Chapter 9 - Nickel's Decision
“Brother!” cried Nickel. He could hardly believe it, but that had to be him!
But when the silhouette entered into the light the shining beam of hope that had filled Nickel was shut off as if by a cold black curtain loosed from its rope.
It wasn’t his brother.
Nickel immediately drove his feet into the ground, braking. He fell onto his back and slid the remaining two metres to come to a rest at the sneakers of none other than Sonic the Hedgehog.
He should have known. Breathing hard, he couldn’t seem to tear his gaze away, he couldn’t even move.
Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy and Cream all stood in a line, looking either down on Nickel or up at the air-ship with the same concerned look. However, seeing as Nickel appeared uninjured, Sonic soon shifted his gaze to instead glare at Robotnik.
“Nickel,” started Tails, kneeling down and offering a helping hand.
Knuckles managed to drag Tails out of harms way just in time. Nickel kicked out with his boots, sending a wave of energy that propelled him back towards Robotnik. Nickel back-flipped in mid air, landing in front of Robotnik.
None were harmed by the attack, but all of their patience was running thin.
“Nickel, you monster!” yelled Amy, taking a step forward and making Knuckles and Tails duck as she brandished her Piko Piko hammer dangerously.
Sonic laughed mirthlessly, “Sorry, Nickel, I must be missing something. The way you just tried to decapitate Tails makes me think you’re giving us the dump.”
“This is my choice Sonic!” shouted Nickel, “You listen to me”-
“No, you listen to me!” cut in Sonic, taking a step forward, “Eggman’s a third-rate crook! Whatever he’s promised you is as fake as he is! ”
“Ouch, deep cuts, Sonic,” commented Robotnik, eyebrows raised, “Tough words for someone with an entire military backing them up!”
“Seriously? You could have come up with something a little more original than that.”
“He told me everything! That you’re from the military, everything!” Nickel snarled. Sonic exaggeratedly shook his head.
“Nickel, please!” said Tails, taking a few steps closer, “We aren’t from the military,” he took a few more steps, but Nickel just bristled in response, “I know you’re confused, and scared”-
“I’m not scared!”-
“Just please Nickel, don’t do this. Sonic’s telling the truth, he can help you.”
Tails went half a step further; he was now closer to Robotnik (still standing languidly in front of his weapon-riddled aircraft) and Nickel than he was to Sonic.
“Not another step, Tails!” warned Nickel, again raising a palm.
His mind was set.
Tails, of course, would not let his friend do this, and with a determined mind of his own continued to advance.
But halted mid-step, when a gloved hand from behind gripped him on the shoulder.
It was Sonic. Catching Tails’ eye, the blue hedgehog glanced up and to the right, and Tails was startled to see artillery and a horde of silver robots dotted over the side of the Robotnik craft, gun barrels pointing directly at them. When had they arrived?
“Wise move, pincushion,” said Robotnik smugly, “my, things have not been going well for you.”
The robots launched forwards, and within second Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy and Cream found themselves surrounded by a tight wall of metal, back-to-back and facing the dozen black orifices of the cannon-like weapons built into each lanky robots’ right arm.
“Yeah, that’ll be the day. Hey, Amy?”
Sonic tilted his head back so he could just see the pink hedgehog he was back-to-back with. “Betcha lunch I can dislocate more shoulders than you can.”
At the same time, all robots suddenly adopted the same pose, their cannon-like weapons aimed at the five anthrohumans barely eight feet away.
“Everybody up!” shouted Sonic, he and Knuckles taking Tails’ hands as the twin-tailed fox lifted up. Less than a second later, Amy and Cream had joined them, Cream’s huge ears flapping madly.
Below, the ground left Sonic’s feet at a rapid rate, shrinking in size. Comically, all robots fired at the same empty space at the same time – only succeeding in peppering themselves with a spray of bullets, causing ninety percent of them to stagger stupidly, a few dark holes smoking through sharp ridges in their midriffs.
Robotnik had long since found a way to mass-produce deadly hunks of metal in a cost-effective way. He still had not, however, worked out a generic, obedient but complex enough AI.
Beside Sonic, Knuckles and Tails, the two girls were struggling.
“Amy, your hammer!” shouted Tails.
“Just fly harder!” Amy yelled to Cream instead.
And, to Sonic’s surprise, even Tails seemed to be having some trouble.
“Whoops, guess this isn’t as easy as it was back in the day,” said Sonic, “Everybody run for cover within the island, I’m the only one fast enough to take this lot on!”
With that, Sonic let go. Over the wind, he thought he heard Knuckles yell, “That’s right, it’s always gotta be you running into certain doom!”
‘You get the idea he’s ungrateful for that,’ thought Sonic briefly, just before the ground rushed up to meet him.
Of course, he was already in a Sonic Spin, cushioning the fall, bouncing once, then tearing forwards with enormous velocity, the soft rainforest earth spraying out behind him.
In a matter of milliseconds, he had his course vaguely plotted, and with an exhilarated shout that was lost in the wind he leant sideways in his spin, screaming toward the nearest flank of robots in a sharp curve.
There were dozens of them now. Sonic knew Robotnik was aware that given half the chance Sonic would get inside the aircraft. With the giant ship still powering up, Sonic would have all the time he needed to wreak untold havoc before the systems Robotnik needed to eradicate him came online.
Sonic leapt up into the air, not unfurling, and ploughed straight through four robot heads, ripping them off in screech of quills on metal. He rolled to a landing, finally unfurling and sliding for a moment, sharp eyes taking in the surrounding once more. Robotnik and Nickel were already half inside, and over a dozen robots were swarming over him.
Smiling so hard it was nearly a snarl, Sonic used his own momentum still carrying him backwards as he rolled back into a spindash to curve inside his path and rocket back the other way. Quicker than the robots were capable of computing, Sonic zipped through them all, feeling the satisfying heat of a robot or two, or ten, exploding as he hit them as a ferocious bullet.
He somersaulted after launching from the last robot, which, under his force, flew into the ground where several limbs shattered apart with the impact, and both sneakers landed soundly on the crumbly earth, hoping dearly Tails and the others weren’t too far away to have missed that.
He charged forwards.
And just missed the door. It closed so quickly he nearly crushed his nose on it. Instead he bounced off it in a heavy spindash, crashing back, dazed.
With any luck Tails and the others had missed that one.
But then he had the chance. The plane was still within distance. He could make the leap. Once aboard, he would find a way. He could stop Robotnik. He could bring back Nickel.
But Nickel had not wanted to come back.
The ship rumbled, and Sonic was forced to scramble away as the heat of the engines warmed the air itself to a boil.
Sonic called, “Just remember, I don’t think it matters!”
Sonic thought he could see a head of white quills looking down from the glass cockpit.
“Everyone accounted for?” yelled Tails as the wind whipped around them. They had landed, and were sprinting as hard as they could back the way they had come. Tails felt like they were making frustratingly slow progress through the dense forest.
Tails shook his head, and concentrated on the problem at hand – how much was Robotnik betting on getting rid of them? The way Tails saw it, once Sonic got Nickel and the Rainbow emerald back, Robotnik was going to fly into one of those desperate rages of his that just so happened to be his greatest strength and weakness. While it normally meant he was rolling downhill at terminal velocity, he would also try to bring down as much as he could on his descent, using any means possible. Already, against the purple, ominous dusk sky, Tails could just perceive lanky silhouettes flying in rigid formations, scanning the dense and confusing mess of rainforest below, searching for them. They’d just have to count on Angel Island’s massive array of fauna (and some flora) to cloak the heat from their bodies.
While scrambling over a particularly tall root, and about to leap to one of the bouncy mushroom-tops he, Knuckles and Sonic could spend hours mucking around on, a sharp, high-pitched scream alerted him to a danger descending from above.
“Badniks, ten o’clock!” cried Knuckles. “How many did he bring?”
There were only three robots, in fact, but now that they had found them, so would the others. The clock was officially ticking.
The three robots that had found them were of an older generation of robots, and unlike their younger brother’s, the lanky and thin E-Series, these were obtuse and clunky. Their heads were built into their broad, dull silver chests, some six feet off the ground and towering over Tails and the others. Their arms seemed disproportionally thin, and they looked like they would move slower than the E-Series.
“Fight or flight?” asked Tails, stepping in front of Cream, albeit a little nervously. None of them could ignore the deep humming filling the sky.
“Fight!” cried Amy, brandishing her hammer and starting starting forwards – just as a tornado of dust screamed past, not two feet in front of him.
Knuckles reeled back, arms raised to protect his eyes from sand. When he lowered them again, he saw all three robots were flailing on the ground like turtles, their legs reduced to sharp stumps half their size.
“Guys!” called Sonic, somehow now perched in a tree to their right, “We’ve gotta find some cover! There’s hundreds of robots all over the place! Follow me, we can huddle down in the temples!”
“Hold on, where’s Nickel?”
“Later, right now we really gotta move!”
“Wait – Sonic!” cried Knuckles, but Sonic never waited. He leapt down from the tree, and, with Tails, Amy and Cream in tow, sped off into the darkness.
The temples weren’t too far – but Cream especially was going to slow them down, she was simply too small to be capable of the speeds that would have gotten Sonic, Knuckles and Tails there in minutes. And with Amy refusing to let go of her Piko-Piko hammer, her speed was also reduced.
“Sonic – wait!” yelled Knuckles again, this time closer, “We can’t let him just” –
The world suddenly shook violently, accompanied by ear-shattering booms that could only mean one thing.
“He’s bombing the island!” yelled Knuckles, outraged and frightened, but the latter not for himself.
“Angel Island was officially declared a neutral zone through historical and cultural significance on the first summit of the Tri-Alliance,” yelled back Tails as Sonic took both him and Cream by the wrists and forcibly pulled them forwards. The ground was now shaking so hard it was like trying to walk through an earthquake. In the distance, orange glows were blossoming, and already the smell of smoke was descending. “This is breaking an international charter! Nobody’s allowed to so much as look at the temples!”
“What are you, a lawyer?” said Sonic as if Tails were crazy, “This is Eggman we’re talkin’ about, just keep moving!”
“ARE YOU INSANE!?” yelled Knuckles, “SONIC, STOP!”
Grabbing his arm, Knuckles wrenched him back, “We have to stop him!” The orange glow of nearby conflagrations lit one side of his face.
“Knuckles, dude, I want to but with what?” Not even Tails can fly high enough to get whatever ship he’s got now!”
Suddenly, something exploded close enough to knock them all off their feet. Sonic was slammed into the ground, losing sight of the others.
Somebody helped haul him to his feet – it was Cream.
She squeaked, “I think we need to keep moving!”
“Seconded,” said Sonic, shaking his head as if to clear it, “Guys!”
It seemed Tails had picked up the argument with Knuckles were Sonic had left off, but Knuckles’ loyalty to the island was overriding logic.
“Knuckles there’s no way to take him down, we’re at too much of a disadvantage! The Tornado’s over the other side of the island, it’ll take a minute or more to get here!”
“So you’re ready to just let him bomb my island into nothing!?”
“Where are we supposed to go!?”
“Okay, okay!” shouted Sonic, “Knuckles, there’s not much we can do if he’s already set on pummeling the island, but we can at least not give him any ideas. Tails – can you remotely call the Tornado?”
Tails nodded, and didn’t ask nay further questions. Flipping open his wristwatch, he began sending his orders.
“Bring it to our co’s,” said Sonic, “we’ll find cover, we’ll move faster if we all hop aboard and lead the robots away from the temples!”
“Can we all fit aboard?” asked Amy, Sonic now taking her and Cream’s hands and pulling them forwards. Sonic shrugged, “Guess we’ll find out.”
The situation had spun out of control – even Sonic had to admit it. It wasn’t a secret that Robotnik was severely lacking in moral fiber – would his hate for Team Sonic drive him to destroy the last remaining remnants of Echidna civilization? And what would they have lost it for? A child’s memory and a sparkling emerald they knew nothing about.
Sonic shook his head, and concentrated on leading the others through the rainforest, the sickly sweet smell of burning flora mingled with the acrid smell of smoke stinging their eyes and searing their throats.
The rumbling intensified, and Sonic snatched a glimpse of the sky through the canopy, flames now visible and leaping from tree to tree. The red lights lining the Egg Carrier slanted up, easily perceived against the starry night sky, indicating it was ascending.
They were getting close to the edge of the island – they were only lucky they had been on the outer rim when they had found Nickel and Robotnik. The rainforest was beginning to thin, the soil becoming thinner, the terrain slowly becoming more rocky.
“I can see fire!” cried Amy, her voice cracking with the strain of keeping up the blistering pace.
“Just keep running! Tails, where’s the Tornado?”
“How inbound!?” asked Sonic, letting his frustration slip through his voice. But, as he spoke, a more familiar, and very comforting drone fell from overhead. The Tornado swooped in, the tips of each of its four wings alight with green nodes, and a green trail of burning ring energy following behind it. It must have transformed mid-flight. It slowed to a halt about five feet off the ground, whining loudly with the effort of hovering for an extended period of time.
“Sonic, you know I only built this to carry three, right?” asked Tails, a little warily as he flew up to the cockpit, sliding himself behind the blue-tinted windshield.
“Well, this’ll be an… emergency test run,” said Sonic, giving Cream and then Knuckles a boost before clambering up himself – a little ungracefully.
“Jeez, Tails hold her steady,” said Sonic irritatedly as the plane tilted and dipped “C’mon, Cream can’t weigh that much.”
“It’s the balance, Knuckles, get in the middle of the plane!”
Knuckles huffed, and moved from his position on the wing to his normal one behind the turret, muttering, “I was just trying to make some room…”
Sonic slid down to a lower wing, and knelt down, hand outstretched for Amy.
Amy was about to take it, when Tails suddenly shouted, “NO!” and wrenched the plane hard up, nearly displacing Sonic, who slipped and found himself dangling in empty space, staring down at where Amy had been – except now she was no longer there.
He was about to shout what on Mobius that had been about, when he was nearly buffeted right off his already disfavoured hold on the Tornado as two lanky E-Series robots whizzed underneath, dangerously close, dropping two small objects in their wake.
“Pulling up!” yelled Tails. They could hear the beeping of the bombs.
“No! We’ve gotta get A” –
Sonic’s words were lost amidst the explosion that consumed everything beneath, searing his legs and rocking the Tornado.
North of Central City
To Rouge the sounds of the helicopter were both irritating and painful. It had no blades, but at the speed they travelled the MagnoThermals emitted a low frequency sound gratingly painful to her sensitive ears.
She, Major Redfreid, and Mouse, the co-pilot, were stationed in the cockpit. Colonel Gekidoku had a permanent place in Redfreid’s ear as a live wire. Rouge had little to do, and sat in a rear seat monitoring boring flight statistics. Now they were in the air the amount of soldiers on the chopper seemed unnecessary – typical GUN. Their answer to any threat remained ‘overwhelming force’.
The passenger jet from Hill Top that contained their stowaway was not far now. To the west the east coast of the United Federation stretched. To the east the entire Atlantic swallowed the horizon. As Redfreid had explained, they had quite the radical plan for boarding the jet mid-flight. Rouge was looking forwards to the excitement – as a bat it was impossible to be nervous of freefalling.
In between relaying information to Gekidoku, Redfreid would converse with Mouse. Rouge eavesdropped passively, but one word drew her complete attention.
-“word is that Sonic took it out earlier this morning,” said Mouse. Rouge’s ears perked.
-“For real? What was left looked like whatever it ran into really did a number on it.”
“I know. You saw it, too?”
“The Colonel sent me a shot,” Redfreid confessed, “wanted to know if I knew anything that could have done that.”
“I don’t know where you got your info, but no hedgehog could have done that.”
“You know that’s a lie,” shot back Mouse. He continued, “It may have been before I was on this squad, but I have secure, genuine testimony from an official source that you fought alongside him in Spagonia.”
“A – that’s got nothing to do with what we’re talking about, and B – whose secure, genuine testimony would that be?”
“Frenzy told me.”
Redfreid barked a laugh. “Well she’s quite a fan. Obviously so are you.”
“All I’m saying is that kid is the worst kept secret on the world.”
“No he’s not,” dismissed Redfreid, “he just moves too fast for the world to keep up with.”
“Yeah, well that’s changing,” said Mouse, now sounding slightly pompous, “Web 2.0, social media, live streaming” –
Redfreid raised a hand for calm, “Hang on, I thought we were talking about this hunk of junk the tech-men dragged hundreds of miles to the city?”
Rouge cocked an eyebrow as she passively pretended to read her tablet of statistics. Was Redfreid being difficult?
“…Well, I am. I’m just saying sooner or later people are going to start to question” –
Mouse cut off, his attention diverted. He sat straighter in his seat. When he spoke, it was in a level drone, all thought of his previous conversation removed, “Flight UFA69 we have you on radar. Please remain on your flight path. Commencing operation. ”
“Tell the team to get ready, we board in 120 seconds. Get us altitude, fifty feet above the target.” ordered Redfreid. Rouge felt a tickle of relief – finally, she got to do something.
Redfreid was half out of his seat when the chopper’s dash caught his attention again, “Wait, I’m picking up something on the radar,” said Mouse, dropping his visor to quickly scan the infra-red and satellite radars, “comin’ in fast, too.”
“What is it?”
Mouse was quiet, his boyish face pinched with concern.
“Mouse!” demanded Redfreid.
“I don’t know, sir – it’s too small to be an aircraft.”
Rouge raised an eyebrow. What was it then, a bird?
Redfreid was about to lower his anti-flash sunglasses, which Rouge had assumed were some sort of personalized HUD he had somehow wangled off the tech department, but stopped and stared out of the thick windscreen, his brow creasing with confusion.
“What the… that’s…”
It was impossible, surely, but Rouge could see it too. Flying towards them was a glowing white-blue light, a trail of that same colour following behind it.
“Major, a visual.” said Mouse.
A square hologram appeared on the windscreen. Angling from above towards them, literally flying in the face of gravity, was -
“That’s… a hedgehog?” breathed Mouse. “He’s actively altering his trajectory, falling straight to us!”
“He looks like a man on a mission,” commented Rouge, legs crossed and no more tense than if she were at a coffee shop. The fuzzy visual was of a white hedgehog. A blue light that seemed both liquid and gas swirled around it as it flew, arms spread, in their direction.
It was only in the dying seconds that Redfreid realised that the hedgehog wasn’t going to veer off.
“Move!” he barked.
Both Mouse and Redfreid wrenched at the controls.
Rouge braced for impact, but it never came. But a shield-like blue white energy suddenly cloaked half the helicopter.
“What happened” –
The helicopter jolted forwards.
“He’s taken control!” yelped Mouse, “He’s moving the chopper… no, he hasn’t got control. He’s just steering it. I can fight it, I can still use the controls!”
“Do it – what?” Redfreid seemed to recoil as a sharp voice snapped through the communicator in his ear.
“Right,” he said slowly. He shrugged at Mouse, “Boss wants us to see where it goes.”
“What?” croaked Mouse, “And if it dumps us in the sea?”
“Then keep the
MagnoThermals warm so we can fly at a moments notice.”
“But what is it?” asked Mouse, his face darkened slightly, “Does she know?”
“She knows it’s not
local,” interrupted Rouge. Smiling she said, “Relax, boys. You’re lucky, every
time a hedgehog with drastic abilities appears out of nowhere something
interesting is never far behind.”
That hadn’t just happened, it could not have.
“AMY!” Sonic yelled again, scanning the smoking rainforest below fervently. They were just ten feet off the ground, but rising fast. As Sonic looked around, he noticed something that put his search for Amy on temporary suspension.
Angel Island was burning.
They couldn’t see the condition of the temples from this far out, but dozens of wildfires were raging across the entire island, plumes of smoke spiraling from their tips. The night sky above was tinged red, with easily perceptible red lights that indicated a group of robots, a cluster of them to the north surely the entourage for Robotnik’s vessel. Sonic gulped – somehow they had managed to dodge all that.
“Sonic,” called Tails from the cockpit, “hold on, I’m going to get Amy, she’s okay! I saw her dodge before the robots came, it was that that told me” –
“Just get to it, Tails!” said Knuckles from the turret, “If they come back, I’ll be ready for them!”
Sonic scrambled onto the wing, and held on tight as it dove back down, soaring only just above the thinning canopy. The edge of Angel Island was barely five hundred meters away.
“There!” cried Cream, pointing below. Sonic followed the direction of her finger, and saw Amy, sprinting as hard as she could, waving up at them, angry as a crocodile that had just had its dinner taken.
“Whoo boy, maybe we’ll just leave her there…”
“I’m only kidding… but she rides on the opposite wing.”
Tails swooped in lower, and was about to slow when more robots appeared from behind.
“Tails, keep mov – whoa!”
Tails was already on it, spinning the Tornado away. These kinds of crazy aerobatics were how the Tornado was meant to move – but not while overweight. As result, mid-spin it sluggishly dropped, nearly clipping a tree on its way.
“This is crazy, I don’t know what’s wrong with it!” spat Tails, “She’s all over the place!”
There was a series of THUMPS, and Sonic recognised the sound as the laser cannon – Knuckles was firing back. Purple-pink blasts of energy were being shot from the cannon.
“I’ll keep them off, Tails,” called Knuckles, “Just fly straight and get Amy aboard!”
Sonic couldn’t see if Tails nodded, but assumed he had heard and acknowledged. As long as they kept moving, the robots were going to have a hard time getting close enough to loose an accurate shot. The only problem was the edge of Angel Island was now dangerously close, and they were still too high for Amy, her hammer now safely tucked away in hammer-space and still sprinting – but now she was lagging.
Tails matched Amy’s speed, but then overtook her, speeding ahead.
“Lowering rope-ladder!” called Tails. Sonic felt the plane shudder, and then tug to starboard, presumably the rope falling to its full length.
The robots were now coming in thick and fast – far too many for Knuckles to handle.
If they stopped moving, the robots would overwhelm them. But if they didn’t stop Amy would never catch them before they reached the island’s edge and passed over into empty space.
Sonic, with horror, could foresee what was going to happen. Amy couldn’t get the speed – she wasn’t going to make it.
The Tornado passed the edge of the island – Knuckles and Cream gave a cry of dismay. There were at least six robots swooping in on Amyas well.
Then, five, then four…
Sonic frowned – something too fast to track was knocking the robots out of the sky as they gained on Amy. He realised who it was, who it could only be, a second before he darted out of the dark and into the light thrown by the remaining robots.
Shadow skated forwards. Sonic could see his intentions just from the determined look in his red eyes, and acted.
Desperate, Tails dangerously banked back towards the island. They could not leave Amy behind.
Amy crossed into the final five meters of plateau, not knowing Shadow was right behind her, and desperately readying herself for the leap of her life. Seeing that their time was being measured in milliseconds, Sonic let go of the Tornado, dropping through black space, yelling for Tails to stay as still as he could.
Shadow caught up to Amy in the same step each of them found the edge of the magnificent island, grabbing her around the middle and launching both of them out and into the gaping void, one hand outstretched for the ladder, which seemed an eternity away. The threat beneath them was mostly obscured by the encroaching night – but only mostly.
They were going to make it; they were going to make the impossible jump.
Then, reality intervened – but, Sonic was closely on its heels.
Just as it dawned on Shadow and Amy that they were not going to make it, that Shadow’s hand was just going to brush the bottom of the ladder and nothing more – Sonic appeared, feet finding the lowest rung, one hand holding the side of the ladder, the other outstretched to Shadow’s.
The moment seemed to last forever.
Then, finally, Shadow caught Sonic’s arm, and Sonic Shadow’s.
Time sped back to normal.
Sonic gave a yelp as the weight of Shadow, Amy and Amy’s Piko-Piko Hammer yanked down on his arm, which he was sure was half-pulled from it’s socket. The Tornado also felt the added weight, and banked dangerously to starboard – closer to the island and the oncoming robots.
Sonic tried to pull both up so they could reach the lowest rung, but it was all he could do just to keep a hold of Shadow’s wrist and not lose his balance on the precarious ladder – and he was all too aware of the oncoming metal storm. The thumping of the discharged laser shots had not ceased at all, but Sonic had seen these robots go kamikaze before in desperation.
“Amy!” barked Shadow. Amy was hanging on for dear life with both arms around Shadow’s neck. “Take the weight off Sonic! Climb up and into the plane!”
Amy, who had never been wonderful with heights, gave a little squeak of terror. She looked up, and Sonic gave her a small nod of encouragement.
“We won’t let you fall,” Sonic said in a tight voice – though if she did what exactly he was going to do about it he’d yet to think about, “Just be quick.”
He shot a fervent look at the robots. They could only have seconds left.
Amy nodded herself, and quickly snatched at Sonic’s arm above. He grunted at the strain, but didn’t complain. Amy gave a small cry of fright as the Tornado tilted a little bit more with a sudden gust of wind, whipping her quills around her face. Sonic had no idea where she put all the strength, but, determined not to look down, Amy then swung a hand to the lowest rung, and hauled herself up completely on upper-body strength.
Sonic let out a sigh of relief as the weight lessened dramatically. Amy, now on the third rung and her boots finding the rope, shot him a wilting look.
“You were, er, v-very brave,” said Sonic weakly. Her glare intensified for a moment, then she resumed climbing up the rope ladder. Sonic thought he heard Tails shout something, but here, unprotected by the island, the wind snatched his voice away into empty space.
Summoning as much strength as he could, Sonic pulled up as hard as he could, inching Shadow towards arms-reach of the ladder. Shadow added some of his own considerable strength, pulling himself up by the leverage of Sonic’s arm. With one accurate swipe, he grabbed the bottom rung, and from there pulled himself up almost effortlessly.
“You made that look easy,” said Sonic, which was as close as he was going to get to ‘thanks for saving my friend’.
“Not over yet,” said Shadow, looking at the robots.
Shadow raised a hand, palm facing the robots. As he did, ten broke free of the mob firing from a distance. Sonic realised what he was about to do, and scrambled up the ladder.
“Sweet Mauro - Tails, brace the plane!”
“Chaos!” called Shadow, breathing in deeply, “BLAST!”
An intense explosion of light and rumbling energy. The air itself seemed to blister and burn. The robots, with their relatively thin metal shells, had no chance. But Sonic didn’t get to see what happened to them, having hid his face from the heat. It seemed to last an age, an unstoppable force of energy solidified into a single beam.
However, this was the last straw for the battered plane. With a loud ‘crack!’, the node on the bottom-left wing shattered, and puttered out.
The effect was immediate.
Sonic, Amy and a slightly stunned Shadow were almost slammed into the plane as it corkscrewed out of control, losing altitude rapidly and swinging to the massive, eroded side of the island.