"What the heck is going on in there?" asked Tails as he examined the door for some way to open it.
"Something bad, I'm sure," said Lily as she dismounted Saber. She pulled Nicole out and opened the palm computer, placing it against the door. "Nicole, conduct a thermal scan of the cavern interior." The small computer beeped several times, then displayed a holographic thermal image of the interior of the cavern.
"What in the world is that?" asked Slasher as the thermal image of Rexxon towered over the two thermal images of their friends.
"I have no clue, but whatever it is, there's more of it under that lake," said Tails, indicating the long thermal trail that went under the acid lake and snaked across the floor of the lake.
"I know what that thing is," said Lily, everyone turning to look at her. "A couple of years ago, a mission to destroy one of Robotnik's remote bases was conducted. But the mission was a complete failure. The only survivor barely made it back to us, too far gone to save. Before he passed on, he told us of a giant metal serpent that had devoured the entire mission party, and that he had barely managed to escape. Unfortunately, he was too far gone to tell us the how he had gotten away. The last thing he uttered before he died was 'Rexxon'."
"Rexxon? What does that mean?" asked Saber. Lily shook her head.
"We never really knew, but we guessed that it was what the creature was called," she answered. She lowered her head before she spoke again. "Now it seems that Robotnik moved Rexxon here, and Sonic and Angel are trapped in the cavern with it. They won't survive long against it."
"You don't know Sonic very well then," said Tails as he looked back at the door. "If anyone can take down this Rexxon thing, it's him." Slasher shook her head slowly.
"I'm not sure if even Sonic can take down this creature," she said softly. Her eyes narrowed slightly before turning towards Drake. "You think you can break down the door?" Drake ran up in front of the door, looking back at the winged raptor with a sharp toothed grin.
"Give me a few minutes and I'll have this door knocked down no problem," he said as he took several steps back, then charged the metal door, head butting it with the two rock hard horns on top of his head, leaving a small dent in the metal door. He backed up slowly, shaking his head slightly. "That thing's stronger than it looks," he said under his breath before charging it again.
"Watch it!" cried Sonic as the giant metal serpent lunged its head at Angel, narrowly missing her as she dodged the strike. Angel whipped around and slashed at the creature with her sword, only to have it do nothing more than make sparks as it barely scratched the armor plating Rexxon sported. She turned and ran back to Sonic.
"That blasted things skin is like diamond," she said as she turned back towards the serpent.
"Which means both your sword and my spindashes will hardly do anything against it," observed Sonic as Rexxon reared back for another strike, hissing loudly as it bared its fangs at the two mobians. "Any ideas?" he asked.
"I was about to ask you the same question," she replied as she struck a defensive stance. Rexxon lunged forward again, both mobians leaping in different directions to avoid the giant serpent's fangs. Sonic landed, then ran down along the small pathway encircling the acid lake, yelling at Rexxon to draw its attention from Angel. Taking the bait, the metal snake turned to follow Sonic as he raced down the pathway. He then came to a stop, motioning upwards at Rexxon to Angel with his head.
Realizing what Sonic was doing, Angel sheathed her sword and ran back to the wall of the cavern, then ran towards the lake as fast as she could. At the last moment, she bounded off the edge of the pathway, landing on Rexxon's back. The robot reptile took no notice of the echidna as it lunged for Sonic, nearly throwing her off him as she held on for dear life. After Rexxon brought his neck back to its original position, she checked to make sure that Sonic was okay. A quick glance revealed him to still be racing around the pathway, taunting the serpent by stopping every ten seconds or so to make himself a target for about two seconds before taking off again.
Foolish hedgehog's going to get himself killed, thought Angel as she turned her attention back to the task of climbing up the monster's back. "Then again, I must be a fool as well for even trying this," she mused under her breath.
"How's it coming Drake?" asked Tails as the dragon chao rammed the door once more. Drake backed away from the door, which now sported several indentations from repeated battering.
"Not very well. I guess I'm not as strong as I thought I was," he replied, most of his earlier gusto now gone as the realization of just how thick the door really was began to sink in.
"Well, keep trying. We have to get them out of there as quickly as possible," said Cody as he watched the screen unfolding inside the cavern thanks to Nicole's holographic sensors. He was glad to see that both Sonic and Angel had thus far managed to not be killed by the monstrous creature, but as the seconds ticked by, he kept wondering just how long it would remain that way. He suddenly raised his head, then looked back over his shoulder, a scowl appearing on his face.
"Is something wrong?" asked Lily. Both Slasher and Saber also looked back down the cave, both of them baring their teeth as they took up a position at the front of the group.
"We've got company," said Cody as he aimed his laser down the cave and fired. The laser blast didn't harm the object it hit, but it did however illuminate the object. The three Magma Worms had finally caught up to them. Both of the raptors snarled as the hulking robots slithered to within twenty feet of them, then stopped. Expecting the worst, both of the raptors muscles tensed in preparation to get out of the way of the worms attack. But the attack never came. Rather, they stood as still as statues.
"What are they doing?" asked Lily.
"Waiting for orders," came a reply from behind the worms. Cody's eyes narrowed slightly, recognizing the owner of the voice. The voice's owner walked out from behind the worms, the figure's red eyes glaring down at the group as the dim light provided by Nicole's holoscreen reflected off its metallic blue body. "I'm surprised to see you all still alive. I figured only my counterpart would make it this far into the island's interior."
"You never were very good at estimating your opponents, Metal Sonic," said Cody as he extended his claws. Metal Sonic only crossed his arms in response to both the insult and Cody's gesture to a fight.
"I would not know. I have yet to find an opponent who has not died outside of the 10.54 second average time that I have kept track of," he said. "But since the master wants you all alive, I guess I cannot properly test your theory of my ability to miss calculate my estimations on your group." Metal Sonic looked up at the three robotic worms, then said, "Knock them out, but do not kill them. The master has that right reserved for himself." The high pitched screams of the three worms echoed throughout the cave as they advanced on the group of six.
"Well if it's a fight you want Mecha, then it's a fight you'll get!" cried Cody as he flew up at the worms with his claws flashing.
Angel held on tight as Rexxon lunged for Sonic once again, just missing the cerulean hedgehog as he moved out of the way of the strike. After Rexxon had repositioned his body again, Angel continued climbing up his back. By now, the pattern of climb, hang on, and climb again was routine, and Angel had made it up to just behind his head. Now she waited for Rexxon to strike again so that she could be sure that he wouldn't do so when she made it on top of his head. A quick glance showed that Sonic had so far managed to avoid the serpent's attempts to snag him, but she wasn't sure how much longer that wouldn't happen. Down below, Sonic stopped to taunt Rexxon once more and saw that Angel had made it to the back of his head.
"One more time," he whispered to himself. "Just come at me one more time." He ran down about a fourth of the encircling walkway's pathway before stopping to taunt the metal snake again. But this time he noticed that the serpent's head hadn't followed him as it had been doing up until that point. Worried that Rexxon might have finally noticed his rider, Sonic ran back towards the same spot he had been at to try and catch Rexxon's attention again. But before he had made it even halfway down the pathway, a giant metal tail rose forth from the acid lake and slammed down hard on the pathway just in front of Sonic. The pathway crumbled under the crushing blow of Rexxon's tail as Sonic's sneakers dug into the stone path to try and stop him from going over the edge of the now twenty foot wide drop off. Sonic finally skidded to a stop just inches from the edge, but was thrown off balance by his own momentum. Before he had a chance to catch himself, he heard a loud hiss and then felt something scoop him up.
It was only then that he realized that Rexxon had been testing him the whole time, studying his movements to pinpoint where he would go next and then set up a trap for him. As he saw the jaws of the giant serpent begin to close, he knew that his only hope was that Angel could get the Timestone free and deactivate the monster before he was swallowed. But he also knew that Rexxon wouldn't make a meal out of him without a fight. Adrenalin rushing through his veins, Sonic sprang to his feet inside the slimy mouth of the metal serpent. As the jaws came closing down around him, he quickly threw his hands up into upper part of Rexxon's mouth and pushed back against the upper jaw. He felt the jaw lock momentarily as he pushed with all his might, but a few seconds later he could feel the jaws once again in motion, slowly pushing down to close the mouth of the metallic snake.
Seeing Sonic get snatched up by Rexxon, Angel had quickly dismissed waiting for the giant snake to stop moving around. She knew she only had seconds to get to the Timestone in Rexxon's head and remove it before it swallowed Sonic whole. With speed and skill that could only be attained by her years of training, she quickly clamored up the backside and top of Rexxon's head to its forehead. Eyeing the Timestone, Angel quickly stood up, drew her sword, and aimed it tip first at the compartment holding the gemstone.
"Time to die you worthless slug," she said to herself. Suddenly, Rexxon whipped its neck forward, catching Angel off guard and throwing her headfirst off its head. She quickly inverted herself and landed with a roll on the pathway. After two rolls, she flipped onto her feet and threw her gaze up at Rexxon in time to hear Sonic's last cry before the jaws of the serpent finally closed. A sickening swallow sound echoed throughout the cavern, testament to Sonic's fate. Rexxon then turned his gaze towards Angel, who quickly took a defensive stance with sword in hand. She knew that she had little chance of defeating Rexxon now, but she wasn't about to have the same thing that happened to Sonic happen to herself.
Rexxon hissed softly, studying its new target. It had known all along that something had been climbing up its back, but it had also known that the creature was of no real threat. But when it had sensed the creature reach the point of its power source, it had decided it was better to play it safe than let the creature somehow actually remove the Timestone from its body. Finally convinced that as long as the creature stayed off its head it would be okay, it lunged at her.
Angel quickly dodge-rolled to the left, uncurled and jumped to her feet. She tried to bring her sword to bear, but Rexxon moved out of the way before the blade could make contact. Angel cursed under her breath as she watched the metal serpent rear back for another strike. But instead of lunging forward again, Rexxon let out a pained scream as it started to thrash its neck back and forth. Angel watched, wondering what was causing Rexxon to cry out in pain and fearful of what it would do should it manage to shake it off. Rexxon let out another strangled cry of pain, rearing its head straight up into the air. It let out one last cry before a ball of whirling blue quills came crashing through the back of its head.
"Sonic!" cried Angel, for the first time actually happy to see the supersonic hedgehog alive and well. Sonic uncurled as he hit against the metal siding of the cavern. It was then that Angel noticed that Sonic was grasping one of the two Power Rings that he had been keeping in his backpack. The ring was glowing brightly as Sonic drew in its power, a golden glow encasing his body as the ring's power flowed through him. She watched as he pushed himself off the cavern wall towards Rexxon before curling into another spindash. He reentered the hole his original spindash opened up in Rexxon's hide, bounced off the bottom of Rexxon's lower jaw and shot up through its forehead as he punched a second hole in Rexxon's head. Sonic then ricochet off the ceiling and off the side of the cavern before landing at the feet of Angel, Timestone in hand.
He turned to the splash sound that the now deactivated Rexxon made as its head fell into the acid lake. The metallic armor that Rexxon bore had been designed to protect it from the acid in which it lived, but with the now gaping holes in its head, the acid was free to get at the unprotected areas inside the robotic serpent. A very light white smoke rose from the lake as the last remains of Rexxon were consumed by the metal eating acid.
"Oh yuck!" cried Sonic as he finally realized that he was covered by Rexxon's digestive juices. Thick strands of slime were dripping off his body, his fur glistening from the remains of being inside the metal snake. Angel couldn't help but crack a smile as Sonic desperately wiped as much of the gunk off as he could. The results left him with several quills out of place and a disgusted look on his face. "That was the nastiest experience of my life!"
"Somehow I doubt that," said Angel, not even trying to hide the amusement in her voice at Sonic's situation. Sonic's only response was a five second long glare before he shook his head and headed for the sealed exit with Angel right behind him. Sonic studied the door for a few seconds before he spotted the only place on the door where the Timestone would correctly fit. Setting the gemstone into place, the door whooshed open, the Timestone falling off the door as it rose and into Sonic's waiting hand. As they walked through the door into the nearly pitch black cave, they were surprised that no one was coming to check on them or even ask if they were okay or anything.
But as their eyes adjusted to the darker lighting, they were not ready for what had been waiting for them on the other side of the door. A Magma Worm lay on its side, oil seeping from a long slash mark running down its back for nearly three feet. Beside it sat Lily's blaster along with Nicole, a few feet from which sat Tails' crossbow with an arrow halfway loaded into place. "What the heck happened out here? Where is everyone?" asked Sonic he leaned down and picked Nicole off the stone floor. He then heard Angel suddenly inhale deeply, quickly turning towards him.
"Where's Comet!?" she cried in near hysteria. Sonic then realized that for the first time since he'd met her, she was actually genuinely concerned for someone else. He couldn't help but smile inwardly, knowing now that she did have a heart under all her rough exterior.
"I have no clue," said Sonic as he placed Nicole into his backpack, pulling out the second Power Ring while making sure not to activate it as its glow filled the tunnel. "But we're getting out of here as fast as possible before more of those blasted worms show up." A quick glance at Angel was all he needed to do to make it clear that he wasn't going to wait more than a few seconds for her to get a grip on him before he took off. Quickly grasping onto Sonic's waist, Sonic shot from his spot and sped down the cave towards the exit at nearly two hundred miles per hour.
"Can you even tell where you're going!?" cried Angel, expecting Sonic to collide with any number of walls or outstanding rocks along the path.
"I can see just fine," answered Sonic just seconds before he flew out of the mouth of the cave and came to a stop as Angel let go of him. "Wait here. I'm going to see if I can find anyone." Angel didn't even get off a reply before Sonic took off into the jungle at top speed, the trees bending nearly to the breaking point from the force of wind gust he had created.
Sighing to herself, Angel walked back to the cave entrance and sat down on one of the smaller boulders sitting near the entrance. She then leaned back on her hands and gazed up at the sky above, its color now a bright orange as dusk began to set in. The only thought going through her mind was if her chao was okay. She sat upright again, worry evident on her face. Ever since she'd become Floating Island's new Guardian, Comet had always been there to keep her company. She wasn't sure what would happen if she was gone.
Standing up, she looked back towards the area where Sonic had run off to, a frown covering over the worry she felt. It was time her little "alliance" with the Freedom Fighters was terminated. She was content to be among them, to follow them blindly as it seemed they were doing, but not if it meant Comet was going to be a victim of their actions. She turned to walk away, hoping to slip away without Sonic knowing about it and go find Comet on her own. But she had taken less than ten steps when some unseen force yanked hard at her scabbard, undoing the strap while at the same time throwing Angel onto her back.
"What the heck!?" she cried, trying to scramble to her feet. She managed to get to one leg before it was kicked out from underneath her, knocking her to the ground again. Knowing now that someone was for sure attacking her, she quickly flipped upright, searching for her sword. After a few seconds, she spotted it sitting on the ground about twenty feet behind her. "I know you are there. Show yourself!" she hollered.
But nothing answered her challenge except for dead silence. Angel quickly ran to grab her sword, but right before her hand grasped it, the sword jerked to the side and something struck her in the stomach with enough force to both knock the wind out of her as well as send her flying back several yards into the boulder she had been resting on.
"I would have figured you a little smarter than that, echidna. Falling for such a simple ploy," said a voice. Angel struggled to both get back on her feet and breathe again from having the wind knocked out of her. She couldn't help but also feel a little angry at herself. She had fallen prey to a very simple trick. Slowly, she managed to get back on her feet. Her breathing was still a little shaky, but she quickly recovered. She tried to find her sword again, the only clue as to where her adversary was hiding. After a few seconds, she spotted it hovering about fifteen feet behind her. She turned to face her sword, this time not making a move towards it.
"Coward. Do you really have to resort to such trickery to beat me?" she asked. A low growl could be heard coming from near her sword, accompanied by a constant humming sound.
"So, I am a coward, am I?" asked the voice. Whatever force was holding up Angel's sword dropped it to the ground, the humming noise disappearing into the wind. "Well, to be honest, even though I have a score to settle with you, it is not you I want." Angel stood unflinching as the sound of footsteps started to emit from next to her sword, crossing the gap between them before coming to stop only a couple feet from her. She stood there trying to catch a glimpse of anything that might give her opponent's actions away, but to no avail. The next thing Angel felt was the incredible pain from a powerful blow to the side of her head, followed by the feeling of the cold ground as she collapsed. Everything became fuzzy for a couple of seconds as she tried to get one last glance of her attacker before darkness claimed her. The air next to Angel's unconscious body wavered slightly as a form began to take shape. The first thing that took shape were the person's eerily glowing red eyes, followed next by a gleaming sliver muzzle and polished blue head. The rest of the person's form quickly materialized, revealing the form of Metal Sonic. "I want the hedgehog."
"Come on Angel! This isn't funny!" hollered Sonic as he ran through the island's jungle, Angle's sword strapped to his back. Having not found any trace of the others, he had raced back only to find Angel missing, her discarded sword the only indication of her having even been there. Simple annoyance had quickly turned into worry and regret at leaving her alone. Even now that had become replaced by extreme fear of what had happened to the pink furred echidna as Sonic exited the thick jungle interior of the island and came upon the sandy beaches that surrounded the coast. The sight that greeted his exit of the jungle caused him to skid to a stop, nearly tripping over his own feet as he came to a complete stop in mid run.
"I was beginning to wonder if you would show your face to me hedgehog," hissed Metal Sonic as he stood on the sandy beach, an unconscious Angel held up in the air by the back of her shirt. "Now stand where you are and listen to what I have to say, or else I will kill her without hesitation." Sonic's hands curled into fists as his face turned into a scowl, the only outward appearances of his anger as he nodded to the mecha bot.
"Good," said Metal Sonic as he eyed Sonic, taking in his first real life look at the cerulean hedgehog. "I am well aware of the fact that I was created in your image. To be an exact copy of you in both appearance and speed. Do you not agree that this is true?" he asked.
"Aside from the fact that you're easily uglier than I am and your speed is sub-par to my own, then yes," said Sonic. Metal Sonic's eyes flashed for a split second, then only outward appearance that Sonic's comment had angered him. Still, he managed a smirk of amusement.
"You also know I was created to kill you, correct?" he asked.
"Yeah. That fact's been proven to me time and again," answered Sonic, not sure where Metal Sonic was going with his questioning of why he was created.
"Yet I have never actually seen you in real life till just now," said Metal Sonic as his free hand curled into a fist. "Do you know how frustrating it is to live every single day knowing that the very thing you were created to destroy was already gone before you were even activated?" he asked, his voice rising ever higher as he spoke.
"Can't say I have," said Sonic, trying not to enrage Metal Sonic to the point of him boiling over, though he wasn't sure that anything could calm him down at this point as he saw Metal Sonic stomp his foot into the ground, burying it a couple inches in the soft sand.
"Well I do!" cried Metal Sonic. "Every day I wonder if I truly was better than you! If I was as good as you, or was I even better?" Slowly, he calmed himself back down to a somewhat stable emotional state. "I lost interest in killing you long ago."
"Well, if you no longer have the urge to shred me into a million pieces, then what is it you want from me?" asked Sonic. Metal Sonic looked down at the ground with a mechanical sigh, his angry attitude now replaced by what looked to Sonic like a mixture of wondering and reassignment.
"I no longer care about the struggles of the war that is constantly being fought around me. No longer do I care about even my own welfare. The thrill to hunt you down and finish my programming has long since eroded into just one question. Was I better than you? Was it possible for me to beat the fastest thing that had ever lived on this planet? Was I your superior, or was I simply a cheap mechanical imitation?" said Metal Sonic. He paused slightly as if lost in a train of thought, then looked up at Sonic again, this time a smile spreading across his face. "But now that you are here in the flesh, I can finally put my question to rest. One way or another, I will know the truth."
"If all you want to do is test yourself against me, then fine, but leave Angel out of this," said Sonic.
"I wish I could, but then I can't know for certain that you will show up to the surprise that I have waiting for you. This echidna will be my insurance for that part. Do not worry, for she will not be harmed for now," said Metal Sonic, taking to the air. "However, if you want to see her alive again, listen carefully to these instructions and do not follow me when I leave or I will kill her without hesitation. In one hour, a remote controlled hovercraft will land at this location. It will take you to meet me at a special raceway that I myself designed for the day I would finally answer my questions concerning you and me. When you get there, I will explain how the challenge will work. Till then, hedgehog!" With that, Metal Sonic turned his back to Sonic and shot towards the mainland, the hum of his engine fading into the sound of the waves splashing against the shore. Sonic dropped to his knees, slamming his fists into the soft sand, his eyes closed tightly shut in frustration.
"Don't you worry Angel," whispered Sonic as he slowly looked up in the direction Metal Sonic had left in. "I'll save you even if it kills me." True to his word, one hour later found Sonic on a hover-unit bound for Metal Sonic's raceway, Angel's sword strapped to his back beneath his backpack.
Today is the day I've waited countless years for, thought Metal Sonic as he surveyed the raceway before him, the twilight of the approaching nightfall slowly turning the sky dark. It was a complex structure covering several square miles. The track itself was a twenty foot wide road that went through sharp turns, up and down walls, did loops, and even corkscrews as it wound itself around the surrounding countryside. Bright streetlights lit every inch of the roadway, leaving no part of the track untouched by light. This will be the day that I finally find out once and for all which of us is superior. Hedgehog or machine. Today, I will know the truth. The familiar whine of a hover-unit's engine broke his train of thought, his attention turning to the craft as it flew by overhead and began to circle the landing pad on the other side of the track as it made its final approach. He looked up at the still unconscious Angel, who had her hands and feet tied firmly to the last lamppost on the track.
"Seems the hedgehog has finally arrived my dear. I guess it would be rude of me to not greet him," mused Metal Sonic as he looked back at the hover-unit as it started its decent towards the landing pad. "Let's just hope you're awake to witness the final chapter in his life. I would hate to be the only one to know how he met his end this day." He smiled to himself as he fired up his engine, taking off towards the platform, his laughter echoing all around, fading into the night as the sun finally set in the distance, ushering in the star lit sky above.