"TTS": Part 2 (1/2)

From: Shawn Wolski <n5una_at_MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU>
Date: Sat, 04 Mar 1995 01:18:19 -0600

Sonic the Hedgehog "The Temporal Syndrome": Part 2
by Shawn Wolski

The author will accept questions and comments via E-mail at the
following address:

Sonic the Hedgehog and other associated characters are based on
the creations of Service and Games (Sega), Archie Comic
Publications, and the Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons (Saturday
morning issue) created by DIC and Sega of America. Bookshire
Draftwood and Cmdr. Packbell are the exclusive creations of
David Pistone (rotor_at_primenet.com).

This work is protected under various copyright laws. The author
grants his permission for free distribution, under the premise
that the work retains its original format. No other utilization
of the following work, monetary or otherwise, is permitted.

Trials of time...

        Five-hundred million years later, the automatic probe remained
as the only surviving evidence that the Cassandrans ever
existed. Ironically, the very act of the probe (however
accidental) saving itself from doom destroyed an entire race.
If the probe had even a vestige of emotion for what its act had
done, it might consider itself lucky. In a span of time that
organic lifeforms have great difficulty in comprehending, the
probe had left its home system and arrived at another place, far
from the planet of lifeforms that wished to destroy it and its
lethal cargo. The probe had, in its own way, accomplished a
great deal, even if only for the sake of survival.
        However, survival didn't come without a cost. Over time, major
systems that insured the proper operation and integrity of the
probe were disabled by decay or damage from the primal span of
space. After about two years in warp space, the probe's
navigational shield generator lost the power connection to the
shield array. What started at that point (and continued through
the operational lifespan of the probe) was an incessant barrage
orchestrated on the probe by the universe. The once pristine
metaliceramic case became pitted by the bombardment of hydrogen
ions, dust, and other interstellar material. The probe's
computer decreased the probe's velocity to sublight (.05 c), but
the pelting continued.
        The probe suffered other attacks besides dust. About 250
million years into its journey to nowhere in particular, the
probe came a little too close to a supernova. The shockwave
didn't rupture the hull, but it did commit severe damage to the
aft sensor array. The probe engaged warp drive to escape from
the anticipated carnage that would ensue, but not without
becoming partially blind first. Unknown to the probe, engaging
warp drive at this point would cause more damage than the
supernova itself would. For the probe was still in the
proximity of the leading energy wave, and a warp engagement here
under any circumstances was hazardous. The lead energy wave
intensified over the warp nacelles, to the point of rupturing
the field control inductors. Plasma from the damaged nacelles
funneled back toward the matter/antimatter reactant core, then
back to the nacelles. Energy cycled back and forth through the
plasma/energy transfer system. The result: an short-lived
isostatic energy state. The probe shot away from the exploding
star with a newfound speed, staying in warp space for about two
days. Resulting damage: loss of maneuvering thrusters,
moderate damage to the computer core, and warp power conduit
coolant loss to space.
        After the probe's computers managed to regain control of the
probe, the warp core and all associated hardware were jettisoned
to prevent any unexpected warp engagement, leaving the probe
with an ion drive as its sole means of propulsion and power.
The probe was safe, but not for very long.
        Five million years ago, the probe lost its forward sensor array
and the ion drive. It drifted through space, blind and
powerless. The probe became the playtoy of gravitational forces
that eventually aimed it toward an unassuming star system in an
unknown region of space. The probe entered the system, being
tossed about repeatedly by the planets. The probe apparently
thought that it should take out its frustrations on the unseen
offenders. On the next gravitational pull, the probe twisted so
that it would be parallel to the enemy. The probe fell straight
into the gravitational field, but this would be the last one to
torment it.

* * *

Present day, 0600 hours at Robotropolis...

        Robotnik was on his command chair, facing away from the main
video/data display system in the Command & Control Center. He
scanned over the data displayed on a data screen on an armrest
of his chair. It was data of a sort he wasn't particularly fond
of. Apparently Sonic had managed to narrowly escape yet again
from a well-laid trap, and Robotnik found out why. SWATBot
reinforcements were not of sufficient amount in Sector 21B,
probably due to a misallocation in the SWATBot distribution.
What angered Robotnik even more was the fact that Sector 21B was
(emphasis on was) the area where the Advanced Technology R&D
Laboratory had been. The facility had been the mainstay of
Robotnik's war against the Mobius Freedom Fighters, churning out
more powerful laser emitters and generators, more efficient
engines for the Hover Units, new chemicals, and other methods of
dealing with the troublesome upstarts. Now that facility was no
more, and Robotnik felt a little more vulnerable to whatever
cruel desires that the Freedom Fighters had. Feeling vulnerable
wasn't an appropriate mindset for the Conqueror of Mobius.
        He drove that point home by thrusting his roboticised arm down
on the data display, hard. Unfortunately, the device wasn't
constructed to withstand such treatment. The screen shattered,
expelling electronic circuitry all over the floor. Amazed for
an instant, the irony of the situation revealed itself to
Robotnik. He didn't need Sonic and his subordinates to destroy
what technology he and Snively were able to create and utilize.
He could destroy it all himself, and do a much better job of it
as well. What was merely an embarrassing emotional outburst,
even if only to himself, only made the situation worse. There
was one less useful video display in the room, testimony to the
futility of both the situation and the animalistic response. He
sat in his command chair with a scowl that even he didn't know
he make until now.
        Robotnik wasn't the only person present to hear the cacophony
of hardware stressed beyond its designed physical limits.
Snively was monitoring the power outputs from the main
hydroelectric plants when Robotnik temporarily lost his normally
calm, dark composure. Snively stiffened with primal fear, as if
there would be another blow struck in the near future, meant for
him. Slowly regaining his courage, Snively redirected his eyes
from the main command computer to his natural eye level, and
slowly rotated his body around to a point where he could see the
back of Robotnik's command chair. Sweeping his eyes over the
floor around the chair, he noticed the end product of Robotnik's
brief display of emotional chaos. Another small vidscreen
recycled, and for the fifth time this week. If the Hedgehog
retained his record of successful attacks on them, pretty soon
Robotnik would start ripping Robotropolis apart in anger,
transistor by transistor, and wire by wire. Snively didn't know
whether to speak at this point or not, and then decided it
wouldn't make a difference anyway.
        Robotnik amazed himself for the third time that day when his
scowl became even sharper by the sound of Snively's voice.
        "Sir?" Snively ventured forth onto unknown territory, but his
curiosity had gotten the better of him.
        What happened next was totally unexpected. Robotnik pressed a
key on the left chair command panel to rotate the chair around
to face Snively. He slowly rose out of the chair, paced over to
Snively's position, and grabbed him by the collar. Robotnik
gave Snively a very hard, irritated stare about six inches from
his face.
        "Yes, Mr. Snively?" Robotnik gave him a rather dangerous
        Snively could only reply with a nervous laugh and started
fingering his shirt collar. Robotnik responded by darkening his
stare even further, and said with the model of an impatient
ruler, "Well, Snively?" He nearly shrieked on that statement.
        Any courage that Snively ever had vanished at that point. He
could only give Robotnik a stare, the pathetic stare similar to
a person that was about to be roboticised. Robotnik gave
Snively a cringe of dismissal, drew the arm that he was holding
Snively with back, and threw him at the wall. The resounding
impact of flesh on metal, plus seeing Snively knocked out cold,
calmed Robotnik down a degree. A very small degree. It seemed
that nothing would be accomplished today at this rate. The loss
of the R&D facility, plus the success of Sonic for bypassing
security via a gap that never should have existed around a very
sensitive military area, were not encouraging.
        The situation was about to change. Robotnik heard the sound of
three robots walking in cadence, two metallic, one not. The
three robots walked into the C&C with what sounded almost like a
determined candor. The two SWATBots stopped, and moved into
their guard positions by the doorway. The other robot, actually
an android, continued to step forward. The android then scanned
over the room with all the sensors available to it, looking over
the decimated vidscreen and Snively lying on the floor in a
rather uncomfortable position. Taking stock of the situation,
it decided to keep a respectable distance from Robotnik. You
never know when you might be the next advanced artificial
construct to visit Dr. Robotnik, but never go out again in
functional condition.
        Seeing his pride and joy, Cmdr. Packbell, Robotnik's anger
simmered down to nothing nearly immediately. "Yes, Packbell,"
said Robotnik in a voice that would redeem a criminal, "what
news do you have to report?"
        "Sir," said Packbell in a calm monotone, to prevent the former
anger from erupting on him, "I have news of a spacecraft that
fell from space at about 0400 hours. I was on patrol with the
Delta SWAT Team looking for the Wolf Pack Freedom Fighters
during that time."
        "Are you certain that it was from space, and not just one of
our spy satellites?" Robotnik questioned.
        "Yes, sir. The mass, volume, and general configuration do not
match any of our surveillance or other equipment. It also does
not match anything that we know that Knothole or any other
Freedom Fighter group has. It is more than likely from another
planet." Packbell tried to parse the information out as
completely as possible, still not completely convinced that
Robotnik was in a benign mood.
        Robotnik's interest was piqued. "Where is this spacecraft now?"
        "About 200.7 kilometers south of here, located in Granite
Wastes of the Great Unknown, sir. We have also found something
in it that you might find particularly interesting."
        "Is that so? Show me the reconnaissance tapes." Robotnik was
very interested now.
        Packbell strolled over to the main computer, and pressed the
appropriate controls to call up the requested video data. A
second later, a still-graphic appeared with the piece of
equipment that Packbell anticipated might be of importance to
Robotnik. Robotnik's eyes went wide when he looked over the
device. From the looks of it, it could very well turn the tide
of the war toward Robotnik's favor.
        If there was any doubt in Packbell's mind that Robotnik's day
was about to be a good one, all of it disappeared. "Very well,"
Robotnik said, all interest still focused on the image, "inform
the surveillance team that I want that weapon back here
immediately, as well as any information they can find about its
        A slight pause from Packbell. Nearly insignificant, but enough
to speak of trouble.
        "Well, Packbell? Are there any problems with those orders?"
Robotnik's anger slowly reemerged, taking a new target in its
        It was Packbell's turn to begin worrying about his future
welfare. One look at Snively reconfirmed just how far Robotnik
would tolerate such insubordination. Packbell searched through
his positronic matrix to find any flaws that might have caused
him to withhold the information, possibly a connection that may
have decayed over time due to lack of use. A small feeling of
horror built up in Packbell, after completing a full diagnostic,
and finding nothing. One of the many other things to attribute
to his reaction by what limited emotional level he had; not by
an electronic failure.
        He managed to regain his composure in time to save his
circuitry from the robot recycler. "Yes, sir. There is a
matter of difficulty involved in executing those commands. In
order to return the weapon and the required operational data to
Robotropolis, there is a matter of being able to do the
requested operations in the first place."
        "How is that so?" Robotnik's dark stare and gravely voice
slowly intensified, a sign that Packbell had not yet been
reprieved from uncertain physical damage.
        "The craft has many occurrences of hieroglyphics, for lack of a
better term, on the computers and the weapon's protective
housing. I projected that they would have the required
information as to how the weapon's housing would be opened, and
the same may be true for the data download procedure." A pause,
as if to consider what else needed to be said, and then he
continued. "I instructed the SWATBots to attempt a brute-force
method of obtaining both; however, the results were not
successful. In short, a language translator is required to aid
in opening the protective housing and downloading the data."
        Robotnik calmed down, but not completely. A hint of a
dangerous red glow from Robotnik's eyes still glared in
Packbell's face. "Do you mean to tell me that you don't have
the facilities to get a translation?"
        "No, Dr. Robotnik. I have no such program available to me, and
I could not download it from any data site from our position.
That is why I returned without the weapon and the data. I
required something or someone that could alleviate the problem
of translation." Packbell managed to retain his composure, even
though he knew that he was standing near what could very well
turn into a mental version of an unstable nuclear reactor slowly
building toward meltdown condition.
        Surprisingly, Robotnik disengaged his stare, thought over the
change in the situation, and started his scheming mode. He
paced the floor for a few minutes, Packbell remained in his
position by the main computer. "Very well, then," Robotnik
finally said. "Inform the service crews that I want my personal
Hover Unit ready in the next five minutes. You and I will join
the reconnaissance group."
        As if suddenly remembering something, Packbell stuttered, "What
about......" He pointed in Snively's general direction.
Snively, for the moment, was still on vacation.
        "Never mind him. He can catch up with us after he wakes up.
Now, Packbell my boy, let's see about that weapon."
        Five minutes later, Robotnik and Packbell were cruising toward
the eastern outpost for the linguistics program archive, certain
that Snively would not take part in the mission anytime soon.
However, there was someone unnoticed in the air ducts that saw
and missed nothing. Charles Hedgehog ran back down the air
ducts, toward the location of his covert operations base.

0620 hours, in the Great Plains...

        The sun was just barely above the horizon, its light creating
an array of complex and beautiful patterns of colors across the
sky. To any observer, it would be so distracting that they
would forget that Mobius ever was at war with Robotnik, and that
their day to be alive as an organic lifeform would be their
last. Compared to the overly-familiar background of the somber
and depressing pollution cloud that wrapped over Robotropolis
like a Terran boa constrictor, this scene was heaven. The air
was pure with the smell of clean air; not the choking, lethal
atmosphere that Robotnik called his home. Yes, a spectator
would almost forget everything that took place in the past
eleven years. Almost.
        From this particular vantage point, located somewhere in the
Great Plains, the observer could see Robotropolis' microcosm, a
reminder of reality. The atmosphere had a reality of its own:
a benign and malignant side. There were areas where they alone
were present and the dominant form, and others where they
intermixed, as if even Mobius' biosphere was fighting a war of
it's own to keep the evil clouds at bay. It wasn't entirely
clear as to what side had the advantage and would eventually
become victorious, so it seemed to be a stalemate. So far.
        The significance of the atmospheric battle that had been going
on for about eleven years had not been lost on Princess Sally.
She had trouble sleeping the past night, due to the work
involved with being the first defense front against Robotnik.
So she decided to suspend the war, at least in her mind, for a
little while so she could relax. Belatedly realizing the error
in choosing this location to view the sunrise only made her mood
worse. For that battle between the two areas of Mobius'
biosphere had a symbolic connection to what the current
situation with the war against Robotnik was. There was no win
or lose; there was only an isostatic balance between the
offensive acts of the armies.
        'We give what seems to be the final blow to Robotnik's plans,
and he's able to turn around and do the same to us!' Sally
screamed with near-despair in her mind. 'No matter what we do,
both sides end up equal. Only while Robotnik loses SWATBots, we
lose good-hearted people!' Sally considered the situation,
almost thought it futile. 'No! I-we can't let that come
between us and the safety of Mobius, as well as our families.
We will stop Robotnik some day in the future!'
        At this point, Sally started crying. The tears and the intent,
however, were of brazen determination; not sadness. Amazing
how the war had progressed on for so long, and yet people still
had the tenacity to face it with the same drive they had so many
years ago. One point in the Freedom Fighters' favor.
        She looked up at the sky again, and saw an imaginary blue
speck. She rubbed her eyes to remove it from her field of
vision. The speck remained visible, and it was moving at a high
velocity toward the east. Fearing the worst, Sally reached into
her backpack and pulled out an IR/binocular unit. She saw that
her suspicions were correct. It was difficult to know what
operation was underway, but it's generally a sign of trouble for
the Freedom Fighters when Robotnik is personally going to an
area to inspect the process of his schemes. She turned to run
back to Knothole.

        When she was near the Great Plains/Great Forest border, she
heard the trilling hoot of the messenger bird. It was high
above, and apparently did not see her. Sally cupped a fist
around her mouth and called to the bird. He responded by
swooping down, and executing an expertly-placed landing on
Sally's outstretched arm. She the top off the cylindrical
container and pulled out a paper with a message inscribed on it.
 It read:



20N 30W

        Included with the message was a small data disk. She took a
quick look over the video data, and considered the potential of
what this craft had to offer. Needless to say, it did not bode
well. Sally quickened her pace to twice as fast as before,
given the severity of the events that might unfold if actions
were not taken to prevent whatever Robotnik had in mind.

* * *

        Immediately after returning to Knothole, Sally assembled a
small investigatory team for the mission at her hut. It
consisted of: Sonic as field commander, Dulcy as transporter,
and herself as computer expert. Sally had called Bookshire in
to assist with making modifications to Nicole, in the hopes that
Nicole would be able to translate the alien language seen on
many of the craft's computers and other hardware. This turned
into an extensive technical conversation that Sonic was not
privy to the finer details of. This went on for about 20
minutes, and then he couldn't withstand the technical jargon
that seemed to permeate the hut. He made his level of technical
knowledge abundantly clear to the rest of the investigatory
        "Now wait a Sonic Second!" the hedgehog interrupted, a
testimony to frustration. "If you do what, you'll be able to do
who?! What on Mobius is that?!" He threw his arms up in a
gesture of surrender.
        Sally was about to give Sonic a message of her own on no
uncertain terms in frustration herself, but Bookshire saved them
both from engaging in a battle of wits which there would be no
definable successor. Speaking very patiently to Sonic, while
giving Sally a look that convinced her to refrain from dictating
any ascorbic comments, he said, "What we're trying to do is
this, Sonic," A pause, and then he continued. "If we can
interconnect Nicole's language system, that is, the knowledge of
the languages that she already can translate, to the new dynamic
predictive logic circuit that I installed, we might have a
better chance of having Nicole translating the alien's language."
        Sonic gave Bookshire a look that explained that he wasn't
exactly impressed, but he got the message. "Well, OK," he
finally said. "But what about all that other stuff that you
were saying about putting in Nicole?"
        Bookshire spoke again as the emotional mediator. "Those other
circuits are for her sensor array. There's no telling what
Robotnik found out there, and I had a few new circuits I wanted
to test out."
        Apparently satisfied by the explanations, Sonic walked over to
a chair and sat down with his hands on his forehead, muttering
to himself in a voice so low that noone could comprehend what
was happening in his unique hedgehog mind. Dulcy looked on the
entire confrontation of techspeak versus the not-so-inclined
hedgehog with a small degree of amusement. Of course, she had
about as much understanding of the situation as Sonic, but she
was content to wait and try to sort out everything when she
could get a better understanding of technology in general.
Right now, there was no hope of getting an introductory course
in computer science, so she, like Sonic, had to consign herself
to being lost in the technobabble. The only distinction was
that Dulcy had considerably more patience, something that made a
difference, even if it was only Sally's nerves that were at
        The technical conversation resumed, and continued for about
five minutes. Satisfied with the upgrades to Nicole, Sally
secured Nicole's case together. "OK team", she said, observing
her comrades, "this is what we need to do."
        What ensued after that point was another technical
conversation, but it was one of tactical nature, something that
Sonic readily understood without question.

* * *

        After all the talk and preparation, the investigation force was
ready to depart for the crash site at about 0900 hours.
Bookshire stood by Dulcy, explaining to Sally one final time how
to operate the new hardware installed in Nicole. Sonic, as
usual, looked around with the air of someone lost in a very
boring conversation; Dulcy just grinned, equally clueless but
not inclined to make the matter a public issue.
        "Now remember, Sally," Bookshire was admonishing, "try to
prevent any excessive motion with Nicole. It would skew the
alignment on the circuits. But if anything does happen, press
this key to reset the circuits. It should reinitialize them and
correct the problem."
        "All right, Bookshire," said Sally. "Thanks for helping me
with the upgrades."
        "No problem at all, Sally. Anything to help out a friend in
need of technical assistance. Ever since Rotor caught that flu,
I've been filling in for him in the past few days." He paused
to think, and then began speaking in a more severe tone. "But
you kids have something more important to to than listen me babble off.
Get going to that crash site!"
        Bookshire then paced away as fast as his injured leg would
permit. The three friends watched him in mutual amazement.
        Suddenly remembering what task they had prepared for, Sally
spoke for the three of them. "He's right, you know. Dulcy, you
heard the man. Let's go!" Sally said decisively.
        "Crack-the-whip time, Sally. Hang on!" Dulcy warned.
        There was a flutter of wings against air, a feeling of
levitation, and suddenly, a strong propulsive force directed
upward as Dulcy snapped her tail. A few seconds later, they
were one with the midmorning sky, heading toward uncertain

* * *
Shawn Wolski, N5UNA
MultiTasking Sega Advocate, Amateur Radio Operator, the
Granite Eater, Furry Fan, and UTARC News Prime Editor.

Most violent curse: "You are evil!"


Received on Sat Mar 04 1995 - 02:22:09 PST

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