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Archive for July, 2010

Robotnik was at a loss to explain what had just happened, so he did what he always did when something upset him, he ignored it. The subject under the cloth was exactly as he had left it, so he put it all down to a trick of the light. Returning to the cabinet full of cutting gear, he unlocked the door and selected a fine and accurate laser cutter, capable of slicing through metal fingers like a spoon through porridge. With a quick glance at the table he stomped out of the lab and back to the Cleanerbot in the other room.

Typically the room was empty of robots. Robotnik was slightly irritated that the Cleanerbot had returned to duty without being dismissed, he was also annoyed that the broken badnik had been dumped on the floor in a puddle of goo. He swept it up and stamped back into the lab, slamming the door behind him.

There was a clicking from the other side of the room that the Doctor had just left, and the Cleanerbot, who had witnessed the removal of the badnik rolled toward the lab door, its clicks getting more and more frequent as more and more ideas and images flooded, and ran over its over worked and over heating processor.

Robotnik threw the shattered robot casually on the bench and tried once more to remove the sphere from its grasp. A weak light emitted from the camera that served as its vision and for a moment, the badnik registered it was in the presence of its creator. It couldn’t move as all its fluid had now escaped, and its power source was too weak to move any actuators. Programming took over, and using the very last of its backup, it tried to release the sphere from its hand, and complete the mission. There was a feeble spark from deep in its broken body as the last remaining drop of power arced for the last time, still the sphere remained tightly in its grip.

All of this was missed by Robotnik, he was busy warming up the cutter. He glanced down when he heard the spark, but with one fluid movement, brought the cutting laser down and severed the hand from the badniks wrist.

“Cleanerbot entering lab, sir” The computer was eager not to miss anything else. “Access granted.”

“Dismissed, Cleanerbot. I have no further need for you, return to duty” The Doctor didn’t look up from examining the sphere, he was carefully prising the fingers from the prize and had no interest in being disturbed. The Cleanerbot didn’t move.

“I said dismissed!” Still, the bot did nothing other than emit a click, Robotnik now looked up “Get out!” he screeched, “I’m very busy!” The bot hesitantly rolled backwards and stopped as if confused or in conflict with something, then headed out the door.

“Stupid things, I need to update them” He thought to himself as he turned back to the sphere. It was a plain thing, about the size of a tennis ball, dull grey in colour and covered in one side is a reddish goo, that leaked from a small crack. “Gahh! Stupid, heavy handed morons!” Robotnik dropped the sphere into a container to catch the rest of the substance. “This stuff is unique! Lucky I only need a few drops, wahahahaha!” Glancing over to the table, he said with a menacing grin, “A few drops will do just nicely…”

Tails covered his face and began to shake. He hadn’t heard Sonic shout like that with such an edge of fear to his voice before. Sonic was utterly fearless and Tails idolised him for it. Many times Sonic had been there for him, rescuing him sometimes, comforting other times. Sonic was his world and his saviour. No one had really cared for him since that fateful day and if Sonic was frightened then it had to be bad.

He lay as still as he could, sensing the hedgehog standing over him, for what seemed like an age. After a while he became aware that Sonic was talking in a cool and calm voice, and soon felt the gentle nudge of Sonic’s red and white striped shoe, poking him in the side.

“Yo, Tails, get up buddy” Sonic said “Its safe now” Slowly Tails got to his feet, and rubbing the dirt from his eyes stood dumbstruck at the sight before him. Standing next to Sonic was another hedgehog.

He was the same height and build as Sonic, and had a kind, gentle smile.

“Sorry to scare you Tails” The strangers voice was gentle, but had an underlying strength “I have been here so long I am suspicious of everyone. Allow me to introduce myself” The new hedgehog stepped forward, into the light, “My name is Flare, Flare the Hedgehog.” Flare indeed was almost identical to Sonic, except for his colouring, he was a light blue, and he wore bracelets on his right arm but he still had the same dark green eyes that shone with a deep kindness.

“Umm…” Tails looked at his feet “Are you related to Sonic?”

Flare laughed “I don’t think so Tails, we just seem to share the same values. I watched you and Sonic fighting those monsters that stole the Essence, I waited to see what you would do after it was taken. I have been watching you for some time”

“Hmm that explains my gut feeling…” Sonic began “Hang on, what? What was stolen? We got all of those Badniks…”

“Not all” said Flare “I watched as one escaped but I was duty bound to stay and watch over the temple”

“Why did you not help us, or at least stop the one getting away with your Essence?” asked Tails

“The Temple holds more treasure than you know, and besides, the Essence can only ever be used for good, if evil is applied to it it just turns to water, so it is quite safe”

“Flare, you have been locked in the Temple way too long!” Sonic said “If Eggman wanted it, then he has a way to use it”

“Sonic” Flare said gently “Please don’t worry, Essence is created all the time and gathers in the Temple, the small drop this ‘Eggman’ got is nothing to fear. I am more concerned for the Temple itself, I don’t think it would take much to flatten what remains!”

“So, what now?” Sonic asked “I am not surprised to meet another Hedgehog, they seem to spring up all the time, still its always nice to meet someone new. Lets go get some food.”

“Ill stay” Tails said “I want to make sure I have all the data of these new Badniks”

“Ok, be careful lil buddy, see you back at the ranch” Sonic winked. As the two hedgehogs walked, then broke into a run, a single red speck in the darkness by the Temple entrance appeared, its attention seemed focused on the lone fox.

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Robotnik yanked the door open, allowing it to crash dramatically against the wall with a satisfying bang.“Good Evening Sir, the subject has not moved since…” The computer began.

“Shut up” he snarled, and began rummaging in a large toolbox marked ‘Hammers, Various, Large.’ Finding one that pleased him, Robotnik strode across the room toward a cabinet with a workbench underneath. Various cutting tools lay strewn about but the Doctor ignored them all and reached up to unlock the cabinet. A crash split the hushed quiet of the lab, Robotnik span around, searching for the source of the noise, expecting to see one of the half witted Cleanerbots to be standing there, staring at the mess it had caused. But there was nothing, except for the tray of surgical tools that had been balanced on the edge of the lit table in the center of the room were now all over the floor. The good Doctor also noticed a gloved hand had slipped from under the cloth and was hanging limply over the edge of the table.

“Gahhhh! What’s this? What’s this?” yelled Robotnik “Who’s there? Come on show yourself!” There was no answer, just the humming of machinery “COMPUTER! WHATS GOING ON?!” His voice broke with rage, the computer remained silent.

Moving to the terminal, Doctor Robotnik began punching buttons on the keyboard “Gah, what’s wrong with this thing?” his eyes moved unconsciously from the screen to the table, the gloved hand was still there, unmoving. Robotnik stared at it for almost a minute, as if entranced.

“You told me to shut up, Sir. I was following orders” The computers sarcastic voice boomed loudly, breaking the spell and making the old man jump out of his seat.

“I!” he began “You!” he continued “Arrrgggg!” he concluded, “What happened? Who was in here other than me?”

“No one Sir”

“So, the subject moved? Why didn’t you inform me?”

“Well, apart from the order to ‘shut up’ the subject didn’t move”

“WHAT! So how do you explain that? He pointed a trembling finger in the direction of the table

“Explain what sir?”

“THAT you sarcastic soon to be re booted half wit!”

“I fail to see what has excited you sir, perhaps I should call for medical?”

“The mess on the floor you idiot, the subjects moved from under the cover”

“Sir, please verify”

Robotnik was speechless with rage, he looked where he was pointing, poised to deactivate the stupid, blind computer that was supposed to be monitoring all aspects of activity in the lab, he looked past the end of his finger to the spot on the floor where the instruments were strewn, and found they were not there. Aghast, he moved closer to find that they were where they had originally been, neatly spaced on the metal tray, perched on the edge of the bed, the gloved hand was also where it had been, tucked under the cover. Absolutely flummoxed, and for the first time in his life a little apprehensive, Robotnik lifted the cloth covering the bed.

The area around the temple was littered with broken metal. Sparks and crackles of electricity emitted from smashed circuit boards and destroyed computer chips were the only sounds. Miles ‘Tails’ Prowler, a fox of mechanical leanings was running here and there, gathering parts and examining the wreckage.

“These are different from the normal Badniks, Sonic” he yelled “New designs, new power packs, even uprated weapons”

“Big deal!” came the reply “No matter what Eggman throws up, I can handle it, no sweat” Sonic the Hedgehog jumped down from the stone pillar he had been standing on, surveying the damage “Just what were those bozos after anyway? This temple is just a pile of old rocks”

“I dunno Sonic, but it doesn’t matter, we got em all.”

“Hmm… I wonder…” mused Sonic, “There has to be a reason Eggman is interested in this place lil’ buddy, and if he is interested, then I am too.”

The temple had been abandoned for many years, it was more a clearing in the forest with a circle of stone pillars and fallen stones littering the place. Even the reason for it existence, the gods or goddesses it was dedicated to were lost from memory. Mobians used it for a quiet spot to read or have picnics, it was one of those unchanging, peaceful places that everyone knew of, but no one knew why. Sonic himself had been relaxing there just hours before the badniks had arrived, Eggman had been quiet and there was not much to do so it was a good opportunity to catch up with some sleep. Strangely though, Sonic hadn’t been able settle down. For the first time he felt uneasy, as if something were watching him, something just out of sight at the edge of his vision. Sonic was the fastest on Mobius, there was no doubt, and sneaking up on him was very difficult, his natural awareness and speed gave him almost a sixth sense to danger, but this feeling was different, there was definitely a threat there, but he could feel no malice. Sonic did what he always did, and went with his gut feelings, waited it out and sure enough a few hours later the badniks turned up.

But now, after the battle had long finished, his heart returned to normal and the excitement gone, there was that feeling again, danger but no malice. Sonic was confused. “Hey Tails!” he called “you have that movement sensor thing you made? The one that detects people?”

“Sure Sonic, but why? I’m sure we got em all, and Eggman makes so much noise we would hear a second wave coming.”

“Call it a hunch, but I have a funny feeling”

“You hungry Sonic?

“I’m always hungry lil’ buddy but not this time, fire it up will you?”

Tails reached into a small leather bag and withdrew a plastic box which comprised of a screen and a few buttons. Pushing the buttons and waving it in the air, Tails reported “Not a thing except me, you know its not sensitive enough to pick you up, but us normal folk it can!”

“Hmm…” Said Sonic again “Keep trying buddy, I’m going for a look around.” In one leap, Sonic was back up on the stone pillar, jumping from one to the next, getting faster and faster, searching the ground from his high vantage point.

“Hey!” Yelled Tails “I think my machine is getting better! It read movement over by where you are, just for a second! It can’t read ghosts and I know its only you up there, right Sonic?” Sonic stopped,

“Yeah just me, there’s nothing up here, and I cant see anything down on the ground” Sonic looked down at Tails, and for a second saw the flash of a shadow behind him.

“TAILS!” Sonic yelled “RUN!” Panicked by Sonics sudden shout Tails ran forward, but his bag tangled in his feet and he fell, Sonic was at his side in an instant, ready to protect his friend.

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It’s sight failing, the forlorn robot used its one good arm to pull itself along. It could feel no pain, but it knew it was only a matter of time before its systems would shut down and fail. Programming dictated its purpose, it had watched dozens of its fellows fall, a blue blur of death smashing them aside like toys, while it had moved with determination toward the goal. The castle was now in sight and as usual a fine mist of rain began to fall, something to do with the masters experiments in weather control. The water wasn’t going to help, it was seeping through its broken shell and beginning to short out vital electronics. Its programming became hazy but the purpose remained clear, get the goal item back to the castle at all costs.

Doctor Ivo Robotnik eyed the monitor with distain. Of the hundred newly designed ‘badniks’ (he hated the term, coined by the peasants he now ruled with an iron fist, he knew his creations were masterpieces) only one had survived, and that was smashed and about to fail. Its feeble efforts at pulling itself along the ground, with no regard for is own survival was lost on him, what’s more the robot appeared to be allowing the precious item to drag along the ground! This incensed the old Doctor so much that he decided to spend even more resources, and send a rescue party to retrieve it and destroy the failed and useless thing.

Its progress now slowed to a few inches as the manipulators that were its fingers began to seize, the hydraulic fluid that provided the movement was slowly leaking from many ruptures and the water from the rain began to short the power source. Its vision picked up movement ahead, and perceived it as friendly. Rescue party, was probably the wrong term to use as the robots chosen were designed to collect and destroy garbage. A little tweek in their program, and an addition of a lighter manipulator to handle the delicate item without damage was no trouble at all for the Doctors genius, as soon as those mindless drones returned he could turn his attention to more pressing matters, namely the latest idea to crush the Blue Menace that tormented him for so long. Chuckling to himself he stood up, and moving away from the bank of monitors, walked over to the heavy iron door that was the entry to the lab.”Good Evening Sir, the subject has not moved since your last visit, 58 minutes ago” The computers voice had an edge of sarcasm Robotnik thought, but that was impossible, the computer was a machine programmed and built by him, why on earth would he make a sarcastic super-computer? The room was dimly lit, banks of machinery lined the walls, cogs, gears and rods littered the floor. A surgical table, covered in a cloth was in the centre, at the touch of a switch it was bathed in a brilliant bluish white light revealing a tuft of orange fur from the side of the cloth where it just didn’t cover the lumpy object beneath.”This is sure to work, that blue idiot has a soft spot for his pathetic side kick!” Robotnik pulled the cloth back a little and inspected what was underneath.

What it revealed was very unpleasant indeed.

The first of the Cleanerbots reached out with its redesigned manipulator, and flipped the seemingly dead robot over, its case was smashed, both its legs were useless, where it had dragged itself along the ground mud and filth had accumulated, adding to its sad and desperate look. No pity or feeling was shown as the Cleaner attempted to rip the item from the still hand of the bot whose frozen fingers were clamped tightly around it. Whether it was the smaller manipulator, or some stubborn part of the smashed bots program, the Cleaner could not free the object from its grasp. Clicking with frustration, it reasoned the best way to complete its mission was to bring the whole robot back to Robotnik, lest he damage the precious item.

On their return to the castle, they found the Doctor waiting impatiently for them. The Cleaner offered the stricken robot to him, clumsily holding it by the remaining good wrist, letting the damp and mud encrusted body dangle like a broken puppet. Robotnik grabbed at the spherical object still clutched in the damaged hand. It was covered in ooze and slime from the road that had mingled with the leaking fluids of the stricken robot. “Let go you moron!” bellowed the Doctor. The arm raised and jiggled in his grasp, but refused to give up its prize “Arrrrgh!” Robotnik screamed in infantile rage as he realised that there would be more delays as he now needed to gather tools and cutting gear to free it. The Cleaners shot each other a sideways glance, and Clicked in silent laughter.

Robotnik was a genius, no doubt about that. He viewed the world around him as his laboratory, its inhabitants as guinea pigs and the results good or bad, triumphs of his abilities. His world was also marred with unfathomable failures, most of which were interferences by an inhabitant of Mobius, a self styled Peoples Champion’ known as Sonic. A resident of Mobius, this creature possessed astonishing abilities and even more astonishing luck. Worse of all Robotnik, despite his genius and almost unlimited funds and materials, could only stand and watch as machine after machine, robot after robot, scheme after scheme was smashed with almost laughable ease by this thing who’s weapons were no more than a courageous heart and raw talent. This new venture would succeed where the others had failed. Sonic had a heart, he had feelings and a sense of loyalty and duty. All of these things so far had been ignored by Robotnik, feelings and decency had no place in his life and considered them a pointless weakness. How could he have been so foolish? Strike at the heart and the body dies! He couldn’t build a machine to match Sonic’s speed and power but he could construct something that would tug hard on the values that damn hedgehog held so dear, dragging him ultimately to his doom.

Watching the egg shaped body stamp off toward the lab, the first Cleanerbot glanced at the pathetic mess in its manipulator. A small pool of hydraulic fluid had formed on the floor below it, and it struck the drone that the thing appeared to be bleeding to death. The shock of this thought was like a thunderbolt to its primitave processor, thoughts had not been an issue when its main task was to collect and process garbage. Perhaps  the good Doctor had made an error when reprogramming it for this special task, perhaps he had been a little slack, desperate to retrieve the precious item that now also seemed to be seeping a reddish, treacle like substance over its manipulator. Cleanerbots , like other bots did not feel anything. They just followed orders until dismantled or destroyed. The Cleaner stared at the goop that was running from the now obviously cracked sphere in the smaller bots tiny hand, and for a second, a split second, just a splinter of time in an endless sea of nothing, the Cleanerbot felt warmth in its manipulator, that split second was all that was needed to plant the seed of an idea, in a very barren mind.

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