Like Mother Like Son
It was a day like any other at the Chaotix Detective Agency. Sam and Flower were laughing and joking with the three detectives, stuffing their mouths with sweet pastries that Vanilla and Cream had made. Everyone's lips were overflowing with messy dollops of frosting – not least of all Espio, who hadn't been able to stop since Cream delivered the treats to them. And boy, were they ever something to love: buns made of pure sweetness, topped with creamy chocolate and sauce that could addict the sourest skeptic.
Flower, the retiring little black fox, leaned back in her chair, clutched her stomach, and inhaled deeply for the needed energy to speak up. "I… I just can't eat anymore," she said. "All… those… pastries…"
She wouldn't be winning sympathy here. "Big news," Vector exclaimed, "that means more for me!" He scooped the remaining pastries from Flower's plate, using his arm as a trusty broom to sweep them into his mouth.
Charmy took a few more, pulling one pastry at a time into his mouth in a strained competition with the croc. "Gotta-beat-Vector!" he shouted through the mouthfuls. His disadvantage through having a smaller mouth was compensated for by his winged body: he could use both feet to grab more pastries, not needing them to remain seated.
Samantha, Flower's best friend and self-proclaimed older sister as well as an energetic, personable purple hedgehog known better as "Sam", had no reservations about picking sides. "No way that's gonna happen," Sam asserted with a mouth full of peanut butter chip cookies. "Vector's mouth is bigger than yours."
Vector nodded like a crazed bobble-head and kept eating, crumbs shooting every which way like fireworks, and just as festive in spirit. Espio scooted his chair away from Vector and frowned at him. "Vector," he said tiredly, "we just cleaned this place."
"I'll clean it later, Es," Vector replied curtly, clearly not focused on the request.
"Have you no understanding of manners, Vector? At least clean up your act for the women in the room." Espio pointed to Sam and Flower, but his point was ruined by their table manners being just as repulsive as his, and their appetites just as voracious.
"Aw, c'mon, Es!" Charmy pouted. "Wanna join in the competition? I- I bet you could even turn invisible and sneak out to the toilet, so you can throw up and eat more!"
"I'd rather not," Espio replied squarely. "I have eaten enough for three days, thank you very much, and I am not keen on wasting food."
Charmy shrugged and resumed his consumption competition. He wouldn't be able to keep it up for long, though: a knock arrived at the door. Vector frowned in annoyance, with the muscle movement dislodging hundreds of helpless crumbs and frosting droplets. "Who could that be?" he moaned.
"I got it, I got it," Flower announced, jumping to the door. There in the doorway stood a mysterious figure in a sweeping cloak, colored the dark purple of an eerie rural night sky. The figure appeared to be female, but Flower could not make out any further details – no age; no species; no color of fur, scales, or unadorned skin. "Uh… can I help you?" she asked hesitantly.
"Yes," the woman replied coolly. "I would like to speak with Espio the Chameleon. I do believe this is the correct address."
Flower nodded, widening the doorway so that she could enter. The woman unsettled her, and she was glad to dump her on the chameleon's hands instead of having to converse herself any longer. As the woman entered, the bottom of her cloak grazed the ground just enough to obscure her bare feet or shoes, whichever lay underneath.
When she entered, Flower hurried back to her seat and buried her gaze in another pastry. Her presence had a similar effect on the others in the room: everyone looked quite discomfited.
Vector froze halfway through a bite of a cookie, the remainder of which he placed on his plate as he slowly swallowed and spoke up to her. "Hello ma'am," he said slowly, "welcome to the Chaotix Detective Agency. How can we help you today?"
"First," she commanded softly, "we shall find a more" – she took a quick glance from the messy scene and motioned to another room – "sanitary scene. As I have said, I must speak with Espio the Chameleon, if he is not otherwise occupied."
No one felt fit to argue as they stood up, gave their faces a quick wipe with nearby napkins, and followed her to her parlor of choice. She picked out a green chair to sit in, standing patiently behind it in a tacit request of permission. Vector waved that it was okay, and everyone else picked another seat in the room.
She lowered herself to a seating position slowly, placing her hands neatly on her lap as she shifted around to get comfortable. Once satisfied, she angled her face toward Espio, although no one else could see her face. When Espio caught his first glimpse, he froze and his body locked up.
"My name is Chie," the woman explained, "and I am Espio's master."
While everyone else nodded slowly and unsurely, Espio's eyes widened to cartoonish proportions. The woman didn't miss that detail, and calmly insisted, "I know you have not forgotten me."
Espio attempted to say something, but it all came out in asemic sputters and gasps, drawing all the room's attention like a reluctant black hole.
"Es?" Vector asked nervously.
"You okay?" Charmy chirped, trying to help out.
"Y-you're freaking us out here, Espio," muttered Sam. Flower silently scooted her chair closer to the hedgehog, almost as if seeking protection.
At once, the woman removed the hood of her cloak and her face was visible to all. She was a chameleon, too, but with a few decades of age on her. She had golden horns forming a ridge that would impress a stegosaurus, running from just above her nose to the upper back of her head. Her eyes were of a greyed-out, unsaturated shade of blue, like a storm inching into a harbor to cause some destruction. It looked for a second as though some lustrous jewelry had appeared on her, but it turned out just to be a light somewhere under her cloak. While "mystery" would be a generally acceptable first choice of descriptor for her, she was also undeniably beautiful.
The room focused in wonder at her. An idea wormed into Sam's head, and she nervously began to ask, "A-are you…?"
"Yes." The woman had beaten her to it. "I am related to Espio. I am… his mother." At these few simple words, Espio stopped sputtering, stopped breathing, and urged himself not to faint. It did not succeed.
Espio cracked his eyes open in confusion as he came to. His coworkers, his two newer friends, and his mother were all crowding around him, examining him to see if anything was wrong. When his eyes opened and he sat up, with his hand reflexively flying to his forehead, they all sighed in relief.
Vector helped him up slowly. "Easy, Es. You feelin' alright?"
He felt nauseated, but well enough to compose himself to speak. "I… I am fine."
He noticed a strange feeling on his tail, and when he looked, Charmy was studying it with a strange curiosity. "Yo, Es, has your tail always been this coiled? A-and this purple? You could be coming down with something!"
"Glad to see you are still alright," Espio groaned as he looked expectantly at the others.
"You don't sound aright," Sam commented, prodding at his side and looking unimpressed with the normal, fleshy feeling. She frowned and admitted, "Nothing's broken."
"He was only shocked," Chie reassured them. "I haven't seen the boy in… in over three years, if I'm not mistaken."
"Wow," Vector gasped, surprised enough to drop the poor squamate on his back once more. Luckily, Espio was awake enough to plant his hands and feet on the floor to protect himself, and he nonchalantly nodded to Vector that he was in fine form. Vector went on, still in shock. "Three years since ya last saw your own mama!? I can't imagine going anywhere near that long! We crocs keep close, ya see – my mom insists on inspecting my teeth every time we meet, and I still love her even after that time I had popcorn at the movies before seeing her!"
"My home was under attack three years ago," Espio continued. "My mother sent me here with the power of the Black Chaos Emerald."
"The Black Chaos Emerald?" Flower inquired. "I thought there were only seven, and wouldn't being black kinda defeat the purpose of glowing?"
"Does it have spooky black raincloud powers?" Charmy asked, also curious. "O-or can it automatically force your enemies to wear REALLY ugly black dresses?"
"I suppose," Chie explains, "but it's a bit more extensive than that. The Black Chaos Emerald can grant the user any power that he or she wishes. The user can, for example, turn into a 'super' form and travel throughout all of the dimensions known to Mobian-kind, and several besides."
"Anywhere?" Sam asked skeptically. Flower, awe-struck, could only gape silently and wait for confirmation.
"Anywhere at all," Chie whispered.
"Whoa!" Vector exclaimed with surprise that would have weakened his grip on Espio again if he had been holding him. "A black Chaos Emerald? With unlimited power? Nif-ty! Boy, would Knuckles' stupid Master Emerald be jealous to hear that!"
"Uh-huh!" Charmy yipped. "It could… power-unlimited-ize circles around that dumb ol' thing!"
"It could easily ferry its bearer across the entire universe, in fact." Espio's mother elaborated.
"Really?" Charmy gasped. "REALLY big circles around it, then?"
"So it is believed. If that is so… it should not be tempered with." She turned now to her son, who seemed to be fascinated with the cracks in the floor of his office than with his own mother. "Espio."
The chameleon looked up, still in a bit of shock – and simply got up and left the room, no emotional display or coarse words emitted. The remaining heads in the room, save for his mother's, looked around in confusion.
"What's going on here?" Vector demanded to know of her. "Where's our buddy Es goin'? You can stay and chat for as long as ya like, but he's still a Chaotix!"
Chie closed her eyes, intent on reaching some kind of personal peace. "I only came here to pick up my son. He will come home to our safe village with me. He has an hour to say good-bye to his friends." With mechanical motions of the arms and legs, she lowered herself to a seated position on the floor and meditated.
Espio was folding all of his belongings quickly and neatly. Since he kept clean house and they consisted mostly of his ninja accessories, he was done before he knew it. As he finished off the packing with his katana and shurikens, someone knocked at his door. "Come in," he replied.
The originator of the sound showed herself, and he was surprised to see none other than Samantha the Hedgehog in the doorway, agitation on her face. The chameleon frowned and asked, "Can I help you?"
Sam cocked her head to one side and sighed in mock-innocence. "Oh, I dunno, maybe you can start with... explaining what the heck is going on here!"
"I am leaving." It was an obvious enough situation, and so that was how he would treat it.
"But why?!" she plead. She had a hard time accepting her friend ditching her just like that. As snide and unfriendly as he was, he cared about her and Flower and – more importantly – about his teammates enough that, if he couldn't fight his mother's demands, he would at least give them a warm, sorrowful, and proper good-bye… right?
"When I left my mother and my home those years ago," he responded, "my mother arranged that I would leave upon her arrival, no matter what kind of life I had built up by that point."
Sam furrowed her brow as she tried to pick some kind of emotion out of Espio's normal, solemn expression that, in this moment, was quite unwelcome. After a moment of silence, she challenged, "You don't want to leave."
"Is that a question or a statement?" he bit back. "I enjoy logical puzzles, but I do not like mind games."
"Both," Sam replied. "Listen, Espio," she sighed. "You're a more stoic guy that I am an empath, so I'll cave: I can't tell what you're thinking. But I do know how I would react if I were in your shoes. If some relative of mine… even as close to me as the woman who raised me, showed up one day and demanded I leave, I… I wouldn't just take it without fighting."
She looked into his eyes, hoping to reach something sensitive inside his heart. "If I loved my friends like… like I know you do, I'd find some better way to work it out."
Espio turned his eyes away and set the clothes he was meticulously rearranging back on the bed, also pushing a few pairs of socks that had poked their way out of his stuffed suitcase. When he plopped his rear end on the bed, accepting her invite for a real conversation, he asked, "What would you have done, then?"
"Refuse on the spot!" Sam exclaimed with zero hesitation. "I mean, it makes no difference to me who it is, because no one can tell you what to do or how you should live your life, especially if the life you have now makes you happy."
Espio lowered his head to shield his eyes from her pleading words, and her suspicion was confirmed. "Why aren't you saying anything to your mom?" she demanded.
"I have no say in the matter," he whispered. "I cannot stay here. My mother wants me to come home. Her demands are not to be refused." Repeating the same idea as if to convince himself more than anyone else, he abruptly and artificially got to his feet, starling the girl. "I have disobeyed her before. I cannot do so again. Believe me."
And with that, he picked his suitcase up with both hands and was about to run out before she could accost him any further, when she gently grabbed his arm anyway.
"I just…" she sighed, thinking of how best to compose her words for one last chance of getting to him. "Please don't leave, Espio. You've worked so hard, and you continue to every day, at maintaining good relationships for us, providing for us, sticking up for your teammates. Vector and Charmy need you, and they wouldn't hesitate a second to show it. Flower and I love you, too, but if nothing else… please, for them, stay. I know it's difficult, but you can't keep bending to people's demands forever. If you spend your whole life blending in, you'll never learn to show your true colors."
"No, Sam," he coughed, and he swung his arm until she quite literally flew off it. He stood with his back to her, firmly shielding his eyes and his heart from her entreatments. "It does not matter what I want. My mother's wishes come first. That is how it is. All I have to do is go… and you will be fine without me." And that was that; out he went. That was it; Sam could only look down at herself in despair.
She noticed something, though. She hadn't yet begun to cry, but there was an unmistakable teardrop on her arm.
After an expected show of waterworks in the parlor, Charmy could only whimper as Espio firmly pushed him aside. Charmy was smaller than him, however, and Espio could not escape Vector's sudden and tearful embrace. His horn was poking firmly and painfully into the croc's chest, but Vector didn't care; he only cried harder when he finally had to let him go.
Flower beckoned him down, where she was sitting, and lunged at him for a quick kiss on the cheek. She grinned at him warmly, with a thin streak of frosting matted into the fur near her mouth, and he couldn't help smiling back. Unsatisfied, though, Espio looked over to Sam, who hadn't said a word since he first abandoned her in his room.
She only looked forlornly up at him, still not speaking a word. He sighed and realized that it was his responsibility to make the final first move in the send-offs, so he grinned at her and awkwardly ran his hand through her hair. Anyone else in the world could have tousled it more naturally, but she smiled back at him for trying and hugged him. The gesture earned him an encouraging thumbs-up from Vector, and even Charmy – still crying his eyes out – managed to stick a thumb up in support as well.
Nodding at both of them, he turned to his mother. Suddenly, they both swooped out of the room through an open window and their footsteps were audible on top of the Agency. When everyone looked over to see where and how they had performed such a trick, they were gone. Everyone except Sam, of course – she sat back down and looked morose.
"I don't get it," Vector asked the girl. "Why didn't ya say good-bye to Es?"
Sam sighed. "Espio is no leader."
"Well, duh!" Vector guffawed, wiping a few stubborn tears from his eyes. "That's why I'm the leader."
"No, no, I mean… he can't even lead his own life."
Vector's grim failure to respond discouraged her from continuing, but as she glanced over to Flower, she decided to continue. "When his mother came to pick him up," Sam explained to the little girl, "h-he just accepted it. That's it. No fights, no questions asked. He just got up and left."
"So?" Charmy asks. "I'm sad, too, but she's his mom and he had to do it."
"So?!" Sam yelled, blazing in anger. "What do you mean 'so'?! He's a grown man! Well- not legally, but more 'grown up' than any of us are! He should be able to stand up to some stupid old lady who hasn't bothered to contact her son in three years and still insists on controlling his life!"
"Well, uh…" Since he himself wasn't sure he could rationalize Espio's actions, but he was gone nonetheless, Vector tried to think of something comforting for the girl. "At least he'll be reunited with his family, and he'll have some time away from our stupid butts to learn some new ninja abilities or whatever and-"
"You're okay with it?" Sam snapped at him. Vector jumped back, but was hurt by the remark – and angered. What right did she, who wasn't even a founding member of the Chaotix as they were, have to attack his relations with the chameleon?
"Now look here, Sam!" he snarled. "We're just as bummed at losing Espio as you are, but that doesn't give you the right ta take yer anger out on us, even if ya have a thing fer 'im-"
"That's not it!" Sam shouted, bringing everyone else to stare at her sudden outburst. When she realized how noisy that had been, she took a deep breath. "I do not have a thing for Espio. That's not it. I just…"
"Then why do you care so much for him?" Flower inquired.
Though it had been asked purely out of innocence, Sam found herself rather stumped.
Before she could connive some kind of stilted explanation for her partner, Espio's mother reappeared in the doorway… without her son. All four in the room besides her took defensive poses, baring their teeth or showing some equivalent measure of hostility. "Stay back, lady," Vector snarled, and then reached over to grab Charmy and point his stinger at the nonchalant woman. "I'm well-armed!"
Charmy, who didn't care, added, "You're not taking any more of our members away! You're gonna have to get through us first!"
"I am not here to take any of you away," Chie replied with an uncomfortable coolness. "I need your aid."
"In what?" Flower chided at the woman. "Brushing your horns?"
"Silence! This is no time for foolishness!" she seethed. The black fox was silenced by the forceful remark. Satisfied with having gathered everyone's attention, Chie sighed and continued. "I… I do not know how it happened, but Espio, my son… is gone. He has been kidnapped by a man named – and I trust this is a name you all will know – Doctor Robotnik."
Vector's mouth flew open. "WHAAAA?!" he shouted, before raising a finger to his mouth and correcting himself. "Wait a sec… why does that surprise me at all?"
"Me neither," Charmy chimed in. "I never understand what that guy's up to, but he finds some confusing reason to kidnap our buddies every time!"
"He's a loser that's why," Sam muttered. "Still though I don't get it."
Flower, however, wasn't content to just leave them. "We need to get up there and stop him!" she protested, pointing up to it.
Chie nodded stiffly, straining to remain calm. "She is right. Perhaps my son can fight him off, but perhaps…"
"Whoa, whoa, let's be rational here." Vector waved the group to silence. "We've got to be stealthy about it, so we can't just all barge in up there at once. We'll need one person who can fly…" His eyes darted instinctively to Charmy, and then to Flower, but another solution seemed more interesting. "But Sam… you can shapeshift, right? Would your range of forms happen to include flying ones?"
"Shapeshifting?" Chie scoffed at the unusual assertion. "Are you sure?"
Rather than argue, however, Sam simply demonstrated her skill: first her limbs, then her entire body, including her now giant face, deformed to take on the shape of a small airplane. It wouldn't hold an entire crew, but one fox, one crocodile, one bee, and one chameleon would not be out of the question. There was only one problem: there was no internal seating area, only a few seats on top of her, with no seat belts.
"H-how are we riding you?" Vector stammered. "I- I know! These three can stay right on top… and I can climb into your mouth! There's room! If I can handle the steamy swamp waters when I'm visiting my family, that shouldn't be too gross!"
"C'mon, Vector," Charmy pouted, "don't be such a scaredy-cat! Flower and I can hold you!"
"Uh… this is the 'will' can, n-not the 'Can I go to the bathroom? I don't know, can you?' can, right, guys?"
Vector tumbled to the ground, rolling over himself a few times against the rough surface. "Hey," he snarled at his two airborne guardians, also descending to his level, "why didn't ya hold onto me?"
"Because you were sweating so hard, they couldn't," Sam countered, quickly reverting to her animal form. "…Or maybe that was Flower," she amended. "She gets that way in high-speed chases."
"So much for stealth," Vector moaned.
Chie, like her son, was a forward-thinker. Her descent to the ground was the most graceful and the fastest, readying her for action. "If you are all ready to put a stop to your bickering, we are up here and for a good reason." She set one leg out in front of her to begin a determined march, but immediately thought better of it and switched to a sneak. "I know we are potentially fully visible," she whispered, "but silence is of the essence here. We must make minimum noise if we wish to-"
"Uh, guys?" Charmy spoke up, very much out loud.
"Shhhhh!" Chie began to hiss, before looking around and seeing just how futile her proclamation had been: a number of Eggman robots had dropped down and surrounded them. Their guns were pointed right at the chameleon's hopeful rescuers, leaving them no choice but to shoot their own hands up to the sky and surrender – for now.
"Aaaaaggghh," Vector moaned. "H-How'd ya even hear us? We were stealthy! It was such a sweat-inducingly dramatic chase scene!"
"A noise consistent with those of invading vehicles was detected in Quadrant Four of the Egg Carrier," one of them mentioned.
"But we're in...?"
"Quadrant Three and Four-Quarters."
Vector frowned. "What the- what kind of numbering scheme is that? His architect must've had a really late night or something."
"Perhaps. But it was not 'lights out' for the architect forever, because he followed orders." The robots beckoned the group to their feet, rewarding them with icy prods to the back with their laser guns. "Move."
"Just so ya know, Sam," Vector informed the hedgehog as they were slowly led away, "I blame you for our situation right now."
"'S your fault for being such a weenie about flying," she teased in a careful whisper. "But that's okay – this is just as I planned. It should lead us right to Esp-" – she noticed one of the robots giving her a suspicious glare – "…t-to especially evil and ingeniously designed torture dungeons! What else could we expect from, uh, the fabulous Dr. Eggman!"
Relieved, the robot continued on its merry way, but Flower was unable to leave it alone. "I'm confused," she commented. "Why would you think Eggman is fabul- oww!" Sam elbowing her in the hip was all the signal she needed that they just might be onto something.
After a maze of corridors and a condescendingly scrutinized journey fit only for lab rats, the group finally completed its guided tour to the Egg Carrier's innermost chamber. Sure enough, as the robots' leader cracked the door open, Eggman himself came into view, but the situation became stranger as his activity was revealed: he was absorbed in an amiable conversation with – in a cage, like a (less dignified) animal – none other than Espio the Chameleon.
It was a large room, if not more of a warehouse, decorated about as tastefully as the private lair of a mad scientist could be, with odd robot parts strewn about and maps of important locations spread out on the walls. The doctor himself, and his unwilling conversational partner, were positioned atop a catwalk a few stories above the entrance.
"And then she said-" Eggman chortled, the palm of his hand absentmindedly pressed against his own face in devotion to the quaint little conversation – until he noticed his visitors.
"Ah, yes!" he spoke to them, "I was alerted about you all! I must say, I'm rather used to having my property invaded by stupid little hedgehogs and foxes, but normally they're athletically proficient enough to knock out at least a few of my robots… and their fur is somehow less grating to the eyes! They'll be proud to know they have a fan club – or they had one, do you know what I am saying?"
Chie glid to the front of the group and hissed at the man, "Your repugnant tone of voice notwithstanding, I am Espio's mother and I demand you let him go."
"And us, if ya don't mind…" Vector added. "Hey, he may be your biological son, but aren't we pretty close? Whatever happened to 'the blood of the covenant is thicker th-'"
"Do not push me," she spat back at him, though ultimately uninterested in anything but the task at hand. "Now then, we chameleons do not like taking no for an answer, nor do we like waiting."
"Well, I like giving no for an answer and making people wait!" Eggman chuckled. "And in the particular, why would I let him go?" He stood up, walking on the balcony constructed above the friends, and casually pressed a button on a miniature control panel he was carrying with him to quickly seal the door, after which the robots retrained their guns on the group. "Actually, let me expand that. Why would I let any of my prisoners go?"
He laughed once more. "I'm a busy man, reptile. I kidnap with a cause. However, I am also a flexible man, and my causes vary a great deal. Sometimes, like a spider, I capture by opportunity – like I have you all! – and sometimes" – he motioned to Espio's cage – "I do it when I… want something from them."
"Uh, who are you talking about? No one's there," Flower blurted out.
"Well, excuse me, but I can hardly see you, either, girl. How did your parents bathe you without mistaking you for a stray clod of black dirt and flushing you down the drain? Not that I can't make up for lost time now- ahhhh!"
A casual glance at Espio's cage, just a little too late, revealed to the doctor that his captive was gone.
He shook his head in disbelief before springing into action. "NO! This is impossible!" He glared at a subgroup of his robots and rasped down to them, "Find him! Don't let him get away! Everyone else, stay right here!"
A few obedient yes-sirs later, the first group was off, and the reminding robots stayed put. With a search party for Espio out the door, Eggman and his other robots were free to do with their captives as they pleased, and he grinned malevolently to confirm this.
"Ahhh, darn it, Espio!" Vector moaned. "Why'd ya have to do the thing you're best at?"
"Thisisbadthisisbadthisisbaaaaaaad!" Charmy cried, rocking back and forth on the ground.
"I'm so sorry," Flower sobbed into Sam's shoulder. "I- I should've just shut up, a-and-"
"It's okay," Sam tried to soothe as she hugged the younger girl tightly, "we'll be alright. We'll just… ah…" The hedgehog noticed then that Chie was eerily calm amidst the clamor. "Chie, uh… know something the rest of us don't?" she quietly asked. "'Cause that would really be helpful right about now."
The woman smiled warmly. "My son… is nearby."
And she meant it. Sam grinned and wiped a tear from Flower's eye. "Ready to do this?" she asked softly.
"You betcha!" Flower yipped. She jumped up to a vantage point near a cluster of the remaining robots and gave them a hard roundhouse slap with her two tails. Caught off guard, they tumbled back, although they were angry. Nonetheless, the animals were able to overpower them fairly easily – the doctor had evidently not brought in his state-of-the-art line of machines for petty invaders such as these.
Before long, Eggman pounded frantically on a different button – "Reinforcements, come on! This is not a drill!" he shrieked. Suddenly, the control panel flew out of his hands.
The group gasped in confusion, and then Eggman was kicked back by an unseen force. His eyes darted around frantically, looking for some sort of rational explanation beyond karmic spirit retribution, but at once he was kicked all the way down to the metal floor.
Rubbing his back with pain as a couple of his robots quickly moved to help him up, he stole a glance from behind him to view his attacker, a figure that slowly revealed itself like a blanket unraveling itself. Eventually the process finished, and the attacker revealed itself to be-
"Espio!" cheered his friends. Vector let his elation to see his best friend and teammate go on a little too long, as his distraction allowed three robots to gang up on him, but a few powerful kicks reminded them who was boss.
Espio smiled with all his heart at them, but the celebration wouldn't last long – in a split second, he was shoved roughly to the ground by a large metallic claw that pinned both him and Eggman into place.
Eggman laughed triumphantly. "Hohoho! Good thing I come prepared!"
"You have," Espio replied, "but you are also trapped."
"Uh… exactly as planned, haha!" Eggman replied, desperate to reclaim some sort of high ground. He grumbled something about a "stupid machine", but grinned as he realized the controller was still in his hands. He was about to press another, more dangerous-looking button – until the whole thing was swiped from his hands by another unseen aggressor. "AAAAARGH! NO!" he growled.
The controller levitated to a sensible waist-height until its bearer also removed its cloak, revealing itself to be Chie. The group was happy to see her safe as well, but still couldn't be too enthusiastic, as they were still in the process of professional robot butt-kicking.
Between Vector's roundhouse kicks, Charmy's formidable stinger and agile air tricks, Flower's tail strikes to propel the robots into one another, and Sam's transformations into numerous distracting objects and then back into herself to catch them off-guard, the fighting was going well.
Still, after examining the controller for a short time, Espio's mother pressed a button that raised the claw a little so that Espio could slither out, but Eggman remained trapped under it. Eggman growled at his misfortune, and another button press instantly powered off the other robots.
"Yeeeeeahhhhh!" Charmy shrieked. "Nice job, Chie!" He attempted to hug her, but – not much of a physical-affection type anyway – she swooped over to be with her son instead, leaving Charmy to settle for a half-hearted high-five with Vector.
With no button presses, the door began to open – it was being opened from outside. Two of Eggman's most omnipresent henchmen, Decoe and Bocoe, came running in, eyes widening at the sight of their master so horribly incapacitated. "What happened here, Doctor?" Decoe asked. "Do you need a hand?"
"I could've sworn I programmed better joking skills into you than that," Eggman grumbled. "Now help me up!"
"You may help your master up when we have safely escaped," Chie commanded them. "Now you had better get to work, because the Doctor has got a lot of patients in need."
None of the animals in the room was a cricket, but the effect was the same. After a few seconds, Sam groaned out loud. "Ugh. Really?"
"I cannot be funny?" the woman asked, disappointed at her cold reception.
"Nah, old ladies shouldn't bother," Sam snickered.
"Oh, now you have done it," said Espio as his mother's eyes flared up.
When the escape pod the group had swiped from the Egg Carrier settled down in the street in front of the Agency, the group tumbled out and collectively sighed with relief.
"You all put up an exceptionally good fight," Chie congratulated them all. "Including you!" she said to Sam, who was still nursing her new black eye.
"Including me?" Charmy asked, hovering around her for extra attention. "Did I sting-k, or what? Uh… oh, wait, that's a bad thing."
"I am indeed proud of you," Chie confirmed, "but the bulk of my pride goes to my very own son."
Espio bowed to her. "Thank you, Mother," he replied, his head still lowered in submission. "You can take me home. I will not resist."
"I do not believe that is necessary."
"Huh?" The friends gasped.
Chie cleared her throat. "Your work back there was truly masterful in craft, and showed a pureness of spirit I am delighted to see inside you. If your father were here..."
The grin was spreading like a forest fire across his face, but he made every effort to cull it back, both for his own stoic dignity and in hopes of seeking further reward: he hoped this meant what he thought it did. "Thank you again, Mother. And I do have one more request..." he tried again. "I think it would honor my father the most for me to stay here, looking after and forming unbreakable bonds with my friends. I only ask… for your blessing, Mother."
Chie gave a single nod and, unable to contain his powerful emotions any longer, Espio sprang in the air, giving his mother a big hug after doing so. "Thank you very much, Mother."
"Ay Es," Vector butts in. "I hate ta interrupt the touching moment but what did Ol' Doc want with ya anyhow?"
"Yes my son what did the doctor want from you?" Chie joins in also curious.
"He wished to know the location of the Black Chaos Emerald," Espio informs him. "Apparently he has heard of this strange emerald and how the only creatures to use it are the chameleons."
"Our tribe," Chie adds.
"Yes our tribe," Espio acknowledges.
"But why you specifically?" Sam asks.
"I am not quite sure. But the Doctor seems to be keen on obtaining anyone who may know and finding a way to harness its' powers for his own gain."
"That's bad!" Flower exclaims, hands flying to her mouth to cover a gasp.
Espio nods grimly and turned to his mother. "It may not be safe for you to depart Mother. He has a robot that can detect invisible opponents."
"I know," Chie replied. "I shut it off."
"Whhaa?!" Sam shouts. "When ya do that?"
"Shorty before confronting the Doctor," came her direct reply. "It was not hard to find either. Not only was it in the same room as we were in but the robot had a sign on its' chest."
The friends cackled for a good while. When they eventually ceased, Chie motioned for Espio to come a few feet from the others. He obliged.
She whispered something to him in the ninjas' secret language, and he replied in kind; they continued back and forth for a spell. Flower tried desperately to try to follow the conversation, briefly considering asking Sam to transform into some kind of dictionary, but she soon came to her senses and realized that the details were not meant for them – the aegis of forgiveness and love was all that mattered.
Mother and son returned to their circle in the group- and the original language, as though it was important that the others hear. "Espio, I trust you to make your own decisions. I can no longer comprehend all of your struggles – I am, however, still your mother. I need you to promise me, Espio, that you will remain safe yourself, and you will never" – she looked over to his group of friends – "leave any of your comrades behind."
He nodded. "I must ask, Mother: are you sure you want to return home right away? We can surely accommodate you for a few days right here."
"I cannot, my son. You can do just fine without your mother managing your every task, but the village cannot – they are not as competent as you, Espio. Besides," she grinned, "would you really want your own mother snooping around while you are socializing with your friends about, er, boy stuff?"
"I understand." Espio smiled, and hugged her once more. "I wish you a safe return, and I pray that this beautiful spring day treats your voyage well."
"H-hey, speaking of this day," Flower chirped, "I just remembered something. Today's Mother's Day!"
Vector's eyes widened. "Mu-mother's Day?! Ohhh I completely fergot. Mama's gonna kill me!"
Charmy nudged the large croc. "She's gonna getcha before Egghead does!"
Vector shrugs. "Only difference between 'em is she loves me!"
The group chuckled. "Very true," Sam nods.
"Ah, yes," Espio beamed. Before his mother could leave for real, he looked her straight in the eye to give her one last verbal token of protection. "Happy Mother's Day… Mom."
Scourge the Hedgehog had enough of waiting but he knew it is not quite time to Chaos Control to the other dimension. Yet.
He could leave at anytime he wanted and yet he is doing nothing but wait and gazing at the black Chaos Emerald. It is like the Master Emerald only with a dark exterior surface and with far greater powers than the original. This gem is supposed to help him not just getting to the other dimension but also have the necessary powers for eliminating...intrusions.
Judging from the looks of the friends Sam was making there were going to be plenty. They won't stop him though; Scourge will succeed even if everyone had to come crashing down with him. Which they won't. Scourge grinned revealing pointed teeth. This was going to be interesting.
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