The Mystery Emerges
A Drama of Eggic Proportions
Weapons set to standby...
Robot versions 7.3 to 9.8 set to standby...
Rear engines set to eighty-percent...
Primary vector on course...
Emergency escape pods… locked.
Awaiting your orders, Doctor...
The cool female voice that personalised Dr Robotnik’s specialised jet cut off. He lovingly called it, ‘The Egg Falcon’, indicating its lethalness and speed. The Doctor himself sat languidly in his large red leather captain’s chair, raised on a platform surrounded by equipment of his own design.
A long red joystick was raised from the semi-circular, a glittering and bleeping dashboard before him.
“Well then,” he grinned, “let’s get down to business.”
“Shadow, just listen to me!” – but with a frustrated sigh, Sonic was forced to jump out of danger’s path as Shadow steamrolled towards them in a perfect replica of Sonic’s spindash technique. What on Mobius did Shadow think Nickel had done?
It was nearing the end of the day. Angel Island’s daylight was already shortened due to the horizon being higher and closer, but what little light there had been had long since faded from a leisurely orange to dusk-purple. Only the clouds above them revealed that the sun had not yet completely set.
While Sonic had dodged to the left to gain the high ground upon a mossy tree, Nickel had jumped back, unwisely backing himself up against the rocky cliff-face. Shadow skidded to a stop, veering around, and began to advance on Nickel.
Sonic saw all of Nickel’s confidence melt away – and who could blame him? Shadow’s sharp features were contorted in the fury that fed his Chaos Control.
Nickel was backed into the cliff with nowhere to run, and Shadow was fast approaching, raising his free palm in preparation for another Chaos skill. Sonic got in the middle of it all.
A billow of dust, and he whipped between them and stood side on, with one gloved hand facing Nickel and the other Shadow. He was not afraid of Shadow – not really – and he certainly wasn’t going to let this escalate any further.
“Cool it!” he shouted, looking more at Shadow than Nickel. “Nickel didn’t come from Hill Top; he arrived in Green Hill Zone.”
At least it registered. Shadow rolled his eyes and lowered his spears slightly, ready to talk.
More confident, Sonic continued, “He’s lost his memory; we’re tryin’ to get it back”-
But no sooner had he finished, had something freezing and unbreakable seized him around the middle, throwing him into Shadow. With a crash they collided and went sprawling to the ground in a tangle of arms, legs and quills that painfully stung.
“Get off me!”
The world spun for Sonic as he was tossed from Shadow like a rag doll. Nickel leapt into the air and rocketed away. He did not look back.
Sonic took only a millisecond to check Nickel was on the breakaway before dashing back into the rainforest, not intent on being fried by a Chaos spear.
Sonic felt sure Shadow was following, but he didn’t know – that was the terrifying part, the fact that sent adrenaline bounding into his bloodstream. He accelerated, going too fast to risk looking back to check his pursuers progress. But he knew what was about to happen.
Shadow was settling this, one way or the other.
Knuckles, Tails, Amy and Cream ran and jumped through the thick rainforest, using the native mushrooms and even some of the wildlife to propel themselves further and higher.
“Ugh, where did they go!?” yelled Knuckles. “They’re gonna wreck my island!”
“Forget your island! What if Shadow hurts Sonic or Nickel?!” cried Amy.
“Don’t worry,” said Tails confidently, “they’ll be around here, they can’t be too hard to spot...”
“Won’t matter if Shadow’s tossed Sonic off the island,” Amy wailed.
“Shadows got a temper, but he’s not out of control.” said Tails logically, “I’m sure we can reason with him.”
“Shadow’s not completely out of control,” agreed Knuckles, “he’s not who I’m worried about.”
Then, completely out of the blue but totally on cue, flew Sonic. Landing on his head he bounced once, before coming to a stop spines up and face in the dirt.
He groaned, propping himself up on his elbows and knees, still face down.
“Where on Mobius did you come from!?” exclaimed Tails, looking from Sonic to the patch of rainforest he had spectacularly appeared from.
“Get down!” Sonic hissed, having spotted something through a dense series of ferns in front of them.
Sonic grabbed the closest, Tails and Knuckles, and pulled them to the ground to be concealed by a muddy ridge and the wild undergrowth. The fresh smell of the rainforest was strongest this close to the damp soil, and they were all immediately covered in the black loam. Amy and Cream followed suit, and quickly crawled to lay beside them – Amy only stopping to give the front of her dirtied pink dress a quick look of disgust.
“Are you okay, Mr. Sonic?” asked Cream – she was so calm she could have been asking about something trivial, like homework or the weather.
“Well, there’s been a minor setback...” Sonic nodded in the direction he had not-so-randomly fallen in from, indicating a slowly approaching Shadow the Hedgehog, each palm clutching dwindling Chaos spears – but Sonic was not fooled, those Chaos skills could be refuelled and cast for devastating results in the blink of an eye.
Cream and Amy each gave a small gasp.
“’Minor setback’, you say?” asked Tails, weakly.
“We can take him!” growled Amy.
“I’m not so sure,” whispered Tails worriedly. “Sometimes even Sonic can’t beat him, and that’s when he’s fighting fit!”
“Whaddya mean ‘even Sonic’?” inquired Knuckles angrily.
“When he’s fighting fit?” asked Sonic, eyebrows raised.
“You’ve just come off a fight with Metal Sonic!” hissed Tails, “If I believe half of what you told me you’re not supposed to be in any condition for a fight. Shadow’s not somebody can we can risk underestimating!”
“Ok fine, surely we can just talk to him.” suggested Tails. He was met with glares of alarm from four pairs of eyes.
Shadow was too close now; with his advanced hearing he would hear even a whisper.
“The plan?” mouthed Knuckles to Tails.
“Lets just… try and calm him down.”
Shadow was becoming irritated, and Sonic flinched from his concealed hiding place as Shadow flung both spears to the ground, where they erupted like cherry bombs.
Shadow had three particularly potent Chaos attacks: Chaos Spear, Chaos Blast, and Chaos Snap. But his arsenal of attacks spread even further; with (and sometimes without, though it cost him far more energy) a Chaos Emerald he could initiate Chaos Control, his trademark move, momentarily stopping and controlling time and space. Chaos Boost kicked in either automatically or if Shadow allowed it, depending on how battle-hungry he became. It was dangerous both for those around him and for Shadow himself, he had to remove both Inhibitor rings first, but if he let it continue on too long he risked killing himself through exhaustion. If he lost his Inhibitor Rings he would continue to bleed out Chaos energy, which was as important to Shadow as blood. Shadow was arguably the greatest destructive force on the planet short of an Atom Bomb.
The difference being one was outlawed, and one was employed by GUN.
“Nice fireworks. Can you do Christmas Wheels, too?”
Sonic leant against the tree as if he hadn’t a care in the world, arms folded and weight on one side.
Tails stepped out of the other side on the heels of Sonic’s words.
“No, Shadow, we’re not here to fight” –
Shadow ignored Tails as if he was not there.
“I want answers.” snarled Shadow, wheeling around, “Why did Robotnik start a fight on U.F soil? What is the electro-magnetic pulse and who is the kid?”
Sonic remained silent, a mocking sneer saying it all. He suddenly didn’t feel like sticking to procedure. Should he stick to the plan?
“Why do you refuse to tell me!?”
“Sonic, don’t” – started Tails.
“I dunno, maybe ‘cause it’s none of your business, and I doubt you have enough self-control to calm down anyway.”
From their hiding place, Knuckles and Amy slapped their palms to their foreheads.
Tails, disbelieving, cried, “Sonic, we want to calm him down, not make him mad!”
“Agh, he can take a joke – whoa!”
Shadow was already charging. Pulling back his elbow, Shadow twisted and threw it into the space where a moment before Sonic had been. He didn’t feel an ounce of pain when his elbow collided with the tree; instead he just swung around for another charge at the blue hedgehog, now standing where Shadow had started.
Tails wisely ducked and covered.
“See if it’s not my business when you’re face down, spines up and hurting!”
Far from worried at what he had caused, Sonic welcomed the challenge.
Pulling back his arm again Shadow launched a punch followed by a sweeping kick.
Shadow tackled, Sonic dodged; retaliated with a sharp and tight high kick; Shadow dodged; retaliated, hit nothing but air. Sonic launched his infamous axe kick from the power built up in the previous attack at Shadow, the muddy ground below him erupting as if a small meteor had hit it when he missed. Using the opening for a heavy duty sucker punch, Shadow struck Sonic in the centre of the chest, staggering him. Sonic, trying to recover, counter-attacked a millisecond too slow.
Side-stepping, Shadow caught the back-punch and hurled Sonic as hard as he could to his left.
Out of control, Sonic spun out of control as he barraged through soil and brush. He rolled twice once he had crashed to the ground, then immediately regained his footing and skidded to a halt. He was panting, yet Shadow had barely broken a sweat.
“And they call you fastest thing alive…” sneered Shadow, but the moment of gloating cost him as Sonic retaliated with an almighty punch to the jaw. Shadow didn’t even allow himself a second to back away, instead lashing out with an elbow, striking Sonic painfully on the neck and driving space between them.
That definitely wasn’t the plan.
“You’re still too slow!”
Shadow pushed the oncoming fist away with his forearm, and a single uppercut had Sonic back on the ground; dazed.
A crack, loud and sharp as a gunshot from outside the cramped clearing. Shadow’s smile dropped as he remembered that Tails, Knuckles, Amy and Cream were still on the island. Sonic couldn’t help it; he smiled at the sight of Shadow so suddenly on his guard at the thought of a group that included Cream the Rabbit.
“Even you aren’t that stupid Sonic. Smiling is really not the best idea at present.”
Sonic remained silent, but that glint in his eye intensified. Like sparks flying off a flint, each held the others gaze, one red; threatening and aggressive, the other green; mocking and confident.
Knuckles flew out while Shadow was distracted.
But Shadow was far too fast – yet Knuckles was only the distraction.
As Shadow kicked Knuckles away he noticed a very large hammer was hurtling towards his head.
A sickening crack, and Shadow tumbled to the ground like a sack of potatoes
“And that’ll teach you!” shouted Amy, waving her fist at the downed and unconscious hedgehog. But Sonic was way off the mark if he thought Amy was only referring to his opponent, “You idiot, Sonic!”
She advanced on him, and Sonic could only cower and cover his face with his arm as Amy started raining slaps and swinging her Piko-Piko hammer upon him. It would have been her summoning it from hammer-space that had caused the gunshot-like crack seconds before.
“You! Could! Have! Been! Killed!”
“Amy – Amy, stop!”
Knuckles gave a low whistle, getting to his feet, “Remind me never to get on the wrong side of you.”
She only laughed merrily as the barrage continued. Tails, and Cream then appeared, jumping down from an overhanging branch. Cream’s eyes were wide with awe from the fast-paced battle, and it was only her who had the courage to drag Amy away before she caved in Sonic’s skull.
“It’s only lucky Shadow didn’t spear you there and then,” snapped Amy, and Sonic quailed, “What in the name of Eggman’s fluffy ‘stache were you thinking?”
“I didn’t think he’d attack right away,” lied Sonic, shrugging.
“What a stupid fight to pick! How ridiculous!”
Tails went to inspect Shadow as Amy railed on, closely followed by Cream.
“I think he’ll be ok,” said Tails, satisfied. “Good job not holding back, Amy, we’ve seen Shadow shrug off semis.”
“Even for you, that was stupid, why couldn’t you just stick to the plan?” asked Knuckles, giving Sonic a light punch on the shoulder, but Sonic could tell he was impressed, which only bolstered Sonic’s ego.
Sonic said, “Ah c’mon, it’s Shadow – apart from the angst he’s basically harmless.”
Everybody ignored this.
Cream said, “But I do hope Mr Shadow will be okay, I’m sure he would never have seriously hurt Sonic or Nickel.”
The name caused a heavy silence to settle amongst the company like a wet fog. Amy stopped glaring at Sonic as if in an attempt to set him on fire as her eyes doused with regret.
Knuckles said, “So, what happened to Nickel? Tell me Shadow didn’t get to him first.”
Sonic took a moment to answer, then gave them a quick rundown of what had occurred during the frantic sprint through the rainforest.
Was Nickel’s fear and confusion clouding his better judgement? Or was this really all his fault?
It was only at very few points in Sonic’s life where he had actually felt trickles of doubt, and he refused to make this one of them.
He remembered the desperation in Nickel’s voice, and his wish: 'Just leave me alone!'
“We’ve gotta find him,” said Sonic.
“If he hasn’t hurled himself of the island.” said Amy, “Can he land from high heights?”
Sonic had no idea – but no law of psychokinesis that he had observed said otherwise.
“Then we better get going,” said Tails energetically.
A rush of blue wind, and Sonic hurtled to the lead.
Nickel had been flying full speed for what felt like an hour, but in actual fact it had not even been a quarter of that yet. It felt like such an extraordinary length of time to Nickel because of the masses of thoughts, images and worries rampaging around his brain, causing every second to feel ten times the length. He was so useless just flying around here; he had to get off the island. But then what? He had so much to do and no idea where to start. Darkness had all but fallen over Angel Island, but no thoughts of rest made it past the mass of swirling anxieties already clouding his mind.
He touched to the ground, stumbling and falling as he did.
“Okay, okay,” he whispered to himself, trying to ignore the fact that his eyes were now wet, “I need to find my emerald. I don’t know where it could be. Okay, I need to find my brother... I don’t know where he is either. I need to get back home, ugh; I can’t do that without the emerald! I don’t even know how I managed to get here in the first place!”
His voice had risen to a whine. His throat felt constricted and his breath sharp and ragged.
He could not remember ever feeling so alone. He needed help.
“Ahem.” coughed a voice from behind, “Excuse me, but are you quite alright, young man?”
Nickel immediately jumped to his feet and spun around.
The man looked mad at the very least; a bushy and awry moustache covered most of his bloated face and a pair of round, blue reflective glasses completely concealed his eyes, which Nickel imagined were small and beady. The man wore a red and black suit that only seemed to make more obvious the fact that he looked horribly like an oversized egg. His exaggerated bulges were sickeningly cartoonish.
Nickel raised a gloved hand, the blue orb on the back suddenly glowing angrily; he had guessed who it was.
“Oh no need to feel afraid my dear boy!” cried Robotnik, waving his hands frantically. “You looked hurt; I was simply coming down to investigate.”
“Why should I believe anything you say?! The second I arrive here you were happy and willing to lock me up and do worse to Sonic!”
“My boy, a little scrap of... revelation, I have stumbled across during my lengthy time in this world,” Robotnik stepped closer, and Nickel had to resist backing away. Robotnik leant in, and said, puncturing every word with a waggling finger, “Things are never as they appear. Do you truly know, for example, who ‘Team Sonic’ are?”
“They’re... Sonic and Tails and Knuckles, and, well, they’re...”
Eggman cocked an eyebrow.
“Well they’re twice as good and then some more honourable than you!”
Robotnik scoffed, “Youth – you never listen. Sonic the Hedgehog is not all the ideals, group-hugs and freedom he appears, the truth is quite something else.”
Nickel faltered, then cried, “That’s a lie! You… you were trying to steal my emerald!”
From a series of metal capsules Nickel had not noticed until then strapped to the Doctor’s back, a strange, humming noise was emitted. Then, the metal top of one unscrewed, not unlike that of a thermos. The Doctor placed a hand above the capsule, and shot up into it flew the reason Nickel was even here in the first place.
Nickel gasped, “That’s... that’s...”
He faltered again as the Doctor did the last thing he expected, and lowered the Rainbow emerald to him, holding it point-up in one large, gloved hand.
“I chased Sonic to Empire City because it was there he would rendezvous with a GUN unit, passing the Rainbow emerald to their custody. But, I snatched it from him at the last moment. He didn’t lose the emerald like he’s no doubt told you, he had it taken from him. Having to return empty handed, I knew the story he would spin. I’ve been following you since then, trying to find a time to intervene when Sonic wasn’t there. He can be very persuasive when he wants to be...”
Nickel tried to answer this, but no words would come. Tentatively, he reached out for his emerald. When he was certain Robotnik was not going to snatch it back, he carefully took it with both hands, both happy and frightened he had found it once more.
The moment Nickel touched the gem, Robotnik noticed, it seemed to glow brighter, and its shine became more pronounced. The Doctor filed this information away in his incredible mind for later probing.
Nickel was quiet for a moment, and then lowered his hands, but clutched the emerald tightly.
“Who are you?”
Robotnik seemed to regain some enthusiasm.
“My name is Dr Ivo Robotnik – beyond a doubt the greatest mind on the planet. I don’t suppose you are familiar with the Great War...?”
“I am!” said Nickel, finding new reason to mistrust this man as vague memories of makeshift history lessons trickled back. Puffing out his chest, he spat, “You invaded half the world, and tried to roboticise all of it! Millions of people lost their” –
“Ey, ey ,ey, are you sure you are thinking of the right war, my boy?”
“I know who”-
“Look, we don’t have time for this,” snapped Robotnik, blue spectacles flashing dangerously, “Sonic is the military’s puppet figure. They brought you here so they’d be able to learn some information about the technology you posses without having to resort to... distasteful measures.”
Nickel frowned. “Technology? What technology?”
“Your gloves.” Robotnik explained, indicating his hands.
Nickel looked down at the white gloves – completely ordinary, save for the circular, pulsating circle of energy atop his palm, and the cyan lines leading to the golden cuff.
Nickel felt sick to his stomach. Robotnik’s story made sense – as amazing as Sonic was it was easy to perceive a certain... cruelty in him. Something not right. He didn’t act like normal people, he acted without thinking, seemingly without regret. He remembered the chase through the trees, how he had hurtled off that cliff just to gain a few metres. Nickel imagined Sonic, all seven emeralds collected, running rampant in the Super-state. He would make a valuable weapon, enough so for a military, easily. And with Nickel’s psychokinesis... would he be unstoppable?
“And... w-what about that black hedgehog? Is he with you?”
“Different military, same problem. I advise against getting within more than a hundred feet of him.”
This all felt too much. Nickel no longer knew whom to believe.
As if sensing the small hedgehog was now walking a blades edge, Robotnik lowered to one knee so that they were more eye-level, adopting a facial expression he probably assumed was sombre and fatherly.
“I know this must be hard for you, my dear lad, but you must believe me. Go with Sonic and he’ll have you turned over to the military within days – what they will do to you down in their labs I can’t even bear to think about.”
Nickel thought the Doctor sounded sincere, but still didn’t lower his guard.
“It’s not that simple,” said Nickel, still clutching his glowing emerald, “Doctor, Sir, I’ve made a real mess of things... the only one I can think of who might be able to help is my brother, he’d know what to do...”
If Nickel had been paying close attention, he may have noticed a twinkle of a smile flash at the corner of Robotnik’s mouth as he went in for the overkill.
“Many hours ago there was a momentous energy surge in Hill Top Zone,” said Robotnik, “It was similar to the one in which you arrived from. From it, in circumstances similar if not identical to your own, a white hedgehog materialised from it.”
Nickels heart fluttered.
“That could be... I bet it is! I don’t know how he did it, but I’d bet the last Kinetic-loom that it’s him!”
“Then we are wasting time” said Robotnik, rising to his feet, “And I do believe the MagnoThermals have finished recharging, conveniently...”
A great rumbling seemed to descend upon them. The branches of trees blew wildly and the smaller shrubs were all but flattened against the ground. Red stars appeared in the dark sky, or that’s what Nickel thought they were at first. The raging wind and its roar seem to increase ten-fold, and all at once the hundreds of red lights lining its hull ignited, revealing the large airship the size of ten basketball courts. It had just enough room to land, and what trees got in its way were crushed by its iron hull.
A door hissed and flung open near the cockpit.
Robotnik wasted no time and began strutting for his exit.
Halfway there, Robotnik shouted: “Well, are you coming?”
Nickel still had not moved.
He saw himself going with Robotnik, and within days being reunited with his brother. After that, everything would be all right, no question about it...
But it was much easier thought than done. What if this was wrong? Robotnik didn’t sound like he was lying, but there were too many variables, too many for him to consider.
Robotnik stopped briskly trotting off to his giant Egg-Carrier, and turned on the spot to see if Nickel was following, His blue spectacles surveyed him coolly.
Taking a deep breath, and holding the emerald like a child would hold their mothers hand, Nickel took a singe step forward.
His heart leapt, he knew that voice! It was surely impossible... he spun on his heel, in less than a second forgetting every worry and anxiety he had.
A dark silhouette was emerging from the shadows, yes, it had to be him!
“Brother!” cried Nickel. He could hardly believe it, but that had to be him!
Nickel jumped forward, his vision blurring as he charged towards the silhouette.