Moving Forward

This is a Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic written for a contest to write the least offensive Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic. The top winners put character from Sonic up against the horrors and mundanity of everyday life.

What do you think? The black, right? ’Cause it should be something serious.”

Amy was holding the dress in front of herself, then brought it down to look at it again.

“No, that’s too much. It’ll be like I’m trying too hard.”

She went back to her closet and returned with a pinker, more summery top. “This is more cheerful. Wouldn’t it be nice to be… No, that’s stupid, I can’t go there like this, like it’s a normal day.”

She tossed it onto the bed. “If I had my red dress… He liked that dress. Are you sure I didn’t leave it at your place?”

Blaze had dressed in her regal purple coat, as she often did. She didn’t consider putting as much thought into her appearance as Amy did. “I could go back and look again.”

“No, forget it. I’ll just wear the black. Black is… it’s what you’re supposed to wear, right?”

“Black is traditionally worn in mourning, yes.”

Amy appeared to have had the air sucked out of her by the word. “That’s what I am, aren’t I? I’m mourning. But… I have to be the supportive one. I mean, Tails, and…”

She stormed back to the closet, sweeping every piece of clothing from one side to the other. “Why? Why is it all pink? Why do I always… Why do I dress like some damsel in distress?”

She turned back to Blaze. Her eyes were wet and turning pink as her wardrobe. “How come I can’t be the rescuer? Why can’t I save anyone?”


“I can’t.”

“It’s okay, Amy.”

“I can’t do this!”

Blaze suddenly took Amy’s head in her hands and pulled her close. She began to breathe in a slow, steady rhythm. Amy began breathing with her, quivering. When she calmed, Blaze cupped her face in her hands and their eyes met.

“We can do this.”

“I know. I know we can. We can be there for… Oh, Tails, little Tails…”

Blaze tightened her grip, as though to wring the doubt from her. “We can be strong.”

“Yeah. We can.”

She stepped back and stood up straight, looking around her room.

“I wish I had the red one.”

* * *


Heads turned to see the a visitor standing in the doorway of the vestibule. Though he had traded his familiar red flight jacket for a black trench coat, there was no mistaking his ovoid frame.


Tails had already lurched out from his pew. He struggled to stand straight as he walked toward the huge, round man, but grief and fury wracked his body with tremors. He was always the youngest of them, and now he was shaking like an old man.

He stopped halfway down the aisle, lifted his head, and opened his arms as though to invite Eggman to take in the sight of the congregation, their empty faces, the altar, Knuckles standing at the lectern, the box holding his dearest friend.

“Congratulations. This is what you’ve wanted, right? Everything you’ve built, everything you’ve destroyed. It was all for this view, right?” Tails began to stagger toward him again. “You made it. Was it… worth it?”

Tails’ body seized, and he fell down to his knees. Vector, who was in the nearest pew, came to his side and offered a hand. Tails slapped it away and leapt up at Eggman, no longer hiding his tears.

“Why are you here? To gloat? You’ve always hated him, and now look what you’ve done, look what you’ve made!”

His fists pounded hollowly against Eggman’s soft exterior until he didn’t have the strength to hold himself up, and he slumped against the rounded doctor and whimpered.

Slowly, gently, Eggman put his arms around the small fox.

Once he was certain there would be no resistance, Vector pulled Tails away from Eggman and brought him back to his seat. Then Eggman sat down in the nearest pew and, along with the rest of the congregation, politely turned his attention to the lectern.

That man could deliver a better eulogy than I ever could. Knuckles cleared his throat and took a moment for the air to clear. They knew each other longer than any of us.

He would never have thought of giving the eulogy if Tails hadn’t asked. He expected the departed’s closest friend to speak, since Knuckles himself was making all of the other arrangements, but in the end Tails yielded this last responsibility to the taciturn echidna as well. Even after all this time, in many ways, Tails still had growing to do.

“As some of you know, my first encounter with Sonic was on less than amicable terms.

“I… adopted the belief that he and Miles had invaded Angel Island to take away the Master Emerald, which my people held sacred. I challenged Sonic at every turn, not realizing what I was doing. I did not realize I was being deceived.”

He was unsurprised to see heads turning to look for any reaction from Eggman, who feigned ignorance either out of pride or courtesy.

Knuckles sighed and shook his head. “I know what some of you are thinking, and I’m afraid you’re mistaken. There’s one person to blame for what I did — and that’s me.

“I deluded myself into thinking that the world ended with me. I didn’t trust anyone from outside to let me be safe. To let me be myself. I was stronger by myself. I was stronger alone.

“It wasn’t until I lost everything that I realized I had nothing. I was the custodian of a floating tomb and I didn’t know anyone who would call me friend.”

Knuckles looked over at the blown up picture resting on the easel next to the coffin: the arms rebelliously crossed, the eyes wide with expectation, looking as he did when they first met. Is this how he will be remembered, while the rest of us get older?

He gathered himself again. “He pointed me in the right direction and he showed me what could be accomplished if you have the courage to trust someone. As he trusted Tails. As he trusted me. And most importantly, as he trusted himself.

“Sonic was a risk taker, and he would be the first to admit that — like any of us — he’d made mistakes. But that’s what life is. It’s mistakes. Live and learn.

“He never regretted a single thing he did. He learned, and he kept moving forward. He had a steadfast heart of gold. No matter what happened, no matter what anyone said, everything he did was a step in the right direction. And it’s because Sonic was such a risk-taker that we’re all here today.”

It wasn’t until then that Knuckles noticed the irony in those words.

He took another moment and looked out at the faces staring back at him. Amy and Blaze and Cream. Vector and them. The bird rogues he never really knew, but he was glad they were here. Shadow, Rouge. Big. Tails. He never would have known any of them if he had stayed on that island.

“It’s because of Sonic that we’re together right now. He was open to every possibility that life could offer him and his world exploded and grew to include each and every one of you.

“He was strong. He could fly. He reached the other side of the rainbow. But if you look around, you’ll see that he’s still here in each of us. In the way we live each day. Always moving forward, with no regrets.”

As Knuckles stepped down from the lectern, he felt lighter. Whether he had gained something or lost something, he didn’t know.

* * *

“That was really wonderful, Knuckles.” Rouge leaned in to touch him on the shoulder.

Shadow stopped short of the exit and draped his coat over one arm and checked his watch again.

Knuckles turned his attention from the Babylon Rogues to Rouge with a sense of relief that didn’t escape Shadow’s notice. “Thanks. I appreciate it. I hope he would’ve liked it.”

“The eulogy he would’ve enjoyed, but the reception! I don’t even see any chili dogs here.”

Knuckles laughed politely. “I still have some things to clear up before I go. But, hey, Cream’s family is having people over later, though, so… I’ll meet you guys there?”

“Oh, a get-together? That’s nice.” Rouge looked back expectantly at Shadow, who made an exaggerated show of checking his watch. “Well, I guess we’ll… go and change first. See you later, Knuckles.”

She hugged him, then turned toward Shadow, who was already walking out the door into the cool dusk. She hurried to catch up to him. “Somewhere to be?”

“We do now, evidently.”

“Come on, just go with me. You don’t have to say anything to anyone.”

“I’ve had enough of that today.” Shadow still couldn’t feign vapid optimism the way he assumed everyone else did, no matter how often he was subjected to it. Sonic had pulled him into this world and Rouge was keeping him in it.

He fished his keys out of his coat and unlocked the Escalade from afar. They stopped when, in its headlights, he saw the silhouette of a boy with two tails.

“Oh,” said Rouge, “Hello, Tails. Do you…?”

He looked up at her with dry, steely eyes. “Knuckles is staying here. Can I… get a ride home?”

Shadow looked sidelong at Rouge. He had no intention of acquiescing, so he left the honor to her.

“Of course you can. Come on in.”

As they pulled out of the lot, Shadow spotted Eggman walking along the curb toward his Eggomatic hovercraft. Rouge waved politely as they passed, but it was too dark then to tell if he had noticed.

She crossed her legs and sank back into her seat. “What a lonely man.”

As they approached the intersection, Shadow turned his head to look for oncoming traffic, and in the corner of his eye he saw Tails looking out of the window back at Eggman without a hint of scorn.

Lame shit in Persona 5 that could have been fixed

Ryuji should have been tempted by fame, and suffered for it. He is the one character most vocal about unfairness. Not injustice, but unfairness — a purer, more childlish notion that you deserve something for your troubles. He is the party member most bothered by his negative public image. He aches to be recognized for his efforts, but knows he has to keep his identity secret. This should have made him completely buy into the hype of the Phantom Thieves’ authority, thirsting for approval from the online fans, excited to give them what they want. Ryuji should have been radicalized to the point of believing that the Phantom Thieves had the vision to be the rightful judge, jury, and executioner of Japan.

Imagine in one of the scenes following Okumura’s death if Ryuji leaned back in one of the booths at Leblanc and said, “Maybe he deserved to die.” Sparks fly as the rest of the group try to counter, forcing themselves to ask what their goal in the end really is.

Of course, Ryuji wouldn’t think he’s being ridiculous — he just believes in the mission more than everyone else. It would be up to the player to decide if Ryuji’s thinking makes him a liability to the team. This could make an interesting twist when we get to the end of Shido’s dungeon, when Ryuji makes his suicide run, a decision he makes not just because he can run good or whatever, but because he’s already shown to believe that, in pursuing the Phantom Thieves’ goals, death is acceptable, even his own.

And then Ryuji should actually die. No lame pointless fake-outs. Make the player wonder if Ryuji’s radicalism was foolish (because it killed him) or noble (because it saved everyone else).

This idea of the Phantom Thieves investing too heavily into their own image is only barely explored in Mishima’s confidant story, to no great effect.

Morgana should have been the Grail’s creation, not Igor’s. Discovering that he is made by Igor reveals Morgana’s nightmares to be, really, just nightmares, and that his insecurities were actually nothing at all to worry about. This… isn’t dramatic. Instead, Morgana should have been sent by the Grail to mislead the player. However, much as the Grail was distorted by human cognition, Morgana would have been changed by the player’s, but in this case, reformed, becoming an agent for self-determination. This fits perfectly with the game’s theme of rebelling and defying expectations. This would make Morgana a character. As is, he’s reduced to an inefficient deus ex machina.

Ann should have been smarter, more autonomous, and, generally, better respected by the script. Ann has several lines expressing her dissatisfaction with her catsuit. That doesn’t even make any fucking sense. Why, in a world formed by one’s vision of their self, would she end up with an outfit she doesn’t even like? Let the woman just like being herself, for fuck’s sake.

She’s a professional model, the only member of the group to have a job, and to routinely interact with adults — the very adults so often maligned by this game! She should have maturity and insight that the other character have yet to develop. It doesn’t matter if she isn’t a top student or hacker. Ann shouldn’t be oblivious, she should be smart, and if she’s insecure about anything it makes no sense for it to be her body!

Let’s take that stupid ass scene where she’s asked to pose nude. What would be funnier? If she waved her arms and said, “You want to do WHAAAT?” or if she said, “I always told myself that if I had to pose nude… it wouldn’t be for less than a 200,00 yen.” Exclamation points shoot up over everyone else’s heads. Giving Ann conviction like this gives you so many options when she finally meets up with Yusuke. For example:

  1. She shows up and immediately throw around her weight as a professional model, making increasingly more ridiculous demands for her comfort. Yusuke, obsessed with the creative process, rationalizes her demands as being for the sake of ART, expounding on his own process.
  2. When asked to disrobe, she makes a big striptease out of it, coming onto Yusuke hard in attempt to turn him on so much that he has to get up and leave, giving her a chance to snoop.
  3. Like 2, except it’s revealed that Yusuke is completely cold to her advances, asking that she speed things up a little. Realizing she’s in over her head, she just knocks some paint over and says, “Whoops,” forcing him to clean it up while she snoops.

There are bits like this throughout that script that could be tweaked. Don’t let stuff happen to Ann, let her do stuff.

Yusuke should have been fragile, not bombastic. Yusuke is like the Shylock of Persona characters — potentially interesting, but fucking broken by virtue of being, uh, p r o b l e m a t i c. His monkey cheese antics set him up to be a fan favorite, but it’s all blighted by his entire introductory arc — his treatment of Ann and his static inner motivation of Doing Art — which just makes him seem like a flippant asshole.

But let’s look at the facts: every facet of his life has pointed him toward a career of painting professionally, and then all at once, his key to that industry is taken away — what if he didn’t have to do that thing every adult in your life told him he had to? Yusuke could have been rendered by this terrifying possibility, the main question of his arc being, if he paints, will it be by rote, or because he chose to recommit himself?

In the script as is, Yusuke has a LOT of insight and confidence for someone whose narrow worldview was just shot to hell. Shouldn’t the artist be dealing the most seriously with their own subjectivity? I think this same question could have made him more reflective on his role within the Phantom Thieves when the shit hit the fan. Would he have the conviction to know when they were going to far? Yusuke should have had a fateful moment when everything looks bad where he says, “I just don’t know.”

A character with conviction is one thing. If a character knows exactly how to answer a hard question, consider if that character is actually just the writer in disguise.

Haru should have been the weird one. Haru’s archetype is “rich girl”. But how would you know that without being told? What about her background informs her personality? How can someone with such a huge asshole for a dad be so nice? At most, Haru should be well-mannered, but she shouldn’t actually be very good at understanding other people, because she’s never really needed anything from anyone else. Through the cracks in her manners, she should come across as tactless and unrelatable. The others should vacillate between being charmed by her, annoyed by her, and feeling pity for her. This difficulty in getting close to people should facilitate her one genuine love: gardening.

I can’t believe I have to explain this, but Akechi shouldn’t have been a super evil sneering villain, but rather, like you, someone striving to make the world better in way that doesn’t look good from the outside. Akechi is implementing a plan that has been years in the making. Despite the fatalities, getting a visionary like Shido into a leadership position must be the best, most realistic chance to improve Japan. To paraphrase the bad guy from Metal Gear Rising Revengeance, Shido should seek to use corrupt shenanigans in the government to END corrupt shenanigans in the government.

Hey… Speaking of Shido and that other guy… What a lame, un-Persona-like design.

Makoto’s strategic mind should be pushed to its limit. Knowing the overwhelming odds they’re up against, and knowing how huge and complicated society is, she should have objectively appraised Akechi and Shido’s plan to reform society through political machinations as being, actually, the best way to bring about change. (This necessitates that the villains have a plan that makes sense) Ryuji and the most outspoken Phantom Thieves would push back angrily, but Makoto would remind them that their mission is to make the world better, and that maybe the mental breakdown plan is the shortest route to that. Makoto would only relent after making it clear to the Thieves that their path going forward may result in failure.

Makoto would still put all of her effort into planning Shido’s heist, considering every edge case, making sure everything will go smoothly, taking into account everything they’ve learned up until then. When Shido shuts down his palace manually, and Ryuji dies, everyone cries, sure, but Makoto, like… hides, not even available for Confidant excursions. She doesn’t respond to request for a Phantom Thieves meeting. She has to be tracked down and convinced that she’s not the reason Ryuji died.

The main characters should have had to make a real sacrifice. The Phantom Thieves never really earned their rosy ending. These are people who chose to wrangle otherworldly powers with the specific goal of changing how the world worked. The player should have been confronted directly with the question of whether or not their choices were rooted in charity or hubris. Instead, the player gets away scot-free, with all of their friends, no mark on their record. What the hell is the moral of the story?

Bad things need to happen to good people. Several times the game does somethings dramatic and then immediately reverses it. Morgana leaves the team, but not for long enough to impact any in-game choices. Ryuji vanishes, and then comes back in the next fucking scene. When people in Shibuya Square start panicking and disappearing toward the end, I thought that I was making irreversible changes in the real world, destroying shadows and killing civilians in the process… But, instead, my actions HAD no lasting effect on the world.

Drama lives in conflict. Conflict is not when the good guys beat up the bad guys. Conflict is when the good guys think the bad guys might have a point. Conflict is when the good guys are tempted to fight each other. Conflict is finding out the premise for your mission might be flawed. As is, Persona 5 is a game dripping with style but devoid of drama.