He was a guy my age, and he looked just like me, but with blonde hair and yellow-amber eyes, and a few bruises and scratches here and there. He wore a plain white t-shirt and jeans. I froze in place as I realized . . .
"Jason?" I yelped.
"Eric!" he grinned. I hugged him without a second thought.
"Dude, I missed you so much! Never disappear like that again!" I said, wiping my eyes. There were tears threatening at their corners, and it was hard. He hugged back, and his voice cracked as he spoke.
"Oh my god . . . Eric . . . you have no idea what it's been like . . . I've missed you too, man." Finally we got over our little brotherly reunion moment.
"So . . . where have you been? Where did that portal thing take you?" I asked. His expression darkened in a flash.
"I don't know how to explain it. I was on top of this huge cliff with some girl my age. She was scared, and so was I . . . we got to know each other, and she had had the same thing happen, except that she had been with her brother out in the open. We worked together and survived. There was always a ton of destruction, and the few people we met were grim, in small bands, and usually close to starvation, but they taught us basics, and we taught ourselves the rest. She had these things called the Sol Emeralds—"
"—stop there! Sol emeralds? Was the girl . . . able to . . . turn into a cat, by chance?" I asked. He went wide-eyed.
"Yeah! We found two Chaos Emeralds and Chaos Controlled here a few hours ago—that's like teleporting." My mind was racing. Was she Blaze the Cat? Was Jason like me? Who was he, then? I was going to ask, but then Mom and Dad came in and we had a good ten minutes of a family meeting. The thought nagged at me the entire night, even as I went to bed. The only reason I didn't ask was because of his pained expression when he mentioned the place he'd gone to. I didn't want his return home to just be retelling of whatever he had left behind—what kind of a brother would I be then? Besides, it would ruin it for me if he was unhappy like that. Who knew? Maybe he had nothing to do with all this Chaos craziness after all . . .
Shadows loomed as the sun set. One of them happened to be a red and black hedgehog, standing next to a tall man with a military uniform outside what looked like an army base.
"You'd better not have anything to do with that Eggman showing up today," said the man gruffly. The hedgehog shook his head.
"Sir, if I had, you would've known about it. I'm 'always being watched', remember?" Even that low, rough voice had sarcasm dripping off of it in that sentence. The man growled.
"Watch your mouth. Remember what happened last time . . ." he said, a threat clear in the tone. The hedgehog flinched as if remembering a hard blow, and paused before speaking again.
"Sir, should I . . . join the others in fighting Eggman?" The man, who had been facing away, turned abruptly.
"Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Rouge, and Amy."
"Hmph. Just go back home—your mother isn't fond of me since she stopped your tutoring sessions."
"Yes, sir," the hedgehog said, disdain clear in his voice. He turned and skated away as the sun sunk below the horizon, and the only light visible were the flying golden sparks on the ground that indicated that he was running at top speed.
"You didn't say 'no'," he muttered, and a light flashed.
I woke up early and shook Jason awake, too.
"Wake up, come on—the lava's rising," I said, and he rolled off of the bed, yelping. Then he threw a pillow at my face. Then we both went to the living room.
"You okay?" I asked. He'd winced slightly when he sat down on the couch.
"I'm fine, just sore. We searched for the Chaos Emeralds for hours on end last time. Eliza and I were okay, but lava isn't fun to almost fall into. Landing on semi-sharp rocks in bad places is the alternative."
"The girl—the cat girl," he explained.
"Oh, hey, Jason . . . you said that she could turn into a cat. Can you change too?" He was about to answer, but I leaned on the T. V. remote hidden somewhere in the couch cushions, and it turned on to the news. It was a live story, of a huge wildfire in the forest involving lots of renegade robot-lizard things.
"Uh . . . I've got to go to the bathroom," I said quickly. I snuck out the window and was out running towards the fire before you could say, "Sonic and Mario at the London 2012 Olympic Games" . . . yeah, that's a mouthful, but you get the point. When I got there, I found the lizard things like mini dragons torching everything in sight.
"Eggman, you've done it now," I growled to myself. This particular forest was a place where I'd camped out during the summer many years, where a lot of people walked or hiked, and where a lot of animals lived. It was a place where everyone could relax, anytime. Was.
I began trashing them, knowing that fighting the flames would be useless until they were destroyed. Each one only took one or two hits to be demolished, but they were spread out, so it took time to find them all. Finally, I smashed the last one, and scanned the area to be sure, when one of the broken ones was thrown just inches past my face, a greenish-blue glow fading from it as it went.
"Hey! What was that for?" I yelled, turning.
"Focus on the fire, okay? You finished them all!" yelled a fierce voice, that of Silver the Hedgehog, who was currently glaring at me.
"Look, I was just getting to it!" I said, holding up my hands in exasperation. Then I did get to it: I ran circles around large sections of flames at top speed to choke them out, and kept doing so over and over again, first on the outside edges to contain the fire in one spot, and moving inward. Silver piled the robots on top of smaller sections, snuffing them out, but it did get done after a while. After we were done, there were only a few smoking embers.
"Happy?" I asked, skidding to a stop next to him.
"Not really. This shouldn't have happened. The guy in charge of these shouldn't have done this—but why?"
"It's a threat. He—Eggman 's letting us know that he can do whatever he wants and we can't stop him—which is wrong. I don't know too much about him except that he plans to destroy and/ or take over the world. Listen, Silver, do you want to get Blaze? I'll get the others, and we can make a plan involving the Chaos Emeralds and kicking Egghead butt." He looked startled that I knew who Blaze was.
"What? Uh . . . sure. Just let me tell you something."
". . . For the past nine years, Blaze and I were stuck in an alternate dimension with fire monsters, lava, and barely any people. We barely survived most days. I don't know how you know her name—though I can guess—and frankly, I don't trust you."
"It's fine. You can't be too careful when you don't know someone. Maybe I'll earn it later. Let's meet at the back of Washington High. It's Sunday; no one will be there."
"Good. I'll see you there in a few minutes."
"See ya." Now I was positive about one thing: Silver was Jason. I would have expected Shadow simply because we look alike, but that hardly mattered now. I ran home to call up Amy, Miles, John, and Scarlet, telling them the situation, leaving out my discovery about Silver's identity.
Everyone had responded, "I'm on my way now." I left a note for my parents, saying that Jason and I were hanging out with friends, which was ultimately true. We were all there by about noon.
"So, we all know why we're here," I said.
"Eggman is insane, a genius, bent on taking over the world, and somehow makes giant robot armies without being noticed until he attacks," said Blaze.
"He also must have a secret hideout somewhere," Rouge stated.
"Well, we have no clue where it is, except that it is not in plain sight," Tails sighed.
"Did he go towards the lake?" asked Amy. I shivered.
"Uh . . . no, I don't think so," I replied, shivering. Water and I didn't mix well. I never could swim, and always managed to half-drown myself when the water was deeper than I was tall.
"Seriously? You can't swim? Just like the games?" Knuckles laughed.
"Watch it Knux, or I'll chuck the Master Emerald so hard that you'd need an observatory telescope to ever see it again," I growled.
"Guys! Can we talk about the matter at hand? How do we beat Eggman? Especially during school," said Blaze, crossing her arms and glaring at us as though she would send a fireball at us if we argued (which she could and would).
"We'll make up excuses as we go along until we come up with something," suggested Amy.
"On to another thing. There are seven Chaos Emeralds, seven Sol Emeralds, and one Master Emerald. We have all of those except for one Chaos Emerald. As far as we know, it's up for grabs," Silver pointed out.
"Or someone else has it and has yet to show themselves," I said.
"Exactly," he continued, "We need a safe place for each emerald—they need to be generally separate, so if Eggman tries to get them, we'll know before he has them all."
"Good thinking. Tails, any chance you can make some kind of emerald tracker?" asked Rouge.
"It would take time. As long as I had am emerald, which I do, I could make it after a while. We need to make sure that each of us hides out emerald somewhere different. I'll take mine to my basement so I can work on the tracker—it's always locked when I'm not in there."
"My gym locker," said Amy. One at a time, each person said their specific hiding places—always locked—until it was just Silver and I.
"My room," said Silver. Well, that's out, I thought. That was my idea.
"Don't you have a brother? Do you share the same room?" asked Blaze, "Won't he . . ."
"No, he wouldn't steal it even if he did find it. I'd trust Eric with my life." And he'd just said, only a few minutes before, that he didn't trust me. Tails and Amy glanced at me—Amy had known Jason, and Tails had been told about him. I shrugged. However, while Amy didn't press me for information, Tails didn't let it go.
"You have a brother named Eric?" This wasn't going good—I'd wanted to confront him myself at home, where I'd know all the facts and he'd trust me as I told him. Oh, well, too late now.
"Yes. Why?" Silver asked.
"Well, what's your human name?"
"Jason. This has nothing to do with anything we're talking about! Sonic, tell us where you're going to—"
"—because Sonic has a twin brother named Jason, who disappeared for nine years. If he came back recently, I imagine that he didn't have the time to tell us yet . . . but he might have come last night." Silver's eyes snapped towards mine. He was searching my face for some sign of recognition, and I scratched my nose, thinking of a way to break it to him.
"Is there something that my brother forgot to mention to me when I came home last night?" he asked slowly.
"Um . . . maybe . . . yeah . . . sort of . . ." I decided it wasn't worth the trouble to come up with a story. Chaos Transformation! And I'd become Eric Sarali once again. Silver blinked once. Then twice. After that, a bunch of white and blue-green lights flashed, leaving my brother in their place. He still had the same expression of confused realization.
"Well, I guess this explains a lot . . . hey, bro," I smiled weakly and scratched the back of my head. He crossed his arms and tried to look angry, but the corner of his mouth twitched. And I was trying, yet failing, to hold back a grin. By now the others had turned human, too (Eliza apparently has ragged, shoulder-length hair, tan skin, and wears loose sweatpants and t-shirts), and we were all laughing. Finally, we managed to completely stop and go our separate ways, except, that is, for Jason and I. We talked for a long time, discussing long lists of things that are private, twin brother, dude why didn't you tell me it was you in the first place, I didn't have the time and I didn't want to worry you, types of topics.
"This insanity has only started, hasn't it?" he asked as we both got to bed.
"Believe me, Jason: it probably hasn't even started yet."
That night, at another house, Shadow the hedgehog was sitting at a kitchen table, leaning his head on his hand and drumming his fingers on the table. One word could have described him: bored. A woman with black hair, a man with blonde, and a thirteen year old girl who reminded one of Alice in Wonderland, all walked in. The woman, at seeing Shadow, sighed in a slightly annoyed manner.
"Can you at least be in human form around Maria? I don't care what your commander wants you to do in training, but honestly!" The girl rolled her eyes. Nonetheless, Shadow turned into a human version of himself. He seemed to be a lean and strong seventeen-year-old Goth. His eyes were now more amber than red, and his deeply tanned skin was the same on an angled face. His raven hair was somewhat spiky, with thin, bright red streaks on the larger spikes. A white t-shirt with a black long-sleeved net shirt over it as well as dark, worn jeans, matched his brooding expression. The same classic skates and gloves were on his hands and feet, though they were smaller. A small pendant hung from his neck that had a sort of spiral shape—the Black Arms symbol from the games—and he looked to the woman expectantly. She nodded in approval.
"Honestly, what if someone walked in?" she muttered before fixing his hair.
"Mom," he complained like any normal teenage boy. But a tiny bit of excitement edged his voice, for he had been waiting for them to come home for a long time. They had been on a trip to the very military base he had left the other day, and they had been there because of him—his parents, to be told the truth about his birth, his story. G. U. N. was very secretive when they brought him to the man and woman those years ago. Finally, they were going to tell him. That is, if G. U. N. told them all of it, which, knowing the Commander, Shadow doubted it highly. His father told Maria to go to her room and stay there, because she didn't need to know. But before she closed the door behind her, she winked at Shadow to let him know she'd be eavesdropping.
"Honey, you know why we're here," started the woman tenderly. Shadow spoke slowly, knowing they would draw it out, but an underlying anxiety was clear if you had heard him. He needed to know . . .
"Commander Stone finally decided to tell you about my birth."
"Yes—he didn't give many details, but the general story goes something like this . . . how do I start?" she wondered. The man, her husband, finally stepped in.
"You know how Shadow was created in the video games?" he asked. Shadow raised his eyebrows, but answered warily.
"Yeah. He was an artificial life form hidden away by the government, created by Gerald Robotnik on the Space Colony ARK."
"It's similar to your own story, ironically. G. U. N. wanted to make a sort of person immune to disease and very hard to hurt physically—possibly carrying a cure for deadly sicknesses, and also being an ultimate soldier and peacemaker. Sixteen years ago, they succeeded in one of their top-secret labs—a little baby boy, created completely artificially, who the scientists had a secret codename for which is lost in the records. Now, Stone wouldn't tell us exactly how he got to us, but we know that your grandmother, Tanya, was involved at the time—afterwards, she went kind of batty. But we took the baby without too much question, happy to have a son, and named him after a boy that Tanya actually once knew, but switched their first and middle names to make this clear: he was his own person." Shadow stared at his hands, palms facing up, on the table.
"So . . . I'm . . . an 'artificial life form'? I was created in a lab? I'm technically . . . property of G. U. N.?"
"All but the last one. I made that very clear after your incident with training with Stone," said the woman, an icy tone when she mentioned the commander's name. The boy, Shadow, reached up to his face momentarily, then stopped. He went to bed that night with tears all ready to stream from his eyes, silent and waiting, and they spilled without sound—it was like they were never there.