Flying Freedom.

Great, not this again… let’s see… blank white space… check… weird floating feeling… check… random person who I just barely recognize but can’t quite put my finger on it… check… and now she’s saying something I can’t understand… if I could read lips this would save me a lot of confus… wait, what’s she doing now? She’s reaching towards me… something with me chest… wait, is that a…

Sonic woke up to the sight of Subagri’s cavern ceiling. He’d been sitting on top of a building when he accidently fell asleep. “Uh oh, I hope I didn’t miss the big strategy meeting. I’d better move it.” Sonic jumped to his feet and ran to the side of the roof, jumping down into an alleyway. He then calmly walked out into the sidewalk and proceeded to the hanger. “But I still don’t get what’s up with that weird vision. If I could just figure out what she was saying, it might give me a clue. Maybe it’ll help me figure out how I’m still alive in the first place.” As he entered the hanger, Sonic shook his head. “Ahh, whatever, I’m alive and it’s almost time to kick some Eggman butt, and that’s all that matters.”

The hangar was certainly much busier now than it was when Sonic had first arrived. The city’s best mechanics and engineers had gotten to work repairing and enhancing the G.U.N. vehicles that had earlier been gathering dust, as well as some that citizens had volunteered. In fact, after Miles’s speech, practically everyone in the city had been working in any way they could to prepare for the assault. While former soldiers, pilots, and those who now stepped up to the call where training themselves for action, others were helping to build the weapons and armor they’d need, or simply donating whatever supplies they had. And others were preparing to defend their home to the last second, should the worst happen. Sparks flew and grinding metal squealed as Sonic maneuvered his way to Miles’s platform, where the fox was still working on his secret project. “Hey buddy, how’s the work going?” Sonic called as he neared the station. Miles pushed himself out from under the tarp, lying on a wheeled platform. “I didn’t miss the meeting, did I?”

Miles grabbed his mini-computer sitting nearby to check the time. “No, we’ve got about fifteen minutes.” Miles sat up and grabbed a water bottle, taking a few large gulps of water before setting it back down.

“So how’s the work going? Looks like every techno-whiz in the city is here.”

“Probably. I gave the Commander some of my designs for weapon and defensive systems, so they’re busy combining that with what G.U.N. had before.”

“And what about this secret little project?” Sonic asked, nodding towards what Miles was working on.

“Well, I think it’s about ready to finally be revealed,” Miles said with a smirk. He stood up and grabbed onto the brown tarp. “Alright Sonic, feast your eyes on this!” Miles whipped the tarp off, revealing a bright red biplane, with yellow stripes along the wings and side.  On the tail was an image of Miles’s trademark twin tails, and written on the side was the name “SONIC”.

“The Tornado!” Sonic exclaimed at the site of his old biplane. “I can’t believe you still have it!”

“After the whole Chaos situation I repaired it and kept it around as a backup plane. Of course, I used most of it for parts to build the Tornado 4 after I… wrecked the last one… but considering that plane’s now lying in pieces in Robotnikland, I decided now’s as good a time as any to fix the old plane up. With a few extra features of course.”

“It’s gonna feel good to fly into the city on top of this thing,” Sonic said, stroking the plane’s wing.

“Speaking of which, we’d better get to that meeting.”

“Yeah, I almost forgot about that. Let’s get going.”

* * * * *

“Our main forces will attack Robotnikland here,” the Commander said, pointing to a circled area on the map being projected on the wall. “The aerial units will hit first, weakening their defenses, then the ground forces will engage the enemy. It is entirely possible, given the nature of our situation, that we may encounter enemy forces prior to reaching the city. In any case, we must hold them off where we stand. While they are busy engaging us in battle, two small squads will break through the enemy lines and enter the city. On the ground will be a group led by Hellsing, and in the air a group led by Prower.” The Commander nodded, indicating that Miles should come to the front.

“Once we get inside the city, we’re on our own,” Miles said, looking at the group. All of those in the special groups were there; the Vamps, Amy, Hopper, and Sonic. “The terrain is treacherous, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself next to a collapsing building. In addition, there could be robots hiding anywhere, most of them likely more advanced than the last time anyone saw Robotnik’s army. If you run into any, destroy if possible, but don’t get dragged into a drawn out fight. Our main target is the ARK at the center of the city. That’s where Robotnik’s HQ is located. And here’s how we’re gonna blow it sky high.” Miles pressed a button the computer in front of him, bringing up a schematic of the ARK. “This is rough mapping of the inside of the ARK that I obtained ten years ago. No doubt things have changed, especially on the levels that took the most force of the impact, but by and large it should be the same. Our first objective will be to get to the central control room located here.” Miles pointed to a spot on the schematic.

“And what are we going to do there?” Hopper asked.

“Fire the Eclipse Cannon.” He paused for a moment to let his plan wash over the group. “Robotnik has no doubt expanded his base under and throughout the ARK. Though the cannon itself likely did not survive the crash, it should still be operational from the inside. If we can fire it, it should start a chain reaction that should destroy the whole facility. And to ensure that it does, I’ve been developing this,” Miles said, bringing up another image. “A device that will cause the Chaos Emeralds powering the cannon to put out violent amounts of energy. For it to work though, it will need to be installed at the cannon’s core, which is most likely to be located somewhere in the lower levels, separate from the control room.”

“Why not use a fake emerald like last time?” Sonic said. “If I hadn’t been… “interrupted”, it probably would’ve worked.”

“Except that back then we were counting on Robotnik firing the cannon. This time we have to fire the cannon ourselves, and we need to make it extra effective. Remember how that Tikal person we all saw during the Chaos incident talked about the Master Emerald controlling the chaos? This device should work in a similar fashion.”

“Tikal? Oh yeah, that echidna spirit…” Sonic said quietly.

“But just in case the cannon isn’t enough, the device does have another function,” Miles said, motioning to Hellsing.

“Miles figures that when the cannon is activated, regardless of whether it actually manages to fire, there’ll be a huge output of energy. Which is why Jub here as prepared these little babies.” Hellsing held his hand out to the largest member of the Vamps, who was their heavy weapons expert. Jub placed a small rectangular device in his hand. “These bombs are designed to activate when Miles’s device does. Once they do, we’ll have five minutes, at best, to get out of there before the whole place blows.”

“Once we’re inside, groups will split up and place the explosives at key points in the ARK’s infrastructure. It goes without saying though that even once we’re inside the ARK, it won’t be easy. I was nearly killed by a monster of an E-100 series robot, and there’s no telling what else could be lurking in there.”

“I think there may be one problem you’ve overlooked,” Niwea, the Vamps’ female tech expert. “How will we access the cannon controls in the first place? Even for an advanced hacker, a military computer like this, especially once nearly 60 years old, will take time to crack. Time that we just don’t have.”

“I have thought of that, and in fact, I think I have an idea of someone who would have the information and skills we need to get into ARK’s system, and find the core.”

* * * * *

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Sonic asked as he and Miles were led down a corridor by the prison guard.

“She’s the only one who knows how to access the ARK’s computer systems, and she probably knows the layout better than any of us too.”

“Yeah, because she was working with Eggman!”

“That’s what I thought too. But it turns out she was actually under orders from the President. She was working as a G.U.N. spy. After the Impact though, she disappeared for a while, then turned up when New Central City was built. Of course, she never got her payment from G.U.N. and returned to her thieving ways. She got caught, escaped during the chaos when Robotnik took over, and eventually found her way to Subagri. But then…”

“Old habits die hard?”

“Which is why she’s been spending most her time here.” The conversation ended as the guard paused in front of a cell, and then turned to the two.

“This is her,” she said indicating the cell. She pulled a flashlight out of a loop on his belt and knocked on the metal bars. “Hey, bat girl, you’ve got company.” The guard stepped back and stood against the wall across from the cell.

Miles and Sonic stepped up to the cell, looking at its inhabitant, who was sitting on a small cot against the wall. Wearing a loose orange jumpsuit, her white hair unkempt, with glazed eyes, it was hard to recognize her as the sly, seductive, treasure hunting spy she had once been. But Miles knew who she was, and they needed her help. “Hello Rouge. Long time no see.”

“Hmph, hello fox boy. It has been a long time,” she said, leaning forward with lazy smirk on her face. “What brings you here?”

“We need your help destroying Robotnik once and for all.”

Rouge’s face twitched slightly. “Robotnik huh? So what I heard is true… you’re really going to try and beat him.”

“Yes, and we need your help to get into the ARK.”

“Oh, the ARK? Really? And why would you need my help for that?” Rouge asked, her expression becoming more demented.

“We need to access the computer systems. And, well, you were…” Miles was having trouble forming words as he saw Rouge’s face become more twisted.

“I was what? What was I?” Rouge asked, standing up.

“You were spying on Robotnik when he activated the ARK.”

“I was wasn’t I? Yes, that’s right, I helped him, didn’t I?” Rouge said, walking towards the bars. “And I got those emeralds from G.U.N.. And I helped him fire the cannon. And I helped him kill all those people!” Suddenly Rouge grabbed onto the bars, getting her face as close to Miles as she could. “Now, what was it you wanted me to help you do?”

Miles forced himself to stand still, despite Rouge’s facing being barely inches from his own. “We need to get into the ARK’s computer system so we can destroy it and Robotnik’s entire empire.”

Rouge backed away from the bars, lifting her head up and letting out a crazed laugh. Suddenly she stopped, then snapped her head back to Miles. “Listen foxboy. You may think you know Robotnik, but you don’t. At least, not anymore.”

“What do you mean?”

“He’s changed. He may have been a genius with plans to rule the world, but from what I saw he acted more like a little kid. But then… after he finally killed you,” she said, pointing to Sonic, “after it happened, something in him snapped. He knew there was no going back.” Rouge’s tough expression started to break down. “I’ve seen him do things you can’t imagine. And that’s just what I can remember…”

“What happened to you, Rouge?” Miles asked as the bat collapsed to her knees, gripping the bars of her cell.

“I told you already, I can’t remember. I remember getting off the ARK with Robotnik, then when I tried to get away from him he caught me… after that I have random flashes of memories, but nothing is certain until I woke up in a hospital in New Central City, with the story that I had apparently been found half dead in one of the construction area. And you know what happened after that.”

“Random flashes of memory, huh? I think I know what you mean,” Sonic said.

“And you,” Rouge said, stiffening up a bit and turning to Sonic. “I thought you were supposed to be dead!”

“I got better,” Sonic retorted.

Rouge stared at him, and then started to shake as if she was laughing and sobbing at the same time. “The world really has gone to hell,” she said, placing her face in her palms.

“Not completely. At least not yet,” Miles said, kneeling down to Rouge’s level. “And that’s why we need your help. None of what Robotnik did is your fault, and whatever he did to you was obviously terrible. But now’s your chance to finally pay him back. Help us end this war Rouge, so no one else has to suffer like you have.”

A shroud of silence fell over the room. Then, Rouge started to laugh. A lighter laugh, no longer deranged or depressed. When she spoke again, it was with the hint of subtle sarcasm she used to have. “When did you become the big hero, fox boy?” Rouge stood up, placing her hands on her hips. “I’ll help you destroy that creep, but first… I’ll need a new outfit,” she said with a smirk.

* * * * *

The next day, everyone had assembled for battle. While the military officials prepared their personnel for battle, Miles looked over his own “troops”. Everyone had come prepared for battle. The vamps were all wearing their own personal style of battle armor, though it hardly looked much different from what they’d worn when they made their big entrance at the assembly, apart from Niwea now wearing a black stealth suit and their sniper, Sogeki, had discarded his massive coat for a suit of his own. Doing overly dramatic stretches nearby was Hopper, wearing an outfit that was just a facemask and headband away from being your stereotypical ninja. Even Amy had altered her usual outfit to be stealthier, though color wise it still kept her usual pink. Rouge had shown up wearing a variation of her usual outfit, with purple boots, gauntlets, a green monocle scanning device affixed to the side of her face, and a tough but form fitting armored middle instead of the usual heart-shaped breastplate. Meanwhile Miles had once again donned his brown coat, complete with new handguns and his modified sword. As Sonic pointed out when he had arrived, he was the only one who didn’t look like “some sort of action movie hero.”

As everyone was finalizing the preparations, the Commander stood on top of a stack of crates to address the troops. “Today is a day that has been a long time coming. Today we go to battle to protect the safety of our new home. Today we go to battle to reclaim the home we once had. Today we got to battle to save the future of this entire planet we call home!” The people cheered, and the Commander motion for Miles to come up, handing him the microphone.

“Everyone here is sacrificing something to fight today,” he said, looking out at the people. “And for that I want to thank you. I’ve realized that I can’t do everything on my own, but together, we will see the end of Robotnik’s reign of terror. So I’ve only got one more thing to say to you all… Let’s crack some eggs!”

The crowd erupting into a deafening roar of battle cries. Miles stepped back and looked over the room. The Commander then took back the microphone and began to shout out orders as everyone moved into position. Within moments, fighter jets were blasting into the sky, quickly followed by ground vehicles of all makes and models. Finally, the stealth strike force was cleared for go, and as the Tornado shot into the air, it’s engine roaring, Miles remembered the first time he’d flown this plane with Sonic standing proudly on its wings. His blue eyes burning with determination, he flew towards their final battle.

———————————————————————————————————————

Previous Chapter.

Index.

Next Chapter.

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