Battered and scorched, Omega slowly rocketed toward the domed energy shield of Mobotropolis. Rouge had provided a clearance code for him, lest he end up targeted by whatever meagre defences the Mobians possessed. This was perhaps the only time he wouldn’t have been happy to shoot his way in. The Freedom Fighters helped him blow up Robotnik’s equipment, and after that fight his supplies of ordnance were pretty thin on the ground. It just didn’t appeal to him; this was as close as an entity like him could come to being tired.
Transmitting clearance code. GUN Agent: E-123 'Omega' requesting permission to land, and immediate contact with Sonic the Hedgehog."
”Clearance authorised. Proceed to the designated gate – a team is waiting for you. Authorities have been notified.”
A tiny part of him cared enough to hope this wouldn’t take long. It irked him to know that the people who had taken down Rouge and Shadow were getting away unexploded.
He turned, curling around the shield, toward the allocated entrance, descending all the while. His feet hit the road with a crunch, and he stomped over to the gate as quickly as he could. Inside stood a security team, all of them staring at him. Evidently, he wasn't quite what they were expecting.
”I recommend not attempting to relieve me of my weapons. It may take some time.”
“We will need an inventory…” One of them began. He held a damaged hand up to silence them.
”Call GUN. They have a list somewhere. I need to speak to Sonic the Hedgehog.”
“Nevertheless, you can’t just go in. After what’s just happened, no one is going to want a robot walking-“
”You think I’ll be mistaken for Robotnik’s lackeys? Wrong!” Omega took one faltering step backwards, instinctively bracing himself, weapons running routines as the security detail snapped weapons up, training on him. There was a tense moment as the squad held their aim, doing their job, the robot infuriated by their suggestion but not so blind as to try and attack Mobians. He could handle this lot, sure, but they weren’t the enemy.
“Guys…guys, can we just not do this?” His voice visibly eased the tension and Omega’s eyes spun on their axis, fixing Sonic’s figure in the doorway. His circuits were sizzling, but maybe he could get back to shooting other robots soon. “Omega, man…you look like shit.”
I fail to see the resemblance." He said, walking toward him. "
Things did not go as planned. We shall discuss this away from prying audio receptors."
"Sounds good to me. HQ's this way."
The rest of the trip was made in relative silence. Omega's appearance did him no favours, but Sonic's presence seemed to alleviate matters. Robots were not common sights in a peaceful Mobotropolis, but the hedgehog was.
"They probably just think you're one of Tails' creations."
Perhaps." He didn’t particularly understand the need for conversation, or his choice of topic. He was here doing a job and he was doing it without shooting anything. That should be enough. If he was trying to reassure him, it wasn’t necessary.
The headquarters had an armed guard outside of it, for reasons that became apparent as soon as they entered: They had guests. Elias, General Prower, and the entire Council of Acorn- With the obvious exception of Rotor- were waiting inside with the remaining Freedom Fighters. Nobody made eye-contact, and few words were exchanged.
"Okay guys, got Omega, probably stopped some kind of incident, so I think that's everything we need." Sonic folded his arms. "What happened out there?"
The moment of pause as Omega collected his explanation only served to provide a tone of unnecessary drama, servos clicking as he observed everyone.
”Shadow the Hedgehog and Rouge the bat are compromised. Rotor Walrus is roboticised. He shot at me. I shot at him. Neither of us exploded. I am disappointed. Status of Bunnie DeCoolette is unknown. Similar position is likely.”
The room had been tense before; solemn even. When an oppressive pall swept over them all as he spoke, the robot was perhaps the only being in the room that failed to notice.
“So…you failed. This was meant to be easy for you.” Omega locked optics with the voice. Elias, anger that tinged his words.
”Correction: I did not fail. I was recalled under orders.” Lack of real social etiquette prevented from him diffusing or even recognising what was happening. It was true that Elias was angry, yes, but at Robotnik for what he’d done. Now an object lesson to what was happening after they’d lost Sally and two other Freedom Fighters was standing right in front of him.
"Did you see anything else?" Amadeus spoke up.
Negative. Rotor stopped me outside the ship. Rouge and Shadow went in alone. I heard fighting, two shots consistent with the output of Miles Prower's railgun design pierced the hull from within, hence my assumption that Bunnie is among those transformed."
"Would that even be possible?" Dylan asked, folding his arms. "Hamlin, Penelope and I all saw what happens to something mechanical in a roboticizer."
"This is a new roboticizer, that isn't affected by the Bem's immunization." Tails spoke up. "It probably works in a completely different way, and it's entirely possible that it doesn't have that particular effect anymore."
"What about the new robo-me?" Sonic asked. "Did you manage to scrap that?"
”It attacked us prior to the evacuation. We were able to overpower it, but it retreated. It was not present during the combat where we were beaten. If it was, I would have fewer rounds left.”
“Fucking hell!” The hedgehog’s response was nowhere near as reserved as the others, but it did alleviate the tension a fraction, though only for a moment as he paced away, hands in the air.
Elias barely went above a whisper. “So we’re now even further away from resolving this. Omega, would have GUN have any contingencies for this sort of situation? Agents captured in the field?”
”It is my understanding that we were the contingency.”
Silence fell over the room, the weight of the situation settling in.
"Then... what do we do? Can we fight that many combat-grade Robians?" Amy asked.
"Perhaps... perhaps it's not so dire..." Nicole spoke up. "We took down the Death Egg, which was also Eggman's headquarters, so he's on the back foot too. As for dealing with the Robians... We can fight them, with a sufficient amount of backup... Shadow will be the biggest obstacle, and between Sonic, Tails, and Omega, we have a chance... I know it's not much of one... But it's the best I can do..."
”Unless Gun issues new orders, my objective has not changed. Assist the Freedom Fighters and recover their assets. I will assist as able.” Though he had delivered news of mission’s failure with agonising bluntness, his promise of help was of equal honesty, something for which the lynx was very grateful. They just needed help right now, and damn the attached strings.
“It’s a start, but it won’t be enough.” Tails cut in again, leaning against a table corner. “We’re looking at this like it’s…too small, like we’re just facing a few rogue friendless, when really we’re facing an empire that until very recently was poised for the killing blow. Elias, dad, I think it’s time we had your army doing more than just defending our borders.”
And all eyes turned to Amadeus Prower, the man behind the Acorn’s blade. The physical similarities between he and his son were there, though his bearing and presence were not, body and tone shades darker. “A logical step, I suppose.” He inclined his head in thought. “But most of our soldiers are busy, as you said. If we had the numbers to spare, they could have been up there with you today. I wanted them to be.”
“And yet, they weren’t, and now for whatever reason that has meant we’ve lost three battles, enough to cripple both my team and GUN’s finest. I know how we used to work – your soldiers held the kingdom together, while my friends made sure nothing got close enough to hurt anyone…or we tried, anyway. When something got through, you stopped it. It meant we had something to fall back on, but that isn’t working now.” He sat up straighter, fists clenched ahead of him, not meeting the gaze of anyone else. “We lost three team members, so we fell back. We attacked again, and failed, so we fell back. GUN tried to support us, they lost most of their team, and fell back.”
“We can’t keep on retreating.” Amadeus understood, and this time Tails did meet his eyes.
“Every time we’ve failed, we’ve had someone to catch us, but that clearly isn’t working now. We’re just losing ground. Whatever plan we come up with to take the fight back, we can’t have a plan B. We can’t take another step back.”
"While it's not very helpful for starter, I do have a "plan Z", so to speak." Nicole spoke up. "It's not exactly viable, but as an absolute last resort, it could work."
"And what is it?" Penelope asked.
"Evacuate the city, take everyone somewhere safe, and then lure Eggman here. Then I can throw a whole city's worth of nanites at them."
"Where will we go?" Hamlin asked, folding his arms abruptly. The pig always had something to say.
"I said it wasn't viable for that very reason: I don't know."
"Maybe I could call in a few favours with Knuckles... Echidnopolis is mostly empty after the residents went back to Albion." Sonic mused.
“Perhaps that’s thinking a little too far ahead into a possible failure for my liking.” Amadeus shook his head. “It may be worth making provisions, but perhaps we should look to some sort of victory. Miles…” He paused, “I have my hands full just keeping our territory secure, but if you can come up with a plan that saves more lives than we lose, I’ll do what I can.”
“General, you may command the military,” once again Hamlin objected, brandishing an accusatory finger at Tails’ father, “but you lack the authority to authorise it for-“
Elias shut him up without raising his voice. “The decision has been made. If you have any objections, either field a better suggestion for our military or get out.”
Hamlin flustered for a moment, incensed.
"S-surely we should take a vote!"
"I believe it would be logical to leave this one to those who have experience in this field." Rosemary suggested.
"Yes, your husband and son, of course you side with them!"
"Mom's ruled against the Freedom Fighters a few times." Tails said. "It's the burden of the job."
“Now dear, we can still settle this with the democratic process.” Once again, Amadeus took command. “The council is present, the motion is to delegate responsibility of our armed forces in a support role to the Freedom Fighters, in order to recover people and information before we can suffer further losses. The facts for and against it have been presented, and Hamlin has countered the action. Does anyone else stand with him?”
The silence that followed, filled only with Hamlin’s fuming, was palpable. It held for a good minute, before Sonic snapped his fingers at the pig, jabbing a thumb towards the door. “Time to hoof it, dude. Gotta love democracy, am I right?”
“But-“ Still, Hamlin tried to regain some ground.
“Hamlin, get out.” The king snapped.
“Get out!” He shouted, sweeping round the table and marching up to the man. Right here and now, Elias seemed to have much more of a presence, cloak swirling around his feet as he stepped close, taller than Hamlin by enough for it to look imposing. “We are here trying to save the kingdom, trying to make sure we do not lose any more than we have, and trying to rescue the people who have fallen in its defence. So, I will tell you once more, leave, and send your resignation to the council’s inbox. Or…”
He reached out, gripping the councillor’s shoulder. “Or you can contact GUN, and explain to them why they will never see Shadow or Rouge again. You will tell the Freedom Fighters here why they will likely never speak to Rotor or Bunnie again, and you will justify to me why I should never see my sister again.” With a rough shove he turned Hamlin on the spot, sending him bolting for the doorway. Taking a deep breath, he turned back to the room. “I’m sorry, everyone, for you having to witness that. Now, saviours, we have no one to save us if this goes wrong. How do we make it work?”
Despite their injuries from the crash, neither Eggman, Snively, nor Lien-Da waited around in the medical wing of the fortress once they had regained consciousness. Eggman couldn't afford to leave his treacherous generals with room to strike against him, nor could they give him an opportunity to uncover their plans. All part of the demented game he played with his subordinates.
With one leg and one arm bound in casts, his glasses fractured, and his rotund form confined to a hovering chair, the mad doctor floated into the control room. The fortress was a hidden one, adjacent to the launch site of many of his air fleets. Snively and Lien-Da were not far behind, and took their positions in front of the throne when the door slid slowly open, and Mecha Sally stepped into the chamber, flanked by Mecha Sonic and her four fallen comrades.
Rouge and Shadow were welcome additions to their unit, the former having her build transformed to match, sleek curves and vibrant, outlandish colours hashed across muted or more pleasing ones. She still had that walk though, her air of confident swagger though all of who she was had been stripped away by the roboticiser – something in the form, perhaps. In contrast Shadow presented a mess of jagged edges and dark tones, proceeding into the chamber with no added flair.
The Death Egg may lie crippled and in enemy hands, but even so, the sight of so many of his enemies now enthralled to him still brought a smile to his face, bruised as it was. But he was still pissed off, and that was more fun.
“Now, what in blazes was that, hmm?” The dictator eyed the two subordinates as Mecha Sally’s cohorts swept out around the room, taking up positions to be convenient when they would be most needed. The squirrel herself remained by the door, arms folded behind her back.
I require your attention, Doctor." She stated, voice still monotone.
"That's "Master" to you, Mecha Sally." Eggman glowered. "Remember your place. Remember who it is that you serve."
I serve the Eggman Empire. I am programmed to do so. I will always do so... I will always act with its best interests at core, even if that means standing against its leader." She began to amble slowly forward. "
You have done many great things for this Empire, Doctor, and for that, I commend you. But since Sonic's return from space, you were never able to capitalize on this. I never understood why, until Sonic revealed your philosophies to me. To you, it is all a game. Resources, cities, fortresses, superweapons, people, all of them pawns in a warped game with Sonic. Your own creations could have slain him years ago, but you continue to underpower them, because to you, one of them killing Sonic would not be a victory to you. You wouldn't know what to do without Sonic. But you still lose countless assets just to prolong your fight... Forgetting, perhaps, that you are an old man, and he is still developing his abilities. As I read through your plans, I came to understand the truth... What you have done for this Empire will never be forgotten, but your time has passed, and new leaders must rise in your place."
Snively and Lien-Da glanced at each other, grinning, as Eggman stared, aghast at the Robian's sudden defiance.
In order for this Empire to triumph, and conquer Mobius in its entirety, there is, according to my assessment, but one being that can lead it." Mecha Sally closed her optics, and bowed her head as she spoke. Every light on her body, from bottom to top, turned a warm, vibrant cerulean. Her optics lit up with the same glow, as she looked up again, a smile on her muzzle. "Me."
The other two stopped smiling, starting in shock as she finished, but she did not address them just yet. Robotnik was still her focus. “Credit where it is due - I do not plan to abandon your works…not completely. Some of your creations had such potential, but fell to misuse, such as Sonic here.” She gestured to Mecha Sonic, standing idly only a short way behind her. “I will ensure that they reach their full potential, and thus ensure the safety and longevity of this empire. Sadly, I believe you have little left to offer, and thus you must be…retired.”
She stopped, watching the dictator carefully, waiting for a response to be conjured. His smile indicated it first, his look of awe and surprise turning to a rictus grin of glee as Robotnik sat back, roaring with laughter. Though his joints cracked painfully he couldn’t help himself. He didn’t believe it – of course he didn’t! A robot leading his empire? Oh, the thought had certainly occurred, been planned for even, but not yet, no. Robots couldn’t innovate like he could, couldn’t think the way he knew was necessary…you couldn’t even trust a robot to destroy Sonic!
“I…I admire you confidence, I really do Mecha Sally!” He said between coughs and deep breaths, wiping his brow. “But don’t you think your celebrations are a little premature?” If anything she and her compatriots – for who else but his underlings could have achieved this misfit of a revolution for him to overthrow – were in a rather bad position to try and impeach him. “You have delivered to me four splendid reasons for this being a very bad decision for you.” Sweeping his arms to enclose the room he shouted his order, “Robians, seize them!”
None of them even hinted at the possibility that his order had been received. The mechanical squirrel's smirk widened, and she snapped her fingers. Every screen in the room began to turn red, the colour change rippling out from her position. The optic sensors of the few robots present, and the eyes of the legionnaires, Lien-Da included, did the same.
"Do you remember that software patch I created? The one that I was allowed to upload into the Eggnet, your robots, and every Legionnaire?" She asked. "It was no mere patch... No, I linked them all to a friend of mine."
Beside her, a red tinted hologram flashed into the room, taking the form of a Mobian lynx, black hair pulled into a bun, clad in a blue and black dress of Chun-Nese design. Her face bore no expression, her crimson eyes were dull, and she stood with her hands folded behind her back.
"I wasn't able to delete the Iron Nicole code when Regina took control of her. I had to suppress it, lock it away behind all manner of security programs. When you gave me the handheld, it was child's play to dig deep into the systems and bring her out, before establishing her as the new AI for the Empire... You never did replace ADAM, after all, and his seat was left wide open for her. And now, she's in the head of every single legionnaire and robot in this city, except for myself. "
Sally smiled, and turned to face the hologram.
"Send my former Master and his nephew to the brig. We'll see if they have anything useful in their heads before we... dispose of them."
Robotnik struggled, tried to fight as Rotor bore down on him, but locked in his own sanctum with no control, surrounded by his new enemies, there was little he could do to resist. Bellowing his many curses at the top of his lungs as he was carried from the room, the last thing they heard was the chilling, calm voice of Iron Nicole.
“Your contributions have not gone unnoticed. Your sacrifice will benefit us all.”