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~ Chapter 1 ~ Chapter 2 ~

~ Summary ~

When the presence of a Hoverby at Dusty Village incites fear that the Tralius Egg Army is beginning to close in on their peaceful home, three Mobians decide to rise to the challenge, willing to do whatever it takes to keep their home, and the Arid Prairie Zone, safe from the Eggman Empire.

~ Parts ~

~ Part 1 ~

        It was another balmy, if somewhat humid, day at the Dusty Gulch, with a bright sun sitting high in the sky and only a smattering of clouds dotting the blue expansion. Things were quiet as well...and to a lone mulgara sitting upon the ledge of the gulch, overlooking the modest village tucked into the bottom of it, the silence was deafening. She sighed and leaned back, a light breeze ruffling her hair.

"Another day...another case of the doldrums," she mumbled, eyelids drooping. She yawned a bit, stretching her arms. She looked like she was about to doze off when she saw a faint shape hovering down within the gulch, near the river that ran from Lake Fortuna. She sat up and squinted at the shape; it was vaguely cylindrical, with two golden disks at either side of its frame. It was clearly no animal, as its purplish body glinted in the sun like metal.

"What...?"

She got up and swiftly climbed down the slope to the gulch's bottom, and ran towards the shape. It was hovering above the river now, a strange, purple cylinder flanked by two rotary engines, with two yellow antenna sitting atop its 'head'. It turned towards her, revealing a pair of red-and-black robotic eyes. She gasped in shock.

"Badnik...!"

She skid to a halt, and immediately turned tail towards the village; by now, other Mobians could be seen wandering outside, drawn to the strange sight.

"What's going on?" one of them asked as the mulgara ran towards them.

"It's a Badnik...!" she cried out, panicking a bit. That single word was enough to send a ripple of worry through the small crowd. People started mumbling, looking at each other.

"Badnik??"

"But they're only in the Red Outback Zone, right...?!"

"What do we do?!"

The sight of a Badnik had incited an almost instant fear in the villagers; a fear that the Tralius Egg Army, which had already established a formidable foothold within the Red Outback Zone, was starting to invade the Dusty Gulch, and potentially other areas of the Arid Prairie Zone, as well. The people of Dusty Village were well aware of the existence of the Eggman Empire, but had found comfort in the belief that their modest home would remain untouched.

Now, such beliefs were being shattered, and nobody felt safe. The mulgara frowned, trying to think of a way to calm everyone down. At that point, a male quokka and a female quoll had approached as well.

"Jesse, what happened?" the quokka asked. The mulgara was startled out of her deep thoughts, and looked at her friend.

"I...saw a Badnik by the river," she said, looking somber. "I don't know if Dusty Village is safe from them anymore, not if they're starting to send their minions to sniff around..."

"Will we have to move?" one of the villagers asked, eyes wide with fear. Jesse shook her head.

"No. They're not going to make us move," she said, crossing her arms. "If anything, we're going to make them move."

No one seemed to be on board with this idea; people were shuffling and looking around nervously.

"We can't hope to do anything against them," said one, frowning. "For one, they're heavily armed. And two, there are way more of them than there are of us; we wouldn't stand a chance if they decided to attack."

Most of the other villagers murmured and nodded in agreement. Jesse bit back a growl of frustration.

"But...we can't just sit here and wait for them to come knocking!" she cried, hands balled into fists. "We have to protect our home!"

"We can't fight them, though," the protesting villager continued. "We don't have anything to defend ourselves with!"

Jesse shook her head, starting to turn away from the others.

"We can't be that defenseless," she growled, crossing her arms. Her two friends walked towards her, looking concerned.

"Jesse..."

She turned towards them; there was a glint of determination in her eyes.

"Listen, there are Freedom Fighter groups all over Mobius, right?" she asked, putting her hands on her hips. The quokka raised and eyebrow.

"Well...yeah. They-"

He blinked, as if having a sudden epiphany.

"They fight against the Eggman Empire. Jesse, are you seriously suggesting that we start a Freedom Fighter group of our own??"

She grinned and clapped her hands together.

"That's exactly what I'm suggesting!" she said, while the quoll put a hand on her chin, nodding.

"Say, that's not a bad idea at all! We'll have a better chance of taking on those Egg Goons if we work together!"

She frowned a bit, looking towards the village.

"Even if it's only the three of us..."

Jesse merely waved a dismissive hand.

"Listen, pretty much every Freedom Fighter group started out with, like, two or three members," she said. "The three of us working together can take out any Badnik that comes wandering into Dusty Village, and we can always recruit more members to help us."

She looked towards the river, where the Hoverby was still patrolling, and smirked a bit, an idea coming to mind.

"Hmm...speaking of Badniks..."

~ Part 2 ~

        Luckily for the three of them, the Hoverby had no intention on leaving the area, allowing them plenty of time to grab a rope. Fashioning it into a lasso, the quokka, Grayson, started to sneak up on the Hoverby. It was either too intently focused on the riverbed it was hovering over, or it was simply stupid, as it didn't even react to the quokka's presence until he had tossed the lasso around one of its rotary engines, catching it in the small space between the engine and its own body.

The Badnik instantly tried to pull away from Grayson, and the sudden tug made him skid a bit. He grit his teeth and tightened his grip on the rope, trying to reel the Hoverby in. It was deceptively stubborn, however, and he wasn't really getting anywhere with it.

"Gonna need some help, here...!" he grunted as his two companions jogged to his aid, grabbing onto the rope trailing behind him and starting to pull as well. The three of them working together was more than enough to wrangle in the Hoverby, and soon enough, they had pulled it to the ground. Being the closest, Grayson pinned it down, its two rotary engines still whirring along. It glared at him with its glowing red eyes, and the quokka grimaced.

"Eugh...creepy bastard," he mumbled, keeping both feet on the rope close to the Hoverby, in case it tried to fly away when he took his hands off of it. He pulled the rucksack he was wearing off his back, and, as he expected, the Hoverby tried to take to the sky once more, but only managed to get about a foot into the air. Grayson smirked a bit as he pulled a screwdriver out of his rucksack.

"Let's take a look under the hood, shall we?" he asked, turning back towards the Hoverby. The quoll, Alexis, knelt down near the two.

"What, you gonna reprogram that thing?" she asked. Using both hands to roughly shove the Hoverby back down to earth, he tried to find a removable plate or something on its body.

"Well, I'm going to try to," he said, managing to turn the still-struggling Hoverby around. There was a medium-sized plate on its back, held on with four screws.

"Bingo."

After quite literally shoving the Hoverby onto its face, he motioned for Alexis to help him pin it down while he unscrewed the plate; inside was a collection of wires and metal bits. Grayson frowned as he mulled over the sight.

"Hmm...what if I...?"

Pulling a thin, metal rod out of his rucksack, he used that in conjunction with the screw to fiddle around with the Hoverby's innards. He wasn't really sure what he was going to accomplish, but he had spent enough time tinkering around with relatively simple electronics to have some kind of idea.

"Wait! I think I'm on to something...!"

A few seconds more, and, seemingly satisfied, Grayson placed the plate back onto the Hoverby, screwing it in place.

"Okay, let go of it now," he said, nodding towards Alexis. As she took her hands off of the Hoverby, so did Grayson, and it started to once more try and fly into the air, albeit slowly. Hovering about two feet off the ground (Grayson had given the still-attached rope a good amount of slack), it looked around, as if confused and dazed.

"Did its eyes change colors...?" Alexis asked, looking confused herself. Grayson tilted his head to the side, getting a better look at the Hoverby's face; indeed, its eyes had gone from red to blue.

"Well...that's interesting. Hopefully that's not the only thing that changed about it..."

Alexis frowned as she lightly tapped on the Hoverby's face.

"Hey! Are you good, now?"

The blue-eyed Badnik just stared at her. Grayson chuckled a bit.

"I'm not that good of a mechanic to be able to give it free will," he admitted, rubbing the back of his head. "But...I can probably give it simple commands to follow."

"Probably?" Alexis asked, raising an eyebrow. The quokka rubbed his chin, before smiling.

"Okay, Badnik, fly over to that rock over there!" said Grayson, pointing at a large, gray, and entirely unremarkable rock about ten feet away from the three Mobians. Rotors whirring, the Badnik did as it was asked, turning around to face Grayson after reaching its destination. He pumped his fist.

"Yes!"

"Well, I'll be damned," said Jesse, arms crossed. "It actually listened to you."

The quoll frowned as Jesse walked towards the Hoverby, now.

"Okay, so, great, we have a pet Badnik now," she said, staring at the robotic being with arms crossed. "What the heck do we do with it?"

Grayson rubbed the back of his head.

"I...never really thought that far," he admitted, looking sheepish. Jesse tilted her head to the side as she undid the rope around the Hoverby's rotary engine.

"Well, it did follow Grayson's command," she said. "Perhaps we could have it function as a...sort of patrol? Say, have it keep an eye out for enemies, for us."

"That could work," said Grayson, nodding. "The only problem is, I might have to keep tinkering with it, so it can actually recognize what would be an enemy and what wouldn't be..."

Once released, the Hoverby flew over to the quokka, hovering curiously in front of him. He chuckled.

"It seems to like me, though," he said, patting the space between its antenna. "I'm sorry I called you a creepy bastard, you're honestly kinda cute."

Alexis rolled her eyes.

"Please don't tell me you're going to name it or something..."

~ Part 3 ~

        It had been about an hour since Jesse, Alexis, and Grayson had encountered the Hoverby, and now said Badnik was following them around like a flying, purple, vaguely egg-shaped puppy. Much to Alexis' annoyance, Grayson had indeed ended up giving the robot a name; Jerry, of all things.

"I can't believe you gave that thing a name," she grumbled, arms crossed. "Now you're going to get attached to it..."

Grayson frowned, looking somewhat confused.

"I don't see what the big deal is," he said, raising an eyebrow. "I mean, you make it sound like I gotta get rid of Jerry..."

Alexis rolled her eyes, arms behind her head, now.

"I'm not saying that; but you realize that thing's not sentient, right? It's not an animal or anything, it's just a robot."

"Hey, Jerry's not just a robot! He's part of our team, now!"

Jesse stopped in her tracks, and held up a hand.

"Hold up, mates," she said, turning her head towards what seemed to be the entrance of a small cave, naturally formed into the walls of the gulch. Frowning a bit, she approached it, walking inside and looking around.

"What are you doing?" Alexis asked, now following her friend into the cave; the cave was fairly small, about the size of the average living room, and fairly nondescript, otherwise.

~ Chapter 1 ~ Chapter 2 ~

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