Chapter 4 - Luck of the Hedgehog's
The Luck of the Hedgehogs
“Sonic! What happened?” asked Tails, completely bewildered. He rushed to the door, shielding his face with his arms and tails from flying paperwork and an aggressive wind. The two-tailed fox peeked over his friend’s shoulder as he pulled him inside and closed the door. Instantly the flying paperwork slapping them became still once more. “What are the sirens? It’s not…”
Tails cocked his head, and Sonic winked.
“How’d ya guess?”
“What’s he doing here!? Sonic, my equipment is telling me there’s an Egg Carrier out there!”
Sonic deposited Nickel on a nearby armchair, placing the Rainbow Emerald in his lap. Curiously, it was not shimmering as wonderfully as it had been before, as if it, like Nickel, was unconscious; now it seemed dull, void of any of its prior lustre.
“Yep.” he confirmed. Bad news was best broken quickly, he had found.
“Where’d it come from!?”
“It was planted underground” –
“It came out of the ground?
Well that explains the quake.”
“Right. Eggman’s after this kid, I think. I went to that base the Chaotix told me about and he pretty much dropped like a lightning bolt right on top of me. Robo-butt had it basically built into the mountain though; didn’t know it was an Egg Carrier. Oh yeah, and there’s an eighth Chaos emerald.”
Stunned, Tails just gaped as Sonic revealed the emerald.
Mouth flapping open and closed as he gasped for words, Sonic supplemented with, “I know, right?”
“B-but it can’t be!?” Tails snatched the emerald and inspected it. He held it aloft to the light, he measured it, even rushed it to scale to check its weight.
“I know, right? Knuckles is gonna freak. Oh, also the Carrier pretty much took off out of the mountain and guess who was waiting inside?”
Tails wasn’t as shocked as Sonic had expected he might be at the reappearance of Metal Sonic, but he could see the young fox’s brain working quickly and efficiently. Despite the ludicrous nature of the story, not helped with Sonic’s wild exaggerations and stroking of his own ego as he recounted his rescue of Nickel from fifty robots, one of them controlled by Robotnik himself and armed to the teeth, and the eventual face-off with his metal doppelganger. This, too, had its actions extrapolated almost beyond recognition; featuring Sonic continuously pushing himself to his feet despite the punishment he was being handed to protect an unconscious Nickel. Tails didn’t ask where the bruises inflicted by this punishment had mysteriously disappeared.
“Metal eventually got the jump on me, had he played fair I could have beat him of course” –
“Of course,” mused Tails, humouring him.
- “but a long story short, Nickel got injured and I brought him back here.”
Tails bowed his head, cool logic at work now his initial alarm had subsided. His twin tails twitched and slowly rotated as he thought hard. Outside, the sirens had dissipated – would the UF military and GUN know Robotnik was here yet?
“I think we need to get out of here. This workshop’s not a fortress, and I don’t want Robotnik getting any closer to you know what. But Robotnik’s in massive trouble for this, why’d he risk the stalemate for an emerald and a young boy? I-I know it’s potentially an eighth emerald, but this is…”
“Tri-Alliance expires soon,” shrugged Sonic, “everyone’s getting the fidgets. Still, if we catch Robotnik we can pretty legitimately put him away for, what, a billion lifetimes?”
“He should have taken the ship halfway to the moon by now, he may be tough but the U.F would blast it out the sky,” – Sonic stopped himself snorting in doubt at this. Robotnik was on United Federation soil, but he was no more afraid of them than he was of his high cholesterol, - “but if he’s gone this far then he’s not stopping now, he’ll go after us again in something small and light. So, where do we go?”
“Why not just go south?” supplied Sonic.
“Why go there?”
Sonic simply shrugged, “we haven’t been south in a while.”
Tails laughed: “Okay south it is, we’ll be heading towards Knuckles anyway. I’ll get the Tornado ready!”
Tails flew to his backdoor, disappearing from view as he entered the small, cluttered hangar on the other side. No sooner had Tails left than Nickel began to stir, and as he did the emerald in his lap regained some of its former lustre.
“Ugh, my head,” he looked around blearily, then started, jerking upright.
“Easy on,” smiled Sonic, catching him by the shoulder, “We’re safe here for the moment – you ever flown in a plane?”
Nickel just stared, the abrupt and seemingly non-relevant question throwing him.
“You just missed Tails, my little brother – well, adopted little brother, it’s a story and a half, maybe I’ll tell you sometime?”
“W-what happened to that robot-thing?” asked Nickel, “Where’s that airship?”
Sonic shrugged, “Coming.”
“Coming!? Then shouldn’t we be moving?”
“We are – Tails is preparing the Tornado.”
Tails suddenly bustled into the room, arms full of thick, baggy, orange cables – “She hasn’t gone out in awhile as I’ve been fixing some upgrades to the flaps to improve agility – which reminds me the lower left node is gonna need extra boot-time,” he dumped the cables near an array of computer monitors, kneeling on an office seat and flicking the computers to life, “Setting to the porthole need to be synchronised – how much time do we think we’ve got?”
“Five minutes?” hazarded Sonic.
“We’ll make it two – oh, hi, Nickel, right? I’m Tails.” Tails smiled at Nickel, then quickly spun his chair back around and flew his hands across the keyboards. He paused once to jab his thumb in the direction of the door, “What did you do to get the Eggman’s attention?”
“I can’t remember,” said Nickel, honestly.
“Amnesia again?” scoffed Tails, “I’m beginning to think, Sonic, that you just go around beating stranger’s heads about with a hammer.”
“No, but I know somebody who does.”
Nickel got to his feet, then abruptly doubled over as if to be sick. Sonic backed off warily, thinking the shock of the last hour was taking its toll on the boy, but he quickly proven wrong.
Nickel gasped, falling to his knees as the Rainbow Emerald flew from him in a quick flash of light, then went stonily still as the emerald began to shake, rocked by some invisible force. It span, faster and faster, its colours streaming into the light of the workshop. An unnatural wind picked up, ruffling loose paperwork and working on Sonic’s fur like a chilly hair-dryer. The emerald became a blur of colours, and Sonic could only watch as the vibrations shaking it passed to Nickel, causing him to twitch and jerk as if rocked by a seizure.
Then the sirens began.
A large red exclamation mark burst to life on one of Tails’ monitors, then another on a separate monitor. The machinery upstairs began to wail. Before Sonic knew it half the workshop seemed to be in uproar.
But he had barely made the call when Tails came charging in.
“What happened?” he said, freezing where he stood when he caught sight of Nickel. His eyes passed the Rainbow emerald, “What did you do?”
“I leave for five minutes and you cause another disas”-
Sonic spoke over him, huffing that he’d been blamed for this, “I’ll work on Nickel, can you get these machines to shut up for a second?”
Sonic went down on one knee next to Nickel, knowing better than to touch, and lowered his head almost to the floor to try and get a glimpse of the hedgehog’s face. He seemed frozen still, eyes glued to some nondescript patch of tacky carpet.
“Well that’s just what I came up here for,” said Tails hurriedly, rushing to the monitors, “These are the warning signals for the emeralds when they reach dangerous levels of Chaos energy – they’re reacting to something” Tails pointed to the furiously spinning Rainbow emerald, “that would be my GUEESS!” – his last word stretched out indefinitely as it mixed with a scream of shock. A mighty blast on invisible power had erupted from the Rainbow emerald, knocking Sonic onto his back and leaving Tails gripping the desk of the monitor’s for dear life. The force did not relent, and like a hurricane it seemed intent on levelling the whole workshop.
“Now what’s happening!?” Sonic cried, slowly being blown back away from Nickel despite holding himself almost flat to the floor, “C’mon, Tails you’re the expert!”
“ME?” yelled Tails, “What’s there to be expert of!? The Rainbow emerald’s caused the Chaos emeralds to spark some kind of reaction – agh! My equipment!”
Only the computers held in brackets or in built to the walls stood any chance against the violent winds, the rest were sent crashing to the ground. And even of the computers that were not immediately destroyed, their signals were disrupted and distorted, their screens frenetically flashing between waves of static.
Seven emeralds one hundred metres below their feet were very angry.
Tails threw himself to a nearby dashboard. Immediately the monitor above it displayed numerous statistics. “Perhaps Nickel’s having an effect on the emerald, too!”
Parts of the ceiling began to crumble. Tails surveyed with relative composure the statistics on the monitor. “The seven emeralds stay in synch because of, like a web of… harmony – think of it like an electromagnetic field! Except more like a… Chaosmagnetic field - nobody’s come up with a term yet” –
“Whatever! The eighth emerald’s done what to it?”
“There’s massive amounts of power, you know how much, that’s held in balance by this shared field. With an eighth emerald it’s having a runaway effect! Sonic we need to stop it!”
The dashboard and monitor exploded in a brightly lit bang and flurry of sparks. Tails sprawled back, twisting himself in mid-air so he landed on his stomach, flat to the ground and now opposite Sonic by Nickel’s other side.
Sonic shouted, “Nickel snap out of it!”
And he did. Sonic saw the boy’s eyes flick his way – he was aware.
Sonic quipped, “That was easy, for a change. Didn’t really expect that to work…” The wind lessened.
Snatching at the chance Sonic jumped forward and yanked the emerald out of the air.
He was half-expecting a lance of Chaos energy to spear him. Touching a Chaos emerald under the control of somebody who meant you harm was far from a brave move; it was stupid.
Nickel immediately snapped from the seizure and the magnetic-like push that had been upsetting the inside of the workshop disappeared entirely, but Tails’ equipment continued to fail.
Sonic held the shaking emerald with a silent awe, wondering what could possibly happen next.
“Sonic – we have trouble!”
“Oh, good... normality.”
“Eggman’s here! He would have easily picked up the energy signal from the emeralds. So much for my encoding program to disguise my equipment’s signals...”
“Not a worry, lil’ buddy,” said Sonic, “We can outrun him.”
“We’re talking about an Egg Carrier, Sonic! Now Eggman knows we have the emeralds it’s going to come after us – we need to get in the air!”
“You do, I’m going underground!”
Tails was about to argue at the preposterous statement, then realised what exactly that meant. Sonic had already sped further into the workshop, Rainbow emerald in hand.
Tails thought it was a miracle the Tornado could still operate. He sat at the controls, quickly running a check of the plane’s entire system. The Tornado was a red antique biplane (with some modifications) capable of seating three: a driver, a passenger and a gunner. It had originally belonged to Sonic, but as Sonic virtually never had use for it, Tails (to the fox’s joy) had taken over maintenance.
From the outside nothing whatsoever could give it away as the highly efficient dogfighter it was. Instead, it seemed merely an antique biplane that should probably have belonged to an aviation museum. But, looking closer, even on the outside there were subtle differences – one green node sat in the middle of each of the airplanes four wings and parts of an unusual yellow engine poked out from its underbelly. There were yellow tips on the propeller and wings. And if one were to sit inside the cockpit one would be reminded of Tails’ brilliant mind and resourcefulness.
But as Tails sat in the cockpit, he noticed with dismay that even the equipment inside the Tornado had been disturbed. The computers were running their scripts at an agonising crawl, and some screens were only dimly lighting themselves.
Patiently, he waited a few more seconds. Holding his breath, he flipped a latch to reveal a handle.
Still not breathing, he lifted it by its red, rubber grip, twisted it ninety degrees, and then slammed it down.
Immediately the plane came to life. The propeller began to buzz and turn, within a few seconds it was nothing more than a blur. Without any more ado Tails began to taxi out of his warehouse, using a remote under his seat to open the double sliding doors that made up the entrance to the runway.
“You okay back there, Nickel?” asked Tails over his shoulder to the white hedgehog, currently slumped in the passenger’s seat where Tails had dropped him.
Nickel simply nodded in reply, still looking much disorientated. Shakily, he mumbled, “Where’s my emerald gone?”
“Sonic has it,” said Tails. He had to stop himself elaborating. Many had tried to predict Sonic’s next move and most failed (for instance Tails had been stunned when Sonic had insisted on taking the Rainbow emerald himself. He didn’t know if Sonic was gambling on the Rainbow emerald’s apparent failure to conduct energy when not in Nickel’s possession or just really hoping it was about to make what Tails knew he planned more extraordinary). But in this case, Tails felt pretty safe guessing the faster they got out of this workshop, the better, and it wasn’t because of the Egg Carrier bearing down on them.
As the two gigantic, steel sliding doors held shut by electronic locks opened, a barrage of rain and wind crashed into the Tornado. The fierce gusts lifted the biplane’s two front wheels from the ground before gravity regained control. Where had the weather come from?
Tails pushed a handle forwards to its maximum value. Lowering the goggles on his head and his earmuffs, he listened with joy as the Tornado’s engine came to life, and the red biplane fearlessly leapt out of the miniature hangar and into the raging storm.
Nickel had regained orientation over his senses – unfortunately, it may have been better if fate had left them dulled.
Nickel had no idea where they were but it no longer seemed to be Green
Hill Zone. To his left, east, he thought, he thought he could see the haze of a
city with its skyscrapers tainted light blue with distance. Everywhere else the
terrain was in transition from what must have been the outer edge of Green Hill
Zone to forested hills in the south. They had escaped the weather, and without
the menacing storm clouds darkening the atmosphere it was actually quite the
A headset and microphone was slung around his neck. Unable to otherwise contact his pilot, he put it on.
“You’re awake! Check out behind
Craning his neck behind him, he could make out the enormous shadow of the Egg Carrier cloaked in the storm. It was incomprehensible.
“One man built that?” he asked, stunned. “Are we going to be able to get away from that!?”
“Don’t worry, we’ll be fine!”
He cringed and took cover as the Tornado
shook from a hail of bullets. Bullets!
“TAILS! STOP!” screamed Nickel, hating the feel of gravity so aggressively tugging on him as Tails pulled them into a tight and steep barrel roll. His feet left the floor for seconds at a time and he hung suspended only by his harness. He had stopped screaming incoherently when, after sixty seconds without pause he realised that it was not doing him any good. Nickel had no idea why the plane was still flying after everything it had been hit with – but all he could see of the bullets’ impacts were dents.
Tails, within the cockpit, was looking at a video monitor to his right. At the moment it was receiving footage from a miniature camera at the back of the plane the same way a rear-view mirror might, and starring in it was a red-eyed Metal Sonic.
“Great, he is back,” said Tails to himself.
The biplane that was the Tornado was fast, but Metal would fly rings around them – it was taking every bit of Tails’ skills and the plane’s ability to keep the robot from latching on to them.
Tails suddenly wrenched on the controls and yanked the biplane into a tight spiralling roll, diving for nearly five seconds before pulling up sharply. The whole plane seemed to shake with the speed, as if it would fall apart. Nickel braced and gripped his seat in terror, grimacing with his teeth clenched.
“You have a plan, right?” he shouted.
“I do. Tornado, Battle Mode, engage!”
By pressing a single red button in the cockpit, the whole plane began to rearrange. The gunner seat was elevated, and the wings slanted in such a way that they joined to look like an ‘X’ with the plane’s body in the middle, increasing agility and control. The propeller on the nose of the plane folded flat and became an extra-strong shield for the cockpit, and the four green-nodes on the wings became the source of thrust for the plane, as well as a large, conical engine that blazed with blue fire at the back.
The blue windscreen that enveloped Tails and Nickel suddenly opened and slid out of sight, exposing them to the weather.
Their speed seemed to double, and the shaking the biplane had received from everything Tails had put it through disappeared. Spinning magnificently, the Tornado spiralled past Metal, and Nickel noted somewhere in the back of his mind how frighteningly similar he looked to Sonic – the groundwork for his design was unmistakable.
“Tails, turn around!” screamed Nickel. Metal was speeding towards the Tornado’s rear and gaining. Tails immediately took evasive action, spinning and turning and diving in every possible direction. Even with the use of the plane’s ‘battle-mode’ Metal could not be shaken.
“Gah, he’s on me like glue!”
“Tails,” shouted Nickel, thinking that in their present predicament anything was worth a shot, “if you get me close enough I could use my psychokinesis”-
“No good, look out!”
Finally, after three minutes of furious flying, Metal had decided to end it, and launched a kick at the hull of the Tornado, tearing a hole in it. The Tornado span downwards, the ground rotating round and round and getting bigger and bigger.
The four green nodes on the wings flashed and the engine bellowed.
Nearly instantly, the plane stopped its fall. Nickel fell so hard against his harness the air rushed from his lungs and his eyesight momentarily fuzzed over. Both of them nearly fainted. Tails warily watched the Magic Ring fuel gauge drop a few notches.
With no more than five feet to go.
The landscape had become more jagged, and finally opened up to the sharp crevices one-hundred feet deep that made the feet of Rosemount Hill so infamous.
A scream from above of metal cutting through air.
“Tails, move us!”
Now Nickel screamed again, and hid his head beneath his arms.
It all happened so quickly. Even with his head buried, bright shining gold seared his eyes. A flurry of sound, something cleaving through the wind. The Tornado was buffeted fiercely, but Tails whooped for joy.
He opened his eyes to see something extraordinary.
It was Sonic, except it wasn’t.
Flying unaided by machine was something both amazing and terrifying. His fur shone gold and his quills upturned. An iridescent gold aura around him burnt like the inside of an intense flame. He looked incredibly wonderful and impossibly powerful.
The Rainbow emerald was floating around his feet, which Tails noted as strange. What was it, if even Sonic couldn’t absorb it?
“This is ridiculous!” screamed Nickel furiously. He was at his wit’s end. “Who are you people!? What is that!?”
“It’s SuperSonic!” cried
Tails, “When all seven Chaos emeralds come together, Sonic can absorb their
positive powers and enter the Super-state.”
“What is that meant to mean!?”
“P-primary directive-directive di-i-ictates I must destroy…I am Metal Sonic” –
Metal, thrusters on his back burning bright red, launched a heavy ranged assault at SuperSonic as the Tornado clumsily spiralled away to safety.
The bullets seemed to burn up in the aura surrounding SuperSonic, who remained still, red eyes fixed on Metal. His gloved fists were clenched as if trying to furiously retain the incredible energy pounding through him.
“It’s over, Metal!” Tails heard SuperSonic shout, his voice magnified ten times louder, “You know where this ends!”
Metal physically attacked. Anybody else should have had their head snapped clean off. SuperSonic moved so quickly it was like he teleported, evading Metal’s attack. Metal tried again.
“Look!” cried Tails, “The Egg Carrier’s running away!”
Nickel craned his neck around. The Egg Carrier’s nose no longer faced in their direction. It was fleeing.
In the Tornado, Tails whooped
and cheered; overjoyed by the fact that now there could only be one probable
“Because of Sonic?”
“Yeah, because of SuperSonic! Be really glad he’s on our side!”
SuperSonic and Metal had disengaged.
“Ha…. You think I’m giving up, Hedgehog!?” shrieked Metal, “That I’ll bow down? bzzzk, Primary directive dictates I must destroy the biological Sonic the Hedge- bzzzzk I WILL NOT FALL AGAIN!”
Still, SuperSonic did nothing. That he was so still was to Nickel unnerving. Was he waiting for Metal to surrender?
“I will not fall…” repeated Metal. And then again, he changed, “Primary directive dictates I must destroy” – He aimed one arm, transformed into a heavy weapon, at the wounded Tornado.
“Sonic!” yelled Tails, but there had been no need.
Finally, SuperSonic engaged. Quicker than Nickel could blink, SuperSonic was upon Metal, kicking him the distance of four football fields. SuperSonic followed, intent on finishing the job. Metal had not even landed before SuperSonic attacked him from above – a savage spindash with unparalleled power ripped straight through Metal’s midsection, rending him in half, the edges of which glowed molten.
The robot fell apart without a fight. A crevice below them lay waiting, and every piece of him fell into the darkness below without a sound.
SuperSonic watched the space in which he had disappeared to for a moment. He gave a one-fingered salute and, with unnatural quickness, turned and seared across the sky back to the Tornado.
As he flew a streak of gold traced behind him, but it seemed to flicker like a dying light bulb – the tell-tale sign that he needed to get to safety.
The Tornado spiralled from above, neatly stopping its descent and keeping at a constant speed to match SuperSonic’s. Tails waved happily from the controls. Nickel stared at SuperSonic, and Sonic smiled as he bathed in the awe.
Tails lowered the plane and gently slowed them down, taking down his own windshield when the wind-pressure was low enough.
“Okay, just hop in, but don’t let go of the” –
Sonic hopped onto the plane, and did not mean to release the Super state. But, as usual, as soon as he no longer needed it he felt the energy ebbing, and then bursting out of him like a collapsing dam.
He gasped and held on tight as the world span, and Tails yelled, “Shoot!” as seven emeralds but one Sonic managed to catch flew in all different direction like bullets. Nickel leant forwards to help Sonic clamber in, but seconds later the emeralds had been swallowed by the horizon.
With Nickel’s help (he struggled to lift his arms, however, after their halting stop earlier), Sonic sat in the lowered gunner’s podium at the back of the plane. He put on a headset and gave a thumbs up to show he was online.
Tails made a face inside the cockpit, and said after a moment, “You coulda’ done the healing thing.”
“Ah, I’m sorry Tails, are you hurt?”
Nickel thought he could detect a pinch of sarcasm in Sonic’s voice.
“No, no, I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?”
“Just take us down, Tails. Marble Zone – let’s go south.”