Night had fallen by the time the two headed for home, leaving them alone on the empty streets with nothing but the glow of streetlights for company.
“Man, I still can’t believe you got the high-scores on all those cash-in games they made about Sonic and me,” Miles happily walked along next to his mom, his tails wagging behind him.
“Maybe I’m just that awesome,” she grinned, “and I guess the free home copies the developer always sends us may have helped.”
“I didn’t think you played those, I kind of assumed they collected dust after me and Sonic played through them once or twice for fun.”
“What, you think I’m too old to play with toys?” she feigned a hurt expression, “aren't I allowed to have fun?”
“It’s not that, it’s just that I didn’t think liked video games as much as I did outside of those racing ones,” he gigled, “If I knew we could’ve played a lot more together”
“I need something to do when you leave me all alone and go save the world,” she gave a playful grin, “besides, it’s kind of cute seeing that little sprite of you flying around the screen and beating up robots.”
“I mean, the graphics aren’t even that good and..” he blushed.
“Ah, come on. That cute little cartoon of you is almost as adorable as the real thing,” she teased.
“You like to embarrass me, don’t you?” he smirked, still blushing.
“Hey, it’s a mother’s job,” she chuckled, “besides, you know I only do it because I love you.”
“I guess I’d miss it if we didn’t tease each other,” he chuckled.
“It beats being ser-” she was cut off before she could finish by a loud boom and a splitting pain in her skull before everything went black.
“I think she’s waking up,” unmistakably Amy’s voice, laced with something between worry and relief.
“Tails’ told me immortals could come back from almost anything, I guess he wasn’t kidding.” Sonic’s voice, carrying a mixture of shock and excitement.
“She’s just lucky it passed completely through, if our healing factor actually has to kick out foreign objects it takes far longer and consumes a large amount of energy to heal,” Was that Kai? “Thankfully that only happens when a small object like a bullet interferes with healing an inherently fatal wound like one to the heart or brain.”
“You mean like a battery?” Sonic asked.
“Not exactly, I mean as in the bodies natural resources. Calories, nutrients, sugars. Anything the body metabolizes for energy,” Kai answered, “Our life-force maybe borderline magical, but our bodies are still flesh and blood that can be strained just like yours”
“Wait!? Someone shot me?” her mind realed as she managed to find her bearings and put together what had happened, “Oh God. Miles was right next to me. Is he okay?”
“Melinda, are you okay?” Amy asked.
“It’s Miles okay?” she groaned, sitting up and rubbing her head.
She watched as everyone in the room traded uneasy looks and and Kai took a deep breath. He was holding back anger and she could tell it.
“I heard the gunshots and when I investigated I found you dead with Miles nowhere to be found, Knuckles is out looking for him but there’s something you should know,”
“I’m already sitting down, so spill it,” she was nearly going into shock, to numb to really be upset or angry at any of this.
“Cream is also missing and I found this stabbed into your heart,” Kai pulled out an all too familiar object and she froze.
It was unmistakably the same knife Isa had used on Maxwell two centuries ago and an even more familiar blue ribbon was tied around the handle, the one usually tied around Cream’s collar.
“Oh God,” she felt the tears burning her eyes as she dug her nails into her palms, drawing blood that dripped over her fingers.
Every fiber of her being screamed out in fear, anger, and pain. Isa had them both and now she would have to face him to have any hope of saving them. He had backed her against the wall and now she had to fight just like a cornered animal.
“Kai told us everything, well I guess told me and Knuckles everything since Sonic already knew it all except him being an immortal,” Amy stepped forward, “I guess this is your fight, but we’ll do everything we can to at least track him down.”
“Yeah, no one messes with my little bro or kidnaps defenseless little girls on my watch, and we’re going to do every we can to help save them,” Sonic looked at her with a look of determination and anger that she rarely saw from him.
“Thank you, but promise me one thing” she forced a smile and tried to hide her eyes, “promise you’ll keep your distance if you find him. I don’t want anyone else getting hurt.”
“I’ll try, but using this on him myself is pretty tempting,” she reached back and pulled out her hammer, “and it’s gonna be even more tempting if I find out he hurt Cream.”
“I have no objections,” Sonic smirked, “I know a ticked off mother protecting her son is something far more scary than I could ever be.”
“I just pray we find them in time,” she glanced up at Kai and her voice grew quiet as she continued, “I can’t lose them like this.”
“I’m sure we will and by this time next weekend Cream will be shopping with Amy, and you and I will be taking Miles on that camping trip we talked about.” he smiled.
“I pray you’re right,” she cracked her neck and leaned forward, “I guess it doesn’t do us any good to be pessimistic, we need a plan for finding them.”
“He didn’t leave a note or anything, just that thing and Cream’s ribbon,” Amy spoke with disgust.
“Yeah, if he wants you so bad why didn’t he leave a trail?” Sonic asked.
“I guess he’s just trying to screw with me and make me sweat, the bastard’s a sadist like that,” she sighed, “he wants me to have to hunt him.”
“I’ve never met him and he already makes my skin crawl,” Amy shuddered, “creep.”
“Trust me, you’d call him worse after being introduced,” Melinda cracked her knuckles, “He’s one of the worst people I’ve ever met, Mobian or Human, and that’s saying a lot when you’re pushing 1200.”
“He makes Eggman look like a saint,” Sonic added, “something about that look of joy on his face when he almost broke you.”
“If there was such a thing as a demon in a flesh and blood body, it would be him,” Melinda sighed, “I remember looking into his eyes and seeing nothing but hatred reflected in them, so hauntingly beautiful on the surface but concealing nothing but darkness underneath.”
“The worst of it is that he doesn’t look much older than me,” Sonic mused, “I wonder if he was born evil or whatever killed him that young broke him.”
“I don’t know anything about his past, nor am I sure I want to know how deep the trail of blood goes,” Melinda idly watched the cuts in her palm fade away.
“It doesn’t matter. A man like that is long past atonement,” all eyes shifted to Kai as he spoke and Melinda noticed a look somewhere between pain and anger on his face, “You spent even longer with my tribe than I did, so I’m sure you know we considered the needless spilling of innocent blood a point of no return, especially the blood of children.”
“I guess I was just surprised because I’ve rarely seen you even start to get angry,” she looked down, “I guess none of this can be easy for you, either.”
“It isn’t,” he sat in silence for a moment, “I’ve always considered Miles like a younger sibling in some ways, and I also promised Vanilla ’d make sure Cream got back safely.”
“I guess Tails has one heck a family for back-up then, doesn’t he?” Sonic smiled, “A 1100 and some year old Scotswoman, a blue hedgehog that can run faster than a 747 can fly, and a nearly 250 year old Wolf-Pack warrior.”
“Don’t forget me and my hammer,” Amy smirked, “Knuckles is pig-headed, but I’m sure he cares as well.”
“I guess that’s a hell of a cavalry, huh?” Melinda gave a soft chuckle, “I guess it’s time we rescue those kids and I know where to start for help.
“You sure this a good idea?” Amy looked up at the worn down old house in front of them, “I mean, The Chaotix have no idea what’s going on and we don’t have time to explain.”
“Also, I’m not sure they could find money in a bank, let alone a deranged immortal serial killer and his hostages,” Sonic chimed in.
“I’ll have to take your word for that since I’ve only met Vector in passing, but every extra pair of feet helps and he seems trustworthy despite his faults,” she stepped forward, “besides, I have a cover story.”
“Cover story?” Amy questioned.
“Which reminds me, as far they’re going to know I’m my sister, Melissa McLeod from down south that moved here to look after Miles”
“Is that why you’ve been dressing like you’re going to cut a Country CD?” Sonic asked.
“I dunno, I think the tomboy look suits her,” Amy added.
“Sonic: yes, I’m surprised you noticed,” she turned to Amy, “and thank you, Amy. I also think Red suits you well, but we all have more pressing matters than my fashion choices.”
“Right,” both Sonic and Amy said in unison.
“Let’s get this show on the road,” Melinda took a deep breath and knocked on the door.
Several moments passed before the door lock clicked and it creaked open to reveal a nearly 6ft tall crocodile with a large gold chain around his neck.
“Hello, Ms. Prower, need some-” the color suddenly drained from Vector’s face and he kept mouthing words that never came out, words Melinda could make out to be things like “ghost” and “dead”
“Oh, OH! ah’m so sorry for scarin’ ya’ll like that. Melinda Prower was mah sister and ah I guess ah’ve been told ah’m the spittin’ image of that girl. Name’s Melissa.” she smiled, glancing back and noticing the horrified expressions of the hedgehogs and the barely concealed amusement on Kai’s face.
“Phew boy,” Vector sighed with relief, “I was about to have a heart attack.”
“ah do forget sometimes. Ah guess ah’m slow to react because it’s hard to accept mah poor sister is gone,” she looked down and rubbed her shoulder.
“It can’t be easy. I really can’t imagine what that poor kid going through and I’ve been meaning to pay my respects,” Vector frowned, “I don’t what I’d do if I lost my ma and I’m no hatchling.”
“That’s sort of why ah came to y’all, mah poor nephew gone and got kidnapped along with his friend Cream and-” she was cut off.
“WHAT!? Everyone get in here and let me get Espio. Some creep grabbing kids ain’t gonna happen on my watch,” Vector ushered them inside while stealing a quick glare at Kai, “ESPIO! WE HAVE A BIG PROBLEM!”
“There’s no need for shouting, Vector. I’m right here,” Espio called.
Melinda followed the voice to a nearly invisible form in the corner and her eyes sparked with curiosity when she recognized it as a natural form of camouflage some species of mobian are born with.
“GAH!” Vector jumped, “Would ya stop scaring me like that?”
“Maybe you should learn to be more perceptive, Vector,” Espio shimmered as his body faded into it’s natural colors of purple and tan, “You ARE a detective and an enemy spying on you so easily would not end well.”
“So familiar,” Melinda found herself staring into Espio’s golden eyes and trying to place him, unable to explain to herself how it felt like an old memory even though he was mortal and clearly around Sonic’s age. She looked over and noticed Kai looking at him the same way.
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll keep that in mind.” Vector said, “but I guess that means we don’t have ta repeat ourselves.”
“Correct, I heard everything and I suggest Melissa tell us everything she knows. It might aid us in assisting them.” Espio stood and approached the group, holding out his hand to Melinda, “I am Espio, pleased to be of service on such an honorable mission.”
“Melissa McLeod, pleased to meet y’all,” she shook his hand and noticed a look of curiosity flash by when he heard the name.”
“May I say that’s a beautiful name, one of my ancestors was called that,” he smiled.
“Maxwell?” the image of the green chameleon when he was Espio’s age briefly flashed through her mind and for a second she was looking into his golden eyes, eyes the same color as this kid’s, “You’re his descendant, aren’t you?”
“Thanks,” she caught herself smiling and tearing up, “I really can’t thank y’all enough for helping hunt down mah dear nephew and that sweet little girl”
Her eyes wandered to Kai and she noticed the look of realization on his face, he had
figured it out just as quickly as she had.
“It’s no trouble at all, just tell us everything you can,” Espio said.
“Not much to tell y’all, ah took the poor dear the video arcade tah help cheer him up and some lowlife wacked me good upside the back of the head. He was nowhere tah be found when this gentlemen and some of Miles friends found me.” Melinda said.
“And Cream, was she there as well?” Espio asked.
“No,” Kai spoke up. “Vanilla called me upset because she had gone missing and I was out looking for her when I found Melessa.”
“How do we even know the two are connected? There could be two whackjobs out there.” Vector said.
“No, I found this discarded near her,” Kai pulled Cream’s ribbon from his jacket pocket, “the kidnapper must have dropped it.”
“Any ideas who it might be?” Espio asked as he took the ribbon and examined it
“Ah do have this low-down skunk of an ex-beu that ah I wouldn’t think to good ta get back at meh like this.” she spat, “That weasel would rob his own mother at gunpoint.”
“What does this scumbag look like?” Vector asked.
“Little taller than meh, white, fur, white clothes, and the bastard only had one eye that’s a cold blue. The varmint also has some of them there fancy phoney body parts, a leg and an arm.”
“Cybernetic implants?” Espio asked.
“Yeah, them fancy thangs. The dumbass lost the real ones in a street race,” she smirked, “never could keep track of his thangs”
“That couldnt’ve been cheap,” Espio said.
“His parents were rich folk,” Melinda said, “I guess they bailed him out of trouble one too many times instead of letting him learn.”
“I’ll check every dirty hole in this city for him, you have my word,” Vector saluted “The Chaotix are on the case.”
“Then let’s move out, the cavalry is ready to come riding in!” Sonic spoke up from behind Melinda, attracting everyone’s stares, “What? I’ve always wanted to say something like that and it’s hard to make it sound cool when you have only have like two teammates.”
Everyone merely groaned in response.
“I know where this road leads, but I don’t know if I can face him again,” Melinda finally spoke up after hours of walking with Kai around the grimy back-streets of station square searching for any sign of Isa.
“You already defeated him once, I’m sure he’s no more a match for you now than he was then,” Kai answered as he peeked inside a window.
“It’s not that, it’s just... I know it has to end this time and I’m sure I can, nor if I want to,” she looked down, “not if it means becoming like him.”
“You could never be like him,” Kai answered without turning around, “He’s nothing but a butcher and you’re a warrior protecting innocent lives.”
“Maybe now, but I’m afraid of what taking his head might awaken inside me,” she signed, “I can’t deny that everyone has darkness in their heart, whether it be a faint shadow or unrelenting blackness like his.”
“That’s why you hesitated the first time, wasn’t it? You were afraid of seeing into his heart when you took his quickening,” Kai looked back at her.
“Yes, like i said. The hatred and evil I saw in his eyes was horrifying because it was so absolute and he was confident in it. Not a shred of remorse or compassion,” she felt the fear set in.
“You thought it would break you,” Kai turned around.
“I mean, how do I know it wouldn’t consume me and make me like him? How do I know I’m stronger than him?” she felt tears flowing down her face, “I don’t want to lose myself to him and risk hurting anyone like that”
Before she could say anymore Kai wrapped his around her and pulled her close, where she buried her face in his chest. She couldn’t hold back anymore.
“As I said before, you are nothing like him and nor could you ever be. You have to trust yourself, and trust your friend of almost two and half centuries,” he spoke softly.
“How do I know I can? What stands between me and him?” she choked, “especially if he’s hurt them and driven me that much further over the edge?”
“I know because love can drive out even the deepest darkness, and I know there’s more of that within you than he could ever snuff out,” he gently tightened his grip.
“How do I know for sure, though?” she managed to choke out.
“Melessa,” he voice was soft, yet firm, “I saw the kind of mother you were to Maxwell, and the kind you are now to Miles and how much love them both. You would do anything to protect them.”
“but more importantly, you were there for me when I was a pup found by the tribe. You were often the one to tuck me in at night and the one who held me when I had nightmares,” he closed his eyes, “and even more importantly, you were the first thing I saw when I woke up from my first death and remained my teacher and friend for the last two centuries.”
“I loved you like a son, and I still do.” she smiled and looked up at him.
“...and you’re like a mother to me. That’s why I have so much faith in you,” Kai finished.
Of course they both knew that, but it had largely become an unspoken bond over time and was the the thing she needed to hear that made the final piece of the puzzle click, and gave her the strength to fight on and put an end the monster that haunted her nightmares.
“Thank you, Kai.” she hugged him one last time before they broke apart, “I still wonder how it’s always me needing advice from you.”
“I guess I have a talent,” he smiled.
“Noone’s here, yet.”
It was nearing nightfall and Kai had insisted Melinda head home, where everyone had agreed to meet at dark while he kept looking. He said she was the pivotal member of the team and if any of them had information to bring back it would be best for her to be there to receive it.
“What’s this?” her foot collided with something as she approached the door and she knelt down to find a package, “A part Miles ordered? Feels like someone dropped it, to. It’s wet. I guess I’ll finally have to talk him into standing up to that moronic delivery service when this is all over”
She froze as soon she got the door open and the light from inside glinted off the red stain, blood.
“Oh God,” her heart skipped a beat and her hand shook as she opened the unsealed flaps. The thing inside made her drop the box and nearly her lunch with it as she collapsed and sobbed.
Melinda awoke in a cold sweat to the sound of a ringing phone and thanked God it had just been another Nightmare, while at the time cursing fate for deciding it was time to rub more salt in her wounds. She had stumbled in to wait for the others and must have passed out in her chair.
Willing her heart stop beating like a drum, she dug out her phone and read the Caller ID, it was Kai and she quickly answered.
“Find something?” she asked hopefully.
“Yes, and all because the talk we had with Rouge bore fruit,” he said.
“I don’t understand,”
“She noticed him dragging Miles off when she was flying overhead and followed when her conscience got the best of her. She trailed him to an old warehouse at the docks and managed to track me down a few minutes ago.”
“Which one?” she asked.
“She said it’s got a large pentagram graffitied on the door, you can’t miss it,” Kai answered.
“So I guess this is it, even if I could be walking into a trap.” she took a deep breath, “it’s all about the end one way or the other.”
“Are you ready to face this?” Kai asked softly.
“Yes, it’s all clear to me now and I’m ready as I could ever be.”
“Then good luck, Melissa. I’ll be waiting at the church,” Kai said.
“I’m going to try to send them there before the fighting starts, somehow. Keep them safe,”
“Of course.” he said calmly, “between me and the holy ground they’ll be safer than a pup in his mother’s arms”
“Thank you, hopefully I’ll see you when it’s over,” she stopped for a moment and thought before speaking. “I love you, Kai.”
“I know you will, take care and I love you as well.”
It was time. the storm had come and she was ready. Ready to answer the call and do whatever it took to save her son and to save Cream, and to make sure Isa never claimed another victim.