Wolfen's heart pounded as he sat up in bed, his fur damp with sweat. The expression on his face was one of fear and uneasiness.
Beside him, Hisspan stirred, then woke up as well.
"The nightmare again?"
"The nightmare again," the wolf moaned.
Very recently, a recurring nightmare had started to plague Wolfen's dreams. In it, he was a roboticized wolf again, on a murderous rampage through the Valley of Venom. He was an unstoppable killing machine, slaughtering adults and children alike without mercy. Then he ran into Hisspan, who begged him to stop... and he killed her just as mercilessly. That was always when he woke up.
Hisspan shook her head. "This has to come to an end. Whatever's causing that nightmare, we've got to put a stop to it."
"I couldn't agree more. Does your mother have any remedies for nightmares?"
"No... Marie deals more in physical issues. Why don't you try Tashako? He's a great listener; telling your woes to him might help."
"It's not like I've got any better ideas. I'll give him a try."
"...and after that, I wake up. Every time."
Wolfen sat in Tashako Ana's study, trying to relax as he explained his problem to the anaconda sitting opposite him. Tashako spent the whole time diligently writing down the details in his notebook.
"That's... quite a tale, Wolfen. I'm no psychiatrist, but I've got a theory. Your subconscious is rehearsing a very particular scenario: the scenario of what would have happened if you'd attacked the Valley during your time as a Robian. That's the term, right? Robian?"
The wolf nodded silently.
"Do you remember anything happening shortly before the nightmares started, that might have led your mind to that scenario?" Tashako continued.
"...Actually, yes. I was coming into the Valley through the pass after an excursion, and I was delayed because the VDF was right in the middle of a defense drill."
The anaconda wrote down a few more details. "That confirms it, then. If that's the case, we need to write a new, happier ending to that scenario. Your nightmares should settle down then."
"How do we do that?"
"Perhaps a little hypnotherapy would do the job. Does Rosa still have that trinket her boyfriend got her?"
I seriously can't believe I'm going forwards with this.
Wolfen stood just outside the Valley's main pass, accompanied by Rosa, Hisspan, and Istanbul. The past hour or so had been packed with preparations for the upcoming "act". The wolf kept feeling his bare right hand; his wife had taken away the Infinity Gauntlet, since he wouldn't acquire it until after the period of time he was recreating. Still, he felt uncomfortable without it.
"The VDF's in on everything," Istanbul reassured Wolfen. "They're armed with blanks, so when they open fire, you won't be harmed."
"Let's just get this over with," Wolfen moaned.
"Very well. EVERYONE IN POSITION, WE GO LIVE MOMENTARILY!"
Istanbul and Hisspan raced back into the Valley. Rosa stood directly in front of Wolfen, taking one last glance at the note cards Tashako had given her (her photographic memory tended more to images than to words). Noting that the wolf was staring down at the ground, she gently placed one hand on his chin, pushing his head up to make eye contact with her.
"Look and listen. Look into my eyes and listen to my words. Go back in time in your mind to the years when you were a Robian, under the control of Dr. Robotnik..."
"ALL VDF UNITS ON HIGH ALERT! AN UNIDENTIFIED ROBOT WOLF IS APPROACHING THE PASS! SUBDUE AT ANY COST!"
The cold, heartless Robian wolf that had once been Wolfen Down marched into the pass. Beyond it, he knew, stood a peaceful village untouched by the forces of Robotnik. It paid little attention to the announcement that rung out; they could pose no threat to him.
Uniformed officers peered out from all sorts of natural cover. Gunfire rang out as each officer fired on the wolf, but the bullets didn't even cause him to flinch. He grabbed one of the useless officers, a female coral snake, and tossed her into the nearby cliff wall, knocking her out. The others gave him a wide berth as he approached.
Moments later, the village itself came into view. It was a quaint place populated by a colorful array of snakes and lizards, almost all of which rushed indoors to hide at the sight of the Robian. Only an orange-bellied black snake remained, foolishly deciding to confront the intruder instead of taking cover.
"Who are you?" she screamed. "Why are you here? What do you-- ERK!"
Wolfen cut the snake's questions short by grabbing her by the neck and lifting her into the air.
"I am a servant of Ivo Robotnik," the Robian declared in a fearsome monotone. "I am here to conquer this village in his name. The less you resist, the more merciful I will be."
"LET CHRISTINA GO!"
Letting out an artificial growl, Wolfen turned his head to face a new figure: a bright green Mobian cobra, dressed in blue.
"And who are you to challenge me?"
"Hisspan D... Vex, heart and soul of the Valley of Venom!"
"Heart and soul... then you will make the perfect example."
Tossing the black snake roughly to one side, the Robian wolf paced menacingly towards Hisspan, who stood her ground at first, then slowly began to back away. Then, without warning, the wolf pounced on the cobra, who almost escaped, but he caught her literally by the tip of her tail.
A moment later, Wolfen was holding Hisspan upside-down in the air by one hand. She struggled, but couldn't get free. Then he grabbed her by the neck with his free hand, shifting her into a horizontal position, before turning her upright and holding her like he'd done Christina.
"Watch, citizens of the Valley of Venom!" he announced. "Watch as I snuff out your self-proclaimed heart and soul, as Dr. Robotnik shall do to all those that attempt to defy him!"
Before Wolfen could act on that declaration, though, a buzz reached his ears, and his strength suddenly gave out. He could only guess that someone had used an EMP to disable him. He sank to his knees, dropping Hisspan, before collapsing on the ground.
Before he passed out completely, he heard Hisspan's voice: "You did it! The Valley of Venom is safe!"
Wolfen moaned as he opened his eyes. He was laying in the grass, and judging by the sun's position it was late afternoon. Hisspan stood over him.
The tone of the wolf's voice betrayed that he was no longer under Rosa's hypnosis.
"Hisspan, the Valley won. They took me down with an electromagnetic pulse. The Valley was spared, and so were you."
Standing a distance away, Rosa grinned. At her instruction, Wolfen had blocked her out of his fantasy the whole time. The "EMP" had actually been a nonlethal dose of venom she'd administered discreetly, while Rebar used a kazoo to provide an appropriate sound effect.
Tashako stepped into view, his notebook open and writing implement at the ready. "Tell us all about it. What happened? Start at the beginning."
"Alright. Here's how it went..."
To make a long story short, Tashako got a juicy piece of material for a future tale... and Wolfen's sleep was uninterrupted that night.