Chapter 18: Mourning the Fallen

The Emerald, 6:30 pm

"We need to leave now!"

"No!" Knuckles snapped at Vector. "We are not leaving Roman, Ashley or Tails behind!"

As if on cue, Tails and Ashley emerged from around the corner, sprinting for the ship. Both appeared to be fighting back tears.

"Where's Roman?" Knuckles demanded as the duo came up.

Neither responded, with Tails saying: "Let's go." as they headed into the ship.

Knuckles and Vector shared a look before also entering the ship.

Upon entering, they found everyone crowding around Tails and Ashley.

"Thank the Goddess you're all alive!" Sally said as she hugged Tails. "Is everyone alright?"

"Yeah, we're fine." Tails said, trying to mask the sadness in his voice.

Sally noted this, and her eyes, still puffy from crying over the death of her father, narrowed. "What's wrong Tails?" She asked. She suddenly noticed that Roman was not present. "Where's Roman?"

Tails said nothing, sighing.

"Tails, what happened to Roman?" Sally asked.

Tails still refused to speak, but his expression told Sally all she needed to know.

"No…" Sally gasped. "Not Roman too…"

Everyone's eyes widened at this, as Tails sadly nodded, clearly fighting tears.

"No!" Sally wailed, fresh tears starting to fall as she started sobbing. "He can't be dead! He can't be!"

Sonic, also now crying, took his wife into his arms, and just held her there while she cried long, deep heaving sobs.

Soon, everyone was in tears, from Sally to even Shadow, who shed a single tear. The raw emotion in the hold was immense, so much so that were anyone passing by would have likely started crying as well, the same with any animals that came by.

Finally, after some time, Sally calmed down enough to turn to face Tails, with one question on her mind: "How?"

"He was still fighting Elias when we started to fall back." Tails answered. "Me and Ashley called out to him to get his attention, but in doing so, we shifted the fight in Elias' favour, and as a result, Elias was able to disarm Roman and deal the coup-de-grace. I'll spare you the details. Elias just kicked him into the river afterwards. I had to drag Ashley away before she got us both killed." Taking Roman's lightsaber from his belt, he held it out. "However, along with his blaster, I was able to recover this."

Gingerly, Sally took the weapon from Tails and ignited it, seeing the blue blade illuminate everyone in the room. "The last time I held this lightsaber was when Roman gave it to me for safekeeping." She said, smiling sadly. "And now he's gone." Turning off the lightsaber, she made to hand it to Tails, but Tails stopped her, saying:

"He told me he wanted you to have it if anything happened to him." Tails said.

Sally looked down at the lightsaber, and reluctantly hooked it to her belt. Letting a few more tears fall, she said: "Take us away, Shade. Get us out of here."

Inside Castle Acorn, Royal Communications Room.

"Your impressive record continues to remain that way, Grand Inquisitor." The hologram of Darth Vader said to the kneeling Elias, now with his mask back on. "Well done."

"Thank you Lord Vader." Elias replied.

"It comes as no surprise to me that you were able to accomplish your mission." Vader said. "Though the death of the King will be an issue."

"I planned things from the start, Lord Vader." Elias replied. "I would kill the Jedi at Artika Prison, which succeeded, release Eggman, and lead an assault on Mobotropolis to depose the King and return Eggman to power. That way, we have our own person on the throne, and we can rule the planet. All that needs to be done is for the remaining continents to be conquered, and then Mobius will become part of the Empire."

"Impressive plan." Vader complimented. "But your work is not yet done. The child still lives. You must now switch your focus to hunting down and killing him."

"He is of no threat to us, Lord Vader." Elias replied. "He is but a boy."

"I would not be so certain, Grand Inquisitor." Vader warned. "It was not long ago that I underestimated a boy, and that mistake nearly cost me my life. Hunt him down, Inquisitor, and kill him. Then, and only then, will Mobius be secure."

"It will be done, my lord." Elias said.

"See to it that it is." Vader said as his visage dissipated.

Elias rose from his kneeling position and removed his mask. He was aware that his work was not yet done on Mobius. He still had Tails to kill. He still doubted the boy would pose a problem, but that was a question that would be answered another time.

"Enjoy your conversation with Lord Vader?"

Elias turned to see the Female Inquisitor walking towards him. "I did. He insists the boy is a threat, which is unlikely, as he no longer has someone to teach him the ways of the Force. And a Padawan without a master, cannot ever become a true Jedi."

"He could still pose a threat. I fought him during the sacking of Artika Prison, and he was surprisingly well versed with his lightsabers." The Female Inquisitor said.

"You sound a strong point." Elias said as he stepped closer to her. "Very well. If you insist the boy is a threat, then the moment he and the Freedom Fighters start to wreak havoc, as I am certain they will, let me know immediately so we can work to stop the Freedom Fighters from becoming as big a threat as they did when Eggman was first in power." At this, he left the room, many thoughts plaguing his mind.

Outside Mobotropolis…

"Over here!" Amy called out as the Chaotix's transport passed overhead. But when she did, she heard Sally's voice on the com-link:

"Sorry, Ames. You're going to need to wait a little longer." Sally said. "We're pretty much full at the moment. Believe me, we'll get you and your team out, but for now, just sit tight."

Amy nodded. "We will. Be as quick as possible, please."

"We'll try." Sally said as the connection cut.

Amy sighed as she turned and walked to where the main group was: Cream was currently lying next to Sasha, messing around with Sasha's baby girl. Big was currently fishing at the stream, even though there was nothing there pretty much. The rest of the group were huddled together guarded by the Royal Army soldiers.

Cream looked up to see Amy. "Is everything okay?" She asked.

"Sally said they were too full. We need to just sit tight." Amy replied as she too sat down, on Sasha's other side to look at Sasha's hour-old daughter.

Swaddled in a blanket, the infant's face was the only thing that was visible. When Amy looked straight into the child's eyes, warm green eyes like her mother's looked back.

"Have you decided on a name yet?" Amy asked.

"Rose." Sasha replied.

Amy smiled as she scooted closer, gently poking the baby girl on the nose, making the little one giggle. "After me, I presume."

Sasha smiled. "No. I felt it was a good name."

"It is." Amy said. Looking over to Cream, she asked: "How're you holding up?"

"I'm feeling better." Cream said. "I just already miss her." At this, tears started falling.

Amy smiled sweetly as she scooted around and placed a comforting hand on her best friend's shoulder. "Hey. No need to cry. Vanilla wouldn't want that. And besides, you still have me and Big."

Cream nodded sadly. "True. But she was still my mother."

Amy nodded understanding and said: "If it helps, I miss her too. I think everyone does. Especially Roman."

"You think he still feels guilty?" Cream asked.

"Cream, Vanilla died saving him. It's more than likely that it's still eating away at him, even though you absolved him of the blame."

Cream nodded. "I guess. I'll talk to him when we get to Angel Island."

"Yeah. Then you can really clear things up with him." Amy said. The two friends turned and watched as the sun started to rise over the horizon, heralding in a new day.

The Chaotix's ship…

Sally walked in to find Ashley sitting by herself, the others clearly giving her some space. Frowning, she walked over, placing an arm around her. "Hey. You alright?"

Ashley faintly nodded, tears still crawling down her cheeks.

Sally pulled her closer. "Try to let go. Roman wouldn't want you beating yourself up about this."

"How would you know?!" Ashley snapped, making everyone jump. "You weren't even there!"

Sally sighed. "I know because Roman faced a lot of situations that almost killed him. Every time he went into a battle, he always told us that no matter what, he'd always be with us." She reached out, and placed a hand over Ashley's heart. "Right here."

Ashley placed her own hand over her heart, remembering Roman: The countless times he'd made her laugh with some remark or a prank he pulled on Vanilla, the times where he'd comforted her when she was down. But the memory that burned most in her mind was of the night before, when Roman had made love to her. That, and all those memories of the past year, made a smile slowly form on her face.

"See?" Sally said. "He'll always be there."

Ashley nodded, turning to face Sally. "How're you holding up? Last I checked, you watched your own brother murder your father."

Sally sighed. "Elias isn't my brother. Not anymore."

"I thought so." Ashley said.

"I'm not lying. That backstabbing bastard said so himself. The Elias I knew is dead. And the Elias I know now is dead to me." She sighed, and took Roman's lightsaber from her belt, staring at it. The weapon stared back up at her, as if wondering whether its new owner would treat it with as much respect as its former owner did.

Sally stared at it for a matter of seconds before turning and handing it to Ashley. "Here. It should be yours."

Ashley shook her head. "No. Roman wanted you to have it. And if that's what he wanted, then I'm not arguing. That weapon is yours now." As she said this, they heard Shade's voice over the comm:

"Everyone, this is your pilot speaking. We'll be landing in a few moments, so get ready to disembark. This baby needs to be refuelled, and then we can get back to start extracting the people Amy and Team Rose managed to rescue."

Sally got up, and so did Ashley, just as Shade's ship landed. They watched as the others got up, and the two friends soon left the ship.

Castle Acorn…

Elias stepped into the room to find everyone sitting at what had been the Acorn Council table, prepared to discuss what would happen next.

"Take a seat, Grand Inquisitor." Eggman said.

Elias nodded, and walked over, sitting down.

Frederick soon broached the subject of the meeting: "So, what next?"

"I've only recently been in conversation with the Emperor himself." Eggman declared. "And as a reward for my assistance of the Empire, I am to assume the position of this planet's governor. All of you are subservient to me now."

At this, Elias glared at him hostilely. "That's not what I heard."

Eggman sweat-dropped "A-Aside from the Inquisitors of course. They will be allowed to operate on their own, as they have a separate mission, which is to hunt down any Jedi on this planet. So as of this moment, they are allowed to access any resources possible in order to find their target and neutralise them."

"That was what I heard." Elias said.

"And what role will I play in this new government?" Frederick asked.

"This planet will need to be controlled." Eggman said. "So Frederick, I'm instilling a secret police force, something you will be in charge of."

Frederick smiled. "So, that's how it is going to be. I will command the secret police. Will Alec and Argo be involved?"

"Yes. Alec will serve as the person we choose to kill those people I deem too dangerous to keep alive, and Argo will serve as the interrogator. Or should I say, torturer." Eggman said.

"Positions I'm certain my men would enjoy, Argo especially." Frederick replied. "But what of your Egg-Army? What purpose will they serve in this new regime?"

"They will serve as the standard police force, which you will also command." Eggman answered. "The Stormtroopers we have with us are to strictly remain a military force only, to be deployed only when there is a major uprising or something of that kind. Furthermore, my Egg-Army will receive training by Imperial forces, so that they may be better placed to serve me, and the people."

"So, it's an iron fist approach to start with?" Elias asked.

"What else? Such things are needed when you take control of a major country." Eggman said.

"G.U.N will pose a problem." Frederick pointed out.

"A problem we will crush like the bug it is." Eggman declared. "G.U.N may think it is still the dominant military force on Planet Mobius, but we will prove them wrong." Turning to Elias, he asked: "How many Star Destroyers do you have in orbit?"

"Several. All containing numerous Stormtrooper Legions." Elias replied.

Eggman nodded. "Then perhaps it is time to put all plans for government aside, and focus on taking over this planet."

All present nodded, and talk quickly shifted to plans of a military kind.

Angel Island, 8:30 am

Amy descended the steps of the Emerald to find Sally and Sonic waiting for them.

"Welcome back." Sally said.

"Good to be back, Sally." Amy replied, just as she noticed Sasha stepping out of the transport. "Excuse me for one moment." Amy said as she walked over, helping Sasha down. "Everything okay?"

"Yes, thank you." Sasha said.

"Good." Amy said as she ushered Sasha over to where her brother Rick was standing. Then, she walked over to where Sally was.

"Who was that?" Sally asked curiously.

"A new friend. Her name's Sasha. She's only recently given birth to her daughter." Amy said.

Sally smiled sadly. "Well, where the Goddess closes one door, she opens another."

Amy's eyes narrowed inquisitively. "What do you mean? Vanilla?"

Sally shook her head. "No. My dad."

Amy's eyes widened. "What?"

"Elias killed him. Dad was trying to get Elias to abandon the Dark Side." Sally elaborated, a few tears falling. "Elias responded with a lightsaber to the chest."

"Oh Sally, I'm so sorry!" Amy exclaimed, hugging Sally.

"It's nothing, now." Sally said, wiping her eyes. "He's in a better place now, with my mother and my ancestors." She noticed Cream walking up and walked over. "Cream!"

Cream noticed Sally and walked over, saying: "Something wrong, Princess?"

"No." Sally said. After a few seconds, Sally added: "I'm sorry about your mother, Cream."

Cream nodded as more tears fell. "Thank you, Princess. I'll be fine." Wiping her eyes, Cream quickly looked around before asking: "Is Roman close by? I need to talk to him."

Sally's expression tightened at the mention of Roman's name.

Cream noticed this and asked: "Something wrong?" Even though the answer tugged at her subconsciousness.

Sally sighed as she knelt down. "Cream, as much as I hate to tell you this now, especially since your mother's died, but… Roman's gone as well."

Amy and Cream's eyes widened, especially Cream's.

"W-What?" Cream choked, fresh tears threatening to fall.

"He died holding off the enemy while the rest of us escaped. Both Ashley and Tails saw him die." Sally said, tears also threatening to fall.

Cream backed away, holding her head in her hands. "No… Not Roman too…" Finally, she just instantly hugged Sally, crying fiercely into Sally's shoulder.

Sally finally started crying too, both girls emptying their emotional banks at Roman's loss.

Amy was also shedding tears. "He can't be… He was so tough, I thought nothing would kill him."

"Nobody's invincible, Amy." Came the voice of Sonic as the cerulean hedgehog walked over. "We suffered huge during that battle. Vanilla, King Acorn, Roman… They're all gone."

Cream extricated herself from Sally's grip and said tearfully: "Now I'll never get the chance to properly absolve him of any blame for my mother's death."

"I'm sure he already knew that, though being him, he'd never admit it." Sally said with a smile.

Cream smiled sweetly as well, seeing where Sally was coming from.

Sally smiled and patted her by the shoulder, just as she saw Big approaching, carrying what had to be Vanilla's body.

Sally's face hardened as she called over Knuckles. "Have you any burial places handy?"

Knuckles shook his head. "But we could build a pyre. Give her a send-off that way." Turning to Cream, Knuckles asked: "That sound like something your mom would like?"

Cream sighed. "Mother would have preferred a traditional burial, but as long as we can collect the ashes into some sort of urn, then, I don't see any problem with it."

"Good. I'll see to the preparations." Knuckles said as he left.

Everyone quickly went their separate ways, each mourning those lost in their own ways.

That night, 21:00 pm

Everyone watched solemnly as the funeral pyre burnt, its flames a signal to anyone watching that respects were being paid to the dead.

Vanilla lay among the flames, peaceful, angelic. It had now been realised how beautiful Vanilla really had been, now that everything that had blemished it had gone from her face.

Sally stood nearby, her arms folded as she watched the conflagration. She could see Cream close to the flames, standing, silently crying as she watched her mother's body burn. Amy was right next to her, a comforting hand on her best friend's shoulder.

Every single Freedom Fighter was there for the funeral, as were the other inhabitants of the village that had been built by Knuckles and the Chaotix as a precaution in case something like the taking of Mobotropolis happened. New Knothole was what it was being called.

Sonic, who was standing next to Sally, asked: "So what now?"

Sally sighed. "What now?" She repeated. "Now, we take time to lick our wounds. And once that is done… Then, we start fighting back. Just like old times."

Sonic nodded, and the cerulean speedster hugged his wife around the waist. New challenges lay ahead, but the couple knew that one day, those challenges would be overcome. Just not yet.

Meanwhile, at the banks of a river near Mobotropolis…

The two figures ran silently through the trees, not a word escaping their lips. Ever since they had arrived, they had seen evidence of the future they lived in coming to pass. And they knew that simply could not happen.

Finally, one of them spoke: "How will we know when we find him?" Whispered the figure, their voice male.

"We'll know when we see him, Silver." Whispered the other, their voice unmistakeably female.

"So you keep saying, Blaze." Silver replied, taking off the hood covering his head, revealing the visage of a very light grey anthropomorphic hedgehog, almost white, with tan skin and golden coloured eyes. Being a hedgehog, he had several spines covering his head, most notably, the five spines flared up and back at the front of his forehead, with the two final ones mostly covering his ears. Most of his body was covered by the large hooded brown cloak he was wearing, but his gloves were visible, and they were unique, in the manner that they had cyan circles and lines standing out on the palms, leading to the golden bracelets covering his wrists, the lines around them also cyan coloured. His boots were also visible, and they were coloured navy blue, white, and cyan again, with the tops of them decorated similarly to his bracelets, save for the red gem in the middle that was also set in gold. Looking about, Silver said: "Because I don't see him. Maybe he's farther down the river."

"Maybe." Blaze replied. "You know what, I'll take my hood off as well." At this, she pulled off her hood, revealing that of a lilac coloured anthropomorphic cat, with a white muzzle and golden coloured eyes. Her inner ears were peach coloured, and she had plumes of her head-fur with dark purple tips, which she had in a high ponytail, accomplished with a red hairband. On her forehead also was a small red gem. As with Silver, most of Blaze's body was covered by the thick brown cloak she was wearing, save for her gloves and boots. Her gloves were white with fuzzy cuffs, and her boots, which were high heeled, were coloured hot pink and white.

Both Silver and Blaze were about seventeen years of age, but their experience betrayed their youth. Both had been through immense hardship in their time, and their friendship had seen them through.

After a few minutes of walking, they came to a clearing, where the banks of the river looked fine. But it wasn't the banks they had their eyes on, but what was on the banks.

Lying sprawled on the river bank on his back was a red coloured fox, wearing tattered black combat clothes and missing half his right ear. His torso was a mess, with one large diagonal slash running from his left shoulder to his right hip, and a massive hole in his chest.

Blaze let out a gasp as she dashed over, checking the fox's pulse. Looking up, she said: "He's alive. Barely."

Silver nodded and said: "We'd better get him to the hideout." At this, he jogged up, helped Blaze pick up the fox, and carry the fox deep into the forest. They had work to do.

And thus ends The Siege of Artika Prison. Whew, I really enjoyed writing this one. Just as much as I enjoy writing fanfics in general.

The next story in the series will be published shortly, since I am putting my Transformers and Sonic the Hedgehog series on hold to focus on this first, especially since my brain needs decluttering.

Other than that, please leave your reviews (NO FLAMES!), and May the Force be with you. Always.