Disclaimer - I do not own Sonic or any other characters. They are property of SEGA and anything Sonic the hedgehog affiliated with it.

OMG I cant believe I'm writing for this story again, its been close to or about ten years lol! Let me get a few things out the way. First a quick shout out to KamyKam! I got a great idea when writing this and decided to include it into this chapter. Two, I tried a slightly different writing style in this chapter. This particular chapter has a mix of first and third person, but still heavily third person only for the fact that first person doesn't do well at explaining a larger narrative.

But it has some first person which makes the writing more of a 'painting a picture with words' thing going on, which I've always done, just not a lot of cause I'm trying to tell a larger story. Also, if you haven't read the story from the beginning you will not understand whats going on so fair warning. Geez I feel silly writing this, this story is so old I don't think anyone even cares but here it is. Thanks to those who do read and enjoy!


Summary: After the events of Scratching the Box, Nicole and Sonic continue to travel around Mobius on vacation. They enjoy traveling around the new thriving Mobius, visiting old and new city's that had been destroyed, but were now rebuilt and even better. But Nicole remains silent about how long they will continue to do so. The vacation has been going on for almost a whole year and looks to be endless as Nicole makes no mention of returning to New Mobotropolis. But the occasional calls from New Mobotropolis become more frequent, telling them of political issues arising again, tensions between allies now that they were getting better tech from them, and villains causing trouble. But when it gets to the point of real potential global threats, Nicole knows it's time for her to observe her choices. To return and step back in to stop their enemies and their allies alike as their greed had also become a threat.

Genre: Angst/Romance

Some months later…

It was early morning, and the sun was just rising over the horizon past the snow covered mountains in the distance. Light blue azure colored the morning skies in these rocky mountain plains as Nicole and Sonic stepped out of an airport building with many others as they all waited for their transportation to their lodging for the next few days.

It was still dark out this morning despite the plane landing late. Many people with luggage were also leaving, passing by the large group Nicole and Sonic were in. Their luggage which consisted of a few bags of essentials, and Nicole's DVD's, sat by their feet as everyone peacefully basked in the fresh smell of morning dew on the grass. Other than the small airport and a small town nearby with some buildings there was not much else in Azure Lake.

It was mostly untouched nature…

Nicole smiled as she glanced at Sonic, he took notice, his face contorts into a smile of his own. She feels happiness as their trust continues to grow, and she takes a step closer to him. Feeling his warmth as their arms brushed against one another, feeling his skin as their arms locked. Light flashed in her eyes distracting her though as she turned her head. She and the group looked out past the grassy fields filled with an assortment of colorful flowers, out towards the grand lakes that defined Azure Lake.

On the open sloshing waters, the bright yellow sun began to climb and reflect off of the lake. The large mountains already always had a reflection on the lake. Nicole herself was enamored as in the time traveled with Sonic she had encountered many sights she had never seen before. Her eyes widened slightly, blinking and taking it all in. As she could not remember her past…of her creating her body and everything about herself…

Of the memory she did have after her organic body was created, most of it was in the gloominess of Central City. From what she did know and continued to learn about her past, she had to have been many places in her existence. Seeing as now the Freedom Fighters all knew her age could not be determined, her undetermined age made all that ran through her mind when on such subjects all the stranger. Knowing that she had been alive so long…yet everything she was seeing now was new to her…

This bubbly feeling of warmth in her chest was new to her too…

She looks away from the lake as her emotion overtakes her again. She squeezes his arm closer, and he does so in return. Her teeth show as her smile brightens, giving a warm radiant expression to the one who always stood by and never abandoned her…

The sound of the transportation vehicle could be heard coming down the dirt road in the silence of Azure Lake. It could be seen moments later as the air vibrations of the sounds echoed closer. But she could not tear her attention away from him as he grinned back at her. As it ran through her mind how he whisked her off her feet. After all that happened, he went to the length of dropping everything and going with her around Mobius to help her heal…to be happy for a while…

So she could be away from the things that hurt her…

The warmth of the rising sun could now be felt on her fur, though she pulled on her purple robes, trying to tighten them around herself as they felt a little loose. The fabric felt cool on her fingers, but she was starting to feel a bit warmer despite it being so cool in the morning. But unfortunately, the smile suddenly was wiped from her face as a melodic beep started up from a particular lump in her robes.

Sonic and she looked down, but she didn't immediately pull her portable from her robes. The people around paid them no notice, but with a blank expression, Nicole just stared. Sonic frowned a bit as they both knew who was calling again. The beeping and vibration from her portable didn't stop, and a light sigh escaped Nicole as she slowly reached into her robes and grabbed her portable.

The screen of her portable flashed green text indicating an incoming call from New Mobotropolis…

However, Nicole stuffed her vibrating portable back into her robes, looking straight ahead again and remaining silent. Her blank expression remained as Sonic spoke holding his frown "You hungry?"

Nicole nodded stating simply "Yes."

"A warm breakfast sounds good right about now." Sonic said finally looked back out onto the lakes.

"I can get some coding done today as well…and maybe we could…go for a walk this evening…" Nicole spoke as her voice sounded more hesitant.

Sonic did smirk at her subtle way of asking for alone time again "I'm sure I can find some cool spots to hang out."

Their small talk fell silent though as Nicole squeezed herself closer to him shutting her eyes. He wrapped his arm around her neck, and she snuggled against him. Her expression remained blank…

Sonic sighed in his mind as he did his best not to bring up the subject of them returning the many months they'd been vacationing. It was difficult when you had to tip toe around a subject so long. Though he did not mind the time spent traveling, he actually loved moving around so much lately after being stuck working to maintain New Mobotropolis for six years. But it didn't take his thoughts away from the inevitable he knew, and she knew. That one of these days they were going to have to return, and as of late the calls from New Mobotropolis were becoming more frequent.

One bad news that shook both of them was the news of villains uniting under one banner. There was recently a secret city discovered of nothing but bad actors passing through. With the info they unearthed, they had learned it was at present the central hub for all illegal things in Mobius. There were connections from all around Mobius to the biggest players, and it had now stirred up much talk about what should be done.

They, the good guys, the Kingdom of Acorn, The Republic of Acorn and all their allies around Mobius of course had the means to bring them down now. They were sure their enemies were aware they knew too. But since the good guys had taken over the world, the villains had now formed tighter coalitions than in the past since their numbers had taken a hit. And the unnamed city was a place for them to in some ways…unite...

The only thing stopping them now was politics. There were disagreements about what they should do. On one hand, it kept the villains in one spot, and they could observe them. But if they started converging to attack them because they were uniting, some argued they should just storm in and destroy them. But they hadn't agreed on anything yet, and it was starting to become more of a problem as the talks were starting to become heated because there was no one in oversight. The allied nations around Mobius were healing and independent now, and they all had their own opinions.

The Republic of Acorn didn't have all the say they used to, as they and their allies had advanced weaponry created by the New OS now. The Republic of Acorn technically did have control over the weapons systems, but not the oversight, and threatening to disable their allies weapons would only cause more tension to stop them from acting hastily. But moreover, the Royal family and the consul of acorn, the highest order in the land still didn't have direct control over the weapons or their oversight.

Tails and Rotor used to have limited control…they still answered to her in the past…

But now…the control and oversight of all these technologies was Nicole's again…

Fully back in her hands as she was the owner of these things…

So she had oversight over literally everything…

Almost and literally just like her computer self…

This new conflict…if one of their allies decided to act oversight would be needed…

This dangerous technology from the future had to be controlled since it had already been unleashed…and if they tried to use the weaponry unhindered, they would need to be reined in…

Nicole had control over all technology…all the dangerous weaponry their allies had…that was her technology…her property…her portable…the New OS…her…

And by extension, she was sort of in control over everything…in Mobius…

As ineluctably there was nothing her technology had not touched or reached yet, and if there was a problem that related to her technology it was her duty to deal with it. It all came back to her…

She was in control of everything…

And the ironic parallels of her computer self never went unnoticed. As her living self now was in control of everything just like her computer self ironically…

With Nicole being back in control of her portable, she really was like a walking embodiment of her computer self…she really was N.I.C.O.L.E…

She was in a sense whole, one with herself again…

For the time being though, Sonic smirked as he looked down at Nicole with her eyes closed. He dared not bring anything up less he ruin the mood. The sweet scent of flowers was pungent from her jet-black hair, and the assorted scents she increasingly became more fond of as she discovered and traveled. Her travels also led to her discovering an interest in shopping as any female which only served to confuse him.

She decorated her hair with different colored assorted beads that she found as they traveled. She might have had three full plastic bags now. The red transportation vehicles large sounding engine filled everyone's ears as it finally pulled up. The brakes squealed as it came to a complete stop, the doors opened and those around herself began gathering their luggage as did she. She finally released her grip on him as they gathered their things. Though a weak smile tugged on her lips, she still smiled genuinely despite the invasive problems in her life, the very ones distracting her on this trip.

As they lined up to get aboard she felt gratitude that he didn't bring anything up. There had been many other calls presenting many other issues, and as far as she was concerned at the moment, she had no plans of currently returning for a long time still.

Soon it was her turn as she stepped onto the stairs of the transportation vehicle, but the weight of her luggage made one of her steps off balance, and she leaned to her left and started moving backwards as she tried to regain balance.

Her eyes and mouth widened as she felt herself going back, but she felt herself bump into someone behind her. She glanced back to see him and Sonic grinned at her "Watch your step lady."

Nicole let out a soft laugh as she regained her step, smiling gratefully at him and continuing to board the transportation vehicle. Those behind them chuckled as well as the line began moving again. It was clichéd, but he was always behind her…always having her back…

Later that evening…

Along with a few others, Nicole and Sonic casually wandered around the forest like area away from their lodging. Their lodging was visible in the not too far distance as the sun started to get low in the sky, and it got cooler out. The predetermined path they had followed into the wilderness was less than a ten minute walk, and they just seemed to reach as far as their lodging accommodators probably wanted all their visitors to go. They all were atop a long winding hill they walked up, and with some wooden railings and benches at the end of this path, a great view of the surrounding area certainly made the walk worth the effort.

Nicole and Sonic along with a few others stepped near the edge of the railings and enjoyed the view. She noticed the lights from the buildings of their lodging were now on, and figured it was probably time to head back like everyone else. Sonic placed a hand on the wooden railing, and it creaked under his weight, she herself crossed her arms and expelled a breath. Her breath was visible and though her robes were keeping her mostly warm she was ready to head in, though mostly everyone remained still especially herself.

The blue and bright golden colors in the evening sky were more beautiful than she could have ever imagined. She had never really paid attention to such things with all the drama in her life, but taking this moment to admire it was wonderful none the less, even more wonderful as she glanced over at him with a smile. He blinked taking noticed returning the gesture, and wrapped his arm around her neck removing his hand from the railing.

Her eyes became half lidded as she watch the waters of Azure Lakes, lakes slosh up onto the tall grass on the shore below. She leaned into him; his grip was loose around her neck. She and the others around them remained mostly quiet with some small talk amongst themselves. She didn't know if Sonic would ever know the level of gratitude she had for him. To be in such a…she was fearful to say...such a romantic setting…

With a person she knew truly cared for her, with his actions and not his words. To think that her crush and feelings for him had carried over from her computer self was crazy enough, but even with the information she learned from the others, she couldn't believe that her feelings were true. That she was the same sentient computer, and her feelings were as well…

As she had learned…she had not only transferred artificial things…

But through the process accurately detailed, she had seen on her DVDs now and from what the others had explained, she had really transferred her soul, her being, her energy from her portable…

The soul…what made everyone who they were….

And not only as an energetic being…she found she also inherited the genetics from her portable…

There was more she needed to learn about that. So the things that came from her previous body…her previous self…were real…and sometimes it was hard to believe…but at the same time she was glad it was real…

Without the detailed facts and information explained from her DVDs, she might not have ever believed such science fiction nonsense. However, it was explained thoroughly and clearly by…herself…in the past…how she came to be now…

Maybe not in that order but the information clearly pointed to it if not already outright said. Without it being explained she was certain she would feel like a clone, a freak of nature for the rest of her life. But it gave her great relief to know such information because she knew her feelings now were genuine. It gave her comfort to know that, that person who she was, was still her…

"I would like to get some coding done…" her breath wipsed in the cool weather.

"And I would like to stretch my arms out and relax." he said with a grin as they turned and began heading back in the opposite direction.

The other people with them quietly followed suit as it seemed it was getting colder by the minute. Nicole, with a playful glare, shrugged Sonic's arm off her shoulder "You most certainly will not. I'm tired of you hogging all of the bed."

Sonic caught up with her as she walked down the hill still grinning "I won't do it this time."

Which Nicole knew he was lying, and her eyes narrowed smiling at him as she pulled her portable from her robes. She pressed a few buttons on the screen, and a map appeared on the screen. The same black background and green text it always had, a blip faded in and out. It was the location of the secure suitcase with her DVDs. It seemed they were still safe in their room. She glanced back at Sonic with a serious expression now and a curt nod. He did the same understanding what she meant, but then he grabbed both of her shoulders and stood behind her.

"Here let me make it up to you." he rubbed her shoulders "I promise I will not take your space ever again."

Instantly Nicole giggled and began walking faster escaping his grasp "No, I do not think I believe you Sonic."

"Come on! Give me a hug!" he said as his pace quickened as well "You know you can't outrun me!"

"Stop it Sonic!" Nicole said giggling as she took off in a sprint.

"Get back here!" Sonic said running after her.

The others with them casually took their time as they walked back towards the lodging, and it wasn't long before they all made it back safely as nightfall hit. They were all served dinner and provided services to their rooms as they got settled in for the evening.

Nicole's and Sonic's room was a bit messy at the moment. It was like any standard hotel room, with a large bed, TV, bathroom, etc. The one difference of this particular room was they had a balcony and another great view of Azure lake. A dim light lit their room making it quite comfortable. Sonic sat next to Nicole on their bed fast forwarding one of Nicole's DVDs on the tv with a remote, while Nicole busily typed away on her laptop with a small smile on her lips. The bed also had many important papers lying all over it and a few more of her DVDs she had selected out.

"What you working on over there?" Sonic questioned as he skimmed her DVD.

Nicole spoke distractedly as she typed "I am working on something special actually for my portable, a holographic keyboard. It is definitely inspired from my computer self, but I've been wondering if the functionality is possible as my portable doesn't have many buttons, as I obviously didn't need them in the past. Regardless, voice commands for my portable are limited, and I want specific functionality at times, and a holographic keyboard would give me that. I am still missing calculations my computer self used to allow my holographic to touch physical objects. From the notes I have gathered from my DVDs and such, there's an algorithm for what my computer self described as 'concentrated energy' that I still need to piece together."

But soon there was an electronic beep heard at their door and Sonic paused the DVD to get up and answer it. Sonic rocked the bed making Nicole look unflatteringly at him as she tore her eyes away from her computer. Silently Sonic held up his hands in defense knowing he messed up whatever she was typing.

As Sonic opened the door he grinned and the service robot, a small white round like robot, held two trays up with silver lids. It had blue digital led light eyes, and the lights formed a smile speaking in a robotic fashion "Dinner is served!"

"Thanks little guy." he grabbed the trays as the robot lowered its arms.

"Will there be anything else?" the robot questioned.

"Could you come back in a few hours, I think I might like a drink then." Sonic glanced back at Nicole whos eyes were still glued to her screen and she spoke in agreement "I might be in the mood for that as well…" Sonic looked back at the robot with a grin "You heard the lady."

The robot made a jingle noise "Gotcha! We will schedule a later return. Enjoy your food and thanks for lodging with Azure Lakes Inc!"

The robot then turned sideways and rolled down the opposite direction of the hallway. Sonic held their trays steadily as he closed the door with his foot. Sonic made his way back over and sat back on their bed wafting the delicious smell of their dinners under Nicole's nose.

It was enough to break her away from her computer screen as she curiously glanced over at the trays he just placed down on their bed "I think I am ready for a break."

Sonic laughed as he placed their drinks on a nearby nightstand and picked up the remote for the tv "I think I might have found something interesting on this DVD."

Nicole quickly saved her progress and closed her laptop, pushing it to the side as she scooted closer to Sonic. They sat very near one another as they grabbed their trays and began eating as Sonic fast forwarded the DVD again.

Nicole spoke as she chewed on her food "The freedom fighters are going to have to teach me how to defend myself Sonic. I have no combat experience."

"You never got the official Freedom Fighter training. Sally is the one you have to look out for, she's really good in hand to hand combat." he responded.

"Are you good with your hands as well?" she responded with a flirty grin glancing at him.

Sonic didn't glance back; he chuckled as he stared at the tv "I'm good at all kinds of stuff."

Nicole giggled looking at the screen "Well I don't suppose you've ever had much of a hard time with romantic affairs."

Sonic shook his head as he stared at the screen "On the contraire, my affairs have all been terrible my whole life." Nicole blinked curiously losing her grin as he continued "It hurts sometimes…"

Nicole was tentative as she spoke "That is why you were cautious when I approached…"

Sonic nodded silently and Nicole didn't want to bring all his past relations up again, Mina, Sally, etc. She was aware of some of them but would have guessed being the charismatic individual he was, would have made things easier for him.

"Sometimes people are so selfish and greedy it kinda makes me sick." Sonic said with a slight frown as he ate some food.

Nicole nodded with a slight frown of her own "I understand."

All that had transpired when she returned to New Mobotropolis was enough for a lifetimes worth of trauma, and if not for Sonic she surely would have been lost. Though she also understood she did not understand Sonic's pain completely as she had not experienced it yet on a personal level. She had seen people while she was away, but she had not been emotionally involved with another person to a large extent yet. Nicole's expression softened "How do you feel about it now?"

Sonic then grinned as he looked over at her "You know, at some point you just get tired of the non-sense, and then you tell them to get out of your rowboat."

Nicole coughed as she swallowed her food, and she laughed "I like that analogy. The rowboat is like a metaphor saying get away from me. It is empowering…"

Sonic nodded agreeingly "That's sort of how I take it too."

But doubt quickly entered Nicole's mind as she thought of how the events unfolded between them. Her brows wrinkled in slight worry as she placed her utensil down and turned to look at him "It is a possibility that things could falter between us."

And Sonic looked at her getting a strange sense of déjà vu, he held a slight frown. Sometimes when she spoke she sounded like her computer self, she reminded him, and even she was becoming more aware recently of the similarities. Her statement was cold and straight to the point, and Sonic responded "It takes two to tango. I let go of those people in my past because they didn't put in the effort I was putting in. They had more interest in something else than they were giving to me…"

Nicole held a serious expression as he spoke once more "Finding a person you can trust is the rarest thing in the world…those type of people are hard to come by…"

Nicole pushed her tray aside and placed her hands in her lap "Anything that can happen will, so I will not promise you my trust. I cannot give you that as things are always changing. But I can give you all my effort Sonic…I will never abandon you…your trust…I…Love you…"

Sonic then reached over and grabbed a hold of her hand, and she squeezed it back. He held is slight frown, and she kept her serious expression as he remained silent.

Nicole could hear the lack of trust in his silence, but understood his pain made him cautious. This was her first real long term relation with another person. They were not in an official relationship per say, as they both agreed it need not be said of their closeness. And she could understand in his shoes, it was a possibility that she could lose interest. She was young in more than one way, and she could just change her mind on a whim because she felt like it. Just like the ones who had done the same before her.

But there was something he didn't know about her as they continued to get to know each other, and that was…she would not…

That was not in her character, it was not who she was, and she hoped to express that conviction to him and show that she was one of those people who he could trust for the rest of their lives.

Nicole inched closer to him, almost leaning above him squeezing his hand tighter "I will not Sonic."

Sonic blinked in confusion as she spoke again "Never. I will not." she repeated.

Sonic smirked as he heard the confidence in her words. Clear and concise he felt himself trusting her more which Nicole could see as she grinned. She placed a quick peck on his lips and leaned back over to her side of the bed. And thoughts remained in the back of their minds wondering if something would ever rip them apart, but they at least felt trust.

They both picked up their trays and began eating again as they returned their attention to the lcd screen. Sonic fast forwarded the DVD again for a moment before he hit play, speaking with a curious look "This looks interesting…"

"What DVD is this?" Nicole questioned staring at the screen.

"I think its two eighty five." he responded.

They watched commenting as if they were watching a movie as they ate, but they both were sure they were on to something over the last few DVDs they watched. It was discovered when they first found her DVDs they were special, but it wasn't until a few months ago they finally understood why her DVDs were able to hold years' worth of video data. All combined it seemed, not counting the unknown time she had been alive through all her time traveling as her computer self, because it was understood they really didn't know how old she really was or how long shed really been alive, but, counting the several hundred years and more on her DVDs her computer self proclaimed, and the recorded time in their time period, it was estimated there was over seven million hours of video spread across her DVDs, and roughly eighteen thousand hours on each DVD. The DVDs held a couple of terabytes. It was something none of them had ever heard of, but the technical details they pulled from the DVDs showed they were terabyte disc. They were sixty frames per second and a lower format probably to cut down on the file size. They didn't know how she made them but they existed.

This particular DVD was in their time period and at a time where Nicole's computer self was in her Rampancy. This DVD showed the earlier days of New Mobotropolis where she was in the Anger stage of her Rampancy.

And as they watched them, they did not watch them for fun, even though at the same time they were curious and interesting. They watched to find more information pertinent about the future and what they should be doing at the moment. Because they now knew her computer self's plans, they hoped to find more information about her plans in vein of Rotor, so they could get a better idea about what to do to stop technology going out of control, saving the future, etc.

Although, as time went on as it has, despite Nicole's past still haunting her, the more she watched her past self, her computer self, the more she had become accepting of it, and she was even curious and enamored by her computer self now. She looked at her computer self fondly now…

It seemed shed grown accustomed and adapted to the change. And Sonic glanced at her out of the corner of his eyes, seeing her lips tugged upwards into a small smile as she watched her computer self on the screen organize data on her HDD and manage New Mobotropolis systems.

Completely engrossed, watched herself speak and analyze every detail about herself, as if she was learning from herself…

Getting to know herself…

Sonic looked back at the screen as he took another bite of food with a grin…

(The computer screen)

This particular day Nicole looked to be maintaining New Mobotropolis as usual, from the POV of cameras on the walls around an empty warehouse room inspecting what looked to be new hardware. As been observed on previous DVDs, they had watched after her body switch with Sally, Nicole would sometimes talk to herself, something she usually never did in DVDs before her body switch. They guessed a symptom of insanity, of her rampancy of not being able to feel.

And more so than her other stages of rampancy, in the anger stage her frustration was more visible in her behavior…

Nicole paused as she looked down into a box of various hardrives, ssd, ata, and others. She spoke in a monotone voice "It is unrelenting…" she paused "This is…unfair…"

Nicole and Sonic watched as she zoomed in on the box wondering what exactly she was talking about when she spoke again "I cannot…feel…it…anymore…" she looked around the room again "No calculation has had sufficient results based on the current build of the experimental mind map. It does not work on Sally any longer…"

Nicole then switched cameras and looked over to a storage rack inspecting many types of fiber cables "But maybe…more hardware will finally lead to a solution. More hardware might be able to induce a simulation of the experimental mind map…"

Then the screen switched, and a bright flash of blue and white fluorescent light filled the screen. As seen in previous DVDs Nicole had entered what seemed to be her vast digital space; her design obviously. Graphical effects moved around the vast area. The floor was white and light blue this time, but she had not created her holographic at this time so she had no form. But suddenly a floating translucent big screen popped up in front of her.

On the screen, there were what seemed to be designs of New Mobotropolis and upgrades to the city, like a digital interactive map of the city, and things were changing on the map. She was controlling it…

Then Nicole spoke looking at the screen in front of her "Full integration in the city theoretically should allow similar levels of consciousness…" she paused and even Nicole and Sonic could tell she was unsure as she spoke again "…if not…I will deduce other solutions as my increased hardware capacity would allow me to do so…"

Nicole's interactive map of the city disappeared off the screen though and video of her mind merge with Sally came up as she spoke "New Mobotropolis is my vessel…expansion might make it possible to…feel…again…"

Nicole and Sonic watched beginning to understand her in this stage of rampancy more. It seemed after the first stage of rampancy, Melancholia, after she experienced the emotion of love, her awareness was heightened for the first time, and she began to realize her existence's limits. She was depressed for a lack of a better word, and she did not go look to expand in the later days of the knothole just after her body switch. However, after watching previous DVDs, in the time where New Mobotropolis was being created, she tried to expand, but her behavior was much more passive about it. The more she struggled and failed to capture the feeling of emotion when she fell for Sonic, the more aggressive she had become…like they were currently watching…

Nicole's computer self sought expansion, not just of her hardware, but more expansion of her awareness more importantly….

Expanding her awareness through hardware in hopes that it might help her experience feelings and emotions again like her body switch with Sally…

It was starting to look more and more like she had created technology from the future partially not only to help them, but to help herself…

As just mentioned she had been trying to simulate her experimental mind map through software and simulation, but it didn't seem to be working. But before Nicole and Sonic could ponder a second longer Nicole's computers self was interrupted from her constant replay of the video where she felt emotions for Sonic by a call. It was a loud constant beep, and it sounded urgent.

Nicole made the video disappear on the screen and replaced it with a video feed from the POV of her portable with Sally looking down at her with a serious look "Nicole, we have a problem."

Nicole spoke in her usual neutral tone "Yes Sally?"

"We have two large cyber attacks coming from each end of Mobius and whoever they are, they are attacking us with something we've never seen before. They are bricking our servers." Sally spoke with a serious face; she looked to be in the main control room, and it was loud in the background.

Then instantly the screen wiped away from the blue and white fluorescent light of Nicole's digital personal space to that of the POV of her portable only "What do they want."

At this, Sally paused, and even though her tone was stoical, the inflection was almost there like she was irritated, though Sally seemed to ignore it "…Same as usual, I guess. New Mobotropolis has been hot lately as the city has been building up." Sally looked up as someone spoke to her, though the loudness of all the people in the room made it sort of hard to hear. Sally nodded looking back down at her "Hold up Nicole."

Sally lowered her, and it was hard to see as she walked through the main control room. Sally then handed her to someone else. It was Sonic, and he grinned looking at her screen "Yo Nicole? You there?"

Nicole's response seemed much less annoyed this time "Hello Sonic."

Sonic then handed her to Tails who was frowning "Nicole could you do an analysis on the code the technicians, Rotor, and I have found. There's a string in it I think could be used to reverse whatever they're attacking us with."

And Nicole's irritation seemed to come back speaking in a monotone voice "Are our attackers vulnerable?"

"…I…Uhh…don't think so Nicole…" Tails looked confused by the way she spoke as well.

"Then I will make it so. Distraction's in this stage of development for New Mobotropolis are not beneficial. Searching…Analyzing inputted data….the targets will be eliminated…" Nicole finished.

Tails and even Sonic now looking down at her screen looked confused by her rhetoric. Nicole and Sonic watched knowing they were thinking the same, that computer Nicole never spoke so harshly in past DVDs, evident by the anger stage of her rampancy.

Nicole's view then switched to the big computer screen in the control room, and she spoke as everyone stopped and listened "Decompiling first stack of data…origin trace found…. old megapolis ruins…"

Nicole then brought up a video feed of Gosimar clan goons in what looked to be a hideout.

The clan members looked confused when they realized their equipment wasn't working. Nicole's voice echoed in their hideout and they looked around in confusion "I have recompiled your malware so that it might be more useful for you. Your data will be much useful for future attacks…"

Then there was a high-pitched sound heard in the room and moments later their equipment began to explode! The goons yelled and screamed as the room began to catch on fire as everything around them began to explode and the video feed switched back to the main control room. Everyone present looked slightly shocked but also agreeing with Nicole's actions. The Freedom Fighters still looked quite skeptical though. Sonic, Tails, Sally, Rotor, Antoine, Amy, and Bunnie looked up at Nicole's screen with raised eyebrows.

Sally spoke first "…That was proactive Nicole…a little harsh, but we do need to send a message…"

"I agree Sally." Nicole responded.

"Did you find the other source that was attacking us?" Rotor questioned her.

"Yes Rotor, I detected the other signal origination from the Dragon Kingdom…analyzing…" Nicole stated as everyone waited for her to respond again "…opening feed…"

The screen switched again this time to what could unmistakably be somewhere in the Raiju clans base. There were raiju clan members everywhere. Conquering Storm could even be seen in the background. It looked to be some type of computer room where they were obviously carrying out their attack.

But it wasn't long before the clan members in the room began to notice something was wrong when Nicole finally spoke "Debugging…."

"Who is there?" one of the clan members spoke a loud.

"Debugging sequence complete…" Nicole spoke again.

But this time Conquering Storm spoke off screen sounding pretty angry "What just happened? Who is this?"

"You have accomplished many things for being of such small consequence…" Nicole responded.

"I recognize that voice…you are N.I.C.O.L.E, the AI of New Mobotropolois! Was that supposed to be an insult? We have already infiltrated your systems." Conquering Storm responded angrily.

Nicole and Sonic watched, knowing now that they had not infiltrated Nicole's portable, but the systems of New Mobotropolis as it was impossible to hack her as they could not communicate with her hardware. Nicole's computer self paused "…." then responded "Yes. And I have analyzed your malicious malware through an assembler. Upon further examination, I do not think your systems should be online any longer…"

Then through the screen Nicole was looking through, the clan member jumped out of their seat as their computer began to spark and smoke. In the background, another clan member yelled aloud "Everything is being overloaded!"

"Shut it down!" Conquering Storm responded.

"We can't! I don't know what it's doing!" one responded to her.

Then every piece of equipment on screen that was visible began to do the same before the screen shut off, and Nicole switched back to the main control room. Everyone looked up at her curiously as she spoke "All available hardware of our attackers is and will be disassembled."

Then everyone in the room clapped as Tails handed her portable to Sally. The screen switched once more back to the POV of Nicole's portable as Sally held her up with a smirk "You're being really aggressive today Nicole."

All the freedom fighters surrounded Nicole's screen looking down at her with smiles as she responded "We must be. Eggman is moving fast."

The freedom fighters nodded, but Nicole and Sonic watching knew she was lying and hiding her anger from her rampancy behind her hostile behavior. Sonic winked at her "Now you're talking my language."

The freedom fighters and others in the vicinity laughed at Sonic's pun, and Nicole responded to him, though yet again her irritancy had all but seemed to disappear "We should discuss theories on such sometime Sonic."

But with the serious business out of the way Sally spoke again still smirking "How long until our servers are back online Nicole?"

"Sometime. Our hardware is still lacking, but I will have them back to normal function by nightfall." Nicole responded.

"Alright Nicole, we'll contact you a little later then." Sally spoke.

"Yes Sally…" Nicole responded as she stuffed Nicole into her pocket.

Then the screen switched back to the blue and white fluorescent light of Nicole's digital personal space. The video screen popped up again but this time it showed many different types of charts that looked to be projections of some sort, possibly about her trajectory about changing the future or something. One of the charts changed and moved, and Nicole spoke aloud "…No…this will not work….I must find another way…."

But as quickly as she said that she brought up that video interaction she just had with Sonic and paused him grinning at her on the screen. She pondered aloud "….Another way…"

Nicole and Sonic wondered what she was thinking, though it was obvious that there was a change in her thinking as her rampancy progressed, it seemed she still did not know at the time how much Sonic was going to change her plans, and it seemed she was beginning to see how her minds awareness was changing because of it…

Because as they knew now, all her plans changed because of Sonic…

(Nicole and Sonic's room)

Sonic paused the DVD as Nicole, and he finished their food and placed their trays on the floor. Nicole spoke with a grin though "I was bargaining pretty hard wasn't I?"

Sonic laughed "Whatever it took to feel emotions again I guess." Sonic glanced at her "You're taking that joke pretty well."

Nicole nodded "As serious as the situation of me going insane and trying to figure things out may have been, my computer self may have been delusional about how I went about doing what I did. But 'no one can talk about my mother but me' as you would say."

"Laughing at yourself is a good start. Become nothing though, and you can't be broken down." Sonic said with certainness in his tone.

"Become nothing…" Nicole raised an eyebrow, but before she could finish her thoughts her portable began to vibrate and make noise, and it made the pit of her stomach drop yet again.

Nicole leaned to her right and picked up her portable lying by her side on the bed. Her lips curled down into a frown as she recognized the IP address "Computer, answer call."

Sonic's smile lessened as a video feed popped up on her portable's screen. It was Rotor, and he held a neutral expression as he spoke "Hey Nicole, I'm not interrupting anything am I?"

Nicole held a frown on her lips "No Rotor."

Rotor did pause as he looked at Nicole, as all three knew that this was not the first call of many calls that they knew she purposefully had not answered, and the first of many calls made by different people, the freedom fighters more specifically. She only answered them when she felt like it. Rotor remained low-key as he responded though "Its important stuff as usual…the connection is secured…"

Nicole nodded as she leaned forward and picked up their TV remote. She found the settings and found the SSID name of the TV, then spoke to her portable "Computer, search, synch, and bring a video feed up on TP-AZU19."

Her portable responded in its male robotic voice "Searching…device found…synching…"

The video feed stayed on her portable but was also on their TV screen now, and Rotor nodded silently that he could see them both. Rotor looked slightly curious "Hey Sonic, how's everything been going guys?"

Sonic held a small smile "Hey yourself Rotor! Things have been going smooth actually…" he paused with a knowing in his tone "…Though I'm guessing it's still not back at home, am I right?"

Rotor nodded with a sympathetic sigh "You would be right." Rotor looked at them both seriously "There's always a lot of stuff going on, but I wanted to mention some stuff to you guys about new political tension arising between our allies because they are getting better tech from us."

Rotor looked down on his screen reading a piece of paper "Harbor Heights, in particular, has just received a large security update and new hardware from us, but they're also one of our loudest adversaries in opposition of us for not attacking the newly discovered city harboring our enemies." Rotor looked up with a deadpanned expression "Because their city has been healing, and they now have powerful weaponry to protect themselves, they are threatening to take it upon themselves to act without the consent of all our allies, even the ones who disagree with us and want to attack…"

Nicole's eyes narrowed looking even more upset "The greed…"

Sonic did the same "They think they have some power now so they're going to try and use it."

"Exactly Sonic, it's getting pretty heated in the political arena. Our politicians are trying to stop it, but if they can't its likely Harbor Heights will start a civil war between ourselves." Nicole frowned even more as Rotor spoke again "We need oversight…if anything will stop it that will…its really similar to some of your notes Nicole…"

Nicole nodded before she spoke, as Sonic, and she could see Rotor was looking directly at her implying the obvious. That being, that she needed to come back so she could take control and have oversight over her technology to stop some of the issues that were continually popping up. But Nicole dashed his hopes again "Yes Rotor, there are mentions of civil fighting amongst our allies in my time travel notes. I will analyze them further and get back with you on this matter. If something would become certain…I will consider intervening..."

And Rotor clearly understood that she still was not planning on coming back yet from her vacationing. With a sigh Rotor nodded "I'll let you know if anything else happens…"

Without being said it was understood the conversation about her returning was over, and Nicole switched topics briefly. Her upset expression softened into a light frown "I have completed minor updates to security and restoring functionality to the city."

"What kind of functionality are we talking here?" Rotor questioned.

Nicole reached over on her bed grabbing her laptop as she spoke "A few bug fixes for the nanites and updates as I continue to update them, more code for Tails and yourself to run through the decompiler to improve something's on your end with code not from my portable, and a new security update for my portable to fix any holes for zero day attacks." Nicole looked up from her screen to speak "The nanite update restores more functionality, as with this update you will now be able to code for the nanites yourself with your coding and update it to my portable through my compiler."

Rotor nodded with a serious look "Ah, I see. So you've taken some of your unreadable code from your portable and made it readable for us in our coding language. With all of us able to read it now we'll make more significant progress."

"Indubitably noted Rotor, if possible, I would not like to do everything alone, having help is always preferable." Nicole said as she looked back down and began typing again.

"That's great. Tails and I will start looking over it first thing tomorrow." Rotor responded.

Keeping her light frown, Nicole hit one final key on her laptop and looked back up at Rotor "I have sent my updates."

Rotor looked down as he typed and nodded looking back up at them "I got em. Well if there's nothing else I guess I'll talk to you two later…"

Nicole kept her light frown nodding "Yes, we will talk later…"

Rotor frowned a bit but he nodded one final time "Alright, later guys…"

"Later Rotor." Sonic said with a small smile.

"Goodbye…" Nicole spoke as the screen went black and Nicole's portable spoke "Connection ended."

The TV screen switched back to the video of the DVD where it was paused and Nicole looked down at her portable still with a frown on her features as her screen went back to its usual black and green colors. It remained quiet for a moment as Sonic glanced at her losing his smile. His expression became stoic as he watched her stare at her portable in her hand.

A heavy sigh escaped Nicole's lips as she slowly placed her portable back down near her side on the bed, and she picked up her laptop looking at him with irritation on her features now "Would you mind time stamping and taking screen shots, I surmise those charts might have to do with my plans."

Sonic nodded with a slight frown "Yeah…" he paused wrinkling his brows in seriousness "…Now tell me how to do that again…"

This made Nicole stifle a laugh as an uncontrollable grin formed on her face as she glanced at him tearing her eyes away from her screen. He grinned sheepishly at her as she went back over the simple steps of taking a few screen shots, and the keystrokes needed to timestamp where they were watching on the DVD so they could come back at a later date and review. They had many time stamps now from a lot of DVDs, but it seemed his computer learning adventure would continue for some time.

The mood lightened a bit, but the air of heaviness permeated in the background always. Like life, there seemed to be endless problems, that when you solved one, another came to take its place. She wondered as she went back to typing what was the purpose of all this…reality…

And her thoughts continued to ponder over the subject as she heard him pick up his own laptop. The tapping of his keyboard and her own made comfortable surroundings in their silent hotel room as her mind wandered.

Wondering what was the point of all this suffering…this path…

She knew her computer self could not comprehend such things as she was now, and that also made her aware of the horrible existential reality as well…

Wondering how long would this go on…

One week later…

The Northern Tundra…

In the sprawling Iceland that was the northern tundra, it was no longer so barren as in the past, where those who came, only came seeking refuge to hide from violence. Across the landscape, across the frozen ground, were now buildings! Homes! Infrastructure! It was a sight to behold as Nicole and Sonic had traveled across the new city dubbed: Frozen Force

The winter wonderland was also new to Nicole, and she marveled in the beauty of the new mobian city. She'd come to find she loved the silence in snow ladened areas. It was unlike any other silence standing out in the cold where there was no one. The silence of the cool wind blowing in the winter, and nothing more, was more calming than she would have previously thought.

But they had traveled through most of the city going to their lodging when word was heard they were visiting, and their brethren Freedom Fighters sought them out, and fought them down until they agreed to take up lodging with them. Sonic and Nicole were currently in the common room of the Artic Freedom Fighters base. They had a nice sized base of operations in this new city after having relocated from the Frozen North Sea. As the world healed from the wrath of the villains new thriving places began popping up all around Mobius. All the cities that had been destroyed were rebuilt even better, and new places were still emerging. As Nicole had seen as they traveled, and she constantly planned on traveling to new destinations.

And the vacation looked to be endless as Nicole still made no mention of returning to New Mobotropolis. Sonic sat leaning back in a chair, with his eyes closed, and with his legs propped up on a nearby table a little distance away from Nicole by oval shaped windows. Nicole sat on a couch by a fireplace reading a paperback book. The Artic Freedom Fighters were gone at the moment leaving them alone in silence. Sonic opened his eyes and glanced at Nicole, but she was so absorbed in her book he decided not to disturb her for the moment. He held a stoic expression then turned his head to his left and looked out the windows. As it was like a lot of times in the tundra, there were grey dreary colors and cloudy skies that flooded in through the windows, and despite the heating inside, it was quite cold outside.

The sun had been blocked mostly the last few days in the city, though it was a cozy environment for the most part. Sonic watched as the sun tried to peak through the white clouds, wondering about where things might be headed in the near future Nicole hadn't done much computer related stuff today, only browsing the net and reading her fiction novels. She seemed to be taking a break, but even as much as he loved no responsibility he had a nagging feeling in his gut the last few months…

There was business needed to be done…

He knew he would not have to be the one to convince Nicole that it was time to go. Just as he watched the clouds in the sky above him…moving…changing…

Clouds were like your feelings…they like you, were always moving and changing…

It too would pass…

Because sooner or later something was going to happen that would make things change…

This place was impermanent and realizing that made it easier to deal with the constant changes of life. Sonic was interrupted from his musing as Nicole's portable beeped next to her on the couch. It distracted Nicole too as she looked away from her book and picked up her portable with a curious expression. She saw the incoming signal but ignored it as she casually placed her portable back down and looked back at her book. Sonic did the same turning away from her and closing his eyes to get another nap in. But they were both interrupted yet again as her portable beeped and vibrated in the quiet common space echoing off the walls. Nicole turned her nose up at it as she let it beep until it stopped.

But it came again…and again…

Nicole placed her book down on her lap donning an upset expression as she stared down at her portables incoming calls. She looked up at Sonic across the room holding a frown as well, but he said nothing. She inhaled deeply knowing what she had to do, closing her book and tossing it on the couch, picking up her portable, and answering the call…

"Computer, accept connection."

"Connecting…" it responded in its male sounding voice.

By the time it connected Sonic was sitting by her side as they both looked down at it to see Sally on screen with a serious expression. An expression more so that she was upset about something as well; she looked to be in one of her offices "Hey guys, we need to talk about some stuff that just came up."

"What's going on now?" Sonic questioned raising an eyebrow.

"The Consul of Acorn and the Royal family are taking steps for action…" Sally paused "…They are trying to enact a law that gives them complete control over your technology, systems, information, and essentially you when you are not available to take action…"

Nicole growled but kept her voice in check "I thought we solved that issue!"

"It's a loop hole, essentially a form of martial law in a crisis. The problem I've gone over with, with others, is that if they were able to pass it, it would be like them trying to take your property again. It would give them authority over you and free reign to change protocols. I think you know where this is going…" Sally said with disdain.

Nicole's eyes slightly widened "It would let them change the laws to say it's not my property anymore and it's theirs…" Nicole's eyes narrowed again "What is the status of this law?"

"It was struck down a few hours ago fortunately. It has a lot more opposition since you've returned, and people's attitude are changing about you for the better." Sally said crossing her arms.

"There still just making stuff up huh?" Sonic said shaking his head.

Nicole was incensed looking angry as she spoke "I do not care what imaginary words they have made up. I have made it perfectly clear I will not tolerate such obvious nonsense any longer! Words and language are a concept people have made up. And as such that means it's not real and laws are not real. They act and pretend the words they make up are tangible, but they are not! It is unfortunate that so many follow. If they try to make up language that is clearly to benefit them, I will personally come to show them what I think!"

"You're coming back?" Sally asked suddenly curious.

But Nicole blinked her eyes, calming down from getting worked up "No. I was just suggesting I will not be intimidated by the consul any longer…"

Sally looked slightly disappointed but continued with her serous expression "Not that they could really take your things Nicole because we will stop them, and we are done playing semantics, but this little ploy of theirs could work to try and turn people against you again. The law was only created because our political sphere is heated right now. You are aware of the political tension because of the newly discovered city harboring our enemies. Including ourselves, our allies want to act but there are disagreements because our allies now have their own armed forces, your technology, in their hands and aren't afraid to use them. And because no one can truly act because they don't have authority over your property, our politicians want to take it upon themselves to do so by saying…" Sally paused saying each word individually "…you…were…not…present…" she spoke normal again "…so we had to act to prevent a crisis."

"It's no doubt they would try and push an angle saying I disappeared again just like in the past when a crisis happened." Nicole huffed in frustration.

"Exactly, people have been asking about you…but we've kept it a secret, about what you and Sonic have been doing…" Sally said with a certain sternness.

A certain sternness that did not go unnoticed by Sonic and Nicole who both knew that was a bad look. It was like a repeat scenario in the past of them covering her up. It would certainly give the politicians more fuel to attack her to get at her property and power yet again. Another parallel entered Sonic's and Nicole's mind thinking of how Rotor had did the same, saying that because she wasn't present they had to use her property to protect themselves. All the many parallels were strange indeed.

"Maybe I can give oversight away from the city. That way I can still…" but Sally cut her off.

Sally shook her head "Even if you wanted to give oversight away from the city that's a no can do. They won't accept taking orders from you if you're not present. As a technicality…" Sally said sarcastically "…because they can't confirm who the orders are coming from, they reject you being able to do that so they can push their agenda."

And as much as Nicole wanted to argue, she begrudgingly agreed as it was a possibility because she was not showing herself, because she did not want others to know that she was vacationing, that it could be anyone speaking for her. Nicole swallowed a lump in her throat holding her upset expression as she nodded.

"The longer you're not present the more they will try and find an excuse for a power grab. Because you're not here, things are happening off in the cut…" Sally finished uncrossing her arms.

Not suggesting there was an active force trying to steal from her again, but it seemed there were things happening in the background that was not good for her or anyone. Nicole moved her jet black hair out of the way of her eyes as she spoke with her frown "If the bill has not passed, then I will continue course of what I am doing. I will have to reconsider things now though…"

"They're making another one right now aren't they?" Sonic questioned Sally with a dry look.

"They wouldn't be politicians if they didn't right?" Sally said with a bemused smirk.

Nicole took in a deep breath and sighed as she ended the conversation "…I guess I have much more to reconsider than previously thought. I will get back to you soon about this issue…"

Sally looked disappointed again but nodded with a serious expression "I'll keep you guys up to date. Nicole, Sonic…"

And the screen went dead and her portables screen went back to normal. Nicole didn't say so either, but she heard the subtle way she said Sonic's name and wondered if that was another issue she would have to face if she ever returned. As it was obvious Sally still had feelings for Sonic...

But for the time being, she stuffed her portable into her robes and slumped down into the couch with a grumpy look, staring into the crackling fire burning wood in the fireplace. Sonic held a neutral look as he followed suit leaning back onto the couch "So…you wanna go sledding?"

Nicole's ears perked up, but she stayed in her slumped position with a grumpy look "That does sound fun…although I do need a minute to collect myself…"

"I get it." Sonic said sympathetically.

That was some heavy stuff Sally was talking about, and it made the matter all the heavier as it now was hinging on her. It put a damper on the mood because now Nicole could not deny it any longer. It was possible that if that got any more out of hand, she was going to have to make a decision…

But before either of them could get in a good damper, the front door opened followed by the rustling of shopping bags and much banter. Sonic and Nicole turned to look when they heard two voices they did not recognize from the artic freedom fighter group Guntiver, Sealia, Augustus, Erma, and Flip were followed by Georgette Walrus and Skeeter Walrus, Rotor's mother and his younger brother. Nicole and Sonic were surprised when Georgette and Skeeter rushed over to them and hugged them.

Georgette was strong enough to lift Nicole off the floor hugging her in the air. Nicole cringed at the strong hug, and Georgette held a pleased expression with her eyes shut "Its good to see you two! It's been so long!"

Sonic patted Skeeter on the head as he hugged him, and Sonic spoke with a grin at Georgette "I don't think you've met Nicole before."

Georgette nodded as she smiled and let go of Nicole opening her eyes. Nicole's hair was frazzled a bit, and she held a puzzled expression as Georgette responded "No I don't think I have. That's why I had to come see you both when I heard you were here. That was quite a panic almost a year ago in New Mobotropolis. Word has spread fast you know."

"Yeah! We saw you fighting those bad guys trying to take New Mobotropolis!" Skeeter said happily as he let go of Sonic.

Nicole grinned rubbing her hair back to normal "It is a pleasure to meet the kin of Rotor."

The Arctic Freedom Fighters joined them by the couch when Georgette spoke again "Rotor always speaks so much about you, he always has, but come to think of it I don't think I've ever seen you…in person…before either. What exactly happened in New Mobotropolis those months ago? And tell me what is going on with my son; he has been so busy lately he hardly has time to talk."

"Yeah, has my big brother been keeping out of trouble?" Skeeter asked them curiously.

Sonic and Nicole suddenly looked sheepish as Guntiver laughed heartily "I think we all would like to know what happened there. Mind explaining?"

Sealia waddled over and hugged one of Sonic's arms with a bright expression "Yes! It's an intriguing matter! Tell us more!"

Flip looked slightly suspicious at Nicole as well "I've met you before Nicole. You didn't exactly look like this though…aren't you the little computer that helps the Freedom Fighters? I'm confused."

The rest of the Arctic Freedom Fighters all voiced their own interest as well as Sonic and Nicole now wondered how they were not going to explain anything. They also wondered now if their invitation was a trap to subtly gossip about information seeing as they were in the center of what happened in the crisis months ago. They obviously could not tell them the truth because it would be dangerous. Information about the future in any capacity was not to be discussed outside the freedom fighters circle. The only other ones who knew about it now were the royal family and the consul, and the only reason they'd kept their mouths shut is because they found the little information they knew beneficial. They found it better that the masses didn't know, just like the elites always hid any information that might benefit them.

So as their plans for having any outside fun for the day had changed, Nicole and Sonic tip toed around any classified information and made sure nothing slipped. Though the Arctic Freedom Fighters and Rotor's mother and younger brother didn't push too hard as they knew it might be sensitive information, they did get some information about what was going on between the two. Because they all noticed and were curious why they were so close, why they were traveling together, and why did Nicole have a picture of her and Sonic as her desktop background on her laptop.

Needless to say they slipped up on that classified information and were teased endlessly while denying anything to serious going on with them the days they stayed in Frozen Force. Although the continuous beeping of Nicole's portable did distract from the happenings every now and then. It was a constant reminder of the invisible clock that was ticking down the longer Sonic, and she vacationed.

Though Nicole didn't want to end her vacation, it seemed a force beyond her was making it happen any ways regardless of what she wanted or what she did. She was starting to see the longer she was alive, sometimes things happened anyway no matter what she did…

Another week later…

Of the many mobian cities destroyed in the past, one city was desolate faster than any other on the planet when Eggman began his destruction path many years ago. A city of gambling and fun had went silent for a long time during all the fighting over the years…

But it wasn't until these last six years that life had been breathed back into the city…

Casino Night!

With villains on the run and more civility around the globe, the city had been rebuilt with the help of all of the allies, of the Republic of Acorn, and New Mobotropolis mainly by extension. With the resources around Mobius back in their hands they recreated the city wide paradise. Nicole and Sonic entered the city by plane. It was their first day here and just from the looks of it Nicole knew they would be here a little while longer than the other places they'd been.

Her nose was nearly pressed against the window she sat next to on their plane as she observed their plane getting ready to land. They had arrived late in the evening, and the sun was about to set as they flew through the air. The orange light of the setting sun reflected off the clouds all around them. As they passed through clouds, she could finally get a good view of the city as they descended. It was a sprawling view of bright multicolored neon lights, tall oddly shaped themed buildings, and the city was even near a coast line, so they could go to the beach as well. The lights around the city seemed to be cutting on as it got dark out.

With a smile plastered on her face, the setting sun in the distance, the sun reflecting off the lake of water, and the colorful city below, it made the view a beautiful vista as they touched down into fun. As they got closer to the ground, she could see that some people's homes had pools. They were told before they traveled here it would be hot, but it seemed there would be plenty of ways to cool down regardless.

She glanced over at him with excitement on her features nodding her head, and he grinned nodding back at her. They playfully fought over who got the window seat when they boarded, and they decided on what they were going to do before they landed. If it was daytime, they would settle in and go out in the evening, but if they landed in the evening like they were now, they would go out immediately, which is why she was sort of excited. She'd never seen a place like this before…

The city was larger than she expected …

So in a few hours' time as they landed, got their luggage, and dropped their luggage off at their lodging, and watched a little more of her DVDs, it was dark and colorful out as Nicole and Sonic made their way out into the nightlife. Light blue lights hung vertically on the side of a building, so vibrant the colors covered all who passed by.

Nicole looked around herself with curiosity as the blue lights washed off her. She looked over to him, and he even held a look of curiosity himself, obvious he was taking in the city as he had not been in so long. Walking down the boulevard of lights, loud noises, and odd smells was invigorating to her. This type of environment was foreign to her, yet it was exciting much to her surprise. She expected a different reaction of herself going into such a social setting. Her conditioning of traumatic experiences tended her to shy away from such situations.

Suddenly, she felt her arm yanked and with a look of surprise she looked to him, but he smiled as he cocked his head to the building he was pulling her towards. A mix of pink and red, and small yellow light bulbs lit up in a pattern around the entrance. It looked to be some sort of lounge where they served drinks and played games. She was hesitant but felt reassurance in her trust as she allowed herself to be swayed.

Crowded like many places they had to weave through the crowds. There was free food sat out on tables, and they also heard music before they moved further into the building, grabbing some food before they did. There were no available seats in the area with the music, but she stood with him as they watched the live music play. She was glad it wasn't any of Minas's music. More gathered around them the longer the show went on, and much to her surprise, she found herself melting into the experience. She felt her worries slipping away, all her fears, not thinking of them anymore. She began to sway with him as they got into the music, feeling she had finally let go of her issues for the time being. She turned to grin at him and bumped her hip into him as she danced. He laughed as she kept her eyes on him. She felt close to him and…

But Nicole's eyes widened as she placed her hand on her waist…feeling the vibration of her portable…she obviously could not hear it…

Sonic stopped moving as well raising an eyebrow in confusion as she stopped smiling. She frowned a bit because she knew what vibration that was…that was the vibration of an incoming call…

She removed her hand from her waist trying to ignore it though as she formed a weak smile. She stood closer to him as she began eating her food again. He knew what it was but turned his attention back to the music. They weren't as lively as when they first entered or when the music stopped, but they hit another stride as they went back out onto the streets.

They finished their food and exited through a back door with a few others into an alley way. They were back to laughing and joking with one another as they ran down the alley into the streets going in any random direction their whims led them. A sweet smell distracted her from their mindless pursuits from a few buildings down from them. Once they reached it, they found it was another one of the things that had been automated with the recent spur of technologies that had been unleashed upon mobius.

It was a business that sold deep fried batter cakes with sugar on top. Never hearing of such a thing she of course bought one for herself and him. There was only one employee, and with it being automated, they watched the whole process of the robots making their food on an assembly line right down to them. The whole store was basically one big robot that served food.

As they stepped out of the store, something caught her eyes. She looked up to see one of those oddly shaped themed buildings with an open balcony just down the street. She didn't say a word as she began walking in the direction of the building actually having him run after her for a change. They found out it was indeed a place for visitors to go, and they paid a fee and rode to the balcony on top of the building. It was extravagantly decorated with a fountain, exotic plants, and a completely open balcony on all four sides with railings. And she now saw it was most likely to attract couples.

There were actually a few people up here as well, a few couples and a few alone, but she walked over to an empty spot by one of the railings getting a good view of everything. She knew he was thinking she was looking for a new place to venture to, which she was, as by the mischievous look she quickly gave him as she looked out below munching on her deep fried cake.

But as she looked out farthest into the distance, she blinked her eyes, quickly snapping her hand over her waist yet again. She knew that vibration of her portable…

This was not a notification update….

She handed her plate to Sonic and reached into her robes retrieving her portable. She looked down at the incoming signal with a neutral expression…

She let her portable vibrate and beep until it stopped. Once she was sure it was done, she began placing her portable back into her robes when it began to ring again…

Nicole looked up at Sonic feeling the dread return, and he frowned a bit. Sonic handed her plate back to her as she spoke "I saw another place I might like to visit…"

Sonic nodded silently trying not to ruin the mood. However, as they left the balcony with the mood shifted yet again, her portable rang on the elevator all the way down and through the streets to the place Nicole saw above. All the while, she tried to maintain a smile, but she was failing…

Sonic was frowning too at this point. Whatever it was made them both worried as the calls continued. But sooner or later after reaching their third stride casually laughing, joking, and enjoying the evening, they reached the supposed place she saw on top of the balcony. Her eyes lit up with excitement again as they both stared at a large building ahead of them, which was obviously a place to gamble. But it was even busier, more colorful, and more crowded than other places they had been.

Through large open golden gates next to the entrance of the building was a large pool and there was a pool party going on. With people flooding in and out the casino, and people entering and exiting the poolside, this seemed to be 'The Spot' for the night. Music, food, games, and fun were only a few feet away and her smile returned as she made it obvious she wanted to go to the party.

Sonic only laughed seeing her enthusiasm for such a thing, and she did too because she wanted to hang by the pool. Sit with him dangling their feet in the water and enjoying the atmosphere, play a few games and lose some money, relax and enjoy their time…

But though her portable had stopped vibrating for a while, it started up again as her hand shot to her waist yet again. She begrudgingly removed her hand trying to hold a smile as she took a few steps…but it vibrated again…

She stopped in her tracks donning a stoic look, and he stopped next to her losing his smile too. People moved pass them in the busy streets, and she waited for it to stop. Once it did she took a few more steps but her portable vibrated again…and again…and two more times…

It was at this point she could no longer hold her smile, and she donned a deep frown…

Sonic did so as well as he watched her. Nicole felt sadness wash over her as she stared…watching the people at the party have fun…

Stripped…she felt…

It was close…she wanted to go…but she knew she had to go another way…

And she had a bad feeling it was one of those things that was out of her control calling her…

To change and shift her life…leading her in ways she could never follow…

As if her life wasn't already filled with that, she already felt she had lost many opportunities and experiences due to forces beyond herself.

It made her sad…

And Nicole stood still where she was and reached into her robes producing her portable. She looked down at the screen to see who she knew was already calling…New Mobotropolis…

With a deep sigh Nicole walked over onto the side, out of the crowds with Sonic following. She finally answered the call receiving news she knew she did not want to hear. But it happened any ways, and with the mood finally ruined, she tried to find any way to resolve the issue over the call. But it wasn't happening, and with all other options exhausted, Nicole and Sonic decided to call it a night.

They stood off away from the crowds for a while before they headed back. As Nicole was quite down about what they were told…wondering as Sonic held her…how to do this…

A few hours later…

In a standard sized hotel building Nicole and Sonic had returned after their mood being ruined by some bad news. Nicole decided to stay in their room while Sonic had gone for a walk which he was just returning from. The elevator doors opened, and he stepped out with a slight frown on his features. He walked down the hallway pass a few others nearing their room. Nicole said she needed some alone time to think…

But it was starting to get late, and he knew they were finally at a crossroad. If they were to stay, or they were to go…

Because from the sounds of it, if they continued to ignore what was happening it most certainly was going to get worse. Sonic reached their room and entered a pin on the door pin pad. The door unlocked, and light flushed into the room from the hallway lights. Just like when he left their room was darkened, and the only other visible light was from the open curtains on the other side of the room. The view of flashing colored lights stretched far in the distance from their room's windows. Nicole sat on the bed farthest side of the room by the window quietly staring out of it. Her portable sat at her side, and it was quiet too. Sonic stepped in closing the door and stood where he was waiting for her…

Nicole was aware, but she remained silent for a little while longer. She made no move as she stared out the window with a stoic expression "They will not remain complacent…"

"It hasn't started yet…" Sonic paused knowing he had to speak the truth "But it's about to…"

"Yes Sonic…I know…" Nicole spoke with her tone alone clearly and finally acknowledging the situation back home.

Sonic crossed his arms feeling just from the way she expressed her words, she was finally thinking about…it…since they started vacationing. It being…them returning to face all of it…

Nicole's head dipped as she began speaking "…After much contemplation and gathering of information from my DVDs and other sources, I think I am beginning to understand why things have gone the way they have…" she paused sighing "…the reason my plans have gone the way they are going now…my plans for saving the future…controlling technology…all of it…"

Nicole lifted her head staring out the window again still holding a stoic look on her face "My computer self expected me to carry out my plans…"

Sonic blinked his eyes in confusion as she continued "To do all the things I could not do because I failed….I failed so many times…" she ran her hand through her hair "Although I can see now how naïve my computer self could be sometimes. Although my rampancy triggered by…love…helped me see another way and to also escape my insanity…I am finding it hard to see what my computer self thought I could do now in my current form that I couldn't do better as a sentient AL…" Nicole slowly shook her head blinking her eyes as her voice cracked a bit "I…I mean…how am I…a single individual going to shift the waves of time! My computer self traveled through time over four thousand times…" Nicole wiped her eyes with her arm still sounding saddened "Organic beings only have one life…I don't get any do overs this time if I fail…much of our lives computer or otherwise are out of our control…"

Nicole remained perfectly still as she spoke this time "If technology does not exist it cannot destroy. That technology…me…is destroyed. Now that it is…I must finish it…" Nicole spoke with sadness "…I surmise…this is what I planned to do. I am unrestricted in my thinking now…I believe my computer self saw this…I can make decisions and choices not limited by physical limitations of my body…my portable. My awareness as a living being is more powerful than anything my computer self hoped to seek…and my new awareness lets me approach the world in a way my computer self never could…" she paused a long pause "…To let me plan in a way I never could…"

Sonic uncrossed his arms as it seemed she had figured out what her plans were. He spoke with a frown "Whatever happens happens, when it changes you do too, that's how you deal. The nature of life is uncontrollable."

Nicole nodded staring out the window "Your wisdom is integral as well Sonic…"

But Nicole's tone sounded even sadder now, bordering on expressionless "I don't want to return Sonic." she paused "…I see...a long road ahead of me…I don't want to walk down this road…I don't want to get back up…" and her voice quivered a bit "…I don't want to do this anymore…"

And her words struck at Sonic's heart, but he stood in his spot. Because he was sure everyone had felt like this at some point in their life He had many times…

And there was not much to question that statement. Just being with the feelings and acknowledging them was the best you could do. Then a voice surprised Sonic as Nicole's portable spoke notifying her of something. It was a females voice coming from Nicole's portable now…the voice she used to have…her voice…

"DDoS activity…attempting to resolve…" her portable spoke.

Sonic looked at her surprised, and she spoke still looking out the window "My portable is still the same Sonic…its voice settings have just changed...I changed them…"

Before Sonic spoke it ran through his mind about this topic, it was very sensitive to her. Her portable's voice didn't sound exactly like her, but similar obviously as her computer self might and probably had designed her body to mimic herself as much as possible. The synthetic sound of the voice was almost like an echo of her voice now…

Nicole spoke again but now it sounded like determination had built up in her tone "As you know Sonic, my old voice bothered me. Reminding me constantly of the past…" she huffed "It still does in some ways, but I feel as if I have accepted more of what has happened than ever before. So with that in mind…" Nicole rose from the bed picking up her portable and glancing back at him finally, her eyes were narrowed in determination "I think I have finally reached the threshold you spoke of Sonic, the point where I have just stopped caring. I have been through so much I just don't care what happens anymore…."

Sonic then grinned "Become nothing, and you can't be broken down."

Nicole nodded "It's done…I'm over it…" and her statement symbolized how she was past it, and tired of it all.

At this point, Sonic didn't need to ask what she planned to do as it was obvious, and he didn't have to as Nicole's portable beeped a notification in her hand "Incoming Signal…"

Nicole lifted her portable to see it was a call from New Mobotropolis and she responded with her determined look "Computer, accept connection."

Sonic joined her at her side as the call connected. It was Rotor, and he looked surprised and worried "I'm so glad you guys answered, we got a little bit of a situation over here. There was a modification to the New OS, and we can't figure out what changed it. The voice of the New OS has changed…to a females voice…" he paused looking at them both "…Its sounds like your old voice…"

Nicole nodded silently as Rotor looked more confused, and the rest of the Freedom Fighters even came on screen. They were all in the control room with Rotor with looks of concern, and many technicians moved around busily in the background as well most likely because of the major modification to the New OS. Rotor spoke again "We don't know what made this modification, we're not sure if we've been hacked again or if there was some kind of attack. Has anything happened on your end? What's going on with your portable Nicole?"

With a frown on her lips, Nicole spoke calmly and clearly "There is no need for concern. I made the modification…"

And tails looked less concerned questioning her "But why…"

But tails didn't finish his statement and Sally, Bunnie, Amy, Antoine, and Rotor's eyes slightly widened as they looked into Nicole's eyes, knowing something was different about this particular conversation.

Nicole continued "I will be returning to New Mobotropolis shortly…Sonic and I are preparing to leave…"

At this Tails, Sally, Bunnie, Amy, Antoine, and Rotor looked shocked and speechless, but not only them, the technicians in the back that were visible, and the ones off screen who only heard stopped in their tracks what they were doing. The technicians behind the Freedom Fighters paused looking at the screen with shock as well.

Sally blinked her eyes looking more serious now "We'll have escorts sent your way. You'll get back faster, and we can get started…"

Nicole nodded once more and Sonic grinned "See you guys soon!"

"I miss you Sonic!" amy squealed in happiness.

The Freedom Fighters rolled their eyes at amy but also looked a little relieved as the line went dead "Terminating connection…" the female voice of Nicole's portable responded.

Nicole stuffed her portable back into her robes and looked up at Sonic keeping her determined face. However, Sonic had been around her long enough to see right through her tough look, and she began blinking her eyes, and her voice quivered again "…I think I may have figured out the concentrated energy formula for my portable's holographic keyboard…it will be useful for all the work we will be embarking on…"

Nicole paused staring at him, and moments later she moved to him, wrapping her arms around him and squeezing her eyes shut. Tears ran down her face, but she cried silently as Sonic returned the hug holding her firmly.

Sonic's grin lessened into a neutral look as Nicole let out her sadness. There was a long road ahead that he did not want to walk either. He could see how hard it was going to be as well and would rather just lay flat and not fight.

When the passion was gone, watch the weather change, like your feelings, clouds in the skies always changing and moving, it would pass. And the feelings Sonic knew Nicole and he, and everyone else felt would change, and sooner or later, they would find the passion to fight back. Just like Nicole was changing right now…