Search and Rescue
The Next Leg
Just a few years after the Robotnik War, Robotnik’s power had waned considerably. Spagonia, the country that had borne the brunt of his attempted military conquest and the eventual rebellion, was only a very small sea away to the east. And with Robotnik’s presence in the U.F, the Tri-Alliance was now active (though days from expiry). This in mind, it was not a surprise that Robotnik’s jumbo-jet sized craft left Azure Lake Zone soon after it arrived, rising far into the stratosphere.
With it went the robots hounding Azure Lake Zone, now smothered by volcanic smoke that had drawn world-wide media attention.
Similarly, Nyx had gotten away with the red emerald. Sonic, Tails and Knuckles had no idea whether his wings were powerful enough to take him to Spagonia, the closest mainland, but Tails was forced to call off the search after a thorough four-hour investigation. Between this and the flight from Central, Tails thought it was fair to call his body exhausted. While he scoured the island, Sonic and Knuckles had found Silver and Nickel amongst a heap of robot rubble.
Sprinting hard across the plain, looking hard for a single last robot he might be able to spindash, Sonic had found them sitting underneath a rocky outcropping surrounded by metallic debris. He happily veered in their direction, kicking soil, grass and pebbles high into the air in his wake. They had seen him coming, and stood as he rolled to a sharp stop.
Brushing grass off himself, Sonic said, “Eggman got away, your friend Nyx got away, the emerald got away – but, hey, nobody got nuked.” He toed a robot’s decapitated head, observing the way it had been rend apart. “Nice…”
“Was that a possibility?” asked Silver. But Sonic was already focused on Nickel. He didn’t know how the boy had escaped the Egg Falcon (which Robotnik had obviously whisked him away in as Team Sonic had assumed), but secretly admired the resourcefulness it must have taken.
“’Sup, Nickel? Eggman treat you okay? Five-star treatment?” He did not hide his gloating.
Shame dominated Nickel’s face. “Sonic, I am so, so sorry. I was… I was scared. I panicked. I made the wrong decision.”
Sonic crossed his arms, a triumphant smile on this face. His disregard for Nickel’s safety incensed Silver, who said firmly, “I think he gets it, Sonic.”
Now Nickel looked quizzical. “Wait, what? Silver, how do you” –
“I saved him with my psychokinesis back over Central” -
Sonic made a sound like he was hacking up a hairball
-“then we came all this way,” continued Silver, “chasing Robotnik.”
A hundred questions and apologies lit up in Nickel’s eyes. Sonic waved both hands for quiet.
“It’s freezing, let’s find somewhere warm to bunk down for the night. Nickel, you’re safe now.”
Sonic, Silver and Nickel hiked for an hour until Tails and Knuckles collected them in the Tornado MKII. Carskygg was the nearby town they touched down in, much to the surprise of the rugged-up locals. Tossing his mother’s credit card out of his shoes to Tails, Sonic announced he was going to look for more Magic Rings. Before Tails or anybody else could stop him, Sonic had disappeared in a flurry of dirt, into the darkness. The night would have been well lit but for the lingering blanket of smoke across the night sky.
“He gets he’s not going to be able see… at all.” Said Knuckles, one foot on the hotels wooden first step. He could feel the cozy warmth radiating from inside.
“He’ll be back in half an hour complaining as much,” laughed Tails. He stepped past Knuckles to lead the way inside, “C’mon, let’s grab a room.”
Nickel and Silver were daunted by entering the hotel. It was full of anthrohumans, but the bar downstairs only contained rugged, older adults; lupines, bears, raccoons, and thick, furry cats. Tails strode over the wooden floorboards and plush green rug without hesitation, and had a room booked quickly from the desk manager.
They were about to head up the lift, when Tails turned back and said to the desk manager, “Oh, by the way a little later on a hedgehog’s gonna come through asking for us. Feel free to send him up.”
The lupine nodded, and resumed his duties, and Tails leapt into the lift as it shut.
As it jolted up, Knuckles said, “You know, you probably should have specified what colour hedgehog…”
Silver said worriedly, “That black hedgehog wouldn’t be on our trail, would he?”
“That actually sounds feasible…” said Tails, then he shrugged. “We don’t have anything to hide so there’s no point running.”
“GUN gave us permission to get you back.” Knuckled acknowledged, nodding to Nickel for the boy’s comfort. He stuck close to his brother, looking burnt out from the events of the past forty-eight hours. Perhaps taking some pity on him, Knuckles said with slight encouragement, “But you did most of the heavy lifting. You got off the Egg Falcon all on your own!”
The lift’s wooden doors rattled open, and they strode out into the quiet hall. The thick carpet under their shoes muffled all sound in the gently-lit corridor.
Once past the old fashioned lock on their door (Tails struggled with the long metal key for several moments), they could see their room was just two beds and a couch, a single bathroom, fridge and TV. It had an Azure Lake Zone homeliness about it, the kind only locations which persisted in very cold climates achieve; the lighting was warm and the furniture plush.
“Be-ed,” groaned Nickel, trudging forward to face-plant on the nearest.
Silver shook his head, and went to the fridge. Taking out an energy drink, he tossed it Nickel, who only stopped it centimeters before it would have got him in the face.
“No, you don’t sleep until I get told what on Mobius I’m doing here! From the beginning.” Silver sat on the opposite bed. He gestured at the energy drink, “Drink up.”
Disgusted, Nickel cracked open the can, behind him the Rainbow Emerald appeared. After taking a sizeable swig he started, “I freaked out on Angel Island because… because I remembered what Nyx wants.”
“Which is..?” prompted Knuckles.
“Me.” Said Nickel, eyes wide with fear. “My control of this stone.” The rainbow emerald appeared in his palms. “It’s crazy, it was all too much… I couldn’t think straight.” He finished desperately, “I just wanted to find Silver and get back home.”
Knuckles drew up a chair, Tails made himself in an armchair, curling his tails up around him for comfort.
Nickel sighed, resigning himself to the long story.
“Back home, I got the Rainbow Emerald from… a museum. But it reacted to me. It was incredible, I’d never seen anything like it. I don’t think my memory has fully returned – I can’t remember exactly long ago I found it. The point I do remember is when Nyx turned up. We did nothing to antagonise him and we don’t know him – he attacked us.” He looked to Silver, “It was vicious…”
“Right,” said Silver. “He came out of the blue.”
“Silver helped fend him off, but it happened too fast…” Nickel looked like he was struggling to explain, “I felt the Rainbow emerald react. I think it sent us all back here…”
Knuckles spoke, “We think we have that figured out… which means theoretically we could send you two both home tonight.”
“You could!” cried Silver and Nickel, suddenly electrified. Relief swept across their faces and lit up their eyes. It crushed Knuckles to tell them the truth.
“I’m sorry… I said theoretically. I explained before to your brother that the Echidnas knew of time-travel and were capable of it through use of the emeralds. Somehow, and I hope it was an accident, you three initiated the reaction to send you back in time with use of the emeralds. But it’s been outlawed for most of a millennia – Echidnas haven’t even had electrical lighting or automotive transport for 150 years.”
“But we could go home,” said Silver with wonder, “It’s possible?”
“Well, you got here, and somehow we’ve got to at least try to get you back home,” said Tails, but he lowered his eyes, “But there’s a lot to consider. That’s entering the realm of causality… theoretical physics.” He probably meant to sound sympathetic and cautious, but his tone was unmistakably inspired, “We have no idea if sending you back causes parallel worlds, or if it kills you because your atoms decompose and are recreated on the other side.”
“Killed?” yelped Silver, “To get back home?” He gestured to Nickel, “But I need to get him home!”
Both Silver and Nickel turned grey as Tails’ speculation hit home.
“Tails didn’t mean that,” said Knuckles. Ashamedly, Tails ducked his head in apology. Repairing the damage, Knuckles continued, “I can ask a friend of Tails’ and Sonic’s, an expert in anthropology, to take a look at Angel Island… maybe,” he finished fiercely at Tails’ excited gaze, “We don’t even know how to time-travel. So maybe we can see if we can work out a technique before we start worrying about what we don’t understand.”
Still looking more than a little disturbed, Silver folded his arms and traded glanced with Nickel.
“So you still have no idea where Nyx came from?” asked Tails, attempting to put their conversation back on rails.
Nickel shuddered, “No-ones ever tried, to, well, kill me before. And Nyx was just… I thought it was going to end right there. It would have, if not for Silver. But while we were fighting a reaction happened, I could feel the Rainbow Emerald had something to do with it but I hadn’t much clue how to stop it. Next thing, I’m in Green Hill Zone.”
“And you ended up with Nyx in Hill Top.” said Tails, nodding to Silver.
“Yeah, in the middle of a military compound. Not sure even you three can beat that for craziest two minutes.”
Knuckles smirked. Tails laughed a loud.
Silver looked cross. “Really?”
“Yeah. I could think of a few: Station Square.”
Tails offered, “That time we partnered with Eggman to take out Metal and we were all like quasi-Super.”
Knuckles said, “That party the Chaotix threw.”
“By Mauro – yes, dark-echidna aliens from outer space definitely beats giant water Chaos monster.”
“They do indeed.”
Tail and Knuckles seemed to a share a second or so of careful reminiscing, then both looked expectantly at Nickel, and he jumped when he realised he was meant to continue.
Exchanging looks with a bewildered Silver, Nickel went on.
“R-right, well, you all know what happens from there. I panicked on Angel Island because I remembered… Nyx, I remembered I was in danger.” He looked with sad eyes to Tails and Knuckles, his ears reddening, “I think now I was running from the safest place I could have been.”
Knuckles had to keep himself from balking, but remained silent as Nickel continued, “I was weak. I’m so sorry, I ended up putting myself and everybody else in more danger.”
“Another thing, how’d you get off the Egg Falcon?” asked Tails
Nickel genuinely smiled. “I was in a compartment really close to the outside of the hull. It took a few hours but I just pulled the metal apart with my psychokinesis. It didn’t take him long to notice, but I just fell back to earth and angled towards land.” He nodded to Silver, “The landing put me out cold for a few minutes.”
Knuckles and Tails looked amazed, but Silver winced.
“Ow,” he said, sympathetically.
“Amazing what you can do when you need to do it,” answered Nickel.
“No, I did the same to get off the Tornado. And I moved a helicopter for nearly six hours trying to get to the Egg Carrier – that wasn’t so bad, but I would have been in trouble if they’d tried to fight me. Guess they wanted to see where I was going. Then, when they finally tried to change my course with maybe two hundred metres to go to you on that ship, I tried to fly!”
“How far’d you make it!” gasped Nickel, his face a mixture of shock and delight.
“Further than I thought. I don’t think I could have done it if I hadn’t thought I’d die if I didn’t make it.”
Knuckles cut in, “You didn’t make it, and you would have died if we hadn’t saved you.”
“But you got your memory back, and in the end nobody got hurt,” Tails said, smiling warmly despite the sudden animosity that had grown on Silver’s face. “Ok, so now we all know how you got here, what about Nyx? Motivations, weaknesses, anything?”
Now Nickel looked down, suddenly uncomfortable. “I know he’s after… after me for the Rainbow Emerald. After that… nothing.”
“Pass it here again,” said Knuckles. Nickel gently tossed it, and continued as Knuckles examined the stone, now dull in his hands, “We can assume it’s key to whatever he wants.”
“Which includes collecting all the Chaos Emeralds?” asked Tails.
Tails grinned and rested his head against the back of his chair, “That is so up our alley it’s like it was by design.”
“Can anybody do what Sonic did with all seven?” asked Nickel. Knuckles averted his eyes from the Rainbow emerald to glare at him sharply.
Tails answered for him, “No. Well, we don’t really know. I mean, it should make sense that Knuckles could go Super – I mean he’s an Echidna, the last Echidna, so technically that makes him Pachamacac and Chief Guardian, but his abilities are restricted to enhanced strength and sensing the balance of Chaos energies filtered through the Master Emerald. But the only people we know that can are Sonic and Shadow.”
“I guess Shadow kinda makes sense, being the son of Black Doom and all,” muttered Knuckles.
“Backing up!” said Silver, making a time-out symbol with his hands, “Say that again, but in a language I understand.”
But Knuckles was already distracted. He passed the Rainbow emerald to Tails, “That is a Chaos emerald but it isn’t. If the time travel theory is true, and I’ll admit it’s wild even by our standards, then it has to have capabilities of an emerald. But I can’t absorb it, I can’t activate it, I can’t even sense it like I can the others.”
As soon as the emerald arrived back in Nickel’s hands it regained its iridescent light and shone a myriad of colours. Knuckles huffed.
“It did react to the other seven,” said Tails, “When Sonic brought it near the other seven back at my workshop it started a reaction only Nickel could stop.”
Knuckles sighed, his eyes shifting back to Nickel. “And Silver? You can’t get that rock to respond?”
“I’m still back at pachamathingy and the Master Emerald, but no.” Silver momentarily lifted the Rainbow emerald from Nickel’s hands, demonstrating that at his touch too, the Rainbow emerald’s luster faded, signaling its lack of a compatible receiver.
“Mmh,” grunted Knuckles. “This isn’t right.”
“Why?” asked Tails.
“There’s not meant to be an eighth emerald! As soon as it arrived I know the Master Emerald was under extra pressure to keep the balance between everything.”
“Guess it doesn’t help that Nyx is here too,” said Tails, “I mean, we haven’t seen him yet to clarify for ourselves, but both Shadow and Silver described him as either possessing an emerald or being an emerald, assumedly from Silver’s timeline two hundred years in the future.”
“And the time travel thing,” said Knuckles, now looking genuinely upset that his delicate balance of invisible energies was being tampered with.
He began unwrapping the tape at the base of his glove, pulling it off. On his fingers he wore one golden ring. At first Silver assumed it was the same breed of magical ring Sonic had boasted back in Central, but this one had unintelligible runes etched into its surface.
“What are you doing?” asked Tails, blankly.
“I’m going back to Angel Island.”
“You’re – Knuckles, wait, we might need you. And the Warp Rings…”
“You have these two,” said Knuckles, indicating Silver and Nickel, “As for the Warp Rings, there’s still five left after this. I’ll radio Amy to come get me to take me back to you.”
“But you know the most about all this,” protested Silver, “I have no idea about any of these emeralds or Nyx – and what on Mobius is a Warp Ring?”
“Exactly what it sounds like.” Knuckles plucked the ring of his finger then smiled bitterly, “And you’d be surprised at the even footing we’re on. Time travel, nine emeralds instead of seven and one I have never heard of before? Those emeralds were to my culture what… what kinesis probably is to yours. Which is exactly why I’m going back.”
Silence hung uncomfortably for a few seconds, but Tails knew he could do nothing but accept his decision.
Silver murmured through numb lips, “He’s actually going to teleport…”
“Wait, there’s one more thing,” said Nickel. “Before you go. While I was with Robotnik, he had me ‘powering the ship’. That literally meant putting my hands on a generator and throwing psychokinetic fields into it. I didn’t know of a machine that could do that… and I’m worried that I wasn’t actually powering anything.”
“Good job, kid,” said Knuckles, giving him a thumbs up. “Ten bucks it’s a bomb.”
“No,” interjected Silver, “It’s impossible. Maybe Robotnik was trying to tire him out, you can’t use psychokinesis like you can electricity or something, it doesn’t work like that.”
“This is Robotnik we’re talking about” –
Silver shook his head adamantly, “You think we haven’t tried? You can’t do it.”
Tails smiled in spite of himself.
“Ten bucks and you’re on.”
Sonic returned just as Tails was falling asleep. Nickel and Silver, exhausted, had already drifted off: Nickel, though only two-thirds Silver’s height took up about two-thirds of the double bed they shared.
“What’s that smell? Why does it smell like a Warp – ah, Knuckles took a Warp Ring, didn’t he.”
“Sonic, shush, people are sleeping!”
“Well sorry for donating those fifty Magic Rings into the Tornado. Shove up.”
Sonic flopped down beside Tails. He yawned, “Good job Knuckles shot off then, this beats the couch.”
Tails rolled his eyes at Sonic’s disinterest as to the reason for Knuckles’ departure, but was too tired to pull him up on it. After several bouts of kicking to get Sonic to sleep somewhere his quills wouldn’t get in Tails’ face, the brothers drifted off to sleep.
A shrill, unfamiliar siren at the crack of dawn jolted them all from sleep as if they had been electrified.
“What – what, where!?” cried Silver disorientated, falling to the floorboards before springing back to his feet, a cyan aura rippling around him.
Tails cried, pulling on his shoes. “It’s the Tornado!”
Sonic, who slept in his shoes, wasted no time spindashing straight out their window, on the hunt for the supposed perpetrators. He left only the tinkle of falling glass behind him. Protected inside a ball of quills, Sonic did not suffer a single cut. He did shiver in the crisp air, however.
“No – ugh! Sonic!” called Tails, angrily.
Sonic was already out of earshot, elated that action had found him again so quickly. He landed safely in a Sonic Spin on the hard, frozen ground, then leapt from the ground around the side of the wooden hotel where the red plane was parked.
The piercing siren that had drawn residents running from their homes in panic was indeed coming from the Tornado. Except as Sonic sprung up on top of the canopy, he realised he had no way of getting inside the cockpit.
Tails arrived only seconds later, the whir of his tails went unheard. He shouted something at Sonic, but his voice was completely swallowed by the siren. Tails got the canopy open and slid into the cockpit, and moments later the siren stopped.
Sonic said smarmily, “Sure that was loud enough, Tails? I’m not sure Harbour City could quite hear.”
“You didn’t have to break the window!” snapped Tails, “If you had waited a minute I could have told you that’s the SOS siren programmed to activate if I’m away, not a break-in!”
Sonic’s smile faltered, “Oh… well who’s in trouble?”
“Well, if the hotel manager doesn’t come down here and haul us to the cops for damage to private property, I’ll tell you.”
“We’ve only had this machine a day, people have already got our number?”
“No, I transferred relevant data from my cloud to the Tornado,” said Tails, now sounding a just a degree less angry to make way for pride at his accomplishment. “Now that I think about it I’ll probably move this function to my wrist comm.”
Now Silver and Nickel arrived.
“So we’re not under attack?” confirmed Silver, landing lightly on the Tornado’s MKII's wing.
Sonic gave them a wide grin and laughed sheepishly, “My bad. Was actually hoping it was this Nyx guy, we might’ve had a chance to get our emerald back.”
“It’s from Professor Pickle!” announced Tails from within the cockpit.
“Who?” echoed Nickel, Silver and Sonic.
Tails glared at Sonic for making fun of Nickel and Silver’s lack of contextual knowledge.
“Don’t be a jerk, Sonic – he’s Professor of Anthropology at Spagonia University. Remember we left him in Shamar after the festival of Sun and Moon?”
“I suppose I do,” admitted Sonic with a smirk, “What’s Robotnik doing in Shamar?” Sonic frowned, “Wait, Robotnik can’t be in Shamar already?”
Tails said, “There’s plenty of Shamarite territory still held by Robotnik forces, even if it’s not Eggman personally.” Tails cocked his head as he read the text on the Tornado MKII’s dash, “okay I’ve got his message, it says: ‘captured by Erazors, need assistance, Robotnik may be involved, Py” – Tails gasped, “Pylon! It’s signed Pylon!”
“Let me see that!”
Sonic squeezed himself in next to Tails, completely squashing the smaller fox against the cockpit’s windshield.
“Pylon? He’s chief of police now in Shamar, right?”
“Well, the Royal Police. How’d he get a hold of the wrist comm we gave Pickle?"
“Who is Pylon?” asked Silver, exasperatedly.
“Well, he was once our boss,” said Sonic.
“You had a job?”
“Things got a bit complicated between everyone towards the end,” explained Tails. Sonic looked away. “But he’s still our friend, one of our closest.”
“And now he runs the police force in… Shamar?” confirmed Nickel.
Silver was about to open his mouth to protest the direction of this latest course of action. They had enough on their plate: they had just lost another emerald to Nyx and they were no closer to working out what he wanted. Who knew how long this could set them back.
But Sonic and Tails had, for little reason at all, just flown hundreds of kilometers to rescue Nickel. They needn’t have, they could have just gone on collecting the emeralds, so who was he to tell them otherwise?
“Sounds like we’re needed in Shamar!” said Tails cheerily. He suddenly scowled at Sonic, “But you better go apologise about that window.”
The spacious office was dark, the only light filtered through closed blinds over the one window at the back of the room. Shelves filled with files and books lined the walls, portraits of men in suits and uniform between them. A coffee table sat surrounded by plump sofas. It, a lonely few chairs and a large, old desk were the only furniture in the room.
“You’re late,” said Shadow, leaning back onto the oak desk behind him. It was as high as his shoulders. In the doorframe stood a thin and wiry anthrohuman. Fang didn’t seem to go a day without accumulating another injury. His wide-brimmed, high-crowned hat was tattered and filthy, and carried the stench of a thousand nights camped in the rain and mud waiting for the targets arrival. On his back, a powerful rifle fitted with a bulky scope, almost as long as he was tall, hung in its harness. He could have been young, but his hard eyes were world-weary, adding years to his demeanor. Two scars cut into his fur on his left cheek, one running down to his neck. His youthful face would probably have been handsome, otherwise.
Fang laughed darkly. “Late? I’ve been dark for three weeks, mate.” He put one heavy boot in front of the other, slumping in the leather armchair under the portrait of the Commander’s predecessor. “Thanks for sending the cavalry, by the way. What happened here?”
Fang lowered his eyesight to the heavy wooden door on the ugly, patterned carpet, bent and splintered where Shadow had kicked it.
Shadow wrinkled his nose at the smell Fang’s hat, coat and fur brought into the office, but deigned to explain.
“The Commander came under attack this morning. GUN has a new enemy, it appears…” Shadow trailed off.
“Is he dead?” asked Fang, pointing at the portrait above him to refer to the subject’s successor.
Shadow flinched, “No. Rouge worked it out. Don’t worry about the details, but this creature is not of this world.”
“Black Arms? ‘Thought you gave them the boot…”
“No, he’s not Black Arms. Like them, however, he does seek the emeralds.”
Fang almost laughed again.
“More aliens?” he said, shaking his head.
“Honestly, we have no idea.” Shadow described Nyx, going over the part about shape-shifting wings as quickly as he could. He left out the part that was still bothering him. Fang did not need to know that, anyway.
Rouge had worked out there was something very wrong with the Commander’s whereabouts. He had not moved from his office for nearly five hours. Shadow and Rouge had gone to investigate, apparently the only ones to notice. They had found the Commander there with General Gungrave. But it had been immediately apparent something was very wrong. The General had been looking unsteady, confused. The Commander’s entire physical make-up seemed to vibrate, and was unsteady. It had been bizarre. When Rouge pointed out the shape of an unconscious man behind the desk, Shadow had drawn a spear on the strange creature with its unstable masquearade.
Unbelievably, the Commander had seemed to physically break down into particles, reemerging as a green hedgehog-snake hybrid.
It looked like nothing Shadow had ever seen before. A chaos emerald was embedded in its forehead, and although it took the semblance of a hedgehog its quills looked like rods of emerald steel, and its entire body was covered in green scales. Later, large, bat-like wings were furled against his back.
Shadow had no time to react. Gungrave had only just moved from the desk, perhaps hoping to find a weapon, when Nyx had headbutted Shadow, followed up by an unnaturally powerful kick to the chest that had sent Shadow flying back, smashing down the heavy door.
And Nyx had got away, straight through the window, wings hurling him into the sky.
With the emerald they had only just acquired.
Shadow had seen a good deal of unbelievable sights, but he had never witnessed a creature with abilities quite like that.
Gungrave had described that the emerald, confiscated from somebody in Central City in GUN, had come to be in the Commander’s office.
“He absorbed it, which normally means we’re dealing with somebody powerful,” finished Shadow. He suddenly snarled, “And Sonic just let him get another one in Azure Lake Zone, according to intelligence this morning. Your timing was actually impeccable. I know you just got back, but I’m sending you out again.”
Shadow blinked, then glared cruelly. “Excuse me?”
“I’m not goin’ after Team Sonic.” Fang did not waver, looking back with acceptance and finality.
After a short stunned silence, Shadow suddenly smiled. “Right,” he chuckled, “No, it’s not a contract. I don’t want them dead, but they’ll be going after another emerald and I want somebody capable there to make sure nobody else gets it first. If possible, I’d prefer if you could take it.”
“No,” repeated Fang, “I’m not goin’ after Sonic.
Shadow’s smile dropped. “This is not an offer. It’s an order.”
“And I’m not askin’, I’m tellin’ you, I won’t go after Team Sonic.”
Shadow checked the time. He needed to be in the air in twenty minutes.
“Fine, before I place you under arrest for war crimes and as an illegal alien” –
Fang’s demeanor finally broke. Outraged, he cried, “War crimes!?” –
“Who knows how many innocent people you and your rogue pirate cells terrorised during the Robotnik War. I can make up any figure I want – but I appear to have a soft spot for your… history. Which is why I’m giving you fifteen seconds to explain why you won’t go after Team Sonic.”
Fang now stood, his chest rising and falling heavier than it should have been. He no longer looked Shadow in the eye, but was wise enough to know that Shadow was not bluffing about the arrest.
“I… took somethin’ from Sonic. It was during the war, I had a… vendetta of my own. But now…” Fang took a deep breath, “Sonic will kill me if he gets his hands on me.”
Shadow laughed, eyes lighting up; now he was interested.
“It’s not funny,” said Fang in a low tone. His tone was deadly serious, the exact opposite of Shadow’s near-sadistic pleasure.
“Sonic? Murder and revenge? Who’d you hit?” Shadow’s eyes lit up, “His father died in the war, right? Did you” –
“Well, who” –
“Look, it don’t matter. It’s not even who it was, it was when. What I did made him crack. And I’m not gonna say a word more.”
Shadow relented. “Fine,” he mused for a moment, “Then don’t let them see you.”
“No, sir” –
“By Mobius, you’re a world-class assassin!” Shadow snapped, now angry at this waste of time. Fang appeared adamant, and so Shadow forced cool on himself like one voluntarily climbs into icy water. Even if what Fang said was true, he believed Sonic would just be like a dog with a bird. Once he caught Fang, he’d do little more than growl then snap then be forced to let him go.
But he wouldn’t let him take an emerald.
Inspiration flew past Shadow’s eyes like a bullet.
“Fine, you don’t want to go after Sonic – how about that insane copy of his Robotnik made?” Metal had escaped at an opportune moment, GUN’s resources were simply too thinly spread right now to warrant going after him. But that’s just because they didn’t believe that the monster was sentient. It wasn’t clear to Shadow exactly how this deactivated husk had reanimated itself after nearly three years, but it needed to be taken out.
“This is a hit mission. Remember, it isn’t any ordinary robot – you can’t categorise computers as psychopathic.”
“I know what he is.”
“Good. As soon as you get the chance, take that freak down.”
“Fine by me.”
Shadow reached behind him and grabbed a pen and a sheet of paper. Scribbling on it, he ordered Fang to first visit intelligence and then be on his way.
As Shadow strode for the door, Fang said, “Where are they sending you?”
“Indopelago. Of all things, social media reports match descriptions of an emerald falling back to Mobius.”
Excellent, thought Fang. He got Robotnik’s deadly masterpiece and Shadow got the tropical paradise.
To be fair, it was also infested with brainwashed pirates who despised GUN and most of the developed world on principle.
Rouge met him on the airfield, a tablet under her arm. The plane and the small crew they’d be riding with – Shadow only recognised the intimidating giant that was Colonel Redfried – was ready to go behind her.
“This just came through,” she said quietly, passing him the tablet. He activated the video ready to play.
An amateur camera’s grainy picture wobbled over an urban and smoggy backdrop, but just captured the shaky footage of something unnatural with identifiable back-like wings with a span of perhaps four metres careening across the sky.
“Azumakai. He’s heading south.”
“Towards the Indopelago – unbelievable,” muttered Shadow, quickly replaying the footage. “He’s going for the emerald. We need to move.”