- G-Force Lieutenant
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- Joined: Fri Jan 29, 2016 8:54 am
This was last order many of the Doctor's children heard before being consumed in a blazing inferno. A storm was raging outside the walls of the Egg Carrier 2, and mixed with the roar of thunder was the roar of a vengeful god.
In the time it took the flying warship to charge its main cannon, Perfect Chaos landed a direct hit across the bow, melting the barrel shut. The searing oral beam washed over the upper deck causing dozens of missile turrets to burst into flame as their incendiary contents ignited. One by one the aircraft's arsenal exploded in a chain reaction that rocked the entire vessel with crimson plumes. In a matter of seconds the explosions consumed the massive rotating central engine that provided lift. Without this crucial mechanism the ship began tilting downward, soon to collide with the half submerged city below, its thrusters still burning. From the destruction of the engine the inferno progressed to the fuel compartments of the thrusters, which went up in a raging fireball that blasted straight through the ship's interior.
In the time it took the engine to break down, the Doctor had thrown himself from the control tower to the floor of the upper deck. Lesser men would have had trouble getting up from such a fall, but in a flash the rotund scientist was back on his feet and pushing his shades back into place. Shrapnel from the various explosions flew past his head as he searched desperately for a means of escape. The sky was a haze of smoke and storm clouds, utterly black save for the light of the burning Egg Carrier. He tried to reach for the Eggmobile parked at the head of the scaffolding connecting the two ends of the upper deck, but a sudden shudder of the aircraft made him stumble down the ramp below. The Doctor tumbled to the base of the engine as it was blown apart from the inside. He was flat on his face, choking from the endless fumes, but the man forced himself up on his elbow. The ship was tilting forward, causing him to slide against the floor back towards the ramp. A familiar hemispherical shape fell from the scaffolding and started rolling towards him. Coughing, the Doctor threw out a hand to catch the Eggmobile's rim before it could collide with his body. He could hear his blood pounding in his ears, and the roar of Chaos declaring his treason to the world. It made his skin crawl. With little time left, Eggman pushed the hovercraft onto its base, before climbing into the cockpit.
In the time it took his creator to clear the blast radius of the doomed Egg Carrier 2, E-106 had its organic battery sealed within its frame by the onboard assembly cabinet. The cabinet's twin on the first Egg Carrier had seen the rebirth of E-101 Beta in a vastly superior design, and like the original it continued operating as most of the airship's other systems shut down. E-106's structure was already complete- all that was left was for the robot's programing to be finalized. The seventh E-100 unit was constructed almost simultaneously to the second Egg Carrier, and the finishing touches to its design were completed aboard the ship thanks the other E-100 units' remodeling jobs taxing the Doctor's other facilities to the limit. It was hardly a wasted effort; E-106 was designed not only with the most successful qualities of his older brothers in mind but also the most advanced defense system his creator could muster, equal only with the expenses spoiled on Metal Sonic. The computer carrying out the complex automaton's programming had nearly completed its task when the monorail car broke in half and crushed the Ring energy reactor that provided power to the cabinet. Fueled as he was by a small green bird, E-106 remained online after losing connection with the cabinet, his central processor activating and awakening him to consciousness. The first thing the robot became aware of was the dark room around him and the ship's blaring emergency siren.
While all this was going on the enormous amount of energy built up into the now fully charged cannon was looking for a place to go. The bow of the Egg Carrier 2 rammed into the flooded streets of Station Square, rupturing the outer casing of the unstable beam. With nothing holding it back the pent up energy blasted outwards in a ball of plasma big enough to consume an area three times that of the aircraft itself. Mauve light reflected off the ruined buildings surrounding ground zero, the brightest sight in the entire city now cloaked beneath the dark sky of an ancient fury. Steam ascended to meet the inky clouds as Perfect Chaos gave a cry of triumph.
Gently a pink bird landed on the broken girder of a skyscraper that was recently cleaved in two.
It surveyed what was left of Station Square with inquisitive eyes. So much destruction had taken place in the space of a few minutes that it was difficult to imagine this was a pristine city teeming with the activity of over 300,000 people just two hours ago. Chaos and Sonic had long since departed, leaving others to pick up the pieces. The Flicky's friend with the color like its own was ushered away by humans in dark suits, along with a vast procession of other people rendered homeless by the devastation. Her vulpine associate was taken elsewhere; presently the bird was trying to locate her other friends, having lost sight of them.
Down below an S.S.P.D. officer was trudging through the toxic morass that came up to his shoulders in a slow search for survivors. He was garbed in the usual attire of the city's dutiful law enforcement organization; dark boots, gloves, and ballistic armor better suited for combat situations than navigating the submerged urban environment. His head was concealed by a black helmet with a clear mask, obscuring his exhausted expression. The force was not equipped for a disaster like this. Station Square had suffered from hurricanes and flood damage before, but never anything of such a scale. The monster had appeared so suddenly there was no time to evacuate or prepare a proper response. It was sheer good fortune that most of the S.S.P.D. was on high ground when the catastrophe hit, or they would be the ones buried alive, waiting for rescue to come. Half of the officers had responded to the terrorist attack which took place merely an hour before the creature appeared and were relatively safe in the towers around Speed Highway. The other half was at City Hall guarding the mayor, and by some miracle the building was largely unharmed. He was from that particular group, and they were now fanning out to look for other people in the area that made it through the ordeal. A rescue boat would arrive soon to ferry the civilians to a safer place. The officer prayed it would get here sooner.
The water was more like sludge and wading through it felt indescribably disgusting. That storm- for want of a better word- had tossed up thousands of tons of mud when it blasted the highways to pieces. In many places the ground didn't feel solid under his feet, as if standing still would cause him to sink into the awful slime. Seaweed, trash, and shattered debris dragged inland by the tidal wave constantly got in his way, occasionally some junk in need of removal clinging to his visor. Everywhere it stank of raw sewage, an overwhelmingly foul odor that spoke of the countless pathogens and diseases that swam through this soup. It horrified him to think of all the people drowning in it throughout the city. Conditions were probably even worse on the other group's side of town, where the madman's bomb landed. They reported that the missile was crushed in the mayhem, plunging its scattered contents into the deep. Now the water in that area was probably irradiated or mixed with some nasty chemicals from the bomb, and it wouldn't be long before it flowed through the rest of Station Square.
The officer looked around glumly, sensing that there was no chance his home would ever be the same again. He saw familiar structures and businesses torn apart by the fury of an unknowable force, one it was no secret was unleashed by a madman who was still at large and could strike again at any time. People he had known his entire life were gone now. Somewhere their bodies were floating in a mess of water and garbage; the lucky ones were being moved out of the city most likely to never come back again. The worst part was not knowing who was who, or whether the next tomb he uncovered would be a friend's.
"Hay! Hay! I think I found somebody!"
He turned to see a fellow member of the S.S.P.D. waving to him from the roof of a half-buried restaurant. Immediately he recognized the place as the burger joint he used to frequent with the other officers on his beat. Debris from a taller building nearby had all but crushed it, blocking any view of the windows or doorway. The famous burger man statue was broken in half, bobbing around in the water, the only thing keeping it tied to the shop was a tangled mess of cables that happened to get washed down the sidewalk. Quickly the officer scaled the rubble to reach his comrade, who helped pull him onto the roof.
"Wait here. I'm going inside." the other man intoned before climbing down a hole into the building.
He watched through the hole as the man sloshed towards the counter-top, climbing over it to grab something behind the bar. The officer realized after a moment that he was dragging a woman out of the water, her clothing and hair matted with mud, and with a great deal of effort pulled her onto the counter-top. The other officer stood up, holding the woman as high as he could to pass her to his friend. He reached down to take hold of the civilian, yanking her through the ceiling by the arms, doing everything in his power to keep a firm grip. Once her whole body was on the roof, he rolled her onto her back, putting an ear next to her mouth.
"Good!" his comrade yelled back. "There's one more person down here! Get ready to pull them up!"
Returning to the hole, the officer reached down again to grab the second body, this time it was a man. Right away he knew this was the employee that worked the register everyday- he'd seen him dozens of times. A real nice guy. He dragged the man over to the woman's side, then reached down to help the other officer climb back out of the wreckage. With both of them on the roof, he turned back to the girl, trying to restore her to consciousness while his friend checked on the Burger Shop employee. She looked vaguely familiar. She was wearing the same uniform as the man beside her, but he'd never recalled seeing a woman employed at the Burger Shop, so she must have just started working there. Probably even this morning. He wondered what it must feel like, seeing a new life and new opportunities destroyed in the blink of an eye, before you ever got a chance to experience them. That's what happened to her and innumerable others today. Despite his best efforts it didn't seem like she was going to wake up any time soon.
"How's he doing?" the officer inquired, looking up to the other man.
He shook his head.
Soaked to the bone, their visors covered in grime from a hundred wretched places, no one would be able to see the tears running down their faces.
Some time passed before the officer pulled his radio out of a case hanging from his belt. It took a few attempts to get the thing to work, wet and dirty as it was. After some percussive maintenance he was able to contact one of his superiors.
"...so tell them to bring the boat around this way, we've got a girl."
He shut off the radio and contemplated what to do next. Cold, tired, and utterly filthy, the last thing he wanted to do was go back into the water. Yet he knew there had to be more people trapped in the buildings around them, and if he didn't get them out before the boat arrived they were gonners. Presently the other officer was standing near the edge of the rooftop, facing the south, pointing to something far in the distance.
"My God... Look at that!"
The officer heard it before he spotted it. A deafening roar began to echo across the city, emanating from the sky and causing the ground to shake. High above Station Square thundered an enormous object that dwarfed even the largest building below. Casting a dark shadow over several blocks of urban landscape as it approached, the flying battleship of G.U.N. was as magnificent as any one of the terrorist's airborne fortresses, and as it came into view their hearts swelled with hope. The man standing at the edge let out an energetic whoop.
"Yeehaw! The cavalry has arrived!"
"Set them down here."
The officer brought the woman cradled in his arms to the spot indicated, laying her down on a thin mat, one of a long row of such mats sprawling the hallway. Right behind him was the man who called him to the rooftop, helping another civilian they found reach the mat beside her. This survivor was a middle-aged, balding man with flecks of glass stuck in his face, barely able to walk and muttering incoherently. As soon as both civilians were on the floor medics rushed over to tend to them, each garbed in white coats with a stylized 'G' encircled by blue and red between their shoulders. City Hall was now crawling with G.U.N. personnel trying to assist the wounded. The roar of the airship high above them was still audible even inside.
Turning to see that his friend was heading towards the mayor's office, the man decided to go with him, figuring it would be a good idea to listen in on what the people in charge wanted them to do next. His superiors and G.U.N.'s head honcho were supposed to be in there deliberating on how to evacuate Station Square, or at least that was what he had been told.
As the officer made his way through the building his gaze was greeted with more victims of the tragedy, all piled into the halls of what was as far as he knew the only safe place in the entire city, some in better shape than others. He passed a man with his legs in splints, medics swarming around him in an effort to address his injuries. Leaning against the opposite wall was a tiny girl in a yellow dress crying for her mother, who despite being surround by strangers, looked as utterly alone as she must have felt. Just two pairs of countless eyes that lined either side of the hallway, eyes filled with grief and confusion, too many eyes that were familiar to him. On faces where yesterday the officer had seen joy or wonder or content there was now nothing but pain. Some showed scars inflicted by the ravages of flood, storm, and tremor. All of them showed the deeper scars of having everything they'd ever known taken away.
Before long he had reached the mayor's office. The doors were simply left open so the officer made no pause before entering, following closely behind his friend, who walked right in as if he belonged there. Immediately he spotted the chief of the S.S.P.D., who however had failed to notice them enter, his gaze fixed to a map spread out on the desk in front of him. Standing beside him was a tall man with short white hair in a gray uniform- unmistakably the Commander of the Guardian Units of the Nations. The mayor, a stout gentleman with thin gray hair, was standing opposite the military leader with his hand heartily grasping the shoulder of a young fox.
'Didn't know they had a kid in here' the officer thought to himself.
None of the delegates took note of the two men as they carried on with their discussion.
"Mayor, are you telling me the South Island Terrorist wasn't behind this?" questioned the Commander, his green and brown eyes expressing skepticism.
"N-not exactly, Commander!" the mayor stuttered in response. "You s-see, he tried to destroy the city, but-but young Mr. Miles Prower here-"
The old politician shook the fox, nearly knocking him over- was that a second tail?- and gesturing excitedly.
"-he stopped that vile criminal from detonating the bomb, then destroyed one of his giant mechs single-handedly!"
Still holding an air of disbelief, the Commander regarded the hero intently, wondering how a mere child could be capable of such feats.
"Is that true... Prower, was it?"
Miles was looking at the floor bashfully, but nodded his head after a moment, looking up to meet the soldier's gaze.
"It wasn't anything really... I mean, I couldn't even stop Chaos from reaching its final form..."
"Yes!" exclaimed the mayor. "That was the creature responsible for all this! It was that terrorist's doing that made the awful monster attack us!"
The fox nodded again.
"He'd stolen the Chaos Emeralds to feed them to Chaos... We couldn't stop it from taking the last one and becoming Perfect Chaos..."
"The Chaos Emeralds!?" cried the Commander in shock.
"Yeah," replied the chief, not looking up from the map. "My men recovered them from the same area where Chaos was last seen. It has to be the same creature that appeared outside two nights ago. The Emeralds must have made it bigger."
The chief held up a composite sketch of the liquid anomaly's first form, sealed in a plastic cover to keep it dry, which he handed over to the Commander. He stared at the drawing with an expression of amazement that slowly shifted to dread as the subject's familiar form began to dawn on him. His eyebrow twitched.
"This... this changes everything."
The Commander seemed to grow distant as memories from a time and place long gone came to the surface. Slowly his eyes shifted from the drawing to the chief.
"Where... where are the Emeralds now?" he asked quietly.
Wordlessly the police chief lifted a wet, beat-up duffle bag from beneath the desk by its ragged strap, passing it to the Commander. Placing the sketch of Chaos down, he took the messy bag and un-zipped it quickly. It was as if the clouds had been torn away and un filtered sun light cascaded through a window between the Commander's hands. A radiant glow eschewed from within the duffle bag, defying the gritty container and the cheerless room, defying the dark ruin that Station Square had become with indomitable light. The officer watched with wonder as red, yellow, blue, and purple lights danced across the office ceiling. His friend unabashedly trotted up behind the Commander to peer over his shoulder at the gems within. The older man made no sign that he noticed this, immediately raising his voice in alarm as he shot looks at the mayor and the chief of the S.S.P.D..
"There are only five here! What happened to the other two!?"
For the first time the chief's gaze moved away from the map to look at the Commander uneasily.
"We're not sure," he replied. "These were all close together, but the area suffered pretty heavy damage, they might have gotten buried or washed away."
The old Commander gritted his teeth as he processed this information. His eyebrow twitched again. Exhaling slowly, he attempted to regain his composure.
"Where did you find them?" he asked in a steady tone, zipping the duffle bag close.
The chief placed his finger on the map in front of him, pointing to a road that once ran through Station Square mere hours ago.
"They were on an overpass here. If there are more they must be under the rubble. We'd have to take care of the water before we started shifting through it, and even then we might not find anything."
"I'll send a team to check the area." the Commander said almost before the other was finished speaking. "In the meantime, G.U.N. will be taking the rest of the Emeralds into its care."
"Wait!" cried the mayor suddenly. "I- I mean to say, we know these objects are very dangerous and need to be kept under the greatest security, which I'm sure the military is best suited for. However, seeing as these things are S.S.P.D. property at the moment, and that we have Mr. Prower to thank for saving the department's lives- if not those of the entire city- I feel it would be- ah a- appropriate to give the lad one of the gems as a token of our gratitude."
The Commander turned to look at him incredulously.
"Leave one of the most powerful volatile energy sources on the planet in the hands of a child!?"
"This is no mere child!" replied the mayor, once again gesturing to Miles wildly. "This the companion of Sonic the Hedgehog himself! This is a great hero! He took down a machine bigger than this building all on his own and unarmed! Surely the Emerald would be safe with him!"
The S.S.P.D. officer looked at the two tailed fox with yet more wonder. Could he really be a partner of the famed youth who appeared in front of City Hall to defend them from that monster when weapons could do nothing? Who appeared again like an angel of light in their darkest hour to drive it away a second time? Suddenly the child's deeds all sounded possible.
The older man's attitude became more thoughtful as he once again regarded Miles with penetrating eyes.
"You have a point..." the Commander said. "Mr. Prower can evidently defend himself well enough to keep one of these out of dangerous hands. Perhaps it would be more risky to keep so many of the Emeralds together, where a thief could take all of them at once..."
He opened the duffle bag again to pull out a yellow jewel, brilliantly cut and larger than his palm.
"Alright, the city of Station Square will keep one Emerald to do with as they please." said he while handing the jewel over to the mayor. Quickly he closed the bag again and began to turn around.
"Gentlemen, we will address plans for evacuation in a moment. There is something urgent I need to take care of first. It won't take very long-"
As the Commander turned to leave he came face to face with the officer's friend for the first time. The other man's features were still hidden by a dirty visor, but the Commander's own were of astonishment and surprise. The duffle bag fell to the floor as his gloved hands flew to take hold of the other's shoulders.
"Good God, you're alive! Why didn't you say anything to me!?"
The officer looked from one man to the other in confusion. Did they know each other?
Before his or the Commander's questions could be answered, a haggard voice moaned behind him, causing the officer to turn and look into the hallway. Stumbling towards him was the man they'd brought in earlier, face bleeding from where doctors had pulled out glass but not yet bandaged, eyes filled with fatigue and desperation. He groped at the officer with shaking hands, unable to keep himself standing, sinking to the floor as he grasped the dirty uniform.
"Please..." the balding man croaked. "Sh-she's still out there... my daughter... I have to g- we have to go find her..."
The attention of everyone in the room nearby was arrested by this spectacle, briefly forgoing their previous discussions to listen. All other thoughts vanished from the officer's mind as he looked down on the man at his feet. Soon G.U.N. medics appeared and began to pull the patient away, dabbing the blood from his temple, urging him to come with them.
"Sir, you're not feeling well." one said. "Please come lay down."
"Wait." said the officer, stooping down to look the man in the eye.
"Let the doctors take care of you. I'll find your daughter, okay?"
Shakily the man nodded.
"Was she with you? What does she look like?"
"I- I wasn't with her..." he replied. "She went to- to the mall at the end of the h- highway..."
His left hand moved numbly towards the inside of his suit jacket- it must have looked nice at one point- retrieving from it a thin wallet. As he held it up it fell open to show the officer a picture a of a little girl, marred slightly by water and mud. She looked about the age of the fox standing in the room beyond, probably no older than ten. Her neck length hair as well as her eyes were a soft golden color. She was dressed in the blue cap and fuku that was the standard school uniform of girls in Station Square. Another picture, upside down and pinched between the man's thumb and forefinger, showed her in the same outfit, standing next to her father. The smiling parent seemed a life time displaced from the person in front of him. Slowly the officer rose to his feet.
"Chief" he said, turning to his superior. "I'm going down to the Highway to see if I can find this girl. Can you call the team on that end to lend a hand?"
Uneasy quiet haunted the ruins of the city. The once mighty and prestigious Cyber-Net Inc. building had toppled to the ground, no longer standing as a beacon of commerce for the citizenry to admire. No longer could the sound of joy be heard from once glowing Twinkle Park; its skeletal remains rose like phantoms from a mire of sewage and sea water, gutted by the first wave so its residue settled inland. No longer did the bell tower chime; at its feet rested the giant bell, now swallowed by water. No longer did the pristine fountain gurgle from the heart of the city; when the geysers of Chaos erupted the center piece was blasted apart by a column of water that over shadowed skyscrapers. No longer did the bustle of traffic fill the air with the heart beat of the community; roads and avenues vanished into a world of slime, rubble, and ocean.
Yet there was a dark patch of devastation whose quiet and stillness were heavier than anywhere else in the city. In a circle over half a mile in diameter, no buildings stood, no sizable structure peaked over the dreary plain- the inside was entirely flat. Only a pool of cooling slag and dross greeted the moist air. Buildings on the edge of the circle were sheered in half by the Egg Carrier 2's explosion, their interiors gaping at its epicenter. Here and there steam continued to rise from the crater, though much of it had become cold and hard.
Lonely walked the S.S.P.D. officer who came searching through this place. No one from the other group had arrived yet. Perhaps they knew better than to look here. Perhaps they were working outside the expanse of waste still, searching for anyone that might have gotten away, anyone lucky enough to be just out of reach. To him it no longer mattered. There was nothing to find in this spot.
He shook his head sadly. No one could have survived this.
The father would despair. There was nothing he could do about it. He'd wasted his time coming here and put other survivors' lives in jeopardy by doing so.
This was all that psychopath's fault, he thought. He was the one that brought the monster down on them, he was the one whose weapons killed all these people- he was responsible for everything, and he just got away. While innocents suffered and died, he lived. The unfairness of it all filled the officer with frustration. Without thinking he kicked a short protrusion in the crater as hard as he could.
A rumbling noise shattered the silence of the scarred city, followed closely be a series of tremors from deep beneath the ground. He backed away slowly, mentally berating himself again for doing something stupid, wondering if the vibrations had made the area unstable. No. Something was stirring.
"BLACK SHIELD DISENGAGED. TEMPERTURE NON-HARMFUL. DAMAGE PERCENTAGE ZERO..."
The officer was flung onto his back when an enormous arm burst forth from the debris beneath him. He fumbled madly for the pistol at his waist as a black and grey form began pulling itself out of the slag. A green eye rotated in its head and fell upon the human.
High above Station Square the little Flicky continued to look this way and that for a sign of its friends. The sun had since reached its peak and was beginning to curve towards the horizon. It hand't spotted anyone it recognized so far. The bird began to worry about the pink hedgehog and what had happened to her associates. What if it never saw them again?
Looking ahead the Flicky could see its family soaring in the distance. They were letting the wind carry them, but it could tell they were drifting towards the jungle. The forest. A gentler place, a more cheerful place, somewhere they could enjoy their freedom. Realizing it was time to go, the bird left its worries behind, spreading its wings to take flight.
Sunlight danced off the hero's feathers as it climbed into the heavens.
Kaiju-King42 wrote:Welcome to Toho Kingdom, where every conceivable opinion, no matter how outlandish or unpopular, is a possibility among the population.
- G-Force Lieutenant
- Posts: 2657
- Joined: Fri Jan 29, 2016 8:54 am
The putrid odor of the jungle greeted Dr. Robotnik's prominent nose as he approached the Mystic Ruins. The Eggmobile streaked across the sky with the same speed that had brought it to the Island of Illusion's dense interior not long ago.
Then, as now, there was a hedgehog on his trail.
Passing through the wide gap between the Windy Mountain and Angel Island- still here, he noted- the tiny hovercraft entered the valley occupied by the ancient city of the Knuckles Clan, the place where this mess all began centuries ago, where the tablets were found. A sea of green had devoured the Echidna monoliths in an unrelenting climb towards the clouds, rendering much of the architecture unrecognizable to any who knew its former splendor. Flora invaded every nook and crevice; vines scaled high walls like greedy serpents; trees stretched their branches across forgotten roads, blocking out the sun; wood and stone blurred into a jade cavern of moss, leaves, and grass where one direction could not be distinguished from the other. Nimble streams cut through the forest, splitting and weaving and merging into a river that flowed off the edge of a cliff, a sheer drop into a canyon hundreds of meters deep. Where the water was still swarms of insects brooded, their lives a race to eat or breed or evade danger, often only to be killed in the midst of thought. From the canopy arose the cry of innumerable birds, boundless in their freedom and activity, their songs pervading every scratch of the jungle.
The valley was merely an early example of the God of Destruction's handiwork, a shadow of what it had wrought upon Station Square, of what the modern city would look like not long into its future. Of what the entire world would someday look like if his genius did not prevail, as it had prevailed in Metropolis.
Down, down the vast fall from the edge of the cliff, into the canyon that came into existence when the Floating Island was torn from the earth rested his jewel. Carved into an ocean of foliage to match the sea above it was a sprawling fortress of steel. Brilliant lights eschewed from it all hours of the day, visible for miles around, standing like a light house amid seemingly endless crashing waves of savage wilderness. The scent of petroleum could be detected even from high altitude, and with it the smell of molten metal and plastic. The iron heart of the Empire pumped with the activity of countless machines busy at work, minds all bent on serving their maker. Rails crisscrossed the air, trains bolting through the city with almost unmatched speed, inside them the life blood of his stronghold. Everywhere factories could be seen processing the many materials, tools, and robots necessary to feed the demands of conquest. It glowed with constant energy, energy that needed fuel, fuel the badniks prowling Emerald Coast, Windy Valley, and Angel Island were pressed to provide.
Rising from the center of this glorious creation of the Doctor was its head, the dark tower of Metropolis, the Final Egg.
The tower was as much a single building as it was an expansion of the city that went upward rather than outward. Indeed, upward it climbed- rising higher and higher until its top was over that of the cliff face itself. In circumference the Final Egg covered more than two football fields, walls dwarfing the surrounding cityscape, its long shadow like a sundial that cast total darkness on a different place each hour. It converged with four vastly smaller towers at its base, these being the main power plants of the complex. The southern most tower rested on an immense hydroelectric dam that tamed the great river of the Mystic Ruins and turned her flow towards the Empire's purposes. From where the water met the chill of metal a ring of pale teal lights extended to encompass the city, cutting it off from the wretched jungle, breaking only where the river entered and exited. This was the no man's land, the string of machine-manned battlements mounted in a swath of charred earth that ensured nothing entered Metropolis from the ground. While more than mere beasts inhabited the wild of Westside Island, the threats that concerned the Doctor most would come from the air. The Egg Carrier was meant to defend the skies around the Final Egg, but now he no longer had that security.
It was time to run.
The Doctor grimaced as he squeezed his hovercraft through the door of the lift tube, fashioned after the appearance of his own face, like many other things in his domain. Leaving behind the paradise he had worked so hard to create pained him. The base's construction had begun all the way back with the birth of the Death Egg, when the hedgehog led him to this accursed island. It had taken years for the fortress to reach its zenith, years of scrounging for resources, years of hiding in places like Gimmick Mountain and Flicky's Island while his true stronghold grew in secret. Now there was no more concealing Metropolis. The world had not seen Angel Island fall but they would be watching for it to rise again, and it was sitting on his door step. The military's eyes were open. They would have seen the missile and would be looking for its origin. Their airships were on their way to catch him. Too soon, blast it, too soon! The conquest of Station Square was supposed to be his entrance onto the world stage, the establishment of his perfect utopia for the nations to behold. Chaos was supposed to give him the insurance the armies and Death Eggs had failed to provide. Instead he was left to be hunted down and destroyed by the military.
And the hedgehog was on his trail.
The lift passed through the gaping maw of his embellish face gracing the tower, bringing the Doctor home. He kicked the thrusters of the Eggmobile hard, tearing out of the doorway. The room that greeted his bespectacled eyes was awash in green and blue light, fairly narrow and deceptive of the tower's true dimensions. Large green lamps dotted the floor and the walls, and an even bigger fluorescent bulb covered the ceiling. A massive whirring mechanism was visible at the bottom floor beneath him, down the stairs from where the hovercraft burst forth, filling the chamber with its busy hum. On his level were four impressive computer terminals jutting from the wall, each nestled between a bulky energy conduit bearing the imperial insignia, the Doctor's stylized face. Fondly he remembered this as where he had created E-102 just two days prior, the empty claws of the assembly device taking up the space of the corner where the walls lined with terminals joined. Flanking the mechanical womb that once housed Gamma were the twin abominations- Mecha Sonic and Metal Sonic, floating in transparent tubes. They were suspended in utter vacuum by gravity manipulating plates at the top and bottom of each tube, never touching any part of the case. The scientist sped to the terminal beside Mecha Sonic, who hovered closest to the entrance, punching in commands with practiced speed. He had to slow the hedgehog down.
There was a hiss of air rushing inward as the glass cylinder lifted away. Gravity controls were deactivated and the silvery machine dropped to its feet with a thud. No longer behind the tented walls of his prison, there was nothing to screen out the infrared light radiating from several lithium phosphor lamps in the chamber, allowing it to lance through Mecha Sonic's compound eyes. A yellow glow appeared within them as if in answer, life restoring to the robot as its systems reactivated, fingers and quills beginning to flex themselves as it immediately tested the long dormant motor skills. The cursory examination continued to its legs as Mecha Sonic stepped down from the container, turning his head to regard his creator with a low mechanical growl.
This was all the Doctor said before hammering the last commands into the terminal, the Eggmobile spinning 180 degrees to fly through an open door above a ramp on the opposite end of the room.
Darkness and silence filled the air suddenly when power was cut off from that section of the Final Egg.
His feat beat against the grainy soil of the Mystic Ruins, kicking up dust in a blur of motion that cut the moist air like a living bullet.
With each strike of Light Speed Shoes against earth a rock or a twig vanished from the forest floor, reduced to hardly perceivable powder, or buried in a single step. Nothing withstood that speed, that power, that unyielding force of nature given flesh.
It was the indomitable will.
It was the wind.
It was him.
Eyes of a hue that rivaled the surrounding flora scanned the heavens for that familiar black and chrome hemisphere. Running for miles down the now useless railroad tracks that lead out of Station Square had not left him fatigued, but it did erode the hedgehog's patience. Taking the trolley by the lake allowed his target to get out of sight, and now he couldn't spot it.
Sonic grimaced. He'd already let the fat guy get away before.
It wasn't going to happen again.
The trees made it too hard to see the sky. Maybe they could help him instead?
With a bang Sonic kicked off the ground to launch into the air, gloved hands flung out to snatch a limb from the countless branches, the momentum of his jump causing his stretched out body to spin around the branch. Showing all the grace of a skilled acrobat, he released the limb at the apex of his flip to summersault through the air, flying above the labyrinthian jungle. Quickly he spread out his arms, legs, and quills to catch the wind and reduce his velocity, certain to break any foothold he might otherwise find if he impacted the canopy at full speed. It worked and he was able to take hold of a trunk without bringing harm to himself or the plant, red shoes finding secure crutches to land on. Sonic's free hand moved to smooth out his quills, the turquoise Crystal Ring on his wrist rubbing against his right ear, the cold substance sending an unexpected chill down his spines that just made them more frayed.
"Alright..." he muttered, once again scanning the horizon for a sign of his foe. "Where'd ya go?"
Barely he perceived the glow of the Eggmobile's thrusters 25 degrees to his right, where the river flowed out to meet the cliff- and the Final Egg's entrance. Not much surprise there, though after seeing the Egg Carrier 2 come barreling out of nowhere he figured the doc had some other hide out to scamper off to, a place where concealing such a monstrosity was feasible. Wasting no more time the hedgehog shot forward, hopping or rather throwing himself from tree top to tree top, dancing across the branches towards the villain's lair. With each landing a flurry of leaves and birds filled the air, the calls of the latter ringing with the twang of bent greenery in a rhythm that made Sonic smirk.
The music of his two feet was better than any sound made with hands!
His melodious soles traded wood for stone as he leaped from the canopy to the wall surrounding the Southern Temple. Easily balancing himself, Sonic lost no speed as he turned down the narrow edge of the wall, following it east to cut over the angle to the perpendicular wall that ran northward, skipping over its short gaps without slowing down. He spared the smallest glance towards the Echidna monument at his left, passing by the yawning snake-shaped gate and tall central spire grazing the firmament. The belly of that serpent and the Lost World inside it had proven a disturbing distraction when he last chased someone this way, and he was far from eager to go back, though he'd probably have to talk to Knuckles about the place. There were unsettling things to relate about what he'd seen in the deep, things the last of the Echidnas needed to hear.
No sense in worrying about it at the moment. He'd reached the end of his masonry.
Leaping off the edge of the wall high into the air, Sonic curled into the round position so natural to members of his species, clearing the trees standing between him and the cliff nimbly. He uncurled from the Jump Dash and dropped to the forest floor with a thud, head cocking to the right to see the tube that bridged the Mystic Ruins to his prey's mechanical asylum.
If the Temple grazed the heavens, the Final Egg pierced it- he'd never seen anything that tall! He had to give the Eggman credit for spitting practicality in the eye at every opportunity.
Apparently his friend had taken the lift without sending it back, as the tube was empty and the grinning door actually locked. That wasn't a problem. Dashing towards the aqua pipe the hedgehog took another flying leap, landing on top of the structure, which he proceeded to cross. Running the length of the valley wouldn't take anymore time than actually riding the lift, as there were no obstacles to slow him down and no danger other than the push of the wind.
Granted, with the immeasurable distance of the fall and the slickness of the tube's roof to consider if the wind did pick up...
Sonic rolled into Spin Dash position and halted to start revving up. Spin Dashing would reduce his air resistance, making it less likely for the wind to blow him off, and he would get across the tube faster. Beads of light swam through the space around his curled up form as his Light Speed Shoes drew energy he didn't really need right now. Without giving them a chance to fully charge he blasted straight ahead, blazing a blue trail behind him as he rocketed forward, the air tearing asunder while his spines carved tracks below. In a time that would have seemed incredibly miniscule to anyone else but felt like an eternity to his thinning patience and fast-paced mind, Sonic closed the distance between himself and the Final Egg, colliding recklessly with the tower.
He cannon balled clean through the metal surface, rending a hole in the stylized face at the lift's end, causing it to crumble inward.
The hedgehog plowed through the ceiling like a pile driver, filling the room with a thunderous noise and leaving him sprayed on the floor. A little dizzy, he rose to his feet, shaking off debris from his "entrance". He looked around for his enemy or anything that was supposed to be there, but found the place totally dark. Carefully Sonic edged through the blackness, worried of setting off some trap or walking into an ambush. Broken glass from some fixture above crunched under his shoes. His ears flicked slightly at the sound of machinery ahead, but it seemed distant, somewhere outside the room. He stretched his arms out in front of him, feeling nothing but cold air. Agonizingly slowly the hedgehog slid his foot across the floor, hoping to encounter a wall but finding only the end of whatever he was standing on, almost falling down into the unseen pit. Stepping back quickly, the cobalt hero let out a growl.
"Crud, this is no good. Who turned out the lights?"
Five simultaneous gunshots rang out as if in answer to his question.
The difference in time between the sound and the feeling of bullets entering his back was so small he would only notice it later.
Rings went flying everywhere.
Sonic was thrust over the edge, falling through darkness, his body flashing in and out of reality.
In an instant the damage was gone thanks to his round friends, but the shock still racked him.
His blue body slammed to the bottom floor with a harsh thud that echoed through the hollows of the motionless mechanism beneath. Golden hoops bounced about the room, free for the briefest time. Mercifully some of them landed on the hedgehog and were absorbed back into his skin in a twinkle of sparks.
He'd probably need them in a second.
There was the sound of rockets igniting followed by a warm glow like sunset that broke through the lightless room.
Sonic looked up to see his hovering assailant.
The red feet and the flames spurting out of them are what first caught his attention, bulky things sandwiched between pieces of chrome with thrusters extending from the ankles and wheels for heels- what an ugly means of locomotion. They were joined to the machine's spindly legs by black 'cuffs' in mockery of his own sneakers. Its knees were also black, like kneepads against its gray limbs, a sharp point protruding from each joint. A riveted torso with a hexagon shaped chest bobbed through the air above him, on it sitting a silvery hedgehog head. There was no mouth, only a shining muzzle with a long spike for a nose and a bolt at each cheek. From below Sonic could make out its stubby gray tail and six false spines, two extending from the robot's back, four from the end of its cranium, all sharp looking, as were its ears. Its yellow visor was trained on the fallen adventurer and its fingers pointed at him- each was a segmented gun barrel, set on large, rectangular forearms doubtless packed with ammunition. The arms also had thrusters at the elbows, he suspected to assist in forward acceleration, but they weren't being used at the moment. Maybe that would give him the advantage in speed for the time being.
'Last I checked, the doc had this guy locked up...'
In the scant illumination of Mecha Sonic's jets he spotted one of the bullets that offended him moments before beside a gloved hand. Deftly he picked it up while pushing himself off the ground.
Wearily Sonic rose to his feet, eyeing the opposition's left flank, where five steady barrels were taking aim. He rolled the bullet between his fingers contemplatively.
The world was too slow really.
At least, when he focused, everything looked like it was moving in slow motion. Even his body seemed sluggish, throwing the piece of lead at a greater speed than what had carried it from its source, then turning to run as quickly as possible in the same direction. Sonic could just make out the tiny projectile flying above him, heading towards his mechanical counterpart's left hand, breaking the sound barrier. He'd determined this model couldn't fire that fast.
Not wanting to have a hole torn through its arm, Mecha Sonic jerked out of the incoming bullet's way, quickly twisting to open fire on the hero with its right set of weapons. The air cracked with five more shots, but he had already taken his opening and sped past the metal mercenary.
Sonic didn't waste time with the stairs, Jump Dashing over them to the top level of the chamber, eyes searching for a means of escape. Between himself and the floating doppelganger was a strange translucent container that bordered the edge of the upper floor, about as tall as one of the combatants, a pile of shrapnel from the wreck when he came in resting on the surface. The red flames beneath Mecha Sonic could be seen through its glass sides, casting the other end of the room in an unsavory green that reminded him of sewer water. Long and jagged shadows chased each other across the walls in their dimly lit battle ground. Over his foe's shoulder Sonic could make out what looked to be the entrance to Mechanical Resonance, where the noise he heard earlier seemed to emanate, a whisper under the vroom of thrusters. It felt much farther away than it did on his last visit.
Mecha Sonic wasn't going to let up. It brought both arms to bear, ten barrels leveled at its target, shooting in a wide spray.
Sonic was able to catch the enemy's movement before it was too late and ducked into a ball, rolling behind the green container as bullets whizzed over head. Silver crown shimmering against the reflected light of its twin rockets, Mecha Sonic whirled through the air like a drunken dancer and continued to unleash full weapons fire, skirting around the glass tank to strafe the blue sphere.
This time they didn't miss.
Again feeling the pang of tiny drills digging into his flesh, Sonic uncurled from his round shape to skid on the floor, watching the room flash white between rapid heart beats. Rings slipped out of him and fell in a circle around his prone body. He drew sharp breaths, lips pulled tight.
Recovering quickly Sonic Spin Dashed away from another shower of lead, managing to clear the distance separating him from the wall opposite the top of the stairs, snatching up two of the fallen Rings on the way. The persistent bullet stream chased his blue contrail, a concentrated rain beating hard against the ground to the thunder of gunshots. Sonic had exited the Spin Dash in time to see the approaching storm.
It moved in slow motion from his perspective, enough that he could afford a glance to his left, spotting a dormant Metal Sonic slumped against the inside of a tube.
Taking his own advice to think fast, Sonic cart-wheeled behind the glass cylinder, dodging fire that ripped apart the computer terminal in his place. It vanished in a burst of sparks and shards of broken screen.
Mecha Sonic's yellow eyes followed the fleet footed hedgehog to its twin's resting place. It made necessary calculations and adjustments as its hands shifted position, hesitant to destroy the sleeker, bluer machine. Careful not to damage the tube's occupant, another wave of fire raked in the far wall's direction, blasting it to pieces.
Dust clouded the space where the rain had fallen. Amid flying glass and ricocheting shots, the intended target was unscathed; he had taken complete cover under Metal Sonic's thin body.
Not deeming this a safe hiding place, Sonic picked himself up, still grasping the improvised shield. As the hovering adversary's glaring face became clear in the smoke, he let the robot go to take more aggressive measures.
"Okay, buddy" he said as Metal Sonic hit the floor. "Enough playing around..."
Once again Sonic curled into Spin Dash position, revving up in place as streaks of energy like fireflies danced through the air and into his body. A soft blue glow began to radiate from the spinning hedgehog, filling the room with pale light that seemed to wrestle with the harsh sunset of Mecha Sonic's rockets.
The robot was unsure how to interpret this new development- it had no knowledge of this ability or what sort of countermeasures to take. Scans told it the beads of light were hot enough to burn through steel, yet its fleshy opponent seemed to be absorbing them. Firing on Sonic while he was vulnerable would have normally been the mechanical soldier's first concern, but the presence of the dangerous force swarming around hedgehog now stayed its hand. The Spin Dash couldn't strike airborne targets without a sufficient incline to launch from. It would be safer to wait and observe the enemy's next move.
Suddenly the Sonic's spinning stopped and he uncurled, feet slapping to a halt as he rose again to his full height. Now however a sheath of blue light laminated his body like a ghostly film, transparent enough to allow the teen to smirk through at his silvery opposite. Mecha Sonic cautiously raised its right set of digits towards the glowing hedgehog, sensing no more volatile energy despite the change in appearance.
To little to late. The Light Speed Attack cracked through the air before the bullets left their barrels, blasting the robot's right arm to pieces.
Half of Mecha Sonic's body was engulfed in black smoke and trickling flames as the limb's fuel compartments and ammunition ignited all at once, shrapnel rolling to the floor in burning chunks. Nonetheless the machine remained absolutely steady, attempting to take aim again with its other arm, only to find its target was still moving.
Sonic's spinning form ignored gravity and orbited his foe like a spiked satellite, leaving numberless after-images in circles around the machine. It was impossible for the chromed combatant to determine his movements through the blur of intersecting contrails. Mecha Sonic made a pirouette mid air, discharging its remaining weapons aimlessly in every direction, a desperate effort that proved useless. Bullets ricocheted harmlessly about the walls of the complex, adding their noise to the strange sound the hedgehog's Light Speed Attack made in its circuit.
Another crack and the left arm was obliterated, creating another burst of smoke and flame.
Sonic ceased his circling and emerged from the cloud of after-images above the look-a-like. Taking advantage of this position, he slammed his heel with as much force as he could muster down on his opponent's head, sending it crashing towards the bottom floor.
Mecha Sonic's thrusters cut when it hit the ground, plunging their battlefield again into darkness. Sonic landed crouching, he supposed some distance away, feeling only slightly winded. He stretched, arching his back as he spoke.
"I've learned a few tricks since our last little play date, as you can see."
The shadows gave no answer, but he was certain the machine was still operational. It had a track record for handling heavy damage. This fight wasn't quite over.
"Come on, I know this has been a 'disarming' experience for you," he said with a grin. "but I know you haven't given up yet. Don't keep me waiting!"
At first there was more silence. Then a loud clank, like metal hitting metal. Another clank, followed by the earsplitting sound of something scratching against the floor, sending a irritated shudder through his body. Slowly yellow compound eyes rolled down into view, as Sonic realized the robot was rising off its back just with its legs, using its mechanical joints in ways that would make limbo dancers jealous. The eyes continued to move downwards before settling slightly below Sonic's own height. He had feeling he knew what was coming and braced himself.
The red glow returned, revealing Mecha Sonic crouching on the other side of the room, thrusters burning. The wheels on its feet screech wildly as it rammed the organic hedgehog at full speed, smashing both of them through the wall and into the training room.
'Just like old times' Sonic thought.
The evacuation was long underway, orders going out at the clamor of the Egg Viper's destruction hours ago, when the countless mechanical inhabitants of Metropolis abandoned what they were doing to begin their flight. Workers emptied from their factories, shutting down the conveyer belts and refineries and power plants. Block by block the lights of the city went out in waves, buildings vanishing into the valley's shadow. Assembly lines ceased; construction sites were deserted. Everywhere the most valuable items were gathered and piled into trains for transport; important equipment, experimental machinery, rare materials, archaeological pieces uncovered in the ruins, research specimens, and so on. Precious fuel was also moved with haste, tanks upon tanks of it, any that could still be used in other facilities. Missiles, guns, weighty cannons, and explosives too were dragged by the crate full to be stacked in train cars; the enemy could not get the opportunity to steal or study their weapons technology. Slowly the circle of defenses around Metropolis began to pull away, heading for bunkers and hideouts in the jungle, while all-terrain vehicles crowded with robots dove into the bush. A scant number of guards remained in place at any important juncture, watching and waiting to determine if further action might be necessary to preserve any of the city's resources.
Despite reasonable assurance that progress was being made in the mass exodus, there were a few things the Doctor felt the need to double check, just to be certain. He glanced back and forth from the small screen in the Eggmobile's cockpit to the blackened corridors of Mechanical Resonance, trying to steer the hovercraft out of harm's way. Most of the badniks patrolling the halls were destroyed in the hedgehog's prior rampage, so there were fewer obstacles to dodge now, but he still had to be careful. The giant claws used in constructing pieces of the Egg Carriers could be dangerous if crashed into at his current speed, and even when they were no longer moving they took up a lot of space. These and other devices in the Final Egg were starting to shut down, but it would take time before power was completely cut from the base. Many of the various machines in the Doctor's facilities ran on independent power supplies so they could remain operational in the event of something jeopardizing the primary energy sources.
After cruising lower to duck under an observation platform, the scientist turned his attention back to the little screen, scrolling through status reports. E-107, E-108, and E-109 were in the process of being moved out of the city; none were anywhere near completion, but the designs had already been worked out and all three could be finished en-route to their destination. The capsules containing the organic batteries so essential to sustaining the Empire were being loaded onto the Egg Liner for transport to the Iron Jungle deeper in the island. The Doctor raised his eyebrows at the figures for the small animals being evacuated- he had not relocated this many since the Flying Battery's journey to Angel Island, and then most of the capsules on-board were empty or contained something else.
What worried him most however was the successful extraction of all data from the Final Egg's computers. The information stored here was vital to the function of his army and any hope of future conquest. The tactical advantage it would give his enemies if it fell into their hands was enormous. Every last disk, hard drive, and storage device was either to be removed or erased. All the computers would be wiped clean and their connection to the Matrix mainframe severed.
The Doctor tore his eyes away again to examine the path in front of him, piloting the Eggmobile upward over a couple of high steps and down a sharp-curved hallway. It led to a small room with with five doors and a trio of security cameras shining yellow light at him in an accusatory fashion. He gave an agitated sigh at his poor luck; this room took advantage of the Final Egg's massive size and allowed the surrounding corridors to be rotated around the exterior of the room like a giant puzzle box, changing which door led to the next room every two hours. This was a security measure to prevent anyone from accessing his private control room in the upper recesses of the tower. He'd forgotten to turn it off and now he was running out of time.
Acting quickly he attempted to remotely access the system controlling the doors to make them all open at once, typing madly on the Eggmobile's keyboard. He heard some commotion behind him and the typing grew even more frantic. Not soon enough for his liking, the doors finally opened. Out of each flew a E-06 unit, a round, floating sentry badnik with a bottom half not dissimilar to the Doctor's own hovercraft and a dark blue top half decorated with pointy ears and light blue eyes in a perpetual scowl. Mostly intended for observing and reporting security problems to other, more elite units or for scouting out hard to reach locations ahead of their parties in the field, the "Spinas" were not particularly effective in combat but in groups like this could be intimidating. This model's defensive capabilities were limited to a pair of constantly rotating scythes with plasma-bladed tips, capable of cutting through almost anything with ease but possessing a very small range. They were stationed here to respond to intruders who picked the wrong door.
The correct one, he noted, was unoccupied. He turned to the door on the far right, where there was no Spina, preparing to fly down it as fast as possible.
Before his hands could grip the wheel, a violent impact rocked the walls around him, and the sound of metal rending apart could be heard down the hall he just passed through.
"You now, I actually like some of the additions you made to ol' Mecha Me..." a voice spoke thoughtfully.
The hedgehog's voice. The Doctor twisted to look down the hallway, snarling, teeth clenched.
"... but still, that whole charging forward without anything to protect the front? Not the smartest move when I've got Rings to take the damage away and can Spin Dash into his body for a good three seconds before the invincibility wears off."
Sonic strode into the room, as calm and cocky as ever, clutching some big charred piece of metal between his hands.
Despite the levity of his tone, he was not showing off the familiar toothy grin. In its place was a grimace, which was also familiar to the Doctor; it was more intense than a frown, yet more placid than a glower.
The Doctor didn't like seeing this face.
The hedgehog stopped and stood between him and the door he sought to enter, not quite blocking the path, but just enough to make the Doctor very uncomfortable. Sonic rubbed his hands around the metal object like it was a basket ball and he was trying to feel the bumps.
"Granted," he went on, taking another step forward. "it worked alright back on the Death Egg, when I didn't have any Rings for the whole fight. That was a tough fix. When I finally did beat him, I really thought you had run out of things to throw at me."
Sonic dropped the robot's head to the floor beneath them, Mecha Sonic's yellow visor staring up at its maker.
"Even these days though, I forget how it really is. I forget that you always have more, and more, and more, don't you Eggman?"
"ATTACK!" the Doctor ordered. The four Spinas dived into action at their master's cry, flying towards the meat creature with their spinning blades at full speed, boxing in the foe at all sides.
Easily and gracefully Sonic leaped over this simple formation, coming back down to strike them one by one. Like a skipping stone on water he splashed from one enemy to the next, azure shock waves peeling off his airborne body, badniks exploding in a shower of sparks. The Spinas' ruined remains joined Mecha Sonic on the floor. Four small animals, suspended briefly in green barriers while the shrapnel fell where robots used to be, scurried towards their rescuer as he landed among them. He crossed his arms, watching the critters crawl around his feet.
"Up 'til about now, I had a theory, doctor..." he continued, seemingly ignoring what just happened.
Behind tinted shades the Doctor was rapidly looking from Sonic, to the door, to his keyboard, and back again. Everything about this situation was bad. This Eggmobile had no weapons, not even the cryogenic explosives he'd outfitted his other vehicle with earlier, which then did little but assist his enemy when deployed. He'd need to carry a firearm from now on, whatever the circumstances.
"I figured maybe just crushing your toys would teach you a lesson for once- but it looks like you still got toys to spare." the teen said as he surveyed the shattered badniks. "I mean, where does it end? Giant missiles, backup Egg Carriers, even another Mecha Sonic! Are you hiding another giant robot that looks like you somewhere?"
The scientist put his vast mind to work trying to think of a way out of the present predicament. There had to be a means of incapacitating the hedgehog. He just had to keep the boy talking until he could come up with something.
"I must apologize, my most determined nemesis, but I'm afraid there are no more functional mechs around here, so sorry to disappoint." the Doctor began. "I would certainly have prepared one if I had the chance."
Sonic rolled his eyes at the excessive formalities.
"Really?" he questioned. "None? No Egg Viper 2.0? No multiple backup Eggmobile-attachments for me to fight in sequence? No sentimental recreations of past battles?"
"Very interesting ideas, but no, I simply wasn't expecting you to visit again so soon. Why in fact did you choose to follow me here with such determination? After all the excitement in Station Square I imagined you'd had enough for one day..."
"Well, that's just it Eggman," he replied, voice growing louder. "I thought that you had enough after we took down your Egg Carrier and your new pet, but then I hear you tried to nuke the whole city! Good thing Tails was there, or there wouldn't have been much left for Chaos to wreck!"
He drew his fingers across his mustache contemplatively, head tilting to the side.
"So, did my attempted use of lethal force seem excessive to you, this particular time?" the scientist prodded.
"Even you know that this went too far," Sonic muttered, stepping closer to the floating vehicle. "this was beyond excessive."
"I had hoped that, through Chaos, I could crush and take over the city in a less destructive way." he protested. "You forced my hand after you broke us apart! Things would have worked out differently if my plan were allowed to proceed..."
The Doctor's dark glasses scanned the space above them for a moment, his face growing pensive.
"It isn't like I haven't used equally deadly weapons of mass destruction before, after all. You have seen what my more impressive creations could do on the Floating Island and else where- even experienced a few first hand! Surely that little incident with the missile could not be what compelled you to chase after me."
"This isn't like blowing up an empty volcano, Eggman!" Sonic countered, not noticing that the Doctor began typing something into the controls of his hovercraft. "You put hundreds of thousands of lives at risk today, and now because of you innocent people are dead! I'm not just going to let you get away with that!"
"Oh-ho, and what exactly do you plan on doing about it, child?" he asked coldly, eyes now glued to the ceiling.
The hedgehog gazed steadily at the man, matching his icy tone.
"Maybe turning you over to the military will do the trick..."
Now the Doctor's attention was fully on Sonic, and his face contorted into an expression of unmitigated fury.
"NO!" he bellowed. "Those fools will NOT capture another Robotnik! I'll die first!"
A look of confusion passed over Sonic's face at this exclamation, but he had little time to wonder at it as violet plasma streams suddenly speared between the two of them, forcing him to back flip to safety. White, spherical machines with small propellers had fallen from a trap door over head and formed a barricade of sizzling beams around the young hero, fencing him off from his adversary.
The Doctor grinned in devious pleasure at seeing his trap work. He had never found an appropriate trigger for dropping the security drones, but keeping them around anyway had proved a fortunate decision.
Wasting no time, he rocketed through the door and down the corridor, the pod's exhaust trailing behind him as he made for the control room. There was a terrible noise behind, a crunching sound and a whirring like the wind, but he ignored it and focused on reaching his goal. Eyes locked straight ahead, he searched desperately for the entrance. The hall was dark and narrow but opened up to a wider, higher room, and the exit was somewhere above. He pulled the Eggmobile up to fly over a ledge, and the sound became a howl that was drawing ever closer. But he was almost there- he could see it! The circle of golden bird statues, and above them, the tunnel leading to the top of the Final Egg!
The smooth, polished swallows were a minor art project of his, the sort of distractions he allowed himself whenever designing a new base of operations. Surrounding the opening in the ceiling that led to the control room and facing outward, the shimmering metal likenesses represented the various little creatures he harvested to power his machines, and the beautiful mechanical perfection they ultimately became a part of. As he built his empire on the backs of these small animals, so the Doctor's throne now rested high over the backs of these birds. The interior of the tunnel was completely smooth and free of footholds, running straight upwards for more than a hundred meters.
The swallows served as another portend- accessing the control room required flight, something his pursuer was not capable of.
Arriving under the entrance way, he flicked off the burning thrusters and increased the hovering force to propel the Eggmobile up, ascending through the tunnel into the darkness.
By this time the emptying of Metropolis was nearly complete. The last cargo was being secured aboard the Egg Liner, and robots scurried up and down the railways in preparation for departure. Elsewhere, stillness pervaded the city; beyond a few token guard units hovering in the shadows, all activity had come to a stand still. The once shimmering landscape of animated machinery had become silent and lightless.
For a person watching from the cliffs above, it would appear the jungle was creeping in and consuming the steel citadel. As the lights were extinguished, the bulk of the city began to fade from view, becoming lost in the shade of mountains. The sun was starting to set and the glow of the skyline seemed to retreat with it. The shadows crawled up the Final Egg slowly, lights flickering out one by one, until just a single shining star graced the top of the tower.
The mighty tower became as a giant candle rising out of the valley, burning with the last light of Metropolis, a light towards which its architect now raced.
The command center was just a small portion of the top level of the fortress, though it was also the most vital. It was lit by the glow of twenty monitor screen, each displaying data readouts for incalculable minutia pertaining to the Empire's forces. The monitors are arranged in a semicircle on the south end of the room, ten flanking either side of a colossal holographic projection detailing the entire complex, the master of the castle's very own magic mirror to behold all that happened in his domain. The other side of the room was taken up by a tall, semicircular console, encompassing an imposing black throne, just as showy as the captain's chairs aboard their flying fortresses. Predictably, the seat's decor took inspiration from its creator's face, so the person sitting in it would appear to be within the mustached madman's maw, teeth and a long nose forming an awning over their head. The garish throne was silhouetted against the afternoon sun by three windows that spanned from roof to floor, painting the walls in orange.
At the moment the Eggmobile came to a stop the Doctor scrambled out, sprinting towards the console, his coat tails dancing at his back. He sank into the black material of the command chair before attacking the keyboard with a furious pace. The facsimile Final Egg within the holographic display broke down and was reassembled as a wide rectangle over which text began to scroll.
'Ah, yes...' the Doctor thought. 'Just one more thing to take care of before I clean up here...'
Within the hologram an empty bar appeared, which rapidly began to fill with red as a number beside a percent sign started counting up from zero. The most significant and irreplaceable data had to be copied before the master computer could be flushed. If the things recorded here were lost, there would be no chance of ever getting them back. He wanted to handle this data personally- there were too many risks involved in placing it in the care of one of his underlings.
The bar reached its fill and the counter reached 100%. Out of the console popped a small featureless disk, which the Doctor snatched up gleefully. He held it up to the light, watching the rainbow reflected in its sides. In his hands he was holding every shred of information he had obtained on the God of Destruction. Scans revealing Chaos's molecular structure, neurological activity, energy interactions at each stage of his transformation studiously compared, and much more.
He pocketed the disk and went back to typing on the console.
"Excellent! Now, to erase all this data so there will be no trail of bread crumbs for anyone to follow!"
"Gee, I dunno Eggman, you think anybody could actually make sense of this stuff? All looks pretty meaningless to me."
Uncomprehending, the Doctor slowly turned towards the origin of the voice, jaw hanging open.
There, reclining in the cockpit of the Eggmobile as if he were getting cozy in a beach chair on the pool-side, was the hedgehog once again. Sonic looked around the control room lazily, not bothering to make eye contact with the Doctor, eventually settling his gaze on the multitude of monitors above him. The disposal process was already underway and they were beginning to go blank one at a time.
"Well, all except for the one there," he said, eyeing the screen reporting the figures for the organic batteries being transported. Sonic etched it into his brain before it was deleted. "I understand that one perfectly, doc."
"You clung to the back!" the scientist concluded, rising from his throne. "Just like in the Labyrinth all those years ago, riding along to escape the pouring water!"
Sonic spared a genuine grin, also getting to his feet and leaping down from the Eggmobile.
"Aww, come on now doctor, forward thinking guys like us shouldn't be dwelling on the past." he admonished, walking around the deactivated hologram projector. "We should be looking towards the future. Tell me what you see in your future. Through the iron bars, that is."
The Doctor punched a few more buttons before regarding Sonic evenly across the console separating them.
"Now where did this sudden urge to see me in prison come from? You have rarely expressed much concern over apprehending me in prior altercations. Just a few hours ago you were content to sabotage my plans and let me limp away in a burning hoverpod."
The hedgehog's expression grew serious again, green eyes narrowing.
"This isn't about you and me, Eggman. This is about what happened to Station Square. Those people deserve justice. You're the one responsible for what happened to them, you have to answer for the things they suffered."
"Oh please," the Doctor sneered, slipping behind the command chair. "I know you better than that. This is hardly about something as noble as justice. You were always happy to play our little game, whatever the number of lives at stake or freedoms threatened. I got to have my fun coming up with ways to rule the world and you got to have your fun keeping me from doing it, testing your skills. But now the game's gotten too ugly for you, hasn't it? You thought because you were the hero that no one was ever going to get hurt, and now that enough people finally have you're scared to keep playing!"
Sonic clenched his fists at his sides, looking away from the human, staring at the floor.
"I always knew I could keep you contained." he said, eyes sliding shut. "That me and Tails could always stop you from getting out of control. Even today... even today we proved I was right. It is just that neither you or I could have been prepared for how dangerous Chaos ultimately was, even after you were defeated."
"You can't hide the truth from me, Sonic." the Doctor replied, taking a few steps further away and folding his hands behind his back. "There is only one reason why we are standing here right now: because you failed to stop Chaos from reaching his full potential. And you can't live with knowing that."
"Don't try to act like you can wash your hands of it, Eggman!" Sonic spat in anger. "You freed Chaos, you tried to destroy Station Square, and you will answer for the crimes you have committed!"
He opened his eyes, glaring up at his nemesis with steeled resolve.
"And there is nothing you can do to get away from me."
Yet then the Doctor smirked, taking one last step backwards.
"I'm afraid that's where you're wrong, boy." he replied as multicolored light rose and fell around his red and black clad form. "However fast you are, I will still always outrun you."
Sonic's eyes went wide in recognition.
Without a second thought he lounged at the human, teeth bared in a vicious snarl, jumping clear over the console with the intent to seize him in gloved hands. He grasped only air as the Doctor vanished, leaving Sonic to slam against the transporter pad below -identical to the one on the Egg Carrier- with a hard thud.
At that moment the last light in Metropolis went out, like a candle.
Sonic paced the room, the glass scattered when he beat the useless transporter pad in frustration crunching under his feet. The conversation he just had was racing through his head. He couldn't allow this expedition to go to waste. There had to be a way to track down the Eggman.
He looked out one of the over sized windows, the only source of illumination in the room now.
Far below he could just make out one of the rail roads leading out of the city. A train was moving down it now, heading westward.
The number of small animals he was sure were trapped aboard that train now was still burning in his skull. He knew something needed to be done for them. Following the rail road was also his best option for hunting down Eggman again.
The Doctor's words seemed to echo in the dark. Goading him to give up. Telling him it was his fault.
He looked toward the train again. It was still in view.
Failing to stop Chaos from reaching his perfect form weighed heavy on his mind, but he couldn't afford to let it become fuel for Eggman's mind games.
If there was time to worry about the past, then there was that much more time to run.
Added in 14 hours 43 minutes 28 seconds:
Chapter 3: Broken Glass (incomplete)
It would have been wrong to say Tails was afraid.
When fighting the Doctor alone, he'd been able to convince himself that he wasn't scared, despite how loudly the blood pounding in his ears protested.
That was when he went up against one of the villain's towering machines, armed to the teeth with weapons that could have blown him from the face of the Earth without leaving so much as a smear behind. Even when confronted by something as terrifying as that, Tails refused to let himself become afraid- refused any hesitation when his life was at stake.
No, Tails wasn't afraid.
Just... intimidated, maybe.
The fox child scowled at this thought, drawing his knees up to his chin and folding his arms over his snout.
He was seated sideways in a too-big chair, glaring pointlessly at the window of the mayor's office, the outside of which was so coated with mud and grime that nothing on the other side was visible. His two tails flicked up and down rhythmically, occasionally winding to the left like a propeller, an unconscious reflex that seemed to denote his anxiousness. Dust particles swirled around in the air above him with the motion.
Tails sighed and wrapped the appendages around him like a blanket to keep them still. He remembered how people used to tease him about his tails and how they moved so unnaturally. It wasn't something that helped his mood.
He was restless, however; it had been hours since the mayor announced his intention to arrange an award ceremony where Tails would be gifted with the Yellow Chaos Emerald. The idea wasn't something that appealed to the city's young hero. He disliked being the center of attention, at least when it came to presenting himself before huge crowds of people. His experiences with such things weren't especially positive.
He wondered how many people would be there. Some of them would be asking questions, certainly. Wanting him to give answers to the public. Demanding him to talk for the entire world to hear. Clamoring to know how he saved the city from Robotnik. Questioning why he failed to stop Chaos from reaching its perfect form.
All those eyes boring into him.
Despite the humidity, he shivered.
Tails really didn't want to go through with the ceremony. He didn't want to be in this place at all. The child was mentally and physically exhausted from all that had happened that day. He just wished to go home and fall asleep.
Leaving was out of the question of course. For one thing he really needed the Chaos Emerald. The crashed Tornado 2 was still resting inoperable in the Mystic Ruins, and if Tails had any hope of flying the plane back to his workshop he would need the Emerald to power it. There was absolutely no way he could leave his creation to rust in the wilderness like that. His heart ached at the thought of all the hard work that had gone into the precious machine being wasted.
'Tornado' he thought mournfully, imagining the plane half-sinking into ground somewhere in that jungle. 'It needs me...'
He contemplated explaining the situation to the mayor and getting him to hand over the Emerald right now, dispensing with the whole ceremony business. Tails' eyes flitted around the room, empty save for himself since the mayor departed with the captain of the police force. All he had to do was leave the office to go find one of them.
Tails looked down at the space on the floor in front of him, where his feet were supposed to be. All he had to do was get up out of the chair, and walk to the door. All he had to do was walk down the hallway where all those strange people were waiting to stare at him and ask someone about the Emerald.
Several mintues later the fox noted that his body had yet to move and he was still sitting with his tails coiled around his knees.
He scrunched his eyes shut while letting out a groan of frustration.
'Unbelievable! I stood up to Robotnik but can't do this one little thing?!'
Tails cursed himself for being so ridiculous. There was no rational reason to be this shy around people, especially since they were mostly people he already knew. There was no reason to be so worried about going to the ceremony. Normally the boy spent so much time cooped up in his workshop that he couldn't contain himself when an opportunity to talk to someone appeared- he would go on and on about the latest device he was tinkering with like it was the easiest thing in the world. What was different now?
Well, he was tired, he admitted. He felt too drained to confront anyone right now. As stupid as it was to be intimidated by these tiny obstacles when he had already overcome so much worse, Tails simply couldn't find the strength for anything else.
"I wish Sonic was here..." he muttered into the fluff of golden-yellow fur his muzzle was buried in.
Sonic was never shy, never got tired, never worried about anything. Nothing could intimidate Sonic, or at least Tails had never seen anything that could in all the time he'd known the hedgehog.
Tails could not imagine Sonic being afraid of anything.
If Sonic were here, Tails knew, then the Yellow Chaos Emerald would already be in hand and the two of them would be on their way. Sonic would have no problem talking the mayor into handing the gem over; Sonic could talk to anyone and keep his cool. It didn't matter what situation was happening around him, Sonic was always in complete control. Sonic never second guessed himself, never doubted his own abilities, never hesitated to act. He was pure action, and no force was his master.
Tails was certain that all these things were true, just as he was certain that he and Sonic could not be more different. Sonic, to be sure, could never be bullied or stung with words, as Tails so often was because of his peculiarity. If Sonic were here, then he could take care of everything so easily.
'But Sonic's not here' Tails reminded himself.
Tails wasn't brave like Sonic, wasn't as confident as him. He tried to believe in himself, tried to be as cool and collected as his hero, but the fox's courage seemed to abandon him with startling swiftness. He felt so alone now.
Tails wanted to become more independent and prove he could do things on his own. Made a promise that he would.
Now that he actually was out of Sonic's shadow, he was just lost.
The vulpine was stirred from his pondering by the whispered creak of the office door swishing open. He jumped slightly in his seat, fur poofing up to stand on end out of frieght- no, surprise. He was only surprised.
The mayor shut the door behind him as he made his way into the room, taking a seat behind his sizable desk. He appeared much more composed than he did when speaking to the Commander earlier, projecting an image of focused calm. Tails once again cursed himself for the irrational reaction. He uncurled from his wrapped up position on the chair and tried very hard to avoid looking nervous in front of his host.
"I'm sorry for leaving you unattended for so long, Mr. Prower," the balding gentleman began, removing his spectacles and brushing them lightly. "This crisis has me being pulled in a dozen directions at once. So many things demand my attention..."
"It's- uh, that's fine sir." Tails answered, his voice incredibly small.
Here was his opportunity. He could get the Chaos Emerald and leave to salvage his airplane.
"This is a difficult time for everyone of course," the mayor continued, replacing his glasses. "It would be selfish to put-off any of my responsibilities when all of these people are in need."
"Y-yeah," Tails said, still gathering his thoughts. "You must be really, um, busy."
"Indeed. Just now we finished coordinating a plan to evacuate the city. Even with the assistance of the G.U.N. medical personnel, the number of injured is too great- we cannot provide enough treatment with Station Square in the shape she is in."
He turned his seat to look towards the window, as if imaging the shattered ruin beyond was staring back at him.
"We will need to transport most of the refugees to the capital with the military's airship if those in critical condition are to have any hope of recovering. The ones who aren't too gravely injured or agree to give up their place on the airship will be carried out by other means. The nearest place we can send them is a small town in the Blue Ridge Zone. If it were possible, I would rather they be ferried to some of the other satellite cities, but the present flooding makes all sea and land travel extremely unsafe. With the people barricaded in like this, the only solution is to airlift as many as we can to higher ground, where they can be transported more freely."
Tails absorbed this information as he searched his head for something meaningful to say.
"In the meantime we have to do everything we can to keep our citizens reassured," the mayor said, turning back to face Tails. "There is still so much work to be done."
The fox child shifted uncomfortably, gazing around the room while refusing to meet the man's eye.
"With all these important things to do, um, you wouldn't want to get distracted with unnecessary stuff," Tails said distractedly. "Like... well, talking here with me?"
At this the mayor's expression became startled.
"Don't be silly Mr. Prower!" he said, spreading his arms wide. "Of course speaking with you is important! You've done so much more than the rest of us to protect this city. And after all, we have to get preparations underway for your award ceremony!"
"Yeah... that," Tails replied. "Isn't that pretty much unnecessary too? I mean... you could just give the Chaos Emerald to me now, right? We don't have to bother with, uh, showing everyone that I got it? Wouldn't it be better to let me sneak it out of the city?"
He cast a glance at the mayor, who was growing increasingly perplexed.
"I really will keep it safe! Honest!" he added quickly. "I just- just need to use it for something... and I dont' see the point in waiting around for this ceremony thing."
"You don't want to be publically rewarded for your heroism?" the mayor asked.
"No," Tails answered, looking down. "I... don't feel comfortable standing up in front of a crowd of people."
The mayor regarded him thoughtfully from across the desk.
"Young Mr. Prower," he spoke. "Do you know why I decided that the Emerald was to be gifted to you in this particular manner?"
"Um... because you were grateful that I helped stop Robotnik?"
"That's not it." the mayor answered. "True, you were very brave, and you deserve all the gratitude we can offer you for that. But no, the reason I wanted to arranged this ceremony was because I wanted the people to see you."
"See me?" Tails asked in confusion.
The mayor stood up, turning his back to the boy as he once again gazed upon the city outside.
"Station Square's people have suffered tremendously from this disaster. They have lost so much. The feeling that they have been defeated, that their enemies have triumphed, is crippling. Right now, their hope is broken. That is why I want you to go before the public, to tell them what you did and give them a hero to look to. The people have to regain some since of victory about this whole mess. They need someone to rekindle their broken spirit."
He turned, looking at Tails with penetrating eyes.
"They need someone to believe in. They need to believe in you."
Tails tried to process this. Could he really backout now when the city needed him?
He racked his much lauded mind for a satisfying answer and came up empty. What he was being asked to do made something like a knot twist in his stomach. Having faith in himself was already proving so difficult. Making all of Station Square have faith in him seemed impossible.’
'The sky is pink' Amy thought numbly as she surveyed the sun's slow descent over the city skyline.
'I never liked pink.'
Her favorite color of course was blue; she liked seeing nice, clear blue skies. Of course, she didn't usually complain about being a pink hedgehog. It would spoil her girlish confidence to complain about her self-image. Being fashion conscious as well, she tended to wear pink or other colors that complimented her hair color. That did not mean Amy generally liked the color pink. Subsequently, some of the beauty that others found in sunsets was lost on the hedgehog girl.
Right now, she would have given anything in the world to just see a blue sky instead.
The sun was crawling ever so gradually down the sides of buildings now, it's light beginning to fade. The shadows that stretched along the stagnant waters were sharp and jagged. Ruined structures clawed upwards, cutting the sky like feral teeth sinking into pink flesh.
The top of the building in front of her looked like nothing so much as a toothed smile, edged with broken steel rods and still-smoking, charred pieces of wood.
Amy's apartment was gone.
That morning, Amy had lived on the top floor of an apartment building in the residential area of Station Square, within convienent walking distance of the newspaper stand and the train station. When she directed the men operating the rescue boat to where her home was supposed to be, she expected the five feet of water to only be a minor obstalce between her and her belongings. She expected to wade her way to the stairs of the bottom floor and climb to her room where she could gather her things. Maybe, she thought, a pile of rubble might be in her way, or part of the building might have caved in. That would have been a smaller matter- she was strong, she could dig through the rubble, smash debris aside with her hammer if necessary.
Instead, a gout of fire from Perfect Chaos had blasted the top of the building clean off.
A rough semi-circle of crumbling stone jutting from where the second story of the apartment once was, still smiling down cruely at the little girl, was the only evidence that anything had ever been there.
Amy struggled to internalize the reality of what she was seeing. That morning, she'd had an apartment. She'd had clothes, she'd had a television set, she'd had a bed, she'd had potted plants with big pretty blue flowers, and- and-
And now it was gone.
Where her home was supposed to be was a patch of empty, pink sky.
'I never liked that color' she noted to herself again, staring vacantly at the spot that refused to go back to being a building.
Amy looked helplessly to her side for Birdie, as if seeking the Flicky's confirmation that her home was indeed destroyed. However, when she turned around Birdie wasn't there.
'Oh' she remembered. 'Birdie left with the other two Flickys before...'
(to be continued)
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