Fifteen

The cool snowy air was drowned over in a roaring engine and Regina's high-pitched screaming.

The motorcycle crashed tire-first into snow-covered rocks below. Metal and rubber flew in all different directions, but that wasn't the end of this ride. The bike then bounced off another jagged surface and rolled hard down a slope of sharp terrain, before being launched into the air slightly and smashed into more rocks below. The motorcycle, with Regina and Timmons still on it, then fell a short distance and impacted grass.

Regina's body ached all over. She took a moment to crawl out from under the sidecar, which had luckly taken most of the damage for her. Timmons, however, wasn't so lucky. Compared to Regina, who escaped with only a few scrapes, and a gash above her brow, the fox lay stomach-first a few feet from the overturned motorcycle. His body was broken in hundreds of places, both arms were dislocated, broken-off rocks and metal protruded from his body, and a large pool of blood streamed out from under him.

"Timmons!" Regina cried. She limped as fast as she could over to her friend and fell to her knees. Timmons didn't respond, nor did he move. "Timmons! Timmons, please say something!"

Nothing. All that moved was the sun's glint in the fox's wide, vacant eyes.

Regina burst into uncontrolable sobbing and fell overtop Timmons's corpse. This had to be a dream. How could he have been dead? It was supposed to be impossible! Oh, how could The Oracle stand by and let this happen? How?!

As Regina wept and clung onto her friend, her digits slid across something behind Timmons's right ear. Sniffling, she pushed back fur and saw that something was lodged into the fox's head.

It suddenly all made sense.

Without giving it a second thought, Regina took hold of the object and slowly began to withdraw what turned out to be a piece of handle-bar from Timmons' skull. Blood spurt out all over her paws, but Regina didn't care, for after the obstical was finally removed, Timmons suddenly inhaled deeply. The gaping wound behind his ear seamlessly sealed shut, as did all his other cuts and gashes. His broken bones healed with a sick crunching sound, and his shoulders crawled back into their sockets.

With a squeal of delight, Regina threw her arms around the dozy fox and smothered him with loving kisses.

"Wha--? Regi? What happened?"

Regina couldn't answer. She was too busy laughing and crying all at the same time. Praise The Oracle! she thought.

"Regi? Regi, are you all right? What happened!?"

Regina pulled back and stared into Timmons' eyes. "I love you! I thought you were dead, but … but you weren't! Something was stuck in your brain, and I guess because it was lodged in such a way, your healing power couldn't push it out, and you just fell into a sleep!"

A weak smile grew on Timmons's face, and he embraced Regina tightly. He now understood what she was laughing about – though serious at the time, it was utterly absurd to think that he was actually dead. After this realization, he too, started to laugh.

"What kept you so long?" Tetra asked with a wry grin. Timmons and Regina found him in front of a morning fire, reclined against a rock with his arms crossed.

"Funny," Timmons replied gruffly. He squatted near the fire and rummaged around for any remains of breakfast. "You didn't eat everything, did you?"

"Of course not," Tetra replied. "I just had some eggs and mutton."

"A nice healthy helping, I see." Timmons frowned into the almost-empty tin.

"Is Ash still asleep?" Regina asked.

Tetra clicked his tongue and pointed behind him with his thumb.

"I'll go wake him," she said, and hurried off to the sleeping bags.

Timmons looked around the fire pit briefly, and sighed in relief when he found more than half a container full of mutton. "I'm glad you and Ashley went on ahead. I'd hate it if we escaped and the two of you were wandering aimlessly in the mountain, trying to find us."

"I figured it's what you'd want."

Timmons spooned some out onto a dish and noticed that Tetra was watching him. "What?"

Tetra shifted and put his paws behind his head. "What's gonna happen?"

"Another Prime Minister will be elected, I guess. Or Vidians will work together through equal rights."

Tetra clicked his tongue again. "No. I mean between you and the girl."

Timmons didn't answer.

Tetra closed his eyes. "She can't stay young forever, you know. She'll age, and die eventually."

"…I know."

"Won't that be depressing? Loving a mortal, just to see her wilt away, and watch over her grave, every day, for all of eternity?"

Timmons didn't respond.

Tetra cleared his throat, and nestled against the rock. "So. What did you two do last night? Anything interesting?"

"Don't be crude!" Timmons snapped. "Nothing happened."

Tetra opened one eye and stared at him.

"We kissed. That's all."

"If you say so."

Timmons growled. "Shut up and go help roll the sleeping bags."

"What about you?"

"I'm making breakfast!"

The party began their move at by 10:00, and rode on for most of the day. They stopped momentarily a few times to let the horses rest and drink from the river that followed them alongside.

When nightfall hit, a cold, harsh breeze overtook the air, which forced the group to stop again, and bundle themselves and the horses in the warmest blankets they carried.

"Are we almost there?" Ash asked through chattering teeth. He was clutching tightly to the reins of his horse, while nearly completely covered by a blanket.

"I can't tell," Tetra responded from his horse. "This wind is making my eyes water so much my vision is blurry. How about you guys?"

"The wind's affecting my eyes as well," Timmons agreed. "I can't see a damned thing!"

Regina, who was sharing the same horse as Timmons, squinted hard, and peered past his side. The wind struck her in the eyes, and she used her paw as a visor to see. Through the darkness, she could make out small lights in the distance. "There!" she cried. "Just past that hill over there. I can see Garia!"

The wind grew more ferocious as the four companions pushed onward through the cold night. Thanks to their long coats of fur, as well as their clothing, they were not as cold as the horses.

There were three heavy knocks at Dwain's door late that night. When the hedgehog went to see who was rudely disturbing his sleep after a long hard day, he was more than surprised to see Regina at the door, as well as two strangers.

"Regina!" he cried. "What are you doing here? More importantly, where have you been?!" He pulled her in out of the cold, and without an invitation, Timmons and Ash stepped into the entryway afterward.

"I … I've been away," Regina told Dwain, while avoiding his eyes.

"Where? I was almost ready to have the Alliance go looking for you! Everyone at your work's been calling my house, wondering why you have been missing shifts."

"She's been with me," Timmons replied.

Dwain looked up into the cold, gray eyes of the black fox, and he cowered, a chill of terror coursing through his entire body. "You – you're…" But he couldn't say any more. Instead, he only raised his arm and pointed shakily in Timmons's direction.

"Don't point. It's rude," Timmons said in a low voice.

"He kidnapped you, didn't he!" Dwain declared. "He kidnapped you and this child, and now he wants me, is that it? Well that's not the case!"

"Dwain! What are you doing!?" Regina asked.

"I'm calling the police." He picked up the receiver and went to dial, when a gentle paw touched the back of his. Dwain looked up and into Regina's soft, caring, blue eyes.

"Don't, Dwain. He's harmless," she assured him.

"There's no need to worry, Mr. Spikeclaw," Tetra said suddenly. He entered the house from tying up the horses. "The heretic is under my arrest. He cannot harm you as long as I'm here."

"Commander Blacktail, I didn't realize – "

"It's all right. I found your fiancée and the child being held captive under this criminal, not far from Durnham," Tetra explained. "But, I haven't any transport to take the heretic back to Doblah – Regina said you could help me get an airship."

"Y – yes … Of course. But there's just one problem…"

"What?"

"I'm not an idiot," Dwain frowned. "It just so happens that all of the Alliance, and everyone who works in Prime Minister Lablanche's government received memorandums a few days ago, stating what you and the heretic here have been planning."

"Will you stop calling me that!" Timmons growled. "And besides, do you even know what's going on in Doblah? What Zoot's plan with the Alliance is?"

"No, but – "

"Then I suggest you hang up the phone, and make some tea."

Regina spent a good amount of the hour relaying everything that had happened to her, Timmons, and Ash thus far. After she finished, Timmons took up the mantle and carefully began to tell Dwain everything he witnessed and knew about Zoot's plan to take control of the Elemental Crystals and destroy the planet with Dark Energy.

"That's preposterous!" Dwain scoffed. The five of them sat around the dimly lit living room, some candles and a lamp in the corner, their only source of light. "How can you expect me to believe all of this garbage? First you kidnap my girl, and now you try to tell me my Prime Minister is some evil mastermind? You're out of your mind."

"Dwain…" Regina said softly.

"Please, Mr. Spikeclaw," Timmons said with a hard face and tone. "If you don't take us straight to Doblah, you will be making a grave mistake. I'm not willing to have come all this way, while risking so many lives, for you to be a burden on my shoulders."

"No," Dwain said firmly. "I won't do it."

"Then we won't leave." Tetra blinked. "It's that simple. The longer you refuse to take us, the longer we'll stay here under your bill. And trust me, I'm a very messy person to live with."

"He is," Timmons agreed.

"I'm also quite fond of room service," Tetra then added.

"Please, Dwain, you have to believe us!" Regina begged. "You're the only person who can help us stop Prime Minister Lablanche from destroying the planet!"

"Regina, I'm ashamed of you!" the hedgehog spat. "You go wandering about with a wanted criminal, without telling anyone where you're going, and you let this – this heretic warp your mind to make you believe all of these fantastical things!"

Regina stood up from where she was sitting. "He's not a heretic," she cried, "he's my friend!"

"What do you know, you stupid girl!?" Dwain shot at her, also standing up. "How can you believe anything he tells you? What proof do you have that the Prime Minister is planning all of this? Don't you think that of the both of us, I would know, seeing as I work in his government offices?"

"My dreams, the agony in my stomach, and the Crystals calling to me every time I cross paths with the Alliance is all the proof I need!"

"Oh, don't get all Witchcrafty on me, woman."

Regina slapped Dwain hard across the jaw.

A dead silence crept over the entire living room. Timmons and Tetra exchanged glances at each other, and Ash nestled uncomfortably against the recliner he sat in, while Regina and Dwain stood nose to nose in the middle of the room.

"It's not called Witchcraft, you over-egotistical ass," Regina said sharply as Dwain massaged his tender cheek. "It's called The Oracle needing our help – something you can't seem to comprehend in that pea-brain of yours." And with that, she stormed off.

After a long moment of uncomfortable silence, Tetra cleared his throat and said, "Jeez, Dwain. Learn to control your woman. Mreowrr!" He looked over to share a laugh with Timmons, but was surprised to see that his brother was gone.

Timmons found Regina sitting on the safehouse's veranda. "Hey," he said softly, and sat down beside her.

"I'm sorry you had to see that…" Regina said.

Timmons shrugged. "I'm used to seeing raw emotion. I see it all the time in the eyes of people who are coming at me with a sword above their head."

There was a short period of silence between the two.

"So, I guess this is it, huh?" Regina said with an ironic little laugh. "We come so far, just to be shot down by the most important piece of the puzzle."

"Don't say that," Timmons assured. "We'll find a way to Doblah somehow. I know we will."

"I hope so," Regina sighed. "But … think about it. Really, how can we hope to save the world, when we can't even save ourselves? The three of us – we're all unstable people."

"What do you mean?"

"Well … You're riddled with guilt about your daughter, I'm mentally weak, and poor Ash … He's gonna be scarred for the rest of his life, losing his mother at such an early age. I can already see changes in him from what happened."

"We're only mammals, Regi. None of us is perfect."

"I know, but I've been watching him closely, and I think the only reason he fights alongside you is because he's hoping something will come along and kill him."

Timmons frowned. "He'll be disappointed to know he can't die if it turns out he's really a Gi." The fox then leaned in to give Regina a hug. "Give it time, Regi," he said. "Let him sleep on it. I'm sure when the time rolls around, Ash will come to accept what has happened."

There was another brief pause before Regina lifted her head to speak again.

"Are you still going to drink the Unicorn Blood?"

"…I don't know."

Regina caressed his hair gently as she studied his eyes. "Please, at least, think about it before you decide, all right?"

"Of course," Timmons nodded, and he leaned in to share another kiss with her.

But through the window, where the two of them couldn't see, Dwain stood silent and still, watching them with a broken, fuming heart.

"Regina … Regina Lepue …

"The time is near for the six of us to meet … Please come to the mountains, for only one of a pure heart may bring us back together … Evil's intentions brew stronger, and time is growing short…"

Regina awoke to another agonizing pain in her stomach, late the next morning. After the feeling finally subsided, she stared up at the ceiling for a moment to collect her thoughts, and then sat up in the bed to let the blood in her head settle. Another cry of help from the Elemental Crystals came to her in a dream form, but the words they spoke weren't clear to her right away.

She shut her eyes tightly and massaged her temples as she tried to remember the rest of the dream, but nothing was coming to mind at the moment. Only a deep sense of anxiousness burrowed its way into her heart.

"Regina!"

She opened her eyes and sat upright.

"Regina! Breakfast is ready!"

The fresh smell of bacon and eggs filled the air as Regina came into the kitchen area, where all but Dwain were seated. He was busy making toast.

"Did you sleep well?" Timmons asked once Regina sat down.

"Yeah…" She rubbed her eyes slightly and gazed down at her plate of eggs.

"What a beautiful house," Tetra remarked to no one in particular. "I can't wait to start rearranging furniture and put up some pictures."

"You won't be doing any of that," Dwain said, placing a plate with a large pile of toast on it down in the middle of the table. He then proceeded to speak as he sat down beside Regina. "I'm taking you to Doblah after breakfast."

Ash immediately stopped chewing, and Tetra began to choke on his first mouthful of toast. Regina looked up at her ex-fiancée in surprise, but Timmons's face had an unreadable expression on it.

"Are you serious?" Ash asked incrediously.

Dwain nodded.

"You know, by going ahead with this, you will become just as wanted as myself and my brother," Timmons said.

"I know. But I've seen the light. I now realize just what a scum bucket Lablanche really is, and I want to stop him before he destroys us all!" Dwain declared. He smiled widely and lifted a glass of orange juice into the air. "A toast. To us, the rebellion!"

"We're not a political rebellion, Dwain." Regina blinked. "This journey we're on is in the name of the Oracle."

"Who cares what kind of journey we're on?" Tetra laughed. "We have ourselves an airship!" With that, he also lifted his glass and clinked it against Dwain's. Regina and Timmons glanced at each other, and they, with Ash, hesitantly lifted their glasses as well.

"To the Oracle!" Dwain declared.

"And to our new friend!" Tetra added.

Without another word, all five glasses clinked together.

After breakfast, Dwain led the group down into the den. He walked over to a massive bookshelf, and smiled at his guests. "All right, well here we are."

Tetra blinked. "What are you talking about? This is just a den. Where's the airship?"

Dwain laughed. "You'll see, my friend." He turned slightly to face the bookshelf, and studied the spines for a moment, before he finally reached up above him, and tugged one forward.

A low rumbling sound erupted in the room, and smoke began to seep out from underneath the bookshelf. Dwain stood back with the others as the rumbling grew louder. Slowly, the bookshelf began to lift up, and soon revealed a stairwell, leading down into blackness.

"Follow me," the hedgehog said, and he proceeded to lead the group past the hidden opening, and down into a large, cold dungeon, where only black could be seen.

Regina heard someone scuffling away from the group, and she winced as a bright light suddenly flashed in front of her, invading her tender retinas. When her eyes finally adjusted, they grew wide in surprise.

Sitting docked under a massive spotlight rested a large, black ship. The great, golden mast was drawn, and standing atop four pillars on either side of the deck, were four intimidating propellers. Regina, like everyone else, studied the airship with awe, and her eyes fell upon a large, red "A", painted near the front of the ship.

Dwain proceeded to climb the stairs to the airship, and he grinned at the others. "All aboard!"

"I've always seen them flying," Timmons remarked to his brother, "But I've never seen one up close before…"

"Magnificant bird, isn't it?" Tetra murmured. "Something so beautiful shouldn't be used for such destruction."

Timmons nodded.

After everyone climbed aboard, Dwain prepared for lift off. He took hold of the wheel at the bridge, and pulled at some levers. Steam erupted from under the airship, and a platform began to lift the massive vehicle. The ceiling split, allowing the sun to cascade down upon the party of five.

About halfway up to the square-shaped hole, the massive propellers began to spin; slowly at first, but as speed took over, they whirled around at such a fast pace that they were nearly invisible.

When the lift finally reached above ground level, the airship began to soar high into the air on its own, and a powerful wind plowed into the mast, pushing the vehicle forward.

"Here we go!" Dwain yelled out, and with a pull of a lever, they were off like lightning.