|Sonic the Hedgehog #209|
- The Iron Queen is on the verge of total world domination, and only a handful of heroes are free to quell the threat! Sonic the Hedgehog and Sally Acorn must brave the unknown to rescue one of their own, but at the risk of total annihilation! Meanwhile, Monkey Khan makes a grim decision, and only Tails can stand in his way to save the life of a Freedom Fighter! The stakes have never been higher in this pulse-pounding tale!
Iron Dominion - Part Two
In Freedom HQ, Sally is distraught, fretting about how she didn't "put the pieces together" and anticipate the threat the Iron Queen presented to NICOLE, adding that she had failed. Monkey Khan attempts to comfort her by saying that no one else had considered the possibility either, and Sonic adds that she makes it "sound like we've already lost." He points out that they've recovered from worse in the past and tells her to stop "wallowing in self-pity," to which Sally objects before pausing and admitting he's right, thanking him. Monkey Khan shows some confusion over their method of support; Sonic smugly tells him that there's no point in trying to understand it, as it stems from having a serious, long-time relationship. Grinning right back, Khan replies that he's sure he'll find that out himself.
Meanwhile, Tails has accessed the mainframe via the HQ's computer; Sally asks if he's had any progress in hacking it, and he replies that while he can almost keep up with what's happening in his head, he simply can't type fast enough. Sonic then suggests they use the digitizer that they used to access Gerald's diary. Tails runs off to set it up while Sonic explains his plan to Sally; they digitize themselves, let Tails upload them to the mainframe, and try to handle things directly. Khan questions if this is safe; Sally states that it probably isn't and that they might attract the Iron Queen's attention, and so she asks him to watch over them. Tails then explains what he will give Sally and Sonic as deep an access into the mainframe as he can, saying that they'll have to "hack" their way in from there. As Tails activates the device, Khan wonders if there's another way...
Sonic and Sally find themselves in front of an ornate gate in what appears to be the outer wall of New Mobotropolis. Sonic is somewhat confused at first, and Sally explains that the gate is just how they're perceiving the defenses set by NICOLE. Uninterested in the details, Sonic replies that he'll just have to "perceive" himself spin-dashing it apart. However, before he can act, the door opens and they are confronted by Iron NICOLE. She coldly states that while not anticipated, such an attempt was not unpredictable; she demands their surrender. Sally quickly butts in to plead with Iron NICOLE, telling her that she's stronger than this, and citing that even the likes of Tails, Rotor, Dr. Eggman or even A.D.A.M. couldn't override her coding in the past. Iron NICOLE is forced to acknowledge the validity of this argument and almost comes to recognize Sally; the princess grasps her hand and encourages her to fight, but Sonic suddenly notices trouble as a giant, vicious apperation of the Iron Queen looms over the digital city, declaring that she's spotted a couple of viruses in her city's system. Sonic snatches up Sally and runs off in time to dodge a blast from the Queen; Iron NICOLE is left clutching her head. Sally doesn't want to leave her, but Sonic insists they need a plan. Sally thinks she has a way of using the digital world to their advantage, but that they can't do anything while being targetted by the queen. As they reach the rooftop of a digital Castle Acorn, Sonic muses that while the Iron Queen has her Magitek abilities, the city didn't have its own digitizer; he wonders how it's possible she's there in the first place.
In the real world, Snively and the Iron Queen sit in the Council of Acorn's chambers. Regina is intensely staring within the orb of her staff, taunting Sonic and Sally while Snively complains that he can't see what's going on. Regina tells him to stop bothering her while she's busy; he walks off in a huff and finds Lien-Da, who taunts him about not getting attention. He tells her to watch her tone with him, despite her now being Grandmaster; she rolls her eyes and apologizes before he asks for a report. She explains that the Iron King is confronting any resistance he finds in the city while the Yagyu Ninja and Dark Egg Legion and rounding up and imprisoning the citizens they find.
Meanwhile, Uncle Chuck is being escorted at spearpoint by a Yagyu ninja into the detention center. The still-addled Eggman eagerly addresses him as "Sir Charles" and asks how the "robot-sizer" is coming along (thinking of Chuck's invention of Roboticization over a decade prior). Angry, Chuck says "Give it a rest, Eggman!" adding that he has no time for crazy babbling. Eggman reflects on the use of this name, saying that it used to be something someone teased him about before he adopted it himself. Studying his glasses in his hand, he muses that he used to go by "Julian" but considers that it's been years since then, adding that he now uses "Robotnik" or "Eggman." He slowly puts on the glasses, remembering that he was Eggman of the Eggman Empire.
Back in the digital world, Sonic and Sally split so the former can distract the queen while the latter goes after Iron NICOLE. Sonic attempts to spin-dash directly into the queen's face, but is shocked when his attack is deflected. Iron NICOLE, coming out of her own spin-dash, announces that within this domain, she has no limitations. Sonic takes this as a challenge and attempts to attack once again; however, Iron NICOLE intercepts him each time. Sally asks "What happened to the part where I handled Nicole?" to which Sonic replies that they're in even more trouble.
Watching the screen at Freedom HQ, Monkey Khan asks what's happening; Tails replies that Sonic is fighting Iron NICOLE's defensive programming, but that it doesn't look good. Khan asks if NICOLE physically exists in the city; Tails replies that the bulk of her coding is currently in the city's mainframe, as it allowed her better control of the nanites. Khan asks where this mainframe is located; not taking his eyes from the screen, Tails explains that it's below the castle, accessible from the Science Center, but adds that that does them no good at the moment. Khan grimly mutters that no good can be done at this point. Tails continues to work a moment before realizing that Khan has walked out of the room.
Quickly catching up to Khan outside, who's already taken to the air with his cloud, Tails demands to know where the cyborg is going; he coldly replies that he's going to put NICOLE out of her misery. Tails immediately protests, but Khan explains that the Iron Queen had taken control of him in the past and used him to destroy the Dragon Kingdom Freedom Fighters; he refuses to allow NICOLE to suffer in the same way. Tails insists that Sonic and Sally will save her; Khan says that, as the Queen had full control over his partially robotic body, a fully digital being like NICOLE has no chance. Khan is shocked as Tails rushes him, briefly disrupting his cloud. Khan says that it's not an easy thing to do but insists it has to be done; Tails grabs Khan's Atom-Bat and angrily says that, as heroes, they're to do the right thing no matter how difficult. Khan, growing angry himself, says it's not a matter of being difficult but being impossible. Tails retorts that it wasn't impossible to save Khan or Bunnie D'Coolette from the Iron Queen and asks him why he bothered to come all this way if he thought the situation was so hopeless. Khan insists that he doesn't want to have to destroy NICOLE; Tails tells him to wait, then, and see if Sonic and Sally will succeed. Tails adds, "Or do you not believe in them, either?" Frustrated, Khan says that Tails makes it sound too simple. The two stare each other down in the sky.
In the digital world, Sally considers that she could apply Rotor's coding and "cast" it like magic. She draws a line on the ground with her fingers and erects a digital wall. She is pleased with her progress until the wall is smashed by the Queen, who chastises her for trying to create a firewall within her system. Sally tells Sonic to go on the offensive and quickly begins to build a wall around herself and Iron NICOLE, much to the AI's confusion; meanwhile, Sonic reattempts his earlier attack and catches the Iron Queen in the eye with a spin-dash.
As the firewall "room" is sealed, Iron NICOLE becomes disoriented, having been isolated from the Queen's system. She reverts to her usual form and collapses against Sally, who says it's good to have her back. NICOLE begins to build greater defenses within herself to counter the Queen's magic; Sally is concerned, and NICOLE explains that she has downloaded logs of her previous actions. While unfamiliar with experiencing such emotions, she thinks that she may be "furious" and "mortified," but Sally tells her it's all right as they've regained control of the situation. NICOLE, however, disagrees; she explains that, while she believes herself to now be immune to the Queen's influence, she still needs to recover, and additionally, the citizens are still trapped, the Queen's forces are still in the city and she still has even more support back in the Dragon Kingdom. Sally considers this and admits that NICOLE's right; even if they managed to free the city of the Queen's control today, she has too many forces to retaliate with and would only come back stronger and more experienced. While NICOLE has reached the same conclusion, Sally points out that they now have access to the city without the Queen's knowledge; Sally apologizes for asking so much of NICOLE, but the AI reconfigures herself into her Iron NICOLE appearance, saying that she will continue to act as though under the Queen's control and keep things manageable while Sally and the others break the Iron Dominion's control of their forces in the Dragon Kingdom. The two hug, Sally telling NICOLE to stay safe while NICOLE wishes her good luck.
Winking, NICOLE destroys the firewall room, announcing that the unauthorized access is denied. Meanwhile, Sonic collapses to the ground, not doing too well against the Iron Queen. Sally runs to him, calling for Tails to get them out of the system. She begins to worry that Tails can't hear them as the Queen closes in, but they suddenly disappear. The Queen demands an explanation from "Iron" NICOLE; the AI dutifully replies that the invaders have been purged from the system, leaving the city fully in control of the Queen.
Sonic and Sally reappear in Freedom HQ; Monkey Khan asks how it went and Sally replies that while it wasn't perfect, they made a lot of progress. She asks how things had gone in the meantime; smiling, Tails says that nothing exciting happened. Sally announces that they're heading out to the Dragon Kingdom to remove the Iron Dominion's overseas support. Khan asks about NICOLE, and Sally replies that she's once again on their side. Glancing over at Tails, who grins, Khan says, "Good. That's good."
With Tails, Sally and Sonic on the Tornado and Khan on his cloud, the four leave for the Dragon Kingdom.