It had been less than a couple of days since Sonic and the others had left for Little Planet, but it seemed like an eternity for Sally as she walked amongst the other villagers in the main residential area of Knothole. Sometimes she envied Sonic, his carefree lifestyle far and away removed from her own that required her to be a leader and a strong foundation for the village and its people. Other times she hated that he was as headstrong as he was. There had been more times than she could remember that his attitude had gotten not only himself, but others placed in severe danger. But for now, she could only worry about the blue hedgehog and her other friends that had set out to stop this new threat. She was so distracted by her own worrying that she didn't even notice that Lily had come up alongside her at some point during her walk.
"You okay?" she heard the magenta hedgehog ask, nearly scaring the ground squirrel half to death.
"Yeah, I'm just worried about Sonic and the others, that's all," she said, looking over at her friend as they continued walking along the path towards the Power Ring pool. Like Sonic, Sally found scenery around the pool to be relaxing on one's mind. "Sometimes I wish he didn't rush headlong into all the little adventures he goes on, you know?"
"I suppose," said Lily as they entered the clearing. She then smiled slightly before giggling a little.
"What's so funny?" asked Sally curiously as Lily composed herself.
"I guess it just tickles me that Cody's gotten a wild hair from being around Sonic so long. I mean, two years ago I doubt he'd have so much as hurt a fly and now here he is, fighting alongside of everyone else here like he's been here his whole life," she answered. Sally couldn't help but chuckle a little as well at that thought as she reached down and picked up a flat rock. She folded it over in her hand a few times before winding up and tossing it sideways. But as soon as she had let go of the rock, a brilliant flash of white light exploded over the top of the Power Ring pool, the two girls having to hold up their arms to block the blinding light. Almost instantly after that, several loud thud noises could be heard coming from both sides of the pool, followed by a splash and a very small thud followed by a very loud exclamation.
"Ouch!" shouted a familiar voice from the middle of the pool. Then, as quickly as the light had appeared, it vanished, leaving the two girls with quite a scene to behold. Slasher and Saber were lying on their sides off to the left of the pool, having missed the water completely. In a fairly shallow area of the pool, a very wet and annoyed blue hedgehog was rubbing the fresh bump on his head from the rock that had struck him square in the forehead. Drake was also in the pool, though he seemed to be in hysterics at what had happened to Sonic. But the sight that greeted the two girls on the left side of the small pond made them both gasp.
"Who is that?" asked Lily, eyeing the pink furred mobian girl that Cody was now carrying in his arms.
"Long story, but not now," said Cody as he began to run back towards the village. Sonic quickly jumped out of pool and shook as much water off himself as he could before running up next to Cody, taking the girl into his own arms before blasting off into the village towards the medical hut. As Cody watched as Sonic faded from his sight, both of the girls ran up to him.
"What's going on?" asked Sally. By now, both of the raptors were back on their feet.
"A friend we picked up while on our little time adventure," said Slasher as she and Saber got back to their feet.
"Why was she unconscious?" asked Lily, looking over at Cody.
"She lost a lot of blood taking on that vicious robot raptor," he answered. "I just hope that last jump through time didn't screw up her body anymore than it already was."
"I'm sorry to say that she might not make it," said Slasher softly as she came up alongside the three mobians, Saber flanking her on the other side. "When we took her vital signs before departing from the past, they were already greatly weakened from the fight she had endured. No doubt that the time jump caused even more harm to her."
"All we can do now is hope," said Cody as he bowed his head.
Sonic sped through Knothole as fast as his legs could carry him. Even over the wind, he could head Angel's breathing becoming more and more laborious. He knew that time was everything now as he spotted the medical hut on the end of the pathway he was on. With his target in sight, Sonic poured on the speed even more, setting off a sonic boom.
Inside the medical hut, a middle-aged, white feathered duck was busy putting the last of his files away inside a file cabinet when a loud thunder-like crack went off, scaring him stiff as a mighty gust of wind blew all his files out of the file cabinet and strung them about the hut.
"Sonic! How many times have I told you not to-," was all he got out before he saw that Sonic wasn't alone. "By the heavens of Mobius, what happened to this girl!?" he exclaimed as he motioned for Sonic to follow him into the back of the hut.
"Long story short Dr. Quack, she lost a lot of blood and is barely hanging on," answered Sonic as the duck directed Sonic to place Angel on one of the beds.
"How? I don't see any wounds that could have done such a thing," he said as he hastily put on a pair of rubber gloves and began to prepare an IV.
"Not the time to ask doc, I'm just telling you what I know," answered Sonic.
"If it is blood loss, then I'm afraid there's little I can do," said Dr. Quack as he started Angel's IV. Her breath was coming in short gasps now, causing Sonic to start sweating.
"Why's that?" Sonic asked, his look of desperation obvious as the doctor continued to do what he could.
"She is an echidna, isn't she?" asked Dr. Quack as he placed an oxygen mask over Angel's muzzle in an attempt to settle her breathing somewhat.
"Yeah, so what?" asked Sonic.
"In order for her body to accept a blood transfusion, it would have to come from another echidna, which for obvious reasons we don't have," he answered. Before the doctor could say anything else, another gust of wind blew through the medical hut as Sonic took off in a flash.
Ah! It's days like today that make being the Guardian worth it, thought Knuckles as he leaned back against one of the giant mushrooms that covered quite a bit of the forest area of the Floating Island. He loved relaxing in the forest. To him it was one of the more secluded and comfortable spots on the whole island. Thick tree lines for shade, plenty of soothing aromas from the many flowering plants that were all over the forest floor, and not a soul around to bother him.
"Knuckles!" shouted a familiar voice way off in the distance. The red echidna opened one eye in the direction of the voice, but decided against calling back. Now was not the time he wanted to deal with something Sonic wanted. "Hey Knuckle-head, I know you're up here!" shouted the voice, this time from somewhere off to his left side instead of in front of him like last time. Sighing, he reluctantly got to his feet. He knew he shouldn't have told Sally where to find him if they needed him for whatever reason that day.
"Over here!" hollered Knuckles. In what seemed like a split second, he was quickly plucked from his spot by the arm as Sonic started dragging him like a rag doll back towards the teleporter he'd used to get there. "Hey! Let go right now!" shouted Knuckles as he tried to squirm his arm free of the hedgehog's grasp. But Sonic's grip was undaunted by the echidna's struggles, and only after he couldn't wrestle himself free did Knuckles notice how hard Sonic was grasping his arm.
"Sorry pal, but we don't have any time to waste," was all Sonic said before he spotted the teleporter amidst a bunch of flowering bushes.
Run away…That's the only thought that went through Angel's mind as she looked back over her shoulder, wondering when and where the strike would come from. Maybe if she ran fast enough, the thing that was chasing after her would grow tired and quit. But she quickly gave up that hope. The thing that was now stalking her through the thick jungle would never tire or give up. A loud screeching sound from behind her only made her hasten her escape, running through the jungle underbrush as fast as her legs would carry her.
"You can't escape from me," hissed a deep, fluid male voice. Angel tried to determine where the voice had come from, but it seemed as if it emanated from all around her. Pushing her fear as far back in her mind as she could, she pressed onward. As she finally entered a large clearing, she came to an abrupt halt. Dozens of huts now stood before her, each one ablaze. Yet the fire didn't seem to consume the huts at all, but rather continue to burn in almost a pattern of sorts. Suddenly, the air was pierced by a cry that she herself would never forget. In the clearing of the huts, she watched as her eight year old self ran screaming at the top of her lungs as she swung her sword at a shadowy Metal Sonic.
"Don't do it! Get out of there!" yelled Angel to her younger self. But the child paid no attention to her older self as she followed through with the blow, the sword being caught in mid-swing by the mecha bot. But unlike the metallic clang the older Angel had expected to hear, the sickening sound of the weapon slicing into flesh could be heard. Then the blow she expected the figure to do came, knocking the younger echidna to the ground. Metal Sonic then dropped the sword and started to approach the older Angel.
But as he came closer, his features started to warp. Slowly his body grew much larger, his chest cavity filling out with an orange hued color flesh. His head started morph into more of a reptilian like quality, his red eyes becoming almost cat-like in appearance as silver metal flowed down from the tip of his nose to the tip of the tail that was now growing out of the monster's back. His feet were also changing from looking sneaker-like to more of a clawed, lizard-like quality.
"It doesn't matter what you do or what you say," hissed the voice again from all around her. The fear that Angel had kept to the back of her mind rushed to the forefront once more, the echidna girl backing away from the monstrosity that was now calmly walking towards her. "You can't run away from your destiny."
"I choose my own destiny!" shouted Angel as she continued to back away. So intent was she on backing up that she didn't realize her back was to a hut till she ran into it. As she stood there frozen in fear, the monster continued to walk slowly towards her, its warped body becoming more and more cohesive.
"But I'm afraid you already chose your own destiny," said the voice softly, almost eerily. Angel shook her head slowly as she stared wide eyed at the beast before her.
"No…That's not true! I never chose a destiny for myself!" she screamed at the shadowy figure that now towered over her small form.
"Ah, but you did all those years ago. You made the choice yourself when you were only nine years old," replied the voice. Angel then noticed that she seemed shorter than before. A quick once over revealed to her that she had regressed in age back to her self as a nine year old.
"W-what are you t-talking about? What ch-choice!?" she shakily yelled at the figure as she ducked down into a fetal position. By now, the beast was now standing right over her, its red eyes casting their glow down at her as the raging fires continued to burn all around her, glinting off the silvery armor that the beast wore.
"The choice…to be forever under my control!" cried the voice as its head lunged forward, its gaping maw ready to devour the small girl.
Angel let out a loud gasp as she shot upright into a sitting position, sweat dripping down her brow as she tried to piece together what was going on. A quick glance around told her that she wasn't outside anymore, but aside from that the room she was in was foreign to her and was therefore unsettling to her. It was then that she noticed that she had an IV hooked into her left arm and she was dressed in a simple gown, lying atop a fairly comfortable bed.
"Ah good, you're finally awake," said a voice from the doorway. She turned her head to see Dr. Quack standing there, a clipboard in hand as he walked up to the end of the bed.
"Who are you and what am I doing here?" asked Angel, still a little off-put by what was going on.
"Fair questions I suppose," mused the doctor as he looked over her chart. "You are in the medical hut of Knothole and as for why you are here…Well let me put it to you this way. I've never seen someone come in here before with such a low blood pressure and be this active after the first twelve hours of a blood transfusion."
"Blood transfusion?" she asked. Then the memories of the fight against Leviathan came back, including right before she passed out seeing Sonic checking on the past version of Tails. "Is everyone alright?"
"If you are referring to Sonic and the others that made the trip through time with you, then yes, they are all doing fine," he answered. As soon as he finished answering her, Angel started to remove the IV from her arm. "Hey hey hey, just where do you think you're going?" he asked.
"I'm getting out of this bed, do you have a problem with that?" she asked him with a bit of authority behind her voice.
"Oh no you don't," said Dr. Quack as he put the IV back into place. "You're not leaving this bed till I can be sure you're healthy enough to be up and about." At this, Angel noticed a fruit bowl sitting on the nightstand next to the bed. Picking an apple out of the bowl, she turned and looked at the white feathered duck with sly smile.
"Okay then. I'll prove I'm healthy enough to get out of this bed," she said. The doctor gave her a look of annoyance as she started to squeeze the apple. At first, nothing seemed to happen. Then all of a sudden the apple gave way to Angel's strength as she crushed the apple in the palm of her hand, pieces of fruit and juice flying all over the room. "Think I'm not healthy enough now?" she asked, amused by the look of disbelief on the doctor's face.
"Oh come on, Knux! It's not like I had much choice in the matter," yelled Sonic as he stood up from a chair inside his own hut. Sonic had waited till Angel was in stable condition before he called Knuckles into his hut to tell him what had happened with the Super Emerald miniatures. Sally was there as well, though mainly to make sure the two of them didn't beat the tar out of each other.
"But those emeralds were my responsibility! I entrusted them to you because I thought you'd be the one person that wouldn't up and do something stupid with them!" yelled Knuckles back at Sonic.
"So saving the whole planet from being sucked into the Void was a stupid way to lose those emeralds? Is that what I'm hearing?" asked Sonic angrily.
"But you didn't even try to come up with some other way to close that portal before you just up and chucked them into that dimensional rift, did you?" retorted Knuckles.
"Like I had the time to think up something else!" yelled Sonic.
"Both of you, shut up!" yelled Sally, finally losing her patience with the two mobians.
"But he started it!" shouted Sonic as he pointed his finger at Knuckles.
"Don't point fingers at me! I'm not the one that lost not one, not two, but all seven of one of the most powerful things on this planet!" screamed Knuckles. Sally was about to say something when Knuckles cut her off with a physical gesture. He then closed his eyes tightly for a sec, trying to calm back himself back down. But Sonic was determined to get in the last blow.
"Well, I did give you back those three shards of the Master Emerald that we recovered from Leviathan, didn't I? And at least I didn't practically gift wrap the Master Emerald for Robotnik like you did last year," he huffed. At that, Knuckles eyes shot open and he pulled back his fist, lunging at Sonic for all he was worth. Only his fast reflexes saved Sonic from having a hole in his head like the wall behind him now had from Knuckles' fist.
"How dare you use that incident to attack me…" whispered Knuckles angrily before he turned around and started walking out of the hut. "Forget all of you. You can take your little rebellion and shove it!" And with that, he departed from Sonic's hut.
"Good riddance," spat Sonic as he sat back down. He glanced over at Sally to see her face filled with her own anger. "What?" he asked.
"You know darn well and good the sacrifices he makes to watch that island and the Master Emerald. The blow you gave was a low and dirty one Sonic," she said with disgust. Sonic wanted to argue his point, but after a few seconds of thinking about it, he realized he had no real retort to what Sally had said.
"Fine…I'll go get him," he said with a sigh as he got up and raced out of his hut, chasing down Knuckles who was about to use the teleporter they had planted near the Power Ring pool. "Hey Knux, wait a second." Knuckles looked over his shoulder, giving Sonic a glare that could kill. Whoa…I really did hit a hot button with him, though Sonic as he grimaced at the stare he was receiving.
"I never want to see your sorry face ever again, Sonic Hedgehog," spat Knuckles as he fired up the teleporter.
"Well…at least stay till Angel's better. You are our only source of echidna blood and what happens if she needs another transfusion?" he asked. Knuckles was about to touch the orb that would start the teleportation process, but at the mention of the echidna girl, he pulled back. He then turned towards Sonic.
"Very well…I'll stay till she is back on her feet, but once she's out of danger, I'm gone," he said as softly as his anger would let him.
"Fine," answered Sonic. The sound of footsteps behind him made Sonic look over his shoulder to see something he never expected to see. Angel was running down the path, her old clothes back on her person as she came towards him. But as soon as she caught sight of Knuckles she came to a stop and dropped to her knees. At this, Sonic looked back at Knuckles who merely slapped his forehead and groaned.
"Oh Great Guardian, I am humbled to be in your presence," she said as she bowed.
"Oh for crying out loud," mused Knuckles as he walked over to Angel and stood in front of her with crossed arms. "Please don't do that." Angel immediately obeyed the request and stood back up.
"Guardian, I am most unfit to be seen by your side with these old rags," she said, still bowing her head. Knuckles suddenly heard a noise from behind him, looking back to see Sonic trying real hard not to laugh. Knuckles just groaned again before turning back to Angel.
"Please don't call me by my title. I hate being called by my title," he said.
"I am sorry, Knuckles," she said as she continued to bow her head. He then sighed, rolling his eyes.
"And do stop with the bowing. Just treat me as you would any other echidna," he said.
"Again, I am sorry," she said as she raised her head back to eye level with Knuckles.
"Man Knux. Are you like some kind of royalty or something to your people?" asked Sonic. Knuckles just gave him another glare before returning his attention to Angel.
"I want to thank you for donating your own sacred blood to save my meaningless life," said Angel softly. Knuckles just threw up his arms in annoyance.
"Okay, enough of that. No more being sorry, no more bowing your head, no more titles. Just treat me as you would Sonic, okay?" he said. Angel nodded, a smile on her face.
"As you wish," she said before turning and walking back up the path.
"What was that all about?" asked Sonic as he watched the pink furred echidna walk back up the hill towards the residential huts. Knuckles just sighed.
"Long story short, my blood line is considered…'blessed' by our people. As such I've had similar dealings with this in the past," said Knuckles.
"You have?" asked Sonic, looking at Knuckles with a newfound curiosity about him.
"Once or twice when I was allowed by my father to accompany him on trips to our last remaining village. I always hated it as a kid, and still do now," he said.
"So wait a second, you knew about Angel's village?" asked Sonic, now a little annoyed.
"Of course. I wasn't about to let on that I wasn't the last of my kind alive. I just made that up so that Robotnik wouldn't go looking for the village," said Knuckles.
"So in other words you lied to us?" asked an annoyed Sonic.
"Well, not so much lied as bent the truth," answered Knuckles.
"Okay, I'll let that one slide then," said Sonic as he started walking back up the pathway.
"What do you mean by 'let it slide'?" asked an offended Knuckles.
"As in I forgive you for lying to us," he answered. He then jerked his thumb back at the teleporter behind Knuckles. "Don't you have somewhere to be?" Knuckles only response was to narrow his eyes in anger before walking over and placing both hands on the teleporter orb, the device instantly transporting him back to the receiver orb on the Floating Island.
The next day, a badly damaged robot struggled to get into the turbolift of the giant Command Center of Robotropolis. The robot had a huge gash running down the top of his red head to about the point where his silver nose jutted out. Sparks were still randomly being spewed out of the gash as the turbolift doors closed behind him, his eyes turning their soft neon green light to ground, wondering how he was going to explain what had happened to him. Suddenly, the doors to the turbolift whooshed open, allowing him access to the main control room.
"So…You've returned," said a voice from the command chair as it spun around, revealing the heavy set doctor seated at the controls.
"Yes, master…I have returned…with what little…power I still…have," answered Robo Knuckles as he limped towards the command chair.
"And what of mecha bot five?" asked Robotnik.
"Unknown," answered Robo Knuckles as he came to a stop in front of the chair. "He…betrayed me…and ran off…with the…Timestones. It was…all I could…do to get…back here."
"Well, then I suppose we can assume his efforts at whatever he was trying to do were unsuccessful," said Robotnik as he got up from his chair and walked over next to the broken mecha bot's body. He then swiftly kicked Robo Knuckles hard in the chest, knocking him to the ground. "Consider that retribution for attempting to betray me."
"There is no need to be so tough on him, sir. It is, after all, in our designs to learn from our mistakes," said a new voice from behind the heavily damaged mecha bot.
"That is true, but you've never had any thoughts of betrayal like this one has," said Robotnik as he went back to his chair.
"Of course not, sir," said the voice as its owner walked into the light, his blue armor as shiny as the day he was brought online. "You designed me, built me from scratch yourself. Why should I harbor anything but loyalty to the person who gave me life?"
"And you…call yourself…a mecha bot," spat Robo Knuckles as he turned to look at Metal Sonic, who only smirked at the verbal jab.
"Now now, there's no time for arguing you two. I have a job I wish for the two of you to work on," said Robotnik as he typed several commands into his chair's terminal. Suddenly, an ancient stone tablet appeared on the main screen. The tablet depicted what looked to be a giant sea monster attacking a city. "I have been studying this tablet that I found while on the Floating Island for months on end, slowly deciphering what the hieroglyphics have said."
"What do they say?" asked Metal Sonic, looking over the tablet.
"It tells of a great disaster that befell the ancient echidna clans. The great beast you see pictured on the tablet is a monster that the ancient echidnas called Chaos," said Robotnik.
"So why does…that have…any meaning…to us?" asked Robo Knuckles.
"Because you two are going to take the rest of the Master Emerald shard we have and create a weapon that can equal this Chaos thing in power. You have two months to build this weapon," Robotnik said before looking down at Robo Knuckles. "Well…two months after you're repaired. And I'm putting Metal Sonic in charge of this weapon's development. I don't feel like having a weapon this powerful turn on us again."
"Yes sir. We shall begin immediately," said Metal Sonic as he turned and walked over to the turbolift, Robo Knuckles following close behind as best he could, trying not to let his anger at being put down by Robotnik show through his trashed face.
"Are you sure you want to leave? We could always use a skilled warrior such as yourself," said Sally as she stood near the edge of Knothole with Sonic a couple of days later. Slasher and Saber had already taken off, heading for Little Planet to attempt to take the collars off their clan members and to also stay on the small planet to guard the Timestones against being used like they had been again. Now both her and Sonic were there to see off the last new friend they had made over the course of this whole incident.
"And besides, who's gonna take care of Comet when she hatches?" asked Sonic. Angel was still dressed in her original outfit, but one of the ladies in the village had been kind enough to patch up the torn parts where Leviathan's claws had dug into her, but added to the ensemble was a brown cloak, much like the one that the future Cody had been wearing. She also was wearing Sonic's old backpack stung over her scabbard much like Sonic had done at the Stardust Speedway track. The backpack was going away gift that he had insisted she take with her.
"I'm sorry, but I can't stay here. This whole world is still so foreign to me. So much life is still teaming on it that it doesn't even feel like I'm on Mobius anymore. I need to find my purpose in this world," she said. She then sighed. "As for Comet, I feel she'll be safer staying here than traveling along with me. Besides, this is something I need to do alone. She'll understand."
"We'll miss you Angel. Just remember that you always have a home in Knothole," said Sally as she gave the echidna a hug.
"Sal's right, Angel. Anytime you're in the neighborhood, stop by for a visit," said Sonic. Angel smiled as she gave him a nod of her head.
"I promise I will," she said before turning and walking towards the south, leaving the other two mobians behind at Knothole's boarder.
"Think we'll see her again?" asked Sally as Angel continued to walk away from them. Sonic merely smiled at the question.
"I'm sure we will Sal…I'm sure we will," he answered.
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