1996 The Robotic Jungle By Derek J. Barbee
Any resemblance to actual characters are not coincidental. ; )
Joseph, Bahb, and all other independent creations of Joseph DeLaCroix are the copyrighted property of JoCo Inc. Commander Packbell, Bookshire Draftwood, and Sandra Nightweaver are the copyrighted property of David Pistone. All rights reserved. Pause for bourgeois legalities: This story is copyright ©1996 by the author, who grants permission to reproduce and distributeit, so long as A) you don't screw around with it and leave the text as it is, and B) you don't try and make some cash off of it. If you're serious about the latter, drop me a line firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll discuss my cut. All the normal provisions of Title 17 (the U.S. Copyright Law) still apply.
Based on characters and situations created by Sega Corporation, Archie Comics and/or DiC Productions. Bookshire Draftwood appears in this story courtesy of David Pistone Talent Associates. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Time line: 6 days after the story "Battle of the Cyborgs." ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
It was another dull, dreary day at Robotropolis. Packbell sighed, wondering what he could do for entertainment. After a moment of thinking, he pressed the talk button on a monitor. "SWATBot EYX-241, are there any newly captured Freedom Fighters?" The thing he liked second most to creating something new and evil was causing pain. The monitor crackled and the robotic voice of SWATBot EYX-241 came on the monitor. <"NO SIR, NONE AT ALL. YOU EITHER KILLED OR ROBOTICIZED ALL OF THE LATEST CAPTURED CITIZENS.">
"Blast it!" Packbell frowned. "Send out another search party and try to capture some more."
Packbell leaned back. Now what could he do? Suddenly the monitor crackled again and another SWATBot came on. <"SIR, THIS IS SWATBOT EYX-356, REPORTING FROM THE SWATBOT WORKSHOP.">
"Well I'll be darned," thought Packbell, "those worthless things might have actually invented something useful this time!" He turned back to the monitor. "Make your report."
The SWATBot continued. <"SIR, TWO SWATBOTS WERE WORKING WITH SOME UNKNOWN CHEMICALS AND THEY ACCIDENTALLY GOT MIXED TOGETHER. THE WHOLE WORKSHOP EXPLODED. ALL THE SWATBOTS WERE DESTROYED, BUT IT CREATED A GATEWAY TO AN UNKNOWN ZONE.">
Packbell lifted an eyebrow. "What sort of zone?"
<"IT APPEARS TO BE A ROBOTIC JUNGLE, ALMOST EVERYTHING IN IT IS ROBOTIC. THERE ARE SOME STRANGE ROBOTS IN THERE. A FULL SWATBOT PATROL WENT IN TO FIND OUT WHAT TYPE OF ZONE IT WAS. THEY DIED TO GIVE THIS REPORT. APPARENTLY THEY WERE ATTACKED BY SOMETHING THAT A FULL SWATBOT PATROL COULDN'T HANDLE. END OF REPORT.">
Packbell started, then relaxed. "Keep this zone under armed guard, day and night. And, just to make things interesting, put a few Battle Cyborgs in the zone. I might be getting an idea."
Packbell turned away from the monitor. "Well, well," he thought, "maybe it wouldn't be such a boring day after all.
Charles Hedgehog ran along the path to Knothole. "Sometimes I get tired of this," he thought, "maybe I should take on an assistant spy to help me with this silly job. Maybe Sonic would like to come sometime."
A loud sonic boom interrupted his thoughts. "Speak of the devil!" he murmured.
He saw some bushes rustling by the side of the road and he stopped. Someone that sounded very much like Sonic was chanting from his or her hiding place in the bush.
"Fee, Fi, Foe, Fum, I smell the smell of a silly ol' Charles bum!" A familiar blue hedgehog head popped up out of the bushes. "Hallo, Unc!" Sonic the Hedgehog leaped out of the bushes and walked toward his uncle.
Charles put his hands on his hips. "Just what do you mean smell? And silly ol' Charles bum?"
Sonic smirked. "Smell is smell. You stink! When was the last time you had a bath?"
"Robotropolis has that effect on people."
"And to answer your other question," Sonic continued, "you're living like a bum in Robotropolis. Hiding away, smelling somethin' awful!" Sonic held his nose to emphasize his point. He shook his head. "Why don't you come live in the lap of luxury with the rest of us Knotholers?"
"I agree, it is a smelly job, but somebody's gotta do it."
Sonic sighed and shook his head. Then he looked up. "What news of Robotropolis?"
Charles started walking. "C'mon, I'll explain to you on the way."
As they walked, Charles explained to Sonic about the SWATBot workshop exploding.
"So the whole workshop blew up," said Uncle Chuck, "in this terrible explosion."
"Terrible?" asked Sonic, "If those two SWATBots were here, I'd practically kiss them!"
Charles shook his head. "But the explosion created an unknown zone. Probably a dangerous one too, from what I hear."
Sonic smirked. "So what? Zones are cool. I can get a bunch of rad rings in them. And they make me go fast." He ran in place until his feet were a blur.
Charles shook his head. "Still, I think that we should tell the council about this."
Sonic waved his hand. "Suit yourself, I'm gonna go grab a chili dog.
Charles watched Sonic go, then continued on to the council room. "Odd nephew of mine," he muttered, "nice, but odd."
The council decided carefully what to do about the new zone. Many options were thought thoroughly through. They finally decided to let Sonic, Sally, Rotor, Bunnie, Antoine, Joseph and Sandra go check it out. When the council ended, Sonic, Sally, Rotor, Bunnie and Antoine stuck in a group. "Does everyone have what they need for this mission?" asked Sally. Everyone did a quick check of their bags. Antoine muttered halfheartedly as he checked his bag. "Hmmm, band-aids, liniment, antiseptic, doughnuts . . ."
"What the hoo-ha are you packin' doughnuts for? Gonna hook em on Packbell's pointed head?" asked Bunnie.
Antoine grinned sheepishly. "Even Indiana Jones haz to eat."
Sonic rolled his eyes. "Can we go now? I'm tired of getting lectures from Professor Jones' here."
Sally looked around at the others. "Everyone seems to have their things. But we have to go stop by Joseph's house to get him and Sandra. They're coming too remember?"
Tails ran out into the road. "Can I come too?" Sally put a hand on his shoulder. "No, Tails. You have to stay here and protect Knothole, keep it safe from invaders." Tails puffed his tiny chest out importantly. "Yes ma'am!" he replied.
As Tails strutted off to protect' Knothole, he stopped and turned back around. "Hey, Sonic!" he called, and promptly stuck out his tongue. Sonic promptly stuck his out, too. Tails smiled. "You win!" he said. "You were uglier to begin with." He ran off laughing with Sonic hot on his heels.
Sally sighed. "Sometimes I think that little kid has learned entirely too much from Sonic."
Sonic knocked on the door of Joseph's enormous white dome house. It had been built by Joseph himself and was invulnerable to any weather that you could think of. A recent accident had inspired Joseph to make it invulnerable to lightning, too.
The chosen group of freedom fighters heard metallic footsteps as one of Joseph's robots came to answer the door. It opened the door and Sonic smiled. "Hi there, you old bucket 'o' bolts! Is Joseph home? We'd like to talk to him and Sandra."
The robot blinked and turned away to get Joseph. Sally looked questioningly at Sonic. "Bucket 'o' bolts?" Sonic grinned.
Joseph opened the door all the way and looked out. He smiled. "What can I do for you?" Sandra appeared beside him and squinted at the sun as if she hadn't been out in days, which she and Joseph hadn't. The two vulpine mates mostly stayed inside and enjoyed each other's company. This was the first time they had gotten out in two days.
Sonic smirked at Joseph. "Pack up some spyin' stuff, Joe. We's goin' on a mission!"
A grin spread out on Joseph's face. "So you finally asked us to come for a change," he said, "instead of having us just tag along secretly." He looked down at Sandra. "What do you say, darling?" he asked her. Sandra smiled. "Sure. Let's go." She smiled wider and held up two bags. "We're already packed." Joseph and Sandra grinned at each other. "We just . . . figured . . . you'd come."
Sally shook her head. These two never ceased to amaze her.
Packbell chuckled as he watched the Freedom Fighters approach Robotropolis. "This is a lot like what happened last time with my Battle Cyborgs, isn't it?" he thought to himself. He pressed the monitor button and spoke into it. "Attention all SWATBots guarding the zone portal. The Freedom Fighters are coming. Try not to kill them if possible, just gently force them into the zone. The zone will make short work of them." He sat back and smiled. "Ahh. Just the way I like it. No mess ups." He pressed a few more buttons and the sounds of robots outside his door made him smile. "Come in," he called.
The door opened and a Battle Cyborg Captain walked in, followed by at least a dozen other Battle Cyborgs. The cyborg captain saluted and stood still, giving of a dangerous feeling of suggestion. Packbell grinned even wider, gazing at his ultimate creations. Finally, after a moment of pure ecstasy, he spoke. "I want the full patrol of you to follow Sonic and his friends into the zone. Use one of your built-in Spy Cams to let me see what is happening. I don't want to miss a minute of this. Go!" The cyborgs retreated out the door, leaving a very happy Packbell.
He smiled at the monitor as it showed the picture of the Freedom Fighters watching the SWATBots that were guarding the zone. He watched as a nervous fox took a doughnut out of his bag and begin munching on it. He shook his head in disgust. "Fools," he thought.
The odd group of Knotholers huddled together outside the once SWATBot workshop, now zone portal. Sally turned around and glared at Antoine irritably. "Antoine, would you stop eating that doughnut? I never knew doughnuts could be so loud!" Antoine gulped down the rest of his last doughnut and put the bag away. Sally looked back at the SWATBots patrolling the zone portal. "There's too many of those SWATBots! We can't get past them to the zone."
"Whoa, Sal!" Sonic interrupted. "I thought we were just going to check out the zone, not go in it!"
Sally turned around and put her hands on her hips. "And just how are we going to check' it out? Go up and ask one of the SWATBots what the zone is like? We have to go in to find out."
Sonic scratched his head. "Oh. That never occurred to me."
Sally turned back to the SWATBots. "He may have the fastest feet on the planet, but he has the slowest brain!" she snorted to herself.
"Hey! I heard that!"
Joseph rolled his eyes. "It looks like they aren't going to get anywhere, anytime soon." Sandra looked up at him. "May I?" she asked. Joseph looked down at her. he smiled. "Sure."
Sandra got up and started walking casually toward the SWATBot patrol. Everyone stopped arguing and looked at her, and everyone but Joseph uttered an assortment of exclamations.
"Alors! She will be keeled!"
"Oh mah stars!"
"Uh oh! Way past uncool!"
Joseph just sat there and smiled.
Sandra walked up and stood right between the two SWATBots that hadn't walked off to guard other places. Everyone held their breath and watched. Sandra stood there, eyeing the two SWATBots. Suddenly, she tapped both bots on their shoulders. They both jerked and turned around at the same time. Sandra stood as still as a statue and both Freedom Fighters and SWATBots squinted into the darkness. A black fox is almost invisible at night. The two SWATBots, satisfied that there was no one there, turned back around. SWATBots are not the brightest of robots. Just then it started occurring to the SWATBots that there had to be someone there, because if there wasn't, who tapped them on their shoulders? At that moment, with one fluid motion, Sandra leaped into the air and kicked a SWATBot in the head. As the SWATBot's head flew off, Sandra braced herself on the SWATBot's body and leaped at the other SWATBot. The second SWATBot fell with a hole through it's back. Sandra calmly walked back to the Freedom Fighters, all the time holding back a grin. When she made it back to the Freedom Fighters, they all congratulated her.
"Excellent, mademoiselle Sandra!"
"Mah oh, my! That was pretty fancy fightin' there!"
"Right on, Sandra!"
"Way past cool!"
Sandra walked back to Joseph and hugged him. He brushed back a wave of her hair. "Bravo, darling," he said. She smiled. "It's fun to ride on the rugged edge of disaster. Maybe next time, you could come with me." Joseph smiled. "I'd love to," he said, and kissed her.
Sonic coughed. Joseph and Sandra kept kissing. Sonic coughed again, this time louder. Joseph and Sandra just kept on kissing. Sonic was about to scream something extremely rude when Sally brushed him aside. "Excuse me, you two. I'm sure we'd love to sit here and watch you kiss all day but we have a schedule." Joseph and Sandra stopped kissing and wordlessly started walking toward the zone portal.
"Now y'all better move ya hides before more SWATBots come, or I'll move 'em for ya," said Bunnie, running after Joseph and Sandra.
Antoine sighed. "Zere eez no reezoning with a Rabbot."
Sonic sneaked up to the doorway of the old SWATBot workshop, which was now the zone portal and signaled for the rest of the group to come. They arrived quietly, as not to alert any SWATBots that might be patrolling the area.
Sonic quietly opened the door to the workshop. All the Freedom Fighters stared in awe at the bright colorful lights that swirled and flowed just beyond the doorway. A long tunnel of colors seemed to twist down through the zone portal, squirming and writhing like some demented beast. Sally was the first to snap out of the trance they all seemed to be in. She stuck out a foot and gingerly put it down on the colorful walkway. It was solid! She put her other foot on. Nothing happened out of the ordinary. "It's like walking on regular ground!" she thought. She started walking down the path. The other Freedom Fighters followed her example, stepping out cautiously and then walking down the path.
Antoine looked beneath his feet, groaned, and held his stomach. "Oooh! I do not like heights! It eez giving me motion sickness too!"
Bunnie came up behind him, smiling. "Don't feel bad, sugah. When you think that you're looking down, you might be looking up, so you might be upside down and far from the ground." She walked off, grinning. "As I said, don't feel bad." Antoine made an odd noise and turned purple.
As they kept walking, they realized that they weren't getting anywhere. Sally scratched her head. "This is very odd. I could swear we've covered enough land to build six Knotholes on, and yet we still haven't gotten anywhere!"
Sonic looked down (er. . . let's just assume that it's down, folks) at the path. "I wonder . . ." he thought out loud. He lay down on the path and scratched the path with one of his quills. He stood up, satisfied. A long scratch lay on the path, at least two or three feet long. "Okay now," he started, "there is our scratch." Rotor tapped him on the shoulder. "Not only there!" he said. "It's also there and there and there and. . ." Billions of identical scratches lay on the path before them. Sally stared at the scratches. "Now what could have happened here?" she wondered. Rotor stepped up. "A possible theory is that the antimatter levels in this zone overflow our regular ones, creating time dimensions smashed together in one large plectosklematic blob."
Everyone stared. Sonic blinked. "Thanks, big guy, but I think we're no better off than we were when we started."
Rotor sighed. "Okay. Let me put it this way. This place we're in is different than the type of place we are used to. This place has a whole bunch of places smushed together, so in each place a scratch appeared because they are all smushed together in the same space. Does that make sense?"
Sonic scratched his head. "I think so. Maybe." Rotor sighed. This was going to be a long day.
Sally looked around. "Still," she said "I don't know how we're going to get anywhere if this place just keeps repeating itself."
Sonic looked at the swirling colors angrily. "Dang it! I'm tired of this!" With that he leaped out into the maelstrom of colors. With a flash of light, he was gone. Everyone gasped. Bunnie was the first one to speak. "Sugar-hog? Are ya there?" They heard a giggle. Suddenly Sonic's head popped out of nowhere and floated next to Bunnie, a few feet away from the side of the path. "Hiya, gang!" said the head. Everyone jumped. Sonic's decapitated head smiled. "Hah hah! suppose I'd be jumpy too if I was in your shoes!"
Sally stared. "How did you do that?"
Sonic smiled again. "I didn't. The zone did." Suddenly he stepped away from the spot where he was, and his body appeared again. He laughed. "See? Nothing to it!" He stuck his arm back into the spot where he had been a few seconds ago. The further he stuck his arm out, the more of it disappeared.
"Weird!" said Sandra. "It's like putting your arm into water and watching it from the water level only!"
Rotor harumphed and started to speak. Sally held up a hand before he could talk. "Before you get into one of your weird explanations, let me ask Sonic something." Rotor sighed and nodded reluctantly. Sally stepped cautiously toward Sonic, half expecting him to disappear at any moment. "Sonic," she asked, "what did you see when you were in that spot?"
Sonic shrugged. "It was weird, Sal. It was like there was nothing there, just total whiteness, nothing. But in one spot, I saw a little thing that looked like a doorway. No hinges, no door. Just a rectangle. But inside the rectangle . . . now that was something!" His eyes gleamed at the thought of a place that was unexplored. "It was like a forest or jungle, only most of it was robotic! Robotic flowers, trees . . . way weird!"
Sally turned toward the spot where Sonic had gone into the other void. She smiled. "That . . . my dear hedgehog," she said, "is what we are looking for." She looked back at Sonic. "Would you do the honors?" she asked, gesturing toward the spot where Sonic had gone. Sonic bowed and smirked. "At once, your royal highness." Before Sally could aim a swat at the sarcastic hedgehog, he leaped through the seemingly invisible portal.
As Sonic helped the last of the Freedom Fighters through the hole, everyone had a chance to look around. Just as Sonic had said, everything was just pure white. They were walking on nothing, there was nothing over their heads. Joseph coughed, breaking the silence that had everyone hypnotized. He started walking in one direction, thinking aloud. "I wonder if you could just walk on forever here," he thought aloud. All the Freedom Fighters watched as Joseph walked off in a random direction. Suddenly, Joseph disappeared into nothing. Everyone gasped. Sandra stood for a moment in shock. Suddenly she gave a strangled cry.
Sandra ran toward were Joseph had disappeared, searching frantically for some trace of her missing mate. They all heard a cough behind them and spun around. Joseph stood there, looking a bit sheepish. "Next time I guess I should be a bit more cautious when I try something like that," he said quietly. Sandra raced toward him and embraced him, almost crying. "Please," she whispered, "don't try anything like that again. I lost my father like that and I don't want to lose you."
Joseph noted a flicker of surprise flash across all the faces of the Freedom Fighters present. Everyone was surprised alright, but none dared to question her past. Sandra had been an ex-criminal at one time, but she had changed. Sally at first had not accepted that, but she did now. No one knew, or wanted to know for that matter, what Sandra's past had been like.
Rotor whispered to Sally, "I guess this part of the zone is so contained that it has limited space. Therefore, when Joseph tried to walk out of it's space, it just placed him on the other side. Sort of like a treadmill. You keep walking, but you never get anywhere!"
Sally nodded. "I think I actually understood that one!"
Eventually Joseph raised his head. "Let's move on," he said softly. Everyone nodded wordlessly.
Sally glanced at the portal. She frowned. "Sonic," she said, "I thought you said that you saw a jungle in the portal. All I can see is black." Indeed, the portal just appeared to be a black rectangle, a hole in time, or a yawning mouth, waiting for a foolish person to enter. Sonic smiled. "I already figured that one out," he replied smugly. He stepped toward the portal. Suddenly the blackness was gone, replaced by an ominous jungle. Everyone jumped. "Mah oh mah!" said Bunnie in an astonished tone. "This place is just full of surprises!" Sonic stepped away from the portal and the jungle was gone, the blackness again there.
"It appears and disappears when you move toward it and away from it," said Sonic.
Rotor looked at the portal and walked toward it. The jungle appeared. He quickly stepped backward. The jungle was gone. Rotor shook his head. "I'm afraid I have nothing to say about this one. Sonic cheered. Rotor glanced back at him, obviously annoyed. Sally saved an argument by stepping toward the portal. The jungle appeared and she looked back at everyone. "Are we going to check this out or not?" she asked.
Sonic was the first to walk toward the portal. He stood next to Sally and looked back at the rest of the Freedom Fighters. "Well?" he asked, tapping his foot. Joseph and Sandra walked, side by side, up to Sonic and Sally and nodded. With a sigh the rest of the Freedom Fighters went over and joined them.
"Dearies," said Bunnie, "this place is just too weird!"
Sonic smiled. "But cool!" he said, as they all stepped into the portal, not knowing what to expect. There was a flash of light and everyone shielded their eyes. The light ended as quickly as it had begun, the Freedom Fighters looked around in awe. Jungle was everywhere, trees and flowers were both robotic and living. Everyone stared at the scene, stunned.
Sonic grinned. "Way past cool!" he exclaimed.
Joseph walked up to a robotic plant and felt its smooth surface. He shook his head. "Unnatural, awful and completely uncalled for. Why would Packbell create something like this?"
Sonic shook his head in response. "Joe, you still don't understand. Packbell is evil! He takes pleasure in doing evil things. He's a baaaaaad boy!"
Sally pushed Sonic aside and walked up to Joseph. "I think he probably wants us to die in here," Sally said quietly, shaking her head. "That's his way."
"You are so right!"
Everyone jumped and looked around. Sally looked quickly at the robotic and living plants and trees. "Show yourself!" she called. "With pleasure," said the odd voice, and something completely unexpected stepped out of the bushes. Sonic did a double take and looked this new arrival over. It appeared to be an aged armadillo, with an old knobby cane that suited its old knobby appearance. But probably the most odd thing was that it was almost completely roboticized! It's shell, legs and arms were roboticized. It had an old gray beard and a twinkle in its eyes. It waved its stick.
"Surprised, eh? I know what you're thinking! How the heck did he get in the zone? Well, I'll tell you! Two SWATBots were doing tests on me, trying to find easier ways of Roboticizing that couldn't be undone. Now that you fellers invented that bloomin' deroboticizer, ol' Packbottoms' got his hands tied. I say, jolly good job on that thing, too? Do ya' got portable?" He looked down at his roboticized limbs in disgust. "Bally 'bots sure fixed me up! In a bad way, too!"
Sonic coughed and stepped forward. He eyed the rather eccentric armadillo and spoke. "So when the factory blew up, you didn't get blown into oblivion with the rest of those bucket heads? Why not?"
The aged armadillo winked. "Because I was in a thick testing tube, that's why!"
Joseph stepped up and attempted to address the old armadillo. "Pardon me, but what may we call you?"
The armadillo peered curiously at Joseph. Suddenly his eyes opened wide. "By golly! You's that fox that made that deroboticizer! Man, is you ever the talk of the town at Robotropolis!" He slapped his thigh and laughed. "Ya got old Packbell madder than a stuck pig! I recognized ya because one of my old friends had seen you at Knothole and after that he was captured and I met him! He described you clear as day! And here you is! Ya got your ol' lovey-dovey wit' ya?"
Sandra stepped beside Joseph, trying to decide whether to laugh or be angry. A grin spread across the armadillo's face when he saw her. "Hyuk! There she is! By the way, the name's Smithson." He stuck out a paw. "Pleased ta meet yer acquaintance, or somethin' like that!" Joseph shook it rather reluctantly. "Likewise, I'm sure."
Sandra whispered in his ear. "Yeah, _I'm sure!_" She giggled.
Smithson smiled. "Ah, spring. Lot's of love, that's what I love about it!" He stopped. "Er, it _is_ spring, isn't it? I don't know if time moves here in this silly place!"
Sonic rolled his eyes and spoke. "We've come to check this place out. What what have you seen in this place? Anything interesting?"
Smithson tapped his stick against a metal spot on the ground. "You bet! For starters, there's what you see right now!" He spread his arms and twirled around. He tripped and fell flat on his face. He rubbed his head and sat up. "And, there's the occasional unnoticed-until-it's-too-late-root!" he growled. The Freedom Fighters chuckled. "Anyway," continued Smithson, "the zone has creatures other than me too! I don't know how, but my guess is some SWATBots were working on some new killer robots and they got sent here, same as me! Weird ain't it?"
"Like what kind of animals? Are they robotic?" asked Sonic.
"You bet they is! Them's robotic, big and mean! Weird, new fangled things! Threes heads an' six arms and such! Creepy, too!"
Sally pulled Sonic aside. "I don't want to stay here any longer than we have to!" she hissed. "We found out what it looks like and what's in it, now let's get out of here!"
"No way, Sal!" Sonic crossed his arms defiantly. "I ain't goin' nowhere until I get a look at these things that Smithson is talkin' about!" He flexed his muscles. "Besides," he said, "I could use a change from the old wimpy SWATBots!"
Sally glared at him. "What about the Cyborgs? Weren't they enough to cool you down for a while?" "Stupid question!" she thought.
Sonic smirked. "Yeah, but not for long. Besides, they aren't here right now!"
The bushes rustled as a cyborg pulled out of sight. It leaned against a robotic tree and accessed it's memory banks. It found it's orders and reread them. "FOLLOW FREEDOM FIGHTERS FOR APPROXIMATELY 24 HOURS. THEN CALL THE REST OF THE CYBORG PATROL AND DESTROY THEM IF SOMETHING HASN'T ALREADY ." It walked stealthily off, leaving no trace that it had been there.
The Freedom Fighters had made camp by sundown, and everyone was setting up sleeping bags and other camping utensils. Smithson had joined them and fell asleep right away. Antoine had tripped over a sleeping bag and was now lying in a heap with almost every camping utensil he brought scattered either on top of him or around him with Sonic roaring his head off. Sonic leaned down and took on a pitying tone. "Awwwwww, did you trip on that naughty sleeping bag?" He grinned. "Smooth move old buddy." Sally put her hands on her hips. "It seems you have a hobby of kidding him, making him look like a fool." Sonic laughed even harder. "Don't blame me, mother nature beat me to it!"
Joseph sighed as he watched the scene from a distance. "He will never grow up," he said.
Sandra smiled. "Come on," she patted the empty spot next to her in their large sleeping bag. "Forget about them for a while." Joseph smiled back and slid into the empty space in the sleeping bag. They embraced under the covers and for a while all was quiet. Everyone eventually got to bed, even Sonic, although he did do a bit of teasing Antoine while getting to bed. A pair of robotic eyes watched them as they all fell asleep. Not the eyes of a SWATBot, nor a cyborg. They were the eyes of something far bigger, far more dangerous. The eyes of something that had never been seen outside this zone. The eyes of a gigantic robot.
It was near midnight when Joseph heard the rustling. His ears perked up and he lay motionless. Something was out there. Watching them. He sat up and gently slid Sandra off his chest and looked around. His eyes told him that all was well, everyone was asleep, but his instincts told him something different. As slowly and cautiously as possible, he crawled over to Sonic and shook him. Sonic groaned and looked up at Joseph with bleary eyes. "Whazzat?" he mumbled.
"Shhh!" said Joseph quickly. He pointed to the dense underbrush. "There's something out there." Sonic groaned again and hid under the covers. "Mmph. Goway." Joseph sat up, annoyed. It appeared that he'd be doing this job alone. He smiled. No, not necessarily. He crawled back over to his bags and reached into one. He held up a glowing package and opened it. Ignoring the soft, pulsing light, he reached in and pulled out the Amber Chaos Emerald. "Mob!" he hissed. "Mob! Wake up!" The pulsing stopped, replaced by a steady glow. A voice spoke to him mentally.
Joseph glanced at the underbrush hurriedly. "There's something out there in the bushes. I can hear it scrape against the metal bushes and trees. Listen! There it is now!" A faint scratching and rustling could be heard coming from the bushes.
The light glowed softly. <"Remember your training. Remember how you did it. It is your only chance.">
"Thanks for the confidence!"
The rustling grew louder and Joseph whipped around. Something big and black stood in the shadows. Joseph fastened the Amber Chaos Emerald to its collar and fastened that around his neck. He held out his hands and a ball of light appeared in the air, bathing the campsite with a yellow light. Joseph glanced at the thing in the shadows and gasped. The thing let out a roar, waking everyone in the camp up and shaking the barbecue and knocking it over, making Joseph dodge. The ball of light flickered and went out. Joseph cursed and tried to regain his concentration rapidly as the beast started to charge. The ball of light appeared again and Joseph got a good look at the creature.
It was the size of an elephant, and had three heads. It was completely robotic, but _that_ only sped it up. It's back legs were silver-black and it's front legs looked like that of a roboticized tiger's. One of it's heads looked like that of an oversized ant and another like a goat. The third just looked like a SWATBot head, making Joseph wonder if some of the exploded SWATBot parts were in this beast. It's tail was spiked and it had razor sharp wings.
Joseph closed his eyes and in his mind imagined that there was a metal wall in the path of the robot. A crash and a roar told Joseph that it had worked. He opened his eyes and made the wall disappear. The robot struggled to it's feet, badly battered and one of its legs not working. It roared again and charged the best it could. Joseph put his hands together and raised them over his head. A bolt of lightening shot from the sky and hit the robot head on. The robot froze, then collapsed into flames. Joseph walked over and kicked a part of the beast into the main flame.
"There is something to be said for brute force," Joseph said smugly. An explosion shook the camp and sent Joseph flying. With a cry the Freedom Fighters rushed to help Joseph up. He sat up with a groan, rubbing a bump on his head. He held up a finger. "It is usually followed by brute stupidity!" he finished. The camp echoed with the Freedom Fighter's laughter. There was, however someone watching that was not laughing. A cyborg pulled away from the sight in the camp and hit a button on it's arm. A screen turned on, showing the face of Packbell. "Give your report," Packbell snapped. The cyborg saluted and spoke.
<"SIR, THE ROBOTIC BEAST THAT THE OTHER CYBORGS HERDED TO THE CAMP WAS DESTROYED.">
"What?" Packbell roared. "How?"
The cyborg hesitated, then replied. <"IT WAS DESTROYED BY THE FOX, SIR. HE USED SOME ODD POWER THAT HE CHANNELED FROM AN AMBER CHAOS EMERALD THAT HE CALLED MOB.">
Packbell jumped. "So that's what happened to the Amber Chaos Emerald!" thought Packbell. "When Snively was still at Robotropolis, I asked him what happened to it and he said that he didn't know." Packbell glowered. "So it _wasn't_ destroyed." Packbell looked back at the screen that he was seeing the cyborg on. He slammed his fist onto the counter. "Don't waste a minute of time! Hook up the Eye-View screen for me!"
The cyborg nodded and pushed some buttons on it's arm. Another screen in Robotropolis flickered on. It showed exactly what the cyborg was seeing. Packbell smiled. "Good. Now, call in the rest of your cyborgs that are in the zone. Destroy the Freedom Fighters immediately!" Packbell hit a button and the screen turned off. He grinned, an evil grin. "Good bye, Freedom Fighters." he snickered.
The Freedom Fighters sat around the camp, eating breakfast. Conversation was at a minimum, everyone thinking different thoughts. Sandra looked curiously over at Joseph. "I wondered if you brought that thing."
Joseph smiled. "I didn't want anyone to get hurt on this trip." Sandra glanced over at the remains of the robot. Some of it's flammable parts were being used to light the fires. "Which is more than can be said for that thing!" she giggled. Joseph chuckled and looked with sarcastic pity over at the heap of metal and fire. "Ahh, my poor scrap heap of a friend. Is there anything I can offer you to make you more comfortable? Perhaps some soda? A chair? Or," he laughed, "a fire extinguisher!"
Antoine walked by muttering. "Odd fox. Almost gets killed, zen he makes a funny about it! Odd fox." Joseph and Sandra had to make an enormous effort not to spit their food out laughing. Joseph put a posh expression on his face and did a perfect impression of Antoine's speech. "Odd fox, yes, very odd fox. Nearly gets himself blown halfway across zee globe and what does he do? Zut Alores! He makes a funny about it!" Joseph and Sandra burst out laughing.
At the other side of the camp sat Sally, watching the laughter from a distance. She couldn't help but smile. She turned back to Sonic, Rotor and Bunnie. Bunnie waved her spoon as she spoke. "If y'all want my opinion, I think we should high-tail it out'a here! I had enough of this place." Rotor shrugged. "This place is a gold mine for a fellow mechanic like myself, but I agree. It _is_ rather creepy."
Sonic shook his head. "No way, this place is way past cool! For instance," he stood up and pointed at a nearby metallic tree. "I wonder if I could cut down one of those things using a Sonic Spin?"
Rotor shook his head. "I doubt it and highly suggest that you don't-" But Sonic was already up in the air and in a Sonic Spin, heading for the tree. Everyone could only watch and shield their eyes as Sonic cut into the tree, spines whirling. Suddenly, the sawing sound stopped. Everyone opened their eyes and looked up. Sonic hung over eight feet off the ground, his quills stuck solid in the metal of the tree. Sonic sighed. "The story of my life . . ." he said regretfully. Everyone exploded into laughter. Antoine walked over to the tree and leaned against it. He looked up at Sonic smugly. "In your own words, Sonique," he said, "how's it hanging?"
A fresh round of laughter started. Sonic ground his teeth. "Is that payback?" he asked. Antoine shrugged. "Call it what you want," he said. Everyone laughed even harder when Antoine slipped on the smooth surface of the tree and fell flat on his back. Sonic smiled in his awkward. "Maybe being in this tree has some good points, too. . ."
Sonic rubbed his quills. "I still can't believe that I got stuck in that tree!"
Smithson laughed and waved his stick. "Serves ya right! Should listen to us old fuddy-duddies once in a while!" Sonic rolled his eyes. "You got the name right, but the statement wrong!"
Smithson glared at Sonic. "Think yer so smart, eh? Well just how do you intend to get outa' here?"
Sonic blinked. "I never thought about that. I just thought that Sally knew." Sally looked shocked. "Me? How would I know?"
A dead silence fell over the camp. Everyone sat for a moment. Everyone pondering their thoughts. Finally Joseph spoke up. "It's possible that we could get back through the portal."
Sonic shook his head. "Yeah, but where _is_ the portal?"
Silence reigned again. Antoine seemed to shrink. "Do you mean to tell me we're stuck in this . . . this . . . horrorhouse?"
Sally nodded. "It sort of looks that way."
Little did everyone know that their time might be cut short very soon. Already, seven cyborgs were speeding toward the camp, undetected, and Packbell was watching through the cyborgs eyes, smiling.
Despite the conditions, Sandra and Joseph still managed to act pleasant. It seemed that the two foxes could be cheerful anywhere if they were together. Just when Sandra was starting to get depressed, Joseph would appear beside her.
Sandra sat staring off into space, wondering if they would ever get out of this zone when some flowers appeared beside her. She stared and looked around. No one was around. She looked back at the flowers. The flowers jiggled. She continued staring, with a whisp of a smile on her her face and spoke. "Is that my fox, masquerading as some flowers? Rather odd, if you ask me." The flowers seemed to quiver in reality itself, and then they warped madly and formed Joseph, sitting in the same dull position that Sandra was in. He grinned. "Why the long face? You look lower than a grasshopper's knee!"
Sandra fought a smile and kept on looking depressed. She waved her hands at the odd landscape. "Oh, just . . . this. You know! We could be stuck in here forever! Sometimes I wonder if that old coot hadn't shown up and told us that there was no way out, would we have actually searched and found that there _was_ a portal back to Knothole?"
Joseph put a thoughtful expression on and nodded. "Yeah, I wondered about that, too." He floated up in the air. "But, whenever I feel like that, I just think of when Mob, here," he tapped the Amber Chaos Emerald that adorned his necklace, " was teaching me how to float and fly. Y'know, stuff like that. He took me out and set me at over fifty feet over the pond by our house and then had me look down. Then, he told me to use the powers and, when he let me go, stop my fall and start floating. I asked him what would happen if I couldn't and he simply said, "You get wet!" You see what I mean?"
Sandra scratched her head. "What did that have to do with anything?"
Joseph grinned. "Think about it for a while. It'll come to you." With that he disappeared. Sandra thought for a moment, but was interrupted by Joseph popping back into visibility. "Oh, and another thing. When you finish thinking, just call me. I have an idea." He disappeared again.
Sandra shook her head. "I think I see what he means. He has an odd way of getting the point across, though."
Packbell hit some buttons angrily on a monitor. "Where _is_ that stupid cyborg?" He growled. With a bleep the monitor started functioning normally. Packbell sighed a sigh of relief. Nothing seemed to be working properly in Robotropolis nowadays. The Freedom Fighters had been attacking as hard as ever, now. The glory of Robotropolis had been destroyed. Barely anything was working, SWATBot numbers were dwindling, cyborgs were too precious to waste, the Freedom Fighters had found a way to deroboticize, and to top it off there was only a few blocks of Robotropolis left. Now Packbell had to hide away in the remains of the Death Egg, waiting for a time when the Freedom Fighters would die. But now, that time was near! The Freedom Fighters were, for all he knew, trapped in the zone! He had locked the door, and from reports from the SWATBots, it turned out that there might not be a way out!
He turned his attention back to the monitor. The face of his main cyborg spy that was hiding away in the zone and watching the Freedom Fighters filled the monitor. "Report?" asked Packbell. The cyborg nodded and switched it's Eye-View control on. it aimed it's head toward the Freedom Fighters camp, letting Packbell see the Freedom Fighters talking.
Packbell nodded. "Do you have the rest of your cyborgs with you?"
<"AFFIRMATIVE. AWAITING YOUR ORDERS, SIR.">
Packbell grinned. "Good. Kill the Freedom Fighters now."
The cyborg switched off the Eye-View and signaled to the rest of the cyborgs. Packbell watched for a moment. Nothing happened. Then, suddenly, seven shapes seemed to separate from the metallic shrubs and trees, becoming fully visible. Packbell grinned even wider when they started to move toward the camp.
Suddenly, something totally unexpected happened. There was a shattering roar and another enormous robotic beast dispatched itself from the undergrowth. It set upon the cyborgs, growling and snorting, ignoring the blows that were being rained down on it. Packbell was getting an eyeful of this scene, because the beast had hit the button on the cyborgs arm that switched the Eye-View on.. But the Freedom Fighters heard the noises and saw the bushes shaking. Joseph popped back into visibility and with one blast of electricity he cleared the bushes away, letting the Freedom Fighters see what was happening.
Joseph blew on his finger. "Fastest energy blast in the west! Anybody else besides me want to take a shot at these 'bots?" Sonic ran right past him and slammed a cyborg into a tree with a flying kick. "You bet I do, Joseph! I still want to have a little retribution on these snot heads from when we first met them!"
Battle was engaged. Joseph set about, destroying cyborgs with blasts off water, making cyborgs fall with electricity rippling over them. Sandra used some of the ninja arts, flipping and twisting hypnotically. Antoine had grabbed a fire poker and Rotor was wielding a piece of firewood. Sally would take a distracted cyborg that was attacking Antoine or Rotor and hit it in the back with a flying kick, disabling it. Sonic was whirling around, hitting not only with Sonic Spin, but insults as well. Bunnie was wreaking havoc with her strong legs, slamming into any cyborg that came near her. Battle crys were sounded, and cyborgs flew in all directions.
"Hah, hah! Have some water!"
"Take theese yew . . . yew . . . yew fiendish thingymabob!"
"Eat this! My, this seems such a waste of robotic parts!"
"How about me massaging your back with my foot?"
"Cruncho! Hah! Your mother was a food processor!"
"Got ya that time ya dirty 'borg brains!"
Cyborg after cyborg fell, until there was only one robot left in the clearing. The beast! Everyone turned to it, looking at it oddly. It took the hint. With a crash, the gigantic robot sped off into the jungle. Sonic looked over at Packbell's spy bot. It's circuits were still working, but it was losing power, it's life giving energy ebbing away. The Eye-View was still working, showing the angry face off Packbell. Sonic smiled and leaned over it. "Gotcha that time, old noodle noggin," he grinned. Packbell fumed. "Emperor Packbell does not forget an insult!" he roared.
Sonic grinned even wider. "Good. Then here's a few more for you to remember, you bat-nosed, booger-brained, bowling ball butted bufoon!"
"I'm not going to sit here and be insulted by you, hedgehog!"
"Then sit somewhere else and I'll insult you there!"
Sonic brought his foot down hard, crushing the remains of the cyborg's head and cutting Packbell's connection. Everyone sat around and panted for a while, catching their breath. Then Sally giggled. "Bat-nosed, booger-brained, bowling ball butted bufoon?"
Sonic smiled. "I just love saying things like that. Just call me," he jutted a finger at his chest, "Mr. Attitude."
Sally stifled a smile and guided Sonic back to camp. "All right, _Mr Attitude._ Let's get back to camp." Sonic could be heard displaying his over-inflated ego as they all walked back to camp.
"Yes, sir. Mr Attitude, right here. None cooler than Mr. Attitude. I'm cooooool. I wonder if I should be called Mr. Cool? Do you like that?"
Sandra was meditating not far from camp in a clearing when she heard music. She lifted her head and looked about oddly. "Music?" she thought. "Here?"
Suddenly the music got louder and a box of chocolates appeared next to her. She looked over in surprise, then smiled in acknowledgement. "All right, you silly fox. I know you're here."
With a puff of rose scented air and romantic music, Joseph appeared, sporting a tuxedo and a long mustache. "Good evening, darling." he said. He looked around with a note of contempt on his face. "Or is it good morning? Never can tell here."
Sandra stifled a giggle and pointed. "Where have you been?"
He pointed his nose up in the air and waved a hand distractedly. "Oh, here and there, you know." He waved his hand and disappeared. Suddenly he reappeared five feet away. "And here," he said. He disappeared and appeared again. "And here." Puff, poof. "And here!"
Sandra laughed and waved her hands. "All right, hold it! Just hold it!"
Joseph stopped and grinned. He bowed. "I acknowledge your supremity, Mademoiselle Sandra." He disappeared and appeared right next to her, a rose in his teeth. He grabbed her with one hand and waved in the air nonchalantly with the other. "Ah, but I like here the best." He looked down at her. He tried to kiss her but stopped. He promptly spat out the rose, _then_ kissed her.
Antoine was coming into the clearing but he stopped. Joseph looked up. Antoine looked at the clothes, the mustache and the rose. He briskly walked back in the direction that he had come, muttering along the way.
"Odd place. Odd fox. Maybe they go together? Tuxedo? Here? Odd, quite odd."
Sandra and Joseph laughed until their sides hurt. When they stopped laughing Joseph looked over at Sandra. "Odd fox," he said and they dissolved into laughter again. This time when they finished Joseph didn't make a joke.
"You know Smithson?" asked Joseph.
"Yeah," replied Sandra, "and I wish I didn't!"
Joseph smiled. "Well, Mob just told me about another thing that I could do with these powers."
"I can enter peoples dreams and see what they are dreaming about. And, I can also tell them things and basically intervene with the dreams!"
Sandra stared. "Then that was really you in that dream I had about Robotropolis falling and us having kits?"
"Mm-hm! You do dream interesting dreams, don't you?"
Sandra shook her head, embarrassed. "You weenie. Anyway, how can this be useful to us, aside from just having fun?"
Joseph grinned. "Well, let me tell you. Ever since I met Smithson, I've always thought that he was hiding something. Well, now we can go into his dreams and find out just what he's hiding.!"
Sandra clapped her hands. "Good! I've had enough of this place! I wonder if he knows a way out?" Joseph winked at her. "Only one way to find out! C'mon! I think he's sleeping right know, as a matter of fact!"
With a blast of fire, Sandra and Joseph disappeared from the clearing. There was another blast of fire right above the camp and Sandra and Joseph appeared, levitating at about twenty feet above the ground. They watched as the rest of the Freedom Fighters talked and went on with their normal intentions, never indicating that they were there. Sandra put a hand on Joseph's shoulder. "Can they _see_ us?" Joseph shook his head. "No."
Joseph pointed to a far corner of the camp. Smithson lay there, cane by his side, snoring. Sandra gave him the thumbs up sign. They floated over to him until they were right above him. Joseph waved his hands in the air oddly. Smithson took a breath and Sandra and Joseph went in with it! They swirled around, never in one spot, until, suddenly, everything screeched to a complete stop. Joseph and Sandra looked around. They were in an odd sort of vortex, with bubbles as big as houses swirling around them. Sandra looked hard into one of the bubbles. Suddenly, she reared back, surprised. Joseph grabbed her.
"What's wrong?" he asked her.
She pointed to the bubble. "I looked in there, and it was like a nightmare! Monsters, shadows, skeletons . . . the works!"
Joseph looked into one of the bubbles, then another. He shook his head. "It appears that each one is a different dream. The one you saw was, yes, probably a nightmare. It seems that we have reached the spot were Smithson's dreams are."
They both looked around for a moment. Then Joseph started moving around, looking in one bubble, then another. Sandra looked puzzled. "What are you doing?" she asked.
Joseph looked into another bubble. "I'm trying to find a dream that will tell us what Smithson was hiding from us!" he replied.
Sandra eventually joined Joseph and they looked into bubble after bubble. Finally, after some time of tedious bubble searching, Sandra called to Joseph. He looked up.
"What is it? Did you find something?"
"Yep," replied Sandra, "I know that I found where Smithson's secrets are held."
Joseph raised an eyebrow. "And how do you know that?"
Sandra peered into the bubble she was next to. She looked back at Joseph. "The sign in this bubble that says 'Smithson's Secrets' could have something to do with it."
Joseph blinked. He shook his head.
"This place is _too_ weird."
Sandra and Joseph had entered Smithson's dream. They looked around. All around them were lined borders, and inside the borders were separate dreams and secrets. Sandra tapped Joseph on the shoulder and pointed. In one spot was a picture of the Freedom Fighters. Without a word, Joseph walked over and stepped into the picture. Sandra followed. it was an exact rerun of what had happened when they met Smithson. Only you could hear what Smithson was thinking, like he was narrating a story. It went on to when the freedom Fighters were talking about leaving, all the time with Joseph and Sandra listening.
Sonic rubbed his quills. "I still can't believe that I got stuck in that tree!"
Smithson laughed and waved his stick. "Serves ya right! Should listen to us old fuddy-duddies once in a while!" Sonic rolled his eyes. "You got the name right, but the reason wrong!"
Smithson glared at Sonic. "Think yer so smart, eh? Well just how do you intend to get outa' here?"
Sonic blinked. "I never thought about that. I just thought that Sally knew." Sally looked shocked. "Me? How would I know?"
Finally the image of Joseph spoke up. "It's possible that we could get back through the portal."
Sonic shook his head. "Yeah, but where _is_ the portal?"
In his thoughts, the image of Smithson snickered. "Fools! There _is_ a way to get out of here, and I know it! You'd beg to hear the riddle, Leaving the jungle is no easy task, First you must steal the flask! In the mouth of the serpent, does it wait, For someone to grab it, and close the gate! So, if you don't know that . . . there's is no way that you are going to get out!"
Joseph glowered and pulled out a plasma blaster. With one blast he liquidated the whole screen around them, colors swirling and melting until the image disappeared. Joseph stood, fuming. Sandra came over and tried to calm him down.
"Joseph, darling, it's all right-"
Joseph roared. "No, it is not all right! That crazy old coot deliberately wants us to die here!" He grabbed the Amber Chaos Emerald And he and Sandra disappeared in a ball of flame. They appeared again in the center of camp, and everyone started. All eyes were on them as Joseph stalked over to Smithson and held him up in the air.
"Why?" Joseph roared, "Why do you want us to die here?"
Smithson stuttered. "W-what are you talking about?"
Joseph growled and took on a dainty and polite voice. "Leaving the jungle is no easy task, First you must steal the flask! In the mouth of the serpent, does it wait, For someone to grab it, and close the gate! That's what I'm talking about!" he finished, regaining his angry voice.
Smithson laughed nervously. "Oh, heh heh! _That!_"
Sandra raced over to Joseph. "Joseph, don't hurt him!"
Joseph glared down at her. "Give me one good reason."
"For me, " Sandra said quietly.
The red went out of Joseph's eyes and he dropped Smithson on the ground. No one spoke for a moment. Finally, Sonic raised an eyebrow. "What's this about flasks and serpents?" he asked.
Joseph turned to Sonic. "Sandra and I went on a little trip inside Smithson's head." Smithson let out a cry and clutched his head. Joseph glanced in his direction. "Not exactly _that_ way. We went in to where the dreams he had dreamt throughout his lifetime were stored. Apparently, our friend Smithson here actually knows _how_ to get out of here!"
Everyone gasped. Antoine entered the conversation. "Pah! I do not beelieve eet!" Sonic turned to Antoine and pasted a corny grin on his face. "Antoine?" he asked, "Have you ever had a robotic tree shoved up your nose?"
Antoine looked confused. "No."
Sonic's grin turned to a glare. "If you make one more of those comments, you will be able to experience having a robotic tree up your nose. Catch my drift?"
Antoine waved a hand in front of his nose. "Yes, I do. Leeterally!"
Sonic jabbed a finger at Antoine. "Don't tempt me."
Sonic turned back to Joseph and Sandra. "Now, what is this riddle that tells us how to get out?"
Joseph coughed and repeated the poem. "Leaving the jungle is no easy task, First you must steal the flask! In the mouth of the serpent, does it wait, For someone to grab it, and close the gate!"
The shadow of silence cast itself once more over the Freedom Fighters. Bunnie spoke up. "Smithson, exactly what does it mean?"
Smithson replied from his new position on the floor. "All I know is that, yes, there _is_ a way out of here. Inside this dreadful place there is a large creepy part of this forest called Hinom. There were others that got sent into this zone with me when the factory exploded. They are all gone now. They got killed by a gigantic serpent called Hefestel. He is half robotic, half flesh and blood. He guards a flask that, when touched by someone who wishes to leave the zone, sends them back to Mobius. My friends and I tried to get it, but when the serpent touches something, it becomes roboticized." He shook his head. "Robotnik would have loved to have something like that out on Mobius to use!"
Sonic smirked. "That's a mighty lot to say for an 'All I know' statement!"
Joseph thought for a moment. "I think that we are going to have to fight this thing, like it or not."
Sonic rolled his eyes. "Very observant, Sherlock."
Without looking up, Joseph waved his hand and an enormous detective hat appeared in Sonic's mouth. Sonic jumped. He looked down at the hat jutting from his mouth and spat it out.
"Ptooey! You weenie! That thing tasted bad! And besides, it's not fair using magic! I can't use any!"
Joseph looked over at him and grinned. "Elementary, my dear snot ball," he quirked.
After a while of getting some directions straight, the Freedom Fighters had figured out where Hinom was. They stumbled upon Hinom in the late afternoon, at least it would have been on Mobius. Sonic looked around at the dense underbrush. "Hmm. Most of this shrubbery is robotic. A sure sign of this . . . Hefestel of yours."
"How true," shuddered Smithson, "this place always did give me the creeps. But nobody believed me that there was a serpent living here. That is, not until it was too late." A tear trickled down Smithson's cheek.
A crunch came from the bushes and everyone jumped.
"Company's coming," muttered Sonic.
A roar emitted from the jungle and Joseph pulled out the Amber Chaos Emerald. The metal plants were crushed into the ground by the leviathan that emerged from the trees. A snake, over twelve feet tall, towered over the Freedom Fighters. It was a pale green and random places on it's body were roboticized. It let out a menacing hiss, the air smelling like burnished metal and smoke.
"Heeeere's snakie!" said Sonic. He looked at the other Freedom Fighters. "Well," he said, "shall we go for it?" The Freedom Fighters rushed headlong toward the serpent, each calling out a familiar war cry.
"Fur and Freeeedooom!"
Over many seas and over many lands, there lay an island. This was not an ordinary island, mind you. This island floated. It was a lush tropical island, and on it lived an echidna colony. Echidna's were once the most advanced creature on the planet, with so may wondrous devices and machines. There was a family known as the guardian family. When an echidna in that family died, the guardianship was passed down to the next of age. This went on for many years, and in this time, there is an echidna guardian known as Knuckles.
Knuckles was meditating in the Chaos Chamber where the Chaos Emeralds were that kept the island afloat. Silently, the vision came. It told him of the Robotic Jungle, and of the serpent. It showed him the Freedom Fighters in their valiant attempt to get free of the zone.
"The hedgehog," he thought, "looks familiar." It came to him with a start. He had fought a hedgehog that was as fast as this one and even sounded like him a long time ago. The only difference was that this hedgehog was blue and his eyes had pupils. The one Knuckles had fought on his island so long ago was brown and had no pupils. He shrugged the thought off that this could be the same hedgehog. "Probably just a coincidence," he thought.
The serpent reared back, hissing. It swung its large tail out, hoping to catch someone. Everyone either dived out of the way or ducked. Sonic started a Sonic Spin and attacked. He bounced off one of the serpent's scales and landed hard. He sat up, rubbing his arm.
"Iss that the besst you can do, sspinessswine?" asked the serpent.
Sonic leaped to his feet. "No way!" he yelled, "I'll get you yet!" He looked down at his arm and let out a yelp. It was partially roboticized! "Joe!" he whimpered, "my arm!"
Joseph turned to the serpent and glared. The serpent glared back. Joseph shot a fireball. The serpent hissed and spit a fireball of it's own. The fireballs connected in midair, lighting the skies ablaze. Thus followed a rapid fire of fireballs, coming from both sides. The Freedom Fighters took this chance to rush over to try to help Sonic. Sonic was still staring down at his arm, obviously in shock.
Bunnie put her hand on his back. "It's all right, sugah-hog. It's all right."
Sonic stood up. "No, it's not all right," he said angrily, and ran toward the serpent.
The last blast had knocked Joseph into oblivion. The serpent smiled and closed in for the kill. Suddenly, a robotic arm grabbed him and lifted him up. It looked down in surprise. Sonic was using his robotic arm to lift the giant snake into the air. Sonic grinned.
"I envy you so much," he said. He heaved and threw the serpent far off into the distance.
"Imagine," finished Sonic, "the first reptile on the moon."
Everyone broke out into cheering.
Tails looked around, bored. He wished something would happen. As if an answer to his prayer, an enormous beam of light exploded in the center of the road, knocking Tails off the rock he was sitting on. He peered out from behind the rock. He saw figures start to appear in the beam. Five! No, six! Seven! It was Sonic and the rest of the gang! They appeared, with Sonic holding his newly roboticized arm, and Joseph looking rather dazed. Sonic was the first to see Tails and he called to him.
"Tails! Hiya big guy!"
Tails ran out from behind the boulder and hugged Sonic. Tails gasped and looked down at Sonic's roboticized arm. "What happened?" he asked, stunned.
Sonic chuckled. "Y'see, big guy, in the zone we met a baaaad old serpent that could roboticize whatever it touched."
"You touched him?"
"That's right. It was a pretty weird experience, probably because it was a weird place," Sonic replied.
Antoine shuddered. "That was zee creepiest place am ever being to een moi hole life! I never want to hear zee word jungle again!"
Sonic laughed. "Jungle, jungle, jungle!" he taunted.
Antoine shrieked. Sonic laughed some more and kept on repeating the dreaded word. Sandra sighed as she watched Sonic chasing Antoine around the road yelling things like 'Hey Antoine! Wanna go play on the _jungle_ gym?' or 'Man, your room is _jungle_! You should clean it out more often!'
"Those two will never grow up," sighed Sandra. She looked at Joseph and they laughed.
After a while, Joseph got Sonic's arm deroboticized. He was quite glad to have it back. He flexed it and spoke to Joseph.
"Whew! I'm sure glad to have this old thing back! Now I know what Bunnie felt like for all those years!"
Antoine popped out from behind a tree and called to Sonic. "Snakee, snakee, snakee!"
Sonic chased Antoine off into the trees and out of sight. Joseph laughed as he watched them disappear. Suddenly Sonic jumped out from behind a tree.
"If you say one word about never growing up I'll smack you!" he said, and went back to chasing Antoine.
Joseph's laughter echoed through the trees.