Castle Acorn shook violently as yet another explosion went off.
From within it's crumbling halls, a baby began to wail from it's crib.
obviously terrified at the loud noises, and earth shakes.
a flash of yellow lightning entered the room.
"Shhhh..Don't cry, Cait. Mommy's here." spoke a blonde, human woman.
Bella quickly took baby Caitlin out of her crib, blanket and all.
she rocked her gently, trying to calm the still wailing mobilander.
But, it was hard to calm your baby..when you YOURSELF are close to a panic attack.
"BELLA!!" called a voice. Bella looked,
and saw a familiar mobian rabbit at the doorway.
"What are ya' STILL doin' here?!" exclaimed Hopper.
"Th' castle is gonna collapse ANY TIME NOW!"
"I had to come back for Caitlin!" cried Bella.
"I am NOT abandoning my baby!!"
Hopper breathed out. "Al'ight. Ah'm sorry, Ah' didn't know.
But we HAVE to git' outta here, Bell. NOW!!"
Bella ran towards Hopper quickly. no sooner had they exited
the nursery, however..the room suddenly caved in.
Bella shrieked, shocked at the piles burning debre that now filled the room.
"oh, my god..I-, that could've been..oh god." Bella was close to a mental breakdown.
"COME ON!!" said Hopper, taking Bella's hand.
"We can't stop, We've GOT ta' keep movin!!"
Bella (broken out of her trance) nodded, and ran with Hopper.
While she COULD move at super speed on her own,
she didn't want to freak her baby out any more than she already was.
So, for the moment. She had to run at an average speed.
As the two ran, they heard more ear-splitting explosions
followed by shockwaves that nearly knocked them both to their feet.
Everywhere, they saw crumbling debre, shattered glass
and open doorways bursting with flames.
Suddenly, a ceiling collapsed. blocking the hallway with burning debre.
"THIS WAY, HURRY!!"
Hopper led Bella down another corridor. The rabbit breathed heavily,
desperate to find a way out of this now hellish labyrinth.
Hopper and Bella soon entered a large chamber.
Bella then stopped for a moment to look out the shattered scenic window.
Outside, she could see the kingdom of New Mobotropolis in ruins.
The Egg Fleet filled the now blood red skies,
dropping more bombs down upon the already crumbling city.
Bella froze. It just didn't seem real. Mobotropolis under siege..AGAIN.
It was just like when Robotnik invaded Empire City when she was just a little girl.
HOW could this be happening again!?"
"BELLA, WATCH OUT!!" shouted Hopper.
"Wha-AHH!!" Bella jumped back as the floor crumbled under her feet.
she managed to side-step at super speed, and avoid falling into the deep pit.
But, NOW, there was a wide chasm dividing her, from Hopper..AND, freedom.
"HOPPER!!, FLY US OVER!!" called Bella.
"AH' CAN'T!!" called back Hopper. "MAH' JET THRUSTERS ARE DAMAGED!"
"YER GONNA HAF'TA JUMP!" shouted Hopper.
"ARE YOU CRAZY?!, I CAN'T JUMP OVER THIS!!" exclaimed Bella.
"YA' CAN IF YA' RUN FAST ENOUGH!!"
"BELLA, WE DON'T HAVE TAH'ME FER' THIS!!" shouted Hopper, frantically.
"JUST..GIT'A RUNNIN' START, AN' JUMP!!"
Bella stared down at the chasm. It was so deep, she couldn't see the bottom.
she stepped back. then, she looked at the baby in her arms. HER baby.
Caitlin looked back at her. the baby was clenching
at her shirt with her tiny hands, a scared look in her eyes.
Bella frowned, sharing in her daughter's fear.
"HURRY, BELLA!!" called Hopper, getting anxious.
Bella hugged her baby close, and whispered a silent prayer.
she then ran as far back as she could.
Taking a series of deep breaths, she sprinted foward,
leaving a trail of yellow lighting in her wake.
But, AS she ran at super speed..the floor behind her began to crumble.
She took a deep breath, and performed a flying leap.
she glided in mid-air over the chasm..BUT, the gasped as she began to drop.
Hopper reacted quickly, and shot out his bionic arm.
extending it outward, and snagging Bella's wrist.
With one arm desperately holding onto Caitlin,
Bella struggled to grasp Hopper as she dangled over the deep pit.
"hold..on..b-bella.." groaned Hopper.
tears streamed down Bella's cheek, terrified at what was to come.
Hopper planted both his mechanical feet firmly into the ground.
gritting his teeth, the rabbit slowly began to retract his robotic arm.
After some effort, Hopper was finally able to pull Bella up.
the two then took a moment to catch their breaths
"th-thank you..Hopper." gasped Bella between breaths.
"It ain't..over yet."
Hopper then took Bella by the hand again, and continue running.
The two eventually reached the Ballroom.
where the door to the main hall leading out was.
As they made a run for it past the crumbling, burning debre.
the doors leading out were suddenly blown apart.
"AHHH!!" screamed Bella, as blistering heat beat down on her.
The two looked, and saw a shadowy figure emerging from the flames.
they both froze is horror as the figure finally approached them.
the figure was metallic, and colored light brown, and blue.
with glowing red eyes staring right at them.
"sal..no." chocked Bella, a tear in her eye.
"GIT' BEHIND ME, BELL!!" said Hopper, as he stood defensively between the two.
Bella couldn't help but stare blankly as the robotocized form
of her husband slowly approached, his foot steps clanking.
(("BY THE AUTHORITY OF EGGWOMAN..")) began Mecha Sal,
his voice mechanical. (("SURRENDER. OR, BE TERMINATED.")) ********** Caitlin's eyes suddenly shot open as she awoke. she rose up, finding herself in an unfamiliar room. Her memories suddenly all came flooding back. Huffing, the mobilander got out of the bed that she was in. put her gear back on, and made her way out the door. [Meanwhile, Elsewhere in Castle Acorn] Prince Sal casually walked into the guest room of Castle Acorn, where he saw a familiar faces waiting for him. "SONIC, HOPPER. Good to see you." Hopper stood up, and gave his closest friend a hug. "Congratulations, Sal." began Hopper. "Antoinette told me the good news." "I know." said Sal, barely able to suppress his joy. "I'm a DADDY!" Hopper smiled as he lightly jabbed at Sal's shoulder. "Welcome to mah' club, Sal. You hav'a lot to look forward to." Sonic the stepped up. "tell me. Is Bella okay?!" Sal nodded. "She's fine. We had a few close calls, but she's okay." "Oh, thank Aurora." said Sonic, relieved. "When you told me she only JUST gave birth, I nearly fainted." "yeah." added Hopper. "Her due date wasn't fer' a'nother three weeks." Sal shrugged. "The doctor thinks the shock may've induced a pre-mature labor. I'm just glad the baby turned out okay..And, that Bella survived the experience." Sonic scowled darkly. "I can't believe someone tried to kill Bell." "Alotta' people have tried to kill her, sugar-hog." said Hopper. "This was different!" argued Sonic, getting emotional. "This wasn't like when I fight Eggwoman, or when Bella fights Ms. Zero. Someone tried to assassinate her right out in public!! and, worse. She is pregnant!, What kind of sicko would DO that!!?" "Jennifer." said Sal, stoically Hopper and Sonic looked at Sal. "what?" "It was Jennifer St. John. SHE was the assassin." Hopper and Sonic just stared blankly, as if trying to process what they had just heard. "yer' kiddin." said Hopper, finally. "JENNIFER did this!?" Sal nodded. "The bullet was manufactured by the same private company that provided the royal army with their weapons. AND, while there were no fingerprints. Jennifer's "unique scent" was all over the bullet." Sal breathed out. "And, besides that: Caitlin told me." "Caitlin?" said Sonic, puzzled. "my daughter. SHE told me." Hopper stifled a chuckle. "Yer' BABY told you it was Jennifer?!" "Sort of. (turns to Sonic) Sonic, do you recall that flash of light that occurred during Bella's failed assassination??" "Yeah.." said Sonic, waiting for a clear answer. "That light came from another speedster..one from the future." "The future?..You mean like Silver?!" inquired Sonic. "Yes, though not quite as far away." "wait-Wait'a minute." interjected Hopper. "Lemme see if ah' got this all straight. Jennifer St. John tried to assassinate Bella. But, she was saved at the last minute by a'nother speedster from th' future who is also yer' daughter, who was only JUST born." Sal nodded. "Hm-Mm. that's exactly what happened." Hopper still looked bewildered. "Why is nothin' ev'ah normal fer' us?? Why is ev'ry weekend like an episode of Space Trek!?" "Keeps things more interesting." said Sonic, with a grin. "We'll..Talk more about all this, LATER." said Sal. "You probably want to see Bella, and the baby." "YES. we would love that." said Sonic "Then, come with me. Bella is in the parlor with her." Sonic and Hopper walked with Sal out of the guest room, and down a hall. as they neared the doors leading into the parlor, Sal gently opened them. Sonic, and Hopper looked inside. And, saw Bella sitting on a rocking chair before the lit fireplace. Bella was humming a soft tune as she held something close to her chest. "Bella, hon." said Sal, softly. "OH!" jumped Bella, startled. Bella quickly covered herself up, and scooted her chair around. "SONIC..Hopper." began Bella. "I wasn't expecting you so soon." "Well, after Sal told us the good news, you couldn't KEEP us away." said Sonic. Sonic looked down at the lumped shape at Bella's chest. "Is that..can we see??" Bella smiled sheepishly as she pulled the blanket down. revealing a brown furred, humanoid infant suckling her right breast. "OHHHHHH!!..." cooed Sonic, loudly. Hopper's face turned red, feeling slightly embarrassed at seeing Bella's bare 'boob' hanging out. BUT, he too found himself more focused on the baby. "What a precious lil' youngin." said Hopper. "Why, she reminds me of mah' lil' Patty when Ah' first held her." Bella smiled warmly as she held baby Caitlin close. "She's so beautiful. I love her so much." "She takes after her mother." said Sal, smiling at his 'in-joke'. Bella finally pulled Caitlin from her. she looked to Sonic, and handed the infant to her. "here..hold her." Sonic was reluctant, but the hedgehog finally took the baby in her arms. as she cradled her against her chest, Caitlin made tiny, squeak-like noises. Sonic broke down in a smile, her own maternal instincts kicking in. Caitlin then opened her blue eyes, and looked up at the blue hedgehog. "hey there, little gal.." began Sonic, softly. "do you know who I am?, I'm your "Auntie Sonic." Caitlin responds with a wide, high pitched yawn. the baby mobilander then rested her head against Sonic's chest. Sonic teared up, feeling emotions overwhelming her. "I think she likes you." said Sal, with wit. Sonic smiled warmly as she held Caitlin tightly. for a moment..she forgot she was Bella's baby, and thought she was hers. But, then remembered that she herself was pregnant. and, couldn't help but feel excited to hold her own baby like this. "Can I?" Sonic looked to Hopper, who had his hands reached out. finally, she gave Caitlin to the cyborg, who gently held her close to him. Hopper smiled, having brief flashbacks to when Patty was a baby. For just a moment, the rabbit thought he was in the past. Holding his adoptive daughter for the first time. "Such a cutie." said Hopper. "I gotta hand it to ya', Sal. Ya' made a good kid." "Ah-HEM." Bella glared at Hopper. "Ah' mean..Ya' BOTH did." said Hopper, sheepishly. Hopper handed Caitlin back to Sal, who gently cradled his daughter, smiling happily. "I never knew being a parent could feel this good." began Sal. "I know there will be difficult times ahead, but.. somehow they just don't seem that bad, anymore." "Especially since we NOW know how she will turn out, eventually." said Bella. Sonic looked at Bella. "You mean..the Caitlin from the Future?" Bella nodded. "Yes. and, let me tell you. I've never been more proud to be a mother. I gave Caitlin life..and, She SAVED mine in return." Sonic smiled, finding that irony heartwarming. "Is she still here?" asked Hopper. "Yes." said Sal, handing baby Caitlin back to Bella. "She is resting after suffering a series of headaches. Bella thinks It may be a a side-effect of her time jumping for the first time." Bella looked to Sonic. "She is not the only one that I owe my life to. Caitlin told me she had help in traveling back in time to save me." "What do you mean?" inquired Sonic. "Caitlin said that a hedgehog named "Dash" helped to give her enough of a speed boost to travel back in time." "Dash??" said Sonic, intrigued at that name. "He's your SON, Sonic. You're having a boy." said Bella. and, I owe your son my life just as much as I do Caitlin." Sonic stepped back, stunned. The hedgehog stared blankly as she tried to process what Bella had just told her. "S-Son.." blurted out Sonic. "m-My son..saved-" Sonic gripped her protruding waist, still in utter shock. "WOW." said Hopper. "This just keep getin' weirder, and weirder." "BELLAAAAA.." Bella, and everyone looked to see a familiar human couple enter. "MOM!, DAD!!" exclaimed Bella, Happily. "You're HERE." Barb rushed over, and hugged her daughter. "Not even Toxic Storms could keep me away from you. Especially not NOW." Tim also hugged Bella. "We cancelled everything. NOTHING is more important to us." Bella grew teary eyed. "thank you. that means alot to me." The two immediately looked at the furry humanoid infant in their daughter's arms. "Is that..oh my gosh." Bella smiled as she showed her mother, and father Caitlin. "Yep. Say his to your granddaughter. Caitlin." As Bella held baby Caitlin up, Barb just about lost it. "OHHH!!, Lemme hold her!" The older woman immediately scooped the baby up. she smiled as she cradled her new granddaughter." "I can't believe it..I'm a GRANDMA!!" As Barb fawned over her new grandchild, Tim looked to Sal Acorn. The mobian prince wasn't sure what to expect from his father-in-law.. UNTIL he extended his hand to him, smiling. "welcome to fatherhood..SON." Sal smiled as he took Tim's hand, and shook it. "So..does this mean we're friends, now?" Tim shrugged. "Well..My granddaughter now shares her DNA with yours. So, yes. We are now officially *family*, so let us "engulf the cleaver." Sal grinned at Tim's choice in words. "Sure. BYGONES." "Just promise me something." began Tim. "Sure. anything." "As one father to another..Promise me you will do a better job raising your daughter than *I* did." Sal raised an eyebrow. "Come again??" Tim sighed. "Lord knows that I tried my best. BUT, let us face the facts: I haven't exactly been history's "Best" father." Bella and Barb finally looked at Tim and Sal. "Oh, don't be that way." said Sal. "You did fine." "FINE" wasn't good enough." said Tim. "I should've been better. BUT, I was always busy with work. I tried to make time, but I still missed out on so much." "You shouldn't be so hard on yourself, honey." said Barb. "You DO recall that we got caught in the middle of TWO wars." "That is little excuse in the long run." retorted Tim. "Daddy..It's okay. I'm not mad at you about any of that." Tim looked at his daughter. Who while obviously a grown woman, STILL looked very much like a child in his eyes. "Were you EVER angry with me before?, at ANY point in your life??" Bella wanted to say 'No'. But..thinking back, she knew that to say such a thing would be a lie. Bella's silence was all the answer that Tim needed. "Prince Salvador Acorn, I will ask of you AGAIN: Be a better father than I was. MAKE time for your daughter no matter what, and don't brush her aside." Tim stared intensely into the chipmunk's eyes. "Because when the day comes when YOUR daughter has her own baby, I hope you can say to your own son-in-law with honesty that you were a good parent, if not the best." Sal stared blankly, a bit put off at the image of Caitlin grown up, and having her own baby (It didn't help that he ALREADY knew what Caitlin looked like grown up, either.) But, the chipmunk sighed, and gripped Tim's hand. "I promise..I'll be the best father that I can be. No matter what happens, Caitlin will ALWAYS be more top priority." Bella frowned, then looked to her parents, again. "Mom. Dad. There is something else that I need to tell you about Caitlin.." [Meanwhile..] It was darkly lit in the underground dungeons of Castle Acorn. In a small, energized cell at the end of the narrow corridor, a female mobian skunk sat alone in silence. Jennifer St. John had her legs folded as she remained deep in thought. She knew that her life as she knew it was all over. She had tried, and FAILED to assassinate the Overlander Wife of Prince Sal, AND the unborn mobilander who would grow to become heir to the throne. And, WORSE. Queen Maxine now KNEW that she was the would-be assassin. Meaning if she wasn't executed, she would surely be stripped of her rank, and title as Captain of the Royal Guard. a Position that her own mother, Iana St. John, once held before her. a fact that she had great pride over for many, MANY years. But, now..she had lost it. In one swift moment, she had lost it all.. She would see the kingdom she had served for so long be ruled by an Overlander Queen. And, would continue to be ruled by an Overlander halfling LONG after her own death, whenever THAT may be. And, for the rest of Mobotropolin history..The name "St. John" will forever be remembered as the name of a "Traitor", rather than a "Heroine." Jennifer shed a tear, feeling she had failed her mother, and shamed her memory. Though, perhaps NOT in the way she *thinks* she has. Jennifer was soon broken from her grief, by a sudden sound. *clik-clak, Clik-Clak, CLIK-CLAK* Jennifer stood up, and watched as a shadowy figure approached her cell. She didn't have to see it's face. She recognized the shape of the figure. It was the mysterious speedster who attacked her earlier. The one who foiled her assassination attempt, and beat her near to death. Once the figure stopped a few feet away from the cell, Jennifer stared at the figure, while the figure no doubt stared at HER. "are you..here to kill me?" asked Jennifer, mildly worried. "I want to." replied the speedster, her voice sounding normal, and not distorted like before. "GOD, how I want to make you suffer like I had to suffer. But..It isn't up to me. You will be judged before the Queen, and the court of Mobotropolin Law. you WILL face justice for your crimes." "Is patriotism really a crime?" said Jennifer, sternly. "Don't give me any of that crap!, You KNOW what you tried to do." snapped the speedster. "You tried to murder a pregnant woman. NOTHING could justify that..not even Specism." Jennifer's eyes softened. "You told me earlier that I killed someone close to you. Tell me..What did I do to you that makes you hate me so much??" "It doesn't matter, anymore." said the Speedster. "I NEED TO KNOW!" exclaimed Jennifer. "I DON'T GIVE A FRAK WHAT YOU WANT!!' snapped the Speedster, viciously. Jennifer frowned. "Look..When I was a child, I lost my mother to overlanders in the Great War. I hated them for that. I still do. and, I never want anyone to have to suffer as I had to.." Jennifer sighed. "But, If I have done just that to you..I am so very sorry. So, PLEASE. tell me what I did to you. tell me..who I killed. I'll never with with myself unless I know." The speedster stood still for nearly half a minute. Then, she finally approached Jennifer's cell. Unveiling her face in the dim light. "My name..is Caitlin. PRINCESS. Caitlin. Acorn." Jennifer stepped back, stunned. "And, you killed my mother." continued Caitlin. "In the future I came from..You killed her, and tried to kill ME. But, Dad was able to save me. he found out what you did, and had you executed. Because of YOU, I grew up without a mother. And, my father was never the same. becoming a sad, and lonely king." Caitlin leaned closer, staring straight into Jennifer's eyes. "I hated you. you were already long dead, but I still hated you. I traveled back in time to stop you. to save my mother..AND, my father." Jennifer stared blankly at the apparently daughter of his crush, and Prince. "I don't know what they'll do to you." continued Caitlin. "If they don't put you to death, then I hope they just leave you to rot in here. You are NEVER going to harm me, or my family ever again. I stopped you. I saved my mom..and, I'm finally free of you." Caitlin then turned, and with a cold expression walked away. leaving Jennifer alone, and stunned to silence. [To be Continued..]