Course of Collision
The Kinesis Brothers.
“Tails, how are we going for fuel?” said Knuckles through his mic. Tails eyed the Magic Ring gauge with worry.
“At least if we crash we won’t explode, right?” said Sonic. He rode the ‘X’ of the plane’s wings while Knuckles manned the rear gun.
“That’s not funny.”
“Or, just think, you could have built this thing on MagnoThermals, and we’d already be dead.” He mimed some kind of projectile hitting what was assumedly a MagnoThermal-powered vessel with his hands, and then quickly leant back, opening his arms wide while mimicking the sound of an explosion. Afraid he would fall, Tails quickly tilted the plane. Sonic straightened, cackling.
“If only it were so easy,” called Knuckles, “Robotnik’s not as stupid as Pirates.”
“Knuckles is right, we’re not going after the MagnoThermals – not only are they too hot for any of my weapons to get close enough, they’ll be the most defended.”
Sonic eyed the cityscape below. Neon lanes of cars filled the irregular patterns of multi-layered infrastructure composing Central City. They were a green signal here, and so were not required to radio their presence – an act of diplomacy personally to Team Sonic from GUN.
Ahead was the ocean, signified by the sudden decrease in dense lighting. There was no moon out tonight, lowering visibility drastically.
As they approached the coast, Tails informed them, “A lot of signals up ahead. I think GUN is after the Egg Carrier.”
“They’re not going to take it on, are they?” Sonic asked sharply.
“Can’t tell from here, I suppose it might be a little impolite to decode the encryption on their radio chatter, right?”
Strongly encrypted voice messages were a technology stolen by GUN from Robotnik.
Except they weren’t the first ones to have stolen it.
Tails beamed as the software installed onto his plane’s computer hunted down the particular radio signatures, efficiently decoding them. His software should be camouflaged, but Tails knew he still ran the risk of being discovered.
They were well over the water now. They flew further out, and eventually what had been a murky silhouette became the red and purple armoured Egg Carrier. The familiar dread experienced upon comprehending its size befell all three of them, but the speed and agility of the Tornado doubled with Tails’ piloting skills was a small comfort. Their apprehension was not shared by GUN. At least a dozen GUN jets, and one helicopter carrying a series of mechanoids, were harrowing it. Yet neither side attacked.
“Don’t slow down, Tails, we need to get Nickel off.”
“If I get any closer Robotnik will engage. Then GUN will engage. Then we have a Second Robotnik War!”
“No we won’t,” scoffed Sonic.
Knuckles said dryly, “Yeah, just a lot of dead Feds.”
Sonic frowned at the brittle stalemate. A single act would break it, and neither side seemed interested in doing so. Except for them.
“Excellent, this is going to make us real popular. Tails?”
Sonic looked to the cockpit, bemused. He could not see inside the blue, cocoon-like windshield, but imagined Tails laying there, his attention diverted.
“Tails – what” –
“Sorry, Sonic, I just had an incoming air vessel – it’s a GUN helicopter. Heavily armoured, double-thrusters… what on Mobius?”
“Something really weird is going on – by, Mauro – it’s Nickel!”
It didn’t take Sonic long to find him. A helicopter half-enveloped in gaseous light was hurtling towards the Egg Carrier. A cyan star huddled on its tails, trailing a gaseous tail like a comet. Sonic did not remember Nickel ever displaying such power with his psychokinesis.
“Wow! Does he have control of that chopper!”
“Tails, I don’t think that’s Nickel.”
“It’s a GUN chopper… they’re 200m from the Carrier and now changing course!”
The chopper first seemed to tilt away, and then begin to wobble unnaturally. In particular strife it dropped sharply.
“They’re falling!” said Knuckles sharply.
The cyan star knew it, and abandoned ship. It leapt high, then boosted into the sky towards the deck of the Egg Carrier. It seemed to push off the falling aircraft.
“Take that back - he’s flying! Can Nickel do that!?”
“I don’t think so, Knuckles, but neither can he! He’s struggling! I’m… I’m going in!”
He was right. The arc was falling short and the cyan light flickering dull. Whoever it was they were not going to make the Egg Carrier.
Tails was already moving to intercept. The Tornado leapt forwards so fast Sonic had to clutch his whole body to the wing – an impossible feat for anybody without the strength of innumerable absorbed Magic Rings. At their sudden increase in movement the GUN jets began to take formation. Sonic counted over a dozen of them. However, they still did not fire. Too slow to truly escape without permission, the Egg Carrier continued to lumber north.
His stomach leapt into his throat as the Tornado dove sharply for their now falling target. Well below the Egg Carrier.
“Agh, he’s gonna think we’re going for his MagnoThermals if he can’t see him!”
“Sonic, grab him!” cried Tails through their mics. Wrapping his legs around the wings, Sonic reached out just as Tails passed the falling hedgehog, allowing Sonic to grab him by the arm and pull him aboard.
A hedgehog, but not Nickel. Sonic conveyed as much to his teammates.
“There’s a craft on our tail!” called Tails, but Sonic and Knuckles had no time to find it.
Tails pulled up just as two red hot bolts of plasma fired on them.
And that was it.
The Egg Carrier screamed every siren and warning signal, the GUN fighter jets immediately broke off like angry bees and began besieging the Egg Carrier. A V-like craft, armoured and powered by three engines, remained on their tail.
“Great!” shouted Knuckles, pulling his turret around one-hundred and eighty degrees to face it, “Him! Again!”
They had all instantly recognised the craft that had fired on them. Thought it was too dark for anybody but perhaps Tails with all his computers to see, below the V-like craft, controlling it like a motorised hang-glider, was Shadow.
Sonic clutched the hedgehog and the Tornado tightly as Tails threw them into a series of complicated corkscrews and spins, avoiding Shadow and the disaster occurring between GUN and the Egg Carrier.
They made it above the Carrier, and as soon as they did the hedgehog they had just saved leapt back into the empty air. Summoning the same psychokinetic power Nickel had displayed, he rocketed towards the Egg Carrier, this time with no way of missing.
“Is he crazy!?” yelled Tails.
“Tails, I need to follow him!”
“It’ll mean slowing down!”
“We can’t let Shadow get there first!”
Knuckles fired two bolts at Shadow. They both missed the agile craft, but it did make Shadow fall back.
“Now’s your chance,” he yelled, “Go, Tails!”
Tails flew them lower, pulling them up just ten metres above the deck with pinpoint accuracy. He broke to a speed Sonic was capable of jumping from.
And jump Sonic did. He curled into a tight ball, taking one final note of where the hedgehog was headed and closed his eyes for impact.
Nickel awoke to a terrifyingly loud bang!
Shock electrified him, and drove him to his feet. Heart pounding, he looked around wildly. The machine he had been pouring energy into before he had fallen asleep lay dormant, and the cold steel room was undamaged.
Another loud bang. And another. And another.
‘The ship is firing…” thought Nickel, brain disengaged from most of his body. He staggered towards the exit. Were they under attack?
The metal, egg-shaped doors opened as he approached them. The only other area on this ship he knew was the loading bay, and that was no good to him now. Doctor Robotnik. He would know what was happening, what to do. But where would he be?
Straight ahead was an upwardly inclined ramp.
A terrible mechanical scream, incredibly loud, overloaded his senses. He fell back again the metal wall, terrified. What was out there?
One foot followed the other. He continued forwards and upwards. Anything was better than down here in the dark.
The Egg Carrier was holding nothing back.
Probably driven by his own arrogance, determined to send the message he was not a dying empire, Robotnik seemed hell-bent on more or less showcasing his Egg Carrier’s small-vessel firepower. Tails was easily driven away – some of the GUN jets were not so lucky. But with Robotnik’s attention on Tails and GUN, Sonic hoped he might have enough of a window to find Nickel and appease the other hedgehog should it be required. Unlike last time he stormed an Egg Carrier, he did not have seven emeralds to save him should he run into serious trouble.
Shells the size of footballs fired around him, his feet a blur of speed as he wound through the complicated deck. Sonic kept one eye trained on the cyan star swiftly flying just above the infrastructure. The deck was a maze of massive gun turrets and irregularly spaced purple buildings. Whenever Robotnik discovered he was aboard, it would also be swarming with robots.
They passed the massive central control, towering high above the deck of the carrier. Based on how long he had been running at this speed Sonic estimated he had chased him for about a kilometer now. What was the hedgehog doing?
Suddenly, his target darted quickly to the left, going out of sight for the first time. At first Sonic thought he had found something, then realised somebody had caught up first.
“Damn it!” he cried, punching the air with frustration as Shadow swooped in from above. Only a dark figure to Sonic’s eyes he released his hold on the plane. He fell to the deck the craft, but he would put to good use the loss of his plane.
“Double damn it!” cried Sonic again, now with real fear as the plane dropped to land on him.
Ducking his head, Sonic forced more power to his feet, and flew across the deck as a streak of blue light. The plane crushed itself under its own weight behind him, leaving a sizeable impression in the deck. Approaching the building where he had last seen both hedgehogs, he leapt high to a vantage point atop a steel framed tower (the use of which he was clueless).
They were fighting before a mighty entrance to the Egg Carrier – a cornucopia at least fifty feet wide. Perhaps fighting wasn’t the right word. Shadow was herding the hedgehog back with his spears, away from the entrance it seemed to be trying to access. The red spears split the psychokinetic waves thrown by the white hedgehog, leaving Shadow unharmed. But he did not aim to harm his opponent – perhaps Sonic’s words had gotten though after all.
“NOW, ENOUGH!” roared Shadow. The cyan aura around the white hedgehog flared, but otherwise he stopped attacking.
And finally, he spoke.
“I’m not here for you!” the white hedgehog cried, “I’m not here for any of this! I just want my brother!”
“He’s telling the truth, Shadow!” called Sonic from above. Both Shadow and the hedgehog whipped to face him, palms outstretched and ready to attack, “Nickel mentioned he had a brother, this is him.”
“So there are two of them.”
“Yeah, but there’ll be none soon enough. We need to get off this deck before the robots find us! There’ll be too many, Shadow, even for us. Oh, and thanks for that plane, by the way, I hope you don’t want it back.”
The white hedgehog cried, “I’m not leaving without Nickel, I can tell he’s nearby!”
Sonic jumped down, rolling to steady his fall before turning to the cornucopia.
“I didn’t say get off the ship.” He smiled. “I said get off the deck.”
“I’m Silver. Silver the Hedgehog.”
“Why did you attack at Hill Top zone?” growled Shadow, a few paces behind Silver, who in turn was a few paces behind Sonic, who jogged further into the Egg Carrier.
“I didn’t!” said Silver, antagonised. He did a double-take as he looked at Shadow properly for the first time. “What the hell are you?”
“Focus – Hill Top Zone.”
Silver shot him a disgusted look at being ordered around. Sonic’s ears momentarily dropped as he realised they were not off to a good start.
“That thing that took Nickel here did, I only defended myself.”
The inside of the Carrier was barely lit – it had no reason to be. All power would be profited where it was needed, and right now it was needed to crush GUN. Their vision (Sonic and Silver’s, Shadow could see in pitch black as if it were dusk) came from small red lights embedded as a continuous line along the base of the purple walls.
“Nickel mentioned somebody called, ‘Nyx’,” said Sonic, “Mean anything to you?”
“No,” said Silver, sounding honestly confused. Sonic had to admire the hedgehog’s determination, even if it could just as well be tunnel-vision. Silver did not ask for their names or why they were here, he could not even know exactly how much danger he was in. His only concern was his brother.
“He’s close,” he breathed, staring straight ahead. He took a deep breath. “NICKEL!”
The sound was deafening. Mid-yell, Shadow grabbed his shoulder and pulled him around, cutting off his cry. Silver stiffened as Shadow fixed him in a glare.
“Shut up!” he hissed, “Do you have any idea where we are?”
“I don’t care!” snapped Silver, not bothering to lower his voice.
“You will now,” whispered Sonic, ears quivering as they listened closely.
The three backed the way they had come, but Robotnik had been alerted.
A silver bulk appeared at the end of the corridor, partly hidden in the darkness.
Sonic broke first. Shadow was close behind. But they both skidded to a halt after thirty feet when it was apparent Silver was not following.
“He’s close, I can feel it!”
Shadow obviously didn’t find that very pragmatic, because the spear he hurled at the oncoming robot nearly took off both Silver’s ears. Angered and shocked at the display of power, Silver dodged into an adjacent corridor, this one thinner.
Sonic had no choice. He could not let Shadow get to both of them – and he was sure Shadow was thinking the same about him. They exchanged a glance, Sonic sighing inwardly, and then both scrambled after Silver.
Sonic rolled along the walls of the thinning corridors as much as the floor – as did Shadow. Each rescued Silver on more than one occasion. Sonic was only too aware of their time trickling away. He was stronger now than he had been last time he had been forced into a stunt similar to this, but that still did not mean he could just casually take on an entire Robotnik army.
Silver knew he was around the corner before he had even seen him.
Silver nearly fell over as he tore around the corner, embracing his brother as Nickel flew into his arms. Sonic had no clue how they had found each other without communication in this dark and dangerous labyrinth but nor was there time to ask.
Shadow grabbed Nickel under the arm, and Sonic the same to Silver. But there was hardly anywhere to run. Robots could be heard on all sides. There would be dozens, hundreds even.
“If we hurry we can still make the exit!” said Sonic, trying to pull Silver along with him, but Silver had the brakes firmly on. Shadow still had a hold of Nickel, and was not budging.
Calmly, he straightened. Speaking into an earpiece too sophisticated to see, he said in his usual gravelly voice, “Rouge, extraction please. But please aim carefully.”
“Knuckles, I literally have minutes of flight time left!” cried Tails, “You’re going to have to go down there and get Sonic!”
Knuckles watched the Egg Carrier with wide eyes. To say it looked formidable was an understatement.
“I’ll think about it if you can get me close enough,” he said, quite honestly. Tails was nearly a kilometer away, fending off numerous robots and watching agonisingly for direct attacks from the ship itself.
Tails could feel the pressure weighing on his shoulders. How was he supposed to get Sonic back now that the Egg Carrier was fully alert to their presence? Sonic’s communicator was of no use while within the Egg Carrier’s hull, where electromagnetic receivers diverted the radio waves away from the intended location.
“Whoa, Knuckles, look!” shouted Tails into his own mic.
A helicopter escorted by no less than six fighters swooped at the port side. The GUN fighters scrambled away. Every single one simply bugged out.
The fighting fell quiet. Tails backed away so as not to appear the closest target.
“Are they giving up?” asked Knuckles, puzzled.
“Maybe…” answered Tails, frowning. Inside his cockpit he diverted more energy to visual perception, pulling down nearly all his HUD’s.
It happened in an instant. Without warning, part of the Egg Carrier simply exploded. Tails and Knuckles were knocked like flies in a galestorm.
“A rail gun!” shouted Tails, instinctively pulling away. He would put nearly nothing past Robotnik, but as far as he knew the mad dictator had no such defense for such a weapon and had not developed such a machine himself.
The Egg Carrier listed like a boxer hit in the gut. GUN, probably aware they had at least three highly valuable persons within the enormous ship had aimed away from the Magno Thermals.
Sneaky, thought Tails; GUN’s confidence in their weapon meant they had been testing extensively.
Through the billowing smoke it was just visible that most of the Egg Carrier’s nose had been sheared off. Thousands of tonnes of metal had been vapourised or sent flying onto the ocean. Plasma glowed within the blackness.
“There’s an incoming transmission from GUN,” said Tails, “I think they want to talk to Eggman! But this transmission’s barely encoded… I think they want me to listen!”
“Well, patch it through!” said Knuckles.
Tails did so.
“Enemy vessel, do you receive?”
“This is Doctor Robotnik… business doing pleasure with you, Commander.”
“Enemy Vessel, you are now under the command of the United Federation. The attack you just suffered was a kinetic energy round fired with a muzzle velocity of two-thousand” –
“metres a second and with an energy of about… 10-20 MJ, considering the damage done. Congratulations. You must be very proud. For the first time in a decade you have the bigger stick.”
“And we have an even bigger one.”
Sonic’s voice came through the local intercom, “Does anybody else sense something a little off about this conversation?”
“Oh good, he’s alright,” sighed Tails. Through some stroke of luck, GUN had damaged enough of the Carrier to allow their transmissions in and out.
“Shush,” hissed Knuckles. No more than one channel at a time could be heard.
The Commander of GUN continued, “Unless you comply with our terms another projectile will be fired, this one at the Egg Carrier’s cockpit. Disable every robot under your command. Walk out onto the deck and surrender to the Guardian Units of Nations. This is non-negotiable.”
Below decks, painstakingly making their way up through the complex labyrinth of identical corridors, Sonic, Shadow, Silver and Nickel listened.
Robotnik said icily, “Is the self-destruction of sub-compartment E-36/B negotiable?”
“Bugger,” murmured Sonic, speeding up.
“I do, therefore, believe there is room for negotiation, Commander,” continued Robotnik, clearing his throat, “Negotiate this: if my cockpit is destroyed… the entire Egg Carrier will self-destruct. Taking with it some of your own cargo you misplaced.”
“That’s us, isn’t it?” said Sonic, alarmed. Nickel glanced at him, fear written all over his face.”
“Sonic, better move fast,” said Tails, now banking towards the Carrier. “We’ll pick you up as soon as we see you.”
Robotnik spoke, “Commander, we’re both busy men, so if you don’t mind I’ll let you go about your business and speak to… um… ‘Dark 1’, privately.”
Outside, the Tornado registered that the transmissions from Central had gone dead, and Tails realised with a sinking feeling that it had been no stroke of luck that Sonic had been able to contact them. He relayed as much to Sonic.
“Now,” continued Robotnik, probably on a channel only directed at the Tornado, “as I said, I’m a busy man, so I’ll make this quick. Get off my ship, Hedgehog. Leave the kid and the stone.”
“Or what?” sneered Sonic.
For a split second, Sonic wondered if by some lucky lapse the Doctor had simply forgotten about Silver, or did not know who he was. It took him just another second to understand why he was letting him go.
“Or we all get compressed to liquescence when he unhinges this entire section of the Egg Carrier,” said Shadow, “We know this ship is compartmentalised. It can survive with just fifteen percent of its original frame – this was foolish to begin with. We leave the kid.”
Sonic frowned at that. Was Robotnik really going to trade another shot of the rail gun to let him of all people escape?
Sonic frowned again. He and Shadow had never both been on an Egg Carrier before. Was Robotnik scared?
Nickel, clearly terrified, stuttered, “W-what?”
“Hell we are,” said Silver, stepping up to face Shadow nearly nose to nose. It was brave but exceedingly ill-advised. Quick as a snake, face stern with disgust, Shadow pushed Silver off his feet with just his fingertips, the only reason he didn’t fall was when Sonic caught him under the arm, hauling him back up to save him the humiliation.
“Shadow, he’s just a kid” -
“He won’t come to harm” –
“How can you be so sure!?” cried Silver.
-“Cooperate with him, and he has no reason to,” said Shadow, looking to Nickel. Like most, Nickel turned his face rather than look Shadow in the eye, but he bit his lip in thought.
“Nickel, no,” warned Silver.
“This is a stalemate, Silver… and I got myself into this. I was desperate enough I panicked.”
The younger brother looked to his sibling with sudden admiration, “How did you find me?”
“I flew,” said Silver, forcing pride for the apparent achievement into his voice, “Kind of. Mum didn’t say it was possible, but there you go.”
“I don’t think Mum or Dad ever said drawing energy from a rock was possible either,” said Nickel. The Rainbow emerald appeared in his hand. “I loved this stone at first. Now I wish I’d never found it…” he shook his head, “I can’t even remember finding it.”
Shadow reeled at the sight of the Chaos emerald.
“Told you,” said Sonic.
The ground under their feet suddenly jolted, and gravity swung them into the hard metal wall. For the first time Silver’s eyes widened with fright as he realised what kind of danger they were in.
“Nickel,” said Sonic, “I don’t think my team can do this alone. I know what Eggman’s doing and we haven’t got long – he’s stalling. We’ve got a window that GUN’s fallen for, we need to take it. We’ll come back, I promise.”
“Sonic, I’m so sorry.”
Sonic smiled, half-apologetically, but he did not appear too worried, which provided Nickel some strength amidst his desperation.
Silver was outraged. “No! I won’t go!”
“You’re so far one of only two witnesses of what happened in Hill Top!” said Shadow loudly, “Stay, and we have little chance of interesting GUN enough to not test their new weapon some more.
Sonic said doubtfully, “C’mon? You believe them? You know what Robotnik’s doing, right?”
Shadow shrugged. He nodded to the exit, “Let’s go!”
He turned tail, and began the ascent. Sonic huffed, then said, “We’ll be back, Nickel. Silver, it’s on you. Do we all die here?”
Silver’s face hardened as he faced the agonising decision.
Knuckles was beginning to feel shudders coursing through the Tornado. When one coincided with the plane dropping two feet, he spoke up.
“Tails, what was that?”
“My plane’s equivalent of going onto life-support. I’m on emergency power – we need to land… even if it means leaving Sonic here.”
“Easy, Tails, I’m almost out. I’ve got Silver and Shadow with me – alright we’re on the deck!”
“If Robotnik fires I’m outta here, Sonic…”
“He has what he wanted.”
Sonic saw the Tornado circle around for him, then sharply descend. But it wasn’t the only one. A steel-grey chopper appeared, much larger, behind it as it rose from beneath the rim of the deck. A partly oil-powered helicopter without blades, the massive ring above it channeled a MagnoThermal current into the hybrid ship.
Shadow looked at Silver, and jerked his head towards the inbound transport. “C’mon.”
Silver said, “That’s GUN right? The human military?”
“Correct.” shouted Shadow over the wind pressure from the incoming aircraft, still moving and under the impression Silver was following.
Anticipating what was coming, Sonic sighed and waved the Tornado down. It was much more agile than GUN’s chopper, being half the size and of better design. Tails expertly landed it beside Sonic, while whoever piloted the chopper dropped a ladder from an open door.
“Sonic, I really have to go!”
“I’m not going with them,” shouted Silver.
“I don’t remember asking you what seat you wanted!” Shadow made to grab his wrist.
Silver obviously could not help himself. Infuriated at being talked to as such, he swept a backhanded fist in front of him, and a visible pulse of blue kinetic energy blasted from his glove, knocking Shadow back.
“That’s for before,” snarled Silver.
“Dear Mauro, what is it with you two picking fights with him of all people!” shouted Sonic aggravatedly.
“You’re one to talk!” shouted both Tails and Knuckles furiously. Sonic had already grabbed Silver by a shoulder and hauled up one wing of the Tornado. Sonic slid into a protected seat that opened for him, while Silver coated himself in his psychokinesis, and anchored himself to the plane as it rose, and rocketed away from the GUN craft.
“That was a really bad thing to do!” cried Tails, “You realise the only place we have to go is GUN’s front-door, right?”
“Tell him that!” said Sonic into his mic, referring to Silver. Silver, of course, could not hear them.
“A large ship just left the Egg Carrier! I think it’s the Egg Falcon!”
“You guys seriously believed GUN would let him go!” said Sonic. “I think he offered that deal to stall for time, he banked on GUN falling for the hostage rescue! Hold onto your quills this is going to be loud!”
GUN fired the rail gun again.
White light sheared through the bottom centre of the Egg Carrier. The Tornado shook as the explosive force rattled the air, then buffeted uncontrollably as the Egg Carrier’s massive MagnoThermals combusted.
The air seared white. Sonic tried to get a look, but his canopy faced the opposite direction.
“Central City’s getting one awesome light show.”
“Nickel was… definitely not on that, right?”
“If he wanted that he would have just squished us all then and there. I think he wanted Nickel but… played Silver against GUN and us.”
“You think so?”
“Well it worked, didn’t it! I’ve already been given an arrest warrant by GUN once today, now we’ve stolen a national mystery!”
The city lights were rapidly growing closer, but the Tornado seemed to be struggling to hold a straight course.
“Tails, everything o” – He had barely got the words out when the sound of the engine suddenly ground to a halt, and the plane lost power over the coast of Central City.
Plummeting, Sonic was suddenly rather glad he had been forced to bring Silver along.