Search and Rescue
“How long is Tails gonna be, I’m starving!” complained Sonic.
“It’s a little thing they invented after the stone-age, it’s called ‘politeness’,” said Knuckles, not taking the bait.
“Whatever happened to good old 2, 4, 6, 8 hog in don’t wait?” asked Sonic, trying again.
Knuckles finally burst, “Etiquette! We waited for you!”
“Dude! You forgot you didn’t have the card!”
Sonic waved the flat card, smaller than most, in Knuckles’ face, and this time Silver snatched it from his hands.
They sat in a café on the riverfront. Being a weekend it was fairly busy. The debacle that had happened at GUN HQ was being televised on the in-store TV, and was the topic of frantic conversation amongst everybody but the three of them.
Sitting in his cushioned wicker chair, Silver read the card.
“Hedgehog Airlines. Card holder, Board Member Exec. S. Hedgehog.” Silver stared at Sonic, “You own an airline!?”
“No, Sonia the Hedgehog does,” said Sonic, taking the card back.
“Who’s she, your girlfriend?”
“No, she’s my mother.”
“Well why don’t we just… take one of her planes?”
“Well, I’m not technically, y’know, exactly meant to be” -
Knuckles spoke up, “It’s a commercial liner – are you sure Tails was okay to go on his own?”
“Yes! But I’m getting to the point where I’m going to have to go after – hey! There we go!”
Both Knuckles and Sonic’s wrist-comms had begun bleeping. A text from Tails read that he was ok, and would come find then in roughly –
“An hour and a half! Right, I’m ordering.” Sonic roughly got up and made for the counter. Knuckles did not stop him.
“What’s Tails doing?” asked Silver.
Looking down at the device on his wrist, Knuckles replied, “Says he’s working on the plane – we’re lucky we’re not going to be stuck here longer or we’d fall too far behind Eggman.”
“I want to look at… a map… something. Please, you’ve got to give me some context here: who’s that man that’s got Nickel? Who are those people, GUN? And what on Mobius is that ‘Metal’ you were talking about with Sonic?”
Knuckles queried, “You’re from the future, Silver, but not that far, surely you’d recognise the name ‘Robotnik’?”
Silver gave him a strange look, but not like he had no idea what Knuckles was talking about. Eventually Knuckles relented.
“Fine, be like that. But I guess it’s good you’re cautious, wouldn’t want to give too much away.” Knuckles cleared his throat and leaned forwards, “But, in case your history is fuzzy, Eggman, or Dr Ivo Robotnik, used to be the dictator of about a third of the world only half a decade ago. Sonic, myself and Tails had a hand throwing him out, so did GUN.”
Still in line at the counter, Sonic tapped his shoes and muttered, “Yeah, but they came late to the party.”
-“Hey! Can I help you?”
“Hi, can I have a…”
-“Now, he’s still got territory on the Central Continent, but he’s weakening,” said Knuckles, “his tactics changed after we won the war. Now he leaves his territory mostly under automatic control and spends most of his time digging around for ways to win quick. Simply, he has no intention of going down without a fight, hence Egg Carriers and the mass-produced robots.”
“You were in a war?” asked Silver, eyes wide.
Knuckles nodded, holding Silver’s eye until he became aware of the weight of the issue, and so overrode his curiosity to switch the subject.
"But the Egg Carrier is destroyed now right? Does that damage him?"
Knuckles just shrugged. "We have no idea. Hopefully there's less than a half dozen left by now. And as you saw last night, their size is beginning to become their weakness."
“And..." Silver quickly picked another of his many, many questions, "why are there no anthrohumans around here?”
“Well, this is the United Federation – Central City. The same way you’d find more hedgehogs, foxes and badgers in the Hazel Kingdom you’ll find more humans here.”
“Ok…” Silver twisted in his chair to look at the counter where Sonic was ordering, “why is he blue?” – Silver blinked, but then relaxed. For a moment, Sonic had not been blue, but brown. Trick of the light. “And he can run like… it’s not natural.”
Knuckles chuckled, “Now that’s a long story.”
“What’s a long story?” asked Sonic, plonking the table number down on the glass, “We have an hour and a half.”
“Why are you blue, and why can you run like that?” Silver said quickly, “And what’s with your… erm, brother?”
“Tails? He was born like that, it’s his brain you have to watch out for.”
“Ah,” Sonic leaned back smarmily, looking at Knuckles, and smiled.
“Sonic, no!” said Knuckles firmly.
“C’mon, Knux, he’s gonna be here awhile.”
“I don’t – oh, whatever.”
Sonic pulled off a glove. His hands were wrapped like a boxer’s. A few thin gold rings fitted on his fingers, one of which he slid off.
“Ok, so this is actually a Power Ring, but it’s part of a larger set of… energy things, called Magic Rings. This one is just a very concentrated version.”
Their drinks arrived. Silver barely noticed Sonic momentarily conceal the ring in his fist.
When the waitress left, he continued, “Ok, so these rings literally ‘grow’ in specific points around the world.”
“Are those… emeralds connected to this?”
“Absolutely. Which is why this Nyx guy having one in his head is kind of a big deal.”
“A… big, bad deal?” tested Silver.
Knuckles said, “Might be, he’s after the emeralds and he’s not doing it diplomatically, judging on how he bashed his way into GUN.”
“Ah, we’ll deal with him. So - Magic Rings,” Sonic casually veered the subject back to himself, “is what I rely on, to, you know, not die when I fall over at 400kph. I can absorb their residue, which is, um” –
“0.01% energy of the Magic Ring it came from,” said Knuckles, “Roughly.”
“Right. So that residue acts as something like a buffer between me and serious harm, get it? Part of the Robotnik War was Robotnik stealing a lot of these Rings and all their power using them to cheaply power his own machines – part of what we did,” indicating himself and Knuckles, “was breaking those machines and stealing the rings. ‘Course, we didn’t know their awesome side-effects back then…”
“And so, they’re the reason you can run so fast?”
“What? No – that’s um… you know we still have no idea exactly why that is, something to with my Dad and Mum’s mum having the ability as well, so that’s genetic. No idea why they thought that was a good gene pool to be splashing about it. Tails basically engineers my shoes and has a guy in Spagonia make them, so my feet don’t burn up or, well,” Sonic laughed as if it was humorous, “liquefy, when I’m running so fast.”
“What about me?” Knuckles asked suddenly.
“What about you?” Sonic and Silver asked at the same time.
“Well, don’t I look a little… strange?” Knuckles asked to Silver. When Silver on stared at him nonplussed, he encouraged a response, “maybe not something you’ve seen before.”
“No… you look like an Echidna to me…”
The response was like a child discovering they had received a unicorn for Christmas, except the Knuckles version. Sonic could almost feel the joy radiating off him as he straightened, sweeping his hands over his head with joy, a massive smile plastered over his face.
“Easy, big guy” –
“Easy!? There are Echidnas in the future! We don’t die! That’s unbelievable – how!?” He looked to Silver expectantly, then took control of himself again. “No, I guess you can’t tell me.” Looking jubilant, he leant back, “I guess I’ll find out!”
Sonic laughed as their food arrived. Two steaming chilli-dogs for him, and humongous burgers for Silver and Knuckles.
Taking a brave bite, Sonic wasted no time. Silver was a little more courteous, and watched the strange pair through wary eyes as the three of them ate.
“Can a lot of people run like you?” he asked, mid-meal.
Sonic, buried in the chilli-dog, shook his head.
“Were you born blue?” Silver asked skeptically.
Sonic shook his head again. “Waa e-ical acshon.”
Irritated, Silver said. “What?”
Knuckles stepped in, though more out of exasperation than helpfulness, “It was a reaction that happened when he hit the sound barrier, we think to do with Magic Rings he inherited through his parents – and don’t talk to him when he’s eating it’s disgusting.”
Silver stared at Sonic for a moment. Then said, “Sorry, for a second I thought you said the sound barrier.”
“I did,” said Knuckles, seriously.
Silver shook his head before taking another bite, “You people are easily the most interesting I have ever met – and that’s assuming I believe half of what you’re saying.”
Sonic swallowed with some difficulty and said, “Yeah, well, speak for yourself, look at you. You move things without touching them.” He indicated Silver’s gloves, “It’s got something to do with them, right?”
“Sort of,” Silver pointed to the cyan veins that resembled a circuit-board, pooling in a concentrated form in the shape of a circle on the back of his palm, “These just amplify and channel the kinesis – in my case psychokinesis… you don’t have kinetics here?”
Sonic finally swallowed with the help of two-thirds of his drink, and act that looked painful to Silver. Licking sauce of his fingers, he said, “No – jeez you are really rough on your history. We’ve never heard of it before. What’s it used for?”
The question seemed to throw Silver, “Um, well, not for combat. It’s banned.”
“Banned?” asked Sonic, curiously, “You don’t know how to fight with it?”
“Excuse him,” said Knuckles, “If you can’t use something to punch or otherwise maim robots Sonic sees little use in it.”
“Its uses are in lifting, safety. Obviously throwing people around is an easy adaptation… I’m just not used to it. People feel different to metal or concrete.”
Sonic laughed as the sudden mental image of Silver in a yellow hard hat flashed across his mind’s eye. “So everybody where you come from can hurl objects twice their weight around just by thinking it?”
“N-no, no not everyone. Only a really small percent of people have natural ability to do more than lift a pebble or heat something up a few degrees or maybe encourage something to grow faster – even fewer are willing to study and train like myself and Nickel,” – Silver suddenly looked down at his meal as if dumbstruck.
“Oh, what am I doing!?” he snapped, standing. His chair would have fallen straight to the floor, if he had not, with a sweep of his hand, righted it with the use of his psychokinesis. Wasting no time he strode from the restaurant.
“Silver!” Knuckles shouted, darting after him.
Sonic took two more ambitious bites of his meal, trying to finish as much as he could, and ignoring the stares reluctantly followed.
The sunshine was bright outside, and the riverfront was now packed. They only came up to the waists of the humans, who towered over them.
Ahead, Knuckles shouted, “Silver! What are you doing!?”
Silver didn’t stop, “I’m going after Nickel!”
“Are you?” said Sonic, sounding amused. He put on enough speed to catch up, agilely darting through the forest of jeans, skirts and work pants, “You’re going after an Egg-Carrier?”
“He’s been kidnapped by that madman, and I’m sitting here eating lunch!”
Sonic chuckled at that. Amiably he quickstepped in front of Silver, stopping the hedgehog in his tracks.
“Get out of my” -
- “I’m Sonic the Hedgehog, some like to call me ‘hero of Mobius’” –
“Oh by the Trinity,” sighed Knuckle with sheer derision.
- “and the fastest guy on the planet, nice to meet you. He,” pointing at Knuckles, “can lift a fire-truck!”
“Whoopee do, so can I,” snarled Silver, “now get out of my way!”
“You,” Sonic put an arm out, again bring Silver to a halt, “are two hundred years out of your league, have no idea where to go, and can’t go free Nickel all on your onesies, and I can’t go helping you on an empty stomach, that and Nickel needs to trust me not crush me so you’re part of the equation, buddy.”
“I found my own way from Hill Top to the Egg Carrier,” said Silver stoutly.
“And from there thirty-thousand feet down to the ocean, too,” said Sonic, sarcastically flattering, “We need a plane and we need it in perfect condition if we’re going after an Egg Falcon. They’re fast, and just because they’re smaller than an Egg Carrier doesn’t mean they won’t pack a punch if you get in their way.”
Silver demanded, “Do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound!?”
“Look, we can do this but we need all the help we can get. We’re stronger together than alone and I just don’t do solo missions anymore; I start talking to myself and it’s never as much fun if no-ones around to see me do my hero thing.”
“Oh my” – Knuckles shoved Sonic out of the way to look Silver in the eye, “come with us, or I swear I will kill him this time!”
Silver’s tantrum abated, and he decided to stay with the trio – the third of which finally arrived by late afternoon. The new plane, christened in fresh yellow paint ‘Tornado MKII’, looked all but identical to the original, but Tails seemed to think there was plenty of additions within the systems computers. But there was no longer a transformation process, rather the Tornado MKII was permanently in its battle-mode. Presumably GUN saw no need for a vintage bi-plane.
“Which means part of the fun’s gone…” explained Tails sadly, at one point.
“Why? Because you can’t scream ‘battle-mode engaged’ before you shoot something?” laughed Sonic.
When Tails had picked them up (in the middle of a pedestrian street), Sonic clicked to the problem as soon as he saw Tails’ face. This Tornado still only had a pilot seat, a passenger and manual turret control. Which left one of them without a spot. Sonic first resigned himself to holding onto the Tornado MKII’s wings as they flew, but Silver had a trick.
“It doesn’t matter, I can just hold the Tornado,” said Silver. At first Sonic thought he meant the way Sonic himself would – which was impossible but for very few people – but Silver simply stretched out a hand and with psychokinesis anchored himself to a few square inches of the Tornado MKII. His whole body seemed to float, his spines and fur experiencing no gravity even though his feet still touched the ground.
“There, as long as I hold on no matter how fast you go I’ll experience no wind pressure. Go high enough and I’ll probably still suffocate…”
“What about temperature?” asked Tails, “There’s only one thermal jacket in the Tornado…” he nodded to Sonic, “I guess we could just go buy another one…”
“No problem,” said Silver, “This psychokinetic coat negates air temperature – not completely, but unless we’re planning on going to the North Pole I won’t feel much.”
And then they were in the air, with Central City far behind them. They rose fast, losing their stomachs as the plane tore into the blue sky. Like Tails, Sonic sat within a cocoon of red metal and computers, though not on his belly like the ecstatic fox. Tails happily railed off a list of new functions this Tornado boasted; stronger cloaking, more efficient manoeuvering, but little else meant anything to Sonic.
Tails explained the reason he had taken so long was that he had needed to fly his new toy to what remained of his workshop, rip out the entire engine and replace it with one that ran on Magic Rings. Now, with a full tank, they could finally pursue the Egg Carrier.
“And about that,” said Knuckles, “How exactly are we going to find it?”
Tails replied, “Well, we’re not. But, I think I have an idea where it might be going…”
Sonic got there first, “You’ve found an emerald!”
“Well, I hope so. A volcano that was meant to be dormant in Azure Lake Zone has just begun erupting.”
“That Zone off Holoska?” said Knuckles.
Sonic laughed, “Yeah I think Spagonia just kinda gave it up after the War, man, we haven’t been there in ages!” He frowned, “You know we probably should make Silver a wrist-comm.”
Tails mused, “I really like Azure Lake Zone. It’s cold, but really beautiful.”
“Well, a volcano erupting that shouldn’t be erupting certainly sounds like there’s an emerald somewhere nearby.”
“Will getting the emerald stop the eruption?” asked Sonic concernedly.
“If the volcano isn’t far enough along, maybe. But that’s the least of our problems. Sonic, we need some kind of battle strategy here – we can't have another surprise like to the Egg Carrier. Supersonic or a rail gun won't be around to save us this time. And I think the only reason it didn’t go all out at Central, I think, is because somehow Robotnik knew GUN had rail technology…”
“I know, buddy,” replied Sonic, “But now we have Silver, he’s got powers nothing on this world has ever seen before! That’s gotta count for something.”
Knuckles spoke up, “Sonic, he said he didn’t know how to fight with it?”
“What’s so difficult about throwing things around with your mind?” asked Sonic, knowing Silver could not hear them, “He’ll manage.”
“Not much against a laser,” muttered Tails, “And Azure Zone is amazing but it sure hasn’t got a rail gun... I want a rail gun.”
“Well, if I just had to plan ahead I’d say: avoid Carriers at all costs.”
“Sounds good to me. A Falcon shouldn’t be too bad.”
The flight to Azure Lake zone would take about six hours, allowing them to catch up on sleep. The Tornado MKII travelled fast, leaving five streams of green in the sky. They were soon far into the Atlantic, stopping only once mid-flight to put Knuckles in a thermal suit.
It was well into the afternoon by the time Azure Lake zone appeared on the horizon. A picturesque zone defined by its beautiful lakes, snowy mountains and the grand show of the northern lights. Of course, this time something marred the landscape.
Immediately, the hedgehog perked up. “Yeah, what’s up, buddy?”
“Take a look.”
One of the blank screens tuned to a poor quality camera shot on the Tornado MKII’s nose.
“Yay… snow,” said Sonic in a depressed tone.
Knuckles said, “Sonic, look up.”
Tails did it for him, angling the nose up slightly.
The cloud of dust and smoke over the zone, hanging in the crisp blue sky was simply immense, a behemoth of voluminous black, grey and white clouds. It would be visible from Spagonia. The afternoon sun shone through it like a dying lamp.
“That’s a lot of smoke,” commented Sonic.
“This could be more dangerous than we considered,” said Tails “the good news is that I can't see a floating superstructure anywhere. The bad news is I can see a lot of E-Series activity down at the Zone, it’s a fair assumption” –
“Wait,” interrupted Sonic, “there’s robots down there?”
“Yeah, the Tornado’s picking up a couple dozen – whoa, Silver!”
Sonic saw it through one of the cameras. Silver had launched himself from the Tornado MKII down to the island, aiming for water.
“What’s he doing?”
“No idea, we never gave him a wrist-comm. Oh well, I’m just glad there’d definitely no more Egg Carriers in the area!”
Tails guided the plane down after Silver, who was not so much flying as quickly gliding down to the ground.
Most of Azure Lake zone was uninhabited by people, and they touched down far away from cities or roads.
Sonic squinted as the bright sunlight flooded the Tornado’s passenger cabin. Cracking his neck he leapt out over the side, shoes crunching onto the hard gravel and short, dewy grass.
Azure Lake was the absolute epitome of picturesque, and Sonic nearly forgot about Silver as he looked out across a vast lake bordered by undulating grey terrain. Its rivers wound downhill into towering mountains – the caps would normally be white with autumn snow, except now they were obscured by grey and black smoke.
“We’re really really close to that volcano,” commented Sonic. He toed the ground, muttering, “This is really good running track.” His joints ached from hours in the cabin, and he itched for an explosive sprint.
“Tails,” said Knuckles, “Get back in the air, we might need you ready.” He looked towards the volcano, “I feel like it’s here…”
“Like, spongy but firm…”
“Sonic, focus” –
“You focus on finding the emerald with your Echidna voodoo, I’m goin’ after Silver and Nickel.”
“Wai – and he’s gone.” Knuckles raised both arms to protect his eyes from the sudden blast of dust and gravel that erupted around him.
Tails spoke through their wrist-comms, which Sonic was probably no longer listening to, “I’m surprised he made it six hours stationary in that chair, to be honest. Knuckles, I have to stay low to the ground, and it’s probably best if I keep our communications to a minimum. If Robotnik works out we’re here” –
“Yeah because they’re gonna miss him tearing up the countryside” –
“Look, I’ll cover you and monitor the situation from above. Tails out.”
Knuckles couldn’t help but watch interestedly as the Tornado MKII seem to melt into the air, copying the colours and textures of the environment around it. It was still far from invisible from Knuckles’ perspective, but it would certainly camouflage itself from a distance.
“Right,” muttered Knuckles to himself, “So much for sticking together. Now…” He surveyed the landscape carefully, ignoring the biting cold, “Where are you?”
He had never asked another Echidna if his ability to sense the emeralds was genetic, or something else. It was much too late now given he was the sole remaining member of his race, with no mentors, teachers or masters to turn to. Upon proximity he could feel the emeralds like he could one of his limbs. With distance, it became a tug on his brain. He described it that the same way others felt hungry or thirsty, he felt the emerald’s presence. It did not mean he could pinpoint their exact location, or judge if they were being manhandled or if somebody was attempting to damage them, just their rough location. Sonic often teased him for having a ‘voodoo GPS’ inside his head, but with the frequency Sonic himself seemed to stumble upon the emeralds, Knuckles wondered to what extent Sonic himself could actively search for the emeralds.
He began walking, following the tug. Downhill, through the tall trees naked of underbrush, to the lakeside. From there he began jogging. Sure footed amongst the deep bracken and steep bank, Knuckles followed the lake’s edge. He saw nothing of Sonic or Tails, though he thought he heard revving engines dissimilar from cars from afar.
After half an hour, mountains towered about him, and he followed a thin river winding downhill. The going would be steep and dangerous, but he knew he was on the right track.
The river had turned into a sharp but small ravine by the time he felt he was closing in on the emerald. The crystal clear water frothed as it cut through the earth, roots of trees poking through the exposed bank.
The earth began to tremor beneath his feet. He instinctively dropped to a crouch, looking for objects that could fall and harm him, but the tremors stopped after mere seconds.
Looking up, the smoke-clogged sky looked no different. Afternoon sunlight fractured through the smoke, turning it the colour of blood.
“Knuckles? Are you okay?” came a small voice from his wrist.
Knuckles lifted the watch closer to his face to hear better. “Yeah, Tails, I’m fine. What happened?”
“The pressure is building up in the volcano, it just blew a hole in the side of the mountain! It sounds worse than it is, it’s a small landslide compared to how bad this is going to get if we don’t find that emerald.”
“Something’s not right. Storms, choppy weather, animals migrating weird, plants growing in strange place, that’s what we’d normally expect. I wouldn’t expect this from one emerald!”
“Well, I think I have a theory, but I want to get off the air. Be careful, Knux, and I wouldn’t go any further north than you already are, emergency warnings classify this whole area as volatile.”
Tails cut the transmission, just as a particularly powerful tug near-physically swung him back in the direction of the ravine. On the other side of the small river, a tree that stood straight and healthy had an unexplainable chunk missing from its trunk about three feet long.
“Gotcha,” smiled Knuckles, congratulating himself facetiously.
He had taken one step forward when somebody yelled, “Knuckles, move!”
He swiftly shifted his weight onto the side with which he had taken the first step, letting his body fall into a roll, just as something green and fast rocketed past. He saw one hand, five fingers covered in scales, pass inches from his face.
He heard Sonic burst out laughing behind him.
“Man, did you mean to do that or did you just fall over!?”
“Sonic! Where” – Knuckles cut off as he laid eyes on Nyx.
His physique was of a full-grown anthrohuman. Green, snakelike scales covered his entire body, and a bush of sharp, spiny quills concealed the back of his head, stretching past his shoulder blades and to his lower back rather like a hedgehog. Shadow was right; he didn’t look like Black Arms, but he was of no anthrohuman known to Mobius either.
And above his eyes in the centre of his forehead a sliver of the green Chaos emerald protruded.
Knuckles was flabbergasted. He looked over his shoulder, was hit with another blast of surprise to find Sonic right behind him.
“He’s been following you for awhile, haven’t you snake-face?”
“Sonic.” Nyx acknowledged him. His gold eyes were intense. He cocked his head, “Good to see you again.”
Sonic looked slightly taken aback.
“Um… what?” But Sonic trailed off. They both watched, mouths open, as the red emerald, glistening from a coat of wet Azure-lake rainwater, floated from somewhere in the fast-flowing stream to Nyx’s outstretched hand. Sonic waited to see if this strange creature would assimilate the emerald like the Guardian Chaos would. Instead, like he or Knuckles would, he just absorbed it into his person.
Knuckes was still shocked at how Nyx had manoeuvred the emerald.
“Did… did you… who are you?” asked Knuckles, shocked.
Nyx ignored him.
Sonic was past the point in his life when he stopped counting the surprises in a day, but this certainly stood out. Morphing out of Nyx’s back came a giant pair of bat-like wings. The membrane was a lighter green than the scales that protected the bone.
And they were strong. A fierce wing buffeted Sonic and Knuckles, and pelleted heavy soil at them like bullets. In an instant Nyx was already high above them, riding purely on the power of the first sweep.
Straight into Tails.
Sonic liked to think it was on purpose that Tails casually flew into Nyx as he rose into the air, but it was much more likely that neither of them could see the other. Catching one of Nyx’s wings, the Tornado MKII’s cloaking system failed and it erroneously dropped a few feet in shock. Nyx was by far the worse off, and tumbled through the air with only one wing to stabilise him.
“Haha!” cheered Sonic, he flicked on his wrist comm., and said, “Nice job, buddy. We’ll go get that emerald.”
“Uh, sure, Sonic,” replied Tails, then “Uh-oh.”
“Oh great, what!? Don’t tell me the volcano just got worse.” said Knuckles exasperatedly. Both he and Sonic had broken into a run, heading in the direction Nyx looked likely to land. The terrain was steeply downhill.
“Nope. Worse. Incoming E-series, possibly two-dozen of them coming to investigate. I’ll play rabbit. Get the emerald.”
Tails kept his cloaking down; in fact, he put a siren on. Screaming for attention, the Tornado MKII tore through the air in the direction of the incoming robots.
“Knux,” called Sonic as they ran, “Did Aristole or Chinoquie ever do what he just did? Move the emerald like that?”
“Well, no, but you can. So can Shadow.”
“Yeah, only before we’re about to go Super. And I can’t even explain it, but I know it wouldn’t work unless they were… in agreement. So what is he?”
“No idea!” Knuckles shouted, “But he’s not an Echidna… looks more like a hedgehog!”
They had made their way into more rocky terrain, and when they reached a sheer rise Sonic realised their disadvantage.
Nyx was now in sight. With the help of his powerful wings he scaled the twenty-foot outcropping. The rock was wet and slippery, and both Knuckles and Sonic halted.
“Hey!” shouted Sonic, cupping his hands around to his mouth. “Why are you running!?”
Nyx disappeared over the top.
“Gone,” said Knuckles, throwing his arms wide, “great!
“He’s not much for diplomacy, that’s for sure. We’ll have to find a way around.”
Silver’s heart was beating so hard he felt like he was about to throw up. His breathing came through in wet, heavy pants from the excess saliva produced from his over-exertion. On top of it all his head pounded with the extended psychokinesis.
He had dodged robots and difficult, steep terrain, and with every obstacle he overcame he felt the pull of Nickel’s mind grow stronger.
He broke from sparse trees to roughly undulating hills, the grass a mild yellow-green. Mossy rocks of varying sizes dotted the landscape. In the distance was a still lake and beyond it towering mountains loomed. It would have been a peaceful view if not for the toxic volcanic ash that spread across the sky. It blocked the afternoon sun, turning the smoke the colour of blood.
Squads of robots zoomed across the sky like some futuristic nightmare. The flew in a close diamond formation, their lanky legs dangling beneath them like hornets.
Suddenly, four dived to the ground, disappearing behind a knoll.
And were thrown back by a cyan wave of energy.
Silver’s eyed widened. “Nickel!”
He broke into a run; he didn’t have the energy to fly anymore. More robots dived, eight, then twelve. Nickel couldn’t hold them all back.
“Nickel! I’m coming!” he cried, sprinting as hard as he could.
He had reached the knoll. He didn’t even look at what was below, only saw a ten feet drop that would take too long to climb around. But heights had never been a problem to a Psychokinetic.
Without stopping he leapt.
Nickel was exhausted. Limbs heavy and brain pounding, nose bleeding from the pressure of his psychokinesis, he had been almost ready to accept defeat. The tall, silver robots were closing in. They had never shot at him, just used sheer numbers. He had tired himself out trying to make them keep their distance. Cradling the Rainbow emerald close, he threw out one final, feeble wave of psychokinesis.
But somehow it became something immensely powerful, a solid wall of energy that didn’t just throw the robots away but tore them apart.
He hadn’t done that.
A smile broke on his face. He whipped around.
“Silv” – The same, albeit less powerful wall of energy threw him onto his back. He remained there, dazed.
Without the all-encompassing panic of an Egg Carrier to contextualise their reunion, Silver poured his frustration away. “Do you have any idea how worried I’ve been!? Do you know what you’ve gotten us into!? You better still have that rotten rock so we can get home!”
Head spinning, he summoned enough self-control to hold up the Rainbow emerald in response. Silver’s attitude seemed to have changed since their quick reunion on the Egg Carrier.
Silver stomped into his field of view. He looked cross. His topaz eyes glared at him sharply, his mouth clamped into a thin line.
“I thought you’d be happy to see me,” winced Nickel. Silver rolled his eyes once, outstretched a hand and helped him to his feet. He checked the skies to make sure they were still safe, and gave Nickel a quick hug and another brotherly punch.
“Of course I am,” agreed Silver honestly, and for the first time in nearly two days Nickel felt safe.