I tried my best, but these things happen. You'll just have to try when Mr. Tindell comes back in six months for another tour."
Six months? In six months, he would be evicted, along with the sheltered animals. He choked on the answer. "Maybe I could arrange a meeting with him sooner?"
"I'm afraid not," Hughes said. "You know how busy Mr. Tindell is. He's backed up for the rest of the year and well into the next. Sorry, Ivo." He playfully tapped his chin with his fist. "Keep a stiff upper lip. There might be an opening next time."
Next time. Next time? He could not wait until next time. He had lost many an opportunity and failed more than he cared to keep track of. This was his last chance. I won't be turned away. Not again. I'll make them see my genius. He had to make this work. Not only for his sake, but for his grandfather and the animals too. He girded himself as Hughes headed back to the door. Robotnik burst in after him, Gregory in one hand and his invention in the other. Hughes was flustered and tried to remove him, but he would not leave without being heard.
"Mr. Tindell," Robotnik said, marching up to the older, bewildered gentleman. "My name is Ivo Robotnik and I have a wonderful product to show you. If you'll allow me to demonstrate." He smiled, setting his invention down on the table.
"Hughes, what is going on here?" Tindell asked.
Hughes bowed apologetically and grabbed Robotnik's shoulders. "I'm so sorry about this, sir. He's one of our employees. Quite the energetic go-getter, he is." He laughed awkwardly, convincing a few of the other people to join in.
Robotnik stood firm. "Unhand me! I need to show him!" He set up the device and shoved Gregory into it. But the hedgehog's leg stumps were quivering and he refused to stay put. The commotion had frightened him and he was snorting loudly. Robotnik grunted and detached his legs from the side, trying to prevent him from constantly crawling away. "Hold still, Gregory."
"Look," Tindell said, leaning back and clasping his hands, "Mr. Robotnik. I'm sure you have a wonderful product there. But I'm a very busy man. Go through Mr. Hughes and he'll arrange a better time for you to demonstrate your invention."
"But, sir, I-" Robotnik tried.
Tindell held up his hand. "I have already said my piece. Now please leave."
Robotnik was in such a state of shock that he hardly registered Hughes dragging him out of the room. Once outside, after having the invention and hedgehog foisted back into his arms, Hughes shut the door and scowled. "Have you lost your mind? Do you realize how close you are to getting fired?" He pointed a threatening finger at Robotnik's large nose. "If you go over me or step out of line like that again, then I will fire you so fast, your head will spin. Now unless the next paycheck you want to pick up is an unemployment check, I suggest you go home and stay out of my sight for the rest of the week."
With that Hughes left him standing there in the hall, pitifully cradling Gregory and the invention. Robotnik looked down at the small hedgehog, who was sadly looking up at him. He almost took out his welling anger on him. "Gregory," he said, the rage building for a large outburst. But when Gregory curled into a shivering ball, Robotnik decided against yelling. "It's okay. It's okay," he said, rubbing the hedgehog's back with his fingertip. "No need to be scared. It'll all be fine."
He shuffled down the hallway, taking the elevator to the lobby. As he headed for the exit, he paused. A sudden idea had occurred to him. The parking garage. Robotnik could catch Tindell there on the way to his car. He would have to be brief, but he was sure he could turn his demonstration into an elevator pitch of sorts.
He thought about waiting for Tindell to ride the elevator. Yet there was the risk Hughes would be there too. The parking garage it is then. He held Gregory up to his face. "Ready to give it another try?" The hedgehog purred softly. "Excellent. Let's go."
Robotnik staked out the parking garage. Unsure of what kind of car Tindell drove, he stayed beside the bottom entrance. He waited for hours, watching every employee leave. Gregory fell asleep in his arms. Robotnik was close to nodding off himself until he heard footsteps echoing in the parking garage. He glanced up and saw that Tindell had passed by without noticing him.
"Mr. Tindell!" Robotnik shouted, chasing after him. When the older man saw Robotnik running toward him, he fled. He raced up one of the staircases. "Wait! Mr. Tindell! Gregory," Robotnik said, shaking the hedgehog in the crook of his elbow. "Wake up! Wake up!"
The pursuit continued to the fourth floor. When Robotnik climbed the last stair, he was winded and close to toppling over. But he saw Tindell ahead. "Mr. Tindell! Wait!"
"Stay away from me!" Tindell said. He was very fast for his age. He stopped in front of a classic, white car and fumbled with the keys. Before he could open the door, Robotnik had caught up to him.
"Mr. Tindell! Please, a moment," Robotnik said, wheezing. He bent over, panting hard. He readied his invention and scooched Gregory into it. But the hedgehog was afraid. Gregory squirmed away and leapt from Robotnik's hand. He landed on Tindell's tie. When Tindell tried to brush him off, Gregory bit his finger.
"Agh!" Tindell winced and shook his hand. Robotnik dropped his invention and tried to help, ordering Gregory to stop. The hedgehog was in no mood to listen. As Tindell flailed, Gregory rolled up his arm. He fell upon the man's cheek and pricked him.
"No, Gregory!" Robotnik grabbed at him, but Gregory's quills were deeply buried in the skin. With much difficulty, Robotnik used his fingers to pry his pet's quills off. Gregory came loose and stung his gloved hand instead.
"Mr. Tindell, I am so sorry," Robotnik started, but he was interrupted by someone approaching.
"Mr. Tindell? Ivo?" Hughes said, stepping between them. "What is going on here? Sir, you're bleeding!" He took out a handkerchief and dabbed Tindell's cheek.
"You!" Tindell hissed, shoving his finger into Robotnik's face. "I want you to take that rat and yourself and clear out of here! You're fired! Security!" As if on cue, a security guard appeared beside them. "Escort him off the premises, along with his things! I never want to see him again!"
"No." Robotnik desperately turned to Hughes, but he was shaking his head and scowling.
"You screwed up," Hughes said. "I gave you a shot and this is what you do with it? Good job." He tended to Tindell as the security guard roughly grabbed Robotnik.
"But I didn't mean to." Yet Robotnik's protests were silenced as he was forced to the exit. He did not even notice the stinging pain in his hand. He was stunned. Absolutely floored by the horrible turn of events. This could not be happening. This had to be a dream. A bad dream.
Yet when he was pushed hard enough that he fell onto the pavement, he knew it was not. The security guard threatened him. "Don't come around here anymore or you'll have to answer to me." Then Robotnik was alone, sitting on the sidewalk outside the building he worked at. Or formerly worked at.
Millions of fears ran through his mind. Where would he go? How could he afford to live? How could he keep feeding the animals? Would he, a blacklisted doctor, be able to find another job? What would become of him and his animals? No answers came to him. He was sick to his stomach and dry heaved. At one point, a box of his belongings was tossed next to him, spilling onto the ground. Robotnik did not know what to do. He could not think straight. So he simply sat there for the longest time, his chest tightening while his fears devoured him.
A/N: Hope you're enjoying it so far.
Sword: I don't like where this is going…
Pen: I do.
Please, let us know what you think. Thanks for reading.