"So tell me again. Why we are going in alone and in this hunk of junk?" asked Sonic as he leaned against the metal hull of a hover-unit, swinging his foot back into its armor with a clang. The ship looked like it was over a decade old, with the paint chipping and peeling in several places. Rust was also starting to cover parts of the ship, evidence from the years of wear and tear. Sonic reached up and fiddled with the straps of the backpack on his back, still trying to get used to the feel of it again after more than six months of not wearing one. Inside the pack were two Power Rings that Tails had kept stashed away for emergency power purposes. Even though the true power of the rings were only accessible to Sonic in that they increased his speed as well as the power of his spindashes for a short time, they still gave off an amount of energy that could keep Knothole's small community powered for several weeks. Luckily, the rings hadn't been used for that purpose yet, so they were still fresh.
"One ship isn't going to raise a red flag with the security systems. Leviathan and the others made it all the way to the main base itself in only two hover-units without raising the alarm," said Lily as she walked up the ramp and into the ship. Sonic rolled his eyes before following after her.
"Oh yeah, they did a great job of not causing a panic with Little Planet's security. Let's ask the charred collar that is what is left of Levi if it thinks the same thing," he said sarcastically as he took his seat. Cody smiled as he sat down next to him, Drake sitting down on his lap.
"Ease up Sonic. You know as well as I do that if we go in with everything we have, we'd be picked off before we would even make planet fall," he said. Sonic sighed before putting his head into his hands and rubbing his eyes.
"I know. I just feel a little on edge is all," replied Sonic as he wiped the last bit of sleep from his eyes. "We're getting down to the tough part of this little adventure, and I just feel like we're going to get hit broadside with something we can't handle by ourselves." A chuckle followed Sonic's comment as Angel ascended the ramp with Comet on her shoulder.
"A weak attitude suggests a weak person, hedgehog. I suggest you get stronger fast," she said as she sat down across from him. Sonic gave her a glare from his seat across from her.
"Don't give me any attitude today Angel," he said, pointing his left index finger at her. "You are not exactly the picture of perfection yourself." A frown etched its way on her face. She was about to say something when Slasher's glare caught her gaze as the winged raptor walked into the cargo bay with the others, Saber following behind her. Angel only shrugged, then leaned back against the seat.
"Everyone strapped in back there?" called Tails' voice from up in the pilot's seat.
"As well as can be expected when you have to stand up," answered Saber.
"Sorry, Saber. We didn't plan on raptors taking a trip in these things," said Tails, looking back at the two raptors.
"Not a problem, just don't pull any maneuvers without letting us know, okay?" asked Saber. Tails gave him a thumbs up.
"No problem," he said before turning back to the windshield. "And off we go!" he cried as he fired the thrusters on the hover-unit, the transport ship leaping into the air, nearly throwing the raptors into the ceiling as it stopped rising in mid air all at once. Tails turned around, rubbing the back of his head with a look of embarrassment. "Sorry about that. It's been a few years since I've driven one of these things." A chorus of groans sounded from the other passengers.
"They are ahead of schedule," hissed a metallic voice, the figure the voice belonged to turning away from the view screen feeding the video from the lone surveillance orb that watched the hover-unit leave Knothole and focusing its glowing red eyes on the other figure in the room. The other figure nodded slowly, drumming its fingers on the table it stood next to.
"It would seem so. Even I didn't expect them to get the first Timestones without Sonic's help. Quite skillful indeed, I must say," said the figure. The robot narrowed its left eyebrow slightly.
"'Skillful', you say?" it asked before turning back to the monitor. "If I may say so sir, it seems that their success was more dependant on luck than anything else." The other figure chuckled slightly.
"Perhaps you are right. Lucky them," said the figure before stepping up next to the robot, towering over it in size. "Still, mecha bot one was not a pushover. Does that make you wonder if you might join him?" it asked, looking down at the robot.
"Silver Sonic was an outdated model, nothing more. I, however, am far more advanced than he could have ever been," said the robot, looking up at its master. The other figure gave a grin before turning and walking back to the table.
"True, you are superior in design to mecha bot one. Most of them will not pose any threat to you, but I can not say the same thing for Sonic," said the robot's master.
"I will not lose to him," said the robot, slamming its metallic fist on the control console, punching straight through it. Ignoring the pain from the electrical surge from the control panel as it began to spark and smoke, it then said in a much lower voice, "I will defeat him." The other figure just gave a huff, causing the robot to turn back towards its master. "You do not believe I can?"
"I believe you are not superior to him, mecha bot two. You are unable to break the sound barrier on your own like he can and you are very prone to acting through emotion rather than logic. That fact was proven long ago, if you'll recall. A fatal mistake if he takes advantage of that," said the robot's master. "Besides, you have no real reason to get worked up over something as pointless as this, Metal Sonic. They should make planet fall on the far side of Little Planet, which means they'll be going to Rexxon's area first more than likely. He should have no problem dealing with them."
"If you say so," said Metal Sonic, turning back to the monitor for one last glimpse at the hover-unit before it vanished from the surveillance orb's range.
"How much longer?" asked Sonic from the back of the hover-unit. They had been in the air now for over three hours, having to pass through a security checkpoint about every fifty miles, and he was starting to get cabin fever. He wasn't used to sitting still for this long except when he was asleep.
"We only have one more checkpoint till we can go planet side," said Tails from the pilot's chair. Lily was beside him, monitoring the communication traffic for any signs that they had been discovered. But so far, the only traffic that had been heard in the area was some awfully slow games of computer chess between the hover-unit Swatbot crews as they patrolled the area.
"You'd think they'd be a little more alert than this," said Lily as she took a break from monitoring to lean back in her seat.
"I know. Makes you wonder if they're always this calm or if it's all just a ploy to lure people like us onto the planet," said Tails, looking over at Lily, who in turn just shrugged.
"Well, whatever the case, we should be ready for the worst," said Slasher from behind them. Everyone voiced an agreement as the hover-unit came to a stop at the last checkpoint, the captured codes they had been using at the other checkpoints being transferred from their unit's computer to the other unit's for verification. Several extra seconds ticked by than that had at all the other checkpoints and Tails was sure that their cover was blown when a Swatbot's voice came over the intercom.
"Security codes accepted. You are clear to land in area RX-1. Please acknowledge location," said the voice. Cody, thinking quickly, climbed up next to the pilot's chair and was ready to give the response.
"Acknowledged. Hover-unit R-66Y inbound for landing site RX-1," came the voice of a Swatbot over the other unit's intercom. The hover-unit then shot towards the planet, leaving the security checkpoint behind them in a flash. Once they were out of sensor range, Tails looked back at Cody.
"Nice job. When they wanted confirmation, I was sure they'd figure out who we were," said Tails.
"Give me any completely generic mechanical voice and I can copy it easily. One of the perks of having this body," said Cody as he leaned back in his seat.
"So which Timestone will be the closest to where we set down?" asked Drake as he landed on Cody's shoulder, watching Little Planet's outline get bigger in the viewing window as they approached. Lily leaned forward and typed a few commands into the hover-unit's computer.
"We were instructed to land in area RX-1, which according to the map system in the computer files…is a small island about ten miles off shore of the northwestern continent," she answered. She then looked over at Tails. "A little convenient that a Timestone is located on the same island that we're landing on."
"I know. Which means we'll have to be ready for anything," said Tails.
The flight to area RX-1 was uneventful, save for narrowly missing a life form sensor array about thirty miles from the island that was situated near an odd looking highway that twisted all around a fifteen square mile area with a forest about five miles to the north of that. As the hover-unit passed over the last part of the mainland, the island came into view off in the horizon. A thick jungle surrounded a single mountain set in the middle of the ten mile long island with a small landing area situated on the west end of the island.
"Now why would they leave the landing area so under guarded like that?" asked Tails to himself. Lily leaned forward and looked out the window, also noting the lack of security around the area they were supposed to land in. The only thing that was present as a security measure was three mounted laser cannons.
"I'm not sure," said Lily as the hover-unit came to a hover above the landing area. Tails carefully maneuvered the aging ship into a landing position, then started the descent.
"Still no communications from any local hover-units or Swatbots," said Lily as she double checked the comm frequencies.
"I don't like this," said Tails as he continued the craft's descent. "There should be at least some kind of security around, even for a single ship like this." Suddenly, the craft lurched hard to the left as one of the mounted laser cannons opened fire on the ship, blasting a chunk of armor off the ship. "Hang on!" he cried as he tried to steady the jerking hover-unit, the other two cannon barrels rising to track the ship.
"Open the cargo hatch and I'll take care of the cannons!" hollered Cody from the back of the ship. Lily quickly typed the command into the ship's computer, hearing the hiss of the doors opening behind her. She looked back as the wind from outside howled through the interior of the craft to see Cody leap from the back end of the cargo bay. As soon as he cleared the ship, he fired his thrusters, narrowly avoiding a laser bolt from one of the cannons that had tracked him leaving the ship's aft end.
Diving towards the ground, he fired four of his own laser blasts at the cannon that had fired upon him, two of them hitting home as they penetrated the dome covering the top of the cannon. The cannon sparked for a fraction of a second before exploding in a shower of flaming shrapnel. One of the remaining cannons turned and opened fire on Cody, the robotic hedgehog having to make a quick ascension to avoid the oncoming enemy fire. The other cannon fired another two bolts at the hover-unit, both shots hitting home as they punctured the armor plating of the ship. A small explosion rocked the ship as smoke started pouring from the two holes in the plating as the ship started to falter in the air.
"The engines are hit! I can't keep it airborne!" shouted Tails. As the ship started a nosedive towards the forest below, Slasher emerged from the cargo bay with Sonic, Angel, and Lily on her back. Tails and Drake in his large form followed carrying Saber as Comet flew alongside them. Seconds later the hover-unit slammed into the ground, exploding on impact.
"My turn!" cried Sonic as he dropped off Slasher's back right at the cannon that had shot down the hover-unit, curling into a spindash when he had cleared Slasher's body. The cannon opened fire on him, trying to shoot the freefalling ball of spines, but Sonic was falling too fast for the cannon to track him accurately, and the shots went wide. Sonic smashed into the barrel of the cannon from above, crumpling the middle of the barrel inward as he landed off to the side of it as it tried to track him. The cannon tried to fire another shot, but the clog in the middle of the cannon had almost completely covered the exit of the barrel, and the laser bolt instead collided with the metal clogging it, causing a back flash that blew the cannon apart from the inside out. Sonic stood up and looked over at the last cannon still firing on Cody.
The cannon fired another blast at Cody, the robotic hedgehog diving towards the ground to avoid it, leveling out only a few feet off the ground as he shot towards the cannon at almost two hundred miles per hour. The cannon tried to lower its sights to track him, but before it was even halfway towards the ground Cody flashed by, swiping his metal claws with ease deep into the cannon's lower section, shredding a gash in the cannon's side as he flew by. The cannon whined, then toppled to the ground, smoke spewing forth from the gaping hole in its side.
"Nice welcoming committee," said Cody as he landed next to Sonic. Sonic only nodded as Slasher landed next to the two hedgehogs, Tails and Drake dropping Saber to the ground as they landed.
"My question is why they didn't attack us before we got to this place," said Sonic. "I mean, they had several different times when they could've shot us out of the sky without much trouble." Cody narrowed his eyes for a second, then looked off to the right of the group at a part of the jungle thick with shrubs.
"I think I might know why," said Cody before firing a laser blast into the shrubbery, a small explosion emitting from inside the mess of plants, catching them on fire. As the leaves on the shrubs were burned away, the remains of a miniature sensor dish laid within, still smoking from the laser shot it had just taken. "Life form scanner. A very small one, but still powerful enough to read us through the ship's hull. It must have been linked with the laser cannons around the platform."
"So, in other words, they know we're here, right?" asked Angel.
"I doubt the scanner was set up for long range communications with whatever suffices as a base of operations out here. I barely picked up the signal myself. More than likely it was used to alert the cannons to intruders and have them attack the life forms it detected," said Cody as he walked over to the still smoking machine. He bent down next to it to, picking it up in his hands as he turned it over on its back, then right side up again. "Still, I wouldn't bet against it actually having that kind of range, so it'd be best to assume they know we're here," he said, dropping the charred piece of machinery.
"Either way, we should get away from this area of the island as soon as possible," said Slasher. "Even if the dish didn't send a signal to the base telling them that life forms were on the island, I'm sure someone or something has probably noticed that three laser emplacements have gone off-line by now."
"Good idea," said Tails as he mounted Saber, who looked a little annoyed at first at not having a warning that the fox was gonna do that, but shrugged off the uncomfortable feeling as he walked up next to Slasher. "Let's just hope that we caught them off-guard as far as us being here. It might give us a slight edge if we did."
"Then let's hurry," said Cody as he took to the air, hovering only a few feet off the ground before taking off into the jungle at speeds close to seventy miles per hour, Sonic and the two raptors keeping pace with him. Sonic then looked over at Lily seated on Slasher's back. He almost laughed as he saw the two chao clinging for dear life to Angel's back.
"Which way to the Timestone?" asked Sonic. Lily dug Nicole out of her vest pocket, opening the tiny computer with a click. Pressing a few buttons, she brought up an overview map of the island. In the center of the mountain portion of the map blinked a red light.
"It's inside the mountain. Probably powering the base, if I had to guess," she said, closing Nicole and putting her back into her pocket.
"That's not good," said Sonic as he looked forward again. "No way we'll make it inside without them seeing us. Heck, the tunnels alone have to be laced with security cameras."
"Perhaps to someone who isn't used to using stealth, that might represent a problem," said Angel as the wind whipped her dreadlocks behind her. Sonic glared at the echidna as she brushed a lock of the downy white hair that stripped the front of her pink hair out of her eyes.
"So you're saying you could get in and out without a problem?" asked Sonic, a hint of sarcasm mixed in with the remark. Angel merely shook her head.
"No. I'm not implying that I could do such a thing without running into a problem, but I do see it as unlikely," she answered. "Stealth might not be one of my stronger points, but I'm sure I have more experience with it than you do what with your explosive sounding bursts of speed."
"She does have a point," said Slasher, looking over at Sonic. "Besides, both Saber and I are well trained in stealth. It's one of our natural skills. We should be okay so long as everyone does what we say to do." Sonic sighed, a sign of resignation to the argument. He never seemed to win, so why continue with it.
"That looks like as good a place as any to try and sneak in," said Saber as Tails dismounted from his back, taking his crossbow off his back and loading it. They had gone around the edge of the jungle to the other side of the island to avoid the patrols that would be looking for them, and so far they had managed to avoid any kind of pursuit or search parties sent to find them. Now they were looking at what appeared to be an older cave that had once been used by the operators of the site, but the machinery outside it was in shambles, worn down for excessive use and rusting from the amount of rain they had endured over the years gone by.
"I don't know. Looks too easy to me," said Sonic as he checked out the surroundings. He then looked back at Cody. "How about it? Any sign of Swatbots or velocibots?" Sonic moved out of the way as Cody stuck his head out of the bush the two of them were behind. He switched on his infrared sensors, trying to detect any signs of electrical heat signatures that machines gave off. After a thorough once over, he shook his head.
"No heat signatures at all. Not even from inside the cave," he said as he stood up. "Saber hit it on the nose. This is probably our best entry point."
"Are you sure no one's in the immediate area?" asked Sonic, still not convinced. Cody searched with his sensors two times in a 360 degrees arc, but still had nothing on his infrared. Something's not right here, thought Sonic. We've been out here for over an hour, yet we haven't even been within range of any possible patrols. No way this place has nothing watching over it. "I still don't like it."
"I say if there's nothing around, then we're safe. Stop being so paranoid Sonic," said Drake from his spot in Lily's arms.
"I'm not being paranoid," snapped Sonic, turning back to the small chao resting in the female hedgehog's arms. "I'm just being really cautious. It's not like Robotnik to leave something as valuable as a Timestone unguarded like this."
"I agree with the chao," said Angel as she stepped out into the small clearing just outside of the cave, causing everyone to tense, waiting for some kind of trap to spring. But nothing came, and after several seconds, everyone let out a sigh of relieve. Sonic sprang from his spot right up to Angel.
"Don't do something so reckless again!" he cried. "Who knows what would have happened to you if this cave was booby trapped!?" Angel merely gave him a smug grin before turning and walking into the cave. Sonic's hands curled into fists, his teeth clenching together. He was about ready to zip up to her and tell her off when Slasher's clawed hand placed itself on his shoulder. He tensed up slightly, then relaxed, knowing full well what the raptor's unspoken gesture meant. He finally sighed before running into the cave and up next to Angel, pulling a Power Ring from his pack to light the way as he walked along side her.
"Huh. Not much in here," said Cody as he scanned further down the tunnel. The tunnel was big enough to accommodate both of the raptors walking side by side and still leave about ten feet on either side of them. A few large coal carts on a track were the only thing metal showing up on his scanners. He couldn't scan too far, though, as the rock blocked his scanners when it became more than a few inches thick.
"I wonder where these go," said Tails as they came to the coal carts.
"Further into the cave, I'd guess," said Drake. Everyone looked over at him with a look of 'duh' written on their faces.
"May I make a suggestion?" asked Comet.
"Sure," answered Sonic. It was then Sonic realized that the little chao had been completely silent up till now, but as for why he wasn't sure. Comet never really seemed to talk all that much when she was around Angel, as if she was afraid to. Sonic glanced over at the echidna to see her glaring at her chao, able to see the sneer on her face even with the very dim light that was being provided from the Power Ring and the blue glow from Drake's emerald.
"I would follow the tracks that these carts are on. More than likely they will lead into one of the main areas of the base inside the mountain, as we know that the base isn't outside," she said before quickly flying back over to Angel, coming to a float next to her mistress' side.
"Not a bad idea at all. What do you think Sonic?" asked Tails, looking over at the blue hedgehog. Before Sonic could answer, though, Cody shot a hand over his mouth, holding a claw up to his mouth in a hushing gesture. Everyone grew silent as the robotic hedgehog slowly moved up against the stone wall, placing an ear on the rock.
"Something's burrowing through the rock just a few inches on the other side," he whispered.
"What is it?" asked Lily as softly as she could. Cody shook his head slightly, not taking his ear off the rock.
"I'm not sure. Sounds like metal crushing rock, but I don't know what kind of machine would be doing that to burrow through solid rock," he answered. Suddenly, the entire area of the wall Cody was leaning against exploded outward, showering the tunnel in a spray of rocks as he was thrown into Saber, knocking them both to the floor. A loud, high pitched screech emitted from the cave wall as what appeared to be the head end of a massive metal snake or worm slithered out of the hole in the wall. It was at least five feet thick and several times that in length, its glowing red eyes scanning back and forth as it took in the tunnel, noting the intruders as it looked around.
"By the heavens of Mobius, what is that thing!?" cried Lily as she backed away from the creature, drawing the blaster from her vest pocket as Slasher positioned herself between the two of them.
"I have no clue!" answered Cody as he got back to his feet, folding his arms over his chest, then flinging them out as he extended his claws. "But whatever it is, it's mechanical, that's for sure!"
"A Magma Worm," whispered Sonic. He remembered seeing several of them inside of a volcano Robotnik had been using as a steel mill several years ago. He also remembered how tough they were to take down. In the end, he had only managed to take out one of the five he had ran into after nearly six spindashes to the head in the exact same spot, having to outrun the others as they chased him through the underground caves.
"What did you say it is?" hollered Angel as she drew her sword.
"It's a Magma Worm! Watch out for its teeth! They can shred solid rock in half!" cried Sonic. The Magma Worm turned its head towards the retreating Lily as she fired blast after blast into the metal creature's body, but only succeeding in making several small scorch marks along the underside of its body. The worm slithered towards her, the rest of its thirty foot long body clearing the hole it had made in the wall. Suddenly, half the light in the tunnel died as Drake bit into his emerald, running over to get between the worm and Lily.
With the light cut in half, Sonic lost sight of Lily, Drake, and Slasher who were in front of the worm. But he saw Cody dive for the worm's tail area, piercing his metallic claws deep into the hide of the mechanical worm's tail section as he gripped it hard. The thing gave no indication it had felt the hedgehog grasp its tail and instead kept its slow but steady pace towards the three people in front of it. Flames suddenly lit the cave as Drake blew a breath of fire at the worm's underside. The metal creature shrank back for an instant, then raised its head and let out another high pitched screech before lunging at the trio in front of it. But as it came within a foot of sinking its teeth into Drake, it was suddenly pulled back hard by Cody, causing it to instead fall face first into the rock floor of the tunnel.
"Didn't anyone tell you it's not nice to bite people?" asked Cody as he fired his thrusters, yanking the Magma Worm away from the three people in front of it. He then dropped its tail and flew back to a safe distance. It turned its head section back towards the metal hedgehog, hissing as it curled its body around to face him. Its head suddenly lurched to the side as Sonic spindashed off the side of its head, tearing several small gashes in the skin. The worm looked over at Sonic as he landed next to a snarling Saber.
The male raptor let out a shrill cry before leaping onto the backside of the Magma Worm's head, sinking his six inch long toe claws into the thing's metallic hide. He began shredding gapping holes in its skin as he clawed ferociously at it, holding onto it with his fore claws. The metal worm tried to bring its head back to snap at the young raptor, but it couldn't get the angle it needed to bring its teeth to bare. Slasher then leapt from her spot onto the thing's tail, sinking her own claws into its hide. The creature let out several loud screeches as it tried to fling the two dinosaurs from its body.
"Hope you like electrical surges," said Tails under his breath as he fired an arrow from his crossbow, hitting it squarely between its red eyes. The worm cried out in agony as several thousand volts of electricity burst forth from the arrow, frying a great deal of its internal circuitry.
"Lights out!" cried Angel as she jumped six feet into the air, sword held back behind her head to deliver a killing blow. The Magma Worm was so busy with the two raptors ripping its back to shreds that it didn't even see the female echidna's attack. Angel brought her sword crashing down hard on the worm's midsection, the sharp blade cutting deep into the mechanical creature. The Magma Worm let out its loudest screech yet, then collapsed in a heap in the middle of the tunnel, oil seeping from the wound caused by the sword.
"Huh. Well, that wasn't so bad now, was it?" said Sonic sarcastically, shying away from the numerous glares from the others he received for the comment.
"Let's just get going before they send for reinforcements. I have a feeling that wasn't the last-" said Tails before he was cut off by another Magma Worm smashing its way into the cave back towards the entrance. A second and third crash could be heard as two more joined it.
"Never mind what I said about it not being so bad!" cried Sonic as the three worms turned towards the group, their teeth bared and high pitched cries echoing down the cave from their screaming. Cody and Lily began firing laser shots like mad down the cave at the worms as they began to slither towards them.
"Climb on!" cried Slasher as she knelt down, letting Angel and Tails climb on her back. Comet quickly flew up into Slasher's arms before she took off further into the cave. Lily turned and ran over to Saber, the young raptor kneeling to allow her to mount him. Cody fired off four more shots, each one bouncing off the thick armor of the worms as they came within striking range. Cody then had to leap back ten feet to avoid getting his head bitten off as the lead worm brought its open jaws crashing down on the spot the robotic hedgehog had been just a split second ago. Cody turned back towards Sonic as Saber took off after Slasher, Drake flying after him.
"You seem to know more about these things than anyone. Can they catch us if we just outrun them?" asked Cody.
"Not a chance. They're strong and quick strikers in close quarters, but that thick armor slows them down when they have to slither on the ground," answered Sonic. Cody nodded, both of them leaping back to avoid another strike by the lead worm as it came into range again. As soon as they landed, they both jumped forward. Sonic curled into a spindash, striking the worm dead on in the lower jaw knocking the massive robot into the cave ceiling, momentarily stunning it. Cody then delivered a swift kick to the side of its head, knocking the worm into the cave wall, the giant robot crashing to the ground, its systems trying to reset themselves so it could retaliate. "Let's go!" cried Sonic as he and Cody took off after the others, leaving the worms to regroup.
Slasher and Saber both came to a stop and turned around at the sound of Sonic running up to them, Cody landing next to him.
"Are we a safe distance from them?" asked Slasher. Sonic gave a nod.
"As long as there aren't any others beside them, then yeah, we're safe," he said.
"Good. We don't need to be wasting our time with them if we don't have to," she said before she resumed walking down the railway path. A couple of minutes later, both the raptors stopped, cringing and shaking their heads.
"What is it?" asked Tails from Slasher's back. It took a few more seconds for Slasher to regain her composure, her eyes watering slightly.
"There is something that really reeks further down the cave," she said, wiping the tears from her eyes.
"Oh man…" said Tails as his sensitive nose picked up the scent next, waving his hand back and forth, trying to waft the smell away from him. "That stinks! What is that!?"
"I have no clue," said Saber, also trying to block out the smell by placing a clawed hand over his nose. "But whatever it is, I doubt even a month old rotting carcass could smell this bad."
"Ugh…Thanks for the mental picture Saber," said Lily from her riding spot on the male raptor's back. As the group walked deeper into the cave, a greenish light began to slowly drive away the near complete darkness that had surrounded them from an exit to the tunnel. But as the light chased away the shadows, the smell that the two raptors and teenage fox had gotten a whiff of found its way to the others in the group. It took nearly a full minute for everyone to be able to tolerate the horrific smell enough to move on, but as they came to the exit, the smell became of almost no concern as the sight that greeted them awestruck them.
The entire center of the mountain was hollowed out, with a smooth metal dome completely covering the cavern walls and ceiling. In the middle was a bubbling lake of green liquid with four walkways leading from the compass points of the room to a central platform set in the middle of the giant lake. Sitting on the platform was another smaller platform, on which was resting a holding case that contained the white Timestone.
"Well, at least now we know where that smell's been coming from," said Drake as he landed on the stone floor of the tunnel. Both the raptors surveyed the room, trying to weed out any other scent beside the overly rancid smell of the lake, but not making any headway.
"Is there anything in there Cody?" asked Slasher, her eyes watering even more now that they were close to the source of the odor. Cody took the lead, his scanners searching the entire cavern. But as his scopes came up negative, the thought that something was seriously wrong with this picture crept into his mind.
"Nothing on my sensors, but I can't shake the feeling that there's something in there even I'm not seeing," he said, shaking his head.
"I agree," said Sonic, his eyes narrowing as he stepped out into the cavern, his eyes scanning the hollowed out section of the mountain. "Robotnik's not one to leave something as valuable as a Timestone just sitting in the middle of a nasty smelling lake."
"Step aside fraidy hog," said Angel as she dismounted Slasher. She then walked right past Sonic and up and onto the bridge.
"What are you doing!? For all you know those bridges are booby trapped!" hollered Sonic. Angel ignored the blue hedgehog, continuing down the bridge without as much as a glance back.
"That attitude of hers is going to get her into trouble one of these days," said Cody as he walked up next to Sonic, who whipped around so fast it almost scared the robot hedgehog.
"One of these days!? I'd say she's in trouble now! I've had it with her attitude!" he yelled before turning and heading down the bridge after the echidna, who had reached the middle platform and was looking over the holding case for security measures. "Hey!" he hollered as he stomped up next to Angel, who finally took notice of Sonic's presence and turned towards him.
"What does the 'fraidy hog' want?" she asked.
"What do I want!? I want you to cut the attitude, for one! I have just enough mind to kick your high and mighty self right into that lake!" he yelled. Angel half closed her eyes and gave him a smirk.
"I'd like to see you try that," she calmly said before returning her attention back to the Timestone. This only served to aggravate Sonic even more, who started shouting random threats at Angel, only to have them fall on deaf ears. Back at the main group, Cody just placed a hand over his eyes and shook his head.
"Why does Sonic always have to pick a fight with someone," he sighed.
Slasher looked over at him.
"What do you mean? Does he always act like this?" she asked.
"When he's stressed out or really on guard, then yeah," he answered as he stepped out of the tunnel and into the cavern.
"He needs to learn some self control," said Lily from Saber's back. Tails smiled from his mount on Slasher's back.
"If he's anything like the Sonic I knew, then good luck teaching it to him," he said. Back at the platform, Sonic had finally accepted defeat, having made no progress getting Angel's attention. He was now just standing with his eyes closed and his arms crossed, tapping his feet as a calming effect. Angel, on the other hand, finally looked up from her inspection of the case. Satisfied that the thing wasn't rigged to explode or anything, she removed the glass case covering the Timestone.
"I told you, nothing to worry about, fraidy hog," she said as she reached out and grasped at the gemstone, only to meet nothing but air as he hand passed right through the Timestone. "What the heck!?" she said under her breath. The realization that the Timestone was no more than a hologram hit her a split second before the sound of metal slamming into rock echoed throughout the cavern. She looked back at the tunnel only to see a metal door six inches thick now blocking the only entrance and exit to the cavern, keeping Sonic and herself trapped in the room and keeping the others locked out.
"My my. How nice it is to have company after all this time," bellowed a voice all to familiar to Sonic as a video screen lit up on the far side of the cavern, revealing a face that was all to familiar as well.
"Robotnik!" cried Sonic as the evil doctor's face grinned down at him.
"Ah Sonic, my old nemesis. It's been so many years since I've seen your face?" chuckled Robotnik before he took a few steps back from the camera. "You don't know how surprised I am to see you alive Sonic."
"That makes two of us," said Sonic as he walked across the bridge to the video screen. "I'd have thought you would've been out of the picture after Leviathan went back in time." Robotnik gave Sonic a renewed grin.
"Ah yes, the infamous mecha bot five. You don't know how much I hated him when he first set foot in my affairs, but then again, if not for him, I wouldn't be where I am today," said Robotnik as he turned back towards the camera. "However, I don't think I am really what you should be worrying about right now. Rexxon is hungry and if I'm not mistaken, I believe it's his feeding time. But fret not. If by some chance you should best my little pet, then the Timestone you came here for will be yours. That very stone will also open the door blocking the exit once placed in the proper spot."
"Nice of you give us a little hope. Usually you just spout off a bunch of bluster towards me," said Sonic. Robotnik laughed lightly at Sonic's comment.
"I figure giving you hope is better than leaving you with the feeling of none just so I can see that very same hope get crushed into dust and thrown to the wind. Oh, and one more thing. If you don't like the idea of acid eating away at your body till it literally melts you into a puddle of waste, I'd avoid the substance in the lake. Have fun." With that remark, the video screen shut off. A sudden tremor turned Sonic's attention back towards Angel as the platform began to give underneath her feet, the four bridges following suit. Sonic quickly dashed out onto the bridge, accelerating to over three hundred miles per hour in under a second, hoping that he didn't trip over any of the crumbling bridge's pieces.
Not even waiting to hear Angel's protest, he jumped onto the platform, snatched her up in his arms, and jumped onto the opposite bridge. But as the far end of the bridge collapsed and fell into the pool of green liquid below, he knew that the bridge wouldn't hold the two of them for more than a second or two longer. Taking a deep breath and holding Angel closer to himself, he jumped into the air as hard as he could, the bridge giving out from underneath him.
"Hang on tight!" cried Sonic as he curled himself around Angel as best he could, the two of them slamming hard onto the rock floor, rolling to a stop with Angel on top of Sonic. The female echidna quickly sprang to her feet, unsheathing her sword and pointing it right between Sonic's eyes before he even had a chance to attempt to get to his feet.
"Don't you ever…ever…do something like that again or you'll feel what it's like to have this sword go through your forehead!" she yelled at Sonic. Sonic's only response was a mock of the same smirk she had given him earlier. He knew he had finally gotten under the stubborn echidna's skin, her face flushed a slightly darker shade of pink than normal as a white stripe of hair flowed in a mess down in front of her eyes as she glared at him. But the smirk was the last thing Sonic should've done. Angel gritted her teeth and brought her sword back in preparation to stab him as the last of her own patience became lost to the wind.
But before she could bring the blade forward, the entire argument was forgotten as the head of a mammoth, serpent-like creature exploded forth from the middle of the bubbling green lake, tossing the green substance everywhere as it rose from the liquid depths of the pond. The creature let out a deafening roar that echoed throughout the cavern as it lowered its head to look down at what it only knew was prey. The head of the creature was glistening silver metal, with several reptilian features molded into its design as well as the long metallic neck sticking out of the lake that supported the head. Set in the creature's forehead was the white Timestone. It opened its mouth, letting out a hiss as it bared its razor sharp metal teeth, its glowing red eyes squinting as it inspected its next meal.
"I'm guessing that's Rexxon," said Sonic as he looked up at the massive metal serpent as Angel gripped her sword tighter.