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Archive for August, 2010

The Entity reached the castle gates without incident and surveyed the building. It sensed great power within its walls and a malevolence so thick and rich it could gorge itself until full. Passing through the open gate and into the courtyard, it felt strange that there were no other empathies that it could detect, a castle this big from its experience, should be teeming with life. Even if abandoned, life existed in some form or another but it couldn’t even sense the single minded determination of a rat. There was simply nothing.

“Summon a Cleanerbot to get rid of this mess!” ordered Robotnik to the still silent computer.

“Sir, all Cleanerbots are currently and very permanently offline.” The computer chirped.

“Bah..!” Robotnik turned and went back into the lab, attempting to slam the door in his usual, theatrical way but finding the arm of the welder that had probably saved his life, caught between the door and the frame, preventing it from shutting. Robotnik looked down and for a second seemed to remember something, his scowl receded and  a tiny shine came to his eye. This caught the attention of the Entity, that was still skulking around the courtyard, and like an arrow, headed for the lab.
A swift kick and the arm was removed, enabling satisfying noise that a slammed door made to be heard over half of Mobius.  In the gloom of the lab, Robotnik was encouraged to see that his new creation appeared to be sitting on the edge of the bed. Like a child, Robotnik giggled to himself and darted forward for a better look “Oh Dolly!” he burbled “how good you look! Now lets see what you have got!” He reached out to grab it, but the doll slapped his hand away. “How DARE you!” Robotnik bellowed, “You dare strike the hand of your creator!” The Tails Doll fixed Robotnik with its two round, red eyes.  Its head tilted slightly to one side, as if it was puzzled or inquisitive. There was a whirr and a click from inside, and it sprang at Robotnik, plunging the tips of its needle sharp fingers into his chest “ARRRGG!” Robotnik screamed and pulled out the device with the button on it, stabbing it hard with his thumb.

Nothing happened.

The Doll continued to thrash at Robotnik, drawing more of the scientists blood, soon the Dolls fur was splashed red. Despite all Robotnik’s strength, its sharp fingers and needle teeth found their mark. Robotnik realised that he was fighting for his life, the deactivation button hadn’t worked and this thing was out of control. He also realised he wasn’t yet badly hurt and  fear was beginning to be taken over by rage, but despite all of this, he was loosing.“COMPUTER, SAFE ROOM, NOW!” Behind him, a door slid open and the room was bathed in a soft light. Using all his anger and strength, Robotnik managed to disengage from the crazed creation and fling it too the floor, giving him just enough time to scuttle backwards and seal the door. It was made from reinforced steel and glass, designed to keep back the most dangerous of his creations. Even so, the doll flung itself at it a few times, its talon like fingers leaving deep scratches in the glass viewing window. But just as suddenly as the frenzied attack had started, the Doll stopped, and dropped to the floor. Robotnik peeked through the clear but damaged panel, it was lying inert as if it had been a puppet that had lost its strings. For a full five minutes, Robotnik continued to stare at it, but it just lay there.

Summoning a medical unit, Robotnik looked at his injuries, they were light, no more than cat scratches but there were many of them and his tunic was wet with blood. “What did I miss?” he mused “The shutdown should have killed it.” Robotnik realised that the problem lie in what the Doll was made from. Clockwork did not use electrical signals, only springs and cogs, this made it impossible to control and therefore useless. The realisation was almost too much for him “Nyyyaaaagggh!” he banged his fist on the glass leaving a bloody handprint “All that work for NOTHING!” The lab door opened, just out of view from the safe room. Robotnik, surprised at his nervousness, strained to see what had opened the door. He jumped a full three feet in the air when the computer loudly announced the arrival of the medical unit.

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The entity viewed the castle with a dismissive eye. The rain was a nice touch and the castle was dark enough to be foreboding, but there was no real malice. It didn’t give the observer the feeling of dread it deserved. Being released by those metal creatures had been luck, having that blue creature turn up and create such a disturbance that its presence was forgotten, well that was pure fate. This world needed a little dread and the entity was looking for a way to feed. A perfect harmonious relationship, now what could be better? The sensors and cameras meant nothing to it, it saw them as branches on a tree, nothing to be concerned with. It was more interested in the growing aura coming from deep under the castle, there was almost a blending of three empathies, one pure lust for power and a selfish disregard of anything, the next a twisted and spasmodic feeling of injustice coupled with a longing to do the right thing. This aura was strange, like that of an infant. The entity disregarded this one, it was far to soft and unpalatable. The third was more to its liking. If viewed, this aura would be darker than black, it wouldn’t be a colour, more an absence of it. A deep velvet darkness that consumed everything that touched it, and right now it was growing with a tempering of rage that made even the entity slow its pace for a second. “Oh yes” it thought to itself “I must meet with this fellow.”

“Cleanerbots!” Shrieked Robotnik “Return to your duties immediately!” One by one the Cleaners began to click to each other, the lead bot keeping time, and slowly they began to inch forward.

Sonic had finished the last of the food when Tails arrived. Tails rolled his eyes but said nothing, he knew there would be something for him later, right now he was more interested in sorting through his bag of salvage. Sonic’s place was small, and comfortable with a place for everything including a corner for Tails to ’tinker’.

“Hey Tails, you hungry?” Sonic asked “I kind of got carried away…”

“Its ok Sonic” replied Tails “I need to check this stuff” Tails continued sorting through the broken pieces and caught snatches of the conversation between his dear friend and the newcomer. It seemed that Flare had been on Mobius longer than Sonic, and was quite a bit older but for all his advanced years he didn’t show it. Sonic and Flare were virtually identical except for colour and the strange bracelets that  he wore on his arm. When questioned about them or anything of his past, Flare was very evasive, but Sonic seemed to trust him, whatever Flare had said on that first meeting earlier that day it had won his trust and confidence, which was odd as Sonic took a very long time to trust anyone. Sonic and Flare had been discussing the temple and the reason for Eggman’s attack. Flare seemed unconcerned about the loss of the essence, more worried about the physical damage to the temple structure as if damaging it would cause harm to Mobius. When pressed on why this could be, Flare was at a loss to give an answer.

“I’m sorry Sonic, I just don’t know. I feel the answers are there but just out of my reach. Its been like it for so long I have stopped questioning it and just live peacefully out of everyone’s way at the temple. Repairing it as necessary, gently warning off people that get too close. Nothing physical, just a gentle push.”

“Are you psychic then Flare?” Sonic asked with a smirk, thinking about another Hedgehog he knew.

“No, I don’t think so, it just a knack I have”

“Hmm a very handy knack that…”

“I do think it strange we have never seen you though Flare, Sonic and I go to that place a lot” Tails blurted out. Flare shot him an odd look.

“Strange indeed I have never laid eyes on you either Tails” Tails dropped his gaze and continued rummaging in his bag.

The Cleanerbots began to close ranks and continued to advance on the Doctor. One by one they raised their manipulators and extended their fingers.“What is the MEANING of this?!” Robotnik was purple with rage, but stood his ground as they began encircling him. “I DEMAND that you return to work!” The clicking stopped.

“Sir” Came the voice of the computer “There is an unidentified energy source approaching the castle, intentions unkno…”

“I am a little BUSY!” Robotnik hissed through gritted teeth “There is a malfunction with the Cleanerbots, a malfunction that should have been spotted by YOU” The computer fell silent. The lead Cleaner raised its manipulator in an almost apologetic way, and simultaneously the others followed. Robotnick was now totally surrounded, his escape blocked and more than twenty pairs of very hard and some very sharp manipulators pointed at him.

“This is your very last warning Cleaners, return to duty right now” Robotnik’s voice had dropped to a low and menacing whisper. The lead Cleaner knew what to do, it remembered the smashed Badnik valiantly trying to complete its mission, it remembered how cruel Robotnik was, to him machines were just tools, but this Cleaner had seen the light and the light stripped away the dark cruelty of his creator. This had to stop. Time seemed to slow for the Cleaner, It was issuing the order to the others to lunge, pierce the flabby soft flesh of the evil creator so his fluid leaked on the floor, when it saw the old welder, his first recruit, standing next to him. As the command to lunge was issued, the welder put its body between Robotnik and the nearest manipulators, saving him but dooming the welder to be impaled by his fellow bots. This gave Robotnik time to pull a control device from his pocket, it was a simple box with a button on top.

“Stupid robots” Muttered the Doctor pushing the button “Did you think it would be that easy?” There were twenty or so muted explosions, and all across the castle, every Cleanerbot dropped to the ground.

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Back at the temple, with the two Hedgehogs gone, Tails felt very alone. For one panic filled moment, he span round, convinced he was being watched but found nothing. It probably was the aftershock from the battle, and the sudden appearance Flare. The fox dismissed it as nerves and continued to gather up interesting parts from the fallen Badniks. He wanted more than anything to put a stop the hurt and unhappiness that Eggman was unleashing on Mobius. He believed that the answer could lie in understanding the technology that was the tool Eggman used to terrorise Mobians and forward his evil cause. Tails had a secret respect for the Doctor, the speed and level of skill that the robots were produced were true tributes to his amazing ability, the designs were complex and if it wasn’t for Sonic, they would have overrun Mobius years ago. If this genius could only have been applied for good rather than selfish reasons, Mobius would be a very different place indeed. Tails sighed heavily, that would never happen, the Doctor needed to be stopped permanently, and that probably meant his destruction. Gathering up the last few bits that interested him, Tails moved off to meet up with Sonic and Flare, he hoped there was some food left.

The entity watched the strange orange creature as it moved here and there, picking up bits from the floor, and felt nothing but distain for it. The thing had an interesting aura, but nothing special. Now that the guardian had left with that other blue creature, it could make good its escape, a dark ripple moved through its mist like body, it was as close as it could get to laughter. Foolish guardian, it had no idea what it was really guarding, hidden away here under the noses of the people. It looked where the robot had dragged away the sphere of essence, the trail was like a beacon to it, and it could sense a delicious aura, far away, but juicy with violence and black hatred. Following the trail, the entity would finally eat well.
With the final turn of the key, Robotnik carefully pulled the scrap of cloth across and closed the chest cavity. He took out a rusted needle that was threaded with a rough thread and began to sew it up. He could feel the computer watching him. “What is it now?!” He turned his attention away, just in time to jab the needle into his finger, the rusty point pierced his flesh and drew a spot of very dark blood. “Arrrrrrggg!!!” Bellowed Robotnik, “See? See what you made me do?” The computer wisely remained silent. A large  drop of blood splashed onto the chest of the doll, soaking through the thin fabric and into the clockwork workings. Robotnik hurriedly finished sewing, making a tatty job look worse as he left bloody fingerprints here and there. With a final knot, it was done and Robotnik sat back and looked at its creation. It lay there not moving, a feint whirring coming from it was the only sign of life. “Come on then” he murmured irritably “Lets go…” The doll remained motionless.

Getting into Central Processing had been easy. Cleanerbots had almost unlimited access clearance to every part of the castle. The hard part was getting to use the computers and communication equipment that the newly enlightened bot believed he needed to spread his word of revolution. There was no plan, its processing limitations didn’t allow for it, so in a way it was acting on some form of basic instinct. Rolling up to the terminal that governed all of the Cleanerbots, it reached out its manipulator and began to type. Amazingly the central computer ignored its interference and unauthorised commands, its attention was split between the new creation in the lab, and the outside sensor reports of an approaching threat of undetermined origin. The Supercomputer was torn between telling its master of the danger, and disturbing him at a seemingly crucial step in the development of a new life.

The Cleanerbot was encouraged with its progress. Using the monitors, it could see other Cleanerbots stopping their work and trundling toward the chamber outside the lab, soon there would be twenty or more strong, willing manipulators to put down the evil and free the others. Never again would another robot be damaged or broken at the hand of the sadistic Doctor, never again would bots be forced to do the dangerous fetching and carrying while he sat in comfort and reaped the benefits. The Cleaner began to click excitedly as more and more cleaners moved to the antechamber, just a few more minutes of this and there would be nothing to stop it, it was time to join the others. The Cleaner turned from the terminal, and moved toward the door, in its path was the bot he had freed from the welding job earlier, it made no move to get out of the way so the Cleaner tried to go around it. The welder reached out a scarred and pitted manipulator, a few fingers had been replaced and there were patches on the hydraulic lines. It clicked as it took hold of the smaller manipulator of the Cleaner, and for a second, the Cleaner caught a glimpse of gratitude, but not for him, for the Doctor. The welder clicked again in rapid stuccato, and another image flashed into the Cleaners mind, the welder was an old model Cleanerbot, one of Robotnik’s first, and back then had been caught in an accident when a superheated pipe had exploded, blowing half its body away, the welder had still been able to fix the blasted hole and seal the leak, but at the expense of his remaining power. The younger Robotnik had found the smashed and half melted welder, frozen in its final pose and had personally repaired it. Feelings may have been omitted, but the impression of this event had burned into its deep programming. The Cleaner clicked loudly at the welder and pushed it aside, this had to stop, right now.

“Sir” The computer said “There is a large collection of Cleaner class robots gathering in the antechamber outside the laboratory. I have also to report there is a presence approaching the castle, species and threat level unknown.”“Hmm?” The Doctor was distracted “Cleaners outside? What now!” He covered the doll and moved to the lab door, yanking it aside in his customary way he was met with a room packed with Cleanerbots, the one he had modified that very day at the head.“Cleanerbots, disperse and return to duty at once!” He yelled “I have no time for this!” More than twenty optical receivers that served as the vision systems of the assembled Cleanerbots focused on their master, and for the second time in twenty four hours, Robotnik felt apprehensive.

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It had all been too much for the poor Cleanerbot’s primitive processor, the ideas and images that kept flashing through its tiny mind were coming at such a rate it couldn’t cope. Thoughts and images began crashing together, swirling and solidifying into a single, but still out of focus, purpose. Clicking rapidly to himself he ran into another of his kind, a fellow Cleaner that was busily welding a broken panel back on a power conduit. It had been damaged earlier in the week when Robotnik, unhappy at something or an other, had hurled a hammer at a Medical bot, smashing its head and damaging the panel. The Cleanerbot reached up with its manipulator, still covered in the goop from the sphere, and again for a brief second felt the impact of the heavy and cold metal hammer slam through the bot and into the wall. This had the effect of crystallising the purpose that was forming in its mind. It was as if everything fell into focus. One thought, one purpose, one mind. Doctor Ivo Robotnik was evil, and must be stopped. An underlying image of what evil was grew like a shadow underneath the sharp purpose, giving it depth and meaning. The Cleanerbot knew what to do, it needed allies to do it. Stabbing forward with its manipulator, it smashed through the back of the still welding Cleanerbot, and allowed its fingers to wander over the circuitry it found there. The welder jumped, shuddered, and relaxed. It turned to the bot that had freed it, and clicked a quizzical thank you. Now they needed to get to central processing.

Robotnik rummaged in a drawer for a syringe. It wasn’t a tool he normally used but this was no ordinary creation. Robots just didn’t work on Sonic, his speed and skill couldn’t be matched with modern technology, so Robotnik had sat and thought and raged until an idea came to him. If modern technology failed, then maybe ancient technology was the answer. Most of Robotnik’s creations came spontaneously from his own genius, so research was almost unknown to him, but his obsession with the downfall and destruction of Sonic the Hedgehog had now reached a point where anything was fair game, so he had hit the books and for months had found nothing. As usual with these things he was almost at breaking point with exasperation when he found a slim, battered book tucked sideways on a shelf in a forgotten part of the castle. It spoke of motion using springs and cogs, life from life, concentrated liquid happiness and all sorts of mumbo jumbo, but it seemed to make sense to the frazzled Robotnik mind. Life essence was almost impossible to find on Mobius, it came from the contented minds of the inhabitants, flowing and collecting in places of spiritual importance. To get it required contented people, and there hadn’t been any of those for a long time. The cogs and springs had confounded him too, robots moved with gears and hydraulics, powerful pistons and electricity, not delicately wrought cogwheels, governors and springs. There were skills to learn that stretched his intellect and dexterity to the limit, but several months, and numerous failed attempts later, he had a working power system that he nicknamed ‘Clockwork’.

The next stage was to find some essence, and learn how to manipulate it to give life. The book was vague on this and he had to fill in a lot of the gaps himself. Bots were sent on countless recon missions and new bots were created to obtain and recover it, but finally a source was found and a plan was forming. Capture of Tails was risky, but as Sonic was brave and courageous, Tails was inquisitive and practical. He couldn’t resist an opportunity to study and tinker with some new mechanical device, and to make it in the shape of Tails himself was a stroke of pure genius. The fox would not be able to stem his curiosity to study it, and Sonic would be hesitant to destroy it, so it would be perfect for getting close to both of them, then the sky was the limit! A concealed bomb? A rampage with a chainsaw? Oh the fun the old Doctor would have!

Chuckling to himself the Doctor filled the syringe with the remaining goop from the sphere, and moving to the table whipped off the cover. Lying on the table was an abomination. The thing that lay there was a very loose approximation of the fox known as Tails. It was a hastily stitched together bag of dirty orange fur, its limbs loosely hung by its sides, its eyes open, staring blankly. Its mouth, a dark hole framed with rows of needle sharp teeth had fallen open to reveal a dark red stitched tongue, lolling to one side. Its chest was open, the fabric not yet sewn up, and in the cavity, a mass of cogs, springs and wire lay still, waiting for the turn of a key. There was a small glass bottle, where the heart should be, its cork held in place with a brass clip. With one hand, Robotnik opened the clip and removed the cork, and using the syringe squirted the contents and filled the bottle. He rooted around in his pocket and produced a tiny silver key. Inserting it into a slot next to the bottle, he began to wind.

“Hello Dolly” smiled the Doc, “It’s Playtime…”

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