Most people, when surrounded by Swat Bots, would be surprised, then afraid, and finally they would be nothing at all. Miles "Tails" Prower was not most people. He was surprised, to be sure-- they hadn't expected an ambush-- but he wasn't afraid. There were the butterflies that always swam around in his stomach during danger, but he'd long learned to dismiss such nervousness. When your best friend and honorary big brother was Sonic the Hedgehog, you didn't have to be afraid.
"Hedgehog, surrender or be pulverized." This one must be their leader, or at least the one acting as their leader. In situations where a true Swat Bot Commander was unavailable, whichever unit had the most advanced processing core immediately took control. Tails wondered idly if he should feel insulted to have not been mentioned.
"Dudes, when somebody comes rom halfway across the continent to see us, the least you could do is not kidnap them," Sonic said, in that snarky, semi-arrogant way of his that his friends found so endearing and his enemies found so infuriating. "Seriously, I know you guys like to hang out, but you've got to stop coming over uninvited when I have company." And with that, Sonic was all action, spin jumping through the lead Swat Bot's chassis.
Tails followed his cue, and lashed out at a nearby 'bot with his twin tails. Metal crumpled under the impact of his powerful tail muscles. Being born a mutant freak of a fox was pretty cool sometimes. "Guess we'd better teach them some manners, then, huh?" This was playtime, and playtime always came with banter.
The remaining Swat Bots were just beginning to catch on when Sonic turned, gave an over-dramatic sigh, and said "Ah, forget it. These guys are two much for me. Catch ya later, Tails!" With that, he ran away. The Swat Bots, predictably, looked stupidly after Sonic, and Tails took the opportunity to fly up into the treetops. Very cool, indeed.
"Hedgehog, priority one! Don't let him get away!"
"It's too late! Now where's the brat?"
It was quite amusing to watch the Swat Bots realize that they had let not one but both of their quarry escape. Almost as amusing as what was going to happen in three, two, one-- Tails dropped out of his tree, simultaneously decapitating the closest 'bot. "Heads up, and off!"
Sonic was already back, just as they had planned it. "You can have that one, but I'm taking the rest." Before the poor, stupid robots had a chance to process what was occurring before their optical processors, they became smoking scrap heaps. "Nice to know they're still stupid as ever." He paused, and looked thoughtful. Or about as thoughtful as Sonic ever was. "Still, seven of them is a bit much for one patrol, and I thought they couldn't call for reinforcements because the trees messed with their com units somehow?"
Tails grinned. "Mineral traces in the bark. And that's why I did a clean decap on one of them, so I could take the parts back to the lab later to study." His smile then dimmed. "Sonic, do you see that?" It was a hat, which could have only came from one place.
If he hadn't noticed before, Sonic saw it now. "Our contact from Sandblast City." So it wasn't just a random Swat Bot encounter. They had been waiting for them.
Bunnie felt her pink camisole and brown cargo pants begin to grow sticky with sweat. Part of it was the fear, of course-- she was strapped to a table in the lair of a madman. But part of it was how incredibly blasted hot it was in here. Despite herself, her eyes flicked up to the piece of machinery hovering above the table. It was obviously some sort of torture device. She only hoped that she wouldn't betray her friends or her mission.
The madman himself, Doctor Ivo Robotnik, chose that moment to speak. "I apologize for the heat, but this particular device takes a great deal of energy to warm up. Now, you can tell me what you were doing, where you came from, and how to get to Knothole Village, or you can choose to do things the difficult way."
Bunnie made a face. "An' if Ah choose the difficult way?"
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Robotnik gesture towards the suspended machinery. His left arm really was robotic, she saw, although the reason why had been lost to time. Generally, Robotnik preferred to inflict his machinations on others. "Suspended above you is a roboticizer ray, a version of the device I use to convert man into machine. Roboticization, while excruciatingly painful, is over so quickly that the pain is practically insignificant. Once the subject is converted, they feel no more pain."
The doctor spoke conversationally, as if they were discussing the weather or the last square dance or anything other than torture and life or death. "It would be a fun little experiment in pain to see how someone would react to being roboticized gradually, from the feet up, hm?" With his next words, the conversational tone was gone, replaced with an aura of menace. "One way or another, my curiosity will be satisfied... it is up to you as for which subject it will be."
So he was as mad as they all said. No matter. Bunnie knew what she had to do. "Ah'll tell you nothin' ya don't already know, and that's that you're the slimiest scum ever born of a woman an' her brother-in-law."
Robotnik smiled grimly. It almost seemed as if he had wanted her to resist, so he could have an excuse to play with his latest little toy. "So be it." With a sweeping motion, he flipped a dramatically large switch, and the pain began.
It was hard to tell which was the scream of the machine and which was her own voice. Bunnie knew heat, being from Sandblast City, but this burned with an intensity she'd never felt before. Ever the accident with the plane hadn't been this hot. And not just burning, but stinging, and throbbing, and piercing-- every form of pain in one, moving slowly up her legs. And then, for a merciful moment, it ended, leaving a throbbing where it cut off at her knees.
"Now, then," Robotnik smiled, "Are we feeling reasonable?" Bunnie only managed to let off a single curse, and then the nightmare began anew.
Tails struggled to keep up with Sonic, following the sound of the screams. They were getting closer-- the increase in Swat Bots was testament to that. Some could be avoided, but it was inevitable that they would have to fight. Unfortunately, this sort of situation took all the fun out of a good battle.
The screaming stopped. "That's not a good sign. That's never a good sign." Despite the quip, Sonic seemed to lack his trademark humor. He was a veritable blur, trashing bot after bot. Tails hurried to catch up, managing to take out a couple of Swat Bots on the way.
The screams had begun again when they reached the corridor. It was spilling with enemies, far too many for normal combat measures. Tails knew exactly what to do, and a thrust of his tails flung the curled-up hedgehog through the waves of Swat Bots. Hurrying to catch up, he flew above the frazzled survivors.
It was worse than he'd imagined. Their contact was a young woman, a mobian rabbit-- and she was roboticized from the waist down. Worse yet, the roboticizer was still going, gradually climbing up her body. Sonic was running to help, which left Tails with the console-- and the familiar fat figure standing behind it. "Would it kill you to be less of a creep?" Tails asked, flipping off the dramatically large switch. This did nothing, which didn't seem to help Robotnik's mood any.
"Would it kill you to just die?" Robotnik snarled. He was in one of his moods again; the doctor was notoriously unstable. Tails struggled to hold him away from the console, while hitting the various inputs with his tails. He must have done something right, because Robotnik became even angrier. Lunging out of Tails' control, he went over the console and at Sonic's throat. But Sonic was gone, jerking the rabbit off of the table-- and thrusting her left arm directly underneath the roboticization ray. She didn't have time to finish her scream before passing out.
"Tails! Make us an exit!" Sonic was on the move now, detouring to grab the girl's jacket off a nearby hook. Tails did as he was told, and busted a hole in the wall. Robotnik could use more fresh air, anyway. Sonic ran down the wall as Tails flew down after him, and for the moment, they could be satisfied in a mission completed.
There was a voice speaking, but Bunnie couldn't make out the words. No, there were multiple voices. The sound started to clarify, just as light began to shine red through her eyelids. "She is a liability to ze kingdom! Surely Robotnik has ze resources to use her mechanicals against us!" The young man's voice was unfamiliar, but his accent was nice. Bunnie couldn't quite understand what he was talking about. The pain numbed her mind.
Now another voice, female this time, spoke up. "What happened to her happened because she was risking her life to bring us valuable information. We should be grateful for her sacrifice. Besides, she needs our help." Events began to come into focus, and Bunnie discovered a growing suspicion that they were talking about her.
"Besides, 'Twan, Tails says the scan checked out fine. She's much less of a threat to you than I'll be if you don't shut up." This voice was recognizable as the one who rescued her from the roboticizer-- and inadvertently doomed her left arm. She tried to reach out for feeling in the limb, but found none. It was much the same from the waist down. Then again, nothingness was a relief compared to how much the rest of her felt.
"But ze danger!" It was the first voice again, now in hysterics.
"More dangerous than this?" There was the sound of a minor scuffle, and as Bunnie's vision began to return, a blur of color. The color solidified into a five-figure clash, with a blue hedgehog – her rescuer? – being held back from a gibbering pile of coyote. The hedgehog was the world-famous Sonic, that much was certain; the squirrel standing between them was likely Princess Sally Acorn. Bunnie wasn't sure who the coyote was; nor did she have any clue to the identities of the fox and walrus holding Sonic back.
"I wasn't going to hurt him much," Sonic protested over the coyote's frantic gibberish. Princess Sally gave him a stern look, and pointed an accusing finger in his face.
"Save your energy for Robotnik. Have you forgotten that Antoine is on our side?"
"Have you forgotten that Antoine is a pain in our side?" Sonic smirked.
"Right now you're being worse than he is," Sally chided. "Besides, not all arguments need to be settled with fists. Otherwise, you're just another Robotnik."
Sonic groaned. "I hate it when you kinda sorta make sense."
Sally smiled. "Besides, Antoine's outvoted anyway. So it's a non-issue. The girl stays, whether Antoine likes it or not."
Bunnie cleared her throat. "Ach'ly, Ah'd like to head home as soon as Ah can."
"No!" Antoine's reaction was immediate. "Ze would be reporting our location straight to Robotnik!"
The walrus restraining Sonic chose that moment to speak. "I'm not sure that's even possible. In fifteen years he hasn't managed to create sensors that crack the woods' natural dampening, and she wasn't conscious when we brought her in. As long as we blindfold her on her way out, she shouldn't even know where we are."
"But we haven't ran tests on the Sw--" the fox spoke up, before being brought to silence by a pointed look. "I mean, that makes sense." He smiled weakly, and Bunnie got the distinct impression that he was far too young to be involved in this war. Eleven, twelve, maybe even ten years old. And already a soldier.
Then again, they were all too young. A lifetime wouldn't prepare anyone for this.
Sonic had grown bored of all this. "Yeah, yeah, glad we have everything figured out. Now I know I'm hot stuff and all, but could you guys get your hands off of me?" The fox turned bright red and released his grip, but the walrus held fast.
"Sorry, Sonic, but I'm waiting for Sally's permission," the walrus said. He gave the squirrel a questioning look.
Sally smiled. "Of course you may release him. After--" she paused "--he apologizes to Antoine."
"Sorry my tolerance for idiots isn't higher," Sonic rolled his eyes. "And no offense to Rotor, but Sally, the next time you need me held down, would you mind doing it yourself?" Now it was the squirrel's turn to blush, and the walrus -- Rotor? -- hurriedly let go of his spiky blue friend. Within three seconds the hedgehog had left the room.
They had given her a clean bill of health after about two weeks, and Bunnie had taken another four days to get comfortable controlling her new appendages. The young fox – his name was Tails, she had learned – had offered her a ride home, but she'd refused. Her motorcycle was still stashed where she had left it, and there was more than enough compressed fuel for the return journey.
Now she was almost there. Home, and the gang. Rotor had contacted them from Knothole to let them know she'd be late, but hadn't included information on her status. There were some things a person had to do herself.
Bunnie's hands, one flesh and one metal, worked in tandem, guiding the bike's steering in a ninety-degree arc. Sandblast City was just ahead, and with it the mockery that would surely come. It was bad enough that she was late, but the limbs would certainly earn their share of scorn. It was just how her boys rolled, of course, and Bunnie knew how to give as good as she got.
She was almost at the city gates when the front tire burst.
She was aware of the noise before she felt the jerk. As the bike flipped, instinct took over, and Bunnie leaped into the air. No, not leaped – she was flying. Panic momentarily set in, and then she took a deep breath, and willed herself down onto the sand that had become so familiar. So her new legs were capable of jet propulsion. That hadn't been in Rotor's diagnostics report.
"Whaddaya think yer doing here?" The voice was familiar, and Bunnie was relieved to hear it.
"Sorry Ah'm late, Jack," she smiled. "It's not every day Ah get to stay at a place with real men."
Jack snorted. She could see him now, standing in the shadows of the shield. "Funny ya should talk about real men," he frowned, "as it seem t'me Ah'm not the one who ain't real."
The words were expected, but they still stung. "Ah've recovered, though. These new limbs make me more effective than evah before."
This time, Bunnie recognized that the sound wasn't a burst tire, but a gunshot. "You'll nevah recover. It's ain't natural. Yer ain't natural. We ain't gotta place for ya here."
"Jack, this isn't funny." Bunnie was close to tears now.
"Yer right," he said, aiming the gun straight at her heart. "It's ain't."
And as she walked away, Bunnie felt as if he'd already pulled the trigger.
It was nighttime now, in the Great Forest. Bunnie had flown so long that exhaustion had set it, and she didn't quite know where the entrance to Knothole was. So far, she hadn't encountered any Swat Bots, but that wouldn't last long. At least, she hoped it wouldn't. She could use something to take her anger out on.
Speak of the devil. "Halt! Surrender or--" --the Swatbot never got to finish its sentence, instead letting out a series of electronic shrieks as its chest caved in, a mechanical hand grasping its sparking innards. Innards that were pulled from its smoking chassis, and then beat over its now comatose corpse. The final mess of scorched parts was so horrifyingly mutated that Bunnie was almost nauseous, but no, this is what she wanted. Wasn't it?
And suddenly Sonic was there, taking in the wreckage on the ground and in her fist, the smoke still rising. For once, he couldn't think of anything to say, other than "Are you alright?"
"Ah'll nevah be alright." The smoking metal still clenched in her hand, Bunnie glowered. "Robotnik dun took everything from me. Ah intend to return the favor."