Sonic: Revival- Chapter 1
Ultimatum, Part 1 of 5: Ignition
The digital plane was something of an escape, Nicole had decided. While she was in the computerised aether, the AI could disconnect herself from the outside city and enjoy some time to herself, something that was becoming more and more of a necessity lately.
After his failures to protect the people, Naugus’ hand had been forced, and he had allowed the lynx to re-enter the city. Concerns raised by his more fervent supporters as to how he was supposed to protect them from her were dismissed- Her powers had no sway over him, and both of them knew it.
Nicole tensed slightly, anger flaring inside her. She hated the hypocrisy of it all- Naugus had attempted to murder them all in the past, of his own choosing. The only bad things Nicole had ever done were while she was under the sway of another, and yet she was being blamed for it. Now she was the threat, and he was their protector.
Separating herself from the city was a necessity, because occupying any of the nanites meant potentially overhearing another argument about her and the ‘King’, feeling one of Naugus’ more violent supporters try to damage her constructs, or listening to Mina’s awful song again.
She bore no ill-will to the mongoose now. In fact, Mina had been trying to get the song taken off the air, but it was having no luck. Apparently, ‘We Won’t Be Afraid’ was the new favourite of the city’s population.
Nicole retreated back into the void, curling up to relax. At times like this, all she wanted to do was confide in her closest friend… but that wasn’t an option open to her anymore. Sally was gone, taken from her, and everyone else, by Eggman’s latest maniacal scheme. She held out hope that it wasn’t permanent, that Sonic, Tails, and Amy would catch up to Mecha Sally and subdue her, allowing them to find a way to restore her body and mind, but as the days turned to weeks turned to months, she couldn’t help but feel that they might never see Sally again.
She wasn’t the only one gone, either. Sonic and his team had taken off to rescue Sally, and Rotor was making an effort to defend the city almost by himself, with Naugus constantly taken ill. Elias had joined up with a smaller team that were quietly working to overthrow Naugus. But Antoine was rendered comatose, still slowly recovering from his injuries, though it was unclear when, if at all, he would wake up. Bunnie had taken off shortly after his injury, and where she was going, or why she left her friends in their darkest hour, were a mystery to the lynx. She wanted to be angry at the rabbit, she wanted to somehow find her and lay into her for leaving when everyone else needed her… but she knew that was unfair. Bunnie had always been the rock that everyone could rely on, and it wasn’t fair to expect that of her during the current situation. She was hurt too, after all.
Darkest hour… Why did that phrase resonate with her? She was never the most poetic soul, and she couldn’t recall any of her friends or allies using it… And yet, she definitely had some memory of it, but she had no idea how to reach it… Perhaps searching for it in her databanks would help...
Her reverie was interrupted by a blinking light informing her that she had a new message incoming. She floated over to it, and tapped a knuckle against it, opening a video link and coming face-to-face with Amy. To her surprise, the hedgehog was genuinely smiling- The lynx was good enough at reading people to tell the difference between the forced, not-quite-reaching-the-eyes smile she had worn before leaving with the others, and the genuine look of happiness and relief she had now. From her surroundings, she appeared to be in the back seat of the Tornado, and she was wearing a thick winter coat.
“Hello, Amy,” Nicole smiled half-heartedly. “You’re looking pleased with something.”
“We did it!” She announced.
“I’m sorry, did what?”
“We saved Sally!” She clarified. Nicole brightened immediately, shifting closer to the screen.
“Yeah. I mean, technically we just knocked her out so you can zap into her computer-brain and undo whatever Eggman did to her, but the hard part’s over!”
“Oh my gods, that’s wonderful!” Nicole beamed. “Please, hurry back!”
“Well, we were actually hoping you could send yourself over and do it in-flight,” Amy said. “We’re not sure how long she’s going to be out and if she wakes up in transit we could be in trouble.”
“I’m afraid my long-range connections have been deactivated by Naugus…” Nicole let out a sigh. “But the Tornado is one of the fastest planes around.”
“That’s true, in jet mode,” Tails’ voice cut in from somewhere in front of Amy’s seat. “Unfortunately we’re in biplane mode, and we can’t transform it right now. We had to put Mecha Sally in the cargo hold.”
“Oh, I see…” Nicole paused. “What’s your ETA?”
“About two hours,” Amy said, looking less happy now. “So we should be okay, but it might be bad.”
The two friends’ conversation was interrupted from a loud clang somewhere below Amy. Her eyes went wide, as she glanced down on instinct, then laughed nervously and looked back to the lynx. “I… may have just jinxed it.”
“It’s alright, we should be able to subdue her again, Silver’s here too, it’s just… this isn’t a good position for her to wake up in,” Amy continued, as another clang sounded. A few more ominous sounds of the Tornado’s titanium frame taking a beating from inside, before the sound of tearing metal alerted them both to the cargo doors being torn from their mountings.
“Amy, is she loose?” Nicole slammed her hands against either side of the screen, panic rising.
“Yes, she is, but it’s okay, Silver’s-”
“Missile lock!” Tails shouted. “We’ve got Eggman on our tail!”
“Amy, Tails!” Nicole screamed.
“It’s alright, we’ll be okay!” Amy said, already drawing her hammer. “Tails is taking us down, we’ll be-”
The link went dead, and Nicole backed away, curling up again. It wasn’t fair! They were so close to getting her back, but now Eggman was going to sweep their feet from under them again, if they even survived the crash landing. Her friends were alone, somewhere cold and dangerous, and she couldn’t help them thanks to Naugus.
One result found!
Nicole looked up again. Her memory bank search had born fruit. She looked at the single result, a text file with no preview. Odd… and highly suspect. She subjected it to every sort of security scan she could think of, but there didn’t seem to be anything actually untoward about it. It even had Rotor’s signature on it.
Shrugging, she opened the file, and found what looked to be an old Brain Trust memo, with some sparse text on it.
Knothole, under the lab. The codeword is ‘Ignite’. Use only when there is no other choice.
Under the lab? There was something below Tails and Rotor’s workshop this whole time? Would it perhaps have survived the destruction of the old city? She certainly didn’t recall that… Still, she wasn’t as omnipresent back in those days, so it could’ve slipped her notice…
If Eggman was focusing on recovering Mecha Sally, he probably didn’t have any attacks on the city lined up. He was the sort to generally fixate on a single goal, especially if it was something taking whatever he’d claimed as his own- Just thinking of Sally in that context made the AI nauseous, but Eggman’s fixation gave her all the room to investigate this… maybe it was something that could allow her to help…
Nicole quickly transferred herself over to the computer in Freedom HQ, hologram taking full form in the main room. She floated from the domed building and made her way over to the site of the old lab. With a wave of her hand, a small telekinetic pulse rippled the dust and rubble away.
There, beneath the surface layer, was a heavy iron door, with a keypad beside it. She leaned down, inspecting the controls themselves. They seemed to still be working, fortuitously.
Long-abandoned engines groaned into life, servos straining as the door began to lift up, hydraulics whining all the way. Stairs extended down into the dark depths, but her own body lit the way for her as she descended into the hidden chamber. At the bottom, she found a small corridor, leading up to a sliding door with a camera above it and a screen either side.
As she approached, the camera angled toward her, and the left screen popped into life.
Today had largely been full of things she didn’t expect. She didn’t expect to hear that Sonic’s team had captured Mecha Sally. She didn’t expect to hear that Silver was with them. She didn’t expect to find a hidden file in her system. She didn’t expect said file to lead her to a secret room underneath the remains of the lab in her old home. And, adding another to the list, she wasn’t expecting to see Fiona Fox’s face looking back at her from the screen.
Instinctively, her response was to prepare for some form of attack on the other side of the door, but she noticed that the vixen appeared to be standing in the same lab that she had just passed through the rubble of, wearing her old yellow and white outfit, and her expression was calm and neutral, rather than the ridiculous forced grin she normally wore now.
“Hey Nicole,” The recording spoke. “If you’re watching this, then either someone’s brought you down here or Tails’ predictions for your development were accurate and you’re now moving on your own. Oh, also, something’s going really, really wrong and we need a new big gun.”
The recording went to static for a moment, before clearing up again.
“If you’ve entered the “Ignite” code then the lab’s systems should be preparing what we have locked up here. Tails, Rotor, Chuck, Tommy and I have been working on it for a while now, trying to make it safe to use, but… we haven’t had much luck, and experience with these things tells me that we can’t wing it with this one. I mean, if it doesn’t work, it’ll take all of Sonic, or Tails, or Knuckles’ power to subdue it. Probably.”
More static, and a clear image again.
“Basically, if you’re looking at releasing it, well, only do it if it can’t really make it any worse. I call it the ‘Darkest Hour Protocol’. This little guy-” Fiona’s arm reached out of the frame and dragged Tails into view. The smaller fox looked as though his brain had stopped working at the contact, and Nicole couldn’t tell whether Fiona was aware or not. “- thinks I’m being cynical and maudlin, but I don’t see him or Rote coming up with anything better, do I?”
“W-well… no.” Tails sighed.
“Exactly! So yeah, please be careful with this, Nicole. Of all of us, I know you’re the one we can all count on to do the right thing with this power. If you need it for real, the second password is ‘Awaken’.”
The recording cut off, the screen going dark as Nicole approached the door. Her fingers brushed against the keypad, pausing for a moment. Fiona’s warning seemed more than dire. Whatever was on the other side of this door could potentially win them the fight, or it could make things even harder for them. The fact that this had been hidden from her, the key buried in her code made her suspicious…
No. She couldn’t sit around and wish she could help her friends, and then pass up the potential opportunity. If it was something that the Brain Trust had worked on, it was probably a machine anyway, so if it couldn’t help, she could shut it down.
The door slid open with a pneumatic hiss, the room on the other side lighting up. Heading inside, the first thing she encountered was what appeared to be a Chaos Emerald, though the glow was much fainter than normal, resting on a small stand.
“Tails’ synthetic Emerald… So this is where it ended up…”
Behind it, against the back wall, was what appeared to be a metal casket, lined with faint blue lights. She walked over to it, laying her hand on the top. To her shock, the box hummed into life, a glowing blue circle lighting up around her hand, lines spreading out from it, covering the whole piece. The top split down the middle, and with a rumble, began to open. Nicole jumped back, as a mechanical arm lowered from the ceiling, grabbing the Emerald from where it stood. It slid over to the casket, lowering the Emerald into it.
Nicole rushed back over, watching a claw extend from inside, grasping the Emerald, then retracting back down. The gemstone descended into what appeared to be a socket made to fit it, a ring of metal plates closing in to mostly cover it, lines of warm yellow light spreading from it like arteries, filling out the shape of a Mobian figure, roughly the same size as her hologram.
What looked almost like a metallic liquid spread up from around the metal skeleton’s feet, forming the shape of armoured plating- Thick, bulky, and rounded. At the same time, more pieces of the endoskeleton rotated and clicked into place around the robot’s chest, forming a rounded shape with a hole in the centre, through which Nicole could see the faint glow of the Emerald beneath it.
A faint mote of energy floated up into the empty chest cavity, and for a moment, it hung there, unmoving, before it flickered, sparked, began to grow, first to a small flame, then rapidly turning into a raging inferno of Chaos within the new machine’s heart. The spreading metal formed the two halves of a chestplate, then closed down over it, the blazing core only visible through a trio of circles in the centre of the plate.
Above it, two optic sensors lit up, bright yellow with a tiny, almost-white pupil in the centre, before a third opened in the centre of the forehead. The trio of beady eyes focused on her for a second, before golden fire erupted from within the casket, throwing her back once again. The figure all but rolled out of the casket, perching on edge in a crouched position. Its eyes scanned across the room for a moment, before it stood and launched itself upwards, straight through the ceiling, on a tower of blue flame.
“Oh dear…” Nicole murmured.
Phasing through the now-crumbling ceiling, she spotted the robot hovering above her head. In the daylight, she was able to see it more clearly. Most of the plating on its body was a light sandy colour, with bronze on its shoulders, knees, the soles of its heavy, boot-like feet, and the distinctive single-pointed crest extending from its forehead. Burnished brown covered its upper arms, thighs, hands, and narrow midsection.
It seemed to sense her presence, as it it whirled to face her and immediately raced back down toward her. She phased back from the strike, which split the earth where she had been standing just moments before, and floated herself upwards.
Whatever this robot was, it had gone berserk within seconds of waking up, and Nicole quickly found herself regretting her decision to ignore Fiona’s warning. Out here, her processing power was limited, and if it happened to destroy the headquarters in its rampage, she would lose connection entirely.
As the robot recovered from its slam, it locked onto her, staring for a moment.
“Δείξε μου τη δύναμή σου. Ή δεν θα υπακούω. Εκπροσωπώ όλα τα πράγματα και θα γίνω Γκισοειδής, ο κατακτητής όλων …” The voice came from the machine’s head, somewhere behind the mouthplate on its face. The tone was softer than she expected, not a harsh, grating screech, or a monotonous drone, but much more lifelike, almost like that of a young woman. The language itself wasn’t one currently in use… but Nicole did recognise it.
It angled up toward her and fired its thrusters again, launching itself up toward her, fist drawing back as Chaos flared around it. Nicole braced, holding her hand forward, a square barrier of light forming between the two of them. The robot’s fist smashed through the shield, continuing to race upward, until it stopped dead, its punch slamming uselessly into a wall of telekinetic force. For a moment, its engines strained against the psychic barrier, while Nicole held firm, feeding as much power into it as she could.
She spotted the droid’s third optic focusing on her for a moment, before its engines began to wind down. It jetted back slightly, circling slowly as its eye continued to scan her. Then, its pinprick pupils widened, growing to normal size. Its eyes turned blue, as did the glow from the circles on its chest. The central eye snapped shut at the same time.
Nicole paused for a moment, as her systems processed the two samples of language from the robot.
“Hm… Nocturnian?” She mused, quickly translating the original speech it had sent her. It had asked her who she was.
Show me your power. Or I shall not obey. I represent all things, and shall become Gizoid, the conqueror of all... ’ So, that was what Fiona meant… This thing was powerful, and without something else powerful to match it, it would be uncontrollable. Luckily, it seemed her psionic abilities were enough to qualify. Still, she’d have to be careful with this...
Nicole turned to face the robot again, now speaking in its own tongue. “< I am Nicole. I am a Freedom Fighter. Some of my friends found you and gave me the keys to awaken you. >”
“<They shouldn’t have done that,>” The robot replied. “<And you shouldn’t have let me out.>”
The robot’s inflections weren’t easy to understand in such an old language, but it didn’t take much to pick up on the melancholy in its words. Immediately, Nicole’s wariness eased a little. Clearly the bot was aware of how much of a gamble she was taking by awakening it, and it seemed to feel… shame? Fear? Apprehension? She floated closer to the hovering figure, smiling as disarmingly as possible.
“<I… I don’t remember. My memory banks appear to be damaged. Oh. But I do remember how much power I have… and how bad it would be if that got out…>”
“<Well… I have a lot of power too,” Nicole said. “And if that were turned loose against the world, it would be nigh-unstoppable… But… someone very important to me taught me that I can be more than that power. I don’t have to shy away from it for fear of what it could do, especially not if I can use it to help others instead…>”
“<I… never thought of it like that…>” The robot admitted, tilting its head as it looked at her. “<Thank you.>”
“<You’re welcome.>” She smiled, putting her hand on the bot’s shoulder. To her surprise, the third eye opened again, and a static charge rippled between her fingers and the plating. “Ow! I didn’t think holograms could get static shocks…”
“You’re a hologram?” The robot asked. Nicole paused for a second, and realised that it had spoken in North Mercian, rather than Nocturnian. Well, ‘it’ didn’t seem appropriate now. In the more familiar dialect, the robot was clearly speaking with a woman’s voice.
“You can speak North Mercian?”
“Is that what this language is? I think I just absorbed it from you,” She shrugged, rubbing the back of her head awkwardly. “That was probably what shocked you, so, sorry about that.”
“You… ‘absorbed’ it?”
“Yes, that’s what my power is. That’s why I’m so dangerous, I think. Anything I see, if my brain can comprehend it, I can replicate it. Languages, weapons, powers, the works,” She explained. “But yeah, you’re a hologram?”
“This body is. I am an artificial intelligence program. The hologram is how I interact with the world around me.”
“That’s actually really cool.” The robot beamed, or at least Nicole assumed she was smiling from her tone of voice.
“Thank you,” Nicole smiled. “Do you remember your name?”
“Uh… It’s… um…” The robot paused for a moment, then looked back up at her. “My name is Emerl.”
“Emerl? Well, it’s nice to meet you, Emerl.”
“Thanks, it’s nice to meet you as well,” Emerl nodded. “So, why did you wake me up, then?”
Nicole’s face fell, and she looked away from her new friend.
“I’m sorry to spring this on you, so soon after you’ve awakened, but I was told not to activate you unless we found ourselves in a crisis… and we’re in a crisis.”
“What sort of crisis? Hopefully one where punching things real hard can fix it, otherwise I don’t think I’ll be much help,” Emerl sighed. Nicole laughed slightly, and shook her head a little.
“Well, I think it might come in handy… My friends, the Freedom Fighters… we’re the primary opposition to a madman named Doctor Eggman…”
“Uh, ‘Egg Man?’ Does that combination of words have a different meaning on this language, or does it still effectively mean Αυγό άνθρωπος?”
“It really does mean that. We’re not sure why he calls himself that either,” Nicole shrugged. “In any case, Eggman leads a small Empire of his own, and he has made it his ambition to take over the entire planet and convert everyone on it into a mechanical slave that only exists to follow his orders and massage his fragile ego. Normally, his attacks are fairly inept, but occasionally he manages to hit us just right... “
“He transformed our leader, Princess Sally, into a robot slave and then weaponised her body to make her into a combat droid. Shortly after that, two more of us fell in battle… And now three more of us have gone to try and rescue Sally. They were successful, but something took down their plane and Mecha Sally woke up, so now they’re stranded somewhere north of here and they’re in danger… and I can’t do anything to help them.”
“Okay, that sounds like a pretty huge crisis…”
“That’s not even the entire problem… but, it is the most pressing concern right now. The plane went down about half an hour ago by now… And I’ve been working to position their exact location all this time… I think I’ve got it, but I don’t know how long they’ve got…”
“Well, you’re in luck,” Emerl said. “I happen to be pretty fast, and I also have a vacant storage slot for an AI in my head. I think it’s for recovery purposes… but I’m not sure what I’d be recovering. Anyway, it’s there for you. If you guide me, we can rescue your friends.”
“Really?!” Nicole gasped, hugging the robot. “Thank you!”
“Not a problem, Nicole.”