Liquid Metal

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. This story is copyright 1996 by the author, who grants permission to reproduce and distribute it, 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 (barbees@sonic.net) 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.

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Time line: 2 weeks after the story The Robotic Jungle. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Hey, Sal!"

Sonic the Hedgehog ran up to Princess Sally Acorn and ran in circles around her.

"Are we goin' on a mission? Huh? Huh? Are we?"

It was about nine o'clock and Sally was walking along the roads, guiding only by the streetlights and the moon. She stopped walking and put her hands on her hips. "Sonic Hedgehog," she said, "when are you going to stop asking me that?"

The blue hedgehog skidded to a stop and grinned. "But I'm tired of hangin' around here and watching grass grow and paint dry! I wanna go have some fun! Let's go annoy Packbell!"

Sally glared at him, trying to keep a straight face. "Sonic, why don't you go ask Bookshire that? I'm sure that he would know."

Sonic shook his head. "No way! I might give the old guy a heart attack, with me running around like I usually do!"

"Hmmph! Have you ever tried stopping once in a while? It seems that all you do around here is run in circles and annoy people!"

"Nah! I was given a gift of speed and I intend to use it!" replied Sonic proudly.

Sally sighed. "There is no getting rid of you, is there?"

"No way!"

Sally turned away. "Why don't you go ask Rotor, then? He might know."

"Thanks, Sal!" called Sonic and shot off toward Rotor's hut.

Sally watched Sonic speed of into the distance. "That," she said, "is known as 'passing the buck.' Hmmph! More like passing the annoying hedgehog! I hope Rotor finds someone to pass him off to." Sally walked off to her original destination.

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Sandra sighed as she stared at a monitor, showing Sally walking down the road. The days had just inched past lately. Joseph had seemed to notice the change in her, too. They had both been inside the dome too much and had not been outside enough. Joseph's romancing had been lovely as usual, but she still was depressed.

Joseph came over silently and kissed her on the neck. He hugged her and stared at the monitor with her. "Why the long face?" he asked. "I think you should get out more."

Sandra turned to face him. "You should, too," she said, "You haven't even been out as much as I have and I've barely been out."

Joseph kissed her softly. "Then it's agreed? We should both go out tonight?"

She smiled. "Agreed," she said and nuzzled against him. Joseph never broke the embrace, but touched the Amber Chaos Emerald that he wore around his neck. They both disappeared in a flourish of sparkles. They reappeared in the middle of the park, by the pond. Sandra smiled and looked around. She walked around, looking at the pond lilies and the moon and stars. Joseph came up and touched her shoulder.

"Beautiful, isn't it?"

She looked at him and smiled lovingly. "Oh, Joseph, darling, I had forgotten just how beautiful." They embraced again and did not part for quite a while. Two others walking through the park on this moonlit night noticed and smiled knowingly.

"It sure has been a while since they've been out, hasn't it?" said Sally.

Sonic smiled. "Personally, I'd go out here with you every night if you wanted to." He turned to her. "You're worth it."

Two more lovers embraced under the stars.

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Packbell glowered. He had always thought that Robotnik was a fool, always losing his battles against Sonic and the Freedom Fighters. Now he was beginning to realize what Robotnik had gone through. He swiveled his chair and stared off into the distance. Now, Packbell had only a few blocks of Robotropolis left. The Freedom Fighters had attacked Robotropolis with zeal, and he had been forced into refuge, and now he resided in the remains of the Death Egg. He regretted whenever he heard the cyborgs and SWATBots call out in their robotic voices; "HEDGEHOG! PRIORITY ONE!"

"So much metal, and robot parts that could be used, so much heat and power that could be used, so little of Robotropolis left," thought Packbell. Suddenly, it struck him. "Metal. Heat. Liquid Metal!" He jumped. "Why didn't I think of this before?" he asked himself. He rushed out of the control room and headed for the Nuclear Power Plant, intent on outdoing himself.

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Packbell watched as a horde of cyborgs worked on his latest project. Packbell took in a deep breath of the hot, stuffy air, smelling slightly of metal. Packbell allowed himself a rare smile. This was going to be one of the greatest inventions in the history of Robotropolis! He tested the temperature of some liquid metal in a pot nearby. This would be almost unstoppable to the Freedom Fighters . . . but . . . he looked around. There was only one problem. He thought for a moment. He needed someone to test it on!

He thought hard. He could load the chemicals into a faser gun and . . . no! That wouldn't work! The heated metal and chemicals would melt the gun. "Oh, well." he thought, "I guess I'll have to wait until one of those fools wanders into Robotropolis again, set on destroying anything in sight, fools like . . ."

A loud beep from a monitor broke him away from his thoughts. A SWATBot appeared on the monitor, exercising it's loud, humdrum voice.

<"EMPEROR PACKBELL, THERE HAVE BEEN TWO FREEDOM FIGHTERS SPOTTED AT THE EDGE OF THE GREAT FOREST!">

Packbell jumped. "Which ones?"

<"THE TWO FOXES, "> replied the SWATBot, <"THE ONES THEY CALL JOSEPH AND SANDRA.">

Packbell whirled and stared hard at the SWATBot. "Put it on the monitor," he snapped.

The SWATBot obeyed, and a picture of Joseph and Sandra walking along the fringes of the Great Forest filled the monitor. Packbell grinned. ". . . Fools like those!" he finished, he chuckled evilly.

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That same night, Joseph and Sandra walked along the border of Robotropolis and the Great Forest, talking. Sandra stared dismally at Robotropolis. "I barely remember what life was like before that eyesore came into being," she said to Joseph.

Joseph smiled. "You're lucky," he replied, "you actually did know what it was like before Robotnik came!"

Sandra blinked, then kept walking. "I don't care to think about the past," she said quietly.

Joseph nodded and glanced toward Robotropolis. "That Robotnik was no idiot."

A rustling of bushes and whirring startled them. An army of SWATBots, twenty strong, stepped into view. "AND NEITHER IS EMPEROR PACKBELL,"> said the SWATBot Captain, motioning for the rest of the horde to capture the two vulpines.

Sandra gasped and Joseph took a step back. Sandra crouched into a Ni-San position and leaped, kicking a SWATBot to the ground. Joseph followed her lead and attacked. SWATBot's flew in all directions as Joseph and Sandra vented their fury toward Robotropolis. At one point, a SWATBot snuck up behind Sandra and hit her over the head, rending her unconscious. Joseph growled and raised his hands. With a roar, amber colored energy exploded all around Joseph, sending all the SWATBots near him flying. Joseph paused, regaining his strength that had been drained when he cast the energy spell. One particular SWATBot took this moment to hit Joseph over the head with it's metal arm, causing him to stagger. He let out a howl of pure rage and sent one last bolt of energy flying into the SWATBots, making them scatter, before he joined Sandra on the ground, unconscious. The four remaining SWATBots that had not been destroyed by the wrath of the two foxes carried Joseph and Sandra back to Robotropolis.

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Bookshire Draftwood walked through Knothole, occasionally stopping to talk to a creature along the side of the road. Bookshire was an aged raccoon, and was very respected by the citizens of Knothole. He scratched his head and looked around.

"Now where in god's green apples could Sally be?" he asked himself.

He sighed in relief as he saw Sally walking down the road.

Sally looked up as Bookshire walked over. "Oh, hello, Bookshire," she said, "What seems to be the problem. You look worried."

Bookshire wrung his hands. "I'm not totally sure _what_ the problem is. It's about Joseph and Sandra. Have you seen them lately?"

Sally thought for a moment, then perked up. "Sonic and I saw them at about nine thirty last night. It was in the park, near the fountain and pond. That was the last I saw of them. Why? Are they missing?"

Bookshire nodded. "I think they might be. If the last you saw of them last night, where are they now? I've been searching all over Knothole for them!"

Sally started walking toward Joseph's large white dome house, talking as she walked. "I doubt that they're missing. You know how they can slip under someone's nose like the wind, only you can _feel_ the wind. They've probably just fooled us and are hiding in the dome, enjoying each other."

Bookshire sighed. "That's what I'd like to believe."

Sally went up and knocked on the door of Joseph's house. She and Bookshire waited. The door opened and a servant robot peered out at them.

it asked in its robotic voice.

"Hi," said Sally softly. She had never known how to act around these robots. "I'm searching for Joseph and Sandra. Are they in?"

The robot shook it's head.

"When will they be back?"

Bookshire stared aghast at Sally. "Good grief!" he exclaimed. "How much more proof do you need?"

Sally nodded regretfully. "I guess you're right. Joseph and Sandra are missing."

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When Joseph and Sandra came to, they were strapped down on tables. Joseph looked around. All around them was odd equipment that none of them wished to see demonstrated. There was everything there from torture equipment to robotic parts. One particular object caught Sandra's eye. She whispered to Joseph and he looked. Over in one corner was a cauldron full of liquid metal. A large computer was doing tests on the contents of the cauldron.

"Joseph," whispered Sandra, "I'm scared."

"As you should be," said a voice over an intercom installed in the wall, "as you should be."

A door opened and Packbell strode in, grinning. "I was thinking I would never get to use my new invention," he laughed. "But then _you_ came into the big picture."

"Really," asked Joseph in a bored voice.

"Yes. Really."

"And what," asked Joseph, "exactly _is_ the big picture."

Packbell swept his hands to the cauldron. "Welcome to operation 'Liquid Metal'. Another shot at complete villainy. How am I doing?"

Sandra struggled in her straps. "You're a fiend, Packbell!"

Packbell walked over to Sandra. "My, my. Yes I am a fiend. And I enjoy my work!" He turned to Joseph. "She's quite pretty, _Joseph_. Where did you get her?"

Packbell looked at her again and slapped a hand over his mouth sarcastically. "Oh, my, my, my. Now I remember! This fox is the ex-criminal! The one I've business with so many times!"

Sandra looked over at Joseph, horrified. Joseph paid no attention, just kept glaring at Packbell. Packbell stood up.

"Well, enough chit chat. Time to get on with the project." Packbell clapped his hands and two Battle Cyborgs came in. Joseph's eyebrows shot up.

"And what abominations are these, mister claptrap?"

Packbell sat down and grinned. "I do chatter on about my latest inventions, don't I? Oh well, no matter. These are my Battle Cyborgs, new and updated. The last time you saw them, they weren't as powerful. These are my Battle Cyborgs XX-2."

These new cyborgs were not in the shape of a bird, but of a scorpion. Spines stuck out from almost every place imaginable and it's eyes glowed red. It had six arms, loaded with spikes and a tail with a poisonous spine. Packbell grinned.

"Doubly intelligent and doubly dangerous."

Packbell walked over to the machine that was testing the liquid metal and pressed some buttons. The two cyborgs stopped what they were doing and approached Joseph and Sandra. They lifted their arms simultaneously and a needle popped out. They extracted a small amount of blood from both Joseph and Sandra, then walked over to the computer. The cyborgs inserted the contents of blood from Joseph and Sandra into a cup and pressed some buttons.

"Welcome to Doctor Doom's lab," muttered Joseph.

Packbell smiled and hit a large red button on the computer's control panels. The cup containing the blood samples from Joseph and Sandra emptied itself into the cauldron that practically radiated with heat. Then a cyborg came over carrying a large barrel. It dumped the contents, a yellowish slime, into the cauldron and signaled for the other cyborg to come forward. The other cyborg rushed forward and quickly through two robotic parts into the steaming mass. There was an enormous blast that sent the cyborgs flying.

Joseph and Sandra looked hard at the cauldron. Two shapes were becoming visible in it. The two odd forms twisted and writhed, never still, changing rapidly into different shapes. Finally, the jumping of shapes stopped. Sandra gasped. Rising from the muck were two figures made of liquid metal. The two figures were Joseph and Sandra!

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Joseph glared at Packbell.

"What, exactly did you just do?"

Packbell walked over to the two figures in the metal. He bowed to Joseph and Sandra. "Meet Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra."

The Liquid Metal Joseph and Sandra were perfect reproductions, only they had a silverish tinge, like melted metal. They looked very much alike, but the Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra seemed to have the impression that they were moving, the metal that formed them moving constantly.

The Liquid Metal Joseph oozed out of the vat of chemicals and metal and held out a hand so Liquid Metal Sandra could step down. She did so and stared at the actual Joseph and Sandra oddly.

"Who are they?" asked the Liquid Metal Sandra, in a voice very much like Sandra's, only warbled slightly.

Packbell went up to her and hissed in her ear. "They are your evil twins, they wanted to kill you but I captured them and strapped them down because they are highly dangerous."

Joseph roared in fury and snapped the straps like paper. He stormed over to Sandra and released her. Then he turned to Packbell.

"You bring them to life using DNA samples from us and them tell them _lies_?" he yelled angrily.

Packbell appeared taken aback. "Lies?" he said in perfect innocence, "Those are not lies!"

The Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra looked back and forth at Packbell and Joseph as the argument raged on, confused. Finally the Liquid Metal Joseph could take no more. He roared just as the real Joseph had done and extended his arms. His arms shimmered and seemed to stretch. The metal arms shot across the room, getting larger as they went. They grabbed Packbell and Joseph and held them up in the air. Joseph and Packbell looked down, surprised.

"Just speak one at a time, you babbling dunderheads!"

Joseph snapped out of the spell that had him and Packbell transfixed in amazement and surprise. He glared over at Packbell. "This . . . this machine has created you from living cells and DNA from me! He made a pot of liquid metal, put some sort of chemicals in it-"

"-Hydrogen Carbonate, mixed with some Nitro-Posecium," finished Packbell with a smug little smile. "Plus a little toxic chemicals to make it interesting. Just add water to get a nice little metal minion."

"What is this? A cookbook?" flared Joseph.

The Liquid Metal Joseph narrowed his eyes at Packbell. "I am not your minion or a minion of anyone else," he growled. "Is that clear?" He formed another hand out of his chest and held it over Packbell threateningly. "Or do I have to pound it into you?"

The Liquid Metal Sandra walked over to Liquid Metal Joseph. She put a hand on his shoulder. "All I want to know is why Packbell here thinks that we are going to automatically work for him?"

Packbell tut tutted. "I'll show you. Cyborg XX-47, start operation mindless metal minion!"

A cyborg walked over to the computer and pressed a few buttons, with everyone watching. Suddenly, Liquid Metal Joseph gasped. Oddly, Liquid Metal Sandra did the same. Packbell laughed. "All right, my little metal head, put me down." Liquid Metal Joseph gently set Packbell down, the same robotic look in his eyes.

"Now," said Packbell, "let us get on with this. Kill Joseph."

Sandra gasped. Joseph widened his eyes, then slitted them. "Before you have him kill me, one question."

Packbell crossed his arms.

"Very well."

"How did you get Liquid Metal Joseph to obey your every command?" Joseph glanced at the cyborg. "Did it have something to do with those little metal things you put in the cauldron when you were making Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra?"

Packbell held up an identical robotic piece. "You mean this? Yes, it did. This," he waved his hand at the small item, "is a my evil version of a Nuero-Overrider. The citizens of Knothole had built Nuero-Overriders a long time ago, and when placed on a worker-bot, it would give the thing it's free will back. My version, however, when it is placed in a robot or just about anything else, I modified it to make it work on Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra, they will obey my every command."

Packbell opened a panel on his arm and pressed a button. Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra both turned to face him. Packbell pointed at Joseph and Sandra. "Destroy them!"

Liquid Metal Sandra swung her silver head toward the two foxes.. "Yes, master," she droned as she and Liquid Metal Joseph moved in to attack.

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Jakkon awoke from sleep to find Chris, Colin and Andrew all staring at him. Jakkon jumped. He stared at the trio of former mercenaries.

"Good god! That's enough ta stop someone's ticker!" He paused. "I say, chaps, what on earth are ya doing here?"

Andrew smiled. "Just checkin' in on your and your," he batted his eyes. "poowr widdle hoiwted shouwlder."

Jakkon glanced down at his shoulder, which had been shot by Packbell in a recent battle. He winced as he tried to move it.

"Cut the bally baby talk. You aren't the one that bloody got hurt," said Jakkon.

"And I'm glad I'm not, too!" replied Andrew, grinning.

Jakkon rolled his eyes. "Puleease! It times like this that make me wonder if I've lived any former lives." He gazed of into space absentmindedly.

His poetic statement and silence to reflect on what they had was interrupted by a chuckle from Colin.

"I doubt it. You're not even living this one."

Jakkon glared at Colin. "So ya sayin' that ya sure don't want to be in my friggin' position and, you're getting the bally point across by being rude."

Colin spread his arms wide. "Yes!" he cried enthusiastically.

Chris and Andrew sighed. Jakkon jabbed a finger at Colin menacingly. "You can just keep ya bally comments to yaself, smartypants."

Colin looked down. "What pants?"

"I have no idea."

Jakkon sighed. "Anyway, yer not gettin' my point. Being in this bed has good points, too!"

Colin folded his arms. "Such as?"

Footsteps were heard outside and Jerena, the female fox burst in the door. She ran over to the bed and Jakkon.

"Oh, Jakkon, how's your arm today," she crooned, rubbing up against him lovingly.

Chris, Colin and Andrew stared, open mouthed. Jakkon allowed himself a smug smile. He held up a finger.

"Point number one."

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Liquid Metal Joseph and Sandra advanced on the struggling Joseph and Sandra.

Packbell smiled. "Say bye bye!"

Suddenly Joseph disappeared in a blast of flame, making Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra shield their eyes. Packbell stared in amazement. Suddenly Joseph appeared beside him in a similar burst of fire, making Packbell jump.

Joseph glared at Packbell.

"Bye, bye," said Joseph and hit Packbell as hard as he could. Packbell flew across the room and slammed into the wall. Joseph took a final glance at him and turned to help Sandra.

Sandra had her back to the wall, the Metal Monsters closing in. Suddenly she disappeared. Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra looked around in surprise. Meanwhile, Sandra looked around.

"Joseph? Where are you? Where am I for that matter."

Sandra was in a dark and cramped space that smelled slightly of oil and smoke. With a puff of air, Joseph appeared beside her. He looked around just as she did and sniffed.

"It's amazing how that cheap parlor trick of disappearing can be so useful at times. Anyway, it seems to me that we're in an air vent. When I transported us in here, I thought that there was just an open space between the walls, not an air vent," he shrugged. "Oh well. No matter. We seem to be away from those metal things."

Sandra put a hand on Joseph's shoulder. "But those metal things are _us_, Joseph, they were made from us!"

Joseph nodded. "True. But seriously, what can we do about those robotic parts? They're practically _robots_now!"

Sandra thought for a moment, then held up a finger. "Could you, perchance, make us appear in front of Packbell for a moment? I would like to express some final regards with a bit of feeling before we leave."

Joseph grinned. "Gotcha."

The two vulpines disappeared from the vent momentarily, leaving no clue that they had ever been there. Meanwhile, Packbell was venting his rage on anything that came near him. Machines and robot parts flew in all directions as Packbell stormed throughout the room, searching for Joseph and Sandra frantically. Packbell tried to kick Liquid Metal Joseph but when his foot connected with the warm liquid metal, his foot just stuck. Packbell cursed more and tried in vain to pull his foot from the mountain of oozing metal. Finally Packbell got his foot free and slammed himself down in a chair.

"Why didn't you search that damned fox for that blasted emerald when you captured him?" he roared at a cyborg, flinging a piece of metal at it.

The cyborg stood still, letting the piece of metal slam into it, not moving. The cyborg was simply programmed to obey, not to dodge objects throw by Packbell. Packbell turned to a monitor, glowering. A sudden flash of light made him look up. The second he did so, he was thrown across the room and into a wall. He looked up, confused.

"Who? What?" he stammered.

Sandra stood in front of Packbell, fists clenched, with Joseph standing behind her with his arms folded. Packbell quickly called the cyborgs.

"Battle Cyborgs XX-47 and XX-48, converge! Stop them!"

The cyborgs leaped forward, claws outstretched, a screech sounding in the air. Joseph dispatched the first one into oblivion with a kick to it's head, but he cut his foot in the process. He wasted precious seconds on healing it the best he could with the powers of the Amber Chaos Emerald. The other cyborg had rushed over to Joseph and was about to sink it's spines into Joseph's back when it was knocked flying by a quick moving black mass of fur. Sandra picked the cyborg back up and threw it into a wall and turned back to Joseph.

Packbell took this moment to call on Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra.

"Liquid Metal Joseph! Liquid Metal Sandra! Destroy the foxes!"

Liquid Metal Joseph growled and held up his hands. Joseph and Sandra backed away slowly.

Joseph whispered to Sandra. "I know he's going to do something, but how would I stop it if I even knew what he was going to do?"

Liquid Metal Joseph's hands seemed to shimmer in white light. Suddenly, the metal in the floor seemed to turn to liquid. Joseph and Sandra looked down in surprise as two gigantic hands formed in the metal. Liquid Metal Joseph clenched his fists and the hands grabbed Joseph and Sandra simultaneously. Joseph and Sandra struggled fitfully beneath Liquid Metal Joseph's grasp.

Joseph stopped struggling and smiled. Packbell was standing up when he saw the smile.

"Oh no! Stop him Liquid Metal Joseph! Stop him!" Packbell howled.

Joseph and Sandra disappeared with Joseph's words still lingering in the air.

"The fox is quicker than the eye . . . "

Packbell growled at Liquid Metal Joseph and turned away. Packbell stormed out of the room without a word, slamming the door. He went over to an elevator and went inside. He started it and leaned against the wall, frustrated. After a moment of steaming, Packbell began pacing the elevator, cursing as he went. After all his efforts, those blasted foxes had still managed to escape his wrath!

Suddenly, the lights went out.

Packbell froze. A black shape was in the elevator with him, slowly walking towards him. With lightening quick speed, the shadow grabbed Packbell by the neck and held him up.

"What? Who are you?"

Sandra's voice became clear in the darkness, cutting through Packbell's thoughts like a knife.

"I'm the pretty one, remember?"

Packbell slammed into the wall, unconscious. The black form of Sandra took one last look at the pitiful heap lying on the floor and disappeared.

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Sally gazed at the unorganized group of Freedom Fighters in front of her. She watched as they payed absolutely no attention to her what so ever. Sally looked down at Nicole.

"Can you emit a loud sort of alarm sound that will get these dingledorf's attention?" Sally asked.

Nicole beeped. "AFFIRMITIVE."

A loud screeching siren split the air making everyone stop talking and look at Sally and Nicole. Sally smiled.

"Very good, Nicole. Thank you."

<"YOU'RE WELCOME.">

Princess Sally walked up and down the lines, acting as true royalty should. She stopped in front of all of them. Everyone stood stiff, this time paying attention.

"If I have to act like a kindergarten teacher, I will," Sally said, "It doesn't bother me." She looked sternly at them. "You on the other hand, might mind."

Sonic stepped forward. "Aww, c'mon, Sal. Why are we here?"

Bookshire spoke up. "I believe I can tell you that much, Sonic. Sally and I have discovered that Joseph and Sandra have been captured."

An assortment of gasps, jumps and surprised looks came from the rest of the Freedom Fighters. Antoine began thinking. After a moment he spoke.

"How eexactly did you find thees . . . theeng out."

Sonic smirked. "I think that Antoineish translated into English is: How did you discover this?"

"That ees vhat I have beeing saying!"

"Sure, Ant, sure."

Sally sighed and told them a brief recap of the events that had occurred when Bookshire first told Sally that he was worried. Sally sighed. "That is why we have to get going. Joseph and Sandra might have been captured by a passing SWATBot patrol."

Sonic ran in place until his feet were a blur. "Then let's get juicin'!"

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Joseph and Sandra were rushing through Robotropolis, trying to find a way out, with Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra hot on their tails.

Joseph ducked into the shadow of an overhanging wall panting. Sandra leaned against the wall next to him. Joseph's ears pricked up when he heard the all too familiar sound of warm liquid metal moving quickly over the ground. He pulled Sandra in close to him and they seemed to melt into the shadows. Liquid Metal Sandra and Liquid Metal Joseph slithered by, searching, their odd silver eyes roaming in all directions, never resting, always searching. When they had passed, Joseph and Sandra reappeared. Sandra peered after the rapidly disappearing Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra.

Sandra breathed a sigh of relief. "Whew! That was a close call. How exactly are you supposed to fight blobs like that?"

Joseph shrugged. "Beats me."

Sandra looked in the direction that Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra had gone. She shivered. "It gives me the chills thinking about those things. It's even scarier to know that they're literally _us_."

Joseph's head snapped up. He looked at Sandra oddly.

"Say that again."

"What? The part about the chills?"

Joseph grinned. "I got it! I know how to stop them!"

Sandra raised an eyebrow and pointed at him. "I wouldn't be surprised if a light bulb appeared between your ears right now."

Joseph shook his head, smiling. "No time for games right now. Follow me!"

He sprinted over to a wall and cautiously looked around on the other side for any sign of a cyborg, SWATBot or Liquid Metal Joseph or Liquid Metal Sandra. He stopped and looked at Sandra with a grin on his face.

"You're right," he said, " I wouldn't have been surprised either."

With that he ran off. Sandra shook her head and followed. "Is it any wonder I love him?" she asked herself.

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Sonic gazed at Robotropolis from his current position on a hill in the outskirts of the Great Forest. He turned back to the others who were waiting for an order from him or Sally. Sonic looked at Sally.

"Shall we go in?"

Sally nodded. "Let's go."

The whole group of Freedom Fighters swarmed over the hill like a silent, multicolored wave, heading toward Robotropolis with one intent that shouted itself loud and clear: Free Joseph and Sandra!

Little did the Freedom Fighters know, that at that very second, Joseph and Sandra were also attempting to free themselves, but _they_ had a better plan.

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Joseph pulled up against a wall quickly, motioning for Sandra to do the same. Sandra did so, and looked up at Joseph questioningly. "So," she said, "what's this plan of yours?'

Joseph watched as Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra patrolled the junkyard, watching carefully to see if anything even moved. Joseph replied without taking his eyes off the two masses of liquid metal.

"Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra are made of warm, liquid, metal, right? They have to keep warm to stay liquid so they can move. Well, I was thinking that if I was to dump a bunch of cold water on them, they would become solid and couldn't attack us." Now he looked back at her. "See what I mean?"

Sandra thought for a moment before speaking. Finally she smiled. "How perceptive." Suddenly, she jerked. She quickly looked up at Joseph. "Joseph," she said in a hurried tone, "but those things are the warmest in the middle, the inside is what heats the outside and keeps it moving. You'd need to hit the _inside_ with water!"

Joseph was beginning to see the problem. "Oh," he said.

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The Freedom Fighters were running toward Robotropolis when Bunnie stopped and called to them.

"Hey! Y'all stop and take a look at this!"

Sonic skidded to a stop, but slipped on some slick metal in the process. He threw a banana peel off his head and stormed over to Bunnie.

"This had better be good," he said, crossing his arms. "I do _not_ like having to stop when I'm at warp speed."

Bunnie pointed to something sticking out of the rubble a few yards away. Everyone gasped. It was a porcupine, stuck under an enormous piece of metal! Sally ran over and tried to get the large metal sheet off without success. Sonic came over, and the two of them managed to lift the large sheet of metal. Sonic took one look at it and stuck his tongue out.

"Whoa!" he said, arms up, backing away, "put her back in the oven! She ain't done yet!"

Sally elbowed him. "Be polite, you idiot! She may be a bit ugly, but who cares? We have to help her."

Sonic sighed. "All right! All right!"

Sonic glanced at Antoine as they were helping the porcupine up. Sonic smirked. "Hey," he said, "at least Antoine will get someone that's just as pretty as he is to hang out with!" He made a face. "Now that's what I call an ugly relationship!"

Antoine raised an eyebrow. "And vhat is you meening, Sonique?"

Sonic sighed. "Humor is wasted on the stupid."

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Liquid Metal Joseph peered around the junkyard, looking for anything out of the ordinary (Author's note: I mean _besides_ himself and Liquid Metal Sandra). Suddenly he saw something move in the shadows. He moved towards it with surprising speed, extending an arm as he went. The arm shimmered and his fist turned into a large spiked ball. Sandra leaped out of the shadows and began running. Liquid Metal Joseph pursued, swinging the giant mace ball. Suddenly Sandra was cornered as Liquid Metal Sandra emerged from the shadows. Sandra immediately ducked. A metal ball flew through the air with such force, it made holes right through Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra. Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra looked around, not hurt in the slightest.

Joseph stepped out of the shadows with a large gun, face grim with determination. Just as he had expected, holes had been made in the two metal creatures. He threw the gun away with a clang. Suddenly, another gun appeared in his hands. This one was a water gun!

Joseph sprayed rapidly drenching Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra as they tried to pull away. But Joseph got water into the main heat source of Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra: their centers. They sealed the hole up, but the damage was already done. Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra froze in place without a sound.

Clang!

The gun fell from Joseph's hands as Sandra rushed to him. They embraced and Joseph looked at the two statues of metal. He walked over and tapped on one. Solid metal. He smiled.

The Freedom Fighters chose that exact moment to enter the junkyard. Everyone stared at each other for a moment. Sonic's eyes strayed to the statues of Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra, then back to Joseph and Sandra.

Excuse me," he said, "but _what_ just happened here?"

Joseph smiled. "I thought you'd never ask."

Joseph turned to the statues and pointed. They disappeared without a trace. "They'll be waiting for us when we get home," he said.

The Freedom Fighters walked back to Knothole, listening as Joseph and Sandra relayed what had happened in the last few hours.

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When the Freedom Fighters reached Knothole, the statues of Liquid Metal Joseph and Liquid Metal Sandra were there already, just as Joseph had said they would be.

Joseph peered at the statue with intensity never known. "I think I'll work on this thing in my lab," he said to Sandra, "never know _what_ I might figure out. Heck, I may even be able to revive them and bring back their free will."

Sandra nuzzled against him. "That would be interesting," she said as Joseph kissed her deeply.

Joseph and Sandra both disappeared in a flourish of sparkles shaped in a heart.

Sonic watched as the sparkles disappeared into nothingness and then turned to Sally.

"Well," he said, "that's that. By the way, what happened to the porcupine?"

Sally smiled. "Bookshire's looking over her now."

"Good."

Sally looked up at Joseph's large, white, dome house. She turned to Sonic, a look of contempt on her face. She put her hands on her hips.

Sonic Hedgehog," she said, "how come you never kiss me like that?"

Sally stalked off, a smile flickering on her lips as Sonic followed.

"Aww, c'mon, Sal! You never let me! Now honestly . . ."

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The next week, the porcupine was out of bed and feeling better.

"So," Sonic said, "what's your name? Never got to ask, you were so conked out."

The female porcupine smiled. "My name is Ashley Fincher-Mills. That's just the name I go by. My real name is not important."

"So you're all better now?"

Ashley hunched over and grinned demonically. She let loose a blood curdling laugh. "You never know," she said, peering up at Sonic, "until it's too late!"

Sonic stared straight up feebly. "I don't feel safe here anymore."

Ashley laughed again, this time normally.

"Get used to it."

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